10. Our Energy Future

See also Staying-Up-To-Date articles from

Non-chronological links: - also The Solutions Project - ...specific plans, by locale, for energy mixes that are 100% renewable energy.

The Energy Challenge (NY Times) - a series of articles examining the ways in which the world is, and is not, moving toward a more energy efficient, environmentally benign future.
Green Hotels

National Energy Education and Development Project (NEED)

Rock the Bike - generate electricity with a bike.

Solar Estimator - allows you to make calculations of a solar energy photovoltaic system's expected performance.

Renewable energy potential regional maps from the U.S. DOE Energy Information Administration

Solar Cookers International (SCI) - Establishes programs in countries around the world to teach people to make and use solar ovens and cookers. Reduces deforestation and saves time for cultures that normally would gather wood for cooking fires. Reduces carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) emission in cultures that normally use natural gas or electricity for cooking. See SCI Newsletters

Wind Powering America Programs that help put up wind turbines at school

Articles from 2015–present

2021-07-16. [] - Building Solar Farms May Not Build the Middle Class. Source: By Noam Scheiber, The New York Times. Excerpt: The Green New Deal, first introduced in 2019, sought to “create millions of good, high-wage jobs.” And in March, when President Biden unveiled his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, he emphasized the “good-paying” union jobs it would produce while reining in climate change. ...Building an electricity plant powered by fossil fuels usually requires hundreds of electricians, pipe fitters, millwrights and boilermakers who typically earn more than $100,000 a year in wages and benefits when they are unionized. But on solar farms, workers are often nonunion construction laborers who earn an hourly wage in the upper teens with modest benefits — even as the projects are backed by some of the largest investment firms in the world. In the case of Assembly Solar, the backer is D.E. Shaw, with more than $50 billion in assets under management, whose renewable energy arm owns and will operate the plant. ...about two-thirds of the roughly 250 workers employed on a typical utility-scale solar project are lower-skilled, according to Anthony Prisco, the head of the renewable energy practice for the staffing firm Aerotek. Mr. Prisco said his company pays “around $20” per hour for these positions, depending on themarket, and that they are generally nonunion....

2021-07-13. [] - Hydrogen Is One Answer to Climate Change. Getting It Is the Hard Part. Source: By Stanley Reed and Jack Ewing, The New York Times. Excerpt: ...A consensus is forming among governments, environmentalists and energy companies that deep cuts in carbon emissions will require large amounts of a clean fuel like hydrogen. ...It could be used to power long-haul trucks and train and air travel. ...All told, more than 200 large-scale projects are underway to produce or transport hydrogen, comprising investments of more than $80 billion. Daimler and Volvo, the world’s largest truck makers, plan in a few years to begin mass producing long-haul electric trucks that run on devices called fuel cells that convert hydrogen to electricity. Water will be the trucks’ only emission. like oil refining use large quantities of so-called gray hydrogen that is mostly made by separating hydrogen from natural gas. And that process generates more greenhouse-gas emissions than burning diesel. ...less than 5 percent of the hydrogen produced today is emission-free, and that kind costs more than twice as much to make as the gray version — $5 per kilogram versus $1 to $2 per kilogram, according to Bernstein, a research firm. It is also more expensive than conventional fuels, like diesel.... 

2021-06-07. [] - Offshore Wind Farms Show What Biden’s Climate Plan Is Up Against. Source: By Ivan Penn, The New York Times Excerpt: A constellation of 5,400 offshore wind turbines meet a growing portion of Europe’s energy needs. The United States has exactly seven. With more than 90,000 miles of coastline, the country has plenty of places to plunk down turbines. But legal, environmental and economic obstacles and even vanity have stood in the way. ...Offshore turbines are useful because the wind tends to blow stronger and more steadily at sea than onshore. The turbines can be placed far enough out that they aren’t visible from land but still close enough to cities and suburbs that they do not require hundreds of miles of expensive transmission lines.... 

2021-05-25. [] - Biden Opens California’s Coast to Wind Farms. Source: By Coral Davenport, The New York Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — The notion of wind farms churning in the Pacific Ocean, creating clean energy to power homes and businesses, has long been dismissed because of logistical challenges posed by a deep ocean floor and opposition from the military, which prefers no obstacles for its Navy ships. But evolving technology and a president determined to rapidly expand wind energy have dramatically shifted the prospects for wind farms in the Pacific. On Tuesday, the Navy abandoned its opposition and joined the Interior Department to give its blessing to two areas off the California coast that the government said can be developed for wind turbines. The plan allows commercial offshore wind farms in a 399-square-mile area in Morro Bay along central California, and another area off the coast of Humboldt in Northern California. It marked the most significant action the federal government has taken to promote wind energy along the West Coast and is part of President Biden’s aggressive plan to expand renewable energy and shift the nation away from fossil fuels. “This is a breakthrough that will allow the siting of offshore wind in the Pacific Ocean,” said Gina McCarthy, the White House climate adviser....  See also Washington Post article,  Biden looks to California for next phase of offshore wind.

2021-05-15. [] - Syria’s Surprising Solar Boom: Sunlight Powers the Night in Rebel Idlib. Source: By Ben Hubbard, The New York Times. Excerpt: HARANABUSH, Syria — When the Syrian government attacked their village, Radwan al-Shimali’s family hastily threw clothes, blankets and mattresses into their truck and sped off to begin new lives as refugees, leaving behind their house, farmland and television. Among the belongings they kept was one prized technology: the solar panel now propped up on rocks next to the tattered tent they call home in an olive grove near the village of Haranabush in northwestern Syria. “It is important,” Mr. al-Shimali said of the 270-watt panel, his family’s sole source of electricity. “When there is sun during the day, we can have light at night.” An unlikely solar revolution of sorts has taken off in an embattled, rebel-controlled pocket of northwestern Syria, where large numbers of people whose lives have been upended by the country’s 10-year-old civil war have embraced the sun’s energy simply because it is the cheapest source of electricity around. ...the solar boom in northwestern Syria is unrelated to fears of climate change or a desire to reduce a carbon footprint. It is the only viable option for many in a region where the government has cut the power and where imported fuel for private generators is far beyond most people’s means.... 

2021-05-11. [] - Biden Administration Approves Nation’s First Major Offshore Wind Farm. Source: By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, The New York Times. Excerpt: The Vineyard Wind project, off the coast of Massachusetts, would generate enough electricity to power 400,000 homes.... 

2021-04-22. Gravity-based batteries try to beat their chemical cousins with winches, weights, and mine shafts. By Cathleen O’Grady, Science Magazine. Excerpt: EDINBURGH, U.K.—Alongside the chilly, steel-gray water of the docks here stands what looks like a naked, four-story elevator shaft—except in place of the elevator is a green, 50-ton iron weight, suspended by steel cables. Little by little, electric motors hoist the weight halfway up the shaft; it is now a giant, gravity-powered battery, storing potential energy that can be released when needed. ...Gravitricity is one of a handful of gravity-based energy storage companies attempting to improve on an old idea: pumped hydroelectric power storage. Engineers would dam up a reservoir on a hill, pump water to it at times of low demand (usually at night), and release it to generate electricity. ...Lithium-ion batteries, the technology of choice for utility-scale energy storage, can charge and discharge only so many times before losing capacity—usually within a few years. But the components of gravity storage—winches, steel cables, and heavy weights—can hold up well for decades. ...The technology is still “incredibly immature,” Schmidt cautions, and although battery prices continue to drop, the gravity companies have made little progress. ... []

