Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Censorship raises its ugly boot on Climate Spectator.

Recently the website Climate Spectator published an article by blogger Carlo Ombello:

http://www.climatespectator.com.au/commentary/italys-solar-lead

At one point in the comments thread, Carlo responds to a previous comment by Peter Lang with the following:

Peter,

Thanks for your comment. I'm afraid thou you are a little short of argument in underestimating the scope for renewables, and even more in not considering time scales. Yes, renewables are not energy dense, but who cares? The solution is dead easy. Use more space. And despite what inattentive people might think, we have plenty of space on Earth.

CSP plants are being built where no man would usually dare go to live, wind farms are poised to grow substantially in deep waters (it's fair to say we have "endless" deep waters to exploit). Marine energy is a whole new chapter still to be exploited.

PV has also a further amazing advantage, that is unmatched scalability and modularity. You can put 1 kW on your roof, or 1GW on an empty or -better- deprived area. Australia is the easiest case, where one continent hosts just few million people. But let's stick to busiest areas, say Italy.

We are building the biggest PV plants in the World right now, a 72MW plant near Venice, an 85MW plant near Rome. Many of these can be built, along with much smaller systems. All of them spread out in otherwise unused spots or rooftops. If we wanted to cover 100% of Italy's annual electricity demand (which topped at 360TWh in 2008) with solar PV, we could do it by covering an area the size of Rome with solar panels. That would be around 300GWp @1200kWh/kWp per year (an average value for Italy's sun radiation) occupying 6,000 km2, or a circle with a radius of 44 km, equivalent to only 2% of Italy's surface! Believe me, we use an awful lot more for our vineyards.

As to renewable's intermittence, we don't live in the Middle Ages anymore, so with some power storage (we have several GWs of pumped hydro in Italy) and smart grid we could even smooth that up nicely, without the need to switch fossil or nuclear plants on and off. Now, I'm not suggesting this is the solution, it's just to show how easily one renewable source alone could fit the bill. And by the way, we have a lot of untapped geothermal power (old estimates are of 5GWs available in Italy, we currently use only 0.8GW, new technologies could easily double such available source of round-the-clock baseload energy).

And while PV, CSP, wind and so on are now quickly developing at a pace only seen before by the computer industry, the nuclear industry is still desperately trying to sell us the dubious, expensive third evolution of a design that's been around for over 50 years without substantial changes. Call this the future! It is the time scales of the nuclear industry, on top of their actual hefty price, which don't add up in a low carbon switch from fossil fuels. By the time several reactors are operational, from the day their location has been agreed, 10 years will pass. In 10 years' time, at the current pace of human progress, I could probably be taking a stroll to the moon and send texts from my PV-powered iPhone.

If nuclear wants to stand a chance in the quickly changing energy industry, it better change pace and focus on Thorium-based plants, or other revolutionary designs now proposed by the likes of TerraPower, which will use nuclear waste instead of enriched uranium. But it always amazes me how little nuclear advocates talk about some revolutionary design, preferring to focus on old cost figures that show how cheap nuclear power is (granted, coming from plants built in the 1960s). Last but not least, nuclear is no solution to energy independence, you just swich from gas and oil to another finite resource in the hands of few countries. Guess what uranium futures would be worth, in an ipothetical nuclear powered society. Uranium used to be 15 $/lb (all nuclear studies rely on this in their financial calcs), but it's now at 45$ and when raw materials were peaking out of speculation 2 years ago, it reached 140$/lb. I'm pretty sure it would skyrocket to 300 and further up, should more and more countries start to battle it out; speculation would only make things worse. Uranium is no new answer. We need to go past it, and for mere industrial time/costs reasons.

Regards

Carlo Ombello


I then responded to Carlo's comment with the following:

Thanks for your comment. I'm afraid thou you are a little short of argument in underestimating the scope for renewables, and even more in not considering time scales. Yes, renewables are not energy dense, but who cares? The solution is dead easy. Use more space.

The issue isn't really space, Carlo. It's the resources which need to be devoted to making your chosen solution work. A lot of materials and capital need to be used to cover even a small area with CSP or photovoltaic.

