Wednesday, July 28, 2010

EIS rules out 'Green Guam'

This week Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn said the U.S. will incorporate "green technology" to help meet the military's needs. "Our collective investment in wind, solar, hydroelectric and wave-generated power will make Guam an environmental leader among Pacific islands," he said.

But Lynn's statement is at odds with what the EIS says: Alternative energy sources were considered but discarded for baseload supply as this supply must be extremely reliable. Solar and wind are not reliable enough and there is no currently available economical power storage medium to augment them.

The EIS assessment on the inability of alternative energy to meet the military's needs was included in a comment section. An individual wrote: "Please use solar and wind power. The equipment is available and affordable and the investment will pay for itself." (Vol 10, Individuals Part II, page 264 or web site comment 1349)

Here is the complete EIS response to that comment:
Thank you for your comment. Alternative energy sources were considered but discarded for baseload supply as this supply must be extremely reliable. Solar and wind are not reliable enough and there is no currently available economical power storage medium to augment them. Also alternative energy is very costly. Per the December 2009 “Watts & Volts” newsletter published by the IREA of Colorado, a very sunny state, “A recent study by Tufts University economics professor Gilbert Metcalf states, ‘Solar power currently costs 3.5 to 4 times the price of conventional power,’ but when stripped of subsidies and preferential tax treatment, ‘solar power is between 570 percent and 887 percent more expensive to produce than coal power.” We realize coal power is not available on Guam, but this demonstrates that solar power is not cheap. Both solar and wind require duplicative investments, one for the alternative energy and another for the conventional backup.DoD, however, is mandated to provide a certain percentage of power via alternative energy. So, for new installations, solar water heating and photovoltaics would be considered for new installations. In addition, new DoD development would strive to achieve at least LEED Silver, requiring energy conservation be built into the new facilities. Conservation is the best alternative energy source!
The EIS selective math reference is suspect and its counterpoint to the comment is incomplete. The EIS framed its answer in terms of baseload, which means the minimum amount of power needed for all power needs. Alternative energy is, for now, mostly supplemental.

Moreover, the person who wrote this comment didn't ask about baseload; all this person wanted was for the military to use alternative energy. The EIS writers decided to not only talk down to this commenter but blow smoke as well.

The EIS is correct in that initial investment in solar is high and the government, obviously, can't use tax credits. But all the lack of tax credits does is to extend the payback period, it doesn't eliminate it. There are other benefits as well that aren't easily calculated

If the military reduces its need for power via solar that in turn reduces the need for additional power generation capacity, and since it is the military's goal to make Guam 'green,' rejecting solar on the basis of something someone at EIS HQ Googled is not sound planning.

The EIS response doesn't rule out alternative energy use. There's a DOD requirement that a certain percentage of generation come from alternative sources, but the overall message here is not "Green Guam," but more of: The DOD will meet minimum requirements.

The EIS response is also not the "Green Guam" message that Lynn and the White House has been handing out, a cornerstones of the PR offensive. It illustrates how out-of-control this buildup is. It has too many moving parts and no one understands how they all work together.

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