Climate March Live Feed

September 21, 2014

Live feed above. let me know if it works.

Arctic Sea Ice Bucket Update

September 21, 2014

The Arctic Sea Ice Bucket Challenge is being answered and going viral.  If you’re keeping up, here are the latest.

Above, John Cook of Skeptical Science, below, Ice expert Mauri Pelto


Stephen Lewandowsky’s response to John Cook. (amusing)

The Future is not what it used to be.  Although I don’t expect to have a rocket car anytime soon, it looks as though dreams of solar panels and wind turbines powering a green economy are no longer in the future, they are now.  I’m working on a new “solutions” piece for Yale Climate Connections, and gathering a wealth of  exciting perspectives.

I unexpectedly found myself on a Skype call the other day with S. David Freeman, former chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and someone who has forgotten way more about energy than I ever will know.  89 odd years old and spot on.

Turns out he’s got a lot of company these days in heralding the new age of renewable energy.

IEEE Spectrum:

Large wind and solar power farms have the economics to go toe-to-toe with the cheapest fossil fuel-based power supplies in the United States according to the venerable financial advisory firm Lazard Ltd. Thanks to falling costs and rising efficiency, reports Lazard in an analysis released this week, utility-scale installations of solar panels and wind turbines now produce power at a cost that’s competitive with natural gas and coal-fired generating stations—even without subsidies.

The results appear in the eighth annual update of Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis [pdf], which compares the combined cost of financing, building, and operating power generating plants using a variety of energy technologies. Lazard projects that new utility-scale solar plants will deliver energy at US $72-86 per megawatt-hour, and wind turbines beat that with a cost of $37-81/MWh.

Those renewable energy options compare well against the cost of the most cost-effective natural gas-fired technology—combined cycle plants—which delivers at a projected $61-127/MWh (depending on whether the plant captures its carbon dioxide emissions). The renewables look even better against coal in Lazard’s analysis, which prices new coal-fired generation at $66-171/MWh.

The London-based Financial Times says the message is that renewables arestarting to “outshine” gas. The FT quotes George Bilicic, Lazard global head of power, energy & infrastructure, accepting that renewable energy has finally arrived: “We used to say some day solar and wind power would be competitive with conventional generation. Well, now it is some day.”

Financial Times:

Large wind farms and solar plants are now cost-competitive with gas-fired power in many parts of the US even without subsidy, according to Lazard, raising the prospect of a fundamental shift in the country’s energy market.

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New ad sponsored by Billionaire Tom Steyer’s political action group is funding the new ad, aimed at the GOP Candidate’s connection with the Koch brothers, an issue that seems to have traction here.

Washington Post Plum Line:

Dem Rep. Gary Peters, who is running for Senate in Michigan, is calling on GOP foe Terri Lynn Land to take a stand on whether she believes human activity is responsible for global warming. It may seem far fetched, but climate change could actually be an issue in this one Senate race, because of two factors: The centrality of the Great Lakes to the Michigan economy; and the huge expenditures on behalf of Land by the political group founded by Charles and David Koch.

Land’s spokesperson, in a statement to me, would say only that she disagrees with Peters on the “extent” to which humans have caused climate change, while adding that there “should be a healthy and educated debate on the impact of human activity on our environment.”

In an interview with me on Friday, Peters said (this will strike some as implausible, and others as refreshing) that he intends to talk about climate change as a key issue in this race, with a focus on the Great Lakes and on the role of a Koch Industries affiliate in a major local story involving piles of petroleum coke along the Detroit River.

Dr. Karen Cameron is a scientist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, and participated in this year’s Dark Snow Project encampment on the Greenland ice.

Dr. Cameron’s descriptions of the evolving melt season, together with Sara Penrhyn Jone’s stunning videos, are evocative of what scientists experience in the course of this research.

Cameron spent 47 days on the ice this summer, and was airlifted out with her team, on the same chopper that brought me in.

I’ll be presenting short clips of her observations over coming months.


Mark Ruffalo, better known as the actor who plays The Hulk in 2012’s mega-hit movie The Avengers has some powerful quotes in a new interview by Brian Merchant.

Basically, he’s getting off fossil fuels and wants the Avengers to do that as well.  Which should be easy with Tony Stark’s Arc Reactor. I need one of those.

The full article and interview are at MotherBoard:

Mark Ruffalo is not the kind of celebrity activist who shows up at a charity ball once a year, writes a check while the cameras roll, then extols the virtues of altruism. Mark Ruffalo is in the trenches. And he wants his friends and fellow Avengers in there with him.

I’ve seen him hit the pavement in DC, protesting the Keystone XL. He’s joined anti-fracking demonstrations in New York and Detroit. You can bet he’ll be at  this weekend’s People’s Climate March. Ruffalo is well-versed on climate and energy issues, and endorses a plan to move to 100 percent renewable energy, following a blueprint laid out by a Stanford professor.

He’s also officially joining the movement to dump fossil fuel investment.

“I’m in the process of divesting. I took the pledge,” Ruffalo told me, “between 3-5 years, to completely divest in any fossil fuels or anything climate change related and put it into renewable or clean tech.” Ruffalo had just been a guest on Al Gore’s fourth annual  24 Hours of Climate Reality program, and he was enthused.

“And that’s a pledge that I’m making here today to you. I’m asking all of my friends to do it. I’m going to ask Leo[nardo DiCaprio], I’m going to ask all The Avengers, I’m going to ask Robert, I’m going to do the ‘put your money where your mouth is’ challenge. And it’s going to be: divest and invest.”
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Scientific American:

Last month, General Electric (GE) consulting presented the results of a U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) sponsored study testing if wind turbines can be controlled to manage the stability of the electric grid. The authors found that wind turbines might actually be a valuable tool for controlling and stabilizing the grid in the future, disputing the conventional notion that wind energy doesn’t play well with the grid. To understand the source of this counterintuitive result—and its implications—let’s review the key aspect of power grid control at play here: frequency regulation.

Frequency regulation is the process through which the grid operator maintains the frequency of the grid’s alternating current at a precise, predetermined level. In the United States, for example, grids are strictly controlled to put out electric current with a frequency of 60 Hertz. To maintain this level of frequency, the grid operator must carefully ramp power plants up and down so that the total amount of electricity flowing into the grid is perfectly balanced with the total electricity being withdrawn by electricity customers.

The balance and frequency of the electric grid can be illustrated with the analogy of a spinning merry-go-round. The grid operator’s goal is to keep the grid’s electrical frequency constant, or to keep the merry-go-round in our analogy spinning at a constant speed. To increase the speed of the merry-go-round, the grid operator can order generators to increase their power output—or literally increase the torque on their spinning turbine shafts to “push” the grid up to speed. Electricity withdrawn from the grid by customers slows down the merry-go-round in our analogy, decreasing the grid’s electrical frequency. The inertia of the merry-go-round—or its tendency to stay in motion—is determined by the mass and momentum of all of the spinning turbines and generators feeding power into the grid. The job of the grid operator is to keep the whole system in balance by regulating the flow of power into the grid. The job of the grid operator is to keep the whole system in balance by regulating the flow of power into the grid so that it always matches electric load.

The grid’s alternating current varies like a sine wave. The frequency of this wave is controlled by all of the spinning generators feeding power into the grid. The grid operator controls the output of each generator to maintain a specified electrical frequency, e.g. 60 Hertz in the United States. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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