October 23, 2014
A battery that can power the planet. A steel making process that can cleans the air by reducing CO2. In this second film in our Conversation with Tomorrow series visionary energy expert Professor Donald R. Sadoway looks at the future of energy and how his revolutionary ideas can create renewable, more sustainable energy for everyone, everywhere.
I’ve posted on this before, apparently the concept is now the foundation of a growing company, attracting serious investment.
More details on the implementation below: Read the rest of this entry »
October 23, 2014
More from utility expert Michael Osborne.
The utility of the future will view power resources, increasingly renewable, not as “intermittent”, but as variable, and predictable.
Best example, sun is strongest during the part of day when electric usage is at its peak – therefore predictably able to shoulder large portions of “peaking” capacity, more cheaply than coal, nuclear, or, increasingly, even gas.
Likewise, onshore wind peaks at different times of day than near, or offshore. They compliment each other.
October 22, 2014
“So what’s a Republican, like me, doing at a wind farm?” asks GOP Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner in the ad above.
Damn good question, given the hostility to renewable energy that leading GOP funders and interest groups have been showing in recent years, and the current political campaign.
In Senate races in the general election, the analysis found, energy and the environment are the third-most mentioned issue in political advertisements, behind health care and jobs.
The explosion of energy and environmental ads also suggests the prominent role that the issues could play in the 2016 presidential race, especially as megadonors — such as Thomas F. Steyer, a California billionaire and environmental activist on the left, and Charles G. and David H. Koch, billionaire brothers on the right — take sides. Leaders of major environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters said they had collectively spent record amounts of money in this election cycle.
“Candidates are using energy and environment as a sledgehammer to win a race,” said Elizabeth Wilner, the senior vice president for politics at Kantar Media/CMAG.
Groups representing the energy industry and environmental advocacy have typically been the lead players in presenting policy positions in ads, but this year the candidates themselves and party political committees are also taking on that role.
“What’s important about what’s going on right now is the extent to which the Democrats feel confident playing offense on environmental and energy issues, and the extent to which polling shows that they are scoring when they do that,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster.
What pollsters know, and what candidates are finding out, is that climate and energy issues work to move voters. In Mr. Gardner’s home state of Colorado, renewable energy is popular, and concerns about climate and environment are high – leading Democratic interest groups to seek to tie Mr. Gardner’s record of climate denial to his stands on other social issues where he seems to be out of step with his constituency.
The election results will tell us something about how well these kinds of attacks, and responses, have worked – but the swing in voter attitudes on climate change is unlikely to stop, especially given the possibility that 2014 could be the hottest year ever in the NASA surface temperature record, and if a developing El Nino warming event in the Pacific plays out in coming months, 2015 could be hotter still.
October 22, 2014
Above, former Utility Executive Michael Osborne explains how Austin (Tx) Energy has begun thinking about the role of electric vehicles in the integrated smart grid of the future. Austin Energy is one of the most forward leaning utilities in the nation, and Osborne recently helped negotiate the lowest price for solar electricity ever, under 5 cents/kwh.
Meanwhile, utilities across the country are beginning to come around on renewables in the face of an unstoppable revolution.
(Reuters) – For years, the utilities responsible for providing electricity to the nation have treated residential solar systems as a threat. Now, they want a piece of the action, and they are having to fight for the chance.
If utilities embrace home solar, their deep pockets and access to customers could transform what has been a fast-growing, but niche industry. Solar powers only half a million U.S. homes and businesses, according to solar market research firm GTM Research.
But utility-owned rooftop systems represent a change the solar installation companies who dominate the market don’t want, and whether the two sides can compromise may determine if residential solar truly goes mainstream.
In Arizona, the state’s largest utility has proposed putting solar panels on 3,000 customers’ homes, promising a $30 monthly break on their power bills. In New York, regulators are weighing allowing utilities to get into the solar leasing business to meet the state’s aggressive plan to incorporate more decentralized, renewable power onto the grid.
October 22, 2014
The Kids are all right.
One more reason for politicians to wake up on climate change and renewable energy. The demographics of younger voters.
PORTLAND — Of all the Very Portland things that exist in Portland, there is a plot of land next to City Hall, right outside the building’s front portico, where the city is growing its own Swiss chard.
“And on a place that used to be a parking lot!” exclaims Mayor Charlie Hales, adding a detail that actually makes this story even more Portland.
When Hales was first elected as a city commissioner in 1993, the ground in front of City Hall that has become a vegetable garden contained a parking lot with reserved spaces for the mayor and city commissioners. “Those of us on the council then said, ‘that’s not consistent with our values and our rhetoric,'” Hales recalls.
And so they gave up their spaces for a bit more of the city’s famed green space. “That’s not the only place in Portland,” he adds, “where we took out a parking lot and put in a little piece of paradise.”
By 2012, metro Portland had 34,545 more 25-to-34 year-olds with bachelor’s degrees than it did in 2000, according to American Community Survey data that Cortright just analyzed for the research site City Observatory. That’s an increase, of about 37 percent, that’s outpaced similar gains in New York (25 percent), Los Angeles (30 percent) and even — barely — metropolitan Washington, D.C. (36 percent).
Portland is succeeding in large part because the long-term direction of the city happens to align with what these young people prize today. The college grads decamping for Portland probably don’t say “I’d like to live somewhere with an urban growth boundary!” But that policy is partly responsible for producing the things about Portland that now draw them here: the compact living, the easy access to nature, the possibility that a farm might actually be near your table, the emphasis on communal assets — parks, public transit, tool shares (people kept telling me about the tool shares) — over individual ownership.
