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Messages - Bob Wallace

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Policy and solutions / Re: Solar Roadways
« on: Today at 12:32:27 AM »
Yeah, I thought about that.  For this time of year (spring equinox) the ideal mounting angle would be the same as the latitude.  15 degrees flatter at the summer solstice and 15 degrees steeper at the winter solstice.

The thumbnail on the page opens a picture of some panels attached to a pedestrian 'plaza'.  So, in that case they are mounted flat.  But not on a roadway or even in a place likely to receive heavy foot traffic.

Their first installation was on a concrete pad outside one of the buildings at their home. 

They claimed to have some skidpad data that showed the panel cover glass to be safe for cars.  But I've seen no data that tells whether that surface does or does not reduce output.  And no data on how it holds up to traffic over time.

I'm skeptical but open to being proved wrong.  They need to step up their game, IMHO.  Right now by doing stuff like installing their solar "roadway" in a protected environment and giving no comparison data from a normally mounted panel nearby they come across more as people who are trying to create an income for themselves.

Go out and install a few panels in your own driveway along with a 'control' panel.  Let's see what flat mounting, normal dirt washing over, and a tiny bit of traffic do to the output.  If that's encouraging then find a place to do a test where there is higher traffic flow.

Policy and solutions / Re: Solar Roadways
« on: April 23, 2017, 10:27:20 PM »
RE:  Solar Roadways Facebook report.

Lots of  faith.  No evidence.

Judgement will have to wait.

real time daily energy outputs.

On the page it says "Tilt: 48.3°".  That's not a non-tilted roadway.  There's a mistake somewhere or this is a test of the panels mounted above road levels.

If these were flat mounted (roadway) panels then before we can make any determination we'd need comparison data from a fixed tilt array.  We'd need to see the output over time as they were exposed to real world road conditions.

This chapter of the "Tesla Disrupts Different" paper examines the billions of dollars of assets that traditional automakers have tied up in ICE vehicles -- which would be worthless the moment they publicly acknowledged ICE is dead.  Which is why they cannot quickly switch to EV's, even if they wanted to.

Tesla Disrupts Different
Why Tesla's Selective Dominance is Inevitable

If Tesla is right those investments are approaching "worthless" now.  There will still be some revenue, but it will shrink and not grow.

Failure to launch into a strong EV program is risking the rest of the company.  Robotaxis may cut demand by 50%  or more.  In addition to the impact of robotaxis demand for new vehicles will likely be lowered because EVs should have a longer lifespan and collision avoidance systems will greatly lower the number of cars that are destroyed before they are worn out.

Tesla, I suspect, will expand as much as they feel the market will support.  Nissan and Renault seem to be willing to go all EV if demand continues to grow.  I get the feeling that VW is about to start their move.  Any company that doesn't start moving fast risks being left out and going out of business.

Policy and solutions / Re: Solar Roadways
« on: April 23, 2017, 06:52:15 PM »
RE:  Solar Roadways Facebook report.

Lots of  faith.  No evidence.

Judgement will have to wait.

Here's the sad thing, many Republican Congress members apparently do understand the climate change problem.  But they can't speak out in support of reducing CO2 levels without losing their seats to actual deniers.

Politicians generally do not lead, but position themselves in the crowd and try to figure out which way the crowd is heading.  Only by moving the vote are we likely to move the politicians.

The Women's March and today's March for Science are the sorts of things we need.  We need to get the more fact-based people fired up to vote.  If you don't find the minutes needed to vote then you risk ending with a Trump.

We need to get the people most hurt by Republican actions registered and get them to the polls.  Minorities and naturalized citizens need to be a strong voting block.

We need to get some of the working right thinking about what their lives would be like without Social Security, Medicare, the ACAPP, FEMA and other programs that stand between them and an old age of extreme poverty.  We need them to understand how a rising minimum wage will help them.  Even those who operate small businesses which could benefit from more customers with money to spend.

When Tesla looks in their rear view mirror they see no one gaining on them.  Nissan and GM are way back behind and showing no significant acceleration.

If we look at the failure of Blackberry, MySpace, and pre-Google browsers we see someone coming to market with a superior product at a comparable price and the previous King of the Mountain wasn't able to adapt fast enough.

Toyota has just announced that they will have a long range EV ready by 2020.  They have not yet talked about battery source, rapid charging systems, or self-driving capability.  GM has a 200 mile EV but not the battery supply train to allow 500,000 vehicles per year nor a way to rapidly charge their EVs.

If the giants are willing to toss some major money into EVs then they probably could catch up with Tesla in a few years.  But I see no sign that that's being considered.  And I see no sign that many of the smaller manufacturers are considering making bold moves.

I worry a little bit about Musk having too many ongoing projects but I suspect he's very good at monitoring his projects.  And I assume he's pretty good at picking the people who actually run each project.  I hope he doesn't overextend.

I suspect Musk has an advantage over other companies in all his fields.  Tesla, SpaceX and the others are highly innovative and fast moving.  That attracts talent.  Who wants to work for NASA which hardly has a space program any longer when SpaceX is launching, landing and recovering first stage rockets and is on the way to Mars with people?  What person who is in the EV area wants to work for a traditional car company where most of the effort goes into ICEVs when Tesla is ripping off into the cutting edge?

