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By Robert Rapier on Oct 15, 2010 with 54 responses

In Case You Missed It

In addition to the EPA’s decision to raise the allowed ethanol blends to 15%, there were three other energy-related stories of interest this week.

Deep-Water Ban Ends

The first was that the Obama administration has lifted the ban on deep-water drilling:

Obama ends ban on deep-water oil drilling in Gulf of Mexico

As part of the decision, the Obama administration said it would continue with tougher safety requirements designed to prevent a repeat of the April 20 explosion and fire on an offshore oil rig that killed 11 workers.

“Operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume” drilling, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a telephone news conference Tuesday.

“The oil and gas industry will be operating under tighter rules, stronger oversight and in a regulatory environment that will remain dynamic as we continue to build on the reforms we have already implemented,” Salazar said.

I don’t know the details of the new rules, but I think most people would agree that changes needed to take place to lower the risk of something like this happening again. Despite that, there will always be some level of risk and there can be no guarantees that a future incident won’t happen. What we do from incidents like this is incorporate the lessons into making sure this particular chain of events is never repeated.

But speaking as someone who has been involved in many safety studies and incident investigations, there is always the possibility of a series of incidents that were deemed low probability (or even not considered) in a safety study combining to cause an incident like this. The job of those overseeing these projects is to minimize that probability, and then design safety measures that would minimize the impact if an event does take place.

An example of this can be found in tanks that are used to store fuel. Lightning can strike these tanks, but there are measures to mitigate against this and lower the risk. Nevertheless, lightning can still strike, tanks can rupture, etc. Therefore, tanks are generally surrounded by containment systems that would prevent the liquids from spreading and burning over a large area.

Google Invests in Wind

Google announced this week that they would heavily invest in a $5 billion transmission line that would connect offshore wind farms in the Atlantic to the grid from northern New Jersey down to Virginia.

Offshore Wind Power Line Wins Backing

Industry experts called the plan promising, but warned that as a first-of-a-kind effort, it was bound to face bureaucratic delays and could run into unforeseen challenges, from technology problems to cost overruns. While several undersea electrical cables exist off the Atlantic Coast already, none has ever picked up power from generators along the way.

The system’s backbone cable, with a capacity of 6,000 megawatts, equal to the output of five large nuclear reactors, would run in shallow trenches on the seabed in federal waters 15 to 20 miles offshore, from northern New Jersey to Norfolk, Va. The notion would be to harvest energy from turbines in an area where the wind is strong but the hulking towers would barely be visible.

Costs for offshore wind are quite high, however:

Generating electricity from offshore wind is far more expensive than relying on coal, natural gas or even onshore wind. But energy experts anticipate a growing demand for the offshore turbines to meet state requirements for greater reliance on local renewable energy as a clean alternative to fossil fuels.

Efficiency Winners and Losers

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) this week issued their 2010 ACEEE Scorecard for state-specific rankings on energy efficiency. California came out on top, and North Dakota ranked last:

ACEEE 2010 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

The key state-specific rankings in the 2010 ACEEE Scorecard are as follows:

  • The four most-improved states – Utah (tied for #12, up 11 spots from 2009), Arizona (#18, up 11 spots), New Mexico (#22, up eight spots), and Alaska (#37, up eight spots) – climbed at least eight spots since the 2009 Scorecard. In general, the Southwest region demonstrated considerable progress from 2009 to 2010.
  • California retained its #1 ranking for the fourth year in a row, outpacing all other states in its level of investment in energy efficiency across all sectors of its economy. The balance of the top 10 states: Massachusetts (#2, holding steady) ; Oregon (#3, up from #4); New York (#4, up from #5); Vermont (#5, up from #6); Washington (#6, up from #7); Rhode Island (#7, up from #9); Connecticut (tied for #8, down from #3); Minnesota (tied for #8, holding steady); and Maine (#10, holding steady).
  • The 10 states with the most room for improvement in the Scorecard (which includes the District of Columbia) are: Louisiana (#42, down one spot); Missouri (tied for #43, down two spots); Oklahoma (tied for #43, down four spots); West Virginia (tied for #43, up two spots); Kansas (#46, down seven spots); Nebraska (#47, holding steady); Wyoming (#48, up three spots); Alabama (#49, down one spot); Mississippi (#50, down one spot); and North Dakota (#51, down two spots).

In response to this, I will make a visit to North Dakota in a couple of weeks to investigate. I will also go to Massachusetts to figure out what they are doing right. (Joking about the reason, but I do have to visit both states in November).

  1. By paul-n on October 16, 2010 at 12:18 am

    A 6000 MW offshore cable when there isn’t a single offshore wind turbine yet, and no far offshore farms have been announced?

    This sounds more link an investment in a transmission cable to move electricity from A to B, with ability to tie in offshore wind as a bonus.

    Mind you, the Fed governments plan is for 54,000 MW of offshore wind by 2030, so if that is to happen, some serious transmission capacity will be needed.  

     

    On a related note, Cape Wind, the project in Nantucket Sound, got its lease approved by the Sec. of the Interior last week – it will be the first offshore wind project in the US, when/if it eventually gets built.

    http://www.capewind.org/news1139.htm

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  2. By OD on October 16, 2010 at 1:19 am

    The four most-improved states – Utah

    Ah, I am sad to be leaving Utah soon. I think they will do OK post peak. Mass transit is being built-out extensively, the stated goal is 70% of the population here will be within a few miles of the light rail system, and community ties are strong, for the most part.
    Does the oil boom in North Dakota play a role in their low ranking?

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  3. By Douglas Hvistendahl on October 16, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Natural gas is being under-used. Suggest studying “The Grand Energy Transistion” by Hefner. Doubt he (or anyone) has everything correct, but well worth reading – helps understand the basis for the Pickens plan.

