The Problem of Intermittent Energy Sources

When you are dealing with intermittent, unpredictable, sources of energy, you can no longer apply the same categories as with the currently prevalent modes of generation. If you want solar power to be competitive without subsidies, grid parity is not enough – at least not if you define grid parity as the average cost of generation being equal to the average price.

In order to be truly competitive they must not only deliver the same quantity of energy at the same average price, but they must compete at actual market prices. This is very likely to be a relevant factor even for private consumers, if plans to introduce a “smart grid” work out. Continue reading

99% certainty (updated)

A month ago, one of the greatest scientific experiments of the world yielded tantalizing results, regarding one of the unsolved mysteries of physics. It is all about the question how particles gain their mass. The story is rather exciting, most of all for the involved physicists, whose models predict that this is supposed to happen through the Higgs mechanism.

The collisions of protons in the LHC are supposed to create a particle that is predicted to exist, if the mechanism works the way physicists think it should. The particle itself would remain elusive, even if the theory is right. It would be highly unstable and disintegrates into other particles, W-Bosons, with a certain amount of energy. Those bosons are what the scientists at CERN hope to see.

Last month, CERN announced that several of such particles had been detected and statistical analysis showed a 99% certainty, that this was not just down to mere coincidence. CERN called the finding ‘tantalizing’ and remained cautious to announce that the long sought-for proof of the theoretical models had been found.

Had CERN been the IPCC, it would have called the discovery of the Higgs particle, a virtual certainty. And with this sentence I am crossing the Rubicon. Be warned. There be dragons on the other side of the break. Continue reading

Introducing the Energy Circus

This one is bound to become a recurring theme on this blog, so I might as well give it an introduction (and even its own tag).

One of the most discussed subjects in our spoiled industrialized neck of the woods is energy. Directly or indirectly it keeps showing up in discussions all over the place. Politics are a huge part of it, much larger than is warranted by such a deeply technological issue.

Why? Because politics in western countries is prone to leave the reality of technologies altogether behind, as soon as cronies have to be pleased or voting preferences be followed – the latter being an indelible part of our current political systems. The result is all too often that actual policies are contradictory to their stated goals (often intentional) and incoherent (often unintentional).

Continue reading