Ditch the Batteries

SUBHEAD: Compressed air has longer life expectancy, technical simplicity, lower cost and lower maintenance.

By Kris De Decker on 9 June 2018 for Low Tech Magazine-

Image above: Commercial large compressed air storage tanks. From original article.

Going off-grid? Think twice before you invest in a battery system. Compressed air energy storage is the sustainable and resilient alternative to batteries, with much longer life expectancy, lower life cycle costs, technical simplicity, and low maintenance.

Designing a compressed air energy storage system that combines high efficiency with small storage size is not self-explanatory, but a growing number of researchers show that it can be done.

Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) is usually regarded as a form of large-scale energy storage, comparable to a pumped hydropower plant. Such a CAES plant compresses air and stores it in an underground cavern, recovering the energy by expanding (or decompressing) the air through a turbine, which runs a generator.

Unfortunately, large-scale CAES plants are very energy inefficient. Compressing and decompressing air introduces energy losses, resulting in an electric-to-electric efficiency of only 40-52%, compared to 70-85% for pumped hydropower plants, and 70-90% for chemical batteries. The low efficiency is mainly since air heats up during compression.

This waste heat, which holds a large share of the energy input, is dumped into the atmosphere. A related problem is that air cools down when it is decompressed, lowering electricity production and possibly freezing the water vapour in the air.

To avoid this, large-scale CAES plants heat the air prior to expansion using natural gas fuel, which further deteriorates the system efficiency and makes renewable energy storage dependent on fossil fuels.

Why Small-scale CAES?

In the previous article, we outlined several ideas – inspired by historical systems – that could improve the efficiency of large-scale CAES plants.

In this article, we focus on the small but growing number of engineers and researchers who think that the future is not in large-scale compressed air energy storage, but rather in small-scale or micro systems, using man-made, aboveground storage vessels instead of underground reservoirs. Such systems could be off-the-grid or grid-connected, either operating by themselves or alongside a battery system.

The main reason to investigate decentralised compressed air energy storage is the simple fact that such a system could be installed anywhere, just like chemical batteries.

Large-scale CAES, on the other hand, is dependent on a suitable underground geology. Although there are more potential sites for large-scale CAES plants than for large-scale pumped hydropower plants, finding appropriate storage caverns is not as easy as was previously assumed. [1-2] [3]

Compared to chemical batteries, micro-CAES systems have some interesting advantages. Most importantly, a distributed network of compressed air energy storage systems would be much more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Over their lifetimes, chemical batteries store only two to ten times the energy needed to manufacture them. [4] Small-scale CAES systems do much better than that, mainly because of their much longer lifespan.
Compared to chemical batteries, a distributed network of compressed air energy storage systems would be much more sustainable and environmentally friendly
Furthermore, they do not require rare or toxic materials, and the hardware is easily recyclable. In addition, decentralised compressed air energy storage doesn’t need high-tech production lines and can be manufactured, installed and maintained by local business, unlike an energy storage system based on chemical batteries.

Finally, micro-CAES has no self-discharge, is tolerant of a wider range of environments, and promises to be cheaper than chemical batteries. [5]

Although the initial investment cost is estimated to be higher than that of a battery system (around $10,000 for a typical residential set-up), and although above-ground storage increases the costs in comparison to underground storage (the storage vessel is good for roughly half of the investment cost), a compressed air energy storage system offers an almost infinite number of charge and discharge cycles. Batteries, on the other hand, need to be replaced every few years, which makes them more expensive in the long run. [5,6]

Challenge: Limiting Storage Size
However, decentralised CAES also faces important challenges. The first is the system efficiency, which is a problem in large- and small-scale systems alike, and the second is the size of the storage vessel, which is especially problematic for small-scale CAES systems.

Both issues make small-scale CAES systems unpractical. Sufficient space for a large storage vessel is not always available, while a low storage efficiency requires a larger solar PV or wind power plant to make up for that loss, raising the costs and lowering the sustainability of the system.

To make matters worse, system efficiency and storage size are inversely related: improving one factor is often at the expense of the other.

Increasing the air pressure minimizes the storage size but decreases the system efficiency, while using a lower pressure makes the system more energy efficient but results in a larger storage size. Some examples help illustrate the problem.

A simulation for a stand-alone CAES aimed at unpowered rural areas, and which is connected to a solar PV system and used for lighting only, operates at a relatively low air pressure of 8 bar and obtains a round-trip efficiency of 60% -- comparable to the efficiency of lead-acid batteries. [7]

However, to store 360 Wh of potential electrical energy, the system requires a storage reservoir of 18 m3, the size of a small room measuring 3x3x2 meters. The authors note that “although the tank size appears very large, it still makes sense for applications in rural areas”.
System efficiency and storage size are inversely related: improving one factor is often at the expense of the other.
Such a system may indeed be beneficial in this context, especially because it has a much longer lifespan than chemical batteries. However, a similar configuration in an urban context with high energy use is obviously problematic.

In another study, it was calculated that it would take a 65 cubic meter air storage tank to store 3 kila-watt hours of energy. This corresponds to a 13 meter long pressure vessel with a diameter of 2.5 meters, shown below. [8]

Image above: Compressed air storage tank 6 feet high by 45 feet long could store 3 kWh of energy. From original article.

Furthermore, average household electricity use per day in industrialised countries is much higher still. For example, in the UK it’s slightly below 13 kWh per day, in the US and Canada it’s more than 30 kWh. In the latter case, ten such air pressure tanks would be required to store one day of electricity use.

Small-scale CAES systems with high pressures give the opposite results. For example, a configuration modeled for a typical household electrical use in Europe (6,400 kWh per year) operates at a pressure of 200 bar (almost 4 times higher than the pressure in large-scale CAES plants) and achieves a storage volume of only 0.55 m3, which is comparable to batteries. However, the electric-to-electric efficiency of this set-up is only 11-17%, depending on the size of the solar PV system. [9]

Two Strategies to Make Micro CAES work
These examples seem to suggest that compressed air energy storage makes no sense as a small-scale energy storage system, even with a reduction in energy demand. However, perhaps surprisingly to many, this is not the case.

Small-scale CAES systems cannot follow the same approach as large-scale CAES systems, which increase storage capacity and overall efficiency by using multi-stage compression with intercooling and multi-stage expansion with reheating.

This method involves additional components and increases the complexity and cost, which is impractical for small-scale systems.

The same goes for “adiabatic” processes (AA-CAES), which aim to use the heat of compression to reheat the expanding air, and which are the main research focus for large-scale CAES. For a micro-CAES system, it’s very important to simplify the structure as much as possible. [5,10]

This leaves us with two low-tech strategies that can be followed to achieve similar storage capacity and energy efficiency as lead-acid batteries. First, we can design low pressure systems which minimize the temperature differences during compression and expansion. Second, we can design high pressure systems in which the heat and cold from compression and expansion are used for household applications.
Small-scale, High Pressure

Small-scale compressed air energy storage systems with high air pressures turn the inefficiency of compression and expansion into an advantage.

While large-scale AA-CAES aims to recover the heat of compression with the aim of maximizing electricity production, these small-scale systems take advantage of the temperature differences to allow trigeneration of electrical, heating and cooling power.

The dissipated heat of compression is used for residential heating and hot water production, while the cold expanding air is used for space cooling and refrigeration. Chemical batteries can’t do this.
Small-scale, high pressure systems use the dissipated heat of compression for residential heating and hot water production, while the cold expanding air is used for space cooling and refrigeration.
In these systems, the electric-to-electric efficiency is very low. However, there are now several efficiencies to define, because the system also supplies heat and cold. [10,11]

Furthermore, this approach can make several electrical appliances unnecessary, such as the refrigerator, the air-conditioning, and the electric boiler for space and water heating. Since the use of these appliances is often responsible for roughly half of the electricity use in an average household, a small-scale CAES system with high pressure has lower electricity demand overall.

High pressure systems easily solve the issue of storage size. As we have seen, a higher air pressure can greatly reduce the size of a compressed air storage vessel, but only at the expense of increased waste heat.

In a small-scale system that takes advantage of temperature differences to provide heating and cooling, this is advantageous.

