Archive for the ‘energy’ Category

In China, wind and solar energy are the clear winners over nuclear.

September 14, 2021

A Decade Of Wind, Solar, & Nuclear In China Shows Clear Scalability Winners
China’s natural experiment in deploying low-carbon energy generation shows that wind and solar are the clear winners.   https://cleantechnica.com/2021/09/05/a-decade-of-wind-solar-nuclear-in-china-shows-clear-scalability-winners/ By Michael Barnard, 6 Sept 21,

Generation in TWh added each year by wind, solar and nuclear in China 2010-2020

My 2014 thesis continues to be supported by the natural experiment being played out in China. In my recent published assessment of small modular nuclear reactors (tl’dr: bad idea, not going to work), it became clear to me that China has fallen into one of the many failure conditions of rapid deployment of nuclear, which is to say an expanding set of technologies instead of a standardized single technology, something that is one of the many reasons why SMRs won’t be deployed in any great numbers.

Wind and solar are going to be the primary providers of low-carbon energy for the coming century, and as we electrify everything, the electrons will be coming mostly from the wind and sun, in an efficient, effective and low-cost energy model that doesn’t pollute or cause global warming. Good news indeed that these technologies are so clearly delivering on their promise to help us deal with the climate crisis. 

In 2014, I made the strong assertion that China’s track record on wind and nuclear generation deployments showed clearly that wind energy was more scalable. In 2019, I returned to the subject, and assessed wind, solar and nuclear total TWh of generation, asserting that wind and solar were outperforming nuclear substantially in total annual generation, and projected that the two renewable forms of generation would be producing 4 times the total TWh of nuclear by 2030 each year between them. Mea culpa: in the 2019 assessment, I overstated the experienced capacity factor for wind generation in China, which still lags US experiences, but has improved substantially in the past few years.


My thesis on scalability of deployment has remained unchanged: the massive numerical economies of scale for manufacturing and distributing wind and solar components, combined with the massive parallelization of construction that is possible with those technologies, will always make them faster and easier to scale in capacity and generation than the megaprojects of GW-scale nuclear plants. This was obvious in 2014, it was obviously true in 2019, and it remains clearly demonstrable today. Further, my point was that China was the perfect natural experiment for this assessment, as it was treating both deployments as national strategies (an absolute condition of success for nuclear) and had the ability and will to override local regulations and any NIMBYism. No other country could be used to easily assess which technologies could be deployed more quickly.

In March of this year I was giving the WWEA USA+Canada wind energy update as part of WWEA’s regular round-the-world presentation by industry analysts in the different geographies. My report was unsurprising. In 2020’s update, the focus had been on what the impact of COVID-19 would be on wind deployments around the world. My update focused on the much greater focus on the force majeure portions of wind construction contracts, and I expected that Canada and the USA would miss expectations substantially. The story was much the same in other geographies. And that was true for Canada, the USA and most of the rest of the geographies.

But China surprised the world in 2020, deploying not only 72 GW of wind energy, vastly more than expected, but also 48 GW of solar capacity. The wind deployment was a Chinese and global record for a single country, and the solar deployment was over 50% more than the previous year. Meanwhile, exactly zero nuclear reactors were commissioned in 2020.

And so, I return to my analysis of Chinese low-carbon energy deployment, looking at installed capacity and annual added extra generation.

Grid-connections of nameplate capacity of wind, solar and nuclear in China 2010-2020 chart by author
(more…)

The nuclear industry is dying. Bitcoin to the rescue?

September 14, 2021

Some lawmakers have called for greater regulation of cryptocurrency, citing the enormous amount of resources required to produce it. “There are computers all over the world right now spitting out random numbers around the clock, in a competition to try to solve a useless puzzle and win the bitcoin reward,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in June, calling for a crackdown on “environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies.”

Zero-carbon [?] bitcoin? The owner of a Pennsylvania nuclear plant thinks it could strike gold

Talen Energy plans to build a $400 million bitcoin mine at its Pa. nuclear plant. “I think this is a great opportunity to prolong the life of a lot of nuclear plants.”

Could bitcoin mining be the salvation of the embattled nuclear energy industry in America?

The owners of several nuclear power plants, including two in Pennsylvania, have formed ventures with cryptocurrency companies to provide the electricity needed to run computer centers that “mine” bitcoin. Since nuclear energy does not emit greenhouse gases, [ except that the whole nuclear fuel chain DOES] the project’s investors say, the zero-carbon [ a lie] bitcoin would address climate concerns that have tarnished the energy-intensive cryptocurrency industry.

