Posted by Jeff Id on July 9, 2010
First there is no such thing as renewable energy, it’s kind of fitting that the very word greenies have coined is itself a lie. I say that because there are so many lies and exaggerations in the world of green energy that it makes ‘renewable’ a perfectly fitting term. The second law of thermodynamics makes sure that the energy we convert is extremely difficult to recover, in a perfectly efficient system you could convert your CO2 back into gasoline but of course it would take as much ‘work’ as you just got out of it. In reality, the energy you used to drive your car is already turned completely into heat within a two minutes of being turned into velocity (think how long it would take to coast to a stop if you shut off the engine).
Alright, renewable is an intentional misnomer, so what.
Well it makes people think of energy as recyclable creating beautiful symbols like this:
Green energies such as wind, wave, solar electric, hydroelectric, and solar thermal, biofuel, etc. all have one thing in common. They are all forms of solar power. It takes energy from the sun to drive wind, wave and create plant fuels. Another form of solar power is oil and coal, they are a form of very inefficiently stored solar energy from millions of years ago. Nuclear fission is also a form of solar if you take it back to the stars believed to have created the heavy elements used in the fission process. However, both fossil fuels and Nuclear used energy from stars which has been stored in relatively convenient packages for release by the right equipment at a moments notice. I call the other forms of energy stored solar, whereas instant solar, which is now being incorrectly called renewable energy, trickles in at a low density per unit area which requires the construction of massive area consuming collection zones.
The amount of area used with today’s horribly inefficient solar technologies, means that green energy or instant solar’s viability is determined by collection efficiency rather than cost alone. The reason is that if we were to use ‘corn’ to power our cars in the US, even basic calculations show that we would need more than all the land mass of the North American continent to be a producing viable corn field, and more sophisticated calculations show that we may be net loosing energy by corn ethanol. Basic calculations on algae biofuel produce equally ridiculous results like two land masses the size of Texas to drive all the US cars — only. Again more sophisticated calculations will produce even worse results.
The point is that the land usage is too great to make them viable. These technologies are environmental disasters waiting to happen. But they’re renewable Jeff!!
They are instant solar, and instant solar doesn’t have the energy to power your car/train/truck. The energy density is not practical for cars. This means that energy storage is the key. Storing the collected solar power as oil, is the key advantage of biofuels, the maximum efficiency of photosynthesis is pegged at something like 9% but most of that powers the plant so your max efficiency of light collection by plant is very very low. Besides that though, we really don’t have a way to store other forms of solar energy efficiently. Nature really doesn’t either, so it takes millions of years time and the sun just throws a few gagillion extra joules at the problem. None of this means that efficient (and safe) storage can’t be achieved, it just means that we haven’t figured it out yet.
I think that within reason that the numbers show, a 20% efficient solar collection makes good sense, this is just based on some rough calculation and some thumbnail guessing. There are several companies which have achieved this kind of efficiency for solar, but my preferred number is a year round efficiency collected and stored. Is this achievable in the future, in my opinion it’s guaranteed in the future and probably can barely be done with certain technologies today but biofuel will NEVER make the cut. The god of physics said NO and there is nothing you can do about it unless you re-engineer chlorophyll. I’m pretty sure we don’t want to create quadrillions of microscopic plants which collect more energy, more easily, than anything on Earth but down the road our command of genetics may make it possible to control such a beast. If it got out of hand, we could just make it sick or something.
Of course then you come down to the biggest problem of all —- cost.
In order to make instant solar a workable technology, we cannot as a species pay four times more for it than we currently do. Our societies are barely out of the trees in my opinion, and we give ourselves far too much credit. Science and energy have transformed our lifestyles to better standards than kings 300 years ago. One way to ruin that standard is to limit our available and usable energy. Of all things the greenies want to do, this is the most dangerous and frankly ignorant point.
1.45 Billion went to a plant which is claimed will generate 250 megawatts which is again claimed to power 70,000 homes. A megawatt is a million joules of energy per second or energy per time. So we have 250 million/70,000 homes = 3571 Watts/household at full production capacity. When you consider that those watts are available for less than half the day, and follow a roughly sinusoidal distribution of collectible energy, the average power level will drops to about 700 watts per household. (integrate sine to find pi/8 centroid of the sine and divide by 2 for daylight hours). You can see that it’s not really enough to power 70,000 homes all day long.
But if it were enough, the program claims to create 1500 jobs, green jobs right, anyway if those permanent jobs are used to support the plant, it amounts to about 1500* (60,000USD/Yr labor) /70,000 homes = 1285 USD in labor cost incurred by those homes. Or $100/month for labor alone – with no profit for the company yet. If they put 1.45 billion/70,000 homes the investment – per home is 20,700USD. Just the interest on an investment that large will be around $150/month (rough low estimate which depends on unknown terms). So now for those 700 continuous Watts per month, we have tied up $250 USD in labor and interest.
Kilowatthours are what are billed by energy companies – 1KWH is a thousand watts for an hour of time. So let’s see, 700watts/1000= 0.7Kw *720 hours/month = 504 kilowatt hours provided to these 70,000 homes. So for your 504 KWH you have tied up 250USD with no profit for the company and non-union labor.
Congratulations are owed to Obama and the brilliant and esteemed Dr. Chu on your minimum of 0.75USD/KWH non-working solution to ‘green energy’.
Of course my numbers are generous to Obama and Chu.
THIS PATH DOES NOT WORK, IT IS NOT READY. And anyone with a calculator can figure it out. Yet so many celebrate this as progress.
Progressive in that it leads to economic destruction—yes, but progress? — not so much.