Bloom Energy & offshore windpower (Rick Jensen show)

Civic activist John Nichols was in the studio with Mr. Jensen; thermodynamics expert Lindsay Leveen & physicist John Droz were patched in by phone. With news/weather/traffic & commercial breaks, air time ran 1-3/4 hours for some 53 minutes of discussion (including 5 callers, most of them “renewable energy” skeptics). A podcast of the discussion has been posted.

The coverage of Bloom Energy came in the wake of the recently completed IPO, which raised $270M for the company. It was noted that (a) the IPO could not have happened without the recently restored investment tax credit for fuel cells, (b) the efficiency of Bloom fuel cells was overstated in the prospectus, (c) Bloom has lost a cumulative total of about $2 billion on operations to date, and (d) environmental issues such as the magnitude of CO2 emissions and disposal of solid hazardous waste were glossed over. Bloom isn’t “green,” Leveen quipped, it is “green gangrene.”

By coincidence (according to figures supplied by Leveen), BE has received some $270M in cash subsidies to date. This is the approximate sum of the Delmarva Power tariff ($193M to date
and growing about $3M per month) for ratepayers, $15M in incentives from Delaware taxpayers (after refunds for missing jobs goals), and $70M from federal taxpayers (if meant to include investment tax credits, this sounds low).

As one caller (Clint Laird) noted, the month-to-month details of the BE tariff calculations over the past six years have been scrupulously reviewed by the Public Service Commission and the results are noted on page 2 of Delmarva bills – creating a unique record of the actual performance of BE fuel cells. It was initially estimated that the average residential ratepayer would pay about 70¢ per month; the actual figure is running about $5.

Also, as noted by Leveen, the BE fuel cells have never (with the exception of several months after being freshly installed) met the efficiency ratings that were forecast in the DNREC permit application.

When the conversation shifted to offshore wind power, John Droz took over the scientific witness role. He began by referencing a book, Bad Blood, about a notorious technology-based scam. How Silicon Valley got played by Theranos, Julia Belluz,,

It’s shocking how people can be duped by an idea that sounds impressive if they are fed a steady supply of misinformation, said Droz, and he suggested that much the same thing has been going on re wind power.

In the first place, there is no such thing as wind power on the grid, the grid could never run based on wind power alone due to intermittency. What’s really on the grid is a composite, e.g., natural gas/ wind power package, and that’s what has to be evaluated. It’s nonsense, therefore, to speak of how wind power doesn’t generate CO2 emissions since a gas/wind package certainly does.

With all the wind turbines in operation, it’s absurd to base projected results on models versus actual results. One can prove anything with models, e.g., “I could construct a model that would show pigs can fly.”

No way is offshore wind power defense-friendly, there are numerous potential conflicts with military activities including obstruction of offshore navigation and low level flights by massive wind power turbines.

In terms of cost, Nichols added, offshore wind power is prohibitively expensive. The government estimates incorporate capital costs, OK, but they understate maintenance costs of offshore facilities up to 20 miles from shore and don't consider eventual decommissioning costs.

The alleged benefits of preventing global warming ignore the fact that even with government support for wind and solar energy, the volume of CO2 emissions is skyrocketing (going down in the US, but soaring in Asia, etc.). So if global warming truly were being driven by human activities, e.g., the burning of fossil fuels, it’s pretty obvious that the proposed action plan would represent no more than a “Band-aid” solution. Maybe it’s time to dispense with the superficial chatter and have a serious conversation about this issue.
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