Wind and tidal is free, so why are we not investing more?
Is it because there are fewer opportunities to shaft the consumer?
Nobody (as yet) owns the mineral rights to wind.
Does anybody have solutions that the boffins haven't thought of yet.
Mine is...why not pump the rising sea waters into the middle of the Australian/Sahara desert.
Where it will evaporate and create rain clouds.
Which will turn the regions into lush, green fields and tropical forests
And provide water for the drought hit populations.
Renewable energy : who is for ...who is against.
(31 posts) (16 voices)
Wind and tidal is free, so why are we not investing more?
Long term, solar/wind/wave power it is the only way since it is inexhaustible as well as having a lower environmental impact.
Unfortunately just as things were heading that way, along comes an improved fracking technology and there's going to be a last hurrah of fossil fuel for the next 50 years or so - or maybe longer, since 'peak oil' has been announced many times only to be proved wrong. Globally that ship has sailed and in political terms, it's a great thing. Shame about the environment.
Wind - slight but tolerable environmental impact; UGLY
Tidal - massive environmental impact
Wave - unlikely to produce significant energy
Hydroelectric - schemes in Brazil & China have devastating environmental impact, but can be practical in a few countries
Solar power - fantastic, but most sunny countries seem to be unstable
Nuclear fission (U,Pu) - great solution, though waste handling needs to be improved
Nuclear fission (Thorium) - much safer alternative, being used by a few countries now
Nuclear fusion - ideal long term solution (50+ years), but expensive at moment
Oil, gas - cause of climate change, though some long term extraction essential if we still want plastics, paints, dyes, chemicals, medicines, etc, etc, etc
Fracking - this is just taking the piss out of those few who are genuinely trying to protect the planet (ie, not just 1 species)
Salt water in deserts ? Massive environmental impact, won't work, would take more energy to create than is available
The real elephant on the planet is overpopulation & the fact that we're keeping more & more people alive. Everything else is just postponing a catastrophe.
Sorry, you did ask, and I'm not being very funny.
Yeah what Sinnick said. The only real sustainable long-term solution is less power consumption. Which means either we give up electricity & cars and go back to foraging for nuts and berries, or substantially reduced population, or more likely both.
Never mind how ugly windmills are. What I want to know is how much energy does it cost to install / maintain an offshore windfarm vs how much energy do they (in practice) feed in to the grid over their operational life. I suspect that the balance is pretty small.
Agreed- overpopulation is the big pending disaster, because the rules of population management of a species are being ignored.
'Survival of the fittest' to breed, breed more, and have their offspring survive is being negated by national collective responsibility for the welfare of offspring, through health services and welfare systems. Not a criticism, but a fact. We are ignoring multi-millennia of Darwin genetics and I don't think that can be consistently flouted.
Sounds horrifically un compassionate, but if a field of rabbits is left to breed and breed without natural population control, disease and famine suddenly strikes and culls the population down to a few most vigorous survivors.
Populations with spare time on their hands..even staff, a class of schoolchildren...tend to make mischief too. That magnifies out to wars between populations who would be better off collecting nuts and berries twelve hours a day,rather than ordering Kalashnikovs.
We must be due some sort of plague, Spanish flu, plague of locusts, cataclysmic holocaust etc soon.
Anyway, Happy Tuesday everyone!
deserts are a rich source of both sunlight and silica, which I believe is the raw resource for solar panels - why not have solar panel factories on the spot and cover vast areas of desert with panels?
agree with others re overpopulation
death, disease and happy tuesday :-)
well i'm not quite so pessimistic. read this and thought hmmm... the old overpopulation chestnut. going ever since Malthus. he was wrong, wildly wrong, as history has shown(no way he thought the earth could support anything like its current human population); and it's wrong now too.
1. world population is growing, but i think in most places the rate of growth is slowing down. and altho no-one, no matter what they say, has the magic bullet for making this happen, increasing women's reproductive rights (so they can say 'no' to having loads of babies), economic development and welfare services (so you don't need loads of kids to scratch together a 'pension') seem to be part of the picture.
2. power consumption ain't about simple population. The average US citizen consumes many times (25 maybe?) as much energy as the average Indian. No cause for Brit smugness, we are still using much more than the average world citizen. So as no-one is about to cull the majority of the world's population to allow us to go on living our lifestyles - despite apocalyptic fantasies - we do have to find some smarter ways of getting the outcomes for less energy and resource use. Maybe there might be a middle ground between SUVs'n'hot tubs, and nuts and berries... of course, current massive global inequality does the job of reducing average per capita energy consumption - but is that long-term politically stable? i doubt it.
i'll accept many of Oxy and Sinnick's points about renewables tho. All energy generation takes resources e.g. 'rare earth' metals to make the electro-magnets in turbines. and having gone down the oil path, it takes a huge political push to shift to another path. i take some ironic hope from the fact that many of the sunny desert countries ideal for large-scale solar generation are existing energy (oil) exporters - many unpleasant govts for sure, but makes a potential shift from oil to solar more about going with the grain of existing power networks. OPEC is dead, long live the Organisation of Solar Exporting Countries? an example of eco priorities and human rights in conflict?
that's all a bit off the top of my head, but i think back-up-able.... i'll check up the stats when i've finished doing my thesis references. (don't hold yr breath.)
