Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Excellent Article:

The Treasury and the cost of solar in the UK

"If you put solar farms just on the land currently planted with biofuels (around 1.1m acres) then you could generate 190 TWh pa and displace no food production."

Note that annual demand for electricity in the UK is ~350 TWh. This means you could produce half of the UK's annual electricity demand from the land currently dedicated to biofuels. Oh the humanity.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like:

Biofuel crops: food security must come first
EP Vote on ILUC Proposal, the (Long) road to Sustainable Biofuels



Friday, December 20, 2013

Mac Bandy

Got this new cat two days ago. She was born in August 2012. Led to naming her Augustine which
we've shortened to Auggie. Leelu and Auggie aren't getting along quite yet. Leelu has been a gracious hostess so far. Auggies basically like...  just like: I got no tricks bitch. I Purr... That's my shtick. Ain't got no pretty princess fur like you. Look at this shit. If my color was a crayon kids wouldn't use it. Whateva... I'm not cute. But I use my legs... and I use my style... and I use my sexy.... and I use my fingers and I use my... my... my ... imagination. Bitches... I'm happy to be here. Merry Christmas. I'm totally down for fucking that tree up. Leelu... Yeah.. I know... That tree needs to be fucked big time. I'm pretty sure we'll have a window tomorrow. Auggie... Cool... we'll do that then.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Highway to the Danger Zone

I don't understand why people are so goddamned thick headed when it comes to using biomass as an industrial fuel. We should all be able to agree that biomass should play a limited role in fueling us. Some wood pellets here. Some recycled oil there.

Our fuel should come from the sun more directly. We should do what works. Electrify trains and power them with wind/solar/hydro. Hybridize vehicles and work on increasing the percentage of miles traveled with electricity. Remove heating fuels by replacing them with heat pumps, electric stoves and better insulation. These paths work... Jatropra oil? Not so much. Algae? Give me a fucking break.

The average solar panel sold today converts about 15% of the sunshine it sees into electricity. Biomass on the other hand is less than 1% efficient at converting sunshine into chemical energy. This alone does not disqualify the resource as an industrial fuel.

Here's what does:
Why the fuck would you want to support a technology that does all these despicable things? So you can brag about the Carbon Footprint of your Prius? Seriously? Go look up some pictures of deforestation in the tropics. You can see the disaster from space. That's how big the footprint is.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Things that don't make you go hmmm.

Can a low-emission coal-fired power plant, such as Boundary Dam with CCS, be considered sustainable similar to renewable energy sources?

Winning Public Support for the Future of Coal

Speaking of fictional questions... What is the load bearing capacity of a Pegasus? That depends.... Is it a European Pegasus or an African Pegasus?

Monday, December 2, 2013

One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic

Edward Teller: Father of Hydrogen Bomb
and inspiration for Gru in Despicable Me
Particle pollution from power plants is estimated to kill approximately 13,000 people a year.
Toxic Air: Time to Clean Up Coal-fired Power Plants
This quote is from a report by the American Lung Association. Note that it only counts US deaths - worldwide estimates are closer to a half-million. The statistic proves out Stalin's macabre assertion. There must be some sort of statistical fulcrum in our brains that turns our concerns on and off. Maybe this is why Testicular Cancer gets a 10 k while coal the world destroyer hardly gets noticed.


Though controversy still exists regarding the comparison between thin-film and polysilicon technologies, we trade insiders have no disagreement in regarding thin-film as the future of PV, in addition to being a trend already," claimed Li Hejun, Hanergy’s chairman, speaking last month at the launch of his book New Energy Revolution – the Power to change China and the World.
Mr. Hejun is apparently serious about this assertion as his company plans to scale up CIGS production by 5.25GW.  Strangely the company also plans to expand a-Si production??? While I don't disagree that thin-film is the future of photoelectrics I'd argue that the timing of when that future is going to come around is completely up in the air. It's sorta like LEDs or solid state hard drives - they're the future but things take a mysterious amount of time to develop.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

No Shit

There was widespread agreement to the notion storage costs need to be reduced below their current €1,000/kW (US$1,350/kW) level.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reality Check

"A 4.5-kilowatt-hour storage system would cost 7,000 euros while one can expect to pay about 11,500 euros for a 10-kilowatt-hour system. If one adds up the cost of producing and storing a single kilowatt hour, it totals about 36 cents a kilowatt hour."
Germany’s PV sector: from boom to bust…and back again?