Are you really spruiking PV here? Most CSP advocates are so in response to the acknowledged inadequecy of PV as a source for grid power.

CSP plants are being built where no man would usually dare go to live, wind farms are poised to grow substantially in deep waters (it's fair to say we have "endless" deep waters to exploit). Marine energy is a whole new chapter still to be exploited.

This is not a positive. It means you have to build expensive transmission to move power from remote regions to population and industrial centres.

As to renewable's intermittence, we don't live in the Middle Ages anymore, so with some power storage (we have several GWs of pumped hydro in Italy) and smart grid we could even smooth that up nicely, without the need to switch fossil or nuclear plants on and off. Now, I'm not suggesting this is the solution, it's just to show how easily one renewable source alone could fit the bill.

The practical considerations of these ideas generally kill them stone dead. Check out some of the debates on BNC regarding these proposals in the case of Australia. Hydro resources are insufficient to provide power during periods when 'renewables' aren't producing. Pumped hydro storage is not the answer.

And while PV, CSP, wind and so on are now quickly developing at a pace only seen before by the computer industry, the nuclear industry is still desperately trying to sell us the dubious, expensive third evolution of a design that's been around for over 50 years without substantial changes. Call this the future! It is the time scales of the nuclear industry, on top of their actual hefty price, which don't add up in a low carbon switch from fossil fuels. By the time several reactors are operational, from the day their location has been agreed, 10 years will pass. In 10 years' time, at the current pace of human progress, I could probably be taking a stroll to the moon and send texts from my PV-powered iPhone.

What absolute nonsense. Moore's Law is a well understood phenomenon derived from the ability to pack more components into a smaller space. There is absolutely no comparable dynamic occuring with the development of 'renewable' power.The actual pace of technological development has been rather slow of late, and there's no good reason to think that's going to change. Such development/deployment as has occured has been entirely fostered by unsustainable subsidies, such as in Germany and Spain. Remove them and solar snake oil salesmen such as yourself would vanish overnight.

Nuclear reactors can be built in four years or less. All it takes is the removal of excess regulatory burden and the elimination of the threat of political interference in the construction process by anti-nuclear ideologues and their followers.

If nuclear wants to stand a chance in the quickly changing energy industry, it better change pace and focus on Thorium-based plants, or other revolutionary designs now proposed by the likes of TerraPower, which will use nuclear waste instead of enriched uranium. But it always amazes me how little nuclear advocates talk about some revolutionary design, preferring to focus on old cost figures that show how cheap nuclear power is (granted, coming from plants built in the 1960s).

You are once again demonstrating your ignorance. Nuclear advocates are generally quite enthusiastic about the great possibilities inherent in further development of the technology, but unlike 'renewables' advocates, we generally avoid framing our case around products which do not yet exist. Given that our product actually works as advertised, we can do this honestly.

Last but not least, nuclear is no solution to energy independence, you just swich from gas and oil to another finite resource in the hands of few countries. Guess what uranium futures would be worth, in an ipothetical nuclear powered society. Uranium used to be 15 $/lb (all nuclear studies rely on this in their financial calcs), but it's now at 45$ and when raw materials were peaking out of speculation 2 years ago, it reached 140$/lb. I'm pretty sure it would skyrocket to 300 and further up, should more and more countries start to battle it out; speculation would only make things worse. Uranium is no new answer. We need to go past it, and for mere industrial time/costs reasons.

Speak for youself. There's no need to worry, though, that uranium is in any kind of short supply, now or in the forseeable future. By the way, the cost of fuel is such a small factor in the overall cost of providing nuclear power that the price of uranium could increase ten times ot more without impacting the economics of nuclear power in any significant way.

