Decision '09
Blog Index


Debate #3
Elusive Water Vapor:
High Altitude Hydrogen Jets, and the Delicate Stratosphere


Debate #2
Green Energy
in the American Southeast

Topics featured in this debate:

Offshore Wind

Concentrated Solar

Hydrogen from Solar Electrolysis

Expert Commentary:

Robert Leitner
South Carolina's Institute for Energy Studies

Nate Blair
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Jeffrey Nelson Sandia National Laboratories

Fred Humes Education, Training and Research Center at ARC: Hydrogen

Todd Stone
3TIER, Global Renewable Energy Assessment and Forecasting

Erika Hartwig Myers
South Carolina Energy Office

Chris Daetwyler
SC Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance


Debate #1
Biomass from
Poplar Trees


Energy Links:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

National Renewable Energy Lab

Wind Logics

Garrad Hassan


American Solar Energy Society

United States Council on Green Building (LEED)

National Association of Home Builders

Associated Builders and Contractors

Associated General Contractors

The California Institute of Earth
Art & Architecture

Green Building Funding Opportunities

Database of Incentives

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

South Carolina Energy Office

SC Hydrogen

Nuclear Energy Institute

World Resources Institute

International Renewable Energy Alliance

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership

International Network for Sustainable Energy

World Council for Renewable Energy

International Renewable Energy Agency

Apollo Alliance

Rocky Mountain Institute

Sierra Club

National Association of Electrical Distributors

Edison Electric Institute

Electronic Industries Alliance

Int'l Council on Mining and Metals

Mineral Information Institute

American Institute of Architects

Pellet Fuels Institute

Link to
Government Sites:

White House

Supreme Court

State Dept.

WH Office on Management and Budget

WH Council of Economic Advisers



Dept. of Agriculture



National Solar Thermal Test Facility

Sandia National Laboratories

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility



Links to Science Organizations:

Union of Concerned Scientists

Federation of American Scientists

The Planetary Society

US Maritime Alliance

Standards Engineering Society

National Fisheries Institute

Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology

American Chemical Society

Chemical & Engineering News

International Congress of Radiology

American Society for Cell Biology

Institution of Engineering and Technology

Science Initiative Group

California Council on Science and Technology

American Polar Society

Links to Governmental and Business Groups:

World Planners Congress

Int'l Intellectual Property Alliance

US Chamber of Commerce

Environmental Working Group

Foreign Policy Group

Southern United States Trade Association

Washington Research Group (Guggenheim Partners)

Nat'l Conf.
of State Legislators

Nat'l Association of Government Contractors

Investment Company Institute

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

American National Standards Institute

Urban Land Institute

Independent Business Alliance

American Independent Business Alliance

Link to Media Sites:

National Geographic

Mother Earth News

Solar Today Magazine

Farming Magazine

1 Sky

Charlie Rose

Nightly News with Brian Williams

Washington Post

Meet the Press

Jim Lehrer NewsHour

60 Minutes





"The adoption of a holistic worldview globally may represent humanity's greatest chance for a promising future to be shared by all." yasha husain








By Yasha Husain, posted May 14, 2009

Debate #2: Green Energy in the American Southeast

Solar - Thermal and collector and flat plate
Solar thermal collector and PV flat plate on NREL's 2005 zero energy Habitat for Humanity home
Photo Courtesy of Pete Beverly/National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Erika Hartwig Myers, Renewable Energy Coordinator for the South Carolina Energy Office

Erika Hartwig Myers is Renewable Energy Coordinator of the South Carolina Energy Office (SCEO), which recently received $40 million for housing projects from federal stimulus money. She feels that right now, in terms of cost-effectiveness, any investments people make in energy efficiency are best.

"You're saving on new investment by making industries, commercial properties and homes more efficient," she said.

"Things like upgrading, heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) units, and insulation, all add up to a reduction in energy demand. Typically we see a pretty large return on investment for this as well."

Myers mentioned The Database for State Incentives for Renewables ( contains a full listing of federal, state, and local incentives. And she noted there’s been a recent expansion and extension of the energy efficiency tax credit from $500 to $1500 in the private sector. There are also state and federal incentives available for solar water heaters, she added.

I originally spoke with Myers on April 21st, when she defended the state's offshore wind plan. She remarked that while offshore is very expensive, it also supplies a utility-scale energy source equivalent to a coal or nuclear facility.

"The opportunity for wind is that you can have a huge farm and be able to get the same capacity as you would if you built coal and nuclear," she said.

An environmental impact study (EIS) will still have to be done for the proposed offshore wind farm.

At this stage, the SCEO is already staffing a Post Clean Energy Regulatory Task Force, bringing in all of the relevant federal and state regulatory agencies, and working toward developing state guidelines for the offshore site. The federal guidelines, Myers said, would have to come out of the Minerals Management Service (MMS).

Shortly after Myers and I spoke, President Obama gave a boost to offshore wind farms just in time for Earth Day, and the MMS came out with the long-awaited framework for renewable energy production on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also weighed in with his support for placing wind farms in the Atlantic considering the huge potential for electricity to be sourced from there.

But the MMS, in the same time frame, commissioned a $250,000 study on the effects of electromagnetic radiation from underwater sea cables. Whether or not that study will affect the approval process for what looks to be the nation's first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind on Nantucket Sound, is still to be determined. But Cape Wind, which was already very near being approved, is steadily gaining supporters versus detractors.

In response to possible concerns about hurricanes in the southern Atlantic, Myers said the turbines the state has been discussing are able to withstand a category three hurricane. And the chances of a category three hurricane hitting an offshore wind farm in the southern Atlantic are the same as the chances of a tornado hitting a wind farm in the Midwest, she said.

