• Jan 20th 2010 at 1:04PM
  • 73
Helen Mirren in a fuel cell Equinox – Click above to watch video after the jump

The last time we heard anything about actress Helen Mirren and a car, she was tackling the Top Gear test track in that show's reasonably priced car. Last week, she and her husband director Taylor Hackford were in front of the camera again, this time to talk about something not so reasonably priced. The couple have been participating in General Motors' Project Driveway and field testing a fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Equinox.

We're not sure how long Mirren and Hackford spent with the hydrogen crossover, but they do seem to be very impressed with it. Like most others that experience it, they found the hydrogen electric vehicle to be utterly benign in its behavior. It drives pretty much like any other vehicle, except that it's quieter. You can check out their impressions in the video after the jump.

[Source: General Motors]



I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 73 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      The US has much better energy resources of all kinds than Europe, so you can't look at the electricity rates you pay in Portland and say that they are cheaper than nuclear France, so France has made a dumb choice as it is dearer.
      With current costings and their virtually unlimited right to pollute for free then coal and gas win every time.
      If nuclear treated it's wastes the same way that the coal industry does it would simply dilute them down and throw them over the landscape, which is what happens to the uranium in the coal through the smoke stack.
      So the question is what is the cheapest way of reducing CO2 emissions.
      Nuclear can do that as it doesn't need the fossil fuel back up which renewables do due to intermittency, so the renewables jsut kinda stretch the emissions out a bit, but they sure are going to happen.

      Looking at the costs of home pv and ignoring extra costs to the grid, unless they have moved Portland, Oregan, then in December there is no way you get half the sunshine that you do in June, you don't do that well in Cairo.
      The only way I can make the figures given by your supplier vaguely possible with $30 electric produced in the summer and $15 in the winter per month might be to average the amount over the 6 month period.
      So let's do that- it comes out to around $270 worth of electric savings for the year.
      Your set-up costs $16k, so if you give a cost to the capital of 5% per annum but don't ever amortise the capital out then it costs $800/year, for a net loss of $530/year.
      If you added in the costs to the grid of having to take your power in the summer, and give you power in the winter, when I would guess that the electric grid in Porland needs all it can get, then the costs both to your self and others is very high.
      Now all that is fine if you like pv, but that way lies bankruptcy if it was tried on a wide scale.

      Sorry for the downer - I used to be in cost and works, known as the Grinchs for engineering, where we took their bright ideas and mangled them! ;-)

      So the extra costs for nuclear are affordable, although at least until the plants are amortised (they are good for 60 years, and the capital is paid back after 10-15 years) they cost more than the free-to-pollute fossil fuels, whereas renewables are not.
      On top of that, very large quantities indeed of fossil fuels are needed to run renewables, which nuclear almost eliminates.
      It is cheap enough that homes could be heated by electric, although more expensive than the US's traditional bills, and insulating houses better/using air heat pumps etc would be a good idea.
      Renewables can't even think of providing power for home heating, so the natural gas for that use is also built into the system if you go that way.

      Nuclear can provide all the power society needs at an affordable cost whilst reducing CO2 to very low levels.
      Renewables can't.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Yes, I am not sure how many meters a 2.1 kw system is. I would be putting them on my garage roof shaped like a barn. They would be facing south and since I would not be using the angle of the roof, I could angle them at any angle, I think the installer said 15 degrees. I would be putting them on top of the ridge line on the roof so any angle would be possible.

        Conservatively my car will go 100 miles on 30 kwhs. It may go 120 miles on 30kwhs but lets just assume 30kwh/100 miles. With basic charges I pay .09 per kwh. So 12,000 miles per year I would need 3,600 kwhs to do all of my driving off solar panels.
        That works out to be 27 dollars per month average if I were able to do that.

        I read your post on the other thread and average is average, you can't take the average and then say that it will be cloudy and extrapolate for that. 4kwhs is average per meter squared in my region so lets stick with the averages, at least this seems logical to me?

        3.3 miles per kwh, so 3000 kwhs per year would let me go 10,000 miles per year on solar energy, I still like that very much. My car does probably go closer to 120 miles on 30kwhs so it would be 12,000 miles per year. Yeah! I need to find a way to actually find out how much energy it takes my car to go 100 miles and yes there are many variables, it does much better in the city than on the hwy thats why I guess I should stick to 100 miles on 30kwhs of electricity.
        • 7 Months Ago
        PS meant to say that the monies spent on renewables to fail to stop carbon emissions are monies taken away from actually solving the problem with nuclear, and chop into the base load capacity as you have to use fickle wind when it condescends to be available, whereas you want to run nuclear plants as much of the time as possible to pay off their up-front build costs, which is what costs the money.
        So renewables positively get in the way of solving the problem.
        • 7 Months Ago
        David Marten, So it look like annual is 4-5 kwh/m2/day. We will go with 4 kwh annual but I am still not sure how to calculate what a 2.1kw system with a annual 4kwh average is? letstalkawalks chart said 4 annual for my area and referanced the same formula above. 2.1 X 4 = 8.4 kwhs per day average? 8.4 x 365 = 3,066. WTH?
        • 7 Months Ago
        I've found some figures for actual output of a 1kw system in Seattle.
        It comes to 1,249kwh/yr.
        Adjusted for your rig if you were in Seattle you might get around 2,699kwh/yr
        You are a touch further south and would know far better than I what the differences in cloud cover etc are.
        It still looks to me as though you would get something not far under 3,000kwh/yr
        http://ses.nau.edu/education/eco425/chapter13.doc
        Page 146 tables
        • 7 Months Ago
        It is fairly difficult to hold a proper debate in this format, and the episodic nature means that it is easy to end up repeating and so on, as it is not that easy to check back on all the comments that I have made, or that others have made.
        One of the problems with discussing renewables is that they are very region-specific, climate specific etc, and also depend on all sorts of rebates and special deals.
        I obviously don't know all the details for everywhere. The regions I have investigated for solar in detail are the UK, where it really, really does not work (a long way north and cloudy) and the Sahara, as there is a particularly innumerate 'cunning plan' to ship in solar power from there to Europe - that would use truly fantastic quantities of natural gas - it would be much, much more efficient to use it as gas in Europe.

        Intemittency issues are fairly copable for tidal, as it is predictable. For geothermal it is not an issue at all.

        I don't know the rates you get for electricity in Portland, so just took the figures you gave me.
        Here is a map for solar incidence in the US:
        http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/redbook/atlas/

        I believe in many states of the US the power companies have to meet mandated targets for solar, so that is the reason why they push it.
        Unless they pay you a fantastic feed in tariff or somthing then there is no way that the rig you are talking about would pay for itself.
        At the moment at least solar is far too small to have any impact on the grid one way or the other.

        I believe there is a lot of cloud cover in your area, so have a look at amorphous silicon. It is not so efficient per square meter as crystalline, but I don't suppose that you areusing much of your roof, and it does somewhat better in cloudy conditions.
        I don't know how thin film does.
        If it snows often in your area then you may not get the power when the roof is covered.
        I believe medical people have a technical term for amateurs who keep climbing on their roofs. 'Casualty', I think.

        Hope this helps.
        • 7 Months Ago
        David Martin, you needn't reiterate you points for redundancy in reference to renewables intermittency energy production problems, I understand your point.

        http://www.aweo.org/ProblemWithWind.html

        That is why I tried to take renewables that might apply to base load (wave, geothermal and hydro) and peak demand load in my post above. Yes, I realize that it was a joke to have solar panels and wind as a peak demand solution. I threw in NG to take up the slack at peak times which would be cost ineffective and would pollute, even with a clean plants. These are jokes realy. If you did have only renewables to work with, these are what you would have to choose from.

