Extreme Heat Belt

The counties marked in red are expected to experience temperatures of 125 °F = 51.67 °C at least one day a year, by 2053. This area is referred to by some as the Extreme Heat Belt. Screenshot of an Axios map, without the underlying data provided at the county level by the First Street Foundation.

The mission statement of the First Street Foundation reads: Make climate risk accessible, easy to understand and actionable for individuals, governments, and industry. A changing climate is impacting the risks facing American properties, communities, and businesses as perils like flood, fire, heat, and drought become more common, and more severe…. First Street Foundation is a non-profit research and technology group dedicated to quantifying and communicating those risks by incorporating world class modeling techniques and analysis with the most up to date science available in order to simply, and effectively, inform Americans of their risk today and into the future from all environmental changes.

Extreme heat refers to a maximum heat index greater than 125°F. This refers to a temperature reached at least one day a year. Currently (that is, in 2022) 8 million Americans are exposed to it. By 2030, some additional coastal areas in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic may also experience a heat index at or above 125°F. By 2053, the number of people exposed to extreme temperatures, is expected to increase to 107 million people.

Dangerous days have a heat index greater than 100 °F = 37.78 °C. The Gulf Coast and Southeast will see the highest chances and longest duration of exposure to these. While many place experience more than 20 consecutive days with heat indices above 100°F, by 2053, these streaks could involve up to 74 consecutive days.

Local hot days are days that exceed the temperatures typically experienced for a particular area. The West will have the highest chance of long durations of these.

Future cooling-driven increases in carbon emissions could aggravate warming further. Texas, Florida, California, Ohio and Missouri are the top 5 states with the greatest cooling demand expected increase in CO2 emissions between 2022 and 2053.

As a missionary for SI, the international system of units, temperature always presents a quandary. In this official system, temperature is measured in kelvin, with symbol K. Both the kelvin and celsius systems use a 100 K/ °C difference between the freezing and boiling point of water, at a standard/ sea-level air pressure reading.

0 K is set to absolute zero, which is -273.15 °C, while 0 °C, in the celsius system, is set to the freezing point of water. In the Fahrenheit system, water freezes at 32 °F = 0 °C and boils at 212 °F = 100 °C, resulting in a 180 °F difference between these two points.. Thus, 125 °F = 324.8167 K.

SI clergy undoubtedly use many nights, sleeplessly pondering if the extreme heat value should be increased to 325 K = 125.33 °F, or if 50 °C = 122 °F, should be used. Those prioritizing as little change as possible will support the former. Those wanting to use rounder values, ending in 0, will opt for the latter. The reason for this proposal is that the world needs a mechanism to compare extreme heat locations, which will require heat to be expressed in degrees celsius. This is why, personally, 50 °C holds greater appeal, even if more locations in the world will fall into that category.

Those wishing to be further perplexed by this topic, are invited to read the Wikipedia article on thermodynamic temperature. In an imperfect world, every gram of improved understanding is worth the effort.

WBT

WBT = wet-bulb temperature. Yes, I appreciate short, cryptic post titles. That said, there is a serious point to this post, with life-saving potential, related to heatwaves.

A digital psychrometer (combined dry and wet-bulb thermometer).
The functions available with a modern psychrometer.

When a wet cloth/ wick covers the bulb of a thermometer, evaporation of the water cools the thermometer. This results in a WBT, which is equal to or below the dry temperature, measured on a thermometer without a wet cloth. The WBT reading reflects the humidity in the atmosphere. Humidity refers to the relative saturation of air with water. Low humidity means there is not much water in the air; high humidity means lots of water in the air. When the air can hold no more water, it is totally saturated. It is referred to as 100% relative humidity (RH). Air at a higher temperature is able to hold more water vapour, than air at a lower temperature.

A related concept is that of dew point = the temperature to which air must be cooled to become saturated with water vapor, at the current relative humidity. At, and below this temperature, water vapor condenses to form dew, a liquid state of water.

WBT is important because it can measure heat-stress conditions, that affect many people. In fact, a high WBT can kill them. This happened mainly from 2021-06-24 to 2021-07-01 in British Columbia. At 100% RH, the WBT will equal the dry temperature.

A combined dry and wet-bulb thermometer is referred to as a psychrometer. While analogue models are available, they require either calculations or the reading of graphs to determine values. One should not overestimate the ability of a person to perform even simple calculations, when they are potentially dying of heat stroke. Digital models can be purchased at relatively low cost that do all of the calculations automatically. The model illustrated above costs NOK 255 = US$ 26.38 = CA$ 33.72, including taxes and delivery charges to Norway (as of 2022-08-01). The quality of this particular model has not been evaluated.

At Cliff Cottage, we have recently received temperature and humidity sensors that will be part of our weather station, a subsystem of our home automation system. These components are considerably cheaper than the Habotest model, but require electrical and mechanical work, as well as programming, to implement as a system. Thus, the first iteration does not produce a cost effective system, may be frustrating to make, but will give satisfaction when completed.

From 2021-06-20 to 2021-07-29, the British Columbia Coroners Service, reported the following heat related deaths, in the table below. There are some who feel the number of deaths were under reported. Note that 445 of the 569 deaths (78%) occurred during the transition week, between June and July.

Age Group# of Deaths 
<40 2
40-49 13
50-59 42
60-69127
70-79160
80-89149
90+ 76
Total 569
Heat related deaths during the summer of 2021. Source: British Columbia Coroners Service.

British Columbia, was only one of many jurisdictions, that faced heat challenges in 2021. Temperature records are being broken regularly, throughout the world. In the United States, every state and territory had a maximum temperature that exceeded 37 °C. Of these 46 entities, only six had recorded maximum temperatures below 40 °C. Four states, had maximum temperatures at or exceeding 50 °C: New Mexico, 50 °C; Nevada, 52 °C; Arizona, 53 °C; and, the highest, California, 57 °C. In Canada, Lytton, British Columbia, distinguished itself with 49.6 °C, on 2021-06-29, the maximum ever recorded in the country. The next day, a wildfire destroyed most of the town. In Norway, the highest temperature recorded is 35.6 °C, at Nesbyen, on 1970-06-20.

