Quotes Of The Day – yes – plural. Like London buses, these things.

First off, some succinctly put insight into the world of the fad diet and the public reaction to it:

Nutrition is a complex minefield of information with plenty of vested interests playing their part. There is also a lot of legacy popular thinking around (read: stuff people just accept without any critical thinking).

That’s Joe Botha, speaking sense at Memeburn. Sadly, immediately thereafter, he does rather ruin it all by detailing his “lose weight quick” plan based on the enforced dietary timetable of our distant ancestors. (Save your time and bandwidth.) But, in typical Tim style, I’m going to take those lines (and only those lines) that suit my agenda and quote them here.

And then this from Australia’s Galileo Movement on Stellenbosch University’s latest breakthrough in renewable energy:

The industrialisation of our landscape for inefficient power production.

And yes, this is exactly the issue with solar and wind power right now. I know we need to make the switch away from fossil fuels, I completely accept that. But right now, there are simply no viable renewable alternatives out there:

The issue is the inefficiency of these technologies. And exactly how much space and how much of our environment do we really want to give up to this “inefficient power production”? Yes, SA has a lot of spare space, but that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean that we need to fill it with solar panels and wind turbines.


And we’d need to, if we were to come anywhere close to solving our well-documented long term power shortages. That Stellenbosch project needs a mirror surface area of 220m² (never mind the space in between and around them, nor the same for the tower in the middle) to provide electricity for “about” 30 houses. But not at night, obviously.

Simply not good enough.

I’m not blaming the science or the scientists here. They’re doing their best. They’re progressing, developing, and they’ll get there. But renewable energy remains expensive:

The researchers have calculated Germany’s rapid switch to renewable energy sources like wind and solar is adding another €28 billion a year to the electricity bills of consumers and businesses.

And inefficient:

What happens at night?
As there is no light at night, no energy will be produced. The PV plant will import electricity from the utility to keep operations on site going.

Ooops. The simple fact is that we’re just not there yet.
And that’s why we can’t (and shouldn’t) be making the switch right now.

If only there were some clean, efficient, proven method of producing electricity that we could use.

World’s Biggest Windmill

Not really, but still – nice story: they’ve put a couple of VAWTs on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Well, they couldn’t really put them on the Eiffel Tower anywhere else, could they?

If you’ve ever seen the Eiffel Tower in real life, you’ll know that it’s not small. Here it is with its head in the clouds in the height of summer, 2012 with the boy wonder in the foreground, and a handy indicator of where the turbines have been fitted just above the 2eme étage:


Amazingly, despite their hugely elevated position, they’re not even at the height of the wind turbines in Caledon just up the road from Cape Town. Suddenly, Gustav’s big project doesn’t seem quite so huge. Or maybe wind turbines are just generally horribly invasive. Hey, you decide.

The 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity they’ll produce each year is about enough to self-sustain the commercial section on the tower’s first floor, but not much else.

Look, it’s something. And I do understand that this is really all just about visibility. To be honest, short of putting a set of huge blades on the top of the tower itself, it’s probably about as good as it’s going to get. Especially in a country which produces around 80% of its electricity from nuclear. But while wind is good because it’s renewable, it’s may not be quite as green as you think. Here’s an interesting “back-of-the-envelope calculation” by Popular Science magazine on which are the nastiest forms of electricity generation if you happen to be, say… a bird (as one of the endangered Blue Cranes near Caledon might self-identify, for example).


You can read more here, but the gist of it is that Coal is downright evil (we knew this), solar plants fry birds:

Rewire reports that during the test, operators fired up a third of the 110-megawatt facility’s mirrors, concentrating sunlight on a spot 1,200 feet off the ground. Over a six-hour period, biologists counted 130 “streamers,” or trails of smoke and water left behind as birds ignited and plummeted to their deaths. Rewire’s anonymous source said that at least one of the birds “turned white hot and vaporized completely.”

and we already knew that wind turbines kill birds and bats.

