Solar power is
an ever-present power supply that can easily be harnessed to produce
The prospect of
generating pollution-free power from the sun's rays is appealing, but
solar power continues to cost up to five times more than energy derived
from fossil fuels.
polysilicon, the element needed to manufacture traditional photovoltaic
cells is also dwindling and keeping costs high.
The emergence of new technology may someday make solar power an
affordable energy option in conducive climates. Solar panels installed
on residential homes are becoming commonplace as a way to reduce
daytime consumption of utility-generated power.
This form of onsite generation could also minimize the need for
distribution systems if/when we solve the problem of energy storage.
Enhancements in battery storage technology will be needed if we are
going to see widespread use of solar power.
Topic: Renewable Energy - Fact and Fiction
Independent Energy Consultants, Inc. is committed to helping
its clients make
well-informed and cost-effective decisions regarding
their energy supply and consumption. We are sending you this newsletter
to help you understand how decisions that are made, or not made, affect
your company's bottom line.
'Renewable Power,' we hear this
phrase everywhere because of our growing concern about limited fossil
fuels and the potential damage they are doing to our environment. The
allure of natural, inexhaustible, free sources of power is great and
should be explored and utilized when and where it makes sense. A few
examples of renewable energy are wind, solar, hydroelectric, and
geothermal; and while each of these has great potential, nothing is
without its drawbacks. At the moment renewable power accounts for
seven percent of America's energy consumption and is trending
Many of these power supplies, however, are not cost effective and
survive only through government subsidies and tax cuts. History
has shown that government has a poor track record when it tries to
decide market winners and losers. This lesson has been
demonstrated in the energy business and on many other playing
fields. Only two years ago ethanol was in vogue and was being
pushed hard by federal and state regulators and industry groups with
something to gain. Now it is common knowledge that it had an
adverse impact on food prices, created environmental problems, took
more energy to create than it produces and even caused damage to auto
We believe in innovation and support initiatives that ween us from
foreign energy sources. We use the example of ethanol only to
show how quickly a product or technology can fall from grace.
This newsletter edition is intended to provide a general overview of
some of the more prominent renewable energy sources that could shape
| Types of Renewable
Wind is a free source of power that has no adverse environmental
impacts and can replace our fossil fuels.
To many wind turbines are an eyesore and noisy. They require an
extremely large footprint relative to other power sources, often on
scenic mountain tops or seaside horizons. Miles of transmission
towers, that have been opposed by environmentalists for years, also
have to be built to bring that power to the grid. The 200 foot
plus turbines can also interfere with the migratory routes of birds and
now aquatic life as wind farms at sea are becoming more popular.
turbines require sustained winds of at least 10mph; that limits them to
environments. After construction wind-powered electricity only
achieves an availability rate of approximately 30%. Each turbine
requires one half an
acre of land - even more space when multiple turbines exist.
Ideas for large scale wind farming
have been proposed by philanthropists such as T. Boone Pickens, who is
a "wind corridor" stretching from the Texas panhandle to the Canadian
border. This project would have a very long payback period and we
only need look at Spain to see how unreliable the power grid becomes
when you rely too heavily on wind sources. After the construction
job boon, many manufacturing jobs have actually been lost in Spain as
industrial customers flee in search of reliable power. The cost
for electricity has also increased considerably adding to the economic
woes. Pickens' bold project, however, does appear to have strong
support in Congress and it would create many needed jobs over the next
energy is nothing but a show at Yellowstone. It is an unreliable
that cannot harnessed.
is actually one of the most promising types of renewable power. The
as the name implies, from the heat of the Earth, from underground
reservoirs of hot dry rocks hot water and steam. Geothermal energy can
be found in countless
regions, but the highest temperature, and thus the most desirable
found in the vicinity of active volcanoes.
Power plants that run on geothermal, use heat from the earth to heat
water, which then turns a secondary fluid into steam to drive a turbine
and produce electricity. These plants are closed-loop systems, so they
nothing into the atmosphere. A big limitation of geothermal
energy is proximity, as noted the best sources are near active
volcanoes. This means an ideally placed plant would be built on
potentially hazardous terrain. Also, to tap into this power you often
have to drill 4000 feet under the surface. A number of geothermal
are active in the United States. California leads the way with 5
percent of its electric demand met by geothermal sources.
A smaller scale and more
practical application of geothermal is the Heat Pump system that has
become common in residential and commercial applications. This
uses energy from the ground and/or air to aid in heating and cooling.
This technology is proven and easily implemented, but is only effective
in moderate climates.
Fiction: Hydroelectric is
an outdated method of producing electricity. When it is put into use it
requires a large amount of fast moving water to produce even a small
Fact: Hydroelectric is
currently the leading renewable energy source used by electric
utilities to generate power. Many of the best waterways have been
producing electricity for years, such as the Hoover Dam, the TVA
project, Ice Harbor Dam and the Gauley River Facility in West
Once built, hydroelectric facilities create little environmental impact
and tend to blend in well with their surroundings. The water flow
through the system remains fairly constant and reservoirs are often
used to enable hydro facilities to be brought on in times of peak
need. "Upper" reservoirs are filled by electric-driven pumps at
night time, when electric rates are low, and then the water is released
during the day to create electricity needed to meet peak demands.
water sources are different, the installed capacity cost of a
hydroelectric facility can range between $1,500 and $25,000 per
kilowatt. Contrast that to a similar sized natural gas fired
combustion turbine that can be built for less than $500/kW.
Moreover, like wind power, we are at the mercy of mother nature.
With hydro power, seasonal changes and droughts cause rivers and
reservoirs to swell and shrink, making this application unsuitable to
meet baseload demand. As with many renewable resources, its value lies
in the ability to augment traditional sources of energy that are
produced from coal, natural gas and nuclear.
The potential for renewable energy sources is endless and future
generations will hopefully benefit from the gains being made
today. Our biggest challenge may be striking the balance that
allows private industry to work in harmony with government mandates to
harness the wind, sun and waves in an economical fashion. If you
would like to purchase Green Power to demonstrate your
environmental stewardship or to meet a state regulation, please contact the experts at Independent