35 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. @Ronald Brak That reminds me of Y2K when it was predicted that on 1 Jan 2001, computers all around the world would crash. Unlike every other day …

  2. Y2K was over-hyped. Yet, at the same time a lot of systems did not crash because people and organisations did do premeptive work to fix date fields and date routines. If systems has been allowed to crash, it would not have been the end of the world but it could have been inconvenient for a week of two. Plus some electrical and other sytems might well have suffered some damage and some cost in repairs. And I wouldn’t have liked to see TerjeP’s backyard fission reactor melt down. But luckily TerjeP was Y2K savvy. 😉

  3. Y2K was probably over-hyped. That said, making an effort to eliminate the problem instead of simply waiting and seeing what would happen had some sense. The mystery is why there was success in mobilising sufficient belief and effort in that case, but abject failure to do the same for so many other problems.

  4. With three weeks to go til carbon tax my gut feeling is that it’s eventually going to blow back at the government for some gaping inconsistencies. From now til year’s end could be the halcyon period. Longer term there are worrying developments that don’t inspire confidence. Just this week money is being hurriedly thrown at commercial solar, previously at Moree and Chinchilla but now Broken Hill and Nyngan. That flies in the face of Productivity Commission advice that the cost of CO2 avoided by commercial solar could be nearly $900 per tonne.

    Also this week it appears that that paying Indonesia to conserve its forests and thereby absorb Aussie CO2 could be like throwing petrol on a fire. The Indos are evidently hellbent are razing the lot. Yet we critically needed the forest offsets to meet our 2015 emissions target according to Treasury. Links upon request.

    I also conjecture that the Alpha coal approval is under a Federal go-slow until things settle with CT, then to be relaxed. However if our own emissions don’t decline by mid 2013 (they increased slightly 2010-2011) then coal exports will provide further ammunition for critics. Next year the knives will be out for CT if it doesn’t perform which I doubt it will.

  5. I had wondered what had become of the Y2K experts and for a while I suspected that they had joined with the economists who predicted the GFC. It now seems clear that they all got ministerial jobs with the Brumby Labour Government in Victoria and have now moved on to work with James Packer.

    Y2K was more than over-hyped. All you need to assess something like this is to consider the NASAesq militarist acronym and you know all you need to know. It was an opportunity for certain people to turn a profit.

  6. A point of clarification… “wondered what had become of the Y2K experts and for a while I suspected that they had joined with the economists who predicted the GFC”, is that GFC denial – that the GFC never happened?

  7. Graham Bird.
    I can’t recall an individual more villified on all sides of politics within the tiny world of the blogosphere.
    Don’t worry, “Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy.
    We know who you really are. You are actually Tony G character-assassinating his main rival for ass-hat of the year.

  8. Hermit, I’ve written down some information here so you can work out for yourself how approximately how much CO2 emissions can be avoided by $900 worth of solar PV.

    Average cost of installed solar PV in Australia a couple of months ago: About $3.20 a watt.
    Average megajoules it will produce in a year in Queensland: about 6.5
    Average megajoules over 25 years: About 160
    Megajoules in a kilo of carbon: about 32.5
    Efficiency of a coal plant: about a third
    Percentage of CO2 that is carbon by weight: about 27%
    Percentage of electricity from coal in Queensland: about 78%

    You know, it feels really good inside to free people from the chains that bind them.

    Hermit, solar PV is now averages about $3.20 a watt installed in Australia, or it did a couple of months ago.

  9. @Freelander
    My point is that it was so big, had such a huge effect on so much of the world’s economy and indeed societies, that if you are an expert economist and you did not see it coming then what are you actually useful for, what do you know, what can you predict?

  10. @Ronald Brak

    $3.20 watt

    This is steadily falling. Reportedly, Spain looks like being around 60 mill Euro, for 60 MW PV plant.

    See: [http://www.sunoba.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/cost-of-solar-power-27.html]

    With government incentives, and more defvelopment, there is no reason why Australia should not soon be able to construct a 60 MW PV plant, with the consumers only covering borrowing costs for the $60 million [5% = $3 mill pa]. Aussie bonds would work.

