REAL STORIES
BY REAL PEOPLE Search
Thursday, November 23, 2017

Green Power: The Unfulfilled Wet Dream

by slowasigo (writer), Newland and Ellis, August 14, 2008

Credit:

In 1712, Thomas Newcomen built the first workable device that could harness the power of steam. Yet, at a measly 15 RPM, and because his valves wouldn’t always close and open correctly, it was hardly better than the 14 year-old donkey being coaxed in a circle to pump water out of the mines.  

Current technology has not really changed in 300 years (an oversimplification perhaps).  In nearly every application of power generation the process remains relatively the same.  Cook something, gas or oil, boil water, create steam, spin a turbine, generate electricity.  There have been a few spoilers to be sure.  The Dutch put up windmills to spin their turbines. Clever Bastards. Oppenhiemer and friends created heat by smashing the building blocks of matter to smithereens.  Techno geeks.  Finally, the Department of Energy broke out a set of mirrors and aimed them at pressurized oil or molten salt to heat water, create steam, spin a turbine, etc, etc.

Last year I received a letter from Southern California Edison asking me if I would like to purchase green power.  From the letter I was sure that the utility was going to dedicate a wind turbine out in Palm Springs, CA just for me or a fraction of its generation capabilities anyway.  I read further looking for the “check this box” section of the letter and got tripped up by the last sentence of the letter.  “This will cost you an additional 10-20% premium over current market prices.”   10-20% more expensive? 

Apparently, creating power from wind, solar, and geothermal locations is not cheap.

PV cells, those god awful panels on the top of your neighbor’s “let’s go build a bomb shelter underneath my spherical survivalist home” are, at their best, 15% efficient and will take ten years or more to recoup the initial investment.  That of course presupposes you are living in the Sahara and not in Newport Beach where the fog burns off by 2 pm every day.

Turns out, the cheapest way to make electricity is by burning coal which limbos under a staggeringly low 3 cents per kilowatt hour. (This country has a 400 year supply of coal.)  Commercial Solar and Geothermal generation costs north of 20 cents per kilowatt hour.  (Nuclear power is not being addressed in this article as no new plants have been built since 1984 due to political climates.)  There is fantastic technology for burning coal with very little to no emissions currently being used today.

With the recent energy crisis pushing oil futures north of $140 dollars a barrel a democratic Congress is desperate to show that something is being done.  Subsidies and study grants for new fuel and energy projects are flying out of Washington faster than your congressional representatives on a Thursday afternoon.  

Yet, this much is certain.  Worldwide power consumption is exceeding 10% growth per year.  There are not enough dams, not enough windy places, and not enough locations where the earth is burping sulfuric gases hot enough to make power sufficient for our needs (or wants).   At some point, the generation inefficiencies and geographical constraints of green power will give way to good old fashion American economics.  Walmart got it right.  It may not be the best quality but it is good enough for us.

Give it to me cheap.    



About the Writer

slowasigo is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
Want to write articles too? Sign up & become a writer!

0 comments on Green Power: The Unfulfilled Wet Dream



Add A Comment!

Click here to signup or login.


Rate This Article


Your vote matters to us



x


x