Climate Change Superthread

Discussion: Climate Change

So the recent talk on here lately clearly sparked some interest in the subject, not just relating to sport and rugby league but in society in general.

So this thread will act a place to collect our opinions, questions, answers, views and media or news relating to all things relating to climate change.

I will update this post at the top of the thread over time, referring to links to posts in the thread of interest, articles, studies, and will be a short reference for what could turn out to be a long thread.

Before we begin let’s set some ground rules.

  1. Please be respectful of others opinions. If you feel that they are wrong and uninformed on the subject at hand, rather than ridicule them, reply to them in a respectful manner and reinforce your arguments with some validating evidence or reference material

  2. Keep politics out of it. While I understand some in the public service and media have decided to make this matter political, I think most would agree it certainly is not. We all have to live on this planet, and the affect of climate change does not care what side of the isle you sit on. In that spirit, do try to keep this as apolitical and keep the politics out of this as much as possible (I do understand that cause of the nature of his subject matter some will be refer to)

  3. Please try to keep explanations factual as possible. This thread should not be a place of misinformation. So please if you are explaining something, attempt to include as much source material and supporting information as possible.

  4. This is not a PRO or ANTI climate change debate. We are going into this discussing all sides and theories relating to the matter. Again refer to rule 1 regarding respect, and reply accordingly. Let’s inform and educate rather than create division.

Okay… with that all out of the way. Let’s begin.

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Ok I’ll start, and it’s going to be regarding Nuclear Power as part of the energy mix.

I find this to be one of the most confusing subjects regarding climate change. The range of information from papers and media coverage range from “Nuclear power can play a major role”1 to “it shouldn’t be considered at all to reduce emissions”. I find the information in these types of articles are slanted by bias and feel the truth may be more in the middle rather than these two extremes.

So to my knowledge while emissions are not zero as some proponents suggest, the same can be said for renewables like solar and wind farms. Though while not zero it is substantially less than conventional Fossil Fuel power stations that are common place in Australia. Mining and transportation add to the emissions load, but articles such as those regarding Fortescue Metals moving on plans to be Net-Zero emissions by 20303 imply that this my not be as significant of a issue in the future.

I big concern about those I talk to about renewable energy is arguments such as “What about when it’s cloudy or these is no wind about, do you want to sit in the dark?”4. As exaggerated as an answer as that is articles5 to rebuke that, the concerns about energy security is a very real, and people that are on the fence about renewables do often bring up this concern.

Is it important to have a reliable backbone to the energy mix to ensure supply and what is the correct solution? Or is strategies such as Natural Batteries such as Pumped Hydro6 the solution to reinforce the security of power supply.

Nuclear Power has is problems. The type of the fuel used in the reactors and the disposal of the waste materials and the risk of meltdown. Though storage, when properly managed is can be effective and most meltdown issues with reactors seem to be the result of human error, poor management or neglect of maintenance.

Deutsche Welle had a great article7 fact checking claims on both sides regarding Nuclear Power which is a good read on the subject.

So is Nuclear Power an asset to combatting climate change or is it a liability? Thoughts?

SOURCES

  1. International Energy Agency [Bias Check]
    Nuclear power can play a major role in enabling secure transitions to low emissions energy systems

  2. Greenpeace [Bias Check]
    6 reasons why nuclear energy is not the way to a green and peaceful world

  3. Sydney Morning Herald [Bias Check]
    Forrest ‘locked and loaded’ for net-zero but does Fortescue have the calibre?

  4. The Australian [Bias Check]
    No wind? No sun? There’s no firm plan for reliable power needs

  5. Vox [Bias Check]
    A beginner’s guide to the debate over 100% renewable energy

  6. The Conversation [Bias Check]
    Batteries get hyped, but pumped hydro provides the vast majority of long-term energy storage essential for renewable power – here’s how it works

  7. Deutsche Welle (DW) [Bias Check]
    Fact check: Is nuclear energy good for the climate?

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I’ll chuck these into the mix. They are more to do with the economic opportunities climate change may offer, rather than the effects/causes of climate change itself.

I found Twiggy Forrest’s Boyer lecture presentation particularly interesting. Whatever you think of him, he’s certainly putting his money - personal and corporate - where his mouth is.

On the short-to-medium-term future effects of climate change, here’s a link to an article I found particularly scary. It’s about the Antarctic Meridional Overturning Circulation - a current of deep, cold salt water that starts at Antarctica , heads for NZ, up the north coast of Australia and towards the equator. The AMOC is likely to be diluted by up to 40% by 2050 due to increased melting in the antarctic icecaps, with potentially disastrous consequences for climate & marine life.

SOURCES

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Further to that, I feel that government doesn’t do enough to exploit the potential of not just the natural riches of Australia but it’s skilled and talented workforce.

Australia are one of the worlds largest producers of 3 of the 4 materials required to manufacture batteries. Why we choose to export it for a quick buck rather than value add and create a industry out of it is beyond my knowledge.

