December 15 News: China Scales Up Solar Power Capacity Plan 50% to 15 GW by 2015, Keeps Wind Target at 100 GW

Other key stories below: U.S. Solar industry reports record third-quarter growth; For Haiti, climate change is more present fear than horrible imagining

China scales up solar power capacity plan 50%

* Solar power generation to hit 20 billion kWh in 2015

BEIJING, Dec 15 (Reuters) — China has further revised up its solar power development target for 2015 by 50 percent from its previous plan, state media reported on Thursday.

The government has set a target for installed solar power generating capacity to reach 15 gigawatts by 2015 and wind power capacity to hit 100 GW, China National Radio reported, citing an announcement from the National Energy Administration.

The ambitious move may have been encouraged by a rapid increase in solar power installation in recent months after the government unified grid feed-in tariffs for solar projects for the first time in July, and offered a higher price for projects that would be put into operation before the year end.

China had doubled its 2015 solar power goal to 10 GW after the Japanese nuclear power crisis.Installed solar power capacity at the end of 2010 was less than 1 GW in China, the world’s largest exporter of photovoltaic products and home to some of the industry’s top players, such as Trina Solar, JA Solar, Suntech Power and LDK Solar.

For a detailed analysis of China’s renewables strategy, see the recent post by Melanie Hart, CAP’s Policy Analyst on China Energy and Climate Policy China’s New Plan for Solar Power Supremacy.” Here’s more from Reuters:

Annual solar power output will reach 20 billion kilowatt hours by 2015 and wind power output 190 billion kWh, China National Radio said in a text report posted on its website (www.cnr.cn).

Of the planned 100 GW wind power capacity in 2015, 5 GW will be built in the ocean, it said.

Solar industry reports record third-quarter growth

Solar power is a booming business in the U.S., with more domestic solar installations completed in the third quarter of this year than during all of 2009, according to a report released Wednesday by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Assn.

“The U.S. solar industry is on a roll, with unprecedented growth in 2011,” said Rhone Resch, chief executive of the solar group. “Solar is now an economic force in dozens of states, creating jobs across America.” The Solar Energy Industries Assn. is the national trade group for the U.S. solar energy industry, and it has 1,100 member companies.

Some 449 megawatts of power were installed in various parts of the U.S. in the third quarter in a variety of projects that ranged in size from small residential systems to large, utility-scale facilities, the report said. One megawatt is the equivalent of 1 million watts of power.

For Haiti, climate change is more present fear than horrible imagining

For people in the UK, a weak deal at Durban on climate change may be disappointing, but it is not something that will affect their everyday life — at least not for some years to come.

In Haiti, though, hurricanes are becoming more frequent and unpredictable. In 2008, the summer before the earthquake, Haiti endured four tropical storms in a row. Our fourth largest city, Gonaives, was inundated for months.

It is not just the strength and frequency of rain, but the particular vulnerability of Haitian terrain. The same storms can pound the neighbouring Dominican Republic, or nearby Jamaica, and do far less damage. Haiti is almost completely denuded of trees, with less than 2% of its original forest cover still standing. So when storms hit, landslides almost invariably occur, as the topsoil has few tree roots binding it together and holding it in place.

Haiti has been progressively losing its lush woodland ever since 1804, when the country was forced to start chopping down its old growth mahogany forests to help pay the “reparations” imposed by its former French colonialists following independence….

It is not just excessive rain combined with poor forest cover that causes problems for the population, but the unpredictability of the rains. Some areas in the far north west of Haiti have been experiencing unseasonable droughts in recent years, causing pastures to dry up and crops to fail.

Chevron’s Crude-Oil Spill in Brazil Prompts $10.6 Billion Lawsuit

A Brazilian lawsuit that seeks to halt Transocean Ltd. (RIG) and Chevron Corp. (CVX) operations after an oil spill would reduce the country’s offshore drilling at a time when it wants to double output in ten years.

Federal prosecutors in Campos, in the oil region of Rio de Janeiro state, are suing both companies for 20 billion reais ($10.6 billion) in environmental and social damages and asked a court to suspend their operations, according to a statement yesterday. Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, and Transocean, based in Vernier, Switzerland, said they haven’t been notified and are cooperating with authorities.

The case imperils Brazil’s plan to boost crude output because Transocean operates 10 out of the 61 rigs working in the country and it would be hard to replace them in a tight market for oil equipment, said Judson Bailey, an analyst at Jefferies & Co Inc. Brazilian oil production growth has slowed after the country increased safety requirements following the spill at BP Plc’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Coal Ash Dams Are A Major Hazard Coal-State Politicians Want To Ignore

Just days before the three-year anniversary of the devastating dike failure at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant, the Environmental Protection Agency still has little authority to regulate the storage of toxic coal ash produced as a byproduct of coal power.

A new report released Tuesday shows coal ash’s harmful environmental effects are more widespread than previously understood. Meanwhile, a bill proposed by a bipartisan coalition of coal-state senators would strip away the federal government’s power to do anything about it.

The new report from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project identified 19 coal ash dump sites in nine states where heavy concentrations of arsenic, boron, manganese and other pollutants contaminate the groundwater nearby. At some of those sites, the EPA had noted only “potential” contamination, but when the EIP did its own tests, it found chemicals had leached into the ground.