Do The Math | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Do The Math

I thank Ken Czepelka (Jan. 29 issue) for responding to my Jan. 22 letter, "The Solution." I don't personally argue with Ken on what he

I thank Ken Czepelka (Jan. 29 issue) for responding to my Jan. 22 letter, "The Solution." I don't personally argue with Ken on what he presented, but it's in conflict with Robert Bryce's 2008 book, "Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence." Bryce deals extensively with the "solar" issue. In Chapter 16, "Solar, the 1 percent solution," he provides an analysis by Raymond James and Associates that solar power in residential applications costs $0.37 per Kilowatt-hour, nearly four times conventional sources! Simmons and Company International estimated that even a growth rate of 25 percent a year of solar power capacity would only provide about 1 percent of global electricity demand by year 2020 at a cost of $0.22-$0.84 per Kilowatt-hour. By 2030, the Energy Information Administration estimates that solar power will provide about five billion Kilowatt-hours of electricity to American consumers per year, a mere fraction (0.0015) of the 3,351 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity the agency expects from coal. It's true that the Sun is an unlimited source of power, but cloud cover is also unlimited and is a "killer drawback" according to Bryce, along with a lack of "high-density electrical storage." "Solar power can never be relied upon to provide large quantities of base load power."

I'm not familiar with Spain's "Solar Tres" but Ken offers no clues. Perhaps it's solar thermal power which has been around for decades? Bryce doesn't mention it in his 2008 book. So, I'm not the only one with "blatant omissions." "That windmills and solar panels cannot run bulldozers, -elevators, etc." was not a quote from me, but Howard T. Odum, a systems ecologist and energy analyst. Battery-operated bulldozers? Hmmm. Odum also calculated that the total USA fuel use was 4.78 x 10^24 SEJ (solar emjoules) and the total net solar radiation absorption for Alaska and the lower 48 was 4.48 x 10^22 SEJ. Meaning the USA is using fossil fuels more than 100 times greater than the total solar radiation absorption across the 49 states! Ken will have to argue that one with Odum.

As for hydrogen, no one has found a way to extract it from water without energy costs far exceeding the potential output, including "electrolysis." The "Hydrogen Economy" dream is decades away according to Ernest Moniz, MIT Physicist and former Undersecretary of Energy, "and not just one or two."

Bob Bates, Bend

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