Here's my essay on the availability of fission fuel:

http://channellingthestrongforce.blogspot.com/2010/03/is-nuclear-power-sustainable.html

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It seems that my mode of expression was not to the liking of the powers that be on Climate Spectator, as my comment was deleted and replaced with this, from Giles Parkinson:

Craig, i deleted your comments. If you are not going to be polite, don't bother posting,

Well, so be it. I've offered a compromise solution, as outlined in my next comment:


I tell you what, Giles. How about I repost my comment with some slight alterations. Where I said
"What absolute nonsense.", i'll instead say "this turns out not to be the case", where I said
"Remove them and solar snake oil salesmen such as yourself would vanish overnight.", I'll instead say "Without those subsidies, renewables advocates would not find any investors for these projects.", and where I said


"You are once again demonstrating your ignorance.', I'll just say nothing and let the facts speak for themselves.



Is this acceptable?


I haven't recieved a reply to that yet, and don't really expect one, so I'll repost my original comment in revised form and see if it stays there. By the way, Peter Lang is also giving the Climate Spectator editorial crew a grilling over their hopelessly biased and inconsistent editorial policy, sniping at minor infractions by pro-nukes while giving a free ride to the most absurd and disgusting derogatory comments from the anti-nuclear commenter Jess Waynward in the ZCA2020 discussion thread.

Update:

Climate Spectator editor Sophie Vorrath has elected to close the comments thread on the article in question rather than engage with the critics.

Update 2:

Here is the text of Sophie's final message on the now-closed comment thread:

Ok, you've all registered your comment and protests... They're noted for the record. Thanks.

(ps. you're dead right about Jess Waynard, she's out of line. but I'm afraid that our failure to moderate her comments thus far comes down to CS effectively having a staff of two. not bias.)


This is a contestable claim. Waynward was going on for days, and they did nothing. They jumped on John Morgan and myself in pretty short order. The bias is real and as plain as day.

10 comments:

DaveK9999999 said...

You correctly identified the rude bits, and managed to find suitable alternative words. If you had done that in the first place, there wouldn't have been a problem, would there ?

Finrod said...

So what's your point? These idiots deserve rudeness.

Finrod said...

Furthermore, the editors had by that time established a precedent of tolerance for rudeness, as evidenced by the case of Jess Waynward.

ciccio said...

Peter,

You're quite unbelievable. You talk censorshipo, and I now see why they did!


"What absolute nonsense…

…solar snake oil salesmen such as yourself would vanish overnight…

…You are once again demonstrating your ignorance."

You will never make your point this way mate in any forum, virtual or real. The only Strong Force you're channelling is rudeness, driven by fierce hatred for different opinions, and lack of background on the energy business. No wonder you accurately avoid giving any number and keep shouting questionable statements.

Keep going like this and you will alienate the nuclear cause even further. In the meantime, nuclear firm Areva recently aquired CSP firm AUSRA. I guess those betrayors of your cause must be stupid! Check out their own press release:

AREVA says the acquisition launches its new global solar energy business, and it reflects AREVA’s strategic objective to “be the world leader in concentrated solar power (CSP) and will further strengthen and diversify its renewables portfolio.”

Peter, good luck with your nuclear dreams, and get to grips with reality. You won't have to shout just at me, there's thousands of engineers and entrepreneurs out there, doing what you don't believe possible. Your claims won't change the reality we live in.

ciccio said...

By the way,

That's me.

Carlo Ombello

Finrod said...

Hello Carlo. My name is Craig, not Peter. I guess you got a little confused when you read the comments thread to your article on Climate Spectator, and you think I'm Peter Lang. He's one of the others who critisised your article. Checking these little details is good practise.

I see that the Climate Spectator editors have granted you the final say on their comments thread. That doubtless makes your task much easier, not having to worry about responding to any troublesome replies. Your response reminded me of another guy who turned up at BNC a few months ago. He was a true 'renewables' proselyte, and voiced all the usual propaganda. Just like you he first mouthed off a bunch of claims for a prototype technology such as CSP, then when challenged about their veracity never answered a question directly, but morphed the conversation to a different version of solar, such as PV. He'd continually conflate details, present things out of context, change goalposts and generally spout disinformation in favour of renewables.

