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#51 2023-03-06 04:31:06

Terraformer
Member
From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,816
Website

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

I wonder if a traditional windmill would face the same planning objections as modern turbines. Presumably the acoustic profile would be very different, and the aesthetics certainly would? Construction would be more time consuming; whilst they would last for centuries instead of decades, that's a very long payback time.

Perhaps a cluster on a hillside, all feeding a compressed air generator? Using it to produce liquid air would add consistency to the output -- direct generation might be more efficient, but there's no storage in such a system, not even to handle second by second fluctuations. It would be very good to have something that can give the grid IDK half an hour of warning when the wind dies down, so they can bring other options online instead of running gas turbines inefficiently.


"I'm gonna die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy." - If this forum was a Mars Colony

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#52 2023-03-06 05:09:36

kbd512
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Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 7,427

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Calliban,

At the volumes involved, I was thinking that we'd cycle the air and water through our overall energy system like crap through a goose.  Storing energy for months is more useful for providing electricity during the winter.  Energetic materials are doing useful work only when they're supplying power, so storage volume should only be as large as our peak demands.  As for how to reheat the cold water without access to solar thermal or nuclear thermal power, you could also drill a well under the train stations to heat up the water using geothermal power.  If you drill down about 2km, the temperature is about 50C.  At 4.5km, almost anywhere in the US is at or above 100C.  Many of our abandoned oil wells are deeper than this.  Shallower wells combined with more frequent stops would allow the use of water containing less heat energy.  Most trains don't traverse the entire country without making any stops along the way.  In places with lots of solar insolation, you're wasting your time and money with wells.  A nuclear power plant is a bonus if you have it nearby, because it can supply hot water in massive quantities.

You could use a small nuclear decay heat power source at the bottom of a geothermal well, but it's easier to just drill deeper.  Expending electrical power to keep spent fuel cool also seems kinda dumb when it could do useful work supplying hot water for years.  There are lots of viable ways to stop using hydrocarbon fuels.  Unfortunately, they don't satisfy the complexity cravings some people have, they cost real money to build, and we'd rather squander money on projects that yield nothing of lasting value, instead of simply resigning ourselves to lower energy density systems that are truly sustainable.

We have enough air and water to make this work.  We will never have enough metal for batteries, absent orders of magnitude improvement in battery technology.  Even if that electrical energy storage problem was already solved, we still don't have enough Copper.  That seems like a fairly fundamental problem.  I think they're still in denial about how badly the people promoting this electric-everything nonsense screwed up, with respect to not doing their bean counting homework.

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#53 2023-03-06 05:25:54

kbd512
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Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 7,427

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Terraformer,

If the windmill actually provides a complete power solution, lasts longer than 10 years, is made from natural materials that don't end up in a landfill, is less likely to throw flaming debris into the next county if it fails, and doesn't emit a reverberating sound that drives people nuts, then I think you'd have a lot fewer objections.

There is no practical way to store electricity in any significant quantity, using known materials science.  If the wind turbine only makes electricity, then that's an intractable problem.

There is no practical way to recycle a composite material.  We use very nasty stuff to bond fiberglass and carbon fiber, so burning it is less than desirable as well.  We're making blades longer than entire airliner wings by the tens of thousands.  Pretty soon, all that trash starts to pile up.

There is no way at all, regardless of practicality, to get enough metal to make everything electric at the scale required, unless we're going beyond Earth.  This is the greatest problem of them all, and it's not solvable using existing technology.

That is what I object to.  Those are real shortcomings and they are not addressed at all by any of these "blow harder" solutions.  Strip mining the entire planet, only to discover that we don't have enough metal, seems like a bad outcome to me.

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#54 2023-03-06 07:29:31

Calliban
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From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 3,413

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

I agree that storing energy in any form is relatively expensive.  But my point is that even long term storage is possible with thermal systems, especially liquid air.  The liquid can be stored in a tank and soil pressure can provide the back pressure needed to support a thin stainless steel or aluminium lining.  Long term storage isn't possible with batteries or pumped storage and would be difficult with compressed air.  The heat generated by compression could be stored for reuse during evaporation.  Or it could be injected into the ground under a town or village and used in winter to provide heating in district heating systems.  I like the idea of using geothermal heat from wells under refilling stations.  A lot of places have relatively shallow warm water aquifers, where heat is trapped under impermeable rock layers.  Near the coasts, sea water could provide a heat sink.  It's temperature is relatively consistent throughout the year for the UK.

A lot of lithium ion battery capacity is installed around wind farms in the UK.  A lot of people think of this as energy storage.  But it is installed to allow grid frequency control.  Wind farms can trip off the grid very rapidly and the resulting frequency drop can result in power cuts across entire regions of the country.  The battery systems provide the time needed to spin up combined cycle gas turbine plants.  They do store energy, but they aren't used in the way a lot of people seem to think.  Mechanical systems could actually help here, because energy can be stored in flywheels or hydraulic accumulators, which would cushion any lull in wind power.  There would be a gradual drop in generation as flywheels run down, allowing more time to start backup GTs or to shed load.

In the past, wind power was one of our most important sources of mechanical power.  It powered global transportation.  It provided the energy needed to mill grain, saw wood and even to polish metals and glass.  Storing energy was never practical.  The approach taken was to use energy when it was there and curtail activities when it was not.  Millers would work flat out for days when wind was strong and take time off when wind levels dropped.  There are some activities that could still work in this way.  But most people are employed 9-5, 5 days a week.  Working with the weather would be a big change for most people.

Wind is a low power density energy source.  The way to make it sustainable is to build systems that are long lasting and use low embodied energy materials.  There are brick and stone wind mill towers standing today that predate the United States.  Some of them are used as houses.  That is the sort of longevity that we should plan for.  For a slightly higher cost now, we would then have infrastructure that would still be usable a century hence.  Given the huge number of towers that need to be built, it really seems stupid to build them out of tensile materials that reach the end of their fatigue lives in 20 years.  Wooden materials for blades can be grown.  Laminate blades and nacelle housing can be made from wooden fibres and epoxy glue.  When the blades reach the end of their lives in 30 years, you unbolt them from the hub, chop them into blocks using a bandsaw and then burn them for heat in a stove.  The turbine shaft and mechanical power transmission can be carbon steel components.  You would need gears, roller bearings and thrust bearings.  Mostly carbon steels with some stainless.  Should last several decades with proper lubrication.

