JoNova

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


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The crazy world of Renewable Energy Targets

Nothing makes sense about Renewable Energy Targets, except at a “Bumper-Sticker” level. Today the AFR front page suggests* the federal government is shifting to remove the scheme (by closing it to new entrants) rather than just scaling it back. It can’t come a day too soon. Right now, the Greens who care about CO2 emissions should be cheering too. The scheme was designed to promote an  industry, not to cut CO2.

UPDATE: Mathias Cormann later says “that the government’s position was to “keep the renewable energy target in place” SMH.  Mixed messages indeed.

We’ve been sold the idea that if we subsidize “renewable” energy (which produces less CO2) we’d get a world with lower CO2 emissions. But it ain’t so. The fake “free” market in renewables does not remotely achieve what it was advertised to do — the perverse incentives make the RET good for increasing “renewables” but bad for reducing CO2, and, worse, the more wind power you have, the less CO2 you save. Coal fired electricity is so cheap that doing anything other than making it more efficient is a wildly expensive and inefficient way to reduce CO2. But the Greens hate [...]

ABC bias against coal hurts the poor and the workers: Sell the ABC

A new report shows ABC journalists are fond of renewables and overlook their dismal economic value, while putting out bad news on coal, and ignoring the benefits of vast cheap profitable energy. Who could have seen that coming: a large public funded institution attracts employees who like large public funding?

The IPA arranged for a media analysis firm to compare the ABC reporting on coal and renewables.

ABC gives the green light to renewables, and the red light to Australia’s largest export industry and provider of 75% of our electricity.

ABC accused of bias against coalmining

Andrew Fraser, The Australian

The analysis of 2359 reports broadcast on the ABC over six months before March 15 this year found 15.9 per cent of stories on coalmining and 12.1 per cent of those about coal-seam gas mining were favourable, while 53 per cent of those on renewable energy were favourable.

It also found 31.6 per cent of stories on coal mining and 43.6 per cent of stories on coal-seam gas were unfavourable, while only 10.8 per cent of stories on renewable energy were ­unfavourable.

The ABC has become its own best case for privatizing the ABC. How much could we get? The [...]

OK to kill endangered birds? Yes if you are a windfarm. Greens seem to be fine with that.

It’s one rule for you, and another for their friends. If a coal plant was wiping out thousands of birds and bats you can be sure Greenpeace would be launching a campaign. But when an industrial turbine with blade-tips travelling at 180mph does the killing, who cares?

The law for normals makes it expensive to kill birds and bats:

“Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, BP was fined $100 million for the damage it caused to bird populations in the area, both migratory and resident.  — AlaskaDispatch

“Exxon Mobil has agreed to pay $600,000 in penalties after approximately 85 migratory birds died of exposure to hydrocarbons at some of its natural gas facilities across the Midwest.  — NY Times

And it was going to get expensive for windfarms:

“Nov 22 2013 Duke Energy has agreed to pay a $1 million fine for killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at two Wyoming wind farms. – audublog

That was the first time a windfarm got pinged. And it works out to be about $6000 a bird. Could get expensive, eh?

“The Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that 440,000 birds are killed [...]

Big Oil, Big-Gas lobby against coal. Shell leans on World Bank to nobble the competition

Well, well, well. When Big-Oil fund skeptics, they’re evil polluters. When Big-Oil pay green lobbyists, they’re just being good citizens (see the ads, right?). Naturally Royal Dutch Shell are concerned about the environment, families, rare marsupials and what not. They wouldn’t just be green for the profit would they… oh, wait. Shell is one of the six gas “super majors” and all gas providers profit when coal is unfashionable. In terms of resources, Shell is now more of a gas company than an oil company.

Big-Gas loves wind turbines. Wind farms are fickle and coal power can’t ramp up and down quickly to fill in the gaps, but the more expensive gas can. No wonder Shell are lobbying actively against coal, and for wind.

Thanks in part to Shell’s campaign, the poor family in the Shell Ad are going to have to pay more to stay warm this winter. Meanwhile the marsupials will manage without Shell lobbyists like they have for the last 100 million years, and the environment won’t notice any effect from a carbon tax.

