Archive | Renewable energy

Ivanpah planning multiple ways to stop frying birds

Credit: ivanpahsolar.com/

Credit: ivanpahsolar.com

Reflected heat from mirrors at the Ivanpah solar thermal plant in California near Primm NV has been killing large numbers of birds. To their credit, site operator BrightSource Energy is creating bird deterrent systems. These include anti-perching devices, sonic deterrents, anti-bird LEDS,  and waste and water containment so birds don’t gather.

As to the efforts currently underway, the waste and water containment is actively being done daily and the heliostat repositioning is complete. The sonic deterrent has been purchased and is in the process of being tested on site. The lighting on the towers are now being turned off at night and bids to replace the current ground level lighting with LED were returned this week and will be purchased and installed.

They also plan to donate $1.8 million to cat trap, neuter, and release organizations as cats kill birds too. Current efforts include a “25 million for our desert tortoise program, and in developing a high quality, scientifically valid, and robust avian plan.”

I don’t quite get the advantage of solar thermal, which reflects heat to a central tower to power turbines, over solar photovoltaic. PV is not nearly as destructive to wildlife and birds and uses practically no water, an important issue in baking deserts. Another problem with Ivanpah is airline pilots report the glare can be blinding.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power0 Comments

California could be 100% renewable energy by 2050, say researchers

solar_power_tower

A combination of renewable energy from wind, water, and sunlight could power California completely by 2050, say perky researchers from Stanford. In my view they’re a bit too perky as well as overly We Know What Is Best For You.

First off, all those pesky gas and diesel vehicles would need to be completely replaced by electric, they say. No word on how electric semis would be able to haul multi-ton loads up the steep Grapevine outside of Los Angeles. No electric truck to my knowledge has the needed torque and power to do this. Maybe they will one day. But they don’t now.

Then there’s this.

[Wind, water, and sunlight] sources selected “ranked the highest among several proposed energy options for addressing pollution, public health, global warming, and energy security.”

Um, shouldn’t cost be a criteria too? Also, grid technology neccessary to support 100% renewables doesn’t exist yet. Perhaps it will soon. However, making projections based on technology that doesn’t exist yet seems a bit specious.

They claim going to 100% renewables would pay for itself.

“The California air-pollution health plus global climate cost benefits from eliminating California emissions could equal the $1.1 trillion installation cost of 603 GW of new power needed for a 100% all-purpose WWS system within ~7 (4–14) years.”

“Global climate cost benefits”, whatever that might be, do not pay for the project or decrease costs eleswhere and should not be included in cost calculations.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power, Wind turbines0 Comments

Self-cooling PV cells use layer of silica glass

self-cooling-solar-cells

Stanford researchers have developed a way to keep solar photovoltaic cells cooler, even in baking temperatures. If the cells get too hot, efficiency drops as does the lifetime of the cells. Adding pyramid-shaped layer of silica glass allows the cells to cool on their own, avoiding the need for water or wind for cooling.

“The goal was to lower the operating temperature of the solar cell while maintaining its solar absorption,” Fan said. “We were quite pleased to see that while the flat layer of silica provided some passive cooling, the patterned layer of silica considerably outperforms the 5 mm-thick uniform silica design and has nearly identical performance as the ideal scheme.”

Thus, efficiency and cell lifetimes both increase, hugely improving productivity.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power0 Comments

Ivanpah Solar Thermal Plant in Mojave Desert

Ivanpah

Ivanpah

The ginormous Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California near Primm NV reflects baking heat from the sun to a central tower where electricity is generated from steam turbines. Some solar thermal plants store excess heat in molten salt to be used later to generate power. Ivanpah doesn’t do this. It doest recycle 100% of the steam, keeping water usage at a minimum. However, the concentrated heat does kill birds and the glare can be an aviation hazard. No source of electricity creation is completely benign. That’s just the way it is.

ivanpah-info

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power0 Comments

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 energy

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, Water

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