Therefore, high pressure systems are ideal for small-scale residential buildings, where storage space is limited and where there is a large demand for heat and cold as well as electricity.

The only disadvantages are that high pressure systems require stronger and more expensive storage tanks, and that extra space is required for heat exchangers.

Image above: Experimental set-up of a micro CAES system. From original article, Source [30].

Several research groups have designed, modeled and built small-scale combined heat-and-power CAES units which provide heating and cooling as well as electricity.

The high pressure system with a storage volume of only 0.55 m3 that we mentioned earlier, is an example of this type of system. [9]

As noted, its electrical efficiency is only 11-17%, but the system also produces sufficient heat to produce 270 litres of hot water per day. If this thermal source of energy is also taken into account, the “exergetic” efficiency of the whole system is close to 70%.

Similar "exergy" efficiencies can be found in other studies, with systems operating at pressures between 50 and 200 bar. [11-21]

Heat and cold from compression and expansion can be distributed to heating or cooling devices by means of water or air. The setup of an air cycle heating and cooling system is very similar to a CAES system, except for the storage vessel.

Air cycle heating and cooling has many advantages, including high reliability, ease of maintenance, and the use of a natural refrigerant, which is environmentally benign. [11]

Small-scale, Low Pressure

The second strategy to achieve higher efficiencies and lower storage volumes is exactly the opposite from the first.

Instead of compressing air to a high pressure and taking advantage of the heat and cold from compression and expansion, a second class of small-scale CAES systems is based on low pressures and “near-isothermal” compression and expansion.

Below air pressures of roughly 10 bar, the compression and expansion of air exhibit insignificant temperature changes (“near-isothermal”), and the efficiency of the energy storage system can be close to 100%. There is no waste heat and consequently there is no need to reheat the air upon expansion.

Isothermal compression requires the least amount of energy to compress a given amount of air to a given pressure. However, reaching an isothermal process is far from reality. To start with, it only works with small and/or slowly cycling compressors and expanders. Unfortunately, typical industrial compressors are not made for maximum efficiency but for maximum power and thus work under fast-cycling, non-isothermal conditions. The same goes for most industrial expanders. [22-24]
Below air pressures of 10 bar, compression and expansion of air exhibit insignificant temperature changes and the efficiency can be close to 100%.
The use of industrial compressors and expanders explains in large part why the low pressure CAES systems mentioned at the beginning of this article have such large storage vessels. Both systems are based on devices which are operated outside of their optimal or rated conditions. [25]

Because inefficiencies multiply during energy conversions, even relatively small differences in the efficiency of compressors and expanders can have large effects. For example, a variation in device efficiency from 60% to 80% results in a system efficiency from 36% to 64%, respectively.
New Types of Compressors and Expanders

Because the performance of a compressor and an expander significantly impact the overall efficiency of a small-scale CAES system, several researchers have built their own compressors and expanders, which are especially aimed at energy storage.

For example, one team designed, built and examined a single-stage, low power isothermal compressor that uses a liquid piston. [22]

It operates at a very low compression rate (between 10-60 rpm), which correspond to the output of solar PV panels, and limits temperature fluctuation during compression and expansion to 2 degrees Celsius.

The low-cost device has minimum moving parts and obtains efficiencies of 60-70% at 3 to 7 bar pressure. [22] This is a very high efficiency for such a simple device, considering that a sophisticated three-stage centrifugal compressor, used in large-scale CAES systems or in industrial settings, is roughly 70% efficient.

Furthermore, the researchers state that the efficiency is limited by the off-the-shelf motor that they use to power their compressor. Indeed, another research team achieved 83% efficiency. [26]

Image above: A cutaway view of a modern, quiet, oil free scroll format air compressor. From (http://www.fusheng.com/FSAP/F_ProductInfo?ProductId=Prod_1-11-0&n=GW%20Series%20Oil-free%20Scroll%20Air%20Compressor&r_reg=en-us&rndt=w1tupMXK).

Another novelty is the use of scroll compressors, which are the types of compressors that are now used in refrigerators, air-conditioning systems, and heat pumps. Both fluid piston and scroll compressors have a high area-to-volume ratio, which minimizes heat production, and can easily handle two-phase flow, which means that they can also be used as expanders.

They are also lighter and less noisy than typical reciprocating compressors. [24]

Varying Air Pressure
Although compressors and expanders are the most important determinants of system efficiency in small-scale CAES systems, they are not the only ones.

For example, in every compressed air energy storage system, additional efficiency loss is caused by the fact that during expansion the storage reservoir is depleted and therefore the pressure drops. Meanwhile, the input pressure for the expander is required to vary only in a minimal range to assure high efficiency.

This is usually solved in two ways, although neither is really satisfactory. First, air can be stored in a tank with surplus pressure, after which it is throttled down to the required expander input pressure. \

However, this method – which is used in large-scale CAES – requires additional energy use and thus introduces inefficiency.

Second, the expander can operate at variable conditions, but in this case efficiency will drop along with the pressure while the storage is emptied.
During expansion the storage reservoir is depleted and therefore the pressure drops.
With these problems in mind, a team of researchers combined a small-scale CAES with a small-scale pumped hydropower plant, resulting in a system that maintains a steady pressure during the complete discharge of the storage reservoir.

It consists of two compressed air tanks that are connected by a pipe attached to their lower portions: each of these have separate spaces for air (below) and water storage (above).

The configuration maintains a head of water by means of a pump, which consumes 15% of the generated power. However, in spite of this extra energy use, the researchers managed to increase both the efficiency and the energy density of the system. [11]

Off-the-Grid Power Storage

To give an idea of what a combination of the right components can achieve, let’s have a look at a last research project. [27] It concerns a system that is based on a highly efficient, custom-made compressor/expander, which is directly coupled to a DC motor/generator.

Apart from its efficient components, this CAES project also introduces an innovative system configuration. It doesn’t use one large air storage tank, but several smaller ones, which are interconnected and computer-controlled.

The setup consists of the compression/expansion unit coupled to three small (7L) cylinders, previously used as air extinguishers, and operates at low pressure (max 5 bar). The storage vessels are connected via PVC pipework and brass fittings.

To control the air-flow, three computer-controlled air valves are installed at the inlet of each cylinder. The system can be extended by adding more pressure vessels. [27]

Image above: A modular system of multiple compressor tanks has multiple advantages. From original article.

A modular configuration results in a higher system efficiency and energy density for mainly two reasons.

First, it helps more effective heat transfer to take place, because every air tank acts as an additional heat exchanger.
Second, it allows better control over the discharge rate of the storage reservoir.

The cylinders can be discharged either in unison to satisfy a demand for high power density (more power at the cost of a shorter discharge time), or they can be discharged sequentially to satisfy a demand for high energy density (longer discharge time at the cost of maximum power).
By discharging modular storage cylinders sequentially, the discharge time can be greatly increased, making the system comparable to lead-acid batteries in terms of energy density.
By discharging the cylinders sequentially, the discharge time can be greatly increased, making the system comparable to lead-acid batteries in terms of energy density. Based on their experimental set-up, the researchers calculated the efficiencies for different starting pressures and numbers of cylinders.

They found that 57 interconnected cylinders of 10 litre each, operating at 5 bar, could fulfill the job of four 24V batteries for 20 consecutive hours, all while having a surprisingly small footprint of just 0.6 m3.

Interestingly, the storage capacity is 410 Wh, which is comparable to the 360 Wh rural system noted earlier, which requires an 18 m3 storage vessel – that’s thirty times larger than the modular storage system.

The electric-to-electric efficiency for the 3-cylinder set-up reached a peak of 85% at 3 bar pressure, while the estimated efficiency for the 57-cylinder set-up is 75%.

These are values comparable to lithium-ion batteries, but adding more storage vessels or operating at higher pressures introduces larger losses due to compression, heat, friction and fittings. [27-29]

Nevertheless, when I e-mailed Abdul Alami, the main author of the study, thinking that the results sounded too good to be true, he told me that the figures were actually overly conservative: “We stuck to low pressures to achieve near-isothermal compression and to ensure safe operation.

