March 21 News: Wind power surged from 17,000 MW to 194,000 MW in past decade; Google takes on climate science deniers

Global wind capacity hit 194.4 GW in 2010.

Wind power surges forward around the globe (by Lester Brown)

For many years, a small handful of countries dominated growth in wind power, but this is changing as the industry goes global, with more than 70 countries now developing wind resources. Between 2000 and 2010, world wind electric generating capacity increased at a frenetic pace from 17,000 megawatts to nearly 200,000 megawatts.

Measured by share of electricity supplied by wind, Denmark is the leading nation at 21 percent. Three north German states now get 40 percent or more of their electricity from wind. For Germany as a whole, the figure is 8 percent — and climbing. And in the state of Iowa, enough wind turbines came online in the last few years to produce up to 20 percent of that state’s electricity.

In terms of sheer volume, the United States leads the world with 35,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity, followed by China and Germany with 26,000 megawatts each. Texas, long the leading U.S. oil-producing state, is now also the nation’s leading generator of electricity from wind. It has 9,700 megawatts of wind generating capacity online, 370 megawatts more under construction, and a huge amount under development. If all of the wind farms projected for 2025 are completed, Texas will have 38,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity — the equivalent of 38 coal-fired power plants. This would satisfy roughly 90 percent of the current residential electricity needs of the state’s 25 million people.

In July 2010, ground was broken for the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC) in the Tehachapi Pass, some 75 miles north of Los Angeles, Calif. At 1,550 megawatts, it will be the largest U.S. wind farm. The AWEC is part of what will eventually be 4,500 megawatts of renewable power generation, enough to supply electricity to some 3 million homes.

Since wind turbines occupy only 1 percent of the land covered by a wind farm, farmers and ranchers can continue to grow grain and graze cattle on land devoted to wind farms. In effect, they double-crop their land, simultaneously harvesting electricity and wheat, corn, or cattle. With no investment on their part, farmers and ranchers typically receive $3,000 to $10,000 a year in royalties for each wind turbine on their land. For thousands of ranchers in the U.S. great plains, wind royalties will dwarf their net earnings from cattle sales.

In considering the energy productivity of land, wind turbines are in a class by themselves. For example, an acre of land in northern Iowa planted in corn can yield $1,000 worth of ethanol per year. That same acre used to site a wind turbine can produce $300,000 worth of electricity per year. This helps explain why investors find wind farms so attractive.

Impressive though U.S. wind energy growth is, the expansion now under way in China is even more so. China has enough onshore harnessable wind energy to raise its current electricity consumption 16-fold. Today, most of China’s 26,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity come from 50- to 100-megawatt wind farms. Beyond the many other wind farms of that size that are on the way, China’s new Wind Base program is creating seven wind mega-complexes of 10 to 38 gigawatts each in six provinces (1 gigawatt equals 1,000 megawatts). When completed, these complexes will have a generating capacity of more than 130 gigawatts. This is equivalent to building one new coal plant per week for two and a half years.

Of these 130 gigawatts, 7 gigawatts will be in the coastal waters of Jiangsu Province, one of China’s most highly industrialized provinces. China is planning a total of 23 gigawatts of offshore wind generating capacity. The country’s first major offshore project, the 102-megawatt Donghai Bridge Wind Farm near Shanghai, is already in operation.

Google Takes on Climate Change Skeptics with New Technology Effort

Climate change skeptics who have created a political megaphone in Washington may finally meet their match in the world’s largest search engine., the technology giant’s philanthropic arm, has hand-picked a team of 21 fellows working in climate research to improve the way the science of global warming is communicated to the public and lawmakers through new media.

“We are seeing very clearly with climate change that our policy choices are currently not grounded in knowledge and understanding,” said Paul Higgins, a Google fellow and an associate policy director for the American Meteorological Society.

The Google Science Communication Fellows program named its first round of participants on Tuesday. The announcement could not have come at a more timely juncture.