This extract is from Gulliver's Travels - just another idea to lob in the pot :D
The first man I saw was of a meagre aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin, were all of the same colour. He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor's gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate: but he complained that his stock was low, and entreated me "to give him something as an encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers."
Don't forget geothermal energy. environmental impact is pretty trivial but not suitable for everywhere. It could work in Cornwall though.
Sorry, I forgot geothermal
Overpopulation & energy demand are more linked than it might seem.
Overpopulation is slowing down in many smaller countries, but increasing exponentially in several large countries, with little reduction in the per capita birth rate. More babies survive (unlike in other species). People live longer & longer & longer (unlike other species). Each person has more access to electricity, better food (harvested with better machinery), etc. The machinery (etc) gets more complex, has a bigger carbon footprint, etc. And these countries have barely got to 20th century agricultural methods yet
I think there are 3 or 4 exponential growths in there when calculating future energy requirements, and these multiply up. I'm not convinced these are fully understood.
I think the "rare earth" problem is separate, though. These are needed for better electronic connections, touch-sensitive screens, tougher steels, longer lasting batteries, etc. There are current alternatives that are just not quite as good. So we have phone batteries that run out 1 hour earlier, but at least we've saved the sea floor.
As Sir Lupus says, more women should say "no". Not here, obviously.
Whoever invents a really good, big battery will save the earth.
Lots of good interesting stuff in this thread.
One thing that tends to get forgotten in these kinds of debates is the variability in demand for electricity during any 24 hours. Nuclear cannot be easily switched on and off to meet spikes in demand whereas oil, coal and gas can be.
To a certain extent, the spikes can be predicted, and measures to deal with them can be planned. To trivialise the point, millions of kettles being switched on at the end of Coronation Street is the example that electricity companies use. So we should be ok with renewables if it's windy at 8pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and again at the weekend for the omnibus.
I knew I'd seen some arguement that said population growth is not so scary. It may have been this chap
Anyway it looks, from his standpoint, to peek at 9bn.
I think that if we knew more about it and were not scared of the word "Nuclear" then fusion will be the answer. It makes the sun work. What would be tragic is if we overlook the solution because people who haven't bothered to find out what it is stop the development of nuclear energy.
There's a nice little video here (Scroll down to "The future is fusion") It looks a bit Sci-Fi but its been done for over 20 years. I remember computors in 3 story buildings which were 100 times less powerful than my smart phone. Advances are exponential. It is not so hard to imagine a future where fusion reactors are in every home... or every home that does not prefer to have a victorian waterwheel.
But we could level off at 9bn if the pope let people put a bag on their knob.
Also plenty of room as long as all the new population live up mountains, in the Sahara or in Australia.
Some really interesting stuff here.
That bit about camels not being able to swim. Is that true?
We'll be all right, you're panicking about nowt.
This is what will happen : the world will gradually become increasingly affluent because the poor countries turn into the workshops of the world, then become consumers (India, China heading that way now). Affluent people have fewer kids. Birthrate declines, give it 3 or 4 centuries and we'll be down to a stable 4 billion. No probs.
"But we could level off at 9bn if the pope let people put a bag on their knob."
I'm always baffled why anyone takes any notice of Catholic dogma like that. Does anyone really think that they're going to burn in Hell for eternity for defying such a daft ban? And what is the reason anyway? Is the Catholic priesthood scared that it will run out of children to molest if parents can plan the size of their families?
Female emancipation and especially education is the answer to population growth. I find comparing humans to rabbits rather distasteful - and ID's suggestion comes straight out of the N(Godwin's Law Alert!!!)i playbook.
There are people in the world who take the Cathaholic imprecations against birth control very seriously, but it's more about having more people to put money in the collection boxes rather than anything else.
Mixture of several energy sources, as Sinnick suggests, is the way forward. Wind farms on land are ugly, IMHO, but have their place if locals are happy. new sorts of off-peak storage are being investigated such as flywheels (good for remote islands) and Vanadium rechargeable batteries.
Fusion would be nice BJ, but approaching breakthrough appears to be asymptotic. As for overlooking it, several billions of pounds has already been spent in researching it. Progress rather slow.
Afraid I believe we are clever animals, but animals nonetheless. If survival of the fittest has been the mechanism governing every single animal population of the world for millennia right up to the last hundred years or so in our species alone, you have to say its a little bit of a leap of faith to say that unlimited reproduction with guaranteed survival is not going to have any impact whatsoever on the fitness of the population for its environment,
Yes, we are rabbits...with less wuffly noses.... but essentially an animal population, and s a species we have to obey natural selection or there will be an abrupt correction in time. Overpopulation never ends well...
