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Naked Energy Delivers Solar Electricity and Hot Water in One Package

Solar photovoltaic systems that make electricity directly from sunlight are one of the most promising technologies for clean renewable energy. While solar PV has many positive attributes (e.g. clean, renewable, quiet, etc.), there are two primary drawbacks:
They are intermittent (meaning that they only create juice when the sun is shining).
They have a low energy intensity (meaning that the amount of energy per unit of area is small, especially when compared to large scale fossil or nuclear plants).

The intermittency problem, like certain chronic medical conditions, can't be cured, (not unless you use satellites that continuously track the sun and beam energy back to earth) though it can be managed with storage capacity and a smart distribution system (grid).

The intensity problem can be addressed in two ways. First, because solar is available everywhere, its intensity is less important if it's used in a distributed manner. If, for example, you can power your home with panels installed on your roof, you don't care that much if they take up your whole roof or half your roof, except that the latter will probably cost less. A factory on the other hand will likely not have enough roof space to meet its total energy demand and would instead have to settle for some fractional solar contribution.

The other way that intensity can be improved is by improving efficiency, which has been the subject of a great deal of research. That means increasing the amount of usable energy produced per unit of sunlight. Solar panels are relatively inefficient (22 percent is a good number today). What's worse is that their efficiency tends to drop off under high temperature. And since their job is to sit out in the sun, getting hot is something that will happen regularly.

(More) Original story here.

By RP Siegel | April 26th, 2012

Despite Fukushima and Chernobyl Has World Learned Nothing?

On Anniversary of Chernobyl Ukrainians, Greenpeace Decry Nuclear Energy
"The Chernobyl disaster underscored that mankind must be extra careful in using nuclear technologies," said President Viktor Yanukovych at a ceremony today, the 26th year Anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

Ukrainians hold candles commemorating the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Kiev, Ukraine,Thursday, April 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov) "Nuclear accidents lead to global consequences. They are not a problem of just one country, they affect the life of entire regions."

Today, about 2,000 Chernobyl cleanup workers and victims protested outside of parliament in Kiev, demanding an increase in compensations and pensions; many Ukrainians are continually unhappy with the handling of the 1986 explosion that spread massive amounts of radiation throughout region and forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes.

"It is a disaster that left a 30-kilometre uninhabitable exclusion zone, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and still threatens the lives of tens of thousands," writes Greenpeace today. "It's 26 years later and what have the nuclear industry and its supporters learned? Nothing."

"Instead of learning, the nuclear industry continues to push for new nuclear reactors despite Chernobyl, despite near-misses in Sweden and South Korea, and despite the triple nuclear meltdown at Fukushima and it's disastrous consequences in March last year."

(More) Original story here.

Published on Thursday, April 26, 2012 by Common Dreams

Tar Sands Production In America Is Closer Than You Think

Before long the tar sands issue won't be just about imports from Canada via pipeline.

Utah, which has never met a dirty fuel it didn't love, has been encouraging efforts to develop a home-grown tar sands industry. Construction on a project located on state lands in the eastern part of the state could begin by the end of the year, according to a story in Environment and Energy Publishing's Energy Wire:

“It's not just something that's up in Canada,” Utah Tar Sands Resistance member Raphael Cordray told E&E. “People don't know it's here in Utah. Our goal is to get the citizens of Utah to recognize that there's a proposed tar sands site in Utah that could become the first commercial site in America, and what is at stake.”

Utah has about a third of the roughly 36 billion barrels of tar sands oil thought to be located in the U.S. Not all of that is estimated to be technically or commercially recoverable, however. Tar sands contain a form of petroleum called bitumen that can be refined into gasoline. But the process is costly, energy-intensive, and on a life-cycle basis releases far more global warming pollutants than conventional oil refining operations.

U.S. Oil Sands, the Canadian based company that is working to develop the Utah deposits, has leases on about 32,000 acres of land in the state. The company was granted permits to begin production by the state in 2009. But it faces a legal challenge from an environmental group, Living Rivers, which fears tar sands production will harm Utah's desert and mountain landscapes.

