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Unforced variations: Apr 2011

Filed under: — group @ 1 April 2011

This months open thread. There are some Items of potential interest::

or whatever you like.

525 Responses to “Unforced variations: Apr 2011”

  1. 351
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 337 John E. Pearson – interesting, thanks

    Re 336 Edward Greisch – interesting, thanks

    When will nuclear power grow? As soon as people try to run some town on wind power only or solar power only and find out that wind and solar are intermittent. So please do go for wind and solar power if you must learn from your own mistakes. Americans always do the right thing, but only after they have tried every possible wrong thing. As David B. Benson told you: Once you get it all added up, you will find out that nuclear is the cheapest way to make electricity without making CO2. As I have said many times, it is better to let the engineers do the engineering and it is better to let the scientists do the science. The electric generating industry has plenty of engineers and the other people required to figure out how to make the cheapest electricity. So let them do it.

    And you and I would agree, I’m sure, that if the proper externality taxes and policies on safety (all energy sources, etc), power plant siting, mining, the electric grid, agricultural emissions, etc, were put in place, with maybe some public investments directed toward pre-mass market technologies, etc, then whatever mix of sources develops should be good.

    Until, if ever, storage becomes really cheap and easy, I wouldn’t generally advocate a small town relying solely on it’s own wind and solar power (even with CSP, which has storage).

    However, good storage sites such as AA-CAES, some hydroelectric plants (output could vary on short time scales at least), etc, could be available regionally (CAES has already been done in some places; AA-CAES is still under development so far as I know); solar and wind resource fluctuations may both be smaller and more predictable over larger spatial scales (consider synoptic-scale weather patterns, and then later on, interhemispheric HVDC could help with the diurnal and seasonal cycles – but smaller scale, consider how many time zones and climate zones are in any one continent); also, smart appliances of certain categories could turn on or off in response to weather data about cloudiness, etc, – maybe with GOES visible satellite imagery, this could go down to the smaller mesoscale (this could apply to air conditioners, refrigerators, heat pumps – where it needs to run for some fraction of a larger period of time but not at one particular minute or another). Reminder: CSP can have storage on the hourly-daily time scale (and can be used for heating; a significant fraction of industrial heating is at sufficiently low temperatures that it could be supplied with parabolic trough concentrators (see \Cool Energy\). And people are even working on producing C (or CO, I think) from CO2 using solar power (I’m not sure but I think this might be a sort of battery/fuel cell, but perhaps the CO could also be fed into renewable hydrocarbon production). The waste heat from rooftop solar PV can be used in residential water (and space?) heating, which in cooling the PV devices can tend to increase electrical output; don’t forget about passive solar lighting and heating and thermal storage and building efficiency in general. As far as unstored, untransmitted electricity goes, rooftop solar PV and other local PV sources have greater value per kWh in that they require less transmission (at least on average – of course grid connected rooftop PV could sometimes be used elsewhere) (this is after the inversion, so inverter costs have to be factored in – unless a house has both AC and DC outlets – perhaps air conditioners in particular could run on either and switch to DC to reduce use of the inverter when possible?). Aside from that, solar power can be a nice fit for daytime, especially summer time, peaks – not all energy sources need to be competitive at all hours to be competitive over-all.

  2. 352
    Patrick 027 says:

    I can picture a scenario where solar, wind, and nuclear are all growing (and maybe C seque-stration, and maybe H is stripped from what would have been gasoline and some other fuels, whose supply is driven by demand for other petroleum products). I can also picture a scenario where nuclear doesn’t live up to promises and stalls, or where costs of solar and wind (and geothermal,

  3. 353
    Patrick 027 says:

    some b-i-o-fu-els (algae, food sc-r-aps (banana peels, coffee grounds), yard waste, b-y-p-r-o-d-u-cts (olive pits, peanut sh-e-lls, sawdust, lint? – actually lint might be a benificial addition to soil…), crop residues, spoiled and damaged crops and food, used paper pr-odu-cts, sewage, landfills and manure – it’s probably impractable to hook up a pipeline directly to a cow but maybe we can feed it B-e-a-n-o or something :) ) come down so much that they cut the nuclear renaissance short, perhaps before it ever takes off (given the time it takes to plan and build a nuclear power plant, unless that changes too). What I don’t really expect is a future where nuclear completely overwhelms everything besides the hydro already in place (but if that happens and it’s done safely, okay). I’m still not entirely comfortable with nuclear but I admit ignorance there and thus don’t really advocate directly against it (PS somewhat the same position with GM foods/crops); what I know enough to be afraid of and advocate against is a BAU future of coal, oil, and gas, especially one without CCS or other sequestration, with mountaintop removal mining, with tar sands, with fracking (you may already be aware of the radioactivity associated with that), Hg, escalating prices, etc (and you would be against this too, I’m sure).