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  4. By Rufus on October 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Glad to see good ol’ Mississip is doing so well.

    :)

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  5. By Kit P on October 16, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    “Mind you, the Fed
    governments plan is for 54,000 MW of offshore wind by 2030”

     

    Paul you do
    understand the the US government has no such plans. The government
    may compile the plans of others. For example, the US NRC has a list
    of reactors that others are planning so that the NRC can schedule
    review activities.

     

    The actual tittle
    is:

     

    Creating
    an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States: A Strategic Work Plan
    for the United States Department of Energy”

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wi….._wind.html

     

    So, it is a plan to
    get in the way of industry that knows what it has to do to make
    electricity. Where does that number 54 GW come from:

     

    “The 20% Wind
    Scenario envisions 251 GW of land-based and 54 GW of shallow offshore
    wind

    capacity..”

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wi…../42864.pdf

     

    If I am skeptical
    DOE it is because the can spend trillions without the skill to build
    a whirligig.

     

    Some of these DOE
    reports should start out ‘once upon time in a clueless government
    agency, we started to make up numbers to see it anyone would actually
    read the documents.”

     

    While I am hopeful
    that Cape Wind gets built, I am not optimistic. On the other hand,
    GOOGLE will only continue to issue absurd press release about what
    they might do to offset the huge amounts of electricity.

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  6. By Wendell Mercantile on October 16, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Kit P.

    How does the formatting of your posts get so screwed up? Everyone else has neat paragraphs and sentences, while yours are randomly broken up.

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  7. By Kit P on October 16, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Bill Gates put a hex on me many years
    ago because my first love was WP51. When I hit enter it looks fine
    but changes after I hit save.

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  8. By paul-n on October 16, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Kit, I should have said “plan” – I was giving the gov the benefit of the doubt.

    Perhaps I should have used the campaign term of “hope” as that more accurately describes it.

     

    But, whatever we call it, government always comes up with such “plans”, which may or may not have anything to do with reality, and which are almost always about what others are going to do.

    They have an ethanol plan to too – the corn part of that is working fine, but they also called for some very large amount of cellulosic ethanol (250mgal for 2011) and they acknowledge they will only get between 5 and 17mgal.  

    I wonder how long it will take to acknpwledge they will only get 0.01% of their offshore wind target, and that part only by including sailing yachts.

     

    ‘once upon time in a clueless government
    agency, we started to make up numbers to see it anyone would actually
    read the documents.”

    Agreed absolutely – these days, results are to be measured by actual things done, but internet hits, media mentions, TV time for politicians, photo ops etc etc.  When the bottom their webpage has things like “follow us on Facebook and Twitter”, which EVERY “green” initiative from the City of Vancouver has, then you know what their priority is.

    The so called “energy efficiency ratings” from ACEEE are a prime example of making media noise from policies, annoucements, spending etc, without actually looking at what gets achieved for all the hype. 

     

    Fortunately, there are still some companies and even government organisations in the business of actually doing useful/necessary things, but that is just not sexy.  

    This coming from a guy that used to work in sewage treatment – about as unsexy, and necessary, as you can get.

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  9. By Engineer-Poet on October 17, 2010 at 11:58 am

    The interesting thing about this power line is that it is the electrical analogue of an Interstate freeway or a railroad. It makes it much more attractive to put things next to it, rather than elsewhere (how many towns died because the railroad went through others?). It also makes some currently hard-to-reach resources easier to get at, both in money and in red tape (only 2 entities to negotiate with, the Feds and the line owners).

    It’s a shame that politics has prevented the same from being done between the same population centers and the Dakotas.

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  10. By Kit P on October 17, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    “It’s a shame that
    politics has prevented the same from being done between the same
    population centers and the Dakotas.”

     

    Wrong again E-P, not
    even close.

     

    North Dakota is a
    leading energy producing state with transmission lines, pipe lines,
    and railroads. Big producer of ethanol and wind. No surprise there.

     

    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/state…..cfm?sid=ND

     

    “North Dakota has
    the distinction of being one of only three States that produce
    synthetic natural gas . The largest source of synthetic gas in the
    United States is the Great Plains Synfuels Plant in Beulah, North
    Dakota, which annually produces more than 54 billion cubic feet of
    gas from coal. Overall State use of natural gas is low, with the
    industrial sector leading State consumption. Over two-fifths of the
    households in North Dakota use natural gas as their primary source of
    energy for home heating.”

     

    South Dakota does
    not have coal or natural gas but a lots goes through. Also a big
    ethanol producer and hydroelectric is the largest source of
    electricity.

     

    I would suspect that
    both Dakotas are immune from California politics.

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  11. By mac on October 17, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    It’s hard to tell just exactly what’s really going on in North Dakota, #51 on the bad actors list. Perhaps they are just mis-understood. As a teen-age girl from North Dakota put it: We actually have four seasons here,

    Winter
    More Winter
    Not Winter
    & Almost Winter

    She went on to explain that you can easily tell when it’s summer-time in the Dakotas because the sledding gets bad for about three months.

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  12. By mac on October 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    This evening’s forecast for Minot, North Dakota.

    Tonight:
    Decreasing clouds. Lows in the upper 20s. South winds around 5 mph shifting to the southwest after midnight.

    Don’t forget to take a parka, gloves and ear muffs.

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  13. By OD on October 17, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Winter
    More Winter
    Not Winter
    & Almost Winter

    I guess I can cross ND off my places to live lol. Although, maybe they will eventually get a boost from global warming.

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  14. By Wendell Mercantile on October 17, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    I guess I can cross ND off my places to live lol

    OD~

    Perhaps, but the unemployment rate in Fargo is 3.7%. I once lived in Wyoming when the unemployment rate there was 2.0%.

    What the locals said then about unemployment in Wyoming also applies to North Dakota today: “The weather here is just bad enough to keep out the riff-raff.”

