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Posts Tagged solar thermal

The Climate Show #31: Doha! Doha! Doha! Gareth Renowden Dec 07

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It’s the run up to Christmas, and the annual ritual repeats. Diplomats gather in Doha to discuss and debate action on climate change, so Glenn and Gareth talk to their correspondent on the spot, New Zealand climate media strategist Cindy Baxter to find out what’s happening in the oil kingdom’s echoing halls. At the Fall AGU meeting in San Francisco, NOAA has published its 2012 Arctic Report Card (grim reading, it has to be said). Plus Gareth talks about truffles as a bellwether for Europe’s changing climate, and the boys get all enthusiastic about nanophotonics and steampunk.

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.

Follow The Climate Show at The Climate Show web site, and on Facebook and Twitter.

The Climate Show

Story references

News

The Fall AGU is on in San Francisco.

Today’s hot news: 2012 Arctic report card released: press release.

Graphics and articles: http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/article/2012/2012-arctic-report-card

French truffles being affected by heat and drought

http://www.wsl.ch/medien/news/Trueffel_mediterran/index_EN

The bigger picture: European Environment Agency report:

‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2012′ finds that higher average temperatures have been observed across Europe as well as decreasing precipitation in southern regions and increasing precipitation in northern Europe. The Greenland ice sheet, Arctic sea ice and many glaciers across Europe are melting, snow cover has decreased and most permafrost soils have warmed.

Guest interview:

Special guest NZr Cindy Baxter, a climate media strategist who has attended just about every major international climate meeting over the last 20 years. Veteran of the talks, blogs for Hot Topic. In Doha with climate scientists.

And just to underline Cindy’s comments: NZ’s lacklustre statement to COP 18: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1212/S00118/new-zealand-national-statement-to-cop18.htm

Solutions

Solar steam: Super-Efficient Solar-Energy Technology: ‘Solar Steam’ So Effective It Can Make Steam from Icy Cold Water

The efficiency of solar steam is due to the light-capturing nanoparticles that convert sunlight into heat. When submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, the particles heat up so quickly they instantly vaporize water and create steam. Halas said the solar steam’s overall energy efficiency can probably be increased as the technology is refined.
“We’re going from heating water on the macro scale to heating it at the nanoscale,” Halas said. “Our particles are very small — even smaller than a wavelength of light — which means they have an extremely small surface area to dissipate heat. This intense heating allows us to generate steam locally, right at the surface of the particle, and the idea of generating steam locally is really counterintuitive.”

Steampunk Oamaru

Thanks to our media partners: Idealog Sustain, Sciblogs, and Scoop .

Theme music: A Drop In The Ocean by The Bads.

The Climate Show #25: Box on ice (a polar special) Gareth Renowden Mar 23

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As the northern hemisphere starts to warm (rather rapidly in the USA), climate watchers’ thoughts turn to melting ice, and to tell us what happened last year and what might be in store this summer, Glenn and Gareth welcome back Greenland expert Jason Box from the Byrd Polar research Centre at Ohio State University. It’s a wide ranging and fascinating discussion, not to be missed. John Cook looks at the differences between sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, and we have news coverage of the new HadCRUT4 global temperature series, summertime in winter in the USA, worrying news about sea level from the Pliocene, a new report on climate change in the Pacific, and new developments in solar power and biofuels.

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.

Follow The Climate Show at The Climate Show web site, and on Facebook and Twitter.