The challenge with these high temperature values, is that they do not take into consideration humidity, which determines how people experience heat. Some locations on planet Earth may be approaching values that prevent human survivability. The countries most affected are Saudi Arabia and other Arabian Gulf states, Pakistan, India and Australia. What is not fully appreciated, is that indoor climates in temperate zones, can also create conditions that kill people during heat waves.

The difference between WBT and dry temperature, measures how effective people can cool themselves by sweating. Admittedly, this is a simplification because, in addition to humidity and temperature, solar radiation and wind speed are other factors that affect survivability. Yet, WBT is especially important in indoor environments, where deaths often occur in heatwaves.

Sweating above WBT will no longer cool down a person, but lead to a steady rise in body temperature. This is the limit of human adaptability to extreme heat. If a person cannot escape these conditions, their body’s core temperature will rise beyond the survivable range, and organs will start to fail.

The critical WBT value for humans was usually considered to be 35 °C, indicating a situation where a healthy person could survive for six hours. One representation of this is an air temperature of 40 °C, and a relative humidity of 75%. This value comes from a 2010 theoretical study. However, research by Vecellio et al., found that this value only applied to young healthy people. Real-world data indicates that the critical WBT value is closer to 31.5 °C.

This means that the numbers of people exposed to potentially deadly combinations of heat and humidity across the world would be vastly higher than previously thought. Many older and compromised people will experience dangerous conditions far below the threshold WBT.

In Canada, the humidex = humidity index has been used since 1965 to describe how hot the weather feels to the average person. It is a nominally dimensionless quantity, calculated from °C and the dew point. Values of: 20 to 29: little to no discomfort; 30 to 39: some discomfort; 40 to 45: great discomfort, avoid exertion; above 45: dangerous; heat stroke possible/ probable.

Humidex plot (Source: Morn, using Matplotlib code)

The American Heat Index (HI) was developed from the Humidex in 1979. It is calculated using °F or °C and relative humidity. It makes assumptions about: human body mass, height, clothing, level of physical activity, individual heat tolerance, sunlight exposure, ultraviolet radiation exposure, and wind speed. Significant deviations from these will result in heat index values which do not accurately reflect the perceived temperature.

Heat Index plot (Source: Morn, using Matplotlib code)

In many situations, building construction results in indoor temperatures exceeding outdoor temperatures. Construction methods may prohibit water saturated air from leaving a building. In climates with high humidity, such as along the Gulf of Mexico coast and even on the Atlantic coast of Florida, in the United States, it is often common to use a vapour barrier close to the outer wall, with negative consequences during heatwaves. Sometimes the best solution is to omit a vapour barrier. This is the opposite of the approach used in cold climates, such as Canada, Norway and northern United States where the vapour barrier is located on the inside of the outer wall.

Heatwave Precautions

Since many of the readers of this weblog are older, it is important for them to know what to do when temperatures rise.

A first step is to realize that an indoor environment can be particularly deadly, in part because there is no wind to increase evaporation rates, needed for effective sweating/ perspiration.

A second step is to track indoor temperatures. Even without a psychrometer or wet-bulb thermometer, one knows that the WBT will be below this dry temperature. This means that temperatures should probably not be allowed to rise above, say, 30 °C, without taking some action. Thus, moving to a shady, outdoor location, may reduce risk, compared with staying indoors.

Air conditioning units are another solution, but not everyone can afford them. Their acquisition typically has to be planned well in advance of a heatwave. Fans can be effective at increasing the quantity of air available for evaporation, but they usually should be used with an open window.

In some places, special shelters have been built/ commissioned, that people can visit without charge to find heat relief. While many people will search for information online about shelters located near them, there are other sources of information available. Public libraries are a great place to find this sort of information.

Trees

2021-10-16 at 10:00 a sycamore maple, Acer pseudoplatanus, at Cliff Cottage, is shedding its leaves in preparation for winter. Photo: Brock

Trees have a positive impact on mental health. People exposed to trees have been shown to experience a third less psychological stress in contrast to those without such access. Open grassy areas do not have such an effect, although they also have their value. Even looking at leafless deciduous trees during winter months is positive. Trees and shrubs has been found to increase test scores and graduation rates of students, while decreasing criminal behaviour. In workplaces, increased access to nature (not just trees) has been found to improve employee morale, to increase efficiency, decrease stress, and increase job satisfaction.

My own psychological response to looking at trees is that I begin to think of family and friends, alive and departed, especially those living in Essex county, Ontario – or with origins there, including those living across the American border in Michigan, in British Columbia as well as Norway. At times I considered naming particular trees after specific people, but have resisted this so far. However, looking at trees provides me with a form of comfort.

This week I have been reading David B. Williams, Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound (2021). Apart from the depth of human habitation, with some evidence pointing to 13 960 years, the other intriguing aspect of the environment where I grew up, is its transformation about seven thousand years ago, from a hotter and dryer savannah-like environment with oaks as the major tree, to a cooler and moister environment, “with conifers towering over a nearly impenetrable understory.” (p. 29)

Not all of the trees are conifers. One of my favourite trees is Arbutus menziesii. In Canada, it is referred to as an Arbutus. In Washington state and Oregon, it is called a Madrona. According to Sunset Western Garden Book, Madrone is more common south of the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon/ northern California while Madrona is more common north of this divide. Much of its attraction is related to its distinctiveness. It has the leaves of a deciduous plant, yet is evergreen. Its reddish orange bark peels away in thin sheets, leaving a smooth green trunk. It is common along the protected eastern coast of Vancouver Island, and the Gulf (Canadian)/ San Juan (American) Islands that lie between it and the mainland, and more generally throughout the Salish Sea.

