“Transition Engineering: the Job of Change”

17 03 2015

Susan Krumdieck spills the beans on our energy and cultural future…..

On July 19th 2014, more than 140 professional engineers and university students attended the fourth annual Engineering Change humanitarian engineering conference at the University of Canterbury. Engineering Change is the national conference for Engineers Without Borders New Zealand.

Prof. Susan Krumdieck (University of Canterbury) presented “Transition Engineering: The job of change, with a Ruapehu district case study”


Prove This Wrong

27 11 2014

My Photo

John Weber

Another guest post by John Weber..  I have already pronounced more than once that building ‘renewables’ involves intensive use of fossil fuels, the emissions from which the machines made to generate this renewable energy can never be removed by the machines.  So while they may reduce the emissions that might have been caused by using fossil energy to generate this electricity, the machines do not remove them.  In fact, it doesn’t matter how many wind turbines are erected, the fossil energy use just keeps growing…..  and if we decided tomorrow to shut down all fossil fuel use (a darn good idea…), then not one more wind turbine would be erected, and not one more solar panel would be built.  It’s really that simple……..


It would be elegant if wind and solar energy capturing devices could actually maintain a modicum of the wonderfully rich lifestyles many of us live.  I believe this is a false dream and that BAU (business as usual) is not sustainable or “green” nor really desirable for the future of the earth or even our species.

Prove This Wrong

Many people believe wind and solar energy capturing devices can replace a substantial percentage if not all of our fossil fuel usage. Below you will find pictures and charts detailing the necessity of the fossil fuel supply system and the massive industrial infrastructure in this “renewable” dream.

Wind, Water, and Solar Power for the World

Nix nuclear. Chuck coal. Rebuff biofuel. All we need is the wind, the water, and the sun

By Mark Delucchi/ SEPTEMBER 2011

“We don’t need nuclear power, coal, or biofuels. We can get 100 percent of our energy from wind, water, and solar (WWS) power. And we can do it today— efficiently, reliably, safely, sustainably, and economically.  We can get to this WWS world by simply building a lot of new systems for the production, transmission, and use of energy. One scenario that Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson and I developed, projecting to 2030, includes: 3.8 million wind turbines, 5 megawatts each, supplying 50 percent of the projected total global power demand.”


Mark Z. Jacobson Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University was coauthor of another article. It can be found in Scientific America – “A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030”.


They proposed that starting in 2012, 50% of the worlds needs could be supplied by 3,800,000 five megawatt wind capturing devices to be installed by 2030. Here are the numbers:

3,800,000 5 megawatts each supply 50% of the world’s energy needs in 18 years


211,111.11 Machines a year

578.39 Machines a day for 18 years

24.10 Machines each hour each day for 18 years EACH ONE INSTALLED EACH DAY



I am choosing wind energy capturing devices because they have a higher Energy Return on Energy Invested than solar energy capturing devices. I continually use the phrase “capturing devices” for what are usually called solar panels and wind machines because these are devices that capture the sun or wind energy. It is misleading to not realize they require energy and natural resources.

Let me cut right to the results of this study. The base of this 2.5 megawatt turbine in the pictures that follow (half the megawatts in the Jacobson/Delucchi study) used 45 tons of rebar and 630 cubic yards of cement. This computes in barrels of oil and in tons of CO2 for each base:

For the Concrete

478.8 Barrels of oil in 630 yards of concrete.

409.5 Tons of CO2 released for 630 yards of concrete.

For the Rebar

Taking a conservative 3 barrels of oil per ton the rebar would require 135 barrels of oil for the base of the 2.5 MW Turbine.

89 tons of C02 released for 45 tons of steel for the base.

All Together

The concrete and steel together for one base use

613 barrels of oil for each base alone.

Each base release 498 tons of CO2

(A barrel of oil is 42 gallons – or 160L)

Before looking at two of the energy requirements to install these 3,800,000 machines here are some interesting pictures of installing a wind energy capturing device from http://www.cashton.com/North_Wind_Turbine_Const-DM-CS-SB-2-reduced-in-size.pdf .








The machine we are looking at is only 2.5 MW turbine not the larger 5 MW proposed by Jacobson and Delucchi.

The turbines, each standing 485 feet tall and weighing 2,000 tons

The project utilizes 2.5 MW turbines on 100 metre towers.