Mac Bandy

Fools care for the color of bandages.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Berlin - Ghost town in Nevada.
We were never bullish on utility scale and never thought it had a long life. The utility-scale power plant mentality solar isn't the best use of solar – the distributed generation space is much more effective for the asset class. That's where the growth will be.

Monday, October 28, 2013

You're Kidding Right?

JAG Energy to build 13 GW solar plant in Japan

This announcement sounds impressive but I don't see it happening - no way no how. Part of the project will likely get built but changes to FiT rules and siting rules will squash mega projects like this. We've seen it happen many times - we'll see it happen again here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Word

Send User: An entity that exports, imports and uses a particular product.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Mac Bandy

I was watching this play in football where a guy slipped and fell down then slammed the ball into the turf... Technically he hadn't been touched by the defense yet so when the ball came out of his hands after he slammed it, it was still a live ball.

See now... that's a bullshit rule that ball being live... If a guy falls down and subsequently slams the ball into the turf out of frustration that's as down as you can get. Who cares whether he's been touched... He's downed himself. He thinks he's down. If the play is really still live the fellow can be tackled unawares - that's dangerous and non-sporty. We all love seeing a good tackle but cheap shots should be minimized.

The spirit of the law should rule here. Hell.... The spirit of the law should always rule... Why do you think I run red lights at 5 o'clock in the morning. There's no one in sight coming the other way. I'm just following the spirit of the law officer.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Clown Costs

"...soft costs have become a national embarrassment."

On Lowering The Costs Of Solar PV (Part 1) - RMI

coulrophobia: extreme or irrational
fear of clowns



Some 26 coal and gas plants are now on the chopping block in Germany – 7 more than at the beginning of September ­– with a collective capacity of 6,735 megawatts.
Craig Morris - German Coal in a Downward Spiral 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Record of the Day

Wind and solar produced as much as 60% of Germany’s electricity during the 3 October, according to an energy consultant.
Around noon of that day, the two renewable technologies were producing 59.1% of the country’s power with conventional sources above 100MW in size producing just 23GW, according to the study by Bernard Chabot.
German wind and solar produced as much 60% on 3 October

How is it that Germany can get 60% of its electricity from wind and solar when we've been told for years that above 5% or 10% or 20% the costs of integration go through the roof? Germany has reached an instantaneous penetration of nearly 60% but the integration costs have been moderate. Hmmm... Curious...


“This isn’t an entire cell technology, it is simply a process to improve the quality of the silicon and it’s something that looks like it’s probably applicable to whatever type of solar cell that anybody is making."

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Waiting for a Plane

Pick a skin, any skin, except the one you live in...
Wear a mask, simple task, goal is to stay hidden...
Choose a cape, great escape, from all your fear be ridden...
Or just be you, a bore but true, aware in here and givin...

When I look at my old drawings I always want to draw over them - I never see them as finished. That's why I stopped drawing I guess. Just wasn't good enough at it. But when I look at my writing a couple months or years forward I don't feel bad about it. I look at it and think.. That was a good moment. Waiting for a Plane.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

German Market Statistics - False KOs, Shadow Loads & Fire Prevention

I was looking at Germany's monthly solar market statistics and I noticed some interesting details. The photoelectric market there isn't down by as much as the topline MW numbers suggest. Germany is currently installing an average of 11,000 systems a month over the first 8 months of 2013. Last year a monthly average of 15,000 systems were installed every month over the first 8 months. At first glance it appears that the market is off by 36% from where it was last year but that wouldn't be a fair comparison. In 2012 there was an intra-year FIT cut which drove a whole bunch of people to install systems ahead of the new rates. If you remove that one month of data you'd see that an average of 11,000 systems a month were installed over the first 8 months of 2012.

