Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

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Re: Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

Postby finley » 19 Jun 2012, 21:27

There is something to be said about the inertia, but that might have a lot to do with the bureaucracy that sits above Taipower (ie the politicians).

I've had dealings with the management of a large Taipower supplier, and their impression is that the gov't (that is, a bunch of unschooled vote-buyers) has Taipower firmly by the wotsits. They therefore have little incentive to innovate or to do anything more than the bare minimum required of them (and apparently they don't have the cash reserves anyway, even if they wanted to). The government decides what the prices should be and then throws money at Taipower when the sums don't add up. It's a deeply dysfunctional setup.

I've also met with high-level management at a UK power company and found them to be ... well, not evil, but not very pleasant. During a discussion of tariffs, they mentioned that they have a scam going on with off-peak rates: they promise a certain number of hours of off-peak electricity, but don't specify when those hours will be. So they often shift them around or split them into multiple blocks (say, 1am-3am and then 5am-6am). The aim is to hit the consumer with unexpected full-price electricity when his appliances are running on a timer. It's legit, but seriously sneaky. They guys at the meeting thought it was all quite amusing. Of course, they're not necessarily representative of the company management in general, or of other electricity companies.

Geothermal: I'm clueless about civil engineering, but I would have thought a seismically-active island is not the right place for it. The basic setup, AFAIK, involves a set of very long tubes pumping heat transfer fluid down into the hot rocks. If there's even a small chance of those tubes being fractured, the whole thing is pointless, and possibly dangerous.

There are so many interesting ideas in this discussion, the smart pricing meter sounds great, I know there are many people working on variations of this. You set your minimum parameters and let the devices do the thinking from there. But I do get annoyed at washing machines whirring at 3am in the morning!

Yes, there are similar things out there, but they're aimed specifically at the standard grid with point-source generation. They're also incredibly expensive, mostly because they contain inherently expensive things like GPRS modems. My version is for DC metering in distributed solar installations, which means you can cram in a lot more features for a lot less money. For example, it provides a 200W SELV (60-volt) circuit for low-voltage lighting and electronic appliances. It's impossible to deploy utility-scale solar unless you just shove your generated power back into the grid; at present, you have no other way of selling the electricity. Electricity meters are incredibly boring, but I think this is a critical part of a future renewable-based infrastructure.
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Re: Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

Postby Dog's_Breakfast » 20 Jun 2012, 11:07

finley wrote:Geothermal: I'm clueless about civil engineering, but I would have thought a seismically-active island is not the right place for it. The basic setup, AFAIK, involves a set of very long tubes pumping heat transfer fluid down into the hot rocks. If there's even a small chance of those tubes being fractured, the whole thing is pointless, and possibly dangerous.


Actually that's not how geothermal works, though I also originally thought it did before I started reading up on it. Aside from finding a hot spot, a key ingredient is finding rock that is permeable and (preferably) already well-saturated with water. The water doesn't get heated in the pipes - rather, it gets heated in the nearly-infinite number of tiny spaces found in permeable rock. If you just ran pipes through the rock, it would quickly cool the adjacent rock and stop working.

I found that this web site has a very good animation of how it works:

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/geothermal/ ... ation.html

Click on where is says "Well" and watch the animation. I got a screen-capture of it:

Image
Conventional geothermal

Enhanced geothermal tries to accomplish the same thing in hot, dry rock. It's not easy, first because you've got to get an awful lot of water down there to be heated (and the heating process itself takes years), and secondly because the rock is often not permeable (which is why it's dry). To make it permeable involves "hydraulic fracturing" also known as hydro-fracking. You may have heard of hydro-fracking being used to increase natural gas production in shale deposits. It's a controversial process because it's known to cause water pollution and even mild earthquakes, but the main problem with using it for enhanced geothermal is that it doesn't seem to work very well. Australia has spent about a decade trying to develop this technology, and so far they've produced next to nothing. A similar project in Switzerland got abandoned after it caused several earthquakes, which damaged some buildings leading to some big legal claims against the power company.

