Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Not so good news

April 16, 2019

Below is another important post from The Consciousness of Sheep.

It’s important because it explains the differences between the terms electricity generation capacity, electricity generation and capacity factor, all of which need to be understood when reading some of the usual hype about renewables.

Another phrase he uses often in the piece which might cause confusion, is ‘non-renewable renewable energy-harvesting technologies’.

No, he didn’t accidentally type ‘renewable’ twice. ‘Renewable energy-harvesting technologies’ refers to those technologies that are harvesting energy, e.g. energy from the sun (wind turbines and solar panels). As long as the sun keeps shining, that energy will be renewable. Non-renewable doesn’t refer to the energy itself, it refers to the technologies; they are not renewable, because they cannot renew themselves. It might have been clearer to write: technologies which harvest renewable energy but which are not themselves renewable—and add—because they are made, installed and maintained with energy from fossil fuels which is not renewable energy.

It’s not rocket science but I find many people who cannot get their heads around the concept. The denial that we cannot keep this way of life going is just so strong.

 

Not so good news

Renewables will not save us

April 11, 2019

Energy expert Pedro Prieto. Brief and to the point :

A Surfeit of Tims

April 8, 2019

There are three bloggers called ‘Tim’ writing on the energy scene whose blogs I read regularly (and often get confused) —Tim Watkins, Tim Morgan and Tim Garrett.

Tim Watkins is a UK blogger and writes The Consciousness of Sheep. A huge variety of posts come under the headings, Economy, Energy, Environment and Society. He also has a book with the same title as the blog, which condenses writings on all the concepts into one place. The blog actually started as an offshoot from the book. Read his ‘about’ page for a bio. He says his aim is to provide…….”a running commentary on the slow motion train wreck that is Western civilisation in general and its British variant in particular.” If you want to understand Brexit or the ins and outs of fracking, he’s the one. I know I’ll be in for an interesting and informative read when I see his name in my blog feed reader.

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Tim Morgan, also from the UK, writes Surplus Energy Economics with the by-line, How the economy REALLY works. He says: “Although this blog will cover a wide range of topics, my main interest is in a radically new way of thinking about economics. This is explained in my 2013 book Life After Growth.”  I’m currently reading it (for the second time).

The ‘radically new way’ of thinking about economics is to see the economy as basically an energy system and not a monetary one. Everything we do, use, consume and buy is provided by energy, mostly fossil fuel energy (about 80% of the total energy mix). Tim says: “Money is the language used in the discussion of economics, but the real economy is not a monetary system at all. The economy is a function of energy, a term which needs to be defined to include human labour and nutrition as well as external inputs such as oil, natural gas and coal. The sophisticated societies of today are a function of enormous inputs of energy.”

The most important thing to understand is that, “whenever energy is accessed, some energy is consumed in the extraction process and it is surplus energy—that is, the difference between these amounts—that determines economic output.” Hence the blog’s name—surplus energy economics. Anyone familiar with the concept of EROEI—energy returned on energy invested—will see where this is going.

There’s plenty of information on how the financial system works—something that’s always been a mystery to me.

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Tim Garrett is physicist studying atmospheric science. His blog is called Nephologue—Exploring the interplay of thermodynamics, economics, and climate. He also has a home page with links to his papers here. I found lots of interesting information in the links. Tim has discovered a theory that explains and quantifies the relationship between wealth and energy consumption. The Wikipedia page explaining that is here.  I must admit that I’ve ignored the maths (not my thing) and just focused on the descriptions, such as: “Civilization is an open thermodynamic system. It uses external sources of primary energy and raw materials and dissipates waste heat and materials.” There are thus implications for sustainability and climate change. The Wikipedia page is a bit on the technical side for me, so I prefer his writings in the blog and home page.

“Renewables” – reality or illusion?

March 27, 2019

Preamble:
I haven’t posted here for about 6 months, because there are so many good food-growing blogs around and considerably better than this one. However, there are apparently people still reading the older posts and so it seemed silly not to capture that audience to spread more information about the three important concepts that are now the centre of my focus and interest:

  • financial collapse
  • net energy decline
  • climate change

There seems to be a general belief that “renewables will save us”. Not so. Increasing numbers of people ‘get’ that fact and why. But it seems from my reading and speaking to people that there are still those who don’t and are doing nothing to prepare themselves mentally and physically for the coming problems (and those crises already underway).

