Rot-roh (redux, this time, that “green” power)

by Skip



 Ah yes, the siren call of ‘clean energy’ that will save us all from that scourge called coal.  Simply marvy, eh?  The promise of "green" energy will…..screetching…..!

As in "halt".  The only "green" part of this is the green that, for once, Government is going to save the rate payers (heavens, did I just say that Government did something right?  And no, no lame joke about stopped clocks either).  From CNSNews comes a report from the Providence Journal:

Too Expensive: Wind Power Contract Rejected by R.I. Public Utilities Commission

The R.I. Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday rejected a contract that would have allowed Rhode Island’s largest electric utility to buy power from a wind farm that’s planned for the waters off the R.I. coast. It would have been the first project of its kind in the United States, the Providence Journal reported.
The three-member commission voted unanimously against the power-purchase agreement, saying the price of power agreed to by the two sides was too high and that the overall deal was not “commercially reasonable.
According to the Providence Journal, "The crux of the proposed agreement was a sale price of 24.4 cents per kilowatt hour, nearly three times the price National Grid pays for energy from fossil-fuel fired power plants and nuclear facilities. Over the 20-year contract, the price would have escalated by 3.5 percent annually, so, by the final year, it would have been 48.6 cents per kilowatt hour. Combined with a 2.75-percent markup on clean energy that National Grid was allowed by Rhode Island law, it would have meant hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs to the state’s 480,000 ratepayers over two decades."

Without subsidies, and in some cases, MASSIVE subsidies, "green" energy is uncompetitive.  Period.  There is no arguing about it – and I’ve been using solar for 20 odd years.  For passive systems, it’s ok – nothing to maintain and once there, it works. For anything else, or any other reason, it is mere ego stroking (as in "I feel great about myself because I have the green to be green") and snob appeal.  

The celebutards (yes, Al, I’m thinking of you….and Cheryl too!) that believe that EVERYONE should be sacrificing (or worse, forced to sacrifice) fall into that category – moralizers all without thinking that most people would rather have the choice of deciding for themselves.  

I always posit – if it made sense, and if it was economical, we’d all be doing green already.  The marketplace is not going to refuse a profit!  However, seeing that Government either has to mandate that you purchase that good ("green") or using your tax money to heavily subsidize it means that it is technology that either the technology is still immature (er, after 60 years???  Think about it.) or will always be an environmentalist’s wet dream. 


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  • Greetings from Missouri, a place where our igneous rocks are Rhyolite.
    Popped over from Bill Gnade’s and your comment there.
    The problems with green energy are multifold and you point out one, the subsidy problem. True story: If you google the name “Tom Carnahan,” you will see that he is the biggest “wind farmer” in Missouri. In a fascinating coincidence, he is also the son of a former Democratic governor and brother of a 2010 demo candidate for the U.S. Senate and a current U.S. Representative for the Missouri 3rd District.
    Oh, and his company just happened to get a big pile o’ stimulus cash, too, all to provide electricity to 1500 people in NW Missouri.
    The second problem is demonstrated in the equation E=MC2. “Green Power” essentially takes energy that’s already there, i.e. wind or solar rays and converts it to electricity. That’s why the return on wind and solar is so small and the footprint of wind and solar power stations are so huge. (Think also the amount of water necessary behind a dam to for a hydro electric plant.)
    Coal and petroleum, however release chemicals which, when converted to energy, generate magnitudes more. It’s as if, instead of taking one orange and cutting it into slices which leaves you actually less orange because you lose some in the cutting, you take one orange and chemically transform it into 100 apples.
    That’s why nuclear is the way to go. It converts matter into energy at a rate much greater than petrochemical reactions. For example, the amount of matter converted to energy to destroy Hiroshima was approximately six tenths of one gram, about half the weight of a dollar bill.
    Good post and I hope to read more.

  • S. Snow

    In replying to the previous comment, the second law of thermodynamics states, in essence, that it is impossible to feed heat indefinitely into a heat engine and have it all emerge as work. In other words, all energy conversion processes are inefficient to some degree. Not only can you not get something from nothing, you can’t even get back as much as you put into it.
    While nuclear energy does indeed covert matter into energy, ordinary combustion processes do not. The carbon in coal that is burned does not disappear or become another element, it is simply combined with oxygen and enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (and to a much lesser extent as carbon monoxide if the combustion is not 100% complete).
    “”Green Power” essentially takes energy that’s already there, i.e. wind or solar rays and converts it to electricity.” The problem with this statement is that it can be applied to all forms of electricity generation. We just convert from a form of energy that is inconvenient for us to use into a form, electricity, that is convenient for us. Nuclear reactions generate heat, in fact a lot of heat, from a small mass of material. That heat boils water. The resulting high-pressure steam is fed into steam turbines that generate the electricity. Combustion processes are also used to boil water and generate electricity much in the manner of the nuclear plants. Hydro dams use water to spin the turbines instead of steam. They need high dams to supply the desired head of water.
    The trouble with wind turbines is the low energy density of the wind relative to nuclear, combustion, or hydro. Consequently, the energy output per dollar of capital investment has been lower for wind energy. The problem has been with government interfering in the economics of energy supply by means of subsidies. A better approach, although one you might find as distasteful, would be to impose Pigovian taxes on energy sources the government thinks it would be in the national interest on which to reduce reliance. At least this would free the private sector to determine the best economic alternatives.

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