Welcome to Finland! [Disclaimer: strong posturing in the view]
Posts Tagged ‘Finland’
Finland is enacting laws that lead to building some more wind power. Like some professionals in the Finnish wind power association, Suomen tuulivoimayhdistys, have told me, perhaps the most important thing about wind power is that you have to be smart about what and where you build.
The wastelands of dead windmills in the California deserts are a result of subsidizing the building of very immature technology, with little concern for actual electricity production.
Wind power can be useful for energy production and CO2 emissions reduction, but it must be built with operation in mind. Finland and the whole Nordpool market operates with a power generation mix that includes possibilities of reducing CO2 emissions by just injecting wind power to the market when there is wind.
If Finland is serious about deploying large amounts of wind power, offshore is the way. The winter sea ice is a hard problem. Lighthouses have washed away in the fifties because of moving thick sea ice. It is even possible that wind power in icy sea conditions is simply not profitable in the near term, even with high subsidies. It also might be that because of the very high cost of the foundations per mill, the optimal unit size is far bigger than in warmer waters. This all would require a methodical approach with multi-year testing programs of different foundations and possibly different turbine paradigms. (Sort of how the current wind turbines enjoy the methodical research programs and various large prototypes of the nineties.) So a decade perhaps from start to deployment, at rapid pace, starting immediately.
The other thing, like the major parties have been saying, is nuclear power. In an energy mix, this can push out the fossils out, approaching from the bottom instead of the top like wind power. If current trends continue, there will be a few more nukes soon. If I recall correctly Mauri Pekkarinen, the trade and industry minister from the center party commented how the next nuclear power plants would replace, roughly one each, electricity imports (from Russia), old nukes (that have to be retired in the future decades), and fossil fuel plants. Perhaps that is not entirely correct and gives little possibility for energy conservation or renewables, but I actually view it as a rough and dim picture of a not worst possible future.
So, in summary: be careful about how you encourage and where you build big wind – otherwise it’s just a nuisance – and also, build some nukes (keep the regulatory body in good control of them).
I am a fan of wind power – correctly built wind power. And so are the people at Tuulivoimayhdistys – they are professionals after all. Lawmakers should listen to them very carefully, when deciding what kind of subsidies to make.
I’ve seen some talk how in USA the Democrats that currently hold power are proposing methods of CO2 cuts completely based on renewables. This seems unrealistic to me. Too bad the Republicans, when they were in power, did nothing to make CO2 cuts. Now they can just complain about the methods.
The April fool’s joke about a secret Finnish rocketry project was naturally not credible, but it was inspired by a few real pieces of history. One has to remember that until perhaps fifties or even the sixties, Finland was mostly a poor not very developed nation where most people worked in the agriculture. The history shows how transformation is possible, and even difficult projects are possible in small countries as well, if given good effort and thought.
Finland had a viable submarine program before the second world war. This was in co-operation with the Germans who were banned from developing submarines in their peace treaty from the first world war. The German side manager of the program, sub expert Karl Bartenbach, came from an assignment in Argentina, where he had unsuccessfully tried to engage in a similar program – and his wife brought tango dancing to Finland on the way from there. The submarines were successful and the first real German built U boot type (after they didn’t care about the treaty anymore) was actually similar to the last Finnish model. The Finnish subs were a real threat to the Soviet navy during the war (after mines and guns), and one sub successfully rammed a Soviet sub (after missing a torpedo attack). I’ve read a book (in Finnish) about this, but the name escapes me.
Between the wars, Finland had started a state aircraft industry, which built mainly trainers. During the war, there were attempts to develop an indigenous fighter, but the results were failures. There were no large enough import engines available, and the main effort, VL Myrsky had flutter problems. None really engaged in any combat. Finland got german Me 109:s at the end and fought with them. After the war, the designers said that they had had the wrong construction approach and mindset from the slow speed trainers, wood ribs and rag. There was no aluminium production in Finland, and high quality wood glues were hard to get from the troubled Germany. Many pre-war wooden trainer planes lasted fine in use while the substitute emergency developed Finnish glue built wooden fighters suffered moisture related problems. Jukka Raunio has written good books (in Finnish) about the subject, two which I’ve read, “VL Myrsky” and “Valtion lentokonetehtaan historia, osa 2″.