The Climate Show

News & commentary: [0:03:30]

Hadley Centre publishes updated global temp series, includes Arctic for first time, shows 2010 was hottest year – formerly 1998.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17432194

Astounding US winter ’heatwave’ continues: Joe Romm at Climate Progress

From Jeff Masters on the day we were recording (21/3/12): http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2056

International Falls, Minnesota hit 78°F yesterday, 42° above average, and the 2nd hottest March temperature on record in the Nation’s Icebox. The record of 79°F was set the previous day. Remarkably, the low temperature for International Falls bottomed out at 60°F yesterday, tying the previous record high for the date. I’ve never seen a station with a century-long data record have its low temperature for the date match the previous record high for the date. Yesterday was the seventh consecutive day that International Falls broke or tied a daily record. That is spectacularly hard to do for a station with a century-long weather record. The longest string of consecutive records being broken I’m aware of is nine days in a row, set June 2 – 10, 1911 in Tulsa, Oklahoma (with weather records going back to 1905.) International Falls has a good chance of surpassing nine consecutive records this week.

Fox News:

“6th, 7th Consecutive Days of Record-Warmth Likely Updated: Monday, 19 Mar 2012, 12:37 PM CDT Published : Monday, 19 Mar 2012, 7:38 AM CDT Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago – In what meteorologists are calling a ’historic and unprecedented’ streak, the Chicago area should hit the sixth day in a row of record warm temperatures on Monday, even on the last day of winter.”

Global Sea Level Likely to Rise as Much as 70 Feet for Future Generations

Even if humankind manages to limit global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends, future generations will have to deal with sea levels 12 to 22 meters (40 to 70 feet) higher than at present, according to research published in the journal Geology.

Climate change and the future of our Pacific neighbours

…until recently there has been limited reliable detailed scientific information available to [Pacific Island] countries. A major new report recently released by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO is helping to fill this gap. It provides the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date of climate change in the Pacific region.
The 530 page, two-volume scientific report called ’Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research’ shows clear evidence of how the climate in the Pacific has changed and may change in the future.

Entire nation of Kiribati to be relocated over rising sea level threat

Interview [0:22:30]

Jason Box, Assoc. Professor in the Department of Geography, Byrd Polar Research Center,
The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

NASA MODIS Arctic mosaic

Arctic Report Card, highlights

  • Arctic average surface air temperature remained high in 2011, ~1.5 C above the 1981-2000 baseline
  • shift in the Arctic [Ocean] system since 2006
  • persistent decline in the thickness and extent of the summer sea ice cover, and a warmer, fresher upper ocean.
  • As a result of increased open water area, biological productivity at the base of the marine food chain has increased
  • sea ice-dependent marine mammals continue to lose habitat.
  • increases in the greenness of tundra vegetation
  • increases in permafrost temperature
  • more downward sensible heat and positive albedo feedback, reduced sea ice
  • loss of habit for walrus and polar bears.
  • less duration of solid platform for seal to ‘pup’
  • Possibly linked to recent changes in wind patterns, ozone concentrations in the Arctic stratosphere during March 2011 were the lowest ever recorded during the period beginning in 1979.
  • Higher temperatures in the Arctic and unusually lower temperatures in some low latitude regions are linked to global shifts in atmospheric wind patterns.

Links to ’Weird Weather’

  • While oceanic and atmospheric patterns such as El Niño, La Niña, and the North Atlantic Oscillation have been blamed for the spate of unusual weather recently, there’s now a new culprit in the wind: Arctic amplification…
  • new Arctic amplification (enhanced Arctic warming relative to that in mid-latitudes) news from: Francis and Vavrus (2012), Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L06801, doi:10.1029/2012GL051000
  • a slower eastward progression of Rossby waves in the upper-level flow
    1) weakened zonal winds,
    2) increased wave amplitude.
    may cause more persistent weather patterns in mid-latitude

Greenland

A persistent and strong negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index was responsible for southerly air flow along the west of Greenland, which caused anomalously warm weather in winter 2010-11 and summer 2011.