So I want to move the blog away from food-growing and concentrate on these important concepts. I won’t be doing much writing as there are so many people in Facebook Groups and in blogs that do it better than I. I’ll be linking to and copying what’s already out there.

The first is copied below. It’s from Erik Michaels. It’s an excellent summary of the problems with renewables. It’s long and there are lots of links but well worth the read.

“Renewables” – reality or illusion?

ERIK MICHAELS

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27, 2019

Originally posted in the Methane News Group (a considerable additional amount of information and discussion can only be seen by joining): https://www.facebook.com/groups/methanehydratesnews/

Lately I have fielded some rather interesting perspectives on “solutions” to climate change; not just here but in many other groups as well. I have pointed out that the ideas proposed as solutions are in fact just ideas; most of which require substantial amounts of energy not only to build, transport, erect, maintain, and replace at the end of their service life, but most of which serve no useful purpose to any other life form on this planet but us. Not only are these ideas unsustainable; if they don’t benefit other species, then they are ecologically extinct. Building a sustainable future means that we must incorporate ideas and things that interact with our biosphere in a manner that provides some sort of ecosystem service.

“Renewables” do not fit that description, so they are patently unsustainable.

Ladies and Gentlemen, “optimism must be based in reality. If hope becomes something that you express through illusion, then it isn’t hope; it’s fantasy.” — Chris Hedges

I have spent a great deal of time lately discussing the issue of “renewables” and since this has been so pervasive as of late, I decided to draft a new file specifically for this purpose of outlining the facts.

Before proceeding, please view this short video featuring Chris Hedges: https://vimeo.com/293802639

Recently, I discussed the fact that “renewables” are not a solution, and in fact, are actually making our existing predicaments worse. A considerable number of individuals are questioning these facts using all types of logical fallacies. I understand these questions; as I once thought that “renewable” energy and “green” energy and other ideas would save us as well – as little as 5 years ago. As I joined more climate change groups, I recognized the constantly repeating attack on these devices as non-solutions; so I decided to find out for myself once and for all, precisely whether they would work or not.Before going into further detail, I need to explain that IF these devices had been developed and installed back in the 1970s and 80s, along with serious efforts to quell population growth and tackling other unsustainable practices, they may have been beneficial.

However, the popular conclusion is not simply that they do not work (to serve their original intended purpose); but that they are actually causing more trouble than if they hadn’t been built at all. Many claim that these “solutions” are better than utilizing fossil energy; but this too, is an illusion. Having said that, please note that this article is in NO WAY promoting fossil energy; fossil energy use is every bit as bad, if not worse, than these devices; AND its use created the desire to build these devices in the first place.

Many people are utilizing a false dichotomy to justify continuing to build and use these devices. Using them creates no real desire to learn how to live without externally-produced energy, a loss we ALL face as time moves forward. Once the fossil fuel platform that these devices currently depend on disappears, so will the devices. Some individuals claim that we can continue to extract resources, manufacture, transport, and erect these devices after fossil energy is no longer available. This is true only on a MUCH smaller scale than the energy systems we have today, and only in small localities. On top of that, the systems of the future will continue to degrade over time and eventually, electricity will disappear altogether. Given this imminent fact, it makes little sense to continue building these devices, recognizing the environmental damage they are causing which only promotes the continued use of fossil energy as well.In order to comprehend why these devices are such a delusion, one must understand many different predicaments at once.

First, an understanding of energy and resource decline is critical. Secondly, a thorough understanding of pollution loading is essential, especially of the electronics, rare earths, mining, metals, plastics, and transportation industries. Understanding climate change and how our energy “addiction” has propelled it and continues to fuel it is absolutely necessary. Comprehension of biology along with the ecological and environmental degradation of habitat destruction and fragmentation is also necessary.

New information is constantly being made available as well, highlighting yet more reasons to stop building these devices. They are little more than energy “traps” that chain us to the same paradigm that is already killing life on this planet. The secret to resolving these issues isn’t a “new or different” energy source. It is eliminating the energy addiction altogether.The reason that eliminating energy addiction altogether is the only real strategy towards living a sustainable lifestyle is because of one seriously inconvenient fact: the diminishing returns on increasing complexity along with the fact that continuing to build these devices requires the continuation of mining, energy use, and industrial civilization – the very things killing all life on this planet.

