Climate clippings 39

Greenland ice

Predicting tipping points

Tim Lenton is now attempting to link the basic theory of climatic “tipping points” with observed early warning signals.

Problem is, these tipping points may not be sudden and dramatic but involve a steady but inevitable increase. When outbreaks of pine beetles first became obvious perhaps the eventual destruction of Canada’s boreal forests was inevitable. But Lenton is making an argument “from almost a mathematical point of view” that there are general properties of tipping points.

Polar climate change may lead to ecological change

This article looks at the complex changes in the polar regions associated with warming which is greater than at lower latitudes.

If you are looking at tipping points, the release of methane from permafrost is an obvious candidate. Ask yourself whether it is likely to gradually increase from here on, whether it is stoppable and what change in conditions would reverse the trend.

Sea level rise during the Eemian

Skeptical Science summarises research on sea level rise during the Eemian, the last interglacial. It’s also worth looking at the press release of a paper by McKay, Overpeck, and Otto-Bliesner of the University of Arizona.

It’s being suggested that the sea level may have been higher than previously thought, the contribution of Antarctica greater and of Greenland less, and the temperature may have been only 1C higher than now. Mckay et al suggest 4.1 to 5.8 metres from Antarctica out of a total of 8m.

Iron-rich dust plays a role in the ice ages

The New Scientist tells us about Swiss research that looked at iron dust in marine sediments going back 4 million years. They think that as the planet cooled there were dust storms which spread iron on the oceans, which stimulated the growth of plankton, which drew further carbon out of the atmosphere, creating further cooling.

The heading is rather misleading, implying that iron dust caused the ice ages, whereas the article makes clear that they think it was a feedback mechanism amplifying the cooling. The possible implications for geoengineering are obvious.

Can spotting dead polar bears add up to misconduct?

Back in 2006 Charles Monnett of the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement wrote a paper on four polar bears observed drowned in 2004. Now according to the New Scientist he has been suspended from duties and is accused of scientific misconduct.

The news set competing narratives loose in the blogosphere. Environmentalists claim that [Monnett] is the victim of a “witch hunt” aimed at opening up more of Alaska to oil and gas drilling. Meanwhile, climate sceptics have dubbed the affair “polarbeargate” and claim Monnett’s work is discredited.

While the specific allegations are unknown, the suspicion is that it related to the 2006 paper and that someone wants him out of the way.

The article notes that in 2009 according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature

eight polar bear subpopulations are declining, three are stable and one is increasing. Seven others could not be assessed due to a lack of data.

Renewables update

A new battery based on slurry, or “Cambridge crude”. Article written for New Scientist.

Inflatable wind turbines are said to save 50% on installation costs.

The company says the rotor is lighter and safer than any other product currently on the market. As its construction doesn’t require expensive molds or specialised tooling, Winflex says customising a turbine to a particular capacity or site location is rapid, as is assembly.

VW spring surprise at Frankfurt motor show

From John D’s Gizmag scanning, Volkswagen announce a new diesel one-litre 380kg baby capable of 1.38 litres per 100km or 170mpg in the old language.

Revolutionary wave disc generator combustion engine

Again from John D’s Gizmag, now all you have to do is fit the VW with one of these. Still in prototype, but the claim is 60% efficiency (compared with the conventional 15%), a greatly-reduced engine weight and a 95% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Carbon price crash

I think it was last Tuesday when only two prices in the equity and trading markets went up. One was gold, the other the newly downgraded US Treasury bonds. Carbon prices were about the worst hit, according to Climate Spectator with applause coming, curiously, from both opponents and proponents of carbon markets.

All I can offer is that the EU scheme might behave like a half-decent market when they stop giving away so many credits.

Reminder

This space is meant to also serve as an open thread on climate change.

130 thoughts on “Climate clippings 39”

  1. I had a relatively civilised exchange with a La Rouchist Climate Change Denier outside the PM’s Town Hall meeting in Perth yesterday (I was holding a ‘Climate Action Now’ banner). He ran through the usual points – we’ve been cooling for the last ten years, Gillard lied etc. He also asked me about the frequency and intensity of catastrophic events from climate change such as hurricanes which I confess I didn’t have a ready answer for. Have you come across any fresh research on that subject Brian?

  2. Tim, I recall an article that I don’t appear to have bookmarked, but this one cites 2010 as the second highest number of extreme events after 2007 according to Munich Re who have an excellent data base. That was in terms of frequency. Economic losses is a different story and obviously affected by the severity of particular events and to what extent humans have put themselves in the way of disaster by building in vulnerable places.

    Here’s a recent one on famine in the Horn of Africa. Again there is an important distinction between drought and famine, but the dry there has interest because of its persistence and the notion that it conforms to expectations under AGW.

    There’s been a lot of unusual weather in the US recently which has generated a lot of posts, but don’t signify all that much on a global level. I think it is less than 2% of the planet’s real estate.

    I’ll have another look around tonight.

    [had the wrong link in the third one – now fixed]

  3. re: the engine.

    Sounds like this idea has been kicking around for some time (50+years) as a method of improving the efficiency of gas turbines.

    Has come to naught.. because of the usual problems associated with this sort of engine.

    Don’t believe the hype! (don’t don’t .. )

  4. Spotting dead Polare Bears can add up to misconduct when we have a rigourous Peer Review Process as described by the Author here:

    ERIC MAY: So combining the three dead polar bears and the four alive bears is a mistake?

    CHARLES MONNETT: No, it‟s not a mistake. It‟s just not a, a, a real, uh, rigorous analysis. And a whole bunch of peer reviewers and a journal, you know –

    ERIC MAY: Did they go through – I mean, did they do the calculations as you just did with us?

    CHARLES MONNETT: Well, I assume they did. That‟s their purpose.

    ERIC MAY: Okay. Right, and that‟s – again, that‟s why I was asking peer review.

    CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah.

    ERIC MAY: Did they do that with that particular section of your manuscript?

    CHARLES MONNETT: Well, I don‟t, I don‟t remember anybody doing the calculations but, um, uh, there weren‟t any huge objections. There weren‟t a – let‟s put it this way, there weren‟t sufficient objections for the journal editor to ask us to take it out.

    . . . and then one of the Peer Reviewers subsequently get s awarded a nice fat bunch of funding from the Reviewed.

    Nothing to see here – move along . . .

  5. OBR: I’d keep my mouth shut until I could do more than smear. I don’t see anything untoward in that transcript.

    Ultimately what Monnett is trying to say (immediately before your quote) is if you don’t like what someone writes in a discussion section in a paper you can ignore it. And it’s a fair point. That’s why we train students to clearly separate discussion from results. If you don’t like it you write another paper with a different interpretation and publish that. It’s called scientific debate.

    Also, Monnett wouldn’t know anything about what his reviewers were thinking about his calculations if they don’t include it in their review (it’s anonymous for a good reason), so it’s pretty stupid thing to be asking him whether the reviewers checked his calculations.

    What’s more is the interviewers completely balls up the maths immediately after your quote anyway, so they’re not exactly covering themselves with glory here either.

  6. e also asked me about the frequency and intensity of catastrophic events from climate change such as hurricanes which I confess I didn’t have a ready answer for.

    Tim D, I’m pretty sure that hurricane frequency isn’t strongly predicted to go either way, but intensity will increase. And I’m pretty sure that there’s a range of data points indicating that more severe weather events are happening.

  7. Unfortunatley that VW car remains jsut a concept. The article is two years old, I recall it from back then, I don’t think it’ll make it to market.

  8. Well, jess – we can both wait and see what teh outcome of the investigation is.

    My limited understanding of Stats is you need a sample of at least 30, so extropalting off 4 dead bears is pretty thin ice.

