The viable alternative to fossil fuels is using less energy

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By Monday, Jun 26 Letters  5 Comments

To the editor:

Victor Feldman, a reporter covering the Berkshire Community College energy forum on Monday June 19, 2017 for The Berkshire Edge said “… wind turbines generate nearly twice the electricity of photovoltaic cells and are the most viable alternatives to fossil fuels.” Yes, wind turbine capacity factor is greater than solar which is at the bottom of the list of electricity generators. Rooftop solar arrays average 16 percent; however, utility scale solar facilities have a higher capacity factor of 20 percent according to the U.S Energy Information Administration. But while Hoosac wind project has a capacity factor of 40 percent it only produces 0.0018th of the electricity used in Massachusetts – an insignificant amount of electricity for its large footprint covering two mountain ranges.

The most “viable alternative to fossil fuels” is to use less electricity. I calculated a monthly saving of approximately 55.25 kilowatt hours on my electric bill after installing a new energy efficient refrigerator. Encouraging the replacement of old energy-hog refrigerators for one-half of the households in Massachusetts could generate a substantial savings in electricity use — 810,047 megawatt hours per year equivalent to the output of eight Hoosac wind projects. According to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, energy efficiency costs a fraction of the price of generating power; therefore, it is the “first fuel.” The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center could easily fund a replacement program for energy-hog refrigerators with the $140 million it is sitting on from the Renewable Energy Trust Fund, the surcharge it collects from commercial and residential electric bills.

Land-based wind turbines in Massachusetts have limitations in affecting climate change. The negative impacts on homeowners, their families and the environment should be of primary importance. Participants at the BCC forum on Monday June 19, 2017 made that clear.

Virginia Irvine

Brimfield, Mass.

The writer is a member of the Windwise Massachusetts Board of Directors.


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5 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Steve Farina says:

    This suggestion is a prudent first (or at least early) step. Water heater replacement would likely also add huge savings.
    I have replaced all my environmentally friendly – mercury containing (seems there is always a price to pay somewhere) – compact fluorescent bulbs with lower wattage LED bulbs and see virtually no change in my electric useage.
    I know my two main culprits are my refrigerator/freezer and my water heater. Without them I could be really close to being able to run on solar panels and a battery array and get off the inefficient “electric grid”.

  2. J Morse says:

    Having recently replaced all our kitchen appliances in the 4th kitchen remodel in the lifetime of our 150 year old house (last one was 30 years ago) , I can assure you the new appliances are more energy efficient than what went to be recycled. Due to updated US appliance energy standards for manufacturers over the last 40 years, it would be almost impossible buy less efficient models. So, we are all being pushed in that direction as appliances inevitably fail and are replaced. I worry somewhat about decreased appliance life cycles. My last dishwasher lasted 25 years and was still running. The salesman *guaranteed* the next one I would buy from him will not last that long. (Average dishwasher lifecycle is now only 12 years) I also worry about high repair costs wiping out $$$’s realized in improved energy efficiency as the individual appliance components with shorter lifecycles seem to get more expensive.

    As it happens, refrigerators are a notable success story in efficiency improvement over time. See: http://aceee.org/blog/2014/09/how-your-refrigerator-has-kept-its-co .

    Mr. Farina mentioned hot water heaters…..too bad water heating technology and distribution improvements have not kept up a similar pace.

  3. Alan says:

    I have roof solar which should cover all of my electric needs. My 95% efficient hot water heater was installed several years ago. Unfortunately my greatest energy usage by far is heating my house. I have been told by several professionals that my furnace is top of the line even though my 1300 sq.ft. house costs approximately $1200 to $1400 a year to heat. MassSave has upgraded insulation to the maximum. What is someone to do who has seemingly exhausted all efficiency alternatives?

  4. dennis irvine says:

    Solar and wind power are products born of and entirely dependent on fossil fuels. You cannot build wind turbines nor PV panels without fossil inputs, period. The EROEI of so called renewables is too low to self-replicate. We have the resources for one, maybe two more generation of ‘renewables’- they are not generators of energy. They are storage methods. They sequester a finite and calculable amount of energy, which is helpful but no different than canning tomatoes; you expend considerable energy(calories as heat) in August or September to consume far fewer calories(as food) later in the year. They are, effectively, an energy sink. We cannot have a growth based economy/society on a finite planet without eventually reaching limits. And eventually is here. Using less energy is not a choice, it is a hard reality. Prepare for it.

  5. peter greer says:

    “According to Mass Department of Energy Resources( and this is true across the country ), energy efficiency costs a fraction of the price of generating power; therefore, it is the “first fuel.” How do we There is a path to energy efficiency that actually PAYS folks for using less energy : we know voluntary sounds good on paper but delivers a fraction of the hoped for savings. But there is a viable and scalable soluition: Negawatts!!.. google it. The real time application is here for deep commercial retrofit and there is no reason this cannot work its way into resi as well.. The problem with most types of clean energy distribution and or efficiency is the adversarial relationship to the utility company . Issue solved via MEETS.Metered Energy Efficiency Transaction. http://www.meetscoalition.org/.

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