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 Post subject: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-10-31 02:08pm
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There's recurrent discussions on this board on why solar, wind, or other renewable sources of energy are the way of the future, and they always peter out after the claims are disproved and the proponents vanish, only to surface again some time later. This article thoroughly covers why renewable energy as envisaged by its proponents does not and cannot work, and why it will end in tears and epic failure. It's lengthy and I've only quoted the first part since I don't have all day to format stuff, so click the link and head over to read everything else. You should probably set aside a few hours to read all the links in the article itself and digest everything.

http://theautomaticearth.com/Energy/ren ... ality.html

Quote:
Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality

In recent years, there has been more and more talk of a transition to renewable energy on the grounds of climate change, and an increasing range of public policies designed to move in this direction. Not only do advocates envisage, and suggest to custodians of the public purse, a future of 100% renewable energy, but they suggest that this can be achieved very rapidly, in perhaps a decade or two, if sufficient political will can be summoned. See for instance this 2009 Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables:

A year ago former vice president Al Gore threw down a gauntlet: to repower America with 100 percent carbon-free electricity within 10 years. As the two of us started to evaluate the feasibility of such a change, we took on an even larger challenge: to determine how 100 percent of the world’s energy, for all purposes, could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources, by as early as 2030.

See also, as an example, the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan proposed by Beyond Zero Emissions:

The world stands on the precipice of significant change. Climate scientists predict severe impacts from even the lowest estimates of global warming. Atmospheric CO2 already exceeds safe levels. A rational response to the problem demands a rapid shift to a zero-fossil-fuel, zero-emissions future. The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan (the ZCA 2020 Plan) outlines a technically feasible and economically attractive way for Australia to transition to a 100% renewable energy within ten years. Social and political leadership are now required in order for the transition to begin.


The Vision and a Dose of Reality

These plans amount to a complete fantasy. For a start, the timescale for such a monumental shift is utterly unrealistic:

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of energy transitions is their speed. Substituting one form of energy for another takes a long time….The comparison to a giant oil tanker, uncomfortable as it is, fits perfectly: Turning it around takes lots of time.


And turning around the world’s fossil-fuel-based energy system is a truly gargantuan task. That system now has an annual throughput of more than 7 billion metric tons of hard coal and lignite, about 4 billion metric tons of crude oil, and more than 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. And its infrastructure—coal mines, oil and gas fields, refineries, pipelines, trains, trucks, tankers, filling stations, power plants, transformers, transmission and distribution lines, and hundreds of millions of gasoline, kerosene, diesel, and fuel oil engines—constitutes the costliest and most extensive set of installations, networks, and machines that the world has ever built, one that has taken generations and tens of trillions of dollars to put in place.

It is impossible to displace this supersystem in a decade or two—or five, for that matter. Replacing it with an equally extensive and reliable alternative based on renewable energy flows is a task that will require decades of expensive commitment. It is the work of generations of engineers.

Even if we were not facing a long period of financial crisis and economic contraction, it would not be possible to engineer such a rapid change. In a contractionary context, it is simply inconceivable. The necessary funds will not be available, and in the coming period of deleveraging, deflation and economic depression, much-reduced demand will not justify investment. Demand is not what we want, but what we can pay for, and under such circumstances, that amount will be much less than we can currently afford. With very little money in circulation, it will be difficult enough for us to maintain the infrastructure we already have, and keep future supply from collapsing for lack of investment.

Timescale and lack of funds are by no means the only possible critique of current renewable energy plans, however. It is not just a matter of taking longer, or waiting for more auspicious financial circumstances. It will never be possible to deliver what we consider business as usual, or anything remotely resembling it, on renewable energy alone. We can, of course, live in a world of renewable energy only, as we have done through out most of history, but it is not going to resemble the True Believers' techno-utopia. Living on an energy income, as opposed to an energy inheritance, will mean living within our energy means, and this is something we have not done since the industrial revolution.

Technologically harnessable renewable energy is largely a myth. While the sun will continue to shine and the wind will continue to blow, the components of the infrastructure necessary for converting these forms of energy into usable electricity, and distributing that electricity to where it is needed, are not renewable. Affordable fossil fuels are required to extract the raw materials, produce the components, and to build and maintain the infrastructure. In other words, renewables do not replace fossil fuels, nor remove the need for them. They may not even reduce that need by much, and they create additional dependencies on rare materials.

Renewable energy sounds so much more natural and believable than a perpetual-motion machine, but there's one big problem: Unless you're planning to live without electricity and motorized transportation, you need more than just wind, water, sunlight, and plants for energy. You need raw materials, real estate, and other things that will run out one day. You need stuff that has to be mined, drilled, transported, and bulldozed -- not simply harvested or farmed. You need non-renewable resources:

• Solar power. While sunlight is renewable -- for at least another four billion years -- photovoltaic panels are not. Nor is desert groundwater, used in steam turbines at some solar-thermal installations. Even after being redesigned to use air-cooled condensers that will reduce its water consumption by 90 percent, California's Blythe Solar Power Project, which will be the world's largest when it opens in 2013, will require an estimated 600 acre-feet of groundwater annually for washing mirrors, replenishing feedwater, and cooling auxiliary equipment.

• Geothermal power. These projects also depend on groundwater -- replenished by rain, yes, but not as quickly as it boils off in turbines. At the world's largest geothermal power plant, the Geysers in California, for example, production peaked in the late 1980s and then the project literally began running out of steam.

• Wind power. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the 5,700 turbines installed in the United States in 2009 required approximately 36,000 miles of steel rebar and 1.7 million cubic yards of concrete (enough to pave a four-foot-wide, 7,630-mile-long sidewalk). The gearbox of a two-megawatt wind turbine contains about 800 pounds of neodymium and 130 pounds of dysprosium -- rare earth metals that are rare because they're found in scattered deposits, rather than in concentrated ores, and are difficult to extract.

• Biomass. In developed countries, biomass is envisioned as a win-win way to produce energy while thinning wildfire-prone forests or anchoring soil with perennial switchgrass plantings. But expanding energy crops will mean less land for food production, recreation, and wildlife habitat. In many parts of the world where biomass is already used extensively to heat homes and cook meals, this renewable energy is responsible for severe deforestation and air pollution.

• Hydropower. Using currents, waves, and tidal energy to produce electricity is still experimental, but hydroelectric power from dams is a proved technology. It already supplies about 16 percent of the world's electricity, far more than all other renewable sources combined….The amount of concrete and steel in a wind-tower foundation is nothing compared with Grand Coulee or Three Gorges, and dams have an unfortunate habit of hoarding sediment and making fish, well, non-renewable.

