I’m working on an update to my video on Electric and Hybrid Vehicles – above – so I’ve been talking to folks in the electric drive industry.
A few days ago, a very well connected individual mentioned to me that what he is hearing from the EV skunkworks grapevine is news of surprising, and encouraging new performance breakthroughs for EV batteries.

Those kinds of technologies will have implications across the renewable, distributed energy space.

AutoBlog:

On page four of a five-page BusinessWeek article entitled “The Inside Story of GM’s Comeback and Mary Barra’s Rise,” there’s a single paragraph that mentions General Motors CEO Dan Akerson hinting at “a next generation of electric vehicle…. [A] compact car that can go 200 miles on a charge and carry a generator, too.” The article says “it will be similar to the Volt,” however it notes that the candidate generators “could run on gas, diesel, or natural gas,” and the package is being mooted to sell for $30,000. With all that, you have the makings of a range-extended electric vehicle that could be similar to the current Volt or, just as likely, be very different from it.

None of that’s new, though – we heard the same talk and specs in September when Akerson was on a tear about beating Tesla, and GM exec Doug Parks let loose the numbers for this coming electric offering. But reportage at that time didn’t include Akerson’s hope that this future vehicle “be a moon shot so we can surprise the competition.”

That would be a great market segment for a moon shot, since we can’t see how GM plans to shock and awe the premium competition with its Cadillac ELR, and this new model would seemingly avoid fisticuffs with Tesla when their entry-level car is due in 2016. If GM can achieve its lunar target for the electric compact, in three years, consumers might have less humbug about the $25,000 price ceiling and be more willing to give it a chance.


The video above is a discussion of the potential advantages the US still has in the renewable energy manufacturing sector.

Below, an example from a global leader.

Into the Wind:

Renewable electricity records are falling every day. In early October, Germany recently hit a 59 percent renewable peak, Colorado utility Xcel Energy peaked at 60 percent wind at the beginning of the year, and Spain got its top power supply from wind for three months leading into 2013.

But that’s chump change compared with Denmark. According to data from Energinet, the national grid operator, wind power has produced 30 percent of gross power consumption to date in 2013. This includes over 90 hours where wind produced more than all of Denmark’s electricity needs, peaking at 122 percent on October 28, at 2 a.m.

And Denmark has plans to get to 50 percent more wind by 2020, creating even bigger hourly peaks. Energinet predicts the country may hit as many as1,000 hours per year of power surplus.

To champions of renewables, this is validation that a clean energy future is possible and that the transition is already underway. These regions also give insight into what is to come in the U.S., and what needs to change to keep a reliable and affordable power system as clean energy grows.

Postcards from the future

As part of America’s Power Plan, we have developed a series of “postcards from the future,” describing places like Denmark that are already grappling with a high-renewables future.

Studies and real-world experience are underscoring that there are many tactics available to deal with the variability of wind and solar, and that these tactics are largely substitutes for each other.

While energy storage comes to mind first for many people, the truth is that the grid has functioned just fine with very little storage. Power system operators have to deal with variability all the time, with or without renewables. Demand fluctuates with the weather, time of day, social activities, and industrial operations. And supply varies unexpectedly too, such as when a power plant breaks down. The fluctuations of wind and solar, especially at moderate levels, are just one more variable–one that may or may not add to overall variability, depending on the system and timing.

Power system engineers use a whole suite of tools to match supply and demand, both minute-to-minute and over longer time frames. The most obvious example is a dispatchable power plant, like a gas turbine. But they also benefit from bigger balancing areas (trading power with neighbors), more transmission connections to reduce congestion, faster-acting fossil power plants, direct load control and demand response, targeted energy efficiency, and curtailment of wind and solar plants.

Read the rest of this entry »

turbinefloodsmall

Bloomberg:

The decision by Warren Buffett’s utility company to order about $1 billion of wind turbines for projects in Iowa shows how a drop in equipment costs is making renewable energy more competitive with power from fossil fuels.

Turbine prices have fallen 26 percent worldwide since the first half of 2009, bringing wind power within 5.5 percent of the cost of electricity from coal, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a unit of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), yesterday announced an order for 1,050 megawatts of Siemens AG (SIE) wind turbines in the industry’s largest order to date for land-based gear.