“To some extent, bring it on,” Hales says. “We’re happy that that migration is coming here, because that is the future, and we’re happy to have an outsized slice of it coming to Portland.”
The Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) recognizes that the installation of bicycle parking racks, especially racks of innovative and aesthetic designs by property owners, improves Portland’s transportation infrastructure and enhances Portland’s image as a livable, innovative city. In particular, the installation of bicycle racks on city streets furthers these goals:
- To provide needed parking for the increasing number of people who choose bicycling as a transportation option
- To enhance Portland’s image as a people- and bicycle-friendly city; a community that regards bicycles as a permanent and important part of the city’s transportation infrastructure
- To encourage more people to choose cycling as a transportation option
- To create a symbol for our city’s livability that will gain positive attention locally, regionally and nationally.
Want to install an art rack? Find out how, step-by-step, by clicking here. (“Art Rack Approval and Installation 101″ 31 kb PDF file)
“Business needs to show Millennials it is innovative and in tune with their world-view,” Barry Salzberg, CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, noted in the report.
In the company’s 2014 “Millennial Survey,” which polled more than 7,800 Millennials in 26 countries, 78 percent reported that innovation within an organization has influenced them in their job searches. Seventy percent say they see themselves working independently and digitally at some point in their careers.
The survey also revealed that leadership opportunities matter to this group. Nearly one in four Millennials are asking for a chance to demonstrate their leadership skills, and half of them feel their organizations could do more to develop future leaders.
They also say they’re keen to work for companies that have a social mission. While Millennials tend to believe businesses are successfully generating jobs (46 percent) and increasing prosperity (71 percent), many say they could be doing more. Specifically, Millennials point out opportunities to combat resource scarcity (56 percent), climate change (55 percent) and income equality (49 percent).
The bad news? Most Millennials report that their current employer does not encourage creative thinking. They cite management attitude (63 percent), operational structures and procedures (61 percent) and employee skills, attitudes and diversity (39 percent) as impediments to innovation.
Ultimately, this up-and-coming generation feels businesses should measure their success not only on financial performance, but also by the degree to which they are improving society.
October 21, 2014
The line you hear about renewable energy, over and over again, is that “renewables like solar and wind are intermittent” and therefore need a back up.
All sources of energy are intermittent, and all need a back up, – that’s why you have a grid.
Above, retired Austin Energy exec Michael Osborne was instrumental in negotiating the lowest price for utility scale solar ever.
He describes how Austin Energy, the municipal utility in Texas’ capital city, keeps the lights on with multiple sources of energy, including “intermittent” nuclear power.
One difference between renewables and traditional power sources is that you can lose a whole lot of power, unexpectedly, when something goes wrong with a large centralized power plant, like when a nuclear power plant trips offline, or as happened recently with a fire in a UK gas generator.
What happens when a major gas power station catches on fire? Well, it certainly looks spectacular. But it appears the short term impact on the UK’s power generation is pretty minimal.
Didcot’s shutdown is the latest in a series of unexpected outages which National Grid has had to cope with in recent months. This has led to a spate of headlines questioning whether National Grid will have enough power stations available to cope with high demand over the winter months.
We take a look at how National Grid copes with such unexpected events, and why it remains confident the UK will have enough power this winter.
Where does the UK’s power come from?
National Grid is legally required to make sure there’s always enough power to meet demand. The UK’s peak demand – at around 6pm on weekdays – is currently around 45 gigawatts. This is expected to rise to about 55 gigawatts over the winter, as people spend more time indoors and use more electricity.
Big coal, gas, and nuclear power stations are responsible for meeting most of this demand. The government’s latest statistics show 30 per cent of the UK’s electricity comes from gas, with 28 per cent coming from coal. Nuclear power provides about 20 per cent.
When one of these power stations has to be taken offline, it’s big news. Earlier this year, the Heysham 1 and Hartlepool nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 2.3 gigawatts shut down after engineers discovered cracks in their boiler casings. Both power stations are due to come back online before Christmas, although they will only be operating at 70 to 80 per cent of their normal output, the Telegraph reports.
October 21, 2014
A well informed correspondent writes:
So noaa reinforces nasa… Hottest September ever. For us NOT TO BREAK the record now, a significant cool down would have to occur. So far, October is just as hot as September so it is unlikely to cool this month. Means temps in November and December would have to be about 0.58C to avoid an alltime record. That won’t happen
The first nine months of 2014 have a global average temperature of 58.72 degrees (14.78 degrees Celsius), tying with 1998 for the warmest first nine months on record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.
‘It’s pretty likely’ that 2014 will break the record for hottest year, said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden.
The reason involves El Nino, a warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that affects weather worldwide. In 1998, the year started off super-hot because of an El Nino.
But then that El Nino disappeared and temperatures moderated slightly toward the end of the year.
This year has no El Nino yet, but forecasts for the rest of the year show a strong chance that one will show up, and that weather will be warmer than normal, Blunden said
All of the world’s top 10 warmest years have occurred since 2000. Climate studies have shown the world is poised for more warmth as the amounts of carbon dioxide rise. Last month, figures revealed carbon dioxide levels rose by the highest amount in 30 years in 2013.
Noaa has recorded above-average global temperatures for each September in the last 38 years. The last September with below 20th century average temperatures occurred in 1976, Noaa said.
The government agency said the temperatures were driven by warming oceans.