Climate change hysteria, and our inability to store energy effectively

The Daily Mail has an article by David Rose, who is a marked man on account of his disbelief of the imminence of an irreversible climate change catastrophe. He describes not only his personal experience with the fanaticism of the climate change hysterics, but also some specific problems with the claims made in support of an impending climate change disaster. Some of his concerns echo those that I’ve mentioned before.

Regarding his comments on wind energy, there’s an important technical detail which needs to be pointed out. The time-rate-of-change (derivative) of energy is power, and this is used to quantify the rate at which energy is converted from one form to another. It is measured in watts or horsepower, with 746 watts equaling one horsepower. In the case of wind, the kinetic energy of the air is converted into kinetic energy of a turbine, which then does mechanical work on an electric generator. This generates an electric potential (voltage) across a finite resistance (measured in ohms), resulting in electrical current (note that current multiplied by voltage equals power), measured in amperes.

This system does not actually generate energy, or the capacity to do a fixed amount of mechanical work. What it generates is power — it converts energy from one form to another, which must then be utilized at the rate it’s generated. In other words, it does not store energy; the energy must be consumed instantaneously. This is, of course, a problem for things like solar and wind farms because the rate of power applied to them varies: the wind comes and goes, the sun rises and sets, some days are sunny while others are overcast.

This is a major issue because presently there is no especially clean, convenient, and efficient means of storing energy. Whatever power we generate must be consumed instantaneously. No amount of climate change hysteria can change this objective feature of reality. This is a field of research which has largely been neglected over the last century due to the availability of fossil fuels.

As I see it, we do not have a problem with energy production, or power. We have nuclear fission, and I’m pretty confident that at some point over the next two hundred years we will figure out how to safely sustain hydrogen fusion, thus making our energy supply essentially unlimited. The problems we face stem from the portability of our energy sources. Specifically, the machinery required to perform nuclear reactions is far too complex, heavy, and sensitive to be used in automobiles. We need to find a way to store energy which can then be converted into mechanical kinetic energy using machinery on a scale of size, weight, and complexity similar to that of the internal combustion engine. Furthermore, the storage device must be reasonably stable (high enough activation energy that it will not cause a massive explosion in the event of an accident), have sufficiently low leakage to be able to sit for some period of time without completely evaporating away, and allow for an acceptable rate of recharge (fuel pumps “recharge” vehicles at a rate of approximately 16 megawatts, so let’s figure that a replacement energy storage device must be within about an order of magnitude of this value, say, one megawatt).

Climate change hysteria, and our inability to store energy effectively