Friday, February 15, 2013

Solar Power, Electric Autos and Churnalism

Being something of a grab bag for some recent news.  First solar power installations in Germany have reached 30 GW capacity, roughly 38% of average energy use.  Caveating may proceed, of course, and there is a cost to using renewables, maybe 20%.  OTOH, there are some strange churnalists out there. Shibani Joshi last week on Fox and Friends insisted that Germany had more solar installed because it got more sun.  She has tried to walk that back a bit, but still got her clock cleaned a bit.  Still, it's out there, and wanna bet one of your friends believes it. 

Next up is a review of the new Tesla model S which appeared in the NY Times under the byline of John Broder.  It has become a long story with everyone jumping on it, but the short of it is that Broder panned the car, and claimed that among other things it ran out of juice, Tesla, having had some experience with bad reviews, had instrumented the test car, and pretty much can show that Broder was, let us say, inexact in many of his claims.  Eric Wemple at the Washington Post (no gloating now) has a pretty good summary of the state of play.

What interested Eli most was the previous experience Tesla has had with automotive journalists.  Let Elon Musk explain 
 After a negative experience several years ago with Top Gear, a popular automotive show, where they pretended that our car ran out of energy and had to be pushed back to the garage, we always carefully data log media drives. While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story. In the case of Top Gear, they had literally written the script before they even received the car (we happened to find a copy of the script on a table while the car was being “tested”). Our car never even had a chance.
As Atrios would say, time for another blogger ethics panel, and oh yes, people are choosing up sides. 


crf said...

(The article says that it is 38% of installed electricity base, not average energy use. But that's also misleading in terms of capacity factor, and actual makeup of the power generated.)

Touting an increase in the dose of homeopathic medicine (solar) while you're ignoring the discontinuing of the science-based medicine that is actually helping the patient (nuclear) is amoral. Sort of like the half-truths pushed on Fox news.

There is little hope of Germany closing, (or even not running as much) any of their coal plants in this generation. They're building more: maybe because they are pretty good at load-following quite variable and less predictable solar and wind. And they're closing their non-emitting nuclear plants, and diplomatically lobbying all of Europe to do the same. (Would you know it that they were kicked out of Czechia and Lithuania, from their interference today in those countries' plans?) And they're doing all this without even needing help from a Charles Koch brain-wash campaign! Or even the Daily Mail!

Why do you care what Fox and Friends thinks about anything? They are idiots. They are an irrelevant distraction. A carnival sideshow. They are the nothing of nothings.

And how can Eli could even write that second sentence in his blog post, and realize ~nothing~ ? Churnalism. Yep. I see it. Here. Bad.

Jason said...

@crf I must have missed the bit where science said solar panels don't work.

Anonymous said...

Crf, Germany is indeed building some new coal plants, mainly to replace even more older inefficient and inflexible ones. Actual coal use for electricity is trending down over the last 10+ years. Some media report that Germany is planning to build 24 new coal plants but somehow forget that 13 of those plans have been blocked for various reasons already.

Grid operators usually shut down plants in merit order when enough renewable energy is available. This means that gas plants are often the first ones to shut down, especially when the CO2 certificates are so cheap as in the past years. So it's not surprising to see that coal use is not the primary victim of renewable generation, although data from Fraunhofer and AGEB shows that on some good days even some coal must power down due to te abundance of renewable power on the grid.

The sudden shutdown of 8 nuclear plants in 2011 ofcourse didn't help to reduce coal consumption, but there are other reasons other then CO2 emissions to look at. Say, oh I don't know, the possibility that nuclear isn't as safe as assumed and the possible economic impact of an accident on a densely populated continent? Even the French recognize that threat.


MikeH said...

The claim that Germany is building new coal plants is disputed by Justin Guay of Sierra Club in an article from January this year.

"I hear the Germans are building new coal to replace all that nuclear power. Nope. Twenty-four new coal plant proposals have been abandoned in Germany since 2008. A small number of announced projects remain but it is widely expected none of these will in the end be permitted and some remain just on paper."