        So you say this 2.1kw system will not produce a average of 20 per month. What is your average calculation? I am still looking at different solar panels and what they would produce in Portland OR. Some say 14 dollar per month average for Portland.

        The power companies encourage this use of solar panels so they can build redundancy into the power grid? Do the power companies make money by doing this?

        I will be looking for information on the net about combating these intermittent problems with renewables. One of them is what Warren Buffet is looking into above, another is what Nissan will be doing with their EV batteries after 5 years use in a EV. (Using them in the grid for storage). EV's themselves will help when the grid gets smarter by selling back to the grid at peak demand times or when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shinning. One of the articles you linked to said, we are building more plants because it is cheaper than reworking the grid. Cheaper in the short term not the long term. It is those short term profits that runs and ruins America.

        This idea to make nukes or any other source of produced energy provide so much excess that we will have plenty to make hydrogen is not the answer. Your saying we have to build the system so big so that the base load will meet peak demand is not appealing to me. We should be using brains not brawn. Nimbleness compared to brutishness. Are we to lazy as a society to be nimble when it comes to energy requirements and consumption? Quite possibly so.

        • 7 Months Ago
        There are a lot of variables, including the exact angle of your roof, assuming that you are putting it on the roof.
        If you have a 2.1kwh system, then assuming it is crystalline silicon you might get around 15% efficiency, so you might have around 14 sq meters of panels.
        Looking at the tables I linked you to, and using the one for 'fixed plate collector facing south at at fixed tilt equal to the latitude of the site', which is about as well as you could possibly do and probably a great deal better than in practice, as your roof is going to be at a steeper pitch than ideal and likely not facing exactly south, running the figures you come out with around 3400kwh/year.
        That is actually a lot better than you would do, for the reasons given and also because although the energy is getting through as heat, and so counts towards the average 4.5kw/sq meter, that is no good to pv cells which need direct sunshine.
        In a cloudy climate, I would guess that 3,000kwh/year would be absolutely tops. so you are talking about an energy flow of 0.30kw/hour - with a car which does 1mile/kwh for 12,000miles/year at 250watts/mile that will almost exactly offset your electric use.

        I reckon as long as you have space for it so you don't have to do something like put it on your roof (noise, vibration, possible structural damage) then your best bet might be a wind turbine.
        As far as I can see you have very good wind resources in your area, but of course local factors, on top of a hill, in a sheltered location etc are very important for wind.

        If you are simply looking for the most economical way of reducing your electricity usage though, air heat pumps are easy to install and way, way cheaper than wind or solar.
        Here is one, which uses around 220 watts/hour and would both heat and cool your home:
        http://www.worcester-bosch.co.uk/homeowner/products/air-source-heat-pumps/air-to-air-heat-pump

        A COP of 4.5 means that for every kilowatt of electricity you use, you get around 4.5kilowatt hours worth of heat out, the rest coming from the environment, thus reducing city heat island effect too.
        Even in the UK where heat is normally provided by very efficient condensing gas boilers, this is cheaper.
        Since it is air to air, it can also provide cooling.
        Installing a couple of these would cost you a fraction of the price of a solar or wind set-up.
        • 7 Months Ago
        EV said:
        'I read your post on the other thread and average is average, you can't take the average and then say that it will be cloudy and extrapolate for that. 4kwhs is average per meter squared in my region so lets stick with the averages, at least this seems logical to me?'

        I'm afraid it doesn't work like that.
        The solar incidence includes all wavelengths, from infra-red through visible to ultraviolet.
        They are trying to develop arrays which are sensitive to a broader spectrum, but they are not there yet.
        The electric from a pv module drops like a stone when there is cloud, although there is plenty of heat still coming through the cloud, so I assume since the map figures are given in kwh/sq meter that they have no allowance for this, IOW they are not figures adjusted in any way to allow for the sensitivities of pv.
        Thin film may do rather better than crystalline silicon under cloud, I just don't know. Amorphous silicon certainly does, but you still get a lot less than when there is no cloud cover.
        OTOH the figures I have given are very much back of the envelope calculations, but if you are considering buying your installer should have much more precise information available for you, and you should check whether his estimated annual output takes account of cloud cover - a few installers are pretty good, but like anything else there are a lot of people out there who are only interested in making a buck.
      • 5 Years Ago
      David Marten, the installer said their was a 2.1kw system installed not far away from my house. Now all I would need is some way to check the out put of the system. Other than subtracting from the electric bill before it was installed which does not seem accurate because the occupants could have used more electricity for some reason a year ago than they do this year, it is hard to be accurate.

      For argument purposes it does not matter but the 16,000 dollars for the panels and installation is the total cost. I am a contractor and I would be installing them myself. After all is said and done I would actually break even on the panels with a 1500 dollar federal tax credit to boot. Calculating my install labor for free. I would also have to pay for posts to come up from the roof to support the panels as well as other miscellaneous expenses for materials I have not accounted for.

      I know this make your skin crawl, these obscene incentives offered for intermittent power. However if I do the work myself they are better than free.

      I watched some of the video on Thorium reactors. Not a nother conspiracy of the old nukes regime versus new better technology. The good old boys that control the weapons grade nukes don't want to let the thorium boys play because the weapons nukes want to keep the subsidies coming in. Reminds me of the established ICE makers versus any new technology. How many good ideas are tabled because of vested interests is astounding. They can dismiss thorium because they can say, "we don't even know that it works". I will look at all the videos eventually.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Life's tough, mate. Too hard not to take advantage of any incentives that come your way.
        At least you are not likely to break your neck doing an install!
        I used to be a builder, and the idea of thousands of non-professionals getting up on their roofs to clean their solar panels makes me think the hospitals will do very good business!
        If you have the land to build a separate tower and aren't in a valley or something then you should get a lot more power from a wind turbine for your money.
        Have you thought of solar thermal? That should make good sense for you - much cheaper, much more efficient, and not affected much by clouds.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Again 2015 is supposedly the year we will see affordable HFCVs. If they miss this deadline (like they frequently do in the past), I'm about to give up any hope that we will ever see an affordable HFCV.

      An HFCV is basically a BEV with a fuel cell, so of course it will drive well.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I can't quite agree with you that oil companies will be the beneficiaries of hydrogen technology. In the case of oil, it was relatively easy to monopolize the complete process from drilling and refining to distribution. This certainly is not the case of hydrogen. Scientists in Europe have managed to genetically engineer Chlamydomonas algae making the production of hydrogen approx. 6-times as efficient as electrolysis. This knowledge is available to anyone of interest and cannot be monopolized by the oil companies nor anyone else. Theoretically, under respective circumstances, we could probably produce hydrogen in our own backyard similarly like a PV-system at our own personal disposal. By the way, I've got a self-designed and self constructed (DIY) 15 kWp PV working faultlessly for 3 years now with an annual harvest > 18000 kWh and enjoy complete independence of any energy monopoly chauvinists.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Hi Dave,

        Narrow that down to $60,000.00 and your on target.
        • 7 Months Ago
        That's a reasonable output from a 15kwp array most places.
        The point is, what did you make it out of and what did it cost?
        Using EV's figures, that is something like a $160,000 set up, and his figures aren't far from the normal buying cost.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ok, so it works. Congrats. Now sell me one for a price i can afford.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Sec. Chu may have a Nobel, and I'm sure he's a smart guy, but when he made those opinions, he knew very little about hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles. We asked all the automakers developing hydrogen vehicles if his office had consulted them on the actual state of their technology and we found no one who had met with them. There's also no evidence that the Secretary's own advisory committee on hydrogen was consulted prior to that decision. In short, he was wrong about many things he stated and the decision appears to have been made without significant input from the folks actually developing the technology. You can download the resources on the right side of this page to get more details to back up what I'm saying here: http://cafcp.org/2010-federal-budget

        Fortunately, much has been learned since then by everyone, the budget for hydrogen vehicles was not zeroed (so we can pursue both battery and hydrogen vehicles--a good thing), and the rest of the industry continues to march along, making more progress.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Dr. Chu, Nobel prize winner in physics, simply looked at all the variables and realized that H2 fuel cells were nowhere near ready and far too costly, that batteries were 3x more efficient, cheaper, and available now for hybrids, EVs and PHEVs. He also realized that the US didn't have unlimited funds to chase down every possible technology idea, we had to concentrate our efforts on the most promising solutions and, sorry, H2 fuel cells didn't make the cut.

