Tag Archives: energy

Japan successfully tests new solar power technology

The competition heats up: In a test of technology necessary to make space-to-Earth solar power generation possible, Japanese engineers were successfully able to precisely control the transmission of microwaves over a distance of 55 meters.

The main obstacle to generating electricity in space for use on Earth has been getting that power down to Earth. Microwaves can do it, but beaming microwaves through the atmosphere is no good as it will cook everything in the beam’s path. Being able to beam that transmission very precisely for long distances, something not yet possible, will reduce this problem.

Carbon emissions have reached a twenty year low in the United States

Carbon emissions have reached a twenty year low in the United States.

As the article points out, this trend occurred not because of government regulation, but because of the invisible hand of economic market forces — clean natural gas was simply cheaper to use.

A skeptic takes an educated look at alternative energy.

A skeptic takes an educated look at alternative energy.

The matter of affordable costs is the hardest promise to assess, given the many assorted subsidies and the creative accounting techniques that have for years propped up alternative and renewable generation technologies. Both the European Wind Energy Association and the American Wind Energy Association claim that wind turbines already produce cheaper electricity than coal-fired power plants do, while the solar enthusiasts love to take the history of impressively declining prices for photovoltaic cells and project them forward to imply that we’ll soon see installed costs that are amazingly low.

But other analyses refute the claims of cheap wind electricity, and still others take into account the fact that photo­voltaic installations require not just cells but also frames, inverters, batteries, and labor. These associated expenses are not plummeting at all, and that is why the cost of electricity generated by residential solar systems in the United States has not changed dramatically since 2000. At that time the national mean was close to 40 U.S. cents per kilowatt­-hour, while the latest Solarbuzz data for 2012 show 28.91 cents per kilowatt-hour in sunny climates and 63.60 cents per kilowatt-­hour in cloudy ones. That’s still far more expensive than using fossil fuels, which in the United States cost between 11 and 12 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2011. The age of mass-scale, decentralized photovoltaic generation is not here yet.

Then consider the question of scale. Wind power is more advanced commercially than solar power, but with about 47 gigawatts in the United States at the end of 2011 it still accounted for less than 4 percent of the net installed summer generating capacity in that country. And because the capacity factors of U.S. wind turbines are so low, wind supplied less than 3 percent of all the electricity generated there in 2011.

Read the whole article. It is detailed, thoughtful, and blunt.

The world’s largest solar power project, recipient of the second largest ever Department of Energy loan guarantee, has filed for bankruptcy.

Another wise investment of the Obama administration: The world’s largest solar power project, recipient of the second largest ever Department of Energy loan guarantee, has filed for bankruptcy.

Update and correction: It turns out that the company was offered the DOE loan guarantee, but turned it down. Read this second article. The facts it describe make the decisions of the Obama administration seem beyond foolish.

Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into a dormant volcano in Oregon this summer to demonstrate a new way to generate electricity.

Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into a dormant volcano in Oregon this summer to demonstrate a new way to generate electricity.

The irony I glean from this article is this: Pumping water underground to produce energy from geothermal sources (a source liked by the environmental movement) is good. However, pumping water underground to produce energy from gas or oil (energy sources hated by the environmental movement) is bad. And yet, what difference really is there between either effort?

Six tired arguments the energy sector needs to stop using

In other energy news: Six tired arguments the energy sector needs to stop using.

I like the last best:

Social good alone does not make for a viable business, even if it makes for a darn good trading strategy. For investors, if you’ve been burned, try to remember that feeling good about green energy can still make you feel very nauseous when monitoring your portfolio.

Obama Administration Pushing for Solar Projects on Public Lands

Coming to a state near you (until the project goes bankrupt and leaves behind a financial and environmental ruin): The Obama administration this week identified seventeen sites in six Western states, all on public land, as prime locations for solar energy projects.

To me, the best indication that something is not quite right with this proposal is that the solar industry itself has doubts.

Environmental groups hailed the announcement, but the solar industry was guarded in its response. Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said he had “some significant areas of concern” about the solar energy zones@ Flexibility in project siting and access to transmission were crucial to financing and development of utility-scale solar power plants, Resch said, adding that he was optimistic a balanced approach could be found.

You would think the solar industry would be thrilled to get this support from the government. That they have reservations is a serious red flag.

Electric cars and their cold-weather shortcomings

Reality meets feel-good politics: Electric cars and their cold-weather shortcomings. Key quote:

“If you live in an area where the winters get extremely cold an all-electric vehicle will have to be garaged and equipped with some kind of plug-in battery warmer for it to be effective in the coldest months of the year. Keep these thoughts in mind if you’re planning an electric car purchase; we don’t want you finding out the range of your car has been halved when it’s five below zero and you’re fifteen miles from home.”