  9. Wilful: I have a free email subscription to gizmag because it provides a snapshot of technical developments in a wide range of areas of general interest. Innovations that might help reduce emissions are mixed with stories about V8 superbikes.
    I would be surprised if the VW described ever goes into production. It is more about demonstrating various ideas and maintaining VW’s technical reputation. Hopefully VW will put an energy efficient narrow track vehicle on the market some time in the near future.
    If you define a narrow track car as being narrow enough to travel safely two abreast in a single lane I think the idea has great potential as an urban car. It is attractive from a number of view points of view including fuel consumption and dealing with congestion.
    It is worth noting that Obama’s new car efficiency agreement controls the weighted average of cars produced by each car manufacturer. This provides an incentive for car manufacturers to sell small fuel efficient cars so they can meet the target without having to spend as much improving the efficiency of their larger cars (or restrict sales.)

  10. Duncan: One of the difficulties with the traditional car engine is that it has to operate efficiently over a range of speeds and torques. However, things get a lot easier when you are talking about an engine that is only used to top up the batteries for a plug-in hybrid. The job could be done by an engine that only works efficiently over a very narrow band.
    Could be a winner.

  11. Tim Dymond @1, the town hall forum seems to have been a success for Julia Gillard. The West Australian reported that the audience survey before the forum polled (as I recall) 33% for (a carbon price), 37% against and 30% undecided, and afterward it was 53% for, 30% against and 17% undecided. Not a bad result considering the forum was run by The West and Sky News.

  12. The VW efficient diesel makes bio fuel a far better proposition. The volumes required per trip are considerably lower making the fuel price less critical. Biofuels from the broad variety of sources, even user generated, will become quite paractical. It is not unrealistic to consider fuelling such a vehicle from a stand of oil palm trees at the bottom of the garden, for basic transport needs.

  13. John,

    yes, I know that.. maybe we’ll see the return of the turbine to cars.. it is eminently suited (efficient, small, can run many different fuels)

    The problem with the cited wunder-engine is the gains being chased by the shock-wave compression.. you need good engine seals. Look up the history of the wankel engine (which runs at much lower revs) to see the issues with them.

  14. Tim @1, total hurricane/cyclone numbers have fallen over the past few decades,but the number of severe,as in Cat 4 or 5,cyclones/hurricanes has stayed constant or even increased slightly. So the ratio of severe cyclones to less severe has increased. As well, among total cyclones a good number are being observed to intensify at record rates.

    Search up the US Climate Extremes Index for observed changes there.Interesting developments include a recent strong increase in one-day precipitation extremes over the record back to 1910

  15. Here’s the Huffington Post on Monnett and polar bears, with links.

    In this post a BOEMRE spokeswoman claims that the investigation has nothing to do with scientific integrity and the 2006 article. A leaked memo suggests it involves procurement issues relating to a recent project.

    There’s more here, including information about an interview last January with Jeffrey Gleason, the joint author of the 2006 paper.

    Frankly, it looks as though they were trying to get him for something.

  16. John D @ 10

    The VW car looks like it is the on development of this

    http://www.ucan.org/gasoline_autos/gas_prices/volkswagen_really_selling_car_600

    car, notice the difference in the engines.

    I would not hesitate in buying such a vehicle as the 1 litre newer version. I have a Yamaha scooter (400cc) which uses more fuel per 100 k than this VW car. I would include in the purchase a 200 litre drum of biodiesel, which would fit easily in the garage space not occupied by the narrow vehicle. The 200 litre of biodiesel would provide optimally 14,000 kilometres of driving for the price of 2 full fills of an SUV, which would fuel my full years use of the vehicle, entirely sustainably. Notice also the weight of the vehicle, ie the far lower consumption of resources in its construction (about one quarter of that for a standard small car).

    Now that I think about it that way I am very keen. I hope that you are listening VW. And for the family vehicle I am also ready to buy a VW Bulli to replace the Forrester.

  17. OBR: There’s not really anything like a ‘required sample size’. The sample size required to get useful results is just that which reduces the variance to the point where your observation is statistically significant.

    FWIW I agree with you: 4 polar bears is probably too small a sample size to draw any good conclusions, and that’s why the authors put it in the discussion as a speculative back-of-envelope paragraph. People do it all the time, and it’s ok if it isn’t presented as true.

  18. dear brian
    thanks for this & all the other climate updates you’ve provided – I devour them every week. with gusto sauce.

    sad new from canada (alberta) today. the alberta provincial government & the canadian federal government have approved the construction of a new coal powered electricity plant in alberta. apparently approval of the plant was fast tracked so that the owner, one maxim power of calgary, would not need to meet new standards which are legislated but not yet enacted by the alberta government.

    for anyone interested, article from cbc edmonton is here (comments are still open, btw):-
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2011/08/11/alberta-maxim-power-coal-plant-approved.html

    where (i hear you ask) is grand cache, alberta?
    http://grandecache.ca/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/newmapab2.pdf

    according to wikipedia, half the natural gas used in a year in alberta is used in the athabaska tar sands project, to produce barrels of oil that cost more energy to produce than is contained in the barrel of oil. and they claim natural gas is “too valuable” to be used to produce electricity and should therefore be reserved for home heating only. sheesh.

    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  19. Yes Fran it is appalling but then Jane Fraser has had a column in Rupert’s paper on any number of themes for a huge number of years – like a lot of the superannuated column writers Rupert employs and who in turn return that loyalty in spades on subjects they know little about. As with others elsewhere – Gerard Henderson, Paul Sheehan in the SMH to name two – I just don’t bother to read. You have to draw the line somewhere! Sorry a bit off topic.

  20. About “tipping points” as I understand it a “tipping point” is defined as the locus where negative feedback- a feedback that opposes the original movement -example where the sea sequesters CO2 as the CO2 level rises to one where the feedback becomes positive. Where -for example the sea water temperature rises and the CO2 is forced back out of solution. This increases the CO2 in the atmosphere which increases the sea temperature – with a rather large lag,

    The point about positive feedback is that it vastly increases the rate of change.

    In the climate change case we have a large number of potential or indeed actual positive feedback mechanisms.
    Reduction in polar albedo due to ice melt, release of methane due to permafrost melting. Release of methane due to deep sea clathrate decomposition, reduction in radius of the circumpolar (boreal) forest.
    Once these become significantly invoked it is all over red rover, the rate of change will be measured in years rather than tens of years. We are presently in the phase lag part of the characteristic, once this is used p the rate of change will be totally toxic
    Huggy

  21. That is the invisible and present danger, Huggy.

    The visible and far too present danger is Toxic Tony, and the trail of garbage and misinformation he is spreading all over this country.

    He should be arrested for littering.

  22. Huggy: I would explain tipping points using the analogy of a bowl containing a ball. If you push the ball a small distance up the wall it runs back to the bottom when the push is removed. However, if you push it high enough it falls over the rim and needs considerable effort to get it back in the bowl. The tipping point is the point where the ball is balanced on the bowl rim.
    If you like the tipping point is the point where the system shifts from negative feed back to positive feed back.

  23. John D, I like the analogy of a ball in a bowl, but instead of “from negative feed back to positive feed back” I’d say from one state to another. This is from Lenton et al:

    The term ‘‘tipping point’’ commonly refers to a critical threshold at which a tiny perturbation can qualitatively alter the state or
    development of a system.

    Wikipedia:

    A climate tipping point is a point when global climate changes from one stable state to another stable state, in a similar manner to a wine glass tipping over. After the tipping point has been passed, a transition to a new state occurs. The tipping event may be irreversible, comparable to wine spilling from the glass—standing up the glass will not put the wine back

  24. Tim, Fran, thanks, and no probs. I’ve just found this Skeptical Science post on extreme weather. It says of hurricanes:

    Atlantic hurricanes have increased both in power and frequency, coinciding with warming oceans that provide energy to these storms. In the Eastern Pacific, there have been fewer but stronger hurricanes recently. More research is needed to better understand the extent to which other factors, such as atmospheric stability and circulation, affect hurricane development

    My understanding has been that there is difficulty with the historical records on tropical cyclones going back to the first half of last century. Because of this it is difficult to separate out the effect of global warming as against multi-decadal natural oscillations.

    Nevertheless, there was an interesting study by Holland and Webster in 2007:

    Their statistical analysis of hurricanes and tropical storms in the North Atlantic found that there were two abrupt increases in intensity over the past century – and each time the level remained elevated and relatively steady.

