Home » Posts tagged 'alternative energy'

Tag Archives: alternative energy

Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Report: Just Ten Percent of Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Would Completely Pay For a Global “Green Transition”

Report: Just Ten Percent of Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Would Completely Pay For a Global “Green Transition”

Stephanie Kelton explaining what Ben Bernanke meant in 2009 when he said the Fed doesn’t “spend tax money” when it transfers money to banks, but simply changes numbers in a computer. “To lend to a bank, we simply use a computer to mark up the size of the account they have with the Fed.” Kelton: “It’s exactly like putting points on the screen at a baseball game,” and a scorekeeper can “never run out of points.”

I’m not a fan of the “how are you going to pay for it?” scam, since it’s obvious the government never pays for anything it really wants in the sense of raising new revenue. It just spends the money. For proof, just look at the Iraq War, or any recent war, or any Republican tax cut plan. (See the video above for a slightly longer explanation of why governments that control their own currency never have to tax to spend.)

The fact is, a government that issues its own currency and whose economy is not ravaged by inflation can always write checks to buy anything it wants — and the idea that it “pays for” what it wants by selling bonds is a fiction, since every bond sale is a trade of an asset for an asset, not a loan. The Treasury market also gives rich people something safe to invest in. Neither of these goals is related to financing government spending.

But for those who do fetishize “paying for it,” here’s one for the books.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climate change effects on hydropower in California

Climate change effects on hydropower in California

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is drought-dam-lake-oroville.jpg

Preface. The main impact of climate change will be on hydropower in California, which is the largest source of renewable electric power. Besides natural gas, it is the only dispatchable form of power to balance unreliable, intermittent wind and solar power.

But hydropower is often unavailable (i.e. drought, low reservoirs, to provide months of agriculture and drinking water, protect fisheries, etc).

CEC. September 2014. Climate change impacts on generation of wind, solar, and hydropower in California. California Energy Commission Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory .


The study findings for hydroelectric power generation show significant reductions that are a consequence of the large predicted reduction in annual mean precipitation in the global climate models used. Reduced precipitation and resulting reductions in runoff result in reduced hydropower generation in all months and elevation bands. These results indicate that a future that is both drier and warmer would have important impacts on the ability to generate electricity from hydropower.

Increased production of electricity from renewables, although desirable from environmental and other viewpoints, may create difficulties in consistently meeting demand for electricity and may complicate the job of operating the state’s transmission system. This would be true of any major change in electrical supply portfolio but is especially so when the proportion of weather-dependent renewables- which are subject to uncontrolled fluctuations-is increased.

Climate change may affect the ability to generate needed amounts of electricity from weather-dependent renewable resources. This could compromise California’s ability to meet renewable targets. For example, it is well documented that climate change is affecting the seasonal timing of river flows such that less hydropower is generated during months of peak demand and maximum electricity value. Generating solar and wind power may also be impacted by long-term changes in climate.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

45 Reasons why wind power can not replace fossil fuels

45 Reasons why wind power can not replace fossil fuels

Source: Leonard, T. 2012. Broken down and rusting, is this the future of Britain’s ‘wind rush’? https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2116877/Is-future-Britains-wind-rush.html

Preface. Electricity simply doesn’t substitute for all the uses of fossil fuels, so windmills will never be able to reproduce themselves from the energy they generate — they are simply not sustainable.  Consider the life cycle of a wind turbine – giant diesel powered mining trucks and machines dig deep into the earth for iron ore, fossil-fueled ships take the ore to a facility that will use fossil fuels to crush it and permeate it with toxic petro-chemicals to extract the metal from the ore. Then the metal will be taken in a diesel truck or locomotive to a smelter which runs exclusively on fossil fuels 24 x 7 x 365 for up to 22 years (any stoppage causes the lining to shatter so intermittent electricity won’t do). There are over 8,000 parts to a wind turbine which are delivered over global supply chains via petroleum-fueled ships, rail, air, and trucks to the assembly factory. Finally diesel cement trucks arrive at the wind turbine site to pour many tons of concrete and other diesel trucks carry segments of the wind turbine to the site and workers who drove gas or diesel vehicles to the site assemble it.

