The Plan to Weave(r) a Green BC

The Plan to Weaver a Green BC

At first blush, it pulls at your heartstrings and sounds like a thing to vote for and support. CBC, Global, the Huff along with many of my Green and social friends support the concept. Having been privileged to grow up in a very rural environment with a tiny environmental footprint, I get it from living a long time on my walkabout on this spectacular planet. Politically, the media gets that emotional part down well.

What I have noticed though, is the absence of any realistic STEM project analysis on how we get there from here, and how the wins and losses / debits and credits balance out when we do. Either the heart felt emotional supporters don’t know how to critically evaluate such a plan in engineering project terms, or they don’t  care to listen to anyone who can.

So let’s do a high level back-of-the-napkin look at the physical facts for realistically getting to the Greenest Fossil Free BC aspirations under the harsh light of real world pragmatism. Let’s start with the giant sucking sound from the Airport:

Currently, Vancouver’s Airport requires over 1000 loads of supplemental  fuel per month trucked across the border from BP’s Refinery in Washington State. The rest comes from Chevron’s Burnaby Refinery supplied by the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Every additional polar route flight to Asia will require another 800+/- truckloads per year.

Thus, the airport’s (ergo the City’s) growth is unsustainable even under current circumstances.  The default growth plan is to import even more fuel from Washington State by tanker and run a 13 km underground pipeline through the City of Richmond.  You could shut down Trans Mountain Pipeline and Burnaby Refinery, but unless you politically limit the airport’s growth, you are simply playing Fossil Fuel whack-a-mole.

The USA is more than happy to take the jobs and supply the Fossil shortfall necessary to feed the Airport’s colossal fuel appetite from Washington State. It will take a brave (or foolish) coalition to attempt to Green that ball and face the wrath of the interconnected downstream implications by deliberately hamstringing the very international Vancouver image by trimming anything airport. It’s probably a non-starter for Green, so we’ll move on.

• Eliminate internal combustion vehicles in the Lower Mainland in favor of EV’s. As an idea, sounds like it should be enforceable as a political objective.  Based on current stats, let’s look at the increased load demand that would be imposed on the Electrical grid. The total gasoline demand for Vancouver is approximately 185,000 barrels per day. That adds an additional 116,400 MWh per day electrical energy gasoline distillate equivalent to the grid. In terms of the additional average (not peak) generating load, it works out to about 4,850 MW more. (Ignoring peaks)

• Add in Vancouver’s single minded political plan to outlaw Natural Gas in favor of Electricity. The city will tell you that you can still use it “subject to”, but will make the city managed building code so difficult for a contractor to jump thru the regulatory hoops, that it will not really be viable as an option. Right now, Vancouver has a natural gas demand of around 26,000,000 Gj/Yr that will need electrical grid replacing. The Green Plan is to allow a green methane alternative, but that optimistically tops out at around 500,000 Gj/Yr, leaving 25,500,000 Gj/Yr to be replaced by electricity. That works out to an additional Grid energy load of around 19,500 MWh/Day, with an average (not peak covering as in winter) addition power demand of about 809,000 kW to the base load.

So where will that extra energy come from as Green input to the Grid? Well, the latest Political speak by the Green NDP Co-Op seems to be currently biased against Hydro as an option. PV Solar north of the 49th Parallel is of such a low density annual load factor as to be unworkable from a capital or physical geography point of view. Nuclear is out of the question. That leaves wind as the option.

Ignoring the intermittent unreliability of base-load wind vis a vis concurrent demand, what would Green Wind look like, assuming they can find sufficient sites that are suited to such an undertaking?

From the two Green bullets above, the extra reliable base load required to handle the demand for those two items add up to 5,658 GW, so we have:

• The Green Windfarm Nameplate Requirements, (using the accepted annual load factor of 12.5% from existing world sites) will need an installed capacity of 45,200 GW total Wind Turbines.

• Based on known current design density, the Net Windfarm Production acreage required to do that is about 2.8 Million Acres (@ 60 acres/MW). Add the supporting Service and Access acreage of approximately 550,000 Acres across the province to end up with about 3.25 Million Acres distributed somewhere outside Vancouver in Rural BC (which is not that Green-NDP friendly at the moment).

It should also be noted that if the Site C Dam (after the political uncertainty dust has settled) is considered politically “Green”, it has a design output of 5,100 GW. Even that is insufficient to cover off Green legislation for EV’s and Vancouver’s determined elimination of Natural Gas by a shortfall of about 550 GW demand.

