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Things That I Noticed

Badtux notes that the LAPD needs remedial vehicle identification classes. I noticed elsewhere that LA is buying the lady a new truck, and I assume that all of the medical bills will be covered by the city, but they can’t let the officers involved stay on the force, or they will be bankrupted by the court settlement that every lawyer in California wants to file on behalf of the victim. The city should also be offering the victims “pain and suffering” cash now, because they do not want to go to court with this. Hell, the newspaper may sue them before this is over [this is California, after all.] [And people wonder why OJ Simpson got off…]

PZ Myers notes that Fox News ‘experts’ think that Germany gets more sun than the US. As the graphic shows, Germany doesn’t get as much sun as Alaska, but it gets a huge amount of electricity from solar panels. Munich, in southern Germany is on the same parallel of latitude as the US-Canada border West of the Great Lakes.

The thing is – Germans buy homes, but Americans invest in real estate. When a German gets it all together to buy a home, they intend it to be ‘until death do us part’. They install solar panels and other energy efficient improvements because they will be the ones saving money on their utility bills. Americans are constantly looking at resale value, not cost of ownership. Germany leads the US based on the huge number of installed solar panels, not the amount of sun they receive.

The house I’m working on is getting done. I would already be done if I didn’t get pulled into things that have nothing to do with the electrical and plumbing repairs I agreed to do.


1 Badtux { 02.10.13 at 11:32 pm }

Bryan, if the LAPD fired every police officer who mistakenly shot a civilian by shooting first and asking questions later, they wouldn’t have a force left :twisted:. Officer Safety is the true Chief of Police of the LAPD. Funny, but I never met Officer Safety, or had Officer Safety protect me from criminals. So it goes.

Funny that you mention the newspaper. The one and only reason that these officers may be fired is because the truck they ventilated was full of copies of the Los Angeles Times. Picking a fight with people who buy paper by the ton and ink by the barrel is never a good idea :).

As you point out, the reason Germany has so much solar power is that it is full of Germans, not because of its latitude. There’s a *reason* why the Romans took a tour of Germany, kicked a bit of barbarian ass, and then decided there was no “there” there and retreated behind the Rhine, and it’s not because they couldn’t have conquered Germany back in that day and age before Rome entered its centuries-long decline. Rather, it’s because Germany is not the sort of place that the phrase “warm and inviting” was created to cover. Probably why the Germans have periodically erupted and tried to conquer (and sometimes succeeded) other places that were, let us say, more hospitable to human occupancy.

2 Bryan { 02.11.13 at 12:51 am }

I assumed the newspapers probably saved the driver’s life, and those cops destroyed hundreds of copies of the paper, not counting the undamaged papers that were impounded with the truck. That’s a pretty good basis for damages, as newspapers are ‘perishables’ with a one day shelf life. [full disclosure, I was in charge of monitoring for possible liability suits for my department and minimizing that possibility.]

I would call shooting up a vehicle that wasn’t a positive match with the suspect vehicle a good move towards officer safety. If they thought they had a suspect vehicle they should have called for back-up to control the situation, not start a one-sided gun battle in the street. Hell, they apparently didn’t know how many people were in the vehicle, much less what they looked like. This is the kind of thing you see in war zones like Iraq. It is really FUBAR.

I lived in Germany twice, and sunburn was never a concern. The Germans were friendly … well, except for the Hessians, but not even Hessians like Hessians, which is why so many were shipped out as mercenaries to other countries.

When I read that I thought of all of the German tourists who wander around here in shorts and sandals when the temperatures are in the 50s and 60s. That is summer weather in a lot of Germany.

Germans still take a long view, while Americans have ‘trained’ to see things one quarter at a time. Germans think a 5 to 10 year ROI is good, while Americans don’t want to wait more than a few months.

3 JuanitaM { 02.11.13 at 7:49 am }

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed about solar panels is that their reported life expectancy is often shorter than their real life, by decades. There are still plenty of Carter era panels around here that were only supposed to have a 25 year life, and they’re still working. They just sit there quietly, harm no animal life to speak of, have no moving parts (for the most part), and generally work for decades with just a small amount of maintenance.

Still, there’s a gaggle of Foxnews commentators that insist that panels are only good for pantywaist jobs, not for “real” power. I just don’t get it. Once the infrastructure is there, it’s nearly free power after that.

4 Jim Bales { 02.11.13 at 2:54 pm }

The big thing that drove the German Solar boom was their feed-in-tarrif. The tariff has been quite generous, and intentionally scaled to make it economical for home-owners to install solar.

As a result, Germany dominated solar production for most of the past decade, and also drove down the manufacturing cost per module.

While solar is not generally at cost parity with fossil fuels, it is quite close now, in large part because the German tariff created the demand required to bring economies of scale to the manufacturing side.


5 Bryan { 02.11.13 at 7:31 pm }

Only the people with big money take advantage of solar power down along the Gulf Coast. If the US would stop subsidizing fossil fuels, and started charging for the damage they cause, renewables would be cheaper than fossil fuels.

Everything is expensive until it is scaled up and mass produced. Solar cells, like most electronic parts, either fail early or continue for years. There are new versions coming into the market every year that are more efficient and easier to manufacture. Storage is the only major problem that needs to be addressed.

All that is really necessary is the vision to look at things in the long term and make the necessary investment now.

6 Jim Bales { 02.12.13 at 12:43 pm }


Germany gets about 25% of its electricity from renewable sources now

I suspect that this is pushing the limits of what the grid can accommodate without a substantial buffering capacity.

