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Four Corners and its field of dreams

On Monday 7 July 2014, the usually hard-hitting investigative current affairs program “Four Corners” (Australian Broadcasting Commission) showed “Power to the People“. Here was the tagline:

While the rest of the world moves to embrace renewable energy why is Australia drawing back? Four Corners documents the revolution in power generation taking place across the globe.

The lead journalist, Stephen Long, also published a detailed opinion piece on it the next day, which you can read here. Going by the reaction on Twitter (search for the #4corners tag), the reception from most of the environmental community was rapturous.

So, fantastic! Apparently it’s already all over for coal bar the shouting in most countries (e.g., 4Corners focused on various developments in the US), and unless Australia embraces this “Third Industrial Revolution” (via Jeremy Rifkin), it risks ‘going the way of the dodo’. But…

Who noticed the internal contradictions? Claims of massively falling costs that was already making Australian coal uneconomic — whilst at the same time lamenting the upcoming disaster to investment if the mandatory renewable energy target and other subsides were withdrawn or cut back. Eh?

Below, Geoff Russell lifts up the rose-tinted sunglasses for a moment, and takes a more critical look at Long’s claims…

Four Corners and its field of dreams

Geoff Russell, July 2014

How would you feel about an advertisement for a cold remedy with a tag line: “Our remarkable new treatment will see your cold gone in just 4 weeks!”?

That’s about the size of a recent article by Giles Parkinson for The Guardian called … “Solar has won …”. It could also be a suitable paraphrase for an also recent ABC 4-Corners documentary on renewable energy: Power to the People by Stephen Long and Karen Michelmore.

The defining claim in the Parkinson piece is a CSIRO report claiming that by 2040 more than half of electricty may be generated and stored by “prosumers”.

Is this supposed to be impressive?

I’d suggest that same claim, if realised, is good evidence of the ineffectiveness of distributed renewable energy as a climate change response. By comparison, France built an essentially carbon free nuclear electricity system in under 20 years. So while Australian electricity generates 850 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour, France is down around 70 grams per kilowatt hour and she’s been there since 1990. Germany’s renewable revolution has them planning on hitting the same target by about 2050.

As I said in the beginning, renewable energy is the cold remedy for people who want to feel better in a month … or two … while contributing a bucket load of money to their local chemist’s retirement fund.

On the other hand, Long and the 4-Corners crew seemed totally messmerised by fields of mirrors; or panels. They filmed them here, they filmed them there, it seems they’re springing up everwhere. I half expected an army of Kevin Costner clones to emerge from behind a heliostat holding a banner saying “Build it and they will come”. Well they’ve arrived and they’re travelling in a van with an ABC logo.

Four Corners has done some great investigations over the years, and it’s sad to see them functioning as mere propagandists for an environmentally destructive industry that is too little and too late to stop the destabilisation of the climate.

Normally you could expect 4-Corners to care about people paving paradise with parking lots … or mirrors. But nobody even asked the question. What exactly had Apple flattened to build their particular field of mirror dreams? Hopefully, being in North Carolina, the land might just have been corn, as in Costner’s film. And in North Carolina, corn is synonomous with factory farmed pig meat. So it might have been no big loss. But it might have been a forest with squirrels, ponds and beavers, racoons, wild orchids and wood peckers. Perhaps it was an orchard or a field of vegetables. Now, however, whatever was there has been replaced with concrete foundations supporting steel and panels and wires.

Is it just me? Doesn’t anybody else want energy that is green as well as clean?

Green energy production is all about minimising impact because in the real world, problems rarely admit of perfect solutions; at best we maximise the good stuff and minimise the bad. In this case, we want to minimise our environmental impact while keeping our carbon dioxide emissions below a certain threshold. It’s all about the numbers.

But 4Corners didn’t bother with analysis or numbers of any kind. They reduced a complex optimisation problem to a succession of images and slogans. There was no attempt at quantifying anything in any meaningful way.

