If I needed to buy a truck, this is why I’d buy a Cybertruck

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Mike quotes Mark Mills: it’s Michaux 2.0

OK – Mike Stasse has found another Michaux. At first this new contender – Mark Mills – had a smooth manner and calm assertions. But within a few minutes I was already concerned. Then I did further research and the alarm bells went off!

On this page:-

  • Strange bedfellows
  • Mills does not get that economies of scale take time
  • Mills does not get renewables ratios
  • Mills does not get the exponential function
  • Mills does not differ from Michaux
  • Mills does not represent the IEA’s claims about metals
  • Mills DOES get thoroughly TROUNCED by Ars Technica.

Strange bedfellows

Mike Stasse has once again decided to quote and promote a strange ally – Mark Mills. I know Mike to be a man who loves nature, hates big oil and coal and the damage climate change is doing to our world – and can’t wait to see oil peak and begin to decline. But he is pessimistic about renewables.

Sometimes – in Mike’s enthusiasm to BE pessimistic about renewables – he will make strange bedfellows. I wish Mike would slow down and study his latest Youtube crush. Do “due diligence” and all that. One can live in hope, but given Mike’s history of promoting total and utter frauds – I don’t have much.

Because if Mike had done just a little digging, he might not have promoted this right-wing redneck science-denying climate-hating Tea-Party Trump-type, a darling of climate denying Prager U and the Heartland Institute – who also says fossil fuels are “almost inexhaustible“. He’s even made it onto the Desmog Blog hitlist for being such a clean-tech hating, fossil fuel promoting Denier. So he HATES climate science and peak oil concepts. But also hates renewables… so it’s OK for Mike to promote him? Um…. Mike…. (shakes head sadly.)

Mills does not get that economies of scale take time

Mark Mills whines about $5 trillion dollars being spend on clean tech in the last 15 years – and then based on this cost sneers at how on earth we’re going to afford the next 3 fold expansion. But the global energy budget is $10 trillion dollars every year. That clean energy cost (IF we’re going to take his word for it!) would average about $333 billion each year over 15 years. For context, government tax breaks to big oil are about $500 billion!

But here’s where Mills conveniently ignores the exponential function. You know the old adage about how a drug company might charge a dollar a pill but it only costs them 5 cents to make? It paints the drug company as a money-grabbing evil tyrant. But the FIRST pill cost them $350 million! They need to be reimbursed for all their time and money in inventing this pill. Well – renewable energy is a bit like that. You have to put big money into it first to eventually get the economies of scale that bring the prices down!

So it’s just WRONG to harp on about the $5 TRILLION that we spend scaling up renewables to the point where they are now the cheapest form of electricity in human history! Solar is 1/4 the cost of nuclear (Lazard) and wind is about 1/3. Sure you then have to Overbuild and also build 2 day’s pumped hydro for firming.

But the point is, that $5 TRILLION drove the cost of renewables down tenfold! They’re now 10% what they were. He talks about a 3 fold increase by 2030? Just as a rough illustration but IF we go with Mill’s $5 trillion till now – we’ll only pay 1.5 TRILLION for a 3 fold increase. That’s how much prices have dropped.

Mills does not get renewables ratios

And he whines about renewables being only 3% of global POWER – but if he had said electricity it would be different. As a fraction of electricity renewables are at 30%. Add nuclear and we’re 40% there! After all – we are going to Electrify Everything. Also, that 40% of clean energy achieves more per unit of energy. As we Electrify Everything, more gets done with less. Electric motors turn the energy they get into more work than fossil fuels you carry somewhere only to burn. EG: Petroleum cars waste 80% of their energy – electric cars use nearly 80% of theirs! In other words – those solar panels on your roof get more done per unit of energy to the car.

Mills does not get the exponential function

OK – so now that original $5 TRILLION has given us the cheapest electricity in history – it’s going to explode. For the last decade Australia has seen solar doubling every 4 years. This is exponential growth. It’s growing faster than oil did in the 20th century – which only doubled every decade. It’s exponential. It starts small, but FINISHES BIG! Australia will be 80 to 90% renewable by 2030!

