Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Comments on Mark Z. Jacobson from Renewable Energy

In December, Renewable Energy published a Stanford press release on Mark Z. Jacobson's infamous paper, Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security. Let me say at this point that I consider Mark Z. Jacobson to most likely be a competent scientist who has gotten sucked into the irrational renewables ideology. Jacobson has stopped being a scientist and has become a cognitive warrior for renewable energy. Cognitive warfare is about propaganda, not the judicious determination of facts. It is clear from the responses of Renewable Energy that many of them were not convinced by Jacobson's propaganda.

"stop killin our wilderness" provided a devastating critique of Jacobson on Wind and Solar Thermal Power
obviously this person [Jacobson] lives in NORTHERN california, not southern california, or they would have a clue about how these technologies are vastly different here.

CSP uses nearly 90,000 gallons of water a year, just for rinsing mirrors (from a diesel truck), per megawatt - and that's for the inefficient air-cooled ones. water cooled use an additional 2,000,000 gallons of water/year per megawatt. 2 million gallons per year per megawatt!!! and the output declines as the temperature rises outside, right when we need the power most. idiotic. how can we justify these levels in SoCal, which is already on water rationing?

the land (10 acres/mw) is also permanently destroyed, and lengthy transmission means another 10% is lost.

to say "leave the rest as open space" around massive, inefficient wind turbines is also misleading. dynamiting, boring, trenching (so the turbines can pull power from the grid), concrete, roads, powerlines - all of these things add up to near-total devastation of the entire region when they are in SoCal deserts (which is usually where they are sited in SoCal). that means 45 - 70 acres per megawatt that is permanently decommissioned for all other uses. oh, and these turbines operate at roughly 16% of rated capacity, lower than rooftop solar, especially after transmission losses.

so, in terms of wasting HUGE amounts of water, killing habitats, destroying our carbon sinks (like the Mojave, which is a fantastic carbon sink, equal to temperate forest), massive roads and powerlines, and eminent domain, i beg to differ that these are reasonable solutions in SoCal. they are insane.

The same writer favors rooftop PV:
rooftop solar, at 18% and counting, destroys no land, requires no new roads or transmission, requires no water, forces no families from their homes, is MUCH less intermittent than Big Wind, and can be owned by PEOPLE instead of Big Energy is the only earth-and-human-friendly solution for SoCal. we are the land of sprawl and sun - let's make that a positive!

"Carolyn L" responded:
My rooftop solar still needs water for washing the panels, possibly at close to the rate of 90,000 gals of water per year per MW.
Richard Harding offered a well balanced assessment:
This is an extremely biased report, as are many in the field of alternative energy. The answer is that we can't meet all of our energy needs with a handful of fledgling technologies, we need a broadly diversified portfolio of energy sources, including renewables (wind, ocean, geothermal, solar PV, solar thermal, hydropower, biofuels, nuclear, and even fossil fuels (coal-to-liquids, natural gas). None of these are without impact on the environment, we just need to choose wisely in order to minimize environmental impact. Ultimately, the energy source with the least environmental impact is probably nuclear. Our goal needs to be energy independence and security with the least possible environmental impact.
"Steven" pointed to an obvious flaw in Jacobson's study:
It is also worth noting that cost was not considered as a factor in rating any of the energy generation methods studied. A study without an economic component is of very limited value....
"Steven" added
If I conducted a study for how I should get to work this morning in a similarly airy manner I might find that a helicopter ride or a chauffeur driven limo would appear as apt choices. Once I throw in economic considerations walking or taking the bus are the only viable candidates, and the earlier study does not help with that decision. Economic viability is a critical factor in evaluating energy generation schemes and if you leave it out of your study these is little value to any of the conclusions.
Ron Corso pointed to another flaw in Jacobson's analysis, namely his failure to appreciate the value of flexible energy output.
I don't know how the paper by Professor Jacobsen could possibly rank wind number 1 in his study. Wind is an unreliable source of energy varying dramatically from full to no output on the whims of wind currents that are totally unpredictable even sometimes within an hour. In addition, wind power equipment is notoriously unreliable and difficult to repair and maintain due to its location 100 to 200 feet elevated and is only viable economically with large subsidies. Hydropower on the other hand is dependable, easily maintained, very flexible in response to power demands, and has ancillary benefits unequalled by any other power source. If the Professor's paper does not discuss these important issues, it should do so to obtain a fair comparison
David Onkels suggests
The problem is that wind generation facilities are very inefficient producers of electricity, and owe their existence to government subsidies, tax preferences, or mandates on utilities to purchase the power. These investments drain capital away from more productive uses, reducing economic growth, employment, and wealth creation for us all.

These investments also drain money away from research into potentially more productive ways of generating power and fuel.

As soon as governments enter the picture, existing inefficient technologies become enshrined and develop political constituencies that stifle innovation and redeployment of capital into more efficient uses. The production of ethanol in the US is a perfect example of this problem.

" Thousands upon thousands of people however have died as a result of exposure to nuclear radiation."

Bombs and Chernobyl aside, tell me where. The military budget is irrelevant. By rejecting this interesting technology out of hand with scare-rhetoric, you marginalize the rest of your arguments.
El Rucio criticized Jacobson's assumptions about how much land is disturbed by windmills.
Such analyses are useful and of course rely on assumptions and concerns that can be debated as to their validity. But it really is a glaring error to claim that up to 144,000 5-MW wind turbines would take up less than 3 km^2 of land. In fact, at 50 acres/MW, they would require 145,687 km^2. To consider only the actual tower and foundation is like planning an airport only according to the small patches of ground touched by the tires of a plane.

And the paper appears to work towards a carbon reduction goal rather than towards providing energy, so the author seems to have wrongly assumed a one-for-one substitution of wind for other sources that is not borne out by actual experience.
This set of comments demonstrate the deeply flawed nature of Mark Z. Jacobson's assessment of post-carbon energy sources and indeed point to significant problems with renewable generated electricity.

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