Solar storage breakthrough spoils nark’s party

solar power station and solar nark

Solar has gone 24/7 – and on a massive scale.

When it comes to policy backflips on alternative energy sources it’s been a nark’s world here in Australia. It would be incorrect to generalise, but I’m going to anyway; there is now a preponderance of knuckle-dragging, climate deniers in office in state and federal governments. Many of whom are looking to increase subsidies to their favourite fossil fuel energy source of choice and winding back any previous legislation that could be called remotely progressive.

This is not to say the polly-flavoured narks are restricted to one side of the Treasury benches readers. A point shown this week when the former Labor Minister for Energy Martin “Fossil Fuel” Ferguson accepted a position as chair to a petroleum industry advisory board. This just six months after exiting the ministry. Bet you didn’t see that one coming?

But back to the narks. Said narks always begin and end an argument on solar power on the premise that you can’t store alternative energy sources, says SolarQuotes founder Finn Peacock.

The problem is the argument has more holes in it than the Pacific Highway between Kempsey and Grafton.

To expand on the motor vehicle metaphor a bit; cast your mind back readers to the invention of the internal combustion engine. Did steam narks exist who bemoaned the new technology because one needed to stop at periodic intervals to fill us with petrol? Probably.

In any case the argument (shot through as it is) has already been overtaken by events.

Gemasolar — the 19.9 MW solar thermal in Seville, Spain — recently celebrated its second birthday. Not only has the award-winning plant set the trend for solar thermal design, it is also a pioneer in being able to supply solar energy around the clock. The Gemasolar plant shows that, not only can solar power be stored but it can be done very successfully.

According to the Gemasolar press release of 3/10/2013: “… in the summer of 2013, the plant has achieved continuous production operating 24 hours per day for 36 consecutive days, which is something that no other plant has performed so far.”

Finn nails it when he says:

“…some engineers actually built a full scale plant, that, two years later has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can store solar energy on an industrial scale, and at a competitive cost.”

He adds: “…that’s on the first effort. Imagine how good and cheap the technology will be on the 100th plant.”

A key point readers. However it is with the combination of other alternative energy sources that the possibilities become “endless” according to regular SQ Facebook contributor Mark Bailey.

“…it can be done, I am working on an offshore wind farm coupled with tidal generators that will supply power 24/7 and possibly linked to a solar farm on land as well…so the possibilities are endless.”

The key question can alternative energy sources be stored has therefore been answered readers. But what are your thoughts? We’re keen to hear from you either here or over at our Facebook Page.

Comments

  1. Narks, knuckle dragging climate deniers, no, just people who realise that the cost to the Australian Tax payer for Renewable Energy projects that hit the wall faster than a speeding bullet aren’t feasible any more. The fact that the people in power are trying to have the so called Carbon tax repealed shows that at least someone has the good of Australians in their keeping as this Tax was no more than a thinly veiled excuse to extort money from each and every one of us.
    You go on about wind farms etc but look at the number of those that now lie dormant and derelict in other countries, look at the companies who were granted billions and then failed to produce the desired result, look at the companies who built solar panels in various countries that have gone belly up even with generous tax payer funded contribution from the various Governments and its no wonder that there is a definite reluctance to throw good money after bad.
    There are those of us out here who believe in Solar, live 100% on Solar, and do not rely on water and sewerage using coal powered pumps to pump it into or out of their homes but who realise that the cost to each and every consumer for 100% renewable energy would beggar the country and are not amongst those who without question accept the teachings of the new religion of Climate Change with man as the responsible beast as most of the most vocal people are those with vested interests in keeping this myth alive and profitable.

  2. Colin Spencer says

    Fair go. When federal and state governments chuck a pile of money at subsidising solar systems, the market is flooded with shonky solar system salesmen, and too many poorly skilled or even worse, poorly motivated installers. Not only that, but the blighters jack the prices up to ridiculous heights. For instance, we saw advertising for 2.5 kw systems by roof seal and gutter companies at $8,000 plus. It is amazing to see similar systems now being advertised for less than $3,000. Supply and Demand, cause and effect. The professionals like the blokes who run this site are still there, and the con-men have moved on. Now the systems are sold on their merits not by tickling the greed nerve with the idea that you can take high feed back tariffs etc. I recently fitted a 56 panel system on my big shed. The price was good, and it was installed by a team that normally does bigger systems and only on commercial premises. The lease is pretty close to the quarterly energy savings. At the moment. Future price increases will put me in front. If you want solar, get it now the prices are excellent. Sure, pay a bit more for a professional, rather than a TV touter offer, and you are sure to be satisfied with the outcome.

