Archive | Renewable energy

Potential water shortages made worse by electricity production

Wind farm and solar panel

The biggest use of water in the US, 41%, is for power generation. Coal, natural gas, and nuclear power require large amounts of water for cooling. The same is true in other countries, many of whom are also facing water shortages. A new study says this should be a primary reason to move to wind and solar PV, because they require practically no water. In addition, another major use of electricity is to move water, especially in arid areas. In California, 19% of power was used to pump water in 2011. Thus, 60% of total California water usage is for creating energy and pumping water. Running faster and faster to stay in the same place?

During the summer of 2011, Texas experienced the worst drought in state history.

One of the main reasons residents did not experience blackouts that summer was Texas’ wind energy production, the researchers said. At least 10 percent of the state’s energy needs were provided by wind that summer, up to 18 percent on some days — making it an important alternative to nuclear, coal and natural gas.

Posted in Renewable energy, Water0 Comments

Drought reduces California hydropower, forcing use of natural gas

Folsom Lake, CA. Credit: Robert Couse-Baker. Flickr

Folsom Lake, CA. Credit: Robert Couse-Baker. Flickr

California utilities are being forced to use natural gas plants to create electricity as drought cuts down on hydropower generation. Lakes and dams where hydropower is used are sometimes less than 50% full. Without ample water, the energy can’t be created.

Increasingly, utilities are using natural gas power plants as fallbacks. However natural gas creates more emissions than hydro and is also more expensive. California has an ambitious plan to generate 33% renewable in-state energy by 2020. A continued dry spell will certainly impact those plans, even if California doesn’t count big hydro as renewable energy. (This odd distinction is probably due to political considerations. If big hydro isn’t renewable, then big solar and big wind projects must be built, and will have captive buyers. How cozy is that for big money?)

In 2011 hydropower account for 18.2% of California energy. In 2012 it plunged to 11,7% 2013 numbers haven’t been released yet but are probably even worse.

Posted in Renewable energy, Water0 Comments

World’s largest solar-wind hybrid installation

solar-wind

A Jamaica law firm has installed an 80 kw hybrid solar-wind array on the roof of their office. It is expected to save $2 million over its 25 year lifespan and uses small vertical turbines and solar PV.

The installation incorporates 50 of WindStream’s SolarMill devices. The different SolarMill models each comprise one or more solar panels and three or more turbines

Posted in News, Renewable energy, Solar power, Wind turbines0 Comments

Air Force Academy converts waste into renewable energy

CompleteMixDiagram2

Waste food at the Air Force Academy is turned into pulp then converted into methane in anaerobic digesters and used to heat boilers, create selectivity, and power vehicles. Thus, waste that used to go into landfills is being reused.

“About 2-3 percent of the nation’s energy goes to treating wastewater and water,” said Pat Evans, CDM Smith’s vice president. “Most of the energy that’s used is for pumping the water and aerating it. We’re trying to get wastewater treatment plants to become energy neutral or energy producers instead of energy consumers. One step toward that goal is capturing energy from food waste through anaerobic digestion.”

Unfortunately, this pilot project ends soon. Let’s hope what the Air Force has learned from it will be used in future renewable energy projects.

Posted in Renewable energy0 Comments

Ohio: poster child for mindless global self-destruction

John Kasich

Kill people, kill the planet – whatever makes a big profit is cool

John Kasich is a smart guy who knows better than to be an overt serial killer, so, as Governor of Ohio, he joins with others who prefer to do their mass killing by stealth, maybe spread the carnage out over future generations, who will be unable to hold the Kasiches and the ALECS of this world to account. Ever. However long that turns out to be.

This is not to single out Republican Gov. Kasich as the worst environmental monster in office (current term 2011-2015). On the contrary, his behavior seems rather centrist in the context of contemporary American Republican politics.

