Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blowing Smoke On Wind

President Obama has been quite adamant about his push to transition to a clean energy economy, most notably by subsidizing wind and solar energy sources. He argues we need the government to invest in renewable energy to strengthen our economy and reduce the earth’s fever before it’s too late. Despite the Congress’s attempt to address the nation’s economic concerns and the government’s climate concerns, Washington’s policy prescriptions may not be all they’re cracked up to be. Consider a new study from MIT on wind power says that large wind farms could increase temperatures:

Using a climate model developed by the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, the researchers simulated the aerodynamic effects of large-scale wind farms — located both on land and on the ocean — to analyze how the atmosphere, ocean and land would respond over a 60-year span.

For the land analysis, they simulated the effects of wind farms by using data about how objects similar to turbines, such as undulating hills and clumps of trees, affect surface “roughness,” or friction that can disturb wind flow. After adding this data to the model, the researchers observed that the surface air temperature over the wind farm regions increased by about one degree Celsius, which averages out to an increase of .15 degrees Celsius over the entire global surface.”

Add in the fossil fuels used to make turbines as well provide back up power and wind may not be environmental solution advocates purport it to be. If wind turbines made sense economically, these points wouldn’t matter as much, but wind energy cannot survive without tax credits and subsidies. In a speech last year to sell the stimulus package, President Obama said, “Take the example of wind power alone: I’m told that if we don’t act now, because of the economic downturn, half of the wind projects planned for 2009 could wind up being abandoned.”

Many businesses and companies held off on projects or contracted in this recessionary environment, but they weren’t artificially propped up. They were allowed to fail and their resources were put to more productive use.

Even so, the stimulus package failed to create as many clean energy jobs as many supporting the stimulus thought it would. Moreover, “Clean-energy leaders and many outside analysts added that green companies won’t begin hiring in large numbers until the federal government mandates renewable power consumption nationwide and dramatically upgrades the nation’s electric grid.”

In other words, if the government subsidizes us, sure we’ll build you some windmills. But don’t expect any until then. This is an unwelcoming sign for every single American who will be stuck financing these projects with higher taxes and higher electricity bills.

If wind can compete absent subsidies, mandates or tax credits, then Americans will benefit from a more robust, competitive energy market. To suggest that windmills will be the answer to our economic and alleged climate problems is nothing but blowing smoke to the American people.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wind Turbine Syndrome with Dr Nina Pierpont

When it comes to wind farm protests the hottest topic for the last couple of years has been Wind Turbine Syndrome. That’s the name given to the range of symptoms described by some people who live close to wind farms. At this stage illness caused by wind farms is a medical and scientific theory, but people affected are adamant that it is the power generators making them sick.
Yesterday there were newspaper reports that the state’s Chief Health Officer, Dr John Carnie, had reiterated the DHS stance that there is nothing in the health claims. At the Morning Show we invited Dr Carnie onto the programme to explain why that is the stance, but we were told by a spokesman he was unavailable for us for the rest of the week.
We did however manage to get in touch with Dr Nina Pierpont. Dr Pierpont is a Medical Doctor who has investigated and written about members of her local community who believe they have suffered health consequences from wind farms. Nina Pierpont is the doctor who coined the phrase Wind Turbine Syndrome.

EPA To Do A New Study On Natural Gas 'Fracking'