  Talen Energy, the owner of the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station near Berwick, Pa., announced this week that it has signed a deal with TeraWulf Inc., an Easton, Md. cryptocurrency mining firm, to build a giant bitcoin factory next to its twin reactors in northern Pennsylvania. The first phase of the venture, dubbed Nautilus Cryptomine, could cost up to $400 million.

Talen’s project could eventually use up to 300 megawatts — or 12% of Susquehanna’s 2,500 MW capacity. It’s the second bitcoin-mining venture in the last month that involves owners of Pennsylvania nuclear facilities.

Last month Energy Harbor Corp., the former power-generation subsidiary of First Energy Corp., announced it signed a five-year agreement to provide zero-carbon [nuclear is NOT zero-carbon] electricity to a new bitcoin mining center operated by Standard Power in Coshocton, Ohio. Energy Harbor owns two nuclear units in Ohio and the twin-unit Beaver Valley Power Station in Western Pennsylvania.

A nuclear fission start-up, Oklo, also announced last month it signed a 20-year deal with a bitcoin miner to supply it with power, though the company has not yet built a power plant.

In recent years, commercial nuclear operators have struggled to compete in competitive electricity markets against natural gas plants and upstart renewable sources such as wind and solar. Unfavorable market conditions have hastened the retirements of several single-unit reactors, such as Three Mile Island Unit 1 in Pennsylvania. Lawmakers in New Jersey, New York and Illinois have enacted nuclear bailouts, paid by electricity customers, to stave off early retirement for other plants.

The cryptocurrency deals would provide nuclear generators with reliable outlets for their power, and bitcoin miners with predictable sources of power at cheap prices, along with a zero-carbon [nuclear is NOT zero-carbon] cachet…….

The nuclear industry views the crypto craze not as a crutch but as a launching pad for expansion. “U.S. nuclear power plants are ready and able to supply miners with abundant, reliable carbon-free [ but nuclear is NOT carbon-free] power while also providing new business pathways for the nuclear developers and utilities, increasing their operating profits, and potentially accelerating the deployment of the next generation of reactors,” John Kotek, senior vice president of policy development and government affairs at Nuclear Energy Institute, said……

 Energy and cryptocurrency experts say several trends are shifting the market in favor of U.S. nuclear power producers. 

In May, Chinese regulators announced new measures to limit bitcoin mining in several regions that failed to meet Beijing’s energy-use targets. Bitcoin production levels have fallen since then, forcing bitcoin producers to relocate to places with low operating costs and cool climates to reduce the costs of cooling the bitcoin data centers. The state of Washington, which has lots of inexpensive hydroelectric power, has undergone a huge boom in bitcoin mining.

How mining is done

Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer virtual currency, operating without a central authority, and which can be exchanged for traditional currency such as the U.S. dollar. It is the most successful of hundreds of attempts to create virtual money through the use of cryptography, the science of making and breaking codes — hence, they are called cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin mining is built around blockchain technology, and it involves generating a string of code that decrypts a collection of previously executed bitcoin transactions. Successful decryption is rewarded with a new bitcoin. The supply of bitcoins is limited to 21 million — nearly 90% have already been mined. So the remaining bitcoins become increasingly scarce and more difficult to extract

Data centers operated by bitcoin miners randomly generate code strings, called “hashes,” to solve the puzzle and earn new coins. Worldwide, miners on the bitcoin network generate more than 100 quintillion hashes per second — that’s 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 guesses per second, according to Blockchain.com. The first phase of the Nautilus project in Pennsylvania would generate five quintillion hashes per second.

Such guesswork requires muscular [doncha love that word ”muscular” when they mean ”huge”] computing power, robust internet connections, and lots of electricity. Smaller bitcoin miners have teamed up in consortiums to pool their computing power. Bigger players have built huge data centers devoted exclusively to producing lines of random code.

“Mining cryptocurrency is an international, profitable, and energy-intensive business,” ScottMadden a management consulting firm, said in a paper it published last year. Bitcoin mining consumes an estimated 0.5% of the electricity produced worldwide or about as much as the country of Greece. 

Some lawmakers have called for greater regulation of cryptocurrency, citing the enormous amount of resources required to produce it. “There are computers all over the world right now spitting out random numbers around the clock, in a competition to try to solve a useless puzzle and win the bitcoin reward,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in June, calling for a crackdown on “environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies.”


………. Unlike other crypto projects in which the power generator is an arms-length electricity supplier, the Nautilus Cryptomine is a 50-50 venture between Talen and TeraWulf. The project would be directly connected to the Susquehanna plant — “behind the meter,” in industry parlance — and would avoid any transmission costs from the grid…….

The cryptomine would be located inside a 200,000-square-foot building — about four football fields. The mining operation would be built on a data center campus that Talen is developing next to the Susquehanna plant……..