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  15. By mac on October 17, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    “Perhaps, but the unemployment rate in Fargo is 3.7%. I once lived in Wyoming when the unemployment rate there was 2.0%.
    What the locals said then about unemployment in Wyoming also applies to North Dakota today: “The weather here is just bad enough to keep out the riff-raff.”

    The unemployment rate in Chicago must be low also (although I haven’t checked it lately) because people who live there always say the weather in Chicago is like

    “Six months of winter followed by six months of bad weather”.

    The weather must not be all that bad though, because Chicago does appear to attract some riff-raff from time to time.

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  16. By OD on October 17, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Seems like there are 3 careers in Wyoming. Booze, illegal fireworks, or coal mining lol. At least form my driving through the state many many times(no offense to any Wyomians).

    On a side note, I was reading over notes from Hirsch’s presentation at the ASPO meeting and he seems to have moved away from the ‘needing 20 years to mitigate peak oil’, unless i glazed over something. He said something along the lines of, a 2% decline post peak would be handled easily?! I was under the impression that we were already fubared since we did not get on this thing 20 years ago??

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  17. By Wendell Mercantile on October 17, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    The weather must not be all that bad though, because Chicago does appear to attract some riff-raff from time to time.

    mac~

    I grew up in Northern Illinois not too far west of Chicago, and lived for four years in Wyoming while in the military. The weather in Chicago is much more tolerable than that in Wyoming.

    “Six months of winter followed by six months of bad weather”.

    That’s not true about Chicago. It is only really bad from about December 15th to the middle of March. When I lived in Wyoming I saw snow every month of the year except June and July. But the really bad thing about Wyoming is the almost constant wind. It is so windy, one must make major changes to the way you live. For example, you never get out of a car after parking without knowing from which direction the wind is blowing. If you don’t check and prepare yourself, the wind is liable to rip the door out of your hand and spring the hinges, or blow it back on you leg just as you’re getting out. My first week in Wyoming I got a huge bruise on my left calf when the wind blew my car door back onto my leg. It didn’t take long to learn that lesson.

    It takes a special breed of person to live and thrive in states such as Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas. I have great respect for those ranchers and early pioneers who settled in that part of the country.

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  18. By paul-n on October 18, 2010 at 1:39 am

    Winter
    More Winter
    Not Winter
    & Almost Winter

    In ND’s northern neighbour, Manitoba, they describe the seasons like this

     

    Preparing for Winter

    Winter

    Still Winter

    Mosquitoes and Road Construction

     

    And, having been to Winnipeg in mid January, where the locals pointed out that day they were colder than Fairbanks, Alaska, and again in summer, where the mosquitoes are actually more lethal than the Air Force, I would have to agree with their descriptions.

    That is why homeless people in Canada all end up on the west coast eventually.

     

    If there was a renewable energy system that could be based on cold, these places would have it made!

     

    As for ND’s place at #51 on the list of states with silly energy efficiency policies, I doubt they are losing sleep over that.

     

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  19. By Rufus on October 18, 2010 at 3:31 am

    Kind of O/T, but it’s news that “I’ missed. Oerlikon (Swiss) introduces technology for Solar Thin Film Modules for less than $0.70/watt.

    http://cleantechnica.com/2010/…..-swiss-co/

    First Solar was already at $0.76/watt (who knew?) Guys, we’re going to see $1.00 “on the roof” in 3 years. That is Huge. How could you build a new house w/o 10 kw on the roof?

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  20. By paul-n on October 18, 2010 at 4:07 am

    Rufus, that is hardly “news”.  The balance of system costs (inverters, racks/stands, installation, wiring etc) are still $4-5/W, which makes the panel cost almost irrelevant.  Worse still for thin films, you need more panels per kW, so the installation costs go up. 

     

    At $4/w, and 25% capacity factor, you are paying $16 per effective watt – 20x gas turbines, almost 4x wind turbines and 2x nuclear/hydro.

     

    Also, at $4/W and 10W/sq.ft, you are at $40/sq.ft – pretty expensive roofing!

     

    In other news that I missed, the 2011 Buick Regal Turbo is now on sale  - no mention of flex fuel capability – what’s with that?

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  21. By Engineer-Poet on October 18, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Kit P said:

    North Dakota is a

    leading energy producing state with transmission lines, pipe lines,

    and railroads. Big producer of ethanol and wind. No surprise there.

    But there’s no proposal for an HVDC grid going from Minot to Chicago.

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  22. By Kit P on October 18, 2010 at 9:28 am

    E-P writes,

     

    “But there’s no
    proposal for an HVDC grid going from Minot to Chicago.”

     

    ND does have HVDC
    transmission lines but why would you build a one to Chicago?

     

    “Illinois is one
    of the top electricity-generating States in the Nation and a leading
    net exporter of electricity to other States. Coal and nuclear account
    for over 95 percent of the electricity generated in Illinois, with an
    even split between the two fuels. With 11 operating reactors at six
    nuclear power plants, Illinois ranks first among the States in
    nuclear generation, and generates more than one-tenth of all the
    nuclear power in the United States.”

    People who are good
    at one thing like GOOGLE and maybe E-P seem to think that other
    people are not good at what they do so they propose, They ride their
    bics on nice little paths in big cities with mild climates. They can
    not comprehend driving snow and and winds chill of 50 below. One day
    I was in my nice warm office at a nuclear power plant in Illinois and
    word came that we had to go home because of weather. From the second
    floor is looked nice and sunny but maybe a little ground fog.
    Walking to the car we found out that fog was blowing snow. Get
    disorientated after dark, you could die in the parking lot. The
    utility security personnel were prepared with vans to get people to
    their cars after dark.

     

    Of course I know why
    E-P wants HVDC grid going from Minot to Chicago.