2021-04-22. There’s a Booming Business in America’s Forests. Some Aren’t Happy About It. By Gabriel Popkin, The New York Times. Excerpt: ...a huge factory that dries and presses wood into roughly cigarette-filter-sized pellets roared to life.... The slumberless factory’s output is trucked to a port in Chesapeake, Va., and loaded on ships bound for Europe, where it will be burned to produce electricity and heat for millions of people. It’s part of a fast-growing industry that, depending on whom you ask, is an unwelcome source of pollution or a much-needed creator of rural jobs; a forest protector, or a destroyer. In barely a decade, the Southeast’s wood pellet industry has grown from almost nothing to 23 mills with capacity to produce more than 10 million metric tons annually for export. It employs more than 1,000 people directly, and has boosted local logging and trucking businesses. ...The open question is whether a world increasingly desperate to avert climate disaster will continue to embrace, or turn away from, humanity’s original fuel: wood. Most divisive is the industry’s claim to battle climate change by replacing dirty fossil fuels with clean bioenergy. ...Many foresters, economists and environmental policy experts endorse that idea. But a legion of ecologists, conservationists and others strongly disagree. ...In 2009, European officials decided to declare biomass energy — basically, the burning of wood or other plants, rather than fossil fuels — to be carbon neutral. The idea is that regrowing plants, over time, would ultimately reabsorb the carbon dioxide released by the burning. ...Many scientists have long been skeptical of biomass’s climate benefits. Wood releases more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity produced than coal or gas, and a newly planted tree can take decades to reabsorb the carbon dioxide emitted by burning. ...In 2009, a group ...wrote in the journal Science protesting what they called a “critical climate accounting error.” They argued that certain major international climate policies and legislation designed to reduce countries’ greenhouse gas emissions allow nations to burn biomass and discount their smokestack emissions but fail to account for the carbon losses caused by cutting down trees to burn them.... []

2021-04-19. The Climate Clock Now Ticks With a Tinge of Optimism. By Colin Moynihan, The New York Times. Excerpt: The display in New York’s Union Square, which reports the window to address global warming, now also measures the rising use of renewable energy.... []

2021-04-14. Sediment Mismanagement Puts Reservoirs and Ecosystems at Risk. By Desirée Tullos, Peter A. Nelson, Rollin H. Hotchkiss, and David Wegner, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Dams store water flowing down rivers and streams in reservoirs, providing protection from floods. Dams also serve as sources of electrical power, and they provide water for domestic and irrigation uses and flat-water recreation. By design and default, most dams in the United States also store sediment, indefinitely. Sediment accumulation behind U.S. dams has drastically reduced the total storage capacity of reservoirs. Sedimentation is estimated to have reduced the absolute water storage capacity of U.S. reservoirs by 10%–35%. Consequently, on a per capita basis, the water storage capacity of U.S. reservoirs today is about what it was in the 1940s–1950s, despite there being more dams [Randle et al., 2019]. ...At the same time, reaches downstream of dams have been deprived of sediment, resulting in declines in the health of downstream habitats and organisms [Ligon et al., 1995]. ...Managing reservoir sediments in the United States has historically involved dredging, excavation, and removal of sediment to off-site locations. These approaches are expensive and do not restore sediment continuity with downstream river channels. Alternative management approaches have revealed that mobilizing and passing sediment through reservoirs to downstream reaches can maintain or restore both reservoir capacity and downstream ecosystems.... []  

2021-04-13. Executives Call for Deep Emission Cuts to Combat Climate Change. By Lisa Friedman, The New York Times. Excerpt: More than 300 businesses, including Google, McDonalds and Walmart, are pushing the Biden administration to nearly double the United States’ target for cuts to planet-warming emissions ahead of an April 22 global summit on climate change. In a letter to President Biden released on Tuesday morning, chief executive officers from some of the nation’s largest companies will call on the administration to set a new Paris Agreement goal of slashing the nation’s carbon dioxide, methane and other planet-warming emissions at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. That is roughly what most major environmental groups want, and the corporate executives called the target “ambitious and attainable.”.... [

2021-04-13. NFTs Are Shaking Up the Art World. They May Be Warming the Planet, Too. By Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times. Excerpt: Making the digital artworks requires colossal amounts of computing power, and that means greenhouse gases. When Chris Precht, an Austrian architect and artist, first learned about nonfungible tokens, the digital collectibles taking the art world by storm, he was so enthralled, he said, he “felt like a little kid again.” So Mr. Precht, who is known for his work on ecological architecture, was devastated to learn that the artworks, known as NFTs, have an environmental footprint as mind-boggling as the gold-rush frenzy they’ve whipped up. “The numbers are just crushing,” he said from his studio in Pfarrwerfen, Austria, announcing that he was canceling his plans, one of a growing number of artists who are swearing off NFTs, despite the sky-high sums some have fetched at auctions. “As much as it hurts financially and mentally, I can’t.” Mr. Precht’s own calculations, creating the 300 items of digital art that he had planned to sell, 100 each of three art pieces, would have burned through the same amount of electricity that an average European would otherwise use in two decades.... [

2021-03-31.  Biden’s infrastructure plan aims to turbocharge U.S. shift from fossil fuels. By Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post. Excerpt: New standard would mandate renewable-energy use by utilities, while tax breaks and spending would promote climate-friendly technologies. ...The linchpin of Biden’s plan, which he detailed in a speech Wednesday in Pittsburgh, is the creation of a national standard requiring utilities to use a specific amount of solar, wind and other renewable energy to power American homes, businesses and factories. ...Biden said his plan would confront climate change, while putting the U.S. ahead of its economic competitors. “It’s going to boost America’s innovative edge in markets where global leadership is up for grabs,” he said.... [

2021-03-29. Biden Administration Announces a Major Offshore Wind Plan. By Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday announced a plan to vastly expand the use of offshore wind power along the East Coast, aiming to tap a potentially huge new source of renewable energy that has so far struggled to gain acceptance in the United States. The plan sets a goal of deploying 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines in coastal waters nationwide by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes. ...The administration also plans to offer $3 billion in federal loan guarantees for offshore wind projects and invest in upgrading the nation’s ports to support wind construction. The moves come as President Biden prepares a roughly $3 trillion economic recovery package that will focus heavily on infrastructure to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and tackle climate change, an effort he has framed as a jobs initiative. Officials made a similar case on Monday, saying offshore wind deployment would create 44,000 new jobs directly in the offshore wind sector, such as building and installing turbines, as well as 33,000 new indirect jobs.... []

2021-03-17. How to Clean Up Steel? Bacteria, Hydrogen and a Lot of Cash. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: ...steel mills are among the leading polluters. They burn coke, a derivative of coal, and belch millions of tons of greenhouse gases. Roughly two tons of carbon dioxide rises into the atmosphere for every ton of steel made using blast furnaces. With climate concerns growing, a crunch appears inevitable for these companies. Carbon taxes are rising, and investors are wary of putting their money into businesses that could be regulated out of existence. None of this has been lost on the giant steel maker ArcelorMittal. For half a century, Lakshmi Mittal devoted himself to building and running what became the world’s largest empire of huge steel mills, employing nearly 170,000 people. Now his son, Aditya Mittal, 44, who recently succeeded his father as chief executive, says the industry that has made the family’s name and fortune needs to change its polluting ways. “The largest challenge the world is going to face over the next 30 years is how we decarbonize,” he said. ...The company is spending 325 million euros (about $390 million) on pilot programs that include making steel with hydrogen and using bacteria to turn carbon dioxide into useful chemicals. The amount is less than 1 percent of the company’s 2020 revenue. ...“We can now imagine that it is possible to make steel without carbon emissions,” he said.... [

2021-03-08. Biden administration backs nation’s biggest wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard. By Dino Grandoni and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The Biden administration took a crucial step Monday toward approving the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., a project that officials say will launch a massive clean-power expansion in the fight against climate change.... []  

2021-03-03. Carbon County, Wyoming, Knows Which Way the Wind Is Blowing. By Dionne Searcey, The New York Times. Excerpt: RAWLINS, Wyo. — The coal layered underground helped bring settlers to this scrubby, wind-whipped part of southern Wyoming, where generations found a steady paycheck in the mines and took pride in powering the nation. But now, it is energy from the region’s other abundant energy resource — the wind itself — that is creating jobs and much-needed tax revenues in Carbon County. Despite its historic ties to coal, as well as local denialism about climate change, the county is soon to be home to one of the biggest wind farms in the nation.... [

2021-03-02. Top oil and gas lobbying group close to backing a carbon tax. By Steven Mufson, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s top lobbying arm, is edging closer to endorsing a carbon tax, a tool that would make fossil fuels more expensive, boost prospects for renewable and nuclear energy, and curb pollution that is driving climate change.... []

