The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From The Future

Science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, co-authors of the acclaimed Merchants of Doubt, have joined forces again to produce a striking short fictional work The Collapse Of Western Civilization: A view From The Future. It purports to be an essay written by a Chinese historian three hundred years after the collapse of western civilisation towards the end of the 21st century when untrammelled climate change took its full effect.

The period of the Penumbra (1988-2093) ended in the Great Collapse and Mass Migration (2073-2093). That’s the scope of our Chinese historian’s survey. He (or she)records the dawning scientific realisation of the effects human activities were having on the planetary climate, the setting up of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the first manifestations of the change in the intensification of fires, floods, hurricanes, and heat waves. Thus far he writes of matters familiar to us.

He then moves on to recount the rapidly mounting disasters as the century proceeds. It’s somewhat unnerving to read of what we know as predictions as if they had already become the stuff of history. All the more unsettling because anyone who follows climate science will recognise that the chain of disaster he traces, from failing food crops in intense heat waves to unmanageable sea level rise as the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets begin to disintegrate is entirely possible if greenhouse gases continue to be pumped into the atmosphere by human activity. The resultant human suffering and death the historian records may be more speculative from our end, but his calm account of the human consequences has a dismaying ring of likelihood to it.

The startling aspect of this rapid decline to the historian is that the people caught up in it knew why it was happening but were unable to act upon what they knew. “Knowledge did not translate into power.” In fact, in full contradiction to what was known, a “fossil fuel frenzy” developed just when the urgency of a transition to renewable energy was becoming undeniable. The frenzy was exacerbated by the expansion of shale gas drilling and as gas became cheaper it supplanted nascent renewable energy industries.  Oil from tar sands also became an attractive commercial prospect and developed apace.

There were notable exceptions. China, for instance, took steps to control its population and convert its economy to non-carbon-based energy sources. The West didn’t like population control and didn’t notice that the rapid rise in greenhouse gas emissions in China masked the renewable energy revolution taking place at the same time. China’s emissions fell rapidly by 2050. “Had other nations followed China’s lead, the history recounted here might have been very different,” comments our Chinese historian, perhaps a trifle smugly.

A shadow of ignorance and denial had fallen over people who considered themselves children of the Enlightenment. “It is for this reason that we now know this era as the Period of the Penumbra.”  A second Dark Age, in other words.

How did it happen? Perhaps surprisingly the scientists themselves get some of the blame. They failed to recognise how much was required of them in communicating the broad pattern of climate change. They concentrated on their specialist areas. They were too concerned to demonstrate their disciplinary severity by setting unnecessarily high standards for proof that various phenomena were linked to warmer temperatures. They were culturally naïve in the face of the powerful societal institutions determined to continue to use fossil fuels.

…it was the dominating ideology of market fundamentalism which prevented the West from coming to grips with the threat of climate change…

However it was the dominating ideology of market fundamentalism which prevented the West from coming to grips with the threat of climate change, although the technological knowledge and capability to do so was available to them. Even when some scientists realised that they needed to be more urgent in communicating the full implications of their knowledge to the public they could make no headway against the neoliberal economic theory which prevailed. The ideology suited those who wanted to continue with fossil fuels and who were quite prepared to jettison the science which pronounced the folly of doing so. And so the protagonists of neoliberal economics blocked a managed transition to a low-carbon economy. They were left in the end with only disaster management, and ironically with the centralised government and lack of personal choice which they most dreaded.

Is this, or something like it, really going to be our future? The authors are not being fanciful in the scope and grimness of their future historian’s record and analysis. There is no reason to suppose our civilisation can avoid the massive translocations and severe human suffering that will ensue if greenhouse gas emissions continue on their present trajectory. And there is little enough evidence of a political will to avoid that path and manage a rapid transition to non-carbon energy systems. Indeed denial is still on the rampage in many circles of government and industry. Think of Tony Abbott or Stephen Harper and their cohorts, or of the madness that is abroad in the utterances of some US Republican politicians.

The tepid and ambiguous climate concern which characterises governments such as our own in New Zealand is no more reassuring. Being hell-bent on further fossil fuel discovery and exploitation is hardly compatible with action to rein in climate change. The “fossil fuel frenzy” of the book is in full operation here.

Oreskes and Conway do justice to the full seriousness of climate change. That seems to me prime among the many values of their book. The consequences of unrestrained climate change will surely be shattering. Their sheer magnitude is hard to appreciate and few seem to grasp it. The historian the authors have imagined writes in the unimpassioned and analytical language proper to his profession. We can’t and shouldn’t match him in that regard. The future reality the book portrays is fearful. It must be our spur to insistently demand that our governments throw off the shackles of ideology and take the pragmatic steps which can yet avoid the worst that climate change will bring. For all its dispassion the book is a call to arms.

237 thoughts on “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From The Future”

  1. Today’s problems in the middle east are typical of the future. Drought results in food shortage and higher prices and this leads to civil unrest. It is compounded by an unequal distribution of wealth and privileges but once it gets started you never know where it is going to end. Leaders who are rich and in command suddenly find them selves fighting for their lives.
    Todays problems in Israel are not separated, in that borders are melting away and major regional, religious and national alliances are becoming more important. The current tragic events in Palestine are part of a wider balance of power and the USA is dependant on oil from Muslim countries and the disturbances are testing allegiances. .If they survive this one another will come along.

  2. Humanity is in the position of the frog being slowly boiled alive. We are not so great with dealing with gradual changes. We are programmed by evolution to deal best with immediate threats, like the caveman being attacked by some animal. Those that can see further ahead have to help people understand the consequences and processes of climate change.

  3. Thanks Bryan – you inspired me – and not for the first time! – to nip out and buy it.

    Whereupon I discovered a nice articulation of one of the warnings I’m inclined to make:

    To many survivors—in what might be viewed as a final irony of our story—China’s ability to weather disastrous climate change vindicated the necessity of centralized government, leading to the establishment of the Second People’s Republic of China (SPRC) (also sometimes referred to as Neocommunist China) and inspiring similar structures in other, reformulated nations. By blocking anticipatory action, neoliberals did more than expose the tragic flaws in their own system: they fostered expansion of the forms of governance they most abhorred…

    The ultimate paradox was that neoliberalism, meant to ensure individual freedom above all, led eventually to a situation that necessitated large-scale government intervention.

    I’d only add that neoliberalism was only nominally meant to ensure individual freedom – this was basically an elite ruse designed to get the plebeian turkeys clamouring for Christmas. Neoliberalism is a philosophy of greed, pure and simple – greed for riches, and greed for power. For the 1%. In fact, it’s become evident to all but the most deluded that it’s a form of institutionalized sociopathy…

    1. Agreed, Bill. Here is a recent article by Noam Chomsky that makes that point:

      As we are all surely aware, we now face the most ominous decisions in human history. There are many problems that must be addressed, but two are overwhelming in their significance: environmental destruction and nuclear war. For the first time in history, we face the possibility of destroying the prospects for decent existence — and not in the distant future.

      For this reason alone, it is imperative to sweep away the ideological clouds and face honestly and realistically the question of how policy decisions are made, and what we can do to alter them before it is too late.


  4. Neoliberalism is the same as “market fundamentalism,” which says that totally free markets are the answer to all life’s problems. This is an immensely stupid ideology. Apparently governments should only provide a police force. Apparently governments should not try to regulate the economy or environment, provide services like education, or directly help the poor.

    This is of course a stupid theory proven dramatically wrong by the global financial crash, but appeals to certain groups that stand to gain above others. A few people stand to gain even if the price is the total destruction of the planet.

    Make no mistake they literally don’t care about outcomes or if the planet is destroyed. To them Ideology and process is more important than outcomes. Greed must be the guiding light. They are like demented robots.

      1. AndyS, well the neoliberal creed promotes very “minimal” regulation. I think it’s too minimal to be workable.

        ACT would be a good example or people like Milton Freidman or Ayn Rand. ACT have voted against the vast majority of regulatory bills, at one stage they voted them all down. This is silly behaviour really.

        I’m a pragmatist that looks for a combination of market based and government regulatory solutions. I have no big ideological axe to grind, but when it comes to the environment free enterprise and the free market “self regulation” ideology is clearly insufficient on numerous grounds especially when you look at the appalling historical record.

        I hope this isn’t something else you are in denial about.

        1. I’m a pragmatist that looks for a combination of market based and government regulatory solutions

          …as am I. In fact one of the biggest market failures in NZ is the electricity industry

          Regulation both hinders and enables trade (the latter by keeping people away from litigation)

          Ayn Rand is somewhat different to Milton Friedman. Rand wasn’t an economist ,for a start

          1. AndyS, the electricity market is a nightmare. I sometimes wonder if it should have stayed state owned as in the 1970s. NZ is rather small to try to create a market.

            The current electricity market features large players (pun not intended), difficulties for new entrants into the system, and the spot pricing issue. This is all a reason for strong regulation and this would outweigh any of the difficulties you raise regarding trading in assets.

            Milton Freidman and Ayn Rand both singing from the same song book. Their ideology can be applied to anything, and is quite capable of wrecking everything.

      2. No regulations that apply to them.

        It’s like libuuurty; it’s not a transferable value. The concept only applies to them; it’s outrightly dangerous if granted to their opponents, who are, ipso facto, the enemies of liberty.

        Scratch a ‘libertarian’ and you get an authoritarian.

        1. Ayn Rand was indeed very authoritarian. She liked to rule how her little in group behaved, even down to petty details like their clothing style. They all had to smoke cigarettes. So much for freeeedom.

          However the more extreme forms of libertarianism seem to me more like spoilt child syndrome. Don’t tell me how to behave!

            1. Shh – you’ll upset Perigo! I remember hearing during one of his radio rants years back that population growth was no issue at all – just shove everyone in a massive collection of 4-story buildings that could be fitted into an area no bigger than New South Wales.

            2. Thanks for the article Rob, it was pretty interesting. I have read several of Ayn Rands books, but wasn’t aware of all of this.

              Ayn Rand seems to emphasise the self interest instinct, and wants us to turn off cooperative or egalitarian instincts. She is coming at it as though behaviour is always a choice, but recent science is showing these things are in our genes in one great mixture of different things.

              In any event I feel the libertarian ideology makes it hard to deal with self evident long term threats like climate change. The ideology is fanatical and restrictive.

      1. Yea, roll over the various countries and stats are displayed. Click and a short list of useful Climate Change educational links for that country are displayed. For NZ nothing yet but suggestions can be made on the site! Perhaps get in fast before ‘certain others’ put up a link to an organization we shall shame but not name….. 😉

  5. Orestes and Conway forgot to mention that civilization collapsed a generation ago after Ronald Raygun dismissed Helen Caldicott as a science fiction writer badly rattled by reading On The Beach, and launched his missiles at the Evil Empire.

    1. Mnestheus I read something a couple of years ago somewhere mainstream, might have been Time Magazine. America had relaxed it’s official information legislation a few years ago, and some interesting material had been made public.

      One item showed that in the 1950s America came very close to a pre emptive nuclear strike on Russia. America believed it had supremacy, with hindsight they were actually about even at that stage. Fortunately sanity prevailed and the strike was cancelled, although I can’t recall the specific reason.

  6. Hans Rosling (look him up on you tube) has convincing presentation that shows that the population growth is due to old guys like me living too long. The nations with big families have high mortality rates and few get to maturity.

    1. NZ is breeding at approximately replacement rate. Most OECD countries are breeding at less than replacement rates, so their native populations are in decline

    1. Older people may be living longer, but unless young people breed then the population will be in decline overall.

      This is becoming a particularly big problem in Japan. Some cities don’t even have permanent maternity wards in their hospitals any more. They have to fly in the staff for the big day

    2. How does populations growing equate to people living longer? Aren’t these different things?

      People living longer is a big issue, but people will have to work longer. I don’t see living longer creating significantly more environmental pressures unless we start living forever. However I’m not sure I want to live until I’m 110 doddering around half senile.

  7. The point is that the population growth is not always due to the birth rate but in most countries it is due to people living longer. Its not necessarily poor people breeding like rabbits as many conservatives would like you to believe.

    1. Bob, I never take people seriously when they start scapegoating poor people. Population growth is mainly in countries that have not gone through the demographic transition, like Africa. Blame doesn’t achieve anything only spreading contraception, knowledge and assistance or good economics can help.

  8. Oreskes is saying “absolutely everything that happens in the book is based on scientific projections”, but not all of what happens is based on science. and what happens is quite a stretch. I can’t figure out why they wrote this. It expresses the fears of a number of people I guess.

    Eg: A crucial part of the plot is when civilization realizes that it can’t bear what happens as climate change sets in so it reaches for the quick fix and deploys a geoengineering project.

    Things don’t go well, i.e. the monsoon in India fails, and the project is called off. So far, so good. There is support in the literature for altered rainfall patterns when the planet is cooled by reflecting radiation away rather than by reducing CO2. But there isn’t any support for what happens next:

    Stopping the geoengineering sets off a “fatal chain of events”, which ends Western Civilization.

    Oreskes and Conway believe that stopping a 4 year geoengineering project that had reduced planetary temperature by 0.4 degrees would cause the planetary temperature to rebound up higher than it would have been had there been no geoengineering, i.e.

    “temperature rapidly rebounded, regaining not just the 0.4 degrees C that had been reduced during the project but an additional 0.6 degrees”

    this total of a 1 degree C rise in 18 months is said to have precipitated the Arctic permafrost to go “effectively doubling the total atmospheric carbon load” in ten years, causing planetary temperature to rise 6 more degrees on top of the 5 C it had already risen by then since industrial civilization began, West Antarctic ice collapses, Greenland ice slides into the sea, the Black Death appears, mayhem, torment, etc.

    All this and more is triggered by civilization merely starting and stopping a geoengineering project. Oreskes and Conway couldn’t have found a way to demonize geoengineering more. But they’ve misunderstood the literature.

    The paper the Oreskes and Conway footnote at this point goes to, i.e. Ross and Matthews, Climate Engineering and the risk of rapid climate change, contradicts what Oreskes and Conway say.

    You can’t heat up a planet by starting a program to cool it then halting that program. At least, that’s one of the findings of the Ross and Matthews paper. Their main finding is that if you stop a geoengineering project the rate Earth’s temperature rises is more rapid for a while than it would otherwise have been without your project because the greenhouse gases are still there and have been accumulating while your project was ongoing. They warn that this effect should be realized as a possible problem because ecosystems can only take so much in the way of a fast rate of change, so if a geoengineering project blows up in your face and you have to abort, you’ll have a faster rate of change than what you would have had, which would be a stressor piling on top of the rest of the mayhem civlization is inflicting on all ecosystems.

    But. At all times in all their model runs Ross and Matthews found that the temperature of the planet was cooler after a geoengineering project was started and stopped compared to no geoengineering at all. There’s no rebound like what Oreskes and Conway think the paper says. How are you supposed to make a planet get hotter by reflecting radiation away from it?

