PV-Tech:

China has started building work on the first 100GW phase of a solar and wind buildout that is likely to see hundreds of gigawatts deployed in the country’s desert regions.

Speaking via video link at a United Nations Biodiversity Conference today (12 October), Chinese President Xi Jinping said construction on the initial phase, which will have an estimated capacity of 100GW, recently started in a “smooth fashion”.

While the location and construction timeline of the projects, nor the total expected capacity or the number of subsequent phases, were not revealed, the scheme will represent a notable chunk of China’s ambition of reaching more than 1,200GW of installed solar and wind capacity by 2030.

Note: Total US generating capacity is about 1100 GW.

Mike O’Boyle in The Hill:

Even as COVID-19 was ravaging the world economy, clean energy technologies continued to thrive in 2020. Renewable electricity construction shattered records and accounted for 90 percent of the entire global power sector’s expansion, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Electric vehicles did the same, increasing sales 43 percent year over year.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, industry support can be paired with industry regulation to super-charge domestic clean energy manufacturing and create millions of American jobs. That is the American Jobs Plan’s vision — beating China and Europe to the clean energy future by pushing businesses to innovate while incentivizing them to capture this opportunity.

China’s policies will continue to support the domestic manufacturing of solar panels and batteries, which are key components of the clean energy economy. Though China emitsmore planet-warming pollution than any other country, President Xi has also set goals to build more wind and solar power in the next nine years than today’s entire U.S. grid has online.

European countries have cornered the international market on another emerging renewable technology: offshore wind. Proactive government support to build transmission lines, hold competitive auctions, and expand port infrastructure have allowed European companies to manufacture over 80 percent of the world’s offshore wind turbines and develop and own the majority of projects. Meanwhile, the technology now competes subsidy-free in European electricity markets and employs 110,000 Europeans. Because they command the market, virtually all major offshore wind turbine manufacturers reside in Europe — meaning any U.S. offshore wind farm built in the near-term will have to rely on European manufacturing.

The American Jobs Plan is a national strategy to bring these jobs back home. Pairing a national clean electricity standard, which requires utilities to buy clean power, with high-road labor standards and domestic manufacturing support, will expand the middle class by creating jobs that pay wages higher than the national average while reducing air pollution and enhancing environmental justice. 

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Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.)

Above graph from Brad Udall, drawing on his work with Jonathan Overpeck. Colorado River flows over decades show concerning trends.

Sea ice review from Walt Meier of National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Checking in on a unique and critical project that could unlock immense amounts of clean energy from the central US for cities in the east and west.

The SOO Line transmission project uses existing rail right of ways, connecting underground electric transmission lines from Iowa winds to Chicago area customers.
I thought I’d check in on progress, and found this piece from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Frustrating news of red-tape delays for a project that seems absolutely critical. I hope people are FERC and elsewhere are watching this carefully.

Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The Soo Green Line would be a unique addition to the U.S. electricity grid. Running along a railroad corridor, the big underground power line would ship low-cost renewable energy from the Upper Midwest to eastern markets.

Now, if it can only surmount barriers in the power line approval process.

The 350-mile high-voltage direct current (HVDC) line would run from Mason City, Iowa, to a town about 50 miles west of Chicago. The firm behind the $2.5 billion project, Direct Connect Development Co., is based in St. Louis Park and funded by a global consortium of energy heavyweights.

Soo Green Line has a deal with the Canadian Pacific Railway (successor to the Soo Line Railroad) to host the power line along its right of way, alleviating the biggest problem in plotting transmission lines: resistance from landowners and unwanted environmental impacts.

“Underground transmission makes a tremendous amount of sense for projects that are bigger,” said Joe DeVito, Direct Connect’s president. “The primary issue most people have is the ‘viewshed’ — they don’t like to look at it.”

The Soo Green Line has other benefits. As an HVDC line, its “line loss” of electricity due to heat would be less than in a traditional alternating current (AC) power line. And at 525 kilovolts, it would be able to push through considerably more electricity than a standard 345-kilovolt AC line.

Soo Green is proposed as a “merchant” power line. The company has no traditional ratepayers, such as utilities do, to lean on for funding. Instead, power line users would foot the bill, providing Soo Green investors with a return.

“We are marrying up [electricity] generators and buyers,” DeVito said.

The idea for the Soo Green Line sprung from a plan years ago by CNN founder Ted Turner to build a wind farm on his South Dakota property. With no transmission option, Trey Ward, a lawyer working for Turner, developed the idea for a long-distance underground power line.

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The Wisdom of Half a Loaf

October 16, 2021

Washington Post:

The White House is scrambling to salvage a critical proposal to reduce carbon emissions and deliver on President Biden’s ambitious climate agenda, as pushback from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) creates new headaches for the administration entering key international negotiations next month.

The fight revolves around the Clean Energy Performance Program, which Democrats have proposed as a way to reward utilities that increase their clean energy supply by 4 percent each year, while penalizing those that don’t. Lawmakers have included the initiative as part of a multitrillion-dollar tax-and-spending package that aims to advance Biden’s broader economic vision.

