Nova’s Inside The Megafire

Considering the source, it is fairly well-balanced. Inside the Megafire.

It is a long video at 53 minutes, so make sure you have some time.

From the front line of the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history, NOVA tells the stories of residents who had to flee for their lives during the 2018 fire season. Scientists racing to understand what’s behind the rise of record-breaking megafires across the American West take to the forest, and even a fire lab, in search of answers. They investigate how forestry practices, climate change, and the physics of fire itself play a role in the dramatic increase in wildfires in recent decades. (Premiered May 8, 2019)

There’s a nice mix of fire science, and a recognition that more than a century of mismanaging the forest play a role in the megafires. As well as all the building done in the forest. Which I get, but why build incredibly combustible homes in places where fires are a reality? Why not have more fire-resistant building codes? Because reasons. (And remember, FEMA pays for at least some of the cleanup of these fires. That means your tax dollars at work.)

I haven’t watched PBS in decades, but the folks who are responsible for this episode of Nova used some of the aerial footage shot by Juan Browne of Blanoliro. Which is how I ran across it.

Funny How This Isn’t Taken as a Sign of Climate Change

Climate change toward better conditions would be horrible. From the Left’s point of view, that is. After Years of Fiery Hell, California Gets Less of a Scorching in 2019.

Only about 163,000 acres have burned this year, a fraction of the 632,000 or so scorched in the same period last year. A wet, snowy winter led to a widespread greening in the spring, signaling there would be plenty of tinder around after a hot, dry summer. But the landscape stayed relatively moist after clouds moored above the Sierra Nevadas in May slowed the snow melt.

So when is it weather, and when is it climate change? I need a scorecard, or a flowchart, or something.

And maybe the good folks in Kalifornia need to get used to blackouts, because PG&E says it found some 100 instances of wind-damage that could have started fires. In case you missed it, the utility cut power to about 2 million people and the businesses that support them.

While that move has faced fierce criticism, PG&E crews inspecting more than 27,500 miles (44,257 kilometers) of power lines after the blackout found wind damage that included trees tangled with power lines and utility poles knocked to the ground.

Of course either way, PG&E loses. They cut power; they lose. They start fires; they lose.

A Particularly Noteworthy Wind Turbine Fire

I’ve been cutoff from the 24/7 news hysteria for a while, but I don’t really remember anything about this fire being trumpeted by media. 500-acre Juniper Fire in S. Washington sparked by wind turbine, officials say. The story is from late July of this year.

I’ve linked this story from the media because it has a decent video of how the wildfire got started. And the video is only about a minute. It turns out (if you look at all the coverage) that 500 acre number was an exaggeration. The fire burned less than 250 acres; when they got around to aerial mapping the original estimates were too high.

The fire was sparked by a wind turbine that malfunctioned and caught fire.

A fire in the hub set the blades on fire, the burning blades fell and ignited dry grass. I wonder what something like this would do in California. Not that the media would report it, I’m guessing. (Green energy = good.)

This is a continuation of my fascination with problems with wind turbines.

So what is the carbon footprint of this wind turbine?

How to Get a Solar Panel to Catch Fire

It doesn’t start with poor installation, but that seems to be at least part of the problem. Hackaday – Solar System Wars: Walmart Versus Tesla.

So some of the details of Walmart’s suit against Tesla for the solar-panel-related fires has come to light. Some of it is what I expected, and some of it isn’t.

After Walmart had 3 solar-related fires in a short time they had Solar City/Tesla “de-energize” all remaining systems. (Disconnect from the inverter/mains as far as I can tell.) But that didn’t stop one more fire from breaking out in a de-energized panel assembly.

Among the problems that Walmart’s consultants discovered by investigating the surviving solar arrays were improper grounding, poor wire management leading to insulation abrasions and wear, and lack of as-built drawings and proper documentation. But the most glaring errors alleged by the inspectors were the presence of hotspots in the arrays, and improper installation of the connectors used to string together the solar panels.

Hotspots in photovoltaic arrays occur when one or more cells in a series-connected string of cells are underperforming for some reason — say, by being shaded by leaves or dirt. The shaded cell or cells can then become the current limiting element in the series circuit, which can lead to reverse-biasing of the bad cells. This essentially dumps all the power from the good cells into the bad cells, heating them up to possibly the point of failure due to melted solder joints, cracked silicon, and, as appears to be the case with the Walmart fires, ignition of the materials used to encapsulate the cells.

These are much larger installations than any I’ve ever dealt with. I had 2 largish panels on my boat. Friends had 4 or 6, depending, but they sometimes were smaller. You can imagine that the roof of your average Walmart store would support quite a few panels, which will either give you more voltage, or more amperage, or some combination of both depending on how you wire them together.