Albedo feedback…

  • Greenland ice sheet mass loss has accelerated in the past decade responding to combined glacier discharge and surface melt water runoff increases.
  • During summer, absorbed solar energy, modulated at the surface primarily by albedo, is the dominant factor governing surface melt variability in the ablation area.
  • Using satellite observations of albedo and melt extent with calibrated regional climate model output, we determine the spatial dependence and quantitative impact of the ice sheet albedo feedback in twelve summer periods beginning in 2000.
  • We find that while the albedo feedback is negative over 70 % of the ice sheet, concentrated in the accumulation area above 1500 m, positive feedback prevailing over the ablation area accounts for more than half of the overall increase in melting.
  • Over the ablation area, year 2010 and 2011 absorbed solar energy was more than twice as large as in years 2000—2004.
  • Anomalous anticyclonic circulation, associated with a persistent summer North Atlantic Oscillation extreme since 2007 enabled three amplifying mechanisms to maximize the albedo feedback:
  • (1) increased warm (south) air advection along the western ice sheet increased surface sensible heating that in turn enhanced snow grain metamorphic rates, further reducing albedo;
  • (2) increased surface downward solar irradiance, leading to more surface heating and further albedo reduction; and
  • (3) reduced snowfall rates sustained low albedo, maximizing surface solar heating, progressively lowering albedo over multiple years.
  • The summer net radiation for the high elevation accumulation area approached positive values during this period.
  • while negative feedback has been reducing impact of warming, the surface radiation budget has gotten more positive, seems a threshold is about to be crossed! All what is needed more is another decadal trend increase like the last decade, THIS IS LIKELY! It is reasonable to predict that we will observe mid summer (mid July) melting over 100% of the ice sheet surface. Max melt extent was ~65% in 2010.
  • The area and duration of melting at the surface of the ice sheet in summer 2011 were the third highest since 1979.
  • The area of marine-terminating glaciers continued to decrease, though at less than half the rate of the previous 10 years.
  • In situ measurements revealed near record-setting mass losses concentrated at higher elevations on the western slope of the ice sheet, and at an isolated glacier in southeastern Greenland.
  • Total ice sheet mass loss in 2011 was 70% larger than the 2003-09 average annual loss rate of -250 Gt y-1. According to satellite gravity data obtained since 2002, ice sheet mass loss is accelerating.

Summer plans

  • ’holistic’ glacier study, Store Glacier, 70 N W Greenland…the idea is to observe the system not just make and analyze this or that measurement
  • in-situ crevasse widening measurements x 2
  • water filled crevasse depth measurements x 2
  • continuous GPS x 3
  • seismometers x 3
  • time lapse cameras
  • tide gauge
  • tidal modulation of flow dynamics
  • calving tsunamis
  • hydrophones
  • multi-beam swath sonar repeat survey of sub marine glacier front
  • hydrographic surveying (temperature, salinity, current; vs depth)
  • heat and water mass budget
  • acoustic doppler current profiler
  • aircraft and satellite remote sensing data

Debunking the sceptic [1:01:50]

John Cook from skepticalscience.com talks about Antarctic sea ice:

http://sks.to/antarctica

Solutions [1:17:00]

Waikato’s plan to harvest sunlight

Pretty pictures from National Geographic: solar thermal stations in Spain.

Electric Jeepneys to reduce pollution in Philippines.

NZ’s LanzaTech picked as one of world’s leading energy innovators

http://www.lanzatech.co.nz/content/lanzatech-process

Thanks to our media partners: Idealog Sustain, Sciblogs, Scoop and KiwiFM.

Theme music: A Drop In The Ocean by The Bads.

This edition of The Climate Show is our entry in TckTckTck‘s Rio Blogger competition. Wish us luck!

The Climate Show #20: the boys are back (on Tuvalu) Gareth Renowden Oct 20

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Battling against rural broadband that resembled digital molasses (or the bunker oil being pumped out of the Rena), Gareth returns to NZ and joins Glenn Williams and John Cook to discuss drought in Tuvalu, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), floods and sea level falls, ocean cooling (that isn’t), solar towers of power and much, much more…

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold…

Follow The Climate Show at The Climate Show web site, and on Facebook and Twitter.