Operating at pressures higher than 10 bar would create serious thermal losses, but a pressure of 7-8 bar may be beneficial in terms of energy and power density, though maybe not in terms of efficiency.”

Build it Yourself?

In conclusion, small-scale compressed air energy storage could be a promising alternative to batteries, but the research is still in its early stages – the first study on small-scale CAES was published in 2010 – and new ideas will continue to shed light on how best to develop the technology.

At the moment, there are no commercial products available, and setting up your own system can be quite intimidating if you are new to pneumatics.

Simply getting hold of the right components and fittings is a headache, as these come in a bewildering variety and are only sold to industries.

However, if you’re patient and not too unhandy, and if you are determined to use a more sustainable energy storage system, it is perfectly possible to build your own CAES system. As the examples in this article have shown, it’s just a bit harder to build a good one.

There's more ideas for small-scale CAES systems in the previous article: History and Future of the Compressed Air Economy.

References & Notes
[1] Luo, Xing, et al. "Overview of current development in electrical energy storage technologies and the application potential in power system operation." Applied Energy 137 (2015): 511-536. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261914010290

[2] Laijun, C. H. E. N., et al. "Review and prospect of compressed air energy storage system." Journal of Modern Power Systems and Clean Energy 4.4 (2016): 529-541. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40565-016-0240-5

[3] There is increasing competition for potential CAES geologic units, as many are also well suited to the storage of natural gas or sequestered carbon. Furthermore, cavern storage imposes harsh requirements on the geographical conditions. For example, the originally planned Iowa CAES project in the US was terminated due to its porous sandstone condition. [2]

[4] Barnhart, Charles J., and Sally M. Benson. "On the importance of reducing the energetic and material demands of electrical energy storage." Energy & Environmental Science 6.4 (2013): 1083-1092. https://gcep.stanford.edu/pdfs/EES_reducingdemandsonenergystorage.pdf

[5] Petrov, Miroslav P., Reza Arghandeh, and Robert Broadwater. "Concept and application of distributed compressed air energy storage systems integrated in utility networks." ASME 2013 Power Conference. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2013. http://eddism.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Paper-EDD-Concept-and-Application-of-Distributed-Compressed-Air-Energy-Storage-Systems-Integrated-in-Utility-Networks-July-2013.pdf

[6] Tallini, Alessandro, Andrea Vallati, and Luca Cedola. "Applications of micro-CAES systems: energy and economic analysis." Energy Procedia 82 (2015): 797-804.

[7] Setiawan, A., et al. "Sizing compressed-air energy storage tanks for solar home systems." Computational Intelligence and Virtual Environments for Measurement Systems and Applications (CIVEMSA), 2015 IEEE International Conference on. IEEE, 2015. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ardyono_Priyadi/publication/274898992_Sizing_Compressed-Air_Energy_Storage_Tanks_for_Solar_Home_Systems/links/5670e2c408ae2b1f87acf927.pdf

[8] Herriman, Kayne. "Small compressed air energy storage systems." (2013). https://eprints.usq.edu.au/24651/1/Herriman_2013.pdf

[9] Manfrida, Giampaolo, and Riccardo Secchi. "Performance prediction of a small-size adiabatic compressed air energy storage system." International Journal of Thermodynamics 18.2 (2015): 111-119. http://dergipark.ulakbim.gov.tr/eoguijt/article/download/5000071710/5000113411

[10] Kim, Y. M., and Daniel Favrat. "Energy and exergy analysis of a micro-compressed air energy storage and air cycle heating and cooling system." Energy 35.1 (2010): 213-220.

[11] Kim, Young Min. "Novel concepts of compressed air energy storage and thermo-electric energy storage." (2012). https://infoscience.epfl.ch/record/181540/files/EPFL_TH5525.pdf

[12] Inder, Shane D., and Mehrdad Khamooshi. "Energy Efficiency Analysis of Discharge Modes of an Adiabatic Compressed Air Energy Storage System." World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, International Journal of Electrical, Computer, Energetic, Electronic and Communication Engineering 11.12 (2017): 1101-1109.

[13] Vollaro, Roberto De Lieto, et al. "Energy and thermodynamical study of a small innovative compressed air energy storage system (micro-CAES)." Energy Procedia 82 (2015): 645-651.

[14] Li, Yongliang, et al. "A trigeneration system based on compressed air and thermal energy storage." Applied Energy 99 (2012): 316-323. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261912003479

[15] Facci, Andrea L., et al. "Trigenerative micro compressed air energy storage: Concept and thermodynamic assessment." Applied energy 158 (2015): 243-254. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261915009526

[16] Mohammadi, Amin, et al. "Exergy analysis of a Combined Cooling, Heating and Power system integrated with wind turbine and compressed air energy storage system." Energy Conversion and Management 131 (2017): 69-78. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261915009526

[17] Yao, Erren, et al. "Thermo-economic optimization of a combined cooling, heating and power system based on small-scale compressed air energy storage." Energy Conversion and Management 118 (2016): 377-386. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0196890416302229

[18] Liu, Jin-Long, and Jian-Hua Wang. "Thermodynamic analysis of a novel tri-generation system based on compressed air energy storage and pneumatic motor." Energy 91 (2015): 420-429. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544215011317

[19] Lv, Song, et al. "Modelling and analysis of a novel compressed air energy storage system for trigeneration based on electrical energy peak load shifting." Energy Conversion and Management 135 (2017): 394-401. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0196890416311839

[20] Besharat, M. O. H. S. E. N., SANDRA C. Martins, and HELENA M. Ramos. "Evaluation of Energy Recovery in Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) Systems." 3rd IAHR Europe Congress. Book of Proceedings, Portugal. 2014. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohsen_Besharat2/publication/270896130_Evaluation_of_Energy_Recovery_in_Compressed_Air_Energy_Storage_CAES_Systems/links/58a1fce0a6fdccf5e97109b2/Evaluation-of-Energy-Recovery-in-Compressed-Air-Energy-Storage-CAES-Systems.pdf

[21] Minutillo, M., A. Lubrano Lavadera, and E. Jannelli. "Assessment of design and operating parameters for a small compressed air energy storage system integrated with a stand-alone renewable power plant." Journal of Energy Storage 4 (2015): 135-144. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352152X15300207

[22] Villela, Dominique, et al. "Compressed-air energy storage systems for stand-alone off-grid photovoltaic modules." Photovoltaic Specialists Conference (PVSC), 2010 35th IEEE. IEEE, 2010. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9f1d/4273f8deb4a0a18c86eb4056e2fd378f8f3f.pdf

[23] Paloheimo, H., and M. Omidiora. "A feasibility study on Compressed Air Energy Storage system for portable electrical and electronic devices." Clean Electrical Power, 2009 International Conference on. IEEE, 2009. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michael_Omidiora/publication/224581292_A_Feasibility_Study_on_Compressed_Air_Energy_Storage_System_for_Portable_Electrical_and_Electronic_Devices/links/5640d5d308aebaaea1f6ad44.pdf 

[24] Prinsen, Thomas H. Design and analysis of a solar-powered compressed air energy storage system. Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States, 2016. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=5783353621699682542&hl=nl&as_sdt=2005&sciodt=0,5

[25] The small-scale system aimed at urban environments, which has a storage reservoir of 18 metres long, is based on a compressor that “had been in service for 30 years on building sites to run various air tools and had little maintenance done”. [8] This is detrimental to system efficiency, because a compressor that is not maintained well easily wastes as much as 30% of its potential output through air leaks, increased friction, or dirty air filters. This small-scale system also used a highly inefficient expander. All together, this explains why it combines a very large storage volume with a very low electric-to-electric efficiency (less than 5%).

[26] Van de Ven, James D., and Perry Y. Li. "Liquid piston gas compression." Applied Energy 86.10 (2009): 2183-2191. https://experts.umn.edu/en/publications/liquid-piston-gas-compression

[27] Alami, Abdul Hai, et al. "Low pressure, modular compressed air energy storage (CAES) system for wind energy storage applications." Renewable Energy 106 (2017): 201-211.