On Monday, an annual Gallup poll on the environment reported that nearly 20 percent of Americans surveyed believe the effects of global warming will never happen, up from 11 percent three years ago, while fewer respondents are concerned about climate change than in the past.

A day later, House Republicans in the Energy and Commerce Committee voted unanimously against three amendments offered by Democrats that would accept that climate change is occurring; that it is largely due to human activity; and that human-made warming poses a threat to public health and welfare.

Democrats on the panel, all of whom voted for the measures, tied the proposals to larger GOP-backed legislation seeking to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

That global warming is doubted by large swathes of the country “” despite a consensus among climate scientists worldwide that says otherwise “” underscores the large gap between the data and America’s understanding of it, scientists say.

Nuclear crisis doesn’t panic cleantech investors

Fears of a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan sparked a new wave of criticism of nuclear energy “” and a rally in clean-energy stocks on Monday. But that interest quickly waned as stocks in the sector dropped back from that day’s highs as the stock market experienced a broad sell-off.

And that brief surge of interest never touched the private investment community, because venture capitalists typically focus on longer-term plays, said Steve Minnihan, a partner at Lux Research, a firm which specializes in cleantech.

“I haven’t heard anything from my clients or from the companies that we speak to in terms of interest in solar and wind power,” Minnihan said.

Any sustained increase in interest probably won’t be felt for the next six to nine months, said Micah Myers, a managing partner with venture-capital firm Claremont Creek Capital. That’s because the energy sector’s investment cycle is typically longer than other venture investments, he said. Alternative energy sources have suffered from a lack of capital to finance projects, but that may ease as a result of the crisis in Japan.

“It’s a huge tragedy, but it’s only gonna give a tailwind to alternative energy technologies,” Myers said. “There will be more of a willingness to put capital to work in solar and wind.”

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the fuel rods in one of the nuclear reactors in the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan had experienced a partial meltdown in a statement today. As of this afternoon, the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) was attempting to restore power to the nuclear plants in order to cool the nuclear reactors and prevent a full-scale meltdown. The U.S. government has also urged any U.S. citizens within 50 miles of the reactor to evacuate the area.

While major natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina caused a huge outpouring of public support and aid funding, they didn’t move the needle much on technology, said David Mann, chief of staff at Khosla Ventures “” a venture-capital investment firm well known for its backing of cleantech companies.

German nuclear firms may stop green payments

Germany‘s nuclear operators may scrap payments of 300 million euros ($425.3 million) this year into a fund subsidising green energy after they had to close plants for safety checks, a newspaper reported on Monday.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung, citing company sources, said last week’s enforced shutdown of reactors built before 1980 for security checks in light of the nuclear crisis in Japan, had prompted the four German operators to consider stopping the payments. [POWER/DE]

The contributions are part of a package of conditions tied to a deal with the government last September, which lengthened the lifespans of the nuclear power stations in return for a fuel element tax, additional security measures, and the green fund.

It is intended to collect 300 million in each of 2011 and 2012 and 200 million a year in 2013 through to 2016, supporting the planned transition of Germany’s energy sector towards a higher renewables share.

The paper said the four companies, E.ON (EONGn.DE), RWE (RWEG.DE), Vattenfall Europe [VATN.UL] and EnBW (EBKG.DE) were angry about latest enforced closures of a total seven plants, two of which had been closed already, for three months at least.

USDA funds research on crops and climate change

The federal government is investing $60 million in three major studies on the effects of climate change on crops and forests to help ensure farmers and foresters can continue producing food and timber while trying to limit the impact of a changing environment.

The three studies take a new approach to crop and climate research by bringing together researchers from a wide variety of fields and encouraging them to find solutions appropriate to specific geographic areas. One study will focus on Midwestern corn, another on wheat in the Northwest and a third on Southern pine forests.

Shifting weather patterns already have had a big effect on U.S. agriculture, and the country needs to prepare for even greater changes, said Roger Beachy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And since the changes are expected to vary from region to region, he said different areas will need different solutions. Some areas may gain longer growing seasons or suffer more frequent floods, while others may experience more droughts or shorter growing seasons.