Additionally, the turbines can withstand category four and five hurricanes, though there would most likely be some damage to the blades. The mounting and the pole would stay in place, Myers said, it would just be a matter of replacing or mending the blades.

When the conversation turned to the development of green energy sources and hybrid systems in the southeast, Myers said matter-of-factly, "a lot of growth will be determined by what happens federally. For instance, if we see a (federal) Renewable Portfolio Standard come out the incentives to develop these alternative energy sources will be there."

"I definitely see a potential for growth for solar. It all comes to down cost. There has to be a reasonable incentive for an investor or utility," Myers commented.

At Furman University in Greenville, SC, where students can opt to live in an environmentally-friendly Eco-Village, and the campus' Center for Sustainability is situated in Cliffs Cottage, one of America's earliest Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) certified residential buildings, there is a concentrated solar power facility being installed at the new Townes Science Center, which will also be a LEED certified building. The solar installation from Menova Energy Inc. is the Power Spar small solar concentrator and it uses a parabolic trough to focus sunlight on a highly efficient PV panel.

To assist Furman in the purchase of the technology a grant to pay for 50 percent of the cost came from the state, Myers said.

As far as geothermal, she said, we don’t have the traditional geothermal as in the geysers that are out west, but we do have the stable temperature of the earth, and can utilize the stable temperature of the earth to preheat or precool HVAC systems using a geothermal heat pump.

Cliffs Cottage, at Furman University, features a geothermal heat pump, along with a PV installation and a solar water heater.

Hydrogen Myers defined as an energy carrier, not a renewable energy source itself. "We (South Carolina) have more hydrogen researchers than any other state in the country," she boasted.

Myers was first to tell me about the new solar installation at ARC: Hydrogen in Aiken County that uses electrolysis to produce hydrogen. (See interview with Fred Humes for more information.)

Regarding distributed energy, Myers commented that she "can see the importance of having distributed energy. Things like feed-in tariffs can be very helpful and add a lot of incentive."

"We have something called Palmetto Clean Energy or PACE. It’s very similar to the North Carolina Green Power Program," she said.
PACE will pay a .15 cent per kilowatt hour premium and also pay on top of that the avoided costs, which could be between five and eight cents depending on the time of day.

Gainesville, FL, Myers added, is paying 24 to 25 cents a kilowatt hour, considerably more.

The Gainesville feed-in tariff, which has received loads of media attention in the last few months for being among the first in the United States that offers a feed-in tariff similar to the one in Germany that caused sales in photovoltaic panels there to sore over a period of years despite Germany having only so-so solar resource, is only one of a number of plans that might gain in popularity as efforts to ramp up renewable energy use increase. For instance, there is also the Berkeley, CA plan by which the municipality pays the up-front costs of installing a new PV system and that money is paid back to the government over twenty years in property taxes. The property taxes in a way take the place of monthly electricity bills.

"If you combine it with easy to use and easy to integrate," Myers said of the Gainesville plan, "the easier it’s going to be to get that distributed energy online. The problem is right now it’s not easy to use, and it’s not user-friendly if a customer wants to plug in to the grid with solar or wind technologies."

When I inquired about the potential for more programs that would help people go green, she replied, "maybe you could couple feed-in tariffs with zero interest loans. In some states they also have rebates, it doesn’t matter if you are a low income person; you will receive a rebate, which can be as high as $1000."

Switching the topic to distributed and off-grid energy in the state, Myers commented, "Right now, there are examples of people who have battery banks where they store the energy during the day and draw from the energy in the evening. But that’s not optimal. Because they can use it for their whole home, but to be completely off-grid they have to be careful of what energy they’re using at night. People do it, you know, people are living who are completely off-grid."

But, she added, the batteries are not exactly environmentally-friendly, and they do eventually require replacement.

At ARC: Hydrogen where they're building on hydrogen storage research in metal hydrides to meet just this demand for backup storage in Net Zero Energy homes, research to develop green batteries, akin to the nickel metal hydride and lithium ion batteries, goes on as well, for solar electric homes and cars. But at present lead acid batteries are still most commonly used with PV installations.

"We have got to do a lot to upgrade our transmission so that we can have distributed and utility-scale sources in the same world," Myers concluded. "Utilities can’t count on John Doe’s solar panels being in operation every day of the year, and so they’ve got to have some way of monitoring all of these different things at once and having a reliable way to monitor all of these installations when they’re built."

*Myers and I also discussed the state's biomass resources. But since this blog post focuses on the utilization of wind and solar resources, the topic bioenergy hasn't been elaborated on here.


Robert Leitner, Director of South Carolina's Institute for Energy Studies at Clemson University

Nate Blair, Senior Analyst/Group Manager at National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado

Jeffrey Nelson, Manager, Concentrating Solar Power Systems, Sandia National Laboratories

Fred Humes, Director of the Education, Training and Research Center at ARC: Hydrogen in Aiken, South Carolina

Todd Stone, Director of Marketing, 3TIER, Global Renewable Energy Assessment and Forecasting

Chris Daetwyler, Staff Specialist, South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance


Topics featured in this debate:

Offshore Wind

Concentrated Solar

Hydrogen from Solar Electrolysis


Debate #2: Comments

Received May 17, 2009 9:10 p.m.

James Hansen, "Hydrogen is not an energy source -- and not an effective energy carrier -- don't bet anything on it."

Hansen is Director: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Hansen's comments were the first to be posted for Debate #2; to view more comments, please link to the page, Debate #2: Comments



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