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Get Fact: testing Ian Plimer on wind and solar power

Ian Plimer, an ally of Gina Rinehart, has written a new book criticising environmentalists and casting doubt on climate change. Renewable energy expert Dr Mark Diesendorf does some fact-checking.

No doubt Professor Ian Plimer is an expert geologist. He drew upon that knowledge in writing his well-known 1994 book attacking creationists, Telling Lies for God. Unfortunately his attempts to critique renewable energy in his new book Not for Greens demonstrate that he is out of his depth in this field. His treatment of renewable energy is mostly nonsense from start to finish.

Not for Greens will be launched in Sydney today. Crikey ran a fact-check of Plimer’s key assertions on climate science last week; here I’m fact-checking what he says in my area of expertise, renewable energy.

Plimer’s book has no pretensions of scholarship, since it lacks references, and its discussion of renewable energy is clearly not based on scholarly research by himself. He simply rehashes false myths, mostly originating in propaganda disseminated by supporters of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. These myths have been refuted again and again by experts in renewable energy. Here I’ll address a few of Plimer’s howlers on wind and solar power.

A serious error is Plimer’s claim that wind is “totally unreliable” and that “no carbon dioxide-emitting coal-fired thermal power station has been replaced by a wind farm”. Actually South Australia has nominally two coal-fired power stations, several gas-fired power stations and many wind farms. As a result of the growth of wind generation to an annual average of over 27% of electricity generation, one of the coal stations is now shut down for half the year and the other for the whole year. Although gas capacity has not increased, the state’s electricity supply system is operating reliably. Clearly wind is partially reliable, despite its fluctuations.

Plimer then attempts to generalise his above incorrect claims to the notion that wind farms “cannot produce continuous electricity without coal, gas, nuclear, hydro or geothermal backup”. This notion has been refuted by hourly computer simulations of the operation of large-scale electricity supply systems with 80 to 100% renewable energy in several countries and regions (reviewed in Chapter 3 of Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change). These studies use actual hourly data on electricity demand and renewable energy supply, striving to balance supply and demand each hour over periods ranging from 1 to 10 years.

For instance, our research at UNSW simulating the Australian National Electricity Market uses only commercially available renewable energy technologies (scaled-up wind, solar and biomass, together with existing hydro). We find that 100% renewable energy could have supplied electricity in 2010 with the same reliability as the polluting fossil-fuelled system. While we would not operate the grid on 100% wind alone, we could operate it on the above mix of renewable energy technologies with different statistical properties. Furthermore, using the Australian government’s own conservative projections to 2030 for the costs of renewable energy technologies, we find that 100% renewable electricity would be affordable.

The relevant papers by Ben Elliston, Iain MacGill and myself, published in peer-reviewed international journals, can be downloaded from my UNSW website.

In discussing the energy inputs needed to build a wind turbine, Plimer claims that “the correct figure for payback of just the embedded energy is probably more in the order of 15 to 20 years. Whatever the figure is …”. The weasel words “probably,” “in the order of” and “whatever the figure is” suggest that Plimer is either guessing or misrepresenting the result and trying to cover himself. Actual life-cycle assessments find that, depending upon the site and type of wind turbine, the energy payback period (in terms of energy, not money) is actually three to nine months!

Plimer greatly exaggerates the land use and associated environmental impacts of wind farms, by taking the land they span and misrepresenting it as the land they occupy. Wind farms actually occupy only 1% to 3% of the land they span. They are normally erected on agricultural land and it’s rare that a single tree is cleared. They bring supplementary rental income to the farmers who host them (typically $8000 to $10,000 per turbine per year in Australia), and increasingly bring financial benefits to local communities.

Other errors and misrepresentations abounding in Plimer’s account include:

  • The small subsidies to renewable energy under the Renewable Energy Target are not paid “even when a wind farm is shut down”, because they are paid per megawatt-hour of electricity generated, not per megawatt of generating capacity.
  • Furthermore, they are not paid by taxpayers, but by a tiny increase in retail electricity price paid by electricity consumers (except large consumers who have gained exemptions). This increase is offset by a decrease in wholesale price of electricity.
  • Although Plimer correctly writes that “wind turbines can only extract about 45% of the available kinetic energy,” he omits to put this into context: ordinary coal-fired power stations can only convert into electricity 30% to 40% of the energy stored in the coal.
  • The best solar cells have efficiencies of around 25% (laboratory) and 21.5% (commercial), rather than Plimer’s “not much higher than 10%”.
  • Solar power stations do not depend on floodlighting the mirrors to operate at night. Concentrated solar thermal power stations actually store part of the solar energy collected during daytime in tanks of molten salt, to generate at night.

