Shovel-ready projects take a while

It’s stimulus money, so it must suck:

ARCHBOLD, Ohio — When the Archbold and Pettisville school districts brainstormed ways to reduce their electricity bills during the mid-2000s, they arrived at a common solution: wind power.
Students, teachers, and school officials celebrated Wednesday the completion and operation of identical 750-kilowatt wind turbines at each community’s main school complex with back-to-back dedication ceremonies that, in part, recognized the two districts’ cooperative effort
In Pettisville, the wind turbine is part of an effort to make the district’s K-12 school complex a “net-zero” energy consumer, with most of its needs met by the turbine, solar panels, and geothermal heating and cooling. The district uses some natural gas and, on calm days, has consumed some electricity from the Toledo Edison grid, Mr. Switzer said, but on windier days it has been a net provider of electricity to the utility. Generation starts when the wind reaches 7 miles per hour and is maximized at 26 mph.
Both turbines were heavily funded by federal “stimulus” grants — funding that didn’t exist when Pettisville and Archbold began exploring their wind-turbine possibilities in 2005 and 2006, respectively.
More than half the Pettisville project’s $2,111,280 cost came from American Recovery and Revitalization Act funds, as did most of Archbold’s $1.8 million outlay.

Mr. Rex said the Archbold turbine is expected to provide about 64 percent of the electricity the district’s neighboring high school and elementary school consume, and district officials hope to get that up to 74 percent. So far, the turbine has cut the district’s power bill by about $9,000 monthly, he said.
Eliot Hartzler, a Pettisville High junior who announced the school complex’s new “gold” rating from the U.S. Green Building Council during the ceremony, called the turbine “a great symbolism of how the community can work together and be a great school as well.” Young Hartzler said the turbine blades’ whooshing is audible from his family’s house a block away, “but you definitely get used to it — it’s in the background now.”

What do you think about wind power, generally? I see more and more windmills around here on my work rounds in rural areas. Archbold was originally settled by Mennonites and it is still the most buttoned-up, tidy place you are likely to see anywhere.






80 replies
  1. 1
    Mark B. says:

    Wind power is cool. You need a backup for while the wind isn’t blowing, but the whole time that it is, you’re getting a ton of almost free power with a very small carbon footprint.

    Of course, it’s not completely free, since you have maintenance and manufacturing costs, but on balance, it’s very good.

  2. 2
    Zifnab says:

    I keep hearing how wind energy just isn’t efficient or reliable enough to invest in. And i keep not seeing stories indicating that to be the case in practice.

  3. 3
    ice weasel says:

    “what do you think of wind power?”

    Really? Are we still there?

    This is a perfect use for stimulus money and there should tons more flowing from DC for projects like this that…

    -Build infrastructure for generating electricity cleanly
    -Help local municipalities lower their annual running costs
    -Project that would otherwise never see funding for that type work

    More solar, more geothermal, more wind power. All of them are some of the best investments we can make.

    Or, we can keep burning coal, natural gas and oil.

  4. 4
    Cassidy says:

    Shit, if we’d cover OKlahoma, Nebraska, and Colorado with these things, we’d never need fossil fuels, coal, or nuclear power to run our power grids ever again.

    This may be a bit of hyperbole, but seriously, the fucking wind never stops blowing, especially in Oklahoma. I couldn’t wait to leave. I’d rather be rained on 363 days a year than spend another day in that god-awful, non-stop wind.

  5. 5
    Rob says:

    If you can harness the wind for power then go for it.

  6. 6
    MikeJ says:

    One school currently saving $9k/month. Half of $2.1M is 1.05M. That works out to 9.7 years. After that, it’s paid for itself and the power is free. Even adding in maintenance costs, it still sounds like a good deal.

  7. 7
    scav says:

    One thing that’s interesting as how it can double up with ag as a mixed use and possibly even provide a backup source of income not necessarily tied to the ag cycle (as other part-times can be).

  8. 8
    El Cid says:

    We need to rally Real Americans to show up and shout and scream and wave their fists at the wind so that it will stop blowing and thus save America from this liberal plot.

  9. 9
    rikyrah says:

    we won’t run out of wind. and those jobs are here in America.

    win-win (no pun intended)

  10. 10
    Kay says:

    @ice weasel:

    I don’t know much about it. We’ve had experimental windmills for years about 40 miles away, but they’re popping up all over now. It’s flat, which helps, I guess :)

  11. 11
    negative 1 says:

    Obviously they did this to be Agenda 21 compliant.

