Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Leap in the Dark

A few days from now, 2016 will have passed into the history books. I know a fair number of people who won’t mourn its departure, but it’s pretty much a given that the New Year celebrations here in the United States, at least, will demonstrate a marked shortage of enthusiasm for the arrival of 2017.

There’s good reason for that, and not just for the bedraggled supporters of Hillary Clinton’s failed and feckless presidential ambitions. None of the pressures that made 2016 a cratered landscape of failed hopes and realized nightmares have gone away. Indeed, many of them are accelerating, as the attempt to maintain a failed model of business as usual in the teeth of political, economic, and environmental realities piles blowback upon blowback onto the loading dock of the new year.

Before we get into that, though, I want to continue the annual Archdruid Report tradition and review the New Year’s predictions that I made at the beginning of 2016. Those of my readers who want to review the original post will find it here. Here’s the gist.

“Thus my core prediction for 2016 is that all the things that got worse in 2015 will keep on getting worse over the year to come. The ongoing depletion of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources will keep squeezing the global economy, as the real (i.e., nonfinancial) costs of resource extraction eat up more and more of the world’s total economic output, and this will drive drastic swings in the price of energy and commodities—currently those are still headed down, but they’ll soar again in a few years as demand destruction completes its work. The empty words in Paris a few weeks ago will do nothing to slow the rate at which greenhouse gases are dumped into the atmosphere, raising the economic and human cost of climate-related disasters above 2015’s ghastly totals—and once again, the hard fact that leaving carbon in the ground means giving up the lifestyles that depend on digging it up and burning it is not something that more than a few people will be willing to face.

“Meanwhile, the US economy will continue to sputter and stumble as politicians and financiers try to make up for ongoing declines in real (i.e., nonfinancial) wealth by manufacturing paper wealth at an even more preposterous pace than before, and frantic jerryrigging will keep the stock market from reflecting the actual, increasingly dismal state of the economy.  We’re already in a steep economic downturn, and it’s going to get worse over the year to come, but you won’t find out about that from the mainstream media, which will be full of the usual fact-free cheerleading; you’ll have to watch the rates at which the people you know are being laid off and businesses are shutting their doors instead.” 

It’s almost superfluous to point out that I called it. It’s been noted with much irritation by other bloggers in what’s left of the peak oil blogosphere that it takes no great talent to notice what’s going wrong, and point out that it’s just going to keep on heading the same direction. This I cheerfully admit—but it’s also relevant to note that this method produces accurate predictions. Meanwhile, the world-saving energy breakthroughs, global changes in consciousness, sudden total economic collapses, and other events that get predicted elsewhere year after weary year have been notable by their absence.

I quite understand why it’s still popular to predict these things: after all, they allow people to pretend that they can expect some future other than the one they’re making day after day by their own actions. Nonetheless, the old saying remains true—“if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten”—and I wonder how many of the people who spend each year daydreaming about the energy breakthroughs, changes in consciousness, economic collapses, et al, rather than coming to grips with the rising spiral of crises facing industrial civilization, really want to deal with the future that they’re storing up for themselves by indulging in this habit.

Let’s go on, though.  At the beginning of 2016, I also made four specific predictions, which I admitted at the time were long shots. One of those, specific prediction #3, was that the most likely outcome of the 2016 presidential election would be the inauguration of Donald Trump as President in January 2017. I don’t think I need to say much about that, as it’s already been discussed here at length.  The only thing I’d like to point out here is that much of the Democratic party seems to be fixated on finding someone or something to blame for the debacle, other than the stark incompetence of the Clinton campaign and the failure of Democrats generally to pay attention to anything outside the self-referential echo chambers of affluent liberal opinion. If they keep it up, it’s pretty much a given that Trump will win reelection in 2020.

The other three specific long-shot predictions didn’t pan out, at least not in the way that I anticipated, and it’s only fair—and may be helpful, as we head further into the unknown territory we call 2017—to talk about what didn’t happen, and why.

Specific prediction #1 was that the next tech bust would be under way by the end of 2016.  That’s happening, but not in the way I expected. Back in January I was looking at the maniacally overinflated stock prices of tech companies that have never made a cent in profit and have no meaningful plans to do so, and I expected a repeat of the “tech wreck” of 2000. The difficulty was simply I didn’t take into account the most important economic shift between 2000 and 2016—the de facto policy of negative interest rates being pursued by the Federal Reserve and certain other central banks.

That policy’s going to get a post of its own one of these days, because it marks the arrival of a basic transformation in economic realities that’s as incomprehensible to neoliberal economists as it will be challenging to most of the rest of us. The point I want to discuss here here, though, is a much simpler one. Whenever real interest rates are below zero, those elite borrowers who can get access to money on those terms are being paid to borrow.  Among many other things, this makes it a lot easier to stretch out the downward arc of a failing industry. Cheaper-than-free money is one of the main things that kept the fracking industry from crashing and burning from its own unprofitability once the price of oil plunged in 2013; there’s been a steady string of bankruptcies in the fracking industry and the production of oil from fracked wells has dropped steadily, but it wasn’t the crash many of us expected.

The same thing is happening, in equally slow motion, with the current tech bubble. Real estate prices in San Francisco and other tech hotspots are sliding, overpaid tech employees are being systematically replaced by underpaid foreign workers, the numbers are looking uglier by the week, but the sudden flight of investment money that made the “tech wreck” so colorful sixteen years ago isn’t happening, because tech firms can draw on oceans of relatively cheap funding to turn the sudden popping of the tech bubble into the slow hiss of escaping air. That doesn’t mean that the boom-and-bust cycle has been cancelled—far from it—but it does mean that shoveling bad money after good has just become a lot easier. Exactly how that will impact the economy is a very interesting question that nobody just now knows how to answer.

Let’s move on.  Specific prediction #2 was that the marketing of what would inevitably be called “the PV revolution” would get going in a big way in 2016. Those of my readers who’ve been watching the peak oil scene for more than a few years know that ever since the concept of peak oil clawed its way back out of its long exile in the wilderness of the modern imagination, one energy source after anobter has been trotted out as the reason du jour why the absurdly extravagant lifestyles of today’s privileged classes can roll unhindered into the future.  I figured, based on the way that people in the mainstream environmentalist movement were closing ranks around renewables, that photovoltaic solar energy would be the next beneficiary of that process, and would take off in a big way as the year proceeded.

That this didn’t happen is not the fault of the solar PV industry or its cheerleades in the green media. Naomi Oreskes’ strident insistence a while back that raising questions about the economic viability of renewable energy is just another form of climate denialism seems to have become the party line throughout the privileged end of the green left, and the industrialists are following suit. Elon Musk, whose entire industrial empire has been built on lavish federal subsidies, is back at the feed trough again, announcing a grandiose new plan to manufacture photovoltaic roof shingles; he’s far and away the most colorful of the would-be renewable-energy magnates, but others are elbowing their way toward the trough as well, seeking their own share of the spoils.

The difficulty here is twofold. First, the self-referential cluelessness of the Democratic party since the 2008 election has had the inevitable blowback—something like 1000 state and federal elective offices held by Democrats after that election are held by Republicans today—and the GOP’s traditional hostility toward renewable energy has put a lid on the increased subsidies that would have been needed to kick a solar PV feeding frenzy into the same kind of overdrive we’ve already seen with ethanol and wind. Solar photovoltaic power, like ethanol from corn, has a disastrously low energy return on energy invested—as Pedro Prieto and Charles Hall showed in their 2015 study of real-world data from Spain’s solar PV program, the EROEI on large-scale grid photovoltaic power works out in practice to less than 2.5—and so, like nuclear power, it’s only economically viable if it’s propped up by massive and continuing subsidies. Lacking those, the “PV revolution” is dead in the water.

The second point, though, is the more damaging.  The “recovery” after the 2008-2009 real estate crash was little more than an artifact of statistical manipulation, and even negative interest rates haven’t been able to get a heartbeat going in the economy’s prostrate body. As most economic measurements not subject to fiddling by the enthusiastic accountants of the federal government slide steadily downhill, the economic surplus needed to support any kind of renewables buildout at all is rapidly tricking away. Demand destruction is in the driver’s seat, and the one way of decreasing fossil fuel consumption that affluent environmentalists don’t want to talk about—conservation—is the only viable option just now.

Specific prediction #4 was that the Saudi regime in Arabia would collapse by the end of 2016. As I noted at the time, the replacement of the Saudi monarchy with some other form of government is for all practical purposes a done deal. Of the factors I cited then—the impending bankruptcy of a regime that survives only by buying off dissent with oil money, the military quagmires in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq that have the Saudi military and its foreign mercenaries bogged down inextricably, and the rest of it—none have gone away. Nor has the underlying cause, the ongoing depletion of the once-immense oil reserves that have propped up the Saudi state so far.

That said, as I noted back in January, it’s anyone’s guess what cascade of events will send the Saudi royal family fleeing to refuges overseas while mobs rampage through their abandoned palaces in Riyadh, and some combination of mid-level military officers and Muslim clerics piece together a provisional government in their absence. I thought that it was entirely possible that this would happen in 2016, and of course it didn’t. It’s possible at this point that the price of oil could rise fast enough to give the Saudi regime another lease on life, however brief. That said, the winds are changing across the Middle East; the Russian-Iranian alliance is in the ascendant, and the Saudis have very few options left. It will be interesting, in the sense of the apocryphal Chinese curse, to see how long they survive.

So that’s where we stand, as 2016 stumbles down the ramp into time’s slaughterhouse and 2017 prepares to take its place in the ragged pastures of history. What can we expect in the year ahead?

To some extent, I’ve already answered that question—but only to some extent. Most of the factors that drove events in 2016 are still in place, still pressing in the same direction, and “more of the same” is a fair description of the consequences. Day after day, the remaining fossil fuel reserves of a finite planet are being drawn down to maintain the extravagant and unsustainable lifestyles of the industrial world’s more privileged inmates. Those remaining reserves are increasingly dirty, increasingly costly to extract and process, increasingly laden with a witch’s brew of social, economic, and environmental costs that nobody anywhere is willing to make the fossil fuel industry cover, and those costs don’t go away just because they’re being ignored—they pile up in society, the economy, and the biosphere, producing the rising tide of systemic dysfunction that plays so large and unmentioned a role in daily life today.

Thus we can expect still more social turmoil, more economic instability, and more environmental blowback in 2017. The ferocious populist backlash against the economic status quo that stunned the affluent in Britain and America with the Brexit vote and Trump’s presidential victory respectively, isn’t going away until and unless the valid grievances of the working classes get heard and addressed by political establishments around the industrial world; to judge by examples so far, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. At the same time, the mismatch between the lifestyles we can afford and the lifestyles that too many of us want to preserve remains immense, and until that changes, the global economy is going to keep on lurching from one crisis to another. Meanwhile the biosphere is responding to the many perturbations imposed on it by human stupidity in the way that systems theory predicts—with ponderous but implacable shifts toward new conditions, many of which don’t augur well for the survival of industrial society.

There are wild cards in the deck, though, and one of them is being played right now over the North Pole. As I write this, air temperatures over the Arctic ice cap are 50°F warmer than usual for this time of year. A destabilized jet stream is sucking masses of warm air north into the Arctic skies, while pushing masses of Arctic air down into the temperate zone. As a result, winter ice formation on the surface of the Arctic ocean has dropped to levels tht were apparently last seen before our species got around to evolving—and a real possibility exists, though it’s by no means a certainty yet, that next summer could see most of the Arctic Ocean free of ice.

Nobody knows what that will do to the global climate. The climatologists who’ve been trying to model the diabolically complex series of cascading feedback loops we call “global climate” have no clue—they have theories and computer models, but so far their ability to predict the rate and consequences of anthropogenic climate change have not exactly been impressive. (For what it’s worth, by the way, most of their computer models have turned out to be far too conservative in their predictions.) Nobody knows yet whether the soaring temperatures over the North Pole this winter are a fluke, a transitory phenomenon driven by the unruly transition between one climate regime and another, or the beginning of a recurring pattern that will restore the north coast of Canada to the conditions it had during the Miocene, when crocodiles sunned themselves on the warm beaches of northern Greenland. We simply don’t know.

In the same way, the populist backlash mentioned above is a wild card whose effects nobody can predict just now. The neoliberal economics that have been welded into place in the industrial world for the last thirty years have failed comprehensively, that’s clear enough.  The abolition of barriers to the flow of goods, capital, and population did not bring the global prosperity that neoliberal economists promised, and now the bill is coming due. The question is what the unraveling of the neoliberal system means for national economies in the years ahead.

There are people—granted, these are mostly neoliberal economists and those who’ve drunk rather too freely of the neoliberal koolaid—who insist that the abandonment of the neoliberal project will inevitably mean economic stagnation and contraction. There are those who insist that the abandonment of the neoliberal project will inevitably mean a return to relative prosperity here in the US, as offshored jobs are forced back stateside by tax policies that penalize imports, and the US balance of trade reverts to something a little closer to parity. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows what the results will be. Here as in Britain, voters faced with a choice between the perpetuation of an intolerable status quo and a leap in the dark chose the latter, and the consequences of that leap can’t be known in advance.