    Back to the book. They’re stretching it beyond belief. They got here with a fantasy spike in temperature caused by heating the planet by cooling it, then…

    after the 11 degrees C temperature rise, end of civilization, etc., survivors are now faced with the prospect of a “runaway greenhouse”, whatever that is. I would have thought what they had so far was a bad enough scenario, but no, some unspecified evil was lurking somewhere. It “would have followed” Oreskes and Conway say, they are certain.

    Hansen said in his 2008 Bjerknes lecture a runaway greenhouse would boil the oceans away. Oreskes and Conway call this the “Sagan” effect saying Sagan pointed to Venus. So Oreskes and Conway are talking about boiling oceans. No one has modelled that, including Hansen – he said his model “blew up” before its oceans boiled.

    This isn’t science. I mean I respect Hansen, but on this he’s like Han Solo in the garbage compactor on the Death Star saying “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. I’d pay attention, but thousands might not. Anyway let’s say there’s some “runaway greenhouse” where the oceans don’t boil but the survivors of Western Civilization are doomed, unless….

    Its science fiction. But Oreskes is out there on the book tour circuit, selling this as science.

    “This is a work of fiction, but it has footnotes” is what she said on WBUR On Point recently.

    In the end, Oreskes and Conway use a second geoengineering effort to avert the runaway greenhouse and allow the survivors of Western Civilization’s collapse to start to regroup. What’s weird about this second attempt is they can’t call it by name, and they get very vague. They can’t tell us who released the genetically engineering CO2 eating and sequestering organism, if the research was an international plan or just one rogue scientist. The reason is because they fear geoengineering so much. They didn’t understand what it is so they used it as the bullet in the head that finished Western civilization off, and they don’t understand what it is so they use it as the magic bullet that saves the day in the end, but it is the magic bullet that they dare not speak its name.

  9. If all coal burning stopped tomorrow, the earth’s temperature would begin to rise more steeply than it is doing now : the ‘ global shading’ effect of the sulphur dioxide and particulate pollution from coal burning is partly offsetting the warming effect of the CO2 emissions, and the loss of that would take effect more quickly than a partial reduction in the increase of an already huge warming forcing. So instituting some kind of albedo control at the same time as decarbonising the economy is just common sense. The right way to do it should be researched, and pilot tested, as soon as possible.

    1. This ignores the continuing drive to scrub sulphur from the flue gasses of coal plants because of the small matter of them being significant in ‘deaths brought forward’. UK farmers have been adding sulphur as fertiliser to replace the free stuff that fell from the sky, I learned about this back in the 80’s as an undergrad so it has been well established for some time.
      So the sulphur from coal fired generation is on the way out anyway, and for that we should be thankful.
      It is true that in addition to killing people, the particulates have a minor mitigating role on global warming, but this no reason not to cut coal consumption because as well as the sulphur emissions being cut from coal burning anyway, the coal CO2 emissions will always swamp the particulate mitigation.
      If you think about it, it is just another reason to accelerate cutting coal consumption (and continuing to cut sulphur emissions from what remains) so that the transient blip in temperature resulting from the loss of this ‘mitigation’ is with global temperatures in a tolerable range, not in an intolerable range.

  10. After the 9/11. twin towers attack the USA grounded all planes for three days and their was a spike in the temperature of 1.8C. We already have geoengineering of the temperature and the outcome is not always what we want.

  11. ‘ Between the 1950s and the early 1990s, the level of solar energy reaching the Earth’s surface had dropped: nine percent in Antarctica, 10 percent in areas of the U.S.A., by almost 30 percent in one region of Russia, and by 16 percent in parts of the British Isles. This seemed to be a global phenomenon, so Gerry gave it a suitable name: “global dimming.”‘ ( PBS )
    Of course we have to cut back on coal, but to do so without reducing the current dimming effect would not take the millions of tons of lung busting crap that’s doing the job now. Much smaller amounts of titanium dioxide particles, injected high into the stratosphere, would have a higher albedo than sulphuric acid droplets, and like the volcanic cloud from Pinatubo, would last much longer than the lower level stuff constantly being rained out. Although first world countries have been reducing sulphur content of coal and improving particulate removal from flue gases, China is burning more than half the coal used now, with India trying hard to catch up.
    The Salter/Latham proposal for seeding low level clouds over the ocean could help cool the Arctic Ocean, and reduce the huge albedo effect of lost ice cover. Their proposal is for fleets of robot vessels with Flettner rotors, spraying fine particles of seawater so the salt acts as reflective cloud nuclei. To test the effect you just need the right nozzle.

    1. These are things that may or may not be effective, and it is quite well trodden ground. Well worth continuing to appraise in case in the future we have no choice but to use them because of current inactivity.
      Currently we do have a choice, and while we have that choice we should take it, increase renewable electricity generation and improve the efficiency of energy use. Not very interesting but we know it is effective and affordable. Whats not to like?
      Relying on geo-engineering does nothing for ocean acidification, and introduces the risk of dependency on the geo-engineering.

  12. Banking on renewables involves the certainty of continued dependence on coal and gas. Level, then rising, emissions from Germany’s electricity sector for the last four years –
    So, if climate effects are the criterion, not effective. Nor particularly affordable –
    The fastest and cheapest way to reduce ocean acidification is with iron fertilisation. It’s one of the natural feed backs of an ice age. Drier continents, and large areas exposed by retreating sea levels, led to more dust blowing out over the ocean. The iron in the dust stimulated phytoplankton, which sucked down CO2 levels even further and so added to the cooling from Milankovic cycles and ice albedo. Dust from the Sahara has a similar fertilising effect on the Amazon today, but the Amazon is vulnerable to climate change, and in some models could dry out, burn, and revert to scrub, releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide and soot in the process. Huge areas of the southern ocean, especially, are a marine desert, for lack not of water, as in Australia or the Sahara, but of comparatively tiny quantities of essential trace elements. If we can’t use ju-jitsu tricks like that on the climate, it’s going to flatten us.
    Snowing hard here at the mo. Maybe this AGW is a hoax after all 😉

    1. “Banking on renewables involves the certainty of continued dependence on coal and gas. Level, then rising, emissions from Germany’s electricity sector for the last four years” The German power generation fossil fuel consumption is up because of their early shutdown of nuclear power plants. The German power generation amount of coal burnt in that fossil fuel consumption is up because of their present anxiety to minimise dependency on Russian gas. Fukashima and Putin do not stem from German renewables policy. If the Germans did not have renewables they would be burning even more fossil fuel right now. If they add more renewables they will further displace their fossil fuel consumption.
      Would you prefer the economics of continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels, and scrubbing flue gasses, and pumping something into the upper atmosphere (how much? how long?) and tipping iron into the sea (how much? how long?) and dealing with any ecosystem shocks we throw up as a result.

    2. “Banking on renewables involves the certainty of continued dependence on coal and gas.”… surely dear John, you must be joking! This is a colossal blunder which I shall print and frame. Is there any comprehension whatsoever going on where this phrase came from?

      John, unless we revert from “energy mining” to an “energy harvesting” paradigm for humanity we are officially toast. You just have to choose your time scale or personal bet on when the mined energy resources will run out and/or when the detritus of their use overwhelms the capacity of the ecosphere to cope.

      Luckily a huge number of intelligent people are working at capacity to shift the tide towards a sustainable future. If you don’t like it, remain non-renewable = unsustainable and perish.

          1. There was a full page article in last Saturdays Christchurch Press by Matt Ridley. It explained why wind and solar are so useless and expensive.

            1. It’s only a pity reality refutes him, isn’t it? Remind me again; how did his bank go?

            2. I am merely pointing out that his column appeared in the chch Press. Not everybody who reads the Press knows Matt Ridley or his background.

            3. Perhaps the people who produce the Christchurch Press do not know Matt Ridley or his histrionics on renewables, or for that matter his incompetence in management at the former Northern Rock. Perhaps they just are a small provincial newspaper with limited resources that likes free copy, and does not bother to check if the GWPF specialises in churning out egregious drivel.

            4. Most of Ridleys article was about the stupidity of the Drax biomass conversion. Wind energy got a small mention.

              In the same week, we have heard about a Kent waste for fuel project that is just stockpiling the waste and causing a rat infested health problem. We also heard about the additional taxes to be imposed on diesel cars which are now deemed to be a health hazard, despite being recently touted as a “low carbon” solution to transport.

              All is not well in “sustainable” solutions, with or without the interpretation of provincial ignoramuses like those from Christchurch NZ .

            5. Cool Andy, we send you off to another planet where the suicidal part of humanity lives “unsustainable” lifestyles until they collectively perish in a great final Mad Max war over the dwindling resources and the end of their planetary ecosystem.

              On Earth meanwhile, after the nutters left to meet their fate on the other planet……

            6. Andy,
              I went to a talk yesterday that suggested that 20% of the UK’s generation capacity is going to have to close down. Like it not, the Drax biomass conversion and additional wind generation is going to happen. I think there are question-marks about more coal plant conversion though, the economics don’t make sense to me either.

            7. ‘looser’ rhymes with ‘juicer’. ‘loser’ rhymes with ‘user’. If us spelling Nazis relaxed Heaven knows what would become of this blog..

            8. Ok, how about I dont pontificate to you about spelling and you resist churning out sermons on electricity supply and renewable energy, topics where your competence and understanding are even worse than my spelling. Deal?

          2. Eyeballing your graph, Bill, it looks like lignite is producing the baseload electricity for the period shown, at about 45 down to 35% of consumption, with gas and wind yoyoing around to complement each other. I think the Snowtown website claimed 43% cf, not bad, but that would still imply a bit more than that of gas to balance it. Stats over a longer period would be more convincing. I’ve been trying to follow the situation in SA, since it was Barry Brook’s blog, Brave New Climate, that first put a bee in my bonnet about nuclear power. The state is something of a test case for renewables without hydro, and with heat wave induced summer demand peaks. Texas is similar, with more wind capacity than any other US state, and only about 1% of its power from hydro ( probably less lately, with the drought they’ve had.) I’ve seen figures claiming over 50% cf for the high plains wind belt from there through to North Dakota. That still leaves a big hole for gas to fill, thousands of miles of HVDC lines to get the power to where it’s needed, and as I showed recently, about ten times as much concrete and steel as you’d need for a similar amount of power from a 90% cf reactor, close to town.
            When I was a hang glider pilot. the classic ‘ whuffo? ‘ question was ‘What happens when the wind stops?’ The correct, though rarely given, answer was ‘You plummet like a brick’. The same question to Beaker and co usually elicits something like ‘There’s a whole raft of other options, you halfwit!’, but in fact, since in most places there just isn’t enough hydro, the true answer is, you turn on the gas. Sure, people are beavering away at storage, but it’s still expensive, and it would work much better with a reliable power source like nuclear than an unreliable one like wind, or a reliably absent one like solar.

            1. That’s not a ‘claim’ by the ‘Snowtown website’, now is it? These are the actual regulator stats. Your immovable priors appear to be impacting your reading comprehension.

              For good or ill nuclear will never proceed in Australia, and so your bee in your bonnet is just that. Why you’ve then decided to devote so much time to talking-down renewables is beyond my comprehension, but it appears, sadly, to be common with nuclear proponents.

            2. Actually I looked at their website, so my immovable priors weren’t involved.
              Here’s another nuclear proponent.
              ‘ Renewables like wind and solar and biomass will certainly play roles in a future energy economy, but those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires. While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power’
              From the open letter by Dr James Hansen and other scientists to the environmental organisations opposing nuclear power.

            3. cannot scale up fast enough

              What’s the lead time on building a new nuke, again? Then let’s talk about cost blowouts, investment, who’ll be carrying all the risk…

              I respect Jim Hansen, but his pro-nuke activism is, sadly, as obtuse as everyone else’s. It’s not a bug, it seems, it’s a feature. Here’s a tip: just keep relentlessly talking over people, and ignoring facts on the ground – like Fukushima on the one hand, and statistics like the above on the other – and expect to keep on failing for decades to come.

              In all honesty, the near-total lack of political savvy in the pro-nuke camp worries me, because if there is a decent case for nukes – and, in the age of AGW, we have to acknowledge there may be – truly none of you is apparently capable of making it!

              I see these dumb charts doing the rounds – even via IFLS, who should know better – about how little radiation exposure you actually get living next to a plant, so no problem; but tell that to Fukushima’s 60,000 displaced, or the poor brave bastards that went in to hell to stop it from ejecting a radioactive cloud into Tokyo.

              (And, please, by all means be the first to tell the Japanese they really shouldn’t get worked up about a little radiation!)

              If you, collectively, ever want to get anywhere you have to actually acknowledge that this happened, and that it really, really, sucks. And that in order to be ‘safe’ your technology requires a level of regulatory and administrative perfection not strongly evident in human history.

              And then stop pointlessly bagging the genuinely renewable technologies because you see them as taking the dream away. It’s in everyone’s best interest – even yours – for us to develop the maximum effective renewable capacity possible, but you apparently want to cut it off at the knees so your ungainly pet can have a chance to outrun it!

              Seriously. This is actually good advice.

              And re 43%: do you actually acknowledge that that’s the official figure, not just a ‘claim’ from one company’s – there are many here, including NZ companies – website? A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will do.

              (Christ, Flannery’s Climate Council has been touting it loudly enough…)

            4. ” I think the Snowtown website claimed 43% cf, not bad” Are you incapable of learning?

            5. He that despiseth his neighbor is void of wisdom; But a man of understanding holdeth his peace.

            6. So your excuse for repeating the ‘wind power high capacity factor = good’ clap trap is???
              Holding your peace on that one are you?

        1. And here’s some of the people windbaggers claim to be wishing to protect apparently deluded enough to imagine they can get by without you all!

          Again; go figure.

          Incidentally: ~$8k per turbine per year. Not a bad buffer against the (warming) seasons for a rural landholder. And a nice little boon communities listening to the *cough* ‘skeptics’ just ain’t going to receive.

          (Frankly, some might think that communities who might have been talked out of participating in this ‘everybody wins [except Big Oil]’ opportunity by stridently alarmist naysayers wielding highly dodgy arguments might even have a case in court…)

          1. I am sure subsidies are a “nice little earner” About 400 million pounds a year will be sucked out of the UK economy from the new offshore wind farms in the English Channel.

            I imagine that would pay for quite a bit of research into genuine energy alternatives,

            1. Bong! The ‘subsidies’ are the payments by the utilities for hosting the turbines.

              And if we’re going to talk public dole, let’s consider the FF giants. Seriously, how foolish do you want to look?

              We’ve found the genuine energy alternatives, but a few extremists are standing in our way…

            2. You “found” the genuine energy alternative that requires fossil fuel backup. Congratulations.

              In today’s Telegraph UK, they report that Drax shares have plummeted after news that they are not eligible for government subsidies for using “sustainable” biomass rather than coal.

