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Fossil fuels are dead (and here's why)

So, I'm going to talk about Elon Musk again, everybody's least favourite eccentric billionaire asshole and poster child for the Thomas Edison effect—get out in front of a bunch of faceless, hard-working engineers and wave that orchestra conductor's baton, while providing direction. Because I think he may be on course to become a multi-trillionaire—and it has nothing to do with cryptocurrency, NFTs, or colonizing Mars.

This we know: Musk has goals (some of them risible, some of them much more pragmatic), and within the limits of his world-view—I'm pretty sure he grew up reading the same right-wing near-future American SF yarns as me—he's fairly predictable. Reportedly he sat down some time around 2000 and made a list of the challenges facing humanity within his anticipated lifetime: roll out solar power, get cars off gasoline, colonize Mars, it's all there. Emperor of Mars is merely his most-publicized, most outrageous end goal. Everything then feeds into achieving the means to get there. But there are lots of sunk costs to pay for: getting to Mars ain't cheap, and he can't count on a government paying his bills (well, not every time). So each step needs to cover its costs.

What will pay for Starship, the mammoth actually-getting-ready-to-fly vehicle that was originally called the "Mars Colony Transporter"?

Starship is gargantuan. Fully fuelled on the pad it will weigh 5000 tons. In fully reusable mode it can put 100-150 tons of cargo into orbit—significantly more than a Saturn V or an Energiya, previously the largest launchers ever built. In expendable mode it can lift 250 tons, more than half the mass of the ISS, which was assembled over 20 years from a seemingly endless series of launches of 10-20 ton modules.

Seemingly even crazier, the Starship system is designed for one hour flight turnaround times, comparable to a refueling stop for a long-haul airliner. The mechazilla tower designed to catch descending stages in the last moments of flight and re-stack them on the pad is quite without precedent in the space sector, and yet they're prototyping the thing. Why would you even do that? Well,it makes no sense if you're still thinking of this in traditional space launch terms, so let's stop doing that. Instead it seems to me that SpaceX are trying to achieve something unprecedented with Starship. If it works ...

There are no commercial payloads that require a launcher in the 100 ton class, and precious few science missions. Currently the only clear-cut mission is Starship HLS, which NASA are drooling for—a derivative of Starship optimized for transporting cargo and crew to the Moon. (It loses the aerodynamic fins and the heat shield, because it's not coming back to Earth: it gets other modifications to turn it into a Moon truck with a payload in the 100-200 ton range, which is what you need if you're serious about running a Moon base on the scale of McMurdo station.)

Musk has trailed using early Starship flights to lift Starlink clusters—upgrading from the 60 satellites a Falcon 9 can deliver to something over 200 in one shot. But that's a very limited market.

So what could pay for Starship, and furthermore require a launch vehicle on that scale, and demand as many flights as Falcon 9 got from Starlink?

Well, let's look at the way Starlink synergizes with Musk's other businesses. (Bear in mind it's still in the beta-test stage of roll-out.) Obviously cheap wireless internet with low latency everywhere is a desirable goal: people will pay for it. But it's not obvious that enough people can afford a Starlink terminal for themselves. What's paying for Starlink? As Robert X. Cringely points out, Starlink is subsidized by the FCC—cablecos like Comcast can hand Starlink terminals to customers in remote areas in order to meet rural broadband service obligations that enable them to claim huge subsidies from the FCC: in return they get to milk the wallets of their much easier-to-reach urban/suburban customers. This covers the roll-out cost of Starlink, before Musk starts marketing it outside the USA.

So. What kind of vertically integrated business synergy could Musk be planning to exploit to cover the roll-out costs of Starship?

Musk owns Tesla Energy. And I think he's going to turn a profit on Starship by using it to launch Space based solar power satellites. By my back of the envelope calculation, a Starship can put roughly 5-10MW of space-rate photovoltaic cells into orbit in one shot. ROSA—Roll Out Solar Arrays now installed on the ISS are ridiculously light by historic standards, and flexible: they can be rolled up for launch, then unrolled on orbit. Current ROSA panels have a mass of 325kg and three pairs provide 120kW of power to the ISS: 2 tonnes for 120KW suggests that a 100 tonne Starship payload could produce 6MW using current generation panels, and I suspect a lot of that weight is structural overhead. The PV material used in ROSA reportedly weighs a mere 50 grams per square metre, comparable to lightweight laser printer paper, so a payload of pure PV material could have an area of up to 20 million square metres. At 100 watts of usable sunlight per square metre at Earth's orbit, that translates to 2GW. So Starship is definitely getting into the payload ball-park we'd need to make orbital SBSP stations practical. 1970s proposals foundered on the costs of the Space Shuttle, which was billed as offering $300/lb launch costs (a sad and pathetic joke), but Musk is selling Starship as a $2M/launch system, which works out at $20/kg.

So: disruptive launch system meets disruptive power technology, and if Tesla Energy isn't currently brainstorming how to build lightweight space-rated PV sheeting in gigawatt-up quantities I'll eat my hat.

Musk isn't the only person in this business. China is planning a 1 megawatt pilot orbital power station for 2030, increasing capacity to 1GW by 2049. Entirely coincidentally, I'm sure, the giant Long March 9 heavy launcher is due for test flights in 2030: ostensibly to support a Chinese crewed Lunar expedition, but I'm sure if you're going to build SBSP stations in bulk and the USA refuses to cooperate with you in space, having your own Starship clone would be handy.

I suspect if Musk uses Tesla Energy to push SBPS (launched via Starship) he will find a way to use his massive PV capacity to sell carbon offsets to his competitors. (Starship is designed to run on a fuel cycle that uses synthetic fuels—essential for Mars—that can be manufactured from carbon dioxide and water, if you add enough sunlight. Right now it burns fossil methane, but an early demonstration of the capability of SBPS would be using it to generate renewable fuel for its own launch system.)

Globally, we use roughly 18TW of power on a 24x7 basis. SBPS's big promise is that, unlike ground-based solar, the PV panels are in constant sunlight: there's no night when you're far enough out from the planetary surface. So it can provide base load power, just like nuclear or coal, only without the carbon emissions or long-lived waste products.

Assuming a roughly 70% transmission loss from orbit (beaming power by microwave to rectenna farms on Earth is inherently lossy) we would need roughly 60TW of PV panels in space. Which is 60,000 GW of panels, at roughly 1 km^2 per GW. With maximum optimism that looks like somewhere in the range of 3000-60,000 Starship launches, at $2M/flight is $6Bn to $120Bn ... which, over a period of years to decades, is chicken feed compared to the profit to be made by disrupting the 95% of the fossil fuel industry that just burns the stuff for energy. The cost of manufacturing the PV cells is another matter, but again: ground-based solar is already cheaper to install than shoveling coal into existing power stations, and in orbit it produces four times as much electricity per unit area.

Is Musk going to become a trillionaire? I don't know. He may fall flat on his face: he may not pick up the gold brick that his synergized businesses have placed at his feet: any number of other things could go wrong. I find the fact that other groups—notably the Chinese government—are also going this way, albeit much more slowly and timidly than I'm suggesting, is interesting. But even if Musk doesn't go there, someone is going to get SBPS working by 2030-2040, and in 2060 people will be scratching their heads and wondering why we ever bothered burning all that oil. But most likely Musk has noticed that this is a scheme that would make him unearthly shitpiles of money (the global energy sector in 2014 had revenue of $8Tn) and demand the thousands of Starship flights it will take to turn reusable orbital heavy lift into the sort of industry in its own right that it needs to be before you can start talking about building a city on Mars.

Exponentials, as COVID19 has reminded us, have an eerie quality to them. I think a 1MW SBPS by 2030 is highly likely, if not inevitable, given Starship's lift capacity. But we won't have a 1GW SBPS by 2049: we'll blow through that target by 2035, have a 1TW cluster that lights up the night sky by 2040, and by 2050 we may have ended use of non-synthetic fossil fuels.

If this sounds far-fetched, remember that back in 2011, SpaceX was a young upstart launch company. In 2010 they began flying Dragon capsule test articles: in 2011 they started experimenting with soft-landing first stage boosters. In the decade since then, they've grabbed 50% of the planetary launch market, launched the world's largest comsat cluster (still expanding), begun flying astronauts to the ISS for NASA, and demonstrated reliable soft-landing and re-flight of boosters. They're very close to overtaking the Space Shuttle in terms of reusability: no shuttle flew more than 30 times and SpaceX lately announced that their 10 flight target for Falcon 9 was just a goalpost (which they've already passed). If you look at their past decade, then a forward projection gets you more of the same, on a vastly larger scale, as I've described.

Who loses?

Well, there will be light pollution and the ground-based astronomers will be spitting blood. But in a choice between "keep the astronomers happy" and "climate oopsie, we all die", the astronomers lose. Most likely the existence of $20/kg launch systems will facilitate a new era of space-based astronomy: this is the wrong decade to be raising funds to build something like ELT, only bigger.

1137 Comments

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1:

"Assuming a roughly 70% transmission loss from orbit (beaming power by microwave to rectenna farms on Earth is inherently lossy) we would need roughly 60TW of PV panels in space."

So that's 42TW being pumped into the atmosphere on a continuous basis. Presumably that ends up as heat? Does that have a noticeable effect on global temperatures or is it small in climate terms?

2:

If musk can do even a fraction of that, he could buy off the astronomers out of small change by providing them with enough free space-based telescopes.

A bigger problem would be avoiding Kessler cascades, so he would have to invest in a space broom of some sort.

3:

Noticeable but not huge. A back of the envenopt calculation indicates that the earth receives c. 200,000 TW, some of which is reflected.

4:

If we're beaming huge amounts of power through the atmosphere, does anything happen if you go through that beam? I don't know of any consequences coming out of microwave phone relays, but this is at a vastly different scale.

5:

Remember the volume of space increases as the cube of the orbital radius? And SBPS would be built at geosynchronous orbit or even further out -- multiple orders of magnitude higher up than Starlink. So the risk of a Kessler cascade from them (or affecting them) is zero (which is a good thing: they're huge and the pieces effectively stay up there forever).

6:

Thanks, I did wonder where Musk was going with all of this, and it sounds all too plausible.

As a professional astronomer, I've seen several large optical telescope groups already discuss mitigation strategies for Starlink and the other satellite constellations that will go up soon. Long story short, it will impact the observing efficiency, most seriously for long exposures that are going for faint galaxies, and the radio leakage in sidebands will be very severe for radio astronomy.

For casual night sky observers, it will be a huge impact - in Summer at higher latitudes, you'll see these streaks all over the sky. Ah, well. It was nice while it lasted.

7:

Well, if he pulls it off then it may offset his personality a bit.

Until he starts cutting off entire countries power supplies for dissing his submarine designs.

8:

It will really piss off the "wifi is cooking your brains" crowd, not to mention "5G is an evil conspiracy by Bill Gates!!!" crowd. In real terms, though, the power flux is too low to be harmful. It's not like the tens-of-megawatts ballistic missile warning radars of the cold war era that cooked flocks of birds in flight.

9:

Won't people be worried that Elon might find a way to focus that multi-TW power source on to a small area on the ground? That would be proper Bond villainy.

10:

Yes and I wonder if the blocking effect of the arrays would actually act as a sunshade. You can't beam out more energy than you put in so it may even have a cooling effect.

11:

That would be proper Bond villainy, but it's probably impossible. Beam spread is a thing, especially across a transmission distance of tens of thousands of kilometres.

I think it more likely that Musk will gain first mover advantage and it'll last precisely as long as it takes for one of: (a) Trump to be re-elected and ban renewables, (b) for Exon-Mobil to buy the US government and ban renewables, (c) a ghastly coalition of Jeff Bezos, Exon-Mobil, BP, and Aramco to throw up a competing cluster (coming from behind, but only 2-5 years behind: I think Blue Origin is lagging b/c Bezos took his eye off the ball and put a trad aerospace executive in charge, and that could change very fast), or (d) China or the EU or Japan or Russia to do ditto.

Then Musk will merely be a very rich man with the funds to build out his let's-colonize-Mars boondoggle and help a lot of libertarians commit suicide or build a people's republic that will make life in North Korea look luxurious and tolerant of individuality.

12:

You would need a larger, and hence heavier transmitter to focus the beam on a smaller area.

You can pretty easily calculate how tight the beam can be from the wavelength and antenna size so a microwave doom sat would be pretty obvious.

You could create a virtual antenna with a array of sats that could do a better job I suppose. Fiddly and expensive though.

Assuming he has that, and tries to demand a meeelion dollars, how long would it be before his front door is kicked in and he is dragged away in chains?

It doesn't seem practical until there's a truly self sufficient, nuke proof colony on mars.

14:

In a century, Starlink will be recognized as the beginning of this star's Dyson Swarm.

15:

Yeah. Back in 2012 PV cells cost an order of magnitude more, were an order of magnitude heavier, and his people had barely started work on Falcon Heavy, never mind Starship.

The world has changed a lot in the past nine years.

16:

I must admit that I have a hard time with the "beam down sunshine" idea.

It seems that everybody only looks at the easy inverse square part of Maxwell's Equations, while ignoring all the trouble the rest of them cause for this idea.

First, the TX antenna has to be massively distributed, low-loss microwaves are direct semiconductor to antenna and the semiconductors are typically single digit watts.

Second, from space, the receiving array is going to look like a mathematical point, which means that some pretty precise beam-steering will be required by the transmitter.

But horray! Those two play together: A phased array tx-antenna.

... Which can then be pinpointed on any spot on Earth, visible from the tx-antenna, with gradually increasing loss as it is pointed further away from nadir.

It can also be pointed, with almost no loss, at anything in orbit not currently behind Earth.

In fact it will be, because any finite phased array antenna, in fact any directional antenna, will by definition have side lopes.

Even assuming good intentions, the consequences of a steering mistake are so grave that siting the RX-array in a location from which you can transport the power to needy consumers seems impossible.

Getting to the assumption of good intentions and trusting it enough to start haggling over the maps is going to be even more impossible: Nobody will want their Palace or Holy City anywhere near the target zone.

I guess he could buy the rest of Hawaï, but getting HVDC from there to any place relevant ? Nope.

Next: A perfectly coherent signal of this magnitude will ionize the atmosphere, I'm not even going to attempt to predict the consequences, but a good guess is to say goodbye to both low-ish loss and to any kind of sub-GHz radio-transmission on that side of the planet.

Next: It is also going to heat the atmosphere. A lot. Most of the loss will be the last 20km.

Precisely how that heat is distributed through the narrow cone shape is a bit tricky to estimate, more so what kind of wind you will get as a result.

The most likely RX location is in the middle of some equatorial waters, (I'd pick 0°NS,0°EW :-) but then you have just built a prototype of the theoretically predicted weaponized hurricane seeder.

All those problems are of course reduced if you build a lot of smaller, say MW scale, plants in closer orbits, but then they have to beam-steer constantly between a large number of RX-plants, which is far from trivial.

For instance you can only light up any single receiver from one plant at a time, because otherwise you would get modulation.

And remember the sidelopes ? They now continuously wash over a large fraction the planets surface, causing EMI from hell.

Of course smaller wavelength helps, but I'm not sure basing it on a massive infra-red laser would make it any more viable.

So nope: I dont buy it.

17:

More seriously, I think SpaceX is going to throw Starship at the wall and see what sticks.

For example, why not stick a camera on every Starlink satellite and get a real-time full-Earth-coverage optical surveillance system? Resolution won't be keyhole-level, but I bet you could do something fun by filming the same point simultaneously from 50 satellites.

18:

"All those problems are of course reduced if you build a lot of smaller, say MW scale, plants in closer orbits, but then they have to beam-steer constantly between a large number of RX-plants, which is far from trivial."

Interestingly, this is basically the principle on which Starlink works.

Could just be a coincidence.

19:
I'm pretty sure he grew up reading the same right-wing near-future American SF yarns as me

Yes, certainly reminds me of the Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle yarn "Fallen Angels", minus the SF fandom service.

20:

>I guess he could buy the rest of Hawaï, but getting HVDC from there to any place relevant ? Nope.

You can build a rectenna over the surface of the ocean. In the style of off-shore wind power.

21:

Ofc, any efforts to get us all fossils and avoiding the collapse of the biosphere is welcome, but I would suggest taking a look at the latest rethink report who suggest we can get 90% of the way there with renewables by 2035 without concocting elaborate energy transfer schemes and repeatedly launching giant bits of metal into space. https://www.rethinkx.com/

22:

ghastly coalition of Jeff Bezos, Exon-Mobil, BP, and Aramco

It's worth keeping an eye on the newcomers: Rocket Lab and/or Relativity might surpass Sue Origin. The latter has been having morale problems for a rather long time, and the latest shenanigans seemed to prompt a bit of an exodus.

23:

The US military is deploying single-digit-kilowatt lasers as weapon systems.

I don't think it's obviously crazy from an engineering perspective to imagine someone leveraging that to get power to the ground. The weapons and the power delivery have the same problems -- in what wavelength is the atmosphere most transparent? How do we stay on the point despite atmospheric distortions? -- which means the weapons research is likely relevant.

(It also creates the orbital death ray scenario, or at least closer to it.)

The other thing is that a whole lot of energy use is for things like process heat. Electricity is not an optimal source of process heat. Firing infrared lasers from space at heat exchangers might be a much better source of process heat.

24:

0/0 lat, long is in the Bight of Benin, so not that far off the coast of Africa.

25:

"You can build a rectenna over the surface of the ocean. In the style of off-shore wind power."

There's a reason it's called "off-shore": It's seldom more than 20-50 km from the coast-line.

That's very close to a death-ray from space.

26:

Musk was reading the same Scottish lefty scifi we all were in the 90s at least. I'd like to think I understood it better, or at least got more of Banks' jokes! I still don't think solar satellites are going to compete well with long duration storage; as much as I'd like to see off-Earth industry happen, competing with the battery learning curve over the next decade is going to be hard ($10/kwh iron/air cells seem to be this months hotness). The major rocket company CEO that talks up SPS publically is Tory Bruno of ULA, and he seemed to think conventional solar power was still really expensive the last time we exchanged Reddit comments.

27:

I am pretty sure that people are already getting worried about the risk of collisions in geosynchronous orbit. Yes, there is a lot of room, but there is already (as you say) a lot of stuff up there, and dead kit stays indefinitely.

28:

Satellite Power System (SPS)
Mapping of Exclusion Areas
For Rectenna Sites

1978 US DoE/NASA paper on trying to find suitable sites for the rectenna farms.

29:

For GEO, on-orbit servicing of satellites is already a thing -- see ViviSat's MEV Mission Extension Vehicle: they dock with a crumbly comsat and provides reboost/positioning using ion thrusters. Two launched and in service so far. In principle they can also shunt dead comsats into graveyard orbits.

LEO comsats are paradoxically safer in event of loss of control: dead Starlink units should re-enter naturally within 12-36 months of total loss of control, due to atmospheric drag, and are normally proactively de-orbited at end of mission using onboard ion thrusters.

Silently, and without anyone outside the industry paying any attention, ion rockets have gone from being SF in the 1980s to being a ubiquitous enabling technology today, propelling deep space missions as well as significantly extending the working lifespan of satellites that previously relied on chemical fuels for maneuvering/orientation.

30:

ground-based solar is already cheaper to install than shoveling coal into existing power stations,
Except it isn't
I did an analysis on the costs of getting solar panels on the WSW-facing roof of my house & the approx SSE next wall ...
No return ion capital for more than 40 years ... forget it.
I suspect it's a deliberate rip-off, of course.

At that cheap an outlay per launch, that Astronomers simply put all their kit into orbit, as well, or on Luna.....

As EC says: Beware Kessler.
& P H-K: "Beware!"

31:

The "power generation in spaaaaaaaaace!" fun is the easy part. As the current problems in New Orleans demonstrate, the hard part is getting all that power where it needs to go. (There's plenty of power into the distribution centers in New Orleans, despite Ida; getting it to customers, not so much.) Remember, too, that an unknown, but significant, portion of the wildfire problems in California right now are being caused by aging and/or fundamentally misconceived in the first place problems with the power grid. How would you like to run those lines all the way from a rectenna station in, say, the Bay of Bengal up to Kanpur? Then keep them in good working order?

Although lurking behind that "fun part" is the spectre of ransomeware and endemic bad security practices allowing a teenager somewhere to cause significant damage somewhere as a joke — or worse. Consider the Sunderland megafan who hires a neighbor kid to damage the pitch at St James's Park (the kid would have done it for lulz, but happily earns a few hundred quid on the side). Then consider what happens if the kid missed...

32:

If musk can do even a fraction of that, he could buy off the astronomers out of small change by providing them with enough free space-based telescopes.

In the US there are WAY more "amateur" astronomers than "pros". And they carry a lot of weight as they do real work.

The local astronomy club around here has a lot of members. At the low end you have the guys who built their own. Their investments over 5 to 10 years is $2k to $5k. Others have over $50K in equipment. Some likely $100K. And they spend their vacations going to viewing retreats which have to cost a fortune.

And these guys do impressive things with computerized controls that deal with CMOS sensor stuck bits and such to clean up images.

My point is that there would be a LOT of folks to "buy off".

33:

It will really piss off the "wifi is cooking your brains" crowd, not to mention "5G is an evil conspiracy by Bill Gates!!!" crowd.

Maybe they'll just go catatonic.

There is a very vocal local group here that is convinced that the low power wifi enabled power meters are ruining their health. And they are all over 5G. But can't tell you why. And asking them if it is the improved signalling methods or just the the 6mm wave lengths they get really pissed at you. And to really upset them point out that the wifi power meters are putting out less RF than their in house wifi or cell phones.

The WiFi power meters around here form up ad hoc networks to talk to each other and send the usage details to the few that are actually wired to the power network data systems. (And yes I have to wonder just how secure all of this is but that's not what has the "againsters" up in arms.

34:

Aye, SpaceX deciding not to go above 550km makes them pretty safe as far as Kessler syndrome goes. OneWeb and China's constellations, both a little over 1000km, would be more of a problem for that.
ESA have an (unflown) air-breathing ion engine which seems like it could be great for unlimited mission lengths at low altitude and, depending on scoop efficiency, maybe for satellite/debris deorbit too. Raise apo, dock with GEO bird, lower peri into atmo, undock, raise peri to scooping altitude, refuel half an orbit later, and do it again.

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35:

Yes. Like many problems, whether it becomes a routine nuisance or a complete fiasco depends almost entirely on whether it is tackled promptly, competently and continually.

It's not as if we don't have horrible lessons to look at :-(

36:

At $20 there are lots of fun things that suddenly start to look feasible.

Putting your own private 8 inch or 12 inch space telescope into orbit will actually be cheaper than buying the hardware. (OK, Kessler cascade still an issue).

Space tourism: a human with consumables for a week is going to be a few hundred kilos. So that's maybe $10,000 plus capital costs on the Space Hotel. Not cheap, but well within the means of quite a lot of people.

Lunar mining. I've thought for a long time that the way to colonise the moon isn't to send people, it is to send robots. The robots mine and refine metals to build more robots, and those robots build anything you like. Basically you create a swarm of von Neumann machines, all controlled from Earth and initially supported by sending up supplies of high-value manufactured items like microchips. Eventually the moon will have its own chip fab, but those things are the pinnacle of high tech.

37:

Oh, yes. I was assuming that he would provide open and free feeds to such people and, possibly, a mechanism by which they could request particular views. No, they wouldn't all be happy, but he wouldn't have the unified opposition that a "sod you" approach would engender.

38:

The Wikipedia article on SBPS mentions a very ingenious solution to the beam guidance problem. In the middle of your rectenna array you put a small pilot transmitter. Each element in the orbiting phased array receives the signal and synchronises on that. Hence the entire array creates a perfectly formed beam in exactly the right direction without any other guidance (other than telling it what pilot signal to listen to).

39:

I was assuming that he would provide open and free feeds to such people and, possibly, a mechanism by which they could request particular views.

These guys are like the US Ham radio operators of the 50s into the 80s. They are as much into building the stuff as using it. And writing their own software control systems. Or more likely modding the open source systems.

Think of the current RaspberryPi and Arduino folks.

But I'll defer to Matthew for anything else on this topic. I'm more of an interested observer at the local meetings.

40:

There is a rather entertaining scifi novel called Solarstation by Andreas Eschbach about a prototype orbital power station which beams down on an array in the ocean. Then terrorists invade the Kourou space center, hijack a capsule, launch and try to hijack the station to roast a piece of Earth. One astronaut isn't found by the hijackers and Die Hard in Space ensues. It's sometimes very 90s – the station is Japanese – but the author was an aerospace engineer in former life and it shows. And it's the only novel where the author thought about the problem of cooking in space. Sadly only published in german, never translated to my knowledge.

41:

I really ought to do a new CMAP piece -- or rather, a rant -- about the reason Anglophone SF is so remarkably insular about world SF in general, but I think it'd be best left to a guest post by an English-fluent non-Anglophone writer (I can think of a few I maybe ought to ask).

42:

Ok, so, a solar cell in space gets about 4x the solar irradiance as one on the ground. Being in the sun 24 hours a day is another 4x. But microwave transmission losses make it about 4x worse, so one of those cancels out. But let's say one acre of solar cells in space puts out as much as ten acres on the ground.

Ten acres of Nevada desert costs $2,000. Can Elon launch one acre of solar cells into space for that price?

Of course, you do have to factor in the costs of transmission wires and other infrastructure - but on the other side of the ledger you have to factor in the costs of rectennas (and the political cost of people being freaked out about them).

The predictable 24-hour duty cycle is worth a *lot*, but energy storage systems can do that job too. Those technologies haven't been built out at scale yet, but neither has SBSP. Which one is likely to come online first?


It's an exciting idea, but it still feels like a long-shot bet to me.

43:

Is GEO actually 24x7? Does it not pass behind the Earth at some point in its orbit?

44:

*sigh*

As I post every time this subject comes up, an Environmental Impact Statement was done for a SPS around 1978, and it passed.

In the early eighties, we had a speaker at PSFS (Philly club) who told us about that, and also no, it's not a Death Ray, because they were planning on beaning it down in *watts* per m^2, not killowatts. No cooked birds, even - and you would expect birds to note the temperature going up, and go around it. I don't expect that they fly through smoke from smokestacks, either.

45:

Yes, satellite watchers and operators know this as the geosynchronous eclipse season. Short but significant.

http://www.sws.bom.gov.au/Category/Educational/SatelliteEclipse.pdf

46:

And you're against launching why?

And, I suggest that it won't take that long to launch from the Moon, instead. If you can mine the minerals you need, manufacture and send them up from there.

47:

If it's any consolation, in my published novel, there is no indication of language that they speak... and I have an *extremely* international crew.

I even got a 5 star review from Italy. (Ok, ok, it's an old friend who works for this religious leader as an astronomer, who I Tuckerized....)

And in the next story, a lot of the major characters speak French.

48:

You can pick other orbits that don't get blocked by the Earth's shadow, but the aiming issues become headachy.

Note that the modern lightweight PV panels aren't slabs of etched silicon, they're printed organic polymer (plastic) sheets. Hence the light weight.

49:

Um, yeah, about Kessler and Space War.

Here's the problem with solar farms in geosynchronous orbit: they're big, fragile targets. Not to Kessler cascades--maybe--but to jackass militaries lofting suborbital (or orbital) lasers to blast away at them and dive back into the atmosphere. And they're as hard to armor up as were the grain fields of medieval lords.

Anyway, geosynchronous orbits aren't empty, they're rather full already, so starting a Cascade may be easier than we might wish. But either way, they're big, obvious, fragile, and we've got lasers to shoot at these buzzards with, dammit.

The problem here is that there are multiple futures oonverging. One one hand, it would be nice to have big peaceful solar power birds up there funneling energy for us. It really would.

On the second hand, there's the absolutely vital need for weather and communication satellites to deal with climate change. Hurricane Ida went from tropical depression to Cat-4 storm in 72 hours, which is too fast for most evacuations. But without satellites spotting Ida, that big ol' patch of hot water she predictably ran through, and so on, Louisiana wouldn't even get 72 hours. But if push comes to shove, we can do solar on the ground, but we need weather satellites to keep any sort of super-efficient shipping system working.

And now we get to the nasty third hand in our dirty jeans. I can't find the articles, but earlier this year, the US military bragged about getting a satellite from spec-sheet to launch in something like three weeks, using rapid prototyping blah blah blah. It was suggested that the US military is planning for a Kessler Cascade. And once the Cascade is upon us, they plan to survive it by simply launching mass quantities of rapidly designed, cheap satellites. Like Starlink. The satellites' lifespan is painfully short, but so long as more being lofted than are getting taken out by the Cascade, we've still got a space presence.

This is a remarkably grim picture. But given that Space War I, if it happens, will almost inevitably trigger a Kessler Cascade, it may be the most survivable strategy. Which sucks, but again, we need weather satellites for civilization to survive, rather more than we need solar farms in space.

So it may be that Musk's Starship is either designed for (or ends up being) the equivalent of a half-gauge shotgun in a shotgun war, used for launching mass quantities of vital but ephemeral weather and communication satellites into a cislunar space that's too dangerous for human presence. This last would be due to people getting stupid, launching Space War I, and creating the last and biggest garbage patch our species will ever produce.

I hope not, I really do. But that's the way I'd bet. Satellites launched by the Starship load every day to replenish the losses, shooting stars every night, and astronomers finding other things to do with their time.

As for Mars, pffft. Until Musk has a fully functioning, closed-ecosystem farm in the Southern Plains that doesn't require groundwater, he's not even seriously trying to do the necessary prototyping. And we need those farms, he could make money on them.

50:

Um, no. Even now, in most wars, certain things are off-limits, at least to large countries with real militaries.

China's looking at them, and I'd be shocked if Russia isn't also. This is "you don't permanently knock out our SPS, and we won't do the same to yours."

51:

"The predictable 24-hour duty cycle is worth a *lot*, but energy storage systems can do that job too."

No, they can't.

The problem seems simple, but is extremely tricky to do at scale necessary to "phase out fossil fuels", because of issues like comparative energy density of batteries vs a tank full of gasoline, availability of resources like lithium, the rate at which you can build supply chains for building supply chains for building energy-grid-scale storage, the price of battery storage+overbuilding of renewables vs burning natural gas and so on.

Belgium is switching off their perfectly operational nuclear power plants soon, so is Germany. They're not replacing them with mega-batteries, they're replacing them with natural gas power plants (sorry, "grid stability units"), and Germany is going to extremes to build Nord Stream 2. They're also pondering converting their coal-burning plants to shredded old-growth forests, excuse me, "renewable biomass".

If beaming power from space was feasible at large scale, fossil fuels would be dead.

Unfortunately, I predict that pesky engineering problems will turn out to be extremely difficult to solve, just like, say, building a network of Hyperloops or building cheap self-driving cars or other things that Musk wanted to do but turned out to be surprisingly more difficult than one would imagine by reading sci-fi books as a teenager.

(Remember, for each gram of physics handwavium in SF you have a ton of engineering unobtainium hidden behind the scenes)

52:

The economics of solar has strong returns to scale - bigger is much cheaper.

Solar on a household roof is 5-10x the cost of utility-scale solar. Every roof is different so there's high design & compliance costs, fixed costs for balance of system, and working at height.

Solar at full scale is single design, ground-level, just lay out field after field after field.

How big is full-scale right now? Bhadla Solar Park is 14,000 acres and 2 GigaWatts in a desert in Rajasthan. That's what's killing coal.

53:

When you can throw huge masses to GEO you can do all sorts of things.
Need comms stuff & weather sensors? Astronomy sensors? If you’re building a bunch of large SPS platforms, make plug-in space for Extra Stuff. Supply plenty of locally sourced organic power! What neat stuff could you do with a 20+ tonne optical astronomy setup that has access to near infinite power to process data and transmit the results? Or Earth sensing with huge local compute power? Or SETI gear.
Build large equipment busses instead of hundreds of individual satellites and avoid many aspects of “lack of room”. Include a construction shack so items can be serviced, added, removed.
Pretty soon a lot of the power is for not-on-Earth use. Some of the SPS will be orbiting the Moon. Some, Mars, perhaps powering landed atmosphere processors to make breathable air and fuel for landers.
If your launchers can land, load up locally made fuel and resources, and return to an orbital processor, you can make more stuff.

54:

Vulch @ 13:

One thing we learned today: While Musk loves electric cars and spaceflight, there's one thing he hates: space solar power. "You'd have to convert photon to electron to photon back to electron. What's the conversion rate?" he says, getting riled up for the first time during his talk. "Stab that bloody thing in the heart!"

Although that's from 2012 and he is quite happy drastically changing his mind when reality bites.

I'm not a rocket scientist, but what if they just used a laser & aimed it at a PV farm here on earth? Wouldn't that save a couple of conversions?

55:

I think the problem here is that solar just keeps getting cheaper. Five years ago when Belgium/Germany were planning to get rid of nukes, building a gas plant was cheaper. What OGH is pointing to is that this is not the case anymore.

