Popular and ‘Best-Of’ Posts

Welcome to the Handleman Post, a renewable energy blog where I help you differentiate truth from hype.  You are in the right place if you want a fact based discussion of the state of renewable energy and the possibilities for its future.  A growing number of posts on this blog are reaching national audiences through outlets such as The Energy Collective and Clean Technica.

Below is a list of the most popular and / or most important posts on the blog.  Most of the posts listed provide a quick reference to in-demand information about renewable energy.  Posts with logos indicate that they have been published nationally in those blogs.


CleanTechnica logo-JoUS Wind Potential has Barely Been Tapped.  HERE  – is a post showing where the best sites are and how we can harvest wind at those sites.

–   The best Wind sites have capacity factors in excess of 50% offering phenomenal value – HERE .

– New wind turbine technology is further reducing the cost and intermittency of wind power – HERE


The cost of Renewables Is Dropping Rapidly – HERE are lots of great graphs showing declining costs.

– The amount of renewable energy has been growing exponentially for decades.  Here are some good graphics illustrate that growth.

HERE is a link to videos of an entire course on renewable energy.  The presenter is engaging making it fun and interesting.


– Storage is vitally important for the future of renewable energy and many think that Lithium Ion batteries will play an important role if the cost can be brought down.   Elon Musk predicts breaking the important $100 / kwhr barrier by 2025.  This is in the same ballpark as predicted by Navigant and McKinsey  prior to the Tesla announcement of the Gigafactory details – HERE .

– And not to worry, there is plenty of Lithium – HERE .

The Energy CollectiveThere has been much excitement over the Tesla Powerwall energy storage system.  It is important but not for the reasons described in the press.  My recent post post on the significance of Powerwall was picked up by The Energy Collective – HERE.


– Electric Vehicles pollute less even when you take into account emissions from the generation source HERE

– Tesla really is revolutionary. HERE

– EV batteries are the cost driver and they are coming down FAST – HERE

– EVs combined with Load Shifting use market forces to increase the value of wind power while reducing the cost of driving. – HERE

EVs don’t have a range problem – HERE  CleanTechnica logo-Jo  .

The world according to Elon – Elon Musk on the Tesla road map from 2006.  And now more from Elon on the derogatory Larry Hirsh article.


The Land area required for solar is relatively small in comparison to the overall human footprint.


Incandescent bulbs are being phased out in favor of high efficiency lights.  The most efficient is LED lighting which is dropping in price rapidly and is more efficient than CFLs – Here.


Moving renewable energy from the best sites (eg Great Plains for wind, the Southwest for solar) to sites of highest demand such as the East Coast requires upgraded power transmission infrastructure

– Clean Line Energy HERE is developing HVDC transmission lines – HERE to do just that.

– The US is composed of three separate, independent electrical grids, by connecting the three grids Tres Amigas will make wider use of renewable energy possible.

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New NREL Numbers Suggest Wind Power Could Shed Intermittent Reputation

Could wind power shed its classification as an intermittent source of electrical energy?  If NREL’s recent numbers are accurate it appears that the answer is yes.  With little fanfare, NREL released updated data implying that current generation wind turbines could generate sufficient energy at 55% Capacity Factor (CF) to power the entire US.  However the real stunner is that near future turbine technology could boost that to 64% CF.  With the national average (pg 34) at about 33% this represents a near doubling of CF.  While the media may not find this as sexy as Tesla’s ‘Ludicrous mode‘ , its transformative implications for climate change dwarf Elon Musk’s latest press frenzy in importance. Wind Potential Chart US 072015Figure 1:  Graph showing the area of the US with various gross capacity factors for differing wind technologies. 

With no emissions most agree that use of wind energy is highly desirable because it offers one of the lowest impact approaches to electricity generation.  However, extensive use of wind power is hampered by several factors:

– Low CF leading to weak economics,

-Inefficient use of dedicated transmission assets,

– Lack of transmission access from the best sites to the largest loads, and

– Small capacity credit (related to the intermittent nature of wind).

Moving from 33% to 65% addresses all of these considerations rather spectacularly.

The economics of wind are already quite good in the Interior Region (Great Plains) of the United States.  Recent PPAs have been coming in under $30 / MWhr.  This already low cost will be improved dramatically by increased CF.

Wind PPA Prices through Jan 2014Figure 2:  Levelized wind PPA prices by PPA execution date and region.

