A Danish wind-power provider develops its own technology to maintain towering turbines in gusts roaring at up to 15 meters per second
Now that the United Nations climate talks have wrapped up in Copenhagen, nations agreeing to the accord drafted there are now obliged to keep their promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Wind power is one of the key sources of renewable energy expected to play an important role in helping to cut emissions and wean society from its dependence on fossil fuels, which means wind-power companies must be prepared to quickly fix mechanical problems that threaten to slow down renewable energy production.
Blown generators, misbehaving gearboxes and damaged rotors keep turbines from maximizing the energy they draw from nature, raising the question of how to reliably maintain dozens of mammoth towers, some of which rise more than 100 meters above the ground.
Large mobile cranes are used to assemble wind turbine components at the top of lofty towers and, later, to service these turbines. But the rapid expansion and interest in wind-harnessing technology has strained available crane resources, creating a shortage of capacity, says Jacob Juhl Christensen, product manager for Vestas Wind Systems, A/S‘s Technology Product Management R&D division in Denmark. “Sometimes, even though spare parts are available to repair a turbine, it may take months to secure a crane to do the repair work,” he says. Given that some of Vestas’s turbines operate 70 to 105 meters above the ground, where the winds are strong, the heaviest cranes are required to do repair work. Unfortunately, such cranes are also the most difficult to move from place to place.
Vestas is developing its own crane technology to avoid such problems….
There’s still time this year to claim federal tax credits for making your home more energy-efficient.
Homeowners can receive up to $1,500 in federal tax credits for improvements such as certain Energy Star appliances. Multiple upgrades could nab you more than $10,000 in such credits, although you’ll spend quite a bundle. In some areas, there are also state and local tax incentives, so check out this Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
Read the fine print, though. I’ve had several contractors tell me — mistakenly — how much I’d get in tax credits for my new green home. I’ll give you that scoop, but first, here’s what you should know:
Many of the federal tax credits apply only to your primary residence and to existing homes. Not all Energy Star appliances qualify, so you have to do some of your own research. All products have to meet specific criteria. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star website offers partial lists and answers commonly asked questions.
You can claim 30%, or up to $1,500, for qualified improvements this year and next year in these areas: biomass stoves, windows, doors, HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) insulation, metal or asphalt roofs and non-solar water heaters. Note: You can only include the installation costs for biomass stoves, HVAC and water heaters.
The biggest tax breaks come if you install geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines or solar energy systems. You can claim 30% of the costs (including installation), without any cap, through 2016. This credit applies to existing homes, second homes and new construction.
I was eager to figure out the tax credits I’d get for the home my husband and I will build early next year in Falls Church, Va. We’re getting ready to submit our plans for permitting. I introduced our architects in an earlier post.
Alas, since most of the federal credits are for existing homes, I looked at the ones for solar, wind, geothermal and fuel cells. Because our street’s tree canopy makes our lot so shady, solar isn’t viable. It’s not windy, so a turbine makes no sense.
I focused on geothermal heating/cooling and got multiple bids, which were extremely expensive — about $65,000. I’m convinced the contractors jacked up their prices to account for the tax credit I’d get. Bottom line: Since we’re building a well-insulated house, we couldn’t justify the cost. Based on our energy modeling, the payback period would probably be 20 years or more. We’ll use a very high-efficiency conventional gas furnace.
So for my new ultra-efficient home, which I expect will get the top rating from the U.S. Green Building Council and the National Association of Home Builders, the amount I’ll get in federal energy-efficiency tax credits: Zero.
The global climate negotiations in Copenhagen did not produce an ambitious, legally binding action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But Copenhagen did yield something significant: It won political commitments from China, India, Brazil and South Africa to be part of the solution and thus to an overhaul of the present climate-change regime, which puts the carbon-mitigation onus entirely on the developed countries.
Future international negotiations would proceed on the basis of these political commitments, enshrined in the so-called Copenhagen Accord. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 1992 UN Framework Convention “” the two legs of the current regime “” would become less relevant.
