Craig Severance - A Practical, Affordable (and Safe) Clean Electric Energy Plan

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Current's picture
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Craig Severance - A Practical, Affordable (and Safe) Clean Electric Energy Plan

One of the more clear, concise, and intelligent proposals I've seen recently - worth reading

RNcarl's picture
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Joined: May 13 2008
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Love the article. It is to

Love the article.

It is to vague. I have long said that large "farms" of wind, PV or what ever flavor of the month "renewable" are the wrong way to go.

It has been said that we do not have the infrastructure to deliver all of this power. I say - bunk. See, we may not have the infrastructure based on the current model of a "big utility" delivering power over great distances because they want to make a profit.

I feel the easier way is to deliver power at the "microbial" level. Individual houses, apartment buildings and (gawd forbid) strip malls utilizing all of that huge expanse of roof lines to install (insert your favorite flavor of renewable power generator here) and run "micro" delivery of power back into the existing grid.

The biggest problem that I see with this model is that the current systems are way too expensive for the "regular" person to afford. Even the strip mall owners have taken a beating and have no cash to install the systems.

Why are those systems so expensive? I think its a combination of greed and scale. Greed on the part of the person selling the system (partly) because they have to make a living from each and every system to be able to stay in business to sell the next one. Then there is the issue of scale. If I have to sell the system at an unaffordable price, less folks can install it and I can't manufacture them cheap enough to provide the volume to make up for costs... and the spiral continues.

I contend that with a two pronged approach, there could be (solar collectors for domestic hot water and PV) on almost every roof of every town in America. Are there areas where performance will be better? Yes. However, my gut tells me that if you can get the cost down low enough to make it realistic for anyone to afford the systems, there would be plenty of work.

I guess my plan addresses item #1 in the article:

Innovative Strategy #1:   Do Customer Level Projects First.  If the computer age had proceeded with the same mindset as the U.S. utility industry, IBM would have just continued building bigger and more expensive central computers.  There would have been no PC's, and no Internet. 

I remember in the early days everyone was asking -- "why would I ever want a computer at home?"  Today that question seems ludricrous -- but only because the power of innovation was unleashed across hundreds of millions of distributed computers.

My gut tells me that if you solve the WIIFM of the building owner. The idea will go viral. Low "buy-in" costs and money savings I think will solve most of the equation. There will be early adopters, next will come the "good idea-ers" followed by bandwagoneers and lastly the hold-outs that will haveevery excuse under the sun (no pun intended) NOT to proceed.

In business, I understand the following comments:

Consumers must first be given every chance to reduce their use, and to generate their own power, to reduce demands on the central power grid.

This strategy recognizes the "low hanging fruits" of energy efficiency and distributed power have not yet been harvested

The "low hanging fruit" comment especially hits home because I am involved in an area of health-care where a life saving technology has had  the "low-hanging-fruit" harvested. An entire industry has been created and fortunes made just by harvesting that "fruit".

I have hope.


Current's picture
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Joined: Mar 1 2009
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PV costs are plummeting. 

PV costs are plummeting.  Inverter costs are dropping far more slowly, though reliability and safety are increasing there at a measured pace.  Balance of System (BOS) costs are not making anywhere near the progress and our current regulatory (primarily electrical and building code) trends, while wel-intentioned, are generally not helping.

Solar thermal makes sense even without tax incentives and you're right - all but a very few spots on the globe can take advantage of it.  BOS costs there are also out of line - until we have systems which an ordinary plumber can install in a day (and there are a few) they mostly need the local "solar guy" (who is too often expensive and hard to find) to make them work properly.

Passive solar design is the truly low hanging fruit - literally zero cost differential in any new building.  Merely orienting the long axis of a house east-west and planting a deciduous tree on the west side of a property (with no other changes, not even overhangs or glazing) will make an immense difference in the energy requirements of a structure.  Our current development codes do not recognize this, so developers are still following the "most houses on the least land" model because they only look at the short-term ROI and rarely have to pay the O&M costs of what they build.

If "regular" people are to take advantage of these technologies en masse, it will involve a combination of rate hikes (price signals again) and an understanding by the financial system of real value.  I'm a bit less optimistic there.

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