2020 Solar Power for 100% of Saskatchewan Homes Possible

This letter appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on Saturday.

In response to Kurt Soucy’s letter about the cost of powering the entire provincial grid with Photovoltaic (PV) solar power, I’d like to voice my support for his idea. It’s also possible to power every Saskatchewan household with concentrated solar thermal power plants similar to what’s already operating in California at Ivanpah. We’d need only three of those plants, and with a modification to their design, the solar power would be available into the night, using heat storage.

Mr. Soucy’s solar PV idea is sound also, and by aiming at powering only 410,000 households* instead of businesses too, we’re sure to have a diverse mix of power available for every electrical customer. Ivanpah took only 3 years to build, so at that pace, we could be most of the way to completely on renewable energy by 2020. The cost of 1 Ivanpah was $2.18 billion (USD), so 3 would be approximately $6.6 billion (USD).

The Premier just proposed we take another look at nuclear power, despite polling last year which indicated most people in Saskatchewan are opposed. Nuclear power can’t compete with the profitability of renewable energy, so I welcome a series of “[Solar] Power to Grow” forums held by the provincial government around the province. These forums were called for by citizens** during the Uranium Development Proposal (UDP) of 2009. Now that the Premier has suggested we need to revisit the UDP, this time we should give the spotlight to renewable energy. We stand to eliminate most of our carbon pollution, and lower our future utility bills if we make the best choices.

*According to http://www.stats.gov.sk.ca/stats/pop/2011FamiliesHouseholds.pdf

**

Forcing An Athiest to Practice Religion

Here’s what it can feel like to practice religion when you don’t believe in the common fantasy [AKA faith].

I knew from a young age that I didn’t see religion as a literal interpretation of moral code sent from God, but rather a human construct of what we (those writing holy books) wanted or imagined it to be. Being commanded to participate for years after in routine rituals is boring and felt like a giant waste of time/effort. The only consolation was that it was still time spent with family, and friends in the community sharing snacks and meals, (and a common fantasy, like the Riders having a chance at the playoffs) together.

It’s frankly disturbing to think about how writing the paragraph above would get me killed and disgrace my family, if it was any earlier point in history. Hopefully, we don’t return to those dark days.

I’m not an atheist so much as an agnostic. I accept there may be super beings invisible and unknowable to human perception, but also it’s better to suggest that you’re open to belief in the unknowable. That’s in part to calm the fears of those who recoil at the thought of atheism, and partly because I think it’s wise to realize that what never seems possible, happens all too frequently.

Oceans Rising Faster In Last 100 Years

Here’s a fantastically interesting lecture on the science of sea levels. Some counter-intuitive stuff goes on when an ice sheet melts, because an ocean isn’t a bathtub.

National Post Guilty of Defaming Climate Change Scientist

It shows the misguided focus of the national Postmedia “tabloid” when they let a star like Mike De Souza go, and hang onto a convicted libeler like Terence Corcoran. Maybe the Post will hire Levant next and bulk up their libeler ranks a little?

The defendants include the National Post, a newspaper publishing nationally, Peter Foster, Terence Corcoran, and Kevin Libin, all columnists/journalists who have published articles in the National Post and Gordon Fisher, the publisher of the National Post.

The defendants can go suck an egg. Stop making the world a worse place, and resign from your jobs in media.

Passive House in Alaska Heated By Sun

More Canadian homes need to be built like this to survive coming fossil fuel shortages. It certainly saves a lot of money for the homeowner.

Passive House in Alaska using water insulated in a tank as a giant battery for energy.

The world would have forgotten the Saskatchewan house, too, were it not for a quirky German physicist interested in energy-saving buildings. After studying the Saskatchewan house and a handful of similar buildings, Dr. Wolfgang Feist wrote a mathematically precise — and elegantly simple — criterion for designing buildings that require less than a tenth of the energy of average buildings. He called it the Passivhaus standard.

Feist’s formula has gone viral. There are now more than 25,000 certified Passivhaus buildings in Europe, and thousands more under construction around the world.

SaskPower Says Bigger Is Better, Even Losses? #PowerToGrow

As a followup to the Star Phoenix’s article on the hugely expensive, and (public) money losing CCS plant at Estevan, comes word of further cost overruns. The overruns, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, would have been sufficient to buy Regina its Stadium II, outright, fix its pension shortfall, or replace its Waste Water Treatment Plant.

SaskPower has apparently been misleading people by saying we need coal for “baseload” power, when Saskatchewan’s abundant wind source, coupled with Manitoba’s hydro, could safely provide a reliable power supply to homes, schools, etc.

And it appears that viable, cleaner, lower-cost solutions are readily available. According to a recent New York Times article, the cost of utility scale wind energy is now as low at 3.7 cents a kilowatt hour (without subsidies), well under the price for conventional coal, let alone CCS.

Emissions-free wind energy could have generated the same amount of electricity as the coalfired Boundary CCS power plant at a fraction of the cost.

SaskPower argues that wind can’t replace baseload coal because electrical generation from wind is intermittent. But numerous studies have found that installing substantial amounts of variable wind energy does not require additional backup capacity.

All types of power generation require backup, even coal. All utilities, including SaskPower, have substantial backup supply. New wind capacity would rely on the backup provided by existing “idle capacity,” which in the case of SaskPower is about 40 per cent.

Most authorities agree that incorporating at least 25 per cent variable power sources like wind or solar is feasible right now, and many jurisdictions are doing just that.

But SaskPower seems committed to a fading 20th-century paradigm of large-scale generation using fossil fuels. The 21st century paradigm being adopted by progressive utilities involves a shift toward conservation, efficiency and multiple sources of renewable energy, often provided by private industry, and in some cases by thousands of small co-operatives and community investors.

In the 21st century model, the utility becomes more the manager of power supply, demand and transmission. This emerging model – which in some ways resembles the Internet – is more nimble and resilient than a traditional utility.

CCS is an attempt to keep the old model alive.

Premier Wall owes Saskatchewan at least $1,500,000,000 in renewable energy investment after gifting billions of dollars to Cenovus for oil development through CCS. It’s time to stop letting money blow through our fingers, and stop burning coal like we’re from the 19th Century.

Set Walmart and Target Afloat, Please

Monty Python was onto something with their sailing financial pirates, I think.
“Over 260,000 tons of plastic waste in oceans, study shows
Why buying dollar store crap will come back to haunt you and your grandchildren:

The scientists have stressed their estimates are “highly conservative, and may be considered minimum.” They only took into account the floating plastic garbage, disregarding the waste found on shores and on the seabed.

Another unaccounted for type of plastic is one that can only be found “within organisms.” Researchers believe that large portions of “microplastics,” less than 5mm in size, could disappear in fish bellies, thus entering the human food chain.