  4. 354
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “It’s true that governments by and large have been politically paralyzed because the energy companies, the coal companies, the oil companies, the coal-burning utilities, they have spent enormous amounts of money and they have succeeded in many countries in paralyzing the political process,” the former vice president said.

    “There are four anti-climate lobbyists on Capitol Hill in this city for every single member of the House and every single member of the Senate,” Gore said Friday night at the opening of the April 15-18 conference.
    “What is the answer for this?” Gore asked. “It has to come from you. It has to come at the grassroots level. It has to come from young people, and I believe that you are up to it and that you can do it.”

  5. 355
    CM says:

    On making projections:

  6. 356
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “As soon as people try to run some town on wind power only or solar power only and find out that wind and solar are intermittent.”

    Because batteries, flywheels, compressed air, pumped hydro, thermal storage and hydrogen don’t exist and cannot ever exist. Because we have never had, do not have, and can never ever have any means of storing energy, either thermally, chemically, or kinetically. Check.

    Because the wind always stops blowing at night, exactly when the sun is not shining. Check.

    The fact is that we have multiple methods of storing energy.

    The fact is that there are very few “towns” in America that are powered solely by their own energy sources, whatever those might be — most “towns” get their power from the grid, which distributes power from multiple sources — and studies in both the USA and Europe have found that a diversified regional portfolio of renewable energy sources can provide 24×7 power that is at least as reliable as coal or nuclear.

    These are the basic realities that nuclear power proponents willfully ignore.

  7. 357


    It was rather amusing, a couple of years back, when we had the “unreliable” Danish wind power backstopping the “reliable” (but out-of-service) Finnish nuclear reactor as well as “reliable” (but drought-hobbled) Norwegian hydropower.

    Stuff happens. Diversity helps keep it from happening “all at once.”

  8. 358
    Walter Pearce says:

    David Benson@350. Thanks for the info. There are a million stories in the naked city; here’s one:

    Put whatever percentage you want in place of the 70 percent; it’s still going to be a gigantic number. My earlier point was not to say we could avoid the necessity of new supply through negawatts, but that the ROI and avoided risk make efficiency and conservation the first things we should try — faster, cheaper, less risky should be the mantra.

    Speaking of nuke risk, I wonder what those who’ve been downplaying it have to say about this:

    “‘Chernobyl is definitely not a haven for wildlife,’ he [biologist Tim Mousseau] said in a phone interview.

    ‘When you actually do the hard work, of conducting a scientific study, where you rigorously control for all the variables, and you do this repeatedly in many different places, the signal is very strong.

    ‘There are many fewer animals and many fewer kinds of animals than you would expect.'”

    Here’s one of his earlier studies on radiation effects on Chernobyl-are barn swallows from the Journal of Animal Ecology:

  9. 359
    SecularAnimist says:

    The nuclear debate is beating a dead horse.

    Here’s something much more interesting:

    Duke Energy Corp., a U.S. utility that operates 986 megawatts of wind-energy capacity, selected Xtreme Power Inc. to design and install the world’s largest power-storage system linked to a wind farm.

    The 36-megawatt storage system is expected to cost $44 million and will go into operation in the third quarter of 2012, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke said in an e-mailed statement.

    The system will retain power generated when demand is low and can be tapped when electricity consumption is highest or the wind is not blowing. It will make the 153-megawatt Notrees wind farm in west Texas a more reliable source of energy, according to Greg Wolf, president of Duke Energy Renewables.

    Storage technology will “help our wind projects, and potentially down the road solar projects, interact with the grid, making sure that any of the potential negatives from an intermittent wind resource or a peak solar resource can be managed,” Wolf said in an interview.

    Xtreme Power manufactures dry-cell battery systems for use with wind farms and solar projects, which cannot consistently deliver electricity.

    Carlos Coe, the Kyle, Texas-based company’s CEO, said storage is beginning to catch on with renewable energy developers. The Notrees project will be the largest storage system in use with a wind project, and more are in the pipeline.

    “We have a few projects of this size awaiting to be announced later this year or into next year that are related to either renewable integration on a large-scale or renewable integration under challenging transmission and distribution circumstances,” he said in an interview.

