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Alternative energy summit discusses benefits of greener fuels

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A year ago gas prices reached four dollars per gallon and consumers were calling for alternative sources of energy. Monday at UNCW, Representative Mike McIntyre hosted an alternative energy summit; an effort to keep southeastern North Carolina on the cutting edge of cleaner, greener fuels. “We've got to be preparing now for the future and how to deal with getting away from being dependent on foreign oil,” said McIntyre. Summit speakers mentioned the potential energy benefits in the ocean, biofuels, and solar power that are abundant in our area. McIntyre said, “It can help provide jobs for people who can go to work and help convert these resources into energy for practical use.” Demonstrations are already taking place locally. The North Carolina Farm Center has received funding to show the effectiveness of Biochar, a product to help crops grow in sandy soil. “That whole marketing of Biochar, would be a wonderful clean, green economy for North Carolina,” described Richard Perritt of the NC Farm Center for Innovation & Sustainability. Progress Energy has already started work on a solar powered plant off of Highway 421, in response to a law requiring utility providers to start producing renewable energy sources. “It means there are a lot of opportunities. It also means that our children will live a lot cleaner life than we have been living,” added NC Farm Center for Innovation & Sustainability’s Roger Sheats. Brunswick Community College and UNCW are one of leaders in the research on alternative fuels. The two colleges are conducting experiments that would turn algae, found in local bogs and swamps, into a source of energy.

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Renewables are NOT more expensive!

Does the public have a clue what renewable energy technologies actually cost? Does anyone reading this know what new nuclear will cost, if it ever gets built? Do you know what a new coal-fired power plant costs? I doubt it. Have a look at the following easy-to-read report: http://tinyurl.com/LazardEnergy2 From the chart on page 2 you will immediately see that not all renewable energy is expensive. In fact, biomass electricity is cost-competitive with new coal, less expensive than new nuclear. A great example of this biopower is Craven County Wood Energy in New Bern, NC. Coal, on the other hand, costs the NC economy more than $2 billion per year. TWO BILLION! How much of that coal-money ever comes back to North Carolina? This is a wealth transfer we cannot afford to continue. Renewable wind and biopower will grow good jobs here at home. Our electric payments will stay here in the state, recirculating in our local economies. THAT is the best way to rebuild our economy. Call Senators Burr and Hagan and urge them to strengthen and pass the Renewable Electricity Standard! It will save ratepayers money! Burr: 202-224-3154 Hagan: 202-224-6342 Call them today! Ask for clean energy jobs!

It is usually, however, highly impractical

Just take a look at the four old Florida Progress plants that are owned by Progress and operate in the red continually. You simply cannot discount logistics, and reliable, consistent, cheap fuel input is a BIG part of running any business that consumes energy. While biomass can play a niche role, we have no infrastructure in place to get the fuel (produced all over the state) to any planned large, regional plant. However, CSX and Norfolk Southern can bring in all the cheap coal you need...usually, right to the plant's front door. While biomass may provide some minor contribution, solar is still the highest cost per Watt of any generation source. The prospects are not good for that to change anytime soon. Lots of people are doing lots of great research, but so far no Earth-shaking breakthroughs have occurred. I personally like Pinnacle West's "solar kettle" but even that takes up far too much land for the amount of energy produced. It proves the theory, but is completely impractical to put on line in widespread application for commercial generation. Fixed plant fuel cells show great promise at the end-consumer and as the number of fuel cells in use at hospitals, schools, and factories increases, overall system demand will drop....in those parts of the country that lend themselves to fuel cells, because they usually rely upon solar energy to produce the hydrogen. They also need to increase their service life. Wind turbines can provide a large portion of our electricity, but first you have to quell the enviroloons who despise them for everything from killing birds and bats to visual blight. The bottom line is that coal and nuclear power are going to be our primary sources of electricity for many, many years to come. Obama may not LIKE that, but even he can't repeal the laws of physics or alter reality.

SOLAR POWER

Does the public have a clue as to how little energy is produced by the 10 acres of solar panels that Progress Energy has out on 421?! That is a large area of land that has to be stripped clean to produce only enough energy for so few homes. Anyone care to guess on how many acres it would take to power Wilmington (not including the surrounding area)! Alternative power is a wonderful idea but everyone needs to understand the COST of this alternative and if it can realisticly be done. People also need to be aware of the financial cost. This alternative energy is going to increase the cost of the bills we have to pay.