I grew up in New Westminster, British Columbia, not far from Puget Sound. Ash Street is one of few streets named after trees/ plants in the city. The others are Arbutus, Cedar, Cherry, Chestnut, Oak, Pine and Spruce Streets, and Blackberry Drive. Wood Street and, potentially, Holly Avenue are possibly/ probably named after people.

Ash trees are in the Fraxinus genus, and the olive (Oleaceae) family. They are often used as street trees to provide shade. Various sources state that they were once the most-planted urban tree in the United States. Ashes are dioecious, meaning that individual trees are either male or female, but not both. Of the thirteen species of Ash in the world, nine are found in North America: Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra) is native to eastern Canada and the north-eastern United States; Green Ash (F. pennsylvanica) – eastern and northern North America; White Ash (F. americana) – eastern North America; Pumpkin Ash (F. profunda) – eastern North America; Blue Ash (F. quadrangulata) – midwestern United States; California Ash (F. dipetala) – California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Baja California; Carolina Ash (F. caroliana) – Cuba, subtropical southern United States; Gregg’s Ash (F. greggii) – Arizona, New Mexico and Texas; and, Velvet Ash (F. velutina) – southwestern North America.

None of the species on the list inhabit the area around the Salish Sea/ Cascadia/ Pacific Northwest. Thus, on 2021-06-30 I wrote to New Westminster’s mayor, Jonathan X. Coté, expressing my concern about naming practices in New Westminster, especially that from the names used, one would think the city was located in England. Noting that there are no members of the Fraxinus genus native to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, I hoped that “tree” streets would be renamed for native/ endemic species. I received no reply.

At Cliff Cottage, we have one European Ash tree, Fraxinus excelsior. This started life as a seedling in the garden of a colleague in Leksvik. It failed to grow vigorously in its original location, and has been moved twenty meters to a more suitable location. Throughout eastern and northern Europe, the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, has been causing Ash dieback since the mid-1990s. Some believe the European Ash is in danger of extinction.

I have long-term relationships with several different trees. Perhaps the longest is with one particular European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) tree in New Westminster, that I have admired (coveted?) for over 60 years. I have often wondered about its origins. Once again, the species is not native to British Columbia, so at some point it has been planted. When, by whom and why have frequently occupied my mind.

A European Beach (Fagus sylvatica) growing at Cliff Cottage. The photo was taken 2020-10-31. Photo: Trish.

Walks in beech forests in Denmark, and other parts of Europe, has resulted in the belated planting of one at Cliff Cottage. Hopefully, I will live long enough to protect it, so that future owners of this property will continue to let it survive/ thrive for its natural lifetime, 200 – 300 years, when an average beech tree should have reached 25 – 40 meters in height, with a trunk diameter of up to 1.5 meters. In Trøndelag, it is an introduced but naturalized species, at its most northerly limit.

Northwest of my childhood home, but still on Ash Street, there was a Araucaria araucana, a Monkey (Puzzle/ Tail) tree of Chilean origins. It too provoked my curiosity, and I have often considered planting one at Cliff Cottage. They exist in Norway, but the most northerly one is on the island of Smøla, near Molde.

Perhaps the most successful planted tree on our property is a sycamore maple, Acer pseudoplatanus. This is a daughter plant to one found at Utøy elementary school, that our children attended. Naturvernforbundet, the environmental organization usually translated as Friends of the Earth, in English, complains loudly about this species. Yet, it is Inderøy municipality – owner of Utøy school – that has allowed this species to thrive on the school grounds. The school has also distributed seeds to pupils. While the Norway maple, Acer platanoides, is endemic to southern Scandinavia, it is equally foreign as the sycamore in Trøndelag, where both species have been introduced and naturalized. Neither are endemic. I find it hypocritical of biologists to condemn the one species without condemning the other.

Other trees growing at Cliff Cottage are: Norway spruce (Picea abies), Scots/ Scotch/ Baltic pine (Pinus sylvestris), Common juniper (Juniperus communis), eastern/ northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), silver birch (Betula pendula), European rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), white poplar (Populus alba), bird cherry, (Prunus padus), Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) – red leaved cultivar, goat willow (Salix caprea), small leaved lime/ linden (Tilia cordata) and red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa). We also have rhododendrons but are uncertain as to the species. At one time we also had two coffee trees (Coffea arabica) growing indoors, but they grew too large and were given away.

The main purpose of this weblog post is to encourage people to enjoy the trees they have access to.

Note: Most of this post was written 2020-08-12, but updated 2021-10-15 and 16.

PAYGo & PULSE


In 2010 the number of people living without electricity was estimated to be about 1.2 billion. By 2019, this had been reduced to about 760 million. The most significant contribution to this reduction, was the installation of small solar systems, powering at village or household scale. According to the World Bank, about 420 million people currently get their electricity from off-grid solar systems. They estimate that by 2030, that number could increase to 800 million.

Unfortunately, such a metric hides more than it reveals. Having an electrical connection or even a solar panel does not necessarily imply access to electricity. On average, the sun is only available as an energy source about 12 hours a day. Energy access must also take into account reliability and affordability, and is most appropriately measured on a tiered spectrum, from Tier 0 (no access) to Tier 5 (the highest level of access).

Many people in emerging markets (and elsewhere) do not have enough money to pay for products in advance. Pay As You Go (PAYGo) models allow these users to pay for their products over time using technology enabled, embedded consumer financing. A PAYGo company typically offers a solar product, such as a solar home systems and multi-light pico devices. The customer makes a down payment, followed by regular payments for a term ranging from six months to eight years. Payments are usually made via mobile money, though alternative methods are sometimes available.

Productive use leveraging solar energy (PULSE) is defined as any agricultural/ commercial/ industrial activity that uses solar energy as a direct input to the production of goods/ services. PULSE enables/ enhances income generation by households/ farms/ microenterprises, often by mechanizing activities that would otherwise be performed manually or by providing additional hours of lighting in which to work. These activities and lighting might also replace non-renewable sources of energy, such as diesel generators or kerosene.

