Loon Alert!

I’ve got a solar-loving nut on the line.  You’ve ubndoubtedly seen his comments (and my rebuttals).

Now he’s gone and posted a “scathing” response to my attacks on solar energy.

Too bad it’s not all that good of a reply.

The point is not that solar could be the dominant source of energy in all climates around the world, but rather that it serves a legitimate function and is viable in any climate. Simply look at use of solar panels in Antarctica by government scientists, for example. Some locations are best for wind, some geothermal (see Iceland or East Africa), and some solar power.

This is utterly moronic.

Yes, and they use solar panels for space vehicles as well.  The reason why?

1) They can’t transport coal into space.

2) Space is devoid of atmosphere, making solar FAR more efficient.

Which is pretty much the same reason why they use them in Antarctica.  The poles have far less greenhouse gasses over them to obscure sunlight.  Which is the reason why many of the animals that live in these environments have or are adapted to areas where there is more UV light.

As for Iceland, yes they have geothermal.  In fact, geothermal is a wonderful power source for them – they live on a frickin’ active volcano.  Duh!

Last time I checked, they didn’t have one of those things near Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Try reading a science book, junior.

Germany is the world leader in solar power, which certainly makes up a small percentage of Germany’s total power production (coal still being number one), but coal has had a 100-year head start, and to ignore solar’s growth is to be ignorant and unattractively dismissive. In 1990, photovoltaics provided just 1 gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity to Germany’s national grid, according to Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. By 2009, that total had increased to 6,200 GWh of PV and counting. That’s a 6,200% increase in less than 20 years!

Yes, they went from way less than 1% to still less than 1% in 20 years, and virtually all of that generation had to be subsidized by the German government.  Why?  Because power generation from solar panels is so horribly inefficient and inconsistent that they need to be subsidized in order for them to be “effective.”  So, that 6,200% increase is because the German government is taking people’s hard-earned money, and throwing it at inefficient systems of power generation.

In short: they’re a waste of money.  They were a waste of money 40 years ago, they were a waste of money when the Carter administration put out of these incentive programs for people to go solar (which was a bust), and today they are STILL a waste of money.

Which is why the New York Times pointed out:

Now, though, with so many solar panels on so many rooftops, critics say Germany has too much of a good thing — even in a time of record oil prices. Conservative lawmakers, in particular, want to pare back generous government incentives that support solar development. They say solar generation is growing so fast that it threatens to overburden consumers with high electricity bills.

Now I know this individual is a little “math challenged,” but if solar is producing cheap, limitless energy, the electricity bills go down, not up.

And still, this only accounts for 1% of all of Germany’s power needs.  Power needs, that I am eager to point out, that will continue to escalate as technology advances.  What is not taken into account by any of the solar power nuts that are out there stumping for solar energy is that electricity usage in a modern society is not static.  With each new advancement, and with each new technology or tool produced these days, it places a further burden on the any country’s electrical grid.  Thirty years ago, we didn’t have the mass proliferation of computers, monitors, cell phones, DVD players, and so on.  We didn’t have cordless drills or saws, whose batteries need to be charges and conditioned (yes, causing even more drain on the electrical grid), and no one was in a big rush to make an electric car or a plug-in hybrid.

Now, we’re going to have entire cars drawing from the grid.  This is energy consumption that many will find staggering in its scope.

Tie this in to an expanding population (now at 300 million people in the US), and new emerging consumer markets in the former Third Word, and you have energy consumption that is closer to exponential in growth than linear.

So, in short, those guys working on solar need to pull off something close to the Immaculate Conception and Resurrection all rolled into one when it comes to advancements in solar energy.

Maybe our little cheerleader for solar here will simply buy them all a big cup of coffee, and tell them to get back to work?  I dunno.

Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant… in naturally occurring amounts. Millennia of evolution have formed a delicate balance between CO2 naturally emitted (by natural forces such as volcanoes) and CO2 naturally consumed (by trees and other plants, for example). What Mother Nature doesn’t account for is oil and coal extracted from a dormant existence within the earth, to be combusted in coal-fired power plants and released through toxic automobile exhausts.

Man-made carbon dioxide production accounts for less than 1% of the CO2 increase, admitted to by the IPCC.  In fact, CO2 is near the bottom when it comes to the percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  The biggest greenhouse gas?  Water vapor.  None of this is disputed.  To make the claim that CO2 has a “delicate” balance when more CO2 has been injected into the atmosphere due to periods of overactive volcanic activity in the past is utterly laughable.

