Friday, May 25, 2012

Energy Conservation Isn't Just For Hippies

Check out this pretty funny advertisement for solar power.

Solar technology has improved a lot lately.  It's now a money saving proposition for a lot of people.  Some don't know this, but it's not necessary to have some sort of energy storage, like batteries, in order to run a solar power system.  In most states, such as Michigan, what happens is when your solar power system exceeds your usage the power you generate is fed to the grid.  Your meter will actually spin in reverse.  At night you would have to use the electricity generated by the power plant, but on net you could end up paying nothing for electricity.  This works out really well for people that aren't at home during the day.  Or for people that travel.  For a lot of people a solar installation will pay for itself in like 15 years.  Subsequently you will still have these panels that will continue to provide free electricity for a long time.

Here's another easy way to save money and help the environment.  A lot of people don't know that some of your electronics can end up drawing a lot of power even when it isn't running.  A friend told me his audio receiver pulls 100W even when it is off (I plan to measure how much mine pulls using a Kill-A-Watt).  At 10 cents per kilowatt hour that's like $80 a year just to have my receiver plugged in and not running.  You don't have to be a tree hugger to make a little effort on that one.  I'm going to flip the power strip off from now on when I'm not using it.

That's also true for your computer and peripherals.  Feel your modem even when the computer is off.  Mine gets pretty hot.  The wireless router is drawing power.  At night if the computer is off, why not shut these down?

Another option for me is riding my bike to work.  It's 9 miles to work for me.  Not too far.  Fortunately there's a shower in the building.  I figure I save a gallon of gas every time I bike to work and back home.

Some other great ideas for reducing your energy consumption are here.  Even if you think all scientists are involved in some sort of weird global warming conspiracy, you can still benefit from energy conservation.


Chad said...

Being a supplier into the solar market there have been advancements in the tech, but at an enormous enormous costs and they have light years to go. The only reason for the small amount of advancement is due to the Billions, maybe Trillions of dollars flushed down the toliet trying to advance the technology and look at just how tiny the return on investment really is.

There is a field somewhere in Indiana that has 34 truck loads of tubing just sitting there rusting to dust. Yep - a government backed solar company that went belly up - big waste of resources.

If we would have invested dollar for dollar in nuclear/oil/coal and natural gas exploration and technology advancements maybe gas would be $2 and maybe your buddies receiver would only cost $15/yr to keep plugged in.

I like solar especially in smaller applications, but the huge irony to all this is that you have to be really torn. If solar ever did replace oil, coal, nat gas - where will the Progressives/Socialist get their money? Next - how many millions of jobs will be eliminated if solar really replaces those other types of energy? Houses that will not have an electric bill, cars that do not need gas, but I know you'll just tax us for using the sun!!!!

The Progressive movement is entertaining.

Look - it's admirable your looking to save energy and cash (most important), but at the same time you have to be honest where solar is at - it has and continues to to be a huge failure.

Example - attic fans. Plug in $120 - yearly operating costs $42 max. Solar of equal circulation power $440. That means that I will not see a return on my investment for 7.5 years. The best warranty is 3 years - it just makes no sense to spend the extra cash.

Examinator said...

Where I am the govt rebates for solar usually means payback is in less than 5years.
What bemuses me about the whole topic is that the pro capitalist crowd don't get the obvious reality in the energy debate(sic).

By that I mean that if the majority of people (those who can) went solar (alternative energy). It would be a clear case of smaller government involvement in commercial enterprises.
a. Less demand = less need for Tax give-aways to build massive generators.
b. Less case for guaranteed minimum price subsidies etc
c.Less expensive infrastructure ( less line capacities etc).
d.Base load demand would be lower.
e.Industry would pay for it's usage instead of ordinary people subsidising it. (see their business model).
f.Did I mention more jobs
g. then comes the greenie bit about ACC, finite resources, nuke waste et al.
In fact the if the government maintained the grid(infrastructure) and sold access to private industries
Issues like grid maintenance/ upgrade etc. would be cheaper and in the long-term financing province of government financing.

