Sunday, December 18, 2016

Scotland Advancing in World Renewable Energy Markets

The transition to renewable energy is going to drive the world economy for decades to come. If Trump was halfway serious about revitalizing American manufacturing, he'd be going all in on this. But as it is, countries like Germany and China, and now even Scotland, are pulling ahead of us.

The Aberdeen (Scotland) Evening Express has the story.

“The stretching targets set in Scotland have meant our home-grown green energy industry has developed skills which are in demand on every inhabited continent, bringing investment and income to Scotland from across the world. Countries like Japan, Canada and Chile have seen the lead we’ve built up in wave and tidal energy and now employ Scottish organisations to advise them on developing their own marine energy resources."

Link: Scotland’s ‘renewable energy expertise’ in demand worldwide, says new research

Wave Energy Project in Ghana

Bianca Britton at has the story on a new wave energy project off the coast of Ghana.

The thing I like about wave energy, speaking as a Californian, is that it is much less intermittent than solar or wind, and thus can provide much more reliable, 24-hour energy.

The advantages of wave power, the company argues, is that their machines do not emit pollution, waves are more predictable than other renewable sources and despite the original set up being costly, the running and maintenance costs are low.

Link: Could waves become the next big renewable energy source?

California Net Metering Cap Kicks In

Everyone is trying to minimize this, but the net metering cap is just another attempt by Pacific Gas & Electric to slow down the pace of the solar transition. Not good.

In January, the California Public Utilities Commission approved new net metering rules to keep retail rate remuneration for energy exported to the grid, but added the connection fee and a non-bypassable monthly charge ranging from $0.02/kWh to 0.03/kWh, in addition to time-of-use rates. Those rates are up for review in 2019.

Link: PG&E hits California net metering cap

Friday, December 16, 2016

Priming the Pump of Renewable Energy Financing

My own opinionse on how to finance the renewable energy transition tend towards things like nationalizing the electrical utilities and then using the utility income to finance the change.

But for people hung up on market mechanisms, here is a story from Jan Ellen Spiegel at InsideClimate News about Connecticut's Green Bank and its mission to secure private financing for the transition.

"Your goal is to get people into the real market where they can operate without government support or subsidy," said Esty, who is no longer commissioner. He believes industry, not government, should pick technologies. "The key role of government was to de-risk the flow of funds into clean energy."

Link: Does Connecticut's Green Bank Hold the Secret to the Future of Clean Energy?

Breakthrough Energy Ventures

I have some issues with Bill Gate's Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund. Gates seems to believe that we need a lot more research before we can make the transition to renewable energy. And I'm sure he's right that there are some mind-blowing technical breakthroughs ahead of us as we become a renewable energy society.

But we have sufficient technology in hand to push for implementation on a massive scale right now. And we need megawatts of renewable energy now, not twenty years in the future.

Tracy Staedter at Seeker has the report on what Gates and his supporters are doing.

Although the size of the fund is impressive, its duration is also a surprise. Whereas most investors want to see their startup companies turning a profit within a few years, those under Breakthrough Energy Ventures' wing will have 20 years to take the research and development time often necessary to push energy innovation to new levels.

Link: Bill Gates and Wealthy Allies Have Launched a $1B Clean Energy Fund

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Growth in Solar Energy Strong for 2016 3rd Quarter

A lot of solar energy projects are starting to come online. Danielle Ola at PVTech has the story.

Whilst the third quarter may have broken records, the momentum is set to continue with even better figures in store for Q4. GTM Research anticipates that 4.8GW of utility PV projects will come online in the last quarter of the year; even more than was installed across the entire segment in all of 2015.