Here are the topics covered below in this long post:

  1. Windmills require petroleum every single step of their life cycle. If they can’t replicate themselves using wind turbine generated electricity, they are not sustainable
  2. SCALE. Too many windmills needed to replace fossil fuels
  3. SCALE. Wind turbines can’t be scaled up fast enough to replace fossils
  4. Not enough rare earth metals and enormous amounts of cement, steel, and other materials required
  5. Not enough dispatchable power to balance wind intermittency and unreliability
  6. Wind blows seasonally, so for much of there year there wouldn’t be enough wind

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Myth Of An Imminent Energy Transition

The Myth Of An Imminent Energy Transition

Cushing oil storage

100 million. It’s a number that drowns comprehension; it’s more jelly beans than can fit in an average-sized swimming pool.

Within a year, world oil consumption will top 100 million barrels of oil per day. Over the same time period, close to 100 million new piston-firing vehicles will be bought by petroleum-thirsty customers.

I hate to say it, but any notion of imminent “energy transition” or “decarbonization” is folly.

In fact, the percentage of fossil fuels in the world’s energy mix—coal, oil and natural gas—is still lingering well above 80 percent, a figure that has changed little in 30 years. That remains so, despite being challenged by serious environmental policies, financial pressures, viable alternative systems, public awareness and social activism.

It’s true that wind and solar are being deployed quickly, at an exponential rate in fact. But impressive as it all is, renewable energy installations are far too slow to catch the still-hardy appetite for fossil fuel consumption. Such energy obesity is not virtuous, but it’s a fact needing acknowledgement in a world of over seven billion people, each of whom are wanting for more light, heat, mobility and a panoply of mostly useless gadgetry.

Oil and gas are growing especially fast. Recently published data reminds us that we’re consuming hydrocarbons faster than ever, at robust rates on a global absolute basis (see Figure 1). Market share for oil and gas is holding steady at just under 60 percent. Related: Is Russia About To Abandon The OPEC Deal?

(Click to enlarge)

The resilience of fossil fuels is sobering, even after massive capital assault.

Over the past decade, the world has spent US$ 3.0 trillion on renewable energy, according to the International Energy Agency (Figure 2). For that expenditure, the clean cadre has taken a couple of points of share away from coal, the black stuff that seems to have nine lives (Figure 3).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Art Berman: Like It Or Not, The Future Remains All About Oil

Vladimir Yudin | Dreamstime.com

Art Berman: Like It Or Not, The Future Remains All About Oil

And competition for it is heating up 

Art Berman, 40-year veteran in the petroleum production industry and respected geological consultant, returns to the podcast this week to talk about oil.

After the price of oil fell from its previous $100+/bbl highs to under $30/bbl in 2015, many declared dead the concerns raised by peak oil theorists. Headlines selling the “shale miracle” have sought to convince us that the US will one day eclipse Saudi Arabia in oil production. In short: cheap, plentiful oil is here to stay.

How likely is this?

Not at all, warns Berman. World demand for oil shows no signs of abating while the outlook for future production looks increasingly scant. And the competition among nations for this “master resource” will be much more intense in future decades than we’ve been used to:

Since the 1980s, we simply have not been replacing reserves with new discoveries. So how does that work? Well, obviously, we’ve got a lot of oil on production and in reserves, so we’re essentially drawing down our savings account if you want to think about it that way. You can do that for a long time if you’ve got a whole lot of money in your savings account, and we as a planet do. But you can’t do it forever.

Eventually, you either have to stop spending as much so you don’t draw down your savings, or you need to put some money back in the account. And it doesn’t seem like we’re doing much of either, and haven’t been doing much of either for a long time. So the concern is tremendous, at least, in my estimation(…)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

More on going off-grid in UK

More on going off-grid in UK

In my previous Going off-grid post I reviewed the question of whether Tesla Powerwalls or overgeneration, considered separately, might allow a UK homeowner with a rooftop solar array to go off-grid. In this post I consider the two in combination. Once more using 10 Mossbank Way as an example I find that there are circumstances in which it might make marginal economic sense for Mossbank to install up to one Powerwall, but that again that there is no realistic combination of Powerwalls and overgeneration that would allow Mossbank to power itself year-round with solar alone. Going off-grid is again found to increase Mossbank’s electricity costs substantially no matter what combination of the two is adopted.