        Of course, those who relied on the H2 hype went ballistic and put pressure on Congress to restore funding, efficiency and practicality be damned!
        • 5 Years Ago
        We're asking the same thing for all EVs (Cheap! Now!), and the answer is generally:

        The first few models will be expensive, and then the prices will come down over the next few years.

        We're willing to wait a year or two for an affordable EV - the Leaf in 2011-ish. I'm willing to wait until 2015 to see what FCVs will cost.

        If you can't wait, fine. There's a plethora of economical, fuel-efficient vehicles to tide you over for the next 5 years or so until EVs become mainstream (or better yet, just keep the same vehicle you currently drive). I understand the imperative to decrease oil consumption and GHG emissions NOW, but the automakers are ramping up their introduction and production of several new generations of automobiles - so some patience in required.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Steven Chu cut all funding for fuel cell research and said it had to be battery electric only?"

        Is that what he did/said? Good thing we didn't listen to him. Imagine, only focusing on one specific technology! Here we are with fuel cell vehicles on the cusp of commercial introduction...
        • 5 Years Ago
        letstakeawalk, if your position was not really wrong why do you think Steven Chu cut all funding for fuel cell research and said it had to be battery electric only? hydrogen fuel cell tech has a list of very critical problems, the high cost (much higher than battery electric) is one of the relatively smaller problems, one that can be solved with some future technologies (battery electric tech has been here for years).
        hydrogen fuel cell is a bit like a combustion engine, it's very inefficienct, it requires a number of supporting technologies like compressors, coolers, energy recapture from decompression if you don't want to lose the significant energy stored in the 300-700bar gas tank. you need high quality air purification because the fuel cell can't deal with pollution, ironically :) and then the problem getting the hydrogen and making it's not coming from an oil company. and it is : )
        it's just a mess compared to battery electric.

        a liquid fuel fuel cell as a range extender however, that might be interesting down the road. but so far hydrogen is a lie. always was. brought to you by big oil because they knew it would never happen.
      harlanx6
      • 5 Years Ago
      This great dialog. After reading it all, I have to admit that these hydrogen people still just don't make any sense. It has to pass my bullsh*t test and it just doesn't. It has to be a scam. Chu was right.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @harlanx6
        Very insightful comment. I agree completely.

        As far as the "Solar panels don't produce at night/Wind Turbines won't produce power with no wind" straw man, all that means is that we need to size it right and have power storage. That means you have a solar thermal power plant that is twice the size you actually need. The power that isn't consumed is sent to storage (pressurized air underground or water pumped up a grade to collection ponds for later hydro power at night or bank after bank of batteries - whatever). Same thing with wind. Excess capacity can be stored for when production drops.

        I am, however, an ardent proponent of doubling our nuclear generation capacity. We currently get around 20% of our electricity from nuclear here in the US. I'd like to see that increase to 40%. This would be our base load.

        The FUD from anti-nuke pundits and the coal industry has proven to be wrong. We've had safe nuclear power for over 50 years. Let's use it to get off coal - the coal lobby wants us to be afraid of nuke waste but there hasn't been a serious accident involving nuclear waste ever. Burning coal releases far more radioactive material into the air each year than nuclear reactors ever have.

        The remaining power can be generated by renewables (solar, wind, hydro/tide, geothermal) with adequate excess capacity built in for energy storage which will handle peak demand and provide more base load to boot. We could be practically fossil fuel free by 2020 given a strong and determined leader. So it looks like 2050 now.
      • 5 Years Ago
      EV said:
      'So it's hundred degrees out in the summer and my panels would be producing at full capacity. Peak demand will begin at 1:00 pm to around 8:00pm. Your saying they don't want or need my energy?'

      Mmm - it's really difficult to discuss things properly in this sort of format.
      I had understood that you lived in Seattle.
      If however you live somewhere where the main problem is cooling things down in the summer, not keeping warm in the winter, then your imput will be welcome, as it will reduce peal load.
      If you live somewhere which is very hot in the summer, but very cold in the winter, then it will be much less welcome, as you need other generating power anyway.
      If the main problem is just the winter, and loads are light in the summer, then solar would increase total costs.
      The key distinction, although in detail it is more complicated is between base load power which runs all the time and can be seriously optimised, and peaking power, which has to be switched on and off, and currently and for the forseeable future means burning fossil fuels.
      Solar peaks heavily in the summer anywhere more than around 15 degrees from the equator, and so if using it means that you are not using low carbon base load such as nuclear, but are having to use gas then you will increase carbon release, not minimise it.
      You will also increase costs to the grid, as if it eats into your base load in the summer then you have to burn lots of extra gas in the winter in peaking plants, which costs more as you have less hours to amortise the capital equipment across.
      It's wind which is the real nuisance though, as it is variable but not as consistent.
      In the UK we have a 'cunning plan' to build 33GW nominal, around 10GW actual average output of power by 2020, for 'only' around £100bn, as most of it is the 3 times as expensive off-shore wind.
      During a recent cold snap of around a week and a half it was still across much of Europe, and would have produced almost no power.
      That means that you have to have almost one for one back-up, and the plants which you build to do so mean that you will be burning fossil fuels for the next 60 years.
      If you just build nuclear, then you can really eliminate carbon, and all the crap coal throws over the landscape, for instance mercury, more deadly than the much hyped radioactive waste, which is in comparatively tiny volumes anyway.

      To deal briefly with your other point, what would be the alternative if you disregard costs? It is never possible to disregard costs, as for a start they give you a clue as to what is the best engineering solution.
      At the moment solar pv is getting close to cost effectiveness in places like Arizona for peaking use.
      If the cost comes down greatly I will re-evaluate for base load use etc, just as I will wind power if they manage to build high altitude wind.

      What I am dead against is trying to put square pegs in round holes, and trying to use technology innappropriately.
      The wind scheme in Britain is likely to put up costs of power so much here that even more than our current 20,000 excess winter deaths will be killed.

      Wind power in the State by building in gas burn may lead to severe pollution of ground water by the chemicals used in horizontal fracking of shales.
        • 7 Months Ago
        I support eliminating CO2.
        So I support mass produced nuclear plants, which can cheaply, safely and cleanly eliminate CO2 burn, not so-called renewables, which need a huge amount of gas or coal to make up for when they are not available.
        Take the back up gas burnt, and that will continue for 60 years once you have built the plant.

        You say:
        'The laws of physics dictate that this must be the case, as adding one type of electricity to the grid must displace an equal amount of another type of electricity for supply and demand to remain in balance.'

        Not at all. You are assuming the burn is as efficient in a system which has to fiddle around making up for the lousy availability and variability of renewables.
        It isn't, not by a long way.

