Tiny bat pits green against green

By Maria Glod, Washington Post

GREENBRIER COUNTY, W.VA. — Workers atop mountain ridges are putting together 389-foot windmills with massive blades that will turn Appalachian breezes into energy. Retiree David Cowan is fighting to stop them.

Because of the bats.

Cowan, 72, a longtime caving fanatic who grew to love bats as he slithered through tunnels from Maine to Maui, is asking a federal judge in Maryland to halt construction of the Beech Ridge wind farm. The lawsuit pits Chicago-based Invenergy, a company that produces “green” energy, against environmentalists who say the cost to nature is too great.

The rare green vs. green case went to trial Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

It is the first court challenge to wind power under the Endangered Species Act, lawyers on both sides say. With President Obama’s goal of doubling renewable energy production by 2012, wind and solar farms are expanding rapidly. That has sparked battles to reach a balance between the benefits of clean energy and the impact on birds, bats and even the water supply.

At the heart of the Beech Ridge case is the Indiana bat, a brownish-gray creature that weighs about as much as three pennies and, wings outstretched, measures about eight inches. A 2005 estimate concluded that there were 457,000 of them, half the number in 1967, when they were first listed as endangered.

Indiana_Bat_FWS

“Any kind of energy development is going to have environmental impacts that are going to concern somebody,” said John D. Echeverria, a Vermont Law School professor who specializes in environmental law and isn’t involved in the suit. “This has been an issue for the environmental community. They are enthusiastic; at the same time, they realize there are these adverse impacts.”

Indiana bats hibernate in limestone caves within several miles of the wind farm, which would provide energy to tens of thousands of households. The question before the judge: Would the bats fly in the path of the 122 turbines that will be built along a 23-mile stretch of mountaintop?

Eric R. Glitzenstein, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in his opening statement that both sides agree the windmills will kill more than 130,000 bats of all types over the next 20 years.

“The question comes down to whether there is some reason to think Indiana bats will escape that fate,” he said. “The position of the defendants is, ‘Let’s roll the dice and see what happens.’ We believe that the rolling-the-dice approach to the Endangered Species Act is not in keeping with what Congress had in mind.”

Cowan and other plaintiffs, including the D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute, support wind power as one way to mitigate climate change. But they say this setting, a lush rural area where coal and timber industries once dominated, is the wrong one.

They say Indiana bats are likely to fly near the turbines in the fall as they migrate to caves from forests, where they spend spring and summer. Some biologists who analyzed recordings at the site say they are nearly certain that Indiana bats made some of the calls.

Any deaths would be a blow to a species that has been slow to rebound from the damage caused by pollution and human disturbance of their caves, partly because females have only one baby each year, the plaintiffs say.

Invenergy argues there is no sign that Indiana bats go to the ridge. When a consultant put up nets at or near the site in summer 2005 and 2006 to search for bats, no Indiana bats were captured. Some bat experts say that the females prefer lower areas when they have their young and that the ridge is too high. The company also stresses that there is no confirmed killing of an Indiana bat at any wind farm nationwide.

“A $300 million, environmentally friendly, clean, renewable energy project waiting to serve 50,000 households is in limbo over a rare bat nobody has ever seen on the project site,” Clifford J. Zatz, a lawyer at Crowell & Moring, which represents the wind farm, said in court.

In an area scarred by mountaintop coal mining, company officials say, the wind farm is a friend to the environment. It also is bringing jobs to the region.

“We’re a clean, green energy company,” said Joseph Condo, vice president and general counsel. “The project will be able to deliver clean energy for years.”

The project has twice survived challenges in the West Virginia Supreme Court, including complaints that it would mar the picturesque view. If the Greenbelt court does not intervene, the first set of 67 turbines is expected to be running next year. The state has required that bat and bird fatalities be tracked for three years.

The case probably will come down to a battle of bat experts.

There is no question turbines in other locations have killed tens of thousands of bats. Some strike blades. Others die from a condition known as barotrauma, similar to the bends that afflict divers. It occurs when the swirl of the blades creates low-pressure zones that cause the bats’ tiny lungs to hemorrhage. Scientists and the industry are seeking ways to lessen the kills, including stopping the turbines at certain times or using sound to deter the bats.

But the habits of Indiana bats largely remain a mystery to scientists. They are so small that only recently has the technology been available to produce devices small enough to track their movements.

Brad Tuckwiller, a county commissioner who manages his family’s 1,700-acre cattle farm not far from the ridge, is a supporter of the wind farm. When the project was proposed, he visited one of Invenergy’s farms in Tennessee.

“I know some of our citizens are upset, but I don’t think it’s about the bats. I think it’s about the viewshed or fear,” Tuckwiller said. “If America is going to have energy independence, we have to look at these alternative sources — solar, wind, geothermal — in addition to nuclear and coal.”

To Cowan, the risk is too great. The house he and his wife built to be near West Virginia’s caves has bat profiles on the windows. The napkin holder on the dining table is decorated with a bat. Their car has a bat bumper sticker.

“I think if the turbines kill one Indiana bat, that ought to end it,” he said. “That ought to shut it down.” Read post and see video here. 

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Energy and Climate Realism

By Jürgen Krönig, Presentation at the German British Forum, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, London, 20 October 2009

The French Statesman Talleyrand once said “that speech is given to man to disguise his thoughts”. In today’s mass media democracies it could be translated into “speeches are made by politicians to disguise their intentions.”

Gordon Browns apocalyptical warnings about the future of the planet if Copenhagen should fail can be interpreted as cry for help: Please make sure that we get a face saving agreement that can be presented as a success. And this is what will come to pass. With or without Barack Obama’s presence – Copenhagen will be presented as a great success, like all the other global environmental conferences before.

