The issue with unreliable energy sources

“Today in Energy” is a daily newsletter published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Today’s newsletter has a quite clear title, which proves once again why I like to call wind and solar energy “unreliables”. That is, sources of energy which we cannot rely upon.

The title of the newsletter is quite self-explanatory:

“Wind generation growth slowed in 2015 as wind speeds declined in key regions”

A key paragraph in the article is this:

U.S. wind generation grew by 5.1% in 2015, the smallest annual increase since at least 1999, as weather patterns in the Western half of the United States lowered wind speeds and dampened wind generation during the first half of the year. The same weather patterns resulted in stronger winds in the central part of the country, where wind generation growth in 2015 was most pronounced.

This is what happens when relying on unreliable energy sources. You throw a lot of money at them, and you can never be sure of the results.

How much money is being spent on unreliable wind energy?

Robert Bryce @pwrhungry on the SunEdison’s Subsidy-Fueled Collapse

Robert Bryce is the author of some very good books on the topic of energy, including “Power Hungry”, which I reviewed recently on my blog, and the newest one “Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong” which I am currently reading.

Bryce has recently written a very detailed piece on National Review about the looming failure of SunEdison, a company that touts itself as the “largest global renewable energy development company.”

Some points are raised by Robert Bryce in his piece, and they are worth mentioning:

Even $1.5 billion in subsidies and loan guarantees can’t save a “clean” energy company from bankruptcy. […] But the remarkable thing about SunEdison is how much cash it was able to get from state and federal taxpayers during its low-emissions trip to bankruptcy court.


Alas, SunEdison isn’t the only example of how federal taxpayers have helped prop up poor management in the “clean energy” sector. Earlier this week, the Spanish energy company Abengoa SA filed for Chapter 15 protection in U.S. bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del., claiming some $16.5 billion in debt. Like SunEdison, Abengoa has been a leading promoter of solar projects in the U.S. According to Subsidy Tracker, Abengoa has received $986 million in federal grants and tax credits, as well as another $7.8 million in state and local subsidies. The bulk of that sum — about $841 million — was for solar projects.

To summarize:

In all, Abengoa got some $2.6 billion in federal loans and loan guarantees as well as $986 million in federal grants and tax credits. Thus, between the collapse of Abengoa and the looming bankruptcy of SunEdison, federal taxpayers have shelled out some $5 billion in direct grants and loan guarantees to lousy management teams in subsidy-dependent businesses that would never have grown to their current size had they not been able to binge on taxpayer cash.

5 billion dollars in direct grants and loan guarantees to companies which went bankrupt very quickly, regardless of how much taxpayer’s money has been shelled by the government. 5 billion dollars.

In closing:

Critics of the federal government’s support for “clean energy” companies have repeatedly claimed that the government shouldn’t be “picking winners.” To that, I can only say that the evidence — from the failed solar company Solyndra and failed battery companies like Ener1 and A123 to SunEdison and Abengoa — proves that the government hasn’t in fact, been picking winners. Quite the opposite.

It is quite obvious to me that we are once again witnessing how a government tries hard to force the free market to take a specific route, but sooner or later it is bound to fail. Governments should never pick sides, but if they do, it would be better if they would pick winners and not losers.

For those who have been reading Robert Bryce’s books, this should not come as a surprise. After all, in “Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong” Bryce is pretty clear on what characteristics are needed for a technology to displace a previous technology: solar power is NOT Smaller nor Faster nor Lighter, and most definitely neither Denser nor, quite obviously, Cheaper.

Solar power is still a very interesting way to generate electricity, but governments should let the market decide in what form solar will be used. And no government is doing this today, unfortunately. This is sadly why we will still see more failures like the ones of SunEdison and Abengoa in the future.

Book review: Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future by Robert Bryce

Power Hungry: The Myths of Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future by Robert Bryce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Power Hungry is an excellent primer on energy, specifically for all those who have been led to believe that there is a future by only using the “green” renewables that modern day propaganda seem to like so much.

First and foremost, it clarifies the difference between energy and power, and why we should not really care about energy per se, but rather focusing on power.

The introduction of the “Four Imperatives” then becomes a measuring scale to understand why we must have a mixed balance in our energy sources portfolio, and why certain sources are better than others.

The main reason is clearly spelled at the beginning of chapter 8: “Density is green”. The denser an energy source, the denser the power generated, the better.

Power density relates to how much real estate is needed in order to harvest the same amount of energy using different sources. Fossil fuels and nuclear are kings here.

Energy density is about how much energy is contained in the same amount of mass or volume. Here nuclear beats by far all other sources, because of simple physics. Fossil fuels come next, while renewables rank very low on this scale.

Cost is fairly self-explanatory to most people, though one should always consider all the factors when calculating costs, something that the supporters of “green” renewables seldom do. It would be unfair to compare solar (which produces power at best 50% during a 24 period), wind (maximum 30-40% on average) to fossil fuels and nuclear (with power generated very close to 100% of the time). If we do not add the additional gas-fired plants and infrastructure to the cost of “green” renewables, we are not making things any clearer, we are rather muddling the waters.

Scale is the last of the Four Imperatives, also very important. It relates to power density and energy density, clearly, and is probably the biggest issue in the “green” renewables field. I have always wondered how could solar PV produce enough for a medium to large city, day and night. This is still very much an open question.