Wind is the cheapest source of power in Iowa, and the deal indicates that turbines are becoming profitable without subsidies, according to Tom Kiernan, chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association trade group. That’s a boost for suppliers including Siemens, General Electric Co. (GE) and Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), and a threat to coal miners such as Peabody Energy Corp.
Read the rest of this entry »

teddyandjohn

Of course,if conservative means conserving and holding on to that which is good, being green is profoundly conservative.
Across the country, conservatives are figuring out that renewable energy supports the values of community, individual self determination, and economic competition – as well as devolving power away from big government, big companies, and downward to states, counties, cities, towns, communities, small businesses, and individuals.
It’s only in the last few decades that a mutant, anti-science, anti-enlightenment, “conservative” movement, twisted by the “Southern Strategy”, the right’s cultivations of fundamentalist nutjobs and racists, has turned against its environmental roots.
Maybe that tide is changing in the face of overwhelming evidence of an imminent global threat. I hope to listen today as Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder, a republican, gives a significant speech on energy. There is hope for a shift.

The New Republic:

A group of Michigan Republicans is pushing the state toward reliance on renewable energy sources, and away from coal. The Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, which is headed by the former political director of the state’s Republican Party, Larry Ward, is the latest piece of evidence that Democrats don’t have a monopoly on environmentalism—and it could serve as a blueprint for Republicans in other states who see sound economics in green policies, even if they remain wary of the politics.

“For too long, we have allowed the energy discourse to be dominated by the left,” Ward said. “Conservatives have sat on the sidelines for far too long.”

At the local and state levels, they’re increasingly getting up from their seats. Though the Michigan forum has yet to commit to a specific strategy, it has vowed to work with Republican Governor Rick Snyder to create an “all of the above” energy policy that invests in ever-more-affordable options like wind and solar. At a New Republic event with the Center for American Progress last week, two conservative mayors explained how they rebuilt their cities along sustainable lines. “We started to look at everything the city government did to see how we could do it in a better way, and part of doing it a better way is being more friendly to the environment,” said Jim Brainard, the mayor of Carmel, Indiana. Both professed confidence in the science that shows humans are warming the climate.

Earlier this month, Politico Pro’s Darren Goode amassed more examples:

In Appalachia, greens are banding together with the Tennessee Conservative Union to oppose mountaintop mining. In Georgia, the Sierra Club and Atlanta’s tea party have formed a Green Tea Coalition that is demanding a bigger role for solar power in the state’s energy market. Elsewhere, veterans of the George W. Bush administration are working with the Environmental Defense Fund on market-based ideas for protecting endangered species.

Nora Jones and Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong have teamed up on an album of Everly Brothers tunes.
Well, it’s about damn time.

santasnlArctic Report Card:

Satellites above the Earth are documenting a striking change in the Arctic. Not only is open water area increasing in the region, but adjacent land areas are growing “greener.” Since observations began in 1982, Arctic-wide tundra vegetation productivity has increased. In North America, the rate of greening has accelerated since 2005.

One of NOAA’s satellite remote sensors—the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR)—collects images of our planet’s surface, which scientists use to carefully measure the intensity of visible and near-infrared sunlight reflected by plants back up into space. From these measurements, they are able to determine the density of vegetation, or “greenness,” on land. The map above shows changes in greenness at the peak of the growing season between 1982 and 2012. All around the Arctic, the tundra has grown greener, with exceptions in western Alaska, and northwestern and northeastern Siberia.

The video below is a quick cliff notes version of the Arctic Report card released last week at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco:

Arctic Report Card continued:

Increases in vegetation productivity are often connected to declining sea ice, increasing open water, and greater summer warmth in the Arctic. However, factors other than these can affect plant growth. Snow cover decline is thought to be among the main culprits behind the prolonged length of the Arctic growing season, which has increased by nine days per decade since 1982. Another factor in controlling the rate of greening in the Arctic is large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns. In Eurasia, lower temperatures and increased cloud cover in the summer lead to a more gradual greening compared to eastern North America, where cloud-free skies during the summer promote accelerated greening.