On Europe generally
"First things first, new coal build in the EU is very similar to the U.S.: It's not happening. Of the 112 power plants proposed since 2008, only three have actually broken ground. Another 73 have been abandoned and as the international coal movement grows in strength the likelihood that the rest will go anywhere is exceedingly low. Every month projects are abandoned or shelved"

In Australia, there is no chance of a new coal power station being built. They are being closed.

The real problem is China and to a lesser extent India.

Check out the first half dozen slides from a talk given by Climate Code Red author David Spratt. Particularly the slide showing China's per capita emissions reaching those of the EU. Of course much of that is for energy used to make stuff for the West.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

To the NYT's credit, a month or so ago they did a test of the Tesla using the west coast Supercharger network (Tahoe to LA) and had no problems. Takeaway for me? It is a nice car, but still not ready for road trips. For everyday use there is no need to worry about range though.

crf said...

Hey look. I've attracted the serious sounding Anti Nukes. And now I've learned the French are realizing stuff. Like how dangerous their nukes are. Ticking time bombs I'm sure. ~ Boiron-ing~. Giant French company. Lots of customers qui savent que l'homéopathie est absolument superbe. By similar reasoning, they cannot be wrong. Happy Happy Joy Joy and eat your sugar pills.

You're all right. We should just forget the US and Germany. They go do what the heck they want. Won't make but a spit of difference. Why should I worry about KeystoneXL, and its effects on Canada's industrial policy and how that'll effect the capacity for worldwide reductions? Why should I worry about policy in the US, Germany or France and other western democracies? Lets speculate instead on how dangerous and inconvenient it is that large countries like China and India exist and are not doing what we want them to do, while we do whatever we want. That'll learn em.

And lets look quickly at China and India. Who are going to be cranking out the nukes plants (along with renewables). I mean: how dare they? Haven't they "realized" things like the French have? Yeah they are building nukes. Not churning some sweet ghee from the Manhattan Institute .. err ... Daily Mail ... err, or was that the Sierra Club? They're so awesome: should I donate to the Sierra Club for more insightful analysis about how building coal and gas plants is really not like building a "Coal" or a "Gas" plant?

Do I have to point out where I said that Solar Plants don't work. Err: wait. But I'm straw, so thats ok. Burn me up. I said racking up solar panels in Germany, the way they are doing it, is the equivalent in climate protection efforts to dosing a terminal Cancer patient with Homeopathic drugs while Discontinuing a working treatment.

Apparently I'm supposed to discern that putting up solar panels in Germany is not like that at all. That this is all very serious and rational business and it will actually work to reduce emissions from current fossil sources in the massive amounts needed, while also growing the electricity base in massive amounts in order to newly electrify the transportation and industrial sectors, while also being able to replace their largest source of emissions free power which they are going to junk for no good reason. That's so much cotton candy to digest I'd die from a sugar overdose.

Jason said...

@CRF - err, this isn't an anti-nuke post. It's a pro-solar post. two different things that most can tell apart.

quokka said...


Yes, it's obviously a pro solar post. It is also implicitly anti-nuclear by grossly misrepresenting the contribution of PV to German energy production with the "38% of average energy use" nonsense. The clear implication is that nuclear is not necessary because of this wonderful PV performance. An honest accounting serves up a different picture.

According to IEA Monthly electricity stats, Wind/Solar/Geo/other combined was about 13% of German electricity production in the period Jan-Nov 2012. PV alone is about 5%.

When it comes to final energy use, the picture is nothing other than bleak. Scaling up the Jan-Nov IEA numbers to full year yields a combined solar/wind/geo etc production of about 76,600 GWh. Total final energy use is about 225 Mtoe or 2,616,750 GWh. Which makes the solar/wind/etc contribution just under 3%, and PV contribution maybe just managing 1%.

Bit different from 38%.

How the numbers, when honestly presented, can possibly support claims that nuclear is not needed is unfathomable.

EliRabett said...

Germany, the scandenavians and the UK have taken a decision to import nuclear from France.

Jay Alt said...

re: NYT Tesla review. I don't think Tesla has refuted all of Broder's claims. They claim their data logs show he exceeded the recommended speed. He claims the car had to be 'towed' atop a flat-bed truck. Those two events aren't mutually exclusive.

dhogaza said...