The issue of base load is well over stated, especially given the massive improvements/ sophistication distributive networking of local power sourcing.

The current arguments are being clouded and driven by the big generating corps because they are wanting to prolong as long as possible the 'cash cowing ' stage of their previous inefficient (outdated/obsolete) *extremely high guaranteed profitability, * as long as they can. i.e. Most nuclear reactors are 30-40 years out of date. The myths that big power (including coal) generates are enormous... they benefit them but the citizen or the long term interests of the country …? (NO!).

If the government subsidised the research to alternative sources to half the extent they are subsidising BS 'clean Coal' et al a workable (profitable solution would have been found and implemented years ago. Sadly most of the research/manufacture is out of China and they are now leading the world and dominate the sector. It is in THEIR interests to manipulate /control the market. i.e. what they market is based on THEIR profitability not necessarily the latest or the best/most efficient. The marketing strategy is as old as IBM's once dominance in Computer Technology and predatory pricing.

The flaw in the system is that what is most profitable for a leader in the field is not necessarily the most efficient use of capital for anybody else.

Examinator said...

The flaw in your argument is that it's base on only the USA and too restricted to commercial panels on the roof.

As I understand the problems is the efficiency of the panels...convertible energy.
And secondly the storage of that energy i.e. Battery Technology.
It is often argued by Big energy that Solar can't store enough energy to compensate for higher latitude climes' winters etc
The debate is framed by and loaded towards domination for big energy corps.
In truth reality is as you've said before the answer is in the middle ....There is no one silver bullet... rather a suite of DIFFERENT technologies and as I prophecise... distributive griding.(multiple).
In context of the article Roof solar has it's important place.

Jon said...

This website has a nice plot of the cost of solar energy with time. You can't tell me that's not awesome. You can't tell me it's not very promising. The advertisement I have is from a company that installs your system and it costs you nothing. It's a lease basically. They put it in, lock in an electric rate for you, and you basically pay them rather than the electric company, and you pay less than you otherwise would.

The fossil fuel industry already gets billions in subsidies per year. $41 billion for oil alone every year. What I think you need to do is rather than suggest solar has been subsidized by perhaps trillions of dollars, do a little Google research and try to figure out how much subsidy they've gotten, as I've done.

You're right that if we moved to more renewable people would lose their jobs. That's a problem that is exacerbated by free market capitalism. Remember how I talked about how capitalism needs waste, like wars? You could say the same about the war industry. If we don't attack somebody all those people that make bombs will lose their jobs. I can understand why those people want war and waste. But I'm for a pretty strong safety net. When people aren't faced with the choice of advocating war or starving themselves they are less inclined to want war. Same is true for renewable energy. When you are faced with starvation or the kind of pollution that will probably cause a crazy environmental catastrophe that will probably lead to mass starvation (Michigan's early summer has destroyed our apple and cherry crop, or so I've heard) it's tough to put the brakes on. But if we step away from this type of capitalism (no safety net, no worker control of industry) then we might be able to pursue a different course.

Chad said...

Lots of babble - your for helping the poor, but will ride your bike to save energy/money? You want solar to save the world (false claim anyhow) at the cost of creating more unemployment and poor people. You want to feed the world, but you give and support the power that the EPA/Gov't has to restrict the production of food. You hate capitalism, but require capitalism in order to steal enough money to pay for a voting base within the mob.

Tough place your in there.

What I find funny, you won't buy a new TV because it is excess as you called it, but by you not buying a tv, leaving your receiver plugged in your destroying the very thing you say your fighting for.

I find your philosophy seriously flawed, but expected.

Jon said...

If what you say of me were true I guess I'd find my philosophy flawed as well, but you're not really being fair in your descriptions of what I think.

Chad said...

I apologize then, I was making my observation against previous posts.