I, for one, welcome our orbiting overlords.

56:

There's a new technology that makes space-based solar power more viable - metamaterials for microwave lenses.

The lenses themselves don't look like optical lenses. They're thin sheets of insulator printed with fancy copper foil patterns, so can be very light, potentially as light as the solar panels.

Metamaterial lenses let you do a whole host of weird shit - negative refraction, invisibility cloaking and optical illusions. In this case, a lens in the beam path lets you control beam spread and spot size. This means more end-to-end efficiency in your power transmission which is always a win.

That said, SBSP means solar->high voltage AC->microwave emitter->microwave receiver->grid voltage AC. That's lots of steps and lots of losses. Ground based is just solar->grid voltage AC. SBSP end-to-end efficiency sucks.

Whether SBSP will ever be cheaper than ground-based solar, that we'll only know once we try it. I expect SBSP will be cheaper than ground-based solar is right now, but that's a moving target.

My suspicion is that by 2040 ground-based solar will be rolled out like we roll out paint and most of the costs will be in storing electricity from when it's generated (midday) to when we need it (evening).

57:

Make getting to Mars a bit easier by adding huge multi-acre ‘wings’ to Starship. PV sails, whatever you want to call them. Power has always been a major issue for any space project. The ISS has strict power limits for equipment and imagine having a few MW instead.
Ion drive to speed up Mars transit. To provide better living quality on the mission. Safer, happier crew.
Send a few prototypes first to test the systems and land a bunch of fuel/air processors to start building a reserve. Land a couple of Starships to act as extra space for humans, return a couple to use again. Send another full os StarLink units to make a full coverage comms setup - and make sure al the rovers and orbiters currently there can work with them. Pick up Sojourner, service and set her off again! Retrieve John Carter!

58:

Photons from the Sun, converted to electrons in the orbiting array, which then converts the electrons back into photons in the laser, which is "captured" by more PV arrays and converted into electrons again.

59:

paws4thot @ 24: 0/0 lat, long is in the Bight of Benin, so not that far off the coast of Africa.

Looks like the nearest land is 360 miles away between Akwidaa and Dixcove in Ghana.

60:

>How big is full-scale right now? Bhadla Solar Park is 14,000 acres and 2 GigaWatts in a desert in Rajasthan. That's what's killing coal.

Is it killing fossil fuels, though? Germany managed to build a lot of renewables, while replacing nuclear reactors with natural gas. *facepalm*

You can't kill fossil fuel without storage, and nothing exists yet that will allow it to happen. There's no battery to sustain a country for 14 days of windless overcast skies.

61:

No. Space power has never made sense and it still does not. The solar panels will deliver far more power on Earth under the clouds.

30% efficiency is being extremely optimistic. Realistic efficiencies from power on the DC bus of the satellite to power on the DC bus on the ground will be more like 0.01%, if that.

Even at the first step, and assuming you're using top end GaN RF power amps (or heavily optimized magnetrons) for converting the DC power to RF energy you're getting 60% max.

Then, immediately after you transmit, no matter how directional your antenna and reflector are, you're losing 1/2 of the power by about 10 wavelengths away. For a 400km path, even with a very large directional antenna with 40 dB gain (very large relative to wavelength) on both the space side and ground side, you're still getting 70 dB path loss. Every 3 dB is losing half the power. Transmitting RF power over 400 km means you will receive almost no usable power on the ground even before the conversion loses.

If Musk is making Starship/etc for space based solar power he's already lost.

62:

"My suspicion is that by 2040 ground-based solar will be rolled out like we roll out paint and most of the costs will be in storing electricity from when it's generated (midday) to when we need it (evening)."

This is the smartest comment I've seen so far. Want to solarize your house in 2040? It's a weekend project. Buy a roller and a can of solar and paint your roof!

64:

Um, no. Even now, in most wars, certain things are off-limits, at least to large countries with real militaries. China's looking at them, and I'd be shocked if Russia isn't also. This is "you don't permanently knock out our SPS, and we won't do the same to yours."

You do remember how the US military rapidly knocked out the Iraqi grid back in 2002? It's something we do.

Having a fucking US Space Force is also something we do. Ideally we don't use it, just like we've had but never used our nuclear forces. Since, um, 1945.

Unfortunately, we're in the situation we got into with Mahan and sea power in the 1890s, where suddenly every Great Power started building battleships and aiming to control choke points, and world war became increasingly inevitable. The US has shown the advantages of space power, and the US (at least) is preparing for space war. And like WWI, we've got jackasses leading the lions to slaughter.

What will change this dynamic isn't the peaceful use of space, it's the proliferation of nonviolent warfare, which in this case is more like meta-warfare being used to make violence against space machines less politically useful. Making a Kessler cascade irrelevant to global politics will help make the space war not happen. I have no idea how to do that (it's partially diplomacy, and I'm about as diplomatic as a raccoon) but that's where we need the radical innovation.

65:

Until Musk has a fully functioning, closed-ecosystem farm in the Southern Plains that doesn't require groundwater

That's a different Musk working on that side of things.

66:

Vulch @ 28: Satellite Power System (SPS)
Mapping of Exclusion Areas
For Rectenna Sites

1978 US DoE/NASA paper on trying to find suitable sites for the rectenna farms.

Your link doesn't work. It just loops back to this blog post.

67:

what if they just used a laser & aimed it at a PV farm

All that does is change the frequency of the downlink, exactly the same number of conversions.

68:

Carp, sorry about that...

Satellite Power System (SPS)
Mapping of Exclusion Areas
For Rectenna Sites

Aha, F6 to change focus to the address field doesn't work in this browser when it's displaying a PDF. YLSNED.

69:

Yes, renewables are killing coal.

UK electricity has gone from 40% in 2021 to 2% in 2020. US total energy has gone from 22% in 2010 to 12% in 2019. China has gone from 70% of total energy in 2010 to 57% in 2019. Coal is dying and if you disagree then feel free to invest in a coal company.

As for storage, yes it's a problem but it's a problem with plenty of already-viable solutions. Wherever there's geology for pumped hydro, we're doing it. NZ has a suitable basin for a dam that could store months of power. Batteries are popping up everywhere. They're sized to fit daily cycles because the operators want to get paid on a daily basis but there's no reason not to make them larger. Then there's new options like high-temperature thermal storage (disclaimer: I'm an investor in a a company doing just this).

How much storage is needed? That depends on your energy grid and your weather. Australia has reliable winter sun so mostly needs to store power from midday to evening. New Zealand has lots of hydro so needs to store power from rainy autumn for an occasional dry winter. UK has lots of wind but might get a few days of cold still weather in winter so needs a few days of storage (or better links to European grids). Texas ... is a fucking shitshow for many reasons but gets occasional cold snaps. Texas just needs better interconnects to the rest of America coz when it's cold in Texas it's not cold across the whole continent.

None of this needs space-based solar power. What we're heading towards are larger and more connected continent-wide electricity grids. SBSP as a feed-in to those would be nice and would increase reliability, but not necessary.

70:

My suspicion is that by 2040 ground-based solar will be rolled out like we roll out paint and most of the costs will be in storing electricity from when it's generated (midday) to when we need it (evening).

Nice idea, until you realize that the "paint spatter" might gather enough energy to spark a fire. Solar panels now are not the firefighters' friends, because they produce electricity even when not wired to something. Firefighters are learning to haul blankets to cover the panels prior to fighting fires under them.

That said, I agree that solar will get a lot easier. What I hope is that they get lighter in ways that makes it easier to retrofit them on to old structures. Reason is, we've got a lot of roofs that weren't built to optimize solar gain, which is why it's often easier to build solar farms in rural areas that to pave city rooftops with solar. Finding sneaky ways to get solar on, say, a 1950s roof would be golden, especially since that 1950s roof probably can't hold the weight of a current slab array.

As for house batteries, I'm currently stuck in a trilemma:
1. Waiting for Chevy to haul the Bolt in and replace the entire fracking battery pack so it won't ignite ("manufacturing flaws" which means it gets really hot right after it finished charging.). They recommend we park the Bolt outside until it gets rebuilt.
2. Should I buy a Tesla powerwall or two to put in the garage right next to the Bolt? Lithium ion fires are so much fun! Especially when there's most of a ton of battery and at least one-third of it is bolted to the wall.
3. Or do I wait another year and get one of the hydrogen power cells they just started making in Australia: add distilled water, do hydrolysis when there's surplus energy, then do electrolysis to get electricity when needed. And vent the hydrogen when things get scary, then start over again with more water. Is this more or less dangerous than having a ton of lithium ion batteries sitting in the garage?

Fun stuff.

71:

Charlie Stross @ 41: I really ought to do a new CMAP piece -- or rather, a rant -- about the reason Anglophone SF is so remarkably insular about world SF in general, but I think it'd be best left to a guest post by an English-fluent non-Anglophone writer (I can think of a few I maybe ought to ask).

I blame my teachers. I didn't get foreign language education early in life while my brain was still young & plastic enough for it to do any good. It has cost me dearly several times throughout my life that I only have one language.

That said, I do read NON-Anglophone SF ... when I can find an English translation. I know that's a drastic limitation, but what am I supposed to do?

72:

You need a shed outside your house for the lithium-ion batteries.

73:

Jez Weston @ 52: The economics of solar has strong returns to scale - bigger is much cheaper.

Solar on a household roof is 5-10x the cost of utility-scale solar. Every roof is different so there's high design & compliance costs, fixed costs for balance of system, and working at height.

"Solar on a household roof" is also a BIG SCAM in the U.S. right now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv8ZPFOxJEc

I get just about as many calls every week from contractors wanting to install solar panels on my roof as I get from house flippers wanting to make me a "cash offer" 1.

Solar at full scale is single design, ground-level, just lay out field after field after field.

How big is full-scale right now? Bhadla Solar Park is 14,000 acres and 2 GigaWatts in a desert in Rajasthan. That's what's killing coal.

Around here the Public Utilities seem to be building relatively small fields using land that doesn't have much commercial value.

Case in point:
35.83803177689665, -78.66896784095061

This is located on a bit of land on the Crabtree Creek flood plain. Crabtree Creek has been experiencing 500 year flood events every couple of years for the past couple of decades. The insurance companies finally wised up and talked the government into enacting flood plain zoning so people can't build there. But you can still put up a solar array.

1 "Cash offer" means they think they're going to swindle me out of my home.

74:

Anyway, geosynchronous orbits aren't empty, they're rather full already

I think you have a scale problem.

GEO is 35,786 km straight up, or a radius of approximately 42,164 km from the Earth's centre. So roughly 265,000km in circumference. There's room for an awful lot of satellites up there!

Also, objects in GEO aren't really moving relative to one another -- not like satellites in LEO which may be in different orbital inclinations at similar altitudes, so with closing velocities that are a high component of their orbital velocity. You could have GEO satellites approaching with high relative velocity, but then they wouldn't be geostationary.

Anyway, point is, it's almost impossible to start a Kessler cascade in GEO. It's like the difference between plinking at supertankers in the Straits of Hormuz to block a shipping lane (that'd be LEO) and trying to blockade the Pacific Ocean by sinking tankers (that's GEO).

75:

I didn't get foreign language education early in life while my brain was still young & plastic enough for it to do any good. It has cost me dearly several times throughout my life that I only have one language.

Depends on how you want to use the language. The conventional way to break it down in decreasing order of difficulty, which I more or less endorse, is speaking, listening, writing and reading. If reading will do you for most purposes, like catching up on the news in the morning, that's a lot easier than carrying on a complicated conversation in real time. Most major languages now have news channels like Telemundo with text and video that you can watch over breakfast and get both reading and listening practice.

76:

I'm not sure of the calculations here, does beaming with all the losses definitely outweigh space trucking batteries? How about if we assume an order of magnitude improvement in battery technology and extremely cheap space trucking, with rockets shuttling up and down repeatedly and automatically with low turn around time?

Anyway, I do love solar panels in space, a good first step on improving earthlings rating on the kardashev scale - eventually you switch to solar orbiting power collectors and end up with a dyson swarm I guess.

On Musk, I'd spotted the same dynamic (that you need something for those rockets to be doing, since planned capacity is awfully big compared to traditional demand), and assumed that he'd build a space hotel.

77:

@kyb:
Shipping batteries to and from orbit isn't going to be viable.

The best batteries might get to an energy density comparable to rocket fuel. To get a tonne of rocket fuel to orbit takes something like 50 tonnes of rocket fuel. To get a tonne of batteries to orbit will take about the same ratio.

The mass of hardware for a microwave beam is so many more orders of magnitude better than the equivalent mass of batteries. Even if it's 0.1% efficient beaming beats batteries.

78:

Actually, per Wikipedia, there were recently 652 satellites in geosynchronous orbit. Some are separated by 0.1 degree longitude, or 73 kilometers apart, because parts of the ring are much more desirable than others.

And the biggest satellites are around 7 tonnes. Whether blowing apart a big satellite in a densely crowded space over North America or China would initiate a Kessler cascade is one of those fascinating questions. The debris would be moving in the kilometers/sec range, due to the propellant explosion (plus whatever energy the laser dumped in), not to the orbital velocity. But that's probably enough to hole another satellite, since there's no friction to slow the pieces down. So I'd suggest a cascade might be possible. Make the satellites 1-2 orders of magnitude bigger and crowd the desirable spaces even more, and I'd upgrade that to a probable cascade.

Where it gets dangerous is when someone models that it's possible to, say, blow out all the big satellites over North America or China without affecting satellites in the other clump, through a localized cascade. Then things become a wee bit politically unstable. This also is a disadvantage to whoever puts up the first solar sats, because they're vulnerable to threats.

[[ html fix - mod ]]

79:

Here's another though of what Musk might be thinking: all those satellites... why not *real* space stations in GEO, and they have SP wings, *and* do communications (you know, cell towers these days carry multiple carriers' signals), etc? And you go up to *one* (well, three) places, and repair from there - or have robots to repair.

80:

You have left out the requirement to tow it 30 degrees closer to the equator. Sorry, mate, but that is just not true even at 52 north, with the maximum requirement in the winter.

81:

IIRC, microwaves go through clouds and the atmosphere more efficiently. Plus, you don't *want* a Death Ray.

82:

#69 - Remember the "more, more extreme, extreme weather events" thing. Well, the most extreme still and cold event I remember in the UK lasted for a month.

#76 & #77 - Somewhere up-thread I enumerated the energy conversions for a space power laser; I omitted to consider the waste heat I've got to get rid of, in a vacuum.

83:

A few decades back, I tried to find something that would help me restore my French reading ability, which was once pretty good, but ALL the courses were listening-based. Well, that's NBG for me, as I have been seriously deaf since childhood and (literally) cannot hear French. The problem of monolingualism isn't quite as simple as it is often made out to be.

84:

Well, yes, a frakkin great big bus with a construction shack and huge PV wings etc is basically a space station - just not one intended for political purposes above all else.
You could clean up a great deal of ‘tight space’ at GEO that way and massively reduce any risk of collisions.
Not to mention that with loadsapower, a few meteorites & comets, you could start building an elevator.

85:

I think you're missing the point, which is that I agree with Jez's idea that Solar is getting cheaper and cheaper, and will soon be the least-expensive way to get Green energy.

86:

Would not kick starting an asteroid and/or a lunar mining manufacturing industry be more aligned with Musk's long term goal of a Mars colony.
I would have though a functioning Earth Lunar industrial base make a Mars colony more economically viable and easier to supply and could at the same time help with shortages of rare earth and other materials?

87:

Or do I wait another year and get one of the hydrogen power cells they just started making in Australia

Depending on your tolerance for a tank of bromine you could buy the slightly pricey RedFlow setup that solves most of the problems... except price. Mind you, the hydrogen systems I've seen make RedFlow look cheap *and* efficient, so maybe that's not a concern.

RedFlow are currently ~$AU20k installed for a 10kW PV + 10kWh storage + 5kW fuel cell setup. They explicitly say "not targeting residential except for a few weirdos who are willing to pay for it" and I suspect you and me fit quite happily into that market segment :)

https://www.seven20electrical.net/projects/private-hampton-east-residence (probably more like $40k there but a good example of the sort of customer)

88:

No, I quite take that point. But the point you are missing is that it doesn't matter HOW cheap it is, if the energy isn't there! Yes, there are ways of generating power at 30 north and shipping it to 50-60 north, but they don't come cheap. So the project cost is high, even if the actual generation cost is peanuts.

That's one of the things that is driving the ideas that OGH floated in this blog entry. Is energy beamed from orbit The Way Of The Future? I require some precise engineering, financial and risk assessment calculations to even make a guess :-)

89:

Heh, I noticed this new thread just after reading the article linked below about graphene aluminium-ion batteries, which are currently in commercialisation stage here in Brisbane (with tech developed at UQ):

https://www.carsales.com.au/editorial/details/australian-aluminium-ion-battery-breakthrough-129973/

The side comment is that a specialist automotive classifieds website now has more reliable general science news than most Australian traditional newspapers and their online channels.

90:

You need a shed outside your house for the lithium-ion batteries.

Or you just bolt them to a brick/concrete wall on the outside of your house, which seems increasingly common here. Probably next to the solar inverter(s) which are usually next to the electricity distribution board and meter, also next to the front door. In our houses anyway, coz that way the meter reader could just come to the front door, look round, spot the meter, copy the readings ... and now a magic machine does that using telepathy. But I digress.

For my granny flat I am thinking of a row of those toys along the south wall, likely all bolted to a steel frame that's bolted to the slab, and with a sheet of fire-resistant MgO board behind it because electrical fires are likely regardless of whether you have LiPo bombs there or not.

The good news is that stationary batteries are increasingly LiFePO4 rather than LiPo so the fire risk is much lower (as is the peak discharge rate, hence you don't get those in cars).

Also, contra the pretty architecture above, in the last few years PV prices have dropped in Australia to the point where even cheapskates are bumping up against the 5kW per phase limit that grid operators like. So a bit of wankatecture like that would probably have a 10kW array if built today, not the 3.3kW they have.

91:

"Extreme Weather events"
Let's suppose all of this stuff gets built
And then there is a Carrington Event?

92:

GEO spacing is generally set by frequency allocations. Particularly for things like DBS the ground receiver is going to be a small dish with a corresponding wide angle of view. You really only want one satellite in that view to be using the interesting frequency to avoid interference. The Astra satellites that provide Sky in the UK share an orbital slot but use slightly different frequencies making them appear to be a single source to the average Sky dish on the ground.

Older GEO satellites tended to use monopropellant station keeping thrusters, newer ones are generally ion or hall effect thrusters using a basically inert propellant. You don't get km/s velocities out of boiling that with a BFO laser, it's more likely to start a leak pushing the bird off station before it goes pop in any destructive way. Ideas for doing serious damage to GEO tend to involve sending a couple of tons of grit around the moon to get the necessary plane change and to put it retrograde. Being clever with a couple of adjustment burns on the way back in before emptying the builders bags could mean that an arc of GEO gets most of the benefit.

GEO has two stable points at ~75 deg E and 108 deg W which have collected inert obejects over the years.

93:
At $20 there are lots of fun things that suddenly start to look feasible.

Putting your own private 8 inch or 12 inch space telescope into orbit will actually be cheaper than buying the hardware. (OK, Kessler cascade still an issue).

Yeah, I'm kind of disappointed that there doesn't seem to be an enterprising bunch of engineers in Shenzhen designing modular scopesats and offering them for sale on AliExpress.

Only a matter of time, I'm sure...

94:

I haven't read all the comments, so pardon me if I'm doubling up.

To work, an SBSP requires efficient transmission of electricity *and* requires that the receiver be cheaper than the cheapest solar panels.

Neither of these are the case, but if they were... what does that look like?

It means that shooting your energy from the ground up to space and back is also efficient. It's cheaper to outfit your SBSP with receiving rectennas than solar panels (the SBSP idea doesn't work unless rectennas are cheaper than panels), Which means putting your solar panels on the ground and relaying the energy to anywhere on the world is going to be cheaper.

The imaginary technology that makes SBSP possible also means that SBPS is economically impossible. Maybe orbiting power relays (if the imaginary efficient radio power transmission happens)

We don't have world wide Internet links via satellites, because cables are cheaper, more efficient and carry more. The same thing applies to SBSP. Right now you can send electricity from one side of the planet to the other at 50% efficiency via cables. Since that's the worst case, real transfers will be more efficient than that on average. The arguments against cables all apply far more to SBSP. "what if some country wanted to cut off your supply" Well, orbiting facilities are a lot easier to find than a hundreds of crisscrossed cables on the sea floor. "we can't be dependent on another country for essential power" So you're happy to be dependent on Musk, who might drop dead any second? I guess it's better than the current situation of being dependent on Russia for gas and the Middle East for oil.

I just can't see it. It depends on lightweight solar panels in orbit being cheaper than cheap heavy panels on the ground. Even the increased daily output is going to struggle to make up that difference once you include efficient global energy transfer via relay sats.

95:

Sounds like you need a Halon system in your garage. You might die but the fire will likely be out.

96:

"...comparative energy density of batteries vs a tank full of gasoline, availability of resources like lithium..."

These and other problems of similar kind are either exacerbated by or actually caused by inappropriate or just plain mistaken thinking and direction of effort.

Solar energy supply does not have to be achieved only by maximising the efficiency of ambient-level solar collectors and mounting them in high-quality sites to produce output in the form of electricity. Storing the energy does not have to be achieved with batteries, and if it is so stored the batteries do not have to be made with lithium. The contrary position is mainly a result of taking a couple of ideas that we were doing already in situations where they have a specific advantage, and trying to apply them to everything regardless of whether that advantage remains, disappears, or even becomes a disadvantage.

Eliminating the use of fossil hydrocarbons as fuel is not the same thing as having to abandon hydrocarbons altogether regardless of where the carbon comes from. The contrary position seems to arise from a mixture of an idea that nobody can be trusted to do their job unsupervised without fucking it up, therefore instead of supervising them (ah, the horror!) you have to only give them jobs that can't be fucked up, and tribal signalling in an irrelevant, synthetic and silly petrolheads vs. greenies conflict.

As others have pointed out the losses inherent in space-based power supply are enormous; whereas the amount of ground collection area required to meet energy needs, even at crappy efficiency, is tiny compared to the amount of naturally dead land that already exists. Musk's resources would be far better directed at what has too long been comparatively only a fringe area of research, at developing some readily-achieved arrangement of widely-available chemical resources (rocks count) to perform solar-powered reduction of atmospheric CO2. This could be deployed at mass scale over large areas of otherwise entirely useless land, its simplicity compensating for its (likely) inefficiency; the facilities which already exist for transporting hydrocarbons out of desert lands can then simply switch to getting their input from the solar farms instead of holes in the ground. And you don't bother regulating the output from the farms, you just use those holes in reverse to stuff any excess back underground.

A significant advantage of this approach - though of course not from Musk's point of view - is that it does not achieve the desired result (solar energy supply) as a side-effect of, and bait to get people to pay for, the development of capabilities which we are far better off not having. There is pretty much nothing good at all (since I am assuming the use of more practical alternatives to space-based power supply to address energy problems) that calls for the ability to heave 100 tons of junk into space in one hit; once in a blue moon there might arise some scientific project for which it would be useful, but since we got to the actual moon without it I reckon we could get by.

Outside such negligible rarities, it's only good for things that begin at pointless extravagance and waste of resources on a large scale ("space hotel" ffs; Mars colonies which as Heteromeles keeps pointing out he can't bloody do for far more mundane reasons), proceed through commercial excess, support for sustaining the unsustainable in ways we should already have learnt from the plague to avoid, and facilitating surveillance, manipulation and authoritarianism (think Google and Facebook etc, not just governments), and ending up with all the various situations (both "official" and "unofficial") whereby the wrong person wakes up with an itchy arse and chooses some means of scratching it which kills millions of people (nearly all of these are points which various people have alluded to already, but mostly it seems without recognition).

97:

a Halon system in your garage

LiPo cells are self-combusting, the only way to get them to stop is cooling them down (the fire triangle: fuel, oxidiser, heat... LiPos have two of those built in). Which is fine for a little pack, you just drop it in a swimming pool and weight it down. But for anything you can't pick up and carry to the pool you just have to wait it out.

LiFePO4 are slightly different, the more discharged they are the less self-combusting they are. Sadly fires are most likely in the final stages of charging (inevitably?)

Either way the electrolyte and smoke are toxic. So rather than tanks of halon you might be better off with tanks of air, so you have something to breathe while the fire burns itself out.

98:
Yes and I wonder if the blocking effect of the arrays would actually act as a sunshade. You can't beam out more energy than you put in so it may even have a cooling effect.

I'd guess we want a sun-synchronous orbit for shade - a noon-synchronous one? Noon over empty parts of the Pacific, probably.

Reducing top-of-atmosphere insolation is a much more benign method of geo-engineering to cool the climate than the current favourite, spraying sulphate particles into the stratosphere (which later rain out as acid rain).

One or two million square km of sunshade would be useful, and now it might be feasible.

99:

Putting the telescope in orbit is the easy bit. Getting the tracking and pointing working right and then getting the data down to the ground will cost you rather more...

100:

Oh, I know. I was being a bit sarcastic as a few decades back people actually DID put Halon in their houses. Who didn't really understand how it worked.

As to mounting the PowerWall on the concrete exterior wall, well, in the US the amount of construction of outside concrete walls outside of Florida might be below 1%. I'm referring to houses designed for 1 to 4 families. And even with row/town houses and apartments under 6 stories many/most are made of engineered lumber systems. Again, in the US.

And building new with concrete just now sort of kind of may be worse than burning coal in terms of CO2 mitigation.

101:

"Finding sneaky ways to get solar on, say, a 1950s roof would be golden, especially since that 1950s roof probably can't hold the weight of a current slab array."

I was having a look at "camping-sized" (they were about 0.6m2) solar panels the other day. There seemed to be 2 main patterns: ordinary rigid ones at about 40kg each IIRC (might have been only 20), or flexible ones of similar size and only a little lower efficiency at 2kg each. Cor. Those might be a good place to start.

At the manufacturing level, solar panels have to be waterproof; roof tiles have to be waterproof; why not make the same flat object perform both functions, and save half the weight?

"Especially when there's most of a ton of battery and at least one-third of it is bolted to the wall."

Why is it bolted to the wall, and not stacked on Dexion racking with quick-release electrical connections and mounted on castors so you can quickly push it outside?

102:

Compared to sending it down from space? Yeah. I get it. Bad angles. Long, long nights. Poor weather? Five years from now it will still be cheaper to solarize a British home than send the power from space.

103:

Of course. I was being facetious.

Amateur astronomy will have to change, though, and there may be opportunities as well as threats.

104:

Let's suppose all of this stuff gets built
And then there is a Carrington Event?

Those who are concerned about the land-based power distribution system have been worrying about the possibilities of such events for many decades, so they've worked out hardening reasonably well. Other parts of the infrastructure, not so much.
Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse (Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi, SIGCOMM’21, August2 3–27,2021)
Black swan events are hard-to-predict rare events that can significantly alter the course of our lives. ...
However, Internet researchers and operators are mostly blind to another black swan event that poses a direct threat to Internet infrastructure. In this paper, we investigate the impact of solar superstorms that can potentially cause large-scale Internet outages covering the entire globe and lasting several months.

Space tech people include solar weather events in their models; whether the models are complete will always be a question.

105:

For a single section of wall just the MgO board would be fine, or you could use clay bricks or even reused concrete (meaning a cut out slab of it from another project) or worse case recycled concrete (ie, coarsely ground concrete used as aggregate). That's if you cared about carbon emissions, which the building industry in most of the world does not.

I'm looking at hempcrete for that reason - lime and biomass, rather than the traditional mud and biomass. It's almost non-flammable because the biomass is coated in lime, so it's actually a good material for this application. And can be carbon negative, obviously the biomass embodies carbon, and the lime re-carbonises as it sets, so it's mostly the energy cost to make the lime and the transport costs you have to balance against the biomass.

Hempcrete is a bit useless in places like the USA because it doesn't have a major industrial power backing it and making it insurable, but it's industrialised in the UK (and some minor irrelevant countries that don't even speak English, like Germany and France 😛)

Which is to say... there are many, many options.

106:

One thing people forget about GEO orbits is that there is a population of debris out there that will not decay but will be pumped up into orbital inclinations of up to 18 degrees and 4km/sec by the action of the lunar gravity. So what you can see easily - MEV2 was seen in binoculars - is only part of the problem.

I saw a paper done by some guys from Warwick Uni. They used the Isaac Newton at La Palma to investigate the GEO belt and they found that by the time you get down to 1m wide debris objects most are not known and the number of objects present by the time you reach football sized was still increasing. I rather suspect something the size of a cricket ball kicking along at 4km/sec would totally mess up a normal satellite and knock holes in any solar panel - possily once a day if it wasn't destroyed.

Its also unclear exactly how secure the retirement/graveyard orbit is 300km above GEO - as the long term impact of lunar gravity and light pressure has not been thoroughly modelled.

Not saying GEO is as hostile as LEO but at least LEO cleans itself eventually.

107:

Evidently Elon has also read "Space Doctor" by Lee Corey (1981) which features something close to the scenario Charlie described. A point made by one of the characters was "I have to get the per pound cost down to $ value".

If you check history and do some research you will find that NASA and the DOE have already covered most of the basics for solar power and microwave transmission. They might not have solved some problems but that was back in the 70's and 80's. Forty plus years of tech later combined with cheap launches?

For example:
https://space.nss.org/wp-content/uploads/SSP-DOE-1978-space-solar-power-State-Local-Regulations.pdf

108:

Sounds like you need a Halon system in your garage. You might die but the fire will likely be out.

Don't think I would die, because there are too many holes in the garage to let exhaust out for that to put out a fire.

The problem with a liquid bromine battery is that I live on a hill, with a busy intersection downhill from me. It's not a great place to spill toxic liquids, even if most of them end up sterilizing the storm drain. And the creek below it.

As for the Australian LAVO hydrogen energy unit, turns out it stores 40 kWh, but only delivers 5 kWh of that, so pffft. No thanks.

109:

Now if you really want novel nycteroskatic psychosis, how about putting a rather large suborbital device (perhaps shaped like a surfboard a mile long or more) that gathers sunlight at the mesopause, rides the atmospheric waves to stay aloft and keep station, and beams its energy surplus down?

The joke here is that the mesopause runs around 173 K, so it's the coldest place in the near Earth system. There are two temperature minima 85 and 100 km up. It's currently impossible to station an object there on the edge of space, but if you could, there's a really nice temperature differential that could be used to do work of some sort. Probably said object would have to be rather large to stay aloft and support any payload, but with full sunlight and really cold surroundings, it might generate some energy in some form.

The nice thing about such a device is that it's not that far up in cosmic terms. The problem is that no one has ever figured out how to fly in the mesosphere, let alone at the top of the mesosphere. Through it, yes. In it for any extended period? Not really.

110:

A scenario that may have occurred to Elon (or more likely someone working for him) is that a big, cheap rocket with a payload is empty after the payload has been deployed. Add some orbital refuelling and some automation (or some space suited humans) and you have a ready-made satellite and debris recovery system.
Do you think the NSA would be excited to get its hands on some spy satellites built by others? Or maybe they recover some of their own just to find out how they performed after so many years in space.

If SpaceX succeed with this, it changes how you deal with space from "expensive, specialised" to the equivalent of booking a flight from LA to NY.

Note that the laws of salvage in outer space are different from those on Earth, but then you can always "inspect" stuff without pinching it.

111:

I'd guess we want a sun-synchronous orbit for shade - a noon-synchronous one? Noon over empty parts of the Pacific, probably.
I agree; adjustable controls over insolation placed at L1 are a plausible project for E. Musk's future tech.
And as you say, such a shield would be the most benign geoengineering approach, especially if combined with carbon capture at a massive scale to raise the oceans' PH.
I would not mind at all if he had such a project in mind. Should be made be resilient enough to continue operating even if civilization collapsed. Would need an internationalized (or at least auditable) control system, else it could be used to favor/punish regions.


112:

Putting "it" in a shed outside "your house" rather assumes a certain housing density and social structure, doesn't it? <sarcasm> Oh, I know. We'll just clad entire apartment buildings with lithium-ion batteries, with exposed wiring snaking down to charging stations in the immaculately-kept carpark below. It can be part of their insulation system. Just like Grenfell. </sarcasm>

113:

The other reason (besides just path loss) that space based solar power beaming to earth doesn't work is that antenna arrays for information transmission and efficient power transmission have very different requirements and behaviors.