But the conflict between the West and the new industrial powers cannot and will not be resolved. What we are seeing in the remaining weeks before the conference is an desperate attempt of all major players not to be seen as the culprit who will be blamed for the failure.

The original EU strategy was, we will set an example and go for binding cuts in green house gas emissions and the world will follow – clearly a naive approach, reminiscent of other unilateral intentions in the past.

But now, especially after the financial and economic crisis, this sort of climate unilateralism is untenable – it would mean a dramatic financial transfer from the west to the advantage of our competitors China and India which our economies can ill afford and our populations won’t accept. Public opinion in Europe and America, according to the latest research, published by the Financial Times, is further hardening against any financial transfers.

As far as the ambitious targets of the UK and other EU states are concerned, Professor Roger Pielke Jr. is right when he points out that setting “unachievable targets is not a policy, it is an act of wishful thinking”. He calls it “a politics of symbolism with no impact on real world outcomes.” Pielke adds that the focus on “magical solutions” is leaving little room for the practical.

Leading business figures agree with this damning verdict. The CEO of Eon, Bernotat, said that the British politicians need “to stop misleading the public about what is achievable.” He is scathing about the target of 30% electricity coming from renewables in 2020 and refers particularly to the plan to build 33 gigawatts of off shore wind power up from the present 0.6 gigawatt, a plan he calls naïve and unachievable. Of a similar opinion is Tony Hayward, CEO of BP. 

There are too many illusions propagated and circling around alternative and renewable technologies: about their promise and potential, about the time frame, in which they can be introduced and changes be realized, about the jobs, that a new green Keynisanism can create and about the political impact of a radical green policy. Centre left politicians in Britain and Germany, the new leader of the German social democrats, Sigmar Gabriel and the Labour Ministers David and Ed Miliband seem seriously to believe that climate change will be the new mass mobilizing topic and will help saving their parties too. A more likely outcome is that this strategy will neither save the centre left nor will it help to save the planet. Such a strategy seems to drive away voters fearful of loosing the lifestyle of mobility, warmth and comfort.

The arguments against the extensive use of wind are well known. Wind is intermittent and needs conventional backup, the electricity it delivers is extremely expensive, feasible only with high subsidies. It won’t even deliver the promise of jobs: Wind turbines can and will be more cheaply built in China, the same goes for solar panels, as Germany recently found out. In the UK, the closure of the turbine factory on the Isle of Wight was another example of the same trend.

This does not stop business to be keen on wind power. It is attracted by huge subsidies, offered by governments, driven by “the pressure of fashionable, green ideology”, as James Lovelock writes in his latest book “The vanishing face of Gaia”. Lovelocks judgement could not be clearer: “Europes massive use of wind as a supplement to baseload electricity will be remembered as one of the great follies of the twenty first century”.

What ever happens, if the folly is continued or not, the next twenty years could be called “the new age of carbon.” If the UK really intends to cut CO 2 emissions by 34% till 2022, the UK would need to build in the next 6 years the equivalent of 30 new nuclear power stations. The telling comment of the (Labour) chairman of the “Climate Change Committee” of the House of Commons: “Well beyond our political capacity to deliver”.    

More oil, gas and coal will be burned than ever before – and carbon dioxide emissions will continue to rise. Renewables can’t and won’t deliver the scale of energy needed for a rising world population. For the time being only fossil fuels and nuclear power will be able to deliver the necessary energy. In the light of these facts it is especially sad that Britain and Germany, once leading nations in nuclear technology, have either neglected or given up on it completely and left the field to other, more farsighted nations like the French. 30 years ago Britain had 15 000 nuclear engineers, now the figure is just a tenth of that. Germany decided an atomic exit strategy which at least will be reverted now. But precious time has been lost.   

We can call ourselves lucky that we have gained a bit of breathing space. The global warming trend has stopped, for the time being at least. Since 1998 global average temperatures have not risen. In fact, there has even been a slight fall – despite the fact that CO2 emissions have been rising relentlessly during this period, and in spite of the “binding” agreements in Kyoto to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. 

The climate modellers of the IPCC did not foresee the halt in global warming. Professor Mojib Latif, one of the leading IPCC scientists, admitted to this inconvenient truth recently during a climate conference in Geneva and talked about “one or two decades more of cooling”, before he expects the recommencement and continuation of the global warming trend.

One thing is clear. The belief in the accuracy of computer models has suffered. The science is not settled, as many climate researchers claimed in the past few years, a claim which goes against the essence of science and research and should never have been made in the first place.

We are faced with an awkward position. Nobody seems to know what the future holds; even if we are prepared to follow the lead of the IPCC, we are faced with huge, irreconcilable differences of opinion. Some school of thought predicts catastrophe, if not apocalypse, another forecasts at least a massive challenge to our usual way of life while some sceptics seem to suggest, that we will, in a few years time, wake up to the fact, that global warming was just another one of the many unfounded scares which modern mass media societies are prone to fall for.     

What to do? Yes, we need more energy efficiency, we need to decarbonise our industries, we need to diversify our sources of energy as much as possible and we need new, clean technologies. We should start building nuclear power stations, at the moment the only effective way of producing  carbon free electricity. At the same time we should avoid damaging our western economies, either by transferring too much money to our competitors or falling into the trap of the “green-industrial complex,” about whose malign influence even James Lovelock, the founder of the Gaia theory, of earth and biosphere being a self-regulating super-organism, and convinced that it is too late to stop ‘global heating,’ is scathing.