An especially important area for PULSE is for cold storage, refrigeration, and agricultural processing. This means there is a need for a large number of off-grid refrigerators, as well as products for solar milling. The World Bank, in its report, notes the need for specialized products for use in specific value chains such as poultry, dairy, and coffee. The PULSE segment is in its infancy, but has a potential for rapid expansion.

Key trends in emerging markets from 2020 onwards include: 1) Hardware manufacturing and design. Manufacturers are improving product quality, and developing brands for emerging markets; they are providing lower-cost products at consistently higher quality levels. 2) Software development. Software offers customizable and open architectures, that encourages PAYGo models and platforms. 3) Marketing and distribution. While large international companies are leveraging data to optimize sales and distribution, hardware companies are partnering with local distributors to reach previously underserved markets. 4) Consumer financing. PAYGo is encouraging innovation for payment systems. Companies are partnering directly with financial institutions to decouple consumer finance from their business models. 5) After-sales support. Remote monitoring is enabling companies to improve customer service and asset management. They are incorporating e-waste disposal considerations into business models.

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations. Participants involve about 65% of the world’s population. Many of the countries participating are in emerging markets. Here, and elsewhere, Chinese manufacturers will sell higher-quality, self-branded products through local distribution partners and increasingly through their own distribution networks, including on PAYGo. This will increase the amount of high-quality, but lower-cost, products reaching these markets.

What should families in the developing world/ emerging markets do to obtain reliable supply of electrical energy? In many places, utilities (public and/ or private) are unreliable, while new solar panels are too expensive. From about 2010 to 2020, the obvious solution was to buy used solar panels. These panels become available because, in the more developed world, there is economic pressure to make optimal use of roofs and other surfaces, to produce as much power per surface area. This meant the regular replacement and subsequent sale of sub-optimal solar panels. Energy Bin has about 5 million pieces of photovoltaic equipment available on their site, and there are estimates that about 10 million used solar panels are available at any given time, on the global market.

The main source of information about this topic is: Off Grid Solar: Market Trends Report 2020.

Wind turbines in cold weather

The two major and three minor North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) interconnections, and the nine NERC Regional Reliability Councils. The Regional Reliability Councils are: Eastern Interconnection with Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC); Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO); Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC); ReliabilityFirst Corporation (RFC); SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC); and Southwest Power Pool (SPP). Western Interconnection with Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). Texas Interconnection with Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Mapwork: Claude Boucher (1964-)

This weblog post started off as a response to several fake news posts in various media, alleging that the recent power outages in Texas were due to wind turbine issues. While some wind turbines have failed, there are other, more important reasons for electrical power supply failures, resulting in the inability of Texas to provide water, food and energy to state residents, during – and after – winter storm Uri. Many of these are related to a toxic political environment, where the standard answer to any political question is privatization, where many other jurisdictions have found more nuanced solutions, often involving government participation.

In addition, the post has expanded into new areas, including the use of electric vehicle batteries and household power-walls to provide emergency power. If power utilities (corporations) cannot provide inexpensive and reliable supplies of energy, people will have to take energy production and storage into their own hands. It is noted, but not further discussed, that spot pricing of electrical power in Texas, has not led to a more equitable distribution, but to price gouging, despite this being illegal during an emergency.

Wikipedia states: “The electrical power grid that powers Northern America is not a single grid, but is instead divided into multiple wide area synchronous grids. The Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection are the largest. Three other regions include the Texas Interconnection, the Quebec Interconnection, and the Alaska Interconnection. Each region delivers power at a nominal 60 Hz frequency. The regions are not usually directly connected or synchronized to each other, but there are some high voltage direct current] HVDC Interconnectors.” Direct current is used to avoid any synchronizing issues between interconnections.

The American federal government regulated electrical power in the Federal Water Power Act of 1920-06-10. Its name was changed to the Federal Power Act in 1935. The content of the act has been changed at irregular intervals over the past century. Expressed less than rigorously, there are three electrical grids in the United States of America: The eastern grid, the western grid and the Texas grid, established so that the Lone-Star state/ Republic of Texas, could avoid regulation by the American federal government.

North American electrical energy production is coordinated by Regional Reliability Councils. These are: Eastern Interconnection with Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC); Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO); Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC); ReliabilityFirst Corporation (RFC); SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC); and Southwest Power Pool (SPP). Western Interconnection with Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). Texas Interconnection with Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Winter Storm Uri, has an official starting date of 2021-02-13, caused temperatures in Texas to drop to -20 C, in some locations. This caused serious water, energy and hunger problems, and a significant loss of human life. Accessing adequate supplies of water, food and gasoline has been difficult/ impossible for many/ some.

In Texas, wrath was initially directed at wind turbines. Many of the people criticising them are staunch members of the Republican party, and fossil fuel supporters. Fortunately, as will be shown below, many of these criticisms were regarded as fake news, resulting in a significant backlash.

Sid Miller, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, stated in a Facebook post 2021-02-16: “We should never build another wind turbine in Texas. The experiment failed big time. Governor Abbott’s Public Utility Commission appointees need to be fired and more gas, coal and oil infrastructure built.”

The same day Governor Greg Abbott told  Fox News’ Sean Hannity: “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.”

Fortunately, there are wiser voices. Princeton engineering professor Jesse Jenkins tweeted: “Those of you who have heard that frozen wind turbines are to blame for this, think again. The extreme demand and thermal power plant outages are the principle cause.” PolitiFact reported: “Of the power shortfall that hit Texas, over 80% was due to problems at coal- and gas-fired plants.” Daniel Cohan, associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston, Texas stated: “By far the biggest outages have come from our natural gas plants, a portion were down for scheduled maintenance. Others weren’t designed to operate reliably in extreme cold weather and others haven’t been able to get enough natural gas supply.” Even rapper Bun B (Bernard James Freeman) criticized Texas Governor Greg Abbott for falsely blaming blackouts on renewable energy.

