2014-12-21. Energy-Storage Plans Gain Ground in California. By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times.
2014-11-23. Good News on Energy. By Ralph Cavanagh, The New York Times.
2014-11-24. Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels. By Diane Cardwell, The New York Times.
2014-09-14. In Vermont, a milestone in green-energy efforts.
Excerpt: BURLINGTON, Vt. — Vermont’s largest city has a new success to
add to its list of socially conscious achievements: 100 percent of its
electricity now comes from renewable sources such as wind, water and
biomass. With little fanfare, the Burlington Electric Department crossed
the threshold this month with the purchase of the 7.4-megawatt Winooski
1 hydroelectric project on the Winooski River at the city’s edge. When
it did, Burlington joined the Washington Electric Co-operative, which
has about 11,000 customers across central and northern Vermont, which
reached 100 percent earlier this year. “It shows that we’re able to do
it, and we’re able to do it cost effectively in a way that makes
Vermonters really positioned well for the future,” said Christopher
Recchia, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service.
It’s part of a broader movement that includes a statewide goal of
getting 90 percent of Vermont’s energy from renewable resources by 2050,
including electricity, heating and transportation. ...It’s also a
growing movement across the country, as governments and businesses seek
to liberate themselves from using power produced by environmentally
harmful fossil fuels. ...Greensburg, Kansas, almost wiped out by a 2007
tornado, rebuilt with energy efficiency in mind. A 12.5-megawatt wind
farm went online in 2009, producing electricity in excess of that
consumed by the community of 850, said Administrator Ed Truelove.... http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/in-vermont-a-milestone-in-green-energy-efforts/2014/09/14/9fc6e2c6-3c28-11e4-a430-b82a3e67b762_story.html. Associated Press, The Washington Post.
2014-09-13. Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind.
Excerpt: ...Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than
Germany to find a solution to global warming. ...wind turbines, standing
as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story
buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant
machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest
airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new
turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities
hundreds of miles to the south. ...Germans will soon be getting 30
percent of their power from renewable energy sources. ...The word the
Germans use for their plan is starting to make its way into
conversations elsewhere: energiewende, the energy transition. ...“I am
convinced that wind and sun will be the central sources of energy, not
only in Germany but worldwide,” said Patrick Graichen, who heads a think
tank in Berlin, Agora Energiewende, devoted to studying the shift.
...One recent day, under a brilliant California sun, ...Lennar
Corporation was putting solar panels on every house it built. The prices
of the panels have plunged 70 percent in the past five years. That huge
decline means solar power is starting to make more economic sense,
especially in parts of the United States with high electricity prices.
...The decline in the cost of renewable power spells potential trouble
for companies that generate electricity. They make a lot of their money
at times of day when demand for power, and therefore power prices, are
high. Solar power, even a small amount, could be especially disruptive,
shaving wholesale prices during those peak periods. ...some utilities,
fearful of losing out as the power mix changes, have started attacking
rules that encourage solar panels. Others are taking the opposite tack,
jumping into the solar market themselves. ...In Germany, where solar
panels supply 7 percent of power and wind turbines about 10 percent,
wholesale power prices have crashed during what were once the most
profitable times of day.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/science/earth/sun-and-wind-alter-german-landscape-leaving-utilities-behind.html. By Justin Gillis, The New York Times.
2014-07. What seafood guzzles the most gas? Excerpt:
...diesel is the single largest expense for the fishing industry and its
biggest source of greenhouse gases. Not all fish have the same carbon
finprint, however, and a new study reveals which ones take the most fuel
to catch. Robert Parker, a Ph.D. student at the University of Tasmania,
Hobart, in Australia, and Peter Tyedmers, an ecological economist at
Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, analyzed more than 1600 records
of fuel use by fishing fleets worldwide. They ... reported online this
month in Fish and Fisheries. 7. Sardines: 71 liters ...Icelandic herring
and Peruvian anchovies are the least fuel-intensive industrial
fisheries known, caught with just 8 liters of fuel per ton of fish. 6.
Skipjack tuna: 434 liters ...5. Scallops: 525 liters ...4. North
American salmon: 886 liters ...3. Pacific albacore: 1612 liters ...2.
Sole: 2827 liters ...1. Shrimp and lobster: 2923 liters ...How does wild
seafood compare with other kinds of animal protein? The median fuel use
in the fisheries is 639 liters per ton. In terms of climate impact,
that’s equivalent to a bit more than 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide
emitted for each kilogram of seafood landed. Chicken and farmed salmon
and trout are roughly the same, but beef is significantly higher at 10
kg of carbon dioxide per kg of live animal. “If you’re looking at having
a green diet, you want to transition away from beef,” Parker says.... http://news.sciencemag.org/climate/2014/07/what-seafood-guzzles-most-gas. by Erik Stokstad, Science.
2014-06-19. Buying Into Solar Power, No Roof Access Needed.
Excerpt: ...David Polstein ...was unable to get a solar system to
reduce his utility bill, he said, because his roof is too small and
shady to make it worthwhile. Now, that could be changing. Mr. Polstein
is considering joining a so-called community solar garden that is under
development in his part of the state, one of many similar new
arrangements now available in Massachusetts. Through the approach —
largely pioneered in Colorado and spreading across the country —
customers buy into a solar array constructed elsewhere and receive
credit on their electricity bills for the power their panels produce.
...Massachusetts passed its law enabling community renewable energy
projects in 2008 and saw at least one town solar garden begin operating
in Brewster in 2012. Now, Clean Energy Collective, a leading developer,
is building systems that are due to start producing power in
Massachusetts by the end of this month. The company has teamed with Next
Step Living of Boston, a home energy-efficiency company, which is
selling the product to consumers across Massachusetts. Several other
places, including California, Minnesota and Washington, D.C., have laws
to establish their programs, ...In New York, ...a bill is working its
way through the State Legislature.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/business/energy-environment/buying-into-solar-power-no-roof-access-needed.html. By Diane Cardwell, The New York Times.
2014-06-14. Introducing The First-Ever World Cup Stadium Powered By Solar.
Excerpt: The 2014 Word Cup kicked off in Brazil this week and ... a
bright spot in the construction is the integration of renewable energy.
Complete with 6,000 solar panels, Mineirão is the first World Cup
stadium ever powered by solar energy. The plant’s installed capacity of
1,600 megawatts-hour per year (1.4 MW) is enough to power 1,200
households, according to the Brazilian federal government’s World Cup
website. “As it’s not possible to store all the energy, 10 percent of it
will be used in powering the Mineirão and the rest will be transferred
to consumers,” said Alexandre Maia Bueno with Minas Gerais State
Electricity Company (CEMIG), which constructed the plant. ...One-third
of the countries competing in the event have less solar energy than a
single stadium in Brazil. “Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Cameroon,
Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Iran, Ivory Coast and Uruguay
all produce less solar power than the 2.5 MW solar capability of the
Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasilia. Ghana produces the same
amount,” the report found. ...because Brazil will also play host to the
2016 Olympic Games, solar is expected to factor in to those facilities,
as well. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/06/14/3449122/solar-powering-world-cup/ By Kiley Kroh, ThinkProgress.
2014-05-30. A Price Tag on Carbon as a Climate Rescue Plan.
Excerpt: KEWAUNEE, Wis. — Bryan T. Pagel, a dairy farmer, watched as a
glistening slurry of cow manure disappeared down a culvert. If recycling
the waste on his family’s farm would help to save the world, he was
happy to go along. Out back, machinery was breaking down the manure and
capturing a byproduct called methane, a potent greenhouse gas. A huge
Caterpillar engine roared as it burned the methane to generate
electricity, keeping it out of the atmosphere. The $3.2 million system
also reduces odors at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, one of the largest in
Wisconsin, but it would not have been built without a surprising source
of funds: a California initiative that is investing in carefully chosen
projects, even ones far beyond its borders, to reduce emissions as part
of the battle against climate change. California’s program is the latest
incarnation of an increasingly popular — and much debated — mechanism
that has emerged as one of the primary weapons against global warming.
From China to Norway, Kazakhstan to the Northeastern United States,
governments are requiring industries to buy permits allowing them to
emit set levels of greenhouse gases. Under these plans, the allowable
levels of pollution are steadily reduced and the cost of permits rises,
creating an economic incentive for companies to cut emissions.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/30/science/a-price-tag-on-carbon-as-a-climate-rescue-plan.html?ref=science. By Justin Gillis, The New York Times.
2014-04-24. Nanoparticle Networks Promise Cheaper Batteries for Storing Renewable Energy.
Excerpt: Liquids containing a flowing network of nanoscale particles
could make batteries cheaper to manufacture, and thereby reduce the cost
of using large amounts of solar and wind power. ...With some
alternatives, it is difficult to get charge in and out of the materials;
electricity is extracted only from the part of the materials that comes
in direct contact with a flat metal plate. The nanoparticle network
creates paths for electricity to flow throughout the liquid. This makes
it possible, for example, to get from five to six times more energy out
of an experimental type flow battery made of lithium and sulfur.
Nanoparticles have long been used in conventional batteries with solid
electrodes, but what distinguishes the new development is having a
nanoparticle network form in a liquid, and maintain electrical
connections even as that liquid flows. The U.S. Department of Energy
estimates that for batteries to be economical, they need to cost less
than $100 per kilowatt-hour, and need to last a decade or more. Such
batteries cost hundreds of dollars per kilowatt-hour now. Chiang says it
could be possible to build batteries that cost less than $100 per
kilowatt-hour with the nanoparticle networks, but the researchers
haven’t yet demonstrated that they can be recharged enough times to last
a decade. http://www.technologyreview.com/news/526811/nanoparticle-networks-promise-cheaper-batteries-for-storing-renewable-energy/. Kevin Bullis, MIT Technology Review.
2014-03-29. The Artificial Leaf Is Here. Again.
Excerpt: ...Daniel Nocera...Harvard chemist has pioneered the
artificial leaf, an invention that generates energy...based on
photosynthesis. ...A vessel of water is exposed to light. A silicon
strip coated in catalysts breaks down the water molecule such that on
one side oxygen bubbles up, and, on the other, hydrogen, which can be
used as a fuel. ...The leaf and its technology have been replicated
many times, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University
of Wisconsin and Free University Berlin... the issue isn’t the
invention at all — it’s how to use it. “If I give you a canister of
hydrogen that we got from the artificial leaf, you can’t use it right
away,” Mr. Nocera said. ...Discovering a brilliant way to efficiently
generate hydrogen is hard enough. Then there’s ... getting consumers
accustomed to what’s needed for it to work, such as fuel cells — which
convert hydrogen into usable electricity. ...You have to change an
entire infrastructure.... If we had fuel cells in your house and your
car, then everybody would be trying to implement the artificial leaf
right now.” The other obstacle is the marketplace. Only a few years ago,
he said, “the magic number was $3 ‘gas gallon equivalent.’ ” ...Even as
he closed in on that number, the old fossil-fuel industry pulled the
rug out from under him with a surge in cheap natural-gas extraction,
driven by hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Seemingly overnight, the
magic number became “a buck fifty,”.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/30/technology/the-artificial-leaf-is-here-again.html. Jack Hitt, New York Times.
2014-03-17. Machinery of an Energy Dream--The Challenge: How to Keep Fusion Going Long Enough.
Excerpt: LIVERMORE, Calif. — Fusion, the process that powers the sun,
is the forever dream of energy scientists — safe, nonpolluting and
almost boundless. Even here at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,
where the primary focus of fusion work involves nuclear weapons, many
scientists talk poetically about how it could end the world’s addiction
to fossil fuels. “It’s the dream of the future, solving energy,” said
Stephen E. Bodner, a retired physicist who worked on fusion at Livermore
in the 1960s and ’70s.... The basic concept behind fusion is simple:
Squeeze hydrogen atoms hard enough and they fuse together in helium. A
helium atom weighs slightly less than the original hydrogen atoms, and
by Einstein’s equation E = mc2, that liberated bit of mass turns into
energy. Hydrogen is so abundant that unlike fossil fuels or fissionable
material like uranium, it will never run out. ...Last month, a team
headed by Omar A. Hurricane announced that it had used Livermore’s giant
lasers to fuse hydrogen atoms and produce flashes of energy, like
miniature hydrogen bombs. The amount of energy produced was tiny — the
equivalent of what a 60-watt light bulb consumes in five minutes. But
that was five times the output of attempts a couple of years ago.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/science/the-challenge-how-to-keep-fusion-going-long-enough.html. Kenneth Chang, The New York Times.
2014-03-05. A Bright Year for Solar in the U.S.—But There Are Clouds on the Horizon.