Other examples abound. The US president-elect has claimed repeatedly that the US under his lead will get out of the regime-change business and pursue a less monomaniacally militaristic foreign policy than the one it’s pursued under Bush and Obama, and would have pursued under Clinton. The end of the US neoconservative consensus is a huge change that will send shockwaves through the global political system. Another change, at least as huge, is the rise of Russia as a major player in the Middle East. Another? The remilitarization of Japan and its increasingly forceful pursuit of political and military alliances in East and South Asia. There are others. The familiar order of global politics is changing fast. What will the outcome be? Nobody knows.

As 2017 dawns, in a great many ways, modern industrial civilization has flung itself forward into a darkness where no stars offer guidance and no echoes tell what lies ahead. I suspect that when we look back at the end of this year, the predictable unfolding of ongoing trends will have to be weighed against sudden discontinuities that nobody anywhere saw coming.  We’re not discussing the end of the world, of course; we’re talking events like those that can be found repeated many times in the histories of other failing civilizations.  That said, my guess is that some of those discontinuities are going to be harsh ones.  Those who brace themselves for serious trouble and reduce their vulnerabilities to a brittle and dysfunctional system will be more likely to come through in one piece.

Those who are about to celebrate the end of 2016, in other words, might want to moderate their cheering when it’s over. It’s entirely possible that 2017 will turn out to be rather worse—despite which I hope that the readers of this blog, and the people they care about, will manage to have a happy New Year anyway.

305 comments:

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Rita said...

Re 2016 as 'worst year ever!!!" my response lately has been, "really, worse than the Black Plague, worse than the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, worse than 1916 in which the Battle of the Somme caused 1 million casualties, . . ." I usually get a massive eyeroll at this point. My family has always semi-seriously subscribed to the rule of three. So whenever there are two disasters, deaths, etc. in a row there will be speculation over who will be the third. Of course this involves some manipulation of the data. Does it have to be three air crashes within a short period of time, or can the ferry disaster count? All singers dying, or does two actors and one pop star count. Humans are amazing in ability to discover patterns.

For those who are counting, Californians lost our "First Dog." The governors dog, Sutter died of cancer yesterday.

JMG - re your response to Phil H. about triage in times of shortage. My initial response was that this was only true of societies that had developed class divisions and a power elite. But with further thought I realized that in hunter/gatherer cultures there is a tendency for the triage to take place on a generational level. In many such cultures births are limited, or if that is not possible, infanticide is practiced. Parents simply don't try to raise more children than they have resources for. But we also know that in some cultures the elderly may voluntarily commit suicide when food runs short, cf. the popular culture image of an elderly Eskimo on an ice floe.

On the subject of the limitation of births, I also recently read "A Plague of Caterpillars" based on the author's anthropological research in the Cameroons. He observed that the extreme form of circumcision practiced in this tribe caused penile scarring and deformity that might contribute to a low fertility rate. I wonder whether this was true of the sub-incision rites of the indigenous Australians.

fattigmann said...

Your leisurely unfolding of ideas befits your druidic persona. Don't change a thing.

pygmycory said...

anioush, that's why I specified a 'major' european nation. I'm looking closest at France, and Germany, which I believe have elections next year, and Italy, which might. You're right that terrorist attacks killed far too many people in both 2015 and 2016. I'm thinking that it will probably happen again this coming year, and that this time it will produce knock-on effects, on the order of, for example: Marine Le Pen winning in france and cracking down on recent and less recent middle-eastern migrants in that country, possibly including expelling recent asylum seekers.

dltrammel said...

Roberta said...
I enjoyed comments by Carlos and SamuraiArtGuy and wonder about the pros and cons of a cheap smart phone.

Roberta, since about 2008 I've been using a old style flip phone on the Virgin network. I paid $40 if I remember up front for it, and pay $20 a month for the service. For that I get 400 minutes, more than enough to field the calls I get from friends, which mostly go to voice mail since I work third shift.

It does not have any sort of "data" plan. At lunch I open up a book as opposed to my coworkers, who all sit hunched over their smart phone screens.

If just for the occasional car or family emergency, I always recommend a cell phone over land line. Though when I get to work, it goes into the wall locker just like my car keys and such, comign out when I go home.

Jason B said...

@ Shane: control yourself, buddy. Puritanism and Evangelicalism aren't the same thing. Puritanism=traditional Christendom. Evangelicalism=skepticism towards formal scholarship. I associate Puritanism with the New England communities of the 17th and 18th century (and with Nathaniel Hawthorne, who pointed out its hypocrisies).. I associate Evangelicalism with good ole Amerika.

nuku said...

Hi Chris (Cherokee),
I want to thank you for your lively contributions to the discussions and for being the one person here who is actually living off-grid with alternative energy day to day. As such, you act as a reality check to the many folks who have the fantasy, but are basically clueless as to the limitations and necessary stepping down of lifestyle which “alternative’ energy demands.
Those who think that, after throwing together a couple of panels and some batteries, they will continue to live the life based on endless energy from the grid know nothing of what they speak!
I lived on mostly “alternative” energy for 17 years on my 40ft steel ketch as I cruised around the Pacific. 4 large solar panels + a towing generator, 55 amp alternator off the engine, 4 big deep cycle batteries, a small portable petrol AC generator for 3 small power tools, 12vt dc for everything else including small fridge, no inverter. You really get to know your energy limits when the lights start to dim. No jump starts for the engine on uninhabited atolls! Besides that you have to become very intimate with your systems because they take constant monitoring and maintenance as you well know.
I was also highly aware that all this gear was expensive and needed a supply of spare parts which did not arrive via cargo cult and which themselves were not made with alternative energy. At one point I divided the world into “us cruisers” and “all the rest of the world who made spare parts for us“.
I’m back ashore and on the grid now in semi-rural sunny Nelson NZ, but with a solar thermal hot water system (pump running on a small 12vt panel). I did the math on grid-tied PV, and it was a no go economically compared to hydro generated mains here in the S. Island (15-20 year payback).
Even though I’m sucking (lightly) off the tit of the grid (in a small house), at least I know that I could live much more simply if circumstances change.
Good luck in 2017 (we’ll all need a bit of that mate).

Anastassia Makarieva said...

There was an interesting exchange in Energy in 2013-2015 (paywalled). Weißbach et al. 2013 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2013.01.029 from their large-scale EROIs analysis concluded that "The results show that nuclear, hydro, coal, and natural gas power systems (in this order) are one order of magnitude more effective than photovoltaics and wind power." This prompted a critical feedback from Raugei 2013 doi:10.1016/j.energy.2013.07.032 who -- politely -- cast doubts on the credibility of Weißbach et al. and their understanding of the matter. Weißbach et al. 2014 doi:10.1016/j.energy.2014.02.026 replied energetically and emphatically defending their results. In 2015 Raugei with a number of co-authors, doi:10.1016/j.energy.2014.12.060, published a rebuttal to the response of Weißbach et al. 2014, which, this time, was not exactly polite in academic terms. E.g. their concluding statement was "Finally, Weißbach et al.'s defence of their untenable assertions by setting up straw man arguments and misinterpreting and misquoting Raugei's comments comes across as a worrying indication of their seeming lack of familiarity with scientific standards and widely accepted methodological conventions."

Since many science readers do not read details, this exchange basically serves to discredit Weißbach et al. I must say I myself found these articles only recently and cannot at the moment judge about the technical merits of the analyses on either side. However, it is informative how the critics treat the key statement, that renewables will not be able to sustain the humanity on their own (my emphasis):

“This viewpoint speaks to a larger issue regarding the goal of making an EROI calculation. Is it to examine a technology's ability to make use of existing societal energy resources when plugged into the current electricity supply mix, or to examine that technology's ability to supply all electricity needs on its own? It seems that the authors [Weißbach et al.] are trying to do the former, however statements regarding the wind resources at Germany's coast being “too sparse to supply the society” [[3], p. 214] or the statement that “significant buffering efforts are indispensable for a grid only consisting of renewables” [[1], p. 1006] suggest the latter. If the latter is the goal, then why are the same demands not made of gas-fired or nuclear electricity? The EROI of natural gas supplies would ALMOST CERTAINLY decline if these resources were required to supply all of society's electricity needs.”

Providing no evidence against the claim that renewables are unable to sustain the society, an impression is created that the latter claim of Weißbach et al. is incorrect.

In my country since we rely a lot on selling gas and oil such positive talks about renewables are not very common. You should read the (few) liberal media, i.e. those in opposition to the official authorities, to find such views -- apparently borrowed from progressive venues like Quartz or the like. In such media I invariably notice the same foggy attitude. A typical tool is to confuse consumption of electricity with total power consumption “forgetting” that the former is about an order of magnitude smaller than the latter. For example, the title of an article on a recent drop in PVs price could ask: “Time to give up the fossil fuel?” Then the response is, “no, it is (unfortunately), not exactly the time yet, because renewables are projected to cover JUST 28% of TOTAL ENERGY CONSUMPTION by 2021 (from the current 23%). But they are booming exponentially!!!”

The reader is left with an impression that if not in 2021 than perhaps by 2025 we will forget about fossils. The reality is however that it was all about total ELECTRICITY consumption, which is about 10% of total energy consumption. Thus at best the renewables will make a 3% contribution to our needs, a major piece of which has always been the hydropower.

sunseekernv said...

Sackerson,

(and anyone else thinking about shelling out for Prieto and Hall),
you will want to read my review:
http://thingsidlikepeopletoknow.blogspot.com/2014/01/review-spains-photovoltaic-revolution.html

bottom line: Prieto and Hall is very flawed, and now quite dated (and the Energyskeptic review is a hatchet job).
The link inside the Ramez Naam article is decent:
http://astro1.panet.utoledo.edu/~relling2/PDF/pubs/life_cycle_assesment_ellingson_apul_(2015)_ren_and_sustain._energy_revs.pdf

(FWIW - I think Ramez is too techno-optimistic in many ways).

JMG - the problem I have with the use of Prieto & Hall to "disprove" PV's technical capability is you risk dismissal of your entire message due to touting this technically flawed snapshot taken at an especially cherry-picked moment in time. If PV was so flawed EROEI/cost wise, then there simply aren't enough subsidies to have installed 300 Gigawatts(peak) around the end of 2016, unlike, say the technically flawed/EROEI deficient algae based biofuels or cellulosic ethanol, both of which are essentially derelict.

I still agree that BAU is not supportable by renewables without significant conservation/behavioral/political changes, because of the financial/political/behavioral issues work to impede the transition to renewables.

An example: without protective tariffs/prescriptive laws/etc., a country being ecologically honest and producing increasing amounts of iron via renewables would be un-competitive in the neoliberal globalized world. But if we wait until the last coking coal is gone, we run off "Seneca's cliff", and don't have time to do the development-by-deployment (e.g. learn by doing) that is the only real way to make these sorts of transitions work. Yet as you point out, the neoliberal economists get apoplectic when one mentions trade barriers, and their sudden (re-)imposition will likely have unforeseen negative impacts.
Then how do we allocate this green steel among the producers of steel objects? "Sounds like communism to me".
And some consumers will complain about increased cost of cars, etc. during the transition period.

Another example is the rancor over Elon Musk's "subsidies", yet the massive fossil fuel industry subsidies seem politically sacrosanct, and unmentionable in most of the press.
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/11/elon-musk-robert-murray-coal-green-subsidies

It is these oft-ignored, wicked hard problems of human values, attitudes, and interests that impede sustainability, not the lack of technical capability of PV and wind and storage.

re: (to Sackerson) "... better off concentrating on solar thermal technologies ..."
Passive solar thermal I agree, for simple space heating and hot water it's quite hard to beat.
Excepting of course social convention, HOA/zoning restrictions, first cost basis "accounting", etc. that work against such rationality as free, clean heat from the sun.

Not clear if you meant solar thermal electricity and power using concentrators, but if so, I disagree about it being a general solution, due to the old nemesis of relying on direct normal insolation (DNI) and related issues that people have struggled with for a century.
See the parts dealing with DNI/dust/etc. from this comment from March 2014 re Cogenra (which, as I surmised at the time, would fail with its PV/thermal combined panels).
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-steampunk-future-revisited.html?showComment=1394424536520#c1549747281556275106

Changed link note: on solargis.info, go to their "iMaps" link, then one will have to find on the map under "solar" and select "direct normal" and "global horizontal".

sunseekernv said...

Cherokee,

I was wondering about your PV system and "1 hour in winter"

So I was going to use PVwatts to try 37.5 North, but in hunting around, it can find climate data from elsewhere.
So I fired up PVwatts
http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/

Then I typed in: Melbourne, victoria, australia
and lo and behold it came up with a couple of nearby weather stations.
Melbourne is 37 deg. 48' latitude, close enough.