Goes without saying that the market has done a lot of shifting between the two years. When you separate out that anomalous March data the installation statistics indicate that 37% more systems sized up to 5 kW, 28% more systems from 5 to 10 kW and a full 50% more in the 10 to 15 kW size range are getting installed in 2013 compared to 2012. I'm not trying to lie with statistics here - the shift to smaller systems has certainly resulted in a significant reduction in MWs installed. That said there are still a lot of systems getting installed every month. Those systems represent jobs. It's nice to know the jobs haven't really gone away - They've just moved to working on smaller systems which don't get installed as quickly as the multi-MW solar farms. I really don't consider losing the solar farms a tragedy.

Interestingly, 70% of all the systems going in every month are under 15 kW. It stands to reason these systems are typically going on homes and businesses. I think the reason why this market segment has been so resilient is because these people are using photoelectric systems to protect them from having to buy electricity - electricity which has been going up in price by an average of over 5% a year for the last 10 years running. The wonderful thing for this market segment is that the incentives driving the growth (high electricity prices) are actually going up. The FiT rate can literally go to zero and the sub 15 kW market segment would still survive. Which leads me back to one of my favorite topics.

Some silly people seem to think that Germany is installing too much solar. These jokers think Germany should focus on wind. They use this argument that Germany will eventually have too much solar during the day and the grid won't be able to handle it. Here's a chart that's been used to explain the concept.

This projection tells you something about what current and future solar production will look like but it does a terrible job of projecting what load will look like. Here's a delightfully crude version of what I think things will look like.

Peak load will get peakier and baseload will shift down. Why will this happen? Simple... If it's 3 times cheaper to use photoelectricity compared to to buying electricity from the grid you can be damned sure that people are going to self-consume as much of their production as possible. When you've got 5 to 10% of homes and businesses all acting in unison to coordinate appliance runtimes with photoelectric production you're going to have peakier load. Interestingly, the grid operators won't see the peakier load - they'll actually be seeing flatter load at the network level. You have to imagine that whole neighborhoods might be producing 100% of their own electricity from solar during parts of the day. The feeder at the substation would see zero load under this condition. Lots of  feeders communicating with the system control center would be showing these reduced load conditions so the network operators would see flatter load. It's fascinating when you think about it. I'm sure the network operators will figure out a way of determine what the shadow load is because this information would be important for maintaining system reliability.

I'll close with the basic reasoning behind the reduced load at night. If your water heater and fridge have already made all the hot and cold they need during the day you'll see a clear reduction in load at night - that's why I shifted the whole load profile down and shrunk the baseload requirements. This is important in regards to maintaining capacity requirements in Germany. The silly jokers who think they understand Germany's Energiewende seem to think that the grid of the future will need to carry enough firm capacity to meet the peaks in demand that we currently see in the fall and winter. These people aren't seeing that all the smart machines that can be used to shift load into the day for self-consumption purposes during the summer will be available to shift load into the night during the winter. That will have the effect of lowering peak load and reducing capacity requirements. A water heater doesn't care when it makes hot water so long as it has a big enough storage tank to ride out the expected demand swings. The reasoning in the SMA article I recently linked to is telling. These guys don't see just a few appliances getting smart - they're all in. They see a future where absolutely every machine is interfaced. Ya know what... they're right. This massive amount of interfacing will create a massive amount of virtual capacity. You wouldn't need to carry firm capacity for the peak in November. You'd reduce the peak in November using load management and then carry that capacity - that reduced capacity mind you. How much would it cost to give an interface to every machine with a plug? Not a whole lot it turns out... The video below suggest that each appliance would need a 10 cent digital transponder and power outlets would need to be upgraded with the addition of an "inexpensive wireless reader". 