  10. 360
    David B. Benson says:

    SecularAnimist @356 — I’ve looked into those studies of the USA and Europe which propose so-called renewables only. I don’t find them credible in that those schemes would be extremely expensive. The issues are the costs and losses in extensive transmission and the lack of a sufficiently low cost method of storage. If the latter can be solved then the excess transmission is not necessary, I think.

  11. 361
    Didactylos says:

    SecularAnimist: That story is more than a little ingenuous. “the world’s largest power-storage system linked to a wind farm” can be parsed two ways, and only one of them is true. The headline “Duke Builds Largest Storage System With Xtreme at Wind Farm” promotes the wrong one.

    Here’s a clue: this new system is 36 MW. Yet Wikipedia lists 62 pumped storage power stations with capacity in excess of 1000 MW. There are so many smaller ones that they aren’t listed.

    This stuff isn’t new.

    What is new is using not just metaphorical batteries, but actual batteries on a massive scale. It doesn’t strike me as the most cost effective solution. Plus it creates a huge maintenance and recycling problem. Dry-cell batteries contain all sorts of nasty stuff, and have a limited lifespan. Molten salt batteries and flywheel storage make much more sense to me.

    Finally, placing storage at the point of generation doesn’t make sense for wind power. It makes total sense for solar power, with its guaranteed on-off cycle, but wind isn’t usually so predictable. Wouldn’t it make more sense to allow the grid to handle storage? Normally that would be the case, unless, of course, you were to over-rely on wind power, forcing you to use a less efficient storage solution. Which I believe was what David B. Benson was saying.

    Walter Pearce: Yes, I think I will go on ignoring you. Much easier than paying attention to the cherry-picking and rigid bias.

  12. 362
    David B. Benson says:

    Walter Pearce @358 — Yes, the built environment is continually being replenished; greatly increasing prices of energy, not just eletricity, will further encourage energy efficiency. That may change ultily companies plans well out into the future but has little bearing on new construction needed to maintain power supply reliability in the near term of the next decade or so.

    Didactylos @361 — The electrical grid itself has no ability to store energy; it simply transmits and distributes in accordance with physical law. To store requires building storage devies with pumped hydro being one of the better choices for most (but not all) applications. If the price of wind power falls far enough and my estimates of new pumped hydro costs are correct, then by the end of the decade, for CF=32% wind sites near suitable land to be sacrificed for pumped hydro, such wind+storage solutions will become price competative with nuclear. Unfortunately, such sites are rare.

  13. 363
    David B. Benson says:

    NIMBY Protests Threaten Germany’s Energy Revolution,1518,757658,00.html
    Other reasons as to why extensive transmission lines are problematic.

  14. 364
    Rick Brown says:

    Kevin McKinney @ 48 in the Fracking Methane thread (I’m trying to re-direct our OT comments here). There’s no debating that N. American forests are at risk from many insults, and that climate change looms large in the list of threats. However, Mike Roddy made a specific claim that “North American forest mortality has doubled since 1970.” I googled that phrase and the first link that came up was to a blog post titled “Climate change has doubled forest mortality,” and that post was based on the van Mantgem et al. paper, which Mike Roddy had previously cited inaccurately.
    Notwithstanding the many problems faced by N. American forests, I though it appropriate to point out that relying on the van Mantgem paper to make the claim that N. American forest mortality had doubled was a stretch. That’s all.

    [Response: Rick, thanks once again for being on top of these issues and generally knowing your stuff without over-simplifying complex topics. van Mantgem et al’s analysis dealt with a relatively small component of western forests (old growth not under epidemic, biotic attack, nor rebounding strongly from recent disturbance) and the approximate doubling they document is relative to a low background rate (~0.5 % annually). These effects are utterly swamped by the recent mortality due to bark beetle outbreaks, in which mortality rates are vastly higher, and over a vastly larger area. Their episodic nature, which has both definite climatic and non-climatic components, combined with the fact that the climatic changes themselves have an uncertain relation to global climate change, complicates any statements about changes in mortality over time that are due strictly to climate change.–Jim]

  15. 365
    Scientific American says:

    A question for RC hosts and other actual climatologists: according to a Feb. 2011 survey in Massachusetts, although 77% of respondents say global warming is “real”, only 33% believe is is caused at least partially by human activity and is very serious, while another 26% believe it is real, at least partially caused by humans but do not see it as a serious threat. (17% said they do not believe it is real at all.)
    My question concerns that “partial” word: what portion of global warming can be attributed to natural causes? It is my impression that if known, it is low, while most attribution studies (and the laws of physics) indicate only that it is largely caused by greenhouse gases, the increase of which are from known quantities of fossil fuels burned by humans plus human land clearing, animal agriculture etc.