The Climate Show

News & commentary: [0:05:54]

Tuvalu, La Nina/ENSO and water

http://tvnz.co.nz/world-news/desperate-tuvalu-receives-more-aid-4470389

Tuvalu drought could be dry run for dealing with climate change

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/enso/mei/mei.html: ’I believe the odds for a La Niña winter have indeed risen to near 100%, with the ‘fall window’ of disrupting this evolution closing rapidly. However, it does not appear likely that we will see as strong an event as in 2010-11.’

https://www2.ucar.edu/staffnotes/research/5566/el-nino-climate-change-coming-century

The research team, which was led by Samantha Stevenson (University of Colorado Boulder) and includes NCAR scientists Markus Jochum, Richard Neale, Clara Deser, and Gerald Meehl, used the NCAR-based Community Climate System Model (CCSM) to simulate the effects of climate change on ENSO over the 21st century. They found no significant changes in its extent or frequency.

However, the warmer and moister atmosphere of the future could make ENSO events more extreme. For example, the model predicts the blocking high pressure south of Alaska that often occurs during La Niña winters to strengthen under future atmospheric conditions, meaning that intrusions of Arctic air into North America typical of La Niña winters could be stronger in the future.

http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00252.1

And while we’re talking about ENSO…

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-262

The strong La Nina caused intense rainfall in Australia and Brazil – enough to cause a downward blip in sea level rise… confirmed by GRACE satellite measurements.

Meanwhile, on sea level:

http://esciencenews.com/articles/2011/10/17/sea.levels.will.continue.rise.500.years

’For the two more realistic scenarios, calculated based on the emissions and pollution stabilizing, the results show that there will be a sea level rise of about 75 cm by the year 2100 and that by the year 2500 the sea will have risen by 2 meters.’

Worst case: ’sea levels will rise 1.1 meters by the year 2100 and will have risen 5.5 meters by the year 2500.’

Starbucks concerned world coffee supply is threatened by climate change.

New climate science roundup

http://hot-topic.co.nz/not-a-pretty-picture-recent-science-summarised/

http://pdf.wri.org/climate_science_2009-2010.pdf#

NIWA’s new Climate Change Atlas: http://www.niwa.co.nz/node/102850

Debunking the skeptic, John Cook from skepticalscience.com [0:35:50]

Ocean Cooling? (No it’s not).

Model-based evidence of deep-ocean heat uptake during surface-temperature hiatus periods (Meehl et al 2011)

http://sks.to/oceanheat

Solutions [00:45:45]

Solar Decathlon results:

NZ team finished third: http://www.solardecathlon.gov/, http://firstlighthouse.ac.nz/.

The Kiwi bach of tomorrow: http://firstlighthouse.ac.nz/the-house/design-features/

Sky-scraping Tower Will Power 100,000 Homes with Hot Air

A 2,600-foot tower planned for the Arizona desert will be the world’s second tallest structure and will be able to power 100,000 homes through hot air alone.

NASA issues award in green aviation competition

On Monday, the space agency issued the award to team Pipistrel-USA.com of State College, Pa., as part of the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency, or CAFE, Green Flight Challenge.

The competition, sponsored by Google, was created to inspire the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft and spark the start of a new electric airplane industry, NASA said. The winning aircraft had to fly 200 miles in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity.

Electric car infrastructure begins to roll out across the UK

Thanks to our media partners: Idealog Sustain, SciblogsScoop and KiwiFM.

Theme music: A Drop In The Ocean by The Bads.

The Climate Show #16: Keith Hunter on oceans, acids and the carbon cycle Gareth Renowden Jul 15

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We learned a lot this week, as Professor Keith Hunter of the University of Otago, one of the world’s leading ocean chemists, gave us a masterclass on ocean acidification and what it means for the future of the oceans. Plus we discuss Australia’s new carbon tax, green growth campaigns in New Zealand, why China’s aerosols may have been doing us a favour and why cleaning them up might unleash more warming, and climate models having trouble with rapid climate events. On the solutions front we look at a tiny electric aeroplane setting a new speed record and a solar initiative in NZ. No John Cook in this show, but he’ll be back soon.

