The Ergosphere
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Most people are idiots. Case in point:

I bring you to this page at  Direct quote:
The 12 flywheels employed by electricity users and utilities store about 77 MW of energy.
If a presumptive energy blogger does not know the difference between MW and MWh, one should be removed directly from one's keyboard and publicly flogged.

I can find no putative author or contact address on this blog.  This is probably a good thing... for the author.  Nothing on that blog or attributed to that blogger is credible; the author is obviously incompetent in the specific subject matter. 
Saturday, September 02, 2017

Pathetic performance of tidal power station lauded as "world record"

In a "record month" at the MeyGen tidal power project in the Pentland Firth... I'll just quote them:

A tidal power station in the Pentland Firth between mainland Scotland and Orkney has broken the world record for electricity generation....
In an update on the progress of the MeyGen project, by Atlantis Resources, the company said it had generated 700 megawatt-hours of electricity in August, a world record amount.
For those who are not so good at doing arithmetic in their heads, August has 31 days.  31 days is 744 hours.  700 MWh divided by 744 hours is less than 1 megawatt average output.

The MeyGen project appears to be in phase 1A, with only 3 MW of turbines installed.  Dividing 941 kW average generation by 3 MW yields a 31.3% capacity factor.  There are wind farms which do considerably better than this.  Comparing this to an 1150 MW(e) nuclear plant operating at 90% capacity factor, it would take 2200 MeyGen-scale turbines to equal the nuclear plant.  That is a lot of turbines.

The projected cost of this is staggering.  In phase 1C:
We will build an additional 49 (73.5 MW) turbines at MeyGen at an estimated cost of £420m
This would be 55 total turbines.  If phase 1C has the same per-unit capacity and cost as the first 6 units, the total cost would be £471m for 82.5 MW of nameplate generation.  At 31.3% capacity factor, that is £18.3 per average watt.  Only the ultra-wealthy could afford this.  It makes the Hinckley EPRs look positively cheap.

And what about the environment?  Tidal power works by blocking water flows and generating power from the difference in hydraulic head.  It reduces the difference between low and high tide wherever it's used, reducing the size of the intertidal zone which is home to a great many forms of life.  What are the economic losses from this?

Some things are obvious mistakes.  Tidal power needs to be left to drift away on the tide.
Monday, June 05, 2017

New comment moderation policy at The Energy Collective

TEC editors decided to moderate (and often edit, without notice or attribution) all comments on the site.

This was done without making any announcement, and nobody responds to e-mails.

Discussion is open here.

Edit:  The editors are also censoring cites of their own, published policy posted in reply to people wondering out loud what happened.  They are evil.

Edit 2:  Here is Roger Arnold's comment where he wonders what's going on:
Nice article, and Willem’s comments and links are excellent.

This is mostly just a test. Elsewhere, I’m getting “your comment is being held for moderation”. Have I fallen from grace generally, or is it something peculiar to the article on which I tried to comment?
Here's what I wrote in reply:
It's not just you.  The site imposed a brand-new comment moderation policy without making any sort of announcement.

One of the effects I've seen is that nothing happens on weekends.

The staff do not respond to e-mails (I've mailed them enough lately) so if anyone wants to discuss these issues I invite you over to The Ergosphere.
They have published comments posted later than this one, but are censoring a pointer to their own new policy.  This is proof of a guilty conscience.  They know they're doing wrong.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Schooling an idiot

Some wag once wrote to the effect of "Never argue with an idiot; people may not be able to tell which is which."  On the other hand, if nobody bothers to school idiots publicly the public may begin to take their nonsense seriously.  And on that note....

Over at The Energy Collective a clown calling himself Joe Deely says that the exercise of analyzing California's daily load and generation curves to determine what can actually decarbonize its grid is a fantasy scenario.  This has some very strong suggestions that "political reality" is immutable, and physical reality is the fantasy.

