Vinod Khosla at Milken Institute: Part II

This is a continuation of the previous post covering Vinod Khosla’s (VK) recent lengthy interview Milken Institute 2009 Global Conference. The interview was conducted by Elizabeth Corcoran (EC) of Forbes and can be viewed here.

In Part I, VK discussed the role of government money, capital intensity of renewable projects, and some of his solar investments. Part II picks up at the 13:40 mark of the 75 minute interview. In this section, VK covers his strategy for cutting poor performers from his portfolio, discusses butanol, suggests that cellulosic ethanol can replace oil, says nuclear power can’t compete without subsidies, says cap and trade is inevitable, talks efficiency and smart grid, and tells us that he is often wrong.

EC (13:40): In the past 90 days we have seen something like a billion dollars being put into solar investments – whether in the form of equity or debt. Is that stupid money?

VK: The people who are putting in gobs of money, behind people chasing First Solar at billion dollar valuations – I won’t say it’s stupid but it’s not something I would do with my money. (EC: That pretty much counts as stupid). A diversity of opinion is good. I am often wrong. (EC: Sometimes you are). You only need to be correct once in a while because in our business you only lose one time your money but you can make 100 times quite easily. I don’t have to be very right.

(RR: I would like to hear that during his next congressional testimony where he is trying to drive the direction of energy policy: “I am often wrong.” But this also gets to the heart of why I often object to what he is saying. If he uses his high level of influence to help put us down the wrong path on energy policy, then what are the consequences of being wrong? They could be severe.)

EC (14:38): How many companies do you currently have in your portfolio?

VK: Our clean tech portfolio has probably about 50 companies.

EC (14:50): And how many companies – again you have been at this 5 years or so – how many companies do you cut off at this point?

VK: Interestingly the companies we have cut off…when we started, we started with a different premise. I decided, you know in most venture capital there are plenty of angels. Angels spend half a million dollars, work with a university professor, develop the idea a little further. There are very few angels in clean tech. First, the start-ups are harder, because they are very science and technology-based. If you made money in real estate, you aren’t going to put new money into a waste heat system, for example. It’s harder to understand. (RR: That’s ironic.) So we decided in 2004 that I would spend a lot of my time on what we would call science experiments. So we have cut off perhaps four or five things.

EC (15:48): Which was the biggest disappointment?

VK: Let me just finish the thought. The ones we have cut off, we cut off relatively early. So, of the 10 science experiments we did, we cut off five of them with a million dollars invested. Who cares? The problem is when you invest $50 million and cut it off. That’s the problem. We have not had any large cut-offs – I am trying to think – in our clean tech portfolio. When we have invested a lot of money, there’s one or two places – well one we wrote off; one called Altra (RR: Altra is a corn ethanol producer that is on the ropes). There’s one place we actually decided to change the plan – Cilion – and made it capital neutral, so they don’t need a lot of cash. Got rid of the debt; the company is going fine, but sort of on the slow boat.

(RR: When Cilion was formed in 2006, they announced they would have 8 plants in operation by 2008 and achieve an energy return of better than twice that of gasoline. Here in 2009 they have zero plants in operation. The formation of the company included much fanfare, such as this quote from VK: “Cilion will be able to single-handedly produce all of the ethanol that the Governor has ordered for 2010 [900 million gallons], based on current consumption.” So far, they have proven to be nothing but a money pit. So what if California had counted on that ethanol? These are the dangers of having someone unduly influencing energy policy and being “often wrong.”)

EC (16:57): How about Hawaii Bio?

VK: Hawaii Bio was a tiny investment. It was sort of like – I don’t even remember – under a million bucks. It’s actually going pretty well. They have only spent, cumulatively, a few hundred thousand dollars in their whole life. The idea there was very simple, and it’s still valid. We teamed up with the three largest landowners in Hawaii; about 640,000 acres and said when the technology comes along – and all they are doing is looking for technology; they aren’t developing any technology of their own – that land will be a strategic asset for the fuels area in Hawaii. And so we have been talking to a lot of technology providers, spending very little money. We’ll tread water until the right technology comes along.