To extend it further, the somewhat recent shutdown of the motor manufacturing industry seems like a lost opportunity. Battery manufacturing in Australia would lower the cost of shipping of the end product and would work in tandem with other part manufacturers in Australia to shift toward Electric Car manufacturing. With the reduction in cost against inflated prices from import, a price competitive offering could be made on the Australian market.

I’m sure many Aussies would be biting at the bit to buy a Australian made Electric Holden (or other Australian brand). It doesn’t even need to be a new company, just doing business with a Car manufacturer that would like to take advantage of cost benefits of the lower cost base in the southern pacific region.

Tables and sources included below.

Lithium (2022 Productuion)

Rank Country of Origin Production (t) Source
1 Australia 75,000 [1] ⧉
2 Chile 70,000 [2] ⧉
3 Argentina 43,000 [3] ⧉
4 China 30,000 [4] ⧉
5 United States 22,000 [5] ⧉

* Generarted by ChatGPT

Cobalt (2022 Productuion)

Rank Country of Origin Production (t) Source
1 D.R Congo 95,000 [6] ⧉
2 China 48,000 [7] ⧉
3 Canada 7,500 [8] ⧉
4 Russia 6,000 [9] ⧉
5 Australia 5,000 [10] ⧉

* Generarted by ChatGPT

Manganese (2022 Productuion)

Rank Country of Origin Production (t) Source
1 South Africa 5,100,000 [11] ⧉
2 Australia 3,300,000 [12] ⧉
3 China 2,200,000 [13] ⧉
4 Gabon 1,800,000 [14] ⧉
5 Brazil 1,300,000 [15] ⧉

* Generarted by ChatGPT

Australian Raw Commodities Export (2022)

Mineral Export (t) % Total Production Source
Lithium 81,000 42.9 [16] ⧉
Manganese 2,100,000 63.6 [17] ⧉
Cobalt 3,700 49.3 [18] ⧉

* Generarted by ChatGPT

Lithium Battery Producing Nations (Largest)

Country Notable Companies Sources
China Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd (CATL), BYD Co. Ltd, Tesla (Gigafactory Shanghai), and others [19] ⧉, [20] ⧉, [21] ⧉
Japan Panasonic Corp, Sony Corp, and others [22] ⧉, [23] ⧉
South Korea LG Chem Ltd, Samsung SDI Co. Ltd, SK Innovation Co. Ltd, and others [24] ⧉, [25] ⧉
United States Tesla (Gigafactory Nevada), Johnson Controls Inc., and others [26] ⧉, [21] ⧉
Germany Varta AG, BMZ GmbH, and others [27] ⧉, [28] ⧉

* Generarted by ChatGPT

Table Sources

1. U.S. Geological Survey. (2023). Mineral Commodity Summaries 2023.
2. Cochilco (Chilean Copper Commission). (2022). Statistical Yearbook of Copper and Other Minerals 2022.
3. Secretariat of Mining, Ministry of Production and Labor, Argentina. (2022). Monthly Statistical Bulletin of the Mining Industry - December 2022.
4. National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2023). Statistical Communiqué of the People’s Republic of China on the 2022 National Economic and Social Development. (in Chinese)
5. U.S. Geological Survey. (2022). Mineral Commodity Summaries 2022.
6. U.S. Geological Survey. (2023). Mineral Commodity Summaries 2023.
7. National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2023). Statistical Communiqué of the People’s Republic of China on the 2022 National Economic and Social Development. (in Chinese)
8. Natural Resources Canada. (2023). Minerals and Metals Fact Book – 2022.
9. Russian Ministry of Energy. (2022). Mineral Resources of the Russian Federation - 2021. (in Russian)
10. U.S. Geological Survey. (2022). Mineral Commodity Summaries 2022.
11. U.S. Geological Survey. (2023). Mineral Commodity Summaries 2023.
12. Geoscience Australia. (2022). Australian Mineral Statistics 2021.
13. National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2023). Statistical Communiqué of the People’s Republic of China on the 2022 National Economic and Social Development. (in Chinese)
14. Ministry of Economy, Finance and Planning, Gabon. (2023). Statistiques Minieres Annuelles 2021. (in French)
15. Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy. (2022). Mineral Production in Brazil 2022. (in Portuguese)
16. Australian Government, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. (2022). Resources and Energy Quarterly - December 2022.
17. Geoscience Australia. (2022). Australian Mineral Statistics 2021.
18. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2022). 5368.0 - International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia, Feb 2022.
19. BloombergNEF. (2021). Global Lithium-ion Battery Supply Chain Report 2020.
20. Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd (CATL). (n.d.). Company Profile.
21. Tesla Inc. (n.d.). Gigafactory Shanghai.
22. Panasonic Corporation. (n.d.). Panasonic Energy Company.
23. Sony Corporation. (n.d.). Energy Business.
24. LG Energy Solution. (n.d.). LG Energy Solution Overview.
25. Samsung SDI Co. Ltd. (n.d.). Business Area - SDI.
26. Tesla Inc. (n.d.). Gigafactory Nevada.
27. Varta AG. (n.d.). Varta AG - The Battery Experts.
28. BMZ GmbH. (n.d.). BMZ Company.