[28] Alami, Abdul Hai. "Experimental assessment of compressed air energy storage (CAES) system and buoyancy work energy storage (BWES) as cellular wind energy storage options." Journal of Energy Storage 1 (2015): 38-43.

[29] Abdul Alami, e-mail conversation.

[30] Sun, Hao, Xing Luo, and Jihong Wang. "Feasibility study of a hybrid wind turbine system–Integration with compressed air energy storage." Applied Energy 137 (2015): 617 -628. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261914006680

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: How much energy do we need? 1/8/18
Ea O Ka Aina: Run the Economy on the Weather 9/28/17
Ea O Ka Aina: How (not) to run on renewables 9/15/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Office Equipment Revolution 2/16/17
Ea O Ka Aina: The curse of the modern office 11/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Return of DC Power 4/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Build a local low-tech internet 10/26/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Getting off the grid 5/17/16
Ea O Ka Aina: How Sustainable is Stored Sunlight? 5/14/15
Ea O Ka Aina: How sustainable is PV power? 4/26/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Efficency of well tended fires 7/1/14
Ea O Ka Aina: High Speed Train Disservice 12/16/13
Ea O Ka Aina: European Cargo Bike 9/19/12
Ea O Ka Aina: The Chinese Wheelbarrow 1/4/12
Ea O Ka Aina: In the World After Abundance 6/2/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Wood burning cars 5/27/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Reduce burning fossil fuel! 11/19/09

The Coming Collapse

SUBHEAD: One cannot grasp how fragile the decayed financial, social and political system is on the eve of implosion.

By Chris Hedges on 5 June 2018 for TruthDig -

Image above: Trump as Venus on the Halfshell. By Mr. Fish. From original article.

The Trump administration did not rise, prima facie, like Venus on a half shell from the sea. Donald Trump is the result of a long process of political, cultural and social decay. He is a product of our failed democracy.

The longer we perpetuate the fiction that we live in a functioning democracy, that Trump and the political mutations around him are somehow an aberrant deviation that can be vanquished in the next election, the more we will hurtle toward tyranny.

The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties, in which we don’t count.

We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience, like that demonstrated by teachers around the country this year. If we do not stand up we will enter a new dark age.

The Democratic Party, which helped build our system of inverted totalitarianism, is once again held up by many on the left as the savior.

Yet the party steadfastly refuses to address the social inequality that led to the election of Trump and the insurgency by Bernie Sanders. It is deaf, dumb and blind to the very real economic suffering that plagues over half the country. It will not fight to pay workers a living wage. It will not defy the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to provide Medicare for all.

It will not curb the voracious appetite of the military that is disemboweling the country and promoting the prosecution of futile and costly foreign wars. It will not restore our lost civil liberties, including the right to privacy, freedom from government surveillance, and due process. It will not get corporate and dark money out of politics.

It will not demilitarize our police and reform a prison system that has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population. It plays to the margins, especially in election seasons, refusing to address substantive political and social problems and instead focusing on narrow cultural issues like gay rights, abortion and gun control in our peculiar species of anti-politics.

This is a doomed tactic, but one that is understandable. The leadership of the party, the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Tom Perez, are creations of corporate America. In an open and democratic political process, one not dominated by party elites and corporate money, these people would not hold political power.

They know this. They would rather implode the entire system than give up their positions of privilege. And that, I fear, is what will happen. The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way a bulwark against despotism defies the last three decades of its political activity. It is the guarantor of despotism.

Trump has tapped into the hatred that huge segments of the American public have for a political and economic system that has betrayed them. He may be inept, degenerate, dishonest and a narcissist, but he adeptly ridicules the system they despise.

His cruel and demeaning taunts directed at government agencies, laws and the established elites resonate with people for whom these agencies, laws and elites have become hostile forces. And for many who see no shift in the political landscape to alleviate their suffering, Trump’s cruelty and invective are at least cathartic.

Trump, like all despots, has no ethical core. He chooses his allies and appointees based on their personal loyalty and fawning obsequiousness to him. He will sell anyone out. He is corrupt, amassing money for himself—he made $40 million from his Washington, D.C., hotel alone last year—and his corporate allies.

He is dismantling government institutions that once provided some regulation and oversight. He is an enemy of the open society. This makes him dangerous. His turbocharged assault on the last vestiges of democratic institutions and norms means there will soon be nothing, even in name, to protect us from corporate totalitarianism.

But the warnings from the architects of our failed democracy against creeping fascism, Madeleine Albright among them, are risible. They show how disconnected the elites have become from the zeitgeist. None of these elites have credibility. They built the edifice of lies, deceit and corporate pillage that made Trump possible.

And the more Trump demeans these elites, and the more they cry out like Cassandras, the more he salvages his disastrous presidency and enables the kleptocrats pillaging the country as it swiftly disintegrates.

The press is one of the principal pillars of Trump’s despotism. It chatters endlessly like 18th-century courtiers at the court of Versailles about the foibles of the monarch while the peasants lack bread.

It drones on and on and on about empty topics such as Russian meddling and a payoff to a porn actress that have nothing to do with the daily hell that, for many, defines life in America.

It refuses to critique or investigate the abuses by corporate power, which has destroyed our democracy and economy and orchestrated the largest transfer of wealth upward in American history.

The corporate press is a decayed relic that, in exchange for money and access, committed cultural suicide. And when Trump attacks it over “fake news,” he expresses, once again, the deep hatred of all those the press ignores.

The press worships the idol of Mammon as slavishly as Trump does. It loves the reality-show presidency.

The press, especially the cable news shows, keeps the lights on and the cameras rolling so viewers will be glued to a 21st-century version of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” It is good for ratings. It is good for profits. But it accelerates the decline.

All this will soon be compounded by financial collapse. Wall Street banks have been handed $16 trillion in bailouts and other subsidies by the Federal Reserve and Congress at nearly zero percent interest since the 2008 financial collapse.

They have used this money, as well as the money saved through the huge tax cuts imposed last year, to buy back their own stock, raising the compensation and bonuses of their managers and thrusting the society deeper into untenable debt peonage.

Sheldon Adelson’s casino operations alone got a $670 million tax break under the 2017 legislation.

The ratio of CEO to worker pay now averages 339 to 1, with the highest gap approaching 5,000 to 1.

This circular use of money to make and hoard money is what Karl Marx called “fictitious capital.”

The steady increase in public debt, corporate debt, credit card debt and student loan debt will ultimately lead, as Nomi Prins writes, to “a tipping point—when money coming in to furnish that debt, or available to borrow, simply won’t cover the interest payments. Then debt bubbles will pop, beginning with higher yielding bonds.”

An economy reliant on debt for its growth causes our interest rate to jump to 28 percent when we are late on a credit card payment. It is why our wages are stagnant or have declined in real terms—if we earned a sustainable income we would not have to borrow money to survive. It is why a university education, houses, medical bills and utilities cost so much. The system is designed so we can never free ourselves from debt.

However, the next financial crash, as Prins points out in her book “Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World,” won’t be like the last one. This is because, as she says, “there is no Plan B.” Interest rates can’t go any lower.

There has been no growth in the real economy. The next time, there will be no way out. Once the economy crashes and the rage across the country explodes into a firestorm, the political freaks will appear, ones that will make Trump look sagacious and benign.

And so, to quote Vladimir Lenin, what must be done?

We must invest our energy in building parallel, popular institutions to protect ourselves and to pit power against power.

These parallel institutions, including unions, community development organizations, local currencies, alternative political parties and food cooperatives, will have to be constructed town by town. The elites in a time of distress will retreat to their gated compounds and leave us to fend for ourselves.

Basic services, from garbage collection to public transportation, food distribution and health care, will collapse. Massive unemployment and underemployment, triggering social unrest, will be dealt with not through government job creation but the brutality of militarized police and a complete suspension of civil liberties.

Critics of the system, already pushed to the margins, will be silenced and attacked as enemies of the state. The last vestiges of labor unions will be targeted for abolition, a process that will soon be accelerated given the expected ruling in a case before the Supreme Court that will cripple the ability of public-sector unions to represent workers.