EC (18:03): Last fall you said project finance was not an area you want to be headed into. Talk a little bit about where you see cellulosic ethanol going, and isn’t that an area where you have been involved with project finance?

VK: It depends on what you call project finance. Cellulosic technology is something I am very interested in; I actually think it’s the only thing that can replace the oil; I am fairly confident that within the next 5 years it will be cheaper unsubsidized than oil at $50, $60 a barrel.

(RR: I would like to see the math on this. It’s amazing that someone can believe this, despite there not being a single commercial-sized cellulosic ethanol plant in existence.)

EC (18:48): Let’s look at some of the numbers. You don’t like plain ethanol, right; the kind that comes from corn and soy?

VK: Right. To be fair to the corn guys, they served their purpose. I have said for years that they are a good stepping stone. This is important. I will tell you a funny story that really makes a lot of sense. About two years ago, we said that corn ethanol would be a good stepping stone; they have raised a lot of visibility; there’s a lot of pumps; cars are flex-fuel capable. It helped set up the infrastructure. The economics of corn will not work long-term relative to cellulosic. We had a company called Gevo that were not doing corn ethanol, they were doing butanol. (RR: Butanol is something that was produced commercially via the biological route before the petroleum route displaced it; I have explained the issues with bio-butanol here).

They decided to change – not their science; they have bugs that produce butanol and on to some other things – but they changed their strategy for developing the process; the plants they use – to use corn ethanol plants. They have been doing this for two years now; planning on corn ethanol plants being available at 20 cents on the dollar. (RR: And as we saw recently with the Valero purchase of Verasun’s assets, others are also interested in picking up ethanol plants for pennies on the dollar). And developing a process technology that can use them. And in fact the largest maker of corn ethanol plants in the country – or one of the largest, ICM – about three months ago signed an exclusive agreement with them to convert corn ethanol plants into higher value products. So that’s a great example of how every problem is an opportunity.

(RR: While they may be able to reuse portions of a corn ethanol plant, the distillation of the butanol is going to be much different. Distillation capacity will need to be added during any conversion of ethanol plants to butanol plants. I have looked into this already at someone’s request, and I did spend years working in a butanol plant.)

EC (20:38): From your point of view, it’s the 2nd generation ethanol (VK: Absolutely) that’s going to make the most sense. What’s had to go into that is a lot of biotech engineering, finding microorganisms that can efficiently convert. (VK: Sometimes, not always) Finding fuel stocks that will be cheap enough, whether you get them from trees or other brush or winter crops and so forth. Take us through the numbers. Where do the prices have to be in order to make that work, and what happens if oil declines in price? What happens if it gets down to $30/bbl?

VK: What I would say is that unless there’s a competitor to oil, I don’t think oil is going to $30/bbl. (EC: Even though John Doerr was in the Middle East, and people told him, “John, it’s going to $30/bbl?) I won’t speak for John. When we plan for unsubsidized market competitiveness, we plan on $50 oil. I suspect the price will be much higher, especially when economic growth resumes. And whether it’s higher in a year or five years doesn’t matter as much. Not only that, the problem isn’t oil anymore, it’s a carbon constrained world. And we are going to have legislation on that. It doesn’t matter whether the science of climate change is right or wrong. Assume for a moment that we discover over the next 10 years that climate change science is wrong, and we don’t have a climate change problem – not something I believe. We will still end up with legislation in the next five years. So, at this point it is fait accompli; it’s going to happen.

EC (22:50): Doesn’t that amount to government subsidies?