With that in mind, let us take the example handed us:  the CAISO RE generation and net demand curves for May 19, 2017.  Solar, wind and hydro are not broken out separately but the latter two are a fairly small part of the peak and total generation for the day, and are obviously 10-15% of the minimum load at most.  Solar is the big kahuna in Commiefornia.

With that in mind, I first did a graphical analysis of the daily load curve.  I erased the grid lines below the load curve and filled the white space with green:

Per The Gimp's histogram function, 316923 pixels were green.  Given the delta of 48 to 915 on the X axis (hour 0-24) and 10 to 464 on the Y axis (32,000 MW to 0), a total consumption of 768,000 MWh would correspond to 393,618 pixels.  Given vagaries of the width of lines vs. their centers, this suggests that the consumption for the day was roughly 768000 * (316923 / 393618) = 618358 MWh.

Given the X width of 863 pixels and the variance from 172 (~20,000 MW) to 464 (0 MW) on the Y axis (Δ=292 px), the area of base load is 251,966 px or 491,677 MWh.  If the total minimum 24-hr demand was served by 24/7 carbon-free power such as nuclear, the total electric generation would be 79.5% carbon-free.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!  Nuclear is supposedly hard to ramp down, but that's the characteristic of light-water reactors, not electric output!  Nuclear-heated steam, being carbon-free, can be dumped to secondary uses or or waste heat without adding any pollutant emissions whatsoever.  So, let us suppose that 20% of peak nuclear power can be dumped and peak nuclear power is 25000 MW (with no carbon-emitting capacity being started until demand rises beyond that).  This yields a graph where 291,990 px of area are colored green out of a total of 316923 px of demand, or 92.1%.

California is supposedly striving for 50% or 60% "renewable" power by some year, but with nuclear base load it could already have reached 79.5% emission-free; with a bit of dumping it could have achieved 92.1% emission-free on the specified day.  Yes, "renewables" could have eaten into the remaining 7.9%, but would they actually have been important enough to tout?  Not really; the existing solar contribution of perhaps 12,000 MW is already twice what appears to be actually required.

If you "blew up" that day's RE contributions so the peak was roughly equal to the demand peak, how much demand would you have left?  After some fiddling with images, I was able to paste the expanded RE curve over the demand curve and color in the un-met demand areas in blue:

If I'm doing my pixel-counting correctly, 112148 pixels have zero green component (the green, gray and white will not); this comes to 28.5% of demand un-meetable by unreliable RE even on the record day.  Even assuming that the overnight RE generation is also scaled up by a substantial factor, this falls well short of the all-nuclear baseload scenario at just 20.5% of demand un-met by carbon-free sources.

Failing to plan to meet the evening and overnight demand with carbon-free generation is planning to fail.  It cannot be done with "renewables", period; physical reality says no.  It is physically possible to achieve this with nuclear power, whether the political reality allows it or not.

"Renewables" in California, as elsewhere, are greenwashing.  If the so-called "environmental" organizations (and eveyone else) actually cared about CO2 emissions, they would be pushing nuclear energy as hard as they could.  Anyone who is anti-nuclear is anti-environment.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I just gave up on Energy For Humanity

I went through their website.  (I had it on my personal blog list for a while.)  When I came across things that bothered me, I dug for contact information...


These people neither expect nor want feedback.  Not even on their site design (why the HELL wouldn't they put timestamps on their main-page items, so you can see what's new and what's not?).

If they refuse to interact with me, I will neither read nor recommend them.  Eff U, E4H.  If you really care for humanity, you'll pay attention to what humanity says back to you.  Especially about the things that make your site painful or painless to use.

Evolve or die.
Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Wait, did they actually write that?

This (backup archive link) is what passes for analysis among "green" energy bloggers:
The option of an oversized, intermittent renewable-energy-sources system to feed the storage is also ineffective. This is because, in this case, energy can be taken directly from the large intermittent supply, making storage superfluous.
Let that sink in for a minute.

