08 Sep

Solar in Texas is hitting parity, an interesting inflection point

Link via Robert J. Bennet on twitter. Solar is hitting parity. Some people’s heads are going to explode

“But the Barilla project is unique in Texas because its developers – confident that their electricity can compete on the open market – have forged ahead without signing a power purchase agreement, which would guarantee a buyer for their energy. 

Texas, because of its size and intense radiation, leads the nation in solar energy potential. Much of that resource is in the state’s western half, according to the State Energy Conservation Office. The industry has long struggled to get a foothold in the state, as policymakers have provided fewer incentives than other states, and solar energy currently makes up a tiny fraction of Texas’ energy portfolio.

But improving technology has driven down the price of solar power, making it more competitive with other resources­ – even without incentives, developers say. “

(Via West Texas Solar Plant Comes Online | The Texas Tribune.)

09 Jun

Tesla will open up its Supercharger patents

Wow, that’s fascinating. Reminds me of when Mercedes Volvo allowed the patent for the seat built to be used by anyone because it was of benefit to all people. Getting more superchargers built helps Tesla, if other people do it so Tesla cars can use theirs, obviously. But since Tesla is getting the supercharger network rolled out faster than some others, it’s a big deal.

Also a big deal because I imagine Tesla will be giving away info on how the supercharger works, which might give competitors details about how their supercharger batteries work. That’s the generous part of the offer, here:

“Tesla’s CEO has been carefully dropping hints that he might ‘do something controversial’ with his company’s collection of technology patents, and now we know what he’s on about. Speaking at the UK launch of the Tesla Model S yesterday, Elon Musk said that he specifically wants to open up the designs for his Supercharger system in order to create a standard technical specification that other electric car makers can adopt. As part of this, it’s possible that Tesla might need to give away some intellectual property about components within the cars themselves”

(Via Tesla will open up its Supercharger patents to boost electric car adoption.)

01 Apr

Carbon market collapse on its way?

Hold onto your britches?

“In a new book, former oil geologist and government adviser on renewable energy, Dr. Jeremy Leggett, identifies five ‘global systemic risks directly connected to energy’ which, he says, together ‘threaten capital markets and hence the global economy’ in a way that could trigger a global crash sometime between 2015 and 2020.

According to Leggett, a wide range of experts and insiders ‘from diverse sectors spanning academia, industry, the military and the oil industry itself, including until recently the International Energy Agency or, at least, key individuals or factions therein’ are expecting an oil crunch ‘within a few years,’ most likely ‘within a window from 2015 to 2020.'”

(Via Ex govt adviser: “global market shock” from “oil crash” could hit in 2015 | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com.)

05 Feb

Why the Israeli military is going green

Another notable military force is committed to going green. Those fucking hippies are everywhere:

“The addition of these solar panels is far from the IDF’s first step towards an environmentally friendly military.

During the past several years, the Israel Air force has been transforming its entire energy infrastructure into alternative fuels, with an emphasis on solar power.

‘Two years ago, it was hard to convince commanders that the IAF needed to become more environmentally friendly. Now they don’t need convincing,’ says Capt. Bouganim, who has been heading the IAF’s revolutionary project Blue Going Green (blue is the official color of the Air Force) for the past few years.”

(Via Going Green: Israeli Military Chooses Solar Energy over Diesel.)

11 Jan

West Virginia spill is a perfect demonstration of externalized costs

“Residents of nine counties in West Virginia have been told not to use or drink their water after a chemical used by the coal industry spilled into the Elk River on Thursday. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency as more than 100,000 customers, or 300,000 people, are without safe drinking water.

‘Don’t make baby formula,’ said West Virginia American Water Company president Jeff McIntyre. ‘Don’t brush your teeth. Don’t shower. Toilet flushing only.’
The chemical, 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM), is used to wash coal of impurities and spilled from a tank at Freedom Industries into the river. While the amount of MCHM that spilled wasn’t immediately known, West Virginia American Water has been conducting water quality testing every hour. According to Laura Jordan, a spokesperson with the water company, they believe the chemical is leaking at ground level and ‘there is a possibility this leak has been going on for sometime before it was discovered Thursday,’ WSAZ reported.”

(Via West Virginia Declares State Of Emergency After Coal Chemical Contaminates Drinking Water | ThinkProgress.)

I just drove through that area of West Virginia coming back from my parents for Christmas. I noticed several angry-Obama posters that were by pro-coal fronts, saying the usual stuff. EPA and alternative energy = bad. Coal = jobs. Obama = against jobs and against West Virginia.

The usual canard is that we can’t afford solar or wind, it ‘costs’ too much. And that subsidies are granted to it to make it work.

Leave aside that solar is now at cost parity, here’s the thing that is always ignored. Coal, gas, fossil fuels, they create radiation, pollution, and kill people trying to get at it.

Meanwhile, the current Republican House just passed this:

The House passed the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act that would ultimately eliminate requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency to review and update hazardous-waste disposal regulations in a timely manner, and make it more difficult for the government to compel companies that deal with toxic substances to carry proper insurance for cleanups, pushing the cost on to taxpayers.

In addition, the bill would result in slower response time in the case of a disaster, requiring increased consultation with states before the federal government calls for cleanup of Superfund sites – where hazardous waste could affect people and the environment.

The bill amends both the Solid Waste Disposal Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act – often referred to as Superfund, which was created in 1980 to hold polluter industries accountable for funding the cleanup of hazardous-waste sites.