Meaningful in this context implies quantification and the comparison of alternatives. Consider the much featured Crescent Dunes project at Tonepah in Nevada. We got art-house cinematic images of the dilapidated Tonepah township followed by the glittering mirrors and the unquantified claims about the plant “providing power to Las Vegas” … hell, I could supply “power to Las Vegas” with a bicycle driven generator; without numbers to quantify how much energy, then such drivel is simply sloppy journalism. Just as sloppy was the false claim about it being the first solar thermal plant with salt storage in the world and the poor description of how the plant actually operates. But that sloppiness paled beside the omission of any kind of numbers to characterise the plant output in any meaningful way. Talking about “providing power to Las Vegas” may be true but was quite misleading; the plant’s output is tiny and it certainly doesn’t appear to have enough molten salt storage to provide the kind of 24×7 operation which Las Vegas if famous for.

Andasol 1 in Spain is a solar thermal power station with salt storage that’s been running since late 2008. It has a nameplace capacity of 50 MW, about half of the 110 MW of Crescent Dunes. Andasol 1 uses 28,000 tonnes of salt to provide 7.5 hours of power. This means that when its salt batteries are fully charged, they can provide 50 MW for 7.5 hours. Crescent Dunes has 31,000 tonnes so can presumably provide 110 MW for about 4 hours. If this was all the power to Las Vegas, then the tables would be in darkness by about 9pm in winter. As an aside, the salt mentioned in this story isn’t just normal salt, it’s a mix of sodium and potassium nitrate that is made in a chemical factory and trucked to the site. Potassium nitrate is common stuff, but sodium nitrate isn’t. The global production of sodium nitrate in 2004 was 63,000 tonnes, so Crescent Dunes will use a rather large chunk of that. It can be produced by leaching nitrate containing ores with ordinary salt (NaCl) or by more complex chemical methods. Any scaling up of this kind of salt storage would require a massive investment in chemical factories and associated infrastructure. A minor detail.

Let’s consider the contribution of Crescent Dunes to Nevada’s power supply.

The per person annual energy use in the US is 81 megawatt hours (7 tonnes oil equivalent). I’m using an electrical energy unit here but only about 1/6th of this energy is actually used as electricity; 13 megawatt hours. Let’s assume people in Nevada are representative of the rest of the US. They are. Note, this 13 megawatt hours isn’t what people see on their electricity bill, but includes the energy used to make goods and provide services. It doesn’t include the energy used in China and elsewhere to make goods imported into the US. No matter. But, even together with the other 68 megawatt hours, this isn’t the complete greenhouse emissions problem; it’s just the energy component. Crescent Dunes should produce about half a million megawatt hours of electricity per year, so, to clean up all energy production in Nevada, you’d first have to build about 70 Crescent Dunes to clean up the electricity and then another 350 to deal with the rest of the problem.

How long will this take?

Currently Nevada has two utility scale solar thermal plants. The other has been running since 2008 and is somewhat smaller than Crescent Dunes.

You can find the Environmental Impact Statement for Crescent Dunes on the Bureau of Land Management website dated November 2010. The approval took two years from the November 2008 application date.

Therein lies the achilles heel of utility scale solar electricity. The environmental impact per unit of energy is large, and the output of each operating unit is small. It might be clean but it’s very slow and it certainly isn’t green. And the number and size of sites that need to be located, considered, chosen, planned and approved makes the process glacially slow per unit of energy delivered. Each EIS typically involves a team of scientists and engineers evaluating a host of parameters from wildlife through to soil types and road traffic freight capacity. Utility scale solar doesn’t just alienate vast tracts of land, it used huge volumes of steel, concrete and the rest. Between 10 and 100 times more stuff than a nuclear plant, depending on which stuff you are interested in.