  12. 12
    Lawrence says:

    The area around Meteor Crater in northern Arizona is ideal for wind energy. The wind blows like mad up there, non stop. Acres of flat land with nothing but scrubby grass patches on it. Nothing else cane take hold in that environment.

  13. 13
    Trollhattan says:

    Wind is great, in the right place. Our (public) electricity utility has a decent percentage of wind in their energy portfolio, with more on the way (and zero coal). They recently finished a natural gas fast-start “peaking” plant to manage peak demand in near real time. (This is a bigger game-changer than folks generally realize.)

    It’s a challenge for a public utility to harvest green energy tax credits and they sometimes have to do public-private partnerships to leverage them. It’s eleven-dimensional chess that’s hard for the rubes (me) to follow sometimes.

    What I know is the more renewable is in the portfolio, the less subject ratepayers are to fuel price spikes, exploding gas lines and planned “unexpected” refinery shutdowns. Even absent continuously dropping price per watt, it has a huge role in limiting future price increases and, especially, dramatic ones that can stifle the economy.

    Pete Wilson should be doing Ken Lay’s prison time.

  14. 14
    deep tin says:

    ‘Course some people hate Turbines. They say it causes hypertension and maybe even CANCER!

    http://radioboston.wbur.org/20.....d-turbines

  15. 15

    ZOMG WINDMILLS KILL BIRDS I THOUGHT LIBRULS LOVED BIRDS!

    I had a client out in Palm Desert that ran a manufactured housing park down the mountain from a wind farm. Was on the phone with him (prolly 8 or so years ago) and he asked me to hold on a second. He came back and was cracking up because one of the people in the park came in the office and asked him if he could have the windmills shut down because it was too windy. Good times.

    Wind power good. Not a magick bullet, though.

  16. 16
    El Cid says:

    Electric motors (and thus generators) have just taken a leap forward in efficiency. Power storage and transmission are entering a new era with new anode technologies and topological insulators, etc.

    The parameters on wind power were fine before, and now they’re about to be off the charts, as is solar. This isn’t the typical ’20 years from now’ prediction; the game isn’t about to change, it’s changing right now.

    I feel more positively about the anti-thinking right losing this fight than I have in my life.

  17. 17
    Steeplejack says:

    @Cassidy:

    Or And put a one-square-mile grid of solar panels in the middle of the Nevada desert. I’m too lazy to look it up now, but I think there have been feasibility studies for such a thing.

  18. 18
    Jack the Second says:

    I sometimes think that all the noise from coal and oil are death rattles. I see solar panels everywhere in New York — on top of houses, businesses, and even a few solar-tracking arrays next to office buildings. The last time I drove from Chicago to Indianapolis I passed through what seemed like endless fields of wind turbines.

    Sometimes I can almost believe that I’ll wake up one day and learn that renewable energy has just quietly, slowly won, and no one cares about coal and oil anymore.

  19. 19

    What do you think about wind power, generally?

    I don’t know, let’s ask Brick Oven Bill about it, he’s like an expert

  20. 20
    weaselone says:

    One of the real bonuses for wind and solar is that they allow for the decentralization of power production. That’s something that people who mention covering Oklahoma in wind turbines and blanketing Nevada in solar panels seem to miss.

  21. 21
    Kay says:

    @Cris (without an H):

    Hah! I forgot that. I stopped speaking to him after the birth certificate obsession, which was after he fell in love with Sarah Palin, and then became disillusioned on even her.

  22. 22
    MikeJ says:

    BTW, this is a perfect example of why you don’t put anybody who has ever been to business school in charge of anything. The breakeven is ten years, and there’s no way that would be considered an acceptable ROI. They would argue, better to take that million bucks per turbine and put it in some sort of shady derivatives deal. Then you can use the profit to buy all the coal fired power you need!

    Of course, that wouldn’t get any sort of energy production built. Even coal fired plants have really, really long payoffs. But business types don’t want to build things, they want to make money.

  23. 23
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Jack the Second:

    It often feels like I never see solar panels here in Southern California, though, and I really don’t understand why. You would think that they make perfect sense where it’s sunny year-round and pretty hot most of the year. But people just don’t seem to invest in them.