Excerpt: ...demand for solar increased by 41% in 2013, with 4.75
gigawatts of photovoltaic panels installed last year. (1 GW is about
enough energy to power 750,000 homes.) That made solar the
second-biggest source of new generation power in the U.S. after natural
gas, which is still benefiting from the shale revolution. By the end of
2013, there were more than 440,000 operating solar electric systems in
the U.S., with more than 12 GW of photovoltaic (PV) and nearly 1 GW of
concentrated solar power. ...While big utility scale plants like
Ivanpah, which harnesses the heat of the sun with concentrated solar
mirrors, got most of the headlines, it was small-scale residential
systems that drove much of the demand last year. Residential projects
increased by 60% over 2012 as the price of installing solar fell and as
customers took advantage of leasing options—offered by companies like
Solarcity, ...that allowed them to purchase panels with little money up
front. ...“2013 offered the U.S. solar market the first real glimpse of
its path toward mainstream status,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of
GTM Research, which follows the clean tech market. ...Last year China
installed at least 12 gigawatts of solar capacity, at least 50% more
than any other country had ever built in a single year. ...The U.S.
solar boom has been fueled in part by cheap solar panels from China,
.... But those same cheap Chinese panels have hurt domestic
manufacturers of solar PV, even as they’ve helped installers like
Solarcity. Several domestic solar manufacturers...have complained that
the Chinese government is unfairly subsidizing national solar PV
manufacturers, which allows them to undercut their American competitors.
In response, the U.S. government agreed in 2012 to impose tariffs of 24
to 36% on Chinese PV panels. ...The U.S. solar industry is at a tipping
point, poised to grow its way out of niche status and potentially
change the way Americans think—and more importantly, pay for—energy.... http://time.com/12952/solar-energy-surges-concern-over-china/. Bryan Walsh, Time.
2014-02-24. 2014 Draft New York State Energy Plan.
Excerpt: The plan is built around 15 initiatives, e.g.:] Initiative 03:
Establish and implement building codes and standards that will help
support energy efficiency and clean energy.... Initiative 04: Establish a
$1 billion New York Green Bank to unlock and mobilize private sector
capital for greater investment in New York’s clean energy economy....
Initiative 05: Coordinate renewable energy policies to strategically
harness the many resources that the State can provide to solar, wind
(offshore and land-based), bioenergy, geothermal, hydrokinetic, storage,
and other power supply options.... Initiative 09: Reduce reliance on
petroleum products for heating buildings by supporting the use of clean
alternatives to heating oil and expanding access to natural gas in the
near term while pursuing strategies to reduce natural gas leakage....
Initiative 11: Provide improved information and access to energy-related
data to support customers’ ability to make educated decisions about
clean and efficient energy investments, including labeling mechanisms
for commercial and residential buildings.... Initiative 12: Increase
transportation alternatives and vehicle diversity to harness the
benefits of decreased dependence on oil and a cleaner, more connected,
and more flexible transportation sector.... Initiative 15 Foster a clean
energy workforce targeting participants across all aspects of the
energy sector.... http://energyplan.ny.gov/Plans/2014.aspx. New York State Energy Planning Board.
2014-02-13. A Huge Solar Plant Opens, Facing Doubts About Its Future.
Excerpt: NIPTON, Calif. — The Ivanpah solar power plant stretches over
more than five square miles of the Mojave Desert. Almost 350,000 mirrors
the size of garage doors tilt toward the sun [onto 2,200-ton boilers
339 feet in the air to make steam that drives turbines to produce
electricity] with an ability to energize 140,000 homes. The plant, which
took almost four years and thousands of workers assembling millions of
parts to complete, officially opened on Thursday, the first electric
generator of its kind. It could also be the last. Since the project
began, the price of rival technologies has plummeted, incentives have
begun to disappear and the appetite among investors for mammoth solar
farms has waned. ...There’s other prospects for renewables and for
solar that look a lot better than this particular solution,” he said,
including rooftop solar systems that are being installed one by one on
businesses and homes. ...The increase in renewable sources of energy,
which produce intermittently, coming into the grid, has also increased
the need for other services crucial to reliable operation, services that
solar thermal plants could provide. Those needs include the ability to
start and stop quickly, at any season or hour, when human operators give
the order.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/business/energy-environment/a-big-solar-plant-opens-facing-doubts-about-its-future.html. Diane Cardwell and Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times.
2014-01-28. Seafloor carpet catches waves to generate energy.
Excerpt: ...For assistant professor Reza Alam, an expert in wave
mechanics, the seafloor “carpet” he is proposing will convert ocean
waves into usable energy. “There is a vast amount of untapped energy in
the oceans, and with increasing worldwide demand for power, the need to
find cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels is critical,” said Alam. “We
are also seeing greater population growth along coastal cities, so the
ocean-based system we are developing would produce electricity in a
carbon-neutral way right where it is needed.”.... http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/01/28/seafloor-carpet-catches-waves-to-harness-energy/. Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley News Center. See also http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/02/140220-five-striking-wave-and-tidal-energy-concepts and the website site of Pelamis Wave Power - http://www.pelamiswave.com/pelamis-technology
- full scale prototype machine tested at the European Marine Energy
Centre between 2004 and 2007 following a series of sea trials in the
North Sea. In 2008 Pelamis Wave Power secured an order from Portuguese
electricity utility Enersis to build the world’s first wave farm off the
northwest coast of Portugal at Aguçadoura.
2013-12-16. Mongolia's nomads warm to solar power.
Excerpt: Portable solar panels are helping the sunny country's nomads -
without disrupting their way of life. ...In Mongolia, often known as
the land of the blue skies, the sun shines for 250 days on average each
year. ... as of 2013, thanks to a concerted push by the Mongolian
government, almost 70 percent of nomadic people have access to
electricity. Bor, a herder who mainly travels around western Mongolia's
Arkhangai province, is one of the people whose family benefits from
portable solar home systems (SHS). "We use it for generating the power
for lighting in the ger, charging phones, we can also generate a fridge
to keep food longer and we can run a television. That is very useful for
us because we can get the most recent weather forecast, which is
important for our work and keeping our animals safe. Before we had power
it was very difficult. Now it is almost like living in the city."
...The solar systems are slowly replacing the diesel generators used by
some nomads as a means of generating power, although they are still
using stoves for heating, burning wood coal and dung throughout the
year.... http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/12/mongolia-nomads-warm-solar-power-201312813468350849.html. Philippa H Stewart, AlJazeera.
2013-12-05. Obama doubles the goal for renewable energy usage by federal agencies.
Excerpt: President Obama ordered federal agencies Thursday to more than
double their use of electricity produced by renewable resources, a
directive that requires them to make solar, wind and hydro power 20
percent of the government’s energy portfolio by 2020. Federal facilities
can install renewable energy projects or purchase electricity from
them, according to Obama’s presidential memorandum, which is much
tougher than a 2005 congressional directive for agencies to use
renewable energy for 7.5 percent of their electricity needs by 2013. A
White House spokeswoman said the government is on track to meet that
goal. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/obama-doubles-the-goal-for-renewable-energy-usage-by-federal-agencies/2013/12/05/e470388e-5dec-11e3-95c2-13623eb2b0e1_story.html. Lenny Bernstein, The Washington Post.
2013-10-01. Exploding Fuel Tankers Driving U.S. Army to Solar Power.
Excerpt: The U.S. Army is spending billions of dollars shifting toward
solar energy, recycled water and better-insulated tents. The effort
isn’t about saving the Earth. Instead, commanders have found they can
save lives through energy conservation. ...protecting fuel convoys is
one of the most dangerous jobs, with one casualty for every 24 missions
in some years. With renewable energy, “there is no supply chain
vulnerability, there are no commodity costs and there’s a lower chance
of disruption,” Richard Kidd, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army
in charge of energy security, said in an interview. “A fuel tanker can
be shot at and blown up. The sun’s rays will still be there.” .... http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-30/exploding-fuel-tankers-driving-u-s-army-to-solar-power.html. Ehren Goossens, Bloomberg.
2013-09-18. Germany’s Effort at Clean Energy Proves Complex.
Excerpt: It is an audacious undertaking with wide and deep support in
Germany: shut down the nation’s nuclear power plants, wean the country
from coal and promote a wholesale shift to renewable energy sources.
But the plan, backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and opposition parties
alike, is running into problems in execution that are forcing Germans to
come face to face with the costs and complexities of sticking to their
principles. ...Ms. Merkel, of the traditionally conservative and
pro-business Christian Democrats, came up with her plan in 2011, in the
emotional aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. It
envisions shutting down all of Germany’s nuclear plants by 2022 and
shifting almost entirely to wind and solar power by 2050. ...The cost of
the plan is expected to be about $735 billion, .... One of the first
obstacles encountered involves the vagaries of electrical power
generation that is dependent on sources as inconsistent and
unpredictable as the wind and the sun. And no one has invented a means
of storing that energy for very long, which means overwhelming gluts on
some days and crippling shortages on others that require firing up old
oil- and coal-burning power plants. That, in turn, undercuts the goal of
reducing fossil-fuel emissions that have been linked to climate
change.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/19/world/europe/germanys-effort-at-clean-energy-proves-complex.html. By Melissa Eddy and Stanley Reed, New York Times.
2013-09-11. Solar Panel Is Next Granite Countertop for Homebuilders.
Excerpt: ...At least six of 10 largest U.S. homebuilders led by KB Home
include the photovoltaic devices in new construction, according to
supplier SunPower Corp. (SPWR) Two California towns are mandating
installations, and demand for the systems that generate electricity at
home will jump 56 percent nationwide this year, according to the Solar
Energy Industries Association. “In the next six months, homebuilders in
California and the expensive-energy states will be going solar as a
standard, and just incorporating it into the cost of the house like any
other feature,” Jim Petersen, chief executive officer of the
PetersenDean Inc., the largest closely held U.S. roofing and solar
contractor, said in an interview. Lashing panels to roofs during
construction is about 20 percent cheaper than after a house is built.
Homeowners who can afford the extra $10,000 to $20,000 cost in return
for free power threaten the business of traditional utilities.... Power
companies are losing business because they can’t cut their rates in line
with the tumbling prices of residential solar systems. Those cost about
$4.93 a watt in the first quarter, down 16 percent from a year earlier,
according to the Washington-based solar association.... http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-10/solar-panel-is-next-granite-countertop-for-homebuilders.html. Justin Doom, Bloomberg.
2013-04-15. How to Power the World without Fossil Fuels. Excerpt:
...Three times now, Mark Jacobson has gone out on the same limb. In
2009 he and co-author Mark Delucchi published a cover story in
Scientific American that showed how the entire world could get all of
its energy—fuel as well as electricity—from wind, water and solar
sources by 2030. No coal or oil, no nuclear or natural gas. The tale
sounded infeasible—except that Jacobson, from Stanford University, and
Delucchi, from the University of California, Davis, calculated just how
many hydroelectric dams, wave-energy systems, wind turbines, solar power
plants and rooftop photovoltaic installations the world would need to
run itself completely on renewable energy. ...Two weeks ago Jacobson and
a larger team, including Delucchi, did it again. This time Jacobson
showed in much finer detail how New York State’s residential,
transportation, industrial, and heating and cooling sectors could all be
powered by wind, water and sun, or “WWS,” as he calls it. His mix: 40
percent offshore wind (12,700 turbines), 10 percent onshore wind (4,020
turbines), 10 percent concentrated solar panels (387 power plants), 10
percent photovoltaic cells (828 facilities), 6 percent residential solar
(five million rooftops), 12 percent government and commercial solar
(500,000 rooftops), 5 percent geothermal (36 plants), 5.5 percent
hydroelectric (6.6 large facilities), 1 percent tidal energy (2,600
turbines) and 0.5 percent wave energy (1,910 devices).... http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-to-power-the-world. Mark Fischetti, Scientific American.
2013-04-08. With Help From Nature, a Town Aims to Be a Solar Capital.
Excerpt: LANCASTER, Calif. ...Two years ago, the mayor, a Republican,
decided to leverage the incessant Antelope Valley sun so that Lancaster
could become the solar capital “of the world,” he said. ...We want to
be the first city that produces more electricity from solar energy than
we consume on a daily basis,” he said. This means Lancaster’s rooftops,
alfalfa fields and parking lots must be covered with solar panels to
generate a total of 126 megawatts of solar power above the 39 megawatts
already being generated and the 50 megawatts under construction. To that
end, Lancaster just did what former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger failed
to do in 2006: require that almost all new homes either come equipped
with solar panels or be in subdivisions that produce one kilowatt of
solar energy per house. ...the city tripled the number of residential
installations in the past 18 months. ...While the desert sunshine in
California and Arizona helped put those states atop the national solar
energy rankings, towns in cloudier regions are also adopting it.
Napoleon, Ohio, for instance, benefits from 14 megawatts of local solar
power. But energy politics in Ohio and other Republican-run states are
not solar friendly. ...embracing solar power is not just a matter of
energy costs or reliability. It’s also about jobs. ...As Mayor Parris
saw it, solar power could mean lower public expenditures and more
private jobs.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/us/lancaster-calif-focuses-on-becoming-solar-capital-of-universe.html. Felicity Barringer, New York Times.