2021-02-25. A third of all food in the U.S. gets wasted. Fixing that could help fight climate change. By Sarah Kaplan. The Washington Post. Excerpt: The carbon footprint of U.S. food waste is greater than that of the airline industry. Globally, wasted food accounts for about 8 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental consequences of producing food that no one eats are massive. ...Meanwhile, a staggering 26 million American adults told the Census Bureau last fall that they hadn’t had enough to eat in the previous week. The problem was even worse in households with children.... [

2021-02-17. Texas weather: Are frozen wind turbines to blame for power cuts? By Reality Check team, BBC News. Excerpt: ..."So it was all working great until the day it got cold outside," Fox News's Tucker Carlson said. "The windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died." ...Wind turbines froze, as well as vital equipment at gas wells and in the nuclear industry. But because gas and other non-renewable energies contribute far more to the grid than wind power, particularly in winter, these shortages had a far greater impact on the system. So when critics pointed to a loss of nearly half of Texas's wind-energy capacity as a result of frozen turbines, they failed to point out double that amount was being lost from gas and other non-renewable supplies such as coal and nuclear.... [

2021-02-11.  How the Fossil Fuel Industry Convinced Americans to Love Gas Stoves. By Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones magazine. Excerpt: In early 2020, Wilson Truong posted on the Nextdoor social media a Culver City, California, ... warned the group members that their city leaders were considering stronger building codes that would discourage natural gas lines in newly built homes and businesses. ...Truong wasn’t their neighbor at all. He was writing in his role as account manager for the public relations firm Imprenta Communications Group. Imprenta’s client was Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions (C4BES), a front group for SoCalGas, the nation’s largest gas utility, working to fend off state initiatives to limit the future use of gas in buildings. ...In Santa Barbara, California, residents have receivedrobotexts warning a gas ban would dramatically increase their bills. The Pacific Northwest group Partnership for Energy Progress, funded in part by Washington state’s largest natural gas utility, Puget Sound Energy, has spent at least $1 million opposing heating electrification in Bellingham and Seattle, including $91,000 on bus ads showing a happy family cooking with gas next to the slogan: “Reliable. Affordable. Natural Gas. Here for You.” ...The dangers of gas stoves go beyond just heating the planet—they can also cause serious health problems. Gas stoves emit a host of dangerous pollutants, including particulate matter, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide. ...In the 1930s, the industry invented the catch phrase “cooking with gas,” and by the 1950s it was targeting housewives with star-studded commercials of matinee idols scheming how to get their husbands to renovate their kitchens. ...Environmentalists liken the move away from gas to the inevitability of coal’s demise in the power sector. They say it’s not a matter of if buildings go electric, but when.... [

2021-02-09. The Green Secrets of Goat Poop. By Aliyah Kovner, Berkeley Lab News Center. Excerpt: Microbes found in the goat gut microbiome could help humans convert plant material into valuable, eco-friendly commodities. Converting the tough fibers and complex sugars in plants into biofuels and other products could be humanity’s ticket to smarter materials, better medicines, and a petroleum-free, sustainable future. But harnessing the chemical commodities stored in these molecules is no simple task. ...Hoping to discover new and improved ways of processing plant material for industrial purposes, scientists like Michelle O’Malley at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have been studying the gut microbiomes of the planet’s most prolific herbivores: ruminant animals such as goats. ...Berkeley lab scientists contributed to O’Malley’s latest study, published in Nature Microbiology. The team generated reconstructions of the many thousands of microbial genomes present in goat-poop samples – taken from a Santa Barbara Zoo resident named “Elway” – and helped identify genes for metabolic enzymes and other digestion-related proteins.... [

2021-02-08. Oil Giants Win Offshore Wind Leases in Britain. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: BP and Total plan to spend billions of dollars developing the wind farms in an effort to aid their shift to renewable energy. Two giant oil companies won the largest share of options to build new offshore wind farms awarded by Britain on Monday, investments that are expected to eventually total in the tens of billions of dollars. The options were a big move by major petroleum producers into an industry that has for years been dominated by smaller, specialized companies. The winning bidders, including BP and the French oil company Total, agreed to initially pay a total of 879 million pounds (about $1.2 billion) in deposits to develop offshore wind farms that will provide sufficient power to light up seven million homes.... [

2021-02-03. The Empire State Building and its related buildings are now powered by wind. By Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The world got a little bit greener when the lights of the Empire State Building flickered to life this year: For the first time, the beloved skyscraper and 13 other office buildings owned by the same company were powered solely by wind. Empire State Realty Trust will announce Wednesday a major purchase of wind power from Green Mountain Energy and Direct Energy, making it the nation’s biggest real estate user of entirely renewable energy. The three-year contracts, which started Jan. 1, will provide an estimated 300 million kilowatt hours of electricity for ESRT’s more than 10 million-square-foot portfolio. ...The real estate trust has already established a reputation for sustainability: A decade-long “deep carbon” retrofit enabled the Empire State Building to cut its planet-warming emissions by about 40 percent. The skyscraper itself has run on renewable energy since 2011.... [

2021-01-22. Trump downplayed the costs of carbon pollution. That’s about to change.By Paul Voosen, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Carbon pollution is about to get a lot more expensive. Over the past 4 years, the Trump administration low-balled the “social cost of carbon”—a number representing the burden that carbon emissions place on present and future generations, in terms of the cost of floods, droughts, farming losses, and death. The low estimate served to justify a permissive approach to regulating greenhouse gases, whether through power plant emissions rules or appliance efficiency standards. But now the cost—the price per ton of emitted carbon dioxide (CO2) , methane, and nitrous oxide—is set to rise drastically. On 20 January, its first day in office, the Biden administration recreated an interagency working group (IWG) and ordered it to update the social cost of carbon within 30 days. Many economists believe the cost, set as low as $1 during the Trump administration, will rise as high as $125 in the next month—and higher still come January 2022, when the IWG is due to provide a final number. The update could lead to tighter greenhouse gas regulations. And it is long overdue, says Tamma Carleton, an economist at the University of California (UC), Santa Barbara. “There’s been this huge change in science that hasn’t been reflected in policy.”.... [

2021-01-04. Home Solar Is Growing, but Big Installers Are Still Losing Money. By Peter Eavis and Ivan Penn, The New York Times. Excerpt: Some companies are having trouble surviving and making money installing panels because of intense competition and the high costs of doing business. ...The home solar business is growing fast as thousands of homeowners install panels on their roofs to save money. ...For now, Wall Street investors are bidding up the companies’ stocks in the belief that solar companies will be able to borrow cheaply and cover their losses and cash outflows for some time. They also expect sales to grow fast as homeowners buy larger solar systems and home batteries to protect themselves from blackouts and to power electric vehicles. Investors are also expecting the incoming Biden administration to do more to spur the use of renewable energy through tax credits and other incentives.... [

2021-01-01. A Monster Wind Turbine Is Upending an Industry. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: G.E.’s giant machine, which can light up a small town, is stoking a renewable-energy arms race. Twirling above a strip of land at the mouth of Rotterdam’s harbor is a wind turbine so large it is difficult to photograph. The turning diameter of its rotor is longer than two American football fields end to end. Later models will be taller than any building on the mainland of Western Europe. Packed with sensors gathering data on wind speeds, electricity output and stresses on its components, the giant whirling machine in the Netherlands is a test model for a new series of giant offshore wind turbines planned by General Electric. When assembled in arrays, the wind machines have the potential to power cities, supplanting the emissions-spewing coal- or natural gas-fired plants that form the backbones of many electric systems today. G.E. has yet to install one of these machines in ocean water. ...But already the giant turbines have turned heads in the industry. analyst said the machine’s size and advance sales had “shaken the industry.” ...The G.E. machines will have a generating capacity that would have been almost unimaginable a decade ago. A single one will be able to turn out 13 megawatts of power, enough to light up a town of roughly 12,000 homes. The turbine, which is capable of producing as much thrust as the four engines of a Boeing 747 jet, according to G.E., will be deployed at sea, where developers have learned that they can plant larger and more numerous turbines than on land to capture breezes that are stronger and more reliable.... []