  24. 24
    scav says:

    Heaven forfend some think like the Saudis and plan to go renewable. un’mercan. there be turbans on those turbines!

  25. 25
    Citizen_X says:

    Solyndra! Solyndra! Benghazi! Fast and Furious!

    This has been the official GOP response o this story.

  26. 26
    scav says:

    @scav: Not just 100% vapourware either

    Saudi Arabia, the world leader in oil production, has completed its largest ground-mounted solar farm in capital Riyadh.

    The 3.5 MW plant, built by Germany-based Pheonix Solar AG, uses 12,684 solar panels from China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd., with inverters supplied from SMA Solar Technology AG.

    don’t know enough to judge actual progress toward goal though.

  27. 27
    Violet says:

    Live in a high wind power production state. It’s one of the options when choosing what type of power generation to get.

    Did you see that the University of Manchester come up with insulated cross-arms that can allow greater carrying capacity and thus speed up adoption and spread of green energy?

    A revolutionary device developed by engineers at The University of Manchester and EPL Composite Solutions Ltd. could dramatically increase the capacity of the UK’s electricity network, enabling rapid increases in renewable generation and lower bills for consumers.

  28. 28
    Trollhattan says:

    @MikeJ:

    A lesser-known Bush 43 administration “crime” was their new source review stance that basically tabled enforcement of the Clean Air Act for utilities keeping old, dirty plants on line, rather than being upgraded or replaced to meet pollution standards.

  29. 29
    MikeJ says:

    @Mnemosyne: Anyplace where having an AC is de rigueur, people should have solar.The very time when you most need to run your AC you generate the most power.

    Imagine what the power consumption of the SW would be if all the air conditioning units had their power handled by solar.

  30. 30
    Citizen_X says:

    @Mnemosyne: I don’t understand why there aren’t solar panels on every new house built in the Sun Belt, all the way across the country. When is their peak electricity usage? In the summer, when air conditioning needs are greatest. When do pv panels produce peak electricity? In the summer. Derp derp gaah!

  31. 31
    PeakVT says:

    @Cassidy: If we develop 25% of the wind potential in the top 10 wind states (at @35% capacity factor), that would generate about 50% more than the current electrical consumption – more than enough for current consumption plus some left over to make up for storage losses, for electric cars, etc.

  32. 32
    Trollhattan says:

    @scav:

    there be turbans on those turbines!

    Don’t forget burqas on the boilers.

  33. 33
    Cassidy says:

    @PeakVT: Cool.

  34. 34
    Violet says:

    @Mnemosyne: Apparently solar panels work best where it’s not that hot. Learned that in a class on solar. So they work great in Germany, which subsidizes and requires solar and is much further north and cooler, but not as well in Florida, where there’s plenty of sun and gets very hot. It’s not that they don’t work, but you’d think they’d work better with more sun, but if they get too hot they’re less efficient. Something like that.

  35. 35
    Citizen_X says:

    @MikeJ: Jinx!

  36. 36
    ant says:

    I like to read about wind power.

    Not too far from my house they are building out some turbines. The local wingnuts have home made signs up telling people to go to wind-watch.org.

    When reading the opposition, it looks clear to me that after a certain amount of the things go up, they work same as other base load power generation sources. Like nuclear and coal. Nuclear and coal don’t ramp up and down to follow demand either. So the wind displaces the others, and ticks off the people that make money off the older generation sources.

    I think the wind blows a little harder on average at night, and demand is lowest then. It displaces other base load power generation.

  37. 37
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Citizen_X:

    I don’t get it, either. I know that the Giant Evil Corporation I work for is incorporating solar in their new building projects — a big new parking garage has solar panels on the roof that simultaneously shade the roof-parked cars and generate electricity. But almost no residences seem to have solar despite all of the incentives.

    I suspect it’s because so many people rent, which means that the people living in the house or townhouse aren’t allowed to install solar and the owners have no incentive to do so because they don’t pay the power bills anyway.

  38. 38
    Violet says:

    @Citizen_X: I completely agree. All new construction ANYWHERE should have solar. Hell, cars should have solar panels on their roofs because why not? Even if it just runs the a/c, that’s some savings.

