3/20/09 - First day of spring
Well Punxsutawney Phil may have other ides, but I’d like to think of sunshine and warmth. So, today I am pondering Solar Energy.
To begin with the current view of solar energy is too narrow. Rather than thinking outside the box, we need to realize that it is a much bigger box than we ever imagined. I suggest that all of our global energy supply comes from the sun.
And in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The geologic endowment earth receive from the primordial ooze that was spun off of the sun gave us internal sources of energy such things as uranium and geothermal.
Externally the sun shines down on us and gives us God’s abundance, (if we don’t mess it up).
So it’s a much bigger concept. From the economic man who is always trying to improve his lifestyle if not just survive, we see again that the global economy needs every BTU it can get and that the sun provides those BTUs.
Again, I note that this means there is no such thing as alternative energy in that man puts to economic use every BTU he can find. (Alternatives can only exist if there is an excess of supply form which to make choices.)
Nevertheless, the favorites of the day are Wind and Solar. Here it’s a problem of scale. Obama promises to double this source in the 3 years. This is reachable. It just matches what Bush did in the 04-07 with an additional 30% more in 08.
Current renewables are not adaptable to large-scale especially the intermittent nature of wind and solar. Networks of roof top installations are a larger scale, but base load supply is still required. Then there is the storage of electricity and transmission issues. (Note: Base load is the minimum required for 100% assurance of “minimum standards of service.)
Costs are correlated with the price of energy in all parts of the industry. The learning curve goes from hopes to realities and may be negative. In November 2008 the EIA reported that wind and solar produced 45.493 MW of electricity or 1.1% of the 4118.199 MW total. If one barrel of oil produces 1.64 MW, then the 54 MW/yr could displace 27.7 mmbd/yr or 76 mmbd. The US uses 47.4 mmboe/day that is made up of 19 in oil, 12 in natural gas, 11.5 in coal (50% of US electricity), 3.8 in nuclear, and 1.3 in hydro.
As a parting word with what I am afraid is much more to come, let me just pass on to you my ponderings on this subject. Warming and cooling periods are a part of the long-term cyclical nature of the earth’s climate swings. I’m sure the interaction between our atmospheric makeup with carbon dioxide, ozone and volcanic ash etc. make our friend, old Sol, more or less effective in heating the world.
The earth certainly appears to be in a warming trend today. What is not clear is how major this trend is compared to others over the past 4 billion years and how much man is contributing.
Points to Ponder
- Is man’s contribution the straw that will break the camel’s back and kick this warming push over the edge?
- Is this natural trend so strong that man can do nothing about it?
- With these uncertainties, it would still make sense to minimize man’s impact. It is just good business.
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