  3. Yeah, kimalice & Colin Spencer said it pretty well, and if you want people to keep reading your blog, you need to cut the labelling/name-calling!

    • Geez, Wazza, you certainly have a point there. From a marketing guy’s point of view, there is so much more to be gained by giving positive opinions on a subject. I get excited reading about great ideas, or even the triumphant completion of a difficult job. Such ideas inspire potential clients to make positive and informed decisions. We should all try to put a positive slant on things. You are so right. Some wise-guy (philosopher) once said: “If you can’t be kind with your opinion, best to talk to yourself” Something like that, anyway. Enthusiasm is contagious. There should be a filter for nasty bloggers.

      • Yes Minister says

        I was planning on getting some batteries early next year however I might wait a bit as I understand that sodium technology developed by some southern university is supposed to be getting commercialized about now. Anything that provides insulation against the predations of lying politicians & their avaricious corporate comrades in crime has to be a very good thing.

  4. Knuckle dragging climate deniers? What, people who deny there is such a thing as climate? Or are referring to people who inconveniently point out the massive overstatements, false predictions and general inaccuracies and hyperbole associated with climate change alarmism. Some of those knuckle draggers know a hell of a lot more about physics, climate and geological processes than the air-heads who write apocalyptic treatises about the end of life on earth. It’s interesting to note that in general the people who are most fanatical about the need to “act” on climate change are the most scientifically ignorant. Most real scientists treat these predictions as what they are – untested hypotheses.

    • Hi Ian,

      I’d really appreciate some names of scientists who think we don’t need to act on climate change and “know a hell of a lot more about physics, climate and geological processes” than the IPCC scientists. Also some citations of peer reviewed academic papers to back up your claims would be great.

      Cheers,

      Finn

      • You could have just Googled it.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scientific_assessment_of_global_warming contains a long (but obviously very incomplete) list. As many of these people have excellent qualifications in physics and geology, there can be no doubt that what McFadyen claimed – that they know more about these disciplines than some people who write apocalyptic treatises – is certainly true.

        • Have any IPCC supporters noticed that last week, the IPCC reviewed its estimate for seal level rise by 2100 from 40 cm to 4 cm? Or have they noticed that the summer sea ice has trapped two vessels in the Antarctic? Or that Nth America is currently in the grip of record minimum temperatures with snow and ice in unprecedented amounts? Not news? The IPCC isn’t commenting either. The back-down on estimated seal level rises must have been about all they could swallow.

          BTW: I am a practical environmentalist. One of my businesses has sold enough natural refrigerant gas to eliminate chemical refrigerant gas emissions by the equivalent of well over 1 million tonnes of CO2. If everyone delivered on such innovations, there would be no climate change debates. I also have a 56 panel solar system on my shed roof. My car runs on LPG. What do my critics do? Yak Yak Yak!

          • 1) Please provide citation for your 4cm sea level prediction

            2) RE: sea ice – Antarctic sea ice has shown long term growth since satellites began measurements in 1979. This is an observation that has been often cited as proof against global warming. However, rarely is the question raised: why is Antarctic sea ice increasing? The implicit assumption is it must be cooling around Antarctica. This is decidedly not the case. In fact, the Southern Ocean has been warming faster than the rest of the world’s oceans. Globally from 1955 to 1995, oceans have been warming at 0.1°C per decade. In contrast, the Southern Ocean has been warming at 0.17°C per decade. Not only is the Southern Ocean warming, it is warming faster than the global trend.

            If the Southern Ocean is warming, why is Antarctic sea ice increasing? There are several contributing factors. One is the drop in ozone levels over Antarctica. The hole in the ozone layer above the South Pole has caused cooling in the stratosphere (Gillet 2003). This strengthens the cyclonic winds that circle the Antarctic continent (Thompson 2002). The wind pushes sea ice around, creating areas of open water known as polynyas. More polynyas lead to increased sea ice production (Turner 2009).

            Another contributor is changes in ocean circulation. The Southern Ocean consists of a layer of cold water near the surface and a layer of warmer water below. Water from the warmer layer rises up to the surface, melting sea ice. However, as air temperatures warm, the amount of rain and snowfall also increases. This freshens the surface waters, leading to a surface layer less dense than the saltier, warmer water below. The layers become more stratified and mix less. Less heat is transported upwards from the deeper, warmer layer. Hence less sea ice is melted (Zhang 2007). An increase in melting of Antarctic land ice will also contribute to the increased sea ice production (Bintanga et al. 2013).