  39. 39
    Ruckus says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    Just got back from the VA which has a huge solar panel farm on the property. I’m not sure who owns the panels and where the juice goes but it’s big enough to provide most of the power for the complex.
    Also I’m living in Sun Valley, not the most upscale area to say the least, and the neighbors across the street just had solar panels installed. You have to look for them but they are around. When I was living in Topanga there were many houses with solar panels, some with enough panels to provide more power than they could possibly need. Most of the time they are hidden pretty well from the street so you don’t see them, but they are there.

  40. 40
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Violet:

    I did not know that! I guess that’s why people are seeing solar panels in New York when I’m not seeing them in California.

    You’d think that would be something that engineers would be working on.

  41. 41
    e.a.f. says:

    large wind turbines create noise pollution and disrupt the flight patterns of birds. They also kill a lot of birds.

    Solar power is much better. it is surprizing, new buildings, don’t all come with solar systems. if new homes were simply built with them, power consumption would drop and free up the resources used, for other things. Certainly the state of California would benefit along with Utah, Arizona, most states actually. Even Washington, which does have more rain, would reduce the amount of electricity being used.

    when people are buying homes they seem to be all looking for upgrades such as stainless steel appliances, pools, extra bedrooms, man caves, etc. Install a solar system and you’d save money for years to come and help the enviornment. The government might even want to give a tax credit if the sytem was produced in the U.S.A.

    For coach potatoes who want to watch t.v. or use their computer full time and getting very out of shape, try hooking these devices to pedal power. A stationary bike to produce the power to watch t.v. would get a lot of people into shape quickly and save money while doing it.

  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ruckus:

    Glendale has very weird laws about what you can and can’t have on your property, so maybe that’s part of the problem.

  43. 43
    Trollhattan says:

    @ant:

    Some of the base load beliefs are being challenged. South Australia may have already acheived a wind-derived base, far ahead of what was predicted.

    http://www.energyscience.org.a.....seLoad.pdf

    Since Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter, this little tidbit isn’t welcomed by everyone there.

  44. 44
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Mnemosyne: Try Google Maps, you’ll see quite a few buildings with solar on the roof. Costco in Burbank for example.

  45. 45
    Violet says:

    @Mnemosyne: I hope it’s something they’re working on. The class was two years ago and maybe technology has moved on a bit. We visited the property of the guy that taught it. They run their entire property–house and farm property on solar. He’d been doing it for a long time–maybe 15-20 years or so and installed it all himself (electrical engineer by training). So he was super knowledgeable and it was fascinating to see. I didn’t know that about solar working less well in heat but he said it was a problem for them in the hot summers. You’d think it would work better but it doesn’t.

    Also, we learned that solar is very cheap right now (well, then) because China overproduced solar panels and you can get them for a lot less then you used to. That might have changed by now, but he was buying some used panels to take advantage of the cheap prices.

  46. 46
    PeakVT says:

    @Mnemosyne: There are a lot of issues that prevent wider adoption: cost, payoff length, restrictive covenants/deeds, and not entirely stable regulation (to date). Costs for panels have fallen substantially over the past decade, but the costs of the rest of the system, labor, and regulation have not fallen as fast. Higher costs mean more systems need to be financed, which is another friction. And so on. Maybe in another 10 years it will become a no-brainer for most people. Of course we could get there much sooner (or even a few years ago) if there weren’t so many people who opposed renewables as a matter of ideology.

  47. 47
    Ruckus says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    Governments are behind the times? Say it isn’t so.
    That is actually a little harsh, many local governments are pretty good about looking for ways to cut costs and energy production is one of them. The prices are coming down, the efficiencies are going up and many more people are seeing the reality that renewable works instead of conspiracy BS or that the world changes even if they don’t/won’t.

  48. 48
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Mnemosyne: Nope, my former neighbors put solar on their house up in Montrose. GWP is very solar friendly. Then again permits in Glendale are a PITA; I went through that with a patio and a spa years ago.

  49. 49
    Trollhattan says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Electrical devices in general don’t like heat, typically becoming less efficient as temps rise. But the PV folks know the panel output curves and can take them into account during system design.

    The way I figure it, when I install some on my roof I’ll gain a bit of direct shade, reducing my summertime heat loading, which should somewhat offset the heat effect on the panels themselves.

    I’m getting ready to contact some solar installers, as much as I hate dealing with sales people. Living where the average sunny day count is 300, I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines while panel prices collapse.