2020-10-31. The Capital of Sprawl Gets a Radically Car-Free Neighborhood. By Conor Dougherty, The New York Times. Excerpt: On an empty lot near Phoenix, perhaps the most auto-addicted city in America, a start-up is betting $170 million on a more walkable future. Phoenix...has been called “the world’s least sustainable city.” ...The development, Culdesac Tempe, is a 17-acre lot just across the Salt River from Phoenix. ...the site will eventually feature 761 apartments, 16,000 square feet of retail, 1,000 residents — and exactly zero places for them to park. The people who live there will be contractually forbidden to park a car on site or on nearby streets, part of a deal the development company struck with the government to assuage fears of clogged parking in surrounding neighborhoods. ...Culdesac Tempe is directly on a light-rail line to downtown Phoenix, but residents may never need to leave: The complex will feature its own grocery store, coffee shop, restaurant, co-working space and other amenities. The 167 rowhouse-size apartment buildings will be broken up by wide pedestrian malls, and there will be a half-acre park where residents can walk their dogs and stage picnics. A limited amount of parking will be provided for outsiders who want to visit friends or shop at the stores, but the people who live there will have to rely on public transit, bikes, ride-hailing apps, scooters and the like to get around greater Phoenix. ...In 2018, Seattle passed a law requiring developers to unbundle the cost of parking from the cost of rent, and various other cities, including Los AngelesPortlandMinneapolisAustin and San Francisco, have approved buildings with minimal or no parking for residents.... []  

2020-10-30. United Kingdom lights up its unusual fusion reactor. By Daniel Clery, Science Magazine. Excerpt: The United Kingdom’s revamped fusion reactor, known as the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST) Upgrade, powered up for the first time yesterday after a 7-year build. The £55 million device will be a testbed for technologies critical to all future fusion reactors, and may provide a stepping stone to a new design of energy-producing facility. MAST is a variation on the standard tokamak; it is shaped more like a cored apple than a doughnut. Researchers believe that shape can confer greater stability in the roiling plasma than a doughnut-shaped tokamak, but it is less well understood than the traditional design. MAST first tested the concept on a large scale starting in 1999 and has now been upgraded with extra heating power, new technology for extracting heat from the plasma, and other improvements. ...U.K. researchers hope MAST Upgrade will demonstrate enough improvement in performance that they can move ahead with a plan for building a spherical tokamak demonstration power plant. They started to work on a design for the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production last year with £220 million in government funding and hope to be powering up this next-generation machine in 2040.... [

2020-10-28. How Does Your State Make Electricity? By Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: America isn’t making electricity the way it did two decades ago. Now the future of the nation’s energy mix has become a major election issue. How the United States generated electricity from 2001 to 2019. ...Overall, fossil fuels still dominate electricity generation in the United States. But the shift from coal to gas and renewable technologies has helped to lower carbon dioxide emissions and other pollution. Last year, natural gas was the largest source of electricity in 20 states, while wind emerged as a leader in Iowa and Kansas. Coal remained the primary power source in 15 states – about half as many as two decades ago.... [

2020-10-26. Japan’s New Leader Sets Ambitious Goal of Carbon Neutrality by 2050. By Ben Dooley, Makiko Inoue and Hikari Hida, The New York Times. Excerpt: TOKYO — Japan will be carbon neutral by 2050, its prime minister said on Monday, making an ambitious pledge to sharply accelerate the country’s global warming targets, even as it plans to build more than a dozen new coal-burning power plants in the coming years. The prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, laid out the goal during his first major policy speech since taking office in September.... []  See also article in The Washington Post.

2020-10-23. The town that built back green. By Annie Gowen, The Washington Post. Excerpt: GREENSBURG, Kan. — After powerful tornadoes swept through Nashville earlier this year, killing 25 and leaving a trail of destruction for miles, one of the first calls officials made was to tiny Greensburg, population 900. A wind-swept farming community in southwestern Kansas, Greensburg rebuilt “green” after an EF5 tornado — the most violent — barreled through at more than 200 miles per hour and nearly wiped it off the map in 2007. A decade later, Greensburg draws 100 percent of its electricity from a wind farm, making it one of a handful of cities in the United States to be powered solely by renewable energy. It now has an energy-efficient school, a medical center, city hall, library and commons, museum and other buildings that save more than $200,000 a year in fuel and electricity costs, according to one federal estimate. The city saves thousands of gallons of water with low-flow toilets and drought-resistance landscaping and, in the evening, its streets glow from LED lighting. It’s exactly the kind of community Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden envisions when he talks about the need to conserve energy and transition away from fossil fuels towards wind, solar and other sources that do not emit the greenhouse gases driving climate change. President Trump has dismissed global warming and disparaged wind turbines as well as LED lighting and other forms of energy conservation. Greensburg is no liberal bastion. It sits in Kiowa County, where Trump handily beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, carrying 83 percent of the vote.... []  

2020-09-29. How Coal-Loving Australia Became the Leader in Rooftop Solar. By Livia Albeck-Ripka and Ivan Penn, The New York Times. Excerpt: CAIRNS, Australia — Australia is the world’s second-largest exporter of coal, which plays an outsize role in its economy and politics. But the country has also quietly become a renewable energy powerhouse. About one in four Australian homes have rooftop solar panels, a larger share than in any other major economy, and the rate of installations far outpaces the global average. The country is well ahead of Germany, Japan and California, which are widely considered leaders in clean energy. In California, which leads U.S. states in the use of solar power, less than 10 percent of utility customers have rooftop solar panels. Most Australians who have embraced solar do not appear to have done so for altruistic reasons like wanting to fight climate change. Many are responding to incentives offered by state governments in the absence of a coordinated federal approach, a sharp drop in the price of solar panels in recent years and an increase in electricity rates. Politically conservative homeowners have also embraced solar to become less reliant on the electricity grid in keeping with the high value many Australians place on rugged individualism. ...Another reason Australia has rapidly expanded rooftop solar is that its states have sought to streamline building codes and make it easier to obtain permits. In the United States, municipalities tend to control codes and permitting, and many have not eased the way for rooftop solar, making installations more expensive and time consuming. “What can California do to get to 30 percent penetration?” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar and Storage Association. “Cut the red tape.”... [

2020-09-27. Compact Nuclear Fusion Reactor Is ‘Very Likely to Work,’ Studies Suggest. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: Scientists developing a compact version of a nuclear fusion reactor have shown in a series of research papers that it should work, renewing hopes that the long-elusive goal of mimicking the way the sun produces energy might be achieved and eventually contribute to the fight against climate change. Construction of a reactor, called Sparc, which is being developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a spinoff company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, is expected to begin next spring and take three or four years, the researchers and company officials said. ...Fusion, in which lightweight atoms are brought together at temperatures of tens of millions of degrees to release energy, has been held out as a way for the world to address the climate-change implications of electricity production. ...Sparc takes advantage of a newer electromagnet technology that uses so-called high temperature superconductors that can produce a much higher magnetic field, Dr. Greenwald said. As a result, the plasma is much smaller.... []  

2020-09-22. Using Dirt to Clean Up Construction. By Jackie Rocheleau, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Concrete ranks as the most popular construction material in the world. But its key ingredient, cement, is responsible for 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions each year. Scientists want to replace concrete with a more environmentally friendly material, and one candidate is soil. In one of the most recent iterations of these efforts, the Banerjee Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University has created a tool kit for using local soil to make construction materials. ...“We need to go carbon neutral by 2050 and carbon negative thereafter,” Sant said. To do that, the construction industry needs to drastically change or replace concrete. “We’re talking about disrupting and transforming our entire basis of society as a whole in the next 30 years.”.... [

2020-08-22. Solar Panels Are Starting to Die, Leaving Behind Toxic Trash. By Wired Magazine. Excerpt: Photovoltaic panels are a boon for clean energy but are tricky to recycle. As the oldest ones expire, get ready for a solar e-waste glut. Solar panels are an increasingly important source of renewable power that will play an essential role in fighting climate change. They are also complex pieces of technology that become big, bulky sheets of electronic waste at the end of their lives—and right now, most of the world doesn’t have a plan for dealing with that. But we’ll need to develop one soon, .... For the solar recycling industry to grow sustainably, it will ultimately need supportive policies and regulations. The EU model of having producers finance the take-back and recycling of solar panels might be a good one for the U.S. to emulate. But before that’s going to happen, US lawmakers need to recognize that the problem exists.... []  