     

    “North Dakota is a
    substantial producer of wind energy and leads the Nation in potential
    wind power capacity.”

     

    You want me to do
    what? E-P and GOOGLE want me to move to ND and make electricity with
    wind mills so they cam play with their computers. I was also home
    ported in Norfolk. I have been on a ship off the Atlantic coast, no
    thank you.

     

    The basic problem
    with wind and solar is that the resource is where people do not live.
    You have to get people to move there to build and maintain
    facilities. If you pay people enough, they will go where the work
    is. HVDC grids exist between places with abundant cheap power and
    high demand places.

     

    The problem is that
    wind and solar are not cheap power. Building wind and solar near
    existing transmission is a sound idea. From that experience we then
    decide if larger amounts of renewable energy is a good idea.

     

    The bottom line is
    that ND and Chicago are doing fine with coal and nuclear and small
    amounts of wind will not hurt too much.

     

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  23. By Rufus on October 18, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Paul, those installation costs are going to come down a lot (I would love to have a contract to install a few million of those panels for $1.00/watt.) But, what I’m thinking of is building this technology directly into the roofs. Okay, $1.00/watt in 3 years is too optimistic, but we’ll make a lot of progress.

    As for the Regal: Being flexfuel just isn’t a big selling point, right now. They are, at present, selling performance, and looks. A friend says his local dealer has 1 ordered, but the pipeline out of Germany is really, really slow.

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  24. By paul-n on October 18, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Rufus, I can understand that flex fuel may not be a selling point, but it is not even mentioned, anywhere, in Buick’s specifications about the car.

    http://www.gm.ca/gm/english/vehicles/buick/regal/compare-options-and-specifications

    The fuel for the turbos says premium recommended, but not required.  No mention of flex fuel or ethanol anywhere.

     

    As for solar, what, exactly, is going to change to bring installation costs down by 50-75%?  I can’t see any change in technology that does not require guys on the roof, or lots of stands for utility type.  if there were economies of scale to be had there, surely they would have found them already – installing solar panels has been happening for quite a while, and is fairly competitive – just not cheap.

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  25. By Kit P on October 18, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    “economies of scale”

     

    If you are interested in ‘economies of scale’ when making electricity consider the size of a steam turbine and reactor vessel.  I suspect few here could tell the difference between an 800 MWe, 1200 MWe & 1600 MWe nuke plant.

     

    To put in perspective, the size of the roof on the local Walmart is about the same a the turbine building for the 1200 MWe nuke I worked at.  If you could put a 1 MWe solar system with the best capacity factor on Walmart it would equal less than 2 hours of production at the nuke plant.  

     

    TVA solar:

     

    http://www.tva.gov/greenpowers….._sites.htm

     

    Okay then, by the time we get to a typical 4 kw system on the roof of a house we have lost all ‘economies of scale’ for making electricity but not for burning down your house with smoke emitting diodes.  PV systems are more than just panels on the roof.  You must convert the electricity to 60 hz and connect it to the grid.  For protective equipment like breakers there is likely economy of scale but there will never be for panels and inverters.

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  26. By Rufus on October 18, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Yeah, I wonder when that spec sheet was produced. It gives the E85 HP rating of 220, but lists premium gas as the fuel (it won’t get 220 HP on gasoline.) It also doesn’t give fuel consumption for the 2.0 L Turbo engine. Maybe they’ll update the info some day. :)

    Paul, a handful of big, government subsidized projects, and a very small residential market, serviced by a few specialty companies isn’t what I would refer to as a “competitive” market. When there are hundreds of young guys driving around in pickups with “acme solar,” and “Joe’s solar” on stick-on signs you will see a “competitive market.

    Solar panels are easy to install. I wouldn’t pay anyone over $1.00/watt to install thin-film. I doubt if I’d pay that much. I’d have to study up on it. Of course, the crystalline panels will get cheaper, also; and, as you alluded, installation would have to be considerably less for that.

    Right now, the Early Birds are getting big premiums for being entrepreneurs, and risk-takers. That will only last so long.

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  27. By Kit P on October 18, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    “Solar panels are
    easy to install.”

     

    So Rufus you you are
    willing to write insurance polices for installation that do not meet code and
    use shoddy materials. You are willing to be held criminally
    responsible for your role in killing little children in house fires
    and workers installing panels.

     

    While I am being a
    little hyperbolic, Rufus I hope you get my drift. When the
    consequences are death, maybe you should look at the limited benefits
    of making a tiny amount of a cheap commodity.

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  28. By Kit P on October 19, 2010 at 9:03 am

     

    “Kit, I used to
    hire people for solar hot water installations in Florida.”

     

    Rufus did you ever
    go back a few years later to see if they worked very well?

     

    “This is a
    “commodity” business ..”

     

    Well sure and the
    “commodity” is energy. What you were peddling is cheap
    junk, in other words you were a scam artist. Maybe you were too
    ignorant to know it.

     

    A $10 low flow
    shower head has huge ROI, just not much profit for scam artists.

     

    “There has been
    almost 800MW of solar installed in Ca ..”

     

    And about 50 home
    fires. Not one nuke plant or coal plant has ever caused a fire in a
    home. If you are going to produce energy for 30 – 60 years you
    need good equipment. You need qualified people to maintain it. You
    need a very good safety program.

     

    The point here is
    that there is a difference between a scams aimed at well meaning home
    owners and utility scale PV projects.

     

    “Paul, keep in
    mind that after the payoff you’re “free-rolling” for
    another 30, 40, or, maybe even 50 years Despite whatever rate
    increases SoCal Edison comes up with.

    Looks like a pretty good deal to me.”

     

    Tell my Rufus, how
    many home installations are still working after 5 years, 10 years, 20
    years. What is the cost of a qualified electrician coming to your
    house and replacing components?