Image
Enhanced geothermal, hydro-fracking

Image
Enhanced geothermal, after hydro-fracking, IF successful

The above images were captured from animations which you can find here:

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/geothermal/ ... ation.html

Here's another illustration of an enhanced geothermal system. Perhaps this one is clearer:

Image

I hadn't mentioned that California has had some success with geothermal - it supplies about 5% of the state's electric power. But it's about the only successful operation in the USA. Furthermore, it's declining - geothermal is an exhaustible resource. This site gives a good rundown on what's happening there:

http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our- ... works.html

I previously mentioned "low-temperature geothermal." You can find some good info about that here:

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/geothermal/ ... urces.html

Iceland, among other countries, uses low-temperature geothermal for heating houses. There wouldn't be much call for that in Taiwan.

There are so many interesting ideas in this discussion, the smart pricing meter sounds great, I know there are many people working on variations of this. You set your minimum parameters and let the devices do the thinking from there. But I do get annoyed at washing machines whirring at 3am in the morning!


"Smart metering" is, I think, very limited in what it can accomplish. Yes, I suppose I could rig a device to have my washing machine perform at 3 am, and that wouldn't be a great hardship, but it's also a very tiny percentage of my total energy consumption. I can't think of anything else I do that could be postponed to 3 am. As I've mentioned earlier, my wife's bread baking is out single biggest use of power, and she has to be awake to do that. Electric lights, Internet use, TV use, all occur when we're awake. Ditto for electric fans, though we sometimes have to run it while sleeping. The refrigerator runs 24 hours - we do, at least, own a very energy-efficient model.

The one place where smart metering makes sense is at factories. If you can persuade your workers to do graveyard shifts, this can make energy use more efficient.
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Re: Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

Postby finley » 20 Jun 2012, 11:45

Dog's_Breakfast wrote:Actually that's not how geothermal works, though I also originally thought it did before I started reading up on it. Aside from finding a hot spot, a key ingredient is finding rock that is permeable and (preferably) already well-saturated with water. The water doesn't get heated in the pipes - rather, it gets heated in the nearly-infinite number of tiny spaces found in permeable rock.

Sure, I realise that - but the point is you still have to pump the water down there and up again. If your (extremely expensive) boreholes are fractured by an earthquake, there's nothing you can do except drill another set, which might not even be physically possible on that particular site.

I previously mentioned "low-temperature geothermal." You can find some good info about that here:
Iceland, among other countries, uses low-temperature geothermal for heating houses. There wouldn't be much call for that in Taiwan.

Yes, this seems to be much more successful, and I imagine it's easier to implement. There wouldn't be much call for heat as such, but if you can achieve >90'C then you could run air-conditioners with it. Another possibility in Taiwan would be pumping heat down into the subsoil - say, 10-20m down - during the summer and using the returning water (at about 15'C) to cool buildings. This would gradually warm the soil, so by the time winter rolled around the soil might actually be warmer than ambient, and the returning water would have a warming effect. I'm not sure if that's really practical: you'd need a very rapid flow of fluid (and therefore quite a lot of energy to pump it) and large heat exchangers. It's just a thought.

"Smart metering" is, I think, very limited in what it can accomplish. Yes, I suppose I could rig a device to have my washing machine perform at 3 am, and that wouldn't be a great hardship, but it's also a very tiny percentage of my total energy consumption. I can't think of anything else I do that could be postponed to 3 am. As I've mentioned earlier, my wife's bread baking is out single biggest use of power, and she has to be awake to do that. Electric lights, Internet use, TV use, all occur when we're awake. Ditto for electric fans, though we sometimes have to run it while sleeping. The refrigerator runs 24 hours - we do, at least, own a very energy-efficient model.

You're thinking of applying smart metering to what we've got now, ie., cheap (subsidized) fossil-fuel energy 24-7, with an off-peak tariff (if there is one) at some ungodly hour during the night. Of course smart metering is a bit pointless in that scenario. When your power source is inherently variable, as it would be with wind/solar/tidal, then smart metering is essential.