VK: No it doesn’t. If you dump your wastewater into the river, is it a government subsidy if they require you to clean it up? In fact the nuclear industry is the one that’s subsidized. They say we’ll take your toxic waste, the government takes responsibility and subsidizes them. There is not a chance that you [nuclear] can compete in the market unsubsidized. Even if it had the toxic waste subsidy where they took waste off, you still couldn’t compete at market interest rates. There’s not a viable nuclear plant at 15% IRR or 15% debt, which is what the solar guys contend with. It’s only because of 5% loan guarantees from the federal government that keeps nuclear in business.

EC (24:30): Come back to the tax on carbon, though, because there will be a tax. Right? (VK: Yeah). What do you predict that legislation is going to be?

VK: I suspect…look it’s hard to predict politics…I suspect it won’t happen this year it will happen next year. Many people are pushing to have it before Copenhagen this year. I hope we do. There is a 50/50 chance the House can pass a bill by summer. The Senate will take longer, and it will get stuck in the Senate. Anyway, my expectation is that next year we will have a carbon cap and trade.

EC (25:30): Do we know enough about how to make cap and trade work? Isn’t that market just an opportunity for fraudsters to come in?

VK: Any market will have fraudsters to begin with. (RR: He went into an explanation of events that have led to stock market regulations). Will it take 10 years to get a system in place where there is not too much fraud? Yes. (RR: And during those 10 years another administration can come in and dismantle the whole thing).

EC (27:20): So you are willing to put up with an ill-defined, highly-regulated system to have cap and trade?

VK: We have to have cap and trade. We don’t have a choice. (RR: VK compares the need for homeowner’s insurance to the risk that climate change is catastrophic). If we buy home insurance, why shouldn’t we buy planet insurance? (RR: VK discusses the risks that climate change will lead to 100 million deaths; also suggests that the growth rate in China is exaggerated by neglecting “off the books” environmental damage).

EC (29:48): What is a cap and trade system going to do in the United States if we enact it without China?

VK: I suspect China will be part of it in some way. (RR: Discusses targets for developing countries, but doesn’t really answer the question of how China will be compelled to participate. He then referred people to this paper on his website that further explains his ideas.).

EC (33:50): Talk about efficiency. We are hearing a lot about the smart grid; a lot of smart grid technology involving more efficient use of power; we are hearing a lot about Silver Spring which is a company that I think you passed on. Why not? That seems like it would fit your strategy; great, low-cost investment; big bang for the buck.

VK: Silver Spring is a good company. (EC: Why did you pass?) I wouldn’t say I passed, what I would say is that what Silver Spring is doing is not what we are investing in. By that I mean we don’t invest at the valuations at which Silver Spring was raising money. It’s a different domain. (RR: EC explains that Silver Spring is doing smart metering). Efficiency is absolutely in our sweet spot. We are reinventing lighting. We are reinventing motors. We are reinventing air conditioners that haven’t been reinvented for 75 years. Every air conditioner still has a compressor; we are trying to do one without a compressor. We are reinventing batteries, pumps; anything that consumes energy, we are interested in improving.

A smart grid is a good thing to do. I would say that it’s very fashionable among environmentalists. (RR: VK says to remind him to rant later about environmentalists, whom he said cause half the damage). But efficiency is important, smart grid is important, but if I was asked, the money that was allocated to the smart grid in the stimulus package – is that the best use of that money? Absolutely not. (RR: VK says he would rather have a smart grid so wind energy in North Dakota can get to New York; then goes into the differences between a smart grid and a transmission grid.) An area of less than 100 miles by 100 miles in Nevada – and there are plenty of those – could replace 100% of U.S. electricity with solar. (RR: I have done calculations consistent with that sort of estimate, but there are some big caveats like intermittency). Why don’t we have it? Because we don’t have a grid.

EC (39:00): Let’s get to those electric cars. You don’t like the Prius.

(RR: This takes us just past the halfway mark of the interview. I will pick up the second half and conclude it in Part III).

