Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Golden Gate is 75

The golden gate is a bridge I often use as I live just north of the modern wonder.  It is perhaps the most picturesque bridge in the world.  I find it to be the most beautiful bridge every time I pass over it.  I will repeat a blog I did in October 2011 about the bridge to commemorate the birthday of my red star.

It is mid October and my favorite time of the year. The San Francisco Bay Area always has great warm weather this time of the year and for about two weeks this chilly city feels like the south of France. I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday and the temperature on the bridge was over 80 degrees compared with the normal 55 degrees. Many motorists were out and about in convertibles and throngs of tourists were walking or bicycling on the bridge taking in the marvelous view of Alcatraz, the bay and the city skyline.

The toll on the bridge is now $6 if you pay with cash and $5 if you use a FasTrak transponder. The toll is only paid in the south bound direction and northbound travel is free. I of course have a FasTrak transponder as I am a cheap skate and also I want to speed through the toll booth. This time though I stayed to the very right to pay my toll and was in a cash or FasTrak lane. I did this as I wanted to exit along the Pacific coastal road just after the toll booth. At the toll booth, I was behind a motor cycle and the guy on the cycle had to fork out $6 of cash for his toll even though he was on a motor cycle and not in a large SUV. A kind of stupid pricing policy by the bridge authority as there is no way that a motor cycle causes the same wear and tear to the bridge roadway surface as an Escalade.

I know that during rush hour periods that the bridge does give a discount to carpools with a transponder and this saves the carpoolers another $2 making the cost of the crossing at $3. If a motor cyclist has a transponder they too receive the carpool discount. It makes sense for motor cyclist to receive the carpool rate during peak traffic hours as the intent of the discount is to decrease traffic congestion. When the bridge first opened in 1937 the toll was 50 cents in each direction. Interestingly back then, an extra 5 cent charge was levied if the vehicle carried more than 3 passengers. I guess some bright spark who worked for Standard Oil came up with the idea to penalize folks for being green back then.

In 1968 the north bound ride became free and the cost of the toll to south bound motorists was still 50 cents. Just shows that back then after the 30 year bonds to build the bridge were paid off, the motorists were given a break. Now that thousands of toll collectors are collecting retirement, that the bridge has been seismically updated, and that people are always taken for the ride we pay 12 times as much to cross the bridge compared with 1968. Given the beauty of the bridge and given the view from the bridge I actually find the $5 toll using FasTrak to be a bargain. Next year will be the 75 anniversary of the opening of the bridge and I hope to be one of the million people who participate in the event. While I love the color green there is no doubt that the Golden Gate Bridge is a red beauty and would look dumb painted green.

Several readers asked me if the photo is real. Yes it is it comes from the official web site of the Golden Gate Bridge and was taken by Frank Fennema Photography,
September 12, 2009, at 4:58am.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The First State

As you all know us geeks who love thermodynamics play around with equations of state. I tend to also dabble in energy policy as it relates to one of the largest equations of state and that is the United States. Today I will deal with a smaller but important state in our United States. I will deal with Delaware the First State. Some friends in the first state asked me to review a permit application that Bloom Energy submitted in November of 2011 for a proposed energy center to be built on some farmland in coastal Delaware. I thought the idea of reading a permit application would be tedious and boring but as I have opined on several times in this blog, the Bloom Box is couched in mystery and probably is not capable of performing to the hyped claims that were made on the 60 Minutes episode in February 2010. Therefore I was happy to read a lengthy permit application to determine if Bloom actually did provide in this public document any clues to how their Pandora’s Box operated. For those who want to check, the application was dated November 11, 2011 and is titled the Coastal Zone Permit Application Bloomenergy Diamond State Generation Partners, LLC. Red Lion Energy Center Project.

What I did not expect was the vast treasures of information or misinformation that unfolded when I opened the Pandora Box of this 163 page long pdf file. On page 6 of the application I quote directly from Bloom

“The Red Lion Fuel Cell Installation will provide up to 47 MW of electrical power that

will be connected to the PJM electrical grid. The project will consist of 235

Bloomenergy ES-5700 Energy Server fuel cells that will utilize pipeline quality natural

gas. The project will be built in phases, the first phase consisting of 27 MW of capacity,

and the second phase an additional 20 MW.

Each fuel cell has a base load electrical output of 200 kW with a maximum natural gas

usage of 1.32 MMBtu/hr (i.e., 1,282 SCFM at 1030 Btu/SCF heating value). The fuel

cells will produce electricity at 480V which will be transformed to 138 kV before being

sent to the nearby Delmarva Power Red Lion substation.”

Well a second grader knows there are 60 minutes in an hour that SCFM is standard cubic feet per minute and that multiplying 1,282 SCFM at 1030 BTU/SCF will yield 1.32million BTU/minute. Of course at this rate of energy usage the bloom box will be less than 1% efficient so I believe the thermodynamic neophyte who submitted this application meant to state that the Box needs 1,282 standard cubic feet per hour so I will let this basic error pass for now.