We should in future be more sceptical of computer-based predictions of climate change and focus more on observing what is actually happening in reality: Is there any sign that the rise of global temperature or the sea level is accelerating, for instance. We need to prepare for adaptation and on top of it all we need an insurance policy in form of geo-engineering, in case the worst predictions should come true. Some of the technologies are already available and geo-engineering might prove to be a significantly cheaper solution than the desperate attempt to mitigate climate change, by cutting emissions and creating economic hardship for billions of people.       

See story here.

Economic impacts from the promotion of renewable energies: The German experience

Final report – October 2009

Project team: Dr. Manuel Frondel, Nolan Ritter, Prof. Colin Vance, Ph.D. (Project management)

The allure of an environmentally benign, abundant, and cost-effective energy source has led an increasing number of industrialized countries to back public financing of renewable energies. Germany’s experience with renewable energy promotion is often cited as a model to be replicated elsewhere, being based on a combination of far-reaching energy and environmental laws that stretch back nearly two decades. This paper critically reviews the current centerpiece of this effort, the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), focusing on its costs and the associated implications for job creation and climate protection. We argue that German renewable energy policy, and in particular the adopted feed-in tariff scheme, has failed to harness the market incentives needed to ensure a viable and cost-effective introduction of renewable energies into the country’s energy portfolio. To the contrary, the government’s support mechanisms have in many respects subverted these incentives, resulting in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for

stimulating the economy, protecting the environment, or increasing energy security. In the case of photovoltaics, Germany’s subsidization regime has reached a level that by far exceeds average wages, with per-worker subsidies as high as 175,000 € (US $ 240,000)

Executive Summary

An aggressive policy of generously subsidizing and effectively mandating “renewable” electricity generation in Germany has led to a doubling of the renewable contribution to electricity generation in recent years. This preference came primarily in the form of a subsidy policy based on feed-in tariffs, established in 1991 by the Electricity Feed-in Law. A subsequent law passed in 2000 guaranteed continued support for 20 years. This requires utilities to accept the delivery of power from independent producers of renewable electricity into their own grid, paying technology-specific feed-in tariffs far above their production cost of 2 to 7 Euro-Cents (2.9-10.2 Cents US $) per kilowatt hour (kWh).

With a feed-in tariff of 43 Euro-Cents (59 Cents US $) per kWh in 2009, solar electricity generated from photovoltaics (PV) is guaranteed by far the largest financial support among all renewable energy technologies.

Currently, the feed-in tariff for PV is more than eight times higher than the wholesale electricity price at the power exchange and more than four times the feed-in tariff paid for electricity produced by on-shore wind turbines. Even on-shore wind, widely regarded as a mature technology, requires feed-in tariffs that exceed the per-kWh cost of  conventional electricity by up to 300% to remain competitive.

By 2008 this had led to Germany having the second-largest installed wind capacity in the world, behind the United States, and largest installed PV capacity in the world, ahead of Spain. This explains the claims that Germany’s feed-in tariff is a great success.

Installed capacity is not the same as production or contribution, however, and by 2008 the estimated share of wind power in Germany’s electricity production was 6.3%, followed by biomass-based electricity generation (3.6%) and water power (3.1%). The amount of electricity produced through solar photovoltaics was a negligible 0.6% despite being the most subsidized renewable energy, with a net cost of about 8.4 Bn € (US $12.4 Bn) for 2008. The total net cost of subsidizing electricity production by PV modules is estimated to reach 53.3 Bn € (US $73.2 Bn) for those modules installed between 2000 and 2010. While the promotion rules for wind power are more subtle than those for PV, we estimate that the wind power subsidies may total 20.5 Bn € (US $28.1 Bn) for wind converters installed between 2000 and 2010.

Consumers ultimately bear the cost of renewable energy promotion. In 2008, the price mark-up due to the subsidization of green electricity was about 1.5 Cent per kWh (2.2 Cents US $), meaning the subsidy accounts for about 7.5% of average household electricity prices. Given the net cost of 41.82 Cents/kWh for PV modules installed in 2008, and assuming that PV displaces conventional electricity generated from a mixture of gas and hard coal, abatement costs are as high as 716 € (US $1,050) per tonne. Using the same assumptions and a net cost for wind of 3.10 Cents/kWh, the abatement cost is approximately 54 € (US $80). While cheaper than PV, this cost is still nearly double the ceiling of the cost of a per-ton permit under Europe’s cap-and-trade scheme. Renewable energies are thus among the most expensive GHG reduction measures.

There are much cheaper ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions than subsidizing renewable energies. CO2 abatement costs of PV are estimated to be as high as 716 € (US $1,050) per tonne, while those of wind power are estimated at 54 €

(US $80) per tonne. By contrast, the current price of emissions certificates on the European emissions trading scheme is only 13.4 Euro per tonne. Hence, the cost from emission reductions as determined by the market is about 53 times cheaper than employing PV and 4 times cheaper than using wind power.

Moreover, the prevailing coexistence of the EEG and emissions trading under the European Trading Scheme (ETS) means that the increased use of renewable energy technologies generally attains no additional emission reductions beyond those achieved by ETS alone. In fact, since the establishment of the ETS in 2005, the EEG’s net climate effect has been equal to zero. While employment projections in the renewable sector convey seemingly impressive prospects for gross job growth, they typically obscure the broader implications for economic welfare by omitting any accounting of off-setting impacts. These impacts include, but are not limited to, job losses from crowding out of cheaper forms of conventional energy generation, indirect impacts on upstream industries, additional job losses from the drain on economic activity precipitated by higher electricity prices, private consumers’ overall loss of purchasing power due to higher electricity prices, and diverting funds from other, possibly more beneficial investment.

