We are all to young to remember when fossil energies elbowed their way to the big kids' table. Now, through a vast array of direct and indirect taxpayer subsidies many forget how brief the Fossil Fuel Age will be in the scheme of things. The beauty of the situatioin in which we presently find ourselves is that there still remains enough of these one-time resources to build the energy infrastructure that can provide humanity with a sustainable and cleaner future.
While our health and our environment suffers from the emissions of the present paradigm and we are already locked in to an unfortunate climate outcome, there is good reason to push for a rapid roll out of renewable technologies. The transition is inevitable and there will be pain if we wait too long to begin in ernest.
Greenwashing projects sound nice and I'm sure Honda took advantage of all the the local, state, and federal incentives. But to waste those incentives on a factory that produces transissions for CO2-spewing cars is ironic at best.
As long as the products of fossil fuel conmbustioin can be freely dumped into the atmosphere and those costs are not reflected in the price at the meter or the pump, they will seem inexpensive. In reality they are not. Yet wind, without any subsidies, has already reached parity in many locations and costs continue to drop while natural gas is rising sharply. We live in exciting times.
J. Williams, thank you for the links. There is some great information in there!
I completely agree with you about the challenges of grid stability; it's not an easy problem as more renewables show up. I also see something from the data (the first link) that contradicts something you say. You assert that we need equivalent reliable production for every MW of installed RE. The data paints a different story (although admittedly it's a small sample of data). All wind and solar in aggregate do not go to zero; there is some production somewhere. Yes, individual stations will go to zero - solar does every night and all wind turbines do on occasion - but the sum of all of those does not. As more of the PV/wind generation comes online, the less backup will be required. At some point, the PV or wind will need to be throttled back to maintain stability (and probably already is at some places/times). In theory, the combination of PV and wind could be its own backup given enough capacity, but i think this is wildly impractical at the moment. Distributed storage in the form of batteries, pumped water, or stored gas pressure may help smooth this curve given time, and allow fast response to changes in loads.
What i also see from that same data is that the aggregate PV/wind can easily handle the peak daytime loads, in which is the most expensive power generation and for which backup generation is often built.
I'm a PE, i design solar installations, and i firmly hold that the utility is not my competitor. These two entities have to play nice together! I'm guessing that the common homeowner with 2kW on his roof has no idea how disruptive is that technology.
It is significant because Mary is wearing the rose colored glasses. And did you happen to notice who she is working for and in what field? She has a dog in the fight. In a big way.
The reality is that for every MW of wind power or solar, you will need a MW of reliable backup capacity for that power. Period. So now you have capital tied up waiting around for when the wind doesn't blow or when the sun don't shine. Idle equipment is a waste of money. Who pays for that?
Then there is the issue of grid stability. This is the white elephant in the room that is virtually ignored by all the folks who think wind and solar are the answers to all our problems. Wind and solar will make inroads into utility landscape but it won't be without its growing pains and it won't be as fast as some would like.
Consider these points of view from people who spend their life working to make sure our electric power is as reliable as possible.
Wow, how times change! You quoted Mary Burgoon asserting that renewable energy offers "improved power supply reliability." This is completely opposite from the conventional detractors' statement that renewables are variable, nondeterministic, and unreliable. I find her position pretty remarkable!
Note that it's not just government subsidies and mandates that have helped this stuff. Prices have come WAY down over the last few years, so the value of what you get by installing renewable energy has risen tremendously. It's actually worth it now.
I especially appreciate the insight in at the end of this article. Alternative energy technology is rapidly growing and does reduce CO2 emissions. However, in many areas of the country, sunlight and wind are not constant and can be unpredictable. Therefore, challenges exist if manufacturers solely rely upon these two sources for their on-demand, critical manufacturing workflows. This suggests that a hybrid combination of traditional and alternative energy is the best near-term solution for many manufacturing operations.
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From design feasibility, to development, to production, having the right information to make good decisions can ultimately keep a product from failing validation. The key is highly focused information that doesn’t come from conventional, statistics-based tests but from accelerated stress testing.
There’s a good chance that a few of the things mentioned here won't fully come to fruition in 2015 but rather much later down the line. However, as Malcolm X once said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
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