Category - Renewable Energy

To discuss developments in solar, wind, and other renewable energy resource uses.

From 500 tank cars in Canada in 2009 up to 140,000 this year!

You know you read stuff that simply blows your mind and you wonder if it’s true. I just had that experience. It was an article about shipping crude oil by rail, from source to refinery. And for me it’s doubly ironic because I so consider oil use to be a lame duck. Every bad thing that happens to us because of oil use, for me is like a soldier dieing after a peace accord. From the big stuff like climate change to the little stuff like a town being wiped off the map by a runaway exploding tanker car train.

And then there is the medium serious stuff like Fukushima. Not oil but the same lame duck.

Sure I’m going to miss the wide open spaces of my Midwest. Not that they are pristine now nor have they been pristine for going on a 150 years. Sure I am irritated at night when I drive trough a multi-mile wind plant and every tower flashes in unison. I would so prefer that they blink randomly, like the stars. Ironic again in that they had to work harder to make them blink in unison.

And I am going to miss the wide open views across Lake Michigan when wind towers begin appearing there.

They are already telling us that we’d better approve that pipeline cause we’re moving that oil one way or another. Wait, scratch that. One way AND another.

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Solar-powered plane prepares for flight across the United States

(AFP) – A groundbreaking solar-powered Swiss aircraft is ready to make a coast-to-coast flight across the United States, its creators said Thursday.

The experimental Solar Impulse plane, which has made several trips since its maiden flight in 2009, will take off on May 1 on a transcontinental tour split in five stages.

“We are ready to do this flight across America,” said Solar Impulse co-founder Andre Borschberg during a press conference at a hangar in Mountain View, near San Francisco.
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Fight the Power!

Imagine, for a moment, you could go completely off the grid, in terms of energy usage. Would you do it?

You may get the chance. In fact, it may be easier than you thought:

solarNRG Energy Inc. (NRG), the biggest power provider to U.S. utilities, has become a renegade in the $370 billion energy-distribution industry by providing electricity directly to consumers.

Bypassing its utility clients, NRG is installing solar panels on rooftops of homes and businesses and in the future will offer natural gas-fired generators to customers to kick in when the sun goes down, Chief Executive Officer David Crane said in an interview.

Now, this is not exactly the image one has in mind when one thinks “off the grid,” to be sure. After all, you’re still dealing with someone who is most definitely on the grid and most definitely part of the energy cartels that partly control our society.  Read More

Updated water wheels power India’s rural mountain economy

(CSM) – Wooden water wheels have long captured energy from mountain streams. New versions work even better, helping provide a local, sustainable source of energy to Indian villages high in the Himalayas.

Living in an isolated Himalayan hamlet, 2,500 meters (5,600 feet) above sea level, Govind Singh Rana seems an unlikely candidate for wealth. But by the standards of other villagers in northern India’s Uttarakhand state, he earns a fortune by harnessing the power of the mountain stream that runs across his land.

Rana uses a water-powered turbine to run a saw mill, press apricot oil in season, and generate electricity, at little cost to himself and without the need for environmentally unfriendly power sources like diesel generators.

He is one of 28,000 people in Uttaranchal who have discovered the advantages of a modern incarnation of the traditional wooden water wheel, or gharat. The turbines, which harness hydro power for small-scale industry by day and for generating electricity by night, have brought an ecologically sustainable economic revolution to the Himalayan states of Uttaranchal, Jammu & Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh, as well as the so-called Seven Sister states in India’s northeastern Himalayas.

more at link

Breakthrough for Solar Power – New Fabrication

Science Daily Science News

solar1Feb. 27, 2013 — A novel fabrication technique developed by UConn engineering professor Brian Willis could provide the breakthrough technology scientists have been looking for to vastly improve today’s solar energy systems.

For years, scientists have studied the potential benefits of a new branch of solar energy technology that relies on incredibly small nanosized antenna arrays that are theoretically capable of harvesting more than 70 percent of the sun’s electromagnetic radiation and simultaneously converting it into usable electric power.