     

    When the solar
    industry starts bragging about how much electricity is produced
    instead of how much junk they have sold, I will stop being such a
    critic.

     

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  29. By Rufus on October 18, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Kit, I used to hire people for solar hot water installations in Florida. The woods were full of them, and they were highly qualified. Of course, your installers would have to be supervised, on site, by a licensed electrician with proper certifications.

    Look, you’re seeing jobs that are running in the $1,000.00 panel range for installation. That’s ludicrous. A young, organized buck with an electrician’s license, and a competent, energetic helper should, I would think, be able to install 20 panels/day on level ground, and 4, or 5/day, average, on a roof.

    This is a “commodity” business, that, due to its infancy, is being priced as a series of high-tech, “one-offs.”

    That will change.

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  30. By paul-n on October 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Rufus when I was in California last fall, there were guys driving around everywhere with Joe’s solar on their Pu’s Vans.  Some of them I wouldn’t trust at all.  There were some that were Joe’s electric and solar – these guys, who are licensed electricians, and insured, etc, and are therefore more expensive, I would use, but not the cheap guys.

    There has been almost 800MW of solar installed in Ca, and at 100W/panel, that is 8 million panels – hardly a tiny market (though it is a tiny amount of power generation)

    Source 

    Residential accounts for half of this, so 4 million panels, and at say 20 panels/house, that is 200,000 houses that have them – more than some whole states.  I think that is big enough to become a commodity market.

    Now, when the 30% tax credits dissappear, the installers will have to sharpen their pencils a bit, but it is already fairly competitive.

     

    As with getting any work done on your house, the cheapest person is the one you don;t want to use.

     

    In any case, it is still, and will likely remain, the most expensive way to make electricity.  

    Assuming $6/w for Ca, the 800MW has cost $5bn, and produces the same amount of electricity (160MW cont) as a CCGT plant costing $160m, or even wind turbines (in Wa) costing $800m.  Has this really been a good investment for Ca?  Given that 1/3 the cost is paid for by taxpayers, has it been at all helpful to the 90% of people that don;t have panels on their roof and have paid for others to get them?

     

    Even if the installed cost is halved to $3/W, so $2.5bn, it is still too expensive.  It needs to be at $1/W, installed, just to be the same as wind, and it is never going to get that cheap.

     

    If there is only a miniscule residential market in your area then it is because the homeowners and/or state government are smarter than Ca, and are not wasting their money on this – neither should you.

     

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  31. By Rufus on October 18, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Paul, I believe $3.00/watt for “Peak” time electricity in Sunny Southern California would work out very well w/o subsidies. $2.00 would kick butt.

    The key, I think, especially in the SW is the word “Peak.”

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  32. By paul-n on October 19, 2010 at 12:00 am

    In Los Angeles, on So Cal Edison’s time of day rates, you pay 30c/kWh from 10am to 6p, weekdays, and 17c during winter, and summer weekends

    http://www.sce.com/NR/sc3/tm2/…../CE220.pdf  (wonderful government approved rate schedule that most customers won’t understand)

    Using a 20% capacity factor, a 1kW system will produce 1750kWh/yr, we’ll assume 2/3 of that is during summer, at an average price of 26c (weekaday+weekend average) and the remainder at 17c, and you will get $410/year from your system.

    So, at $3/W, installed, it will take 7.5yrs to pay off, not bad, but hardly stellar.  At todays rates of $6/w, it is 15yrs.

    This does not take into account the losses through the inverter, or the decline in performance of the panels, so I would add probably 20% to the payback time to reflect reality.

    There are much better ways to improve the efficiency/renewability of electricity production, distribution and use.  

    Many houses in LA with solar panels act is if they then have license to waste energy, and run their a/c more than they ever did!

     

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  33. By Wendell Mercantile on October 19, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Many houses in LA with solar panels act is if they then have license to waste energy, and run their a/c more than they ever did!

    I wonder how many of them regularly wash the panels to get rid of the accumulated dust and grime. It does make a difference.

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  34. By Rufus on October 19, 2010 at 1:06 am

    Paul, keep in mind that after the payoff you’re “free-rolling” for another 30, 40, or, maybe even 50 years Despite whatever rate increases SoCal Edison comes up with.

    Looks like a pretty good deal to me.

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  35. By Rufus on October 19, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Kit, I was selling solar hot water in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale. Excellent equipment, at a fairly low price. Certainly no “scam.” We were installing units in purchased homes, and including the cost in the first mortgage (no high interest secondary note.) I would bet ALL of my equipment is still working fine.

    In ALL energy I prefer, if possible, the “All of the above” solutions. I no more want our economy to be dependent 100% on Nuclear than I want it to be 100% dependent on Coal, or Nat Gas, or Mideast Oil.

    And, being an “Anarchist” at heart, I very much like the feel of “distributed” solutions. :)

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  36. By Wendell Mercantile on October 19, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    I was selling solar hot water in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale.

    Rufus~

    Wow, selling solar hot water heaters and also in the insurance business. A true renaissance man. Please don’t tell me you once sold aluminum siding too?

    I should have you look at my insurance policies — you could probably give me some advice on how to tweak them to my benefit, and perhaps even say a penny or two.

    You were saying that Buick is not emphasizing the E85 mileage of the Regal. No doubt a GM marketing decision. They probably think that few people care much about flex-fuel mileage, and are instead emphasizing the sportiness, engineering, and Euro-design of the imported Opel they’ve disguised as a Buick — an automobile brand most people associate with older, well-to-do people, country clubs, Sunday morning brunches, and dare I say it, insurance salesmen.

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  37. By Rufus on October 19, 2010 at 11:21 am

    And, Solar Salesmen, Wendell; don’t forget the Solar Salesmen. :)

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  38. By Rufus on October 19, 2010 at 11:22 am

    And, No on the aluminum siding. :)

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  39. By Kit P on October 19, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    “I would bet ALL of my equipment is still working fine.”

