WIND speeds in Australia have increased by about 14 per cent over the past two decades, but you may not have noticed because the speed of the air just above the ground has actually slowed down.
CSIRO scientists analysing data collected since 1975 at numerous wind stations around the country found the average speed measured 10m above the ground had increased by about 0.7 per cent per year, whereas that measured 2m above the ground had slowed by about 0.4 per cent per year over the same period.
Moreover, they found that the weakest winds had increased in speed but the fastest and strongest winds increased more slowly by comparison — good news for wind-farm developers but potentially bad news for farmers.
Alberto Troccoli, head of the CSIRO’s Weather and Energy Research Unit, said the difference between the measure at 2m and 10m was due to the lower stations being shielded by obstacles such as trees and buildings, and that the higher station provided the more accurate measure.
“We think the overall increase is caused by the widening of the tropical belt, due to climate change,” he said.
JR: The widening of the tropical belt (and expansion of the subtropics) is a basic prediction of climate science. It is occurring faster than expected and is associated with Dust-Bowlification. I’ll do a post on it in October. More details on this research from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, here.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Wednesday it plans to install solar-power panels at most of its California stores.
A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the company has installed rooftop panels on about 65 California stores and plans to raise that number to more than 130 — about three-fourths of its stores in the state — by the end of 2013.
The Arkansas company hopes to use solar for 20 percent to 30 percent of each store’s electricity needs. It said solar energy has cut its energy spending by more than $1 million.
Lobbying efforts on behalf of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline project show the U.S. State Department’s pro-industry bias, an environmental advocacy group said today.
Paul Elliott, a former deputy campaign manager for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, set up meetings on behalf of TransCanada executives, according to e-mails released today by Friends of the Earth, an advocacy group that opposes the pipeline. If approved, the pipeline would run from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
Elliott also notified department officials of an upcoming environmental protest, sent letters advocating for the project and offered TransCanada’s assistance to the State Department on international climate talks in Copenhagen, according to the e- mails.
The department, which is tasked with reviewing the pipeline proposal because it would cross an international border, is expected to issue a final ruling on the project before the end of the year. A final environmental impact statement released by the State Department in August found the pipeline poses “no significant impacts to most resources,” prompting environmental groups to say the review was flawed.
The e-mails show that Clinton’s staff “sought to help TransCanada get a rubber stamp,” Damon Moglen, climate and energy director at Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.
This summer, four-year-old Micah Kinneeveauk helped catch and kill his first seal. His proud grandmother plans to reward him with a special dessert at Thanksgiving: A big bowl of ice cream flavored with caribou meat and fat. Hunting seals and whales in the Chukchi Sea and caribou and polar bears on the tundra has provided food, clothing, and rites of passage for centuries in tiny Point Hope, Alaska, a barren gravel village of 800 Inupiat natives located 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Many of the people live largely on what they catch.
That’s why Micah’s grandmother, Caroline Cannon, sees trouble in Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. In the long shadow of the Exxon (XOM) Valdez and BP (BP) disasters, she’s unconvinced by Shell’s assurances that it has helicopters, robots, divers, and skimmers available to respond if it loses control of a well, along with a cap-and-containment system similar to the one that ultimately plugged the BP gusher. “There is no technology to clean up an oil spill, and it’s devastating if it happens,” says Cannon, who serves as the village president. “I have 25 grandchildren. That’s why I oppose offshore drilling 2,500 percent—I want them to have a chance to have the same kind of subsistence life I have.”
Many of Cannon’s fellow villagers feel the same way, and the town has been remarkably effective at delaying the company’s plans to begin work in the region. Point Hope successfully challenged government-issued permits for emissions from the rigs, preventing Shell from drilling this summer. It also sued to challenge the government’s lease sale, convincing a court that more public comment and environmental studies were needed. Although Shell won its first lease to extract oil from beneath U.S. Arctic waters in 2005, it has yet to drill a single well, despite spending what it says is almost $4 billion on leases, research, engineering, lawsuits, and government-ordered studies.
Part of Shell’s problem is that it doesn’t have much to offer the villagers to help win them over. The company predicts that development of the offshore fields would create 35,000 jobs a year in the state and bring $4 billion to local governments by 2057. Shell says Point Hope would get its share of the wealth. “We are committed to providing the village … with the same opportunities for jobs and shared services as other villages,” says spokesman Curtis Smith.
Many of the residents of Point Hope say they aren’t interested. The ramshackle village has a grocery store, a Chinese takeout, and not much else. They don’t want Shell coming in and building up the place. They aren’t expecting to be offered jobs on the rigs. They don’t want money. Mostly, the people say, they want to be left alone. “No matter how much money you’ve got, that money goes,” says Ronald Oviok, who says he has caught more than a dozen whales in his 69 years. “I’ve got no money. I don’t really care for money.”
Point Hope is exploring further legal challenges but likely can’t keep Shell from drilling forever.
Among Republican concerns about the Department of Energy’s Solyndra loan guarantee was an early 2011 restructuring effort that allowed $75 million of new private investment to become the priority loan ahead of hundreds of millions of dollars already invested by the federal government.
That restructuring means that now any money salvaged from the bankruptcy proceedings of the solar energy company will be used to first pay off those private investors. Only after they get their cash would money go back to the government, which began providing funds for the company in 2009.
Several Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have said that they are concerned that the restructuring deal was done in violation of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which states that DOE’s loan guarantees cannot be secondary to other financing.
Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing on Solyndra, Republicans sent a letter today to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking for all communication between the White House and DOE regarding the restructuring decision, which could end up costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
But in an interview after this morning’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on President Obama’s green jobs agenda, DOE Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman defended the restructuring decision.
“We had benefit of extensive legal review of that question; the statute is quite clear,” said Poneman, whose office signed off on the restructuring. “When you are issuing a loan, you have to have priority, and we did.”
But Poneman said that the 2005 law is also equally clear that the Energy secretary also has the responsibility to maximize interest of taxpayers when it comes to its loans.
“When you are in a restructuring situation, you have to have exactly this examination,” Poneman said. “Will the taxpayer return be maximized by sustaining this thing? What’s the higher return likelihood for the taxpayer? That’s the analysis that was done.”
Poneman said he and DOE’s legal counsel are confident that the restructuring was “entirely legal, consistent with the letter and spirit of the statute.”
But while DOE decided that it made financial sense to restructure Solyndra’s loan in February to get investors to inject $75 million into the company, the new money did not turn the company around.
In August, Solyndra sought another restructuring deal in order to get private investors to pump even more money into the company.
This time, six months after its first restructuring analysis, DOE and its outside experts came to a different conclusion.
“The [August] assessment was that the taxpayers’ best interests would not be served by going another turn of the wheel at that point,” Poneman said.
DOE declined a second restructuring deal, and the company went into bankruptcy.