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Gender: Male
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Member since: 2002
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Oh. Oh. Finally a discussion of the toxicology of solar cells is appearing in the scientific...


The solar industry, in my view, is useless. World wide, after the "investment of" - I would choose the words "squandered" on - of trillion dollar scale resources for this industry, it does not produce even two of the five hundred sixty exajoules of energy that humanity consumes each year. Moreover, this industry has done nothing, absolutely nothing, to arrest climate change. Despite the massive investment in solar energy, 2015 was the worst year ever recorded for increases in carbon dioxide - dangerous fossil fuel waste - the first year in which these concentrations rose by more than 3 ppm in a single year, 3.05 ppm exactly as recorded at the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory.

2016 is clearly on track to blow 2015 away as the worst year ever observed.

Solar energy is often referred to as "renewable energy," although this too is a joke, since the industry is entirely dependent on access to increasing rare materials, many of which are highly toxic, and which must be mined at great risk to the miners. As I've pointed out many times, one element utilized in the solar industry, cadmium, is now widely found in rice in large stretches of China.

One sees, occasionally, if one takes the time to look, lots of discussion of heavy metal poisoning associated with some of the elements utilized in the solar industry, although seldom is the linkage explicitly made. One must both know the composition of solar materials, the toxicology of the metals involved, and something about their environmental distribution to understand this relationship, at least generally.

Twice a month, as issues are released, I undertake readings in one of the world's most prominent environmental scientific journals, Environmental Science and Technology, a favorite journal of mine.

I was very pleased to read a paper that explicitly refers to the risks associated with solar cells as solar cells.

The paper is here: Bulk Dissolution Rates of Cadmium and Bismuth Tellurides As a Function of pH, Temperature and Dissolved Oxygen

(Environ. Sci. Technol., 2016, 50 (9), pp 4675–4681) (Full access to the paper may require a subscription, payment, or access in a good scientific library.)

Some excerpts from the text:

Tellurium is an extremely rare element in the earth́s crust with an estimated upper continental crust abundance of 0.027 ppm(1) and its distribution and fate in the environmental compartments have been comparatively little studied. There is considerable uncertainty as to its likely concentration in natural waters.(2) Some 123 tellurium bearing phases are known to occur as natural minerals.(3) None of these are abundant enough for economical exploitation. Tellurium, a chalcophile element, also occurs as an impurity in sulfidic copper and nickel ores, thus the element is extracted from mining and refining residues of the copper and nickel industries. It is only over the last two decades that economically significant technological applications of tellurium compounds have emerged. It has recently been identified as one of the key technologically critical elements.(4) Metal tellurides are semiconducting materials, and CdTe is gaining importance as an absorber in thin-film photovoltaic conversion modules, owing to its band gap of 1.49 eV,(5, 6) which exactly coincides with the mean energy of solar light. The principal advantage of CdTe photovoltaic cells lies in the combination of low cost and high conversion efficiency. CdTe is also used in photoconductors, specifically in the manufacture of gamma and IR radiation detectors.(5) ...

...Cadmium is known to be extremely toxic to all forms of life,(11) the toxicity of tellurium is still little understood,(11) even though clear adverse health effects have been known for nearly a century,(12) whereas bismuth—used for more than a century in medicine in the treatment of disorders of the digestive tract and in dermatology(13)—is generally considered as environmentally benign(11, 14) although there are reports of genotoxicity of Bi2O3 nanoparticles,(15) inhibition of growth of soil microorganisms(16) and the neurotoxic potential of some bismuth compounds has been confirmed.(17, 18)

Thin films of CdTe, as they are employed in solar modules, are believed to be environmentally quite safe, because the compound is thermally extremely stable (melting point 1042 °C)(19) and it is sealed within glass plates and contained in between thin layers of other compounds. Fortunately, CdTe can be recycled from used modules in excellent yield.(20) Nevertheless, the rate of release of problematic elements such as cadmium and tellurium from these important industrial materials ought to be known, as accidental release (due to inadequate handling or disposal of the finished products or the compounds themselves) can never be ruled out...

From the conclusion of the paper:

As neither of the two substances showed any signs of passivation during dissolution, one must assume that they would dissolve completely under environmental conditions, but as the measured rates are slow on an absolute scale, the accidental release of these compounds into the natural environment would hardly pose a threat and would in any case leave ample time to be tackled. From this perspective, and given their good thermal stability, it appears that both CdTe and Bi2Te3 are indeed environmentally safe materials. However, both will readily dissolve under long-term deposition conditions such as in landfills or uncontrolled open dumps, with the corresponding complete release of their potentially noxious elements, that is, cadmium and tellurium.

