How Norfolk County Massachusetts preserves forest

Of course, if solar photovoltaic arrays were proposed here instead, residents and abutters would come out to oppose them, including untruthfully claiming that photovoltaics leak Cadmium and other materials into soils.

“Cutting down trees is detrimental to the environment.”

Other wooded recreational areas available about Walpole.

Official Commonwealth of Massachusetts designated areas of core forest and habitat.

Note the Fisher Street forest and the North Street locations proposed for solar arrays are not included.

Posted in American Solar Energy Society, an ignorant American public, an uncaring American public, being carbon dioxide, bridge to nowhere, Carbon Tax, Carbon Worshipers, climate change, climate denial, climate disruption, climate nightmares, climate policy, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Cult of Carbon, global blinding, global warming, global weirding, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, local self reliance, mitigating climate disruption, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, the right to be and act stupid, the tragedy of our present civilization, wind power, wishful environmentalism, zero carbon | 1 Comment

“Climate Hope” from Climate Adam

Rainmaker, a little faith for hire
Rainmaker, the house is on fire
Rainmaker, take everything you have
Sometimes folks need to believe in something so bad, so bad, so bad
They'll hire a rainmaker

Springsteen, 2020

(h/t Andrew Gottlieb, Association to Preserve Cape Cod.)

Posted in #youthvgov, bridge to somewhere, climate activism, Climate Adam, climate business, climate change, climate disruption, climate education, climate grief, climate hawk, Climate Hope, climate mitigation, climate nightmares, climate policy, climate science, ClimateAdam, Debbie Dooley, distributed generation, Eaarth, ecocapitalism, Ecology Action, ecomodernism, ecopragmatism, Emily Shuckburgh, global warming, Green Tea Coalition, Karl Ragabo, Mark Carney, Mark Jacobson, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, the green century, Tony Seba, wind energy, wind power, zero carbon | Leave a comment

Selfish Routing is Why, in the Long Term, CDNs are not in everyone’s best interest

It’s all about the Price of Anarchy, and its implications for routing on the Internet.

These are not only greedy measures, they are monopolistic. And they support oligopoly.

Posted in adaptation, bridge to nowhere, chaos, Content Delivery Networks, economic trade, economics, efficiency, Internet, Oligopolies, price of anarchy | Leave a comment

Wake Up

Posted in #youthvgov, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, bridge to somewhere, Buckminster Fuller, climate activism, climate business, climate change, climate disruption, climate economics, climate grief, climate justice, climate mitigation, climate nightmares, climate policy, climate science, coastal communities, coastal investment risks, ecocapitalism, ecological disruption, ecological services, Ecology Action, ecomodernism, ecopragmatism, ecopragmatist, fossil fuel divestment, global warming, Greta Thunberg, Humans have a lot to answer for, investment in wind and solar energy, James Hansen, John Holdren, Joseph Schumpeter, Juliana v United States, keep fossil fuels in ground, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, liberal climate deniers, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, Talk Solar, the energy of the people, the green century, Tony Seba, wind energy, wind power, zero carbon | Leave a comment

(We are) So Far From Home

Torcuato Mariano

The Saturday break from seriousness.
Posted in zero carbon | Leave a comment


This is a retake of a presentation at the invitation of the Walpole Greens and made at their meeting of 9th November 2020. It is longer and more leisurely. I interleave some of the answers to questions that followed the presentation in the presentation and the remainder, as best as I could remember, are answered at the end. Some of the answers given here are better than the answers I gave on Monday, the 9th, because I was able to look up more about the answers. For instance, there was a question about effects of climate change on PV array output. I answered it, but my answer at the presentation was not crisp.

This concerns a proposal by Norfolk County, Massachusetts to build a 6 MW solar array with two parts on Norfolk County land. There is a Commissioners’ meeting scheduled for the 19th of November to discuss the matter. There is opposition.

The slides are available below:


The notes for the slides are available below:


There is a related report, produced by the Coalition for Community Solar Access, which is available below:


Posted in adaptation, agriculture, agrivoltaics, agroecology, alternatives to the Green New Deal, American Solar Energy Society, argoecology, Ørsted, being carbon dioxide, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Botany, carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide sequestration, Clausius-Clapeyron equation, clean disruption, CleanTechnica, climate business, climate change, climate disruption, climate economics, climate hawk, climate policy, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Conservation Action Coalition, Debbie Dooley, decentralized electric power generation, decentralized energy, distributed generation, ecocapitalism, ecological services, ecomodernism, ecopragmatism, ecopragmatist, electric vehicles, electrical energy storage, electricity, emissions, energy, energy storage, energy utilities, engineering, environment, explosive methane, forests, fossil fuel divestment, fossil fuels, fracking, fragmentation of ecosystems, gas pipeline leaks, global warming, Google Earth, Green Tea Coalition, greenhouse gases, grid defection, Hermann Scheer, investment in wind and solar energy, investments, Joseph Schumpeter, Karl Ragabo, Keeling curve, keep fossil fuels in ground, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, liberal climate deniers, local generation, local self reliance, meteorology, microgrids, mitigating climate disruption, natural gas, nuclear power, NuScale, ocean acidification, ocean warming, oceans, On being Carbon Dioxide, plankton, Principles of Planetary Climate, public utility commissions, RethinkX, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, Stewart Brand, the energy of the people, the green century, Tony Seba, utility company death spiral, wind energy, wind power, zero carbon | 5 Comments

‘Biden voting counties equal 70% of America’s economy’

From Mark Muro, Eli Byerly Duke, Yang You, and Robert Maxim at the Brookings Institution:

(h/t Martin Sandbu of The Financial Times.)
Posted in Brookings Institution, capitalism, CleanTechnica, U.S. GDP | Leave a comment

Complexity vs Simplicity in Geophysics

Really interesting mechanistic reductionism illustrating what it means to explain phenomena scientifically. It’s all about the maths.