Meanwhile, supporters of another dirty fossil fuel, oil shale, have been making a political ruckus in a number of counties in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming — organized by a former Bush administration Interior Department official who now directs a Utah state office focused on energy development on federal lands in the state.

(More) Original story here.

By Tom Kenworthy on Apr 26, 2012

UN Chief Calls For Doubling Of Renewable Energy By 2030

UN chief Ban Ki-moon made a call to double global consumption of renewable energy over the next two decades in order to ensure sustainable economic development. “It’s possible if we show political leadership,” Ban said about the goal that falls under a sustainable energy initiative aiming to have universal access to power by 2030. Currently, renewable energy accounts for about 16 percent of world consumption. [AFP]

If you want to appreciate what Barack Obama is up against in 2012, forget about the front man who is his nominal opponent and look instead at the Republican billionaires buying the ammunition for the battles ahead. [New York Magazine]

Researchers have found that climate change is likely to have far greater influence on the volatility of corn prices over the next three decades than factors that recently have been blamed for price swings — like oil prices, trade policies and government biofuel mandates. [New York Times]

Researchers warned that global warming threatens the water supply for urban communities in Arizona, in a new report funded by the Department of Commerce. [The Oklahoman]

(More) Original story here.

By Stephen Lacey on Apr 23, 2012

Five Reasons We Can’t Forget About The BP Oil Disaster

The Lasting Impact Of Deepwater Horizon
Two years ago an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico took the lives of 11 men and spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. It took 9,700 vessels, 127 aircraft, 47,829 people, nearly 2 million gallons of toxic dispersants, and 89 days to stop the gush of oil. But the work to restore the ecosystem and Gulf economy has only just begun.

The regional oil and gas industry hasn’t skipped a beat despite claims from Big Oil and drilling advocates in Congress that the moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed in the wake of the spill devastated the Gulf economy. The New Orleans Times-Picayune found that oil-fueled economies in the Houma area are humming along just fine. And according to a recent Reuters analysis, Gulf drillers will be busier this year than at any point since the spill, adding eight new deepwater rigs and bringing the total count to 29, just shy of pre-spill levels.

But even though BP’s slick new ads show sparkling beaches and flourishing marshes, the perception that everything is fine in the Gulf is far from the truth. Last week Garret Graves, top coastal advisor to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, said the state “still has 200 miles of oiled coast,” including “very clear, retrievable oil in coastal areas,” and called the current conditions “unacceptable.”

While the Obama administration took steps to strengthen offshore drilling safety and oversight, much remains to be done. Tourism in the region has rebounded this year but the Gulf Coast is still struggling with the lingering effects of the spill and will likely continue to do so for decades to come. Here are five reasons the Gulf deserves renewed attention:

(More) Original story here.

by Kiley Kroh and Michael Conathan, on Apr 20, 2012

What Future Does Nuclear Power Have in Japan?

Almost a year after the Fukushima disaster, 52 of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants have been shut down. The reactor explosion destroyed the population’s trust in nuclear energy. But the atomic lobby -- and the country’s industrial needs -- could block a possible phase-out.
An icy wind blows through the center of Rikuzentakata. Standing in front of the remains of his town hall, Mayor Futoshi Toba, 47, looks out on a scene of utter desolation. Only a few ruins of steel and concrete dot the landscape: a school, a hospital, a post office and a supermarket. Along the shoreline, four floodlight towers stand like ghostly sentinels. The sports arena that they once illuminated has been largely swallowed by the sea.

Almost one year ago, Toba stood on the same spot. The earth shook on the afternoon of March 11, 2011 -- and he would have preferred to immediately run home and check on his wife -- but he remained at his post. He wanted to bring to safety as many of his city’s inhabitants as he could while a 14-meter (46-foot) tsunami wave was racing toward the coast.

Nearly one-tenth of the 23,000 inhabitants of Rikuzentakata died in the disaster. Entire city districts have been transformed into a muddy, gray mire.

