Climate clippings 172

1. Pumped power storage

RenewEconomy has a great post on pumped water storage to store electric power to complement solar. It talks about working heads of less than 200 metres and the use of “turkey nest” dams.

“Turkey nests” are where farmers on flat country bulldoze up circular banks for above ground storage. In Queensland if the banks are 4.99 metres high you don’t need planning permission.

I might do a longer post if I get time. Thanks to John D for bringing it to my attention.

2. Global sea-level expert John Church gets the flick from the CSIRO

Tamino at Open Mind says Church was the leading expert in the field. He got the notice while he was on the Australian research vessel Investigator, where he was taking water measurements in the Ross Sea off the Antarctic ice shelf, according to the front page story in The New York Times.

According to Nick Stokes, who is an Emeritus at the CSIRO, the sacking may not be final, but personally at age 64 I’d find it surprising if he’d want to stay, given the new organisational environment he’d be working in, where the climate science functions are being shredded. From the SMH:

    Dr Church says he will take a short break after a stressful few months finishing research and confronting “the CSIRO disaster”.

    But he’s unlikely to be marooned for long, with fellowships and other roles in the offing.

This slide show from CEO Larry Marshall before he joined the CSIRO gives a window into his mindset. His world is venture capitalism and tech startups, appropriate in their place, but not in our premier science organisation.

Someone was unkind enough to point out that not so long ago he publicly endorsed water divining.

3. New CSIRO national climate research centre to be based in Hobart

At least the Investigator, the ship Church was on will continue to sail. A national climate research centre based in Hobart for 40 full-time scientists will be established, with a “focus on climate modelling and projections”, and a guaranteed research capability for 10 years.

After universal and savage criticism the original plan to cut 350 staff was reduced to 275. Of these 75 are from Oceans and Atmosphere.

The rest are from Minerals (around 35), Land and Water (around 70), Agriculture (around 30), Manufacturing (around 45), and Food & Nutrition (around 20).

4. Roger Jones is back

Roger Jones, climate scientist who used to work at the CSIRO, is back posting at Understanding Climate Risk. He explains his hiatus in this post. This is one reason he’s getting going again:

    One is that research, especially public good research and especially in CSIRO, is under serious threat in Australia. We have a government who tout innovation, but who wilfully ignore the role of the generation of underpinning knowledge in fuelling such innovation. They are interested only in commercial innovation – public-good innovation is not only being ignored, it is being excluded from processes such as the Cooperative Research Centre bids currently under way. Having sustainable cities, catchments and ecosystems is impossible without public good research and social innovation, with funding that extends across the sciences, the humanities and the arts. With an election going on, these harms need to be publicised.

May the force be with him!

In this post he outlines the review being undertaken by The Australian Academy of Science of the “Australian climate science capability and future requirements, in order to better understand the capabilities (including expertise and infrastructure) that are needed in Australia.”

There’s more at The Acadamy’s website.

Submissions from individuals are due by 5 June.

5. Zero carbon steel

Sweden has decided that it wants to lead the world in making steel without burning coal. A project was announced early last month run by state-owned energy company Vattenfall, together with Swedish steel producer SSAB and Swedish iron ore extractor LKAB with full government support.

    Over 75 per cent of all industrial energy use across the world is accounted for by only four sectors, of which iron and steel form the largest. This is because energy costs as a proportion of total costs in steel making are high – up to 40 per cent.

The trick is to make hydrogen without burning fossil fuels. Wind power looks the best bet.

Vattenfall are already making hydrogen from wind in Germany, but need to do it at scale, and at an acceptable price. They are starting with a pre-feasibility study and aim to have a demonstration plant by 2025, which will be trialled for a further 10 years.

Thanks to John D for the link on another thread. I thought it worth doing a segment here to make it part of the record, and for those who don’t read comments.

7 thoughts on “Climate clippings 172”

  1. The turkey nests sound fine – but wonder if more electricity might be generated by solar panels and existing batteries than by the capital cost of building more turkey nests than are needed for watering livestock.

    Evaporation would be pretty fierce in daylight (and the days of cetyl alcohol on the surface are long gone). Still, it’s probably worthwhile having a go just to see what happens.

  2. Graham, the issue of evaporation occurred to me. Around here I think it 1.8m pa, which is more than the annual rainfall. I guess they have to do their calculations and have a safety margin, because the weather doesn’t always cooperate.

  3. GB: From a water consumption point of view locations that can use sea water would be the most attractive.
    Also keep in mind that you don’t need to store an enormous amount of energy so the water surface does not have to be all that large.
    On the other hand you could reduce evaporation by having floating solar PV on the dam..

  4. Thanks Brian and John D. I’m actually enthused by it but can’t help looking for flaws – and for Mr Murphy’s famous Law – in things.

    Can still remember all the minor things that did work but were never pushed in full-on development: Tiny windmills (the 20th century Mongol herders got that one right. Big “Southern Cross” galvanized-iron windmills which were used only for pumping shallow underground water – why not for other things too? Hydraulic rams. Mini-hydroelectric generators. Cheap old fashioned nickel-iron batteries which are still good enough, today, for some applications. Copper-boiler washing devices that used no separate moveable parts. D.I.Y. black-painted solar water warmers, (commercial solar HWS seem to have gone off at an expensive tangent somewhere along the line) – and a whole lot of other crude / primitive technology.

    Knowing about all those things helps me keep up my enthusiasm and also my sense of fun.

  5. GB:

    Copper-boiler washing devices that used no separate moveable parts.

    Sorry, me and my wife are old enough to remember those things. Used to chop the wood used to heat the water in the boiler so that my mother could wash the clothes. I can even remember how pleaded my mother was when she got a hand wringer to get the water out before rinsing and hanging the clothes on the line.
    Can’t you get a better example of something invented for women in Aus?

  6. Yes, when I was a kid we had a “copper” fuelled by wood. We didn’t get electricity until I was 11, and then only a 24-volt system powered by our diesel engine in the dairy and a bank of batteries.

    We had a hand-driven wringer, which is still available. Ours was mounted at the side of a hand-operated washing machine, which had a big bell shaped thing with holes in it mounted in a drum. A hand lever allowed you to move the bell-shaped thing up and down in the drum to move the soapy water through the clothes. Can’t remember what we did for rinsing, probably the same machine.

  7. My mother was English (actually English-Irish) and had mainly lived in cities and towns before she came to Australia. When she married Dad and moved to the farm in South Australia it was a bit of a shock. She told me once how she sometimes used to cry, standing in the verandah on 100F (40C) days, trying to get Dad’s dirty work clothes clean in the copper.

    She was no shrinking violet though, she worked really hard on the farm, as farming women did (and do, though many of them now work off the farm to bring in some income, especially in the areas that are being affected by drying).

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