Claire Cohen-Norris on Twitter:

I have something to say about this Friday night news leak. 

There’s no news here. Manchin doesn’t like the Clean Electricity Payment Program. He never liked it. He still doesn’t like it. Negotiations continue. 

Frankly, I don’t like that the CEPP is narrowly tailored, addressing only the electricity sector. We need to cut emissions economy wide. But while it only addresses the electricity sector, with policies that address other sectors, it would be very powerful. 

But the CEPP isn’t THE answer. It is a possible answer.

And we are aiming really high to get anything so transformational as either the CEPP or a carbon tax with the slimmest possible majority in the Senate. Literally THE smallest possible margin. 

When FDR transformed our nation, he had supermajorities in Congress. And it was still hard. 

We have come way farther than we could have dreamed on November 9, 2016. 

Do. Not. Stop. Now. 

Rob Meyer in the Atlantic:

Here, at least, is the standard story: The past decade has been abysmal for climate-change policy in the United States. In 2009, a handsome new president took office pledging to pass a comprehensive climate bill in Congress. He did not. The Environmental Protection Agency sought to meaningfully reduce carbon pollution from power plants. It did not. The United States joined the Paris Agreement. Then we elected President Donald Trump, and we left.

Yes—and here, the narrator always inserts a gale-force sigh—America knowswhat it needs to do: Pass a carbon fee or tax, some kind of policy that nudges people to reduce their use of fossil fuels. Yet America refuses. And so the 2010s, once greeted as a “new era” for climate action, now seem unexceptional, the third decade in a row that the United States understood the dangers of climate change but failed to act. Meanwhile the seas rose, wildfires raged, and the Earth saw its hottest 10 years on record.

You have probably heard this tale before; it is a popular and undeniably accurate read of recent history. It has just one flaw: America is decarbonizing anyway.

That 2009 climate bill, the one that President Barack Obama couldn’t pass? It required the U.S. to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 as compared with their all-time high. Yet last year, our emissions were down 21 percent. The same bill said that the U.S. had to generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. Last year, we met that target. We will surpass it in 2021.

These numbers are not a mere fluke. Last year was a singular, awful moment in economic history, but even accounting for the effects of the COVID-19 recession, America’s real-world emissions last decade outperformed the Obama bill’s targets. From 2012 to 2020, real-world U.S. emissions were more than 1 billion tons below what the bill would have required, according to my analysis of data from Rhodium Group, an energy-research firm. (Of course, had the bill passed, the U.S. might have done even better.) Meanwhile, across the economy, companies are learning how to decarbonize. Ford is already producing more electric Mustang Mach-Es than gas-powered Mustangs; General Motors, Honda, Volvo, and Jaguar have promised to stop selling gas cars altogether by 2040. Royal Dutch Shell was court-ordered last month to cut its emissions, and shareholders just forced Exxon to replace a quarter of its board with climate-concerned activist investors. Most important of all, the costs of solar and batteries have declined in the United States by a factor of 10 over the past decade, and the cost of wind has fallen 70 percent. Ten years ago, virtually no analyst thought they would fall so low. The International Energy Agency made headlines this year when it called solar “the cheapest electricity in history,” but the entire apparatus of renewable energy has seen cost declines.

What gives? America is supposed to be doing nothing right. Yet we’re making progress anyway. How? Why?

A group of scholars, engineers, and economists may have an answer. Over the past few years, this group has puzzled together a powerful thesis that explains why America and the world are decarbonizing—and how they can get better at it. Decarbonization isn’t best accomplished by fiat, they argue, but by feedback loop; it proceeds by a self-accelerating process that I have called “the green vortex.” The green vortex describes how policy, technology, business, and politics can all work together, lowering the cost of zero-carbon energy, building pro-climate coalitions, and speeding up humanity’s ability to decarbonize. It has also already gotten results. The green vortex is what drove down the cost of wind and solar, what overturned Exxon’s board, and what the Biden administration is banking on in its infrastructure plan.

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Why we can’t have nice things anymore.

Washington Post:

Predicting the peak of fall color is complicated. The timing and quality of color changes depend on a combination of temperatures, precipitation and sunlight. The best fall color displays occur after sunshine-filled days and cooler nights, following healthy doses of rain in the summer.

But Cote and researchers have found that estimating fall peak has become even trickier in recent decades. Warmer temperatures have delayed the onset of fall, pushing the peak of fall leaf season back as much as a week in some areas over the past seven decades. Extreme weather events have abruptly curtailed recent seasons or caused the color of the leaves to become duller.

“There has been and will be more variability year-to-year and more uncertainty,” said Andy Finton, a forest ecologist with the Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “With climate change, it just adds more complexity to an already complex phenomenon.”

This year, Finton expected a good fall season because of an especially wet summer, for instance. But a recent bout of warm weather in the eastern United States — one of many this summer — could keep the colorful leaves at bay a little longer and lessen their vibrancy.