Transportation could be directly wind powered as well.  We have discussed cableway transport using suspended buckets on this forum before.  On Mars, it could be driven by directly coupled PV panels.  Motor speed would vary linearly with insolation.  Something like this could be powered by directly coupled mechanical wind turbines on Earth.  We would probably use vertical axis turbines for this as they are simpler, generate power from any wind direction and generate lots of torque.  We would mount them on the same towers that carry the buckets.  A single bevel gear would drive pulleys on the tower moving buckets in both directions.  A brake would be applied when windspeeds were too high.  Transportation rates would be a linear function of wind speed.

Wind could also power transportation by pumping water through pipes or ditches, with floating capsules or barges carried along by the flow of water.  It this case, it is actually possible for the turbine to have only one moving part.  The sails would be mounted onto a vertical shaft that would rotate and drive a directly coupled pump at the bottom.  The whole assembly would be mounted on a thrust bearing.  Energy could be stored in raised ponds, which drain into the pipe or ditch, giving rise to flowing water at roughly 1-2× human walking speed.  Both ropeways and capsule pipelines would have similar energy consumption to rail.  But the power source is directly harnessed mechanical energy from the wind, using very simple wind devices with only a few moving parts.

Direct mechanical wind power could be useful wherever we need a source of static mechanical power and work load can be allowed to vary with the wind speed.  There are quite a lot of processes where this could apply.  Small scale and home based industry could work this way.  It is probably most practical if turbines power hydraulic pumps.  This allows machine speed to be controlled by controlling flowrate through hydraulic motors.  Gravity hydraulic accumulators would store energy, allowing the steady power output of the wind turbine to meet the precise power requirement of the machines.

If a small scale wind powered factory is built on the edge of a town, most of its employees could live within a few minutes walking distance.  During late autumn and winter months, when winds are strong, people would work long hours.  During summer when winds are weak, holiday would be taken.  The factory could even provide accomodation clise to site on the understanding that work hours adjust to wind levels.

Last edited by Calliban (2023-03-06 08:00:28)


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#55 2023-03-06 11:00:55

Void
Member
Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 7,085

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

I was looking for something else, and stumbled on this, which is related to your current discussion here.  It is a couple of years old: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=%2 … ORM%3DRCVR

I really don't have much of my own to add.

Done.


Done.

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#56 2023-03-06 12:35:16

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 7,427

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Calliban,

The batteries wouldn't be necessary if the energy system was stable.  Unfortunately, it's not stable and will never become stable because there's not enough battery capacity and there never will be due to lack of material abundance.  The people who advocate for this seem more wrapped up in the marketing hype than the reality of what they've signed up for.  When it fails, they go right back to burning hydrocarbon fuels, and it fails at least once per day unless capacity is some extreme multiple of peak demand.  There are a handful of places around the world where the wind is almost constant or the sunlight is unrelenting.  Even fewer of those places are co-located with major population centers.  Photovoltaics fail at least once per day irrespective of what you do, because that's how they work.

Apart from that, yes, a truly natural system, built using natural materials, is a much better option if we're going to attempt to repower society using low energy density systems that it was never designed around.  It's a question of quantity.  There is not enough "stuff" to make everything electrical or electronic.  It's not because I said so, either, it's because the metals mines don't produce enough metal.  2 years ago, the thought that our authoritative sources hadn't considered that, didn't even cross my mind.  Now it's apparent that they never even bothered to check.  If someone can show me all that missing Copper to make this work, then we can talk.  Unless huge quantities are being stolen before they can be incorporated into these "green energy" systems, then we're arguing over something none of us can change.

If reasonable people are going to hitch their wagon to something proclaiming to "save them" from those evil fossil fuels that keep them warm, clothed, fed, and housed, then maybe they should make sure the math checks out first.  Tahanson43206 is perfectly capable of doing the math to understand what I proposed.  I even provided the equation I used.  It requires multiplication and division and some specific heat capacity figures for water and Nitrogen.  He seems to think it must be more complex than that.  I don't know why, though.  Heat engines are fundamentally simple things that don't require much advanced math to evaluate at a macro level.  Combustion itself is very complex, but this is not about combustion.

I freely admitted that my proposal was sub-optimal when compared to any hydrocarbon fuels, but that makes it no different than electrical systems and electronics in that regard.  I stated that I only considered doing it because of the great crusade against hydrocarbon fuels.  The reason it's not used is that its energy density is very poor.  It had nothing to do with engineers not knowing if it would work.  However, it actually does what he says he wants to do (stop burning things to produce energy), it works at human civilization scale using solar thermal or geothermal or wind turbines (converted to mechanical output) or nuclear thermal (whatever you happen to have will do the job), and it runs into no known material constraints.

Every battery tech article he reads clearly excites him, but this solution doesn't, maybe because the low energy density, sans aesthetic appeal, makes him confront the ugly reality of not using hydrocarbon fuels- all the alternative solutions are very poor and materials-intensive compared to gasoline / diesel / kerosene.  There's no marketing hype around my solution.  It's a bunch of very ugly numbers.  Somehow, he doesn't object to batteries and electronics that have equally poor energy density with material constraints and recyclability issues to boot.

Every year we produce enough steel and concrete to convert the entire world to this form of energy system, if all of it were devoted to that purpose.  I'm not suggesting that's a good idea, merely that it could be done if they think this is an actual emergency.  It's not.  Emergencies don't happen over decades and centuries.  I fail to see what the problem is.  It achieves the central goal of not burning stuff.

I favor the solution I proposed for the US because it works for us, not necessarily for Europe, it doesn't require us to upend daily life or cover everything with what will become electronic trash in 10 years or less, and it doesn't strain or utterly overrun material resource limits.  My solution had to stop burning things for energy, it had to be truly sustainable over very long periods of time- longer than a human lifetime, it had to be affordable, and it couldn't radically alter the existing system or society because the only problem was that burning things created CO2.  It's not a punitive system to punish the poor for being poor, or the oil companies for providing badly needed energy, and oddly works in their favor.  That was the challenge, and the proposed solution meets those "total performance" metrics.  It requires a lot more materials, but the bulk of the system is energetic materials that we have easy access to, in extreme abundance.  I went down every imaginable rabbit hole before arriving here.  In the end, we just didn't have enough of anything else, not even salt, to truly "transition" in any meaningful timeframe.