Question - what if Global Warming turns out to be false? As much reading and investigating you do - you have to know that the last 10 years have not been good for the Global Warming Position. Although the believers have done a good job threatening and scaring anyone who speaks out within the scientific community the damn is starting to break.

Examinator said...

Gentlemens, ;)
It seems to me you've, both got caught in the myopic-ness of your reasoning. Both of you are arguing a non existent extreme.....(i.e. one or the other)
As are tending towards 'motivated reasoning' ( i.e. Starting with a conclusion and selecting data that adds up to the chosen conclusion.)
In and of it's self the topic of wind turbine power is not will not provide a solution for the USA or anywhere with wide variations of weather or seasonal difference. ( caveat : current or planned technology).

Might I humbly suggest a better way of looking at the topic would be firstly.... what are the realistic options open to the USA or where ever? Then consider the Best mix of all of the above?

In reality we can't stop Oil absolute terms our entire modern civilisation is built on it.... Look around you room, consider all the plastics, petrochemical products that you see....Chances are almost everything has either direct petrochemical constituents or they are used in the manufacture of what isn't. Fact.. the Trendy vehicle the Prius isn't all that environmentally neutral or friendly really. Especially if you consider the mining and processing the rare earth components, manufacture of the vehicle the batteries and running costs including the electricity.
In truth all the vehicle does is shift around perhaps a few smaller deck chairs on the Titanic. What it is is the way to introduce or get the public used to the notion of green technology...What isn't sound reasoning is the notion of stopping all dirty power and instantly starting up Wind

Simply put the fear of massive job losses in one hit is somewhat alarmist (Luddite) …. if you recall their concern was all the jobs would disappear.... they didn't they were progressively replaced with others.

Likewise I remember the panic about computers how computers were going to cause mass unemployment....the result actually made a mockery of that.
End part 1

Examinator said...

Part 2
One of the factor you both seem to be missing is that when I was in early high school the industries I made careers in DIDN'T exist. Whose law is it that says “ computer power/technology is doubling every two years” ? Arguing about mass layoff's and the economic crisis there in is frankly not sustainable in that it assumes that all else will remain the same... frankly history PROVES that's naïve at best.

Have you any idea of how many industries/ people that could earn a living from servicing directly and indirectly green power. Here's a thought My son works in a calibration lab... for the test gear that balances rotors , props, helicopters, jet turbines and recently they got a contract to calibrate the tools for a wind farm... note that doesn't involve the companies that makes the tools or the brave grunts who have to service the beasts. Do you get my point.

The first law of thermodynamics says you can't create or destroy energy etc merely change its form.
Simply put any new technology will mean a plethora of new (currently unimagined jobs). And by definition that mean money earned and spent.

The reality is what will/might change will be which corporations are involved . In base Capitalistic terms the demand for capital and labor can only increase . Why do you thing is the main reason economists with all their skills can't predict the future? They tend to factor based on current technology and demand in all but the specific area they have modelled. It's just not that simple.

Jon said...

Chad take a look at this page, which has a few of the replies to your WSJ opinion piece. Look to the three page point by point rebuttal from Derry. Look in the comments at the credentials of the people that are among the 16 "scientists" that wrote the WSJ piece. Exonn Mobile executives. Meterologists that write for science denial publishing companies. Just ridiculous. What does it say about your position when it must stoop to these levels.

What if I'm wrong? We develop renewable energy, clean up our environment, reduce unemployment overall (though yes it is true that fossil fuel workers would be displaced and need assistance) and reduce the need to go overseas and fight wars under false pretenses. Not such a bad thing.

What if you're wrong? Large destruction for various ecosystems. Probably lots of human misery. Continued rapid extinction of various species. Given those choices, why follow your Republican path?

Of course I know why politicians do. Presently our economic arrangements funnel lots of money into the pockets of certain people who benefit from fossil fuel consumption. War profiteers as well. So I can see why they like it and turn a blind eye to the OVERWHELMING scientific consensus. They are kind of constrained in their business dealings. The CEO must maximize profits. But you don't run a fossil fuel company. I'd suggest the reason you support it is because you have been subject to their propaganda and you are unable to escape. So far. You'll learn eventually if you live long enough, but it may be too late by then.

