A skeptic takes an educated look at alternative energy.


Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

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.

Readers!
 

Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.
 

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.
 

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.
 

Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


 

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4 comments

  • JGL

    Mr. Zimmerman,

    Have you looked into / developed an opinion about L.E.N.R. ( Low Energy Nuclear Reaction) ?

    In particular Andrea Rossi and his ECAT system?

    Very interesting.

  • I have read some stories on ECAT, but have not looked into it very deeply. However, I must admit that of what I have read, it has not passed my skeptical “smell test.” Something seems fishy about ECAT, though as I say I’ve not yet looked at the subject as closely as I should.

  • JGL

    I know what you mean, Rossi seems a sketchy, tempermental character, although his results and level of equipment built and tested does

    seem to support his claims to a degree IMO.

    Look into his history and read the results of the, I believe the Swedish Skeptics Technical Magazine, Maybe Ny-Technic, Im sorry I don’t

    have the exact name of the scientific skeptics organization which has witnessed and tested the systems but you can locate it if you look.

    You might take a look at the PESN.com archives for further information.

    Like I have said, I would value your assessment on the subject, if his claims are true, at the minimum its a very interesting phenomenon he

    has identified and you can extrapolate its implications at if its maximum potential is true.

  • JGL

    The name of the scientific skeptics magazine that reviewed the Rossi ECAT is NY TEKNIK.

    Here is a short quote from the end of one of thier articles.

    “An intense debate is also being held on the Wikipedia discussion page related to the article ‘Energy catalyzer’, and in many other forums.

    However, to date no one has been able to explain the measured values that Ny Teknik now has been able to confirm.”

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