Regular Features Sandpit July 15, 2019 John Quiggin36 Comments A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on. Like this:Like Loading... Related
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A new wind farm is being proposed in Tasmania, on Robbins Island, but it is being opposed by a prominent Tasmanian, who reckons
“Besides the impact on the coastal scenery, wind turbines kill birds.”
Who is this prominent Tasmanian, I hear you ask? None other than ….[drum roll ] … Bob Brown!
Yes, that Bob Brown, Hero of the Environment.
I’d be happier if he got behind the eradication of feral cats, which are by far the biggest killers of birds and mammals.
On Lord Howe the proposal was to lay down the turbines during breeding season. The project didn’t proceed beyond concept stage – a victim of the Abbott/Turnbull attacks on renewables.
Reading the comments by Bob Brown, he is not against wind farms per se, hewas voicing his concerns about the impact on that particular location.
No doubt he will be misreported.
“he was voicing his concerns about the impact on that particular location.”
Of course he was. That was why he repeated the canard (favoured by Donald Trump) about the turbines killing birds. Though, unlike Trump, Saint Bob didn’t say the turbines cause cancer, so that’s something.
I can see that on an island like Lord Howe wind turbines might not be appropriate.The island is small and its entire skyline is rather iconic no matter what direction you look at it from. Wind turbines would be obtrusive whether or not they kill birds. However, solar power, batteries and (maybe) some backup diesel would do the job.
Robbins Island is about seven times larger than Lord Howe but I know little else about Robbins Island. Wind turbines for small islands should be assessed on a case by case basis. One cannot say whether Brown’s arguments are valid or not without more facts. It might be a major bird rookery. I for one don’t know. But to suggest that a green advocate needs to be indiscriminately in favor of wind turbines always and everywhere is to misunderstand what green values and ecological habitat science are all about.
I often find myself with Bob Brown on many issues. I think he is right to oppose this three-blade wind farm. Three-blade wind farms are close to useless. Still I like this idea of pairing intermittent energy sources with pumping water uphill. Thats a good possibility. But even in that case we would want to go beyond the three-blade model. Maybe a better model wind generator, coupled with pumping uphill for hydro-power … maybe we should be trialling a few small projects until we find one that actually works. But the three-blade system ought to be sent to the fires.
The oligarchy is maintaining its high margins on energy prices (and therefore the asset value of all the debt they have attached to hydro-carbons) by always seeing to it that renewables investments are misallocated. If something doesn’t work they see to it that all our money is wasted on it. Thats a good reason to get ASIO involved in this sector to help protect us against being disrupted in this way.
Skip ahead 3 minutes and 40 seconds into the video see a radically different design of wind generator in action. I think these things are worth small-scale trials. I mean just a million dollars here, a million dollars there. Until we know exactly what to do. A million dollars could buy a wind generator of this design, the earthworks for a series of ponds, and a big damn at the top of a hill, as well small hydro-power installations all the way down. We want to be very sure we have the right system before we start throwing the big money around.
The glee with which that utterance of Bob Browns has been greeted just demonstrates to me how seriously bad the politics around climate change really are.
For all that Environmentalists in general welcome being seen as the public face of the climate issue – naturally enough, hoping to push policy in the directions they think best – I think it is as much that opponents want them to be seen that way… raising them up in order to tear them down… in order to associate climate change with what is widely viewed as extremist politics… in order to take attention away from those in real positions of power and influence and their lack of policy and lack of integrity.
Public perceptions of the issue ought not be moved in any special way by what someone like Bob Brown says or does – were mainstream politics showing real leadership it would not. But it is as if Bob Brown’s use of expedient and regrettable rhetoric is somehow especially ethically bereft – and everyone who is concerned about climate change are tainted somehow.
The whole ‘hypocritical greenies’ theme is surprisingly successful for all that in the knowing better but doing it anyway stakes the positions mainstream parties like the LNP take on climate makes them hands down winners – truly, they are lay-down-misere grade winners in the hypocrisy stakes for their turning aside from the clear warnings of great and irreversible harms to Australia, and promoting the very industries and activities that make the problem worse.
