offshorewindNow that offshore wind has a foothold in the US, it will begin the same price drop that has made solar power a game changer in so much of the country.

What a lot of renewable bashers did not get 7 or 8 years ago is that, solar did not have to be the least-cost producer to get started – it just had to outcompete the most expensive conventional power out there, – which is peak power from diesel generators and gas peaker plants – some of the most expensive imaginable sources. (sort of like that old joke about out-running the bear)
Once solar cracked the peak market (which occurs conveniently during the sunniest part of the day), the logic of markets and mass production took over, and the price slide went into overdrive.

Now the same phenomenon will take hold with offshore wind – which already employs 60,000 people in Europe.

MSN Money:

High winds and expensive electricity make Block Island a good site for the first U.S. offshore wind farm. For the same reason, Long Island may be next.

Deepwater Wind LLC last week began towing the first of five massive steel frameworks to a site off Rhode Island’s Atlantic coast. When complete next year, the 30-megawatt wind farm will sell power for 24.4 cents a kilowatt-hour.

While that is almost tripe the 8.5 cent levelized cost for wind turbines installed on land, the project is expected to lower electricity rates by 40 percent for residentso f Bloc Island, a popular vacation destination that’s powered primarily with imported diesel fuel.

“You’ve got a unique situation with Block Island,” said Jim Bennett, renewable energy program manager wt the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the U.S Energy Department charged with leasing sites for offshore wind farms.

Wind turbines on land produce some of the cheapest energy available. Installing them at sea is more difficult and much more costly. That’s hindered the emergence of U.S. offshore wiind power.

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Pretty decent satirical video slamming the cluelessness of current Republican presidential candidates, – apparently part of the Hillary Clinton messaging apparatus – good for them for paying attention to what polls now tell us – the climate concerned are now the American “Moral Majority”.

More evidence that climate change is moving to center stage in a presidential campaign – the Democratic candidates are moving confidently into an area where the Republicans have no credible program or response, and where a majority of Americans now feel a moral imperative.

Reuters:

A significant majority of Americans say combating climate change is a moral issue that obligates them – and world leaders – to reduce carbon emissions, a Reuters/IPSOS poll has found.

francisdove   The poll of 2,827 Americans was conducted in February to measure the impact of moral language, including interventions by Pope Francis, on the climate change debate. In recent months, the pope has warned about the moral consequences of failing to act on rising global temperatures, which are expected to disproportionately affect the lives of the world’s poor.

The result of the poll suggests that appeals based on ethics could be key to shifting the debate over climate change in the United States, where those demanding action to reduce carbon emissions and those who resist it are often at loggerheads.

Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said that world leaders are morally obligated to take action to reduce CO2 emissions. And 72 percent said they were “personally morally obligated” to do what they can in their daily lives to reduce emissions.

“When climate change is viewed through a moral lens it has broader appeal,” said Eric Sapp, executive director of the American Values Network, a grassroots organization that mobilizes faith-based communities on politics and policy issues.

“The climate debate can be very intellectual at times, all about economic systems and science we don’t understand. This makes it about us, our neighbors and about doing the right thing.”

solarprice

I’m honored today to run a guest post from Zachary Shahan, a guiding genius behind Cleantechnica, one of the web’s most useful sites for following the renewable energy revolution.

There’s no way around it — the future of energy is solar energy. But here’s the fun part: the future starts now.

Solar panels have been on the market for decades, but saying solar panels of today are the same as solar panels of the 1990s is like saying phones of today are like phones of the 1990s. True, you can’t play Tetris on your solar panels or listen to music via them, but who wants to climb onto a record-hot roof to do that anyway? Getting back to the central point here, it’s that the cost of solar has fallen off a cliff, and solar power is increasingly the cheapest option around. (see graph above).

Solar power prices are falling so fast that it’s hard for just about anyone to keep up. Last year, many of us jumped for joy as a record-low solar PPA was signed in Austin, Texas (for 5 cents/kWh). The solar industry was rocked much harder later in the year when low bids of 6.12 cents/kWh and 5.98 cents/kWh landed in Dubai. The contracted price ACWA Power offered the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) ended up even lower, 5.84 cents/kWh, in return for a big increase in the contract/project size. That was the highlight of the week at the World Future Energy Summit in January.

But ACWA Power and Dubai’s spot at the top of the podium didn’t last long. Austin Energy received bids under 4 cents/kWh in a recent solar power auction. Even if you throw in federal subsidies for solar, that puts them under 5.71 cents/kWh. (But honestly, solar subsidies are a crude way of correcting for the externalities of pollution from natural gas and coal — they shouldn’t be removed from the equation until fossil fuels are priced right.)

I think somebody at First Solar was eager to grab some of the hype about that, because we soon learned that it had actually signed a PPA with Berkshire Hathaway’s NV Energy that entailed selling it electricity for 3.87 cents/kWh (though, admittedly, with a price escalator included that would raise the price in future years).

