Energy and Global Warming News for May 21: Solar manufacturing makes good business sense for governments; NYC skyscraper earns highest environmental rating, LEED platinum

Solar Power Manufacturing Makes Good Business Sense for Governments, Study Finds

Canadian and provincial governments could spend $2.4 billion to build a large scale solar photovoltaic manufacturing plant and then give it away for free and still earn a profit in the long run, according to a financial analysis conducted by the Queen’s University Applied Sustainability Research Group in Kingston, Canada.

Queen’s University Mechanical Engineering Professor Joshua Pearce conducted the study — to be published in the August edition of the academic journal Energy Policy — to find out if it makes economic sense for governments to support solar cell manufacturing in Canada. He was surprised to discover the answer is an overwhelming yes even in extreme situations and feels governments should be aggressively supporting this industry to take advantage of the financial opportunity.

“This study uses hard financial numbers. Everything we did is transparent and all our equations are in the study,” says Professor Pearce. “The benefits of encouraging solar manufacturing in Canada are clear and massively outweigh the costs.”

The report looked at six different scenarios: everything from building a plant and giving it away or selling it to more traditional and less costly loan guarantees or tax holidays for a private sector company to construct the plant. In all the scenarios, both federal and provincial governments enjoyed positive cash flows in less than 12 years and in many of the scenarios both governments earned well over an eight per cent return on investments ranging from hundreds of millions to $2.4 billion.

The revenues for the governments of nearly $500 million a year, were determined from taxation (personal, corporate and sales), sales of panels, and saved health, environmental and economic costs associated with offsetting coal-fired electricity.

NYC skyscraper earns platinum environmental certification

New York City’s second-tallest building received the highest rating for environmental performance and sustainability from the U.S. Green Building Council yesterday, becoming the first commercial skyscraper to get Platinum certification under the council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

The 54-story Bank of America Tower received the certification because of its water and energy efficiency, indoor air quality, green construction materials and other criteria. The building uses a 4.6-megawatt cogeneration plant and has floor-to-ceiling windows to cut down on the need for artificial light. Wastewater is recycled from the sinks, and urinals in the men’s rooms are waterless. The building is constructed from steel with 87 percent recycled material and 45 percent recycled concrete.

Bank of America said it went into construction hoping to build the most eco-friendly building possible. It’s estimated that the building saves 8 million to 9 million gallons of water every year. The interior of the building also has a lower carbon dioxide content, which developers say can help keep employees alert during the day.

Bank officials say the building’s green status projects the right image.

“In terms of how the financial services industry is seen by the public … a more buoyant economy and lower unemployment will make a big difference in our image,” said Anne Finucane, Bank of America’s global strategy and marketing officer.

Military gives preliminary OK to Va. wind tracts

Wind turbines could co-exist with military activities off Virginia’s coast depending on their locations, a Defense Department assessment has concluded.

Proponents of commercial wind power 12 miles or beyond Virginia’s coast believe the giant turbines could ultimately provide 10 percent of the state’s annual electricity demand and operate without incident in the military’s busy seas.

“I look at this as a very positive thing,” said Hank Giffin, a retired Navy vice admiral and a member of a coalition promoting offshore winds. “Initially there were a lot of people who were concerned the Navy would just say no.”

Released Wednesday, the Department of Defense assessment looks at 25 tracts identified for optimum winds. The report identifies 18 tracts as compatible with military needs and rules as long as certain guidelines are met. They were not detailed in the report.

Other tracts were ruled out because they conflict with Navy activities.

The area is used to test drones and by helicopters that sweep the ocean surface with mine-detecting sleds. Wind-power advocates have said they will honor the military’s concerns and not build where there are potential conflicts.

White House to expand federal emissions standards

President Barack Obama will hold an event at the White House on Friday to announce the expansion of federal emissions standards to include trucks, an administration official said Thursday.

Obama is directing two federal agencies to create for the first time a national standard for medium-sized and heavy-duty trucks, the official said. The policy, to be carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, is designed to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gases and would apply to vehicles built from 2014 to 2018, the official said.

The president will also extend the federal emissions standards the administration adopted a year ago to include cars and light trucks manufactured from 2017 and beyond, according to the official. The current standards apply to vehicles made in the years 2012 to 2016 and sold in the United States.