Benjamin Sovacool, University of Sussex, professor of energy policy, stated: “In Northern Europe, wind power operates very reliably in even colder temperatures, including the upper Arctic regions of Finland, Norway, and Sweden. As long as wind turbines are properly maintained and serviced, they can operate reliably in temperatures well below zero [0 F = ca. -18 C]. Humans, to carry out servicing and maintenance and operation, are the most important factor, not the weather.”

Various sources state that the operating temperature range of a wind turbine is between -20 C and +40 C. Admittedly steel alloys suitable for cold-temperature environments are typically used in wind turbines located in colder climates. Lubricants are used that retain appropriate viscosity for the climate where they are operating. Wind turbines are equipped with cold-weather packages that ensure cold-weather operation.

Active anti-icing systems are installed on most Nordic wind turbines. These can fail during a power outage on the grid, because they are dependent on external power sources. In a worst case scenario, cold, ice and older technology could result in a 10 percent reduction in annual energy production. With newer and larger turbines equipped with appropriate anti icing systems this loss would be significantly lower.

Blades without an ice-prevention system installed may need to be stopped temporarily in cold weather because falling ice could present a hazard. However, icing can be managed. Current anti-icing options allow wind turbines to be effective sources of power in cold climates.

It is interesting to see that in Texas, thermal energy sources, including natural gas, coal and nuclear energy did not receive the same criticism. Excuses were made that thermal energy failings were due to frozen instruments. The main culprit had nothing to do with instrumentation, but freeze-off, a situation where liquids inside wells, pipes and valves freeze, forming ice that blocks gas flow, clogging pipes. It disrupts gas production across the US every winter.

Another challenge, not generally cited, was that cold weather increased demand for natural gas for residential heating. There simply wasn’t enough fuel available to power the state’s electricity needs. Natural gas production was halved at the Texas Permian Basin during the storm. It fell from 635 million cubic meters of gas produced per day in 2020-12 to about 300 million cubic meters of gas per day during the storm period. This means that gas production was at a four-year low. It could take several weeks to restore supplies fully, due to equipment damage.

There are pragmatic reasons why a reduction in natural-gas supply could result in a reduction of gas to electrical power plants. Texas Gas Services, a public utility, explained it when requesting help from the public to reduce the number of people who could potentially lose the delivery of gas to residences during these extremely cold conditions. They said that conservation (whatever that is, in this context) is critical to avoid widespread outages. If an outage occurs, it will take time and effort to restore service. In part, because each residence will have to be checked for leaks before gas service can be re-established. If only electricity is lost, gas-furnaces should be turned off. When electrical power is restored, consumers are advised to wait 10 minutes before restarting gas furnaces to allow the natural gas system to adjust to increased demand and to avoid further disruptions. In other words, a residential gas outage could result in weeks of delay in getting service restored, while a residential electrical outage would allow an immediate restoration of power.

Many Texans have expressed relief that their state has few electric vehicles. Plugin Texas states that there were 8 397 EVs registered in the state in 2016. Statista estimates that in 2016, there were a total of 8.3 million registered vehicles in the state, indicating that about 0.1% of vehicles in the state are EVs. About 13 million people live in Texas.

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) power flows, enhanced with two-way advanced meters, would give power utilities an ability to flexibly manage charging. The combined capacity of EV batteries could dampen demand responses and prevent brownouts = an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage in the grid, or worse, blackouts = a loss of the electrical power network supply.

Normally, there should be limitations placed on the use of smart technologies to manage power consumption. Power utilities are keen to flatten electrical consumption throughout the day, so they want consumers to heat their water, wash their dishes and their clothes at night. Yet, insurance companies are concerned the use of dishwashers, washing machines and other appliances at night may increase the number of residential fires.

A more appropriate response may be to charge EV batteries during off-peak periods, then to use them during peak periods. This may be managed on a household basis, or involve large parts of a grid. This is one way to reduce the need for supplementary power stations. In one study, using power in this way may actually increase the life-span of EV battery packs.

In Europe, the ISO 15118-20 standard, comes into effect this year (2021). The standard covers everything from electric bikes, cars, buses and trucks to ships and airplanes. It can control AC and DC changing, as well as wireless power transfer (WPT) and bi-directional power transfer (BPT).

During exceptional times, such as winter storm Uri, electric vehicle batteries, with appropriate charging technology, can function as emergency power sources. They would turn the energy in their battery packs into alternating current (AC) power to provide emergency backup power.

Most EV manufacturers are now recycling used battery packs into second-life storage devices. One of these is Tesla’s Power Wall, but many others are coming onto the market. Power transistors are becoming much more efficient and compact, which has resulted in more efficient and compact domestic power inverters.

Micro power generation in the form of photovoltaic cells, miniature wind turbines or even concentrated solar (thermal) power units will also help make electrical supply more robust.

Some solutions encourage the prepper in everyone, including do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturing of powerwalls, suitable for talented amateurs.

An Aside: At Cliff Cottage, we removed our main living room wood-burning stove. At one point we had intended on replacing it with a more modern stove, but this has met with opposition/ procrastination from all of the residents. They comment that every time a new log is put on a fire, smoke/ toxins enter the room. Thus, what we are considering now is a battery pack that will provide electricity when there is a blackout. In addition, it should be able to provide extra power during peak periods, and charge itself off-peak. A related project (Turtle Power) is to build a 1 kW miniature wind turbine, with no visible, unintentionally accessible moving parts, and occupying a volume of less than 1 m3. Anyone wanting further information, or an opportunity to participate, is invited to take contact.

Fossil fuels cause significant environmental and health problems. They are also a non-renewable resource. Relying on them is not a wise long-term energy strategy. Texans, and almost everyone else, will have to learn to do wind energy better, to install micro power generation equipment, and to use battery power at home and on the road.

