Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Done like a dinner

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  • Hebe, in reply to Russell Brown,

    we had to let go of solar water heating -- it was just such a big investment

    Ditto, and our little old house's roofline does not align north so it would cost megabucks. My next best option I am now looking at is is a hot-water heat pump: the right one can save 50 per cent of water heating costs, which for this house are 75 per cent of the electricity bill.

    If enough people could do a good-enough (rather than solar perfection) measure like hot water heat pumps, the demand must on the electricity supply must decrease. And $4000 to $6000 -- depending on the whether it is a split cycle or all-in-one unit -- they are much more affordable than solar without the scariness for many people of maintenance.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Richard Aston,

    It could even make sense they helped with capital costs.

    Gee, an enlightened government might even do that.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    that would give us 4000MW. This is around 4 times our current total capacity from all power sources.

    You sure about that? Vector put Auckland’s highest peak load in 2011 at 1722MW.

    ETA: Never mind, I see your mistake was found.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Hebe,

    If enough people could do a good-enough (rather than solar perfection) measure like hot water heat pumps, the demand must on the electricity supply must decrease.

    Some research I saw by colleagues of Bob Lloyd (which I'll try looking up a citation for in the morning...) suggested that hot water heat pumps were in fact a better option for most of the country because they continued to provide electricity savings even in cold weather, whereas solar hot water only works when the sun's out. As overall electricity demand is greater in cold weather (and electricity shortages more likely in winter) using less electricity in winter meant hot water heat pumps would better contribute to reducing carbon emissions than would solar hot water.
    I think the same would be true for photovoltaics as for solar hot water, so from that point of view, you can take comfort in the thought that hot water heat pumps may be closer to perfection than solar anyway.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Environment Commissioner Jan Wright certainly came down on the side of heat pumps. I disagree with her reasoning to some degree. My preference would be solar/PV power for fine days with woodburner for heat on cold days and a hot water heat pump (which if a radiator or underfloor piped system was added could heat the house too). However, many of us are retrofitting, slowly,rather than having 50K or so to double glaze, insulate all over, put in solar and or a HW heat pump, and chuck in a trombe wall so in that sense I think she is right about HW heat pumps being the most affordable option with the best returns overall.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • James Green, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Bob Lloyd is on record pretty regularly suggesting hot water heat pumps are a better bet than solar (eg). This might be the more science-y version, but it isn't opening for me at the moment so I can't check.

    However, for many people, a $700 heat exchanger under their shower would be about as effective as solar hot water.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Hebe - my understanding is that hot water heat pumps are not great for underfloor heating, as they don't get the water hot enough. Or you have to double the amount of piping in the floor.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Super troupers...

    an enlightened government...

    Especially one promising to make the future brighter!

    The trouble with brightness is deeper shadows...
    ...and marked contrast...
    oh,
    penny drops...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Straight arrow...
    Steve Braunias opens Ian Fletcher's diary...
    channelling his inner Haywood, methinks...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green,

    Funny ; all this talk about keeping warm.
    O ye of little faith!
    Meanwhile the bad news keeps rolling in.
    Imminent catastrophe "postponed" !
    Good news for producers of wool garments perhaps; it sure is an ill wind . . .

    http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/more-global-warming-myths-exposed-ng-p-137955

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 776 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Please post climate denialist material somewhere else. It's a waste of everyone's energy (pun regretted).

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Sacha,

    It's not really denialist, and probably worth a read if you've actually got an interest in staying abreast of what's happening in the field. The Economist wrote the article from which the NBR piece is drawn. The scientists whose work is used aren't denialist hacks, either.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Without wishing to rain on the solar panel parade, there are some issues. The biggest is lifetime of the panels, they don't last forever and efficiency starts dropping from day one. Ten years is not an unreasonable effective lifetime for todays technology. Some systems last longer but they cost more to start with. The next problem is effeciencies are always quoted for perfect installation, correct angles etc. Most homes don't fit that criteria. Also worth noting that solar panels dramatically lose efficiency with any shade over any part of the panel, so no trees overhanging your home and no leaf litter etc on the panel (I like trees providing shade for my home :(). As mentioned NZ sucks for government support of solar panels so any info from overseas will assume you get tax breaks and guaranteed buyback rates etc none of which apply for NZ.

    The final killer for me is that the environmental cost of the panels is not great. Production costs are not at all good.

    All of the above problems are solvable with new and better technology. My hope is someone will figure out how to make efficient organic solar cells.

