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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Paths out of the Agenda 21 Impasse

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA - around 3,000 dishes each 15 metres in diameter
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA)
- around 3,000 dishes each 15 metres in diameter
Keith Orchison wrote last December on the UN climate policy debate in Durban.
"A leading Indian media commentator on carbon policy development noted on Sunday: 'When negotiations began 20 years ago, it was well understood that the industrialised world had to vacate (emissions) space for the emerging world to grow. Money and technology transfer would enable emerging countries to avoid future emissions growth. But none of this happened. Meagre targets were set. The US and other big polluters walked out of the agreement. The funds never came.'

This was the real point of biff in the Durban debate."
Source: Nuancing on the platform | December 12th, 2011 | Keith Orchison

A group of people who hold extreme views on personal freedom over social responsibility regard proposals for action on green-house gas emissions with great suspicion. Those inclined to this extremist political ideology fear that any coordinated global response intended to lower the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere amounts to a conspiracy to transfer wealth from the United States to developing countries.

The fears held today by these extremists reflect the perception the commentator gave of the start of negotiations 20 years ago: "the industrialised world had to vacate (emissions) space for the emerging world to grow. Money and technology transfer would enable emerging countries to avoid future emissions growth..."

Time and technology marches on. The perception of what seemed necessary 20 years ago no longer holds true. Those fears still held today can be overcome by smarter development in the emerging world.

This outcome is by the way a vindication of the economic philosophy of Adam Smith that rational action in the pursuit of self interest will foster innovations that address resource shortages. The alternate economic ideology that Thomas Malthus described sees finite economic resources as an absolute barrier to economic development. If you look again at the statement "the industrialised world had to vacate (emissions) space for the emerging world to grow. Money and technology transfer would enable emerging countries to avoid future emissions growth..." you can see that it contains the implicit assumption that the Malthusian economic ideology is inescapable.

Twenty years ago energy generation was economical when accompanied by emissions of large quantities of carbon dioxide. The rate of emissions was about 1 tonne of carbon dioxide for each megawatt-hour of electrical energy. That is about 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) for each kilowatt-hour.

The developing world is no longer limited to using old technology with which much of the industrialised world is saddled.

Innovation and creativity has helped advance technologies for the developing world to generate affordable and reliable energy in new ways with little or no emissions of carbon dioxide.

A very broad range of alternate options are now available and even more are the subject of advanced research projects.

Coal / Biomass Gasification with Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy

High Temperature Solar Furnace

Design of a high temperature solar furnace that can achieve a concentration ratio of 20,000 suns. The furnace consists of three optical elements: a primary mirror, a secondary mirror, and a compound parabolic concentrator (CPC).
High Temperature Solar Furnace
High Temperature Solar Furnace
Source: College of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona  | 16 July 2010 | High Temperature Solar Furnace

The mass production of large parabolic mirrors will rapidly reduce the cost of solar furnaces. The manufacture of 3,000 parabolic dishes each 15 metres in diameter for the Square Kilometre Array project in Africa provides the opportunity to roll-out solar furnaces at a lower cost than has been possible until now.

3M has developed a reflective polymer film that can be applied to parabolic dishes to create highly reflective mirrors at a much lower cost than mirrors made from glass or metal.

Africa celebrates SKA bid outcome

"Since the announcement that South Africa, along with its eight SKA partner countries in Africa, will host the mid-frequency dish array and dense aperture array of the iconic SKA telescope congratulatory messages have been pouring in from around the globe praising the hard work of the South African SKA team and the unwavering support for Africa's site bid from the South African government."
Source: SKA AFRICA | 28 May 2012 | SKA Africa - Square Kilometre Array
Dishes will form a substantial part of the SKA; around 3000 dishes, each 15 m in diameter, are currently planned. Many aspects of the SKA dish-design challenge are without precedent, not only because of the large numbers of dishes required, but also because of the huge sensitivity that will result.

The manufacture of composite reflectors for this size of antenna has been done in the past.  These were for military applications however, and the history of prior manufacturing is such that the reflectors were one-off, very heavily invested in materials and manual labour costs, and not designed to have the serial manufacturing requirements of the scale envisioned for this project.  Given the unique nature of the requirements, the SKA manufacturing program was approached from a standpoint of optimization of the production capability of the reflectors, while retaining the baseline requirements for performance and durability.  All aspects of reflector manufacture were examined for achieving optimal production and cost of delivered reflectors.

A detailed analysis of the potential production costs of delivery of the SKA Phase 2 requirements, 3,000 reflectors over 4 years is presented here. ...The cost of a complete composite reflector assembly (surface and backing structure) was determined to be $US45,000 ($US398 per square metre) for Phase 2.
Source: SKA AFRICA | 4 September 2009 | Feasibility and Cost Study of Manufacturing Composite Parabolic Reflectors for the SKA

See the related posts: Good Energy, Bad Energy; Why choose between solar and coal when you can use both?; Energy for Life