Examinator said...

assuming for a moment that you're not one of those individuals whose thinking is primarily "Conformational reasoning".
You are then the victim of 'industry specific (read specific Corporations' self interests) propaganda'. No I'm not going to run some uber conspiracy tale! Rather simple reasoning.
Firstly, I'd refer you to my two immediately previous offerings where I pointed out that Technology growth is unidirectional and so is everything else that is seeded by it.... i.e. computers, robotics, mogul phones (cell phones to you) ad nauseum. Let's take the music industry before the 1920 everyone bought sheet music, then they bought cylinders phonographs , 33s radios record players, 78s TV's radiograms , 45s transistors, record players, portable record players, walkman, Colour TV, then CD's etc, etc.... at each phase more people became involved in the products ….natural growth as is fundamental to Capitalism. (The excess capital (available for investment ) increase with each step. It is fact that available capital for investment as a % of GDP is significantly larger than in early 1920 (boom time).)

It's a fair bet that not all the companies that made wax cylinders made it through until today. If they did they
a. Are very different in product and nature today(adapted/evolved) . b. They are a ship load bigger more employees.

Essentially they and some sunrise industries (computers, pharmaceuticals etc) are “able” to adapt with the times and the growth.
Now when you are talking 'sunset' industries like coal fired electricity etc. They rely on mega facilities which cost in the Billions to construct.
Now, imagine you are a CEO of one such corporation you have billions invested in said generator. Given your JOB is to maximise that investment ( read the cash cow).
Then some bright scientist ( a vast majority there of) tell the government and the people that these generators are a world environmental and health issue...

Examinator said...

Part 2
You can't simply change production to green energy ( capture and sequestration, despite the trillions it still doesn't work! Among the problems is the ground gas leakage... limited geological structures that can contain the liquid gas over time. ) what do you do? Trash your corporation's cash cow … loose your job, your career, prestige, power? Well what would you do?
If you are like most people you'd find some way to fight it.
Here they simply look at the way the auto industry held up radials from being taken up in the US for a number of years, later big Tobacco, Chemical companies …....They had their own experts (sic note their actual areas of experience and expertise) in those cases the 'experts' were Nobel laureates in ...Physics.... no relation to the real topic. So they hire guns. Take the key Scientist for heartland is an 87 year old climatologist who hasn't done any research for nearly 30 years and been non practising for 25 . Given “Moore's Law” he's well out of touch.

For perspective sake consider this... when he was practising He was a specialist. Now Climatology is one of 16 different speciality fields none of which existed until perhaps the last 5 years of his career.

BTW there are more than 30 disciplines (complete career paths) of science that contribute to the ACC (AGW to you) not just one or two. The days of the Polymath (C18/19th ) are gone there is simply too much information, research for any one person to be an expert in.

What you don't seem to grasp is that 'contradictory' papers address one question that maybe make a part of one of the 30 discipline. There is no One seminal paper that proves or disproves ACC rather it is the aggregate of ALL of 100's of papers in each of perhaps 40 disciplines … in essence the evidence is overwhelming that ACC exists and that it is a pending much of a catastrophe depends largely on what we do now.
To be brutally blunt to say that the consensus is unravelling is Motivated reasoning propaganda by those who wish to hang onto what they have regardless of anybody else.
One small last point the collapse of the military industries NEED not mean Catastrophe either .
Ponder this suppose the govt spent half the military procurement budget on encouraging other industries or the old ones to change products. The capital would still gravitate to where the biggest profit was.... why does that have to be bombs etc?

Anonymous said...

The problem between the cost of solar installations and all that belongs with its classification is in part to there being NO equilibrium in the non-renewable resources market versus renewable. Its just not balanced, while gas rises and we run out of resources day by day, more and more people are conserving said resources by switching to panels. Problem?

-Sharone Tal
Solar Installer Boston