Professional and Career Topics

Expand all | Collapse all

Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

  • 1.  Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 12-21-2020 09:14 AM

    Several news articles in ASCE's news feeds have caught my eye in the last week on the massive improvements that have been made in the price of solar and price of batteries,  and expectation that prices will continue to fall; and that the technology exists today to decarbonize the grid.  It feels like we could be at the incipient point of change. How can civil engineers contribute? What opportunities do you see? One idea might adaptable infrastructure to accommodate future solar panels and batteries. Articles that I've found interesting follow  below.

    Solar Prices

    https://www.fastcompany.com/90583426/the-price-of-solar-electricity-has-dropped-89-in-10-years?MessageRunDetailID=3904726839&PostID=23038317&utm_medium=email&utm_source=rasa_io

    Battery prices

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-16/electric-cars-closing-in-on-gas-guzzlers-as-battery-costs-plunge

    General

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/10/business/renewable-energy-coal.html?MessageRunDetailID=3709506906&PostID=21832957&utm_medium=email&utm_source=rasa_io

    https://earther.gizmodo.com/we-already-have-the-technology-to-decarbonize-u-s-elec-1845888854?MessageRunDetailID=3936386377&PostID=23240585&utm_medium=email&utm_source=rasa_io



    ------------------------------
    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 12-28-2020 10:16 AM

    Personally I have no problem with alternative energy options as long as they do not raise costs on consumers.



    ------------------------------
    Frank Burns M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Mint Hill NC
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-13-2021 12:59 PM
    Can you please point me to a robust source/report on the consumer-level costs of not shifting to alternative energy options? I'm thinking of things like air pollution impacts on health, the devaluation of waterfront property, the eventual tax burden associated with municipal and state (and even federal) costs for failed infrastructure under the increasing frequency and intensity of weather "events" like hurricane Harvey, etc.? "No increase in cost" for Option A needs to be compared appropriately to the potential increase in cost associated with Option B.

    ------------------------------
    Ari Daniels, P.E., M.ASCE
    Outland, LLC - Owner/Principal
    Center for Watershed Protection, Inc. - Water Resources Engineer
    Monterey, Virginia, USA
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-14-2021 10:10 AM
    I've studied the science of climate change and the science does not support the theory that mankind's emissions are causing climate change. You mentioned rising sea levels and I've seen reports that land subsidence is occurring due to over pumping of groundwater. I've also observed the cyclic nature of climate over time. We have vast coal reserves and we see that we can design coal power plants with minimal pollutants. I note how wildly inaccurate climate computer models are. They consistently overstate climate impacts. Storms are not in fact increasing in intensities.It would be criminal to put too much of our National energy mix to unreliable "green" energy. It would be unfair to our consumers to increase their utility rates for green energy when it's not necessary.

    ------------------------------
    Frank Burns P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Mint Hill NC
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-14-2021 05:45 PM

    Frank, it sounds like your short answer is "no, I can't/won't point you to sources addressing the costs of not shifting to clean/renewable energy sources." Mitch posted about the competitive price and capacity of "alternative" or green energy delivery. I asked you for something addressing cost of inaction. You provided none. I provided some below (particularly numbers 3 and 7).

    Your quotes in italics. My responses below.

    1. > I've studied the science of climate change and the science does not support the theory that mankind's emissions are causing climate change.
    Your assertion is that the overwhelming consensus of climatologists and other related scientists is wrong. I'm not suggesting that you aren't a similarly qualified climate scientist, but if you are, this puts you squarely in the 3%, opposed to the 97% consensus. https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

    2. > You mentioned rising sea levels and I've seen reports that land subsidence is occurring due to over pumping of groundwater.
    Well, this is a contributing factor in certain areas, yes. But it is a single factor, and only in some areas. Take Hampton Roads, Virginia as an example. There are three or four contributing factors to the relative/effective sea level rise. First, the mean sea level is, in fact, rising. Second, groundwater aquifer depletion is causing some land subsidence, as you've read. There are efforts to recharge groundwater aquifers to combat this. Third is post-glacial land subsidence related to isostasy. Basically the ice that weighed down land to our north is melting (see global temperatures rising), and therefore that land is rising and we in Virginia are sinking. Fourth, and perhaps no longer a significant issue, is that the crater that is the Chesapeake Bay caused a heave in surrounding areas, and they subsequently settled. My understanding is this is now insignificant in terms of relative/effective sea level rise.

    3. > ...we see that we can design coal power plants with minimal pollutants...
    My understanding is that the "clean" modifier in "clean coal" is largely referring to NOx and other specific pollutants, having basically nothing to do with greenhouse gases. Also, the reductions in pollutants affecting air quality are highly variable, over-promised and under-delivered, and.. relating to your original point to which I asked for a little comparative substance, costly.