GeoEnergy Math

In our book Mathematical GeoEnergy, several geophysical processes are modeled — from conventional tides to ENSO. Each model fits the data applying a concise physics-derived algorithm — the key being the algorithm’s conciseness but not necessarily subjective intuitiveness.

I’ve followed Gell-Mann’s work on complexity over the years and so will try applying his qualitative effective complexity approach to characterize the simplicity of the geophysics models described in the book and on this blog.

from Deacon_Information_Complexity_Depth.pdf

Here’s a breakdown from least complex to most complex

1. Say we are doing tidal analysis by fitting a model to a historical sea-level height (SLH) tidal gauge time-series. That’s essentially an effective complexity of1because it just involves fitting amplitudes and phases from known lunisolar sinusoidal tidal cycles.

Figure 1: Conventional tidal analysis by fitting amplitudes and phases of known tidal periods

This image has been resized to fit in the page…

View original post 1,040 more words

Posted in abstraction, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Meteorological Association, American Statistical Association, Azimuth Project, complex systems, control theory, differential equations, dynamical systems, eigenanalysis, information theoretic statistics, mathematics, Mathematics and Climate Research Network, mechanistic models, nonlinear systems, Paul Pukite, spectra, spectral methods, spectroscopy, theoretical physics, wave equations, WHT | Leave a comment

Six Principle Plays in Denialist Playbook

It’s all about advancing anti-science and doubts about science, as well as confusing the public for ideological and financial gain.

(h/t Scientific American)
Posted in American Association for the Advancement of Science, an ignorant American public, anti-intellectualism, anti-science, Ben Santer, climate denial, climate science, Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, COVID-19, denial, Desmog Blog, science, science denier, science education, secularism, Skeptical Science | 3 Comments

Rethinking Environmentalism

Stewart Brand at the Perimeter Institute. Sponsored by KPMG.

Posted in ecocapitalism, ecomodernism, ecopragmatism | 1 Comment

“The bamboozle has captured us.”

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Posted in Carl Sagan | Leave a comment

It’s time.

Posted in zero carbon | 2 Comments

Phase Plane plots of COVID-19 deaths with uncertainties

I. Introduction.

It’s time to fulfill the promise made in “Phase plane plots of COVID-19 deaths“, a blog post from 2nd May 2020, and produce the same with uncertainty clouds about the functional trajectories(*). To begin, here are some assumptions I’ve made:

  • The data in a death series are dependent. So, as in autoregressive models, the current prediction of number of deaths is dependent upon the previous number of deaths, so y_{t} = f(y_{t-1}, y_{t-2}, \dots, y_{t-\ell}).
  • There is “noise” in observations, and possibly in estimates of deaths. This can be due to a large number of different policies being adopted for when deaths are reported, or it can be because deaths are not being reported at the time they actually occurred, but later. This is typically managed by smoothing of some kind and this analysis, like many others, is no different. Here, however, I’ll be using smoothing splines and, in particular, penalized smoothing splines.
  • The noise variability may be heteroscedastic, meaning that there’s no reason to believe the variability at time t is the same as variability at time t+\delta, even if |\delta| = 1. I’m planning to assume homoscedasticity in one part of the analysis, and then I’ll assume heteroscedasticity in another.
  • The best estimate of actual deaths is obtainable through the data, even if the best estimate may be latent and need to be estimated after filtering. I do not use data that count excess deaths, as a rule. However, there may be some county or state included in the data which has included assumed deaths due to COVID-19.
  • The estimator for the number of deaths ought, too, to estimate the rate of change in number of deaths, and the acceleration, or rate of change in rate of change in number of deaths at the same time.
  • The estimator for the number of deaths and its first two derivatives ought to account for the observations being counts, not continuous measures. While the biggest series counts are quite large, they are still counts, not continuous measures. Nevertheless, robust analysis of such series generally means centering and scaling the series, so, while its shape is preserved, it looks, for all appearances as if it actually is a continuous measure. I treat these as such. If these are to brought back to the original context, this can be achieved by reversing the transformation.

Setting aside the peek ahead to smoothing splines for a moment, a standard approach to dealing with these kind of data is dynamic linear modeling, otherwise known as state-space models. It also suggests using software to estimate the time-varying magnitude of noises, and then extracting that to form the uncertainties in rates and rates of change in rates.

What does that mean, precisely? And is this standard approach the best approach or even a good approach? And how should that be judged?

Let \hat{y}_{t} be the centered and scaled counterpart to a COVID-19 quantity of interest for a specific region (country, state, etc) at time t. I’ll assume times come in integer increments, that is, that the reports are uniformly spaced. I’m proposing dynamic linear model or state space model of this as

\hat{y}_{t} = \left[\begin{array}{c}1 \\ 0 \\ 0 \end{array}\right] \mathbf{x}_{t} + \mathbf{\mathcal{N}}(0, \sigma_{y}^{2})

\mathbf{x}_{t+1} = \left[\begin{array}{ccc}1 & 1 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 & 1 \\ 0 & 0 & 0 \end{array}\right] \mathbf{x}_{t} + \mathbf{\mathcal{N}}(\mathbf{0}_{3}, \boldsymbol\Sigma_{\mathbf{x}})

Here \mathbf{\mathcal{N}}(\mathbf{0}_{3}, \boldsymbol\Sigma_{\mathbf{x}}) means a zero mean trivariate Gaussian having a 3-by-3 covariance matrix \boldsymbol\Sigma_{\mathbf{x}}.

