17 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for September 28: Water use in Southwest heads for a Day of Reckoning; East coast’s offshore wind could power half of its demand; Future Volvo car bodies are also the battery
LAKE MEAD NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, Nev. “” A once-unthinkable day is looming on the Colorado River.
Barring a sudden end to the Southwest’s 11-year drought, the distribution of the river’s dwindling bounty is likely to be reordered as early as next year because the flow of water cannot keep pace with the region’s demands.
For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system “” irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los Angeles “” could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet.
If it does, that will set in motion a temporary distribution plan approved in 2007 by the seven states with claims to the river and by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada would be reduced.
This could mean more dry lawns, shorter showers and fallow fields in those states, although conservation efforts might help them adjust to the cutbacks. California, which has first call on the Colorado River flows in the lower basin, would not be affected.
But the operating plan also lays out a proposal to prevent Lake Mead from dropping below the trigger point. It allows water managers to send 40 percent more water than usual downstream to Lake Mead from Lake Powell in Utah, the river’s other big reservoir, which now contains about 50 percent more water than Lake Mead.
BOSTON, Sept 28 (Reuters) – The densely populated U.S. East Coast could meet close to half its current electric demand by relying on offshore wind turbines, a study by an ocean conservation group found.
North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia offer the most potential for easily captured wind energy, according to the Oceana study, which estimates that the 13 coastal states could together generate 127 gigawatts of power.
That represents the potential for far more wind power than the United States currently generates. At the end of 2009, the nation’s land-based turbines were capable of producing some 35,000 megawatts of power — enough to meet the needs of 28 million typical American homes.
Investment in new wind turbines has surged in recent years, boosting sales at turbine makers including General Electric Co, Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Siemens AG.
However, all the U.S. wind farms built so far are on land. Advocates of offshore wind installations, led by backers of the Cape Wind facility proposed off the Cape Cod beach area in Massachusetts, have been working for almost a decade to try to win approval to build offshore turbines.
Opponents of Cape Wind argue that it could harm fisheries as well as sully views in a region dependent on tourism.
Car manufacturer Volvo has teamed up with the Imperial College in London in an attempt to solve one of the biggest problems currently facing electric cars: the size and weight of their batteries. Though it’s still a ways off, one potential solution could see future Volvos with batteries actual built into the body panels.
The new technology consists of a composite blend of carbon fibres and polymer resin, which is able to both store and charge energy. And according to Volvo it can do this faster than the current generation of electric car batteries. The material is also very flexible so that it can be molded into a variety of shapes, but strong enough that it can actually be used to serve as the vehicle’s body. According to Volvo, replacing steel panels with the new material could reduce vehicle weight by up to 15 percent.
“Our role is to contribute expertise on how this technology can be integrated in the future and to input ideas about the advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost and user-friendliness,” Per-Ivar Sellergren, development engineer at the Volvo Cars Materials Centre, said. The project will begin experimenting by turning a spare wheel recess into a composite battery. “This is a relatively large structure that is easy to replace. Not sufficiently large to power the entire car, but enough to switch the engine off and on when the car is at a standstill, for instance at traffic lights.”
Research is expected to continue for the next three years and is also being funded in part by the European Union.
In a bid to shore up its precarious energy security, Japan is to start commercial test drilling for controversial frozen methane gas along its coast next year.
The gas is methane hydrate, a sherbet-like substance consisting of methane trapped in water ice””sometimes called “fire ice” or MH””that is locked deep underwater or under permafrost by the cold and under pressure 23 times that of normal atmosphere.
A consortium led by the Japanese government and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (Jogmec) will be sinking several wells off the southeastern coast of Japan to assess the commercial viability of extracting gas from frozen methane deep beneath local waters. Surveys suggest Japan has enough methane hydrate for 100 years at the current rate of usage.
Lying hundreds of meters below the sea and deeper still below sediments, fire ice is exceedingly difficult to extract. Japan is claiming successful tests using a method that gently depressurizes the frozen gas.
Tokyo plans to start commercial output of methane hydrates by 2018. At present, Japan imports nearly all its gas””about 58.6 million tons of liquified gas annually””and is heavily dependent on oil imports. In a desperate attempt to secure more oil, for example, Japan recently did a deal with the United Arab Emirates. In exchange for using Japan as a base for Asian oil trading, Japan now has priority to purchase rights to up to 4 million barrels of immediately accessible crude.
Touring the campus of the Green School, an international organisation at Sibang Kaja on the island of Bali in Indonesia, you might think you were exploring a castaway’s hideout. Set in an earthly paradise the buildings are made of bamboo, bricks or dried mud, pebbles mark the edge of paths, furniture is made of carved timber and sails from boats take the place of windows in some of the classrooms. We also spotted terraced paddy fields, beehives, buffalo in enclosures fenced with manioc branches, and vegetable patches growing tomatoes, cucumbers, sugar palms and cocoa.