     

    If you are saying you were selling equipment integral to the design of new homes and less than five years ago, I would estimate that 90% of the systems are still working as intended.

     

    Of course the intent of solar systems is a marketing scam not to produce energy.  What was the ROI and the guaranteed life of the equipment?  Honest people tell you those things right off the top of their heads.

     

    “All of the above” solutions.”

     

    Me too Rufus but I am also 100% against con artists no matter well intentioned.  Rufus you were selling expensive junk because it does not do what you claim it does.

     

    I am not against capturing the energy from the sun and using it but that is not what you did.  You wasted resources to make a fast buck. 

     

     

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  40. By Rufus on October 19, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    You’re full of crap, Kit. You have absolutely NO idea what you’re talking about. I was installing a high efficiency unit for $2,000.00 (for which the homeowner was receiving a $800.00 Tax Credit.) If I remember correctly (it was the 70′s, after all,) we were increasing their house payment, on average, about $15.00 or $16.00 which was much less than they would have been paying FPL to keep a tank of water hot 24/7.

    I made many follow-up calls, and I never heard anything but praise for the performance of the equipment. As far as longevity, I don’t know what you think can go wrong with copper pipes, and aluminum; but, my experiance is they both hold together pretty well.

    And, on top of my “personal” experiance, I’ve never read (and, I read a lot) the First article about anyone have problems with “aging solar hot water heaters” in Florida, or any other sunny clime. I think you just have a “bee” in your bonnet.

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  41. By rrapier on October 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Not one nuke plant or coal plant has ever caused a fire in a home.

    But of course Chernobyl left a lot of homes essentially burnt. They had to be abandoned.

    RR

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  42. By Kit P on October 20, 2010 at 10:09 am

    “You’re full of
    crap, Kit. You have absolutely NO idea what you’re talking about.”

     

    Actually I do. If
    you were selling solar you were a scam artist. I am still waiting
    and will give you the benefit of the doubt if like to keep changing
    your story. I have designed, installed, and monitored a system at
    2000 foot elevation in California (much better solar resource).
    Solar works fine. Since I worked for the utility, I was able to get
    everything at wholesale and did not have to pay some scam artist door
    to door salesman. Still not a good investment.

     

    “high efficiency
    unit for $2,000.00”

     

    That is a more like
    Rufus but it is a 100% increase over a previous BS post,

     

    “Look, you’re
    seeing jobs that are running in the $1,000.00 panel range for
    installation.”

     

    Gee Rufus at the
    risk of sounding sarcastic but what is a “high efficiency unit”?
    Really sounds like the kind of marketing BS you would expect from
    someone who targets little old ladies living on social security.

     

    “I don’t know what
    you think can go wrong with copper pipes”

     

    It is the pumps,
    valves, controls, and panels glass that age in the sun light.

     

    “I’ve never read”

     

    Funny thing I have
    found lots of systems that do not work a few years after
    installation. If you have something for me to read that documents
    long performance, I would be glad to read it. However, the fact
    remains that you sold something that you did not know the facts
    about.

     

    “it was the 70′s,
    ..”

     

    Did you have any
    training at all in mechanical engineering at that point of your life?

     

    “which was much
    less than they would have been paying FPL to keep a tank of water hot
    24/7.”

     

    Are you sure? Did
    you record how much electricity was being used in a month? The first
    step in evaluating the system is determining how big it needed to be.
    How much energy is actually used? So lets say you provide a system
    for a family washing lots of diapers or teenage girls who think a hot
    shower? Then the children grow up, low flow shower nozzles are
    installed, new energy efficient washers are used with cold water
    detergent. It is not the 70′s, things change.

     

    Measure use is
    pretty easy too. Last nigh we used 4 kwh while after the hot water
    heater has recovered from any evening uses. That 44 cents paid for a
    frig, freezer, TVs, computer, indoor and outdoor lights, and of
    course that hot water heater that has ‘to keep a tank of water hot
    24/7′. A conservative assumption would be 2 cents and hour or about
    $175 per year.

     

    The most cost
    effective way to save energy is conservation. After reasonable
    conservation, high capital cost solar hot water heaters or hot water
    heat pumps will not pay themselves off. Interesting hobbies for
    mechanical engineers and good source of income scam artist salesman.

     

    “it was the 70′s,
    ..”

     

    I was there too
    Rufus and I was making a living at producing energy and protecting
    the environment since then.

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  43. By OD on October 20, 2010 at 10:53 am

    But of course Chernobyl left a lot of homes essentially burnt. They had to be abandoned.

    RR

    Is that really fair? From everything I have read about the Chernobyl accident , I’ve come to the conclusion that everything that could have been done wrong, was. We keep throwing up this example, and the sheeple stay scared of nuclear power. Funny how we ignore all the coal toxic sludge accidents.

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  44. By rrapier on October 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Is that really fair? From everything I have read about the Chernobyl accident , I’ve come to the conclusion that everything that could have been done wrong, was.

    It is fair in the context it was used. Kit threw up the notion that solar causes fires, but nuclear doesn’t. I am sure in the solar cases, things were done wrong.

    I am not anti-nuclear by any means. Further, I have pointed out coal-related incidents. The point was simply to rebut Kit’s notion that solar has problems that coal or nuclear don’t.

    RR

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  45. By Rufus on October 20, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Kit, our average customer Was a young family buying a home with FHA/VA financing. Most of these homes had a several year-old, 40 gal tank. We installed a new insulated, 80 gal tank. Utility costs were high in Fl in those days.

    We were adding less than $200.00/yr to their mortgages, and probably saving them, on average, a little over $300.00/yr, AND that’s not taking into consideration the $800.00 Tax Credit - for all practical purposes an $800.00 Refund.