“What the climatologists have predicted is that the areas that were at one time wet will in fact be dry and hot, not wet and cool,” Beachy said as an example. “If that’s correct, then we need to have varieties of crops that will grow in those areas and are adaptable to the changes in the climate. So really it comes down to if we don’t do this, we may have some food shortages in certain kinds of foods.”

The corn project will be led by a rural sociologist, Lois Wright Morton of Iowa State University. She said the collaboration between climatologists, soil scientists, plant scientists and others means the researchers will be asking questions they might never have thought of before.

“We really have assembled what I really think of as the really top scientists in the agricultural arena to address these (issues),” Wright Morton said, adding that her team members are not only experts in their fields, they’re willing to learn from others. “That’s a pretty potent combination.”

Coal mine proposal rejected by EPA

The EPA declared LD Operations’ proposal for an underground coal mine, 15 kilometres from the tourist town, environmentally unacceptable.

It received hundreds of complaints from locals arguing the mine would damage the environment and hurt the tourism industry.

The Premier Colin Barnett says the proposal is dead and the EPA has made the right decision.

“I had expressed as Premier that I thought that was a very doubtful prospect to have an underground coal mine in the prime wine growing area of Western Australia,” he said.

“While this is a pro-development government, it is not development at any cost, and where projects are not acceptable, they will not be approved.”

LDO’s managing director Peter Ross says he is disappointed with the decision.

He says the company has not been given any reasons as to why the EPA declared the proposal environmentally unacceptable.

“Naturally we’re disappointed, however we have to wait and find out what the reasons were for their decision and assess our options from there, we’re still waiting for some information from the EPA,” he said.

Wind energy on the horizon in North Carolina

North Carolina’s first large-scale wind farm, with more than 100 towers taller than a grain elevator, is working its way through a long permitting process with little opposition.

Atlantic Winds LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, plans to erect up to 150 turbines with blades reaching more than 500 feet in the air within 20,000 acres of remote farmland in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties.

At a hearing held by the state Utilities Commission on March 10 in Elizabeth City, local officials and landowners spoke highly of the project. At another hearing set for April 5 in Raleigh, only supporters of the project, including the developer, are set to speak.

“To me, the positive far outweighs any negative,” farmer Horace Pritchard said. “We’ve done a lot of research.”

Pritchard plans to lease 1,300 acres to Atlantic Winds within the farming area known as the Desert. Several landowners are involved in the deal.

Nearly 600 workers would be needed for construction of the project, according to company’s application to the Utilities Commission.

When finished, the facility would have a capacity of 300 megawatts and produce enough to power about 60,000 homes. The wind-generated electricity would flow into a Dominion Power transmission line that runs from Winfall to Suffolk.

28 Responses to March 21 News: Wind power surged from 17,000 MW to 194,000 MW in past decade; Google takes on climate science deniers

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    Three-dimensional bicontinuous ultrafast-charge and -discharge bulk battery electrod

    Rapid charge and discharge rates have become an important feature of electrical energy storage devices, but cause dramatic reductions in the energy that can be stored or delivered by most rechargeable batteries (their energy capacity)1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Supercapacitors do not suffer from this problem, but are restricted to much lower stored energy per mass (energy density) than batteries8. A storage technology that combines the rate performance of supercapacitors with the energy density of batteries would significantly advance portable and distributed power technology2. Here, we demonstrate very large battery charge and discharge rates with minimal capacity loss by using cathodes made from a self-assembled three-dimensional bicontinuous nanoarchitecture consisting of an electrolytically active material sandwiched between rapid ion and electron transport pathways. Rates of up to 400C and 1,000C for lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride chemistries, respectively, are achieved (where a 1C rate represents a one-hour complete charge or discharge), enabling fabrication of a lithium-ion battery that can be 90% charged in 2 minutes.

    Faster charge then gas guzzling machines tanking …

  2. Some European says:

    Exciting news from google. Obviously, conspiracy theorists are going to make quite a fuss. Please keep us updated on how it materializes, Joe.