All of these technologies also require electricity transmission from rural areas to population centers…. And while proponents would have you believe that a renewable energy project churns out free electricity forever, the life expectancy of a solar panel or wind turbine is actually shorter than that of a conventional power plant. Even dams are typically designed to last only about 50 years. So what, exactly, makes renewable energy different from coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power?

Renewable technologies are often less damaging to the climate and create fewer toxic wastes than conventional energy sources. But meeting the world's total energy demands in 2030 with renewable energy alone would take an estimated 3.8 million wind turbines (each with twice the capacity of today's largest machines), 720,000 wave devices, 5,350 geothermal plants, 900 hydroelectric plants, 490,000 tidal turbines, 1.7 billion rooftop photovoltaic systems, 40,000 solar photovoltaic plants, and 49,000 concentrated solar power systems. That's a heckuva lot of neodymium.


In addition, renewables generally have a much lower energy returned on energy invested (EROEI), or energy profit ratio, than we have become accustomed to in the hydrocarbon era. Since the achievable, and maintainable, level of socioeconomic complexity is very closely tied to available energy supply, moving from high EROEI energy source to much lower ones will have significant implications for the level of complexity we can sustain. Exploiting low EROEI energy sources (whether renewables or the unconventional fossil fuels left to us on the downslope of Hubbert's curve) is often a highly complex, energy-intensive activity.

As we have pointed out before at TAE, it is highly doubtful whether low EROEI energy sources can sustain the level of socioeconomic complexity required to produce them. What allows us to maintain that complexity is high EROEI conventional fossil fuels - our energy inheritance.

Power systems are one of the most complex manifestations of our complex society, and therefore likely to be among the most vulnerable aspects in a future which will be contractionary, initially in economic terms, and later in terms of energy supply. As we leave behind the era of cheap and readily available fossil fuels with a high energy profit ratio, and far more of the energy we produce must be reinvested in energy production, the surplus remaining to serve all society's other purposes will be greatly reduced. Preserving power systems in their current form for very much longer will be a very difficult task.

It is ironic then, that much of the vision for exploiting renewable energy relies on expanding power systems. In fact it involves greatly increasing their interconnectedness and complexity in the process, for instance through the use of 'smart grid' technologies, in order to compensate for the problems of intermittency and non-dispatchability. These difficulties are frequently dismissed as inconsequential in the envisioned future context of super grids and smart grids.

The goal of modern power systems is to balance supply and demand in real time over a whole AC grid, which is effectively a single enormous machine operating in synchrony. North America, for instance, is served by only four grids - the east, the west, Texas and Quebec. System operators, who have little or no control over demand, rely on being able to control sources of supply in order to achieve the necessary balance and maintain the stability of the system.

Power systems have been designed on a central station model, with large-scale generation in relatively few places and large flows of power carried over long distances to where demand is located, via transmission and distribution networks. Generation must come on and off at the instruction of system operators. Plants that run continuously provide baseload, while other plants run only when demand is higher, and some run only at relatively rare demand peaks. There must always be excess capacity available to come on at a moment's notice to cover eventualities. Flexibility varies between forms of generation, with inflexible plants (like nuclear) better suited to baseload and more flexible ones (like open-cycle gas plants) to load-following.

The temptation when attempting to fit renewables into the central station model is to develop them on a scale as similar as possible to that of traditional generating stations, connecting relatively few large installations, in particularly well-endowed locations, with distant demand via high voltage transmission. Renewables are ideally smaller-scale and distributed - not a good match for a central station model designed for one-way power flow from a few producers to many consumers. Grid-connected distributed generation involves effectively running power 'backwards' along low-voltage lines, in a way which often maximizes power losses (because low voltage means high current, and losses are proportional to the square of the current).

This is really an abuse of the true potential of renewable power, which is to provide small-scale, distributed supply directly adjacent to demand, as negative load. Minimizing the infrastructure requirement maximizes the EROEI, which is extremely important for low EROEI energy sources. It would also minimize the grid-management headache renewable energy wheeled around the grid can give power system operators. Nevertheless, most plans for renewable build-out are very infrastructure-heavy, and therefore energy and capital intensive to create.

Both wind and solar are only available intermittently, and when that will be is only probabilistically predictable. They are not dispatchable by system operators. Neither matches the existing load profile in most places particularly well. Other generation, or energy storage, must compensate for intermittency and non-dispatchability with the flexibility necessary to balance supply and demand. Hence, for a renewables-heavy power system to meet demand peaks, either expensive excess capacity (which may stand idle for much of the time) or expensive energy storage would generally be required. To some extent, extensive reliance on power wheeling, in order to allow one region to compensate for another, can help, but this is a substantial grid management challenge.

Little storage currently exists in most places, although in locations where hydro is plentiful, it can easily serve the purpose. Where there is little storage potential, relatively inflexible existing plants may be required to load-follow, which would involve cycling them up and down with the vagaries of intermittent generation. This would greatly reduce their efficiency, and that of the system as a whole, reducing, or even eliminating, the energy saving providable by the intermittent renewables.

Not all renewables are intermittent of course. Biomass and biogas can be dispatchable, and can play a very useful role at an appropriate scale. EROEI will be relatively low given the added complexity and energy input requirement of transporting and/or processing fuel, and also installing, maintaining and replacing equipment such as engines.

Biogas is best viewed as a means to prevent high energy through-put by reclaiming energy from high-energy waste streams, rather than as a primary energy source. This will be useful for as long as high energy waste streams continue to exist, but as these are characteristic of our energy-wasteful fossil fuel society, they cannot be expected to be plentiful in an energy-constrained future. The alternative - feeding anaerobic digesters with energy crops - is heavily dependent on very energy intensive industrial agriculture, which translates into a very low EROEI, and will not be possible in an energy-limited future scenario.

Smart grid technology, large and small scale energy storage, smart metering with time-of-day pricing for load-shifting, metering feedback for consumption control (active instead of passive consumption), demand-based techniques such as interruptible supply, and demand management programmes with incentives to change consumption behaviour could all facilitate the power system supply/demand balancing act. This would be much more complicated than traditional grid management as it would involve many more simultaneously variable quantities of all scales, on both the supply and demand sides, only some of which are controllable. It would require time and money, both in large quantities, and also a change of mindset towards the acceptability of interruptible power supply. The latter is likely to be required in any case.

Greater complexity implies greater risk of outages, and potentially more substantial impact of outages as well, as one would expect structural dependency on power to increase enormously under a smart-grid scenario. If many more of society's functions were to be subsumed into the electrical system - transport (like electric cars) for instance - as the techno-utopian model presumes, then dependency could not help but be far more deeply entrenched. In this direction lie even larger technology traps than we have already created.

