Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 27,471
Number of posts: 27,471
Recent articles in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten (translation available here) and in the Irish Times both ran headlines claiming that another grand solar minimum could potentially trigger an "ice age" or "mini ice age" this century. These articles actually refer to the Little Ice Age (LIA) – a period about 500 to 150 years ago when global surface temperatures were approximately 1°C colder than they are today. This is quite different from an ice age, which are more like 5°C colder than today. The LIA was not actually very cold on a global scale.
So, in order to trigger another LIA, a new grand solar minimum would have to cause about 1°C cooling, plus it would have to offset the continued human-caused global warming of 1 to 5°C by 2100, depending on how our greenhouse gas emissions change over the next century.
In the Jyllands-Posten article, Henrik Svensmark (the main scientist behind the hypothesis that the sun has a significant indirect impact on global climate via galactic cosmic rays) was a bit more measured, suggesting,
"I can imagine that it will become 0.2°C colder. I would be surprised if it became 1–2°C"
So these two articles are suggesting that a grand solar minimum could have a net cooling effect in the ballpark of 1 to 6°C, depending on how human greenhouse gas emissions change over the next century. Is it plausible that a grand solar minimum could make that happen?
The short answer is, 'No.'
Posted by jpak | Wed Aug 14, 2013, 01:45 PM (1 replies)
CALIFORNIA—State environmental organizations have released the findings of a comprehensive report on the effects of climate change on the state on August 8, stressing the drastic growth of alterations to the state's environment.
In a joint press release, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) wrote that “climate change is having a significant and measurable impact on California's environment.” The over 200 page report, titled “Indicators of Climate Change in California,” compiled the findings of extensive studies on changes to the state's climate and its causes and effects on the state's environment. State environmental agencies say the report is helpful in demonstrating the fragile and evolving interrelationship between the state's climate and environment, and it further illustrates the strong commitment in addressing environmental threats pledged by Governor Brown and numerous global scientists, exemplified by the consensus statement signed by the aforementioned parties in May.
Among the findings are increasing rates of climate warming, which is attributed to higher levels of temperature across the state's measuring spectrum. For example, low temperatures have increased almost twice as fast as high temperatures. Furthermore, seasonal heat has incrementally increased in duration and frequency, and winters now face a decreasing “winter chill” trend, which drastically affects fruit production.
The growing temperature change is also gradually affecting the number of wildfires in the state. According to the report, the last ten years bore witness to the three largest fire years on record in California. As glacier shrinkage occurs in parts of the state, often times ranging from a 20 to 70 percent loss, sea level along the California coast have risen on average by seven inches. These factors and others have not only altered the habitat foundations of certain species, forcing some to migrate, but also contributed greatly to environmental harms not present before to species.
Posted by jpak | Wed Aug 14, 2013, 01:41 PM (3 replies)
Europe's largest battery is to undergo testing in the UK, where it will be used to store and regulate energy generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar power, The Guardian reports. The lithium manganese battery, developed by S&C Electric Europe, Samsung SDI and Younicos, will be capable of storing up to 10 MWh of energy.
In an email to Gizmag, S&C's Steve Jones described the battery as "6 MW/10 MWh," so it sounds as if the battery will be capable of storing 10 MWh (36 gigajoules) of energy, while we're laboring under the assumption that 6 MW is its maximum possible power output. That being the case, the battery would last for an hour and 40 minutes operating at maximum demand.
The Guardian reports that £13.2 million (US$20.2 million) of the project's £18.7 million ($28.7 million) budget has been met by the government. Though a 10 MWh battery is a drop in the proverbial ocean when it comes to the UK's energy demand, The Guardian cites Imperial College research that claims electrical storage technology could save £3 billion every year during the 2020s.
A 10 MWh is a comparative tiddler next to the 60-MWh monster announced by the Japanese government back in April. The ¥20 billion ($200 million) project is being designed to regulate solar power from the northern island of Hokkaido. It is due to be up and running by 2015.
Posted by jpak | Tue Jul 30, 2013, 08:25 PM (0 replies)
Below was a great summary (if a bit simplified in parts) comment from one of our readers on one of our posts last week. I thought it deserved a few more eyes. Also, I happened to go back to a roundtable discussion of utility CEOs today that supports the overall “the ‘intermittency’ of renewable energy issue is overhyped” argument. More on that below the reader comment.