Bright, competent people want to work where stuff is happening.  Where innovation thrives.  Who wants to spend their days designing a window for the 2018 Gasmobile?

Policy and solutions / Re: Coal
« on: April 22, 2017, 07:37:42 AM »
NG Control Room @ NGControlRoom
National Grid can confirm that for the past 24 hours, it has supplied GB’s electricity demand without the need for #coal generation.

Javier Blas‏Verified account
Javier Blas Retweeted NG Control Room
CONFIRMED: UK goes for a full day without burning #coal to generate #electricity for first time in 135 years #climatechange #renewables

I don't recall AOL's history but, yes, the future is hard to predict.  That's why I don't buy individual stock.

Web service companies can get killed off pretty much overnight.  Remember MySpace? 

Tesla certainly could fall on its butt at some point.  But so far they've had an impressive run. 

Here's what I think will happen over the next decade.

EV batteries will continue to fall in price until it will be cheaper to purchase a long range EV than to buy an ICEV.  Operating costs will obviously be better.  Comfort and convenience will help drive the market to EVs.

Self-driving will be perfected.  That will create fleets of robotaxis. The result will be a major decrease in car ownership.  Ownership could easily fall by 50%.    Possibly closer to 75%.  That will mean a great collapse for ICEV manufacturers.

If Tesla continues on the route it is now on they will have the best brand name in the world.  They'll have the cars, the charging system, the self-driving technology.  Tesla will be building "into" the market.  Large manufacturers like GM will be rapidly downsizing and probably will have a lot of debt to service with very diminished revenue.

I expect several car manufacturers to have their own "Kodak moment" in which they don't shift technology rapidly enough and get left holding the bag.

That's what I'm guessing the future to look at right now.  Of course conditions change so we won't be sure how things will play out until they do.

Must be that another bunch of people have a story something like mine.  Tesla now has a higher net worth (based on stock prices).  Someone's betting heavily on Tesla. 

(Note that tiny [by comparison] Tesla will be making 500,000 pure EVs a year by 2018.)

Tiny Tesla's net worth is now greater than GM's.  That means that investors expect Tesla to eat GM's lunch.

If the EV-olution happens and happens rapidly I wonder how quickly the legacy car manufacturers can turn things around?  Right now they aren't building up their battery supply line.  And they've done almost nothing to solve their rapid charging problem.

Perfect blocks Good Enough and causes Doable to fumble.

Opposition picks up the ball and races for the winning score.


Looking at your picture (if it's you and if it's somewhat recent) I'd guess we're about the same age.

I used to love driving.  Loved sports cars (real sport cars, not Detroit four-seaters).  But the days of being able to blast along almost deserted roads are largely gone.  And age is starting to bite me in the butt.  On drives that go for five hours or more I often need to stop for a short nap.  And find driving freeways really boring.

I'm hoping that my next car will be able to drive itself.  Driving is not something I really need to do any longer and within a decade may not be able to, safely.  I'd be really fine with a robotaxi that I could just call up when I need a ride.  I don't need to have several thousand dollars tied up in a machine that sits idle 98% of the time.

Car companies will build out the market, then most will close their doors.

Yes, I think this will happen.  I think GM bought Lyft (and possibly pulled out of Europe) because they see this coming and are planning on transitioning to a robotaxi company that builds its own taxis.

there will be tremendous opposition to this change.

Yes, but the change will happen. 

Where are yesterday's small hardwares, grocery stores, building material stores, office supply stores?  Most gone to large chain and big box stores.  And those are losing out to Amazon.

The coal industry is collapsing.  People are trying to oppose it but it's a losing battle. 

I think we're in the process of making the cost of everything almost zero.  It won't happen overnight, might take 100 years or so, but we seem to be on route where robots will build, manufacture and grow everything we need.  Including robots building those robots.

I think there's a thread here about what sort of economic system might work for distributing goods and services once human labor has no value.

Insurance companies have recognized that self-driving cars and cars with collision avoidance systems are probably going to have huge impacts on their business.  I think it was State Farm who, a few years back, said that they were in the process of looking for ways to replace the auto insurance business that they expected to lose.

States (some states) seem to not be having a problem with self-driving cars being tested on their roads.  There is, and will be for a while, a requirement for a human sitting behind the wheel ready to take control if needed.

The big tell is the data that Tesla will gather over the next 1+ years as they release hundreds of thousands of EVs with self-driving systems operating 'behind' the human driver.  Tesla will be able to see if there are times that the human driver avoided an accident when the self-driving system wouldn't have and vice versa. 

The lawyers are going to make sure that the auto companies are ready to operate as self-insurers so that they can afford what accidents do happen.  No one expects 100% safety. 

Policy and solutions / Re: Solar Roadways
« on: April 21, 2017, 04:57:27 PM »

Could the answer have been posted by oren upthread?