Maybe they find it upsetting that we've had the technology to do this since the 1960s, possibly much further back than that since compressed air locomotives were in mining or industrial use since the late 1800s, that there's nothing uniting or unifying to rally around because it's not an insurmountable technical challenge or moral issue at play, just a conscious choice to either use much more energy dense hydrocarbon fuels, which is what we actually did the moment they became available, or to keep themselves in constant energy / economic poverty from lack of energy-dense fuels while their living conditions deteriorate around them.  They seem to want to make life more and more painful for themselves and everyone else, for no actual gain.

All I want to know is if there's any genuine interest in working solutions that go straight to problem solving.  They're asserting that this is the greatest problem of our time.  Is it, really?  It's not apparent to me.  They're spending lots of money, but no problems have been solved.  If we try to carry out what we're currently doing to its conclusion, then we won't stop burning anything.  To solve a problem that involves burning things for energy, at some point you have to do less of that.  If your proposed solution requires more and more of that to make the machines that are purported to solve the problem, then it can't be a solution.

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#57 2023-03-07 03:47:25

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 3,413

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Battery material resource limits do not appear to be surmountable with existing technology.  No one really had to worry about that, so long as capacity was small.  Another problem that is rarely talked about is battery economics.  The cost of storing a kWh of electricity within a battery depends upon its utilisation rate.  If you pay x dollars for a battery, the cost per kWh stored depends upon the number of times the battery is charged and discharged over its effective lifetime.  If you charge a 1MWh battery once and leave it sitting there for a month before calling on it, then you have stored only 1MWh in a whole month.  This is before even looking at problems like self discharge.  Even if we had infinite materials for batteries, their capital cost, embodied energy and self discharge rate, would make them unsuitable for anything more than short term grid frequency control.

Compressed air energy storage has a dramatically superior energy stored per energy invested (ESOEI) over its lifetime.  But there are problems with deploying it at large scale.  For one thing, if you store air within a non-flexible container, pressure declines as the container is emptied.  Most CAES systems work by running air through a gas turbine.  Because the stored air is already compressed, this reduces or eliminates the compressor work needed.  That usually consumes half of the energy yielded by a GT.  So CAES allows the GT to produce twice as much power as it otherwise would, with the same amount of fuel.  But if the pressure of the compressed air isn't constant, it really complicates things because the GT will have the wrong compression ratio.  Also, because pressure vessels are expensive, CAES usually relies on air stored underground in disused salt mines.  These are geographically specific and make CAES practical in only a few localities.

One solution is undersea CAES.  Usually, air is stored in a flexible sack that is anchored to the sea bed.  The hydrostatic pressure of the water column above the sack, allows air to maintain a constant pressure as it discharges.  This is a very significant advantage over land based CAES.  But building it requires marine engineering.  This article discusses one such undersea CAES scheme.
https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/st … r-reality/

For any country with a coast line or even a large lake, this provides an option for storing energy for long periods at relatively low cost.  But using flexible bags is not the best solution in my opinion, because even the toughest elastomers will eventually fatigue with continuous flexing.  I would do it differently.  A better idea would be to make undersea air stores as modular concrete shells.  These structures could be ballasted by covering them with dredged sediments.  The North Sea varies in depth from 25-600m, with the Southern North Sea all less than 200m.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:No … map-en.png

Let us assume modular concrete shells are 10m deep, are open at the bottom and sit on stumpy legs on the sea floor at a depth of 200m.  The arrangement is rather like a diving bell, with air essentially trapped in an upturned ceramic cup under the water.  As the shell is filled with air, water is pushed out of the bottom.  Its internal pressure will start at 19 bar and will be 20 bar when full.  This is essentially isobaric, as pressure varies by no more than 5% across a discharge cycle.  But the neat thing is that walls of the store do not flex during a charge discharge cycle.  Provided that the concrete is suitably coated, the compressed air store should last for centuries.  There are no moving parts and therefore nothing to wear out.

The area of the North Sea is approximately 500,000km2.  This is a huge area that is available for air storage.  One cubic metre of compressed air at 19.5 bar, will store some 5.79MJ of energy.  If our modular concrete air stores are 10m deep, then each square metre would store 57.9MJ or 16kWh of mechanical energy.  The UK uses about 1TWh of electrical energy each day.  So assuming a 200m depth, to store a whole day of power would mean covering an area of sea bed of 62.5km2 with modular concrete air stores.  We could store a whole week of power for all of western Europe using only 2200km2 of seabed with a 200m depth.  This would be a huge amount of infrastructure if we had to keep replacing it.  But if stores can be built that last for centuries, then energy storage can be added gradually and capital costs would be manageable.

Looking at the US, there would appear to be a lot of sea floor around the Gulf of Mexico that is relatively shallow.  This should make it easier for divers to emplace and connect modular concrete air stores.  There are also some very deep areas that are up to 4km deep.  Hydrostatic pressure at that depth is 400 bars.  A cubic metre of air at that pressure will store an impressive 66kWh of energy.  But engineering costs at those depths are high.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ca … nd_map.png

Looking at the UK, we find that electricity demand is slightly higher in the winter than summer, but actual demand averages around 30GWe, plus or minus 5% depending on the season.
https://gridwatch.co.uk/

However, wind power production is highly variable, with spikes in production followed by lulls that last for several days.
https://gridwatch.co.uk/Wind

For wind power alone to meet demand we would need days worth of energy storage.  We would also need to over build wind capacity and dump a portion of the energy into something like long term heat storage.  So the engineering challenges involved are significant.  That said, the UK is one of the few countries that probably could meet the majority of its electrical and heating needs using an intermittent renewable.  From an embodied material and environmental perspective, this is not the most sensible thing to do.  But I can see ways that it could be made to work here.  For countries like Germany, the situation is far more difficult.

Last edited by Calliban (2023-03-07 04:54:23)


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#58 2023-03-07 05:55:44

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 3,413

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

This is quite inspiring.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_L … _Community

In the Southern UK, insolution is only about 1000kWh per m2 per year.  Only about half of that is direct sunlight.  And sunlight gets weaker as you head north.  In cloudy parts of Scotland, flux is only 700kWh/m2 per year.  This makes the UK a weak contender for solar power.  However, if we forget about the potential for solar to generate electricity and focus instead on heating, things get better.  UK space and water heating needs are about 500TWh per year.  If heat can be stored in boreholes under or around towns and cities, then we could meet UK heating needs using a few thousand square kilometes of solar collectors clustered around our towns and cities.