Heat

The U.S. consumes about 100 EJ = 100 Exajoules = 100 x 1018 Joules of energy, annually. Americans, being Americans don’t often express energy in Joules. Rather, they prefer to use British Thermal Units (BTUs), where 1 BTU = 1055 J. Another way of expressing this is to say that Americans use about 100 quads of energy, where 1 quad = 1015 BTUs. If one is willing to accept a 5.5% error, one can say that 1 EJ is about equal to 1 quad.

Only about one third of energy consumed is used for productive work. The above Sankey diagram shows energy inputs and outputs, productive work is clumped together as energy services, in a dark gray box. The other 2/3 is wasted as heat, which in the above diagram is referred to as rejected energy, which is clumped together in a light gray box.

Renewable energy comes from solar (1.04 quads), hydro (2.5 quads), winds (2.75 quads) and geothermal (0.21 quads) sources, for a total of 6.5 quads. Thermal energy systems burn fuel or split atoms, and accounted for about 93.5% of American energy inputs in 2019. Most of this fuel come from fossil sources, that is responsible for most of the carbon emissions associated with climate change. Wasted/ rejected energy is a proxy/ surrogate/ substitute for the damage being done to the planet. The exception is the energy provided by nuclear power, although it also has issues of its own. In contrast, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal) capture energy, without creating heat. While there are some transmission loses, most of that energy provides energy services.

A modern electric vehicle (EV) with regenerative braking is about 95% energy effective. Even the most efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, can only achieve about 30% energy efficiency. This means that an EV only needs about 1/3 of the energy inputs that an ICE vehicle needs.

The United States transportation sector uses 28% of the total energy. Of this, cars, light trucks, and motorcycles use about 58%, while 23% is used in heavy duty trucks, 8% is for aircraft, 4% is for boats and ships, 3% is for trains and buses, while the last 4% is for pipelines (according to 2013 figures). This means that road transportation accounts for over 80% of the total. From the Sankey diagram, one can see that the transportation sector has 28.2 quads of input of (mostly) fossil-fuel energy, which means that 22.5 quads are road related. This results in 5.93 quads of transportation services, of which 4.75 quads are road related. These figures show about a 21% efficiency, because transportation related engines are considerably less efficient than other engines, including those used for electrical power generation.

If one uses renewable energy for road transportation, 4.75 quads of transportation services could be produced from about 5.0 quads of renewable (wind/ solar/ hydro/ geothermal) energy. At the same time, 22.5 quads of oil production would be eliminated, without any negative energy-related consequences. In fact, there would be benefits in terms of improved health, and less pressure on the environment.

A shift to renewable sources in other sectors would also have benefits. Natural gas and coal currently make a large contribution to inputs for electricity generation used elsewhere, 11.7 and 10.2 quads each, respectively, for a total of 21.9 quads. However, using the 1/3 service, 2/3 rejected formula, this means that these fossil-fuel inputs only produce 7.3 quads of electrical services. This contribution could be replaced by 7.5 quads of renewable energy.

Gasoline has an energy density of about 45 MJ/kg, which can provide about 15 MJ/kg of energy services, and 30 MJ/kg of rejected energy, as discussed above. A litre of gasoline has a mass of 0.76 kg and produces 2.356 kg of CO2 and 11.4 MJ of energy.

For American readers: The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that “About 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) are produced from burning a gallon of gasoline that does not contain ethanol. About 22.38 pounds of CO2 are produced by burning a gallon of diesel fuel. U.S. gasoline and diesel fuel consumption for transportation in 2013 resulted in the emission of about 1 095 and 427 million metric tons of CO2 respectively, for a total of 1 522 million metric tons of CO2. This total was equivalent to 83% of total CO2 emissions by the U.S. transportation sector and 28% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.Under international agreement, CO2 from the combustion of biomass or biofuels are not included in national greenhouse gas emissions inventories.”

Since 1 MJ = 0.2778 Kilowatt hours (kWh), 11.4 MJ is the equivalent of 3.17 kWh. According to Electric Choice, the average price a residential customer in the United States pays for electricity is 13.31 cents per kWh in December 2020. This means that gasoline would have to sell for 42.19 cents per litre to be cost effective. Since there are 3.785 litres per American gallon, a gallon would have to sell for about $1.60 to provide an equivalent price. According to Global Petrol Prices, the average price of mid-grade/ 95-octane gasoline was $2.752 per gallon, the equivalent of $0.727 per litre, as of 2021-02-01.

In Norway, the price is about NOK 1 per kWh for electricity, but with wide variations. The price of 95-octane gasoline is about NOK 16.33 per litre, once again according to Global Petrol Prices. This helps explain why EVs are so popular. To be price equivalent, gasoline would have to sell for about NOK 3.17 per litre. Currently, Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, is debating increasing the CO2 tax by NOK 5 per litre, which would bring the price to over NOK 21 per litre. Not all political parties are in agreement, with this proposal.

There is a great deal of discussion about consumption figures for electric vehicles in Norway. In part, this is because the terrain varies greatly. Some people drive in urban landscapes, others out in the country. Some people are flatlanders, while others have more mountainous environments. However many consumers have experienced real-world energy consumption levels of about 15 kWh/100 km for vehicles such as a Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul and Tesla Model 3. This gives a fuel cost of about NOK 15/ 100 km. In American terms, this would be about 24 kWh/ 100 miles, or $3.20/ 100 miles, with the electrical costs noted above.

Update: 2021-06-12 at 15:00.

The amount of energy used to refine gasoline (and diesel) is more than the electricity required to drive the same number of miles/ kilometers, using equivalent battery electric vehicles. Fossil fuel vehicles make absolutely no sense. When a country substitutes EVs for ICE vehicles, electrical consumption actually declines.

Climate Crisis Links: A tidbit

Does this image meet all seven principles for climate visuals? Check out the last link in the list below to find out. In the great climate debate, it may be difficult to tell – or even to know – what truth is, for there can be many different varieties and perspectives on it. However, attempting to tell a truth is better than the alternative, which is to engage in obscuring it, which is much broader problem than that of simply telling obvious lies. Photo: Joël de Vriend

The world is in crisis, and it is time to act now. There is only one person who can decide how you should act, and what you should prioritize. Despite this caveat, here are some links.