As with all cut-throat business deals, Shell (and others) are doing what they are supposed to do: make money. There is nothing [...]

There goes a massive windfarm – £4bn UK project kaput before it began

More money leaves the room. Last week David Cameron said the UK needed to get rid of all that green crap (or double-speak words to that effect). The message, confounded as it is, may be getting through.

(Reuters) – German utility RWE has scrapped plans to build one of the world’s largest offshore wind parks in Britain, as soaring gas and electricity prices fuel uncertainty over the UK government’s commitment to renewable energy subsidies.

[Bloomberg] RWE’s renewable-energy unit has decided to drop a 4.5 billion-pound ($7.3 billion) offshore wind project in the U.K. because engineering challenges made it too expensive.

RWE says that it’s because of engineering challenges, but we could assume they didn’t suddenly discover how deep the water was this week.

[Bloomberg] “At the current time, it is not viable for RWE to continue” the Atlantic Array farm because of deep waters and adverse seabed conditions, RWE Innogy said in a statement on its website. The 278-turbine project in the Bristol Channel can’t be justified under “current market conditions,” it said.

Engineering challenges can usually be fixed with money. But translate “current market conditions” and we see that it was really a money [...]

Bill McKibben says wind is cheap as coal. Jo Nova says “so who needs a carbon tax then?”

Bill McKibben wants to stop a mine in Australia because it might affect the weather. He says wind power is as affordable as coal.

The Australian, Friday Oct 25:   “… we’ve reached the point where alternatives have become realistic.Wind power is now as affordable as coal-fired power in Australia, not to mention the limitless energy potential of the powerful sun that shines on your continent.”

To which I say, fantastic. If wind power is as cheap as coal, we don’t need a carbon tax, emissions trading schemes, renewable targets, or other subsidies … people will use wind simply because it is cheaper. Alternatively, Bill is talking out of his hat.

Kill the schemes, cut the subsidies. Bring it on. I say!

We can see how many people rely on Windpower in Australia

That’s the yellow part. Coal is the black or brown part.

Source: ESAA

Source: ESAA

All the assertions of “cheap wind power” are only true if we assume our CO2 emissions cause warming, amplified by water vapor and cloud changes, which causes dangerous and expensive outcomes. Furthermore we must assume that it is cheaper to mitigate rather than adapt (which it isn’t), and then assume that taxes, [...]

UK Government hides its own graphic comparing Nuclear to Wind and solar

Is this a 2013 Streisand-Effect finalist?

The UK has decided to build its first new nuclear power plant in 20 years. The UK Department of Energy & Climate Change posted this graphic below in a News Story probably to help justify why it really did make sense to go nuclear rather than renewable. The Renewable Energy Association called it “unhelpful”, and lo, it disappeared from gov.uk.

Credit goes to Emily Gosden’s Tweet, and  Will Heaven‘s Blog. Hat tip to Colin.

 

(Click to enlarge to see the fine print)

The fine print (edited out in the small copy here) says that Hickley Point C “is estimated to be equal to around 7% of UK electricity consumption in 2025 and enough to power nearly 6 million homes.” About onshore wind, the fine print reads: “The footprint will depend on the location and turbine technology deployed. DECC estimates the footprint could be between 160,000 and 490,000 acres“. That’s quite some error margin.

How many National Parks does one nuclear plant save then?

It’s a good representation of just how much of the Earths surface we have to give up if we want to live off renewables at the moment. So who [...]

Let’s copy Germany: 23,000 wind towers make 7% of its electricity to stop 0 degrees of warming

Steve Goreham describes how one of the leading Green economies works: Germany has 23,000 wind turbines, half as many as the United States but packed into one 27th of the area. Average turbines are producing 17% of their stated capacity. All up, they make 7 percent of the nation’s electricity but consume 2 percent of the nation’s energy. Crikey! There would be a PhD thesis in making sense of those numbers, because most of that consumption is in the construction phase and depends on assumptions about how long those towers will work. I’d like to see a lifetime calculation of a Joules in and Joules out. Here’s a part I can’t quite wrap my head around: total renewables share of energy consumption (so that includes oil, gas, coal, wood and the like) apparently rose from 4 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2012. I can see a most unfortunate meeting of two lines on a graph here…

The Big-Green-Government in Germany decreed that everyone had to pay a lot more for the holy electrons from wind and solar (those electrons have good intentions, after all). Thus and verily (and partly thanks to the angel of [...]