Bulldozers have formed a number of piles from the rubble and debris left by the tsunami. For nearly a year now, the survivors have been clearing away the remains of their city -- and meticulously separating wood, concrete, electrical scrap and wrecked cars.

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami claimed the lives of some 20,000 people, including Toba’s wife Kumi. And yet, to this day, the memory of this tragedy is overshadowed by another disaster -- the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi. Tens of thousands of people have since had to be evacuated from the contaminated region.

An Energy Crisis

Fukushima has significantly changed everyday life in Japan. Nevertheless, it appears that the island nation will also collectively meet this challenge with the same discipline and stoicism with which it has endured its gradual economic decline over the past two decades.

(More) Original story here.

Reuters, 2 January, 2012

An Open Letter to Fellow Environmentalists

The earth isn’t dying; it is being killed. And “clean energy” will only make things worse.
I should probably begin by introducing myself; my name is Alex, and I’m a recovering renewable energy advocate. For years, I was a victim of desperation and hope; I petitioned and parlayed, chanted and canvassed; I brimmed with excitement at the prospect of “green jobs” and a “renewable energy economy.” I still see much of myself in many of you.

I know what it’s like. I know exactly how it feels to look around and see a world not just dying but being suffocated, being tortured and maimed, sacrificed on the twin altars of profit and production. As a young person today, I know what it’s like to fear the future, to fear for my future. I—like many of you—have read all the studies and reports I need to see to know what’s coming, what disaster is now screaming, all but unchallenged, down the track upon us.

I know what it’s like to want a way out, a path from this desert of despair to something, anything that will shift us from the deadly course our society is on, some simple solution, the kind of sane idea that even a politician could support.

Like many of you, for years I thought “clean energy” was the answer to the despair that weighs heavier on our collective shoulders and conscience every day. It seemed realistic. It seemed achievable. It seemed aesthetic. And most importantly, I thought it would save the planet.

(More) Original story here.

by Deep Green Resistance, 19 March, 2012

Japanese electrical power

--- So if the Japanese government goes insolvent -- which it will -- and all the power companies go insolvent -- which they will -- then who’s going to contain the reactors at Fukushima? Who is going to contain and control Reactor #2? -- MCR

Ratio of electric power generated by thermal plants surpasses 70% following nuke crisi The ratio of electric power generated by thermal power plants in Japan has surpassed 70 percent following the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns, while that by nuclear plants, which stood at over one-fourth, has fallen below 3 percent, say industry insiders.

Since fuel for thermal plants is more expensive than that for nuclear plants, all nine electric power companies in Japan that have nuclear plants are estimated to have run into the red in the business year that ended in March this year. Okinawa Electric Power Co. in Okinawa Prefecture has no nuclear power stations.

In February last year, the month before the disaster, 36 of 54 commercial nuclear reactors owned by the nine companies were in operation, generating 26.81 percent of power consumed in their service areas.

Following the accident, however, many of the nuclear reactors were stopped one after another for regular inspections and for other reasons, and the number of such reactors in operation had decreased to a mere three by February this year. As a result, the ratio of power generated by such plants declined to 2.46 percent.

In contrast, the ratio of electricity generated by thermal power stations, which had stood at 50.08 percent, sharply rose to 73.82 percent. The ratio for hydraulic power stations remains largely unchanged.

Read the source article.

Mainichi News, 26 March, 2012

With Fossil Fuels In The Spotlight, Clean Tech Hums Along

In the Canadian province of Alberta, the Athabasca Oil Sands and the Keystone Pipeline are not the only important energy stories. In Alberta’s capital of Edmonton, Montreal-based Enerkem is building a full-scale commercial plant that will use a thermo-chemical process to convert up to 100,000 metric tons of municipal solid waste into syngas, which is then converted into methanol and ethanol.