World Scientists’ warning of a climate emergency 2019-11-05: https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biz088/5610806

Nobody is prepared: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/05/most-countries-climate-plans-totally-inadequate-experts

Previous warning statements to put current events into perspective

Second warning (2017): https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/12/1026/4605229

First warning (1992): https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/1992-world-scientists-warning-humanity

UN Sustainable Development Goals website: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs

The 7 climate visuals principles: https://climatevisuals.org/evidence-behind-climate-visuals

The Charm of Hell

Hell is a neuter Norwegian noun that translates as “luck”, as in “good fortune.” The opposite, or uhell, translates as “accident.”

It is also the name of a village with railway station, close to the city of Stjørdal, in Trøndelag county. Read everything and more that anyone could ever want to know, here.

On Saturday, 2019-08-24, we decided to take a break from construction and other domestic chores, and do something fun – shopping: for roofing tar and cement. We also decided that we could spend some time walking along the coast towards an island, then – on our return to Stjørdal – eat a salad at a local pizzeria.

Here are some photos from the walk

On the outside wall of a farm utility building is the distance to Jerusalem.
Billetholmen, an island, and its causeway/ breakwater.
A boathouse, on the pathway leading to Billetholmen.
The backside of the boathouse.
Picnic tables and benches at Hellstranda.
Hell Station, built in 1902.
The current train stop at Hell.

Constructive Environmentalism

Environmental protection is a more common phrase than environmental defence (British English) = defense (American English). Protection is passive, as in locking something away out of harms way. Defense is active, employing people and devices to deflect attacks, reduce danger and prevent injury.

In many respects, changing the word order of these phrases provides a better understanding of the intended purpose: protective environmentalism in contrast to defensive environmentalism. Unfortunately, while defense is active, it is neither assertive nor positive. Thus, there is need for more dynamic representations. Potential phrases include: assertive environmentalism followed by aggressive environmentalism, and ending up with militant environmentalism. The problem with these last two approaches is that they are too authoritarian, too dogmatic, too insistent – without nuances. Thus, none of them will be used, at least by this author.

Another approach is to use terms related to negative or positive environmentalism, where negative emphasises prohibitions, most emphatically expressed in destructive environmentalism. Unfortunately, this is the mindset of many environmentalists. It is yet another term to be avoided, despite the fact that the environmental movement has far too many adherents telling people what not to do. Instead, my preferred adjective is constructive, as in constructive environmentalism, which involves working actively and co-operatively to promote positive changes.

As an example of constructive environmentalism, it is my hope that Friends of the Earth Inderøy, will focus on five areas:

  1. Education
    1. Information about species (native and otherwise) resident in the municipality, and their impact on the environment and people.
    2. Information about the impending climate crisis, and how it will impact the natural as well as the cultural landscape. It is especially important for provide information about how to mitigate its effects.
  2. Repair and recycling
    1. Bicycles
    2. Clothing
    3. Consumer electronics
    4. Furniture
  3. Local food production/ rewilding
    1. Geodesic dome greenhouse. Norway does not produce enough plant based foods to sustain its population. Thus one of the first projects is to develop a greenhouse.
    2. Hydroponics = growing plants in water. The greenhouse will be complete with suitable lighting, that will allow year-round production of food-stuffs, using hydroponics to reduce water and mineral resources.
    3. Apiculture = bee keeping. There is a need for more bees, as well as family and bee friendly hives, for pollination, as well as the production of honey.
    4. Heliciculture = snail farming. Protein production using snails, and other invertebrates.
    5. Rewilding areas not used for food production and recreation. Living near trees, especially, improves mental health and wellbeing.
  4. Monitoring and communication
    1. Radio communication of environmental data, with monitoring facilities located at Mosvik, Utøy, Kjerknesvågen, Sandvollen, Straumen and Røra, at schools where these are available.
    2. Construction of radio and weather/ monitoring equipment to be used at the six centres noted above.
    3. Air defence. Construction and operation of drones to monitor acute situations. Equipped with sensors and video cameras.
    4. Sea defence. Construction and operation of underwater robots to monitor the environment. Equipped with sensors and video cameras.
    5. Collection of evidence. It is not the role of environmentalists to enforce environmental laws or to police violations. However, evidence that is collected through monitoring can be given to the authorities who have that responsibility.
  5. Transportation
    1. Encourage the construction of pedestrian/ cycle paths connecting residential areas with school/ commercial/ administrative centers. This will promote healthier lifestyles/ more exercise/ better mental health, and reduce dependency on motorized transport.
    2. Construction of pathways through disturbed natural landscapes (de facto cultural landscapes), encouraging exercise and wellbeing.
    3. Construction of raised pathways in undisturbed natural landscapes, to reduce the impact of these human pathways, and to prevent them from becoming barriers to native species and their natural use of the landscape.

On Environmentalism

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with activist fashion warrior Katharine Hamnett at a reception at 10 Downing Street, in 1984. Please note the appropriate party shoes worn by Hamnett.

There are many different types of environmentalists. Most people’s involvement in environmentalism does not involve a full range of issues. Instead, there is a focus on just one, or a few. For example, some people are focused on nuclear energy, or policy decisions on bears and other carnivores, or preservation of the arctic fox.

For many, their most distinguishing garment is their hiking boots. Others are more comfortable in a lab-coat. There are even people who prefer tailored suits, to cavort with members of political/ business elites. Fortunately, many times increasingly more people simply wear their ordinary school clothes to protest outside their favourite democratically elected assembly each and every Friday. Personally, I feel most comfortable outfitted in protective clothing suitable for a workshop. One can never be quite sure what type of clothing evokes the best environmentalist image, except to refer to the stunning success of Katharine Hamnett, dressed in a rather long sweat shirt with dress sneakers, at a reception at 10 Downing Street in 1984, which is now 35 years ago.