The sad part about the 4-Corners piece is that people may not realise that technical and political issues are very different and that what constitutes investigative journalism in the latter … namely lots of interviews where people spill the beans, doesn’t cut it in the former. Investigative journalism in the former requires a little numeracy and a willingness to read more than just the glossy brochures of people trying to sell their solar toys to gullible but well meaning consumers.

By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

169 replies on “Four Corners and its field of dreams”

@singletonengineer: Germany is building several transmission lines (including HVDC from north to south), but I don’t know about the costs.

Power-to-gas is about using electricity to make methane (and store it in the gas grid). Then use gas turbine when needed. Round trip efficiency is about 30-38%. Germany has several pilot projects up and running, but nothing commercial (because natural gas is cheaper).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_to_gas

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@ ppp251 — storing electricity by conversion of CO2 to CH4 and the later burning of the CH4 in a single-stage turbine back to electricity again, could not possibly be done for 33% round-trip efficiency.

But then, you didn’t exactly say “CO2”. Perhaps you started with another, more energetic hydrocarbon instead? That would invalidate any claim to be a zero emission process.

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@EvCricket. Although bystanders might be surprised, I actually agree with you: commenters ought to check their gut feelings against facts before reacting in print.

In this case however, the efficiency of single stage gas turbines has been well studied on this website (search for “peaker”). Similarly the Gautier reactions for converting CO2 to CH4 had been studied here too. Neither of them is 50% efficient so their product is much less than 33%.

For that matter, did you check the link that you claimed would back up your assertion of 33% efficiency? In fact it does nothing of the sort: the starting point for the process that arrives at methane does not start with CO2 at all, but with something called “biogas”. Since biogas certainly includes an unstated proportion of methane, you cannot claim that your process is an efficient storage of electricity.

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@Roger Clifton: there are two stages:

1.) electrolysis of water: H20 -> H2 + O2
2.) methanation of hydrogen: H2 + CO2 -> CH4 + H20

Biogas is used in the second stage as a CO2 source (it is also possible to take CO2 from air, but it reduces efficiency for a percentage point or two).

Electrolysis is about 70% efficient, methanation about 80%. That gives you about 56% (electricity -> methane). Modern combined cycle gas turbines are up to 60% efficient. So in the end you get about 33% round trip efficiency (electricity -> methane -> electricity).

Wikipedia states anywhere between 30-38%.

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biogas is a catchall term encompassing some really good technologies (e.g.., dealing with genuine waste) through to things where the emission’s associated with producing the feedstock is far larger than any energy produced (e.g., biogas from cattle manure). … and then there’s corn … I’d prefer land is used for food or wildlife, using it for producing energy crops indicates a belief that even trivial amounts of energy for human use is worth killing and displacing vast amounts of wildlife habitat.

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@PPP251 and evcricket:
1. Since the biogas will be substantially used for rapid response generation, it is probable that a large fraction of it will not be used in CCGT’s as your efficiency calculation suggests, but in existing (ie not always top-of-the-range) open cycle GT’s, with efficiencies in the mid-30 percent range.
2. The energy cost in compressing the gas into the existing distribution mains, which you have previously stated is part of the concept, is missing from your estimate.
3. You have not stated what pressure the storage of hydrogen will be at: My experience using electrolytic generation of H2 is of storage well above 10 atmospheres. This imposes a substantial energy cost. Locally, transport of H2 by road is also at these high pressures.

Twenty to twenty-five percent overall system efficiency seems to be much closer to the mark, unless you have evidence of German commitment to low pressure storage of both hydrogen and methane and outlawing of use of gas in OCGT’s. Besides which, if economics mean anything at all, then H2 from suppliers who generate it by steam reformation of natural gas under pressure will out-compete electrolytic hydrogen, as hinted at by Roger Clifton above and has been the case for many years for hydrogen used in generator cooling systems in NSW, Australia. This is despite their having access to very cheap electricity and existing H2 generating plant and thus no capital cost).

