Energy and Global Warming News for June 2: A bullish view for wind power; first Obama climate report to UN projects 4 per cent emissions rise by 2012

Western states could run on 35% wind and solar without extensive new infrastructure

Wind energy has plenty going for it: it is clean, unlimited in supply and the most economical source of renewable power. Its clearest drawback is unreliability: sometimes the wind just does not blow.

But that intermittency – long considered a major shortcoming – may have little impact on the potential for wind to power much of the electric grid in the western United States, according to a new study by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab.

The study, released in late May, found that the power grid for five western states – Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming – could operate on as much as 30 percent wind and 5 percent solar without the construction of extensive new infrastructure….

…. the outlook for wind power is far from grim. The industry installed 9.8 gigawatts of capacity in 2009, a record, and is on pace to install at least 6 gigawatts in 2010. And a recent industry study has projected $330 billion in new wind investment between 2010 and 2025.

First Obama climate report to UN projects 4 per cent emissions rise by 2012

In its first major climate report to the United Nations in four years, the United States projected Tuesday that its climate-warming greenhouse gases will grow by 4 per cent through 2020.

The first such report submitted under the Obama administration includes a 1.5 per cent rise in carbon dioxide emissions, the main gas from fossil fuel burning blamed for global warming. And CO2 from fossil fuel burning still accounts for about four-fifths of all U.S. global warming gases.

Indonesia palm expansion to halve with climate deal

Indonesia’s annual oil palm expansion may halve to 50,000 hectares from 2009 levels once a $1 billion climate change deal with Norway comes into effect next year, a top industry official said on Monday.

Following a financing deal signed with Norway last week, the Southeast Asian country plans to revoke existing forestry licenses held by palm oil and timber firms to save its vast rainforests and peat lands that are seen as a carbon sink.

The government has promised land swaps for cancelling some forest concessions, a process that may take years to fine tune and also prevent the world’s No. 1 palm oil producer from achieving its 40 million output target by 2020.

“That target would be achievable if oil palm estates expanded at a rate of 200,000-300,000 hectares a year but not with this. We will need to boost productivity,” Derom Bangun, vice-chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Board (IPOB) told Reuters in an interview.

Expansion in Indonesia hit 300,000 to 400,000 hectares at the height of the commodity boom in 2007 and 2008 but has fallen back due to pressure from green groups and the financial crisis that had stymied investment into the sector.

The Gulf oil spill in context: US oil consumption

The US government has now confirmed that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the United States’ largest oil spill and perhaps the nation’s worst environmental disaster. While poor government oversight and negligence by oil giant BP certainly contributed to the disaster, the fact that the US is drilling over a mile below the surface in one of its most important marine ecosystems is directly related to US consumption of oil: the highest in the world.

The federal government says that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has currently released approximately 504,000 to 798,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf based on forty one days of leaking: about 2-4 percent of the United States’ one day consumption.

As climate changes, Minnesota’s fish feel heat (Video inside)

This spring’s summerlike weather may be embraced by Minnesotans, but it spells trouble for ciscoes, a cold-water fish that serves as food for gamefish such as walleyes, northerns, muskies and lake trout.

Large ciscoe dieoffs — likely caused by higher water temperatures and surface runoff that robs lakes of oxygen — have become more common in recent years, and their populations have declined sharply in some lakes, including popular Gull Lake near Brainerd.

Researcher Andy Carlson calls ciscoes the “canary in the coal mine,” an indicator that Minnesota lakes are changing. Ciscoes — also known as tullibees — will be among the first fish to feel the impact if Minnesota’s summer climate becomes more like that of present-day Kansas over the next 85 years, as some studies have predicted.

Dairy cow energy: Methane produced for electricity

That smell of “cow” we’ve whiffed along Interstate 10 for decades will soon — technically speaking — be digested and piped to an electric utility.
It’s another positive step in producing alternative fuels; we should be a leader in that endeavor. It’s a $74 million “digestor” plant on a dairy farm. And it will turn cow manure into methane. The 11-acre plant will provide 80 to 90 full-time jobs in next-door Do±a Ana County, N.M.

This area has always had the sun as a renewable energy source, although only baby steps have been taken to turn that into an economy booster.

It has also long had that string of dairy farms with between 40,000 and 50,000 cows.

This summer, R-Qubed Energy, operated by a group of El Paso businesspersons, expects to break ground on profiting from when cows break wind. As company spokeswoman Lori Hughes said, … “You’ve got the waste stream here 24-7, it just doesn’t stop.”

