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January 27 2014

20:03

Renewables Account for 37 Percent of All New Electrical Generating Capacity in 2013

New electrical generating capacity in 2013

According to the just-released Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Office of Energy Projects, 37 percent of all new U.S. electrical generation deployed in 2013 came from renewable sources.

New electrical capacity provides clean power and jobs for AmericansEnergy sources including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind provided 5,279 megawatts (MW) of new installed electrical capacity in 2013, contrasting with coal, which ramped up only 1,543 MW, or just under 11 percent of total new generation. Oil produced 38 MW of new capacity or just 0.27 percent. Nuclear had no new capacity come online in 2013. Renewable sources of energy coming online in 2013 were three times that of coal, oil and nuclear combined.

Not surprisingly, natural gas provided most new electrical capacity, putting online 7,270 MW in 2013, or a bit more than 51 percent. The balance of new electrical capacity came from waste heat, providing  76 MW or 0.53 percent.

Solar leads renewables

Solar power led the pack among renewables, bringing online 266 new generating “units” for 2,936 MW of capacity. Wind followed with  1,129 MW of new generating capacity from 18 units. Behind solar and wind came 97 new biomass units generating 77 MW, hydro with 378 MW from 19 unites and geothermal with 4 new units producing 59 MW of new electrical generation.

New solar capacity last year grew 42.80 percent over the same period in 2012. In the two-year period from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013 renewable sources of energy provided 47.38 percent of new  of electrical generating capacity, for a total of 20,809 MW placed into service.

Renewable energy totals for U.S. electrical generation

As a whole, renewable energy sources account for 15.97 percent of total generating capacity* in the United States. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Hydro: 8.44 percent
  • Wind: 5.2 percent
  • Biomass: 1.36 percent
  • Solar: 0.64 percent
  • Geothermal: 0.33 percent

The total from renewable sources is now greater the nuclear and oil combined.

Renewable energy continues to expand in the US, providing more clean energy and jobs – a win-win for the environment and the economy

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* Generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources in the United States now totals about 13 percent according to the most recent data (i.e., as of November 2013) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Thanks to the SUN DAY Campaign:  a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

Image credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory, courtesy flickr

 

The post Renewables Account for 37 Percent of All New Electrical Generating Capacity in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 25 2013

17:59

Renewables can Power the World

Renewable can power the world: Gemasolar is a baseload solar thermal plant, using molten salt storage to run 24 hours per day.We already see strong evidence to support the contention that renewable energy can supply the world’s power needs. As explained in Worldwatch Institute, State of the World 2013, we need to move beyond fossil fuels before its too late.

“Renewable technologies broke all growth records in recent years,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy program, and contributing author of State of the World 2013.

“In 2011, new investments in renewables for the first time in modern history topped those in conventional energy technologies with clean energy investments in developing countries now outpacing those in many industrialized countries. These promising trends need to be accelerated, with action on all political levels. Science tells us that global greenhouse gas emissions have to peak well before 2020 if we want to avoid the danger of major climate disruptions.”

Despite the fact that we urgently need to transition away from hydrocarbon based energy systems, there are many who continue to deride renewables as an unstable and unpredictable source of power.  In an effort to debunk the myths about renewable energy being unpredictable, Karl-Friedrich Lenz coined the term “unreliables myth”. He was responding to critics who say that wind and solar only offer intermittent energy (the wind is not always blowing and the sun is not always shining).

Describing wind and solar as unreliable is inaccurate. First, photovoltaic solar and wind can be supplemented with storage capacity that enables them to provide uninterrupted power. A good example of a technique for creating storage capacity involves generating hydrogen with renewable energy which can be stored and used at will. Once you are producing large enough volumes of energy you can stockpile it and avoid concerns about intermittency.

Second, even if part of the energy grid uses intermittent renewable energy without storage, as long as there are other energy sources on the grid (ie concentrated solar power, hydro, and geothermal etc) there will be no interruption of supply.  Even if there is a shortage, this can be managed by smart grids, or as a worst case scenario, energy can occasionally be supplemented by hydrocarbons.

Despite these solutions, many continue to be doubtful about the possibility of an entirely renewable electrical grid. The old energy industry would like to have us believe that it will take at least 50 years before we can wean ourselves off of fossil fuels.

However,  this is refuted by the 50 nations that are currently meeting most of their energy needs with renewables. A total of 11 countries are supplying all of their power demands with renewables and some of these have become net exporters of clean energy.

Paraguay is one of those countries that gets all of its electricity from renewable energy while at the same time exporting 90 percent of its production. Renewable energy is not only clean it also provides good jobs.  Albania, which produces all of its electricity with renewables, is looking to create 100,000 green jobs by 2020.

The following list of countries get 60 percent or more of their electricity from renewable energy. It was compiled from data at the CO2 scorecard site. All the data is derived from this source with the exception of nations designated with an asterix, which are sourced from Wikipedia.

  • Afganistan (62%) *
  • Albania (100%).
  • Angola (96%)
  • Austria (73%)
  • Belize (90%)
  • Bhutan (99%)
  • Brazil (88%)
  • Burma/Myanmar (62%)
  • Burundi (100%)
  • Cameroon (77%)
  • Canada (61%)
  • Central African Republic (81%)
  • Columbia (85%)
  • Congo (82%)
  • Costa Rica (93%)
  • DPR Korea (61%)
  • DR Congo (99%)
  • Ecuador (64%)
  • El Salvador (62%)
  • Ethiopia (88%)
  • Fiji (68%)
  • Georgia (85%)
  • Ghana (75%)
  • Guatemala (61%)
  • Iberia (70%)
  • Iceland (100%)
  • Kenya (62%)
  • Kyrgyzstan (90%)
  • Lao PDR (92%)
  • Latvia (62%)
  • Lesotho (100%)
  • Madagascar (66%)
  • Malawi (86%)
  • Mozambique (99%)
  • Namibia (70%)
  • Nepal (99%)
  • New Zealand (72%)
  • North Korea (61%)*
  • Norway (97.11% )
  • Panama (63%)*
  • Paraguay (100%)
  • Peru (60% )
  • Portugal (70%)
  • Sweden (60%)
  • Tajikistan (98%)
  • Tanzania (61%)
  • Uganda (74%)
  • Uruguay (61%)
  • Venezuela (69%)
  • Zambia (99%)

As most of these figures date back to 2008, the percentage has in many cases increased over the last five years. It should also be noted that most of these states get their energy from hydroelectric projects, which although commonly considered a renewable energy, comes with a number of environmental concerns. Further, there are many small developing nations in this list which have limited power requirements. Nonetheless, this list demonstrates the viability of renewable energy, albeit on a small scale.