A refrigerator doesn't run 24 hours - it has a duty cycle of no more than 1:6. If it had adequate insulation (most don't) you could pump it down to well below normal temperature (say, 1'C) during the late afternoon, then allow the temperature to rise slightly during the night, when power would be expensive. If you were running off a battery-backed solar grid, that would be the optimum method. Remember also that solar power would fit human rhythms more naturally than fossil-fuel off-peak tariffs: your wife would be able to bake bread during the daytime because that's when power would be cheapest. Electronic appliances and modern lighting systems consume next-to-nothing, in the grand scheme of things.

But yes - factories is where it works best. Even in Taiwan a lot of them already have smart meters.
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Re: Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

Postby Dog's_Breakfast » 20 Jun 2012, 13:41

finley wrote:Sure, I realise that - but the point is you still have to pump the water down there and up again. If your (extremely expensive) boreholes are fractured by an earthquake, there's nothing you can do except drill another set, which might not even be physically possible on that particular site.


Sorry, I may have misinterpreted your comment. You could be right - since hydro-fracking generates earthquakes, it might cause some real issues of severed pipes. I think that they drill multiple shafts to force water down to start the fracking and multiple shafts to bring (either steam or natural gas) back up. I have heard that they've got quite a problem with natural gas leaks in hydro-fracking operations, and of course they cannot flare those off, so it's direct methane injection into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2. Not good.

=============

Onto another topic...

I just read today's Taipei Times, and sadly, there's more of the same anti-nuke rhetoric:

DPP Condemns Restarting Reactor

The "BIG ISSUE" here is that Taipower shut down a reactor a couple of months ago for routine maintenance. They replaced a few broken anchor bolts as part of that maintenance. Suddenly, the anti-nuke movement seized on this as a "nuclear accident." Now the DPP wants hearings before the reactor can be restarted, with the near-certain promise that the hearings will be a full-court political circus lasting months, rather than any kind of serious attempt to make nuclear power safer. Meanwhile, while the reactor is out of service, Taipower is making up for the loss with coal. How very "green."

I have to sympathize with Taipower. I don't know how they manage to get anything done with politicians breathing down their neck.
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Re: Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

Postby finley » 21 Jun 2012, 10:49

The "BIG ISSUE" here is that Taipower shut down a reactor a couple of months ago for routine maintenance. They replaced a few broken anchor bolts as part of that maintenance. Suddenly, the anti-nuke movement seized on this as a "nuclear accident." Now the DPP wants hearings before the reactor can be restarted, with the near-certain promise that the hearings will be a full-court political circus lasting months, rather than any kind of serious attempt to make nuclear power safer. Meanwhile, while the reactor is out of service, Taipower is making up for the loss with coal. How very "green."

I have to sympathize with Taipower. I don't know how they manage to get anything done with politicians breathing down their neck.


Politicians in general, and the latest crop of DPP, don't seem to have much education, general knowledge, real-world experience, or EQ. It seems to be very easy here to get a seat in the legislature just on the basis of having the right connections (mob connections?) and enough money to pay for a "bai tuo" truck. So you end up with ridiculous crap like this. I don't think it's just Taipower - I get the feeling that a great deal of industry is configured according to the whims of politicians. Not unusual, of course, but a lot more pronounced in Taiwan.

A question for Steviebike, if he's still around: what's your own interest in this topic? I get the impression from other conversations that you're an industrial designer. Is "green energy" something you're directly involved in? Anyway, just curious why you originally started the thread!
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Re: Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

Postby Steviebike » 21 Jun 2012, 11:12

finley wrote:A question for Steviebike, if he's still around: what's your own interest in this topic? I get the impression from other conversations that you're an industrial designer. Is "green energy" something you're directly involved in? Anyway, just curious why you originally started the thread!


Still around and reading all the posts (even the hydrogen one DB posted and got lost). My interest is purely personal. I'm actually a graphic designer (I studied information design and still have an interest in it). I worked for a few green energy companies back in England and the Eden Project, who coincidentally run a geo-thermal 'hot rocks' project, which originally was a Camborne School of Mines project in the 1980's, using the experience of redundant mining engineers. It has been a small success and works very well in Cornwall where geo-thermal is possible due to the geology of the area (granite). Tidal works well in Cornwall too. That is why I think localised energy methods are good, trouble is the cost. None of these projects have been a financial success yet.