30 thoughts on “Vinod Khosla at Milken Institute: Part II”

  1. VK takes a couple of swipes at nuclear. For a much different view, I would direct people to William Tucker’s presentation here: The Case for Terrestrial Energy

    Tucker believes that solar and wind are fine as peaking capacity, but we should be building nuclear for baseload. The reason nuclear is so expensive and requires subsidies is that politicians and the anti-nuclear crowd has scared the bejesus out of everyone over nuclear power. His website is here: Terrestrial Energy

    Environmentalists often point to nuclear’s high cost as a reason to oppose it, when it is the environmentalists themselves who are responsible for the high cost of nuclear.

  2. France is doing fine with nukes; my rough understanding is that they have a standardized design, so it is “pre-approved’ so to speak, whenever they build a new one. They get 80 percent of their juice from nukes. People who say nukes can’t work are just ignoring France, and soon, Japan.
    VC king Draper is hot on mini-nukes, I hope they work.
    The pubic has a full-on phobia about nukes. I guess Three Mile Island and Chernobyl did not help. Or Nagasaki. Still, as a greenie-weenie, I do not understand why me fellow greenie-weenies like solar and wind (which cover huge swaths of land, despoiling nature or desert landscapes) but not nukes (a small footprint). Happily the new Secy of Energy Chu is high on nukes.
    VK has his work cut out in proving biofuels. I suspect that nothing except biofuels from trees will pan out, unless permanently subsidized (SNAFU in USA).
    That means palm oil, and some other species can stand on their own. You plant once, no more tilling, etc. Then, you collect seeds and crush them. It is pretty simple.
    Palm oil is viable right now, Melittia Pinata is another species that might bear fruit (haha). The nice thing about palm oil is that even if oil prices collapse, you can sell it as vegetable oil.
    Palm oil plantations are rapidly improving their yields, and methods. Some sell fronds etc to medium-density fibreboard plants, others burn the fronds in boilers, become self-sufficient in power.
    I see 5 mbd or so from palm oil in 20 years. More if prices are high.
    Mostly, I see natural gas becoming fuel of choice, along with batteries.
    OPEC better consider the next price spike carefully–every price spike results in much lower demand growth for oil going forward. One more spike, and OPEC may find the world has passed it by to more-reliable sources of energy.

  3. Nuclear costs too much because they are big, complicated, and take five years to construct. Environmentalists are just icing on the cake. So how do you intend to force nuclear power down the throats of a population that don’t want it?

  4. Robert-
    Well, by campaigning, and explaining the true costs and facts, and the success story that is France. By linking new nuke power to conversion of US fleet to PHEVs and CNG. By explaining that nukes are a linchpin to US energy independence.
    No CO2 emissions.
    Are you against any nukes, even the mini-nukes favored by Draper? What about nukes that use nuclear waste?
    And if you think nukes are too expensive, are you then also against solar and wind, as too expensive?
    That means we go with natural gas and coal power plants.

  5. “So how do you intend to force nuclear power down the throats of a population that don’t want it?”

    Robert, you do not have to buy electricity from your utility if you do like how they make. Make your own electricity Robert.

    It is time to dispel the myth that nuclear is expensive. The 104 operating nukes provide their customers the lowest price electricity in the US. That includes taking back spent fuel and decommissioning. Furthermore in also includes pay lots of taxes that nuke plants pay, there are no subsidies for them.

    The whole issue of subsidies are a bit silly. The rate you pay for electricity is not based on supply and demand, it is based on what your PUC decides is a fair cost above the cost of making it.

    All power plants are expensive to build. Greedy folks like Robert want cheap electricity but do not want pay for it. To bad Robert that is not how the world works.

  6. Nuclear costs too much because they are big, complicated, and take five years to construct. Environmentalists are just icing on the cake. So how do you intend to force nuclear power down the throats of a population that don’t want it?

    Watch Tucker’s presentation. I particularly like the pictures of people sitting in the underground cave getting spa radiation treatments, and the story about radioactive steel in an apartment building that LOWERED resident’s incidence of cancer.

