MORE NEWS, 9-30: SUN, LAND, WATER, HABITAT; V-2-G; TOMORROW’S HOME; BRIT SUMS UP CLIMATE SUMMIT
SUN, LAND, WATER, HABITAT
Solar Plan Ignites Some Environmental Concerns
Jeff Brady, September 28, 2009 (National Public Radio)
"An Obama administration plan to build huge new solar energy plants in the Southwest is causing heartburn in the environmental community.
"The Interior Department has proposed allowing two dozen solar energy study areas on public land in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. These would be industrial facilities that would require huge amounts of land and water to operate…[C]onservation groups generally support the president's campaign for more renewable forms of energy, [but] some local groups are concerned about putting industrial-scale solar projects on public land."
There are several major types of solar power plant technology...(click to enlarge)
"In the Southwest, the U.S. government is the largest landowner by far — in Nevada, it owns 85 percent of the state. The Southwest also is one of the best regions in the world for producing energy from the sun…But Terry Weiner of the Desert Protective Council in San Diego opposes [building solar power plants in unpopulated deserts]…
"She says she understands the climate change arguments for getting more of the country's energy from renewable sources. But she says these projects could displace endangered species, such as the desert tortoise…Around the Southwest, local groups like the Desert Protective Council have similar concerns. But national environmental groups have a slightly different point of view."
...and they will have different impacts on water, land and habitat. (click to enlarge)
"…Alex Daue, renewable energy coordinator for the Wilderness Society…says his group also is concerned about losing the benefits of recreation and habitat for plants and animals. But…climate change [will] have a significant affect on public lands and endangered species, too…The Wilderness Society has pushed the Interior Department to choose properties that already are degraded in some way by past industrial activity or farming…And they've encouraged the department to select parcels that are close to existing transmission lines so new ones won't have to be built…[Both the Wilderrness Society and] the solar energy industry [argue] that rooftop panels alone aren't enough to supply the country's energy needs…
"…Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association…says that to replace existing coal-powered energy facilities, the country will need industrial-scale solar-powered ones in addition to things like rooftop solar panels…[He] is frustrated by criticism from within the environmental community, because his industry wants only 670,000 acres of public land…[The oil and gas industry uses over 44.5 million acres of public land]…[A]fter the government evaluates the environmental effects of the solar facilities, the number of acres dedicated to them could grow substantially. And that's what really worries local environmental groups…"
Power grid chief touts electric-car payback
Steve Gelsi, September 28, 2009 (MarketWatch/McClatchy via Philadelphia Inquirer)
"U.S. power grid chief Jon Wellinghoff is touting the long-term cost savings of electric cars, saying the vehicles could earn $1,500 a year in paybacks for their owners when their batteries are connected to the power grid [using vehicle-to-grid, V-2-G, technology].
"While electric cars planned for U.S. market in the next few years will likely carry heftier price tags than many gas-powered cars, Wellinghoff [said]…owners of plug-in vehicles will benefit from much lower costs for filling up, cutting down the long term cost of operation."
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"On top of saving $3 or $4 a gallon on gasoline in future years, Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said grid operators and power companies could reimburse car owners for the battery storage offered by the roughly 22 hours a day that electric cars would be connected to the nation's power system…
"Wellinghoff, a lawyer who specialized in energy issues before [being appointed by President Obama as] FERC chairman earlier this year, cited positive moves into green energy under [this] President…[The administration] awarded a $529 million government loan to Fisker Automotive to build electric cars…Tesla Automotive and others have also received hundreds of millions of dollars under government stimulus programs…"
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"…[Also,] lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems Inc. drew strong interest in its initial public offering…While the electric car industry remains in its infancy, proponents of plug-in vehicles expect millions of models on the road in the next 10 years that could collectively add to the nation's power storage capabilities.
"Sharing the main points of his chapter in…Plug-In Electric Vehicles,…edited by David Sandalow, Wellinghoff said growth of solar and wind energy in the U.S. will create a greater need for storage capacity on the grid to smooth out surges in power…Electric car batteries could help take up the storage slack, along with flywheel systems…"
FSU "House Of The Future" Uses No Electricity
Kimberley Chapin, September 29, 2009 (CBS4-Tallahassess)
"…A $575-thousand house sits in the middle of [Florida State University 's] campus…[Its] futuristic purpose...is to test potential solutions to energy and climate change problems by combining old tricks with cutting-edge technology, including a unique solar-hydrogen experiment.
