Dec 22, 2013

Solar Energy is not a Replacement Technology for Fossil Fuel

The solar and wind energy enthusiasts continue to talk about the cost of the solar energy and the recent declines in cost.  It is important to note that implicit in their discussion is their understanding that solar and wind are not replacement technologies, but rather supplemental technologies.  Most renewable energy programs don't explain well for you that these are NOT replacement programs, they are supplemental.

Before I get into the details, let me say I support solar energy, biomass, wind energy, oxy-fuel cycles, nuclear, clean coal, natural gas and fuel cell.  I support an all of the above approach.  We don't know where the next big technological development will come from, so let's not limit innovation.  There is a cost point that makes solar energy cost effective for certain applications.  Let's use it there.

The difference between cost of production and cost as consumed is in availability, those two numbers are not apples-to-apples.  The cost to produce fossil fueled energy is still $.05 to $.08 per KWh.  The sun doesn't always shine when you need the energy.  In fact, the availability of solar energy is about 25%, so you would need 4 times as much installed capacity and a way to store the energy for when you need it.  That brings solar energy to a cost as consumed of about $ .52 per KWh.  The solar energy cost doesn't capture frequency regulation, backup costs and a subsidy to provide power for un-collectible utility bills, low income energy subsidies and energy efficiency programs either.  Now before everyone blows a lid, I know it doesn't exactly translate to four times--but neither do the solar energy costs capture all the government programs that burden your utility energy costs.  Evenso, my point is made, it is not $ .l3 per KWh for a large replacement of utility scale energy program.  The cost of solar energy as proscribed in most articles depends on the fact that other energy sources are present and providing services to support solar energy, and the solar energy advocates are not being entirely transparent with you.

Lastly, if solar and renewable energy were in fact less expensive and a replacement, then the utilities would be giving you a discount to choose renewables instead of charging more if you select renewable energy.

(1) Solar Energy Industries  Association, "A Bright Future", Fortune Magazine/Adsections, Dec 2013, p125

May 3, 2013

Alternatives to high priced solar and wind energy

It is not that I don't think that there is a place for wind and solar, it is just that those are more expensive, the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine.  We need to insure we have a low cost readily available base load energy fuel source for our economy.

The environmentalist focus seems to now be shifting from "we need more renewable energy"sources to "we hate coal".  But while the group focuses on what they like and don't like, without regard for the merit or functionality of an idea there is growing support for a new method of coal based generation.

The past method for coal fired energy was to supply atmospheric air to the combustion.  However, air is only about 21% oxygen.  the other 80% of air is nitrogen and other gasses.  It is this impure mixture which creates more pollutants on in the exhaust from the combustion.  A new combustion cycle was introduced about 7 years ago in which they will purify the air supply to be almost 100% oxygen.   This improves the efficiency and reduces the emissions of NOx by up to 80%.  Other pollutants are also reduced.  While the oxygenation cycle requires some energy and reduces the overall output, it remains much much more cost effective than any other source of power generation.  The emissions are reduced by 97% below half of the current generating stations.  Think of it;  We could reduce the air pollution by about 50% and still have very low cost power.

Courtesy NETL, National Energy Technology Lab,
 http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/coalpower/turbines/refshelf/brochures/Brochure%209-19-05.pdf


There are several twists to the remaining Oxy-fuel cycle.  The environmentalist wants to pump the remaining CO2 into the ground, at great cost, to insure zero emissions.  One company has coupled their process with the enhanced oil extraction process.  Many tight oil fields require CO2 or other gaseous mixtures to force the oil out of formations and into the extraction process.  By siting microgeneration stations at the point of oil extraction the former problem of what to do with the CO2 becomes the solution for better and more efficient recovery of our own oil resources.  I love it when America out-smarts a problem.

Several companies have generating stations that are already online and proving the technology today.  Google oxy-fuel cycle and read more.

Read more at;
http://www.netpower.com/technology.html

http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/factsheets/project/Proj460.pdf

http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/factsheets/rd/R&D127.pdf

Apr 26, 2013

US set to become Natural Gas Exporter in 7 years.

US set to become Natural Gas Exporter in 7 years. 

The Energy Information Administration released a report for Bank of America titled "Outlook for shale gas and tight oil development in the U.S".  The report outlines state of US energy development, and very clearly shows that we have enough energy to power the American Economy - if we would only develop them.

Adam Sieminski, "Outlook for shale gas and tight oil development in the U.S.", EIA, Accessed May 2013
Four of the top five uncertainties to development are man-made.

• Resource quantities and distribution
• Surface vs. mineral rights
• Risk appetite of industry participants
• Infrastructure and technology
• Environmental constraints

Furthermore, three out of the five potential impediments are government influenced (risk, distribution (leases), and environmental constraints.

The presentation in full can be found at:  http://www.eia.gov/pressroom/presentations/sieminski_04202013.pdf


Mar 24, 2013

High Energy Prices = High Un-employment

We know based on some basic economic principles that increased regulations and taxes slow the economy down.  I have postulated in my upcoming book that higher energy prices are an indicator of both high regulation and higher taxes and also correlate to higher unemployment.  Now thanks to the Institute for Energy Research (IER) I can show the data.  The IER recently published a study that included all the data that I needed.  So I graphed un-employment against energy prices for 48 States from February of 2010.  The trend is unmistakable.