These and other myths are busted in my new book Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change. Are Plimer’s errors and misrepresentations the result of ignorance or deliberate deception? I don’t know, but it is worrying to see them uttered by a senior scientist.

Plimer’s book is not for anyone seeking a rational, accurate, up-to-date account of renewable energy. I wonder whether some will rename it Telling Lies for the Fossil Fuel Industry.

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  • 1
    Bill Parker
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I am growing ever more weary of the kind of stuff that Plimer writes. I have to ask - what is the motivation? Why does he write deliberately misleading material and get the facts wrong? Surely he should apply the same rigour to this writing as he might to his geological writing? Why the difference?

    Flood lighting mirrors at solar thermal power stations? Is he really serious? This kind of stupid nonsense is a discredit to himself.

  • 2
    marcfranc
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    You say that ‘Concentrated solar thermal power stations actually store part of the solar energy collected during daytime in tanks of molten salt, to generate at night.’

    The only reference I can find to a working solar power station using this technology is Andasol in Spain, which Wikipedia says cost 900 million euros and has a capacity of about 150 MW, about the same as, for example, the Capital Wind Farm outside Canberra, which reportedly cost around $300 million to build, less than a quarter of the cost of the Andasol plant.

  • 3
    Bill Parker
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    marchfranc,

    You should look at Bright Source and Solar reserve for more info. It might also be instructive to look at the cost of coal fired power station (where of course there is a fuel cost factor over the entire lifetime of such a plant, not to mention the environmental cost)

  • 4
    marcfranc
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Bill Parker, the plants you refer to don’t appear to be operating yet. Dr Diesendorf seems to be saying that this technology is currently operating at multiple plants. It may have great potential (I’m no expert, and have no idea), but unless you or he can point to operating examples of the technology, I’m going to wonder about the rest of his response to Ian Pilmer’s book. Which disappoints, because I certainly don’t fall into the climate change deniers club.

  • 5
    Scott
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    marcfranc, what exactly are you asking for?

  • 6
    marcfranc
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Scott, some evidence to back up the implication in the original story that molten salt technology is routinely used to keep solar power stations operating at night. Solar plants may well have the potential to provide around the clock power, but are we anywhere near that point yet? Is it too much to expect that fact checking Ian Pilmer’s claims should be based on solid evidence?

  • 7
    RichardB, Hornsby
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    The Andasol plant is a proof of concept commercial solar plant, at 150MW. Larger plant is now being built, indeed operational in the USA and elswhere in Spain, up to 354MW. Plans are current for much larger plant. As the scale builds, and experience builds, the costs are reliably* forecast to reduce to be comparable with or better than coal within a few years at most. Wind will remain cheaper, but for reliability you need a mix of the cheap wind power and the on tap thermal storage provided by Solar Thermal Storage.

    Check this list for Largest Solar Thermal Power Plans in Operation http://solarlove.org/largest-solar-power-plants-world/

    PS: So far performance in reducing costs is actually better than forecast.

    The question is not if wind and solar will replace coal fired power, it’s will another single coal fired power station ever be built in Australia, in America, in Europe ? To build a new coal fired power station, with a 30 year return on investment, means gambling on being able to compete with renewable technologies in 2044 and beyond. But eh forecast is it will be cheaper /MW in just a few short years.

    Once concentrated solar is fully scaled up, and wind allowed to expand without opposition from fossil fuel paid politicians, expect the coal power stations to begin shutting down, beginning with the dirtiest ones.

  • 8
    zut alors
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    marcfranc, this is part of the transcript from last week’s Four Corners programme, a project which is due to kick start very soon in the USA:

    STEPHEN LONG: Tonopah.

    This sleepy little town in the high desert country of the Sierra Nevada is at a crossroads, where the old economy is making way for the new.

    Tonopah was one of the last frontiers of the Old West.

    The discovery of silver at the dawn of the 20th century sparked a mining boom, before the town lapsed into fading glory.

    They campaign hard out here, but there’s little division about where the future lies.

    It’s in mining the sun.

    Less than a half hour’s drive out of town is a state-of-the-art solar facility known as Crescent Dunes.

