Monday Message Board

Back again with another Monday Message Board.

Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link


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14 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. No comments? We are all so tired – tired of resisting the plague, tired of the assorted buffoons, fool, fanatics and crooks who have worked their way into power and influence more or less everywhere.

    To cheer you up, engineers in Padua have announced a concentrating thermovoltaic pv system with a claimed joint conversion efficiency of 91% (not a typo). Two-thirds of the output is heat, so the usable output is lower, but still impressive. These are working outdoor prototypes, not indoor lab rigs.
    https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/10/06/concentrating-photovoltaic-thermal-system-with-91-efficiency/

  2. That is great news. If we were in surplus, our public sector ought to be flexible enough that on the sayso of a single MP a cash-flow could be developed to recover and stockpile Indium, Gallium and Germanium from Australian mining tailings. Just a few years later the word goes out to all our small businessmen that zero interest loans are available for any equipment purchases necessary to manufacture these troughs.

    We have the terrain, the infrastructure, the people, the raw materials to start churning these 91% efficient troughs out like hot cakes. It might likely take 20 years to be the lowest cost provider. But we ought to get started. We want to do things in such a way that any resources for encouragement is retained within Australia.

  3. Sadly the article doesn’t mention what heat they get out. “high quality” heat is 400-600°C and consistent, which is unlikely here but if they can at least get over 550°C they could feed a molten salt storage system and turn the 60% heat into another 20% electricity. Or use it to preheat steelmakings or some other unfussy use (which currently mostly fall under the “cheaper and easier to burn fossil fuels” category so not much done).

    Sadly many cogen setups like this produce unpressurised hot water rather than steam so they’re mostly useful for heating buildings. That’s why I’m skeptical.

  4. Sadly the article doesn’t mention what level of heat they get out. “high quality” heat is 400-600°C and consistent, which is unlikely here but if they can at least get over 550°C they could feed a molten salt storage system and turn the 60% heat into another 20% electricity. Or use it to preheat steelmakings or some other unfussy use (which currently mostly fall under the “cheaper and easier to burn fossil fuels” category so not much done).

    Sadly many cogen setups like this produce unpressurised hot water rather than steam so they’re mostly useful for heating buildings. That’s why I’m skeptical.

  5. Sadly the article doesn’t mention what level of heat they get out. “high quality” heat is 400-600°C and consistent, which is unlikely here but if they can at least get over 550°C they could feed a thermal generator or molten salt storage system and turn the 60% heat into another 20% electricity. Or use it to preheat steelmakings or some other unfussy use (which currently mostly fall under the “cheaper and easier to burn fossil fuels” category so not much done).

    Sadly many cogen setups like this produce unpressurised hot water rather than steam so they’re mostly useful for heating buildings. That’s why I’m skeptical.

  6. Sorry, vomit above is yet another run at WordPress hiding and refusing comments. Normally they all just vanish but in this case three of five attempts eventually made it through.

  7. James W,

    It looks expensive and has moving parts (aligning motor, pump). Perhaps it could find niche applications in the commercial and light industrial sector. I don’t see those things being put on top of houses. The windage looks considerable.Those mirrors look like windjammer sails on their side and would be raised a bit like like sails, at least in higher latitudes. On the ground they might be okay but not on roofs.

    Cost and usable output are going to be the important parameters. Relative costs in money count when the axioms of political economy are set up to make costs in money count and when markets don’t fail. In the real world (as opposed to the formal world of accounted money costs) real costs count.

  8. Just sayin’… “Two’s a crowd: Nuclear and renewables don’t mix
    Only the latter can deliver truly low carbon energy, says new study

    “Benjmin K Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School, said: “The evidence clearly points to nuclear being the least effective of the two broad carbon emissions abatement strategies, and coupled with its tendency not to co-exist well with its renewable alternative, this raises serious doubts about the wisdom of prioritising investment in nuclear over renewable energy. Countries planning large-scale investments in new nuclear power are risking suppression of greater climate benefits from alternative renewable energy investments.”