If temperatures greater than 30°C can be achieved in distribution pipework, then heat pumps will not be required.  What is required for all of these underground thermal storage ideas, is a district heat distribution network.  Most towns and cities in the UK are dense enough for this to work for most people.  If you live out in sparsely populated suburbs or out in the sticks, then it is less viable.  Individual boreholes could be used to heat individual houses.  But the thermal soak time of the ground around the borehole could run into many years.

Last edited by Calliban (2023-03-07 06:06:57)


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#59 2023-03-24 12:07:37

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 3,413

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Peter Zeihan discusses the collapse of globalisation and the loss of Russia as a commodity supplier.  Russia and Ukraine were the primary suppliers of pig iron before the war.  Russia is also a dominant producer of natural gas, oil, phosphate, potash, aluminium, copper, rare earths, neon and wheat.  To make matters worse, the Chinese economy is disintegrating.  China accounts for a large share of rare earth mining and is a major producer of all refined metals.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=I9zU4cBCf1U

The green-electric transition was already unrealistic, because it required production of rare metals and semiconductors in volumes that dwarf present production.  The future world is likely to have lower production of all of these, rather than more.  Even carbon steel is going to face supply constraints if Chinese production falls and Russian exports of pig iron remain off line.  Both wind and solar PV are extremely heavy on steel consumption, consuming 10-100x more per kWh compared to a light water nuclear powerplant.  Consumption of copper, rare earths and aluminium, are also orders of magnitude greater per kWh for wind and solar PV power.  Most of the reason for this comes down to the low power density of wind and sunlight.  If your power plant must cover 100x the area to capture the same power, then it will need orders of magnitude more materials in its construction.

This suggests that any energy transition we carry out needs to be efficient in its use of materials.  Electric trains are possible in this paradigm, but electric cars are not.  Nuclear reactors are possible, but solar PV is not sustainable as anything more than a niche solution.  Materials limitations severely constrain our options for energy transition.  The materials we have in high abundance in most places, are air, water, stone and soil.  These have low embodied energy costs.  Wood has low embodied energy cost and is renewable, but there limits to rate at which we can harvest wood.  Concrete is relatively abundant and has energy cost of about 1MJ/kg.  Brick has comparable energy cost.  Carbon steel is getting more expensive, but we are able to recycle it.  Fresh steel costs 30MJ/kg, but 80% recycled is ~21MJ/kg.  Even the weakest low alloy steel is several times stronger than concrete.  It is still our most abundant metal.  Aluminium ores are abundant but the metal itself is energy intensive to produce.  Copper is very energy intensive, relatively rare and copper production dominates the world's toxic mine waste tailings.  Polymers will be cheap so long as we have abundant natural gas and oil.  But supplies have already peaked in the world outside North America.  We probably shouldn't bank on a future that uses more plastics than we use today.  Most other metals are rarer and are their supply will be increasingly constrained as globalisation breaks down.  This includes srainless steels, which contain chromium and tool steels containing molybdenum, chromium and vanadium.

If we are to transition away from fossil fuels, we must be prepared to either embrace nuclear power on a scale at least an order of magnitude greater than we do today, or transition to renewables based upon very abundant materials.  The materials we have in greatest abundance will be stone, soil, water and air.  Concrete, wood, brick and low alloy carbon steel are of intermediate abundance.  Copper, silicon, aluminium, chromium, etc, are rare and will be even less common in the future.  Of all materials, stone gives us the highest strength (in compression) for the lowest energy cost.  So my assumption is that material that we use most of for our transition will be stone.  Soils, especially silt and clay, can be used as construction materials as well.  Water and air both have uses as ballast and heat transfer fluids.  Wood is something that we should be careful in our apllication of.  Wood combines tensile and bending strength with light weight and low energy cost.  But the amount of infrastructure needed to build out a lot of renewable energy capacity suggests to me that we shoukd usewood sparingly.

Last edited by Calliban (2023-03-24 13:04:33)


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#60 2023-03-26 06:50:27

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 3,413

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

This is interesting if we ever need to build a transportation system that doesn't rely on liquid fuels or electricity for power.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cable_railway

In the UK, a handful of furnicular railways are still in use.  These are short distance systems designed to carry people up steep inclines, like hills or cliffs.  They consist of two trains, one ascending the hill and the other descending, with both connected by a rope at the top of the hill, running over a pulley.  To move the trains, water tanks are filled on the descending train and drained on the ascending train, adjusting the counterweights.  A very simple and low energy consumption system, with only a few moving parts. But also inherently limited to situations where people are travelling short distances up and down hills.

San Fransisco went a step further than this, with street trains powered by a coupled cable running on pulleys under the road.  This allows a static power source to turn a hoist, dragging the trains around a circuit.  This is an extremely simple system, one that is suitable for installation in towns and cities with any gradient.  The cable runs through a conduit under the road, with train latching on to the cable through an arm which passes through a slot in the centre of the road.  The hoist can be powered by electricity, diesel engine or any static power source.  That power source could be a steam engine burning wood or using solar heat or even stored heat to generate power.  Or it could be a mechanical wind mill driving the hoist through some sort of clutch system.  In such a situation, the speed of street trains would be proportional to wind speed.  But this is unlikely to matter if there are lots of trains making regular stops.  The stops in such a system would need to be regularly spaced, as all trains must either stop simultaneously, or uncouple and recouple to the cable for stopping and starting.

A cable street train probably needs a steel cable and hoists need to be steel to resist wear.  The wheels and track will have lower friction if made from steel, although steel tyres could be run through stone slots if a strong stone like granite is used.  The cars could be made from wood, but would need a steel chassis.  The cable conduit would be a square section concrete conduit or brick lined trench, with cast iron covers running over the top providing a narrow slot through which the traction arms of the carriages latch onto the cable.  The covers are removable to allow dirt and litter to be removed from the conduit.