The staff of Solar Daily wrote, in all apparent seriousness, that over-producing electricity to store for later is "ineffective" because the energy could be used immediately.  This is like saying that keeping a bank account is "ineffective" because you could spend your entire paycheck immediately when you get it.  This is utterly illogical and incoherent.  Obviously one often needs money in between paychecks.  Obviously, the same is even more true of energy.  But they can't bring themselves to say so.

If I had to guess at the state of mind of the people who wrote it, I'd have to say that this is the product of some serious cognitive dissonance.  The facts force a conclusion that they simply cannot admit to themselves, so they engage in tortured language to try to rationalize it away.  I'll bet that they breathed a collective sigh of relief when they were done sweeping the issue under the rug... again.  But what will they do when it returns?  It's not going away.

The truth of the matter is that, aside from pumped hydro, even overnight storage of electric power is far too costly to be acceptable.  This unwelcome truth is why Germany plans to continue digging and burning lignite forever, while its pumped-hydro storage plants go broke.  And that is why the Energiewende is failing, YoY German carbon emissions are rising, and the earth's climate is apparently doomed to shift radically in the next century.  It's because of a lack of honesty; too many of us cannot admit to ourselves when we are wrong. 
Saturday, December 03, 2016

Fast, cheap, good biofuels: Can we have all 3?

Converting biomass (lignocellulose) to high-quality liquid fuels has been a huge, costly headache since the first log was retorted to make wood alcohol.  Acid hydrolysis of cellulose is costly and leaves lots of sulfate to deal with.  Enzyme hydrolysis is also costly in materials and typically slow.  Various types of pyrolysis have their good and bad points, but while some products like "liquid smoke" flavoring are never going to go out of style while people still eat barbecue, none appear to have ever made it as a source of commodity energy fuels.

That may have just changed.  Even more interesting, the crucial advance hasn't come from a chemist or an agronomist, but astrophysicist Frank Shu.

Dr. Shu's second career may wind up being of world-changing importance to mankind.  As part of the company which he founded, Astron Solutions Corporation, he has re-thought the process of pyrolysis.  Rather than heating biomass in a stream of hot gas, his advance is to use a molten salt as the heat-transfer medium.  The volumetric heat capacity of salt is hundreds or thousands of times as great as thin hot gas, which radically increases the speed of the pyrolysis reaction.  It also allows the separation of the heat-generation and pyrolysis steps (not unlike processes such as chemical looping combustion).  Last, because hot salt can be supplied separately from the stream of off-gas from the pyrolysis step and even driven counter-flow, large molecules can be thermally cracked to lighter gases and coke rather than escaping as troublesome tars.

The (seminal, I think) paper from Astron Solutions Corporation is publicly available.  Pay particular attention to Table 2 on page 3.  The thermal characteristics of the molten salt medium yield an off-gas which is effectively a clean syngas needing no further processing before use in synthesis.  (It's also a HOT syngas, which may be significant.)

That synthesis is a matter of choice.  There are a host of available catalysts which each favor different products.  However, there are vendors of turnkey methanol synthesis plants which take streams of CO, CO2 and H2 and produce CH3OH.  Methanol is a room-temperature liquid which makes a good motor fuel, and is also a basis for further synthesis (e.g. Mobil's Methanol-To-Gasoline process).  That seems hard to beat for a first cut.

Analyzing Table 2 in more detail, I get this:

Amount (kg)
Heating value
Water (H2O)
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Methane (CH4)
Carbon monoxide (CO)
Hydrogen (H2)

Of these products, water is waste (though it can be used to wash residual salt out of char) and methane is essentially unreactive under reducing conditions.

One's eye is drawn to the last entry.  Hydrogen isn't much by mass but it makes up the whopping majority of the molar quantity of the products after water.  If a catalyst reacted all the CO and CO2 with hydrogen to make MeOH (it would make about 1.76 kg), there would still be 227 moles of it left.  This suggests that about 2x as much additional carbon could be converted to CO and reacted to MeOH.  This CO could come from e.g. gasification of the char fines in the salt mixture.