That something is possible is no indicator that it is practical, otherwise we would obtain almost all of our metals from sea water and outlaw mining globally.

This still leave unanswered Geoff Russell’s point about the unsustainable nature of most biosolids sources.

Everything I have written in this post is old news. It has been debated, with citations, elsewhere on BNC in many threads and Tcase articles.

Does anybody recall how this current discussion relates to the 4Corners program?

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@singtonengineer: 4C did mention fuel cells storing energy generated by biomass … it was a one-liner and clearly they didn’t think any discussion was required. So there was no consideration of the nature or environmental cost of the biomass. We saw this kind of response to the AEMO report in Australia … AEMO realised that renewables need to be coupled with a base load despatchable source and so postulated biomass in one of its scenarios. Green response was “See! 100% renewables is possible, AEMO says so” but without considering the detail. What’s the limit of biomass generation if you care about wildlife and biodiversity? That’s a critical question … to me … but the environmental movement simply approaches the issue as follows: “Bio? Bioanything is good … except biotechnology” of course :)

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100% renewables could be just a hype but the wind and solar, backed by storage, could have a niche of usefulness. For static installations and homes, Nickel-Iron battery could be a useful storage system.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel%E2%80%93iron_battery
As for electric vehicles, new batteries are being developed and some might work out.
http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140706/technology-science-and-trends/article/new-rechargeable-batteries-electric-vehicles-developed
Solar panel roof may add useful energy back up to an electric vehicle but you have to have charging too.

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@singletonengineer: Energy cost of compression is small. Compressing methane to 80 bar takes about 1-2% of energy that is stored.

You have all the numbers on Wikipedia article that I linked.

Economics is of course important and cheap natural gas is the reason that there are no commercial applications. But natural gas will not always be cheap and if wind and solar push prices of electricity towards zero (or negative) often enough this will start to make economic sense.

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Geoff R:
Your logic is absolutely rock solid.

OK, I eat meat and heaps of it, but each year or so, when I kill a steer, I wonder whether it will be the last. I also, as you will realise from above, drive a large vehicle which is a bit of a hangover from my working past.

It worries me a little that my diet might have to change.

It also worries me that other, more significant, lifestyle choices will soon reach into my frontal lobes and drive change.

My son is setting an example. He does not own a car. He moved house so that he can commute via light rail. His family uses a rented Go-Get car when they need one, which is about once per month. They don’t have air conditioning in their home.

He and his family walk and cycle and are an example to us all. But they never talk about their low carbon lifestyle. They have never argued with me about my one airconditioned room or my large home and vehicles.

Maybe this whole discussion will change shape once his peers are at the helm. My generation simply don’t care enough to get off their collective rear ends. Our kids aren’t arguing about change: they just do it. There’s hope yet, provided that they analyse their options thoroughly.

4C’s, in this context, is an example of a program that probably passes my son and his peers by.

BTW: PPP’s last comment indicates that he also believes in a rosy future. In his case, it is one where the price of NG is so high that it will not be economic to use it as a feedstock for production of H2. This is a forlorn hope. There is far more natural gas underground than can ethically be used. That line of thought will fry us all.

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@singletonengineer: you neglected the fact that solar and wind push prices to zero (or below). This goes in favor of power to gas, because it can use these low prices to produce hydrogen/methane.

Today hydrogen is also used for fertilizer production. We need to stop getting it from natural gas anyway. And if we get hydrogen from other sources (biomass or electrolysis), then we can use it to create methane for storage.

Solving fertilizer issue means solving energy storage issue.

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@PPP:
No, I did not forget that solar and wind push prices to below zero.

That is a fallacy.

Solar and wind plus backup have higher cost profiles than coal, nuclear and CCGT, no matter which study you look at.

Thus, industries built around solar plus wind will always have long run costs higher than the other two, unless and until something distorts the market, such as a tax on CO2-e emissions or a subsidy for the politically preferred energy source, or one energy source is banned for political reasons, as is nuclear power in Australia and, effectively, Japan.