The technology would be a vast improvement over the silicon solar panels in widespread use today. Even the best silicon panels collect only about 20 percent of available solar radiation, and separate mechanisms are needed to convert the stored energy to usable electricity for the commercial power grid. The panels’ limited efficiency and expensive development costs have been two of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of solar power as a practical replacement for traditional fossil fuels. Read More

Citizens Tell Obama to Stop Pipeline and Get Serious about Environment

Michael Collins

(Washington, DC 1/17)  The nation’s capital hosted over 40,000 citizens assembled to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  The crowd urged President Obama to bring to reality his lofty words on climate change in the inaugural address just days ago.  By stopping the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the president would deal a blow to the rogue energy companies who, by their actions, are ready to sacrifice everything to transport oil from Alberta, Canada’s tar sands, across the United States, for refinement in Houston, Texas and shipment to China.

The broader concern of the gathered citizens and march sponsors,, and the Sierra Club, represents the existential issue of our time.  We need to get very real, very soon on the manifest threat to the earth’s climate posed by fossil fuels and the threat to the human species embodied by insane ventures like the Canadian tar sands project.  The verdict of science is clear.  As leading climate scientist James E. Hansen said, the full exploitation of tar sands oil Read More

Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes

AP Homeowners on the hunt for sparkling solar panels are lured by ads filled with images of pristine landscapes and bright sunshine, and words about the technology’s benefits for the environment — and the wallet.

What customers may not know is that there’s a dirtier side.

While solar is a far less polluting energy source than coal or natural gas, many panel makers are nevertheless grappling with a hazardous waste problem. Fueled partly by billions in government incentives, the industry is creating millions of solar panels each year and, in the process, millions of pounds of polluted sludge and contaminated water.

To dispose of the material, the companies must transport it by truck or rail far from their own plants to waste facilities hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of miles away.

The fossil fuels used to transport that waste, experts say, is not typically considered in calculating solar’s carbon footprint, giving scientists and consumers who use the measurement to gauge a product’s impact on global warming the impression that solar is cleaner than it is.

After installing a solar panel, “it would take one to three months of generating electricity to pay off the energy invested in driving those hazardous waste emissions out of state,” said Dustin Mulvaney, a San Jose State University environmental studies professor who conducts carbon footprint analyses of solar, biofuel and natural gas production. more at AP

Fossil Fuels ‘Too Valuable to Burn’

By Paul Brown, Climate News Network

This piece originally appeared atClimate News Network.

LONDON—Burning fossil fuels for energy is a disastrous waste of natural resources preventing their use for the manufacture of fertilizer, medicines, clothing and other vital goods, according to a German think tank.

A study by the World Future Council, based in Hamburg, has attempted for the first time to put an economic price on the consumption of oil, gas and hard coal to produce energy when they could be used instead for making useful things.

While it is well known that fossil fuels are used to make all sorts of everyday objects like plastics, carbon fibre, soap, aspirins, solvents and dyes, it is a new idea to consider how this might affect future generations when the fuels run out.

A report – The Monetary Cost of the Non-Use of Renewable Energies – by Dr. Matthias Kroll, released today to the Climate News Network, claims the cost of these important natural resources runs into trillions of dollars a year, but does not appear in economic calculations of the costs of generating energy.

More Here.

Source: Truthdig.

John Quiggin: Is Utopia Still Possible in the Face of Impending Doom?

John Quiggin

Yesterday steeleweed linked to Chris Hedges’ latest feel-good hit of the impending environmental apocalypse, in which Hedges called on liberals to drop any icky pretense of hope (hisssssssssss) and instead fully embrace the inevitable secular eschatology of Gaia’s gruesome revenge with a bear hug and a shit-eating grin. But apparently Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin didn’t get the memo that contingency planning for a future that doesn’t necessarily end with humanity’s collective death rattle is, like, totally futile:

Economic development and technological progress provide the only real hope of lifting billions of people out of poverty and destitution, just as it has done for the minority in the developed world. Yet the living standards of the developed world have been built on cheap energy from carbon-based fossil fuels. If everyone in the world used energy as Americans or even Europeans do, it would be impossible to restrict climate change to even four degrees of warming.

For those of us who seek a better life for everybody, the question of how much our environment can withstand is crucial. If current First World living standards can’t safely be extended to the rest of the world, the future holds either environmental catastrophe or an indefinite continuation of the age-old struggle between rich and poor. Of course, it might hold both.