Proponents of renewable energies often regard the requirement for more workers to produce a given amount of energy as a benefit, failing to recognize that this lowers the output potential of the economy and is hence counterproductive to net job creation. Significant research shows that initial employment benefits from renewable policies soon turn negative as additional costs are incurred. Trade- and other assumptions in those studies claiming positive employment turn out to be unsupportable.

In the end, Germany’s PV promotion has become a subsidization regime that, on a per-worker basis, has reached a level that far exceeds average wages, with per worker subsidies as high as 175,000 € (US $ 240,000).

It is most likely that whatever jobs are created by renewable energy promotion would vanish as soon as government support is terminated, leaving only Germany’s export sector to benefit from the possible continuation of renewables support in other countries such as the US.

Due to their backup energy requirements, it turns out that any increased energy security possibly afforded by installing large PV and wind capacity is undermined by reliance on fuel sources – principally gas – that must be imported to meet domestic demand. That much of this gas is imported from unreliable suppliers calls energy security claims further into question.

Claims about technological innovation benefits of Germany’s first-actor status are unsupportable. In fact, the regime appears to be counterproductive in that respect, stifling innovation by encouraging producers to lock into existing technologies. In conclusion, government policy has failed to harness the market incentives needed to ensure a viable and cost-effective introduction of renewable energies into Germany’s energy portfolio. To the contrary, Germany’s principal mechanism of supporting renewable technologies through feed-in tariffs imposes high costs without any of the alleged positive impacts on emissions reductions, employment, energy security, or technological innovation. Policymakers should thus scrutinize Germany’s experience, including in the US, where there are currently nearly 400 federal and state programs in place that provide financial incentives for renewable energy.

 Although Germany’s promotion of renewable energies is commonly portrayed in the media as setting a “shining example in providing a harvest for the world” (The Guardian 2007), we would instead regard the country’s experience as a cautionary tale of massively expensive environmental and energy policy that is devoid of economic and environmental benefits.

Read full detailed report here.

Windpower Is Not an Infant Industry!

By Robert Bradley Jr. on Master Resource 
October 13, 2009

“The use of wind power is as old as history.”

– Erich Zimmermann, World Resources and Industries (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951), p. 62.

“The Federal Power Commission became interested in the Grandpa’s Knob [windpower] experiment during World War II, and commissioned Percy H. Thomas, a senior engineer of the commission, to investigate the potential of wind power production for the entire country. Thomas’ survey, Electric Power from the Wind, was published in March 1945.”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), p. 545.

Last week I posted on the long history of solar energy to make the point that this technology is not an infant industry. The fact that solar cannot compete against grid electricity (off grid is another matter) today is proof positive that there is an inherent disadvantage with the dilute, intermittent flow of sunlight in the thriving carbon-based energy era.

Windpower is another case of bad economics and bad quality. Wind is actually worse than solar because micro wind for off the grid is not a niche market. Ever seen a wind turbine in the middle of nowhere powering something? I haven’t. But I have seen solar panels in the middle of nowhere doing the work of electricity.

Old Stuff

My post, “Wind: Energy Past, Not Energy Future,” documented how 19th century economists unmasked wind as an inferior energy. Here is one example–see my post on W. S. Jevons (1865) for more.

The quotations below document how wind was a primary energy prior to the age of coal and how various developers have tried to commercialize wind without success.

“Energy from the wind is not new. Two hundred years ago windmills were a common feature of the European landscape; for example, in 1800 there were over 10,000 working windmills in Britain. During the past few years they have again become familiar on the skyline especially in countries in western Europe (for instance, Denmark, Great Britain and Spain) and in western North America. Slim, tall, sleek objects silhouetted against the sky, they do not have the rustic elegance of the old windmills, but they much more efficient.”

– John Houghton, Global Warming: The Complete Briefing (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 7.

“Before rural electrification in the 1920 and 1930s, more than 8 million Midwestern windmills pumped water, made electricity, and ground grain. Carbon-fired power plants made these small windmills obsolete.”

– Dennis Hayes, The Official Earth Day Guide to Planet Repair (Washington: Island Press, 2000), p. 39.

 “Wind energy has been used since at least 200 B.C. for grinding grain and pumping water. By 1900, windmills were used on farms and ranches in the United States to pump water and, eventually, to produce electricity. Windmills developed into modern-day wind turbines.”

– Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group to the Honorable George W. Bush, National Energy Policy: Reliable, Affordable, and Environmentally Sound Energy for America’s Future, May 2001, p. 6-6.

“Wind power also has considerable potential in some developing countries. Employed widely by American Midwestern farmers in the twenties before rural electrification, wind generators are proving effective in similar settings in the Third World.”

– Christopher Flavin, “Electricity for a Developing World: New Directions,” Worldwatch Paper 70, Worldwatch Institute, June 1986, p. 52.

“The most numerous windmills of the nineteenth century were of a very different design: they served small farms and railway stations on the windy Great Plains during the period of rapid westward expansion.”

– Vaclav Smil, Energies (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999), p. 125.

“Until the early nineteenth century windmills in common use were roughly as powerful as their contemporary water-driven mills. We have no reliable estimates for earlier centuries, but after 1700 European post mills rated mostly between 1.5 and 6 kilowatts, and tower mills between 5 and 10 kilowatts in terms of useful power.”

– Vaclav Smil, Energies (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999), p. 125.

“Early in this century Danish industry relied on wind power for one-quarter of its energy, and 150-200 megawatts of wind capacity were installed throughout the country.”

– Cynthia Shea, “Renewable Energy: Today’s Contribution, Tomorrow’s Promise,” Worldwatch Paper 81, Worldwatch Institute, January 1988, p. 36.

