Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Money Laundering and Renewable Energy – A Great Opportunity

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: If the world wants to move quickly to a lot of renewable energy, then maybe money laundering is the key to getting it done.

It’s been well known for some time that money laundering is a significant driver in real estate  ( see theweek.com and boingboing.net)   Such shenanigans with real estate began way back in the 1980s in Florida, with cocaine cowboys literally knocking on home-owners’ doors and offering cash for homes at above market value.  From there, it moved to California, Hong Kong and Dubai, Vancouver, and of course London…until a large chunk of high-end real estate was infected somewhat by illicit money. There are of course other means to launder money. Cash flow businesses such as restaurants or car washes have also been havens, i.e., anything that can provide a large, difficult to trace production output and revenues versus costs and volumes of input: Was that 1lb of pasta used to make 5 dishes or 6?

Unfortunately financial regulators and the law are getting better at stopping traditional means of money laundering. For a while it looked like crypto-currency, being beyond the control of nation-states, was going to save money laundering, but crypto-currencies have their drawbacks too, including fluctuating values and, of course, limited means to pass through the large volumes of money, around $10 trillion per year, that sustain the illicit economies in the world. Furthermore, as some governments begin moving towards digital currencies themselves, and removing large denomination bills from circulation, money laundering will have additional challenges in the near future. After real estates, there are diamonds, gold and high value art or collectibles, but those, too, are coming under increasing scrutiny, and there are only so many Picassos or Rembrandts to go around.

So where can ill-gotten gains be laundered? What industry is there that offers huge production volumes with some variant transparency?  Renewable energy. That’s right, I’m proposing that renewable energy is a great way for elites of dubious background to transform money, makes even more money and at the same time help the earth.

Consider a 1 GW solar plant. Did it produce or 1.0 GW that day or was it 1.05 GW?  Or an EV battery: did it discharge 10 MWH or 11? Those variable margins are a great place for money launderers to sneak in and clean up while helping the earth clean up its emissions mess.   It’s not quite that simple, but it’s appealing and probably best to get into the business at the outset, when regulations and laws are still poorly defined. Get in very early in the development phase and there are probably government incentives that are also available to guarantee a certain cash flow, payback or tax credit for a time.  The argument for laundering through real estate is that people need a roof over their heads and will pay dearly to have it. The same argument can be applied to energy in that people need to stay warm and need to be able to move about to their job and such, and thus will always pay for some form of energy.

Investing in renewables at the outset also avoids the problem of investing in legacy coal or oil industries, namely any forthcoming liabilities for past externalities.

Years and years ago, I had an interesting chat with a business professor about investing. He candidly suggested to follow the Mob. “The Mob hires the best and brightest from Harvard, Stanford and the like. Invest in what the Mob invests.” It remains to be seen whether Harvard and Stanford whizzes are encouraging investments in renewables. I’m all for this, because at this time, if it takes a deal with the devil to save the earth, then let’s worry about the details later.

Vive l’Alberta Libre!

Do Renewable Portfolio Standards Increase Electricity Rates?

I live in California. That gives me a front seat to virtually every new initiative and trend related to saving the planet, whether it is about turtles and plastic straws, banning single-use plastic bags, electric vehicles, or green energy. Although not the first state to adopt a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), California has been one of the most aggressive in its timetable for replacing fossil fuel based electricity with carbon-free. In 2018, California updated its RPS to the requirement to achieve 60% of electricity sales from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2045. Of course, California’s aggressive push toward renewables has triggered a wide range of reactions. For example, Michael Shellenberger of Environmental Progress has been pushing the idea that California’s electricity rates are significantly higher than the rest of the US (see Figure 1) and rising significantly faster because of its dependence on renewables. His culprit is renewable energy and his solution is to keep nuclear plants open. In contrast, Roger Sowell, who blogs about renewable energy issues, argues that California’s unique climate, geography, and large population make such differences to be expected.

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Recent Interesting and Unusual Energy Stories

Guest blog by Mr. R. U. Cirius: Here are some interesting and somewhat offbeat energy stories that haven’t gotten much media attention during the first three months of the year.

California wind turbines contribute to unprecedented wildflower outbreak

This year California has experienced what many are calling a “superbloom” of wildflowers that hasn’t been seen in decades (Fig. 1). While most attribute this to heavy winter rainfall following several years of drought, Dr. Marko Ramius from the National Wind Energy Laboratory (NWEL) has identified another contributor to the phenomenon – California’s ubiquitous wind turbines. Dr. Ramius has released his surprising findings that show the role of what he calls the “turbulence boundary interface”. This is the boundary of the turbulent mass of air downstream of the turbine’s rotor that generally hovers just off the ground. He has found that this boundary traps moisture close to the earth, which then enhances and prolongs the period of flower bloom. He is currently in discussion with major turbine manufacturers to incorporate blade tip misters into their designs that could provide moisture during drought periods and hopefully make such superblooms a more common occurrence.

Fig. 1 – Wildflowers under wind turbines near Palm Springs, CA

Click here to learn more about wind energy.

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California Does Not Need Big, Very Expensive Floating Offshore Wind Farms


Guest blog by S. A. Shelley Californians do not need big and very expensive offshore floating wind farms. In fact, nobody needs big and very expensive offshore floating wind farms. Fixed offshore wind farms started out very expensive, requiring significant government subsidies, but small. They have since matured to allow for big inexpensive offshore wind farms with no government subsidies of any kind. The latest fixed offshore wind farms are producing and supplying electricity to their grids at a cost competitive rate compared to the current supply, and this is a result of technological evolution, improved execution strategies and increasing turbine size (power output). However, floating offshore wind technology is still in the nascent, small and heavily subsidized phase of the technology lifecycle. Yet, for some reason, various consortia are pitching huge floating wind farms right off the bat to California. That’s a big problem and folks in California need to watch that they do not get forced to subsidize those projects.

Continue reading California Does Not Need Big, Very Expensive Floating Offshore Wind Farms