It’s becoming progressively more obvious that 100% renewables-powered grids will never work without adequate energy storage, and at present the storage system of choice is the Tesla battery. I therefore make no apologies for presenting the third post in a row on Tesla Powerwalls. This post, however, evaluates their performance in more detail than did the previous two by reviewing the impacts of varying the number of Powerwalls and the amount of solar overgeneration at the same time. To do this I had to construct a rather complex spreadsheet algorithm which after checking appears to give the right answers but which I can’t guarantee to be 100% correct in all cases. Having made this necessary disclaimer, on to the results.

First a brief recap. Mossbank’s rooftop solar array has an installed capacity of 4kW(p). I have again used Mossbank’s hourly solar generation data for 2016 (total 3,809kWh) and have again assumed that this was equal to Mossbank’s 2016 demand. The hourly demand curves are the same as those used in the previous post. Sixteen cases are considered – zero to eight Powerwalls and either 4kW or 8kW of installed capacity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Going off-grid in the UK

Going off-grid in the UK

In my recent post featuring a residence in Tucson, Arizona (latitude 32 north) I found that no reasonable number of Tesla Powerwalls would allow the homeowner to go off-grid using a combination of solar and battery storage. In this post I review a residence in UK (latitude 52 north) and find, unsurprisingly, that its prospects for going off-grid with solar and Powerwalls are likewise non-existent. Further reviews show that the overgeneration approach does not work well in the UK either. The only presently-available option for a UK homeowner with a solar array who wants to go off grid is to combine solar with a backup generator.

Solar Generation

The solar array I chose as my UK example is on the roof of 10 Mossbank Way, Shrewsbury (data from Sunny Portal). With a capacity of 4kWp (16 Sanyo HIT-H250E01 panels), total 2016 generation of 3,809 kWh and a capacity factor of 10.8% it’s about as average as you can get for a rooftop UK system:

10 Mossbank Way, Shrewsbury

Daily average solar generation from Mossbank during 2016, the last full year for which data are available, is shown in Figure 1. Average power output was highest in May (0.71kW) and lowest in January and December (0.13kW) – a seasonal range of more than a factor of five:

Figure 1: Mossbank average daily solar generation, 2016 (a plot of hourly solar generation for the entire year is hard to interpret). The red lozenges are monthly means

Hourly solar generation data for May and January are shown in Figure 2 for illustration purposes. The large differences in total generation and the abundance of January days with minimal solar generation are apparent:

Figure 2: Mossbank hourly solar generation, January and May 2016


…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

In Maria’s Wake, Could Puerto Rico Go Totally Green?

In Maria’s Wake, Could Puerto Rico Go Totally Green?

The ecological and humanitarian destruction of Puerto Rico has left the world aghast. But there is a hopeful green-powered opportunity in this disaster that could vastly improve the island’s future while offering the world a critical showcase for a sane energy future.

By all accounts Hurricane Maria has leveled much of the island, and literally left it in the dark. Puerto Rico’s electrical grid has been extensively damaged, with no prospects for a return to conventionally generated and distributed power for months to come.

In response Donald Trump has scolded the island for it’s massive debt, and waited a full week after the storm hit to lift a shipping restriction requiring all incoming goods to be carried on US-flagged ships. (That restriction is largely responsible for the island’s economic problems in the first place.)

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is a state-owned operation that hosts a number of solar and wind farms, as well as a network of hydroelectric dams. But the bulk of its energy supply has come from heavy industrial oil, diesel and gas burners. It also burns coal imported from Colombia at a plant in Guyama.