    4. > I note how wildly inaccurate climate computer models are.
    Have you noticed how, despite the ranges provided by models that are based on sufficient, robust, recent data, they all agree in terms of direction? Whether the magnitude is somewhat mild, or somewhat wild, they essentially all agree where we're headed. Also, they're now getting much better, much faster, just like with any other technological advancement scheme we see. You'll note that they are converging on "yes, this is real" as opposed to "oops, we were wrong."

    5. > Storms are not in fact increasing in intensities.
    I'm going to ask you directly for a staunch source on this one. Anything by a reputable institution/professional/authority, with documented and reviewable methods for the study, done within the last decade, and not already completely debunked. I'm open to having my mind changed, but this one's literally in my wheelhouse as a stormwater engineer.

    6. > ...unreliable "green" energy."
    I'm not sure what you mean by "unreliable." If you mean photovoltaic at night or in overcast conditions, or wind turbines when it's not windy, these are factors accounted for in any decent energy installation. If you mean that currently alternative energy can't meet baseload or peak demands, that's exactly why more production and more affordable storage needs to be developed.

    7. > It would be unfair to our consumers to increase their utility rates for green energy when it's not necessary.
    Too many examples to present here, but I'll give three:
    https://earth.stanford.edu/news/how-much-does-air-pollution-cost-us#gs.syeqr9
    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/6-ways-to-prepare-your-finances-for-climate-change-2016-12-20
    https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/cost.pdf

    Cheers



    ------------------------------
    Ari Daniels, P.E., M.ASCE
    Outland, LLC - Owner/Principal
    Center for Watershed Protection, Inc. - Water Resources Engineer
    Monterey, Virginia, USA
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-14-2021 08:35 PM

    Ari,
    It's wise to have a varied energy mix but unwise to eliminate fossil fuel from the mix based on the unproven theory that CO2 emissions causes climate change. 0.04% of the atmosphere does not govern 100% of the climate.  No I'm not a climate scientist but I like to read and study the data for myself. I'm a structural engineer. That 97% number of climate scientists has long been debunked. Most scientists agree climate change is occurring but that happens independent of CO2 emissions.

    I've seen graphs of tornados and hurricanes over time and the storms are not in fact increasing at the present time.

    I suggest you read some scholarly articles by
    Lindzen, Curry and Spencer just to name a few climate scientists offering different viewpoints. Judith Curry has a great blog called Climate Etc.

    Regarding sea level rise 4mm/year is not alarming.

    I believe that climate models are poor predictors of climate because of a poor understanding of the natural processes.

    Coal power plants remove pollutants such as NOx, SOx and particulates, so they are clean forms of energy. Gas turbines should be considered clean energy as well.

    Should we mention the problems of wind and solar energy? I don't know about you but it is not appealing to have so much land in solar farms. Wind energy is killing birds and output is low considering the energy it takes to make them and to maintain them.



    ------------------------------
    Frank Burns P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Mint Hill NC
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-15-2021 10:05 AM
    I think the proverbial train has left the station for the replacement of fossil fuels with renewables. For example, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), developers and power plant owners plan for 39.7 gigawatts (GW) of new electricity generating capacity to start commercial operation in 2021. Solar will account for the largest share of new capacity at 39%, followed by wind at 31%. This doesn't mean the discussion is over, but it's a strong statement as to what the public wants and what the investment community is willing to fund. Meanwhile, I think fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in the world's energy supply for the foreseeable future as the world transitions, but it's unlikely we'll see the level of investments of year's past.

    Ari, to your question of impacts, you might search on agencies and organizations including EPA, IPCC, and National Academy of Science / Engineering.

    ------------------------------
    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-15-2021 06:38 PM
    Most consumers don't care how green their energy appears. Cost and reliability are the primary focuses as it should be.

    ------------------------------
    Frank Burns P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Mint Hill NC
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-18-2021 09:59 PM
    Mitchell,
    Reliability of renewables is a problem. The public may want to turn that train around considering the poor performance of renewables in Texas during the cold weather. Power blackouts are indicators of a failed system. Coal power is very reliable, that's what I want! I don't want the power costs that we see in Germany here in this country.

    ------------------------------
    Frank Burns P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Mint Hill NC
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-19-2021 08:38 AM
    Frank,

    I fully expect there to be thorough investigation into the factors, including technical, regulatory, policy, that led to the massive power outage that took place in Texas this past week. However, it's a well known fact that the biggest failure was from the thermally generated power sources including gas, coal, and nuclear. It was a combination of disruption to the gas supply and lack of adequate winterization that caused these units to trip or to be unavailable when called upon. I can point you to multiple references but here's a link to a piece that ran in the WSJ - not necessarily a fan of renewables.

    Yes, I believe that renewables are the future and that they can be cost competitive and help the world decarbonize. I also believe - as indicated in my post - that fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in the world's energy supply for the foreseeable future as the world transitions. I agree with the WSJ article. it's not a case of OR but AND. We need to be looking at the system holistically. Incentives for renewables must be balanced with incentives for thermal units to maintain readiness.