I never could quite understand the point of these solar roadways. Surely rooftop solar, parking-top solar, almost anything-top solar, is much cheaper to build as it doesn't need to be strengthened to withstand heavy and dynamic stuff moving over it. And it's far easier to install, and to maintain. And it sees more sun. So, why bother?

If the right of way is important to get space for solar panels, why not provide shade & rain shelter for the roadway by covering the highway with a solar canopy?
Fewer accidents on dry pavement, eliminate glare at sunrise/sunset, cooler pavement = less tire wear & the technology is arguably mature.
Why reinvent the wheel?


The advantage would be that you could just put these panels on the road and not have to build any supporting structure.  And I guess if you really believe that these panels can withstand traffic over decades then there could be some savings from not having to resurface the road.

But color me skeptical.  Which is why I am looking for data.

Problems I see, if there's much traffic then there's going to be a shade problem.  Short sections of panels would need their own MPPT controllers in order to contribute to the overall output and not pull the entire system voltage down.

Road surfaces get dirty. 

I don't know if there is a glass whose surface won't abraid from rocks and sand being ground in by car tires. 

Electrical stuff doesn't like being "laid on the ground".  There will be times when the panels and other components will be under water and, in some places, under snow.

Supposedly the glass has a non-slip surface.  Might that mean that less light gets through to be converted to electricity?

The panels are mounted flat.  Ideally panels should face the Sun at a 90 degree angle.  Due to mounting angle there will be less electricity produced.

We've now got a stretch  (or two?) of solar roadway and a stretch of solar bike path/walkway.  Let's see some data.

What's working best at the moment seems to be ground mounting with single axis trackers.  That's where utility solar has gone.  In the US solar farms are returning 30% CF where fixed mount would give about 23% CF. Extra 30% output.  Plus tracking means a longer solar day, reducing the need for storage or generation from another method.

I'm very interested in Tesla's solar roof tiles.  If the price works out so that it costs no more to use them than clay or ceramic tile then I think we're really going to see a change in home construction.  And it may be that while a solar roof might be more expensive than asphalt/composition shingles the electricity generated might pay back the difference in a reasonable amount of time.

If the solar tiles work, are durable, and affordable then I think we'll see home designers and architects designing roofs with sunshine capture in mind. 

Solar roads?  Someone's got to prove they work. And work as good or better than other solutions.

Policy and solutions / subject
« on: April 21, 2017, 09:03:15 AM »
BTW, Cruz isn't polling too well against Castro.  I'd love to see him lose his seat.  A strong voter registration and get out the vote effort might cause Texas to go blueish purple.  It's just a matter of time until Texas goes blue.  At this point Hispanics and African Americans are not getting to the polls as much as they should.

We need to focus on the real problem people and on the seats that we might flip.

Be very careful about opposing Democrats like Manchin.  The probably of replacing him with someone more liberal is roughly zero.

Manchin votes with Republicans more often that most of us on the left would like but if we tried to run someone more liberal and lost we'd end up with someone who voted Republican 100% of the time.

And even if Manchin voted 100% Republican his party membership would still count in terms of who gets to run the Senate. 

In some states a Manchin is about all we can get.  You can't get elected in Louisiana if you are opposed to oil or in coal country if you are opposed to coal.

Policy and solutions / Re: Solar Roadways
« on: April 21, 2017, 06:07:04 AM »
Four months.  No news that I can find online.

There was a crash when a tractor trailer turned in front of a Tesla using autopilot.  That was an autopilot system, not a self-driving system.  Drivers were suppose to serve as a backup system. 

The idea was to get a partial self-driving system (lane keeping, adaptative cruise control, and automatic braking) out and let hundreds of drivers test it in real world conditions.  This driver found a flaw in the system but through his inattention allowed it to become a fatal flaw.

Following that crash Tesla modified their sensor system. 

Tesla's plan is to put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road for at least a year with their self-driving systems observing what drivers encounter so that Tesla can assure that they've identified as many unusual problems as possible and modify their systems prior to letting their cars drive themselves.

Tesla's can drive themselves now.  Here's a video of a Tesla driving itself.

You'll notice that the person sitting in the passenger seat keeps tapping the steering wheel with his fingers.  That's a requirement that Tesla has put in their self-driving systems for now.  If the driver does not tap often enough the system turns off.  It increases the odds that the observer-rider is paying attention.

Over a year Tesla will gather data on billions of miles of driving, map most roads in the US, and find as many "turning trailer" problems as they can.

We should never expect self-driving cars to be 100% accident free.  There's always going to be a deer that leaps from behind a large rock just as the car arrives.  Or a piano that falls from snapped cable immediately in front of the car.  Or a sinkhole that opens under the car.

What we can expect is that self-driving cars will be significantly safer than human drivers.  Our odds of avoiding an accident won't fall to zero, but should fall to more than 1/10th what they are with human drivers.

Policy and solutions / Re: Aviation
« on: April 21, 2017, 04:14:55 AM »
If we want to discuss the 'loop there's a thread for that, but let me say that IMO we should not be building HSR in the US right now.  We should hold off for a few months to a couple of years and let the 'loop get tested.

If it works we're probably better off to skip rail and go straight to tubes. 

Policy and solutions / Re: Aviation
« on: April 21, 2017, 02:25:03 AM »
To answer an earlier question, yes, Hyperloop.

A faster, more convenient, more comfortable, and less expensive way to travel long distances powered by renewable electricity.  If is works we could replace "80%" of air travel with 'loops.  We'd still need planes for island and remote village stuff. 

Reading through the posts it looks like moderate range (500 mile?) battery powered flying is going to be possible.  And then, worst case, biofuels/synfuel for necessary longer range flying.

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 21, 2017, 12:10:17 AM »
all of this sounds really fantastic.

the car manufacturers are in a real panic, and will grab at this to help keep their sales up.


i don't see any of this becoming viable in less than 10 or 20 years.

the hype is HUGE and will bear watching

Self-driving?  Tesla has self-driving cars on the road now.  At speeds up to 80 mph.  For Tesla it's a matter of mapping all the roads which will take about a year once the Model 3 goes into production this summer. 

Pretty much all car companies are rushing to develop self-driving because they see the upcoming need.  Self-driving shouldn't add much to the cost of the car and most people are going to be willing to pay something.  Even if they use it only in low speed, stop and go commuting or long boring interstate drives.  And insurance rates are really going to favor cars with collision avoidance, which requires a large part of the self-driving hardware and computing power.

I think GM has looked ahead and decided that there will be a massive decrease in cars sold per year once robotaxis become common.  That's why (my guess) they bought Lyft.  Gives them a head start on morphing from a car manufacturer to a robotaxi company that manufacturers its own taxis.

Policy and solutions / Re: Biomass
« on: April 20, 2017, 08:58:58 PM »
Until proven otherwise biomass as a source of fuel is not good.

Rapeseed/canola, a variety of mustard, can be grown between crops of annual wheat.  It requires no fertilizer, using what was left behind by the wheat, nor irrigation.  It helps stabilize the soil decreasing wind and water erosion.  It also helps keep excess fertilizer out of waterways.

Switchgrass and other native perennials can be grown on marginal land which is no longer usable for food or fiber.  Burned out cotton fields, for example. Once established they need no fertilizer or irrigation.  They fix significant amounts of carbon below the surface with their extensive root systems.  Over time they improve the soil and return it to usefulness for agriculture.  Their tops can be harvested once or twice a year for ethanoyl. 

Once established some varieties of poplar and eucalyptus trees can be harvested (5 to 8 years) and then new growth will appear from the stumps.  This new growth will reach harvest size in about four years.  If the plantation is harvested at a rate of something like 25% per year animal/insect biodiversity can be maintained.   

Arctic sea ice / Re: The 2017 melting season
« on: April 20, 2017, 02:09:01 AM »
could it be that the increased water vapour content of the atmosphere will result in more snow being deposited on high altitude glaciers?

Yes, but with rising temperatures the snowline will retreat further up the mountains.  And as the line rises the area of real estate decreases rapidly.

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 20, 2017, 01:41:31 AM »
Self-driving cars will create the ability to have "spontaneous" carpools.  If you are willing to share your ride with others (ever ride a bus, train, plane?) in exchange for a cost savings the car you ride may pick up and drop off others along the way.

No need to be part of a formal carpool where you've got to figure out who is driving, who's staying home sick, working late, how much to pay the driver, etc.  The system will take your request and schedule you in immediately.  Chose to ride single and just pay more.

If we only doubled the number of occupants in commuting cars (largely single occupancy now, it seems) we could halve the number of cars on our roads.

Policy and solutions / Re: Biomass
« on: April 19, 2017, 09:08:26 PM »
Wood is not a low carbon fuel.  It's a fuel that contains carbon that was already in the above-surface carbon cycle as opposed to fossil fuels whose carbon is stored well below the surface.

Some of the carbon in plants is temporarily out out the atmosphere as the plant takes in CO2 and emits the oxygen.  The carbon is stored both above and below the surface.  The amount below the surface (at least some inches below the surface) is taken out of the above surface carbon cycle.  The amount above will stay in the plant while it is alive and then will return to the atmosphere when the plant decomposes or burns.

If the carbon is taken in by a redwood tree it may stay in that tree for 2,000 years or more.  If an annual grass or herb the above ground carbon may be back in the atmosphere in a few months.  Or very quickly if eaten by an animal and converted to methane.

We don't have the luxury of using only perfect solutions.  Sometimes we are forced into picking the lesser of the evils or the better of the sort-of-goods. 

IMHO burning biomass is far superior to burning coal.  And until we can build out a renewable energy system, including adequate storage, we are going to burn something.  The general public demands that the grid operates 24/365, not just when the Sun shines or wind blows.

How we produce our biomass is important.  Wood waste is available and the cost of burying it in landfills is not acceptable in most cases.  It would be best if the nutrients went back on the forest floor to feed the next generation but that will not happen.  And put back on the forest floor it would give up it's carbon to the atmosphere in a year or so.  If we burn it to produce electricity rather than coal or natural gas then we are ahead in terms of greenhouse gas.

