February 24, 2010

Wind Energy Potential Triples

The last estimate of our nation's wind energy potential was conducted in 1993 and the estimate was that we had the wind energy potential to generate 11 million GWh of electricity per year. 

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory just released a new report that estimates that our wind energy potential is actually 37 million GWh of electricity per year. 

Just to put those numbers in perspective, our nation uses about 4 million GWh of electricity per year, of which only about 55 thousand GWh is so far generated by wind power. 

Most of the increase comes about as a result of technical improvements in wind power technology. Wind turbines are larger and more importantly, taller. Wind speeds are faster at higher elevations and the taller, larger towers can capture more energy than the typical 1993 installations. 

This is a very interesting lesson when considering folks who will tell you that the switch to renewable energy can't be done. 

Next time you hear the naysayers telling you it can't be done, let them know that we've tripled our wind power capacity just by the very fact that we've started working on creating the future we want to live in. 

PS: For the technically minded - The power generated by a wind turbine is proportional to the square of the length of the rotor blade and to the cube of the wind velocity! 

PPS: Knowing that, take a look at this map of wind energy in Massachusetts. You'll see why they keep talking about Cape Wind. 

February 17, 2010

NOAA reports 4th warmest January

As seems to be a pattern now, the hottest weather eludes much of the East Coast, where most of the lawmakers and major media reside. 

The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for January 2010 was 0.60°C (1.08°F) above the 20th century average of 12.0°C (53.6°F). This is the fourth warmest January on record.

February 13, 2010

Record Temperature Trends

Twice as many record highs as record lows over the last 10 years

US Climate Science Office

A little-known agency within the Commerce Department, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will become the Obama Administration's focal point for climate change information and services.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says NOAA is launching a separate unit, NOAA Climate Service, to address the nation's "fast-accelerating climate information needs." The agency is also creating a web portal for climate science and services. It will serve as a single entry point for the agency's data on climate information, products and services.
The agency noted that individuals and decision-makers increasingly are asking for information about climate change so that they can make the best decisions for their businesses, communities and families.
Unifying government climate capabilities under a single climate office, with the strong endorsement of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and other departments is another indicator of the serious approach the Obama Administration is taking on climate change.

February 12, 2010

Educating Children About Food

I would encourage you to watch this incredible, award-winning talk on the urgency of educating our children about food. 

"I wish for everyone to create a sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again, and to empower people everywhere to fight obesity." - Jamie Oliver

Global Warming Deniers

February 9, 2010

Nuclear Power vs. Wind

The chart says it all... 

Nuclear Company goes Solar

The French nuclear firm, Areva has purchased, Ausra, the American concentrated solar company. 

Anil Srivastava, head of renewables at Areva, said: "By acquiring Ausra, Areva has taken a major step forward to achieve its strategic ambition in renewables. The Group intends to become the world leader in concentrated solar power (CSP) thanks to a reliable, cost-effective product."

When even nuclear companies think solar is the next big thing, one has to wonder why we feel the need to invest an additional $36B from our federal budget for subsidies for the nuclear industry. 

European Union Shifts to Renewables

The winds of change are blowing across the European Union. Renewable energy accounted for over 60% of the new energy generation capacity in 2009. Wind accounted for 39% and solar accounted for 16% of the new energy generation capacity. 

Perhaps most encouraging, the EU decommissioned more coal and nuclear plant capacity than they brought on line. 

Wow. That makes for a very dynamic shift toward renewable energy. 

UPI Report 

February 2, 2010

Obama's Budget

While President Obama has slightly decreased funding for the EPA, the EPA's budget does include $21 million to implement the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule and $43 million to implement regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. 

The message seems to be that the administration intends to regulate greenhouse gases if Congress doesn't pass the Energy Bill. 

The proposed budget plans to eliminate $36.5 billion in tax breaks to the oil and natural gas industry and $2.3 billion for the coal sector between 2011-2020. Note that fossil fuels get $70.2 billion a year in subsidies—and that excludes implicit subsidies like military spending—so this is the tip of the iceberg. 

But that money seems to be headed to nuclear, which is getting an increase of $36 billion in loan guarantees, raising that total to $54 billion. The Congressional Budget Office considers that probability of default on these loan guarantees to be very high, well over 50%. 

Update - Copenhagen Accord

The NY Times reports that 55 developed and developing countries submitted emission reduction plans to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body overseeing global negotiations. Two major nations — Mexico and Russia — had not submitted plans as of Monday evening.

Most major nations — including the United States, the 27 nations of the European Union, China, India, Japan and Brazil — restated earlier pledges to curb emissions by 2020, some by promising absolute cuts, others by reducing the rate of increase from a business-as-usual curve. 

United Nations officials said that the countries that have already filed plans account for 78 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Analysts said that even if all nations met their promises, the world would still be on a path to far exceed the Copenhagen agreement's central goal of limiting global warming to less than 3.6 degrees above the pre-industrial era. The C-ROADS climate simulator suggests global warming will increase by 7 degrees above the pre-industrial era based on the current commitments incorporated into the Copenhagen Accord. 

"The pledges put on the table to date do not put us on track to meet that goal and will make it very difficult for us politically and technically beyond 2020 to meet that target," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The United States, in a submission last Thursday, repeated President Obama's promise to cut emissions "in the range of" 17 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels — but only if Congress enacts legislation that meets that goal, a far-from-certain prospect.