  3. Tom Gray says:

    Lester Brown comes through again.

    You asked a few days ago about underreported stories, Joe, and I’d say one is the capability of wind and other renewable energy technologies to play a major role in producing energy and reducing carbon emissions. We are still seeing story after story following the MSM line that renewable energy is not a viable answer–the latest being one by Kate Galbraith in the NYT today. In fact, U.S. wind farms this year will generate as much electricity as 10 nuclear power plants (of 1,500 MW each). Globally, there are enough wind turbines installed (194 GW) to generate as much electricity as 50 nukes. Here in the U.S., we’ve installed enough in the last 3 years to generate the equivalent of 5 nukes. It’s pretty clear at this point that wind can not only scale, but scale rapidly.–Tom Gray, consultant to American Wind Energy Association

  4. paulm says:

    “Google Takes on Climate Change Skeptics with New Technology Effort”….

    Live by Google, die by Google.

    Are they going to now deny Google exists???

  5. paulm says:

    If only we had started down this path 10 – 20 years ago. And put the investment in Nukes in to renewables.

    “Between 2000 and 2010, world wind electric generating capacity increased at a frenetic pace from 17,000 megawatts to nearly 200,000 megawatts.”

  6. Larry Gilman says:

    Speaking of underreported stories, the fact that all (apparently) of Japan’s wind turbines, including an offshore installation only 300 km from the epicenter, survived the earthquake and tsunami entirely unharmed is worthy of note. These “unreliable and intermittent” generators are now merrily churning out power while many of Japan’s “baseload, fully dispatchable, around-the-clock” nuclear plants are either shut down or spewing radioactive smoke:

  7. malcreado says:

    Last July (2010) Illinois had 9779.1 MW of wind in the proposal phase (that doesn’t count what has already been built). Since then I know some (hundreds of towers) has moved to construction phase.

  8. Scrooge says:

    With google taking this initiative the message will reach a lot of people. Good news on wind and to think most of these accomplishments have happened through the back door under the radar. Think what could happen if we were able to use the front door.

  9. malcreado says:

    Here is a better link for Illinois wind with completed, construction, permitted and proposed numbers as of 28 Feb 2011.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Japan quake loaded stress on fault closer to Tokyo
    It’s a common occurrence after strong quakes and happened after the 2004 mega-earthquake and tsunami off Indonesia that killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations.

    Three months later, an 8.6-magnitude quake erupted farther down the fault line, killing 1,000 people on sparsely populated Nias island.

    “But it’s difficult to say,” said Atwater. “There are good examples of such stresses leading to other earthquakes, big earthquakes, and there are good examples of that not happening.”

  11. pete best says:

    It not about how much renewable power countries produce but about how much global CO2 we emit from our energy infrastructure in relation to how much we continue to need in addition each year and how much of it is new fossil fuel and how much renewable.

    After all if we grow our energy usage by 2-3% per annum and deploy and shedload of renewable energy then its not much use if its only offsetting the annual growth now is it?

  12. paulm says:

    #4 Tom, It is amazing that the scalability of renewables, especially currently wind, for the unit price is not recognized by investors more.

    The nuclear power plant crisis in Japan will change this now. The fact also that renewables in the long term effectively cost almost nothing to run and maintain compared to nukes and fossiel fuels is so often left out of the equation.

    God, if only investors had woken up to this 10 – 20 years ago then we might have had Utopia.

  13. Owen says:

    The American Wind Energy Association estimated China has 41 GW of capacity and the US has 40 GW at the end of 2010.

    Kate Galbraith dismisses renewable energy in four sentences.

    Jeff Sommer, in NYT’s Business Day, writes “Day to day, nuclear power is cheap.”

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    The most graphic clip yet of the Tsunami coming ashore , with the sound . No English , I don’t know what this location is. The first 9:00 min. of this thing.