    BTW, PG&E, SDG&E and SoCal Edison are trying to strangle the cost benefits of consumer-generated electricity. They do NOT like having to buy surplus power, do NOT like competetion for their monopolies, and would like we DFHs to kindly fuck off and pay your power bill. They say it’s an issue of “fairness.”

    I’ll think of that when they’re protecting shareholders from the cost of shutting down San Onofre by sticking ratepayers with the bill.

  50. 50
    MikeJ says:

    @Violet:

    Also, we learned that solar is very cheap right now (well, then) because China overproduced solar panels and you can get them for a lot less then you used to.

    This is sort of at the root of the Solyndra non-scandal. One of the biggest threats to American solar manufacturing is dumping. China is willing to use government funds to ramp up production and sell at a loss if it will help drive competition out of business.

  51. 51
    malraux says:

    @Mnemosyne: When I ran some back of the envelope calculations for my location (KY), the payback was 20 years or 5% (depending on how you want it worded). That’s not a great ROI for an individual and gets worse if they have to finance the installation. IIRC, most home owners need to see a 5-10 year payback to have it make sense.

    Of course, this is worrying about retrofitting an existing home. Local and state governments really ought to consider mandating installation of those sorts of things on new construction.

  52. 52

    @Violet: One thing I have heard suggested is to use the batteries of plugged-in, parked electric cars as a buffer for intermittent power generation, maybe with some compensation for the owner (some free power, perhaps?)

    I have no idea how practical that scheme would be, either…

  53. 53
    JD Rhoades says:

    @ranchandsyrup:

    one of the people in the park came in the office and asked him if he could have the windmills shut down because it was too windy.

    WINDMILLS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!

  54. 54
    Calouste says:

    @Zifnab:

    During a big storm in IIRC 2011, wind power provided half the electricity in Spain. Half. 50%. Of the nationwide electricity consumption. In a country with more than 40 million people. Ok, it was a peak, but it’s still a f’ing lot.

  55. 55
    Violet says:

    @MikeJ: Yeah, that’s true. The timing of the financial crisis and Great Recession didn’t help either. People and businesses who might have bought the panels couldn’t afford to or maybe the businesses shut down. It was bad timing all around. But certainly China’s support of their manufacturing sector for that kind of thing didn’t help.

    I don’t get why people can’t see that government supporting green energy companies is the EXACT SAME THING as government supporting the oil companies was when they first started. The oil companies still get tax breaks and other support and everyone screams about government supporting green energy. Hello, how do you think the oil companies got where they were? By themselves? Hahahahaha. Apparently it’s fine to continue to support oil companies with tax money, but help out new, green companies? No way.

  56. 56
    PeakVT says:

    @Violet: with current panel technology it’s not really worthwhile to install a solar panel on a mass-produced car. Crystaline silicon (used in a typical residential panel) is fragile and can’t be installed easily on car. Thin-film technologies are easier to install (if not in an attractive manner) but they aren’t very efficient. Somebody will have to develop better technology before PV is of much use directly attached to a car.

  57. 57
    Jockey Full of Malbec says:

    The resistance to wind power is more cultural than technical.

    There could be nothing more Capitalist than turning the wind into energy (and, therefore, money). But our energy grid and economic system are geared towards centralization. (Generate the power in one place, distribute it outwards, collect the money and bring that inwards to whomever owns the power generation site).

    Wind power doesn’t fit quite so neatly into that cultural practice, hence the resistance. The reasons are not at all technical.

    Solar has the same issues.

  58. 58
    Davis X. Machina says:

    My governor told us that those turbines are spun by an electric motor, to make it look like they’re doing something, when really they’re not.

  59. 59
    Chris T. says:

    @Violet: It’s a physics-of-semiconductors thing: electrons bleed back more easily when the structure is hotter. Can’t really be helped much (you can fiddle with the “wire” spacing so that electrons don’t have to move as far but this means less light reaching active areas which means fewer electrons in the first place, so it’s a tradeoff).

    I have solar PV on my (Utah) roof, about 2.7 kW peak. Not perfect by any means, the system went into operation at the end of October and was promptly covered with snow for much of the winter (we had unusually heavy valley snow, and very little mountain snow, this winter) but it’s now generating 15+ kWh per day most days even with spring clouds/rain/thunderstorms, and has produced 1.52 MWh since installation, or about 250 kWh/mo even with the snow. I’m expecting 450+ kWh/mo during the summer (our “high cost” time of year, except we’re still paying way less than Californians :-) ) … I’ll have to see.