        Germany has spent tens of billions building 'renewables'.
        It has electric at around 45 cents/kwh becasuse of this, far too expensive for heating, so not only does it burn huge amounts of gas to make up for when the wind is not blowing, but has to run all it's heating on gas.
        The per capita emissions of CO2 in Germany are around twice that in nuclear France, whose electric costs around 18cents/kwh.

        If you want to reduce CO2 emissions, build nuclear plants.
        If you want to put up costs for the poor to get any heat and light, and to remain dependent on fossil fuels for the next 60 years, build 'renewables'.
        • 7 Months Ago
        That 40% comes from solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric, approx. half that is hydro. Of course, some bureaucrats somehow get the notion that hydroelectric isn't "renewable", but that's just plain silly. As for the "greenhouse emissions" from hydroelectric, it tends to condense and return to earth as "rain". (Methane and CO2 don't count, those would be produced by land and rivers whether the dam was there or not)

        David Martin said, " gas burn may lead to severe pollution of ground water by the chemicals used in horizontal fracking of shales." Oh, yes, using high pressures and that horrible chemical Dihydrogen Monoxide! (BTW, the process is called "Hydrofracturing" not "fracking")

        Martin, were you aware that natural gas is the only fossil fuel that also comes from renewable sources? Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is obtaining large quantities from California dairy operations.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Chris, I am afraid that you really need a source if you want to claim 40% for renewables in California - I listed the ones I used for 20%.
        Everyone AFAIK do count hydro as renewables, it is jut that in the US it is pretty fully exploited, and so can't be used as a cost basis for working out costs of higher penetration of renewables.
        Many of the cams, like the Hoover, were built 60 years or so ago, and of course are fully amortised so have very low cost power.
        I use the term as the abbreviation 'fracking' as that is what the petroleum geologists I communicate with do.

        Of course I am aware of biogas, and it has some potential, especially in my view in rural areas etc where it can combine nicely with wind turbines to provide power in isolated areas, and for utilising municiple waste.
        My reservation is that it is fine if used sensibly, but I don't want to see another ethanol, where huge amounts of water, land and fertiliser resources are used, with a dream presumably of powering the car fleet of the US in that way.
        The figures don't work out, and it may cause food prices to rise to the detriment of the poor.
        Biogas is fine here in Europe, but is a tough sell in the US with it's cheap and plentiful natural gas.
        I have extensive links to the use of biogas, and efforts to use it to integrate renewables, if you are interested.

        All energy resources are fine, providing that their nature and limitations are respected.

        Personally I restrict any debating points I have to what is available right now, or needs very minor upgrades to implement, and respect those limits in my advocacy of nuclear power, so for instance I work from the actual spec sheet of Westinghouse reactors.

        However, longer term I like liquid fluoride thorium reactors, and they are only longer term (say 10 years, $1 billion development - you can build them small) because they were killed by the military as they are lousy at producing weapons grade materials, and by the coal industry as they could be retrofitted into coal burning plants and kill the coal industry.
        They can't go bang, can take all the nuclear waste existing and convert it into much shorter lived, easy to deal with stuff, and are around 100 times or so as efficient as current reactors.
        Total thorium use to run the world on them is around 15,000 tons a year, no mines needed as it can be produced as a by-product of rare earth mining for electric motors and so on.
        Renewable? No. Sustainable? Yes.
        Plenty to last us until the sun expands to swallow the earth.

        More here:
        http://thoriumenergy.blogspot.com/2009/12/wired-thorium-article-available-online.html

        Check out the 16 minute video.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Chris,
        The 40% of electicity from renewables in California presumably refers to installed capacity or something, as you don't get anything remotely like the nominal installed capacity of wind in actual output.
        The present figure actually seems to be perhaps 20%:
        http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_energy/33_percent_res.pdf
        With ambitions to raise that to 33%
        Most of that though will be from hydroelectric power, as that is the big one in the US.
        There aren't too many other places to put a Grand Coulee dam
        Of course hydeoelectric is cheaper than nuclear.
        It is finding sites which is the problem, not to mention the considerable environmental damage and greenhouse emissions of dams.
        • 7 Months Ago
        David Martin said, " gas burn may lead to severe pollution of ground water by the chemicals used in horizontal fracking of shales."

        Another reason I am not for H2 made from NG.

        I share jake's view of the grid, currently post #44.

        So you don't agree with Mr Goggin
        "Every kilowatt-hour produced by a wind plant that is connected to the power grid offsets a kilowatt-hour that would have been produced by a fossil-fueled power plant. The laws of physics dictate that this must be the case, as adding one type of electricity to the grid must displace an equal amount of another type of electricity for supply and demand to remain in balance."

        What? You can't deny the laws of physics? You can argue it is not efficient or cost effective because of redundant backups, but to deny the laws of physics, shame, shame.

        What we need here is to divide the power production into fixed, variable and perhaps a both ways categories. Fixed would be wave generation, geothermal, nuclear, coal, hydro.
        Variable, solar, and wind. Both fixed and variable applications, natural gas.

        Throw out coal, gas and nuclear because they are undesirable. Oops, -50% already.

        So we have geothermal, wave generation and hydro for base load.
        We have solar and wind for peak load requirements. Sounds like a good way to kill off many people in the winter time. Ok, I am willing to put some natural gas in for peak supply since it is plentiful in the US and the new plants would be relatively clean. Who needs ground water anyway? So their, I have solved our energy problems. The people that are cold in the winter time need to buy coats.

        It takes 15 years to build a nuke plant here in the US and by the time they are done it cost 3 times what it was suppose to. Nuclear is so concrete intensive, if we have many nuke plants then everyone will want them, then there will be much nuke waste. Clean up is still ongoing, after billions of dollars have been spent cleaning up Hanford nuclear storage facilities in Washington State. There is evidence the waste leaked it's way into the Columbia river. Then there is Yucca Mountain in Nevada, I think.

        I remmeber a thread on here where they were discussing how a different plant could take the radio active waste and actually cleanly burn it to produce energy and in the process reduce the waist by a large amount. Also, I think I recall the thread about what what Mark BC said about thorium. Thorium, I believe was a reactor that did not produce radio active waste.

        At .45 cents a kwh I see Germany is not a aspiring example of a renewables success story. France is at .18 cents with all its nukes. I pay .08 cents here in Portland Oregon.
        Do you know if what Chris M said it true? Political issues such as taxes or something possibly more than just the inefficiency of their grid?

        I remember hearing that in the news about the cold snap in England or Europe and no wind. (Enter Nelson laugh from the Simpsons) Ah, aah!

        Warren Buffet purchased a large stake in BYD because he owns Midland Electric which owens Portland General Electric and a few other power companies. He wants the batteries from BYD because they are some of the cheapest higher tech batteries produced. He is going to take them and put them in some small building containers 40 ft tall for wind power storage right here in Portland. We have many wind turbines in the gorge, over a hundred maybe more, I did not count them. It blows hard in the gorge. World famous wind surfing on the Columbia river in the gorge.

        By the time we get all those nuke plants built in 15 years, this whole power storage thing for Variable renewables will be solved. Of course I don't think we can wait on battery technology, people have been waiting on that since EV's first came out in the late 1800's.

        The magnanimous fossil fuel companies are always improving there drilling technology and I hear they can drill drastically cheaper now, they have drills that will not melt. Why can't we let them make some cash drilling to set up more geothermal power instead of nukes. If I recall you need large holes for geothermal power. Lucky Iceland, geothermal is right near the surface.