 “Wind energy is not some exotic new technology like nuclear power. Only wind energy’s current manifestation is new. We have lived peacefully with the wind before, and we can do so again. Wind turbines could become as common on the European landscape as windmills once were.”

– Paul Gipe, Wind Energy Comes of Age (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995), p. 482.

 “The LDCs may well find considerable overall benefit in the use of wind power as a prime source of mechanical power, as well as in the generation for electricity, by harking back to small-unit technologies that proved so useful in rural Europe and America not too long ago.”

– Panel on Renewable Energy Resources, Energy for Rural Development: Renewable Resources and Alternative Technologies for Developing Countries (Washington: National Academy of Sciences, 1976), pp. 7-8.

“Another technology increasingly used to harness nature’s power was the windmill. Originating in China, it made its way across Europe into Britain, from the South and the East, by the end of the twelfth century. This technology was a valuable introduction in regions with little water, which needed power to meet the growing demand for industrial products. The Domesday Book, in 1086, recorded 6,082 water or wind mills in England; by 1300, there were over 12,000 mills.”

– Roger Fouquet and Peter Pearson, “A Thousand Years of Energy Use in the United Kingdom,” The Energy Journal, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1998, p. 7.

“Energy from the wind is not new. Two hundred years ago windmills were a common feature of the European landscape; for example, in 1800 there were over 10,000 working windmills in Britain. During the past few years they have again become familiar on the skyline especially in countries in western Europe (for instance, Denmark, Great Britain and Spain) and in western North America. Slim, tall, sleek objects silhouetted against the sky, they do not have the rustic elegance of the old windmills, but they much more efficient.”

– John Houghton, Global Warming: The Complete Briefing (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 7.

The windmill . . . had been developed in Persia in the seventh century. By the thirteenth century, windmills were common in Europe, with significant advances being made by the Dutch and the English.”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), p. 4.

“The role of wind energy has historically been a major factor in the development of human civilization, with wind powering the early sailing ship as well as the first major source of mechanical power, the windmill.”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), p. 513.

“From ancient times up until the nineteenth century, the manufacture and use of sailing ships determined the economic and political power of nations. The first known use of sailing ships was by the Egyptians in 2800 B.C.”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), p. 516.

“The first uses of the wind for mechanical power appear to have been developed in Persia, where, in the province of Segistan, water was pumped for irrigation by windmills. Between the seventh and tenth centuries, windmills were firmly established in Persia.”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), pp. 519-520.

“The first account of windmills in the Western world was in the twelfth century, when, in 1105, a French permit was issued for construction of windmills. In 1180, a Norman deed reports the existence of a windmill in Britain. . . . By the thirteenth century, windmills were common in northern Europe.”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), p. 520.

“During the latter part of the thirteenth century, more than 30,000 windmills operating in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and England produced the equivalent (in mechanical power) of 1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), p. 521.

“By the end of the nineteenth century, a mature industry had developed in the midwestern United States to equip homesteaders and ranchers with mills. Between 1880 and 1900, the combined capital investment of the American windmill industry increased from less than $700,000 to $4.3 million. At the same time, fierce competition spurred the development of lasting and efficient machines.”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), p. 522.

“U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company of Batavia, Illinois, conducted intensive experiments in 1882 and 1883 on various kinds of windmills to determine the best possible machine for use. Part of their investigation involved building windmills to the specifications offered by Englishman John Smeaton, in his work of the previous century. Smeaton observed in 1759 that fewer sails were needed to extract the equivalent amount of power.”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), p. 522.

“The American windmill industry continued to grow in the early twentieth century, until other sources of power invaded the prairies. In the 1920s, companies began to develop wind-powered electric generators. By the 1930s, the death knell was sounded for wind machines of both the water-pumping and the electric-generating variety [by] the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) [which] . . . provide[d] federally subsidized power to America’s farmers in regions remote from privately financed power plants.”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), pp. 523-24.

“During the second World War, a massive 1,250-kilowatt wind electrical station was operated at ‘Grandpa’s Knob’ in the mountains of central Vermont. . . . The 1,250 kilowatts of power that the wind generator produced during sporadic periods of operation were fed into the lines of Central Vermont Public Service Corporation. The plant was conceived and designed by Palmer C. Putnam, an engineer who had become interested in wind power in the early 1930s when he built a house on Cape Cod only to find both the winds and electric utility rates ‘surprisingly high.’”

– Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), pp. 541-42.

“With wind energy, one is not dealing with exotic new techniques. Windmills have been used for centuries for pumping water and other purposes, and within the past century they have been widely used in rural areas to generate electricity.”

– Sam Schurr et. al., Energy in America’s Future: The Choices Before Us (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), p. 311.

“The capital costs for a modern wind energy generator have been variously estimated [in 1979 dollars] from as low as $250 to as high as $1,400 per kilowatt. However, a study done for this project predicts within the next decade a capital cost of $930 per kilowatt on the basis of independent estimates of subsystem costs, and that figure has been used to project total costs.”

– Sam Schurr et. al., Energy in America’s Future: The Choices Before Us (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), pp. 312-13.

 

Texas Wind Energy – Past, Present and Future

By Drew Thornley, Texas Public Policy Foundation
 
Introduction 
 
Texas is a growing state with growing energy needs. A crucial issue is how to develop and allocate the state’s vast natural resources so that Texans have reliable and aff ordable energy. Wind energy is an increasingly important part of this equation, as Texas leads the nation in installed wind-power capacity.

WindpowerTX

But myriad questions and challenges confront wind energy’s expansion, namely wind’s intermittent nature, the lack of large-scale electricity storage, and the limitations on electric transmission.

