How can we not allow undeveloped nations and the poor to use fossil fuel energy?

December 18, 2017

Greenpeace and Tcktcktck volunteers raise a wind turbine on the beach at dawn in Durban, South Africa. Microgrid News image

Greenpeace and Tcktcktck volunteers raise a wind turbine on the beach at dawn in Durban, South Africa. Microgrid News image

How can we not allow undeveloped nations to catch the first world with fossil fuel energy? Katharine Hayhoe explains at Global Weirding.

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Wind power ready for its closeup?

June 27, 2015

Climate Progress used this photo in a Tweet touting Denmark’s wind power progress:

Denmark sets world record for wind power production http://thkpr.gs/3608898   (No other photo information in Tweet)

Denmark sets world record for wind power production http://thkpr.gs/3608898 (Photo credit: flickr/Vattenfall)

Awesome photograph, a 21st century version of those photos of men, machines, bridges and other industrial objects admired for their symmetry and sharp shadows from the 1920s and 1930s. I would guess it was captured by an airplane passenger passing over the at-sea windfarms springing up around Europe’s Atlantic Coast, off the coast of Denmark, if Climate Progress editors were careful.

Scientifically, the photo shows what happens when windmills reduce the air pressure downwind of the blades — condensation can suddenly become visible.  Condensation trails from windmills (won’t that vex the hell out of chemtrails tinfoil hatters?).

The photo illustrates what should be good news:

Denmark has been long been a pioneer in wind power, having installed its first turbines in the mid-1970s when oil shocks sent the import-dependent nation on a quest for energy security. Thirty-seven years later, the country has set a new world record for wind production by getting 39.1 percent of its overall electricity from wind in 2014. This puts the Northern European nation well on track to meet its 2020 goal of getting 50 percent of its power from renewables.

The news of Denmark’s feat adds to the national records the U.K. and Germany set for 2014 and further establishes Europe as a leader in the wind power industry. This is especially true when it comes to offshore resources, as countries like Scotland, England, and Denmark build out their offshore wind farms. Wind generated enough electricity to power just over 25 percent of U.K. homes in 2014 — a 15 percent increase from 2013. In December, Germany generated more wind power, 8.9 terawatt-hours, than in any previous month.

A big source of the surge of Denmark’s wind production this year came from the addition of around 100 new offshore wind turbines. In January of 2014, the peninsular country got just over 61 percent of its power from wind. This is more than three times the overall production of 10 years ago, when wind only made up 18.8 percent of the energy supply. The country has a long-term goal of being fossil fuel-free by 2050.

Anti-greens, and rational conservationists, see trouble though. Anti-greens holler that the windmills “kill birds,” as if the coal power plants the windmills displace do less environmental damage.  They will bring this up in every discussion of alternative energy sources, and in every discussion of working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to decrease pollution and damage from climate change.  I suppose they want us to throw up our hands and give up on conservation.  (Industry agents like CFACT have no compunction against giving half-truths on these issues.)

Conservationists, like Chris Clarke, see the dangers.  Bird kills do occur at wind farms, in greater numbers than any conservationist is comfortable with.  Off-shore wind farms could hammer migrating populations of songbirds and other migratory fowl, in addition to the sea-dwelling birds.  Few solid studies on bird damage exist.  We are particularly the dark about the songbirds, who migrate in enormous avian clouds at night.  An article in Nature sums up issues:

Wind turbines kill far fewer birds in general each year than do many other causes linked to humans, including domestic cats and collisions with glass windows. But wind power has a disproportionate effect on certain species that are already struggling for survival, such as the precarious US population of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos canadensis).

“The troubling issue with wind development is that we’re seeing a growing number of birds of conservation concern being killed by wind turbines,” says Albert Manville, a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Arlington, Virginia.

It is good news that wind power can replace fossil fuels. But industrial-sized enterprises inherently create environmental problems. Our policy makers need to be alert to the issues involved, and create incentives for development of alternative energy sources that will prevent our falling into the rut of industrial development that comes at enormous costs pushed to future generations.

Who is looking out for the birds? Can there be anyone who argues we should give up on climate change because of problems from alternative energy, really?