Sadly, despite our current (no pun intended) electricity woes, it seems like nuclear isn’t the er… cleanest option for SA either (although not necessarily for environmental reasons).

So we have the choice of evil coal (which we’re going to use), the horribly inefficient and not-ever-so-nice-after-all solar and wind, or the allegedly dangerously corrupt nuclear.

Or we could do fracking… Now there’s a good idea.

More Parisian flickritude

Capetonian woman continually surprised by events

News just in:

Capetonian Margaret Wilson (61) of Diep River, has admitted to being “almost permanently bewildered” by what she describes as “a continuous stream of surprising events” which she claims are plaguing her life.

Yesterday, my son-in-law asked if I had registered the card in my cellphone. I asked him why I needed to do this and he told me that I would be cut off if I didn’t. Who makes these silly rules up at the drop of a hat?
If they are going to do these things then they should at least tell you by sending you text messages, taking out full page advertisements in the newspapers or mentioning it on Carte Blanche or Cape Talk. If it wasn’t for Graham, I would never have known.

Mrs Wilson, who lives alone, was further incensed by the news that electricity prices would rise in Cape Town on July 1st:

I thought Graham was making this up when he told me. They did this last July too, although I’ll be surprised if this trend continues and they do it again next year. It’s going to cost me much more: since that silly loadshedding ended, I’ve been using as much electricity as I can to make up for the bits I missed. It’s difficult sleeping at night with all the lights on, but at least it keeps the burglars away.
But I don’t know where I am going to find the money. If I had known about this, I would have saved up. It’s like the petrol – you never know where you stand with that. They seem to change the price every few weeks. They should publicise these things. It’s very confusing.

When asked if she ever watched the news, Mrs Wilson said yes, although she only watches the SABC news in Afrikaans – which she doesn’t speak – “just to check Riaan Cruywagen is still alive”. She also mentioned that she only bought newspapers in order to line the bottom of her cats’ litter tray:

Pickles and Fifi just don’t seem to want to go out at the moment and I can’t say that I blame them. It’s been so cold and wet for the last few weeks. I really don’t like these cold snaps – we had them last year as well as I remember – while that football tournament was on. It just seems to get cold for a few months before it gets warmer again. Those weather people on the telly are no good either – they just say it’s going to be cold – they never tell you why. Still, I prefer this weather to when it’s too hot. I can’t stand the heat, you know?

Mrs Wilson is looking forward to watching the Super 15 semi-final from Newlands on Saturday.

Graham is going along. We love the rugby. It will be great to hear the whole crowd getting behind the local team.
I’ll be very surprised if they don’t.

(I’m submitting this post to the Southern Suburbs Tatler.)

No energy

Ah, electricity. The elixir of the Gods.
It remains a touchy subject here in SA, with the constant threats of load-shedding as we approach winter. (And believe me, we’ve been doing some serious approaching today.) At the heart of this is the fact that while we want to use lots of electricity, we don’t have a huge amount to spare.
In addition, apparently we also want to be “green” and to reduce our combined carbon footprint.
Oh, and we don’t want anything done in our back yard. That’s very important too.

All in all, it adds up to bad news. We’re buggered. (Technically and metaphorically, anyway.)

Shale gas could end SA’s oil dependence” says Professor Philip Lloyd, who heads the Energy Institute at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in a wonderfully rational, fact-filled and unemotional article on the Karoo fracking saga.

If Shell should succeed with its exploration, said Lloyd, jobs would be created on a scale never before seen in South Africa. It would also bring about a large decline in greenhouse gas emissions in this country.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which maintains global surveys of energy resources, Karoo shale gas is the fourth largest resource in the world. It was originally estimated that there was about 1 000 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas in the Karoo, but geological data collected over the years have reduced this to about 450 tcf.
The tcf unit is an abbreviation used in oil and exploitation to indicate the size of gas resources. It represents a million, million cubic feet.
This is enormous. Mossgas was built on the supposition that there was at most 1 tcf in the undersea gas resource feeding that plant.
If the Karoo resource is even close to the amount indicated by the USGS, South Africa would be able to erect gas turbines for electricity generation all along the coastline. This would end the country’s dependence on coal to generate electricity.