Mark sneers and whines about how small solar is – but ignores the economic and growth realities. He – like most of us – is going to be stunned by what happens in the next decade. This is where I agree with Mike Stasse – and I’ll let him say it (click here for about 30 seconds.) Unfortunately humanity’s greatest shortcoming is its inability to understand the exponential function! I’ve been reading about this stuff on and off for years – and sometimes I even forget how it works. Imagine you know 2 things: a petri dish has bacteria that’s just been put in it and it’s going to double every minute – and the petri dish will be full in an hour. When is the petri dish half full? In 59 minutes! That is, exponential growth can be unnoticeable for ages – and then suddenly in the last few growth spurts does enormous and profound things. This can be bad – as in the growth of consumption of limited resources – which is Mike Stasse, Simon Michaux’s and now Mark Mill’s CLAIMS about renewable energy and EV’s. Or it can be good – if we’re building renewables from abundant materials that CAN meet our needs.

Mills does not differ from Michaux

It’s just boring. Here we go again!

Batteries only: Like Michaux, Mills brushes off pumped hydro. Well he doesn’t seem to really mention it. At 4:35 Mark Mill’s just asserts the IEA, IRENA and World Bank all say we’re only going to be using BATTERIES to backup the grid. Except – they don’t. The reports I’ve linked to in the line above all talk about pumped hydro. They are very big organisations and have a variety of reports. Australia’s biggest names in renewables have used satellite topographical maps that show the world has 100 TIMES the sites we need. Pick the best 1% of off-river pumped hydro sites, and we’re done.

Fancier metals: Do I have to repeat this again? Really? While wind and solar and batteries CAN use rare earths – most wind and solar brands ALREADY DO NOT or NEVER HAVE! This guy really is just Michaux 2.0. It’s clickbait rubbish.

Check this out – sodium batteries are a commercial product already selling 30% cheaper than lithium batteries. They’re just not ‘sexy’ EV batteries yet – as they’re not energy dense enough. But with the grid where you can consider pumped hydro dams for storage – size does not matter! But they are working on chemistry and tricks to make sodium ready for EV’s.

So IF they ever become cheaper than pumped-hydro (wow what a world that would be!) we hypothetically could backup the grid with batteries. It’s SEA-SALT! At 34 kg per cubic metre of seawater – it’s not like we’re going to run out! Right now there’s even a role for maybe 4 minutes of sodium battery storage for the grid – to allow pumped hydro a little time to ramp up to hit the grid at the right frequency.

Sodium grid and home batteries means we can prioritise all the lithium for EV’s.

Now, if Mark Mills is meant to be quoting from the IEA – why does he keep raving about cobalt and nickel? Why doesn’t he realise they are yesterday’s news – at least in terms of grid storage? Sodium exists – and is much cheaper than lithium ion for grid. LFP exists – and is in half of Tesla’s cars!

Refer to this gem of a paragraph (from page 3) of an IEA report.

“There are other variables affecting demand for minerals. If current high commodity prices endure, cathode chemistries could shift towards less mineral-intensive options. For example, lithium iron
phosphate cathode chemistry (LFP) does not require nickel nor cobalt, but comes with a lower energy density and is therefore better suited for shorter-range vehicles. LFP share of global EV battery supply has more than doubled since 2020 because of high mineral prices and technology innovation, primarily driven by an increasing uptake in China. Innovation in new chemistries, such as manganeserich cathodes or even sodium-ion, could further reduce pressure on mining. Recycling can also reduce demand for minerals.

Yeah – don’t trust Mark Mills to represent the IEA! (Facepalms!)

Mills does not represent the IEA’s claims about metals

Mills claims he is basing his figures on the IEA – but then claims the inrease in metals could be from 700% to 4000% – or 7 to 40 TIMES as much growth in metals. But what does the IEA actually say?

“A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car and an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired plant. Since 2010 the average amount of minerals needed for a new unit of power generation capacity has increased by 50% as the share of renewables in new investment has risen… …An even faster transition, to hit net-zero globally by 2050, would require six times more mineral inputs in 2040 than today.

