Category Archives: Domestic Energy

New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking Part 8 Sliding Down the Renewable Asymptote.


Continuing serialization of Mark Mills’ report New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking.

This part 8.  

=================================================== 

Sliding Down the Renewable Asymptote  

Forecasts for a continual rapid decline in costs for wind/solar/batteries are inspired by the gains that those technologies have already experienced. The first two decades of commercialization, after the 1980s, saw a 10-fold reduction in costs. But the path for improvements now follows what mathematicians call an asymptote; or, put in economic terms, improvements are subject to a law of diminishing returns where every incremental gain yields less progress than in the past (Figure 4).

 

 

 

This is a normal phenomenon in all physical systems. Throughout history, engineers have achieved big gains in the early years of a technology’s development, whether wind or gas turbines, steam or sailing ships, internal combustion or photovoltaic cells. Over time, engineers manage to approach nature’s limits. Bragging rights for gains in efficiency—or speed, or other equivalent metrics such as energy density (power per unit of weight or volume) then shrink from double-digit percentages to fractional percentage changes. Whether it’s solar, wind tech, or aircraft turbines, the gains in performance are now all measured in single-digit percentage gains. Such progress is economically meaningful but is not revolutionary.

The physics-constrained limits of energy systems are unequivocal. Solar arrays can’t convert more photons than those that arrive from the sun. Wind turbines can’t extract more energy than exists in the kinetic flows of moving air. Batteries are bound by the physical chemistry of the molecules chosen. Similarly, no matter how much better jet engines become, an A380 will never fly to the moon. An oil-burning engine can’t produce more energy than what is contained in the physical chemistry of hydrocarbons.

Combustion engines have what’s called a Carnot Efficiency Limit, which is anchored in the temperature of combustion and the energy available in the fuel. The limits are long established and well understood. In theory, at a high enough temperature, 80% of the chemical energy that exists in the fuel can be turned into power.74 Using today’s high-temperature materials, the best hydrocarbon engines convert about 50%–60% to power. There’s still room to improve but nothing like the 10-fold to nearly hundredfold revolutionary advances achieved in the first couple of decades after their invention. Wind/solar technologies are now on the same place of that asymptotic technology curve.

For wind, the boundary is called the Betz Limit, which dictates how much of the kinetic energy in air a blade can capture; that limit is about 60%.75 Capturing all the kinetic energy would mean, by definition, no air movement and thus nothing to capture. There needs to be wind for the turbine to turn. Modern turbines already exceed 45% conversion.76 That leaves some real gains to be made but, as with combustion engines, nothing revolutionary.77 Another 10-fold improvement is not possible.

For silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells, the physics boundary is called the Shockley-Queisser Limit: a maximum of about 33% of incoming photons are converted into electrons. State-of-the-art commercial PVs achieve just over 26% conversion efficiency—in other words, near the boundary. While researchers keep unearthing new non-silicon options that offer tantalizing performance improvements, all have similar physics boundaries, and none is remotely close to manufacturability at all—never mind at low costs.78 There are no 10-fold gains left.79

Future advances in wind turbine and solar economics are now centered on incremental engineering improvements: economies of scale in making turbines enormous, taller than the Washington Monument, and similarly massive, square-mile utility-scale solar arrays. For both technologies, all the underlying key components—concrete, steel, and fiberglass for wind; and silicon, copper, and glass for solar—are all already in mass production and well down asymptotic cost curves in their own domains.

While there are no surprising gains in economies of scale available in the supply chain, that doesn’t mean that costs are immune to improvements. In fact, all manufacturing processes experience continual improvements in production efficiency as volumes rise. This experience curve is called Wright’s Law. (That “law” was first documented in 1936, as it related then to the challenge of manufacturing aircraft at costs that markets could tolerate. Analogously, while aviation took off and created a big, worldwide transportation industry, it didn’t eliminate automobiles, or the need for ships.) Experience leading to lower incremental costs is to be expected; but, again, that’s not the kind of revolutionary improvement that could make a new energy economy even remotely plausible.