    On a personal note, I live in Houston and got to experience the winter storm and ensuing power outage first hand. We went 39 hours without power starting Monday night, got it restored Wednesday morning, and then had another 4 hour outage Wednesday night. We were uncomfortable but did okay. Unfortunately, there have been multiple fatalities and injuries attributed to the outage and consequential damage from burst pipes resulting from loss of power. This experience has not changed my mind regarding renewables but has highlighted the need for informed discussion and dialog.

    Mitch

    ------------------------------
    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-19-2021 05:28 PM
    Certainly there are other factors but frozen wind turbines does not help the grid. I don't know if you've ever run the calculations for wind turbines but their power output is meager.

    I certainly would not want to live anywhere close to them. Just the hum would be unnerving and the risk of a blade coming off is not comforting. They are difficult to access for maintenance such as bearing replacements.

    I prefer to have a few coal and gas turbines in the mix for base load reliability. I'm not concerned with CO2 emissions.

    ------------------------------
    Frank Burns P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Mint Hill NC
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-15-2021 09:40 PM

    Mitch, thanks for weighing back in. And you're right about the train leaving the station, though my favorite variation on this adage is "that train has sailed."

    As far as impacts, I'm somewhat familiar with order-of-magnitude levels, especially in terms of comparisons. I was primarily asking Frank for this because it was germane to his argument, and I openly invite intellectually honest debate. The EPA, IPCC, and NAS/E are all valid sources in my (and many, many others') opinion, but Frank seems actively disinterested in these. A very quick search of "[agency] cost climate change" gives a lot of substantive material concluding defensibly that the costs of not shifting to green energy are high, and there are lots of analyses about how those costs compare to the costs of shifting. Summary: it's cheaper to switch to green energy, even if/though the immediate cost is higher.

    Chad, good points about another factor in the analysis - boundaries/scale. I also really enjoyed my electric lawnmower and trimmer, when I had a sufficiently small yard that it didn't require multiple sets batteries and charging cycles to get through a mow. And certainly individually these green energy sources make sense in certain areas and not others. Solar is great in the Southwest, but not as much in the Northwest, and wind is great in certain areas, not others.

    Frank, Mitch's original post was about tipping point in costs. You made a subtle/indirect suggestion that cost to consumers might be higher with alternative energy, and I (thinking I identified some subtext which I now see was there/correct) asked for some substance to weigh alongside what Mitch provided. You shifted to "the science doesn't support [the idea that CO2 causes climate change]", which I feel I substantially addressed, even though these days that should be unnecessary. I give people the benefit of the doubt when possible.

    I grant you that there is now a certain bias to fall in line with the consensus, as there is in any arena. However, when you drill down to the actual scientific and debate substance, you'll find that the consensus is the side with solid and verifiable foundation. I'll offer that I know a licensed professional structural engineer (seems like he would be an authority on this subject) who believed (perhaps believes) and publicly professed that the earth is flat. Seriously. The consensus on this subject is not merely sociopolitical.

    In response to your last comment to me (qualifier: I don't actually expect you'll follow and read these links):

    ...unwise to eliminate fossil fuel from the mix...

    I didn't say we should eliminate fossil fuels, nor did Mitch. This isn't fair debate. But for the record, I think we should entirely stop investing in new fossil fuel sources and infrastructure, but mostly we should stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies.

    ...unproven theory that CO2 emissions causes climate change.
    Actually, it is as close to proven as any science is, and I provided a source previously. If you think the U.S. government is a biased source on this matter, see the U.S. energy policy of recent past (drill / frack / mine, pump, burn).

    0.04% of the atmosphere does not govern 100% of the climate.
    Of course it doesn't and I didn't say it does. Again, not fair debate. Also, CO2 is at 410 ppm in the atmosphere. Cyanide in a human's bloodstream at 3 ppm will kill, and blood is only 7-8% of the human body.

    That 97% number of climate scientists has long been debunked
    Point me to the real number, or the debunking of it (if it's a significant difference). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_consensus_on_climate_change

    Most scientists agree climate change is occurring but that happens independent of CO2 emissions.
    This is false. You're also indirectly suggesting that EPA, IPCC, NAS, etc. are all finding and using the outliers/minority.

    I've seen graphs of tornados and hurricanes over time and the storms are not in fact increasing at the present time.
    I'll grant you half-truth on this one, though half-truth is a logical and debate fallacy. Tornadoes aren't even "on my radar" because they are short-lived, localized, and must be observed. Hurricanes on the other hand are tracked, and while we have observed solid increases here since the 1980s, a legitimate criticism of this is that we are working on a limited time scale. GFDL/NOAA (This could arguably substantiate your position on this specific point.) The problem with "limited time scale" as a response to good climate science is that by the time we have sufficiently long records to satisfy that single argument, it will be far too late to have changed course. This is an incredibly inertial system, and simply because you'll be dead long before the "I told you so" moment doesn't mean you should obstruct well-founded work. And lastly, hurricanes are but one tiny piece of a much larger picture.