        Weren't we suppose to have nuke car as well as hydrogen cars by now?
        • 7 Months Ago
        Hi David Martin, first off you can throw out cost at a point. Let's go into hypothetical land for a moment. Let's say that CC is a 100% insurmountable fact and is cause by GHG. In this case, your alternatives are to have billions of people die from thirst, starvation and flooding. The cost of this flooding to Americans would be, oh I don't know couple of trillion. You have land that is no longer available for crops, people migrating to places were their is water to drink and competing against others that were already there. You have prices rising all over the country for water food and yes, even fuel as a few refineries would be under water. If this were the case you would be happy in fact ecstatic to pay the higher price in energy for renewables simply because of the opportunity cost involved. Now we all have our believes in CC and GW and lets hope my hypothetical world never becomes reality but most of the climate scientist think we could be at a tipping point. Alas we won't know until it happens or does not happen but the public in general is willing to conduct this experiment to the bitter end to save money on energy costs. Maybe it will not be bitter, maybe all our crops will grow faster. We may all be able to move to the arctic where plenty of land with water will be available and we will have better sun tans because of it and save some on our winter heating bills, I just don't know. The opportunity costs involved in curbing GHG now or putting them off until it is to late should be weighed but for the most part are not.

        Perhaps you are right about nuclear. Throughout all your ruminations you cannot dispute this fact.
        Every kilowatt-hour produced by solar panels, geothermal, hydro and wind plants that is connected to the power grid offsets a kilowatt-hour that would have been produced by a fossil-fueled power plant. The laws of physics dictate that this must be the case, as adding one type of electricity to the grid must displace an equal amount of another type of electricity for supply and demand to remain in balance. This is why renewable power is installed in the first place - to displace the burning of expensive and polluting fossil fuels to produce electricity. Not just expensive in cost, but to the planet and the human respiratory system.
        Cheers!
        • 7 Months Ago
        Interesting that California gets 40% of its electricity from renewables, less than 5% from nuclear, yet our electric rates are well below that of "mostly nuclear" France!

        I'm not sure why rates are so high in Germany, but I suspect that politics and taxes may be the major factor.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Nuclear is always a touchy subject among greens since the image of radioactive waste always comes into mind and no one wants the waste near them. I'm neutral on the subject. I recognize benefits of nuclear and the safety that has been achieved, but given a choice, I will always choose renewables. In the US (don't know about other countries), we haven't reached a point where renewables are so widely used that we don't have enough backup from fossil fuel plants. We can go full speed in developing renewables and I still doubt we will reach that point in the near future.

        Coal, I agree sucks and given a choice between coal and nuclear, definitely nuclear wins. Natural gas isn't a bad alternative to coal either, half the emissions per unit of generation by my calculations.
      harlanx6
      • 5 Years Ago
      They might as well be talking about the space shuttle. HFC vehicles are sooo expensive and make so little sense, that the hype over them relegates them to the status of a scam to get government funding.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Tell us how you really feel, Dan! ;-)
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Helen Mirren is an excellent actress, and her husband is a skilled director, I would certainly heed their advice on acting and movie making. But they are not experts on cars, and certainly not experts on alternative fuels, and I'm certain they are unaware of of the many problems with H2 fuels.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        yeah this is a truly disappointing video. Helen Mirren is no doubt entirely clueless of the differences between BEV and FC car and she probably believes GM when they tell her it's a good car and she should speak well about it. That's tragic but no doubt an honest mistake on her part. the concerning part is that GM is still evil enough to do this. they know better than this. surely. they know Steven Chu told fuel cell to get bent. yet they still offer this romanticized lie. and to add insult to injury it's a piece of shit SUV.

        it would be nice if Obama had the spine and technical insight to bitchslap GM when they pull crap like this
      harlanx6
      • 5 Years Ago
      There is a big difference between adapting to EVs vs FCVs. The leading models of EVs are about 50% too pricey but have an easily adaptable infrastructure to support them. FCVs are approximately 1600% too pricey and there is no infrastructure in place they could possibly use for support. I just don't get it! Who would support these white elephants unless they personally were going to benefit at everyone elses expense! When you look at the whole process carefully FCVs aren't even cleaner! They will NEVER come to full production unless totally funded by taxpayer money, and I doubt the taxpayers are that stupid even though their politicians are oil company marionettes. By the way, the oil companies are the beneficiaries of adapting H2.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @harlanx6
        marspeed8 said, "Ok, so there is no current infrastructure for hydrogen, but there was also no infrastructure for gasoline when Karl Benz rolled out the Motorwagon. And yes, it is expensive now, but it will go down, all technologies do."

        There was no infrastructure for EV's. Most people did not have electricity in their house in 1900-1910. They had to drive into town to a public charging station to charge.

        marspeed8 said, "The reason that Hydrogen garners support from many people is because it will not limit mobility in the way that EVs will; not in terms of range, but in terms of recharge time. This is of specific concern for Americans because of the fact that we are so much more spread out than Europe."

        If most people drove a EV for a month they would not feel this way and get use to it. Thinking requires very little effort realy. By all means lets stay on fossil fuel because Americans are so small minded. We need smart people to figure out how to produce something similar to what we have now including the fossil fuel because it is to inconvenient to think ahead. Getting off fossil fuels is to inconvenient, if I have to think I would just rather consume NG or oil. (End sarcasm)

        The oil corps are in it for the money. I guarantee they are not in it for the public good. The auto corps are in it for the money, they see much bigger R&R costs in FCV and ICE than they will ever see in EV's R&R costs.

        David Martin says renewable energy is worthless, if renewables are worthless when being applied to EV's then their application to FCV's is catastrophic. Please engineer something that will get us off fossil fuel not more of the same with huge infrastructure costs that the oil corps don't want to pay for but are happy to gouge the consumer after the infrastructure is paid for by the consumer.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @harlanx6
        Ok, so there is no current infrastructure for hydrogen, but there was also no infrastructure for gasoline when Karl Benz rolled out the Motorwagon. And yes, it is expensive now, but it will go down, all technologies do.

        The reason that Hydrogen garners support from many people is because it will not limit mobility in the way that EVs will; not in terms of range, but in terms of recharge time. This is of specific concern for Americans because of the fact that we are so much more spread out than Europe.

        So this is why I support hydrogen power, because while it is not the easiest option, it is the best option. So please don't assume that anyone who favors hydrogen over EVs must be in it for the money, we're not. A lot of very intelligent people have put a great deal of thought into this and truly believe that hydrogen is the best option.

        As an engineer it is my duty to not only make technology cleaner, but to make it better. It is often said that we need to make the world a better place for our children, and to do this we must understand that society is part of that world. Thus, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that the new technologies, transportation in this case, are not only good for the environment, but more importantly are good for society.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @harlanx6
        Marspeed says: "As an engineer it is my duty to not only make technology cleaner, but to make it better." So you're an engineer who's fascinated with this super complex techno wonder called fuel cell vehicles. Not to denigrate your profession but it's common knowledge that for an engineer, the more complex the better. Job security, baby! Rube Goldberg was an engineer as well as a cartoonist but his irrationally complex contraptions are part of engineering school as an example NOT to follow. What not to do: see http://coe.berkeley.edu/about/history-and-traditions/1904-rube-goldberg-engineer-and-cartoonist-graduates.html/

        It all boils down to this:
        Simple vs Extremely complex
        Cost effective vs Outrageously costly
        Available TODAY vs Available ???, maybe 2020 but may be pushed back AGAIN

        EV's win on all 3 counts. Why choose a system with many major components over one with fewer? Why choose to continue being held hostage to oil companies when you can be free of their price gouging and evil manipulation of our economy? And on that note, why pay 5 times as much to get back and forth to work? Why choose a system that won't be available for at least 10 years when you can buy an EV today or wait till next year when they'll be the same cost as a Toyota Camry?

