Page 12 of this Pdf shows:
I finally finished Quantum Thief. For a fair review and introduction to the themes of this book, try here, and then we’ll get to my gripe. Okay?
I’ve read a fair few space operas covering singularity and post singularity themes, but nothing with an economy this bleak. It’s the Quiet: the whole concept stood out like a sore thumb that just didn’t fit! With technology like this, why not build or grow a bunch of androids to do the Quiet jobs for you? Why ‘die’ and end up a slave for who knows how many decades? Why was it such a horrible experience that the very economy itself ran on quantum linked units of time measured by your Watch? I struggled with this most basic concept of the plot for a while. The author has a Phd in Mathematical Physics from Edinburgh, and of course did not going to leave such a horrid state of affairs unexplained. A few paradigm shifts later in the novel finally unpack this apparent contradiction and explain. But not much else is.
I like being immersed in a sink or swim sci-fi-scape as much as the next bloke, but it would be nice to have *some* idea of the place by the time you finish a book. Sorbornost? Oubliette? If it were not for a few good online wikis, I would only have a vague idea about these important environments. Other reviewers agree.
Even the wiki mentions this problem. “Criticism for the novel has generally centred on Rajaniemi’s sparse “show, don’t tell” writing style. Brown notes that “the author makes no concessions to the lazy reader with info-dumps or convenient explanations.” Niall Alexander, of the Speculative Scotsman, states that “had there been some sort of index, [he] would have gladly (and repeatedly) referred to it during the mind-boggling first third of The Quantum Thief “, while proclaiming the novel to be “the sci-fi debut of 2010.””
Overall, I enjoyed it, but am sort of glad it is over. For now. I’m not sure if or when I’ll get the energy for the sequels! There will probably be some more Peter F Hamilton to read by then.
Are we going off-grid, or building a super-grid?
Will that grid be baseload and reliable and give us power when we really need it, or only trickles that can hardly meet the real demand?
a/ We’re all going off grid, and magical storage devices are going to back up wind and solar on our own houses or industrial estates or offices in town. Renewables advocates like Paul Gilding, one of Australia’s biggest sustainability experts, celebrates the ‘death spiral’ of utilities and how they’re going to be stranded with all these inconvenient expensive assets. He says: “The utility death spiral is a great example of system complexity that is simple to understand. Solar energy costs have plummeted – so far that in most places you can get electricity cheaper from your own solar panels than you can from a utility. The impact on the grid of people doing so at scale is to lower the overall cost of electricity generation by reducing both peak demand (and so peak pricing) and lowering volume. Utilities are then stuck with expensive physical assets, less sales and lower margins, so they need to increase either the cost per unit of power or impose grid connection charges to customers. But doing either gives customers more motivation to leave the utility – thus the death spiral.”
He is celebrating people going off-line and threatening the economic viability of the grid.
“Key FindingsDesert Power 2050demonstrates that the abundance of sun and wind in the EUMENA region will enable the creation of a joint power network that will entail more than 90 percent renewables. According to the study such a joint power network involving North Africa, the Middle East and Europe (EUMENA) offers clear benefits to all involved. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could meet their expanding needs for power with renewable energy, while developing an export industry from their excess power with could reach an annual volume worth more than 60 billion euros, according to the study results. By importing up to 20 percent of its power from the deserts, Europe could save up to 30 euros for each megawatt hour of desert power.
The north and south would become the powerhouses of this joint network, supported by wind and hydropower in Scandinavia, as well as wind and solar energy in the MENA region. Supply and demand would complement one other – both regionally and seasonally – according to the findings of Desert Power 2050. With its constant supply of wind and solar energy throughout the year, the MENA region can cover Europe’s energy needs without the latter having to build costly excess capacities. A further benefit of the power network is the enhanced security of supply to all nations concerned. A renewables based network would lead to mutual reliance among the countries involved, complemented by inexpensive imports from the south and the north.”
This is just one example. Australia’s going to be part of an Asian super-grid.
Even University of Melbourne think tank Beyond Zero Emissions recommends an Australia-wide supergrid.
So which is it? Paul Gilding’s death spiral, or the Pan-Asian-Australian super grid? Are these people even speaking to each other? What’s the plan?
