Thursday, February 25, 2010

A truly awful "environmental" project

Comparing to this, buying a Prius actually seems like a fairly smart idea. No kidding; we have an effort at generating power from waves, funded by your tax dollars, spending sixty million dollars to generate about 400kW peak power, or enough to power 400 homes.

Calculating things at a 25% duty cycle with a wholesale electricity cost of a nickel per kW-H, and you've got an ROI of about .1-.2%--and that before capital depreciation is accounted for. Typical ROIs in the private sector are literally a hundred to two hundred times higher, and one would do better, literally, to put the money in your savings account.

However, it gets worse. It makes whole sectors of the ocean floor off limits to fishermen (who understandably don't want to have a few kV come up through their lines), and it actually may make pollution worse. No, I am not making this up; making 2000 tons of steel and other materials and hooking it to the bottom of the ocean will require the burning of 5000 to 10000 tons of coal--more when you count the energy required to build, site, and maintain them. Given a 10-20 year life cycle for these things, they will probably NEVER produce enough energy to compensate for the coal burned to build them.

As my brother notes, "environmentalist" too often means "people who cannot do math," and this is a textbook example of this principle. It would literally be better to pay utilities to replace older power plants with new coal fired units, environmentally speaking.

1 comment:

pentamom said...

It also strikes me that if this affects tide strength and height to even the tiniest degree, you are asking for all kinds of unintended ecological consequences. Tidal ecosystems are pretty delicate and pretty unique to the particular conditions. If it's a matter of disrupting the habitat of one particular species, I don't get excited about it. But things like this tend to have "ripple" effects that go pretty far (no pun intended.) You at least think environmentalists would care about that!