2020-08-17. Europe’s Big Oil Companies Are Turning Electric. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: This may turn out to be the year that oil giants, especially in Europe, started looking more like electric companies. Late last month, Royal Dutch Shell won a deal to build a vast wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands. Earlier in the year, France’s Total, which owns a battery maker, agreed to make several large investments in solar power in Spain and a wind farm off Scotland. Total also bought an electric and natural gas utility in Spain and is joining Shell and BP in expanding its electric vehicle charging business. At the same time, the companies are ditching plans to drill more wells as they chop back capital budgets. Shell recently said it would delay new fields in the Gulf of Mexico and in the North Sea, while BP has promised not to hunt for oil in any new countries. Prodded by governments and investors to address climate change concerns about their products, Europe’s oil companies are accelerating their production of cleaner energy — usually electricity, sometimes hydrogen — and promoting natural gas, which they argue can be a cleaner transition fuel from coal and oil to renewables. For some executives, the sudden plunge in demand for oil caused by the pandemic — and the accompanying collapse in earnings — is another warning that unless they change the composition of their businesses, they risk being dinosaurs headed for extinction.... [

2020-08-10. The $16 billion plan to beam Australia’s Outback sun onto Asia’s power grids. By A. Odysseus Patrick, The Washington Post. Excerpt: SYDNEY — Could Australia, one of the world’s biggest exporters of coal and natural gas, become a solar superpower? The island continent, distant from Asia’s megacities, plans to capture the plentiful Outback sun, store it in giant batteries until nightfall and transmit it to Singapore along a watermelon-width cable traversing 2,800 miles of sea floor, including a deep trench. The Australia-ASEAN Power Link, which is part-owned by two Australian billionaires and was endorsed last month by the Australian government, may be the most ambitious renewable energy project underway anywhere. And it could mark a new chapter in the history of energy: the intercontinental movement of green power. ...Scheduled to start operating in 2027 at a cost of about $16 billion, the project would combine the world’s largest solar farm, the largest battery and longest submarine electricity cable. It would produce three gigawatts of power, the equivalent of 9 million rooftop solar panels.... []  

2020-08-11. Concrete, a Centuries-Old Material, Gets a New Recipe. By Jane Margolies, The New York Times. Excerpt: ...Central [Concrete] — one of a handful of companies at the forefront of a movement to make a greener concrete — is increasingly experimenting with some decidedly new mixtures. In one part of the plant, carbon dioxide from a chemical gas company is injected into the concrete, locking in that greenhouse gas and keeping it out of the atmosphere, where it would contribute to global warming. Elsewhere, engineers tinker with the recipe for concrete, trying out substitutes for some of the cement, which makes up about 15 percent of the mix and functions as the glue that holds it all together. Cement, however, is also responsible for most of concrete’s carbon emissions — emissions so high that some have abandoned concrete for alternative building materials like mass timber and bamboo. ...concrete is also responsible for about 8 percent of global carbon emissions. If concrete were a country, it would rank third in emissions behind China and the United States. ...Central, part of U.S. Concrete, a manufacturer based in Texas, is making progress tackling the problem: Low-emission concrete makes up 70 percent of the material the company produces annually, up from 20 percent in the early 2000s.... []

2020-07-28. Earth System Modeling Must Become More Energy Efficient. By Richard Loft, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Recently, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), where I serve as director of technology development in the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory, conducted a carbon footprint analysis. The organization was quite pleased with the results, until it realized that the analysis neglected to account for carbon dioxide emissions related to the lab’s modeling activities. When these emissions were included, the overall picture looked considerably less green. ...In his book How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, Mike Berners-Lee estimates that the energy required to transmit a typical email generates 4 grams of carbon dioxide equivalents. That number may give pause to some, while for others it may represent an acceptable cost of doing business in the modern world. Regardless, unlike a gasoline-powered car with an exhaust pipe, there’s nothing about the act of sending an email that makes it obvious that we’re causing carbon dioxide emissions, so the environmental cost is easy to overlook. With the continuing growth of cloud computing and the Internet of Things, more emissions, like those from computing and the communication of data, will be further virtualized. ... Switching to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and biogas must be part of the solution to mitigate climate change, and we should laud and try to emulate organizations that do so. It is worth considering, however, that the environmental side effects of a future decarbonized energy portfolio are not well understood [Luderer et al., 2019], and switching to renewable energy sources often means buying credits, which can be traded, thereby obfuscating the actual source of the energy powering a computing facility. In the meantime, one way to address the problem without creating more problems or sacrificing transparency is to improve the efficiency of the modeling enterprise. This idea is perhaps best expressed by the Japanese expression “mottainai,” often interpreted to mean “waste not, want not.”... []. 

2020-07-06. The Next Energy Battle: Renewables vs. Natural Gas. By Ivan Penn, The New York Times. Excerpt: As coal declines and wind and solar energy rise, some are pushing to limit the use of natural gas, but utilities say they are not ready to do so. Utilities around the country are promoting their growing use of renewable energy like hydroelectric dams, wind turbines and solar panels, which collectively provided more power than coal-fired power plants for the first time last year. But even as they add more green sources of power, the industry remains deeply dependent on natural gas, a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases and is likely to remain a cornerstone of the electric grid for years or even decades. ...Coal plants supply less than 20 percent of the country’s electricity, down from about half a decade ago. Over that same time, the share from natural gas has doubled to about 40 percent. Renewable energy has also more than doubled to about 20 percent, and nuclear plants have been relatively steady at around 20 percent. ...Proponents of renewable energy note that solar panels are increasingly the cheapest source of electricity. Solar panels can deliver power to 650 homes for one hour — one megawatt-hour in industry jargon — at $31 to $111 a megawatt-hour, according to Lazard, the investment firm. By comparison, natural gas peaking plants, which utilities can turn on and off quickly to meet surging demand, deliver power at $122 to $162 a megawatt-hour. A report [] in June by the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that by 2035, the U.S. electric grid could get 90 percent of its power without greenhouse gas emissions while lowering electricity rates. To do that, the country would have to increase its use of renewables, energy storage and transmission lines while closing all coal plants and slashing natural gas use by 70 percent.... []  

2020-07-01. Site Wind Right. By The Nature Conservancy. Excerpt: The Nature Conservancy supports the rapid expansion of renewable energy, and America’s ample wind resources offer the opportunity to provide clean, low-impact power for people and wildlife. Achieving the wind energy development necessary to meet our climate goals will require quadrupling current wind capacity in the United States by 2050. Much of this new wind development is likely to occur in the Great Plains, home to some of the nation’s most promising wind resources. The Great Plains also provide our best remaining grassland habitat in North America, and the unique wildlife that is home on this range, such as bison, pronghorn antelope, deer, and prairie chickens. ...The Nature Conservancy is providing the award-winning Site Wind Right map now! This interactive online map uses GIS technology and pulls from more than 100 data sets on wind resources, wildlife habitat, current land use and infrastructure to help inform siting decisions across 17 states in the Central United States .... By using Site Wind Right early in the process, developers, utilities, power-purchasers and agencies can help save time and money by highlighting areas with the lowest potential for conflict.... []. 