              This “sustainable” biomass requires thousands of hectares of forest to be chopped down in the USA, converted to pellets and transported by ship to the UK.

              Recent reports show that CO2 emissions will increase overall for this ” sustainable” solution.

              In other “sustainable” news, UNESCO are threatening to remove world heritage site status for the Jurassic Coast should the offshore wind farms go ahead.

            3. If the govt does stop greenwashing ploys like the Drax ‘biofuels’ scam, there may yet be hope! I googled it, and even Greenpeace are putting the boot into it. If they spent more time on stuff like that, and none harrassing zero carbon nuclear power plants and crop scientists, I could almost forgive them.

            4. Andy, the energy revolution is just beginning. Sit back and wait as the world changes slowly from the doomed paradigm of energy mining to energy harvesting.

              Even with a totally blinkered view of reality you, John and even Ridley (during a sane moment) must eventually admit that depending on non-renewable fuels is an unsustainable and doomed concept.

              The switch to sustainable alternatives is a long but necessary process during which we will still depend on traditional generation as backup.

              You may argue about which alternatives we should include in our basket of future energy harvesting technologies. I hold that wind and solar will be indispensable parts of the solution and that putting humanities eggs all into the nuclear fusion basket (whenever…) is rather unwise. Likewise the Thorium enthusiasm is still in the lab-phase with no commercial generating capacity running and a long list of technical corners left to turn… (whenever)….
              And old-style U nuclear technologies are likewise unsustainable due to looming fuel shortages.

              In the meanwhile Solar PV is growing with over 50% p.a., a staggering rate…. and all despite the fact that the FF industry is hanging in the tax payers pockets with by far the largest ever tax subsidies to any energy sector. Sorry but just burn this into the back of your mind: the Fossil Fuel tax subsidies of almost 2 Trilling US$ per year dwarf all other tax payer energy technology investments by a long margin.

            5. Thomas, I would be more than happy to remove “subsidies” from fossil fuels ( which as you know are indirect subsidies in the form of tax breaks that are available to all industry)

              These differ from direct subsidies that come in the form of ROC (UK) and REC(Aus) that mean that, for example, we pay three times the going rate for electricity generated by offshore wind than from gas.

            6. Andy, wrong. Complete bollocks. The subsides for FF are NOT available to general industry (nobody would pay tax anymore…)

              But in actual fact, most energy sources are subsidised, and none more so than fossil fuels. Indeed in straight numerical terms, subsidies for oil, coal and gas far outweigh those for renewables.


              Surely, the “theft” of tax payers funds of the FF industry is nothing else than staggering, considering that FF are both: totally unsustainable because of looming resource constraints AND wrecking the planet.
              Anybody who whinges about government investments into the the development of sustainable – read long term survivable – energy concepts should have their mouth washed with….. 😉

            7. Thomas, there is a big difference between indirect subsidies (aka tax breaks) and direct subsidies.

              In your BBC article, it mentions that electricity and gas have 5% VAT. This is an “indirect subsidy” because the government has chosen to take less money off the public for these commodities.

              Compare this with direct subsidies where the government actively gives suppliers money for providing a product (or not). For example, a wind energy company may receive thousands of pounds or dollars to not produce electricity

  13. ‘Sit back and wait as the world changes slowly from the doomed paradigm of energy mining to energy harvesting.’
    ‘Slowly’ being the operative word here. The shift from sail ( energy harvesting ) to steam ( energy mining ) started about 1870, and in twenty years the majority of cargo worldwide was carried by steamships.
    The reasons were pretty obvious, and apply equally well today – coal is cheaper ( less capital, less labour ) and more convenient to use than wind. If you look on the internet you’ll find a few different schemes for more modern, efficient, sailing ships, using computer controlled parasails or wing foils, but they usually claim to be able to ‘ reduce fuel use by up to twenty percent ‘, and the uptake has been as near zero as makes no difference.
    Renewables-only scenarios like Zero Carbon Australia propose to fill the large gaps in wind and photovoltaic using concentrating solar with storage, biofuels, pumped storage etc, all of which are proving to be much higher hanging fruit. Tom Murphy, a physics professor at San Diego and a renewables proponent, gives an overview of the scale of the storage needed when relying on part-time power sources –
    Ironically, he also details in a later post the unexpected demise, after about a year, of the batteries he was using in his own rooftop solar system.
    The easier parts of the renewables only system are being pushed along, but they will only ever be an adjunct to a largely carbon fueled economy.
    Half a dozen countries have transitioned, in less than twenty years, from having a large part of their electricity supply coming from oil, to nuclear. Some went from coal to nuclear. That transition stalled, but it certainly wasn’t from a shortage of uranium. There’s enough accessible uranium to power the world till the sun burns out, and there’s three times as much thorium. Thorium is not lab scale, it can be, and has been, used in current type reactors on multi- megawatt scales.

    1. John, your opinions are ill informed.
      You spout without any evidence “There’s enough accessible uranium to power the world till the sun burns out,…” however the reality is rather different for anybody with the will to actually look for themselves what the science says:

      Sure, Thorium is available for longer, however, as said before: We are still waiting for the first viable thorium reactor to come online somewhere and produce power reliably. The technology of running nuclear reactors in bath of 500Deg hot molten highly corrosive salt mixed with nuclear fuel and highly radioactive fission products is still not ready for prime time as we speak.
      But, I am just like you hoping indeed that Thorium reactors might make an important contribution to humanities energy requirements in the time to come.
      Meanwhile more and more people also in NZ produce the equivalent of their homes electric power use annually with solar PV on their roofs…..
      I know where I put my money!

      1. Michael Dittmar, the principal author of the study which the article you cite relies on, has made a number of wagers with Brian Wang, who runs the technology blog Next Big Future. These wagers are ongoing, and cover both uranium production and nuclear power generation. Dittmar has won some of them, on power production, aided by the premature closure of 50 Japanese reactors, mostly in good working order, and 10 German ones, which though working well were at severe risk from tsunamis… He lost all the uranium production bets.
        The article includes a link to Japanese research on uranium extraction from seawater. The ocean contains about 4.5 billion tons of uranium: it is replenished continuously from rivers, and is in equilibrium with bottom sediments, so essentially ( gasp! ) renewable!
        Dr David Mackay ( who came up earlier here, as the office he heads took Drax coal power station to court, successfully, over claimed renewable credits for burning trees ) has written in depth on this in his excellent guide, Sustainable Energy ( Without The Hot Air ), or SEWTHA, which runs the numbers on this and most other viable energy sources. Here is the relevant section –
        The whole book is freely available online, and is essential reading for anyone interested in energy.
        By the way, the Shippingport reactor, one of the first to supply civilians with electricity, ran for six years on an experimental loading of thorium and thorium-derived U233, at the end of which, still going strong, it was unloaded and found to have more fissile fuel in it than when it started. Shippingport was a light water reactor, as are most now in use. Lightbridge, an American company, is testing experimental fuel rods in Norway’s Halden reactor and in Russia which could be used, either with or without thorium, in conventional reactors. Among other advantages, they would allow refuelling to be scheduled every two years, instead of the current 18 months, so the capacity factor would go up from current ~ 90% levels.
        Why do people on this blog feel the need to call me ignorant and dumb? ‘Are you certain of your facts?’ shows a bit more class.

  14. Beaker, you’ve already conceded that building 140 plus Gigawatts of wind and solar in Germany has failed to offset the closure of 8 Gigawatts of nuclear, which might have something to do with the ‘c’ word. The further closure of another 12 GW nuclear, within eight years, will not be offset by the wind and solar planned till then either. So purely from an emissions standpoint, the Energiewende has been ineffective ( though if you think chucking trees into a coal furnace is green, much becomes possible.)
    That begs the question of whether building new reactors would be more, or less, effective than building wind turbines. Again, purely from an emissions standpoint, a Gig of nuclear, at ninety cf ( sorry ) replacing coal at 96 grams CO2/MJ, will be more effective than 2 Gig of wind supplementing an equal capa… amount of gas turbines, at 56 gCO2/MJ, even with Bill’s admirable, er, production figures – in fact, more so in his case, since the base load there is lignite. The DECC carbon calculator, which again looks only at emissions, not costs, confirms this-
    Have a play. They say it’s hard to make a man understand something if his job depends on him not understanding it, and I guess that applies in the wind sector as much as the oil industry. Your first reply ever to me went ( I’m paraphrasing here ) ‘ I have to keep it polite at work, but here the gloves are off ‘. I realise you’re fighting a difficult corner, so if personal abuse helps, be my guest.

  15. “Beaker, you’ve already conceded that building 140 plus Gigawatts of wind and solar in Germany has failed to offset the closure of 8 Gigawatts of nuclear…”
    Was the wind and solar built to replace nuclear? No.
    Was the nuclear closed because or the presence of the wind and solar? No.
    These are your silly concoctions.

  16. Bill, if you read my original post, you’ll see that I didn’t take any exception at all to the 43 percent figure, and in fact quoted 50 percent as possible for a thousand mile stretch of the US Midwest. I’ve also seen figures in the high forties for some New Zealand wind farms north of Wellington, which I have every reason to believe. What I queried was whether that was the most effective way to cut emissions. Your production graph, showing base load lignite ( about a kilo of CO2 per kW/h ) holding steady, while natural gas ( around 600 grams per kW/hr ) danced up and down as a mirror image of the 43 percent capacity wind farms, made it pretty plain that a 90 percent capacity base load nuclear plant , replacing coal, would, indeed, be more effective, considering only emissions, than double it’s capacity in wind.
    You can argue costs, delays, political possibility, safety, whatever, but for effectiveness, you cannot. Just to avoid having to go over this one point again, cast your eyes down the table on the right here-
    Carbon Dioxide Intensity of Electricity, in kg of CO2 per kWh. All the countries with a zero on both sides of the decimal point have a substantial share of nuclear, bar two – Norway and Brazil. Note that both get considerably more rain than Australia does, and that Brazil uses a quarter as much power per head. So if you’d care to acknowledge this simple point – nuclear works, BUT ( points A to Z, or however far you care to go) – I promise to leave you alone for a while. Can’t say fairer than that 😉
    By the way, I saw James Hansen when he came to Dunedin, and he struck me as being very far from obtuse. I didn’t bring up the nuclear thing at question time – he was with Jeanette Fitzsimmons, former leader of the Green Party. I’d previously talked about it with her at the anti-lignite camp in Southland a while back; she’s about as obdurate as you are on the subject, but I respect all she’s done, and felt no need to rock the boat at the time.

    1. John, why for cirssake don’t you calculate what the German CO2 intensity of electricity production would have been, had Germany NOT build out wind and solar production!
      Its only when you compare Apples with Apples that you see the fallacy of your ideology.
      Every kWh of electricity produced in Germany with Wind and Solar displaced the equivalent in Coal.

    2. If one were to be looking for evidence of obduracy in these posts I doubt that it would necessarily be me people pointed to, but I’ll leave that to readers to discern.

      And, with regard to Hansen, seriously, is there something about the English phrase “his pro-nuke activism is, sadly, as obtuse as everyone else’s” that’s hand to understand?

      Playing at strategic incomprehension in order to assemble strawmen – ‘I saw James Hansen when he came to Dunedin, and he struck me as being very far from obtuse’ – is a tactic familar to all of us on this blog, but one usually deployed by the other side of the science debate.

      Obtuse. For example, you’re just talking over people again, in the manner, as I said above, of pretty-well the entire school of pro-nuclear-advocacy. Pointing to that chart for your ‘yes but immense efficiency’ arguments is not helpful because that chart is not really making the very comparison you’re claiming it does, is it?

      And you’ve already given us some of the ‘but it’s more complicated than that’ arguments yourself!

      (Seriously, Norway ‘gets considerably more rain’? Why, yes, but how about all its freaking wind turbines, existing and pending, then? And, more generally, how about the fact than nukes peaked out in the 70s, and the wind revolution is still very far from over. Run that out and THEN we can make some valid comparisons!)

      And Fuku-freaking-shima! As I say, just keep on deliberately ignoring this, and the fact that it does, um, rather a lot of harm to your ‘see, nukes are magical’ claims, and expect to lose every argument this century.

      The fact is that, as it stands, the market does not love your pet, and the people certainly don’t.

      Ironically, as I’ve pointed out before, pro-nuke wind-baggers just dig their own technology’s grave when they attempt to fuel the NIMBY masses Quixotic reaction… ‘Blowback’ is the word.

  17. ‘ Every kWh of electricity produced in Germany with Wind and Solar displaced the equivalent in Coal.’
    You mean, ‘ ..failed to displace the equivalent in nuclear, and so was supplemented by increased coal.’

    1. No John, I meant what I said.
      We all realize that you hate humanity to become sustainable. This leaves only one conclusion: you have the wish that we remain on our current path towards oblivion, perhaps with a slither of hope that the nuclear genie will come benevolently out of its bottle to someday save your beacon when the next gen Thorium reactors are coming….

      Have you ever contemplated how long it will take us to build enough complex nuclear power plants to make a dent into the worlds energy requirements…?

      Meanwhile your nemesis, solar PV and wind are expanding exponentially with solar PV rising by some cool 60% year over year….

    2. Just to give your misaligned compass a chance of getting a bearing on the matter John, have a read of this:

      To solve the climate problem, the world must not only reverse the trend of increasing carbon emissions over the next few decades, but bring them down to less than they are now. So can nuclear power do it? Assume a 2% growth in primary energy demand per year over the next 35 years, and that demand will double to some 24,000 Mtoe. Rely on nuclear power to accommodate all the growth, and knock out 4,000 Mtoe-worth of coal, and it will have to produce 16,000 Mtoe of energy per year – a 25-fold increase on its current level.

      Today the world has 440 operational nuclear reactors, so 25 times more means 11,000 reactors. To have these in 35 years means building, on average, about one a day. Or in an exponential growth scenario, the world would need to sustain an annual increase of 8% per year in the number of operational nuclear reactors for 35 years.


      So John, tell me how we will build 1 reactor a day….!

      Now solar PV can be installed by just about any electrician. No wonder it is exploding at the moment everywhere. Even in markets that have zero subsidies such as NZ…..

      John, your nuclear dreams are pipe dreams, if you claim they can solely “SOLVE” our energy crisis. We will need a combination of all available sustainable strategies to make inroads into the problem. There is no one “magic bullet” to our crisis.
      And hate it or not John, renewable energy such as Solar and Wind and others will play a significant part in our energy future. Every country from China to the USA has comprehended this. Perhaps time for you to see the light too….

