JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


Handbooks

The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper


Advertising

micropace


GoldNerds

The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



Archives

Books

Green vision protects coal deposits, razes forests instead: Europe goes back to wood power

Green Utopia

We’re trying to control the weather by limiting a universal molecule intrinsic to life on Earth. What could possibly go wrong? Loopholes, for starters. Only this isn’t a loophole — it’s an obvious outcome of “carbon neutrality”. The only thing that could have stopped wood from replacing coal is if the tidal-windy-solar idea had been competitive, reliable and batteries were really cheap. Or, if we all went nuclear.

So carbon neutral means conserving black coal deposits underground and mowing down thousands of square kilometers of forests. Don’t think Greenpeace saw that coming. Carbon Loophole: Why is wood burning counted as green energy?

Fred Pearce, Yale, e360

The forests of North Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi — as well as those in Europe — are being destroyed to sustain a European fantasy about renewable energy…

Wood burning is booming from Britain to Romania. Much of the timber is sourced locally…

But Drax’s giant wood-burning boilers are fueled almost entirely by 6.5 million tons of wood pellets shipped annually across the Atlantic.

Drax Power, UK emits 23 million tons of “good” neutral carbon which used to be trees:

About 23 million tons [...]

Forget Megawatts, ABC invents new unit of power — “size of Tasmania”

Outback couple build solar farm to prove fringe-of-grid power generation needs

Building a $14 million solar farm is an expensive way to send a message about electricity prices, but Doug and Lyn Scouller said they were left with few options.

In Normanton, 500 kilometres north of Mount Isa in north-west Queensland, the Scoullers built a solar farm big enough to power an area almost twice the size of Tasmania, in a move to prove to stakeholders the benefit of positioning power generation sites at the end of the grid.

In old fashioned terms, the “farm” produces five-megawatts. But yesterday, Tasmania didn’t use 5MW it used 1,072 MegaWatts. So this solar farm would have supplied 0.2% of the houses and businesses on an area “twice the size of Tasmania”. The only Tasmania-sized-areas that would be functioning on 5MW are in the empty desert or the Great Southern Ocean.

And we wonder why some Australians think solar power is a no brainer. If this little farm can supply 120,000 km2, we just need another 60 like it, and we could do the whole continent!

ABC journalists are not good with numbers. If only they had a billion dollars a year [...]

Another hidden cost of intermittent renewables (It’s time to talk about FCAS and roaring price spikes!)

The shape of normal AC Electricity: 50Hz (230V) and 60Hz (110V)

Nobody says much about FCAS in public  — but it’s become a hot topic among Australia’s energy-nerds and electricity traders. It never used to be a big deal, because we got it at very low cost from huge turbines — from coal, hydro, and gas. Suddenly, it is costing a lot more. As I discovered below, in one month FCAS charges in South Australia rose from $25,000 to $26 million. Wow, just wow.

What is FCAS?

FCAS means”Frequency Control Ancillary Service”. With an AC (or alternating current) system, frequency is everything — the rapid push-pull rhythm that is the power. FCAS is a way of keeping the beat close to the heavenly 50Hz hum (or 60Hz in America and Korea). Network managers cry when things stray outside 49.85Hz or 50.15Hz. So controlling the frequency is a very necessary “other service” supplied by traditional generators, but not so much from intermittent renewables.  Large spinning turbines “do” FCAS without a lot of effort. And the cost used to be a tiny fraction of the total electricity bill, but it is rapidly rising in Australia, thanks to the effect of the RET [...]

Last winter 9,000 more British pensioners died than usual — how many were due to high heating costs?

Higher electricity costs mean more people turn off their heaters

There’s a big freeze coming to Britain with minus 12C temperatures possible in the next three weeks.

Last year in winter in England there was a remarkable 40% rise in winter deaths

David Archibald emails that last year was a mild winter for Brits, but the death toll rose from the normal 25,000 excess to 34,000 people. Remembering that it’s moderate cold that kills far more people than extreme temperatures. The UK government advises rooms be heated to at least 18C. (I’ve been in a Canberra house where the temperature fell to 11C indoors, and that was in May.) Despite all the newspaper headlines about outside temperatures, the big killer is indoors.

The big killer is indoor temperature and moderately cold, not extremes.

Campaigners demand urgent cuts to power bill after number of winter deaths among the elderly rise by 40%

Pensioner groups are demanding urgent measures to cut the cost of heat and light after official figures revealed a surge in deaths last winter. There were some 34,300 so-called ‘excess’ deaths during the cold months, according to new figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). [...]

They call it “demand management”. We call it “1000 small blackouts”. Sydney people paid to switch off.

Some people in Sydney will be paid to not use electricity in peak periods

Instead of a big blackout the plan now is to have lots of little “by choice” blackouts at the appliance level. It’s smarter than crashing the grid, but ponder what we’ve swapped –once electricity was cheap and “all the time” and now after this discount it will still be more expensive but also “not there when you need it”. Let’s all cheer for progress.

Cashing in for slightly less obscene electricity bills? How low is that bar on our expectations.

Sydney households to cash in for turning off appliances

Houses and business in some high-growth Sydney suburbs will be ­offered payments to dial down or switch off appliances during peak demand periods under a scheme being trialled by the state’s biggest distribution ­network.

Ausgrid is planning the demand management trial for up to 10 suburbs across the city — including Alexandria, Redfern, ­Auburn, Kingsford and Waterloo — over summer in a bid to reduce the peak load on its network.