FYI I'm stockpiling baked bean cans for the ensuing zombie apocalypse.
How many of you have actually read "The Population Bomb" by Paul Erhlich? Scary scenarios of future environmental degradation, climate change (only at the time it was cooling, natch), mass starvation in Western countries (including 60-70 million Americans by the end of the 1980s), war, pandemics and more suffering as the polar caps and deserts expanded.
And the only hope for mankind was to control reproduction by any means possible. This included putting contraceptive substances in water supplies and forced sterilization. And abolishing democracy in favour of a benign dictatorship to bludgeon everyone into submission.
Because the author knew that without these extreme measures we were going to run out of food. The Green Revolution wasn't going to work. We were going to run out of oil and gas and be overrun by pests resistant to the DDT that was killing all wildlife and giving people cancer.
Ah yes, I remember it well.
And its total crap. It was then and it remains total crap to this day.
Gaia will win, it's just a matter of whether we go along with it.
My favourite apocalypse is an influenza virus originating near Mexico City or Beijing.
Er, I'm not getting many stars for this. I'm still being funny, right ?
Actually, there is another species where natural selection is ignored - pedigree dogs, bred to an artificial 'breed standard' of 'desirable traits' based on a cosmetic ideal that typically bears an inverse relationship to their fitness for purpose.
Ironically, religions follow Darwinist principles too.
In the history of mankind there have been many thousands of different religions/sects/creeds. The religions that promote limited reproduction don't last more than a few generations. The religions that persist are the ones that advocate (a) breeding profusely (b) converting unbelievers (c) killing heretics
This thread is a bit all over the place, but it's interesting stuff.
I'm with ID, we are fundamentally no different to rabbits. But we have special super-skills in dexterity and brainpower that have allowed us to ensure our own survival beyond normal natural limitations.
"asymptotic". Excellent word Al! I don't think I have seen it written down before. This Fusion thing does seem to be the Holy Grail but it also looks like a perpetual motion machine. You can't get more work out than you put in. Here they appear to be able to get massive amounts more energy out than they put in - and creating the right plamsa temperatures presumably takes an aweful lot of energy. I can only assume that the energy released is there already in electron bonds (or something).
The French look like they are getting close to a commercial Fusion reactor. I noticed in France that they have hundreds of windmills all over the southern Rhone. Ironically they have to be turned off when the Mistral blows as the wind is too strong. Duh! Maybe that's why they are pressing on with Nuclear.
Also: How hard can it be?
Don't knock traditional nuclear power (or as the Japanese know, don't shake it).
Technology is tried and tested and reliable now. No-one died in Fukushima. Nuclear waste is a problem, but could easily be solved if they just dumped it in the deep ocean. The dilution factor would reduce it down to homeopathic levels of harm, with only a TINY percentage chance of awakening godzilla.
Looks like building a fusion reactor is a piece of piss. Building one that creates energy is the tricky bit.
I love the comments on that thread. I can just imagine some 15 y/o American trying to out-do his neighbour, who's only got a couple of Uzis & a grenade launcher. The 15 y/o can destroy Iran or even his school !
It's called a "fusor", and is a bit like a plasma globe filled with Deuterium; costs ~£3000, produces a few atoms of Helium. "A star in a jar"
AReader - spot on. check out (if you've not already) some of Hans Rosling's great short videos on http://www.gapminder.org - the man who makes graphs fun. this is the guy BJ mentioned.
natural selection, Gaia... yes one day humanity will die out, for sure. but that doesn't mean that it's about to happen right now. how we organise and relate to our environment is part of our success as a species, i would guess. that we can change this is one of the reasons that Malthus and his modern day successors (Ehrlich etc) have happily been wrong.
not that i don't think we have an environmental prob - seems likely that there is human-driven climate change, and that the resources we use now are finite. But it's as much (or more) about consumption of resources, and production of greenhouse gases etc, than simple population. to summarise: people x lifestyle = problem, not just people = problem. so there's some hope.
to get back to the original topic, which has been somewhat lost- sorry Gerontius - despite some scepticism i think renewables in some form are certainly worth going for. the politics of them are more hopeful in Scotland than England from my experience. and yes i don't mind the look of a few wind turbines - or even quite a lot - if the choice is that or lots more cooling towers. not seen many nuclear power stations voted as beautiful buildings either.
finally CC love the cucumbers. (although wot about the effect of living next to a gian t cucumber farm on property prices, eh?) we're doing our bit, but the plants have largely been eaten - and not by us. Time for the War on Slugs.
Fracking seems just a bit desperate to me, like adding water to your handwash to make it last a little bit longer.
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