You might think we’d know whether a solar PV system produced energy before we installed 1,000 Megawatts of it. But it’s hard to even know after the fact. Dr John Constable points us at an interesting new paper that discusses the odd creature called EROEI. This stands for energy return on energy invested. If you get back less than “one”, it sucks.
That sounds like a fine idea except everyone seems to get different answers to the same question. Solar PV in Switzerland achieves either a tenfold return or it costs a fifth of your energy. Plan your national policy with a Ouija Board?
Constable comes to the conclusion that the whole calculation is so uncertain it’s useless. There are so many subjective estimates on the “energy invested side” that the answer is almost irrelevant. Constable points out that what we really need to know is how the whole system responds to the addition of a new generator –but the whole grid analysis is even harder than just the EROEI to calculate.
His conclusion, it that we really need something more like a neural net to calculate the costs. Luckily we have one — us — and the contractual free market. It’s just the government keeps getting in the way of it working.
ENERGY RETURN AND ECONOMIC PLANNING
Date: 22/02/17 Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor
Chopping down trees and transporting wood across the Atlantic Ocean to feed power stations produces more greenhouse gases than much cheaper coal, according to the report. It blames the rush to meet EU renewable energy targets, which resulted in ministers making the false assumption that burning trees was carbon-neutral.
The UK tribes can thank chief Huhne (Energy and Climate secretary) for the 7.5 million tonnes of dead trees otherwise known as biomass — which mostly come all the way from the US and Canada.
Naturally, doing something this improbable takes a lot of money.
Drax, Britain’s biggest power station, received more than £450 million in subsidies in 2015 for burning biomass, which was mostly American wood pellets.
Curiously, there are over 200 trillion cubic feet of dead trees stored under Lancashire. They may have been very very small trees, like algae sized, but nonetheless, 4,999 kilometers closer. Apparently when all the trees of Canada and the US are used up, and the UK moves out of the Wood Age, it will have some spare gas to heat UK homes for the next 1,200 years.
The climate debate has now moved on to arguing whether trees are renewable. There’s a kind of death-spiral bickering between different varieties of “renewables” beasts. If it takes 200 years to grow a tree back, and you believe the models that are 97% wrong, oceans might boil before the carbon is back in the tree.This is just another carbon accounting bun-fight.
The report author, Mr Bracks, calls the subsidies ridiculous, but only because the money could have gone to “zero carbon” wind or solar instead. Shame he didn’t point that out then, when he was the special advisor to Chris Huhne.
Having poured countless millions into Biomass, by a remarkable coincidence, three months after Huhne got out of jail for lying about speeding fines, he was appointed European Director of a company called Zilkha Biomass.
He is not the only one to follow this gravy laden career path:
Several other former energy ministers have gone on to lucrative jobs in the sector. Sir Ed Davey, the Lib Dem who replaced Mr Huhne as energy and climate secretary but lost his seat in 2015, advises three companies on low-carbon energy projects. Lord Barker of Battle, the Tory former energy minister, took up posts advising a renewable heat business and a solar panel company. The appointments of both were approved by Acoba.
Pretending to save the world can be a lucrative career.
They claim to reduce greenhouse gases, From mulched trees as burnt bio masses, By importing wood pellets, The renewable zealots, Are behaving like right silly asses.
There are probably more solar panels in QLD than anywhere else in the world. Back in February last year, the boss of the Queensland state power company announced the awkward result that households with solar panels were using more electricity than those without. Apparently people without solar were turning off the air conditioner because electricity cost too much, but the solar users didn’t have to worry about the cost so much.
Feb 2016: Solar-powered homes in south-east Queensland, which boasts the world’s highest concentration of rooftop panels, have begun consuming on average more electricity from the grid than those without solar, the network operator has found.
Terry Effeney, the chief executive of state-owned power distributor Energex, said the trend – which belied the “green agenda” presumed to drive those customers – was among the challenges facing a region that nevertheless stood the best chance globally of making solar the cornerstone of its electricity network.
From October 2014 in Queensland, the average grid electricity use of solar homes started to exceed the average use of people without solar power and stayed higher for the at least the next 18 months (when this story appeared).
In other words, subsidized solar panels could mean that the people who pay the subsidies use less electricity than the people who get the subsidy and the panels. It also means the poor, who can’t pay for panels, have to go without more often.
Playing God with markets doesn’t have to be this hard. If the price of electricity is the largest influence on behaviour, the government could have just slapped on a bigger electricity tax, and that would have cut electricity use across the board. Thousands of people wouldn’t have wasted millions of dollars installing solar panels. The money would have helped the state government provide a service that was more useful than weather-unchanging-electronic-panels. Queensland could have had more healthcare, more holidays or less debt, instead they changed the color of their electrons.
Corals survived through four hundred million years of climate change. Despite that, corals still surprise survivors of four years of academia with their ability to keep dealing with climate change.
It’s been known for years that after corals bleach in warmer water, they acclimatize.
Here one shiny young researcher shows her carbonnointed worldview. She asks a really interesting question:
In one study of corals, for instance, she exposed adults to increased temperature and acidification, then exposed their offspring to the same conditions to see if they are more successful because of their parents’ previous experience.
