Monday Message Board

Another Message Board

Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

I’ve moved my irregular email news from Mailchimp to Substack. You can read it here. You can also follow me on Mastodon here

I’m also trying out Substack as a blogging platform. For the moment, I’ll post both at this blog and on Substack.

8 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Following on from my comment:

    I would appreciate a comment (or 10) on;
    Glen Weyl et al “… in every equilibrium of this quadratic-transfers mechanism, each agent’s transfer converges to zero, and the probability that the efficient outcome is chosen converges to one.”

    [Submitted on 15 Jan 2023]

    “Efficiency in Collective Decision-Making via Quadratic Transfers

    Jon X. Eguia (Michigan State U.), Nicole Immorlica (Microsoft),Steven P. Lalley (U. Chicago), Katrina Ligett (Hebrew U.), Glen Weyl (Microsoft), Dimitrios Xefteris (U. Cyprus)

    “Consider the following collective choice problem: a group of budget constrained agents must choose one of several alternatives. Is there a budget balanced mechanism that:
    i) does not depend on the specific characteristics of the group,
    ii) does not require unaffordable transfers, and
    iii) implements utilitarianism if the agents’ preferences are quasilinear and their private information?

    “We study the following procedure: every agent can express any intensity of support or opposition to each alternative, by transferring to the rest of the agents wealth equal to the square of the intensity expressed; and the outcome is determined by the sums of the expressed intensities. We prove that as the group grows large, in every equilibrium of this quadratic-transfers mechanism, each agent’s transfer converges to zero, and the probability that the efficient outcome is chosen converges to one.”

    Subjects:Theoretical Economics (econ.TH)
    Cite as:arXiv:2301.06206 
    [econ.TH] (or arXiv:2301.06206v1 [econ.TH] for this version)

  2. The squeaking herd

    A striking example of herd cognitive bias from a piece on agrivoltaics by Michael Schoeck in PV Magazine. They have pulled it from the site, but I noted the key points first. The post covers a report by consultants on global prospects for agrivoltaics. They estimate the market will grow at 10.1% a year to 2030. Yawn. But they also give the past numbers. Agrivoltaic installations have grown from 5 MW in 2005 to 2.9 GW in 2020. That’s a CAGR of 121% – not 12,1%, 121% – more than doubling every year. The term for this is “colossal boom”, reflected in a simple idea, successful field trials all over the place, and investors piling in. The uncertainties have dwindled.

    The natural prior is usually that the future will be like the past: in this case, very rapid growth. The proposition of something for nothing is very likely true. If you are going to predict a dramatic slowdown, you need to adduce reasons. Here are two candidates.

    Total demand for electricity grows slowly, say 2% a year, so there is a limit to the potential demand for all forms of solar energy, plus rising costs for firming as penetration increases. In the USA and most other countries, the demand limit is unlikely to cut in in the coming decade. Agrivoltaics can anyway eat into pure solar farming with its lower aggregate costs.

    The supply of agronomists, especially ones with solar experience, is limited, and big solar developers have started hiring them. I expect the wages for a really good career choice are rising, but the schools can train more. Generally an agrivoltaic project is more complex than a pure solar or farming one. You have all the complicating factors in either half, plus a tricky dual optimisation problem, with a lot of technical options on the solar side (vertical vs. canopy, height of either, trackers, variable shading), and a wide range of crops on the farming side. Actually triple optimisation, as you will be using less water. Highly skilled planning labour is unavoidable. However, you don’t need much of it compared to routine assembly. Cf. the role of architects and structural engineers in construction.

    NIMBY opposition? You must be joking. Farmers can get away with anything. Any local opponents can be bought off with grazing sheep, wildflowers, and beehives, at trivial or no net cost.

    Withdrawal of subsidies? These have not SFIK played a major role, beyond the usual government support across the board for research, far more generous for pretty hopeless cases like fusion, fission and wave energy. The same goes for rhetorical policy support. It wasn’t the ministries and think tanks that came up with the idea.

    So yeah, growth in agrivoltaics will probably slow a bit. But not to a measly 10% a year.

  3. James, yet again, you have added a bright spot to my day!! I don’t think many people know this is happening, even here in sunny Cal.

    Thank you!

  4. Who did invent agrivoltaics? In a sense, it’s such an obvious idea that there probably was not a single inventor. But Fraunhofer make a case for their eminent solar scientist Professor Adolf Goetzberger, who died earlier this month. He was 94 years old, so was born before Adolf became a popular name in Germany, and then not. . Fraunhofer made the concept respectable outside the bubble of alternative hobbyists by carrying out professional field trials on working farms.

    BTW, if Australian politicians really want to strengthen the national industrial base, they should study the Fraunhofer network, its generous and consistent funding, and its model of cooperative applied research. The resulting IP is shared at low cost or free to members of the industrial associations putting up project money, quite opposite to the American “winner take all” model. It’s a good part of the reason why Germany still has a flourishing industrial sector of small firms, often patriarchal and rooted in small South German towns.

  5. The SARS2 (COVID-19) crisis continues unabated. People are living in fantasy land if they think living with this virus is workable long term. Globally, human health is collapsing. The authorities and the populations they have misled have no understanding of what is happening. We are being led to complete disaster.