There is a link to download the entire PDF of the suit at Hackaday. I haven’t done it. Yet.

Science Is Supposed to Have Predictive Value

You are either able to predict the outcome of experiments or the behavior of nature. So what is it if there is no predictive value? Wrong Again: 50 Years of Failed Eco-pocalyptic Predictions.

Modern doomsayers have been predicting climate and environmental disaster since the 1960s. They continue to do so today.

None of the apocalyptic predictions with due dates as of today have come true.

A nice collection of images from newspapers about Global Cooling and then Global Warming, and whatever we have today. (Hat tip to 90 Miles From Tyranny.)

Problems with Wind Turbines

What happens when engineers with grand ideas don’t talk to people who maintain stuff in real life?

So in my pinball-like movement around the internet, caused by my searches, and friends’ emails, I stumbled across Discovery UK video about problems with the composite blades that make up modern wind turbines. That is a long, but professionally done video. The only problem is the Pollyanna view of the people talking in the video.

It seems that the engineers didn’t think wear and tear on wind turbines would be an issue when they were built. Someone in that video even says that they thought wind turbines would be maintenance-free once installed. (That is spoken like someone who never got outdoors on the water.)

Salt spray. Hail storms. Particulate matter in the wind. All that combined with the fact that the blades are moving at about 150 MPH or better, means that the leading edges are going to deteriorate.

They talk about “poor performance” in the Discovery UK video, but I can’t help but wonder if unbalanced blades, and the resulting strain on drive shafts doesn’t account for at least some of the Wind Turbine failures you can see in videos everywhere. Aside from blade failures (which can be spectacular) there are number of fires that seem to break out in the hub of the turbine. Some of them are spectacular as well. (Glass reinforced plastic can burn really well.)

So after seeing the Discovery UK video at the top, where there was an “Up Next!” selection from YouTube that included turbine failures, I went looking. And it wasn’t hard to find problems.

But I’ll control myself and only talk about one. One. Incredibly. Stupid. Problem. Galled stainless steel fasteners. (OK, I won’t be able to limit it to one issue.) How galled fasteners may affect wind-turbine O&M.

Standard stainless steel bolts and fasteners have a tendency to gall under certain conditions because of their specific properties. Thread galling can occur with standard fasteners when pressure and friction cause the bolt threads to seize to the threads of a nut or a tapped hole.

Severe galling, known as “cold welding,” can also cause the two surfaces to fuse together. This makes the joint impossible to remove without cutting the bolt or splitting the nut.

That article is clearly from a management perspective, but it is from last month, and in an “engineering” publication. And it must be news to someone, unless they are just really desperate for articles.

Now I’m not an engineer. I have a degree in mathematics and I spent most of my career doing Information Technology stuff. Well, and managing people. But even I know that galling is a problem. Which is why there are anti-seize compounds. And more expensive anti-galling fasteners. I haven’t found examples of stainless bolts being driven into tapped holes in aluminum structures, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that done either. In a salt-water environment, that kind of thing (which I have seen done) doesn’t work out in the long run.

I haven’t seen mention of stress fractures in the stainless. They probably won’t show up for a bit. I have seen a 1/2 inch by 3 inch piece of stainless so riddled with fractures that my friend was able to break it into 2 pieces by hitting it on his thigh. Sailboat fittings can see a lot of stress, but probably not as much as you find on a turbine hub, 300 feet in the air, off the coast of Scotland.

Oh, and those damaged blades, which apparently need to be replaced every 10 years or so, can’t be recycled. Sioux Falls landfill tightens rules after Iowa dumps dozens of wind turbine blades.

This year, 101 turbine blades have been trucked to the city dump. But with each one spanning 120 feet long, that’s caused officials with the landfill and the Sioux Falls Public Works Department to study the long-term effect that type of refuse could have on the dump.

Then there are the complaints about turbines on the great lakes suffering leaking gearboxes and dumping a not insignificant amount of used oil into the water.

Environmentally responsible engineering, apparently carried out by people who don’t have much experience with the environment.

Green Energy Causes Global Warming?

Ain’t that a kick in the teeth.World’s most powerful greenhouse gas on the rise ‘due to green energy boom’.

Sulfur Hexafluoride is the culprit.

Sulphur hexafluoride, or SF6, is widely used in the electrical industry to prevent short circuits and accidents.

It is 23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide (CO2), and just one kilogram warms the Earth as much as 24 people flying London to New York return.

The drive to use mixed sources of power, including wind, solar and gas, rather than coal as fuel has resulted in a rise in the number of electrical devices that use SF6, the BBC said.

Now the original source is the BBC, so “The sky is falling!” isn’t beyond the realm of possible points-of-view. I suppose the reaction of the “green power movement” will be to have as all freezing in the dark. Then there is Cobalt Mining. Funny how they don’t seem to mind that electric cars are built – in part – on child labor, in horrible conditions.