The 20% Wind Solution

The DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory has just completed a two-and-a-half year study of the technical, operational and economic requirements for integrating 20% to 30% wind power into the electrical grid that serves nearly three-quarters of the U.S. population.
Bottom line: it's certainly doable by 2024 with "significant expansion of the transmission infrastructure," and it will be a "highly cost effective way to reduce carbon emissions."
"Twenty percent wind is an ambitious goal, but this study shows that there are multiple scenarios though which it can be achieved," said David Corbus, who oversaw the study for NREL that looked at various combinations of onshore and offshore wind development to serve an area extending from the western border of the Great Plains to the eastern seaboard. But he said "we need to start planning" immediately for the complex upgrades to the eastern U.S. electrical transmission system, including some 22,000 miles of new high-tech lines and tens of billions of dollars in capital investments.
The NREL study is a critical milestone in achieving a core climate solution that will help stabilize CO2 emissions below 450 ppm. As American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode said: "This ground-breaking study demonstrates the major role wind energy can provide across the Eastern US, reducing and stabilizing electricity rates while protecting the environment. It also shows the urgency of transmission reform for both onshore and offshore wind development, because if we wait any longer we will not have the lines soon enough to tap these cost-effective domestic renewable resources."
Because more than 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in the area serviced by the Eastern Interconnection that is the subject of the NREL study, said Corbus, bringing significant amounts of wind power to the eastern grid "goes a long way towards clean power for the whole country."

Latest Statistics on Ethanol & Food

The results of our subsidies for corn ethanol production can be seen in the graphs below.

 Number of People who could be Fed by the U.S. Grain Used to Produce Ethanol, 1980-2009

Number of Undernourished People in the World,  1969-2009

Better Place Gets $350M Funding

The NY Times reports that Better Place, the closely watched start-up that hopes to create vast networks of charge spots to power electric cars, is set to receive a vote of confidence on Monday, in the form of $350 million in new venture capital.

HSBC is leading the new round of financing, contributing $125 million in exchange for a 10 percent stake in Better Place. That gives Better Place a market value of $1.25 billion.

Better Place is scheduled to make its commercial debut in 2011 in Israel and Denmark, but HSBC's investment could ease doubts about its complicated — and expensive — answer to the longstanding chicken-and-egg problem of getting electric cars on the road without the infrastructure to support long-distance driving.

Mr. Agassi has cast his company's effort in moral terms, citing the threat of global warming and the need to find renewable sources of energy to replace fossil fuels.

"We've demonstrated that our network is deployable," Mr. Agassi said. "We're ready for a big breakthrough, and there is not one country that doesn't need to get off oil."

Under Better Place's plan, consumers would buy electric vehicles made by the big automakers but get the batteries from Better Place and pay a fee according to the distance they drive. The blueprint calls for thousands of conventional charge points, as well as switching stations where a robotic device could replace a battery in less time than it takes to fill a tank of gas.

"We started out cynical, and we've done expert diligence," Mr. Bernbaum said. "We think Better Place is going to work."
He added that the venture was "one of the largest, and the most important and significant financial equity investments we've made."

State Sets New Energy Standards

The NY Times reports

Massachusetts state officials announced on Friday new energy efficiency standards for utilities that aim to be the most ambitious in the nation. Consumers will eventually reap $6 billion in savings on their utility bills from the efficiency plan, even after accounting for the added fees, the officials say.
The plan calls for a statewide reduction of 2.4 percent in electricity use and 1.15 percent in natural gas use annually for three years. The reductions were mandated by the Green Communities Act, passed by the state Legislature in 2008. But the bill did not specify the reduction goals or how they were to be reached. The state Department of Public Utilities approved the plan late Thursday.
"The Green Communities Act established energy efficiency as the Commonwealth's 'first fuel' — what we look to first to power our homes and our economy," Ian Bowles, the state's secretary for energy and environmental affairs, said in a written statement. "We are off and running, pulling out all the stops to cut energy waste, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in buildings across Massachusetts."

Department of Energy Investing in Electric Cars

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that the Department of Energy has closed its $1.4 billion loan agreement with Nissan North America, Inc. to retool their Smyrna, Tennessee factory to build advanced electric automobiles and an advanced battery manufacturing facility. The two projects are expected to create up to 1,300 American jobs.

Nissan plans to use the proceeds from the loan to produce its all-electric vehicle, the LEAF, at its existing Smyrna, Tennessee plant. Nissan will offer electric vehicles to fleet and retail customers, and plans to ramp up production capacity in Smyrna up to 150,000 vehicles annually.

Today's announcement marks the third loan arrangement agreement signed by DOE with an advanced technology vehicle manufacturer.  In September 2009, DOE signed its first loan agreement for $5.9 billion to Ford Motor Company. Last week, DOE also signed a $465 million loan agreement with Tesla Motors, which will be used to build manufacturing facilities in California for electric power-trains and Tesla's Model S electric sedan. 

US Government to Reduce Greenhouse Gas 28% by 2020

President Barack Obama announced that the Federal Government will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by 28 percent by 2020. As the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy, the Federal Government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone.  Achieving the Federal GHG pollution reduction target will reduce Federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year.  This is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020.

"As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient," said President Obama.  "Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift Federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy."

February 1, 2010

Dept. Of Defense Warns Of The Dangers Of Climate Change

Climate change can increase demand for US forces, requiring adaptation in our own facilities. DOD's enormous demand for energy makes it vulnerable to disruption of energy flow and price fluctuations. For this reason, DOD aims to be a leader in improving sustainability, efficiency, increasing renewable energy supplies and reducing energy demand.