In my first contribution to Aeon (‘The golden age’, Sept 27, 2012), I looked at an idea put forward by John Maynard Keynes: that within a few decades, with the right use of technology, we could achieve a society where people worked because they chose to rather than out of material necessity, a society in which working hours averaged 15 per week with no decline in quality of life. I focused on the technological and social constraints that could prevent us from achieving all this.

However, there is no point in drawing up a utopian vision if it can be realised only in one part of the world, leaving the global poor permanently locked out. In my previous essay, I argued that, with another 50 years of technological progress and a modest effort to help the poorest onto the path of rapid growth, poverty could be eliminated.

But can we share the advantages of the developed world with the entire population of the planet without running into limits on mineral and renewable resources? Not according to many environmentalists. They say we can’t even maintain them for the few people who presently enjoy them; that it’s technologically impossible to sustain current consumption levels on a global scale, let alone to spread prosperity more broadly.

Having spent much of my professional life as an economist studying problems of this kind, I’m convinced that this is not true. The question is not: ‘Can we let everyone live like prosperous residents of the First World without destroying our natural environment?’ It is: ‘Will we?’ A balance is achievable, if we want it. That goes against a lot of powerful convictions, of course. So, although arithmetic might not be part of everyone’s idea of utopia, we need to look at the numbers.

As they say, read the whole thing (before returning to your regularly scheduled confirmation bias, of course — btw will the last one to die a slow, agonizing-yet-poetically-just demise please turn out the light?)

Quadriga: No Future — Can Politics Think Long-Term? (VIDEO)

Via DW:

Climate change, economic crises, ageing populations — to solve global problems, leaders will have to plan for the long term. But although many results of bad policymaking only show up generations down the road, politicians have to stand for re-election regularly, and are often only interested in short-term success. Major topics involving the future don’t bring in votes. Is democracy a system that is only able to provide shortsighted solutions?


  • Kevin Hoffmann,  business correspondent, Der Tagespiegel (Berlin)
  • Quentin Peel, international affairs editor, Financial Times
  • Ahmed Badawi, Research Fellow at Zentrum Moderner Orient


What follows the non-apocalypse?

To the surprise of no one with a brain, the world did not instantly change directions on 12/21/12. That doesn’t mean the old order isn’t falling apart.
It just means most of us are unprepared for what will replace it.

The Archdruid Report has a thoughtful post today, as usual.

The one thing next to nobody wants to talk about is the one thing that distinguished the largely successful environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s from the largely futile environmental movement since that time, which is that activists in the earlier movement were willing to start the ball rolling by making the necessary changes in their own lives first. The difficulty, of course, is that making these changes is precisely what many of today’s green activists are desperately trying to avoid. That’s understandable, since transitioning to a lifestyle that’s actually sustainable involves giving up many of the comforts, perks, and privileges central to the psychology and identity of people in modern industrial societies.

Those of my readers who would like to see this last bit of irony focused to incandescence need only get some comfortably middle class eco-liberal to start waxing lyrical about life in the sustainable world of the future, when we’ll all have to get by on a small fraction of our current resource base. This is rarely difficult; I field such comments quite often, sketching out a rose-colored contrast between today’s comfortable but unsatisfying lifestyles and the more meaningful and fulfilling existence that will be ours in a future of honest hard work in harmony with nature. Wait until your target is in full spate, and then point out that he could embrace that more meaningful and fulfilling lifestyle right now by the simple expedient of discarding the comforts and privileges that stand in the way. You’ll get to watch backpedaling on a heroic scale, accompanied by a flurry of excuses meant to justify your target’s continued dependence on the very comforts and privileges he was belittling a few moments before.

Why are we not doing what we know needs to be done?

…what they lack, by and large, is the courage to act on that knowledge.

Somebody mention New Years Resolutions?

Make it stop. US claims fracking aids in carbon reduction

This evasive gibberish is apparently what the US will be championing at the Doha 2012 climate conference – that fracking is beneficial because it’s not as destructive as coal. Golly, wouldn’t a better idea be to have massive offshore wind farms, more big solar power plants, and a smart grid? But instead we get greenwashing, phony claims of progress while backing the same old dirty power. Ouch, this makes my brain hurt.

The US is claiming credit for “enormous” efforts on climate change – delivered in part by the carbon reductions from its investments in the controversial practice of “fracking” for shale gas.