Climate Science – Lite on the Science

SiGraybeard has the rundown on an interesting article. The Climate Change Hoax is Worse Than You Thought.

The article is supported by a fairly large PDF, so although I will look at it eventually, that won’t happen for a while. But there seem to be some problems.

In my prior experience, climate modelers:

  • did not know to distinguish between accuracy and precision.
  • did not understand that … a ±15 C temperature uncertainty is not a physical temperature.
  • confronted standard error propagation as a foreign concept.
  • did not understand the significance or impact of a calibration experiment.
  • did not understand the concept of instrumental or model resolution or that it has empirical limits
  • did not understand physical error analysis at all.

    I’ve said before that they didn’t seem to understand gauge reliability or repeatability and if you think you have a problem you can’t just “edit the data after the fact” to best support the conclusion you want to reach. You do in fact have to toss out the suspect data, and fix the gauge.

    Anyway, it will be some time before I get to the source material…

    Stop Trying to Save Us From Ourselves

    Florescent and LED bulbs are a good idea, some of the time. But rules don’t apply some of the time. Lost Ground Can Be Regained. Who Knew?.

    But centralized bureaucracy cannot abide “where it makes sense”. Rules are applied everywhere, all at once, with a sledge, by people who haven’t got a fucking clue. Examples abound: A dude in a swamp in Michigan has a low flow toilet because water is rare in Phoenix. My truck’s seat belt alarm goes off, when I’m driving firewood across my lawn. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Incandescent bulbs are theoretically inefficient. You know what their waste product is? Heat! You know what the temperature was this February? -42 Fahrenheit.

    I’ve never been in conditions of -42 Fahrenheit. The coldest I’ve ever seen the mercury, was -31. (Temperature, not wind-chill.) Minus 20 was a common occurrence in Chicago. (Look on YouTube, you can find plenty of videos where people take a pot of boiling water off the stove, throw it in the air, when it’s -20, or colder, and it turns INSTANTLY to snow.) -31 meant that pets died. Hell people died. And just plain old frostbite is a serious thing.

    A couple of cities, Minneapolis among them, swapped out all of their incandescent bulbs in traffic signals, and the snow stopped melting off of said signals. That caused accidents, and while I’m not 100% sure, I believe at least one death. Some savings. And so they added heaters to traffic signals. Every. Traffic Signal. How much money do you think they spent? How much heartache did they cause. But they are helping! (Oh, and learn the lesson from others? As I said, MULTIPLE cities, and not all in the same year.) Anyway, back to AC…

    Especially in my chicken coop. I’m trying to keep it warm enough that the chickens don’t die. I don’t care if a bulb puts a few spare BTUs into the coop… it’s a good thing. But NOOOOOOOO. Some douchebag in D.C. who’s never hammered ice out of a chicken waterer with numb fingers and a screwdriver thinks they know better. I don’t give a fuck about saving $4 annually in electricity at the cost of $300 in dead hens. Stumbling around pitchforks and hay bales in the dim gloom of a fluorescent that can’t quite do the job is a special piece of hell too. Also, the damn things cost much more than incandescents and they don’t hold up nearly as well as they should.

    As they say, read the whole thing.

    Did California Minimum Wage Kill Recycling?

    Folks on the Left Coast are wringing their hands, because a major recycling company closed its doors. But they seem to want to gloss-over why that happened. What’s next for California container recycling after rePlanet’s closure?.

    Earlier this month, rePlanet suddenly closed all 284 of its recycling centers and terminated 750 employees. In a statement, the company named reduced payments from the state, depressed pricing for scrap aluminum and PET plastic, and higher operating costs due to labor changes as contributing factors.

    What labor changes? Well there was the California raise in the minimum wage, and the Obamacare mandate to pay for (very expensive) health insurance. But hey, I’m sure those things didn’t cause a business to close its doors. Those things are approved by the Left! They could never have bad (unintended) consequences. </sarcasm>

    As for depressed pricing: Aluminum is down about 40% in the past three years, and cans are 40% lighter than they were in 1972, so there is more work to collecting a material that is worth less. Plastic recycling suffers from low oil prices (“virgin” plastic is cheaper) and the fact that fewer places are accepting “contaminated” plastics. Which is to say, the kind of thing that shows up in curbside recycling bins. (Did you just drop that ketchup bottle in the bin, or did you wash it out and remove the label?)

    Add those two together and you have a recipe for disaster.

    The good folks who were elected to the California legislature, not willing to learn the lesson of Unintended Consequences, are planning to manage the economy even more. (Because they’ve done such a great job so far.)

    So no, it isn’t all down to the minimum wage. But I’m sure that is a big part of it, and Obamacare isn’t without its problems either.