The August 2008 Energy Update

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item The August 2008 Energy Update

  • Hi,

    I think you guys in the U.S are missing a trick here. You've got some pretty huge deserts with great sunlight conditions; it really would be possible to create some huge solar farms.

    [My assumption for the below is that you don't have a national grid which can efficiently move electricity between states??]

    Rather than use the electricity generated directly it could be used to split water into Oxygen and Hydrogen. Whilst this is not the most efficient use of electricity it would give the option of piping or tankering the fuel all over the US.

    Once it reaches its destination it could be used in fuel cells for cars or homes or re-combined and burnt in a regular powerstation to produce local electricity with pure water being the only by-product 🙂

    Just a thought.


  • Steve,

    Being in the suburbs of philly, not too many options here for alternative fuels.

    We've been investigating using some solar to augment the power we get now, but we don't get enough sun year round to really offset the initial cost.

    I'm hoping the cost of solar falls, or the panels become more efficient and generate more power, but as for now the main benefit would be to help offset our carbon footprint, which isn't a bad thing, but right now it's not financially feasible, unless the salary of DBA's goes way up....


  • Unfortunately I'm in somewhat of the same boat, living in central Pennsylvania, we don't get much wind and the days get too short in the winter for solar (although

    I'm considering a solar hot water solution to heat my pool), but at least most if not all of the energy we consume in this area comes from the three nuclear plants within the surrounding area.


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  • The best part of high energy prices is the fact that people are thinking about alternatives.

    I disagree that the gov't should be involved in subsidizing - as most educated people know - ethanol subsidizing was such a great idea...

    The gov't is the worst advocate of change (pretty much in every country). Market demand will bring the best and brightest to the business of figuring out ways to harness natural power. Even in the upper midwest we have people creating windmills that can catch more wind and don't kill wildlife. There doing it because their is demand, and a potential business for them, not cause a gov't came up with a new way to make more gov't jobs and hold back change.

    My idea, start the process of drilling for oil around the US - it will provide an immediate boost to our economy - then rather than the gov't get their hands in the cookie jar, take the taxes and apply them towards alternative energies - the $ can go into "greening" our schools and gov't buildings. That kind of budget alone will bring companies out of the woodwork competing for business on solar, wind, and geothermal (the most efficient in this neck of the woods).


  • Steve,

    You will be fighting the enviromentalists every step of the way. They talk out of both sides of their collective mouth on this.

    They want alternative energy but when a plan is developed for solar or wind, they immediately bring up reasons why we can't use them.

    In WI, we have out-of-state enviro-warriors coming here to fight windmills. We have what is termed the Niagra Escarpment. It is a high ridge created from glaciation and is a perfect place for windmills. The companies that want to put them up are being stopped in their tracks. The reasons given as to why windmills are bad:

    1. They kill birds.

    2. They generate a low frequency hum that humans can't hear but affects bats.

    3. Power lines have to be run from the windmills andyou can't string power lines.

    Regardless of the alternative energy, power lines have to be built to carry the electricity.

    Legendary oil man T. Boone Pickens has a campaign going on right now about how the US needs to begin developing alternate power sources. I agree with much of what he says but the eco-warriors don't want trees cut, don't want any creature killed, and don't want anything done to alter an ecosystem in any way. Putting up windmills and solar arrays definitely alters ecosystems.

    Good luck in trying to be "green" but like kermit says, "It ain't easy being green."

  • I think everyone should have solar panels on their homes. Sure, they don't generate a huge amount but it would certainly help. We had a news piece in the last year of a homeowner who did install solar panels. His up front cost was $16,000 but he saw his meter turn backwards, selling his excess power to the power company (yes, this does require a special meter).

    I would jump in a heartbeat but the reason his story hit the news was his home owners association. He failed to get an OK from the HOA before installing the panels. Once they were completely installed, the HOA came in with their attorney and forced him to remove the panels. He tried everything to get them to allow him to leave them up but they refused.

    Here in North Texas, your HOA has more rights to your property than you do...

    As far as environmentalists are concerned, I do believe there is an appropriate balance. Wildlife can be moved. If a wind generator creates an uncomfortable hum for a bat, they will probably leave and go somewhere else. Nature is fragile but not so fragile that it won't adjust. Humans need to take care of humans first while looking long term to make sure that what we do won't harm us in the long run. That is where the balance comes in. Do we really need to put bats before humans? I wonder what the environmentalists think about all of the homes standing empty because people can't afford them?

  • Good comments and it's definitely a balance. I've heard issues about our grid, which I do think are legitimate. The idea of storing power in a movable form, perhaps fuel cells, is an interesting one since it eliminates some of the power line issues.

