Energy and Global Warming News for March 15th: U.K. hopes to lead in wave and tidal power; Renewables can provide 94% of NC’s power

U.K. tries to catch a wave

The U.K. hopes to stake its claim as a leader in the fledgling wave and tidal power sector””a key green technology””when it awards companies licenses on Tuesday to develop around 700 megawatts of marine energy around Scotland.

The tender, which was oversubscribed, has attracted interest from major European utilities and energy companies as well as marine developers — some of whom have already formed partnerships, and will be keenly watched by countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, Canada, New Zealand and South Korea that are also looking to develop such resources….

Nicknamed the Saudi Arabia of tidal power, the Pentland Firth and surrounding waters tender area around the northern coast of Scotland and the Orkney Islands has six of the top ten tidal sites in the U.K. and has the potential to help the government achieve its aims.


But there are many obstacles: technological, financial and the sheer physical challenge of operating in the harsh marine environment where the very same energy from the surging tides and crashing waves that is so good for generating electricity can also easily destroy or quickly degrade costly equipment.

The graphic above is “An impression of a 4MW Tidal Stream machine in the Pentland Firth.”

Duke study touts power of renewables

Renewable energy, including solar, wind and hydroelectric, can provide all but 6% of North Carolina’s electricity, finds a new Duke University study.

“Critics of renewable power point out that solar and wind sources are intermittent. The truth is that solar and wind are complementary in North Carolina,” says study author John Blackburn, a Duke professor emeritus of economics and former university chancellor. He adds:

Wind speeds are usually higher at night than in the daytime. They also blow faster in winter than summer. Solar generation, on the other hand, takes place in the daytime. Sunlight is only half as strong in winter as in summertime…

Together, they can generate three-fourths of the state’s electricity. When hydroelectric and other renewable sources are added, the gap to be filled is surprisingly small.

The study comes as President Obama, in an effort to generate clean energy, is pushing forward with plans to build more commercial nuclear power plants. He’s offered $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for two new reactors in Georgia.

On Monday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $40 million in funding awards for two teams — led by Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric Co. and San Diego-based General Atomics — to design the Next Generation Nuclear Plant. Chu said:

This investment reflects President Obama’s commitment to building the next generation of nuclear reactors that will create thousands of jobs and supply the clean energy to power our economy. It’s time for America to recapture the lead in the nuclear energy industry and lay the foundation for a stronger, cleaner, and more competitive economic future.

… It shows there’s no need to build expensive nuclear power reactors, said Jim Warren, executive director of the North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, in a press release on its findings.

The study was published last week by the Maryland-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, whose executive director, Arjun Makhijani, called it landmark research. He said:

North Carolina utilities and regulators and those in other states should take this template, refine it, and make a renewable electricity future a reality.

Now, drive an energy-efficient hybrid car

How about installing a solar panel in the house to tap solar energy or driving an energy-efficient hybrid car? While a number of papers on technological innovations in electrical and electronics engineering have gained attention in Prastuti-2010, a number of engineering students have also come up with eco-friendly renewable energy technologies and pollution-free sustainable development solutions to tackle burning issue of climate change, on Saturday.

“More than one-third of energy requirement in the country is met from fuel sources that add to environment pollution and tapping solar energy could be an eco-friendly alternative to the problem,” said Anchit Darvekar of Institute of Technology (IT), Banaras Hindu University, who along with Vikas Pandey, another IT student have come up with design of solar energy based power system during the event. “In our paper, we have suggested a design of solar energy based Indian city or town. We believe that power requirements in small home can be met by introducing solar panel set in individual houses while solar thermal power plants would be needed to meet heavy power load requirements for the cities or townships,” said Pandey.

The ITian duo have also come up with design for houses that would use solar appliances in the future. Saying that the major focus of the idea is to harness solar energy up to the maximum extent, Pandey said the suggested solar power plant would be a commercial parabolic trough solar power plant to meet the heavy power load requirements of major industries in the city. Similarly, for maximum utilisation of solar energy in houses, there would be solar panels for smaller loads like lighting and heating purposes. Also, street lights can use stored energy of sunlight, he added.

It is to be mentioned here that India’s Solar Mission has already envisaged promotion of solar energy to harness and distribute environment-friendly power for strengthening national energy security. Similarly, the mission has also set up target of harnessing 20,000 mega watts (MW) of solar energy by 2022 in the country.

Ritesh Harjani and Mugdha, another ITian duo have come up with the design of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), the newest innovation of automobile industry in the form of next generation hybrid cars. While explaining the features of these hybrid cars, Ritesh said: “The car is designed to use different forms of energy and not just gasoline. It combines the power of gas engine with an electric motor and the dual engine system can be configured for different purposes like increasing the car’s power and improving fuel economy.”

