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Category — Renewable Energy Projections

James Hansen Smacks Renewable Energy (“The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy”–and Lovins as dreamer)

“Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

Climate and energy alarmists war with reality. And now and again, the incentives line up for a particular alarmist to blow the whistle on some aspect of the governmental ‘cure’ to their problem. The incendiary Joe Romm, for example, trots out free-market-type arguments against carbon sequestration and nuclear (both too expensive).

Hansen on Cap-and-Trade

NASA scientist and uber-climate-alarmist James Hansen informed the climate policy debate in 2009/2010 with his blistering criticism of CO2 cap-and-trade. “The truth is, the climate course set by Waxman-Markey is a disaster course,” he said. “It is an exceedingly inefficient way to get a small reduction of emissions. It is less than worthless….”

Joe Romm complained against Hansen’s “needlessly (and pointlessly) provocative attacks” as being “filled with right-wing and left-wing myths — and very little understanding of the basics of either this bill or cap-and-trade systems.” But California’s rethink of a state-level cap-and-trade program suggests that Hansen’s concerns of a highly political approach to mitigating carbon-dioxide emissions was on the mark.

Regarding international climate-change action, Hansen also called out

The fraudulence of the Copenhagen [Summit] approach – ‘goals’ for emission reductions, ‘offsets’ that render even iron-clad goals almost meaningless, an ineffectual ‘cap-and-trade’ mechanism – must be exposed. We must rebel against such politics-as-usual.

And now Renewables ….

Most recently, Hansen turned his attention to just what wind and solar in particular could do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reverse out the human influence on climate.

Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit (Hansen, WG3 and Green Kool-aid) has analyzed Hansen in the context of the IPCC’s amateurish pro-renewables report; I simply reproduce significant parts of the Hansen’s July 29, 2011, critique.

          James Hansen on Renewable Energy

There is a consensus that renewable energies need to be part of the solution to the energy security and climate matters.  But we must be realistic about their contribution.  So now let’s look at the progress of renewable energies after several years of strong government incentives.

Renewable sources [in 2009] provide 10.7% of the electric energy.  But … almost two-thirds of this is hydroelectric.  Wind has grown to almost 17% of  the renewable energy, so it is approaching 1.8% of U.S. electricity.  Solar power is only 0.2% of the renewable portion or 0.02% of electricity.

[Globally] … in 2008 … renewable energies provide 19% of electricity, but most of the renewable energy is hydroelectric.  Wind provides 1% of global electricity and solar energy less than 0.1%….

Renewables may be small, but they are growing rapidly, exponentially, right? [Data] reveals that growth of electricity in the past two decades in the U.S. has been mainly from fossil fuels…. [Read more →]

August 22, 2011   5 Comments

California’s 33% Renewable Energy Goal by 2020: Form or Substance? (Part II-RECs Required)

Part I yesterday reviewed in-state electricity generation and power imports required to meet California’s current power demand. Part II today shows how Renewable Energy Credits may be used to meet California’s aggressive renewable energy goals.

Renewable Energy Credits

Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) are the power generation credits that a distribution system can use to meet its renewable portfolio. These RECs come in two flavors—bundled and unbundled. The bundled RECs are the credits that are bought and used within the same distribution system; unbundled RECs are those bought by one distribution system but used in another. These RECs are managed by the Center for Resource Solutions, which also prevents double counting of credits.

Unbundled RECs are particularly interesting, because it means that a distribution system doesn’t need to build renewable energy power plants because the distribution system can simply buy the renewable power that is generated in another distribution system.

Paper Renewables?

This creates significant problems for the exporting distribution system. For example, the Bonneville Power Administration is currently negotiating with California about (in BPA’s words)

potentially significant negative consequences for Northwest and California consumers if decisions about the use of unbundled RECs are made without full consideration of the infrastructure requirements associated with the delivering a reliable, least cost supply of renewable energy to California.

So, what are the consequences? The use of unbundled RECs seems to mean that California could purchase all the renewable power generated by all the windmills that are connected to the California grid.

This is happening right now as California is contracting for wind energy from places as far away as Alberta, Canada. The electricity generated in Alberta, however, will not arrive in California. It is too far away. The only thing that is happening is that Californians are paying for it to meet their renewable portfolio. This seems pretty strange, that Californians are required to pay for a benefit that they don’t get.

The fact that 15 percent of its imports in 2009 are “unspecified” probably means that California intends to purchase enough renewable energy credits to meet its goal. This would mean that it would not need to build any more renewable power generators. It just needs to purchase the power from its neighbors (at the expense of the rate payers in California).