No-one should have to be making great personal sacrifices to reduce personal emissions, for example, to have their concerns taken seriously; there are science agencies for governments to inform themselves. And we all know that personal lifestyle and consumer choices, admirable as they are, are wholly inadequate, and it will take economy wide changes. Expecting those who care to have the entire burden of fixing the problem is delusional – yet if we are not giving up our car and living without electricity the climate problem should not be taken seriously? Seriously? If our nation was being invaded we would not require citizens to be fighting with their own resources on the front line to have the right to call on the government to act – or have the very existence of an invasion denied unless we do; there are Intelligence agencies for that! Choosing to reject the expert advice and not caring about emissions is not a morally superior position – far from it. More like extremely irresponsible and negligent.
The excessive focus on the more extreme and in your face activism (or instances of regrettable rhetoric) shifts the debate from disputing what the world’s leading science agencies are telling us into a more familiar and politically tribal mode; rallying opposition to The Greens and Bob Brown is much easier than rallying opposition to the CSIRO or BoM or Royal Society. Making it about Left vs Right makes for endless disagreement – whereas making it about Responsible and Accountable vs Corrupt and Unaccountable could and should be cause in common.
I think Smith9 is a little bit out of order on this one. Birdlife Australia takes climate change extremely seriously because it already appears to be seriously impacting certain birds species, for instance many of the mallee wren species. Accordingly they support wind farms in general but not in places where they are likely to take out endangered species. The Tasmanian subspecies of the wedge tailed eagle in one example of an endangered species that has suffered badly from ill-placed Tasmanian wind farms. I don’t see why Smith9 is opposed to locating windfarms in environmentally suitable locations. Were you pecked by a chicken during childhood perhaps?
You wouldn’t put a three blade wind farm anywhere. If they don’t work we don’t want them. We need to find renewables that work. We are not there yet. Plus people don’t like to see any birds slaughtered by this rubbish technology even when the birds aren’t endangered. Look at the example of a non-three-blade I posted. Aesthetically more pleasing, the birds can easily see it, unlikely to be lethal to the bird even if he gets to close, and unlike a 3-blade it may actually work okay. The more we keep going for ineffective renewables, the less we will catalyse more appropriate technology.
Visigothkhan: the three-blade horizontal-axis wind turbine has emerged the winner of a long contest between different designs. It has won for a reason: it’s the best. Wind farms using it are being built today today all over the world for LCOEs of 2-3 cents per kwh. You can’t ask for better than that – though it’s coming anyway.
No the three-blade has not emerged as a winner through competition. Its emerged as a loser on purpose. They are being built only because the oligarchy wants alternatives to be ineffective. If they actually worked, the funds for them would dry up. Where is this competitive history you are drawing for them? Where were the trials and competitions held? What were the competing designs? The history of the three-blade catastrophe outcompeting all others is in your mind only.
Well, the Dutch used 4 blades for a while…
Two blade propellers are actually the most efficient. Three blade propellers are a compromise between total diameter and prop efficiency. The towers needed for two-blade props would be too high. Multi-bladed props above three blades are even less efficient (though the structural engineering might be easier). I am guessing you are not an aeronautical or propulsion engineer from your comments.
Renewable energy is indeed restricted but it is restricted by the simple expedient of giving fossil fuels more subsidies than renewable energy.
My comment above was for Visigothkhan.
“Bob Brown’s use of expedient and regrettable rhetoric”
Such as saying this wind farm is the new Franklin Dam and repeating the pernicious talking points of the global denialist Right.
Bob Brown is not having a good 2019. His friends – his real friends, not his acolytes – should advise him to withdraw from public life, stop embarrassing himself, and preserve what is left of his reputation.
Here is the most recent report of the Bob Brown Foundation, which may shed some light on the discussion.
Two propeller? Come on man. The wind just blows past these things, largely unchanged. The whole approach is wrong. In permaculture we are used to the idea of stacking functions. In economics we see that its commonplace that subsidies don’t work. What is going to work is zero interest loans. They don’t mess with pricing and the loans will go to where they can improve cash-flow.
