Energy Follies…Solar Power and Windmills…Need More Education?


     I will not likely give up posting on energy any time soon.  only because I find the media and political coverage so disgusting.  Don’t get me wrong I think many of these ideas have potential.  Always keep in mind a concept called load factor, or does it work all the time.

     Solar Power.  Way cool, I worked on this stuff over 30 years ago.  Unlike computers the technological development is not very astounding.  For example, back then in highly classified military solar arrays high teens to 20% energy efficiency could be achieved.  These cells were very expensive.  The best on new metal technologies PROMISE 35%.  Low cost ones are down around 11%.  The real improvements have come through cost reductions.  So as the price of oil goes up, these come closer to viability outside of remote locations.  In case you haven’t noticed they don’t work at night!  This is called Load factor!  Pretty clean though with the exception of manufacturing processes and batteries impact on environment when they die.  I think we will see the day when a low cost inverter makes highly distributed solutions possible.  That is everyone has one in their backyard lugged into the grid.

    Windmills.  Kind of cool. Like solar they don’t have a great load factor and don’t work all the time.  When there is no wind there is no power.  Las Vegas can get very windy and there is talk about putting them on the mountains surrounding our valley.  I Hope they can paint them like daises or something.  That would be the ultimate Vegas fantasy, the whole Valley surrounded by giant flowers.  The environmentalists would probably tell us painting them like daisies would kill a lot of bees! 

      Load factor is just one reason why I call these follies.  They are only incremental improvements in that they don’t work all the time.  Means the investment doesn’t return all the time either.  Both technologies eat land.  Specifically, the KW per acre is very low.  So these things can only work in places where there are no people.  Desert areas with no water, and steep mountains with no snow come to mind.  So we need power solutions that work around the clock and around the seasons.  Today, this means, coal, oil, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear for the bulk of our reliable energy or electricity needs. Problem is we all know each of these has environmental and economic drawbacks!


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1 Response to Energy Follies…Solar Power and Windmills…Need More Education?

  1. Tony Roma says:

    Current ROI for solar on homes is at least 10 years. We could cut that to 5 years if we could get an electric car. PG&E no longer lets you build up credits so they make more money as you generate more. A friend of mine has solar and he still pays PG&E $50 per month as a service fee. His system is big enough to cover his usage plus some. HELP!

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