What you said amounts to a belief that solar and wind will be advantaged at some future date by legislative intervention. Even if and when this happens, the production cost and the sale price of solar and wind power will be significantly above zero and significantly above the prices that we currently pay.

If you do not agree that this is so, it is up to you to find a reference for your “prices below zero” claim – and for much longer time periods than a market glitch of an hour or two in the middle of high summer. It needs to be true at least 20 percent of the year – say, 1700 hours at least, to come close to providing the opportunity to generate H2 at zero energy cost. Even then, your maths will fail, because your H2 plant will need to be 5 times as large as one which operates continuously, with 5 times the capital costs and an increase in operating costs.

I don’t believe that you are so silly as to believe what you wrote, so I must assume that you lifted it, uncritically, from a list of talking points which was prepared by one-eyed advocates of solar + wind.

As I have stated before, there are threads on this site and elsewhere which analyse in detail the costs and energy cycle efficiencies of various energy storage technologies, including gas. The numbers have been done, but nowhere have I seen anybody so crazy brave as to state that solar and wind power are guaranteed to result in below zero industrial electricity prices for continuous production processes. That is truly a first.

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@singletonengineer: the point was that electrolysers can avoid higher prices and use lower prices which improves their economics. It is entirely conceivable that some day they will be competitive.

They will have to be in order to solve fertilizer issue.

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@PPP:
I suggest that you re-read your last two posts and my response.

You have made an incorrect claim.

I corrected you.

You have repeated the claim with an optimistic, unjustified and outrageous rider ” It is entirely conceivable that some day they will be competitive.”

Well, long run negative costs for solar and wind are not possible. You are dead wrong and are now trying to avoid correcting your error.

At no time in the future will this magical negative cost be correct.

As for your last sentence, the mention of fertiliser is simply and only yet another attempt by you to deflect the discussion even further away from the 4Corners. Every time you reach a dead end, and that is every single path you have followed, you have switched direction. Mostly, these switches have been unsupported by references or logic – as for the negative cost furphy.

Do you have anything cogent to say about the 4Corners program, or do you not? Did you bother to watch it?

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ppp51 displays all the signs of the “true believer”.  He is heavily invested in his position and so cannot stand cognitive dissonance; any time facts and logic challenge the dogma he is forced to exercise “crimestop” and change the subject.

Such dogma is a self-inflicted brain injury.

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@singletonengineer: noone knows exactly how economics will play out. It’s not just capacity factor that matters. There are gas peakers that have less than 10% capacity factor and we still use them. We use cars and we use them less than 10% of the time (even in commercial sector usage is well below 50%). Obviously there’s more to it than just capacity factor.

Capital costs are not the only costs for electrolysis. Costs of input electricity are greater than capital costs (and therefore more important). This means that being able to avoid high electricity prices and use low ones is a significant advantage. In addition to that, electrolysers can ramp output up and down and can earn additional income by providing grid stability services.

Therefore suggesting that reducing capital costs by boosting high capacity factor is the only thing that matters is a narrow minded nuclear apologetics. Any rational thinking person can see right through it.

Furthermore, phasing out natural gas is necessary and this implies that other sources of hydrogen are needed. If we do find them, then they can also be used for energy storage. This is not avoidance of any kind, this is merely a statement of fact.

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The 4 corners episode promoting intermittent power sources could be used to turn a negative into a positive.
If permission to use the programme contents could be negotiated, it could easily be revamped into a critique of intermittents by inserting some short sharp and factual commentary after each rose coloured assertion made in the programme: commentary that could can be backed up with data, but not so full of statistics that an audience would fall asleep after 5 minutes. The commentator(s) would use a neutral but assertive approach, non apologetic, and include any images that help to make the point and make it memorable.
The programme in fact offers a perfect vehicle for a rebuttal of the sort of nonsense that is currently being put about by the advocates of intermittent power.
If there is anyone out there who knows how to get a project like this started?
I sometimes wonder if the word renewable, with all its touchy feely connotations, were replaced with the word intermittent, a lot of people would quickly focus on the limitations of a technology that is currently being promoted, with apparent increasing success, as the answer to global warming.