In Europe, where indigenous fossil fuel sources are largely depleted, there has been a concerted move into renewables in a number of countries, notably Germany and Spain, since the 1990s. The justification is generally climate change, but security of supply plays a significant role. Avoiding energy dependence on Russia, and other potentially unstable or unreliable suppliers, by developing whatever domestic energy resources may exist, is an attractive prospect. Public policy has directed large subsidies into the renewable energy sector in the intervening years.

Feed-in tariffs, offering premium prices for renewable power put on to the grid, were introduced, with different tariffs offered for different technologies and different project sizes, in order to incentivize construction and grid connection of all sources and sizes of renewable power. In addition, in a number of jurisdictions, grid access processes have been streamlined for renewables, and renewable power has preferential access to the grid when the intermittent energy source is available. Other power sources can be constrained off if insufficient grid capacity is available.

The European Dash for Off-Shore Wind - Germany

Recently emphasis has been placed on developing large-scale off-shore wind resources in countries, such as Germany and the UK, where these are available. The advantages are that it is a stronger and more consistent resource than on-shore wind, and that planning hurdles can be avoided. Germany, which has decided to phase out nuclear power by 2022, has been particularly interested in taking this route, and plans to build 10GW of off-shore wind installations by 2020 and 26GW by 2030. It has been more challenging than expected, however, particularly in relation to the exceptionally expensive grid connections and extensions required to bring power from a different direction than the grid had been designed for:

Germany’s power-transmission companies have tabled plans to build four electricity Autobahns to link wind turbines off the north coast with manufacturing centres in the south … Tennet, Amprion, 50 Hertz and Transnet BW said that building 3,800km high-voltage electricity lines - at a cost of around €20-billion - over the next decade was possible if politicians and public rallied behind the so-called energy transformation…

…In a first blueprint for the government, the companies proposed 2,100km of direct-current power lines - similar to those used for undersea links like that between the U.K. to the European continent - to connect the North Sea and the Baltic coasts to the south. On top of that, 1,700km of traditional alternating-current lines would have to be built, they said. These would complement 1,400km of this type of line already planned or being built - at a cost of €7-billion - under the government’s decade-old network plan.

Since Ms. Merkel closed eight of the country’s 17 nuclear reactors last summer and brought forward the phase-out of the energy source to 2022 from 2036, her biggest headache has proved the stability of the electricity network, which was designed to pipe nuclear electricity from south to north, not renewable electricity from the coast.

The cost and financial risk associated with building off-shore grid connections is so high that power companies are struggling to fund them. They are liable to wind farm developers if the latter are unable to sell their electricity for want of a grid connection. Significant connection delays are occurring, described by the German wind industry as "dramatically problematic". Delays could potentially leave completed wind installations unable to deliver power to the mainland, and worse, requiring fossil fuel to run them in the meantime:

The generation of electricity from wind is usually a completely odorless affair. After all, the avoidance of emissions is one of the unique charms of this particular energy source. But when work is completed on the Nordsee Ost wind farm, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of the island of Helgoland in the North Sea, the sea air will be filled with a strong smell of fumes: diesel fumes.

The reason is as simple as it is surprising. The wind farm operator, German utility RWE, has to keep the sensitive equipment -- the drives, hubs and rotor blades -- in constant motion, and for now that requires diesel-powered generators. Because although the wind farm will soon be ready to generate electricity, it won't be able to start doing so because of a lack of infrastructure to transport the electricity to the mainland and feed it into the grid. The necessary connections and cabling won't be ready on time and the delay could last up to a year.

In other words, before Germany can launch itself into the renewable energy era Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen so frequently hails, the country must first burn massive amounts of fossil fuels out in the middle of the North Sea -- a paradox as the country embarks on its energy revolution.

The situation has since worsened since:

What started out as a bit of a joke - last December Der Spiegel noted how RWE's Nordsee Ost wind farm, far from delivering clean energy, was burning diesel to keep its turbines in working order - has rapidly turned serious. Siemens, the contractor for Germany's offshore transformer stations, has booked almost €500 million in charges, according to Dow Jones. RWE is set to lose more than €100 million at Nordsee Ost. And E.ON's head of Climate and Renewables, Mike Winkel, is on record as saying that no one, at E.ON or anywhere else, will be investing if the network connection is uncertain.

Investment in wind farms is drying up on growing risk and uncertainty:

Sales of offshore wind turbines collapsed in the first half, a sign the power industry and its financiers are struggling to meet the ambitions of leaders from Angela Merkel in Germany to Britain’s David Cameron. One unconditional order was made, for 216 megawatts, 75 percent less than in the same period of 2011 and the worst start for a year since at least 2009, according to preliminary data from MAKE Consulting, a Danish wind-energy adviser…

…"The industry in Germany has been frozen for a few months because of grid issues," said Jerome Guillet, the Paris-based managing director of Green Giraffe Energy Bankers, which advises on offshore wind projects…

…Grid operators and their suppliers in Germany underestimated the challenges of connecting projects, Hermann Albers, head of the BWE wind-energy lobby, said in an interview earlier this year. Albers expects Germany won’t reach its 10- gigawatt goal by 2020, installing not more than 6 gigawatts by then.

Shares of Vestas, the world’s biggest wind turbine maker, have fallen 80 percent in the past year, underperforming the 56 percent decline in the Bloomberg Industries Wind Turbine Pure- Play Index (BIWINDP) tracking 14 companies in the industry. Siemens, which with Vestas dominates the offshore business, dropped 27 percent over the same period.


In order to mitigate the risk and prevent the wind programme from stalling, German power consumers are to be on the hook to compensate wind farm owners for the cost of grid connection delays:

The draft bill endorsed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet of Ministers would make power consumers pay as much as 0.25 euro cents a kilowatt-hour if wind farm owners can’t sell their electricity because of delays in connecting turbines to the grid. The plan is aimed at raising investments after utilities threatened to halt projects and grid operators struggled to raise financing and complete projects on time.

The cost of consumer surcharges to maintain the 'Energiewende' (the shift to renewable energy) appears set to become an election issue in Germany:

Germany's status as a global leader in clean energy technology has often been attributed to the population's willingness to pay a surcharge on power bills. But now that surcharge for renewable energy is to rise to 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2013 from 3.6 in 2012. For an average three-person household using 3,500 kWh a year, the 47 percent increase amounts to an extra €185 on the annual electricity bill.

"For many households, the increased surcharge is affordable," energy expert Claudia Kemfert from the German Institute for Economic Research told AFP. "But the costs should not be carried solely by private households." Experts have pointed out that with many energy-intensive major industries either exempt from the tax or paying a reduced rate, the costs of the energy revolution are unfairly distributed.

Meanwhile, the German Federal Association of Renewable Energies (BEE) maintains that not even half the surcharge goes into subsidies for green energy. "The rest is plowed into industry, compensating for falling prices on the stock markets and low revenue from the surcharge this year," BEE President Dietmar Schütz told the influential weekly newspaper Die Zeit.