Not considered in this discussion; – adding that much intermittent and variable weather wind power to the grid will require some type of potential mega stabilizing base load storage either by very large battery farms or pumped uphill hydro storage (think: looks like Site C) on a very large scale.  Easy to say.

Wind Turbines 101 Primer  *Link

Wind turbines are rated against the wind speed at which its generator will be able to produce its full rated, or nameplate, capacity, which is typically 1.5 MW in today’s models designed for on-shore use.

The rated nameplate wind speed is usually around 30 mph.

The turbine has a minimum wind speed at which it will begin producing minimal power, typically around 10 mph. The power output rises in a cubic relation to the wind speed. That is, if the wind speed doubles, the power output is able to increase eight fold. If the average wind speed of a site is 15 mph (half of the rated wind speed), the average power output will be one eighth of the nameplate capacity, or less than 200 KW.

At a wind speed around 60 mph, the turbine locks down.

For a look at the real world life cycle issues for wind farms, see this post on the site.

In Summary

To our next BC Government: Think this Green through objectively, and tread very carefully if you want political longevity and platform support with the fickle cash strapped and over taxed voters.

The comparatively small yet flexible Eco footprint taken up by Rurals won’t notice much change regardless of your Green Energy decisions, but the far more energy intensive dependent Urbanites will suffer where it hurts most: in their pocketbooks amplified by unreliable very expensive brown out energy piled on with supporting regressive taxes to pay for the plan. Just Google the growth stats for Vancouver. The lifeblood for such growth is Energy in all forms, including coordinated capital upgrades to the supporting infrastructure across the province. Such upgrades take decades to plan and construct, well beyond the uncertainty of the the politics.

While the wind in the willows is free, at this juncture the complicated Rube Goldberg thrashing Wind Energy machinery is a regressively expensive alternative for BC. Regardless of the voter’s Political preferences, the Urbanites need and depend on the Rurals more than ever for any Green Forward looking Plan that matters.

Sadly, the Politics in BC are a huge divide that will take great leadership to bridge. Time to show your stuff.

Australia’s Daily Telegraph shows how quickly it can all go politically sideways for one of the World’s Climate Leaders.  More to follow, for sure.   Link Here .

-the old man, in his preferred environment out on the land,  circa 1975

Today’s amazing moment

I come to the garden alone

As an old soul, knowing full well it’s my bonus round and that I’m lucky enough to still be able to work in our garden while trimming one of the oldest rose bushes, this wonderful essential carbon based example of living things (which we really know very little about outside of our self proclaimed superficial know-it-all arrogance) presented itself.

To be sure, I’ve seen these stick moth pupae before, but was always too absorbed by some trumped up self important life cause to really see that the DNA from which we all have evolved in infinite ways over millions of years branches effortlessly on with or without input from our egotistical hand wringing.

Behold, just one example of the 2017 twig impersonator. It must be good, because our yard is full of a variety of birds that are very diligent hunters looking for just such delicacies.

The garden this year is the best it has been in 30 years, and is in perfect balance with the show – a rich snapshot of the history of all that was, is now and will unfold in the dynamic cauldron of all our backyard carbon based DNA lifeforms in perfect non linear balance for each iterative step as it unfolds with or without our inputs.

Meanwhile, somewhere in big city, a bunch of pasty faced suited logicians, legislators and lawmakers try desperately to contain, direct and infill it all outside the infinite physical reality via some virtual rule based set of petty superficial logic, not realising that they are simply skipping the tops of the waves in an ocean that is ten thousand feet deeper than their made up cause and effect assumptions.

They are out of their depth, hopelessly lost at sea while straining at the oar locks using an assembly of broken compasses. Clearly, they don’t have a real sense of direction. That’s the price they pay for ego certainty, and the sad part is that they can’t even see it.

-the old man

Greater Vancouver’s Giant Sucking Sound

Thirteen of the province’s thirty most populous municipalities are located in Greater Vancouver. The official land area of the district is 2,877.36 square kilometers (1,111 sq. mi). It is the most densely populated region in British Columbia, and in 2016 had 2.4 million people. This represents 50% of the Provinces entire population of 4.8 million.

Under a proportional representation, the overwhelming direction of government will be biased towards the collective whims of the city slickers whose geography is covered by a thumbprint of provincial land that represents less than 1 percent (0.3%: 3,000 sq. km / 944,735 sq. km)  of the real estate and it’s massive external Maslow ladder of needs that are essential for the city to even exist, never mind thrive.