You cannot use a large number of small omnidirectional, or even moderate gain, antennas coherently (or otherwise) combined to achieve the same energy collection as a parabolic focusing surface of the same aperture. The amount of energy received from the a solid angle of the sky by any single antenna does not change depending on how you add the voltages. Creating synthetic beams "in post" does not change the beamwidth of the actual antenna.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinned-array_curse

"The thinned-array curse (sometimes, sparse-array curse) is a theorem in electromagnetic theory of antennas. It states that a transmitting antenna which is synthesized from a coherent phased array of smaller antenna apertures that are spaced apart will have a smaller minimum beam spot size. Typically, the main lobe has a solid angle that is smaller by an amount proportional to the ratio of the area of the synthesized array to the total area of the individual apertures. The amount of power that is beamed into this main lobe is reduced by an exactly proportional amount, so that the total power density in the beam is constant. "

The gain required for achieving any significant energy transmission over even the 400 km to LEO (add an order of magnitude for GEO) requires a ground based aperture of about 5km in size for 2.45 GHz with a 20m dish in orbit. That is a bigger parabolic dish than has ever even been considered.

So, arrays of small antennas don't work and building the required 5km dish on earth or in orbit isn't feasible. Trying to make bigger dishes in space has even worse returns.

114:

Don't tell us why a given partial solution doesn't work universally, tell us about the better solution you prefer.

Right now renewable energy systems at home are mostly the domain of rich people. So yes, talking about mounting systems outside, on sheds, etc, is entirely reasonable. It also considers that rich people are responsible for much more of the problem than poor people are, and if we can get the rich to become carbon neutral that's a big win. Does that by manipulating what counts as status symbols seems to work better than whining at them.

For the other 90% there's large scale generation and storage systems, that exist largely the result of decades of campaigning by the rich people you are being sarcastic about.

115:

https://newrepublic.com/article/163305/ipcc-better-climate-propaganda

We Need Better Climate Propaganda Warnings about the catastrophes ahead need to name the enemy and give people something to do.

...Some of the most successful recent appeals in public life have involved a clear enemy (a virus, a drug, Donald Trump) and a simple, specific action. Vote. Write postcards. Get a shot. But naming an enemy can be risky if fear is emphasized at the expense of a positive message.

Worth noting that a lot of the chatter here involves people making concrete suggestions about what each of us can do. If you can pick that out of the howls of outrage and nihilism there's IMO some quite decent stuff. And occasionally comments from people saying "you know, maybe I can do something". Don't hold back just because someone else says an idea doesn't work for them...

116:

Putting "it" in a shed outside "your house" rather assumes a certain housing density and social structure, doesn't it?

You made me look. About 70% of the US population lives in single family housing. I would have guessed more like 50%.

Owner occupied is about 64%.

117:

"Anyway, point is, it's almost impossible to start a Kessler cascade in GEO. It's like the difference between plinking at supertankers in the Straits of Hormuz to block a shipping lane (that'd be LEO) and trying to blockade the Pacific Ocean by sinking tankers (that's GEO)."

It may be a bit easier than you think. Back in 1988, I took a class at college called "War in the Nuclear Age," which back during the cold war was a very serious class, starting with the WWII politics, strategies, and so on that led to the first use of nuclear weapons in war, then on to the present and the pre-Soviet collapse forecast of the future of war.

In a lecture on space warfare, the professor (sadly, I no longer can find his name) mentioned that one way to take out GEO quickly and semi-permanently was to send up one metric ton of coarse sand in counter-GEO orbit -- the same altitude and so on as the GEO satellites, but going in the exact opposite direction. A small scattering charge, and you have about 10 billion tiny projectiles, each with about the same energy as a 9mm handgun projectile, enough to pierce and spall off even more debris off any satellites hit, causing the cascade.

Since there would be no real way to clean it up afterwards, and not even residual atmosphere to drag it down, this would obviously be a last-gasp, burn-it-all-down attack, so it is extremely unlikely anyone would actually do it, but it was something thought about and probably planned for in case the cold war turned hot.

118:

If someone is broadcasting power at the antenna farm next-door, and I'm in a "spillover" area where there is lower-levels of power aimed at my property, would I be allowed to set up my own antennas and harvest power? There was a case years ago where a farmer got busted for stealing power by hooking up wires to the rafters of a barn that was under some transmission lines and using the induced current to power his farm, while another farmer in a similar case actually won the right to just nail fluorescent light tubes to the rafters of his barn, because the overhead transmission lines would light them up and he didn't see the point of actually plugging them in. I suspect the courts will have to rule on that one.

Tesla fiddled around with the idea of broadcast power -- perhaps once we get enough satellites up there, instead of focusing the signals on specific targets, a more general, diffuse approach might make powering at least low-power devices through such a system, assuming the power broadcasts themselves are harmless. Need power for your house, put an antenna on the roof -- need more, make it bigger, or hook up to the grid and actually pay a premium for your power. Billing, as usual, will be difficult, but I'm sure someone will think of something.

119:

There was a case years ago where a farmer got busted for stealing power by hooking up wires to the rafters of a barn that was under some transmission lines and using the induced current to power his farm,

Actually the farmer was taking the power from the transmission lines. And thus reducing the amount delivered at the "end of the line". Not much but still they were taking it. With intent.

Now the fluorescent tubes would light up no mater what. In this case I'd say the power company loses.

As to the spill over case, since it does not reduce the amount of power the company is "harvesting" I'd say tough. They are basically spilling it with no hope of recovery.

Of course a lot of this would depend on the legal precedents of the country involved.

120:

Near future fiction on this topic, Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future is worth reading. Spoiler : ultimately optimistic ..

121:

Tesla fiddled around with the idea of broadcast power

If you're talking Nicola then he was somewhat nuts at the time. Einstein was/is wrong, quantum physics was/is wrong, and NT was talking about extracting free energy from, uh, whatever.

The conspiracy theories floating around about how the oil, coal, and other energy companies conspired to put him into a nut house or similar and discredit him to keep us all form getting free energy are to say the least "over the top".

122:

In response to Poul-Henning Kamp and his post 16:

It's pretty simple to design the transmitting system to unfocus and spread the beam immediately if the transmission beam strays from its designated receiving antenna, while the power to the transmitters is cut. Paul mentioned this in post #38.

This solves any steering errors, just like the side 'lopes' (lobes) are resolved by increasing the transmitting antenna size. I won't worry about the watts per square meter, as whitroth noted in his post #44 where he noted the approved Environmental Impact Statement.

Hurricane seeder? More like a hurricane *steerer*; dump energy to push any tropical disturbance to where you want it to go. I'm sure the levee boards of New Orleans and vicinity will be right enthusiastic about no more hurricanes landing in Louisiana. Certainly the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce will buy in (I remember Donna).

73/best regards de K7AAY

123:

FYI, the article (comments too) uses 'SBSP' some of the time and 'SBPS' others.

124:

I have trouble imagining any space to earth power beaming setup having enough energy to have a noticeable impact on a hurricane.

125:

I think you a missing the scale of what is happening here. There is a gigantic fusion power source (the sun) beaming energy at the Earth every second of every day. The sun sends roughly 170,000 TWh of energy at the Earth every hour while globally, humanity uses roughly 160,000 TWh every year. You run a greater risk if you change how that quantity of energy from the sun is dissipated (absorbed, used, reflected, etc). A net increase of 1% in the atmosphere's ability to retain energy (as heat) is far more serious.

126:

Moz @ 114: If we're going to "kill" fossil fuels (which we should; there are much, much better uses for any petroleum than just burning it), we can't ignore the bottom 90% of the population.

David @ 116: Fair point as to the US... not so much elsewhere (as my example from London might have made clearer if I was more explicit).

Musk et al are focusing on the fun stuff, the big advances, the sexy easy-to-depict-in-fiction-with-enough-handwavium; but real progress will be made through infrastructure. Just consider that pure-plug-in cars are not practicable in about 70% (by area) of the US because charging stations are too sparse; and the less said about Europe east of the Havel, and most of Africa and South America and Asia, the better. And how does one safely, and affordably, get power across working agricultural land, let alone wildlands and wetlands? It's not that a workable power-transmission-from-space system might not be better (in the abstract) than burning fossil fuels; it's that there are lots of other challenges to actually adopting it on a large enough scale to make a difference being neglected, and if it's only affordable for a few it won't reduce fossil fuel demand enough to "kill" it.

127:

All of this rests on one huge assumption: that Spacex's new launch system will actually work out and be as cheap as advertised. I don't doubt that they will get their new rocket to the point where it flies. I do doubt that they will succeed in getting launch costs as low as advertised, and I very much doubt they will get the turnaround time as low as advertised.

As for space based solar, back in 2012, the Do The Math blog ran an entry on space based solar power, and concluded that even with massive reductions in launch costs, it didn't make sense compared to just building solar installations on the ground.

https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2012/03/space-based-solar-power/

128:

“ All of this rests on one huge assumption: that Spacex's new launch system will actually work out and be as cheap as advertised”

Nothing else Musk has done ever was.

He’s a master publicist and master fund-raiser of venture capital. Which means he’s a world-leading expert on over-promising. That American “fake it till you make it” thing that worked so spectacularly for people like Ellison, and Thiel.

If they do $20 / kg to orbit I’ll eat my shorts. Not in the next 2 decades.

…which doesn’t make space-based power stations impossible. But at $200/kg to orbit (which is still 50 times cheaper than what cost to geosynchronous orbit now, and seems implausible cheap at startup though the they could work up to it if launch volume is high) it’s an interesting idea rather than a free lunch.

129:

Pigeon
"Dexion"
THERE is a word I haven't heard for some years.
Don't think it's available any more, except from scrap, more's the pity.

Pity about the real, actual calculations that show Charlie's optimism is wrong, though.
As for Musk overpromising ... it loos as though another US version of this - Uber - is about to crash & burn, how terribly sad. Cory Doctorow has written a lovely piece on this.

130:

All (nearly all?) the comments so far have assumed that the receiving stations are going to be very large. One, or single digit numbers, with high energy density a long way from population centres.

This is well outside any area of expertise I have, so I'm going to ask how else might receiving stations be distributed, in size, power and location? Especially since beam steering and following is already a thing for Starlink. Could they be:
Suitable to power a home, on the roof?
Suitable to power a village, in a field outside?
Suitable to power a city?
Country?
How about on the roof of an electric vehicle in motion, with small battery to tide it over in tunnels and other areas where the beam is blocked.
Could that vehicle be flying? Airliners? Flying cars Yaaay!
Shipping? Currently a problem making a monster container ship in any way green, other than some displaced emission greenwashing way.

Combination of problems. Size of beam, size of antenna. Power density against the power demand at the destination. Unwanted beam lobes, frying the neighbours (unintentionally, or otherwise). Steering accuracy.

Are any of these plausible?
Jen

131:

“ All of this rests on one huge assumption: that Spacex's new launch system will actually work out and be as cheap as advertised”

Nothing else Musk has done ever was.

In 2011 SpaceX promised falcon heavy would cost 100 million and have a capacity of up to 53 tonnes to LEO expendable.

It now costs 90 million per launch and can launch 63.8 tonnes expendable.

There's lots of other examples of them delivering more than promised.

132:

#87 - Well, I suspect the usual questions in the UK would be:-
a) How much will a RedFlow add to my property value?
b) How much will a RedFlow cut my headline electricity bill?

#89 - Which also goes to my underlying point in my ongoing complaint about how carp the English Broadcasting Corporation is at reporting actual news.

#90 - I'm trying to get a handle on a comparitor here, hence the apparently O/T question; What is the typical life of a satellite dish in Australia?

#96 - Hence my ongoing argument that there are other uses for light crudes (eg North Sea production) than as fuel. Some of them (plastics, lubricants) even apply to EVs!

#108 - Alternative view; the LAVO stores 40kWh, but only discharges it at 5kW per hour, so is good for 8 hours.

#114 - By what definition of "rich people"? Not trolling, just asking. We, the commentariat, are all "rich" by a global definition, but by a national definition some of us are actually "asset rich, cash poor".

#118 sentence 1 - Do you mean a side lobe of a broadcast beam? If so, then I'd say (radar person) that you're harvesting an accepted loss from the transmitter.

#127 - Well, my usual view on "multibilllionaire vanity projects" is that even when they don't work, the rest of us have probably learned something.

#129 - I couldn't swear to the Dexion brand name as such, but modular racking shelves still are a thing.

133:

The usual assumption for microwave power transmission is that the energy intensity on the ground is no higher than sunlight.

So not suitable for any transport other than trains with overhead powerlines connected to a big rectenna farm.

It's very hard to focus microwaves into a tight beam, so city size is probably a minimum.

134:

PS, they're were some ideas for powering aircraft, but it involved very low orbit satellites and death ray levels of power. Not like what's under discussion.

135:

That idea makes hypersonic boost-glide airliners seem sane.

136:

"It's pretty simple to design the transmitting system to unfocus and spread the beam immediately if the transmission beam strays from its designated receiving antenna"

Sure it is.

How hard is it to make the system fail-safe ?

How hard is it to keep efficiency up if it is fail-safe ?

How hard is it to make it tamper-proof ?

How hard is it to be super-villain-proof ?

How hard will it be for terrestrial authorities to trust a potential super-villain ?

The hard problems are not technical, they are political.

137:

Everything that you said applies MORE to solar than beamed power, and it omits the fact that many (perhaps most) UK homes cannot be 'solarised' because of inadequate outside surfaces.

46 degrees from vertical isn't optimal, but it's a relatively small problem. Solar radiation is 75.5 from vertical in midwinter for me - OGH has it worse. Remember that the problems go up as the inverse of the cosine, so are about 3 times worse for solar than beamed energy in the UK.

We know for certain that 'solarising' our houses cannot be made to work, because of the basic physics. The price of the panels is completely irrelevant. We don't know if beamed power would or would not, as I said in the last paragraph of #88.

138:

That may be true in Australia - it isn't in the UK. Any solution here HAS to be largely a centrally organised one.

Actually, in Australia, solar power is a no-brainer - a pity that also applies to so many of its politicians and even a good many of its electorate, not that we are any better in the UK.

139:

It seemed even crazier as you looked at it more.

So the plane would take of on normal jet engines, then once it was over the ocean (so it wouldn't fry people on the ground, assuming people in boats don't matter) the beam would be started. The microwaves go through some sort of heat and pressure proof microwave transparent port, then strike some microwave absorbing surface that heats up to near 1000C. A compressor puts high pressure air over it, that's then expanded through a turbine. So basically like a normal gasturbine, but with microwaves instead of kerosene to heat the air.

So aiming a death tray at a port on top of a thin aluminium tube full of people and kerosene...

What could go wrong?

140:

death tray
death ray

141:

Thanks for those details - very interesting. One of the most useful first payloads would be a couple of semi-automated telescopes intended specifically to measure how much junk there really is, of what size, and in what orbits. Once we had that information for the smaller objects, we could do the risk calculations properly (rather than basing them on guesswork), and start thinking about space brooms if needed.

142:

I spent some years as an energy market analyst and policy wonk.

I think fossil fuels are dead long before anyone puts huge solar panels in orbit. Infrastructure projects take a long, long time to happen. The energy industry plans in decades. Fossil fuels are mortally wounded, they just haven't died yet.

Earth based renewable energy systems will be cheaper and as reliable as fossil fuel systems by about 2030 without policy support.

Solar PV in good locations is already cheaper than Combined Cycle Gas Turbines. The learning curve effect for solar PV looks to be 15% or more. Deployment will probably double and double again over the next decade. Solar PV will be about 1/3rd cheaper in 2030 than it is today. There is more than enough land in the world that is not much use for anything other than a solar PV array to power the entire planet several times over.

Onshore wind is reasonably competitive on cost with fossil fuels. Learning curve effect is lower and there is a longer history of deployment but long-term cost reductions of 2% a year for the next decade are probably reasonable. Onshore wind in 2030 will cost about 85% of today's cost.

Offshore wind will see it's costs fall faster. That includes offshore wind in deeper waters built without towers. Most people live near the sea.

And those costs keep falling.

The costs of storage are falling. Part of the current problem with battery storage is that most of our batteries are designed for applications like mobile phones and laptops or cars. They are a bit sub-optimal for storing power for overnight, or till the weekend or for a few months. Other storage technologies are still being used in a fossil fuel network. For example existing hydro dams which provide peak power during the day can be repurposed to provide power in the winter just by operating them in a different commercial model.

More importantly cabling is getting cheaper and supply of cabling and cables is improving. Losses from High Voltage DC cables are a couple of percent per 1,000 kilometers. There is for example already some tentative plans to build a solar PV array in northern Australia and cable the power to Singapore. (One of the problems with the deal is that the Singaporeans appear not to trust other people with their energy supply are hesitant to rely too much on a big cable they don't control.)

The availability of interconnection means you can move solar PV generation from North Africa and Arabia to Europe and Southern Africa, from Australia to SE Asia, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico to New York - and do the same for onshore wind from the US wind belt.

You can foresee a grid in Western Europe that links offshore wind farms in the North Sea and Atlantic with hydro resources in Norway and also south towards solar PV resources in Morocco which doesn't require much in the way of long-term battery storage. Parts of that are already being built.

The technology to do all of this cheaper than current energy prices already exists, it will just take some decades to actually build it.

So I'm not sure what Elon Musk is up to. Perhaps he is mistaken about the deployment trajectory of Earth based renewables (or perhaps I am). Perhaps his interest in energy infrastructure in space is to move the demand centres in to orbit too for some asteroid mining. Perhaps he is trying something else. Perhaps he just wants to build a muckle great rocket ship.

143:

As you indicate, a solar farm in Morocco and a cable to the UK would need no more than overnight storage capacity. That's feasible, where overwinter storage capacity isn't. There's no new technology needed, let alone unobtanium.

144:

danielwilliam @ 142
So, fossil fuel is dead, but still walking & "we" can all do the numbers on falling costs & improving efficiency.
Plus the improved versions of "battery" storage, including the Rust/Air plants mentioned recently. Rust/Air storage - as a reminder.

Given this, why are people like Koch & the Shell & Octel ( YUCK! ) & various AUS companies still screaming? If they were actually smart, they would be re-investing in renewables & storage to keep their profits going, wouldn't they?
But they don't seem to be doing that ....

145:

As long as people believe in over-optimistic bullshit promises of 'grid-scale energy storage', there will be room for fossil gas, because people in rich Global North countries (which are located far away from the equator to be affected by the so-called 'seasons' and thus will have peak energy use in the autumn and winter, with peak solar generation in the spring and summer) just won't accept rolling blackouts in the winter.

This is the reasons that think tanks peddling '100% renewables for Europe soon' studies are financed, among others, by natural gas companies and why Germany is hell-bent on finishing Nord Stream 2.

Near the equator, you just need enough storage to store solar power from day into night. In the rich, Global North countries where the ability to provide the population with power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year is a prerequisite for a political party to hold on to power fossil fuels will have a very, very long life (well, with the exception of France, UK and other countries which are not rabidly anti-nuclear), because inter-seasonal electricity storage just isn't happening on "before climate breakdown is on irreversible civilisation-collapsing trajectory" time scales.

And in current geopolitical climate, powering your country by long-distance links from a solar farm located outside of the EU is also a no-go. (Country borders and a narrowly interpreted national interest are one of the main factors which prevent successful action on climate change)

146:

We know for certain that 'solarising' our houses cannot be made to work, because of the basic physics. .... We don't know if beamed power would or would not,

Probably would not. The DoE/NASA paper I linked to above about site selection was using a rectenna farm in an ellipse roughly 15km E-W and 20km N-S as its base installation. One of the constraints they added was for the site to be below 40 deg latitude, further north than that and the long axis increases rapidly. You might be able to find a suitable site in the UK, if the elements making up the rectenna are elevated you can use the space underneath, but you'd need to do something like cover Dartmoor from Okehampton to Ivybridge and I don't see Princetown residents (voluntary and involuntary) being happy at the metal mesh covering the sky above their chimney pots. It's another case of using bits of Morocco or Mauretania and running long cables.

147:

It's good to know that going from fossil fuels to solar, either terrestrial, or space based will still mean supporting unpleasant governments who are on side and destabilising, bombing and invading recalcitrant countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Got to keep the oil electrons flowing!

148:

"the Do The Math blog ran an entry on space based solar power"

Which contains two very informative graphs showing atmospheric transmission of microwaves as a function of frequency for both dry and wet air. To my eye, it looks as if the sweet spot is around 100 GHz.

149:

So aiming a death tray at a port on top of a thin aluminium tube full of people and kerosene...

AIUI it was not a civilian air transport proposal, but the Pentagon flying a kite: they have a perceived need for long-duration high altitude surveillance drones (read: spy planes) that don't need refueling. Beam power was one possible option they looked at, along with Hafnium nuclear isomers (google it), actual fission reactors (a big nope from everyone), and the current contender, solar/fuel cells like Zephyr.

150:

Talking of shortages ...
Isn't there supposed to be another UK/EU trade cu-off date - (?) End of October (?)
Which will presumably affect many things, but, particularly, food.

I was reminded of this by reading this one on another Brexshit fuck-up .......

151:

This is a damned good thread. Good enough to lure me back from years of mere lurking. :-)

Lots of smart explicit analyses here of the comparative efficiency of solar power from SBPS and from terrestrial structures. Many of the practical rebuttals, however, have to do with resilience -- although as I write this only Bill Arnold at #111 uses the term explicitly. Many, many of the smart ideas and perspectives here seem to be oriented towards finding solutions efficient enough to overcome concerns that are, in essence, about resilience.

This isn't surprising. The commentariat here is engineering-heavy; resilience is more of a systems concept. And one thing that many of the arguments gloss over is that at the systems level, efficiency and resilience are opposed principles. The more efficient your system is, the more likely it is to be brittle. A few key observations:

  • Resilient systems favor stability over volume of output.
  • Resilient systems are comparatively insensitive to the quality and quantity of inputs.
  • Resilient systems are comparatively insensitive to external conditions.
  • Resilient systems tend to include multiple reasonably independent modes and execution paths for included processes.
  • Resilient systems have minimal critical dependencies.
  • Resilient systems favor inherent configurability/adaptability over bolt-on safety & support measures.
(h/t: I got some of this from Dmitry Orlov, but that was long ago, and my memory is COVID brainfogged. Any errors or infelicities or made-up shit are not his fault.)

Note that every item in the list tends to work against the efficiency of the system as a whole.

Our outlook is conditioned by prior success, of course. The entire electrical grid system is an astonishing triumph of highly efficient engineering delivering a reasonably resilient power distribution solution. So we tend to double down on the concept of the grid itself, and look to non-fossil means of sustaining the grid.

However, the measures being discussed here are mostly far less resilient than the grid itself. Making the grid dependent on such things feels like a game of Jenga: sooner or later it's apt to collapse of its innate instabilities.

It seems likely that whatever we end up building, going forward, should favor resilience over efficiency as a primary principle. We don't need to invoke extreme situations -- a Carrington event, crazy saboteurs, Kessler cascades, warmongering nations, Bond villains, or The Sisterhood Of The Red Night getting up to shenanigans -- in order to question whether we should bet the future of our civilization, and possibly our species, on measures that are inherently fragile.

152:

Shell owns about 6 GW of offshore wind farms including an investment with Scottish Power in a floating offshore windfarm just let under by the Crown Estate.

So they do invest in renewables.

153:

I expect countries in the Global North will use more offshore wind power than solar PV if they are that worried about the geopolitics.

154:

The problem with offshore wind is that sometimes you get weeks without wind on a continental scale. Yes, offshore wind is great because of higher capacity factors than onshore wind (and because it provides biodiversity havens as fishing vessels do not invade offshore wind farms), but you still need something to provide power to your constituents when the wind isn't blowing in the winter.

Which is why Shell and others are investing in renewables, with catchy slogans like: "natural gas, a great partner for renewables". Which is true, except for that pesky part where natural gas, despite the word "natural" in its name is still a fossil fuel, and that small problem that methane leaks make natural gas plants as bad for climate as coal if not worse, because methane has a GWP20 of 86 times the GWP of CO2, and the next two decades are going to be crucial for the future of the Earth system: we either trip enough tipping points to guarantee hellish Earth for hundreds of generations, or we manage to avoid that fate and it will merely take dozens of generations to clean up our mess.

155:

Thanks for coming back! Unfortunately, I'm going to savage this, because this is the kind of simplistic good intentions that can kill billions of people if thoughtlessly applied. We need both efficiency and resilience, and we can get these to some degree with complex systems.

If we want maximum resilience, we can abandon most technology and grow food locally. This works, because it's not really emitting any greenhouse gases, most people have functioning legs, and there are no long, brittle supply chains. But there are obvious problems, which is why I'm throwing this up as a bit of a straw man.

One problem is that walking is fuel inefficient. If I give you a pack of full of food and tell you to start walking, you'll get maybe 200 miles before you've eaten it all, probably less. In terms of fuel efficiency, humans are down there with Concorde Jets in terms of how far a pound of fuel will take us (granted it's food, not jet fuel). This is true for most animals, and the upshot is that if there's a widespread famine, it's hard to ameliorate it by walking food in, because you use up that food as you walk it in, and there's nothing to replace it.

Similarly, local crops are sustainable, but they're prone to local crop failures. There are certainly ways around this, but again, you get the regional famine problem: you're travel-limited, and if you can't get out of the zone of failure or find something else to eat, you're dead.

This is an example of resilience failing. If we try to run a world of eight billion on low/no-tech, we're going to fall to a much, much lower carrying capacity in the tens to hundreds of millions over the coming decade.

The solution is to move food using efficient technologies. While I happen to agree that resilience is and efficiency are opposed, I'd point out that rail, semi-trucks, and especially cargo ships are among the most fuel-efficient forms of transportation ever devised. The efficiency of ships has been known for centuries if not millennia, and it's why Rome was built around the Mediterranean more than into Europe.

Now, if you're stuck with a world where crop failures are common (ours, for example), you can move water and resources to help people grow food, or you can grow the food and move it. The latter is more efficient, because growing almost anything nutritious takes a lot of water. If you think about food as dehydrated water and concentrated elements, it makes more sense.

So if you're trying not to kill billions of people before their time, then you need to look at upgrading transportation systems to be as resilient and efficient as possible, without using greenhouse gases. That means figuring out how to power cargo ships, trains, and trucks, how to maintain roads (probably with junked plastic), possibly lining train tracks with solar panels, and trying to rationalize (hah!) agriculture a bit. This last problem is that Big Ag is mostly working in the mode of stripping resources, maximizing profits, and moving on, and we're running out of farmland and aquifers to ruin. Getting them to value agriculture as a century-long investment is one of those interesting problems.

Not glamorous, not the most resilient, nor the most efficient. But unfortunately, the easiest way to optimize human resilience is by crashing civilization. It may be easy to start, but once started, it's impossible to control and hard to predict the outcome*. If you want a gentler and more controllable future that involves fewer people dying of disease, starvation, or violence, then you need to work on more complex and more complicated solutions.

Hope this doesn't scare you into lurking again.

*This is in the realm of "what will survive a total nuclear war."

156:

To reduce transmission and conversion losses, why not do something like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odeillo_solar_furnace

A Solar furnace in the south of France using mirrors to focus the sunlight on a single spot shows how it might work. Why convert to microwaves and then back again?

157:

"We don't need to invoke extreme situations - a Carrington event, crazy saboteurs, Kessler cascades, warmongering nations, Bond villains, or The Sisterhood Of The Red Night getting up to shenanigans - in order to question whether we should bet the future of our civilization, and possibly our species, on measures that are inherently fragile."

...but when an extreme event (worldwide plague) does come along, we still don't question it; instead we insist that much more strongly on sticking doggedly to current practices even when they're making the extreme event worse.

158:

natural gas, despite the word "natural" in its name is still a fossil fuel

It's an historical accident of nomenclature: it was intended to contrast with "town gas" (which is unheard-of today): town gas was manufactured by heating coal in anoxic conditions, and per wiki, "contains a mixture of calorific gases including hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane, ethylene and volatile hydrocarbons together with small quantities of non-calorific gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen." It was extremely toxic, hence folklore about committing suicide by putting your head in the oven: it was phased out in the 1940s through 1970s and replaced by methane (with added odourants to make leaks easier to isolate).

159:

Rather thought you were. :) Giving the fun most amateurs have automating a scope in their back gardens, orbit was always going to be fun. Does explain why so many remote sensing systems are nadir pointing swept sensors capturing stuff opportunistically.

But can recall helpful people at work using expressions like "All you need to do is..." when their understanding of the real world issues was a tad flaky. Project Managers in particular - many of whom I wouldn't trust to chew gum and use a spreadsheet at the same time.

160:

#142 - And your proposal for dealing with people living at latitudes where you get one hour of daylight (not Sunlight, they're usually overcast in Winter) is?

#146 - The OS Great Britain National Grid origin is at 49N Latitude, which is South of the Scilly Isles.

#151 - Firstly, thank you.
Secondly, not explicitly mentioning resilience doesn't mean that we're not considering it...

161:

In #142, danieldwilliam was suggesting solar farms in north Africa, and cables to northern Europe. Were you confusing his post with some other post?

162:

I'll point out a third class of adaptations we're not considering sufficiently: behavioral change.

There are at least two big classes here. One is the normal creep of people adapting to technological change. For example, Arthur Clarke grew up in an era of telephone switchboards. If someone told him that in 2021, people would have chronic neck problems from walking around looking at handheld supercomputers shaped like his 2001 monolith, he'd probably be torn with a combination of disgust and giggles. But here we are, and it's so normal that people who can't use smartphones are increasingly socially crippled.

This is the kind of thing where Greg Tingey buys an electric vehicle to replace his Land Rover, and doesn't comment on it because everyone's getting rid of their gas cars, so what's the fuss?

Another is land use changes, big and small. Big ones involve things like the Colorado River running dry. That's going to cause people to move out of southern Nevada and much of Arizona and eastern California in the next decade. This sounds catastrophic, but most of them moved there a decade or two ago, so while it'll be played up as if they're leaving their homeland...for most of them it won't be. Yes, Vegas is currently boring a drain hole into Lake Mead to get the last drops out of the reservoir, but what then? Anyway, that's a big land change, and there will be a lot of them in the Southwest. We did the fuck around and find out thing, and we're in the find out phase.

Then there's smaller stuff. For instance, has the pandemic killed office culture? Possibly somewhat. People have demonstrated that in some companies, there's little need for an office, since people work from home well enough. Assuming the managers don't force everybody to share aerosols again, there are two knock-ons that are rather important. One is that, with office culture, the biggest electricity demand is between 4 and 9 pm, due to people coming home, cooking, doing homework, laundry, and so forth. If they're already at home, parts of this hump get spread through the day, potentially decreasing the need for battery storage to buffer peak demand at dusk. This won't solve the demand problem, but it may well help.

A second issue is that some empty office buildings may be rebuilt as low or moderate income housing. In California especially, there's a dearth of low-income housing and a surplus of high end housing. Turning office space to residential space will take a lot of bureaucratic time, but it's more workable than building suburbs. Again, this won't solve the demand problem, but it may well help.

And all this comes from a workaround devised during a pandemic. We shouldn't necessarily knock behavioral changes. They make a huge and subtle difference.

163:

a solar farm in Morocco and a cable to the UK would need no more than overnight storage capacity. That's feasible, where overwinter storage capacity isn't. There's no new technology needed, let alone unobtanium.

While this cable to the UK would likely involve the countries of Spain, France, and maybe Portugal, cabling to the Scandinavian and Baltic countries might involve countries with less rational governments. Would you want Hungary and/or Poland (in their current governments) to be in charge of a switch could turn off your nation's power system?

I can't help feeling that Germany has made multiple deals with the devil to get the natural gas they want just now.

164:

Project Managers in particular - many of whom I wouldn't trust to chew gum and use a spreadsheet at the same time.

Hey. My wife just retired with that title.

Not that she didn't bang her head against the desk at time dealing with the politics of the position. She may have been unique in that she wanted to have subject mater expertise in the areas she managed.

165:

H
where Greg Tingey buys an electric vehicle to replace his Land Rover, and doesn't comment on it
Except I cannot afford it, nor conversion of the L-R to electric ... I've been banging on about this for several threads / months / years.
I would love to convert to 'leccy, but it's so damned expensive!

166:

Unwanted beam lobes

Aiming EMF is not like shooting rifle bullets. It's more like pumpkin chunkin. Very accurate but still chunkin. There's a lot of beam spread over long distances.

https://www.punkinchunkin.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmSyrGsqmg8

167:

Perhaps he just wants to build a muckle great rocket ship.

Never discount the desires of some guys to prove the biggest measurement on the ruler.

168:

Kardashev @ 75:

I didn't get foreign language education early in life while my brain was still young & plastic enough for it to do any good. It has cost me dearly several times throughout my life that I only have one language.

Depends on how you want to use the language. The conventional way to break it down in decreasing order of difficulty, which I more or less endorse, is speaking, listening, writing and reading. If reading will do you for most purposes, like catching up on the news in the morning, that's a lot easier than carrying on a complicated conversation in real time. Most major languages now have news channels like Telemundo with text and video that you can watch over breakfast and get both reading and listening practice.