If 90% of the remaining hydrogen could be converted to MeOH, it would consume 2.45 kg of carbon and make an additional 6.54 kg of MeOH for a total of 8.30 kg.  Finding a way to recycle the methane and convert it as well would add another 1.48 kg for a total of 9.78 kg.  This is a liquid fuel yield of almost 49 wt% from wood (albeit 50% oxygen by weight).  It would also leave about 3.5 kg of char, almost 100% of it carbon.

If this yield can be produced from lignocellulose in general, a not-unreasonable 500 million tpy of biomass would produce over 240 million tpy of methanol and 87.5 million tpy of stable fixed carbon char.  At a density of 0.79 this comes to over 80 billion gallons of MeOH, some 5.2 million barrels per day.  If 80% of LDV motor fuel can be replaced by electricity via PHEVs, that would do for the remainder with plenty left over.

The remaining carbon char, if buried, would sequester 87.5 million tpy of carbon (some 320 million tpy of CO2-equivalent).  Char reportedly holds soil nutrients and increases water retention, improving fertility.

These are not the only possibilities.  If air-separation plants can be made small, cheap and reliable enough, the excess hydrogen could instead be reacted to produce ammonia.  I've read brief claims about catalysts which are fairly specific for ethylene as a product, rather than methanol.  Both are liquid at reasonable temperatures under relatively moderate pressure, so are easily shipped.

Motor fuel, plastics, fertilizer, a third of a billion tons of CO2 sucked OUT of the air... when can we get started? 
Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bleg: Clean videos of A-tests

I need some video of an above-ground nuclear test, shot from the ground, with no watermarks and the original sound with no music or voice-overs.  Everything I can find has some problem or other, and the original versions are buried way down the search results by all the crapped-up and promoted copies to the point where I wore out before I could dig that deep.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Quote without comment

... nuclear currently provides 75% of France’s electricity, supporting a 90% non-fossil grid, all without advanced batteries or [s]chedulable BEV charging. California is proposing to move to a renewable-rich grid (a 50 or 55% non-fossil grid), over a couple of decades, only to be 5 times dirtier than today’s French grid.
This is fraudulent environmentalism, and should be condemned in the harshest terms.
Nathan Wilson


Sunday, July 03, 2016

The weather right now

An update for the region today:

Thursday, June 30, 2016

What KQED and FAIR aren't fair to

Straight talk.  I posted this to KQED's discussion of the Diablo Canyon shutdown last night:
But as more renewable energy comes online, running renewables, natural gas and other power sources all together sometimes creates more power than the state needs. At those times, the California ISO has to switch off solar farms to avoid overloading the grid.

Retiring Diablo Canyon could help with that problem.
So instead of turning down some unreliable generators which can only generate at peak for maybe 3-4 hours a day (and never at the peak demand hours in the evening), they propose to kill an emissions-free generator which runs at peak 24/7.

Why isn't the word "insane" applied to these people?  Or, if denial of the threat of climate change is a crime, the word "criminal"?
The nuclear plant is designed to run at a steady, constant level. Nuclear advocates have argued that the state needs this kind of “baseload” power. Others say shutting down Diablo could actually improve grid management.

“It will reduce the need to curtail our solar power plants,” said Cavanagh.
It's hard to say what's nuttier here:  that the logic of curtailment is totally backwards, or that nobody dares to say that it's totally backwards.  It's as if California's government and media are run by paranoid schizophrenics who freak out over the potential of some tiny radiation exposure from a nuclear power plant, and then relieve their tension at a natural hot-spring spa where the waters and air are full of radon and radium... which come from decaying uranium.

In a California that was not ruled by the insane, the state would be building out its entire base-load to be carbon free.  Diablo Canyon would be pushed to renew its licenses to the 2040's and beyond.  San Onofre would be repaired and running.  Rancho Seco would still be on-line, and Bodega Bay would be one of the jewels of California's GHG-free generation portfolio.  Generators which cannot run when needed would take a back seat to those which can, and all air emissions would be taxed either internally (via preferences and feebates) or explicitly.

Sadly, nothing about California's energy priorities is sane.  Not one thing.