This time a completely Finnish development. The Soviet Union was looking for deep sea research submarines in the eighties. After scouting around the world for various builders, the Finnish Rauma-Repola shipbuilder was contracted, and they formed a completely new subsidiary, Rauma-Repola Oceanics, for this purpose. The main problem with a deep sea submarine is the weight of the pressure shell. There were Canadian companies who proposed welding it out of Titanium plates. Instead of that, Rauma-Repola developed a new steel that was cast with a proprietary method to avoid pores. CIA tried to intervene, since the submarines were of strategic use, and they contacted president Koivisto. He said that the business was private and completely legal and thus he could not and would not interfere. The electronics and composite parts were indigenously developed as well, since American contractors were unavailable. Against the expectations of observers, the subs were very successful, and still operate to this day as Mir 1 and 2 – they have visited Titanic for example, as seen in the movie. Almost nobody knows that they were developed and built in Finland. After the delivery of the Mirs, the sub industry was driven down by direct pressure from CIA, the company officially citing that it was not profitable. The technology to make the pressure shells is gone today and would have to be redeveloped if more were to be built. There was a lengthy magazine article (again in Finnish) in Tekniikka & Talous about this, which is available on the net.
Where did the photos come from? They are actually from real Finnish projects, although of far lesser scale. The engine is Juhani Hemmi’s completely from scratch self built regenerative steel rocket engine. The picture is from an issue of Avaruusluotain, the magazine of SATS, Suomen avaruustutkimusseura (Finnish Space Research Society, for which I also write a column sometimes). Unfortunately mr Hemmi doesn’t have a web page and I don’t know the current status of the project, the article being from 2006.
The from the air picture is from the Pollux / SATS hybrid rocket project “Haisunäätä”, that had its second launch in the fall of 2008 in Rovajärvi, Lapland, which is an army proving ground. I know these guys, and they are making a bigger rocket (if it’s not ready yet), for a first flight soon. At the moment the rocket and motor are commercial conventional off the shelf ones, but the electronics are self developed. There is a competing team in Tampere, “Supikoira”.
Finland had communal elections a few weeks back. Some communities tested electronic voting machines, and naturally it failed miserably. Now the communities are working on having new elections. The central ministry that should be taking care of these things is silent – except for the justice minister who said the electronic voting thing was decided before her term and she opposes it. Here’s an article in English by Helsingin Sanomat.
The mechanism of the flaw was this: People would have an electronic card where the machine in the booth would write the vote, the people would take the card and drop it off to register the vote. But they pulled the card out too at a time when the vote had not yet been written on the card, and the machine did not indicate anything was wrong.
Machines and extra complexity are needless when the process is extremely simple: choose a single two or three digit number. The vote card can be human readable all the time.
A paper trail (a human readable receipt) would have helped somewhat, but still, it is conceivable that elections could be rigged by manipulating it so that the machine at random times prints different vote cards from the selection made by the user. It does not need to work all the time to still effect the outcome of the election.
Electronic voting machines are extremely hard to inspect or troubleshoot on the spot. The mechanism is always black box like and is easily tampered with. They are also very failure prone compared to paper and pencil. Never mind expensive.
People with the most experience with computers are the least trusting of them on matters like voting, where the process is so extremely simple that computers bring little added value. Also because the user base is extremely varied, it is hard to design a foolproof system, or a system as foolproof as pencil and paper.
What Are Electronic Machines Good For Then At All?
Computers are good for some very reliability critical things like hospital monitors or other equipment where they bring some added benefits with their calculations. Also often such critical systems are used by professionals and are designed for narrow uses, which increases their reliability a lot.
One application that resembles voting quite a lot is lottery. The user base is vast, and the data is extremely simple (actually, with voting, the data is even simpler). Electronic lottery has worked over here for decades, though I don’t know of any critical analysis of “lost tickets” or anything. In any case, everyone gets a human readable receipt for their submitted numbers, and they include all relevant information so that you can get your money in case the numbers match. I don’t know if there has ever been a case of a person possessing a winning receipt but the numbers not being submitted in the system because of some glitch. Technically it could be possible to forge the simple paper receipt after checking what the lottery numbers were and then claim the prize money. I don’t know if any encryption or unique id:s are included in the receipt to make this harder. You could always calculate such a check number with a key from the numbers submitted so that receipt forging would be impossible.
Electronic lottery has sped up the process hugely and reduced the costs as well. No more do the coupons have to be mailed over to one location and then read optically in a failure prone process. Veikkaus has the state controlled monopoly on lottery in Finland, and the winnings left over are used for the public good (though the inefficient Veikkaus company’s overhead is huge). Same with slot and poker machines, which are operated by RAY or Raha-automaattiyhdistys. State owned monopolies are one sensible model for activities that are in essence licenses to print money.