    Between 1900 and 1930, there was an annual average of six tropical cyclones, of which four were hurricanes and two were storms. Between 1930 and 1940, the annual average increased to 10, with five hurricanes and five tropical storms.

    Finally, in the period from 1995 to 2005, the yearly average rose to 15 tropical cyclones, of which eight were hurricanes and seven were tropical storms.

    The full paper is here.

    Two comments. First, in the North Atlantic basin there was sufficient shipping to establish what happened in the early 20th century. In other places there is difficulty counting storms that don’t make landfall.

    Secondly, 1995-2005 is a rather short period. I don’t know whether the pattern has continued since 2005. AFAIK what Nick said @ 15 represents the current wisdom.

    Cyclones are complex systems which require a number of conditions to line up before they form. So you wouldn’t bet on the number increasing with AGW. Nevertheless, with higher sea surface temperatures you would expect more energy in the system, so an increase in intensity when they do form would not surprise.

  25. This analysis by Dr Ted Trainer, described as a critical discussion of the recent IPCC Working Group 3 Report on Renewable Energy is worth a read, as it puts into perspective some of the more optimistic projections for renewables to underpin existing and projected energy demand.

    Trainer, as many will know, is both an advocate of rapid transition to full reliance on renewables and radical cuts in consumption to make that possible. He sees these as two parts of an indissoluble whole.

    For those of us who are concerned about the size of the human footprint on the biosphere, Trainer’s work is a useful contribution, for unlike many who advocate renewables, he feels no need to choose heroically optimistic projections of their possible contribution to the satisfaction of human demands for energy.

    Personally, I regard the cuts in consumption that Trainer advocates as politically and culturally improbable. For me, the most plausible route to reducing the human footprint is a greatly increased role for nuclear power rather than radical cuts in consumption. Trainer of course, rejects this, but his contribution to discussion on renewables is not diminished as a consequence.

  26. Fran, I recommend you read Paul Gilding’s book The Great Disruption.
    I am a good way through and it has freed me from the idea of reducing population as a “plausible route to reducing the human footprint” and prevented me from looking for “radical cuts in consumption” as an alternative and I already knew that increasing the Technological intensity of economic output, via nuclear power, would just lead to further exploitation of the ecosystem.

    Only a crisis will initiate change. It is “politically and culturally improbable” to avoid the crisis. Acceptance of this is rather liberating.

  27. SalientG,

    I’m inclined to agree that nothing serious will happen until Western people are actually dying in large numbers, and Fox news is reporting this as being due to Global Warming.

    What I would like to see is a lot of discussion of how we should reform our living infrastructure for the future with the aim being to preserve maximum living functionality while dramatically reducing resource consumption, CO2 emissions, and our eco footprint.

    For instance I am seriously excited by the VW vehicle linked above. The idea that I can maintain my commute functionality, take up less space on the roads, do less damage to roads, but fuel this from just 200 litres of bio diesel per year in a vehicle that uses a quarter of the material in a satndard medium size car is immediately appealing. I’m very satisfied that the projects that I and my business partner are working on will deliver energy independence for our living and working environments, but I would like to see some really creative thinking going into living environments with a view to minimising the immense damage that our human presence creates. Architectural business as usual is going to end in tears. It is way past time that we had a serious rethink of what we as humans are entitled to consume.

    One person who seriously and actively engages with these issues is Caroline Pidcock. You will have to google her architectural practice for a link as wordpress has annoyingly defeated my efforts 3 times now. This is one seriously energetic environmentally commited professional.

    So far I like the cliff face architecture of Santorini as a sustainable solution or the earth sheltered designs of Malcolm B Wells. Alternatively architecture afloat also appeals to me.

    What do you think?

  28. “…and Fox news is reporting this as being due to Global Warming.” LOL

    I think we have the technology and the intelligence to dramatically reduce our footprint to sustainable levels but we are addicted to growth and it will take a crisis, or crises, to beat that addiction.

    Of course, to us in the know there is a crisis of overshoot but there needs to be a crisis which affects the majority of the developed world in a personal way like food and grocery or fuel shortages.

  29. #34 Salient Green

    Is there any evidence at all that nuclear power leads to “increasing the Technological intensity of economic output” over and above a situation powered by fossil fuels or for that matter hydro?

    Are France (nuclear) and Norway (hydro), any different from anywhere else in that respect?

    I think you are using nuclear as a proxy for something else that you (possibly with good reason) object to.

  30. quokka, given that we are now butting against the limits to growth, I was referring to the danger of a massive rollout of new nuclear power, especially in the developing world, which could enable the world economy to circumvent some limits to growth for a lot longer, thereby causing it to go even deeper into overshoot.

    Nuclear being a much more concentrated energy source than anything else, if seen as the saviour of Growth before the world has a chance to change from this economic paradigm to a sustainable one, has the potential to enable far greater environmental destruction than other energy sources.

  31. Fran @33
    Yep good old nuke power.
    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Issue+radiation+tainted+food+Japan+escalates/5252900/story.html
    When you and your ilk take your kids to Fukishima, eat local produce and drink the local water I will take you seriously.
    Probelm is you are thinking in totally outdated cliches of large central generation and a massive centrally fed network.
    Get over it and start thinking in terms of ENERGY SERVICES (The services provided partially or wholly by energy) and absorbent networks and you will be at last coming out of an early 20th century mind set.
    Huggy

  32. Huggy … Had I been advocating building a reactor such as that built at Fukushima, and further, urging it be built at sea-level in a place affected by Tsunamis and not required that independent power to run the ECS be part of defence in depth, and had said yes to it being operated by an unaccountable regime, you’d have had the beginnings of a point.

    The fact remains that there is, as yet, no plausible way to run industrial-scale output to meet global demand on what is now regarded as renewable energy, and doubly so if we mean to produce what is needed to raise the standard of living in the developing world without adding to CO2 inventories.

    Us westerners agreeing to live more simply won’t bridge that gap — not even close — even allowing you could get such a program supported.

  33. Bilb: We use an economic system that depends on economic growth to avoid the problems of unemployment. It is made worse by shareholder expectations that their CEO will grow the company rather than do what they do very well. It is made even worse by an attitude that “man was made for the economy” rather than the economy being made for man.
    To my mind countries are measured by the quality of life of the people near the bottom of the pile, not the monuments of the mighty or the size of the GDP.

  34. The fact remains that there is, as yet, no plausible way to run industrial-scale output to meet global demand on what is now regarded as renewable energy, and doubly so if we mean to produce what is needed to raise the standard of living in the developing world without adding to CO2 inventories.

    Much as I hesitate to weigh into the endless ‘nooks vs renoowables’ back and forth, Fran, I must point out that the claim above is not a ‘fact’ but is highly contested among experts, as are the various claims that the difficulties of nuclear energy can be resolved. I fail to understand why non-experts take such adamant positions in that debate when it’s clear the experts don’t agree.

    DI(NR) & Jess, yes, the motion was put up by Jensen. It was foreshadowed a couple of days earlier, and Barnett ruled out the possibility of it being acted on. Mind you, Barnett then went on with some blather about the science being uncertain, yadayadayada.

    Just another day in the fool’s paradise that is Western Australia.

  35. Well I think that the response from Barrett was entirely predictable. They know (even if their peons don’t) that it becomes harder to deny the science when a Royal Commission that they asked for comes back and says ‘the science is right’.

    Far better to keep things murky and spread some FUD.

  36. Tim said:

    Much as I hesitate to weigh into the endless ‘nooks vs renoowables’ back and forth, Fran, I must point out that the claim above is not a ‘fact’ but is highly contested among experts, as are the various claims that the difficulties of nuclear energy can be resolved.

    The onus is on someone to show that renewables can do the job we need to have done, on timelines and at the scale consistent with addressing the problem in a way that would in practice be supported by enough people to get it done. As yet, nobody has done that, so at this stage, my assertion of fact is fair.

    You may want to assert that on the same grounds it is not yet established that the above standards can be met even with nuclear power in the mix, and if you did, I’d be sympathetic. Yet cetetis paribus, it’s easier to believe that it can be done with nuclear power in the mix than out of it.

    However that might be, the failure of nuclear power to underpin success would not prove the feasibility of renewables to the project.