Supposing you want to rig a sixty acre hillside farm to provide energy for the close-by town? First thing you want to do is swale the hillsides to absorb the water into the land and to provide a support system for a bunch of trees. Then after maybe a decade you want to put in a series of ponds and dams, get your aquaculture cash flow going and set up banks with trees and terraces with these ponds and grasses.
Its only then you want to have the wood-gas burner and the wind power to pump water from the bottom to the top damn, then bring in the hydro-power and perhaps even the trompe. Because you need all these trees to gather the water.
Now to do this right in a multi-functional and poly-cultural sort of way thats probably a 20 year undertaking. Any interest rate at the improvements kicking off in the early years will ruin everything. But on the other hand subsidies never work since they lead to a gold rush rather than patient investment. So if we want to get all of our land geared up for energy production and more enlightened agriculture we have to forget about this panic reaction. We need to be in it for the long haul. Its going to be a very frigid time for most of the rest of this century, thanks to three weak solar cycles in a row. So we’ve got to slow down and do this right. Get the budget in surplus then use interest free loans as our main transformative tool. Believe me those farmers who take up these loans aren’t going to waste their money on 3 blade design. They will want something that is going to work.
there’s nothing in that report about Robbins Island. But the Bob Brown Foundation web site does contain a media release from yesterday in which Saint Bob says another reason to oppose the wind farm is that it “will power no Tasmanian homes”. He must then know that in future there will never again be a drought in Tasmania, the dams will always be full and the hydro plants will provide all the electricity Tasmania needs. What a visionary!
This is of course ludicrous but even if it’s true and all the electricity produced on Robbins Island is exported to the rest of (eastern) Australia, so what? Brown is in effect objecting to clean electricity made in Tasmania replacing electricity made by brown coal in Victoria. Is Brown really so provincial? Sadly, it appears that he is.
He may be concerned about the birds on Robbins Island? Thats a pretty serious concern when such poor design is being considered. Look I’m still a hard rightist in some respects, but I always considered Bob to be an honest player and a straight shooter? I don’t see why we should doubt his own statements on this matter? Does Bob have a financial interest in Robbins Island?
If not then his characterisation of his own opinions ought to be taken seriously, or is there no cosmic reward for being an honest player in public life over the decades. Bob had the moxie to stand up and outsource work to find out that we were selling off the farm. Of course all the oligarchical papers tried to deny this reality and of course he was perfectly correct. Thats takes a lot of moxie. Proved that gay guys can be tough sometimes. The only adult male in the room sometimes.
Smith9 – I think you are proving my point; whilst people encouraged by complacent media get all bothered over something Bob Brown said the people sitting in the ministerial offices are doing dangerous irresponsibility and hypocrisy on a massively industrial scale, without a mention.
mrkenfabian – the point is that Bob Brown is using his moral authority as the country’s leading environmental campaigner to argue against a windfarm, on arguments that are so poor they can’t even be called specious. Of course it’s a story.
mrkenfabian said: “they are lay-down-misere grade winners in the hypocrisy stakes” – Adani and Australian government – …”the people sitting in the ministerial offices are doing dangerous irresponsibility and hypocrisy on a massively industrial scale, without a mention.”.
Proof of above statement today:
“the review will not be hijacked by activists with a political, as opposed to scientific, agenda,” Adani told the federal environment department on 25 January.”.
Smith9, Bob may make you ROFL but the above statememt and endorsement by dep pm needs to make you ROFCrying and commenting. At least it is in your radar now.
As we are paying for it – Australia Aid – we had better take a look as visigothkhan prompts us to do.
Small scale alternate wind WITH water may be suitable fir 50% of humans not on your radar.
Yet Ikon imo is correct re 3 blades…
“Triblades just sit in one place on a big pillar when they are generating electricity. This is very efficient, which is one of the reasons that they payback the energy used in construction faster than any other form of electrical generation.  One wind farm in Australia generated 302 times the electricity that was used to start them, brake them and turn them into the wind over a year.”…
Smith9 – Like I said, I think your responses just prove my point.
