A round-up of climate and energy news. Please post other stories below.
Critics of electric cars often point to their high-priced batteries and limited range. An American startup thinks it can turn this equation on its head with technology that would generate an income stream for the buyers of such vehicles. It has set up a project in Denmark to show how they can cash in.
Nuvve Corp., based in El Cajon, Calif., is starting tests in Denmark with computerized electronic gear that aggregates the electrical output of parked electric cars, allowing them to act as one giant battery and to participate in wholesale electricity markets when power demand is high.
If the power transmission authority requests electricity from the cars, Nuvve gets a response from each plugged-in vehicle indicating its available capacity. Then Nuvve offers the vehicles’ aggregate power for sale and distributes the revenue back to the car owners.
An electric vehicle owner could earn as much as $10,000 over the life of the car, depending on market price for electricity and the owner’s commitment to make the battery available to sell power back to the grid, said Gregory Poilasne, Nuvve’s CEO.
Perhaps the most interested party in Nuvve’s project is Willett Kempton, a scientist at the University of Delaware who developed the system, which he calls “vehicle to grid,” or V2G, for short. Kempton, an anthropologist and energy policy expert, is chief technology officer for Nuvve.
After successful tryouts at Kempton’s university, where seven cars earned between $2,000 and $5,000 in one year, Nuvve picked Denmark for a larger experiment because the Danish grid gets a large amount of
renewable energy from wind power, which results in significant power fluctuations.
“As opposed to countries like Sweden and France where the power supply is fairly constant as a result of large nuclear and hydropower production, the dynamic Danish grid is an optimal choice for our
technology,” Poilasne explained, noting that Denmark gets 20 percent of its energy from wind.
Crude oil continues to wash ashore along the Gulf of Mexico coast a year after BP Plc (BP/) stopped the flow from its damaged Macondo well, which caused the worst U.S. offshore spill, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
On June 4, the last available tally from field inspections, 530 miles of coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida remained contaminated by oil, said Tim Zink, a spokesman for the agency. That’s down from a high of 1,074 miles. The U.S. government estimates that 4.9 million barrels were spilled into the Gulf from Macondo before London-based BP succeeded in capping the flow a year ago today.
“I’d characterize it as a light sheen and tar balls of all shapes and sizes,” Zink said in an interview yesterday. “For roughly thefirst year, it was heavy, moderate to light oiling. This is light.”
The pollution of Gulf coast beaches is one of several headwinds BP faces as Europe’s second-largest oil company seeks to rebuild its business and reputation in the U.S. The U.K. oil producer’s share price remains about 30 percent below its pre-spill level and has gained 13 percent since the spill ended.
BP said Friday it would voluntarily impose a series of additional offshore drilling standards for its Gulf of Mexico operations, part of a push by the company to restore the public’s confidence after last
year’s massive oil spill.
“BP’s commitment in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident is not only to restore the economic and environmental conditions among the affected areas of the Gulf Coast, but also to apply what we have learned to improve the way we operate,” BP CEO Bob Dudley said in a statement. “We believe the commitments we have outlined today will promote greater levels of safety and preparedness in deepwater drilling.”
BP sent a letter to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) outlining the standards. The standards, which BP developed based on lessons learned from last year’s spill, will supplement a slew of enhanced drilling safety
rules imposed by federal regulators.
At 4:40 a.m. on March 11, staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission got word that a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake had hit Japan.
As it became clear that the resulting tsunami had blacked out power at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, staff poured into the emergency operations center on the fourth floor of the NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md.
By late afternoon, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was in the operations center tracking what quickly became one of the biggest nuclear disasters in decades.
Around 9 p.m., when it was evident that there was no immediate threat to U.S. reactors, Jaczko called for volunteers.
“Who has a passport and can get to Dulles [airport]?”
One employee raised his hand and was on a plane to Japan within two hours. Dozens of NRC staffers would follow in the weeks ahead.
Four months after Japan’s earthquake, everything has changed at the NRC.
The standards chosen by the George W. Bush administration to protect people from smog probably wouldn’t hold up in court, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says in a new letter to a key congressional ally, giving the best indication yet that the agency is planning to set stricter pollution limits this summer.
Jackson is close to deciding whether to change the national ambient air quality standard for ground-level ozone, the main component of smog. After a series of delays, the agency sent a final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Monday (Greenwire, July 12).
That day, the agency received a well-timed letter (pdf) from Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat who chairs the Senate subcommittee on air pollution, asking Jackson to explain why she is rethinking the standards from 2008. Many industry groups and congressional Republicans are asking EPA to leave the Bush-era rules in place, saying it would make more sense to wait until the next review cycle is completed in 2013.
In a response (pdf) dated yesterday, Jackson says it would have been illegal to set the standard outside the range that a board of expert scientists said was necessary to protect human health. It also would have led to more costs for cities and states, which wouldn’t have known which standard to shoot for, she said.
A huge oil spill off the Chinese coast has now contaminated an area around six times the size of Singapore, state media reported Friday, as the government said it may seek compensation for the leak.
The spill from the oil field, which the United States’ ConocoPhillips operates with China’s state-run oil giant CNOOC, has polluted a total area of almost 4,250 square kilometres (1,650 square miles), government figures showed.
The figures, which were announced on the State Oceanic Administration website earlier this week but only reported on Friday, were almost five times the size of the 840-square-kilometre area previously reported.
