Sunday, April 17, 2011

News on renewable energy

One of the prime hazards of speaking out for renewable energy is that invariably, some well-meaning soul will come up after the speech to explain how someone (totally unknown) has invented a process using (unspecified) methods that allow folks to produce a reliable stream of electricity using nothing more than rainwater (or whatever.)  Then I am asked if I have ever heard of such a product (usually no) and doesn't the existence of this product prove the bright green future we all want is just around the corner?

Not wanting to discourage such people but at the same time, wanting them to have a better way to evaluate such a claim, I have over the years figured out the following response.  "No," I will say, "I have never heard of the product you are describing, but I have a rule for evaluating claims for new technologies.  I will only take such products and claims seriously when I can buy one down at Home Depot."

So it is with some amount of joy that I saw the other day that you can now buy solar panels at Costco.

Costco To Sell Home Solar Panel Kits
Posted: 04/15/11 01:10 PM ET
From EarthTechling's Caleb Denison:
Costco members will soon be able to add solar power systems for clean energy solutions at home alongside power tools and pancake mix on their shopping lists.
Eugene, Oregon-based Grape Solar has recently announced that several of its solar kits will soon be available through Costco’s website in the ”Hardware” section under the "Generators & Backup Power" subcategory. Costco members will have a choice of 880W, 2300W, 3680W or 5060W ready-to-install kits, with prices ranging from around $3,600 upwards to around $18,000.
The solar kits are “grid-tied” systems that include Grape Solar panels, inverters, and racking systems that are ready to install onto the roofs of homes and other structures. Grape Solar says the kits are designed to be expandable, so customers can start small and grow their system over time if they wish. more
Meanwhile over in Germany, they have been pursuing sustainable energy generation for so long, they feel a need a pause to evaluate how well their strategies have worked.
Green Headache
Resistance Mounts to Germany's Ambitious Renewable Energy Plans
An Analysis By Sebastian Fischer, Florian Gathmann, Anna Reimann and Tijs van den Boomen   04/13/2011 
Chancellor Angela Merkel's U-turn on nuclear policy heralds a massive expansion of wind power, but many Germans are less enthusiastic about the renewable energy form.
The German government plans to replace nuclear reactors with thousands of wind turbines and thousands of kilometers of high-voltage "monster masts" in a move that will deface vast swathes of territory. Germans, though desperate to phase out atomic energy, are gearing up to protest against the green revolution.
Germany regards nuclear power as unacceptably risky and has embarked on a plan to phase it out as soon as possible. The U-turn on nuclear policy Chancellor Angela Merkel announced last month following the Fukushima accident will involve a massive expansion of renewable energies -- as rapidly as possible.
She is giving the public what it wants. But the shift will nevertheless provoke a major backlash. Germans may love their green energy, but that also have a growing proclivity towards not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) lawsuits and referenda.
The trigger is likely to be a master energy plan the federal government is currently hammering out following the closure of seven older nuclear power plants in the wake of Fukushima. Environment Minister Röttgen and German Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) have already presented "six points for an accelerated energy turnaround." It provides a foretaste of the conflict Germany is steering towards.
Wind Turbines über Alles
To reach its goals of a nuclear-free Germany, Merkel's government now plans to dot all parts of the country with massive wind turbines as well as high-voltage power mastsneeded to create a modern smart grid to transport the electricity supply from the windy north to the southern part of the country. A €5-billion ($7.25 billion) special program to expand wind parks in the North and Baltic seas will be launched this autumn. Central to the program, Brüderle and Röttgen write, would be a "joint initiative by the federal government and the regional states to identify suitable locations for wind power facilities." Obstacles to planning approval such as restrictions on the height and spacing of the turbines "will be removed," the paper says.
The message is that Merkel's government won't tolerate opposition to its plans. Officials in Brüderle's ministry are drafting legislation to speed up the expansion of the renewable energy network. The paper states that the switch to renewables "won't come free of charge."
Merkel's government, once a friend to the nuclear industry, has done a 180-degree turn. And now the conservatives want to be at the forefront of the move into renewables. A study by the Fraunhofer Institute says there is suitable space for wind turbines all over Germany, not just in the northern states where many have already been built.
And in southern Germany, conservative Bavarian state Environment Minister Markus Söder wants to overtake neighboring Baden-Württemberg, which will soon be home to the country's first Green Party governor, in a race to expand renewable energies. The Bavarian politician says he wants to double the number of wind turbines in his state and to quadruple the output of wind power.
Those are the requirements of the current zeitgeist, say the green revolutionaries in Merkel's center-right coalition. They have public opinion behind them: More than 80 percent of Germans want to see the country abandon nuclear energy. But there is one major caveat: When it comes to major energy projects, most Germans do not want them in their own backyard. Just as soon as plans are unveiled for mass wind turbines near residential areas, home owners and locals are quick to organize local campaigns to halt construction. more

1 comment:

  1. I recall farmers when smelling manure explain to cityfolk 'that is the smell of money' or 'that is the smell of your lunch' to remind people that there are tradeoffs in life.

    There must be an economic measure for where NIMBY fails to be reasonable, no? Could they not quantify this measure and inflict it back on the citizens? A circuit breaker or energy throttle whereby the citizen stops getting electrical current based on their NIMBY factor?

    Conversely, I still think energy needs to include small scale production instead of merely massive scale involving huge farms and strips of transmission lines scarring hundreds of miles.