317. ELECTRIC AGRICULTURAL MACHINERY
I have conclusively demonstrated that peak oil does not threaten the fertilizer supply ( #314). That doesn't stop the doomers, however. They say: We're still screwed because agriculture is utterly dependent on oil to drive agricultural machinery. It can't be driven with electricity.
Here's "bandits" over at The Oil Drum:
I say to all the electric jackasses to get off and come back when the first commercial electric combine harvester, crop duster, bull dozer or fertilizer plant is constructed. Oh yeah and make sure that they are completely manufactured using "renewable" electric power.We can now respond to bandits on the electric fertilizer plant. As referenced in 314. PEAK OIL AND FERTILIZER: NO PROBLEM, the first commercial electric fertilizer plant began operation around 1905, in Norway, and was a huge success.
How about that electric bulldozer? Well, here's a fully electric loader/backhoe, the ET-400 from Venieri:
It's interesting that the ET-400 was designed primarily as "green" construction equipment to reduce emissions and noise.
Here's a video of an electric plow prototype, the ET-7 built by Steve Heckeroth:
More photos and information on the ET-7 are available here and here.
The argument that electricity cannot handle farm work tends to focus on the most brutal farm tasks, like plowing. Can we develop an electric plow? The answer turns out to be yes. It was being done as early as 1937 in the USSR (see the source article for a photo):
TWO-WAY ELECTRIC PLOW IN USE IN SOVIET RUSSIAApparently electric agriculture was all the rage as far back as 1879:
The large hydroelectric plan on the Dneiper River in Russia's Dnepropetrovsk province makes it possible for them to use electric farm equipment like the two-way plow shown on the front cover of this week's Science News Letter.
No tractor is attached to the plow, which can reverse and travel in either direction. It is particularly useful on large areas of flat ground without rock like that on which the implement is pictured. (Science News Letter, October 23, 1937)Source
Already -- by 1879 in fact -- French engineers were plowing with electricity, adapting that power to the well-established British steam cable plowing system, utilizing two motors, one on each side of the field, to power windlasses alternately winding up steel cable and drawing a two-way plow to and fro between them."[from "Early Uses of Electricity in American Agriculture", Clark C. Spence, Technology and Culture, Vol. 3, No. 2. (Spring, 1962), p. 143.]Spence cites an estimate that 1600 electric plows were operating in Germany at the end of WWI. It's a clever idea, isn't it? Plowing with just the blade/implement, and no tractor. Here's a slick variation from 116 years ago:
A novel cable approach was suggested in 1891 by an imaginative reader of the Rural New Yorker, who urged that an electric motor be located on a revolvable platfrom in the center of a field to draw in plows on radial lines by means of cable.[op.cit., p. 145]Wow! That could be more than just an agricultural machine -- it could be a thrill ride. Put a pair of handlebars on the plow, and drag people at high speed through the soil for $3 a pop.
-- by JD