But his decision to make Ohio the first state to roll back alternative energy on behalf of ALEC, the front organization for the Koch brothers, the rest of the oil industry, and the rest of the fossil fuel establishment is, quite realistically, a crime against humanity. The fulcrum for that claim is climate change, which even the  deniers acknowledge would be globally devastating, if it turned out to be real. Amazingly, Kasich accepts the scientific reality, which makes his actions to exacerbate climate change quite literally a crime against humanity.

Self-Evisceration: the New American Way of Governing?  

In May 2012, at an Ohio energy conference hosted by The Hill, Gov. Kasich made his understanding of realitypretty clear, including his belief in the reality of global climate change:

I am a believer — my goodness I am a Republican — I happen to believe there is a problem with climate change. I don’t want to overreact to it, I can’t measure it all, but I respect the creation that the Lord has given us and I want to make sure we protect it….

But we can’t overreact to it and make things up, but it is something we have to recognize is a problem.…

We are going to continue to work on cleaning coal, but I want to tell you, we are going to dig it, we are going to clean it, and we are going to burn it in Ohio, and we are not going to apologize for it….

I believe there is something to [climate change], but to be unilaterally doing everything here while China and India are belching and putting us in a noncompetitive position isn’t good, but some of that is the presidential leadership…. I am just saying that I am concerned about it, but I am not laying awake at night worrying the sky is falling. [emphasis added]

If you say you believe one thing, but act as if you believe another…

Gov. Kasich may or may not be worrying about the sky falling, but he’s taken actions that will help pull it down. This June, on Friday the 13th, Gov. Kasich signed the bill that put his state in the lead in the fossil fuel industry’s attack on alternative energy. Gov. Kasich chose this pro-global-warming path despite significant opposition from some big businesses (Honda, Whirlpool, Honeywell, Owens-Corning), as well as most environmentalists andclimate scientists.

In 2008, the Ohio legislature voted nearly unanimously (one No vote) to establish alternative energy standards for Ohio that would help slow climate change. This “renewable portfolio standard” was signed into law by then-Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat. Under this act, Ohio energy generation by 2025 had to come 25%  from alternative energy sources, and half of that (12.5%) from renewable energy sources; the bill also required consumers to be 22% more energy efficient by 2025.

By 2010, the state ranked #2 in solar production (behind Oregon) and was reliably in the top five for “green energy.” Ohio utilities were required to buy their renewable energy from Ohio companies. An April 2014 pollshowed more than 70% of Ohioans supported the 2008 energy bill and its achievements over six years. AsClimate Progress noted about the alternative energy standards of 2008:

Since the standard came into effect, Ohio’s clean energy sector provided 25,000 jobs and at least $1 billion in private sector investment. This has saved ratepayers roughly $230 million, dropping electricity rates by almost a percent and a half….

[Utility company] FirstEnergy’s CEO said that his company is “being hurt by various mandates that drive down electricity demand.” The company has even asked its customers to push for the bill freezing the clean energy and efficiency standards.

Yet FirstEnergy admitted to state regulators that the law’s efficiency standards helped consumers save $2 for every $1 spent. In total, the energy efficiency program has saved Ohio $1 billion in formerly wasted energy.

If it looks like a fascistic cabal is in control…

The bill Gov. Kasich signed June 13, Senate Bill 310, attacks all this. The bill “freezes” the 2025 mandate to allow for a two year “study,” which look more like time to organize to repeal the legislation entirely.  One indication of the bad faith at the heart of the Kasich bill is that it no longer requires utilities to buy Ohio renewables, both a gift to the big utilities and a blow to renewable energy companies, with ratepayers picking up the expense (Green Tech Media fears the bill will “end new wind farms in Ohio”). The bill also cuts the renewable energy annual benchmarks already enacted in 2008 by as much as 55% each year. This literally requires energy producers to make no progress whatsoever on climate change until the end of 2017.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), for those who have forgotten, is a frequently dishonest, secretive, corporate-funded, legal entity whose mission is to corrupt enough state legislators so that ALEC’s benefactors can achieve national legislative goals state-by-state, by semi-stealth, free from national media or Congressional scrutiny. Alec describes itself with as much accuracy as dishonesty as “the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators,” where the unmentioned members are the controlling corporate operatives and where “non-partisan” means “willing to be bought regardless of party affiliation.”