Conservative media is hoping to frame the Eurasian energy crunch as a problem of renewables. It is specifically not so.

Bloomberg:

Coal India Ltd., the world’s top miner of the fuel, has temporarily stopped supplies to industrial users as the nation’s energy crisis escalates.

The move to prioritize supplies to power plants is aimed at helping boost depleted inventories that are putting continued operations at risk. But it could worsen the situation for other industries such as aluminum smelters, cement producers and steel mills, leaving them with a difficult choice of looking for costlier options or slashing production.

ndustrial activity from China to Europe is taking a beating as fuel prices soar and governments curtail power to large users to prioritize supplies for homes. In India, an economic recovery has sent demand for electricity soaring just as the supply of coal slumps.  

DT Next:

Normally, the peak wind power generation season ends by mid-September, but the delayed SW monsoon withdrawal has come as a blessing in disguise for the Tangedco with windmills along with solar plants supplying nearly 30 per cent of the state’s daily power requirement.

Dr S Balachandran, deputy director-general of Meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre, said that South West monsoon withdrawal has been taking place. “We are expecting withdrawal of the monsoon by October 15 to 18 in the state,” he said.
Indian Wind Power Association Chairman Prof Dr K Kasthurirangaian said that after a slump in the generation in the first week of October, the wind power generation has picked up. “We are getting good southwesterly winds this month too. Even last year, we got good winds during October and it helped in better generation,” he said.
An expert in the wind power sector said, “Any delay in the SW monsoon withdrawal will help boost wind generation.” Tantransco officials said that wind power generation has helped the state manage the coal shortage crisis better.
“All the private thermal power stations supplying to Tangedco are dependent on the imported coal. With the cost of the imported coal going up and the coal shortage, the private plants are not able to supply power to meet our demand. Coastal Energen and IL&FS thermal plants in the state are under shutdown,” the official said.

Video above should start at 55:24 with a talk by Amory Lovins.

Bloomberg:

A potential new SPD-lead German government wants to abandon coal as a power source eight years earlier than planned, a move that would be a big win for the planet but a challenge for a country already struggling with energy supplies.  

“In order to reach the climate goals, an earlier exit from coal-fired power is needed, ideally by 2030,” the parties wrote as they set out basic principles for an alliance. 

Details of how Europe’s largest economy plans to shed its reliance on coal will be hammered out in formal talks between the Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the Free Democrats set to start as early as next week. An accelerated expansion of energy from renewable sources like wind and solar is likely to be part of the plan. 

Amory Lovins in Beyond Nuclear International:

The view that climate protection requires expanding nuclear power has a basic flaw in its prevailing framing: it rarely if ever relates climate-effectiveness to cost or to speed—even though stopping climate change requires scaling the fastest and cheapest solutions. By focusing on carbon but only peripherally mentioning cost and speed, and by not relating these three variables, this approach misframes what climate solutions must do.

The climate argument for using nuclear power assumes that since nuclear power generation directly releases no CO2, it can be an effective climate solution. It can’t, because new (or even existing) nuclear generation costs more per kWh than carbon-free competitors—efficient use and renewable power—and thus displaces less carbon per dollar(or, by separate analysis, per year): less not by a small margin but by about an order of magnitude (factor of roughly ten). As I noted in an unpublished 17 Aug letter to The New York Times:

[The Times’s 14 August] editorial twice extols “wind, solar and nuclear power” as if all three had equal climate benefits. They don’t. New electricity costs 3–8 (says merchant bank Lazard) or 5–13 (says Bloomberg New Energy Finance) times less from unsubsidized wind and solar than from nuclear power. Renewables thus displace 3–13 times more fossil-fueled generation per dollar than nuclear, and far sooner. Efficiency is even cheaper, beating most existing reactors’ operating costs. Competing or comparing all options…saves more carbon.

Thus nuclear power not only isn’t a silver bullet, but, by using it, we shoot ourselves in the foot, thereby shrinking and slowing climate protection compared with choosing the fastest, cheapest tools. It is essential to look at nuclear power’s climate performance compared to its or its competitors’ cost and speed. That comparison is at the core of answering the question about whether to include nuclear power in climate mitigation.

The “pro” discussion is also almost invariably focused entirely on the supply-side. Yet the International Energy Agency notes that, in 2010–2016, three-fourths of the world’s decarbonization came from energy savings. IEA also says renewables in 2010–20 decarbonized the world five times as much as nuclear growth did, but when the “pros” compare nuclear only with renewables, they are leaving out the cheapest half (or more) of the solution space—using energy more efficiently.

For example, the US in 2020 used 60% less energy per dollar of GDP than in 1975, and during that period, cumulative savings were 27 times the cumulative increase in supply from nuclear plus renewables. Looking forward, RMI’s Reinventing Fire (2011) rigorously showed how to quadruple the efficiency of using US electricity by 2050, at historically reasonable speed, and at an average cost one-tenth the cost of buying electricity today. That study’s findings have nicely tracked the decade of market evolution since, while the efficiency potential has considerably increased

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