Developing countries are not the only ones ramping up renewable energy. In terms of developed nations, Germany is a recent standout for producing almost half of its energy needs from solar.  In the U.S., almost half of all new generating capacity installed in 2012 was renewable, and in Q1 2013, 49 percent of all new US electricity generation capacity came form solar.

A number of independent researchers have demonstrated that renewable energy sources can replace fossil fuels and provide for all of the world’s energy needs. This research has also debunked claims that the emissions attributable to intermittent power production from renewable sources offer only nominal reductions in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to fossil fuels.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has conducted research which demonstrates that green energy can affordably replace fossil fuels as the world’s primary source of electricity within 20 years.

The NOAA’s findings add to other studies that also support the feasibility of replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy. In 2011, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report which indicates that nearly 80 percent of global energy demand could be met by renewable sources of energy by 2050. Research published in 2009 by Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi also supports the contention that renewable energy can replace fossil fuels, as does research published in 2010 by Robert Howarth.

Sandy MacDonald, a director at NOAA said that wind and solar could supply 70 percent of electricity demand in the lower 48 states as soon as 2030.

Together the evidence supports the notion that we can meet our energy needs with renewable sources of energy. This is not just an urgent necessity, it is also a technologically and economically viable solution to the looming threats we face.

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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Beyond Coal and Gas, courtesy flickr

The post Renewables can Power the World appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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June 20 2013

19:13

Cleaner Power from Innovation: Creative Approaches to Renewable Energy

Renewable energy innovation is the key to a sustainable new energy economyInnovation is the key to the future and central to the expansion of renewable sources of energy. There are a number of innovations that could radically transform the clean energy equation. Although renewable energy is growing exponentially around the world these sources of power have a number of shortcoming that make it difficult to scale-up so that they can replace dirty energy sources like fossil fuels. However, those who doubt that renewable energy will be able to replace fossil fuels lack imagination. We need to get outside the box to envision a future powered entirely by clean energy.

Renewable sources of power are our only hope for the future as we cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels. Professor Lesley Hughes explains, “In order to achieve that goal of stabilizing the climate at two degrees or less, we simply have to leave about 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground, We cannot afford to burn them and still have a stable and safe climate.”

Here are a number of examples of recent innovations in renewable energy. While these examples only scratch the surface of creative approaches to clean energy, they give us an idea of some of the ways in which we may be able to provide for all of our power needs while minimizing our impact on the planet.

These innovations are broken down into the following five areas:  Wind, solar,  nano-technologies, small scale renewables, and hydrogen.

Wind energy

Concrete spheres: Offshore wind holds tremendous promise, however the intermittent and unpredictable presence of wind imposes limits on this technology.  Researchers at MIT have developed a way of storing wind energy to be used when there is no wind. This concept employs huge concrete spheres which anchor wind turbines to the sea floor. When a wind turbine produces more energy than is needed, power is diverted to drive a pump attached to the underwater structure, pumping seawater out of a 30-meter-diameter hollow sphere. Then when there is no wind the water would flow back into the sphere through a turbine attached to a generator, producing energy. Initial tests suggest that this is a viable cost effective technology.

Bladeless turbines: Conventional wind turbines are a large and growing source of energy but the turning blades have led to concerns about noise pollution and impacts on bird and bat populations. People have also complained that such wind turbines are an eyesore. The new concept developed by Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science faculty at Delft, converts wind to energy without any moving parts by using the movement of electrically charged water droplets to generate power.

Solar energy

Paper-printed solar cells: A printing process has been developed that harnesses the power of the sun. These simple solar cells can even be folded and unfolded. The robust new technology was developed by a team of researchers at MIT. The vapor-deposition process is inexpensive and scalable for commercial applications. It uses significantly less energy intensive materials (i.e. glass).

Optical battery: A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells. The so called “optical battery,” has overturned a century-old tenet of physics. The researchers found that a light field can generate magnetic effects that are 100 million times stronger than previously expected. Under these circumstances, the magnetic effects develop strength equivalent to a strong electric effect. This could lead to a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation. This new technique could make solar power much cheaper. Researchers predict that with improved materials they could convert solar power to useable energy equivalent to today’s commercial-grade solar cells.

Space Based Panels: Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and its partner Solaren are trying to get approval from US regulators to purchase 200 megawatts worth of solar energy delivered from solar panels located in space. Unlike the 2007 Pentagon study which concluded that space based solar panels are not economical, Solaren claims it has developed a technology that would make it commercially viable in the coming years.

Ceria Panels: Researchers are looking into the rare earth metal ceria, (also known as cerium oxide) to be incorporated into solar panels. What makes this metal so interesting is its ability to alternatively exhale and inhale oxygen as it heats up or cools down.

High efficiency thin-film: Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have managed to increase the efficiency of thin-film solar cells. They are employing computer simulations to probe deeper into the indium/gallium combination to increase the efficiency of Copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) thin-film solar cells.

Thermo-chemical panels: MIT researchers are investigating ways of capturing and releasing solar energy with the help of thermo-chemical technology. Although initially investigated in the seventies, it was found to be too expensive. MIT researchers are working to make this thermo-chemical technology more cost effective.

Nano-Science

Carbon nanotubes: The researchers of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found that carbon nanotubes discharge powerful waves of electricity under certain circumstances. The MIT team calls it thermopower waves.

Nano-photosynthesis: Nanoscience is working on duplicating the process known as photosynthesis where plants convert sunlight into chemical energy. A team of the University of Florida chemists is trying a new mechanism to transform light straight into motion.

Virus-built battery: Angela Belcher and her team of bioengineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a virus-built battery.

Superconducting nano-scale wires: Scientists from Bar-Ilan University, Israel, supported by U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) at Brookhaven National Laboratory are producing superconducting nano-scale wires to facilitate faster and more powerful electronic devices.