And this comment in reply to TeeJae at FAIR a couple days ago:
Your attempt to counter studies you’ve never seen is not only intellectually dishonest, it’s laughable.
I've seen Jacobson's "work".  I could tell it was fraudulent from the ridiculous level of precision it specified.  His "Solutions Project" specifies that Washingtion state could power itself with 0.5% wave devices, 0.3% tidal turbines, and 35% onshore wind.  Really, he can specify these things to a tenth of a percent?  And he can rely on on-shore wind for more than a third of total generation, when the wind over the entire BPA area can go AWOL for almost 2 weeks at a time?

Have you looked at the personnel at The Solutions Project?  There are a bunch of "directors" and a "producer", but not one engineer or scientist on the staff.  It is staffed like an ad agency, which it is.  Its product is not science; it cannot be.

You ruinable religionistas need to be forced to live according to your own dogmas until you either prove them workable or die trying.  If I didn't have you bums insisting that I MUST NOT BE ALLOWED NUCLEAR POWER, I'd be just fine year-round TYVM.
If my desire to protect people and planet makes me a “sorry excuse for a human being” in your eyes
Protect people and the planet from WHAT?  You're certainly not protecting either from climate change or air pollution; if you were, you'd be steadfastly opposed to the Energiewende and the shared German/Danish idiocy of burning coal to make up for the vagaries of wind.

If you wanted to protect people from air pollution, you'd look at the success stories.  Toronto hasn't had a smog action day in some time.  Not coincidentally, Ontario shut down its Nanticoke and Thunder Bay coal-fired power plants.  This was made possible by the restart of nuclear reactors at Bruce Point.  Are you so deluded that you think this is NOT protecting people and the planet?
what does your desire to protect corporate profits say about you?
You are so stupid.  I tell you how much corporate profit is destroyed by the cheapness of nuclear fuel, and you accuse me of wanting to protect those profits.  Were you born that dumb, or did you have to study?
Bringing fossil fuels into the discussion is another tell-tale sign of a pro-nuclear shill. Despite your best straw-man efforts, fossil fuels are irrelevant to this topic.
Fossil fuels are irrelevant to the health of the planet?  WTF?!

You're either a climate denialist or insane.  It's impossible to tell which via this medium, but the total logical disconnects in your statements indicate one or the other.
Neither of these comments will see the light of day under the censorship regime of these two "press" outlets.

This country, and especially its media, need a long trip on the Straight-Talk Express.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Radiophobia continues to keep people from their homes - NOT Japan either!

In the Marshall Islands.  Here's the money quote from the abstract of a paper on the continued "unsafety" of living on the former nuclear test site:
Measurable excess radiation could be expected from the decay of 137Cs produced by the US nuclear testing program there from 1946 to 1958. These recordings are of relevance to safety of human habitation and resettlement...  and relatively high gamma radiation on the island of Bikini (mean = 184 mrem/y = 1.84 mSv/y)...  the standard agreed upon by the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) governments (100 mrem/y = 1 mSv/y). External gamma radiation levels on Bikini Island significantly exceed this standard
Meanwhile, external gamma radiation levels on the beach at Guarapari exceed 53 μSv/hr ( > 460 mSv/yr), and the international radiation protection community says nothing.

Everyone should be allowed to go back home in Chernobyl, in the Marshalls, and in Fukushima.  Right now.  This is insanity.


Thursday, June 09, 2016

Getting steamed by nuclear power

District heating has been big in the Big Apple since the eighties... that is, the 1880's.  The whole island of Manhattan is cris-crossed with steam pipes which occasionally make the news.

On a whim, I tried to find the price of steam in Manhattan.  I was somewhat surprised when I found it.  Steam goes for about $31 per thousand pounds, and each pound carries about 1200 BTU of energy.  This comes to roughly $26 per million BTU, or a bit under $25/GJ.