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Completely agree that Australia doesn’t value add. We’ve never value added, just been content to be a quarry, to mine & export raw materials. This has been a bipartisan approach for decades, the manufacturing sector has got smaller & smaller, while each new Govt has promised to revitalise it and create more jobs and upskill the manufacturing workforce.

So far, they have all been empty promises.

As to the causes of climate change, here’s a link to NASA with a good explanatory article.

On the other hand, if you’re Malcolm Roberts, or of his ilk, and believe NASA manipulate the climate data for their own ends (I have no idea what these ends are, but anyway…) here’s a link to an article claiming climate change is a hoax.

https://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/the-stunning-statistical-fraud-behind-the-global-warming-scare/

Enjoy!

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Some great in-depth discussion here.

Some observations on the subject of energy;

Electricity grid consumption is based on a number of different factors, for simplification I will split it into three common forms. Whilst wind and solar are suitable for some of these, other needs more supporting energy.

“base load” - this is the electrical load which at its simplest is the floor are which energy does not go below. In an example of your house, think of the running of your fridges, standby devices etc. At a local (home) level, batteries can be designed to provide base load, however diminishing rate of return occurs when one tries to account for days without solar production. An example of this is (depending upon location), you can cover 70-80% of days with say 10kwh, to get an extra 10% of days covers takes 20kwh, to get to 95% takes 40kwh, and to get to 100% takes 100kwh. To get to N-1 level of redundancy, you would need 200kwh.

These figures are made up of course, but I hope you get the idea.

It’s a bigger issue with the grid as a whole, as for base load you have to take into account Rail, Hospitals, and Aluminum smelter (the actual 3 biggest users of NSW electricity).

Historically in design of power stations, due to coal thermal stations not being able to greatly respond to load quickly, within the grid base load they accommodated some of the average network capacity, which comes from the next category.

“Peak load”

Peak load is the way in which the energy demand changes over the course of the day. Again to bring this to a simple home example, this includes morning kettles, daytime HVAC and washing machines, evening meal cooking etc. each and every time these loads are added to the network, the cumulative effect is the raising of the total demand on the supply network.

Now in the home most with solar will know this, how Solar production peak (11am to 3pm) does not align with the conventional demand peaks of 6am - 9am, and 5pm - 7pm. Note this also corresponds to the wider travel peak times which add demand to the wider grid. The home owner however can mitigate the impact through careful timing of HVAC, washing machine usage etc, to prioritise usage during the solar peak.

This peak load is largely predictable, both at a home level and a grid level. As mentioned above coal thermal power stations took some of this peak load into account, selling the surplus at non peak times at cheaper rates (hot water in the home, and aluminum smeltering at grid level). Whilst a energy surplus continues at night, battery’s have the opportunity to take up this load.

The final type of load I will call “dispatch load”, although with this term I am taking into account a number of different factors, some of which are very highly technical. But in essence these are the transient load would cause a momentary spike or imbalance on the supply.

If you have a home solar battery, this is somewhat addressed by capacitors and thermal overload allowance within the grid tie inverter. You would see a rating such as 8kw (max or nn seconds) and 5kw continuous. This indicates that while it could support a load rating of 5kw, should the demand spike up to 8kw, it can accommodate it for a number of seconds.

So where do these spikes come from? In its simplest form, think the starting of AC induction motors such as those found in devices that use compressors (fridges, Air Conditioners etc). Every time that compressor starts, it draws a momentary spike of higher energy from the network. Then multiply this across all of NSW, and you potentially get an idea of the ale of the problem. Batteries, Gas turbines, and to some extent Hydro have near instantaneous response, so can accommodate this load.

So wher am I going with all this? So let me make it clear having felt the effects of fires and floods I can see the physical proof of climate change. I am all in favour of a cleaner, renewable future, and delivering this is actually part of my day job. I will discuss the options and issues of the various power supply systems In my next post after I let my fingers have a rest lol

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Part 2 - the solutions

If you have read above you may remember my home analogy- 80% is easy, 90% is achievable but hard, and 100% almost impossible (or cost / economically prohibitive). Keep that in mind as read on. Even if we got to 80% zero emissions, with the remainder low emmissions, as a whole we would be much better than we are now, in fact better perhaps since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

Firstly some often confuse two terms - zero emission and renewables. While with Solar and wind both terms apply, there are many other technologies which may apply to one category but not the other. Another term is “Carbon Neutral “ which means that a system recovers the same amount of carbon to which it releases. All will be covered below;

Coal fired thermal - this is the bad boy of our conventional energy supply, but also the biggest generator to our our grid. In essence it is a coal fired boiler, which feeds a steam turbine, connected to a generator/ alternator. Being a thermal (steam boiler) system it is slow to respond to demand changes, and can only “change speed”, within a limited effect range. Soot emmissions are generally low, however carbon emmissions are high. The supply chain uses a lot of diesel (to get the coal to the power station).