    If it looks space-age, that’s because it is, considered by some to be the most advanced power plant in the world.

    The project’s technical director is Brian Painter, an industry veteran who’s been running electricity plants for 30 years.

    (to Brian Painter) It’s amazing. It’s like a mechanical forest.

    BRIAN PAINTER, CRESCENT DUNES: It is exactly, you are walking through a mechanical forest. It’s made up of steel and mirrors and all this sort of thing.

    STEPHEN LONG: The huge mirrors on these mechanical trees are known as heliostats.

    BRIAN PAINTER: Each heliostat concentrates the sun’s energy on the top of the tower there, the black section that you see.

    STEPHEN LONG: What’s in the tower?

    BRIAN PAINTER: What’s in that black section is molten salt. Molten salt is pumped through the top. It’s like a big energy absorber; it’s absorbing all that sun’s energy that’s being concentrated on the tower.

    STEPHEN LONG: While we were at Crescent Dunes, the process of pumping 31 million kilograms of salt into the tower was still being completed.

    When the plant starts running later this year, 10,347 glittering mirrors will beam concentrated light onto the tower, where the molten sodium will act like a giant battery, storing the sun’s energy.

    DAVID HOCHSCHILD: Crescent Dunes is a remarkable thing to see. This is the first solar thermal power plant in the world to have molten salt storage, so what it does it takes the energy of the sun, produces electricity and then stores that as heat in molten salt storage and, at night, when they need to make use of that power, they can run it from the heat that’s being stored in this molten salt storage facility.

    BRIAN PAINTER: The thing with being able to store the energy is that we can shift the time of delivery; we can deliver night time, day time, when a utility might want power, we can deliver any time.

    STEPHEN LONG: Overcoming one of the perceived problems of solar: that the energy’s only available when the sun’s shining. This technology could be the backbone of a power grid, delivering base-load power as reliably as coal or gas-fired generators.

    When it’s up and running, it will be providing energy into the night for the neon-light capital of the world.

    DAVID HOCHSCHILD: That’s right. The facility’s going to be providing power to Las Vegas.

    It’s hard to think of a city in the world that uses more energy at night than Las Vegas, so it’s a great validation of the possibilities of solar and storage together.

    STEPHEN LONG: The company behind Crescent Dunes wants to bring this remarkable technology to Australia.

    It’s hoping the mining industry will embrace solar power at remote mine sites, which currently rely on polluting, and heavily subsidised diesel fuel to generate electricity.

    It had planned to build large scale renewable power plants to supply retail electricity, but it’s given up on those ambitions because of the drift of policy down-under.

    KEVIN SMITH, CEO SOLARRESERVE: That policy change pretty much took the life out of the renewable energy sector as far as large scale projects for say utility applications.

    Other markets around the world are advancing.

    Australia is going to get left behind.

    STEPHEN LONG: Kevin Smith is the chief executive of SolarReserve, the company that developed Crescent Dunes.

    (to Kevin Smith) What was the reaction in your sector in the United States when people discovered that a man who denies that C02 is contributing to climate change was appointed to head the review of the Australian Renewable Energy Target?

    KEVIN SMITH: Well, it’s a little bit hard to grasp that, kind of that concept. I mean clearly you know that appointment was made because they want to move back towards conventional fuels: coal and oil.

    It’s pretty clear that the policy in Australia is now being centred around big coal. The coal industry clearly has rallied to move policy away from renewable energies because they view renewable energy as a threat and back toward conventional coal.

    STEPHEN LONG: The new developments with renewable energy and storage seem to have passed the Prime Minister by.

  • 9
    mikeb
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    The tragedy is that Plimer’s book will get all the publicity until myth becomes “fact”.

  • 10
    Mark M
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    @marcfranc. This might be useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivanpah_Solar_Power_Facility

  • 11
    marco
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Before rushing into print, marcfranc, why not do a quick Google? Then you wouldn’t waste other people’s time informing you the all the Andasol solar power stations (50 MWe) and Gemasolar (22 MWe) in Spain have molten salt storage. In the USA, Solan (280 MW) has molten salt. These are all operating. In addition, Crescent Dunes (110 MWe) in the USA is about to start operating. There are others that you could find.

  • 12
    Bill Parker
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    marcfranc

    Brightsource’s Ivanpah No 1 IS operational and supplying to the grid as planned, but this is not reflected at the website. The last of the 3 plants will become operational this year.