The greatest impediment to wind’s large-scale contribution to our energy supply is its intermittent nature. The wind must blow in order for wind turbines to produce power. In Texas, however, wind blows the least during the summer months when we need power the most. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) relies on about 8.7 percent of wind power’s installed capacity when determining available power during peak summer hours.

Due to wind’s intermittency, wind turbines have much lower capacity factors—measures of generating units’ actual energy output divided by the energy output if the units operated at its rated power output 100 percent of the time—than conventional (thermal) power sources. As such, wind is not a baseload resource and cannot deliver a large portion of the demand for energy.

Second, electricity cannot currently be stored on a commercial scale. This lack of adequate large-scale electricity storage amplifi es the eff ects of wind’s variability and lack of correlation with peak demand.

Without adequate wind-power storage, wind-generating units must be backed up by units that generate electricity from conventional sources. In Texas’ case, that means natural gas, a fuel source with extreme price volatility. Thus, wind energy is an inherently less valuable resource than fuel sources requiring no backup.

Another major issue surrounding wind-energy development is electric transmission capacity. More specifically, the infrastructure does not exist to move electricity from the areas of Texas most suitable for wind energy generation— West Texas and the Panhandle—to the state’s metropolitan centers. Texas’ electric customers should be particularly concerned, as they will foot the bill for these new transmission lines.

The distinction between wind and wind energy is critical. The wind itself is free, but wind energy is anything but. Cost estimates for wind-energy generation typically include only turbine construction and maintenance. Left out are many of wind energy’s costs—transmission, grid connection and management, and backup generation—that ultimately will be borne by Texas’ electric ratepayers.

Direct subsidies, tax breaks, and increased production and ancillary costs associated with wind energy could cost Texas more than $4 billion per year and at least $60 billion through 2025. Wind, like every other energy resource, has its pros and cons, and there is no doubt that wind power should be part of Texas’ energy supply. Texas needs a variety of fuel sources, plus concerted eff orts at conservation and effi ciency, in order to meet its energy needs. However, wind energy should only be employed to the extent it passes economic cost-benefi t muster.

Instead of subsidizing private wind development and imposing billions of dollars in new transmission costs upon retail electric customers, Texas policymakers should step back and allow the energy marketplace to bring wind power online when the market is ready. Texas electricity consumers will reap the benefits of such a prudent path.

See the full report here.

U.S. geothermal could supply 7 million people

By Candace Lombardi

If current projects under development are completed, the U.S. could have as much as 10 gigawatts of geothermal power at its disposal, according to a new report from the Geothermal Energy Association.

Through several extraction methods, geothermal energy harnesses heat from the Earth for the purpose of heating and cooling buildings or for power generation. Many have argued for years that geothermal is an underestimated resource for clean electricity.

There are currently 144 new geothermal projects under development in 14 states. If successful, those projects could add up to 7,100 megawatts (7 gigawatts) of power to the existing 3,100 megawatts of U.S. geothermal energy output. That would give the U.S. a total of roughly 10 gigawatts of power capacity from geothermal energy, according to data from the GEA’s report (PDF) released Wednesday.

“At the high end, that would be enough baseload power to supply about 20 percent of California’s total electric power in 2008–or enough generating capacity to supply the power needs of about 7.2 million people,” the GEA said.

The GEA gives a state-by-state breakdown, listing how many new geothermal projects are under way and the potential amount of energy they could collectively generate. Nevada leads with 64 new projects that could add a geothermal capacity of up to 3,473 megawatts. California, Oregon, Utah, and Idaho follow respectively, with capacities ranging from 238 MW to 2,436 MW. Here’s the breakdown:

 

  1. Nevada, 64 projects, potential 1,876-3,473 MW
  2. California, 37 projects, potential 1,842-2,436 MW
  3. Oregon, 13 projects, potential 317-368 MW

  4. Utah, 10 projects, potential 272-332 MW
  5. Idaho, 5 projects, potential 238-326 MW
  6. Alaska, 6 projects, potential 70 to 115 MW
  7. New Mexico, 1 project, potential 20 MW
  8. Arizona, 1 project, potential 2-20 MW
  9. Colorado, 1 project, potential 10 MW
  10. Hawaii, 2 projects, potential 8 MW
  11. Florida, 1 project, potential 0.2-1 MW
  12. Louisiana, 1 project, potential .05 MW
  13. Mississippi, 1 project, potential .05 MW
  14. Washington, 1 project, MW potential “unspecified”

The Geothermal Energy Association is a trade association with an office in Washington, D.C., that promotes public policy to advance geothermal energy projects. The GEA member list reads like a who’s who list of major energy and technology companies, some of which are directly invested in geothermal projects.

But it’s not just the GEA touting the praises of geothermal as a viable renewable energy source.

In May, President Obama announced that $350 million of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding would be used by the Department of Energy to accelerate the development and deployment of geothermal projects. It’s an unprecedented amount of government backing for geothermal, according to both the DOE and the GEA.

That same month, Dan Reicher, director of climate and energy initiatives at Google.org, said at an Massachusetts Institute of Technology event on clean energy that his organization sees geothermal as a great untapped resource.

See post here.

Catchphrase for States

By

USA Today reports that at least nine states (and probably more) are not meeting their renewable portfolio standards. What coulda happened?

In their quest to draw more renewable power, states have come up against obstacles such as the recession, red tape and an outdated transmission system that makes it difficult to move solar or wind power from where it’s made to where it’s needed.

Some states, including Delaware and New Hampshire, require power companies that don’t buy enough renewable energy to make payments to a fund for renewable-energy projects. That allows companies to comply with the rules but doesn’t help move a state toward greater reliance on alternative energy.

You know how it goes: government imposes unattainable mandates on business, collects fines as a result, higher costs passed to customers.