Overall, the greener, warmer, less icy Arctic of recent years is likely to be the new normal. One of the most obvious signs of this transformation is the spread of shrubs throughout the tundra. Across the Siberian tundra, tall shrubs and trees have expanded in landscapes at rates of up to 25 percent since the mid-to-late 1960s. Observations from Europe, Alaska, and Siberia in recent decades show that plant communities have become less diverse as mosses, lichens, and other shorter-growing vegetation disappear under the shade created by shrubs. The loss of lichens, in particular, could pose a problem for caribou and reindeer, which forage on them extensively.

A senior Glaciologist wrote me from south Greenland some months ago, “I was STUNNED to see the forests there this August..” and included some stills.

greenlandforest1 Read the rest of this entry »

Mother Jones:

For more than a decade, the question of how global warming is affecting the scariest storms on the planet—hurricanes—has been shot through with uncertainty. The chief reason is technological: In many parts of the world, storm strengths are estimated solely based on satellite images. Technologies and techniques for doing this have improved over time, meaning that there is always a problem with claiming that today’s storms are stronger than yesterday’s. After all, they might just be better observed.

..just maybe, a new scientific paper has managed to get past this long-standing data problem. The study, just out in the Journal of Climate from hurricane and satellite expert Jim Kossin of the National Climatic Data Center and his colleagues, seeks to create a completely consistent database of hurricane satellite images that will finally allow for apples-to-apples comparisons. How? “We can’t take bad data and make it good, because that’s adding information that we don’t have,” explains Kossin. “But we can take the good information and make it worse.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Cat Stevens now in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  (and yeah, I  know he’s been a bit of a jerk here and there)
Gives me chills to listen to this. There was a time when a lot of people thought we were just on the cusp of getting there.
Maybe we still can.

One reason that young people, especially in urban areas, are finding it less necessary to own a car – is the emergence of social media enabled ride sharing services like the one shown in this rather hilarious vid. (grab some coffee now..)

Here, Conan O’Brien, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart share a ride in a Lyft car.

NYTimes:

Long-distance travelers as well as commuters are connecting on sites like Zimride.comRidejoy.comAvego.comNuride.comRideshare.com
and eRideShare.com.

This summer, a German company with a quintessential American name, Carpooling.com, will try to break into the United States market with a trial run in the Northeast. In June, the company announced that 30 million rides had been offered through its 10-year-old network, which now has 3.8 million registered users.

Ride-sharing and car-pooling, it seems, are having a moment in the United States after many fits and starts.

“It’s been a tough sell in the U.S. for a long time,” said David Burwell, director of the energy and climate program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “A lot is due to not only the fact that people have different places they want to go, but also safety and other concerns about going into a car with strangers.”

What is different now, Mr. Burwell said, is the advancement of digital technology and social networking, “which removed a significant amount of barriers.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Fox News is all over it.
It’s even cropped up on my comment threads.

Antarctica is cold, so no global warming.

It’s a favorite ploy of denialists to crib a story from NASA or other legit group, distort it, and pretend it says what it does not.
It is all part of their desperate attempt to steal what they do not have – credibilty.
In this case, quoting National Snow and Ice Data Center Lead Scientist, Ted Scambos, about a new measured temp at the south pole.

I did not speak to Dr. Scambos at AGU this year, although I saw him briefly in the press room – but I did interview him in 2012 – above.  In it, he gives a wider overview of north and south polar changes. That is, ice loss, warming temperatures, and more rapid sea level rise.

CBS News:

Baby, it’s cold outside. But if you think this is bad, picture spending your summer months in Antarctica: a new data set shows that the South Pole set a world record for low temperature in 2010, and came within fractions of a degree of the same temperature this July.

According to new NASA satellite data, the mercury dipped to -135.8 degrees Fahrenheit in August 2010, and -135.3 degrees on July 31, 2013.

Researchers called it “soul-crushing” cold. It’s so cold that most of the time researchers actually need to breathe through a snorkel that brings air into the coat through a sleeve and warms it up “so you don’t inhale by accident” the cold air, said ice scientist Ted Scambos, of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

While the reading is interesting, it doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme, said Waleed Abdalati, an ice scientist at the University of Colorado and NASA’s former chief scientist.

Both Abdalati, who wasn’t part of the measurement team, and Scambos said this is likely an unusual random reading in a place that hasn’t been measured much before and could have been colder or hotter in the past and we wouldn’t know.

“It does speak to the range of conditions on this Earth, some of which we haven’t been able to observe,” Abdalati said.