Expanding the definition of \mathbf{x}_{t}, the expression above becomes

\left[\begin{array}{c} x_{t+1} \\ \dot{x}_{t+1} \\ \ddot{x}_{t+1} \end{array} \right] = \left[\begin{array}{ccc}1 & 1 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 & 1 \\ 0 & 0 & 0 \end{array}\right] \left[\begin{array}{c} x_{t} \\ \dot{x}_{t} \\ \ddot{x}_{t} \end{array} \right] + \mathbf{\mathcal{N}}(\mathbf{0}_{3}, \boldsymbol\Sigma_{\mathbf{x}})

The idea is to estimate the state components x_{t}, \dot{x}_{t}, \ddot{x}_{t}, and their variances for each t.

I used this approach in previous work. Unfortunately, good prediction intervals are not available using the dlm package. It does have a \text{dlmForecast} function, one that’s being developed, but that does not yet offer prediction intervals. Moreover, prediction intervals are not easy to estimate unless errors are distributed as Gaussians(**). These functional data and estimates of their derivatives are not. As that is the primary point of this paper, extending my earlier work, that is a roadblock(***).

As another qualification or criticism, note it is difficult to deal with heteroscedasticity with such a model. Typically, estimates of errors in measurement need to be made independently and fed in as inputs.

So, instead of this approach, I’ve turned to a non-parametric, non-mechanistic way of estimating the latent curve of deaths and the first two derivatives needed to describe the series in the phase plane: Using penalized splines as before, but generalized to techniques which estimate uncertainties in them, whether they are used to spline signal or its derivatives. Specifically, I’m calculating prediction intervals for fits and for derivatives. The primary tool is the bootstrap technique for developing non-parametric prediction intervals, one described in section 3.1 of Denham’s paper:

M. C. Denham, "Prediction intervals in partial least squares", (1997), Journal of Chemometrics, 11(1), 39-52.

Actually, a later paper by Denham,

M. C. Denham, "Choosing the number of factors in partial least squares regression: estimating and minimizing the mean squared error of prediction", (2000), Journal of Chemometrics, 14(4), 351-361.

reveals the idea is from Efron and Tirshirani,

B. Efron, R. J. Tibshirani, An Introduction to the Bootstrap, 1993, Chapman & Hall, problem 25.8, 390-391.

That algorithm is also described in the documentation for the \text{fplsr} function in the R ftsa package, in its subsection titled “Nonparametric method”. This algorithm is used to generate msets of simulated points, one set corresponding to each point in the time series. Actual prediction intervals are calculated from each of these using the \text{predIntNpar} function from the R EnvStats package.

Also, as before, spline regression models and their predictions are done using the R pspline package.

(*) In addition to reading and studying since May, articles about the pandemic, articles about other areas of statistics, and regarding 100% clean, renewable energy plans, as long as my unemployment compensation continued, I was aggressively looking for work. That has not worked out, and my unemployment compensation is exhausted. So I’m semi-retired now, subsisting on Social Security, a modest pension, and with the support of my wife, Claire. If something interesting comes ’round, I’ll have a serious look at it. But meanwhile, here I am.

(**) A. C. Harvey, Forecasting, structural time series models and the Kalman filter, 1989, Cambridge University Press, 4.6, "Prediction", page 223.

(***) Very recently Feroze used (such) Bayesian structural time series models to forecast COVID-19 trends for cases, deaths, and recoveries, as documented in

N. Feroze, "Forecasting the patterns of COVID-19 and causal impacts of lockdown in top ten affected countries using Bayesian structural time series models", Chaos, Solitons and Fractals (2020).

Unfortunately, Feroze does not provide the specification of the models used in the bsts R or the settings for determination of causal impact of measures taken via the CausalImpact package. Accordingly, it is difficult to comment.

II. Estimating uncertainties.

Prediction intervals are estimated by bootstrapping residuals, generating predictions from a baseline perturbed prediction, and then using the non-parametric technique for estimating prediction intervals for each point in a time series. That is, and specifically,

  1. Fit a smoothing spline to the entire time series, \mathring{y}_{k}, one having a length n. Use generalized cross validation to estimate the smoothing parameter. Obtain a predicted smoothed series \mathcal{P}_{k} from this spline regression.
  2. Calculate residuals r_{k} = \mathring{y}_{k} - \mathcal{P}_{k}.
  3. Repeating through step 5 R = 1000 times, bootstrap r_{k} obtaining n offsets. That is, draw from \{r_{k}\} n values with replacement. Call these \eta_{k}.
  4. Calculate S_{k} = \mathcal{P}_{k} + \eta_{k}.
  5. Fit a smoothing spline to S_{k} and predict \hat{\mathcal{P}}_{j,k} for the j\text{\textit{th}} time this is done.
  6. For each k, over all j instances of bootstrapped predictions, use non-parametric estimation of a prediction interval for time point k, considering the slice \hat{\mathcal{P}}_{.,k}.

Since observational data on first and second derivatives are not available as given, the companion series of first and second derivatives are obtained by simple differencing and then applying a smoothing spline to those. The same procedure is used to obtained prediction intervals on first and second derivatives, substituting \dot{y}_{k} or \ddot{y}_{k} for \mathring{y}_{k} in the above.

III. Where the code lives.

The code and datasets used to produce these figures resides in this Google Drive folder.

IV. How to Display Uncertainties.

After experimenting, I decided that phase plane plots having variable widths or decorations along the trace would be the best way to convey uncertainty. The key observation is that uncertainty in one of the dimensions can be numerically much larger than the other, and that the plot’s aspect ratio can distort these relationships. I decided that an error bar attached to the trace or path indicated by the data would be appropriate, with the bar having an orientation which was consistent with the implied slope of the vertical error over the horizontal error, and a length proportional to the length of their vectorial sum. Also, for reasons of symmetry, such bars would extend both above and below the path having these errors.

