A free-market energy blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Renewable Portfolio Standard/Renewable Electricity Standard

McCrory Cronyism: Republican Governor Saves Renewables Mandate

“What Governor McCrory has now acknowledged to an audience of advocates for forced utilization of wind and solar power is that, behind the scenes, he was using his influence with Republican lawmakers to block this reversal of one of the most egregious forms of crony capitalism on the books in North Carolina.”

Gov. Pat McCrory, speaking recently to the Appalachian Energy Summit in Boone, North Carolina, subtly and without fanfare dropped what has to be considered a bombshell. According to the Watauga Democrat, “McCrory drew applause from summit attendees when he said he stepped in to stop a legislative effort this year to end state subsidies for renewable energy development.”

McCrory is referring to legislation that was introduced early in the session to repeal substantial portions of 2007’s Senate Bill 3, which mandates that at least 7.5 percent of the electricity used by North Carolinians must come from renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. Another 5 percent can come from reductions in energy usage, falsely referred to as energy efficiency. The mandates are a massive subsidy to these industries.

Under a regime of free choice in energy, without these mandates and other subsidies, the solar and wind power industries would be completely unsustainable.

So why should this be considered “bombshell” news? Until this speech, McCrory had not even taken a position on these mandates. During the debate on their repeal, at least in terms of public comment, the governor was silent. [Read more →]

August 2, 2013   3 Comments

Open Letter to Senator Brownback on His Support for a Federal Renewable Energy Standard

[Editor note: Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) removed a federal renewable mandate from the energy bill now under debate. However, Sen. Brownback of Kansas has indicated his intention to add an amendment to the bill resurrecting such a mandate.]

US Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) displays a national debt clock on his home page and is a proclaimed conservative. Yet he supports wasteful government spending on deployment of impotent technologies like wind energy.

I believe Sam and his kind are the root cause of a failure for industrial windpower opponents to gain the upper hand in Washington D.C. I further believe that in Brownback’s case, his faulty platform correlates to his committee membership, which shows his allegiance to the agriculture lobby, which represent the secondary financial beneficiaries of wind energy deployment.

It would be more fiscally conservative and environmentally benign to simply hand the agri-community the equivalent taxpayer money Carte-Blanche which they stand to receive from wind energy leases. But I do not advocate this over the best course of action: removing special government favors and mandates for windfarms.

While it is unfathomable to me that Sam Brownback can display a national debt clock on his web site while simultaneously calling for a national renewable energy standard (RES),  I cannot change Senator’s position on wind energy in light of his allegiance to agriculture on my own.

I feel obligated as an American, however, to do all I can to franchise scientific truth to the public and to lawmakers in light of the sadly misdirected policy efforts of name-only “conservatives” like Brownback.  That is why I recommend the finely constructed presentation found at www.energypresentation.info. and then plead for your help (not your money).

Please also take a moment to read my letter to Senator Brownback, which is attached.  After I sent that letter, I also called his office and asked that he return my call so we could discuss his misunderstanding of an urgent matter concerning energy policy. [Read more →]

August 1, 2010   5 Comments

PR’ing Industrial Wind: Government and Media versus Common Sense

The New York Times dutifully featured this week two media events primed to gin up public—and Congressional—support for industrial wind technology.

The first was a “study” by the Department of Energy and authored primarily by David Corbus of the National Renewable Energy Lab. It claims that, for a startup cost of around $100 billion public dollars, “wind could displace coal and natural gas for 20 to 30 percent of the electricity used in the eastern two-thirds of the United States by 2024.” Corbus acknowledged that such an enterprise would require substantial grid modification but said the $100 billion was “really, really small compared to other costs,” which the Times failed to identify.

A few days later, the paper of record ballyhooed the annual report of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which touted the growth of wind last year and projected that the country would soon get 2 percent of its electricity from wind energy. The report fretted about the American wind gap with Europe, which AWEA alleged gets 5 percent of its electricity from wind, compared to only about 1 percent in the USA, while stating “Denmark has essentially achieved that goal already, and sometimes produces more wind power than it can use.”

AWEA’s stalking horse for this PR event, energy consultant Tim Stephure, said, “By 2020 wind’s installed capacity could be five times higher than it is today, reaching about 180,000 megawatts.”

To achieve this goal, from its present base of 35,000 wind turbines and an installed capacity of about 35,000 MW, the industry must build, in each of the next ten years, an installed capacity of 14,500 MW.  This is pure speculation and, more accurately, nonsense. [Read more →]

January 30, 2010   9 Comments

High Capital Costs Plague Solar (RPS mandates, cost dilution via energy mixing required) Part III

Solar power has one major advantage over its more ubiquitous cousin wind power: electricity that is  generated during peak demand hours (hot, sunny, air conditioned afternoons). Such makes solar attractive to utilities that value such capacity for peak shaving, cost aside.

The problem of wind is shown by this example. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) leads the nation with more than 8,000 MW of installed wind capacity, yet their resource planning–tasked with keeping the lights on–“counts 8.7 percent of wind nameplate capacity as dependable capacity at peak.”

The limited usefulness of wind and solar is reflected by their low system capacity factors. For example, the capacity factor of a typical utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) or concentrating solar project (CSP) is still limited to about 25% compared to the average for U.S. nuclear power plants of 91.5% in 2008, with many nuclear plants operating at or above 100%.

Also, given the lower capacity factors, the amortized cost of transmission per unit of energy carried is almost four times as high given the wide difference in capacity factors. We explored this systematic problem earlier.

The physics of solar energy production, without subsidy, will continue to conspire to keep the first cost and operating costs of the solar option higher than conventional approaches to producing electricity, especially when the cost of transmission is included in the equation. The capital cost of all the solar technologies are about $6,000/kW and higher (sharp-eyed readers will note that I’ve increased this number from the $5,000/kW estimate provided in earlier posts—the reason is discussed shortly) and projects are moving forward only in particular regions within the U.S. with tough RPS requirements and large subsidies from states and the federal government.

In Part I, we reviewed the enormous scale and capital cost considerations of PV projects and then introduced the standard taxonomy of central solar power generating plants. By far the favored technology for utility-scale projects is the CSP option that either produces thermal energy used to produce electricity in the familiar steam turbine process or by concentrating the sun’s thermal energy on an air heat exchanger to produce electricity via an air turbine. In Part II, we reviewed a sampling of recent solar projects.

This final post explores the latest cost solar project cost data and then rising interest in hybrid projects that combines these two solar energy conversion technologies with conventional fossil-fueled technologies. Hybrid projects offer the opportunity for utilities to reduce fuel costs, while simultaneously helping utilities cope with onerous renewable portfolio mandates.

Creative Electricity Accounting

Renewable energy does generate a larger portion of the world’s electricity each year but the reported numbers are misleading. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA, a trade organization that promotes solar energy technologies) recently released its 2008 Year in Review report wherein the organization estimated the solar industry growth over the past year. According to SEIA’s number, the total capacity of the solar industry grew by 1,265 MW in 2008, up from 1,159 MW installed in 2007, a modest increase. However, since my first post in early October where I first referenced this report, a closer look at the numbers reveal much creative accounting in SEIA’s numbers. Their mistake, and it’s a doozie, is they sum the electrical production of a photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) systems that produce electricity with the thermal energy production of solar water heating. No can do. [Read more →]

November 19, 2009   4 Comments