As for modern batteries, there are still promising options for significant improvements in their underlying physical chemistry. New non-lithium materials in research labs offer as much as a 200% and even 300% gain in inherent performance.80 Such gains nevertheless don’t constitute the kinds of 10-fold or hundredfold advances in the early days of combustion chemistry.81 Prospective improvements will still leave batteries miles away from the real competition: petroleum.

There are no subsidies and no engineering from Silicon Valley or elsewhere that can close the physics-centric gap in energy densities between batteries and oil (Figure 5). The energy stored per pound is the critical metric for vehicles and, especially, aircraft. The maximum potential energy contained in oil molecules is about 1,500% greater, pound for pound, than the maximum in lithium chemistry.82 That’s why the aircraft and rockets are powered by hydrocarbons. And that’s why a 20% improvement in oil propulsion (eminently feasible) is more valuable than a 200% improvement in batteries (still difficult).

 Finally, when it comes to limits, it is relevant to note that the technologies that unlocked shale oil and gas are still in the early days of engineering development, unlike the older technologies of wind, solar, and batteries. Tenfold gains are still possible in terms of how much energy can be extracted by a rig from shale rock before approaching physics limits.83 That fact helps explain why shale oil and gas have added 2,000% more to U.S. energy production over the past decade than have wind and solar combined.84

==================================================

Next up is  Part 9 Digitalization Won’t Uberize the Energy Sector.

cbdakota

 

 

Green Energy Train To Energy Poverty


The Claim: Europe and Australia are benefiting from their green energy policies. We should follow their example.

The Facts: The Ice Cap blog refutes that claim in a posting titled:“Green Energy Train To Energy  Poverty”.

Joseph D’Aleo shows that green energy is pricing the Europeans out of a number of markets and is wreaking real damage on their poorer citizens.

Two of the many  charts that  D”Aleo uses to make his case are as follows:

 

 

And the following chart equates the amount of installed wind and solar renewable energy with the cost of electricity:

 

Read D’Aleo’s full posting by clicking here:

cbdakota

The 5 Most Common Plastics And Their Everyday Uses


I think the forecasts that tell us that wind and solar will put fossil fuels out of business by 2050 are pipedreams. Plastics are typically made from oil and natural gas liquids.  Although there have been attempts to use biomass as substitutes for fossil fuels in the making of plastics, they show little promise. So, fossil fuels making plastics will be around for a long time.

To give the reader an overview at how pervasive plastic are, here is a posting by Cutplasticsheeting.com-uk:

The 5 Most Common Plastics & Their Everyday Uses

Despite being all but unheard of until the 1920’s, plastic materials have effectively permeated every aspect of modern day life, from the microchips in your computer to the bags you carry your shopping in. The reason why it seems like plastic can be used just about everywhere is that it is not actually just one material, but a group of materials. There are so many different types of plastic material, and a lot of them, like polyethylene , PVC, acrylic, etc., have incredibly useful and versatile properties.

You would be amazed by just how many types of plastic there are, and how some, like Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK), are quickly taking the place of metals in a wide range of applications. Having said that, plastics with these characteristics are still being developed, and though they’re useful they are not used widely just yet due to their generally higher costs. There are a great many plastics however that don’t have this problem, and though they may not seem quite as impressive now at one time they were practically revolutionary.

The following are the 5 most common plastics along with some of their everyday uses. Just think how much different life was and would be without them, and what inferior materials we would have to use in their place…

1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

One of the plastics you are most likely to come into physical contact with on a daily basis, depending on how it is made PET can be completely rigid or flexible, and because of its molecular construction it is impact, chemical and weather resistant and a terrific water and gas barrier.

Common uses of PET: Soft drink, water, cooking oil bottles, packaging trays, frozen ready-meal trays, First-aid blankets, polar fleece.

2: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Incredibly strong considering its density, HDPE is a solid material that can tolerate high temperatures and strong chemicals. One of the reasons that HDPE is used so regularly is that it can be recycled in many different ways and therefore converted into many different things.