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold…

Follow The Climate Show at The Climate Show web site, and on Facebook and Twitter.

The Climate Show

News & commentary: [0:03:25]

Australia bites the carbon bullet.

Going for Green Growth in NZ

Pure Advantage campaign launched

Green Growth Advisory Group launches discussion document

China’s power stations generate ‘future spike’ in global warming The paper referred to is Reconciling anthropogenic climate change with observed temperature 1998—2008 by Robert K. Kaufmann et al, pdf here.

State-of-the-art climate models are largely untested against actual occurrences of abrupt change. It is a huge leap of faith to assume that simulations of the coming century with these models will provide reliable warning of sudden, catastrophic events.

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v4/n7/full/ngeo1200.html

Al Gore is back: Gore’s Climate Reality project announced it would kick off with a 24-hour live streamed event on 14 September. The day’s events will include a new multimedia presentation by Gore that will “connect the dots” between extreme weather events and climate change, a statement said.

http://climaterealityproject.org/

Interview: Professor Keith Hunter of the University of Otago. [0:30:00]

Professor Keith Hunter is New Zealand’s leading scientist in the field of marine and freshwater chemistry. His research interests include the effects of trace metals, both essential and toxic, on the growth of phytoplankton; the marine chemistry of the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide and marine surfaces (air-water, sediment-water). He directs the joint NIWA-University of Otago Centre of Excellence for Chemical and Physical Oceanography based in the Department of Chemistry, and is involved in several PGSF-funded research programmes.

Skeptical Science series on ocean acidification: http://www.skepticalscience.com/Mackie_OA_not_OK_post_0.html

Solutions [01:10:30]

Councils asked to go solar in ‘The Solar Promise’ nationwide campaign launched this week:

http://www.dunedin.govt.nz/your-council/latest-news/july-2011/councils-asked-to-go-solar-in-the-solar-promise-nationwide-campaign-launched-today

http://www.solarpromise.org.nz/

Tiny electric airplane sets speed record

http://www.ecogeek.org/ecogeeks/3550-tiny-electric-airplane-sets-speed-record

Thanks to our media partners: Celsias.co.nz, Scoop and KiwiFM.

Theme music: A Drop In The Ocean by The Bads.

The Climate Show #13: James Hansen and the critical decade Gareth Renowden May 24

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Special guest on this week’s show is Dr James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and perhaps the best-known climate scientist in the world — the man who put the 350 in 350.org and a forceful advocate for leaving coal in the ground. We caught up with him during his recent NZ tour, and grabbed an interview during his whirlwind visit to Canterbury University (thanks Bronnie!). John Cook’s back from the tour launching his new book Climate Denial: Heads In The Sand, and talks about his experiences on the road as well as debunking the “CO2 lags warming” myth. Plus the Australian Climate Commission’s new report, The Critical Decade, Britain’s ambitious new carbon targets, and a couple of new solar power initiatives.

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, or listen direct/download here:

The Climate Show

Follow The Climate Show at The Climate Show web site, and on Facebook and Twitter.

News & commentary:

Hansen in NZ

First reports, and on lignite.

Australian Climate Commission releases new report: The Critical Decade.

Key messages:

  1. There is no doubt that the climate is changing. The evidence is overwhelming and clear
  2. We are already seeing the social, economic and environmental impacts of a changing climate
  3. Human activities — the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation — are triggering the changes we are witnessing in the global climate
  4. This is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience

See also: The Age

Britain pledges to halve carbon emissions by 2025.

Interview: [0:22:25]

Dr James Hansen: director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, ’the grandfather of global warming’. [Home page, Storms of my Grandchildren, Wikipedia]

Three papers:

The case for young people and nature: a path to a healthy, natural prosperous future.