Small Scale

Window mounted solar panels: Designers, Kyuho Song & Boa Oh have developed a small window mounted solar panel. Its called the Window Socket and it pulls solar power to an internal battery, which can be either used immediately or saved for use during night time or when there is no sun. After 8 hours of charging, the socket provides the user with 10 hours of electricity.

Portable Wind Power: There are several “back-pack” style devices that are on the market including the Rose Wind Turbine. This turbine is a small portable device that fits neatly into the trunk of a car.

Hydrogen

Electrocatalysts that can be used in electrolyzers: Researchers at the University of Calgary are using electrocatalysts that can be used in electrolyzers, which can generate hydrogen. This relatively less expensive approach can create hydrogen energy generated from solar panels or wind turbines.  It can then be used when there is no sun or no wind. The Calgary Researchers have already formed a company, named FireWater Fuel, to commercialize the new catalysts. They hope to have a prototype soon.

No Catalyst: A new process is being tested by chemical engineers at Purdue University to get cost effective hydrogen production at fuel-cell temperature-level without the need for a catalyst.

Photosynthesis: Scientists from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are  working on a type of photosynthesis as a way to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Most of these technologies will never get off the ground to become commercially viable. However, renewable energy innovation is ongoing and we are finding ways of improving existing technologies or developing entirely new sources of clean power. It takes some imagination, but it is important to allow ourselves to see beyond the technological limitations we face today. The key is to think outside the box and not envision a future limited by the technologies of today.
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Sandia Labs, courtesy flickr

 

The post Cleaner Power from Innovation: Creative Approaches to Renewable Energy appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 30 2012

20:54

Electrical Generation Capacity from Renewable Sources Surges Under Obama


Electrical generating capacity and net output has grown significantly under the Obama administrationElectrical generation from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal has grown dramatically under the Obama administration says Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign.

Bossong cites two new government studies that show a near doubling of non-hydro renewable energy sources contributing to U.S. electrical generation since president Obama took office.

The latest issue of the Electric Power Monthly from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) analyzes data through June 2012. The report shows that from January 1 to June 30, 2012 non-hydro renewable energy sources (geothermal, biomass, solar, and wind) provided 5.76 percent of net electrical generation, an increase of 10.97 percent for the same period last year. Utility scale solar increased 97.2 percent from one year ago, wind generation grew 16.3 percent and geothermal by 0.2 percent. Biomass declined by 0.8 percent.

For the first half of 2012, wind contributed 3.84 percent of net electrical generation with biomass following at 1.4 percent, geothermal at 0.45 percent and finally solar with 0.09 percent – noting that this figure does not take into account the significant growth in small solar systems such as rooftop PV solar and other non-utility-scale solar projects. Another 7.86 percent of net generation came from conventional hydropower, which declined 14.3 percent from the same period in 2011.

During the last full year of the Bush administration, non-hydro renewable energy sources contributed 3.06 percent to net electrical generation, averaging 10,508 gigawatt-hours of output per month. Since then average monthly electrical generation has grown 78.70 percent from non-renewable sources with an output of 18,777 gigawatt-hours as of mid-2012. Electrical output from solar has grown by 285.19 percent in the period from 2008 to mid-2012, wind by 171.72 percent, and geothermal by 13.53 percent. Biomass has dropped by 0.56 percent.

The second government study come from the Energy Infrastructure Update from the Office of Energy Projects at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). According to the latest data 38 percent of all new electrical generating capacity for the first half of 2012 came from 229 renewable energy projects (“capacity” does not mean actual generation). Fifty new wind projects accounted for 2,367 Megawatts (MW)  of capacity, solar has 111 projects for 588 MW, 59 biomass projects contribute 271 MW, 5 geothermal projects for 87 MW, and finally 4 water power projects at 11MW.

Electrical generating capacity from new renewable sources were more than double than new capacity from coal, with only 2 new coal projects coming online,  contributing 1,608 MW of capacity. Renewable energy sources now contribute 14.76 percent of total installed generating capacity in the United States:

  • Hydro: 8.66%
  • Wind: 4.30%
  • Biomass: 1.23%
  • Geothermal: 0.31%
  • Solar: 0.26% (again, this figure accounts only for utility-scale projects, not the significant contribution from smaller PV solar systems)

Overall, natural gas leads with 41.83 percent and coal with 29.66 percent of total installed capacity. Nuclear power stands steady at 9.16 percent with the final 0.07 percent coming from waste heat.

“The numbers speak for themselves – notwithstanding politically-inspired criticism, the pro-renewable energy policies pioneered by the Obama Administration have proven their worth through dramatic growth rates during the past three and one-half years,” said Bossong. “The investments in sustainable energy made by the federal government as well as individual states and private funders have paid off handsomely underscoring the short-sightedness of proposals to slash or discontinue such support.”

 

August 29 2012

17:55

Mitt Romney’s Love Affair with the Fossil Fuel Industry


Romney's energy plan is made by and for the fossil energy industryRepublican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s “new” energy plan, relies on 19th century fossil fuel technology. It is but the latest incarnation of a longstanding Republican obsession with oil and gas. Romney’s energy strategy is reliant on Canada’s environmentally disastrous tar sands. He wants to expedite the Keystone XL pipeline, reduce regulations on hydraulic fracturing and ease the permitting process for offshore oil and gas. Romney wants to take regulatory power away from the federal government and give it to individual states. He wants to amend the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act and weaken the EPA’s ability to regulate pollution.

While Romney is pushing for more oil and gas, his plan does not advocate either conservation or efficiency. Instead he would end subsidies for renewable sources of energy like solar and wind.

The Republican convention in Florida was delayed due to concerns about Hurricane Isaac. The timing of Isaac is ironic given that GOP appears oblivious to the relationship between global warming and extreme weather. They do not see the powerful symbolism of four hurricanes, Andrew, Katrina, Irene and now Isaac, all landing at roughly the same time and in the same place.

The Republican presidential hopeful’s support for fossil fuels ignores the overwhelming price of extreme weather. With a cost of $81 billion and 1,836 dead, Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster in American history. About 20 years ago this week, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida; it cost $25 billion and killed 15 people. Hurricane Irene struck one year ago and caused an estimated $15 billion in damage while killing at least 67 people.