Common uses of HDPE: Cleaning solution and soap containers, Food and drink storage, shopping bags, freezer bags, pipes, insulation, bottle caps, vehicle fuel tanks, protective helmets, faux-wood planks, recycled wood-plastic composites.

3: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Cost effective to produce and highly resilient to chemical and biological damage, PVC is easy to work with and mould into shapes; making it an extremely practical material. In terms of properties, PVC is one of the most versatile. It can be used to create rigid, lightweight sheets, like Foamex, but it can also be used to make faux-leather materials like leatherette and pleather.

Common uses of PVC: Signage, furniture, clothing, medical containers, tubing, water and sewage pipes, flooring, cladding, vinyl records, cables, cleaning solution containers, water bottles.

4: Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

At general living temperatures LDPE is a highly non-reactive material, which explains why it has become one of the most common plastics in use at the moment. It can withstand temperatures approaching 100°C, and though it is not as strong as HDPE (its high density counterpart), it is certainly more resilient.

Common uses of LDPE: Trays, containers, work surfaces, machine parts, lids, ‘6-ring’ drink holders, drink cartons, protective shells, computer hardware casings, playground fixtures (slides and the like), bin-bags, laundry bags.

5: Polypropylene (PP)

Strong and flexible, polypropylene is a very hard wearing plastic that, when melted, is one of the most effective materials for injection moulding. Having said that, it has quite a high tolerance to high temperatures, relative to other plastics, and is considered to be a food safe material.

Common uses of Polypropylene: Clothing, surgery tools and supplies, hobbyist model, bottle caps, food containers, straws, crisp bags, kettles, lunch boxes, packing tape.

Next we will look a little deeper into fossil fuel use in plastics.

cbdakota

How Energy And The Paris Agreement Fit In President Trump’s Plans To Make The US Economically Strong Again


A posting by sundance titled “Angela Merkel Reflects Fear And Loathing Amid EU Elites…”.  I believe provides an important perspective on the President Trump’s America First Strategy.  I have focused on Energy and the Paris

Agreement, but Trump’s strategy, as laid out by the author, sundance, is more that those two items.  It really is a plan to make the US economically strong again.

President Trump has put a jaw-dropping U.S. energy platform solidly into place.  You can learn more about them HERE and HERE.  The announcements last week are tectonic in consequence though seemingly lost amid the chafe of media reporting over twitter spats.

Everything President Trump’s team does is connected to a bigger, much bigger, picture than most people are paying attention to.  However, those who control the levers of multinational power are paying very close attention.

At it’s core and central elements ‘America-First’ is about prosperity and national security through the utilization of leveraged economic power.   For four decades, as he built out his empire of holdings, every-single-day at every-single-opportunity, Donald Trump voiced vociferous frustration that politicians were allowing the U.S. to be controlled, lessened, weakened and robbed by multinational economic interests.

Continue reading

Why Did ExxonMobil Lobby To Stay In The Paris Agreement?


ExxonMobil lobbied President Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement. Can you figure out why that company would wish to do so?

Here are some pickings from the most recent ExxonMobil global energy forecast:

·         Total energy demand by 2040 will be 25% higher than in 2015.

·         Global energy supply in 2040 will be 55% from oil and natural gas. Wind, solar and biofuels will supply only 4% in 2040.

·         Coal use will decline but will still be the third largest supplier of global energy.

·         Global electrical energy demand for transportation will only be 2% of the total global energy demand in 2040.

·         Wind and solar electricity supplies will approach 15% of total electrical energy supply by 2040

·         Although utilization improves over time, intermittency limits worldwide wind and solar capacity utilization to 30% and 20% respectively.

·         By 2040 US and Europe combined CO2 emissions will be about 8 billion tonnes.  The total global emissions in 2040 will be about 36 billion tonnes,

·         Electric cars are a very high-cost option, at about $700/tonne of CO2 avoided.