The reason for all of these different fashion statements, is that people have their own individual environmental fashion style. Personally, I see a need for a flora of environmental organizations, each with their own approach. To help people understand this concept better, I’d like to use religion as an analogy.

There is a large segment of the population in Norway who are active – but more likely passive – members of a Lutheran church, still often – but incorrectly – referred to as the State Church. Many immigrant families are members of the Catholic church, while other immigrant families are members of a wide variety of Muslim organizations. There is also a variety of other religions, associated with other faiths.

Membership in a religion involves a two-fold declaration. First, a potential member must hold a minimal set of core beliefs that are known in advance, and the religion must then be allowed to adjudicate that person to determine if that person meets its membership requirements. It is insufficient for a person to make a declaration that they are Jewish/ Christian/ Muslim/ Baha’i, and for the particular religion to be required to accept that person as a member.

Bridge building between the various religions is not undertaken by having every religious person join an ecumenical organization, and then allow decisions to be made through democratic voting procedures. That would result in a tyranny by the majority. Instead, the different Faiths/ denominations become members, and areas of common interest are developed through consensus. There will, of course, be areas where these organizations agree to disagree.

My experience of Friends of the Earth, is that it – like the Church of Norway – has a large number of passive members, who pay an annual membership fee more out of guilt, than belief. Yet, it is also resembles The Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities, hoping to foster mutual respect and dialog between a variety of environmental perspectives, and working towards their equal treatment.

The Norwegian name of Friends of the Earth is not Verdens Venner or even Jordens Venner, as could be expected with a literal translation. Instead, it is Naturvernforbundet, which is officially translated as the cumbersome, The Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature/ Friends of the Earth Norway. For linguists, one could cryptically add: natur = nature; vern = protection; forbund = for-bund = together bound = federation/ association/ society; et = neuter direct article = the, which is put at the beginning of the phrase in English. Note the general absence of norsk (adjective, not usually capitalized) = Norwegian, or Norge (noun, in Bokmål, spelt Noreg in Nynorsk or New Norwegian) = Norway. However, the name sometimes begins with Norges (possessive noun) = Norway’s, if there is a need to distinguish the organization from something in other countries.

Because of the structure of Friends of the Earth, there is no need for the organization to build consensus. Instead, individuals can position themselves to become representatives attending bi-annual national meetings, and voting on policy decisions. In this internet age, this 20th century approach means that a determined few, can decide policy that could be offensive to a more passive majority.

Some of the more radical and active members are able to capture the votes of this passive majority, and to use it to change/ uphold policy decisions. What appears to be consensus, can be more properly be described as a tyranny by the few. This problem can be remedied by replacing a representative democracy, with a direct democracy – one member, one vote. This is attaining using today’s internet technology.

Unfortunately, Friends of the Earth cannot be both dogmatic and ecumenical at the same time. If it opts to take a more ecumenical approach, then instead of communities of Buddhists, Hindus, Humanists and Sikhs (all groups not mentioned previously), there would be place for different views of environmentalism: field naturalists, species preservationists, workshop activists, to name three. Each group would then be allocated an agreed upon number of council members. A (bi-)annual meeting would appoint a board, which again employs a secretariat, and the organization would work towards consensus building.

Despite my role as leader of Friends of the Earth, Inderøy there are days when I contemplate leaving the organization. It is related to one significant flaw with Hamnett’s photo (above), and that is the negativity of her message. One never wins friends by telling people what not to do. Instead, there has to be a positive message that can be periodically reinforced.

Friends of the Earth, Norway, is on the warpath again against imported plant species, including those grown in private gardens. Instead of making positive suggestions to grown some under-rated, beautiful, endemic species, they want to induce guilt in people who chose immigrant species.

I think, in particular of the sand lupine, Lupinus nootkatensis, which thrives on sand and gravel-containing areas, growing to about 50-70 cm high. The species name originates from the Nootka Sound in British Columbia, Canada. It is a place I am intimately familiar with. The species was first listed on the Norwegian Black List 2007 (SE). Yet, the species came to Norway with The Norwegian State Railway (NSB), which used it to tie the slopes along the then (1878) newly constructed Jær Line, south from Stavanger for almost 75 km to Egersund. From there, the plant has spread along the railway and the road network to large parts of the country. Today, it is found in 16 of the country’s 19 traditional counties.

The species started its expansion from Jæren in the Southwest. It was observed in Stjørdal in 1911, which means it has been found in Trøndelag for at least 108 years. In a very short period of time, lupins grow densely, and where not limited by droughts, large, barren areas can be reclaimed quickly because of its nitrogen fixation abilities. It can also extract phosphorus from compounds in poor soils. In spite of these good qualities, it has a tendency to become dominant and overtakes the natural flora. Of course, the reason why lupins were used by the railway, is that there were no native Norwegian species capable of taking on the reclamation duties required: to combat erosion, to speed up land reclamation and to help with reforestation.

The reason for my despair, is that many environmentalists do not seem to understand that the world of 2050 will be vastly different from the world of 1950 or 1850. Unfortunately, many of the species previously thriving in Norway will be totally unsuited for continued life in Norway in thirty years time.

The Crowther Lab at ETH Zürich has examined expected temperatures for 2050, and found that Oslo will experience a 5.6 degree increase in its warmest month, and a 2.2 degree increase annually. This could significantly weaken the viability of many species, including Norway maple, Acer platanoides and strengthen an imigrant, Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus, which was introduced to Norway about 1750, and has become naturalized. There are suggestions that the Sycamore is replacing species devastated by disease such as the wych elm, Ulmus glabra, and the European ash, Fraxinus excelsior, which is at its cultivation limit at Trondheim Fjord.

NB Information about Lupinus nootkatensis has been updated. Aparently, it was already placed on the Norwegian black list in 2007.