    If been keeping a lazy eye on solar panels because I'd love to have them for the "dream house" after I win lotto, but in the end it looks like a wind turbine (far enough away from the house to not hear the noise) is a better bet than solar at the moment.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    My hope is someone will figure out how to make efficient organic solar cells.

    There's some really interesting stuff happening with using carbon nanotubes for solar cells. Does that start to become "green", or is the production of the nanotubes still dirty? And this is not a facetious question.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    It’s not really denialist, and probably worth a read if you’ve actually got an interest in staying abreast of what’s happening in the field. The Economist wrote the article from which the NBR piece is drawn. The scientists whose work is used aren’t denialist hacks, either.

    That Economist story is interesting and thorough. Nevil Gibson in NBR shouting about climate change "myths" being "exposed" is just noise.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Does that start to become “green”

    I think so. I really do think we aren't far from quite dramatic changes in solar cells. There are a lot of folks working on alternatives, if for no other reason than to avoiud depending on Chinese rare earth mines.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    If been keeping a lazy eye on solar panels because I’d love to have them for the “dream house” after I win lotto, but in the end it looks like a wind turbine (far enough away from the house to not hear the noise) is a better bet than solar at the moment.

    Me too. I periodically check the prices, crunch some numbers on usages, and find again that there are a number of obvious moves that come first. Heat pump, solar water heating. I'd not heard of heat exchangers for water until this thread, that sounds like it's worth looking at. In other words, there's lower hanging fruit in the electricity saving areas before worrying about generation. PV has been steadily becoming more and more viable, particularly since grid connection became possible here, but it's still a lot of cost and hassle. I only mentioned it because the discourse about electricity production here seemed to be ignoring it, and it could very well become a great deal more viable as a massive project at a governmental level than it is with individual fiddlers living out the neoliberal method at glacial pace.

    Also, very interesting to hear that you think we're on the cusp of a tech change in solar panels.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    we’re on the cusp of a tech change in solar panels

    Two things make me hopeful.

    First is the use of organic molecules to make PV cells rather than rare earths. They are some distance from reaching the same efficiencies but they have advantages that might make even a lower efficiency cell valuable.

    Second is all the work around wierd carbon structures, nanotubes, graphene etc. From a non-expert perspective it really seems as though when you change the structure of carbon you can get some really wierd effects - turning those into products is the interesting step - but worth noting they are already trying to use graphene to make TVs at Samsung!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That Economist story is interesting and thorough.

    As the accompanying editorial in the Economist put it, having pointed out the low sensitivity levels of increase is still bad, "If the world has a bit more breathing space to deal with global warming, that will be good. But breathing space helps only if you actually do something with it".

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Mr Brislen writes on data centres being a possible silver lining in Rio Tinto's likely exit from Tiwai.

    Facebook and Apple have just opened giant data centres in Prineville, Oregon (population 9253), a town nobody has ever heard of.

    The reason? It's cold, which helps keep the cost of air conditioning down, it's remote, it has a guaranteed power supply, there's lots of water nearby (good for water cooling which data centres need in a big way) and other data centres are nearby, meaning there's a pool of already trained staff able to work in them.

    Prineville isn't alone - Quincy in Washington state (population 7000) has five such data centres (Microsoft, Yahoo, Intuit, Dell and Sabey Corporation) with another one coming online shortly.

    Maybe Bluff is not too small and isolated to host a cluster after all?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    The Economist wrote the article from which the NBR piece is drawn

    far more appealing than Gibson's foamy headlining, thanks.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    it looks like a wind turbine (far enough away from the house to not hear the noise) is a better bet than solar at the moment.

    No need for any noise. And it’s really not so ugly.

    http://www.leviathanenergyinc.com/wind-tulip.html

    Combined with one of these (from Powerco) with a bit less PV , and you can be selling (net) power instead of buying it.

    http://www.powerco.co.nz/Divisions/BASEPOWER/Photo-Gallery/Whanganui-Trial/

    The way prices are going , why wouldn’t you?

    Don’t hold your breath for prices to fall when Tiwai Point closes.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 776 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Sacha,

    Of course. Always far better to shoot the messanger.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 776 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to BenWilson,

    But why do you need government involvement? It's either a good economic idea or it's not.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 776 posts Report Reply

  • HenryB, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That Economist story is interesting and thorough. Nevil Gibson in NBR shouting about climate change “myths” being “exposed” is just noise.

    Skeptical science has an interesting discussion of the Economist story.

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2008 • 106 posts Report Reply

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