Archive | Climate change

Commercial-scale rail energy storage coming to Nevada

The ability to store power so it can be instantly converted to electricity is essential to the stability of the grid. Pumped hydro, using excess energy to pump water uphill into a storage lake where it can be released to instantly power turbines, is a reliable way to store power without using batteries. Startup ARES just got the ok to build a rail energy storage system in Nevada using the same idea. Extra power is used to send two electric locomotives and four 8,600 lb. rail cars 5.5 miles uphill. To generate electricity, the train is released and it generates power as it goes downhill.

This initial system is 50MW, which is substantial. ARES says it can scale to 1 GW, and a 500 MW system would only cost $20 more than this 50 MW project. One big advantage is there are no life cycle limits or degradation of the system because there are no batteries to wear out.

Electricity powers an electric motor in a locomotive that hauls a heavy load up hill. Sitting at the top of the hill, the rail cars store energy. When the energy is needed, the cars are released to roll down hill and the electric motor runs in reverse to generate electricity.

The same electro-mechanical principle that powers the ARES system supplies the regenerative braking power in electric vehicles like a Toyota Prius:… When an induction motor that powers a train or car is reversed, it produces electricity.

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California doubles down on fighting climate change

The California Senate just passed a hugely ambitious plan to shift to renewable energy, electric cars, and to combat global warming. The goals are laudable, however there are real questions whether they can be reached without massive, painful disruption to regular Californians. Seriously. Mandating a 50% cut in petroleum use within 15 years means way more electric and alt-energy vehicles, including big rigs. Electric cars require electricity, which means more power plants will need to be built. California is also mandating 50% in-state renewable energy by 2030, which is, um, highly optimistic, as grids now have trouble handling large amounts of always fluctuating renewable energy. Plus, the price of electricity may climb sharply.

California has a long way to go and a short time to get there. This plan is so ambitious they it will either be a hero for achieving or a clown for failing.

“I’m quite dubious about our ability to accomplish these goals we’re getting so many kudos for setting,” said James Sweeney, director of Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center.

“It’s going to be up to future governors and future lawmakers to make these goals work,” Sweeney said. “Unless we come up with a plan that’s not terribly disruptive to average Californians’ lives, they’re never going to follow through.”

If the legislation becomes law, it will be up to the California Air Resources Control Board to implement two of the measures’ toughest goals: cutting petroleum use by cars and trucks in half over the next 15 years and slashing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels over the next 35 years.

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Increasing energy efficiency leads to greater, not less, demand.

say what

Higher levels of energy efficiency does not decrease demand. Instead it increases it. This counter-intuitive effect is called rebound. Thus, expected energy savings and reductions in emissions from better efficiency are substantially less than might be expected.

The IPCC made clear: climate mitigation strategies that heavily rely on energy efficiency measures must be re-evaluated. After years of simplistic accounting, which was roundly criticized by Breakthrough and independent scholars, the IEA has finally caught up to the academic literature. Their latest report, Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency, acknowledges that direct rebound in wealthy countries ranges from zero to 65 percent and agrees with a major modeling effort finding globally averaged rebounds from energy efficiency could reach as high as 52 percent by 2030.

“Rather than saving energy, in many cases we can expect the adoption of energy efficiency-improving technologies to contribute to processes that lead to an overall increase in energy consumption.”

This pattern is similar to water use in the Imperial Valley of California. Big agriculture is constantly and successfully finding ways to grow crops with less water per acre. However, water usage there is increasing because farmers simply plant crops on more land. Water usage per acre has dropped. The number of acres growing crops has increased. The same process is true for energy usage. Increase efficiency and demand increases too.

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US kills IPPC climate change proposal to help poor nations

Photo: Gruenenrw on Flickr

Photo: Gruenenrw on Flickr

US hypocrisy over climate change is nauseating. Our government bleats sanctimoniously about stopping global warming then kills calls for funding poor nations in the IPPC report. Poor nations are the biggest victims of climate change yet the least responsible. The World Bank estimates helping poor nations deal with global warming will require $100 billion a year. The IPPC report mention this in all versions except the final version.

The need for $100 billion in crisis funds to aid poor nations was removed from the 48-page Summary, the only document that will be read outside the scientific community.

The U.S. led the push to remove the statement.

Thus, we have gasbags like Secretary of State John Kerry babbling about how we must stop climate change while he and his ultra-wealthy ilk work secretly to make sure it never happens. As Secretary of State it is inconceivable Kerry wasn’t responsible for removing the IPPC statement.

Your three take-aways from this material should be:

1. There will never be international cooperation, because the rich will never pay a dime to offset anyone’s cost to deal with this crisis.

2. Any nation can embark on a Zero Carbon energy economy the minute it wants to.

3. The rich will have to be moved aside to solve the climate crisis. And by that I mean forcefully.

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Dissent within IPPC over alarmist conclusions in coming report


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is facing internal dissension over whether their upcoming update, the first in seven years, is too alarmist. Some IPCC scientists say the challenges of climate change will be manageable, not apocalyptic, and want the report to reflect that. It’s important to note these criticisms are coming from scientists in IPCC and not from climate change deniers.

“The message in the first draft was that through adaptation and clever development these were manageable risks, but it did require we get our act together,” he told BBC News.

“This has completely disappeared from the draft now, which is all about the impacts of climate change and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This is a missed opportunity.”

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