India threatens Wind farms with fines. They must accurately predict the wind a day in advance or else!

What the Nanny-State Goddess Giveth…

The intermittent power of wind towers plays havoc with electricity grids. Power black outs in India are so bad, they cut off the supply to 600 million or so people for two days last year. To make the grid more stable, an official somewhere decided it would help to have at least one day’s warning of how much electricity will flow from those towers.  (Why not two days I say?)

“A directive took effect this week ordering wind farms with a capacity of 10 megawatts or more to forecast their generation in 15-minute blocks for the following day. “

To put some perspective on this, here is what 7000 wind turbines across Northern Europe (between the North sea, the Baltic Sea and the Austrian-Swiss border) produced in 2004. You can admire the stable predictable output that comes from averaging so many turbines over such a large area. Right?

Percentage of peak grid power supplied by 7000 wind turbines in Northern Europe in 2004

[...]

The data is in: more Green jobs means less real ones

It’s not rocket science. If energy costs more, that means we have to make do with less of it, or make do with less of something else. Thus if the government forces everyone to pay more for electricity, companies have less spare cash to employ people. Their margins are tighter, they can’t make and sell as many products. So when we are told the clean energy revolution is creating jobs, is it virtually self-evident that’s a mythical fairy claim.

I say “virtually”, because it is theoretical possible it could work, but only if this green power provided some productivity or efficiency gain — that is, if it helped us build more widgets, bake more cakes or warm more toes. In the case of windturbines, the big hope is that they reduce emissions, lower CO2 globally, and in turn stop storms, tornados, floods and what-not and gave us perfect weather again (like the kind we never had).

Might as well bury bottles of money I say. More jobs. Less cost. No infrasound, and no dead bats.

Each green job in Britain costs £100,000 (and 3.7 other jobs):

The Telegraph points out how expensive it is to support a wind-industry job. My plan [...]

Who’s a conspiracy theorist then Paul Syvret?

Paul Syvret  seems to be hoping no one will notice that he doesn’t even try to respond to arguments about wind turbines. His technique to avoid debate is to decree that some other people were wrong once on a different topic. They used a rapid fire technique called a Gish Gallop, so therefore, thusly and henceforth anyone with a rapid fire technique can be dismissed with a handy wave of The Gish. It’s just another label in Syvret’s all-purpose excuse-list for not having a grown up conversation.

Those who have no evidence just make things up and toss insults. Syvret of The Courier Mail defends the wind industry from its critics — not with data about windfarms, but with allegations of imaginary astroturfing and denialism. He uses all his biggest scientific words: it’s “a barrage of BS”, “pseudo-science”, and a crusade run by a rat-bag in an incestuous network. He wants to make sure his readers know the critics are shills and conspiracy nutters because, well…  he says so.

The Australian Environment Foundation is his main target today. What’s it guilty of? Well, it links to unpaid bloggers that Syvret doesn’t like: those ” sites promoting climate-change denial (such as [...]

Imaginary solar panels rort renewables scheme while Alarmists “worry” about coal investors.

The Australian

ALMOST 150 suspected rorts of the Gillard government’s Renewable Energy Target scheme were reported to the regulator last year, with NSW and federal authorities assisting with the execution of two search warrants as a part of the probe.

The Clean Energy Regulator yesterday released its annual report to government on the administration of the RET — a scheme that provides certificates for both large and small-scale renewable energy generation as part of the bipartisan target of ensuring 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewables by 2020.

The regulator’s audit report revealed that during 2012 it received 147 allegations of rorts, the majority of which related to the creation of dodgy certificates for rooftop solar panels.

So far three “monitoring warrants” have been executed by NSW and Australian Federal police. One matter is before the Federal Court as a civil prosecution. One criminal matter was heard last year.

…businessman John Testoni of Sydney Solar Eco Solutions pleading guilty to improperly creating $170,000 in RET certificates for 24 non-existent solar system installations in the Sydney area.

Fake markets just ask to be scammed. Who can forget the Spanish winter of late 2009 when 4,500Mw hours of “solar” [...]