Romney continues to push for more offshore oil despite the fact that Hurricane Isaac will likely stir up oil left over from the massive Gulf spill of 2010. The remnants of that spill take the form of large tar mats that lie submerged just off the coast.

It appears nothing will deter Romney from pursuing his wanton desire to increase America’s reliance on oil and gas. As reviewed in a Grist article by Lisa Hymas, Mitt Romney’s 21 page energy strategy mentions oil a total of 154 times and natural gas 36 times. The document references coal more often than solar or wind energy and efficiency only gets mentioned once. His plan completely ignores the smart grid, sustainability and climate change.

Romney claims his fossil fuel fixation will create jobs and he eschews government support for renewable energy. However, clean energy has been a great jobs creator, in many cases far more than the fossil fuel industry. In Iowa alone, 7,000 jobs have been created in the wind power industry. Thanks to the wind production tax credit (PTC), the wind industry now employs more people than the coal sector. The US solar energy industry currently employs 100,000 workers at 5,600 companies.

The Republican nominee wants to kill support for renewable energy while continuing to give oil companies $4 billion in annual subsidies. In addition, the Romney plan would provide a $2.3 billion tax cut for the big five oil companies through cuts in the corporate tax rate. Over the next 9 years, the U.S. coal industry is expected to receive $8 billion in taxpayer support.

Romney claims oil is more economical, but his plan does not factor the massive health care costs associated with the burning of fossil fuels. According to a Harvard Medical study, these costs amount to $345 billion. When health issues are factored into the equation the cost of coal per kilowatt is more than 3x the cost of wind.

Romney’s emphasis on oil and gas and resistance to support renewable energy should come as no surprise as his top advisors are closely affiliated with the fossil fuel industry. Harold Hamm is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources Inc. (CLR). Hamm is one of the richest people in America and the chairman of Romney’s Energy Policy Advisory Group. Romney’s other advisors are also oil industry insiders. David Wilkins is a Canadian lobbyist for tar sands oil and Andrea Saul was formerly with the DCI Group, a public affairs and lobbying firm that has worked with Big Oil to undermine the facts on global warming.

At one time, Romney was a strong supporter of action on climate change. Now in his bid to be President, he is leading the climate deniers with a strategy that seems to invite climate change. Romney is a political opportunist who is depending on the oil and gas industry to help fund his campaign. According to the Center for Responsive PoliticsRomney has directly received more than $1 million from the oil and gas industry and the Koch brothers are expected to spend up to $200 million to help get their man elected.

Romney’s love of fossil fuel is at odds with the sentiments of most Americans. Americans hate the oil and gas industry and want global warming and clean energy to be national priorities. According to an August Gallup poll, a total of 61 percent of Americans gave the fossil fuel industry a negative rating, the worst of any industry in the U.S. Romney’s opposition to clean energy is also at odds with the views of the American public. A March Gallup poll had found that people were twice as likely to support solar and wind energy than coal or natural gas. The same poll found that 69 percent of Americans favored spending more government money on developing renewable energy.

As reviewed in a press release from the Sierra Club, greenhouse gas emissions are down to their lowest level in 20 years, Americans are using less oil, and new fuel standards will double efficiency and slash CO2. Over the last four years U.S. wind power has doubled and solar has grown by a factor of five. All of these advances would be reversed by Romney’s energy plan.

Romney’s intention to double down on oil and natural gas is a policy position that is incompatible with a 21st century economy. Romney’s resistance to renewable energy and support for fossil fuels is nothing short of reckless. His plan would result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the clean energy industry and unleash pollutants that would harm Americans.

Romney’s energy strategy is a blueprint for increasing emissions and a roadmap for runaway climate change. America simply cannot afford a President who is so willfully ignorant on energy and the environment.

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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: TerranceDC, courtesy Flickr

March 14 2012

19:02

Nuclear Power One Year after the Fukushima Disaster


After Fukushima is the sun setting on nuclear energy?The March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan sent shock waves that are still being felt around the world. The fallout from this tragic event is driving countries away from nuclear power and increasing GHG intensive coal-fired energy production.

This abandonment of nuclear energy could add a billion tonnes of additional GHG emissions by 2020. Japan and Germany, two of the world’s six largest CO2 emitters are already phasing out nuclear power and increasingly turning to fossil fuels for their energy. Other nations are also following their lead.

As reported in the Guardian, construction work began on 38 reactors around the world between 2008 and 2010, but in 2011 and 2012, there have been only two construction starts. Globally, 13 percent of the world’s electricity is supplied by nuclear power, down from 18 percent in 1996.

Japan

It is understandable that Japan is leery about nuclear’s savage power.  On August 6, 1945, the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima killed 140,000 people. The nuclear bomb that hit Nagasaki killed more than 70,000 people. Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue spoke for many when he said Japan must develop safer energies such as solar and wind.

Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan also called for a shift from nuclear power to renewable energy. While the switch to renewables is entirely laudable, replacing nuclear with fossil fuels is lamentable.

After the Fukushima incident, Japan closed almost all of their nuclear facilities to conduct safety checks. It is very unlikely that these nuclear reactors will be restarted. The cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe have already told utility companies that they no longer wanted nuclear power.

Japan’s nuclear power used to generate almost one third of the country’s power. Presently, only 2 of Japan’s 54 reactors are operational, and to make up for the energy shortfall, the country is increasingly turning to fossil fuels. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) used three times as much fuel oil and crude oil for electricity in February 2011 as it had the previous year.

Drawing additional power from burning fossil fuels will significantly increase GHG emissions. According to Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics, a permanent shutdown of the country’s nuclear facilities would increase annual CO2 emissions by 60 million tonnes, or more than 5 percent.

Germany

Fossil fuel-powered energy is increasing around the world as major industrial powers like Japan and Germany reduce their reliance on nuclear power. Germany has permanently shut down eight of its older nuclear reactors and has promised to close the remaining nine. All of Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants will be shut down by 2022. Germany began increasing its use of coal after the nuclear shutdown began.

Although Germany is investing heavily in renewable sources of power, they will not be able to meet all of the lost production in the short-term. The corollary of this decision is that gas and coal-fired power plants will fill the void left by phasing out nuclear power. Over 20 coal-fired power plants are planned for Germany.

