And now, for something completely different...

Coal Stacks

A project that has been simmering for while, and has now resurfaced as a serious study, is one that uses satellite imagery to tell the story of human energy production: power generated from resources extracted from the earth. I don’t know what final form the artwork will take, but it is an important project to me, and I hope that it is something that you will care about as well.

Below are images of four coal-fired power plants in the US, Germany, China, and India. These are not photographs of earth, per se, but pictures of a human artifact –a digital map– that is representational of the earth’s surface. I am using this artifact as the source of base imagery for artistic expression, where the craft is in the framing and re-processing of the digital imagery. The images are as black as coal.

Tuoketuo Power Station 2 (1)
Tuoketuo Power Station in northeastern China at 5400 MW capacity is one of the three largest coal-fired power plants in the world

Mundra Thermal Power Station (1)
Mundra Thermal Power Station is the 10th largest coal-fired power plant with a capacity of 4620 MW

Neurath Power Station (1)
The Frimmersdorf Power Station in eastern Germany is one of Europe’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants. It’s capacity is only about half of Tuoketuo at 2400 MW.

Navajo Generating Station 3 (1)
The Navajo Generating Station in Page Arizona, on the Navajo Indian Reservation is comparable in capacity to Frimmersdorf at 2400 MW

Energy production, from the resources of the earth, is the foundation of the modern industrial economy. The human impact on the earth from energy production is unparalleled; this is the crux of the climate change issue. It is the damage caused by the means of energy production during the modern industrial era, and the means of energy production that we choose for the future that determines our future as a species. It is the structure of the energy economy: the financial life of huge fosil fuel-powered energy production infrastructure, and the notion of "leaving profits in the ground" that makes it such a challenging issue to address. It is a war on fossil fuels, and governments and multinational energy corporations have to transform if our species is to survive and prosper. This is the issue of the age, and I believe that art must play a role as it is hearts that must be changed –and that change of heart channeled towards political action.

The semiotics of this work is so closely tied to the data of resource extraction, energy production, and emissions that I am exploring an informational dimension for this work. Here are a few data points related to the four images:

Annual power use per capita
  • US 13,000 kWh
  • Germany 7,000 kWh
  • China 3,300 kWh
  • India 700 kWh

Population served each plant
  • Navajo GS (2400 MW) supplies electricity for 1.4 M US citizens
  • Frimmersdorf PS (2400 MW) supplies electricity for 2.7 M Germans
  • Tuoketuo (5400 MW) supplies electricity for 12.9 M Chinese
  • Mundra (4600 MW) supplies electricity for 52 M Indians

Percentage of electric power generated from coal
  • US 38%
  • Germany 45%
  • China 79%
  • India 68%

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