Clean Power

Published on February 14th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Renewables Deploy Fast

February 14th, 2013 by  

Here’s another great post from the always thoughtful Karl-Friedrich Lenz, reposted from his site, Lenz Blog (image added):

Wind turbines in Spain via Shutterstock

Wind turbines in Spain via Shutterstock

Amory Lovins, in an open letter to Obama at Huffington Post:

These technologies scale faster than any other. No form of traditional generation — coal, gas, or nuclear — scales nearly as fast as efficiency, solar, and wind. Gigawatts of solar and wind can be added in months — not the years to decades required for traditional power plants. Cloudy Germany installed three gigawatts of solar in the month of December 2011 alone. That is 1.6 times more than was installed in the entire U.S. Germany’s scale-up has cut its solar-system costs to half of ours.

I agree on the substance. Speed is one of the advantages of wind and solar.

But I would put it in a slightly different way. Wind and solar can be deployed much faster than coal and nuclear.

As to scaling, nuclear and coal scale rather bad. While there are small nuclear reactors running submarines, you won’t find any to put into your garage or on your roof. In contrast, gas actually scales rather good. See the Zuhausekraftwerk (home power plant) project by Volkswagen and Lichtblick I have blogged about before, which wants to put many small gas generators in German basements and control them centrally.

So while I agree with Lovins on speed, I think the issue is not speed of scaling, but speed of deployment.

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  • Otis11

    Yes, I think that’s probably what they meant, but they simply worded it incorrectly.

    And my German is terrible, but if I understood that correctly, they are talking about cogenerating heat and electricity together. I’ve been a strong proponent of cogeneration for years, but sadly, I think it’s past it’s peak. Solar makes so much more sense if they are similar in price. Sure 1-2 houses on the block might want these in case there is a week with low sun, but until we actually stop using base load power it’s only marginally significant. And for particularly cold locations, like Germany, use solar thermal water heaters and then use the hot water to heat the house. Much more efficient.

    “rather bad” => “rather poorly”
    “rather good” => “rather well”

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