NEW ORLEANS — The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that it will study potential human health and water quality threats from an oil and natural gas drilling technique that injects massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals underground.
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," has gained widespread use to unlock huge natural gas reserves, but the technique also has raised concerns about environmental damage.
EPA said the $1.9 million study, expected to be completed by 2012, will look at the effect on groundwater, surface water, human health and the environment in general.
Hydraulic fracturing injects millions of gallons of fluids under high pressure into a well drilled into rock formations to enlarge cracks and release oil or gas. Sand is pumped into the fractures to keep them from closing.
Recently fracking has been used to tap natural gas stored in shale formations; most notably the Barnett Shale in west Texas, the Haynesville Shale in north Louisiana, the Fayetteville Shale in northern Arkansas, Woodford Shale in southern Oklahoma and the Marcellus Shale beneath New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
According to the Energy Information Administration, there are 1,744 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas in the U.S., or enough to supply the country for 90 years at current rates of production. Much of it can only be recovered with fracking wells, according to the industry.
Concern is mounting that unregulated fracking will taint drinking water, siphon off too much surface material, deplete aquifers and produce briny wastewater that can kill fish.
A 2004 EPA study found no evidence that fracking threatens drinking water, but critics argued that the report was flawed and last year Congress asked EPA for a new study.
U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., has pushed Congress to regulate the practice. He said the 2004 EPA study was "marred by biased data influenced by senior officials" in the Bush administration. A spokesman said he was referring to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
A provision in the 2005 energy bill prevented EPA from regulating fracking. Houston-based oilfield giant Halliburton Co. pioneered the technique. The 2005 provision was called the "Halliburton loophole" by foes.
"You take 7 million gallons of water (per well) out of an aquifer in a little area, you're not going to get recovery for who knows how long," said Jimmy Couvillion, a landowner in Keithville, La. He wants more oversight of drillers scrambling to tap the Haynesville field.
Wilma Subra, a Louisiana chemist and environmentalist who's investigated shale field exploration nationwide, said leaks and spills were a threat and drillers should divulge what chemicals they're using. They're not required to do that now.
Arthur E. Berman, a Houston-based petroleum geologist who's questioned the headlong rush to open up shale fields on economic grounds, said the environmental risks have been overblown.
"We have been doing hydraulic fracturing for 50, 60 years and there is no evidence whatsoever that there has been ground or surface water contamination," he said.
He said only "point-5 percent" of what goes into a well were chemicals, and those were mostly "common chemicals that you would put in your swimming pool or hot tub, something like chlorine."
"Having said that, the companies should come clean and reveal the content (of the chemicals they use)," he said. "We're dealing with people's fears, and that's justified."
He said water conservation was a bigger issue because wells require as much as 10 million gallons of water.
Drillers said leaks are rare because a well is covered in a steel casing capped at both ends with cement.
"Fracturing has a long and clear record of safely leveraging otherwise unreachable homegrown, clean-burning, job-creating energy reserves," said Lee Fuller, the head of Energy In Depth, a Washington-based coalition of natural gas and oil producers.
In response to environmental concerns, Fuller said the industry has been drawing up standards for well casings and how to best handle the fluids in wells. He said efforts in Congress to regulate fracking should be halted until the EPA study was completed.


Toshiba Kills Incandescent Bulb Production

Yesterday, Toshiba ended its manufacture of mass-market incandescent light bulbs–bulbs that use a ton of energy, burn out quickly and pale in comparison in terms of energy efficiency to CFLs and LEDs. The move ends the company’s 120-year history of incandescent bulb production. The decision signals that the lighting industry is poised to become significantly greener.
Toshiba initially planned to halt production of incandescents next year, but decided to push the date up. The company now aims to focus on creating LED lights, which are significantly more energy efficient than incandescents. Incandescents have drawn criticism from environmentalists in recent years because most of the power they consume is released as heat, so they need to use a ton of energy to produce light. Plus, the bulbs burn out quickly when compared to CFLs and LEDs.

The death of incandescents is proof that consumer choices and sound legislation can quickly and effectively improve the state of the environment. Australia started regulating the sale of incandescent bulbs last year, and countries like the EU and US are poised to implement regulations over the next few years. Now if only the world could adopt legislation to limit carbon emissions…

Huffington Post

Thursday, March 18, 2010

For Renters, Solar Comes in Shares

 What happens if a renter wants solar power?

Most of the time, it’s tough luck, unless the home’s owner agrees to add panels. But a new solution is springing up in pockets of the country: community solar arrays.

Sometimes called solar gardens or farms, the idea is that utilities build the arrays, and customers — renters, people with shady roofs and even condo owners — can buy a share.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District runs such a program, called “Solar Shares.” It serves up to 1,000 customers and is currently sold out. The concept has also appeared in St. George, Utah and Falmouth, Mass., (the Falmouth array was privately financed up-front, as was a similar project in Brewster, Mass.).

The utility in Tucson, Ariz., is also seeking regulatory approval to build a community array near the airport, on land that would be difficult to develop otherwise.

“This program was developed in response to customers who have told us they would like to invest in solar energy for their own home but for one reason or another are not candidates for a rooftop solar array,” said Joe Salkowski, a spokesman for Tucson Electric Power.

