"green energy" feasibility and investment opportunities

We have debated so-called green energy in many threads. Perhaps we can consolidate some discussions here. I will kick off the discussion with this ominous article:

In 2020, Germany’s clean energy sources ratcheted their coverage of [power consumption]nearly equaling that of coal, gas, oil, and nuclear power combined.

With so much renewable energy in the system, the conventional energy sector has long warned about energy blackouts in ominous tones.

The Germans’ feat was possible, however, only because the country has…maintained much of its fossil fuel generation and a handful of nuclear plants. When there’s surplus power, it’s exported—at a handsome profit for coal-plant-owning utilities.

This whole calculation is changing dramatically, however, as Germany moves to shutter its coal-fired plants … and nuclear power stations (which will be disconnected from the grid in 2022).

While utility power storage options, such as batteries, are quickly improving, batteries still lack the capacity to bottle up enough clean power for Germany to hold out even for a couple of fossil-free hours, much less days.

This drop-off is steep and fast, and it throws the Germany energy system into unknown territory—where the interests of energy providers, environmentalists, politicians, and grid operators clash fiercely.

The article gives 3 options. The scariest is typical German: You vill not flip on the power switch until we tell you that you can.

“In short,” Couture said, “what we need to do is flip the previous paradigm on its head used to build power plants to meet demand. Now we need to intentionally shape our electricity demand so that it is better adapted to our supply: variable, renewable, and abundant.”

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there are a lot of problems with controlling when people use power. One is electric car charging. Most people charge at night but that’s all wrong with green energy that produces power during the day when the sun shines. So it looks like they want us to drive at night and charge our cars during the day. Good luck with that.

Matthew Moniot, a researcher with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said during a recent interview with Newsweek that electric vehicle owners now mostly charge their vehicles at night, but that will likely have to change so that more drivers are charging while energy production levels are higher.

“If you look at aggregate load across the grid, it tends to spike in the evening hours whenever people come home,” Moniot said. Though energy use tends to dip overnight while people are sleeping, that is also the time when less energy is produced by solar and wind, both of which are energy sources Moniot said will be increasingly relied upon as states like California continue embracing clean energy.

And to extend your range, be sure to keep your lights off. :smile: Also, become romantic and eat dinner by candlelight … and even more romantic when you can’t watch tv. That might finally lead to the reality predicted by that pompous author of the Population Bomb (among other bombs).

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Green energy is a minuscule fraction of our energy consumption

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I think it’s a pipe dream to eliminate oil, coal, and natural gas from electricity production, even at today’s consumption levels. As mentioned, solar “turns off” at night and when it’s a cloudy day. In the winter, when the days are shorter but heating demand is higher, this creates a deficit quickly. Hydro is a big producer up here in the PNW, leading to dirt cheap rates, but isn’t popular with the environmentalists due to its impact on the fish population. When the wind ceases (and it will, no place is 24/7/365 windy), so do the turbines that generate the power.

This of course also assumes consumption remains constant, which it will not as more vehicles move to electric power.

I think we are a long ways away from storing any surplus that these methods generate to power something at the scale of the nation’s grid. Battery technology has improved but not anywhere near that scale. The elements they’re made out of are not particularly environmentally friendly, either. I doubt we will see this in my lifetime… I am in my late 30s.

I do think we should try to maximize renewables but there’s a balance and I think the way Germany is going about it, as pointed out above, will lead to significant issues.

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This is sort of like saying we can’t go from the horse and buggy to automobiles because there’s not enough fuel, not enough oil, not enough refineries, no gas stations, not enough metal for cars and rubber for tires, no paved roads, and cars can’t be used at night because there are not enough light bulbs.

Solar and wind costs have dropped precipitously and storage costs are dropping as well. Ten years ago people were predicting we would never be at the efficiency and price we are now and these items aren’t even yet in major mass production.

The wind blows at night, and solar power can be stored. In any case, solar could supply 100% of world power during daylight (50% of the time) and being cheaper than other power, that’s a thing very likely to happen.

Also, solar does not turn off during cloudy days. It continues to operate as long as there is any light from photons, which include cloudy days.

Surplus energy from fossil fuels is already being stored by batteries, so it’s not a major problem to ramp it up for renewables.