Grid instability is of increasing concern in Germany as a result of the rapid shift in the type and location of power generated. The closure of nuclear plants in the south combined with the addition of wind power in the north has aggravated north-south transmission constraints, which are only marginally mitigated by photovoltaic installations in Bavaria.

With a steep growth of power generation from photovoltaic (PV) and wind power and with 8 GW base load capacity suddenly taken out of service the situation in Germany has developed into a nightmare for system operators. The peak demand in Germany is about 80 GW. The variations of wind and PV generation create situations which require long distance transport of huge amounts of power. The grid capacity is far from sufficient for these transports.

As the German grid is effectively the backbone of the European grid, and faults can propagate very quickly, instability is not merely a German problem. Instability can result from a combination of factors, including electricity imports and exports and the availability of fuel for conventional generation. Germany narrowly avoided, causing an international problem in February 2012 due to power flows between Germany and France and a shortage of fuel for gas-fired generation in southern Germany.

Many new coal and gas-fired plants are to be built in the south in order to address the problem. Old coal plants are likely to have their lives extended and emission limits loosened in order to maintain needed generation capacity. Thermal plants are being effectively forced to operate uneconomically, as they must ramp up and down in order to make way for the renewable power that has priority access to the grid. Operating in this manner consumes additional fuel and produces accelerated wear and tear on equipment. Price volatility is increased, making management decision much more difficult.

On days when there is a lot of wind, the sun is shining and consumption is low, market prices on the power exchange can sometimes drop to zero. There is even such a thing as negative costs, when, for example, Austrian pumped-storage hydroelectric plants are paid to take the excess electricity from Germany….

….Germany unfortunately doesn't have enough storage capacity to offset the fluctuation. And, ironically, the energy turnaround has made it very difficult to operate storage plants at a profit -- a predicament similar to that faced by conventional power plants. In the past, storage plant operators used electricity purchased at low nighttime rates to pump water into their reservoirs. At noon, when the price of electricity was high, they released the water to run their turbine. It was a profitable business.

But now prices are sometimes high at night and low at noon, which makes running the plants is no longer profitable. The Swedish utility giant Vattenfall has announced plans to shut down its pumped-storage hydroelectric power station in Niederwartha, in the eastern state of Saxony, in three years. A much-needed renovation would be too expensive. But what is the alternative?


German industry is already taking precautionary measures as the risk of power interruptions is rising rapidly. Even momentary outages due to minor imbalances can result in equipment damage and high costs, and it is unclear who should shoulder the losses:

It was 3 a.m. on a Wednesday when the machines suddenly ground to a halt at Hydro Aluminium in Hamburg. The rolling mill's highly sensitive monitor stopped production so abruptly that the aluminum belts snagged. They hit the machines and destroyed a piece of the mill. The reason: The voltage off the electricity grid weakened for just a millisecond.

Workers had to free half-finished aluminum rolls from the machines, and several hours passed before they could be restarted. The damage to the machines cost some €10,000 ($12,300). In the following three weeks, the voltage weakened at the Hamburg factory two more times, each time for a fraction of second. Since the machines were on a production break both times, there was no damage. Still, the company invested €150,000 to set up its own emergency power supply, using batteries, to protect itself from future damages….

….A survey of members of the Association of German Industrial Energy Companies (VIK) revealed that the number of short interruptions to the German electricity grid has grown by 29 percent in the past three years. Over the same time period, the number of service failures has grown 31 percent, and almost half of those failures have led to production stoppages. Damages have ranged between €10,000 and hundreds of thousands of euros, according to company information.

Producers of batteries and other emergency energy sources are benefiting most from the disruptions. "Our sales are already 13 percent above where they were last year," said Manfred Rieks, the head of Jovyatlas, which specializes in industrial energy systems. Sales at APC, one of the world's leading makers of emergency power technologies, have grown 10 percent a year over the last three years. "Every company -- from small businesses to companies listed on the DAX -- are buying one from us," said Michael Schumacher, APC's lead systems engineer, referring to Germany's blue chip stock index….

….Although the moves being made by companies are helpful, they don't solve all the problems. It's still unclear who is liable when emergency measures fail. So far, grid operators have only been required to shoulder up to €5,000 of related company losses. Hydro Aluminum is demanding that its grid operator pay for incidents in excess of that amount. "The damages have already reached such a magnitude that we won't be able to bear them in the long term," the company says.

Given the circumstances, Hydro Aluminum is asking the Federal Network Agency, whose responsibilities include regulating the electricity market, to set up a clearing house to mediate conflicts between companies and grid operators. Like a court, it would decide whether the company or the grid operator is financially liable for material damages and production losses.

For companies like Hydro Aluminium, though, that process will probably take too long. It would just be too expensive for the company to build stand-alone emergency power supplies for all of its nine production sites in Germany, and its losses will be immense if a solution to the liability question cannot be found soon. "In the long run, if we can't guarantee a stable grid, companies will leave (Germany)," says Pfeiffer, the CDU energy expert. "As a center of industry, we can't afford that."


The expectation of uninterruptible power, and the extreme dependency it creates, is the problem. Consumers do not feel they should be required to provide resilience with expensive back up options, yet this is increasingly likely in many, if not most, jurisdictions in the coming years. In emerging markets, it is common for power supply to be intermittent, and for fall-back arrangements to be necessary. We recently covered this situation in detail at The Automatic Earth, using India as a case study.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-10-31 03:44pm
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So what?

this article is not exactly fucking news, not to mention having some suspect claims- 'dams designed for 50 years life' - really?

Seriously, I could write a very similar article, set in the 80's about why mobile phones will never be popular, not enough lithium, power demands, insufficient money in circulation for investment in the infrastructure ect.

This article makes bold claims, most of which are paper thin.

1) Waaah! - it'll take too long and cost too much to transfer over. - Shit. I guess we may as well not bother trying then. So glad they warned me from taking jobs in the industry.
2) waaah! - building new infrastructure takes resources. We're never going to get better or more efficient at it. - Shit, guess we'd best continue relying on other resources then...
3) "Even dams are typically designed to last only about 50 years" - fucking pillocks
4) "it is highly doubtful whether low EROEI energy sources can sustain the level of socioeconomic complexity required to produce them." - yeah, becuase all of the current 'socialeconomic complexity' is currently geared to power generation and infrastructure, and not at all on consumer's stuff and gadgets. That's the 'Murican Way!
5) Power systems won't be able to cope!!!!!
6) BUT that's not how renewables should be used anyway. - Seriously guys, you're arguing with yourselves now.
7) LOOK AT GERMANY, they've badly organised something THEREFORE RENEWABLES ARE IMPOSSIBLE! -
8) Waahh - with a more flexible grid, we're going to have to adapt! - Yup. yes you are.

