Category: Energy

Solar Impulse lands in Nanjing

solar impulse

The Solar Impulse 2, the world’s largest solar-powered aircraft attempting to fly around the world, has just made its sixth stop in the Chinese city of Nanjing.

It arrived in Nanjing on Tuesday night after a 17-hour flight. Previously, it had been stranded in China’s Chongqing Municipality for 21 days due to bad weather.

The Solar Impulse 2 will stay in Nanjing for another two weeks, after which it will begin its 5-day non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii.

Kicking off its journey on March 8th in Abu Dhabi, the plane stopped at Muscat, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Mandalay and Chongqing, and has been flying a total distance of 6,000 km for 75 hours. It will then fly across the U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean, pass Southern Europe and North Africa, and then head back to Abu Dhabi, finishing its round-the-world journey.

Just keeping up with one of the more inspiring flights in recent decades.

Fresh water and glacial melt is pouring into the Gulf of Alaska

Melting directly into the sea
Click to enlargePhoto courtesy Oregon State University

Incessant mountain rain, snow and melting glaciers in a comparatively small region of land that hugs the southern Alaska coast and empties fresh water into the Gulf of Alaska would create the sixth largest coastal river in the world if it emerged as a single stream, a recent study shows.

Since it’s broken into literally thousands of small drainages pouring off mountains that rise quickly from sea level over a short distance, the totality of this runoff has received less attention, scientists say. But research that’s more precise than ever before is making clear the magnitude and importance of the runoff, which can affect everything from marine life to global sea level.

The collective fresh water discharge of this region is more than four times greater than the mighty Yukon River of Alaska and Canada, and half again as much as the Mississippi River, which drains all or part of 31 states and a land mass more than six times as large…

This is one of the first studies to accurately document the amount of water being contributed by melting glaciers, which add about 57 cubic kilometers of water a year to the estimated 792 cubic kilometers produced by annual precipitation in this region. The combination of glacial melt and precipitation produce an amount of water that’s larger than many of the world’s great rivers…

The data were acquired as an average of precipitation, glacial melting and runoff over a six-year period, from 2003 to 2009. Knocked down in many places by steep mountains, the extraordinary precipitation that sets the stage for this runoff averages about 6 feet per year for the entire area, Hill said, and more than 30 feet in some areas.

The study does not predict future trends in runoff, Hill said. Global warming is expected in the future, but precipitation predictions are more variable. Glacial melt is also a variable. A warmer climate would at first be expected to speed the retreat of existing glaciers, but the amount of water produced at some point may decrease as the glaciers dwindle or disappear.

Not so incidentally, this last paragraph is why I withhold judgement on what continued climate change will bring to our high desert region. I’m aware of a majority of climatologists predicting massive drought — and a smaller number whose models expect moderate increases in annual rainfall.

Of course, I hope for the latter. :)

As for the future of glaciers in general? I think we’re screwed.

The other day, the electric meter for all of Germany ran backwards for 8 hours!

Germany’s electricity traders may face busy weekends as sunny weather positions the nation for a season of solar power records.

After Wednesday’s all-time high of 27.7 gigawatts, Europe’s biggest electricity market is poised for new highs in the next few days or weeks, according to group meteorologist Marcus Boljahn at MeteoGroup. The previous record of 24.2 gigawatts was set on June 6, 2014, when fewer solar panels were installed, the weather forecaster said. One gigawatt is about equal to the capacity of a nuclear reactor…

Germany’s planned decade-long, 120 billion-euro ($127 billion) shift to cleaner energy from fossil fuels has made the nation the biggest economy in the world to rely so heavily on renewable power. Unpredictable solar and wind energy can flood the grid, resulting in negative power prices, when generators must pay consumers to take electricity. The risk is higher at weekends, when usage slows as offices and factories shut…

Germany got about 26 percent of its electricity from renewables in 2014, a share the country aims to increase to 45 percent in the next 10 years. Solar accounted for 22 percent, according to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries, a lobby group.

Intraday German day-ahead power prices were negative for eight hours on Sunday in continuous trading…Prices turned negative for two hours on Wednesday,,,a normal workday with industry at typical output

Read my recent post over here on renewables in Germany – and you can ignore two of the biggest lies from the fossil-fuel flunkies: It’s perfectly possible to manage the storage swings on demand using renewables with a small amount of cleaner fossil fuel like natgas – and “Germany’s not as big as the United States so it’s easier to change” – is hogwash! We’ve never made wholesale changes to any infrastructure in one nationwide sweep. Even the Interstate highway system was built-out in segments over time. Germany’s GDP is slightly larger than the sum of our two largest producers of GDP, California and Texas. Comparable advancement in either state would matter enormously to the health of the American economy.