    Lindzen, Curry and Spencer...
    Lindzen and Curry made some perhaps-legitimate points about keeping politics out of science, but none of those three (or a handful of others as well) offer current science that withstands scrutiny. Most of those arguments were made over a decade ago anyway, in a narrow time range when the pro-fossil efforts were at a fever pitch, primarily being propagandized likely because the economic viability was obviously beginning to fail. The "uncertainty means inaccuracy" argument is substantially different than "uncertainty means invalidity." By the way, Spencer argues there is as much scientific basis for Intelligent Design as there is for evolution.

    Regarding sea level rise 4mm/year is not alarming.
    Not to you, but obviously it is to the people who understand the significance of this, and how this is changing (accelerating) and is likely to continue changing over time. The interconnected nature of this seemingly small number with other climate drivers and impacts is quite significant.

    I believe that climate models are poor predictors of climate because of a poor understanding of the natural processes.
    As mentioned, they are getting better, faster, and more congruent. Any sources for robust criticism? Once again, the "uncertainty means inaccuracy" argument is different than "uncertainty means invalidity," and even "uncertainty means inaccuracy" is itself inaccurate. I realize you didn't make that argument directly, but your references do.

    Coal power plants remove pollutants such as NOX, SOX and particulates, so they are clean forms of energy. Gas turbines should be considered clean energy as well.
    I presented you with a source showing that even "clean coal" wasn't clean. Here's another. Note that the steep drop off in emissions is partly the result of the 40% reduction in coal-fired power generation since 2007. At best, coal plants remove *some* NOX/SOX. Gas turbines are cleanER, but again, how "clean" something is doesn't address the CO2-eq.

    Should we mention the problems of wind and solar energy? I don't know about you but it is not appealing to have so much land in solar farms.
    By all means, offer up the problems of wind and solar. However, "it is not appealing" doesn't qualify as a quantitative metric, and I do my best to keep personal feelings out of discussions like this. See link below from Pew Research suggesting the overwhelming majority of Americans surveyed support solar farms.

    Wind energy is killing birds...

    Yup, killing birds. So is oil. Here are two studies comparing numbers/rates, normalized:
    0.3-0.4 birds/GWh wind vs. 5.2 birds/GWh for fossil fuels
    0.27 birds/GWh wind vs. 9.4 birds/GWh for fossil fuels

    ...and output is low considering the energy it takes to make them and to maintain them.
    Isn't this all part of the initial cost-benefit analysis? No one is building wind turbines because it's fun.
    NREL life cycle assessment of wind (vs coal just for good measure)

    --
    And since I see you responded to a more recent comment than the one I'm directly responding to above, here's that one, too:
    Most consumers don't care how green their energy appears. Cost and reliability are the primary focuses as it should be.
    Pew Research on that - summary is that most people support renewables.
    Consumer Reports on that - same, most people surveyed do care.
    The fact that electric utility companies offer and sell carbon offsets suggests that some, though perhaps not most, are even willing to pay more for cleaner energy.

    Take care.



    ------------------------------
    Ari Daniels, P.E., M.ASCE
    Outland, LLC - Owner/Principal
    Center for Watershed Protection, Inc. - Water Resources Engineer
    Monterey, Virginia, USA
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-16-2021 07:00 PM

    Ari,

    Germany is often looked at as the model country in converting to "green energy".  Yet their energy costs have skyrocketed and their reliability of energy supply has plummeted, undermining your position.
    Renewables Threaten German Economy & Energy Supply, McKinsey Warns In New Report

    Forbes

    remove preview

    Renewables Threaten German Economy & Energy Supply, McKinsey Warns In New Report

    A new report by consulting giant McKinsey finds that Germany's Energiewende, or energy transition to renewables, poses a significant threat to the nation's economy and energy supply. One of Germany's largest newspapers, Die Welt, summarized the findings of the McKinsey report in a single word: "disastrous."

    View this on Forbes >


    When you say that train left the station, it doesn't mean we can't turn it around and repeat the same mistakes made in Germany.

    The 97% survey has been debunked as flawed because the survey hand picked 77 scientists. We have all seen flawed polls.

    Fortunately Galileo didn't pay attention to polls.

    I have problems with NOAA and their ground temperature measurements and their claims of this year or that year being the hottest of record. When you look at their claims you discover that their claim of temperature increase is outside of measurement accuracy of their gauges! Not only that, I've learned  that they adjust the temperature data that makes it warmer! I can't understand any reason for adjusting temperature data. Most of the higher temperature readings taken in cities are the result of the heat island effect of all of the hard structures absorbing heat.

    For me the evidence is not convincing.


