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?


Top 15 places to stargaze in California’s BLM lands

June 16, 2015

I’m stealing this wholesale from the Tumblr site of the U.S. Department of Interior, America’s Great Outdoors.

The site features great Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sites often, and this week will highlight places on BLM lands in California that are great for stargazing.  They call it a “social media takeover” of the feed by California BLM.

How good is the star watching? Look at these photographs.  (I’ve added a few comments of my own.)

Piper Mountains Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

Piper Mountains Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

Another great place to see the Milky Way.

King Range National Conservation Area, California, by Bob Wick

King Range National Conservation Area, California, by Bob Wick

These photos are stunning. These .gifs also demonstrate how the atmosphere really is a fluid, flowing over mountains — “the curvaceous hills of California,” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called them in a travelogue he delivered from the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.  Teachers, not just great geography illustrations, but also illustrations for environmental science and physics.

Amargosa Wild and Scenic River, California, by Bob Wick

Amargosa Wild and Scenic River, California, by Bob Wick

 

San Gorgonio Wilderness, California, by Dan Maus

San Gorgonio Wilderness, California, by Dan Maus

 

Slinkard Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

Slinkard Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

Slinkard Wilderness? I admit I do not know of some of these places.  I’m willing to learn, first hand . . .

Kingston Range Wilderness, BLM California, by Bob Wick, BLM

Kingston Range Wilderness, BLM California, by Bob Wick, BLM

 

California Coastal National Monument, California, by Bob Wick

California Coastal National Monument, California, by Bob Wick

California Coastal National Monument reminds me that Republicans in Congress push a proposal to prevent future presidents from protecting such lands with National Monument designation under the Antiquities Act. Critics say these BLM lands are not special enough to merit protection.

Do the photos say otherwise?

North Maricopa Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

North Maricopa Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

 

Cadiz Dunes Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

Cadiz Dunes Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

 

Point Arena-Stornetta in California Coastal National Monument, California, by Bob Wick

Point Arena-Stornetta in California Coastal National Monument, California, by Bob Wick

 

A printer-friendly, and search engine-friendly list of the sites above, if you’re putting them into your GPS or search feature to plan your vacation:

mypubliclands:

June #conservationlands15 Social Media Takeover: Top 15 Places to Stargaze on the #mypubliclandsroadtrip in BLM California

1. Amargosa Wild and Scenic River
2. Cadiz Dunes Wilderness
3. California Coastal National Monument
4. Carrizo Plain National Monument
5. Fort Ord National Monument
6. Kingston Range Wilderness
7. Little Black Sands Beach in King Range National Conservation Area
8. Lost Coast Trail at King Range National Conservation Area
9. North Maricopa Wilderness
10. Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area
11. Piper Mountains Wilderness
12. Point Arena-Stornetta in California Coastal National Monument
13. San Gorgonio Wilderness
14. Slinkard Wilderness
15. Whipple Mountains Wilderness

Thanks for following the June #conservationlands15 features on My Public Lands Tumblr, and our takeover of americasgreatoutdoors Instagram account (https://instagram.com/usinterior/). Stay tuned all week as the #mypubliclandsroadtrip visits these top 15 California spots for stargazing and much more.

Bob Wick and Dan Maus may have the best jobs in U.S. government service, judging by their photos.  Nice of them to share.

What do your shots from those places look like?  Show us in comments, maybe?


Milky Way at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P.

June 14, 2015

From the Facebook site of the U.S. Department of Interior: Visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado and see some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock and craggiest spires in North America. Pictured here is a stunning shot of the #MilkyWay rising above the Black Canyon. Photo courtesy of Greg Owens — at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

From the Facebook site of the U.S. Department of Interior: Visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado and see some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock and craggiest spires in North America. Pictured here is a stunning shot of the #MilkyWay rising above the Black Canyon. Photo courtesy of Greg Owens — at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Looking at that river, it’s difficult to understand that it’s just half the flow.  Ranchers and farmers bored a tunnel to channel half the water of the river to the Uncompahgre Valley through the 5 mile-long Gunnison Tunnel, completed in 1909.  Many of the overlooks into the incredibly steep canyon reveal only snippets of the ribbon of water that runs the whole length of the canyon.

I like how this photograph captures reflected light off the water, and makes the river appear easier to see than it usually is, especially at night.

Stunning geology, great hikes — you should go.

Especially you should go if you think about the geology that contradicts creationism.  The canyon is loaded with volcanic inserts that deny flood geology and every other geological distortion offered by creationists, maybe better than the Grand Canyon in that regard.

More:


Milky Way from a meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park

June 3, 2015

Ready to go camping this summer?

Wilderness Society Tweeted: Starry sky from near Beaver Meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo by Bryce Bradford

Wilderness Society Tweeted: Starry sky from near Beaver Meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo by Bryce Bradford

Bryce Bradford captured the Milky Way from Beaver Meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park.

More:


Public lands: St. Anthony Sand Dunes, Idaho

May 28, 2015

St. Anthony Sand Dunes, Idaho -- a part of the undifferentiated lands of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of Interior. #Sunset photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management - Idaho.

St. Anthony Sand Dunes, Idaho — a part of the undifferentiated lands of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of Interior. #Sunset photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management – Idaho.

From the Department of Interior Facebook page:

Located far from any ocean, the St. Anthony Sand Dunes appears as a rolling sea of sand on the eastern edge of Idaho’s volcanic Snake River Plain. These vast dunes are the largest in Idaho. They blanket an area approximately 35 miles long and 5 wide, and range from 50 to 500 feet high. These white quartz sand dunes are a unique and popular recreational area for off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, hikers and equestrians. The best time to visit is spring through fall; summer temperatures cause sands to reach over 100 degrees. #Sunset photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management – Idaho.

