Thursday, October 06, 2022

Concentrated solar thermal power touted as part of Australia's clean energy future

LOL. What's old is new again. Solar thermal is an old idea that has often been tried but always disappoints. The best known example was the huge Ivanpah project (from 2013) in the Mojave desert.

You don't hear much about it now as it never functioned anywhere near its capacity and produced very expensive electricity. And there has NEVER been any return on the couple of billion spent constructing it.

The most amusing thing about it is that it used vast amounts of natural gas to get itself going in the morning and when it was cloudy. There was at one stage a proposal to reclassify it as a gas-powered power station because on many occasions more of its output came from burning gas than from its solar furnaces

The thing such plants are best at is chewing up subsidies from deluded governments

The most comparable previous project to the one described below was the Tonopah project in the Nevdada desert. In it, more than 10,000 mirrors were to focus the sun’s heat on a tower to produce steam and heat a tank containing molten salt that would generate power at night. However, the technology proved unreliable and expensive to build and operate.

Since it began operating in 2015, repeated leaks from its molten salt tank resulted in the power plant going off-line repeatedly. Unable to solve that and other problems at the facility, the power plant ceased all operations in April 2019.

Super-heated NaCl (salt) is a very hard substance to handle and that generates big costs and losses

An Australian company says its technology can help solve the problem of around-the-clock clean energy as Queensland gears up to become a renewable energy powerhouse.

A chronic issue for the most common renewable energy sources — such as solar panels and wind farms — is an inability to store power, which forces the national grid to rely on coal-fired power overnight.

Vast Solar has been developing new technology for concentrated solar thermal power, a renewable energy source that powers more than 7 per cent of the Spanish national grid, and in which China is heavily investing.

Chief executive Craig Wood said the company had been developing concentrated solar power (CSP) technology for 13 years and was ready to scale up its prototypes — manufactured and tested in Goodna, near Ipswich — to contribute to the national grid.

"It's a direct replacement for the overnight energy that is provided by coal-fired power stations," he said.

"And importantly the technology uses the same skill sets that are currently used in those thermal power stations, just in a renewable context."

The technology uses large mirrors, or heliostats, to beam sunlight into an array on a tall tower.

Molten sodium is then pumped through the array and heated to more than 500 degrees Celsius.

That heated sodium can then be stored and used to generate steam to spin a turbine and drive electricity into the national grid — or as a clean energy source for large industry.

CSIRO head of solar research Greg Wilson said the technology could be located alongside a traditional photovoltaic solar farm, with the grid using solar panel energy during the day and switching to stored power at night.

"After hours when the batteries are all flat, and people want to continue with their air conditioner, or large industry wants to continue to work, that 12 hours of storage that the CSP plant provides allows us to have 24-hour renewable energy," Dr Wilson said.

The CSIRO has been working with Vast Solar on developing and testing its newest research in the field.

Mr Wood said CSP was now cheaper than coal or gas and emitted almost no carbon dioxide when deployed in a full-scale facility.

Released last week, Queensland's $62 billion renewable transition plan makes no mention of CSP technology but emphasises the role of solar power in its seven-year plan.

Mr Wood said the plan was "hugely exciting" and one in which CSP could play a role, "allowing us to use existing transmission infrastructure while providing new jobs for power plant workers".

Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said in a statement there would be "ample opportunities" for industry to work with the state government on the plan, "including proposals like CSP".

Vast Solar is developing a 30-megawatt test plant in Port Augusta, in South Australia, to demonstrate to government and investors that the technology can effectively contribute to the national grid.

The project has $110 million in federal concessional funding and once it has the go-ahead, could be up and running in three years, with a life span of three decades.

"We're working on securing the grid connection for that project," Mr Wood said.


Tough times for fake meat

Beyond Meat was founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown who wanted to revolutionise the meat supply chain with a portfolio of fake meat products. Brown’s motivation for starting the company was to fight climate change by reducing global cow flatulence. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) claims animal agriculture is responsible for more than 14 per cent of global greenhouse emissions, with beef and dairy livestock accounting for 65 per cent of those emissions.