    Assuming there are around 8,000 chargeable hours per year, peoples’ quarterly bills would be affordable.

    To get $80 million pa you only need to average $10,000 per hour and I expect a 60 MW plant could easily supply 10,000 consumers at 6 Kw per consumer. At this rate there is sufficient capacity to divert significant capacity into pumped-hydro and to cover this extra cost to ensure continuous availability.

    To get 3 million a year (borrowing costs) you only need less than $400 per hr (spread over 8,000 hrs). Over 10,000 consumers, this cost evapourates. Operational costs could double (or more) this revenue need, but so what?.

    This would be a good investment for superannuation funds. You just have to keep the capitalists out.

    Once you hit $1-per-watt up front plant costs, where are the other cost inhibitions? Even at $2, is it uneconomic?

    If Australia can throw billions of dollars into the United States economy by purchasing useless jetfighters, we must be able to convert to solar and pumped-hydro with some reallocation of priorities.

    Why are championing small initiatives and installations at over $3 a watt?

  11. Hey Ronald I think that your conversions are way out there.

    According to


    1 kilowatt hour is equal to 3.6 megajoules (there could be some confusion about that particular energy measure I recall , little m and big M) Mj.

    How ever the burning of 1 kilogram of coal produces about 2 kilowatt hours of electricity.

    “Since the useful energy output of coal is about 31% of the 6.67 kWh/kg(coal), the burning of 1 kg of coal produces about 2 kWh of electrical energy”

    So just plucking some figures out of the air a 1 square metre panel might produce .7 kilowatt hours of electricity average per day which would be, say 255 kilowatt hours per year or 920 Mj per year and avoid the burning of 125 kilogram of Coal for a CO2 emission reduction of 350 kg of CO2.

    So if that 225watt panel cost $3.2 per watt installed that would be $720 and the electricity cost offset generated each year would be around $63 for a break even at under 12 years. If that panel was able to track then that break even point is at 6 years.

    Please check this to determine which is correct.

  12. @Ronald Brak
    Admittedly the Productivity Commission estimate was based on German data a couple of years old. Consider this question… how much PV could we rely on if the capex was $0 per watt? Answer; not a lot. The dispatchable power source (coal, gas, batteries, hydro) has to take over in low or no light conditions. If the backup is slow changing black coal output or the speedier gas turbine we’re talking 750-850 grams of CO2 per kwhe. If the backup is batteries we are talking high capital cost and fast depreciation.

    These new ‘replacement’ solar flagships are supposed to be built by 2015. The Broken Hill site should be sunny. We’ll be able to calculate how much coal power they save and how much it costs, allowing for the government help. It may not be as high as $900 per tCO2 but I’m sure it won’t get anywhere near $23. I’m calling it a greenwash and a feelgood exercise now. Through the magic of computer generated images I’m sure the uncompleted solar stations will feature in re-election ads next year.

    BTW I’ll acknowledge that windpower has a rightful niche of 20% or so in the stationary energy mix. Right now I think PV absent ultracheap batteries has little role to play.

  13. Chris, small scale solar is being built in Australia because it currently produces unsubsidised electricity at less than the retail price of electricity and so saves money. Grid only solar is not currently cheaper than the wholesale price of electricity, and so it’s not being built. With the carbon price our wholesale electricity prices will be within spitting distance of the cheapest grid only solar in the world, but it still won’t be the money saver that point of use solar is. As point of use solar saves money now, more of it is being built and this pushes down electricity prices during the day, making grid only solar less profitable and so less likely to be built. As a result, Australia may never have any significant amount of grid only solar.

  14. @Sam Agreed, but there is a big “if” there. I only scanned the article, but I’m pretty sure Marn is opposed. Sadly, it looks more like a trial balloon than something that will actually come to pass in the lifetime of this government

  15. Hermit,

    I think that you information is out of date, though true for the present time.

