Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Advantages of Distributed Solar Power, Large-Scale Solar Photovoltaics, and Solar Thermal



As the generation of electricity via fossil fuels becomes less reliable and more expensive, many countries are exploring renewable energy options to guarantee their supply. Solar power generation in its various forms is a very attractive prospect, particularly in areas that enjoy long hours of sunshine. However, it can be difficult to decide which form is the most suitable. To that end, here are some of the benefits of Distributed Solar Power, Large-Scale Solar Photovoltaics, and Solar Thermal.

Distributed Solar Power

While photovoltaics and thermal describe the method of converting sunlight into other types of energy, distributed solar power refers to the location of that process; in this case, as close to the point of consumption as possible.
Its advantages are, firstly, that it avoids the energy loss traditionally experienced in the transmission and distribution of electricity, as these steps are no longer necessary. This also saves money. Any heat created during generation can be utilised to decrease wastage.
The decentralization of production allows for fluctuations in demand, especially where storage systems are in place. It provides individual households and business flexibility and independence from the main grid, potentially avoiding blackouts and other problems.
Although there is an initial cost, it pays for itself over time in the savings made from decreased reliance on a power company.

Large-Scale Solar Photovoltaics

Photovoltaics, or solar panels, are a common choice for solar power. This is due to their increasing efficiency and reducing installation cost – given the economy of scale, large-scale solar photovoltaics - also known as solar farms -  are approximately half the cost of residential solar. Innovations in technology, and large-scale production in countries such as China, means that it is more cost-effective than ever, with prices of the energy produced nearing that of the wholesale prices charged by fossil fuel power plants.
Solar farms produce jobs in a variety of areas, from maintenance to operations, and they can be placed on land that is unsuitable for most development. This land, which includes closed landfills, is often close to towns and cities, cutting down on transmission infrastructure and its cost.

Solar Thermal

Solar thermal can refer to a wide range of applications of heating, and even cooling. When just considering energy generation, the most efficient method is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). CSP plants are smaller – they use less land and have a lower environmental impact and expense. The heat storage is also more efficient, storing more energy per unit of fluid, which allows for production of electricity outside of hours of direct sunlight, therefore creating a more reliable system that can generate power 24 hours a day.
Finally, solar thermal plants can re-purpose existing equipment already made in large-scale industry, such as turbines, which lowers the cost of installation.


Each form of solar power has its advantages, whether it is cost, flexibility, or efficiency. When selecting one, the best choice is the one that gains the desired outcome.

Large-Scale Nuclear Power vs. Modular Nuclear Power



Nuclear power is definitely one of the most controversial methods of producing energy and although it has great green credentials there are many reservations from the public as a whole. So what can be done to improve the image of an energy that could severely slow the rate at which greenhouse gasses are being produced?

Large scale nuclear reactors have historically been the most popular form of nuclear energy as it had been funded on a massive scale. Being able to produce enough energy to outweigh the more conventional forms of energy production has been the major stumbling block other than public image. In more recent years there has also been issues of holds ups in plans to big large scale nuclear plants that are difficult to fund and a failure to keep to timescales increases costs of undertaking such big plans.

Experts now believe that using much smaller, modular power plants is a viable option in replacement for the expensive large scale reactors. Modular reactors are already used on nuclear submarines and in countries such as India and Pakistan so the technology surrounding these plants is already at a very high standard but it is a recent idea that they might be considered economically viable.

Small power reactors are plants that produce less than 300 megawatts which compared with large scale reactors that are able to produce over 1.6 gigawatts. In order to make it worthwhile you have to build a lot more modular plants to produce the same amount of energy as a large scale one so why is this becoming the preferred method of nuclear power plant building? The answers are simple.

There have been many problems with nuclear power and most issues that have arisen have been assigned to the scale of the reactors. This indication implies that smaller reactors are safer and therefore could improve the overall image of nuclear power. While image isn’t everything in the world of energy suppliers it would make it much easier for nuclear power plants to get planning permission if there was less opposition.

Clearly image isn’t the only important factor with nuclear power plants. Modular power plants are much smaller than the pictures most of us think of when imagining a nuclear power plants. They can be completed much easier and faster and run a lot less risk of overrunning in terms of timescale. This is important as it reduces costs but also means the plant can be producing energy much sooner while they proceed onto the next plant.