Why I started the thread? Hmm. Well I could see that some posters on Forumosa had good information and knowledge. I wanted to hear it.
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Re: Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

Postby Dog's_Breakfast » 21 Jun 2012, 12:04

Steviebike wrote:I worked for a few green energy companies back in England and the Eden Project, who coincidentally run a geo-thermal 'hot rocks' project, which originally was a Camborne School of Mines project in the 1980's, using the experience of redundant mining engineers. It has been a small success and works very well in Cornwall where geo-thermal is possible due to the geology of the area (granite). Tidal works well in Cornwall too. That is why I think localised energy methods are good, trouble is the cost. None of these projects have been a financial success yet.


Interesting stuff, Steviebike. You inspired me to look up this Cornwall geothermal project. I found this:

Drilling to begin for Cornwall geothermal power plant in 2011

Geothermal power plant in Cornwall secures funding

It looks like the geothermal project is still in the early stages and no one is yet sure how well it is going to work, but I'll keep my fingers crossed. Despite my pro-nuke position, I am not at all opposed to enhanced geothermal, and indeed really hope it can be made to work better than it has. I'm basically for anything that can produce power without excessive CO2 emissions.

I also wanted to look up how Germany is doing with geothermal. I found a pretty good article about geothermal and other renewables in Germany:

Germany's Experience: How Effective Are Renewables, Really?

As for the tidal power you mentioned, I went searching for info on that. Looks like Cornwall is pursuing both "wave energy" and tidal, though again it seems to be in the early stages of development:

Cornwall installs world's largest wave energy site

UK could become leading exporter of wave and tidal power, say MPs

Image
Tidal turbine

I was surprised that nobody seemed to have much to say about my post regarding ocean current power in Taiwan. Then again, the government here seems to have let the idea slowly whither away, though it surprises me somewhat that the DPP (which has been hyping "alternative power" for years) isn't at least talking about it.
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Re: Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

Postby finley » 21 Jun 2012, 13:29

I was surprised that nobody seemed to have much to say about my post regarding ocean current power in Taiwan. Then again, the government here seems to have let the idea slowly whither away, though it surprises me somewhat that the DPP (which has been hyping "alternative power" for years) isn't at least talking about it.

I doubt they've even heard of it. "Alternative power" is just some buzzword they thought would look impressive on fist-pumping election posters.

The problem with any sort of alternative systems in Taiwan is that they need to get their energy expenditure under control first. Taiwan has dense urban centres and very little heavy industry, so there is no obvious reason why they guzzle so much. In fact, there's so much "low-hanging fruit" the only obstacle to improvement is surely politics and general short-sightedness (and perhaps a liberal dose of "but this is how we do it in Taiwan" mentality). Installing a few solar panels or wave turbines is a bit like a gambler taking a second job at McDonalds so that he can sustain his habit: it works, but it doesn't address the underlying issue.

Steviebike: the Eden Project is something I'd like to see and never got around to (even though my family live in Devon - not that far away). That must have been a fun project to work on ... or was it hampered by petty politics? I hear they have a large rammed-earth building there, which is something I'm particularly interested in; I've read a lot about rammed-earth architecture, but I've never had the chance to look around a real earth building.
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Re: Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

Postby headhonchoII » 21 Jun 2012, 14:51

I'd rather the government focus on reducing air pollution as a priority. I realise this is not an either/or type of policy, but I think that this is the most serious issue around energy that we face on the island.
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Re: Politics Vs Climate (and how to stop it)

Postby finley » 21 Jun 2012, 17:52

It is odd how absolutely nobody in Taiwan really cares about (or even notices) the atrocious air quality in cities. Occasionally there's a news report about cancer rates being linked to air pollution, and everyone shrugs and says "yeah, but what ya gonna do?". And then they go and spend some money on top-up health insurance, as if that makes everything OK.

You can get clean air almost "for free" by aggressively implementing energy control measures and adopting the latest technology. But nobody's prepared to do that, so the smog continues.
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