Chris Clarke tells us the problems, that we need accurate, relevant information, and we don’t have a methodical process to get it:

The issue of eagles being harmed by wind turbines in the U.S. is a huge topic, to put it mildly. And yet a paper documenting two eagle mortalities at a wind turbine facility in the last 20 years is “conceptually novel” enough to merit publication in a prestigious wildlife science journal.

Put it this way: The scientific community has more information on deaths among marine mammals, which spend much of their time in places it’s hard for us to get to, than it does about injuries and deaths to rather conspicuous birds in industrial facilities. Hell, we have better, more solid data on planets outside our solar system than we do on eagle mortalities at wind energy plants in California.

One could ask the rhetorical question “why is that the case,” but it’s almost a waste of time: it’s because wind energy companies would strongly prefer that data never gets released to the public.

And that’s what peer-reviewed journals are, for all their abstruse language and incomprehensible math and absurd paywalls: public information. Once that data gets analyzed and put in context by independent biologists, it becomes available to us all.

[USGS research ecologist Jeffrey] Lovich puts it this way:

Minimizing wildlife mortality at wind farms is a major goal of conservation, although research on how best to do that is in short supply. Compiling and publishing accurate data on mortality of Golden Eagles over time is an important first step in efforts to protect these iconic birds.

And doing so in the clear light of day is crucial if we in the public are ever to make scientifically sound decisions about our energy policy, regardless of whether we put windpower or wildlife first.

Who will provide that information? Who will even ask for it? If we can’t get consensus on whether we should save humanity’s home on Earth, how can we get consensus on asking the questions about how to go about it, and how to learn how to do it?


Happy birthday Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; 53 years

December 6, 2013

Icy day here in Dallas, we missed a lot of dates that should have been commemorated.

Let’s catch this one:  The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) was created 53 years ago today in the administration of Dwight Eisenhower, by Interior Secretary Fred A. Seaton.

Happy 53rd birthday to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge! @USFWSHQ @USFWSRefuges #Alaska pic.twitter.com/2popb7EAvz

Photo probably not taken this week:  From the US Department of Interior: Happy 53rd birthday to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge! @USFWSHQ @USFWSRefuges #Alaska pic.twitter.com/2popb7EAvz

ANWR finds itself the center of controversy, now, because of the possibility of oil underneath it, and the difficulty of getting that oil without destroying wildlife habitat, or the possibility of destructive oil spills.  For an understanding of the issues, visit ANWR’s website and the non-partisan discussion there.

Odd that land so severely beautiful, so far out of the way and so difficult to master, has its fate decided in marble halls in Washington, D.C., 3,172 miles distant. The United States is a big, sprawling nation.

Information on the ANWR:

History and Culture

Refuge Establishment: Legislation and Purposes

The Arctic Refuge was established in 1960 and expanded in 1980.


Refuge History

The Arctic Refuge has been providing for the physical and emotional well-being of humans for many thousands of years. It remains an important resource to help sustain local Eskimo and Indian cultures. The Refuge continues to be valued, even by those who never travel within it’s borders, as a symbol of America’s vast and remote wilderness – a place of inspiration and beauty – a promise for the future for all Americans.

Local Cultures

The lands of the Arctic Refuge continue to support the Inupiat Eskimo and Gwich’in Indian peoples who have lived here for centuries.

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3,172 miles between the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Washington, D.C.

3,172 miles between the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Washington, D.C.


Selling wind energy leases off the coast of Virginia: Is this a good idea?

September 16, 2013

Contrary to the claims of President Obama’s critics, his administration is proceeding to develop energy resources in new areas.

Just a couple of weeks ago experimental wind energy sites off the coast of Virginia were auctioned off.

Wind power farm at sea; Clemson University image, of unidentified ocean-based wind farm.

Wind power farm at sea; Clemson University image, of unidentified ocean-based wind farm.

Can these tracts be developed responsibly?  I have not followed the issue, and I have not read the Environmental Impact Statement on this sale (surely there was one, since this is a “significant federal act” with great impact on these waters and the coast of Virginia).  Surely this is safer and cleaner than oil leases; enough cleaner?  Far enough away to avoid destructive effects on wildlife and other resources?

