The Intermittency of Wind and Solar: Is It Only Intermittently a Problem?

After having been in denial for some time, the oil firms are now at wit’s end, it seems. For years, they denied that any warming was underway at all. Then when some of them finally admitted it, they said, inaccurately, that scientists were still “unsure” of the cause. Now, perhaps, some of them are becoming too subtle for their own good, or even too clever by half. At times, what some of the oil firms are saying of late, particularly about the “intermittency of renewables,” may even be a little above the public’s head. The “perils of intermittency” may only be a viable argument for a “niche market” of global citizens who are somewhat informed about energy issues, yet not fully apprised. This is a good sign, it seems to me. The oil firms are apparently running out of ideas to try to convince us to move slowly on climate change, even before they run out of conventional oil and natural gas.

With the price of wind power falling more and more, and the price of solar PV falling sharply and enticingly, what other arguments will the big oil firms still have left to try to slow the transition to renewables when even the cost of natural gas may soon be unable to compete with the cost of wind in the Midwest or solar PV in the Southwest? The “risk of intermittency” may be one of the only “reasonable” arguments that Shell or Conoco will still be able to make. And yet, who will even care? Soon, the US energy market, with its focus on price points, may simply say to the oil giants, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about the ‘risk.’ ”

Written by Victor Provenzano. To read the full article, click here.

Calculating Solar Energy’s Land-Use Footprint

New Hampshire, USA — New statistics from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reveal exactly how much land is needed to site a solar plant of various sizes and technologies, based on actual plants and projects and not models or projections. The takeway: your mileage may vary.

NREL’s previous estimates and calculations of solar energy’s land-use requirements, published several years ago, suggested that it could meet the U.S.’ total electric demand (circa 2005 levels) with a footprint of about 0.6 percent of the nation’s total land area, or somewhere around 14-15 million acres.

Now, though, NREL has pooled data from more than two-thirds (72 percent) of solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar thermal (CSP) power plants already installed or being built across the country, as of 3Q12 data from SEIA: 2.1 GW (AC) of generation capacity and 4.6 GW (AC) under construction. Not surprisingly, they determined the required footprint varies widely depending what solar energy technology is applied, weighing between and how one calculates the “direct impact” (physical infrastructure development) vs. “total” area impacted including the surrounding land.

Written by James Montgomery. To read the full article, click here.

Solar Energy Battery Backup Under Attack in California?

CHICAGO — California is no stranger to rolling blackouts. When Charles and Elke Hewitt installed a solar electric system with batteries for emergency backup power on their home this April, they were shocked when Southern California Edison rejected their application for grid connection under their net metering program. And the Hewitt family was not alone. Soon all homeowners with solar electric systems with battery backup in California could be affected by Edison’s stance on backup power.

Edison informed the couple their application for grid connection was denied because the batteries they used to store energy for emergency backup power when the grid went down were considered “power generators” and not energy storage devices, said Charles Hewitt. Edison said Hewitt did not qualify for their net metering program because the utility could not distinguish between power produced by the solar panels and power produced by the batteries, which it considers a nonrenewable source of power, he said. Edison explained their policy had not changed. It was the equipment that had changed. Members of the solar industry refute Edison’s position.

Written by Lauren Poole. To read the full article, click here.

Crippled Cruise Ship, Costa Concordia, Haunts Italians of Giglio

Sergio Ortelli, the mayor of the tiny, idyllic island of Giglio, about 12 miles off Italy’s Tuscany coast, has become a maritime salvage expert since the massive Costa Concordia cruiseliner crashed onto his island’s shores the night of January 13, 2012. The island’s permanent population is just under 900, and when the Concordia capsized with 4,229 passengers and crew on board, the wave of humanity that poured onto the island sent the residents into a state of shock they have not yet recovered from.

Since then, more than 500 salvage workers have taken over the place, in an 18-month scramble to reinforce the damaged hulk, free it from the underwater rocks it is snagged on and float it away. They are scheduled to pull the ship free in the next few weeks. If the operation goes well it will be the greatest success in the history of maritime salvage. But if a single thing goes wrong, the boat will tear apart or sink whole, causing an environmental disaster (see “Refloating the Wrecked Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Could Ruin Marine Sanctuary” ). Either way, the island and its people will never be the same, because the bloody night of the accident and the occupation since then have left an indelible mark. “How can we forget the survivors who looked to us for help, or the families who came to get the bodies of their loved ones?” Ortelli asks.

Written by Barbie Latza Nadeau. To read the full article, click here.

European forests near ‘carbon saturation point’

European forests are showing signs of reaching a saturation point as carbon sinks, a study has suggested.

Since 2005, the amount of atmospheric CO2 absorbed by the continent’s trees has been slowing, researchers reported.

Writing in Nature Climate Change, they said this was a result of a declining volume of trees, deforestation and the impact of natural disturbances.

Carbon sinks play a key role in the global carbon cycle and are promoted as a way to offset rising emissions.

Many of Europe’s forests are reaching an age where growth, and carbon uptake, slows down
Writing in their paper, the scientists said the continent’s forests had been recovering in recent times after centuries of stock decline and deforestation.

The growth had also provided a “persistent carbon sink”, which was projected to continue for decades.

Written by Mark Kinver. To read the full article, click here.

Peru To Provide Free Solar Power To 2 Million Of Its Poorest Residents By 2016

Peru has initiated a program that will provide more than 2 million of its poorest residents with electricity — for free.

‘The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program’ began on July 8, when 1,601 solar panels were installed in the Contumaza province of the country, CleanTechnica.com reported. Those panels, part of the program’s first phase, will reportedly power 126 impoverished communities.

Jorge Merino, Energy and Mining Minister, told the Latin American Herald that the entire program will allow 95 percent of Peru to have access to electricity by the end of 2016. That will be done by installing a planned 12,500 solar (photovoltaic) systems, reaching 500,000 households, according to PlanetSave.com.

Currently, only about 66 percent of Peru’s population has access to electricity.

Written by Huffington Post. To read the full article, click here.

Seawater and solar power grow crops in the desert

(CNN) — In the scorching desert of Qatar, scientists are showing that saltwater can be used to help grow crops.

A one hectare research initiative known as the Sahara Forest Project — modest in size, but not in ambition — has produced a harvest of barley, cucumbers and arugula in the last few months using a mix of ingredients not usually associated with successful agriculture: seawater and Qatar’s ample supply of heat.

Conceived in Norway, the first-ever Sahara Forest Project facility launched last November to coincide with the United Nations Climate Conference e(COP18) in Doha. It implements a range of cutting-edge environmentally-friendly technologies that takes the things that Qatar has in excess — heat and seawater — and converts them into a range of valuable resources.

“These are ideas that could sound too good to be true,” admits the project CEO, Joakim Hauge, adding that in the early days the project met with an equal measure of enthusiasm and skepticism.

Written by Daisy Carrington. To read the full article, click here.