“As you look across the United States, and you look at kind of the challenges that are facing nuclear plants, I think this is a great opportunity to prolong the life of a lot of plants,” said Dustin Wertheimer, vice president and divisional chief financial officer of Talen Energy   https://www.inquirer.com/business/cryptocurrency-bitcoin-pennsylvania-nuclear-power-talen-susquehanna-20210806.html

Bitcoin’s electricity use is boundless. No wonder that Elon Musk etc now want nuclear power to fuel it.

September 14, 2021

Here’s what a modern massive Bitcoin mining operation in upstate New York looks like:

Greenidge Generation’s bitcoin mining operation at their power plant in New York State.

How Bitcoin is Heating This Lake and Warming the Planet more https://earthjustice.org/blog/2021-june/bitcoin-dirty-power?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_term=page&fbclid=IwAR30Z3V5q_FlRtyr1NnIZCQ6tU34tMs1AQUp8rgFRVGNTYaNoXl7I6Au8dg

Bitcoin is bringing dirty power plants out of retirement. Earthjustice is fighting this new trend in order to put an end to fossil fuels once and for all.By Ben Arnoldy | June 1, 2021 Seneca Lake in upstate New York is drawing attention to Bitcoin’s impact on the environment. A nearby Bitcoin mining plant is heating the lake waters — and the climate.

Bitcoin, the first and most famous cryptocurrency, is now burning through as much energy and pumping out as much greenhouse gas as entire nations.

Current estimates put the currency’s electricity usage on par with countries like the Netherlands. This is, shall we say, not helpful at a time when humanity is racing to switch to clean energy before we cook the planet.

In fact, Bitcoin’s energy demands are so high that the people who get rich from producing it want to pull dirty power plants out of retirement to power their operations. Earthjustice is urging regulators not to let that happen.

Bitcoins aren’t physical coins, so you might be asking why does a virtual currency require much energy?

The appeal of Bitcoin for some people is it allows them to trust no person, bank, or government. Bitcoin is entirely decentralized. But there needs to be some system to prevent fraudsters from making copies of the coins and trying to spend them twice.

To solve this, the system incentivizes many people rather than one trusted entity to devote computing power to validating transactions. The system is competitive, awarding new Bitcoins only to one “miner” who completes the validating and other tasks first, leading to an arms race of ever faster and more powerful computer rigs. While other cryptocurrencies use much less energy, Bitcoin’s particular solution to security without trust, it turns out, is extremely energy-intensive.

That monster requires a lot of energy to run the machines and to keep them from overheating. The cooling system for this rig uses cold water from Seneca Lake and discharges it back at temperatures reportedly as high as 98 degrees — with a permit to go even higher — harming trout and promoting algal blooms. For years, Bitcoin miners have sleuthed for places to set up shop where power is cheap and the climate cool, such as China’s Inner Mongolia or the hydro-abundant Pacific Northwest.

But the mining operation pictured above went next level. They own their own damn power plant:

Investors bought this plant in 2014. It was a fixer-upper. Mothballed power plants lying around for sale tend to be dirty fossil fuel plants.

The Greenidge Generation station in New York had been built in the 1930s as a coal-fired power plant. By 2011, there was not enough demand for its costly, dirty power and it was shut down. After not operating for several years, the new owners switched its fuel to dirty gas and re-started its operations, using the plant’s old pollution permits.

The plant struggled to find demand for its electricity, and the operators turned their attention instead to mining Bitcoin. Pollution started to skyrocket. In just one year, emissions of greenhouse gases increased ten-fold. The plant currently uses 19 MW of power, enough to power 14,500 homes if it weren’t mining Bitcoin. And it has plans to go to 55 MW and the capacity to go to 106 MW. At full capacity, the plant would blow past its current pollution permit — but that permit is up for renewal.

Earthjustice and the Sierra Club have sent a letter to regulators urging them not to allow the company, Greenidge Generation LLC, to expand the air permit and to take notice of the emerging trend of cryptocurrency miners taking over power plants and operating them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. At least one other plant in the region is planning to get in on the game, and there are nearly 30 plants in upstate New York alone with the potential to convert to full-time Bitcoin mining. A coal plant in Montana is also ramping back up for cryptocurrency mining.

“The aim of the letter to the New York Department of Conservation is to say this is not some random or isolated thing. Cryptocurrency is real and increasingly important, and dirty power plants are coming back from the dead,” says Earthjustice attorney Mandy DeRoche. “Greenidge just gave other retired, retiring, or peaking plants a roadmap of how to do it, how to recruit investors, how to go public on NASDAQ.”

