There is currently much “buzz” about methane releases from Natural Gas Exploration & Production (NG E&P), especially with regards to the buzzword friendly “Fracking” dominating all discussions. The NG industry is clearly “green washing” the public through slick advertisements, as it knocks off its primary competitor Coal, and has already surpassed Nuclear for electrical output in the US.
The fact of the matter is, there are currently NG “Peaker” plants associated with almost all existing Coal and Nuclear plants, often on the same properties, owned and operated by the same generation company. This is really no different than many of our most famous hydroelectric dams being built with coal plants just out of view of the sweeping and magnificent concrete arches. Glen Canyon Dam, on the mighty Colorado River, and the 2,225 MW Navajo Generation Plant were paired in construction under the CRSP (Colorado River Storage Project) to mitigate water storage requirement priority over hydroelectric generation.
My use of the word “competitor”, when we discuss Natural Gas in contrast to Nuclear or Coal, becomes very much a gray area once we dig into the numbers of overall electrical production. But back to the topic of methane releases.
I recently responded to a post on LinkedIn in the “Energy Innovation by Statoil” group about wind turbines being “unappealing” visually within the discussion brought about by a completely wide-open question “How do you feel about wind farms?”
Obviously, that is a subjective question, setting the stage for far ranging arguments lacking substantiated reasoning. This being akin to the common misunderstanding of billowing exhaust plumes at power plants thought to be laden with green house gases, pollution and toxic chemicals. The reality being, most of the visible “offenses” are waste heat removal through water evaporation cooling, not the invisible fossil fuel combustion effluent as commonly believed.
It was also stated, wind farms can be the cause of drought, which initially caught me off guard as I have lived and breathed water issues the past 20 years and it is a major determinant in my self assessed classification as “A Westerner”. Water is in our blood, both figuratively and literally. A transplant, to the western US, can be easily identified based on their lack of understanding and comprehension of where their water comes from and exactly how precious it is to maintaining our lifestyles. “Water Wars” are not just some future post apocalyptic scenario, they have been fought for over a century here in the United States.
A nice highlight of some of the key differences between the US model and that of the Danes, although this could be said of the European models in general.
How long until we recognize a focus on communal efforts for collective gains as opposed to idolizing individual achievements results in better overall outcome?
What I have seen working with global leaders in their industries here in the US is more consistent with the European business and social cultures, a drive for efficiency and a greater prioritization on accountability.
Author’s note: This is a beta format, temporary post. 7/23/14 I find myself needlessly having to explain these limitations countless times, effectively wasting time explaining the reality of PV to those unfamiliar with these real world limitations. Under current implementation trends, and infinite variability, residential solar rarely breaks a threshold of 30% nameplate capacity (adjust for region and day of the year) that can be considered baseload, reliable input to the grid.
Current trends, especially in the U.S., of PV’s effective implementation, are proceeding down a pathway that are counterproductive to maximizing our investments with the overall goal being to significantly reduce our release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
If we do not do this second part with an altruistic twist, those less fortunate will attempt to come up to our standards through whatever means possible. As seen in China, those “whatever” means will be through “cheaper” means, most likely conventional fossils fuels or enormously expensive large scale hydro.
In “Ending Energy Ignorance – Part I” I introduced us to my primary concern, the general ignorance or apathy of the U.S. populace in understanding energy on the basic levels. You do not have to take my word for it alone, the famous oilman and land speculator, T. Boone Pickens has claimed the same for years, and outside his Picken’s Plan there are no other national figures championing for a greater awareness of energy understanding.
Years ago, I was in full agreement of his message, in particular I was in love with the potential of wind energy and it was one of his key selling points. But a grain of salt was required. Extremely successful or not, T. Boone’s reputation was not established in philanthropy.
In order for us to forge forward, we need to look at our past. It does us no good dissecting the mistakes and ills of the past, the results are with us today. However, understanding our history and what lead us to the problems we are facing today, is key to minimizing those short comings in the future. Hind sight is twenty-twenty, and we would be wise to learn from it.
How did we get here?
In the U.S., the abundance of domestic coal has made it the de facto “King of the Castle” for electricity production, doubling nuclear energy’s consistent 20 per cent national production since the 80’s.