As a personal interest (those who know me would call it “obsession”) I have been studying all things energy in depth for almost twenty years.
In the early days before the internet, I would call up our own National Research Council and speak for hours on end with many of the scientists working there. I was both happy and amazed that this talented group of individuals were so willing to answer my questions, no matter how misinformed those may have been at the time.
At the beginning of my research, I would bore anyone who would listen about the benefits of wind, solar and bio-based energy systems and the pitfalls of fossil, large-scale hydro and nuclear energy systems. However, there was always something missing. What I was so sure of didn’t agree with what I was seeing. If these things were so good, why weren’t they more commonplace? What didn’t I understand? What had I not yet learned?
Then, along came the internet and I found at my fingertips ostensibly, the sum of human knowledge; the good, the bad and the ugly! No more long duration phone calls to the NRC! Now, I correspond with scientists around the world via that electronic marvel –Email!
This and subsequent events both locally and globally, gave me cause to reconsider my earlier ideas about what “green” energy actually is and to reconsider the mind boggling amount of energy humanity actually needs. This was part of what I was missing. Not the ease at which we could make “green” energy but the truly immense amount of energy we would have to make. Was green energy on this scale… still green?
As my research continued and my knowledge diversified, it became obvious wind, solar and bio-energy, even combined, are incapable of making a meaningful contribution to the huge amount of the energy humanity will need in order to replace fossil fuels, either now or into the future. This was a painful and expensive lesson recently learned the hard way by many countries. One need only look to Denmark, Spain, Germany and California for graphic demonstrations of the pitfalls of large-scale alternative energy installations.
Even with an installed base of over 5 million square meters of PV (photo-voltaic) solar panels costing more than 5 billion US dollars, solar power provides a paltry 0.6% of Germany’s total electricity needs. The legislation previously passed there forcing the utilities to subsidize this experiment is now being revisited. Surprise, surprise!
In Denmark, the largest per capita installed wind power generation in the world isn’t online when it’s needed and isn’t needed when it’s online. As a result, Denmark must purchase power at a premium from her neighbors and can’t sell her wind power back because her neighbors neither want nor need it. In California, environmentalists blocked for many years, the construction of the power lines to bring wind power from the high valley turbines to the cities where it was needed. The result: California’s electricity supply is a nightmare! Although I am a strong advocate of both wind and solar power, outside of limited off-grid or supplemental energy production, for the real-time needs of the masses, both these technologies fail miserably for what should have been obvious reasons!
Those that champion large scale wind and PV solar readily admit that it cannot reliably replace coal. They will tell you that for this to happen hundreds of thousands of turbines will need to be built over a massive geographical area so they are spread wide enough to encompass several weather systems. This way, the wind should always be blowing and the sun always shinning someplace??! All these assets are then inter-connected via an obscenely massive grid. OK: Has any one calculated the resources needed to build all these assets and interconnecting grid and the vast areas of forests that will be clear cut to accommodate this? Currently, the power corridors that criss-cross Ontario’s vast forests are visible from space. What twisted measuring device was used that indicated such a hideously enormous construct is in any way green?
The forest will no longer hide behind the trees; the trees will vanish completely to accommodate a forest of wind turbines! This is nothing more then “green” insanity on an unprecedented scale!
Clearly, one cannot replace base-load power generation with these intermittent energy sources and have a net benefit on the environment. Elected members of The Green Party in the EU have already been forced to publicly acknowledge this fact. This based on the results of Europe’s own failed green energy experiment. Even the Energy Minister of Denmark and California’s Governor; Arnold Schwarzenegger were compelled to publicly admit as much. Unfortunately, for reasons I cannot comprehend, we seem to have an insatiable need to prove this over and over again like we currently are here in Ontario. Apparently the “staff” at our Provincial Energy Ministry know more than Germany, Spain, Demark and California combined. According to the minister, playing catch-up to be where these countries were 10 years ago makes us a world leader?! The ONLY REASON Samsung sought out Ontario to expand their green energy division is due to the fact that we are offering the highest subsidies on the planet. All other jurisdictions that foolishly went down the “green” energy road have now cut their subsidies dramatically! It seems we are a world leader after all! A world leader in subsidizing industry!
