I think that the most poorly understood aspect of creating a new source of energy is the engineering tail. I took my lesson watching the development of wind energy from inception during the first energy crisis to today.
Today, I am impressed by the result and accept that it is now becoming a dominant source of energy. The devices are engineered today to operate for decades and will. They may take twenty years to be paid off but then their energy will be almost free. Yet it took us thirty years to really get it right.
We are seeing the same thing happen to the much more important geothermal energy industry. They can build the plants, but they have to now build the high voltage grid to ship the power first into California from Nevada. This needs government support.
The serious problem with solar energy today is that it is at the beginning of the engineering tail with perhaps the exception of solar thermal systems. Photovoltaics will need a lot of tear out and rebuild strategies before it is stable.
This article does provide a lot of detail and makes just that point about the engineering tail. This is all new technology needing a long development cycle to become established.
Sadly, the limitation of the oil industry as a permanent energy supply was always obvious if not well quantized. Its pending decline is upon us and we need a massive replacement. Yet we knew this in the seventies. The good news is that both the tarsands and the wind business were funded by governments. The bad news is that a lot less was done than could easily have been accommodated.
Press indulgence flattened the nuclear industry when a nasty accident happened and press support wrote the easy story. Research was starved and never targeted through a crash program. The likely result of this lack of planning will likely be rationed energy.
It also tackles some of the new thinking on the nature of the effect of free radicals produced by combustion. This is still poorly understood but needs to be asked. We underestimate the body’s ability to manage low level toxins including radiation. High level remains a different matter.
Amory Lovins tries to indicate that nuclear power is unique in getting governments paying for its development.
* Per KWH nuclear gets less support than renewable energy
Source - subsidy and support in dollars per megawatt-hour (mills per kilowatt-hour)
Nuclear - 1.59
Biomass (and biofuels) - 0.89
Geothermal - 0.92
Hydroelectric - 0.67
Wind - 23.37
andfill Gas - 1.37
Renewables (average) - 2.80
Total (average) - 1.65
Energy subsidies in the
* In spite of the feed in tariff and and rebates in the
1. Other forms of power also cost a lot money
3. Other forms of energy are risky to develop as well
Most thin film solar companies fail. Out of hundreds of companies only one or two companies have brought products to market in any scale.
The reality, according to Neal Dikeman, partner with VC firm Jane Capital Partners, is that only one or two thin-film projects have brought product to market in 30 years, and it's a US $100M-$200M dollar up-front "just to play the game and see if your product really works."
The challenge that has caught startups in this sector time and time again, Dikeman explained, is underestimating the engineering scale-up and production on a tens-of-megawatts (MW) scale.
"People always assumed that if the technology worked and the team was good, that the rest was just engineering...and so far, that has never proven to be the case," he observed, noting that there have been several hundred (thin film) companies that have tried and only two succeeded.
"The challenge has been that the engineering scale-up has been much harder than the science experiment." Citing the "black art" aspect to thin-film projects, he observed that for factories in the 30-40 MW range, what matters is getting the same yields, distributions and performance out of the second plant as was achieved in the first.
New energy costs money to develop. Tens of billions spent on wind and solar over decades to get them to this point and they are still not certain in scaling up. Any hope of scaling up is only with massive government support.
Governments are involved all over energy. It is not "all just private companies". Jerome Paris is and investor and developer of wind energy projects. In an Oil Drum article he is asking Obama for constant high levels of government subsidies. He notes that three times the wind energy industry was wiped out because of periods of insufficient subsidies.
Solar and wind are likely to be getting $20 billion from a clean energy bill, probably going along with tens of billions more in whatever 800-1500 billion stimulus packages get passed.
The long-term extension of the renewable energy production tax credits, which would cost the government $13.1 billion over 10 years. Plus 30% tax credits for instant subsidy.
Worldwide it is about $2 trillion per year for energy spending. Hundreds of billions on subsidies and research and development. Energy costs BIG money. Why does anyone think otherwise ? All the investments are big and multi-year and often decades long. Just because you can chunk up some aspects of it into small pieces is meaningless. Yes, one set of solar panels does not take long to make but you need millions of houses with solar panels on roofs to equal one nuclear plant. It takes time to make the factories to make the panels. Doing the research and development takes time. As noted only a small percentage of the thin film solar power companies make it. The solar companies are often betting on competing specific technologies. It takes time to scale up the supply chains. Wind power takes 5,000 large wind turbines to equal one nuclear power plant. Again it takes time to scale up the wind factory and the component supply chain and it takes ten times as much concrete and more steel for enough wind turbines to generate comparable amounts of power.
The solar and wind factories and supply chain cost a lot of money and take years to scale up. $100-200 million for each solar thin film company to make a serious play and they take a decade or so to get their R&D and then make scaled factories and try to deploy. Plus each one is competing with a hundred other variants. So which is the riskier long term investment ?
What is this "all private" BS? By that standard you would be telling wind power developers like Jerome Paris - make it "all private" which he as a developer of wind, lack of wind subsidies wipes out the wind industry. Coal gets and natural gas and oil get their credits too and the biggest gift to coal is not having them pay for their waste or handle it. (the CO2, smog, particulates which would more than double the cost of coal power, it would also add 30% to natural gas)
External Costs Include Deaths and Medical Costs from Energy Sources
Coal and fossil fuels are way more deadly and dangerous nuclear energy This matters because Amory Lovins counts "micro-energy" which is mostly generated from coal, diesel and natural gas which still have air pollution.
Scientists have long known that free radicals exist in the atmosphere. These atoms, molecules, and fragments of molecules are highly reactive and damage cells in the body. Free radicals form during the burning of fuels or in photochemical processes like those that form ozone. Most of these previously identified atmospheric free radicals form as gases, exist for less than one second, and disappear. In contrast, the newly detected molecules — which Dellinger terms persistent free radicals (PFRs) — form on airborne nanoparticles and other fine particle residues as gases cool in smokestacks, automotive exhaust pipes and household chimneys. Particles that contain metals, such as copper and iron, are the most likely to persist, he said. Unlike other atmospheric free radicals, PFRs can linger in the air and travel great distances.
Once PFRs are inhaled, Dellinger suspects they are absorbed into the lungs and other tissues where they contribute to DNA and other cellular damage. Epidemiological studies suggest that more than 500,000 Americans die each year from cardiopulmonary disease linked to breathing fine particle air pollution, he says. About 10 to 15 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed in nonsmokers, according to the American Cancer Society. However, Dellinger stresses additional research is necessary before scientists can definitely link airborne PFRs to these diseases.
Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health and is estimated to cause approximately 2 million premature deaths worldwide per year.
The mortality in cities with high levels of pollution exceeds that observed in relatively cleaner cities by 15–20%. Even in the EU, average life expectancy is 8.6 months lower due to exposure to PM2.5 produced by human activities.
Rooftop solar can be safer [0.44 up to 0.83 death per twh each year). If the rooftop solar is part of the shingle so you do not put the roof up more than once and do not increase maintenance then that is ok too. Or if you had a robotic system of installation.
World average for coal is about 161 deaths per TWh.
15 deaths per TWh.
278 deaths per TWh.
Wind power proponent and author Paul Gipe estimated in Wind Energy Comes of Age that the mortality rate for wind power from 1980–1994 was 0.4 deaths per terawatt-hour. Paul Gipe's estimate as of end 2000 was 0.15 deaths per TWh, a decline attributed to greater total cumulative generation.
Hydroelectric power was found to to have a fatality rate of 0.10 per TWh (883 fatalities for every TW·yr) in the period 1969–1996
Nuclear power is about 0.04 deaths/TWh.