June 6 News: Recruiting Rock Climbers to Repair Wind Turbines; Resource Efficiency, the Sixth Wave of Innovation

The Climate Progress news round-up is a daily look at the top climate and energy news from around the web. Do you have interesting stories to share? Post them in the comments below.

This wind turbine is being repaired. There are more than 197,000 to go. Photo: Rope Partner.

GREEN JOBS: Companies recruit rock climbing enthusiasts to repair wind turbines

When repairing wind turbines became his full-time job five years ago, Josh Crayton was awed by what he calls “the fantasticness of it all.”

“It didn’t seem real,” Crayton, an avid rafter and rock climber, recalled of his first days at Rope Partner, a Santa Cruz, Calif., company. “To get to use my climbing skills and my rope knowledge was great.”

Rope Partner soon had him climbing up 260-foot turbines with a rope, a harness and a partner. Once he got to the top, his tasks on wind turbine blades could involve everything from repair to cleaning to even painting. At any point in the year, his work locations could range from the Midwest to Texas.

However, extreme weather, such as high winds, also came with the territory — which is why many days had him only “hoping to be in the air all day,” Crayton said. He soon became accustomed to a transient lifestyle that shipped him across the country to various wind farms for weeks at a time.

“It’s difficult work,” he said. “You receive an itinerary, jump on flight and travel to the spot. Assuming all of your materials and bags make it with you, you’ll start work the next day.”

Many of the world’s wind turbines are starting to age. According to the American Wind Energy Association, there are now more than 197,000 turbines in the world. In the United States, there are more than 36,000. Both numbers are growing rapidly, which is why avid outdoors enthusiasts like Crayton are finding themselves increasingly in demand.

Two prevailing forms of repair dominate the industry. One has repairmen using machinery like cherry pickers to reach the blades. But another growing practice puts workers like Crayton to the top without all the expensive equipment. Like rock climbers, they reach the top with their arms and legs and little else.


Resource Efficiency: The Sixth Wave of Innovation

The global financial crisis of 2007-2009 heralded the start of a sixth major wave of innovation — that of resource efficiency, according to Dr James Bradfield Moody, author of The Sixth Wave, speaking at the Creative Sydney conference.

The Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev first postulated the major cycles of innovation in 1925. The five initial major economic cycles have been defined as the industrial revolution; the age of steam and railways; the age of steel and electricity; the age of oil, cars and mass production, and the age of information and communication. Each range from 40 to 60 years and consist of alternating periods between high sector growth and periods of slow growth.

Moody predicts that the sixth cycle will be defined by resource efficiency. The new wave is heralded by massive changes in the market, societal institutions and technology that all reinforce each other. These include rising scarcity of ore grades, increase in water demand, and an increasing recognition of the economic value of

‘If you want to succeed you need to find waste and do something with it.’

the environment over and above its potential as a resource and a rise in cleantech. Moody said: “What is the value of a tree? Is it what you get when you sell the wood or the land? Or is it the value of the water it generates of the Co2 it converts into oxygen? We are starting to attach an economic value to all of these things.”


Arizona forest fire threatens town of Greer and others

Wildfires have spread across hundreds of square miles of forest.

More than 2,300 firefighters are battling one of the largest blazes ever to break out in the state of Arizona.

The rapidly moving fire, covering 287 sq miles (743 sq km), is threatening mountain communities in the east of the state.

Smoke from the burning pine forests can be seen in the neighbouring states of New Mexico and Colorado.

Forecasters said conditions could get worse on Monday as winds are expected to pick up.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who flew over the fire, described it as “horrific”.

Most residents of the resort town of Greer, in the White Mountains, left on Saturday, packing their belongings in to vehicles as what is being called the “Wallow Fire” moved closer.

The few who remain in the town, just seven miles (11km) from the fire’s frontline, are under a pre-evacuation order, ready to leave at short notice.