    What are the “natural”(non-human)causes and what proportion? Who looks at this? Does AR4 address this? Thanks for all you do.

    [Response: It depends on time period etc, and is inevitably an estimate due to uncertainty in the forcings (particularly aerosols), ocean heat uptake and climate sensitivity. My estimate is that between ~80% to 120% of the observed trend in recent decades is human-forced – i.e. which allows for 0.1 to 0.2 degC/dec either way for internal variability – natural forcings are a slight cooling factor on these timescales so that would imply a higher attribution to human causes. You could formalise this better – and indeed people have (Chris Forest’s work, IPCC Chapter 9 etc.). – gavin]

  16. 366
    Septic Matthew says:

    361, didactylos: What is new is using not just metaphorical batteries, but actual batteries on a massive scale. It doesn’t strike me as the most cost effective solution. Plus it creates a huge maintenance and recycling problem. Dry-cell batteries contain all sorts of nasty stuff, and have a limited lifespan. Molten salt batteries and flywheel storage make much more sense to me.

    As in other energy-related issues, I think the best approach in the long run will be to continue to research, invent, and develop as many alternative storage technologies as we can, and not bet too soon on which exactly will be cheapest and most reliable 20 years from now. Electrically-powered catalysis of water and CO2 into H2 and syngas/fuel might be the best solution; or vanadium batteries; or pumped water storage; or sulfur-iron batteries; or lithium-air batteries. All of these exist already, all have been tested at sufficient scales to provide reasonable estimates of costs in the next few years. But no one can now tell which will benefit the most from economies of large scale and improvements in manufacturing technologies.

  17. 367


    Fair enough, and definitely more appropriate here.

    [Response: You had a number of good points there too Kevin–and thanks for including some good ref links. I just don’t have the time to get into it in detail right now.–Jim]

  18. 368
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 361 Didactylos Finally, placing storage at the point of generation doesn’t make sense for wind power. It makes total sense for solar power, with its guaranteed on-off cycle, but wind isn’t usually so predictable.

    Except one interesting idea I’ve read is to have wind energy mechanically put energy into a (AA?)CAES, so that the conversion of mechanical to electrical energy would only occur once.

  19. 369
    David B. Benson says:

    Wind is sufficiently predictable according to this (long) IEA Wind Power Study

  20. 370
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    Carsey Institute

    Climate Change – Partisanship, Understanding, and Public Opinion

    Key Findings
    A series of regional surveys conducted by Carsey
    Institute researchers in 2010 and early 2011 asked
    nearly 9,500 individuals about climate change. Key
    findings include:

    • Most people say that they understand either a
    moderate amount or a great deal about the issue
    of global warming or climate change.

    • Large majorities agree that climate change is
    happening now, although they split on whether
    this is attributed mainly to human or natural causes.

    • The level of understanding and specific beliefs
    about climate change vary from region to region.

    • Beliefs about climate change are strongly related
    to political party. Republicans most often believe
    either that climate is not changing now or that
    it is changing but from mainly natural causes.
    Democrats most often believe that the climate is
    changing now due mainly to human activities.

    • Political polarization is greatest among the
    Republicans and Democrats who are most
    confident that they understand this issue.
    Republicans and Democrats less sure about their
    understanding also tend to be less far apart in
    their beliefs.

    • People who express lower confidence also might
    be more likely to change their views in response
    to weather.

    The high levels of understanding reported by New Hampshire
    residents in Figure 1 translate into general agreement
    that climate is changing now (88 percent), but disagreement
    remains about its main cause (Figure 3). A slight majority attribute
    current climate change to human activities, but more
    than one-third believe instead that it has mainly natural
    causes. Only a small fraction of the New Hampshire respondents
    believe that climate is not changing now.

    Figure 4 shows results on this same question from the six
    CERA surveys. Across all of the surveys, only 4 percent to
    11 percent believed that climate is not changing.

    Figure 3
    What do you personally believe about climate change?

    DN 5%
    Not Now 6%
    Now Natural 35%
    Now Human 53%

  21. 371
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    Percentage of TeaPublicans who claim that anthropogenic Climate Change isn’t happening…. 92%

  22. 372
    Ron R. says:

    David B. Benson — @ 11:02 PM

    A couple of quotes from that article:

    Such an ambitious objective will not be possible without huge new power lines, running primarily from the north of Germany to large conurbations in the south. According to calculations made back in 2005 by the German Energy Agency (DENA), 850 kilometers of high-voltage transmission lines will have to be built by the year 2015. Only 100 kilometers of this extended grid has been built so far. In its latest study, DENA anticipates that an additional 3,600 kilometers will be required by 2020.