    You’re all wet, Kit. It’s just plain wrong to call someone names of that sort w/o having ALL the facts.

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  46. By Kit P on October 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    “Funny how we ignore all the coal toxic sludge accidents.”

     

    Let me put this in context of producing energy in the US (most OCED countries too) following codes and regulations.  The public, workers, and, the environment must be protected to ensure the risk is insignificant (a very small number).  We do a very job of that too in the electricity generating industry (not saying others don’t either). 

     

    When an accident occurs, we investigate to find the root causes.  Often in serious accidents there are multiple root causes.    This accident is not being ignored by either the electricity generating industry or the responsible government because it was a really serious event.  Maybe the ‘sheeple’ do not get it and I do not expect to NCIS to have episode about terrorist planning to still ‘toxic sludge’.  

     

    If OD or RR wants to make electricity in their homes, they assume risk.  The risk is small because codes and regulations must be followed.

     

    “in the solar cases, things were done wrong”

     

    I would agree but the point is that the accident occurs in the home risking the lives’ of family members.  Nor is a mere notion, PV systems have caused numerous home fires.

     

    “The point was simply to rebut Kit’s notion that solar has problems that coal or nuclear don’t.”

     

    RR does like to provide rebuttals out of the context of what I actually said.  

     

    “Not one nuke plant or coal plant has ever caused a fire in a home.”

     

    I addressed a common risk of adding PV to a house following codes.  I would like RR how that reduces some other risk or even if that risk exists in the US.  

     

    Rufus wrote:

     

    “Utility costs were”

     

    “probably saving them, on average”

     

    I am sure you can not see why I still think you were a scam artist Rufus.  This is not a subject of probabilities but finite cost analysis that you did not do for each customer.  What was rate per kwh, how many kwh were used, and how long was the system guaranteed for?  For a 30 mortgage:

     

    $200.00/yr x 30 years = $6000

     

    So lets start looking at the components of the system:

     

    Limited warranty – 5 years commercial and 7 years residential

     

    http://www.solartubs.com/ebayp…..r%20SB.pdf

     

    Ouch Rufus, a normal water heater has a 12 warranty!

     

    Looking at the savings if it last 10 years :

     

    $300.00/yr x 10 years = $3000

     

    That is a loss of $3000.  If it last 20 years they break even.  Tell me Rufus where were you 5 years after you sold the system with a 20 year pay back period?

     

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  47. By rrapier on October 20, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Kit P said:

    “The point was simply to rebut Kit’s notion that solar has problems that coal or nuclear don’t.”

     

    RR does like to provide rebuttals out of the context of what I actually said.  

     

    “Not one nuke plant or coal plant has ever caused a fire in a home.”

     

    I addressed a common risk of adding PV to a house following codes.  I would like RR how that reduces some other risk or even if that risk exists in the US.  

     


     

    Perhaps you have forgotten the context. In response to:

    “There has been almost 800MW of solar installed in Ca ..”

    You wrote: And about 50 home fires. Not one nuke plant or coal plant has ever caused a fire in a home.

    In that context, you are suggesting solar-related issues that nukes don’t have. So I pointed out that nuclear has certainly caused a problem much worse than 50 home fires. Certainly things went terribly wrong at Chernobyl, but then something also went wrong in those solar hoouse fire cases. So it isn’t right to suggest that there have been issues with solar but not nuclear while conveniently skipping over a much worse issue with nuclear.

    RR

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  48. By Kit P on October 21, 2010 at 9:07 am

    “conveniently
    skipping over a much worse issue with nuclear”

     

    RR I did not skip
    over anything. Commercial US nuclear power plants are required to
    protect the public in the event of an accident per 10CFR50. All
    commercial US nuke plants are water cooled, water moderated reactors
    that have very robust containment building with air filtration
    systems. An accident at TMI demonstrated the effectiveness of that
    design (I have worked at a plant with a very similar design). At
    TMI, no workers, no member of the public, or the environment was
    harmed.

     

    In other words, 50
    recent home fires compared compared to 50 years of safe operation of
    US nuke plants.

     

    Furthermore, the
    only similar reactor to Chernobyl in the US was N-reactor operated
    DOE. The primary function of the graphite-moderated N-reactor was
    producing weapons grade plutonium although it was also a power
    reactor producing electricity. After Chernobyl, N-reactor was
    shutdown.

     

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N-Reactor

     

    “caused a problem
    much worse than 50 home fires”

     

    What? There is
    something worse than home fires? The immediate consequence of a fire
    in your home is that you and your family will quickly die of smoke
    inhalation. Exposing children to I-131 increases the risk of thyroid
    cancer that is easily treatable with very large doses of I-131.

     

    All fear mongering
    aside, massive doses of radiation were administered crudely for years
    for medical treatments. It was not until pictures of atom bombs,
    that Hollywood started with the monsters caused radiation. All I can
    say is thank god for smoke detectors.

     

    Fires in electrical
    systems are particularity troublesome. A fire at a TVA plant in the
    70s caused a rethinking of the design of control systems for nuke
    plants. This resulted in new regulations as 10CFR50 Appendix R.

     

    There is a
    systematic way of addressing risk and protecting people and the the
    environment that RR does not understand. Each hazard must be
    addressed individually. The what about Chernobyl canard used by RR
    demonstrates that does not understand that. To be fair, most people
    make the same mistake. However, RR claims to be trained in hazard
    analysis.

     

    Every time you do
    something you should think about the risk. Every meeting where I
    work starts out with a safety message and a reminder of how to safely
    exit the building from an unfamiliar location. Why do we do this?
    How many have dies because of too many people in a room when a fire
    starts or they do not know how to get out?

     

    So if you want to
    put solar on your house, you should think about the added risk. It
    will not reduce the risk from anything else.