  60. 60
    Trollhattan says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    Holy fuck. “Nice state you got here, be a shame if anything happened to it.”

    One of a scant few positive things I can say about our former Governator was his stubborn stance that climate change exists and that green energy is the way to go.

    There, I said it.

  61. 61
    Davis X. Machina says:

    All you have to do in Maine to succeed as a politician is convince people you’re not a politician. That we share with California.

    Except for Mickey Kaus. That’s beyond savings.

  62. 62

    @JD Rhoades: Morbo is just awesome.

  63. 63
    Chris T. says:

    @Violet:

    Hell, cars should have solar panels on their roofs because why not?

    Actually, there are good, practical reasons why not: combination of “cost” plus “weight” plus “time exposed to sun”. (Plus “lifetime” in a lot of cases.)

    And yet, I have a car (plug in hybrid) that has them. (Was supposed to be a $5k option, but then became standard.) I’d rather have them on my roof, where they’d be in sun when the car is in the garage—there’s one of the problems right there, the car sits in the garage and the panels are unproductive. :-) Even when the car is out in the sun, they’re generally not aimed properly: you want your solar cells as “flat on” to the sun as possible, and on a roof you can tilt them according to your latitude, which gets you a good fraction of the way there, even without a tracking system. On a car, they have to face whichever way the car goes.

    Then there’s the cost: that $5k got rolled into a price increase on the car. And last, the weight: to get those in the car they had to make a special glass roof structure, which is quite heavy and thick (the individual solar cells are flat and “float” in a thin layer of potting material underneath the glass). Weight is the enemy of efficiency, in a car.

    Instead of putting them on the car itself, put the solar panels on the roof of a garage or shade structure. This gives you better aim and keeps the entire car (not just the solar-paneled-part) from getting as much sun damage, heat in the summer, etc. The structure, like the panels, can be built to last for 20 to 40 years, while the car is fairly likely to be scrapped in about half that time (10 to 20 years).

  64. 64
    cckids says:

    @Cassidy:

    Shit, if we’d cover OKlahoma, Nebraska, and Colorado with these things, we’d never need fossil fuels, coal, or nuclear power to run our power grids ever again.

    Shit, are you kidding? NEVADA. The feds own something like 75% of the state already, & Christ knows there are vast swaths of it that no one wants to look at or live in. You could blanket the lower middle of the state & almost no one would even notice.

    Edit to add: also Wyoming.

  65. 65
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Trollhattan:

    BTW, PG&E, SDG&E and SoCal Edison are trying to strangle the cost benefits of consumer-generated electricity. They do NOT like having to buy surplus power, do NOT like competetion for their monopolies, and would like we DFHs to kindly fuck off and pay your power bill. They say it’s an issue of “fairness.”

    Believe it or not, I still have not lived anywhere in So Cal that had privatized electricity. I moved from Mar Vista (LADWP) to Glendale (GWP).

  66. 66
    El Cid says:

    More recent wind turbine and electric motor / generator designs avoid many of the problems of existing designs.

    In addition, solar energy electricity production as well as heat control in newer materials (including graphene, 2D, and metamaterial variants) are actually changing the game.

    This isn’t future talk. This isn’t ‘oh well maybe’. This is ‘either we miss actual current major innovations because we’re run by anti-intellectual neo-Confederates or we don’t’ territory.

    New materials such that they differentially reflect incoming heat bearing photons into space. Cheaply. Cooling buildings while using ZERO energy.

    Today’s game isn’t the same game as it was 10 or 20 years ago. We either act stupid and pretend it is, or don’t.

  67. 67
    Trollhattan says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Lucky duck. We have the curiously named SMUD here, supposedly the nations 6th largest consumer-owned utility. Sadly, gas is from PG&E, whose motto appears to be “We blow things up, you pay the bill.”

  68. 68
    cckids says:

    @Steeplejack: There is a huge solar plant/farm by Boulder City, and at least 2 more being planned, one on the Paiute Reservation north of Vegas. Nevada should, by rights, be ground zero for most kinds of renewable energy – wind, geothermal, solar. We just need the political will to get it to happen.

    Also fewer Republicans to scream stupid things about how “it can’t replace fossil fuels TODAY!!”