  37. cetetis, heh.

    just been on the Sunday Age website, checking their “Our Say” idea, whereby the top seven voted for questions get put to, actually I don’t know where the questions go, I lost interest by that point, but the point is, they’ve been totally hijacked by denialist loons. So now I’m depressed.

    http://www.theage.com.au/national/climate-agenda

  38. As yet, nobody has done that, so at this stage, my assertion of fact is fair

    No Fran, some experts have put forward plans and forecasts which purport to show that renewable energy can do the job. Other experts have contested those plans and forecasts.

    Similarly, experts who favour nuclear energy have put forward proposals saying that technological developments will resolve the various problems of nuclear energy. Other experts contest these proposals.

    Generally speaking, all the proposals, by advocates of renewable and nuclear energy alike, are what the finance industry likes to call “forward looking”, i.e. they are speculative and rely on assumptions about future technological developments. Whether these assumptions will prove to be correct or not, nobody really knows.

    You believe that renewable energy will never be able to do the job you think needs to be done, and that’s fine. But this is not a ‘fact’, it’s your opinion, and it’s an issue on which reasonable people disagree.

  39. Tim said:

    Generally speaking, all the proposals, by advocates of renewable and nuclear energy alike, are what the finance industry likes to call “forward looking”, i.e. they are speculative and rely on assumptions about future technological developments. Whether these assumptions will prove to be correct or not, nobody really knows.

    I would not contest the account above. They are all speculative. It’s no secret that I see far fewer constraints to the satisfaction of future energy needs in ways consistent with low CO2-intensity and development in the less industrialised parts of the world in a global system making very substantial use of nuclear power. I know of no credible analysis that proves conclusively that relying substantially that nuclear power will be an adequate solution, so if someone were to assert that nuclear power can do the job we need to have done, on timelines and at the scale consistent with addressing the problem in a way that would in practice be supported by enough people to get it done I’d be obliged to agree. At most I could say that I regard large-scale resort to nuclear power as the least implausible of approaches and a lot more plausible than a renewables-only approach. I might add that if we did decide to take the nuclear power route, we could establish the viability of the project (or conclude that it was not feasible) pretty quickly.

    At the moment, the most plausible way to satisfy future energy needs is business as usual with some fairly minor modifications, because that is the only proven up system we have. Of course, business as usual fails in other areas most of us here think absolutely vital — GHG-abatement, non-GHG system impacts, global equity, maintainability in the face of resource depletion — and these prospective problems are at the heart of the search for alternatives.

    Accordingly, most of us here have made the value judgement that we must decouple society from intensive reliance on the combustion of hydrocarbons. Passing over radical cuts in consumption, which, (though favoured by some here) are politically improbable, we are obliged, if we are to “decarbonise”, to consider the relative merits of two basic courses — one with renewables-only and one with nuclear power as the key component.

    Since neither of these courses can appeal to evidence of operation at the scale required my initial claim of fact with the qualification as yet is unimpeachable. What evidence there is suggests that primary reliance on nuclear power is however, much the more plausible of the two courses, and that is indeed an opinion. Nuclear power does after all satisfy the first condition for the system — producing in predictable quantities on a predictable timeline at industrial scale for an acceptable cost, in a number of settings for decades. A question attaches to whether it can be scaled up quickly enough, or whether new fission technologies will prove as useful as advocates hope. Many people oppose deployment of nuclear power, so it might fail operational feasibility.

    These constraints, though non-trivial, are minor compared with the challenges of global renewables. It is said that contemporary humanity’s thirst for energy is tearing through about 400 years (146,100 days) worth of carboniferous-era carbon stock every day, and this despite the fact that large swathes of the humanity use a lot less energy than do we first worlders. Since, with the exception of geothermal energy, all renewable energy relies on harvesting the energy derived ultimately from the sun (or in the case of tidal, the moon’s gravitational field) in real time, renewable energy systems much harvest and convert to usable power on every single day (on a tiny proportion of the Earth’s surface) 146,100 days worth of sunlight and lunar gravity. To me, that sounds like a huge task. Indeed, it would be huge even if we could cover every square foot of low value terrestrial space with the best wind turbines, solar collectors and algae farms and surround ourselves with tidal barrages and marine turbines in every plausible location until we were reliably collecting 146,100 days worth in a single day. And of course, we are going to need more than that if there is to be surplus energy for the less industrialised states.

    So yes — it is a fact that there’s no proof that either course is going to come up to scratch, but the onus rests far more heavily on renewables advocates to show that their renewables-only course is even plausible.

  40. Thanks for the clarification Fran.

    A couple of quibbles, though.

    … in real time, renewable energy systems much harvest and convert to usable power on every single day (on a tiny proportion of the Earth’s surface) 146,100 days worth of sunlight and lunar gravity.

    I really don’t see the point in using figures in this manner. The number you cite tells us nothing useful. The particular figure you’ve used strikes me as more a rhetorical point designed to bolster a pre-existing view, rather than material on which one would form a view.
    As you are no doubt aware, there are other numbers that suggest the opposite, i.e. that humanity’s projected energy requirements could be met many times over by tapping only a minuscule fraction of the solar energy received on Earth daily. However, I wouldn’t propose to rely on those numbers either, for the same reason.

    …we are obliged, if we are to “decarbonise”, to consider the relative merits of two basic courses — one with renewables-only and one with nuclear power as the key component.

    This is the thing that really puzzles me about the way this debate plays out in the blogosphere – who decided it was an either/or proposition?

    Lastly –

    … the onus rests far more heavily on renewables advocates to show that their renewables-only course is even plausible.

    I don’t really see why. IMHO, an equal onus rests on everyone putting forward a particular proposal to justify it. You may consider the proposals of renewables advocates to be inherently less plausible, but to me that’s something on which reasonable people may disagree.

    I should probably leave it here, as I’m not entirely sure this is on topic (although it’s arguably related). 🙂

  41. Fran, here is one possible scenario:
    Australia has about 12 million passenger vehicles. These will be converted to Electric vehicles over the next ten years as the price of petrol goes over $5:00 gallon.
    Each vehicle has an energy storage capacity of at least 25 kWh,. Most vehicles would be parked either at their destination or at their home for at least 22 hours out of 24.
    Each vehicle could easily make say 5 kWh available for the grid through their bi-directional charger at a nominal rate of say 5kW (limited by the power point).
    Result
    1. 60 GW of peaking generation (We have about 40 GW on the east coast).
    2. 60 GWh of energy storage (more than the entire Snowy) . Unlike the Snowy this 60 GWh will be available every day.
    3. Intermittent renewables such as wind and solar will really love this network.
    Oh and did I mention that the reduction in peak network losses and refurbishment deferment and peak generation provision will pay for it within about 10 years.

    BTW the electric vehicle is already driving the cost of energy storage down at an astonishing rate, we may not need to use the vehicles at all, the economics are driving towards distributed energy storage.

    Please stop pushing old polluting and dangerous technologies and try to get up to speed with what is happening out there. Nuclear is over Fran, Fukishima has finished it – mostly because it exposed for all to see the criminal gangs who run our nuclear industry.

    Huggy

  42. Tim Macknay said:

    I really don’t see the point in using figures in this manner. The number you cite tells us nothing useful. The particular figure you’ve used strikes me as more a rhetorical point designed to bolster a pre-existing view, rather than material on which one would form a view.

    However it seems, it’s germane. That’s the capital stock drawdown. It’s clearly not sustainable. Sustainable means no drawdown and that means 146,100 days worth of energy produced every day from non-hydrocarbon sources + whatever else is needed for less industrialised country growth.

    there are other numbers that suggest the opposite, i.e. that humanity’s projected energy requirements could be met many times over by tapping only a minuscule fraction of the solar energy received on Earth daily.

    Those figures are purely theoretical. It isn’t technically or economically feasible, especially when you allow for conversion losses, in making it dispatchable on demand. Unless we produce that 146,100 days worth in the hands of the end users, we don’t have enough.

    IMHO, an equal onus rests on everyone putting forward a particular proposal to justify it.

