Tag: renewable energy movement

When even the science fs up your agenda…

I just recently had several discussions in the last week or so, with different people at different times, about energy and economic impacts of that energy’s availability and cost. I pointed out that people have spent the last 5 decades telling us we would be running out of fossil fuels in the next 3 or 4 decades, only to end up with scientific advances and human ingenuity raising the time we have at a curved use of the stuff from decades to centuries. Of course they all turned up their noses to what they consider to be Satan’s shit and wanted it replaced, but when asked by what, it was all pie-in-the-sky answers. For me, based purely and simply on the numbers and the science, the one viable technology that can produce energy in the amount we would need to replace fossil fuels, is nuclear. Nothing else can, but the people that want to get us green all seem to have bought into Hollywood’s depiction of how dangerous and nasty nuclear energy is. So instead they seem to propose we use the equivalent of unicorn farts as the alternative to oil, gas, and coal.

When we discussed these various alternatives the greens have a boner for and went through the list, one after the other fell off. Solar and wind have been terribly disappointing. We are not about to build giant space based solar arrays and beaming down the energy as microwaves any time soon, because the same green people would have heart attack at the potential use as a weapon. And we could cover the planet with windmills and it would still not produce enough power. So they always go to the renewables, of which far less is known, but far less is pretended can come, to justify the campaign to stop us from using fossil fuels. Of course, renewables have not really shown much other than promise at this time, but the greens have no doubt that this stuff will save their faltering agenda. And then there are the facts:

Two highly qualified Google engineers who have spent years studying and trying to improve renewable energy technology have stated quite bluntly that renewables will never permit the human race to cut CO2 emissions to the levels demanded by climate activists. Whatever the future holds, it is not a renewables-powered civilisation: such a thing is impossible.

Both men are Stanford PhDs, Ross Koningstein having trained in aerospace engineering and David Fork in applied physics. These aren’t guys who fiddle about with websites or data analytics or “technology” of that sort: they are real engineers who understand difficult maths and physics, and top-bracket even among that distinguished company. The duo were employed at Google on the RE<C project, which sought to enhance renewable technology to the point where it could produce energy more cheaply than coal.

REclosed it down after four years. Now, Koningstein and Fork have explained the conclusions they came to after a lengthy period of applying their considerable technological expertise to renewables, in an article posted at IEEE Spectrum.

The two men write:

At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope …

Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.

One should note that RE<C didn’t restrict itself to conventional renewable ideas like solar PV, windfarms, tidal, hydro etc. It also looked extensively into more radical notions such as solar-thermal, geothermal, “self-assembling” wind towers and so on and so forth. There’s no get-out clause for renewables believers here.

Koningstein and Fork aren’t alone. Whenever somebody with a decent grasp of maths and physics looks into the idea of a fully renewables-powered civilised future for the human race with a reasonably open mind, they normally come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t feasible. Merely generating the relatively small proportion of our energy that we consume today in the form of electricity is already an insuperably difficult task for renewables: generating huge amounts more on top to carry out the tasks we do today using fossil-fuelled heat isn’t even vaguely plausible.

Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.

The funny thing is that you don’t need a PhD to figure this stuff out. And note they point out this stuff won’t work as marginal energy just to reduce emissions. The logical conclusion is that it hence will also never be a replacement. But the greens seem to be immune to the simple facts and science and far more interested in science fiction and fantasy because they are driven by something other than either. The watermelons pretend to be scientific, but the fact is there is very little of that and a lot of feelings and the overarching collectivist agenda, and very little of the former. So for now we are stuck with oil, gas, and coal. Maybe someone will find a way to make fusion work and that can fill in the gap, but the other stuff the greens pine for simply is not gonna happen. That won’t stop them from taking advantage of the plethora of fools that will allow a few of them to get stinking rich at tax payer’s expense.

Renewable energy idealism and reality clash

That’s not me, that’s a NYT Opinion piece by Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, titled The Gas Is Greener, and pointing out how fantasy eventually goes south when reality and real science come into play.

IN April, Gov. Jerry Brown made headlines by signing into law an ambitious mandate that requires California to obtain one-third of its electricity from renewable energy sources like sunlight and wind by 2020. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia now have renewable electricity mandates. President Obama and several members of Congress have supported one at the federal level. Polls routinely show strong support among voters for renewable energy projects — as long as they don’t cost too much.

But there’s the rub: while energy sources like sunlight and wind are free and naturally replenished, converting them into large quantities of electricity requires vast amounts of natural resources — most notably, land. Even a cursory look at these costs exposes the deep contradictions in the renewable energy movement.

