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The Forum > Article Comments > Hanging on to the energy dreams > Comments

Hanging on to the energy dreams : Comments

By Martin Nicholson, published 9/5/2011

Renewables will not arrive in time to prevent an emissions nightmare - we must take alternative conventional action now.

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Hi Martin,

There is a problem with the text of your article so I could not read it yet but, as an electrical engineer (?) and someone who likes a little maths I thought that you would appreciate another electrical engineer's take on the subject of fossil fuels and climate change. The following text is from the Energy Bulletin reporting that the latest version of Prof. David Rutledge's famous lecture, "Hubbert's Peak, the Coal Question and Climate Change" can be viewed on YouTube. If you do so you will find it VERY informative:

http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-04-22/energy-april-22

"David Rutledge's lecture "Hubbert's Peak, The Coal Question and Climate Change" delivered at The University of Adelaide on 18 April 2011.

The URLs for the 4 parts are:

Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKIKnxFzJvA

Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6rBnXkDllg

Part 3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkM2KorRyGg

Part 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovU4MCEClMY

Professor Rutledge is the Tomiyasu Professor of Electrical Engineering at Caltech, and a former Chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science there. He is the author of the textbook Electronics of Radio, published by Cambridge University Press, and the popular microwave computer-aided-design software package Puff.
Posted by michael_in_adelaide, Monday, 9 May 2011 9:39:27 AM
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In times long ago I often heard that the Europe as the old world is always 5 years behind the new world, like US and Australia. That seems to have changed in the mean time.

Martin, the problems you are mentioning with renewable energy are mainly caused by the fact that the 'dream' is to get rid of petrol engines and run all cars on electric power by 2020. I agree that is probably a dream though organisations like BZE have detailed plans for that.

What's new in the old world is a concept to make gas with renewable energy. No matter if solar, wind, wave all of which Australia has more than enough. That gas can be used for cars, trucks, heating and all other applications that use gas, and of course also to make electricity. We are in the early planning stage of a prototype in Australia. Once it is running it will change the whole picture.

Your nuclear power plants that nobody wants will not power cars, but renewable gas will, without much change to our infrastructure. At the end the market forces will decide.
Posted by renysol, Monday, 9 May 2011 1:26:54 PM
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As someone who managed to stir up Diesendorf enough to be called names, by pointing out the blindingly obvious - that solar technology is no where near developed enough to take over from base load plants, if it ever will be - I am delighted to see this author makes considerably more sense.

The grand dreams of delivering 20 per cent of power from green sources by 2020 can be seen for what they are - dreams. If this goal is achieved it will be in name only, without taking into account factors like back up generation. Diesendorf's mistake was to repeat the same arguments he has been making for years with no visible development - like a working base load solar plant - to point to.

michael_in_adelaide - have we had this conversation before? Hubbert's curve has been kicked around quite a bit in the oil industry and the only success it has ever been able to claim has been in the oil industry. Hubbert himself tried applying it to coal only for his forecast to be proved completely wrong.

If your guy seriously wants to apply it to coal he is welcome to waste his time that way, as any other
Posted by Curmudgeon, Monday, 9 May 2011 3:14:58 PM
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It seems to me that the drive for alternative energy has been driven
by global warming. While the answers to that problem are similar to
that for peak oil and peal coal they have different priorities.
Indeed the timescale for both are very different. Peak oil has a
timescale of 5 to 10 years, but global warming has a timescale of
20 to 50 years. Surely such a difference will generate different priorities.

I would suggest that more effort should be put into solar thermal,
storage and geothermal.
Posted by Bazz, Monday, 9 May 2011 3:48:21 PM
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Bazz: I think I did not make that really clear in my above comment. What we are working on with the renewable gas IS the solution for the storage of renewable energy no matter which technology.

Wind when blowing --> gas into storage --> electricity when needed.
Posted by renysol, Monday, 9 May 2011 4:40:55 PM
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Martin I live the dream, I have more energy from sustainable sources that I can use.

If we used the hot air that is generated by some on these forums we could generate base load power from wind energy.

Seriously, the answer is contained in your article. You stated that to meet biomass needs, would require a land area over 80 times that of an open cut coalmine. I don't know whether this statement is based in fact. If it is the one thing our country has its available space that would far exceed 80 times existing foot print of how current coalmines. This land does not have to be our prime food producing land. 1.5 KG of woodchip will produce 1 kW of electricity using a gasification process. A by-product of this process is bio char (also known has agri-char) that can be utilised to increase the productive capacity of our soils and is by default carbon capture. No doubt some existing coal-fired power stations could be utilised. We need lots of power generators attached to the grid close to fuel sources with a diverse range of owners.

Turn key technology exists now. It's ridiculous that an Australian furniture manufacturer pelletised is his sawdust waste and sends it to Europe so it can be burned in their power stations. Is ridiculous the concept of converting our power stations to gas have only a 25% reduction of greenhouse gases when we can get close to 100%. It is ridiculous to stuff up productive land and risk our countries water resources chasing the dollars of coal gasification. The cost of nuclear when you consider whole of life does not stack up economically or socially.

Gasification was utilised to power vehicles during the Second World War. Using today's superior technology there is no doubt that gasification could be utilised in conjunction with other emerging technologies to fuel the transport industry.

Not having to stop a multinational service station or connect to the grid through a corporate electricity company, yet still enjoy all the mod cons gives me great satisfaction.
Posted by Producer, Monday, 9 May 2011 6:03:44 PM
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