    Some people have a more challenging case. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Renewables-only proposals must approach that standard.

  43. Huggy said:

    Australia has about 12 million passenger vehicles …
    Each vehicle has an energy storage capacity of at least 25 kWh … Each vehicle could easily make say 5 kWh available for the grid through their bi-directional charger at a nominal rate of say 5kW (limited by the power point).

    Result
    1. 60 GW of peaking generation (We have about 40 GW on the east coast).

    A couple of things.

    1. You get that for one hour assuming 100% availability, which is utterly improbable

    2. You are adopting Abbottesque methodology — looking only at your side of the (energy) ledger. Where does that 25kwh per vehicle actually come from?

    By definition, you need 300 GWhe to fill the batteries from full depletion. You need that every day. So dividing by 4.8 hours (25% availability for wind/solar) you need 62.5 GW of wind/solar capacity hooked up the the various grids. Sure you can knock off a bit for Tasmanian and Snowy Hydro, but even so, you can see the limitations.

    And as I said, this is for 1 hour of cover.

    If geothermal and tidal get guernseys here, great, but can this be replicated in places like Japan, or France or the US or Indonesia, or in Africa or Russia or India? It’s hard to imagine.

  44. It’s really quite simple. In OECD countries nuclear supplies 21% of electricity; wind, solar, geothermal and assorted gadgets supply 4%. Nuclear is not demonstrated to be able to supply all of the world’s energy needs, but it has been demonstrated in practice to be scale-able and deploy-able over a sufficiently short time frame to be at the very least a major source of low emission energy. At just 4% of OECD supply, the wind/solar group by any objective measure has not.

    Nuclear has been demonstrated in the French electricity grid to be capable of supplying 75% of a nations electricity reliably and at reasonable cost. The wind/solar group have not. In fact nowhere near.

    To those who might say that was then and now is now, Germany is not replacing it’s shutdown nuclear capacity with renewables. It’s replacing it with fossil fuel burners. If there was ever a politically opportune time for Germany to go all out for renewables, then surely that time is right now. So why is it not happening? And if not Germany, what hope for the rest of the world?

    This is not a case of dueling “energy experts”, it’s a matter of acknowledging reality.

  45. Gee Fran,

    Do you really believe

    “Indeed, it would be huge even if we could cover every square foot of low value terrestrial space with the best wind turbines, solar collectors and algae farms and surround ourselves with tidal barrages and marine turbines in every plausible location until we were reliably collecting 146,100 days worth in a single day”

    ?

    Lets look at it another way. The roof of my house is about 170 square metres. The total energy available to that roof from the sun is about 170 times 1 times 7.5 (average clear solar hours) times 275 ( average clear solar days) times .3 top end solar panel efficiency ( although fairly conservative for the theoretical maximum) which would yield 105,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. If I were to sell that electricity to my near neighbours for a conservative 18 cents per kilowatt hour this would earn $19,000. Alternatively I could cover just one fifth of that area, 34 square metres, and save myself $3,800 dollars at 18 cents or $5460 at 26 cents per kwh. If I were to use one third of that energy to charge an electric car this would yield 46,500 kilomtres of road travel which wold save me $4,650 dollars in fuel at 10 cents per kilometre, making a combined saving of $7,150. So the point is that achieving energy independence is not at all a stretch of the imagination. And that is only part of the story.

  46. S Green @44: Even with a stable working population and stable markets there will be a shedding of jobs due to efficiency gains.
    The only way of avoiding these job losses is to have in place a system for fairly sharing the available work.

  47. Fran:

    Those figures are purely theoretical. It isn’t technically or economically feasible, especially when you allow for conversion losses, in making it dispatchable on demand.

    This is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. You have no idea whether it’s technically or economically feasible or not! But there are plenty of people with relevant expertise who believe it is, in addition to those who don’t. Again, you’re presenting something as a fact which is actually your lay opinion on an issue that is the subject of contention among experts.

    However it seems, it’s germane. That’s the capital stock drawdown. It’s clearly not sustainable. Sustainable means no drawdown and that means 146,100 days worth of energy produced every day from non-hydrocarbon sources.

    How is the number of days taken for a geological process to produce a given quantity of fossil energy relevant to the question of how much of the daily flux of renewable energy can be feasibly captured for industrial purposes? The relevant figures can only be the actual quantity of daily renewable energy available, and the quantity that must be captured. Now those figures themselves may well support the view that a renewable energy economy the size of ours is infeasible, but you haven’t cited them. You’ve cited an irrelevant figure whose only value is rhetorical. Why?

    quokka

    To those who might say that was then and now is now, Germany is not replacing it’s shutdown nuclear capacity with renewables. It’s replacing it with fossil fuel burners. If there was ever a politically opportune time for Germany to go all out for renewables, then surely that time is right now. So why is it not happening? And if not Germany, what hope for the rest of the world?

    Personally I think the shutdown of Germany’s nuclear plants is a dubious decision, particularly given its ambitious emissions reduction targets. But the rest of your comment seems factually inaccurate. By all accounts, Germany is going all out for renewables. In the wake of its shutdown of eight nuclear plants, the German government radically has upgraded its renewables expansion plans. There has been plenty of publicity about this, so I’m surprised you’re not aware of it. Whether the policy will be sustained, or succeed, is another matter. The nuclear shutdown, and change of policy, is only a couple of months old. But your claim that it is ‘not happening’ is just not correct.

    I’m still a little surpised at how entrenched the opinions are, given that the facts are so much less clear cut. Oh, well. Let the dialogue of the deaf continue!

  48. @Tim Macknay

    BERLIN—Germany needs to build twice the number of new fossil-fuel power plants than the government previously had earmarked in order to secure energy security while exiting nuclear power, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday,

    “At least 10, more likely 20 gigawatts [of fossil capacity] need to be built in the coming 10 years.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304259304576375154034042070.html

    How much more clear cut would you like?

  49. Thanks quokka. A fairly predictable outcome, given the decision to phase out such a large quantity of low emissions generating capacity so quickly. As I said before, I regard the decision to phase out the German nuclear industry as a dubious one. That said, no doubt you would acknowledge that the German government has also committed to radically expand its renewables generation capacity.

  50. @Tim Macknay

    The point I am trying to make about Germany is that there is a perfectly reasonable question that could and indeed should be asked:

    If renewables only (ie no-nukes) can do the job at reasonable cost using current technology or technology that can reasonably be expected to be available this decade (as claimed by the anti-nukes and some “energy experts”), then why is Germany embarking on a significant build of new fossil fired capacity?

  51. Powering 12 million passenger vehicles electrically is not such a big deal. Using the spec performance of the VW Bulli, possible production in 2013, of 300 kilometres per 45 kilowatt hour charge and assuming 1.5 charges per week (this is conservative 2004 k’s travelled per passenger vehicle =14000 per year) then the energy required to power these requires 4.8 gigawatt running full power 24/7.

    The retail value of the petrol not consumed is $16.8 billion, or 3.8 billion dollars per gigawatt power station per year.

    The cost of 12 million electric vehicles at 40,000 each is $48 billion.

    So the national cost to replace all of Australia’s cars with electric cars and build the Renewable (CSP, Wind and Geothermal power) Power plants to power them could be justified on the petrol expenditure alone at today’s petrol prices.

    Would you be happy to get a free 6 seater electric car ( with a per fill range of 300 kilometres) on the proviso that you pay for the electricity to power it at today’s petrol price?

    Toxic Tony could never consider such a thing as he has too many industry friends to support, he cannot be trusted to do what he says, and he cannot do the maths…however simple.

  52. Following Tony Abbott’s total turnaround on farmers last week, obviously his version of the old father’s advice tale where a father tells his daughters to “protect and respect your body as your mother did”, then tells his sons “there out there son, go get em'” updated for farmers to “protect and respect the land as our forefathers did” after having told miners “its out there go rip it up, make yourselves rich” …… I heard farmers have a new country sing’a’long song in his “honour”. Its called the Toxic Tony Bogus Focus, sung and danced to that old favourite..the Hokey Pokey.

    you flick your first thought out,

    you take your first thought back

    you roll your next thought out

    and you Oz it all about

    you make a bogus focus then a total turn around

    That’s what he’s all about.

    do the ToxicTony,

    think like Toxic Tony

    all suffer for Toxic Tony

    that’s why he comes to nout.