First a clarification: no, the reference to “mandates” isn’t about two guys dating, but in this case about a governor’s royal decree. Sorry to disappoint those of you into that sort of stuff. Anyway, here is the killer: renewable energy projects have both a cost and a foot print, and when they replace real and viable technologies that meet real world requirements, the problems become instantly evident. But let me not get ahead of the facts and, man are they fun ones:

Consider California’s new mandate. The state’s peak electricity demand is about 52,000 megawatts. Meeting the one-third target will require (if you oversimplify a bit) about 17,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity. Let’s assume that California will get half of that capacity from solar and half from wind. Most of its large-scale solar electricity production will presumably come from projects like the $2 billion Ivanpah solar plant, which is now under construction in the Mojave Desert in southern California. When completed, Ivanpah, which aims to provide 370 megawatts of solar generation capacity, will cover 3,600 acres — about five and a half square miles.

The math is simple: to have 8,500 megawatts of solar capacity, California would need at least 23 projects the size of Ivanpah, covering about 129 square miles, an area more than five times as large as Manhattan. While there’s plenty of land in the Mojave, projects as big as Ivanpah raise environmental concerns. In April, the federal Bureau of Land Management ordered a halt to construction on part of the facility out of concern for the desert tortoise, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Wind energy projects require even more land. The Roscoe wind farm in Texas, which has a capacity of 781.5 megawatts, covers about 154 square miles. Again, the math is straightforward: to have 8,500 megawatts of wind generation capacity, California would likely need to set aside an area equivalent to more than 70 Manhattans. Apart from the impact on the environment itself, few if any people could live on the land because of the noise (and the infrasound, which is inaudible to most humans but potentially harmful) produced by the turbines.

That bolding is me. Where to begin? So a solar energy project that has the footprint of Manhattan Island will generate ½ of the 1/3 required by mandate (sorry don’t get excited again), at the cost of $46 billion – that’s the $2 billion cost multiplied by 23 to preempt CM’s demands for a dissertation to prove my point – and the environmental impacts be damned! To do it with wind we would need a tract of land 70 times that of Manhattan Island? Do the math to figure out what it would take to produce 100% of the 52K MW Cali is burning right now, then factor in the needed growth to keep up with the economic demands. Don’t bother looking at the cost. Obama already told us it will cost us a shitload more. But it’s for a good cause!

So then I get to something that actually gave me some enjoyment: reality smacking stupid in the face. I got a huge kick form how these watermelons are eating each other up, the greenies are pitted against the animal lovers & eugenicists that think anyone but them should be made to live in caves if not exterminated to save the spotted owl or some other such nonsense. As if nature doesn’t already have a mechanism built into it to make sure that only those that can adapt survive. Anyway, here is the fun stuff.

Industrial solar and wind projects also require long swaths of land for power lines. Last year, despite opposition from environmental groups, San Diego Gas & Electric started construction on the 117-mile Sunrise Powerlink, which will carry electricity from solar, wind and geothermal projects located in Imperial County, Calif., to customers in and around San Diego. In January, environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the $1.9 billion line from cutting through a nearby national forest.

Not all environmentalists ignore renewable energy’s land requirements. The Nature Conservancy has coined the term “energy sprawl” to describe it. Unfortunately, energy sprawl is only one of the ways that renewable energy makes heavy demands on natural resources.

Consider the massive quantities of steel required for wind projects. The production and transportation of steel are both expensive and energy-intensive, and installing a single wind turbine requires about 200 tons of it. Many turbines have capacities of 3 or 4 megawatts, so you can assume that each megawatt of wind capacity requires roughly 50 tons of steel. By contrast, a typical natural gas turbine can produce nearly 43 megawatts while weighing only 9 tons. Thus, each megawatt of capacity requires less than a quarter of a ton of steel.

WTF? This stuff isn’t going to magically save Gaia and actually might do just as much if not more harm? Who woulda thunk that? So what then?

All energy and power systems exact a toll. If we are to take Schumacher’s phrase to heart while also reducing the rate of growth of greenhouse gas emissions, we must exploit the low-carbon energy sources — natural gas and, yes, nuclear — that have smaller footprints.

Yeah, good luck with that. If this shit was for real we would already be furiously working with these technologies, especially nuclear, which is the only one that is completely CO2 free, but we all know how likely that is to ever really get a shot at anything. Instead what we get is taxation. And don’t worry California! At the rate you are going you probably go bankrupt long before the date Brown has mandated – there we go again – and then you won’t have to worry much about anything like this. That is if the enviromentalists don’t end up at war with each other over all this first.