As with all solar energy, buying into community solar isn’t cheap. The Sacramento program adds about 9 percent on average to customers’ bills. Under the Tucson proposal, customers would be able to buy 150 kilowatt-hour shares for $3 extra (though they can subtract the fossil fuel surcharge that would otherwise appear on their bill).

“It’s not a discount program,” Mr. Salkowski said. He added that the utility would pay to fix the panels if needed.

There are regulatory hurdles to this type of project. In Colorado, for example, lawmakers are mulling community solar gardens — but according to the The Daily Camera, a Boulder newspaper, some solar companies fear that the arrays might compete for public subsidies with rooftop solar panels, under Colorado’s renewable energy laws.

“We want to make sure the new market doesn’t replace the existing ones for customers,” Eriks Brolis, co-owner of Namaste Solar in Boulder, told the newspaper.




Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Indiana Gov. Asked to Act on Renewable Energy Rules

A state senator wants Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to ask utility regulators to expand rules that could boost the state's renewable energy industry.

Republican Sen. James Merritt of Indianapolis asked Daniels in a letter Tuesday to direct the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to begin work to expand those rules.

Indiana lawmakers adjourned Saturday without revising the state's limited "net metering" rules that allow only schools and residential customers to get credit for excess power they generate from wind, solar and other clean sources.

Supporters want revised rules that include farms, businesses and municipalities and also boost the power cap from 10 kilowatts to multiple megawatts.

Steve Francis of the Sierra Club's Indiana chapter says expanded rules would "unleash innovation in renewable energy and remove unnecessary state restrictions on net metering."

Indiana Gov News

Governors: Clean Energy Incentives Should Move Without Climate Piece

Congress should pass a renewable electricity mandate and other incentives to encourage renewable power sources separately from climate change legislation, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat, said Tuesday. Culver is the chairman of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which includes the governors of 29 states. “We don’t want these things to get caught up in the broader debate and discussion that will only slow us down,” Culver said.

The coalition released a report on Tuesday that made several recommendations to Congress to develop the wind energy sector. The list includes a renewable electricity standard that requires 10 percent of power to come from renewable sources like wind, solar, and biomass by 2012 and tax breaks targeted at clean energy projects.

The report did not, however, include a recommendation for a cap on carbon dioxide to address global warming, which has been pared with the renewable production standard and tax breaks in legislation Congress has considered.

Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri (R), the vice chairman of the wind energy coalition, agreed with Culver that Congress should set aside the climate debate. The focus of the report was on supporting a domestic renewable energy industry and that advocates should not get “mired down … in this broader debate” on global warming. “Right now, this is about jobs,” he said.

Environmentalists have insisted that incentives for renewable energy and other components of energy policy move together with greenhouse gas reductions. The climate piece is critical they argue not just from an environment perspective. Capping emissions is also key to the development of a clean-energy industry because it puts a price on carbon and makes non-emitting sources like wind power more cost competitive.

Culver and Carcieri warned that other countries would capture renewable manufacturing capacity if the United States does not act soon on the report’s recommendations, and that debating climate legislation could create unhelpful delays.

The governors also call for revamped electric grid through a streamlined siting process for transmission lines to carry the renewable energy from remote areas where it is often produced to the high-population “load” centers that need the power.

Legislation in Congress would give federal regulators greater control of the process. Developers now complain the process is encumbered by the local, state and federal level.

States have resisted broader authority for federal regulators in the past, and the report provides little detail about how the siting process could be accelerated other than to say there should be better coordination between the various parties.

The government should also do more to encourage the development of offshore wind energy resources, the report states.

The Hill

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Vending Machines Keep Drinks Cold Without Warming Planet

There’s a new hybrid in town, except this one doesn’t drive. It’s a vending machine that chills soft drinks, and may in turn cool the planet.

The kingpin of soda, the Coca-Cola Co., is changing the face, and footprint, of the refrigeration industry by replacing its conventional fleet of vending machines with a climate-friendly model. The reason is most vending machines rely on a type of refrigerant known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a chemical hodgepodge that despite its incredible power to cool the air can also be 1,430 times more harmful to the climate than global warming’s main culprit, carbon dioxide (CO2).

“We talk about fighting fire with fire,” said Bryan Jacob, director of energy and climate protection for Coke, who says CO2 is nonflammable, nontoxic, comparatively inexpensive and readily available. “In the right application, CO2 can be a solution to climate change.”