There are over 1,300 priority Superfund sites in the US.

So, all the clean up, all the government time and energy spent dealing with West Virginia, that one companies failure, will not be billed to that company nor to it’s customers in the price of higher coal. Furthermore, politicians of a certain kind are fighting hard against the EPA and the ability to hold companies responsible for clean up.

That is an externalized cost.

It is not fully accounted into the cost of fossil fuels.

It should be. It’s taken out in your taxes. You’d think certain politicians would be outraged about that, but since they like the energy, they’re okay with not pricing it in.

But it should be.

Will the 300,000 citizens at risk in WV think about that the next they vote.

My guess is… probably not. But I hope so.

04 Jan

Global renewable electricity capacity has an interesting growth rate hinted at in chart

“The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) released a report – 2012 Renewable Energy Data Book – in October of 2013 regarding the status of renewable energy globally and in the US. The report has an abundance of great charts and, in reading through the pages, I discovered that renewable energy accounts for 23% of all electricity generation worldwide (4,892 TWh) (on page 41). I’ve brought out a few of the relevant charts and findings. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.”

(Via NREL: 23% Of Global Electricity Generation Supplied By Renewable Sources | CleanTechnica.)

Lots of interesting stuff here. Including this chart:


Wind and solar has gone from a rather much smaller part of the column stack in 2000 to alternative energy being 25% of the stack in 2012. We need more, but the trend seems to be establishing itself.

Cleantechnica says:

The installed global renewable electricity capacity doubled between 2000 and 2012, and represents a significant and growing portion of the total energy supply both globally and in the United States.

So if renewables are doubling every decade (growing at the chart’s pace), there’s a pretty good chance renewables will dominate by ~2022 and by 2034 at this growth rate. Which very few people are wrapping their heads around.

It’s a big if. Growth could stall. But wind is getting cheaper. Solar is getting cheaper at a predictable rate, like Moore’s law. And if there’s one thing we know from cellphones, the rate at which digital tech spreads it’s vastly faster than large infrastructure.

Seriously, if I showed this graph and said ‘the blue and orange are new tech companies with a new device’ everyone would be like ‘where the fuck do I invest and how.’

Solar’s like computers. For a while it’ll just be uber-nerds that are into it (green types, off the gridders). Then it’ll be everywhere and people will be like ‘what the fuck just happened?’

Doesn’t mean oil goes away. We still need it for plastics. But it’s still more dramatic than I realize every time new info comes out about renewables growth.

Here’s another headline, I realize. The amount of installed alternative energy electricity production in 2012 equals almost half of all the energy the entire world needed in 2000.


02 Jan

Ford develops car with solar panel roof that can recharge itself

I mean, that’s the fantasy, isn’t it? A car with solar panels in the top that can juice itself up enough for your driving needs?

“Ford has developed a concept model that runs primarily on solar power, which could bring the world one step closer to having a vehicle for everyday driving that is not dependent on traditional energy sources.

The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is a collaboration between Ford, SunPower Corp. and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The concept car is expected to be unveiled next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.”

(Via Ford develops solar powered car for everyday use.)

15 Nov

AEP files plan saying only solar and wind from now on for new electricity generation

Wow. An interesting sign of a rapidly changing utilities market:

“On Nov. 1, AEP, one of the other five biggest coal-fired electric utilities, filed a plan to Indiana and Michigan regulators saying that the only new generating capacity it would need over the next decade would be wind and, starting in 2020, solar. The company said it ‘expects that utility-scale solar resources will become economically justifiable by 2020.’”

(Via Tennessee Valley Authority to close 8 coal-fired power plants – The Washington Post.)

AEP is still a dirty energy producer (they supply my energy, I used to buy their carbon offsets for their green program, until they shut that down, I’ve been trying to figure out how to hop over to a new provider that uses the wind power from the nearby wind farm but customer service on this front has been rather atrocious and I’ve been so busy I’ve been lax in follow through) but it’s an interesting marker to watch.

08 Oct

Interview about the viability of Germany’s Energiewende

A fascinating quick interview with Mark Jacobson about Germany’s Energiewende.

“In 2009, Jacobson caught people’s attention with his co-authored article A Plan To Power 100 Percent of the Planet With Renewables, which was the cover story of November’s Scientific American. In 2012, he partnered with The Avengers’ Hulk Mark Ruffalo to co-author The Tesseract Is Here!, a Huffington Post opinion piece likening the film’s Tesseract, a source of unlimited energy, to renewables. To cleantech and comic lovers worldwide, this was the epitome of cool! Additionally, his 2010 TED Talk debate with Stewart Brand Does the world need nuclear energy? is a must-watch for any renewables fan.

His work has often ruffled feathers, but to anyone who believes in a renewables-driven future, his unwavering vision and dedicated well-documented stance that ‘wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy’ is the key to moving public opinion. Last month, the New York Times published an article skeptical of Germany’s Energiewende program. Since then I’ve read many other views, each with their own unique thoughts on the subject, but Jacobson’s opinion was the one I was still most curious about. In a three question interview, Jacobson did what he does best; breathe back life to the notion that the often deemed complicated task of switching to renewables is, in fact, doable and profitable.”

(Via The Viability of Germany’s Energiewende: Mark Jacobson Answers 3 Questions.)

Basically I’m starting to think that whenever people do something amazing (Energiewende) the push back starts getting really high right before breakthrough. Entrenched interests fight back hardest when they’re cornered. So I’m watching very closely.