Hmm – Mills isn’t given to exaggeration much? Hey – what do you expect from a climate denier who also thinks we’re never going to run out of fossil fuels? But I grant that six times is a lot. It may not be smooth. Renew Economy just had a world expert on about lithium, and prices ARE going to stay high for the next 3 to 4 years. It’s a lot – but as I have repeatedly shown – it’s in common and abundant materials. And remember what high prices do? Stimulate discovery and development. What do we need for the energy transition? Discovery and development.

OK – I’m actually getting bored of these people. It’s time to take this home.

Mills DOES get thoroughly TROUNCED by Ars Technica.

I’ll hand it over to a professional environmental blogger. Again – I almost can’t look! (winks). This article comments on Mill’s Prager U nonsense.

From Ars Technica


Pure nonsense: Debunking the latest attack on renewable energy

What a terrible anti-renewable-power video reveals about the US energy market.

JOHN TIMMER – 3/1/2021, 11:52 PM

Image of wind turbines.
Miraculously, the video at issue did not accuse wind turbines of causing cancer.
Pictures Alliance / Getty Images

Our editor-in-chief obviously hates me. That’s the only conclusion I could reach after he asked me to watch an abysmal attack video targeting renewable energy—a video produced by a notorious source of right-wing misinformation.

But despite its bizarre mishmash of irrelevancies and misdirection, the video has been widely shared on social media. Perhaps you’ve seen it, or maybe you just to want to be ready when a family member brings it up in an argument. What, if anything, is true in this farrago of bad faith?

Yes, it’s awful

The video is hosted by “Prager University.” My only previous exposure to the organization’s videos had been this excellent one on the Confederacy by Colonel Ty Seidule, a professor of History at West Point who has since been placed on the Pentagon commission that will examine bases named after Confederate generals. Seemed legit!

Now that I’ve had to look more closely, however, it turns out that Prager U is not a university—it’s run by a talk radio host. Its videos frequently contain misinformation, especially when the subject is climate change. The content is so bad that Google, which is often slow to react to misinformation on its platforms, has slapped fact checks on a number of Prager U videos.

Even without the Prager U branding, the host of this video would cause some concern. Mark Mills is associated with the Manhattan Institute, a free-market think tank with a long history of rejecting any government involvement in markets. This has left the group with a reflexive loathing of any attempts to address global warming.

Mills himself is not necessarily a reliable source on renewable power, as he’s been heavily involved in companies focused on nuclear power and fossil fuel extraction. Mills has also spoken at the climate meeting hosted by the notorious trolls at the Heartland Institute.

All that is to say that my expectations here were low; the reality turned out to be worse.

The problems with the video go beyond simple matters of bias; the whole thing is just terribly argued. We can’t possibly go into detail on all of the problems, but we can list a few issues that stood out.

  • Mills complains that our best solar technology is only 26 percent efficient.But that’s only true for silicon panels; our best, most expensive panels can clear 40 percent efficiency. The focus on efficiency, however, is also a distraction, because solar panel efficiency is already high enough for solar farms to be economical.
  • The same issue arises when Mills complains about the efficiency of wind turbines. Is it as high as we would like? No. But who cares? Wind turbines already generate power economically. Improvements would be terrific, but they aren’t necessary to make wind and solar work cheaply in the real world.
  • Mills suggests that the only solution to the peaks and troughs (or “intermittency”) of wind and solar is batteries. But there are plenty of additional options, like compressed air storage, pumped hydro, or even fossil fuel plants with carbon capture.
  • Mills focuses all his attention on what he considers to be the limitations of lithium batteries. But there is plenty of research on other battery chemistries that use different metals entirely.
  • Mills argues that the lack of batteries is why wind and solar power aren’t producing more than three percent of the world’s power. Note that he’s using “power” to get this figure. If instead he used “electricity,” wind and solar now produce over 10 percent globally, starting from zero a few decades ago.
  • Mills claims that lithium and cobalt are rare earth elements. They are not. This isn’t important to his argument, but it’s extremely sloppy.
  • Mills then says he has environmental concerns about the resource extraction needed to build solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries. This a valid concern to have! But it ignores the massive environmental damage caused by fossil fuel extraction and the production of equipment to burn it.
  • Mills does a similar thing with human rights abuses in places where these materials are sourced. Again, a worthy concern. But it remains a problem for fossil fuels as well.
  • Mills acts like it’s not possible to recycle any of the hardware involved in wind, solar, and batteries. This is an area where work remains to be done, but as a blanket statement, it’s certainly not true.
  • Mills calls our fossil fuel supply “almost inexhaustible.” Come on. This is just obviously not true.
  • Mills compares the rate of oil extraction to the rate of power generation by wind turbines… for no obvious reason whatsoever.