        1. I think n involved something like enough 2 x 1 metre solar panels to encircle the earth, plus a bit. ( Assuming mid latitude locations, and, of course, storage.)
          China is building about one large coal plant a week; once the current crop start maturing, they should be doing one 1.0 to 1.5 GW reactor a month. They’re triple-manning the construction crews so that should rise in time to a rate similar to their coal buildout ( mind you they were building coal plants about twice that fast five years ago).
          Small modular reactors, made in a factory and shipped to the customer, would be faster – they should have about as much capital input as an airliner, or a small ship. Boeing is cranking up to produce 47 737s a month over the next few years. From 1941 to 1945, the USA made over 2,700 Liberty ships – about one and a half per day. The world gross domestic product now is about 35 times what America’s was in 1945. Granted, an SMR is not equal to the 1,650 MW behemoths being built now, but some of the new designs are extraordinarily compact. It helps if you don’t have to build a containment dome large and strong enough to boil a whole reactor core dry without a leak. ( Just don’t add water.)

          1. I have several wind turbines visible from my office window here in a Scotland, my home this week. These weren’t here when I came up a few months ago.
            Scottish turbines receive over 400 million pounds in subsidies from the English every year. Scotland, a country of over 4 million people, apparently only has 165,000 net tax payers. The latter figure seems rather remarkable and needs checking.
            However, should Scotland vote for independence next month, their cunning plan to live off English subsidies may have problems if the EU rule that disallows cross border subsidies is enforced.

          2. Comparison of historical scale up of nuclear compared to renewables, from Geoff Russell, Aussie mathematician-
            Here’s a study by Schalk Cloete, ‘The optimal share of intermittent renewables’, for north west Europe under various scenarios of carbon pricing, assuming price reductions of 30% for wind and 60% for solar, with or without energy storage, and with or without nuclear and carbon capture.
            I quote –
            ‘The study also looked at the effect of societal resistance to nuclear and CCS. As shown below, the optimal share of wind and solar would increase greatly if no nuclear or CCS was deployed under a scenario with a €100/ton price on CO2. Taking this option will have some severe consequences though. Firstly, the electricity cost would increase by a further 15-35% over the already high cost of such a high CO2 price scenario. More importantly though, CO2 emissions would increase by 100-200% over the scenario where all low-carbon technologies are deployed. This is the scenario that opponents of renewable energy technology-forcing are most concerned about.’

            1. John, if you put your faith into Schalk Cloete, you will need to explain to us a few things:
              1) Why are you, as it seems from your comments, against society working up towards the “optimal share” of wind and solar? It would seem form your rants against the renewable technologies that you are even against achieving these goals!

              2) How do you define Cloete’s “Optimization” target? Cloete uses Hirth’s rather hazy “Welfare-Optimal Deployment” benchmark. Now what “Welfare-Optimal Deployment” means may depend on a number of factors you would have to have some clarity about!
              How is Hirth factoring the “Welfare-Optimal” impacts of climate change one may ask?

            2. The paper is here
              There are some caveats on Hirth’s ‘ optima’. At a 30 percent reduction on current prices, wind should take a twenty percent share of production, but at today’s prices, that would only be two percent. Solar at today’s cost is not viable at all; even with a 60 percent cost reduction, it only gets to supply four percent of the electricity. These results are for Northern Europe, and are greatly affected by intermittency – with more consistent wind, the optimum is much better, partly because it is replacing capital costs, not just fuel. This would explain why wind has proceeded in New Zealand without subsidy, though Aunty Helen Clark’s dictat was a factor. The seasonality of solar is also very detrimental to it; closer to the equator it makes more sense.
              The bottom line though, is not cost but climate. If the Europeans got serious about climate change and raised the carbon price to 40 Euros per tonne or more, the rationale for intermittent renewables would disappear. Backup fossil fuel would make them uneconomic, and low carbon base load – nuclear or carbon capture – would dominate. If nuclear and CCS were banned, carbon prices set at 100 Euro per tonne, and renewables relied upon for most of the power, electricity costs would skyrocket, but more importantly CO2 emissions would go up by 100-200 percent more than if the low carbon base load options were used.
              ( Cloese has a number of posts on CCS. I can see where he’s coming from – with fossil fuel making up almost 90 percent of our primary energy, it would seem logical to adapt it rather than get rid of it altogether, but I think it will be easier to retrofit coal plants to nuclear than to engineer them for carbon sequestration. A Gigawatt dirt burner uses about eight thousand tons of coal a day, which makes over twenty five thousand tons CO2. That has to be compressed to a liquid at 56 atmospheres, and then found a home. As far as I know no plants so far separate the nitrogen out from the oxygen before combustion. A truckload of uranium a year is a far less challenging.)

            3. Nice one John. I think your “solar is not viable today” nonsense will simply implode on the reality of those who have installed solar PV roofs on their homes, even here in NZ where there are NO subsidies at all.

              You easily make a better return for your money by putting $10K of solar on your roof than leaving it in the bank. Ask those people here on the blog who have systems installed. You will be surprised.

              Meanwhile the fossil fuel lobby is running the propaganda mills to attempt to secure their trillion dollar carbon fuel stash will be burned…..

        2. Andy why don’t you read what I write rather than making stuff up!
          We will need a combination of all available sustainable strategies to make inroads into the problem. There is no one “magic bullet” to our crisis.
          This Andy, will include those nuclear plants society might build. However, unless we talk about Thorium, which as we all know is still pretty much in the lab at the moment, nuclear power is a short term stop gap due to looming supply shortages. For perhaps century of energy we will inherit a 20,000 year headache a thousand times over……

          1. I did read what you said and I didn’t make stuff up. No one is suggesting that we use only nuclear power, and no one is suggesting that we use only solar power.

            You can pose the question of how many nuclear plant you need to build, as you did, and you can pose the equally valid question of how many solar panels you would need, to achieve the same goal

            1. The big difference is that a solar roof system can be installed by your local handyman with a modest investment of the house owner. A few million hands can make quick work when faced with a big problem…. A nuclear GW class power plant a day however….

              Andy, the energy future must be based on sustainable solutions. All else is obviously suicidal. So much must be obvious to anybody with the ability of logical thought….

              Energy mining (read depleting a limited supply of stuff in the ground) is evidently not sustainable. Let alone the consequences of messing massively with the carbon cycle.

            2. Yes we can ship in a couple of million people to install solar panels.

              There is also the cost and energy to produce the solar panels ( for example,a lot of coal is used in the manufacturing process) and the ongoing maintenance and cleaning of the solar panels.

              But hey, it says on the tin that it is “Eco” and ” sustainable” , so low information purchasers will believe it.

            3. “Yes we can ship in a couple of million people to install solar panels.

              There is also the cost and energy to produce the solar panels…”

              You don’t need many people to install solar panels. For an average household it’s about a days work for a competent installer and we have plenty in NZ.

              With regard the energy to produce solar panels its a one off input, while the lifespan of the panel is 25 to 50 years or more, by which time the energy gained has paid for itself many times over. In contrast if you are using coal, you are using it every day for 25-50 years, now do the math, which system produces less emissions?

              We have done extensive market surveys up and down and across NZ and can find only enthusiasm for solar panels. Occasionally we come across a person such as yourself whom at first engagement we expect that no matter what we say they will argue for no good reason other than some dubious agenda. But surprisingly even those people, when we sit down and crunch the numbers usually turn around and become enthusiastic. The bottom line is the pay back for solar is X years, whereas how many years does it take before you get your money back from Meridian, Genesis etc? That argument usually sways most normal people.

              You must be horribly dejected that no one is buying into your misleading claims on this forum, either they are reading HT and paying no attention, or they have never heard of HT. Either way it must be soul destroying for you that after all your incessant keyboard tapping efforts no one is paying any attention.

            4. “Yes we can ship in a couple of million people to install solar panels.”…. No Andy, you get a ladder and set to work. Many people are capable to mount some aluminum rails on their roofs and click panels into those just fine.

            5. Thomas, as it happens I met (socially) someone who works for the company who installed the Auckland Museum PV array. I am also in the process of costing our proposed new house build, which we are designing for potential future PV but possibly not just yet.
              Our local supplier seems to think the economics are marginal (even for one of South Island’s sunniest location)

              I would always choose to get the array professionally installed. I wouldn’t trust myself on several thousand dollars worth of hardware, especially in an area that requires special building standards for wind and snow loading.

            6. Maybe you should talk to another supplier of PV Andy. You will come across people like yourself in all trades, even electricians, who will talk down to PV because of their belief system…..

              Or maybe you should talk to some of the people here who have solar PV on their roofs already and are most happy with it.

              And of cause you should have your system installed by a professional. However, I am sure you could in principle do a reasonable job at it yourself, which is the point I am making. A friend installed his own and had it signed off by the local sparky. No problems.

              Conversely even a 1000 handyman could not build one nuclear power plant…. nor would we want them too… 😉

              And to your cost drop hopes… At the moment already PV panel cost are only about 50% of the total professionally installed system cost of a home PV roof system. Further cost reductions of the PV component in this will run into diminishing returns, unless you are talking rather large systems where the PV panel component is more than 50% of the system cost. This means that there is not a huge incentive any more to wait much longer before installing a PV system if you are keen.

            7. Do you think that my plumbing and heating supplier is talking down PV because of a “belief system”?
              I thought most of these guys based decisions on cost, primarily. as do I

              I would buy PV tomorrow if I was convinced it would pay back in a short time frame and wouldn’t be overtaken by a much better technology a few years down the track.

            8. andy, the only technology that’s going to better PV is better PV! Google ‘solar panel uptake Australia’ and see just how many people think you and your cronies are talking crap!

              (But, sorry, I forget; since Google takes into account your confirmation bias you’ll probably not get industry reports and actual news stories, you’ll get… Jo Nova!)

              Ordinary people are voting with their feet, pet, and you and your fellow wind-and-sun-baggers are left in the dust, getting ever more foamy about the mouth as you squeal ‘it just isn’t troooooooooooeee!…’

              As someone with an ‘early adopter’ PV instalation on the roof my only regret is that it isn’t bigger and/or utlizing the flashier new panels. (But I probably have the right to expand it on the original terms, I just need to dig out the paperwork!…)

              A low-carbon technology that falls in price by 10% per annum; what’s not to like?

  18. Has anyone else seen this presentation by Jennifer Hynes?

    Some interesting tidbits about frozen methane but also the weakening arctic jetstream having just split in two.

    New Zealand also gets a mention for the recent discovery of a massive hidden network of frozen methane and methane gas, along with dozens of spectacular flares firing up from the seabed.

    Interesting that some still see methane hydrates from the point of view of economic potential, which is perhaps rather like saying that suicide pills have economic potential, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a good idea.

    I’m curious whether NIWA might be more vociferous in alerting to the dangers ahead and to what extent they are tied down as a government department. Jim Salinger has given us the most dour prediction regarding our one way trip to a hothouse earth but he didn’t seem to get much publicity or traction. So the question is could NIWA do more to highlight awareness, or has central government ensured that their wings are clipped to ensure nobody gets overly panicky.

  19. It is widly understood that coal is a dirty fuel and is only cheap if you vent the pollution to the atmosphere untreated. If you try to clean it, it becomes expensive so why bother. Renewable is much cheaper but you need to use the full spectrum of supplies. Hydro and geothermal are good for base load and are available in huge amounts. If we put as much effort into geothermal as we do into drilling for oil it would be available in huge quantities world wide.
    Wind is cheap and although a bit unreliable it keeps costs down.
    The fact that we ahave used fossil fuel for a hudred years does not mean that we alway have to, in fact oil is almost finished as a cheap form of energy. It is still cheaper than Coca Cola but not for much longer.

      1. The meaning of the word reliable depends on what one is relying on. I can find wind quite reliable. Then there is confusion over costs and profits. If wind and solar are reducing coal profits presumably people with investments in coal see this in a relative way as costs rising.

      2. Complete rubbish put abpout by the coal companies. Wind is being installed in vast amounts world wide because it is cheap. Coal is only cheap if they vent their pollution into the atmosphere for free. Where is the cost of the dead and sick miners on your electricity bill?
        Tell me how many miners go into the industry as a lifestyle choice? If we took all the miners and put them on installing and maintaining wind farms they would have a better and longer life and would be happier people.

        1. If I pay three times as much for a product, then it is not cheap. This is the ratio of the cost of offshore wind to gas.

          Wind is being deployed not because it is cheap. It is being deployed because it receives large government subsidies

          When these subsidies stop, many wind energy companies will go out of business.

          1. New Zealand pays ZERO subsides to wind and its installed here because its cheap and profitable WITHOUT any subsidies. In fact, it is so profitable that US pension funds are investing their dosh in it too!
            Then there is China. Installing massive wind quantities. I suppose you think the evil tax man in China is subsidizing that….
            Andy others have pointed out here that you are twit. I think many people will come to the conclusion that this is rather spot on!

            1. Wind is not cheap in NZ
              A Deloitte report showed that in investment in wind energy in NZ was very marginal. If US pension funds are putting money into NZ wind then I am glad I don’t have a US pension fund.

              NZ is not building any more windfarms at the moment. We don’t have any increase in demand for electricity and there are no incentives to build any.

              In Scotland, on the other hand, the country is being blighted with these machines. They receive 400 million pounds a year from England in the form of subsidies. No one has yet to ask who will pay for this if Scotland votes yes for independence next month.

            2. Bollocks Andy. If you want me to even consider that “Deloitte” report, send a link. I learned that fact checking your assertions is a must as so often the reality is rather different to the spin you try to sell here!

              I send you this link:

              Seems that the locals around wind farms enjoy the “wind fall” it brings to them! And that is not even talking about the profitability of the operators.

              I do know though from a discussion with Coal generator engineer at Huntly that a big part in their decision to mothball one of their CO2 slings is that they can simply not compete against the lower cost of production by wind! And that despite the relatively low price of Coal at the moment…..

            3. I’m sure the local farmers enjoy being paid by wind turbine operators to host them on their land. Not so good for the local residents who can’t sleep at night because of the sound issues, but never mind…

              EDIT: Added this from your article ” Opposition to Wellington wind farms from those disturbed by noise has largely died down, with just one of two complaints a month, according to Meridian Energy.

              But some people have simply moved out of the area.”

              The Deloitte report is here:

            4. Gosh andyS, while you were providing your edit you accidentally forgot to include this line –
              “On the other hand, people who had moved to Makara, knowing the turbines were there, actually enjoyed them.”
              Then again, maybe liking wind turbines is just another symptom of wind turbine syndrome… BIRDCHOPPERS!

              On balance, and in the absence of anything but anecdotal asides in a farmers trade paper, it is probably reasonable to assume that people move out of and in to the area much as they did before the wind turbines, with the presence of the wind turbines making no appreciable difference.

            5. Beaker, there was a piece on TV3 a while back where people were interviewed living near the West Wind facility who couldn’t continue living there because of the sound that was preventing sleep

              This clip has unfortunately been taken down, much like the Danish Professor who was fired. His work on infrasound was “inconvenient”

              I have flown over Wellington several times and the eco-prayer-wheels certainly dominate the landscape

              If you like the hills being covered in industrial machinery then these would certainly be appealing.