Then again, the fastest way to cool down the atmosphere is to inject particulate matter into the atmosphere, namely: pollution.  That’s what scientists believed caused the Dark Ages.  So, if Global Warming is your greatest fear, pull out the emissions controls from the coal plants.

Plus, there are the billions of acres of deforested land that once absorbed much of that CO2. Estimates of man-made CO2 emissions from deforestation (logging or slash-and-burn) range from 12 to 25% of the total.

I guess junior here doesn’t realize that trees 1) are not very good consumers of CO2, and b) also generate CO2 as a part of their growth process.  Some of them also produce gasses that make acidic rains, and smog.  Pines are known for releasing NO2 into the atmosphere, and oak trees generate ozone.

 Then again, depending on who you talk to, it has been pointed out that grasslands may produce more oxygen, and consume more CO2 than a forest of the same size.  But like all environmental “settled science,” the conclusions drawn depend on the person pushing the viewpoint.

Now, let’s take volcanoes, which our debunker highlights for their sulfur dioxide emissions as part of diversionary tactic away from CO2. He discards volcanoes as “not a pollutant” due most likely to lack of any real argument against their dangerous effects in high concentrations. It is estimated that volcanoes release 130-230 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year—just shy of 16% of the total emissions from deforestation alone. Volcanoes are hardly an arguing point for minimizing anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, as scientists have known for decades that they contribute immensely to toxic air quality.

Where in the following statement:

As far as pollutants go, your average volcano dumps more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere than ALL of the coal-fired power plants in the US.

do I make the claim that volcanos are not a pollutant?

Anyone?  Anyone?

Furthermore, how does deforestation have anything to do with burning COAL?  I mean, outside of being a further justification that using coal is better than burning trees, or clear-cutting huge swaths of land to put up solar panels?

I wonder Captain Planet here has ever seen what they do to trees when they put up wind turbines? They clear-cut HUGE swaths of forests.

Then again, I guess I should consider the blind idiocy that’s being used as rebuttal…

Furthermore, choosing sulfur dioxide as a means to mitigate the pollutive effect of coal plants is misleading because, using limestone beds, sulfur can be removed from coal prior to combustion, thus greatly reducing the formation of sulfur dioxide. They have yet to develop a feasible way to capture carbon dioxide, hence the dismissive response of our debunker.

They have yet to develop a way to prevent humans from producing CO2, outside of genocide.  Maybe our intrepid solar defender advocates a new Holocust to prevent this type of man-made CO2 (which is still less than a 1% increase over some 50 years)?

Don’t put it past him / her…

First to the ridiculous $60/watt claim. It absolutely ignores the lifetime of that Home Depot solar kit, which is vital to any real analysis of cost. Assuming the industry norm for solar panel warranties, the panel(s) should last for at least 20 years. And assuming an average of four hours of daily sunlight, the panels will produce 800 watt-hours of electricity per day (.8 kWh), which equals 292 kWh per year, or 5,840 kWh over 20 years, and a long-term cost of about 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. That, by the way, equals about 0.02 cents per watt. Obviously in that time span, upgrades to inverter, charge controller and batteries will be necessary, and some deductions from production estimates should be factored in due to losses at the inverter, etc. However, none of these are likely to raise the cost from two-hundredths of a penny to $60 per watt.

Again, “math challenged.”

Take your average 20 watt compact florescent light bulb.  This bulb consumes (20 watts / 1000 watts per hour) x 4 hours = 0.08 Kilowatt Hours (kWh).  If I use the figures provided to us by Captain Planet, that’s 10% of your total power output right there.  At best, you’ll be able to light 10 of those stupid things for 4 hours, and then you’re tapped out.  Given that an average refrigerator consumes some 100 watts (and that’s REALLY low-balling the number), means you consume (100 / 1000) x 4 = .4 kWh, or HALF of your total power generation.  You can forget running a furnace.

Oh, and in case you forgot, there are 24 of those pesky hours in a day.

As far as return on investment for a solar purchase, even proponents admit that this has to be measured in decades.  So yeah, you’d better hope those panels last for 20 years.  As it stands right now, the average life expectancy of a solar panel is somewhere in the range of 3 to 25 years.  Some manufacturers offer a 25-year guarantee.  Taking the optimistic view, you get maybe 5 to 10 years “profit generation” on a basic solar system before its toast…after 20 years of paying the stupid thing off.  Yep.  A real money-maker!