It has been claimed for years, nay, decades, that the cost of PV panels is about to come way down. They have done nothing of the sort, and are not likely to. This is a stock-standard propaganda claim which the 'renewables' lobby has used for decades. Boast about it after it happens. Likewise, your other comments in your response are eminently contestable.

ciccio said...

Craig... Craig.

I can give you all the figures you want, as I've done so far here and on countless other websites. You can check comments on my blog, on Carbon Commentary, on the Guardian and so on. You will find all the sorts of information that you claim I won't give. Don't confuse your writing style with mine. I tend to write, when I know the figures, otherwise I read and listen further till I know more.

How about you? have you at all checked PV price dynamics, say, in the last five years? and the last 12 months? would you be able to give me a smattering on what's happened around the World? how come the industry is pouring in billions to this technology. And as for CSP, how come the big industry like Areva, Siemens and so on (all familiar names in the nuclear world) is so eagerly into it? I suspect they know better than you and me. Come back when you've got an update on PV costs, you might be surprised.

As to the Spectator, I don't know if comments are closed or open, I found the comment form and used it.

Till the time comes when you can handle numbers and not just insults, I will leave you with a quote that will not make history:

"These idiots deserve rudeness." (Finrod, 11 Aug 2010)

David said...

http://www.solarbuzz.com/Moduleprices.htm Prices are going lower on the solar PV modules, they are now down to the area per watt of a new Nuclear power plant, for just the solar panel without any of the mounting hardware, but of course with much less capacity per day.

So, why are companies building them? Because governments are subsidizing them. Check out the numbers by an accountant on http://nuclearfissionary.com/2010/04/02/comparing-energy-costs-of-nuclear-coal-gas-wind-and-solar/

Even at $10 / watt nuclear beats solar by far and still competes with coal. Solar is by far the most expensive way to produce electricity.

Finrod said...

I can give you all the figures you want, as I've done so far here and on countless other websites. You can check comments on my blog, on Carbon Commentary, on the Guardian and so on. You will find all the sorts of information that you claim I won't give. Don't confuse your writing style with mine. I tend to write, when I know the figures, otherwise I read and listen further till I know more.

I don't recall you coming forward with any figures here, but it sounds like a good habit for you to get into, so go ahead. As far as my writing style goes, perhaps you should check more samples of it before pronouncing judgement.

How about you? have you at all checked PV price dynamics, say, in the last five years? and the last 12 months? would you be able to give me a smattering on what's happened around the World?

I read articles on these matters when they come to my attention. If you have some point to make concerning the recent trends in PV prices, make it.

how come the industry is pouring in billions to this technology. And as for CSP, how come the big industry like Areva, Siemens and so on (all familiar names in the nuclear world) is so eagerly into it? I suspect they know better than you and me.

Well just at aguess, Carlo, I reckon they're highly non-averse to making money by catering to the foolishness of national governments when those governments mandate that certain facilities and panels must be built or purchased/installed. After all, money is money. The market is distorted by subdidies for 'renewables'. That's why the subsidies are there, Carlo... to make it profitable for firms like Areva and Seimens to throw some cash at these things even though they make no engineering or economic sense when looked at as a whole. Those firms only have to look at one aspect of production and installation, they don't have to count on making them profitable over the whole life-cycle. If the subsidies weren't there to do this, activists such as yourself would be screaming for them.

As to the Spectator, I don't know if comments are closed or open, I found the comment form and used it.

I strongly suspect you are being economical with the truth here. The comments thread was closed to everyone else well before your comment appeared.

Till the time comes when you can handle numbers and not just insults, I will leave you with a quote that will not make history:

Bring what you consider to be your best case with numbers appended here, and we'll have a look. And leave the assessment of the historical value of our various comments to future generations.

Phil said...

Findrod, I agree with your perspective and your insights. I'm grateful to you for bringing independent support to the only solution that has a realistic chance of solving the peak oil problem.
While I do think the "edge" in your comments is justifiable and even a reasonable tone for most of the internet, nevertheless I think your (our!) cause would be better served by removing all ad hominem attacks. You've got science on your side. Don't give the opposition any reason to attack your style, instead keep it focused on the science where they are forced to lose.