Climate activists also claim that livestock farming takes up too much land and water to produce enough food to feed the growing global population which is why they argue the only animals people should eat are insects.

In reality, all that is needed to feed a growing global population is to make agriculture as productive in developing countries as it is in the developed world. Yields on conventional crops have been rising at one per cent or more per annum and have been for decades. The developing world could dramatically increase yields in existing farms just by applying existing first world farm management practices. In addition, around 50 per cent of food produced in the world is wasted, mostly in the developing world due to lack of storage facilities and inefficient distribution systems which means that it ends up being eaten by bugs. With proper infrastructure, instead of eating bugs, as the FAO and the World Economic Forum advocate, we could eat the food that the bugs are eating.

Still, those sorts of incremental changes are of no interest to celebrity revolutionaries. With the global market for meat substitutes predicted to grow to more than $230 billion dollars by 2030, Brown’s fake meat protein wouldn’t just be good for people and good for the planet, it would be good for profits. Beyond Meat shares would be gilt-edged because they were guilt-edged.

Gates provided venture capital funding Beyond Meat’s shares, priced at $25 on the day of the initial public offering in April 2019 and soared to over $223 in the first three months. In February 2021, Gates was singing Beyond Meat’s praises proclaiming ‘all rich countries should move to 100 per cent synthetic beef’. ‘You can get used to the taste difference,’ he enthused, claiming that the ‘green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the (behaviour of) people or use regulation to totally shift the demand’.

Using regulation to shift demand is a business model that has been remarkably profitable for Gates. His $55 million investment in 3.1 million shares of BioNTech in September 2019 was worth $1.7 billion by August 2021 thanks to mandatory vaccination policies. So far, however, he has not persuaded governments to outlaw meat consumption or mandate fake meat patties.

Perhaps that’s why, despite claiming that Beyond Meat had ‘a quality road map and cost road map’ that made it ‘totally competitive’ in the move to a meatless future, Gates had already cashed out most of his investment in 2019 selling $28 million worth of shares. No doubt his endorsement in February 2021 helped keep the price high a while longer. Did he still have a few shares to sell? A case of pump and dump? What is certain is that from June 2021, despite Gates’ ringing endorsement, Beyond Meat’s shares started an inexorable decline from $150 to around $15 a share this month.

Yet when Ramsey, the head of retail poultry at Tyson Foods was poached in December 2020 to manage Beyond Meat’s fast growing relations with fast-food companies – Taco Bell, McDonalds, KFC, Panda Express and Pizza Hut – the company’s prospects looked great. With his prior experience as president of Tyson’s global McDonalds business, Ramsey was quite a catch.

Yet as 2021 wore on, the company’s sales, which had been expanding at triple-digit rates, slowed significantly as rampant inflation, ironically driven by President Biden’s green agenda, ate away at Americans’ disposable income forcing them to eat cheaper food. McDonalds launched its Beyond Meat McPlant Burger in Veganuary 2022 but the deal dumped as a nothing burger with underwhelming sales of only selling 20 McPlants per day, instead of the targeted 40-60. A major complaint was that fake meat was more expensive than the real thing. The company reported larger-than-expected second-quarter losses and a gross loss of $6 million.

The prospects for Beyond Meat do not look tempting. Its shares have fallen 75 per cent since the start of the year bringing its market value down to less than a billion dollars from $13.4 billion only three years ago. The takeaway from some analysts is that with anaemic growth in a lean market, Beyond Meat may be beyond saving. Certainly it is beyond Ramsey, suspending him indefinitely. As for Gates, it seems he isn’t actually beyond meat. In July 2022, his foundation donated over $3.5 million to Nindooinbah, a Queensland cattle station that breeds top quality beef cattle breeding stock. But as for any comment from Gates on the tough times for fake meat. Crickets.