Batteries, however, do NOT last as long which is why your car battery has to be replaced periodically.  Not to mention that they need to be conditioned, and that they can only store so much power at any given time (you can make your car battery explode by feeding too much power in at once).  They last for about 5 years, maybe 10 at best.  On average, they store about 1.2 kWh which will store that laughable 0.8 kWh produced by the aforementioned solar panel.  You’d need an array of them to power your house.  So that takes a deep, painful bite out of your ROI right there.

As for inverters, despite what people think of solid state technology, things like power transistors only last so long with continuous usage – maybe 15 years.  The cost of replacement is about $149.00, which in comparison to the batteries and solar panels is chump change, in all fairness.

As for the long-term cost of solar being 20 cents per kilowatt hour, coal-fired and nuclear power generation is in the pennies per kWh, and you don’t need to “replace” them in 25 years.

So, while junior here is looking into finding a science book, he might want to pick one up that explains remedial math as well.

Now, solar power is currently more expensive than conventional power sources. There’s no denying that. In fact, that is the very reason why it is incentivized—to encourage growth of the industry so that demand, manufacturing capacity and technology will combine to reduce costs to a competitive level. Already, despite still-high costs per kilowatt-hour, we are seeing the effects of solar and renewable energy subsidies as costs continue to fall.

First and foremost, virtually all forms of energy are “renewable.”  They have a process to make oil from wood chips, and coal was at one time a peat bog.

Secondly, solar is subsidized because:

1) No one will buy it because it is cost-prohibitive,
2) it is ineffective and inefficient, 
3) There is a political agenda at play that runs contrary to reality.

Solar panels have been around since the 1950s, and have been in the marketplace since the 1960s.  The Carter administration uses all sorts of incentives to get people to switch to solar – it was a massive boondoggle.

Technologies that work well don’t need to be subsidized.  They don’t need to subsidize CD players, or TVs to get people to buy them.  Period.

They’ve tried incentives before.  It didn’t work.  And now they’re trying it again with technology that hasn’t changed much over the last 40 years.

Even without any subsidy whatsoever, solar energy costs are dropping, down about 6 cents per kWh on the residential, small-scale side, and about 3 cents per kWh in the large-scale, industrial sector (according to SolarBuzz data) between 2001 and 2009. Granted, prices still hang between 19 and 35 cents/kWh depending on sector, but the trend is downward, and significantly, over a time span of less than 10 years. This trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, thanks in large part to subsidies, which are also in place to avoid a much worse, socioeconomically-frightening energy scarcity later on when fossil fuel supplies run out.

First, fossil fuels will never run out.  As it stands right now, they can create gasoline from organic matter.  You can make bio-diesel from corn oil.  Hydrocarbon fuels are not magical in their origin, nor is their source of supply static.  In fact, as I type, more crude oil is being created by the earth as decayed vegetation and dinosaur poop continues to decompose.

Furthermore, if you drill down into that magical 19-cents per kWh number presented by SolarBuzz, that is the price generated on a sunny day.  A cloudy-day estimate is more like 42-cents per kilowatt hour for industrial.  It gets even worse with you look at commercial (54-cents), and residential rates (74-cents).  This is nice if you live in Arizona, but nosomuch if you live in Seattle, Washington.

And the consumer price for such a “productive” solar system?  A paltry $16, 535.00. 

So, nice try plying number games. 

First of all, electricity generation is not nearly as regional as it once was. Ostensibly, it is so, but in reality the deregulation of the electricity markets has seen the transmission of electricity grow across greater and greater distances (learn more about this here). This has led to reduced grid efficiency, increased blackouts, poor maintenance, sagging lines and the relatively dilapidated national grid we now face in our efforts to interconnect renewable energy with the people who need it.

Electricity generation is not as regional as it once was?

Are you frickin’ kidding me?  It is a HIGHLY regional industry.  The East Coast does NOT import its electricity from California.    The reason is basic physics.  No matter how thick a power line is, it has an accumulating resistance over a certain distance.  The longer you run a wire, the greater the resistance of that wire.  This is the reason why if you need to power speakers some 100’ away from your stereo, you’re not going to use 22 AWG wire to connect the two.

It is also the reason why they run electrical power from the generators at THOUSANDS of volts.  It requires that amount of voltage to move that kind of energy long distances.  The stuff coming out of your wall outlet does not travel at 120 volts all the way through the system.

It’s called Ohm’s Law.  Duh!

As far as the grid being substandard, that’s what happens when you have the government over-regulating things to the point where businesses cannot make a profit.  So, they’ll run things at 90% capacity, and tell the customers, “tough luck.”

I frankly don’t know what state this moron hails from, but Michigan’s power companies are de facto government monopolies.  Power goes out in the summer when too many people turn on their air conditioning (and no, that is not an exaggeration).