What do you think?

Here’s the press release from the Department of Interior:

Interior Holds Second Competitive Lease Sale for Renewable Energy in Federal Waters


Historic Sale for Wind Energy Development Offshore Virginia Advances President’s Climate Action Plan

09/04/2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to create American jobs, develop domestic clean energy sources and cut carbon pollution, the Interior Department today completed the nation’s second competitive lease sale for renewable energy in federal waters, garnering $1,600,000 in high bids for 112,799 acres on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Virginia.

Virginia Electric and Power Company is the provisional winner of the sale, which auctioned a Wind Energy Area approximately 23.5 nautical miles off Virginia Beach that has the potential to support 2,000 megawatts of wind generation – enough energy to power more than 700,000 homes.

The sale follows a July 31 auction of 164,750 acres offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts for wind energy development that was provisionally won by Deepwater Wind New England, LLC, generating $3.8 million in high bids.

“This year’s second offshore wind lease sale is another major milestone in the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and demonstrates continued momentum behind a robust renewable energy portfolio that will help to keep our nation competitive and expand domestic energy production while cutting carbon pollution,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Today’s sale is the result of a great deal of collaboration and planning with the Commonwealth of Virginia, which has been a leader in advancing offshore renewable energy for the Atlantic coast and an enthusiastic partner in this effort.”

“Today’s renewable energy lease sale offshore Virginia is another significant step forward in the President’s call for action to address climate change and the Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy Beaudreau. “I congratulate Virginia Electric and Power Company and we look forward to overseeing their development of the Virginia wind energy area, which will create jobs, increase our energy security and provide abundant sources of clean renewable power.”

Efforts to spur responsible development of offshore wind energy are part of a series of Obama Administration actions to increase renewable energy both offshore and onshore by improving coordination with state, local and federal partners. The Virginia Renewable Energy Task Force has been a leading agent in intergovernmental collaboration for wind energy development offshore Virginia.

Since 2009, Interior has approved 47 wind, solar and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands, including associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids. When built, these projects could provide more than 13,300 megawatts – enough energy to power more than 4.6 million homes and support more than 19,000 construction and operations jobs.

As part of the President’s comprehensive Climate Action Plan, he has challenged Interior to re-double efforts on its renewable energy program by approving an additional 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands and waters by 2020.

At the same time, under the Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, domestic oil and gas production has grown each year President Obama has been in office, with domestic oil production currently higher than at any time in two decades; natural gas production at its highest level ever; and renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources having doubled. Combined with recent declines in oil consumption, net oil imports in 2012 fell to the lowest level in 20 years.”

BOEM auctioned the Wind Energy Area offshore Virginia as a single lease, containing 19 whole Outer Continental Shelf blocks and 13 sub-blocks. For a map of the Wind Energy Area, click here.

The auction lasted 1 day, consisting of 6 rounds before determining the provisional winner. In addition to Virginia Electric and Power Company the following company participated in the auction: Apex Virginia Offshore Wind, LLC. Following the auction, the Attorney General, in consultation with the Federal Trade Commission, will have 30 days in which to complete an antitrust review of the auction.

The lease will have a preliminary term of six months in which to submit a Site Assessment Plan to BOEM for approval. A Site Assessment Plan describes the activities (e.g., installation of meteorological towers and buoys) the lessee plans to perform for the assessment of the wind resources and ocean conditions of its commercial lease.

After a Site Assessment Plan is approved, the lessee will have up to four and a half years in which to submit a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for approval, which provides a detailed outline for the construction and operation of a wind energy project on the lease. If the COP is approved, the lessee will have an operations term of 33 years.

BOEM is expected to announce additional auctions for Wind Energy Areas offshore Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts later this year and in 2014.

For more information on what’s going on offshore Virginia, visit BOEM’s website.

23 miles puts it far enough out that it’s generally out of sight from shore.  Out of sight, out of mind?  Out of danger?  Out of disaster potential?