Euro energy crisis: A rare opportunity to recalibrate priorities?

At least one developed economy is waking up from an energy slumber induced by the obsession with climate change. The new prime minister of the UK is seemingly leaving no stone unturned in her pursuit of energy liberation by appointing climate-skeptic ministers.

Given the decade-long dominance of anti-fossil fuel policies in the Western economies, this monumental policy shift is nothing short of a great awakening, one that may have been forced upon leaders by an existential energy crisis.

The Russian war in Ukraine, the uncertainty with OPEC oil production, and the post-pandemic economic recovery have together created a situation that cannot be ignored anymore. The political class has been forced to address the energy shortage. Sensible policies must be pursued and probably will be this winter if only out of a need to keep people from freezing to death.

In 2016, the Paris climate accord was signed by almost all countries. The objective was to address global warming through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Nations pledged to reduce their dependency on conventional energy sources like coal and oil.

What followed were the decommissioning of coal fired plants, closure of coal mines, high taxes on CO2 emissions and mandatory transition of electric grids to inefficient renewables. In the last five years alone, “half of Europe’s coal fleet has announced plans to close before 2030.” Even nuclear energy was snubbed in the mad rush for wind and solar technology.

These, along with a plethora of other measures, made the European and UK economies highly dependent on Russian natural gas.

With their quixotic parade to green utopia rudely interrupted, political leaders of the developed West face a crisis of soaring electricity costs and energy shortages.

Some utilities in the UK said they cannot provide new power connections to certain small businesses. Businesses that do have a power connection are dismayed by unaffordably high price quotations for the coming year — as much as 10 times more than current levels. An average household in Europe is expected to pay three times more for energy bills in 2023 ($500 per month) compared to 2021 prices ($160 per month). Goldman Sachs has warned that Europe’s household electrical bills could surge by $2 trillion by next year.

Neither wind nor solar could address the grave energy situation as both are intermittent technologies that are incapable of delivering large amounts of baseload electricity and meeting on-demand needs. With no choice left, the European countries have turned to coal and nuclear. While France is readying its dormant nuclear plants for winter, Germany has already increased its reliance on coal.

However, perhaps the bigger news is that the UK’s new cabinet will now allow fracking to resume in the UK, thus providing Britons with domestic gas that would be cheaper than imports and eventually bringing down astronomical energy bills.

The UK’s move to utilize hydrocarbons to address the energy crisis, in a surprisingly unashamed and open manner, may very well trigger a revival of the fossil fuel sector across Europe. The coming winter will require increased energy production in the temperate European regions, and leaders cannot continue to hide behind the Russian gas shortage as a justification for their inaction. With the World Meteorological Organization predicting a cooling of oceans due to the La NiƱa weather pattern, the 2022 winter has the potential to bring brutally cold spells for Europe.

Britain’s leaders have enough time to make alternative arrangements to meet the oncoming winter’s energy demand. They can finally do away with the “no-coal policy,” and their sovereign status gives them enough freedom to use more coal to keep the lights on. However, if they take a defensive approach — like French President Macron who has asked consumers to reduce energy consumption — they will be in an unprecedented energy crisis with the cold weather taking a toll on businesses and people, especially the poor.

This is the perfect opportunity for European leaders to move beyond the veneer of deceptive green policies that threatens economic disaster and misery for citizens. For some, unfortunately, it may be too late to avoid either.


Man Buys $115,000 Hummer Electric Truck - It Immediately Left Him Stranded in Middle of Road

It must be one of the more dramatic failures of an electric vehicle chronicled thus far. And it could have ended up much worse.

In a video posted on YouTube on Tuesday, Roman Mica, publisher of the website The Fast Lane Truck, recounted how his website had purchased a brand new General Motors Hummer EV. Price: $115,000.

