Monday, November 07, 2011


Tunnel Vision

Here is the New York Times' worst columnist on Solar Energy.

Money quote from Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman:

In fact, progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, “there’s now frequent talk of a ‘Moore’s law’ in solar energy,” with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.

This has already led to rapid growth in solar installations, but even more change may be just around the corner. If the downward trend continues — and if anything it seems to be accelerating — we’re just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal.


Solar panels largely built in China are indeed cheaper than the ones produced, say, by Solyndra, but they don't give them away and they last only about 20 to 25 years, and you have to use a converter (because Tesla won against Edison) which are expensive and last on average about 16 years. Also the solar panels don't work at night, in the morning, in the afternoon on cloudy, rainy, or snowy days, and they don't work well unless you clean them about once a week. There is no economically effective way to store the electricity produced intermittently as battery technology is really no better than it was 100 years ago. And the amount produced at mid-day on a clear, cloudless June day from a hundred square feet of panels is about 2% to 9% of what a normal house uses so you can run some lights and maybe a television or computer but not a dryer, oven, space heater, or even a blow dryer (that's a deal killer with my wife). Yeah, let's all get on that bandwagon.

People 40 years ago used to say that fusion energy was just around the corner, too, maybe 20 years from now. Now they say that it's just around the corner, maybe 20 years from now.

Lie upon lie upon lie:

Fracking — injecting high-pressure fluid into rocks deep underground, inducing the release of fossil fuels — is an impressive technology. But it’s also a technology that imposes large costs on the public. We know that it produces toxic (and radioactive) wastewater that contaminates drinking water; there is reason to suspect, despite industry denials, that it also contaminates groundwater; and the heavy trucking required for fracking inflicts major damage on roads.


98 plus % of the fluid injected into the gas wells is pure H2O and sand. Much of the water comes back up and is re-used or is recycled like other waste waters. There is little toxic and even less radioactive waste water. Your new granite counter-tops are more radioactive than used frac fluid. Although there have been a few, very few, surface spills, there has never been any proof of any groundwater contamination from fracing. Indeed, most drillers put down around the gas well a couple of dozen test wells before drilling to monitor any effect they have on groundwater. Of several thousand wells drilled and fraced, none with the monitoring wells around have shown any effect on groundwater. I'm not sure where Krugman gets his "reason to suspect" (probably from here) but he's often rather loose with the truth. Also everyone knows about the trucks, and part of the permitting process in many states is to assess and collect liquidated road damages before the well gets drilled or fraced. Hidden costs, my ass.

UPDATE: The Baron agrees with me: It's not the cost of the solar panels, it's that it is unreliable at best and only available at mid day which makes solar, that is, photovoltaic panels a worthless power source.

UPDATE 2: Robert Bryce at the NRO today agrees and says that in the roughly one million uses of fracing technology in gas and oil wells in the United States, one well, in 1986 may have contaminated ground water but the same study which found that one exception says: "Drilling technology and safeguards in well design have improved significantly since then" and in general, another study found: “The physical realities of the fracturing process, combined with the lack of reports from the many wells to date of fracture fluid contamination of groundwater, supports the assertion that fracturing itself does not create environmental concerns.”


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