Earthjustice has spent years fighting in public utility commissions around the country to ensure old, dirty power plants get pushed into retirement — and if replacement power is needed, steer clear of dirty gas in favor of clean energy. Our goal is to hasten the day when everything is powered with 100% clean energy.

New York state has a new climate law, and DeRoche says the commitments made in that law won’t be met if dirty power plants get resurrected and operate 24/7. That should spur legislators and regulators to clarify the regulatory gray zone that miners have exploited here with power generation that’s not sent to the grid.

There are many ways to tackle this issue, and we are exploring them,” says DeRoche. “One solution may be to require renewable generation for cryptocurrency mining, with an excess renewable generation requirement on top, so that the mining is not preventing renewables from going directly into the grid. We need that clean power on the grid as fast as possible to mitigate the unequal and most harmful impacts of climate change.”

The climate crisis is accelerating, and we have less than a decade to dramatically cut our carbon emissions if we hope to preserve a livable planet. Tell your members of Congress it’s time to build a sustainable and just future with the American Jobs Plan.

Reaching net zero without nuclear

September 14, 2021

Our latest Talking Points makes the case

Not only is it possible, it’s essential   https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2021/07/11/reaching-net-zero-without-nuclear/

The fourth in our series of Talking Points draws on the new report by Jonathon Porritt, New Zero Without Nuclear: The Case Against Nuclear Power. Given the far-off illusory promise of new reactor designs; the enormous costs; the limited capacity for carbon reductions compared to renewables; the unsolved waste problem; and the inflexibility and outdatedness of the “always on” baseload model, nuclear power is in the way of — rather than a contributor to — climate mitigation. You can download the Net Zero Without Nuclear Talking Points here. This is the fourth in our series. You can find all four here.

By Jonathon Porritt 10 July 21

 I first took an interest in Greenpeace back in 1973, before I joined Friends of the Earth, CND and the Green Party (then the Ecology Party) a year later. I’d followed the campaigns against the testing of nuclear weapons in Amchitka (one of the Aleutian islands in Alaska), and then in the French nuclear testing area of Moruroa in the Pacific. I was 23 at the time, with zero in-depth knowledge, but it just seemed wrong, on so many different fronts.

That early history of Greenpeace seems much less relevant now, given all its achievements over the last 50 years in so many other areas of critical environmental concern. But it still matters. Greenpeace has been an ‘anti-nuclear organisation’ through all that time, sometimes fiercely engaged in front-line battles, sometimes maintaining more of a watching brief, and nuclear power plays no part in Greenpeace’s modelling of a rapid transition to a Net Zero carbon world. It’s been very supportive of my new report, ‘Net Zero Without Nuclear’.

I wrote this report partly because the nuclear industry itself is in full-on propaganda mode, and partly because that small caucus of pro-nuclear greens (that’s existed for as long as I can remember) seems to be winning new supporters.

And I can see why. The Net Zero journey we’re now starting out on for real (at long last!) is by far the most daunting challenge that humankind has ever faced. Writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books in June 2019, author and Army veteran Roy Scranton put it like this:

‘Climate change is bigger than the New Deal, bigger than the Marshall Plan, bigger than World War II, bigger than racism, sexism, inequality, slavery, the Holocaust, the end of nature, the Sixth Extinction, famine, war, and plague all put together, because the chaos it’s bringing is going to supercharge every other problem. Successfully meeting this crisis would require an abrupt, traumatic revolution in global human society; failing to meet it will be even worse.’

Not many people see it like that – as yet. But more and more will, as signals of that kind of chaos start to multiply. And we already know that the kind of radical decarbonisation on which our future depends is going to be incredibly hard. So why should we reject a potentially powerful contribution to that decarbonisation challenge?

I became Director of Friends of the Earth in 1984. The same year that my first book, ‘Seeing Green’, was published. Looking back on what I said then, I was indeed fiercely critical of nuclear power, but have to admit that my advocacy of renewables (as the principal alternative) was somewhat muted. Apart from a few visionaries in the early 1980s (including Friends of the Earth’s Amory Lovins and Walt Patterson), no-one really thought that renewables would be capable of substituting for the use of all fossil fuels and all nuclear at any point in the near future. And anyone expressing such a view in official circles was rapidly put back in their box.

Given the scale of the challenge we face, we need to have very strong grounds for keeping nuclear out of today’s low/zero-carbon portfolio. Not least as nuclear power, historically, has already made a huge contribution to low-carbon generation. Since the early 1960s, nuclear power has provided the equivalent of 18,000 reactor years of electricity generation. We’d be in a much worse place today if all that electricity had been generated from burning coal or gas.