    “BTW I’ll acknowledge that windpower has a rightful niche of 20% or so in the stationary energy mix. Right now I think PV absent ultracheap batteries has little role to play”

    Not far from release are the Envia batteries at 400 watt hours per kilogram. 2 kilowatt hours of these will cost around $1000. On the near horizon are the Prieto batteries with substantially higher energy densities.

    Development in this area has been slower, as it in fact had to be. There needed to be the demand to pull the battery development forward. So as you have ably demonstrated with your comment, the demand for high capacity batteries is growing rapidly. We are on the cusp of a wave of energy storage implementation. These technologies are not “in the shops” yet, but once they are the uptake will be dramatic. IMO.


    This article suggests a cost of $150 per kwhr for Envia, but I doubt that we will see that pricing level for a little while.

    google prietobattery.com for where we might be headed five to ten years out.

  16. BilB, one point of difference is that coal normally contains stuff that isn’t carbon. Another difference is a 225 watt solar panel would produce about 1.1 kilowatt-hours a day here in Adelaide, not .7 kilowatt-hours, giving a payback time here of about seven years. And $3.20 is just an average from a couple of months ago. There are installations being done for $2.50 a watt, so point of use solar is the cheapest source of electricity for most of Australia.

  17. Hermit, you are hilarious! Now I know you have solar panels on your roof, so I want you to think carefully – Do the solar panels on your roof provide anything that you find useful, or is the only thing they do is to reduce carbon emissions? Thinking carefully about this question will help resolve your confusion.

  18. Agreed Ronald Brak,

    So can you redo your #11 with the revised information. That was a good format for information and comparison.

  19. BilB, I might write it up and put it on my blog in a couple of weeks, where it will probably get lost among all the advertisments for hot vader up cape action. But I think the figures I put up are okay for back of the envelope calculations. The figure for megajoules for carbon is a little low. It should be 32.8 megajoules. After July we can probably assume coal burnt in Australia will be about 80% or more carbon.


    Output of a 1 kilowatt solar system for most Australians: About 5 kilowatt-hours a day.
    Average cost of installed solar PV in Australia in April 2012: About $3.20 a watt.
    Average megajoules of electricity produced by 1 watt of PV in a year: About 6.5
    Average megajoules over 25 years: About 160
    Megajoules in a kilo of carbon: 32.8
    Portion of coal that is carbon: About 0.8
    Efficiency of a coal plant: About 0.33
    Portion of CO2 that is carbon by weight: 0.27
    Percentage of electricity from coal: QLD 78%, NSW 88%, Victoria 93%

  21. @Ronald Brak
    I am also heavily involved with biodiesel, microhydro and wood fired energy. I have both 240v and 12v PV applications. What I’ve realised is how tiny these things are compared to fossil fuels and always will be. Collectively the money spent on token green schemes could have bought more reliable energy supply for all, not just smugness for sections of the middle class.

    Therefore I’ve ‘come out’ as renewables realist. I’ve mentioned the off-grid neighbour with tracking PV, wind generator, batteries and wood stove. His words were ‘I’m getting too old for this sh*t’.

  22. @Hermit

    Hermit, not quite sure what you are saying in total. However, I would say,

    (a) yes, biodiesel, microhydro and wood fired energy will always be small and niche;
    (b) fossil fuels will eventually be substantially exhausted so even “niche” renewables will be bigger than fossils in time;
    (c) for sure there are token green schemes but there are also many feasible real green schemes;
    (d) there is no reason why we cannot make domestic quantities of power from PV on every roof, commercial quantities of power from PV over every shopping centre including its carparks and industrial quantities of power from vast PV arrays and/or solar convection towers on hot arid land (we have a lot of that).
    (e) off-grid will only be viable and worthwhile in remote locations whereas in more densely populated areas it will always be cheaper (and easier on old backs) to be on-grid both using and feeding via pv and other sources. The grid itself will be a hybrid of domestic, commercial and indsutrial scale feeders (pv, wind etc) and users.