There are a couple of other wonderful things that come along with the deal. In this future where every machine is interfaced you'd save thousands of lives, prevent tens of thousands of injuries and prevent billions in damages done by house-fires. The video talks about it. Pretty amazing.

Friday, October 4, 2013

SMA Gets It - EMS is their Ace

Where are Energy Management Systems going?
Judge : Currently, is the control of electrical loads substantially over radio outlets. But this should be done via direct communication with home appliances. In the future, every machine, every toaster, coffee maker will each have an interface and are also directly controlled by the Energy Manager making radio outlets are superfluous.
Langel : The whole thing must be done across manufacturers by agreeing on a standard.

Read more: http://www.pv-magazine.de/nachrichten/details/beitrag/unterschiede-zwischen-den-energiemanagern_100012586/#ixzz2gmaFQaOV


One member of the EUCG's fossil generation committee from an Ohio Valley utility said that cycling and low-load operations pose challenges for one of his company's 1,300-MW coal-fired plants that "two years ago we wouldn't have considered possible." "We said 'no way,' and now we do it every night," he said, referring to the nearly nightly reduction in generating output to around 750 MW. The plant might be capable of shaving off another 100 MW of output, but operators are mindful of maintaining adequate temperatures t keep the plant's selective catalytic reduction equipment operating.




Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Jet Bicycle

Photoelectric Plant of the Day

"Recently, we have a typical factory operation equipped with a 94-kilowatt system, in Stuhr near Bremen. The customer is a mold maker, which consumes around 200,000 kilowatt hours per year. The main consumers are the motor of the machine. The system was installed on an east-west roof, it was the end of April.Without memory we've been putting reaches a self-consumption rate of more than 90 percent. In mid-year, we expect a consumption rate of about 70 percent. The pre-planning was only four weeks."

"This requires a high degree of complexity."

This system probably produces about 900 to 1000 kWh per kW installed - AKA: 900 kWh/kWp. 94 kW * 900 kWh/kWp = 84,600 kWh/year. If 90% of this electricity is consumed onsite that's 76,140 kWh/year out of their total consumption of 200,000 kWh/year. This means this factory will be 38% self-sufficient... Because of a rooftop photoelectric system... That's incredible. The article goes on to mention that the generation costs from a typical system are 13 to 14 cents/kWh while the costs of electricity to Commercial entities is around 21 cents/kWh. If you use these numbers it means a system like this is saving (21 - 13) * 76,140 = 6000ish Euros per year. This system would also be earning money on the 10% of electricity they export which is another 1000 Euros. The 7000 Euro/year cash flow expected in year 1 would actually improve over time as the price of retail electricity goes up. I ran a plant cost of 1250 Euro/kWp through my own LCOE model and came up with generation costs of 9 cents/kWh. Assuming these lower production costs your cashflow would be a little over 10,000 Euro/year. The system likely costs close to 120,000 Euros so it doesn't pay off overnight. Still, over its lifetime a system like this will pay for itself several times over. If you can swing the financing you can start saving money from day one.

Here's another zinger in the article...
"Up to 50 percent of domestic consumption and 50 percent self-sufficiency ratio should be no problem. Sometimes arise also interesting combinations with cogeneration. Then we establish contacts with the manufacturers. Or combining photovoltaics with heat pumps."
 I like it... I love it... Gimme some more of it.
"Surpluses that are not consumed or stored in the building, we continue to feed into the grid. But the purely grid-linked systems are no longer a priority from today's perspective. The goal of the investment is to reduce operating costs."
This guy clearly gets it...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Steam Uphill

I came up with this idea back in 2005. My coworkers called it Steam Uphill and we all laughed about it.

The basic idea is that you boil a fluid at point B (the boiling place) and allow it to expand upwards. My thinking is that the gas should eventually want to condense at some higher point called point C (the condensing place). The height difference between B & C could be as low as 30ish meters depending on the working fluid.

You'd want to chose a working fluid that satisfies two criteria: 1. It boils at a low temperature - by low temperature I mean zero degrees or below. 2. The latent heat of vaporization value should be low.