NuScale doesn't give the output conditions of the steam from its reactor, but it does give the turbine throttle pressure:  475 psia.  This yields a minimum temperature of ~462°F (239 C).  ConEd distributes steam at about 165 PSIG and 358°F (which has to be a typo, as this temperature/pressure is compressed water; real temperatures would be slightly superheated at 375°F or more), so if the NuScale was used for district heating there's some room for a topping cycle to drop the steam pressure.

The NuScale boiler inlet water spec is 300°F; assume 500 psia:  h = 627.7 kJ/kg.  Steam at 475 psia/275°C (reasonable PWR SG outlet conditions) has h = 2946.1 kJ/kg, Δh = +2318.4 kJ/kg.  Dropping this to 180 psia/saturation yields h = 2784.9 kJ/kg.  (I did not check the entropy to see if the steam would still be superheated.)  Δh = -161.2 kJ/kg.  Roughly 6.9% of the input heat is convertible to work even if high-pressure steam is tapped off for district heating.

 6.9% of 160 MW(t) is 11.1 MW, which is more than enough to cover the NuScale house loads of about 2.5 MW per unit.

Assuming up to 145 MW(t) of steam output, this comes to 522 GJ/hr with a value in excess of $12,500 per hour.  If this can be sold at 30% capacity factor, revenue from heat sales would be on the order of $33 million/year.  A NuScale unit selling for $6/W(e) installed would cost $285 million; $33 million/year in heat sales alone would be a greater than 11%/year return on investment not including electric output.

If New York could be gotten off its paranoia over nuclear power, this could be YUGE.

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Monday, June 06, 2016

Watts Bar Unit 2 synced to the grid and generating power

Short item at Nuclear Street.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Where to find scientific illiterates? Physicians for Social Responsibility, that's where.

The BAS just published a guest piece by one Steven Starr, among whose howlers I pulled this gem:
many individual pools contain more cesium-137 than was released by all atmospheric nuclear weapons tests combined. These utterly lethal radionuclides will require some form of supervision for hundreds of thousands of years....
Clue for you, Steven:  Cs-137 has a half-life of 30.17 years.  Roughly 90% of it disappears every century.  In 3 centuries spent nuclear fuel is so low on gamma-emitters that it can be handled with gloves, and in 5 all the Cs-137 and Sr-90 are effectively gone and the spent fuel has LESS activity than the raw uranium ore from which it came.  What remains has such low activity, and most of it alpha-emissions, that you're probably more at risk from heavy-metal poisoning than radiation if you eat it.  Those risks are pretty low, too; the "UPPU" group who got significant body burdens of plutonium through accidents show no related ill effects.

If physicians actually wanted to be socially responsible, they'd learn something before spouting off.  It's a pity that this guy is a senior scientist and not a physician, otherwise it might be possible to charge him with malpractice and get him out of the fear-mongering business.  Sadly, PSR is just a front group for well-heeled anti-nuclear interests; if they were subject to real medical and scientific discipline, it might be possible to make them ACTUALLY serve the cause of social responsibility.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The kabuki corpses of failed Green ideas: dead, but preserved and weilded by puppeteers

Atomic Insights has what appears to be a new Green troll.  He dredged up the tried-and-discarded concept of shrouded wind turbines from a post at NBF.  Such ignorance deserves derision, and I gave him some:
Check this out.
Oh, look, a rehash of a concept from the 1970's that went nowhere then for the same reasons it is still going nowhere.  It's a huge fixed structure that will collect hundreds of tons of ice in winter storms and can't be feathered against high winds.  It's still subject to the Betz limit and can't generate wind when there isn't any.
(NB: wind turbines with shrouds and diffusers are a very old idea, older than nuclear power IIUC.)
How would the Johnny come lately nuclear community/industry rebut this?
Perhaps you should ask the people at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution why they thought coal-fired steam engines were so great when they had wind for free; you might learn something.
Why would Japan or Asian nations — or we — continue nuclear plans or startup now?
Why would any serious movement recycle BS concepts that they KNOW cannot work to actually eliminate fossil fuels, unless they are secretly working to protect fossil fuels?
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Watts Bar Unit 2 has gone critical

Local article:
Licensed reactor operators at Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar Unit 2 project reached a major milestone at 2:16 a.m. EDT, Monday when the unit's reactor achieved its first sustained nuclear fission reaction.