Growing biomass plantations is an option.  We've long grown pulpwood on plantations.  Plant quick growing trees, harvest them, plant a new generation.  There are some perennial grasses which can produce large amounts of biomass on marginal land.  Switchgrass, an American native, requires modest amounts of fertilizer and water the first year while it is established.  After that it grows on its own, can be harvested one or two times a year, and fixes significant amounts of carbon in its extensive root system.

The problematic biomass, IMO, is where forests are cut and not replanted.  Sometimes the real goal is not to produce biomass but to make the land available for cattle or farming.

Policy and solutions / Re: Coal
« on: April 19, 2017, 05:42:32 AM »
Burning biomass does not de-sequester fossil fuel carbon.  As long as we have a good replant process we should be able to burn some biofuel without hurting ourselves too much.

Much less hurt than burning coal.

And I think we tend to overlook the carbon that trees and other plants do sequester in their root systems.  A tree can have as much mass below ground as above.  If we cut off the top for fuel we're only taking half of what that tree has pulled out of the atmosphere.  It could be that by harvesting mature trees and replanting in their place we actually get more carbon underground than leaving the tree to stand then eventually die and rot, releasing its above ground carbon.

Long run we probably ought not plan on making biomass from  trees a major part of our fuel system.  But during the transition it's probably better to burn biomass than coal.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: April 19, 2017, 05:35:12 AM »
From that article -

Shale funders look at the economics today and see a lot of projects that work in the $40 to $55 range,

OPEC wants to push oil prices to $60.  At $60 the price of gas would be around $2.35/gallon plus tax.  That would be good for EVs.  Good, not great.  It would make it about half as much per mile for an EV vs. a 40 MPG ICEV (plus oil changes).

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but, the United States
« on: April 19, 2017, 05:26:43 AM »
At about $100/kWh for cells EVs hit production cost parity with ICEVs.  We're probably going to see $100 cells by 2020.

Obviously more expensive oil will push people to EVs.  But if EVs are cheaper to purchase and at least a little cheaper to operate they will take over the market.

Think about all the people who are concerned about climate change and are willing to do something if it doesn't cost them a lot.  Now think about the choice they'll make if they can do something about climate change if it saves them some money.

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 19, 2017, 05:22:07 AM »
Wiki says -

"Solar power in Germany consists almost exclusively of photovoltaics (PV) and accounted for an estimated 6.2 to 6.9 percent of the country's net-electricity generation in 2014"

Eyeballing the numbers it looks like Germany has really cut back on solar after 2012 but has ramped up wind.  330% increase in offshore wind from 2014 to 2015.

Looks like they were about 20 years too optimistic for the self-driving car stuff.

Flying cars?  Better batteries and we might see them.  But I don't see a big need.  Perhaps some sort of low cost flying bus service to get to places where roads won't get you in a hurry.

Google says it's 57 miles from my house to the grocery store and takes about an hour and a half to drive (windy mountain road).  It probably takes a little longer than that, Google doesn't know how bad part of the road is.

Straight line, flying taxi, 34 miles.  20 minutes?  I might pay some more to fly some of the time. 

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but, the United States
« on: April 19, 2017, 02:36:09 AM »
In 2015 we sourced our domestic natural gas -

Oil wells = 6,452,680 million cu ft
Shale gas wells = 15,475,887 million cu ft
Coal bed wells  = 1,181,320 million cu ft

28% of our NG from oil wells.  If the price of oil goes up we drill fewer oil wells and produce less NG as a secondary product.  If the price of oil goes down then we drill more oil wells.

As per my comments on the car thread, a drop in oil demand will drop the oil price which will make ICE's more competitive.

True.  But in short years a new car buyer should be looking at two identical cars, other than the propulsion system.  One will cost less, be less onerous to power, require less maintenance, and offer a better ride.

Will most buyers purchase the more expensive, larger hassle vehicle or the less/less?

$5/gallon fuel certainly would drive EV sales faster.  But I can't see a route for ICEVs to undercut the purchase and operating cost of EVs.

Then, not too far out, car companies will simply start cutting their ICEV offerings.  We saw that happen with film cameras as digital took over.   The lower featured models disappeared first, and rapidly.    The top of the line fSLRs hung on longer but it wasn't long until companies quit spending money on development of new models.  All the research/development money went into digital.

(Disposable cameras held on for a while.  Cell phones with cameras quickly killed them.)

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 19, 2017, 02:15:31 AM »
Here's the breakdown of German electricity sources that I linked on the nuclear thread.

If Germany wasn't exporting 8.5% of their production they wouldn't need to burn hardly any lignite.   

I wonder about that 1.2% for solar.  Germany has a lot of rooftop solar, it that getting picked up in the stats?  End user solar was not included in US generation numbers until 2014 (IIRC). 

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 19, 2017, 02:09:03 AM »
There's something else going on with Germany.  In 2016 Germany generated 648 TWh of electricity but consumed only 594 TWh.  8.5% of the electricity Germany generated was used in other countries.  Germany is burning coal for other countries.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: April 19, 2017, 01:58:08 AM »
IIRC Russia has been budgeting for $40 oil for some years now. Anything over $40 is pure gravy.

