Thursday, April 12, 2012

More supergrid ideas -- amazing

Little by little, news (or speculation) of the scope of plans for various undersea "supergrid" investments in the North Sea area trickles out. Google, of course, has proposed a similar interconnector for the US east coast.

I find the scale of the proposed wiring staggering. Eight hundred tonnes of copper per kilometer? I'd love to know what wire gauge that reflects.

(Perhaps I can assign this as a problem in class -- after all, the main datum is the mass of copper per unit length -- the rest can be worked out.)

Imagine the impact on the world's already-stretched copper resources. The only way that kind of abuse could possibly be considered sustainable is in the context of a low or no growth "steady state" economy. If we were to imagine ourselves as setting up the conditions for that kind of economy, then it might make some kinds of sense to do this.

To some extent, these proposed investments reflect European desire to reduce climate emissions, but more than anything, I think they reflect fear of being in hock to the Russians for all that natural gas that Europeans use for space heating.

I can understand that. Transferring vast wealth in terms of gas revenue, and at the same time handing massive market power on a plate to the Russians, while they remain a neoczarist dictatorship, is a ticking geopolitical time bomb.

The sooner the west gets off that bandwagon, the better.

I do hope we seal and insulate all those Euro-houses, and switch out all the old Euro-fridges for new low-energy consumption ones, before we go out and mine all this copper.

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