Default is 20 degrees panel tilt (kinda low, but close to common roof tilts), so I put in 5 kW system, changed the azimuth to 0 degrees (facing North, toward the equator from down under), left the other defaults as-is (rather conservative) and found that in June one gets:
panel tilt kWh/month kWh/day/kWp-of-panel
20 deg. 323 2.15
37.5 deg. 383 2.55
52.5 deg. 410 2.73

(52.5 degrees tilt is "latitude plus 15" rule of thumb to be for "max winter output").
Those are not great numbers, but something is wrong tat you only get 1 kWh/kWp.
Either your local microclimate is horrible (fog/clouds/...), bad shading, or you have half your strings dead.
In Reno, Nevada, at 39.5 N, a 20 deg tilt system gets 416 kWh in December.

"All renewables are site specific"

Phil Harris said...

I am not wholly satisfied with the discussion about triage in the time of shortage, (re deserving poor etc.). I am referring to JMG in his reply to me and to further helpful discussion by Rita.

I would like to chuck out social categorisations such as ‘deserving / undeserving poor’ – too much baggage from the past; too much like the sound of bully talk from those old privileged pulpits. (And Britain in previous centuries worked around a failing Poor Law and then Workhouses and latterly at the first opportunity in the late 1970s, what I call ‘the Thatcher itch’ for the past).

There is a discussion by Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue of the nature of modern moral disagreement. MacIntyre has plumped overall for Aristotle as ’the’ protagonist to match against the voices of liberal modernity. Given that I agree with MacIntyre about the failure of the Enlightenment Project I am interested in his take on the essential conflict between ‘good and good’ that he sees exemplified in Sophocles’ dramatic tragedy that he says Aristotle is blind to. The failure of the British state for instance might be exemplified in the appeal to ‘Free Market’ ideology (a curious modern appeal to ‘the Gods’ it seems to me) that was so central to the decisions involved in the Irish Potato Famine in the 1830s.

MacIntyre provides and makes a telling point from Australian philosopher John Anderson who urges us not to ask of a social institution: “What end or purpose does it serve?” but of “Of what conflicts is it the scene?” MacIntyre calls this a ‘Sophoclean’ insight and remarks – “that it is through conflict and sometimes only through conflict that we learn what our ends and purposes are”.

We approach again if we ever left it, the place where disagreement is not academic. I seek to know where ‘our practical intelligence’ as MacIntyre calls it, is based on such insights or lack of them. That much we discuss already on ADR. One of my fears for the future is an institutionalised caste system along the lines of the system which overtook the sub-continent during times of scarcity and imposed a human deformity for millennia.

best
Phil H

Fred the First said...

I'll throw a prediction out there - Trump gets tired of looking out at crowds of overweight out-of-shape people so he announces a Hunger Games-style contest dividing the country into regions competing for most improved. Rules and goals of the contest are vague, and despite a push from the progressive left to defy Trump by eating more doughnuts, it works - for the first time ever America's obesity percentage goes down. Inspired and motivated by their actions having results, a movement takes hold. The center aisles of grocery stores are vandalized in the middle of the night destroying cheese doodles, cake mixes, soda and cookies. Home gardens become THE item to have and neighbors boast about how much produce they grow. People begin walking everywhere and driving a car is shunned. The media confused by what is happening tries desperately to prop up the corporate food industry with friendly stories and fluff pieces. It only works to increase the power of the movement which people simply call "life".

David, by the lake said...

@Maxine

I will be launching my Druid Candidacy this spring, so hopefully I will follow suit in 2018. In addition to the spiritual aspects (more suited to discussion on the other blog), I see this path as a means of preservation as we head deeper into the prenumbra of the descent.

peacegarden said...

Madmagic

JMG writes as if he expects his readers to actually read! Yes, thanks to the “screens of dumbness”, the way your rules impose short and sweet, less is more, yada, yada, make it easy to grab the idea or point for the 5 second to 5 minute(?) attention span of web media readers. There is always a chance that “something really shiny” distracts the reader, as in pop up ads, ding dongs informing there are new emails or texts waiting to be read…oh, you must get the idea.

I find JMG’s writing to be meaty and complex, with a touch of history, an essence of mythology, and an overlay of intellect…in other words, profound.

I found this blog and have been reading it for many years because Mr. Greer challenges my assumptions, habits of thought and narrative. I doubt there will be bullet points anytime soon.

Happy new year to all and to all a good morning.

Gail

Shane W said...

@Jason,
I'm not talking strictly in a religious sense. Yes, it is true that Puritan Protestantism gave way in New England, first to Catholicism, then to secular humanism, but the underlying Puritan mores were simply transferred to the civil religion of Progress instead. Therefore, New England became just as fanatical about Progress as it was about Protestantism, and set about proselytizing Progress upon an unwilling South. Of course, the South never failed to note the tarnished halo and the stake in the eye of the North. Some things never change...

Shane W said...

@Dave,
you're right about Aztlan, which is why I'm all in favor of California secession. No sane person would want the post-industrial basket case Calif. is about to become. If Mexico wants that Trojan horse, more power to them!
Historians have never been able to come to an agreement about the Civil War b/c the correct solution, secession/dissolution, is still out there waiting. Once the Union is dissolved, Americanism is dead, and the constituent nations are free to go their own way, historians will be able to come to an agreement that Civil War papered over national differences in the march to empire.

chemalfait said...

Hiya,
just some things on the PV trend, mostly anecdotal..
back in 2012, I had to tap into some of our retirement funds early. we installed a 6kv grid tied system to help offset the big hit in income tax and penalty for early withdrawl through the fed tax credit. My state (nj) had already done away with the state credits.
It was one of the best moves we made. between conservation practices(make hay while the sun shines ;-)), drastic decrease in electric bills and proceeds from srecs, after 4 years, we've gotten about a 40% return on the 'principle'.
we also pay close attention the developments in the srec market and build rates. Our srec broker provides detailed reports each month on the pipe line. There's been a steady increase in systems. Mostly what i've seen is a growth at the municipal level, with most of the towns here installing systems on public buildings, especially school owned property. There's also been a big increase in residential. Most of that is due to outfits like solar city, with their leasing arrangements. I wonder if that could be considered a 'grassroots' movement? Also I don't think many folks consider this aspect of the 'boom' as it were, focusing more ,it seems, on the Public Utility conversion. Having also worked in the power generation field, these small contributions become in essence 'co-gen' facilities, and do relieve a lot of strain during peak hours of use.

Moshe Braner said...

Regarding MadMagic's writing advice, I see in it the toxic influence that Microsoft Powerpoint has had in many fields. Search online for the Powerpoint version of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address for a good laugh...

Unfortunately, Madmagic is correct regarding the typical web-surfing person these days, who is unwilling or unable to maintain focus long enough to read more than a few words of text in a row. Of course, that's not a typical reader of this blog. But it is a typical voter!

Shane W said...

Geez, Bill, of all people, a Southerner such as yourself should have at least SOME familiarity with the concept of a vengeful God/gods smiting the wicked for their wickedness...

peacegarden said...

Raymond Duckling

I will hold a space for you in my meditations. You are brave to change your life in such a substantial way. Much good fortune on you in the days ahead.

Gail

Shane W said...

@Dave,
I think the South will do well in a post-American world because it has a history of being independent, and of being the nation with the most unique and different culture among the North American nations. I wonder what will become, though, of the Midwest/Great Lakes area? JMG has posited one interpretation w/his Retrotopia novel, though it's by no means guaranteed that will be the path the Great Lakes area takes. I'm thinking that the Midwest/Great Lakes area may be the area that will have the biggest existential crisis/vacuum in the post-American world. So much of Midwestern identity is staked on being middle American, all-American, the American norm, the Heartland, etc. What happens to that identity when there is no America anymore? At least all the other regions have unique regional cultures. I'd be interested in your and others' who live in the area take on it.

August Johnson said...

cat - you said:

"Listening to people who support Trump, it appears that they typically fasten on to the one or two aspects of Trump’s hints about future policy that resonate with their own viewpoint and ignore the rest (your response to me is a case in point). Unfortunately, everyone gets the whole package, whatever that turns out to be. "

Yes, this is very visible. No matter how much evidence is presented that the Russians are were and are hacking to affect political happenings in this country, there are those who keep saying that they see no evidence and it's not happening. Very similar to climate change denial, "There's no evidence for it, in spite of all the presented evidence, therefore it's not happening."

I don't think that for a minute that any Trump supporter would hold to that line if the evidence was that a foreign government had helped Clinton to win instead of Trump. The yelling and screaming would be earsplitting and there would be shrill calls for cyberwar and likely calls for armed resistance to invalidate the election.

I know enough about what goes on in tracing hackers to know that Trump is lying his head off about this. It is quite possible to be very sure of the origin of hacking attacks. And his excusers/supporters know this. But they want that one item that they support so are willing to excuse everything else, no matter how bad.

Just look at how people who say "But Trump has saved so many jobs!" The reality is that either what he says (2000 jobs saved) doesn't match reality (800 actually saved, only to be eliminated in a year by automation), or he takes credit for something he didn't do "I made Sprint bring 5000 jobs back to the US"(Sprint announced this in April of 2015, before he announced his candidacy!)

Don't think for a minute, though, that the exact same thing doesn't happen with Clinton supporters. For example no matter how much evidence was presented about her flagrant violations concerning emails, her supporters/excusers refused to see it. Those in the military and other sensitive jobs knew what would have happened to them if they'd done the same things. Yet, the only consequences Clinton suffered was to get richer.

Clinton was a huge supporter of TPP, but supporters only remember her saying she was against it after the big stink about her involvement with pushing it.

Neither one of the candidates was worthy of the office of President, but because people latch onto one issue and ignore everything else, we were going to get a total disaster either way.

Bob said...

2016 was the year Muhammad Ali died. Of course we can disagree whether that was of any significance to anyone.

2016 did not claim the life of Emma Morano, who is the last known person born in the 1800s.

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ et all - I wonder if all the celebrity (noticeable) deaths are, perhaps, partly due to information overload. How often do we see something like "Bus turns over (in some small far off place), 12 killed." And, perhaps, the baby boom generation (of which I am a part) is beginning to crest.

My prediction is ... The food police, grammar / writing style police and spandex bicycle people form what appears to be an unstoppable political force with a lot of clout. They fall apart in quick order due to generally irritating and alienating everyone else ... and, each other.

My general mantra (?) or, perhaps it's a thought stopper (?) for the coming year when anyone plays the race, gender, class card (did I forget anyone?) ... that generally "throws shade" and resorts to a nasty kind of one upsmanship and superiority ... is: "That's the kind of attitude that got Trump elected." And, no, I didn't vote for the guy. Lew

avalterra said...

Okay, this is actually more just to record this so I can look back on it in a year.

2017 predictions. Generally speaking I see 2017 as a year of chaos. Things will whip saw back and forth. Conflicts will seem to be ending then heat back up again. Markets will rise fast then plunge suddenly. Inflation/deflation may go back and forth or, more likely we will see prices fall in one sector and shoot up in other sectors.

Specific predictions:

1) Donald Trump will not be impeached or assassinated this year.
2) World War III will not break out with Russia
3) Both the social justice movement and the alt-right will grow in membership and influence
4) Russia will make moves (political or militarily) to expand its influence in countries that border it (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia etc.)

Hail Mary for the year. There will be at least one massive act of civil disobedience even larger than the North Dakota pipeline (which by the way I forgot about and am giving myself on full point giving me a 2/5 for last years predictions).

AV

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

I look forward to reading your thoughts on the economy and in particular negative interest rates. My gut feeling is that those negative interest rates will not be available to everyone - unless they have a deposit. ;-)! Of course, people fail completely to understand that negative interest rates are a consequence of peak oil being now many years in the past. Also the economy I reckon reflects the general state of the environment and the higher costs that are being incurred as a result of global warming. If people only understood... You know I lost my entire crop of stone fruit this year, cherries, peaches, apricots and nectarines all due to the crazy weather - they're all gone despite the best practices in place here. The trees have recovered and fortunately the other fruit trees and berries are producing well in their place. But that is how global warming is affecting us - it is in the little things that nobody seems or wants to notice. You know, all of the commercial orchards also took a huge hit this year and I saw organic apricots for sale at about $20/kg. Quality cherries are at about $15/kg. And people were asking why is it so? It is sort of funny, but it isn't really funny. Diversify is the watchword!

You know the raw and naked self interest when it comes to peoples comments on renewable energy sources sort of revolts me. If someone said to me: I'm installing this here solar power system so that my kids - who will have to live with ever worsening climate conditions - don't end up hating my guts because our simple day to day choices ended up destabilising the planets climate; Well you know I might just give them a big hug because I'd have very warm and gooey feelings for them.

But no, it is always my economic savings, my rebates, expected rate of return etc. etc. It really is naked self interest and it is revolting. Just sayin...