Ironically, Mills closes his mess of arguments by saying, “We live in the real world.” But the video presents no evidence that he does.

Overall, the video shows a sloppy disregard for facts and offers a biased presentation of the ones Mills gets right, along with a lot of misdirection. If solar panels were so inefficient that we would need to pave over all of Arizona and New Mexico with them, then yes, that would matter. But they’re not, so why does Mills even bring it up as a concern?

There are some valid issues here, of course. Mills is right that environmental degradation, abusive labor practices, and repressive governments plague our supply chains. But they plague all our supply chains—not just those for renewable energy. And he’s correct that we haven’t figured out how to recycle wind turbine blades that reach their end of life. But again, that sort of issue isn’t unique to renewable energy.

Critically, the one thing missing from all of this is a recognition of the risks of climate change, which is the whole reason we’re trying to shift to wind and solar as quickly as possible. That is apparently because Mills doesn’t see much in the way of risks. But here in the real world, those risks are considerable and rising. No discussion of renewable power is competent if those risks are ignored, yet Mills ignores them.

Why now?

So yes, the video is terrible. But I’ve also grown to think it’s significant, and not just because it has found a huge audience on social media. The video signifies two things.

First: a decade ago, the same video would have been about why climate change either isn’t happening or isn’t a risk. The fact that this one isn’t about climate change is a clear indication of how badly that fight has been lost by those who want us to keep using fossil fuels. We’ve seen record temperatures year after year, and all the things we expected to see have arrived with them: raging fires, massive storms, and droughts. Sure, a handful of people remain unconvinced, but that population has shrunk to the point where nobody pays them much attention.

Second: if the fight about the fact of climate change is over, it has also grown increasingly irrelevant. In the US, President Biden now promises four years of pushing for expanded renewable energy. And the economics are in place to drive renewable power regardless of policy or the environment—which explains why red-state Iowa generates 41 percent of its electricity from wind power. In many areas of the country, wind power is now cheaper than the fuel for a natural gas plant. A zero-emissions grid is now relatively cheap. As a result, 80 percent of the power added to the US grid this year will be emission-free.

The economics are now such that utilities in much of the US will install as much renewable power as their grid can manage while keeping the lights on, as it’s now the cheapest way to get power—even if you already have more fossil fuel plants than you need.

And that’s “the real world” that this video fails to see, a world where there’s no good reason to continue using fossil fuels at the level we have been. So if you don’t have good reasons to oppose renewables but still want to see fossil fuels expand, you go with whatever bad reasons you can come up with.

Which nicely explains this video.

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Earth to Stasse: Nukes don’t need batteries!

The Ecomodernists recently debated Mike Stasse of “Damn the Matrix” fame. He believes in “Degrowth” – that is – as peak oil hits and fossil fuels decline – it is inevitable that everything’s going to collapse. There will be mobs in the streets and riots in the supermarkets as the trucks stop rolling in. Typical Doomer fair. Only, the Ecomodernists have a slightly more compassionate view they want to discuss. How about we NOT let all that happen – and look for more optimistic pathways ahead where we save civilisation and billions of lives, and still have nature thrive?

(Then Mike kept side-tracking to his Keto dietary theories. The hosts were a bit too patient with him here, it was way off topic and quite self-indulgent of him – so I won’t inflict that bit on you.)

Now, Ecomodernists of course love nuclear reactors. Especially incredibly efficient Breeder Reactors that ‘eat’ nuclear waste. They have a really high energy return (aka EROEI) which is in the thousands. When you can get 90 times the energy out of each bit of uranium already mined in the breeder process – the energy returned goes way up! Argonne Labs explains in 4 minutes.

But this was all too optimistic for a Doomer like Mike. He wants to shut this bright nuclear-powered future down, and fast! He’s sitting there, grabbing at Doomer straws.