For a much better skeptical look at renewables, try: http://www.withouthotair.com/ (free to download)

IMO- there will large, gradual social change, lifestyle's will adapt to having less electricity (since oil keeps going up in price and we aren't getting richer, that's a given either way) and, within my lifetime, (so 60 years, 3 generations) fossil fuels will be a minority energy source used in specialist cases (like planes or camping stoves).

Life will be different, and will be more different the more energy you use at the moment (eg a Vietnamese farmer ain't be going to huge change, while a corporate executive who flies round the world twice a month, owns every latest gadget and drives a hummer to his splendidly isolated mansion might well see his lifestlye become unaffordable.)



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-10-31 03:50pm
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Low EROEI and shitty progress with storage are facts though. Too hard to walk around them. Maybe they can "sustain", but aren't we progressing?



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-10-31 04:43pm
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Its great that they point out some of the problems in Germany with regards to the Energiewende. Do you know one reason why there are currently problems?
Renewables are growing too fast.

Its great that they point out some of the problems solar panel producers are having. Do you know why a lot of them are in trouble?
Solar panels dropped in price too quickly.

One thing addressed in the article for example was the plan to have a lot of offshore wind power and direct that to the more energy intensive areas further south in Germany. The problem is that there is amazingly little leadership on the federal level with regards to the Energiewende at the moment, which means not only are different departments at the cabinet level claiming jurisdiction on different aspects of the situation, but also that every state is doing its own thing. And the states in the south are pushing their own (renewable) power production in order to not need the power from offshore wind transmitted all the way to the south. Which obviously calls into the question the need for those offshore wind plants.

There are a ton of similar situations, which can pretty much all be explained in the same way: The transformation of the energy sector is already in full swing, and is happening too quickly for many actors - political and commercial.

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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-10-31 06:59pm
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Stas Bush wrote:
Low EROEI and shitty progress with storage are facts though. Too hard to walk around them. Maybe they can "sustain", but aren't we progressing?


we can walk a fair way. The op article talks about electricity price becoming more volatile:
Quote:
On days when there is a lot of wind, the sun is shining and consumption is low, market prices on the power exchange can sometimes drop to zero. There is even such a thing as negative costs, when, for example, Austrian pumped-storage hydroelectric plants are paid to take the excess electricity from Germany….


One pretty obvious thing this means is a new niche for small scale electricity storage companies. The pumped storage scheme mentioned isn't closing down because of price variations (they rely on them to make money), but because a renovation to take account of the new patterns would be too expensive.
Other pretty obvious things are a canny company can invest in small scale storage for themselves to save money long term on electricity (my old steelworks used to do some stuff at night when it was cheaper) and domestic homes with a smart meter will* adjust their habits too (eg waiting for the electricity to fall lower to put the dishwasher / washing machine on )

*will is a pretty strong word, but it's something that does become a habit really quickly. Money and the feeling of beating the system is quite a good motivator.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-01 10:20am
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Wait, panel-shaped mass will require an equal amount of shapeless mass to be built?

Holy fucking shit!

I'll admit to not reading the entire thing, but I'd like to point out that nobody serious thought we could just hit a switch and our engines would turn from gas to solar. Besides, at least a fraction of our current infrastructure can be melted down and used again. A fraction of machinery, that will produce a fraction of the resources that went in it, yeah. But it's something.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-01 08:44pm
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A lot of dams do only have 50-100 year design lifespans, but that is because of silting effects, not because the structures would fail or are designed so pathetically that they would structurally fail that quickly. Plenty of others however have near indefinite lives because they have sluices that can expel much of the sediment, or the sediment load is low, and in general embankment dams aren't ever going to break if you maintain them.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-01 11:27pm
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on first reading I was wondering if they meant the generators used had a 50 year life before needing replacement. Silting is an issue, though good designs, as you said, now account for it.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-02 12:23am
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It doesn't even matter as far as the anti renewable rant goes. Generators can be rebuilt for much less then the cost of the entire plant, and if one is going to complain about ware items like a generator, fossil fuel and nuclear plants are pretty fucking awful on that count. Coal is the worst of all since it has the most mechanized parts of any sort of power plant, and an immensely maintenance intensive boiler and scrubber system on top of the turbine-generator setup. Nuclear plants meanwhile have that wonderful thing called neutrons radiation that ensures they actually self destruct at a molecular level over time no matter how well maintained they are. Gas turbine plants meanwhile suffer turbine blade and rotor erosion much more quickly then steam or hydro plants do and if you want an absurdly expensive item for its weight, a high temperature turbine blade is certainly one.

The article is generally too retarded to be worth anymore time on though. You have to love such scientific figures as 'miles' of rebar. :roll: That's totally how measure resource consumption. Totally I'm sure someone using a term like that is a reliable source of information.

Also holding back silt can actually be pretty damn useful of the waterway has a greatly increased silt load due to human activity. Susquehanna river dams are keeping an immense amount of human made silt and fertalizer out of the Chesapeake bay right now, once they silt up we may have some major problems unless we build replacements. On the other hand, its also making some prime farmland in the very long term.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-02 02:21am
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Meanwhile, in other renewable news that the local nuclear brigade can 'debunk':

Grid storage Liquid Metal Battery ready for prime time
Summary: A liquid metal battery designed to operate at high temperature. It's cheap, easily scalable, built from earth abundant materials, easily constructed and a shipping container sized one could provide daily power consumption for two hundred households.

Solar tech converts sunlight at record-breaking rate
Summary: Real world operation of solar technology achieves 33.5% efficiency. Greater efficiencies in solar power expected soon.

Solar Panels Work Great in Snowy Regions, Research Shows
Summary: Solar technology actually works just fine in snowy regions. Overall power losses due to snow coverage are 'minimal' and in some cases actually increases efficiency due to increased ambient light from reflective snow. Never mind when we start applying advanced superhydrophic coatings such as NeverWet capable of withstanding 1000 hours of freezing rain, year long submerging in ocean water, etc. Dusty areas like deserts can have self cleaning panels that utilize eletrostatic charges for self cleaning.

Solar cell made completely out of carbon
Summary: Still in the development stage, but researchers expect the efficiency to be increased dramatically as they refine the technology. Completely destroys the myth solar can only work with 'rare earth materials'.

Average Solar module prices at 64 cents per watt and will be at 55 cents per watt in 2013
Summary: Self explanatory title here. Solar is cheaper than many people would have you believe.

As always, I look forward to reading how this is all nonsense and wishful thinking by the blind renewable enthusiasts who need to open their eyes to the glorious nuclear age that will overcome enormous costs, long build times, aggressively negative public opinion and honest environmental concerns any damn day now...



