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”.

This entry was posted in 100% renewable energy papers, Materials & Metals, Renewable energy, Storing energy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Michaux “Paints the world Singapore.”

    • Eclipse Now says:

      So Mike – good to see you don’t have a defence for Michaux? Going to “unfollow” him on the Ecomodernist show now you know his paper is crap? Going to Recant on your blog about “following” Michaux? Seriously – he wanted to “paint the world Singapore” with 15 metre hills worldwide. You agree that’s just not on, right?

      But Michaux is correct when he calls pumped hydro the cheapest form of power storage by far. It’s just a few big water reservoirs and pipes and a turbine room – and they last 100 years. We know how to build them off-river and cover them in floating solar panels. Easy.

      Anyway – Murphy. 7 days storage hey? Better than Michaux’s 4 weeks – but still over triple what we need. You really need to learn one energy concept Mike – Overbuild. Right now you’re ignoring the world of renewable energy engineer David Osmond, who modelled one of Australia’s worst energy years – 2022’s La Nina weather! He analysed all the weather and problems on a daily basis and had a very public conversation about it all on his blog. Just a 70% Overbuild fixes this. https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/overbuild/
      At that link above I show where a Griffith University study into 4 decades of Aussie whether 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 – even Murphy’s own writing gives away the period of history he was writing in. It was just a different energy world, where wind and solar were an order of magnitude more expensive than they are today.
      “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.”
      Tom Murphy has sown the seeds of his own argument’s destruction here. All that was needed? A decade to enter a different world – when the learning curves and economies of scale finally kick in and solar becomes 90% cheaper. Solar is now ¼ the cost of nuclear. If your renewables drop to 30% during winter in the USA – you CAN now build THREE TIMES the solar! It’s that cheap!
      I basically would have agreed with Tom Murphy’s vibe back then – because wind and solar were too expensive to Overbuild. Now they’re not. Sure – America could probably build more solar down south where there’s less snow and HVDC it up to the northern states. But here it is – Lazard’s LCOE. With these super-cheap prices (and getting cheaper!) – it’s a different world. But that doesn’t stop you quoting a 12 year old paper, does it Mike?
      LAZARD: https://reneweconomy.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/LazardLCOEunsubs.jpg

      Now – to be fair to nuclear – Lazard includes all recent nuclear costs combined. There’s been some really bad project management and even public sabotage and legal challenges that have overblown nuclear costs in the western world lately. South Korea can still build them affordably – but that seems to be a lost art in America. IF some bold party 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 down and you would have an easier grid 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!

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