“This announcement lays the groundwork for a more secure energy future by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, enhancing American competitiveness with a new generation of advanced electric vehicles, and protects the environment by reducing dangerous greenhouse gas and other pollutants,” the official said. “This isn’t just good for America’s energy security and our environment, it’s good for business, workers, and consumers too.”

The White House has invited stakeholders in the policy to attend Friday’s event, the official said.

Humans Stopping Malaria Faster Than Global Warming Is Spreading It

While global warming is expected to spread tropical diseases into new areas, it appears human action to prevent malaria may be outpacing the spread of the debilitating disease. New Scientist points out a new study coming out of the University of Oxford that examined how much malaria has spread since 1900, when the world was 0.7°C cooler.

In total, the area where malaria is endemic has decreased from 58% to 30%, with the rate of transmission fallen nearly everywhere. That said, though overall area has decreased, malaria may still spread into new areas as our climate changes.

[JR: Given the misleading coverage in the blogosphere, I’ll do a post on the subject of climate change and malaria/health.]

17 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for May 21: Solar manufacturing makes good business sense for governments; NYC skyscraper earns highest environmental rating, LEED platinum

  1. mike roddy says:

    China already figured out what the Canadian economists did. We probably know this ourselves, but our government has been purchased by the fossil fuel industry.

    Bank of America’s LEED building means nothing, because they are one of the major funders of coal fired power plants.

  2. Chris Dudley says:

    I was just on the phone with the MSHA and got the sad news of another coal mining fatality that occurred yesterday. So far, it is only in the year-to-date chart on their website. This officially doubles the number of coal mining fatalities over 2009 and there remains a fatality which may be attributed to coal mining that occurred May 4

    At 37 coal mining fatalities, the Obama administration will have the highest percentage annual increase in coal mining deaths ever recorded. If the President doesn’t do more to shut down unsafe mines this year and end these unnecessary deaths, he’ll set a standard of degraded attention to mine safety that will be hard to beat in the future. Only when mining death are reduced to 2 a year would a doubling be merely a 2 sigma statistical fluctuation. President Obama should set a policy to have zero coal mining fatalities next year and truly clear his record.

  3. Bob Wallace says:

    Mike, are you aware that coal plant construction appears to be a dying industry? From the 2010 National Energy Technology Laboratory report…

    “Progressing” projects have decreased by 18 plant (8 which are now operational with a decrease in total MW involved (from 26,131 MW to 17,355 MW)

    4,605 MW of new capacity have been proposed and 14,915 MW have been canceled Out of the 14,915 MW of canceled plants, 65% were in the early announced phase and 35% were in an advanced progressing phase

    Compared to previous year, few “announced” projects are being proposed.”

    BofA’s LEED building means tons.

    If, as you seem to view them, one of the ‘evil giants’ sees the sense in building green, then the message has spread outside the green community.

  4. robhon says:

    Mike Roddy… Give at least a little credit where credit is due. BofA is not my favorite company in the world but at least they made the effort to do one thing right. We should celebrate at very least that. Maybe the idea will rub off onto other large corporations that we all love to hate.

    Every win in creating a cleaner, more sustainable world should be celebrated.

  5. mike roddy says:

    Bob and robhon, I respect your opinions on this. It’s just that I feel so strongly about the need to get off coal that the actions of its key enablers are just unacceptable in my view.

  6. Doug Bostrom says:

    “Hey, Joe” as Jimi said, here’s an article in the Independent castigating numerous environmental conservation and preservation groups in the U.S. for becoming excessively cozy with their nominal or erstwhile foes. Many specific complaints; I’d love to hear your take on it.

  7. prokaryote says:

    First Atlantic Invest, 90L is here

    This low has the potential to develop into the season’s first named storm–Alex–and could be a threat to the Southeast U.S. coast by Tuesday. Wind shear is currently 40 knots over the low, and the high shear ripped apart a low level circulation that was attempting to form this morning. Water vapor loops show a large amount of dry, continental air exists to the west of the storm, and this dry air will hamper transition of 90L to a subtropical storm. This system is expected to move slowly northwestward towards the Southeast U.S. coast, and could bring 20 – 30 mph winds and heavy rain to the coast of North Carolina by Tuesday. While the storm will initially form in a region of high wind shear and be entirely extratropical, it will move into a region of lower wind shear in a gap between the polar jet stream to the north and the subtropical jet stream to its south early next week. At that time, the low will be positioned near the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, and will have the opportunity to develop a shallow warm core and transition to a subtropical storm. The models are divided on whether the storm will eventually make landfall on the Southeast U.S. coast 5 – 7 days from now, and it is too early to offer odds on this occurring. The counter-clockwise flow of air around this low will probably lead to northeasterly winds over the oil spill region Tuesday through Wednesday, keeping oil away from the coasts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, but pushing oil southwards towards the Loop Current.