    The nuclear part of the power plant is the front end that provides the heat. The back end that generates the power is no different from a coal fired power plant.

    The reason it is so expensive is that we’ve burdened nuclear power with unnecessary regulation, excessive safety factors, and fear.

  7. Benny – I love mini-nuclear plants. You could bury one in my backyard and I’d be OK with that. I’m planning to pack up the family and speak in favor of South Texas nuclear expansion. I was sorry I missed the scoping meetings.

    I always appreciate it when people come to speak in favor of my projects at public meetings.

  8. Blogger robert said…

    I make my own electricity.

    One of the assumptions of many people on this blog is that electricity must be made in centralized locations.

    You can put solar on your roof and also a windmill.

    Some people are even running low-head hydro systems.

    Your comments are a breath of fresh air.

  9. A nuclear power plant differs from a coal plant by having a nuclear reactor and a heat exchanger between the primary and secondary loop. The heat exchanger is the most expensive part. Once you have hot non-radioactive water, it is the same as a coal plant.

    Solar produces retail electricity. Nuclear produces wholesale electricity. I don’t have to pay the utility bureaucrats or the Enron tax.

  10. “The reason it is so expensive is that we’ve burdened nuclear power with unnecessary regulation, excessive safety factors, and fear.”

    Okay King, what particular regulation do you think is unnecessary?

    While it cost a lot of money to build a nuclear power plant, nuclear power plants make a lot of cheap electricity for a very long time. All large power plants have to go through a permitting process that considers safety and environmental impact. All plants have the cost of concrete and lawyers.

    I thinkyou would find that safety factors for building air planes, chemical plants or a public buildings are about the same as a nuclear power plant. The supplier of Robert’s generating system has to meet safety standards. I do not think that it is a bad thing that nuke plants and modern schools do fall down during an earthquake.

    What is expensive is when regulation change during construction as was the case 30 years ago.

    So King if you build a biomass gasification plant within a 100 miles of where I live I will be happy to come and speak in favor of it. If you do not have your act together, you may not like my appearance. The way I figure it, if you cam get the paper work right, you should not be building anything.

  11. 3.7kW solar system generating 7000kWh/year on california’s central coast. $20,000 out of pocket, $37K total. Today it would be cheaper and the federal tax credit better. 18 Sunpower200 panels. xantex 5200 inverter. I wiped out my $70/month electric bill and get a $150/yr check for the 2MWh I sell to the grid. So a 5% return on investment but that’s better than my stocks and my real estate did last year. Installed by REC Solar to california electrical code. Back then I had to have a licensed installer to get the california rebate. It’s inspected by the city and the utility before I get permission to turn it on. No maintenance (yet). I should hose it off during the dry summers but I’ve been too lazy. The power output is guaranteed for 25 years by sunpower. 5 year guarantee against roof penetrations by REC. If you didn’t notice any leaks in five years, they don’t want to hear it.

  12. ” I make my own electricity”

    ———————————–
    You are no doubt referring to residential use electricity,

    That’s fine. But huge inputs of electrical energy are required for most manufacturing processes..

    All the things you love Robert such as autombbiles, computers and TV sets.

    Roof top solar and windmills may “set you free from the grid”

    Unfortunately, rooftop installatgions don’t provide enough electrical energy to run our factories which are heavily dependent on electrical energy inputs.

    Amd most “home grown: installtiond end up being grid tied,

    In other words, they employ the grid as s “sort of battery” where excess energy is fed to the grid and later withdrawn.

    Using the established electrical grid as a sort of “battery” is fine,

    Unfortunately, using the establised electrical grid as a battery is not “self=sufficient” grid free electricity,

    John

  13. http://www.hampton.lib.nh.us/hampton/history/randall/chap18/randall18_4.htm

    We in New Hampshire has one of the highest electricity rates in the country. Even though you would like people to accept the science of Nuclear the reality is that people don’t trust they are getting an accurate pictures of the risk.