The administration says that area remains worst affected by the spill, but that another 3,400 square kilometres have also been contaminated to a lesser degree by the oil.
The spill was kept secret by the authorities for several weeks before being made public this month, sparking suspicions of an official cover-up, and the disaster has triggered a furious public response in China.
State media said the government was considering seeking compensation from ConocoPhillips over the spill.
Every year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) publishes the World Energy Outlook Report. On 12 July, IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka appeared before the European Parliament’s Industry, Energy and Research Committee to present a preview of this year’s report, which will be published in November. As a highlight, the forthcoming Outlook has a special chapter on nuclear power, taking into account the market conditions and emerging political paradigm that have materialized since the accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant in Japan.
Even though the assessment of the catastrophe in Japan has not been completed, and the real reasons for the disaster are still unknown, nuclear power has been high on the political agenda since March. As a
result, the IEA expects that nuclear power plants (NPPs) currently under construction will stay on track, while older plants will be decommissioned. However, the political debate is proving detrimental only in OECD countries, which are more likely to reduce the use of atomic energy, while others such as China, will remain determined to exploit it.
As such, Tanaka reported that the projections for increase of energy from nuclear power will be halved. Under the current scenarios, 360 gigawatt (GW) of new capacity would be built by 2035. In light of recent developments, a review of this situation shows that only 180GW will actually be realised, and most of this will happen outside the OECD. This implies that the share of atomic energy in the world will drop from 14% to 10%, leaving a gap between energy production and growing demand.
The EU will protect existing investment in its $13 billion biodiesel sector even as it acts on new evidence that suggests making the fuel from food crops can do more harm than good in fighting climate change.
The environmental arguments in favor of using biodiesel were thrown into doubt last week by a series of leaked European Union reports, revealed by Reuters.
The reports said using Asian palm oil, South American soybeans and EU rapeseed to make biodiesel has a bigger overall impact than conventional diesel on climate change, partly due to forests or wetlands being destroyed to grow replacement food.
European Union policymakers are preparing a political compromise that will safeguard existing biodiesel investments, having baulked at penalizing individual biofuel crops.
While biodiesel producers will be given time to realize a return on the massive investment of recent years, the latest scientific findings are likely to lose them market share in coming years to bioethanol and advanced biofuels, which the reports found to be generally preferable.
Senior European Commission officials met in Brussels this week to debate policy options for addressing the indirect impacts of the bloc’s biofuel target, which aims to raise the share of biofuel in road transport to around 10 percent by 2020.
With biodiesel representing about 80 percent of Europe’s estimated $17 billion market for biofuels and the bloc dependent on diesel imports to meet rising demand, the officials agreed to delay any action that could kill off the biodiesel sector.
Federal environmental regulators are questioning the rationale of a proposed 39-mile natural gas pipeline that opponents say would damage 600 acres of pristine forests and streams in northern Pennsylvania’s
Endless Mountains region.
Central New York Oil and Gas Company LLC is seeking regulatory approval to use eminent domain, if necessary, to acquire land for its MARC 1 pipeline in Bradford, Sullivan and Lycoming counties. The pipeline
could open new areas to drilling and would connect with three existing interstate pipelines to take natural gas produced from the giant Marcellus Shale formation to market.
In written comments this week, the federal Environmental Protection Agency said it’s not clear why the MARC 1 needs to be built at all, given existing pipeline infrastructure.
“It is difficult to understand why natural gas distribution could not be accomplished in the absence of the MARC 1 line,” the EPA’s Philadelphia office wrote, adding that New York Oil and Gas itself has said that other pipelines are capable of transporting gas from the Marcellus.
The agency noted the pipeline would cross more than 100 waterways, result in the loss of more than 200,000 mature trees, and said it had questions about the possible effect on “water quality, aquatic
resources, air quality, wildlife and their habitat and forested landscapes, among other environmental and cultural values” in the area popular with tourists.
Solar@Work, an innovative group purchasing program for solar power, just launched in San Francisco this week.
The program is coordinated by the San Francisco Department of the Environment, targets local businesses interested in going solar, and uses solar panels from San Mateo-based SolarCity. It gives companies a number of options for going solar: 1) purchasing solar like normal — paying for everything at once; 2) solar leasing; or 3) getting loans for the installation. Of course, the program also helps you get federal, state, and local grants.
Th big benefit of the program is that building owners can get a discount by buying solar in a group. (I have to say, while SFGate calls this a “first-in-the-nation program,” the core value of the program — this group discount — is what our former owner, 1BOG, has been doing for over a year now…. Nonetheless, there is great potential in this model and I’d love to see more and more options like this sprout up across the country,… & the world.)
Dynamic windows — which can control the amount of light and heat that a window lets through when a low charge is applied — are being manufactured by innovative companies like Soladigm and Sage Electrochromics. But what if you could get these smarter so-called “electrochromic” windows without buying a new window? A startup called US e-Chromic, which is a semi-finalist at the business competition the Cleantech Open this year, has a plan cooking for that.
US e-Chromic makes an electrochromic thin film that can be applied to the inside of existing windows, but can work in a similar way to the brand new dynamic windows that are being made by these players in their next-gen factories. US e-Chromic says when its film is applied to windows it can reduce cooling costs in buildings by 30 to 40 percent during warm air-conditioning heavy months.
The company, based in Boulder, Colorado, is commercializing tech that was developed at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden Colorado. So far the startup, which is led by CEO Loren Burnett, has raised a small amount of funding from Amplifier Ventures.