 Secondly, the 100-by-100 mile patch of land example is only meant to give a frame of reference. As our original myth busters pointed out, that area could easily be broken up in “rooftops, parking lots and abandoned industrial sites across the country,” thus putting the bulk of the solar power close to transmission lines—smack dab in the middle of the grid in many cases. Also, the so-called “losses” spoken of are no different than the losses already dealt with from transmitting conventional electricity. The national grid is already in desperate need of retooling, and renewable energy is catalyzing that process. Then, perhaps folks in the Midwest can make it through a winter without losing their power for a week or more.

Where do I start?

First, that 100-by-100 mile patch had better be somewhere in Nevada, because in places like Michigan, we have more cloudy days than sunny.

And you’d better have a centralized energy storage system to capture all that “free” energy from the sun…when it bothers to shine.  Right now, there really is no such thing.

And, you’d better have someone there maintaining those ten-thousand different solar panels, and the numerous batteries to trap the 4 hours of sun you may get (which will power all of 4 lights and a refrigerator).

And you’d better have a way to inject and distribute all of that “plentiful” solar energy to where it is needed.  Right now the grid is pretty-much a one-way street.

And there are any number of factors that make this an utterly delusional idea.  Unmanaged, piecemeal distributed systems may work for the Borg, but then again they’re fictional creatures.

Oh, and now what’s being advocated is a formerly “non-regional” system being turned into a (highly inefficient) regional system.  Yeah.  THAT’S progress!

Regardless of feasibility, the Sahara desert solar projects are a move in the right direction, and on the sort of scope necessary to bring about real change, i.e. to move from Germany’s 1% solar power to a much higher ratio. These projects may not happen for 50 years, or perhaps not at all, but be wary of discarding an idea as throat-slitting.

Yeah.  That whole Marxism thing has been a net-plus for all mankind.  Just ask the people who lived in the Soviet Union.

The history of Humanity is paved with the blood of idiots slitting their throats over really, really bad ideas.  One of which is trumpeting solar panels that are only 15% efficient under optimal conditions

It illustrates a lack of vision and a very small-minded approach to the past, present and future. It’s a safe bet there were scoffers at the invention of the wheel, the automobile and the light bulb.

Henry Ford didn’t go looking for subsidies or tax breaks when he invented the Model T.

And fifty years after he invented the Model T, he wasn’t trying to get the government to offer incentives so that people would buy a slightly upgraded version of the Model T (one that had a radio with only one station).

Sorry, but history ain’t on your side, Chuckles.

Insert — Most of this “debunking” is simply made up. Overcast days, heat and battery/inverter replacement are costs embedded in a solar power system. But comparable costs are embedded in any energy production scheme. While coal power is definitely cheap, without the need for plant maintenance it could be cheaper, with that “nightmare” making up about 27 percent of the total cost/kWh of coal-fired electricity. LOW-maintenance is actually a selling point for solar power, one I’ve yet to hear invalidated.

I did, some 10 paragraphs ago.

Then again, we still get consistent, coal-fired energy for pennies compared to 74-cents per watt solar, when the sun bothers to shine.  And that’s AFTER the government jacks-up prices on conventional power production to make it less attractive.

Not only is history not on his side, neither is basic economics.

Jumping to conclusion is rarely a good move, especially when one illustrates the illogic of the conclusion in the very evidence one provides for having jumped to it! Here we have an Unknown Conservative Blogger taking a very measured, scientific statement and using it to declare absolutely that “It was all a hoax” in regard to anthropogenic global warming. The facts stated, as clearly said, are for a relatively short time period which is not as significant scientifically as longer periods. We’ve already been using fossil-fuel power for more than a century and, without some serious change, will be using it far into the future. Global Warming is, has, and will continue to be a major reason for concern for global societies. Manipulated “sound bites” used as jumping points for absurd, very unscientific conclusions are the tools of chicanery and should go unheeded.

First, there was a time when I used to work with numerous scientists.  There are stories I could tell about “settled science.”

Of course, we only have about 50 years of reliable temperature data to conclude that the world will be burned to a cinder if we all don’t go solar right away.

And the reason why the warming trend isn’t statistically significant is because there isn’t any trend at all.  Even the IPCC concluded that global temperatures have either plateaued, or dropped since 1995.

Of course, there is now no way to validate whether any of that data was correct, because they got rid of the raw data.  Only an idiot, or someone looking to hide something, would make that kind of move.  And if they were idiotic to dump raw data, why in God’s name should they be trusted when they say that there’s global warming?