Link: US solar sees record-breaking Q3 2016, with Q4 to do even better

Solar Hydrogen in Gas Pipelines

A new project at the University of California, Irvine is looking at using our existing gas pipeline infrastructure to store and deploy hydrogen gas generated with electricity from renewable energy sources. Avery Thompson at Popular Mechanics has the report.
The project involves a technique called electrolysis, which uses electricity (in this case, electricity generated by the excess wind or solar power) to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen. ... The hydrogen can be compressed and injected into existing natural gas pipelines, where it is burned to generate electricity or heat. In this way, hydrogen acts as an efficient means of storing excess electricity generated by renewable sources.
Link: How Simple Hydrogen Could Solve Renewable Energy's Biggest Problem

Cold Storage for Energy

Cryogenic energy storage is another contender in the race to find a way to store intermittent, renewable energy. Yasmin Ali at BBC News tells of a demonstration plant in Manchester, England, for his concept.
The cryogenic energy facility stores power from renewables or off-peak generation by chilling air into liquid form. When the liquid air warms up it expands and can drive a turbine to make electricity.
The 5MW plant near Manchester can power up to 5,000 homes for around three hours.
Link: Cryogenic storage offers hope for renewable energy

Monday, December 12, 2016

Solar Has Repaid Its Fossil Fuel Debt

Megan Treacy at Treehugger reports on a new Dutch study that confirms that, even now, renewable energy systems do reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.
By the researchers' calculations, for every doubling of global solar power capacity, the energy used to produce them fell by 12-13 percent and greenhouse gas emissions fell by 17-24 percent, depending on what material was used.

Link: New study says solar panels have repaid their fossil fuel debt

Renewable Energy and the Zombie Apocalypse

l always considered global warming to be a perfectly sufficient apocalypse scenario all on its own, but maybe not. The Fairfax Times of Virginia has the story of how a high school teacher uses zombies to put a little extra oomph into his class renewable energy projects.

Students first learned about solar, wind, and water renewable energy sources. They were challenged to choose one of sources, research multiple designs for that energy source, and put it into practice. Students worked in groups to design the project, then were given a scenario that grabbed their attention: a zombie apocalypse. The scenario stated that all non-renewable energy sources had been wiped out. Their challenge was to develop a zombie survival kit that included the development of their chosen renewable energy source.

Link: Zombie Survival Kit project helps students understand renewable energy resources

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Kite Power!

Avery Thompson at Popular Mechanics has the information on a new kind of wind generator that uses kites instead of turbines. I guess that should take care of President Trump's concerns about birds being slaughtered by turbine blades.
The kite is attached to the ground-based turbines with a tether, and when the wind forces the kite to rise, the tether spins the turbine to generate electricity. By using a system with two kites, in which one rises as the other falls, power can be generated continuously.

Link:  Scotland Will Soon Be Running on Kite Power

Dirt Batteries

Cat DiStasio at Engadget has a reminder about other potentially exciting sources of renewable energy. I particularly liked the microbial "dirt batteries" developed at Harvard.

Scientists at Harvard University built a battery that's essentially powered by dirt. The creation of the microbial fuel cell (MFC) batteries is an energy storage breakthrough primed to aid residents of countries with absent or unstable power grids, such as regions of Africa where many people still live off the grid. MFC batteries are notoriously low in cost and can be constructed from local resources that look nothing like the batteries in your flashlight or cell phone.

Link: Six unexpected sources of renewable energy

Clean Energy Industry Makes Bid for Influence with Republicans

Fortune carries a report from Reuters about green energy donations to Republican candidates and the hope for (finally!) bi-partisan support for renewable energy.

During the 2016 cycle, the wind and solar industry’s political action committees contributed more than $225,000 to Republican candidates for office, compared with $185,000 for Democrats. The numbers are not large by the standards of political donations but they mark the first time the industry has tilted its contributions toward Republicans, according to federal records.

Link: Here's Why the Clean Energy Industry Is Hopeful About Donald Trump

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Asian Super Grid and You

Dave Roos in Seeker has the report about the proposed new Asian energy supergrid. As we know from other studies, a large-scale energy grid is a key part of the transition to renewable energy since it allows areas that are still in daylight to send solar-generated electricity to areas that have moved into darkness.

