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alternative energies 1

New translation, the Magna Carta

article archives at abelard's news and comment zoneenergy archives 1 2 3

tower power

“Australia's merciless sunshine is about to be harnessed to produce massive amounts of renewable energy. As part of the process, the tallest man-made structure built, a one-kilometre-tall tower, will rise from the red desert in the south-west of New South Wales.

“EnviroMission Limited, a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in August last year, plans to have its first $800 million solar-thermal electricity generator up and running in 2005 and four more operating by the end of 2010.

Each of these power plants, the world's first large-scale solar thermal power stations, will produce 200 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 200,000 households.”

the web address for this article is







is nuclear power really really dangerous?

Transferred to briefing documents

the web address for this article is


can we replace fossil fuels?

While I do not trust this article fully, it is a useful background for discussion—it is far too negative and gloomy to be realistic.

You will notice that currently I am treating nuclear power as an alternative energy source, against the widespread fashion. The article fails entirely to assess this major resource!

Unfortunately, the so-called ‘green’ movement has deeply embedded prejudices, which are received with insufficient scepticism. These prejudices include knocking the USA and not entirely rational negativism towards nuclear power.

The article headline is far too doom laden: “renewables can't support US consumption”, as the various technologies and production methods are on a constant upwards trend. Costs which may look daunting this week are under constant downward pressure, as is reflected in ever growing wealth and living standards. Further, the necessary infrastructure can be assembled over time.

The article states that, “Other developed countries have proved that high productivity and high standards of living can be achieved with the use of half the energy expenditure of the United States...”

The USA currently produces goods at a rate at least in line with their percentage of world energy consumption. The USA does, in fact, produce rather efficiently. That is, the USA produces approximately as much for given energy inputs as the average of other countries. To what degree it is true that some countries do as well on half the energy inputs, I do not yet know. The article is short on assumptions, analysis and figures. What figures there are, at best are dubious.

For instance:

“Hydroelectric systems, which make electricity from water-storage reservoirs and dammed rivers, currently produce 11 percent of the nation's electricity – about 989 kWh (kilowatt hours) annually. With development of new hydroelectric sources and rehabilitation of existing dams, an additional 60 billion kWh per year could be produced.”

These figures are ridiculous, or calculated on different bases, or are misreported.

It is important to realise that production is growing more efficient every year and the USA is one of the countries driving that process. However, it remains important to advance that process. Details of a useful book on the subject can be found here, while here is the Lovins’ site, which you may find interesting.

Elsewhere in the article, “Every year the poorly insulated doors and windows of America lose the energy equivalent of all the oil pumped in Alaska, the analysis notes.”

Higher efficiencies of conservation result in greater production from less resources. Conservation techniques are, therefore, fully equivalent to greater fuel inputs. And the efforts expended gaining those extra fuels are also saved!

Governments have a part to play here, in stopping organisations externalising their costs. An organisation externalises its costs, for example, when it pollutes the air or water but does not have to pay the costs. Instead, these costs are, for example, borne by asthmatics or fishermen.

room and productivity
country population
(in millions)
land area population density
(per sq km)


9,363,130 sq km
3,605,000 sq m

UK 58 244,755 sq km
94,230 sq m
Japan 125 369,00 sq km
152,334 sq m
Be aware that much of some countries is mountainous, or otherwise difficult, by virtue of swamps, deserts, cold etc.
As usual, keep in mind that such figures can only be approximations.

The web address for this article is



simulation report on the safety of nuclear power containments

“The nation’s 103 operating nuclear power plant reactors could withstand a direct hit by a fuel-laden commercial airliner with no release of deadly radiation, a U.S. nuclear industry study said.”

The article also contains some not very convincing rebuttals.

2000 tonnes waste per year (per reactor?) is also discussed.
At the density of water, this would be approximately 2000 cubic metres, say a 12.5 metre cube, or about the contents of two 25-metre swimming pools (25 by 20 by 2 metres).

About 16 such pools would cover a full-sized UK football pitch (of 100 by 130 yards).

Thus, one year’s waste from eight nuclear generating plants would cover a football pitch to a depth of two metres.

Therefore, a year’s waste from 100 reactors would cover such a pitch to a depth of 12 metres.

As can be seen, these waste levels are hardly frightening. As I understand at this point, much of the waste is fairly low level, such as contaminated clothing.
(More to be added as I find time.)

The nuclear industry supplies approximately 20% of US electricity.

The web address for this article is



the increasing return of the age of the windmill

“Last year, enough wind energy came online in the United States to power roughly a half million homes. Next year, that number is expected to climb by another 100,000.”

“For the past five years, it's grown by about 30 percent a year worldwide. In Denmark, it now accounts for some 15 percent of all energy use.”

related material
the wind in Spain

the web address for this article is


related material
the wind in Spain

geo-thermal energy project in australia

“Geodynamics estimates the stored thermal energy accessible in a 1,000 metre thick slab of granite in its Geothermal Exploration Licence area is equal to 50 billion barrels of oil, compared with Australia’s proven oil reserves of three billion barrels.”

For comparison, this is around the level of the oil reserves of Russia. However, I have no information on the extraction efficiencies as yet.

The company concerned is contracted to provide 13 megawatts by mid-2005.

The web address for this article is


i intend to start building sections on electricity generation and on sustainable power in context of current news

here is the first item...

the wind in spain

“Spain, one of the windiest countries in Europe, currently gains around 3 percent of its electricity from wind power and is the second largest European producer of this form of energy and the third largest in the world.

“It expects its current installed generation capacity of 4,100 megawatts from wind power to increase to 8,900 megawatts by 2010.”

The web address for this article is


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