CF is the ratio of energy produced by a generator divided by the energy that would be produced by that generator if it ran at its nameplate rating 24/7/365.  All other things equal, if a generator runs at a high capacity factor, the economics improve.  For example, a 3 MW wind turbine running at 33% capacity factor and charging $30 / MWhr for electricity will generate about $260,000 in annual revenue.  That same turbine running at 64% capacity factor would produce $505,000.  Alternatively it could charge $15.5 / MWhr and end up with the same profits as the 33% CF unit.  This would make it more competitive.

The regions with the highest wind, have the lowest population density.  Not surprisingly there is little transmission access since very little electricity is required by the residents.  The economics of low CF wind power has required that it be built relatively close to transmission lines.  To significantly develop the high CF sites will require new transmission lines.  Transmission line economics are improved with higher utilization.    The utilization increases proportionally with CF and is approximately the same as the CF.  If the CF doubles then the cost of the transmission line is cut in half on a $/MWhr basis.  For perspective, with windpower being produced at 65% capacity factor it will have a slightly higher transmission utilization than most of the grid which is utilized at about 60%*.

The trend in turbines has been to increase in size and reduce cost on a $ / MWhr basis.  There are factors that imply costs will increase at some point.  However, the benefits of better wind, technology developments and reduced number of individual turbines has tilted the balance in favor of increased size.  It remains to be seen what the cost of the “near future” turbines will be on a $/MW basis.  The current crop of 140m turbines are high capacity 7.5 MW units compared to the 2 – 3 MW turbines in widespread use in the US.  Some costs will increase.  For example the taller cranes will almost certainly have higher hourly rental rates.  However many of the costs will be consolidated.  Less land taken out of service, fewer utility hook-ups, less crane time, fewer pad pours, less administrative time getting site agreements with land owners (on a $ / MW basis) etc.  However some costs will increase non-linearly with capacity.  If the cost increases outweigh the benefits of scale and turbines cost more on a $/W basis it will cannibalize some of the economic gains.  To date, scale has favored cost reduction.

Intermittency will be reduced.  The relationship between intermittency and CF is complicated.  However dramatic shifts in the CF do reduce intermittency.  The 94% increase in CF from the current US average will reduce intermittency substantially.

* Note:  I was unable to find definitive data on grid utilization.  However the graphic linked to is consistent with the national ration of average load / peak load.

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Protected: Great Plains Wind, No Problem for the Neighbors

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Nuclear – Miscellaneous Commentary and Links

My focus has been on building a free market for generation and promoting renewables due to their very low environmental footprint.  I have a variety of reservations about nuclear power with proliferation being the biggest.

Radiation – This article suggests that fears of radiation risks are overblown.

Costs and Cost Over Runs

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Ocean Thermal

Ocean Thermal Energy is an interesting technology.  This post on The Energy Collective covers many of the details.  However I think it unlikely that it will be pursued aggressively.  The infrastructure that would need to be put in place would address most of the issues hindering 100 % adoption of solar and wind.  But hey are already mature and so could be pursued with lower risk.  The author also points out some additional environmental benefits to OTEC that are worth considering.

Some thoughts I have in response to the Ocean Thermal concept are as follows:

I think there are a few fundamental weaknesses to the overall concept in comparison to others, wind and solar in particular.

1) Once it is decided to build a hydrogen energy economy, intermittency and CF are no longer at issue and $ / MWhr becomes the primary evaluative figure of merit.  With a hydrogen based energy economy, solar and wind are no longer constrained by intermittency since the energy is stored as hydrogen and easily dispatched in a highly responsive as needed basis.

2) Your cost figures appear to be based upon projections for OTEC at scale where solar and wind are based upon (almost) up to date numbers.  Lazards puts utility scale solar at $72 / MWhr with projections only 3 years out at $60.  Your proposal assumes both hydrogen and HVDC.  Under the assumption of that infrastructure wind power can be land based and land based wind is currently at $37 / MWhr at favorable sites. PPAs are already beating this even when adjusted for PTC.  The experience curve for wind is about $14% per cumulative doubling of deployment.

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Rare Earths



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Tesla Powerwall, What Does It Mean?