The dollar will stop being the world’s reserve currency, causing a steep devaluation. Banks will close. Global warming will extract heavier and heavier costs, especially on the coastal populations, farming and the infrastructure, costs that the depleted state will be unable to address.

The corporate press, like the ruling elites, will go from burlesque to absurdism, its rhetoric so patently fictitious it will, as in all totalitarian states, be unmoored from reality. The media outlets will all sound as fatuous as Trump. And, to quote W.H. Auden, “the little children will die in the streets.”

As a foreign correspondent I covered collapsed societies, including the former Yugoslavia. It is impossible for any doomed population to grasp how fragile the decayed financial, social and political system is on the eve of implosion.

All the harbingers of collapse are visible:
  • crumbling infrastructure; 
  • chronic underemployment and unemployment; 
  • the indiscriminate use of lethal force by police; 
  • political paralysis and stagnation; 
  • an economy built on the scaffolding of debt; 
  • nihilistic mass shootings in schools, universities, workplaces, malls, concert venues and movie theaters; 
  • opioid overdoses that kill some 64,000 people a year; 
  • an epidemic of suicides; unsustainable military expansion; 
  • gambling as a desperate tool of economic development and government revenue; 
  • the capture of power by a tiny, corrupt clique; 
  • censorship; 
  • the physical diminishing of public institutions ranging from schools and libraries to courts and medical facilities; 
  • the incessant bombardment by electronic hallucinations to divert us from the depressing sight that has become America and keep us trapped in illusions.
We suffer the usual pathologies of impending death. I would be happy to be wrong. But I have seen this before. I know the warning signs.

All I can say is get ready.


Kilauea Volcano Update

SUBHEAD: Earthquake rocks Hawaii volcano and lava destroys Hawaii County Mayor Kim's home.

By John Bacon on 5 June 2018 for  USA Today -

Image above: Kilauea volcano Lava pours into the Pacific Ocean in the Puna district of the Big Island in Hawaii. From original article. Photo by the USGS.

[IB Publisher's note: Fracking causes earthquakes in places that are not prone to them. We are mostly aware of fracking used to work seams of underground fossil fuels. But it should be noted that the large geothermal energy effort that supplies 25% of the electrical energy used on the Big Island employs fracking technology deep underground in several "wells" where the volcanic activity is in the Kilauea area of Puna.] 

A magnitude-5.5 earthquake rattled Hawaii's Kilauea volcano Tuesday as the home of Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim was added to the inventory of destruction wrought by the searing lava ushering havoc into nearby Big Island communities.

Kim's home in the Vacationland neighborhood is one of 117 confirmed burned in the area since Kilauea began erupting May. 3. Authorities say the true number is much higher.

“Harry had a premonition this was going to happen,” Janet Snyder, spokeswoman of the Hawaii County Civil Defense, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “Vacationland is almost totally destroyed."

Tuesday's quake, the latest in a series to rock the surging volcano, spewed ash a mile into into the air. Some areas may have experienced "strong shaking," but no tsunami was triggered, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Lava is entering the water at the Vacationland tidepools and has inundated most of the subdivision, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory reported after a flyover Tuesday. To the north, lava has covered all but the northern part of lots in Kapoho Beach, the observatory said.

Thousands of residents of the Big Island's Puna district have evacuated since the eruptions began. Residents of Leilani Estates were ordered out weeks ago, and Kapoho Beach and Vacationland were recently evacuated amid fears that residents would be unreachable for rescue teams.

Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed because of a series of damaging earthquakes, corrosive volcanic ash and continuing explosions from Halema‘uma‘u, the summit crater of Kilauea.

“Unlike lava, which you can see coming and avoid, we cannot see or predict earthquakes," Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said. "Nor can we foresee a summit explosion. But both threats continue."

The area also is seeing increasing damage to its natural beauty. Kapoho Bay, near the Big Island's eastern tip, was filled with lava extending almost three-quarters of a mile from shore, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement. That raises the threat from laze, a toxic mixture of hydrochloric acid formed by lava vaporizing seawater.

At the Malama Kī Forest Reserve, forest managers report that up to half the 1,514 acres have thus far been "impacted" by the eruptions. The forest has served as habitat to sub-populations of native birds including Hawaiian honeycreepers, the Hawai‘i 'amakihi and ‘apapane.

The loss of forest habitat because of lava inundation and defoliation could mean these "sub-populations of wildlife may no longer persist, rapidly decline or become further fragmented and/or contract in range," forestry official Steve Bergfeld warned.

In the Puʻu Makaʻala Natural Area Reserve, higher up on the slopes of Kilauea, staff involved in the recovery of the endangered Hawaiian crow, the ‘alala, were closely monitoring birds released in the area.

"Staff on-site in the release area are prepared to recapture birds and transport them if needed,” project manager Jackie Levita-Gaudioso said.

Big Island Geothermal
SUBHEAD: Israeli-owned geothermal plant in Hawaii under fire as lava oozes nearby.

By Staff on 23 May 2018 for  Associated Press - 

Image above: Lava approaches Ormat's Puna Geothermal Venture plant on Hawaii's Big Island on May 21, 2018. Photo by Mario Tama. From original article.

Workers scramble to shut vents at Ormat Technology's Puna facility after Kilauea eruption claims adjacent building; stocks tumble in Tel Aviv and New York.

Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at an Israeli-owned geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Workers were capping the 11th and last well at the plant to prevent toxic gases from wafting out after lava entered, then stalled, on the property near one of the new volcanic vents.

“Right now, they’re in a safe state,” Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for the Puna Geothermal Venture plant, said of the wells. There also were plans to install metal plugs in the wells as an additional stopgap measure.

The wells run as far as 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) underground at the plant, which covers around 40 acres (16 hectares) of the 815-acre (329.8 hectare) property. The plant has capacity to produce 38 megawatts of electricity, providing roughly one-quarter of the Big Island’s daily energy demand.

Lava destroyed a building near the plant, bringing the total number of structures destroyed in the past several weeks to nearly 50, including dozens of homes.

The latest was a warehouse adjacent to the Puna plant, overtaken by lava on Monday night, Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The building was owned by the state of Hawaii, and was used in geothermal research projects in the early days of the site.

Puna Geothermal, owned by Ormat Technologies, was shut down shortly after Kilauea began spewing lava on May 3. The plant harnesses heat and steam from the earth’s core to spin turbines to generate power. A flammable gas called pentane is used as part of the process, though officials earlier this month removed 50,000 gallons (190,000 liters) of the gas from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions.

Founded in Yavne, Israel, Ormat is today headquartered in Nevada. Its main manufacturing facilities remain in Israel.

Native Hawaiians have long expressed frustration with the plant since it came online in 1989; they believe is built on sacred land. Goddess of fire, Pele, is believed to live on Kilauea volcano, and the plant itself is thought to desecrate her name. Other residents have voiced concerns over health and safety.

Scientists, however, say the conditions on Kilauea make it a good site for harnessing the earth for renewable energy.

“There’s heat beneath the ground if you dig deep enough everywhere,” said Laura Wisland, a senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. But in some places in the U.S. “it’s just hotter, and you can access the geothermal energy more easily.”

Geothermal energy is also considered a clean resource as it doesn’t generate greenhouse gas emissions, said Bridget Ayling, the director of Nevada’s Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy.

Ormat said in a May 15 statement that there was a low risk of surface lava making its way to the facility. The company also said there was no damage to the facilities above-ground and that it was continuing to assess the impact. The plant is expected to begin operating “as soon as it is safe to do so,” according to the statement.

Puna Geothermal represents about 4.5 percent of Ormat’s worldwide generating capacity. Last year, the Hawaii plant generated about $11 million of net income for the company. Ormat is traded on the New York and Tel Aviv stock exchange, and shares have fallen nearly 10 percent since Kilauea began erupting.

Scientists say lava from Kilauea is causing explosions as it enters the ocean, which can look like fireworks. When lava hits the sea and cools, it breaks apart and sends fragments flying into the air, which could land on boats in the water, said US Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall.

