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Alternative Energy / Renewable Energy

  • OPEC Decision Hits Renewables

    Is a solar supply glut on hand? Not exactly, but oil’s multi-month slide has largely overshadowed the sector’s emergent capacity. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the state of California, where the world’s largest photovoltaic power station is now online. Still, renewables did not emerge unscathed from the aftermath of OPEC’s decision to stand firm on production. Formerly rosy outlooks now take on an air of uncertainty as renewables growth looks to avoid becoming a casualty of an era of cheap oil and gas. Late last month, MidAmerican Solar’s Topaz solar farm reached full capacity to little fanfare. The…

  • The Cost Of Energy Storage

    I taught my students that intermittent renewable electricity (wind and solar) was third class compared with dispatchable fossil fuels (first class) and baseload nuclear power (second class). But that renewables may be turned into a first class electricity source with the development of affordable grid-scale storage. There are two important qualifiers to this statement and those are 1) affordable and 2) grid-scale. By grid scale I mean electricity storage that could power a medium sized town for a day or longer, or every night when the sun is down. In this short post I want to begin chronicling new storage…

  • Google Gives Up On Renewables

    This is a post-mortem on a project initiated by Google – a master of innovation if ever there was one and a company with impeccable green credentials (see photo below) – the goal of which was to scope out an innovative renewable energy system that could compete economically with coal and other fossil fuels and which could be deployed quickly enough to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Google headquarters, complete with 1.6MW of PV panels Work on the project, which Google named RE<C (Renewable Energy cheaper than Coal) continued from 2007 to 2011, a period over which…

  • Waste To Energy Could Be Long-Term Renewable Solution

    On a recent business trip to Edmonton, in northern Canada, I was surprised to find, amid the bales of recycled materials and heavy equipment pushing around mountains of trash, a large facility that looked a lot like an oil refinery. The building was a couple of storeys high and consisted of a network of interlocking pipes, surrounded by a cage of steel framing and a number of platforms. When I asked about it, a landfill worker told me the facility is a waste to biofuels plant that essentially converts garbage into biofuels. Opened in June, the waste to biofuels plant…

  • The Cold, Hard Truth About Renewables

    Does the recent climate accord between US and China mean that many countries will now forge ahead with renewables and other green solutions? I think that there are more pitfalls than many realize. Pitfall 1. Green solutions tend to push us from one set of resources that are a problem today (fossil fuels) to other resources that are likely to be problems in the longer term. The name of the game is “kicking the can down the road a little.” In a finite world, we are reaching many limits besides fossil fuels: 1. Soil quality–erosion of topsoil, depleted minerals, added…

  • Renewable Energy Will Allow Communist Party Of China To Hold Onto Power

    News about the US-China climate change deal was met with an equal measure of praise and doubt. Many observers cheered the fact that the world’s two largest economies had come together on an issue as important as climate change and vowed to take real, measurable steps in curbing emissions. Still others saw the announcement as a paper tiger, an agreement that allowed Beijing to gain some credibility while having no intention of ever following through with the terms of the deal. The National Review was particularly virulent in making the latter point. It wrote that there “was abundant reason for…

  • How Global Fossil Fuel Dependence Hasn`t Changed In 20 Years

    Whilst enjoying the good natured exchanges on this blog concerning the pros and cons of new renewable energy sources I decided to dig deeper into the success of Green energy policies to date. Roger Andrews produced this chart the other day and the low carbon energy trends caught my eye. It is important to recall that well over $1,700,000,000,000 ($1.7 trillion) has been spent on installing wind and solar devices in recent years with the sole objective of reducing global CO2 emissions. It transpires that since 1995 low carbon energy sources (nuclear, hydro and other renewables) share of global energy…

  • 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…

  • Epic Drought Impacting California‚Äôs 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…