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View Diary: Wind power set to decline under Obama? (270 comments)

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  •  Why not adopt the German model? (22+ / 0-)

    Germany saw a boom in wind and solar plants when the Bundestag passed a bill that guaranteed a profitable price for wind and solar generated electricity.  That in turn ensured access to credit, and there you go.

    Would such a system not work here?

    •  called "tariff guarantees"... (6+ / 0-)

      and yeah, they're vital as the cost of wind power is all up front.

      "The cure for bullshit is fieldwork."
      --Robert Bates, Department of Government; Harvard University

      by papicek on Wed Jan 28, 2009 at 07:12:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  yes, feed-in tariffs (23+ / 0-)

      are provenly the most effective way to develop wind.

      They have the additional bonus for bankers in this time of crisis that there is no need to worry about price risk, ie revenues will not decrease even if market conditions are poor. It does help to maintain financing in the European countries that use that mechanism right now.

      And many studies have also shown that it is the cheapest way to support wind (in Denmark and Germany, as noted, it now lowers power costs).

    •  The germans have entire communities (11+ / 0-)

      that are off-the-grid and produce their own power through solar and wind generators (possibly some thermal bits, too).  It's astounding what they've accomplished, especially considering that germany doesn't have the solar resources that much of our country potentially has available.

      They are certainly worth learning from.

      What we don't know keeps the contracts alive and movin. They don't gotta burn the books, they just remove em while arms warehouses fill as quick as the cells.

      by Black Leather Rain on Wed Jan 28, 2009 at 07:30:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And it has saved a lot of small farmers. (13+ / 0-)

        I saw a BBC documentary (I think) where they interviewed a German farmer.  He'd inherited his father's pig farm, but for awhile it looked as if he'd be unable to keep it due to the cost pressures of small family farms.  Then the Bundestag passed this bill, and he promptly got a loan to install solar (I believe) collectors on his farm.  With the profits from selling the energy, he's able to keep his farm business profitable enough that he hopes to pass it along to his children.

        Given the dire straits of small family farming (what little of it is left) in the U.S., it'd seem to me that this would be a real boon.

      •  The french pay a lot less for their electricity (5+ / 0-)

        I think that what we need for the US is the best of what works in Europe, who (let's admit it) are much better than we are at smartly making electricity.

        Germany wind and solar subsidies have cost the Germans lots of money, and have generated a lot of resentment: Berliners aren't all thrilled about subsidizing the Bavarian who decides to put a solar panel on his roof. Electricity prices have increased a lot since this program started.

        Of course, there are benefits, because some of the most advanced wind and solar equipment manufacturers are now in Germany. Maybe that's a good investment - this is a good field in which to be the leader.

        Still, I prefer the French model over the German one. France is 80% nuclear, generate much less CO2 than Germany, have the cheapest power in Europe, and sell electricity to their neighbors, including Germany.

        I would hope that the US is aiming at some happy medium, maybe 50% nuclear, 20% wind, 10% hydro.

      •  one community here in MA (3+ / 0-)

        is producing their own power w/ wind

        my biggest beef w/ the Cape Wind project is that I'd rather see the paradigm shift from large centralized projects to smaller community based ones like this

        I can't believe the investors in Cape Wind, should their project go through, would stand for many more communities going "off gird" and I fear the first thing they'll do once their big wind farm gets built is move to stop them

        •  I think micro-grids are the future. (6+ / 0-)

          It's more complex with very large cities, because it's difficult to generate enough wind/solar/geothermal power given the building density and other issues in many large cities.  But they could (and should) generate more by use of solar panels on rooftops, and such.

          Ultimately, micro-grids make sense because they reduce the net electricity need, as less is lost in transmission from Far Away Power Plant to My Home Right Here.

          •  Balance is the key, of course. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            papicek, NCrissieB

            There's no reason we can't have micro-grids for suburban and rural areas, and keep the urban areas on nuclear power.