Of course, ain’t anything like that happening in Texas with the blivets in charge functioning ideologically as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Permian Basin crude oil.

Germany says “We don’t need no stinking Fossil Fuel!”

Sitting in a control center that helps ensure uninterrupted power for 82 million Germans, Gunter Scheibner is proving that renewable energy from the sun and wind can be just as reliable as fossil fuels.

Scheibner, in charge of keeping flows stable over 6,200 miles (9,976 kilometers) of transmission lines in eastern Germany, must keep power from solar and wind in harmony whether it’s sunny or overcast, windy or still. In doing so, he’s overcoming the great challenge for renewable energy: how to keep supplies steady when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

The system Scheibner manages has been so successful that Germany experiences just 15 minutes a year of outages, compared with 68 minutes in France and more than four hours in Poland. The model in Germany, the biggest economy in the world to rely so heavily on renewables, is being copied from California to China as wind and solar displace traditional fuels such as nuclear and coal…

Back in the GOUSA…The Edison Electric Institute, an industry group based in Washington, and incumbent producers claim that variable flows from renewables will destabilize the power grid.

Germany’s decade-long 120 billion-euro ($127.1 billion) investment binge to shift toward low-polluting energy forms is proving critics wrong. The country has raised its share of renewable power for electricity to about 28 percent, more than any source including lignite. In Scheibner’s region, it’s more than 40 percent…

Researchers studying the grid say that a much higher concentration of renewables — 50 percent or more — is possible. That will come at a cost. Germany needs to invest 6.1 billion euros a year in its grid by the end of this decade to cope with additional wind and solar farms, the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin estimated.

“There’s a myth among opponents of renewable energy that you need 100 percent backup spinning all the time, and it’s utter nonsense,” said Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Any grid needs flexibility. You can have a nuclear plant shut down by jellyfish or a coal plant closed because of a freeze and you can’t shovel in supplies fast enough.”

I hope you don’t mind me skipping the coal-centric whining in the middle. Watch the latest commercials from the Koch Brothers if you think you’re missing anything. They’re the core of patriotism and apple pie – so they say.

Reliable estimates on the cost of a more flexible grid are hard to come by. The U.S. grid could absorb as much as 80 percent of its supplies from renewables by 2050 while keeping investment in transmission within the historical range of $2 billion to $9 billion a year, a 2012 study led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showed.

In the U.K., the Imperial College Centre for Energy Policy & Technology suggested in 2006 that consumer power prices would rise 1 percent to fund the costs of adapting grids to intermittent power flows.

We face the same fight here in New Mexico as Arizona citizens. Power companies want folks installing solar panels on their homes to subsidize the cost of maintaining decrepit transmission systems. Meanwhile, our PNM plans on exporting their own solar-generated power over new transmission lines sited to deliver more electricity to California.

The Koch Brothers and our public utilities together generate enough bullshit to fertilize crops for half the world.

Solar-powered plane continues flight circling the globe


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Solar Impulse, the fuel-free aeroplane, has completed the fifth leg of its round-the-world flight.

The vehicle, with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, touched down in Chongqing in China just after 17:30 GMT.

It had left Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) some 20 hours previously.

The intention had been to make the briefest of stops in Chongqing before pushing on to Nanjing in the east of the country, but that strategy has been abandoned because of weather concerns.

The team will now lay over in southwest China until a good window opens up on the east coast…

Getting to the city of Nanjing would set up Solar Impulse to make its first big ocean crossing – a five-day, five-night flight to Hawaii…

The team will use the time in Chongqing to promote renewable energy as part of its “future is clean” campaign…

It is almost three weeks since the venture got under way from Abu Dhabi.

The project expects the circumnavigation of the globe to be completed in a total of 12 legs, with a return to the Emirate in a few months’ time…

No solar-powered plane has ever flown around the world.

Humans always want to fly. Doing it without pumping carbon into the atmosphere makes it all the better.

France uses new law allowing it to ban half the cars in Paris

Paris smog
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Tomorrow will be an odd day in Paris. The government has triggered a pollution control law which allows it to ban half the private cars in the greater Paris area.

Cars with registrations ending in odd numbers will be allowed to drive today. If the air pollution alert continues, it will be the turn of the even-numbered cars on Tuesday.

Over 1,000 police officers will be mobilised to hand €22 on-the-spot fines to offenders. The law, first triggered last year, allows the government to limit traffic if micro-particles in the atmosphere rise above 50 microgrammes a cubic metre.

