Hi Peter. You're absolutely right that we need to think about the 'start-up' environmental impact of renewables. 1k tons of steel is substantial, and the amount of Hammerfest units needed to equal the output of a power plant is significant.
The way to approach this is to run calculations of what the construction/maintenance costs of are and project the long-term net gain in efficiency and sustainability over non-renewables.
I think factors working in the Hammerfest's favour are its durability, suggesting that once the initial start-up is complete, it can run and run with minimal future investment.
Hello recent commenters (especially Nathan).
While I welcome technical corrections of areas of the article, I feel I should address some of your criticisms and defend some of my work here.
I'm writing for an interested but general audience. Not an industry professional audience or expert readership; think more BBC science or New Scientist magazine than a scientific peer review community.
There is a significant difference between journalistic article writing and scientific writing. As such, I have deliberately used 'broad sweeping statements' in several places to convey a sense of the subject matter, not to describe it in specific detail.
'But the detail matters!' I can here you cry. Yes, it does. But for the general audience I'm trying to intentionally simply and generalise in order to create an impression of where this industry is to non-experts.
Regarding some of the specific generalisations - "practically infinite supply" is intended to mean sustainability, not finite amount. As in (withstanding pedantry), 'oil will run out; oceans won't'.
With "minimal tidal energy environmental impact" I am, of course, comparing tidal and wave to oil. I can't imagine any number of turbines equalling the devastation of the recent BP oil catastrophe. I feel the language here is appropriate.
"certain areas of the world are better for some renewable energy generation sources than others" – I never meant for this to read that some countries should not ever engage in certain renewable production. I merely wrote that certain countries are naturally more suited to certain renewables. This seems an entirely reasonable statement.
With "clear [that] renewables will not be unable to completely fill the gap" - first of all this is a confusing misquote, and second you forgot to include "in the foreseeable future" which completely changes that paragraph and is totally rational. Could renewables make up near 100 percent of energy production within 5 years? 10 years? Even 20 years? Unlikely.
Using the phrase "maybe hundreds of thousands of new jobs" I am simply trying to emphasise that could be a real industry with serious job numbers, not a pipe dream – the criticism of many anti-renewable voices.
In terms of "Please refer to "tidal and wave power" instead of using the term "tidal power" to include "wave power." – apologies if this reads horribly to a more informed audience, but to a general audience it's probably acceptable to use these terms interchangeably (the same way you might use sociopath and psychopath interchangeably in a psychology article).
Yes, I have been told by industry pros that there are a few weaknesses in the article, but that it does a good job of conveying a complicated topic.
Please continue to critique some technical statements on my part, as it adds value to this article + comments page combination. But please be aware that 'sweeping statements' are often there for a journalistic reason, and realise that 'correcting' broad statements with statistical and technical analysis often confuses rather than clarifies issues for a general audience – as a 'general' reader on the topic, some of what you have written above is incomprehensible, and adding references does not actually help.