GEIDCO hopes the Asia Super Grid will become the first piece in a global energy puzzle. The State Grid Corporation of China, one of the chief backers of GEIDCO, predicts that every country will have its own super grid by 2030, and that the global energy "internet" will be completed by 2050 and powered by 80 percent clean energy. 

Link:  Asia's Super Grid to Be Fueled by Clean Energy

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Update: California's Energy Storage Mandate

Randy J. Hill and Elliott J. Williams at Renewable Energy World have the update on California's energy storage mandate. In particular, they look at the effects of AB 2514, which is pushing California utilities to look at technologies beyond pumped storage hydroelectricity.
Although a handful of storage technologies are getting a big boost from that effort, there is little doubt that roughly 75 percent of the state’s energy storage needs in the coming decades will be met by pumped storage hydro, the traditional—and still the most economical—storage solution.

Link:  At the Halfway Point: The Effect of California’s Energy Storage Mandate

U.S. Energy Storage Summit 2016

The second U.S. Energy Storage Summit is happening in San Francisco, December 7th & 8th.

Now in its second year, the U.S. Energy Storage Summit will bring together utilities, financiers, regulators, technology innovators, and storage practitioners for two full days of data-intensive presentations, analyst-led panel sessions with industry leaders, and extensive, high-level networking.

Link: U.S. energy storage summit 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Clean Energy Cheaper Than Coal

Coal isn't coming back, no matter what Trump says, according to Lucas Mearian at Computer World. His report has some nice detail about specifically where and how Trump could hurt the transition to renewable energy and how the growing economic strength of renewable energy, particularly solar, might enable it to shrug him off and keep moving forward.
Even with the dissolution of the [Clean Power Plan], the number of coal-fired generators is still expected to be reduced by about one-third through 2030, or by about 60 gigawatts of capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Link:  Trump’s coal revival plan won’t work; clean energy tech is already cheaper

Germany Pushes Past Trump

Perhaps as a reaction to the election of Donald Trump, Germany has presented a new and more detailed plan for how it will achieve a renewable energy economy by 2050. Think about that for a minute; It's only 34 years away. My nieces and nephews will live to see it. Bob Berwyn at InsideClimate News has the story.
The Klimaschutz 2050 plan envisions a carbon-neutral Germany by 2050, a longstanding target. But for the first time, it gets specific. The plan details how much each sector of the economy will reduce emissions to meet the intermediate goal of a 55 percent carbon reduction in the next 15 years. In previous climate plans, there were no goals for transportation and agriculture, but now all major polluters will have to pull their weight, German officials said.

Link: Germany Reasserts Climate Leadership

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Portland Moving Forward on Renewable Energy

Oregon's Portland Tribune has a report from Steve Law on the new plan for renewable energy submitted by Portland Gas and Electric (PGE). Oregon law requires that PGE get 50 percent of its electricity comes from wind, solar and other renewable energy by 2040. The new plan shows how they intend to get there.

The plan seems to lean heavily on energy efficiency, which is a good reminder that conservation technologies stand shoulder to shoulder with solar and wind technology in the building of a renewable energy world.

PGE’s 2016 Integrated Resource Plan  calls for a mix of new energy-efficiency measures, providing ways to reduce demand for power, and acquiring new energy supplies, such as natural gas and renewable energy, among other strategies.

Link:  PGE offers peek at renewable energy future

China Takes the Lead

Emma Rumney at Public Finance International gives details on how China has become the world leader in renewable energy investment.

The country, notorious for its dangerous levels of pollution, invested more than the US ($44.1bn), the UK ($22.2bn) and Japan ($36.2bn), put together, the United Nations Environment Programme’s annual report on global trends in renewable energy found.

Link: China is world’s largest investor in renewable energy

The Policies We Need for Renewable Energy

The Environmental Defense Fund's Lenae Shirley points out the importance of a bigger, smarter electrical grid.

If California’s electric grid were connected to neighboring states, for example, the state could export its excess renewable energy when the sun is shining there, and buy wind from Wyoming when it isn’t. This, again, would make wind and solar go farther.
Link:  These policy solutions can help unleash the full potential of renewable energy

Friday, November 18, 2016

Does Trump Need Renewable Energy to Make Us Energy Independent?

