Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How Green Was My Valley

The world is changing right in front of our eyes and politics are - finally - starting to reflect this.

In last Sunday's elections, voters in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg elected a Green Party prime minister (governor) for the first time in the country's history, trouncing Mrs. Merkel's conservative CDU and significantly altering the wider political balance for the entire nation.  It should be noted that the state of Baden-Wurttemberg was a conservative party stronghold for 58 years in a row. The nuclear disaster in Japan doubtless had something to do with it, but I believe it was going to happen anyway. 
Germany is way ahead of every other major nation in shifting electricity generation to renewable/green sources.  In the past 25 years the entire increase in production has come from such sources (see chart below - click to enlarge).

 Chart: IEA
Germany - Going Green

So, yes, Germany's "valley" is very green, indeed.  Are the rest of us going to do something about it, or are we going to stay stuck in the past and suffer the consequences?

Oh, and if you're wondering: How Green Was My Valley is a classic film from 1941 about a Welsh coal -mining town.  From IMDb: "This story of a Welsh valley's turn-of-the-century descent from pristine paradise to despoiled coal mining region, is told in flashback form by Huw Morgan, an old man who has decided to leave the valley forever."


  1. BTW: Baden-W├╝rttemberg is one of the powerhouses of Germany. E.g. it is home of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz.

  2. Portugal is another country with great green infrastructure.

  3. Hells, would you mind commenting on the following comment by a reader in your previous blog entry:

    "There is no reasonable way for Japan to exploit most renewable energy sources. Wind/Solar require large land area's which is in very short supply in Japan. The population density means that there is very little "roof" area per person to pursue solar on a individual level. Bio Fuel, except a small amount that could be gained from vegetable waste is also a non-starter due to arable land limitations. Geo-thermal is possible but there is evidence that large-scale exploitation may increase the likelihood of earthquakes -- not something the Japanese are willing to risk I bet. It all comes down to land area per-capita in Japan which is a serious limitation to most renewable energy sources.

    Short of sending thier economy back to pre-1850 times, I don't see how they could have an energy mix much different than what they have -- with today's technology."

    Thanks a lot.

  4. camabron, I'll take a hack at it. Sea based wind farms.

    For anyone. From a question I read elsewhere. What are the benefits/dangers (besides devaluation) of the Fed eventually forgiving the the US Treasury of all debts on Fed books?

  5. Offshore wind, correct.

    Read here (though quite old, prescient):

  6. "How Green Was My Valley", originally a novel by Richard Llewellyn ;-)

  7. Thanks for the input Crito, Hells. Appreciate it.

  8. Permagrowth is going to die regardless of any of our opinions about coal/oil/nuclear.

    So, we need renewable infrastructure.

    But, the real problem is that permagrowth is completely embedded in everything.

    Germany just shows that you can obtain *some* of your energy from renewables. We already knew this.

    My major concern is energy storage. How much renewable energy can be stored? And how will throughput be maintained?

    We don't have a renewable energy storage system. The closest is geothermal, which is a continuous process.

    Many of these other processes strike me as modified batch processes.

    (I love chemical engineering!)

  9. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  10. Dear JP,

    Since you love chemeng... here's a "continuous" process: combine solar thermal with a Fischer-Tropsch synfuel cycle. Presto, renewable liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

    VERY expensive on the capital investment side, however..

  11. JP, Just to throw an idea into the mix. Reservoirs fill by pumps or tides can store potential energy to be used, via hydro generation, in lean (low wind conditions e.g.) times. Don't know how efficient it would be but it is a storage device.

  12. Hells, Do you mean using solar-thermal to produce CO2 and hydrogen so it can be converted into liquid hydrocarbons? Wikipedia

  13. Re: Permagrowth / Globalization, here's an interesting note: JAPAN'S EARTHQUAKE JOLTS SHREVEPORT

  14. Dear camabron,

    Yes I do. It is already being researched at the pilot-plant stage, it's not my own idea.

  15. Re: some comments on 'alternatives'.

    Energy (units of - ) is what you have to cost. Not money cost: this is irrelevant.

    Electricity is a secondary energy source! You need a primary source - like, first! Guess what that is?

    Hydro is good. Need min 'drop' in water levels for efficiency. On-shore wind is also good. Off-shore - not so good!

    Big, big, like in really BIG predicament, is your min electricity Base Load requirement; ie; MW per 24/366! This has them all stumped.


  16. "Base Load requirement; ie; MW per 24/366! This has them all stumped."

    Well, no it doesn't because it is technically feasible - but at the cost of lower EROEI (energy return over energy input).

    What DOES have them stumped is how to maintain and expand the Permagrowth paradigm under our increasingly evident conditions of resource depletion and climate/habitat change.

    I maintain that we should start immediately thinking in terms of Sustainability; then, alternative/renewable energy sources become eminently practicable.

  17. Pumped storage has a special place in my heart, due to living near one such scheme https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Turlough_Hill

    Visited it 3 times (such original teachers! either the zoo or the power station for tours... mind you, a lot of engineers and vets produced, so job done I suppose :)

    Look at Food Inc. for a message of how screwed up the wests political/business/economic systems are. If we cant get food right, what the hell are we up to!?!

    If nuclear has to be part of the mix to help "bridge the gap" we can't do it like we have in the past, the F-T process amongst others could be used to create, water, electricity, liquid fuel, and possibly hydrogen for fuel cells, from sea water. Not green, but not ancient carbon based, and a path to sustainability. Not one I think we need/must take but certainly something.