  8. prokaryote says:

    Carbon dioxide in, oxygen out with this car

    Chinese automaker Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation is doing just that. They recently unveiled designs for a photosynthesizing concept car that could take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Details are still sketchy, which is understandable since it would basically be a leaf on wheels.

  9. prokaryote says:

    MIT students develop $20 solar lamp for remote parts of India

  10. prokaryote says:

    Nokia EC509 Green Core concept phone gets powered by kinetic energy

  11. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi prokaryote-

    About the Chinese concept car, details are likely sketchy because getting the idea to work would be really, really hard.

    For one thing, it’s hard to absorb enough solar energy on the body of a car to propel a practical car, as the solar car races demonstrate:

    Combine it with a home rooftop solar array, though, and the possibilities for a practical vehicle go way up. Essentially you end up with a plug in hybrid or electric car with a small solar array included in the car body, plus a solar house.

    Taking in CO2 and producing oxygen, though, seems technologically tough. I need to look into this more. Certainly, biological systems do this, so perhaps some of the hydrogen produced by photosynthesis could be siphoned off to run a fuel cell, instead of being used to produce sugars. Once again, this would be a lot easier with a stationary rooftop array added into the concept, because of energy density issues.

    So, good for them for proposing it, but the devil is in the details.

    On the other hand, suppose mini sun trackers were sandwiched between a reasonably thin transparent shell, and combined with Fresnel lenses and the concentrator solar cells produced by Boeing? That could raise the efficiency, and lower the area required…oh, never mind.

  12. prokaryote says:

    ” – Taking in CO2 and producing oxygen, though, seems technologically tough. I need to look into this more. Certainly, biological systems do this, so perhaps some of the hydrogen produced by photosynthesis could be siphoned off to run a fuel cell, instead of being used to produce sugars. Once again, this would be a lot easier with a stationary rooftop array added into the concept, because of energy density issues.”

    Hi Leland, maybe the “photosynthesis” approach is related to this discovery?

    ‘Major discovery’ from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution

    With Artificial Photosynthesis, A Bottle of Water Could Produce Enough Energy To Power A House

  13. prokaryote says:

    Rajasthan, Gujarat parch under intense heat wave

    May 22
    Entire Rajasthan is in grip of severe heatwave. Mercury crossed 48 degree celcius in Barmer yesterday. At all the other places, temperature was recorded about 43 degree celcius. At Jaisalmer, the maximum temperature was recorded 47 degree celcius. It was recorded 47 degree celcius in Jodhpur and Bikaner and 45 degree celcius in Kota and Churu. People in Jaipur are also facing heat wave conditions. Maximum temperature in the city was recorded 43 degree celcius on Friday.

    Gujarat is also facing worst-ever heat wave conditions in last 100 years. At least 20 people have died due to severe heat wave in the state during the last two days.

  14. Dan B says:

    OMG I’ve been to Jodhpur, Bikaner, and Barmer – and other places in between. I could not begin to comprehend how people survive. Most live in small mud-walled or stucco covered buildings, often one room without real doors or windows, just openings. They’d be in the heat without air circulation all day. At 50 degrees the government is required to take emergency measures, so… it’s never reported.

  15. Bob Wallace says:

    Mike – your concept of “key enablers” and BofA – does BofA do anything other than loan money to coal interests? Do they provide lobbying services, buy off regulators, do anything of which you are aware to help coal, specifically, succeed?

    I spent January and February in Rajasthan this year. Temps were pleasant. But a friend got back two days ago and reported the thermometer hitting 125F on one day that he was there. That’s about 52C.

    Those masonry buildings build up heat and do not cool off much at night. If people make it thorough the day they are going to be sleeping outdoors at night, which is common. Water is likely to be a big problem.