    Edit to add: Lewis Black has a great bit about how solar energy should work in Vegas: “In the summer its like the sun is 12″ from the top of your head!” Also, “We sent a man to the moon! We could run this country on fairy dust if we chose to”.

  69. 69
    Dan says:

    The city of Cincinnati at this point acts as an aggregate buyer of electricty for all city residents and purchases power from wind farms. Lowers the bill for all of us plus reduces the city’s overall carbon load by a LOT.

  70. 70
    Trollhattan says:

    @El Cid:

    Read recently of using graphene as a reverse-osmosis membrane for water purification. In prototypes it requires a scant fraction of the system pressure required by current RO membranes, which would make, for example, saltwater conversion and pollution remediation much less power-hungry.

    Exciting times. This is why “gummint needs to get out of science.”

  71. 71
    JoyfulA says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Norfolk Southern proposed a windmill in a nearby riverside railroad yard and had an environmental study done. There was a lot of traffic across the yard by waterfowl, some of them rare, and NS didn’t do the windmill at that location.

    So there is a lot of concern about birds in the building of windmills. Most of our windmills are on mountain ridges, so birds are a concern there, too.

    (I did see a home windmill next to a house that was set about as low as it could be in that vicinity, and it never turns. Our joke is “Try solar.”)

  72. 72
    Interrobang says:

    I just got back from Israel a couple weeks ago, and I noticed an awful lot of new housing developments in Jerusalem with solar panels on the roofs of almost all the houses, and a lot of people have installed them even on their patio roofs and things (a lot of people in J’lem live in what you might call terraced garden apartments). I definitely approve, and they’ve certainly got the climate for it.

    Now, if only we could be as proactive about catching rainwater here in SW Ontario, but the local authorities are pants-pissingly scared of mosquito-borne pathogens (West Nile right now, and this used to be a malaria-endemic area), so there are bylaws out the bunghole…

  73. 73
    Trollhattan says:

    @JoyfulA:

    Have worked on wind farm environmental reviews. They’re much more diligent about researching before permitting now, and wildlife experts are part of the team.

    Newer turbine designs are less lethal than older, smaller designs as well. Nevertheless, once built they have to conduct avian mortality surveys (including bats) to collect actual data and if, for example, an unexpected/undocumented migration pattern were to emerge, it might result in an annual shutdown for that period. Projects I’ve worked on in the Delta have not had such problems.

    Have also read that reconfiguring the navigation warning lights can reduce nighttime collisions. Something like changing from blinking to always on, or was it the reverse? Stupid brain.

  74. 74
    Yankee Buzzard says:

    Buffett’s Mid-American Energy announced today the largest capital project in Iowa’s history – a $1.9 Billion investment in wind farms.

  75. 75
    Kay says:

    Archbold is deep, dark red. It’s probably the most conservative town in a majority GOP county.

    But.

    If they save 9,000 a month on energy they’ll forget all about how Al Gore is fat and how the stimulus all went to Nancy Pelosi’s abortion clinic.

  76. 76
    El Cid says:

    @Trollhattan: It’s simpler. It’s not reverse osmosis. It’s literally structural, not concentration-related osmotic pressures: the pores in the graphene have been sized such that water flows right through and nothing else does. It’s instantaneous, low pressure, no energy. And it was Lockheed-Martin in the news for moving forward on this.

    As a matter of fact, plain graphene if in film (flat sheet) form will allow water vapor through and nothing else, such that the scientists discovering it (Geim & Novoselov) played around with this to distill vodka.

    It acts as a barrier to the smallest atom of gas – helium – and yet allows water vapour to pass through.

    This particular property has allowed the two Russians to perform another playful experiment, this time in passive vodka distillation – water evaporates through a graphene membrane placed over a mug of watered-down vodka, leaving the concentrated alcohol behind.

    For the life of me I don’t understand why alcoholic beverage producers haven’t gotten behind this.

    Being able to further distill highly desirable alcoholic beverages without using any heat or pressure or chemicals to do so would heighten the value of many, many products.

    (Remember, graphene is a magic material, but it isn’t about graphene per se: it is our astoundingly and rapidly advancing knowledge of how materials behave at the atomic surface levels which allowed us to know & look for graphene, develop other materials, and create the entirely new form of matter known as ‘metamaterials’. This is a new era in human civilizations’ knowledge of materials — what we are beginning to do is more significantly advanced than any human material activity before in our history. Not exaggerating.)