    Solar Reserve at Tonapah is in late stage pre operational checking right now. It will be a supplier to Las Vegas into the night. This I have from a Solar reserve executive.

    The answer is that CSP plants with storage are operational.

  • 13
    marcfranc
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    marco, perhaps you should start at the top of the thread before rushing in print yourself.

  • 14
    Paracleet
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Molten salt is not routinely used for anything, it is a specific design of solar thermal plant that is only now coming into use which focus the light for collectors on a central point to heat a reservoir of salt that then generates electricity via turbines. This load is sufficiently large that the heat stored during the day can used to run the plant continuously. Traditionally solar thermal plants worked by heating liquid at each collector individually (oil usually) and could hence only run during the day.
    God knows what Pilmer was on about in terms of lighting up plants but if it was that then he is very confused (He isn’t, his object ideological of course so any objection he can use is fine no matter how outlandish).

    I believe Solar photovoltaics do draw a small charge at night which he could be using as a basis for suggesting this ‘objection’ but really we’d have to have a look at the book since the article doesn’t make it absolutely clear what he was talking about.
    Or we could not bother because Pilmer is childish clown.

  • 15
    mikeb
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    It’s exciting that Aust has the vast potential of supplying clean power to International as well as domestic markets. It’s all a bit inconvenient to big oil & big coal isn’t it?

  • 16
    @chrispydog
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Fact testing Diesendorf et al:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2012/02/09/100-renewable-electricity-for-australia-the-cost/

    The green cult laps up this stuff, and so while there’s a market for it, someone will produce it.

    Show me ANY country with anything like 100% renewables. 50%? 35%?

    Germany’s green revolution is an absolute disaster, should we follow them?

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2013/10/04/should-other-nations-follow-germanys-lead-on-promoting-solar-power/

  • 17
    @chrispydog
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Zut Alors, CSP has the WORST economics of just about any renewable technology except maybe wave power.

    Ivanpah had to up the amount of gas it burns (yes, gas!) to ‘warm up’ in the mornings to try and make its numbers look better.

    And then there’s the tiny problem of frying birdlife which is not its only ecological impact.

    Really, that Stephen Long thing was “ooh, ah” but don’t ask the costs.

    Sadly, the ABC has let an economist talk about energy, and the rentseekers took him for a ride.

  • 18
    @chrispydog
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Australia produces 850g of CO2/KWh, France just 80g.

    We can cut by 10/20/30 percent and still have very dirty electricity.

    No country has reduced emissions to such low levels without nuclear, and none will, because civilisation is built on dense energy sources.

    It’s maths.

    If solar was truly “cheaper than coal” then we’d be using it to replace coal.

    Solar PV is cheaper than coal just like a bicycle is cheaper than a Mack truck.

    Spin abounds on all sides, but the world’s CO2 levels are still rising and the hundreds of billions spent on RE are making no difference to that fact.

  • 19
    Bort
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful utopia it will be when we’ve burned every last hydrocarbon. We’re stuffed.

  • 20
    pertina1
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I already know that it’s a pretty fair bet that anything written by Ian Plimer on climate change is going to be pure crap so please stop wasting my time by taking it seriously.

  • 21
    wbddrss
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    I am very skeptical of ” the energy payback period (in terms of energy, not money) is actually three to nine months!”

    From my understanding of chemistry, all metals are energy intensive in their production. Even silicon wafer needs to be converted from SiO2 to Si using expensive energy that is subsidized. I personally don’t see this situation changing.

    On just the physics alone the more energy intensive as opposed to energy dispersed collection, must be cheapest because there is less infra structure to support it.

    But as even Jim Kramer said on TV, NUCLEAR HAS TURNED OUT TO BE THE MOST EXPENSIVE. A financial TV anchorman knows better because all this research is just rhetoric AND figures are self serving for & on behalf of industry practioners.

    If accountants & lawyers were to think that renewables would be cheaper, then we would all have nothing but renewables.

    The opposite is occurring, Germany is actually WIP going back to dirty brown coal to balance up closing down nuclear.(no URL, just wait & see.. all eyes on germany)

    Again all this costings just makes the word research ugly.

    wbddrss

  • 22
    @chrispydog
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Just for a taste of the kind of assumptions required to run 100% renewable, here’s one:

    24 GW of gas turbines running on biofuels

    (That’s approx half of Australia’s current total generating capacity)

    Anyone think that ‘smells’ funny?

