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Hidden costs of renewable energy  

Credit:  By KEN COWANS, The Orange County Register, www.ocregister.com 5 May 2011 ~~

Government accounting deliberately hides the cost of renewable energy. It’s not clear that anyone can find out the true cost. State efforts obscure cost of fueled energy as well.

Renewable energy, with the sole exception of dammed rivers, is unreliable: Wind stops blowing and the sun goes behind a cloud and sets every day. The sad truth is that it has to be backed up with non-renewable energy. That backup costs money. Pricing the needed auxiliary power is neglected out of ignorance mostly. Venality, however, is also a part of the plot.

A power plant runs at peak efficiency at one particular output. That effectiveness is nearly matched over a significant band of output. At maybe plus and minus 40 percent of peak efficiency output the plant will get close to peak efficiency. Higher and lower than that band, the efficiency will fall badly.

At no power out the plant will be “banked” and the efficiency is zero. This last condition is approached daily at night. To calculate the accurate cost of renewable energy, the difference in efficiency between the plant running normally and that at reduced output as “backup” needs to be factored in.

That evaluation is, frankly, almost impossible to compute. It is difficult even to estimate it. However, that it is an existing energy cost is not arguable. Also certain is the fact that government figures never add it in.

There are other calculations that are never mentioned. The cost of coal-generated electricity (quoted at $78/megawatt-hour) should include the cost of a multitude of government obstacles: environmental constraints, various agency fees, delays due to impact studies, etc. Those are never shown.

Equally, subsidies given to “renewable” sources go unstated or are minimized. For example, a recent study of hybrid cars stated that the Toyota Prius saved a typical owner $528 after a government subsidy of $3,100 was figured in. In reality, a Toyota Corolla offers as much transportation for over $5,000 less. To get any savings after a cost difference of more than $8,000, gasoline would have to cost about $5 per gallon. Despite all the federal government has done to raise petroleum cost, it hasn’t reached that yet. We’ll have to give them more time.

These details aren’t pointed out because there just is no profit in doing so. There are too few people with the skill and access to data who can compute it. None who control information flow want to disclose it. The fact that most of us pay for environmental niceties that do us no good matters little. An enormous bureaucracy derives a good living from them. Their power is greater than the majority commands.

Today’s media craves narrative. Stories on either side of an issue are desired. If issues don’t exist, they will be created to fill the need. Problems arising from the lack of energy are just as good as problems coming from environmental accidents getting that energy. The flow of information feeds on itself.

Government concealment of energy cost attains ridiculous heights in its sponsoring of the electric car. In the EPA evaluation of the plug-in car’s mileage they equate the heat energy in a gallon of gasoline to the electrical energy driving the car.

In average practice, it takes almost three times the heat energy to develop an amount of delivered electrical energy. For example, the EPA rating for a Nissan Leaf is 106 mpg: It’s actually about 37 miles per gallon of heat energy. 1824 was the year that Sadi Carnot published his pivotal work describing the relation between heat and mechanical energy, “Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire.” This led to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Of course, it is doubtful the EPA has yet heard of Carnot. As to the Second Law, they probably figure they could get friends in Congress to modify or revoke it.

Solutions to any and all our predicaments are readily available. They could make life better for most of us. The negative impact on the governmental-information complex makes solution unlikely to happen.

Source:  By KEN COWANS, The Orange County Register, www.ocregister.com 5 May 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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