New powertrain, engine to up Ford fuel efficiency

Ford Motor Co. hopes to retain its leadership in fuel-efficient vehicles by engineering its own transmission for hybrid vehicles, an eight-speed automatic transmission and its smallest engine yet: a 1-liter engine for cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Focus.

Most will be made and sold in the United States by 2013, the automaker said Thursday. Already 220 jobs have been created and more could be coming, Ford said.

The powertrain announcements are the next stage in Ford’s EcoBoost strategy of using smaller engines that are direct-injection and turboboosted, as well as new transmissions, to give vehicles the performance consumers demand. They also will have up to 20 percent better fuel economy than their predecessors with larger conventional powertrains.

The moves match, and in some cases exceed, recent announcements by General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC to introduce multispeed transmissions and smaller engines as consumers place more importance on fuel economy every time gas prices exceed $4 a gallon.

Feds OK Keystone pipeline restart

The Transportation Department has given TransCanada Corp. permission to restart its Keystone oil pipeline, just a day after blocking resumption of operations on the line that has suffered two recent leaks.

The department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in a letter Saturday, told the company that it had approved its restart plan and that the restart could commence today.

PHMSA’s decision follows a thorough evaluation of the company’s proposed plan, and safety activities required under the plan. As required by the Corrective Action Order, restart of the pipeline will be under restricted conditions and closely monitored by PHMSA,” the agency said in a statement Sunday.

The 1,300-mile line that runs from Canada to Oklahoma leaked roughly 400 barrels of oil in North Dakota on May 7, prompting a weeklong shutdown.

The 591,000 barrel-per-day line was closed down again after another leak was discovered in Kansas late last month.

Energy subsidies hard to quit for GOP candidates

Despite the libertarian, small-government rhetoric from conservative candidates and voters, Republican presidential hopefuls aren’t ready to quit energy subsidies just yet.

It sure sounds like GOP contenders are talking tough: Tim Pawlenty has turned on his old buddy, ethanol, and Sarah Palin called this week for cutting all energy subsidies, setting a tea-party-like marker that others may feel pressured to emulate.

But in fact, the declared and potential presidential candidates are all over the map — and by no means fleeing en masse from their traditional support for subsidies.

Mitt Romney still supports ethanol subsidies. So do Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, sort of. And the Republicans still oppose President Barack Obama’s idea of getting rid of subsidies for the oil industry.

The focus on the campaign trail thus far has been on continued federal help for corn-based ethanol — understandable as it remains an important commodity in Iowa, home to the first caucus and official test at the ballot box in the Republican primary.

Giant open-pit mine raises questions in Uruguay

A plan to build a giant open pit mine has created a sharp rift between those who think Uruguay’s rich agricultural land should be protected, and those wanting to exploit its wealth.

The Aratiri project, owned by Zamin Ferrous, a London-based minerals company, will cost an estimated $2.5 billion (1.7 million Euros), the largest mining project ever in South America, and equivalent to more than six percent of Uruguay’s gross domestic product.

For the past two years, the company has been permitted to prospect for iron on 120,000 hectares (460 square miles) of land around the village of Cerro Chato in the center-east of the country.

Bolstered by continuing demand from Asia and the Middle East, iron prices have been on a steady rise.

The Uruguayan government must still approve the actual mine, which will cover some 12,000 hectares (46 square miles), and has insisted on a new environmental impact statement.

But farmers and ecologists have opposed the project, which they say will force 2,500 people to leave their land and cause irreversible environmental damage.

In Uruguay the sub-soil belongs to the state, and it has asked farmers to let the company use their land to hunt for iron ore.

Europe to open first solar-powered railway tunnel

Europe’s first solar-powered railway tunnel will be opened on Monday in Antwerp.

The 2.1 mile-long tunnel will form part of the Paris-Amsterdam high speed rail link.

Electricity generated from the 50,000 solar panels will provide the electricity used to power the 186 mph trains as they pass underneath.

The panels, which are being built by a Belgian solar power company, Enfinity, will £12.6 million.

Comments are closed.