    I rest my case.

  • 23
    Thomas Stuart
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Dr Mark Diesendorf gives acknowledgement to Plimer’s expertise in “Telling Lies For God” but it may reflect agreement with the conclusions rather than an examination of the actual arguments. Reviews on that book reveal that Plimer similarly ventures beyond his expertise undermining the credibility of his conclusions … even when you agree with them.

  • 24
    Thomas Stuart
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Here is a review of Plimer’s “Telling Lies For God” from the Amazon website … which by implication suggests that “Not For Greens” is just more of the same:
    “As a hobby, I follow the creation/evolution controversy. I read as many books as I can, from both sides. Having missed the media frenzy when Plimer’s book first came out, I only just got around to reading it. Frankly, it is possibly the worst response to creationists, and definately the worst book on science I have ever had the misfortune of reading.

    Plimer makes many, fundamental scientific errors, such as that sulfer is solid below 444 degrees C (p. 21), when this is actually the boiling point; that nuclear reactors are powered by alpha-decay through uranium 238 (p. 25) when nuclear reactors is actually fission of uranium 235 or plutonium 239; that the sun functions through the same process (alpha fusion) when it fuctions through fusion of hydrogen; that no item in science or technology has been developed by creationists (p. 12) when self-admitted creationist Dr. Raymond Damadian was the scientist who developed the MRI, Sir Ambrose Fleming developed the thermionic valve that enabled radio broadcasts to be made, Forrest M. Mims III developed am atmospheric haze sensor that even Scientific American itself admitted “could revolutionize this important field of study.”

    Plimer also claimed that Pi is 3.14159 (p. 18) when this is still an approximation; that camels hooves are not cloven (p. 17) when there is actually a pad between the hooves, meaning that the hoof is not completely divied; and manages to get racemisation backwards (p. 29-30). These mistakes could literally be multiplied by the hundreds. But my all-time favorite blunder continues to be when Plimer stated categorically that the english alphabet contains 23 letters (p. 224). Which three has Plimer decided not to use? And if you think that could just be a typo or fluke mistake, he repeats the same thing (emphasis, you know) in the very next line!

    Plimer also commits libel against the Creation Science Foundation (now Answers in Genesis), fabricating articles and papers which do not exist to smear AiG, calling creation science a “cult”, despite the fact that leading authorities on cultic activity called the claim misleading and without theological, psychological, or sociological support. Plimer has also made other false claims we won’t address.

    The book is replete with errors, false documentation, harsh language (i.e. creationism is a “bull**** reinforcer,” p. xiv; creationism is a “cult,” etc.) far beyond any creationist has ever said about evolutionists, false claims (i.e. CSF has deliberately lied, deceived, and fuctions through financial impropriety), and inuendo. As a further death mark, the book contains no index.

    Ultimately, this book, with its many errors, scientific and otherwise, can ironically be called a work of “pseudo-science” itself, a label Plimer pins on creationists.”

  • 25
    Sancho
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Progressives exaggerating the effectiveness of renewables, and conservatives flat-out lying about it. Same old.

    Easily the most fascinating comment so far is from Chrispydog, when he says:

    If solar was truly “cheaper than coal” then we’d be using it to replace coal.

    Those of us on the progressive side of this debate often wonder if the denialists are mendacious or simply gullible. In this case it appears the latter, because it’s hard for anyone who understands what actually happens in the real world to make, with such unknowing irony, such a credulous, black-is-white statement that flies not only in the face of available facts, but contradicts the actions of the entire fossil fuel lobby.

    The answer is no, Chrispy. Ensuring that the world doesn’t switch to renewables despite their effectiveness is the entire point of the argument. It’s the entire point of the oil industry spending billions of dollars on propaganda, the entire point of the Abbott government’s wasteful pandering to fossil fuel corporations, and, of course, the entire point that Plimer was paid to justify with this book.

  • 26
    PDGFD1
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Dr. Diesendorf… you’ve saved me a great deal of work… not to mention the price of Plimer’s book.

    Will be more than happy to purchase your ‘rebuttal’ book, should you and your associates write one (Hint, hint…)

  • 27
    PDGFD1
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Oops…. and there it is (the book)… off to grab one!

  • 28
    PDGFD1
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Oh C’mon Crispydog
    “No country has reduced emissions to such low levels without nuclear, and none will, because civilisation is built on dense energy sources. It’s maths.”

