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Thank you for this article.  very informative

"it is its high fixed cost, lower marginal cost which makes it require a feed-in tariff, not its lack of competitivity."

rdf  seem to be having a hard time understanding this.

rdf
Regarding
Yes, but

"As long as wind remains an insignificant part of the total capacity there won't be any resistance, but if it starts to make a real dent you can expect to see opposition from conventional energy suppliers who will claim that this is an unfair government-mandated subsidy."  

What about the end users? The public? They will want what lowers overall prices, and that is wind.  

" No realistic amount of renewable power is going to become available in the next several decades."

When  the American public stops being fooled by the denial industry, and they understand the true danger from climate change, the political mood will change.
They have already fooled nearly half the population in the U.S., but you know what Abe Lincoln said about fooling people.  I think denialists will lose credibility as the new administration sets the tone, rather than the anti science anti reason agenda of the last eight years.

Wind grew by 8.3 GW last year. At that rate it would be 100 GW by 2020. But the growth is just beginning and should surpass that annual growth.  20% wind by 2030 is not too opimistic.  Between PV  and CSP, solar could be as big or bigger.  And all three will provide power cheaper than from new nuclear plants or coal with CCS.
By 2020, those two will not be able to compete with an kind of solar, or wind energy. And they are much quicker to build.

5.
"The only solution is a change in our social/economic system away from consumerism and consumption-driven, raw material based, capitalism. As I've said many times before, I have no idea what a new system should look like, I just know that if no one is willing to contemplate such ideas we won't come up with anything. All efforts these days are devoted to re-inflating the capitalist bubble as quickly as possible. We need some new thinking, unconstrained by "conventional wisdom".

While I wouldn't call it the "only" solution, I basically agree with this.  Consumerism on steroids is our undoing.  It wastes our money, energy, the environment and our resources.  

These two books both speak to how we came to have this mindset in America.

"What is America?: A Short History of the New World Order"  by Ronald Wright

"The Great Delusion"  by Steven Stoll

asdf said
"When Arizona exports electricity to California, it is essentially exporting a considerable amount of water--water allocated to Arizona under the Colorado River agreement but "wasted" in the cooling systems of the coal, nuke, and concentrated solar generating systems."

But solar thermal (CSP) can be air or water cooled or Heller type systems.  Most desert plants in the U.S. will not be water cooled from what I understand. On the other hand, where applicable, CSP plants can be used to desalinize water or provide combined heat and power, or even just heat.  And the pilot plants in the Mojave are now co-fired with NG, which has worked well.  

Could CSP help with California's water problems, particularly in Southern California?    
We pump water from the aqueduct over Tejon Pass to LA now.   Why not pump seawater to CSP plants  further inland, and fresh water back to the cities?

With heat storage, CSP can provide dispatchable power, day and night.  This makes it an enabler for balancing the grid.  

http://www.altenergystocks.com/archives/2009/04/why_csp_should_not_try_to_be_coal.html

Why CSP should not try to be Coal.  
"It should be clear that  dispatchable generation is a truly premium power source.  Dispatchable generation, like energy storage, long distance transmission, and demand response, all allow the grid to accommodate more variation in both power supplies and in demand.
Baseload power is part of the problem; it's not the solution.  We should not denigrate CSP by pretending it is only a substitute for coal or nuclear. Concentrating Solar Power is much better than baseload."

Joseph Romm at Climate Progress points out that it is 20-100 times cheaper to store heat, as to store elecricity.

http://climateprogress.org/2008/04/14/concentrated-solar-thermal-power-a-core-climate-solution/

http://climateprogress.org/2008/11/21/solar-baseload-outshines-clean-coal-and-it-always-will/

The NREL says the added cost of heat storage is offset by the added value of this dispatchable power.  And they say CSP projects will benefit California's economy far more than building new gas plants would.
They expect the cost of building CSP to fall quickly, as a result of experience gained and economies of scale.
CSP electricity prices are 12-17 cents/kWh.  That's expected to fall below 10 cents/kWh quickly. My guess is by 2013.  After that they expect economy of scale to bring prices down to 4-8 cents/kWh.  

Their estimate for CSP potential in California's deserts is 661 GW, only considering land of less than 1% slope and avoiding environmentally sensitive areas.  
California's current total generating capacity from all energy sources is 58 GW.

 A Western Governors Association study estimated that the southwest states have suitable land near existing transmission lines for 300 GW of CSP.
Buildout could get a good start before HVDC lines became absolutely necessary.  There are over  3 GW  started building or recently agreed on.  They will come online  between 2011-2013.

I am writing from an American's perspective obviously, but the proposal by Desertec for Europe, North Africa and the Mid East hold great promise.

http://www.desertec.org/

http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/

rdf
regarding well, youre actually wrong...
"In fact it is almost a validation that the present wind plants being built are uneconomic over the long term. If they weren't they wouldn't need a guaranteed income stream"

How do you arrive at that conclusion? Did you read the article and understand it?  Sure doesn't sound like it.

"I have nothing against government sponsoring startup technology either directly through subsidies or indirectly through tax breaks or the like, but let's not pretend it is anything but an attempt to make uncompetitive technologies more competitive.
but let's not pretend it is anything but an attempt to make uncompetitive technologies more competitive."

Actually, they might level the playing field against the political clout of the fossil fuel industry, which is the incumbant industry with unbelievable power in our government policy making.  The most powerful non government economic force in the history of the world.  They have been subsidized for 90 years.  Their subsidies make those for renewables pale by comparison.  Subsidies are a lousy argument against renewables.  Nuclear has received $500 billion over 50 years.  

Read the book "The Tyranny of Oil" by Antonia Juhasz

http://westcoastclimateequity.org/?p=2384
Global Warming Solutions for Governments

"Behind fossil fuels' global dominance lies the shocking fact that governments still subsidize them with tax-breaks and price supports, some dating back to World War I. The total global give-away to fossil fuels comes to more than $210 billion a year."

"In 2006, Earth Track estimated that the US oil and gas industry received $39 billion in federal energy subsidies, and the coal industry a further $8 billion."

http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?ID=7124&Method=Full

"subsidy programmes from 1918 are still in place"
"I'm not aware of any oil and gas subsidy that has ever been phased out," said Koplow, the leading expert on U.S. energy subsidies"

"in a time of skyrocketing oil prices and profits, why did the George W. Bush administration in 2005 authorize an additional 32.9 billion dollars in new subsidies over a five-year period?"

"This massive government intervention distorts energy markets, making it very difficult for alternative energy sources to compete without similarly massive subsidies. "And it promotes America's addiction to oil," Larsen added."

Take all the subsidies from fossil fuels and put them into renewables and our energy system will be transformed very quickly.  

  And your argument, that renewable aren't competitive, continues to ignore the externalized costs of fossil fuels.

by Richard Mercer on Sun May 10th, 2009 at 03:24:08 AM EST

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