            In summary, Antarctic sea ice is a complex and unique phenomenon. The simplistic interpretation that it must be cooling around Antarctica is decidedly not the case. Warming is happening – how it affects specific regions is complicated.

            http://skepticalscience.com/antarctica-gaining-ice-intermediate.htm

            3) Re a cold American winter: Since the mid 1970s, global temperatures have been warming at around 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade. However, weather imposes its own dramatic ups and downs over the long term trend. We expect to see record cold temperatures even during global warming. Nevertheless over the last decade, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows. This tendency towards hotter days is expected to increase as global warming continues into the 21st Century.

            http://skepticalscience.com/global-warming-cold-weather-intermediate.htm

            4) It sounds like you have a fantastic business and a great solar system. I’m not sure this proves that 97% of the worlds climate scientists are wrong about global warming though.

          • ” I’m not sure this proves that 97% of the worlds scientists are wrong about global warming though.”

            Where did you get this figure about 97% of the world’s scientists having some belief about global warming? It looks like nonsense to me.

            I am aware of figures that suggest that 97% of the world’s climate scientists believe that anthropogenic CO2 is an important driver of climate, but then again I am also aware that 100% of professional astrologers believe that a persons personality is in part determined by the relative location of planets at the time of birth.

            If you want to use some kind of voting arrangement to determine if something is science or pseudo-science (and you shouldn’t), asking only people who earn their living by advancing the theory obviously tells you nothing. Unless, of course, you also believe in homeopathy, like 97% of professional homeopaths do.

          • Finn Admin says

            My guess is almost 100% of scientific peer reviewed papers reject homeopathy and astrology.

            It appears you disagree with the process of scientific peer review.

            Several studies have confirmed that “…the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes”. (Doran 2009).

            In other words, more than 97% of scientists working in the disciplines contributing to studies of our climate (including my sister), accept that climate change is almost certainly being caused by human activities.

          • So that figure about 97% of scientists believe that climate change is largely driven by anthropogenic gasses is completely untrue? Or at least there is absolutely no evidence it is true? Thanks for clearing that up. It looked wrong to me.

            According to your own reference, belief in anthropogenic climate change drops to 77% amongst the general population of scientists. That’s about one quarter of all scientists think the basic premise of climate “science” is crap. Or, to use the modern parlance, 23% of all scientists are “science-deniers”. At least according to your reference.

            Not, of course, that such voting means anything. Prior to 1905, 100% of physicists believed in absolute simultaneity. I would hazard a guess that less than 1% of physicists believe in it now. Scientific questions not settled by popularity contests; they are determined by comparing prediction to experiment. Which climate science does very poorly.

            And by the way, you are wrong about 100% of peer reviewed journals reject homeopathy. For an obvious counterexample, see http://www.journals.elsevier.com/homeopathy/.

          • You need to be careful when quoting the “97% of climate scientists” figure. It does not bear any depth of scrutiny at all. There are a number of former IPCC contributing scientists who now object to being counted in the same sheep pen of selective listing.

      • OK Finn!

        If you would like to explore just about everything you can think on this subject you might care to download an interactive PowerPoint slide show I’ve assembled over about five years. Lots of names of scientists –

        • With around 90% of the worlds population in the northern hemisphere, energy subsidies in many countries must be subsidised or people freeze to death. Population levels are the problem, supply of energy is limited. In the southern hemisphere the opposite applies. It is not much use carrying on about 97% of climate scientists being right or wrong about global warming. All you have to do is wait and watch. They regularly withdraw their estimates or revise them to a more sensible figure as circumstances require. I once saw a list of prominent “climate scientists” and an analysis of who they were and what their qualifications and experience was. You should try this, Finn, it will amuse you, I am sure. BTW: The revised sea level rise estimate is not on IPCC published data yet. They only made an announcement to the mainstream press a week or so ago. They would be well advised not to publish immediately. Could cause a lot of backlash.

  5. If Gemstar produces 110 Gwhr/yr, it can produce about 12 MW continuous. Which is about 1/200th of what a coal plant produces. Or about 50 times as much as my car.

    I am surprised that Mr Finn believes this proves solar energy can be stored cost-effectively; whilst there are no public domain figures on the cost of building and operating the plant, I doubt very much that this is cost-effective compared to coal. That’s a whole lot of plant for not a whole lot of power.