2013-04-02. A Building Not Just Green, but Practically Self-Sustaining
| Bryn Nelson, New York Times. Excerpt: SEATTLE — When an office
building here that bills itself as the world’s greenest officially opens
later this month, it will present itself as a “living building zoo,”
with docents leading tours and smartphone-wielding tourists able to scan
bar codes to learn about the artfully exposed mechanical and electrical
systems. ...grand opening on Earth Day, April 22. ...the
50,000-square-foot office building at 1501 East Madison Street, at the
edge of the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, its occupants are about to
embark upon an unparalleled — and very public — experiment in
sustainability. ...a $30 million living laboratory distinguished by its
composting toilets, strict energy and water budgets and a conspicuous
lack of on-site parking. ... all its water will be supplied by rainwater
collected in a 56,000-gallon cistern before being filtered and
disinfected. A rooftop array of photovoltaic panels, extending beyond
the building like the brim of a graduation mortarboard, will produce an
estimated 230,000 kilowatt-hours a year, hopefully just enough to break
even for a building that is 83 percent more efficient than the city’s
typical commercial site. ...the decision to not have on-site parking
generated “spirited conversation” during the design phase. Instead, a
space about the size of a three-car garage will be reserved exclusively
for bicycles, while commuting bicyclists can wash away the morning sweat
in one of the rainwater-fed showers on each floor.... See full article
2013-03-12. Can Wind, Water and Sunlight Power New York by 2050?
| Andrew Revkin, New York Times. Excerpt: A group of scientists and
energy analysts has laid out a path under which New York State could, in
theory, eliminate its use of fossil fuels and nuclear power — including
for transportation — by 2050. ...The plan, “Examining the Feasibility
of Converting New York State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One
Using Wind, Water and Sunlight,” is slated for publication in the
journal Energy Policy. The analysis, predicated on the need to swiftly
address global warming, essentially does for New York what two of the
authors, Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University and Mark A. Delucchi of
the University of California, Davis, did for the world in an energy
roadmap published in Scientific American in 2009. The paper argues
against any role for natural gas, using arguments developed by two of
its authors, Anthony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth of Cornell University.
...According to the researchers’ calculations, New York’s 2030 power
demand for all sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling,
industry) could be met by: 4,020 onshore 5-megawatt wind turbines,
12,770 offshore 5-megawatt wind turbines, 387 100-megawatt concentrated
solar plants, 828 50-megawatt photovoltaic power plants, 5 million
5-kilowatt residential rooftop photovoltaic systems, 500,000
100-kilowatt commercial/government rooftop photovoltaic systems, 36
100-megawatt geothermal plants, 1,910 0.75-megawatt wave devices, 2,600
1-megawatt tidal turbines, 7 1,300-megawatt hydroelectric power plants,
of which most exist.... See full article at http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/12/can-wind-water-and-sunlight-power-new-york-by-2050/.
2013-01-17. Goldman Leading Renewable Offerings Says Slump Is Ending
| Ehren Goossens, Bloomberg. Excerpt: …Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS),
the top arranger for renewable-energy stock offerings last year, is
accelerating its funding efforts as it anticipates a rebound in an
industry that’s slumped every year since 2009. …The investment bank is
backing renewable energy that it expects will gain favor in a global
shift it says is inevitable. That’s why short-term volatility will be
trumped by long-term gains as emerging technologies first become
commonplace and then become indispensable, according to Stuart
Bernstein, the Goldman partner overseeing its renewables unit. …Goldman
may boost its financing efforts this year as it seeks to meet a pledge
made in May to invest and finance more than $40 billion in the industry
in the next decade. Worldwide, more than $395 billion will be invested
annually in renewable energy by 2020, he said…. Read the full article: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-17/goldman-leading-renewable-offerings-says-slump-is-ending.html
2013-01-04. Space Solar Cells With A Down-to-Earth Cost
| Robert F. Service, Science: Vol. 339 no. 6115 p. 21. Excerpt:
…gallium arsenide (GaAs) … has been used for decades to make
ultrahigh-efficiency solar cells for spacecraft. But the
out-of-this-world cost of GaAs itself makes these too expensive for
mass-market uses. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan may
have found a way not only to drop the cost of producing GaAs cells, but
also to drop the cost of the power they produce to near that of grid
power from fossil fuels…. Crystals of GaAs are typically grown in
200-millimeter-diameter cylinders that are then sliced into thin wafers.
…But this tends to use too much of the expensive GaAs. More recently,
groups … have used GaAs as a substrate on which to grow other
semiconductor alloys … and recover the GaAs wafer so that it can be
reused. Unfortunately, …it can only be used a few times before engineers
must replace it with a fresh wafer. Three years ago, Stephen Forrest, a
materials scientist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, came up
with a … strategy … to add two additional very chemically different
layers to the sandwichlike stack of materials. … enabling it to be
reused again and again. … additional steps also allowed them to bond the
final GaAs layer to a clear plastic substrate, giving them a flexible
solar cell with more than 22% efficiency. If cheap solar concentrators
are added to focus more light onto the cell, Forrest says he believes
that they should be able to convert more than 30% of the energy in
sunlight into electricity. If that's the case, Forrest says his
calculations show that they can reduce the cost of power from the cells
to less than $1 per watt, roughly the current cost for silicon-based
solar cells. If they can muster further improvements, that price could
drop close to grid parity—the holy grail for solar power…. Read the full
2012-12-22. Troubling solar-panel defect rate seen
| David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: A worldwide glut
of solar panels has slashed prices and made the technology affordable to
more people than ever before. But that glut could be prompting some
panel manufacturers to cut corners. SolarBuyer, a company that audits
solar factories, has found defect rates averaging about 8 percent among
panels that have not yet been shipped to customers. With some
manufacturers, the defect rate has topped 20 percent. That eye-popping
number is an exception, not the rule. But faulty panels are a concern
for the solar industry. The number of panels being installed around the
world is surging, jumping 44 percent in the United States during this
year's third quarter. …A typical 3.5-kilowatt solar system costs about
$23,800, which includes panels and installation. … Companies typically
offer 25-year warranties…. Read the full article: http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Troubling-solar-panel-defect-rate-seen-4140805.php
2012-12-05. Tiny structure gives big boost to solar power
| By John Sullivan, Princeton University. Excerpt: Princeton
researchers have found a simple and economical way to nearly triple the
efficiency of organic solar cells, the cheap and flexible plastic
devices that many scientists believe could be the future of solar power.
The researchers, led by electrical engineer Stephen Chou, were able to
increase the efficiency of the solar cells 175 percent by using a
nanostructured "sandwich" of metal and plastic that collects and traps
light. …Chou… said the research team used nanotechnology to overcome two
primary challenges that cause solar cells to lose energy: light
reflecting from the cell, and the inability to fully capture light that
enters the cell. …The structure achieves even more efficiency for light
that strikes the solar cell at large angles, which occurs on cloudy
days or when the cell is not directly facing the sun. By capturing these
angled rays, the new structure boosts efficiency by an additional 81
percent, leading to the 175 percent total increase. …The researchers
said the PlaCSH solar cells can be manufactured cost-effectively in
wallpaper-size sheets. Chou's lab used "nanoimprint," a low-cost
nanofabrication technique Chou invented 16 years ago, which embosses
nanostructures over a large area, like printing a newspaper. …In
addition to a direct boost to the cells' efficiency, the new
nanostructured metal film also replaces the current ITO electrode that
is the most expensive part of most current organic solar cells. "PlaCSH
also is extremely bendable," Chou said. "The mechanical property of ITO
is like glass; it is very brittle."…. Read the full article: http://www.princeton.edu/engineering/news/archive/?id=9141
2012-11-27. The Installed Price of Solar Photovoltaic Systems in the U.S. Continues to Decline at a Rapid Pace
| Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab News Center. Excerpt:
Berkeley, CA — The installed price of solar photovoltaic (PV) power
systems in the United States fell substantially in 2011 and through the
first half of 2012, according to the latest edition of Tracking the Sun,
an annual PV cost-tracking report produced by the Department of
Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). …median
installed price of residential and commercial PV systems completed in
2011 fell by roughly 11 to 14 percent from the year before, … in
California, prices fell by an additional 3 to 7 percent within the first
six months of 2012. These recent installed price reductions are
attributable, in large part, to dramatic reductions in PV module prices,
which have been falling precipitously since 2008. The report indicates
that non-module costs—such as installation labor, marketing, overhead,
inverters, and the balance of systems—have also fallen significantly
over time. … Ryan Wiser of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy
Technologies Division [said], “as these costs can be most readily
influenced by local, state, and national policies aimed at accelerating
deployment and removing market barriers.” …average non-module costs for
residential and commercial systems declined by roughly 30 percent from
1998 to 2011, but have not declined as rapidly as module prices in
recent years. As a result, non-module costs now represent a sizable
fraction of the installed price of PV systems, and continued deep
reduction in the price of PV will require concerted emphasis on lowering
the portion of non-module costs associated with so-called “business
process” or “soft” costs. … the median installed price of PV systems
installed in 2011 was $6.10 per watt (W) for residential and small
commercial systems smaller than 10 kilowatts (kW) in size and was
$4.90/W for larger commercial systems of 100 kW or more in size.
Utility-sector PV systems larger than 2,000 kW in size averaged $3.40/W
in 2011…. Read the full article: http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2012/11/27/the-installed-price-of-solar-photovoltaic-systems-in-the-u-s-continues-to-decline-at-a-rapid-pace/
2012 Nov 23. Another Path to Biofuels
By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times. Excerpt: ...SEE Algae
Technology of Austria, is building a 2.5-acre factory on a sugar
plantation near Recife, Brazil, that will use genetically modified algae
that can eat carbon dioxide from the sugar. Adding urea and some
nutrients, the algae excrete ethanol. The path to profitability,
according to the company, is raising the amount of algae produced per
unit of area. Algae grows in ponds, but that turns out to require a lot
of space: sunlight does not penetrate more than a couple of inches, so
the ponds must have big surfaces. The problem is that the carbon dioxide
injected to promote algae growth tends to escape from a big surface.
SEE Algae’s solution is a silo that is 16 feet tall and has a volume of
177 cubic feet. Sunlight is directed all over the inside of the silo by
optical fiber technology. Because the light is coming from multiple
directions, the hardware can produce algae at a density up to 20 times
greater than can be generated on a pond....
2012 Nov 24. Growing food in the desert: is this the solution to the world's food crisis?. By
Jonathan Margolis, The Observer. Excerpt: Philipp Saumweber is
creating a miracle in the barren Australian outback, growing tonnes of
fresh food.…a 33-year-old German former Goldman Sachs banker but
inspired by a London theatre lighting engineer of 62, have bought a
sizeable lump of this unpromising outback territory and built on it an
experimental greenhouse which holds the seemingly realistic promise of
solving the world's food problems. …using the sun to desalinate seawater
for irrigation and to heat and cool greenhouses as required, and thence
cheaply grow high-quality, pesticide-free vegetables year-round in
commercial quantities. …A 75m line of motorised parabolic mirrors that
follow the sun all day focuses its heat on a pipe containing a sealed-in
supply of oil. The hot oil in turn heats nearby tanks of seawater
pumped up from a few metres below ground – the shore is only 100m away.
The oil brings the seawater up to 160C and steam from this drives
turbines providing electricity. Some of the hot water from the process
heats the greenhouse through the cold desert nights, while the rest is
fed into a desalination plant that produces the 10,000 litres of fresh
water a day needed to keep the plants happy…. Read the full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/24/growing-food-in-the-desert-crisis
2012 September 24. High-Altitude Wind Energy: Huge Potential - And Hurdles. By
Dave Levitan, Yale Environment 360. Excerpt: With conventional wind
power facing a litany of obstacles — intermittency, space requirements,
not-in-my-backyard complaints — pushing wind power up into the
atmosphere could take a lot of uncertainty out of the equation. And
despite a host of technical and regulatory challenges, a growing number
of small companies are working hard to get up there within the next few
years, with numerous designs and ideas aimed at harvesting wind power
high in the sky…When it comes to really taking advantage of higher
altitude wind…reaching as high as the jet stream is the real prize. The
power density in Earth’s jet streams is around 100 times that of
sunlight hitting a standard photovoltaic cell…But the differences in
engineering requirements between flying a device at 1,000 feet and at
five or six miles are enormous....
2012-09-05. Europe to Investigate Chinese Exports of Solar Panels | by
Keith Bradsher, New York Times. Excerpt: ...It takes up to two years for a solar panel to
generate enough electricity to match the electricity that went into
manufacturing it, mostly for the polysilicon. …. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/business/global/eu-prepares-to-investigate-chinese-dumping-of-solar-panels.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120906
2012-08-09. The Search for Energy Takes a Turn Underwater
| by Jess Bidgood, New York Times. Excerpt: The fearsome tides that
sweep out from the easternmost shores of the United States have for more
than 80 years teased engineers and presidents like Franklin D.
Roosevelt, who have dreamed of harnessing their force to make
electricity. …And next week, a device that looks a bit like an eggbeater
turned sideways will be lowered into the water here to catch the energy
of the rushing water, spinning a generator that, come September, is
scheduled to begin sending power to the grid. …The Bay of Fundy has some
of the world’s highest tides, causing extreme currents that are pushed
even faster by the inlets and islands that speckle this rocky coast.