Continue reading

Media Not Providing The Real Facts About Wind And Solar Energy


It is likely that a great many people in the US have been led to believe that solar and wind play significant roles in supplying domestic energy.  Further and even more incredibly they are led to believe that solar  and wind will replace fossil fuels in the not too distant future.  The Paris agreement demands that no fossil fuels  be used after 2050

I am too old to make it to 2050,  so I will not be around to see if no fossil fuels are being used at that time.  If you make it to 2050, I will bet that fossil fuel will still be used.

The Energy Information Administration’s(EIA)**, chart on the primary energy sources for the year 2015 is shown below.

Petroleum, natural gas, coal, renewable energy, and nuclear electric power are primary sources of energy. Electricity is a secondary energy source that is generated from primary sources of energy.

 

Note that renewable energy is only 10% of total energy produced in the US.  And of that 10%, solar is 6% and wind is 19%.   Putting the solar and wind as a percent of the total energy consumed in the US has solar at 0.6% and wind at 1.9%.  So, in  2015 only 2.5% of the US energy came from those two sources. Is this compatible with what you are learning from the media?   And those two are the ones that the greenies are banking on to replace coal, natural gas and petroleum.  And though it is counterintuitive, the warmers want to shut down the nuclear plants as well.

Continue reading

Drain The EPA Swamp-Part 4—Friendly Law Suits (AKA Sue And Settle)


 

The Trump administration has formed a team charged with making recommendations for changes to the EPA. This action is needed because gone are the days when the EPA followed the legislation written by Congress.  Good things were accomplished by the EPA.  But now the EPA has over stepped it authority. The EPA task is to administer the law, not make it. For example, it has developed criteria to justify their own efforts, often invites “friendly lawsuits to expand their activities, and uses “secret science” to justify their regulations:

The following are some of the areas that the team need to address, in my opinion:

  • Social Cost of Carbon
  • Secret Science
  • Peer Reviewed Studies
  • Friendly Law Suits
  • The Endangerment Finding
  • Research Grants
  • Last Minute Regulations

I posted about the EPA’s bad habit of using friendly law suits (also known as Sue and Settle) to get favorable court rulings which they wanted.   That posting follows:

Have you heard of the Sue and Settle scam often used by the EPA? Generally the idea is for the EPA to ask some non-government , big green organization to sue Cartoon - EPA & Energythem regarding some piece of  legislation. The suit is settled by a consent decree where the EPA and the big environmental group achieved their shared goals. The court sets a deadline for comments from other interested parties that is so brief that no one can make meaningful comments in time to prevent legislation from becoming law.

In 2013, the US Chamber of Commerce (C of C) looked into the Sue and Settle issue posting “Sue and Settle—Regulating Behind Closed Doors”. One of the cases the posting examined is discussed in the following:

Regional Haze Implementation Rules

“EPA’s regional haze program, established decades ago by the Clean Air Act, seeks to remedy visibility impairment at federal national parks and wilderness areas. Because regional haze is an aesthetic requirement, and not a health standard, Congress emphasized that states—and not EPA—should decide which measures are most appropriate to address haze within their borders. Instead, EPA has relied on settlements in cases brought by environmental advocacy groups to usurp state authority and federally impose a strict new set of emissions controls costing 10 to 20 times more that the technology chosen by the states. Beginning in 2009, advocacy groups filed lawsuits against EPA alleging that the agency had failed to perform its nondiscretionary duty to act on state regional haze plans. In five separate consent decrees negotiated with the groups and, importantly, without notice to the states that would be affected, EPA agreed to commit itself to specific deadlines to act on the states’ plans. Next, on the eve of the deadlines it had agreed to, EPA determined that each of the state haze plans was in some way procedurally deficient. Because the deadlines did not give the states time to resubmit revised plans, EPA argued that it had no choice but to impose its preferred controls federally. EPA used sue and settle to reach into the state haze decision-making process and supplant the states as decision makers—despite the protections of state primacy built into the regional haze program by Congress.

As of 2012, the federal takeover of the states’ regional haze programs is projected to cost eight states an estimated $2.16 billion over and above what they had been prepared to spend on visibility improvements.”

Continue reading