As a system increases its complexity, the returns on that increasing complexity decrease. As we find more new ways to reduce the harm caused by energy use, misuse, and abuse, we continue to increase the complexity of producing said energy. Resistance and friction cause losses in motors, and inefficiency and sheer transmission losses produce yet further losses in all electrical systems. All these losses produce waste heat, no differently than traditional mechanical systems.

There is NO system that can be made 100% efficient, so there will ALWAYS be losses. This waste heat does nothing but add to the existing predicaments we already face; considering that in order to produce the energy to begin with, one must also pollute our atmosphere, water, and soil with toxins and byproducts of the processes themselves. Watch these three videos to understand why building each of these devices is a disaster in and of itself to wildlife around it. Focus on the devastation of the land that each unit sits on, as well as the habitat fragmentation caused by each road:

Here is a handy reference guide about “renewables” with frequently asked questions:

https://deepgreenresistance.org/en/who-we-are/faqs/green-technology-renewable-energy

Here are some links to more information that will help you understand WHY “renewable” energy is NOT a solution to climate change in any way, shape, or form:

http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1002631/the-dark-side-of-chinas-solar-boom-
https://www.wired.co.uk/article/lithium-batteries-environment-impact
https://phys.org/news/2018-05-e-waste-wrong.html
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150402-the-worst-place-on-earth
https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2104162/chinas-ageing-solar-panels-are-going-be-big-environmental-problem
https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/06/solar-panel-waste-environmental-threat-clean-energy/
https://www.city-journal.org/wind-power-is-not-the-answer
https://www.resilience.org/stories/2018-08-01/an-engineer-an-economist-and-an-ecomodernist-walk-into-a-bar-and-order-a-free-lunch/
https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/10/large-scale-wind-power-has-its-down-side/
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aae102
https://phys.org/news/2018-11-farm-predator-effect-ecosystems.html
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/05/how-do-aliens-solve-climate-change/561479/
https://patzek-lifeitself.blogspot.com/2018/10/all-is-well-on-our-planet-earth-isnt-it.html
https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3797-end-the-green-delusions-industrial-scale-renewable-energy-is-fossil-fuel

On a particular thread which featured the story link above, I wrote this detailed observation: “Ecocide is continuing BAU, which is precisely what “renewables” will allow for. They are nothing but a distraction for three reasons:

1. Building “renewables” does nothing to solve the predicament of energy use and energy growth. Replacing one type of energy with another is doing nothing but choosing a slightly less evil bad choice.

2. “Renewable” energy will never be able to replace the concentrated energy available in fossil fuels, and this fact is missed by both the MSM and most people in society. This is a recipe for disaster as the amount of fossil energy available inevitably dwindles and countries begin to fight for survival.

3. “Renewables” can not replace fossil energy in another way besides concentration of energy – each popular device such as solar panels and wind turbines only last around 20 years. This is if they survive that long – many have met an early demise due to extreme weather events. So not only do they represent a never-ending merry-go-round of maintain and replace, rinse and repeat; but due to continued energy growth, more are constantly needed as well. That is precisely what makes them every bit as unsustainable as fossil fuels.

4. Now, for a fourth issue that hasn’t been mentioned in the first three – building “renewables” doesn’t serve any truly needed service. Human beings and all other life forms on this planet don’t actually require external electricity in order to survive. So the ONLY species that benefits from building these devices is us. Sadly, building these devices kills off species through habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation along with pollution loading and other causes.

So in effect, these not only don’t solve the issue they were designed for, they continue the same ecological destruction that we are accomplishing through utilizing fossil energy. As we continue pulling the Jenga blocks out of the tree of life, how long will it be before we unwittingly become functionally extinct through using these to continue BAU? As one can clearly see, if humans want to continue living, they have no choice but to reduce fossil and all other energy use and bring it down to zero very quickly.