Wind Farms: Turbines break like match-sticks in medium waves, and their capacity is “overestimated”

Not a good news week for wind power.

First windpower probably doesn’t produce as much electricity as people though it could. If the new estimates are right, humanity would need to cover 3 million square kilometers of the Earth to get just 10% of our electricity from wind. (And how many storms will that prevent do you think?) Could the “cure” be worse than the condition?

Second, it appears that wind turbines in the ocean might snap like matchsticks in particular conditions — conditions that are different for each turbine and at the moment, impossible to predict. The authors explain that it doesn’t have to be big waves or big storms — medium sized waves were the worst.

Windpower’s theoretical maximum isn’t what we thought it might have been

When we account for the wind shadows that large installations produce, at best, wind power may only give us 1 Watt per square meter (or 1 MW per square kilometer). According to this team our global energy needs are in the order of 30 terawatts, and one terawatt is one trillion (1012) watts. If that is the case, to to supply 10% of our global energy needs we’d have to cover…  [...]

Two wind-turbines down in a week in the UK — Sabotage or failure?

Two wind towers are down in the last week in the UK 18 miles apart (Devon and Cornwall). It was thought the first tower (a six story £250,000 tower built in 2010) collapsed in the wind:

“The bolts on the base could not withstand the wind and as we are a very windy part of the country they [the energy company] have egg on their face,” she said. “There are concerns about safety.”

But, suspiciously, bolts were missing from the base and the second tower collapsed not far away. Sabotage is suspected. Who knows? The first tower was supposed to last for 25 years, and withstand winds of 116 mph. The night it fell, winds were only about 50mph.

There was fierce local opposition to the wind turbines. People do hate those things. That said, tampering with them would be a criminal act and also, logistically, possibly difficult to manage (according to some commenters on the Tele’s blog, “almost impossible”).  Accusing people of sabotage might be a convenient excuse for a company with “egg on their face”. In other words, we don’t know. Wind towers have fallen over before: There have been some 1500 incidents or accidents in the [...]

Tim Flannery – baseload is just a “coal” industry idea (Yes and darkness is a “renewable” idea, right?)

How is this for a scary thought?

Tim Flannery says renewables will run the economy:

“What we can now see is the emerging inevitability that renewables are going to be running the economy…”

And I say: Prepare for economic armageddon. Picture an Australia where we all have jobs — jobs  digging holes, mucking out the stables, and chopping those last few remaining trees down. We may lead the world installing chinese-made solar panels, but they won’t help us make anything that anyone else wants to buy. Anton gives us some numbers no one seems to have mentioned to Tim. Like, it takes 1,000 new wind towers to kinda equal one coal plant. – Jo

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Guest Post: Anton Lang

Get ready — this is how much the 25 most recent, powerful, high-tech wind plants generate. Not the red line — that’s how much electricity we used. Look at the expanse under the blue line — every bit of that (“bit” being the word) is all thanks to those brand spanking new wind turbines.

Courtesy of the National Electricity Market. (NEM)

The red line at the top shows total electricity demand for NSW, Vic, Qld, SA, and Tasmania [...]

Wind farms — are 96% useless, and cost 150 times more than necessary for what they do

Thanks to Steve Hunter

Victoria’s windfarms have saved virtually no coal from being burnt.

South Australian windfarms have saved 4% of their rated capacity in fossil fuels at a cost of $1,484 per ton.

That’s only $1,474 above the current price of carbon credits per ton in the EU. They are 96% useless, and cost 150 times more than necessary for what they do (except for the times they are more useless and more expensive).

The point of a windfarm is not so much to produce electricity but to reduce greenhouse emissions.

If we built windfarms for the electricity they generate, we’d be better off paying for reliable electrons from cheap brown coal, and using the savings to research a cure for cancer. The point in putting up expensive, infrasonic thumping towers of steel and concrete that kill eagles and explode bat lungs is because it reduces our carbon dioxide emissions, except that it doesn’t really.

Mechanical engineer Hamish Cumming has written a whopper of a report (though I can’t find an online copy of it*). Because Victoria doesn’t have much of a gas powered grid, it can’t take advantage of the odd intermittent peaks of wind power. Like [...]