They will propel the turbine’s blades, which twist around like the helix
shape of DNA….When this project starts delivering electricity to the
grid under a power-purchasing agreement, it will be the first
tidal-power turbine to do so in the United States, says Steven G. Chalk,
the deputy assistant secretary for renewable energy. …The first turbine
generator unit has a maximum output of 180 kilowatts, which would power
about 30 homes. That is one-sixth the output of a typical wind turbine,
although TidGen will turn more than a wind turbine, since the currents
will push more consistently than wind. …. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/10/us/turbine-to-harness-the-tides-to-generate-power.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120810
2012-05-18. Tiles May Help Shrink Carbon Footprint by Harnessing Pedestrian Power
| by Thomas K. Grose, National Geographic News. Excerpt: This summer at
the largest urban mall in Europe, visitors may notice something
different at their feet. Twenty bright green rubber tiles will adorn one
of the outdoor walkways at the Westfield Stratford City Mall, which
abuts the new Olympic stadium in east London. …They are designed to
collect the kinetic energy created by the estimated 40 million
pedestrians who will use that walkway in a year, generating several
hundred kilowatt-hours of electricity from their footsteps. That's
enough to power half the mall's outdoor lighting. The slabs are produced
by Pavegen Systems, a London startup launched in 2009 by Laurence
Kemball-Cook, a fresh-faced, 26-year-old Londoner who developed his
clean energy idea while earning a degree in industrial design and
technology at Loughborough University. The 17.7-by-23.6-inch
(45-by-60-centimeter) tiles are designed to be used wherever pedestrians
congregate en masse: transportation hubs such as train, subway, and bus
stations; airports; schools; malls; bustling shopping avenues. The
power generated from millions of footfalls can be used to operate a
range of low-power applications, including lighting, signs, digital ads,
and Wi-Fi zones. …On average, one footstep generates 7 watts of
electricity, though the amount varies depending on a person's weight.
Each step pushes the rubber down a mere 5 millimeters, or a fraction of
an inch. …The tiles have also impressed Matthew Baxter, the head
teacher (principal) at Langton Grammar—Kemball-Cook's alma mater—who
said his 1,100 "boisterous boys" have truly put them to a punishing test
over the past two years. "They've taken a pummeling, but they're fine."
While initially a novelty that students delighted in jumping on, the
slabs have since become a normal part of the school—albeit one that's
encouraged the boys to think about clean energy. … Read the full
2012 May 29. Into the Wild Green Yonder.
By Jeff Turrentine, OnEarth. Excerpt: In a February speech, President
Obama gave a shout-out to the technology that helped make this flight
possible. Algae-derived biofuel, he said, was part of a larger national
plan to wean us from foreign petroleum while significantly reducing
atmospheric carbon levels. This technology isn't in the blue-sky or even
beta-testing stage of the R&D sequence. It has already been proved
in the lab, and it's now being proved in the marketplace, where some
very big clients -- among them major airlines, the U.S. Navy, and Bunge,
one of the world's largest agribusiness conglomerates -- are placing
orders for millions of gallons of algae-derived biofuel from dozens of
manufacturers…Algae-derived hydrocarbon has been something of a biofuel
holy grail for decades now. Scientists have long known that the yucky
green film commonly found covering ponds and poorly tended fish tanks
can take two of the planet's easiest-to-find ingredients -- light and
CO2 -- and turn them into one of the scarcest: oil. And the word
renewable doesn't quite do this biofuel feedstock justice: a patch of
algae can double in size in a few hours....
2012 Jun 20. EBay Plans Data Center That Will Run on Alternative Energy Fuel Cells.
By JAMES GLANZ, The NY Times. Excerpt: EBay plans to build a data
center to handle its billions of dollars in retail transactions that
will draw its power from alternative energy fuel cells rather than the
national power grid, which is heavily dependent on coal plants. It will
be the first major tech company to use alternative power as a primary
source for energy-hungry data centers, although the new center will
connect to the electricity grid for backup. Environmental groups have
issued a series of rebukes to Internet companies because of their heavy
reliance on coal-fired power to run their centers…EBay plans to use
about six million watts of power generated on-site by fuel cells, which
are a substantially cleaner and more efficient source of energy than
coal, in its new data center in South Jordan, Utah…Bloom Energy, a
private company in Sunnyvale, Calif., will make the fuel cells. The new
center will double the size of an existing data center there, which will
still be on the grid. The grid will serve mainly as a backup power
source for the new center. Even so, the fuel cells will account for less
than 15 percent of the energy needs of all eBay data centers around the
country — a clue that the industry is likely to remain deeply dependent
on the grid and its energy mix indefinitely.....
2012 Jun 04. Solar Panels Set Off a Fairness Debate.
By Diane Cardwell, The NY Times. Excerpt: As…tens of thousands
of…residential and commercial customers switch to solar in
California,…utilities not only lose valuable customers that help support
the costs of the power grid but also have to pay them for the power
they generate. Ultimately, the utilities say, the combination will lead
to higher rate increases for everyone left on the traditional electric
system. “Low-income customers can’t put on solar panels — let’s be
blunt,” said David K. Owens, executive vice president of the Edison
Electric Institute, which represents utilities. “So why should a
low-income customer have their rates go up for the benefit of someone
who puts on a solar panel and wants to be credited the retail rate?” The
net metering benefit, which is available to residential and commercial
customers with renewable energy systems in more than 40 states and has
helped spur a boom in solar installations, is at the heart of a battle.
Utilities, consumer advocates and renewable energy developers across the
country are fighting over how much financial help to give to solar
power and, to a lesser extent, other technologies. Regulators are in the
middle, weighing the societal benefits of renewables as well as how
best to spread the costs. Net metering has been so popular that several
states are rapidly approaching regulatory limits on how many systems are
eligible, meaning new customers have no assurance they can reap the
same rewards. The solar industry, which is growing in size and
influence, has been pressing to raise those limits to continue to
encourage rooftop installations, while the utilities have generally been
2012 May 10. Science
Academies Issue 'G-Science' Statements to Call World Leaders' Attention
to How Science and Technology Can Help Solve Global Challenges. By
William Skane and William Kearney, The National Academies. Excerpt:
National science academies from 15 countries issued joint statements
today calling on world leaders who are about to meet at the upcoming G8
Summit and other international gatherings this year to give greater
consideration to the vital role science and technology could play in
addressing some of the planet's most pressing challenges. The
"G-Science" statements recommend that governments engage the
international research community in developing systematic, innovative
solutions to three global dilemmas: how to simultaneously meet water and
energy needs; how to build resilience to natural and technological
disasters; and how to more accurately gauge countries' greenhouse gas
emissions to verify progress toward national goals or international
commitments... one of the G-Science statements says insufficient
attention is being paid to the links between energy and water or, in
other words, to the fact that energy requires water and water requires
energy. Without considering water and energy together, inefficiencies
will occur, increasing shortages of both, the statement warns. It
recommends that policymakers recognize the direct interaction between
water and energy by pursuing policies that integrate the two, and
emphasize conservation and efficiency. Regional and global cooperation
will also be required....
2012 May 10. Solar Installers Offer Deals, Gaining Converts
| by DIANE CARDWELL, The New York Times. Excerpt: Jay Nuzzi, a New
Jersey state trooper, had put off installing solar panels on his home
here for years, deterred by the $70,000 it could cost. Then on a trip to
Home Depot, he stumbled across a booth for Roof Diagnostics, which
offered him a solar system at a price he couldn’t refuse: free. Similar
deals are being struck with tens of thousands of homeowners and
businesses across the country. Installers, often working through big-box
chains like Home Depot or Lowe’s, are taking advantage of hefty tax
breaks, creative financing techniques and a glut of cheap, Chinese-made
panels to make solar power accessible to the mass market for the first
time. The number of residential and commercial installations more than
doubled over the last two years to 213,957, according to Greentech
Media, a research firm. Major players in the installation business, like
SolarCity, Sunrun and Sungevity, are thriving even as the other side of
the industry — solar module makers — has been squeezed to the breaking
point by fierce competition from Chinese manufacturers.
2012 Apr 25. Solar cells must emit light to attain perfection, research suggests
| By James Holloway, ars technica. Excerpt: …Researchers at the
University of California-Berkeley claim to have hit upon a
counterintuitive means of boosting the efficiency of flatplate solar
cells by making them emit light. "What we demonstrated is that the
better a solar cell is at emitting photons, the higher its voltage and
the greater the efficiency it can produce," said principal researcher,
UC Berkeley Professor of Electrical Engineering Eli Yablonovitch. To
briefly recap the mechanism behind the photovoltaic effect itself,
photons from some external light source (the sun, preferably) entering a
solar cell excite the electrons in the semiconductor into higher energy
states. This frees them from confinement so that they can convey
current. (The charge itself is created by using two materials. Free
electrons find it easier to move in one direction between the materials,
creating a negative charge in one and a positive charge in the other.)
…In June, 2011, Alta Devices, a company cofounded by Yablonovitch,
announced it had achieved an efficiency of 28.2 percent in its gallium
arsenide-based solar panels (the previous record of 26.4 percent having
been achieved in 2010). The boost of almost two percent may sound
modest, but when closing in on the Shockley-Queisser limit, every tenth
of a percent counts. The Shockley-Queisser limit is the theoretical
maximum efficiency—33.7 percent—at which single p-n junction flatplate
cells can operate….
2012 Mar 26. A Smaller Route to Solar Success
| By Matthew L. Wald, New York Times Green Blog. Excerpt: There are at
least a dozen major ways to turn sunlight into electricity, but one of
the more interesting is using a field of mirrors to focus the sun’s
energy on a “power tower” where the heat is captured and used later to
spin a turbine and turn a generator… But now comes a new player with a
different concept: build the tower, but on a smaller, simpler scale, and
skip the storage in favor of using using biogas or natural gas to power
the system after dark….
…For solar, the big issue is the early evening: “Solar bows out at 5
p.m., Mr. Rosenzweig noted. But that’s when peak demand begins — people
come home, turn on the air conditioner full blast, put dinner in the
oven or microwave and turn on television sets in the ensuing hours, he
said. Rather than building a system with storage, which requires an
oversize gathering system to take in more sun than is required for
instant generation, Aora decided that it was easier to equip its system
to burn natural gas, using most of the original hardware….
2012 Mar 18. Focus on technology overlooks human behavior when addressing climate change.
University of Oregon Media Relations. Excerpt: Technology alone won't
help the world turn away from fossil fuel-based energy sources, says
University of Oregon sociologist Richard York. In a newly published
paper, York argues for a shift in political and economic policies to
embrace the concept that continued growth in energy consumption is not
…"In terms of governmental policies, we need to be thinking about social
context, not just the technology," York said. "We need to be asking
what political and economic factors are conducive to seeing real
displacement. Just developing non-fossil fuel sources doesn't in itself
tend to reduce fossil fuel use a lot — not enough. We need to be
thinking about suppressing fossil fuel use rather than just coming up
with alternatives alone."…
2012 Mar 21. Obama Tours Four States to Defend Energy Policy; by Jackie Calmes, New York Times. Excerpt:
BOULDER CITY, Nev. …The president’s visits to Nevada and New Mexico on
Wednesday opened a four-state trip over two days to highlight what he
calls his “all of the above” agenda to foster alternative energy
sources, as well as oil and gas, with federal tax and spending
incentives. …Mr. Obama told a small audience at the nation’s largest
solar energy installation, Sempra Energy’s Copper Mountain Solar 1
Facility, which now provides power for 17,000 homes in California and is
building additional acres of solar panels to create energy for 110,000
more, according to the company …“The current members of the flat earth
society in Congress, they would rather see us continue to provide $4
billion — $4 billion — in tax subsidies, tax giveaways, to the oil
companies,” Mr. Obama said. “Every time you fill up at the pump, they’re
making money,” he added.
Such language sets up a Senate vote,
perhaps next week, on a Democratic proposal to repeal $2 billion in tax
subsidies for the biggest oil companies and dedicate that sum to clean
energy projects. But the measure is expected to fall short ….
2012 March 14. New Solar Panels Blossomed Despite a Tough Year for the Industry.
By Diane Cardwell, The NY Times. Excerpt: …By the numbers, 2011 was a
banner year for all those sparkling blue modules, according to a report
published on Wednesday by the Solar Energy Industries Association and
GTM Research. About 1,855 megawatts of new photovoltaic capacity was
installed, more than double the 887 megawatts of the year before. The
number of large-scale installations grew as well, to 28 from just 2 in
2012 February 5. Sacrificing the desert to save the Earth.
By Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times. Excerpt: …BrightSource Energy's
Ivanpah solar power project will soon be a humming city with 24-hour
lighting, a wastewater processing facility and a gas-fired power plant.
To make room, BrightSource has mowed down a swath of desert plants,
displaced dozens of animal species and relocated scores of imperiled
desert tortoises, a move that some experts say could kill up to a third
Despite its behemoth footprint, the Ivanpah project has slipped easily
into place, unencumbered by lasting legal opposition or public outcry
from California's boisterous environmental community….
…Industrial-scale solar development is well underway in California,
Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. The federal government
has furnished more public property to this cause than it has for oil and
gas exploration over the last decade — 21 million acres, more than the
area of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties put
together…. Even if only a few of the proposed projects are built,
hundreds of square miles of wild land will be scraped clear. Several
thousand miles of power transmission corridors will be created. ...