All that said there is a solar power technology; “thermal solar”, that can supply energy 100% of the time and supply 100% of the energy humanity needs. The bugbear here is the 700 square kilometers of collector-reflectors needed and the limited geographical areas these can be put to be viable. Transporting the energy to the end user is a problem so far without solution. Suffice it to say not only would line losses be prohibitive., energy security would be non-existent. One need only look at the natural gas shortages Europe experienced recently, caused by a dispute between Russia and Ukraine, for the importance of an abundant, local energy supply.
Yes, there is no question this technology exists and works as advertised. However, there is no solution to the power transmission and distribution problems. In spite of this, any country between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer and/or any geographical area blessed with endless sunny days that can take advantage of this technology should do so ASAP. Sadly, our elected officials here in Ontario apparently are not cognizant of our geographical location in that regard.
As for bio-fuels; having spent half my life in agriculture, I was initially very supportive of this concept. What a great idea! We can grow our own fuel! However, the food riots around the world in recent years soon put that idea in a very unfavorable light. The question with bio-fuels is simply this: Do we feed ourselves and the rest of the life on this planet or do we feed our machines? Again as with wind and PV solar power, bio-fuels must be small scale to be sustainable and as such cannot be more than a niche energy source. One admittedly, I use to full advantage every winter.
Regarding our arch-nemesis; fossil fuels: It matters not how efficient the engine, CO2 is still the result. Although, we can certainly do far better in this regard then we are: There is no technological or economical reason why our automobiles are not getting literally hundreds of miles to the gallon or why we even continue to romance this technology. Even here in Canada with our geographical vastness and low population density, public mass transit beats out the automobile every time! Yet we continue to pour billions into automobiles and automobile based infrastructure while public mass transit takes a far distant back seat. As just illustrated, automobile jargon even permeates our psyche! THIS MUST CHANGE! For this to happen, we need abundant, reliable, safe and clean energy. This cannot be found in wind, solar or bio-fuels.
It has been proposed that we capture and sequester CO2. Ok, that may work for point sources but what about the almost 1 billion vehicles on the roads of the world, the thousands of ships on the water and aircraft in the skies? When will this even start to happen and at what cost? More importantly, is there any evidence to suggest that storing CO2 in gaseous form underground is even a good idea? What effect will it have on the micro-organisms living there? What would be the effect of a sudden, massive release from an earthquake for example? I think it foolish in the extreme to jump headlong onto this speeding band-wagon before we ascertain if it has breaks. This in view of the fact that well developed technology already exists such that CO2 can be combined with hydrogen to produce methane which is essentially natural gas. What then is the logic behind sequestering what could be a relatively clean energy resource in its own right? Essentially, a reusable hydrocarbon! Did this not occur to anyone?
To be kind, I find it surprising that Ontario numbers its hydro assets amongst its “green” energy mix. Apparently destroying river eco systems and flooding vast areas of land behind hydro dams is an environmentally friendly pursuit. I have a sneaking suspicion that the fish, fauna and flora destroyed as a result may hold a slightly different view. Furthermore, catastrophic failures of hydro dams have caused more death and destruction then all of the nuclear weapons and nuclear accidents combined. A fact usually lost in the debate. Yes, hydro can be done in a more eco friendly manner, like pontoon supported, floating generators and “run of the river” installations but again, this is largely not considered. Again sadly, I could fabricate such a contrivance over the course of a weekend using materials I currently have sitting around my yard. However, it would take years to get a permit from the MNR to put it in the river! Rules governing public access to and/or use of our many rivers apparently don’t apply to massive hydro dams!