Geoffrey Smith at Fortune looks at a report from the International Energy Agency and reports that Trump may not reach U.S. energy independence in his lifetime if he doesn't boost renewable energy.
It could happen sooner, but that would require Trump to really embrace the kind of transformation of the energy sector called for by the Paris Accord on climate change–promoting renewables, encouraging energy efficiency, and migrating the transport sector to electric motors. That’s kind of awkward, given that Trump has pledged to pull out of the accord and revive the coal industry instead.

Link: Trump Can Make the U.S. Energy-Independent—If He Goes Green

Solar Cookers That Work at Night

Rob Goodier at Engineering for Change reports on progress in solar cookers for rural areas in the Third World. At least that's where they were originally intended for. Now in the Age of Trump, all bets are off.

H. S. Udaykumar, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Iowa, explains the challenge like this: “First, the cooker should operate in the early morning and late evening when the sun is not at peak. They should be able to cook indoors, sitting down. They cook for two hours each time. The stove top temperature should be about 200C, with heat delivered at approximately 1 KW to the cook surface.
Link: 10 Solar Cookers That Work at Night

Renewable Energy in Rural America

The topic of the hour seems to be whether or not renewable energy has enough momentum to survive, or even make progress, during a Trump administration. Dave Roberts at Vox weights in, recognizing the fact that renewable energy seems to be taking root in rural communities that don't necessarily believe in climate change and which may well have voted for Trump.
What’s more, unlike the abstractions involved in climate, clean energy is real, tangible, and — perhaps most important of all — commercially viable. There are many things that divide Americans, but they are generally united on the benefits of making money.

Link: Renewable energy is seeping into small-town America

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Green Tea Party?

Back in April, Carl Lindemann and Jared Goyette at PRI (Public Radio International) gave a brief account of an active, pro-renewable energy faction of the Tea Party. Given as how the right-wing has now demonstrated its political muscle again I thought I'd present it. Speaking as a liberal, I've always resented the fact that renewable energy is generally presented as a liberal cause. Any way that we can recruit some of the conservatives to help with this would be great.
It's now clear that Dooley was on to something. Solar energy can allow a family to transform their home into a self-sufficient power plant with the addition of a few panels on the roof. This appeals to conservative ideals of self-reliance, free from interference from Big Government or even Big Corporations.
Link: The 'green' Tea Party fights for a more environmentally friendly GOP

Monday, November 14, 2016

Renewable Energy Will Survive the Trump Administration

Saulius Mikalonis at Crain's Detroit Business argues that the renewable energy industry is now sufficiently robust and entrenched to survive the disapproval of Donald Trump and a Republican Congress.

With new technological developments and greater demand, the costs will only continue to go down, which creates an economic incentive for the use of these technologies. This holds true even in places where coal is cheap and plentiful, like Texas. In Michigan, coal-fired plants are closing, mainly because they have outlived their useful lives and are expensive to run. They are not being replaced by other coal plants, but by natural gas and renewables. The economic case for renewables will keep the market for it healthy and vibrant no matter what the new administration does.

Link: Renewable energy poised to thrive under any White House

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Faster Approvals for Renewable Energy Projects on Federal Lands

It looks like the Obama administration is trying to hurry to put in place a streamlined process for approving proposed renewable energy projects.
Under the current system, it can take up to 18 months to two years to permit a renewable energy project on federal lands. The new rule, finalized on Thursday, could cut that time in half in the areas designated as most suitable for development

Link: U.S. Takes Major Step Toward Wind and Solar Development

A New Model of a Renewable Energy World

Alexander McNamara at the BBC's Science Focus brings news of a new study out of Finland that illustrates precisely how a global renewable energy system would operate.

The model looks at the world in 2030 separated into 145 regions, showing how the energy can be distributed across the planet to meet demand at any hour of the day, all year long, as well showing from which renewable source it comes from.