The way I read this conclusion is that the authors find that the solar cells are "safe" for now, but they may have tragic consequences for future generations.

Don't worry, be happy. The way we now conduct our lives shows that it is socially acceptable, completely consistent with our practice in every aspect of our lives, to not give a rat's ass about future generations. The reason we are having children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren is because we expect them to clean up our mess, and if they can't do that, that's their problem and not ours.

Screw 'em if they can't take a joke.

I'm not really sanguine about the conclusion that "release of these compounds would hardly pose a threat." Other literature shows that they are a threat already, that they are tracked, and nothing, absolutely nothing can be done to remediate exposure to them. Were it possible to remediate these exposures, hundreds of millions of Chinese wouldn't be eating rice laced with cadmium.

Still, the authors failings aside, it's very clear that at least the topic is coming up. Distributed energy, I have long contended, is nothing more than distributed pollution, for the long term at least, and the fact that the solar industry - a failed industry in terms of environmental goals - is still insanely popular is, um, well, insane, and a full measure about how little we care about what we do.

Have a great evening.

April 2016 over April 2015 sets the all time monthly record for increases in atmospheric CO2.

According to the data just released at the Mauna Loa website, the increase in the average concentration of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide in the planetary atmosphere in April 2016 is 4.16 ppm higher than it was in April 2015. This is the first instance in the entire history of carbon dioxide measurements at Mauna Loa extending back to 1959 that the determination of a monthly average has exceeded 4.00 pm over the same month of the previous year.

This is, um, disturbing, since 2015 was already the worst year ever observed for carbon dioxide increases over the previous year.

The previous monthly record, 3.76 ppm, was set in February 2016. (March 2016 was "only" the 8th worst such data point ever observed.)

The worst year, 2015 only had two monthly data points that were higher than 3.00, the recent November and December at respectively, 3.03 ppm and 3.07 ppm respectively.

Of 685 such points recording monthly increases over the previous year since the establishment of the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory, only 15 have been higher than 3.00 ppm. Five of these have occurred in the last 6 months. (January 2016, at 2.54 ppm over January 2015, was "only" the 53rd worst such data point ever recorded.

All of our efforts to address climate change - efforts that were never, in fact, serious - have failed, and failed spectacularly.

There has been more effort to attack the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free energy, nuclear energy, than there has been to attack dangerous fossil fuels, and the signature of that effort is written plainly, unambiguously, and undeniably in the accelerating degradation of the planetary atmosphere.

This may sound like Schadenfreud, but the heat will cook the just and the unjust alike. Every morning I have to wake up, face my two sons, and reflect on the world my generation is leaving for theirs.

If any of this disturbs you, don't worry, be happy. DONG (Danish Oil and Natural Gas) is "consulting" on the world's largest wind farm.

One may note that all the wind farms built around all the world for all time have done zero, nothing, zilch, nada, bupkis to address climate change, but it's the thought that counts, not results.

And don't forget, they're building a solar roadway in France.

Have a great weekend!

For April 2016, the average weekly increase in CO2 levels compared with April 2015 is 4.16 ppm.

As I've remarked many times in this space, the year 2015 was the worst year ever recorded at Mauna Loa's carbon dioxide observatory for increases in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, at 3.05 ppm.

Right now, if trends continue, 2016 will blow that level away.

Something very, very, very, very disturbing is happening if the Mauna Loa observatory's CO[sub]2[/sub] measurements are correct.

For clarity, I will repeat some text from one of my earlier posts, showing how I store and analyze this data available from the Mauna Loa observatory's website's data tab:

At the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory website, they have a data page which compares the averages for each week of the year with the same week of the previous year.

The data goes back to 1974, and comprises 2,090 data points.

I import this data into a spreadsheet I maintain each week, and calculate the weekly increases over the previous year. I rank the data for the increases from worst to best, the worst data point being 4.67 ppm over the previous year, which was recorded during the week ending September 6, 1998, when much of the rain forest of Southeast Asia was burning when fires set to clear the forests for palm oil plantations got out of control during unusually dry weather. Six of the worst data points ever recorded occurred in 1998 during this event, another was recorded in the January following that event.