The Australian government has full access, with staff to assist them to understand it, to the best available expert knowledge and advice – we should not need any prominent environmentalists to say anything for the government to know how serious the problem is. Nor be dependent upon them to propose solutions. It is not a failure of Environmentalism that our LNP Australian government does not have appropriate climate policies; even now the one policy most sought is the one that is the least Leftish as well as the most complementary to responsible free enterprise operating within the rule of law… Carbon Pricing.
It is first and foremost the failure of leadership of mainstream politics that makes what Bob Brown says so significant – but the focus by opponents of climate action on (carefully selected bits of) what people like him say or do is distraction that, cleverly, manages somehow to feed the enduring lie that the issue is all about giving in to alarmists and extremists. Like the whole climate issue is a fringe environmental one – and that it is up to Environmentalists to have broadly acceptable solutions. And somehow (while people are busy fulminating about greenies) NOT about those who are actually in government and what they are or are not doing.
KT2 – I suspect that from the pov of our current LNP leadership – and Adani’s – taking the science on climate change seriously, with the logical conclusion that coal mining should be phased out, can be construed as anti-coal activism. Taking the issue seriously is not an extremist position – but opponents of action very much want it to be widely seen that way.
Smith9. Time for you to enlighten us…
“arguments that are so poor they can’t even be called specious. “
“Triblades just sit in one place on a big pillar when they are generating electricity. This is very efficient, which is one of the reasons that they payback the energy used in construction faster than any other form of electrical generation.”
I find this VERY hard to believe. Because you have to get the timing SO GOOD that the coal-electricity guys have enough confidence to not super-fire their furnaces for peak time. From THEIR END the wind people may have done as stated. But without perfect timing they haven’t saved any coal burnt.
Whereas if intermittent technology is paired with some efficient battery operation (compressed air, sending water uphill for hydro-electricity later, heating up salt under mountains of earth, one or two others maybe) only then can it be helpful to the goals of the grid entire.
Smith9 seems to be employing specious argument as an argument.
Bob Brown has made a pint that is not without substance, Robbins Island is on record as being an important nesting site and as such may not be an appropriate location for development.
Click to access finalreportwithcovers.pdf
But rog why would we doubt him? We need to have some tolerance for the younger intellectuals amongst us. But I know that you are not a young fellow. And Bob isn’t a young fellow. And I know that a lot of us thought that the hard greenies were a bit nutty.
But my memory tells me that Bob was pretty solid from a CHARACTER point of view. So we all should look a little bit askance at some of the young fellows getting a bit excited and being a bit ready to condemn our good brother. When some of us who have been around the block a bit ……. we really DO know better right? I never doubted Bob’s character and thats the sort of personal-capital we ought to help Bob conserve, in the face of younger intellectual types.
Look most ex-politicians of all stripes could disappear tomorrow and it would not amount to much. But Bob, crazy or not, really is a brother to us all. And I cannot see a narrative where he ought not be believed at face value.
Smith9 – “arced up”* by Bob Brown says: “Of course he was. That was why he [ Bob Brown ] repeated the canard (favoured by Donald Trump) [ severe conflating ] about the turbines killing birds. Though, unlike Trump [ ! ], Saint Bob didn’t say the turbines cause cancer, so that’s something.”
Bob says something …
“”… The Australian, and other right-wing activists, have arced* up over my Hobart Mercury opinion piece to draw public attention to the proposed biggest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere, on Tasmania’s Robbins Island. Please have a read here.
If you are wanting to know more, or are considering a letter to whichever media, here are some points to take into account:
– the opinion piece served its purpose of raising mainstream public debate about this colossal project. There was none beforehand.
– information, as Jefferson said, is the currency of democracy.
– the Franklin Dam was to produce renewable energy but I opposed that too.
– even right-wing activists think we should be selective about sites for coal or nuclear power stations, so why not wind turbines?
– scientists have repeatedly backed wind farms but called for them not to be constructed across bird migratory routes.
– after energy efficiency, renewables are best, but not regardless.
– there is a global extinction crisis and this project will kill birds.
– there are alternative renewable energy sites but not alternative bird species. Check out that shortlist of threatened species in the article.