2. BASELOAD RELIABLE ELECTRICITY, OR JUST IN TIME ELECTRICITY?
The American NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) assures us that if we just charged all our cars at *night* on overnight *spare capacity*, we could charge half of American driving without building a new power plant or upgrading the grid at all!
But hang on. This is the same NREL that pushes Amory Lovin’s studies that claim we don’t *need* reliable baseload power overnight. He understands that solar and wind work mostly during the day, and that there are challenges moving from a power supply that is baseload and reliable (or mostly ON) to intermittent and unreliable (or mostly OFF!) Amory says there will be no baseload power. With all his efficiency measures, we’ll only need a trickle of power at night. He doesn’t understand that baseload power *is* a massive efficiency measure because it lets you charge half your electric car fleet at night, on the existing grid transmissions lines and generators. But no. Forget charging half the fleet on spare night-time capacity. That’s gone! Amory is relying on intermittent solar and wind power to run a tiny fraction of the grid at night, and power everything during the day.
So how are we going to charge our cars during the day? If today’s baseload grid’s *huge* night time spare capacity could only have charged half the fleet, then what about during the day when the grid is already struggling to meet demand? How many times are we going to build out the grid again? How are we going to charge all those EV’s? Are we going to double the grid? Triple it? No. Amory Lovins pretends we’re going to roughly *halve* daytime capacity!
To which I say, pull the other one!
So what is it NREL? Baseload reliable night time power charging our EV’s, or only a tiny trickle, and the day time grid being beefed up to some kind of hyper-industrial super-grid? How much is *that* going to cost? Talk about magical *and* contradictory thinking! This kind of wishful thinking is just not good enough for deep sustainability. I haven’t even talked about the costs of building out the so-called smart-grid either. It’s not just a super-grid, it’s a super-sized super-smart super-grid! Or we could end these silly debates, and just plug nuclear power into today’s sized dumb grids and clean up our energy in about 11 years, as France did.
As Dr James Hansen said:
“Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”
Quick! It’s an emergency! We simply must evacuate 33 million citizens of Kerala State, India, according to Fukushima regulations! It has 3 times the radiation of Fukushima! Evacuate it now!!!
“For thousands of years, some of the population of Kerala have been living bathed in radiation at more than triple the level which will get you compulsorily thrown out of your home (evacuation) in Japan. The Japanese have set the maximum annual radiation level at 20 milli Sieverts per year around Fukushima while some parts of Kerala have had a level of 70 milliSieverts per year … for ever.”
Or not. Or we could educate Japanese officials about the negligible impacts of radiation exposure, and let evacuees go home to most of the exclusion zone.
I’m trying to find out how much funding molten salt reactors have had, especially thorium. Kirk Sorenson claims there has been very little since the late 1960’s, and I’m just trying to confirm that there are no other MSR experiments or programs in other countries until the recent Chinese program started.
It all seems to start with the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion program, which only received $10 million (in 1946 money). I love how insane this idea was: so straight out of Buck Rogers! But it lead to the development of the MSR (2.5 MW) for nuclear aircraft. Once ICBM’s arrived, there was no need and they dumped it as the bad idea it was.
But just as submarine nukes were beached for civilian electricity, so to these MSR’s could be scaled up to pump out abundant clean electricity.
So Oak Ridge then ran the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment which researched in the 1960’s, and actually went critical from 1965 to 1969. This 7.5 MW (thermal) reactor. The only source I have for it now says “I came up with a cost estimate of $4.18 million. The proposal was accepted, although by the time the design had been detailed the cost estimate had doubled.”
So the Nuclear Aircraft was $10 million in 1946 money, and if we round up the Oak Ridge MSR to double $4.18 and round it up to $10 million, it’s still nothing to the $300 million or $400 million ANNUAL budget that fast breeder reactors received in the from around 1974 to 1984. Just glancing at the graph, that’s about $4 billion into fast breeders. HG McPherson says he only wanted $350 million over 11 years to run a full scaled MSR pilot plant, but that just demonstrates the simplicity of the MSR concept.
It also cost $130 million to decommission due to issues in the way the fuel was stored. Future MSR’s have included these findings to make future fuel processing and decommissioning far easier and cheaper.
But since this program, funding has been virtually zero according to Kirk Sorenson’s Google Tech talk.