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.
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.
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.
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.
That is true, in the aggregate, for the most part, wind and solar won't be zero output. The first link specifically was considering California and their solar profile looks a lot different than the profiles in other parts of the country.
People are looking closely at the stability issue. As long as there is sufficient base load with rotating machines (or grid storage batteries for inverters), that generally buys enough time to fire up gas peaking units when there is a sudden drop in wind or insolation.
The utility industry is generally very risk averse, and with good reason, so I suspect that this issue will be studied carefully and small scale installations will be used to evaluate the effects on the grid.
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.
I give Honda a lot of credit in that they actually BUILT turbines in order to claim the use of renewables. Too many companies just buy RE credits from resources that are already built - and add not one Watt to our total RE complement. Gold Star for Honda.
Yes, that is quite the irony (i admit, i hadn't caught that at first...). But the reality is that we need ICE vehicles with complex, costly, and heavy transmissions ... for now. We really don't have anything today that really can replace it - certainly not in the volumes and breadth of use cases that ICE vehicles occupy! The trend is moving in the right direction and the science and engineering are being worked at a healthy clip, but it's just not there yet. Yeah, we need those transmissions - for now. It's not a waste, it's reality.
OK, maybe a Bronze Star. But they fail when it comes to moving in any needed direction with a measly 40 FIT EVs per month. Plug-in EVs and wind are two technologies that are already there and need to be agressively embraced. When a car company fails to do so it becomes part of the problem.
Well, yeah, but car sales are just like electricity consumption in that you can only move as many cars (or watts) as what is demanded. You can't push EVs (or electrons) onto people; they have to pull them. And Honda is no dummy - they will produce what their customers demand. That's how they stay in business. When their customers demand a flood of EVs, they will produce them by the thousands.
OTOH, i could wish that all these car companies that are producing EVs would roll them out to other states besides the coasts. I'm thinking they could sell in Iowa too!
Cliff--I could not agree with you more. Honda needs to be commended for taking this approach. My oldest son works with renewable credits and this field is truly a moving target. The rules and regulations are constantly in a state of flux. The Western Alliance is trying hard but definitely not there yet relative to stability. To achieve 10% as Honda has done is very significant. I will also have to say, this is one area where our Federal Government is making a difference.
Excellent post Rob. In the southeast, we are seeing more and more installations in which alternative energy is being produced. Several solar installations in the immediate Chattanooga tri-state area are:
1.) VW facility in Chattanooga. (This is a "solar farm" producing energy fed into the facility to reduce purchased electrical power.)
2.) Wilson Air Center--Wilson is also using solar panels to lessen the use of purchased electrical power.
3.) Standard-Coosa-Thatcher--Solar also.
All of these and several others further west of Chattanooga, are with TVA power running about $0.98 per Kw-hr. The average in the United States is about $0.12 per Kw-hr. In each case government incentatives are being taken advantage of.
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