Sunday, May 14

Progress tackling climate change?

So many good things have been achieved over the period since I started blogging. The fact is humanity is brilliant at finding technological solutions to problems that climate science throws our way, including solar energy, wind energy, energy storage, electric road vehicles, electric aircraft and electric everything!  However politicians and vested interests do what they can to slow down the inevitable technological change. We are going through such a period now. Political Luddites try to reverse policies that achieved great things all in order to support an unsustainable economy and gratify voters that have been lied to by political ideologists and propagandists.

The fact is the science remains the same, the planet that we live on is warming at a faster rate because of human produced greenhouse gases. The Arctic is warming at the fastest rate which is exactly as predicted by mainstream climate science. There are literally thousands of other signs and facts that support mainstream science, yet there are people that choose to find alternative theories or more often than not they do not even know (or want to know) that the world around them is changing.

So what has been achieved?

Electric Vehicles

This is a growing success story. The revolution probably started around 2000 when Toyota started getting serious about hybrid cars (Prius), then around 2008/2009 Tesla started producing the Roadster. Since then the pace has picked up, with huge improvements in last few years in battery development and vehicle design. This development is also linked to automation features in new vehicles, such as self driving cars.

One unexpected path has been the growing field of electric car racing, including drag racing, Tesla car racing and the more formal yearly Formula E season. There is a long way to go, but the fact is 'range anxiety' is gradually fading and the incredible performance of electric vehicles along with low maintenance costs means the future is bright for electric road transport. Worldwide there are about 50 electric models on sale in 2017 and Tesla are launching their first electric truck later in the year.

Solar Energy

Another success story, largely driven by common sense and foreign uptake of the technology. The success of solar photovoltaics is largely due to automated mass production capabilities, enabling economies of scale. The more installations there are across the world, the cheaper the technology gets.

This is why solar energy is predicted to be cheaper than coal and other fossil fuels, these old (Victorian) technologies can not compete with the reliability, low maintenance costs and low life cycle/energy costs of solar energy.  

Wind Energy

Wind energy has been more controversial as a result of lies and myths (many discussed on this blog) regarding wind farms. There have been campaigns to discredit wind energy for purely political purposes and to prop up ailing fossil fuel energy businesses. Nearly all of the British countryside is industrialised by agriculture, so the idea that a wind turbine is going to industrialise natural habitats is largely a result of a poor understanding of the British landscape.

Energy Storage

This is a growing area for investment and it is sad that Fareham based company Isentropic went into administration. However the good news is that the development of their Pumped Heat Energy Storage (PHES) system continues with the support of Newcastle University at the Sir Joseph Swan Centre and work continues at the Fareham site. According to the new web site the grid scale demonstrator is being commisioned and will be going through performance testing this summer.

Apart from Insentropic the current popular technology is the battery and the improvements in this area as a result of electric vehicle development is spilling over into grid and domestic energy storage.
Tesla is again a leader in this field although there have been many other companies less well known that have been developing battery technology for a number of years. Energy storage will help to remove power stations from the grid, allowing renewable energy to be stored when there is excess and to be distributed when there is shortage.

I think Elon Musk the founder of Tesla, Space X and Solar City deserves a mention. Musk is a modern day Thomas Edison which is ironic considering he named his company after Nikola Tesla a rival of Edison (Teslas AC electricity distribution system was superior to Edisons DC system, but Tesla ended gained little for his efforts). Musk is a visionary engineer and business man, he cofounded Pay Pal, sold his share and used the money to revolutionise road vehicles and the space transport industry. He knows that climate change is a serious problem caused by our carbon emissions.

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