I examined using variable-width lines as a part of preliminary experiments. These are in fact supported by base R, but their application is not at all obvious. I did not want my code here to burden readers with mastering grid or ggplot2. I also examined the possibility of using TikZ via tikzDevice. In fact, TikZ can do this:

(Hat tip to matheburg.)

The corresponding code is:

\begin{axis}[width=7cm, height=7cm, xmin=-1.05,
xmax=1.05, axis lines=none, view={0}{25}]
\foreach \x in {0,0.5,...,12.0}
{\edef\temp{\noexpand\addplot3[blue, line width=1+\x/2 pt,
domain=\x:\x+0.5,samples y=0]
( { cos( deg(x) ) }, { sin( deg(x) ) }, { x } );
} \temp }
\draw[>=latex,->] (105,100,10) -- (105,100,180);
\node at (95,90,178) { $z$ };

But, again, do I want people to master TikZ?

Accordingly I chose to keep within R, and devise a means of portraying these uncertainties using its plotting facilities. The decision was ultimately based upon the need to depict both vertical and horizontal errors at the same time, something which simply varying a line width could not portray.

V. Examples of Phase Plane Plots for COVID-19 Deaths.

I chose to depict uncertainties as ellipses with axes parallel to the two axes in question. So, for instance, if a plot of rate of deaths versus counts of deaths is shown, the horizontal span of the ellipse corresponds to the x-axis rate of deaths prediction interval, and the vertical corresponds to the uncertainty in the number of deaths. Consider, for example, that plot for New York State in the period of study, 13th March 2020 through 16th May 2020:

In all these instances simply click on the image to see a larger version … It’ll pop out into a separate window tab in your browser.

The count of deaths is monotonic so the trend is upwards, and this plot shows the variation in rates of death. Here’s the cumulative deaths over time for the same period:

Note that this kind of trend is pretty universal, so won’t be shown for many of the examples. It is logistic-like, not really exponential. Note that in this case — and in some of the others — there’s an anomaly on the 16th, with rates and counts being zero. This is probably due to incomplete counting on the 16th but could be for other reasons. It actually appears in the data.

Finally, for New York State, here’s the phase-plane plot sought:

The uncertainty envelopes in all cases, whether phase plane or counts versus rates are taken as the 0.667 prediction interval.

There are similar results from Massachusetts:

What’s gratifying is that the phase plane behavior appears real based upon the prediction uncertainties. As will be shown later, this isn’t always the case. Why there might be differences will be discussed in the summary.

Here’s the count versus rates for the United States as a whole:

And it’s phase plane plot also shows separation of the orbits:

although it’s not as clean as for Massachusetts or New York State.

Showing a case where the separation is not at all clear, consider the phase plane plot for Florida:

Apparently the rates for Florida vary widely:

Tennessee provides an intermediate case in its phase-plane plot:

Moving on to other countries, some of the data were quirky at best. There was something about China’s reporting, for instance, that causes singularities in the smoothing spline model builder. I did not investigate, since I’m less interested in any particular country and, one, what patterns reveal overall, and, two, how well these prediction interval methods for phase plane depictions work.

Here’s the phase plane for Switzerland:

Note it suffers an anomaly in the reporting for 16th May 2020 as did New York State.

The counts versus rates for Switzerland is:

Finally, here is the UK’s death counts versus rates of deaths:

VI. Summary.

Phase plane plots with prediction intervals were successfully constructed based upon death counts data from COVID-19 for several U.S. states and a number of countries. Some of the prediction intervals, such as those for Florida, are large and offer doubt regarding the meaning and interpretation of the phase plane depictions of rates of deaths and accelerations. But some states have reasonable prediction intervals.

It’s interesting to speculate why the differences. It’s possible there was inconsistency in reporting rates, so these mask the variation in the underlying deaths due to disease. If so, that would suggest wide prediction intervals may be an index of data from specific sources being poorly compiled, and so might provide a way of weighting them when being used for other studies. Certainly the consistency with which deaths were reported from New York State and Massachusetts allowed more confidence to be had in the reality of the phase plane orbits. Indeed, with that, these suggest the health governance of these states were tracking cases and taking measures, resulting in deaths and their rates exhibiting control system-like limit cycles.

It’s also interesting that this exercise took a great deal of effort and time, with about a dozen different means of estimating prediction intervals being tried, most in futility. I say “futility” not because prediction interval estimates were not produced but that, even in the cases of New York State and Massachusetts they were so wide to suggest the phase plane plots were meaningless. I was disappointed when split conformal inference prediction via its function \text{conformal.pred.split} did poorly:

J. Lei, M. G’Sell, A. Rinaldo, R. J. Tibshirani, and Larry Wasserman, "Distribution-free predictive inference for regression", Journal of the American Statistical Association 113(523) (2018): 1094-1111.

G. Shafer, Glenn, V. Vovk, "A tutorial on conformal prediction", Journal of Machine Learning Research 9, March (2008): 371-421.

This may be because these time series data are just hard with which to deal, with many blemishes. However, there’s a caution there, because non-parametric means like conformal predictive inference, while they may give up statistical power, are in turn supposed to be robust against such blemishes.

In the end, phase planes and notions from dynamical systems and functional data analysis continue to be useful concepts and offer analytical tools for dealing with important data sets. It was great to see the venerable smoothing spline come out ahead of many other techniques, including some statistical learning approaches.