The pictures clearly illustrate that the fossil fuel supply system and a vast industrial infrastructure support the manufacture and installation of these wind energy capturing devices. The tons of rebar and the yards of concrete offer a chance to look at the energy requirements for both. It is also important to point out that all the equipment used to install the turbines also have the fossil fuel supply system and the massive industrial infrastructure supporting them.

In researching this, the information for concrete was more definite than the range of energy required to make rebar.



“Common rebar is made of unfinished tempered steel, making it susceptible to rusting. Normally the concrete cover is able to provide a pH value higher than 12 avoiding the corrosion reaction. Too little concrete cover can compromise this guard through carbonation from the surface, and salt penetration. Too much concrete cover can cause bigger crack widths which also compromises the local guard. As rust takes up greater volume than the steel from which it was formed, it causes severe internal pressure on the surrounding concrete, leading to cracking, spalling, and ultimately, structural failure. This phenomenon is known as oxide jacking. This is a particular problem where the concrete is exposed to salt water, as in bridges where salt is applied to roadways in winter, or in marine applications. Uncoated, corrosion-resistant low carbon/chromium (microcomposite), epoxy-coated, galvanized or stainless steel rebars may be employed in these situations at greater initial expense, but significantly lower expense over the service life of the project. Extra care is taken during the transport, fabrication, handling, installation, and concrete placement process when working with epoxy-coated rebar, because damage will reduce the long-term corrosion resistance of these bars.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebar


“Under the most ideal circumstances, the energy required to produce solid iron from iron oxide can never be less than 7 million Btu per ton (MMBtu/ton). Since the energy required to melt iron under the most ideal circumstances is about 1 MMBtu/ton, the inherent thermodynamic advantage of making liquid steel from scrap rather than from iron ore is about 6 MMBtu/ton. When process heat losses are included, the advantage falls in the range of 9 to 14 MMBtu/ton. . . . current total energy requirements for the pro- Petroleum provides only a small amount of enduction of finished steel products in different pIants and countries from iron ore range from 25 to 35 MMBtu/net ton.”






The range above supports the 25 to 35 MMBtu/net ton. With various iron making processes, iron has a range of Btus per ton.   Converted to barrels of oil the range is 2.17 to 4.83 barrels of oil per ton of rebar.

Taking a conservative 3 barrels of oil per ton the rebar would require 135 barrels of oil for the base of the 2.5 MW Turbine.

On average, 1.8 tonnes of CO2 are emitted for every tonne of steel produced.


This means 1.98 tons of C02 emitted for every ton of steel produced.




Multiply 1.10231 to convert tonnes to tons

One yard of concrete equals two tons


Two tons equals 1.81437 tonnes

4,426,832.62 Btus in a yard of concrete

5,800,000 Btus per barrel of oil

0.76 barrels of oil in a yard of concrete

32.06 gallons of oil in a yard of concrete

0.65 tons of CO2 per yard of concrete

478.8 Barrels of oil in 630 yards of concrete

20,195.52 Gallons of oil in 630 yards of concrete

409.5 Tons of CO2 per 630 yards of concrete





On-site energy values are based on actual process measurements taken within a facility. These measurements are valuable because the on-site values are the benchmarks that industry uses to compare performance between processes, facilities, and companies. On-site measurements, however, do not account for the complete energy and environmental impact of manufacturing a product. A full accounting of the impact of manufacturing must include the energy used to produce the electricity, the fuels, and the raw materials used on-site. These “secondary” or “tacit” additions are very important from a regional, national, and global energy and environment perspective.

Normal weight concrete weighs about 4000 lb. per cubic yard. Lightweight concrete weighs about 3000 lb. per cubic yard. If a truck is carrying 10 cubic yards, then the weight of the concrete is approximately 40,000 lb.

The tonne (British and SI; SI symbol: t) or metric ton (American) is a non-SI metric unit of mass equal to 1000 kilograms;[ it is thus equivalent to one megagram (Mg). 1000 kilograms is equivalent to approximately 2 204.6 pounds,



It is important to realize we have only looked at the energy for the concrete and rebar for the base of a 2.5 MMwatt turbine. Behind this device and most sun and wind capturing devices are a global system of providing energy and materials. And this support is further supported.   Here is one mining truck among a worldwide fleet of trucks that also must be manufactured. It is like a thread on a knitted sweater that when you pull it thinking you will get a small piece, you end up with a whole ball of yarn.


The 100% renewables fantasy

6 10 2014

I’ve hardly written anything in weeks, and today, I’m rattling off new posts like a machine gun…..  It’s what happens when I discover new information for DTM followers to digest!  What you are about to see just had to be shared….