The fossil burners themselves apparently were left mostly undamaged by Maria. But the delivery system, a traditional network of above-ground poles and wires, has essentially been obliterated. Power authority officials say it could take at least 4-6 months to rebuild that network.

And of course, there is no guaranteeing such a pole-and-wire set-up would not then be obliterated by the next storm.

Among the most serious casualties have been the island’s hospitals. According to reports, 58 of Puerto Rico’s 69 medical facilities have been blacked out. At least two people died when intensive care units went dark.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Will EV’s Break The Grid?

Will EV’s Break The Grid?


While the UK government has vowed to end the sale of all new conventional gasoline and diesel cars by 2040, as part of a wider plan to fight air pollution, there is talk that electricity demand will lead to a fast and dirty response to a strained power grid.

But here’s what everyone’s missing in that debate: While EV sales are going to rise and electricity demand to power them will strain the grid and lead to less-than-ideal power generation solutions, the whole plan will help clean power generation to increase its market share.

Nothing is black and white. And big transformations are never immediate. We’re not talking about an overnight elixir that will magically clean up the air; we’re talking about a step-by-step process that is gradually less dirty.

Overloading the Grid (Mind the Gap)

The UK’s National Grid anticipates peak demand from electric vehicles alone being around 5 GW, which represents an 8 percent increase from today’s peak demand.

This peak demand forecast assumes what the National Grid calls the “Two Degrees” scenario, in which most cars would be EVS, with only 6 percent of them hybrids. But by 2045, only pure EVs would be on sale.

According to Wood Mackenzie, the UK plan to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars by 2040 “will have a massive impact on the refining sector and the oil markets.”

To handle the extra peak demand, the most flexible way is to build open-cycle gas power plants.

One of the options for a “rapid response” plug-in capacity to make up for shortfalls could come from certain open-cycle gas-fired plants that are more polluting and less efficient.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Death of “Alternative Energy”

Fifteen years ago, when I joined the early ranks of clean energy entrepreneurs, we were nearly dead in the water on climate. Oil was $15 per barrel, Al Gore’s groundbreaking movie An Inconvenient Truth hadn’t come out, and a solar panel was something that powered a calculator.

In the year 2005, I went to my first “Alternative Energy Conference” in Aspen, Colorado. I was asked to speak at the event, and hadn’t paid much attention to the agenda. Upon arrival I found the audience consisted of coal, oil and gas executives.

It turns out that “alternatives” in the energy space in 2005 actually meant new methods for extracting old fossil fuels: tar sands, “clean coal,” and a new thing called fracking. This, according to all of the other speakers, was the future.

I didn’t walk away optimistic about our coming transition. Forecasters weren’t wearing their rose-colored glasses either.

What a Difference a Decade Makes

In the first quarter of 2017, renewable energy accounted for 20% of all U.S. electricity while fracking has gone mainstream. On the flip side, six publicly traded coal companies declared bankruptcy from April 2015–2016 while coal production had its steepest annual decline since 1958. And after much hype, the number of operational clean coal power plants in the U.S. remains firmly stuck at…zero.

A coal plant built today would not be competitive with a combination of wind and solar in virtually any location in the country. And nowhere would it be competitive with natural gas.

In the end, these fossil sources, particularly coal, look increasingly like the new “alternative energy sources,” since there’s simply no economic justification for them.

The speed of this transformation may surprise some readers. That’s understandable. For years, traditional energy analysts have completely misforecast the transformation.

Why were these analysts so wrong? What drove this profound shift with such speed? This did not happen because of Paris. This didn’t even happen because of Kyoto before it. It didn’t happen because of something Trump did or undid. It didn’t even happen because of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The Real Change Agents of the Energy Transformation

Three drivers of change set us on this course. It started first with the growing chorus of concerned citizens, scientists, and activists coming together to seek out solutions — often at a local level. This was catalyzed by inflection points like An Inconvenient Truth, but the sources of inspiration were everywhere as the evidence of change mounted. Second, local and state leaders in the U.S. started to listen. Across party lines, real leadership showed up to pass Renewable Portfolio Standards, enhanced automotive standards, and air quality improvement plans. Third, in reaction to the first two, businesses started playing an increasingly important role.