Kilauea sparked new safety warnings on Monday about toxic gas on the Big Island’s southern coastline after lava flowing into the ocean set off a chemical reaction. Large steam plumes created lava haze, or “laze,” laced with hydrochloric acid and fine glass shards when it flowed into the sea.

It’s just the latest hazard from a weeks-old eruption that has so far generated earthquakes and featured gushing molten rock, giant ash plumes and sulfur dioxide. There has been continuous low-level ash emission from Kilauea’s summit with larger explosions every few hours, said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Mike Poland.


West Coast State of Mind

SUBHEAD: It's just a part of the even greater tectonic phenomenon called the Ring of Fire.

By James Kunstler on 4 June 2018 for Kunstler.com -

Image above: On May 18th 1980, Mount Saint Helens exploded and devastated hundreds of square miles around it. From (https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/eruption-mount-st-helens-1980/).

Driving south on I-5 into Seattle, the Cascadia Subduction Zone came to mind, especially when the highway dipped into a gloomy tunnel beneath Seattle’s relatively new skyscraper district. This fault line runs along the Pacific coast from north of Vancouver down into California.

The western “plates” move implacably east and downward under the North American plate, building up massive tectonic forces that can produce some of the most violent megathrust earthquakes on the planet.

The zone also accounts for a chain of volcanoes that tend to produce titanic explosions rather than eruptions of lava and ash as seen in the hula movies.

The most recent expression of this tendency was Mt. St. Helens in 1980, an impressive cataclysm by the standards of our fine-tuned complex civilization, but a junior event of its type compared to, say, the blow-off of Mt. Mazama 7,500 years ago, which left Crater Lake for the tourists. A publicity-shy correspondent writes:

By all acounts Mazama was floating upon a vast lake of steamy rhyolite. It was a structurally unstable stratovolcano the size of Mount Shasta with a net volume of 80 cubic miles. A five minute Triple Junction 9.3 Richter Scale shaker uncorked the Mount Mazama champagne bottle via massive lahars which removed the overpressure. Geologists estimate that the eruption lasted for about one day.

It’s only been in the last thirty years that Seattle hoisted up its tombstone cluster of several dozen office and condo towers. That’s what cities do these days to demonstrate their self-regard, and Seattle is perhaps America’s boomingest city, what with Microsoft’s and Amazon’s headquarters there — avatars of the digital economy.

A megathrust earthquake there today would produce a scene that even the computer graphics artistes of Hollywood could not match for picturesque chaos. What were the city planners thinking when they signed off on those building plans?

I survived the journey through the Seattle tunnel, dogged by neurotic fantasies, and headed south to California’s Bay Area, another seismic doomer zone. For sure I am not the only casual observer who gets the doomish vibe out there on the Left Coast.

Even if you are oblivious to the geology of the place, there’s plenty to suggest a sense of impossibility for business-as-usual continuing much longer.

I got that end-of-an-era feeling in California traffic, specifically driving toward San Francisco on the I-80 freeway out in the suburban asteroid belt of Contra Costa County, past the sinister oil refineries of Mococo and the dormitory sprawl of Walnut Creek, Orinda, and Lafayette.

Things go on until they can’t, economist Herb Stein observed, back in the quaint old 20th century, as the USA revved up toward the final blowoff we’ve now entered.

The shale oil “miracle” (so-called) has given even thoughtful adults the false impression that the California template for modern living will continue indefinitely. I’d give it less than five years now.

The movers and shakers of that state dwell in an extra-special political bubble of their own that doesn’t accommodate much thought about the actual future in which all their recent investments in public infrastructure fail spectacularly.

There will be no Tesla utopia of self-driving electric cars to “solve” the dilemmas of internal combustion, despite the prototype demonstrations among status-seeking tech executive millionaires.

From the Berkeley highlands at night, you could see across the fabled bay to the twinkling new skyscrapers of San Francisco — like Seattle’s, another expression of the inordinate riches spawned by computers. How was that a good idea, considering what happened there as recently as 1906?

What you see out there along the Pacific rim of the USA is a giant booby-trap of certain cataclysm. It’s part of the even greater tectonic phenomenon called the Ring of Fire, which circles the whole western ocean from the Aleutian Islands to Japan through Indonesia and up again along the western edge of South America.

Things are livening up all over the darn thing right now, including the rumblings of a bunch of big volcanoes in the South Pacific and the Fuego volcano in Guatemala, uncorking lethally as I write.

And, of course, none of the foregoing includes the giant magma dome of worthless stock and bond values swelling under the towers of Wall Street back east.

[IB Publisher's note: Over time We've come to sense that James H. Kunstler has a bit of misogynous and racial bias in his understanding of people. We try to make posts to this website that do not display that side of his world. None the less, we still find his observations of American suburban auto-centric life, with its self denial and absurdities, a penetrating vision.]


Notes on Heartache and Chaos

SUBHEAD: It’s not so hard to meet heartache and chaos in this world, and yet love and beauty still abide.

By James Kunstler on 2 June 2018 for Kunstler.com-

Image above: Detail of poster illustration for "A Natural History of the Carnivores". From (https://retrieverman.net/2015/11/03/the-velvet-claw-on-youtube/).

I was interviewing a couple of homesteaders on an island north of Seattle at twilight last night when they noticed that the twelve-year-old family dog, name of Lacy, had not come home for dinner as ever and always at that hour.

A search ensued and they soon found her dead in the meadow a hundred feet behind the house with two big puncture wounds in her body. Nobody had heard a gunshot. We’d just been talking inside and a nearby window was open.

They suspect the dog met up with a black-tailed deer buck out there and was gored to death. We hadn’t heard a yelp, or anything. A week ago, an eagle got one of their geese, and some land-based monster got its companion just the other day.

Nature is what it is, of course, and it’s natural for human beings to think of its random operations as malevolent. That aspersion probably inclines us to think of ourselves as beings apart from nature (some of us, anyway).

We at least recognize the tragic side of this condition we’re immersed in, and would wish that encounters between its denizens might end differently — like maybe that two sovereign creatures meeting up by sheer chance on a mild spring evening would exchange pleasantries, ask what each was up to, and go on their ways.

Malevolent nature visited me the night before, back home in upstate New York. Something slit the screened window of my henhouse, got inside, and slaughtered two of my birds.

Big Red was missing altogether except for a drift of orange feathers. I found Little Blue just outside in a drift of her own feathers, half-eaten.

I suspect a raccoon got them, slitting the window screen cleverly with its dexterous hand-like paws — yes, so much like our own clever hands. (In classic after-the-fact human style, I fortified the window with steel hardware cloth the next day.)   

It’s the time of year when the wild critters of field and woodland are birthing their young and anxious to procure food for them. Who can blame them for that. Chicken is an excellent dish. I eat it myself, though never my own hens.

 I actually rescued Little Blue from the clutches of a red-tailed hawk last year as the hawk struggled to get airborne with her and let go as I screeched at it. Blue recovered from the talon punctures and had a good year — one good year on this earth with all its menace, when it is not busy being beautiful.

I worry about my chickens inordinately, though my friends who’ve been immersed in country doings much longer than me find this ludicrous.

Despite our yearnings and pretenses to bethink ourselves specially holy beings, we’re specialists at carnage when we’re not composing string quartets or carrying out God’s work on Wall Street.

The next morning, I motored down Interstate 5 to the Seattle airport to board a giant aluminum and plastic simulacrum of a bird for a rapid journey to Oakland, California.

The fantastic violence of an interstate highway is hard to detect when A) you’re hermetically sealed in the capsule of your rent-a-car, and B) when you’ve been driving on interstate highways so many years that it seems like a normal human environment.

And the fury of a jet airplane rending the fabric of the sky is hardly noticeable when you’re in seat 21-D being served iced drinks and pretzels. Somewhere in this universe — maybe everywhere in it — a skeptical intelligence may be wondering at our doings here.

Something lethal is waiting out there to get you and me, too — some carnivore perhaps, a one-celled demon, a venture capitalist with a snootful of Cabo Wabo “thick cut” tequila behind the wheel of a Chevy Tahoe.

It’s not so hard to meet heartache and chaos in this world, and yet love and beauty still abide. Treasure them when you find them. They explain everything.