One more stellar example of the great resources held by U.S. citizens for the future, for preservation — and for recreation and awe.

James and Michelle sent photos from their recent foray to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. Kathryn, Kenny, James and I camped at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah some years back, at the new Moon, the better to be wholly awestruck at the stars at night.

Michelle and James on top of a dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Michelle and James on top of a dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, 2015

Then there are the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Some dunes in Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park.  I can show you smaller collections of dunes on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations in Arizona and New Mexico.

Where else in America do we have marvelous dunes like these?  (I’ve missed some, I’m sure — tell me in comments.) When you start thinking about it, it’s a lot!

Each site well worth the time and trouble to get there.

Take your camera, and your memory-making machine.


New Appalachian Wildlife Refuge protects very rare species: Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge

May 15, 2015

A 39-acre donation from The Nature Conservancy and a lot of work by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy joined to birth a new National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

Welcome the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge.

Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of the less rare of the rare plants protected by the creation of the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. USFWS photo

Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of the less rare of the rare plants protected by the creation of the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. USFWS photo

The April 22, 2015, press release from USFWS:

New National Wildlife Refuge Established to Protect Some of Appalachia’s Rarest Places

April 22, 2015

Trout lily blooming at Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Trout lily blooming at Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Asheville, N.C. – The Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge became America’s 563rd refuge today.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Jim Kurth visited Western North Carolina to announce the establishment of a new national wildlife refuge devoted to the conservation of southern Appalachian mountain bogs, one of the rarest and most imperiled habitats in the United States.  North Carolina is home to 11 refuges; Mountain Bogs Refuge is the first one west of Charlotte.

“The establishment of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge marks a turning point in the efforts of a number of dedicated partners in preserving this unique and threatened habitat,” said Kurth. “It will provide a focal point for mountain bog conservation in the area, and highlights the importance of our National Wildlife Refuge System in preserving our nation’s spectacular biodiversity for future generations of Americans.”

“While western North Carolina has beautiful swaths of conserved public lands, mountain bogs, which are home to several endangered species, are largely unprotected,” said Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director for the Service’s Southeast Region.  “People have worked for decades to conserve these bogs, and creating this refuge was an opportunity to build on that effort in a significant way.”

The Nature Conservancy donated an easement on a 39-acre parcel in Ashe County, the site of Kurth’s visit, which formally establishes the refuge.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work by conservation partners at the local, state and national level,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Fred Annand, who coordinates the Conservancy’s acquisition work. “Many people have worked together for years to make today a reality. Successful conservation depends on partnership, and that’s certainly the case today.”

Mountain bogs are typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands. Important to wildlife and plants, mountain bogs are home to five endangered species – bog turtles, green pitcher plant, mountain sweet pitcher plant, swamp pink (a lily), and bunched arrowhead. They also provide habitat for migratory birds and game animals, including mink, woodcock, ruffed grouse, turkey, and wood duck. Bogs are breeding habitat for many species of amphibians, especially salamanders, of which the Southern Appalachians have the greatest diversity in the nation. Bogs also provide key benefits to humans. They have a natural capacity for regulating water flow, holding floodwaters like giant sponges and slowly releasing water to nearby streams decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts.

In addition to The Nature Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has long been active in bog conservation and has been supportive of establishing the new refuge.

“Southern Appalachian bogs are biodiversity hotspots,” said Kieran Roe, Executive Director at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “But they are disappearing from our region at a rapid rate. Less than 20 percent of the mountain bogs that once existed still remain, so their protection is critical.”

The refuge may eventually grow to 23,000 acres, depending on the willingness of landowners to sell and the availability of funds to purchase those lands. To guide acquisition, and bog conservation in general, the Service has identified 30 sites, or Conservation Partnership Areas, containing bogs and surrounding lands. These sites are scattered across Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Clay, Graham, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Transylvania, Wilkes and Watauga counties in North Carolina, and Carter and Johnson counties in Tennessee. The Service will look primarily within these Conservation Partnership Areas to acquire land and/or easements. For those acres that won’t be acquired, the Service will work to support private landowners in their stewardship activities. Funding to acquire land and easements would likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, funded by fees collected from the sale of publicly-owned offshore oil and gas drilling leases.

While some parts of the refuge would likely be too fragile for recreation, the Service anticipates other parts could be open for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, education, and interpretation.

The Service manages national wildlife refuges for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt created the first national wildlife refuge to protect brown pelican breeding grounds on the east coast of Florida. The Refuge System now includes 563 refuges across the nation, protecting more than 150 million acres. It’s the only system of federally-managed lands dedicated to wildlife. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/mountainbogs.

The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska. Refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov/refuges. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Our Dallas area trout lilies have all blossomed, weeks ago. Interesting that bog-bound trout lilies share so much in common with their drier land cousins a few thousand miles away.

More:


Happy New Year from Yellowstone NP

January 27, 2015

(Yeah, I’m behind. Tell me news.)

New Year’s felicitations from Yellowstone National Park.

The Yellowstone in winter is best, the old timers tell me.  I agree.

Details:

Published on Jan 1, 2015

Winter landscapes in Yellowstone inspire artist and NPS employee Lynn Bickerton Chan. Produced by NPS/Neal Herbert.  600


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,733 other followers

%d bloggers like this: