In 2008, Google had a plan to solve our energy problems by 2030. The Google plan, to be charitable, was not very good. In fact had Google come up with a business plan of equivalent quality we would have been doing all of our searches on Yahoo and Bing. It would appear from googling "Google plan 2030" that the 2030 energy plan is not exactly a hot activity for google, and in terms of current Google 2030 activity, the plan is as dead as a doornail.
The Google plan relied on renewables and efficiency to replace fossil fuel energy sources, and indeed more efficiency than renewables. Now, like every true, red blooded American, I am a great believer in efficiency, but I do not believe that efficiency can replace coal fired electricity generating plants. It is just not going to happen. No doubt there were some very intelligent people at Google - Google reportedly has a lot of those - who realized that the 2030 plan would never work.
The 2030 plan claimed it could reduceFossil fuel generated electricity would be replaced by renewables including,
* Fossil fuel-based electricity generation by 88%
* Vehicle oil consumption by 44%
* Dependence on imported oil (currently 10 million barrels per day) by 37%
* Electricity-sector CO2 emissions by 95%
* Personal vehicle sector CO2 emissions by 44%
* US CO2 emissions overall by 49% (41% from today's CO2 emission level)
* 380 gigawatts (GW) wind: 300 GW onshore + 80 GW offshoreThere are, to say the least, serious problems with this plan. First Solar and wind are not dispatchable, and thus you may not give you the electricity you want at the time you want it. The 380 GWs of wind seems to be quite a lot, but the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says, we cannot rely on more than 10% of our wind resources being available when we need them, and Texas has what is considered to be excellent wind resources. 380 GWs of wind resources seems quite a lot, but the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that it would take 300 GWs of wind resources to supply 20% of American electricity. The 38 GWs of wind generated electricity that ERCOT says it can count on, would not provide Texas with enough electricity to keep all of its air conditioners running on some hot summer nights. 380 GWs of wind resources thus is not a lot. It would only in theory, however, experts that ERCOT
* 250 GW solar: 170 GW photovoltaic (PV) + 80 GW concentrating solar power (CSP)
* 80 GW geothermal: 15 GW conventional + 65 GW enhanced geothermal systems (EGS)
will tell you that the electrical output of all the wind generators in Texas can drop close to zero on some days. Solar PV and concentrated solar power just don't work at night.
Well what about Geothermal. There are two types of geothermal power. The first type relies on volcanic type underground heat resources. Pockets of molten magna, heat underground water in some areas. If you drill down far enough, say a mile, you can potentially tap into a source of super heated water. Pipe it to the surface, and it may flash to super heated steam, which can be used to drive turbines which can power electrical generators. Unfortunately most of the United States is volcano free, so the hot magna type geothermal source is not available in placed like East Tennessee where i live. There is a second type of geothermal power, called hot rocks geothermal. Hot rocks works by drilling down to where the rocks are really ho, say 20,000 feet under neath the surface. Pipe some water down and let the hot rocks heat it, then pipe it back up to the the surface, let it flash to steam, and run the steam though a turbo-generator. Unfortunately this type of geothermal power can cause earthquakes, and their development has largely stopped.
if you look at other renewable energy plans you see the same problems that we find in the Google plan. Al Gore proposed an energy plan in 2008. The Gore plan was similar to the Google plan only even more expensive ($5 trillion verses $4.4 trillion). The Greenpeace [r]evolution energy plan calls for 2030 goals of
* 355 GWs of wind generation capacity
* 200 GWs of PV capacity
* 55 GWs of Solar capacity
* 52 gWs of Geothermal capacity
* 79 GWs of biomass generating capacity.
But two other figures stand out in the Greenpease plans. First the Greenpeace plan calls for an increase in the dangerous, carbon emitting natural gas generating facilities of 95 gWs between 2010 and 2030. At the same time the Greenpeace plan calls for the shutting down of 88 GWs of carbon free generating capacity. Why would Greenpeace call for doing such a totally insane thing? Because the carbon free power plants are nuclear powered and Greenpeace hoes crazy when the word nuclear is uttered. Sp Greenpeace is prepared to replace a carbon free energy source with a carbon emitting source.
So how much will the Greenpeace plan cost? Greenpeace tells us,
The total investment required to achieve the Energy [R]evolution Scenario from 2005-2030 is just under $2.8 trillion,This is almost half the Gore estimate, and about 2/3rds the Google cost estimate. One of the most outstanding qualities of Greenpeace is the capacity of its leadership to tell far fetched stories with straight faces.
it is clear that renewable energy solutions will be expensive, but how much can we rely on the estimates we get from renewable energy plans? The answer is very little.
A report from Israel, in the Jerusalem Post, gives us some insight. The story states,
Citing the fine print in a 2007 cabinet decision mandating 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, the Treasury has launched a campaign to reevaluate the costs of alternative energy. . . .
According to calculations it presented at the ministerial meeting, a cost-effective feed-in tariff for renewable energy should be no higher than 40 agorot per kilowatt hour. The figure is based on a price of 28 agorot per kilowatt hour from coal, plus 12 agorot allocated for the cost of pollution from coal. . . .
No form of renewable energy – whether solar, wind, biomass or any other – is currently economically viable at 40 agorot per kilowatt hour.
No company could afford to produce renewable energy at that price. The new tariff for large solar fields which was announced last month, for instance, stands at NIS 1 per kilowatt hour. Wind tariffs are lower, but are still higher than 40 agorot. A feed-in tariff is the amount the state will pay to buy the electricity with a contract for at least 20 years.
One New Israeli shackle is the equivalent of $0.27. 40 agorot equals $0.11, or about the equivalent of typical electrical costs in the United States, It should be noted that the cost of energy storage or new transmission lines was not included in the Israeli renewable electricity cost estimates. So the real costs would be higher if Israel wanted to go to 24 hour a day electricity from renewable sources.
About a year ago, Tom Wynn a climate change and energy policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute reported that Oregon ratepayers are getting socked by renewable drven electrical cost increases,
PGE is charging all of its customers a higher rate for the added renewable energy on the grid by charging 0.22 cents per kWh, or approximately $2.13 extra per month, for an average household. But this is not all; PGE has requested to raise rates an additional 7.4%, or approximately $6.70 more per month, for an average household. Part of this rate increase is due to the expansion of the Bigelow Canyon wind farm that will help meet legislative mandates.A Center for Data Analysis report from the heritage Foundation found that a Renewable energy standard that
starts at 3 percent for 2012 and rises by 1.5 percent per year. This profile mandates a minimum of 15 percent renewable electricity by 2020, a minimum of 22.5 percent by 2025, and a minimum of 37.5 percent by 2035,would quickly become very expensive. This EWS would,
* Raise electricity prices by 36 percent for households and 60 percent for industry;CDA calculated that a RES would have a devistating economic impact on a typical middle class family of 4.
* Cut national income (GDP) by $5.2 trillion between 2012 and 2035;
* Cut national income by $2,400 per year for a family of four;
* Reduce employment by more than 1,000,000 jobs; and
* Add more than $10,000 to a family of four’s share of the national debt by 2035.
Clearly then renewable energy is going to carry a very high costs, and no plan yet advanced seems to offer a path to relief from the economic costs.