Renewable energy is a $250 billion dollar industry that makes about 3% of our electricity

In June this year the UNEP report announced that Global Renewable Energy investment reached $257 Billion in  2011. It’s so large it rivals the $302 billion invested in fossil fuel power. But how much electricity do we get for all that money? When the details are pulled from the fog, a quarter of a trillion dollars appears to produce only about 3% of all our global electricity, and even less of our global energy. All that money, so few gigawatts.

The 2012 UNEP report “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment” compares the

“…despite an increasingly tough competitive landscape for manufacturers, total investment in renewable power and fuels last year increased by 17% to a record $257 billion, a six-fold increase on the 2004 figure and 94% higher than the total in 2007, the year before the world financial crisis.”

Renewables growth has slowed somewhat:

“Although last year’s 17% increase was significantly smaller than the 37% growth recorded in 2010, it was achieved at a time of rapidly falling prices for renewable energy equipment and severe pressure on fiscal budgets in the developed world.”

The last couple of quarters have not been good for [...]

A nation still drawing 18,000MW in it’s sleep can’t go solar…

I’m away, so this is a good time for Guest posts. Here Tony explains that we need lots of electricity even while we sleep. I didn’t realize our electricity needs were so high at night. The lowest power use each day is still as much as 60% of the peak. That’s the base load at 3am, and solar panels and wind farms just can’t provide it. We can burn the odd $500 billion building hundreds of solar plants, but even then, we would have to go “medieval” for about 8 hours each night. Candles anyone? — Jo

Guest post by Anton Lang

AUSTRALIAN POWER CONSUMPTION LOAD CURVES

There’s a message in these two diagrams that underlies every decision about national energy.

 

Summer power curve – Time of Day versus power consumption (MW)

 

These two diagrams are the most misunderstood images in the whole debate — the Load Curves for actual power consumption. These two shown here are for the whole of eastern Australia (including Tasmania and South Australia).

The top diagram shows typical consumption for a day in mid summer (Monday 30th January 2012) and the second is for a typical mid winter day (Friday 22nd July [...]

Skeptics are winning: “the carbon market is dead”

The collapse of the Man-Made Myth continues apace. You may not read headlines as such (at least not in major dailies) but all the signs are there.

People who we never would have imagined speaking against the Big Scare Campaign are now doing so. Key glaciers are not melting and corals are happy. Governments won’t tell you it’s over, but they are behaving that way (the Australian one excepted, due to an election fluke that gave the Greens the balance of power). The Catholic Herald headlined it:  Is the ‘anthropogenic global warming’ consensus on the point of collapse? 

Source Barchart.

The last year of carbon trading in EUR's continues to fall. (Click to enlarge).

Mini update: The carbon market is being referred to as “dead”. Johannes Teyssen, chief executive of Germany’s EON, urged policymakers to make fixes. “Let’s talk real: the ETS is bust, it’s dead,” Mr Teyssen said in Brussels this week, adding: “I don’t know a single person in the world that would invest a dime based on ETS signals.” [full story: Financial Times]. Point Carbon analysts have downgraded the forecast price of carbon credits for the second time in two months as the carbon market [...]

Wind-farms: Let’s copy the UK, pay money for nothing, and lots of it.

by Color CS

You know, the one comforting thing about the insanity going on in the UK is that Australia doesn’t seem quite so basket-case, suicidally silly. Actually that’s not really true, both countries are barking mad, but thanks to David Cameron its a little less lonely at the loony farm. Democractic dementia has company.

Exhibit A:

In 2008 Ministers were aiming to generate 20 per cent of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2020. Professor MacKay explained back then, that to reach that, they would have to put wind farms over the entirety of Wales. How did the governing class respond? By 2011, the UK Coalition took that crazy renewable target and doubled it.

Exhibit B:

– Two thirds of Britain’s turbines are fully or partly owned by foreign businesses.

– Total subsidies paid to these non-UK owned farms is £523 million.

– The subsidies paid to local folk are handy for  Dukes and whatnot, and those who have large estates (especially ones they don’t live on) who can pick up the £20,000 a year in subsidies — milked from people who don’t have large estates and are [...]