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Monday, June 23, 2008

The ultimate in sustainability

We're doing our part as a fuel source.

Comments (10)

The next time I hear the "S" word I am going to go insane. It is nothing more then a feel good buzz word that means absolutely nothing.

Its still a buzz word. Nothing on earth can be truly sustainable.

Even our sun has a finite lifespan.

There is content to the word, but it's being used to sell all kinds of senseless cr*p.

You really know how to prove a point.

A 12 to 15 year payback period, even with big contributions in the form of tax subsidies and credits, is usually a project with poor economic return. I once talked to a Northwest Natural Gas Company official which has a government sponsored project to take methane from a local landfill, and he said the project had turned out to be problematic with impurities and toxins causing the project to have a lower capacity factor than plan.

I recently looked at some of the Energy Trust of Oregon small solar projects, and a number of them have a levelized cost of over 75 cents per Kwh versus 5 to 20 cents for large wind farms and other mainstream projects.

Small renewables are being oversold. It's as though green pods have usurped the left side of the brain in hordes of people in our community. Life has become science fiction ala the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

In 12 to 15 years, the thing will have been out of commission for 7 to 10 years. Either that or it will have required a cash infusion of at least the amount it cost to set it up.

Wanna bet?

Sustainability is only sustainable when it comes to government spending.

The 12-15 year payback was calculated with annual energy cost increases of around 2%. The payback may end up being much quicker than that, given likely increases even in electricity costs.

If you look at the photo on page 4 of the hard-copy version, you'll see two tanks - one to remove the corrosive elements of the biogas (I've forgotten my chemistry, but it's a hyrogen-something chemical), and the second to remove the silica-based impurities in the biogas, before the much-cleaner methane gets to the engines.

And, yes, I work for BES, so feel free to call me a shill, but this looks like it really will work. Plus, we're already putting carbon in the air by burning off a significant portion of the biogas.

I'd say the carbon benefit is offset by the cost of government subsidy, meaning the payback is still probably around 12 to 15 years even considering the externality benefit. Even if electricity prices escalate 5% per year, instead of 2%, if the equipment needs to be overhauled in the first 7 years, the payback may still be over 10 years. Seems like another one of those "feel good" public energy expenditures.

don't despair over the greenwash market-speak. behind all that, there are people trying to find a way for us to live without destroying ourselves and our habitat.

that said, the word itself goes against nature--nature is cyclical, regenerative, wax and wane and wax again. we humans try to "sustain" the waxing while attempting to avoid the rest of the cycle--wane, death and regeneration.

in other words, we've detached "growth" from the cycle, put it on a pedestal, and worship it as the ideal. but like a plant yanked out of the dirt, it can't last. the cycle has to occur.

but machines that power themselves on their own waste, in my opinion, are a step in the right direction. whether it's a big enough step (or if we should even have the machines) is a different question.

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