After reading over a hundred pages of technoblab I found the pearl of information I was looking for on page 161 in Table 1 Offset Of Average PJM Emissions. I found that the Bloom Box emits 884 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of power generated. Viola the Green Machine finally had some official data from Bloom in a permit application whereby a sophomore level student of chemical engineering could vector in on the efficiency of the box that has been cloaked in mystery. The US EPA tells us that for each million BTUs of energy used by fueling with natural gas 117 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted. Viola dividing the 884 by 117 we get the Bloom Box needs 7,555,600 BTUs to generate one megawatt hour of electric power. The actual energy contained in one megawatt hour of electric power is 3,412,141 BTUs. Now dividing the 3,412,141 into 7,555,600 we get the real efficiency of the Box to equal 45.16%. Let’s now return to the claim of 1,282 SCF of natural gas for a moment. Bloom meant to type this quantity per hour, so one may ask is this the real gas usage? Hell no is the answer. We take the 7,555,600 BTU/hr and divide by 1,030 BTU/SCF and get 7,335.9 SCF of natural gas per hour for one megawatt (1,000 kilowatts) of capacity. So for the 200 kilowatt bloom box we will need 7,335.9 multiply by 0.2 which equals 1,467.2 SCFH per bloom box not the 1,282. Ok now we have that the whole permit application is inconsistent on the gas usage versus the actual emissions and the device is 45.16% efficient based on the higher heating value of natural gas.

In the application Bloom goes to great lengths to explain how clean the box is and how the folks in Delaware can breathe easily thanks to the 235 boxes doing their stuff. Well the 47 megawatts of Bloom boxes cost what 350 megawatts of combined cycle natural gas power generation will cost. The combined cycle plants are 53.3% efficient on higher heating value using the same fuel of natural gas and for the same investment the Red Lions are proposing can yield 8 times as much clean power for the poor folks in Delaware who are ingesting poisonous air. Wow how much better would the air be in the first state with a far greater substitution of clean power from a more efficient source of generation such as combined cycle that is 8 times as large as the proposed bloom is off the rose station?

Now the kicker because of the low efficiency of the Bloom boxes and their high capital costs the citizens of the first state will pay Bloom over $200 per megawatt hour of power delivered into their grid. In January 2012 the US Energy Information Agency reported that the levelized cost of power over 30 years generated from and advanced gas fired combined cycle power station is estimated to cost $65.5 per megawatt hour (source Table 1. Estimated Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources, 2017 EIA report January 23, 2012). So now we get what Bloom is doing to the first staters. They are charging them 3 times as much for dirtier power. This means the marginal cost of avoided carbon dioxide for the Bloom box is actually infinite. This results when a dirtier technology costs more. The Europeans went bust with a carbon cap and trade of about $20 per ton. How fast will Delaware go bust with an infinite carbon tax? I think it could be a matter of minutes not hours even with natural gas flowing at 1,467.2 standard cubic feet per hour. The sign above says welcome to Delaware the first state and small wonder. It also says home of tax free shopping. They should add another line to the sign between tax free shopping and buckle up and that should say “except for electricity”.

Of course the pdf file of the application meant to use the following meaning of pdf: Please Delaware Forget that back in 1776 you were the first state to end taxation without representation. I have no doubt that the Vice President of the United States played a role in being a cultivator or perhaps he is just blooming asleep, I have no doubt that the ex Vice President of the United States who now makes a living in a blooming nursery being a green thumb played a role in bringing you this expensive and dirty power, and I have no doubt that the civil servants in the first state had their eyes wide shut when they approved the error filled application without even batting an eyelid at how inefficient, dirty, and expensive the power from the now open Pandora box is. In Big Brother opening the Pandora Box can sometimes get the contestant into trouble. In this case I hope opening this Pandora’s Box actually gets Big Brother into trouble. That one director and major investor of Bloom has the sitting President of the United States over for dinner, that another director of Bloom is the ex Secretary of State of the United States and was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and that the sitting Vice President of the United States hails from Delaware points to fact that the biggest of brothers can submit pure thermodynamic nonsense in a permit application to a coastal commission to convert farmland to a power station and gain approval for that power plant to nowhere except high prices. Yes approval was given on May 4, 2012. Citizens of the first state and the remaining forty nine states wake up and smell the roses. You are living in and paying for a reality show that makes the house of Kardasians look like fully bright scholars even with the dimmer switch turned on!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

I need Lithium

I have opined so many times that A 123 was a thermodynamic goner.  Now it is really on its last legs and has gone into the financial death spiral of borrowing money from vultures.    The interest rate is not that of a raptor but the company has to pay back 1/28th of the principal every two weeks and the amount borrowed is $50 million.  I hope that Chu Chu has asked the Treasury Secretary of the US Mr. Tiny Tim to make sure our taxpayer loans to the company have preferential position when it comes to the cash and assets of the soon to be dead battery company.  No word from Chu Chu or Tiny Tim yet on the disaster but Al Gore is still hoping that his Fisker will save him by a whisker from this short circuit.  Actually I do hear that the State of Delaware (the intended home of the Fisker Assembly Plant) will shorten their famous half mile international speedway to only 100 yards so the Fisker Dogma can perform its final lap in short circuit and disappear like the billions of tax payer money that were wasted on A 123 and its partner Fisker.  Today the stock of A 123 closed at $1.03 so I suggest a renaming of the company to A One Zero Three.  Fisker does not have a stock that trades but it should be renamed “Not So Oldsmobile” as it will die long before its fifth birthday.

