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Electric shorts

Aha moment strikes Texas green gadgeteer

A guy in Texas wanted to put solar gadgets on his house.  He initially gave up  on it because of the phenomenal expense.  “I had no idea solar [power] was so expensive,” he said.  A recent drop in the price of solar panels (thanks, China!) encouraged him to go ahead despite the fact that the payback won’t occur until the year 2525, if man is still alive.

Breaking wind

Another story from Texas, wind power is struggling to find its place in the world.  It seems windmill power is not quite the solution people expected.  It happens that wind power is plentiful at night when nobody needs it and scarce on hot afternoons when it’s really needed.  Odd result: wholesale electric prices are occasionally reaching zero for wind power, and even then, nobody wants it.  The only reason they continue to operate wind farms is because the federal government pays them 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour to make it.  These are really tax farms.  If it weren’t for the feds throwing money to the wind, people would have dumped these things and walked away.  The federal largesse just about equals the wholesale price of generation from a modern nuclear unit with the best nukes generally coming in just under two cents O&M cost.  Coal units are somewhat more expensive because of fuel cost.  The big difference is that coal and nuclear can actually meet the demand when the demand exists, and wind cannot.  And as poor Mr. Pickens has learnt the hard way, transmission line capacity can break you even if everything else is peachy.

Unicorns, fairies, pixie dust, elves, sprites, and free trade…

My conservative readers, both of them, will no doubt take umbrage at my occasional snipes at international free trade agreements.  Here’s another example of what they really do for you as China moves to kill off America’s solar industry by dumping their products on the U.S. market below cost.  There is really no such thing as international free trade.  There are only trade conditions which either help, or hurt, our own interests.  As we know, solar power cannot compete financially with conventional electric generation.  However, there are niche markets for solar generation, such as power needs for remote locations or in back-up service when the normal power grid isn’t available.  It’d be nice if American manufacturers had a fighting chance at securing that legitimate market without getting busted by a foreign, state-supported industry undercutting them.  And just to add some sand for your teeth, think about where China is headed with this market-share assault.  They want to own the market, then do the manufacturing and sales in the United States where federal green gadget subsidies will end up, you guessed it, in the pockets of Chinese owners.  It would help the whole situation if both governments would just go back to sleep and let the workers in both countries hash it out.

One Comment

  1. Dad

    I’m pretty sure i heard it on Beck: the stimulus package has a half billion in it to train Acorn members how to build the smart grid. That ought to fix everything.

    Posted on 29-Aug-09 at 19:18 pm | Permalink

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