[IB Publisher's note: Over time We've come to sense that James H. Kunstler has a bit of misogynous and racial bias in his understanding of people. We try to make posts to this website that do not display that side of his world. Noe the less, we still find his observations of American suburban auto-centric life, with its self denial and absurdities, a penetrating vision.]


A Make-Believe Nation

SUBHEAD: A poem about homelessness in Hawaii. How can living in paradise be so hard.

By Craig Santos Perez on 30 May 2018 for Yes Magazine -

Image above: Photo of homeless encampent along a canal in Honolulu. Photo by Cathy Bussewitz. From (http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/17/hawaii-declares-homeless-state-of-emergency.html).

I drive through the industrial neighborhood:

ocean blue tarps and colorful tents cluster

like a coral reef amongst a shipwreck of

shopping carts and bikes. This encampment

is one of many across Hawai‘i, the state

with the highest homeless rate in the nation.

So many islanders barely surviving beyond

the frame of a tourist postcard. So many

families bankrupted by the high cost

of living in “paradise.” I park in the nearby

lot of the Children’s Discovery Center,

then unbuckle my daughter from her car seat.

After I pay the admission fees, she pulls me

by the hand to her favorite area: a make-believe

town with a post office, clinic, library, theater,

television studio, grocery store, and classroom.

As she plays, I make-believe a nation where all

of this is a pure public good, non-rivalrous

and non-excludable. A nation where housing,

good government, and bread are no longer

privatized. A nation divested from the public

harms of border walls and military weapons.

When she tires, we return to our car. I drive,

more slowly, through the encampment. Soon,

without warning, real bulldozers, dump trucks,

cops, and the state workers will enforce laws

that ban sitting and lying in public spaces.

They will sweep these makeshift homes

and vulnerable citizens off the sidewalks,

where a girl is now playing in an inflatable,

plastic pool, surrounded by her parents.

She looks the same age as my daughter,

who has fallen asleep in her car seat,

as I dream of a future commons.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Golden Rule of Technology 5/1/18
Ea O Ka Aina: Honolulu's Homeless "Solution" 10/19/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Homeless Urban Survival 10/9/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii's rising homelessness 10/13/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Tales of a dark Kauai 5/23/14
Ea O Ka Aina: It isn't getting better 2/24/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Homeless 12/3/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Criminalaization of Homelessness 4/10/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Amongst America's Homeless 9/1/10


Google employees discuss protest

SUBHEAD: Some employees disturbed about the potential applications of a project for the military.

By Rebecca Klein on 1 June 2018 for Huffington Post -

Image above: Door mat at Google entrance door. Photo by Jaques Brinin. From original article.

A small group of Google employees, in response to a company contract with a Pentagon-backed program called Maven, have discussed the idea of staging a protest at a conference in July. Employees fear that the project, which provides artificial intelligence tools to the military, could be used in fatal drone strikes.

The protest, as discussed in preliminary exchanges over Google’s internal communications platform, would take place at a Google Cloud conference in San Francisco, according to messages obtained by HuffPost and an interview with an employee.

More than a dozen Google employees have resigned over the project, according to Gizmodo, and thousands of employees have signed a letter protesting it.

Now Google employees are debating showing resistance in a more active way, through a potential demonstration.

Discussions regarding the possibility of a protest took place this week on an internal thread devoted to criticism of Maven. The thread, called “maven conscientious objectors,” includes hundreds of employees, but only a small percentage of those were active in the discussion.

The debate about staging a physical demonstration took place on Wednesday and Thursday and was started by a departing engineer. The employee called the project “the greatest ethical crises in technology of our generation” and suggested that “Maven protesters” go to the conference with the aim of “making some noise.”

The employee’s last day was Friday, but by late morning, someone from human resources had asked them to leave immediately due to their “recent statements” related to the conference. “As such, we’re going to move up your exit by a few hours and we’ve ended access, effective immediately,” the HR person wrote.

In response to the initial thread, another employee called the engineer an “agent provocateur.” Someone else said such an action would “be enough reason to fire us lot with popular support.”

The debate became heated and personal, with some employees questioning whether their colleague who originally suggested the idea of a physical protest should even belong in the “conscientious objectors” group.

But there were a few employees who supported the idea, calling the discussion “legitimate topics for this mailing list.” Another said that while they were not based in San Francisco and were thus unable to join the action, they personally thought the protest was “a good idea since it increases Google’s PR cost of getting involved in military projects.”

Representatives for Google did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. The Intercept reported Friday afternoon that Google will not renew its contract to work on Project Maven, though the company plans to work on the project through June 2019 and has not ruled out taking on similar work in the future.

This isn’t the first round of discord from Google employees. In an April petition to Google CEO Sundar Pichai protesting the Pentagon contract and signed by thousands, petitioners referenced “Don’t be evil,” Google’s famous former unofficial motto, as an argument for canceling the contract.

“This contract puts Google’s reputation at risk and stands in direct opposition to our core values. Building this technology to assist the US Government in military surveillance ― and potentially lethal outcomes ― is not acceptable,” the signers of the petition wrote.

Hundreds of academics subsequently wrote a letter to Google co-founder Larry Page, as well as Pichai and other company leaders, supporting the petitioning employees.

The academics expressed concern that Project Maven will help the military become “just a short step away from authorizing autonomous drones to kill automatically, without human supervision or meaningful human control.”

The letter also cited recent Cambridge Analytica scandals as demonstrating “growing public concern over allowing the tech industries to wield so much power.”

At a recent companywide meeting, Sergey Brin, one of Google’s co-founders, reportedly responded to a question about the project and addressed some of the controversies, according to The New York Times. Brin explained that he thought it was better for the world’s militaries to be partnered with an international company like Google, rather than nationalistic defense contractors.

The employee who started the discussion about protesting Google’s involvement with Maven implied on the thread that they gave notice due to a violation of their own ethical standards.

“The time to protest is now or never,” the employee wrote.

Are you a Google employee who wants to talk about your experience with Maven? Email rebecca.klein@huffpost.com.


Evil is now fine for Google

SUBHEAD: The Google corporate code of conduct has been modified. It's no longer "Don't be Evil".

By Jessica Corbett on 21 May 2018 for Common Dreams -

Image above: Illustration of Google as Evil. From original article.

I guess the cognitive dissonance between working on drone weapons-targeting systems and the quaint notice of 'don't be evil' got too loud at Google.

Is Google finally embracing its evil side?

The company has reportedly stripped from its employee code of conduct a section outlining its longtime unofficial motto, "Don't be evil," provoking a swift reaction on social media: "File under: 'Evil is fine now.'" "Glad this question has been settled!" "Google has finally done what was inevitable—abandoned informal commitment to its founding principle."

When the company restructured in 2015, Alphabet—Google's new parent company—was widely condemned for its watered down replacement, "Do the right thing," but Google's maintained the "Don't be evil" language in its official code of conduct. That all changed "sometime in late April or early May," Gizmodo reported Friday, after reviewing archives on the Wayback Machine.
According to a Wayback Machine archive from April 21, 2018, the related section of the code of conduct read:
"Don't be evil." Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But "Don't be evil" is much more than that. Yes, it's about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it's also about doing the right thing more generally—following the law, acting honorably, and treating co-workers with courtesy and respect.
The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put "Don't be evil" into practice. It's built around the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct. We set the bar that high for practical as well as aspirational reasons: Our commitment to the highest standards helps us hire great people, build great products, and attract loyal users. Trust and mutual respect among employees and users are the foundation of our success, and they are something we need to earn every day.
So please do read the Code, and follow both its spirit and letter, always bearing in mind that each of us has a personal responsibility to incorporate, and to encourage other Googlers to incorporate, the principles of the Code into our work. And if you have a question or ever think that one of your fellow Googlers or the company as a whole may be falling short of our commitment, don’t be silent. We want—and need—to hear from you.
The updated section, visible as early as May 4, reads:
The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put Google's values into practice. It's built around the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct. We set the bar that high for practical as well as aspirational reasons: Our commitment to the highest standards helps us hire great people, build great products, and attract loyal users. Respect for our users, for the opportunity, and for each other are foundational to our success, and are something we need to support every day.
So please do read the Code and Google's values, and follow both in spirit and letter, always bearing in mind that each of us has a personal responsibility to incorporate, and to encourage other Googlers to incorporate, the principles of the Code and values into our work. And if you have a question or ever think that one of your fellow Googlers or the company as a whole may be falling short of our commitment, don’t be silent. We want—and need—to hear from you.
"Despite this significant change, Google's code of conduct says it has not been updated since April 5, 2018," Gizmodo noted. Additionally, the last sentence of the code is still "And remember... don't be evil, and if you see something that you think isn't right—speak up!"—but without any further context on the phrase and its history at the company.