Posted in American Statistical Association, Andrew Harvey, anomaly detection, count data regression, COVID-19, dependent data, dlm package, Durbin and Koopman, dynamic linear models, epidemiology, filtering, forecasting, Kalman filter, LaTeX, model-free forecasting, Monte Carlo Statistical Methods, numerical algorithms, numerical linear algebra, population biology, population dynamics, prediction, R, R statistical programming language, regression, statistical learning, stochastic algorithms | Tagged | Leave a comment

Muehlenberg County

Posted in climate disruption, coal, John Prine | Leave a comment

RethinkX update on Wind, Solar, and Storage

Posted in American Solar Energy Society, Amory Lovins, being carbon dioxide, Benji Backer, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, bridge to somewhere, children as political casualties, clear air capture of carbon dioxide, climate business, climate economics, climate education, Conservation Action Coalition, decentralized electric power generation, decentralized energy, disruption, distributed generation, ecocapitalism, ecological disruption, ecomodernism, ecopragmatist, electric vehicles, electrical energy storage, electricity, electricity markets, energy storage, energy utilities, entrpreneurs, Green Tea Coalition, grid defection, investment in wind and solar energy, Joseph Schumpeter, keep fossil fuels in ground, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, local self reliance, Michael Bloomberg, microgrids, On being Carbon Dioxide, photovoltaics, RevoluSun, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, Talk Solar, the energy of the people, the green century, Tony Seba, utility company death spiral, wind energy, wind power, zero carbon | Leave a comment

Posted in statistics | Leave a comment

“We will love science and its controversies.”

We will continue, Professor. With all the teachers and professors in France, we will teach history, its glories and its vicissitudes. We will introduce literature, music, all works of soul and spirit. We will love with all our strength the debate, the reasonable arguments, the kind persuasions. We will love science and its controversies. Like you, we will cultivate tolerance. Like you, we will seek to understand, relentlessly, and to understand even more what we would like to move away from us. We will learn humor, distance. We will recall that our freedoms hold only through the end of hatred and violence, through respect for others.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France, at the memorial and funeral of Samuel Paty, the Sorbonne, France.

Posted in Charlie Hebdo, martyrs to truth, mathematics, religion, science | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“No, COVID-19 Is not the Flu”

Q&A with Andrew Pekosz, PhD, Johns Hopkins University:

Q: What would you say to someone who insists to you that COVID-19 is “just the flu”?
A: Since December 2019, COVID-19 has killed more people in the U.S. than influenza has in the last five years.

Influenza is a significant burden on the population, but COVID-19 has had a vastly larger effect.

Read the entire interview.

Posted in coronavirus, COVID-19, epidemiology, SARS-CoV-2 | Leave a comment

dead bodies vs economic integrity

From The Financial Times.

Posted in pandemic, population biology, population dynamics, SARS-CoV-2 | Leave a comment

“A Matter of Degrees”

A Matter of Degrees” is a new climate change mitigation podcast, created and produced by Drs Katharine Wilkinson and Leah Stokes.

The first episode, “Give up your climate guilt“, is auspicious.

Check it out.

Fair disclosure: I have been pretty negative about Project Drawdown of which Dr Wilkinson was and is a major participant. I specifically don’t buy the afforestation take, and I believe a lot of research has come out since describing and documentation those limits.

Posted in #sunrise, #youthvgov, Amory Lovins, being carbon dioxide, Carbon Cycle, climate activism, climate change, climate disruption, climate economics, climate mitigation, climate policy, global warming, liberal climate deniers | Leave a comment

Tesla 3 to Ithaca, NY and back

Claire and I visited my older son, Dave, and partner Mary Ellen in Ithaca, NY, over the weekend. Great trip with Tesla 3, supercharged all the way.

Glad we did not go farther afield:

An assortment of photos, from sailing on Canandaigua Lake, views of the north shore of Seneca Lake, looking out over Cayuga Lake from Cayuga Heights, shots at Taughannock Falls State Park near Ithaca, and Buttermilk Falls State Park, and a vid of Claire feeding chickens.

Posted in Autumn, New York State, Tesla | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Für alle ohne maske

h/t Professor Christian Robert.
Posted in COVID-19, pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opposing Canadian hydropower, an opposition which supports local renewables?

Ilana Cohen of the Pulitzer prize-winning Inside Climate News reports how some environmental activists in northern New England are concerned about the progress of tapping Canadian hydropower to feed the electrical needs of New England. Opposition is also voiced by Canadian indigenous communities. (See article.) One reason given by activists is

Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter has raised concerns around the use of carbon-intense fossil fuels by HydroQuébec to substitute for hydropower if the Canadian company deems it necessary to meet New England and New Yorkers’ electricity demand. The group also warned that reliance on Canadian hydropower “would undercut financial incentives for developing local, distributed energy” as an alternative to fossil fuels.

(Emphasis added.)

That’s all well and good, Mr Sierra, but what if there’s local opposition to the “local, distributed energy” you seek for reasons similar to why hydropower has been opposed? Sure, New England needs zero Carbon energy. Fossil and nuclear generation is closing. Without rapid build-out local sources, particularly big solar farms and batteries, New England will back into the arms of natural gas generation or Canadian hydropower.

So, if northern environmentalists really want to see this happen, I recommend they contact their New England — and, in this case, eastern Massachusetts counterparts — and suggest they get with making the necessary trade-offs. These not only include solar farms in suburbs, but liberalized rules for placing solar PV on homes and on ground mounts in yards, and better solar access legislation which gives homeowners a right and priority to solar, over public or neighbor’s trees, for example, whether or not there are wetlands. And it also might support land-based wind turbines. Why not?

Otherwise the outcome will be a perfect division of environmental objectives, something which could have been orchestrated by carefully placed donations and whispers from an arch-enemy of the natural world like the Koch Brothers machine. And the result will be more natural gas burning and more pipelines.

A planned approach is the reason why I think ecomodernism is the way to go. And that’s the realm of technocrats. And, yes, I think that’s a good idea.