Of the twenty worst data points ever recorded out of 2090 two of them have occurred in the last four weeks. The week ending January 31, 2016 produced a result of a 4.35 ppm of increase. The week just passed, that ending, 2/14/2016, produced a result of 3.79 ppm increase, tying it for the aforementioned week in January 1999, that ending on January 24, 1999, and that of January 2, 2011.

Of the twenty highest points recorded, 9 have occurred in the last 5 years, 10 in the last 10 years.

It's looking very bad these last few weeks at the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory.

The data now comprises an even 2100 data points. Of the ten worst ever recorded, five have occurred in 2016. Two have been in the last four weeks or released data (up to April 24, 2016). The average for the last two weeks is a whopping 4.16 ppm.

Of the 25 worst data points ever recorded, 7 have come in 2016, 11 have occurred in the last 5 years, and 13 in the last 10 years. Of the 12 points not in the last ten years, seven of them occurred in 1998 when fires designed to clear rain forest for palm oil plantations (so we could have "renewable" biodiesel) in Southeast Asia went out of control and burned vast stretches of those forests in Indonesia and Malyasia.

It would seem that whatever it is we think we're doing about climate change, it isn't working.

If any of this disturbs you, don't worry, be happy. Iberdola Renewable Energy is building 15 wind turbines on the ridgeline of Green Mountain National Forest. Even if the last trillion dollars sunk into wind energy in the last ten years has had zero effect on climate change, wishing always trumps reality.

Enjoy your Sunday afternoon.

Handlesblatt: Germany has a big new problem, dealing with its failed wind turbines.

A while back, on another website, using the exhaustive database available on the Danish Energy Agency's website, I showed that the average lifetime of a wind turbine is rather short, of the thosands decommissioned, the average turbine lasted considerably less than 20 years. Sustaining the Wind Part 1 – Is So Called “Renewable Energy” the Same as “Sustainable Energy?”

In the above, I provided references showing that in just ten years, from 2004 to 2015, the planet foolishly invested $711 billion dollars in wind energy, which has no effect, no effect whatsoever, on the rate of the degradation of the planetary atmosphere: 2015 was the worst year ever recorded for increases in atmospheric concentrations in carbon dioxide, and the figures being recorded thus far in 2016 are, for anyone who bothers to look, nothing short of terrifying.

Note that $711 billion dollars his hardly a trivial amount: It is more than each of the gross national products of countries like Sweden, Norway, Argentina, and, um, yes, Denmark. It is slightly less than the GDP of Saudi Arabia. Surely by the end of 2016, the "investment" in wind energy will surpass one trillion dollars since 2004 and of course, unless the world comes to its senses, considerably more by 2024, when the wind turbines built in 2004 will have become useless junk.

The following comes from a German financial newspaper, Handlesblatt.

The original version (in German) is here: Sprengen, fällen oder gebraucht verkaufen

The text of the article involves the fact that many of Germany's wind turbines built in the 1990's are now failing or useless; in addition, apparently the German regulatory authorities require that after 20 years, any wind turbines that have not already been abandoned must be recertified as safe.

The following translations of excerpts are mine, the caveat being that I haven't been reading in German that much in recent years, and am quite rusty in executing translations from that language:

In Germany more and more wind turbines are failing. The reason: Support runs out, materials experience fatigue, or it is simply more profitable to replace older models with newer ones. At the same time, the dismantling them is extremely complex.

More than 25,000 wind turbines are spinning across the Republic. For some, this represents the mutilation of the landscape, for others, they are symbols of the transformative power of German energy to renewable energy...

...In the 1990’s a large number of wind turbines were built in the Federal Republic. It follows that now many of these have reached old age. In the coming year, more than 7,000 turbines will have reached 15 years of age. After 20 years, they must be shut down and dismantled, unless the owner can prove that they remain stable and operational…

The brief article reports graphically that 511 wind farms in Germany have been abandoned.

The choices of recent generations will be hell to pay for future generations. The most sobering commentary on which it has been my misfortune to report in this space, other than the raw data for recent increases in carbon dioxide concentrations, is this one, from a commentary in the scientific journal Nature:

"Current models of climate economics assume that lives in the future are less important...than lives today, a value judgement that is rarely scrutinized and difficult to defend..."