2020-06-16. Turning manure into money. By Jim Morrison, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Farmers and utilities are burning methane for energy — and curtailing a powerful greenhouse gas in the process. ...many of the tanks, where microorganisms digest manure and turn it into methane gas that can be burned as fuel or converted to electricity, had been abandoned. They proved too complicated to manage. ...while 87 percent of the digesters in the country had failed, he had a new recipe for success: add food waste to the manure. It would increase the energy output and boost the income for farmers through tipping fees from manufacturers, retailers and others looking to unload food waste. Best of all, it would use methane from the manure, instead of venting it into the atmosphere to contribute to climate change. ...Over the past two decades, there’s been a slow, steady rise in the transformation of farm and food waste to energy, but the process remains a rarity.... [

2020-06-16. New Jersey aims to lead nation in offshore wind. So it’s building the biggest turbine port in the country. By Dino Grandoni, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said his state will build the country’s first port dedicated to assembling the turbines that will go up not just in New Jersey but across the Eastern Seaboard. ...The port is part of the state’s broader plan to get all of its electricity from clean energy by the middle of the century. New Jersey, already one of the nation’s fastest-warming places, wants to generate 7,500 megawatts from offshore wind by 2035 — enough to power half of New Jersey’s homes. ...Over the past decade, wind energy has eaten into the market share of coal and nuclear power. It now accounts for about 7 percent of all the nation’s electricity.... []  

2020-06-15. “Now Is the Time” for Green Recovery, Scientists Say. By Jenessa Duncombe. Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Daily carbon dioxide emissions are spiking again as economies roar back to life from pandemic lockdowns. ...Le Quéré believes the CO2 reductions are short-lived, as the recent data show. “As soon as the confinement eases, then they come back up again, ...We still have the same roads, we have the same cars, we still have the same heating systems for the other sectors, and the same industries.” “The changes in emissions during confinement are not structural changes. They are forced behavior changes—they are painful, they are brutal even,” Le Quéré said. Future reductions will rely on positive changes that boost quality of life and create jobs. How? Le Quéré has some ideas: Invest in green infrastructures, build cycle paths, insulate homes, install heat pumps, install renewable power, and “electrify everything.” Cook vegetarian meals, train workers to renovate homes, and plant more trees. She urges countries to stop investing in fossil fuel infrastructure: no new roads and no more coal plants “if we can help it.”.... []

2020-06-04. A New Weapon Against Climate Change May Float. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: ...offshore is now the fastest-growing segment of the wind business, but marine wind farms have been limited to water shallow enough to allow turbines to sit on piles or other supports on the sea bottom. About 200 feet in depth is the outer limit for such devices, people in the industry say. If platforms could be put almost anywhere at sea, “we can go to areas where we have never before harnessed the wind,” said José Pinheiro, the project director of WindFloat Atlantic. Mr. Pinheiro’s machine floats on three partly submerged columns, each about 100 feet long. Steel catwalks bridge the gaps between the giant cylinders. Sensors signal to pumps to add or remove water from the columns to keep the platform at the right level for optimal wind generation. In a gentle sea in the bay, the vessel, which weighs thousands of tons, seemed remarkably stable. ...Offshore wind has surged over the last three decades as turbines have become larger and more powerful, bringing down costs. While still representing less than 1 percent of world electricity generation, offshore wind grew at nearly 30 percent per year over the last decade and has become a major factor in power generation in northern Europe.... [

2020-05-27. Hydrogen as Fuel? An Italian Pasta Factory Shows How It Could Work. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: A producer of orecchiette and paccheri is using the potentially clean energy source in a trial. [Image caption: Tubes containing a mixture of hydrogen and natural gas at Contursi Terme, Italy. The fuel produces fewer carbon emissions than natural gas alone.] CONTURSI TERME, Italy — In the hills near Naples, something unusual was taking place at a pasta factory one day in February. In a nearby olive grove, engineers in safety gear had hooked up tanks of a hydrogen and natural gas mixture to an existing gas line. It fed the boiler that provided the heat to dry and sterilize the noodles being produced. ...because hydrogen fuel is free of emissions, the operation was sending less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than one using just natural gas, an emitter. Mixing hydrogen and pasta-making is a gambit in a multifaceted campaign by Marco Alverà, the chief executive of Snam, an operator of natural gas networks in Italy and across Europe. Mr. Alverà, who took the job in 2016, is trying to keep his company on the right side of growing pressures, especially in Europe, for energy companies to change their business strategies to tackle climate change. ...Mr. Alverà has embraced hydrogen as a clean substitute for natural gas. ...It is emissions-free and, he hopes, can be carried in Snam’s existing 25,000-mile web of transmission lines. When used as a fuel, hydrogen’s only byproduct is water. ...There are clean ways to make hydrogen, with renewable energy — but then why not just use those clean energy sources as fuel on their own? The answer is storage. Excess renewable energy from wind and sun is often wasted. Using it to create hydrogen, which can be saved for later, is like having a large, relatively cheap battery, advocates say. ...“Pure battery trucks are good for up to about 250 miles,” said Dale Prows, head of hydrogen supply at Nikola. To go farther, he said, batteries must be so large and expensive that it makes more sense to run the truck off  hydrogen, which is lighter and requires less space.  Essentially, hydrogen vehicles are electric models that obtain power through a chemical reaction in their fuel cells.... [

2020-05-19. UC’s investment portfolios fossil free; clean energy investments top $1 billion. By UC Office of the President. Excerpt: The University of California Office of the Chief Investment Officer of the Regents announced today (May 19) that its investment portfolios are fossil free after the sale of more than $1 billion in assets from its pension, endowment and working capital pools. At the same time, the office has surpassed its five-year goal of investing $1 billion in promising clean energy projects. Both moves are in accord with UC Investments’ comprehensive ESG (environmental, social and governance; policy, which requires weighing environmental, social and governance issues as an essential risk factor in making all investment decisions and broadly aligns with UC’s systemwide sustainability efforts. “Today’s announcements on our investment strategy underscore our hopeful view of the future,” said Richard Sherman, chair of the UC Board of Regents’ Investments Committee. “As long-term investors, we believe the university and its stakeholders are much better served by investing in promising opportunities in the alternative energy field rather than gambling on oil and gas.” ...UC’s Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher noted that UC Investments’ journey with ESG began five years ago and that the office sold all its coal and oil sands assets a year later. “Today we remain convinced that continuing to invest in fossil fuels poses an unacceptable financial risk ...“While we certainly could not have predicted the speed nor depth of the recent downturn in the traditional energy sector, signs point to a structural shift — not merely another cycle of boom or bust. ...Said UC President Janet Napolitano, “The University of California uses more green power than any other university in the nation, and we are also the leader in the amount of renewable electricity we generate on our campuses. Sustainable climate solutions and sustainable investing are more important than ever.... []  

2020-05-13. In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S. By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: The United States is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, new government projections show, a transformation partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, with profound implications in the fight against climate change. It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity. ...powerful economic forces that have led electric utilities to retire hundreds of aging coal plants since 2010 and run their remaining plants less frequently. The cost of building large wind farms has declined more than 40 percent in that time, while solar costs have dropped more than 80 percent. ...As factories, retailers, restaurants and office buildings have shut down nationwide to slow the spread of the coronavirus, demand for electricity has fallen sharply. And, because coal plants often cost more to operate than gas plants or renewables, many utilities are cutting back on coal power first in response. ...The decline of coal has major consequences for climate change. Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and its decline has already helped drive down United States carbon dioxide emissions 15 percent since 2005. This year, the agency expects America’s emissions to fall by another 11 percent, the largest drop in at least 70 years. While the pandemic has made these projections uncertain, the decline is expected to come partly because Americans aren’t driving as much, but mainly because coal plants are running less often.... [].