Then sees the answer through AlGoreEyes:
“Interestingly, we found that there is potential for beneficial acclimatization because of parental history,” she said. “There is a more positive metabolic response and ecological response, greater survivorship and growth if their parents have been preconditioned to future scenarios.”
What’s the difference: “Preconditioned to future scenarios” or “Evolved to survive past ones”?
Not a reference
University of Rhode Island. “Professor examines effects of climate change on coral reefs, shellfish.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170221082101.htm>
Those who say they want a “free market” in carbon still don’t understand what a free market is.
RET’s or Renewable Energy Targets are screwed (in the head): If Tony Abbotts Direct Action plan was useless, RETS are five times more useless.
In Australia the Renewable Energy Target (RET) in theory, helps wind and solar, so we lower CO2 emissions and cool the world, slow storms, things like that. But Tom Quirk calculates it costs $57 a ton (at best) for those “savings”. Since the Direct Action plan cost $11 a ton, we could reduce five times as much CO2 if we blew up the RET scheme.
The secret is that the Abbott plan tackled CO2 directly rather than picking winners (see “competition”,
“free markets” that sort of thing). Predictably, the Greens hated it — who needs CO2 reduction if you can support big-government-loving industries instead? (Especially the kind who lobby for the side of politics that wants more bureaucrats, more handouts, and less independent competition?)
Those who say they want a “free market” in carbon still don’t understand what a free market is. It’s pretty simple, if they want a reduction in CO2, they need to pay for a reduction in CO2. That’s not the same as paying the wind industry. When a subsidy is applied to a secondary, indirect factor, it has perverse effects other than the supposed original aim. Quirk shows that we are not just paying a bit more to reduce CO2 this way (like 500% more), but quixotically we effectively pay more to displace gas emissions rather than brown coal.
The other perverse effect is that by insisting we take wind and solar “whenever” — these generators are not competing in the wholesale market at all, they simply bypass it and head straight to the retail level. Effectively, they take a chunk out of the demand side of the wholesale market which would be useful at peak load times,
The RET started at 2%, is now 12.5% and is climbing to 25%.
In Table 2 we see that utilization (or capacity factor) is very low for all the generation types in SA. A great deal of infrastructure and capital is just lounging around drinking pina coladas or something. Ironically, the whole free market idea is so botched up that SA has an oversupply of electricity, yet pays more for electricity and suffers more blackouts. Tom Quirk calculates that the RET currently adds 2.15c for wind power and 0.26c for solar to power bills in SA. This does not include the cost of state based schemes, nor the diabolical effect of having an excess of supply at the wrong times and perverse subsidies: price spikes and volatility. The real cost is o-so-much higher…
States of confusion
Guest Post by Tom Quirk
The Renewal Energy Target (RET) scheme is a splendid example of the growth of a policy cancer that if not checked will do substantial economic damage. The scheme was introduced during the time of the Howard government with a target of 2% contribution from renewable sources of electricity and has grown tenfold within the federal government jurisdiction and has spread to state governments that aim to double the present federal target of some 25% renewable energy contribution by 2030.
A team at Arizona State University has proposed building 10 million wind-powered pumps to draw up water and spill it out onto the surface of the ice, where it will freeze faster. Doing so would be complicated and expensive — it’s estimated to cost a cool $500 billion, and right now the proposal is only theoretical.
It’s not like we have anything better to do with half a trillion dollars. Should we cure cancer or refrigerate one of the coldest places on Earth? Should we teach our kids about the fall of civilizations, or teach them to bow before prophets who keep predicting the end of the Arctic and getting it wrong?
Tristan Hopper explains the beefed up plan would absorb the “entire steel production of the United States”, “half the worlds container fleet”, and cost about the same as the “GDP of Japan”. It would also make 163 million tonnes of CO2. He’s serious, and so are the ivory tower guys:
“… the researchers from Arizona State University call the cost “economically achievable” and the environmental impact “negligible.””
We could fund it all by giving up on universities right now. When it comes to the Tertiary Sector — just say “No”.
The giant water pumps would sit on buoys floating in the Arctic Sea. They would take up water from beneath the ice, store it in a tank and then spray the water on top of the ice.
The machines would be powered by the wind, which is plentiful in the Arctic, in a similar way to windmills you see creating power on farms.
Yes, it’ll be just like windmills on farms, except they float on water, are subject to extreme weather, and produces nothing that any human needs within a 3,000km radius.
The team estimates in the paper that 10 million devices could add a meter of sea ice onto the current level of ice over the course of a winter. That’s a meter of ice on each tenth of a square kilometer.
“That’s a significant change,” said Desch. The sea ice only grows two to three meters in thickness during the winter.
To make a dent in the loss of ice, you would need to cover about 10% of the Arctic, which adds up to 10 million machines, he said.
What could possibly go wrong? The noise from ten million wind turbines might drive ten thousand whales crazy and destroy the sleep of a million polar bears.
I’m happy to help a few dedicated skeptics and sane candidates with the gumption to try to improve the system from within. So this is a quick note for residents of the Central Wheatbelt WA. Check out Bill Crabtree, the no-till farming expert running for the Liberal Party at the State election in three weeks, he’s as honest and hardworking as they get. I know Bill personally, and he’s just the kind of guy I’d want in Parliament. A real farmer, not a career politician.
Meet him tomorrow: Sunday 4pm-8pm, Northam Country Club, 15 Wood Drive Northam.