Link:  New simulation shows 100 per cent renewable energy future

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Texas Army Base Builds Solar Plant

Abbey Sinclair at the Fort Hood Herald reports on the progress being made on a concentrated solar array for Fort Hood in Texas.

“Fort Hood, the Army’s largest installation, will be an enduring installation for training soldiers in the years to come, and we are investing in that,” he added, explaining that energy derived from the solar farm will be about 15 megawatts. Combined with about 50 megawatts from the wind farm, the energy available will be about 65 megawatts, or almost half of Fort Hood’s daily need.

Link: Progress continues on Fort Hood’s $100 million renewable energy farm

Trump Already Hurting Wind Power

Ben Chapman at The Independent describes how Trump's victory is already weakening the financial position of the wind power industry.
Wind turbines are given generous subsidies in the US, as the world’s biggest per-capita polluter attempts to reduce its carbon output. However, Mr Trump’s aggressively pro-business, anti-government stance puts any government assistance under threat.

Link: Donald Trump wins: Shares plummet for biggest wind turbine company as result throws renewable energy future into doubt

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

It Came From Outer Space (electricity, that is)

Michelle Z. Donahue at has a very interesting article about the latest efforts to put solar collectors into space. Frankly this idea rings my sci-fi loving bell, and rings it hard. I really hope these people are on to something.

Mankins and others estimate the total cost for developing, building, launching and assembling all the components of a space-based solar power plant is on the order of $4 to $5 billion—a fraction of the $28 billion price tag on China’s Three Gorges Dam. Mankins estimates a working scale model with full-sized components could be had for $100 million. By comparison, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s recently completed Watts Bar nuclear plant took 43 years to build, from start to stuttering finish, and cost $4.7 billion all told.

Link: What's Next For Solar Energy? How About Space

Monday, November 7, 2016

Electricity From Your Floor

Apparently a journey of a thousand miles really might start with a single step.

Floorboards might not be the first form of renewable energy that springs to mind, but they could soon be taking their place alongside solar and wind power – because scientists have figured out a way to produce electricity from wood pulp.

Link: Researchers just found a new source of renewable energy in wood pulp waste

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Utility Pole Solar

Mireya Navarro at the New York Times has a story about solar NIMBYism in New Jersey. Some people in the state are upset about a new program by the Public Service Electric and Gas Company that mounts solar panels to existing utility poles. This is a very creative effort (in my opinion) to retrofit solar panels into a community. But the solar panels are a visual blight, according to the critics. The story in the Times has a picture of them and I don't see it, but the critics may be more sensitive, aesthetically speaking, than I am.

When complete, the panels on the poles are expected to provide half of the 80 megawatts of electricity generated by the utility's overall $515 million solar investment — enough to power 6,500 homes.

Link: Solar Panels Rise Pole by Pole, Followed by Gasps of ‘Eyesore’

Thursday, November 3, 2016

How the Energy Revolution Came to Germany

Robert Kunzig at National Geographic has an interesting article tracing the evolution of Germany's "energiewende" or energy revolution. Kunzig looks at cultural and historical factors that may have made Germans more receptive to an undertaking like the energiewende.

The German revolution has come from the grass roots: Individual citizens and energy genossenschaften—local citizens associations—have made half the investment in renewables. ... German politicians sometimes compare the energiewende to the Apollo moon landing. But that feat took less than a decade, and most Americans just watched it on TV. The energiewende will take much longer and will involve every single German—more than 1.5 million of them, nearly 2 percent of the population, are selling electricity to the grid right now.

Link: Germany Could Be a Model for How We’ll Get Power in the Future

The Revolution is in the Northeast

Really interesting story from Marlene Cimons at NexusMedia and Think Progress about the progress towards renewable energy being made in the Northeast.

The article highlights the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which has established a carbon emissions market among nine states in the Northeast. When we talk about innovations in renewable energy we can never forget the innovations we have to adopt in financing renewable energy and in putting a price on putting carbon in the atmosphere. If putting carbon in the atmosphere is free, despite the damage it causes, then it's just that much harder for renewable energy to compete.