– the environment impact study (EIS) should be independent and assess prudent and feasible alternatives.
– Robbins Island is on a beautiful Tasmanian coastline which will be transmogrified by these by these massive mills.
– a causeway is needed to service the island project, as are its transmission lines and a new Bass Strait cable to take the full electricity load to the mainland. Where are the EISs and who pays? – there are more than 80 wind farms in Australia that I have not criticised though some are contentious.
– I would also oppose solar panels on the Opera House or 200m high wind turbines on the Eureka Tower.
– the electricity will go to the mainland, the profits largely overseas, but Tasmania gets all of the environmental damage.
– The Australian Wind Alliance says that ‘climate change will kill more birds than wind farm turbines’ but not how many birds will be killed by having THIS giant wind farm as against not having it – or putting it where it’s not across bird migration routes.
– Where’s their science on this?
~end bb email~
“Tasmanians have a right to know much more about the Robbins Island development. It is a huge resource extraction venture which will be lighting up no Tasmanian homes. Beyond the indisputable environmental losses, what is the guaranteed money this giant venture is returning to the state of Tasmania as against UPC’s foreign stakeholders?”
– Bob Brown
I’d love to see the evaluation which took into account the points above. Wouldn’t you?
I have to admit, after all the othe points above, visually and spacialy wind turbines are imo, a blight, and I agree that the “beautiful Tasmanian coastline [ strikeout ‘which’ ] will be transmogrified by these by these massive mills.”
UPC and Caffyn are capable and building a global presence. As Bob B says: “what is the guaranteed money this giant venture is returning to the state of Tasmania as against UPC’s foreign stakeholders?” Smith9? Any clues?
“initially with G.E. Capital, Heller Financial and UPC. Mr. Caffyn served as an Executive Managing Director of Creat Resources Holdings Limited (formerly, Zeehan ZInc. Limited) since June 26, 2007. He founded First Wind Energy Company in 1996, Mr. Caffyn has successfully completed some of the largest wind energy projects ever financed while overseeing the development and operation of over 750 MW of operating wind energy projects. He is founder of Wind City Inc. He founded First Wind Holdings, Inc. and served as its Chairman. He founded and served as Chairman of First Wind Energy LLC (UPC Wind Partners, L.L.C). He serves as the Chairman of the Board of UPC Solar Management, LLC. Mr. Caffyn served as the Chairman of Solar Integrated Technologies, Inc. since December 2006. Mr. Caffyn serves as a Director or Partner in the following companies or partnerships includes…” and lists about 50+ companies. From GE capital to Ribbbin Isl. All conveniently seperated for best use of capital and tax globally.
I’d go for better looking wind turbines. Ones that play off natural green beauty, that the birds can see, that will barely hurt them if they ran into them, and that are in any case would be more effective than the three-blade-blight. Plus I’d give zero interest loans for any land-owner to set up his wind and electricity generation locally so long as he was also investing in power storage. Big business should come out of small business success. And big wind ought to grow out of small wind success. Zero interest loans don’t screw with price mechanisms. Unjust enrichment can be avoided if land holders have to offload chunks of land, in order to take advantage of transformative zero interest loan schemes.
Bob Brown responds to his critics and of course, he’s quite right;
“Hard on the heels of Lloyd’s article was a request for an interview from Melbourne’s 3AW for its afternoon drive program with Tom Elliott. But Elliott was not prepared for some questions in return. I asked him if he supported solar power, which he did. I asked if he would put solar panels over the Opera House. He said he probably would. It was the classic moment of a right-wing activist putting imprudence in front of his determination, in order not to be seen dissembling. I hope no one in Sydney reads about his plan for their World Heritage icon. Elliott’s thinking should also leave room for a couple of windmills working wonders on the arch of the Harbour Bridge.”
Ha ha ha. Great to see old Bob turning the tables like that. I think we can have artificial aesthetically pleasing energy production alongside nature. But not with these 3-blade eyesores. See these right-wingers, and the others as well I would say, are not focused on holistic solutions to ecological and energy problems. Peoples time-lines are too short. Here the right just wants to point-score against our distinguished elder lefty statesman Bob.