If we use wind power to drive a train circuit, the mechanical windmill could be constructed from stone or brick, with a wooden nacelle structure and laminated wooden sails.  The shaft and gears would be carbon steel.  A horizontal axis turbine would turn a vertical shaft using a bevel gear.  This would interface with a disc clutch, which would drive the hoist.  Excess wind power would be absorbed in a fluid friction brake.  This would generate heat in water or mineral oil, which is input to the town district heating system.  The wind turbine is oversized relative to its load, meaning that in low wind speed conditions, where is still sufficient power to move the trains.  Vertical axis wind turbines are even simpler.  They are less efficient in high winds but provide more torque at low wind speeds.

Train systems like this would would follow circuits, allowing the same cars to travel in both directions.  Speeds would be low, no more than 30mph.  The length of circuits would depend upon the length of the cable.  Cable systems have been built with lengths up to tens of km.  The only materials needed are stone, brick, concrete, wood and carbon steels.  The energy source is the wind, harnessed for direct mechanical power.  No copper or rare earth metals are needed.  The is a system that is sustainable from a materials viewpoint.  Wood for the turbine sails, nacelle and cars can be grown.  Stone blocks for the turbine tower can be hewn from the Earth, or bricks can be baked from clay and bonded with lime mortar.  The carbon steel can be recycled.  The gears and turbine shaft should last for centuries with proper lubrication.  The cable must be replaced roughly every decade.  The cars will last a century, though wheels and axle bearings may need replacement on a timescale of several decades.  This system therefore meets three goals for long term systems sustainability.  It is simple, based upon commonly available materials and components have long lives.  It fits well with the permanence principle, which is 'build once, use forever'.

Last edited by Calliban (2023-03-26 07:57:34)


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#61 2023-03-26 08:20:20

tahanson43206
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Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

For Calliban re link to Wikipedia in Post #60

Thanks for the link to this interesting article.  I decided to investigate the team of volunteers who have built this article over time.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special … le_railway

I ** think ** the link above points directly to the list of editors.  They have certainly assembled a collection that shows the range of invention over recent centuries.

I'm glad to see a small set of examples of these railways adapted for tourist enjoyment.

One detail I picked up in your text about a cable operated train service (such as the famous one in San Francisco).  There does not need to be coordination of any kind between the cars that start and stop frequently.  The cars are operated by conductors who apply clamps or release them, and they can see where they are with respect to other cars on the line.  I can't remember now if I ever rode one of those cars, but I feel as though I had because of movie sequences in which they had a minor role.

The system you've described would certainly seem appropriate for the slope of Mount Olympus, when folks set up shop there. 

(th)

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#62 2023-03-26 08:29:04

Calliban
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Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

This is interesting.  Britain gets more wind than we know what to do with.  So does Holland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.
https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2019/02 … dmill.html

Wind power can be used to generate heat through friction.  Terraformer introduced us to Sous Vide cooking, which uses temperatures <100°C to cook over long periods.  A wind machine equipped with a fluid friction wind brake, could generate temperatures high enough to cook with.  That heat can be stored for long periods in phase change materials or a deep borehole.  But this probably implies cooking for a whole town.  If oil is used instead of water, a mechanical wind machine could achieve temperatures high enough for baking, which requires a minimum of 121°C.  To be practical, this requires long term heat retention, which works better at scale.

One way to generate heat more efficiently than a paddle brake, would be to use two cylindrical millstones, with a film of oil in between them.  The upper stone would rotate, but the lower stone would be stationary and would have heat transfer pipes just beneath its surface.  Stone and concrete have lower conductive heat transfer coefficients than metals, allowing higher temperatures to build up.  Heat would transfer through the pipes into an oven by natural convection.  A phase change energy store could be integrated into the oven.  Again, this works better at scale, as the surface area to volume ratio declines and insulation thickness increases.
**************

To minimise long term wear, our millstones would probably have steel plates between them.  So the friction heat generator would be rather like a sandwhich.  At the top, the rotating shaft of the wind turbine would turn the concrete or stone cylinder.  At the bottom, we have a stone or concrete base which is stationary.  Between the two, we have two plates of steel, the top one rotating and the bottom one stationary.  Between the two plates woukd be a thin layer of oil.  The heat transfer pipes would run beneath the lower plate, which is stationary.  Our millstones could be located in a pit beneath ground level, for extra heat retention.  Once every thirty years, we lift the axis, and unbolt and replace the two plates.  The oven is located above the millstones, allowing heat to rise through pipes by natural convection.

Additional: Wood does not begin thermal degradation until temperatures of 200°C are reached.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/ch … -pyrolysis

Oak has a thermal conductivity of 0.17W/m.K.
https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/ther … d_429.html

Our wind powered heat generator would be most efficient if thick wooden blocks were used either side of the steel plates.  These would be strong enough to withstand the torsional forces, but insulative enough to minimise heat loss.  At a temperature difference of 110°C, a 1m thick wooden block will conduct 18.7W of heat flux across it.  A concrete block would have heat flux 5-10x greater.  So thick wooden blocks are the best materials for this application.  The oven space needs sufficient thermal mass to keep temperature beneath 200°C, even after gale force winds.  If temperature rises too high, heat must be vented to prevent wood temperature from exceeding 200°C.  This could be done simply by leaving the oven door open.

Last edited by Calliban (2023-03-26 09:46:26)


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#63 2023-03-26 08:47:20

Calliban
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Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

TH, I'm not sure how the San Fransisco system works.  The problem I can see is that if one train needs to stop, then its brakes must absorb the kinetic energy of the whole system.  Probably the easiest option would be to put a disc brake on the hoist and activate it when signalled from any one of the cars.  This could be easy to do, as an electric signal can be sent down the steel cable.


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#64 2023-03-26 10:23:12

tahanson43206
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Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

For Calliban re #63

I offer this from long-ago absorbed information, which I would want to look up on the Internet for verification.

The San Francisco cable cars are using a continuously running cable, as I think your recent posts describe.  Each cable car has it's own brakes, and it has a set of calipers to grip the moving cable when it is time to move.  Each car has a human conductor, who monitors the situation and makes independent decisions about when to stop or when to accept power and go.

There would never be a time when the entire cable would stop, unless there were an overarching emergency of some kind.

If you are motivated by this discussion to post a link to a detailed description of the San Francisco line, I would try to make time to follow it.

(th)

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#65 2023-03-26 10:59:03

Calliban
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Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

TH, I will look into it.