Broadly speaking, businesses have played two key roles in cementing our direction on climate. First, large companies have finally started to internalize the will of their customers. Five out of the top six most valuable public companies in the world are U.S.-based technology companies: Google (Alphabet), Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. They are also the source of the greatest amount of electricity demand growth in world. All of them have now committed to 100% clean energy in the near future — Google is there today. The others behind them will follow suit.

Leading companies have committed to 100% clean energy to save money, show leadership, and meet the growing cries from their customers and employees to be part of the solution. The magnitude of this commitment cannot be overstated. These companies have a combined market capitalization of nearly $2.3 trillion — exceeding the size of nearly every economy that signed the Paris accord.

The second way business has played a key role is innovation and entrepreneurialism. The impact of buying power is the domain of the large multinationals. The impact of innovation is the domain of startups. From SunPower and First Solar to Tesla and Nest, we have continually seen the unbounded creativity of startups and founders prove the impossible. And we’re just getting warmed up. Electric buses, large-scale energy storage, autonomous cars, electric planes, and the myriad software solutions to help make our energy more efficient and effective are launching daily.

New Report by Top Senators Details Financial Ties Between Fossil Fuel Industry and Clean Power Plan Opponents

New Report by Top Senators Details Financial Ties Between Fossil Fuel Industry and Clean Power Plan Opponents

The stakes are high not only for the environment, but for fossil fuel companies — and those companies have poured enormous sums of money into efforts that would help ensure the Clean Power Plan never goes into effect, according to a report issued this week by four members of Congress.

The report is formatted as an amicus curie — or friend of the court — brief but was not filed with the court, and it takes a detailed look at the money that has moved behind the scenes. It’s entitled, “The Brief No One Filed.”

It was issued by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, and Edward J. Markey — some of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate. Senators Whitehouse, Boxer, and Markey serve on the Environment and Public Works Committee, while Sen. Reid is the Senate Democratic Leader.

“The American public is aware of and alarmed by the massive influx of special interest money and considers this a top problem with elected officials in Washington,” the four senators wrote.  “More than 80 percent of Americans believe the government cannot be trusted to do what is right most of the time.”

Large sums of money — over $100 million — have been funneled from the fossil fuel industry to key players in the litigation, the report concludes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Solar on the roof taxed as income

Solar on the roof taxed as income

But the cost of a solar system can be written off over a period of years

The solar panels on Mike Brigham's roof in Toronto allow him to sell power back to the grid. He says solar provides power when Ontario most needs it — when the sun is hot and air-conditioners are pushing up power demands.

The solar panels on Mike Brigham’s roof in Toronto allow him to sell power back to the grid. He says solar provides power when Ontario most needs it — when the sun is hot and air-conditioners are pushing up power demands. (Mike Brigham)

Mike Brigham got interested in solar power by accident in 1985 when he bought a tiny island in Georgian Bay with a quaint cottage with no electricity.

After learning he would have to pay to up to $15,000 to bring in electricity via cable and pay a bill year-round despite using the cottage for only a few months, he decided to install his first solar panel.

Since then, he’s upgraded the system at the cottage several times and when he went looking for a lot in Toronto in 2008, he sought out one with ample access to the sun’s rays.

‘When solar generates the most is on summer days when days when aircon loads are really driving up the peaks and the cost of power in the middle of the day goes way up.’–  Mike Brigham, Solar Share Co-op

He now has a 5.8-kilowatt solar system on the roof of the home he built in Toronto and sells the power back to the grid under Ontario’s MicroFIT program.

And like every homeowner and farm property owner who has taken advantage of Ontario’s FIT, or feed-in tariff, program for solar, he has to pay income tax on the cash he earns from selling power back to the local utility.