What do they call it when it goes to $30 - $35?  Sour gravy?

Economic collapse. 

e.g., Venezuela. 

How about a bunch of smart cars that decide amongst themselves

Possible.  But my guess is that most people, after a few years, will decide that there is no advantage to them in owning a car.  They'll opt for more money in their pockets and fewer hassles.

I can see larger volume stores like Costco and grocery stores with their own fleet of delivery vehicles which pull into the warehouse, get loaded with the prepacked containers to be dropped off, and zipping off on a computer designed route.  Texting their delivery address a few minutes before they arrive. 

Smaller volume stores might use a 'UPS' generic delivery service that routes a vehicle to their site, picks up what they need to deliver, then continues along it's route picking up and dropping off stuff as it goes.  Food delivery vans might have separate compartments for hot and cold food.  Pizza delivery vans might do the cooking minutes before arrival. 

Policy and solutions / Re: James Hansen loves nuclear power
« on: April 18, 2017, 11:25:05 PM »
Germany didn't place itself in a difficult position.  It just rearranged its priority list.

Worry about the countries that aren't really working on their fossil fuel problem.  Here's where Germany got its electricity in 2016.

11.9% from wind.
 5.9% from solar.
29% total from renewables.

See how many countries you can find that get more of their electricity from wind and solar.  The US just cracked the 1% threshold for solar and is about 5% for wind.

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 18, 2017, 11:15:56 PM »
Here's wind installed by year.  Was 2016 a big downturn or is it just the case that year to year data is noisy?  Look at the numbers, year to year.  Some years amount of installation takes a big jump.  Other years there are only small increases or even a decrease.

Taking a longer view we installed about 2.7x as much wind in 2016 as we did a decade earlier in 2007.

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 18, 2017, 11:07:05 PM »
Here's a chart of global solar panel demand through 2016 with predictions through 2022.  Personally I'd take the predictions with a grain of salt.  Prices continue to fall and it takes less than two years to bring a new silicon processing plant online.  Less time to start up a panel plant.

Falling battery prices are likely light a firecracker under solar installation rates.

I haven't found an annual wind installation chart.  I've got one that I can put online and link later.

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 18, 2017, 10:59:28 PM »
2016 was the second largest year for global wind installation.  Was 2016 a decrease or was 2015 a one year spike much higher than what would have been predicted from previous years?  2013 was an abnormally low year.  Then installation bounced back up in 2014 and bounced a lot in 2015.

Let's look at the data....

2011  40,635
2012  45,030
2013  36,023
2014  51,675
2015  63,633
2016  54,600

Now let's rank the years by most to least installation...


Year to year installation is not a smooth curve.

You might want to look at US installation rates which have been quite erratic due to federal subsidy programs and Congress.  I suspect uncertainty over subsidies cause a 2013 slump and a 2015 'rush to finish'.

The data I see says 2016 global solar installations increased by 53% over the previous highest year (2015).

2016, IIRC, installed more renewable generation than was installed in any previous year.

Don't be mislead by "growth percentages".  A 100% rate of growth when you have only 1 MW installed the previous year is 1 MW.  If you're starting with 100 MW installed and the rate of installation is only 10% you're adding 10 MW.

Growth rate acceleration is easy to accomplish in a transition.  Once the transition reaches a high enough rate there is no need for increased growth rates.

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but, the United States
« on: April 18, 2017, 10:28:22 PM »
Revisit that post in five years.  After EVs, battery power buses and battery powered trucks have started biting into oil demand.

It won't take much demand erosion to drop prices closer to $30.  The lower cost producers (Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia) are likely to be pumping out as much as they can while there is a market and selling for as much as  they can while still undercutting the countries with $30+ production costs.

If the hardware is already sitting in my garage, why pay for some other robot to tend the hedges.

Let's assume the attachment to your car (?) that trims your shrubbery or your robotic trimmer costs you $5k.  You use it three hours a year.  It could be trimming over 500 other people's shrubbery per year (assume 12 hour trim days, six month season).  Allow the owner 100% markup to cover business expenses and profit.  $10k / 500 = $20 per year.  You don't have to worry about keeping the blades sharp and give up garage space.

$5k in an index fund returning 8% = $400.

I actually drove a cab once and know how passengers clean up after themselves.

If you call up a robotaxi the first thing you'll want to do is to take a quick look to see if the interior is clean.  If not, punch a button on your phone and let the company know.  If you live in a city or suburb they should be able to get a clean car to you in a very few minutes.  They'll know who last used the car.  They'll have the ability to charge them for the cleanup.

You'll be sure to do a quick check because you won't want to be charged for the mess you didn't make when the next user drops a dime.

Much of the car ownership thing was about bragging rights.

You could, instead, brag about the vacation you took or the four star meal you had with the money you saved by not owning a car.  You could purchase a multi-hundred dollar purse and carry it out in front of you so that others can see the brand.  As my sister-in-law does.