After only a few days, and with fewer than 250 miles on the vehicle, the Hummer had problems in spectacular fashion. Alone on a busy highway, Mica found himself stranded. In true journalistic fashion, he pulled out his camera and documented what had gone wrong.

The Hummer ceased to budge. The shifter wouldn’t move. The trunk refused to open.

The only things working during the ordeal were the windshield wipers and the hazard lights.

As if to underscore the absurdity of the situation, Mica recorded himself switching between two dash-mounted LCD panels, flicking through screens, trying to reboot the Hummer out of “safe” mode, to no avail. Had it not been for the timely arrival of a police car, the Hummer could have been rear-ended by another vehicle.

Fortunately Mica’s son Tommy soon came to the scene. Followed by a tow truck, which had the unenviable task of loading a 9,400 pound vehicle that wouldn’t get in gear.

The Micas were finally able to get the Hummer rolling again. An article about the incident by The Fast Lane writer Zach Butler described how the team went through a complicated procedure that involved unhooking the battery to force a hard reboot of the system, then rolling the windows down in sequence, while stepping on the brake.

“Fortunately, Tommy and Roman were able to drive the vehicle back to the dealer after getting the Hummer EV out of this dicey situation,” the article states.

Chalk it up as another incident in the already troubled history of the model. The automotive news website Jalopnik reported in August that the supposedly “offroad” Hummer now risks severe malfunction if a car wash goes awry.

According to an article published in March by Elektrek, a website focused on electric vehicles, the Hummer EV also suffers from faulty tail lights caused by bad software. That issue prompted a recall by the manufacturer.

And then there is the simple matter of recharging the battery. Something that under some conditions may take days to build up for the Hummer EV.

Perhaps General Motors was too hasty in bringing an electric-powered truck to market. It seems that there is an abundance of design issues with the vehicle.

But if some Hummer owners are having buyer’s remorse about buying an electric vehicle, they are far from alone in the EV world.

As Breitbart reported in September, Hoovies Garage, a YouTube channel with 1.4 million subscribers, posted a video about the “total disaster” that came about from testing the new Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck.

In July, the 17-year-old owner of 2014 Ford Focus Electric, purchased used for her by her parents, found out it needed a new battery that would cost $14,000 — more than the $11,000 the car cost in the first place.

In June Toyota issued a recall for its first electric vehicle.

Consumer research group J.D. Power published a study three months ago indicating that EV owners are far less satisfied with their cars than are those who own traditional gas-powered vehicles. And it seems that unreliability of battery power is but one of the issues.

And yet, “progressive” politicians and “green energy” advocates remain obsessed with forcing Americans to buy electric vehicles in spite of the many problems that continue to plague the industry. The most rabid proponents of electric automobiles refuse to let the free market decide if such cars and trucks are truly wanted or even necessary.

Liberals such as President Joe Biden and California Gov. Gavin Newsom believe that they can drag the American people kicking and screaming into buying cars that they cannot afford.

Nobody wants to drive an unreliable car or truck or SUV or minivan. Americans want to buy vehicles they can trust to take them where they need to go, whether it’s getting groceries or going to work, driving to church, or rushing to the hospital with a medical emergency.

Traveling by vehicle — like any activity in life — will always involve risk. But it should not be compounded by turning a car into the physical incarnation of the blue screen of death.

Biden believes that he can “executive order” the American people into defying their own wisdom about purchasing an automobile. He, and many others, are blind to reality. Two million people had power restored in Florida within days of Hurricane Ian. It’s doubtful that many, if any, in the army of out-of-state line workers who helped accomplish that arrived in electric vehicles.

Roman Mica’s experience with a Hummer EV will likely prove to have not been an outlier — just the first of many still to come.

If so-called “progressives” get their way there will be millions of electric vehicles on the road, each one rife with potential “software error” and shorted-out batteries. Countless cars and trucks, waiting to break down without warning. Or conceivably going completely out of control on the highway: Computerized missiles homing in on innocent targets.




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