    Although there is a long way to go before construction can begin on the high-voltage transmission lines, the “regional resistance” that the experts colored on their map has already begun to materialize. There are now 19 citizens’ initiatives against what are being dubbed “monster masts” and “mega power lines.” A total of 137 different communities, agencies and initiatives in Lower Saxony alone registered their opposition to the project during the review process. Thousands of people have signed petitions. Just the summary of the objections is nearly 2,100 pages long.

    Frustrating. Probably the biggest reason that companies and governments insist that if we are going to go large -scale alternatives then they’ll have to be these gigantic centralized infrastructure projects is because they want to own them, to make sure that they hold onto the public’s purse strings. They want to keep people paying them for forever their electricity. So they thrash about as if their were just no other possibility.

    I hate to seem a nut about it but I keep saying that we need to go easiest, simplest, cheapest, cleanest, most low-profile first and foremost and that’s everyone owning their own small system whatever single or combination of clean energies that may be. I’m tired of people saying it can’t be done. It’s being done, individually, all over the world.

    If it can’t work everywhere (let’s say a series of apartment complexes in the cold north which has wind but not much sun) then the next step would be small scale community-sized collecting/generating systems that are community owned and operated.

    We need to seriously assess where the technology is. Have a major alternative energy summit. There are all kinds of alternatives out there and coming along all the time. Giant, centralized, dirty energy power plants are obsolete. Let’s acknowledge that and get the new show on the road. What’s that famous saying? “Lead, follow or get out of the way!”

  23. 373
    Ron R. says:

    One other related point. Is there a reason why cages cannot not be built around wind turbines to keep birds out, kind of like we have around fans to protect fingers. They don’t need to be ugly. If not that we certainly do need to find some way to keep birds away. Perhaps coloring of the blades, sound, vibration something so as not to harm them.


  24. 374
    JCH says:

    Alexander Harvey mention this Hansen draft on another thread. Very interesting. Karina von Schuckman, ARGO below 700m, is a co-author.

  25. 375
    David B. Benson says:

    Ron R. @372 — One thing which would be helpful is for homes to have a solar hot water heater which the existing electric resistance heater suppliments on occasion. This will happen, I suppose, when the price of electricity rises far enough. Similarly with all other unsubsidized decentralized schemes. Alternatively, use feed-in tariffs as in Germany where many residences are installing ever more rooftop solar PV which make some money when the sun shines and also helps to fend off the ~30 UScents/kWh power costs. (Incidently, Germany has quite a few CHP projects.)

    I’m certainly in favor in solutions which are as localized as possible but for reliable power we are forced to have utility scale connected grids. These cost and are only now tending to become sufficiently pricey that people choose more decentralized (partial) solutions.

  26. 376
    Edward Greisch says:

    356 SecularAnimist: “These are the basic realities that nuclear power proponents willfully ignore.” WRONG.
    But I looked up the price of batteries. I can’t afford an extra $10,000/year for batteries.
    The joke is those de-nuclearized countries in Europe where “the grid” means French nuclear power.
    “The fact is that we have multiple methods of storing energy.” Yes we do. But an efficiency of 5% is typical. I can’t afford it. If you can, go for it.

    357 Kevin McKinney: “Diversity helps keep it from happening “all at once.” True. No dispute. But the highest up-time is 90%, and it is for nuclear. Reference: “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear power. This book is very easy to read and understand. Gwyneth Cravens is a former anti-nuclear activist. ” American nuclear power reactors operated that year around the clock at about 90 percent capacity, whereas coal-fired plants operated at about 73 percent, hydroelectric plants at 29 percent, natural gas from 16 to 38 percent, wind at 27 percent, solar at 19 percent, and geothermal at 75 percent.”

    358 Walter Pearce “Chernobyl is definitely not a haven for wildlife”
    If you live in Chernobyl the total radiation dose you get each year is 390 millirem. That’s natural plus residual from the accident and fire. In Denver, Colorado, the natural dose is over 1000 millirem/year. Denver gets more than 2.56 times as much radiation as Chernobyl! But Denver has a low cancer rate.
    Calculate your annual radiation dose:

    The Average American gets 361 millirems/year. Smokers add 280 millirems/year from lead210. Radon accounts for 200 mrem/year.

    359 SecularAnimist: $44 million/36-megawatt = $1.22/watt
    Woops! We needed megawatt HOURS.
    So this 986 megawatts of wind-energy capacity gets a 36-megawatt second battery? But wind power up-time is 27%. So the battery has to store 986 megawatts/.27=3652 megawatt HOURS to be up for a whole calm day. But you better give yourself some leeway for longer calm spells. And that will cost, who knows? You didn’t give us the cost for megawatt hours.