The wind industry and so called "renewable energy" remain popular, but the data shows very clearly that embracing this "renewable energy" strategy is a grotesque failure, and is a mere affectation in which one pretends that doing nothing is the same as doing everything necessary. It is not the people who bought into this cockamamie fantasy who will suffer from the results of our decisions; it is future generations. Today's wind farms are just another part of the useless junk and waste we will leave behind for them to clean up.

Future generations, should they survive what we have done to the planet, will not forgive us, nor should they.

Enjoy the remainder of the weekend.

Theodore von Kármán

"Science is the study of what Is,
Engineering builds what Will Be...

...The scientist merely explores
that which exists,
while the engineer creates
what has never existed before.''

4/10/16: Mauna Loa week to week annual data shows the 2nd highest increase in CO2 ever observed...

...over the same week of the previous year.

I've spent much of the last year reporting on the extraordinary data on the on going collapse of the atmosphere that is being observed in 2016.

One of the more recent of the several such posts I've had the displeasure of posting this year is here: The unprecedented 2016 measurement of large increases in CO2 concentrations over 2015 continues...

In this one of March 29, I quoted my similar post of February 21st of this year, which I repeat again:

At the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory website, they have a data page which compares the averages for each week of the year with the same week of the previous year.

The data goes back to 1974, and comprises 2,090 data points.

I import this data into a spreadsheet I maintain each week, and calculate the weekly increases over the previous year. I rank the data for the increases from worst to best, the worst data point being 4.67 ppm over the previous year, which was recorded during the week ending September 6, 1998, when much of the rain forest of Southeast Asia was burning when fires set to clear the forests for palm oil plantations got out of control during unusually dry weather. Six of the worst data points ever recorded occurred in 1998 during this event, another was recorded in the January following that event.

The data now comprises 2098 data points, and it's getting worse, not better.

The increase in the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide on April 10 this year reported at Mauna Loa over the week ending April 12 of 2015 - 2015 being the worst year ever observed in annual increases at 3.05 ppm over 2014 - was 4.59 ppm.

This graph shows the data from this week:

Of the 2098 such data points recorded going back to 1974, this is the second worst such point ever observed, exceeded only by the 4.67 ppm recorded on September 6, 1998, when much of the Southeast Asian rain forest was burning or had burned.

Of the 25 highest such points recorded, 13 have occurred in the last ten years, and 8 in the last five years. Of the 8 in the last five years, 6 have occurred in 2016.

All efforts currently being employed by humanity to address climate change are obviously failing dramatically, clearly in an accelerating fashion.

If any of this bothers you, don't worry, be happy: It's reported that rich people are lining up to buy swell Tesla electric cars, and, of course, investments in so called "renewable energy" are at an all time high.

Even if these things are useless, it's the thought that counts, not practical results.

Enjoy the remainder of the weekend.

Over the years, significant...

...[engineering design] theories and models under certainty have been quite successfully advanced through the use of classical mathematics. Probability and stochastic processes have further extended our abilities in analyzing [design] behavior under randomness (Haugen 1968, 1980, Siddall 1982, 1984, Keeney and Raiffa, 1976). Though our achievements have been gratifying in terms of formalism, we are still quite remote from an adequate description in terms of realism.

In our quest for objectivity, simplicity, and precision, we customarily fit [design] behavior to rigid mathematical models which make no provision for systems complexity and the imprecision in our cognition, perception, evaluation, and decisionmaking processes. Human subjectivity and imprecision have conventionally been regarded as absurd in scientific investigations. Being precise has been a virtue of science. Valuation is almost a forbidden word in formal models. Our unabating effort in achieving higher levels of precision has been the instrument of spectacular advancements in the physical sciences.''

Following the path of the physical sciences, [engineering design researchers] have come to believe that [design] systems are also precise in nature and can be efficiently analyzed by classical mathematics. To be precise, we have attempted to force artificial precision on imprecise phenomena and processes, and in so doing have lost the intrinsic imprecision in human systems in search of precision as a goal. In addition, we have failed to realize that our ability to be precise diminishes as the system becomes more complex. In cases of extreme complexity precision is usually an impossibility. [Design] models which neglect these intrinsic characteristics tend to be over-simplified, too mechanical, and too inflexible to give an adequate description of the complex and elastic real world.''

To have a closer approximation to and control of our [engineering design] systems, it is essential to restore human values and to treat imprecision with rigor in theory and model constructions...