  6. James et all, here is:
    1. the exemplar of the WORST of politics in Australia related to agrivoltaics. “It’s like kindy, but without the cuteness.” (TG) and
    2. And old dog using shade ala agrivoltaics. And what Professor Adolf Goetzberger” must have observed and formalized. 

    Yesterday in our Parliament The Guardian TG reports on Question Time question from David Littleproud [Nationals – the ‘farmers’ party now in opposition] asking a “gotcha” to Chris Bowen  [Labor-  Energy Minister];
    DL: “Can the minister [Bowen] advise the number of hectares of prime agricultural land that will be required for solar farms as part of their renewable energy mix of the government?”

    I almost screemed at the TV as I was watching Question Time. (Note to self – stop watching QT!).

    Bowen opened the New England Solar Farm(fn1.). It is in Littleproud’s heartland. Like a stake thru the heart of a zombie  

    From The Guardian TG – as I can’t find other transcript:
    TG: “I don’t know what that mess was.

    TG: “David Littleproud [Nationals – the farmers party!]  asked Chris Bowen:

    DL: “Can the minister advise the number of hectares of prime agricultural land that will be required for solar farms as part of their renewable energy mix of the government?

    TG: “Bowen starts talking about solar farms.

    TG: “Suddenly what seems like half the Nationals party is on their feet. Milton Dick [Speaker ala referee] tells everyone to sit down. Repeatedly. Then he tells everyone that he is not going to tell everyone to sit down again.

    TG: “It’s like kindy, but without the cuteness. [excellent analogy of QT]

    TG: “Bowen eventually is allowed to get to his point – which is diversity of income for farmers who put solar farms on their land.

    TG: “It is a diverse source of income. This is the point. They [The Nationals -the farmers party!] say that solar farms and renewable energy, they are wrong, they don’t understand the regions, they don’t understand the areas they are meant to represent, maybe if the member for New England turned up and listened then they would know. They would know.” [Stake. Heart]
    Updated at 15.03 AEDT

    “Growing Crops Under Solar Panels? Now There’s a Bright Idea
    “In the new scientific (and literal) field of agrivoltaics, researchers are showing how panels can increase yields and reduce water use on a warming planet.

    “Yes, plants need sunlight, but some need less than others, and indeed get stressed by too many photons. Shading those crops means they will require less water, which rapidly evaporates in an open field. Plus, plants “sweat,” which cools the panels overhead and boosts their efficiency.

    “It is a rare win-win-win,” says Greg Barron-Gafford, an earth system scientist at University of Arizona who’s studying agrivoltaics. “By growing these crops in the shade of solar arrays, we reduce the amount of that intense sunlight that bakes off the water and stresses out the plant.” Barron-Gafford is among the recipients of a new $10 million grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to research agrivoltaics for different regions, crops, and climates.

    Personal note: I live about 400kms south-ish of New England Solar farm in central west NSW. Summers are brutal. El Nina brought us constant rain Sept Dec 2022. First time in 20yrs the large cracking in my backyard closed. El Nino / Nina back to neutral so … Delayed summer. Within 3mths cracks returned. NO amount of water will close them. I’ve tried.

    All locals report low yield / failure of, especially, backyard tomatoes this year, myself included …

    EXCEPT! – And old Italian living in Gulgong (home of the Holterman Nugget, town on the [old] $10 note).

    He stakes and places a 30cm sq piece of tin 2m above each plant. Only the dedicated!

    Which does what “Fraunhofer … eminent solar scientist Professor Adolf Goetzberger” probably observed and formalized.  And  what Agrivoltaics farming  does – shield plants / animals from intense solar radiation, lowering plant stress and water loss & requirement. Nothing new (not) under the midday sun. Old dog’s and Englishmen…


    Bellini, Emiliano (2021), ”Agrivoltaics can certainly be a … New England Solar Farm, owned by Hong Kong and Philippines-based UPC/AC.

    Click to access P1176-Renewables-and-Rural-Australia-WEB-1.pdf

  7. A few weeks back, JQ posted an upbeat item on solar PV, including an estimate that production capacity may soon hit 500 GW a year. This is no longer the high end of trade estimates. According to PVMagazine, a consultancy called Clean Energy Associates, using a proprietary model, think this:

    “By 2023, global [solar] module production capacity is set to exceed 800 GW per year, while global installations will likely stay above 300 GW. By 2027, module production capacity could exceed 1,000 GW per year, while installations should be near 500 GW. The most immediate impact of the capacity increase on the market is a tripling of polysilicon capacity from 2022 to 2024, based on new capacity under construction or already in the start-up and ramp-up phases.”

    Wow. How much longer can the Chinese solar firms keep this up? Don’t they have shareholders who like profits more than scale? It’s good news for the planet that Xi, for all his many faults, appears to have a low tolerance for any attempts to form cosy cartels in smoke-filled rooms. It’s capitalism commie red in tooth and dragon claw. Also, Xi is clearly trumping the attempts by the USA and EU to develop domestic solar supply chains with oh-so-daring 1 GW plants. A Chinese company thinks 10 GW at a time.

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