Happily, there is no longer any doubt about the viability of that alternative. In 2020, Stanford University issued a collection of 56 peer-reviewed journal articles, from 18 independent research groups, supporting the idea that all the energy required for electricity, transport, heating and cooling, and all industrial purposes, can be supplied reliably with 100% (or near 100%) renewable energy. The solutions involve transitioning ASAP to 100% renewable wind – water – solar (WWS), efficiency and storage.

The transition is already happening. To date, 11 countries have reached or exceeded 100% renewable electricity. And a further 12 countries are intent on reaching that threshold by 2030. In the UK, the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology says we can reach 100% renewable electricity by 2032. Last year, we crossed the 40% threshold.

There is of course a world of difference between electricity and total energy consumption. But at the end of April, Carbon Tracker brought out its latest analysis of the potential for renewables, convincingly explaining why solar and wind alone could meet total world energy demand 100 times over by 2050, and that fears about the huge amount of land this would require are unfounded. The land required for solar panels to provide all global energy would be 450,000 km2, just 0.3% of global land area – significantly less than the current land footprint of fossil fuel infrastructures. As the Report says:

The technical and economic barriers have been crossed and the only impediment to change is political. Sector by sector and country by country the fossil fuel incumbency is being swamped by the rapidly rising tide of new energy technologies. Even countries where the technical potential is below 10 times energy demand. . . have devised innovative approaches to energy generation.

The fossil fuel industry cannot compete with the technology learning curves of renewables, so demand will inevitably fall as wind and solar continue to grow. At the current 15-20% growth rates of solar and wind, fossil fuels will be pushed out of the electricity sector by the mid-2030s and out of total energy supply by 2050.‘

The unlocking of energy reserves 100 times our current demand creates new possibilities for cheaper energy and more local jobs in a more equitable world with far less environmental stress.‘

Poor countries are the greatest beneficiaries. They have the largest ratio of solar and wind potential to energy demand and stand to unlock huge domestic benefits.’

Nuclear plays no part in any of these projections, whether we’re talking big reactors or small reactors, fission or fusion. The simple truth is this: we should see nuclear as another 20th century technology, with an ever-diminishing role through into the 21st century, incapable of overcoming its inherent problems of cost, construction delay, nuclear waste, decommissioning, security (both physical and cyber), let alone the small but still highly material risk of catastrophic accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima. My ‘Net Zero Without Nuclear’ report goes into all these inherent problems in some detail.

So why are the UK’s politicians (in all three major parties) still in thrall to this superannuated technology? It’s here we have to go back to Amchitka! Some environmentalists may still be taken aback to discover that the Government’s principal case for nuclear power in the UK today is driven by the need to maintain the UK’s nuclear weapons capability – to ensure a ‘talent pool’ of nuclear engineers and to support a supply chain of engineering companies capable of providing component parts for the nuclear industry, both civilian and military. The indefatigable work of Andy Stirling and Phil Johnston at Sussex University’s Science Policy Research Unit has established the depth and intensity of these interdependencies, demonstrating how the UK’s military industrial base would become unaffordable in the absence of a nuclear energy programme.

What that means is that today’s pro-nuclear greens are throwing in their lot not just with a bottomless pit of hype and fantasy, but with a world still dangerously at risk from that continuing dependence on nuclear weapons. That’s a weird place to be, 50 years on from the emergence of Greenpeace as a force for good in that world.

The huge carbon footprint and massive energy use of online activities and of Bitcoin

May 3, 2021
Graphic courtesy of Alice Eaves on Rehabilitating Earth website

This is a most timely article.    Why is  the world not noticing this?   Elon Musk and other billionaire Bitcoin fans are also fans of space travel –   another energy-gobbling thing.   They are fans of nuclear energy.  The thing that nuclear energy fans have in common with space travel fans and Bitcoin fans is their religious fervour for endless growth and endless energy use.

Unfortunately our entire culture, the Western consumer culture, has swept the world  with a mindless belief in ever more stuff, ever more digital use, with no awareness of the  energy used.   So we tink that our billions of trivial tweets are up ”in the cloud”, – not even realising that they are in dirty great steel data buildings that use massive amounts of energy just to keep cool, This ever- expanding energy and resource gobbling is going to kill us, – and Bitcoin is just one glaring, sorry example of this.

Truth or fiction: Is mining bitcoin a ticking time bomb for the climate?  Rehabilitating Earth   By Jennifer Sizeland 2 May 21

While many of us may consider the carbon footprint of buying a physical item like a jumper or a toaster, it is truly mind boggling to think about the environmental impact of time spent online. This may be why the huge carbon footprints of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are going largely under the radar for many of us, including investors and climate activists.