    The irony of this is that the only large scale site using even vaguely similar technology – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Solar_Project – was successfully built and operated for a period, but has been demolished because even after writing off the entire capital cost of building the system, they couldn’t produce electricity at a competitive price. So they mothballed and then eventually demolished it. Gemstar is a fundamentally better designed for operation – the high temperature stuff is centralised which is better for maintenance and more thermodynamically efficient – but in reality this is probably the most expensive way to generate solar power, and even the most efficient solar plants are still far from competitive with coal.

  6. michaelspencer2 says

    Drat! I’m still learning to use the comments system, and it cut me off in my prime!

    So, Finn, you can download it at http://www.conscious.com.au/media/ReconsideringClimateChange.ppsx. If you don’t have PowerPoint there’s a download link to the free Microsoft Viewer. If you are using an Apple you will need to have PowerPoint loaded. To date I have been unable to locate any free Apple viewer.

    It’s a big file (about 75Mb), but it offers hours of innocent fun exploring all sorts of things you don’t see in the mainstream media. It includes some good news which you definitely don’t see or hear about!

    I’ve tried to make it interesting and entertaining, with about 1,000 Internet hyperlinks.

    So, do you want to see the ice melting in the Arctic? Click! Off you go to a number of webcams and you can take a look.

    Want to see the Pacific islands disappearing beneath the waves? Click!

    Would you like to find out about the latest in nuclear technology that you just haven’t heard about? (And by the way, Norway just switched its’ first back in April. What? You haven’t heard about this? As I was saying above – this is good news, and good news does not sell newspaper!)

    Like to hear about some brand new technology that will deal with REAL pollution, totally organically, with a by-product of an extremely high-grade fertiliser? Click!

    ‘Peer Reviewed’ scientific papers galore, and lots lots more, including some interesting investigative journalism into a few organisations and their credibility …..

    See how you go – good luck!

  7. looking forward to your reply/citations Ian McFadyen. 🙂

  8. Can anyone tell me how much government subsidies are given to mining coal mining and gas companies, I would like to know how these compare to solar subsidies … Les

    • Les: I was under the impression that the coal miners, gas producers and power companies were subsidising election costs for political parties. I don’t know of any subsidies from governments to miners etc. They make millions, and when they have amortised their capital investments, they will have to pay company taxes, just like the rest of us. Lefties see depreciation allowances as subsidies, perhaps. They are not noted for their fiscal literacy.

    • There are no net subsidies given to coal mining companies. The wealth created by coal mining largely underwrites our national economy. Mining companies paid $13 billion in company taxes alone last year. Pretty much the opposite of a subsidy.

      For natural gas, the argument is much clearer. Consumers pay excise (a fossil fuel tax) on LPG, petrol, and diesel. These raise about $16b pa in revenue.

      It is ludicrous to suggest that mining is on balance subsidised. The government makes money from mining activity; it doesn’t lose money. It is because we make so much money from mining that we can afford subsidise other industries – like renewables.

  9. dennis newland says

    The more the dust and other crap including the carbon particulates on Everest causing glacial melts (fact) .
    The more the atmospheric heat absorption rate rises whilst the polar regions (6 months of Sun) are shielded from the sun the more ice will form. Seas occupy well over fifty percent of the global surface area and are more subject to the sun nearer the equatorial areas and the added continental heat of the land. Side elements of course are ocean pollution, Flame offs from thousands of oil well derricks. Crap from oil well fires, surface oil and thousands of other pollutants plus the extreme degradation of fish stocks of all varieties and the natural redemptive biological health of the seas. Read about the brown Cloud of the India/Nepal/Himalaya region, confusing at first then so easy to understand its disastrous effects. To all the climate deniers of which I was one I say take a look around. There is no way this planet can support the clean up job for over one billion or more exhaust pipes/stacks and funnels spewing into our atmosphere especially when country size forests our very own precious atmospheric filters are being demolished every year. Dah!

    • And all you have to do to fix the problems is to “believe in climate change”. I have some good news for you, Dennis. Everyone knows about climate change, but very few people will agree that taxing people into poverty will fix anything at all. If you can come up with a solution to the population explosion, particularly in the northern hemisphere where about 90% of the world’s human population lives, then you will have the answer. South of the equator, including the vast populations of South America and Africa, only 10% of human population exists. You are preaching to the converted. The southern hemisphere population is responsible for a very small percentage of industrial emissions. Carbon dioxide is not the problem. There is only a very small amount of it in the atmosphere. A fraction of 1%. Plant life consumes carbon dioxide and it is sequestered in trees. Industrial emissions in the northern hemisphere are the real problem. Do you have a solution for that? Taxing Australian energy users is not the answer.

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