As for that panacea of all fuels; hydrogen: Well, only those who know nothing about this simplest of elements would consider it an energy source. In fact it is NOT an energy source, at least, not on earth. It doesn’t occur in its natural, elemental state anywhere on the planet. Huge amounts of energy would have to be expended to produce it. Then what? Storage and/or transportation of this element is problematic to say the least. As much or more energy is needed to produce it then it contains. Hydrogen is a problem, not a solution unless used in conjunction with CO2 to produce more fuel (natural gas) as mentioned above. This however, is a pollution mitigation strategy, not an energy source. It also takes energy to make, just far less than the CO2 sequester option.
Even stranger is the simply vast amount of energy currently being unwittingly concentrated and unused in our landfills. Converting MSW to energy produces, at a minimum; five times less pollution overall then it would produce if it was left in place. Never mind the vast recoverable resources. The answer of our municipal governments is blue, green and black box recycling. Ignoring of course, the plethora of studies that have proven conclusively the uselessness and futility of this expensive “waste diversion” pursuit!
Ignorant fools are we that allow this obscenity to continue!
As for conservation; it is easier to save a megawatt then to produce one. Unfortunately, our industries and governments haven’t heard that one yet. Where are the vacuum panel window panes, cavitations and/or induction water heaters, 300+ MPG automobiles, all electric public mass transit etc, etc? How can consumers consume less when only provided product choices that are either wasteful to use or become waste once used?
Energy is the foundation upon which our industrialized world is built. Remove energy from our modern society and we are shivering in dark caves wearing the skins of animals whose flesh we consumed raw! Not a pretty picture is it? What then is Canada’s current stated energy policy? Which of the industrialized nations of the world currently has such a construct?
Our money is being squandered on repeating failed alternative energy experiments, hoping previously realized conclusions will be unfounded. Why do our governments ignore simple, inexpensive legislation mandating efficiency? This would be of far greater benefit I think but again for reasons I cannot comprehend, this is a rarity. There is no governing body in Canada whose sole purpose for existence is the protection of the environment. We don’t have an “EPA”.
The government of Ontario would like you to believe otherwise but they cannot be both protecting the environment while they pollute and destroy it. The single worst air polluter in the country is The Corporation of The Province of Ontario through her sole ownership of Ontario Power Generation. Ontario has actually paid fines for this pollution to the Federal Government! Although the current premier of the province has promised several times to shut down these coal fired assets, apparently jobs and economy are of greater importance then is breathing! Some examples: We were slow to adopt the emissions certified woodstove and we have yet to implement meaningful legislation mandating these be used. Only the detonation of nuclear weapons and the disastrous event at Chernobyl released more radiological material into the environment then our CANDU reactors. The CANDU contains 9 kilometers of plumbing not found in any other reactor design of similar power output. The resulting myriad of constant leaks has caused tritium contamination in Lake Ontario at levels which prompted a recent advisory from Environment Canada. If not for the direct intervention of the IAEA which resulted in the immediate shutdown of several CANDUs, Ontario herself may well have been home to a Chernobyl-level event! Our criminal code has no environmental section. There are large expanses of this country that number amongst the worst polluted places on earth! Our governments have abdicated governance to industry and as a result we are being forced to be wasteful and polluting, many, like me, against our wills!
My word! I’m ranting on like an environmental zealot! If I have become that, it is by force, not choice! I find it more than a little disconcerting to have a multitude of “rights” bestowed upon me but absent from these are the right to breath unpolluted air, drink unpolluted water and eat unpolluted food! If one is choking to death on smog, or one’s body is full of pollution induced cancer, of what benefit is a growing economy and gainful employment? Yet we are being told that half the adult population of Canada will contract some form of cancer in their life so a cure needs to be found! A cure? What of a cause? Any guesses? The most precious gift one can give a child is a future. Who is currently offering them that? The only reason appears to be so the economy can continue to grow?! Apparently the genius’ that govern us are oblivious to the “cyclical economic model” What other explanation can there be for the existence of the municipal landfill or that greatest oxymoron of them all; “nuclear waste fuel”? Economy is directly based on energy and consumption. Not only consumption of energy but of everything else. Why then, must that which is consumed be forever discarded?