Nuclear thermal - none currently in Australia (the 2 medical reactors we have are not thermal stations) although the old Lucas heights station was, although due to regulation was unable to connect to the grid. Nuclear subs use nuclear thermal power plants.

These plants in a simplistic sense work the same way as coal thermal plants, very good at base and average power, but poor at responding to peaks and changes. Emit no emissions and zero carbon. Upfront capital cost is huge, however once established, operating costs are negligible. In my mind, should be considered on their own merits only when evaluating that last 20%. Interesting fact is that coal thermal actually produces more radioactive isotopes, and over their life emit these to atmosphere. If (and a big if) these are considered they must be government owned and operated to avoid a Fukashema type incident which was avoidable, had the private operator not chosen to put the preservation of their future earnings ahead of the health and safety of their staff and the community.

Solar - this will be brief, it’s cheap, reliable, renewable and zero emissions. It’s production peaks at the wrong time and doesn’t work 24/7. But we live in a sum blessed country, and the sun is still shining in central and Western Australia during our NSW evening peak.

Wind - it’s zero emission, fairly reliable, economically viable, and uses renewable energy. Similar to Solar it largely uncontrollable, so what we get we have to use (hard to ramp up or ramp down). The great diving range provides reliable wind, however unlike other countries, the wind does not (generally) blow at night in Australia.

Hydro Electric - zero emission and renewable, pretty responsive to demand changes, however the capital cost is large, and community / environmental issues with construction. Fairly low operating cost once established. Can be modified (e.g Snowy Hydro 2.0) to use excess solar and wind energy to pump water back up hill to generate energy later.

Solar thermal- this uses a solar collector to power either a steam engine or heat engine (Ericsson/ Stirling) to generate engergy. More expensive than solar cells but can have higher efficiency. Like all solar systems it is zero emission and renewable. One of the worlds largest has been operating at White Cliffs for many years, supplying Broken Hill with power.

Gas turbine - a low emission system which is not renewable but could be. Natural gas / LPG / Methane / CSG is cleaner emissions than Coal so a tick there. It’s cheaper than coal, Hydro or nuclear to establish, but has high operating costs. Efficiency can (and usually is) improved by using the waste heat from the gas turbine to heat water and drive a supplementary steam turbine or turbines. It is highly responsive to load demands (although not as good as batteries). Could be converted to operate off renewable (but not zero emission) fuels such as Ethane/ Ethanol, Green Hydrogen, Green Ammonia. The economics and cost effectiveness of these would have to be closely examined against alternatives. One interesting fact is they can (and are) being powers with waste methane, which while not zero emission or tenable feats a second use of a otherwise waste product.

Part 3 to cover batteries and new technology to come

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Part 3

Batteries

We are all reasonably familiar with batteries, with them having been invented in antiquity. But in the sense of climate change we are focused on rechargeables or secondary cells technology.

Firstly there is no such thing as new technology when it comes to batteries, at least not for many years. Beware the snake oil salesmen (you will hear that a lot in this part 3). For any battery to be successful it needs a decade or more of testing and improvement before it become viable. The reason benign one of the fundamentals of battery chemistry, you have to account for not only capacity, discharge / recharge rates, but also life expectancy both in years, and expressed as cycles (number of times it can be charged and discharged). There a no point spending thousands on a battery that dies after 2 years or less. Now to some chemistry, each with their own advantages and disadvantages;

Lead Acid - can have a long life with thick plates, but has a poor depth of discharge (meaning if the total capacity is say 10kwh, you can only use 3kwh). A high capacity/ long life battery (called a deep cycle or traction battery), has poor current draw capability (meaning it can’t rapidly provide energy). They are generally the cheapest initial cost. Gel batteries are similar

Lithium - two main types, lithium oxide and lithium iron phosphate (also known as LiPhO). The former is higher energy density and contains cobalt, needs cooling to avoid thermal runaway, the latter is slightly less efficient but more stable and does not suffer thermal runaway. Another chemistry coming to market is Lithium Tritate Oxide which is a little mix of both but contains silver which adds cost, has less capacity and allows faster charging. All lithium batteries are much lighter in mass for a given capacity than Lead Acid, which makes them suitable for cars and other light vehicles. One of the more expensive technologies.

Nickel Cadmium and Nickel Metal Hydride are a largely outdated chemistry with no benefits above Lithium, although they are being explored with modified chemistry for future applications.

One older battery type with new chemistry on the market is the CSIRO invented Lead Carbon battery. These are now available on the market and combines the lead acid battery with a graphene anode (negative terminal) to try to bring the Lead acid performance closer to Lithium. Currently high in price however the simplistic construction means these should come down in price to a level similar to Led acid. Won’t be suitable for mobile applications, but for stationary where weight is not an issue could be the way of the future.

Sodium (salt flow) batteries. These work very different from a conventional battery and are more like a chemical capacitor than a battery. Australian designed and invented. However in practical testing and usage, appear not to have lived up to expectations with regards reliability. Definitely only suitable for stationary applications due to size and weight.