    Civilisation’ appears to be causing climate change.

    Nuclear… why do people insist on going ‘back to the future’?? 10,000 years half life toxic waste issue, that’s just a new problem (and no… I won’t bother with the greed/human error aspect re accidents).

    It seems pretty clear to anyone pragmatic, and interested in having a genuine new industrial revolution, that we will need some coal (preferably gas) whilst we make the necessary transition to RE.
    Unless we find alternatives to coke for steel manufacture (and the like), we will probably have some coal for a while yet.

    Basically, we need to minimise our use of fossil fuels asap.
    Perhaps a few of these contracts to sell Australian gas overseas (and in liquid form… stupidly wasteful) should be stopped, so we can actually use our gas while the transition is made.
    Utopian perhaps in the current political climate, but pragmatic.

  • 29
    PDGFD1
    Posted Monday, 14 July 2014 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Wbddrss @19
    “A financial TV anchorman knows better because all this research is just rhetoric …”

    No it’s not. Moreover, without adequate research geese like Plimer and Monkton would completely hold sway.

    And
    “If accountants & lawyers were to think that renewables would be cheaper, then we would all have nothing but renewables.”

    I can reliably inform you that neither accountants nor lawyers are likely to have any knowledge whatsoever in this area.

  • 30
    wbddrss
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 1:47 am | Permalink

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

    Is this green enough for everyone. Cut out the subsidies. Burn the coal. May the cheapest source of energy stand on its own two feet.
    wbddrss

  • 31
    MJPC
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Why do they give Pilmer oxygen, he is neither a meteorologist, physicist of electrical engineer, he’s a geologist and obviously has no technical ability or expertise to comment on alternate energy.
    Save your money in buying the book and look at the Rocky Mountains Institute site for the true story.
    As the 4 corners episode stated, the carbon age is finished. It’s not only renewables, it’s also fuel cells and electric cars. It’s also the new technologies that use less power to do a better job (such as LED street lighting)If the scientists perfect Fusion power (and it’s only a matter of time) then it’s all over red rover for coal burning, nuclear fission and the “chicken little” Pilmers of this world and good riddance. I would rather have a saved biosphere than some crackpot calling the tunes for the Oil and coal companies.
    I’d be interested to hear what he has to say about electric cars, yet another revolution staring small but will see the end of the gas guzzlers.

  • 32
    Cathy Alexander
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    @chrispydog #16: ‘Show me ANY country with anything like 100% renewables. 50%? 35%?’

    How about this:

    Iceland today generates 100% of its electricity with renewables: 75% of that from large hydro, and 25% from geothermal. Equally significant, Iceland provides 87% of its demand for hot water and heat with geothermal energy, primarily through an extensive district heating system.’

    http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/iceland-a-100-renewables-example-in-the-modern-era-56428

    There are others too.

    I look forward to reading your response.

  • 33
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    @crispydogs contributions fairly typical of the myopic and the conflicted.

    If solar was truly “cheaper than coal” then we’d be using it to replace coal.”

    Oh really, well, Sancho debunked that rather nicely, thank you Sancho.

    or this!

    Show me ANY country with anything like 100% renewables. 50%? 35%?’

    What does that have to do with anything, anything at all crispydog, apart from the fact that Cathy Alexander has blown that non-sequitur out of the water.

    Show me one country that gets all its energy from nuclear, or coal, or wind, or hydro, or oil, or any single source!

    It doesn’t matter. There is no way that we will get to 100% renewables without getting to 90% first, then 80%, then, oh why bother. What a stupid argument.

    A pile of non-sequiturs is just that, and nothing more. @crispydog wins the day.

    Thank you Dr Deisendorf.

  • 34
    Merve
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Show me one country that gets all its energy from nuclear, or coal, or wind, or hydro, or oil, or any single source!”

    a point that should be obvious, but is usually completely ignored.

  • 35
    @chrispydog
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Oh, of course, Iceland, a “country” with the population of a small town, sitting on one of the natural energy hot spots on the planet.

    The level of the ‘debate’ is typical for the green cult…”we have the solutions it’s just the nasty fossil fuel industries stopping us from using them”.

    It would be laughable except for the gravity of the earth’s predicament.

    France produces almost 80% of its electricity from nuclear, with the lowest emissions of ANY modern economy.