I don’t know if it’s coincidental that many of these record lows are being seen in the heart of oil country, but it’s certainly funny. There’s much more to the story, though.

I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the people, or at least high-level people, working in the energy industry know that the future of energy is solar energy. Below are two charts to help make my point of how obvious this is. Read the rest of this entry »

TedX Innovations:

In a neighborhood close to downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, homeowners are transforming their lawns into small farms. Turf grass is abandoned for tubers, berries and corn. Strawberries grow next to sidewalks; apples hang from trees; potatoes are dug close to porches. Residential agricultural has become a trend.

TEDxLincoln speaker Tim Rinne is the catalyst for this phenomenon. Concerned about climate change ever since he first heard the term “global warming,” Rinne’s worry about the environment didn’t really start to hit home until he read about the potential for climate-related food scarcity, he says in a talk at the event. He had to know why and what he could do about it.

Read the rest of this entry »

antarctica_nasaJames Hansen’s release last week of a landmark study on climate change and sea level rise continues to reverberate in the science and journalism community. The study, as yet unpublished in a peer reviewed journal, was deliberately released early, so as to become part of the public discussion prior to the important climate talks scheduled in Paris for the end of the year.

This approach has been criticized, and indeed, for a scientist of lower stature than Dr. Hansen, and his  stellar group of co-authors, it might have been a major mistep.  But the credibility of this team of authors is so high, that the paper will continue to command attention for some time, and may in fact go down as a landmark.

There’s already been some pushback on the paper’s main points, raised by highly respected scientists, (see Kevin Trenberth’s comments posted here last week) – but now, some of the formal editorial review responses are coming thru as well.  The respected Oceanographer David Archer has released one such response, and it is much more supportive of the paper’s conclusions than Trenberth.
We’ve come to a watershed moment in the climate discussion, where the dialogue has turned from endlessly squashing denialist talking points, to a public debate more in line with where the science actually is.
In this case, the scientists are arguing, not, will sea level rise, but will it rise 3 feet by the end of the century? or 10 feet?

Washington Post:

Granted, the new Hansen study is simultaneously advancing a gigantic new synthesis of existing research and also pushing the envelope — it will need to be scientifically digested for some time, and has already drawn some critical comments from experts. However, the Hansen paper also just received its first official peer review by one of several reviewers designated by the journal, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions – the University of Chicago geoscientist David Archer. And it is a strong review – Archer says that the paper is a “masterwork of scholarly synthesis, modeling virtuosity, and insight, with profound implications.”

archerFrom the review by David Archer:

This is another Hansen masterwork of scholarly synthesis, modeling virtuosity, and insight, with profound implications. The main thrust of the paper, the part getting all the press, arises from the confluence of several recent developments in glaciology. First is the identification of a runaway condition in outflow glaciers of the West Antarctic ice sheet that makes the IPCC prediction for year-2100 sea level rise clearly obsolete.

The other is the recognition that warming ocean temperatures at the grounding line for the glaciers is driving a really strong flow and thus melting response. Temperatures at this depth tend to have a paradoxical inverse relationship with surface temperatures, which can cool due to fresh meltwater input, trapping heat in the subsurface. This idea may also explain the mystery of why Heinrich events, collapses of the Laurentide ice sheet,always came at cold times in the D-O cycles.

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Major climate initiative announced last night by the Hillary Clinton campaign. One of a continuing series of signs that Climate Change is now going to get the kind of attention it deserves in a national presidential debate. Unfortunately, in this battle of wits, only one party, the Democrats, so far,  is coming to to the table armed. We’ve had some recent statements by at least one big Republican donor on climate, but as yet, only Lindsay Graham, polling below 1 percent has been prominent on affirmation of climate science.
Climate Progress has a helpful, if long and depressing, rundown on the Republican side of the climate debate.

Here are some statements by other major candidates. Above, Bernie Sanders talks climate on the Bill Maher show.

Below, recent comments showing that candidate Governor Martin O’Malley understands the geo-political context of climate change:

Happy to update with more candidate statements of if anyone is aware of them.

Below, Senator Graham. Read the rest of this entry »

“Future generations will look back and wonder, what were we thinking? How could we possibly be so irresponsible?”

So begins a remarkable campaign commercial that may go down in significance with some of the memorable campaign themes of the past.  In rolling this out, the Clinton campaign is declaring a “Moon Shot” effort to “make America the world’s Clean Energy Super Power.”

Goals for an ambitious program include:

– A half billion solar panels installed by the end of her first term.

– Generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America within 10 years.

This does not have the flavor of a throwaway campaign slogan.  The Campaign is placing a pretty big bet that this theme will resonate – and I think if it continues to be messaged like this, there’s a chance it will be.

Nothing here about a price on carbon, so if that’s part of what is promised to be an extensive discussion, it will be interesting to see how they roll it out.

UPDATE: Press coverage begins

abctweet

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