"They claim their data logs show he exceeded the recommended speed. He claims the car had to be 'towed' atop a flat-bed truck. Those two events aren't mutually exclusive."

The same's true for a gasoline engine, though. If you're told that at recommended speeds you're mileage will be (say) 25mpg, and you exceed that speed and only get 20 mpg, and then run out of gas, that's on you.

Not on the manufacturer who told you that the sweet spot will yield 25 mpg.

Jason said...

@Quokka - "It is also implicitly anti-nuclear..."

Ooh, that's a non sequitur if ever there was.

But whatever.

Look, new nuclear build represents massive, risky investment and this isn't the 1960s. In these times of liberalised markets that means no one wants to build them. Private companies don't want the risk. Governments don't want to write private companies a blank check. Here in the UK we'd quite like some new nuclear plant, but can't get one built for love or money. Even if it became feasible, you've got planning law and regulation to contend with and then a major build project. With the best will in the world the UK will be lucky to maintain its current nuclear capacity, let alone achieve anything extra in less than decades.

Don't get me wrong. That's not a situation that makes me happy, but it is reality.

Even if I wanted to give nuclear technology a big hug, if I'm interested in real world (and I am) I have to accept a whole bunch of sticky social/economic/political/practical caveats that come with the territory.

And energy supply and climate change are both problems where the clock is ticking. Time being an actual thing that happens. Wait decades? No thanks. Bring on the solar and wind. For they are useful.

And back to Germany quickly, it's a modern democracy with an advanced, large economy and they're committed to ambitious carbon reduction targets. The devil may or may not prove to be in the detail (I'd be interested in how much they expect to offset for example), but it's not obvious that they're not doing better than many.

Jason said...

blank check? blank cheque!

David B. Benson said...

Those interested in matters nuclear ought to check just how many NPPs are under construction around the world.

Jay Alt said...

dhogaza. My point was that the Tesla EV could have run out of charge first and then been towed at high speed. Data loggers may not be all that reliable.

For example, package delivery services have scanners that shut off if data is entered while they're moving. This keeps the driver from distractions while in traffic. Unfortunately, if the delivery person moves their scanner too fast at a stop, it shuts itself off even though they're outside of their vehicle. So, just when a worker needs to move fastest (with a big stop and many packages to process), the system fouls them up.

dhogaza said...

"dhogaza. My point was that the Tesla EV could have run out of charge first and then been towed at high speed. Data loggers may not be all that reliable."

The author himself said it was picked up by a flatbed tow truck, the norm these days.

You may've missed the fact that when the car is stationary on a flatbed, wheels don't turn, etc.

dhogaza said...

"They claim their data logs show he exceeded the recommended speed. He claims the car had to be 'towed' atop a flat-bed truck."

Given my previous comment, this detail is humorous.

Jay, dude, you should understand that traveling on a flat bed doesn't cause your wheels to turn.

You think the Tesla relies on airspeed indicators rather than wheel rotation monitors, unlike any car in the world?

Ha ah.

Anonymous said...

Well color me stoopid, that is why they call me "Hey Stoopid".

As for John Broder of the NYT, the editor in chief, has exonerated the unfortunate victim of his cognitive dissonance and stoopid personal bias.

CNN had a blast, calling out the incompetent adherent of the "Peter Principle' mononeuron NYT reporter for what he is and will always remain. Remember folks , we we were warned about the rise of ersatz experts way back in 1969. Huffington Post link on CNN trip link:- (lmao)

Now, six intrepid private owners of the Tesla Model S(including one who had charging problems with his car fixed on the fly) did the trip twice, with plenty of power to spare and did not have to readjust the cabin heater. link:-

Sounds like the Urban Dictionary, needs another definition of Broderism. I.E. to continue to expect the same lie to be recognized as the truth when reality of the real world tells us the complete opposite.

As for the gray lady called NYT, the once credible flagship of US media reporting, is taking on water to fast for the pumps to handle.

Such is life, for those who fail to think clearly and rationally, to ask the six basic questions of true journalism including the telling seventh question "Who Benefits"?

As for Elon Musk, you just can't buy all the free publicity provided by a failed hack churnalism political science 101 NYT reporter called John Broder. LOL

As they say, reality has a liberal bias.