  27. 377
    Edward Greisch says:

    Fracking methane 46 Susan Anderson: Do you happen to have the case number? We need to file a “Friend of Court” brief. I think it might be No. 05-1120. The Supreme Court webmaster is at
    but I don’t know if that helps.
    RealClimate should have made a Friend of Court brief. Some other group of scientists did 5 or 6 years ago.

  28. 378
    adelady says:

    David@375 “… decentralised partial solutions.”

    The great advantage of such decentralised partial _solar_ solutions is that they are most effective at times of peak demand. Wider adoption would therefore lead to decreasing the capacity required for the centralised generation and distribution systems. This is certainly true in places like Australia and the southern USA for air conditioning and cooking. Esp if we could ensure that schools, churches and sports stadiums were kitted out with extensive solar – they’d be producing at times when they have minimal requirements, or none, for their own needs.

    Whether this comes from near universal rooftop solar water heating or village sized wind systems doesn’t matter too much. What does matter is that the gross capacity of central systems can keep on being reduced by the combination of negawatts and decentralised generation.

    With technical advances moving as they are, I can see building requirements in advanced economies being adjusted so that roofs _must_ produce power in some form, preferably with commercial and industrial buildings also being required to have a proportion of windows with solar generating capacity. In not many decades time, it’s entirely possible that new residential developments could impose Nil burden on an existing grid (even if there are switching complexities).

  29. 379
    Edward Greisch says:

    248 David B. Benson: I am a reliability engineer. But I thought your full levelized price for wind was higher. Do you have an efficiency for storage via pumped hydro?

  30. 380
    Ron R. says:

    David B. Benson — @ 11:04 PM

    Exactly. Our solar water heater allows us to turn off the gas for seven months out of the year. That’s a huge savings to us. If we lived in an area without a marked winter we might be able do without gas all together (since we only use it for heating water).

    If everyone did something like that to start or even started out smaller with just a tankless water heater the savings in fuel nationwide (and money in family bank accounts) would add up fast. It would take the pressure off dependency on foreign oil and other dirty energies. The issue of peak oil would evaporate. Oil and gas would last much longer and could be held in reserve for special reasons (say the launching air of space craft?) and the price would plummet. With that energy pressure off I think the entire world morale would change. Maybe not so pitted against each other. Maybe not so much haves and have nots.

    Dirty energy has been horribly destructive to the world. From bloody wars and huge disasters like the Exxon Valdez and other vast pollutions like the Gulf oil spill, Chernobyl and Fukushima and the resulting cancers and ruined lives (human and other species) to other hideous environmental destruction such as mountaintop removal to climate change to the Culture Of Fear that pervades almost every aspect of our lives today because of all of these.

    To now society in general has not been serious about changing this nasty habit of ours. We’re pale, we cough, we’re on oxygen, we’ve got the shakes. It looks like we’re going down. The doctor has warned us over and over again that we need to stop smoking and start treating ourselves better but we haven’t been listening. Too stubborn to.

    Perhaps we’ve been given our final notice.

  31. 381
    Edward Greisch says:

    Take a look at:
    How does this relate to climate?: We live in a plutocracy, not a democracy. Forget about getting our message out.

  32. 382

    “Is there a reason why cages cannot not be built around wind turbines to keep birds out, kind of like we have around fans to protect fingers.”

    Well, a modern turbine is very, very large in relation to the birds that we’d be trying to screen out. That means less efficiency, an engineering headache due to a lot of dead weight, and a large additional expense which would make wind less competitive.

    Perhaps more to the point, there’s no good evidence that there is even a significant problem. Skyscrapers, power transmission lines, vehicles and other existing human artifacts/activities are much more lethal to birds than are wind turbines–at least, since small turbines sited on migration routes have become a thing of the past. (“Much more,” as in (IIRC) three orders of magnitude.)

  33. 383
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “One thing which would be helpful is for homes to have a solar hot water heater which the existing electric resistance heater suppliments on occasion. This will happen, I suppose, when the price of electricity rises far enough.” – 375

    Even in temperate climates solar water heating works, and in winter standard refrigeration compressors can be turned off and heat pumps or direct external heat exchange can be used to provide refrigeration.

    For a family of 4, solar water heating will reduce consumption by approximately 2,000 Kwh per day and refrigeration by 200 Kwh per year.