Don Sadoway has a really interesting technology for industrial-scale batteries:

They are working on it, and have deep-pocket investors behind them. I’ll note that in this Ted talk he describes a battery that fits in a 40-foot shipping container that stores 2 MW-hr (2,000 kW-hr), which is getting to be significant.

If you cycle it every day, that means it buffers 730,000 kW-hr of electricity over a year, and if you get 15-years out of a battery (a WAG), it buffers just over 10,000,000 kWh of electricity over its lifetime. At 10 cents/kW-hr, that’s $1M of electricity buffering. If you can make the battery for $100,000 (a number I made up), then you increase the cost of the electricty by 1 cent/kW-hr over its nominal selling price, which looks viable.


7 Bryan { 02.12.13 at 10:26 pm }

I know that people are working on it, Jim, and it is necessary for solar/wind to be useful nationally. The thing that people forget in places like Florida, is that solar power is at its highest level when we need it most – during the air conditioning season.

If people would invest in solar panels down here the benefits would be instantly obvious in reducing the biggest energy cost we have – cooling during the summer. That’s what causes brown outs and rolling black outs in places like California. If you consume all of the power in your house to operate your air conditioner, you are still saving money, and the grid is unaffected. It doesn’t help with lighting, but it would certainly reduce the extra hundreds of dollars that air conditioning costs you during the summer, as well as reducing the peak load on the grid. When I replaced my air conditioner with a new Energy Star model, my electric bill dropped $50/month. It paid for itself the first season I used it.

Once the technology is in place, the next problem will be convincing the for-profit utilities to use it. That is going to require government action, because I can’t see them doing willingly. I would like to see taxes on carbon emissions, to help them see the future, and reduce our carbon footprint so Florida doesn’t totally disappear under the waves.

8 Badtux { 02.12.13 at 11:21 pm }

We have government action pushing renewables here in California, and the industry is well on track to get 20% of our electricity from solar and wind power by the end of the decade (it’s currently at around 15%). I’m not sure how hard it’d be to get that to 25% though. One thing to remember is that we get about 25% of our power from hydroelectric here in California, so if we got solar and wind up to 25%, that’s 50% from renewable sources. Most of the rest is nuclear or natural gas — we don’t have coal-powered plants out here because it’s too far from sources of coal, and the old bunker oil plants were retired decades ago.

9 Bryan { 02.13.13 at 12:31 am }

Because of the Mississippi River system coal is cheap down here and there is a coal plant in Pensacola. Needless to say, the Florida Republicans wouldn’t think of actually hurting the feelings of the energy industry, so all we get is talk about renewables and no action. The real fight is going to come when the state runs out of water, so the current plants just won’t work, and that is going to happen because of the growth, agricultural, and industrial non-policies in the state. The state will be flat broke because of all of the tax cuts, and there is no one to make the improvements necessary to head off any of the problems.

California seems to have finally gotten a grip on fiscal policy, but Florida never will. We have so much solar potential, and it is just being ignored, just like climate change, because of the people who win Republican primaries.

10 Steve Bates { 02.13.13 at 4:04 pm }

Year before last, Reliant Energy sold me 100% wind power for this house. The following year, they refused to renew that contract. I made an issue of it, but they would not budge: in the second year, they would sell me only 20% wind power. Eventually I took the offer, but I wasn’t happy doing so. I can’t help wondering if the suppliers of natural gas and nuclear power made a fuss with Reliant, or whether wind power somehow got more expensive and less profitable.


11 Bryan { 02.13.13 at 11:25 pm }

Reliant may have run out of sources for wind generated power due to demand, and can’t sell it . They may have, in fact, been caught selling more than they actually had, and lost a court case over the ‘accounting error’.

They may not want to buy more because it would require an expansion of their grid to new sources, and that isn’t cheap or quick. I really get suspicious when corporations won’t sell what people want. Real capitalists would get more, not refuse to sell more.

12 Badtux { 02.14.13 at 10:39 am }

On the other hand, there is a marginal cost of production issue. For example, Chiseler Corporation is currently selling 150,000 Jeep Wranglers per year world-wide. This is all that their factory in Toledo, Ohio can make running three shifts 24/7. To make more they’d have to build a second assembly line. To do that would cost approximately $5 BILLION for the tooling costs due to the highly automated assembly process for the Jeep Wrangler. They estimate that they could sell approximately 50,000 more Jeep Wranglers overseas if they built that second assembly line. So, what do they do?

a) Raise the price of the Jeep Wrangler to the highest point where they can sell out the 150,000 production number, or
b) Invest $5 billion in a new assembly line — and remember, the Wrangler is due for a redesign in three years (the military-inspired Jeeps have a 10 year design cycle, the current one was introduced in 2006, meaning the next one is due in 2016), meaning that the new assembly line would have only a three year lifespan?

The reality is that they ARE expanding the Toledo factory to add a new assembly line… but by the time the new building is filled and equipped, it will be for the 2016 Jeep Wrangler, not the current one, which will keep producing the current model until the day that the workforce walks across the street to the new assembly line to start producing the next model. So now you know why you can buy a $45,000 Jeep Wrangler that costs them maybe $15K to make :).

13 Bryan { 02.15.13 at 12:13 am }

Those are manufacturing costs, while Reliant is looking at infrastructure to carry the increased supply. They might be more willing if they were actually going to manufacture the electricity, but they will have to spend money just to get it, and they have always had the government do that for them.

I assume they are stalling until the government pays for it, one way or another. Real manufacturers rarely have that option, as it is reserved for energy companies.