    RR I did watch the video. When VK talks of being wrong I believe it is in terms of picking investment winners. Hitting 4 strong winners out of 50 I am sure he would consider a major success.

    I think he strongly believes he is correct in his analysis figures and logic.

    We should be thankful there are guys like VK. People willing to put there money into new ideas with the hope that they will show a return. There will be job creation and perhaps a future

    You may argue with his logic but he is out selling his ideas and looking to bring ideas that will benefit the world while making a buck.

    The

  14. City of Lompoc gives me a check.

    I’ve seen Chrysler’s assembly plant in Belvidere, Il, and they have an amazing amount of roof space. Have you run the numbers? No question that Manhatten can’t run on
    their own rooftop solar power. They can buy a couple square miles of desert or who knows what their option are.

  15. Robert – I know Lompoc. My wife and I go to Los Olivos every couple of years for a long weekend. Santa Barbara county is a great place to visit.

    Kit P – I’ll give you a couple of regulations I’d get rid of for nuclear.

    First I’d drop PD-8 and allow reprocessing of uranium fuel.

    I would exempt nuclear from NEPA, Clean Air Act, and a number of stupid overlapping authorities that shouldn’t apply. I would make NRC a “one-stop shop” mandated to “shall permit”. Once NRC has issued a construction or operating license, I would eliminate or severely reduce court reviews. State and local officials would be compelled to participate in emergency planning and preparedness or face huge fines for non-compliance.

    Scrap large break loss of coolant scenarios to more realistic accident scenarios. Move to risk/performance based regulations.

  16. “I think he strongly believes he is correct in his analysis figures and logic. We should be thankful there are guys like VK. People willing to put there money into new ideas with the hope that they will show a return. There will be job creation and perhaps a future.”

    Let me make my position very clear. First, I agree with you that it is good that people like VK are putting money into new ventures. Some of them may make it. That I have no issue with.

    What I have an issue with is VK going before Congress and asking for money to support his particular vision of what the renewable energy landscape will look like. He has done so by badly exaggerating some issues, and by making very careless statements. He may believe he is correct in his facts and figures, but things like “net energy” don’t seem to have factored into his scenarios of running the country on cellulosic ethanol. When he does this, and influences energy policy down a dead end road, he wastes taxpayer money and costs us precious time that we need for figuring out real solutions. See my essay “Vinod Khosla Debunked” and you will see what I mean.

    RR

  17. Californians can’t build a parking garage in less than 10 years. Let’s scrap local government and your right to court challenges and have the benevolent central government will tell you what gets built in your backyard. And to what safety standards. Easier said than done.

  18. King

    Like I keep saying, NEPA and state and local regulations apply to everyone. Most of the application for new nukes are using the COL (combined construction operating permit) process. This is a pretty much one stop process since the NRC works closely with EPA, OSHA, et al. It will take less time to get a COL in Texas than any kind of power plant of 50 MWe in California.

    I have been to two public meeting for the closest new nukes. It is a hoot. Public support is over whelming in communities that already have a nuke. The had a power uprate meeting in Florida and only five came. It takes about 5 years to get a COL and cost $50-100 million. As far as the courts go, intervenors have been shut out for at least the last 10 years. In California, they may get to the 9th circus. Again, let me remind you that all energy projects have the same issues. However, case law is settled for nukes.

    Scrap LOCA? King must work in one of those industries that put temporary trailers at the discharge of relief valves to see how many they can kill in a fire ball. King, like I said, everybody has to do hazard analyses to protect the public and workers. Think about the difference between the consequences of accidents in Texas refineries, a nuke plant in USSR, and TMI. No one was hurt at TMI. For 50 years, the nuke industry has been showing that you can safely and economically produce energy. The only thing that has changed, is other energy sources now must address the same issues.