I wish I knew another language well enough to think in it so I don't have to translate it into English, think what I'm going to say and translate that back into that other language. You can do this if you start learning early enough. Our schools didn't offer it when I was that young.

I almost got it one time. The summer after I was in the 4th grade the Ford Foundation gave the Durham (NC) City Schools a grant to fund a summer enrichment school in math & science. For some reason, one of the math teachers selected was also a French teacher and she decided we'd double down and learn math in French (René Descartes & all that).

But it didn't last and there was no follow on once we got back to the regular schools in the fall. When I was 11 (5th grade) I could do Decimal to Binary to Octal to Duodecimal to Hexadecimal conversions in my head ... at least up to about 24 (decimal) or so. I learned them that well during that summer. But ... use it or lose it.

When the opportunity came to select a foreign language in the 9th grade (High School Freshman, but held in the Junior High School) I chose French. The school put me in the Latin class. The Latin teacher had taught my dad when he was in Junior High, and was determined she was going to be my teacher as well.

I had already had her for "Home room" in the 7th grade. We were the only class that DID NOT go to other classes (except for Gym) for various subjects. We were stuck in there with her ALL DAY LONG.

So you might imagine just how thrilled I was to be taking a DEAD LANGUAGE from her when I wanted to be in class for a language I might actually use.

Plus, she insisted on calling me Johnny, WHICH IS NOT MY NAME!!!

J'm'appelle Jean: or even maybe "Me llamo Juan", but I ain't no "Johnny".

169:

whitroth @ 81: IIRC, microwaves go through clouds and the atmosphere more efficiently. Plus, you don't *want* a Death Ray.

True-dat!

But the "Death Ray" was a SciFi staple long before the LASER was invented. Death Rays in the SciFi I read as a boy were all a MASER of some sort.

170:

David L @ 95: Sounds like you need a Halon system in your garage. You might die but the fire will likely be out.

I've been through a Halon system dump. It was UNREAL.

I installed a fire alarm system in a raised floor computer room for one of the Burglar Alarm Company's customers. For final approval, the local Fire Marshall came in for the verification test. But he wanted to know "real time" how long it would take our Central Station to respond and notify the local fire department. So he just walked over and yanked on a pull station.

That pull station was not part of the system I'd installed.

I looked on YouTube, but none of the Halon System discharge videos I saw included the Halon flow from under-floor nozzles blowing tiles out of the raised floor.

171:

Lots of interesting ideas - but some concepts despite pretty detailed explanations just whiz over my head! So, apologies in advance in case some of my questions are redundant/were already answered/explained. (Feel free to explain again - in simpler terms. Thanks!)

Alternate applications/uses of Musk's solar collectors - someone already mentioned maybe a few scientific experiments might be done but that overall probably not a primary use. I'm wondering how much power is currently used to perform calculations/run computer programs. If the program is complex enough (needs a lot of power for longish times) then that might be a cost-effective/minimal energy loss application: (a) cost of sending up/transmitting the 'question' plus (b) cost of returning/transmitting the 'answer'. Examples: computing pi; modeling/testing and expanding AI computations; mining virtual currencies - more countries and banks are expressing interesting in virtual currencies - how are they going to do this?

Solar for homes - I keep wondering why the asphalt tile roofing industry hasn't linked up with the solar panel folks. Typical asphalt shingles last about 20 years - there'd probably be much more uptake/demand if a hybrid were available. I'm probably going to have to re-shingle this house in about 5 to 7 years. It seems that every part of the planet is experiencing some sort of catastrophic weather event that apart from loss of life also resulted in serious damage to buildings. IOW - Lots of rebuilding which provides various gov't levels (with a sharp elbow to the insurers) an opportunity to offer rebates/special financing for solar or locally suitable non-fossil fuel energy replacements. Wonder how many cars will have been written off in the US just in the past week.

Office towers converted to low cost housing - okay but I would also want some of these towers converted to food production facilities. No idea what the costs would be but would be an interesting experiment.

Second language - don't often get opportunities to practice my second language these days but have noticed that I'm a helluva lot more fluent after a 2-3 drinks. Some of that maybe because everyone feels more able after a couple but I think it's at least as likely that I'm less stressed therefore I allow my language center to go into autopilot rather than be and constantly over-ruled/micromanaged by the self-conscious (worried about making mistakes) part of my brain. Give it a try ...

172:

Let's see: if you're only renting, you're not going to install the shed for power. If you're the renter, ditto. Now look at the surveys saying that $400 or $1000 surprise bill (like medical, in the US), and you're bankrupt. Nope, not going to install.

This is, of course, not considering the MAGAidiots, nor people who live in row homes. Oh, or semi-detached, because you need that alley on one side of the house.

173:

As you wrote that, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.

Let's see, 75% of the population of Mexico lives in the Mexico City metro area. That means there's a lot of usable land for solar farms and windmills.

We could add Mexican power to the grid, but it might have to go through NM because I'm imagining Texans, and teh Texas grid that ain't part o' that there Yankee grid... buying power from Mexico.

174:

Jaws: as I said, please tell me what *you* suggest doing. I've suggested we keep trying to persuade the 50% of emitters with the biggest history of emissions to cut their emissions right now immediately because they can afford to do it easily. But you seem to be arguing against that for reasons that aren't clear. Your suggestion is...?

175:

Leszek Karlik @ 154: The problem with offshore wind is that sometimes you get weeks without wind on a continental scale. Yes, offshore wind is great because of higher capacity factors than onshore wind (and because it provides biodiversity havens as fishing vessels do not invade offshore wind farms), but you still need something to provide power to your constituents when the wind isn't blowing in the winter.

Does that period of no wind affect the ENTIRE coastal area at the same time? Just a SWAG, but I expect it might be more localized and while it would affect part of your production it's not a 100% outage, so such a system might just need to be over-built so that some part of it is always supplying electricity even when part of it is idle from lack of wind..

Which is why Shell and others are investing in renewables, with catchy slogans like: "natural gas, a great partner for renewables". Which is true, except for that pesky part where natural gas, despite the word "natural" in its name is still a fossil fuel, and that small problem that methane leaks make natural gas plants as bad for climate as coal if not worse, because methane has a GWP20 of 86 times the GWP of CO2, and the next two decades are going to be crucial for the future of the Earth system: we either trip enough tipping points to guarantee hellish Earth for hundreds of generations, or we manage to avoid that fate and it will merely take dozens of generations to clean up our mess.

There are other sources of methane besides "fossil fuels" and in dealing with those, why not capture them and use them instead of some of that "natural gas"? We're going to have to deal with the "leaks" anyway, so why not do it in such a way that it generates some benefit while doing so?

176:

Heteromeles @ 162: I'll point out a third class of adaptations we're not considering sufficiently: behavioral change.

Yeah. We need that. But I think it's the place where we're least likely to succeed.

177:

In Australia there are lots of amateur landlords who own one or two extra houses and quite a few of those have PV on the roof of the rental. Often because they've lived in the house themselves, or because a friend of a friend installs solar and it's nearly free, or similar. But sometimes just because they can.

The kiwis have a "healthy homes" law that's attempting to fix the most egregiously awful rental places, right now looking at heating and insulation, but that could easily be extended to environmental performance once the homes are habitable.

Likewise both countries have a "landlord can't say no" setup for stuff like internet connections. Technically landlords can say no, but they have to plead heritage designated building or something that makes the house harder to modify in the future.

It's all possible, it's just a matter of will.

178:

Greg Tingey @ 165: H
where Greg Tingey buys an electric vehicle to replace his Land Rover, and doesn't comment on it
Except I cannot afford it, nor conversion of the L-R to electric ... I've been banging on about this for several threads / months / years.
I would love to convert to 'leccy, but it's so damned expensive!

Get yourself a copy of the Mother Earth News Archive DVD
https://www.motherearthnews.com/archives
... also now available as ePubs.

It might have a DIY idea in there that would work for you.

And even if it doesn't, they're relatively inexpensive. IIRC, something like $40 USD when I bought the set on CD-ROM, so it's not like it's a waste of money.

Plus they had a lot of other information on "Urban Homesteading", other forms of DIY energy, and a whole bunch of stories on Urban Gardening for food production. Based on things you've told about yourself here, it might be right up your ally.

179:

OT, but Greg might be interested.

It looks like they were trying to use the linkspan as a headshunt, but without a vessel in place on the other end it couldn't hold the weight.

JHomes

180:

SFReader @ 171: Second language - don't often get opportunities to practice my second language these days but have noticed that I'm a helluva lot more fluent after a 2-3 drinks. Some of that maybe because everyone feels more able after a couple but I think it's at least as likely that I'm less stressed therefore I allow my language center to go into autopilot rather than be and constantly over-ruled/micromanaged by the self-conscious (worried about making mistakes) part of my brain. Give it a try ...

I don't think my Latin would come back after a couple of drinks. Especially if I followed Roman tradition and drank leaded wine.

181:

I think Musk was trying to do solar roof tiles. Don't know if he still is. The basic problem is that you've got to wire every single tile to the roof grid, which is annoying and prone to connection problems.

The older model of putting panels above roofs is a simpler design, with its good and bad issues. The good issue is that it's simpler, fewer connections, and shades the roof. The bad part is that the connections through the roof might leak, and/or blow off in a high wind. But given the simplicity, I suspect that separate panels and roofs will stay the norm. Tiling with solar panels so far is too complicated.

What I have seen happen is that solar installers get into the roofing game, since they're up there and replacing at least some of the tiles or shingles.

182:

What are the effects on global warning from pumping all of that microwave energy into the atmosphere, with 70% being absorbed by said atmosphere?

183:

What I have seen happen is that solar installers get into the roofing game, since they're up there and replacing at least some of the tiles or shingles.

I was a little surprised when we had out lighting circuits rewired* recently, that the electricians were, just as a matter of course, lifting roof tile to get into the exterior wall cavities. Turns out they have been doing solar installs as a main part of their business for over 20 years, so it figures. Been meaning to get them to quote, actually.

* the plasticiser in PVC insulation of a certain vintage degrades into a toxic phthalate compound when in contact with copper and subjected to modest but constant heat over several years, which presents as a viscous green goo that starts leaking out into light fittings.

184:

It exists.
https://www.tesla.com/solarroof

I don't know all the reasons that it hasn't taken off. EM's ego might be tied up in it. There was a minor scandal about how the money to fund it moved around. His cousin or similar was the owner at one point.

As to traditional roofers I suspect around here there is a long memory of solar water heaters on roofs that never worked very well, cost way too much, and most of the companies involved vanished after a bit. This was 30 years ago. My land line for this house (gone for 10 years now) used to belong to one of these operations and for a year or so we'd get a call asking about how to repair some of it. Oops.

Anyway, here in NC the local power company will put solar on your roof for "free". You get the electricity it generates. They feed any extra back into the grid. Now I'd really want to read the contract in detail before I signed up for it to see the 1000 details that are not a part of the headline. And for most houses, like mine, it just would not work for a variety of reasons.

185:

Maybe Elon can use his boring company combined with advanced drilling techniques from the fracking industry to give us deep geothermal (located anywhere not just Iceland)? Small footprint (unlike wind farms and solar arrays), continuous baseline like a traditional coal power plant, and cheaper that SPS because it is earth bound.

186:

Does that period of no wind affect the ENTIRE coastal area at the same time?

Yes. Quite recently the British installed wind turbine fleet, onshore and offshore was producing under 1GW of electricity for days on end with the lowest instantaneous amount I noticed on the Gridwatch site under 200MW. That's from 25GW of generating capacity with little or no wind over most of the country. The rest of Europe wasn't much better either over the same period. We bought in about 3GW of French nuclear electricity and burned gas like a bandit to keep the lights on.

Britain is losing the Hunterston nuclear reactors at the end of this year. It looks like EdF has given up trying to work around the cracking of the moderator blocks in the cores that have bedevilled operations over the past few years, so wave goodbye to 800MW of non-fossil on-demand generating capacity Real Soon Now. I can't see it being replaced by anything other than more fossil gas generation although there's an undersea 1GW connector to hydropower-rich Norway that's supposed to be coming into service some time soon (the Gridwatch site has it on their webpage but it's still registering zero at the moment).

As for the orbital solar power station idea please note that space-rated solar panels are a lot more expensive than the sorts of panels you can order from Aliexpress and fit to your roof. The radiation environment in orbit is horrendous and they're exposed to 1100W per square metre of direct sunlight, a lot more than anything a terrestrial panel has to endure.

187:

Maybe Elon can use his boring company combined with advanced drilling techniques from the fracking industry to give us deep geothermal

In my limited understanding of drilling, neither of those techniques goes very deep. And as you go deeper it gets harder in a non linear way. The oil companies know were there is likely vast amounts of oil but it is under 2 to 5 miles of rock and getting there is just flat out hard.

As to Iceland, the underground there seems to move around a lot.

Anyone want to contribute $1Tril or so for experimenting?

188:

Savagery accepted and appreciated. :-)

I suppose I made it sound like I was saying that we should favor resilience at all times, in all things. I'd apologize, except the outcome was rather happy. You're quite right of course, on all points, and you beating the stuffing out of your strawman made for a fine illustration of the opposed principles, so thank you. You took an emphasis on resilience neatly to an absurd degree. That kind of thing really helps people grasp the mental territory of somewhat under-argued concepts.

I didn't do that. In fairly awkward fashion, I was trying to approach the idea that the discussion of solar power alternatives on this blog is lavishly supplied with deep understandings of efficiency as a cited principle; but that, contrariwise, a lot (not all) of the objections have been made to sound like special-case carping, to be dealt with as special cases, rather than acknowledging that resilience is a common principle for a lot of them.

Myself, I would have said that cars and trucks traveling on highways and streets are indisputably much more resilient than enormously more efficient steel wheels on steel rails. In this case, however, I come down firmly on the side of advocating for more railroads and fewer independent vehicles, because it's all about balancing these opposed forces for optimum benefit. In this case, I find the case for efficiency more compelling. (Not because, I admit, I detest automotive culture but I like trains as much as Greg Tingey does, to within an order of magnitude anyway).

Sometimes the balance between efficiency and resilience is hard to suss out. Sometimes, just thinking about Systems Theory turns my brain into a pretzel, and I've been chasing after it for years.

Also: No, I shall not return to lurking due to mere forthright critique. I treasure such things.

189:

cars and trucks traveling on highways and streets are indisputably much more resilient than enormously more efficient steel wheels on steel rails

I reckon that's as good an allegory as any for (domestic) rooftop solar versus mass generation and grid distribution for renewables. It's abundantly clear that we need both, even in places where solar is a "no brainer" per comments above. There's something missing from our perception of scale, though, and it's mostly due to our familiarity with existing models for energy supply. To extend the allegory, we're not limited 4-5 seat single cars and trains. We also have minivans (some of which are taxis), busses and a whole spectrum of in-between options. And similarly there's the opportunity to pursue community and municipal level generation, especially outside the urban environment but also in cities where in-between tiers of organisation exist now or have reasonable ground to be created. It can't work for everything -- high-rise-residential is always going to need some sort of mass generation -- but the point is that it doesn't have to be all one thing (in fact it can't be all one thing).

190:

I don't know all the reasons that it hasn't taken off.

It's the third largest manufacturer or assembler of solar in the USA according to "Solar Power World". They're installing about 1000 MW per year. (at 22 years to install 3200 MW, that's about 8 times faster than the UK nuclear fleet).

It's not dominating the rest of the industry the way SpaceX dominates the launch industry, or the way Tesla dominates the high end electric car industry, so by Musk standards it's underperforming, but by any other standard, it's pretty much taken off.

191:

I wish I knew another language well enough to think in it so I don't have to translate it into English, think what I'm going to say and translate that back into that other language. You can do this if you start learning early enough. Our schools didn't offer it when I was that young.

I'm not sure how this works, really. I started learning my first foreign language when I was nine years old (German), then started English two years later, so those might be 'young enough'. I've learned languages after that, like Swedish from 13, French when I was 16-19 and the Finnish sign language at about thirty. (Also some others, most recently Japanese, again, but my fluency in that is bad, still.)

I can think in English and the Finnish sign language, or at least I don't feel I'm translating from Finnish when I speak them. German and French, and Swedish, well... I probably could get fluent enough in an environment where I'd use them, and I have enough stock phrases that I can function as a tourist. I still think I could learn them well enough not to translate from Finnish when speaking them.

I kind of think learning languages is also partly how much effort you put into them. In school I had maybe 3-4 hours of lessons each week for a language and then homework on top of that, for years. That's more time than I can put into them now, so I think that's a big reason why I don't learn languages as fast now as I did when younger. However, I'm better at learning, so I did manage to get some level of tourist Japanese just by myself building on lessons from twenty years back when we visited Japan.

I think I could learn languages well enough to use in normal life without thinking if I would be put in an environment when it's needed. I still don't think I'm a prodigy here, I just like languages and got taught on how to learn them early enough. I think that's what should be taught in schools - even with English I've learned most of it by just using it, not in classes.

192:

I recommend you look at http://server-sky.com/ (from the inventor of the Lofstrom Launch Loop http://launchloop.com/ ) for a Musk-free solar-powered orbital computing solution.

193:

JBS
Thanks, I'll have a look

JHomes
Oops!
I think you are correct, it almost-certainly didn't have "another end" to the span - also STUPID.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Meanwhile ...
"Why did the USA surrender to the Taliban so easily?"
Because they are already in control in parts of the USA, like Texas:

“Sharia Law Anyone?”
Are people concerned that Islamic/sharia law is legal/legislated in the USA?
Well, here are some salient points:

- Government based on religious doctrine
- Women have fewer rights than men
- Homosexulaity is illegal
- Rejection of science in favour of religion & doctrine
- No Church / State separation
- Religion is taught in schools
- Abortion is illegal

Oddly, all of this is US-Republican Party policy
So, if you want Sharia in the USA, vote Republican

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

194:

A more compact comparison between the Taliban and Texas Republicans I saw was:

They both like guns.
They both like fundamentalist religion.
They both like pick up trucks.
Neither like women's rights.

195:

#166 - Side lobes on a directional antenna, usually of similar width to the main beam, are a fact of physics. Typically, if you want to send N watts narrowcast from A to B with a 1 degree beam width, you will need to transmit 11/10 * N and N/10 will arrive at locations offset by 1 degree from B.

#168 - I have to stop and think about the first 2 or 3 such calculations, but after than I can do decimal to binary to octal to hex to BCD (in any required order including not showing every step).

#171 Para 3 - Partly a demand issue (at least outside North America)? In Europe and Asia certainly, typical roofing materials are slate, clay tiles, or cement tiles, all with an expected life span of 100 years plus (slate) down to 25 years (clay).
Para 4 - Please, not the vertical farm fantasy again! One of the few regularly used food plants that can/will grow without good light is the mushroom. One local (to me) mushroom farm is an old brickworks (long, low building).

#174 _ I'm just surprised that Trumpolini hasn't tried to blame Joe Biden for the flash flooding in New York (yet).

#175 - Well, I'm not certain about a "continental scale", but the period of dead calm can affect multiple nations at ones.

#179 - Greg's not the only one. I have interests in the railway, automation and ro-ro aspects of this, and would agree your analysis.

#186 - Thanks mate. I strongly suspect at least that this also affected Ireland, Benelux, and at least part of France!

#188 - Well, my analysis is that a single vehicle failure (or signalling failure) on the road network will directly disable a much lower tonnage and/or route mileage than one on the rail network. However, if we consider route mileage delayed rather than totally gridlocked, the effects can be similar.

#191 - Mikko, I know intellectually that you're Finnish, and you may speak English and/or French and/or German with some sort of accent, but I wouldn't know any of that from your writing in English. Well done.

#192 - Greg, you ignored (I suspect deliberately) some of the more positive aspects of sharia law, like divorce is easier for both sexes, charging interest on a loan is illegal...

196:

The end of Reamde by Neal Stephenson has a confrontation between some Islamist terrorists and a bunch of American fundamentalist sovereign citizen types. A Russian Spetsnaz soldier who spent some time in Afghanistan is also on the scene, and he mentally labels the fundamentalists "American Taliban".

(What was a Spetsnaz doing in America fighting Islamist terrorists? Its a long story. Of course its a long story; Neal Stephenson wrote it)

197:

So if a power transmission antenna is such a big and obvious problem, how did NASA consider solving it when they looked at the idea back in the 70s?

198:

I'm only a part-time radar technician, not a designer or a power systems engineer.

199:

Daily reminder that the energy storage problem is not solved yet. Look at this plot of Germany's power generation by source over time. Note how the massive expansion of solar and wind didn't lead to any contraction in the usage of fossil fuels (in fact natural gas expanded to replace nuclear power). The reason is a lack of storage solution. Our civilization requires stable and constantly available power sources. It doesn't matter how much sunlight we can harvest if we can't have this power all the time.

200:

Odd to accuse the Germans of stupidity, but they have made the same mistake, quickly, that we have done slowly ... getting rid of nuclear.
We MUST have "nuke" for baseload .....

201:

    >Odd to accuse the Germans of stupidity

Well, they did fight on multiple fronts simultaneously in two consecutive world wars...

    >We MUST have "nuke" for baseload

The easiest technological way to solve the climate crisis is to have "nuke" for everything. God damnit, France did it already. It's not even theoretically possible, it was shown to work.

Oh well, we probably will get there eventually, but after ruining the climate.

202:

DIY engine work on cars is Strongly Discouraged in the UK - and that includes work as simple as taking an engine from one type of car and putting it in another. The cost of registering is high, and the delay and hassle almost unbelievable. I know people who have done it.

203:

One thing that surprised me to discover was that about a quarter of German homes (and, I presume, many business premises and the like) still use oil/kerosene for heating. This may be a hangover from the reunion of East and West Germany.

https://www.iea.org/reports/germany-2020

The other thing is that Germany is nowhere near the point where it can produce enough intermittent renewable energy for storage to make much of a difference -- they don't have enough solar arrays to store "excess" energy for night-time use and not enough wind turbines to top up storage for the times when the wind isn't present. Storage costs money and doesn't add to the total generating capacity but that cost is never included on the balance sheet when statements like "cheaper than coal" are trotted out.

204:

Well, if you discount what I, Pigeon, paws4thot, moz etc. have been banging on about for ages. Most of what I have said could be done in the UK to massively improve the situation (and the population health) has been behavioural! And none of it is technically difficult.

205:

As a resident of one of the mentioned countries I can confirm that someone like Orban would definitely play ransom. The above conversation fails to account for politics and "if I cant control it I dont support/sabotage it" scenarios ignoring the right wing nationalism that ravages the world currently.

With the climate heating up right wing nationalism probably will get much worse to a level, where technology will race head to head with conflicts arising from the migration of entire countries worth of people towards the cooler geographies. Nationalism and right wing ideology probably will be on the rise for the next decades, and it will make global efforts and cooperation very very challenging. (not to mention the traditional anti science tropes)

So yeah, I think we got a few (?) things to work out in the are aof politics before all of the above can work.

206:

As I have said before, the problem about nuclear power is its mismanagement by what it fondly believes is our government. Let's ignore the facts that safety takes second place to donations to a political party, the accumulation of long-lived wasted, and that the Official Secrets Act is used to hide gross negligence and incompetence.

I have seen claims that nuclear power (as currently perpetrated in the UK) is not a particularly low-carbon source, because of the amount of concrete used, the poor rate of fuel recycling, etc. etc. I don't trust them, but I don't trust the pro-nuclear claims, either.

207:

Why do you trust climate science but not nuclear science?

208:

Not for Scandinavia. Unless you include Italy, Switzerland or Denmark as unreliable - well, possibly the first :-)

It's a real problem, true - hence Nordstream 2. But the same solution could be used to bypass Poland and Ukraine for Finland and the Baltics.

209:

And, if the 4 of us have even a partial consensus, I'd say we must be pretty much right.

210:

It's not true that I don't trust the science - I don't trust the application of the science by our gummint and its outsourcees, which should be called nuclear engineering, anyway. One of the reasons that I don't trust the claims is that almost every concern people raise is met by a refusal to address the concern, and a claim that the questioner is unscientific.

211:

Your question here doesn't scan: it's both a misrepresentation and a false dichotomy. Stop that.

212:

Nuclear at the moment suffers from the fact that most big power stations are based around the earlier nuclear weapons manufacturing designs, whereas what is actually required is an intrinsically safe source of heat. What you do with the heat is up to you; I'd favour supercritical carbon dioxide driving a turbine, with the cold end of the heat engine provided by district heating systems.

This, BTW, is the other elephant in the room. Most of the power requirement at least in the UK isn't electricity per se, but just heat. A lot of UK housing stock is, to put it bluntly, old crap. My current abode is a case in point: it is Victorian, made of solid stone and designed around the premise that the Burnley coalfields would provide dirt-cheap coal indefinitely. Heating the place in winter is a struggle between how fast the gas central heating can warm the ground floor, and how fast heat can leak out (I use thermostatic radiator valves to limit how much heat goes upstairs).

The climate-friendly alternative currently being touted is air-source heat pumps, which are nowhere near as effective as the exaggerated claims make out. However, combine a heat pump with a source of heat such as nuke-powered district heating and suddenly heat pumps make a lot more sense.

213:

Actually, almost every concern raised by people is a false concern raised in bad faith by anti-nuclear organisations which now also broadened the scope of their activities to fight climate change, but which will always choose their foundational goal of destroying nuclear power over saving Earth from climate crisis when the push comes to shove.

(For example, Green parties and movements have religiously opposed the construction of final repositories for slightly used nuclear fuel, also called "nuclear waste", and then they claim that "the issue has not been solved". It has been solved technically for a long time, it's just that their political opposition has prevented the construction of secure long-term storage facilities, not to mention the opposition to nuclear reprocessing and breeder reactor programmes to close the fuel cycle and recycle all that slightly used fuel again and again and again, turning nuclear power into a circular economy project)

Please review IPCC data for nuclear power - it is very low-carbon (only offshore wind is on the same level, solar power has higher emissions per unit of energy), because while you need a lot of concrete for nuclear power plants, they generate A LOT OF POWER FOR A REALLY LONG TIME (third generation reactors will operate for at least 60-80 years), and emissions are calculated for a unit of generated power.

There are plenty of nicely presented data on the issue here:

https://climategamble.net/category/graphs-and-pictures/

214:

EC
The French made it work - why can't we?
Sorry, but if nuclear power ( Aside from the corrupt & incompetent politics ) is so bad, how come the French make it work so well?
- - See also Leszek Karlik @ 213
... Or: "Why I refuse to vote Green-Party"

215:

Canada's DRDC had a similar idea.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_Earth_Object_Surveillance_Satellite

The AMOSTECH conference website publishes its papers freely. The papers on NEOSSAT from about 2016-2018 make interesting reading - the DRDC guys are really on the ball.

216:

I had a friend in college who was from Finland. Because I was interested (beginning with some Emil Petaja SF in childhood, then some Kalevala translations, and finally figuring out that the Valinorean was very similar to Finnish -- when I read Tolkien's confirmation of that I felt an unseemly smugness), she was teaching me some rudimentary Finnish. At one point she explained that most Europeans learn 2-3 languages, but the average Finn learns 3-4 because nobody else wants to learn Finnish. So you're an overachiever by her assessment.

I've forgotten most of what Finnish I ever learned by now, but I still like the language a lot.

217:

Daily reminder that the energy storage problem is not solved yet.


A problem can be solved, but the solution not implemented. The engineering problem is long solved and there are multiple solutions. The political problem with implementation is not solved.

218:

French nuclear power was designed solely to avoid dependence on unreliable countries, most definitely including the USA. Its safety is veiled in official secrecy, and low-carbon was never an objective. I answered why we can't do the same in #206.

#213 is a damn good example of why I don't trust the pro-nuclear claims. Not merely is it offensive to a great many reasonable people, it contains claims that I know is, shall we say?, economical with the truth. I have tried tracking down actual estimates, and rapidly found that most of them ended in polemic and hand-waving. As you know, I invariably try to get back to hard data, rather than trusting possibly biassed claims (by ANYBODY). The IPCC had no choice but to trust the figures it could get, and so is not an authoritative source.

219:

"and low-carbon was never an objective."

Well, it was in a way: France was very uncomfortable with the other super-powers dominance of the middle east and were afraid of becoming too dependent on oil imports.

So no, strictly speaking not "low-carbon" but absolutely "independent of carbon"

220:

Not only that, but the French made nuclear work so well, 40-50 years ago. When the costs were a state secret, the safety was a state secret, and accidents were a state secret.

Now that isn't the case, it doesn't work so well at all. Flamanville is now 10 years over due (2022 est, up from 2012) and 5 times the original price. (€19.1, up from €3.3).

221:

Firstly, thank you.
Secondly, not explicitly mentioning resilience doesn't mean that we're not considering it...

You're very welcome.

And yes. You, and many of the people here, address concerns that are founded in resilience. I've noticed. :-)

However: An explicit acknowlegement of resilience as a named concept -- to the point of elevating it to a peer consideration with efficiency -- would improve our general ability to discuss these issues. When resilience-based counterarguments are treated as sui generis problems, to be solved in isolation, the general momentum of discussion lands rather heavily on the efficiency side of the scale.

222:

"As you know, I invariably try to get back to hard data, rather than trusting possibly biassed claims (by ANYBODY)."

IPCC uses a median (not average) of all available peer-reviewed estimates in order to eliminate bias.

When you track down individual studies, it turns out that there are some that provide extremely high values (still lower than fossil fuels) and are put out by people with obvious anti-nuclear biases (Sovacool, who includes non-peer-reviewed data by Storm van Leeuwen in his "meta-analyses"), and when you track the details of the input data, you get things like "single uranium mine in Namibia uses more energy than the entire nation of Namibia".

When you look at estimates for state of the art third generation nuclear power plants with fuel enriched with modern gas centrifuges instead of the energy-intensive diffusion method, you get even lower figures than the IPCC median of available studies.

And as for destruction of nuclear power industry being the foundational goal of modern-day "environmental" movements, please look up why the founder of Friends of the Earth left Sierra Club and who gave him money to finance a new, anti-nuclear environmental organisation.

223:
I had a friend in college who was from Finland.

"It was only in retrospect that I realized that she was Little My, grown up and passing for human."

224:

The costs of (French - AND everybody else's ) nuclear power, including accidents, spills & cover-ups .........Is a fuckton less than roasting to death in the hurricanes & rising sea levels of GW - isn't it?

Yes, maybe it's the "lesser of two evils", but I know which one I'd pick!

225:

Why are you people even arguing about costs when the issue is climate crisis? It doesn't really matter how much nuclear reactors cost if you want to solve an emergency.

The right question to ask is this: is it possible for humanity to mobilize and build enough nuclear reactors to close most sources of carbon emissions?

To which the answer is yes, as exemplified, again, by France.

226:

Unfortunately, it is not possible at the moment to build enough reactors to quickly decarbonise our economies, because of three decades of neglect of the nuclear industry in the global North (caused by the environmentalist anti-nuclear movement supported by fossil fuel companies).

There are bottlenecks in the ability to do a rapid buildout of the nuclear industry just like there are bottlenecks in the ability to do a rapid buildout of grid-scale storage.

It's way too late to "solve the emergency", but we still need to mitigate the climate catastrophe to a level where the quality of life will only be severely impacted for dozens of generation instead of a level where the quality of life will be hellish for hundreds of generations, so we need all available solutions to be implemented at the same time: renewables, nuclear, energy efficiency, targeted degrowth policies and so on.

But this is insanely difficult politically, so I'm not an optimist concerning the future trajectory of the Earth system in anthropocene.

(Even if nuclear power plants were "glow in the dark radioactive catastrophes-in-waiting" Greenpeace presents them to be, we should be building as many of them as humanly possible, because people simply cannot imagine the long-term consequences of a 4+ degrees of warming for our biosphere and our civilisation, and the warming won't stop at 2100 AD just because most graphs stop there)

227:

"IPCC uses a median (not average) of all available peer-reviewed estimates in order to eliminate bias."

Decoding possibly political statistics 101: FAIL.

Yes, I was once a pretty good statistician. I shall leave finding the gross error in the above statement as an exercise for you.

228:

It can't work for everything -- high-rise-residential is always going to need some sort of mass generation -- but the point is that it doesn't have to be all one thing (in fact it can't be all one thing).

I like the way you're looking at things. We really should try hard to avoid prescribing some one-size-fits-all solution. Distributed, diverse techniques, modes, and infrastructures seem likely to be the best way forward as our civilization downshifts.

229:

174: My "suggestion", as it were, is to stop pretending that fixing one part of a complex system with kewl new toys is an actual solution. It is at best a tradeoff for a different set of problems... and more likely has some bad consequences and may well be bad on balance, creating a bigger and different set of problems that nobody has thought about yet.

