Friday, November 19, 2010

The Stadium and the Turbines; Nuts in Germany

philadelphia_eagles_stadium-14591 No problem with this:

The [Philadelphia] Eagles have contracted with SolarBlue, a renewable energy and energy conservation company based in Orlando, Fla., to install about 80 20-foot spiral-shaped wind turbines on the top rim of the stadium, affix 2,500 solar panels on the stadium's façade, and build a 7.6 megawatt biodiesel/natural gas cogeneration plant with monitoring and switching technology to operate the system.

After all, putting a nuclear energy plant at a sports stadium might well be considered overkill by the staunchest advocate – though the small reactor people might call foul on that – and it’s not as though nuclear is badly represented in Pennsylvania. It provides 35% of the electricity capacity there – second only to coal, at 48% – NEI has a fact sheet with a bunch of interesting factoids here.

I don’t know if or how much Lincoln Financial Field benefited from the nuclear presence, but it doesn’t really matter. This move is intended to send a message and engage the fans and it’s impossible to quibble with the net good of the undertaking.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie called the plan a "vital step towards energy independence."

I looked around for more context for that quote, since energy independence isn’t what’s happening here – nuclear and coal are both home-grown and lots of fans will still be driving their gas-powered cars to the stadium. Here we go:

“The Philadelphia Eagles are proud to take this vital step towards energy independence from fossil fuels by powering Lincoln Financial Field with wind, solar and dual-fuel energy sources,” said Jeffrey Lurie, the team's owner and CEO.  “This commitment builds upon our comprehensive environmental sustainability program, which includes energy and water conservation, waste reduction, recycling, composting, toxic chemical avoidance and reforestation. It underscores our strong belief that environmentally sensitive policies are consistent with sound business practices.”

Well, that makes better sense, even if nuclear energy doesn’t really fit the formulation. Regardless, they’re really all in on this – good for them – so let’s see if they take the next step and close their parking lots to encourage fans to use public transportation. (Which sounds snarky, but it’s logical and would do a lot of good.)

---

When one thinks of overreach in a social democracy, one assumes it would have to do with policy issues related to the so-called nanny state, such as the French protests over raising the retirement age from 62. But some German utilities are trying an argument against keeping the country’s nuclear plants open that  feels like capitalistic special pleading:

The recent amendments of the [German] Atomic Energy Act extending the operating times of the German nuclear power plants remain controversial. Several local utilities (Stadtwerke) are questioning whether the extension is compatible with EU law, and have lodged a complaint with the European Commission.

It’s why they’ve done this that is rather mind boggling:

The nuclear power plants were written off [as in a financial wrtie-off], hence they could produce energy at unbeatable prices, Johannes von Bergen, Managing Director of the municipal utility of Schwäbisch Hall (Stadtwerke Schwäbisch Hall) explained.

Well, yes, indeed they could – if you pay off the plant, there’s nothing left but running costs. That can mean a lot of extra profit and better prices for consumers. It’s a classic win-win outcome and exactly what you want to happen.

But not if you expected those plants to close and they don’t:

The nuclear power extension distorts competition to the detriment of the smaller power generating companies, managing director Achim Kötzle of Stadtwerke Tübingen told the regional television and radio station SWR. His company had invested in new capacities, relying on the phase-out timing in the old AtG [the German Atomic Energy Act].

Now, Germany does have a rather more fraught relationship with nuclear energy than is true in many other parts of the world. I can’t find much to explain this other than a Chernobyl hangover, but there it is. So an argument from an aggrieved utility against charging customers less may gain traction in such an environment. But that doesn’t make it less nuts.

Eagles stadium.

9 comments:

Meredith Angwin said...

This argument is not unique to nuclear. For example, here in Vermont we have 1/3 of our power from Vermont Yankee, and 1/3 from Hydro Quebec (HQ), huge dams in the James River Project. Okay. So, as we look around at what might happen if we shut down Yankee. We look, and then the Vermont governor high-tails it to Quebec to renew the HQ contract at least!

However, it's not so easy. If we want HQ power, we have to give them something besides money. We give them what they want most...we declare HQ power "renewable." In Vermont and many other places, small hydro is "renewable" and large hydro is not-renewable. Well, now, HQ large hydro is "renewable."

And of course, compared to other renewables, such as PV and windturbines, HQ power is pretty inexpensive. And the local renewable industry is screaming. Vermont will meet all its renewable criteria with cheap power from Canada! We can't let this happen! It's pretty funny, actually. It's not about renewable. It's about expensive power.

In other words, it is about government-guaranteed profits for some industries, not others.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if we'll get any data about the capacity factors for those solar panels at the stadium? My guess is not. Philly isn't the sunniest of venues. They'll be lucky to get 10-15%, which would look pretty lousy comapred with almost any other energy source.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the "7.6 megawatt biodiesel/natural gas cogeneration plant"

Once again, solar & wind units are paired with natural gas. When will the public wake up and see this? The gas people have very successfully branded themselves as 'clean.' And gas is clean, compared to coal. But that's not really saying much, is it? NEI needs to talk about how much cleaner nuclear is, especially compared to gas.

DocForesight said...

@Anon -- Agreed. I don't quite get the cheerleading on NEI for energy sources that are demonstrably uneconomic for this venue.

BTW, I am in the solar and battery back-up system industry, so I can not be smeared with being a "shill" for nuclear. I simply recognize there is a place for wind and solar -- and it is not as a prop to make some 'statement' about energy independence.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing places like San Diego or LA would be better suited for this kind of thing. I note CA just re-elected Governor Moonbeam for another term (or two). Maybe he'd go for something like this, at taxpayer expense, of course (goes without saying).

donb said...

The nuclear power extension distorts competition to the detriment of the smaller power generating companies, managing director Achim Kötzle of Stadtwerke Tübingen told the regional television and radio station SWR.

What a bunch of nonsense! A hydroelectric dam will "distort competition". Having my house paid off "distorts competition" in the new housing market, since I have no need to compete with others to buy a new house.

The whole point of long-lasting infrastructure (like nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams) is that it continues to benefit society at low cost. New infrastructure (usually at higher cost) will need to be added due to population growth, additional demand, or the life limitations of the old infrastructure. But if done wisely, this new infrastructure will also benefit society long after it is paid off, just like the present paid-off infrastructure.

Anonymous said...

I drove my 1988 Nissan Sentra until it literally died on the road after 20 years of service. Should that not be allowed because it "distorts competition" to the "detriment" of new car dealers? Should there be an arbitrarily short lifetime placed on assets that could reasonably last a very long time simply because it "distorts competition" for other, newer infrastructure? How about road and highways? Should we apply the same rule there, simply tear up perfectly good pavement because it distorts competition for new road construction? Seems like a very specious argument to me.

John Wheeler said...

I wonder if their insurance companies have considered the risk of injury to spectators in the stadium when the first wind turbine blade fails and throws supersonic shrapnel through a crowd of 50,000.

Also, have they considered whether or not people seated in the top rows will be able to hear the announcers over the loud whooshing sounds on a windy day.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the chopped up pigeon carcasses the fans and cleanup crews will have to deal with. Also, the visual flicker will probably affect the ability of the players to catch balls that come into line with those blades and the sun. This sounds like a real problem. Better file a petition for leave to intervene (or are those not allowed for so-called "renewable" energy?).