Posted in an ignorant American public, an uncaring American public, being carbon dioxide, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, bridge to nowhere, carbon dioxide, cliamate mitigation, climate business, climate disruption, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Cult of Carbon, decentralized electric power generation, decentralized energy, development as anti-ecology, distributed generation, ecocapitalism, Ecology Action, ecomodernism, electrical energy storage, electricity, electricity markets, emissions, energy utilities, fossil fuel divestment, fossil fuel infrastructure, gas pipeline leaks, global warming, greenhouse gases, Hermann Scheer, indigenous peoples, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, liberal climate deniers, local generation, local self reliance, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, mitigating climate disruption, Nathan Phillips, natural gas, regulatory capture, rights of the inhabitants of the Commonwealth, science denier, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, sustainability, sustainable landscaping, the green century, the right to be and act stupid, the tragedy of our present civilization, utility company death spiral, zero carbon | 1 Comment

Solar PV, Agriculture, and Enhancing Pollinator Habitats



Stephen Herbert, professor of agriculture at UMass Amherst, right, shows farmer Pat Canonica of Boxford how raised solar panels allow for the land underneath to remain in agriculture as vegetable gardens Aug. 31, 2017 at the UMass Crop and Animal Research and Education Center in South Deerfield.
Posted in agrivoltaics, agroecology, decentralized electric power generation, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, zero carbon | Leave a comment

“Charlie, the jogger, the killer, and the journalist” — Xi’an’s Og

I was deeply angered when I heard of this atrocity, to the degree that I had tears in my eyes. It was bad enough when Salman Rushdie had to go into hiding and adopt elusiveness as a lifestyle for the crime of publishing stories and having a fatwa drawn against him, but this attack stands as an offense against Western values, notably comic satire, and against rationality itself.

The loss of the actuality of Charlie Hebdo if not its memory is sufficient reason to mourn.

As I write atop this blog:

I live and die as a being of reason or I have no reason for being.

From Xi’an’s Og

The trial of the suspects of the Charlie Hebdo killings of 7 January 2015 (and of the subsequent days) has started several weeks ago, involving people accused of helping the main culprits, who died on 9 January. In the long flow of witnesses and victims, a case remains a mystery, the shooting of a random […]

Charlie, the jogger, the killer, and the journalist — Xi’an’s Og

Update, 2020-10-18

A day of mourning, by Xi’an, including quote from Salman Rushdie.
Posted in humor, rationality, reason, satire | Leave a comment

“Babbage: Pandemic’s progress”

From \text{\texttt{Babbage}} at The Economist, a podcast episode:

Pandemic’s progress

Sep 23 2020 28 mins

As the global covid-19 death toll nears 1 million, The Economist’s healthcare correspondent and health policy editor explain what scientists are still investigating about the virus, how long-lasting is the immune response and how the pandemic can be tamed. And, the model of Taiwan—is it “post-pandemic”? Kenneth Cukier hosts.

Brought to you by Podcast Addict, my favorite pod wrangling tool.

Posted in pandemic, podcasts, SARS-CoV-2 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Opposition to solar PV field at new Hanlon-Deerfield school, Westwood, MA

(Updated 2020-10-07, 17:36)

This is sometimes was called the “Shuttleworth Solar Field Project”.

In addition to building a combined pair of schools on Town of Westwood property, there is a proposal for building a 2 MW solar array on adjacent land, some of which has trees. There will be 11.4 acres of trees removed, with up to 2 acres needing to be removed to accomodate the school itself.

This array, after capacity factor considerations, will generate 2.46 GWh of electricity per year, with a production rate of about 216 MWh per acre per year, and will offset emissions of 590 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Below shows the general area. The school expansion will replace the existing Hanlon school:

There is opposition. Some concerned loss of Carbon sequestration, but that’s negligible in loss of 12 acres of trees:


The remaining opposition is a little mixed, having to do with Town of Westwood politics and administration, but there is opposition to the solar array as an “industrial facility”, including claims which are egregiously false, coming from out of date and questionable sources. More on that below. To see the particulars, here’s the text of a related petition being circulated for signature, in its entirety. I have added emphasis to one paragraph.

Reconsider Location of Solar Field Project

To: Members of the Select Board, Members of the Planning Board, Christopher Coleman Town Administrator, Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee, Thomas Philbin Westwood Energy Manager
CC: Westwood School Committee Members, Emily Parks Westwood Superintendent,

Regarding: Installation plan for Solar Field at Shuttleworth location

To whom it may concern,

Recent information about the plan for the installation of a solar field at the Shuttleworth land location has led to a large concern and discussion among Westwood residents. We are asking you to reconsider this project and allow the town residents to have a say in whether this project should proceed in the currently proposed location of Shuttleworth Field.

Our concerns stem from 3 main areas;

1. The clearing of an additional ~12 acres of established trees and wooded area

While we appreciate the Town of Westwood’s focus on renewable energy, we feel that the carbon offset and cost savings that the installation of a solar field on the Shuttleworth property provides, does not adequately justify the destruction of established growth forests and wildlife habitats. We are not disputing the benefit of solar energy, it is the location and the destruction of forests and wildlife habitat that are of concern here. We would ask that instead, other areas (building rooftops, already cleared areas) should be considered for the installation of solar panels.

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources “strongly discourages locations that result in significant loss of land and natural resources, including farm and forest land, and encourages rooftop siting, as well as locations in industrial and commercial districts, or on vacant, disturbed land. Significant tree cutting is problematic because of the important water management, cooling, and climate benefits trees provide.” (“Model Zoning for the Regulation of Solar Energy Systems”, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs December 2014).

There are also concerns about the production of toxic wastes, including coolants, antifreeze, rust inhibitors, and heavy metals, that can affect wildlife adjacent to or far from the location of the facility (Abbasi and Abbasi 2000).