Whatta bunch a dolts the utilities are to back this stuff! Good thing we can take our business elsewhere…wait a minute…

Governor Lynch Signs “Global” Declaration in Advance of Next Climate Agreement in Copenhagen!

In what can only be described as a sweeping unilateral decision, Governor Lynch recently signed the State of New Hampshire onto an international declaration aimed at engaging New Hampshire in a United Nations led effort to enact global policies on “climate change” on the state level.

As reported in the California Imperial Valley News on Saturday, October 3rd, Governor Lynch, as part of the Governor’s Global Climate Summit 2, signed onto a United Nations led declaration, that among other things resolves to: “support national climate change legislation, acknowledge the need for adaptation efforts and recognize the role of subnational governments in the discussions on the next global climate agreement being negotiated in Copenhagen this December.”

The article goes on to state:
“California’s advocacy for progressive states and provinces led to the drafting of language recognizing the important role of subnational governments. The term “subnational” is now referenced more than 100 times in the official negotiating text for Copenhagen as a result of the partnerships created and strengthened at the summit.  Up to 50 to 80 percent of actions needed to reach the UN climate goals will be implemented at the state and local levels.

In some of the most alarming excerpts from the declaration Lynch signed, it states:

“We believe that the United States must enact comprehensive climate change legislation during the current session of the U.S. Congress in order to put the world on a path to greenhouse gas stabilization.” ~and~ “Supporting the use of finance mechanisms to address global warming.”

Of course, “support national climate change” is code for supporting the Obama administration’s sweeping “cap and trade” policies which will levy thousands of dollars in new energy taxes on New Hampshire families.

Finally, the sweeping declaration ends with this:
In the spirit of common and differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, we agree to work together in solidarity as cities, provinces, states and regions and nations in developed and developing countries to craft our environmental, economic and social development policies. We agree to consider the impacts of climate change in our economic and social development policies.

We agree to rely on a territorial approach, which is a coordinated and collaborative approach within subnations and regions that is intended to increase effectiveness in combating and adapting to climate change.
 
We commit to work together to promote recognition of the role of subnational governments at the 15th UNFCCC Conference of Parties and in future international forums.  We support negotiations leading toward international recognition of this role.

All of which led  Amy Fraenkel, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Regional Office for North America, to state the following:  “Collaboration is at the heart of the United Nations’ work and UNEP looks forward to working with the many partners that were here in Los Angeles.”

Oh Really?  Did you know that you’ve now signed on as partner with the United Nations to work on global climate change courtesy of Governor Lynch?
Why, when we have our own problems yet to be addressed at home, including rising unemployment and an escalating budget crisis, is Governor Lynch out signing an international declaration on behalf of the people of New Hampshire?

Did you give him the green light to sign this declaration?!  Did the legislature?!

It is high time we demand answers and accountability from the Governor by asking him on what authority does he speak for the people of New Hampshire when it comes to signing international declarations committing us to enacting ‘global warming’ induced policies?

Call the Governor TODAY at 271-2121 and ask to know why he did not consult with the people or even the legislature before he took it upon himself to sign an international document defining New Hampshire’s role in the fight against “global warming.”  ALSO, send the Governor an email HERE

Finally, be sure to contact your REPS. and Senator (HERE) and ask that they demand accountability from Governor Lynch for advocating policies that should be decided by the legislature!

(See the entire article from the California Imperial Valley News at the end of Cornerstone’s blog HERE.)

Nuclear power: low-carbon, secure and proven

Scientific Alliance Newsletter, October 8, 2009

When sceptics or agnostics raise questions about the current received wisdom on climate change, one of the more reasonable responses is to suggest that, since the projected consequences could be so catastrophic, precautionary action would surely be a sensible route to take. Even people not convinced by the IPCC arguments might think that some kind of insurance against a possibility of catastrophe would be justified.

The problem is that many of the favoured policy prescriptions are both drastic and unproven. Most plans for reductions in carbon intensity focus on increased use of renewable power, in particular wind, since this requires a lower subsidy than alternatives. But, as has been pointed out many times before, wind power is essentially erratic and output varies in unpredictable ways from day to day, hour to hour and even minute to minute. This can cause problems for the distribution grid, which must be kept balanced at all times, but significant amounts of wind power can be managed.

A bigger problem is that the output is essentially uncontrollable, short of shutting turbines down (as indeed has to be done to prevent damage when the wind speed is too high). Not only does a source of reserve power have to be on standby to meet demand at some times, but at others there can be a danger of the grid being swamped by excess power. An excellent study of this situation in Denmark (Wind Energy – the case of Denmark, written by Hugh Sharman and Henrik Meyer, published by the CEPOS think tank) – which has for many years been one of the leading generators of wind power – illustrates the consequences in quantitative terms.

Although on paper the country generates about 19% of its electricity from wind turbines, this figure is misleading. In practice, at windy times or when demand is low, wind-generated electricity is exported via interconnectors to neighbouring Sweden and Norway, which can use the power to pump water into storage for their hydroelectric plants. However, because these countries do not actually need the power when it is generated, the price they pay is very low. In effect, Danish consumers not only subsidise their own country’s power generators (and, in so doing, pay the highest electricity prices in Europe) but also make a contribution to the costs of generating power in Norway and Sweden.

The result is that, although theoretically generating 19% of its needs from wind, the actual average contribution over five years has been 9.7%, with the figure dipping to 5% in 2006. Some carbon dioxide emissions were certainly averted, but at a cost of nearly 90 euros per tonne of CO2. To compound the error, there is a political consensus in Denmark to generate half of the country’s electricity from renewables, largely wind, by 2025.