It is possible to build these much smaller plants in a factory and should the demand for these types of power plants be high enough it would significantly reduce costs. Comparing modular power plants to larger scale plants indicates there is a clear decision to be made about the future and that is to transfer over to modular power plants.

A Close Look at San Diego’s HERO Program: A Step Towards Home Energy Renovation

The importance of green energy for use in homes and businesses is becoming more and more widespread, with individuals, families, and whole communities making the proactive effort to renovate their energy systems in order to pursue a more cost-efficient and energy-efficient method. San Diego is a west coast city that isn’t far behind in that concept. With the implementation of San Diego’s HERO program, homeowners throughout the San Diego and greater Southern California area are making changes in order to have the opportunity to rely on solar energy as their main energy source in the coming months and years.

Having said that, it might come as no surprise that solar energy systems are expensive to implement, thus potentially preventing homeowners from pursuing this more efficient clean energy system. It’s for this reason that many areas across the nation have introduced the concept of Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE. In San Diego, the PACE concept takes the form of the HERO program, or Home Energy Renovation Opportunity. HERO and similar programs have the potential to cover 100 percent of the cost of solar energy system implementation, from the solar panels and green windows, to artificial turf and water saving upgrades. This financial assistance makes access to clean energy and a renovated energy akin society that much more feasible.

This clean energy upgrade financing is a low-interest option that is repaid through property taxes. With a simple application process and options for even those with unfavorable credit scores, the HERO program provides homeowners dedicated to making the transition to clean energy with manageable rates and fees. Since 2011, an clean energy focused organization called Renovate America utilized this HERO program to fund $1.2 billion in home improvements on approximately 55,000 homes. Starting in Riverside, California, this program was implemented in order to allow homeowners to bring their clean energy desires to reality. In Riverside County alone, approximately 18,700 homes have utilized the program in order to make clean energy modifications to their homes. Since expanding to San Diego County two years ago, the same program has provided financial assistance across nearly 8,000 local projects. In San Diego county alone, the benefits of access to the HERO program through Renovate America is obvious when taking a closer look at the statistics involved. Thus far for San Diego county, this program has facilitated a substantial increase in jobs, provided millions of dollars in funding for sustainable options, conserved nearly 1,000 million kilowatts of energy, and saved more than 700 million gallons of water.


These benefits go hand in hand with what the HERO program is doing for homeowners as well. The amount saved on energy bills and reduction in their personal carbon footprint are other advantages to consider when making the decision to apply for this clean energy financing. Overall, though, when taking a look at the positive reception from homeowners and the effectiveness of the program, it is easy to see that individuals are ready and willing to take advantage of a program such as this in order to go above and beyond to make a change for the better. Moving in the right direction in regards to clean energy changes is made that much more possible with the help of the HERO program and others like it. 

Marine and Hydrokinetic Power



Hydrokinetic technologies have come to the forefront of renewable energy in recent years as the power of waves are a relatively untapped source. Water is a staggering 832 times denser than air and makes the potential power of hydrokinetic energy an opportunity that we cannot ignore for the future of our environment.

Hydrokinetic power uses the kinetic power of waves, tides and currents to create electricity. The development of technologies used in harnessing this power is still being worked on however pilot schemes are being put into place to further the development. It is difficult to get to a point where full use of the technologies is conceivable however with increasing funding going towards renewables the possibilities are growing daily with this relatively new technology.

The most simple and powerful way of harnessing marine hydrokinetic power is by using both near and off-shore waves. By extracting only 15% of the potential kinetic power from waves in the USA it would exceed the amount of electricity currently generated by hydroelectric dams. This is an immense possibility considering there amount of water that covers the entire planet.

Not only are the kinetic powers of waves harnessable but experts believe there is a lot of promise held in ocean tides. As the tides change they produce a phenomenon known as a tidal stream which is a powerful current. Not only is this current powerful enough to produce high amounts of energy but it is highly predictable which means it is easier to predict the surges in electricity and when support would be needed.