Back in 2005 my mom found me a CRC handbook at a garage sale and gave it to me for Christmas that year. I looked through the book for chemicals satisfying the two criteria. I mostly found refrigerants based on Chlorine, Fluorine, Bromine plus carbon. I'm no chemist but as far as the periodic table goes those chemicals seem to be the building blocks you'd want to work with.

What's the basis of the criteria? It comes down to potential energy vs. kinetic energy. The formula we learn in high school for potential energy is mgh where m = mass, g = the gravitational constant and h = height. The formula for kinetic energy is .5*mv^2 where m = mass and v = velocity.

The way I think of this idea is to imagine shooting a bullet into the air. In physics class you learn that in the absence of air resistance the bullet is going to rise to a point such that its initial kinetic energy (.5*mv^2) equal the potential energy (mgh) at its apex.

So I think choosing a fluid with a low latent heat of vaporization is like choosing a bullet with a low initial speed - when turned into a gas the molecule (bullet) won't go very high before it runs out of oomph. I think the gas molecules will slow down as they rise up and they will eventually want to condense at the apex of their trajectory rather than falling back due to the force of gravity.

So basically the idea up to now explains how you'd apply heat to a fluid to turn it into a gas which then rises up to some height and then condenses back to a fluid. The second part of the idea has the working fluid being channeled into a tube and falling back to height B and powering a hydroelectric turbine in the process. The hydroelectric turbine would make electricity.

You'd use the electricity to power a heat pump which would extract heat from the surrounding air, ground or water. Heat from the heat pump would drive the boiling of the working fluid.

If you got more energy out of the turbine than you put into the working fluid you'd have a new source of power. It would effectively be a solar powered engine that could operate day and night.

I've been working on physics professors and chemistry gurus for a while trying to determine if the idea has legs. If it does I think I should get to name it just like Diesel named his. My baby would be called a Kasten Cycle engine.

The Art of the Deal - From DCs to BJs

First there were Domestic Content bonuses. Back in the halcyon days of solar Italy and Ontario used these bonuses to attract solar manufacturering. The French more recently used DC bonuses to wave their arse in the general direction of Brussels and Beijing.

In Act 2 you had anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing duties (CVDs) take the stage. It's easy to forget it was only last year the US slapped China with ADs and CVDs. The ADs weren't so bad but the CVDs had a backhanded sting to them.

Then things got dramatic...

Recently Europeans, against the better judgement of most Europeans, set up a minimum price floor of 56 eurocents/watt and import quotas of 7 gigawatts on Chinese solar modules. David Cross took the words right out of my mouth when this decision came out. "What kind of futuristic year-3000 science fiction bullshit is this?"

Then there was a humorous aside...

In the midst of the Euro solar price setting fiasco the Chinese proved they're hilarious when they proposed a tariff on European whine... Pardon me... a tariff on European wine. The tariff was a dig aimed squarely at France and Italy who were pushing for the price floor and import quotas mentioned above - Remember these were the same jokers who started the game with their DC bonuses back in the day -  Chinese say... We no rikey your juice.

Now we have the SEIA's idea...

It's a plan straight out of Catch 22. Delightfully riddlish with a hint of whaa. The SEIA thinks we should divert part of the AD and CVDs monies to American solar manufacturers. It's a sort of  STFU buyoff deal modeled after a similar STFU buyoff deal between the US and Brazil involving American Cotton.

And now for the whaa... The SEIA proposes we use part of the AD and CVD monies to set up a Solar Development Institute.
"The Institute would serve as the primary vehicle for fostering long-term collaboration between the U.S. and Chinese solar industries, including joint research and development projects as well as collaboration on environment, health, safety and codes and standards initiatives."
Wunderbar Holistic Applied Ass foundation...

An organization dedicated to developing solar technology, short busses and reach arounds. That's right folks. Our aim is three fold.

