The essay below has been written as
a response to
an essay published at the
and written by:
Here is Mr. Benfield's essay.
Wind Powered, Solar Oil Wells
The only problem with Solar energy is the fact that the technology behind solar is simply much more farther advanced than either those who conceived of it in the first place and those who appear to be opposing it combined are capable of understanding. Essentially no one really has a depth of understanding as to what the true ramifications are to a public utility grid of which solar energy is fully integrated in to its entire electrical generation and distribution grid. In the same breath, the same is true for any other type of energy source that has the distinct capacity to interact with our nation's entire electric grid. As this is the case, as stakeholders in any of these electrical energy sectors are of course clamoring to get their foot in the door, the question I have examined for the past few decades is not getting one's energy foot into the door of some unattainable electrical kingdom, but rather installing various types of energy sources along the way to that door for the stated purpose of utilizing these sources only for what it is they were created and engineered to do in the first place.
I think that until the solar energy and the existing fossil fuel energy based providers of public electricity are brought to realize the tremendous task it is to literally rewire our entire United States of America, our nation is simply not going to be rewired, or at least not wired to the extent that when all forms of electrical generation are combined, not only will the mechanical infrastructure to do this be in place but the economic infrastructure will as well.
One of the most interesting aspects of Mr. Benfield's Article above is the amount of residential solar installations that can be found in the town of Washington DC where he and his wife reside. As this is of course, great news, the fact that solar is not everywhere in that neighborhood speaks precisely to the overall lack of systemic knowledge on the part of all stakeholders to rectify this fact entirely.
To put what I'm saying into some sort of perspective here, let me suggest that for a moment, picture a ½ square mile area in any residential district anywhere in America suddenly and quite remarkably being without any electrical power whatsoever. Going a bit further, consider that same area not only being without power, but, being as well, without as much as a trace of evidence that would indicate that even a single strand of electrical wire was ever in existence within that ½ square mile area. As remarkably odd as this whole scenario might just sound, go a bit farther here and picture the fact that every other ½ square mile area adjacent to this area was fully lighted and fully powered. Consider as well, that all of the houses and businesses and all of the roads and bridges and all of the trees and shrubs and flowers and grasses were there just as the creeks and rivers, but, there was virtually no electricity or electrical devices to be found anywhere whatsoever and all of the people who were living in this area where beginning to wonder what it was that happened to them and their homes and their neighborhood.
As this oddity continued for a while, and, those living within this area began to wonder just what on earth had somehow happened to them, and, only them, bits and pieces of information started coming in and as that information arrived, the people who lived in this northwestern neighborhood of Washington DC realized that an accounting glitch of all things not only shut off all electrical power to their area, but vaporized virtually every type of electrical component that was to be found in any manner within that ½ square mile area as well.
Needless to say, not only were the folks who lived in this area mystified, but the folks that lived in all of the surrounding areas were just as stymied. What on earth could have possibly occurred? More to the point, what was it going to take to get this electrical problem resolved?
As human nature is human nature, and, in fact such nature comes out perhaps a bit more dynamically during times of strife, tribal protectionism begins to take root and through this, leadership emerges. In the case of the missing electricity and electrical components, again leadership emerged. Yet due to the odd nature of the situation, a very rare form of tribal protectionism emerged in this particular ½ mile area. As the undercurrent of thought surrounding this bizarre situation was a mixture of befuddlement and concern, it was as well, a mixture of both suspicion and guilt. Yes, guilt began to surface more and more frequently as the parties who lived in this area began to congregate more. Yet the nature of this guilt was not about the notion that somehow everyone involved had been remiss in their care of the electricity and electrical components that were now gone, but, instead, an overwhelming sense that although everyone in this area had heard bits and pieces of news about alternative forms of electrical generation, for the most part, these people simply turned off the light and went to bed every night and forgot altogether about just exactly how electricity arrived at that lamp in the first place.
At any rate, the area geographically was an unusual mix of topographies. With a few rolling hillsides, a few meandering ravines with a few creek beds and streams, the usual amount of urban flatland and a variety of tree types that had over the years, grown to their matured heights. After several weeks of living without electricity, the people more and more began to congregate outdoors. In the process of doing this, they began as well, to rediscover both the naturally occurring elements and forces of mother nature that unfortunately had, for several decades, been entirely overlooked. With the first thing noticed being a relatively constant current of wind, people throughout the area began to walk seemingly in a somewhat aimless pattern often raising their hands and arms in a rather odd, slow motion kind of a way. While this was going on, another group of people were doing the same type of strange wandering. This group however, was at least not waving their hands and arms about as they meandered. Yet perhaps just as odd, all of these folks carried with them large pieces of cardboard that were painted a variety of both light and dark colors, and, for some strange reason, every piece of cardboard had a 2” round hole drilled into the center.
With still no electricity to be had and with now two groups of people constantly wandering about this ½ mile area, needless to say the overall social aura of the place was beginning to resemble a scene from some sort of an odd outtake of patients from an asylum assuming the authority of the asylum and wandering about freely in blissful celebration as a result. Of course, as time went on, more people doing more strange things began to show up. Yep, people with divining rods began to wander about. People with binoculars flitted here and there. There were people with shovels and post hole diggers. There were people with chainsaws and tree climbing gear. Then of course there were the people carrying, of all things, picnic baskets that were oddly enough, filled with lawn blankets and food, water, wine and an assortment of beverages and disposable eating utensils.
