What Has Justin Been Smoking?

What Has Justin Been Smoking?

By Paul Homewood

h/t Mr GrimNasty

Justin Rowlatt has now completely lost the plot!


If you have ever doubted whether solar power can be a transformative technology, read on.

This is a story about how it has proved its worth in the toughest environment possible.

The market I’m talking about is perhaps the purest example of capitalism on the planet.

There are no subsidies here. Nobody is thinking about climate change – or any other ethical consideration, for that matter.

This is about small-scale entrepreneurs trying to make a profit.

It is the story of how Afghan opium growers have switched to solar power, and significantly increased the world supply of heroin.

Richard Brittan is hunched over his computer in a nondescript office on an industrial estate just outside Guildford, in the south of England.

He is reviewing the latest cache of satellite images from Afghanistan.

Mr Brittan is a former British soldier whose company, Alcis, specialises in satellite analysis of what he calls “complex environments”.

That’s a euphemism for dangerous places. Among other things, Mr Brittan is an expert on the drugs industry in Afghanistan.

He zooms in on an area way out in the deserts of Helmand.

A few years ago there was nothing here. Now there is a farm surrounded by fields.

Zoom in a bit more and you can clearly see an array of solar panels and a large reservoir.

Over to the right a bit there is another farm. The pattern is the same: solar panels and a reservoir.

We scroll along the image and it is repeated again and again and again across the entire region.

“It’s just how opium poppy is farmed now,” Mr Brittan tells me. “They drill down 100m (325ft) or so to the ground water, put in an electric pump and wire it up to a few panels and bingo, the water starts flowing.”

Take-up of this new technology was very rapid.

The first report of an Afghan farmer using solar power came back in 2013.

The following year traders were stocking a few solar panels in Lashkar Gah, the Helmandi capital.

Since then growth has been exponential. The number of solar panels installed on farms has doubled every year.

By 2019 Mr Brittan’s team had counted 67,000 solar arrays just in the Helmand valley.

It is easy to understand why trade has been so brisk.

Solar has transformed the productivity of farms in the region.

I’ve got a video shot a couple of weeks ago on an opium farm in what used to be desert.

The farmer shows us his two arrays of 18 solar panels. They power the two electric pumps he uses to fill a large reservoir.

He films the small canal that allows him to use the water to irrigate his land. All around, his fields seem to be flourishing.

He harvested his opium crop in May; now he is growing tomatoes.


I have no doubt that the huge profits available from the opium trade quickly pay back the thousands of dollars spent on solar panels. And out in the desert, there is very little alternative. Electricity supply is probably non existent in many areas, and shipping diesel is a long and costly process.

I doubt though whether it would have been cost effective for just for his tomatoes.

And because the solar power is only used for irrigation, it does not need to be available 24/7, or on demand.

Solar power may have a niche use in Afghanistan, but that does not mean it will be of any use elsewhere.


Rowlatt goes on to describe how he has seen evidence of climate change everywhere:


I await his evidence for such a preposterous statement.



July 27, 2020 at 08:06AM

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