There are three major problems with unbundled RECs: [Read more →]

August 11, 2011   8 Comments

California’s 33% Renewable Energy Goal by 2020: Form or Substance? (Part I–Current Situation)

California is committed to a renewable energy portfolio to provide 33 percent of its electricity by 2020 from qualifying resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and small hydroelectric facilities.

Can this portfolio succeed? Ambitious goals take more than legislative action to have a chance for success. It takes an actual plan that can be implemented with actual engineering accomplishments.

Drastic Increase Needed

In order to determine the probability of success, we can look at California’s renewable energy sources in prior years. These are available on the Internetand are presented in the following graph.

The plot shows the actual renewable sources of electricity generated in California from 2005 to 2009 and shows the projected increase required to achieve the goal of 33 percent by 2020. Notice that the renewable contribution has been rather constant over the previous years and requires a dramatic increaseto achieve the goal. This implies that something different needs to be done than what has been done it the past, otherwise the projection line will be ever steeper and eventually needs to be abandoned.

Looking at the Pieces

So, exactly which of the renewable energy sources can be increased to reach the goal? It is generally accepted that biomass, geothermal, and small hydro cannot be increased significantly, which leaves the intermittent sources of solar and wind to do the job. Is it reasonable to expect that solar and wind can accomplish the task? The gap that must be closed by 2020 is 21 percent of the total electricity consumption.

Solar currently contributes only 0.3 percent (2009) of the electricity used in California. This contribution is too small to expect a significant contribution by 2020. It might be doubled by 2020, but this is still a small amount.

Windcontributed 2.7 percent (2009). The expectation that it will close the 21-percent renewable gap is unrealistic, however, for the following reasons: [Read more →]

August 10, 2011   10 Comments

Is Al Gore Bad for Big Environmentalism? (A shriller gone sour)

“‘I think Al Gore’s done more to hurt this cause than he has to help it…. There are a lot of Democrats who don’t want to get within 10 miles of Al Gore on climate policy, because he’s seen by a lot of Americans as being on a crusade, and he doesn’t mind turning the economy upside-down because of sort of a religious zeal he has.”

- Lindsey Graham (R-SC), quoted in Jean Chemnick, “Graham says Gore to Blame, not Obama, for Congress’ Antipathy toward Climate Bill,” E&E News (sub. req.) June 23, 2011.

Al Gore in his most recent pronouncements on the climate-change issue (“Climate of Denial,” Rolling Stone, June 22, 2011) went so far as to pin blame on President Obama for the failure to excite the electorate on energy sacrifice in the name of averting catastrophic climate change. “In spite of [his climate-change related] achievements,’ Gore opined, “President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change.” Gore explained:

After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that “drill, baby, drill” is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.

But even the Left has questioned Gore’s complaint. And more politicos than not see what perhaps Mr. Gore himself refuses to see: climate alarmism fatigue and Al-Gore fatigue.

“Thank you for existing and speaking on this issue,” I hear Gore’s critics saying. And remember what happened to Jimmy Carter when he went the oil-and-gas alarmism/self-sacrifice route back in the 1970s (see here and here)?

Still Alarmist–and Energy Postmodernist

Gore also goes alarmist. “What we are doing is functionally insane,” Gore penned in his 7,000-word essay. “If we do not change this pattern, we will condemn our children and all future generations to struggle with ecological curses for several millennia to come.” [Read more →]

July 5, 2011   11 Comments

80% “Clean” Energy by 2035: What Does This Mean?

[Editor’s Note: Ken Kok has 35 years experience in nuclear energy and R&D project management, including business development, facility management, proposal preparation and project planning. He has a master's from Michigan Technological University in Business Administration and Nuclear Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer and ASME Fellow.]

President Obama proposed in the 2011 State of the Union Address (SOU) that we have a goal of 80% of our energy coming from “clean” sources by 2035. The goal was not clarified as to the definition of clean energy so it is assumed that the mix of production will include renewables, e.g. wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, etc. as defined by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), nuclear, and others such as clean coal.

So what are we really talking about in such a major energy transformation?  As calculated in Table 1, the staggering answer is 300+ large nuclear plants and 600,000 large wind machines–not to mention some 600 new gas-fired power plants to firm up the wind.

Table 1 – Evaluation of the electric energy production

Table 1 was generated based on the above numbers using data currently displayed by the EIA. As noted in the Table 1 footnote, the number of wind turbines is based on a 20% capacity factor. Because of the variability of wind and the need for stability in the electric grid the wind generation capacity needs to be augmented by a conventional, fast-responding generating technology. [Read more →]

February 3, 2011   27 Comments