Energy and Global Warming news for October 8th: DOE finds U.S. could add 54 GW offshore wind, create 43,000 jobs; China piloting emissions cap regionally; Germany boosts electricity supply 1% with PV in 1 year

US in position to build massive wind farms- DOE

If politics and economics align, the United States is well-positioned to build massive wind farms off of U.S. coasts and in the Great Lakes to meet a substantial amount of the nation’s electricity needs, according to the Department of Energy.

In a 240-page study of the potential and barriers for building 54 gigawatts’ worth of offshore wind capacity, DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that doing so means the creation of at least 43,000 permanent jobs. Potential exists for $200 billion in economic activity, and government analysts predict 20 jobs would be created for every megawatt produced off of U.S. shores.

The Obama administration appears big on the idea of jump-starting a dormant U.S. offshore wind industry. With the best-known offshore project, off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., mired in a decadelong regulatory morass, the United States trails Europe and China in the development of projects.


Big interests are also at play. Electric utilities want U.S.-based wind turbines to help them replace dirtier forms of energy, the government has an interest in creating new jobs, and the world’s biggest turbine maker, U.S. industrial conglomerate General Electric Co., stands to gain in a U.S. market.

“Today’s report will help guide our efforts in the coming years to support the offshore wind industry, create new clean energy jobs and develop environmentally responsible energy resources,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a prepared statement.

The Interior Department is also trying to accelerate deployment of offshore renewable energy projects. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently suggested that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico should be a turning point for renewable energy development.

DOE has projected that the United States could get 20 percent of its electricity from wind power by 2030. That scenario assumes substantial amounts of wind power coming from turbines off the U.S. coast, and that at least some of the 2,000 megawatts of capacity in the planning stages actually gets built and spurs further development.

China piloting emissions cap regionally

China hopes to use a province or city as an emissions cap-and-trade pilot to test such a program’s impact on the economy, officials at the country’s economic planning agency said during international climate talks in Tianjin.


The country is considering a possible national cap on emissions to reach a goal of reducing carbon dioxide gas per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. Before imposing a nationwide cap, however, it wants to see if the cap would impede economic growth when the government is trying to raise living standards for more than 150 million Chinese who live in poverty, according to Sun Cuihua, deputy chief of climate change at China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

The pilot area would likely be in one of five provinces and eight cities designated as low-carbon models, according to Wang Shu, the NDRC’s deputy director for climate change. But choosing the region has been difficult, Sun said.

“It’s difficult to negotiate with one specific sector or province because all of them are growing their economies,” Sun said, adding, “We still want to have a trial because we need to find such mechanisms to help meet our target and fulfill our obligation” on emissions reductions.

E.U. climate spokeswoman Maria Kokkonen said yesterday that the bloc is following “with interest” these discussions in China.

“As Europe has implemented the world’s largest carbon market and is committed to building a strong international carbon market, we naturally stand ready to share our rich experience in designing and implementing a successful cap-and-trade system with China,” Kokkonen said (Stuart Biggs, Bloomberg, Oct. 7). — AP

Too Much of a Good Thing: Human Activities Overload Ecosystems With Nitrogen

Humans are overloading ecosystems with nitrogen through the burning of fossil fuels and an increase in nitrogen-producing industrial and agricultural activities, according to a new study. While nitrogen is an element that is essential to life, it is an environmental scourge at high levels.


According to the study, excess nitrogen that is contributed by human activities pollutes fresh waters and coastal zones, and may contribute to climate change. Nevertheless, such ecological damage could be reduced by the adoption of time-honored sustainable practices.

Appearing in the October 8, 2010 edition of Science and conducted by an international team of researchers, the study was partially funded by the National Science Foundation.

Large-scale crop failures to increase under climate change, finds study

A new study has shown that large-scale crop failures like the one that caused the recent Russian wheat crisis are likely to become more common under climate change due to an increased frequency of extreme weather events.

However, according to the research by the University of Leeds, the Met Office Hadley Centre and University of Exeter, improved farming and the development of new crops could mitigate the worst effects of these events on agriculture.

The unpredictability of the weather is one of the biggest challenges faced by farmers struggling to adapt to a changing climate. Some areas of the world are becoming hotter and drier, and more intense monsoon rains carry a risk of flooding and crop damage.