    …as I remember it.

  53. @BilB

    The cost of 12 million electric vehicles at 40,000 each is $48 billion.

    No it isn’t. It’s $480 billion, which is a bit of a clue as to why EVs will not be a realistic option for grid scale storage for quite some time.

  54. @ BilB
    “The cost of 12 million electric vehicles at 40,000 each is $48 billion.

    Really?

    “Toxic Tony could never consider such a thing as he has too many industry friends to support, he cannot be trusted to do what he says, and he cannot do the maths…however simple.”

    Who is it that cannot do simple maths?
    Does this put you in the same Toxic catagory?

  55. “a free 6 seater electric car ”

    I want my pony!

    (pity that it’s a radical two seat tandem design, not being commercialised, and only suitable for travel on autobahnen).

  56. It is worth noting that the VW mentioned in the post consumes about 10% of the fuel per km as the Australian average car in 2007. To put it another way, the annual fuel bill for the VW would only reach the current bill for a 2007 (fuel $1.50/litre) when the price of fuel reaches $15/litre! (About $2250/yr for average annual travel per car or $6.20/day.)
    Keep in mind that the VW was not even a plug in hybrid. For a typical urban travel mix a plug in hybrid would give a further reduction in liquid fuel consumption of about 80% if the batteries are large enough to cover the daily commute which reduces the annual fuel consumption to something like 30 litres for 15,000 km/yr. (The current record for ultra-lite vehicles corresponds about 4 litres per yr.)
    I simply cannot see an overwhelming case for pure EV’s for a long time into the future.
    It may actually be more productive to start seriously looking for easy ways of converting second hand cars to plug in hybrids. (It may be as simple as putting a motor/generator on the drive shaft or wheel hubs even though motor replacement would be better.)
    Keep in mind that plug-in hybrids charge up during off-peak periods so there is no need for extra generating or grid capacity.

  57. If renewables only (ie no-nukes) can do the job at reasonable cost using current technology or technology that can reasonably be expected to be available this decade (as claimed by the anti-nukes and some “energy experts”), then why is Germany embarking on a significant build of new fossil fired capacity?

    quokka, that is a reasonable question to ask. The difficulty I have is with the larger-scale claim that renewable energy cannot ever become a large-scale source of industrial energy and that anyone proposing that it can is deluded. On the other hand, a claim that existing nuclear capacity and/or foassil fuel capacity could be complete replaced with renewable energy at a moderate cost within the next decade would appear on the face of it, to be extraordinarily unrealistic (similarly, a proposal to completely replace fossil fuel capacity with nuclear within a decade at a moderate cost would be unrealistic, given the timeframes required for nuclear build).

    Personally, I haven’t come across any experts making that particular claim, although I don’t dispute some may well be doing so. Most of the proposals I have seen for very large-scale rollout make assumptions about technological improvements and envisage growth over several decades. These forecasts may well be overly optimistic, but I see no reason to dismiss them out of hand, as you and Fran appear to do.

    I also think that, if the renewables advocates are overly sanguine about the potential of their preferred technologies, the nuclear advocates are equally rosy about the development of adanced nuclear technologies like the IFR and thorium-based technologies. I recall you speaking of 4G technologies on a John Quiggin post as if it was a foregone conclusion that these technologies will bring the costs of nuclear down and resolve the safety and waste issues. You might be right, but it’s far too early to be that certain about it.

  58. Yes your are right, Savvy, there are a lot of little zeros to count, $480 billion. It only goes a third of the way for paying for the vehicle at $40,000, but then again with 12,000,000 vehicles to supply there is a huge budget to reduce the cost of the vehicles.

    These people
    http://www.extremecapacitor.com/
    are talking about a baseline for their product’s storage at 250 watt hours per kilogramme and they have believeable technological developments to back that up so an electric vehicle in the $18,000 dollar price range with up to 400 kilometre driving range is entirely probable within 5 years, which will make it a 4 seater in place of the 6 seater VW Combi Electric.

    So am I Toxic in the Toxic Tony sense, I’ll leave that up to others to judge.

    I think that the farmers will now be taking a much harder look at Toxic Tony’s press releases and I doubt that he can count on their votes. Fancy Toxic Tony being stupid enough to think that he can say to the farmers faces that they should be able to protect their land against strip miners one day and then turn around the next day to deny that he said anything and not want to talk about it. This is the Toxic Tony Amnesia, TTA for short, which goes hand in hand with the ToxicTony Figure Fudge, TTFF for short, his other favourite denialist device. “We’ll release those figures before the next election”, which can be interpreted to mean “Toxic Tony is certain that you will forget to ask about those figures by the time the next election comes around!!”.

    WilFul,

    Vapour ware? I believe that there is a working prototype, which takes it beyond the vapourware stage. I have more faith in the Germans to deliver than most others.

  59. John D,

    The exercise was to see how much electricity would be required to power the country’s car fleet electrically rather than talk endlessly as though these things were too large to imagine. It turns out to be a low difficulty transition once the hardware is available.

    I’m 100% certain that within 15 years the trend will be to power vehicles from home roof top solar PV systems with gas backup energy and this will eliminate 95% of CO2 emissions from those who make the conversion.

  60. I’d just note that the articles linked to by quokka and wilful are from early July, immediately after the German government decided on a nuclear phase-out. Here is a more recent and complete appraisal of the German energy policy by a German industry expert (with a fairly critical perspective). The reports about German plans for a large coal build are certainly not the whole story, and may not be accurate.

  61. @Bilb
    “The roof of my house is about 170 square metres”

    Just a quick question or three.

    How much would 170 square meters of solar panels cost you including installers fees?

    What is the lifespan of the solar panels?

    How much energy is required to make 170 square meters of solar panels?

  62. savvy, if I could answer the last two of those questions, the lifespan of an inverter is about ten years, the lifespan of solar panels is about 25 years. These aspects of the technology are pretty stable, I don’t think they’ll be changing any time soon. The energy required to make solar panels isn’t compared to the energy they’ll produce, any reason to not make them, they are indeed carbon negative quite quickly.

    (but so is nuclear).

    As to costs, well that’s the million dollar question isn’t it. Top end solar panels covering an entire roof would at current prices, not including any battery storage, easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. BilB’s system must all be on mechanical tracking devices, since it’s generating for 7.5 hours a day (!) for over 200 days a year (!). He’ll also be needing to modify his house to carry the weight.

  63. That entirely depends on which technology is used, Savvy @ 81. And that is the other point, rather than just ask idle questions do some actual research. Find out what the peak technology is and get some quotes, yourself. That way you can ask more pertinent questions.

    lifespan of the technology that I am involved with is indefinite, and the production cost of the energy conversion devices is neglible relative to their output ie it would be balanced in several weeks. Weight is not an issue. But then the initial example was hyperthetical rather than a realistic proposal for a domestic situation, but not so unrealistic for factories and supermarkets. The realistic domestic scenario was the 35 square metre option.

    Wilful

    ” Top end solar panels covering an entire roof would at current prices, not including any battery storage, easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars”

    Not so. But then that depends again on which technology is deployed.

  64. As to costs, well that’s the million dollar question isn’t it. Top end solar panels covering an entire roof would at current prices, not including any battery storage, easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    I’m not sure how you arrive at that conclusion wilful. At present, a 1.5kw array of thin film panels (for example) can be had for around $3000-$4000 sans inverter. BilB says his roof is 170 squares. So a 170sqm array of, say 170 60w thin film panels, giving a peak capacity of around 10kw, would cost $20,000-$28,000. Adding $5000 for the inverter gives a cost of $25,000-$33,000. Expensive, sure, but not “hundreds of thousands of dollars”.

  65. $4000 for 1.5 kw, without any rebates? 30% efficiency panels? BilB’s example wasn’t generating 10kw. He was generating 2.25 kwh per m2 per day.

    A 10 kw inverter for $5000? Never mind that BilB’s example requires a 50 kw inverter, but it’s still much cheaper than I’ve seen.