Nickel Iron batteries - the grand daddy of them all, invented by Thomas Edison. Was the king of batteries prior the being replaced by Lead Acid (which was cheaper to manufacture). While a fairly low efficiency, these have the unique advantage of a possibly infinite life, requiring their electrolyte (liquid) replaced every ten years. Formally used for both mobile and stationary applications, some 80year old batteries still in use in telephone / telegraph and railway signaling around the world (although very rare in first world countries now with everything computorised). Now only made in China at ridiculous prices.

So how can batteries support the future? Firstly we can use Lithium batteries to electrify as much as possible such as cars, buses, trucks, power tools, lawn mowers, tractors etc. yes we need charging infrastructure, but that’s already being rolled out and needs to continue. An Australian company has developed a swappable battery system for heavy vehicles. It won’t be the end of life as we know it, or the weekend.

Batteries are also being increasingly used for grid stability, to meet the peak and dispatch needs as mentioned before. The batteries and their inventors are faster than any mechanical means of responding to variations in load. The SA Tesla battery is an example of this. They can absorb the excess supply of solar and wind, then release the energy when needed.

At a home level batteries can do the same, and make sense to the level of meeting ~80% of homes needs. I really think this is where governments should look into tax deductions or subsidies. LiPhO are around $1000 /kWh, compared to solar coming down in price all the time.

If we continue to rollout solar and wind, and batteries, we still need to cover the reminder, which may be cost prohibitive with batteries or face community opposition with new hydro. Hence the other options are below;

Renewable thermal

This is very popular in the UK and Europe, which re-uses the infrastructure of coal thermal power stations with alternative fuel. Short rotation coppice is once example which grows willow, poplar or other trees in a quick 3-5year rotation to provide fuel for the boilers. While not zero emission, this can be 100% renewable and carbon neutral (as the trees capture the carbon they emit). This system can be rather efficient when combined with solar feed water pre-heating.

Renewable gas turbine

Alternative fuels for gas turbines which are renewable; Ethane / Ethanol is a natural conversion of sugars and starches into fuel. Green Hydrogen can be produced using solar or wind energy. Green Ammonia produced using Green Hydrogen as feedstock. The challenge with all of these are that while technically feasible, the whole need to end cycle of this may not be efficient, and hence may be highly costly energy production. They are not zero emission, but could be carbon neutral.

A note on Green Hydrogen - currently the flavor of the month for fan bois and snake oil salesman. A very inefficient use of energy unless it is is free (night time wind or off peak nuclear). Using energy already in demand to transform it into another state will never be efficient. Hydrogen is very difficult to store and distribute, it storage in ranks is 350 or 700 Bar, to compare to 1 Bar for Petrol / Diesel and approximately 10-15 Bar for LPG/CNG. Hydrogen does not like heat, and is impossible to compress or manufacture in ambient temperatures greater than about 30 degrees. It does have decarbonisation benefits for steel production however and could fuel gas turbines and/or blend with CNG for domestic gas supplies. On that last point it would be simpler and more beneficial just to electrify home appliances. Of course vested interest want to make sure we keep using “natural gas”.

One thing hydrogen is good at is to use as a feedstock for green ammonia production. Ammonia (NH3), actually contains more hydrogen than hydrogen! It can be stored as a gas at similar pressures as LPG or CNG, and unlike hydrogen which requires cytogenetic temperatures (-240c) to liquify, ammonia liquifies at normal freezer temperatures (-18c). Ammonia can be used to fuel turbines or power fuel cells, but most importantly is used as an agricultural fertiliser.

On fuel cells, once again snake oil salesmen and fan bois promote these as our savior. Some hard nuggets of fact; invented 70+ years ago, used by NASA on some early deep space missions (pioneer), before switching to radiation isotope generators (Voyager). They use very exotic expensive materials including platinum as their catalyst. In vehicles the fuel cell requires replacement after ten years and the ranks after five years. For all the limitations of the fuel cell itself this pales into insignificance compared to the complexities of refueling. Despite some reporting as refueling in minutes, this remains highly theoretical as the physics of compression and thermal heat management leave current vehicles taking 10-20hrs to refuel.

Tell me, unless your a service station or oil company having a “Kodak moment”, how could this ever stack up compared to a battery?

Part 4 - my way forward coming soon

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Part 4 (and hopefully the last for now, my fingers are getting sore lol).

So in summary how I would decarbonise for the future;

At the home level, provide tax advantages / subsidies/ planning controls for solar battery systems to cover ~80 % of a households annual energy needs.

Ban the sale of non-electric home appliances including stoves, hot water heaters, power tools, lawn mowers (provide 2 years notice and interest free loans to pensioners, low income households etc). BBQ’s and off grid households are exempt.

Electrify all transport 100%. Continue and increase charger rollout. Fund swappable battery stations for heavy vehicles. Set and end date for non- electric vehicles (2030 for cars, 2040 for heavy vehicles for example). Electrify all rail lines (we have been doing this since the 1920’s and we produce heaps of copper in Australia). Set targets for shipping and aviation to convert to sustainable/ low emission fuels if not practical to electrify. Electrify highways for trucks and buses.