    This alone would free up more energy consumption than 18 one gigawatt nuclear power stations or their coal powered equivalent.

    Significantly more energy savings can be had by storing heat in thermal reservoir’s and extracting it during fall and the early part of winter for home heating.

  34. 384
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    In order to foster the utilization of passive energy sources, building codes should be adjusted so that new home construction requires the largest surface area of the roof to face south, and kitchens be designed such that refrigerators be normally placed against exterior walls in order to provide access for direct thermal exchange with cold winter air.

  35. 385
    Walter Pearce says:

    Edward Greisch@376 — Thanks for the info.

    Do you dispute Mousseau’s findings? Or just unfazed by their implications?

    Most of the arguments I’ve heard here (and made myself) against nukes are based on economics and the risk and effects of catastrophic failure, not small doses of radiation.

    Other than David Benson’s interesting points, I’ve yet to see a single cogent response to the RMI paper I referenced on the economic side, nor to the biological effects cited on Chernobyl, nor to the papers on risks and subsidies.

    If nuke advocates can offer competing papers or other evidence in these areas, then I for one have an open mind on nuclear’s efficacy for CO2 abatement and energy needs. But the vitriol is as tedious as it is unenlightening.

  36. 386

    #376, “evacuate Denver!” paragraph–

    Ed, surely one can’t equate a whole-body dose received radiatively (which is what all critters including humans get in Denver) with ingested radioactives which concentrate in the food chain (which is what we’d be talking about wrt Chernobyl wildlife!)

    I’m speaking (as I so often do) from ignorance here, but this really seems not to be an apples-to-apples comparison.

  37. 387
    Hunt Janin says:

    If I’m doing my sums right, in its 2007 Assessment Report the IPCC estimated that about 3.51 million people living in world’s deltas and megadeltas will be affected by sea level rise by the year 2050 (source: IPCC, “Coastal systems and low-lying areas,” p. 327.)

    If anyone has reason to believe this estimate is not in the ballpark, please let me know.

  38. 388
    Ron R, says:

    adelady — @ 11:42 PM

    Well said! I suspect there would be some (with egging on by dirty energy) who would cry “government interference” due to new regs. I suspect for the most part though that that would evaporate when people discover that government is paying for it and that every bit of dirty energy saved is money in that stays in their pockets.

    kevin mckinney — @ 7:00 AM

    Ok. I wasn’t thinking though of bulky cages but thin wire, perhaps chicken wire sized, attached to a fine structure of braces. If not a major problem generally then save it for those few areas that are. If it doesn’t work I’m confident that people can come up with something. Plastic owls, bird scare tape, whatever.

    Vendicar Decarian — @ 7:14 AM

    And again, as you said upthread, even if it does not cover all of our needs 100% of the time right off the bat, “Every watt of energy obtained by the sun is a watt that is not obtained from non-renewable sources.” If we cut, let’s say, 50% from our demands that would be a BIG improvement. And don’t stop until we’ve maximized the use of clean alternatives. Even then always looking for improvement.

    Next up after that is decreasing our demand and our footprint by halting then reversing human population growth. Overpopulation is at the root of most of today’s major problems. Education is a good starting place. Don’t leave the issue to NGOs that few people listen to. People need to realize the impact we are having on this still beautiful planet and on our future.

  39. 389
    Ron R, says:

    According to Wikipedia the 2010 defense budget (that’s just ONE YEAR’S worth) was over $700 billion!

    Does the DOD really expect us to believe that they can’t get by with last year’s weapons or the year before that or the year before that…? Ok, a lot of that money also goes to personnel and defense in other countries, but those wars are seen by many as wrong and unnecessary anyway and often because we are trying to appropriate the dirty energy that belongs to another county.

    Greenscissors identifies another $200+ Billion in wasteful and environmentally harmful subsidies and other spending.

    We’re closing on a trillion dollars that can be diverted to helping us get off this deadly merry-go-round. Why not do it?

  40. 390
    Ron R, says:

    Kevin McKinney — @ 9:26 AM

    Did you see this? If you follow the links through on the Peer site it’s pretty galling.

  41. 391
    Septic Matthew says:

    Here is another interruption in California’s Ivanpah solar project.

  42. 392
    Edward Greisch says:

    386 Kevin McKinney: “Ed, surely one can’t equate a whole-body dose received radiatively (which is what all critters including humans get in Denver) with ingested radioactives which concentrate in the food chain (which is what we’d be talking about wrt Chernobyl wildlife!)”

