24 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for August 12: LED bulb edges below $20; For parched farmers, a crop of electrons; Iceland looks to electric cars as hydrogen stalls
This week, Home Depot fired a new marketing salvo in what is expected to be a broader national effort to get home customers to adopt LED lighting.
The retail giant began selling one of the light bulbs in its highly energy-efficient lineup at a surprisingly affordable price of just under $20 online. Bricks-and-mortar stores will follow in September.
While $20 hardly sounds like a deal at first blush, such bulbs are expected to last as long as 30 years. Not long ago, such bulbs were not expected by most experts to cost less than $30 until 2012.
That’s the year, of course, when a federal law takes effect requiring that all bulbs sold in the United States be 30 percent more efficient than current incandescent bulbs. Even with improvements, incandescent bulbs are not expected to meet those standards, so many manufacturers are working on pushing their LED bulbs.
Unlike compact florescent bulbs, which have been unpopular with consumers because of the pallid light they cast, some newer LED bulbs are closer to the warmth and brightness of the regular incandescent. Home Depot says it is actively encouraging consumers to compare….
A company spokeswoman said that the bulbs, which are sold under the EcoSmart label, are already so popular with consumers that they are having trouble keeping them in stock.
In an article in The New York Times on Wednesday, I wrote about an ambitious plan to build one of the world’s largest solar energy complexes on 30,000 acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley of California.
Elsewhere, big renewable energy projects have encountered opposition from farmers, ranchers and environmentalists who worry about the impact of solar power plants on agriculture, wildlife and scarce water supplies.
But farmers in the San Joaquin Valley’s Westlands Water District are embracing solar power as a solution to their water woes. And environmental groups are backing the project as a way to avoid fights over building solar power plants in pristine desert areas.
In the 1960s, the west side of the San Joaquin Valley was transformed from a desert to one of the nation’s most productive agricultural centers thanks to a huge irrigation project that transports water from Northern California and distributes it to 600,000 acres of farmland through 1,034 miles of underground pipes.
China’s effort to double its capacity to produce solar power has attracted project bids by 50 companies, ranging from nuclear plant operators to circuit-breaker makers, one of the participants said.
The tender process has generated 135 offers to build and run solar plants in six provinces, including from China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Co., the nation’s second-biggest atomic plant builder, according to Qiu Zhanwei, vice-director of Beijing-based solar-module maker Astronergy, which also has bid.
“A lot of companies are interested in getting involved in these projects as the government is keen to develop this sector and they want to get an early piece of the action,” said Dennis Lam, an analyst at DBS Vickers Hong Kong Ltd.
China is offering subsidies, loans, tax breaks and premium rates to spur renewable energy. The world’s biggest air polluter is seeking to boost its installed capacity of sunlight-driven generation by more than 60-fold to 20,000 megawatts by 2020 to cut its reliance on fossil fuels, which produce more emissions. About 80 percent of the nation’s power plants run on coal.
As temperatures in Russia climb to historic highs, parching crops and igniting large tracts of forest and peatland, analysts are watching to see if these conditions heat up the country’s climate change policies.
“I don’t know what it would take to produce an active stance on climate change in Russia, but I hope this is enough,” said Samuel Charap, a senior fellow for the Center for American Progress who studies Russian climate and energy policy.
Recent comments made by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev link climate change and the wildfires, stoking speculation about what Russia may bring to the table in the next round of international climate talks. But once the wildfires’ smoke clears, they may not amount to much, according to Alexey Kokorin, the Moscow-based climate negotiator for the World Wildlife Fund.
Medvedev said in a public speech last week, “Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions,” according to a published transcript of the speech. “This means that we need to change the way we work, and change the methods that we used in the past,” he said.
The Chinese government’s much-ballyhooed new pledge to close thousands of energy-guzzling factories seems more a public signal of its intent to boost energy efficiency than a concrete step.
That is because, of the 2,087 factories threatened with closure by Sept. 30, listed on the Industry Ministry’s website on Sunday night, many appear to have shut down already, some as long as two years ago.
Three out of 4 blacklisted companies contacted by The Christian Science Monitor said the facilities targeted for closure were no longer functional.
“We shut down those two furnaces in early 2009,” said a staffer at the Aosen Steel Company in Xinji, who identified himself only as Mr. Wang. “For many other steel companies, if their facilities are on the list, most of them are already either dismantled or out of use.”
The entire ice mass of Greenland will disappear from the world map if temperatures rise by as little as 2C, with severe consequences for the rest of the world, a panel of scientists told Congress today.
Greenland shed its largest chunk of ice in nearly half a century last week, and faces an even grimmer future, according to Richard Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University
“Sometime in the next decade we may pass that tipping point which would put us warmer than temperatures that Greenland can survive,” Alley told a briefing in Congress, adding that a rise in the range of 2C to 7C would mean the obliteration of Greenland’s ice sheet.