But the RGGI states have put a price on carbon, and people are responding by embracing renewable energy. It's a good article. You should read it.

Between 2005 and 2015, coal-fired generation declined more than 80 percent in New England and New York, and more coal plants are scheduled to close. Meanwhile, solar power in New York State has grown 750 percent in the past five years.

Link:  Forget California: The Northeast is emerging as a clean energy leader

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Animated History of Electric Cars

A guide to how far electric cars have come, for those of you who are more visually oriented. Courtesy of and EV World.

By the early 1900's, a third of all the automobiles on the planet were electric

Link: The EV-olution of Electric Vehicles

Doies the World Need Solar Powered E-Bike Rentals?

Derek Markham at Treehugger reports on a new venture that rents e-bikes to tourists from cruise ships. The whole business is entirely solar-powered and operates out of a slightly modified shipping container so that it's mobile. Very clever idea, good execution, and they've identified a perfect market for their service. I hope they make a lot of money.

Moore told Silicon Prairie News that the system worked so well in Omaha over the summer that its biggest problem was just "keeping the tires inflated,

Link:  Quikbyke is a solar-powered e-bike rental shop & charging station in a shipping container

Sunday, October 30, 2016

What We Need to Do

Heather Mills at Grist sketches out what we could do if Ameria's politicians made a real commitment to renewable energy. And she's absolutely right. Her article is the "Clean Tech" section of Grist's 2016 election guide.

Imagine if the $5 billion we spend every year on new energy research and development was more like the $30 billion we spend on health care research, or the $80 billion we spend on defense. What could we accomplish?

Link: Launching the cleantech space race: A preflight checklist for candidates

Deepwater Wind: America's First Wind Farm

Heather Mills at Grist has the story on America's first offshore wind farm, the Deepwater Wind project off of Rhode Island.

But there’s a big difference between the East Coast and the West Coast. On the east coast you have a continental shelf that keeps water a few hundred feet deep for miles and miles. We could have farms from Maine down the Atlantic coast.

Link: Offshore wind is finally — finally! — coming to the U.S.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Renewable Energy Versus Renewable Electricity

If I were President Obama I would give Dave Roberts some kind of medal before I left office. Roberts easily wins any competition to combine serious, in-depth knowledge of the challenges of the conversion to renewable energy with clarity of communication.

In this most recent piece on Vox he makes the point that we are not as far along with our conversion to renewable energy as people think, because most of our progress has been in electricity generation, while a lot of our fossil fuel use consists of burning oil products for transportation.

But wind and solar are only for electricity, so they only displace coal and natural gas. Oil is used for transportation and industry, and it still completely dominates those categories. It’s not going anywhere, at least until we figure out a way to electrify everything, which won’t happen in the next five years.
Link:  America isn’t using nearly as much renewable energy as Americans think

Sunday, October 23, 2016

US Solar Capacity Triples in Three Years

Discovery News, which seems to be re-branding itself as Seeker, has the update.

Solar power has been on a tear in recent years partly because of cheaper solar panels and a federal tax credit for solar installations. Congress extended the solar tax credit early this year, helping to fuel a 39 percent annual growth rate for solar power-producing capacity, to 27 gigawatts by next year from about 10 gigawatts in 2014, or enough to power about 3.5 million homes, the data show.

Link:  US Solar Capacity Triples in Three Years

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Electric Cars Could Trash the Oil companies Sooner Rather Than Later

A brief article in Grist by Heather Smith reports that at least one credit rating agency is warning that breakthroughs in battery costs for electric cars could send the oil industry into a death spiral.

There is going to be a tipping point where the world wakes up from its carbon drunk. The longer that people take to put the bottle down, the worse the hangover is going to be.

Electric cars are a particular threat, according to Fitch, because transportation is a huge user of oil — it accounted for about 55 percent of total oil use in 2014. But a leap forward in batteries would also hit utilities hard, since it would eliminate the need to keep coal and natural gas plants running in order to balance the intermittent electricity generated by wind and solar installations.