In this environmentally friendly academy, visitors are greeted with a glass of fresh water, drawn straight from the well. “We do not want to be dependent on anything,” says John Hardy, a Canadian who worked as a jeweller before founding this ground-breaking school in 2008. “We drink our own water, serve our own produce at the cafeteria, generate our own electricity and build accommodation compliant with sustainable development guidelines,” he says.
In a setting worthy of Robinson Crusoe, 120 pupils aged three to 14 are being taught the basic principles of environmental awareness. On top of a conventional curriculum, accredited by Cambridge University, most of the lessons address issues related to conservation. The children soon find out about organic agriculture, recycling and green transport.
“We want to raise a generation of responsible citizens, capable of acting sustainably for our planet. We teach them to base consumption on fair trade, to save energy, to till the earth and reap its benefits without pollution or wastage,” Hardy adds.
NEWCASTLE, Australia — The world’s largest coal terminal in Australia was inoperable for several hours Sunday because of an “emergency intervention” by environmental activists.
The protesters claimed that the massive amount of coal exported is a main cause of global warming in Australia.
Several of the protesters, who broke into the facility about 5 a.m., suspended themselves from coal-loaders, effectively shutting down Newcastle Coal Terminal, north of Sydney.
The coal-loaders, which normally continue non-stop, were operational by about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, The Newcastle Herald reports. Police arrested 45 members of protest organizer Rising Tide Newcastle.
“We are exporting global warming to the world. Here in Newcastle, already the world’s biggest coal port, multinational mining corporations are planning to triple exports over the next decade. It’s a similar story at all coal ports in the country,” said Annika Dean, spokeswoman for Rising Tide Newcastle.
Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal.
New efforts to measure what warming temperatures are doing to forests, streams and animals at a regional level are at the core of a strategic plan by the Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to the effects of climate change.
The Service said Monday that it had created a scientific team charged with identifying animals that are particularly vulnerable to climate change “” not only obviously susceptible cold-weather species like polar bears and walruses, but also animals less visibly at risk like the wolverine, for example.
The service said it would also be working with eight new climate stations run by the United States Geological Survey that will take detailed measurements of how local ecologies are changing as global temperatures rise. The new centers, three of which are already active, will measure things like changes in snow pack, soil moisture and stream temperatures “” seemingly small details that can mean life and death to some creatures.
In addition, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it was working with partners to establish the first generation of landscape conservation cooperatives, 21 in all. The idea behind the cooperatives, which are to include land managers for other federal and state agencies, is to prepare resource managers so they can be better equipped to deal with changing conditions on the landscape.
LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) – Scotland should produce enough renewable electricity to meet all its power demand by 2025, First Minister Alex Salmond said on Tuesday.
“Scotland has unrivalled green energy resources and our new national target to generate 80 percent of electricity needs from renewables by 2020 will be exceeded by delivering current plans for wind, wave and tidal generation,” Salmond said.
“I’m confident that by 2025 we will produce at least 100 percent of our electricity needs from renewables alone, and together with other sources it will enable us to become a net exporter of clean, green energy,” he said a statement ahead of a renewable energy investment conference.
Last week, Scotland raised its 2020 renewable electricity target from 50 to 80 percent of total demand, much of which is expected to be met by offshore wind despite costs soaring over the last few years.
The Philadelphia Navy Yard, once home mainly to mothballed ships and notorious for asbestos contamination, has undergone a gradual transformation in the last ten years since the site was cleaned up and new businesses moved in. Now things are really starting to heat up. The U.S. Department of Energy will put up $122 million for a new “Energy Innovation Hub” to be located at the Navy Yard, featuring a partnership between United Technologies and Pennsylvania State University.
The Philadelphia Navy Yard and New Green Jobs
At its peak during World War II, the Philadelphia Navy Yard had a workforce of 40,000, but things trickled down to a crawl after the war and the last Navy ship was built there in 1970. The site was cleaned up in the 1990″²s and by 2000 the first of about 80 new businesses started to move in. The current workforce is about 7,500, and that seems due to shoot up with additional clean energy investments. Aside from new green jobs generated by the Energy Hub, the Navy Yard has just been tapped to host the largest urban solar energy installation in the U.S.
A Miniature City to Test-Run New Clean Technologies
The new Energy Hub is one of three such facilities being developed by the Department of Energy. Its full name is the Energy-Efficient Building Systems Design Hub, and the Navy Yard was selected as an ideal location because it includes more than 200 buildings that are powered by an independent electric microgrid. This “virtual municipality” will become a real-life testing ground for new energy saving technologies as well as greenhouse gas reduction related to building systems, presumably in United Technologies’s areas of expertise which include heating and air conditioning systems as well as elevators and escalators, along with various aerospace products.