The disconnect between reality and fantasy is very visible when it comes to the 100% renewable energy cult.  But today I have found some graphics to share that explain the folly of such a notion.  let’s start with this one (hat tip to Erial A Secas from FaceBook):


When I take a look at that…….  all I see are greenhouse emissions!  I haven’t done the maths, and I suggest no one else has either, but I’m prepared to bet it would take the burning of every last drop of affordable fossil energy left, to build all this stuff.  Let us never forget that everything that was built during the 20th Century was done so one brick at a time, as and when it was needed, using growing sources of ever cheaper oil coal and gas.  Compare that to today…..  when we have to replace EVERYTHING, every coal and gas fired power station, every nuke (they’re all reaching their use by date), every petrol/gasoline station, with decreasing amounts of fossil fuels that are getting dearer and dearer to extract (even if the current commodity prices are dropping like stones in a pond), at a time when we should end fossil energy use altogether, NOW, to avert climate catastrophe…..

WHAT are they thinking……….??  Obviously they are not thinking.

I loved the comment Susan Krumdieck posted on FB regarding this nonsense….:

Too bad Ed Hillary isn’t still alive. We could ask him what it takes to get to the top of a really high mountain –

1) being positive, or

2) being prepared, determined, realistic and strong? If the general public, and especially those who even care about the issues, can be convinced that everything has to be positive, then we are susceptible to DISTRACTION by all manner of things including spin stories about happy nonsense. There is a lot of hard work to do, and distraction is not helping. Yet – the cult of positivity is growing in popularity, particularly among youth who are actually the catalyst for change when society is heading in the wrong direction. Pied Piper.

One of the very best charts I’ve ever spotted to illustrate the embodied energy of stuff needed to keep complex civilisation going looks like this:

This really puts paid to the irrational thinking that we will simply switch to that white man’s magic called Renewable Energy.  There’s nothing renewable about it at all.  It is simply an extension of the fossil fuel industry, which may (or may not) keep ‘civilisation running a little longer….  but that’s all.  Because repairing, maintaining and replacing all this stuff post Peak Everything will be simply impossible….

How do we do this without huge amounts of fossil energy?  Or going into even more debt – as if we could stand the level of indebtedness currently weighing the world’s economies down?

I really fear that this stupid drive to run Business as usual only with renewables will destroy our capacity to make the very same things for localised and low level consumption to keep people alive during the power down era that will inevitably start soon.  Building all those large projects will kill us all in my opinion, if only because of the unnecessary Carbon emissions that will ensue.  We need to take a very deep breath on this one, before it’s too late….















Here is a video on glass manufacturing. Huge equipment, lots of heat. Glass is a wonderful invention. Glass for solar energy collecting devices is called low iron glass. When you look at the edge of a sheet of glass most has a greenish colour. This is caused by the iron content. Solar glass is low iron because more energy can penetrate the glass. This means that there is probably very little recycled glass used, they need the raw materials from the start.

With fossil fuels…… you can do ANYTHING!

14 02 2014

The much heralded Ivanpah Solar Thermal Power station in California is being commissioned as I type.  Mighty impressive too….  Sprawling across almost thirteen square kilometres of land near the California-Nevada border, it looks pretty damn beautiful…….


Take 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each 2 metres high and 3 metres wide, control them with computers to focus the Sun’s light to the top of 150 metre high towers where water is heated to steam, to power turbines, and….. Ta dah…: you have the world’s biggest solar power plant, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.

Long-mired by regulatory issues and legal tangles, the enormous solar plant–jointly-owned by NRG EnergyBrightSource Energy and Google opened for business today…….

From the official news release:

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is now operational and delivering solar electricity to California customers. At full capacity, the facility’s trio of 450-foot high towers produces a gross total of 392 megawatts (MW) of solar power, enough electricity to provide 140,000 California homes with clean energy and avoid 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equal to removing 72,000 vehicles off the road.

BUT……  check out how much steel and concrete has gone into this beast…  how much embodied energy are we looking at..?  anyone trying to tell you this can’t be done without fossil fuels had better watch this…:

Now I’m not saying this shouldn’t be done, and I agree it is an engineering marvel, but I still ask, how will this sort of construction continue, let alone maintenance and eventual replacement post Peak Oil, Peak Coal, Peak Uranium, and Peak Debt…..  Just asking.

More photos here…