            6. Thanks for the report link.

              Now this leaves one simple question: Where in the report do you find evidence for your assertion that: “A Deloitte report showed that in investment in wind energy in NZ was very marginal”…..???

              Truth is: New Zealand is not mentioned once in the report!

              However, the report seems to indicate that even in Europe, on which the report seems to center, the IRR is sufficient to make a good business case in well over 85% of the scenarios with only a small percentage of risk (not enough wind). Here in NZ with a wind resource far better than Europe on average, things should great for Wind’s profitability in comparison.

            7. Must be the wrong report, sorry

              I’ll try to find it later

              By the way, I don’t believe NZ has a much better wind resource than “most of Europe”
              I call BS on that claim

            8. Contrary to what andyS believes, I understand that NZ has a superior wind resource than Europe on average, so I call BS on andyS.

            9. Your anecdote about people forced from their homes may have as little basis in reality as your conspiracy story about the silenced Danish acoustics professor.
              That people have been moving into houses around the Wellington windfarms suggests that your opinion (eco prayer wheels, very good, did you do that yourself or is it Dellingpole again) is not shared by people choosing to move to the area.

            10. The corrected link for the Deloitte article on the economics on wind in NZ is

              Note that they are presenting scenarios where an ETS of $25/t will push up the cost of power. Note also that Wind equipment gets accelerated depreciation in NZ

              The link to the TV3 piece on Makara (West Wind) residents and their noise issues is here ..

            11. “a piece on TV3 a while back”

              That was a long while back Andy – and it coincided with the consent hearings for Mill Creek wind farm and the attempts to drum up opposition based on fears of health effects.

              I’ve stayed in the Makara Valley with a good nor-wester blowing. I experienced no sleep disturbance other than setting my alarm for 2am to go out and witness the horror.

            12. “That was a while ago”
              Yes it was, and presumably those that had problems with sleep and noise have moved away or found other arrangements. Of course, people will have different experiences depending on localized conditions. In my house it is impossible to sleep in one room because of the low frequency noise from the neighbors heat pump.

              There are known infrasound problems with wind turbines, as researched by the Danish Prof who was sacked.

              Most decent industries would acknowledge that there are some problems and work with it.

              The wind industry , on the other hand, just shrugs it off and claims that no problem exists at all.

            13. And Andy, what is your point with the Deloitte report? You announced it by saying “wind is not cheap in New Zealand” but the report shows it to be the least cost form of generation apart from geothermal expansion (and the $25/tonne CO2 price makes no difference to that).

              So, not cheap in the sense that you can’t buy it for $9.99 at The Warehouse. But, lower than most other generation options is good enough for me.

            14. Thanks for the reference andyS, it is a little comical to try to refute your claim being called a conspiracy theory with a pdf from
              Their current news page is a hoot, with links to Jo Nova and the Cornwall Alliance. Oh andyS, you are a twit.
              Now, this Professor of yours and their being no longer employed, they could of course take their case to a tribunal, unless of course the whining spread by Bishops Hill has no actual basis in reality.
              It is not unusual for research academics to lose funding and their employment if their research is going nowhere. It is also not unusual in such circumstances for the academics involved to protest that their research program has potential and should continue to be funded.
              The pdf from the NIMBY site you provide does not actually give any evidence of harm from wind turbines, just claims of a conspiracy.
              In trying to refute this is a conspiracy theory, you just present conspiracy theory claptrap.
              I guess you picked this story up from Bishops Hill. While you were there did you update them on the NIWA case? They asked you to, remember.

            15. Dear Mr Beaker,
              Thanks for your usual abusive response to my link.

              Thankfully I am in Aberdeen airport about to leave the formerly attractive country of Scotland which is in the process of being desecrated by your beloved turbines which are being carpeted across the Deeside hills by your parasitic rent seeking wind industry crony capitalists.

              If you have anything positive to say, then feel free to respond in kind. Otherwise, have a nice day Mr Beaker.

            16. I was a long drive through Scotland just last week myself, it was lovely as ever and on the occasions where we did see turbines, there was no devastation of the landscape.
              Perhaps your blindness for actual evidence is matched by psychotic hallucinations of Scotland desecrated by a carpeting of wind turbines.
              So, your conspiracy theory of a Danish Professor being sacked for speaking the truth, any progress on this?
              … BIRDCHOPPERS!

            17. The tax man in China does fund wind, through a feed in tarriff.
              ‘Early on in both the wind and solar sectors, the tariffs paid to generators were determined by auction in designated resource development areas (called concessions). These auctions underwent a number of iterations to get at rates the market will bear before policy support was transitioned to the fixed regional feed-in-tariffs currently in place: 0.51-0.61 yuan / kWh (8.3-10.0 US¢ / kWh) for wind, and 0.90-1.00 yuan / kWh (15-16 US¢ / kWh) for solar. ‘
              Google for the source if you don’t believe me. The government also subsidised wind turbine production with local content, but recently lost a trade rules court case with the US over that.

            18. Do they charge Coal fired power stations extra for the massive health problems their emissions cause???
              Or are they happy to pay a premium for a product that provides non-polluting power?

              I would not call this “Evil Taxman” but a “smart choice” for a pathway towards a better future.

              Do you conduct your life by cost minimization strategies alone may I ask?? Or do you chose your purchases based on other factors such as quality, longevity and health impacts of the products you buy?
              Seriously, this fixation on having to have the cheapest product when it comes to power is ridiculous. Besides the cost of electricity produced by Coal is only cheap if you externalize the cost of pollution and climate change to the balance books of the future generations. And that is precisely what we are doing!

          2. Andy you are a classic denier. We talk about coal and you switch to sea based wind turbines. You are clearly not in New Zealand or you would know that wind is not subsidised.
            A coal plant burns 7000 tons of coal a day and at $50 a ton it works out at 127 million a year for fuel. That is why wind is cheap and no amount of blather is going to change that.
            It is also a dirty polluting fuel and we are better off without it.
            In fact w burn very little of it at all.

            1. Yes Bob, wind is cheap. Actually wind is free. Coal is also free, you just have to get it out of the ground.

              If you read the last page of the Deloitte article I linked to, you will see that geothermal and CCGT gas are more favorable investments in NZ right now, which can change of course. Factors include the future cost of gas, building costs and regulatory and political frameworks.(such as carbon taxes)

              The report mentions the high capital cost of wind energy plant compared with other forms of energy production in NZ.

            2. “Coal is also free, you just have to get it out of the ground.”

              So its NOT cheap. In fact when ALL the costs of extraction are taken into account – it is very expensive.
              Furthermore it is a LIMITED resource, whereas wind driven by the suns energy is LIMITLESS, and because the amount of energy from the sun, being trapped by increasing CO2, is increasing, wind energy is increasing as well.

            3. Andy your assertion that “Coal is also free, you just have to get it out of the ground.” surely is worthy of a nomination for the World Stupidity Awards (if one existed).

            4. Perhaps you would like to explain why

              Does coal have an intrinsic value? Who owns the coal? Does this depend on the mineral rights of the country where the coal is located?

              Apparently some Maori claim that they own the wind in NZ, so presumably wind has an intrinsic value

            5. andy I happen to concur with your contention that wind and coal are “free” – in other words belong to the commons or the sovereign in the commonwealth at least – with the possible notable exception of NZ – eg. Maori land). On that point so is oil and gold “free” and every other resource. What makes wind different from coal, oil, and gas however, is that there are obvious cost for extraction, transportation, and refining etc. and there are also added costs for their use.

  20. I currently conduct my life by carbon minimisation criteria, believe it or not. I gave you the wind subsidy figures because you claimed China didn’t subsidise wind.

  21. Bill -‘A low-carbon technology that falls in price by 10% per annum; what’s not to like?’
    For a start, I’m cooking breakfast before sunup and an evening meal after sundown, so the only load on a PV panel on my roof would be the fridge and the hot water cylinder. For anything else I’d be relying on storage, or the grid continuing to give a worthwhile price for my power exports. Spain is the most notable case of a government reneging on price guarantees that it couldn’t afford.
    South Australia’s power demand goes from about 1.5GW at 15 degrees C to 2.5GW at 35 degrees C, and sunshine hours for Adelaide average 138 in June and 325 in January, so seasonal and diurnal peak demand is roughly synched with solar output. Auckland gets 110 hours in Jun and 228 in Jan, but the demand is reversed – highest around 5 till 8 in the evening in winter, when all the heat pumps are working, and lowest around December/January, when everyone goes on holiday. My end of the country is much colder and the sunshine hours are more skewed, and lower.

    ( South Australia does get an uptick in demand when the temperature drops all the way to 10C. I had a quick trawl to see if Spain’s demand matched solar output, but it looks as though their ‘heating degree days’ and ‘cooling degree days’ are about matched. There’s a Spanish saying : ‘Castille – three months winter and nine months hell’, so I guess it depends where you are.)

    1. “For anything else I’d be relying on storage, or the grid continuing to give a worthwhile price for my power exports.” The Solar PV panel you put on the roof is added to the array of generators already on the grid. Unless you are playing SimCity, you do not have the ability to remove other existing generators from the grid. Those existing generators can cope with your house with no Solar PV going from just the fridge running intermittently, to you going round and turning on every appliance you can find, and then turning them all off again. Given that the grid can cope with this, it is reasonable to assume that it can cope with you adding solar PV. Better yet, no assumptions necessary as lots of grids exist where significant solar pv is present and the only actual problem is the effect on the coal plants bottom line.
      The price you receive for export of surplus power to the grid should reflect the benefits of increasing renewable generation, cutting fossil fuel use and embedding more micro generation at the local distribution grid level.
      If the economics of running a fossil fuel plant don’t add up unless it is emitting too much CO2, that is a market failure. It can and has been addressed on plenty of grids. The current reactionaries in power in Australia appear to have concluded that they prefer the market failure with the attendant profits for some politically powerful bodies. Not a decision to respect or emulate in any way.

      1. Exactly!

        Again, ‘baggerism’ isn’t just a band of nutters fighting ‘the models’ and perpetually taking advantage of the future not having happened yet; baggerism is arguing with facts-on-the-ground. I’ll say it again – ‘immovable priors’.

  22. With renewable energy you have to use the full range of sources available and New Zealand has a huge advantage over Australia. Because we have mountains and plenty of rain so we can use hydro. We also have an abundance of geothermal, the potential for wind is huge on the west coast and we have enough sun to power all our homes. With this energy supply we hardly need oil at all which will be a big advantage shortly as oil is running out and getting expensive, We would then be the lucky country

    1. John, as technology progresses surely the solution is in the improvement of grid integration of solar and wind and NOT in the continuation of reliance on unsustainable energy sources!
      Nobody claims that (a) a sustainable energy future will be easy or (b) provide the same “on tap any amount anytime” service of today’s unsustainable energy paradigms!
      We have the choice of either becoming sustainable in our energy production or perish as a high tech society. Which future would you choose?

            1. No, I’m afraid you’re going to have to spell it out for me…

              Or, failing that, we could just accept that, being the communicative species, we all have a workable, and significantly overlapping, idea of what constitutes ‘sustainable’.

            2. There are many meanings and usages of the word “sustainable”

              For example, a “sustainable business” is one that can stay in business using standard business practices.

              The solar industry in Spain was a good example of an unsustainable business

            3. Ah, but you deployed the word ‘mean’ again, in the context of a new extension word ‘meaning’. You’re going to have to define both now, I’m afraid. Bear in mind that I shall quibble and take issue with any and every definition you attempt.

              Ah, how the perverse beguile the hours with bad faith…

      1. David Mackay arbitrarily defines ‘sustainable’ as being able to be used at the same rate for a thousand years. Since a reliable power supply is considerably easier to implement from nuclear than one cobbled together from variously intermittent sources, expensive storage and interconnection, and rationing, and since various different, adequately researched nuclear technologies should allow ample power for well over a thousand years, I’d pick the former. I actually live like an energy miser myself, but to sort out the climate is going to take a lot of it. Whether a high tech society could survive over two degrees warming is doubtful. It might have to put up with metres of sea level rise. I’ve seen credible proposals for sequestering gigatons of carbon, and for adjusting the planet’s albedo till the ice caps are re-established, but not for taking heat out of the ocean.
        Incidentally, do you believe high electricity prices are necessary to encourage conservation? This is a fairly common theme, but I think it’s fundamentally wrong. Except where hydro is plentiful, and a few places with legacy nuclear, the cheapest power source is generally coal; where that’s the case, it will continue to be used. The huge volumes of lignite being burned for power in Australia and Germany, and the increasing quantities used to dry milk in New Zealand, demonstrate this. Better to ensure power is available, cheap, and clean.

        1. For once John makes a statement that we can agree with:

          “Whether a high tech society could survive over two degrees warming is doubtful.”

          Lets enshrine this one!

          And therefore any activity that hastens the arrival of said 2 Deg of warming, such as the burning of FF would be demonstrably foolish and unsustainable…

          Now the question remains: Shall we sit tight, bet humanities survival on a single technology as we wait for somebody to develop that fantastic Thorium reactor which will run safely and sustainably and is built a rates well exceeding 1GW capacity installed daily (one large reactor a day) for half a century just to replace excising ff energy sources, or, shall we put our eggs into a number of baskets and install the technologies we know of today, Wind, Solar, Geo-Thermal at our best rates possible….?

          So John, what is your beef really with people building out solar and wind capacity in the meantime? Can’t you see that any such capacity built today will make the goal of a CO2 emission poor future easier?

          And if you “ensure” that power is cheap, you surely will prevent society investing in energy efficiency. This is exactly what the Trillions of FF subsidies world wide achieve. An artificial advantage of a doomed technology with the goal to prevent investment into the alternatives we need, including the Nuclear option you fancy most.

          1. Statements you can agree with… How about, a power source that’s on all the time will displace more fossil fuels than one that’s only on some of the time? ( I’m thinking here particularly of Germany and Japan, whose coal consumption has gone up alarmingly since they shut sixty-odd reactors.)
            Here’s one you don’t have to agree with, because it’s true. Rooftop solar has benefited from billions in subsidies in several countries for years, but nowhere has it even approached double figures as a percentage of electricity production. Gas in the UK went from zero to forty percent in ten years. Nuclear in France went from ten to eighty percent in twenty years.
            Yet in Spain and Germany ( and Hawaii ) the complaints are that PV is being introduced too fast. Too fast for the economy, but way too slow for the climate. In Germany, solar has received much larger tariff boosts than wind, though wind makes a lot more power, but most of the solar production was actually from large arrays, not from rooftops. Now that feed-in tariffs for large arrays have been cut, no more are being started. In Spain, the finance minister claimed he had a choice of backdating cuts to guaranteed solar subsidies, bankrupting the power companies who owed billions of Euros for those subsidies, or raising electricity prices by forty percent. The electoral calculation wasn’t too difficult.
            I’d have no problem with subsidies to solar, or any other CO2 free tech, if I thought they’d be effective. Likewise, a carbon tax or elimination of any subsidies to fossil fuels. ( Germany brought in a carbon tax, but then decided it was favouring the nuclear generators, who were then making most of the low carbon power, so they bought in a ‘ fuel tax’ on uranium, as well. That was supposed to fund offshore wind. If they’d directed that the money be spent on new reactors instead, they’d have got four times the emission reductions – twice the capacity factor of OW, and more than twice the life expectancy.)
            You fixate on the means, solar or efficiency or whatever, rather than the end, a liveable climate. Sweden uses twice as much power per head as Spain, but the emissions from doing so are much lower, because they do it with ninety percent hydro and nuclear. France is being pushed to raise its percentage of renewable electricity, even though it’s figures for gCO2/kWh are already among the lowest in Europe.