1. WHAA is going to focus all its head on developing solar.
2. We're also going to be building the shortest busses ever. These busses aren't going to be short length wise. Our buses are going to be short height wise. Why you ask? Well it's because of part three.
3. At WHAA we're all going to be on our knees at all times ready to hustle for the highest bidder. Handjobs, BJs, you name it. We aim to redefine greased palms.

To repeat, the SEIA is saying we should use some of the AD and CVD monies to set up a Solar Development Institute. What they don't say is that once SolarWorld goes out of business there will be no significant domestic module manufactures to protect with the AD/CVD charges. They also don't point out who would be at the front of the line ready to help with setting up the Solar Development Institute.  OMG! The SEIA has pole position. What a whorish coincidence the SEIA would benefit significantly from their own suggestion!

The SEIA stood on the sidelines during the AD/CVD process last year. Everybody knows a leopard can't change its spots and a cow can't change its splotches. The solution to the Trade War isn't to make an ineffectual bureaucracy like the SEIA bigger. The solution is for the US, Europe and China to kiss, makeup, untie all the knots and commit to working together for mutual benefit. That's a good deal.

P.S. I suspect the SEIA is desperate for money. Maybe that's why they recently allowed E.on (a company with 22.4 GW of coal in their generating fleet) to join their board of directors. I've officially written off this organization at this point. They're traitorous.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Broke Bad Mountain

So... We're all waiting for the Finale of Breaking Bad. We're all trying to guess what happens to Walt, Jesse, Skylar and so on... The Vegas line probably has Walt saving Jesse from the Nazis only to be killed by Jesse in some poetically freakish way.

Here's what I think is going to happen. Walt is going to save Jesse and they're going to escape to the hideout in New Hampshire. Then they're going to grow old and gay with each other. Their hilarious addictions to reconstructive surgery and extravagant clothing lead them to burn through their barrel of money. End scene is Jesse spitting into his hand cause they've run out of lube. Classic.


When I went to university the group of friends I'd go to football games with were all working on Masters and PhDs in environmental studies. Interestingly, these were people that liked to eat, drink, watch football and be merry - I fit right in even though I was working on a double major in nuclear and mechanical engineering. At first these folks didn't square with my perception of what environmentalist were "supposed" to be. I asked my friend Ryan, a soil science guru in the making, to define what an environmentalist is/was/should be. He said you couldn't... the description is too diverse to mean anything. Describing someone as an environmentalist is like describing them as black or republican or young. It's shorthand for the ignorant.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mac Bandy

I watch my share of TV and Film. I enjoy the obvious stuff... HBO, Showtime, AMC but I'll take the dregs too. A good show can do any number of things... Humor... Hunger... Surprise... Disgust... I'm not trying to redefine what the Greeks already figured many years ago - just restating for setting.

Photoelectrics are a show if there ever was one. You've got the laughable, the fuck me, the wow and the fuck you just about everyday. That's an entertaining show. I'm a big fan of watching progress.

Photoelectric Trends

Monday, September 16, 2013

Just a Thought

I've got similar model - It was my Great Grandfather's.
Mine has a fancier handle

U.S. Overstates Leaks by Gas-Drillers, Says Study

This WSJ story covers a study that was supported by a cross-incentivized team. Cross funded studies are good because you get a result which isn't completely one-sided. Here's my thought though. Why the hell are we worried about natural gas leakage when the people drilling have a clear incentive to not have leaks in the first place? I would think they're doing everything they can to minimize leakage because they have a profit motive to do so. Leaks = less gas to sell. What's not to understand? Now hey... I realize it's not that simple... Maybe you can cheat a corner and build a rig that gets 95% of the gas and costs X. Maybe the rig that gets 99% of the gas costs twice as much. I could see how you'd have to use regulation to keep the drillers in line. At the same time I think drillers know what they're doing and we have to give them some breathing room to develop their technology. Let them leak 4% a year for the next few and see if they get down to 3% or 2% leakage rates on their own. If I were head of the EPA I'd stand off, wait, see and learn. If the drillers don't cut down on emissions you regulate - if they do you don't. Just a thought.