    Reprocessing of spent uranium fuel does not affect the cost of building new nukes.

  19. Who is Robert kidding? Except for Clee, everyone who talks about his solar system is a BS artist total clueless about making electricity. He does not make his own electricity, he is connected to the grid.

    First Robert lives in a very mild climate. There are no consequences for sitting in the dark at night.

    Second, Robert had the solar panels installed on the roof. Roofing is one of the most hazardous occupations. Some minimum wage workers probable installed at great risk to his life, just so Robert could brag to his rich friends about how green he is.

    The capacity factor for Robert's system is higher than any I have seen for that type of PV. Any who, using his numbers I get a 37 year payback period (neglecting subsides). The same system at my house would have a 69 year payback period because my electricity rate is much lower.

    So no Robert, you did not get a 5% return on investment. Robert is neglecting the interest paid on the $37k. Furthermore, the xantex 5200 inverter will cost about $3k to replace and has a warranty of two years. If the inverter and other stuff last 3 years, Robert will break even. Not a very good investment.

    Another critical is the special reverse power breaker that protects linemen working on the grid. What does it cost to test it and how much fuel does the PG&E truck use.

    Solar PV on the roofs of houses is Micky Mouse for those who think Disneyland is not a fantasy park.

    The other day I was following one of the links that Clee provided with some good details on a PV roof system for the Almeda County lock up. The IRR was 11.5 and the CF = 12.5 % (IIRC). One thing that did impress me about the economic analyses was that they included performance deterioration of the PV panels with time.

    The problem was that the project lumped together conservation with PV so it is hard to tell how much is conservation and how much was PV. Taking their numbers they reduced electricity demand about the same amount as the actual PV generation.

    This project is a winner when you look at how government can waste money. In any case, sufficient detail was provided to judge it.

    I will provide some summer energy tips based on the projects after harvesting N for compost pile (aka, mowing the lawn).

  20. >Who is Robert kidding? Except for Clee, everyone who talks about his solar system is a BS artist total clueless about making electricity. He does not make his own electricity, he is connected to the grid.

    Somebody doesn't like cold hard facts. I both make my own electricity and am connected to the grid.

    >First Robert lives in a very mild climate. There are no consequences for sitting in the dark at night.

    And little consequences for turning on a 20 watt CFL bulb. I have a very mild climate that doesn't require air conditioning. I use 15kWh/day where the average american uses 30kwh/day. That works against me. I'm replacing 14 cent kWh when PG&E wants a quarter for tier III electricity.

    >Second, Robert had the solar panels installed on the roof. Roofing is one of the most hazardous occupations. Some minimum wage workers probable installed at great risk to his life, just so Robert could brag to his rich friends about how green he is.

    The installers are REC solar employees and their pay isn't my business. Somebody worked out the death rate for solar power is like 5 terawatt hours per death. Should I have somebody mine coal or uranium instead. I brag to my rich friends how much money I save and then they put solar panels on their house too.

    >The capacity factor for Robert's system is higher than any I have seen for that type of PV. Any who, using his numbers I get a 37 year payback period (neglecting subsides). The same system at my house would have a 69 year payback period because my electricity rate is much lower.

    What's capacity factor? I get 1.8kWh/yr per watt installed. You can get 2.2kWh/W in the desert but I have a mild climate. Solar insolation charts exist online if you want to compare.

    Your electric rate is lower because you are killing coal miners so you can brag to your blue coal friends how brown you are.

    >So no Robert, you did not get a 5% return on investment. Robert is neglecting the interest paid on the $37k. Furthermore, the xantex 5200 inverter will cost about $3k to replace and has a warranty of two years. If the inverter and other stuff last 3 years, Robert will break even. Not a very good investment.

    I got 5% on my money. California and Washington piss away money all kinds of ways but there isn't anything I can do about that.

    http://www.xantrex.com/web/id/172/p/1/pt/25/product.asp

    xantrex warrantees are for ten years as required by California law.