Sadly, I have little doubt that this will not be accomplished in any kind of reasonable time frame, IF AT ALL (we are currently going the wrong direction and have been for the last two decades DESPITE these devices having been built and installed), given what has transpired over the previous five decades even though we’ve known about these predicaments since then.” Here are several links to files that contain yet more links to more info:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/erik-michaels/climate-change-and-collapse/10156734475101878/

The looming net energy cliff

December 30, 2017

I’m putting a link here to this guest post from Cassandra’s Legacy blog because the information in it is so important.

If you have a blog, please reblog. I’ve already shared it on Facebook.

Growth

December 27, 2017

Someone on Facebook asked about the implications of the linked article below…..

The end of growth sparks wide discontent

…..”Can you break this article down into a statement that can be understood in laymen’s terms? I read most of it and felt smart even though I’m almost completely lost on its implications ..”

This was my reply (here expanded a bit):

“Growth is a function of energy use. When all you have is the sun’s energy to grow with (via the photosynthesis of green plants), you can only support so many people and produce so many artifacts and much of this will be done with human labour. Fossil fuels made it possible to increase all that by a thousandfold. Now, they’re starting to run out—discovery and production have both peaked. So there will  be a contraction—in the number of people that can be supported and the number of things that can be done and produced. The implications of too many humans to be supported by photosynthetic energy? Wars over declining resources; thousands of deaths; loss of those things that need fossil fuels for their production*; a return to a simpler way of life, eventually with human numbers in balance with their energy supply. It won’t be pretty and we’ll lose a lot of what we now take for granted. And all that while trying to cope with the effects of climate change, which our thoughtless use of fossil fuels has caused.”

*including wind turbines and solar panels—so there goes your hopes that we’ll keep this way of life going on renewables. The only renewable sources of energy for life on earth are green plants.

Could you live off-grid?

June 19, 2017

In a world where the weeks seem to fly by, I’m pretty envious of anyone who can write a weekly blog and always manage to make it interesting and informative. Chris at Fernglade Farm is one of those people. Chris lives in Victoria about 100 km northwest of me and importantly, lives off-grid.

“For about a month either side of the winter solstice, my mind reflects upon the deficiencies of the off grid solar power system here. Don’t get me wrong, I love solar energy as it is a great source of electricity. It just happens to be subject to some deficiencies which generally show up at this time of year.”

Last week’s blog saw Chris adding another five solar panels to his system, making thirty in all. He made some important points about off-grid solar and solar in general.

  • Electricity storage batteries perform better and longer if they don’t go much below 70% charge.
  • If they get too low, they don’t always effectively power the things they’re meant to power (I assume that means not enough oomph).
  • The further you have to run electric cables from solar panels to the house (assuming they’re situated somewhere other than on the roof of the house they’re powering), the thicker/heavier the cable has to be to overcome heat losses.
  • Therefore, filling up the desert (aka Central Australia) with solar panels is going to be a difficult and expensive task, because the power has to be transported long distances to where it’s needed (and the high temperatures usually found in deserts reduce the output of the panels).
  • Location is ultra-important; the panels have to face the sun for optimum performance. That means north in our part of the world.
  • Cloudy winter weather can be a problem…..you need to get enough power to use, plus  enough to keep the batteries optimally charged.
  • Chris aims to use about 7-8 kWh per day, that’s very low compared with about three times that for an average household.

So I considered my own usage. I’m still grid-connected, but would like to get off it. The battery cost is the main problem.

My electricity provider, United Energy, maintains a very useful internet site, called Energy Easy, where I can register and log in to see my power usage—hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Below is a partial screen shot of the page. This sort of information has only become available since the changeover to smart meters.

The dark orange vertical bars above the line show how much power I took from the grid at the particular time. The lighter orange bars underneath the line show the excess power from the solar panels which went back to the grid. The difference between that and what the panels actually produced is what went from the panels straight into the house (that happens preferentially, before any excess is exported to the grid). That’s not shown on the graph. I can get that from the inverter readout and a bit of subtraction.

The line at the top, joining the little circles, is supposed to represent the average daily use for a household in my suburb. I get the actual figures by mousing over the relevant parts on the graph.

So on Monday June 5, I took 2.6 kWh from the grid and sent 2.4 kWh back to the grid (for which the retailer paid me the princely sum of 8 cents per kWh—and from July 1 it’s due to go down to 5 cents!). But the average use for other households was 16.9 kWh.