In order to increase power and fuel economy, the HEV uses nickel hydride battery, an electric motor, a generator, an internal combustion (IC) engine and power split device. “The electric motor assists the gas engine in starting up and accelerating. But, the car remains on electric power alone under resting conditions. This reduces the use of gas and subsequently decreases toxic emissions from IC engine,” he added.

However, it was interesting to note that the technology witnessed development of braking system that recharged the battery every time the car hit the brakes. “There is no need to recharge the battery, as it has in-built recharging system and it gives an edge over other cars especially at a time when car buyers or owners are looking at alternatives to save money even when the cost of fuel is rising and causing damage to the environment, said Mugdha, an IT-BHU student.

Energy industry has a greener shade at CERAWeek

From enthusiasm for cleaner-burning natural gas and energy efficiency, to big-spending plans for carbon capture projects and renewable power, talk at the CERA-Week conference suggests the energy business is thinking greener.

“If you read the popular press, one would think maybe there’s a pause button on climate change,” Patricia DiOrio, a director for IHS Cambridge Energy Associates, said during a panel discussion on Friday, the closing day of the conference hosted by IHS CERA.

“But I didn’t see that here. The energy industry is very committed to moving forward on reducing carbon.”

Mayor of San Jose makes case for clean tech innovation

Chuck Reed, the mayor of San Jose, Calif., wants to make his city the capital of clean tech innovation. His goal is to create 25,000 clean tech jobs in the next 15 years.

He also wants to reduce the per capita energy use in the city by 50 percent, and build or retrofit 50 million square feet of green buildings in the same time period.

But these goals require some help from the federal government. In his latest visit to Washington, Reed made a case for faster assistance in growing the clean tech economy.

Weather bureau backs climate change verdict

Two of the nation’s top research bodies — the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO — have come out strongly in defence of the science behind global warming.

The leading research bodies say the evidence is irrefutable: climate change is real and the link with human activity is beyond doubt.

Universities have also joined the fray, saying it is time to stand up for Australian science and research.

“We’ve had some serious tabloid junking of … science and research in our community,” Professor Peter Coaldrake, the chairman of Universities Australia, said.

“If the two bodies together come out and make a statement of this sort, then we in the community have to acknowledge that.”

The weather bureau’s director, Greg Ayers, says a century’s worth of climate records show definitively that weather patterns are shifting and the planet has already been warming.

There are simply more extremely hot days, and fewer cold and wet ones.

“When we look back over the last 50 years or so and look at the succeeding decade as we roll forward, what we see … is a trend of increasing temperatures from decade to decade,” Dr Ayers said.

“We also see shifts in patterns of rainfall with the drying in the east and the south and the west of the continent.

“There is an increase in temperature in the surface oceans around Australia as well that goes hand in hand with the … surface temperature increases over the continent, and there’s also … a rise in sea level.”

Hopkins: We will cut emissions by half

Johns Hopkins University yesterday announced one of the more ambitious sustainability initiatives in higher education, with a goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by more than half by 2025.

Hopkins says it will invest $73 million in conservation and efficiency measures estimated to cut emissions by 81,000 metric tons a year, which would take them a little over halfway to their goal. That goal is to cut 141,000 metric tons from the 276,000 tons in annual emissions the university projects it would generate 15 years hence.

Dozens of colleges in the region have launched sustainability initiatives, driven partly by an impulse to practice what university researchers preach about the perils of global warming.

The Hopkins plan relies somewhat on technologies that don’t yet exist: the university says it hopes to reduce its carbon footprint by “adopting new technologies that emerge between now and 2025,” and also by “motivating members of the university community” to save energy on their own.

The carbon-cutting strategy includes “a building-by-building, campus-by-campus list of HVAC, electrical, and lab equipment improvements; lighting fixture and control upgrades; measures to make buildings more airtight; window replacements; installations of solar power panels and solar hot water equipment; water conservation measures; and other steps,” the university said in a release.

Ways and Means members give green jobs the once-over

Ways and Means members look to make green jobs the next item on Congress’ jobs agenda, according to a committee discussion draft.

Members and staff are expected to come up with proposals aimed at boosting employment in fields related to renewable energy, green manufacturing and energy conservation.

If a green jobs package emerges, it will follow a proposal aimed at helping small businesses. Ways and Means Chairman Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) is expected to mark up small business jobs package on Tuesday.

The bill’s centerpiece temporarily exempts stock in start up companies from capital gains taxes as well as increases the deductions for certain expenditures made by small business owners. Pension relief measures could also be included. The total package is expected to cost between $12 billion and $13 billion.