            1. John, the current nuclear reactor technologies, the only ones available to install at the moment are utterly fraud with issues no country has solved. Mountains of highly dangerous radioactive waste are piling up with no long term strategy implemented anywhere to deal with them. Nuclear technology is very expensive and after Fukushima surely many designs need further investigations about the safety features. And most of all: the current reactor technologies are dependent on a resource (Uranium) which already shows supply constraints.
              You are constantly hyping a technology John that at the moment is not able to provide the transition to a sustainable energy future. And certainly not as the only solution as you seem to constantly suggest.

            2. ‘Mountains of highly dangerous radioactive waste are piling up with no long term strategy implemented anywhere to deal with them’
              France stores the spent fuel which has provided three quarters of the electricity used by fifty million people for thirty years in one building. That doesn’t qualify as a mountain even in Holland.
              ‘…after Fukushima surely many designs need further investigations about the safety features. ‘
              Current designs had already countered the weaknesses shown at Fukushima, and regulatory authorities in Europe, the US, China and Japan have since conducted extensive ‘ stress tests ‘ on all operating reactors.
              ‘..the current reactor technologies are dependent on a resource (Uranium) which already shows supply constraints.’
              Current Uranium prices are about 50 US dollars/lb, which is cheap for something with an energy density thousands of times higher than oil, and a million times higher if used in fast reactors. The ore price could double with little effect on power prices – the major expense is building the reactor, and the largest component of that is the interest cost. In many cases uranium is just a byproduct of copper and gold mining. Thorium, which can be used in some current designs with minor modifications, is over three times more abundant, and is an unwanted byproduct of rare earth mining. There are beaches full of it right down the east coast of India, and in Brazil.

            3. “Gas in the UK went from zero to forty percent in ten years. Nuclear in France went from ten to eighty percent in twenty years.” These percentages do of course ignore you are comparing two different grids over a decade apart. Add to that, no one, not even the French, would recommend building nuclear at this rate again. Well perhaps not no one, perhaps you and North Korea, an axis of fantasy. By the way, I wonder if France had to adapt their distribution grid in response to the Nuclear development, and if this was more significant than that the various Hawaii grids face in response to solar PV?
              Spain cocked up their incentive for solar, other jurisdictions are quite happy with their time limited incentives for solar and the effect they have had. They also massively screwed up their housing market, do you think building houses is bad?
              “Sweden uses twice as much power per head as Spain, but the emissions from doing so are much lower, because they do it with ninety percent hydro and nuclear.” Spain has about 20% generation from nuclear and does not enjoy the same hydro resource of Sweden. I don’t think you have a point but should we run it into the ground with a comparative assessment of population, energy intensive industry and inter-connectors?
              “France is being pushed to raise its percentage of renewable electricity, even though it’s figures for gCO2/kWh are already among the lowest in Europe.” France has loads of inter-connectors that help it balance its nuclear generation, flogging excess at low marginal prices rather than the expensive and slow nuclear load following that does not save on fuel. By adding more renewables (and they seem happy with the wind so far) they import less and export more, reducing their own CO2 emissions and those of their neighbours. What could possibly be your problem with this?

            4. ‘…These percentages do of course ignore you are comparing two different grids over a decade apart.’
              Yes, I didn’t mention that UK electricity production over the nineties only grew a few percent, whereas in France over the two decades from the mid seventies to the mid nineties, electricity output nearly tripled.
              ‘…. no one, not even the French, would recommend building nuclear at this rate again. ‘
              …except maybe if you want to cut emissions by the ninety percent within fifty years needed to have much hope of stabilising the climate.
              ‘The only country that has decarbonized at a fast enough rate to meet climate targets was France during its massive nuclear build-out. It went from zero percent nuclear to 80 percent in 30 years.’
              Here’s a few more people in the ‘axis of fantasy’-
              Hugh Montefiore, formerly a trustee of Friends of the Earth, resigned over FOE’s opposition to nuclear power : ‘ I can see no practical way of meeting the world’s needs without nuclear energy. ‘
              Steven Tindale, formerly executive director of Greenpeace, resigned over GP’s opposition to nuclear power: ‘ …however well we do on energy efficiency, we’ll need a lot more electricity. And it must be low-carbon. As David MacKay’s excellent book Sustainable energy – without the hot air shows, without nuclear the numbers just don’t add up.’
              Dr James Hansen, formerly darling of the eco movement for telling Congress where the climate’s going, and for getting arrested at mountain top removal coal mines :’ Renewables like wind and solar and biomass will certainly play roles in a future energy economy, but those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires. While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power.’
              I don’t know how much connection France had to build when it switched from oil to atoms, but it’s doubling grid investment now to cope with Hollande’s brilliant plan to freeze nuclear capacity at current levels but reduce its contribution to electricity production by a third.

              “En euros constants, cela revient à plus que doubler le rythme d’investissement par rapport aux vingt dernières années”, indique Dominique Maillard, le président du directoire de RTE. Depuis cinq ans, la filiale d’EDF a d’ailleurs déjà forcé l’allure. Mais le nouveau schéma qu’elle soumet aujourd’hui à consultation l’accélérerait encore….
              Les dirigeants de RTE le reconnaissent volontiers: l’évolution de la demande ne nécessite pas en elle-même pareil effort …Au-delà de la modernisation classique des équipements et du renforcement des connexions avec les pays voisins, RTE justifie ses projets par un élément majeur : la transition énergétique. “Elle se traduit par une modification de la géographie des moyens de production d’électricité, explique Dominique Maillard. C’est cela qui tire nos besoins d’investissement.”

            5. Do any of the names you mention suggest that anyone should try to build nuclear as fast as the French did in their big push, I doubt it. Also if they use nuclear as a reason not to build wind power they are crackers. I do not object to building any single low carbon form of power generation because I am not a blinkered nut case. But surely even in your limited outlook you can discern at least some scope for a policy that is neither ‘no nuclear’ or ‘nuclear dominated’. Just because I disagree with your nuclear fantasies or point out that your anti renewables rhetoric lacks substance does not mean that I am an anti nuclear campaigner. Are you able to comprehend that?
              Your link shows that now we have a greater level of scrutiny of large developments (EIA) planning takes longer. EIA was not just introduced on a whim, it was brought in because poor decisions were being made quickly, what you probably like to think of as the good old days.
              We could perhaps agree on some points.
              – No nation is ever likely to repeat the scale of the French nuclear push with the generating technology available.
              – Adding wind turbines and solar cuts CO2 emissions
              Oh and by the way, I let the ‘Drax biofuel scam’ claim go the other day, but since you are being obnoxious, would you care to justify your use of the word scam? (hint, you should probably read up on what has actually happened and what Drax’s commitments are first)

        2. If we assume a wind turbine last 20 years, then a thousand years will require 50 iterations of turbines. If we assume 30,000 turbines, for the UK, which is what the Huhneatic wanted, then that is 1500000 turbine builds in 1000 years. For a three bladed turbine, that is 45 million blades, made from non recyclable composite material, the size of an airplane wing, to be disposed of.
          Assuming, of course, something better doesn’t come along in 1000 years

          This is “sustainable” apparently,

          1. andyS claims to have a degree in mathematics. Is simple arithmetic covered in a math degree from the “prestigious” university he claims to have attended?

            If the above “calculations” are the best of his ability then it is no wonder that his various claims are so very very wrong.

            andyS gets a FAIL in simple arithmetic. Why doesn’t he spend his time on getting up to speed in an area he claims to have studied?

            1. I did the numbers after a rather long day and with jet lag after a 30 hour flight two days ago.
              I also tapped out the numbers on my iPad.

              Which numbers are incorrect Ian?

              I always appreciate your input.

            2. Yes it is not hypothetical but quite solvable. And certainly a small matter entirely when compare to the unsolved problem of nuclear waste…. or the pollution of the environment by coal burning…..

          2. Andy seems to think that composite materials are non-recyclable. He then posts this as a bold assertion without as much as moment of hesitation or fact checking. Typical right wing denier nonsense. Stop listening to your gut Andy, its not making any sense!

            Andy for your information: The recycling of composite materials is a common process and certainly a heck of a lot easier than the recycling of nuclear waste or the “small matter” of storing the same somewhere safely for the next millennia….
            To name a UK Composite recycling company for you:

            1. Typical denier nonsense without a moment of fact checking..

              Other than the article in Danish I just posted.

          3. Oooh, I’m disappointed! Still waiting on the comparable figures – jet-lagged or otherwise – for nukes and coal stations, andy.

            Then you might like to get a bit of a 1000 year resource-cost analysis on, oh, I don’t know, maybe the jets you’ve been winging your way gaily around the globe on? And skyscrapers, bridges, football stadiums – stuff like that?

            Otherwise some (not those of us who know you, of course!) might be forced to think all this scrutiny was maybe a tad motivated, a little selective in focus and perhaps even a mite tendentious in intent…

            1. I don’t need to provide comparable figures for coal and nuclear, because no one is claiming that they are “sustainable”

              We keep hearing that wind energy is “sustainable”

              I am still waiting to hear what this means

            2. That means Andy, that you can in principle carry on replacing windmills for as long as the wind resource continues. The energy payback period for modern mills is a small fraction of their useful life span and the materials are recyclable. In other words its sustainable.

            3. So the energy and resources required to build and maintain these things isn’t a factor in your reasoning then.?

            4. The turbines generate within a fraction of their lifetime enough energy to repay what was needed to make them. Their material is in principle recyclable or in the case of glass fibers (sand) or carbon fibers (carbon) there is no issue with the sustainable supply of raw materials for ever. Rare metals and any other metals are fully recyclable. Any resins can in principle be made from bio-matter. There is no supply issue with concrete either. And as I said above, the energy required to build a turbine is paid back in a fraction of its useful life.
              Now compare this to energy mining technologies, in particular fossil fuels….

            5. For the avoidance of doubt andyS, the lifecycle assessments of wind turbines that find they pay back their energy investment in 6 to 8 months include the energy for obtaining raw material, manufacture, transport, assembly, maintenance, dismantling, more transport and recycling. Full cradle to grave.
              Thanks for introducing this concept again instead of looking it up for yourself. The topic of a wind turbine EROI never fails to show wind turbines as anything other than a good thing.

            6. And all that transport, maintenance, assembly etc is “sustainable” and uses no fossil fuels?

              I don’t think so.

            7. yes it uses fossil fuels, but the operation of the wind turbine displaces fossil fuels, and more than were used and will be used in the wind turbines life cycle.
              If you are going to blame this on jetlag too, then are the rest of your twit claims all down to jetlag?

            8. Ok, so apparremty wind energy produces more energy during its lifetime than all the inputs put together.
              This includes the cost of bulldozing the roads, laying the concrete pads, chopping down the forests when necessary, constructions the pylons, building the blades which require transport by truck and ship.

              Then there are the diesel generators used to back up the wind when the air is still.

              Let’s assume that this is true ( I am sure there is some industry propaganda to support this claim)

              How is this “sustainable” ?

              You have generated some electricity so people can sit in warm airport lounges and read web articles about sustainability, but you are still consuming fossil fuels and other resources that will eventually run out.

            9. By the way, if your definition of “sustainable” is that you get more energy out than you put in (which is probably not what you meant) then I think this applies to all energy sources and is why nuclear fusion doesn’t work right now.

            10. ‘bulldozing the roads’ aggregate on terram, not a bulldozed road
              ‘laying the concrete pads’ the pad for the crane is aggregate on terram, again. The foundation is not a pad, and is concrete.
              ‘chopping down the forests when necessary’ only ever done in commercially logged woodland to the best of my knowledge. Commercially logged woodland is routinely felled and replanted. You may as well shed tears for the ears of wheat on an arable site.
              ‘Then there are the diesel generators used to back up the wind when the air is still’ Jetlag again andyS, or just your birdchoppers NIMBY Turetts. No diesel generators are put on the gird as a result of adding wind power or solar power.
              ‘How is this “sustainable”’ because it cuts consumption of non renewable resources while simultaneously cutting emitting greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. I tend to go by the Bruntland Commission definition by the way.
              ‘but you are still consuming fossil fuels and other resources that will eventually run out.’ But the consumption is slowed markedly, add enough renewables and the fossil fuel consumption becomes vanishingly small.

            11. In related sustainability news:

              Millions of trees have been chopped down to clear the way for wind farms in Scotland’s countryside since Alex Salmond came to power, according to official figures published today.
              The Forestry Commission has disclosed that more than 6,200 acres (2,510 hectares) of trees north of the Border have been felled to allow the construction of wind farms since 2007.
              With the commission estimating that on average 810 trees are planted per acre, this is the equivalent of more than five million being chopped down.
              Over the same period, fewer than 2,000 acres of trees have been replanted within wind farm sites. This means there has been net loss of around 3.4 million trees to make way for turbines.

            12. Your bad-faith, willful incomprehension is simply tedious.

              As for the rest of the blather: again; comparable figures for nukes, FF, please. Or any other industrial activity, for that matter.

              Thanks for continually demonstrating to lurkers just how selective your blinkered focus really is.

            13. And, as for the last piece, got any sources that are better than the Torygraph on that one?

              More than five million wind farms have been chopped down to make way for Scottish wind farms since 2007

              Indeed! Up to their usual standard.

              Looks like crap to me. There’s a lot of handwaving in that calculation, and, of course, the reactionary motivation duplicates your own.

              The amusingly-captioned photo shows turbines in what clearly appears to be a commercial forestry operation, for a start. Fits with ‘810 trees are planted per acre’. So, what you’re saying is, a commercial forest has been felled! Golly.

              (And, again, the handwaving involved should activate anyone’s bullshit detector…)

              So details of regular harvesting regimes in Scottish forests, please, and how they’ve been altered.

              (And it’s all Salmond’s fault! Gee – this wouldn’t have anything to do with the forthcoming referendum, would it?)

