Thoughts about renewable energy

I watched The Apprentice last night.

At one time I used to watch in the hope that I might learn something about business. I’ve not learned anything I can use, though I do now know that every year proves there is a seemingly endless supply of idiots.

If I can find a way of converting idiots into electricity I may have found the next big thing in renewable energy.

Talking of which, we drove past another solar farm today.  It seems like every time we drive north from Nottingham we find another new field of black panels. Land use has changed considerably over the last ten years in North Nottinghamshire – first we had willow, then we had miscanthus. Currently we seem to have a small forest of wind turbines springing up and the latest fashion seems to be to cover acres in photovoltaic cells.

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Solar farm in north Nottinghamshire

When I see that I feel more comfortable about using electricity, but then start to worry that we won’t need it, because if we cover the land to generate electricity there will be no food to cook.

I’m a bit worried about food, after listening to a radio programme tonight. In order to halt global warming we need to scale back on meat production (mainly on account of the methane produced by cows) and would, they calculate, only have 19 grams of meat a day. That’s 133g a week, about the weight of two moderate burgers.

In the Second World War the bacon and ham ration ranged between 113 and 227 grams. However, there was also a meat ration, controlled by price – between 1 shilling and 1 shilling and two pence (5 – 6 pence in modern terms). I’m struggling to find a comparison of prices – one I found suggests that could be about £1.50. It’s not a lot, but compared to 19 grams a day it’s a positive feast.

To add to the complexity of looking into the future it also seems that grass fed beef (as generally reared in the UK) is worse for the environment than intensively raised beef fed on maize and soya (as raised in USA). It’s not about the method or the food, it’s about the fact that grass fed beef takes longer to grow to full weight, and thus spends more time emitting methane.

Now, methane is the main component of natural gas, so is it just me, or are other people thinking that some sort of gas-collecting nappy on a cow might be an alternative to fracking? Ah, just me…

That’s not the end to it of course, there’s also milk to consider. If they were telling the truth (and I fear they are) we will only have enough milk for four cups of tea a day.

Four cups of tea a day?

I could see myself as a vegetarian, but I don’t see myself cutting down to four cups a day.

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Under threat – my cup of tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

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24 thoughts on “Thoughts about renewable energy

  1. Lavinia Ross

    We had solar array installed on our rooftop this year. We are in our rainy season now, so it is not generating a lot of power at this time, but all helps.

    I hear you about land usage in general. At some point, our species needs to stop consuming so much.

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  2. Julia Davis-Coombs

    I’m a fan of solar panels–in the right place. In my fantasy world, all new builds have renewables planned in–whichever kind can work in the given environment. That said, I’m a bit ambivalent about so-called solar ‘farms’, for all the reasons other people have already given. But we were visiting family in Spain this weekend, and I saw a very clever solar farm–doing double duty as a parking lot. The parking lot was going to be there anyway, and this way the cars get shelter from the weather. And of course, it _was_ southern Spain, where they get LOTS of sun. (Except this week, when they’re having several months’ worth of rain. Hard to believe we came back to better weather in Swansea than we left in Spain!)

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  3. clarepooley33

    We haven’t got too many solar farms here yet I’m glad to say. It seems a waste of good land (or even bad land) to cover it in solar panels. I suspect there are substantial cash rewards for having one of these farms on your land. One local farmer here who had had continual problems with poor soil and drainage has now started growing conifers as a crop and has also dug a series of three fishing lakes with native trees and shrubs planted around them to attract wildlife. A much more attractive way of earning money and good for the environment too.

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  4. Laurie Graves

    Very good post! In a world with an ever-growing population, land use, along with food and energy production, is a real concern. On a lighter note…some of us don’t use milk in our tea, so that’s one worry scratched off the list 😉

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  5. The Snail of Happiness

    I often see these sorts of statistics quoted and know that it’s always an over-simplification… not all land can be used to produce crops, but that which can shouldn’t (in my opinion) be used for solar panels. There are plenty of roofs on which we can mount pvs, so let’s do that. As for livestock, here in west Wales, much of the land is no good for crops, so animals are one of the few options for food production.
    I sincerely think curbing the human population is the only way forward to save the planet – fewer people = more resources to go round, but no one wants to talk about this because having children is generally considered a ‘right’. Ho hum. Nothing is easy.

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    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      That’s exactly right – population control has worked in various countries and it strikes me that it’s an obvious solution. Same for pv panels – using a roof makes much more sense than using land for them. We can’t keep doing what we like and trusting people to do the right thing.

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    2. jeffpermie

      I completely disagree about population control, no one knows Earth’s carrying capacity and the Malthusian / Darwinian Theories are obsolete.
      Currently we waste One Third of all food we produce, I invite you to take a look at http://www.worldfoodclock.com/ and let your jaws drop whilst exploring, then perhaps, read the books by Sepp Holzer and other Permaculture experts, observe nature – you should come to the conclusion that earth has such an abundance of resources available for a massive population … I am in no way saying we should breed like rabbits but merely a change of habits. Reducing meat consumption is a massive step towards fixing our issues and it is really easy to do so!! How hard can it be to have 3 – 5 meals a week with meat? Not hard at all, just do research on vegan recipes and you will literally find hundreds of tasty recipes to choose from.

      All land Can be used to produce crops (excluding contaminated land of course) – again, read Sepp Holzers books and youtube ”Greening the Desert” – by Geoff Lawton

      Then there’s the crime that is known as Farming … aka Monoculture type farming, if each farmer was sent on a PDC course and helped to bring their lands into a symbiotic relationship with Nature and not with the agro chemical companies then the world food problem would be over in a matter of years.

      Overpopulation again … the west has been indoctrinated by the likes of the BBC, CNN, Sky, Sun (Vomit alert) etc. over the past few decades to believe that poorer nations and continents (Africa, South America and parts of Asia) are the overpopulated regions who are causing these issues yet, in reality it is the Industrial North (UK, Canada, USA, Europe etc.) who are the real cuplrits due to over consumerism. Consumerism is the root cause and it has nothing to do with population, it’s a lifestyle issue which the Baby boomer Generation was used to bring into mainstream culture. In my line of work, my customers are all wealthy baby boomers who routinely go on between 5 – 10 international holidays a year, I’d love to see the pollution stat’s on that one 🙂

      Poorer nations and regions used to feed themselves and had useable abundant fertile lands until they adopted the monoculture farming techniques forced upon them by their colonial governments! FACT.
      Hence why the new trends of Organic Sustainable small scale farming and Permaculture practices are now looking at ancient farming methods and using these techniques and ideas today.

      Every 25 minutes – 65 Thousand Hectares of Farm Land is use to grow Wasted Food – the Annual Cost of all resources wasted is USD 750 Billion !!
      All based on 2014 figues so probably more by now in reality.

      Small scale back yard / allotment type food production usually yields around four times as much produce per hectare compared to factory farming, proven not only here in the west but also in China.

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      1. quercuscommunity Post author

        I broadly agree with what you say, but a family with four children is going to consume more than a family with two children so you cannot take population control out of the equation. I’m not talking about other countries here, I’m talking about the UK. We’re an overcrowded island.

        Yes, we need to consume less but cutting meat out two or three days a week, which we have done, is easily counterbalanced by a few extra kids.

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    3. jeffpermie

      You are right though about using land for solar panels, how many industrial areas are littered with huge warehouses with hundreds and thousands of square meters available! not to mention school roofs, shopping malls, office buildings etc.?

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