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-02 08:23am
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Quote:
• Solar power. While sunlight is renewable -- for at least another four billion years -- photovoltaic panels are not. Nor is desert groundwater, used in steam turbines at some solar-thermal installations. Even after being redesigned to use air-cooled condensers that will reduce its water consumption by 90 percent, California's Blythe Solar Power Project, which will be the world's largest when it opens in 2013, will require an estimated 600 acre-feet of groundwater annually for washing mirrors, replenishing feedwater, and cooling auxiliary equipment.


There is an opportunity cost when you manufacture solar panels. Say it ain't so brother.

Seriously. This is almost as bad as the "no numbers" methods Trekkies use to debate. Do the authors even bother to compare the benefits vs the costs? In terms of carbon emissions saved wouldn't it be a more useful metric to see how many years it takes a say 1.5Kw panel to save the carbon emissions it uses for its manufacture. Then work out whether it will last for greater than x years to recoup. Like these studies which estimate the time it takes solar panels to recoup the energy used to manufacture them, keeping in mind of course, solar panels in sunny regions will recoup faster. Then all you have to do is compare to manufacturers warranty. Hint its around 3 years to recoup at low end estimates and solar panels have warranty usually for 25 years but at that point they are still expected to be 87.5% as effective as when newly purchased, so they will still work.

But that would actually be framing the data in the form of useful information. Its much easier to throw a bunch of numbers on the screen and proudly proclaim it supports your position.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-02 09:11am
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Singular Intellect wrote:
Grid storage Liquid Metal Battery ready for prime time
Summary: A liquid metal battery designed to operate at high temperature. It's cheap, easily scalable, built from earth abundant materials, easily constructed and a shipping container sized one could provide daily power consumption for two hundred households.

He did not mention how much that battery will cost and Antimony aren't exactly cheap.

Singular Intellect wrote:
Summary: Real world operation of solar technology achieves 33.5% efficiency. Greater efficiencies in solar power expected soon.

Efficiency is only relevant in applications where space is limited. If you build solar power plant in a desert space is not a problem, what matters is price, durability and longevity.

Singular Intellect wrote:
Solar technology actually works just fine in snowy regions. Overall power losses due to snow coverage are 'minimal' and in some cases actually increases efficiency due to increased ambient light from reflective snow.

However during winter day is short so the amount of available solar energy is much lower and nothing will change that.

Singular Intellect wrote:
Average Solar module prices at 64 cents per watt and will be at 55 cents per watt in 2013
Summary: Self explanatory title here. Solar is cheaper than many people would have you believe.

When you add 10 % capacity factor actual price becomes 10x higher.

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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-02 11:26am
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The article also seems to conveniently sidestep one other reality-- that current renewables, despite any short-term problems they may incur, do at least address one very pressing need right now: reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which no fossil fuel can claim to do. So we trade one pollution problem (mining fossil fuels) for another pollution problem (mining elements needed to make power cells) --we still cut back greenhouse gas emissions, which are an immediate, pressing problem.

The rant also assumes that renewable technology is fixed and locked into its problem cycle. We've needed to build smart grids for some time, this will provide more impetus. And other advances will be made as well-- the technology will not stay static. The potential to harvest rare-earth elements from asteroids is being given a serious look, and it if pays off (and there's no reason to assume it can't) then that will eliminate a huge obstacle (obtaining expensive elements) while simultaneously eliminating yet another problem, the mining of said elements here on Earth.

The whole thing is a "it's too hard; better the devil we know" rationale. I wonder how much BP/Shell-Mobile paid for it.



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Libertarian philosophy can be boiled down to the phrase, "Work Will Make You Free."


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In Communism, there is no Government, so the Workers are free to exploit the Bosses.
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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-02 12:13pm
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Singular Intellect wrote:
Meanwhile, in other renewable news that the local nuclear brigade can 'debunk':

Grid storage Liquid Metal Battery ready for prime time
Summary: A liquid metal battery designed to operate at high temperature. It's cheap, easily scalable, built from earth abundant materials, easily constructed and a shipping container sized one could provide daily power consumption for two hundred households.


Uh-huh. And what's the energy density? As in Joules per kilogram?
Quote:
Solar tech converts sunlight at record-breaking rate
Summary: Real world operation of solar technology achieves 33.5% efficiency. Greater efficiencies in solar power expected soon.


Multi-junction cells. Have fun mass producing those.

Quote:
Never mind when we start applying advanced superhydrophic coatings such as NeverWet capable of withstanding 1000 hours of freezing rain, year long submerging in ocean water, etc. Dusty areas like deserts can have self cleaning panels that utilize eletrostatic charges for self cleaning.


Those coatings have been around for over 10 years, hell my office windows have'em. It's not some magic self-cleaning coating that never gets dirty, if a bird shits on the window it still needs to be washed. The difference is we can just spray it off with a hose instead of sending a guy out with a bucket of soap water and a squeegee.
Quote:
Solar cell made completely out of carbon
Summary: Still in the development stage, but researchers expect the efficiency to be increased dramatically as they refine the technology. Completely destroys the myth solar can only work with 'rare earth materials'.


Have you priced out single wall carbon nanotubes lately? I mean it's only 4 times the cost of gold....

Quote:
Average Solar module prices at 64 cents per watt and will be at 55 cents per watt in 2013
Summary: Self explanatory title here. Solar is cheaper than many people would have you believe.


You do realize that's the raw module price. Which is only a small part of the final installed cost Even if the modules were free it would have an installed cost of anywhere from $1.34 to $3.40 per watt. Cost it out and even with the lower figure and a 10% capacity factor it's still more expensive than conventional power sources per kwh (it works out to 6.3 cents/khw including O&M plus decomissioning). Which is nearly twice the cost of hydropower and nukes. And I'm giving you shit for free.

Free solar cells and it still ain't cost competitive. I didn't think it would be this bad but apparently it is. The math is what it is. Deal with it. Accept reality.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-02 12:31pm
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Coyote wrote:
The rant also assumes that renewable technology is fixed and locked into its problem cycle. We've needed to build smart grids for some time, this will provide more impetus. And other advances will be made as well-- the technology will not stay static. The potential to harvest rare-earth elements from asteroids is being given a serious look, and it if pays off (and there's no reason to assume it can't) then that will eliminate a huge obstacle (obtaining expensive elements) while simultaneously eliminating yet another problem, the mining of said elements here on Earth.

The whole thing is a "it's too hard; better the devil we know" rationale. I wonder how much BP/Shell-Mobile paid for it.