From ALEC’s perspective, the public has no role in making public policy beyond docile acquiescence.

One of ALEC’s prime techniques is to develop corporate-interest legislation in secret task forces, creating “model” bills that their covert, Manchurian-legislator members can then take home and shill as their own handiwork. Long used to operating in relative obscurity (since its founding in 1973), ALEC was exposed through a massive document leak in 2011, reported by John Nichols in the Nation:

ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account.

Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC’s priorities [have included] bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more.  [emphasis added]

ALEC has developed a model bill for undermining alternative energy growth. The bill signed by Gov. Kasich June 13 includes language taken from the ALEC model bill. At least 33 Ohio legislators are also members of ALEC.  In 2012, Ohio legislators sponsored more than 30 bills reflecting ALEC language and goals. Before he was a congressman or a governor, John Kasich was active in ALEC during its formative years. This is a closed feedback loop that allows these “representatives” of the people to ignore the people even on an issue where 70% of the people oppose this corporate elite.

With unapologetic, deeply deceptive, Orwellian language, ALEC calls its model legislation the “Electricity Freedom Act.”

Saving the planet tends to remind some people of Stalin

One of the most consistent critics of Ohio’s renewable portfolio standard has been Republican state Senator Bill Seitz who is also a member of the board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). He has been campaigning against renewable energy responses to the dangers of climate change for years. He has sponsored a bill to repeal the 2008 law. In 2013, he told Mother Jones: “Nobody is for more carbon emissions than you need to have, but at the same time the question is, well, what does it cost?”

Earlier he had told the Wall Street Journal that renewable portfolio standards reminded him of “Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan.”  That article’s headline was “States Cooling to Renewable Energy,” followed by text supporting that self-fulfilling prophecy, mentioning climate change only in passing, and noting, as if it was a good thing, that:

The American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit whose members include fossil-fuel companies and mostly Republican state legislators, created a model bill for rolling back the standards last year and urged its members to pass similar bills in 2013.

Sen. Seitz’s third largest campaign donor in 2012 was the Ohio company, American Electric Power Company (AEP). AEP fears it will lose money because of increased efficiency in electric use.  AEP is also a member of ALEC.

Isn’t a “victory for fossil fuels” an oxymoron?

Media coverage of this quite literally vicious circle has been mostly thin and inadequate, in Ohio as well as nationally, as documented by Media Matters. A google search of the New York Times turned up little substantive coverage (the bill signing got a wire report one paragraph long). There were a couple of blog posts about Kasich versus renewable energy, one of which (“Ohio Rolls Back Renewables”) only began promisingly:

The big-money coalition attacking solar and wind power scored a huge trophy this week. On Wednesday[May 28], the Ohio legislature became the first in the country to roll back renewable-energy standards for power generation, a victory for fossil fuels, soot and greenhouse gases.

Gov. Kasich is up for re-election in 2014, and his Democratic opponent Ed Fitzgerald jumped all over Kasich’s willingness to sign legislation against renewable energy initiatives favored by 70% of Ohioans. Fitzgerald issuedthis statement:

Tonight, Governor Kasich’s office announced that he intends to move Ohio’s economy, families, and environment backwards. SB 310 will force utility prices to rise, and cost Ohioans thousands of jobs. In signing this bill, Governor Kasich will align himself with the Koch Brothers and the wealthy and well connected — and against working Ohioans. As Governor, I will work to make Ohio a national energy leader, rather than make headlines for trapping Ohio in the Rust Belt.

Ohio’s direct assault on the health of the planet, on the health of the renewable energy business, on a democratic process with integrity – none of these have caught the mainstream media’s fancy, but maybe the campaign name-calling will.  