First, the then CEO and President of Florida Power & Light, Armando Olivera, chimed in. “I spent a lot of time in operations in our company. Of all the things that I worry about, regulating using solar, or renewables, really doesn’t worry me. I think you gotta be at a really huge scale of solar before that becomes an issue. And in the meantime, we’ve got a lot of enabling technology going into these grids… about half of the meters at FPL are already automated devices. We are learning a huge… we’re seeing benefits that we didn’t fully anticipate in terms of managing the grid. We’re also putting in a lot of smart technology that can adjust at a very local level whenever there’s a problem. So, you know, I think there’s a huge foundation that’s being laid out today that will facilitate all of these technologies….”
Doyle Beneby, President & CEO of CPS Energy, backed him up. ”Yeah, I would agree with Armando, I don’t worry about that at all…. Generally, if you’ve got automated meters, if you’ve got the means for a home area network, I think you can easily reduce demand to follow — I call it load-following — for solar. What we found, also, is that there are a very discreet set of customers out there who would volunteer to have their load reduced to follow the drop in output for solar…. So I think that’s a big opportunity out (there) for us. I really think concerns about the grid, so to speak, and even to a degree intermittency, should not at all impede the progress of solar.”
Robert Powers, President of AEP Utilities, also chimed in and said, “I agree with my colleague that near-term there’s no, no issue with grid stability with deploying solar.”
Posted by jpak | Sat Jul 27, 2013, 11:08 AM (65 replies)
What do you get when you mix Georgia Tea Party activists, solar energy developers and an eager regulator? The result of this rare coalition recently emerged as an aggressive state policy that will hedge electricity rate increases for consumers, secure environmental benefits and kick-start a regional solar industry. By 2016 Georgia is set to increase the amount of solar within its borders 18-fold.
First, prices historically have fluctuated. This probably will not change. In fact, it may get worse. Next, it’s unlikely that prices will decrease in the future. Old, inadequately controlled coal plants will need to make capital expenditures in order to meet new federal air pollution standards. This could lead to rate increases.
As one of the commissioners put it (PDF), “Commissioner McDonald's motion adding 525 megawatts of solar to our 20-year energy plan is a hedge against more coal regulation and natural gas price volatility. When the president finishes his war on coal, he'll come after fracking, and gas prices will surely go up. We have to be ready."
McDonald echoed that sentiment: "We don't know what tomorrow is going to be with coal. We don't know what tomorrow is going to be with natural gas...but we know the sun will be shining."
Wow - The Tea Party and Obama Derangement Syndrome is driving the development of solar energy in GA.
What strange times we live in...
Posted by jpak | Wed Jul 24, 2013, 09:36 PM (1 replies)
DOI announced this week it will hold America’s second-ever competitive lease sale for offshore wind on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) September 4th, for 112,800 acres in a prime development zone 23.5 miles from Virginia Beach.
The announcement comes one week before DOI’s first competitive offshore wind lease auction is held for 164,750 acres for development off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island on July 31st, an event Interior Secretary Jewell has said could set the pace for future auctions.
“The competitive lease sale offshore Virginia will mark an important transition from planning to action when it comes to capturing the enormous clean energy potential offered by Atlantic wind,” said Secretary Jewell. “Responsible commercial wind energy development has the potential to create jobs, increase our energy security, and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness.”
America’s coastal waters hold enormous wind energy potential – roughly 1,300 gigawatts (GW), according to a 2012 estimate. Even harnessing a realistic fraction of this potential could generate 52GW of clean electricity, while creating 300,000 green jobs and $200 billion in economic activity.
Posted by jpak | Wed Jul 24, 2013, 08:47 PM (4 replies)
Air-conditioner use during recent hot weather has strained the capacity of power companies across the Northeast and Midwest. Several utilities, including Con Edison, National Grid and the large European utilities Enel and GDF SUEZ, have signed up to fine-tune and test what they hope could lead to an answer — a battery half the size of a refrigerator from Eos Energy Storage, the company said Tuesday. If the testing goes well, the batteries hold the promise of providing storage that until now has been unaffordable on a large scale, Diane Cardwell reports in The New York Times.