Germany is moving away from nuclear power even though there is very little similarity between the threats confronted by the German and Japanese reactors. The Fukushima reactors where not destroyed by the earthquake, they were destroyed by a tsunami that crippled the plants’ cooling system. That is why it does not make sense for Germany, a largely landlocked nation, to fear a Fukushima-style meltdown. Germany is also compounding the problem by encouraging other countries to follow their lead.

Some analysts say the shutdown of German nuclear reactors will push up German CO2 emissions by between 40 million and 60 million tonnes a year, about 6 per cent.

The additional German emissions could add up to more than 300 million tonnes by 2020, which, according to the World Nuclear Association, would “virtually cancel out the 335-million-tonne savings intended to be achieved in the entire European Union by the 2011 Energy Efficiency Directive”.

Ironically, importing nuclear power from neighbors like France may be the only way for Germany to keep its promise to cut CO2 emissions by more than 20 per cent by 2020.

America

In the U.S., nuclear power provides between 10 and 20 percent of the country’s electricity. President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal includes $770 million for nuclear energy.  However, it has been years since a new nuclear plant has been constructed in the U.S. Since the Fukushima incident, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that U.S. nuclear energy production has not increased.

EIA data indicates that renewables have surpassed nuclear energy production in the U.S. While this is a promising trend, it is premature to say that renewable energy can replace nuclear energy any time in the near future. Renewable energy is undeniably the best energy option, but it will take years before it can provide the majority of America’s energy requirements.

Nuclear may be a part of America’s energy mix for the foreseeable future, but risks will have to be managed better than they are being managed today. Overall, there are 104 nuclear reactors at 65 sites across the U.S., nine of them located within 2 miles of the coast.

It makes sense to impose a moratorium on building nuclear reactors in seismically active areas or near the coasts until a sweeping safety review is completed. It also makes sense to build nuclear reactors that can withstand storm surges, floods and extreme weather. It does not make sense to phase out nuclear power altogether.

“U.S. nuclear power plants are already designed and built to keep the public safe in the face of the most extreme weather conditions possible at a given site, including flooding scenarios that far outweigh any impact from projected tidal level changes,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Scott Burnell told The Huffington Post in an email. “For example, Turkey Point in Florida safely withstood a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew, and several U.S. plants have safely withstood tornado damage to their sites and transmission lines, including during last year’s severe outbreak.” Burnell also cited the incidents in Nebraska, adding, “Two plants in the Great Plains also safely withstood last year’s historic flooding on the Missouri River.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has vowed to implement recommendations from the agency’s Japan Lessons-Learned Task Force, which will evaluate U.S. plants for their resistance to seismic and flooding events.

However, a report released March 6, 2012, by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), titled U.S. Nuclear Power Safety One Year After Fukushima, criticizes the NRC saying that it is jeopardizing reform by failing to heed its post-Fukushima task force’s top recommendation.

A new mapping tool, which calculates the route and impact of radioactive plumes in the event of a Fukushima style incident in the U.S., was released March 5 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“There are clear lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster, yet our government allows the risks to remain,” said NRDC Scientist Jordan Weaver, PhD. “It doesn’t have to take an earthquake and a tsunami to trigger a severe nuclear meltdown. In addition to human error and hostile acts, more common occurrences like hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding—all of which took place around the country last year—could cause the same type of power failure in U.S. plants.”

The NRDC has communicated concerns related to seismic activity, floods, hydrogen explosions, adequate venting, and transparency.

“We cannot afford to stand by idly and simply hope the worst won’t happen here,” said NRDC Senior Scientist Matthew McKinzie. “It is time for the NRC to do its job and safeguard the American people from a repeat of what we saw in Japan.”

Other Nations

Italy has abandoned nuclear power, which was voted down in a referendum after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Post Fukushima Switzerland has decided to abandon plans for future plants.

China initially delayed construction of new nuclear plants, although they now appear to be moving forward with nine reactors under construction. France intends to continue with nuclear as it operates more than 50 reactors that generate 39 percent of the nation’s total power output. The UK and India still intend to resume building nuclear power plants. France is joined by countries like Finland in undertaking third generation nuclear power projects.

Russia has four nuclear power plants under construction and India has five. As reported by Reuters, South Korea currently operates 21 reactors, which meet one-third of the country’s energy needs, and 13 additional reactors are planned by 2024.

Canada’s nuclear energy program avoids about 90 million tonnes of GHG emissions (equivalent to the exhaust of 18 million cars) per year. Since 1972, this has helped Canada avoid more than 2.4 billion tonnes of GHG emissions. In these and other countries, nuclear is a better option than more coal-powered energy.

Countries that opt to abstain from using nuclear power commonly turn to coal to meet more of their energy requirements. We hear a lot about nations like India and China building coal power plants, but even traditionally green nations are guilty of similar crimes against the environment. For example, the Dutch are known for being environmentally conscious, but due to the controversy surrounding nuclear power, the Netherlands is planning to build three new coal-fired power stations. This supports the hypothesis that misinformation about nuclear power trumps concerns about the environment.

Climate Change

The safe operation of nuclear power plants will be aggravated by climate change. In the age of global warming, additional safeguards are required to make nuclear power safer. Nuclear reactors are located adjacent to sources of water for cooling. With many of the world’s 442 nuclear power reactors located by the sea, these power plants must integrate additional safeguards against flooding and tsunamis. This is a legitimate concern as ocean levels are rising due to global warming.

Even nuclear reactors located near inland waterways pose problems because they remain vulnerable to heat waves, which are another corollary of climate change. A 2003 heat wave in Europe forced Electricite de France to close or lower output at about half its 19 nuclear plants because of temperature limits on the water it returns to rivers.

There are still other issues for nuclear reactors related to climate change that are not typically subject to heat waves or water-born risks. Tornadoes, also a corollary of climate change, are increasingly a concern. Last year tornadoes crippled three nuclear reactors in Browns Ferry in Athens, Ala., and knocked out power at two nuclear reactors at Surry Power Station in Surry, Va.

When it comes to building new reactors, the NRC said that “redesigning nuclear plants to address newer threats from climate change may also be too expensive at many locations.”

Conclusion

Nuclear power is expensive and fraught with concerns, but the fact that it generates energy without emissions makes it indispensable in the short term.