    “The researchers, using World Bank and International Energy Agency data covering 1990-2014, found that nuclear and renewables tend to exhibit lock-ins and path dependencies that crowd each other out, identifying a number of ways in which a combined nuclear and renewable energy mix is incompatible.”
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201005112141.htm

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41560-020-00696-3

  9. hix: the problem was specifically an *old* excel file format. They imported CSV, saved it in a dumb format which lost data, and didn’t notice. Not even at the “ten thousand go in, five thousand come out” level. The newer excel file format is not as bad, but excel is still not the right tool for any kind of data management. It’s notorious for errors because it’s so widely used by “I don’t write software” people.

    One basic question for any researcher to answer is: how do you know that?

    And specifically, critically, how do you know that numbers you got out of your analysis are related to the numbers you put in? To find out software engineers do something we call “testing”, but I believe for many scientists correctness more of a faith-based thing. “it looks ok, and when I randomly change an input the output changes in the right direction”. Testing complex software is hard, but the harder it is the more essential it is

  10. Neuroscience accidentally discovers neurons for decision confidence.

    “Should I or shouldn’t I? The activity of individual nerve cells in the brain tells us how confident we are in our decisions. This is shown by a recent study by researchers at the University of Bonn. The result is unexpected — the researchers were actually on the trail of a completely different evaluation mechanism. 

    “We discovered that the frequency of the electrical pulses in some neurons, in other words their ‘firing rate’, changed with increasing decision confidence,” explains Mormann’s colleague Alexander Unruh-Pinheiro. “For instance, some fired more frequently, the more confident the respective test person was in their decision.”

    “It is the first time that such a correlation between activity and decision confidence has been identified. The affected neurons are located in a brain region that plays a role in memory processes. “It is possible that we not only store what decision we made, but also how confident we were in it,” speculates Mormann. “Perhaps such a learning process saves us from future wrong decisions.”

    “Ethical reasons usually prohibit the study of the state of individual neurons in living humans. However, the participants in the study suffered from a severe form of epilepsy. In this form of the disease, the characteristic seizures always start in the same area of the brain. One possible treatment is therefore to remove this epileptic focus surgically. To pinpoint the exact location of the defective site, the doctors at the Clinic for Epileptology implant several electrodes in the patient. These are distributed over the entire potentially affected area. At the same time, they also allow an insight into the functioning of individual nerve cells in the brain.

    “Researchers at the University of Bonn were originally looking for a completely different phenomenon: When we make a decision, we assign a subjective value to each of the alternatives. “There is evidence that this subjective value is also reflected in the activity of individual neurons,” says Mormann. “The fact that we instead came across this connection between fire behavior and decision confidence surprised even us.”

    Single-Neuron Correlates of Decision Confidence in the Human Medial Temporal Lobe. Current Biology, 2020; DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2020.09.021

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201009121928.htm

  11. I didn’t say the Padua scheme was a usable breakthrough. It does illustrate the important point that there is still plenty of innovation in the roughly 65-year-old modern solar industry. As plain old silicon pv keeps getting cheaper, from incremental improvements, the barriers to challengers rise in parallel. One way or another, it’s pretty certain that solar energy will get better and better. The finance world has woken up to the reality of unlimited 3c/kwh solar electricity. Th

  12. At the moment it is probably going to be cheaper to just install conventional PV and then use either electrical resistance heating or a heat pump to heat water using the solar electricity generated. Under the right circumstances the combined PV plus heat might make sense, but as the cost of PV is falling faster than the cost of plumbing, those circumstances may disappear.

    From overseas examples we know solar farms can be built for around 2 cents per kilowatt-hour generated. Presumably it will get lower, but as existing coal stations using stranded coal need to average around 3 cents per kilowatt-hour to stay in business and coal can’t shut down during the day to avoid low prices and the falling cost of batteries will help keep a lid on high prices in the evening, coal is finished. Unless of course the government keeps handing coal power stations free money, as they did with Vales Point coal power station and spending millions on taxpayers money on a source of energy that kills taxpayers when less deadly forms of meeting demand cost less.

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