Earth’s Energy Imbalance and Implications

Paleoclimate Implications for Human-Made Climate Change

Debunking the sceptic, with John Cook of Skeptical Science [0:47:45].

Climate Change Denial: Heads in the sand: http://sks.to/denial (Hot Topic review).

Climate Myth: CO2 lags temperature: http://sks.to/lag.

Solutions [1:08:50]

New solar product captures up to 95 percent of light energy.

First Large Scale 24/7 Solar Power Plant to be Constructed in U.S
Source: Clean Technica

Thanks to our media partners: Celsias.co.nz, Scoop and KiwiFM.

Theme music: A Drop In The Ocean by The Bads.

The Climate Show #12: twisters, Olaf on ozone, and Google in the sun Gareth Renowden May 05

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Ozone is the centrepiece of our show this week, with Dr Olaf Morgenstern of NIWA’s Central Otago atmospheric science lab (celebrating its 50th birthday at the moment) explaining the ins and outs of the ozone holes north and south, and their impacts on the climate system. Plus tornadoes, heatwaves, UN negotiations at an impasse, more melting in the Arctic, airships, see-through solar cells and Google’s solar towers. No John Cook this time — he’s been too busy launching his book (good luck with that John!).

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, or listen direct/download here:

The Climate Show

Follow The Climate Show at The Climate Show web site, on Facebook and Twitter.

News & commentary:

[0:09:00] Tornadoes: NZ Met Service blog post on the Albany tornado, and Jeff Masters on the April US tornado outbreak. Frogblog comment (scroll down to comment by “Jimmy”).

Britain has hottest easter since records began (1960) and and the warmest April in more than 350 years: BBC.

Major polluters say 2011 climate deal “not doable”.

New analysis of Antarctic ice cores shows that CO2 increases start within a couple of hundred years of warming beginning at ice age terminations (the famous ’lag’ some sceptics claim disproves CO2/warming link much shorter than previously thought): New Scientist.

New Arctic report suggests sea level could rise by 1.6m by end of century:
“The observed changes in sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, in the mass of the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic ice caps and glaciers over the past 10 years are dramatic and represent an obvious departure from the long-term patterns,” AMAP said in the executive summary: CBS News.

Chinese icebreaker to circumnavigate Arctic this summer.

Interview: [0:31:00] Dr Olaf Morgenstern of NIWA’s Lauder atmospheric science lab.

Ozone link to Aussie rainfall here, and this paper (not mentioned in the programme) explains some of the competition between ozone and greenhouse gas forcing (with good diagram of atmospheric circulation).

Solutions

[0:58:00]Airships as low-carbon freight carriers.

Google invests in Mojave solar thermal power: Guardian, Fast Company.

See-through solar cells.

New cheap fuel cell catalysts.

Thanks to our media partners: Celsias.co.nz, Scoop and KiwiFM.

Theme music: A Drop In The Ocean by The Bads.

Ramping up renewables Bryan Walker Aug 26

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There may be conflicting reports as to whether renewable energy can replace fossil fuels in time to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and there are still plenty of people in positions of authority, like our own Energy Minister, who see little reason to hurry the process. The heavy lobbying influence of big oil and coal interests remains powerful. But it’s heartening to be reminded from time to time that transition is nevertheless under way in many parts of the world and that it’s gathering pace. An Earth Policy Institute article has arrived in my inbox offering just such a reminder. It refreshes what Lester Brown had to say about the shift to renewable energy in his book Plan B 4.0.

I reviewed the book on Hot Topic last year, but at the risk of repeating myself I’ll report some of the points which he now reiterates and updates. The first is that the transition to energy powered by wind, solar and geothermal sources is moving worldwide at a pace and on a scale we could not have imagined even two years ago. Texas, the oil state, is a prime example. It has 9,700 megawatts of wind generating capacity online, 370 more in construction, and a huge amount in the development stage. When all of these wind farms are completed, Texas will have 53,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity–the equivalent of 53 coal-fired power plants. This will more than satisfy the residential needs of the state’s 25 million people, enabling Texas to export electricity, just as it has long exported oil.