Also known as achieving "initial criticality," TVA says Unit 2 is now generating heat under its own power....

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Quote without comment

... in our modern world it does not take too much time to learn enough about almost any topic to be able to recognize propaganda and sift interest group messaging from more accurate information. You don’t need fancy degrees or position titles. You don’t even more than very moderate resources. All you need is honest curiosity and the ability to pay attention to the world around you.
Rod Adams
Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Energy Collective keeps going downhill

The site administration for The Energy Collective is not doing its job.  Perhaps it is not competent to do its job.  Regardless, a simple matter like users unable to log in should be responded to and fixed quickly, right?

Not really.  I'm logged into Wordpress, but on TEC I get this:

So, it claims I'm NOT logged in, but when I click the login link I get this:

Two complaints to have neither produced a correction nor received a response. (Neither have any previous complaints.)

At this rate, it won't be long before the site is history.

Edit 4/28 19:20 EDT:  After the firewall problem was fixed there was ANOTHER problem, but that finally got fixed too.  However, this suggests that things are not tested before going to production.  That is going to bite badly... again (like the HTML conversion debacle and the continuing failure to support list tags).  
Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Energy Collective collapses due to gross incompetence and inability to accept criticism

The Energy Collective was recently taken over by Energy Post.  This didn't have any visible consequences until just a couple days ago, when Energy Post attempted a conversion of the site from Drupal 6 to Wordpress.

I've been using Wordpress for years, and had no real complaints about it.  But this conversion... it was like having the Library of Congress edited and reprinted by Mad Magazine.  EVERY BIT of formatting in copied posts and comments was completely stripped out.  Not just blockquotes and lists, but bold and italic tags were removed—irrecoverably, I was told.  Here's what I put in the "new look" thread:
I couldn’t find this post in the last 10 screens of old posts (which took a VERY long time to sort through) so I wound up posting it in the newest post also.  I only re-discovered this because it wound up listed in the new comments.
Among the problems we now have:
1. List tags aren’t allowed. Not flagged, just stripped without notice.
2. ALL hyperlinks to previous posts/comments are defunct, 404. Nobody thought to implement redirects for them.
3. ALL formatting has been stripped from the copied-over comments. Indents, italics, things distinguishing quoted material from new text… stripped, and vast amounts of intelligibility utterly destroyed in the process.
4. The link to change to “oldest first” sort doesn’t work.
5. Comment hyperlinks are now harder to use than under Drupal. Instead of simply having a link, one must (a) click the “link” icon, (b) click inside the box that appears, (c) select-all and copy (3 keystrokes minimum), (d) click in the address bar, (e) right-click and then FINALLY (f) select “paste-and-go”. Whoever came up with this should be removed from all administrative roles, effective immediately. It is beyond outrageously stupid, it is malign.
6. Worst of all, attempting to use the permalink on an only comment (first in the thread) did NOT link to the comment, but the “respond” box! I was able to get the correct comment link using Domain Inspector (the comments section is not included if you “view page source”), so it’s obviously available to whatever generates the page and SHOULD be used to make a straight hyperlink.
7. Comment edit box is way too small.
8.  Comment notification box is checked by default, doesn’t remember previous un-checks.
I strongly suggest that comments be closed, all comments made under WordPress mailed back to the commenters with the URLs of the discussions where they were posted, and the conversion re-done PROPERLY once the admins have figured out how to fix the conversion issues.
(shortly after this, a host of expanded HTML options were enabled in comments. Not before.)

I was told this could not be fixed:
1.Formatting is allowed on all new comments. Legacy formatting was not possible without checking and hand coding 50,000 comments.