    ------------------------------
    Frank Burns P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Mint Hill NC
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-19-2021 02:07 PM
    Frank, I'm out after this response. I take time to find sources and factual information to present to you, and you neither take the time to check my sources (or you willfully ignore them), nor provide any of your own, with the exception of the Germany limited case scenario. My initial response to the Germany comment took long enough I see you weighed in on Texas’s power generation/distribution woes with another ‘stacking the deck’ argument and no source to support your claim. No, wind power isn’t primarily the blame-holder (1, 2, 3, 4), and in fact, it’s largely natural gas, even coal, political to a large extent (1, 2 from Fox News, 3 from Fox News), and to a small degree, wind (EIA on Texas’ power generation sources – 1/5 is renewables). In fact, you blaming renewables for Texas outages is the flipside of your own argument about 0.04% of the atmosphere driving 100% of the climate.
    Fox News is eerily quiet about the causes of this crisis (Google search for “Fox News Texas power”) now that their original claims have been debunked. They don’t retract, they move on to the next argument in a tactic/style called the Gish Gallop. But as I said, I’m out, and will not be reading any more of your responses in this thread. This response is for anyone else out there who’s interested in the sources and the facts.




    Regarding the Forbes article on McKinsey's report of Germany's energy woes:
    1. Thank you for providing a source. I read it and appreciate the data point.
    2. This is Germany, and to a degree the immediate neighboring countries, Netherlands and Belgium.
    1. The US generates less than 9% of its total power from wind and solar, and only about half (15.8%) of Germany's total including hydropower.
    2. Mitch's sources addressed the cost, here in the U.S.
    3. There is no reason to assume that Germany and the EU won't be able to correct for this. This article and report amount to "they screwed up." If any time someone screwed up, no one else ever tried something similar again, there would be no civilization. Europe has aimed to quickly transition. Quick is clearly not the U.S. modus operandi.

    When you say that train left the station, it doesn't mean we can't turn it around and repeat the same mistakes made in Germany.
    This is what’s called a false dichotomy. We don’t need to turn around OR make the same mistakes as Germany. I agree that Germany’s issues are a lesson, part of good scientific and engineering process.

    The 97% survey has been debunked as flawed because the survey hand picked 77 scientists.
    Here's a study of 11,944 abstracts, covering at least as many individual scientists. Again, you're suggesting that all the major organizations (IPCC, NOAA, EPA, NAS) are using extreme outliers, and as such it's an assertion on the level of conspiracy theory.

    Fortunately Galileo didn't pay attention to polls.
    Indeed. But at this moment, your analogy is sort of backwards. One should not looks back at Galileo's work and says, "nah, the earth IS the center of the universe despite..."

    I have problems with NOAA...
    One widely circulated and cited source challenging NOAA data can be found here. Again, narrow and outdated window of time (2009), looking at a narrow dataset with narrow methods, published by the Heartland Institute (far from unbiased), thoroughly debunked over a decade ago (1 is a peer-reviewed journal article in PDF from scientists at the National Climate Data Center, 2 is from a site called SkepticalScience which aggregates sources addressing arguments like yours, 3 is the FAQ from Berkeley Earth).

    For me the evidence is not convincing.
    I suspect we'd be able to discuss the nuances of the complex problem and solution if we both relied on staunch, factual material and good faith debate tactics. For example, you might be surprised to learn that I'm opposed to uranium and plutonium as fuels and poor safety mechanisms in the now-defunct technologies we have been using, but I think that nuclear power is an important part of achieving CO2-eq targets and a stable climate and power grids in much of the world. But I find your foundational stance of "CO2 doesn't cause climate change" to be an untenable launch point for that discourse.

    Closing recommendation: seek robust, unbiased or minimally-biased and less editorialized news sources. This is a great source for analysis/assessment of such, and you’ll note that I never offer up Huffington Post, and rarely even MSNBC/CNN for my arguments. Look to AP News (Associated Press is a non-profit association) for solid reporting, Reuters, NPR, ABC, BBC, and a few others.

    Be well.


    ------------------------------
    Ari Daniels, P.E., M.ASCE
    Outland, LLC - Owner/Principal
    Center for Watershed Protection, Inc. - Water Resources Engineer
    Monterey, Virginia, USA
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 12-29-2020 09:07 AM

    There are a lot of great advancements in both solar and battery technology. There have been new developments in making windows into solar panels to generate energy. For large buildings, like skyscrapers, this can help make the building more sustainable. Here is an article on the subject:

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200817150449.htm

    Using more sustainable energy sources, like solar, means as a society, we will be less dependent on fossil fuels, which is a good thing. But currently, the nation still maintains an entire infrastructure system for our fossil fuels. We have millions of gas stations, thousands of oil and gas refineries, and millions of miles of pipes to transport oil and gas throughout the country. As we transition to more sustainable resources, there will be an increased demand on our other energy supply system: electricity. At first, the more people not using oil and gas, will most likely be using more electricity in its place. Can our current electric grid handle this increased demand?

    While the focus on "greener" infrastructure has been on renewable and more sustainable resources to generate electricity, there also needs to be a focus on improving and maintaining our electric grid. Ideally, the money we are currently sending on maintaining our oil and gas infrastructure could be used to improve our electric grid, but that seems unlikely to me.