     

    Of course the reason
    we take risk is that there is a benefit. Scam artists like Rufus
    will talk about all the benefits. This is why Rufus does not believe
    he is a scam artists. Religious belief is based on faith of things
    that can not be proven scientifically.

     

    “to keep a tank of
    water hot 24/7”

     

    This benefit is
    something Rufus believes but is something I can measure. I have
    measured the amount of electricity we used in the last two nights.
    Last night I opened the breaker to the hot water heater. We used the
    same amount of electricity. This morning I closed the breaker and
    checked an hour later and the digital reading was 1 kwh higher. That
    is a bounding value of 10 cents a day per person.

     

    That is just one
    benefit but Rufus you might want to take it off your sales pitch
    because it looks really really small compared to the cost of the
    entire system.

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  49. By rrapier on October 22, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Kit P said:

    “conveniently

    skipping over a much worse issue with nuclear”

     

    What?

    There is something worse than home fires? The immediate consequence of a fire in

    your home is that you and your family will quickly die of smoke inhalation.

    Exposing children to I-131 increases the risk of thyroid cancer that is easily

    treatable with very large doses of I-131.

     

    Yeah, Chernobyl was much worse that 50 house fires. Hundreds of thousands had to be

    permanently evacuated, thousands ultimately died.

     

    There is a systematic way of addressing risk and protecting people and the the environment

    that RR does not understand. Each hazard must be addressed individually. The

    what about Chernobyl canard used by RR demonstrates that does not understand

    that. To be fair, most people make the same mistake. However, RR claims to be

    trained in hazard analysis.

     

    No, you are simply throwing out red herrings now. I am trained in hazard analysis,

    and have led many safety studies. My ability to do risk assessement and

    mitigation has zero to do with your assertion; you just threw it out as a

    smokescreen. You say “each hazard must be addressed individually”,

    yet you are the one who threw out the canard about 50 house fires. Did you

    address each of those situations? Of course you didn’t. It is just you once

    again demonstrating your utter hypocrisy, and then when called on it pulling

    out red herrings to cover up.

     

    You seem not to understand that I am not using Chernobyl as an anti-nuke argument.

    Yet that is how you responded. I am saying that if you want to throw out

    incidents that have happened with solar, Chernobyl is fair game. It did happen

    after all. Whether you think it could possibly happen in the U.S. is

    irrelevant. We could just as easily argue that house fires from solar couldn’t

    possibly happen if they are installed properly, and therefore the problem isn’t

    inherent in solar. That was your implication; that there are inherent problems

    with solar that nuclear doesn’t have.

     

    Enough said, as you are way off on a tangent at this point. And if you call Rufus a

    scam artist again I will delete your post.

     

    RR

     

     

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  50. By Kit P on October 22, 2010 at 11:18 am

     

    Let me help RR get his facts right.

     

    RR: Long, rambling, off-topic diatribe deleted. Kit is once more wearing out his welcome here. Let’s all hope he starts his own site soon where he can ramble all day to his heart’s content.

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  51. By rrapier on October 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Kit P said:

     

    Let me help RR get his facts right.

     


     

    Since it was a 1500 word fiction piece – not remotely related to the initial rebuttal to your claim – and full of innuendos about the safety of my industry – and you don’t seem to understand what that is – I simply deleted the whole thing. I don’t have time for this nonsense.

    For readers who may wonder, it was full of stupidity like this:

     

    I could go on with chemical explosions but it looks like RR is from an industry that is not very good at doing hazard analysis to protect workers or the environment.

     

    So what Kit wants to do is deny that Chernobyl is related to the nuclear industry (double standards), while at the same time downplaying the nature of the incident (suggests that not that many people really died, and we all die eventually anyway). At the same time, he threw all sorts of incidents at me like chemical explosions (Kit seems not to understand what my industry is) while making comments like the above. Further, none of this is related to the initial comment, pointed at Kit’s assertion that solar is dangerous and nuclear isn’t. I have no time for that stupidity — and am annoyed I had to spend 5 minutes even addressing this. I won’t bother next time; it is faster just to delete garbage posts.

    If it keeps on I am just going to delete everything you write for the next week.

    RR

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  52. By Kit P on October 22, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    off-topic
    diatribe deleted”

     

     

    Three guess who
    brought up Chernobyl, the first two do not count!

     

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  53. By rrapier on October 22, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Kit P said:

    off-topic

    diatribe deleted”

     

     

    Three guess who brought up Chernobyl, the first two do not count!

     


     

    What was the context? You said “Solar causes house fires. Nuclear never did that.” It is certainly topical in that situation to mention Chernobyl; solar never caused a Chernobyl. Where you went from there was far afield into the safety of the nuclear industry versus the oil industry, etc. in your typical caustic style. All irrelevant to the issue that you implied – which was that solar isn’t safe, but nuclear is.

    But I repeat myself.

    RR

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  54. By Kit P on October 22, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    “that solar isn’t
    safe, but nuclear is”

     

    I repeat my self
    too, I did not say that. Nuclear is safe! Look at the safety record
    in the US. No one hurt from radiation. Solar is safe too especially
    done on a utility scale. Regulation require that it be done safely.

     

    The most important
    pooint of my deleted post is that the PV panels should be put them
    where they will make the most electricity. That is the best use of
    the resource.

     

    The second important
    point. RR wrote,

     

    “and therefore the
    problem isn’t inherent in solar.”

     

    But electrical fires
    are inherent in electricity generating equipment even when deigned
    and installed properly. There are know failure rates. At power
    plants we have reliability programs to monitor and replace
    components before they fail. An electrical fire is not out until the
    circuit is de-energized and PV panels keep producing electricity
    until the sun goes down.

     

    Something is safe
    when the inherent dangers are adequately mitigated to protect life.

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