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi nuku,

Thanks! And yeah, living with an off grid system really is like living on a boat. Oh yeah, what a great analogy. And Nelson is a beautiful part of the world. Nice one!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Larkin said...

When it comes to a new Confederacy, Virginia would be split again. I’ve lived in both Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads area and there’s tension already. Where the cut occurs will depend on many factors including the spread / contraction of the NOVA sprawl and resulting demographic shifts.

However, I would expect a US civil war to be more like a more common insurrection civil war than the US Civil War is typically remembered. Most civil wars especially in the modern era are very localized guerrilla fighting over a board area with or without conventional armies. In many areas, the power of the controlling group isn’t certain and waxes and wanes. It’s marked by targeted attacks to settle more local disputes as part of the larger fighting along with a strong rural / urban divide. Examples of this are the Russian Civil War, the western side of the US Civil War, and the Taliban. Eventually some new independent nations might shake out, for the short and medium term I expect more of a failed state situation with scattered de facto rulers, or complete victory by one party or another after years of brutal fighting. The Logic of Violence in Civil War by Stathis Kalyvas goes into great detail on this sort of conflict and I recommend it.

Adding to the pile of writing critiques, I find JMG’s writing easy to read and insightful. I always look forward to the next update, and even when I disagree, I find it informative.

latefall said...

Once more re predictions

If you add probability percentages to your predictions (and ideally formulate them so they get clear results) that will likely improve our overall learning effect significantly when they get revisited at the next end of year.

donalfagan said...

A worthwhile article on sustainability of PV:

http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2015/04/how-sustainable-is-pv-solar-power.html

David, by the lake said...

@Shane

I've lived here in WI for a decade and a half. My impression of the culture is one that is firmly rooted (pardon the pun) in agriculture and maritime trade (via the Inland Seas). These are a hardy people here and I doubt that many of them would as much as blink if "American" ceased to be an identity. With respect to societal survival, we would have working farms, cattle, and fresh water. This would likely be both a blessing (resource abundance) and a curse (the need to defend said resources) in a dissolution scenario.

David, by the lake said...

@Shane, re WI

Not to mention the fact that we have lots and lots (and lots) of meat, cheese and beer! :)

latheChuck said...

sunseekernv - I've been watching my 5.25 kWp grid-tied roof-top solar system for two full years now. I live in mid-Maryland and my panels are on the west side of a shallow-pitched roof. The totals for December production: 196 kWh in 2015, 249 in 2016. That works out to 6.6 and 8.3 kWh/day, respectively, not much better than 1 kWh/kWp. Best summer months in each year have been 754 (May, 2015) and 758 (June, 2016) kWh.

Cherokee - I use different ways to describe the decision (to buy panels) with different audiences. If I want to be persuasive, I pitch to their greed (incentives, pay-back time, isolation from supply cost increases). But I usually follow up with a sort of understated footnote: "and maybe I can help show the way to a better planet, too."

MawKernewek said...

Maybe the Blackberry, or something like it will come back in 2017. I personally much prefer using keys to interact with my mobile phone than a touchscreen. The only touchscreen device I have is a Nook, and that has had its problems, with the touchscreen not responding. It works again for now, after sliding a piece of paper around the edge of the screen to dislodge dust around the sides. The Nook book store for it no longer actually operates in the UK, so either I transfer PDFs from my computer (which don't really zoom well), or non-DRM eBooks from somewhere like Smashwords.

Yes, there is evidence there was hacking into the Democratic Party. However specific evidence that ties it to the Russian government, I have not seen. Circumstantial evidence, and assertions from various sources, but these are mostly repeating each other up to the point that an assertion becomes received wisdom. To say that no other actor could have done it lacks imagination as far as the diversity of cyberattack threats go. Playing devil's advocate it could even be some faction of the IT security industry covertly acting to big up the threat so that they can earn $$$s to fight it.

The BBC is dangerous because there are some people who still take it seriously as an unbiased source. It is all very well the Fox News and Russia Todays of this world having their own biases. However with the BBC, another biased source is on its high horse all holier than thou claiming to be uniquely impartial. There may be about 5% of the BBCs output that is worthwhile and distinctive, however 95% isn't, and maybe by budget 99%. It plays the same ratings game as overtly commercial broadcasters, since it earns money from marketing popular programs for repeats on other channels, or overseas, and there is much trashy entertainment that could just as easily be done by a commercial organisation. Much of the schedules are filled with repeats, or formulaic programs on real estate or antiques, no different from a dozen other commercial channels available.
The pernicious and unjust way it is funded, is the reason I don't have my own TV. The TV licence is as if you had to pay £150 per year to buy a Tesco Clubcard, which you needed to have, not just to shop at Tesco, but to shop at any other supermarket.

latheChuck said...

All - I heard a True Believer in Progress interviewed on the radio today regarding the future of biology (well, bio-technology, of course). He asserted that some day we will have fungi which autonomously assemble mobile phones from food waste. He pointed to the first steps: packing material (substitute for styrofoam) and construction blocks (substitute for wood), and said that they'd already used fungi to fabricate a cell-phone case, so in another decade or two, they'd have the whole phone!

Has anyone else heard about this? I'm thinking "OK, guys. Call me back when you have a fungal-fabricated battery, wire, and an LED. Then maybe I'll take you seriously for that phone thing." (I think the "Ecovative" company may have been mentioned.)

Shane W said...

@Chris,
that's why I'm so hopeful that the US will implode, making dissolution/secession a cakewalk, and any fighting short lived. Death by a thousand cuts. I'm hopeful for a USSR type situation after a foreign loss of the kind JMG has sketched out in his books.
I think Trump has just postponed the progress of national dissolution. He's basically managed to unify the broad red swath of the country between the coasts, save blue Ill., Colo, NM, and he may pad his coalition if he manages to deliver on some of his campaign promises. The Union lives to see another day, thanks to Trump. It would've gotten very ugly in flyover country if H. Clinton had one and pursued BAU full steam ahead.

August Johnson said...

sunseekernv - Listen to Chris (Cherokee Organics) and get some real life experience living on off-grid PV, not just using a grid-tied system that covers all your shortages. This is why I need, here in Oregon at 44 degrees north, a 230 watt PV panel to power a Ham Radio Packet Radio digipeater that draws 6 watts on average 24 hrs a day. Also, a 100 amp hour (1200 watt hours at 12 volts) battery. This is the minimum needed to prevent battery killing over-discharge.

August Johnson said...

JMG - Don't you dare think about changing your writing method. (I know you won't.) Yours is one of the few that aren't dumbed down for readers who don't want to read, but instead have something fed to them.

Varun Bhaskar said...

Glen,

Guess I'm already wrong on one count then. :P

Nastarana,

Yes, Indian civilization is extremely resilient. I don't doubt that it'll survive the fall of Industrial civilization and rise again at some point in the future. The fundamental difficultly facing India’s pluralistic culture is that it is under constant assault by Christians and Muslims with financial support from outside the country. It is a project of cultural/religious imperialism. Once the petro-states go into decline (especially the Saudis) I expect a more indigenous form of Islam to once again flourish in India. Similarly once the west goes into decline I expect the Christians to also begin assimilating.

India and China probably won’t get into a direct conflict any time soon, but that’s only true in the long term if India avoids an imperial project.

Right now the country is in for a rough ride. On a side note, I do hope some of ADR's Indian readers are trying to find ways to direct the country in the right direction. He's basically handed them the keys.

As for the United States. The Wisconsin faction is what I call the old guard republicans who current hold power in the state. Gov. Walker and Congressman Ryan aren’t exactly on the best of terms with Pres. Trump. During the elections Walker was strongly opposed to Trump, as was Ryan. I expect them to resist much of Trump’s agenda simply because they profit from the continuation of business as usual. I don’t know what it will be that triggers Trump’s wrath against the old guard in Wisconsin, but I see it happening. Ryan’s actions show that the old guard still think that the old rules apply.

Regards,

Varun

sunseekernv said...

Anastassia -
Re: Weißbach et al.

In the U.S., we have a phrase "follow the money", similar to the latin "cui bono" (who benefits?).

He works for the Institut für Festkörper-Kernphysik
which translates to: Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physics

They are working on a dual-fluid nuclear reactor, a variant of the molten-salt fuel reactor
that uses a molten lead coolant loop.
While they have the typical claims of molten salt reactors, they also believe that their reactor can power humanity for several million years and that high temperature chemistry can make hydrazine for automotive fuel cheaper than conventional fuels.
https://festkoerper-kernphysik.de/dfr_eco

n.b. hydrazine is a highly toxic, volatile compound with wide explosive limits.
When transferring into rockets, the people involved must wear protective suits in case of leaks.
Does this sound like something you want in anybody's automobile?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrazine#Hazards

In other words, they're pretty far into la-la land of techno-cornucopians.

In a similar vein, Bill Gates calls for "more research before we deploy renewables" needs to be evaluated in light of his investment in a company designing small modular nuclear reactors.
http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/nuclear/the-forgotten-history-of-small-nuclear-reactors
"Economics killed small nuclear power plants in the past - and probably will keep doing so"

n.b. Lazard's latest Leveled Cost Of Energy analysis shows why the nuclear advocates are so often anti-renewable, they can't compete on economics.
(details in the full study - no paywall, no registration)
https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-analysis-100/

Myriad said...

The news about the insurance salesmen is indeed dire. But until there's a month of Sundays, gardens reject their artichoke hearts, and the skies rain down soggy potato chips, I wouldn't be too concerned.

Karen said...

@Shane W
I can only comment on my observations of northern MN, but it has an extremely strong identity which I characterize as “New Scandinavia.” Having moved here from another area of the Midwest but further south, it really feels like another country. In fact, most of the people I know here don’t see themselves as Midwesterners but Northlanders. Their ancestors left the boreal forests in Europe and found something very similar in North America. Many I have met are only second or third generation and extremely proud of their ancestry. They speak numerous phrases of Swedish, Norwegian and particularly Finnish, still eat lots of the traditional foods,(even Lutefisk) are staunchly Lutheran and have a much deeper reverence for nature and the land than where I formerly lived. Additionally, there is a sizeable population of Ojibwe whose descendants have lived on the north woods for several generations longer than the Scandinavians. Their identity is greatly impacted by ancestral ties to the boreal forests and waters.

I suspect you are correct in your assessment about the South’s future. As someone who is three-quarters hillbilly my ancestors have lived in Appalachia and later the Ozarks for nearly 300 hundred years. I agree that the South is a unique culture. Your comment makes me wonder if the ones who may suffer the worst identity crisis will be ones who have family and ancestors from differing parts of the country and no real ties to a particular land and the culture that develops around living on/with that land.

gjh42 said...

The lowtechmagazine article has some good points about the viability of solar PV, but there is one assumption they make that bothers me. They say that if the solar PV industry grows at more than the rate of inverse EROEI, it will be a net producer rather than reducer of CO2. This would be true if the PV universe were alone in the world, but it is not. Every PV installation built displaces a similar capacity of other fuel sources, and if the source mix shifts rapidly to PV, the CO2 saved in operation likely more than compensates for the net CO2 produced by PV manufacture compared to fossil fueled plant manufacture.

The concept that locally manufactured PV installations are vastly more efficient from an EROEI standpoint than ones made in China and transported around the world is good to remember. Now if only policies could encourage that to happen.

I note that even Low Tech magazine uncritically accepts the notion that world demand for electricity will double by 2045, necessitating a faster build-out of capacity.

Nancy Sutton said...

Maxine, how are you going to 'force' them to 'STAY' there? they are adventurous ;)

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi sunseekernv,

Hmmm. I've heard that story... You need to consider how the system works in reality.

Mate, you may not be aware of this but over winter it can be very cloudy. And it can rain too. Also from time to time it snows. Wow, who would have thought that solar PV does not work in those conditions... This winter was beyond cloudy.

Far out dude, get in the ring and get some hands on experience or keep quiet. Get thee to a solar shop my friend and live with the stuff for a few years.

Cheers

Chris

John Michael Greer said...

Clay, that metaphor works for me.

Shane, I'll certainly consider any job offer that comes my way, even if the pay is in Confederate dollars!

Pyrrhus, I bet they are.

Varun, I don't know the situation in India well enough to judge those predictions, though they seem reasonable enough. The US predictions look like slam-dunks to me.

Jon, fascinating! Clearly I need to look into Wilken's ideas.

Trajork aka Grebulocities, that's an interesting point, and one that I'll need to brood over at length before I can offer an answer.

Cherokee, I'm doing next week's post on the subject of writing, partly because Madmagic's prose policing amuses me, partly because it's relevant to the occasional series of posts on education I've done. The short form is that if I'd wanted to write in a stilted, choppy, dumbed-down style, I could certainly have done so!

Cat, that is to say, I addressed the issues that matter to me and not those that you think ought to matter to me; I also made my own assessment of Trump's character and likely actions, rather than blindly accepting what's being churned out by the corporate mass media, as you've done. Still, I appreciate that you've offered specific predictions. If you turn out to be wrong, will you admit it?

Patricia, the replacement of interests with (supposed) values is getting pretty thick, no question. Yes, I noticed that one also.

Wendy, that's a valid concern. I admit I'm more concerned about the equivalent here in the US, as I can potentially have some influence over that, while China's problems are its own to solve.

Shane, no doubt!

Onething, aha! I like that. Now we can all sing along with my favorite conspiracy theory song.

Sackerson said...

@Sunsekernv: thank you for your response, I shall indeed read your review.

I have also been interested in the concepts of solar updraft towers and solar power towers and don't see why this kind of technology need necessarily be dismissed out of hand. I would certainly take the point that in cold, damp northern climes the odds are stacked against, but for certain parts of the world where there is a) abundant sunlight and b) a stable government, there is potential.

What a shame that the Arabian peninsula is unable to exploit a) its sunshine b) its massive aquifer and c) its brilliant geographical position for trade and manufactures.

But Australia, now...

John Michael Greer said...

Hal, I admit that wouldn't surprise me at this point!

David, I won't argue. It seems to me that moving to a federal system would be a workable way to maintain some of the advantages of the current US while ditching some of the most pervasive problems -- but the way things are moving, partition (either peaceful, as in Twilight's Last Gleaming, or the opposite, as in Retrotopia, seems like the most likely outcome for me.

Maxine, good! I'm not at all certain, though, what "getting medieval" on the raspberries amounts to. Will you dress up in a houppelande and a wimple and sing "Sumer is Icumen In" at them? ;-)

Rita, exactly. Every society practices triage in one way or another, and the divergences are simply who does it and what the criteria are.

Fattigman, thank you. I won't.

Anastassia, excellent. I distrust Weißbach et al. on the basis of first principles, as their claim that nuclear power has higher net energy than petroleum conflicts with the constant and severe economic difficulties nuclear power has had wherever it's been installed -- and that's without adding in the costs of storing the wastes safely for millennia! So much of the debate over EROEI has been a matter of advocates of nuclear power and renewables pointing at each other and saying "Your power source is uneconomical" -- and I tend to think both of them are right. You're also quite correct, of course, that electricity is only a small piece of the picture, and next to nobody is talking about the larger issues...

Sunseekernv, I'm not surprised that you don't like Prieto and Hall! Until I see more detailed, whole-system analyses of actual built PV systems, though, I'm going to remain deeply skeptical of your claims. (And your attempt to tell Cherokee that he ought to be getting much more power from the sun than he actually gets is to my mind a dead giveaway that you're not dealing with the gritty realities of solar power.) I certainly agree that solar and wind power, along with waterpower, biomass, and human and animal muscle, are going to be the power sources of the future, since that's what will be left; I also agree that massive conservation and lifestyle change is a precondition to any transition to renewables...but it's quite possible for solar PV, say, to be quite a bit more viable than algal biodiesel (enough, for example, to repay part of the cost of that 300 GW buildout) but still not be able to hack it in the real world.

With regard to subsidies, by the way, it's entirely possible that at this point no energy source used by industrial civilization is actually paying its way. The accelerating collapse of infrastructure and standards of living in the US and elsewhere could be a symptom of early stage catabolic collapse, as every other form of capital gets gutted to keep the energy flowing. More on this in a future post.

John Michael Greer said...

Phil, I get that. I can't speak to the likelihood of a caste system in Britain -- you know the social climate and its current dynamics, and I don't -- but a caste system in America strikes me as very unlikely, as the people who currently benefit from our existing system of privilege have embraced the sort of arrogant cluelessness that usually comes just before the tumbrils start rolling. I'll be doing a post down the road a bit on the role of class bigotry in contemporary America which will touch on this, and suggest the likely outcomes.

Fred, well, we'll see!

Chemalfait, I've noted more than once here that as a transitional technology -- a way to help smooth out the Long Descent -- decentralized solar PV is often a good idea. It's purely when it's being presented as a way to maintain business as usual indefinitely that I shake my head and think of cargo cults.

Moshe, "typical" is one of those words that immediately makes me raise an eyebrow. I've never met a typical person, nor did typical voters decide the recent election -- the working class voters in the upper Midwest who voted for Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016 were far from generic Americans, you know. Equally, this isn't a typical blog, it gets a fairly atypical number of readers every month -- and it seems to be having an atypical impact on the collective conversation of our time.

Bob, and various people will die in 2017, too. Others will survive, curiously enough!

Lewis, I suspect your prediction will turn out to be quite correct.

Avalterra, so noted!

Cherokee, right now, I'm looking out the window and rain is falling. In January, in the Appalachians. A decade ago -- less than that -- it would have been snow. So, yes, wind is changing! As for the self-interest thing, yes, I see that too, all the time, and it curdles my stomach.

Chris, that's one reason why I'd prefer to avoid the civil war/domestic insurgency end of the spectrum of options!

Latefall, I have no way of attaching realistic percentages to qualitative projections, and I see no reason to pander to the fetish for quantity by attaching randomly chosen numbers to my guesses.

Donalfagan, thank you for that.

MawKernewek, that's certainly my take on the BBC. I like to compare it to RT; both are official government news sources, and you can tell by reading both of them what the governments in question want you to think. As far as I can tell, they're about equally objective.

John Michael Greer said...

LatheChuck, oh bright heavens. Okay, that may just be the dumbest technology prediction I've heard this decade. Just how is food waste going to contain enough conductive metals, silicon, rare earth elements, etc. to produce a cell phone? Or is this miracle fungus going to one-up the alchemists and perform the transmutation of metals? I suggest they concentrate on making cell phones from unicorn droppings instead...

August, trust me, I won't. As you may have noticed, I'm not easy to influence! (As C.S. Lewis commented about J.R.R. Tolkien; "Influence him? You might as well try to influence a bandersnatch.") I chose the prose style for these essays for good reasons, and have refined and adapted it over the last ten years; I don't propose to abandon that just because some pompous blowhard decides it's his place to give me a writing lesson.

Sunseekernv (if I may), I agree absolutely about the pro-nuclear analyses; get in under the hood of their EROEI calculations and you find vast amounts of indirect costs quietly discarded. I'd point out, though, that following the money -- and also, ahem, following the ideology -- is worth doing with pro-renewable analyses as well. When Naomi Oreskes insisted that it was "climate denialism" to ask questions about the economic viability of renewable energy, she made it painfully clear that there are aspects of the pro-renewables movement that are a matter of faith, not of fact.

Myriad, all I can say in response to that is "Mmummffleflug!"

Creedon said...

Prediction for 2017; the pace of collapse will pick up. We will begin to see declines in world GDP.

Bogatyr said...

@August Johnson, I think you've had the wool pulled over your eyes regarding the "Russian hacking" of the election. The report you gave has a massive disclaimer right at the top of the front page, which is worth paying attention to. Furthermore, independent internet security experts are pretty unambiguously saying that the "evidence" in the FBI report is nothing of the kind. For a fairly specific breakdown of why this is so, I suggest reading a report and its followup from digital security firm Wordfence. The first report is here; the followup, with further details and clarifications is here. Sample quote from security researcher Jeff Carr:

It merely listed every threat group ever reported on by a commercial cybersecurity company that is suspected of being Russian-made and lumped them under the heading of Russian Intelligence Services (RIS) without providing any supporting evidence that such a connection exists.”


To edit what you said, there's no evidence for it, because the evidence that has been presented is no evidence at all.

As MawKernewek pointed out, the Democrats may have been hacked, but there's no evidence it was done by Russians.

Happy New Year, everyone!

latefall said...

@JMG
Sorry if the above comment came across more demanding than I had intended. I had typed up an explanatory comment just after that but failed to back it up and it was promptly eaten by the net (happens a lot if you use TOR or a similar connection). It is only meant as something to consider.

I certainly do not have a fetish for a simplified quantitative view at things when it is rigor vs relevance. Using a number (especially a percentage with its associations) in such a context initially felt kind of "wrong" to me.
It is just that I find written language (as commonly employed) extremely deficient when it come to these things.
One could also rank or group predictions by decreasing perceived probability, make why-because networks, or a million other things. A percentage is just something that people can handle. And it lends itself to a simple review of how one did - which I don't have to explain to you can be very helpful to do, given the reliability of our cognitive faculties. I'd argue in real life decisions a rubber-band "maybe" is not very helpful, and you have to _weigh_ probabilities much more often. If the exercise results in becoming less sure of oneself and more ready to re-evaluate certain perceptions, perhaps even more attentive, I'd say that would be time well spent.

A weekly journal and 2 lines of why-because would probably be much better yet, but that would really mean more work. Adding an "XY%" is pretty easily done.

Here would be what one item from my vanished list would have looked like:
- the search term "barbary pirates" will become more than 10x as popular in the next year than last year. 70% probability.

Shane W said...

Okay, JMG, I'll appoint you Secretary of the Department of Conservation, Appropriate Technology, and Historical Literacy. As to the Confederate dollars, keep in mind there won't be American dollars by then, and our currency will be one of the strongest and most stable, if I do say so myself. :)
There's a certain sort of whimsy and enchantment to your writing, JMG, that draws one in. I love the existential example of plopping down at ground zero: a down at heels, rust-belt Appalachian town that suffers from poverty and all its attendant ills, and making a wonderful go of it all and living a great life.
@Karen,
actually, strong ethnic communities would probably be one of the assets of parts of the Midwest, as you alluded to. Glad to see they haven't been assimilated out of existence in your neck of the woods. As you well know, the South didn't really experience much immigration until the latest wave from Latin America, and keeping them from assimilating into a dying and worthless culture (MLK's "burning church") is a full-time job. One of the tragedies of so much of the South is the way its traditional culture has been destroyed by forced mainstream culture, and now is littered w/a wasteland of Walmart, destroyed communities, dependency, alcoholism and heroin addiction, just to name a few. It's going to be a long process taking many years for us to heal and recover what was lost.
@Dave,
trade you our Bourbon for your beer and cheese. :)

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...

By any chance, JMG, did my two part post in response to Shane's wishing for California to magically go "away" not pass the "polite discourse" test? It would have likely been queued just ahead of gjh42's post, above. No profanity was involved, nor was I flamebaiting (I looked up the definition just to make sure), though I did say something like "efficiency-be-'darned'."

I can edit and re-send if need be, because I think I did have some useful points to what I said - and relevant to the topic that is talking about the dissolution of the US as we know it...

ganv said...

I totally agree that the new year is quite opaque to seeing very far. The conservation laws of physics and the human inability to plan for the future can be counted on. But whether Trump will choose to pull back from military adventurism or send the fleet after the first country that gets under his thin skin remains to be seen. He is going to be taunted by hawks in his party in the US and by leaders abroad. They will call him weak if he doesn't use the military, and he won't be able to bear that. I fear the Obama administration will be viewed as our least militaristic era in the early 21st century.

The global military/economic/diplomatic arrangements that have existed since the early 90s are likely to change. And it could change rapidly in 2017 or we could muddle along. Very hard to predict. I would watch China/Japan/US relations most closely. Russia is loud but economically weak. The Middle East has long been unstable but I don't see a predictable flash point in the coming year. China is a huge force economically, militarily, and has huge influence across Asian and much of Africa. If the Chinese and Trump find a way to get along, we could do ok for the next few years. But it is quite possible that the war of words about economic issues degenerates into nationalistic power rhetoric in 2017 leading to a new cold or maybe even hot war between the US and China. Japan will be a stabilizing force. Together with S. Korea they have almost half of China's GDP. Don't forget that China is internally unstable with a political system that may not keep power if economic growth reverses for a year or two. I can imagine anything from a major economic setback from a civil war, to a relatively peaceful turn to democratic socialism, to a harsh clamping down by the communist party with moderate economic consequences.

When the next oil price shock happens, we need to watch Europe. Balance sheets in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland still look very bad and the UK and France are not far behind. Another shock with the UK weak from a weakened pound and the inevitably divisive Brexit negotiations could destabilize the whole project. We should keep watch for who loses and who wins if the EU partially disintegrates.

Vesta said...

Cherokee Chris et al,

I couldn't agree more with your comments about "raw and naked self interest". And that same selfishness can be used to direct people toward less destructive lifestyles without them even being aware of it. A couple of examples from my small business:

Much of our work is selling HOME COMFORT to wealthy techies (who already live overly comfortable lives), by retrofitting their homes with appropriate sealing and insulation and fenestration. They are mostly oblivious to the dramatic decreases in heating fuel use that is our real goal.

Similarly, we sell HISTORIC PRESERVATION to the same crowd, usually by restoring and upgrading exisiting original wooden or steel windows to perform on par with the best new windows. The value they perceive for this work is mostly status, and again they remain ignorant of the resource conservation that is our real goal.

And (somewhat depressingly) I use the same strategy in my personal life. I'm currently working on a wood-fired masonry heater as the primary heating appliance in my own home. The whole family looks forward to indoor fires, but of course the real goal is to leave my kids a home that they can still enjoy once utility power gets too scarce or expensive.