Special Report: Inside BP’s War Room

Last Wednesday, five weeks into the worst oil spill in U.S. history, BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward locked himself in a room on the third floor of the British oil giant’s U.S. headquarters in Houston.
For the next five hours, Hayward, BP executives, senior engineers and the U.S. Energy Secretary and Nobel Physicist Steven Chu, who had flown in two days earlier, grappled with the latest plan to stem the thousands of barrels of oil a day gushing from a broken well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

The scheme was called “top kill” and involved pumping heavy drilling fluids, known as drilling mud, into the blown-out well to stifle the flow of oil and allow the top of the well to be sealed with concrete. The technique had worked to seal other wells, but never one out of control in 5000 feet of water. There was a risk that the extra pressure caused by pumping in mud could rupture the top of the well, and increase the amount of oil gushing into the sea.

Showing the Benefits of ‘Green’ Retrofits

The practice of retrofitting buildings with simple, environmentally friendly technology like more-efficient boilers and better-quality windows has been around for years, but there is little research on how much energy these changes actually save “” and by extension, how much money they can save landlords and lenders.

In an effort to supply that information, Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the German bank, is financing the creation of a public database of several hundred retrofitted buildings in New York City and a companion report to determine the savings from such moves.

“Retrofitting buildings is considered the low-hanging fruit in carbon reduction, but despite its simplicity, it is still not mainstream,” said Gary Hattem, president of the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation. “The largest obstacle to making these practices go mainstream is data that will convince building owners to retrofittheir properties and at the same time increase underwriters’ willingness to finance the projects.”

8 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for June 2: A bullish view for wind power; first Obama climate report to UN projects 4 per cent emissions rise by 2012


    Obama: End dependence on fossil fuels

    PITTSBURGH – Seizing on a disastrous oil spill to advance a cause, President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on Congress to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil and pass a clean-energy bill that he says would help the nation end its dependence on fossil fuels.

    Obama predicted that he would find the political support for legislation that would dramatically alter the way Americans fuel their homes and cars, including placing a price on carbon pollution, even though such legislation is politically divisive and remains bogged in the Senate.

    “The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months,” Obama told an audience at Carnegie Mellon University. “I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can, and I will work with anyone to get this done. And we will get it done.”

  2. prokaryote says:

    Intivation gives boost to solar-powered phones

    Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Umeox just introduced one of its latest models, the V206, with little fanfare at the MEDPI tradeshow in Monaco. But the V206 is no ordinary phone; it’s a low-cost, ruggedized and waterproof handset powered entirely by sunlight.

    A single solar cell of the size that fits onto a phone does not produce enough voltage to charge the phone’s battery. The traditional solution is to use multiple, smaller cells in series, each of which boosts the voltage. This approach has several disadvantages, including sub-optimal performance when some of the cells are shaded, the higher cost of manufacturing multiple cells, and the fact that multiple cells have higher levels of defects that affect performance. SunBoost is a boost converter that amplifies the output voltage from the 0.3-0.6V produced by a single solar cell up to the 1.2-3.7V required to charge the battery. The SunBoost chip also has integrated Maximum Power Point tracking (MPPT), which automatically adapts to light intensity and ambient temperature to ensure that the solar cell operates at close to its maximum effectiveness in all conditions.

    While the trend for mobile phones in developed countries is towards more expensive and power-hungry handsets, 1.6 billion people in the developing world don’t have access to a regular electricity supply. Not only is the electricity grid in many emerging markets unreliable, it’s also expensive, with consumers spending 15-20% of their incomes on it. If there is no local power, phone owners have to walk to the nearest town or pay inflated prices to a mobile charging vendor to charge their phone. According to Intivation, allowing customers to charge their phones from the sun boosts ARPU (revenue per customer) by 10-15% in semi-rural areas. Many African countries have more than six peak sun hours per day, making them ideal for solar-charging. Large parts of Asia and Latin America also get more than 4 peak hours per day.

  3. prokaryote says:

    Phet intensifies into a super cyclone

    Cyclone Phet, that’s building up in the Arabian Sea, has intensified into a category five storm, that is a super cyclone.

  4. prokaryote says:

    Weatherman has predicted similar conditions on Thursday with possibilities of thunder/duststorms at isolated places. Chances of thunder/duststorms will be more from Friday onwards as a cyclonic circulation has developed over Rajasthan.

  5. prokaryote says:

    Deep sea fish ‘mystery migration’ across Pacific Ocean

    Their discovery 15,000km from their usual home raises the possibility that deep sea currents can transport animals from one polar region to another.

  6. Chris Winter says:

    That smell of “cow” we’ve whiffed along Interstate 10 for decades will soon — technically speaking — be digested and piped to an electric utility.

    The stockyards along California’s I-5 have to be another great opportunity.