This is supposed to be an essay on why the public electric utility companies that are fueled by fossil fuel to generate electrical power appear to be somewhat unhappy about the fact that solar energy is taking away market share from that power grid. As this is clearly an issue here, and the issue is in turn the fact that electric utility companies are in the business of supplying power to virtually every ½ mile square area in America, the real issue here is not the type of power or energy source being utilized to create electricity, but the magnitude of scale required to deliver the energy to the consumer as well as the upkeep of an infrastructure that regardless, again, of the type of energy source, does in fact need to be continuously upgraded and maintained. As all of this quite obviously costs money, the notion of a single homeowner selfishly investing their own money to purchase a micro solar electric generating plant for their home only to sell surplus electricity generated by their individual system back to the public utility provider with indeed a substantially larger infrastructural footprint is at best, a stretch to either justify or rationalize, or, in fact, do both.
Getting back to the folks at the picnic then.
What all of these people are actually doing wandering around their little ½ square mile of earth is surveying virtually every element of what is either naturally growing or occurring on this property and observing the manner in which what is naturally occurring is interacting with everything that has over the years been man made, and has, as a result, had the affect of altering significantly the natural occurrences of either wind patterns, surface water drainage patterns and the actual patterns or paths the sun travels across this ½ square mile over the course of several seasons combined. Whereas to the passerby, these folks were presumably either wandering lunatics or participants in some sort of either ancient or entirely new outdoor sport, in fact, these people were making a conscious choice to never again fall victim to an electrical power outage that affected them in such the far reaching manner that it ultimately in fact did.
Knowing full well that they wanted to reap the benefits of solar energy, they in turn wanted to do the same with wind and geothermal energy as they in turn again, intended to do the same with natural gas energy. With the thinking being that with all of the above energy systems put into place, a rather dynamic mixed energy based utility grid would be at the core of their overall energy independence philosophy, in turn, so to would every technological and mechanical component while in turn once again, every job title and labor description would be fully documented as well. Armed with all of this knowledge then, the group set out to once again install electricity to their ½ square mile area of economically and environmental sustainable urban green.
As far as the people who were wandering around waving their arms or holding pieces of cardboard above their heads, or wielding chainsaws, shovels and post hole diggers, these people were actually assessing in a very initial or rudimentary manner, the likelihood of placing either vertical or horizontal axis wind turbines in key areas of this green space that would, once strategically engineered for the site, be placed to maximize the wind potential that was either already occurring on the site, or, through modification of the matured plantscape would be. The same held true for the placement of solar electric arrays as it did for the placement of wells for geothermal and new pipelines for new natural gas outlets for both home heating and vehicle refueling.
Due to the fact that virtually all of the existing electric utility infrastructure was somehow entirely removed from this ½ mile area, none of those who occupied this area had to contend with removing such things as electrical transformers, overhead transmission lines, service drops to existing houses or the utility poles that suspended this whole ancient hodgepodge of electrical gadgetry 30' above the land this acreage and the people on it called home. As this was the case, as essentially these people were left with a blank slate from which to install only the components required to activate a variety of energy technologies into the collective grid of this ½ mile area, it was soon discovered that to accomplish the above actually required the advanced skills of several seemingly or otherwise unrelated energy sectors. In the same breath, however, it was also discovered that all those involved could actually work quite seamlessly together and in doing so create something called a “combined, mixed trade and mixed energy public utility installation momentum” or, CMTAMEPUIM for short (just kidding).
At any rate, the point I am attempting to convey here is that any one electric generating entity cannot, in any manner whatsoever, be expected to provide the electrical needs for the entire grid of which this ½ square mile area is but a minute part of. Yet, with all of these segmented energy sectors becoming fully integrated with one another within this ½ square mile area, the electric burden is reduced tremendously whereas the burden upon the electric utility infrastructure is essentially subdivided into varying competing yet non competing energy segments that are in and of themselves, fully prepared to both install and service their individual grid segment while at the same time, find the capability of working again seamlessly with other energy provider segments for the purpose of affecting the 100% remodeling of or retrofitting of the entire grid itself.
Thus whereas there is a decided and measured growth in America's overall solar industry today in 2015, really nowhere is the larger picture from which all energy segments either separately or co-mingled are accurately being measured, at least not from within the same frame of mind that would state that these other energy sectors have the potential to experience the same rate of growth as the solar sector. As this is the case, what we as a nation can fully expect is a slowing of the installation momentum of residential and commercial solar electric systems due not to the fact that prices are dropping for such equipment, but to the much more obvious fact that none or very little growth in these other energy sectors is actually taking place on any level of combined uniformity from which if such uniformity were present, each of these energy segments would expand significantly. As essentially what will cause the slowdown in solar sales is the economy itself, without the even growth of all energy segments, of all industries associated with these energy segments, there is in fact, no economy to begin with.
As an interesting side to this whole discussion today is the fact that banks are now establishing a cautionary approach to energy lending as such lending is directed towards the future expansion of domesticwell placement in both the oil and natural gas markets, the fact that again public electric utility providers are complaining about the loss of market share as such loss may be related to the solar sector is in fact an admonition on the part of all energy sectors that there is simply not an overall mixed energy policy in place to begin with. As such a policy would in fact establish a substantial blueprint for truly comprehensive job growth in all of these energy sectors, it is in fact job growth or the lack of job growth that is in fact perpetuating the slow expansion of these energy sectors to begin with.
Thanks for stopping by.
Mike Patrick Dahlke