Link:  Oil companies should be scared of electric vehicles

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Electric Car Transition

If you replace internal combustion engines with electric vehicles, you get rid of one quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions. And it looks like several nations are moving towards taking that step.

Joe Romm at ThinkProgress has a very informative article on the movement in several nations towards banning the sale of internal combusion vehicles by 2030. I had no idea this was going on but I'm jazzed. And if we get enough momentum going on this, then maybe we can get them banned sooner.

As noted above, Germany’s Bundesrat (senate) passed a resolution that would ban ICE cars as soon as 2030. A resolution is far from law, but as Forbes noted earlier this month, “the EU auto industry seems to be ready to switch to electric power, and politicians just signaled their willingness to force the switch to zero-emission, if necessary.”

Link:  Which will be the first country to ban fuel-burning cars: Norway, Germany, India?

Friday, September 30, 2016

How to Save the World With Used Car Batteries

Probably the biggest nut left to crack in figuring out our transition to a renewable energy economy is the problem of energy storage: how do we store energy for use when the sun isn't shining and the wind's not blowing?

We've seen Elon Musk tackle this challenge head on last year with his Powerwall and Powerpack home batteries. But Joe Romm at ThinkProgress pointed out last May that an even cheaper solution lies with used batteries from Electric Vehicles (EVs) like the Tesla, the Chevy Bolt and the Nissan Leaf. When the batteries of those cars degrade to the point that they no longer provide sufficient range for an electric vehicle, they still retain 80% of their storage capacity and are well suited for home or commercial energy storage.

A year ago, Toyota turned on its off-grid 85-kilowatt-hour (kWh) energy storage system built with 208 repurposed Toyota Camry Hybrid nickel-metal hydride battery packs. The batteries work with a new 40-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array system to “provide all-day, renewable power at the remote facility for the first time in its history.”

 So the growth of the EV market automatically makes it cheaper and easier to store renewable energy at home as well. A two-fer.

Link: Why Used Electric Car Batteries Could Be Crucial To A Clean Energy Future

Sunday, September 4, 2016

China and U.S. Clinch New Climate Deal

I've always thought that Obama was just kind of scrambling to do something about climate change, but maybe he's been working on a long term strategy all along. John H. Cushman Jr. at Inside Climate News has a report on how the new China-U.S. agreement is intended to help push along ratification of the Paris climate accords, and what the implications are if it is ratified.

According to the United Nations, the pact's early entry into force would have a "catalytic effect, spurring strong and decisive action" well before 2020. In particular, parties to the agreement would be bound by rules such as those governing "transparency," the ability of nations to monitor each other's compliance. A series of timetables would also kick in further tightening the Paris pledges.
Link:  U.S. and China Ratify Paris Agreement, Upping Pressure on Other Nations

Thursday, September 1, 2016

China Takes the Lead. Go China!

Marlene Cimmons at Think Progress runs down the numbers on how China has taken the lead in moving to a clean energy economy. It's impressive. I remember watching a Fox News special on global warming which argued that the U.S. couldn't do anything about global warming because our efforts would be useless unless the Chinese joined in. So now that China has clearly joined in, what's going to be the excuse now?

“Already, China hosts the largest installed capacities for most types of renewable energy technology,” said Dolf Gielen, director of the International Renewable Energy Association’s (IRENA) Innovation Technology Centre. “China’s progress in this area is just one example of the ongoing, dramatic shift occurring in the global energy system.”

Link:  China Is Emerging As A Global Clean Energy Leader

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

SB 32: California Uber Alles

Brad Plumer at Vox has a great summary of California's new drive to reduce global warming emissions. If we make it, then we're number 1!

Add it up and scenario S3 is serious business. We’re talking about a world where California gets more than 50 percent of its electricity from renewables in 2030 (up from 25 percent today), where zero-emissions vehicles are 25 percent of the fleet by 2035 (up from about 1 percent today), where high-speed rail is displacing car travel, where biodiesel has mostly replaced diesel in heavy-duty trucks, where pastures are getting converted to forests, where electricity replaces natural gas in heating, and on and on.