South Dakota has begun development on a vast 5050-megawatt farm that when completed will produce nearly five times as much electricity as the state needs. It will become an exporter, as some ten American states and several Canadian provinces are planning to be.

Brown then moves across the Atlantic to point to the hopes of the Scottish government for the development of an enormous off-shore wind generating capacity of some 60,000 megawatts. I reported  on Hot Topic a few months ago on a major survey which has identified North Sea potential from wind and wave of even larger potential, capable of producing six times as much electricity as is currently used in the UK. If joined to a northern super-grid it could enable access to a single European electricity market and export opportunity.

Algeria plans to build 6000 megawatts of solar thermal generating power for export to Europe via undersea cable

It’s not only the developed world that is embracing renewable energy on a rapidly growing scale. Brown instances Algeria’s plans to build 6000 megawatts of solar thermal generating power for export to Europe via undersea cable. He points to their awareness that they have enough harnessable solar energy in their vast deserts to power the entire world economy. Solar energy is clearly of enormous potential not only in the Mediterranean region but also in the south-west US and the Indian desert and China, and there is regular news of new developments in all of these areas.

Brown touches on Turkey where construction  permits are being issued for 7,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity, in response to bids to build a staggering 78,000 megawatts. In Indonesia the state oil company Pertamina is responsible for developing most of a planned 6,900 megawatts of geothermal generating capacity.

’These are only a few of the visionary initiatives to tap the earth’s renewable energy. The resources are vast. In the United States, three states–North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas–have enough harnessable wind energy to run the entire economy. In China, wind will likely become the dominant power source. Indonesia could one day get all its power from geothermal energy alone. Europe will be powered largely by wind farms in the North Sea and solar thermal power plants in the North African desert.’

The 20th century saw the globalisation of the world energy economy as countries everywhere turned to oil, much of it from the Middle East. This century, says Brown, will see the localisation of energy production as the world turns to wind, solar and geothermal energy. It will also see the electrification of the economy.

’The transport sector will shift from gasoline-powered automobiles to plug-in gas-electric hybrids, all-electric cars, light rail transit, and high-speed intercity rail. And for long-distance freight, the shift will be from diesel-powered trucks to electrically powered rail freight systems. The movement of people and goods will be powered largely by electricity. In this new energy economy, buildings will rely on renewable electricity almost exclusively for heating, cooling, and lighting.’

Can renewable energy be expanded fast enough? Brown thinks so, encouraged by the phenomenon of the extraordinary growth of the communications and information economies in only the last thirty years. Others don’t. Barry Brook in Australia is one, with his views summed up in this recent article and much more on his Brave New Climate website. Not that he’s arguing for fossil fuels — in his view nuclear power is the only technology that can get us there fast enough and economically enough. 

Lester Brown falls back on the analogy of the Second World War when the American economy changed direction with extraordinary speed and prospered in doing so. He’s not alone in sounding this theme, but he was an early proponent of it. The difficulty with this concept is that our societies are hardly yet ready to see climate change in the stark terms which obtained in 1939 and 1941. 

Whether renewables will be ratcheted up quickly enough or not they certainly represent one of our best hopes of containing climate change impacts. Don’t forget to tell Gerry Brownlee so before September 2, when submissions on the new draft energy strategy close. I’ve said elsewhere on Hot Topic what I see as wrong with the draft.  Simon Boxer of Greenpeace has put it succinctly:

’It’s a document that lacks vision and goals. It shows that the Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee is ignoring the climate crisis. It’s a route map to a dead end.