When Rex is driven to the park, then walked, and cleaned up after, by your RR Deluxe, with the Doggy Do Do option, the neighbor ladies will swoon. W

You could have a Rexmobile on schedule for every morning at 7:30 so that Rex is taken for his morning ritual while you eat breakfast.  And then you could ride to the opera that evening in a robotaxi that didn't smell like Rex.

The heavily chromed hardtop convertible model that mixes frozen margaritas as you cruise the beach, then disappears and returns with a blanket, an umbrella and a box of Super Sized Condoms, will sell like hot cakes, or hot tamales depending on your local.

The heavily chromed convertible with built in bar and robo bartender will rent like hotcakes to those who are heading to the beach that day.  You could be one of them.

Other days you may call for a pickup to move your fridge.  Or a van to haul your latest IKEA treasures.  Or a multiple passenger van so that you can take your neighborhood dance troupe to the Kecak competition.  Or a robo-ride with lots of glass and an upscale audio system for your ride through the desert in bloom.

A chicken in every pot & a Rollin' Robbie in every garage.

(Invest in the companies that own the robo-rides.  Then you'll be able to afford two chickens in every pot.  And more pots. ;o)

Policy and solutions / Re: James Hansen loves nuclear power
« on: April 18, 2017, 09:59:29 PM »
Germany may have a vague plan, but that doesn't mean that it will happen - as shown by the failure to make the 2020 targets.

Again, lay the problem with Germany hitting its 2020 target at the feet of the idiots who built the Fukushima reactors where they did.

I'm getting really fed up with pro-nuke advocates who try to use Germany's CO2 emissions as an attack on renewables.  German citizens don't want potential nuclear disaster in their yards.  I lived downwind and not very far from one of the worst run nuclear reactors in the US.  I now live just downwind of a US reactor (now closed) that was built on an active faultline and in a tsunami zone.  I was only a few hundred miles away when Fukushima went sour.  I can appreciate their attitude.

Let it be.  Germans are very capable people.  They will solve their problems.

The transition to renewables gets easier and cheaper every year.  Turbines and solar panels become more efficient and less expensive.  We figure out better and cheaper ways to install.  For example, we've brought down the cost of single axis trackers so that the fixed mount panels that were giving us capacity factor numbers around 20% are now returning 30%.  A 50% increase in electricity produced for a modest increase in cost.  And a longer solar day which lowers the need for storage.

Over the next few years Germany will have to start deciding how much local storage to build and how much to rely on dispatchable hydro and pump-up hydro in the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland.  The price of batteries will continue to fall.  More battery "gigafactories" will be built.  Germany will be able to order up as many containers of 'plug and go' storage as they want and transmission lines can be beefed up to carry more power to and from Germany and the more mountainous European countries.

The thing that needs to happen right now in Germany is to break the back of the coal industry.  Get it's political strength reduced so that it can't screw with renewable installation rates via legislative shenanigans.

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 18, 2017, 09:43:36 PM »
Bob, I like your last series of posts (though somewhat OT here) but - it will take more than a few years, and it only applies to the "developed" countries. Globally it might take several decades if it happens at all.

I don't know if you traveled in 'less developed' countries in the early part of this century.  If you did you may have seen how quickly many adopted cell phones.  Mobiles were very common in Thailand, for example, when few people in the US were using them.  I found myself amazed at how many people had mobiles in India when I knew almost no one who used one in the US.  Places with limited to no land line infrastructure just jumped straight to cells.

Same thing is happening in less developed countries with electricity.  They need more generation and to a large extent they are going straight to wind and solar.  They're not installing coal and nuclear and then having to replace those plants later on.  And they don't need to import fuel.

Wind and solar have huge advantages for developing countries.  They can be installed one turbine/one panel at a time.  No long years of developing a major project, seeking financing, finding the people with the skills to build the plant, waiting for years for power to start flowing.

A wind turbine can be stood and hooked to the grid in a few days.  A solar panel in an hour.  Energy flows and the turbine/panel starts paying for itself.

The investment per installation is miniscule compared to acquiring the money for a multiple year coal plant build.  A village or small town can purchase a turbine.  A single home or business can purchase a solar panel. 

It will take decades to replace fossil fuels in developed countries.  If we ramp up to installing renewable at the rate of 3% total generation per year in the US it will take us about a decade to replace coal and another decade to replace natural gas.  China and India may take a bit longer.  Europe may move quicker.

I suspect that in countries where electricity production is heavily influenced by market forces we're going to see huge increases in annual renewable installations.  Suppose you've got some money to invest.  You look at what the market is paying for electricity from a coal or gas plant and you realize that you can build a wind or solar farm, undercut the fossil fuel plant, and make a sweet profit.  The world has huge amounts of capital looking for decent places to invest.

And with the current practice of power purchase agreements (PPAs) you're guaranteed a market and pre-negotiated price before you acquire the land and pull permits.  Very safe investment and after the expiration of a 20 year PPA you've got a facility that can produce electricity for almost nothing for many more years.  Several decades in the case of solar.

Many more "First Solar" operations where the investors own the plant making the hardware and building the farms. 