According to this Oxford physics professor, wind power is failing at every count.
https://www.zerohedge.com/political/emi … very-count

I don't disagree with his assessment.  But I would note that electrochemical batteries are not an option that anyone with physics knowledge takes seriously for large scale, long-term energy storage.  The most promising systems are thermal.  But he is correct in his assessment of the difficulty of replacing what we get from fossil fuels with renewable energy.  We are trying to integrate weak intermittent energy into a system that was built for the low-cost, high power density, centralised, just in time energy supply, provided by coal, natural gas and uranium.  It isn't easy.  It probably isn't possible for wind to do exactly what fossil fuels once did.  And even if there are energy storage solutions that can provides days of backup for the grid, they will add to the monetary cost and embodied energy of the system as a whole.  We are seeing higher electricity bills because we are paying for wind, solar and natural gas power stations, which all generate power at different times, instead of just one coal burning or nuclear station, which used to run flat out all of the time.  That means 3x the capital cost, maybe 1.5x the operating cost and about 5x the maintenance cost.  The only plus side is that we get to save some money on fuel, which is getting more expensive.

Our best option is to replace fossil fuels with nuclear power where we can.  But for various reasons, this has been made expensive and difficult, mostly because our politicians and politico pressure groups, do not want it as a solution.  So they make it as difficult and impractical as they can.  So I continue to tinker with the art of the possible with renewable energy.  I have focused mainly on local systems, because these deliver energy where it is needed without additional infrastructure for power transmission.  I am looking at systems that avoid electricity and focus on direct heat and mechanical power.  These systems tend to be simpler, they avoid the need for copper and rare earths.  I am focusing upon systems that use cheap, abundant and low embodied energy materials, like stone, soil, sand, brick, concrete, wood and carbon steels.  I am trying to focus on systems that have long life if properly maintained.  This spreads embodied energy over along operating lifespan, improving EROI.

Finally, the nature of renewable energy sources and our demands, mean that solutions often work better as collectivist solutions.  Wind turbines can reach high power density winds if they are taller.  Heat storage works better at scale.  A wind powered car will never be practical.  But wind poweted ships are as old as civilisation.  And the bigger they are, the faster and more practical they become.  Wind powered trains are possible because of the energy efficiency of rail.  But they are large scale collective transportation systems.  With interseasonal heat storage, we can use solar heat to cook all year round.  But this works well only if we cook on a large scale, for a whole town.  We can provide hot water year round.  But a heat distribution network is expensive.  Far better to build a communal bath house where everyone in town goes to wash.  We can use the wind to transport goods in some innovative ways using water and compressed air.  But it will be slower and delivery times will vary.  A society built around renewable energy fliws will be a very different place.  Living well will require cooperation and building for the long term.  It will be poorer and more restrictive in many ways.

Going back to the gentleman's paper.  There are options for energy storage that are cheap.  They involve storing energy as hot and cold within masses of material that are mostly cheap and have low energy cost.  But it may turn out that the best strategy for managing intermittency is simply to work according to the power available.  When there is lots of wind power, factories will run flat out, with lots of people working overtime.  When wind levels are low, people will work short shifts and take more time off.  They will need to live close to the factory to respond when energy is available.  On the plus side, if we can make this sort of adjustment, wind power can provide cheap direct mechanical power and concentrated solar can provide cheap heat.  It just isn't available all of the time.  You make hay when the sun shines.

Last edited by Calliban (2023-03-26 11:17:51)


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#66 2023-03-29 03:44:25

Mars_B4_Moon
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Registered: 2006-03-23
Posts: 9,248

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Looks as if Europe will political force through laws on EV or climate-neutral e-fuels?

EU passes law to ban sale of CO2-emitting cars by 2035

https://www.dw.com/en/eu-passes-law-to- … a-65151688

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#67 2023-03-29 10:40:28

kbd512
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Posts: 7,427

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Mars_B4_Moon,

I'm starting to think that they don't teach counting in European schools.  The Europeans can't even keep the lights on now.  They've already turned back to burning coal and wood.  When China emits enormous quantities of CO2 to make all these photovoltaics and wind turbines and batteries that Europeans are buying, it must be trapped by a special force field which prevents it from going anywhere else.

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#68 2023-03-30 05:21:25

Mars_B4_Moon
Member
Registered: 2006-03-23
Posts: 9,248

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Five things to know about Canada’s electricity overhaul as budget spurs clean tech
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/ … get-spurs/

2023 Federal Budget ushers in new era for Canadian renewables
https://electricenergyonline.com/articl … ables.html
to pursue investment tax credits for clean technology, like wind, solar, storage and green hydrogen


Too many mountains blown up and metals and plastic to make various AC power plugs and sockets

Canada Wants a Standard Charging Port for Electronics, Just Like the EU

https://www.iphoneincanada.ca/2023/03/2 … ging-port/

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#69 2023-03-30 05:23:30

Calliban
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From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 3,413

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Kbd512, agreed this is crazy.  People in charge seem to be disconnected from reality.  If electric cars were so good, why do people need to be forced into buying them?  One of the things that I think is most stupid is politicians attempting to impose technical solutions, by banning IC engines.  This immiediately freezes out options for making cheap vehicles burning low-carbon or recycled carbon fuels.  For some reason these arrogant politicos think they know better than engineers.


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#70 2023-03-30 08:36:23

kbd512
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Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Calliban,

A Tesla is a status symbol for people on the left to show off to their friends, sort of like owning a Cadillac or Mercedes-Benz.  You have to have money to own one.  The average Tesla owner makes $147,000 per year and has no children, so of course they have plenty of disposable income to spend on a fancy car to impress their social circle.  That is not normal, despite what those people think.  There's nothing "average" about them.  These EVs are not attainable for the average person driving a $5,000 used car and making $45,000 per year in their best years, and probably never will be.  Meanwhile, they do need a car to work to earn what little money they do make.

People here in Texas seem to like their EVs.  The batteries work well in our benign climate, as they need a little bit of heat to perform optimally.  You try to drive one of these things in Minnesota in the winter, and there will be problems.  YouTube content creators who are very much enamored with EVs have proven that.  It's not a made-up problem.  All the propaganda in the world cannot change that.  Their low rolling resistance tires do not like snow and ice, either, so then you need another set of tires on the car for driving in the winter.