While the effects of hydrokinetic technologies on climate change are easy to define as there are no dangerous greenhouse emissions further research is necessary to see the wider implications of using this technology. Many renewable resources have been able to work in means of protecting the environment from harm. Before it is possible to give the green light to use new and untested technology there needs to be assurances that there wont be any kinds of danger to marine biodiversity.


It is also exceedingly expensive getting new renewable energies into use as there are so many complications along the line. Without the funding from governments and dedication from researchers and scientists there is no knowing how long it could take to get to a stage where we are able to use hydrokinetic technologies to harness electricity. Fortunately it is becoming a more pressing matter not only in the eyes of those working on the technology but also on a wider scale. The general public is becoming much more softened to the idea of using renewable energy and are much more conscious of the impact of electricity on the environment. Image can make or break a company and the time is certainly coming that there will be a shift in power towards renewables and a cleaner power sector which marine hydrokinetic energy is certainly a part of.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Trump is basically ignoring main sources of middle class employment in the energy sector



Coal provides middle-class Americans with less than 100,000 jobs. Wind/ solar/ renewable energy provides these same Americans with well over 500,000 jobs. So, of course, Trump, the Trump administration, and republicans in Congress will focus on increasing incentives for, and eliminating regulations for...the coal industry.

It is exactly this kind of backwards thinking that has government eliminating regulations around the fossil fuel industry's habit of polluting the environment, as well as dismantling laws forbidding the fossil fuel industry from developing in national parks and the arctic. This is a result of climate change denial, apathy concerning the environment, and the tremendous, ugly greed of Trump and his goons in the White House and republicans in Congress. But these governmental policies are also a reflection of the republican voter-at-large who put these people in government.

It is time for both our government and the people that vote these climate change denying, willfully ignorant people into government positions, to open their eyes, and see facts for what they are: facts. The future of employment in the energy sector is obviously renewable energy, not fossil fuels. This article in Mother Jones sums it up perfectly:

Wind [and solar] farms—and the new jobs that come with them—have swept across the Midwest, where coal and traditional manufacturing gigs have vanished. (Despite what President Donald Trump will tell you, coal jobs started to disappear back in the 1980s, when the steel industry began to sink and utilities stopped building new coal-fired power plants.)
In the "wind belt" between Texas and North Dakota, the price of wind energy is finally equal to and in some cases cheaper than that of fossil fuels. Thanks to investments in transmission lines, better computer controls, and more efficient turbines, the cost to US consumers fell two-thirds in just six years, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Still, not all windy states have a turbine-friendly climate. In Wyoming, for example, coal-loving legislators passed a tax on wind energy in 2010 and are also considering penalizing utilities for including renewables in their portfolios.
The next few years will see a showdown between "rural Republicans who really want to get the economic boost [wind & solar, other renewables] offers to their district, versus Republican ideologues who don't like renewables because they like fossil fuels"—and whose campaign contributions depend on protecting them.
So farmers—and voters —will have to fight for wind [and other renewables] which, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency,  offer the greatest potential for growth in US renewable power generation. In his energy plan, Trump speaks of reviving the country's "hurting" coal industry and argues that sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America.
We do—and those reserves could lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years, and very few carbon emissions. And if Trump weren't so fixated on the sputtering coal industry, he might actually see them. (Article by Maddie Oatman)

Maddie Oatman is a story editor at Mother Jones. Read more of her stories here, or catch her on MoJo's food politics podcast Bite.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Climate Goals: Is Oslo Leading the Way?



Norway is deadly serious in its bid to become the most climate-friendly country in Europe and has aggressively set about managing its emissions levels.

In January 2017 Oslo issued a temporary ban on all diesel cars entering the capital from 6am to 10pm, a move indicative of the increasing worldwide hostile attitudes towards diesel cars. While some applauded the ban others were highly critical, especially as only 10 years ago Norwegians were being actively encouraged and even incentivised to buy “environmentally friendly” diesel cars.

A permanent ban?

There is already a congestion charge for entering Oslo city during the daytime. But in 2015 the city council announced its intention to make Oslo city centre a completely car-free zone by 2019 - that’s only two years away and six years in advance of a country-wide ban. If it does happen it will be the first permanent car-free zone in Europe and the largest of its kind.