            14. Particularly amusing is the extrapolation from the trees planted per acre figure that makes no alloance for routine thinning of trees. No commercial tree planting is going to take that many trees per acre to maturity.
              Add to that, policy priorities are changing, woodland being cropped now tends to be conifer monoculture, but policy for planting now prefers more mixed woodland with reduced density, providing much greater biodiversity, amenity and landscape value as well as a wider range of timber product.
              Add more to that, some plantations are not returned to plantations after felling where the use for woodland was not appropriate.
              As you can see, none of these factors influencing replanting have anything to do with wind turbines.
              So the Telegraph article is written for wind NIMBY twits, by wind NIMBY twits.
              One last point, the Forestry Commission is a forestry regulator, researcher and advisor. It is also a big commercial forestry operator that is actively pursuing wind turbine development on its own estate.

            15. Thanks for the link to the NIMBY site andyS, gosh there is lot of this tosh. I suppose that if you are not limited by honesty or having a clue what you are talking about the only limit is your fevered imagination.
              The Forestry Commission woodland is commercial woodland, it gets cropped.
              Love the photo-montage on your link btw, have not seen one that bad for a while.
              Do you have any more buffoonery links for our amusement?

            16. Beaker writes

              The Forestry Commission woodland is commercial woodland, it gets cropped.

              Indeed it does, then it gets replanted. We call this “sustainable” forestry

              If you permanently replace forest with your Giant Fans then it is not sustainable forestry

            17. Hopefully Andy saw tonight’s Country Calendar, a feel-good story about wind-farming in the Ohariu Valley.
              The only complaints were a couple of non-local scrawled signs, looking very similar to those that complain about the use of 1080.

            18. Simon,
              I missed the start of Country Calendar. I started at the point where there were chopping down the trees and bulldozing the roads

              TV3 interviewed some Nimby Twits a while back who couldn’t sleep and were having health problems as a result of the turbines.

              However, it was heartening to see a one sided propaganda piece from our State Broadcaster who only focussed on the farmers who have been bribed by Meridian to host the Giant Fans on their properties.

            19. Good on the forestry commission if they’re going in for less dense, more biodiverse plantings.

              Our own equivalent – Forestry SA – has announced it won’t be replanting the extensive pine sections of the Wirrabara forest after the recent devastating fires in the southern Flinders Ranges.

              Dense monoculture pine plantations are not very biologically useful; OK, here they’re exotic species, but the densely planted stands of native Blue Gum are little better.

              The native forest reserves of Wirrabara – that is, the complex natural woodlands, the most extensive in the state – will continue to be managed purely for conservation, as all NFRs are now managed statewide, and historic pockets of timber monoculture in their midst are now all scheduled to be harvested when due and then rehabilitated as actual habitat.

              Because pine monocultures suck. As do Eucalypt monocultures.

              Now, they’re on the wrong side of the ranges so it’s all hypothetical, but if anyone wanted to put turbines in the now-demolished large-tract pine forests, or in the adjacent farming land, I really wouldn’t care. But if anyone tried to put them on the ridgeline in the NFR – where the wind resource would be world-class, I assure you – I’d be as unhappy as anyone.

              But no-one’s proposing that. Funnily enough. The turbines are all being targeted at areas subject to significant – sometimes pretty-well total – historical clearance. Even there, I’ve seen plans of projects where turbines were re-sited (or simply removed) from a farm in order to account for peregrine falcons and other bird species found to be nesting in remnant trees during the environmental assessment phase.

              So, good on the forestry commission for their 21st century view of forest management that benefits biodiversity in their region. And good on them for their 21st century view of power generation that stands to benefit biodiversity everywhere…

            20. Yes I fully agree Bill
              Good on the Forestry commission on chopping down thousands of hectares of forest and replacing trees with 300ft industrial wind turbines.

              Good on them!

              Everybody agrees, well at least 97 % of people ( the other 3% are NIMby twits who read Whaleoil) that we need to smash up,our national parks and carpet them with 350 ft high wind turbines

              Yes yes yes

              Trees are so last century.

              As we move away from our fossil fuel addicted lifestyle we need to accept that concepts such as ‘ national parks” , “open spaces” and such outdated NIMBY Twit concepts are completely unacceptable, when we could be living the perfect Eco dream near a concrete factory near Adeleade reading about hacked emails on Twitter

              What’s not to like?

            21. Do you find if hard to get the froth stains out of your shirt collars, andy?

              I’m not even going to bother with your risible strawmen, but if you actually read my post… well, you’d feel quite the fool, meaning the others who do bother read my post will most likely draw that self-same conclusion, I’d say.

              But, still, you seem to imagine you’re achieving something here, so carry on…

  23. ‘Do any of the names you mention suggest that anyone should try to build nuclear as fast as the French did in their big push, I doubt it. ‘
    Since they’re all motivated to keep the earth livable, rather than, say, sell wind turbines, and since, as I said, France is the only country to have achieved cuts at the rate needed for that, I don’t doubt it. ( Hugh Montefiore died nine years ago. It’s disheartening to read what he assumed would have been done by now.) How slowly were you hoping to decarbonise?
    ‘ No nation is ever likely to repeat the scale of the French nuclear push with the generating technology available.’
    The United Arab Emirates are building 4 x 1400MW reactors, to be online by 2020. For a nation of nine million, that’s a French build rate. Saudi is building 17GW. Rather ironic that the French nuked up so they wouldn’t have to buy so much oil, and now the Arabs are doing the same so they can sell more. China’s planned buildout is far bigger than France’s, but they took the pedal off the metal a bit after Fukushima. They still want four or five hundred GW by 2050, half fast reactors.
    ‘ …you and North Korea…’ Like Israel, North Korea has no civilian power reactors, only for weapons. The Americans promised to help them build one during the negotiations they had a few years back, but then Congress nixed the thing, and hostilities resumed.
    ‘Adding wind and solar cuts CO2 emissions.’ So does unplugging your cell phone charger. Does it cut emissions enough? No.
    Drax is planning to harvest an area of forest in the south east US about a third the size of Otago, grind the trees into pellets, ship them to Yorkshire, burn them in Europe’s second biggest coal plant, and collect a few million quid from the government for being extra green. Nothing wrong with that I suppose…

    1. “For a nation of nine million, that’s a French build rate.” being built and will be operated by South Korean engineers, so not an equivalent to the French experiment really.
      “Drax is planning to harvest an area of forest … blah blah” No. the Drax plans are explicitly for wood waste from existing timber harvesting, not as you characterise it, ‘harvesting an area of forest’ I am no fan of the co-firing or large scale biomass burning plans (being waste wood, the Drax plan is not scalable), but I do take exception to your accusation of a ‘scam’. It does look like you are just trying to fling mud to relatively improve the appearance of your hearts desire. Bit silly really.

  24. They are sitting on vast amounts of oil so why should they bother with alternative energy? If big countries like the USA, Russia, Canada and Australia are not interested, small countries won;t bother.

    1. Saudi has the same population as Canada, and they can pump oil for a lot less than Canada can pump dilbit. Their domestic electricity demand has been zooming up, and it’s mostly met by very inefficient burning of oil, which got priced out years ago nearly everywhere else. They need a lot of energy for desalinating water, and for air conditioning, so if they can get it some other way, there’s more oil left to export. If they can’t make solar work, it’s hard to see who could. They had planned to build a lot of solar thermal, but that’s so expensive compared to PV it probably won’t happen.

  25. The Renewables Global Policy Network for the 21st century is a good resource to get the perspective on renewable energy generation.
    A comprehensive report (REN21 2014) can be downloaded there.

    Some key figures: The estimated global share of the final energy consumption (2012 stats) reads: 78.4% fossil, 19% renewable, 2.6% Nuclear.
    I guess Nuclear will have a lot of growing to do to make an impact on the global scale. With solar averaging growth rates over the last 5 years of about 55% Solar is making a very significant impact globally now with a massive growth rate.
    In the electricity sector:
    “In 2013, renewables accounted for more than 56% of net
    additions to global power capacity and represented far higher
    shares of capacity added in several countries.” [REN21]
    Renewable capacity world wide added (excluding hydro) in 2013 was 80GW or the equivalent of 80 x 1GW Nuclear reactors…..

    Sorry John O Neil and Andy. Some folks out there seem to be in disagreement with your world view….

    I guess John and Andy simply “retweet” the latest right wing loggerhead strategy to badmouth renewable energy as promoted by the conspirators of the American Legislative Exchange Council, Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Duke Energy and Peabody Energy or the “Americans for Prosperity” (surely a grand misnomer, as a prosperous future is not on the cards for anybody betting on unsustainable energy, especially fossil fuels).

    1. 80 GW of renewable energy is very far from being the equivalent of 80 x 1 GW reactors. As the most extreme example, Germany has 36 GWs of solar which supply less than 6 percent of its electricity, and 12 GW of nuclear which supplied 18 percent. So at the current mix one gig of nuclear is worth nine of solar. In fact the difference is much greater than that – peak demand in Germany is in winter, and in the evening, when solar is nonexistent, hydro flows are low, but nuclear is a few percent more efficient because the temperature gradient at either end of the turbines is greater. If you restrict your information input to propaganda pieces from the likes of the the Renewables Global Policy Network or the European Wind Energy association, you’ll have an even worse picture of what’s happening than if you listen to Shell Oil and the rest of them – at least they have to sound credible.
      If you burrow down a bit in that report you cite, you can see the actual energy percentage supplied, by source.
      Fossil fuels 78.4
      Nuclear 2.6
      Hydro 3.8
      Traditional biomass 9 ( firewood to you )
      Biomass/ geothermal/solar heat 4.2
      Wind/ solar/biomass/ geothermal power 1.2
      (They don’t say so, but that 1.2 percent is mostly geothermal, which has been around for a hundred years, and biomass power, which has been around since governments started paying coal plants to burn trees, see Drax above. On a graph, solar would be too skinny to show.)
      And finally, biofuels, 0.8 percent, which is where the US agribusiness scores itself healthy subsidies to turn corn into ethanol, pushing up food prices for the poor with zero reduction in emissions, and the European Union pays Indonesia to bulldoze tiger and orangutan habitat to grow palm oil, with huge net positive CO2 emissions as the peat soil dries out, while huge fires poison the air right up into Malaysia.

      Anyway what’s all this ‘right wing’ crap? I’d vote Green if they weren’t such Luddites. I might have to anyway.

    1. I agree Bob, it is money money money all the way. I would like to see the farmers build a few industrial units on their land too.

      Maybe even sell it to the Chinese?

      1. Yes Andy, its money money money,,, trillions of dollars of fossil fuel subsidies plus the desire to sell and burn every ton of fossil fuels on the asset books of the oil, coal and gas companies with total disregard to the common future of the planet! It is money, lots of dirty filthy right wing money from the Koch Brothers and the rest of the oil barons that fund the clowns of Heartland and the rest of the so called “Institutes” fabricating the clap trap that echoes around the right wing dung pits of dirty politics…..
        Apparently reactionaries still enjoy rolling over in the rotten muck and have fun splashing some of the negativity and b.s. over the blogosphere.

        Meanwhile people contributing to the energy revolution find out that alternative energy is paying off today already. From farmers leasing land to wind farms to home owners slashing their electricity bill with solar PV roofs, hot water collectors or passive solar designs to others who diminish their fuel bills by investing into electric or plug in hybrid vehicles.

        1. Hey Thomas, do you thin that “Visit Wales Now” is a denialist site funded by Exxon Mobil and the Koch Brothers?

          or maybe, as beaker suggested, a NIMBY twit site written for NIMBY twits?

          Or, (shock horror) a tourist site concerned by the proliferation of turbines across the country that they are trying to promote to tourists?

          1. If it had been funded by Exxon Mobil or the Koch Brothers the production standards would not have been so piss poor.
            In what way is it a ‘tourist site’ other than ripping of the Visit Wales brand? Looks more like a NIMBY site to me, you know, written by NIMBYs for NIMBYs.
            Also with regard the the ‘money money money all the way’ – in return for generation exported to the grid. What sort of twit would have a problem with that?

            1. No we don’t want the UK to be covered in coal fired power stations. But thanks for the strawman.

              You need a very large number of turbines to produce the equivalent energy of a conventional power station, and you still need the conventional power station anyway.

              I think it is great how you refer to people as NIMBY twits.

              It succinctly displays the contempt you have for other people and for the landscape.

            2. ‘NIMBY twit’ is an attempt to succinctly encapsulate your contempt for honesty or objectivity andyS, and my contempt for such a character trait.
              Have a nice day!

        2. Some points that obviously have not been noticed about the Ohariu wind farm:
          1. The four farmers concerned formed a company and invited power companies to submit proposals for a wind farm on the suggestion of one of their life stylers down in the valley back in ’96 if I recall rightly. Meridian was selected by the farmers.

          2. Trees felled and earthworks were those incident to creation of an access road along a precipitous ridge. I was fascinated to see three big diesel trucks, 2 in front, one behind moving turbine components.

          3. The farmers were looking for ways to stay on the land – one family at least has been there 6 generations. They tried selling off life syle blocks, tourism, wedding venue – wind wins hands down as a way of staying viable.. In early July one of the farmers described the turbines on his land as being equivalent to raising “stock units” from 4000 to 6000. Another farmer described the turbines as changing his farm from loss to profit. Stuff 2nd July

          4. from the same article: typical turbine footprint is 3% of the farm. (obviously from access roading)

          5. The new quality roading greatly improved access by farmers to their own land. However farm security was also greatly improved. Meridion replaced fences and gates too.

          6. Of opposition, in the TV program one farmer suggested we all oppose change. The stuff article said a few people complaining of turbine noise moved out of the valley while “On the other hand, people who had moved to Makara, knowing the turbines were there, actually enjoyed them. More efficient blades also helped to reduce the noise.”

          As the Ohariu wind farm is not finished I wonder if the noise complained of is due more to roading and contractor activity than the turbines themselves although there are people who, told the turbine noise will damage their health, will worry themselves sick regardless, Like they do over fluoride or innoculation programs, or iodised salt or iodised bread.. I would say that any city environment is hugely noisy in comparison, and probably damaging to health, but because we subjectively adjust to it we don’t notice until we get out of town and away from busy roads. It took me less than a week to adjust to trains grinding upslope a few meters from my bedroom window way back.

          I have previously suggested that the NIMBY campaign of the fossil fuels interests against wind turbines may be motivated by the success of turbines, particularly in trimming coal profit margins, but I would add that wind turbines are highly visible evidence that there are people working to mitigate that deeply worrying matter of climate change even if it does not make it into the top 10 issues in an election. That’s the pleasure I tke from spotting any such activity.