So here in a brief commentary, our energy choices have seemingly been eliminated and as a result humanity is doomed! Well, should we be foolish and selfish enough to continue down the road we’re on; there is no doubt of our fate!
However, there is one energy source which has been in wide spread, continuous use since the first commercial generating station went online in Obninsk USSR in 1954. That most maligned, misunderstood and hated energy source that supplies a third of Ontario’s electricity and fully 15% of all electrical energy generated globally: Nuclear Energy!
No, I’m not being hypocritical; I haven’t flipped my lid, taken to the bottle or consumed a large quantity of leisurely pharmaceuticals! I was led to this conclusion by both a multitude of experts and the blatantly obvious. I discovered much to my shock and amazement, that society has not been given all the facts about nuclear energy. Actually, it appears we have been forced down a scientifically unnecessary, dangerous and fiendishly polluting path. If done properly, nuclear energy can usurp all other forms of energy combined, including fossil fuels -forever!! The hurdle: What investor will invest in something when the ROI will be for the benefit of his grandchildren? Damn few I think. And that is part the problem: Nuclear energy done right DOESN’T CONSUME ENOUGH! The current, linear, economic model fails completely!
No wanton, wasteful consumption, no economy… RIGHT!
Ok… France has both the cleanest air and the least expensive electricity in the EU. She gets fully 80% of her electricity from nuclear energy. France almost does nuclear energy the right way. She recycles her waste fuel. As a result France gets 100% more energy per unit volume of uranium then does Canada and reduces her waste volume by a whopping 90%. If she was to use a different form of reactor and fuel recycling she and every other of the almost 60 nuclear powered nations on the planet (including Canada) could increase their fuel efficiency by almost 1000%! That is almost 100 times more energy from the same amount of fuel!
What nuclear waste?
I discovered that way back in 1946, scientists started learning how to extract all the energy (99.5%) out of uranium using a newly discovered feature of nuclear physics called “transmutation” and an unusual reactor called a “FAST” reactor. Ongoing research into this and other aspects of super-safe and ultra-efficient nuclear energy production has been ongoing since then and continue to this day. In 1984, Canadian Physicist Dr. Charles Till headed up a program at Argonne Laboratories to explore this technology to its logical conclusion. They utilized a unique reactor that, at the time, was already 20 years old; The Experimental Breeder Reactor #2 (EBR-II). This was called The Integral Fast Reactor Program. The results exceeded their wildest dreams! Dr Till describes these in his own words in the attachments. A more eloquent description is also given by his colleague, Dr Stanford several years later.
This knowledge changed forever everything I thought I knew not only about nuclear energy but all energy! This has been amply reaffirmed by my continuing forays into the amazement that is current nuclear energy research. The technology, applied for the first time by Dr. Till and his team over 20 years ago, can supply 100% of humanities energy needs, pollution free, for longer then life will likely exist on this planet! (“The Math” attached) And NO MELTDOWNS OR NUCLEAR WASTE LEGACY! Essentially, an Integral Fast Breeder Reactor makes its own fuel from its own waste and can consume current stockpiles of nuclear waste as fuel!
For example: Uranium contains 1 million times more energy per unit volume then does coal. Moderated reactors like the CANDU extract about 1% of this energy. This means our waste fuel still contains almost all its original energy! Hence the oxymoron; nuclear waste fuel! The energy content of Ontario’s current stockpile of nuclear waste fuel is sufficient to replace the province’s current annual coal consumption almost 800 years! Yes you read this correctly- EIGHT HUNDRED YEARS! Or it can supply 100% of the provinces current electrical requirements for over two hundred years! That’s just the waste fuel! Here’s the math: Ontario is currently stockpiling approximately 30,000 metric tonnes of nuclear waste fuel. About 20,000 tonnes is actually fuel, the remainder is cladding and fuel bundle structural material. Each tonne of waste fuel contains energy equivalent to 985,000 metric tonnes of coal. OK, so, 985,000 X 20,000 = 19,700,000,000! Got that? The province consumes around 25 million metric tonnes of coal per year to produce electricity. So, 19,700,000,000/ 25,000,000=788! So the energy content of our nuclear waste is equivalent to our annual coal consumption for 788 years! Assuming that coal accounts for a third of our total annual electrical consumption: 788/3=262.67 Thusly, the energy content of our waste nuclear fuel is equivalent to our total annual electrical energy consumption for 262 years!
