Renewable energy. So are ye fer it or agin it?

Some of you are too young to remember the “wisdom” of the “Old Settler,” by Ed Mott (origin and nature of the American slang in the title’s question). It was classical American humor. The Old Settler would probably be pilloried by the Progressive /Statist/Altruists of today and certainly would be lambasted by the “safe-spacers.”

But, as usual, I digress. Today I want to return to renewable energy and government. Would any rational person be opposed to renewable energy and demand only energy sources that ultimately will disappear? Of course not! The progressive/statist/altruists wrongly accuse those that favor limited government in this arena as being “against renewable energy.” In the debate about renewable energy and government, the debate centers on the word “government,” not “renewable energy.”

The argument of the left is that without “government investment” (i.e., unless government taxes and spends your money so much more wisely than you would, yourself) we would never have “renewable” energy. Indeed, they would argue that without “government investment” civilization could not possibly advance. We would still be throwing stones at one another and there would be no wheel.

Somehow, Henry Ford managed to build the largest car company of his day, bring innovation to millions, and raise the standard of living of tens of thousands of Americans without the help of the federal government. America managed to make it all the way to 1900 before the US government began involving itself in such matters. How, in God’s name, did we manage it?

Nor am I saying that government investments are always foolhardy. Investment in technologies that advance the safety, longevity, and security of Americans are appropriate areas for government involvement.

The preamble was long, but now we return to “renewable energy.” I do not believe this is an appropriate area for government “investment.”

[Source: Renewables Offer No Bang for Your Megawatt, by Preston Cooper]

The source should more aptly have been entitled “Renewables Offer No Bang for Your MegaBuck.” The Solyndra et. al. debacle will go down in American history as one of the major areas of maladroit, bumbling, incompetent and monumentally misdirected adventures in government “investment.”

The following is a bit technical but shows that the left uses statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post, more for support than illumination. [From the Cooper article] Advocates of renewable energy are touting a new statistic that 70 percent of new electricity generation capacity in the first half of 2015 was renewable. That 70 percent refers to how much energy power plants could produce if they were running at full power all the time, a metric called installed capacity. It does not mean that 70 percent of new energy generated in the first half of 2015 came from renewables.

While fossil fuels have maintained roughly the same capacity factor over the last few decades and nuclear power plants have gotten far more efficient, non-hydroelectric renewables have slipped since 1980. Large amounts of new renewable capacity do not always translate into large amounts of new power generation. Capacity factor measures the ratio of the energy a power plant actually produces to how much it could produce if it were running at maximum power all the time. A higher factor indicates that a source of electricity is more likely to reach its full potential. (This last sentence is the operative

  • Coal-fired power plants reach a capacity factor of 61 percent.
  • Natural gas combined-cycle plants hover around 48 percent.
  • Nuclear power plants reach a capacity factor of 92 percent.
  • Renewables most inefficient: hydroelectric (38 percent), wind (34 percent) and solar photovoltaic (28 percent). The one exception is geothermal, at 69 percent.

Federal policies have encouraged new renewable capacity, however renewables have a low capacity factor because their power sources are dependent on the elements — the sun does not always shine, and the wind does not always blow… Renewable energy generation depends on more factors than other energy sources, making it more unreliable.

Roy Filly



About Roy Filly

Please read my first blog in which I describe myself and my goals.
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