"To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing." - Raymond Williams

Reinventing collapse

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 29th, 2008

Reinventing Collapse

As George Carlin once said, “they call it the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe in it”.

At the risk of this blog becoming ‘review corner’, that seems the perfect introduction to the book I just finished reading – Dmitry Orlov’s brilliantly enjoyable Reinventing Collapse. This is a true work of dark optimism, with a fair dash of dark humour to boot.

In it, Orlov draws on his experiences of the collapse of the Soviet Union to explore the future American residents like him are likely to face as the effects of the USA’s disastrous economic, energy and foreign policies take hold. Read more »

Concentrating Solar thermal Power (CSP) – a step in the right direction, but no panacea

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 19th, 2008

CSP parabolic trough

As I mentioned in my earlier post, last week I met Polly Higgins, The Lazy Environmentalist. She specialises in CSP, and informed me that we may now be seeing serious political movement towards an EU-MENA supergrid bringing CSP-generated electricity to Europe from the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East.

For those not familiar with the concept, CSP is not about photovoltaic solar panels, but rather the simple use of mirrors to focus solar heat on pipes filled with water. This generates steam which turns turbines to generate electricity. It is a simple low-tech concept that has been operating a 165 MW power plant in California for over 20 years.

It has been calculated that, if it was covered with CSP plants, an area of hot desert of about 254 km x 254 km — less than 1% of the total area of such deserts — would produce as much electricity as is currently consumed by the whole world.

An area measuring 110 km x 110 km, a small fraction of the area of desert in North Africa and the Middle East, would produce the same amount of electricity as the European Union consumed in 2004. This is illustrated graphically below the cut.

So this political movement towards a CSP supergrid is a very significant development, and, I think, a positive one. Read more »