Consider, for example, the French nuclear-power system lauded above. On some scale, it might be effective. However, one must wonder about inputs and outputs. Are there enough available fissionables to further expand fission-based nuclear power generation to a larger scale? At what cost? With what other consequences (ever considered the tailings from mining uranium?)? And at the output end, how 'bout them spent fuel rods? That's before considering distribution of the intended output, and the problems raised by running power lines up and down the north face of the Alps or across the expanse of western Russia (ever considered a liquid-cooled transformer in high-variance environmental conditions? or anchored on ground that turns to mud for three months every year?).

And all of that still runs into the logistics and infrastructure problems. Bluntly, power grids are not robust enough to take on the increased usage from replacing all mobile fossil fuels (cars, trucks, buses, etc.) with electrical consumption no matter how efficient the storage systems or how fabulous the generation system. Focusing efforts on that fabulous generation system when there's little or no chance that the generated power will actually end up where it's "supposed to be" is a fool's errand... or, more properly, an extension of mercantilist macroeconomics, which would have consequences. Methinks our host has written a few novels that touch on that.

We can't worry about just power-generation technology. We have to worry about systemic replacement for muscle power. There's a strong historical reason that "horsepower" is a fundamental consideration in transportation mechanisms... and it's not just that "watts" involved numbers too big for convenient calculation, building up the ego of a Scottish engineer, and nonstandardized units (although those are all relevant). Musk et al not only don't worry about the system — they actively subvert consideration of it, and suck all of the investment capital and developing expertise away to build their own egos, sort of like the "nuclear weapon capability" race trickled down to so-called "tactical" weapons in the 1950s and 1960s and sucked the life out of developing "conventional" asymmetrical capabilities and training (when the Balkans in the 1940s and "French Indochina"/North Africa slightly later demonstrated that was far from irrelevant).

230:

but by any other standard, it's pretty much taken off.

As someone who hangs out around the edges of the small business / residential construction industry, I haven't seen it after the initial hype.

It may just be that their production is fully in demand so they don't/can't do any marketing.

231:

Other than the ambiguity introduced by using the word "average" you mean?

232:

Nope, nope, nope. Sorry, this gets the savaging without the politeness.

Quality of life is a stalking horse for, as they purportedly say in Texas, "I've got mine, fuck all y'all." It's going to change. Whether that matters is the key part. People going into massive debt to afford a home market-valued at a million dollars is a "quality of life" argument. People having a home that helps modulate the climate to reasonable levels of comfort is what everyone will settle for if they must. Don't mistake the two.

Anyway, if you want rapid roll-out, I give you solar, wind, and batteries. They're preferable because they're an order of magnitude faster than fossil fuels and multiple orders of magnitude faster than nuclear. Hell, battery backups are beating natural gas peaker plants because they come online in seconds, while natural gas plants come online in hours. AND the battery plants are cheaper to build.

Hydroelectric? In the high demand regions such as the US, we've dammed all the good rivers, and now we're removing all the stupid dams we installed in early 20th Century as political baksheesh, because we know they're doing more harm than good.

Nuclear? Where are we getting the cooling water? Big reservoirs are going dry even where they make some sense (western US), while other (eastern) reservoirs are getting flooded by hurricanes. But we could as easily get 3 meters of rain in northern California some January and have all the reservoirs and rivers flooded, and get Louisiana reamed by a drought. That's what makes climate change so bad: the extremes get more extreme. Any power plant that depends on a large, stable body of water is at risk of shutting down through flooding or drought. Solar and wind do not depend on cooling ponds.

Okay, use the ocean to cool off your nuke? Wanna hurricane-proof a nuke? Want to deal with managed retreat from the coast for sea level rise, while building nukes on the coast? Or if you want really annoying, how about jellyfish blooms clogging the cooling water intakes?. Actually, you'll need to deal with all three. And roll it out in 3-5 years, starting from the idea, right now.

So that's why silly people like little old environmental idiot me are kissing off nukes and going with wind, solar, and batteries. And adopting a less energetic lifestyle instead of screaming about quality of life. They all go together. And quite honestly, if we're all forced to do lights out at 9 pm every day, a lot of illnesses related to sleep deprivation will go away too. It's called making the best of it, and it's a natural human trait that we've tried to suppress when consumerism became the in thing.

If you want to have an interesting discussion, instead of nukes, get into whether we should be burning methanogenic garbage and using magically upscaling technology to capture the CO2, instead of composting it. Or even just releasing the CO2 in place of the methane and other GHGs. Trash incineration for energy generation is as nasty a hot-button topic as nukes, but there might conceivably be a better case for it. That case involves the tradeoff of what goes out the smokestack, versus where the hell we put all the compost if we really do want landfills to stop emitting GHGs. And what's in the compost. And keeping the composting system from becoming a crop killing superspreader system.

233:

I keep wondering why the asphalt tile roofing industry hasn't linked up with the solar panel folks. Typical asphalt shingles last about 20 years - there'd probably be much more uptake/demand if a hybrid were available.

Habit. Inertia. Tradition.

If you want to do an asphalt shingle roof in the US you can round up a crew and supplies on short notice and just get it done. And, much to my dismay, people want housing that looks like other housing that looks like other housing that looks like the housing they grew up in that ....

Metal roofs are gradually showing up. And are rating at 100 years of life, give or take. And and and can have things mounted on top of them without dealing with the 20 year cycle and ....

For older housing stock like mine and many of my neighbors, 2x4 rafter systems and 2x4 load bearing walls are just going to handle the loads of a roof covering AND something else on top. Modern standards of 2x6 external walls plus engineered truss systems for roofs changes that. But there's a lot of us with the older stuff.

234:

And quite honestly, if we're all forced to do lights out at 9 pm every day, a lot of illnesses related to sleep deprivation will go away too.
If I have "lights out" at 21:00 local for the 8 months when it's actually about dark then, I will waken up between 04:00 and 05:00 - Proven fact.

235:

"IPCC uses a median (not average) of all available peer-reviewed estimates in order to eliminate bias." Decoding possibly political statistics 101: FAIL.

And beside that, it's not the way the IPCC publicizes its work. Every statement they make, at least in the summaries, has a confidence interval associated with it. And incidentally, many of the critical statements are now at "virtually certain," which means they've gone past 0.9 and sometimes past 0.99, 0.999, and so forth.

236:

how did NASA consider solving it when they looked at the idea back in the 70s?

NASA looks at all kinds of things that turn out to not be workable. Much to the consternation (real and made up) of Congress during hearings and budget planning.

I'm sure the US is not the only place were a non trivial number of people think that research means make it work and that there should be no dead ends if you're competent.

237:

How many SD is that?

238:

The easiest technological way to solve the climate crisis is to have "nuke" for everything.

Except the current way we do nuke requires vast amounts of cooling water which isn't always around. And the lack of such can shut down those plants in times of need.

I'm wanting SMR's to be a good thing. But so far they are not reality.

239:

instead of the energy-intensive diffusion method, you get even lower figures than the IPCC median of available studies.

Just who is still using gaseous diffusion? The US and France have not since 2012/2013.

240:

Except the current way we do nuke requires vast amounts of cooling water which isn't always around.

There's a reason most nuclear power plants around the world are based on coastlines which are adjacent to "vast amounts of cooling water". Even the UAE's new nuclear reactor park at Barakh is next to the coast, not stuck somewhere deep in the desert well away from any water sources.

As for SMRs they're basically PowerPoint confidence tricks designed to extract "development" cash from Green-obsessed governments. There are very very few shovel-ready SMRs out there and only a couple of actual working reactors which could be considered SMRs. Atomstroyexport will adapt the RITM-200 icebreaker marine reactor for land-based operation to generate 50MW if someone orders a few. No-one has though.

The CAP100 "modular" reactor the Chinese are actually building is a cut-down version of their CAP1000 full-sized reactor. It's still involves a lot of sitework and local construction, it's not a question of unloading it from a truck and plugging it in and it doesn't even have solar panels on the roof (a selling point for one of the SMR PowerPoint efforts looking for funding at the moment).

241:

Getting back to why Musk wants to build a 100-250 ton launch system.

My first thought was: It's the Spruce Goose...in space!*

And that may still be what he's after. Maybe Mars, maybe metric buttloads of disposable satellites. But the thing to remember is that the Spruce Goose was actually the Hughes H-4 Hercules, designed for strategic airlift, and produced too late for WW2.

So is Musk building a strategic spacelift vehicle? He could well be. Or rather, it could be used as one. If the USSF wants to put boots Guardians** in the sky, how are they going to lift the rapid response space station, plus the squadron to run it? Pack them all into a Big Falcon Starship, and they're good to go. Call sign Pinata, most likely, so lots of thoughts and prayers get sent up with them.

*Anyone remember the end of the novel Dream Park?

**The official designation of a USSF warfighter. I'm waiting to see whether USSF enlisteds will be required by custom to howl "I am Groot!" after winning a bar fight with any other soldier. And given how many USSF Guardians have been working from home, saving the free world with government laptops, I wonder how many official protocols now exist for keeping cats from reprogramming satellite orbits...

242:

Just had roof redone this year. The asphalt (I assume) shingles are guaranteed for 35 years.

243:

All this discussion including methane ignores one thing that I've seen people worried about for decades: all the methan in the clathrates that *were* frozen in the permafrost... that's now melting.

245:

God damnit, France did it already.

And France is backing away from it.

At peak, France was roughly 90% nuclear powered. They're currently down to 70%, with an ageing reactor fleet (mostly dating to the 1970s). There are questions over how much it really cost to build them -- the accounting/bookkeeping side was notoriously opaque -- and after the Fukushima disaster, there were some worrying smoke signals about systemic safety in event of natural disasters (i.e. what had previously been seen as reasonable safety standards were now no longer seen as safe enough -- judged against the Great Tohoku Earthquake and local conditions in France, the French reactors looked inadequately protected). In particular, they're mostly riverwater-cooled ... and French rivers are suffering as a result of climate change, causing problematic shutdowns in heat waves (when water entering the heat exchangers is too hot).

Their new EPRs are way behind schedule, as is ITER, so the way forward for French nuclear doesn't look terribly rosy.

246:

Great Cthulhu, yes! That single sentence contains at least four gross errors (in the context of the data being discussed), two of which should be covered in a school statistics course.

247:

"Quite recently the British installed wind turbine fleet, onshore and offshore was producing under 1GW of electricity for days on end with the lowest instantaneous amount I noticed on the Gridwatch site under 200MW."

That site can be persuaded to yield some interesting statistics. For the period June 1 through August 31 of this year, the wind and solar contributions to the British grid were:

Wind Wind + Solar

Maximum 11.69 GW 16.35 GW
Median 3.04 GW 4.86 GW
1st Quartile 1.36 GW 2.76 GW


248:

Ack. The table formatting got mangled.

249:

Note that they give two figures, indicating that there just isn't a reasonable compromise between the conflicting claims.

As far as the concrete goes, I trust the figures for building the plant, but not the estimates of how much REbuilding will be needed. Also, there's a lot in ancillary structures (like enhancement) and in the 'disposal' of radioactive waste; without tracking back to the original data, it's impossible to tell whether the assumptions are reasonable. I haven't looked recently, but I stated what I found when I did. The trouble is that it's a HELL of a lot of work to extract actual facts out of data in a situation that has become this politicised.

I have actually been a supporter of nuclear power for half a century - just not the way we are doing it, nor under the current mismanagement. Therefore I get classified by the pro-nuclear extremists as someone who is opposing action on climate change! Go figure.

250:

We like the ionosphere ionised, for long distance shortwave communication.
But is anyone doing much of that now, other than for fun?

251:

EC
I have actually been a supporter of nuclear power for half a century - just not the way we are doing it, nor under the current mismanagement.
Can I join?
I contend that we will still need that 20% Baseload power generation - yes?
No matter how good "batteries" get ....

252:

When you grow up a bit and are allowed to wear big boys trousers...

Patronising stuff aside , you need to become aware that organisations have multiple criteria for completing projects. I have been both a PM and and a Programme Manager and an SME (Subject Matter Expert) - sometimes all at the same time.

Often there are at least three competing set of needs - the developer/engineer or the team, the client and the big boss. A PM is not going to do what you want (the Dev/Eng); in any discussion you are almost irrelevant (possibly right, but of least weight) - the PM has NO choice in that.

All PMs (even the worst - and I agree many are little more than box tickers) have to use criteria that may be different to yours. Their job is to deliver against a schedule, a set of requirements (vague though these may be) and a budget.

N.B. I have been removed from projects for arguing that what the Client (not the actual end user!!!) wanted was "counter-productive" (as an SME). I also note that that one project was delivered more than three years late and failing to meet the real client's need and was the subject of UK parliamentary questions. All of my immediate PMs agreed with me and (not unreasonably) left me to get on with it - I could afford to be made redundant(and was).

253:

"I contend that we will still need that 20% Baseload power generation - yes?"

Depends where in the world you are, it varies from below 10% to around 40%, mainly on the existence of specialized continuous high-energy industries such as paper, steel, refineries etc.

Yes, the reason there is a nuclear just south of New Orleans is to provide power for the many refineries, they use a LOT of electricity.

254:

At peak, France was roughly 90% nuclear powered. They're currently down to 70%, with an ageing reactor fleet (mostly dating to the 1970s).

Right now, as I type this France is generating 44GW of nuclear electricity to meet a domestic demand of 46.3GW. They're also producing about 7GW of hydro-electric power. The extra electricity is being exported to Britain (3GW), Spain (2.6GW), Germany (1.3GW) and Switzerland (820MW).

The percentage of French nuclear electricity generation to demand varies somewhat between summer and winter. They shut down, inspect and refuel many of their stations in the summer when electricity demand is reduced to have as much capacity on-line as possible during the winter. As for ageing out, the basic engineering of the expensive parts of nuclear reactors means that with refurbishments the M910-series reactors could well run safely for 80 years -- there are some US PWRs which have already received operating licence renewals for a further 20 years after their upcoming 60-year birthdays. Rosatom's new VVER reactor vessels are designed and manufactured to operate for as much as a hundred years and it's possible the British EPRs under construction now could last that long as well.

255:

Heteromeles @ 181: I think Musk was trying to do solar roof tiles. Don't know if he still is. The basic problem is that you've got to wire every single tile to the roof grid, which is annoying and prone to connection problems.

Tiles are usually nailed or screwed down over some kind of roll roofing felt (at least they were the summer I worked as a roofer). I bet you could design a roll material with the "grid" painted on and use the screws or nails to make the connection between the tiles & the grid. Or have some kind of "connector" pad on the back side of the tile where the nails/screws go through.

A lot of tiles come from the factory "pre-drilled" for the nail/screw holes so the roofers won't have as much waste from broken tiles. I think it could be designed so you wouldn't have to hand solder or crimp on connectors to wires at each individual tile.

256:

Damian @ 183: I was a little surprised when we had out lighting circuits rewired* recently, that the electricians were, just as a matter of course, lifting roof tile to get into the exterior wall cavities.

Roof tiles or ceiling tiles? I can visualize how the latter might work, but I just don't get how that would work with roof tiles?

257:

David L @ 184: Anyway, here in NC the local power company will put solar on your roof for "free". You get the electricity it generates. They feed any extra back into the grid. Now I'd really want to read the contract in detail before I signed up for it to see the 1000 details that are not a part of the headline. And for most houses, like mine, it just would not work for a variety of reasons.

I don't think it's the local power company. I haven't heard ANYTHING from Duke Energy about it.

OTOH, I get several calls a week from swindling Fly-By-Night contractors wanting to put solar on my roof and the government is going to pay for it so it's free. Ain't gonna' cost me nothin'!

The standard spiel is it's a government subsidized program that "pays for itself" with what you save on your electric bill.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv8ZPFOxJEc

Heinlein did get one thing right, There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

258:

Nojay @ 186:

Does that period of no wind affect the ENTIRE coastal area at the same time?

Yes. Quite recently the British installed wind turbine fleet, onshore and offshore was producing under 1GW of electricity for days on end with the lowest instantaneous amount I noticed on the Gridwatch site under 200MW.

And the "British installed wind turbine fleet" covers every inch of the British coast?

259:

I don't think it's the local power company. I haven't heard ANYTHING from Duke Energy about it.

Yes. It is Duke. And they offer it. (This is distinct from phone scams we both get all the time.)

I know someone who put them on his new house/workshop. My daughter asked about it but the trees in her and her neighbors yard would have to be removed.

https://www.duke-energy.com/Home/Products/Renewable-Energy/NC-Solar-Rebates

And there ARE ways for middle men to sell and deal with this and make money. So it is hard to tell the scams from the legit.

260:

Mikko Parviainen (he/him) @ 191:

I wish I knew another language well enough to think in it so I don't have to translate it into English, think what I'm going to say and translate that back into that other language. You can do this if you start learning early enough. Our schools didn't offer it when I was that young.

I'm not sure how this works, really. I started learning my first foreign language when I was nine years old (German), then started English two years later, so those might be 'young enough'. I've learned languages after that, like Swedish from 13, French when I was 16-19 and the Finnish sign language at about thirty. (Also some others, most recently Japanese, again, but my fluency in that is bad, still.)

I can think in English and the Finnish sign language, or at least I don't feel I'm translating from Finnish when I speak them. German and French, and Swedish, well... I probably could get fluent enough in an environment where I'd use them, and I have enough stock phrases that I can function as a tourist. I still think I could learn them well enough not to translate from Finnish when speaking them.

I can think in English and the Finnish sign language, or at least I don't feel I'm translating from Finnish when I speak them. German and French, and Swedish, well... I probably could get fluent enough in an environment where I'd use them, and I have enough stock phrases that I can function as a tourist. I still think I could learn them well enough not to translate from Finnish when speaking them.

I kind of think learning languages is also partly how much effort you put into them. In school I had maybe 3-4 hours of lessons each week for a language and then homework on top of that, for years. That's more time than I can put into them now, so I think that's a big reason why I don't learn languages as fast now as I did when younger. However, I'm better at learning, so I did manage to get some level of tourist Japanese just by myself building on lessons from twenty years back when we visited Japan.

I think I could learn languages well enough to use in normal life without thinking if I would be put in an environment when it's needed. I still don't think I'm a prodigy here, I just like languages and got taught on how to learn them early enough. I think that's what should be taught in schools - even with English I've learned most of it by just using it, not in classes.

That's a fairly good description of what I wish I had had the opportunity to do. I favor second language education starting even earlier, maybe in Kindergarten.

Also some may say I can't know how successful I might be leaning another language after I got older without having tried to do so. I did try; starting in my sophomore year at University. Failed Spanish 1 three times (Spanish is supposed to be the easiest language for English speakers), failed French 1 and even failed Latin 3. I managed to finagle my way into that class at a local girls college under an inter-institutional program - could only get a "C" credit, it was pass/fail, but failing the class didn't count against my GPA.

And that doesn't include all the subsequent attempts to learn Spanish I've made on my own since dropping out of NC State (with all of the requirements for my degree completed EXCEPT for the foreign language).

Someone mentioned watching foreign language TV news on the internet. I've tried that too, but I don't have enough rudimentary language to keep up, even with subtitles turned on.

... and now I've depressed myself all over again.

261:

As a side note. Duke Energy does NOT as a company install home solar. If you get it installed by a company (or maybe yourself) that meets the requirements then they will rebate you the costs (not sure of how much) and deal with you in a sell back your power to them arrangement.

So, in virtually every case you have to contract with a private solar installation company to actually install the solar panels and re-work your electrical system to use them.

And this is where the phone calls come from. Call centers who get a cut of a sale of the actual installation if you bite on the call.

262:

paws4thot @ 195: #168 - I have to stop and think about the first 2 or 3 such calculations, but after than I can do decimal to binary to octal to hex to BCD (in any required order including not showing every step).

Suppose you'd had a semester's worth of education in the subject and then didn't get to use it again for 20+ years. Do you think you'd still have that mental ability?

It's going on 60+ years in my case now, but it was maybe 25 years after the fact when I first realized I'd lost something that I couldn't get back.

263:

Certainly. The trouble is that it is now too late, because developing a cleaner and safer reactor design needed to start a long time back, and (in the UK) when we still had the relevant skills.

264:

Right. I found my final examination papers by accident a short while ago, and threw them out because they depressed me. I couldn't even understand most of the questions :-(

265:

Elderly Cynic @ 202: DIY engine work on cars is Strongly Discouraged in the UK - and that includes work as simple as taking an engine from one type of car and putting it in another. The cost of registering is high, and the delay and hassle almost unbelievable. I know people who have done it.

That's sad. If it had always been the case, there would never have been any LBCs (Little British Cars) 1.

1 I own 2 MGBs, neither currently road-worthy even under the U.S.A.'s lax rules. Another couple of items on my bucket list that will probably NEVER get checked off while I'm waiting to get a round toit.

266:

There were no howling gales sneakily avoiding the becalmed offshore wind turbine arrays if that's what you're asking. There was a series of large settled high-pressure areas over the UK with very mild winds everywhere on land (where the 20-plus GW of installed wind turbines were generating very little electricity as well) and in the coastal areas. Deep-water Mid-atlantic or in the middle of the North Sea, I don't know about. The wind turbine installers look to place wind generating capacity in the best places, choosing prime locations with good records for wind in shallow water close to shore. It's just that sometimes the wind isn't there and no electricity is generated. Them's the breaks.

It wasn't a problem, we have lots of gas turbine generating plant that kept the lights on, along with about 5GW of reliable home-grown nuclear power plus 3GW of imported French nuclear power. The gas turbine plants dumped lots of CO2 into the atmosphere, the nukes not so much but gas is cheap and that's the main thing, isn't it?

267:

Well, all I can say is that she would get my vote.

Mine generally rock up once a month for a meeting - that I am required to attend, tell me whether I'm ahead or behind on the spend (which I already know), worry that I am spending too fast or too slow, occasionally tell me I have no money because one of the other projects overspent, waste a day of my time - half day preparing slides and morning of meeting (ie 5% of month) and for that skim a good chunk off my budget.

I don't recall ever fielding a hard question on the work itself. Just the budget, risks (reputational and to life) and politics.

Yeah, they are the favouritist people in the whole world. That said, its not a job I would do. I did a 2 weeks training course the company sent me on and opted to not carry on and become one. I find the best are those who already understand the technical issues - the conversation becomes a lot more focused and useful.

Perhaps my bitterness is in part because they end up being paid more in our company that the scientists whose work they manage.

268:

paws4thot @ 234:

And quite honestly, if we're all forced to do lights out at 9 pm every day, a lot of illnesses related to sleep deprivation will go away too.

If I have "lights out" at 21:00 local for the 8 months when it's actually about dark then, I will waken up between 04:00 and 05:00
- Proven fact.

Wouldn't be a problem for me I guess, because usually at 4:00am I'm still lying there in the dark staring at the ceiling.

269:

There's one huge problem: Radio interference. A Space based solar power plant will interfere with microwave radio communication THOUSANDS OF KILOMETERS from the receiver. You read that right, THOUSANDS OF KILOMETERS.

The best wavelengths to beam power down are in the microwave range, as losses going through the clouds, storms, dust, and the atmosphere in general are minimal. Problem is, almost all of the microwave spectra is used for communication and you'd make a lot of people very, very angry if you interfered with it.


Pretty much the best wavelength to use for microwave power transmission is 2.45 GHz, but we can't use this anymore because that's the same wavelength WiFi and bluetooth use. Because electromagnetic radiation disperses as it moves through space, quite a bit of the 2.45 GHz we transmit ends up outside of the receiver. In fact for a power plant which provides 8.5 GW on the ground we have 0.79 GIGAWATTS(!!!) of stray radiation.

The following is a plot of power density of radiation with distance on the ground to the receiver for the same 2.45 GHz powersat compared with bluetooth and wifi minimum receive powers(higher means more sensitive to interfence)*:
https://i.imgur.com/TrXL10i.png
As can be seen, 1000 km from the receiver, incident radiation's stronger than bluetooth minimum receive power. >5000 km away it's stronger than 802.15's minimum receive power.

Wifi will be able to handle the interference to some degree, but bluetooth will have problems. You're going to make a lot people unhappy by interfering with their airpods and bluetooth speakers.

5.8 GHz, which disperses less, because higher frequencies mean less dispersion, interferes with other radio communications over similar distances:
https://i.imgur.com/9BzOmdX.png

Because of this interference, space based solar power is effectively illegal by local and international law. The following paper below goes into regulatory issues into more detail.

One could use the millimeter waves, but conversion efficiency of mm-waves to electricity is worse and mm wave loss through storms, clouds, and even air itself is not significant. But we're also starting to use 5G with mm waves too...

*Source:
https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/9318744
I highly recommend reading the paper here, it goes into all issues, technical and regulatory, on power beaming.

270:

Her situation was transitioning to Dev Ops and Agile. Very few big meetings. Daily stand ups where people say they're ahead, behind, or on track and what they need for the next few days if anything. Then with a new set of buildings she wound up with 2 desks. One in the business area and one embedded with the developers. The devs could ask questions and she answer them many times in minutes with the only emai being "we all agreed and made this change". And many times direct release into production.

Then came March 2020.

271:

I've been wearing long trousers for ages. Honest.

I recognise a lot of what you say and fully understand that they had no interest in the work and that management really like having lots of PMs, so the risk of overspend/cockup is reduced. As far as they were concerned, if that expensive tick box enterprise means the work is slowed down, then tough. It doesn't matter because their backs are protected.

It has just become rather galling being lectured by people who were born 10 years after I was already running large research projects. Its never helped by the fact that they get paid more than me - because they have spend authorisation and do not.

In case you are wondering, my last PM had a degree in drama.

For the record, my highest ever overspend on a budget was <1%. ie down in the noise.

[[ html fix - mod ]]

272:

Auricoma and Greg,

Hetero pretty much have exactly what I was going to reply, but better phrased.

The only thing I'd add in reply, "something must be done, and nuclear is something" is not a reason to waste 350 trillion dollars and 40 years building "something".

273:

My BOTE estimate is a quadrillion dollars and 25 years with the entire modern world going into war mode to build lots and lots of Big Fuckoff Reactors -- about 15,000 1GW units would be a good start. Building a million SMRs that each need replacing after 40 years isn't worth it, go big or go home.

We won't of course because saving the planet costs too much. In reality we'll spend a couple of hundred trillion dollars building a lot of renewables and storage over thirty years then spend another two hundred trillion replacing them then another two hundred trillion dollars thirty years later while at least half our energy consumption will come from cheap fossil gas to prevent blackouts and we'll be approaching 600ppm CO2 in the atmosphere by the end of the century.

274:

Well, I do agree with your assessment, that is war footing: 25% of global GDP until 2045, just to deal with power supply. Not water or food,energy.

Given the radical changes we're going to have to make in just about everything, and likely the millions of people who will have to relocate? I don't think there will be that much invested in energy.

However, I'd disagree with where the fossil fuels may be spent, because my bet is rebuilding after disasters, not preventing blackouts.

Oh well, maybe someone can find a way to mix incinerator ash, average #1 post-consumer compost, and melted post-consumer shredded plastic into a reasonable simulacrum of a building material that sequesters 30% of its carbon by weight. Or something. That might be useful.

275:

Did that actually happen or is it just a city foot? The version I heard years and years ago was about farmers living near big radio transmitters. It sounds like one of those attractive stories to me.

Larff @ the idea of nailable fluorescent tubes :)

276:

"I did try; starting in my sophomore year at University. Failed Spanish 1 three times"

I'm curious about that, as I do think that a foreign language requirement is a good thing.

What was it about Spanish that was troublesome? Vocabulary, grammar, syntax, just the whole thing?

FWIW, I took a couple of years of Latin in freshman and sophomore high school in the US and then got interested in Russian because of Sputnik. What really helped about Latin was the realization that Indo-European languages do have a structure, noun declensions, verb conjugations, stems and roots and prefixes and suffixes and the like. That carried over into Russian and made it a lot easier to see what was going on.

Spanish and German and French kind of followed in the same way. I'd not claim to be fluent in any of those, but can generally read a newspaper without too much headscratching.

277:

My BOTE estimate is a quadrillion dollars and 25 years with the entire modern world going into war mode to build lots and lots of Big Fuckoff Reactors -- about 15,000 1GW units would be a good start. Building a million SMRs that each need replacing after 40 years isn't worth it, go big or go home.

If you want a war mode to build nuclear, you want the million SMR's - one of the big point's of them is that you simply create a factory with an assembly line and churn them out like any other mass produced item. Think Liberty ships or other WW2 assembly lines. You can then simply deliver them complete to sites and connect a bunch together to create a power plant.

Creating 15,000 1GW units, each with the problems of on site fabrication and 15,000 complex planning procedures, simply isn't going to happen.

I mean, we can't even build a massive solar farm in Nevada - because it would interfere with off road driving and tourism, so there is no way we could build 15,000 large nuclear plants

https://electrek.co/2021/07/26/us-largest-solar-farm-is-scrapped-because-nevada-locals-dont-want-to-look-at-it/

278:

"charging interest on a loan is illegal"

It's not just Islam that bans usury. The difference is that the Muslim world responds to the ban by cheating, whereas the Christian world started off cheating but then just stopped caring and switched to simply ignoring it.

Such a ban is of course an important internal memetic defence mechanism for any religion, because the determination to love money more than God/Allah/whatever you call him is so powerfully embedded in even the most genuinely pious and God-fearing people, as numerous examples attest.

It still makes sense from the kind of broad and not really religious perspective that replaces "God" with "everything that is good about the world", as an important internal existential defence mechanism for humanity.

279:

That's not how it appears to me; I'd say the UK is unusually friendly to doing weird things to vehicles. Belgium and Germany spring to mind as examples which are far more hostile. Compare a Belgian car rally where regulatory terror has discouraged people from doing even such trivial under-the-bonnet modifications as replacing black rubber hoses with pretty blue ones with a British car rally of any but the most stringent originality-nerd type; or the tameness of a typical German rat bike with the weird and wonderful outrages which appear at a British rat bike rally, all arriving under their own power on public roads and next to none of them on Q plates.

It certainly gets unbelievably hostile if you go far enough to trigger the need for SVA. By all accounts you then have to meet requirements which may be much tougher than factory-built cars have to meet; you can be failed for things on the level of not having a hole in the driver's seat to let the farts out, never mind that normal cars don't have to have one, and you can't just cut a hole on the spot and pass, you have to do, and pay (through the nose) for, the whole thing over again. And it is virtually certain that they will make up some such stupid thing the first time you try it, so you can reckon on two goes at a minimum.

But it's pretty hard for an exchange of power unit to pass the Q-plate threshold; even putting a Merlin in didn't do it, although probably a Deltic would. As a mass example there are probably more Triumph Stags running around with Rover V8s or Ford V6es than still have their original Triumph V8s, without being shat on by regulations. And Greg has AIUI already said that he would be OK with simply replacing his existing engine with a more regulation-friendly one, but the regulations he fears don't allow that to count even though the emissions figures would then be compliant.

My own position is similar; I have always been happy with taking the engine from vehicle A and putting it in vehicle B when the result suits me better than either A or B in their original condition, and I take the same kind of view regarding taking the engine and fuel tank out of a car and replacing them with a motor and battery...

...only the BATTERY is SO FUCKING EXPENSIVE.

And since the same is true even of a half-dead one, by reason of it still being useful for static applications, it is not a problem I can overcome by simply waiting around until cheap ones do start showing up. That works for most things but it won't work with car traction batteries.

It's not the regulatory aspect that puts me off, it's the straightforward impracticality of the cost.

It wouldn't be a problem if The Introduction Of Electric Cars was a piece of actual planning based around the gas-fork-lift refuelling model rather than the petrol-car one - you don't refill the energy-holder with energy, instead you exchange it for a full energy-holder of the same standard size and the empty one is refilled by the owner, to whom you pay only a one-off small deposit rather than the full cost, plus the refill charge - with the infrastructure installed before instantiating the need to use it, but of course the whole thing is all about not bothering with any meaningful planning, and not getting the infrastructure ready before it's needed in the hope that by the time it's no longer possible to put it off any more it will have become possible to make someone else pay for it.

280:

I'm curious about that, as I do think that a foreign language requirement is a good thing.

Not all minds work alike. :)

I tested off the charts in math. Very very high in reading comprehension.

And couldn't write an essay (or even a note in a yearbook) to save my life. If you read my comments here you can see how I have trouble with ONE language in terms of writing. The ability to edit on computers saved me. Well at least most of the time.

I also have some interesting pattern recognition problems. Those color dot tests? No way unless you tell me the color then I can trace it and tell you what the pattern or number is.

Anyway, I suspect that if I had tried a foreign language in school I would have done thee same as JBS. Or worse.

Oh, yeah. I love watching Shakespeare in a play or movie. But I can't read it to save my life. I just can't figure out the rhythms.

281:

Interesting, you're both more optimistic and more pessimistic.

I figure we need 25 TW. Nuclear seems to cost about 7 dollars per W (on a good day) 25 TW x $7/W, the Ws cancel, so that's 175 T$. I figure that without global interconnects to allow the night/summer surplus in one region to supply the peak in another, you'd need about double that in actual generation capacity. (If you have interconnects the justification for nuclear goes away because there's no need for baseload generation, there is no baseload) So 2 x 175 T$ is 350 T$. 50 TW of generation provided by 1 GW units, is 50 000 nuclear reactors, so about 12 500 four reactor power plants. So you came up with about 3 times the dollars, but only 1/3 (roughly) the generating capacity.