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Robert Hinds, you’re quite right, that is the sort of critical analysis we needed Stephen Long of the ABC to have done, but didn’t.

The questionability of using the word “renewable” was actually fed to him (and us) by that author chappie, chanting off the semi-religious belief that fossil fuels are being rapidly depleted. It should have been followed by the commentator’s question: “when we going to run out of coal?” Regardless of what the author replied, any geologist could be heard to reply to the same question with “almost never”, or words to that effect. He could then have pushed the question, so what is the urgency?

Certainly the introduction should have sketched the essentials of AGW, and quoted the IPCC on the necessity of reducing emissions (to zero!). That would have allowed the proponents of solar energy to give their sales pitch for their wares. And perhaps even a climatologist, grinding his teeth and repeating their message.

I sympathised with the CSIRO (who do world-class research by accepting money from big industries to make flattering comments on some difficult or impossible scheme). The commentator could easily have asked the author of the statement “50% prosumers by the year 2050”, the question obvious to us, “why only 50%?”. Then when the author explained that the grid would become unstable above 50% unreliables, the story would become more exciting.

However instead of an exciting story, we were given a sales pitch for a fashionable industry. How disappointing.

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Agreed, Roger.

The word “renewable” should not be replaced with the word “intermittent” but with the word “unreliable”, which is closest to the truth.

The sooner the fad/fashion that is renewables is seen for what it is, the sooner true discussion can start.

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Here in Tasmania our hydro-electric system is almost 100 percent reliable. There are pluses and minuses with every energy source. Describing renewables as being inherently ‘unreliable’ is about as disingenuous as describing nuclear energy as inherently ‘dangerous’.

But I understand your frustration ad why you would like to turn the tables.

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People are obviously talking here about ‘technosolar’ and its capacity to scale up, as was the 4Corners programme. Not hydro. To imply otherwise is disingenuous.

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Good job guys you insulted your opponents until you won the argument. Well done. Now opposition to nuclear power in the community has vanished and it is being rolled out across the country.

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Here in Tasmania our hydro-electric system is almost 100 percent reliable.

Because it draws from a stockpile of energy, Chris.  Should you drain your reservoirs your reliability will abruptly vanish.  That is the difference between a stockpile and a flow.  Flows are not reliable.

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Yep, I’m the first to agree that every power source has its downsides. An impending El Nino is not good for Tasmania’s energy security. But I wouldn’t argue against hydro power per se on those grounds. It also does have immense biodiversity impacts and, in any case, most places don’t have any scope for hydro development.

I also agree that many objections to nuclear energy, especially safety ones, are totally illogical when one considers the other technologies that we are totally happy with, like our cars.

I fully understand the frustration within the nuclear energy lobby, but it’s not helpful to work from a resentful mind-set.

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@Chris Harries:
The suggestion that this conversation has included an argument against hydro is not correct. It is a straw man.

Whatever you said after that claim is thus irrelevant.

There is an honest and continuing effort by several contributors here to actually understand what other contributors are saying and to take care not to misrepresent what they say.

This extends to recognition of the value of contributions and to explain where on BNC other information and analysis has been posted over the past several years.

Nobody has “argue[d] against hydro power per se on those grounds” (el nino and energy security). Why do you pretend that this is so?

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Thanks for that. If you read through my various posts, Singletone, you will find that I’m not a combative person, and actually try to tread a path between extreme views. You are referring to a comment I made about avoiding blanket statements

Repeating, I do empathise with many nuclear advocates because I know some personally and these folk are genuinely committed to climate change action and despair that the nuclear solution that they see as being the only viable ‘dense energy’ alternative has been swept under the carpet by the wave of enthusiasm for renewables.