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Posted in Renewable energy0 Comments

California energy agencies: Water cutbacks threaten the grid

California supply and demand, 7/5/14. Orange is available resources, dark blue is current demand. Right now things are fine. In the peak of summer demand can be 75 GW, and that when it could get dicey this year. Credit: caiso.com

California supply and demand, 7/5/14.  Right now things are fine. In the peak of summer, demand can be 75000 MW, and that’s when it could get dicey this year. Credit: caiso.com

The California drought threatens energy supplies with a triple whammy; less natural-gas generation, less hydropower, increased chances of wildfires on transmission lines. In an unprecedented move, the big three energy regulators in California have told the Water Resources Control Board that their planned water rationing threatens electricity generation.

Water cutbacks to gas-fired steam plants puts 1.1 GW of generation at risk during the summer when it is needed the most, said the California Energy Commission, the Public Utilities Commission and California ISO. Also, hydropower generation could drop by as much as 1.6 GW during the hot season. Further, the continuing extreme drought heightens the possibility of wildfires in remote areas where major transmission lines are.

The shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station complicates things further as its steady baseline of 2 GW of power is no longer available. California does have substantial amount of solar and wind energy now. However, it can’t possibly fill the gap especially since, by definition, renewable energy is generated intermittently.

Bloomberg

The agencies recommended “a mechanism allowing for swift response in the event of an actual or threatened emergency to California’s electricity grid or supplies,”

CalWatchdog

This summer California is caught on the horns of a dilemma of drought and energy. If it curtails water deliveries to agricultural users with junior water rights, as planned, this will conserve water needed for carryover into 2015. But doing so may also result in threatening the reliability of the electric grid for the summer of 2014.

California decision-makers may be facing the quandary of holding water for fish this year, for farmers next year — or releasing it this summer for steam power plants to keep alive grandmothers on respirators and dialysis machines.

Posted in Renewable energy, Water0 Comments

US solar seriously threatened by trade war, rates, ITC extension

Credit: freedigitalphotos.net user:dan

Credit: freedigitalphotos.net user:dan

The US solar industry faces three major challenges, any one of which would be problematic.

  • The US is imposing tariffs on Chinese PV panels, forcing prices here at home up. This trade war is pointless, as most trader wars usually are. Higher prices will definitely slow the growth of solar.
  • Utilities are fighting distributed solar and will be fought at the local level at public rate hearings. They can impose new fees for home solar and in general make it difficult for rooftop solar to be economical.
  • The Investment Tax Credit has helped. However, it needs to be extended to at least 2018. Virtually all other forms of energy get subsidies and tax breaks. renewables should too.

The solution is for all solar companies to join together/ They can’t fight these problems on their own.

These three issues — the trade war, utility rate design and the extension of the ITC — impact every solar firm in the country and every firm in their supply chain,” he said, urging those solar companies who haven’t joined SEIA to do so in order to help win these battles.

“These issues cannot be dealt with successfully by individual companies.”

Posted in Renewable energy0 Comments

Market share of hybrid cars falls, market share is tiny

hybrid-car-market-share

Even with increasing numbers of hybrid models on the market, 47 in the US, market share for hybrids is falling and is now at a minuscule 3%. It may be that hybrids won’t ever be more than niche vehicles.

I am the original owner of a 2001 Toyota Prius. It’s been a great car and I’ll drive it until the wheels fall off. The electric motor battery needed replacement at 105,000 miles and was just out of warranty so it cost $2,700. Other than that, there’s been nothing but routine maintenance.

Technological improvements in gas, diesel, plug-in hybrids, and EVs have eroded the MGP advantage of hybrids, which probably accounts for the decline in sales. Everyone else has caught up with hybrids. 45 MPG isn’t that big a deal now.

Hybrid cars have always been seen as “transitional” vehicles, and I’m certainly not ready to say the market has already moved past them. But now that there are more options in the diesel, EV, and compact market that appeal to MPG fanatics, the glossy sheen of hybrid cars may be finally wearing off.