And then he remembers! Metals! Simon Michaux! Maybe he can quote Michaux to get out of this awkward optimism.

Except – Simon Michaux is the guy who incorrectly insists a renewable grid needs 4 weeks grid storage in metal batteries. The concern Michaux want’s to harp on about is this would consume all the useful metals like lithium and copper etc. It’s a long story but contains some really bad strawman attacks, including one where he tries to pretend the whole world is shaped like Singapore – only 15 metres above sea level – see “Painting the world Singapore“. The whole paper is based on a lie. If you read normal renewables papers they recommend strategies like Overbuilding the grid to cope with winter, and then every city having about 2 days off-river pumped hydro storage. As that’s the norm I subtracted the “Batteries that ate the world” and Michaux’s own resource estimates show we’re fine, even with all renewables built and 1.4 billion EV’s!

So Mike is there, worrying how he’s going to dismiss this bright EcoModernist nuclear option.

So he throws Simon Michaux’s anti-renewables paper against nuclear! There aren’t enough metals to build… which one is it Mike? Because nuclear doesn’t NEED 4 weeks battery storage, does it?

The irony is Mike “pulls a Michaux” as he quotes Michaux, and rips Michaux’s study out of context. It’s so cringeworthy – I almost cannot look. Just click and enjoy for a few minutes. A Doomer at his best. It starts with this next line…

he’s not talking about nuclear here – but…”

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Tom Murphy’s paper reveals something I also fell for back in the day

I again owe this next post to Mike Stasse’s indefatigable efforts to quote the dishonest (Michaux) or irrelevant (Murphy). With Mike, it goes like this. I show a fundamental error in one of Mike’s heroes – an error so blatant even Mike doesn’t have a comeback. So rather than discuss it any further, Mike just diverts attention from that error and moves onto another one!

Mike – if you showed me a massive error like Michaux “Painting the world Singapore” – and basically pretending the whole world’s stock of hills and mountains was no more than 15 metres high like Singapore’s – then I would eat humble pie and publicly apologise on my blog for quoting a bad source. For example – In June 2022 I changed my mind about renewables, saying I now thought they had a shot. Mike – you should try it. Now you know Michaux’s a fraud – you really should pop back on to the Ecomodernist show and recant “following Michaux”.

But I must be honest – I shared Tom Murphy’s opinion back in the day. It was a different world with wind and solar an order of magnitude more expensive than they are today. I even wrote about it here – (but I have since deleted those posts in shame). My concern back then was about the sheer COST of OVERBUILDING a renewable grid to make it reliable!

What a difference a decade makes. Lazard now shows solar has come down 90% since 2009 and is now 4 times cheaper than nuclear, with wind almost as cheap. Also, depending on geography but generally speaking, solar works well during the day and wind can be fairly reliable at night. They complement each other well, so you’ll generally get a 100% renewable grid with wind and solar – but 100% is not what we’re aiming for. Why? Winter! As Tom Murphy argues:

“Note that 7 days of storage does not literally mean that we are prepared to experience 7 days with zero input from the renewable infrastructure. Operating at 30% of the break-even amount over a period of 10 days also leaves the system with a 7-day energy deficit, for instance. This circumstance is not too difficult to imagine: a cloudy winter week over the southwest while the wind speed over the country is half its average value (means eight times less power) over the same period.”

But that’s irrelevant in a world where we really can afford to Overbuild renewables. If your grid drops to 30% – it’s not rocket science to ask if you can just multiply your renewables three times to get you through winter? So the aim becomes not a 100% renewable grid – but actually something more like 300% – spilling the excess during summer. (Shutting down excess wind and solar so it doesn’t fry the grid.) Or even doing seasonal jobs like desalinating extra water or making extra hydrogen or even running a garbage Gasification plant – as long as they can be redirected back to supporting the grid during winter.

It’s as Tony Seba says – we’re really bad at estimating cost curves. A year is a long time to us – and we have trouble estimating what is happening across 10 years. This is where a little history can help. While it took 20 years to go from the horse and car to the car – 80% of that change happened in 10 years. Cost curves are a thing – an economic law almost like the law of gravity.