2. External URLs remain where they we’re coded in full.

3. Formatting, See 1.

4. Sort function works for all new posts, there may be issues with legacy articles for reasons discussed above

5. Linking is possible, it may take 2 more clicks.

6. Comment Box – the box is designed to be typed in to and expands as you type. If you copy an paste and essay in to it you can use the Cursor Keys to navigate through the text. On first press of the cursor key the box will enlarge to show the full text.

7. Comment notification is now un-ticked as default. Legacy data of’ un-ticking of box’ was unable to be retained. There is however a new Subscribe feature.

There are also new features that let you search the comment box by Authors or text. You can now embed Video and there is a new feature that lets you attach files to your articles e.g. a pdf on the benefits of Nuclear Power.

If you have any further technical questions or requests please email:

Many Thanks

TEC Support Team
I was not alone in my negative appraisal of the quality of conversion; Willem Post had this to say:
Engineer Poet,
I was reading your comment.
It appears to me like a butcher job. Totally incredible.
It needs to be redone, including all the bells and whistles.
It needs to beta tested, before going live.
My posted articles are the OLD versions.
I cannot let people see these old versions, because of many significant changes and additions.
I may have to delete my articles.
I want the MOST RECENT VERSIONS of my articles posted.
I want the EDIT function restored; no edit function, no more articles from me, for sure!!
I want the LIKES count function restored.
If possible, I want the VIEWS count function restored.
I hope Karel reads this.

I made a reply which was removed and returned to me by e-mail:
the database was in a very bad state, which caused endless problems with the conversion
The problems I'm talking about have nothing to do with the database, but with slipshod conversion of the HTML of comments.  It was certainly possible to do better, because I now see almost all of the formatting options that were previously missing at the top of this edit window.  But someone was sloppy and got all of that lost in the mis-translation. Unless someone was criminally sloppy, the scripts used to read the Drupal database and do the conversion are still there.  Minor tweaks will fix the (documented!) HTML issues.  Just do it over. Speaking of documented issues, the stylesheet hid part of the width of the right sidebar with an opaque gray overlay, looking like this:
I got a defensive and hostile note attached to it:
Karel Beckman
CC Aaron Weiner 'Matthew James'
Mar 30 at 3:54

Please note I removed your latest comment because I find it offensive and rude.
We do not tolerate offensive comments on The Energy Collective.
If you make any further comments that cause offense, you will be permanenlty blocked from commenting.

Mr Karel Beckman, editor-in-chief
(does this guy have a thick enough skin to be running a major website? does he have the competence to recognize when things are going wrong? he's sure not scoring any points with the people whose oxen have been gored.)

This was already very bad.  But it got worse.

I like to book-mark the most recent comments in comment threads so I can return to them and scan for newer additions.  On Tuesday, I believe, those bookmarks ALL stopped working.  I can go to individual discussion threads, but links directly to threads or individual comments are re-written and sent to personal profile pages (mostly my own).  For instance, whether I click from my bookmarks or paste in the address bar, this:

gets re-written to this:

I have complained to, with no replies and no fixes.  There's certainly plenty of desire remaining to fix these problems and get everything spic and span again, but that all will and energy appears to be OUTSIDE the administration of Energy Post.  The insiders refuse to admit that there are any problems, let alone ask for assistance in fixing them or explore possibilities.  (This is what I'd expect if it was being run by a few tyros who are in way over their heads, especially the violently defensive reactions to practically all criticism.)

It is now between painful and impossible to follow and participate in discussions on TEC; for all intents and purposes, Energy Post has destroyed The Energy Collective.  Worst of all, Energy Post management will not even admit they have a problem.  There appears to be one last, sad snapshot of the site at the Internet Wayback Machine, but that may be all that remains of this once-valuable forum.

Here is an example of how the technical staff have broken links into TEC.  I bookmarked this URL, where I was having a discussion on the Drupal version of the site:

This URL no longer exists, and there is no re-direct; it now comes up 404.  The Wordpress copy of the article appears to have been at no less than 2 URLs, and it now comes up as this:

Why the gratuitous change in URL?  I have no idea, and the staff aren't talking.

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