The ‘carrot’ in this scenario is the planned boost to public transport and addition of 40 miles of bicycle lanes. The ‘stick’ however is the idea of new tax levies on heavy vehicles registered before 2014 and increased tax on passenger cars, though at the moment there is no indication of whether electric or hybrid cars would be exempt. The city is nonetheless putting its money where its mouth is: it has reportedly begun to remove parking spaces in preparation and is divesting fossil fuels from its pension funds.

Tackling pollution from cars head-on

Looking at the wider picture, the Norwegian government plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, and eventually only allow zero emission new cars to be registered. It already offers aggressive incentives for drivers to buy plug-in electric cars. In 2016 29% of new car sales in Norway were plug-in electric, and in January 2017 that number was 37.5%. Over the last few years Norway has been the only country in the world where all-electric vehicles have regularly topped the monthly rankings for new car sales.

The rest of Europe is watching

It’s easy to see the attractions of a car free zone. Apart from obvious improvements in air quality, newly emptied roads can be rededicated as sidewalks, cafes and public parks. After all a car is the most inefficient way to get around a city. Traffic in London today moves slower than the average cyclist and commuters in Los Angeles spend 90 hours per year in traffic.

Of course, the total car ban in Oslo has its critics. The council point out the proposed car-free zone is home to only about 1,000 residents but 90,000 workers. Commercial organizations, however, complain that area includes 11 of the city’s 57 shopping centers, so trade would be drastically affected. Not just from a possible drop in shopper numbers, but difficulties in getting deliveries if lorries have to meet stricter emissions levels. 

Other European capitals are watching Oslo closely. If successful, then the car-free zone could provide the blueprint for others to follow suit, making city centres a better place for everyone.

For more information, please see: fortune.com/2016/06/04/norway-banning-gas-cars-2025/

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Was the Clean Power Plan Just Wiped Out?


The Clean Power Plan was the subject of a Trump executive action, as you know by now. Without a doubt, this act by the current White House administration is a major attack on American’s clean air and water that we, in a first-world nation, have become accustomed to. The Trump administration is full of Climate Change deniers, who won’t even acknowledge that 2016 was the hottest year for the planet on record, and 9 of the last 10 years have also been the hottest years in history. 

In addition to the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration and Republican House have been busy dismantling EPA environmental regulations that protect air and water from polluting industries. However, there are a few caveats to these actions that deserve a closer look.

That executive order regarding the Clean Power Plan can't take effect immediately anyway. The subjects of Trump’s executive actions regarding the Clean Power Plan and other regulations that protect the environment are mostly regulations that must be litigated before any repeal can take place. When, and if, they do take effect, polluters can freely pollute or, rather, they could, if the CPP and other environmental regulations were actually repealed. 

However, even the environmental regulations that are repealed, are going to produce lawsuits, so either way, there's litigation. In the case of polluters freely polluting, in addition to the litigation, there’s also pollution, the cost of cleaning up the pollution, and the cost to human and animal health and well-being.

Coal-based energy production is the #1 cause of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as causing deaths among coal miners. There have been 76,000 coal miner deaths due to black lung disease alone, since 1968. It would be difficult to state an advantage dirty coal has over clean energy because there isn’t one. 

Renewable energy is also much more cost effective than coal, in addition to being cleaner. Jobs are trending towards the renewable industry, and away from the fossil fuel industry. Renewables, such as solar and wind, are also getting cheaper than coal and has been getting cheaper for years. (https://cleantechnica.com/2013/09/19/nrdc-clean-energy-affordable-way-power-us/)

Fossil fuel jobs accounted for only 22% of jobs in the energy sector last year in the United States. In 2016, there were only between 70,000-80,000 jobs in the coal industry. There were over 500,000 jobs in solar last year in the US alone, and much more across the world. So, let's set aside pollution and climate change; where's the economic benefit of coal? And, we're only talking about solar - there's also wind, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric. Now, let’s add back in the pollution from, and environmental hazard that is, coal. Where’s the benefit of coal???

Also see these articles for information about the Clean Power Plan, environmental regulations that are on the chopping block and the fight to protect the environment:

New York Times- http://nyti.ms/2nk3MF7