Tag Archives: Whale Wars

Thinking about Solar Potential

Iowa is a national leader in terms of wind power.  As it stands now, the state gets about one-quarter of its electricity from the wind.  Many projects, including a recently announced $1.9B project by MidAmerican Energy, will keep pushing that percentage higher.

But what if wind power was not the sole solution?

Well, what is the problem we are trying to solve?  The elimination of fossil fuels to generate electricity is my goal and I think that Iowa has the potential to get there.

In a prior post I wrote about the level of windpower investment required to eliminate fossil fuels from the power equation.  Depending upon how you add up the numbers with regard to projects in the pipeline Iowa is almost 75% of the way there.

Assuming that these projects do not all happen for various reasons, what are the other options?  Disregarding hydropower, which is a solution for some locales but not a state like Iowa, the solution, in terms of renewables, must be solar.

“Solar cannot work in Iowa!” the naysayer says.  Really?

Germany is a leader in the deployment of solar photovoltaic technology.  That country is never thought of as being sun drenched like its southern EU compatriots Spain or Greece.  Do not even think of comparing Germany’s solar radiation with North Africa’s.  So, solar works in places that are not thought of as ideal.  Got it.

In 2012, Germany is estimated to have produced 28,000 GWh of solar electricity.  Iowa is about 41% the physical size of Germany, so if Iowa deployed solar in proportion to geographic size the generation potential would equal 11,480 GWh of solar electricity on an annual basis.  What does that number mean?

In 2010, Iowa produced about 57,508 GWh of electricity.  Assuming the numbers for the last full year are similar, the state would have produced about 43,131 GWh of electricity using fossil fuel or other non-renewables.  This assumes that 25% of the state’s electricity generation came in the form of wind power.   At the deployment figure stated above, 11,480 GWh, solar could easily account for approximately 27% of the state’s electricity generation.

A side benefit to deploying solar is that it tends to be at a production peak that is counter cyclical to wind power’s production peak, which levels out the demands on the grid.

It’s total “pie in the sky” territory, I realize, but it’s fun to run the numbers and see how close we could be to a time when we no longer burn fossil fuels to watch Whale Wars.


You Must Read–The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals

Before five seasons of Whale Wars, starting with the 2007/8 campaign and sixth season sure to come, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was conducting campaigns against the Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research in the waters off Antarctica in a single ship, the RV Farley Mowat.

9781416532484Peter Heller’s The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals documents two months of a campaign during the 2005/6 season.  That’s a simplistic description because the book serves as both an examination of the efforts by Sea Shepherd to combat whaling and it is a historical vignette of an organization that has changed quite a bit in the intervening years.

Despite the best efforts of the author and the members of the crew of the Farley Mowat, the endeavor comes off less eco-pirate adventure than amateurs in a disaster waiting to happen.  In all of the campaigns conducted by Sea Shepherd in Antarctica there has not been a serious injury or death.  Reading this book you will be amazed that someone has not fallen into the frigid waters never to be seen again or suffered some grievous injury in the high seas.  I am amazed.

I am amazed throughout reading the book the lengths to which the Australian government goes to placate the Japanese, who seem to violate every standard of conduct with regard to Australian territorial claims.  The Japanese are a country that is engaged in highly charged brinksmanship with China over a few rocks masquerading as islands because of the potential for energy exploitation.  They want everyone else to respect their claims while treading on another nation’s claims.  It’s ridiculous.  I believe Paul Watson is right when he says if an Argentinian or Indonesian whaler were operating in the area Australia would send warships to enforce its territorial claim.  However, because it is the Japanese every effort is made at appeasement.  I laughed at the member of the Australian government quoted as saying that Japan did not respect Australia’s territorial claims to Australia during World War II.  Solid gold.

At the time of the book the Sea Shepherd fleet in Antarctic waters consisted of a single ship, the RV Farley Mowat.  The 2005/6 campaign was the first time that the organization would employ the use of a helicopter and the service of pilot Chris Aultman.  Anyone familiar with the organization today knows that the fleet in Antarctica will consist of four ships—the Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, Brigitte Bardot, and Sam Simon which are all named for benefactors and supporters of the cause—and Chris Aultman has become a fixture of the effort to combat whaling.  Granted, it’s been seven years but the change is amazing.

One thing that does not seem to have changed in the intervening years is the enmity between Paul Watson and Greenpeace.  Watson was a founding member of Greenpeace in the 1970s, but left or was kicked out of the organization depending upon who you believe.  Nonetheless, he saves little spite when describing Greenpeace as the “Avon ladies” of the environmental movement.  It does seem that Greenpeace has become a fund raising organization that seeks to maximize publicity without really trying to “save the planet.”  Furthermore, Greenpeace’s lack of cooperation over the years with Sea Shepherd has probably resulted in the deaths of more whales.  Remember, Greenpeace has a fleet as well and during the 2005/6 campaign described in the book had two ships in the region to “bear witness,” whatever that means.

On a separate, but related note, what is up with pointing out the fact that the boats of the Sea Shepherd fleet are vegan all the time?  It’s not only something that the author does because in press releases by government agencies the term vegan is used almost as a synonym for radical.  Note to everyone not familiar with vegans—it’s a dietary choice that may be arrived at for ethical, moral, or health reasons.  Do not assume that someone is an environmental radical because that person is a vegan.  My sixty four year old father who turned vegan at the age of sixty two for health reasons would look and sound no more like an environmental radical than one of the Koch brothers.