    ------------------------------
    Doug Cantrell P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Durham NC
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-15-2021 11:08 AM
    The tipping point is local.  In publishing the RI Infrastructure Report Card, our conclusion is that high electric rates and local resources (coastline) bring us to a tipping point for shifting to green energy.

    https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/RI-InfrastructureReportCard-2020.pdf

    Based on my own (admittedly narrow) research I found no discernible trend relating to an increased frequency of severe weather events which result in Major Event Days that cause interruption of electrical service.

    Taking Industry-By-Industry criteria, the tipping point is also local.
    My lawn mower is battery powered and I love it!
    With the Super Bowl ad campaign, it looks like GM is heading full speed towards an electric future.
    Dreams of electric big rigs seem to be a ways off as Nikola tries struggles to prove itself to be a legit developer of the technology.
    Will we ever see electric passenger aircraft?  Weight and energy storage remain major obstacles.

    ------------------------------
    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-22-2021 09:21 AM
    Something to consider see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqppRC37OgI

    ------------------------------
    Thomas Halmi P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Facilities Engineer
    Steelcase
    Rockford MI
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-22-2021 10:49 AM

    Thomas, I gave you (and PragerU) the benefit of the doubt and watched this video despite having previously established an unfavorable opinion of PragerU. Something else to consider, and for anyone unfamiliar, here's the intro to the Wikipedia page on PragerU, with bold as my own emphasis:

    PragerU, short for Prager University, is an American 501(c)(3) non-profit media company that creates videos on various political, economic, and philosophical topics from an American conservative perspective.[2] The organization was co-founded by Allen Estrin and talk show host and writer Dennis Prager in 2009.[2][3][4][5] The organization relies on tax-deductible donations, and much of its early funding came from fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks.[2][5]

    Despite the name, PragerU is not an academic institution and does not hold classes, grant certifications or diplomas, and is not accredited by any recognized body.[5][6]

    If your assertion that this video is worth considering, I request that you find one or two staunch sources offering a life cycle assessment comparing different energy sources. Throwing numbers around without the greater context and life cycle system boundaries is borderline meaningless. I have neither the time nor desire to break this video down to its pieces, given the rate at which Mark Mills throws context-free numbers around.

    Anyone reading this: please, please, do your best to find sources worthy of an engineer's/scientists time and attention. This forum is for substantive discussion, and therefore warrants substantive source material.

    The image below is a screen capture of the top 5-minute videos from PragerU's website. This is not the picture of an authority on science and engineering.



    ------------------------------
    Ari Daniels, P.E., M.ASCE
    Outland, LLC - Owner/Principal
    Center for Watershed Protection, Inc. - Water Resources Engineer
    Monterey, Virginia, USA
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-24-2021 11:27 AM
    Thomas,

    Forwarded is a good peer reviewed paper on the negative impact of green energy.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0040162520304157

    ------------------------------
    Frank Burns P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Mint Hill NC
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-25-2021 01:41 PM
    Frank, despite the fact that I said I was out, I saw the words "peer reviewed" and the string "sciencedirect" in the ink you provided, and decided to take a look. While the article is way too long for me to take a deep dive, I just wanted to say thank you. This article starts into analysis of detail and provides fodder for discussion about nuance, quantities, analysis methods, etc. However, to address the subject you steered us toward and away from Mitch's 'tipping point' cost-benefit:

    Paragraph 1, line 1: "Climate change is real and its impacts are mostly negative, but common portrayals of devastation are unfounded."
    Paragraph 3, line 1: "Arguments for devastation typically ignore adaptation, which will reduce vulnerability dramatically."

    After a brief skim of the nearly 100 screen-pages worth of material (simply more time than I have to go through it all), I did find a lot of what I would describe as middle ground. That "middle" however is between "no compelling evidence that climate change has anthropogenic drivers" and "green energy is cheap, perfectly clean, and a panacea leading to utopian bliss seen only in movies." I'd like to just emphasize that I never once took the latter position.

    Anyway, thanks again for providing a defensible source and basis for discussion about comparative cost-benefit analysis.

    ------------------------------
    Ari Daniels, P.E., M.ASCE
    Outland, LLC - Owner/Principal
    Center for Watershed Protection, Inc. - Water Resources Engineer
    Monterey, Virginia, USA
    ------------------------------



  • 21.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-24-2021 11:29 AM
    Instead of attacking a source, how about researching your own sources and provide a rebuttal?  PragerU was to generate thought regarding the original question, "are we at the tipping point?"  I believe we are far from it.  PragerU is a succinct video to explain why and prod others into thinking more about the merits of "renewables."  PragerU relies on knowledgeable people on diverse topics. The speaker in the video, Mark P. Mills, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, where he co-directs an Institute on Manufacturing Science and Innovation. The consensus that you cite can and should be challenged in the same ways. Here are some additional sources that support the PragerU position that you may find more credible.