The fall-out would be felt thousands of miles away from the Arctic, unleashing a global sea level rise of 23ft (7 metres), Alley warned. Low-lying cities such as New Orleans would vanish.
“What is going on in the Arctic now is the biggest and fastest thing that nature has ever done,” he said.
Speaking by phone, Alley was addressing a briefing held by the House of Representatives committee on energy independence and global warming.
What country will be the first to make electric cars the default national transportation? If collective will made things happen, it would probably be the tiny green country of Iceland.
I’m going to be taking part in and helping plan Driving Sustainability 2010, a conference on electric cars taking place this fall in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city. Greater Reykjavik is home to 200,000 people, which is two thirds of the entire population.
Some 75 percent of Iceland’s population lives within 37 miles of Reykjavik, and the rural areas (connected by an 840-mile ring road) could probably be wired with just 15 fast-charging stations. That, coupled with the fact that 80 percent of Iceland’s energy is cheaply produced renewable (from geothermal and hydro) should give you a good idea why this is the ideal test bed for electric vehicles….
Iceland originally set its sights on a hydrogen-based energy economy. Shell opened a commercial hydrogen pumping station in 2003 and briefly fueled Daimler-Benz Citaro fuel-cell buses there (and the occasional visiting General Motors Equinox). There are a few hydrogen-burning Priuses in Iceland, available for rental through Hertz. But nobody is making hydrogen vehicles in any quantity yet (2015 is the target date) so that’s a dream delayed.
U.K. solar power installer jobs have increased by 75 percent this year as government incentives spurred demand for photovoltaic panels, Solar Century Holdings Ltd. said.
The combined number of employees for Solar Century, which builds solar systems for homebuilders Persimmon Plc and Barratt Developments Plc, and 11 companies it works with to install panels has risen to 350 from 200 at the beginning of the year, the London-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. There will be “well over 500 jobs by 2011,” it said.
“The vast bulk of the solar PV employment created in the regions is in skilled and semi skilled roofing and electrical jobs,” the company said.
Britain in April introduced feed-in tariffs, or guaranteed prices for electricity from renewable energy at up to 10 times market rates. That’s prompted a boom in solar installations, with installations of photovoltaic panels, or PV, totalling 4.6 megawatts — more than in the whole of 2009.
Sharp Corp., Japan’s largest maker of solar cells, last month said it will double production at its U.K. solar panel plant, the country’s largest.
Hot enough for you? If you live in one of the more than 15 states that were suffering under a heat advisory or excessive heat warning on Tuesday, I’m going to guess the answer is yes, God, please make it all stop. The oppressively high temperatures that gripped much of the U.S. during June””the hottest month on record worldwide, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)””barely relented in July, when average temperatures around the country were 1.3 F higher than the 20th century norm. In New York where I live, this past July just missed being the hottest month on record in the city, but air conditioners still ran overtime””the city had the highest electricity use ever last month. Of course it could be worse””in Moscow unusual and unrelenting heat and smoke from wildfires has killed as many as 700 people a day, and meteorologist Jeff Masters of Weather Underground estimates that the death toll could be as high as 15,000 by the time the temperatures drops:
The only comparable heat wave in European history occurred in 2003, and killed an estimated 40,000 – 50,000 people, mostly in France and Italy. While the temperatures in that heat wave were not as extreme as the Russian heat wave, the nighttime low temperatures in the 2003 heat wave were considerably higher. This tends to add to heat stress and causes a higher death toll. I expect that by the time the Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010 is over, it may rival the 2003 European heat wave as the deadliest heat wave in world history.
Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the biggest wind-turbine maker, rose the most in three weeks in Copenhagen trading after winning a supply order for the largest wind power project in Australia.
Vestas climbed as much 5.1 percent, the biggest intra-day gain since July 22, after saying it will supply 140 turbines of its new V112-3.0 megawatt model to the Macarthur Wind Farm near Victoria town of Hawkesdale in 2011-2013. The park will be developed by AGL Energy Ltd. and Meridian Energy Ltd., Randers, Denmark-based Vestas said today in a statement.
Vestas, which cut its 2010 forecast earlier this year as the credit crunch squeezed financing for projects, is working to book orders this year with a combined capacity of 8,000 to 9,000 megawatts. The Australian order will be the first for Vestas V112 model, which the company started selling today to offer a turbine that works both on land and sea.
“The V112 mill is a very attractive card for Vestas’s efforts to keep its position as market leader because of its high capacity,” Jacob Pedersen, an analyst with Sydbank A/S, said today in a note to clients. “It’s likely that several Vestas clients have waited for the launch of this turbine, thereby delaying orders. The launch of the V112 can therefore start an acceleration of new orders for Vestas in coming months.” He has an “overweight” rating on the shares.
The stock rose 10.1 kroner, or 3.5 percent, to 298 kroner at 11:15 a.m. in the Danish capital. Vestas has lost 6 percent this year compared with a 22 percent decline in the 88-member WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index.