The desert will be scarred well beyond a human life span, and no amount
of mitigation will repair it, according to scores of federal and state
2012 January 30. Canadian Wilderness Poised for a Uranium Boom.
By Ed Struzik, Yale Environment 360. Excerpt: …In spite of the global
recession of 2008 and the March 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima
Nuclear Power Plant, which caused some countries to reconsider nuclear
power, uranium exploration is proceeding at a record pace in this part
of the world….
…The Inuit are split on the wisdom of large-scale uranium mining in
their territory, with some saying their communities desperately need the
economic development, while others are concerned about the
environmental fallout from the industry. With a population of just
30,000 mostly Inuit people living in a territory the size of Western
Europe, Nunavut — which contains a sizeable part of mainland Canada as
well as most of the country’s Arctic Archipelago, extending nearly to
the North Pole — remains the largest undisturbed wilderness in the
northern hemisphere. Though some mining roads exist, not a single road
connects its 25 communities. As a result, some of the biggest caribou
herds in the world — ranging in size from 65,000 to more than 400,000 —
2012 Dec. UC Davis West Village--A visionary model for 21st century living.
By Clifton B. Parker and Kat Berlin. …West Village is planned as the
country's largest "zero net energy" community, which means it is
designed to generate as much energy as it consumes. Zero net energy has
never been attempted on a scale the size of West Village. Anywhere. It
is an experiment, a "living laboratory," as one campus official says.
…When completed, the 130-acre site will be home to about 3,000 students,
faculty and staff in 662 apartments and 343 single-family houses. …West
Village is not some ivory tower utopian community. It is market-tested
and supported — most of the $300 million needed to build the site came
from San Francisco real estate developers Carmel Partners, which joined
forces with Urban Villages of Denver on the project. ...The project
broke ground in August 2009. …West Village will rely on two strategies
to achieve the zero net goal — aggressive efficiency measures and
on-site power generation. If built to current code, the completed
portions of West Village would consume 22 million kilowatt hours of
electricity a year. But by employing aggressive energy efficiency
measures, planners project the annual total will come to about 11
million kilowatt hours, a 50 percent reduction....
2012 Jan 10. Biomass and Electricity, Part 2.
By Matthew L. Wald, The NY Times Green Blog. Excerpt: …On Tuesday, a
company in Hillsboro, Ore., ClearEdge Power, announced a deal with an
Austrian company, Güssing Renewable Energy, to supply 8.5 megawatts of
fuel cells that would run on methane made from renewable sources. The
companies said the 8.5 megawatts would be in place within three years,
and the longer-term goal is 50 megawatts by 2020….
...The company takes wood chips and crop wastes and gasifies them, which
means that it zaps them into a fuel gas made of carbon monoxide and
hydrogen. It then rearranges those molecules to make methane and carbon
dioxide. The carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere, yes; but if
the original source of the carbon was trees or crops, then regrowing
those would mean that the carbon dioxide would be reabsorbed from the
atmosphere. The company’s goal is to
build carbon-neutral communities....
…ClearEdge builds a five-kilowatt module that takes in natural gas and
converts it to hydrogen and carbon dioxide. It then runs the hydrogen
through a fuel cell to make electric current. It is about the size of a
...The 8.5 megawatts will be met by 1,700 of the five-kilowatt units;
some of them will stand alone while others will be grouped in office
buildings, multifamily residential buildings and similar settings….
2012 January 2. Storehouses for Solar Energy Can Step In When the Sun Goes Down.
By Matthew L. Wald, the NY Times. Excerpt: If solar energy is
eventually going to matter — that is, generate a significant portion of
the nation’s electricity — the industry must overcome a major stumbling
block... finding a way to store it for use when the sun isn’t shining.
That challenge seems to be creating an opening for a different form of
power, solar thermal, which makes electricity by using the sun’s heat to
boil water. The water can be used to heat salt that stores the energy
until later, when the sun dips and households power up their appliances
and air-conditioning at peak demand hours in the summer....
Two California companies are planning to deploy the storage
technology... Together, the four projects will be capable of powering
tens of thousand of households throughout a summer evening....
2011, December 28. In Solar Power, India Begins Living Up to Its Own Ambitions.
By Vikas Bajaj, The NY Times. Excerpt: ...Two years ago, Indian policy
makers said that by the year 2020 they would drastically increase the
nation’s use of solar power from virtually nothing to 20,000 megawatts —
enough electricity to power the equivalent of up to 3.3 million modern
American homes during daylight hours when the panels are at their most
productive. Many analysts said it could not be done. But, now the
doubters are taking back their words....
...This month, the government held its second auction to determine the
price at which its state-owned power trading company — NTPC Vidyut
Vyapar Nigam — would buy solar-generated electricity for the national
grid. The average winning bid was 8.77 rupees (16.5 cents) per kilowatt
hour.... That is about twice the price of coal-generated power, but it
was about 27 percent lower than the winning bids at the auction held a
year ago. ...
2011 November 12. A Gold Rush of Subsidies in the Search for Clean Energy.
By Eric Lipton and Clifford Krauss, The NY Times. Excerpt: …A great
deal of attention has been focused on Solyndra, a start-up that received
$528 million in federal loans to develop cutting-edge solar technology
before it went bankrupt, but nearly 90 percent of the $16 billion in
clean-energy loans guaranteed by the federal government since 2009 went
to subsidize... lower-risk power plants, which in many cases were backed
by big companies with vast resources….
...The windfall for the industry over the last three years raises
questions of whether the Obama administration and state governments went
too far in their support of solar and wind power projects, some of
which would have been built anyway, according to the companies involved.
Obama administration officials argue that the incentives, which began on
a large scale late in the Bush administration but were expanded by the
stimulus legislation, make economic and environmental sense. Beyond the
short-term increase in construction hiring, they say, the cleaner air
and lower carbon emissions will benefit the country for decades….
2011-10-17. Fishing for wind: Nature inspires more efficient wind turbines | by Marcus Y. Woo, Engineering & Science
Volume LXXIV, Number 2, Spring/Summer 2011. Excerpt: …John Dabiri…
was studying how air flows around solid structures… trying to make wind
turbines work efficiently amid the swirling gusts near buildings and
skyscrapers, providing a source of renewable energy for cities. But as
he played with the equations, he realized that they looked a lot like
the ones that govern the flow of water through a school of swimming
fish. …Nature is often quite the engineer, and—mathematically, at
least—the fluid dynamics around swimming fish are more or less optimized
for efficiency. Once he saw the connection between fish schools and
wind turbines, it seemed natural to put them together. … if every
currently existing wind turbine were churning out as much power as
possible, the United States would have the capacity to generate some 40
billion watts of wind power, which would account for 2 percent of the
nation’s electricity. The maximum potential capacity of land-based wind
power in the continental United States is estimated to be about 10
trillion watts, or terawatts (TW). Building wind farms on every suitable
patch of land in the world could provide 75 to 100 TW. Considering that
global power consumption was about 15 TW in 2008, wind could—in
principle—power the entire planet. …But one big problem with wind power
is that conventional turbines—the ones that resemble huge propellers—
need a lot of space. …Wind power is generally considered a mature
technology. In theory, wind turbines can convert 60 percent of wind
energy into electricity. In practice, the best are already at 50
percent. …Dabiri’s fish-inspired wind farms use the lesser-known
vertical-axis turbine, which looks a little like an eggbeater jutting
out from the ground. When fish swim, they leave a horizontal row of
regularly spaced vortices in their wakes; what would happen, he
wondered, if he placed his downwind turbines in those vortices, and let
them spin the turbines? …Individually, a vertical-axis turbine is less
efficient than its monolithic cousin. But taken as a group, they can be
positioned to squeeze as much power as possible from a given plot of
land. Horizontal-axis turbines only capture the wind that blows through
the circles swept by their blades, allowing precious energy to escape
through the gaps between them. Vertical axis turbines, on the other
hand, can be bunched together until they’re almost touching, harnessing
the energy of almost all the air that blows by. …Vertical-axis turbines
have other advantages. They’re safer for birds. And instead of being
100-meter tall structures … vertical-axis turbines are around 10 meters
tall. Because they’re quieter and smaller, they can be distributed more
widely and can be built closer to population centers.... Read the full
2011 September 26. Solar Oven Outhouse for Safer Fertilizer.
By Donald G. McNeil Jr., The NY Times. Excerpt: Human waste makes good
fertilizer, but it can be smelly and dangerous to handle when fresh….
…A team from the Georgia Institute of Technology has designed an
outhouse vault with a “window” of translucent plastic that turns it into
a solar oven. “If you can heat the waste up enough, you can kill
everything,” said Emily Woods, a team member. “You can kill ascaris in
two hours at 60 degrees centigrade. We’ve gotten the vault up to between
80 degrees and 90 degrees in tests.”….
2011 August 21. Why go offshore?
Physics Today. Excerpt: The Cambridge University Energy Network's
annual conference in June gave engineers and economists fresh
perspectives and updates on offshore wind energy. Peter Tavner, of
Durham University's School of Engineering and Computing Sciences and
president of the European Academy of Wind Energy, introduced the
conference by advocating wind energy as a technology that could offer
high returns in the future. But he and the other speakers at the
conference emphasized that before wind can be considered a viable
renewable energy source, financial, technical, and political issues must
2011 July 26. The bright future of solar powered factories.
By Kris De Decker, Low-tech Magazine. Excerpt: Most of the talk about
renewable energy is aimed at electricity production. However, most of
the energy we need is heat, which solar panels and wind turbines cannot
produce efficiently. To power industrial processes like the making of
chemicals, the smelting of metals or the production of microchips, we
need a renewable source of thermal energy. Direct use of solar energy
can be the solution, and it creates the possibility to produce renewable
energy plants using only renewable energy plants, paving the way for a
truly sustainable industrial civilization. It is often assumed that our
energy problems are solved when renewables reach 'grid parity' - the
point at which they can generate electricity for the same price as
fossil fuels. But to truly compete with fossil fuels, renewables must
also reach 'thermal parity'…
We tend to see solar energy as yet another way to generate electricity,
using photovoltaic panels or solar thermal power plants. But solar
energy can also be applied directly, without the intermediate step of
2011 Summer. How It Works: Concentrating Solar Power.
By Laura Wisland, Union of Concerned Scientists. Excerpt: …if you have
ever used a magnifying glass to ignite a piece of paper, you have
dabbled in a primitive form of concentrating solar power (CSP). CSP (or
solar thermal) plants apply this principle on a much larger scale,
creating intense heat to generate clean, carbon-free electricity…
…The choice of CSP technology is often driven by location-specific
factors, but steam-driven systems have benefited from the fact that they
use the same turbines as conventional gas- and coal-fired power plants,
allowing them to be deployed more quickly and at a lower cost than
technologies that require fully customized parts. In addition, unlike
some other renewable energy technologies, CSP systems that use trough or
tower technology can store the heat they collect and use it to generate
electricity when the sun is not shining. The heat is either stored as a
hot liquid or transferred to another substance like molten salt or
graphite... This thermal storage capability makes CSP more competitive
with large coal and nuclear plants in terms of both output and
2011 April. Tapping Into Wind Power. Union of concerned Scientists.
This is the first installment of “Renewables: Energy You Can Count On,”
a series of short reports that explore the benefits and challenges as-
sociated with bringing more clean, homegrown electricity to the grid.
2011 April 11. Seizing the Smart Energy Opportunity.
By L. Hunter Lovins, Greenbiz.com Excerpt: Investing in energy
efficiency and renewable energy will generate jobs and help build strong
companies, communities, and countries…The new green energy economy will
generate new manufacturing businesses, jobs retrofitting existing
buildings, opportunities to build and manage the new decentralized
energy system, the ability to revitalize farm income from biofuels, wind
farms, etc… In April 2010, Michael Weinhold, chief technical officer of
Siemens’s Energy Sector and an engineer, described to students at
Berlin’s Technical University how new ideas have shifted his focus from
implementing small technical improvements to concerns of greater social
responsibility. “We engineers need to make the energy system
sustainable, so that the world can avert catastrophic climate change,”
he said. “Siemens already is showing politicians what’s possible.” He
described some of the company’s recent work: free-floating offshore wind
turbines; the world’s largest gas turbine in the combined-cycle process
with a record-setting 60 percent efficiency; a new high-voltage
direct-current (DC) power line in China that moves 5 gigawatts of
CO2-free hydropower across about 1,400 kilometers at about 95 percent
2011 April 11. Gulf’s Complexity and Resilience Seen in Studies of Oil Spill.
By Leslie Kaufman, The New York Times.Excerpt: In the year since the
wellhead beneath the Deepwater Horizon rig began spewing rust-colored
crude into the northern Gulf of Mexico, scientists have been working
frantically to figure out what environmental harm really came of the
largest oil spill in American history…
…Biologists are nervously monitoring as yet unexplained dolphin
strandings this year, trying to come up with a realistic count of birds
and mammals killed during the spill and working to understand what
happens when the gulf floor is covered with the remains of oil-eating
…How the regional ecosystem has responded, its strengths and weaknesses,
will keep scientists busy analyzing data for years and help them in
understanding the effects of environmental disasters.
2011 January 15. Solar Panel Maker Moves Work to China.
By Keith Bradsher, The NY Times. Excerpt: ...Evergreen Solar emerged
in the last three years as the third-largest maker of solar panels in
the United States. But now the company is closing its main American
factory, laying off the 800 workers by the end of March and shifting
production to a joint venture with a Chinese company in central China.