Oh, these reactors can also be made of such a size as to be truck transportable. These are called “nuclear batteries” This allows for the distributed power generation favoured by the greens without the need of a grid. Every community regardless of size or location can have its own abundant, inexhaustible, stable, reliable safe and clean energy source.
We can keep the forests for the trees!
Tell me again why we need wind turbines and solar panels? Tell me again why our energy costs continue to rise? Tell me again why we’re still using fossil fuels?
I don’t claim to be an expert on energy, just an insatiable student of it. What I have repeated here, the PhD’s initiate and expound upon in the attachments. Please avail yourselves.
The facts do not change because one refuses to believe them.
- Understanding a problem is 90% of the solution.
- Delaying the inevitable by ignoring the facts solves nothing!
If knowledge is power, why do the people in power continue to demonstrate such a horrendous lack of knowledge? Apparently, another big part of what I was missing was the truth!
A few facts:
To encourage private generation of so called “green” energy, the province freed up 3000MW of “space” on the grid so small producers could sell their power. This is called The Feed-in Tariff program. The province received over 8000MW in applications for access to this space.
Then along came Samsung…
Because Ontario’s green energy subsidy structure is now the most lucrative in the world by far. (All other jurisdictions have long since realized that green energy is an abject failure!). Samsung approached Ontario and offered up 7 billion dollars to build wind power here over the next twenty years. As part of the deal, Ontario guaranteed them 500MW out of the 3000MW of available grid space with an option on an additional 2500MW.
Essentially, the 8000MW of home grown energy applications under the feed-in tariff were completely ignored in favour of a foreign company from half a world away. Oh, and we are going to help them out with a 500 million subsidy over and above what we will have to pay for that very expensive and completely unnecessary, unreliable and intermittent “green” wind energy. This charge is being applied to our hydro bills already.
And here is another little reported tidbit for you…
Other jurisdictions, like Spain for example, discovered the hard way that every “green” energy job an economy creates causes TWO jobs to be lost out of other areas of the economy. Mostly due to small businesses closing because they can no longer afford their energy costs. Apparently this oft discovered obviousness was lost on the genius at the Ontario energy ministry. Had any of you watched the excellent interview Steve Paikin did with Ontario’s new Energy Minister recently, your blood would have boiled. I strongly recommend you visit the “Agenda’s” website and view the video.
Here are some more juicy bites for you…
We’re talking about 8 billion dollars here and the supposed creation of 50,000 jobs…
7 billion of that is the deal with Samsung which is supposed to create only 16,000 jobs. I’m very interested to learn how the expenditure of only 1 additional billion will create 34,000 more jobs…
This from the very same government that forced Bruce Power’s newly refurbished 600MW CANDU to shut down last summer because Ontario didn’t need the power. Strange how the need was largely met with coal don’t you think? Which raises another glaring obscenity; no one is saying that all this expenditure on green energy will replace a single coal fired generating station!
If the province currently has more capacity than it needs, which it obviously does, and this green energy isn’t going to replace coal, then what are we doing it for? Let’s not forget Bruce Power is currently refurbishing three more 600MW reactors. Let’s also not forget that recent (and upcoming) increases in our per KW power rates are a direct result of our collective conservation efforts. OPG had to raise their rates because we stopped using their power! There is another 18% rate increase proposed starting Jan 1, 2011 as a direct result of competition to OPG of all this “green” power. We have lots of supply and no demand!
Dalton’s solution: Let’s have more supply!
Why must we be governed by MORONS?
I predict a future where electricity is both very expensive and very unreliable… You know, much like California is today.
What did we do to deserve Dalton!?
Sean Holt, Brightside, Ontario