  23. Hermit, you’re not a renewables realist. You have to actually look at reality to be one of them. If you were a realist you wouldn’t keep bringing up talking points that are not based in reality and can often be shown to be wrong with a either a minute’s research or the use of primary school maths. For example, in this thread you mentioned the cost of CO2 emissions avoided by solar as up to $900 a tonne, but no one who was aware of the reality of current solar PV prices would ever believe that figure. You also wrote that you think solar will have little role to play, but the reality is that at noon yesterday solar provided over 10% of South Australia’s electricity. And what you write is not random but biased in one direction. You might not feel you are being biased, but that’s just how the human limbic system generally works and it can take effort to recognise a dissonance between what we feel and what actually is. To help you out, here are some questions you can research to become more aware about one form of renewable energy:

    Currently what is the approximate cost of installing solar PV in Australia?
    Is this the cheapest source of electricity currently available for many Australians or Australian businesses?
    Roughly what percentage of total electricity use could Australia get from solar power without energy storage or curtailing any solar capacity on very sunny days?

  24. Hermit,

    You do score points and are worthy of respect for being an early adopter of renewables technologies. It is Unfortunate that your enthusiasm is running down just as the industry is building up.

    Anticipation of comments such as your “how tiny these things are” was why we set the nominal rating for GenIIPV at 10 kilowatts. This system will produce between 15 and 25kilowatt hours electricity on low solar days and 75 kilowatt hours on full solar days. That is the way systems need to be built to provide full living functionality. There has to be a healthy surplus in the system to give people the option of being independent of the grid. The batteries that are soon to be available will consolidate that advantage. The Envia batteries will provide full night time functionality with energy stored from the daytime production. The Prieto batteries should the eventuate as projected will enable the full daytime energy energy production to be stored for in garage charging of car batteries during the night, rather than relying on transporting the energy over the grid for remote charging of the vehicles.

  25. Hermit, on the issue of ‘I’m getting too old for this sh*t’.

    I’ve re-painted my last two residential houses (exteriors) solo. The current one (two-story) involved going so high on trestles, planks and extension ladders (at age 50) that an arhitectural draftsman who saw what I was up to said this; “On any of our commerical sites, painters doing that would be in harnesses with safety ropes by law.” My brother (a doctor) later painted graphic word pictures of what happen to my skull, back etc if I fell from that height (up to 6 meters in some cases) onto slate pavers or the driveway or hard packed earth.

    After painting my second (current) house, I hung up my brushes and said exactly that; ‘I’m getting too old for this sh*t’.

    However, the disturbing thought is every time we (have to or think we have to) say that, it’s a little death. We are giving up and retreating into physical and eventually mental dotage. Now my plan at 58 is to lose 15 kg, get the harness and ropes and get back up there. Wonder if I’ll make it. :s

  26. You know what Australian coal plants need now? Electrical resistance heating. This way, when wholesale electricity prices drop below the cost of coal plus carbon tax, they can use grid electricity to replace lost heat at a lower cost than coal and so maintain a head of steam to allow immediate response when wholesale prices go up again. It also works for the combined part of combined cycle gas. In fact, natural gas can be warmed this way before combustion, but there are safety and storage issues that would need to be addressed. But still, it is a simple and potentially cheap form of energy storage. We will probably need a bit more penetration by renewables before wholesale prices start dropping low enough for this to be worthwhile, but I don’t think that will take too long.

  27. I heard it asserted today that Rupert Murdoch had apparently given Tony Blair the hurry up on escalating the British involvement in Iraq in 2003. Really, this is telling us nothing anyone paying attention at the time had not worked out. Murdoch opined at the time that the escalation of armed assault on Iraq by US-led forces to effect regime change would reduce the price ber barrell of oil from the $USD35 it was then to about $20. That, thought Murdoch, would be a fabulous thing and within the frame of reference of his own interests, it’s easy to see why. Regrettably for him, that wasn’t where oil tracked post-invasion. In addition to there being an all-sided communal slaughter which may have taken as many as 1,000,000 Iraqi lives one way or another, and persistently filled the Tigris with bodies that would never be identified, oil didn’t go down, and IRCC peaked north of $US150 per barrell before settling back at around 2.5–>3 times what it was in 2003. This blog is not the place of course to revisit Iraq, but it got me thinking about the question of criminality. How should one go about evaluating the criminality of others?