Photo Credit – strom-report/#tesla

What is the significance of the Tesla Powerwall storage appliance and what does it mean for the future of energy and Tesla?  Travis Hoium covered a great deal in his Motley Fool article.  He points out that at today’s electricity prices the Powerwall is a boutique product.  It is not economical.  If you want backup, a generator is much less expensive.  In fact, the only justification for battery backup of this kind today is for niche markets with very high electric rates (such as Hawaii) and for commercial entities to reduce demand charges.  But Tesla introduced a battery backup solution for demand charges almost 2 years ago.  So what is Elon Musk up to?

There are 4 reasons for the PowerWall:

1) Market creation: The renewable energy buzz is strong right now.  For years, solar energy has been a niche market and the mainstream has been mildly curious about it.  Low prices, residential PPAs and great marketing by companies such as Solar City has mainstreamed solar.  Now the question in the public’s mind is “what about night time”.  Just as the Supercharger network solves a non-problem (at least for the vast majority of EV owners), Powerwall solves what is currently a non-problem for the renewables industry.  It is a product that manages public perception.  Musk doesn’t advertise but everything he does is marketing.  And powerwall is about marketing and technology development.

2) Technology Development Targeting Future Markets:  In cars the progression of products has been cleverly designed for the company to learn / create the technology for mass market products.  In storage they are following a similar road-map.  Tesla makes no secret of its auto road map.  The Roadster targeted a tiny boutique market of cool in order to develop a technology baseline for future plans.  The Model S was designed to teach the company how to mass produce cars in moderate volume.  The Model 3, due for release in 2017 is targeted at high rates of production and the mainstream.  Think of Powerwall as Tesla’s model S for their storage business.  The Powerwall equivalent of the model C will develop as battery prices are driven down by volume in the EV industry.

3) To Drive Grid Storage Policy Development:  With an operational real world example of the technology in the marketplace, policy makers have something tangible to give policy development traction and reduce risk.

4) A Test Market Exists to Act as a Laboratory:  California’s Grid Energy Storage mandate pretty much assures a market of sufficient size that Tesla can do a real world test of Powerwall.  In other words, they can do a large pilot test without incurring significant losses.

What does it mean?  This is analogous to the introduction of the MacIntosh computer in the 1980’s.  The early Macs had questionable economics.  For the $2500 price tag you could buy a lot of hours paying someone to type and even do graphic layups of documents.  But most recognized immediately that the MacIntosh represented the template of the future.  While its economics were questionable initially, the passionate niche of early adopters assured that the paradigm shift took hold and offered the niche market needed to drive the technology to maturation.

Powerwall is revolutionary only in its timing, who is doing it, and the fact that Musk and company offers the leadership and credibility to disrupt the energy industry and lead us down a path to clean distributed energy.  Looking at battery pricing trends and solar deployment trends, it appears that batteries will drop in price sufficiently to be a solution about the time that the storage ‘non-problem’ morphs into a storage problem.

Here is Elon Musk introducing the Powerwall

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Smart Grid and Net Metering

This is an interesting article that teases apart some of the challenging issues associated with behind the meter generation and net metering.

Smart Grid, net metering, real time pricing, TOU metering, time of use metering

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Net Generation Graphic

This is a neat graphic that shows how various energy sources have played a role in the US energy picture.

Generation Net by SourceNet Generation of Electricity by Source in the U.S., 1920-2014.

This was found at this site:

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Do Wind Turbines Kill Birds? Not so Much.

The Anti-Wind community (yes, there really is such a thing) loves to make up problems that do not exist.  One is to point out the bird kill problem with wind turbines.  This is a “thing” because the first major wind farm in the country, Altimont Pass, had a bird kill problem.  When it became evident that it was a problem, rather than hiding it or attempting to sweep it under the rug, they studied it.  And it was learned what the factors were that led to significant bird and raptor kills in Altimont pass.  As a result, they now no what to look for in siting wind farms.  There are other subtlties like the fact that the ‘lattice towers’ were good nesting sites further attracting birds.  And at the base they provided good cover for rodents, creating populations attractive to raptors.  So now wind towers are made with tubular towers.  In short this is a solved problem and there is minimal bird kill from wind turbines when compared to other human created problems such as house cats.  Yes, house cats.  Below is a list of some links to articles that address this in some depth.

US Fish and Wildlife

National Geographic Article

USA Today article on bird kills from wind turbines

Treehugger Bird Kill

Now bats are a different story.   I don’t think they have figured out what is going on there.

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Wind Vision A Timid Report on the Future of Wind by the DOE

Released in March of 2015 this report makes conservative assumptions about the role of windpower in the country’s future.

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