The town is already committed to the highly vetted Elementary School Building project which will utilize approximately 9 acres of the Shuttleworth property. The town determined this project to be an acceptable and valuable way to use this land when community members voted to allocate significant funds for the project at the 2018 Town Meeting, knowing that Shuttleworth Field would be a potential site for the new school. Fully clearing an additional 12 acres in the same area for a Solar Field would have an unacceptable and negative impact on the environment as well as having a negative impact on the new elementary building which was not designed to be near an industrial solar field, but rather is intended to be a “school in the woods”.

The community has not had the opportunity to vet the solar field project or to understand the environmental or potential health impacts of a solar field. No environmental impact studies have been presented to the community.

2. Possible Loss of Millions of dollars in state funding for New School Building Project

It was discussed in the Select Board meeting on July 13th and indicated in the “Solar Power In Westwood Municipal and School Facilities” presentation that the land would be transferred to the School Department and the solar field and the Hanlon school project would be linked. That transfer of land would require a vote at town meeting. This left most citizens believing, incorrectly, that they would have an opportunity to hear more and have a say in the matter at town meeting and also that the Solar Field had become a new component of the School Building Initiative.

In the August presentation deck “SOLAR POWER IN WESTWOOD MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL FACILITIES Thomas Philbin Westwood Energy Manager August 2020” there is no further discussion of a land transfer. Instead the next steps indicate, “Approval by Select Board to proceed with Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and land lease that Ameresco can proceed with: a. Design Approval by Eversource b. Town of Westwood Planning Board site plan review”. There is nothing indicating that the plan will be vetted with the community and in the absence of a land transfer, there is no requirement that the Select Board bring this to town meeting for a vote. Nothing in the presentation deck addresses any of these changes or the removal of the School District as a partner.

This has created confusion among residents. There is concern that residents may now believe that the Solar Field and School Project are linked and that they will mistakenly undermine the school project in their efforts to stop the solar field. The town is on track to receive millions of dollars in state funding for the new school building. For comparison sake, the Solar Field is expected to save the town $70,000 a year. Even if we received a conservative $10 million in funding for the new school from the MSBA, we would have to run the solar field for approximately 140 years to reap the same financial benefit from the solar field as the state support for our new building. The town simply can not afford to lose state funding for the School Building due to the confusion that has been created in the absence of effective communication.

3. The rights of the town members to vote on this project

We elect the members of the Select Board, the Planning Board, and the other committees in town to serve as our representatives and to look out for the best interest of Westwood. We also expect regular two way communication so that our elected officials understand the pulse of the community. Many of us have feel strongly that there has been weak public outreach and general lack of transparency for the solar field project. To the best of our knowledge there was no effort made to reach out to stakeholders, including the School Committee, townspeople who use the impacted trails and land, or taxpayers in general.

The current project that the Select Board is looking to initiate does not support the ideals of the town of Westwood residents to develop land prudently and judiciously and does not provide sufficient benefit to warrant the destruction of established woods and wildlife habitat.

We urge you to examine the impact the solar field project would have on our town and our families and reconsider it in its current proposed location. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Concerned residents of Westwood

Twitter – @SaveShuttlewor1

Model Zoning for the Regulation of Solar Energy Systems – Department of Energy Resources Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. December 2014.

Abbasi SA Abbasi N. 2000. The likely adverse environmental impacts of renewable energy sources. Applied Energy 65: 121–144

That article is included below as a PDF. It makes reference to two others, one by Harte & Jassby (1978), also included below, and another key one by Siddayao (1993) which is not publicly available.



They are old, and some of the claims regarding environmental effects of solar PV arrays are simply not applicable to modern solar PV.

In any case, where this was circulated, in an forum called “Westwood Neighbors, I put in two comments, both of which are reproduced below. They remain in moderation as of 18:30 23:39 on 29th September 2020, despite having been submitted 3 hours ago. (The moderators are, of course, volunteers.)

The first comment challenged the facts in the emphasized paragraph above:

I’d like to object to the text of the petition on some points of information, specifically the paragraph that reads:

There are also concerns about the production of toxic wastes, including coolants, antifreeze, rust inhibitors, and heavy metals, that can affect wildlife adjacent to or far from the location of the facility (Abbasi and Abbasi 2000).

Firstly, both Abbasi and Abbasi (2000), and the primary references upon which they rely (Harte, 1978 and Siddayao, 1993) are old and entirely speculative papers, not having the benefit of having actual solar energy systems to assess. Harte (1978) does no calculations, and simply declares a comparison. The Siddayao report cannot be criticized, because individuals cannot obtain access to it. (It’s only available to institutions who subscribe to the World Bank eLibrary.) Indeed, we don’t know what it says.

Second, no matter, actual, modern PV systems have no coolants, have no antifreeze, have no rust inhibitors, and some manufacturers use no heavy metals, e.g., SunPower,

Also, panels are pretty well sealed so it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where these could leak out or rust, so whoever the manufacturer is, the claim about affecting wildlife is egregiously false.

Claire and I opted for SunPower panels on our home because of their sustainability record. Also, technically, at the end of their life, our purchase contract says SunPower gets the panels back so they can recycle them.

Third, contrary to what’s implied in the statement from Massachusetts DEP that “…. loss of land and natural resources, including farm and forest land …”, solar panels are entirely compatible with farms and farming, albeit a new kind called agrivoltaics. See additional references below:

Smart solar installations don’t use pesticides. They use goats.

Fourth, it’s entirely possible to have solar farms coexist with and support pollinators:

That was one comment I made and, as shown, it objected to incorrect facts.

A second comment I made was an opinion, and it is based upon the unfairness of using wealthy (predominantly white) to consume electricity generated near neighborhoods of relatively less well off:

I just sent in a post questioning facts in the petition statement. In this post, I’d like to offer an opinion. Because it’s an opinion, I did not want to associate it with the other.