Enerkem’s project partners, the city of Edmonton and an NGO called Alberta Innovates, contributed $20 million to the project, which will be one of the world’s largest waste-to-energy facilities when it begins operations next year. In the heart of fossil-fuel country, the target output of the plant is 10 million gallons of biofuels per year, from one of the most sustainable feedstocks on the planet: garbage.

by Clint Wilder, Apr 4, 2012

Solar Policy Can Advance (Or Delay) Grid Parity By A Decade

In their excellent interactive graphic, Bloomberg Energy Finance calls solar grid parity (when electricity from solar costs less than grid power) the “golden goal.” It’s an excellent illustration of how the right energy policy can help a nation go gold on solar or wallow in metallurgical obscurity. In the case of the U.S., it may mean delaying grid parity by eight years.

In the graphic we link to, countries in purple have reached the golden goal in 2012, based on the quality of their solar resource and the cost of grid electricity, as well as a 6% expected return on investment for solar developers.

by John Farrell, Apr 2, 2012

Batteries for the Electricity Grid

In this TED Video Prof. Donald Sadoway explains his technique for teaching students to become inventors. Find a good student, give him a very hard task and promise him a PhD. if he succeeds.

The plan is to produce batteries the size of a 40 foot container, with enough power to produce energy for 200 houses for a day. If these units were places in subburban areas, local wind or solar power surplus could cahnrge the battery and if the grid fails for some reason, power supply could continue for some time. Surges in power supply would be moderated by the battery. The reliability of the grid would be improved.

Safety Concerns, Citizen Outrage Pushing Nuclear Power Out

Japan now has only one nuclear reactor still operating

Source - Common Dreams

Japan is moving closer towards suspending nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Of the 54 nuclear reactors in the country, only one is now in operation, and even that one may cease operations in May, says the power company.

People living near the nuclear power plants have refused to allow the government to restart reactors after undergoing stress tests, and nuclear opposition in the country is high.

Before the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the country had gotten about a third of its power from nuclear plants.

Greenpeace Japan’s executive director Junichi Sato stated, "Japan is practically nuclear free, and the impact on daily life is invisible," and said that there was "absolutely no need to rush restarts of nuclear plants."

Natural Gas Industry Must Tighten Up Methane Leaks

In a stunning report last year, the National Center for Atmospheric Research concluded that substituting natural gas for coal as an energy source would actually increase global warming for many decades “ unless methane leakage rates can be kept below 2%.

Even though we don’t know much about the actual leakage rate for methane “ the major component of natural gas and a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 “ that NCAR study is bad news. It’s especially bad for shale gas, in part because hydraulic fracturing is believed to have a higher life-cycle leakage rate during the production and transport phases of development.

In a separate NOAA study in February, researchers found that natural gas companies in a Colorado field were losing about 4% of methane during production, and that doesn’t include the losses from leaks in the pipeline and distribution system.

Mar 29, 2012 - by Tom Kenworthy

6 Things You Should Know About The Value Of Renewable Energy

Clean energy should play a central role in revitalizing our economy, putting Americans back to work, and keeping America on the cutting edge of innovation and growth. Recently a slew of misguided attacks on the merits of clean energy have exchanged petty partisanship for hard facts.

Here are the top six things you really need to know:
Clean energy is competitive with other types of energy
Clean energy creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels
Clean energy improves grid reliability
Clean energy investment has surpassed investments in fossil fuels
Investments in clean energy are cost effective
Fossil fuels have gotten 75 times more subsidies than clean energy

by Adam James - Mar 28, 2012

Energy Policy: Denmark Affirms Commitment To 100% Renewable Energy By 2050

Denmark is known for being a world leader in wind electricity. But there’s so much more to the country’s renewable energy sector that deserves attention.

A recent package of targets passed by the Danish parliament illustrates why diversity is key to a strong clean energy policy.

This week, lawmakers in Denmark agreed upon a new set promotion programs for efficiency and renewable energy that will put the country on a path to getting 100% of electricity, heat and fuels from renewable resources by 2050.

With a 50% wind penetration target, Denmark is still putting a lot of stock in wind. But the recent package is notable for its comprehensive approach to combined heat and power, biogas, geothermal heat pumps, and biofuels ” with strong national financing mechanisms to tie all of these sectors together.

Mar 27, 2012