Evergreen cited the much higher government support available in
...Beyond the issues of trade and jobs, solar power experts see broader
implications. They say that after many years of relying on unstable
governments in the Middle East for oil, the United States now looks
likely to rely on China to tap energy from the sun....
2011 Jan 5. Many projects in renewable energy research and development underway.
What are the pros and cons of renewable energy development? What are
the environmental impacts of various renewable energy developments? Will
such projects actually reduce our reliance on fossil fuels overall?
Should the government be providing billions of dollars to build
facilities on public lands that have been set aside for protection? What
are the environmental impacts in various ecosystems and how might they
be mitigated effectively?
2010 December 24. African Huts Far From the Grid Glow With Renewable Power.
By Elisabeth Rosenthal, NYTimes.Excerpt: …As small-scale renewable
energy becomes cheaper, more reliable and more efficient, it is
providing the first drops of modern power to people who live far from
slow-growing electricity grids and fuel pipelines in developing
countries. Although dwarfed by the big renewable energy projects that
many industrialized countries are embracing to rein in greenhouse gas
emissions, these tiny systems are playing an epic, transformative role….
…Yet while these off-grid systems have proved their worth, the lack of
an effective distribution network or a reliable way of financing the
start-up costs has prevented them from becoming more widespread....
2010 November 25. In California, Carports That Can Generate Electricity.
By Felicity Barringer, The NY Times.Excerpt: …Ersatz roofs made of
solar panels have sprouted above dozens of school parking lots in the
state, altering vistas and promoting a philosophy of green thinking
among the young...
...By forming partnerships with banks and other backers, school
districts get guarantees of reliably cheap electricity for their
buildings for as long as 20 years. The institutions, which finance the
systems and sell the electricity back to the schools, also receive tax
incentives from the federal and state governments…
2010 November 8. The Ultimate Roller Coaster Ride: A Brief History of Fossil Fuels.
Narrated by Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon. Excerpt: And now, for your
viewing and sharing pleasure we bring you 300 years of fossil fueled
growth in 5 minutes.
2010 October 19. A Cheaper Route to Solar Cells.
By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times. Excerpt: A company that
secured a Department of Energy grant to pursue a breakthrough idea in
the manufacture of solar cells plans to announce on Tuesday that it has
raised $20 million to commercialize its technique, which it says will
reduce the price of solar panels by 40 percent.
The company, 1366 Technologies of Lexington, Mass., has found a simpler
way to produce the basic building block of solar cells: silicon
...The cell has other refinements, including finer wires to conduct away
the electrons, so the shadow cast on the energy-gathering area is
smaller. And the company drills small holes into the cast wafer to give
it a honeycomb appearance, which allows light to bounce around inside
the crevices, producing better absorption and less reduction...
2010 August 26. Wind Turbine Project Runs Into Resistance.
By Leora Broydo Vestel, The New York Times. Excerpt: ...Moving
turbine blades can be indistinguishable from airplanes on many radar
systems, and they can even cause blackout zones in which planes
disappear from radar entirely. Clusters of wind turbines, which can
reach as high as 400 feet, look very similar to storm activity on
weather radar, making it harder for air traffic controllers to give
accurate weather information to pilots.
...Moving turbine blades can be indistinguishable from airplanes on many
radar systems, and they can even cause blackout zones in which planes
disappear from radar entirely. Clusters of wind turbines, which can
reach as high as 400 feet, look very similar to storm activity on
weather radar, making it harder for air traffic controllers to give
accurate weather information to pilots.
...In 2009, about 9,000 megawatts of proposed wind projects were
abandoned or delayed because of radar concerns raised by the military
and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a member survey by
the American Wind Energy Association. That is nearly as much as the
amount of wind capacity that was actually built in the same year, the
trade group says.
...Part of the challenge is that many radar systems in use in the United
States date back to the 1950s and have outdated processing capabilities
— in some cases, less than those of a modern laptop computer. While
there are technology fixes to ease interference on these aging systems,
it can be tricky to filter out just the turbines. ...
2010 August 18. Finding New Ways to Fill the Tank.
By Matthew L. Wald. The New York Times. Excerpt:...The work is part of
the mission of the new Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, which
is intended to finance high-risk, high-reward projects... ...The goal
of this agency, whose budget is $400 million for two years, is to
realize profound results — such as tens of millions of motor vehicles
that would run 300 miles a day on electricity from clean sources or on
liquid fuels from trees and garbage...
...One miracle would be a better battery... ....A team at an infant
company is using tiny carbon structures called nanotubes to store
electricity. The goal is to create something the size of a flashlight
battery, holding only about 30 percent as much energy, but able to
charge or discharge in two seconds, almost forever... ...That kind of
battery is called a capacitor... ...a capacitor was the original
battery... ...The walls of the tubes are about 12 atoms thick, and they
grow, like leaves of grass, with just enough space between them to
provide docking stations for charged particles. So a lot of charged
particles can fit into a small space, with very light structures...
...Because the connection is physical, not chemical, the charged
particles can attach and detach almost instantly. The result is a small,
light, powerful package... ...The walls of the tubes are about 12 atoms
thick, and they grow, like leaves of grass, with just enough space
between them to provide docking stations for charged particles. So a lot
of charged particles can fit into a small space, with very light
structures... ...Because the connection is physical, not chemical, the
charged particles can attach and detach almost instantly. The result is a
small, light, powerful package... ...In batteries today, whether they
are lithium-ion or old-fashioned lead-acid, an atom shuttles between the
positive and negative terminal, carrying a single electron, as the
battery charges and discharges. But a magnesium atom would carry two
electrons, so a battery storing a given amount of energy could be nearly
halved in size and weight...
...Engineers have tried using steam, acids and enzymes to break
cellulose into useful sugars... ... So far, none are commercial, but
with Energy Department help, some researchers are trying new methods...
...Sugars — both the common kind that comes in paper packets for coffee
and some more exotic types — can be converted by yeast into ethanol, a
technology known since ancient times. Or they can be fed to gene-altered
bacteria that will excrete diesel or gasoline components. Or they can
be converted chemically, with catalysts...
...All these steps, including the tricky one of recovering sugar from
cellulose, can be done already, but not cheaply enough to produce tens
of billions of gallons a year.... ...The Energy Department is putting
$4.6 million into Agrivida, and similar sums into other start-up firms,
many of them intent on finding gasoline substitutes. It is, said one
department official, “real science fiction stuff,” ideas promising
enough to attract a few million dollars for research but not quite
promising enough to draw the private capital required for small-scale
2010 August 9. Portugal Gives Itself a Clean-Energy Makeover.
By Elisabeth Rosenthal. The New York Times.Excerpt: …To force
Portugal’s energy transition, [Prime Minister José] Sócrates’s
government restructured and privatized former state energy utilities to
create a grid better suited to renewable power sources. To lure private
companies into Portugal’s new market, the government gave them contracts
locking in a stable price for 15 years…
Compared with the United States, European countries have powerful
incentives to pursue renewable energy. Many, like Portugal, have little
fossil fuel of their own, and the European Union’s emissions trading
system discourages fossil fuel use by requiring industry to essentially
pay for excessive carbon dioxide emissions.
…Portugal is now on track to reach its goal of using domestically
produced renewable energy, including large-scale hydropower, for 60
percent of its electricity and 31 percent of its total energy needs by
…In making the shift, Portugal has overcome longstanding concerns about reliability and high cost.
…Portugal’s national energy transmission company, Redes Energéticas
Nacionais or R.E.N., uses sophisticated modeling to predict weather,
especially wind patterns, and computer programs to calculate energy from
the various renewable-energy plants. Since the country’s energy
transition, the network has doubled the number of dispatchers who route
energy to where it is needed.
…A 2009 report commissioned by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
estimated that the United States would have to spend $3 billion to $4
billion a year for the next two decades to create a grid that could
accommodate deriving 20 percent of electricity from wind power by
2030--a 40 percent to 50 percent increase over current spending.
2010 August 4. LBL NEWS RELEASE: New Study Sheds Light on U.S. Wind Power Market.
By Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Excerpt: …The
U.S. was one of the fastest-growing wind power markets in the world in
2009, second only to China, according to a report released today by the
U.S. Department of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National
…The 2009 edition of the “Wind Technologies Market Report” provides a
comprehensive overview of developments in the rapidly evolving U.S. wind
power market. The need for an annual report of this type has grown as
the wind power industry has entered an era of unprecedented expansion,
both globally and in the United States. … At the same time, as the
report documents, the past year has been one of upheaval. The global
financial crisis and lower wholesale electricity prices have negatively
impacted the near-term growth prospects for the wind power industry,
while new federal policies are pushing the industry towards continued
… The report analyzes trends in wind power capacity growth, industry and
manufacturing trends, turbine size, turbine prices, installed project
costs, project performance, wind power prices, and how wind prices
compare to the price of conventional generation. It also describes
trends among developers, project owners, and wind power purchasers, and
discusses financing issues. Finally, the report examines other factors
impacting the domestic wind power market, including grid integration,
transmission issues, and policy drivers. It concludes with a preview of
possible near-term market developments.
…Looking ahead, expectations are for a slower year in 2010. Lower
expectations stem from a combination of the financial crisis, lower
wholesale electricity prices, and lower demand for renewable energy.
Projections among industry analysts range from 5,500 MW to 8,000 MW of
wind power capacity likely to be installed in the United States in 2010,
a drop of 20 to 45 percent compared to the nearly 10,000 MW installed
in 2009. After a slower 2010, most predictions show market resurgence in
2011 and 2012, as programs funded by the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act mature and as financing constraints ease. Beyond 2012,
however, the picture is considerably less certain, because of the
scheduled expiration of a number of federal policies at the end of that
2010 July 27. Pushed Along By Wind, Power Storage Grows.
By Matthew. L. Wald, The New York Times. Excerpt: …As the wind
installations multiply, companies have found themselves dumping energy
late at night, adjusting the blades so they do not catch the wind,
because there is no demand for the power. And grid operators, accustomed
to meeting demand by adjusting supplies, are now struggling to maintain
stability as supplies fluctuate.
On the cutting edge of a potential solution is Hawaii, where state
officials want 70 percent of energy needs to be met by renewable sources
like the wind, sun or biomass by 2030. A major problem is that it is
impossible for generators on the islands to export surpluses to
neighboring companies or to import power when the wind towers are
... So the 30-megawatt wind farm [on the north shore of Oahu], which
will have enough power to run about 30 Super Wal-Marts, will have Xtreme
Power of Austin, Tex., install a 15-megawatt battery
…Computers will work to keep the battery exactly half-charged most hours
of the day… If the wind suddenly gets stronger or falls off, the
batteries will smooth out the flow so that the grid sees only a more
gradual increase or decrease, no more than one megawatt per minute at
some hours of the day.
…The Hawaii installation is designed to succeed at a crucial but obscure
function: frequency regulation. The alternating-current power system
has to run at a strict 60 cycles per second, and the battery system can
give and take power on a micro scale, changing directions from charge to
discharge or vice versa within that 60th of a second, to keep the pace
…Electric companies are using other strategies for storage and frequency
regulation. In Stephentown, N.Y., near Albany, a Massachusetts company,
Beacon Power, is building a bank of 200 one-ton flywheels that will
store energy from the grid on a moment-to-moment basis to keep the
alternating current system at a strict 60 cycles… Atop each flywheel is a
device that can be a motor at one moment and a generator the next,
either taking energy and storing it in the flywheel or vice versa
…The Energy Department is also supporting storage projects that rely on compressed air.
2010 July 14. Project's Fate May Predict the Future of Mining.
By Erik Eckholm, The New York Times. Excerpt: …Federal officials are
considering whether to veto mountaintop mining above a little
Appalachian valley called Pigeonroost Hollow, a step that could be a
turning point for one of the country’s most contentious environmental
…The Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration, in a
break with President George W. Bush’s more coal-friendly approach, has
threatened to halt or sharply scale back the project known as Spruce 1.
The agency asserts that the project would irrevocably damage streams and
wildlife and violate the Clean Water Act.
…Feelings run high in the counties right around the project area.
“Spruce 1 is extremely important to all of southern West Virginia
because if this permit is pulled back, every mine site is going to be
vulnerable to having its permits pulled,” said James Milan, manager of
Walker Machinery in Logan, which sells gargantuan Caterpillar equipment…
The loss of jobs, Mr. Milan said, would have devastating effects on
…In documents issued in March, the E.P.A. said the project as approved
would still smother seven miles of streamed… Filling in headwaters
damages the web of life downstream, from aquatic insects to salamanders
to fish, and temporary channels and rebuilt streams are no substitute,
the agency said. The pulverized rock can release toxic levels of
selenium and other pollutants, it noted...
2010 June 5. Imagining Life Without Oil, and Being Ready.
By John Leland, NY Times. Excerpt: …For Mrs. Wilkerson, 33, a moderate
Democrat from Oakton, Va., who designs computer interfaces, the spill
reinforced what she had been obsessing over for more than a year — that
oil use was outstripping the world’s supply. She worried about what
would come after: maybe food shortages, a collapse of the economy, a
breakdown of civil order. Her call was part of a telephone course about
how to live through it all.