Specifically, I think it’s interesting that residents of wealthy suburban towns don’t want their views “spoiled” by appearance of solar PV farms. Surely the towns and residents use electricity.

Where does that electricity come from? Most of it comes from natural gas combustion and some from oil fired combustion. These are fed by pipelines and trucks.

And where are these plants located? Everett, Ludlow, Charlton, Blackstone, Bellingham. Billerica, Chelsea, Braintree. As fractions of the median household income of Westwood ($129,000, per Wikipedia), these have median household incomes of 0.38, 0.47, 0.72, 0.56, 0.62, 0.68, 0.37, and 0.63. The plants produce ACTUAL airborne and water pollution, and harm the families and children growing up there. Oh, and the people there have beautiful views of belching smokestacks.

Fair is fair. It’s time that people in suburbs began taking responsibility for the energy they consume, particularly now that it can be generated in a quiet and clean manner.

We’ll see where this goes.

On 5th October 2020, the Select Board of the Town of Westwood stopped the Shuttleworth solar project.

The Town is looking for other places to build solar farms. I wish them luck, and will support them, but, given the opposition to such in other towns in the area, I see an uphill fight.

See this more recent blog post regarding another aspect of this.


I’m not sure many in Westwood will believe me, but there are economic reasons for putting up solar fields, too, ones which go well beyond the revenue from electricity generation. As solar energy, broadly defined, comes to dominate electricity generation, and as electricity use expands, for transportation, for heating, for manufacturing, towns and homes without ample locally sourced and clean electrical energy will depreciate in value.  We are already seeing how homes with solar PV appreciate in worth when they sell, as documented by NREL and especially LBNLZillow says homes with solar panels sell for 4% more.

It is not difficult to imagine how, as the solar wave begins to dominate and distributed microgrids more the rule, towns and places to live which are self-reliant and “with it” are judged up-and-coming and more attractive to buy homes in and to live.

This is particularly important for Westwood, since nearly every towns around it has by-laws and programs to encourage development of solar. Soon the same will be true of battery storage.  Soon the same will be true of EVs versus ICE vehicles.  Noise ordinances could be tightened.  After all, you can buy electric motorcycles.

Above: Solar installations in the Town of Natick, Massachusetts.


The Town of Westwood school board has decided to sever the development of the Hanlon-Deerfield school from the solar project. While this does not necessarily foreclose on the solar project there, it makes it far less likely.

What “denouement” refers to, however, is the revelation I had while attending the

I attended the “Climate Cocktails” event at the
Climate Adaptation Forum, a combination of UMass Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab, and the Environmental Business Council of New England. I came away more depressed than I have been in years. In short, in addition to constraining solutions to global warming to not proceed until climate and environment justice issues are co-resolved, to providing jobs, and avoiding “industrial solutions” or supporting big corporations in their solution, now the environmental progressives of Massachusetts — and possibly New England — have decided that build-out of inherently less spatially dense zero Carbon energy ought not disturb natural ecosystems. The reason is not practical, but seems to be motivated by some kind of idealistic purity, but probably has a lot to do with the unpopularity of building solar farms and the like in wealthy suburbs, per the above.

Accordingly I despair for our being able to get these solutions deployed in time. It is especially discouraging because we have inexpensive answers in hand, and the opposition to deployment in fields and forests is not based upon biologic science but, rather, some kind of naturalistic aesthetic.

What this means, of course, is that as these are delayed we will continue to emit greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, coming primarily from natural gas, and this will demand additional gas plants and additional pipelines. Moreover, in the end, it will be additional nuclear power, and exceeding temperatures that are safe checkpoints in trying to curtail climate disruption. We cannot do it by 2050, let alone 2035, and 2070 is more likely the place we’ll land.

What this means, in the end, is that solutions for global industrial scale drawdown of CO2 from atmosphere will be necessary, and there is a dangerous place where solar radiation management (“SRM”) may be a tempting option. And this will mean +4C is the place we should be seriously thinking about, not +2C.

This is not understood or appreciated. Just as it is not understood and appreciated that planting a trillion trees won’t do the job, and won’t make a dent as long as those natural gas plants continue to spew their burnt byproducts.

In summary, this is a bad day for Massachusetts, New England, and, to the degree this is now the settled sentiment of climate activists, the world. If I were Greta Thunberg, I would be very worried. For activists, if they get their way, have just tied the hands of the people who can solve the problem.


It is also entirely possible that my perspective was disregarded in this forum because I’m an “old white guy”, steeped in engineering, maths, and science. That’s too bad. I have a lot to offer. And, in the sessions, I was told, essentially, that “data doesn’t matter”.

I wish these mirror images of the Republican Party and the Trumpists luck. They are going to need it.

Posted in agrivoltaics, American Solar Energy Society, an uncaring American public, being carbon dioxide, bridge to somewhere, Carbon Worshipers, climate activism, climate disruption, climate economics, climate justice, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, decentralized electric power generation, distributed generation, ecocapitalism, ecomodernism, ecopragmatism, fossil fuel divestment, greenhouse gases, Greta Thunberg, Hermann Scheer, investment in wind and solar energy, ISO-NE, John Farrell, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, local generation, NIMBY, On being Carbon Dioxide, Our Children's Trust, photovoltaics, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, Talk Solar, Tony Seba, Westwood | 3 Comments

“Mad as a Hatter” : Larkin Poe

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Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week

h/t Professor Christian Robert

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Peter Kane’s net positive energy, CO2-free custom built home

Posted in American Solar Energy Society, climate mitigation, climate policy, decentralized electric power generation, decentralized energy, ecomodernism, energy storage, energy utilities, global warming, investment in wind and solar energy, keep fossil fuels in ground, Mark Jacobson, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, mitigating climate disruption, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Peter Kane, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, Talk Solar, technology, the green century, zero carbon | Leave a comment