But the authors of the new study argue that adaptation to climate change be possible through a combination of new crops that are more tolerant to heat and water stress, and socio-economic measures such as greater investment.

World Bank awards Mumbai business for revolutionizing drip irrigation

The World Bank awarded a Mumbai, India-based agribusiness company yesterday for innovating a new business model for water-conserving farming.

Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. developed a model for implementing drip irrigation for small farmers that experts see as a means for increasing water efficiency and lowering overall demand. The company was presented with the International Finance Corp.’s Client Leadership Award during the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Anil Jain, managing director of Jain Irrigation, said his company quickly recognized that when working with small farmers on 2.5 acre plots — the size that dominates India — it would need to do more than just sell technology. The company adopted an all-systems approach, he said, getting involved at all stages of the agriculture supply chain.

“They’ve been used to thinking: ‘more fertilizer, more output’ or ‘more water, more output,’” Jain said of the farmers. Pitching the drip irrigation over the traditional flood irrigation method is a tough sell.

The International Finance Corp. (IFC) — the private lending arm of the World Bank — has evolved its policy in water management over the past two decades. Seventy percent of global water uses are devoted to agriculture, according to the World Wildlife Fund, causing concerns about food security from the effects of climate change.

Unlike for farming businesses in the United States or Europe, the price of water is not a major concern in India. “For me, it was very difficult to sell drip irrigation because, for them [the farmers], there is no incentive,” Jain said, “except in productivity.”

The technique uses a series of perforated tubes that deliver water directly to crops, reducing losses to evaporation and weeds. According to a joint IFC-McKinsey & Co. report issued last month, crops farmed with drip irrigation had a “water footprint” 42 percent smaller than that of onions farmed using flood irrigation. Drip irrigation also demonstrated a 90 percent footprint reduction in associated wastewater.

Jain Irrigation must sell the drip technique on the promise of stable, increased produce yields, something more difficult to prove during a quick sales meeting. For the farmers, it is their livelihoods. The company must convince them that it can teach farmers to farm better than what their forefathers taught them. And that is just the beginning.

Prop 23 likely to fail, cites new poll

The proposition aiming to roll back California’s legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions is headed toward defeat, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Proposition 23 opponents lead supporters 49 percent to 37 percent, showing voters want to keep the landmark climate change legislation passed in 2006 in place.

The initiative aims to suspend the climate change law until unemployment drops below 5.5 percent for a year. Prop 23 advocates have described the law as a job killer.

However, even with unemployment at 12 percent and an unbalanced budget, voters seem to think the law will do more good than harm by creating a green economy.

“I like clean tech, I like hybrid cars coming out, I like solar panels on roofs, I like aerogel insulation,” said business school graduate Matt Fischer, 35, in San Francisco.

The poll also showed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown leading GOP candidate Meg Whitman 50 percent to 43 percent. Both Brown and Whitman oppose Prop. 23, but Whitman has pledged to suspend the climate change law for a year if elected (Peter Henderson, Reuters, Oct. 6). — LP

Egypt launches first privately ownder wind farm

Egypt will launch its first privately owned wind farm in 2013 in the Gulf of Suez, as the nation tries to meet its goal of producing 20 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2020. The wind farm will produce 250 megawatts of power, and the government has shortlisted 10 local and foreign companies for the scheme. “The Gulf of Suez is an excellent area for wind farms. Several projects are under way to create more wind parks there, which could have capacity of around 2,000 megawatts,” said Mohab Hallouda, a senior energy specialist at the World Bank.

The World Bank has loaned Egypt $220 million from its Clean Technology Fund (CTF) for a transmission line that will transfer power from wind turbines into the national grid. The CTF was set up by donor nations in 2008 as part of a pledge to invest in clean technology in poorer nations to help curb climate change.

Electricity demand in Egypt has been growing at 6 percent per year, and power outages have become frequent, making renewable energy investments timely.

The nation already has two publicly owned wind farms with capacities of 520 megawatts and less, accounting for less than 2 percent of its power supply. The electricity ministry hopes to scale up production to 7,200 megawatts by 2020 as a way to cut its greenhouse gas emissions (Heba Kandil, Reuters AlertNet, Oct. 6). — GV

EPA proposes haze-clearing rule for Four Corners coal plant

U.S. EPA has proposed a rule that would require new pollution controls at a massive coal plant on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, saying the emissions reductions would improve visibility at national parks and wilderness areas across much of the Southwest.