With renewables so cheap, it’s not just Overbuild – but other grid services that are now affordable. Renewables grids are so cheap you can now afford to build extra HVDC lines to the West and South of America where snow is irrelevant or at least very rare. Maybe these Western and Southern States should be prioritised for solar and the windier areas around the coast prioritised for wind – and they could optimise a grid that ‘only’ needed to be Overbuilt twice, not thrice? I’m sure there are better models than Murphy’s by now. Also, there’s an interplay between existing HVDC and storage. Sometimes it’s better to build new power lines, and sometimes it’s better to build new pumped hydro. EG: If a solar farm expands to 2 GW output but the local HVDC line can only carry 1 GW – do you build a new line – or build a local pumped hydro dam to store the extra solar during the day? Then it’s pumping only 1 GW solar down the line during the day, and using the spare GW to pump water up a hill for sending down the line at night. Your 2 GW farm is now a firmed 1 GW line to the grid. That’s the concept. Don’t ask me to evaluate a particular site or needs of a particular grid. That’s way above my pay grade – I’ll go with whatever experts like Andrew Blakers and Matthew Stocks recommend.

Not only this, but pumped hydro electricity storage is also good for restarting a grid. In a bad blackout like the terrible Texas snow storm of a few years ago the grid is so shut down it loses frequency control. Frequency control is the speed at which AC zips back and forth down the grid lines – and getting it out of sync does all sorts of bad things – like frying equipment or even shaking an old coal fired generator out of it’s housing, destroying the power station! It’s called a Black Start (wikipedia) – in that there’s no existing electricity frequency to help sync new supply coming onto the grid. It’s enough for now to know that pumped hydro stations can help start the grid up, as well as store it.

This is where I again must mention Tony Seba. Key technologies are converging – but I think Seba omits pumped hydro as one of the important ones. But he’s great on the cost curves of all the others – and the implications are simply STUNNING for a world threatened by climate change and food insecurity. Start with this talk – there are 5 in the series.

The Murphy argument above reminds me of how lucky we are in Australia. David Osmond is an Australian renewable engineer who modelled one of Australia’s worst years for renewables weather – 2022’s La Nina weather. He analysed the weather on a daily basis and had a very public conversation about it all on his blog. The weather was so bad it needed some Overbuild to reduce pumped storage to what Australia ALREADY HAS today. (And we’re building more with Snowy 2.0.) What kind of Overbuild fixes this? According to Osmond – just 70%! This link is also where I reference a Griffith University study into 4 decades of Aussie whether that also concludes that Overbuild can help firm the grid. Blakers et al just plan the most economised grid, with plenty of wind and solar but also HVDC between Queensland and Victoria and enough storage for 2 days. They’ve tested the model with years of weather data – and it works.

Now to be fair to nuclear – there have been some really bad project management, public sabotage and legislative changes that have done everything from delay builds to have the government interfere with the technology half way through a build. The Western world has forgotten how to build nuclear in a big way. South Korea can still build them affordably – but that seems to be a lost art in America. IF some bold government in the West got their act together and started something like the French 1970’s Mesmer plan, we could standardise the best Gen3.5 reactor today and arrange to build 30 or so. Then the prices would come crashing down and the grid would be simpler to manage. But even then – would it be as cheap? Apparently solar is still getting learning curve benefits – and has maybe another 7 years of cost drops before it finally levels out!

Reading Michaux and Murphy reminds me to be grateful for the smart people and governments that both invented this new tech, and offered government rebates to help bring the costs down. Where I used to quote cost comparisons of Germany’s high historical renewables costs vs nuclear, I now see them as essential investments in getting the wind and solar prices to where they are today. To where we can Overbuild with confidence that there will be enough wind and solar to keep society ticking over – and have pumped hydro to start the grid up again after a day if we get some little bit of the math wrong. 😉

Posted in 100% renewable energy papers, Hydro, Nuclear, Solar, Storing energy, Wind | Leave a comment

Michaux “Paints the world Singapore.”