“Energy storage is no longer an idea and a theory — it’s actually a practical reality,” said Steve Hellman, Eos’s president. “You’re seeing a lot of commercial activity in the energy storage sector.”
Part of the appeal is economic: utilities could buy power from centralized plants during off-peak hours, when it is cheaper, and use it to feed the grid at peak hours when it is typically more expensive. That could also relieve congestion on some transmission lines, reducing strain and the need to spend money upgrading or repairing them. In addition, batteries could help integrate more renewable sources like solar and wind into the power grid, smoothing out their intermittent production.
“Energy storage in general has been kind of a holy grail for utilities — a lot of the generation and demand is instantaneous,” said Joseph Carbonara, project manager in research and development at Con Edison, who is managing the Eos program. “The utilities have always been looking to buffer that.”
Posted by jpak | Sat Jul 20, 2013, 04:27 PM (0 replies)
If the price of grid-scale energy storage fell to zero dollars per megawatt-hour, regulators and utilities would still be puzzled in how to deploy the boon of energy storage.
That's because storage doesn't fit neatly into the electrical utility's regulatory universe of generation, distribution, and load -- or into the utility rate recovery structure.
But that regulatory uncertainty is starting to clear.
It started with FERC Order 755, enacted in 2011, a ruling from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that increased the pay for “fast” responding sources like batteries or flywheels that are bidding into frequency regulation service markets. Flywheel energy storage operator, Beacon, sells into this market.
Posted by jpak | Sat Jul 20, 2013, 04:25 PM (0 replies)
In recent months, GM, Toyota, and Honda have all made big public commitments to put hydrogen fuel cell equipped cars on the road by 2016. Some of their moves can be explained by President Obama’s expected hydrogen push and pressure from oil companies and gas-station owners to keep their infrastructure relevant in a non-petroleum economy.
Hydrogen fueled cars’ primary emissions are, of course, water vapor – so they’re vastly cleaner than petroleum fueled cars at first glance. They also have the potential to be convenient, since they can be refueled in about the same time it takes to fill a liquid fuel tank. Still, despite gas station owners’ vested interest in a liquid-fuel model, they’ve been surprisingly resistant to investing in the technology. Last year, for example, only 27 hydrogen filling stations were added to America’s infrastructure. That’s surprising for a technology that was once “the darling of the Bush administration” (Bush called for $1.2 billion in gov’t funding to develop fuel-cell technology in his 2003 State of the Union address).
Since then, of course, we’ve all learned that there are a lot of questions about just how environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles actually are when the hydrogen that fuels them comes from natural gas, a fossil fuel that’s produced through highly controversial “fracking” processes that releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide (at best).
So, what’s really going on here? Why the sudden spark of interest? Kevin Bullis, of MIT’s Technology Review magazine, explains that, sometimes, “miracles do happen”.
Posted by jpak | Sat Jul 20, 2013, 03:28 PM (2 replies)
A recently published primer on net energy metering (NEM) from the solar industry explains why it is under attack by utilities across the country -- and explores how the two opposing sides might come to terms.
“As the penetration of distributed solar generation increases, the debate on NEM policies and impacts is intensifying,” concluded the authors of a new report, Ratemaking, Solar Value and Solar Net Energy Metering: A Primer, from the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). “Utilities in some regions have observed distributed solar adoption at rates not previously forecast and are now seeing significant amounts of grid-tied solar on their systems.”
“Between 2011 and 2012, the number of newly installed solar NEM systems increased from 61,400 to 89,620 -- a 46 percent annual growth rate -- bringing the cumulative total to 302,380 NEM systems,” the SEPA study reported. “By year end 2012, U.S. solar generation under net metering totaled more than 3,500 megawatts-AC. It is striking to consider that in 2005, when EPACT passed, total grid-connected solar capacity nationwide was only about 200 megawatts-AC.”
The utility industry is starting to think about these disruptive changes. As a recent report from the Edison Electric Institute concluded, "Disruptive forces, if not actively addressed, threaten the viability of old-line exposed industries.”
Posted by jpak | Sat Jul 20, 2013, 02:28 PM (3 replies)