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Re: E-M:/ alternative energy industry


That's a legitimate point to raise. I made sure to include Larry's affiliation with DTE so that no one would claim that I was hiding that fact. But in Larry's defense, I didn't leave his presentation with the feeling that he was selling "the world according to DTE" or that he was biased against alternative energy. To the contrary, he spent quite a bit of time discussing the potential of wind energy and geothermal heating and cooling as well as the pros and cons of solar power. Most of his presentation was focused on practical ways to reduce your energy usage and conserve energy which hardly seems like what one would expect as the party line from DTE. Let's face it, the more energy we save, the less we pay out to DTE or Consumers.

We can debate whether ROI is relevant in a discussion about the long-term benefits of renewable energy but they are important to some people and I think that we have a much better chance of making the case to a broader audience if we at least acknowledge that it matters to some and for those people, the choice is going to be determined by cost, not what's the most environmentally friendly. I don't have any numbers that show what potential timelines for ROI might be in the future. But I think it's wise for us to at least be aware of some of the potential limitations of all energy sources.

Andrew Mutch

----- Original Message ----
From: Chuck Cubbage <charles.cubbage@comcast.net>
To: Andrew Mutch <andrewimutch@yahoo.com>; enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Sent: Monday, February 4, 2008 12:34:42 PM
Subject: Re: E-M:/ alternative energy industry

I do not know Larry Kaufman, but as an employee of DTE, I would guess that he has a bias that does not include a high preference for alternative energy, solar or other.  On the other hand that may not be at all fair.  But having DTE  make a statement on alternative energy is like asking BP or Exxon the same thing.  You can get a better answer from the lady at the A&P checkout counter -- her job is not dependent on the answer and likely she doesn't own stock in the company.
You know, when the car was first invented, I bet the payback on its use didn't begin to compare favorably with the cost of horse and buggy.  Well you get the point.  As long as our society is "at the mall" instead of focusing on issues like I--q and alternative energy, I suppose payback times matter.  Any estimates as to how long those payback times will stay as they are currently?  
A significant (but small) number of MI residents have installed various solar energy forms for heating and power.  A friend of mine, Bob Brown, Hastings, MI runs a 240 V AC three phase commercial machine shop on solar.  Others here in SW MI have windmills.  A prof at WMU just put up one on campus on his own dollar.  A retiree near Delton, MI built (about 5 years ago) an 1800 sq ft residence that has a fully insulated  basement filled with soil.  Half the solar panels on the roof run water through the bottom of the soil by electric pump from the photovolaics on the other half of the roof.  The first year the system started collecting heat in July.  It was too hot!  The next year the heat collection started in Aug and she used no external heat source until April.  Not bad!!  Construction cost was about 10% more than traditional.  Suppose we legislated that all new buildings were to design in this sort of passive heat storage ??? Schools, factories, homes ..... 
Well, as you can see, I'm wound up today! 
----- Original Message -----
From: Andrew Mutch
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2008 10:29 AM
Subject: Re: E-M:/ alternative energy industry

I can see Michigan benefitting from the production side of such a move. But I think as far as an energy resource, from what I've heard, solar probably isn't ideal for Michigan. Larry Kaufman from DTE discussed the various renewable energy sources at his presentation in Novi this past week and of the alternatives, he stated that solar was the most expensive with the longest pay-off time. Larry had a graphic that showed that even in Boulder, Colorado, which is one of the sunniest cities in the country, solar doesn't pay off for a long time. For a homeowner, it sounded like the best investment to save money and help the environment was a geothermal heating and cooling system. One of the problems with solar is that it produces the electricity when most of us are not home to use it. Storing that energy for later use is expensive and inefficient. Also, until the cost of solar comes down, it's not going to be competitive with other renewable energy sources. From what I've read about the movement in California, it's a combination of government mandates and consumer desire that is pushing the explosion of solar. But in Michigan, we should probably focus on systems that work best for our location. Otherwise, we could undermine long-term support for renewable systems by pushing those that sound appealing but then don't pan out in the long run.
Andrew Mutch
----- Original Message ----
From: Anna Dorothy Graham <grahama9@msu.edu>
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Sent: Monday, February 4, 2008 9:53:10 AM
Subject: E-M:/ alternative energy industry

Enviro-Mich message from "Anna Dorothy Graham" <grahama9@msu.edu>

From Friday's New York Times; could something like this be a blueprint for
regenerating Michigan's industrial economy?

"While interest in alternative energy is climbing across the United States,
solar power especially is rising in California, the product of billions of
dollars in investment and mountains of enthusiasm.

In recent months, the industry has added several thousand jobs in the
production of solar energy cells and installation of solar panels on roofs.
A spate of investment has also aimed at making solar power more efficient
and less costly than natural gas and coal.

Entrepreneurs, academics and policy makers say this era’s solar industry
is different from what was tried in the 1970s, when Jerry Brown, then the
governor of California, invited derision for envisioning a future fueled by
alternative energy.

They point to companies like SolarCity, an installer of rooftop solar cells
based in Foster City. Since its founding in 2006, it has grown to 215
workers and $29 million in annual sales. “It is hard to find
installers,” said Lyndon Rive, the chief executive. “We’re at the
stage where if we continue to grow at this pace, we won’t be able to
sustain the growth.”

SunPower, which makes the silicon-based cells that turn sunlight into
electricity, reported 2007 revenue of more than $775 million, more than
triple its 2006 revenue. The company expects sales to top $1 billion this
year. SunPower, based in San Jose, said its stock price grew 251 percent in
2007, faster than any other Silicon Valley company, including Apple and

Not coincidentally, three-quarters of the nation’s demand for solar comes
from residents and companies in California. “There is a real economy —
multiple companies, all of which have the chance to be billion-dollar
operators,” said Daniel M. Kammen, a professor in the energy and resources
group at the University of California, Berkeley. California, he says, is
poised to be both the world’s next big solar market and its
entrepreneurial center."

Anna Kirkwood Graham, J.D., Ph.D.
"There is no trifling with nature; it is always true, grave and severe; it
is always in the right, and the faults and errors fall to our share."
-- Goethe

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