282:

Creating 15,000 1GW units, each with the problems of on site fabrication and 15,000 complex planning procedures, simply isn't going to happen.

And just how do you cool that many of them?

283:

"while you need a lot of concrete for nuclear power plants, they generate A LOT OF POWER FOR A REALLY LONG TIME"

Exactly. It seems to me that the "lot of concrete" argument is simply a red herring.

You need a lot of concrete for lots of things. A motorway interchange, for example. (OK, so it's a lot more spidery than a power station, but it's also a whole lot bigger.) The chances are that the motorway interchange, as well as generating a lot of CO2 in its construction, will lead to an increase in other CO2 emissions in the long term, yet the construction CO2 is very rarely raised as an objection and the long term CO2 isn't much.

The power station generates a roughly similar amount of CO2 in its construction, but it then sits there for several decades preventing the generation of CO2 from what it replaces. And really that construction CO2 is fuck all compared to what you'd get from a fossil fuel power station producing the same output over the same time as the nuclear one does without producing any.

I certainly think we are far too fond of using vast amounts of concrete all over the place, and we should stop being so extravagant with it. But I don't see a problem with it being used in a comparatively small number of instances where it is not straightforward to simply use something else instead or to build a different kind of structure that can use something else instead, and where the amount of CO2 produced in making the concrete is piddlingly small compared to the amount that you avoid producing by shutting down the fossil fuelled power plant you're replacing.

284:

...only the BATTERY is SO FUCKING EXPENSIVE.

US shopping on ebay.

***6 MONTH WARRANTY 2004-2009 TOYOTA PRIUS HYBRID BATTERY PACK***

$550
$950 installed.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/224322066946

285:

"accidents were a state secret."

Nuclear power accidents are not state secrets. Let one happen and before too long every bugger in the world with a Geiger counter is going "'ello 'ello 'ello what's all this then?" Ask the Soviets. They used to love state secrets, and they know fine how compatible state secrecy is with a reactor puking its guts.

286:

You can have lots of accidents at a large nuclear plant that are very serious but don't really release radiation. At least not outside of the containment dome.

287:

"And at the output end, how 'bout them spent fuel rods?"

Oh, you eat those.

This also relates to your concern about how much fuel there actually is. The answer to that depends greatly on whether you make proper use of it, or whether you go "but that's too expensive" (italics indicate childish whiny voice effect) and use it in the most half-arsedly wasteful manner you can get away with; this makes something approaching a couple of orders of magnitude of difference.

As has been pointed out, the important thing is to fix the problem, not whine about the cost (which isn't really all that bad anyway in terms of government spunk-money-up-the-wall quantities; the problem is they won't spunk it on something useful instead).

Most nuclear power generation these days fissions less than the whole of the fissile material and throws everything else away, including all the nasties produced incidentally. But it is entirely possible, and not necessarily even that difficult, to fission all the fissile material, all the fissionable material, and all the fissile or fissionable nasties produced incidentally. Of the non-reactive nasties, most of them decay within a few months, and that leaves you with nothing much to worry about except 137Cs and 90Sr, in much smaller quantities than the waste from current practices.

Of course there is a lot more to it than this, but that is a summary of aspects relevant to your points.

I am not impressed by the common objections along the lines of it would take 10, 15, 20... years to do it and cost too much and anyway we have forgotten how and we haven't got enough nuclear-educated people, and I am particularly unimpressed by the common addendum to the effect that therefore the only possible way to do it is to buy one of a small handful of not particularly suitable existing designs by one US company and then it would take 20, 30... years to do it. It took Britain 3 years to build the first power-supplying reactor in the world, when the country was still fucked up and recovering from the war, when nobody knew how to do it and we had to work out how to make nuclear-educated people at the same time. Even if we shot all the formally-qualified nuclear engineers we do have, we would still have far more knowledge kicking about in nuclear content of general physics education, things interested people have taught themselves on top of that, and openly-published scientific literature, than we had at the time when most of that knowledge hadn't been discovered at all and what little had been was mostly buried in secrecy. Our capability now is far better than it was then; it's not a can't, it's just a can't be arsed.

288:

Your arguments go against installing nuclear power in unfavourable parts of the North American continent, and other places with like conditions. But there are plenty of places with unlike conditions, and places where the main difficulty with building a nuclear plant is people going eurgh it's nuclear even though they don't mind the far greater amount of radioactivity emitted by the coal plant that's been there since before they were born.

"Trash incineration for energy generation is as nasty a hot-button topic as nukes"

I don't see why. If you've got a choice between letting the stuff emit CH4 vs. letting it emit the equivalent quantities of CO2 + H2O + energy, surely the answer is screamingly obvious. Even if you ignore the "+ energy" bit.

289:

I'd want thicker conductors than you'd get from painting them on the felt, but otherwise that's pretty similar to the sort of thing I've been thinking of. The main problem I can see is that it's going to be a sod of a job to keep the connections from corroding, especially if you want to make them similarly easy to install as nails, and to make them replaceable every now and then without chewing up the bus bars to the point where you have to replace those too. You also have to take care to design the system so that it is not possible, even if misinstalled, for large fault currents to flow and create local hot spots which set fire to your roof. But I don't see any immediate reason to suspect there are no ways to manage it.

290:

"I favor second language education starting even earlier, maybe in Kindergarten."

Oh, absolutely. The sooner the better. In the cradle, if you can manage it. My gran looked after me for a year or so when I was very tiny and I often regret that she didn't spend it speaking to me in Welsh.

291:

You can have a hell of a lot of accidents that have nothing to do with radioactivity. Things like lifting the condenser into place and then dropping several thousand tonnes of expensive pressure welded pipe on the ground completely wrecking it. (this has happened) or discovering that you used the wrong welding rods and the billion dollar pressure vessel that you've installed under thousands of tonnes of concrete has to be dug out and replaced (this has also happened). These kind of things just never appeared in the press and no amount of gieger countering can detect them, but the French are still doing the same things today. There's no reason to think that these sort of mistakes would stop if we suddenly decided to build 50 000 reactors at once rather than the 6 that the French are currently trying and failing to build.

293:

Yes, I've seen similar listings. They look enticing until you realise that it's a Prius battery, ie. not designed as a primary/sole power source but as a means of smoothing out humps and bumps in demand so that an accompanying internal combustion engine which does act as a primary source can either operate at maximum efficiency or not at all. It doesn't have the capacity to be very useful for operation without that onboard generator and its tank of hydrocarbon fuel as the primary energy store.

Range is of particularly acute importance for my desired application since I would either need to carry enough charge to go all the way to wherever I was going, do what I wanted to do there, and come all the way back, without recharging, or else stay there for long enough to recharge from whatever kind of demountable solar panel array I could manage to lug around in the car. I can't rely on being able to find somewhere abroad to recharge. The number of charging stations I have seen anywhere ever is still in single digits. Whereas petrol stations are large and conspicuous installations with great big brightly-coloured illuminated signs out the front so you can't miss them, charging stations are little dull-coloured things the size of rubbish bins and with a similar habit of lurking in inconspicuous corners, so you don't see them unless you happen to pass within a few metres of them, and random parked vehicles can easily obscure them. And all of the ones I have seen are in any case completely bloody useless because there is nowhere to put money in to make the sodding things work, which is something I do not expect to ever change because this shitty country is addicted to that practice and doesn't understand or care how thoroughly unhelpful it is.

The kind of electric car conversion I could achieve using a Prius battery as the power source would be too limited in range to be worth doing it; it would basically be a local-use urban transport device, that would not do a great deal more for me than my mobility scooter does already (and in some aspects does better). Its principal advantage would be in mucky weather, but it's still an awful lot of hassle and expense compared to simply wearing a coat.

294:

"At least not outside of the containment dome."

Yes, quite. Containment is what makes the difference between a serious accident and a local pain in the arse. If your dog gets the runs, but you catch it all in a bucket, that's just a nuisance; it's if he runs away and sprays it like a hippo over the carpet all the way up the stairs that you have a big freak-out.

295:

"Oh, yeah. I love watching Shakespeare in a play or movie. But I can't read it to save my life. I just can't figure out the rhythms."

IMO it needs to be acted, and acted well, so as to properly insert all the normal non-verbal information side-channels that a purely textual representation cannot include. The archaic forms of language, the altered meanings and connotations of many of the words, and the alien assumed cultural background of the audience require a lot of additional processing power to handle; it's not that I'm unable to understand it, it's that I can't figure it out and enjoy it at the same time. So it helps a lot for it to be acted by good, natural actors who can spread the information across multiple redundant channels, as people in normal conversation do, so I can use those to help bypass the language-processing bottleneck.

296:

gasdive & H
OK
Where are you going to get that 20%-baseload power from, then, without burning Carbon?
Come up with an answer to that & we have solved the problem, have we not?

mdive & others
Does anyone know how the proposed R-R SMR's project is going?

Pigeon & others
Very fortunately, L-R, for many years, had factory-fitted alternative power plants, one of which was the Rover V8, so swapping your diesel for a V8 was already homologated, provided you wired & piped it up more-or-less as per the original.
As regards changing to LPG, that's easily accepted - my problem is that Khan's mob WILL NOT SAY how they view LPG conversions ... they've gone all anal about the power plant & ( I think ) ignore the fuel it's using, which is bonkers.
Probably irrelevant, now, as those V8's are not quite as difficult to get as Rocking-Horse Shit.
Oh yes: ..only the BATTERY is SO FUCKING EXPENSIVE. ... Which reminds me - I saw a 'leccy conversion for a 2CV .... £28k
Forget it.

Our capability now is far better than it was then; it's not a can't, it's just a can't be arsed. AND we are pathetically scared of the Fake Greenies spouting on about "Nuclear Death" - these people are about as sane as the anti-vaxxers, certainly if you want Civilisation ( Don't laugh! ) to survive.

297:

     >The only thing I'd add in reply, "something must be done, and nuclear is something" is not a reason to waste 350 trillion dollars and 40 years building "something".

You know what?

Getting back to original topic of this thread...

Just contract reactor design to SpaceX. I bet they could develop a much cheaper one.

Has anyone tried the fast iteration approach to nuclear power? I don't think so.

298:

PS. Before anyone complains about nuclear contamination - contract SpaceX to develop it on the Moon.

299:

#258 - No, but the dead calm of a large anticyclone most assuredly can (at least to the extent that there is nowhere with sufficient wind to drive wind generators with their feet at about 0m AMSL).

#262 - It's kind of hard to judge when "you'll need binary because computers" was a recurring statement from year 5 through to college level. Still, my point was that you do retain a skill if you use it from time to time without actually using it every day, or even every year.

#267 - I've had an argument with project manglers (sic) that goes like this:-
PM week 1 "You've charged too much of your time to my project; I've no budgeted time left for you for the rest of the month!"
Me "Yes, but I've got the Safety Assessment read, and the Safety Plan written and checked, so I don't have to do anything else until 'client on site' the month after next."
PM "waffle for 20 minutes about budget".
Me GOTO statement above.
PM GOTO waffle
Me GOTO statement above ...
Repeat until meeting_over.

#293 - And a Toyota Pious (sic) isn't actually that economical over, say, 200 miles. I once did the same trip in a Skoda Octavia TDi110 as a Pious driver, at about the same time. On arrival we compared notes and discovered that I'd been driving faster, and used less fuel!

#295 - Agreed, with the note that classic film versions, such as Laurence Olivier adaptions, tend to be better than modern "trendy" direction.

300:

Pigeon @ 285: Nuclear power accidents are not state secrets. Let one happen and before too long every bugger in the world with a Geiger counter is going "'ello 'ello 'ello what's all this then?"

Big meltdowns are not the problem.

The problem is that unless you have a strong corrective pressure from outside the attitude towards routine management of the nasties starts to erode. When a small accident involving a minor spill happens its easier to not mention it rather than fill in all the forms. People start dumping small quantities of not-really-very-radioactive-at-all down the storm drain that leads into the sea, because nobody will notice and dealing with it properly will take them over-budget. This becomes routine. Everybody knows that the safety documents are just for show. And a couple of decades later someone from Greenpeace is on international TV waving a Geiger counter over your beach, and Mrs Simpson is demanding to know if her husband Homer's rare form of cancer might have had something to do with his work. So then it all comes out and you have a major scandal.

I grew up in Guernsey, which is 30 miles from Cap de La Hague. Stuff like this was a steady drum-beat in the local press.

301:

The number of charging stations I have seen anywhere ever is still in single digits. Whereas petrol stations are large and conspicuous installations...

You can't imagine my joy to hear from someone on the internet that their only way of finding one of the 43000 places to charge in the UK is to hunt around rubbish bins in parking lots. If only they were as easy to find as one of the 8300 petrol stations. I know! Maybe we could have like a list of them on a computer somewhere. That you could search somehow. But that would mean you'd need some way of connecting to a computer somewhere else in the world, and that's impossible.

Sadly.

/sarcasm

You can't be fucking serious.

302:

I have a mate with a Scalext "electric" car who's most continual complaint is about the half of these "charging points" that are broken, or can't be used by his Vauxhall, or are used as permanent parking...

303:

If only there was some way people could leave reviews on that computer with the date and time and a few words to say if the charger was ICEed or working or not. Maybe a map where chargers that aren't working are marked with a symbol. Like a spanner. And there was a rating for reliability of that charger. But that's just crazy talk.

Next thing you're going to say you want some way for the computer to filter results so that only chargers that fit your particular car show on the map. And we all know computers can't filter information.

But it's all moot because it would require some sort of communication between computers that aren't in the same room, and that's impossible.

/sarcasm

What the actual fuck?

304:

I said 'engine work' and I meant engine work. Look up the damn regulations if you don't believe me, fer chrissake! Changing (at least the type of) the engine or even the type of fuel it uses needs reapproval - and, as I said, I know people who have done such work and been really made to jump through hoops to get reapproval. OTHER changes are largely ignored, subject to the roadworthiness rules.

305:

No. My point wasn't that it is a show-stopper, but that all of the costings I have seen have largely ignored it - and most of the claims for 'safe' disposal also use massive amounts of concrete. If I saw real estimates rather than polemic (or even abuse), I would be more convinced.

306:

All right - I take much of that back and stand corrected. While what I said is, sometimes, correct, it probably isn't in this case or yours. The exemptions might cover it - MIGHT. But I sure as hell wouldn't like to be in an accident and have the insurers claim that the vehicle wasn't approved, because the exemptions aren't as well-defined as they should be.

307:

Someone mentioned watching foreign language TV news on the internet. I've tried that too, but I don't have enough rudimentary language to keep up, even with subtitles turned on.

Unless you really can keep up, that is awful advice! When you watch something to learn a language you should be able to understand what is going on and preferably at least 80% of the individual words.

If you are ever going into Spanish again, I recommend that you look up a YouTube channel called Dreaming Spanish. The videos are grouped after difficulty, the teacher speaks slowly and clearly, and uses drawings and gestures for the superbeginner and beginner videos.

The general guideline from the teacher of the channel is: "If it feels a bit too easy, it is the right difficulty for you."

308:

I disagree, though I accept that only some people will be able to insert those things for themselves. But there are a fair number of people who can read Elizabethan English and know enough about the culture etc. to insert most of the other jokes, puns etc. For anyone who can't, you are correct.

309:

Yes :-( The lack of such material is my problem with refreshing my French in a nutshell. Oh, yes, there's some verbal material, but it's an entirely written language for me. I can decode relatively simple novels, but not actually read them, though I once could.

310:

The teacher uses a method called Comprehensible Input. I think similar channels exist for French, but I haven't checked them out, so I can't make any recommendation there.

311:

I'll look it up, but am not optimistic. Virtually everything for all languages is verbal.

312:

My satnav shows charging stations - unfortunately it doesn't distinguish between public and "private" (e.g. provided by hotels for their guests).
Is there a safe way of interrogating a suitable(*) app while driving ?

(*) one that shows all such stations, excludes ones not working, shows busy status

313:

I am reporting what he had told me; NOT what you think is possible.

I mean, maybe it's possible to force people to raise reports, and other people to act on them, and maybe it isn't. Maybe acting on a report consists of going, having a look, and realising that you need to order a part that can only come by ship from China?

As for filtering chargers by type, doing that would require the web developers to supply some usable filter tools on their site, and [sarcasm] that always happens [/sarcasm].

314:

Has anyone tried the fast iteration approach to nuclear power? I don't think so.

... Hanford, Mayak, Sellafield, La Hague ...

All of those were absolutely built and operated under a "get us the bomb, and get it by yesterday" approach. And, lo and behold, we have four sites that will remain localised (or not so localised) disasters for decades to centuries.

"Fail fast, and fail often" can be, as demonstrated by SpaceX, an exceptionally effective way to take over the entire launch vehicle industry, but it intrinsically requires that each of those failures to be within well known, understood, and acceptable limits.

"Acceptable" is doing an awful lot of work in that sentence: blowing up a single BE4 was not acceptable to Blue Origin, and they rapidly changed their approach (see also: languishing in obscurity). For each of the 4 sites noted above, activities that were acceptable in the 1940s (say, an air cooled graphite-cored nuclear reactor without containment), are very much no longer acceptable today, but the consequences of failure that was acceptable then will remain with us for decades to centuries.

A Falcon 9 exploding on the launch pad does a lot of very localised damage that can largely be repaired in months. Decontaminating a few square miles of nature reserve of spilled kerosene might be a bit more effort. By comparison, lake Karachy will be inimical to virtually all life for longer than human civilisation has existed.

PS. Before anyone complains about nuclear contamination - contract SpaceX to develop it on the Moon

My impression was that the technical side is largely sorted, and has been since the 70s, or even earlier (e.g. the Chernobyl failure mode of the RBMK was known, by a very small number of people, well in advance of the actual disaster)

What hasn't been sorted is the human and political interface, neither of which are topics at which SpaceX is known to excel. How to reliably and consistently run reactors safely, rather than optimising for political or economic gain at the cost of safety. Wrapping everything in thicker and thicker layers of bureaucracy is the currently favoured approach, which has a somewhat better sfaety record than the 40s and 50s, but by no means perfect.

315:

On the OT, I may have spotted a doubter:
"Mars already had a long and bewildering history of ambition, conquest and abject, harrowing failure. The Muskies, with their cultish, over-reaching aspirations were just one small chapter in that narrative."

from Inhibitor Phase by Alastair Reynolds.

316:

Screw everything, let's resurrect my favorite fusion reactor, project PACER:

317:

I don't know if there's a commercial satnav that does this. My newest satnav is a decade old. Teslas have it built in. In fact Teslas will start to precondition the pack to give you the fastest charge when you're the right distance from the charger you've selected. "A Better Route Planner" apparently does everything you could possibly want and more, but I've never used it.

I don't use a satnav on the fly, because I ride a motorcycle and it's too difficult.

Instead I click into the places that I might want to charge using plugshare. Sites restricted to guests etc show Brown. Public chargers Green. Private individuals willing to share power with passers by, Blue. I only see sites that have chargers I can physically use because I've set the plug type of my machine and the adaptors I own. If I had a car and no adaptors I could just set my vehicle type and it would know which charging places to show me. If it looks like somewhere I can charge (reliable, accessible, working recently,ect) I cut and paste the address into my navigation app on my phone as a way point and then it gives me turn by turn directions into my helmet sound system. It's much faster to do than to describe. I could go into the app for the network that the charger is on and see if its busy, but I've never seen another vehicle charging at any charger I've ever visited except for Tesla superchargers, but I can't charge on those anyway.

318:

Ah, I misunderstood you, then. As you wrote, most is verbal, because you need to start with verbal input if you want to be able to speak a language well.

I suppose that you could enable the subtitles on the videos? But then again, reading is an entirely different beast than listening.

319:

I might have been able to handle that once, but it's a no-go now (I am 73). However, thank you for the hint for 'Comprehensible Input' - that does pick up some sites with reading lists. I tried measuring my CEFR on LawlessFrench, and was not enchanted.

320:

And quite honestly, if we're all forced to do lights out at 9 pm every day

Just noting that where I live, that'd be lights out at 4pm in midwinter, and lie in bed shivering in the dark until 10am.

We live on a spinning spheroid, and one-size-fits-all solutions just don't work everywhere.

321:

Beat me to it, and did a better job. Thanks!

San Onofre got shut down because Mitsubishi didn't know what it was doing with a steam generator upgrade and repeated a 1950s error, leading to a reactor full of unusable generators that was cheaper to shut down than to repair.

The other part that might be novel to some is that a lot of prototype rockets blow up on the launch pad. That's why they prototype them and do a bunch of tests before strapping anything valuable to one of those semi-controlled explosions. It's a known and inevitable development methodology for rocketry, but I don't think it translates too well to nuclear reactor development.

Oh, and a third part? A lot of what commercial rocketry 3.0 is doing is building off about 70 years of experience by previous rocketry companies. There's a knowledge base, especially when one cross-pollinates military rockets with civilian ones and includes all the technologies (like sounding rockets) that we don't normally think about in terms of space launches.

322:

A total of 173,000 terawatts (trillions of watts) of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously.

323:

And quite honestly, if we're all forced to do lights out at 9 pm every day. Just noting that where I live, that'd be lights out at 4pm in midwinter, and lie in bed shivering in the dark until 10am.We live on a spinning spheroid, and one-size-fits-all solutions just don't work everywhere.

Your polar bias is showing. Here in San Diego, it's never light at 9 pm. This is actually true for most of the surface area of our planet.

9 pm lights out is what you get when you're limiting power usage, at most times in most places. To be perfectly fair, lights take very little energy, so it's a catchy example rather than a good one.

The difference is doing energy-intensive things after sundown, things like late-night laundry loads. In our fossil-fueled society, this makes some sort of sense: do paid work during daylight hours, unpaid work at night (or whatever) because energy supplies aren't linked to sunlight and electricity rates go down after 9 pm. When energy is linked to sunlight, it makes more sense to do energy intensive things (charging cars, laundry, etc.) during daylight hours.

When to do work with solar electricity is a big angsty problem for the OhmyGawdz people-have-to-work-in-offices crowd, as some have shown on this blog. But if you're working at home with home solar, it's quite feasible to do laundry and work simultaneously. Charge the car during the day, even. This is a minimal infrastructure solution brought about by changing people's habits rather than rebuilding society from the ground up. Obviously it's not perfect and far from universal, but it's something that's being done now. I do it, for example.

Lights out at 9 pm is just an extreme way of pointing out that not only can people adapt to power restrictions currently deemed intolerable, but sometimes those adaptations have their own benefits. This gets back to earlier arguments about how important "quality of life" is.

324:

"When energy is linked to sunlight, it makes more sense to do energy intensive things (charging cars, laundry, etc.) during daylight hours."

I.e. during the summer?

Your deep south prejudices are showing. You clearly don't realise how dark it is on a midwinter day at 56 north, nor how little insolation there is during the day. There is less than a SEVENTH of the amount you get in December - AND the insolation is far less reliable. Even at a mere 52 north (and half as much insolation again), the light even at noon in midwinter is really dim.

325:

Thinking on the problems with nuclear power, especially complacency and the desire for profit above all, I wonder if the operators could be separated from the power company? The western navies have AFIAK had a pretty good record with nuclear safety. Yes, the USN has lost two nuclear submarines (Thresher and Scorpion), but neither loss was attributed to a reactor leak. I don't believe the British or the French have lost any.

Given that record, I wonder if the US (or other country) could set up a Public Reactor Service to operate commercial reactors. It would be a non-military uniformed service like the USPHS or NOAA. They could use ex-navy reactor specialists and give them a second career after a term in the military. Their focus would be on operating the reactor safely with the power company's profits irrelevant.

A semi-precedent to this would be the custom of government-owned, contractor-operated defense manufacturing plants. Here it would be the other way around, contactor-owned and government-operated.

The advantage for the power company would be that the liability for operator error would rest with the government. This should reduce their insurance risk and thus the insurance costs.

They would just build the plants and sell the electricity, with the government taking part of the revenue to cover their payroll.

326:

"Anyway, if you want rapid roll-out, I give you solar, wind, and batteries. They're preferable because they're an order of magnitude faster than fossil fuels and multiple orders of magnitude faster than nuclear."

No, they're not. Unfortunately. I've been reading renewable hype for, like, last two decades I've been worrying sick about climate change, and I even believed it for the first decade.

The issue is not "how rapidly can you build a single wind turbine" or "how rapidly can you install a single solar panel", it's "how rapidly can you replace multiple terawatts of fossil-fuel based dispatchable power with capacity factors above 60%" and the answer, surprisingly, turns out to be "not that fast, unless you have conditions for hydro".

When you look at large-scale rollouts of non-fossil energy sources, hydro takes the podium and nuclear gets the second place. Then you have wind, and then you get solar.

https://climategamble.net/2015/12/01/how-fast-can-nuclear-be-built-weekly-pic/

The post is from 2015 but the graph has been updated with 2019 data. And even though Olkiluoto is delayed again, it will still beat German Energiewende by quite a large margin and it will provide quite cheap power which will instantly decarbonise 10% of Finland's energy mix.

And you can make nuke plants with air cooling, it's just that it's expensive. And Our Overlords don't like things that are too expensive because they get lower return on investment.

Severe weather will be a constant problem in the Find Out century, but wind and solar is even more vulnerable to Heavy Weather than nuclear power, unfortunately, when you get a typhoon you don't get power from solar and you don't get power from wind, and you probably get quite a lot of your solar panels ripped away and wind turbines also may be damaged.

Nukes are generally hurricane proof because of the ridiculous overengineering that is required from gen3+ reactors: your containment vessel has to survive being hit by a passenger plane, hurricane won't dent it. Solar panels and wind turbines are much harder to hurricane-proof, unfortunately, and we still have to build shitloads of them.

But ideological opposition to nuclear power and insisting on closing perfectly operational nuclear power plants and replacing them with natural gas, just like Germans do and Belgians do and Vermont did and New York just did, well, that's just criminal.

And that's what "environmentalists" do, because environmental movements were founded in the 1960s and 1970s to oppose nuclear power (OK, Sierra Club was for nuclear power, which is why Friends of the Earth was founded with oil money), and nobody cared about climate then. And movements, just like corporations, are hive minds. I've met plenty of Greenpeace activists trying to convince me to give them money who said that privately they think nuclear power is just fine and it's stupid that their organisation opposes it. But it will oppose it until the Collapse (so, probably a few decades more).

#239

"Just who is still using gaseous diffusion? The US and France have not since 2012/2013."

Nobody. That's the point. Nuclear power is getting less carbon-intensive, just like renewables are. But you still get cherrypickers like Sovacool relying on data from anti-nuclear cranks like Storm van Leeuwen with their higher end estimates, and then they get included in IPPC estimates, because the IPCC reports are a review of available scientific research.

291

"There's no reason to think that these sort of mistakes would stop if we suddenly decided to build 50 000 reactors at once rather than the 6 that the French are currently trying and failing to build."

Yes, there is. It's called "learning curve" and is a standard occurrence in human industry.

When you start building hundreds of warplanes, costs drop and efficiency rises. When you start building thousands of wind turbines, costs drop and efficiency rises.

The same would apply to mass nuclear rollout. Instead, the nuclear industry in the Global North was throttled by activists on one side and neoliberal culture of short-term shareholder value increase on the other ("you can optimise human resources costs by firing the most experienced engineer and replacing him with two engineering graduates"), which is why only South Korea and China are now building NPPs on time and within budget. But it is certainly possible.

It's just that nobody can be arsed to take climate change seriously because people just don't get threats that exist at that scale. Even most environmentalists can't be arsed to take climate change seriously, I've read an interview with one Greenpeace activist from Germany who said that "it's preferable to heat the planet somewhat than to leave radioactive waste for thousands of generations".

If humans would understand the severity of climate crisis, we'd have ecoterrorism two decades ago, and by ecoterrorism I don't mean people chaining themselves to trees or trying to peacefully disrupt the construction of a pipeline, I mean blowing up board meetings of Big Fossil and other events like that.

We'll still get ecoterrorism when the first heatwaves start killing hundreds of thousands of people, it just will be five decades too late (because of the oceanic buffer delaying the causality between Killer Weather and CO2 emissions by approximately 40-50 years).

327:

only South Korea and China are now building NPPs on time and within budget.

Russia is making a fair hand of building VVER-series PWRs, in part to replace the ageing RMBK-4 reactors they still have in operation. The Russians don't want to burn their abundant supplies of natural gas to generate electricity, they'd rather sell it to renewables-obssessed Western 'Green' nations like Germany. They're also selling their reactor technology around the world in turnkey deals, pay them and they'll build a reactor or four in countries like Pakistan and even China. They commission the reactors and then supply fuel and take away the spent fuel after it cools down for a decade or so. They also have the only working SMRs in existence (the two modified KLT-35S reactors on board the Akademic Lomonosov NPP barge) and boy does Greenpeace hate them. I blame the lack of solar panels.

As for the rest of your screed, yeah great but nuclear power is an engineering solution (i.e. it works) to a people problem (who are headless chickens en masse at the worst of times). Myself I lay the blame for the public aversion to nuclear power on Godzilla movies (for SMRs replace Godzilla with Godsuke).

328:

SpaceX Space Sunshield when?

329:

On languages, I'm doing German with Duolingo. It's slow going, but I am making steady progress at maybe half an hour each evening. In a few years I may try some German language TV.

330:

The problems with nuclear reactors are not "opinion." Let me give you two scenarios in which you're in charge of clean-up: In the first scenario, flooding/winds do heavy damange to a solar-power generation facility. You have to clean up lots of steel, plastic and glass and possibly some lithium/nickel. In the second scenario, you have to clean up Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, San Onofre, etc., take your pick.

Nukes may be better/cost less when things go right, but when things go wrong? They cost one heck of a lot more.

That said, I would definitely admit the possibility of building a nuke which fails safely and can be mass-produced in a factory, while not producing the kinds of fissile materials which could be packed into a gun-type nuclear weapon, and I'm on record as encouraging such research including deliberate attempts to make such a nuke plant fail so it's safety characteristics can be studied before we install hundreds of thousands of such devices. But if anyone has such a device up their sleeves they haven't revealed it.

Until you have a nuke plant which fails gracefully and inexpensively you don't have anything I want installed within a thousand miles of my house.

331:

A semi-precedent to this would be the custom of government-owned, contractor-operated defense manufacturing plants. Here it would be the other way around, contactor-owned and government-operated.

Intersting concept.

Not so sure it would work.

I bring a few biases to the table. My father worked for around 30 years in a government owned / contractor run nuclear diffusion plant. Started as an control room operator and retired as a production manager. (1 1/2 steps below plant manager.) I got to hear about the way things worked and didn't. Especially a lot of things that would bump into your liability issues. And my various conversations over the years with retired military officers also build in a bit of doubt. Plus the stories from my wife's family. Her father (who I never met) was at one point the youngest Lt. Col. in the US Army.

332:

Assuming I did not make a bone headed math mistake, for the cost of about 6 months of the war in Afghanistan we could have planted enough trees to sequester all of our excess carbon emissions:

Amount of CO2 sent into the atmosphere by human activities = 32,000,000,000 tons / year
Fraction retained in the atmosphere (not absorbed by existing carbon sinks) = 43%
Annual accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere =
13,760,000,000 tons / year

Amount CO2 sequestered by typical mature tree annually (varies with species, climate, etc.) = 50 lbs / year
Number of trees required =
550,400,000,000 each

Minimum number of trees per acres for reforestation or wild life enhancement (USFS) = 300 each
Average number of trees per acre =
513 each
Maximum number of trees per acre required for reforestation (USFS) = 726 each

Maximum area required = 1,834,666,667 acres
2,866,667 sq miles
Average area required = 1,072,904,483 acres
1,676,413 sq miles
Minimum area required = 758,126,722 acres
1,184,573 sq miles

Cost per acre (Ohio State University reforestation, conservative) = $200 per acre
Total cost (by acre) =
$214,580,896,686

Cost per seedling (Ohio State University reforestation, conservative) $0.45 per tree
Total cost (by tree) =
$247,680,000,000

Cost of the war in Afghanistan (over 20 years)
$2,313,000,000,000
Average cost of the war in Afghanistan per year $115,650,000,000

What a waste....

333:

I wonder if the US (or other country) could set up a Public Reactor Service to operate commercial reactors. It would be a non-military uniformed service like the USPHS or NOAA. They could use ex-navy reactor specialists and give them a second career after a term in the military. Their focus would be on operating the reactor safely with the power company's profits irrelevant.

I had exact same idea back in mid-80's

334:

What happens when the planted trees catch fire? Or die and rot? Does the sequestered CO2 stay sequestered? Magic 8-ball say, 'fuck no'.