Solar and provincial incentives

It’s not just Ontario where small operators are dealing with the tax implications of small solar projects.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Renewables offer quick fix for US emissions

Renewables offer quick fix for US emissions

Interstate 10 windfarm

A wind farm sprouts alongside the Interstate 10 road near Whitewater, California
Image: Chuck Coker via Flicker

Scientists say interstate energy “highways” would allow current wind and solar technologies to deliver electricity where and when it’s needed throughout the US.

LONDON, 31 January, 2016 – The US could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation by 80% below 1990 levels within 15 years just by using renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, according to a former government research chief.

The nation could do this using only technologies available right now, and by introducing a national grid system connected by high voltage direct current (HVDC) that could get the power without loss to those places that needed it most, when they needed it.

This utopian vision – and it has been dreamed at least twice before by researchers in Delaware and in Stanford, California – comes directly from a former chief of research in a US government agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Dr Alexander MacDonald, a distinguished meteorologist, was until recently, the head of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

Supply and demand

He and colleagues at the University of Colorado report in Nature Climate Change that instead of factoring in fossil fuel backup, or yet-to-be-invented methods of storing electricity from wind and solar sources, they took a new look at the simple problems of supply and demand in a nation that tends to be sunny and warm in the south and windy in the north, but not always reliably so in either place.

Their reasoning was that storage technologies could only increase the cost of renewable energy, and increase the problem of reducing carbon emissions.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Clean Energy Finance Corporation: Tony Abbott defends decision to axe wind, solar from renewables spending

Clean Energy Finance Corporation: Tony Abbott defends decision to axe wind, solar from renewables spending

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says it is “no secret” he wants the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) abolished, but while it is still in place it should be as useful as possible.

The Opposition and the Greens have accused the Government of trying to get rid of the taxpayer-funded authority by stealth, by issuing a new directive to stop the CEFC from investing in wind farms and household rooftop solar projects.

“The Parliament set up this corporation with a very expert board and very expert staff to make these decisions free of political interference,” Opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler said.

“What we see now is Tony Abbott trying to nobble this corporation for his own ideological purposes.”

But Mr Abbott says it is not useful for the CEFC to invest in established technologies that can easily attract private funding.

“The best thing that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation can do is invest in new and emerging technologies, the things that might not otherwise get finance,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve got this draft direction there.”

The Government has twice tried and failed to win parliamentary support to shut down the statutory authority, and Mr Abbott has previously described the wind turbines as “visually awful”.

The directive on wind and solar stems from the deal the Government struck with crossbench senators earlier this year to reduce the Renewable Energy Target.

Part of that agreement said the Government would write to the CEFC to ensure “significantly” increased uptake of large-scale solar, emerging renewable technologies and energy efficiency.


…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…



Difficult to invest in green energy in Canada without Big Oil

Difficult to invest in green energy in Canada without Big Oil

Divestiture movement continues as organizations clean carbon holdings from portfolios

If you thought the divestiture movement was losing steam, Norway’s recent announcement shows there still is momentum around the world to stop investing in fossil fuels.

The country has confirmed that its hefty $900-billion government pension fund, considered the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, will purge some of its fossil fuel stocks.

Many other organizations have made similar moves in past years.

Concordia University in Montreal launched a $5-million fund dedicated to divestment, social and ethical investing. Stanford University in California pledged not to make direct investments in companies whose principal business is coal for energy. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund pledged to reduce investments in coal and the oilsands projects to less than one per cent of its portfolio.

But in Canada, divestiture may not be the best method of promoting renewable energy development.

Syncrude oil sands site near Fort McMurray

Traditional oil, gas and coal companies are creating the majority of renewable energy in Alberta. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

The reason is that, outside of government, it is the traditional oil and gas companies that are constructing much of the green energy projects in the country, such as wind, hydro and solar.

For instance, the largest wind and hydro projects in Alberta are owned in whole or in part by traditional oil, gas and coal companies.

Capital Power is an example of a private sector company with a mixed bag of energy projects. It’s a leader in renewable energy development and uses fossil fuels too. The Edmonton-based company has more than 20 wind and solar power plants in North America. It also operates a coal mine as well as several coal- and natural gas-fired plants.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…



Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase