Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Done like a dinner

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  • Richard Grevers, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Two things make me hopeful.

    And even more at the leading edge, I've read (sorry, can't recall where) of research into panels which don't use "solar" radiation at all but the background EM radiation which is pouring through us every second - they will generate power 24/7.

    Yes, current PV technology is resource-limited due to the materials used. We cannot, on a global basis, meet a majority of electric power needs from PV technology due to the rarity of some rare earth metals (they aren't all rare, BTW).

    As to wind, Off-grid expert Michael Lawley has an interesting figure: Because of "where the wind is and isn't", if you had a 1kW wind turbine on each home in NZ, the total number of big wind farm turbines at prime sites to achieve the same time-averaged power generation is 17 - at about 1/1000th the infrastructure cost. Even where we are (off-grid, 450m above sea level in a relatively high wind zone) it is only windy enough 10-15% of the time. Another factor is maintenance - it is notable that catalogues offering domestic scale wind turbines (e.g. Jaycar) offer a full range of replacement parts. And friends of ours lost two turbines because their (not insubstantial) support masts failed in high wind events.
    VAWT (Vertically Aligned Wind Turbine) technology offers some potential - quieter, fewer moving parts, less control technology, more stackable and above all, more tolerant of high wind speeds. But there is a big gap in the market - nothing available in NZ between little 50W 12V units designed for boats of campervans and the $20,000+ units for larger buildings.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Farmer Green,

    Always far better to shoot the messanger.

    Like most humans, I tend to judge whether something is worth engaging with by how it's presented and by whom. Life's too short to be 'debating' with flat-earthers.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Farmer Green,

    Of course. Always far better to shoot the messanger.

    Or, rather, to ignore partisan hackery that grossly misrepresents the science it's purporting to report.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Smelter consultant Lance Wiggs reckons data centres are not a viable replacement for Tiwai's electricity take.

    So how much does a data center use? Well the new IBM one in Auckland, which cost $80m, has backup generator capacity for “266 homes”. So to absorb Tiwai’s electricity use we’d need we’d need 2,354 of those flash Auckland IBM data centers, at a total cost of $188 billion.

    That’s not going to happen.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Gordon Campbell worries about the impact of the smelter fiasco on those 'mum and dad' investors.

    At his press conference yesterday, even Prime Minister John Key confessed that he didn’t know how the possible closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter might affect the value of the state’s three other energy companies, besides Meridian. If Key doesn’t know, how are Mum and Dads – or institutional investors – supposed to make a rational decision about whether to invest their money?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Sacha,

    I tend to judge whether something is worth engaging with by how it’s presented and by whom

    And you are like most human beings? Hmmm.
    That could be a problem.

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

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Russell Brown,

    that grossly misrepresents the science it’s purporting to report.

    Do you mean the science which says that natural variability is far in excess of any anthropogenic climate signal? That point was made quite clearly.

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

  • David Hood, in reply to Farmer Green,

    natural variability is far in excess of any anthropogenic climate signal? That point was made quite clearly.

    Eh? If you are talking about the Economist article the Herald hackery was based on, you had better go back and reread it. It cited one paper quoting that

    "“the anthropogenic global-warming trends might have been overestimated by a factor of two in the second half of the 20th century.” It is possible, therefore, that both the rise in temperatures in the 1990s and the flattening in the 2000s have been caused in part by natural variability."

    Now, just to make this reading comprehension quite abundantly clear: If the climate is more varied then temperate will not increase as fast as it was in the 1990s, but will increase faster than it was in the 2000s. As it happens no climate science projects model temperatures increasing as fast as in the 1990s so that is a straw man argument. The current projections are below the slope of the 1990s and above the 2000s.

    Now, were you talking about the Economist article, or the less fact based Herald one?

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Richard Grevers,

    But there is a big gap in the market – nothing available in NZ between little 50W 12V units designed for boats of campervans and the $20,000+ units for larger buildings.

    Yeah from my limited reading there does seem to be a gap. Also it seems like wind turbines are all "old tech" - where are the carbon fibre structures that combine the best engineering to cope with high wind events with high efficiency in low wind? It seems like given our research into yacht and sail design shouldn't we also lead the world in wind turbine design?

    And of course you are right having large wind farms is more efficient, the problem is the best places to put wind farms often have social restrictions and suffer from the same losses over the distribution network as the hydro plants. Some perfect mix of distributed and concentrated generation has to be possible.

    Didn't PAS used to have a blogger who was more expert in this stuff ... name something like Davey ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to David Hood,

    That point was made quite clearly.

    Attributed to the IPCC here:

    Press Release

    London: For many decades to come, and probably longer, mankind’s influence on the frequency of extreme weather events will be insignificant.

    According to a preliminary report released by the IPCC, there will be no detectable influence of mankind’s influence on the Earth’s weather systems for at least thirty years, and possibly not until the end of this century.

    The Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation, is in stark contrast to other statements made by the IPCC. It shows that mankind’s influence on the weather is far smaller than natural factors.


    If and when mankind’s influence becomes apparent it may be just as likely to reduce the number of extreme weather events as increase them.

    Surveying the state of scientific knowledge IPCC scientists say they cannot determine if mankind’s influence will result in more, or fewer, extreme weather events over the next thirty years or more.

    The IPCC report says:

    “Projected changes in climate extremes under different emissions scenarios generally do not strongly diverge in the coming two to three decades, but these signals are relatively small compared to natural climate variability over this time frame. Even the sign of projected changes in some climate extremes over this time frame is uncertain”

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

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Clearly hydro generation will be mostly concentrated , but there is no compelling reason why wind generation should not be distributed. Some energy storage would also be better distributed to household level either by advanced batteries or electric vehicles etc. i.e. the smart grid .
    With new house construction, a sum of $50,000 for total energy independence with export of surplus does not seem excessive , provided the gear has a reasonable life and low maintenance.

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

  • HenryB, in reply to Farmer Green,

    Attributed to the IPCC here:

    Press Release

    You mean attributed to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, don't you?

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2008 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    NZAS contributes $525 million to the Southland economy (10.5 per cent of Southland's GDP), 3,200 full time equivalent jobs and $1,600 million in Southland regional sales. Export revenue is around $1 billion each year.

    This doesn't square with what can be found with a small amount of research. The document that quote comes from, I think shows production of 272,000 tonnes in 2009 which at current Al prices of NZD2200 per tonne is a net revenue of NZD609mln. This chart shows that Al production costs are dominated by alumina, power and carbon (for electrodes) all of which are imported, leaving 20% for labour and other costs.

    That implies the smelter spends in labour and local supplier costs around NZD120mln, which is a very long way from 3.5bln. (Given their total labour force of 870 employees and contractors, that equates to a generous 137k per head and is probably inflated by things like equipment purchases and contractors non-labour costs).

    I'm guessing the quoted numbers are using the same theory of Magic Money that applies to anything the government wants to blow our dollars on: rugby stadia and motorways, for instance.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Yeah from my limited reading there does seem to be a gap. Also it seems like wind turbines are all “old tech” – where are the carbon fibre structures that combine the best engineering to cope with high wind events with high efficiency in low wind? It seems like given our research into yacht and sail design shouldn’t we also lead the world in wind turbine design?

    Kinda. NZ has a small domestic turbine industry, and it does alright for itself. The experience gained in putting up a lot of wind farms certainly hasn't gone to waste. But we haven't had anything like the kind of policy support that allowed the Danish to become the world leaders - and the amount of investment they put in to new technology is phenomenal. In the last 15 years wind turbines have become massive, and there's a great amount of engineering and science behind any one structure. China is of course catching up, and the US has a reasonable industry, though they've been buffeted by inconsistent government policy. But Denmark, a small formerly agricultural nation with limited resources (but access to markets) remains a world leader.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Farmer Green,

    Attributed to the IPCC here:

    I wish to point out that you are copying and pasting a press release from the GWPF from 2011 which has little bearing on the current article. The bit you left off copying from the end was the quote from their scientific advisor who has since died of old age.

    Since it is a press release of a report that came out in 2011, we can look back in time and see that the report concluded that it was quite likely “anthropogenic influences” have caused warming of extreme daily minimum and maximum temperatures, and increasing high rainfall events. That things people were doing were causing both increasing warming and increasing instability.

    Attributed to the IPCC is not the same as the IPCC said. As I more or less said last time you were posting things like this, you might want to actually check your sources to not appear, at best, to be credulously passing on misinformation other people need to mop up.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to David Hood,

    The quote from the IPCC is in quotation marks and is taken directly from the IPCC publication listed.

    The IPCC report says:

    “Projected changes in climate extremes under different emissions scenarios generally do not strongly diverge in the coming two to three decades, but these signals are relatively small compared to natural climate variability over this time frame. Even the sign of projected changes in some climate extremes over this time frame is uncertain”

    This to answer your query as to whence came " the science which says that natural variability is far in excess of any anthropogenic climate signal? "

    Perhaps you have an “interpretation”. Perhaps what the IPCC said was not science. Or perhaps they were simply wrong (if that is possible, in your view).

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

  • George Darroch,

    Why are we arguing climate change here?

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to David Hood,

    Now, were you talking about the Economist article, or the less fact based Herald one?

    Let's be fair: NBR, not Herald. And written by an editor fond of recycling ropey talking-points.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to George Darroch,

    Let’s not. We all agree that it happens. The argument seems to be whether we should try to stop it , or simply adapt to it.
    It seems very obvious with the number of new coal-fired generators being built in China that atmospheric CO 2 levels are going steadily upwards , but at a slower rate than emissions from fossil fuel combustion, tempered largely by absorption (perhaps temporary) by the biosphere. Hansen’s recent paper deals with this last development.
    The train is not stopping. What to do?

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

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Imagine New Zealand hosting a global data centre cluster in Dunedin, drawing on our cheap renewable energy, complementary timezone for Europe and the US, and our (unearned) green reputation

    I'm just back from travelling, so excuse the late comment, but has anyone seen a business plan for such a thing that they can point me to?

    As far as I can see energy costs are in the 10-15% range of total data centre costs (http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1442113 http://privatecloudrentals.com/EMSSamples/TrueCost.pdf) *excluding* networking and software. Even with comparable cheap power to the smelter (sources suggest maybe 4c per kWh) our power isn't at a substantial discount to typical US rates. Against that, unless the taxpayer is gifting bandwidth to the datacentre, there's a substantial cost for most applications in sending data to and from a site very remote from all major markets,

    And even if it did work (at a cost of a substantial subsidy, one would expect) then what would it do for NZ? The servers and ancillary equipment would almost all be imported. Staffing (per the report above) isn't a big proportion of datacentre spend, and a lot of those staff are cleaners and gardeners. There's absolutely no reason for any of the added value functions like software development to colocate with the servers (especially if those servers are in Southland).

    We'd be much better off with renewable, reasonably priced electricity for the whole country than any new-tech scheme (has anyone suggested hydrogen electrolysis yet?).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    Before I answer that, and I can, can you confirm that you have actually read the IPCC report and know that you are only quoting a few sentences from the middle of a paragraph? Because, based on your question I suspect you don't know what is in the rest of the paragraph.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Many have observed that NZ has one of the best renewable profiles in the world.
    Our geo-thermal resources are still not fully developed. Our hydro is about where we want it. Wind is struggling with the present technology (high maintenance and failure rate).
    The only questions are over the prices we pay. Reasonable? Not sure about that.

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

  • James Green, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’d not heard of heat exchangers for water until this thread, that sounds like it’s worth looking at.

    When I wrote that post (disclaimer!), I had to look pretty hard to find independent sources (most of which were Canadian). However, as you say, it does seem like low-hanging fruit, and I'm at a bit of a loss as to why there is not more support or discussion of it in New Zealand. Especially as it is quite an easy retrofit in an old house (assuming you have some space under the floorboards). As someone who has spent a bit of time investigating options, the lack of good independent advice is frustrating, and often the people who know the most are the reseller of a specific product, which then means they know only their product, and don't know much about anything else.

    I did, however, eventually discover why infrared imaging is not more used to assess houses, which is something that has bugged me for a long time. You need to do it either about 5am (after all the previous day's solar energy has dissipated), or still at night, but in the middle of winter. And you need to get the inside of your house warmed up as well :S

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Some scientists say the Earth goes round the sun. But look at it. Any fool can see the sun goes around us.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to James Green,

    infrared imaging is not more used to assess houses

    The Christchurch City council did this thermal mapping of the city that enable you to assess roughly how well your property holds the heat. Though it's difficult to tell if it is a cold house or a very well insulated house; still it is a start.

    http://thermals.ccc.govt.nz/framesetup.asp

    I have also found difficulty finding good independent advice. As I am not at all mechanically inclined I am looking for an easy option; battery banks and the like are way too complicated for me.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2898 posts Report Reply

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