President Barack Obama’s 13 hours of negotiations in Copenhagen yielded a two-fold success for the US: First, the country which emits more than a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases with just 4.5% of the global population escaped without making any binding commitment. Second, Mr Obama brought on board not only China, Brazil and South Africa but also the much-poorer India, whose per-capita emissions are far lower than any important developing country. India is to submit to a universal system of transparently reporting on national mitigation actions.
Put simply, Copenhagen generated not a new international protocol but the political framework to revamp the existing climate-change regime. Changing the terms of negotiations is essential to changing a regime. The Copenhagen Accord embodies the new terms. For the developed countries, this symbolises success. There isn’t even a passing reference in the Copenhagen Accord to historic contributions to the build-up of greenhouse gases or to an objective criteria factoring in per-capita emission levels.
For India, this has meant a diplomatic climbdown from its negotiating stance. It has agreed to bear an economic burden for combating climate change when hundreds of millions of Indians are still mired in abject poverty. The rich states, by securing an interim accord tying their carbon cuts to burden-sharing with the underprivileged, have opened the doors to the creation of an NPT on climate change. Indeed, Obama, in his next major international move, is hosting a summit meeting in April to strengthen the nuclear NPT.
The significant aspect, in comparative terms, is that the most-powerful players want to reinforce the nuclear non-proliferation regime but revamp the climate-change regime by re-jigging their legal obligations. So the key words are: Preserve, uphold and strengthen the NPT regime, but update, rework and improve the climate-change regime.
In other words, the NPT regime is being treated as sacrosanct that cannot be tinkered with or amended, even as the Copenhagen Accord presents the climate-change regime as an evolutionary process open to overhaul. Given that the NPT regime predates the climate-change regime by a generation and a half, one would have thought that it is the former that needs updating, if any.
Having paid a heavy price to the NPT regime, India now has agreed to pay a price in a new climate-change regime. By contrast, China “” a winner in the NPT regime because it first concentrated, unlike India, on acquiring military muscle “” has less to lose in a new climate-change regime. After all, as the world’s largest net polluter, China has more in common with the US than India. Copenhagen has shown that climate change is not just about science but about geopolitics. And in geopolitics, those with economic and military muscle fare better.
Global temperatures could rise substantially more because of increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than previously thought, according to a new study by U.S. and Chinese scientists released Sunday.
The researchers used a long-term model for assessing climate change, confirming a similar British study released this month that said calculations for man-made global warming may be underestimated by between 30 and 50 percent.
The new study published online by Nature Geoscience focused on a period three to five million years ago””the most recent episode of sustained global warming with geography similar to today’s, a Yale University statement said.
This was in order to look at the Earth’s long-term sensitivity to climate fluctuation, including in changes to continental icesheets and vegetation cover on land.
More common estimates for climate change are based on relatively rapid feedback to increases in carbon dioxide, such as changes to sea ice and atmospheric water vapour.
Using sediment drilled from the ocean floor, the scientists’ reconstruction of carbon dioxide concentrations found that “a relatively small rise in CO2 levels was associated with substantial global warming 4.5 million years ago.”
They also found that the global temperature was between two and three degrees C (3.6 and 5.4 degrees F) higher than today even though carbon dioxide levels were similar to the current ones, the statement said.
“This work and other ancient climate reconstructions reveal that Earth’s climate is more sensitive to atmospheric carbon dioxide than is discussed in political circles,” said the paper’s lead author, Yale’s Mark Pagani.
“Since there is no indication that the future will behave differently than the past, we should expect a couple of degrees of continued warming even if we held CO2 concentrations at the current level,” he said in the statement.
The study was published on the heels of a 12-day U.N. conference in Copenhagen that was aimed at providing a durable solution to the greenhouse-gas problem and its disastrous consequences but was labeled a failure by critics.