Among existing methods fuzzy set theory appears to be a mathematical system which is instrumental in constructing formal models of imprecise [design] behavior. It allows us to restate the importance of treating human subjectivity, albeit imprecise, in model formulations. It can also provide a bridge between verbal and formal models...''

-Professor Yee Leung of the Department of Geography at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in the preface of his book entitled: Spatial Analysis and Planning under Imprecision (North Holland, 1988, pages vii, viii).

A thought for the day...

I attended an interesting lecture by a sociology type today on the history of Soviet nuclear reactor design which made me think of this quote.

March 2016 blows away the record for annual CO2 increases over previous March readings: 3.31 ppm.

The monthly figures for March 2016 are in at the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory. The March average for 2016 was 404.83 ppm. The March 2015 average was 401.52.

For those fond of arithmetic, the difference was 3.31 ppm.

For all data recorded in Marches of any year, this is a new record, the previous worst March, that of March 2013 (increased over March 2012) being 2.89 ppm. Thus the change in the change on these two data points, the second derivative if you will, was 0.42 ppm.

Rather remarkable.

The worst annual figure for increases over a previous year was observed in 2015, at 3.05 ppm.

February 2016, was the worst monthly figure recorded for any month of any year at Mauna Loa, 3.76 ppm over February 2015.

If any of this disturbs you, don't worry be happy. They're building a solar roadway in France, and Scotland is just brimming with so called "renewable" electricity generation. I heard all that wonderful news right here at Democratic Underground, right here at the "Energy and Environment" page.

In the case of our climate policy on this planet, the means far more important than the ends the ends. We don't give a rat's ass about the concentration of carbon dioxide on this planet so long as we build more and more and more and more so called "renewable energy" facilities. We spent two trillion dollars on this stuff in the last ten years, and we're doing just great, 3.76 ppm, followed by 3.31 ppm. By the way, this stuff is neither renewable nor is it sustainable, but again, don't worry, be happy.

It doesn't matter if stuff works, so long as we think it's cool stuff. We're bourgeois to the point of mindless; this data is a function of the West's continuing view that poor people on this planet don't exist.

If I sound bitter, I am.

Have a nice day tomorrow.

New record for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations established: 405.61 ppm.

On March 20 of this year, which is clearly shaping up to be the worst year ever observed for increases in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, as measured at the Mauna Loa observatory, and may well exceed the previous worst year ever observed, which would be, um, um, um, 2015.

The value observed was 405.61 for the week ending May 20.

2015 was the first year in which the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations exceeded 3.00 ppm in a single year, the exact number being 3.05 ppm.

If one follows this data closely - as I do - one will recognize that the data represents a sinusoidal curve superimposed on a straight line axis that is steadily increasing at an alarming rate. Generally the annual peak is observed in May.

Mauna Loa weekly data. If one looks at the data, one will observe from the graph that there is a certain amount of noise in the readings, and the week of March 29 was slightly lower than March 20.

Nevertheless many more appalling records will be established this year, that is clear.

At this point, I'd like to congratulate all of the people who railed mindlessly against what still remains the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free energy, nuclear energy.

Their rhetoric, based on their fetid imaginations, consists entirely of disaster movie scripts for bad movies.

Unfortunately for all of humanity, a real disaster is taking place, on an unimaginable scale.

Have a wonderful week.


It's amazing how people who know nothing about science, nothing at all, show up regularly in response to my posts to attack science - this while claiming to be able to define it - in terms that generally issuing mindless platitudes.


These people are exceedingly stupid, and exceedingly noxious, but at this point in my life, I've come to realize that nothing can be done about them. They will continue to whine about abstractions that they don't understand (having clearly had weak educations) and the probability that they will ever understand exactly how mindless they are is zero.

I've personally come to the conclusion that these people are generally annoying and a waste of time. It's clear they've never had a useful thought in their lives, and while they are causing great harm, one can always hope that eventually, like um, so many equally toxic people throughout the ages, will fade into the obscurity they deserve.

I no longer regard it as my ethical duty to confront them.

With these reflections in mind, I now have a policy of dealing with these intellectual and moral gnats or flies by utilizing the wonderful "ignore" button that has long been available at DU, but which I have regrettably under utilized.

As much as I hate ignorance, and have labored under a feeling of a responsibility to confront it, there is no need to continuously suffer being exposed to it; it only raises my blood pressure and depresses me and clearly I can do nothing about it myself.

I have just expanded the list of people I have on ignore to three.

Have a nice life.

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