’The Government’s energy strategy prioritises drilling and mining for more oil and coal, while providing virtually no stimulation for the development of renewable energy and clean technology. It fails to acknowledge the seriousness of climate change and makes no attempt to set measurable emissions reduction targets.’

If you’d like some suggestions the Greens offer a thoughtful submission guide.  If you’re lacking time a shortcut is offered by Greenpeace or WWF . Many of the 40,000 submissions received by the government on Brownlee’s proposals to mine conservation land no doubt used form statements provided by organisations. They still count, so use one of the offered quick responses rather than pass the opportunity by.

Technology advances, politicians hold back Bryan Walker Jul 23

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In the face of the utterly depressing final confirmation that the proposed energy bill has been abandoned in the US Senate in the face of Republican opposition, and the realisation that Obama has let the opportunity die without a fight, as Joe Romm puts it, I cast around for something cheering this morning.  I found it in an interesting article on Chris Goodall’s website Carbon Commentary. The article describes the world’s first molten salts Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plant. It’s not the first to use molten salts, in that many of the newer CSP plants use molten salts storage to extend the plant’s daily operating hours, but it is the first to use molten salts not just to store heat but also to collect it from the sun in the first place. Normally, pressurised oil which heats up to around 390 degrees is used to collect the heat.

Molten salts can operate at higher temperatures than oils, up to 550 degrees, thus increasing the efficiency and power output of a plant. With the higher-temperature heat storage allowed by the direct use of salts, the plant can also extend its operating hours longer than an oil-operated CSP plant with molten salt storage, working, the article claims, 24 hours a day for several days even in the absence of sun or during rainy days.

This feature also enables a simplified plant design, as it avoids the need for oil-to-salts heat exchangers, and eliminates the safety and environmental concerns related to the use of oils.

Significantly, the higher temperatures reached by the molten salts enable the use of steam turbines at the standard pressure/temperature parameters as used in most common gas-cycle fossil power plants. This means that conventional power plants can be integrated — or, in perspective, replaced — with this technology without expensive retrofits to the existing assets. The first plant, a small one of 5 MW, located in Priolo Gargallo (Sicily), is fully integrated to an existing combined-cycle gas power plant.

A small comfort, perhaps. However the writer describes it as a top-notch world’s first, expensive at around 60 million euros but with overwhelming scope for a massive roll-out of the new technology at utility scale in sunny regions like Northern Africa, the Middle East, Australia, the US.

Solar power is certain to play a large part globally in a future of renewable energy, if we don’t destroy that future before it arrives, and the constant improvements in harnessing the power of the sun are highly encouraging.

Meanwhile back in New Zealand the government has today released a draft of its proposed new energy strategy, which Gerry Brownlee announced the need for shortly after becoming Minister of Energy because the previous one  was just ’an idealistic vision document for carbon neutrality’.  I’ve only had a cursory look so far, but it certainly looks like the great step backwards that he signalled. In the section headed Areas of Focus the leading item is ’Develop petroleum and mineral fuel resources.’ This is what it means:

’The country already benefits substantially from the revenue gathered from the development and sale of petroleum and coal resources, and both are significant export earners.

’Further commercialisation of petroleum and mineral fuel resources has the potential to produce a step change in economic growth for the country.’

The document does move on to renewables:

’The Government retains the aspirational, but achievable, target that 90 percent of electricity generation be from renewable sources by 2025 (in an average hydrological year) providing this does not affect security of supply.’

But we’re not going to get carried away with aspiration:

’Achieving this target must not be at the expense of the security and reliability of our electricity supply. For the foreseeable future some fossil fuel generation will be required to support supply security.’

There is some useful stuff on renewables and on new technologies, but the minister is obviously unwilling to face the reality of what continuing to produce and burn petroleum and coal actually means for the climate. It means hell and high water, to use Joe Romm’s words in his book of that title. In that book Romm also said that the global warming problem is a now only a problem of politics and political will. Technologies advance, but politicians lag.

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