Does a coal-power company’s winning these leases suggest a scheme to keep wind power from being developed, to improve the case for coal?

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Electricity in the air, times 2

September 1, 2013

Spectacular photo of Glen Canyon Dam, in the early morning, with a thunderstorm to the north.  This photo was taken close to the spot where Norman Rockwell painted the dam about 40 years ago.

 Electricity is in the air at Glen Canyon! Although the Glen Canyon Dam produces hydroelectric power around the clock, an early morning thunderstorm really cranked up the voltage earlier this month. Use caution when planning your upcoming outdoor activities as intense thunderstorms are common this time of year. (Photo Credit: David Bailey)

Electricity is in the air at Glen Canyon! Although the Glen Canyon Dam produces hydroelectric power around the clock, an early morning thunderstorm really cranked up the voltage earlier this month. Use caution when planning your upcoming outdoor activities as intense thunderstorms are common this time of year. (Bureau of Reclamation/Interior Facebook entry; photo Credit: David Bailey)

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Norman Rockwell's tribute to the Glen Canyon Dam.  Bureau of Reclamation image

Norman Rockwell’s tribute to the Glen Canyon Dam. Bureau of Reclamation image


Wind power fastest growing energy segment?

August 6, 2013

It was a Tweet from the Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, so it must be so:

Wind Technologies Market Report 2012, from the U.S. Department of Energy

Wind Technologies Market Report 2012, from the U.S. Department of Energy

Generally good trends.  Chris Clarke and the Californians defending the deserts think windfarms are blots on the California deserts — and they’re right — but we can find lots of other places to put them in.

Texas showed greatest growth in windpower among the states.  South Dakota, Iowa and Kansas now get more than 20% of their electricity from wind generation.

Work needs to be done to make these bird-friendlier, especially friendlier to raptors. Solvable problems, I think.

What do you think?

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Rude giant: Jail him, or make him a tax payer?

September 4, 2012

What do you do with someone who is obnoxious and rude, and a giant besides?  You can’t duke it out with him . . .

More than just a clever ad for an electricity company, this piece really gets at the heart of the differences between the Republican view of the world, presented by the Romney campaign, and the Democratic view of the world, as exemplified by the Obama administration.

Romney Signs Wind Turbine In Iowa

Yeah, but he didn’t think anyone was watching: Romney Signs Wind Turbine In Iowa (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service) (Now Mitt thinks he built it, ignoring the union guys and other laborers who did.)

First, the obvious comparison:  Romney promises to kill subsidies for wind power, doubling down on America’s dependence on fossil fuels, especially oil.  To the GOP platform, wind is a rude giant, perhaps worthy of ignoring, but in not case worthy of giving a job to do.  To the Obama administration, every watt of power generated by wind is a watt that doesn’t need to be generated by coal, oil or gas, freeing up those fuels for other work, and decreasing U.S. dependence on oil imported from Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

Which treatment is more likely to increase the nation’s energy security and move the U.S. towards oil independence?

Second, the story carries metaphorical value, for the rest of the agendas of the two campaigns.  Consider the Rude Giant as an out of work person, someone who is unemployed.  The Romney campaign’s answer is that this fellow needs to become an entrepreneur, change his ways, change his behaviors, develop some other talents other than those God gave him, and maybe he’ll be successful; to encourage him to change himself, the Romney platform calls for pulling the rug out from under the poor guy so he’ll have to do something different or die.  Democratic platform stands for retraining, great education in the first place, good benefits and a safety net that works — to get the former taxpayer back on his feet and, coincidentally, paying taxes again soon.

Guess which plan is cheaper to taxpayers, in operation?

What’s the reality:  This past summer I drove through ten different states and the District of Columbia.  Only in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. did I not see vast new “wind farms” of windmills, or pass on the road the massive truck trailers carrying parts for wind turbine installations.  As it turns out, that was because I didn’t drive to the area of Maryland and Virginia with wind farms.  Only D.C. lacks a windfarm, out of the states I visited (Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado were the others).  Wind is big business and growing.

Why would any candidate try to choke off windpower growth, in tough economic times?

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Update on resources, September 13, 2012:


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