Continue to build large grid batteries and snowy 2.0 to provide grid stability and absorb excess solar / wind energy above that which households can absorb.

Finally look at that last 10% which include the extreame peaks, and the days / weeks with no sun or wind. Undertake thorough cost and economic analysis of options including more batteries, more hydro, gas turbines, renewable thermal or nuclear.

On the demand side their are things that can been done to;

Heat recovery - your fridge, air conditioner, stove all produce heat. Challenge manufactures to bring products to market to capture this waste heat for hot water production.

Replace AC induction motors with either permanent magnet motors or DC motors. This removes the impact of transient spikes on the network, which will make network design simpler and improve reliability. Acknowledge a small cost in effiency.

Use green Hydrogen for clean steel production.

Use green ammonia for clean fertiliser production.

Set a target date for zero emission or reduced emission plant and agriculture.

With those last 10% scenarios, look at sustainable use and benefits of the energy when not required to support the network - such as operating a desalination plant to pump water inland.

That’s my 2c worth, hope you found this interesting, and look forward to questions and discussion.

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All good info there SHF.

I’ve heard of geothermal power being used, in particular in areas with volcanic activity. Do you know much about this source, and if there are potential areas in Australia we could be able to use geothermal (ie deserts?)?

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Great question Mutley.

Unfortunately due to Australia (mainland) sitting on a single tectonic plate, geothermal activity is limited here compared to say New Zealand or Indonesia.

As far as I know, NSW geothermal is limited to a few small springs, two of which come to mind are Manila and Yerongapilly. I do recall some limited exploration work was done at one of these sites some years ago, but the limited thermal production meant it could never be commercially viable.

One thing I forgot to mention in the solar thermal description though, is that these systems based on their design, do have some limited capability to continue production for some time after sunset, due to the retained heat in the working fluid. I know some work was done a few years back on exploring taking this further by using liquified sodium as the working fluid, but nothing seems to have come from it so likely not viable.

Somewhat related, thought I might mentioned some debunked technologies, and why they don’t work (or don’t work in our environment).

Firstly, the elephant in the room that’s been ten years away for all my near on 50 years on this earth - nuclear fusion. It promises endless green power too cheap to meter, yet only now is dance finally tested an industrial sized plant. The problem with fusion (which occurs on the sun and in a hydrogen bomb explosion) is the energy needed to contain the fusion reaction in order to sustain it. In short the energy needed to build a magnetic field strong enough to contain the reaction, has untill recently required more energy than the reaction generates. The French have recently achieved some limited success, I forget the exact figures but it’s something like they put 10,000W in (10kw) to get 10,001W out, which creates a 0.001% efficiency.

One that does work, but not here is tidal power. We simply don’t have the geography or seas to create sufficient tidal difference, flow and elevation to all meaningful power generation.

With wind turbines, there is a reason they all look like aero plane propellers, the vertical format turbines (VAWT) which look like a whirlybird are a scam, as they produce zero torque as the airflow on on side of the turbine is equal to the drag on the other side. While they may freespin with no load, they will stop with even the slightest load attached. Isaac Newton proved right yet again.

Wave generators are another scam for the same reasons as VAWT are. The monstrosity that sat off Port Kembla for years was nothing but a shipping hazard and produced little if any energy.

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Global Warming

Wow. Has any thread on this forum generated so much response, so quickly? I think that it a very positive sign that people are keen to contribute their expertise, and ask questions, about what is possibly the greatest crisis faced by mankind.

Nuclear Power. When I was involved in the exploration for, and testing of, uranium ore bodies, I was quite confident that I was on the good guys’ side. And I’m confident that if so many major economies hadn’t used so much nuclear power since WW2 (and instead had used fossil fuels) we’d be cooked already. I have no concerns about safely storing nuclear waste. There is talk of dangerous waste lasting millions of years. But waste is either highly dangerous (short half-life of its isotopes) or long lasting (long half-life), but it can’t be both. I agree with Steve that most problems have been due to human error (this is a huge topic in itself) in design, operation and waste disposal.

But things change, and so too should opinions. Firstly, uranium ores are finite, as are all orebodies. They are depleting from the first tonne mined. So, uranium fission power is not infinite. Secondly, fusion is said to be 20 years away and always will be. Thirdly, the costs of building, running and decommissioning such plants are enormous, whereas the various renewable energy alternatives are lower and falling. Fourthly, renewables, particularly solar PV, are quicker to implement, and many newer solar PV farms are built to allow grazing under and between the rows of panels (better feed, shade provision, no mowing maintenance – termed ‘agrisolar’). Fifthly, renewable facilities are distributed geographically, giving them more resilience against failure.