It is expected to cost around $1.5 million in payments to households and business and to involve up to 1300 [...]

Antarctic wind turbine crashes in normal wind conditions — no one hurt, diesel saves day

We are trying to collect dilute energy across a million square kilometers with heavy machinery in extreme conditions. What could possibly go wrong?

Last night around 9pm, the top part of the 30-metre turbine fell off in 40 knot winds — which is not unusual in Mawson (in September wind gusts of 185km/hr were recorded). Fortunately no one was killed because people were inside. Though it looks pretty close to that red building (was anyone there?)  No one knows why it happened. The other turbine at the station has been turned off as a precaution (though I wouldn’t be walking underneath it). Maybe someone can tie ropes with a helicopter?

ABC News: Mawson Antarctic research station relying solely on diesel after wind turbine crashes to ground

Wind Turbine, Antarctic research station, Mawson, break, collapse.

Right now things have warmed up a lot at Mawson, and temperatures even climb above 0C by 3pm some days. Though on November 1 the maximum temp was -8.8C.  Naturally diesel saves the day.  Of course Mawson is fully backed with diesel power.

These are 300kW turbines installed in 2003, so only 14 years old. Maybe it was just bad luck.

The maintenance costs [...]

ABC renewables fantasy island “farewells diesel” (except for 40% of its power)

Flinders Island is in the Bass Strait North of Tasmania.

If there is a heaven for renewables, this island should be it. But instead, even on Flinders Island, renewables aren’t cheaper than diesel generators. This is a dismal reality, yet the ABC promotes it as a fantasy poster-isle, interviewing only vested or “no idea” people, asking no critical questions, doing no counter research and telling us renewables will be “more reliable” and implying they are cheaper too. The ABC is a three-million-dollar-a-day advertising outlet for other government agencies. Instead of serving Australians it appears to be there to help shake down the taxpayer.

ABC renewables hype strikes again: Rhiannon Shine reports Flinders Island as a showcase of the brave new renewables world. Let’s translate that spin and see just how pathetic it is. If anywhere was going to be totally renewable, Flinders Island would be it — a first world island, tiny population, massive subsidies, no access to cheap coal or gas power, government support at every level and placed in a handy wind stream known as “the Roaring Forties”.  Yeah! This is one of the last places in the first world (short of Antarctic stations) where renewables [...]

Some days one thousand MW of solar vanishes in Australia

The Australian national grid stretches from the tropics to the cold temperate zone from 16S to 43S. You might think that along those 40,000 kilometers of transmission lines there is always somewhere somewhere sunny at midday, but some days you’d be wrong.

James Luffman at WattClarity,  noticed this extensive cloud arrangement affecting solar on Friday May 19th. On that day, a one thousand MW generator wasn’t there when it was expected to be.

Cloud patterns on Friday 19th May 2017 – leading to a day of low Solar PV output, NEM-wide

By James Luffman | Published Fri, 25 August 201

Cloud cover over Australia, map, preventing solar PV generation.

How often does this happen? Hard to say, since data on rooftop PV has only just started to be released. It may not be as often as wind turbines, which simultaneously flounder across the whole Australian grid every 10 days or so.

This kind of comma-shaped band of cloud is relatively common over eastern Australia, when you have moisture from the Coral Sea area feeding into a trough with a low-pressure system near SA or VIC.

In this particular case of 19th May, the band of [...]

Only 10% of power allowed from solar in Broome WA to stop grid “fluctuations”

When too much solar is more than enough

The WA government-run electricity provider (Horizon Energy) has called a halt to new solar installations in Broome, a town in Northwest WA that is not connected to the national grid, or even the main WA grid. (It’s 2,000km north of Perth). About 10% of the town’s power comes from solar* but apparently the little grid can’t handle the fluctuations, so the early birds got the subsidies, and the rest got grumpy.

June 3rd, ABC:

Broome residents tire of cap on solar power installations Horizon Power only allows 10 per cent of the town’s power to come from solar due to issues with grid fluctuations This leaves some residents unable to install a solar system that connects to the grid Horizon is trialling battery storage technology in other WA towns and hopes to expand this to Broome

Residents in the Kimberley town of Broome have said they are fed up with being prevented from accessing solar power despite living in one of Western Australia’s sunniest towns.

State-owned energy utility Horizon Power allows just 10 per cent of the town’s power to be generated from solar to protect the grid from [...]

Rudd’s last minute gift to renewables -industry $7 billion extension til 2030

Apologies to foreign readers as we rake over the Stupidest Energy Policy on Earth. This really takes the cake.

Back in 2010 Rudd signed off on an extension of subsidies to renewables generators that would apply from 2020-2030, long after he would be gone.  Effectively this decision will take up t0 $300 per Australian over that decade –  in the order of $1000 per family –  and gift to the renewables industry. Naturally, in the public arena, an issue this big was decided with major, some, no discussion at all.

The ABC investigated the intricacies of who knew what and when in the knifing of a first term PM, but billions of dollars — who knew?

Dennis Shanahan raised it today in The Australian

Rudd renewables extension upped power bills $7.5bn

Electricity customers face an extra burden of between $3.8 billion and $7.5bn in “windfall” subsidies for renewable power generators in the next decade ­because of the stroke of a pen in the last months of Kevin Rudd’s prime ministership.

Against advice from consultants, energy companies and the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Rudd government in 2010 extended the phasing out of the renewable subsidies for existing operators from [...]