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Alternative Energy

  • How A Solar Revolution Could Be Near

    Credit: ShutterstockCan we build enough carbon-free energy fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change without having to power this energy transition with fossil fuels that would undermine the whole transition? The answer is “yes,” and here’s why.The “global solar photovoltaic industry is likely now a net energy producer,” concluded a Stanford study released last year. That was followed by a very detailed analysis, Energy Balance of the Global Photovoltaic (PV) Industry, by post-doc Michael Dale and Global Climate & Energy Project director Sally Benson. They examined how much energy is consumed during the entire lifecycle of the production process for…

  • UK Renewables May Be Turning The Tide

    With the exception of geothermal energy most forms of renewable electricity generation have an intermittency to their delivery. Even hydro-electric power can fall short in periods of drought or low rain fall as the Chinese can attest to on the Three Gorges dam across the Yangtze River.Hydro, though, is generally taken as the dream power source. Usually large, sustainable for long periods of time, non-polluting - apart from the millions of tons of cement used in the construction phase - and, once built, environmentally acceptable.Wind in its various guises and solar have both received massive state funding, usually at the…

  • Kazakh President Shuns Renewables In Favor Of Fossil Fuels

    From small villages to big cities, wherever you go in Kazakhstan these days, billboards offer reminders that Astana is gearing up to host Expo 2017, the next World’s Fair. Kazakhstan helped secure the right to host the event with a pledge to emphasize green energy alternatives. But now it appears that Kazakhstan is red-lighting its own green transition. Green energy has been the rage in Kazakhstan in recent years, but the country’s strongman president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, seemed to shift gears out of the blue in late September. “I personally do not believe in alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar,”…

  • Big Oil And Renewables: Not So Strange Bedfellows

    In most conversations about energy, the topic of Big Oil versus renewables usually becomes a zero-sum game. Renewable advocates accuse Big Oil of conspiring to shut out wind, solar and other alt-energy sources in the pursuit of greater profits driven by fossil fuels. Big Oil defenders say that renewables, while an important adjunct, can never meet the global demand for energy provided by traditional sources: coal, oil and gas. In fact, the big oil companies have never shunned renewable energy in their mix of business operations, and only recently have pulled back investments in solar and wind. But the reasons…

  • Is France’s Love Affair with Nuclear Over?

    French President Francois Hollande has promised to limit the growth of the country’s nuclear power, many older reactors have been targeted for decommissioning, and Greenpeace and other environmental groups have been relentless in their anti-nuclear campaigning. But until now, it seemed unlikely that France would ever truly rethink its love affair with nuclear power. Last week, it did. On Oct. 10, France’s parliament voted to begin moving to undo decades of nuclear growth and to reduce its importance to the country’s energy mix. Over the next 11 years, France will reduce the amount of electricity coming from nuclear by one-quarter…

  • How Fusion Energy Could One Day Disrupt Energy Markets

    Fusion is thirty years away…and always will be. That is an oft-repeated cliché concerning one of the world’s most coveted – and so far unreachable – sources of energy. However, some recent developments in fusion energy technology could one day make that phrase obsolete. Fusion energy is the phenomenon that powers the stars. Unlike conventional nuclear fission, where a uranium atom is split, giving off enormous volumes of energy, nuclear fusion is the process by which two hydrogen atoms are slammed together. This also gives off a vast quantity of energy, and with it, the promise that man can harness…

  • Is Fusion Power Closer Than We Thought?

    The promise of generating energy with nuclear fusion is tantalizing because it would be free of toxic emissions and nuclear waste, and would have a virtually infinite fuel supply. On the downside, though, it is extremely costly compared with fossil fuels like natural gas and coal.Now engineers at the University of Washington (UW) have developed a design for a fusion reactor that could be even less expensive than a coal-fired plant but boast similar generating capacity. The current design is for a reactor too small to generate much electricity, but the team is confident it can be scaled up to…

  • New Nuclear Fuel Rod Could Increase Output Of Existing Plants

    A U.S. nuclear engineering company is preparing to hold the first safety tests of new nuclear fuel rods designed to significantly increase the generating output of existing nuclear power plants.The development is important the United States is trying to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and needs clean alternatives, now. CO2-emitting natural gas is now abundant and widely used, and planned emission-free nuclear plants won’t be operational for decades.Enter Lightbridge of Tysons Corner, Va., which says its rods can improve the generating capacity of existing nuclear power plants by between 10 percent and…

  • Epic Drought Impacting California’s Clean Energy Goals

    California has just entered its fourth year of drought -- a slow-rolling crisis that is showing no signs of abating.All of California is now affected, with more than half of the state considered to be in “exceptional” drought, the worst designation handed out by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Reduced rainfall means that California reservoirs are continuing to shrink, with water levels at just 52 percent of their historic average.That’s not just a problem for California’s $42.5 billion agricultural industry, which grows and produces much of the country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables. It is also is cutting into the state’s electricity…

  • Could Solar Provide 27% Of World’s Energy By 2050?

    Rapid Expansion of Solar Depends on Massive Subsidies and High Carbon PriceThe International Energy Agency updated their technology roadmaps for solar PV and solar thermal energy, suggesting that, with significant policy and technological progress, solar could collectively contribute 27 percent of global electricity by 2050. Some commentators were quick to exclaim victory, but let’s remember that the IEA has provided a “roadmap” not a set of predictions, nor projections. To achieve that 27 percent requires a high global carbon price – which doesn’t yet exist – and for average annual solar PV deployment to quadruple from 36 GW installed in…