        With an FCV you'll never know how high your fuel prices will go. Electricity rates are more controlled and don't change wildly from day to day/week to week.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @harlanx6
        But EV's can be recharged in 30 minutes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Who cares.. Hellen Mirren is F-ing HAWT!!! In that sorta Naughty mom kinda way. Buwahahahaha!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      One thing that needs to be considered is that FCV is capable of being a mode of transportation that will not force us to essentially take a step back in terms of capability and convenience that will result if we commit to EVs only. There are some quite large number of issues that need to be addressed with regards to batteries such as energy density, recharge time, and battery supply among others. Whereas a Hydrogen is not faced with these issues; though yes, it too has its own issues that need to be addressed as well.

      So to reiterate what 'letstakeawalk' yes it is currently expensive, but name me one new tech that isn't, that's the cost of engineers (we don't like to work for free). And yes it is not easy, but so was landing on the moon, and they did it with slide rules. So just be patient, if you want a truly long term solution, you cannot jump on the bandwagon of just one technology, especially when that technology, if implemented as the only option, is worse than what is currently implemented. It is important to look at all the options, especially when the debate is far from over.
        • 7 Months Ago
        marspeed8 said, "One thing that needs to be considered is that FCV is capable of being a mode of transportation that will not force us to essentially take a step back in terms of capability and convenience that will result if we commit to EVs only"

        FCV's will force you to carry on the relationship with the fossil fuel corps in the context of fuel prices, availability and volatility. I for one, after experiencing a EV for 8 months of driving am happy to give up capability and convenience of gas or natural gas powered cars, because it is very inconvenient paying what ever they demand at the pump and have no choice, especially when the fossil fuel companies decide they want more profit.

        Maybe one of their Hydrogen producing plants break down or gets hit by a hurricane, or NG becomes harder to get out of the ground, they may want to export NG because they make more profits and when they do this they will not hesitate to demand more profits from their patrons the public. We use to export oil. Their are to many ways for the oil companies who envision themselves with a monopoly on NG much like they have with oil to gouge their consumers with no viable alternatives.

        I am more than willing to give up the convenience of oil or fuels like it to not be a slave to the oil companies, which we are now.
        • 7 Months Ago
        What about H2 production? Storage? Distribution? Compression? Safety (3000 psi)?

        Those issues will not go away with time.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Fuel cell cars have plenty of problems too. It's just it doesn't get amplified by the media since they are not production intent at this point.

        One is infrastructure as frequently cited. The other is durability. I'm not sure if it's up to date, but a couple of years ago it didn't top 75k miles. Of course the big one is cost, which so far is well hidden from the public, although we have promises from major automakers that it will be affordable soon.

        Hydrogen vehicles will primarily follow the same fueling cycle as a typical gasoline car (with oil companies providing the fuel also). From a consumer prospective, a hydrogen vehicle is much more familiar and thus less of a risk for an car company to develop and promote, but the infrastructure and cost issues are two big ones that are holding it back.

        BEVs and plug-ins are a bigger shift than hydrogen vehicles. It introduces the ability to use electricity at home to power the car and the possibility of true energy independence (home solar panels). It is possible people will never visit a fueling station in their lifetime if we switch to plug-ins. It will consolidate energy generation into powerplants. My hope is this will encourage people to take steps to clean the grid once the pollution source is decoupled from the automobile.
        • 7 Months Ago
        "force us to take a step back"? Oh, the old "range anxiety" argument. To begin with, EVs already have sufficient range for 90% of daily driving, and plug-in hybrids can cover even the long trips. There are already plans to install public chargers for "under 1 hour" recharging, they will be available years before H2FC cars are offered and cost less than installing H2 refueling facilities. If that isn't enough, PBP is planning battery swap facilities that can swap a depleted battery for a fully charged one in just 2 minutes, less time than even the fastest H2 refuler! (some H2 refuelers can take up to 15 minutes to complete a full refill)
        • 7 Months Ago
        LOL. I guess my post was too moderate in asking for patience as FCVs begin to hit the market. Here on ABG I'm one of the more outspoken FCV supporters...

        Welcome to the club, you made some great points.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What is hard for me to get my head around this vehicle is, the fossil fuel the oil companies want to burn to make the fuel. How come the actors never talk about the fuel and that it will come from fossil fuel. Oil companies want to have the same volatile prices they have for oil. Natural gas will then become a commodity like oil only worse because billions of people already use natural gas to heat their homes.

      2.1kw solar panel will propel EV's 12,000 miles per year and cost 16,000 dollars with out incentives. If you double that to 32,000 dollars in solar panels you might make enough hydrogen to go 12,000 mile per year, I am not realy sure. Then you still must pay for the electrolyzer equipment and I am not sure what that would consist of.

      I think H2 vehicles would be great if they could do with solar panels what my EV can do.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Here's a link to the cost of avoiding 1 ton of carbon emissions in Germany, who have spent around $75 billion on subsidising wind and $30 billion on solar:
        http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,667443,00.html

        Now both solar and wind resources are better almost everywhere in the US than in Germany, but as you can see in the case of solar it is so phenominally expensive that it really makes no difference.
        Here is an idea of the amount of fossil fuel that you still have to burn to run wind power:
        In just one province they are building coal plants with more capacity than the whole of the grid in Chile, to make up for intemittency.
        China's wind resources are comparable to those in the US, rather than the poorer Geman resources.
        http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121244275

        In the US you would use natural gas rather than coal to back up the wind or solar power.
        The thing is, that way you can only use it in a central power station and likely throw away the waste heat.
        Moving to combined heat and power or using co-gen in the home, would increase the efficiency of the use as much or more without bothering killing birds and bats with wind towers.
        From memory I think a study for the Pacific North west indicated that natural gas back up plants with about 2/3rds of the nominal capacity of the wind power build would be needed for back up - and that is in an area with good hydro resources.
        The bigger the percentage of the grid's power is wind, the bigger the problem and cost.
        Denmark pays around 45 cents/kwh for electricity, and although wind resources are worse than many places in the US there, they have very cheap back-up in Scandinavian hydro plants.

        If you want to reduce carbon emissions, do something else than use 'renewables' - almost anything else.
        • 7 Months Ago
        David Martin said, "Sure you can put a solar pv panel on your roof if you want to, but that is not really running the car, or reducing emissions."

        What? So you are saying, no matter how many wind turbines, solar panels, wave generators, geothermal generators or hydro electric power we attach to the grid it make no difference to emissions? Excuse me? As Spock would say on Star Trek, I find that highly illogical.
        • 7 Months Ago
        "as you can see in the case of solar it is so phenominally expensive that it really makes no difference."

        I did an analysis for California and the government rebates bring a $30,000 rooftop PV installation down to $15,000. After installed, you are buying and selling power at fair rates.

        That means, costs need to come down by 50% for PV to become competitive. Not a very tall order, I'd hardly call it "phenomnal". That's a 50% reduction. How far must a FCV come down in price to be competitive? 95%? Is that not even more "phenominal"? Yet you seem optimistic about FCV's.