This has been a terrible week for Al and his Kleiner Perkins team.  Their bio fool wonder child Amyris is trading at $2.04 a share.  Down from a high of $30.78 a share when all Gringos except the Green Machine believed that their sugar water to diesel trick using e-coli was for real.  I knew it was a slight of hand and that there was a bug in the system so to speak.    Yeah Amyris is part of the Kleiner green portfolio that Kleiner partner Al Gore put together and then sold the department of entropy the bill of goods.  Even the President was still talking “advanced biofuels” in the 2012 state of the union address.  Bet you that word will not be mentioned in the 2013 state of the union speech.  In 2011 the President referred to plain old biofuels as our “Sputnik Moment”.    I say the whole biofuels story of the past 12 years has been our Apollo 1 moment.

Tesla still manages to defy gravity and is still playing musical chairs even though there is only one electric chair in the room.  They will launch the model S a month early and will start repaying the department of entropy our loans in December.  It will be rather funny if Chu Chu is still the secretary of entropy and actually does get a few loan dollars back and then has to ask his boss what to do with the money.  The whole thing reminds me of the joke of how to make a million dollars?  You start with ten million dollars!  I no longer wear a hat but I have ordered a ten gallon Stetson to eat when we get back the $465 million Chu Chu handed Tesla to build a few tens of thousands of very expensive cars for the rich and famous.   Of course the liquid in the 10 gallon hat will be 80-proof vodka as that is what the fermentation of carbohydrates should really yield.   Time to say cheers to the ethanol and of course cheers to state of union addresses that think we are un-advanced bio fools.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lord Kelvin

This week was a wild and crazy week for matters green. Amyris the gangrene sugar-to-diesel company fired three executives including one of their founders and claimed they now have a strategy for growth. I doubt it will be in the area of biofuels and they will claim they can make high value cosmetics and specialty chemicals from their bio-fermentation of cane sugar without admitting total defeat in transportation fuels. Their stock is at 10% of their high just a year ago. First Solar the US based but Malaysian and German manufacturer of PV cells using cadmium telluride chemistry also hit the skids and is also below 10% of its peak stock price. First Solar is a far bigger company than Amyris so the wipe out of 90% of its market capitalization has meant an over than $10 billion loss for the shareholders.

Of Course Steven Chu has not said a word about his green darlings that are dying on the vine and the President has bigger problems in China than fighting a PV war. We have a blind human rights activist trying to flee the police state and wanting Hilary Clinton to do something for him and his family. The solution will be for the Chinese to give the poor fellow a visa to come study in the USA. I feel terribly sorry for the blind activist who can now clearly see how incompetent the Federal Government of the US is when it comes to any policy whether energy or foreign.

The sales data for new motor vehicles sold in the US in April have just been released. The Prius is doing great and their short range (10 mile) smaller battery plug in introduced only 2 months ago outsold all other plug in brands combined. I guess the design guys at Toyota read my Senate testimony that 10 miles electric only range is the economic limit for plug ins. I also opined in that testimony that even with a short range the plug in Prius still makes no sense compared with the traditional plain old hybrid Prius without plug in capability. The traditional Prius sold extremely well in April and continues to make the most sense for buyers who wish to purchase a hybrid. Also in the first quarter of 2012 more than 53% of all new cars and trucks sold in the US were equipped with a 4-cylinder engine. This is a total change from five years ago when less than a quarter of all new vehicles sold were equipped with 4-cylinder engines. I am proud of my fellow Americans who have dumped the V8.

Shell Oil has finally pulled the plug on its JV with Iogen to produce cellulosic ethanol. Iogen had this hair-brain scheme to produce ethanol from wheat-straw in Manitoba and they had Royal Dutch Shell under their spell for almost a decade. Shell has now pulled the plug on the Iogen alchemy as well as the algae to diesel nonsense that Cellana was pushing. OK so we have Shell coming back to thermodynamics but I am sure some “Occupy Oil Patch” morons will claim it is a conspiracy against bio-fuels and that big oil did not want it to happen. I have to chuckle when these thermodynamic neophytes make speeches about us needing 21st century energy technology and the oil companies are stuck in the 19th century. I wish they could only read a bit about Lord Kelvin and his statement in 1851 that “No process is possible in which the sole result is the absorption of heat from a reservoir and its complete conversion into work”. Old Kelvin was a man for all centuries and the Occupy folks need to “move on” and just get the fact that shift like entropy happens.