Time was plant material sequestered CO2 quite successfully, millions of years ago (it helped that the bacteria that decompose lignite hadn't eveolved back then). We've been digging up and drilling and pumping fossil carbon and desequestering millions of years of collected solar energy and it's fucking us up. Before remediation we, the global we, need to stop desequestering all that carbon. After that we can talk about planting trees and biochar and all the other hippy-dippy ideas out there to actively reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere but making the problem worse has to stop before remediation is worth considering.

Oh, and if you're arguing from the dollar cost perspective all that does is make cheap coal and gas look like a good option and the world will burn.

335:

Minor nit: Lake Karachay is not a result of an accident, but of a deliberate policy which prioritized nuclear parity with US over literally everything else (and future generations were not even considered).

336:

SpaceX Space Sunshield when?
Briefly discussed upthread, using term "Space sunshade", 98 & 111. (That's the term wikipedia uses: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_sunshade )
I haven't done the calc and perhaps E. Musk's current tech couldn't do it, but future tech could, perhaps with some temporary SO2 upper atmosphere injection while it's being constructed.

Insane though. We need to focus on decarbonization, now. E.g. whatever one's opinions about the virtue of construction of new nuclear power stations vs renewables/storage/transmission (the later are probably faster to deploy, but a race would be motivating for all involved), shutdown of existing nuclear power plants is essentially (future) mass homicide(and ecocide) in service of defective ideology.
And construction of new coal plants should similarly be treated as mass homicide.

See this recent Mortality Cost of Carbon paper, which is probably underestimating the mortality cost of carbon by a factor of 5 (could be more) because it just covers heat-related deaths. (It acknowledges this, though the 5x is my estimate to be clear.)
The mortality cost of carbon (29 July 2021, R. Daniel Bressler, open access.)
"This implies that adding 4,434 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020—equivalent to the lifetime emissions of 3.5 average Americans—causes one excess death globally in expectation between 2020-2100."

(Also Bjørn Lomborg, who opines on such things, will be responsible for millions, (perhaps 10s of millions) of deaths, in the fullness of time. In my opinion.)

337:

In relation to the drawbacks of renewables (especially solar) in some locations, no mention has been made of using green hydrogen/ammonia as a way to move energy from the high insolation locations to those that are sunlight poor.

This has been getting serious airplay here in Australia, thanks to some billionaires.

Is the idea of huge solar farms in the outback generating no emission fuel for the rest of the world real?

338:

The advantage for the power company would be that the liability for operator error would rest with the government. This should reduce their insurance risk and thus the insurance costs.

No nuclear operator pays insurance. I think in the USA there's a figleaf amount paid into a fund, but it wouldn't come close to paying for the permanent abandonment of a city. The public picks up the risk. Another subsidy to the nuclear industry that utterly dwarfs any renewable subsidy anywhere.

339:

When you look at large-scale rollouts of non-fossil energy sources, hydro takes the podium and nuclear gets the second place. Then you have wind, and then you get solar.

Australia currently rolls out 3 GW of rooftop solar per year. That's growing by about 30% per year, so probably 4 GW this year. So about the equivalent of 3 nuclear reactors a year. That's from basically a standing start 10 years ago. That's in a country 1/3 the population of the UK. In comparison, 10 years after the go ahead for Hinkley Point C, the car park and some of the sea wall was nearly complete. That's the actual runs on the board.

Yes, there is. It's called "learning curve" and is a standard occurrence in human industry.

When you start building hundreds of warplanes, costs drop and efficiency rises.

You don't get a learning curve when you start all the builds simultaneously. You get a learning curve when you build them consecutively. If we build them consecutively, even if we could cut the build time to 1 month, well down from the current 25 years, that's still 4000 years.

Even if we built in batches of 1000, and each batch took half the time of the previous batch with no limit, that's 50 batches, and 50 years. Which is 42 years too late.


However, the reality is that (like warplanes) nuclear reactors get *more* expensive and take longer to build, not less and quicker, as experience is gained. (as has been pointed out several times by several people in this discussion, with the general theme of, "why can't we just throw them up any old how like we did in the 50's").

340:

Something went wrong with my formatting in my previous post. All of the following should have been quote italics;

Yes, there is. It's called "learning curve" and is a standard occurrence in human industry.

When you start building hundreds of warplanes, costs drop and efficiency rises.

341:

I meant roof tiles. Cast concrete, which I guess is cheaper than terracotta and it's certainly stronger. They interlock and provide their own water channels. They are usually fixed directly to battens. Sometimes there's a fabric sarking underneath, but there's pretty much never a solid substrate, like plywood or something. Roofs made of anything other than metal or tiles are pretty unusual here. We probably have deeper eaves than you'd be used to, as well.

Anyhow, you use specialised tools to "lift" a row of tiles so you can get to where the next row down is fixed to its batten, and then you can remove tiles from that row down. The space in the ceiling near an external wall, even with deep eaves, can be cramped and if the wall cavity is a bit tight too, it can be unpleasant work running wiring into it. Same applies double for stuff mounted on the fascia, I guess. So getting in from above is a neat trick if you can do it.

342:

I'd also like to point out that the graph you pointed to that gives per capita increase over 15 years is intentionally misleading. Labeled "how fast can nuclear be built" it doesn't show how fast it can be built, but rather, how much can come on line together, if you start building several at once.

Sweden for example, gives increase in generation capacity over 15 years, from 1976 to 1986, implying that they were all built in that 15 year period. That's actually a 16 year period and 2 of the power plants began construction in the previous decade. If you consider the program as a whole, (which they do in terms of capacity per capita) then construction began in 1965 at Oskarshamn, and was completed in 1985 at Forsmark.

343:

Until you have a nuke plant which fails gracefully and inexpensively you don't have anything I want installed within a thousand miles of my house.

I, along with 6 million other people in the GTA (Toronto) live far closer than that to 3 nuclear plants (for me, 58km from Pickering[6 reactors operating] / 85km from Darlington [4 reactors] / 163 km from Bruce [8 reactors]).

No concerns whatsoever about them or their safety.

On the other hand, in 1979 I along with 200k other people had to be evacuated due to a train derailing...

The problems with nuclear reactors are not "opinion." Let me give you two scenarios in which you're in charge of clean-up: In the first scenario, flooding/winds do heavy damange to a solar-power generation facility. You have to clean up lots of steel, plastic and glass and possibly some lithium/nickel. In the second scenario, you have to clean up Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, San Onofre, etc., take your pick.

I choose your solar plant - because cleanup will likely be $0 given it never gets built (see cancelled solar plant in Nevada due to public objections).

Nukes may be better/cost less when things go right, but when things go wrong? They cost one heck of a lot more.

Really?

Alberta - estimates of C$260b to clean up the mess the oil companies have created.

Or how about the US Superfund sites - the GAO found
950 Superfund sites at risk from climate change damage like hurricane surges. Billions have been spent so far, with a long list of sites remaining.

Nuclear isn't unique in having expensive clean up costs - the difference is that we focus on nuclear and ignore all the others (and their health effects).

That said, I would definitely admit the possibility of building a nuke which fails safely and can be mass-produced in a factory,

https://www.science.org/news/2019/02/smaller-safer-cheaper-one-company-aims-reinvent-nuclear-reactor-and-save-warming-planet


344:

Given that record, I wonder if the US (or other country) could set up a Public Reactor Service to operate commercial reactors. It would be a non-military uniformed service like the USPHS or NOAA. They could use ex-navy reactor specialists and give them a second career after a term in the military. Their focus would be on operating the reactor safely with the power company's profits irrelevant.

The military has the advantage of no political interference in their nuclear operations.

Any government operated nuclear power generator would be full of political interference.

345:

Australia currently rolls out 3 GW of rooftop solar per year. That's growing by about 30% per year, so probably 4 GW this year. So about the equivalent of 3 nuclear reactors a year.

Great for Australia, with their abundant sunshine.

But how relevant for someplace like the UK?

That's from basically a standing start 10 years ago. That's in a country 1/3 the population of the UK. In comparison, 10 years after the go ahead for Hinkley Point C, the car park and some of the sea wall was nearly complete. That's the actual runs on the board.

Which is why anyone serious about nuclear isn't suggesting to keep repeating the mistakes of the last 50 years.

When you start building hundreds of warplanes, costs drop and efficiency rises.

You don't get a learning curve when you start all the builds simultaneously. You get a learning curve when you build them consecutively. If we build them consecutively, even if we could cut the build time to 1 month, well down from the current 25 years, that's still 4000 years.

Which is why the serious money is on SMR, where the reactors are small enough that you literally are planning on an assembly line just like a plane.

So instead of a bunch of unique large plants, you end up with many identical simpler units.

Now it may well be that SMR has issues that mean it's promise can't be followed through.

But all of our options at this point have problems.

346:

Trees work in what's called a successional planting, which basically means you plant trees faster than they die off.

To unpack this a bit:
--Yes I agree that fires are a real nuisance. So is drought. These two make it hard to use some of our favorite forested areas.
--We need to keep carbon out of the air for minimum a century. The worse it gets, the longer the carbon has to be sequestered, but right now it's around a century.
--While big trees (redwoods, doug firs, etc) are probably the best, there are some other *really good* sequestration possibilities, primarily wetlands, and specifically willow wetlands, salt marshes, kelp forests, and seagrass beds. Yes, these are all in trouble to, but the nice thing is that inundated soils hold onto a lot of carbon pretty darn well. The problem is that moving soil releases carbon due to oxidation (surfaces get exposed and oxidized), so if you create a marsh, it reportedly takes on order 10-20 years for it to sequester the carbon needed to make it, then to start doing additional drawdown.

This also gets into why some people get really excited about beavers. They're natural marsh makers, their ponds are pretty decent groundwater recharge basins (make up for evaporation loss from dams, and the ponds also water and shelter a lot of animals. While beavers are a nuisance, so is running out of water, so more people are finding they can live with them around.

But yes, if I wanted to pick a hippy-dippy technology, I'd try seaweed farming for food, finance, and carbon sequestration. And I also recommend planting a lot of trees regardless. If the trees are giving you millions of acorns that would otherwise die, why not plant a bunch of them? Ditto doug fir and other tree seeds, for that matter.

347:

By "3GW" do you mean 26,200 GWh of electricity generated each year? That's 7680 hours a year multiplied by 3GW. Australia generates and uses about 265,000GWh of electricity each year at the moment (a little over a kilowatt per person, not untypical of a first-world country). So one year's addition to the total solar generating capacity can supply the entire electrical needs of about 2.5 million Australians. Impressive. That means Australia going to stop digging up coal and burning it in a few years time, yes? Right now the per-capita consumption of coal in Australia is about 4 tonnes per person, that's actually more than China which is quite an achievement.

Of course that 3GW figure of new solar capacity you quote might be 'dataplate' i.e. what all the newly commissioned panels could produce for a few seconds at the Equator at noon under a cloudless sky, a bit like the '10MW' wind turbines that stand idle and don't generate any electricity when the wind doesn't blow. I don't know where you got your figures from and what they really mean in terms to total electricity generated. I suspect it was from an industry puff-piece which elided the actual capacity numbers but I could be wrong.

Nuclear power plants run at dataplate output all the time they're operating, wind and sun don't get a say in whether electricity is being generated or not. I saw an interesting claim a few days ago, of an American two-reactor plant that had been delivering more than a gigawatt of electricity into the local grid for 5000 days straight (well over 13 years day and night). Basically while one reactor was down for refurbishment, refuelling or inspection the other was chugging along nicely. Of course a lot of the time both reactors were running producing over 2GW of non-carbon electricity.

348:

Of course that 3GW figure of new solar capacity you quote might be 'dataplate'

https://www.csiro.au/en/news/news-releases/2021/australia-installs-record-breaking-number-of-rooftop-solar-panels

The key point, which makes the stats look less impressive, is this statement:

"Australia is one of the sunniest places on the planet"

Easy to go solar with that advantage...

349:

Your answers are a perfect demonstration of why nuclear advocates aren't trusted.

"I, along with 6 million other people in the GTA (Toronto) live far closer than that to 3 nuclear plants (for me, 58km from Pickering[6 reactors operating] / 85km from Darlington [4 reactors] / 163 km from Bruce [8 reactors]).

No concerns whatsoever about them or their safety.

On the other hand, in 1979 I along with 200k other people had to be evacuated due to a train derailing..."

So the alternative to nuke plants is trains derailing? Not solar, wind, or maybe something else? You do know that you never came close to addressing the issue, right?

"I choose your solar plant - because cleanup will likely be $0 given it never gets built (see cancelled solar plant in Nevada due to public objections)."

Funny, but according to the US Government, "From just 0.34 GW in 2008, U.S. solar power capacity has grown to an estimated 97.2 gigawatts (GW) today. This is enough to power the equivalent of 18 million average American homes."

https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/solar-energy-united-states

How does that fit your one-off example about this one solar plant that never got built, which you used to make a nasty point that never came anywhere close to addressing the question I asked?

"Alberta - estimates of C$260b to clean up the mess the oil companies have created.

Or how about the US Superfund sites - the GAO found 950 Superfund sites at risk from climate change damage like hurricane surges. Billions have been spent so far, with a long list of sites remaining.

Nuclear isn't unique in having expensive clean up costs - the difference is that we focus on nuclear and ignore all the others (and their health effects)."

Funny, all that verbiage and you never once mentioned the cost of solar clean-up, nor did you compare it to the cost of cleaning up a serious nuclear accident. (250-500 billion is the current estimate for Fukushima.) "Captain, I sense the nuclear advocate is avoiding the issue."

Oh, and you've got a positive article about a start-up from 2019, and no working technology. Your method of answering concerns reminds me of Screwtape. In short, it's more pro-nuke bullshit - the world is about to overheat and instead of answering some very basic questions you tell me about trains derailing. Your answers are literally the perfect example of why nuke advocates aren't trusted; if you had real answers, you'd give them, wouldn't you?

~Walks off, muttering to self.~

350:

In response to gasdive on September 4, 2021 06:29
You can have a hell of a lot of accidents that have nothing to do with radioactivity.

Experience reduces stupid errors significantly. The more we build, the fewer stupid mistakes occur because builders learn what they're doing. That's the advantage of SMRs.

351:

.. Hanford, Mayak, Sellafield, La Hague ...
All of those were absolutely built and operated under a "get us the bomb, and get it by yesterday" approach. And, lo and behold, we have four sites that will remain localised (or not so localised) disasters for decades to centuries.

La Hague wasn't commissioned until 1966, six years after la bombe atomique debuted.

352:

SMRs as of now.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_modular_reactor

The table is interesting.
The only ones operating or under construction are in China, Russia, and Argentina.

353:

In the process of cleaning up for today - we have a BBQ, about dozen or 15 vaccinated fen showed up -I threw away all of my college papers, notes, and tests. (From the late seventies....)

354:

Daily stand ups. Right. That run how long - 15 min? More? As opposed to all of us standing up reporting every damn morning, when I worked for Ameritech ("all of us" being the "senior tech resources on each team" that we joked about fast, if it lasted less than an hour.

Now, add up the time for each team.

Count me utterly unimpressed with "agile", which I take to translate, 90% of the time, to be "change requirements without having to account for additional time for the new ones, and fixing the old ones dropped."

355:

In 5th and 6th grade, I had Spanish. In high school, figured it would be easier.

Nope. Conversational v. grammar. Gag.

356:

Gas fork-lift refueling. So, like when I take an empty O2 cylinder in, and pay about $10 for a full one, and the supplier tests the tanks every 5? 7? forget what it is, for safety as a cost of doing business.

This, of course, means government regulation as to size, shape, and connections.

And if you disagree, I suggest you consider the history of cell phone chargers.

357:

I see - a very small switching engine.

358:

Electric car conversion - I've mentioned before I have a friend in the northwet (or used to be wet) who used to (still?) brags he has the world's first all-electric Ford F-150 pickup. He did it himself.

359:

1. Build wind? !0 years or so ago, it took GE 2 weeks -WEEKS - to plant a 2MW windmill.
2. Government owned, contractor operated? FUCK THAT SHIT WITH A TWO BY FOUR. That's 100% FRAUD. The wrong wing is all about "government doesn't work, and it costs more..." Really? The wrong go out of their way to make it not work... and contractor? Why? I spent my last ten years before I retired as a contractor for the US government. I worked with a woman who, the year I retired, had been a contractor, doing the same damn job for 27 years. And tax dollars paid for the fed contract manager. And her manager. And her manager's manager. And the contracting company to make a profit And on recompete, she had to worry that if another company won the bid, if a) they'd pick her up, b) pay her the same or better, c) whether their benefits were as good, or if she had to pay more....

FUCK NO. Government owned, government run. Anything else is a way for scum to make money out of tax dollars. And in many cases, to underpay the people doing the work.

End of discussion.

360:

Moderators, please note 360 and 361. (You can erase this too, if you'd like.)

361:

Great for Australia, with their abundant sunshine.

It's worth occasionally repeating a small but important fact of geometry as it applies to the earth. Since it is an obvious point to make, I rather avoid harping on about it since I assume most people have this in their heads too. I should also caution that it doesn't mean I think that there is something wrong with being an outlier, just that there's another perspective that, while not taking away the problem as it appears from the perspective of the UK, nonetheless suggest that the global problem is a different one.

Anyhow here goes: the proportion of the surface of the earth that is between a pair of same-value parallels increases in proportion to the sine of the degree of latitude at those parallels, rather than in a linear proportion. Half earth's surface is between the two 30th parallels and around 70% is between the 45th parallels. 78% of the earth's surface is at a lower latitude than London, 83% is lower than Edinburgh and 87% lower than Shetlands. Of the remainders, only half is in the northern hemisphere, and the only landmasses in the south above those sorts of latitudes are Antarctica and Tierra del Fuego.

The half of the earth that is lower than 30º latitude includes nearly all of Africa, most of South America, all of Central America and Mexico, and even some major population centres in the USA (including San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans and almost all of Florida... almost but not quite San Diego). It includes all of the Arabian Peninsula and the Subcontinent (and the Himalayas), all of South East Asia, some of the most densely populated regions of China, and the northern half of Australia (including where I live, which is at around 27ºS). If you push that out to the 70% below 45º, which still gets pretty good insolation, that includes almost all the USA and China, all of Australia, and a selection of Southern Europe (the boundary is between Milan [out] and Bologna[in]; Barcelona and Marseille are in).

So anyhow, climate change is a global problem, not a specifically national one. Things like energy independence and being an energy exporter come down to good old competitive advantage and while the goto expert for international trade economics is probably Paul Krugman (that's his actual field, notwithstanding the comments he makes about macro, some of which are really worth paying attention to) those come across as a bit luxurious for places like the UK. So it's not just a question as to whether nuclear is viable as an alternative to fossil fuels, it's whether it's competitive with imported solar energy. The absence of grids that include both North Africa and the UK now is not a great indicator for the future and all that. And the difference in watts per square meter of solar panel based on latitude is close enough to linear, even modest scaling really does overcome it. And the downstream is simply that if you need nuclear to make the UK habitable, maybe its habitability is a bit overstated? Anyhow, it's nothing that high voltage cables across the channel and the Straits of Gibraltar can't fix. Again: global problem; solutions that cater to national level requirements are maybe best addressed at a higher-than-national level... pity the UK is not connected with an organisation whose purpose is to do that anymore, I guess :(.

362:

mdive & gasdive
Never mind the lower time we get insolation in the UK, the real, insurmountable problem is the incident angle of said sunlight, when we get it.
Sydney is at approx 33°S ... London is at 51°N ... Charlie & Paws & Martin & others are at approx 56°N
You cannot get round this one ...
[ As Damian has noted, whilst I was typing this up ... ]

David L & others
I ASKED about how the R-R SMR scheme/proposal was going ... anyone got an answer to that, please?

Troutwaxer
Oh dear, yes ... We appear to have a White-Wing Drive-by - deeply unpleasant

Damian
pity the UK is not connected with an organisation whose purpose is to do that anymore
Change will come ... I'm expecting food riots before the end of October, certainly before the end of November, given BoZo's Clown-Crew & their competence & grip on events, or lack of it ....

363:

Administrative note

"gukutuxi" (aka gukutuxi@inboxbear.com): you are banned, your comments have been deleted, and if you turn up again using another handle you'll be banned on sight.

(Reasons: see the moderation policy link under "leave a comment".)

364:

This might be off-topic, but for people wanting to learn Spanish, I can't recommend Language Transfer audio course by Mihalis Eleftheriou enough. It's been invaluable in start-jumping my Spanish, and it's completely free.

365:

Did I just wrote "start-jumping" instead of jump-starting?

*infinite facepalm*

366:

#339 - So how long before you run out of new rooftops? When answering, bear in mind that rooftops are measured in square meters, not watts. Oh and that typically about 50% of the roof area of any given property faces the Sun. That may be less if, like my over the road neighbours, the Sun side of the house has a camceil and bay windows eating into that area.

#343 - 20 miles as the gamma particle flies from Hunterston A and B to Dumbarton; 69 from Hunterston to Edinburgh. 31 miles from Torness to Edinburgh. I think I'll leave this there.

367:

Charlie @ 365: your comments have been deleted

Can I just point out that the comments in question are still visible. I don't know about the mechanics of deletion here, but if it isn't supposed to take a while to be effective then perhaps it needs another coat of looking at.

368:

"And the downstream is simply that if you need nuclear to make the UK habitable, maybe its habitability is a bit overstated?"

Speaking as someone born and initial brought up in the tropics, it most definitely is :-)

370:

As you say in your last paragraph, with the addendum that the limitation on scaling up existing nuclear designs is not money, but the lack of skilled workers and competent suppliers for the very specialist requirements. What's more, they are NOT simply trainable. It's probably a bit outdated but, when the UK had problems with defective welds, I saw an article explaining that a pressure-vessel welder needed 10 years experience welding thick steel and only about 1% of people were even trainable. That's because they needed a surgeon's steadiness of hand.

If we tried scaling up in a hurry without redesigning reactors suitable for scaling up, all that would happen is that their building would be outsourced to every cowboy company with a slick salesman (definitely including the usual culprits - see the UK's PPE scandal), it would use half-skilled workers and inadequate components, it would bribe the governments to reduce inspections and standards, and so on. Half the reactors would never come on-line, the up-time would be dire, and there would be a succession of whoopsie, whoopsie, whoopsie.

Unfortunately, what I said in the last paragraph of #249 and #263 is correct :-(

371:

My working assumption for this century is that our current political system is not going to get ahead of climate change.

We need either a green global political revolution (and greens are rather less inclined to revolutionary violence than neo-nazis, the other candidates right now), or technological breakthroughs, or we're going to get 2-5 degrees of global warming.

My money, were I a betting man, would be on the latter.

This means that -- I'm sorry -- most of the world's currently inhabited land area is going to be uninhabitable by 2100. Australia? A baking hot desert. China, India, most of Africa, most of the midwest and south United States, Central America, and most of Brazil, also uninhabitable.

The inhabitable land available by that point will be: northern Canada, northern Siberia, Scandinavia, Greenland, and Antarctica (which will be pretty temperate by then).

So the "how to provide power during a 3 month period of darkness, without much in the way of prevailing wind" problem will be a pressing one. Along with "how will the survivors grow enough food", never mind "how many will perish during the great migrations".

372:

Time for you all to take a bite of a reality sandwich.

The only realistic option is to frack and pump natural gas until it is coming out of our ears. Thanks to fracking technology natgas is basically free energy (which means no other energy source can hope to compete with it economically - fracking is why coal plants are being closed, they can't compete economically), and it produces half the greenhouse gas emissions than coal does per kWh generated thanks to combined cycle turbine technology.

You will not have an economy based on zero carbon sources of energy like nuclear or renewables. Ever. That is a fantasy. It won't happen.

Nuclear won't be built because of safety perceptions (doesn't matter if the perceptions are correct or not - perceptions ARE reality), excessive cost and politics. Personally, I would prefer nukes and it breaks my hear that it will never happen.

Wind/solar won't be built at large enough scale outside of niche applications due to excessively large land footprints and the additional energy storage costs (which nobody ever talks about) necessary to store intermittent energy production for when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. Renewable energy is available when it is produced, not when it is needed and that is a serious problem which can't be overcome without expensive storage facilities.

If you are not getting your electricity from zero carbon sources, then electrical cars don't so squat except push the problem back another step. An EV that gets recharges from a coal burning plant makes no sense economically or environmentally. And even the best li-ion battery wears out over time and will no longer take a charge. That leaves us with a massive hazardous waste disposal problem or an even more expensive battery recycling effort.

And living like medieval peasants (homesteaders growing your own food organically while living in a yurt or an earthship) won't work either - billions of people will starve after billions more die in violence. Organic farming, BTW, will kill the planet as it requires twice as many acres to produce the same amount of calories as current chemically intense factory farming does. Go organic and you can kiss the last of our wilderness areas goodbye as we farm every last marginal acre of land.

So what will save us?

Educating girls.

Educated women have fewer babies. Thankfully, declining birth rates and crashing populations will happen much faster than people are anticipating.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/15/world-population-in-2100-could-be-2-billion-below-un-forecasts-study-suggests
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/world/americas/global-population-trends.html
https://news.mongabay.com/2020/09/the-best-news-of-2020-humanity-may-never-hit-the-10-billion-mark/
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30677-2/fulltext

>The new findings, published in the medical journal The Lancet, differ from other population forecasts, most importantly by the United Nations Development Programme (UNPD) and the Wittgenstein Centre, by predicting that the global population will peak sooner than expected and fall quicker than anticipated (though still, by 2100, the Earth would house more humans than the 7.8 billion of us here today).

>This was good news. No, no, this was freaking great news. Because if this research — which made some clever shifts in how it analyzed the data and predicted the future — could be believed, it could mean that Planet Earth, in all its ecological glory, might just survive our current devastating onslaught and begin to recover in the coming centuries.

Think of it as negative exponential growth, slow at first and rapidly accelerating to everyone's surprise. It's been said that for everyone to have an American standard of living we will need 8 Earths. Or conversely, we will need 1/8th as many people - and that now seems likely.

Declining/aging populations also wreck capitalism, but that is a reality sandwich that those on the Right will have to bite into.


373:

I fully agree, and wish I didn't. My one niggle is that I would have put "miracles" where you put "breakthroughs" :-(

374:

.
And referencing Nojay at #240:

As for SMRs they're basically PowerPoint confidence tricks designed to extract "development" cash from Green-obsessed governments.

That wikipedia article does look awfully press-releasey.

375:

#339

Australia currently rolls out 3 GW of rooftop solar per year. That's growing by about 30% per year, so probably 4 GW this year. So about the equivalent of 3 nuclear reactors a year.

People who don't know the concept of "capacity factor" and compare nameplate power of solar with nameplate power of nuclear shouldn't really be discussing energy policy. No, 4 GW of solar isn't the equivalent of 3 nuclear reactors a year.

But natural gas companies would really like you to believe they are.

And, again, looking at the nuclear industry in countries dominated by anti-nuclear environmentalism and fossil-fuel interests, like the EU and US gives you a skewed image of cost curves. Chinese and South Koreans are capable of building nuclear which is not getting more expensive with time.

Although I would like to make clear that I do agree that nuclear is not something that will save us.

However, ideological anti-nuclearism of "environmentalists" that leads to the closure of perfectly operational nuclear plants and replacing them with natural gas is something that will definitively fuck us over and kill millions of people in the long run. (In the short run, it already killed thousands of people in Germany, because it doesn't take any accident for a coal plant to kill people, it does so routinely every year, and Energiewende was all about prematurely decommissioning working nuclear and replacing it with brown coal and some renewables)

#372

Natural gas doesn't produce half the greenhouse emissions than coal dos per kWh.

Natural gas produces half the GHG emissions AT THE POWER PLANT.

The total climate impact of natural gas is similar to the impact of coal, or even greater at the "next 20 years" scale, it is simply generated at different points than final combustion (by methane leaking from the extraction and transport infrastructure). But hey, it's not on our Excel spreadsheets for the natgas plant, so it's OK, right?

(Wrong, the Earth is heated by atmospheric physics, not by Excel spreadsheets)

And human population growth is driven by life extension, not by births. So no, "educating girls" won't save us. We're pretty much fucked.

And the humans of 22nd century (and 23rd, and 24th, and 25th and so on), living in nuclear-powered weather bunkers and eating synthetic bacteria derived-protein will consider "capitalism" with its fairy-tales of perpetual growth to be a curse word similar to "fascism".

(Now, it is still physically possible to avoid that fate by doing EVERYTHING THAT'S POSSIBLE at the same time, that is: mass buildout of renewables, mass buildout of nuclear, massive life extension projects for existing nuclear, transforming to high-density cities, abandoning meat and individual car transit and going a general degrowth route. But since the interests of the global 0.1% wield weaponised unreality in the media to prevent this path we seem to be well and truly fucked.)

376:

Very interesting take here.
But...

Well, there will be light pollution and the ground-based astronomers will be spitting blood.

I thought we're at or nearing the point where the big astronomy stuff will soon be discovered, as it were, and studied by what one can call the children of Hubble, that is, space-based telescopes. And given Charlie's projections here, that would be a real thing within a generation or two at mist.
And if ground-based astronomers want to spit blood, they can bemoan the loss of Arecibo and the (apparent?) lack of interest in replacing it, maybe more so since I would think the satellite pollution would be less of a problem -- maybe none -- for a radio scope. Just saying.
Even if civilization regresses, technology -- tools -- move on.

377:

"how many will perish during the great migrations"

Combining your comment with mine on 372, we have a future scenario.

The 21st century is a race between declining populations and a horror show with vast areas of the Earth becoming uninhabitable (the human body, no matter how acclimated to hot climates, cannot survive in wet bulb temperatures higher than 95 deg F). Billions die from heat, starvation, migration and violence as half the planet descends into anarchy.

Your scenario wins but is mitigated by declining consumption in the developed world resulting from declining and aging populations. Old people don't buy things. They like their old sweaters and old loafers, and have no need for a new car or flat screen tv.

World population stabilizes around 1 billion at the end of the century. The planet survives, and the 22st century is a period of restoring and healing the world. We will plant a lot of trees then. But better late than never.

P.S. Anybody else notice that its will be 3rd World people (who did not cause global warming) who will suffer the most, not 1st world people (and certainly not the uber-rich) who actually are at fault? Add the obvious racial component to this observation and you have a pretty obvious - if unspoken - reason why many in the developed world (and those who rule the developed world) don't care about climate change.

378:

I wish I'd said that.

If the UK wants to build 300 one GW reactors, I say "knock yourselves out". If you can vote for brexit, you can vote for anything no matter what it does to you. Even if you are so terrified of being held to ransom by the dozen administrations at the other end of 30 different power cables, that you'll make yourselves dependent on Russian gas instead... Who cares? What 60 million out of 8 billion do doesn't matter.

379:

The inhabitable land available by that point will be: northern Canada, northern Siberia, Scandinavia, Greenland, and Antarctica (which will be pretty temperate by then).

Habitable, but not arable. When permafrost and glaciers melt you don't get farmland, you get rocks and marshland.

Even the currently arable land in southern Canada is already suffering crop failures due to heat.

380:

Off Topic but yes - my post was just an update to the original post at #179 showing the followup removal of the shunting engine from the harbour - in case anyone had followed the original #179 post and wanted to know the next update.

In post #179 it was reported that a small shunter (~50 tonnes) - aka a switcher is USA termonology (in this case unmanned and operating under remote control) plus flat deck container wagon went off the end of a link span (where it shouldn't have been) at Picton and "fell in the water".

The linkspan is used by Kiwirail's rail enabled ferrys (which run between North and Sounth Islands in NZ). It will be keen to see the eventual final report as to why that shunter fell in the water in the first place - I expect Kiwirail are still investigating.

381:

"So how long before you run out of new rooftops?"

Currently about 1/4 of buildings have solar. A lot have small systems, 1.5 kW used to be popular. The systems being installed now are much larger, and the average rooftop install is currently about 9 kW. So there's a lot of scope for larger ones to replace older smaller ones, and new ones on the 3/4 of buildings that don't have one yet. So probably about 6 years at the current rate of growth. There's currently about 20 GW of rooftop, so that means about 100 GW nameplate, which in Australia equals about 25 GW equivalent. Doubtless it will Scurve at some point before 6 years, but it's still growing steeply.

382:

Don't forget the Himalayas: a kilometre of elevations good for around 6ºC, and given the relatively high insolation we're talking about a potential bread basket there. But otherwise, yes, and I suspect we're talking realistically about a few thousand people. Maybe a million all over at best, but that would be assuming quite a few things being ideal.

383:

>>>The 21st century is a race between declining populations and a horror show with vast areas of the Earth becoming uninhabitable (the human body, no matter how acclimated to hot climates, cannot survive in wet bulb temperatures higher than 95 deg F).

Do you have a reference for this?

384:

https://www.livescience.com/hottest-temperature-people-can-tolerate.html

What's the hottest temperature the human body can endure?

