The new lie: "There aren't enough minerals to build out the energy transition!"

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by Eclipse, Oct 19, 2023.

  1. Eclipse

    Eclipse Junior Member

    Jun 2, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Trophy Points:
    Has anyone heard this guy Simon Michaux try to debunk the notion of renewable energy running the world? He has this impressive looking 1000 page PDF - and is all over youtube attacking renewable energy and claiming there are not enough critical minerals to do the job. This is his 1 hour 12 minute rant to the University of Queensland. It's a classic info dump - a 'Gish gallop' where people cannot see the forest for the trees.

    But Simon Michaux’s whole argument rests on a straw-man. Michaux seems to think he's the only one who has discovered winter might impact renewables! His solution? Europe needs to store a WHOLE MONTH (28 days) of power in the fanciest lithium-ion batteries we've ever invented just to get through winter. This MONTH of batteries is then applied to the WHOLE WORLD'S population - even though most of humanity lives within 30 degrees of the equator where there IS NO WINTER.
    In this way he multiplies out the metals required by several orders of magnitude. But “winter” is not the blind-spot Michaux pretends it is. Engineers have a plan.

    Renewables are now 1/4 the cost of nuclear (Lazard) – so we can Overbuild them. Build enough with winter as your target benchmark. 2 days storage is usually enough. The rest of the year generates so much excess so cheap you can do so much exciting stuff with Tony Seba calls it “Super-Power”. They say Australia can probably get away with a 200% renewable grid - that’s just for our electricity grid.

    For industrial heating and transport, an Australian industrial think-tank worth a THIRD of our Stock Market! They plan to Overbuild 2020’s electricity grid by 5 TIMES to produce all the products they want to sell and export.

    Some energy experts don't even think of it as “Overbuild” - they just model how much will do the job. Extra powerlines are often mentioned as if you overbuild across a wide enough geographic area we can use live power most of the time. EG: Some propose building extra solar out at Perth and HVDC across Australia to the Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne grid so we can pipe solar power live around the curvature of the earth! Then Perth afternoons power Sydney’s “Duck curve” evenings after dark! HVDC can do this. It only loses 3% per 1000 km. Professor Andrew Blakers explains that a good grid will reduce Storage costs - and that both extra storage and HVDC is about 30% of the total cost. It’s like an entry fee you get to buy heaps and heaps of cheap wind and solar - the other 70% of your grid costs. Or, as this author says:

    "Next Michaux overstates the requirement for batteries by at least an order of magnitude by ignoring a few things. First, he ignores the massive HVDC interconnects being built around the world that deflate grid storage requirements. HVDC is the new pipeline (and LNG tanker and oil tanker) after all."

    Also at the link above - Michaux falls for the false equivalency of thinking each ton of thermal coal energy MUST be replaced by equivalent wind turbines and solar panels. Which is utter rubbish, because at the same time as we see wind and solar doubling every 5 years (yup, going exponential) we also see efforts to “Electrify Everything” starting. When we “Electrify Everything” the system is so much more efficient we can do away with HALF of the initial energy! EG: Install an off-grid solar + grid battery for little EV’s to come up and recharge at, and you not only avoid those EV’s stressing the grid, you prevent oil tankers driving down the highway each week to deliver fuel. 40% of global shipping is fossil fuels. Once we do this Energy Transition, that’s 22,000 huge steel cargo sheeps we can recycle into yet more wind turbines!

    All sectors of the energy transition are pivoting away from fancy rare earths and scarcer metals. Why? It’s the cost! Consider the plainer options. Solar is silicon (27% of the earth’s crust!) and aluminium (8%). Wind is aluminium and iron ore (5%) and fibreglass (glass fibres and recyclable plastic polymers.) There are solar panels and wind turbines that do not require ANY rare earths - yes - even in the wind turbine generator!

    Aluminium can replace copper in almost all copper's roles - yes even in EV's. There is 1200 TIMES more aluminium than copper. It recycles well. We will never run out.
    Also, all the copper ever mined is still on earth (apart from a few satellites.) We can recycle and re-prioritise that.

    Pumped-Hydro Electricity Storage hardly uses any metal for the enormous energy stored. The best PHES sites are 400 to 800 metres. Michaux’s 1000 page “Report” claimed the sites are too limited. But it had no source! Here it is. Are you ready? He tells us the WORLD doesn’t have enough pumped hydro sites because of a viability study about PHES in SINGAPORE! Pancake flat Singapore - their highest hill is only 15 metres? Gee - I wonder why THEY had trouble finding enough sites!? This shows how far outside his comfort zone he is working. He’s a geologist - not an energy expert. Then Dave Borlace from “Just Have a Think” critiqued Michaux. He mentioned one of my heroes, Australia’s Professor Andrew Blakers who won the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (the Nobel prize for engineers). Blakers shows that if we build OFF-RIVER pumped hydro dams (and pump the water in later), and use satellite data to measure all the best off-river sites - the world has over 100 TIMES what we need. Here’s his youtube intro: His global atlas. Just 1% of these would do all our storage with mainly gravity + water. Ah, but Michaux replied! He said the amount of water that was required was an extra 50% of the annual fresh water we use. The quantity might be true - but the annual bit is sneaky! See - it would be a once off historical fill. We’d be doing it over time. Say we get keen and do it across 25 years . That’s only an extra 2% per year over that period. If we cover the sites in floating solar to reduce evaporation, the top-up rate is only 10% of the water we CURRENTLY throw at cooling thermal stations like coal. We’ll end up saving water! This is the sort of thing Michaux just omits. It’s not his field. It IS Professor Blaker’s field!

    SODIUM GRID BATTERIES are a thing.
    They need NO lithium, copper, cobalt, or nickel. And we’re not going to run out of sea salt! They are safer and 30% cheaper than lithium. Even if we DID need a month of storage (we don’t!) - Sodium could supply it a million times over. Michaux’s report came out in August 2021 and he claimed sodium was still in the lab. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence - and the commercrial orders had been placed at least a year before.

    Sodium can even be used in EV’s - but it will have a shorter range than lithium. But sodium grid batteries means we can save all our lithium for EV’s. There are many new chemistry’s coming out, but at the moment EV’s are going LFP - Lithium Iron Phosphate. The USGS says there is 89 MILLION tons of lithium. At 6 kg per EV that’s 14 BILLION cars - we only 1.4 billion. Also - we keep finding lithium faster than we’re mining it. In Sept 2023 America just discovered the worlds’ single largest lithium reserves.

    Michaux’s OWN PAPER shows we have MORE than enough minerals if we just subtract his ridiculous “Fancy batteries that ate the world”. Check “Michaux Sans Batteries”.

    Michaux pretends to care about the environment, but interviews on alt-right news like Australia’s Sky News. Climate sceptics use his interviews to cast doubt on renewables. Michaux is just a former peak oil doomer trying to justify his doomer manifesto, writing outside his field. Instead, stick to peer-reviewed research like that of Professor Blakers. Watch his vision for a future renewable grid backed by PHES.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2023

Share This Page