What I found appalling is how fast they eat tires and how expensive repair parts are.  The entire "save money on gas" is a bit of a farce.  You save on gas and pay in other ways.  You need a garage with 240VAC to charge it.  Most night time power is provided by burning something (coal or gas).  You're not supposed to leave it unattended while it's charging.  That dashes the entire notion of letting the car recharge overnight.  In most cases it'll be fine.  When it's not fine, you burn down the house with everyone in it and the Fire Department can't put the Lithium fire out.  The most affordable Model 3 car requires tires that cost $4,000 per year, or more, according to the Tesla Service Manager who lives right next door to me.  The Model X / Model Y are the only ones with appropriately sized tires, but those are $100,000 mini SUVs.  The electricity certainly is not free, nor all that cheap these days, and the $100,000 solar panel installation on our roof would be insufficient to charge the car and power the home.  We have 2 Tesla Power Walls.  We'd need another 2 Power Walls to store power for recharging a pair of vehicles.  If you have to recharge at a service station, they make sure you don't save any money over gas, and lots of apartments don't have garages or chargers, so you're back to visiting service stations and paying through the nose for electricity.

Most of the other models are every bit as unaffordable, or impractical to use as work vehicles if they're company-owned (fleet vehicles like Ford / GM / Chrysler work trucks).  Some rental car agencies can make them work by charging premiums for renting them.  Uber drivers or other taxi services could justify using them.

Many junk yards either won't take the EVs after a wreck, or demand that the batteries be removed, on account of the fires.  So, that problem is very real as well.  The net net is that you save nothing over a gas powered vehicle over the life of the car, except gasoline consumption, and you're probably burning something to provide the electricity at night.  Anyone who believes otherwise will quickly find out the hard way.

If these cars were truly ready for prime time, then nobody would be trying to force them into existence.  We didn't have to force gasoline powered cars into existence.  It was self-evident that they were better than horses, despite the problems with the immature technology.  In general, issuing mandates without understanding the problem is a very bad idea.  It also creates perverse incentives.  The very idea of politicians who have no technical knowledge forcing the use of a specific technology, is facially absurd and stupid.  That's the sort of idiocy that collapsed the Soviet economy.  People with too little knowledge were making technical decisions of strategic importance without understanding the implications of what they were doing.  America developed combine-harvesters so more people could make or do other useful things.  We viewed farming as a means to an end, not an end unto itself.  Back in Russia and China, they were still largely plowing fields by hand or using beasts of burden to do it.  Productivity was lacking, as you can imagine, hence all the famines.  The Soviet Union did collapse and China would've collapsed, if not for their hard pivot to capitalism and accepting the use of western technology that no communist system ever invented or fully developed if it was already invented.  The combine-harvester also ended the need for slavery here in America, with or without a Civil War.  Diesel fuel poured into an unthinking / unfeeling steel machine became the slave of the cotton plantation owners.

I would like to avoid going backwards in time.  I think we've developed some workable ideas here.  I sent an E-mail to Dr. Michaux to see what he thinks of them.  He can poke holes in our ideas to show us where we need to go back to the drawing board.  Since I'm not emotionally or monetarily invested into any given idea, adjusting the plan to match technological reality is rather easy.

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#71 2023-03-31 12:51:16

kbd512
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Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

While it's quite clear to me that nobody did their homework to know whether or not transitioning to an all-electric industrialized society was even possible, I've also seen zero evidence that these same people, who never thought about how much energy and metal was required for their fanciful Generation I all-electric society, have thought about how much energy or labor would be required to both maintain the Generation I, as well as how to produce Generation II, after the Earth is utterly depleted of Copper and various other technology metals.

Assume for a moment that we were willing to strip mine the entire planet to produce enough Copper, Aluminum, Lithium, Cobalt, and other metals to make everything electric, and that we could make up for the lack of metals in known deposits, which is measured in centuries to millennia of additional mining at 2019 production rates, required to produce Generation I.

Where is the energy and metal coming from to produce Generation II?

It's not coming from Generation I.  Generation I is currently producing or storing energy.  This energy generating and storage infrastructure only lasts for 10 years (Lithium-ion batteries) to 15 years (wind turbines) to 25 years or so (photovoltaics) before at least 20% of its output or storage is no longer available.  For people who don't know, when they talk about service life of batteries / photovoltaics / wind turbine blades, that's what they're talking about.  1,000 to 2,000 cycles later, a Lithium-ion battery's capacity has diminished by 20%.  When cells are rated, they're actually tested by repeatedly charging and discharging them.  That's how battery scientists "know" what the service life of a battery will be.  So...  The batteries have either diminished in capacity or outright short-circuited internally (very slight manufacturing defects can cause this to happen long before the battery should be "diminished" in its capacity), the wind turbine blades have cracked (from withstanding g-loads for years at a time, that would instantly destroy the strongest fighter jet airframe- the 17g to 25g typical for wind turbine blades will crush any fighter jet ever built like an empty beer can), and the photovoltaic semiconductors have also short-circuited / fused together from thermal cycling or UV damage (the Sun, or stars in general, are lethal to electronics over time, which is what we actually mean when we say "the universe is unkind to electronics").  Worse still, all of this infrastructure has aged to this point within 10 to 20 years of each other, so large amounts of the grid's energy supply are failing at roughly the same time, because wind turbines and photovoltaics are supposed to supply 70% of the total energy supply.

Can you mine metals using a hydroelectric dam or a nuclear reactor?  I dunno.  Maybe, but it won't be very practical, especially since you already depleted all known technology metal reserves to produce Generation I.  We've already depleted all the coal / gas / oil required to mine hundreds to thousands of years metal consumption to produce the Generation I, so all of that energy is now gone (consumed by the mining activities to produce Generation I), 70% of the existing energy system is rapidly declining, all of the known technology metal is tied up in that Generation I system, and now there's no metal or energy to replace it.  You can't cannibalize Generation I, because by definition doing that means subtracting from the energy to create Generation II and all other uses society might have for the energy it generates or stores.

It should be obvious by now, and it will only become increasingly more obvious over time, that this notion of making everything electric is neither sustainable nor so much as technically feasible in the loosest possible definition of the general idea.

