The Alta Wind Energy Center “” with plans for thousands of acres of turbines to generate electricity for 600,000 Southern California homes “” officially breaks ground Tuesday. It’s being called the largest wind power project in the country, with plans for thousands of acres of towering turbines in the Mojave Desert foothills generating electricity for 600,000 homes in Southern California.
And now it’s finally kicking into gear.
The project will probably be a wind power bellwether, affecting the way renewable energy deals are financed, the development of new electricity storage systems and how governments regulate the industry, said Billy Gamboa, a renewable energy analyst with the California Center for Sustainable Energy.
“It’s a super-mega-project “” it’ll definitely set a precedent for the rest of the state and have a pretty large impact on the wind industry in general,” he said.
The project’s developer, New York-based Terra-Gen Power, plans to coax three gigawatts of power from the wind farm over the next eight years. It has led some industry experts to predict that California might have a shot at reclaiming the wind energy crown from competitors such as Texas and Iowa.
“Alta’s an absolutely enormous project in probably the most promising wind resource area that remains in the state,” said Ryan Wiser, a renewable energy analyst at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “It’s the single biggest investment in California wind project assets in decades and is likely the largest the state is ever going to see.”
Southern California Edison agreed in 2006 to buy 1,550 megawatts of electricity from Alta over 25 years, one of the heftiest power purchase agreements ever signed. That would be enough energy to serve 275,000 homes and is twice the capacity of the country’s largest existing wind farm, a 735-megawatt project in Texas.
A company with a different approach to the electric car battery problem got a small boost recently when the Patent Office said it would issue a patent on its concept: using a storage device called a capacitor in conjunction with a traditional battery.
The company, AFS Trinity, plans an announcement on Monday.
Capacitors store only small amounts of electricity, but they can accept it or deliver it very quickly without damaging themselves. By contrast, lithium ion batteries, the kind now favored for cars, can store large amounts but have trouble delivering it fast enough to allow good acceleration. What is more, they don’t capture energy very well, a problem in electric cars. Electric cars are designed so that when a driver hits the brake pedal, the electric motors switch functions and become generators, converting momentum back into current. But the current flows very fast.
Disputes over illegal Mexican immigrants are already heating up in the United States, thanks in part to a new Arizona immigration law.
But global warming could bring the immigration issue to a boiling point in the coming decades, if a new study holds true.
According a new computer model, a total of nearly seven million additional Mexicans could emigrate to the U.S. by 2080 as a result of reduced crop yields brought about by a hotter, drier climate””assuming other factors influencing immigration remain unchanged.
Attending the Copenhagen climate conference last December, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles had a revelation: his own city needed to do more to promote bicycling as a clean form of transportation.
“I’ll tell you what I came away with: that in the area of bicycling, I’ve got to do a better job and the city’s got to do a better job,” Mr. Villaraigosa told Southern California Public Radio.
Last weekend, however, the mayor learned a tough lesson about urban cycling firsthand: cars and bikes don’t mix.
On Saturday evening, Mr. Villaraigosa hopped on a bike for a quick ride down to the beach. While he was riding in the bike lane on Venice Boulevard, a taxi abruptly pulled out in front of him. He swerved, fell off the bike and broke his elbow.
Turn the clock back four years, and you could not have slipped a cigarette paper between the climate policies of the administrations in Washington DC and Canberra.
With the election of Kevin Rudd in December 2007, paths diverged.
Against the backdrop of opinion polls showing climate change as a major concern for Australians, Mr Rudd’s Labor government ratified the Kyoto Protocol, unveiled new targets for cutting carbon emissions and announced that a new emissions trading scheme (ETS) would be the principal vehicle for reaching those targets.
A year later, Barack Obama entered the Washington White House, talking a positive game on the issue but making clear his desire or even his need for legislation to proceed through both Houses of Congress, and maintaining his opposition to re-entering the Kyoto fold.
Now, there’s a case for arguing that the old days are back, and that Canberra and Washington are once again in step.
White bark pine forests are in trouble all across Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Great swaths of trees are dead or dying after being attacked by the mountain pine beetle and a disease called white pine blister rust. The forests used to be protected by harsh winters and cool summers. But warmer winters and summers have allowed the beetle to breed more quickly and to move to the higher elevations favored by white bark pines.
Last summer, pilots working with the United States Forest Service and the Natural Resources Defense Council made low-level flights over 25 million acres of forest, trying to gauge how much damage has been done. The results, released this month, are devastating. Just over half the white bark pine forests are dead; one-fourth have medium to high mortality; few forests have escaped some damage.
The wider ecological effects could be serious. These forests slow the rate of spring snowmelt; without them, the spring runoff will happen faster and streams and rivers will see reduced flow and higher temperatures later in the season. The loss of the pines also threatens the symbiotic relation between the Clark’s nutcracker and the pines, which depend on the bird for reseeding, as well as red squirrels, which gather pine nuts.
Nearly half the Senate’s Democrats are pressuring Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to include a national renewable electricity mandate in the slimmed-down energy bill expected on the floor this week.
But they face an uphill battle “” Reid argued over the weekend that a renewables mandate won’t fly in the Senate.