The cost of fulfilling this ambition has not been estimated. Neither has the practicality of achieving it. Denmark is in a favourable geographical situation, being a rather small country sitting between two larger ones (Sweden and Norway) which are at present able to balance Danish electricity supply and demand. However, this may not be possible if Denmark really does push ahead with its proposals. The logical way forward (assuming sufficient latent capacity exists) would seem to be for the Danish government to pay Norway and Sweden to install additional generating capacity and run down its own power stations. Taking that route should lead to a 100% clean, controllable and reliable renewable power supply, with none of it generated in Denmark.

But there is another option for emissions reductions. Sweden already generates over 40% of its electricity from nuclear plants. Like many other countries, its initial enthusiasm waned and there has been a ban on building further reactors for the last 30 years. However, the government has recently announced a reversal of this policy, in light of the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Denmark already receives a proportion of its needs from these Swedish plant, and that proportion could increase significantly in years to come.

Sweden has come to the conclusion that nuclear represents the best way at present to provide affordable, reliable power with no CO2 emissions. Yes, there remains the issue of high-level waste disposal, but there is an existing legacy which has to be dealt with in any case, so this is not a new problem, and the current generation of reactors produces relatively low levels of waste. The other plus compared to wind power is that in the 50 or more year life span of a nuclear generating station, turbines would have had to have been replaced perhaps three times and would also undoubtedly have suffered considerable downtime during their operational life. Replacement is not just a large cost, but also technically difficult and dangerous for the increasing numbers of offshore turbines.

Many governments have reached the same conclusion as the Swedes, and now further support for nuclear comes from a different and very authoritative source, the UK government’s chief climate change and energy adviser, David MacKay, in a recent Cambridge talk reported in the Times. He has come to the conclusion that renewables such as wind could make only a minor contribution to the country’s energy needs. Unlike some climate change campaigners, who focus on reducing energy use, MacKay argues that the UK will need to generate three times the current amount of electricity by 2050 to cover a wholesale conversion of road transport to electric power.

His proposal would involve building 40-50 GW of new nuclear generating capacity, compared to the current 12 GW (which accounts for about 15% of the country’s current needs, but which will be run down over the next few years). Of course, given the projected trebling of energy demand, even this level of nuclear power would still only bring us back to the situation we had a few years ago, with about 20% of demand coming from nuclear.

This is not a new position for MacKay, who makes it clear that he is providing options rather than favouring any particular technology. In his ground-breaking book ‘Renewable energy: without the hot air’, he proposes five energy generation scenarios, with the choice depending on what would be politically and socially acceptable. The economic argument favours nuclear, and in this scenario he includes 115 gigawatts of capacity, double that currently installed in France.

Whatever the total demand and the contribution of nuclear, a mix of other technologies is proposed to provide for total power needs. These include, for example, solar power from north Africa, and coal-fired stations with carbon capture and storage. Wind also has its part to play, but this is minor.

MacKay makes his proposals on the basis of a rational analysis of the likely demands and what each generating technology can provide. Despite its recent renaissance, nuclear power still has its critics, but the inescapable conclusion of any objective review is that it remains the only proven, affordable means of reliably generating low-carbon electricity. It is for opponents of the technology to demonstrate that viable alternatives exist.

Editor Note: the following note to CCNet by MIT alumni  Tom Sheahen reflects the same positive view and the main obstacles public perception and environmental group litigation:

Professor Akasofu (CCNet, 7 Oct 2009) draws attention to the contemporary use of CO2 fears as a back-door means of re-introducing nuclear power.  If that’s Obama’s intended strategy, it will likely sackfire; trying to repair one mistake by adding a different mistake is the wrong way to do either science or public policy.

The antagonism toward nuclear power began when various people without adequate scientific understanding got the notion that a nuclear reactor could blow up like a bomb.  That mistake was propagated to an entire generation of school children, who have now grown up and are the school teachers of today.  Additional anti-nuke myths are piled on top of that, and consequently the public is frightened.

The pathway toward overcoming that belief begins with pointing out neighbors who have lived happily alongside nuclear reactors (the state of Illinois, the nation of France, etc.).  Two generations of success using nuclear power speaks volumes.

Instead, global warming alarmism strives to make citizens more fearful of CO2, so that nuclear power appears as the lesser of two evils.  That’s a variety of “two wrongs makes a right.”  It won’t work, because opponents will still be able to delay nukes with endless lawsuits. The appeal of wind and solar being “just around the corner” will sustain the stalemate.

Nuclear power is a good thing in its own right, and education about it should be corrected to explain why.  At the most basic level of grade school physics, splitting a nucleus releases orders of magnitude more energy than a chemical reaction (coal, gas) and still further orders more than mechanical motion (wind).  The engineering problems have been solved.  The remaining obstacle is public perception, which can only be reversed via scientific education.

Tom Sheahen

New Energy Web Portal Explains Topics in Plain Language

Energy Explained , a new web portal launched today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), celebrates Energy Awareness Month with the most comprehensive energy education resource available from the U.S. Government.

The site explains where gasoline comes from, what determines the price of electricity, how much renewable energy the United States uses, and hundreds of other energy topics.

“Energy touches us in many ways every day, from the electricity that lights our homes to the fuel we use in our cars,” said EIA Administrator Richard Newell. “Energy Explained uses plain language and clear graphics to help explain a sometimes complex, but vital subject.”

Energy Explained allows easy navigation between major energy topics:

Energy Explained includes a “rate this page” feature so visitors can easily give EIA feedback on any page.

Visit Energy Explained at: www.eia.doe.gov/energyexplained .

For high-resolution files of the Energy Explained logo or graphics, contact Jonathan Cogan at 202-586-8800 or jcogan@eia.doe.gov .