2020-05-11. New solar panels suck water from air to cool themselves down. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Like humans, solar panels don’t work well when overheated. Now, researchers have found a way to make them “sweat”—allowing them to cool themselves and increase their power output. It’s “a simple, elegant, and effective [way] to retrofit existing solar cell panels for an instant efficiency boost,” says Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park. Today, more than 600 gigawatts of solar power capacity exists worldwide, providing 3% of global electricity demand. That capacity is expected to increase fivefold over the next decade. ...with every degree of temperature above 25°C, the efficiency of the panel drops. ...Decades ago, researchers showed that cooling solar panels with water can provide that benefit. Today, some companies even sell water-cooled systems. But those setups require abundant available water and storage tanks, pipes, and pumps. That’s of little use in arid regions and in developing countries with little infrastructure. Enter an atmospheric water collector. In recent years, researchers have devised materials that can suck water vapor from the air and condense it into liquid water for drinking. Among the best is a gel that strongly absorbs water vapor at night, when the air is cool and humidity is high. The gel—a mix of carbon nanotubes in polymers with a water-attracting calcium chloride salt—causes the vapor to condense into droplets that the gel holds. When heat rises during the day, the gel releases water vapor. If covered by a clear plastic, the released vapor is trapped, condenses back into liquid water, and flows into a storage container. ...That water, he says, could be used to clean any dust that accumulates on the solar panels, solving a second power-sapping problem at the same time. Alternatively, that same water could be stored for drinking, addressing another desperate need in arid regions.... [

2020-05-04. Making commodity chemicals requires fossil fuels. New devices could do it with renewables. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. Excerpt: As windmills and solar panels multiply, the supply of renewable electricity sometimes exceeds demand. Chemists would like to put the excess to work making commodity chemicals, such as the raw materials for fertilizer and plastics, which are now produced with heat, pressure, and copious fossil fuels. The electrochemical cells that can harness renewable electricity to make these compounds have been too slow to be practical. Now, two groups report redesigning the cells to achieve a dramatic speedup—perhaps enough to put green industrial chemistry within reach.... []  

2020-04-30. Renewable power surges as pandemic scrambles global energy outlook, new report finds. By Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine. Excerpt: The pandemic-induced global economic meltdown has triggered a drop in energy demand and related carbon emissions that could transform how the world gets its energy—even after the disease wanes, according to a report released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The precipitous drop in energy use is unparalleled back to the Great Depression of the 1930s. But not all energy sources are suffering equally. Efforts to shift toward renewable energy could be hastened as fossil fuels, particularly coal and oil, have borne the brunt of the decline. Use of renewable energy, meanwhile, has risen thanks to new projects coming online and the low cost of turning wind turbines or harvesting sunlight. ...Global energy demand is expected to drop by 6% in 2020, compared with the previous year. That’s a seven times bigger drop than in the wake of the 2008 recession. The biggest change is predicted for the most developed economies, with a 9% decline in the United States and 11% in the European Union. ...“The energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before,” predicts Fatih Birol, executive director of the Paris-based IEA. ...Demand for renewable energy is expected to grow 1% over the year, driven by a 5% increase in use of renewable electricity. That contrast with fossil fuels stems largely from the low fuel costs for generating electricity from wind, sunlight, or hydroelectric dams. ...The pandemic is revealing downsides to fossil fuels, such as the need for extensive storage systems and supply chains to move fuel from its source, says Daniel Kammen, an energy policy expert at the University California, Berkeley.... [

2020-04-28. The Climate and Health Impacts of Gasoline and Diesel Emissions. By David Shultz, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: New research tallies the effects of gas- and diesel-burning vehicle emissions on the climate, as well as on human health. Together, the emissions cause more than 200,000 premature deaths each year.... It’s no secret that CO2 contributes substantially to warming the planet, .... [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8 and Energy Use chapter 10. 

2020-03-10. Next generation water splitter could help renewables power the globe. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Running the world on renewable energy is simple, in principle: Harvest solar and wind energy, and use any extra to power devices called electrolyzers that split water into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen gas. Hydrogen (H2) can serve as a fuel; it is also a staple of the chemical industry. The trouble is that current electrolyzers are costly, requiring either expensive catalysts or pricey metal housings. ... To make the water able to better conduct ions that move through the devices, today’s most common electrolyzers add high levels of potassium hydroxide (KOH) to the water. ... But KOH is highly caustic, so engineers have to build their devices out of expensive inert metals such as titanium.... That drawback prompted researchers in the 1960s to develop a version of the technology known as a proton-exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer, in which the dividing membrane is designed to selectively allow H+ ions through. ... They also require catalysts made from platinum and iridium...expensive and rare. ...Now, researchers report combining the best of both approaches to make a version that needs only cheap materials. ... The new device generates hydrogen about three times faster than conventional alkaline devices, though still more slowly than commercial PEM electrolyzers, Kim and his colleagues report. ...Initial indications suggest the membrane begins to break down after only about 10 hours of operation. ...The team hopes that adding fluorine to the membrane will repel the water. With that and other fixes, Kim hopes, AEM electrolyzers could join solar cells and windmills as a key technology for a carbon-free world.... [] For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

2020-02-27. Cloud Computing Is Not the Energy Hog That Had Been Feared. By Steve Lohr, The New York Times. Excerpt: The computer engine rooms that power the digital economy have become surprisingly energy efficient. A new study of data centers globally found that while their computing output jumped sixfold from 2010 to 2018, their energy consumption rose only 6 percent. The scientists’ findings suggest concerns that the rise of mammoth data centers would generate a surge in electricity demand and pollution have been greatly overstated. The major force behind the improving efficiency is the shift to cloud computing. In the cloud model, businesses and individuals consume computing over the internet as services, from raw calculation and data storage to search and social networks. ...The study findings were published on Thursday in an article in the journal Science[].... [

2020-02-06. Company to harvest green hydrogen by igniting oil fires underground. By Eric Hand, Science Magazine. Excerpt: This month, on the frozen plains of Saskatchewan in Canada, workers began to inject steam and air into the Superb field, a layer of sand 700 meters down that holds 200 million barrels of thick, viscous oil. Their goal was not to pump out the oil, but to set it on fire—spurring underground chemical reactions that churn out hydrogen gas, along with carbon dioxide (CO2). Eventually the company conducting the $3 million field test plans to plug its wells with membranes that would allow only the clean-burning hydrogen to reach the surface. The CO2, and all of its power to warm the climate, would remain sequestered deep in the earth.... []   

2020-01-27. A Knight in Gucci Armor Helps Charge a Geothermal Dragon. By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times. []  Excerpt: A company wants to build a geothermal plant in Umbria. Locals — and celebrities who live there — don’t want it. ...The company building the plant says it uses an environmentally friendly system with zero carbon emissions to produce electricity. It would help, not harm, the environment and never trigger an earthquake, it says....  

2020-01-08. Taking a cue from plants, new chemical approach converts carbon dioxide to valuable fuel. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2020-01-03. Integrating Input to Forge Ahead in Geothermal Research. By Robert Rozansky and Alexis McKittrick, Eos/AGU.

2019-12-29. Our Cherished Rivers Are Under Threat. By Macarena Soler, Monti Aguirre and Juan Pablo Orrego, The New York Times (Opinion). 

2019-12-23. Bipartisan Focus on Energy Innovation Emerges. By Randy Showstack, Eos/AGU.

2019-12-04. Rivers could generate thousands of nuclear power plants worth of energy, thanks to a new ‘blue’ membrane. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2019-11-03. Wear Clothes? Then You’re Part of the Problem. By Elizabeth L. Cline, The New York Times.

2019-10-22. The World Can Make More Water From the Sea, but at What Cost? By Henry Fountain, The New York Times.

2019-10-01. This kite could harness more of the world's wind energy. By Ahiza Garcia, CNN Business.

2019-09-23. Alan Bigelow's Solar-cooking Revolution. By Ian Frazier, The New Yorker.

2019-09-19. Can the world make the chemicals it needs without oil? By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2019-08-08. Bioenergy plantations could fight climate change—but threaten food crops, U.N. panel warns. By Erik Stokstad. Science Magazine.

2019-07-18. Bitcoin’s Not-So-Carbon-Friendly Footprint. By Sarah Derouin, Eos/AGU.

2019-07-11. Giant batteries and cheap solar power are shoving fossil fuels off the grid. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2019-06-28. New solar technology could produce clean drinking water for millions in need. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2019-05-01. Your Gas Stove Is Bad for You and the Planet. By Justin Gillis and Bruce Nilles, The New York Times.

2019-04-18. To amp up solar cells, scientists ditch silicon. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2019-04-10. Marrying two types of solar cells draws more power from the sun. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2019-03-22. Judge Blocks Oil and Gas Leases on Public Land, Citing Climate Change. By Jenessa Duncombe, Eos/AGU. 

2019-03-22. Judge Blocks Oil and Gas Leases on Public Land, Citing Climate Change. By Jenessa Duncombe, Eos/AGU. 

2019-03-12. New fuel cell could help fix the renewable energy storage problem. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2018-12-02. Betting on a new way to make concrete that doesn’t pollute. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times.

2018-10-31. New generation of ‘flow batteries’ could eventually sustain a grid powered by the sun and wind. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2018-10-19. Something New May Be Rising Off California Coast: Wind Farms. By Ivan Penn and Stanley Reed, The New York Times.