  66. Wilful – fair enough. I wasn’t thinking of BilB’s figures, he seems to be talking about some kind of hypothetical maximum efficiency panels. And my figures were after rebates. But if you exclude the rebates, a 10kw system such as the example I gave should still come in at under $100,000, and won’t cost ‘hundreds of thousands’. But I agree that a 50kw system using hypothetical super-high efficiency panels, if such a thing exists, would be very likely to cost hundreds of thousands.

  67. Tim, I don’t pretend to be an expert on solar power, my only real experience is in the two systems I have had installed, on our old house and our new house. Pure middle class welfare frankly – we receive cheques from our electricity supply company for six months a year. We don’t deserve them.

  68. Bilb:

    I’m 100% certain that within 15 years the trend will be to power vehicles from home roof top solar PV systems with gas backup energy and this will eliminate 95% of CO2 emissions from those who make the conversion.

    It is anybodies guess what will be the trend with cars in 15 yrs time because a breakthrough in energy storage, clean power generation or biofuel production. In addition the attitudes of governments will be critical. At some stage governments may change the rules from a “crash survival” approach to a “crash avoidance” approach. If this happens we may see a change to very fuel efficient ultra-lite car designs that depend on detection, communication and control systems.
    My guess is that in 15 yrs time cars may be a mix of:
    1. Specialist commuter cars. EV with enough range for the commute but nothing much more.
    2. Plug in hybrids.
    3. More cars designed specifically for one or two passengers and the weeks shopping.
    4. Safety based on “crash avoidance.”

    The following reviews some of the technologies aimed improving the efficiency of non-electrical cars.

  69. Wilful, I agree that the solar rebates and feed-in tariffs are a very cost-inefficient way to reduce emissions, and it’s not unreasonable to call them middle class welfare. I went for them for the same reason I suspect you did – they were there, and the government appeared to be doing bugger-all else at the time.

    On the up side for PV, the costs have certainly come down dramatically in the last couple of years. I installed a system on our place a bit over two years ago, and recently signed up to put a same-sized system on my mother-in-law’s place. The total cost of the new system, before rebate, is less than my after-rebate out-of-pocket expenses on the older system, despite the rebate being around half what it was when I installed the first system. In any case, the rebate is being phased out.

  70. Fran@60

    The most transformational thing we could do to the electricity network (grid) would be to install at least 5 kWh of energy storage in each and every home in the country.
    This would be coupled to the network by a bi-directional inverter and each system would be under central control.
    The result:
    1. the after diversity maximum demand would drop from over 3.5 kVA to about 1 kVA
    2. Peaking generation would no longer be required because there would no longer be any peak demand. Factories and offices would be placed on demand tariffs that would tend to flatten demand here. the difference would be taken up by domestic export into industry (paid for of course by the relevant industry).
    3. With peak demand gone the associated losses would go also
    4. The Transmission network would not require any more investment.
    5. The $200 billion that has to be spent on electricity infrastructure over the next 10 years could be deferred forever – almost
    6. Intermittent sources such as PV and wind would be utilised to the fullest extent . Intermittent sources will be on a par with base-load as the new network can absorb them.
    7. At least two coal fired power stations could be de-commissioned
    8. Even distributed rooftop solar would be utilised to the full
    This is only a partial list of the benefits.
    The cost?
    I estimate about $4000:00 per house-hold and they each get a free UPS as this is integral to the system.

    I am so over the tired old 20th century thinking (for want of a better word).
    “We don’t need no poison nukes”
    Huggy

  71. ,em>I am so over the tired old 20th century thinking (for want of a better word).
    “We don’t need no poison nukes”
    Huggy

    hear hear!!

    I estimate about $4000:00 per house-hold and they each get a free UPS as this is integral to the system.
    The current cost would be more like $30 000[pdf]. But in ten years, with a massive increase in Chinese manufacturing, I’m sure these sorts of numbers could be in the ballpark. So, with 10 million households, we’re only talking about $40bn. For how much mitigation? A wee bit less that the five to ten large nuclear plants you’d get for that amount of money.

  72. @bILB
    “And that is the other point, rather than just ask idle questions do some actual research”

    No need to get your knickers in a knot mate. I am doing research. How can I research something when you have not disclosed what goods you are talking about.
    Therefore, I ask you questions to try to squeeze some more information out of you.

    This seems to bother you for some reason.

    I notice in your condescending reply you never manage to put a dollar figure on your “hyperthetical” (sic) scenario.

    Well, what technology are you talking about and how much would the 170 m2 of this technology cost?

    Thanks

  73. Wilful, Huggy’s talking about straight battery backup systems, not solar systems with battery backups, so they’d come in at a lot less than $30,000 a pop.

  74. Tim, that link I provided is current pricing for a grid connect system – no batteries required. They are currently selling a 5kw system for $29,795, less $7805 for RECs. That’s in Queensland, not Tassie.

  75. Tim, that link I provided is current pricing for a grid connect system

    Yes, I know, I read it. Was that link a response to my post? Sorry, you linked it in response Huggy’s $4000 estimate of 5KWh battery backup systems.

  76. The energy storage system – based upon EV batteries – I am talking of would currently cost about $8000. Will come down to <$3500 in volume. A suitable inverter can be built for <40 cents per Watt. The solar inverters that you buy are built for a lot less than this. BTW the 2 kW PV inverters would cost about $300:00.
    But that is the price you pay for point of sale subsidies like the solar rebate.
    We (the tax payers) get totally ripped off.
    Huggy

  77. Savvy, if you had done any serious research then you would not have asked those questions. You would have asked other questions. I can’t over elaborate because it is part of the project I am working on. What technology? Suggest some. There was one very suitable technology discussed at length here some time ago. Easy to find.

  78. @Bilb
    “Savvy, if you had done any serious research then you would not have asked those questions. You would have asked other questions.”

    I am asking you what technology you were talking about in your example of covering your roof with 170m2 of solar gathering goodness.

    “What technology? Suggest some.”

    I am asking you what technology wou were talking about. Why do I need to guess?

    “There was one very suitable technology discussed at length here some time ago. Easy to find.”

    Is this the same tech you were thinking of in your “hyperthetical”?
    If you know it off by heart why not just tell us all instead of telling people to go on a fishing expedition to find something you will not name?

    It is a simple question .
    What tech were you talking about in your 170m2 example?

  79. Suggest some? because if it is not easy for you to suggest a list of functional technologies then you have done no research and are expecting others to do all of the work for you.

  80. @Bilb
    “you to suggest a list of functional technologies”

    Why do I need to guess what you had in your mind.

    YOU are the one who made an assertion of a technology that will cover your 170m2 roof and obtain a certain yield of energy for you.

    I am asking what that tech is and how much would it cost.

    Why is this so unreasonable for a person to ask?

    Why do you refuse to answer what tech you were talking about?

  81. “””””Why do you refuse to answer what tech you were talking about?”””
    Maybe it’s a secret prototype, oooohhhh.
    C’mon Bilb, out with it, that technology belongs to us all.
    Stop holding out. 🙂

  82. I wondered how long it would be before you turned up, Jumpy, now I know which bunch I am dealing with. From my experience you guys don’t understand the technology so it is a waste of time going into the details.

    Suffice it to say that we estimate that the 170 metres would cost around $91,000 with the system that we are building.

  83. “”””I wondered how long it would be before you turned up, Jumpy, now I know which bunch I am dealing with.””””
    Good to know you were “wondering” about little old me. I’m honoured .
    But I’m not part of a bunch.
    Anyway, any wisdom on ” jumpy @99″ would be appreciated.
    I like the wind rating for up here (cyclones) and they claim better input.
    Have you any insight?

  84. Below is a list of clients of the PR firm Jackson Wells:

    AMP
    Australian Water
    British American Tobacco
    Cambridge University Press
    Church of Scientology
    Dell
    Dynasty Metals Australia
    Evans and Peck
    The Exclusive Brethren/
    The Galileo Movement
    The GPT Group
    Imperial Tobacco
    Insurance Council of Australia
    Leighton
    Luxottica Group
    Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
    O’Brien Glass
    Rotary International
    Royal Flying Doctor Service
    Talas Electronik (Joint company of ThyssenKrupp and EADS)
    Sydney Peace Foundation
    University of Western Sydney
    Warner Bros. Entertainment Australia.