The book is a must-read for all those who would like to cut thru the propaganda and get down to hard facts and figures. Granted, this book is now somewhat out-of-date, it was written before March 2011 when the tragic earthquake and tsunami which put the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP out of service with much media coverage of a non-event (not one person died from the little radiation spewed out from the damaged reactors, yet a lot of people died from unreasonable acts including evacuation of an elder people housing complex in the middle of night).

Some figures today might be different, as the push toward more “green” renewables is ongoing, using a lot of taxpayer’s money all around the world.

But politicians cannot change the hard facts of physics, and this book will clearly show you why.

View all my reviews

What Trump and Sanders Said about Oil Prices 4 Years Ago

This post is quite hilarious, given that we are talking about two of the worst populists politicians which are unfortunately always given far too much visibility in the media these days.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, two great buffoons who know little to nothing about economy. And there are people who would really like to see them in the White House. Really?

The article is a quick read, and it is a stark reminder that most politicians understand nothing of economics. And they would like to become those in control of economic policies, when elected. Heavens forbid.

The impending failure of the German Energiewende

A nice article which shows how the German government has cornered itself by hastily shutting down an important number of nuclear power plants due to the tsunami scare in Japan (as if Germany is subject to tsunamis, right Ms Merkel?).

It’s interesting to read now Sigmar Gabriel being concerned about economic matters, when all he has done has been to push for more unreliable “green renewables” to come online in Germany. Gabriel now says:

“When we’re talking about the future of coal I would advise being less ideological about it and to focus more on climate goals and the economic consequences”

Funny backtrack, isn’t it? I would not be surprised if the remaining nuclear power plants will be left running, and the one who have been stopped will be brought back online in the future.

Moreover, Gabriel confirms the use I make of the term “unreliables” when referring to the “green renewables” such as wind and solar:

“We need to be aware of what is needed to have a stable energy supply”

Oh well, Herr Gabriel, have you figured it out just now?

Article well worth reading.

“Unstoppable” California Gas Leak Now Being Called Worst Catastrophe Since BP Spill

ZeroHedge is always very much famous for its catastrophism, particularly in the field of energy, their reports on nuclear are always very entertaining for the many mistakes they always purport as reality.

This time though they report on the natural gas leak in the San Fernando valley in northern Los Angeles, a leak which has been going on for many days now, and is proving a difficult challenge to solve for the technical staff there.

I disagree vehemently with the view that it’s such a catastrophe, if anything as there have been NO casualties, unlike the Deepwater Horizon platform accident where 11 men perished.

Worth reading though, with a nice infographic on the plan to resolve the situation and a great infrared video taken from above the area, impressive!


Patrick Moore on the Tom Woods Show

Another very interesting interview on the Tom Woods Show, with guest Dr. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace.


Dr. Moore explains the evolution of the group he funded back in the 1970s, and the reasons that led him to leave a group that had become way too politicized for his liking.

A tweet from Rod Adams

I became deeply interested in energy in 2011, a few weeks after a powerful earthquake and tsunami swept the eastern shores of Japan, killing many thousands of people and badly disabling infrastructure needed to safely operate the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which later suffered major breakdown due to hydrogen explosions caused by fuel meltdown.

Luckily no one was hurt at the accident site due to the radiation release, and neither any citizen has ever received any meaningful amount of radiation, thought there is a lot of media misinformation and hysteria still going on after almost 5 years since the accident happen.

But inquiring minds want to know. And that is when my trip thru nuclear knowledge began.

I was always fascinated by technology, and generation of power is something I knew little about, except for visiting an hydroelectric plant on the Adda river south of Bergamo, Italy, during school.

So I had to study, and my research for trusted sources of information quickly pointed me to Rod Adams and his “Atomic Insights” website and blog active since 1995, a must-read for nuclear and energy aficionados.

Not only Rod has a great website, but he also been running a podcast, “The Atomic Show” (iTunes link here) since March 2006, and I became so passionate about the topic and the critical thinking and knowledge exposed by Rod and his guests that I went back to the very first episode of the show, and listened to each and every one of them, including the early ones in which he had a great co-host, Shane Brown, even more technical than Rod.

Last year, when I discovered Alex Epstein and his book “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” thru this event at The Cato Institute, it dawned on me that the dry technical matters behind nuclear could very well benefit from the deeper philosophical thoughts that Alex Epstein has always highlighted in his work.

I then emailed Rod about Alex Epstein and his work, and he told me that he had already been in touch with Alex and an episode of “The Atomic Show” with Alex as guest would be upcoming. Episode 230 was released on December 12th 2014 and I have added some comments on the relevant blog post. A must listen in my view.

Why am I talking about a tweet, then?

Because as recently as last Friday December 18th 2015 Rod Adams posted this update via Twitter, something which I liked very much, as it shows a deeper understanding on the whole energy discussion, broadening his view from the purely nuclear space.


It’s nice for me to see how two of my main influencers in the energy space are coming full circle back to the most important aspect of energy: every bit of energy counts, nuclear needs fossil fuels and fossil fuels needs nuclear moving forward.

We have to defend our right to energy access and deflect the attacks from those who would like to limit our access to energy. They are the really dangerous people to be on the look for.