            What we don't know keeps the contracts alive and movin. They don't gotta burn the books, they just remove em while arms warehouses fill as quick as the cells.

            by Black Leather Rain on Wed Jan 28, 2009 at 08:11:05 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, if.... (6+ / 0-)

              I don't think wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and other renewables can provide 100% of human energy needs through the 21st century.  So yes, nuclear will need to be a part of the package.  But ...

              ... important but ...

              ... we need to be sure that nuclear power needn't be too large a part of the package.  Nuclear power is precisely the kind of "big box" solution that tends to crowd out other solutions, because it's so expensive and so centralized that it sucks capital out of the system and concentrates decision making in the hands of a few (those who own the power plants).

              So I favor first and foremost, conservation.  Let's reduce our energy requirements as low as we can, both for the sake of the planet - there's only so much of the earth's energy we can divert for our own use without doing irreparable harm to our environment - and so we have less need for "big box" solutions.

              Second, I favor locally-generated electricity - microgrids - to the greatest possible extent.  They are more flexible in meeting the needs of a local community, and they keep more decision making down at the community level.

              Third, use nuclear power to make up the inevitable shortfall, where local conditions don't permit us to generate enough electricity by any other means.  But that's the last resort ... not the first choice.

          •  Islanding ... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            HeyMikey, BYw, NCrissieB

            Micro-grids connected into the larger grid, but requiring far less infrastructure for those connections due to the distributed power production/management.  Part of "smart" / "intelligent" grid.

          •  3/4 to 4/5 of power transmmission loss (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ClaudeB, HeyMikey

            happens in the local/regional grid, the long distance bulk transmission lines are the minor part of the loss.  

            Micro-grids suffer from their localization as fluctuation in solar or wind output tend to span the region of the micro-grid. And it's much less likely that a micro-grid will include significant power storage capacity.

            Most geothermal potential in the U.S. is remote from any sizable population center, so that's not going to factor into many micro-grids.

        •  The reason? Economies of scale. (0+ / 0-)
          •  don't take into account (0+ / 0-)

            social and environmental costs

            measuring success only by how much money the investors make seems to me to defeat the purposes of developing greener energy sources

            •  It is physics, not finance (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ClaudeB

              1/ The bigger the turbine, the bigger the swept area of the rotor, the more efficient the turbine.

              2/ Community wind typically goes where it fits. Utility scale wind typically goes where the best wind is. Wind speed is a cubic factor (V^3) relative to energy. So, a 10% increase in wind speed gets you about a 33% increase in energy output. Same equipment, same costs, same everything, but 33% more product.

              •  I'm not arging the definition (0+ / 0-)

                I'm saying that looking at it in purely those terms ignores all else...mostly that larger projects have absentee owners who don't give a shit about the local environment and economy

                are we going green to benefit us all and the planet or a few investors?  I'm not saying those who put up money should not get a return but I don't think they should be shoving mammoth projects down the throats of these rural areas just to squeeze out every last dime and say it's for the sake of "efficiency" when that's BS and we all know it's about getting the highest return on their investment and all else be damned

                and also....the larger the project, the more rural the area meaning you need to figure higher transmission costs and loss so it's not exactly "same everything, 33% more"  ...that's got to reach a break even point somewhere

        •  I notice... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kittania

          that America.gov has noticed Hullwind.

          America.gov is the official State Department website which conducts public diplomacy. By law, the State Department cannot link to it from its official website.

          That's one of those rules that's a remnant of the cold war, when materials used in public diplomacy overseas was prohibited from being distributed in the US. In other words, the Bush administration (note the date on this page), which walked away from Kyoto, was using Hullwind to counter the charge that America cares more about oil profits than the environment.

          Just thought I'd share this.

          "The cure for bullshit is fieldwork."
          --Robert Bates, Department of Government; Harvard University

          by papicek on Wed Jan 28, 2009 at 08:45:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Hull (0+ / 0-)

          1/ Hull is not "off grid". The Hull Municipal Light Plant is a municipal electric utility serving the Town of Hull. Their grid is patched into ISO-NE, just like NSTAR and others.

          2/ Community Wind on the scale of Hull is much more expensive than utility scale projects such as Cape Wind - on the order of 2X more.

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