The Four Corners Power Plant, operated by Arizona Public Service Co. (APS), is the nation’s largest source of nitrogen oxides (NOx). The pollutant contributes to outdoor haze and causes breathing problems by helping to form smog.

Pollution from the 2,040-megawatt plant, which is located near New Mexico’s border with Arizona, Colorado and Utah, affects visibility at 16 national parks and wilderness areas, EPA said yesterday. Under the agency’s new proposal, visibility impacts would drop by an average of 57 percent at sites such as Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

Once the plant installs emissions upgrades, EPA Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld said in a statement, “we will all be able to see the results and breathe cleaner, healthier air.”

To achieve those visibility gains, the 45-year-old plant’s emissions would need to drop by 80 percent — from 45,000 tons of NOx per year to about 9,000 tons. Based on an EPA estimate that it would cost between $2,515 and $3,163 to remove a single ton of NOx from the air, those upgrades would cost between $90.5 million and $113.9 million per year.

EPA also projects that the upgrades will cost APS ratepayers about 70 cents a week in higher electricity prices.

Jim McDonald, a spokesman for APS, said the company does not yet know how much the upgrades would cost. Once APS finishes evaluating the proposal and assessing its options, the company will weigh in during the upcoming public comment period, he said.

If finalized, the plan would be a victory for environmental groups, which filed a petition this year asking the Interior and Agriculture departments to formally certify that the national parks and forests they oversee were being affected (E&ENews PM, Feb. 17).

China will not agree to binding emissions — official

China will not submit to developing countries’ demands that big emitters among developing nations take on binding emissions reductions, a senior Chinese negotiator said today at the weeklong Tianjin climate talks.

Su Wei, the negotiator, said that China was discussing legal issues if climate talks fail to put into place a new pact after the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012. He said it is necessary from a practical angle to start having those discussions but that it also “seems a bit early, prejudging the negotiations.”

Negotiations have been largely at a standstill over the issue of whether to make emissions reductions mandatory for developing countries as well as for wealthier nations. In the Kyoto Protocol, which almost all wealthy nations except the United States ratified, 40 developed countries faced binding emissions while developing nations agreed to take voluntary actions.

Nations will meet in Cancºn, Mexico, next month to work out the beginnings of a new climate agreement. Talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, last year failed in producing a binding treaty.

Su said that wealthy nations were to blame.

“The developed countries are delaying and delaying,” he said (Chris Buckley, Reuters, Oct. 7). — AP

Tesla reveals more details about electric Model S sedan

Welcoming reporters to its California headquarters for the first time, electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. revealed that its Model S sedan will store a battery pack in a large flat area below the vehicle to support the body and increase aerodynamics.

Tesla will produce about 20,000 of the $57,000 sedans a year at a former Toyota factory. The automaker also is planning different variations of the car, including an SUV that would use the same aluminum and steel platform.

Peter Rawlinson, Tesla’s chief engineer, said the company was designing cars “to compete on a level playing field — the driving experience.”

The Model S is expected to go from zero to 60 miles per hour in under six seconds with a 300-mile range per charge, according to the company. The sedan will have front and rear trunk space and is designed to hold five adults.

The company has already sold about 1,300 of its Roadster sports cars, which run on a power train fueled by rechargeable laptop batteries. Tesla is also working with Toyota to develop an all-electric RAV4 compact sport-utility vehicle expected to be introduced at the Los Angeles auto show in November (Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 6). — JP

Germany Adds Nearly 1% of Electricity Supply with Solar in Eight Months

Seemingly determined to put an end to speculation that solar photovoltaics (PV) can’t “scale” quickly enough to make a dent in electricity consumption, the German solar industry continues to break records.

According to the latest data from the Bundesnetzagentur, Germany’s solar industry added another 1,000 MW during July and August. This brings the total for the eight-month period from January through August to 4,900 MW from nearly 175,000 solar installations.

Solar PV installations to date in 2010 are capable of generating slightly less than 5 TWh of electricity under German conditions.

Germany consumed 580 TWh of electricity in 2009.

Installations of solar PV during the first eight months of 2010 are capable of providing 0.86% or nearly 1% of the country’s electricity. At the current pace of development, Germany will add about 6,000 MW of PV for all of 2010 or more than enough to provide 1% of electricity supply.