If we're going to do that I might as well bring up CANDU nuke plants running on a thorium cycle, which by the way has already been done in our research reactors. We also have a current program with the Chinese to develop and run thorium fuel cycles in their CANDU reactors. Finally, there's this really fun thing called the self-sufficient thorium cycle where the nuke plant makes its own fuel, which is in theory possible with a CANDU reactor. Get that sorted out and we'll never have to worry about running out of nuclear fuel.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-02 04:08pm
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Quote:
Summary: Solar technology actually works just fine in snowy regions. Overall power losses due to snow coverage are 'minimal' and in some cases actually increases efficiency due to increased ambient light from reflective snow. Never mind when we start applying advanced superhydrophic coatings such as NeverWet capable of withstanding 1000 hours of freezing rain, year long submerging in ocean water, etc. Dusty areas like deserts can have self cleaning panels that utilize eletrostatic charges for self cleaning.


Since my thesis is based on engineering superhydrophobic surfaces and my lab is filled with people looking into such surfaces, I feel compelled to comment on this. If you actually knew how the things worked you would also know what the problems currently are. Now, NeverWet is damn cool, but from what little info is available on the site I can already tell you a few things.

1.) As expected, the coatings are fragile. When they are doing their demonstration with the dip coated circuit board, they mention that it is really easy to do repair to the circuits because you can just scrape off the coating.

2.) As expected, the coatings are translucent rather than transparent.

3.) In the anti-icing section they mention only a little coating of ice, which is great... for that one trial. There is however a problem they don't really want to mention: If those bits of ice break off, they take the coating with it. This is because of point 1.

We've known about superhydrophobicity since at least the 40s when the theory was originally laid out, and people have been playing around with superhydrophobic fabrics since the 60s. Scotchgard is a good example of this process, which had to be phased out in 2000 and reformulated in 2003 because the key component is bioaccumulative and highly toxic. If you click on the Wikipedia link, you'll notice that both of the components listed have perfluoro- in them. Ah, good old, nightmarish fluorine chemistry. Fluorocarbons are so incredibly useful since you pretty much can't get oil repellency without using them. They are also so incredibly toxic.

Now, when I listed the problems above, I mentioned that the coatings are fragile and translucent, as expected. This is because, if you knew about how superhydrophobicity works you would know that it requires micro and nano scale roughness on a surface so as to trap air beneath the liquid. These structures are two things: easily broken, and disruptive to the passage of light. Now, we are getting new advances in durability and transparency, but these properties are so far coming as a trade-off to each other. Highly transparent superhydrophobic surfaces can be destroyed by breathing on them hard, while the most durable ones are opaque.

The fragility issue also leads into the issue of anti-icing surfaces and what happens to them when the temperature gets cold enough that ice inevitably forms. When that happens the ice penetrates into the surface roughness and should it detatch, it will break away at least part of the roughness it was sitting on, decreasing the superhydrophobicity of the surface and making it easier for ice to adhere next time, accelerating the destruction of the coating. I've read the papers on this, and the academic community is still arguing over whether or not superhydrophobic coatings are actually icephobic. Either way, if you live in a climate that can get hail, this will be a serious issue since the hail will scratch the shit out of the surfaces and let ice form the next time there is freezing rain (which if you get hail you will probably get too). A higher durability surface on the other hand would be completely useless for solar panels considering the durability tends to come from using larger microstructures and materials that would be opaque to light.

So yeah, please stop talking about superhydrophobic surfaces as wonder materials. Those of us who know the theory and application of them and are trying to make them better and more applicable to widespread use don't like people spouting off about things they don't understand. Which no doubt applies to most of the things you linked. Science and technology is making all sorts of neat advances every day, but its a bad idea to take the bleeding edge work being done in the lab and assume it can easily, cheaply, or cleanly be scaled up for mass application.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-04 04:18pm
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Coyote wrote:
The article also seems to conveniently sidestep one other reality-- that current renewables, despite any short-term problems they may incur, do at least address one very pressing need right now: reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which no fossil fuel can claim to do. So we trade one pollution problem (mining fossil fuels) for another pollution problem (mining elements needed to make power cells) --we still cut back greenhouse gas emissions, which are an immediate, pressing problem.

The rant also assumes that renewable technology is fixed and locked into its problem cycle. We've needed to build smart grids for some time, this will provide more impetus. And other advances will be made as well-- the technology will not stay static. The potential to harvest rare-earth elements from asteroids is being given a serious look, and it if pays off (and there's no reason to assume it can't) then that will eliminate a huge obstacle (obtaining expensive elements) while simultaneously eliminating yet another problem, the mining of said elements here on Earth.

The whole thing is a "it's too hard; better the devil we know" rationale. I wonder how much BP/Shell-Mobile paid for it.

The Earth is warming yes, but I am a lukewarmer who believes that CO2 isn't as significant as many believe. Water vapor likely contributes more, and it is not certain that the greater number of clouds in a warmer world would reduce warming.


The best argument for doing away with coal is probably deaths from various respiratory-related cancers and diseases. Although personally I believe coal plant exhaust should be filtered by algae pools, to be reused as fertilizer/third world food.

The problem I have with renewables is that it returns man to be dependent on cycles beyond his control. This is the reverse of what civilization has been attempting to achieve.

Nuclear energy is probably the best long-term.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-04 07:54pm
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We're probably more in agreement than not; I'm also a nuclear fan and I feel dismayed at how Fukushima caused Germany to panic and shut down reactors willy-nilly across Bavaria (a place so known for its 9.0+ earthquakes and tsunamis, snark). Renewables are not a panacea but they do solve a lot of far worse problems-- I hadn't even thought about coal waste but that is another important angle to consider. I'd not hear about the idea of using algae to filter coal waste, is that applicable to coal pond reservoirs where liquid ash waste is stored, waiting to burst? Could that algae also be the type used to make biofuel? (two birds with one stone).

Regardless of whether manmade greenhouse gasses are the main cause of global climate change or not, they don't belong there and they are large-scale pollutants that certainly don't help, so any reduction will help.



Something about Libertarianism always bothered me. Then one day, I realized what it was:
Libertarian philosophy can be boiled down to the phrase, "Work Will Make You Free."


In Libertarianism, there is no Government, so the Bosses are free to exploit the Workers.
In Communism, there is no Government, so the Workers are free to exploit the Bosses.
So in Libertarianism, man exploits man, but in Communism, its the other way around!

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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-05 12:58am
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Um, coal waste has a rather substantial amount of U-238 in it. Not something you want to introduce into the food supply any more than it's already there.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-05 07:37am
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The use of renewables where they are actually cost-effective and/or suited to particular circumstances will reduce use of non-renewables. The same can be said of both conservation and more efficient devices. None of the above, however, will entirely fill the needs of our current civilization. I really don't see any alternatives to petroleum fuels other than nuclear.