    There are all sorts of criminals. Most of them are of course small fry in the scheme of things. They can do quite terrible and intense harm to people but in a fairly narrow range. Here you have your murderers, r@pists and the like. People get extraordinarily heated about such folk, and it’s easy to see why. This is the pointy end of crime. The victims are often right before our eyes and the crimes are intensely personal.

    At the other end of the scale are your genocidal monsters — People who may or may not have killed anyone personally but whose metaphorical hands reached across whole populations, dealing misery great and small to all. In one sense it’s about as impersonal as it gets — the monster in question will never know, still less remember the names of all the people whose life (s)he has blighted or the manifold ways in which they have been harmed or care in any sense that properly socialised people would. One is tempted by the view that these people are the most heinous of all. In terms of scale of crime and sheer indifference to values held by every civilised person, genocidal monsters are hard to beat.

    Of course, the one thing the genocidal monster shares with your crazed spree killer or serial r@pist is that everyone else sees them as heinous criminals. I’ve never met a genocidal monster or spree killer, so I can’t attest to their mental states but it just might be that most of them even know they are acting criminally — they just don’t care.

    In the middle of this lot are those whose criminal conduct is shrouded in public approval or at least legality. I’m warming to the view that those in this group might well tip out genocidal monsters from the top spot in criminality. Their relationship to death and misery is more distal. Unlike the murderous spree killer or r@pist, they aren’t DIY and up close and personal. They aren’t even as close as the genocidal monsters whose minions pick out the a section of humanity to brutalise out of existential angst and the pursuit of power. Yet one can see these as providing the scaffold for both the spree killer and the genocidal monster. They summon and trade upon the darkest thoughts harboured by humanity, and underpin a system designed to preserve the privileges of a tiny elite — who, by their own admission, cannot ignore them. Leveson showed that no British government felt it could function without at least the passive support of Murdoch. Now it seems Murdoch might have been more responsible for setting in motion the butchery in Iraq than any other single person. Charles Taylor is a criminal, but Murdoch is a successful businessman, at least at this stage.

    So it seems to me that we ought, if we were handing out awards for criminality, to recognise success across a range of categories. It seems quite wrong to leave out “getting away with it and being dealt with as an upright citizen by people in charge of the world’s productive resources”. If we add that one in, there are all sorts of people jostling with genocidal monsters for the title “King of Crime”. What would one say of someone who had ensured that massive proportions of the world’s precious human labour was directed to trashing the biosphere and building weapons of war, and who further pressed for these to be deployed to sustain both this system and their hold over the elites wielding them? What should one say of them after the end they sought was realised, and millions died or suffered for no better reason than it served the end of this person or their cohort? Clearly, if success in crime is ever a virtue, major accolades should flow. To do this and not be punished or even condemned by those near power, to be heard arguing that this system truly is the best of all possible worlds without being howled down for uttering pure cant (and not with a “k”) is a truly stupendous criminal achievement.

  28. Ahhh Fran. You’d be baked alive by some over at Club Troppo at the moment.
    You would be a wicked person for progressivist “interfering in the Freedom of Others”, this killjoy notion that a properly structured global economy could also work for several billion poor people without necessarily sending us fortunates to “roon”.
    How dare you think that Murdoch and co even think of lifting a finger in the interests of other people it intrudes on your sovereign right to be as big an asshole as you possibly can be.This is really, a savage strike at the Gospel of “First self, then self, then self again”and the inherent right devolved to the oh so few, to play god with other peoples rights to survival and sit there watching their death rattles, for the superintended relish of the last convulsion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s