12 thoughts on “Wind And Solar”

  1. It’s like being trapped in a supermarket, circa the 1990’s, where they played an unending loop of the same music over the PA system, and you kept hearing that song you hated the first time over and over again, pounding into your skull with relentless repetition and horrific sound quality.

    I’ve heard this song over and over and over again for like 5 decades now – free energy, ours for the taking, if those big, bad, oil companies would just get out of the way. I’m so, so tired of it.

    It is never, never, ever going to happen. It is never, ever, ever going to make a sizable dent in our energy appetite. It simply does not add up. It simply cannot be self-sustaining.

    But, every new generation gets gulled by the sales pitch, believes the hype, and jumps on the bandwagon. It’s like a parasitical infection that propagates as long as a host is available, and can never be eradicated from the population.

  2. As expected, the laws of economics work and the government doesn’t.

    It makes sense for some homeowners to use wind and solar, but public utilities would not survive without taxpayer subsidies.

    If wind and solar actually made sense, the fueled backups would incorporate them in their own capacity.

  3. It also depends on whether you have a high enough value use for intermittent energy. For example, if you have an extremely cheap but plentiful intermittent energy source, it could be run for desalinization, water electrolysis, or perhaps even aluminum smelting. Here, electricity would be immediately used for something of value, such as hydrogen (and hydrogen-derived chemicals like ammonia) in a way where the intermittency of the power source isn’t so severe a disadvantage.

    This could even be used for a huge portion of your energy needs, if you can cheaply convert that cheap energy (even at a significant inefficiency) into a chemical store of energy such as gasoline or kerosene.

    1. “could be run for desalinization, water electrolysis, or perhaps even aluminum smelting.’
      Problem is the infrastructural cost require they be run 24 hours a day.
      Or reason the industry revolution increased economic growth is it allowed humans to do things before and after the sun rises and falls- whether just the industry or for needs of people working in them.
      Or it’s all about saving time and creating more useful time.
      Wind is only useful to pump water [from a well]. solar only useful to heat water [clean dishes, take bath etc or heat a swimming pool.
      Problem is we mostly need electricity and neither solar or wind are not any good for this.

    2. Aluminum smelting does NOT like intermittent electrical supply. Let the smelting pool cool when the “green” electricity supply falters and the repeated startup can kill you. On the other side of that coin, aluminum smelting has the kind of steady power demand that conventional fired power plants love.

  4. For all the talk this provides few in the way of real hard numbers. I’ve seen better estimates from official sources here in Europe…

    What it does show is that France, with nuclear power, has the lowest energy prices among industrial nations in Europe. But not for long since the current governments seem hell bent on destroying one of the few competitive advantages France has.

    1. The lack of hard numbers could be because the EROI referenced is a moving target. Each locality needs their own mix of power generation.

      What I took away from it is that wind and solar massively complicate what was a relatively simple system. Calculating the true costs and providing electricity on demand becomes shrouded in the complexity leading to bad decisions by the public, government, and utilities. I can totally see why this method of providing electricity is preferred by some politicians.

      It was interesting that some power plants were put out of business because they couldn’t compete on price. But that rates went up and there were outages.

  5. One comment that really stood out was about the author .. she is a doom and gloom end of the world type

    “Desmond SmithJuly 25, 2017 20:00
    Hi Geo,

    What … are you talking about?

    Geo, do you really have no idea what I’m taking about? You’re really not familiar with Gail’s many warnings about the collapse of civilization over the years? You’re not familiar with all that stuff on the Oil Drum and elsewhere, years ago, to which Gail was a leading contributor?

    There are two possibilities here. First, you are perfectly aware that this group has predicted the collapse of civilization, over and over again, for years, but you are pretending now that it didn’t happen. Second, you honestly have no idea about the history of the group which you’re supporting.

    If the second is the case, then you should look more carefully at this history of these ideas, and how many times they’ve failed in the past. As I pointed out in the article to which I linked, the originator of the “declining EROI” idea (HT Odum) started warning about the fairly imminent demise of modern civilization in the early 1970s. Since that time, there have been MANY, MANY predictions about the collapse of civilization from declining net energy (try googling “olduvai theory”). Every time a collapse prediction fails, it’s just

    shoved down the memory hole

    and never mentioned again. If you really don’t know what I’m talking about, then you need to do more research about this group before accepting its ideas. Just so you know, the stuff you’re repeating is crackpot and wrong.

    Just so you know, Gail was predicting drastic declines for all energy sources (oil, gas, nuclear, coal, renewables) in the 2015-2016 timeframe (here). She was making those predictions only 3.5 years ago. Whatever happened to that?

    He could be off – is the number 10:1? 7:1? 5:1? – the point is you need substantial energy returns on investment to support a technological society

    No!! You are committing the same basic mathematical error which I pointed out in the linked article. You are confusing an EROI with an AMOUNT of net energy obtained! An EROI is not an AMOUNT of net energy, so a higher EROI for an energy source does not imply more net energy obtained by society as a whole.

    Not knowing exactly where the line is, I would feel a lot more comfortable at 75:1 than 10:1

    Why? As a matter of arithmetic, an EROI of 75 implies about 8% more net energy than an EROI of 10, for the same amount of gross energy. Of course, the amount of gross energy obtained by worldwide civilization is growing at a few percent per year, so 8% less net energy would set the world back to about mid-2013. Of course, declines in EROI occur over many decades.

    -Tom S’

  6. Anyone paying attention knows that wind and solar just increase the demand for high-cost “peaker plants” to make up the shortfall in periods of low generation.

    What startled me last week was learning that our local power utility is decommissioning gas turbine peakers, and replacing them with (BIG) reciprocating natural-gas-burning internal combustion engines, because they can be adjusted to match solar generation more efficiently.

    These aren’t Chevy small-block V8s… they’re V20 monsters about half the length of a football field and weighing nearly 200 tons. Each piston displaces 1500 cubic inches!


    And, absolutely, the pro-rated cost of these monsters (capital plus opex) should be included in analysis of the solar installation’s efficiency.

    1. Blech. But this does not surprise me one bit. If the current demand varies a lot the engine needs to spool up and down all the time which makes something like a regular piston engine more efficient than a turbine. There are other possibilities though like natural gas powered fuel cells. Though high-temperature fuel cells (the ones that run well with natural gas) typically also work the best on a steady state high temperature regime. So much for that.

      About your link, fun thing is, someone already thought of this issue years ago and made combined solar thermal and natural gas power plants like this one:

      But these are utility scale and not that popular since you need both high solar insulation, low land costs, and access to natural gas.

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