Then again, it was only 30-or-so years ago that the same kind of people were warning out about an impending Ice Age.  In fact, given the frequency of Ice Ages in the past, there is greater cause for concern over that, then there is for Global Warming.  But hey, don’t let little things like history and geology get in the way of a perfectly good fantasy!

Speaking of “so pathetic in their power generation,” the typical coal plant is only about 34 percent efficient. That is not a stellar percentage, and while it may be better than the photovoltaic panels on today’s market, aggressive research into solar power generation has only been going on for about a decade. Coal, oil and gas have had many times that, but are only leaving us with dirty land, water and skies—including beheaded mountaintops, deathly gulfs and acid rain.

Your average solar cell is something like 15% efficient, under optimal conditions.

Under average conditions, it drops down to about 5%.

Thanks, but I’ll take coal.  Hell, I’ll even take nuclear.

Virtually every component of a solar panel needs to be mined, from the silicon down to the copper used to transmit the energy.  This includes components like tin, gold, nickel, silver, and led.  Some of these components are highly, highly toxic.

And you need petrochemicals to supply the insulation for the wires, and so on.

A whole lotta fossil fuels and mountain-top blasting going on in your futuristic world there, sonny.

As far as “dirty water,” besides any number of parasites and diseases that occur in “natural” and “pristine” water sources, do you have any idea what floats around in unprocessed, unfiltered water?

Do you?

Have no fear of the likes of UCB. There have always been people afraid of or resistant to change, especially when large sums of money are involved. A prime example: It took British cities until the 1920’s to switch from gas lamp to much more reliable and efficient electric street lighting. Why? Because local governments were heavily invested in gas lighting and put regulatory obstacles in the way of the electric competition (from Guns, Germs and Steel: Fates of Human Societies, Diamond, 1997). Nowadays it tends to be corporations and “incorporated” politicians who stand in the way of progress, but just as electric lighting took over, so too will solar electricity have its day in the sun, along with wind, geothermal and other renewable resources.

I work in the technology industry, where change happens about once every two months.  And in that time I’ve seen crack-pot ideas come and go.  So, the allegation of my “resistance” to change is kinda laughable.

In that time, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying a turd on the sidewalk, which is why I’m still quite successful in the technology sector.  Unfortunately for out demented little friend here, solar energy is a really big turd.

As it stands right now, we’ve all been waiting the last 40 years for solar to finally have its subsidized day in the sun.  It’d be nice if it would crawl out from underneath its rock sometime soon…


3 Responses to Loon Alert!

  1. Taylen says:

    I am a loon, I already mentioned I’m from MN. Thanks for remembering! I’m tickled pink. I guess I’m also a Gopher, huh?

    This will be my last comment because this “discussion” is pointless (since solar just makes sense) and go back to what you do best – hating the everything in the free world (except guns and white supremacy of course) and believing Earth is flat (and is at the center of the universe)…

  2. unknownconservative says:

    Yes, Minnesota – the homeland of those ever-so-insightful politicians such as Walter Mondale (the idiot who had to play second-fiddle to the nation’s now second worst President, Jimmy Carter) and Paul Wellstone (the only politician in history to have a memorial double as a DNC fundraiser). Yeah. You have a lot for which to be proud.

    And yes, this discussion is pointless. You have no facts to bolster your claim, and the track record of solar collection is abysmal. It also doesn’t help that things like basic physics and economics aren’t really on your side either. Then again, I’m sure that you can always hold out hope that the Magic Technology Fairy will come along, wave its magic wand, and *POOF*: the sun will shine 24 x 7, solar collection technology will make a 2000% increase in efficiency in the next ten years, and will actually be affordable.

    By the way, Paul Krugman – a Alternative Energies advocate and “guru” – also proclaimed in a book that “the world is flat.” Then again, he once touted that the European Union – you know, that semi-nationalist venture that is presently melting down faster than the US – was going to one day overpower the US in the economic arena. Oopsie!

    And for the record, Democrats, liberals, and socialists have a long and distinguished track record of being the most racist people on earth. So, even in slouching away with your tail between your legs, and snarling out your “crushing” retort (like the beaten dog you are) you STILL can’t get your facts straight. Sucks to be you, I guess…

  3. CrazyDiamond says:

    In spite of all of that impressive evidence and convincing argument, Taylen still says “solar just makes sense”??? I think that psychologists should do a big time study (with their own money) regarding a standard Democrat sheep’s ability to convince themselves of anything. Does a liberal deny facts and reality at their job too? How do they stay married? It’s simply incredible.

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