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#72 2023-03-31 12:51:50

kbd512
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Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Your only realistic option for solar power is solar thermal.
* Requires no new technology development
* Very little additional Copper or other technology metals
* Sufficient surface area can be constructed to capture enough energy to supply 100% of electricity using less than 1 year of annual global steel, concrete, and Aluminum production
* Stores thermal energy as hot water
* No functional limit on how much hot water can be stored, especially if using geological wells
* Boiling hot water can be used for direct thermal power applications (transforming it to electricity is not required for district heating)
* Generating and storage capacity is not lost over time (the degradation mechanisms that sap power from electrical systems don't apply)

Your only realistic option for wind power is direct mechanical power to immediately store energy for other use and take advantage of pressure and temperature deltas to recover additional heat / cold energy using the ambient temperature and natural environment, as Calliban has pointed out.
* Requires no new technology development (literally nothing; all parts of this system are presently in-use- blades / storage methods / all of it)
* Uses natural materials that are either extremely abundant (rock) or very fast-growing, like hemp and bamboo
* No functional limit on how much hot water can be stored, especially if using geological wells
* Boiling hot water can be used for direct thermal power applications (transforming it to electricity is not required for district heating)
* Generating and storage capacity is not lost over time (the degradation mechanisms that sap power from electrical systems don't apply)

Ultimately, you will need nuclear fission and fusion, and lots of it.
* Requires no new technology development (can be made far less accident-prone using salt or gas instead of water as coolant)
* Waste thermal power can be stored or used for direct thermal power applications (right now we just dump the waste energy using cooling towers)
* No shortage of Uranium (becomes Plutonium in a reactor) or Thorium (becomes Uranium in a reactor) for at least the next few thousands years (even if we mine no more of it, we can reuse what we already have, it's just politically unpopular)
* Generates the least amount of toxic waste by orders of magnitude over all other solutions (and this could further shrink to almost nothing if we started reusing spent fuel, all of which contains almost all of its original energy content- 1% to 5% depletion every 18 months)

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#73 2023-03-31 12:53:07

kbd512
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Posts: 7,427

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

IF we can ever get a fusion reactor to run continuously in a stable and sustainable manner, then we can further reduce the amount of nuclear waste generated by another order of magnitude per Watt-hour of energy generated.  There will only be energy and labor and capital to do this if we quit pursuing dead-end solutions, like trying to make all systems used by society electrical without the metal or energy to do that.  As of right now, we lack both, so we can never get to some sort of environmental / ecological balance within the realm of human activities.

All of the existing proposed solutions (we'll "just" use electro-chemical batteries / photovoltaics / wind turbines / electronics) require ever-greater energy and materials inputs (because Moore's Law applies only to computational power, never to energy generation).  Even if the entire concept of money never existed (the great fantasy of the communists and anarchists everywhere who fail to grasp the entire reason behind the concept), the economics of energy are impervious to all forms of magical thinking.  Physics doesn't care about how enamored you are with your idea.

The entire concept of "money" was created for the express purpose of economizing energy and labor inputs, so that there was an externally-imposed limit or cap on excessively wasteful human endeavors which others found to be pointless or unhelpful (removed by the US after we transitioned off of the Gold Standard / Silver Standard, and not tied to some other basket of materials like steel / concrete / Aluminum / oil / gas / coal / Uranium, that represents real / tangible things which can be used to improve economic prosperity), prior to being perverted for pointless accumulation end goals.  This is why you now see billionaires spending enormous sums of money on technology projects they think will improve humanity in some way.  They all came to the conclusion that accumulating so much and then doing nothing useful with it was a waste of time, and, you guessed it- money.  You can only drive one car at a time, only sail on one yacht, only fly on one private jet.  At some point, a lot of very wealthy people figured out that if you want society to continue, even if only for your own benefit, then you have to invest into it, or nothing worth doing will ever get done.

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#74 2023-03-31 12:53:43

kbd512
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Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Some people will see StratoLaunch as an expensive failure and waste of money, like his short-sighted wife.  Other people see that giant airplane as a carrier aircraft to test hypersonic aircraft and weapons development.  Elon Musk thinks being able to go from America to Europe / China / Japan / Korea / India in one hour or less as being a capability with strategic significance.  Others will see it as wasteful.  None of the people who see it as wasteful have ever built an interplanetary spaceship capable of carrying large numbers of people to Mars or other planets.  It's a very good thing we have wealthy people with Musk's vision, or we'd be confined to Earth forever.  Jeff Bezos thinks we should have a colony on the moon.  Both are examples of using technology / labor / capital to hedge bets against disasters- economic / ecological / extraterrestrial / etc.  If we find out that the moon or Mars or some asteroid is loaded with Copper / Nickel / Iron, then maybe we do have a way to make everything electrical, presumably what at least some people want, but the only way we can do that is to get the metal first.  I don't much care what your "better solution" looks like, but it has to be attainable in a practical sense.

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#75 2023-03-31 19:09:21

Calliban
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From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 3,413

Re: Why the Green Energy Transition Won’t Happen

Since about 2000, energy costs have gradually crept up as higher cost, non-conventional oil and gas resources have met incremental increases in demand.  This is really what peak oil was about.  Because oil is an energy source that produces wealth through thermodynamic work, a decline in resource quality erodes disposible wealth.  Eventually, you get to the point where society is just too poor to afford as much of the energy services that it used before and demand (and production) shrinks.  Debt, interest rates and other market distortions, complicate the situation and can introduce timelags between cause and effect.  But we are dealing with a problem that is easy to understand when one stops thinking of the economy as a financial system and sees it for what it really is.  What it is is a physical machine, that uses energy to manipulate matter, to produce what human beings understand as wealth.  The effects of rising energy costs can be seen everywhere in the form of surging government debts and declining real incomes.  Low interest rates were used in the 12 years between 2008 and 2020, to attempt to stimulate the economy.  But manipulating money supply cannot solve a problem that is based upon physical shortages.  Investing in low EROI intermittent energy, that requires either bacup, storage or demand flexibility, is clearly a weak solution.

I have spent a somevtime over the past few days catching up on Peter Zeihan's u-tube presentations.  A recurring theme in his work is that demographic declines will cause global supply chains to unravel at both ends.  As population declines due to ageing, we lose both production and demand simultaneously.  The energy resource problem is on top of that problem.  But the bottom line appears to be that the world will very likely be producing less copper, nickel, chromium, etc, in 2040, than it is now.  So whatever we replace fossil fuels with must not be a heavy user of rare elements.

Last edited by Calliban (2023-03-31 19:19:19)


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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