Let’s talk about the giant sucking sound of Greater Vancouver’s lifeblood and the importance of the dedicated support from the other 942 thousand sq. km required  to maintain its very heartbeat and continued existence :

Metro Vancouver’s ecological footprint in 2006 was equivalent to 10,054,400 gha. This represents an area that is 36 times the actual size of the region. Metro Vancouver residents have an average ecological footprint of 4.75 gha/ca.

This is nearly double the world average bio capacity demand, estimated at 2.7 gha/ca, and almost three times the global per capita bio capacity supply, estimated at 1.8 gha/ca (WWF, 2010). In other words, if everyone consumed at a level commensurate with that of an average Metro Vancouver resident, we would need at least three additional Earth-like planets to supply the resources and assimilate the carbon dioxide emissions to support such a lifestyle. If the impacts of senior government services were also counted, the need would be greater still. *

It all breaks down like this for Vancouver: *
• Food: 45% because of the large area required to grow crops et al for 2.4 million people
• Transportation: 23%, including private, commercial and public transit Fleet and Motor vehicles, Air Travel, and so on
• Buildings: 18%
• Consumables and Waste: 14%

So to hand over (to the narrow-focus consensus of city minded voter’s) full control of Provincial government for the other vast 99.7% of the supporting geography, purely on proportional representation creates an interesting dilemma. And, as the old curse goes, may you live in interesting times.

Back to hard reality, here are some STEM facts for you to consider as the new Green-NDP politicians come referendum knocking on that old recycled saw of Proportional Representation, (and a somewhat O.T. corollary :- before they figure out how to future dither the CO2 free Hydro Site C dam and the billions of committed construction  dollars into bureaucratic oblivion half way thru construction), know this:

• Half of the Provincial vote is concentrated in a small aggregated urban chunk of the country’s supporting geographical footprint (about 0.3%). Considering all urban cities across BC, that vote rises to 85% urban, 15% Rural.
• Living Urban allows the citizenry to delegate and offload the intense and time consuming human requirement to be self-sufficient competent universal problem solvers. In such a concentrated social setting, the economies of scale and commerce allow for narrow verticals for everything imaginable. No need to grow or hunt for your food, figure out how to store it, worry about massive energy needs, how to personally mitigate / resolve issues or anything like MacGyver would have to do just to get by. It’s all readily available, from niche skills like sewing on buttons to commuting home on the ‘A’ train. If you don’t like the service, simply tweet a complaint to the urban bureaucracy in charge to get it fixed. Done- Next!
• Rarely does an Urbanite give a second thought about whether the toilet will flush, or how the condo is actually heated and cooled, where the gas and electricity comes from, how the food gets to the supermarket, or what the myriad of mandatory resource requirements are, constantly inbound in the flux to maintain the City’s heartbeat.
• Urban concentrations require gargantuan feeder systems, thoughtlessly drawing food supplies and raw materials from across vast expanses of the (so called rural) country’s infrastructure in order to survive and thrive. They rarely think about or appreciate those massive inbound external energy grids, highways, water systems, hydro dams, railroads, communication networks, feeder farmlands and so on that are absolutely vital to their very concentrated and fragile existence.
• Urbanites need to give their heads a shake if they think they can survive without their Rural Cousins full and cooperative support. If the critical feeder chains are denied to the inbound supply chains even for a few weeks, it would classify as a category 5 crisis for Metro Vancouver.
• Be thankful the current voting system understands that without the whole geographical provincial land base being democratically included onside to deliver the Provinces lifeblood intravenous machinery into the Cities’ arteries, there can be no show. Urbanites, by their chosen preferred path, are typically not “MacGyver ready” for their selfish survival without the full cooperation of the other 99.5% of the physical rural land base delivering the goods and services to their doors 7x24x365.25.

The Proportional Representation meme, by its dominant 85%+ urban weighting (province wide) sitting on a miniscule urban pinpoint 0.5% strip of the total provincial real estate will always reflect an urban bias, and can easily drown out the 99.5% physical geographical land managers of the Country’s rural vote (to the urbans long term detriment and folly). Every rational parent outnumbered by their kids who love sugar instinctively knows that proportional family voting is not a great idea even if the kids whine about it not being fair. They should be careful what they wish for, but they never are.


* Journal of Environmental Management 124(2013) (51-61) “An urban metabolism and ecological footprint assessment of Metro Vancouver” – Jennie Moore, Meidad Kissinger, William E Rees

the old man: Born Rural, aged Urban and Rural planet wide over a lifetime. MacGyver savvy, MacGyver ready, STEM qualified.