The take home lesson for me, having done this work for two decades, is that trying to change minds is outside my skill set. That's a job for my betters (such as our gracious host). But I can still do right by myself and for others, even if they don't care.

Cheers to all and a very happy new year-

Vesta said...

August Johnson,

I was not a Trump voter (Sanders write-in), and I'm not a techie, and I claim no special knowledge, but the whole Russian Hacking thing just feels like BS to me.

Can you tell me why this

https://turningpointnews.org/exposing-political-corruption/dhs-fbi-claim-of-russian-hacking-is-fake-news

is not an honest refutation of the evidence you cited in your post?

Thank you!

Shane W said...

Regarding the Confederacy, of course, it goes without saying that in the future, Fla. will not exist, except in the Atlantean sense...

cat said...

Dear JMG,

I would be very happy to be wrong in my predictions for 2017 as I regard Trump as dangerous to the well-being of everyone except himself, his family and a few buddies. (Clinton would also be dangerous in that under her administration many major problems would have continued to be swept under the rug but I believe her administration would have been less reckless than Trump’s will be and the results less chaotic and thus more salvageable). I do wish to point out that the bad effects of Trump and his administration of billionaire crony capitalists and hard-right wingers may not be fully apparent immediately and reserve the right to assess the long-term results of his actions, as well as immediate effects.

I am sorry that you think I simply buy a line – I am trained as a researcher, read widely in publications out of the mainstream from a wide range of perspectives, and consciously choose to try to understand the viewpoints and information of people with whom I disagree so that I can modify my own conclusions if I find concrete evidence to the contrary. I have not found any evidence so far that reassures me about Trump.

I am sorry to hear that you regard the real-life effects of bigotry, misogyny, and fraud on the part of politicians and leaders as issues you are not interested in. Republicans have proven over the past 8 years that they care nothing about the good of the country and are quite happy to throw everyone but their fellow Republican politicians and moneyed elites under the bus – Trump has now made his deal with them, fully embracing their agenda to privatize everything in sight and institutionalizing “pay to play” in all aspects of life. I fail to see how this will do the rest of us any good.

I do appreciate the way in which your blog promotes actual discussion.

Shane W said...

Trump just had another one of his moments of lucid clarity when he stated that if you don't want something hacked, you should send it by courier (paraphrasing) Seems like JMG has agreed w/his Retrotopia novel. Though it is interesting to hear from none other an obsessive Tweeter as the president-elect himself. Of course, the mainstream media pilloried the whole idea of using low tech couriers as just another crazy Trump utterance, but the fact remains of how vulnerable the technosphere is to hacking, and how resilient Retro tech is.

Bill Pulliam said...

Re: Succession talk, having lived here nearly my entire life (including my birth and all my ancestry), I seriously doubt the South will willingly secede as long as there remains a minimally functional Federal government with its subsidy pipeline. If you cut off federal money today the regional economy would collapse within a month. Mall*Wart would pull out nearly all its stores, because without the steady influx of WIC and SSI and etc. they could no longer be profitable in vast areas. Rural America may hate DC, but they (we) also depend on them utterly to keep the wolves at bay by subsidising our food, shelter, and infrastructure.

Bill Pulliam said...

Shane -- Yes but the vengeful god of righteousness smiting the evildoers has been pretty well proven by history to be an empty fantasy. I prefer to stay rooted in reality, where spiritual forces appear to be utterly unconcerned with our species-specific ideas of good and evil. We're on our own there. If you want an evildoer smitten you better be prepared to do the smiting yourself. God is unlikely to intervene.

Justin said...

To add to the comments about the "Russian" hacking, we know that at least some of the hacks were carried out in rather unsophisticated ways (phishing, password-guessing, etc), which means that there are probably tens of thousands of individuals, who using their own personal resources, could have pulled off the hack - the idea that state-level resources were required is complete BS.

JMG, another point on PV and wind: Better PV and wind as a subsidy dumpster than say, nuclear. Dead PV panels or turbines will cause far less trouble in 500 years than dead nuclear plants and the associated waste.

Phil Harris said...

Bill said
" If you cut off federal money today the regional economy would collapse within a month."
Britain is a tiny place geographically but if the public funds from central government here (meaning mostly jobs in public sector e.g. health and education and infrastructure maintenance) were cut off then some of our rural low-income areas would sink to 3rd World status perhaps middle-Caribbean at best within weeks. EU money is also being distributed to these areas. Our Govt. will need at least to top up the difference in future.

best
Phil H

Shane W said...

@Bill,
if not a god of righteousness, then certainly gods of consequences, then? Surely you must believe in gods of consequences.

Sylvia Rissell said...

Shane, what Bill Pullam said about secession.

Maybe after Social Security collapses, but in the mean time, lots of people depend on government checks and what have you.

If you are serious about secession, you need to come up with a plan to keep all the old/disabled citizens of the New South from starving/freezing/dying in the streets.

Certainly, the individual citizens of the hypothetical "New South" will be "entitled" to benefits, as they paid in before secession, but the financial reality is that the checks wouldn't get mailed, or if they did their would be no funds! Why would the "New North" fund a bunch of secessionists who aren't paying in any longer?

JMG: I suggest the definition of "Publican" is one who insists that the social supports and customs that keep your family from starving are immoral or unnecessary, and also insists that the subsidies which enrich his/her business and family are traditional, moral, and not to be removed under any circumstances.

Gene Ainsworth said...

My prediction for the new year is simply, more of the same, but only somewhat worse. I think we all know that this is a progressive planetary illness that will most probably persist until our civilization is forgotten, and future archeologists discover their new mysterious ancient civilization.

Dennis D said...

I installed my solar system, now 5.9Kw, and it is a grid-tied hybrid battery system. At 54 degrees north, I know that it is an insurance policy on the grid more than a replacement. When the grid goes intermittent, it will allow home life to continue, and when the grid goes away completely, it will allow some LED lighting, refrigeration and water pumping. Luckily, peak refrigeration demand coincides with peak solar. I have no kids, so whoever we will our passive solar house to will benefit from my hard work, assuming some powers that be don't confiscate the place once it becomes more valuable. When talking to different groups I change my message as well, and those who are motivated by greed get one message (better return than a zero interest "investment" in an insolvent banking system) and those with a more practical bent get the insurance aspect (it's not the $2 in power that you can't buy, it's the $1000 of food in your freezer that you lose in a power outage).
As a plan B I am building a live-a-board sailboat which will also have solar backup.

Dennis D said...

I installed my solar system, now 5.9Kw, and it is a grid-tied hybrid battery system. At 54 degrees north, I know that it is an insurance policy on the grid more than a replacement. When the grid goes intermittent, it will allow home life to continue, and when the grid goes away completely, it will allow some LED lighting, refrigeration and water pumping. Luckily, peak refrigeration demand coincides with peak solar. I have no kids, so whoever we will our passive solar house to will benefit from my hard work, assuming some powers that be don't confiscate the place once it becomes more valuable. When talking to different groups I change my message as well, and those who are motivated by greed get one message (better return than a zero interest "investment" in an insolvent banking system) and those with a more practical bent get the insurance aspect (it's not the $2 in power that you can't buy, it's the $1000 of food in your freezer that you lose in a power outage).
As a plan B I am building a live-a-board sailboat which will also have solar backup.

Candace said...

@ JMG
Do you think you will do any work reductions about mid-range time periods? I.e. I know you expect certain aspects of environmental degradation. To be in full-force by 2100. Do you have any guesstimates about what things will be like by 2022 and 2027 for example?

I ask because I was reading JHK's 2017 predictions, and near term sounds like a hot
Mess, but then he seems to throw in a longer term outlook caveat.

@ August Johnson and anyone else, Has anyone said explicitly why Craig Murray's statement that the WikiLeaks stuff came Crome a disgruntled Sanders person at the DNC, where the leaked data was given to him physically by an intermediary has no credibility with anyone but the Daily Mail? As far as I know he was a diplomat who was censured for complIning about human rights abuses in Uzbeckistan, why does his statement have no credibility? Is there something else that makes him not credible?

@ cat
What makes you think the conservatives in Trumps circle are worse than the conservatives in Clinton's circle. Their last ditch effort to get us into Trouble with the Russians has been scaring the crack out of me! I'm just deeply grateful the TU-154 plane crash has been determined to be an actual accident and not some sort of Stuxnet sabotage on the wing flaps! (Yes, I've probably listened to a few
Too many cyber warfare books lately.)

August Johnson said...

Bogatyr, Vesta - I don't want to load this great blog up with stuff most won't want to read, but my reply is here:

http://www.qsl.net/kg7bz/ADR01-02-2017.pdf

Please excuse the html in the file, I had intended to post here but went on way too long. I am not a skilled blogger, just a tech-savvy geek who has worked in many different technical fields.

August Johnson KG7BZ

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi sunseekernv,

I thought about it for a while until it finally dawned on me that you are confusing the model for the reality. They're not the same thing and you display belief that the model should be reality and thus you are confused and perhaps angered by my correction. You can see this in that your reaction to me was to question the system as it is here rather than adjusting your own beliefs.

It is a common problem and one that I also made when I first began mucking around with solar PV equipment almost a decade ago now. It was a painful process for me to work through and I had nowhere to hide as the household slowly ran out of electricity.

I have some further bad news for you. The models are constructed to produce "best case scenarios" and the reason for that is that they are trying to flog you product. This solar PV equipment just doesn't work the way the models claim. And every item in a system that you skimp on to save a few bucks will cost you in terms of energy either collected or stored. Electricity is really akin to trying to store water in a leaky bucket.

And mate, whilst I am at it, Reno Nevada suffers from serious heat. That heat will cause the solar PV panels to de-rate and reduce their output more than the models will ever be likely to show. On a 40'C (104'F) day here (in the shade) the solar PV output is hugely reduced and the equipment itself becomes very hot and then it too reduces its output.

Imagine the anger and disbelief that you feel about this topic multiplied by the expectations of people living in industrial societies and you may just start to get an inkling of the major problems heading our way...

Cheers (although that is not probably appropriate in this circumstance)

Chris

sunseekernv said...

JMG - re: gritty realities of PV and Cherokee's system.

I'm trying to be helpful here.

PVWatts is not some marketing gimmick, it's run by the National Renewable Energy Lab, on major version 5.
It uses decades of actual data of solar radiation from the nearest weather station it can find.
It has a good track record. Do a web search for "pvwatts vs reality" and one will find for most
people it's within plus/minus 10% in any given year. Their defaults for things like inverter efficiency are known to be conservative.

It is highly unusual that Cherokee's system only gives HALF the predicted power.
10% less, 15, even 20% less - meh, statistics. 50% less? Something seems wastefully wrong.
There could be a good external reason for that - I used Melbourne as it was near his latitude, but he could be in some mountain valley with fog and clouds MUCH MUCH more than the weather stations in Melbourne, or have shading issues that wouldn't be apparent without a tool like Solar Pathfinder or similar. But saying "clouds" without some numbers isn't proof.
Even notoriously cloudy Seattle is 64% of Spokane in December - not (less than) 50%.

One of the gritty realities of PV systems, particularly small ones, is that they are often not properly commissioned,
or they break silently (a string wire is improperly connected/becomes disconnected - birds/rodents on the roof?, module diode shorts, combiner box fuse blows, etc.) and either nobody checks at all or they just look at the inverter statistics which shows total power generated, but not to a string/module granularity.
(one of the advantages of module level inverters/optimizers, besides array disconnect, is to have per-module data).
People see the inverter lights saying "status OK" and they're getting power out (batteries charging off-grid, meter running backward grid-tied), so they say "fine" when things are not as fine as they should be.

If I had a system that only put out HALF of what PVWatts said it should, I would not dismiss this as clouds WITHOUT ACTUAL MEASUREMENTS.
I would look at each string's output, a clamp-on DC ammeter is simple enough, they should be within a few percent of each other with steady sky conditions.
I would track inverter stats closely, even hourly, for a while.
I would consider getting a home weather station with solar radiation sensor - Davis makes some nice ones with optional solar radiation sensor, around $800 U.S. total. Nice for gardening as well. Compare kWh/m^2/day measured vs. predicted.
If there is any possibility of shading, I'd break out the Solar Pathfinder - have any trees grown up, ...?
Any leaves/debris up there? Depending on how the modules are wired inside, could be major power loss to half cover a single cell.
Maybe even get a PV reference cell or small module that comes with its particular IV curve data and check the strings/modules against that.
The last thing I'd do is say PVWatts is full of beans.

Now, if Cherokee has done something like these tests, then we can talk about that data.

Not being concerned that a decent modeling package like PVWatts and a PV system output disagree by such a large amount seems odd.
Seems like getting a new car the EPA says gets X miles per gallon, finding one is actually getting X/2 mpg and saying "ok, no problem, I got bad roads here". 10-20% less, sure, but 50% less?