    Again: WHAT concentration in the food chain? You are confusing iodine131 [half life 8 days] with dioxin, a complex industrial chemical that lasts a very long time. Iodine131’s short half life means it is gone too soon to do any concentrating. Even the hundreds of bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s failed to give me cancer, and I drank a lot of milk. People in Iran get a NATURAL background dose of 12000 millirems every year. Iran doesn’t have a high cancer rate. What about the radioactive Carbon14 created by the action of cosmic rays on nitrogen in the air? Surely C14 comes to us through the food chain, as it always has.

    Again: If you have cancer, look for the BENZENE that caused it. Radiation didn’t. Benzene comes from petroleum and from coal. DO NOT BURN SCENTED CANDLES. Scented candles make Benzene when they burn. Benzene is an “aromatic” hydrocarbon, which means Benzene smells good. Benzene causes cancer.

    Several people: Solar power on house roofs and efficiency: OK except for 2 problems:
    1. You are fighting an extra industry. We have to fight the coal industry. Fighting the electric generating industry when we don’t have to is picking an unnecessary fight that squanders your anger.
    2. We need to put an end to the coal industry quickly and completely. Solar power on house roofs and efficiency leave the coal industry alive and well.
    Solar power on house roofs and efficiency are “scattering” ideas. They scatter your efforts, making you combat ineffective. What we have to do is KILL KING COAL. COINCENTRATE on killing the coal industry.

  43. 393


    No, Ed, I’m not confusing iodine with dioxin.

    Radionuclides from Chernobyl included:

    137Cs, 134Cs, 131I, 140Ba, 95Zr, 95Nb, 103Ru, 106Ru, 141Ce, 144Ce, 125Sb

  44. 394
    David B. Benson says:

    Edward Greisch @379 — If the price of wind turbines falls as expected, then it appears that wind with pump hydro will have a slightly lower LCOE than nuclear; not currently the case. The standard efficiency for pumped hydro is 80% and that hasn’t changes in many decades. I used costing from

    The combination of wind with pump hydro requires rather special geography; unlikely to be useful in Texas, for example.

  45. 395
    adelady says:

    Sorry Edward, perhaps you misunderstand me. In Australia as I am, I think we could do the whole lot with CSP and wind.

    My argument above was that with distributed generation and sophisticated storage, the total centralised wind + CSP installed would not need to be as large as people think. Here in South Australia, palpitations arise because our coal power station at Port Augusta will both wear out and run out of coal in not-so-many years. Whatever will we do?? What about the jobs?!?

    Just have a look at the map. Pt Augusta is a hot, dry place at the tip of a gulf. You’d be hard-pressed to argue against building CSP here. After all, the distribution network is already based here, no need to build or extend a network. Several millions saved right up front.

    And building and maintaining a CSP has gotta be good for jobs. No? No. At least I’ve not heard anyone talking sensibly about this.

  46. 396

    #388, Ron R.–Even fine braces amount to a pretty fair challenge when they must span a diameter of up to 128 meters and be pretty rigid. The geometry of a typical upwind design makes mounting the safety shield a challenge, too.

    I’d say if we’re concerned about bird mortality, structures such as power lines and skyscrapers would be better candidates for safety engineering than wind turbines, since they kill far more birds than the turbines do.

  47. 397
    adelady says:

    Whoops! Omitted the vital detail.

    Pt Augusta is at latitude -32.3. So it’s marginally closer to the equator than Sydney and Los Angeles for those who need some help visualising just how sunny the place is. Though it’s hotter than both of them.

  48. 398
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Kevin McKinney, Actually radionuclides will not increase in concentration as you go up the food chain. In fact, some plants tend to really take up some radionuclides (e.g. tobacco and Po-210). Moreover, we tend not to eat the portions of animals where you will get the most radionuclides–e.g. Iodine in the thyroid, Sr-90 in the bones…

    Note that this is not necessarily good news. It means you have to be as worried about eating contaminated spinach as contaminated beef. That said, the most serious hazards are those that we breathe. If we eat radionuclides (other than Sr-90 or Iodine), it will tend to pass through us. Passage into the lungs, though is one way–it never gets out and is almost assured to cause a cancer (the Po-210 is a major source of the lung cancers from smoking).

  49. 399
    John E. Pearson says:

    Kevin, I’d say if we’re concerned about bird mortality we should all kill our house cats.

  50. 400

    #399–Good info, Ray, thank you. Interesting tid-bit about the Po-210. Aren’t there similar considerations around coal combustion?

    If I remember, though, we were originally talking about the wildlife at Chernobyl, so different diets than human would have to be considered, too–canids chewing bones full of Sr-90, deer munching contaminated leaves, etc.