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    China, India, Brazil Pledge Emission Limits to United Nations Climate Body

    China, India and Brazil pledged to limit their greenhouse gas emissions in documents submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, formalizing commitments made in Copenhagen in December 2009.

    China said it will try to lower carbon-dioxide emissions per dollar of economic output at least 40 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, according to a document dated March 18 and e-mailed today by the UN body, which stewards global climate treaty talks. India said it aims to cut emissions per dollar at least 20 percent in the same period while Brazil said it’ll slash heat-trapping gases more than a third from projected 2020 levels.

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Eminent scientists ask for restrictions on power plants

    Representing 14 of the country’s leading climate change scientists, Public Justice recently urged the U.S. Supreme Court to hold power plants accountable for their carbon dioxide emissions and allow states to impose restrictions on how much of the chemical compound may be released.

    The scientists’ amicus brief in AEP v. Connecticut et al., argues that there is no scientific uncertainty about the warming effects of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide; that the power plants threaten substantial harm to communities in the six plaintiff states; and that the benefits of reduced emissions would be significant.

    The scientists include Mario Molina, who received the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his role in showing that chlorofluorocarbons damage the Earth’s ozone layer; and Dan Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    Top Ten U.S. and China Collaborations in Cleantech

    A number of the cleantech efforts between the United States and China reflect the need for cooperation on issues surrounding climate change and clean energy as it is a major factor in the relations of these two countries. Although there are still issues to resolve in many of the collaborations, it is believed that if the United States and China can continue in their cleantech collaborations, that it will show the world that two major players on the international platform are serious about combating the challenge of climate change, and it will also encourage other countries to create alliances. Through collaboration, the two largest greenhouse gas emitters will be able to create technologies required to combat climate change. Not only that, but tangible benefits will be developed, not just for the United States and China, but the world as a whole.

  18. Michael T. says:

    Met Office supports Climate Week

    21 March 2011 – Climate Week begins today and aims to highlight the many positive steps already being taken by people throughout the country to tackle climate change.

    The Met Office is supporting Climate Week, acting as the lead science adviser and providing clear guidance on the results from research and studies undertaken by our climate science experts.

    Among this work is the compelling evidence of rising global temperature published in 2010 by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in the US in its annual ‘State of the Climate’ report.

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    Google Recruits Scientists to Use New Media to Tackle Climate Skeptics

    In an effort to help improve communication regarding global warming issues and to counter the rampant ‘noise’ made by fossil fuel industry-funded climate skepticism, Google’s philanthropy arm has launched a new program focused on bringing together scientists, communications experts, and the world of social media. Google has tapped 21 top climate researchers to be fellows on the project, and they plan on mapping out a way to get accurate, scientifically sound information on climate to the masses.

    Look at all the sockpuppet comments at treehugger. The MSM should remove obvious sockpuppet comment lies, spread by the denial machine.

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    UN releases pledges by poor countries to curb climate change: expand forests, go green energy

    Mongolia says it will erect solar power plants in the frigid Gobi desert. The Central African Republic says it will expand its forests to cover a quarter of its territory. Mexico promises to slash carbon emissions by 30 per cent by the end of the decade.

    Costa Rica and the Maldives aim to become carbon neutral and even chaotic Afghanistan is promising to take action on climate change.

    The pledges from dozens of developing countries, compiled by the United Nations and released Monday, are voluntary, and many made them conditional on financial and technical help from the industrial world.


    Poorer countries agreed to join the richer nations and submit their own climate action plans after the most recent climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, last December.

    Some countries kept their pledges vague and brief: China said it would lower its carbon emissions 40-45 per cent per unit of production by 2020. India used a similar measure, promising to cut emission intensity by 20-25 per cent.

    Submissions by others were detailed in the extreme. Ethiopia listed 75 projects, including each new rail line where trains would run by renewable energy.

    Argentina, which has outlawed old fashioned light bulbs, specified subsidies for wind and solar energy. The Himalayan nation of Bhutan promised never to emit more carbon than its vast forests can soak up. The Ivory Coast listed a plan for more hydropower, renewable energy and forest management.