The use of the law has provoked a spat in recent days between two of France’s best-known female Socialist politicians.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, asked for the restrictions to be imposed last Friday. The environment ministers, Ségolène Royal, complained that a ban on even-numbered cars without advance warning would be a “punitive” attack on suburban commuters.

The two women have a long-standing quarrel, believed to be private in origin. President François Hollande intervened. He ruled in favour of Ms Hidalgo and against his former romantic partner, Ms Royal.

You won’t see much about this in the mainstream media in the US, of course. In the eyes of the American Establishment the only only air pollution in the world that’s dangerous is in Beijing.

In truth, there are long-standing reasons for much of the air pollution in the world – including geography and topography. Which everyone living in Albuquerque or Denver well knows. Correcting the political economy at the root of most air pollution takes time measured in decades, no magic bullets. Beijing’s problem is almost identical to the cause of London’s famous smog – not the fog – and will take longer to clear than current solutions aimed at transport and electric power generation.

Half of Beijing’s smog comes from coal-fired home fires used for heating and cooking. That will take a network of natural gas pipelines to resolve. Right down to the last mile, the last block, house-by-house.

And in related news? In Los Angeles, exposure to both nitrogen dioxide and small particulates has dropped dramatically since the late 1990s.

Children living in five notoriously smoggy parts of greater Los Angeles showed improved lung growth of about 10% between the ages of 11 and 15, compared with children at the same age 20 years ago.

It’s a never-ending fight, folks. Albuquerque’s determination that MTBE added to winter gasoline also increased deadly smog led to the removal of what was a common additive. And more whining.

Obama tightens regulations on fracking chemicals disclosure – sort of

The Obama administration said Friday it is requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations.

A rule to take effect in June also updates requirements for well construction and disposal of water and other fluids used in fracking, a drilling method that has prompted an ongoing boom in natural gas production.

The rule has been under consideration for more than three years, drawing criticism from the oil and gas industry and environmental groups. The industry fears the regulation could hinder the drilling boom, while some environmental groups worry that it could allow unsafe drilling techniques to pollute groundwater.

What crap writing/editing. It’s the absence of regulations that allows unsafe drilling techniques to pollute groundwater.

The final rule hews closely to a draft that has lingered since the Obama administration proposed it in May 2013. The rule relies on an online database used by at least 16 states to track the chemicals used in fracking operations. The website, FracFocus.org, was formed by industry and intergovernmental groups in 2011 and allows users to gather well-specific data on tens of thousands of drilling sites across the country.

Companies will have to disclose the chemicals they use within 30 days of the fracking operation.

While the new rule only applies to federal land – which makes up just one-tenth of natural gas drilling in the United States – the Obama administration is hoping the rule will serve as a model and set a new standard for hydraulic fracturing that states and other regulators will follow.

Brian Deese, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said…“Ultimately, this is an issue that is going to be decided in state capitals and localities as well as with the industry,” he said…

Thomas Pyle, president of the pro-industry Institute for Energy Research, said blah, blah, blah.

The League of Conservation Voters called the bill an important step forward to regulate fracking.

Even so, the group was disappointed with the continued reliance on FracFocus, which a spokeswoman described as an industry-run website.

Participation in FracFocus is voluntarily. So, the creeps using deleterious chemicals simply don’t participate.

FracFocus, right now, displays info on fewer than 95,000 oil and gas wells. The industry admits to approximately 441,000 fracked gas wells alone.

After three years of introspection, investigation and time-wasting the White House proposes tightening of regulations based on info from a single voluntary website. No requirements for compliance. And the regulations only apply to federal lands.

Window dressing.

The rest is left in the hands of state legislatures who will use their God-given states rights – and motivational handouts from oil and gas lobbyists – to do absolutely nothing.

France mandates new commercial buildings have green roofs, solar panels


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Rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones in France must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels, according to a law just approved…

Green roofs help reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building in winter and cool it in summer. They also retain rainwater, thus helping reduce problems with runoff, while favoring biodiversity and giving birds a place to nest in the urban jungle…

The law was also made less onerous for businesses by requiring only part of the roof to be covered with plants, and giving them the choice of installing solar panels to generate electricity instead.

Green roofs are popular in Germany and Australia, and Canada’s city of Toronto adopted a by-law in 2009 mandating them in industrial and residential buildings.

I’m not confident our current Congress would mandate a roof that was up to standard building codes.

As it is, they can’t wait for a chance to eliminate tax breaks for installing energy-saving or carbon-reducing systems like solar panels.