And that’s not all:

Shale gas is also the best available reducing agent for iron ore. New steel works could be created on the Sishen-Saldanha iron ore route, as “beautiful steel” could be manufactured using it, said Lloyd.
More than 40m tons of iron ore is exported along the Sishen-Saldanha route to Asia and Europe. Lump iron ore from Sishen is some of the most sought-after iron ore globally, but cannot be processed into steel here because of the cost, particularly that of energy for heat for the reduction process.

But Lewis Pugh says that it’s not a very good idea.

And now there is celebration as struggling German Chancellor, Angela Merkel pulls the plug (geddit?) on Germany’s nuclear power plants “due to Fukushima”, but probably much more likely “due to lost votes”:

The decision in the early morning hours today by coalition leaders in Berlin underscored Merkel’s flip-flop from a 2009 re- election promise to extend the life of nuclear reactors. She did her about-face after the March meltdown in Japan as the anti- nuclear Green Party gained in polls. Her party lost control of Baden-Wuerttemberg to the Greens in March and finished behind them in a state election for the first time on May 22.

Ironically, in order to address the energy shortfall that it faced when Merkel shut down seven reactors in a post-Fukushima kneejerk reaction in April, Germany began importing electricity from France: a country that produces 78% of its power from… er… nuclear energy. Oops.

But perhaps the local greenies shouldn’t be too happy, as Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters stated today that SA was not considering any German-style nonsense:

“We in South Africa have to understand that nuclear is not a quick-fix solution but a long-term method to address the energy crisis and climate-change challenge,” she said in a speech prepared for delivery at the second regional conference on energy and nuclear power in Africa, held in Cape Town.
Nuclear energy forms part of the integrated resources plan (IRP) that sets out the country’s energy mix up to 2030. Nuclear would contribute 23% of the energy supply.

I hope no-one has asked Lewis Pugh.

Lewis, of course, would surely be delighted were South Africa to adopt wind power. But probably only if he doesn’t live near a potential wind farm. Because wind power may be clean and green, but those big turbines are ever so invasive, aren’t they? And they whine constantly. And they kill birds.
That’s why the residents of several West Coast villages are up in arms about having wind farms erected in their back gardens.

West Coast properties owners are dismayed by the prospect of having a new wind farm in Parternoster, Western Cape and are determined to prevent the huge turbines from being erected near the town.
The wind farm – known as West Coast One – is just one of several that have been planned for the West Coast region and it has been given environmental approval by the Department of Environment Affairs.

The developers, Moyeng Energy, jointly owned by Investec Bank and French group GDF Suez, plan to build 55 turbines near Paternoster. Each turbine is about 80 metres tall and once complete the wind farm will cover an area of 55 square kilometres.

Residents in the small town are trying to mount an appeal against the environmental approval and if this is unsuccessful they intend to take legal action to prevent the development from going ahead. According to Andre Kleynhans, chairman of the Paternoster Ratepayers’ Association the wind farm will destroy the natural charm of this fishing village.

Yes, just like the residents of the Karoo and their objections to fracking; just like the residents of Bantamsklip & Thyspunt and their issues with having a nuclear power plant just around the corner, there are problems with siting even the cleanest and greenest of power generation methods.

So. What now, my eco-warrior friends? Must we produce our electricity by magic?
Because I think Isaac Newton might have something to say about that.

We have to come to terms with the fact that we need electricity and that we need to produce electricity. It’s time to realise that no matter what method we choose to produce it, someone is going to be unhappy.
Who then, is to say which method we should choose, where it should be and whose back yard it must be in? How are the (proven) problems of wind turbines worse than the (alarmist) problems of fracking? Who decides?

And where are Lewis Pugh and the Kelvin Grove protest meetings about the Paternoster wind farm?

Double standards, anyone?

Disclosure: 6000 banks with Investec and buys his petrol at Shell. Deal with it.