    >Another critical is the special reverse power breaker that protects linemen working on the grid. What does it cost to test it and how much fuel does the PG&E truck use.

    The Lompoc municpal utility sends an inspector once to okay the islanding feature. He drives 2 miles from city hall to my house. His truck gets I don't know 10 mpg or so. Figure $2.50/gallon for california gas.

  21. >Who is Robert kidding? Except for Clee, everyone who talks about his solar system is a BS artist total clueless about making electricity. He does not make his own electricity, he is connected to the grid.

    Somebody doesn't like cold hard facts. I both make my own electricity and am connected to the grid.

    >First Robert lives in a very mild climate. There are no consequences for sitting in the dark at night.

    And little consequences for turning on a 20 watt CFL bulb. I have a very mild climate that doesn't require air conditioning. I use 15kWh/day where the average american uses 30kwh/day. That works against me. I'm replacing 14 cent kWh when PG&E wants a quarter for tier III electricity.

    >Second, Robert had the solar panels installed on the roof. Roofing is one of the most hazardous occupations. Some minimum wage workers probable installed at great risk to his life, just so Robert could brag to his rich friends about how green he is.

    The installers are REC solar employees and their pay isn't my business. Somebody worked out the death rate for solar power is like 5 terawatt hours per death. Should I have somebody mine coal or uranium instead. I brag to my rich friends how much money I save and then they put solar panels on their house too.

    >The capacity factor for Robert's system is higher than any I have seen for that type of PV. Any who, using his numbers I get a 37 year payback period (neglecting subsides). The same system at my house would have a 69 year payback period because my electricity rate is much lower.

    What's capacity factor? I get 1.8kWh/yr per watt installed. You can get 2.2kWh/W in the desert but I have a mild climate. Solar insolation charts exist online if you want to compare.

    Your electric rate is lower because you are killing coal miners so you can brag to your blue coal friends how brown you are.

    >So no Robert, you did not get a 5% return on investment. Robert is neglecting the interest paid on the $37k. Furthermore, the xantex 5200 inverter will cost about $3k to replace and has a warranty of two years. If the inverter and other stuff last 3 years, Robert will break even. Not a very good investment.

    I got 5% on my money. California and Washington piss away money all kinds of ways but there isn't anything I can do about that.

    http://www.xantrex.com/web/id/172/p/1/pt/25/product.asp

    xantrex warrantees are for ten years as required by California law.

    >Another critical is the special reverse power breaker that protects linemen working on the grid. What does it cost to test it and how much fuel does the PG&E truck use.

    The Lompoc municpal utility sends an inspector once to okay the islanding feature. He drives 2 miles from city hall to my house. His truck gets I don't know 10 mpg or so. Figure $2.50/gallon for california gas.

  22. RR – has Chu mentioned Khosla by name? If Khosla’s sole achievement to date has been converting dollars to ash then you’d figure a tiny red flag might go up. Perhaps an anti-cellulose champion will explain these issues to Congress – you’re right that we can’t just waste our money and time on these ill begotten ventures, or short them as they flail about.

    Obit: FT.com | FT Energy Source | Opec oil supply guru Conrad Gerber has died

    Remember this guy? He kept tabs on oil supply from an apartment above a store in Geneva.

    Thanks for the link, King. Have always been for nuke done in a sensible fashion, and the Gen IV designs like the SSTAR are fascinating – I’m with you and James Lovelock about not having an issue with storage, again, done sensibly. Frothing ninnys like Helen Caldicott are anything but sensible, though, and they win these elections, unfortunately.

  23. The nuclear industry and NRC has been preoccupied with large scale LOCA. I think this has led to overdesign and overcomplication of systems. We would be better off spending the money on better operating training.

    It is like adding too many safety devices to your car. More isn’t necessarily better. Send the driver to regular defensive driving and advanced skills programs will get better results.

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