Mike Stasse wanted me to watch another Simon Michaux piece. Thanks Mike – I know know how Michaux came to his odd conclusions about pumped hydro! Remember how mystified I was in my last post as to how he came to his conclusions on Pumped Hydro? On Page 185 he just asserts:-

“Establishing an operating PHS station with an elevated supporting dam is logistically difficult. It cannot be positioned just anywhere. Very specific requirements are needed for the site if the hydroelectric system is to function. This limits the viability of PHS stations to very few geographical locations.”

It was unusual for a supposedly academic paper – but there was not even an attempt at a reference. No rationale as to why he concluded this. Maybe in his breathless rush to conclude “We have no viable large scale energy storage!” he simply forgot to fulfil that High School Mathematics mandate called “Show your working!” Maybe he knew if he referenced his study he would be called out for the obvious cherry-picking? I don’t know. But Stasse came to the rescue with this recommendation! It’s right here – just click play.

OK – so this is his reference. Finally! Something I could check – written in plain enough English that even I – with my non-technical Social Sciences background – could read! Yes! The study title?

“Energy Storage Systems”


So far so good! And the subtitle?

“Technology Roadmap for Singapore

(… sound of record needle scratching across the vinyl….)

What the? No – it couldn’t be – please say it isn’t so! Singapore has some great engineers – no doubt about it. All that city to plan for such a small island, and the ocean that keeps leaking into their drainage systems. But pumped hydro viability for Singapore itself? Singapore – with a total area of only 733 km 2 and the highest hill only 15 metres above sea level? The study agreed that pumped hydro had a low environmental impact (page 34), but it ultimately concludes:-

Pumped hydro storage is a mature technology that has been adopted in many countries especially for bulk storage due to its long lifetime, high efficiency and low cost. However, it requires natural resources like water bodies and natural reservoirs to store water at elevated heights. Creating artificial reservoirs or underwater tunnels or caverns require high investment costs. Also, the energy density of this technology is quite low. So, this technology though mature is not very locally relevant at the near to medium term in Singapore’s context.

Boy – that’s a surprise! A small island with barely any hills is not the best place for pumped hydro? In other news water is wet. Yet Michaux quite happily rips this study out of context and bangs it down in the middle of his 1000 page “study” to prevent us looking too closely at off-river pumped hydro. He’s trying to hide the sheer potential of what he already admits is the best, cheapest way to store grid level electricity.

It reminds me of Oz trying to hide – but instead of throwing the green curtain over a little hack magician, it’s Michaux being a hack trying to hide pumped hydro! I call it “Painting the world Singapore” – basically implying the Blue Mountains and all of the rest of Australia’s mountain and hill ranges just don’t exist – let alone the actually mountainous parts of the world! (Australia is quite flat compared to Europe or America – and we have over 300 TIMES the off-river pumped hydro potential we could need.)

So what should Singapore do? There are a variety of storage mechanisms they could use – such as the new Thermal Energy Storage systems that are finding new super-cheap materials (sand, bricks laced with tin, etc) that store heat very cheaply for weeks. Or Singapore could go nuclear.

Or Singapore could trade electricity and storage with their neighbours. Look at all the off-river Pumped Hydro electric storage potential across the border in Malaysia! This is all browsable in the Professor Andrew Blakers ANU satellite map. Note – I turned the resolution down to NOT include all the 15, 5, and 2 GWh sites. Each dot represents either 50 GWh or 150 GWh for 18 hours. There is so much power storage potential here it is ridiculous – and it’s all mainly water and gravity!

My advice? Michaux is either too devious or pretending to be too dumb to bother with. He’s actually a smart guy – he’s knows what he’s doing.

So grab your favourite brew, sit back, and watch this section on pumped hydro from Professor Andrew Blakers. He starts describing the Australian scene – but soon takes you on a world tour. Most continents on earth have about 100 TIMES as many sites as they need. Pick your best 1% and you’re done.

There’s plenty more to say about Michaux’s straw-manning of renewables, including the particular renewables plans he decides to critique, etc. But for now – just watch a REAL renewable engineer on off-river pumped hydro. Or even better, go right back to the beginning and just watch the whole thing.

If Michaux worries you – just remember – he’s the guy that tried to “Paint the world Singapore.” As Aussies say when feeling sceptical about something “Yeah, nah”.

Posted in 100% renewable energy papers, Materials & Metals, Renewable energy, Storing energy | 2 Comments