Seen Any Conventional Electric Generating Plants Retired Lately?

One would think with the thousands of wind towers that have been erected in the Great Plains and elsewhere the last few years and all of the solar installations, we would be seeing conventional power plants decommissioned with all that new electricity, right?

Not a single U.S. power plant has been replaced by all of the recent wind and solar construction due to excess alternative energy. Because the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, the plants are needed for backup with their generators still spinning (“spinning reserve” as it is called in the industry). 

There has been a fair amount of news pertaining to the end of the U.S. government’s subsidy for wind power expiring the end of the month.  

Turns out we are not the only nation losing its enthusiasm for “alternative energy.”

In the words of the German Association of Physicists, “solar energy cannot replace any additional power plants.” On short, overcast winter days, Germany’s 1.1 million solar-power systems can generate no electricity at all. The country is then forced to import considerable amounts of electricity from nuclear power plants in France and the Czech Republic.

Indeed, despite the massive investment, solar power accounts for only about 0.3 percent of Germany’s total energy. This is one of the key reasons why Germans now pay the second-highest price for electricity in the developed world (exceeded only by Denmark, which aims to be the “world wind-energy champion”). Germans pay three times more than their American counterparts.

So, Germany is ending its subsidies. As environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg (author of the above piece) concludes:

In the meantime, Germans have paid about $130 billion for a climate-change policy that has no impact on global warming. They have subsidized Chinese jobs and other European countries’ reliance on dirty energy sources. And they have needlessly burdened their economy. As even many German officials would probably attest, governments elsewhere cannot afford to repeat the same mistake.

It isn’t just the U.S. and Germany. Spain is phasing out its alternative energy subsidies.

I’m in favor of stripping out all the subsidies for all types of energy and allowing the best technology and energy density (high with oil, very low with wind) win.  

Was Al Gore in the Area?

Photo from “The Weekly Standard”

I’m a big fan of solar energy and believe it has huge potential as a supplemental energy source. Why supplemental? For the obvious reason that the sun does not always shine as the U.S. Department of Energy found out today when their “solar decathlon” got off to a rainy start.

Unfortunately, the outlook for the next week in the East is for cloudier and rainier weather than average.

Full story about the solar decathlon is here.

Solar-Related Power Failures in our Future?

Officials in Britain and the United States are preparing to make controlled power cuts to their national electricity supplies in response to a warning of a possible powerful solar storm hitting the Earth. In an interview with The Independent, Thomas Bogdan, director of the US Space Weather Prediction Centre, said that controlled power “outages” will protect the National Electricity Grids against damage which could take months or even years to repair should a large solar storm collide with the Earth without any precautions being taken.

Full story here

Hat tip: WattsUpWithThat

The Promise of Solar Energy

While this press release is a bit technical, it demonstrates the incredible potential of solar energy.

Nanotechnology is the ability to manipulate and engineer chemicals at the level of the atom or molecule. When they speak of a billionth of a meter, a human air is 40 millionths of a meter. The size of the solar “panel” layers the release discusses are more than a thousand times thinner than a human hair!

It is quite an amazing world we are living in!

Now, We Are Getting Somewhere!

These are Dow Chemical’s new solar power shingles.  They can go on an ordinary roof using ordinary building techniques. As costs continue to come down for solar, it becomes a more practical alternative.
My only question is how they would do in a hail storm. I have emailed Dow and will let you know if I get a response.