    I've heard the "killing birds" arguments and I don't know how true it is. There have been conflicting reports. In my mind, perhaps we should do something about that problem, noise, paint them differently, maybe make them large scarecrows. Who knows, but something other than no windmills.

    We have to run power lines, and the people that want to prevent all growth are as bad as those wanting to stick with oil. It is hard being green, or moving in that direction. Building greener is a big part of things, as are alternative choices. Governments have always subsidized to lower costs and promote new technologies. I'm not specifying what they should do, but perhaps an even "green" rebate of some sort across the board to let people choose what works best with their situation. Solar, geo, wind, etc.

    I heard the other day that Ethanol and biodiesel were the first choices because existing cars can use them easily now without modification. I'm not sold on the ethanol thing either, but it might be a good transition technology to get us to something else.

    My vote is fuel cells for more things from laptops to vehicles to perhaps small scale home power. Make them standard sizes, easily replaceable so they can be filled somewhere else, or with another source, like solar, wind, etc.

  • Yes to all of the above. We need everything we can get our hands on.

    The only thing we need to remember is that, whatever we do it will cost something.

    Since we're featuring wind as an example: Wind is great, especially for farm and other low-population areas, but it doesn't work as well for more urbanized local production as might have been hoped. Being from the suburbs of New York, I'm very familiar with Mayor Bloomberg's plan. He wanted to put windmills on every bridge and every building. He has since backpedalled when informed of the logistics of this. It's much more expensive to put in place than he originally thought. Also, in order to turn a generator you need gears which make noise. There have been many communities where windmills have been shot down because the neighbors hate the noise that they make. And in communities where the view is important (i.e. shore communities) many people consider windmills to be an eyesore. The most famous case was the windmill farm proposed for the cost of Cape Cod that was shot down by the Kennedy family because it would disturb their view of the ocean. On the other end of the scale, the massive windmill farms proposed by T. Boone Pickens would be a great idea IF we can get them to work as proposed. Even then, they can't be built without massive government subsidies.

    Mind you, I'm not shooting down windmills. I'd love to see them work out (As well as all of the other alternate energy sources). The problems I've mentioned above are not unsurmountable. I'm just saying that every solution winds up costing something, and often times the cost is much higher than the planners originally thought. Known solutions such as nuclear and yes, drilling for our own oil need to be kept around until we work out the kinks in other proposals.

    Edit note: Wow, a lot of stuff got posted while I wrote this :w00t: (including a good response from Steve) - I think some of the comments say it better than me...

    “Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.”

  • Steve Jones - Editor (8/28/2008)

    I've heard the "killing birds" arguments and I don't know how true it is. There have been conflicting reports. In my mind, perhaps we should do something about that problem, noise, paint them differently, maybe make them large scarecrows. Who knows, but something other than no windmills.

    I don't buy the "killing birds" argument. The blades turn quite slowly so birds can easily avoid them in flight.

  • Windfarms are not as green as their advocates would have you believe. Their power output is pretty meagre and you have to jump start them using a hefty motor.

    They have to be anchored very securely and putting a huge block of concrete in acidic soil is not a good idea.

    Once you start doing the research into green energy you very quickly realise that there isn't a magic solution.

    The link below shows what happens when they fail

    I think if we all used a little less energy then we would all be better off. An extra inch or two of roof insulation, be a bit more careful about switching off a light bulbs. None of it represents pain for the individual but collectively the difference made is immense.

  • As far as windmills being green, well, not so much. Apparently there are problems with bats as well as birds, apparantly bats' lungs explode in the low pressure areas around the windmill tips, see this article.[/url]

    Also, there was a report that micro-wind (wind turbines on houses) isn't green either: rooftop turbines.[/url]

    Now in your situation (a ranch) it could very well be different, I'd be interested to hear how much ROI your neighbor is getting from his windmill. I'm always suspicious the payback time will be longer than the windmill's service life.

  • I can't find it now, but I remember Steve mentioning a company working on technology a year or 2 ago that was developing Wind Turbines that spun horizontally instead of vertically. Anyone recall that editorial, I was interested to see how their work had progressed as they were supposed to have a much smaller footprint, and be able to turn in much higher velocity winds to eliminate a number of the problems in those vids.


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  • Where's your Prius MPG update? I should think your summer mileage would be terrific, unless it's being driven down by driving into all that wind.


  • :), the Prius update is next month. Alternate energy and cars each month. 520miles on the last tank, trying to beat that with this one, around 52mpg with my son lead footing it a bit. Fill up last night was US$37, 9.6gal

    Mariah Power, the Windspire vertical windmill, is the one you're thinking of.

    Cut in speed determines how to start windmills. Not sure about the really large ones, they might need a motor.

    Green is relative. Sure we can all use less power in ways, but we'll also draw more as society advances. Asking that to slow down isn't likely.

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