We could see a movement from transitioning about 1% per year to 3% - 5% per year.  At 5% per year the US could replace all coal and NG in a decade.  It would take a few years to ramp to 5% but it's doable.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« on: April 18, 2017, 09:14:17 PM »
I had assumed that over the next few decades the rain will tend to move north, from the US to Canada; knock on effect from the Hadley Cell moving north. So Canadian Hydro will be getting a good supply, but possibly not the Hoover dam etc.

The thing that concerns me is the potential of more frequent multiple year droughts.  Texas had a bad one. Florida had some very dry years. Then it was California's turn.  Especially as we lose water storage in snowpacks we could encounter major periods where hydro largely disappears.

Would we be safe in assuming that the Northeast and Eastern Canada is free from drought risk?

At the same time we should see some areas experience periods of unusually high precipitation.  Look at the Upper Midwest a few years back.  The coastal South last (?) year.  California this year. 

While more rain falls we don't always have the ability to capture and store that extra potential energy.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« on: April 18, 2017, 08:59:49 PM »
Nice to be reading Bob's comments again!

In Ontario I believe one of the problems being faced is the very high costs associated with spikes, or very short periods when supply far outpaces demand.
Batteries can't charge rapidly enough to make use of this power, but I've wondered if capacitors might be able to capture this energy, then trickle it off to batteries or back to the grid.

As I understand it the spikes are not something than can be accurately predicted, but a system that automatically reacted to a spike by plugging in large capacitor banks might allow working much closer to the line than operators are now willing to dare.


Probably what you're seeing is the early days when the number of batteries online is very small.  Once we reach the point at which we are storing a couple days worth of electricity there should be enough batteries to snatch up the spikes.

Supercapacitors could do the job but at this point I think they are too expensive.  Some companies want to use them in EVs to better capture energy from regenerative braking but cost (and size?) hasn't made that practical. 

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« on: April 18, 2017, 08:55:11 PM »
From news article: Vertical wind turbines could produce 10x the power per acre as their horizontal counterparts


First, for the most part there is no shortage of real estate for turbine installation.  There's more than enough room to spread out horizontal axis turbines.  Plus a lot of our wind harvesting is heading offshore where winds blow more hours and there is less public resistance.

Second, VAWTs put a lot of mass on top of their towers.  That would mean a much higher investment in footings and towers in order to get VAWTs up above 100 meters where onshore winds are cleaner.  And up above the height of storm waves for offshore installation.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« on: April 18, 2017, 08:45:54 PM »
Good to see you post again, Bob. You always get my spirits up.  :)

Glad to be of service.

I'm very optimistic about our ability to solve our CO2 problems. 

I'm not as optimistic about our willingness to solve them as quickly as we should.  We should already be most of the way there.  We aren't. 

In terms of avoiding a lot of climate change hurt I'm, at best, hopeful.  I hope we're seeing the last significant rearguard action by the fossil fuel industry.  I see signs of big oil preparing to leave the field of battle and transform into renewable energy companies (mostly offshore wind).  I think coal is in the process of losing everywhere but still has enough power to slow renewables for a few more years.  I think natural gas has a significant role to play over the next decade or so but storage looks like it will wipe out gas well before 2030.

Then I'm prayerful.  As much as a non-believer can be.  We really need some atmospheric greenhouse gas removal technologies.  I don't see anything meaningful yet. 

But overall I'm optimistic.  Given how recently we began to address climate change I'm impressed at how rapidly our renewable energy and storage technologies have evolved.  And at how very rapidly costs have fallen.  I think it possible that we could be largely fossil fuel free in 20 to 25 years.

Do that.  Figure out how to pull back some of our greenhouse gas blanket.  That might take enough energy out of the climate system to lower temperatures, reduce storm intensity, and decrease rain bombs.

Higher sea levels.  Can't see any option but adapting.  At least when we rebuild our coastal buildings a bit inland we can build highly efficient buildings.

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 18, 2017, 08:29:29 PM »
They could have done it if they had kept nuclear plants... but no ... they are bad too... heavy industry cannot run on sun and wind for now...

That's true.  But heavy industry can run on Sun, wind, and storage.  (Or dispatchable generation.)

It's simply a matter of building out the renewable generation and storage we need to fill our grids 24/365.  That will take several years, a few decades.  But there is no practical reason why we can't.

Nuclear is nothing more than a generator like wind, solar, geothermal, biofuel, tidal, and hydro.  It has a production charistic that is different from most renewable sources.  It most resembles geothermal in that both can be 'turned down' or turned off but curtailing either further increases their cost.

There's no fuel savings (or at least no significant savings) which means that capital and fixed operating costs have to be spread over fewer MWh, increasing the cost of electricity produced.

Nuclear, like renewables, requires backup.  And nuclear requires storage if the amount produced exceeds the annual minimum demand.  (Or curtailing which is a price driver.)

Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but Germany ....
« on: April 18, 2017, 08:19:02 PM »
it does not take much fracking to get gas out

Depends on the location.  Fracked gas wells in many parts of the US produce a lot of gas for the first year or so and then production falls very low.  The well has to be re-fracked or a new well drilled and fracked.

IIRC only one US field has NG wells that produce over multiple years.

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