Yet the real-world cost of bitcoin cannot be underestimated. A University of Cambridge study found that the network burns through 121 terawatt-hours per year, putting it into a category of a top-30 country in terms of electricity usage. In fact, the carbon cost was largely ignored altogether until 2017 when prices surged and the general population started to take more notice. Aside from the significant carbon footprint of bitcoin, it’s important to understand what bitcoin is and why it’s so popular.

Decoding Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin is created by mining a 64-digit hexadecimal number (known as a ‘hash’) that is less than or equal to the target hash that the miner is looking for. The miner gets paid in crypto tokens for all the currency they make. The act of solving these computational equations on the bitcoin network makes the payment network trustworthy. It proves the worth of the bitcoin and verifies it at the same time so that it can’t be spent twice. Essentially, an online log makes records of the transactions made and once approved, they’re added to a block on the chain, hence the phrase ‘blockchain’.

What makes it all the more confusing is that not only is cryptocurrency fairly new to the general population, but the way it is created is shrouded in secrecy due to its niche status. This makes it much harder for miners to be held accountable for their intensive carbon usage, in a time when every company needs to consider their impact on the planet.

The secrecy is also what excites investors about bitcoin since it isn’t tied to a certain location or institution and it’s completely decentralised – unlike a bank. Investors trust bitcoin as inflation is controlled algorithmically by cutting the reward rate periodically, rendering the rate of new bitcoin supplies as unalterable by design. The issue remains that there is no government or organisation to hold them to account for their carbon footprint. A footprint which is intrinsically tied to its value as the demand for it increases, using more and more energy. With every market jump, the cost to the planet is greater.

The price of one bitcoin is $57,383 at the time of writing, which takes the market cap value above that of Facebook and Tesla. The wider cryptocurrency market that includes dogecoin, ethereum and litecoin has reached an estimated $1.4 trillion and counting.


From a financial perspective, miners want cheap servers to increase their profit margins which is why much of the bitcoin activity is done in China. As the industry is unregulated there is no reason why activity wouldn’t surge in the place where it costs the least to do it. Currently, China does not have a cost-effective renewable energy supply so two thirds of the grid is fuelled by dirty coal power stations.

Another problematic caveat to the bitcoin story is the amount of so-called green companies and investors that are buying into it. Some of them are not disclosing this element of their portfolio due to the immense carbon footprint but those that are publicly traded have no choice. Perhaps one of the most high-profile companies to reap the rewards from bitcoin is Elon Musk’s Tesla, who have made $1 billion in 10 weeks from their investment. It remains to be seen whether these businesses are doing their due diligence regarding the origins of their bitcoin and if it is mined from a sustainable source. While this may give Tesla more money to invest in green infrastructure, it’s hard to say whether this is the more ethical way to do so……….

One important lesson we can take from this is that it demonstrates how the digital world has a very real impact on planet Earth. Whether we’re buying cryptocurrency or simply scrolling the internet, we are impacting the planet in one way or anotherhttps://rehabilitatingearth.com/2021/05/02/truth-or-fiction-is-mining-bitcoin-a-ticking-time-bomb-for-the-climate/

Solar sails for space voyages

February 18, 2021

Nuclear Rockets to Mars?, BY KARL GROSSMAN– CounterPunch, 16 Feb 21,”………. As for rocket propulsion in the vacuum of space, it doesn’t take much conventional chemical propulsion to move a spacecraft—and fast.

And there was a comprehensive story in New Scientist magazine this past October on “The new age of sail,” as it was headlined. The subhead: “We are on the cusp of a new type of space travel that can take us to places no rocket could ever visit.”

The article began by relating 17th Century astronomer Johanne Kepler observing comets and seeing “that their tails always pointed away from the sun, no matter which direction they were traveling. To Kepler, it meant only one thing: the comet tails were being blown from the sun.”

Indeed, “the sun produces a wind in space” and “it can be harnessed,” said the piece. “First, there are particles of light streaming from the sun constantly, each carrying a tiny bit of momentum. Second, there is a flow of charged particles, mostly protons and electrons, also moving outwards from the sun. We call the charged particles the solar wind, but both streams are blowing a gale”—that’s in the vacuum of space.

Japan launched its Ikaros spacecraft in 2010—sailing in space using the energy from the sun. The LightSail 2 mission of The Planetary Society was launched in 2019—and it’s still up in space, flying with the sun’s energy.

New systems using solar power are being developed – past the current use of thin-film such as Mylar for solar sails.

The New Scientist article spoke of scientists “who want to use these new techniques to set a course for worlds currently far beyond our reach—namely the planets orbiting our nearest star, Alpha Centauri.”……. more https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/16/nuclear-rockets-to-mars/

India’s nuclear power programme unlikely to progress. Ocean energy is a better way.