Around the time of the new millennium, academic research emerged on how HFCs affect global warming. Yet, it took the publication of the Velders Report in 2009, predicting a dramatic rise in HFC use due to steady growth in the refrigeration industry, for HFCs to join the list of other infamous greenhouse gases — CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. The report’s silver lining is its mention of natural alternatives, including CO2, ammonia, and hydrocarbons (propane and isobutene).

“The proof that natural refrigerants work is our grandparents had refrigerators charged with ammonia, propane and carbon dioxide,” says Kert Davies, director of research for Greenpeace, which has been promoting natural refrigeration technology since 1992 as an alternative to methods that harm the ozone layer and climate systems. Natural refrigerants have been successfully used abroad for decades.

“We’re working with huge companies that are all working on solid alternatives to HFCs,” says Davies, naming Coca-Cola, Unilever and Pepsi-Co. “Coke prefers compressed carbon dioxide, although they also utilize hydrocarbons.”

Like most refrigerants, CO2 works by removing heat from the air. As it evaporates it absorbs the heat, chilling the air inside the machine. The main difference between CO2 and other refrigerants is that CO2 must be used at a much higher pressure, which necessitates stronger pipes.

After Coca-cola realized that the largest part of its carbon footprint — 40 percent — came from its refrigeration equipment, it began testing HFC-free technologies and rolled out its first climate-friendly machine in 2002. Today, it has about 120,000 HFC-free units in the market, preventing 630,000 tons of CO2 equivalent over their 10-year lifetime — that’s similar to saving 86 acres of trees. The company’s goal is for all new equipment to be HFC-free by 2015.

The trend is catching on.

PepsiCo installed 35 new, HFC-free vending machines in Miami just in time for the Super Bowl. These utilize hydrocarbons — think propane and butane — refrigerants already popular in Europe. Ben & Jerry's ice cream company is launching its own version of this technology at stores in the Washington, D.C., and Boston areas. Meanwhile, General Electric is seeking approval to sell home-use refrigerators in the U.S. using a hydrocarbon refrigerant.

“We expect to continue using both technologies — CO2 and hydrocarbons,” says Bryan Jacob of Coca-Cola. “We also hope new technologies will emerge with the ultimate goal being the elimination of HFCs.”


Wind Turbines might actually add to warming

A new paper suggests that wind turbines, installed broadly, might actually change the climate themselves just by disrupting the normal flow of the wind:

In a paper published online Feb. 22 in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, [the MIT researchers] Wang and Prinn suggest that using wind turbines to meet 10 percent of global energy demand in 2100 could cause temperatures to rise by one degree Celsius in the regions on land where the wind farms are installed, including a smaller increase in areas beyond those regions.

Their analysis indicates the opposite result for wind turbines installed in water: a drop in temperatures by one degree Celsius over those regions....

In the analysis, the wind turbines on land reduced wind speed, particularly on the downwind side of the wind farms, which reduced the strength of the turbulent motion and horizontal heat transport processes that move heat away from the Earth’s surface. This resulted in less heat being transported to the upper parts of the atmosphere, as well as to other regions farther away from the wind farms. The effect is similar to being at the beach on a windy summer day: If the wind weakened or disappeared, it would get warmer.

Alternative Energy

Norwegian Company Develops World’s Largest Wind Turbine

As fossil fuels continue to diminish and climate change poses an ever-increasing threat, scientists around the world are searching for new and more efficient methods of generating energy. Wind energy is one of the more promising alternative energy sources and Norwegian scientists are currently in the development stages of what promises to be the world’s largest wind turbine. As if creating the biggest wind turbine in the world was not enough, it also floats. Current plans for the world’s largest wind turbine have the machine standing 533 feet tall.

The proposed rotor diameter of this machine is 475 feet. Obviously, these gargantuan dimensions make it difficult to imagine many places able to accommodate such a device. Fortunately, the floating design makes the turbine suitable for open ocean use.

In addition to being the world’s largest wind turbine, the proposed machine (which is to be built by the Norwegian company Sway), will also be the most powerful. A single floating turbine will be able to generate 10-megawatts to power more than 2,000 homes. These figures make this proposed new design at least three times more powerful than the existing wind turbines in use today.

The floating design gives this generator a huge advantage over other wind-power generators because the device can be placed in deeper water. The machine’s tower is a floating pole filled with ballast beneath the ocean’s surface. This gives the world’s largest wind turbine a low center of gravity, which prevents tipping. The generator is anchored to the sea floor with a single pipe and a suction anchor. This design allows the turbine to tilt 5-8 degrees as well as rotate freely to generate power from any wind direction.