          1. ‘… wind turbines are highly visible evidence that there are people working to mitigate that deeply worrying matter of climate change…’
            When I first started treating climate change as a serious threat ( after reading ‘Six Degrees’, by Mark Lynas ) I thought the same. At the time, only a few millionaires outside Queenstown could afford solar panels, but a proposed wind farm in the iconic basin and range country of Central Otago attracted a lot of opposition, fronted by a local painter, a poet, and a sportsman, on the grounds it would spoil the scenery. I like the scenery there myself, but figured it had to take second place to a real threat to our survival.
            However, mainly from reading a lot of grumpy old engineers on ‘Brave New Climate’ blog, I changed my mind. Wind and solar look like they’re ‘doing something’ about climate change, but their energy contribution is nowhere near commensurate with their visual footprint. As a striking example, here’s a description of the Martin solar plant in sunny Florida, 500 acres of photovoltaic cells, whose opening featured in the New York Times and was attended by the state governor and Bill Gates. Yet of the 3,800 MW available from the Martin plant, only 75 at most come from PV, and the average is only 18. Tucked away in a corner is the coal plant which can provide 1720 MW, and behind it, even more insignificant, the four combined cycle gas turbines putting out over 2000.
            Looking at numbers like this ( there are plenty of other examples ), it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the solar panel on the roof, and to a lesser extent the wind farm on the hill, are more a visible sign of faith than a credible effort to halt emissions. Remember, the target we need to hit is 90 percent reductions, in fifty years or so. With another three billion people liable to be around by about then, we’re really talking about not just cutting output, but drawing down CO2 in huge quantities. Power sources that are realistically always going to be just minor players, and in most countries will rely totally on fossil fuel ‘backup’ whose output is much greater than theirs, are just a distraction.

            1. John, how about in the photo of the Florida solar plant to envision the coal min and all the associated industrial plant, processing and shipment of the same, to provide the energy that the coal stations in the image provide.
              Then, and only then, do you start scratching at the truth of the matter.
              If you look at This image you see a few black dots. These dots are the area we would need to cover to generate all of humanities energy requirements with existing solar energy technology.

            2. On the ground, those would not be dots, they’re bloody immense, as would be the scale of the powerlines and storage needed to make them useful. They’re all in deserts, which for good reason most people live well away from. Here’s what you’d need to convert some of that paper solar acreage into usable hardware in Australia, next to Saudi probably the least daunting place to do it.

            3. Wow – the strawman to end all strawmen meets reductio ad absurdum! That’s where that, um, ‘argument’ came from – I had wondered…

              (Funny how the Germans, with their mediocre resource, have managed so much then, ain’t it? But I digress…)

              So, yeah, there are no or transcontinental connectors passing through really sunny areas in Australia, or really sunny areas adjacent to Australian cities, or just plain sunny Australian cities, or anything like it at all! What a hoot! Hey, what’s the area of roofs in sunny Australian cities, John, do you reckon? Or of other nearby areas that are pretty frickin’ sunny and probably won’t be too much of a loss to agriculture or the environment – you know, old pine forests and mine-sites and salt-scalds and clapped-out overgrazed areas (how many million hectares of these do you reckon there might be in this entire frickin’ badly-managed continent, John?) – and the like? Why, hell, there might even be some of these near some of our numerous wind farms!

              No, what’s really happening is the frickin’ greenies all want us to either demolish our cities – no, they really do, the bastards! – OR build a big square installation out near Birdsville, or Innamincka, or something! And then devote the entire national trucking fleet to it! No, really; I’m sure it’s actually a Greens policy, or something!… Fricking greenies! (*shakes fist at greenies*)

              (I didn’t even mention solar thermal, because that would be cheating!)

              By all means, do keep on arguing in this manner…

            4. “On the ground, those would not be dots, they’re bloody immense”…

              Argh! for a while I actually thought John might have been a human blog commenter, but having failed the Turing test just there, as the complete absence of creative imagination common to the genus Homo Sapience is revealed, he is outed as just another right wing attack blog bot, probably remotely controlled by [insert favorite villain here] …. 😉

              For those with some imagination where Solar energy could lead to….. (hubris I know)…

            5. “Looking at numbers like this ( there are plenty of other examples ), it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the solar panel on the roof, and to a lesser extent the wind farm on the hill, are more a visible sign of faith than a credible effort to halt emissions.”

              Of course I was taking the image of a wind turbine as a symbol of mitigation effort, not as a one size fits all cure. Just put the grace and cleanliness of a wind turbine against the filth and harm of a smoke stack and we have a powerful contrast.

              We seem to have forgotten the matter of wedges. With wind and solar and others too it is easy to calculate that the theoretical resource more than matches humanity’s needs or desires but for all sorts of reasons that is not practically so, 4th gen nuclear included. We are going to do all these things as we can, where we can. To argue that one is the solution is quite unreal. To argue that they are of little value because they can’t do it all is dangerously close to the argument that what any of us can do is so little compared to the whole that we may as well forget it – the view of our government among others. It is the will that is at issue, given we have ways to give it effect, not this technology or that. If we have the will we do what is within our grasp, including working with others toward ends beyond the scope of an individual. For me it is eliminating use of fossil fuels, installing solar PV, and, when I can, installing storage that spreads the benefit across several days. Where there is good wind (45% generation capacity at Ohariu) and some finance a wind turbine is an obvious prospect. In many places biofuels and biochar is the way to go. There is also the prospect of a tipping point that may come when several technologies complement each other to perhaps eliminate the current dominance of power utilities – 2020 in this forecast.

              So it is good to do our own bit and helpful to be aware and supportive of what others can do though very diffferent. Considering the long term harm burning a litre of petrol will bring I celebrate an action that does the same amount of work without the harm, keeping in mind the value of the commons.

      2. If you build industrial units on farmland, it is no longer farmland. However if you build wind turbines on farmland, you continue to farm the land around and below the wind turbines, and after 25 years the whole turbine goes away including the foundation to well below plough depth, the void being restored with the topsoil material that was spread on the adjacent land. Net result no loss of agricultural land in return for renewable generation, cut CO2 emissions and impotent foot stamping from Dellingpole fan boys.

        1. By the way “beaker” why do you have so much interest in NZ when your “career” seems to be based around ripping off the British public via your parasitic wind energy scam?

          I am genuinely interested

  26. Homo Sapiens. One might wish.
    It’s not a question of whether there’s enough area available to put all your PV, it’s what scale it would need to make and put it all there, connect it, add storage ( PV makes up a tiny percentage of world energy use now, but it’s far above the sum of pumped storage so far built, and that is way bigger than any battery/flywheel/CAES you might have heard of.) And then repeat every 25 years, unless the cells get a lot more durable.
    ‘By all means, do keep on arguing in this manner…’ OK, if you insist. Since I’ve been knocking solar for a while, it might be time to cheer Beaker up with some fun facts on wind turbines.
    The Enercon E 126 MW turbine – hub height 135 metres. Total weight 6000 tons. Output 7.6 MW
    Why so huge? As with boxers, a good big’un will always beat a good little’un ( as long as you put it somewhere windy of course.) A lot of smaller windmills would be needed to put out as much power, and they’d cost more. This is a land based turbine. One that size out in the North Sea would make a fair amount more power, but it would probably cost twice as much too, and be much more difficult to service.
    And now in the red corner, we have Russia’s finest, the BN800.
    Instead of drawing its power from weather systems a thousand kilometres across, this baby is powered by a core only two and a half metres wide and less than a metre tall. The pressure vessel that the core sits in would fit inside the base tower of the German goliath. Yet it puts out more electricity than a hundred of the Enercon machines at full noise; allowing for those calm periods, even if the wind turbine matched the output of the best performing ones on earth, the reactor would still make about 200 times as much power, need one tenth as much steel and concrete to build per MW/hr, and last twice as long.
    What about all the mining and waste? you counter.
    Most large turbines now use about two tons of neodymium in their generators – this rare earth makes super powerful magnets, which allow the nacelle to be much lighter, and help the designers to dispense with problematic gear boxes. Some designs don’t use neodymium, but then they have to put about ten times the mass of copper windings up there instead. Neodymium isn’t all that rare, but it is very costly, and messy, to separate from the other rare earths it’s invariably found with. It’s also usually found with thorium, so the mining of the 400-odd tons of neodymium for our putative BN800 – matching wind farm would most likely involve the extraction of rather larger quantities of thorium. Thorium as a nuclear fuel is about on a par with U238, which is 99.3% of natural uranium; one ton of it would fuel a power plant the size of the BN800 for over a year. Of course the BN800 isn’t designed to use thorium. It’s intended to chew up nuclear warheads, and nuclear waste, and turn them into electricity. Is that a bad thing?
    By the way, the BN800 is a scale-up of the BN600, which has been running for 34 years. If the 800 works as planned, the Russians, and the Chinese, will start building 1200MW versions. Here’s a Turing test for you – how many solar panels would it take to match one of those – in Siberia?

      1. Do you have a “love affair” with wind?

        I took these screenshots of the generation mix from


        Tuesday this week

        As you can see, we have lots of great renewable energy (hydro and geothermal mostly) providing us with the electricity on the cold frosty mornings we are getting down south at the moment.

        If you squint really hard, you can see the contribution from our wind fleet

        1. How many times must you wind haters be reminded that variable input generators such as Wind and Solar must be measured at their integrated effect on reducing CO2 emissions. If NZ did not have the wind capacity installed we have now, which other fuel do you think would have been used to generate what wind did over the last 12 month?? This is the correct question to ask!
          Wind and Solar is about the overall effect of avoided CO2 emissions not about whether the wind blew on a given Monday!
          You are simply kicking tires Andy and your toes must surely hurt by now. Those who have endured your stuff on this blog over the years are simply tired of the fact that you behave like you are incapable of learning a thing or two.

          1. If your aim is to reduce CO2, then why don’t we build more geothermal plant to replace the gas, and replace the coal with gas/geothermal?

            If wind is just being offset by hydro, then it is doing nothing to reduce CO2 emissions anyway

            Even the Green Party are promoting Geothermal now, and it is one of the cheapest forms of energy in NZ

            1. Logic fail andys! “If wind is just being offset by hydro, then it is doing nothing to reduce CO2 emissions anyway.” Really?

              Wind and solar are complemented by hydro.
              I should save this one for a kid’s logic lesson.

            2. If I replace hydro with wind, then there is no additional “saving” of CO2
              The only “saving” is that you may be storing more water.

              Is this not true?

            3. Yes. For starters, dams use shedloads of concrete. All generation options have some environment cost. The biggest argument in favour of wind is risk mitigation. The lakes are not always full just as the wind is not always blowing.

            4. If wind provides “risk mitigation” then why don’t we deploy more geothermal which is cheaper and more reliable to achieve the same outcome?

            5. No one is replacing hydro with wind. You are trying to confuse people by implying that wind is displacing hydro, not CO2. Does it have to be spelled out for you – a point argued many times. They complement each other.

              It is true that when the wind is blowing, very reliably in some places, or the sun is shining then the pressure is taken off hydro improving storage against seasonal drought. Hydro comes in when wind and solar are low or off. It does not matter how you cut it, separately but better together, they prevent or replace fossil fuel demand, particularly if a carbon tax is in operation too.

            6. “If I replace hydro with wind, then there is no additional “saving” of CO2
              The only “saving” is that you may be storing more water.”
              Yes andyS, this is true BUT such an event would only occur if sufficient renewables or nuclear had already been added to the grid so that instances of the fossil fuel plant generating had become infrequent. At that point, any new wind power would move to displacing the remaining highest marginal cost generator – hydro. Mind you, if you had got to that point (job done) you would be patting yourself on the back instead of adding more wind power.
              I know that you are desperate (compelled even) to find an argument against adding wind power, but the risk of adding more once you have enough is not a credible risk and not unique to wind power. Better luck next time. BIRDCHOPPERS!

          2. ‘ Wind and Solar is about the overall effect of avoided CO2 emissions not about whether the wind blew on a given Monday!’
            Exactly. So we can ignore reports like
            ‘ On Sunday, Germany’s impressive streak of renewable energy milestones continued, with renewable energy generation surging to a record portion — nearly 75 percent — of the country’s overall electricity demand by midday.’
            and pay some attention to
            ‘Germany, Europe’s largest economy, boosted consumption of coal by 13 percent in the past four years, while use in Britain, No. 3 in the region economically, rose 22 percent’
            You’re doing a great job there, Beaker.
            ( France also had an increase in coal use last year, but since nuclear is most of their baseload, they only use about a quarter as much coal as the UK and less than an eighth as much as Germany.)

            1. “‘Germany, Europe’s largest economy, boosted consumption of coal by 13 percent in the past four years, while use in Britain, No. 3 in the region economically, rose 22 percent’
              You’re doing a great job there, Beaker.”
              The rise in coal consumption in Germany was due to advanced shutdown of their nuclear and their nervousness regarding gas dependency on Mr Putin. Germany and the UK were also affected by the recent reduction in coal cost relative to gas. I was not responsible for either of these effects, nor was the renewables sector – even in your imagination. So your praise is misplaced, much like your ‘reasoning’.
              We have been here before remember, your efforts to place effects stemming from the Japan tidal wave and USSR commodities hard-ball at the feet of renewables policy. Can’t you think up some new crackpot anti wind power claptrap instead of repeating your woeful previous efforts?

        2. Looking at your cherry picking it can be seen that NZ has significant variability in demand that is largely accommodated by changes in the hydro and gas output. Add more wind capacity, get more wind generation, burn less gas.
          (unless its a drought hydro will undercut gas to avoid the total loss of revenue from spilling excess water)
          Is this the point that you wanted to make andyS?

    1. Funny that you mention the E126, the Swedes are building their own plant to make just this model, and it does not use permanent magnet generators, so your Neodymium stuff is a bit of a red herring. The Enercon has a direct drive but most turbines with a permanent magnet generator have a geared transmission, David Brown planetary gears built in Scotland in many cases.
      As for noise, steam turbines make noise, quite a lot more than a wind farm in my experience, but both make much less noise than the wind NIMBYs, bleating about ‘politically correct wind’ and such nonsense, inter-spaced with their boilerplate whittering on non issues such as rare earths.
      “It’s intended to chew up nuclear warheads, and nuclear waste, and turn them into electricity. Is that a bad thing?” For a while in Europe we had Sellafield’s THORP lobbying to be commissioned because it could make Plutonium fuel for fast breeders, and at the same time in France, lobbying to restart their Phoenix fast breeder (after a very expensive shut-down and operation) because it could … burn plutonium that people wanted to get rid of. Both projects underwritten by and subsidised by EU states, one producing something that you paid the other to dispose of. Now I would be happy if the French and UK were on a programme of progressively and significantly reducing their nuclear arsenal (the French one being bigger than China’s) but given their importance as a leaders diplomatic codpiece for the likes of UK and France, that would be a utopian dream worthy of you. The Swedes did not follow through with their independent nuclear weapons, though they went quite a long way. That may explain why they are building very large wind turbines rather than fast breeders. If NZ ever had a nuclear weapons programme of its own I doubt that there is much plutonium to re-purpose into fast breeder fuel.

  27. John, how many times must we tell you that the energy future of humanity is not a competition between either/or alternatives but a cooperative effort to arrive at the fastest path a sustainable energy future,
    Your fabled nukes will play a part, no doubt.

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