"The house has no connection to an electrical grid as a backup power source. Instead, it uses solar energy to run a system that converts water into hydrogen, which generates power at night."
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"Besides a hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity, the gas is burned in the kitchen range and other appliances may follow…[FSU researchers have pioneered hydrogen retrofit technology because] conventional appliances are designed for heavier natural gas and propane. They must be modified to safely burn hydrogen.
"Hydrogen is a potential low-cost alternative to batteries because storage tanks are comparatively simple and cheap…The problem, though, is that the cost of producing hydrogen is usually high…[but FSU scientists have] developed a way to use relatively cheap and common metals to replace platinum, a critical but rare and high-priced element that makes hydrogen from water electrolysis devices expensive."
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"…[T]he technology is going to take more time and money. Hydrogen power may be the ultimate goal, but it could take decades to perfect. In the meantime, the house is being used to demonstrate other technologies that can be applied right now or in just a few years.
"Simple light shelves under the upper windows reflect incoming sunshine and spread it evenly to avoid hot spots. Other energy-saving technologies include a reflective roof, dual-flush toilets and recycled material such as the wooden beams and trim, aluminum siding and ash in the concrete pilings."
BRIT SUMS UP CLIMATE SUMMIT
Clean Energy - Should Rich Nations Subsidise The Poor?
Roger Harrabin, 28 September 2009 (BBC News)
"…[W]hat was top priority for climate negotiators seeking political support from world leaders meeting at the G20 last week was not necessarily top priority for the leaders themselves…[D]ecisions left un-taken in Pittsburgh have resounded to rattle the UN climate talks starting this week in Bangkok…[especially] how much cash will be given to help developing countries obtain clean energy supplies.
"…[T]he need to tie developing countries into a climate deal means that the issue of financing is much more important than before… 90% of the new energy infrastructure over the next few decades will be in the developing world…$100 billion dollars a year is needed to tackle poverty through clean energy by 2020…Some developing countries think the figure should be half as much again."
President Obama took the first step in Pittsburgh. (click to enlarge)
"But at the G20 meeting President Obama skirted the issue. His climate policies face potentially insuperable opposition in the US Senate. So now energy funding will be referred back to the G20 finance ministers meeting in November…This is getting very late - and compounds the difficulties of the climate negotiators…
"It's another example of politics lagging behind the science…[U]nless emissions are cut urgently, global temperatures could rise 4C by the middle of the century, maybe 15C in the Arctic…[I]t's clear that politics as we know it can't yet respond to the urgency of the defined risk…Todd Stern, the chief US climate negotiator who helped negotiate the Kyoto Protocol under President Clinton, told me that the US would not repeat the mistake of signing a climate deal that wouldn't get through Congress."
Block tariffs: Big users pay a premium for their gluttony while the poor pay low prices. (click to enlarge)
"The President has been widely condemned by developing countries…But the timing is dreadfully difficult…[Undetermined details of the final U.S. legislation leaves everything uncertain]…President Obama did…[call] for an end to subsidies to fossil fuels…[and an end to the world] spending trillions a year subsidising the very pollution it is theoretically trying to expunge…In many countries the subsidies to the fossil fuel industry - though tax breaks, incentives and failure to pay for "externalities" like polluting the atmosphere - add up to way more than subsidies for [New Energy]…[I]t's easy to give a subsidy to a big polluting industry - but very hard to take it away without facing a barrage of lobbying [by special interests and campaign donors]...
"It might help if more people knew about the "block tariff" policy invented by Bangladesh. Low users of electricity can buy power very cheaply in order to encourage parents to install light bulbs to educate their children. But the price per kWh increases in blocks, so the rich in mansions on the edge of Dhaka end up paying high prices for their air conditioning and fridge freezers. This is the sort of social innovation politicians need more of if they want to tackle the problems of climate change and development."