        Consider that if every building and parking lot in the US southwest (CA, AZ, NM, NV, TX) had PV panels on their rooftops, that could supply maybe half of the power consumed by the US. What is needed for this to happen? PV costs need to come down by 50%, and then production needs to be ramped up.
        • 7 Months Ago
        It's the annual variance and winter cloud cover that is the killer.
        If you spec a solar system for 12,000 miles a year, even in the Mohave you will only get around 25% of the summer sunshine in the winter, so in June you would have enough juice for maybe 2,000 miles, in December maybe 500 miles.
        You would do a heck of a lot worse in the Pacific North West, with cloud cover a problem as well, and heating, so the more expensive system you would need to spec to give you the energy flow of around 3,000kwh per year might only be good for perhaps 300 miles in December.
        You could have a road trip in the summer though! - providing that you did it at night, as your car would be charging during the day!
        Sorry, I know that powering your car from the home sounds a nice idea, but it would really be run from the gird, and the fact that you have a few thousand dollars of solar panels on yout roof hasn't go much to do with it.
        In fact the solar panels cause the grid to burn a heck of a lot of natural gas very inefficiently, as at night and especially in the winter you have to switch on the power to make up for lack of sunshine, but can't run it efficiently all the time because you have to allow for that pesky solar coming on line.
        It's not clear that that would be much more energy efficient than converting the natural gas to hydrogen and using it in a fuel cell car, which would certainly be much simpler.

        If you use nuclear power to charge your car, as they will in France, you don't have reduced output in the winter, and you can simply charge the car at cheap rate overnight when otherwise the nuclear plants would have to be run more slowly.
        The fuel costs are negligible.

        • 7 Months Ago
        I don't know what latitude you live at but solar power is a heck of a lot less in the winter than in the summer even in the Mohave, so if you do much of your driving in the winter then you won't go far at most latitudes, especially considering that you would need quite a bit of extra power for heating in the winter.
        I suspect that most are actually selling their excess power to the grid when they don't want it in the summer, and buying it from the grid in the winter, so are not really much more independent of the grid than anyone else, and the costs to the gird of this arrangement are high so the effective subsidy is too.
        If you have a normal driving pattern you will also be away from home during the day, so even to charge up during the day would have to pay for another expensive battery system so that when you came home in the evening you could get a charge.

        So save for a few guys who live in the middle of the desert, don't drive so much in the winter and don't go to work so can charge up at home during the day, independence from the grid just isn't happening.

        I live in the UK, so any thought of running on solar power is simply innumerate.
        For Fuel cell cars the best design seems to be a hybrid, so not much hydrogen/whatever is needed anyway, and there is no real technical problem in turning out what you do need with nuclear power, especially using a high temperature reactor.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Hi Mark BC!
        This is turning into a bit of an epic effort, but I wish to address the interesting points you make.
        'I did an analysis for California and the government rebates bring a $30,000 rooftop PV installation down to $15,000. After installed, you are buying and selling power at fair rates.'

        You are talking about the price, not the cost. It is just that a lot of relatively well-off folk who can afford solar pv are having their bills paid by less well off people who can't.

        Typically costing also ignore the cost to the grid of supplying power when the solar panels aren't, and the emissions of carbon dioxide when they are doing so.
        For a more full discussion of this problem I refer you to my reply to EV.

        Your statement about the 95% cost reduction needed for fuel cells is not really to the point, as no-one is trying to roll them out en masse at the moment, but people are rolling out both pv and wind at very high cost to the public purse.

        Solar is reaching the point where is is getting cost competitive for peaking power in areas where the main problem is the load in the summer.

        I think things go wrong when we try to force the technology beyond it's maturity.
        If solar becomes more competitive, roll out more of it, but don't buy from the snake oil salesmen, who are always looking to sell on the basis that everything will be fine if they get the volume up.

        It is the huge amounts of fossil fuel burn that 'renewables' build into the system that is my main reservation.
        The fossil fuel producers love them.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Agreed, this thread is to long. I will leave you with a post made on the article about China and their wind farms you provided a link for. I would submit that this posters post below also applies to solar panels no matter how small they are. As well as this question again. Will FCV ever be able to propel me 12,000 miles per year for 20 dollars per month? I think not, the fossil fuel companies would not allow it. Please by all means lets take this up on a nother thread.

        Michael Goggin (Michael_Goggin) wrote:

        This article gets a little confused when talking about what are really two separate phenomena: 1. China building coal plants to keep up with its breakneck growth in electricity demand; and 2. China building wind plants to reduce the amount of coal that it burns to produce electricity.

        Every kilowatt-hour produced by a wind plant that is connected to the power grid offsets a kilowatt-hour that would have been produced by a fossil-fueled power plant. The laws of physics dictate that this must be the case, as adding one type of electricity to the grid must displace an equal amount of another type of electricity for supply and demand to remain in balance. This is why wind power is installed in the first place - to displace the burning of expensive and polluting fossil fuels to produce electricity.

        To say that one power plant serves as dedicated "backup" for another is also misleading, as all power plants on the grid already serve as backup for the other power plants on the grid. That is one of the main reasons why we have a power grid in the first place, since all power plants experience unexpected outages and electricity demand changes drastically from moment to moment.

        Michael Goggin
        American Wind Energy Association
        • 7 Months Ago
        How much sunlight do you get in the Pacific Northwest?
        • 7 Months Ago
        David Martin:
        "You are talking about the price, not the cost. It is just that a lot of relatively well-off folk who can afford solar pv are having their bills paid by less well off people who can't."

        The cost is $30,000, with which the PV suppliers and installers can make a living. Half of this comes from the homeowner, half comes from the government. The government is spending everywhere to keep the economy from collapsing so what better place to spend it than to promote new technologies with tremendous future opportunities, which only need to come down in price by 1/2 in order to be competitive on their own merits? Seems like a good idea.

        "Typically costing also ignore the cost to the grid of supplying power when the solar panels aren't, and the emissions of carbon dioxide when they are doing so.
        For a more full discussion of this problem I refer you to my reply to EV."

        I don't know what this means. The relevant issue is how much conventional electricity generation PV panels displace in the peak demand period (daytime), when conveniently PV generation also peaks. win-win.

        "Your statement about the 95% cost reduction needed for fuel cells is not really to the point, as no-one is trying to roll them out en masse at the moment, but people are rolling out both pv and wind at very high cost to the public purse."

        It is my understanding that PV panels and fuel cells were both invented decades ago. Both have had billions of dollars of investment since then. The difference is that you can go out and buy an almost-competitive PV panel today, whereas you can't even buy a fuel cell.

        "Solar is reaching the point where is is getting cost competitive for peaking power in areas where the main problem is the load in the summer.'

        Yes.

        "I think things go wrong when we try to force the technology beyond it's maturity.
        If solar becomes more competitive, roll out more of it, but don't buy from the snake oil salesmen, who are always looking to sell on the basis that everything will be fine if they get the volume up."

        Government subsidies aren't forcing the technology when the other 2 parties, the purchaser and the producer, are in the deal on their own accord because it makes economic sense. Prices are coming down substantially every year, so I don't think it's only snake oil salesmen who are predicting that PV will soon become competitive in sunny places like California.

        I agree though we should also be seriously looking into your thorium reactors, you have educated me about that.
        • 7 Months Ago
        EV,
        I am afraid that you are simply not costing in the subsidy you get from the grid, as it is not direct but a mandated cost.
        It costs them a fortune to accept your highly variable output, produced when they least want it, and saves very little gas burn if any, as they have to increase burn in the winter when the solar panels are more or less useless.
        So unless you run an off the grid system at perhaps 3 times the cost then the viability of your solution lasts just as long as the subsidies do.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @letstalkawalk, I live in the green part of of the map in Portland. I am told we are equal to Germany's sun exposure and they have many solar panels in use.