Possible? Sure. Easy? Hardly. The level of effort is just orders of magnitude different from anything California has done so far.
 I'm amazed that this made it through the legislature, but it did and that makes our job easier. Going forward we just have to support our existing laws.

Link:  California is about to find out what a truly radical climate policy looks like

Thursday, August 25, 2016

California Resolves to Support Carbon Tax

California legislators have passed a resolution calling on the Federal government to enact a reveue-neutral carbon tax.

"... a carbon tax with dividend sharing model, starting at $10 per ton of carbon dioxide and increasing by $10 per ton each year, would reduce carbon dioxide emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels in 20 years. Moreover, the economic stimulus generated by the dividend sharing would, over the same period of time, add 2.8 million jobs to the American economy, compared with a business-as-usual scenario."

Link: California Legislators Want to Tax Carbon, But Give the Revenue to the People

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Carbon Tax in British Columbia is Working Well

I missed this article by Michael Purzycki in the Washington Monthly when it first came out but it's worth posting about now. It's a painfully clear reminder that we know how to beat climate change, it's all a matter of finding the political will and muscle to get it done.

The tax has had undeniably significant effects on the province’s consumption of fossil fuels and, as a consequence, its carbon emissions ... petroleum use per capita fell more than 16% in BC in the first five years of the carbon tax, while it rose 3% in the rest of Canada during the same period ... Canada’s Tokyo target [in global climate change accords] was a 6 percent reduction in 20 years.

And, no, the tax has not hurt British Columbia's economy either.

Link:  A Model Carbon Tax

The Method to Musk's Madness

The dependably interesting Dave Roberts at Vox has an article about how solar roofs fit in with the rest of Elon Musk's strategy for building businesses that fight climate change. I don't know that he's right, but I'd like to see all of Musk's ventures succeed.

But all this talk about the risks Musk is taking misses something key to understanding his ambitions for Tesla. I think it’s safe to say the possibility of failure means something different to Musk than it does to most entrepreneurs.

Link:  Here’s how solar roofs fit into Elon Musk’s master plan

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Solar takes the lead


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Solar Jobs Report

Think Progress has a nice summary piece about the growth of solar jobs in the United States. California leads the way, which is not surprise, but I am surprised that Massachusetts comes in second. I would have thought Texas, but I guess that a lot of the activity in Texas is around wind.

Solar employment numbers have gone up 20% a year for the last three years. That's fine, but it's a frustrating reminder that if the United States would just do the right thing about climate change and embrace solar then we could be having an employment boom in this country.

But, baby steps for now, I guess. The important thing is to elect a Democrat for President this year, along with as many Senators and Congress people that we can.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Obama's Oil Tax Proposal

John Cushman Jr. at Inside Climate News has a nice summary piece about Obama's proposal to place a $10 per barrel tax on oil.

Cushman's main thrust is that, while Republican control of Congress makes the passage of such a tax impossible, it is a wonderful thing to put the proposal out in public for discussion. Sounds right to me. It occurs to me that needs a new focus.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Integrating Renewable Energy into the Grid

A nice overview from Joe Romm at Think Progress about the techniques that are being used to integrate wind and solar electricity into the energy grid despite the notorious variability of wind and solar.

Spoiler alert: it's going really well.

One of the key developments is the availability of highly accurate forecasts of wind and cloud cover that utilities are successfully using to forecast when they need to fire up a traditional power plant to cover a shortfall. Apparently it's the unpredictability of renewable sources that's the problem, rather than their variability. If utilities can predict their availability then they can cope with the variability.

But I have to say that I was amused by the idea of using the batteries of parked electric cars as a form of energy storage for the grid. The idea is that parked cars, at night, could supply energy from their batteries to the grid on the expectation that early morning wind will recharge these car batteries before the cars are needed for the morning commute. That seems far-fetched to me. But points for thinking outside the box.