August 18, 2019

The problem is apparently nervousness about handling liquid Sodium, used as a coolant. If Sodium comes in contact with water it will explode; and the PFBR is being built on the humid coast of Tamil Nadu. The PFBR has always been a project that would go on stream “next year”. The PFBR has to come online, then more FBRs would need to be built, they should then operate for 30-40 years, and only then would begin the coveted ‘Thorium cycle’!

Why nuclear when India has an ‘ocean’ of energy,  https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/why-nuclear-when-india-has-an-ocean-of-energy/article28230036.ece

M. Ramesh – 30 June 19 Though the ‘highly harmful’ source is regarded as saviour on certain counts, the country has a better option under the seas

If it is right that nothing can stop an idea whose time has come, it must be true the other way too — nothing can hold back an idea whose time has passed.

Just blow the dust off, you’ll see the writing on the wall: nuclear energy is fast running out of sand, at least in India. And there is something that is waiting to take its place.

India’s 6,780 MW of nuclear power plants contributed to less than 3% of the country’s electricity generation, which will come down as other sources will generate more.

Perhaps India lost its nuclear game in 1970, when it refused to sign – even if with the best of reasons – the Non Proliferation Treaty, which left the country to bootstrap itself into nuclear energy. Only there never was enough strap in the boot to do so.

In the 1950s, the legendary physicist Dr. Homi Bhabha gave the country a roadmap for the development of nuclear energy.

Three-stage programme

In the now-famous ‘three-stage nuclear programme’, the roadmap laid out what needs to be done to eventually use the country’s almost inexhaustible Thorium resources. The first stage would see the creation of a fleet of ‘pressurised heavy water reactors’, which use scarce Uranium to produce some Plutonium. The second stage would see the setting up of several ‘fast breeder reactors’ (FBRs). These FBRs would use a mixture of Plutonium and the reprocessed ‘spent Uranium from the first stage, to produce energy and more Plutonium (hence ‘breeder’), because the Uranium would transmute into Plutonium. Alongside, the reactors would convert some of the Thorium into Uranium-233, which can also be used to produce energy. After 3-4 decades of operation, the FBRs would have produced enough Plutonium for use in the ‘third stage’. In this stage, Uranium-233 would be used in specially-designed reactors to produce energy and convert more Thorium into Uranium-233 —you can keep adding Thorium endlessly.

Seventy years down the line, India is still stuck in the first stage. For the second stage, you need the fast breeder reactors. A Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) of 500 MW capacity, construction of which began way back in 2004, is yet to come on stream.

The problem is apparently nervousness about handling liquid Sodium, used as a coolant. If Sodium comes in contact with water it will explode; and the PFBR is being built on the humid coast of Tamil Nadu. The PFBR has always been a project that would go on stream “next year”. The PFBR has to come online, then more FBRs would need to be built, they should then operate for 30-40 years, and only then would begin the coveted ‘Thorium cycle’! Nor is much capacity coming under the current, ‘first stage’. The 6,700 MW of plants under construction would, some day, add to the existing nuclear capacity of 6,780 MW. The government has sanctioned another 9,000 MW and there is no knowing when work on them will begin. These are the home-grown plants. Of course, thanks to the famous 2005 ‘Indo-U.S. nuclear deal’, there are plans for more projects with imported reactors, but a 2010 Indian ‘nuclear liability’ legislation has scared the foreigners away. With all this, it is difficult to see India’s nuclear capacity going beyond 20,000 MW over the next two decades.

Now, the question is, is nuclear energy worth it all?

There have been three arguments in favour of nuclear enFor Fergy: clean, cheap and can provide electricity 24×7 (base load). Clean it is, assuming that you could take care of the ticklish issue of putting away the highly harmful spent fuel.

But cheap, it no longer is. The average cost of electricity produced by the existing 22 reactors in the country is around ₹2.80 a kWhr, but the new plants, which cost ₹15-20 crore per MW to set up, will produce energy that cannot be sold commercially below at least ₹7 a unit. Nuclear power is pricing itself out of the market. A nuclear power plant takes a decade to come up, who knows where the cost will end up when it begins generation of electricity?

Nuclear plants can provide the ‘base load’ — they give a steady stream of electricity day and night, just like coal or gas plants. Wind and solar power plants produce energy much cheaper, but their power supply is irregular. With gas not available and coal on its way out due to reasons of cost and global warming concerns, nuclear is sometimes regarded as the saviour. But we don’t need that saviour any more; there is a now a better option.