    Let's look at water resources:
    Consider the water resources used for photo cell production: Photovoltaic manufacturers use a lot of it for various purposes, including cooling, chemical processing, and air-pollution control. The biggest water waster, though, is cleaning during installation and use. Utility-scale projects in the 230- to 550-megawatt range can require up to 1.5 billion liters of water for dust control during construction and another 26 million liters annually for panel washing during operation.

    Then there are the heavy metals used in solar cells.  I  am sure that the cadmium that we will generate with exhausted solar cells will provide for a wonderful leachate from landfills.


    Some other sources to consider from IEEE:
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/solar/solar-energy-isnt-always-as-green-as-you-think

    Solar:

    * In 2009, Jeffrey Punton of Rochester, N.Y. installed 20 solar panels at his home for a cost of $42,480. The federal government and state of New York paid for $29,504 or 69% of these costs.[958] Per a 2012 report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: The market for PV in the United States is, to a significant extent, driven by national, state, and local government incentives, including up-front cash rebates, production-based incentives, renewables portfolio standards, and federal and state tax benefits.[959]

    * Power capacity (a commonly cited statistic for solar energy installations)[960] is the amount of electricity that solar systems produce when operating at full capacity, which occurs when the sun is directly overhead, the solar panels are perpendicular to the sunlight, the sky is clear, and temperatures are low. It is not a measure of actual production.[961] [962] [963] In the U.S. during 2008–2018, actual production from utility-scale solar systems was 19% of their power capacity.[964]

    * With the exception of pumped hydropower, current technology cannot economically store large quantities of electricity. Thus, utilities must produce enough electricity to meet their customers' demands on a second-by-second basis.[965] [966] [967] [968] [969] [970] [971]

    * Because solar power is intermittent, and utility-scale electricity cannot be easily stored, most solar power capacity must be backed-up by other energy sources that can generate electricity on demand, such as natural gas power plants.[972] [973] [974] [975] [976]

    * As the amount of solar capacity rises in a given region, so do the costs of backing up its intermittent energy output.[977] [978]

    Wind:

    * Ideally, commercial wind turbines should be located:

    • where average wind speeds are at least 13 miles per hour.
    • within short distances of electrical power grids.
    • far enough away from humans to avoid noise pollution.
    • in places with limited bird traffic.[903] [904] [905] [906] [907]

    * Wind speeds fluctuate on an hourly, daily, monthly, and seasonal basis. In wind-rich areas, winds are sometimes not strong enough to drive turbines for days at a time.[908] [909] [910] Per the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA):

    Even at the best sites, there are times when the wind does not blow sufficiently and no electricity is generated.[911]
    Wind generators are subject to abrupt changes in wind speed, and their power output is characterized by steep ramps up or down.[912]

    * Power capacity (a commonly cited statistic for wind energy installations)[913] is the amount of electricity that wind turbines produce when operating at full capacity, which occurs when wind conditions are optimal. It is not a measure of actual production.[914] [915] In the U.S. during 2008–2018, actual production from wind turbines was 31% of their power capacity.[916]

    * With the exception of pumped hydropower, current technology cannot economically store large quantities of electricity. Thus, utilities must produce enough electricity to meet their customers' demands on a second-by-second basis.[917] [918] [919] [920] [921] [922] [923]

    * Because wind power is intermittent, and utility-scale electricity cannot be easily stored, most wind power capacity must be backed up by other energy sources that can generate electricity on demand, such as natural gas power plants.[924] [925] [926] [927] [928] [929] Per EIA:

    Often, wind generation does not coincide with the demand for electric power; wind resources are generally more prevalent overnight, when demand for electric power is at a minimum. In most areas, summer peak demand for electricity coincides with hot afternoons when consumers have turned up their air conditioners-but in many areas, such times are calm and wind resources may be quite low.[930] [931]
    Expense to decommission wind power: https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/wind/the-cost-of-decommissioning-wind-turbines-is-huge/

    See also:
    https://www.heritage.org/energy-economics/commentary/hidden-costs-energy-mandates#:~:text=This%20imposes%20a%20hidden%20cost,solar%20and%20%2424%20for%20wind.

    https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/IER_LCOE2019Final-.pdf


    ------------------------------
    Thomas Halmi P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Facilities Engineer
    Steelcase
    Rockford MI
    ------------------------------



  • 22.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-24-2021 08:42 PM
    Thomas, Excellent summary. Certainly as engineers we are supposed to be rooted in facts not swayed by trends. It would be wise for us to recognize the limitations of green energy.

    ------------------------------
    Frank Burns P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Mint Hill NC
    ------------------------------



  • 23.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-25-2021 05:12 PM
    Thomas, thank you. As Mitch has already stated, a lot of this addresses impacts associated with renewables. This is valid, important information to consider. It's also an engineering problem that is being worked on, and continues to be improved upon. From the IEEE post you linked first, "The good news is that the industry could readily eliminate many of the damaging side effects that do exist."