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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-05 08:08am
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J wrote:
There's recurrent discussions on this board on why solar, wind, or other renewable sources of energy are the way of the future, and they always peter out after the claims are disproved and the proponents vanish, only to surface again some time later.
This is a false representation of what happens. You are missing the middle ground people there. If a strong pro or anti poster posts something its usually the other side that responds. The voices of reasons then try to put some grayscale into the stupidity. After which its not as fun for the rabid types.
Which then repeats in the next cycle.
J wrote:
This article thoroughly covers why renewable energy as envisaged by its proponents does not and cannot work, and why it will end in tears and epic failure.
That is ignorant on a vast scale. We have utilized renewable energy for as long as we have been creating human civilizations. We are still doing this and are expanding the concepts today. You would have to use a pretty damn silly definition of "as envisaged by its proponents" to make that stick.
J wrote:
It's lengthy and I've only quoted the first part since I don't have all day to format stuff, so click the link and head over to read everything else. You should probably set aside a few hours to read all the links in the article itself and digest everything.
Its also not accurate and misses whole concepts. It handwaves away the most utilized power during human history, ie hydro with some cherry picking of fringe business cases.
If you directed this at naive teenagers then you might have a semblance of a point. But when you adress a board where we have actual engineers working in energy that broad generalisations are bound to be, lets say, incomplete.
The company I work for is in the top ten worldwide among power generation, power grids, power infrastructure etc. We are doing nuclear, hydro, solar, wind, coal, etc etc. It's not a case of either this or that, it's a case of an increasing need met in a variety of ways and scales. We and most of our competitors alike would be very interested in knowing that someone has "disproven" what we have pragmatically been doing for over 100 years.
Mind you, I myself work in the automation part of it and I can still point out that most of that article is slanted to say the least.

tl;dr
Renewable energy has been with us throughout human history and will continue to be a part of human civilization for probably as long as we can still call ourselves human. Claiming otherwise is simply ignorant.

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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-06 12:15pm
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Perhaps you missed the conclusion of the article or had a different interpretation of it.

Quote:
Renewable energy is never going to be a strategy for continuing on our present expansionist path. It is not a good fit for the central station model of modern power systems, and threatens to destabilize them, limiting rather than extending our ability to sustain business as usual. The current plans attempt to develop it in the most technologically complex, capital and infrastructure dependent manner, mostly dependent on government largesse that is about to disappear. It is being deployed in a way that minimizes a low energy profit ratio, when that ratio is already likely too low to sustain a society complex enough to produce energy in this fashion.

Renewable electricity is not truly renewable, thanks to non-renewable integral components. It can be deployed for a period of time in such a way as to cushion the inevitable transition to a lower energy society. To do this, it makes sense to capitalize on renewable energy's inherent advantages while minimizing its disadvantages. Minimizing the infrastructure requirement, by producing power adjacent to demand, and therefore moving power as little distance as possible, will make the most of the energy profit ratio. The simplest strategy is generally the most robust, but all the big plans for renewables have gone in the opposite direction. In moving towards hugely complex mechanisms for wheeling gargantuan quantities of power over long distances, we create a system that is highly brittle and prone to cascading system failure.


The way I read it is that going big and throwing technology & money at an inherently fragile and unpredictable system to make it work is the wrong way to go about using renewable power. Sure it can be done and it works up to a point, but it's far from being the best or most efficient & reliable way to do things. Other than hydroelectric power, renewables is something where scale ends up working against you when you try to build large projects since the power output is intermittent and unpredictable. Shuffling a few kW or MW around a local grid is not really a big deal. Moving several GW across national grids on short notice is a multi-billion dollar infrastructure problem.

Renewables should be focused on smaller scale local level projects where they can do the most good, but for the most part we insist on building mega projects instead.



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aerius: I'll vote for you if you sleep with me. :)
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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-06 02:05pm
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aerius wrote:
Perhaps you missed the conclusion of the article or had a different interpretation of it.
:wtf: :wtf: :wtf:
Am I missing a limited context somewhere? We are both talking about the gkobal energy market, right?
If so lets do this the simple way and I'll just strikethrough all inaccurate or unsubstantiated stuff in that conclusion? Or where the author is arguing against a non-existing strawman that doesn't hold up vs reality.
Quote:
Renewable energy is never going to be a strategy for continuing on our present expansionist path. It is not a good fit for the central station model of modern power systems, and threatens to destabilize them, limiting rather than extending our ability to sustain business as usual. The current plans attempt to develop it in the most technologically complex, capital and infrastructure dependent manner, mostly dependent on government largesse that is about to disappear. It is being deployed in a way that minimizes a low energy profit ratio, when that ratio is already likely too low to sustain a society complex enough to produce energy in this fashion.

Renewable electricity is not truly renewable, thanks to non-renewable integral components. It can be deployed for a period of time in such a way as to cushion the inevitable transition to a lower energy society.To do this, it makes sense to capitalize on renewable energy's inherent advantages while minimizing its disadvantages. Minimizing the infrastructure requirement, by producing power adjacent to demand, and therefore moving power as little distance as possible, will make the most of the energy profit ratio. The simplest strategy is generally the most robust,but all the big plans for renewables have gone in the opposite direction. In moving towards hugely complex mechanisms for wheeling gargantuan quantities of power over long distances, we create a system that is highly brittle and prone to cascading system failure.


aerius wrote:
The way I read it is that going big and throwing technology & money at an inherently fragile and unpredictable system to make it work is the wrong way to go about using renewable power. Sure it can be done and it works up to a point, but it's far from being the best or most efficient & reliable way to do things. Other than hydroelectric power, renewables is something where scale ends up working against youwhen you try to build large projects since the power output is intermittent and unpredictable. Shuffling a few kW or MW around a local grid is not really a big deal. Moving several GW across national grids on short notice is a multi-billion dollar infrastructure problem.

Renewables should be focused on smaller scale local level projects where they can do the most good, but for the most part we insist on building mega projects instead.

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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-06 02:42pm
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Really. I would like to see some proof of that. Starting with a chart that lists proposed and under construction renewable energy installations by size. How much total capacity is in the <10kW range, 10-100kW, 10MW and up, and so forth. And while you're at it, how do you explain the giant wind farms with their required grid connections along with the proposed European Supergrid? That is somehow not, and I quote, a "hugely complex mechanisms for wheeling gargantuan quantities of power over long distances"? You're in the power grid business, tell me what I'm missing here.



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aerius: I'll vote for you if you sleep with me. :)
Lusankya: Deal!
Say, do you want it to be a threesome with your wife? Or a foursome with your wife and sister-in-law? I'm up for either. :P

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 Post subject: Re: Renewable Energy: The Vision And A Dose Of Reality PostPosted: 2012-11-06 03:30pm
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I've been having a fun few days counting the number of houses with solar panels.

Are we failing an observational bias here? Only the big projects get the news articles, while smaller local projects are quietly spreading?



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