Working it all out, with my present lifestyle, I might be able to get away with an off-grid system that would need to provide at least 5-7 kWh of power per day and preferably a bit more. That’s a lifestyle with no air-conditioning in summer and no electric heating in winter (I have a wood fire) and no water heating (I have bottled gas). And my panels aren’t optimally placed—I don’t have a north-facing roof section; there are 8 panels facing east and 12 facing west.

So if people think that by going solar they can continue with their present energy-hungry lifestyles, then they may be in for a shock. Either they’ll need more solar panels than will fit on the average optimum-facing roof, a huge battery backup, or a combination of both.

The other important fact about solar systems is that they aren’t sustainable long-term. Solar panels are currently manufactured using the energy from fossil fuels; so are the batteries used to store the excess power. That’s not saying anything about the resources needed either, or whether we’re all going to be running electric cars as well as household appliances. If the batteries are going to be Li-ion type, is there enough lithium in the world to make all the batteries required? Where is it located? Are the countries where it’s located going to be willing to share it, or will they want to keep it for themselves? It has to be mined and processed—again using fossil fuels. To be truly sustainable, an energy source needs to provide enough energy and of a suitable type, to reproduce itself, plus enough additional energy to run the sort of society we want.

Solar energy is only a means of getting away from coal-fired electricity in the short term. It won’t be part of a long-term future. For the same reasons, neither will wind power.

Even in the short-term, assuming you had the money to install a solar-powered off-grid system, could you live off it? Probably yes….but not the way most of us want to live today.

Grounded

March 10, 2017

Interesting post from Ugo Bardi at Cassandra’s Legacy blog. I had no idea how jet engines work, so learned a few things from the video about fuel consumption and the relative costs of flying.

The bottom line is that oil running out will be the end of powered flight. No oil, no fly. Ah, well….it was always for the birds anyway.

 

“Peak Speed” for the World’s Airlines

So, it is true: planes fly slower nowadays! The video, above, shows that plane trips are today more than 10% longer than they were in the 1960s and 1970s for the same distance. Airlines, it seems, attained their “peak speed” during those decades.

Clearly, today airlines have optimized the performance of their planes to minimize costs. But they were surely optimizing their business practices also before the peak and, at that time, the results they obtained must have been different. The change took place when they started using the current oil prices for their models and they found that they had to slow down. You see in the chart below what happened to the oil market after 1970. (Brent oil prices, corrected for inflation, source)

It is remarkable how things change. Do you remember the hype of the 1950s and 1960s? The people who opposed the building of supersonic passenger planes were considered to be against humankind’s manifest destiny. Speed had to increase because it had always been doing so and technology would have provided us with the means to continue moving faster.

 Rising oil prices dealt a death blow to that attitude. The supersonic Concorde was a flying mistake that was built nevertheless (a manifestation of French Grandeur). Fortunately, other weird ideas didn’t make it, such as the sub-orbital plane that should have shot passengers from Paris to New York in less than one hour.

If this story tells us something is that, in the fight between technological progress and oil depletion, oil depletion normally wins. Airlines are especially fuel-hungry and they have no alternatives to liquid fuels. So, despite all the best technologies, the only way for them to cope with higher oil prices was to slow down planes, it was as simple as that.

Even slower planes, though, still need liquid fuels that are manufactured from oil. We may go back to propeller planes for even better efficiency, but the problem remains: no oil, no planes, at least not the kind of planes that allow normal people to fly, something that, nowadays, looks like an obvious feature of our life. But, as I said before, things change!

The implications of collapsing ERoEI

January 26, 2017

Judging by the relatively low level of interest the past few articles published here regarding the collapse of fossil fuel ERoEI (along with PV’s) have attracted, I can only conclude that mos…

Source: The implications of collapsing ERoEI

Reblogged from Damn the Matrix

Forget 1984…. 2020 is the apocalypse year

January 26, 2017

The crescendo of news pointing to 2020 as the date to watch is growing apace…. it won’t be the year collapse happens, because collapse is a process, not an event; but it will definitely…

Source: Forget 1984…. 2020 is the apocalypse year

Reblogged from Damn the Matrix

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Oh, to be a fly on the wall as it unfolds…