Ocean energy

The seas are literally throbbing with energy. There are at least several sources of energy in the seas. One is the bobbing motion of the waters, or ocean swells — you can place a flat surface on the waters, with a mechanical arm attached to it, and it becomes a pump that can be used to drive water or compressed air through a turbine to produce electricity. Another is by tapping into tides, which flow during one part of the day and ebb in another. You can generate electricity by channelling the tide and place a series of turbines in its path. One more way is to keep turbines on the sea bed at places where there is a current — a river within the sea. Yet another way is to get the waves dash against pistons in, say, a pipe, so as to compress air at the other end. Sea water is dense and heavy, when it moves it can punch hard — and, it never stops moving.

All these methods have been tried in pilot plants in several parts of the world—Brazil, Denmark, U.K., Korea. There are only two commercial plants in the world—in France and Korea—but then ocean energy has engaged the world’s attention.

For sure, ocean energy is costly today.

India’s Gujarat State Power Corporation had a tie-up with U.K.’s Atlantic Resources for a 50 MW tidal project in the Gulf of Kutch, but the project was given up after they discovered they could sell the electricity only at ₹13 a kWhr. But then, even solar cost ₹18 a unit in 2009! When technology improves and scale-effect kicks-in, ocean energy will look real friendly.

Initially, ocean energy would need to be incentivised, as solar was. Where do you find the money for the incentives? By paring allocations to the Department of Atomic Energy, which got ₹13,971 crore for 2019-20.

Also, wind and solar now stand on their own legs and those subsidies could now be given to ocean energy.

How our electricity system of the future could be powered by sun, wind and waves

April 7, 2019

Our electricity system of the future could be powered by sun, wind and waves @nickymison

Response to ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’

November 3, 2018

Science Direct 18 May 18 

Scientists refute Ben Heard’s paper opposing reneweable energy

November 3, 2018

Can we get 100 percent of our energy from renewable sources? https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/luot-cwg051718.php New article gathers the evidence to address the sceptics LAPPEENRANTA UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY 

Is there enough space for all the wind turbines and solar panels to provide all our energy needs? What happens when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow? Won’t renewables destabilise the grid and cause blackouts?

In a review paper last year in the high-ranking journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Master of Science Benjamin Heard (at left) and colleagues presented their case against 100% renewable electricity systems. They doubted the feasibility of many of the recent scenarios for high shares of renewable energy, questioning everything from whether renewables-based systems can survive extreme weather events with low sun and low wind, to the ability to keep the grid stable with so much variable generation.

Now scientists have hit back with their response to the points raised by Heard and colleagues.The researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Delft University of Technology and Aalborg University have analysed hundreds of studies from across the scientific literature to answer each of the apparent issues. They demonstrate that there are no roadblocks on the way to a 100% renewable future.

“While several of the issues raised by the Heard paper are important, you have to realise that there are technical solutions to all the points they raised, using today’s technology,” says the lead author of the response, Dr. Tom Brown of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

“Furthermore, these solutions are absolutely affordable, especially given the sinking costs of wind and solar power,” says Professor Christian Breyer of Lappeenranta University of Technology, who co-authored the response.

Brown cites the worst-case solution of hydrogen or synthetic gas produced with renewable electricity for times when imports, hydroelectricity, batteries, and other storage fail to bridge the gap during low wind and solar periods during the winter. For maintaining stability there is a series of technical solutions, from rotating grid stabilisers to newer electronics-based solutions. The scientists have collected examples of best practice by grid operators from across the world, from Denmark to Tasmania.

The response by the scientists has now appeared in the same journal as the original article by Heard and colleagues.

“There are some persistent myths that 100% renewable systems are not possible,” says Professor Brian Vad Mathiesen of Aalborg University, who is a co-author of the response.

“Our contribution deals with these myths one-by-one, using all the latest research. Now let’s get back to the business of modelling low-cost scenarios to eliminate fossil fuels from our energy system, so we can tackle the climate and health challenges they pose.”

For more information, please contact:

Tom Brown, Young Investigator Group Leader, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology | tom.brown@kit.edu

Kornelis Blok, Professor, Delft University of Technology | k.blok@tudelft.nl

Christian Breyer, Professor, Lappeenranta University of Technology | christian.breyer@lut.fi

Brian Vad Mathiesen, Professor, Aalborg University | bvm@plan.aau.dk

The research papers for further information:

T.W. Brown, T. Bischof-Niemz, K. Blok, C. Breyer, H. Lund, B.V. Mathiesen, “Response to ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’,” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, DOI:10.1016/j.rser.2018.04.113, 2018.

B.P. Heard, B.W. Brook, T.M.L. Wigley, C.J.A. Bradshaw, “Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems,” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, DOI:10.1016/j.rser.2017.03.114, 2017.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2017.03.114