  77. 77
    Trollhattan says:

    @El Cid:

    Very cool, thanks for the ‘splanation! Because the military is always first in line for such things, I’ll expect the Navy being all over this for shipboard freshwater production. The rest of us, as they say, shall follow along somewhere in their wake. If it makes better vodka, nostrovia!

  78. 78
    El Cid says:

    @Trollhattan: The Lockheed-Martin graphene filtration variant has been dubbed “Perforene“.

    With the development of a new, thinner membrane, defense contractor Lockheed Martin could revolutionize the process of desalination, providing fresh water across the globe at higher efficiency and lower costs.

    Traditionally, the best way of taking salt out of water has been through vacuum distillation. The salt water is enclosed at a low pressure to reduce its boiling point, making it easier to vaporize to separate the salt from the water. A more efficient but more energy-intensive way is through the process of reverse osmosis: A membrane separates two chambers, and the side holding the salt water is subjected to pressure, forcing the water to pass through the membrane and leave the salt, which is too large to cross the barrier.

    Lockheed’s new Perforene membranes, made of graphene (sheets of pure carbon only one atom thick), are 500 times thinner than filters currently on the market. This means less energy is required to push water through the membrane, making reverse osmosis more efficient. John Stetson, head engineer for the project, told Reuters that it would require approximately 100 times less energy than other membranes.

    But working with such a thin material presents new problems, and engineers are still trying to find the best way to produce nanometer-wide holes in the membranes quickly and on a large scale without tearing the product. The added difficulties of manufacturing will probably factor into cost, but Lockheed says desalination plants wouldn’t need to change their infrastructure to use Perforene. The prototype expected by the end of this year will be a drop-in replacement for filters currently in use.

    If Lockheed Martin engineers can make large-scale production of Perforene feasible, it could make a huge difference to the 780 million people living without access to fresh water. The company also hopes to find applications in healthcare, where the material could replace current dialysis membranes, and in environmental cleanup.

    While building up graphene into a 3D foam known as an aerogel has been demonstrated recently as a possible oil spill and toxic materials filter, the much cheaper graphene-like material 2D boron nitride (made from boric acid) has also recently proven very promising as a cheap renewable and instantaneous oil and toxic waste-spill absorber, since it absorbs organic materials and toxic chemicals on its surface while water flows through. And it floats. And you can clean or burn it and then use it again.

    “If we used one gram of our material it will absorb 30 grams of oil.”

    He says materials such as activated carbon or natural fibres commonly used to counter spills generally have a much lower absorption rates.

    The other materials can absorb 10 times or maybe 40 times [their weight depending upon the chemicals,” he says.

    Once the white sheets are dropped on an oil-polluted water surface they immediately absorb the brown oil and become dark brown.

    “This process is very fast; after just two minutes, all oil has been taken up by the nanosheets,” they write.

    But rapid absorption isn’t the only advantage Chen says.

    Once saturated, the sheets can be easily picked up from the water surface and cleaned by burning, heating or washing to be reused several times.

    “Our material can be burnt in air to clean all the absorbed oil.

    “You can not do this with all the other carbon based material because you burn everything off.

    “After heating the oil-saturated material you can reuse the material again to reabsorb new oil.”

    The ability to recycle makes it a cost-effective alternative, he adds.

    We’re living in miraculous times, advancing our interactions with the material world to a marvelous degree, all while just barely avoiding being ruled by people who are still pissed off about how urbanized and sophisticated the Roman Empire was.

  79. 79
    Fred says:

    Here at my desk way out in the swedish countryside I can see out one window one wind generator owned by the old farmer on the hill. Out of another window are six (count ’em SIX)wind towers owned by a group of neighbors. Farther down the road is a wind tubine (is that the right word?) owned by the town of Askersund to run their municipal buildings and the nursing home.
    It is to be noted that all of these projects are investments by small private groups and individuals. North country farmers are not known for having stars in their eyes. These are tight fisted people with sharp pencils.
    Tax the fosil fuel industry to pay for their externalized costs (polution, wars, …) and let the invisible hand do it’s job. The renewables will walk away with the market without breaking a sweat.

  80. 80
    StringOnAStick says:

    @El Cid: Your additions to this post have truly made my day, and increased my optimism level significantly. I mean it!

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