2018-10-15. Solar power could electrify sub-Saharan Africa. By Public Affairs, UC Berkeley.

2018-08-30. From Rooftops to Algae Pools: Orlando’s Vision for Carbon-Free Energy. By Ivan Penn, The New York Times.

2018-08-23. Powerful new battery could help usher in a green power grid. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2018-08-19. Green-minded Greek isle about to go fully off the grid. By Iliana Mier, San Francisco Chronicle.

2018-07-31. This ‘flow battery’ could power green homes when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2018-07-24. The $3 Billion Plan to Turn Hoover Dam Into a Giant Battery. By Ivan Penn. Graphic by Mika Gröndahl. Photo and video by David Walter Banks, aerial video by Josh Haner and Josh Williams, The New York Times.

2018-07-12. Ammonia—a renewable fuel made from sun, air, and water—could power the globe without carbon. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2018-06-28. Skyscrapers could soon generate their own power, thanks to see-through solar cells. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine.

2018-05-23. Massachusetts Gains Foothold in Offshore Wind Power, Long Ignored in U.S. By Stanley Reed and Ivan Penn, The New York Times.

2018-05-18. Chemical storage of renewable energy. By Joel W Ager, Alexei A. Lapkin, Science.

2018-05-09. California Will Require Solar Power for New Homes. By Ivan Penn, The New York Times.

2018-04-27. How windmills as wide as jumbo jets are making clean energy mainstream. By Stanley Reed, San Francisco Chronicle.

2018-04-16. Thin film converts heat from electronics into energy. By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley News.

2018-04-11. New technology could wean the battery world off cobalt. By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley News.

2018-03-31. Batteries included: Even huge Saudi solar farm will use them. By Brian Eckhouse and Mark Chediak, San Francisco Chronicle-SF Gate.

2018-02-05. From Oil to Solar: Saudi Arabia Plots a Shift to Renewables. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times.

2018-01-22. Chemists create tinted windows that also generate electricity. By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News.

2017-01-01. Fighting Climate Change, One Laundry Load at a Time. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times.

2017-12-28. The Power of Water, Wind, and Solar (and Nothing Else). By Sarah Witman, Eos/AGU.

2017-12-15. What can Kodiak teach the world about renewable energy? A lot. By Rachel Waldholz, Alaska’s Energy Desk, KTOO. Excerpt: ...Kodiak [2nd largest island in the US] generates about 20 percent of its electricity from wind. ...Since 2007, Kodiak has transformed its grid so that it now generates almost 100 percent of its power with renewable energy. The local electric co-op has managed to do that while keeping rates stable. In fact, the price of electricity in Kodiak has dropped slightly since 2000. It’s a model with lessons for remote communities from the Arctic to the equator — and for cities on the big grids of the Lower 48, from New York to Houston.... [

2017-11-30. Australia Powers Up the World’s Biggest Battery — Courtesy of Elon Musk. By Adam Baidawi, The New York Times.

2017-08-23. Cyborg bacteria turn sunlight into useful chemicals. By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News. 

2017-08-12. Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes. By Ernesto Londoño, The New York Times.

2017-07-05. Floating Solar Farms Catch on in California. By Corey Binns, NRDC OnEarth.

2017-06-26. World’s Largest Wind Turbine Would Be Taller Than the Empire State Building. By Annie Sneed, Scientific American. 

2017-05-26. Batteries could be latest clean technology to get California boost. By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle. 

2017-05-18. State hits renewable record. By Dominic Fracassa, San Francisco Chronicle. 

2017-05-02. The Solutions Project.

2017-05-02. Drawdown.

2017-04-14. Germany Strikes Offshore Wind Deals, Subsidy Not Included. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times.

2017-03-06. New Materials Could Turn Water into the Fuel of the Future. By Dan Krotz, Berkeley Lab News Center.

2017-03-02. Cities Smarten Up and Go Green. By Isabel Seifert-Dähnn, Marianne Millstein, and Per Gunnar Røe, EoS Earth & Space News (AGU).

2017-02-09. Almost 90% of New Power in Europe from Renewable Sources in 2016. By Adam Vaughn, The Guardian.

2016-12-16. Beijing, Bracing for 5 Days of Heavy Pollution, Issues Red Alert. By Jane Perez, The New York Times.

2016-12-15. Are We Entering the Photovoltaic Energy Era? By John Fialka, ClimateWire, reprinted by Scientific American.

2016-12-15. California to Regulate Energy Use of Desktop Computers and Monitors. By Tatiana Schlossberg, The New York Times.

2016-12-06. 100% renewable is just the beginning. By Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President of Technical Infrastructure, Google.

2016-11-07. Major advance in solar cells made from cheap, easy-to-use perovskite. By By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley Media relations.

2016-11-03. Batteries That Make Use of Solar Power, Even in the Dark. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times.

2016-10-31. No One Saw Tesla’s Solar Roof Coming. By Tom Randall, Bloomberg.

2016-10-03. In a dramatic move, Trudeau says Canada will put a price on carbon. By Wayne Kondro, Science Insider (AAAS).

2016-08-18. A Danish Wind Turbine Maker Harnesses Data in a Push to Stay Ahead. By Stanley Reed, The New York Times.

2016-07-27. Solar plane's arrival highlights UAE's clean-energy push. By Adam Schreck, Associated Press.

2016-07-19. How Renewable Energy Is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course. By Eduardo Porter, The New York Times. See also 2016-07-19. A note from the GSS Director.

2016-07-15. Grid can’t yet handle the heat as state hits solar power record. By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle.

2016-07-02. Diablo Canyon closure shows California’s power grid is changing fast. By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle.

2016-06-20. As Wind Power Lifts Wyoming’s Fortunes, Coal Miners Are Left in the Dust. By Coral Davenport, The New York Times.

2016-06-13. Solar Power Plants are the Future of Texas Power. By Mike Jacobs, Union of Concerned Scientists.

2016-06-03. A Suburban Experiment Aims for Free Energy. By Diane Cardwell, The New York Times.

2016-05-20. New Solar Plants Generate Floating Green Power. By Erica Goode, The New York Times.

2016-02-10. Burlington, Vermont Becomes First U.S. City to Run On 100% Renewable Electricity. By Anastasia Pantsios, EcoWatch.

2016-02-03. Articles on sustainable energy projects. ...from Bloomberg Business and The Guardian.

2016-01-02. Electrifying India, With the Sun and Small Loans. By Max Bearak, The New York Times.

2015-12-21. American wind power breezes past 70-gigawatt milestone. By AWEA, national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry.

2015-12-05. Community Choice Energy: Power to the People! from UNFCCC COP21 side event.

2015-11-06. Fact Sheet: Jobs in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (2015). Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI).

2015-11-02. World's largest floating windfarm gets green light in Scotland. By Matt Mace, Guardian Environment Network.

2015-10-25. Energy Storage Industry Gaining Momentum. By Diane Cardwell, The New York Times.

2015-10-09. A Bright Future. ...a book review written by Amory B. Lovins about Philip Warburg's book "Harness the Sun -- America's Quest for a Solar-Powered Future.

2015-09-30. Price of Solar Energy in the United States Has Fallen to 5¢/kWh on Average. By Jon Weiner, News Center, Lawrence Berkeley Lab.

2015-09-09. Solar energy is poised for yet another record year. By Chris Mooney, The Washington Post.

2015-08-20. Project Sunroof. Google.

2015-07-27. Offshore wind power gets foothold in U.S. with Rhode Island project. By Richard Valdmanis, Reuters.

2015-07-04. Solar Impulse 2 touches down in Hawaii after record-breaking flight. Katharine Lackey, Associated Press, The Sydney Morning Herald.

2015-06-05. American Geoscience Institute’s (AGI) Critical Issues Program. American Geoscience Institute.

2015-Spring. Reverse Cycle: Inspired by Leaves, a New Invention Turns Sunlight and Water into Fuel. By Chelsea Leu, California Magazine.

2015-02-10. Apple Building Solar Farm to Power California Operations. By Brian X. Chen, The New York Times.