Sway plans on installing the device in 2011. The prototype of this machine will cost an estimated $67.5 million dollars. Sway plans on testing the design on land first in Oeygarden, Southwestern Norway. If the design is successful, Sway will continue testing seafaring prototypes.

Currently, Norway is one of the world’s top oil and gas producers. Despite this fact, Norway generates most of its own power from hydroelectric plants. Norway’s dedication to designing and building the world’s largest wind turbine showcases the countries commitment to alternative energy, and serves to further illustrate how important this cause actually is. If the world’s largest wind turbine is a success, it will mark a major stride in humanity’s quest to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

Wind Energy News

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nevada Wind Turbine Factory to Create 1,000 Jobs, Backers Say

A consortium of Chinese and American renewable energy firms said last week that they had chosen Nevada as the location of a 320,000-square-foot wind turbine manufacturing and assembly plant.

The turbine plant, whose precise site has yet to be announced, will create an estimated 1,000 long-term manufacturing jobs in the state and is expected to be up and running by 2011.

Two companies leading the development of the Nevada facility, A-Power Energy Generation Systems, a Chinese renewable energy technology manufacturer, and the U.S. Renewable Energy Group, a private equity firm, are also key players in a controversial $1.5 billion, 600-megawatt wind farm project under way in West Texas.

That project, announced last year, came under fire after it was revealed that its backers planned to tap $450 million in grants from the economic stimulus package, even though the turbines would be manufactured and assembled in Shenyang, China.

The companies subsequently said that at least 70 percent of the turbine components for the Texas wind farm would be manufactured in the United States. Now it appears some turbines for the Texas project may come from the Nevada facility.

“If the Nevada plant is operational before all the turbines for the 600 megawatt Texas wind farm have been delivered, the remaining turbines could be supplied from the Nevada plant,” Ed Cunningham, managing partner of the U.S. Renewable Energy Group, said in a statement.

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, along with three other Democratic senators, recently introduced legislation that would apply a so-called “buy American” standard to all renewable energy projects that seek stimulus funds, requiring them to rely on goods manufactured in the United States.

Currently, this provision applies only to government-sponsored projects. As a result, roughly three-quarters of the stimulus’s $1.9 billion in wind-energy grants distributed so far have gone to foreign-owned companies, according to an analysis by the Investigative Reporting Workshop, a nonprofit journalism program affiliated with American University.

Matt Rogers, a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, confirmed that this analysis was likely accurate, but said that although the stimulus funds may have gone to foreign companies, the funds created 17,000 United States jobs and supported investments in the United States worth roughly $10 billion.

The Nevada project does not appear to be seeking stimulus funds, with its backers stating that it will be built using private financing.

A spokesman for A-Power and the U.S. Renewable Energy Group also said the companies had not yet received — or even applied for — any stimulus funds for the West Texas wind farm project.

New York Times

AWESOME Construction Of White County, Indiana

Europe's Biggest Solar Plant Set to Open in Italy

MILAN (AFP) - Europe's most powerful solar power plant is set to start operations in Italy later this year, the US company building the installation on an area as large as 120 football pitches said on Thursday.

The plant in Rovigo near Venice in northeast Italy will take up 850,000 square metres (9.15 million square feet) and produce 72 megawatts, SunEdison said in a statement announcing the start of construction.

The current biggest plant in Europe, located in Spain, produces 60 megawatts and the second biggest, in Germany, 50 megawatts, SunEdison said.

"The photovoltaic park in Rovigo province is a milestone in the development and establishment of solar energy in Italy," SunEdison's general manager for Italy, Liborio Francesco Nanni, said in a statement.

The total investment will be between 200 million and 250 million euros (273 million and 342 million dollars), the company said.

Energy production will begin in the second half of 2010 and the plant will be fully operational by the end of the year, said SunEdison, which is working on the project in conjunction with Spanish banking giant Santander.

During its first year of operations, the plant will cover the electricity needs of 17,000 households and will prevent the emission of 41,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

SunEdison, a subsidiary of US company MEMC Electronic Materials, is the top solar power company in the United States and the third biggest in the world. Italy is second to Germany for solar power production in Europe.