Countries and US states have already pushed up renewable power to 50%-80%, so obviously it can be done. Several get over 25% of power from wind, some over 50%. Iowa gets about 57% of its electricity from wind.

There are always naysayers and Luddites resistant to new technology that is better and cheaper and like to say it can’t be done. It’s obvious these things can be done if you want.

[ "…the growth rate in the world’s renewable energy capacity jumped 45% in 2020, part of “an unprecedented boom” in wind and solar energy, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. It’s the largest annual rate of increase since 1999.

“An exceptional 90% rise in global wind capacity additions led the expansion,” the report states. It also cites a 23% expansion in new solar power installations.]

Most predictions say 1/3 of world power will be from renewables within 3-4 years. Factor in that there’s usually a set, steady price for this power and it can’t be embargoed or cut off by foreign nations and it’s a tremendous advantage.

Also factor in that the renewable technologies continue to improve in efficiency and technologies at rates far beyond anything in the fossil fuel range. You can improve them every few years whereas there are severe limits on the improvements that can be made in burning fuel.

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In Europe, 16% of power came from wind in 2020. Leading countries are Denmark 48%, Ireland 38%, Germany 27%, UK 27%, Portugal 25%, Spain 22%, Sweden 20%.

Most of these countries continue building out at a high rate.

Europe has about 220 GW of wind capacity and is expected to install another 105 GW in the next 5 years.

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No, it’s not. All of the things you mention were built on technologies that were available at the time of the invention of the automobile. It just required a build out of the infrastructure necessary to support the automobile at scale.

We can barely build batteries capable of storing enough power for a single home for a couple of hours at a time. What will happen when we go weeks without sun and calm winds (as we do in the PNW in the winter)? What exactly is going to power high demand facilities like hospitals, factories, and large office buildings during these stretches?

I am certain battery technology will improve. But it’s not 1759 when people extinguished candles at night - you need 24/7/365 power generation that can accommodate spikes in demand as in Texas this past winter and in the west this past week. Can use of renewables get higher? Sure. But unless something like geothermal takes off, which isn’t reliant on a source that just stops when the sun goes down or the wind dies down, they will not account for 100% of power generated in the nation.

All renewable technologies are available now. The automobile technologies were not all available. They had to be developed, just like renewable technologies.

There will not be weeks without sun and wind. There is always wind somewhere (especially at altitude) and the sun shines every day. Batteries are getting better and better.

Making up obstacles and difficulties that don’t exist is just silly.

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Ignoring obstacles and difficulties is moronic. Not that t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶y̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶r̶o̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ I’m calling you a moron.

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Not at all. The shift from horses to cars happened as cars developed into acceptable replacements.

No one said “No more horses after 1910!”, before there were widely accepted and widely available alternatives. Yet that is what’s happening now, and that is what’s being objected to. Set the ban gas powered cars now, and just blindly hope alternate technologies catch up in time to provide a viable replacement - that’s not how development and innovation is supposed to work.

If/once EVs are ready for prime time, they’ll render the gas engine obsolete all on their own.

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Going with the popular horse & buggy to car analogy, back when cars were just starting out, no one imagined electronic ignition and fuel injection. Cars got better and better, mostly incrementally.

Power storage will get better and better. We know about batteries now, but we don’t know about the future Phlogiston Method of storing energy – like before we didn’t know about electronic ignition and fuel injection.

So storage could get better, incrementally or suddenly, with the future Phlogiston Method, which will stop everyone from focusing solely on batteries – which currently are kinda environmentally limited in several ways (requires lithium, creates waste, limited lifespan, etc).

We already have several alternatives for storing energy from wind and solar for use later. We’ll get more and more over time. It won’t be all batteries.

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Batteries are not the only electric storage method. There are also flywheels, supercapacitors, compressed air, and pumped hydro. Other potential methods are stacked blocks, liquid air (stored in pressurized tanks), underground compressed air, and flow batteries.

There is also Advanced Rail Energy Storage. A rock-filled train goes up a hill when there is excess energy and comes down when needed using regenerative braking to release all the stored power.

Hydrogen production from renewables could be one of the main storage methods.

Then, of course, there is the Phlogiston Method, which beats them all.

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