Unknown said...

A response to madmagic's nonsense, and with it a warning, that idiots will be offended.

My friends and I have a retort to the endless stupidity that passes as "safety awareness" in our overly managed nanny state of being that goes like this. "Accidents kill stupid people, and they are good for the gene pool". It is amusing how often it is met with furious agreement.

If you are so stupid as to be unable to make sense out of John Micheal Greer's writings, perhaps it is better that you do not benefit from the wisdom contained therein, and in failing to do so your lack of future prosperity will perhaps render your odds of successful reproduction reduced, thus enhancing the future gene pool. That is not discriminating against the poorly educated, I know enough slum kids who have run very profitable businesses to dispute that rubbish. If you want to learn, you will learn.

Stick to what you are doing, Mr Greer, it is in humanities better interests that you do so. Simple is for simpletons.

sunseekernv said...

Sackerson - re: Solar Updraft Towers - some thinking out loud

"do the math" BTW - there is an excellent blog called just that: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/

From wiki: the Manzanares tower made at most 50 kW. It had a collection area of 46 hectares (hectare is 100 x 100 meters).
Assume it gave 24x7 power, compare to a PV system.
rule of thumb, PV capacity factor of 20%, so we need to overbuild by 5x to get 24x7 power, derate for battery loss, make it 6x.
6 x 50 kW is 300 kW.

How big is 300 kW of PV?
Assume 15% efficient modules (nothing special).
AM1.5 spectra is 1000 W/m^2, so we get 150 W/m^2 for module.
Module area is 300,000 W / 150 W/m^2 = 2,000 m^2 or 1/5 hectare of modules.
Ground packing factor is something like 1/5 to 1/10 for fixed tilt arrays, so we end up with 1 or 2 hectares vs. 46.

How much will it cost?
Utility scale PV is around $2/Wp (300 kW is kinda small, maybe we use $2.5/Wp) = $750,000.
Storage of 300 kWh for let's say 20 hours: Lithium-Ion capex of 400 $/kWh, x 300 x 20 = $2,400,000.
Large scale solar updraft is $6/Wp. 40kW x 6 = $240,000

Well, that's a heck of question isn't it. Should be much cheaper.
But wait, go get some real numbers, not just "50 kW max output" and "assume 24x7" (one of the touted advantages).
https://architecture.mit.edu/sites/architecture.mit.edu/files/attachments/lecture/SolarUpdraftTower_Project.pdf
Table at the top of page 7 - it only reaches that output for a few hours a day in June.
Call it 275 kWh/day at 50 kW max power = 5.5 full load hours a day - in Spain!
This is a PV-like capacity factor!
So we only need 275 kWh of storage for the PV system, or 400 x 275 = $110,000.
So for 1 or 2 hectares of land, plus $860,000 we have the equivalent of an updraft tower that won't fall over (like the one in Manzanares did).
And we save 44 hectares of land (109 acres). At $10,000/acre (cheap land), that's 1.09 million dollars. Goodbye any economic advantage.

Eyeballing the chart, the power drop-off in winter is far worse than a PV system with tilted modules,
so the PV system is better on that count.

And I didn't recalculate the PV array to only get 275 kWh/day, now it's only like 60 kW.

Moral of story: a lot of schemes (and I do mean a LOT) just don't pencil out with even a rudimentary analysis.
But fantasy sure seem appealing. It's nice to think about inventing the one big thing that will save the world,
but the vast majority of inventions never go very far.

Flat panel PV is widely applicable, scaleable from watts to Gigawatts, fails at the module/string/inverter level so most failures are partial, and amenable to getting cheaper because of a generic industrial ecosystem.
Concentrating PV/solar thermal power needs high DNI, is only applicable to utility scale, often fails at the whole plant level, and has/will never developed the scale to have an industrial ecosystem - everything is custom, thus expensive/unproven.

Which (partly) explains why there are 300 GW of PV in the world, but only like 5 GW of CSP.
I think there are good reasons (not all strictly technical) to dismiss or at least denigrate certain things.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi lathechuck,

Thanks, and that is a good strategy too. You have to pitch your story to your audience for sure.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

I never quite imagined that you would write in a: "stilted, choppy, dumbed-down style". If ever I saw an essay that was purportedly from you, in that particular style I would know that this time they hacked your account properly! Hehe! Of course, you may also be pranking us just to make a point? ;-)! The contrast would be pretty funny you'd have to admit?

I was reading Overshoot today over lunch and the author was discussing "niches". It occurred to me that in a world of saturated internet content, that writing in your own niche is an excellent adaptive strategy. Madmagic is probably very perplexed by your response. In fact, when people inevitably ask me about future strategies I always advise them to seek the niche that is not saturated with people and their demands. They don't always appreciate receiving that advice, but that is the hazards of the professional wizard, don't you think so? ;-)!

Thanks also for your support, I really appreciate that. Attacking the installation rather than the technology is a common strategy of true believers. It is not for no reason that I publish the real world statistics of the solar power system here for three weeks either side of the winter solstice. It is a real touch and go time for me with electricity. And this year, I used the petrol generator for about (from memory) six hours and that was the first time in three years that I'd used the generator and I felt really guilty about doing so.

The other thing I always find to be really strange is that people inevitably say: "Just chuck the solar PV power systems out there in the desert". It is almost as if they feel that nothing and nobody is there already. And the power losses to heat over those immense distances are not funny at all. Both the connector between this state and Tasmania and South Australia have broken recently so that technology is a big call. I never read anybody saying that they would happily live next to a huge commercial sized solar PV array. Or better yet, they'd happily cover the 2,132 km² of Snowdonia National Park with solar panel arrays. Just sayin...

As to the changing climate, oh yeah, I hear you. That train is running way ahead of schedule and the models that are released from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are watered down and then treated as if they are the reality - as if humans can negotiate with nature (of which we are all a part of). And then the risks are downplayed in the media. Sometimes, I feel as if I'm living in a cult and people have way too much to lose by taking a good look around them and seeing things as they are, so they keep on keeping on. I dunno...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Just almost forgot to mention this. I do not understand how oil is sold at a price per barrel that is apparently less than the cost to extract it. It makes no commercial sense whatsoever, and no doubt that is at the heart of a lot of economic and social problems. I've read recently about even more engaging scams involving under payment of employees and plausible deniability on behalf of the big corporates. It seems to be quite wide spread. Of course, certain sections of the population are maintaining their lifestyles at the expense of others, whilst incomes across the board are dropping...

Cheers

Chris

August Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric S. said...

I got swept away on family business last week, so I didn't get a chance to make it over here until now. Re, your specific predictions: it feels to me like one of the other things that happened with many of them was that they were largely contingent on the way some of the other upheavals of 2016 were going to play out. A PV solar boom may well have happened under Clinton, but under Trump, the same issues are likely to be paved over in a similar manner to what happened under Reagan, with formerly off limits deposits on public lands and in formerly protected areas being opened up for drilling, and reductions in emissions regulations that boost the return over investment on fossil fuels somewhat, while increasing the externalities those regulations are there to mitigate. It really does look like we're heading right into one last big collective binge, right when the bills are coming due... A PV boom may come on the heals of that, but by then, there may be too many issues of the existential variety being faced by policy makers to give such things immediate thought. The other two issues seem similarly tied to the outcome of some of the political shifts going on right now... A tech collapse definitely did happen at the beginning of the year that looked an awful lot like 2015's oil collapse... and by autumn that, in tandem with several other issues (including the aftermath of the fracking bust) did look like they were about to throw the economy to the bears, but at the very last second Trump's election led a surge of speculation in manufacturing and infrastructure that paved over the other weaknesses. The Saudi Arabia situation is likely headed towards a fast conclusion now that Russia is likely to be moving to the center of the stage in that region. I expected their economic crisis earlier this year to be enough, but now given Russia's interests in the region and their backing of Iran, they will probably give things a nudge as soon as they're confident that they can do so without interference from other major nations with interests over there (such as the US). Had Clinton gotten elected, the US may very well have come to their aid in the form of various subsidies, and Trump is still on the opposite side of most of the rest of his own party when it comes to foreign policy, but right now everything is pointing towards Russia becoming the dominant power in the Middle East. At any rate, whatever 2017 holds... it won't be boring. I'm looking forward to seeing what you have to say as whatever this year holds comes crashing down around us.

cat said...

I apologize for my previous comment. It was unnecessary.

Glenn said...

JMG,

My brother got me Retrotopia for Yule. I was hoping for a bit more fleshing out, but it holds up well to a second reading, albeit I'm only up to the drone shoot. I would like to know what the rest of the tax structure is; from the story I learned more about what isn't taxed than what is.

While I appreciate that one heavily taxes things one wishes to discourage like speculation, pollution and using finite resources; if they're effective, what is left for a sustainable tax base? I understand your not wanting payroll or income tax, though I might rather have a one that only kicks in well above the survival level and gets sharply more progressive in order to discourage wealth disparity. Sales taxes are inherently regressive, though again, there might be a class of goods and services subject to luxury taxes. And while property taxes were historically used to discourage speculators sitting on land without developing it, the modern practice of taxing land on it's real estate value is destructive to the poor, and encourages unsustainable land use practices.

Glenn

in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea
Cascadia

Glenn said...

Not strictly any more on topic than my previous post. But this may indicate the actual state of the world more than the story the U.S. likes to tell.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/01/03/as-trump-and-north-koreas-kim-spar-china-poses-as-the-responsible-actor/?postshare=1271483468636480&tid=ss_fb&utm_term=.399cb7c17bdc

Glenn

in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea
Cascadia

lordberia3@gmail.com said...

Hi John

Great post as always a good and enjoyable read.

In regard to your predictions I felt that your Saudi break-up prediction was a little too early for 2016 but it is looking increasingly likely that some form of "regime change" will occur maybe in 2017 as the Saudi's burn through their financial reserves and the austority measures start to impact ordinary Saudi's.

As discussed before, your Trump prediction was spot on and hats to you for getting that right.

I have also reviewed my 2016 predictions on my blog, which you can read at the following link;

https://forecastingintelligence.org/2017/01/02/review-of-2016/

Will you be preparing specific predictions as last year? I would be interested in knowing whether you are prepared to stick your head out and forecast a Le Pen victory in the French presidential elections? A Le Pen victory would be a true game-changer for European politics and will lead to the likely breakup of the eurozone itself. Exciting times ahead!


Sackerson said...

Hi Sunseekernv

I don't know how to work it out in EROEI though. The money system and land prices in tge developed world are so crazy that you can make anything profitable or a loser as you wish, hence that book "Accounting For Growth".

If (since we're in fantasy land) the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia was peaceful and uncorrupt, would it be feasible to construct solar towers in the desert?

And do they have to be of concrete? Think of the Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali.

lordberia3@gmail.com said...

Hi John

On a secondary point ( I forgot to include it in my first point), the emerging reports across the Continent of violent attacks and sexual assaults by migrants on NYE (http://www.ruhrnachrichten.de/staedte/dortmund/44137-Dortmund+%284017%29~bilder/cme197111,5987121 and http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/01/03/dortmund-mob-attack-police-church-alight/) are as worrying as they are predictable.

Where do you place the 1.2 million strong migration invasion into Europe in the context of Toynbee's internal and external proletariat model? My understanding is that the importation of huge numbers of young migrants from the Middle East and North Africa is the introduction to Germany of a external proletariat into a society who will become a massive urban underclass in the coming years.

One must wonder how this dynamic will play out with the growing chasm between the elite of Germany and their own internal proletariat who are increasingly disgruntled about where things are going in Germany.

latheChuck said...

sunseekernv, Cherokee - Here's another data point regarding my PV system. The last two days have been seasonably short (in Maryland), and very wet. My 5.25 kWp solar panels have produced 1.1 and 1.9 kWh each day. Peak output yesterday was 225 Watts. Without the big nuclear "backup system" half-way across the state, we'd be eating cold canned rations by crank-lantern light, and burrowing under blankets in no time.

Last January, after a big snowstorm, we went four consecutive days with zero output, due to the shading effect of snow on the panels. (Even 10% coverage, e.g., with snow slumped to the bottom of the panel, shuts them down, even if the rest of the panel is in full sun. I've seen ground-mounted panels with snow piled in front of them, and thought "If you'd only made your mounting posts a foot higher...")

And, on a technical note, my 21 panels have individual DC/DC power converters, so even though they're wired in series, any number of panels can drop out without reducing the efficiency of the others. I can review production on a panel by panel basis. The telemetry system shows me that one panel suffers for part of the day from a shadow cast by the chimney. The telemetry also revealed that the installer didn't quite complete the installation, because only 19 panels were producing when I first turned on the system. It takes some minutes for the master inverter to coordinate the control of the per-panel converters, and I re-ran the final installation step to get all 21 coordinated. The projected year-round power that the model promised us was slightly less than we actually generated, so I see sunseekernv's point about looking for problems. Would I have been happy with the output of 19 panels, instead of the 21 I paid for? Probably!

(To be fair to the installer, he and I talked about that final step as we ran out of daylight before it was done. Rather than have him come back on the next sunny day, we agreed that I'd check back on it to verify and/or complete the process. But I'm an electrical engineer; I'm not sure the typical owner would do what I did.)

Martin Cohen said...

What do you think of this:

$50,000 to start a two-acre farm.


http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/san-francisco-startup-puts-everything-you-need-two-acre-farm-shipping-container-180961567/?no-ist

Rita said...

Cherokee, re temperatures in Reno NV: they are not as high as you might think. I lived there for six years, but checked the climate charts to be sure my memory had not mellowed the reality. I was raised in Central California, which means I was used to dry, hot summers, reaching the mid to low teens. But for Reno the charts show highs in the low 90s (F). Remember that the Great Basin is relatively high altitude--Reno at around 4000ft. That does bring up the subject of how altitude affects solar panels. Does anyone have reliable data on that? A look at topographical map of the USA shows that many of the sunny desert areas are also substantially above sea level. And a night time flyover of 'flyover country' will remind one of how vacant much of the geography is. Miles and miles with no lights.

Our level of science education is such that most people have no idea that energy is lost in transmission. I would see this when people would try to run a high amp appliance such as an iron at the end of a long extension cord and have no idea that the heating up of the cord itself meant that energy was being lost.

Troy Jones said...

August Johnson, you said earlier, "No matter how much evidence is presented that the Russians are were and are hacking to affect political happenings in this country, there are those who keep saying that they see no evidence and it's not happening. Very similar to climate change denial..."

But then in your PDF file, you admit that what you linked to previously with the word "evidence" was not actually evidence, but "[an] outline for the general reader." However, you speculate that "a real report [...] has most likely been provided to required members of Congress."

On the other hand, Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee-- that would be one of the "required members of Congress", yes?-- has stated that there is no clear evidence linking the Kremlin to the DNC hacks, just "lots of innuendo". Should I take his word for it, or yours?

When you say "no matter how much evidence is presented" it implies that you or someone, somewhere, has presented some kind of evidence, but that simply is not the case. It is not "denialism" nor "dementia" to ask you to back up your claims with evidence. Please do so. This fabled "real report", not general outlines of unsupported assertions, is what we all want to see.

(BTW, Cyrillic characters in a file's metadata is not evidence of anything. Tantalizing as it may be, other languages besides Russian use the Cyrillic alphabet. And even if "Guccifer 2.0" and/or any other DNC hackers turn out to be Russian, so what? Not all Russian people work for the Kremlin-- in other words, you still have to prove that "Guccifer 2.0" etc acted at the direction of the Russian government. And of course Cyrillic characters could have been left behind on purpose by others as deliberate misdirection.)

At the end of the day though, the question of who exposed Hillary's sickening corruption for all the world to see is far less important than the fact that Hillary's sickening corruption is now on display for all the world to see. Thanks in part to the hackers (whatever their nationality was), we have lept out of that particular frying pan... into what, no one can yet say.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi sunseekernv,

Sorry to be a downer mate, but those statistics relate to a grid tied solar PV system and assume that any and all electrical energy that can be used, will be used. An off grid solar PV system cannot absorb all of the energy that the PV panels themselves produce, and thus you are talking about apples, whilst I'm talking about oranges. The reason for the inability to utilise all of the energy produced by the solar PV panels is that the chemistry of batteries is such that they have to absorb electrical energy at an increasingly diminishing rate so as to reduce the risk of a runaway thermal reaction.

Before you start saying how inefficient an off grid solar power systems is, the only reason that grid tied PV systems can take any and all electricity produced in the mains electrical grid is that the losses in that system are huge.

You should be worried and you do not understand how these systems actually work. Again, I recommend you to get some practical experience with this technology before discussing it further.

If you airily dismiss or ignore this important point, I will not discuss the matter with you any further.

Cheers

Chris

onething said...

Cherokee,

"That heat will cause the solar PV panels to de-rate and reduce their output more than the models will ever be likely to show. On a 40'C (104'F) day here (in the shade) the solar PV output is hugely reduced and the equipment itself becomes very hot and then it too reduces its output."


What!!?? 104? What is optimum? What's all this about these very hot and sunny places like Saudi or Egypt having miles of solar panels? It gets to 130, even 140 there. Does that mean they are not suitable for solar?

Ian R Orchard said...

I've still puzzled at the negativity surrounding solar energy hereabouts. An energy source that doesn't need to be pumped or dug out of the ground, that is available nearly everywhere, that will last indefinitely and has no waste products seems to have an edge over the alternatives. In particular fossil fuels....

An article in Clean Technica brought this up.

The entanglement of the fossil fuel supply industry, banks, commodity traders, and the financialization of commodities currently allows fossil fuel supply transactions to be made in non-competitive ways,” they write. “The immense capital available to those operating the fossil fuel supply chain affords not only economic advantages, but also allows them to side-step regulation.”
There are subsidies for production and shipping, not to mention consumer subsidies for fossil fuels, all of which are often overlooked (or intentionally hidden) from public view during political discussion. On the flip side, renewable energy technologies like solar PV are forever placed under the microscope, with every facet of subsidy and benefit subjected to overbearing scrutiny.


https://cleantechnica.com/2016/07/15/new-studies-unveil-true-costs-fossil-fuels-solar-pv/

What are the subsidies PV enjoys & how do they compare with the competition's?

Shane W said...

@temporaryreality Wendy,
not sure what was in your post, but I do have an affinity for the time I spent in SoCal, and a lot of the great people I met there. I know there are lots of hard working people in the Golden State, and I do have sense of connection w/other Calif. expats, even though I'm not originally from there. There are many people still there that I'm trying to convince to leave while the leaving is still good. Still, that doesn't mean that Calif. isn't woefully overpopulated for its ecosystem and way too dependent on industrial systems that are going away, and that it is not poised to become the Michigan of the 21st century. Still, I understand that people's non rational reasons for living somewhere often trump the rational ones.

Bill Pulliam said...

Shane -- I believe in consequences, but not necessarily a God of them. Consequences have a randomness that suggest that any such god who might exist likes to throw the dice an awful lot. A careless driver is more likely to die in a road accident than a careful one. But there is nothing even remotely deterministic about this. Plenty of careless drivers literally get away with murder while life-long careful drivers die because of one small lapse or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Scale this up to the level of an entire civilization. Those who suffer the consequences of poor societal choices, whenever these consequences might manifest, are often not those who had the most say in determing these choices. There is often precious little of what we overblown monkeys call "justice" in this process.

Andrew H said...

I have to say the figures we get are a bit different to those quoted by Cherokee.

We have a 3 KWp system and I have monitored it for the last 5 years since new (daily for the first year). We are at 31 51' south of the equator. The panels are hardly set at optimum being fixed on our roof at an angle of about 20 degrees and facing a bearing of about 30 degrees (ie NNE. Not due north). They also get shaded in the early afternoon by a large Eucalypt in our front garden. Even so over the course of the first two years we generated 4810 and 4854 KWhr respectively. That corresponds to about 13.1 KWHr per day or an average 4.35 kWh/KWp for the whole year.

The amounts (kWh) generated for each of the calendar months in the first year are

Sept 373.6
Oct 445.7
Nov 523.6
Dec 539.5
Jan 557.9
Feb 467.8
Mar 479.3
Apr 332.8
May 289.6
Jun 194.7
Jul 288.7
Aug 317.4

The lowest amount generated for an entire month was in June with a total of 194 kWh. This represents 6.46 kWh per day or 2.23 kWh/KWp.

I have included a few interesting statistics from the first year of detailed monitoring.

The smallest amount generated in a day was on a day in mid-summer. The panels generated a total of 1.45 KWhr on a day with very heavy cloud, raining on and off all day. Light cloud can in fact increase the total generated compared to a completely cloud free day by a few percent. Compare that to our solar hot water system which works well overall, but requires direct sunlight to work and barely generates warm water on a day with complete cloud cover.

There were 7 days during the entire year when 3 kWh or less was generated. (ie less than 1 kWh/kWp)

There were 26 days during the entire year when 6 kWh or less was generated. (ie less than 2 kWh/kWp)

The lowest amount generated for any 3 day period was 12.7 kWh for a 3 day period in early June.

Temperature does affect the efficiency but one has to do careful measurements to notice it. The last couple of days have been sunny and the system generated 22 kWh per day even though the official temperature was 41C (106F), the temperature outside registered 44C in the shade and the metal shovels left in the sun were too hot to handle.

Over the last 5 years the efficiency seems to have dropped by about 2.5%.

So far we have generated 25,600 kWh of electricity over the last 5 years and 4 months.

Cheers

Andrew

Glenn Murray said...

Thanks for another excellent post. I like reading all the comments, and your responses to hold me over until next Wednesday, but I have to admit I am a little surprised by your comments on the Russian "hacking". I've learned from your posts to be suspicious of binaries (hacking threw the election outcome VS "move-along there's nothing to see here") especially when in previous posts you have postulated that Russia and China probably will (or already are) poking around to ferment a little discontent in the US but certainly not to the extent that the US frequently does to the point of arming rebels and overthrowing governments. If I were Russia, I would see a little internet mischief such as the timed release of unflattering information about the less favorable candidate a cheap and easy way to keep a meddling nation too distracted with internal matters to try any Nation Building in my back yard. I suspect this kind of stuff is always happening at a low level, just a part of the intelligence business, but this time the public releases are the "sour grapes" from the Clinton campaign. I cannot imagine our 17 vaunted intelligence services all wanted to publicly admit that this stuff happens all the time and there is nothing they can do about it.

Patricia Mathews said...

Straws in the wind - my brother, my Florida daughter (who gave me extravagant gifts for Christmas and for my birthday) and my Albuquerque daughter have all said they, and in the Florida daughter's case, their children, do not want to be given any material goods for any occasion. They have enough, thank you. The extravagance of their gifts to me was that they were things I could use, but so top-of-the-line as to be over the top. OTH, they have never been doing so well financially before.

My Florida nephews have asked that the money that would normally go towards gifts like that should be sent to them to give to the local charities of their choice. Their mom told me they (ages 9 and 12) are debating which ones to give my Christmas money to. Her sister said "If I need anything, I'll just buy it." Nor were there any electronics blaring in her house this Christmas eve - only the kids' e-readers.

All three families are either active in doing good in some way (the two churchgoing ones), or at least have a decent donations list. For what that's worth.

I've heard indications from a few other people that they feel they have enough and want no more Stuff. And are living a bit more quietly. Of course, my friend are not the youngest people on the planet.

latheChuck said...

Ian R Orchard - Sure, the sunshine is free and essentially will be for a longer time scale than we (well, most of us) care to think about. But the panels that collect the sunshine have a supply/disposal chain than requires energy to operate. There are mines, and refineries, and so on. The panels will not last "forever". If you intend to use electricity when your panels are in the dark, then you need storage. Battery-based storage has a supply/disposal chain, too. And even if it didn't, green plants have their own reasons for absorbing sunshine, and the same photons can't go to both. We may supplement residential consumption with residential generation (as I do), but I can't quite imagine running a steel-making arc furnace on solar power. That sort of thing is currently best done during the night, when the rates are cheap and the base-load generation under-utilized.

Steam turbines are fine, too, if you don't worry about where the steam comes from. We have plenty of water with which to make steam, and the steam turns right back into water! That water is even more pure than the water we started with. What could be better?

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...

Shane, I'm afraid now it's an off-topic topic. I'll wait to see if something in JMG's future columns brings your hope for CA secession to the fore again. My original post was a bit ... testy, so perhaps it's for the best that it didn't make it into pixel-print.

Gabriel Seagull said...

Yeah! Be proud of who you are, what you say, and how you say it. No matter what... you are UNIQUE.
"I did it my way"... A DRUID WITH BACKBONE!
Keep up your good "special, individualastic, essay writing on internet"!!!
Gabriel

Michael said...

Quite! If Madmagic struggles with your (rather lovely) prose, god help him if he picked up a Dickens novel!

David James Peterson said...

On the subject of European reliance on the USA for protection, there is a funny video that a TV show in the Netherlands produced to introduce the Netherlands to Trump.
I quote the end of the video below (since you don't like tiny moving images, I changed one words for comments appropriateness):

"And last but not least, we’ve got a great great great dependency on the United States. It’s huge. If you frack NATO, you’re gonna make our problems great again. They’re gonna be huge, they’re gonna be enormous. It’s true. Please don’t."

I can appreciate that they acknowledge that they really are dependent on the US instead of the normal evasions.
Video link for those interested: https://youtu.be/ELD2AwFN9Nc

DoubtingThomas said...

@all: This came up in my feed. Given the diversity of commenters here I thought it a relevant comment on diversity and looking at things in unusual ways - as opposed to the binary mode of being in opposition. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jD8tjhVO1Tc

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