The Fukushima disaster, like the meltdowns in Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, illustrate the dangers. Common sense dictates that we must assess and address the design weaknesses of nuclear reactors to reduce the risks.

Despite difficult economic times we should not fall prey to gas and coal just because they are “cheap” and abundant. We need more investments in renewable energy, but we also need nuclear power to minimize the emissions that come from energy derived from fossil fuels.

Even if we ignore the short-term health impacts from gas and coal-fired energy generation, the costs of failing to reduce emissions override the economics of energy generated from fossil fuels.

We are faced with some difficult choices, but if we are serious about bringing atmospheric GHGs down to acceptable levels, nuclear power must be part of the world’s energy mix. Although no one died in the Fukushima explosion, if the global nuclear industry dies, it will take the climate with it.
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

January 18 2012

18:33

Energy Subsidies: Oil versus Renewables


The lopsided story of energy subsidies in the United StatesIn a world that must reduce its dependency on fossil fuels, replacing oil subsidies with renewable energy subsidies makes sense. Although this is undeniably difficult, it would produce both environmental and economic benefits. Putting an end to oil subsidies would free public money that could be used to promote clean energy and make renewables more competitive.

Although renewable energy is destined to increase it will not grow fast enough to stabilize GHG concentrations below 450ppm which will result in a temperature increase of more than 2°C. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global demand for renewables currently account for approximately 4 percent of total energy. Demand for renewables is expected to rise to 14 percent by 2035, while fossil fuels, which now have 75 percent of global energy demand, will decline to 62 percent over the same period.

The case against fossil fuel subsidies

The case against the fossil-fuel subsidies is overwhelming. They encourage inefficient energy use and they represent a huge amount of lost revenue. Sheltering consumers from oil’s price volatility also shields them from incentives to pursue renewables.

Fossil fuel subsidies are “creating market distortions that encourage wasteful consumption,” the IEA said. “The costs of subsidies to fossil fuels generally outweigh the benefits.”

Oil subsidies are actually increasing the consumption of fossil fuels. Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the IEA, points out that 95 percent of current growth in oil demand is coming from countries where the oil price is subject to subsidies. The IEA estimates that removing fossil-fuel consumption subsidies would reduce global carbon-dioxide emissions by 1.5 to 2 billion tons by 2020.

The IEA’s World Energy Outlook report indicates that eliminating subsidies by 2020 would cut global energy demand by 3.9 percent or the equivalent of 600 million tons of oil. The abolition of these subsidies would reduce demand by almost 5 percent by 2035.

Although many have agreed on the need to eliminate oil subsidies in principle, nothing has actually been done. The Obama Administration has proposed ending fossil fuel subsidies, as did U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Sir Nicholas Stern, Al Gore, and Sir John Browne (the former Chief Executive of BP). In September 2009, G20 Leaders also committed to “rationalize and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.”

An analysis made by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the IEA illustrates that removing fossil fuel subsidies in a number of non-OECD countries could reduce world Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 10 percent in 2050. Removing these subsidies would amount to roughly a seventh of the effort needed to keep temperature increases below 2°C.

In the U.S., the fossil fuel industry and their allies claim eliminating oil subsidies would cause domestic production to fall, the loss of jobs, and a rise in gas prices. But the advocacy group Oil Change International says removing fossil fuel subsidies will have “little to no impact on domestic production, jobs, or prices at the pump.”

Calculating Fossil Fuel Subsidies 

Fossil fuel subsidies are difficult to estimate because they are complex and take many forms. In its simplest essence, these subsidies refer to any government action that lowers the cost of fossil fuels. This includes everything from tax breaks, to preferred rate loans, price controls and purchase requirements.

A report from the OECD estimates that between $45 billion and $75 billion in budgetary support and tax expenditures have been provided to the coal, oil and gas industries by the 24 richest OECD countries.  According to the IEA, consumption subsidies in 37 developing countries were worth $557 billion annually.

The IEA data indicates the worldwide cost of fuel subsidies for oil amounted to about $190 billion in 2010, up from around $120 billion in 2009. According to the agency, expenditure on all fossil fuel (oil, coal and gas) subsidies could rise to $660 billion in 2020, up from $409 billion in 2010.

U.S. federal subsidies to the domestic oil and gas industry, excluding coal, may be as high as $41 billion annually. When all forms of subsidies are tallied, including production subsidies and consumption subsidies, that total may be closer to $600 billion annually.

Comparing Renewable Energy Subsidies

A November 11, 2011 Bloomberg article reports that while governments are increasingly subsidizing oil and gas they are not making similar investments in renewable energy. According to the chief adviser to oil-importing, fossil-fuel consumers worldwide received about six times more government subsidies than were given to the renewable-energy industry.

In its World Energy Outlook, the IEA said State spending to cut retail prices of gasoline, coal and natural gas rose 36 percent to $409 billion as global energy costs increased, while aid for biofuels, wind power and solar energy, rose only 10 percent to $66 billion.

At the current rate, the IEA predicted that onshore wind generators will not be be competitive until 2020 in Europe and 2030 in China. In the U.S., wind turbines will not be competitive until at least 2035.

The IEA data supports the idea that for renewable energy to be competitive with fossil fuels, they need more short-term subsidies.

Promising Signs for Renewable Energy

Despite disproportionate support for fossil fuels, a November 25, 2011 Bloomberg article reveals that in terms of new power-plant investments, renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time. Electricity generated by wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year, compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal.

Last year was also the first time expenditure in developing countries exceeded that of the industrialized world.

The growth of renewable energy prompted United Nations Environment Program Executive Secretary Achim Steiner to say:

“The progress of renewables has been nothing short of remarkable. You have record investment in the midst of an economic and financial crisis.”

We are witnessing a promising trend in wind and solar power. According to GWEC estimates, there were 36 gigawatts of installed wind capacity in 2010, 43 gigawatts of generating capacity in 2011, and 48 gigawatts are anticipated in 2012.

New Energy Finance said there were 18.2 gigawatts of solar installations in 2010, 26.4 gigawatts in 2011, and 27.8 gigawatts are forecast for 2012. They estimate that investment in renewable energy may double to $395 billion a year by 2020.

Obstacles to Growing Renewable Energy and Eliminating Oil Subsidies

Despite their growth, renewable energy companies are struggling with oversupply issues and the austerity of the current business environment. The surge in production to meet growing demand has driven down prices and created an overcapacity. This has forced renewable energy companies to cut their margins and reduce their sales forecasts in 2012.

The ongoing financial crisis has also hit renewable energy companies hard, making it even more difficult to develop new projects. Austerity measures are cutting spending on climate protection measures, including renewable energy subsidies, tax credits, and pollution abatement programs.

In the U.S., the Department of the Treasury’s Section 1603 cash grants program for clean energy projects expired in 2011, while tens of billions of dollars continues to go to the American oil industry in annual subsidies.

The sheer number of oil subsidies makes eradicating them a very complex problem. The IEA and the OECD indicate that there are at least 250 different kinds of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

Perhaps the most difficult problem concerns the fact that ending subsidies for oil and gas is a political minefield.

Despite these difficulties, the world is moving towards renewables driven by the inescapable logic of clean energy. However, this shift could be significantly expedited if we eliminated fossil fuel subsidies and increased subsidies for renewable energy.

——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: CleanTechnica.com

December 29 2011

19:48

The Pipe: The Story of Struggle and Controversy in Rossport Ireland


The Pipe documentary filmFor years the small fishing and farming community of Rossport Ireland has been the center of a controversial struggle between the rights of its inhabitants and the power of large-scale fossil energy development.

The recently released documentary “The Pipe” tells the story of how this small community took on Shell Oil and the Irish State in its fight to preserve a community and a way of life.

Visit our sister site TheGreenWashingBlog for more details and to watch a trailer of this award-winning documentary.

December 01 2011

22:55

EarthTalk: The Promise of Thorium – Real or Hype?


Advocates of thorium to power nuclear plants say that the element is safer than uranium, and that its waste cannot -- like the plutonium waste of uranium fission -- be re-formulated for nuclear weaponsEarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Thorium is a naturally occurring element that is supposedly more available, more efficient and safer to use than uranium for generating nuclear energy. Is this true and, if so, why haven’t we made the switch?    – Jane Westermann, Austin, TX

Thorium, a naturally occurring radioactive element found in abundance in the Earth’s crust all around the world, might well be a better fuel source than uranium for nuclear power generation for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, just one ton of the silvery metal can produce as much energy as 200 tons of uranium or 3.5 million tons of coal, according to Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Another advantage is that it comes out of the ground as a 100 percent pure, usable isotope. Unlike uranium, which contains only 0.7 percent fissionable material, thorium doesn’t require enrichment to be used in nuclear reactors. Also, the spent-fuel waste from thorium fission cannot be re-formulated for nuclear weapons like plutonium, the waste product of uranium-based fission.

Also, proponents say that thorium doesn’t require the high temperatures and mitigation equipment of uranium-based reactors. “The plants would be much smaller and less expensive,” Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA rocket engineer and now chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown Engineering, told the UK’s Telegraph last year. “You wouldn’t need those huge containment domes because there’s no pressurized water in the reactor.” With no high temperatures, thorium reactors can’t “melt down” and release radiation.

“Once you start looking more closely, it blows your mind away,” adds Sorensen. “You can run civilization on thorium for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s essentially free.” The advocacy-oriented Thorium Energy Alliance reports that there is “enough thorium in the U.S. alone to power the country at its current energy level for over 1,000 years.”

Nuclear researchers in the U.S. first contemplated using thorium as a nuclear energy feedstock back in the 1940s, but its lack of feasibility in making nuclear weapons put it on the back burner, where it has sat for the last six decades despite various attempts to revive the technology for practical use. In Russia, China and India, thorium reactors represent the next generation of nuclear power. India possesses about a quarter of the world’s thorium reserves. The country is working to develop a network of large thorium-based reactors, and plans to meet 30 percent of its electricity needs with thorium by 2050.

Many nuclear advocates and environmentalists alike don’t see thorium as the savior its supporters make it out to be. For one, uranium is still relatively easy to come by and inexpensive, and the nuclear industry is set up to run on it. Changing over to thorium would be expensive, and who knows what unforeseen problems may arise with full-scale deployment. Perhaps most important, some analysts worry that putting more eggs into humanity’s nuclear basket will surely further delay the transition to a truly green economy that runs on clean renewable energy from the sun, wind and other so-called alternative sources.

Contacts:
CERN
Thorium Energy Alliance
Teledyne Brown Engineering

 

——————-

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

October 06 2011

18:52

Eight Amazing Things About Solar Panels That Could Change the World


How Solar Panels Can Change the WorldGuest post by Kriss Bergethon

Green energy is one of the most rapidly expanding industries in the world right now due to so many people looking to do their part to help save the planet. With so much focus on solving global warming and reducing air pollution, smarter and cleaner forms of energy are being looked at very closely by scientists and consumers. There are several cool facts about solar power that can change the world.

  1. The Reduction in Prices for Solar Panels
    One of the biggest reasons people avoided solar power in the past is that it was too expensive and inefficient to be worth their time. Coal has been up to 90% less expensive to use as an energy source over the years, which made other options ineffective. Prices on solar panels have dropped up to 30% in some cases and have come down to the $4/watt range.
  2. The Development of Solar Film
    Rather than using the traditional solar panels, a few companies have started to put out solar film. Film is cheaper to make than panels because it is printed out in rolls while standard panels are manufactured like microchips. The prices on solar film seem to be coming out at roughly $2/watt, which is 50% less expensive than panels.
  3. Increase in Efficiency for Panels
    Solar panels typically ran at an efficiency level of around 15%, which is measured by the difference between how much sun hits the panel and how much energy comes out of it. Solar energy has become more efficient in recent years, and newer panels are putting out 22% more consistently.
  4. Increase in Efficiency for Films
    Thin films have greatly increased in efficiency as well. Films consistently used to have about 10% efficiency, but with improvements in technology the films have bumped up their efficiency to about 15%, which makes them more worth the money.
  5. Utility Scale Solar Power
    Solar power can now be delivered through utility companies instead of just through panels mounted on a home or building. This enables power facilities to use mirrors and advanced panels to obtain maximum energy from the sun and transmit it to homes and businesses.
  6. Increased Price for Traditional Power
    As prices for traditional power like coal and fossil fuels continue to rise, people will continue to develop alternative energy sources. Solar energy is the most abundant resource that should be tapped, and increased cost will lead to more research and development.
  7. Research for Advancements
    Research drives projects like solar power to greater heights. When research is funded, things like efficiency go up for these panels and make it more affordable for everyone. The government is funding projects like solar power to clean up the environment.
  8. Investment of Time and Money
    Silicon Valley venture capital is involved in significant investments for the solar energy field. Programs are being granted the money and opportunities needed to advance solar power to a new level. Investment increases the rate of development for solar power.

