Alaska Pineapples

Craig Morris writes about recent comments from Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser.

Morris takes issue with a comment about Alaska pineapples. According to Kaeser, it makes as much sense to have solar in Germany as to grow pineapples in Alaska. That comment has more punch in the original German version (Ananas in Alaska) because of the alliteration that gets lost in translation.

Morris doesn’t agree with that. And he discusses some problems Siemens had with their unfortunate timing.

I think Morris is right to point some criticism at Siemens.

I recall that the Siemens losers were the first to jump ship at Desertec because they were unable to afford the membership fees.

I also recall that they were the world’s leading solar manufacturer 15 years ago, in 2000, and left that business just before solar took off to its exponential explosive growth. Unfortunate timing, that one.

On the other hand, I kind of like the “Alaska Pineapple” comment (though I hate pineapples in real life, one of the very few things I completely refuse to eat).

That’s because this anti-solar talking point fires back quite neatly. If Germany, with the solar resources of Alaska, can get to one third of noon peak demand from solar alone, what can all those other countries with much better solar resources do? And if Germany could do it while solar was much more expensive, again, what can China do now that prices are down (and will never get up again)?

There is another point. It doesn’t make much sense to produce pineapples in Alaska if they can be produced cheaper elsewhere, because you can easily transport pineapples from one country to the other. That’s not true for electricity. As long as we don’t have the large scale power lines connecting the Sahara to Germany that the Desertec project wants to build, you need to produce electricity where it is consumed. It doesn’t matter that you can get three times more solar for the same price in Africa if you can’t export that to Germany.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

3 thoughts on “Alaska Pineapples

  1. KF, thanks for reminding me about Siemens being the first to leave Desertec. I had forgotten that. I suppose you could say the firm was one main reason why the project wasn’t more successful.

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    1. While we seem to disagree somewhat about the merits of energy from the desert, I think we can agree that it makes even more sense to farm pineapples in Africa than in Germany. The same is true for solar power. If you go back to German, it even keeps the alliteration (Ananas in Africa).

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  2. KF, I’m with you on the power from the desert more than you may think. We will have it, it will be good – and it will be good for the people in those areas. It will be wind power, it will be photovoltaics, and it will be CSP + storage.

    I’m afraid I still bear a grudge about how “exporting power from CSP to Europe from the Sahara” made it onto the German nightly news in a year when Germany was about to post 3.8 GW of new PV (2009). I need to be careful not to say “I told you it wouldn’t work”(I literally screamed at my TV that night) lest I alienate folks like yourself, whom I respect.

    Thanks again for continuing to push me back on course on this issue. Feel free to do it again whenever necessary. I may need you again as a corrective.

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