    I’ve highlighted some that stand out as of especial interest to patrons of this site.

    I’m planning a few letters to some of the others on that list.

  85. oops HT Jakerman at Deltoid …

    I wasn’t that interested in Cambridge Uni Press, but they probably deserve a letter.

  86. Thank Huggy,
    1. Is Indium any more toxic than the mercury in my ” energy efficient light bulbs”?
    2 I live near sea level. Horses 4 courses.
    I appreciate it.

    (To all, converting thoughts to text is difficult for me as i’m a very late to the ” blog thing” or even a computer. sometimes my comments may seem abrasive but i’m the slowest one finger typist on earth, with a shameful inability to spell and i take shortcuts, to my detriment. sorry )

  87. @Bilb
    “now I know which bunch I am dealing with. ”

    Your arguments appear very childlike.

    “From my experience you guys don’t understand the technology so it is a waste of time going into the details. ”

    LOL you are unbelievable. Is this the level of intellect on this forum?

    “Suffice it to say that we estimate that the 170 metres would cost around $91,000 with the system that we are building.”

    Why was that so hard to say. Getting a striaght answer from you seems to be like blood from a stone.

    Is this how you do business? We can give you this solar panel installation but be buggered if I am going to answer any of your ignorant questions let alone give you a quote. Do your own research about how much it should cost you moronic client and get back to me.

    Lovely 😀

  88. I’ve only had time to skim, but it’s been a bit snarky.

    Paul Gilding is talking to Phillip Adams tonight on Late Night Live, repeated tomorrow afternoon.

  89. Jumpy,

    Those solyndra tubes look interesting, as Huggy said.
    The self tracking feature is half effective due to self shading and reflection.
    The tubes should have superior performance from overhead shadows as they are smaller modules than flat panels.
    The self clearing feature looks realistic but as huggy said heating would be a problem as efficiency drops off with temperature rise.
    You really do have to quiz the supplyer on the delivered energy for the area to make a judgement.
    The construction appears to well considered. I would not hesitate to buy some if they had a reasonable output.

    The thing to do would be to buy a few and experiment.

    Savvy,

    I am not trying to sell you anything, so I have no need to give you any information about my specific project. However this is a forum to discuss ideas. Have you got any?

  90. @BilB

    “I am not trying to sell you anything, so I have no need to give you any information about my specific project”

    I never said you were trying to.
    However, you did claim this.

    “The roof of my house is about 170 square metres. The total energy available to that roof from the sun is about 170 times 1 times 7.5 (average clear solar hours) times 275 ( average clear solar days) times .3 top end solar panel efficiency ( although fairly conservative for the theoretical maximum) which would yield 105,000 kilowatt hours of electricity”
    “…not at all a stretch of the imagination.”

    My very simple questions should be easy for you to answer.

    How much would that set up cost a housholder using whatever technology you are thinking of in your scenario?

    That was all I wanted to know, yet you seem to not only evade answering the question, you try to belittle people for even daring to ask such a question of you.

    My next question is, have you done this for your own dwelling?

  91. @Bilb

    “The example was for scope and scale”

    So all you did was show how your example is not feasable for a suburban house.

  92. Jumpy, by higher latitudes I mean closer to the equator.
    Yep Mercury is bad news; as are most of the heavy metals.
    Expect compact florescent tubes to disappear shortly – to be replaced by the next generation of LED lighting. Tiny amount of toxic metal there.
    Huggy

  93. On the contrary, Savvy, the scoping model is perfectly feasible for a broad range of suburban architectural styles. Go back and read all of the comments. Show that you really do have some, Savvy.

  94. Because, Savvy, 35 square metres are just fine for my needs. Now you should have been in bed a long time ago, so off you go.

  95. @Bilb

    “Because, Savvy, 35 square metres are just fine for my needs.”

    What was the total retail cost of your 35m2 ?
    What return are you getting each quarter?

    “Now you should have been in bed a long time ago, so off you go.”

    You are being childish again…*rolls eyes*

  96. Savvy,

    You’ve clearly got nothing to contribute, you have added nothing at all to this discussion, and you are a total waste of time.

  97. Wilful @91: Climate Spectator mentioned today (18/8) that Redflow had successfully raised $12m for their zinc bromine flow through batteries. Redflow is curently testing a one mW unit at UQ. A unit with about 10kW storage would weigh 220 kg and is suited to the sort of use that makes sense for a house.
    Further searches suggest that the capital cost would be about $500/kWh which makes Huggies figure of $4000 sound conservative after allowing for inverters and other bits and pieces.
    Couldn’t get through on your link so I am wondering where did your $30,000 came from?
    To put the whole thing in context it looks like adding about 2% to the cost of house plus land for purchase of battery plus some PV panels you could have system that dramatically reduces a lot of the grid and peak power expenditure that will be required in the near future while giving houses more power security.
    The costs may be lower if a number of houses shared a larger unit and more use was made of DC power within the house. (Huggy: How significant is inverter cost?)

  98. @BILb

    You tell us you can deck out 35m2 of your roof with solar panels and get a good return in energy yield.

    Great!

    How much would a system same as yours cost me for my house and what sort of return would I expect a quarter. Sydney sunshine.

    Why will you not answer this?

    I thought you would like to share such knowledge and encourage others onto solar panels?

  99. JohnD,
    Dc power is tricky, problem is that-unlike ac power – there is no natural current zero so that switching it involves magnets for arc suppression and preferably vacuum breakers. Fuses for dc are expensive too. I use four of these in a product and they are the most expensive component. (High voltage dc transmission is another matter altogether, but you can walk around inside the converters at either end – so you are talking an entirely different scale of product).
    Mass produced inverters should cost about $0:25 per Watt so they do not add much to the cost in large scale mass production.
    There is an issue with Zinc Bromine flow batteries and that is that their energy efficiency, it is about 75% on a good day. When I modelled a another brand about 15 years ago I got 67% – including inverter losses so the figure is about right.
    Lithium ion on the other hand has an energy efficiency in the high 90% and is rather more compact. 10 kWh will fit into a large suitcase and will weigh about 30 kg (need to check this).
    Huggy

  100. When I was doing stand alone homes I used 24 volts and a 2 kW modified square wave inverter that I designed and built myself. Never built a 12 Volt system. Later built pure sine wave inverters.
    I imported compact fluorescent lamps from Germany. System would run a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine as well as lights etc. I used ex telecom batteries in many systems as well as flooded lead acid deep cycle batteries.

    JohnD.
    Dc becomes tricky at about 400V; interestingly this is the voltage required to drive electric vehicles it is also the voltage I use these days.
    You need special contactors and fuses and either MOSFETS or IGBT’s for the semiconductor switches. Advantage is that with a 420Vdc bus you can build transformer-less gear that delivers a pure sine wave at a nominal 240 Volts.
    Huggy

  101. The graph of the Southern Oscillation Index is really interesting. If the trends repeat themselves, there is a good chance that we will plunge headlong into a repeat of last years weather. The experts may say that there are other indicators to suggest otherwise, let’s hope so.

    And the Arctic ice spread information is following very closely the worst year on record, 2007, but the ice volume is less every year. Now we are stating to get information to be able to track ice loss from the Arctic sea floor (if I am reading it correctly) which might also mean that the sea floor methyl hydrates are softening (worst case scenario). NZ’s recent super chill might be an indication thatthe Antarctic is experiencing the same pressures that the Arctic is, this then being a parallel of the super chills that the US has been experiencing. MVIO.

  102. BTW JohnD.
    If by tricky you mean lethal, dc is considered safe at < 60 V. But this is only partially true; a single cell in a large lead acid battery can deliver enough energy to totally vaporize a short circuit such as a spanner or screwdriver that is placed across the terminals. All cell connections should be protected against accidental contact – including car batteries.
    EV's use a special connector. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAE_J1772

    Huggy

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