Critics of Google have long used the phrase as a rallying cry to challenge practices and policies that strike them as "evil," from concerns about what the company does with users' personal data to its increasing contract wrokg with the U.S. military.

Invoking the longtime motto, a dozen employees recently resigned and some 4,000 have signed on to a petition demanding that Google immediately halt its once-secret work on drones for the Pentagon, which was revealed in a pair of reports published earlier this year. Some critics tied the latest move to the drone program by tweeting:
Mike Rundle: 4:53 AM - May 20, 2018 Google removed “don’t be evil” from its Code of Conduct just in time to work on military grade image recognition ML software for a Pentagon tactical drone program. https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018/05/google-employees-resign-in-protest-of-googlepentagon-drone-program/ 
DHH: 3:28 PM - May 18, 2018 Guess the cognitive dissonance between working on drone weapons-targeting systems and the quaint notice of “don’t be evil” got too loud at Google. https://gizmodo.com/google-removes-nearly-all-mentions-of-dont-be-evil-from-1826153393 
The report about Google's apparent decision to ditch the phrase as a foundational corporate principle was followed by a segment on CBS's "60 Minutes" Sunday that sought to answer the question, "How did Google get so big?" and explore the implications of its power, both for users and other tech companies.

As Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer Gary Reback explained, "Google is so dominant in search and search advertising that analysts and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley say it's extremely difficult for startups to get funding if their business model requires them to compete with Google for ad revenue."

"If I were starting out today, I would have no shot of building Yelp. That opportunity has been closed off by Google and their approach," said Yelp founder Jeremy Stoppelman. "Because if you provide great content in one of these categories that is lucrative to Google, and seen as potentially threatening, they will snuff you out."

Beyond the consequences for small and startup businesses in the tech industry, there's also an impact on Google users, and internet users more broadly. As Reback put it: "People tell their search engines things they wouldn't even tell their wives.

I mean, it's a very powerful and yet very intimate technology. And that gives the company that controls it a mind-boggling degree of control over our entire society."


Little Google & the Drones

SUBHEAD: No, it is not an old doo-wop group - it is evil incarnate. People designing robots to kill people.

By Tyler Durden on 14 May 2018 for Zero Hedge -

Image above: The once applied motto of Google "Don't Be Evil" seems to have been lost in a cloud of money. From (https://www.suasnews.com/2018/04/google-employees-petition-against-project-maven/).

[IB Publisher's note: Google (or more accurately Alphabet Corporation) owns Blogger.com which has hosted IslandBreath website posts since 2008. We will see if we can continue that relationship in the future.] 

Around a dozen Google employees have quit and close to 4,000 have signed a petition over the company's involvement in a controversial military pilot program known as "Project Maven," which will use artificial intelligence to speed up analysis of drone footage.
Project Maven, a fast-moving Pentagon project also known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT), was established in April 2017. Maven’s stated mission is to “accelerate DoD’s integration of big data and machine learning.” In total, the Defense Department spent $7.4 billion on artificial intelligence-related areas in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The project’s first assignment was to help the Pentagon efficiently process the deluge of video footage collected daily by its aerial drones—an amount of footage so vast that human analysts can’t keep up. - Gizmodo
Project Maven will use machine learning to identify vehicles and other objects from drone footage - with the ultimate goal of enabling the automated detection and identification of objects in up to 38categories - including the ability to track individuals as they come and go from different locations.
Project Maven’s objective, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. “Jack” Shanahan, director for Defense Intelligence for Warfighter Support in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, “is to turn the enormous volume of data available to DoD into actionable intelligence and insights." -DoD
The internal revolt began shortly after Google revealed its involvement in the project nearly three months ago.
Some Google employees were outraged that the company would offer resources to the military for surveillance technology involved in drone operations, sources said, while others argued that the project raised important ethical questions about the development and use of machine learning. -Gizmodo
The resigned employees cited a range of frustrations, from ethical concerns over the use of AI in a battlefield setting, to larger concerns over Google's overall political decisions.

The disgruntled ex-employees, apparently unaware that Google was seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, have compiled a master document of personal accounts detailing their decisions to leave, which multiple sources have described to Gizmodo.
The employees who are resigning in protest, several of whom discussed their decision to leave with Gizmodo, say that executives have become less transparent with their workforce about controversial business decisions and seem less interested in listening to workers’ objections than they once did. In the case of Maven, Google is helping the Defense Department implement machine learning to classify images gathered by drones. But some employees believe humans, not algorithms, should be responsible for this sensitive and potentially lethal work—and that Google shouldn’t be involved in military work at all.

Historically, Google has promoted an open culture that encourages employees to challenge and debate product decisions. But some employees feel that their leadership no longer as attentive to their concerns, leaving them to face the fallout. “Over the last couple of months, I’ve been less and less impressed with the response and the way people’s concerns are being treated and listened to,” one employee who resigned said. -Gizmodo
Ironically, the development of Google's original algorithm at Stanford was partly funded by a joint CIA-NSA program in which founder Sergei Brin created a method to quickly mine large amounts of data stored in databases.
“Google founder Mr. Sergey Brin was partly funded by this program while he was a PhD student at Stanford. He together with his advisor Prof. Jeffrey Ullman and my colleague at MITRE, Dr. Chris Clifton [Mitre’s chief scientist in IT], developed the Query Flocks System which produced solutions for mining large amounts of data stored in databases. I remember visiting Stanford with Dr. Rick Steinheiser from the Intelligence Community and Mr. Brin would rush in on roller blades, give his presentation and rush out. In fact the last time we met in September 1998, Mr. Brin demonstrated to us his search engine which became Google soon after.” -Nafeez Ahmed
In their defense of Project Maven, Google notes that their AI won't actually be used to kill anyone (just help the military ID targets to "service"). That isn't good enough for workers and academics opposed to the use of machine learning in a military application.
In addition to the petition circulating inside Google, the Tech Workers Coalition launched a petition in April demanding that Google abandon its work on Maven and that other major tech companies, including IBM and Amazon, refuse to work with the U.S. Defense Department. -Gizmodo
“We can no longer ignore our industry’s and our technologies’ harmful biases, large-scale breaches of trust, and lack of ethical safeguards,” the petition reads. “These are life and death stakes.”

Over 90 academics in AI, ethics and computer science released an open letter on Monday, calling on Google to end its involvement with Project Maven and support an international treaty which would prohibit the use of autonomous weapons systems.
Peter Asaro and Lucy Suchman, two of the authors of the letter, have testified before the United Nations about autonomous weapons; a third author, Lilly Irani, is a professor of science and a former Google employee.
Google’s contributions to Project Maven could accelerate the development of fully autonomous weapons, Suchman told Gizmodo. Although Google is based in the U.S., it has an obligation to protect its global user base that outweighs its alignment with any single nation’s military, she said. -Gizmodo
“If ethical action on the part of tech companies requires consideration of who might benefit from a technology and who might be harmed, then we can say with certainty that no topic deserves more sober reflection—no technology has higher stakes—than algorithms meant to target and kill at a distance and without public accountability,” the letter states. 
“Google has moved into military work without subjecting itself to public debate or deliberation, either domestically or internationally. While Google regularly decides the future of technology without democratic public engagement, its entry into military technologies casts the problems of private control of information infrastructure into high relief.”

We're sure employees have nothing to worry about and their concerns are overblown - as Google's "Don't be evil" motto prevents them from ever participating in some scary program that could kill more innocent people than a Tesla autopilot.