The furphy of ‘baseload power is needed for when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing’ has been discredited repeatedly, but continues to be spruiked by those with a political agenda or just a refusal to listen to those with expertise and who are not vested interests. We even had the Nationals MP (Vic) Webster supporting her case against a renewables-based grid with the assertion that wind farms don’t work at night. The power industry now looks for dispatchable (firmed) power, such as is provided by riverine hydro, pumped hydro (there are thousand of sites across Australia, 22,000 according to an ANU study), battery farms, VPP (virtual power plants across urban areas), supported by demand management (for example, aluminium smelter pot lines can be taken off-line in rotation, releasing huge amounts of electricity). Wave, tidal, hot rocks geothermal and biomass might also provide niche supplies. And, as South Australia has demonstrated, the percentage of electricity supply from renewables is far higher than the naysayers keep repeating.

I mentioned resilience above. That is what a vast distributed grid and supply network provides. It will be enhanced by the completion of the SA-NSW second connector, and perhaps by the second trans-Bass Strait connector if required.
I grew up reading text books and encyclopaedias. Now I do my research on the internet. This, of course, makes it essential to be confident about the info source and potential bias. In that regard I’d strongly suggest that any Murdoch media should be ignored; they have been discredited time and time again.

In summary, for me nuclear ranks as a better alternative to fossil fuels, but falling further behind the range of renewable alternatives. Oh, and I have solar PV and batteries, and rarely draw power from the grid.

I liked Bryan’s reference to the AMOC, and I’d add the possible collapse of the Gulf Stream from a similar cause. I’d also add the melting of the methane clathrates (frozen methane; methane hydrate) from the continental sediments north of Russia (Lavrov Shelf and elsewhere). We are already seeing very concerning signs of widespread tundra melting and methane release, and the clathrates are an altogether more serious matter. This is where we start to talk about tipping points, processes that we can no longer control or reverse. At present it seems to be an uncertain topic.

Steve and Bryan made a very valid reference to the stupidity (my interpretation) of this country whereby we just dig and ship. We desperately need to bring an enormous amount of industry back onshore. The rise of an electric society is a gold-plated opportunity to again become a serious industrial country. Added to this is the enormous concentration of ownership of our mining and even industrial sectors by overseas corporations, who have little interest in the wellbeing of Australia or Australians. To give you a feeling for our narrow economic base (mining of raw materials; farm output), we rank about 95th in the world, just alongside global industrial superpowers like Burkina Faso and Bangladesh. And we’re heading south, probably aided by our appalling performance in STEM training.

Malcolm Roberts, a compulsive denier of global warming, is wont to say that he needs to see ‘empirical research’ before he’ll change his mind (as if the whole body of relevant research doesn’t use empirical evidence). It’s as if he thinks that he is smarter than thousands (millions) of the world’s scientific researchers who hold the contrary opinion. His ilk can’t be persuaded. Another classic Australian denier is Professor Ian Plimer, who wrote a book ‘Heaven and Earth’. It tends to be used as a key reference by the likes of Roberts, yet is so full of contradictions that there is a web site (Plimer vs Plimer: a one man contradiction) that excoriates his mischief.

Southern Hill Fan provided extensive, useful analysis; it’s great to have the folks on this forum providing comment from their respective fields of expertise. He noted the huge amount of diesel burnt in the mines that provide the coal. Having choked on diesel exhaust in underground mines I am in furious agreement with him. Not only is diesel described by some as the new asbestos, the particulates from open cut mines are deemed to be a causal factor in respiratory diseases in places like the Hunter Valley. However I beg to differ about wind power, specifically that it tends to not blow at night in Australia. This web site Nem Watch | RenewEconomy suggests to me that wind power supports hydro between the daytime solar peaks.

Hydro is tried and proven, but its impacts include drowning fertile river flats. Australia has only about
6% arable land, and we can’t afford to lose any. Further, the downstream impacts include the release of near-freezing water from deep in the reservoir, impacting downstream ecology. There are many instances of dams being demolished in the USA and Europe. In contrast, the favoured pumped hydro sites are generally in mostly dry watercourse with sufficient elevation differences between top and bottom reservoirs.

I also am inclined to disagree with natural gas being cleaner than coal. Once the effects of fugitive emissions of methane are taken into account, studies indicate little difference. These emission occur from ground fracturing, leaks around drillhole casing, pipeline leaks and even leaks further on. Furthermore, the damage from exploitation of tight gas & oil is significant, and the wells have a short life giving a poor ROI.

Any discussion of gas in Australia needs to address the gaming of the system by the gas industry in South Australia. They used the 30 minute rule to bid up the price (after removing their supply briefly), offering electricity at something like $14,000 / kwh instead of $150 or so. Then they fought the implementation of an alternative, a 5-minute rule, aided and abetted by the previous federal government. The Hornsdale battery used its ability to supply FCAS services to save the SA consumers about $140 million over two years.

Batteries

I’m not particularly au fait with all the developing battery technologies, and am unsure of SHF’s lumping gel batteries in with lead acid. I thought that zinc-bromine flow and gel batteries were going to be a significant in the stationary battery market (Redflow; Gelion), being non-combustible, very long life and able to be fully charged and discharged endlessly. Can you explain, SHF?