Currently our agriculture destroys soil, releases carbon, and turns energy into bad food. We want an agriculture that creates soil, inters carbon in that soil, churns out nutrient dense organic food, and produces surplus energy for everyone else. You cannot do that without a system that tools small farmers up to the gills. I think the torpor on the right and the panic on the left are both a little bit unproductive. There is not the vision of where we want to go. Which should be biased towards perennials, silvopasture and the whole of the land as being an energy resource.
We might want to start off with a scheme that gets rid of any taxes for retained earnings away from our sole trader farmers. But telegraph that eventually there will be land tax with a threshold. But this land tax can be delayed delayed delayed if the really big guys sell off a chunk of their holdings every so often. At the same time you have your zero interest lending scheme for tree-planting, the move to organics, earthworks for swales, ponds, dams, terraces and for hydro, wind-farms, wood-gas, oil production for on-farm fuel, and so forth. Plant oils can never compete with hydro-carbons on the international market. But they can compete just for on-farm use where there is a group of local farmers pooling resources.
Aesthetics should be a big part of the outcome of all this. As well as biodiversity. In permaculture farms the more species you are farming the more support you are offering to non-farm life. Bill Mollison reckoned that the birds that came onto his farm were more daring with phosphates then he would ever be. He reckoned that he could not find a leaf from his sweet potato that the birds hadn’t crapped on.
There is this idea of the food chain which turns out to be very misleading. Its an idea that you start with net primary production and every level of life depletes that. In this story its good energy management for the rest of us to eat the plants. But biology doesn’t work like that and more evidence is coming in that all life pulls energy from light and from the earths electrical field. So that an abundance of life, well-managed, feeds on itself. It just gets more and more abundant the more levels of plants and animals you place on it. Although the management has to cull things down to prevent total succession with just tree over-story.
Visigothkhan aka Graeme Bird.
Everyone knew that with the first post didn’t they rog? I got triggered under this handle and thrown off after a warning. It was 100% my fault. The ban must have been lifted.
The thinking used to be that net primary production was based on photo-synthesis alone. So the thinking was that the energy component of all of nature was basically derived from a thin sliver of the light spectrum …. ultra-violet light in particular. The new findings are coming particularly from water science and from this idea of structured or “exclusion zone” water. Which is a kind of patterned H3O2. Which can be generated by light, all the way down to red and infra-red.
If an organism were unable to draw energy from the earths electrical field, then somewhere along the line organisms would develop such a talent, and displace those that didn’t. Plus we see that if you have a person lying on an earthing sheet a charge develops on his blood cells and if they were bunched they now tend to separate and can move down the thinnest of capilliaries single file. This all takes energy and in fact our understanding of the energy behind blood circulation has to change. Every route for blood to travel in the body, laid end to end would go around the world three times. Its not credible that the pumping of the heart could produce this result on its own, with such a notoriously viscous and sticky fluid. Its more an electrical phenomenon like a series of maglev tracks.
All this is to say that in nature, for all practical purposes, there simply is not the energy limitation we thought there was. Its not just UV energy conversion to carbohydrates driving all things. Every species seems to add to the energy of the system. As witnessed by the terrific yields you get out of a setup like Joel Salatins polyface farms and Sepp Holzers Kramertehof. Sepp Holzers setup almost makes people like me weep for the sheer joy of it all.
Bill Mollison once said that the people who do these energy calculations for subsoil life concluded that the subsoil life must spend most of its time asleep, because otherwise this energy could not be accounted for. This is not really credible and I think the circle is about to be squared with this better understanding of where life’s energy is coming from.
It used to be thought that solar power was the best since nature is largely green and the solar panels are black. Therefore the black surface had more potential to harvest energy. Well energy resources are more complementary than competitive but with this better understanding of the energy that nature sources I’d swing in Mother Natures direction. I’d want to see if we could make solar roads (when we cannot put the roads underground) and solar roof tiles. In my view of things taking up good land for solar …. Well its a very fine thing for the moment, but its not the ultimate destination as to where I would want to take things.
I watched at school. Did you see it at school or at home?
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