    Mongolia, in addition to solar units in the desert, wants to give nomadic herders portable wind turbines. It said it still needs to burn coal for home heating in a country were temperatures drop to -40 degrees Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit), but pledged to install more efficient boilers.

    Among the agreements reached in Cancun was a plan for a “Green Climate Fund” to administer tens of billions of dollars for developing nations to help them adapt to climate change and help them reduce their own emissions.

  21. Vic says:

    You know those unusually cold winters in the northern hemisphere of late ?
    It seems the Canadian Harp seals know all about it. They are showing up in U.S. waters in greater numbers and farther south than usual and biologists say there’s no clear explanation why.

  22. paulm says:

    The winter that never really was–the-winter-that-never-really-was

    we had four snowfall events, that’s a decent winter here. This winter’s snowfall events were a little bit different though the snow never stuck around. The snow fell, and then it turned to rain or melted very quickly.”

  23. Vic says:

    Not only are Japan’s nuclear power plants under threat from earthquakes, tsunamis and public sentiment, blooms of giant Nomura’s jellyfish have been fouling their cooling systems for a number of years.

    Baby Nomura’s Jellyfish grow from the size of a grain of rice to the size of a washing machine in less than six months, and armadas of up to 500 million of the giant stinging 450lb blobs have wreaked massive damage on Japan’s fishing industry. Any attempt to physically damage the creature results in the release of billions of spores.

    The ever-enterprising locals are working to expand the jellyfish ice cream market. Yum. Something we can all look forward to.
    As of today however, jellyfish ice cream could have a slightly more zesty flavour about it.
    Abnormally high levels of radioactive substances have been detected in seawater 100 kilometres south of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
    Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said the level of iodine-131 was 126.7 times higher and caesium-134 was 24.8 times higher than government-set standards.

    Giant swarms of monster radioactive jellyfish. I feel a movie coming on. A real blockbuster.

  24. Merrelyn Emery says:

    #20 Prokaryotes. Do you or anybody else who knows abut these things consider this an adequate response? A good start? A token?

    How does one judge the status of these reports? Thanks, ME

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    Merrelyn Emery “Do you or anybody else who knows abut these things consider this an adequate response?”

    Everything is a start, we have reached a critical mass – and momentum is building now in europe because of fukushima. Further down the year we can potentially have a similar magnitude event like last year nashville, pakistan or russia. NASA predicts an active 2012 season and another kathrina type event will surely further trigger an adequate response. Because we need clean tech to sustain civilization and once people start using all the new technologies, they will start to love it.

    Important is a ban on fossil exploration and out phase, free Co2 city centers, Co2 tax and stuff like this. Though, yes token of progress or token of sustainability.

    On the bottom line, time is running out because the world starts to see many nations collapse at once (Nobody have thought of this? So many food riots at once and they triggered all those lingering unstable regime changes. And what about the theory of “climate whammy’s”? Just look at the triple impact at fukushima climate impacts are very diverse and happen at the same time too) Though if we have chaos in half the world or better in all the world with different kind of magnitude, progress forward will be slow or impossible. But we need the world to become carbon zero and negative (BECCS, artifical photosythesis, biochar etc)

    To bad for human politicians, the climate does not differ between borders.

  26. Steve Metzler says:

    19. Prokaryotes:

    Look at all the sockpuppet comments at treehugger. The MSM should remove obvious sockpuppet comment lies, spread by the denial machine.

    Heh. Predictably, the good folks over at WUWT didn’t think much of Google’s initiative either:

    An Open Letter to Google

  27. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes. Wind is a very valuable supplementary power to conventional energy. With Giant Wind Turbines coming(10 MW),and offshore wind energy catching up in countries like US,China,Taiwan,South Korea etc. Wind will be the main Alternative Energy in the Energy Mix.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

  28. DreamQuestor says:

    I hope that Google will begin by flagging and/or eliminating the junk science sites (such as the notorious “Friends of Science”) which are returned when one types in the words “global warming.”