Okay, Ann and Liz, I'll be the bad guy here and address the mindset problem. Yes, we could definitely raise the amount of wind power in the U.S. Twenty percent would be a good figure, which is far more than we have today. But many experts suggest that without significant storage, we won't go beyond 20%. George Crabtree of Argonne National Labs (our national energy lab), one of country's most respected experts on this subject, says the figure is between 10% and 20%. Donald Sadoway of MIT, who you've written about, Liz, has quoted similar figures. Sadoway said this in a 2008 Design News article: "If you can't store it, it's no good. Name me somebody who will put a company in an area with unreliable sources of power." The problem is, intermittent sources of power aren't always available when needed, which means (according to these experts and others at the Electric Power Research Institute), that reserves or storage will be needed. This is why Ambri, Saft, A123 and others are searching for solutions. I don't know about Portugal, but Denmark, which is often cited as having 50% renewables, borrows power from neighboring countries. I understand that there are many very smart people who would say that Crabtree, Sadoway and EPRI are wrong. Still, the sources I've mentioned here are some of the best and they are by no means alone. I'm not at all saying that either of you is wrong. But the debate is not a simple one.
Elizabeth, I don't really understand that mindset, either. Any new energy technology will initially cost more than the existing one, in part because of the big shift needed in infrastructure--and because it takes awhile to ROI the cost over large enough volumes and a long enough time frame. Perhaps part of the mindset is caused by the example in many people's minds of consumer electronics, which amortize costs over enormous volumes. I think you may be right about the necessity angle, too. Yet Japan, which is not a poor nation, and some of the wealthier European countries, like Germany, are far ahead of the US in alternative energy.
Thanks for backing me up here, Ann. It's very frustrating when you think of the U.S. mindset on this. I live in Portugal, and for a country that is poor and behind-the-times on many things when compared to the U.S., it makes me quite happy to see how many people use solar and wind energy and even go off the grid. I guess, though, necessity is the mother of invention, and not having a lot of money forces people to use the natural resources at hand. So in that respect, perhaps the U.S. is a bit hamstrung because many people can afford to keep paying for electricity from big utility companies. It's good to see some things changing though, and I hope it continues.
I agree with Elizabeth, we like to complain a lot about cost here in the States, but in fact alternative energy sources have been successfully used on a large scale in Europe and Japan for several years, as well as right here on a less than national scale.
Bob, thanks for your comments. I do want to say, though, that I think cost is sometimes used as an excuse for not exploring alternatives energies, especially in the United States where dependence on foreign oil is so ingrained in our culture and our business practices. European countries have been using other forms of energy successfully for some time. In fact, in Portugal, about 60 percent of energy people use is derived from wind turbines. True, it's a much smaller country and there is a lot of open countryside wher it's possible to place turbines, but there are alot of natural resources available in the U.S. if those in power could change their perspective and really explore the possibilities. I think sometimes it's more a cultural problem than a financial one. But that is just my opinion!
Bobjengr, we have to explore our natural resources like solar, wind etc for generating additional energy (power). Eventhough such natural resources are abundantly available in our nature, we are utilizing only less than 10% for converting it in to power generation. In future, I won't think traditional energy source can cater our requirements.
Elizabeth--I certainly agree with you on this one. It seems to me we waste a great deal of energy in this country and recognition of this fact could go a long way in conserving much of the energy developed by even "traditional" methods. I do think the researchers at Harvard are striving to provide a great service in looking at methods to store energy and I certainly applaud their efforts. One issue that will always be with us is the cost of doing so. Only time will tell.
Ann, billing for power consumption is pay as usage model. In my countries, there is a gap between power consumption and generation. Federal government is discouraging consumers from more power consumption, by levying high tariff above a certain level in different slabs. So those who have consumed more than the normal limit (200 units/month) may end up in paying double or more than the normal charges.
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