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Glass overflowing?

Memorial Day 2012.  The forecast is for a record breaking hot day, but here at mid-morning it’s just perfect.  Time to think on what’s happening;

  • Chinese solar panels
  • Germany sets solar record
  • UN Climate Change meeting in Bonn
  • Tar sands and other filthy fuels

Chinese Solar Panels killing US solar panel industry

I caught a part of the May 22 edition of “On Point”, a public radio talk show hosted by Tom Ashbrook.

“When China moved into the American solar market, it was murder for American solar manufacturers. They were undercut right and left by Chinese companies with major backing from the Chinese government.  Many shut down. But it was great for American solar panel installers. From China, they got a low-cost product that sold like hot cakes. You may have some of those panels on your roof right now, pumping out green energy.

China solar panels - Xinhua News Agency

Last week, the U.S. government stepped in with big tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports.

On Point: the question — what do we need more? To go green? Or buy American?”

The realists answer; why do we even have to ask this question?  We need to go green AND buy American.  If we don’t have jobs people can’t invest in energy conservation and energy efficiency.  Again and again I meet people who want to make their houses more efficient, who need to save on energy costs, but who have been laid off, or are under water with their mortgage and simply cannot get the money together – even with subsidies – to do meaningful work.

The comments following on the wbur web site are quite fun, but remember these are dangerous Massachusetts leftists, so take care.  One comment contained the Henry Ford quote:  “Why use the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the fields?”  It seems that Henry referred to industrial hemp cultivation, but what is striking that even at that time a brilliant mind could see the stupidity and selfishness of pulling the work of hundreds, thousands and millions of years of nature out of the ground to be burned and never replaced.

I think I heard most of the program (except when the green mini-van cut me off at the lights) and believe that the German approach was never mentioned – they seem to be able to have high adoption AND a local industry.  Which brings me to the next point:

Germany sets new solar power record, institute says

By Erik Kirschbaum (Reuters) | BERLIN | Sat May 26, 2012 2:02pm EDT

German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity – through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.  They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.

Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday electricity needs.  “Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity,” Allnoch told Reuters. “Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over.”

The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.

Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources.

Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Some critics say renewable energy is not reliable enough nor is there enough capacity to power major industrial nations. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is eager to demonstrate that is indeed possible.

The jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity this year and bright sunshine nationwide.

The 22 GW per hour figure is up from about 14 GW per hour a year ago. Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.

“This shows Germany is capable of meeting a large share of its electricity needs with solar power,” Allnoch said. “It also shows Germany can do with fewer coal-burning power plants, gas-burning plants and nuclear plants.”

Allnoch said the data is based on information from the European Energy Exchange (EEX), a bourse based in Leipzig.

The incentives through the state-mandated “feed-in-tariff” (FIT) are not without controversy, however. The FIT is the lifeblood for the industry until photovoltaic prices fall further to levels similar for conventional power production.  Utilities and consumer groups have complained the FIT for solar power adds about 2 cents per kilowatt/hour on top of electricity prices in Germany that are already among the highest in the world with consumers paying about 23 cents per kw/h.

German consumers pay about 4 billion euros ($5 billion) per year on top of their electricity bills for solar power, according to a 2012 report by the Environment Ministry.  Critics also complain growing levels of solar power make the national grid less stable due to fluctuations in output.

Merkel’s centre-right government has tried to accelerate cuts in the FIT, which has fallen by between 15 and 30 percent per year, to nearly 40 percent this year to levels below 20 cents per kw/h. But the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, has blocked it.”

The realists take; glass half full/half empty.  So Germany has almost as much solar as the rest of the world combined.  What does that say about the rest of the world?  And this amount of solar is just 4% of total electricity production.

The article tries to take a neutral ground by citing the “high” cost of 23cents/kwh.  I have seen that amount charged by one of the independent electricity suppliers in New Jersey and it is less than the cost of electricity in Australia.  Ok so it’s more than the 16-17cents more usual in the US,   but not outrageous by any means.

(See also my video of some German countryside with solar panels.) Meanwhile…

UN Climate Change meeting in Bonn

The glass is definitely less than half full (or is that more as the water level rises?) on the international un-climate-change initiatives  (UN-climate change, get it? ;-) .

The wikipedia map below seems sort of optimistic, with lots of green for the Kyoto protocol, but the US has never signed up and probably never will.  Canada has withdrawn, and Japan effectively dropped out in 2010 (sort of ironic for Japan to drop out of Kyoto), while the BRIC’s, China and India in particular, will remain a major long-term problem.

The dry official press release says:  “Bonn UN Climate Change meeting delivers progress on key issues”, but others are rather more scathing:  “Tove Maria Ryding, coordinator for climate policy at Greenpeace International, said: “Here in Bonn we’ve clearly seen that the climate crisis is not caused by lack of options and solutions, but lack of political action. It’s absurd to watch governments sit and point fingers and fight like little kids while the scientists explain about the terrifying impacts of climate change and the fact that we have all the technology we need to solve the problem while creating new green jobs.” (from the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/may/25/bonn-climate-talks-end-disappointment)

Tar sands and other filthy fuels

In the US and Canada the universal constants operate differently of course.  Oil, gas and coal were all laid down in their strata less than 6000 years ago and it is our god-given right, commandment actually, to pull it all out as quickly as possible and burn it as an offering.  Some deluded thinkers, like James Hansen (who directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and is the author of “Storms of My Grandchildren.”), advocate a “carbon tax”, but as he writes in that communist rag the NY Times:

“… instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world’s governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This encourages a frantic stampede to extract every fossil fuel through mountaintop removal, longwall mining, hydraulic fracturing, tar sands and tar shale extraction, and deep ocean and Arctic drilling.

President Obama speaks of a “planet in peril,” but he does not provide the leadership needed to change the world’s course. Our leaders must speak candidly to the public — which yearns for open, honest discussion — explaining that our continued technological leadership and economic well-being demand a reasoned change of our energy course. History has shown that the American public can rise to the challenge, but leadership is essential.

The science of the situation is clear — it’s time for the politics to follow. This is a plan that can unify conservatives and liberals, environmentalists and business. Every major national science academy in the world has reported that global warming is real, caused mostly by humans, and requires urgent action. The cost of acting goes far higher the longer we wait — we can’t wait any longer to avoid the worst and be judged immoral by coming generations.”

The realist thinks that these leftist alarmists should all be sent to arctic regions in winter to see how much better life would be with a decent dose of global warming.  Coming generations better figure it out for themselves.  What have they done for us, apart from waste time and money?  I think there should be no government interference in the free market of subsidies to oil, gas, shale, bio-fuel, agri-business, road transport, arms and security etc. etc. etc. etc. companies, nor in the free market of personnel exchanges between regulators and regulated.   Government after all is of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations

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