nc_solar

Quartz

People of the Carolinas are picking up the pieces after Hurricane Florence, the wettest tropical cyclone on record. Among the news of dozens of deaths, overflowing pig-manure lagoons, and flooded coal-ash fields, there are some bright spots. Solar-power installations were largely able to escape without harm.

Before the storm hit, Duke Energy’s 40 solar-power sites were “de-energized” and set up horizontally to minimize wind damage. Although it’s too soon say what, if any, damage occurred, the signs are good. Soon after the storm passed, all the installations had begun producing power.

Rooftop solar installations fared well too. Only six out of 800 customers of Yes Solar Solutions reported that there was a problem with their system.

That said, modern renewables form only a fraction of the total electricity produced in the Carolinas. Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant was shut ahead of the storm and remains offline. The plant is safe but remains inaccessible because of flooding. Natural gas and coal power plants haven’t suffered any problems, but the flooding coal-ash fields are likely to cause environmental problems.

This is not the first time modern renewables have proven their resiliency in the face of storms. “Looking at Harvey in Houston and the storm in Hawaii… we didn’t see any substantial amount of system loss,” Gary Liardon of PetersenDean Roofing & Solar told Greentech Media. “Obviously, if the roof comes off and the house is compromised… there’s no attachment that’s going to survive.”

Texas’s wind farms either operated through Hurricane Harvey or were back up and running soon after (paywall). Similarly, after Hurricane Maria, people have turned to solar with batteries to prepare for the next storm (which we discussed in a recent episode of the Quartz News show). In many places, rooftop-solar installations are built to handle winds of up to 90 miles per hour (145 km/h).

Though non-hydro renewables didn’t make a large fraction of power in the Carolinas, in Texas they provide as much as 19% of electricity, according to the Energy Information Agency. Resiliency in the face of hurricanes will only make the case stronger for wider renewables deployment.

UPDATE: Inside Climate News:

Duke and Strata Solar, two of North Carolina’s largest owners and operators of solar farms, said they found almost no damage in initial inspections. Both companies temporarily shut down some systems in anticipation of flooding, but there were few reports of damage to solar panels. Read the rest of this entry »

Above, new approaches to air conditioning – an emerging major energy suck.

Below, Chicago’s district cooling technology – here today.

Washington Post:

Floodwaters breached a dam near a Duke Energy power plant on Friday, the company said, raising fears that toxic coal ash could reach the nearby Cape Fear River.

The rising waters also swamped a 625-megawatt natural gas plant near the site, forcing it to shut down, the company said.

Fears about the situation at Duke’s L.V. Sutton power plant near Wilmington have been growing since before Hurricane Florence made landfall. The storm poured down so much rain that the wall of a coal ash landfill near the former coal plant, which sits along the banks of Sutton Lake and near the Cape Fear River, failed in several places. A special black membrane installed to contain the waste was torn open in at least two spots.

Duke estimated that the storm had washed away more than 2,000 cubic yards of coal waste — enough to fill more than 150 dump trucks.

On Friday came more bad news. The company said the dam separating the Cape Fear River from man-made Sutton Lake, which holds water used to cool discharges from the power plant, suffered one large breach and several smaller ones.

Meanwhile, a steel wall separating the oldest of four coal ash disposal basins at the site was submerged by floodwater, leaving only a small earthen berm to prevent waste from reaching the lake and potentially the Cape Fear River.

“We cannot rule out that coal ash is moving into the river,” Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said in an email.

Nature:

Understanding ice sheet behaviour in the geological past is
essential for evaluating the role of the cryosphere in the climate
system and for projecting rates and magnitudes of sea level rise in
future warming scenarios.

Although both geological data and ice sheet models indicate that
marine-based sectors of the East
Antarctic Ice Sheet were unstable during Pliocene warm intervals,
the ice sheet dynamics during late Pleistocene interglacial intervals
are highly uncertain.

Here we provide evidence from marine sedimentological and
geochemical records for ice margin retreat or thinning in the vicinity of the
Wilkes Subglacial Basin of East Antarctica during warm
late Pleistocene interglacial intervals.

The most extreme changes in sediment provenance, recording changes
in the locus of glacial erosion, occurred during marine isotope
stages 5, 9, and 11, when Antarctic air temperatures were at least
two degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial temperatures for
2,500 years or more.

Hence, our study indicates a close link between
extended Antarctic warmth and ice loss from the Wilkes Subglacial
Basin, providing ice-proximal data to support a contribution to
sea level from a reduced East Antarctic Ice Sheet during warm
interglacial intervals. While the behaviour of other regions of the
East Antarctic Ice Sheet remains to be assessed, it appears that
modest future warming may be sufficient to cause ice loss from the
Wilkes Subglacial Basin.

antarctic_bed

Washington Post:

At this rate, Earth risks sea level rise of 20 to 30 feet, historical analysis shows
New research finds that a vast area of Antarctica retreated when Earth’s temperatures weren’t much warmer than they are now.

A flotilla of tabular icebergs adrift in the Southern Ocean, near the outlet of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin, East Antarctica. (Christina Riesselman)

Temperatures not much warmer than the planet is experiencing now were sufficient to melt a major part of the East Antarctic ice sheet in Earth’s past, scientists reported Wednesday, including during one era about 125,000 years ago when sea levels were as much as 20 to 30 feet higher than they are now.