Graham Palmer’s book is closer to my position on the more technical matters and this has been covered in a later post on BNC.

It can be rather difficult in environmental circles to raise the issue of nuclear technology developments because for many in those circles the shutters come down. I must say on the other hand (and others have commented on this as well) is that the intolerance of some overly earnest folk who agitate for nuclear tends to push potential people away from their cause. Every lobbying movement has some of those.

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Practically all the possible arguments for and against wind and solar have been given above. I can only give summaries by my own perception.
The biggest country in Europe is going off nuclear. The biggest countries in the world are going for nuclear and closed fuel cycle in a big way.
Renewable s are a successful means in isolated areas. Base load power plus distribution is balanced against distributed generation plus storage. That gives a niche to renewable s. Maybe even some back up share.
Spent nuclear fuel has to be recycled. Russia and Asians are going that way. It minimizes the storage requirement. Russians have just started their next fast reactor. Indians are close to it. Chinese have experimental fast reactors and are planning for fast power reactors.

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Chris, REneweconomy is clearly a site which is built on two buzz phrases: Smart energy and renewable energy, both of which are used as articles of faith and are meaningless in this context.

That is why BNC usually avoids discussion of sites such as this and, in particular, to sites which are run by folk who have a financial stake in the technologies which they are advocating.

Real journalists have no difficulty discriminating between commercial spin, quasi-religious preaching to the converted and demonstrable facts.

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Without wanting to overstate the obvious, Giles left Climate Spectator to found ReNewEconomy, which is a for-profit site that earns revenue selling mostly to the solar and related industries – refer those ads on the right. ReNew has developed a brand around building a narrative of new technology, energy revolutions, and disruptive solar technologies. It no doubt understands its demographic, and I think Giles and other contributors believe in what they do. More clicks equals more revenue – as to the value of content, make up your own mind. An anti-nuclear piece (lead author Mycle Schneider) is a free kick for a site indirectly earning revenue when solar panels are sold – there aren’t too many retail consumers in the market for a SMR just yet ….

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Making a profit doesn’t mean the arguments are wrong. Many environmentalists believe renewables are the answer and they engage in commecial activity to speed things up.

Many climate scientists are engaged in communicating climate issue and they get paid for it. Does that make them biased? Not automatically.

Some people are honest about their beliefs.

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PPP251, are you suggesting that commercial bias is irrelevant? Are you suggesting that I advocate that there must be full disclosure of all advocating that there should be no disclosure of personal involvement?

Of course that is not so, provided that there is disclosure of personal involvement in the industry. What is yours?

I am happy to argue that those who join the debate first disclose their affiliations. I have none. Do you?

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ppp251, I certainly wouldn’t dismiss the value of ReNew simply because of commercial bias – it still has newsworthy content and I don’t doubt the sincerity of its contributors. Frankly, I don’t visit the site much but my observation is that the site does what every other media outlet does – it creates a pitch that engages its target demographic so that visitors will return frequently and click through.

An example is Giles’ pitch for “the death spiral” and the “death of coal” due to solar. He gets multiple stories, different angles, commentary – which translates into lots of unique visits. On the other hand, reminding visitors of the longevity of coal is not going to attract many clicks nor attract solar industry revenue…..

Another example – doing an interesting article on the remarkable longevity and resilience of the lead-acid battery. Modern construction can be traced to 1881, and the battery continues to be the battery-of-choice for off-grid solar. But this will be one article for one day. But construct a narrative of disruptive change, emerging batteries and novel storage technology – and this will ensure open-ended articles, narratives, and commentary into the future – work it out yourself.

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@ppp251 compares the sales spin on a website with the publications of climate scientists.

There is a world of difference between making money out of a community’s ignorance and being paid a miserly salary to tell them the facts.

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