Posted in Energy conservation, Renewable energy

If fuel cell vehicles aren’t green, neither are plug-in hybrids

fuel cell

Fuel cell vehicles are powered by hydrogen. Hydrogen comes almost entirely from natural gas fracking. Plus, FCVs wear out far faster than internal combustion vehicles. Elon Mush could have invested in FCV, didn’t, and says “fuel cell is so bullshit, it’s a load of rubbish.” However, any criticism of fuel cell vehicles using hydrocarbons indirectly for energy must also apply to battery electric vehicles. After all, a plug-in hybrid in the US is almost certainly using power generated by using natural gas or coal.

“Hydrogen is a fossil fuel. 95% of US production is from natural gas, most of the remainder from the gasification of coal, and it will not change for the better.”

“Hydrogen is locked by the force of economics to natural gas and natural gas is increasingly locked by the same force to the practice of on-shore hydraulic fracturing of shales. Hydrogen is the Hydro in fossil HydroCarbons and hence hydrogen cannot be extracted from the ground without simultaneously extracting and disposing of carbon as CO2.”

As for creating hydrogen via renewable energy:

Creating hydrogen via electricity is extremely inefficient and doesn’t compare with today’s batteries.

Well, as mentioned, those batteries are probably by dirty energy too.

FCVs do output water only and have no other emissions. However “Imagine all the cars in your city emitting water vapor, and consider what that might do to your local climate.”

Posted in Renewable energy

Solar freakin’ roadways would be hugely expensive and won’t work

even-cooler

There are so many things wrong with solar freakin’ roadways; like cost, practicality, and durability, it’s difficult to know where to start. Here’s are some of the major points. Watch the video for more.

Price is a huge issue. Glass panels themselves are expensive. On top of that must be added the price of embedded processors and electronics in the panel, the ginormous cost of connecting the panels to the grid along the roadways, the steep cost of burying power and data lines, and of course, actually building the roads. New electrical infrastructure would need to be build alongside solar panel roads so the power could be sent elsewhere. This inevitably means new, big transmission lines everywhere.

Solar roadways must provide traction, just like regular roads. Will wet or icy glass road panels provide proper traction for braking and turning? Want to bet your life on that during an ice storm when the semi in front of you starts fish-tailing? The raised parts of the glass panels will wear down after prolonged usage, making the surface slippery indeed. Dirt and gravel is stronger and more abrasive than glass and will accelerate the process. Glass will become opaque, cutting down on efficiency of power creation.

Solar roadways cannot melt snow off them in winter during storms because the roads will be covered with snow and thus no power would be created. Plus, melting ice takes large amounts of energy. Snow plows are much more efficient. But would snow plows even be able to be used on solar roadways without damaging the glass due to scraping? I doubt it.

Tiles will inevitably come loose. Water will seep into the road, causing erosion. Asphalt doesn’t have this problem, and is 99% recycled now.

Driving a little bitty tractor on the glass panels as a demo is not sufficient. Try it with hundreds of loaded semis each day for several months, then see what the road looks like.

The Indegogo video shows the inventors shoveling waste colored glass into a wheelbarrow as an example of recycling. However, colored glass is not what is needed for solar panels. The glass needs to be clear. Further, they clearly do not have the facilities needed to turn waste glass into roadway tiles at any kind of scale.

Colored LEDs will be almost impossible to see during bright sunlight. Light pollution at night from thousands of roads with sparkly lights will be severe. Would you want to live on a street that had ever-changing lights all night long? Didn’t think so. And why do roads need lights on them anyway?

Parking lots with solar panels as the pavement seem to be a swell idea until your realize that cars will be parked on top of the panels during the day, thus cutting way down of power generation.

Solar roadways are a wonderful idea. However, they are completely impractical.

Posted in News, Renewable energy, Solar power

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