“It doesn’t need to be a very big warming, as long as it stays 2 degrees warmer for a sufficient time, this is the end game,” said David Wilson, a geologist at Imperial College London and one of the authors of the new research, which was published in Nature. Scientists at institutions in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Spain also contributed to the work.

The research concerns a little-studied region called the Wilkes Subglacial Basin, which is roughly the size of California and Texas combined and contains more than 10 feet of potential sea-level rise. Fronted by three enormous glaciers named Cook, Mertz and Ninnis, the Wilkes is known to be vulnerable to fast retreat because the ice here is not standing on land and instead is rising up from a deep depression in the ocean floor.

Moreover, that depression grows deeper as you move from the current icy coastline of the Wilkes farther inland toward the South Pole, a downhill slope that could facilitate rapid ice loss.

What the new science adds is that during past warm periods in Earth’s history, some or all of the ice in the Wilkes Subglacial Basin seems to have gone away. That’s an inference researchers made by studying the record of sediments in the seafloor just off the coast of the current ice front.

Here, they found several layers of sediments that appeared to come from beneath where the ice currently lies, providing a hint that when these layers of the seafloor were laid down, Wilkes contained either less ice or no ice at all.

Those sediments corresponded in time to several well-known past warm periods, when seas rose considerably. But what’s worrying is that these eras were in many cases not much warmer than the planet already is right now.

Read the rest of this entry »

The tracks of Cyclones in temperate regions may be affected by changes in arctic sea ice.
But those watching these videos heard from the key players in this emerging science in 2012.

When Jennifer Francis started finding tele-connections between the arctic ice, jet stream flow,  and temperate zone weather systems, she was considered to be somewhat out on a limb – but subsequently dozens of studies and scores of scientists have been adding to and fleshing out her findings. Viewers here have had an early warning on the cutting edge.

Below, not just hurricanes. Severe winter storms also exacerbated by arctic changes. Read the rest of this entry »

Model for pushing back deserts in China.
Just to be clear, China is engaged in pillaging and raping environments around the world, – but credit where it’s due – this appears to be promising sustainable technology – and points the way for serious, but still conservative – geo-engineering.

Note at 3:34 – solar plus agriculture.

Below, same topic from France24: Read the rest of this entry »

The Rush for Better Batteries

September 20, 2018

Above, gravity storage concept is a physically simple idea, one of dozens currently in development to tackle the variable energy of renewables.

Wired:

But this exhilarating progress in “decarbonizing the energy sector” (in the jargon of energy economists) misleads. Today, utilities manage the intermittency and seasonality of renewable energy by firing up small “peaker” power plants, typically fueled by natural gas, when prices and demand are high. But generating more of California’s energy from solar and wind would require utilities to produce huge surpluses of energy during summer months and store that energy for use throughout the year. According to a much-publicized analysis by an energy policy think tank, the Clean Air Task Force, generating 80 percent of California’s energy from advanced renewables will require 9.6 million megawatt-hours of energy storage. 100 percent would require 36.3 million. For context, the state now maintains just 150,000 megawatt-hours of energy storage, mostly hydroelectric. Lithium batteries provide a small portion, too.

The lithium-ion batteries in our phones or electric vehicles won’t scale to that challenge. Despite steeply falling costs, they’re still far too expensive, and they don’t store energy long enough. A clarifying study by researchers at MIT and Argonne National Lab published in 2016 demonstrated that “substantial cost reductions are likely needed to economically justify large-scale deployment of [existing] storage technologies.” Translated by the Clean Air Task Force: Even if lithium-ion batteries were as cheap as possible, California would have to spend $360 billion on storage to satisfy Brown’s imperative. Nationally, storing 12 hours of energy would cost $2.5 trillion, according to another study in Energy and Environmental Science. Overall, energy costs would increase from $49 per megawatt-hour at 50 percent to $1,612 at 100 percent. The economics are implausible; selling the economics to consumers, impossible.

If batteries are to play their part, they must cost less than one-fifth the likely minimum cost of lithium-ion batteries (around $100 a kilowatt hour). To solve that problem, material scientists have turned to alternatives to lithium-ion, creating heavily capitalized companies like Aquion, which manufactured salt-water batteries, or LightSail, which wanted to store energy as compressed air. Ambri, a startup in Boston founded by MIT’s Don Sadoway and funded by Bill Gates, pursued an especially radical idea: The company used earth-abundant materials to make liquid-metal batteries, where the negative and positive electrodes are liquids and the electrolyte a molten salt. But Aquion and LightSail failed to create storage that was cheaper than lithium-ion batteries. Ambri has struggled to translate its research into a commercial product that utilities would buy. (The company couldn’t make seals on its batteries work, but claims to have solved the problem by abandoning magnesium and antimony for new, as yet undisclosed materials.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, and nowhere more evident here.

Well known as a racist and Trump sycophant, (but I repeat myself..) Florida Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis recently told reporters that sea level rise, might indeed be related to global warming. (how could we possibly know, right?)

DeSantis currently down 6 points in polling against Democrat Andrew Gillum.