…“Our whole economy depends on greater and greater energy supplies, and
that just isn’t possible,” he said. “I wish I could say we’ll quietly
accept having many millions of people unemployed, their homes
foreclosed. But it’s hard to see the whole country transitioning to a
low-energy future without people becoming angry. There’s going to be
quite a bit of social turmoil on the way down.
” …Transition US, a British transplant that seeks to help towns brace
for life after oil, including a “population die-off” from shortages of
oil, food and medicine, now has 68 official chapters around the country,
since starting with just two in 2008. Group projects range from
community vegetable gardens to creating local currency in case the
national one crashes.
…“It’s very difficult for people to hear that this form of the economy
is breaking down,” he said. “They think that because it hasn’t happened
yet that it won’t ever happen.”
2010 April 16. At Upstate Campus, Saving Energy Is Part of Dorm Life.
By Lisa W. Foderaro, NY Times. Excerpt: ITHACA, N.Y. — The Energy Star
label, the federal government’s nod of approval for energy-efficient
products, usually calls to mind household appliances like refrigerators
and air-conditioners. But at Ithaca College, a campus known for its
embrace of all things sustainable, two dormitories proudly wear the
Energy Star label, too.
The residence halls, Clarke and Hood, feature six-way zoned heating,
energy-efficient boilers, digitally controlled heating systems and ample
weather-stripping. They also benefit from a brigade of students on
campus, known as eco-reps, who cajole and exhort their peers to reduce
their carbon footprints. Among their duties is the posting of fliers
inside bathroom stalls, called installments. A recent missive urged
students to “beware of the phantom load,” energy used by appliances that
are turned off but still plugged in....
2010 March 15. POST CARBON EXCHANGE #1:
Richard Heinberg & Lester Brown. Some positive news on alternative
energy developments of wind in Texas and China as well as solar in N.
Africa and Europe in a short video clip (11 min) from the Post Carbon
Institute. ...Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg talks
with Lester Brown, Founder of the Earth Policy Institute, about
hopeful developments in alternative energy, as well as the importance of
Brown's updated path toward a sustainable future, "Plan B 4.0".
2010 Mar 9. Solar Industry Learns Lessons in Spanish Sun.
by Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times. Excerpt: PUERTOLLANO, Spain —
...Armed with generous incentives from the Spanish government to
jump-start a national solar energy industry, the city set out to replace
its failing coal economy by attracting solar companies, with a campaign
slogan: “The Sun Moves Us.” Soon, Puertollano, home to the Museum of
the Mining Industry, had two enormous solar power plants, factories
making solar panels and silicon wafers, and clean energy research
institutes. Half the solar power installed globally in 2008 was
installed in Spain. Farmers sold land for solar plants. Boutiques
opened. And people from all over the world, seeing business
opportunities, moved to the city, which had suffered from 20 percent
unemployment and a population exodus. But as low-quality, poorly
designed solar plants sprang up on Spain’s plateaus, Spanish officials
came to realize that they would have to subsidize many of them
indefinitely, and that the industry they had created might never produce
efficient green energy on its own.
In September the government abruptly changed course, cutting payments
and capping solar construction. Puertollano’s brief boom turned bust.
Factories and stores shut, thousands of workers lost jobs, foreign
companies and banks abandoned contracts that had already been
...Yet, despite the pain that Spain’s incentives ended up causing, in
many ways they fulfilled their promise, Ms. DeLine said. “Even though
incentives can create bubbles and bursts, without them this industry
won’t take off,” she said....
The most robust Spanish solar companies survived the downturn, have restructured and are re-emerging as global players.....
...When it was announced in the summer of 2007, Spain’s premium payment
for solar power was the most generous anywhere — 58 cents per
kilowatt-hour — with few strings attached. In retrospect it was far too
...Although Spain’s long-term goal had been to produce 400 megawatts of
electricity from solar panels by 2010, it reached that milestone by the
end of 2007.
In 2008 the nation connected 2.5 gigawatts of solar power into its grid,
more than quintupling its previous capacity and making it second to
Germany, the world leader. But many of the hastily opened plants offered
no hope of being cost-competitive with conventional power, being poorly
designed or located where sunshine was inadequate, for example.
...In Spain, the tariff, now adjusted quarterly, is about 39 cents per
kilowatt-hour for electricity from freestanding solar power plants, and
slightly higher for panels on rooftops.
Germany’s tariff, 53 cents per kilowatt-hour, is expected to fall at
least 15 percent this summer, and there are proposals before Parliament
to eliminate subsidies for solar plants on farmland....
2010 January 28. Laser fusion test results raise energy hopes.
By Jason Palmer, BBC News. Excerpt: A major hurdle to producing fusion
energy using lasers has been swept aside, results in a new report show.
The controlled fusion of atoms - creating conditions like those in our
Sun - has long been touted as a possible revolutionary energy source.
However, there have been doubts about the use of powerful lasers for
fusion energy because the "plasma" they create could interrupt the
fusion. An article in Science showed the plasma is far less of a problem
The report is based on the first experiments from the National Ignition
Facility (Nif) in the US that used all 192 of its laser beams.
..."For the first time ever in the 50-year journey of laser fusion,
these laser-plasma interactions have been shown to be less of a problem
than predicted, not more," said Mike Dunne, director of the UK's Central
Laser Facility and leader of the European laser fusion effort known as
"I can't overstate how dramatic a step that is," he told BBC News. "Many
people a year ago were saying the project would be dead by now."
Adding momentum to the ignition quest, Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory announced on Wednesday that, since the Science results were
first obtained, the pulse energy record had been smashed again. They now
report an energy of one megajoule on target - 50% higher than the
amount reported in Science.
The current calculations show that about 1.2 megajoules of energy will
be enough for ignition, and currently Nif can run as high as 1.8
2010 January 4. Small-scale solar plan clashes with big energy. David R. Baker, SF Chronicle. Excerpt: When it comes to renewable power, Californians tend to think big.
Big wind farms sprawl across our hills. Big solar power plants will soon
blanket acres of desert. Big new power lines will bring that
electricity to our cities.
This, Bill Powers insists, is exactly the wrong approach. He wants us to think small.
Powers, an engineer and energy consultant, argues that California should
cover every available rooftop with photovoltaic solar panels,
especially commercial buildings. The panels can be installed quickly,
unlike large solar power plants that take years to win government
permits. They don't require big new power lines. And their price has
dropped about 40 percent in the past year.
... "The solar plants in the desert are albatrosses," Powers said.
"We've come to a point where (photovoltaic solar) is either going to be
in the remote installations or it's going to be in the urban core. It'll
be much more beneficial for those solar panels to be sitting in the
urban core where they're going to be used."
...Photovoltaic solar "in the urban core is a fundamental threat to the utility business model," Powers said.
..."Because of the economic and operational issues, I think we're going
to see large-scale, grid-connected power for a long, long time," said
Jonathan Marshall, a spokesman for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Many
environmentalists reluctantly agree.
...California has been trying to ramp up its use of renewable power as a
way to combat global warming. Under state law, 20 percent of the
electricity the utilities sell must come from renewable sources by the
end of 2010, a deadline they will probably miss.
...Photovoltaic solar panels have dropped in price, but the technology
remains more expensive than many other ways to generate electricity,
according to the California Energy Commission. All figures are given in
cents per kilowatt hour and include construction and operation costs.
Solar PV - 26.22*
Solar thermal (parabolic trough) - 22.47
Natural gas - 12.61
Geothermal - 8.31
Wind - 7.24
* Solar PV price assumes that the project is at least 25 megawatts in size. Source: California Energy Commission
2010 Jan 4. For Cape Cod Wind Farm, New Hurdle Is Spiritual.
By Abby Goodnough, The NY Times. Two Massachusetts Indian tribes have
objected to the Cape Wind project, saying it would block their unimpeded
view of the sunrise.
Excerpt: BOSTON - In a new setback for a controversial wind farm
proposed off Cape Cod, the National Park Service announced Monday that
Nantucket Sound was eligible for listing on the National Register of
Historic Places, guaranteeing further delays for the project.
Known as Cape Wind, the project is the nation's first planned offshore
wind farm and would cover 24 square miles in the sound, an area roughly
the size of Manhattan. The park service decision came in response to a
request from two Massachusetts Indian tribes, who said the 130 proposed
wind turbines would thwart their spiritual ritual of greeting the
sunrise, which requires unobstructed views across the sound, and disturb
ancestral burial grounds.
...The decision by the National Park Service did not kill the Cape Wind
plan, but it erected new hurdles by requiring more negotiations and,
possibly, changes to the project, like moving it.
...Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, said the
decision confirmed "what the Wampanoag people have known for thousands
of years: that Nantucket Sound has significant archaeological, historic
and cultural values and is sacred to our people."
Others said the finding was surprising because Nantucket Sound, which
encompasses more than 500 square miles, is by far the largest body of
water ever found eligible for listing on the national historic register.
Other eligible bodies of water have included Walden Pond in
Massachusetts, which covers about 60 acres, and Zuni Salt Lake in New
Mexico, which is about 6,500 feet across, said Jeffrey Olson, a
spokesman for the park service.
"The decision is without precedent in terms of implicating many square
miles of what is, legally speaking, the high seas," said Ian A. Bowles,
the Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs. "But as
a procedural matter, it's a good thing a decision was reached, and the
secretary is getting personally involved to get it over the finish
A spokeswoman for Mr. Salazar said he planned to meet next week with
representatives of the tribes and the developer in hopes of speeding a
2009 November 18. NSF Release 09-225: On the Crest of Wave Energy.
Excerpt: The ocean is a potentially vast source of electric power, yet
as engineers test new technologies for capturing it, the devices are
plagued by battering storms, limited efficiency, and the need to be
tethered to the seafloor.
Now, a team of aerospace engineers is applying the principles that keep
airplanes aloft to create a new wave-energy system that is durable,
extremely efficient, and can be placed anywhere in the ocean, regardless
While still in early design stages, computer and scale-model tests of
the system suggest higher efficiencies than wind turbines. The system is
designed to effectively cancel incoming waves, capturing their energy
while flattening them out, providing an added application as a
A colleague had read an article on wave energy in a magazine and
mentioned it to Siegel and the other team members, and they realized
they could operate a wave energy device using the same feedback control
concepts they had been developing....
2009 October 20. Study: Shifting the world to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030 - here are the numbers.
BY Louis Bergeron, Stanford Report. Excerpt: Most of the technology
needed to shift the world from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy
already exists. Implementing that technology requires overcoming
obstacles in planning and politics, but doing so could result in a 30
percent decrease in global power demand, say Stanford civil and
environmental engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and University of
California-Davis researcher Mark Delucchi.
...Jacobson and Delucchi used data from the U.S. Energy Information
Administration to project that if the world's current mix of energy
sources is maintained, global energy demand at any given moment in 2030
would be 16.9 terawatts, or 16.9 million megawatts.
They then calculated that if no combustion of fossil fuel or biomass
were used to generate energy, and virtually everything was powered by
electricity – either for direct use or hydrogen production – the demand
would be only 11.5 terawatts. That's only two-thirds of the energy that
would be needed if fossil fuels were still in the mix.
In order to convert to wind, water and solar, the world would have to
build wind turbines; solar photovoltaic and concentrated solar arrays;
and geothermal, tidal, wave and hydroelectric power sources to generate
the electricity, as well as transmission lines to carry it to the users,
but the long-run net savings would more than equal the costs, according
to Jacobson and Delucchi's analysis.
"If you make this transition to renewables and electricity, then you
eliminate the need for 13,000 new or existing coal plants," Jacobson
said. "Just by changing our infrastructure we have less power
2009 October 13. Governor signs bills that boost solar power.
By David R. Baker, SF Chronicle. Excerpt: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
signed several bills Sunday that will tweak the way California's
electricity market works, encouraging solar power and phasing out some
rules created during the state's electricity crisis.
One bill will require California utilities to buy surplus solar power
from homeowners who generate more than they use. Another bill will
expand the state's "feed-in tariff," a system that sets a price for
renewable power that utilities buy from businesses with midsize solar
Another piece of legislation will raise the electricity rates of
customers who use relatively little power, ending a rate freeze put in
place during the energy crisis of 2000-01. The same bill also will allow
a limited number of large electricity customers - such as businesses or
schools - to leave the utilities and buy power from other companies....
2009-08-26. A Sunny Day in Rizhao. http://www.onearth.org/article/a-sunny-day-in-rizhao.
Mara Hvistendahl, OnEarth magazine. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.
Excerpt: ...Rizhao ... population of about 2.8 million, ... is nestled
on the east coast of Shandong Province, roughly halfway between Beijing
and Shanghai. ...the gray concrete roofs of the apartment blocks are
dotted with elongated red and silver objects, as if a giant had
scattered a tray of oddly shaped marbles over the city. They are solar
water heaters, and Rizhao has almost a million of them. ...the city has
managed to harness the power of the sun -- which shines here for 260
days a year -- to serve the needs of some 99 percent of its urban
households. Solar water heaters first caught on in China in the 1980s,
when cities began to mushroom and people started moving out of housing
provided by their work units, buying new homes, and investing in
household appliances. At a couple hundred dollars each, the solar
heaters pay for themselves in a few years with savings on energy bills.
