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Discussion: Renewables?

in: Swampfox; Swampfox > 2016-05-01

May 1, 2016 5:27 PM # 
In California recently, I drove by a pretty big solar PV (Photovoltaic) farm. I'm not trolling here, but have you seen any studies of the possible job impacts of sun and wind compared to coal and oil? I saw an article several years ago that renewables always win over consumables, although only time will tell if maintenance and replacement costs of renewables will be higher than mining/drilling costs with a limited resource.

I've been meaning to dig into this, which is available as a free pdf. The author died recently, which is why they dug up the review from 2009. The BoingBoing author, Cory Doctorow, said it is the best environmental book he has ever read.
May 1, 2016 6:34 PM # 
I have not seen such studies. I do know, however, that even if it can be expected that there is/will be a net gain in jobs as renewables such as wind replace jobs from, say, coal extraction, that does nothing whatsoever to assuage the pain those directly and indirectly employed (such as servicing companies to coal operations) by an extractive non-renewable. I think the average coal worker in Wyoming earns about $80K per year, and those workers are very unlikely to find anything ever again that would come close to replacing those kind of earnings. They are going to be very unhappy--and who wouldn't be, were they in their shoes--about the changing industry conditions, no matter that it is now all but inevitable, even as the politics in the state are slow (and resistant) to catch up to the realities.

Wind will flourish here and it does create some construction jobs and follow-on servicing jobs. The big limitation is the difficulty in getting the necessary transmission lines permitted--each one will provoke bitter local and state level political fights. I expect they will get done in the end though because the wind is here and there is little choice, at least if we are all going to continue to consume energy at the present levels we do, let alone increases in energy demands.
May 1, 2016 8:27 PM # 
I expect that someday, coal will again be in high demand. Maybe not for fuel but more as a carbon product that will be used for something. No telling when that will be but, someday.

As for solar and wind, I think there is a point (30-40%???) above which, more reliable energy sources need to be used. Take for example a calm night---our energy needs to come from something else.
May 6, 2016 3:03 AM # 
A study in Britain showed that over a 25 year period, the country had produced wind power continuously (24/7/365). The thing about wind is that it's windy somewhere. A study showed that wind power pooled over a large area (1000 mile diameter I recall) would be as reliable as a coal fired plant. The problem for wind is that pooling power over those distances probably requires lots of large DC power lines (in order to minimize losses). Solar panels on the roof plus batteries in a closet may work well in the drier, sunnier parts North America in five years or so, if the cost of photovoltaics and of batteries continue to fall, such as with Tesla's new factory. Change can definitely be hard. Then again, we live in reliably heated houses as a result of millennia of change. (I'm a recently laid off oilfield service company worker myself, though I have enough work now.) Does Wyoming have any job training programs for the laid off workers?
May 6, 2016 3:31 AM # 
I'm the wrong person to ask about job retraining opportunities in the state. I have no idea what, if anything, is out there.
May 6, 2016 3:14 PM # 
Like other states, Wyoming has programs at local Workforce Centers for dislocated workers through the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act:

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