The meeting set a commitment to limit global warming to two degrees C (3.6 F), but did not spell out the important stepping stones””global emissions targets for 2020 or 2050″”for getting there.
The British study released on Dec. 6 had also researched the Pliocene era, between three to five million years ago.
First Solar (NSDAQ: FSLR) is looking at building its second European factory in a French town near Bordeaux.
The cadmium-telluride solar panel maker and Paris-based EDF Energies Nouvelles are close to reach a deal with the town of Blanquefort to build a manufacturing plant there, First Solar said Monday.
The two companies will jointly pay for building the factory. EDF plans to provide half of the financing for building a factory with an annual capacity of more than 100 megawatts, the two companies said back in July, when they first announced the factory plan (see First Solar to Build 100MW Factory and sell to EDF).
First Solar and EDF previously had pegged the cost of the factory plan at ‚¬90 million. But the two companies said Monday the cost would be about ‚¬100 million ($150 million) instead.
The French factory would be the second in Europe for First Solar, which operates a manufacturing plant in Germany. Its other factories are in Perrysburg, Ohio and Malaysia.
The Tempe, Ariz.-based solar panels maker recently said it would invest $365 million to add eight manufacturing lines of 53 megawatts each in Malaysia next year (see First Solar’s 2010 Forecast: 424MW of New Production Capacity, Near $3B in Sales).
EDF would be entitled to the entire output of the factory’s products for the first 10 years, First Solar said.
Until recently, the EDF had invested mostly in wind farms in Europe and the United States. But the company said it wants to spend more on developing solar power plants.
Last week, it said it had lined up 500 million ($716.2 million) from the European Investment Bank to pay for building solar power plants in France and Italy between 2010 and 2012.
Both France and Italy have national incentives to encourage solar energy generation. The incentives are called feed-in tariffs, which are electricity rates that utilities must pay to any solar power plant owners.
Back in July, First Solar said the factory would be up and running in full production by the second half of 2011. The target has been moved to early 2012.
In a separate announcement on Monday, First Solar said it has completed a 21-megawatt solar power plant in Blythe, Calif., and the plant has been brought online.
The company, which jumped into the project development business in earnest earlier this year, already has sold the Blythe project to NRG Energy (see Pre-Thanksgiving Sale: First Solar Sells Project to NRG).
NRG is now selling the solar electricity to Southern California Edison until a 20-year agreement. The power plant is roughly 200 miles east of Los Angeles. NRG has hired First Solar to operate and maintain the power plant.
First Solar has been using its project development business to create sales for its solar panels in North America. In April, it spent about $400 million to buy unfinished projects from OptiSolar, a California company that had trouble raising enough money to continue its business.
One of First Solar’s next power plant projects is to complete a 48-megawatt farm near Boulder City, Nev., for Sempra Generation. Sempra plans to sell the electricity from the plant to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
First Solar plans to start building the solar farm, which will be called the Copper Mountain Solar Facility, next year and complete it before the year’s end.
You know the song: Frosty the Snowman, was a jolly, happy soul, with a corncob pipe and a button nose and two eyes made out of cucumbers …
Cucumbers? Yes. The old lyrics just don’t cut it in the age of climate change. Coal is dirty, from the burning, and dangerous, from the mining and carbon dioxide.
So the Natural Resources Defense Council thought it would be good this Christmas and holiday season to replace the two chunks of coal with two slices of sweet cucumber. Vegetarians rejoice.
The image of Frosty 2.0 graces the cover of a card the NRDC sent out to friends in the Midwest this year. The clever cards were designed by estudiotres, for the record.
“Why should Frosty continue shilling for coal?” explains Josh Mogerman, a Chicago spokesman for the NRDC. “We know we have to move away from the dirty stuff, so our snowmen can be green, too.”
Some people have mistaken the cucumber slices for kiwi. But this writer guessed correctly, right out of the gate.
Was that magician with the top hat, who let Frosty melt in the greenhouse, actually a coal baron? Just a thought.