...The strength of the program lies in "leapfrogging" -- not developing
first and cleaning up afterward, as happened with the industrial
revolution in the West, but getting people hooked on solar energy as an
integral part of the development process. "There are lots of
opportunities [in China] because of rapid growth," explains Xuemei Bai,
an expert on climate and urban design at the Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organization, Australia's national science agency.
"You don't have to retrofit existing buildings." ...In 2008 it vowed to
go carbon neutral, becoming one of the first four cities to join the
United Nations Environment Program's Climate Neutral Network (the other
three cities are in Norway, Sweden, and Canada)....
2009 May 28. Hard Hats Swarm to Smart Energy.
By Liz Galst, NRDC OnEarth. Excerpt: On an early spring morning in a
classroom in New York City's hardscrabble East Harlem neighborhood, a
group of four dozen young adults listens intently to a presentation by
Elizabeth Yeampierre, president of the New York City Environmental
... Brandon Ingram, a Bronx native sitting in the front row, rises. He
wears the lozenge-shaped glasses of a budding hipster and holds aloft
Van Jones's best-selling 2008 book, The Green Collar Economy.
"I've been reading this," Ingram says, displaying the cover for all to
see. "I want everyone in the room to hear it." He reads aloud a passage
that spells out a bright green future for job seekers: in 2006, there
were 8.5 million jobs (and by the end of 2007, half a million new ones)
in renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, and the sector
produced nearly $1 trillion in revenue and more than $100 billion in
Ingram's colleagues are equally impressed. They are classmates in a
12-week green-construction training program run by Strive, a nonprofit
group based in New York City. For many of them, long unemployed, work in
the expanding green sector could be the break they've been waiting for.
The program teaches both "hard" and "soft" job skills. At the practical
level, students learn how to audit and then insulate a leaky house and
construct new, energy-efficient buildings. They also learn the basics of
public speaking and personal presentation -- hence all the snazzy ties
in the room....
Job training programs like Strive, offering skills in everything from
energy-efficiency retrofitting to the manufacture and maintenance of
wind turbines, are springing up across the country. Together they
represent a significant shift in the American workforce and, perhaps, in
the environmental movement. President Barack Obama's $787 billion
federal stimulus package promises at least $1 billion for green-job
training; millions more are being invested by foundations, state and
local governments, and private interests....
The idea that blue-collar occupations -- make that "green-collar"
occupations -- can help heal the earth while providing stable,
well-paying employment was once simply a fantasy of a few underfunded
dreamers. But in 2003 that fantasy came to life through the work of two
pioneering nonprofits: Sustainable South Bronx, in New York City, and Baltimore's Civic Works.
Now green-job training programs serve a broad spectrum of the
population and attract a scale of financial backing that surprises even
some of their earliest advocates....
2009 May 26. In Hot Pursuit of Fusion (or Folly).
By WILLIAM J. BROAD, NY Times. Excerpt: LIVERMORE, Calif. ..."Bringing
Star Power to Earth" reads a giant banner that was recently unfurled
across a building the size of a football stadium.
The $3.5 billion site is known as the National Ignition Facility, or
NIF. For more than half a century, physicists have dreamed of creating
tiny stars that would inaugurate an era of bold science and cheap
In theory, the facility's 192 lasers - made of nearly 60 miles of
mirrors and fiber optics, crystals and light amplifiers - will fire as
one to pulverize a fleck of hydrogen fuel smaller than a match head.
Compressed and heated to temperatures hotter than those of the core of a
star, the hydrogen atoms will fuse into helium, releasing bursts of
The project's director, Ed Moses, said that getting to the cusp of
ignition (defined as the successful achievement of fusion) had taken
some 7,000 workers and 3,000 contractors a dozen years, their labors
creating a precision colossus of millions of parts and 60,000 points of
control, 30 times as many as on the space shuttle.
...In February, NIF fired its 192 beams into its target chamber for the
first time.... skeptics dismiss NIF as a colossal delusion that is
squandering precious resources at a time of economic hardship. Just
operating it ... will cost $140 million a year. Some doubters ridicule
it as the National Almost Ignition Facility, or NAIF....
Dr. Moses, while offering no guarantees, argued that any great endeavor
involved risks and that the gamble was worth it because of the potential
He said that NIF, if successful, would help keep the nation's nuclear
arms reliable without underground testing, would reveal the hidden life
of stars and would prepare the way for radically new kinds of power
"If fusion energy works," he said, "you'll have, for all intents and
purposes, a limitless supply of carbon-free energy that's not
geopolitically sensitive. What more would you want? It's a game
2009 May 10. Efficient Power Use Attracts Investors From the Green Side.
By Claire Cain Miller, The NY Times.Excerpt: Venture capital is moving
away from alternative energy and returning to one of its traditional
strengths: improving the efficiency of energy consumption....
2009 May 7. Sea 'snake' generates electricity with every wave.
By Colin Barras, NewScientist. Excerpt: Anaconda, a giant rubber
"snake" that floats offshore and converts wave energy to electricity, is
a step closer to commercialisation. An 8-metre long, 1/25th scale
version is currently undergoing tests in a large wave tank in Gosport,
UK, and a full-size working version could be a reality in five years.
Harnessing the power of waves is an attractive proposition because they
are much more energy dense than wind. But wave power remains the poor
relation of the renewable energy sector due to the difficulties of
cheaply operating machinery in the harsh marine environment. The world's
first commercial wave farm only began operating last year, off the
northern coast of Portugal.
A variety of other designs are in testing around the world, but none are
as unusual as the Anaconda. The rubber snake is filled with freshwater –
to help deter sea creatures from setting up a home inside – and sealed
at both ends to create a semi-rigid balloon that floats at the sea's
The tube is anchored at one end and as waves wash along its length they
exert pressure on the snake that is transmitted by the water inside.
This forces Anaconda's walls to expand outwards into the wave troughs
where they are under less pressure, forming "bulge waves" that travel
along the Anaconda's length.
These waves are similar to those that pass through the human circulatory
system and can be felt as the pulse in the wrist and neck, says Rod
Rainey of Atkins Global, co-inventor of the Anaconda. When each bulge
wave reaches the end of the snake it keeps a turbine spinning to
2009 March/April. The Rooftop Revolution.
By Mariah Blake, Washington Monthly. Excerpt: A little-known policy is
turning sleepy central Florida into a green energy hub. Could it do the
same for America at large? This winter, as Congress was scrambling to
pass the stimulus package, the bottom fell out of the renewable energy
sector.... Trade groups like the American Wind Energy Association, which
as recently as December was forecasting "another record-shattering year
of growth," began predicting that new installations would plunge by 30
to 50 percent. Solar panel manufacturers that had been blazing a trail
of growth announced a wave of layoffs....
But there is one place where capital is still flowing: Gainesville,
Florida. ...Tim Morgan ... intends to rent roof space from eighty
Gainesville businesses and install twenty-five-kilowatt solar generating
systems on each of them, for a total of two megawatts-a project that
would nearly double Florida's solar-generating capacity. ...Paradigm
Properties, a residential real estate company, plans to install
photovoltaic arrays on fifty local apartment buildings and its downtown
headquarters. Achira Wood, a custom carpentry outlet, is plastering the
roof of its workshop-roughly 50,000 square feet of galvanized steel-with
solar panels. Interstate Mini Storage is doing the same with its
sprawling flat-roofed compound. Tom Lane, who owns ECS Solar Energy
Systems, a local solar contractor, told me he's planning to expand his
staff from eleven to at least fifty. "The activity we've seen is just
explosive," he said. "I've been in the business thirty years and I've
never seen anything like it."
Why is the renewable energy market in Gainesville booming while it's
collapsing elsewhere in the country? The answer boils down to policy. In
early February, the city became the first in the nation to adopt a
"feed-in tariff"-a clunky and un-descriptive name for a bold incentive
to foster renewable energy. Under this system, the local power company
is required to buy renewable energy from independent producers, no
matter how small, at rates slightly higher than the average cost of
production. This means anyone with a cluster of solar cells on their
roof can sell the power they produce at a profit. The costs of the
program are passed on to ratepayers, who see a small rise in their
electric bills (in Gainesville the annual increase is capped at 1
percent). While rate hikes are seldom popular, the community has rallied
behind this policy, because unlike big power plant construction-the
costs of which are also passed on to the public-everyone has the
opportunity to profit, either by investing themselves or by tapping into
the groundswell of economic activity the incentive creates....
2009 March 11. Atmospheric ‘Sunshade’ Could Reduce Solar Power Generation.
NOAA. Excerpt: The concept of delaying global warming by adding
particles into the upper atmosphere to cool the climate could
unintentionally reduce peak electricity generated by large solar power
plants by as much as one-fifth, according to a new NOAA study....
“Injecting particles into the stratosphere could have unintended
consequences for one alternative energy source expected to play a role
in the transition away from fossil fuels,” said author Daniel Murphy, a
scientist at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.
The Earth is heating up as fossil-fuel burning produces carbon dioxide,
the primary heat-trapping gas responsible for man-made climate change.
To counteract the effect, some geoengineering proposals are designed to
slow global warming by shading the Earth from sunlight.
...Murphy found that particles in the stratosphere reduce the amount and
change the nature of the sunlight that strikes the Earth. Though a
fraction of the incoming sunlight bounces back to space (the cooling
effect), a much larger amount becomes diffuse, or scattered, light.
On average, for every watt of sunlight the particles reflect away from
the Earth, another three watts of direct sunlight are converted to
diffuse sunlight. Large power-generating solar plants that concentrate
sunlight for maximum efficiency depend solely on direct sunlight and
cannot use diffuse light....
2009 Feb 27. Selling the Sun.
by Michael Behar, OnEarth magazine - NRDC. A Man, A Plan, and the Dawn
of America's Solar Future. "I am a capitalist," announces Jigar Shah,
the 34-year-old founder of SunEdison. ...An iconoclast among greens,
he's a devoted environmentalist who champions market economics and
believes American business acumen can conquer climate change. Shah has
spent the past six years leveraging his convictions to build North
America's largest and most successful provider of solar energy.
In 2003, Shah launched SunEdison to smash the decades-old paradigm that
required anyone wanting solar to pay huge installation costs up front.
Depending on its size, a rooftop array or a ground-based solar farm can
cost anywhere from $10,000 to $10 million. This infuriated Shah, who has
always believed that having to own the means of producing solar power
is woefully out of step with how the energy industry operates. "Do you
want to be in the power-plant business?" he asks. "Or do you just want
to buy solar power?" Imagine having to own and operate a satellite to
get DirecTV and you begin to understand why Shah scorned the prevailing
model for solar energy.
...For Shah's part, he didn't invent any groundbreaking technologies. He
just repackaged ones that already existed and convinced people to buy
them. SunEdison customers pay nothing for their solar systems. That's
right, zero. Instead they sign what is known as a power-purchasing
agreement, or PPA. These agreements are commonplace in the coal, oil,
nuclear, and natural gas industries (the Hoover Dam was financed in part
with PPAs). But Shah figured out how to make PPAs profitable for solar,
something that nobody had been able to do before. When SunEdison
installs a solar array, the customer agrees under a PPA to buy the
electricity it produces at a set price for at least 10 years. "When we
priced out owning the system ourselves, it didn't make sense," Buckley
tells me. "We wanted a way to establish price certainty in a volatile
market. SunEdison gave us a long-term hedge against that price
uncertainty. We're paying less for electricity and reducing our carbon
impact. And 15 years down the road, when the price of electricity is
higher, the savings will be even more attractive."....
2009 January 12. Gulf Oil States Seeking a Lead in Clean Energy.
By Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times.Excerpt: ABU DHABI, United
Arab Emirates — With one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in
the world, these oil-rich emirates would seem an unlikely place for a
...Still, the region’s leaders know energy and money, having built their
wealth on oil. They understand that oil is a finite resource,
vulnerable to competition from new energy sources.
So even as President-elect Barack Obama talks about promoting green jobs
as America’s route out of recession, gulf states, including the
emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are making a concerted push to become
the Silicon Valley of alternative energy.
They are aggressively pouring billions of dollars made in the oil fields
into new green technologies. They are establishing billion-dollar
clean-technology investment funds. And they are putting millions of
dollars behind research projects at universities from California to
Boston to London, and setting up green research parks at home.
...This new investment aims to maintain the gulf’s dominant position as a
global energy supplier, gaining patents from the new technologies and
promoting green manufacturing. But if the United States and the European
Union have set energy independence from the gulf states as a goal of
new renewable energy efforts, they may find they are arriving late at
“The leadership in these breakthrough technologies is a title the U.S.
can lose easily,” said Peter Barker-Homek, chief executive of Taqa, Abu
Dhabi’s national energy company. “Here we have low taxes, a young
population, accessibility to the world, abundant natural resources and
willingness to invest in the seed capital.”
...For the rest of the world, the enormous cash infusion may provide the
important boost experts say is needed to get dozens of emerging
technologies — like carbon capture, microsolar and low-carbon aluminum —
over the development hump to make them cost-effective....
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