    Spain, like Germany, went heavily into solar and wind. But unlike Germany, kept its nuclear fleet.

    Guess which country’s emissions went down and which one’s is going up?

    When you’ve worked that out, ask yourself why.

    We need EVERY low carbon source of energy, but without nuclear, as James Hansen et al wrote recently, “just solar and wind” is the road to hell.

  • 36
    @chrispydog
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    btw the total global energy from modern renewables, wind/solar/biofuels/geothermal is 1.2% according to the Renewables 2014 Global Status Report:

    See p.21 Fig.1:

    ren21(dot)net /REN21Activities/ GlobalStatusReport(dot)aspx

    The Wall Street Journal’s headline on this authoritative report?

    (Wait for it!)

    World Gets 22% of Electricity From Renewable Energy”

    Now, back to throwing your opinions around….

  • 37
    Liamj
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    chrispydog: “as James Hansen et al wrote recently, “just solar and wind” is the road to hell.” Link or you made that up.
    Solar & wind alone would certainly mean less J/s or kWh than billions of tonnes of coal provide, but thats only a problem if you’re wedded to the economists growth-forever delusion. Are you?

    Back on topic: Plimers persistent errors can only be deliberate, which disqualifies him as a scientist in my book. I am puzzled why Dr Mark Diesendorf refers to Plimer as a ‘senior scientist’, unless it is in the same way as Lamarck was senior. Truly, science advances by funerals.

  • 38
    @chrispydog
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Liamj

    Hansen et al did an open letter to the world. You must have been out that day :)

    Anyway, here’s his blog post on the subject:

    columbia (dot)edu/~jeh1/mailings/2014/20140221_DraftOpinion (dot)pdf

  • 39
    @chrispydog
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    google this:

    Renewable Energy, Nuclear Power and Galileo: Do
    Scientists Have a Duty to Expose Popular Misconceptions?
    James E. Hansen

    Hansen et al did an open letter to the world. Were you out that day? :)

  • 40
    @chrispydog
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    anything

  • 41
    @chrispydog
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    I write seem to get moderation, so just do a search on Hansen and:

    Renewable Energy, Nuclear Power and Galileo: Do
    Scientists Have a Duty to Expose Popular Misconceptions?
    James E. Hansen

  • 42
    @chrispydog
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Also, Hansen et al wrote an open letter on the subject so search on:

    Caldeira Emmanuel Hansen

  • 43
    @chrispydog
    Posted Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    James Hansen:

    Yes, a few scientists assert that renewables alone are sufficient, a position that gets applause.
    As for me, I would prefer to stick to science and tend my orchard. Unfortunately, the situation is
    different than it was in the 1600s, when religion pressured science. The urgency of now steals
    the luxury of silence. Galileo knew that the truth would come out eventually and no one would
    be harmed. So he could just mutter under his breath “and yet it moves!” That, I cannot do.”

  • 44
    paul holland
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Living in Japan it is interesting to see how the local gas stations are all closing with the Hybrid cars in huge numbers and the emergence of all electric cars. The nuclear power stations may be switched on again but there are underlying trends which point to renewable energy such as the sun or under our feet.
    Pilmer is having the rug pulled from under his feet too.
    Does one class this book as fiction or non. The librarians will have an interesting time.

  • 45
    O. Puhleez
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    paul holland: “Does one class this book as fiction or non. The librarians will have an interesting time.”
    .
    A suggestion to librarians: I have read ‘Heaven + Earth’ and regard it as a most valuable and important contribution to Medieval literature.

  • 46
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Tuesday, 22 July 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    the beginnings of a more nuanced examination of Diesendorf’s claims: https://decarbonisesa.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/worlds-without-nuclear_shareable-version.pdf

    Iceland, seriously? As one of the truly exceptional pieces of world geology (thin oceanic crust superimposed on a mantle hot spot) it is utterly useless to the rest of the world and especially Australia as an example of what can be done with renewable energy (which geothermal arguably isn’t in any case). You should know better, Cathy.

  • 47
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Tuesday, 22 July 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    As for the ‘others’ mentioned by Cathy Alexander, I’m betting the lion’s share of those is from hydro, which is largely maxed out globally, i.e. has little upside potential or scope to deliver greater decarbonisation along the lines required. We need to look to other technologies for massive reliable electricity, and there is no example anywhere of the remaining renewables demonstrating such, as per chrispydog’s assertion.

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