——————-
Kriss Bergethon is a solar expert and writer from Colorado.  Visit his site at Solar Panels for more information.

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July 07 2011

22:56

Power Generation from Renewables Surpasses Nuclear


Renewable electrical generation surpasses nuclear power generationThe latest issue of theMonthly Energy Review published by the US Energy Information Administration, electric power generation from renewable sources has surpassed production from nuclear sources, and is now “closing in on oil,” says Ken Bossong Executive Director of the Sun Day Campaign

In the first quarter of 2011 renewable energy sources accounted for 11.73 percent of US domestic energy production. Renewable sources include solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass/biofuel. As of the first quarter of 2011, energy production from these sources was 5.65 percent more than production from nuclear.

As Bossing further explains from the report, renewable sources are closing the gap with generation from oil-fired sources, with renewable source equal to 77.15 percent of total oil based generation.

For all sectors, including transportation, thermal, and electrical generation, renewable energy production grew just over 15 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the first quarter of 2010, and fully 25 percent over first quarter 2009. In a break-down of renewable sources, biomass/biofuel accounted for a bit more than 48 percent, hydro for 35.41 percent, wind for nearly 13 percent, geothermal 2.45 percent, and solar at 1.16 percent.

Looking at just the electrical generation sector, renewable sources, including hydro, accounted for nearly 13 percent of net US electrical generation in the first quarter of 2011, up from 10.31 percent for the same quarter last year. Non-hydro renewable sources accounted for 4.74 percent of net US production.

Electrical power generation from renewable grew by almost 26 percent in the first quarter of 2011 over the same quarter in 2010. Solar power generation was up 104.8 percent, wind generation increased 40.3 percent, and hydro expanded by 28.7 percent. Electricity generated from biomass decreased by 4.8 percent. By comparison, natural gas generation increased by 1.8 percent, nuclear by 0.4 percent, and coal-fired electrical generation declined by 5.7 percent.

“Notwithstanding the recent nuclear accident in Japan, among many others, and the rapid growth in energy and electricity from renewable sources, congressional Republicans continue to press for more nuclear energy funding while seeking deep cuts in renewable energy investments,” said Bossong. “One has to wonder ‘what are these people thinking?’”

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December 27 2010

19:52

Latest EIA Report Shows Renewable Energy Production Continues Growth in 2010, Equals Nuclear Energy Output


Wind energy saw the largest growth in 2010The latest Monthly Energy Review released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) last week shows both nuclear and renewable energy sources provided roughly 11 percent each of primary energy production for the first nine months of 2010 – the latest period for which data is available.

The EIA report states that renewable energy sources, including biomass/biofuels, solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal contributed 10.9 percent of domestic energy production through the end of September, up 5.7 percent over the same period in 2009. Nuclear energy accounted for 11.4 percent of domestic production – down 0.5 percent from the same period last year.

Renewable energy statistics breakdown

Of the various sources of renewable energy, each contributed the following to the overall renewable portfolio:

  • Biomass/biofuel: 51.95 percent
  • Hydropower: 31.50 percent
  • Wind: 10.52 percent
  • Geothermal: 4.65 percent
  • Solar: 1.38 percent

Wind, biofuels shows biggest growth

Comparing those statistics with the same period of 2009 shows solar energy production expanding 2.4 percent and hydro declining by 5.2 percent. The big winners were biomass and biofuels, which grew by 10 percent in the first three quarters of 2010, and wind energy, which grew a full 26.7 percent. Combined non-hydro renewable sources grew 11.5 percent.

Overall, U.S. primary energy production rose 2 percent in the first nine months of 2010 over the same period last year. Fossil fuels accounted for 78 percent of primary energy production.

“Members of the incoming Congress are proposing to slash cost-effective funding for rapidly expanding renewable energy technologies while foolishly plowing ever-more federal dollars into the nuclear power black hole,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The numbers clearly show this would be betting on the obvious loser while ignoring the clearly emerging winner in the energy race.”

December 23 2010

18:33

The Future of Energy – Bloomberg-Business Week Energy Survey


Surveyed energy professionals see smart grid, government incentives as key to energy futureSmart grids, government incentive key to energy future

Bloomberg Businessweek Research Services has recently completed a survey of energy professionals to gauge their thoughts and opinions on the key global energy issues we face in the coming decades. Sponsored by ABB, an automation technology service company for industry and utilities, the survey results show a majority of energy professionals urging more production from clean energy sources, increased efficiency, smarter grids, and more government incentives as the basis for a sustainable energy future.

Some of the highlighted survey results include:

  • 89% see government incentives as more effective than markets for driving energy efficiency
  • 63% believe the greatest opportunities for improving energy efficiency rests with industrial end-users
  • 76% think government regulation should require utilities to produce more energy from renewable sources
  • 81% see smart grid technology is a crucial key for global energy future

Materials and information about the Energy 2010 survey results including podcasts, key findings, and white papers is available from ABB’s website.

October 25 2010

14:46

Environmental News Wrap: Solar Cheaper than Nuclear; Tea Party Delusions; Negotiating Biodiversity, and more…


The latest environmental news headlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • While gleaning stories from National Geographic (NG) I ran into advertisements  for Shell Oil Company, like at the Scientific American site discussed last week. The story I found on NG focuses on the intersection of water and energy in our economy.
    Then, I went to the website for Popular Science and found, yet again, a web page covered in ads for Shell. Shell now “Presents” Popular Science.
    Shell is still an oil company no matter how much it tries to appear to be an energy company, and I don’t support businesses that let companies like Shell spread its deception.
  • ConsumerEnergyReport.com covers a new study that claims that solar is now a cheaper energy source than nuclear. Whether or not this claim is true, solar energy is getting cheaper everyday while nuclear is getting more expensive because of increased regulation and the need for billions of dollars upfront to build a reactor.

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