I noted an article this week about a new product from CATL, the world’s largest manufacturer, that is Li-based and has an energy density about 4 times the current norm. They are going into production, so it’s more than a theoretical product. It seems that every week there is a new type of battery in research or production. The permutations of anode, cathode and electrolyte is astounding (at least, to me).
I agree with the doubts about ‘green hydrogen’ and the more favourable production of ammonia for transport. But I think that ‘cytogenetic’ should be ‘cryogenic’. Also, SHF, what do you mean when you say that ‘ammonia contains more hydrogen than hydrogen’? Presumably your comparison is volumetric, rather than mass percentage.

Solutions / The Future

Your decarbonised future section, SHF, contains a heap of useful actions. I see a key takeaway from that list as the complexity of the solution. It will not be a few simple, painless ideas, or be purely technological. There will be a strong behavioural element.

In the short term, the federal government needs to get serious about fuel efficiency standards. Even now they talk about further studies while the rest of the developed world moves on, and we are threatened with being the dumping ground for ICE (internal combustion engines). They need to stop listening to the likes of Toyota who are demonstrating complete disinterest with an electric future. Another immediate need is to both roll out more charging stations for long distance travel and for people who can’t charge at home, and to focus on the maintenance of those stations. Inoperative charge points is a serious impediment to the rollout of EVs.

EVs have two obvious immediate foci; fleet procurement (for state govt, federal govt and companies) and the second car in two car families.

Green steel is another essential development. In current steel production, using metallurgical (or coking) coal to produce coke gives the process structural strength in the blast furnace for air movement and provides the carbon. I asked a metallurgist how electric arc furnaces (which are being introduced in Europe) provided this carbon, but he couldn’t tell me. Anybody here know the answer?

Geothermal

As SHF noted, the Australian landmass sits on a single tectonic plate, hence no plate boundary (subduction or spreading) geothermal potential. The investigations a few years ago were focussed on hot rock geothermal, where deep drillholes could inject and recover water/steam from areas of steep geothermal gradients, such as granite bodies containing anomalously high concentrations of radioactive elements. I think that the cost-benefit was not good enough to commercialise.

I don’t think that wave generators are a scam. Installations in Scotland and Portugal suggest great potential. Also, the King Island pilot scheme seemed to achieve a desirable result. CSP (concentrated solar thermal), while apparently being sidelined by cheaper renewables, is not dead. Vast Solar’s Port Augusta facility is still going ahead, backed by ARENA, and has the advantage of providing firmed electricity, unlike the cheaper PV farms.

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Ah something I have a little knowledge about.

This might seem general in nature but from my understanding the common methods used in Electric Arc Furnaces to add carbon to steel production are as follows…

  1. Carbon-containing additives: Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) operators can add carbon-containing additives directly into the furnace during the steelmaking process. Examples of such additives include metallurgical coke, anthracite coal, and carbon-containing briquettes. These materials provide a source of carbon that reacts with the molten steel to increase its carbon content to the desired level.
  2. Scrap steel with high carbon content: The scrap steel that is used as the raw material in EAFs often contains varying amounts of carbon. EAF operators can select scrap steel with higher carbon content to increase the carbon levels in the molten steel being produced. This allows for precise control over the carbon content in the final steel product.
  3. DRI/HBI: Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) or Hot Briquetted Iron (HBI) are alternative iron sources that can be used in EAFs. DRI/HBI is produced by reducing iron ore with natural gas, which results in a product that has a higher carbon content compared to traditional iron ore. When DRI/HBI is used in EAFs, it contributes carbon to the steel production process.
  4. Carbon injection: EAFs can also inject gaseous carbon sources, such as natural gas or propane, directly into the furnace to add carbon to the steel production process. This is typically done using specialized injection systems that introduce the carbon-containing gas into the molten steel, allowing it to react and increase the carbon content of the steel.

I found these sources can help with explaining it better than I can.

  1. “Introduction to Steelmaking” by W.R. Irving and R.J. Fruehan, published in the book “The Making, Shaping and Treating of Steel” by the Association for Iron & Steel Technology (AIST).

  2. “Electric Arc Furnace Steelmaking” by R.J. Fruehan, published in the book “The Making, Shaping and Treating of Steel” by the Association for Iron & Steel Technology (AIST).

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I’m staggered and humbled by the depth of knowledge displayed in these responses, mostly in areas I have no clue about. Simply amazing, and incredibly valuable.

Thanks to all who have participated so far, these posts have really expanded my knowledge.

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Thanks, Steve. It’s more complicated than I thought.

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There was a good video article on Solar Power and how it became the cheapest source of power. The story starts with ‘now former’ US President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970’s.

Vox: How solar energy got so cheap (Youtube)

Source ⧉

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Another discussion I would like to have is about Carbon Credits and how important exactly is the ‘Net Zero’ commitments that nations have agreed to and how these are to be achieved. I will write something more comprehensive about this in time, but to start the ball rolling on this one I have included a video article by Vox about Net Zero.

Vox: The tricky plan to pull CO2 out of the air (Youtube)

Source ⧉

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Here is an interesting idea. Again, I wonder if we could implement something similar to this in areas around Australia…

Question answered to a certain extent…