    I spent a little time going through the sources you provided. Many of the problems highlighted are solvable to some degree, and all land in the "let's talk about it," rather than "let's dismiss this completely and forever right now." The Just Facts website is pretty good about documenting sources for claims. I appreciate this. This page is similarly way too thick to get into deeply. Just Facts states explicitly that they are not in the business of providing balance. One inherent issue with sources/info banks like this is that if one consumes info (even hard facts with context) from only one side of an analysis, it will often paint a picture that an issue is binary and decided. But it's mostly a social issue, and not the fault of the source. I’m pleased to see them state this so plainly – “Our goal is comprehensive accuracy, not balance.

    I acknowledge, happily, that there are costs, impacts, pitfalls, problems, and even a lot of scheisty players in the renewable energy and environmental restoration/conservation games. What I originally sought was some 'steel man' debate acknowledging the real costs of fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and use, before the scope creep (of the conversation) set in. While I still don’t see that, at least we’re now in the details rather than basic truths.

    Thanks again.

    P.S. Heritage Foundation and Institute for Energy Research are by design far too biased for me, for the reason I stated above about purely one-sided pictures.



    ------------------------------
    Ari Daniels, P.E., M.ASCE
    Outland, LLC - Owner/Principal
    Center for Watershed Protection, Inc. - Water Resources Engineer
    Monterey, Virginia, USA
    ------------------------------



  • 24.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-22-2021 11:55 AM
    Thomas,
    Thank you for that presentation. I agree that we need to become realistic with the pie in the sky projections of wind and solar. The future for energy reliability does not exist with wind and solar. Gas turbines, coal and nuclear are more sensible forms of reliable energy.

    ------------------------------
    Frank Burns P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Mint Hill NC
    ------------------------------



  • 25.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-24-2021 04:10 PM

    Thomas,  in addition to further highlighting the reliability challenge you've raised an important point about renewables: the fact that they are not free of social or environmental impact. This became vivid to me about 10 years when I was at an energy conference as a prestigious research institute and heard a presentation on the issues associated with the extraction of rare earth metals. The issues ranged from health, safety, humanitarian to environmental.  Working in the oil and gas industry it was painfully apparent while we were 'wearing these issues on our sleeve" the renewable industry was getting a free ride so to speak.  

    Clearly there are issues with renewables and the energy transition will not be easy or without debate. However, I see engineering is the art of possible. The very issues and obstacles highlighted in this discussion provide the feedstock for smart and clever engineers to apply their problem solving skills. This could be finding ways to reduce costs, improve reliability and implement scientific breakthroughs that help to mitigate or eliminate reliance issues with today's crop of renewable technologies. In a way, this a natural progression of technical innovation and evolution that we have seen across time. In that regard, I think it's an exciting time to be an engineer given the changes afoot and opportunities in front of us.  



    ------------------------------
    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
    ------------------------------



  • 26.  RE: Are we approaching the tipping point for large scale electrification from renewables?

    Posted 02-26-2021 02:42 PM

    Time and again I am drawn to two words: Relativity and Entanglement.

    Relativity. The fast-moving observer vs the slow-moving observer; the fast-thinker vs slow-thinker; the up-close view vs the far-off view; and so on. To each of these different perspectives of perception, the object of interest (in this case, the issue and role of renewables) says: I am what I am. You are making fact out of fiction and fiction out of fact. Become one by being steady and calm – then you'll see what I am really. The contribution of renewables to electrification is a budding and sprawling endeavor – and thank goodness, a promising one.

    Entanglement. That in the end we are all interconnected – actions to consequences; wave crest to trough transporting energy, etc. There was a time when engineering was all about build-build; and change-change. Then came the concept of restoration engineering – that gave birth to the discipline of Environmental Science and Engineering.

    The use of fossil fuels during the industrial revolution changed everything – there was no time for, and no awareness about consequences – because electricity lighting the dark night brightly was a miracle. But imagine a curious young wanted to smell the thick smoke coming out of the chimney – the elder said: don't even think about it, it's poison. Net addition to the Sun-Earth energy balance started to show its effects. Earth's systems of fluid, solid and life carried the burden of consequences – no complains, but then their quality and livelihood started degrading. As one of the selfish creatures, we didn't care – until it started to affect us. Because in the end, we are all entangled in one way or another. The cares are coming in the form of technological innovations – alternatives to fossil fuel us. Do they have consequences – of course they do – because all actions are entangled to consequences.

    Interesting and thought-proving discussions on this topic – the Elsevier Journal papers on Technological Forecasting & Social Change are an eye-opener. None of the cited papers have NAP documents on their reference list (see NAP 12619; NAP 21712). These excellent documents discuss economics and environmental impacts of different renewables.

    -----

    Dilip

    Website

    ORCID ID

    Google Scholar



    ------------------------------
    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    https://widecanvas.weebly.com
    ------------------------------