        @David Martin, I take the average of what a 2.1kwh system would produce, approx $20 per month to the grid or my car. Being tied to the grid is not an issue at all. I sell power to the grid for the same price I pay for it. In the 10,000 miles I have put on my EV I have used a public charging station once for 2 hours at 110V. I plug in at my friends house, a couple of them have 220V. I only plug into my friends house to run off the top of the pack not because I have to. I am told it is easier on the batteries if I run off the top of the pack when ever possible. Sorry for the confusion, it should be made clear that I have no intention to put batteries in my garage for storage, grid tied only. Unless? When my EV batteries are spent I will use them for storage and possibly one day be able to dump charge from the old EV batteries to the new EV batteries in my car. In other words I may be able to fast charge with out the 480V which of course would not be available at my house. But using the old EV batteries I could fast charge.

        It is good you could have the fuel cell run off of other things than hydrogen. They get methane or something from garbage dumps. Cow manure from feed lots can go into a pond and produce gas. I am sure there are many other sources are available but a conventional nuclear plant is not the answer. You must be referring to a different kind of nuclear plant. The conventional ones are so expensive to build. So much concrete. A wind turbine takes much concrete to. Bleh!
        • 7 Months Ago
        EV, our posts crossed in the night! Sure you can put a solar pv panel on your roof if you want to, but that is not really running the car, or reducing emissions.
        'You must be referring to a different kind of nuclear plant. The conventional ones are so expensive to build. So much concrete. A wind turbine takes much concrete to. Bleh!.

        You are right about wind turbines. Per kilowatt of average output they use around 10 times as much concrete as coal, gas or nuclear, plus a huge amount of transmission lines, conventional back up, and on and on.
        A 1GW Westinghouse nuclear reactor uses 100,000 tons of concrete, which works out to 100 kg per kwh, or around 30kg for the power output to run your car - probably less than the fixings on your solar installation.

        Nuclear plants may be expensive in the States, due to perfectly insane regulation. In China they cost around $1565/kwh, so there is no reason why they can't be built in the States for perhaps $3,000kwh.
        Let's triple that for fun, then the ~0.30kwh you need for your car would cost around $3,000, as against the $16,000 for the solar set up which doesn't give you the power you want when you need it anyway.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @David Martin,

        Let me make it plain and simple for you. Solar panels + EV = Not having to pay increase in fuel prices for the foreseeable future.

        Once and for all the panels will be tied to the grid.

        The 2.1kw panels produce on average 20 dollars per month. 20 dollar per month of electricity here in the Northwest will allow my EV to travel 12,000 mile per year.

        I do not dispute that not being tied to the grid would be problematic to do the above, however I will be tied to the grid and will be producing all the energy my car needs to go 12,000 mile per year and that energy will be produced pollution free, except what pollution was made by producing the panels.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Solar panels (PVs) are great but they're not the only possibility of alternative sustainable power sourcing. What we need is a good and sound mix e. g. PV, solar thermal power plants, wind, bio gas (garbage etc.), and the ocean (wave gens, off shore wind, etc.). Only with a good mix of all sustainable energy sources, consequent energy conservation, and a smart grid will we be able to save our standard of living and our necks.
        • 7 Months Ago
        • 7 Months Ago
        EV,
        Goggin either knows nothing at all about the grid, or he is trying to deliberately mislead, which would not be unusual for many involved in the renewables industry, most typically by deliberately confusing installed nominal output with actual output.
        Actually, EV, it was your correct statement of output from your system which persuaded me that it was worthwhile entering into discussion with you on this thread, as you would not believe the times that it is presented as though a 2.1kw nominal output solar array produces the full 18,396kwh of power annually, either from ignorance of in an attempt to mislead!

        Here is one link to the specific build of peaking power plants:
        http://www.energyandcapital.com/articles/peaker-plants-bridge-the-gap/991
        So Goggin is talking rubbish by saying:
        'all power plants on the grid already serve as backup for the other power plants on the grid'

        A quick google will turn up hundreds more links, including those to the many different categories according to how quickly you have to be able to turn the power on, at the risk of being corrected by engineers here I believe that power which can be switched on very quickly indeed is known 'spinning capacity' ie it is run at a low level even when not in use and so can be ramped very quickly when needed, so it continually burns some fuel.

        I have even heard some, again either tthrough ignorance or malice, say that the wind's low capacity of around 30% is OK, as many gas plants do not do much better!
        So they confound a source which, like the wind, produceth power when it listeth, with one which is inexpensive compared to wind to build, by definition does not need back up as it is the back up, and can provide power when it is needed, and so is delberately switched down, in part to make up for wind's vagueries!
        • 7 Months Ago
        The other thing you could do with solar panels is instead put them on the car and simply park outside all the time. Then you eliminate many steps that make for inefficiency and additional equipment. Right now you could get up to 20 km / sunny day. With expected innovations in PV technology and cost this could rise to 40 km / day and beyond.

        Right now, that 20 km range from solar panels is cost competitive compared with gasoline, but not with grid electricity, which is why EV's won't be covered in PV panels .... yet.
        • 7 Months Ago
        The pacific northwest already gets a large portion of its electricity from hydroelectric power. The region also has the potential to make a lot of energy from wind, geothermal and biomass.

        http://www.nationalatlas.gov/articles/people/a_energy.html#one
        • 7 Months Ago
        Hi David Martin, so I guess we go back to building a couple of coal plants per month and many NG plants and our energy problems are solved. Seems like we already thought of this at the turn of the century before last. So it looks like backward to the future.

        If every house was required to have solar panels put on it would not help at all? Interesting. I will read your links but logic would dictate other wise.

        David, disregard cost, do your theories still hold up?
        • 7 Months Ago
        David Marten said, "It costs them a fortune to accept your highly variable output, produced when they least want it,"

        So it's hundred degrees out in the summer and my panels would be producing at full capacity. Peak demand will begin at 1:00 pm to around 8:00pm. Your saying they don't want or need my energy? If this is not producing energy to be utilized at the right time, I do not what is the right time. This energy looses very little in transmission as it is produced in the vicinity it will be consumed.

        David Martin said, "It costs them a fortune to accept your highly variable output, produced when they least want it, and saves very little gas burn if any, as they have to increase burn in the winter when the solar panels are more or less useless"

        It may cost them a fortune to except my energy, I will ask the PGE rep when I see him next month at a meeting. The only reason it would cost much is because the grid is dumb right now. The grid needs to be updated for efficiency and population growth with or with out EV proliferation and as it is updated it will become smarter.

        I believe this 2.1kw hour system would fluxuate between about a minimum 15 dollars in the winter time, if that little, to a maximum of 30 dollars in the summer time. Keep in mind this is the smallest installation you can buy and still take advantage of the rebates and tax incentives. 15 dollars per month of energy is useless? If one million people had this small array of solar panels on their roofs, 15 million dollars per month is useless.
        I must refer to Spock again, "highly illogical".
        • 7 Months Ago
        EV said:
        'David Martin says renewable energy is worthless'
        Not quite, or if I did so in this very long thread then I overstated my case.
        They are useful in very specific circumstances, such as solar for electricity in hot climates where power needs peak with the sun, or wind in isolated off grid situations, in areas such as islands where nuclear is imprctical, and so on.
        In future they may become useful in a wider range of circumstances.
        I don't know, just as I don't know whether fuel cells in vehicles will be practical.

        What drives me nuts is folk exaggerating the present capabilities of technologies, so that they are said to be 'the answer' in entirely inappropriate circumstances.

        There are also a fair number of snake oil salesmen about, selling folk roof wind turbines in areas where you will be lucky to run a single bulb off them most of the time, but in a gale you might still manage to damage your roof, as they weren't designed for that strain.

        If I lived in Arizona I might well buy a 1kw solar panel as an emergency power supply, but would not go further at the moment.
    • Load More Comments