With climate change causing temperatures to rise across the globe, extreme heat is becoming more and more of a health threat. The human body is resilient, but it can only handle so much. So what is the highest temperature people can endure?

The answer is straightforward: a wet-bulb temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius), according to a 2020 study in the journal Science Advances. Wet-bulb temperature is not the same as the air temperature you might see reported by your local forecaster or favorite weather app. Rather, a wet-bulb temperature is measured by a thermometer covered in a water-soaked cloth, and it takes into account both heat and humidity. The latter is important because with more water in the air, it's harder for sweat to evaporate off the body and cool a person down.


385:

Charlie @ 371
you mean a REAL green political revolution .... And emphatically NOT the current Green Party, who are a load of arseholes almost as bad as the BoZo, because of their opposition to Carbon-free nuclear power.
Um.

Duffy
"Educating Girls"
USELESS, unless you can hang all the Texas & other US rethuglicans trying to turn women into subservient breeders & reverting to Gilead

386:

When you oppress women you get higher birth rates so that your sect/tribe does no go the way of the Shakers.

The oppressor's of women understand this.

In fact they are very Darwinian in their world view.

Which is really ironic when you think about it.

387:

Habitable, but not arable. When permafrost and glaciers melt you don't get farmland, you get rocks and marshland.

Noted.

The tech base our descendants (not mine: I have no children) will need to survive in the 22nd century will look a lot like the tools needed for colonizing Mars. Intensive indoor farming in climate-controlled conditions with robot pest prevention, for example.

388:

No nuclear operator pays insurance. I think in the USA there's a figleaf amount paid into a fund, but it wouldn't come close to paying for the permanent abandonment of a city. The public picks up the risk. Another subsidy to the nuclear industry that utterly dwarfs any renewable subsidy anywhere.

And this really is at the heart of our problem, isn't it? Not just for nuclear, but for any industry out there. When we pay for some item, we pay the price of production, possibly with some taxation added. Any cleanup after production is paid for by governments, if cleanup is addressed at all. This goes for everything from environmental damage to rundown workers.

389:

May not necessarily be high tech.

The State of Indiana (mostly flat as a pancake with a high water table) was mostly swampy until the settlers arrives and laid down drainage tiles for their farms.

390:

I wonder if Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" (which reviewers are calling a masterpiece) will be a blatant or subtle metaphor for global warming, environmentalism, green revolution and resource extraction that makes only an elite few rich.

391:

I have a red line when it comes to press reports of new nuclear reactor projects -- if there isn't concrete being poured and rebar bent then it's not a real new reactor project. There are actually some new-tech reactors being built out there like the Russian BN-series fast spectrum reactors and their new BREST-300 design and China's home-grown HTR pebble-bed reactors, real concrete and bent rebar projects but they're far and few between among the handful of works-fine PWRs and BWRs and an occasional heavy-water reactor being constructed around the world. The rest is PowerPoint and computer graphics and some Ph. D. computer modelling of the nucleonics and engineering involved in SMRs and thorium, padded out with grip-and-grin pictures in front of national flags when Memorandums of Understanding are signed. There are lots and lots of grip-and-grin pictures out there, by the way.

392:

"Habitable, but not arable. When permafrost and glaciers melt you don't get farmland, you get rocks and marshland."

Fortunately, I understand in this scenario there will be a lot of topsoil sitting around unused just a bit south, just waiting to be blown away as dust. Might as well move it to where it will be useful.

393:

Re: ther new Dune movie.

From the trailers (I know, I know...) I'd guess it's a "What this situation needs is a Nietzchean Superman" thematic bludgeon interspersed with episodes of Explodey-Vision to prevent the exposition scenes from sticking together. I could be wrong.

Lynch's "Dune" was pretty but incoherent and the special effects haven't aged well. I don't hold out much hope for this one.

394:

and the special effects haven't aged well.

They didn't have a good youth either.

395:

Your answers are a perfect demonstration of why nuclear advocates aren't trusted.

Your first mistake is assuming I'm a nuclear advocate.

I merely think we should at least be looking into *modern* nuclear given the realities surrounding certain parts of the world and the limitations of renewables.

But I freely admit nuclear may not be the best option.

So the alternative to nuke plants is trains derailing? Not solar, wind, or maybe something else? You do know that you never came close to addressing the issue, right?

Actually, I did.

The big issue is that people demonize nuclear, and conveniently ignore all the other dangers and risks and even yearly deaths that surround them every day because "nuclear".

You said you didn't want to live within 1000 miles of a nuclear plant despite the reality that you are far more likely to die or suffer health consequences from things you are quite happy to have surround you.

Because numbers are easy to find, lets look at the US.

Fatalities from nuclear plant accidents - 0 (that I can find quickly, Three Mile Island had none and research shows no statistical change in the surrounding area)

Bicycle deaths - around 700 a year
Car deaths - 38,000 (4.4 million injured requiring medical treatment) yearly
Air pollution - estimated 60,000 (down from 100,000 30 years ago)
Pedestrians killed by trains - 500 year
Deaths by food poisoning - 3,000

So yes, lets demonize nuclear as being "dangerous to live near".

Funny, but according to the US Government, "From just 0.34 GW in 2008, U.S. solar power capacity has grown to an estimated 97.2 gigawatts (GW) today. This is enough to power the equivalent of 18 million average American homes."

US power generation by source

https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/electricity/electricity-in-the-us.php

Solar is a measley 2.3% of US power in 2020.

Can it grow? yes.

Should it grow? absolutely.

Will it dominate? Unlikely.

How does that fit your one-off example about this one solar plant that never got built, which you used to make a nasty point that never came anywhere close to addressing the question I asked?

Because it's not a one off.

Objections to wind turbines happen all the time.

Native Americans are objecting to and trying to stop a Lithium mine

https://www.npr.org/2021/09/02/1031726626/these-tribal-activists-want-biden-to-stop-a-planned-lithium-mine-on-their-sacred

Many, particularly those who don't live near the consequences, like to portray solar and other renewables as having no negatives when the truth is the exact opposite.

Note that I'm not saying renewables and electric cars aren't the solution - just that they still have costs, environmental or otherwise.

It is likely that they will be the least damaging, but that's not the same as saying no damage - and somebody will have to live with the damage in their backyard.

Funny, all that verbiage and you never once mentioned the cost of solar clean-up, nor did you compare it to the cost of cleaning up a serious nuclear accident. (250-500 billion is the current estimate for Fukushima.)

Again, merely pointing out nuclear isn't unique in being expensive to clean up, so treating it as such distorts things.

While solar won't be that expensive, solar will have costs - solar panels don't last forever and they do contain toxic elements that (sadly) are likely to end up in the environment as we fail to fully recycle them.

396:

My Dune bar has been set so low by the previous movies (including the SYFY atrocity) that if the guns have even iron sights on them and the ornithopters actually flap their wings, I'll label it the best attempt yet.

Anyway, if you want snark, instead of forcing actors to suffer in the desert wearing black plastic suits that trap all their sweat,* they wore appropriate couture to minimize heat gain: high reflectance robes over light clothing, platform boots to limit conductance with the ground, and a big ol' silver umbrella to keep the sun off. And wrap-around shades. It would be fabulous.

*You can tell Herbert knew more about the dunes on the coast of Oregon than he did about hot deserts when he designed those stillsuits. Maximizing heat gain in a human body to minimize water loss is not a winning strategy in a desert, unless said desert is very cold indeed.

397:

It was a different time, the goshwow of the visual effects back then was REAL goshwow, none of the fake digital goshwow we get these days. Today it's all ho-hum, you can't see the outlines in green-screen shots and nobody does real glass mattes and optical printer overlays any more. Bo-ring.

398:

To expand on Duffy's answer, this is a well-known concern, e.g. enough so that the US Marine Corp (also Army/Navy, and some other countries) uses WBGT (wet bulb globe temperature), which is a simple weighted formula[1] including dry bulb temperature, wet bulb temperature, and temperature inside a black body (the "globe"). Basically, if you're a healthy US Marine, and a weather flag is flying, worry, and if a black flag is flying, prepare to die if AC fails. (And if not able to shed heat as well a young military person, prepare to die sooner.)
Flag Conditions (US Marine Corps)
(pdf)
The various wikipedia articles involved are well-maintained.
Also, KSR's "Ministry for the Future" starts out with a large, long high wet bulb temperature heat wave combined with long-lasting power outages, killing 20M in India. (The attractors here are in the novel in force. (It is also making me laugh, e.g. the Janus Athena character))

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wet-bulb_globe_temperature

399:

"People who don't know the concept of "capacity factor" and compare nameplate power of solar with nameplate power of nuclear shouldn't really be discussing energy policy."

Capacity factor is a way of getting at average output. That's an important start, but the actual situation requires going beyond that. Median output is also important as is the longest period of low output. In the case of UK wind power as reported in Gridwatch, in the period June-July-August 2021 output remained at less than 50% maximum (which I take to be close to nameplate) for a couple of periods of two weeks or more.

400:

didn't want to live within 1000 miles of a nuclear plant

There's one about 10 bird flight miles from me. And many in the area live closer.

Been in operation since 1987.

There is a local group who has been trying continuously to shut it down. Basically they complain about things normal (but that need to be addressed) to any major industrial plant but prefix it with "nuclear" and try and get the courts to shut it down.

So far they haven't succeeded.

There were supposed to be 4 generating units. We only got one due to the typical cost overruns. 4 would sure make it easier to manage power. Not that I'm a fan of the Duke Energy (mis) information system.

If SMRs turn out to be real, it would be a great place to put some of them.

401:

And probably the Canadian/US Rockies as well, not to mention other mountain ranges. The Andes will probably do just fine, for example.

402:

Hi,

I've been a lurker on this board for quite some time, but when I see disinformation distributed by the pro-nuclear crowd, it is hard to stay quiet.

The reason nuclear won't be built out because it is more expensive than solar or wind, and takes more than a decade, optimistically, from planning to flipping the on switch (compared to wind and solar, which takes days, weeks or months). This, ironically, is the reason why nuclear is so widely discussed. It makes good fodder for fossil fuel industry trolls, because it distracts from the real issue.

The discussion about nuclear safety is also irrelevant because these plants will never be built, and therefore will not be in a position to present a danger to the public. Nuclear also does not help with "base load": this is not a real thing, just something that someone made up to promote nuclear and coal. ("Dispatchable power" on the other hand is a real thing and a problem for renewables, and nuclear is not good for that, although, regrettably, natural gas is)

The real issue is that renewables are broadly speaking competitive with fossil fuels in most places. Wind and solar have declined in cost in a massive and game changing way in the past decade, and costs are still in rapid decline. Many new technologies are on the horizon. This means that the trillions of euros of oil and gas reserves owned by oil companies are essentially worthless (more than ideology, this is what has driven disinvestment in fossil fuels, and is why there is talk of "stranded assets"). Despite their zombie status, these companies own our politicians, and our media. Renewables challenge the fundamental power structures of our global political economy, and it is inevitable that those will fight back.

Elon Musk has actually discussed the idea of solar power satellites in interviews, and rejected them as unfeasible. Of course, that could change as technologies do, but given developments in ground based renewables this won't happen any time soon.

So we have the technologies to produce the energy right now. However, as some have pointed out, it is not always available when needed, and some places get more power than others. This is a real issue but not as big a problem as might be supposed. The solutions are 1) multiple types of energy generation: if one type is down, the other might be up; what the alternatives are depend on local circumstances. Wind and solar will be mainstays in most places, but there are always others. 2) storage: not all storage is utility scale batteries, but there are a lot of different forms and solutions, too many to go into here. Often it depends on how long you want to store it and how you want to use it, so it is circumstantial. 3) larger scale grids: on a continental scale, the sun will always be shine somewhere, and the wind will always blow. This means overbuilding capacity and transmission losses, but capacity is actually cheap. 4) regulating usage in terms of times of day by price incentives and similar methods.

While the tech to do all these things exists, these all require political and regulatory battles to be fought and won. Utilities are a highly regulated industry and things like feed in tariffs laws matter a lot for solar roll out, so regulators and their political masters make the decisions. Wind power is fought on basis of local land use regulations. These political fights have useful idiots as their public face, but it is the fossil fuel media complex that keeps the wind in their sails.

Furthermore, fossil fuel and nuclear energy exploit contacts to politicians to get backing for projects that should never be built, and probably never will be. It is important to remember that on the kinds of projects, governments generally guarantee the profits of investors, so that ultimately it is the taxpayers or ratepayers who end up paying for nuclear and fossil fuel installation that get built but never produce any electricity. Similar arrangements exist for oil and gas exploration. So if we want cheap solar and wind, we will have to pay for it, plus also for the fossil fuels that we are not burning. This has always been the problem with Green New Deal thinking: you can try to compensate the coal working who loses his job, but what about the oil baron: who will give him his billions back? And he is the one who really makes the decisions about how energy is produced and distributed, what politicians will do and what the media will say. So perhaps the detractors are right: renewables are too expensive, unless the power of the oil companies can somehow be broken. This, not new tech, is the real factor that will determine if and when we solve the global warming crisis.

And before someone says, as many already have, that at NcMurdo station in the dead of winter, there is no sun and and therefore solar does not work, so therefore renewables are BS and therefore we all have to go nuclear or die from global warming, let me point out that the solution is not that you need to fully supply your own electricity need from rooftop solar starting tomorrow. Rather, policy makers, utilities and regulators should use an intelligent and multi-faceted approach to build out new renewable systems, taking into account the specific characteristics of the technologies they are using and the needs of the customers they are supplying. Try for moment assuming that proponents of renewables will try to make it work, and not just leave you shivering in the dark.

403:

Median output is also important as is the longest period of low output.

That is true. Again, as pointed multiple times here, up North (where it will still be habitable when Africa becomes an area where heat waves kill all unprotected mammals) the existence of so-called "seasons" is a problem.

Solar power will be great when we develop cheap, mass produced energy storage that does not require expensive and/or rare materials (iron oxide batteries seem promising, but again, I've been seeing "promising energy storage technologies" for the last 15 years, none of them so far have scaled to the TWh capacities required for the 100% renewables future envisioned by natgas sponsored think tanks).

As long as you live near the equator, where there are not significant differences in insolation between seasons. Africa has excellent conditions for solar, because you only need day-night storage.

In Europe, we would require summer-winter storage and that just isn't happening fast enough to help us avoid complete breakdown of our biosphere.

Yes, long range HVDC is an astounding technology, but it still has transmission losses and there are significant geopolitical issues with getting your electricity from outside of your area of political control, which is why Desertec isn't happening.

And the next thing trotted out by people seeking to push "100% renewables in Europe soon" fairy tale is "synthetic hydrogen/ammonia/methane/whatever" also won't work because the round trip efficiency is less than 40%, so it is tremendously lossy (for comparison, pumped hydro storage has round trip efficiency above 90%).

Not to mention the fact that we need synthetic hydrogen/ammonia/whatever to decarbonise heavy industry and agriculture (you can have a battery powered car, you can even have a battery powered truck, but a battery powered combine harvester is a tall order indeed).

404:

Here's what I would say: Keep researching safe nuclear power. What we want is something which fails very, very gracefully and doesn't result in the production of things like Plutonium-239. For bonus points it should be transportable on a single rail-car and not require more cement work than a simple pad with some anchor bolts.

Meanwhile, however, build wind and solar and batteries. We're obviously 3-5 years, even with a WWII-level effort (which we're even close to) from having a factory-buildable nuke plant.

We don't have 3-5 years at this point.

A note on the subject of batteries, cloudy days, and no wind. The subject of this note is very simple: "Nice planet. It would be a shame if something happened to it." In short, running out of power at night is an easy price to pay for "The dirt I live on is still habitable." Eventually enough batteries (of some kind or another) will eventually be built, and we can start moving forward again, but for now we must accept the "reality debt" the 1 percent have saddled us with, or we all die.

405:

"Here's what I would say:"

That's pretty cheap talk, because the laws of nature pretty much rule out getting a relevant amount of power from the envelope you draw.

The kind of "research-reactors" you can build inside your envelope can not even produce the power for their own support systems.

Once a reactor produces usable amounts of power, Pu239 happens, and shielding is required, and materials will activate and costs will rise.

There are places where nuclear may be the least bad choice, in particular cold locales which can also use the low-grade heat they produce.

By and large, nuclear as we know it only ever happened for political reasons, and that will be even more the case in the future.

One aspect which is often overlooked in that political game, is that if you want sailors to man your nuclear powered vessels of war, you need to provide a career for them afterwards.

406:

OK, you don't like the term "base load", but I bet you do like how your computer, cooker, lights etc "just work" when you press the relevant switch! That is what base load means in practice!.

Oh and no-one mentioned McMurdo Base, for the good and sufficient reason that we were talking about places like Alaska and northern Scandinavia where actual people really do get born, live their lives and die rather than just visit for a few months to "do research"!

407:

This will be an unpopular comment, but an unfortunate part of solving climate change will be compensating the oil companies for their losses and allowing the oil-billionaires to invest in solar/wind/safe nuclear despite the fact that all of these people should be executed after heavy torture, with statues built of oil executives being ripped in two on the rack to educate our grandchildren in how scum like this should be treated.

Regardless, we're going to have act nice and treat them kindly in order to buy them off, and that is one of the unpleasant realities of climate change. The flip side of this is that they will need to agree to be bought off, or a few years later big oil employees who get discovered in crowds of refugees will be tortured, and eaten.

408:

What we want is something which fails very, very gracefully and doesn't result in the production of things like Plutonium-239. For bonus points it should be transportable on a single rail-car and not require more cement work than a simple pad with some anchor bolts.

We had that decades ago.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_U-238_Atomic_Energy_Laboratory

Not a commercial success.

In short, running out of power at night is an easy price to pay for "The dirt I live on is still habitable."

How did that "running out of power" thing work out for Texas during their short-lived electricity blackout in February? Oh, death toll estimated at 200. Changing "dirt I live on" to "dirt I'm buried under" is not a winning solution to the problem of generating enough electricity for a modern life.

Lack of energy kills in many ways, affecting hygiene, clean water, hospitals, food production and many other factors. A lot of hair-shirt types in the Western world think the leopard won't eat THEIR face.

Eventually enough batteries (of some kind or another) will eventually be built,

Who is paying for these batteries? Who is paying for the extra wind turbines and solar panels to charge these batteries up for the no-wind night-times? Nobody, that's who and since nobody is paying for them they won't be built. What will happen in reality is we'll burn cheap gas and pretend it's Green and the world will burn. When the gas runs out there's going to be plenty of cheap coal left and after that's all gone, well sperm whales have made a big comeback since last century's hunting moratorium...

409:

"How did that "running out of power" thing work out for Texas during their short-lived electricity blackout in February? Oh, death toll estimated at 200"

You do remember that the current estimate is around 100 million people will die because of global warming.

Those 200 texans only noteworthy because they beat rush-hour.

More people die on a daily basis at EU's and USA's southern borders, because of climate change.

410:

It was a different time, the goshwow of the visual effects back then was REAL goshwow,

Sorry. IMO many of the effects in that movie were about of the level of that 60s TV show "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea".

The worse were those 50s radiation suits the shock troops were wearing.

411:

Skilled workers/welders: that, there is a simple answer to, and it's one we can do *now*, if we want to. Most of the welding on cars, for example, is not done by humans, but purpose-built machines: robots. We use backhoes, etc, instead of a team of ditch diggers.

412:

Interestingly enough, at least to me, is that back around the eighties, I looked around a little, and figured, based on what we knew then of the proto- and early human bands, and *if* half the land surface of the Earth was habitable (which it isn't, it's a lot less), the proper human population should be 1B, which we hit around 1810.

And educating girls, absolutely. And the people trying to keep them from being educated - note that the Taliban is saying they can be educated, but not in co-ed classes.

413:

One thing that everyone seems to be ignoring is this: as the equatorial latitudes become uninhabitable... this gives us a *large* amount of land that can be used for solar and wind.

414:

Why we need amateur astronomers: until we have automatic scanners in orbit, we need them to find the asteroids headed our way.

415:

Yeah.... And I'm now remembering "You *will* believe a man can fly", part of the ads for the Real Superman movie, with Chris Reeve, of course.

416:

The one I recall was someone shoehorning a Ford Fiesta engine into an invalid carriage. They were neighbours of ours and routinely terrorised drivers on a nearby motorway as said invalid carriage was thereby licensed to drive on a motorway...

I would add the neighbours were not the same gentleman of family acquaintance who was banned for being drunk in charge of an invalid carriage...

417:

The Texas running-out-of-power was 150% pure, grade AA bullshit. They *refused* to weatherize over the years (ROI, you know), they *refused* to be part of the national grid, they did everything they could to prepare it to fail, except of ROI.

Just like the Great Northeast Blackout in 2003, where it came out, afterwards, that the electric companies had invested *zip* in their capital plant in 20 years.

418:

My late wife and I bought our Dearly Beloved Departed Toyota Tercel wagon - an '86 - in '88. The only thing really wrong with it was it was seriously underpowered (as in, 2% or 4% grade, from a red light, 0-60 mph is a *blazing* 22 sec (the co-pilot having cut the a/c while the driver floored it). The engine compartment was too small for anything at all larger.

She'd planned, when it needed an engine rebuild, on taking it to a performance shop, and after everyone there picked themselves up off the floor and caught their breath from laughing so hard, to have them grind out the cylinder walls as much as was safe, to get more power.

Handled like a sports car, though (sports, not muscle).

420:

One thing that everyone seems to be ignoring is this: as the equatorial latitudes become uninhabitable... this gives us a *large* amount of land that can be used for solar and wind.

Yeah, the reason we're ignoring it is that it's not true. The tropics will warm, but the poles take most of the warming. I don't know of a scenario where the tropics become a barren wasteland.

Where we get into trouble is more in the subtropics and parts of the temperate zones, where intermittent hot spells get too hot and humid for humans to be without air conditioning. That's happening around the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere, not in the Amazon or Congo.

Still, you're pointing at a big problem: cooling. It's hard to cool with warm air, because you have a smaller thermal gradient and therefore need more coolant. If you can't get enough, the power plant won't work. This is an especial problem for air-cooled plants in dry, hot regions.

421:

Duffy
The original Novel was such a metaphor ( With the Spice Guild standing-in for OPEC, IIRC )
Plus of course the usual, unfortunately-but-boring USA-ian obsession with giant conspiracies ....
See also "Hellstrom's Hive" by the same author.

monsterx
Sorry, but "Base Load" really is an actual, real thing ... sad, but true.
renewables are broadly speaking competitive with fossil fuels in most places.
True, but... BUT: STORAGE, for when the sun don't shine & the wind ain't blowing ... see previous discussions re "blocking High" over Norway in Britain in January .....
And your proposed solutions appear to contain very large amounts of the magic Handwavuim component?

422:

You might be interested in a mate of mine, who took a Morris 1000 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Minor ), uprated the brakes and suspension (easily done using Morris Marina discs and monotube telescopic dampers), then fitted a "Rover" (ex-Buick) 3528cc V8 engine, tripling the installed power but in a car still capable of over 30 miles per imperial gallon.

423:

"And your proposed solutions appear to contain very large amounts of the magic Handwavuim component?"

That's true of everyone's solutions. My guess would be that if we did everything right, starting Monday morning, we'd lose a billion people to climate change, maybe even more. At this point there are no good scenarios, just the best possible idea to minimize the damage.

424:

In the US from the 50s into the 70s this was a very common thing. After the 70s it died off a lot as cars w/electronics and smog controls got too finicky for all but the dedicated. A fav thing was finding a hulk of a 20s/30s car and putting a "modern" engine, seats, suspenssion, etc... Most with no roof. But any replacement engine in an older car would do. This was all centered on southern California where you could expect weeks without much rain except for "rain" season. Go watch the movie "American Graffiti" to see them in action.

Then there were all the dune buggy shells to put onto the early VW bugs.

Now the big thing is alternate firmware for the engine control systems. Vast performance improvements with all kinds of emissions violations. Totally illegal but hey why not?

425:

Sorry, but "Base Load" really is an actual, real thing ... sad, but true.
It even has a wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_load

I assume monsterx was being sloppy with language. Certainly, there are many mixes of power sources that can be combined to meet baseload (minimum demand), and certainly in countries close to a pole (mostly northern) fixed power stations slower to respond to demand changes would be more attractive as part of a full decarbonization agenda. (Nuclear, hydro, geothermal (e.g. Iceland)). Natural gas (as fuel) cannot reasonably be part of a full decarbonzation agenda; it would need to be coupled with equivalent carbon capture (from the atmosphere), so the price would be in no way competitive, plus giving the already-necessary carbon capture efforts extra work will not amuse the rest of the world.

I'm distressed at the fundamental pessimism here (shorting civilization?) some are showing. As Troutwaxer says, we might be able keep the human kill numbers down to a billion or two with prompt and concerted action, and decisions made now may/will involve shifts in kill numbers in the hundreds of millions/billion-plus range. Some countries (including some democracies) are ruled by psychopaths, and will resist change, sure. They (and their leadership and backers)s will become pariahs, at best, and maybe targets for directed actions.


426:

Yes, just like you changing your O2 cylinder.

"This, of course, means government regulation as to size, shape, and connections.

And if you disagree, I suggest you consider the history of cell phone chargers."

I don't disagree at all, but I don't understand why you seem to be viewing it as a major disadvantage (at least that's how your post comes over to me). After all, your O2 cylinders already have standardised connections; and C3H8 cylinders for fork lifts have standardised connections, etc. etc.; not to mention innumerable examples in other fields, like hard drives or light bulbs. (Cue someone posting a list of exceptions but not actually such as to refute the point.)

I didn't specifically mention it because it seems to me to be a very obviously necessary but also comparatively minor aspect of the process of planning and installing the infrastructure before trying to introduce the things that will depend on it which I did advocate. That process would naturally have to be a government initiative, because it's one of that very large class of things that if you leave it in the hands of profit-making entities it won't be done at all (apart from maybe one or two minor and localised instances deliberately designed to be too shit for people to want to use them in order to discredit the idea).

Allowing the infrastructure to "grow naturally" following the spread of the things that need it was OK as a method of establishing petrol stations when cars first came about, when they were merely rich people's toys and it didn't really matter if they were difficult to use (see Kipling). It's completely shit when they have become a mass necessity and there is a stated need to switch that mass use over to a method of energy storage that is not inherently based around the heat of combustion of carbon. Either the switching over has to take forever or the people who are most of the "mass" in "mass necessity" have to get fucked.

Unfortunately we are afflicted with governments who don't understand that using resources to sort out stuff that profit-making entities won't do or will be shit at is one of the things governments are supposed to be bloody for, or that shovelling the resources into the pockets of those profit-making entities instead is one of the things they are not supposed to be for. So the "policy" we actually get for the infrastructure is merely to depend on allowing random people to install charging-by-plug stations here and there without regard to how the juice actually gets to them, which factor they will ignore until the grid starts to actually fall over and then do nothing effective about but only thrash around with a succession of stupid ideas for trying to get out of paying for it; and as far as any "standardisation" goes, they can't even be arsed to make the trivial step of legislating that all chargers and all cars must use the same standard plug with the same standard juice in it.

(Aside re grid stability: with the grid supply and the battery-pack-replacement stations operated as an integrated system under government rather than capitalist control, you get at least two advantages: the charging load can happen when the grid can best cope with it rather than when people need it done, and the stacks of batteries undergoing charging can additionally be used to help cover peaks and dips in generation and load. Oh, and the amount of beefing up of local distribution required is also a lot less.)

Often in discussions like this one I tend to consider it a precondition too necessary to be worth stating that our current crop and type of politicians and their ilk have all been garotted, and concepts like profitability as the sole valid criterion of quality, or the idea of fictional numbers "traded" in a manner which makes nanosecond latencies significant being of critical importance for anything other than masturbation, have been reclassified to the "shagging the hippos in the zoo" category of respectability. The position that the politicians won't be arsed with it, and the made-up-numbers wankers won't think of making up nice numbers for it instead of nasty ones, therefore it won't work and we have to find a different it that they will go along with (where "it" is, for example, most of the suggestions in threads like this) doesn't really hold water, since we've been doing that already for more than long enough to see that the only results it produces are shit.

427:

The old blue Invacar things? Love it. There was someone round here who had about 20 of those mouldering away in the garden and I wanted to buy one and put a motorbike engine in it, but they don't seem to be there any more...

428:

"Kill?"

Death without replacement, please. The most ideal form is to allow polities to drop the birthrates of their current populations below 1, and to replace the aging with immigrants. Do this a few cycles as part of dealing with climate migration, and numbers go down. The trick is to figure out how to get to low GHG lifetime emissions and low birth rate simultaneously.

I mean, yes, you're right, but what you're talking about is the Four Horsemen level mess, some combination of disease, famine, and violent unrest, typically killing up to a quarter of those in the area affected. As we've seen even in the US, when there is one (like covid19), there are coupled pushes into shortages (hoarding, runs, supply chain fiascos) and upticks in people attempting to act out violently. When things utterly break down, the three miseries feed off each other, and a lot of people die.

If you want humane population decreases, don't encourage child-birth, make end-of-life easier without family, welcome in immigrants, give them a place caring for the elderly, and make it possible for them to be happy with one or no children. This always sounds weird to the more conservative types, but immigrants to America at least tend to espouse American values less hypocritically than do a lot of people who've been here longer. They know what their alternative is.

429:

As Bill says, I was being sloppy with the language. What I mean is that "base load" is not a useful concept in formulating renewable energy policy. It is not necessary to to have a "base load" supplied by nuclear or coal or anything else. You are still stuck with the same problems of oversupply / undersupply due to intermittency even if you have a high base load. Of course, certain renewables might produce a base load regardless - like Icelandic geothermal. If you have a constant power supply, you still need to deal with demand shifts - so you are either wasting power, or don't have enough as demand goes up and down. So the real issue is dispatchable power.

It might be necessary, or at least useful, to have dispatchable power, which is the argument used for continued deployment of gas. Natural gas is good for this, and nuclear is not because it provides a constant level of power rather than be easily to shift up or down. So in this respect there is some validity to the argument for gas, unlike nuclear. However, it is very important to get rid of natural gas entirely as soon as possible because 1) it is a major greenhouse gas contributor 2) because central to stopping global warming is taking down the power of fossil fuel companies, and they are really depending on gas for their future prospects; kill natural gas development and you kill them.

Yes, storage is part of solving the problem of balancing the grid, but as I wrote before, there are other strategies as well - if you can do more of one strategy, you need less of the other. Furthermore, storage does exist already, and its amount is growing, and the types are diversifying. My point is that you do not need to build 6 months worth of battery storage. And you don't need to build all kinds of storage before deploying renewables: you only need to start to build some storage once the renewables percentage gets very high - how high depends on the specific situation.

If I am a little vague, it is because solutions are at once very local and diverse - if you have significant hydro, for example, the storage problem disappears. If the country is large with interconnected grids, they can balance each other. If you have lots of sun year round, overnight battery storage works fine for most of the time. But there is not a one size fits all solution. This makes it easy for disinformation artists to attack renewables: they can cherry pick solutions and show they don't work in other circumstances than the special one they were designed for. This doesn't change the fact that renewables are viable to power the world, and the only reason that isn't already happening is that oil companies need their money.

430:

#424 - I am aware of "American Graffiti", and recommend it to anyone who likes 1960s music.

#427 - Sadly, most Invacars have been scrapped, and most to all of the survivors are in museums.

#429 - I repeat; you like being able to turn stuff on whenever you want.

431:

You misread me. No, I don't have a problem, just see that it's going to be difficult for "oh, but that's *my* battery*" types, who have no idea. And it's going to be rough on the batteries, unless it's some kind of automated thing... which brings back full service repowering stations.

432:

Natural gas is good for this, and nuclear is not because it provides a constant level of power rather than be easily to shift up or down.

Yeah, again, not true. It was true. In the 1960s. It isn't now. Nuclear power plants have been working in load-following mode in Europe for decades.

They don't do it in the US for regulatory reasons, but modern gen3+ reactors are capable of very fast ramp-down and ramp-up. For example, EPR (a gen3+ reactor) is capable of power changes up to ±80 MW per minute. For comparison, most modern CCGT units are capable of changing their output by ±38 MW per minute.

Now, open cycle gas turbines are very, very fast at power changes, but they are mightily inefficient compared to combined-cycle gas-steam units.

But generally, there's quite a lot of research showing that hybrid nuclear-renewables grid can work quite well and be quite cheaper than trying to achieve the mythical "100% renewables" solution. Germans knows how the 100% renewables model pans out, which is why they're so hell-bent on building Nord Stream 2 despite the potential for sanctions by the US.

(Now, if you have dispatchable renewables like hydro and/or geothermal, you can have a 100% renewables powered grid. But that's a privilege of small and well located grids)

433:

"And a couple of decades later someone from Greenpeace is on international TV waving a Geiger counter over your beach..."

That's really part of the point: that you can do that. An