Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 01:20 AM
Number of posts: 21,352
Number of posts: 21,352
TAYLOR GLACIER, ANTARCTICA
Natural time capsule containing an alien ecosystem
This five-story, blood-red waterfall pours very slowly out of the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys. When geologists first discovered the frozen waterfall in 1911, they thought the red color came from algae, but its true nature turned out to be much more spectacular.
Roughly two million years ago, the Taylor Glacier sealed beneath it a small body of water which contained an ancient community of microbes. Trapped below a thick layer of ice, they have remained there ever since, isolated inside a natural time capsule. Evolving independently of the rest of the living world, these microbes exist in a place with no light or free oxygen and little heat, and are essentially the definition of "primordial ooze." The trapped lake has very high salinity and is rich in iron, which gives the waterfall its red color. A fissure in the glacier allows the subglacial lake to flow out, forming the falls without contaminating the ecosystem within.
The existence ...
Photo spread: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/blood-falls
Posted by kristopher | Sat May 25, 2013, 07:22 PM (1 replies)
Hot Water Heaters: When Energy Efficiency Fights Demand Response
Out of the basement and into the fire
KATHERINE TWEED: MAY 15, 2013
The home hot water heater is hardly the cool kid in the appliance schoolyard. It doesn't receive daily human interaction. It mostly dwells in the basement. There is no former Apple designer bringing us a new, sexy water heater.
But that doesn't mean the appliance is completely forgotten. There is a tussle brewing in Washington over the second-largest energy hog in the house. The lowly hot water heater has long been part of load control programs run by electric utilities. Some hot water heaters also receive significant rebates as part of utility energy-efficiency programs. Now the two programs are potentially pitted against each other because of proposed energy conservation standards for residential hot water heaters put forth by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Demand response and energy efficiency are often seen as two peas in a pod. While efficiency can drive down overall energy use, even more kilowatts can be shed when the grid needs it most.
The point of contention is that large water heaters, over 55 gallons, will be required to have an energy factor of at least 2.057, a figure that’s double the efficiency of a high-efficiency electric storage heater. The new standard could only be met with heat-pump water heaters, instead of the classic electric resistance water heaters.
The problem is that heat-pump water heaters, while far more efficient, are essentially no good for demand response...
Posted by kristopher | Sat May 25, 2013, 11:52 AM (3 replies)
Microgrids: A Utility’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?
Microgrids could be a threat or an opportunity for utilities.
CHRIS NELDER: MAY 23, 2013
Defenders of the electric grid status quo have long argued that always-on baseload power generators like coal and nuclear plants are essential, and that variable renewables like wind and solar will remain bit players in power generation.
They argue this for several reasons: The grid isn’t designed to accommodate them. They’re too expensive. Or they aren’t reliable enough, so they require 100% backup from conventional power plants at all times. An essay by former utility CEO Charles Bayless in the September 2010 issue of the Edison Electric Institute’s Electric Perspectives magazine details the utility view of these issues nicely.
But one by one, those arguments are being knocked down.
A recent data roundup by renewable energy industry analyst Paul Gipe shows that variable renewables are meeting much larger percentages of grid power than previously thought possible in some European countries. Wind provided nearly 20 percent of Portugal’s power and 30 percent of Denmark’s in 2012. Wind and solar combined contributed more than 18 percent of Spain’s power and 11 percent of Germany’s in 2011. (More recent data shows that renewables now provide about 25 percent of Germany’s total grid power, and as much as 50 percent of its peak power.) A study by German engineers found that its grid can handle up to a 40 percent share of renewable power without needing much storage or baseload power for backup.
Now the reliability and stability arguments, which were the main focus of Bayless’ essay referenced above, may be about to lose their potency too...
Posted by kristopher | Sat May 25, 2013, 11:47 AM (0 replies)
The two people being quoted are:
American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Transmission Policy Manager Michael Goggin
An economics researcher for the nuclear and fossil industries, Jonathan Lesser
I strongly urge reading the entire article.
Wind and the Myth of Widespread Negative Pricing
Does wind power reduce grid pricing and grid reliability?
HERMAN K. TRABISH: MAY 20, 2013
...“Nobody disputes the fact that adding more wind energy to the grid displaces more expensive sources of generation,” explained American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Transmission Policy Manager Michael Goggin. “That has two impacts. One, it reduces the total use of fuel and therefore the total fuel cost. It also drives the market price for electricity down, which is creating billions of dollars in savings for consumers."
“The wind production tax credit (PTC) has greatly exacerbated the number of hours where electric prices are negative,” economist Jonathan Lesser, a researcher for the nuclear and fossil industries, recently testified to a Congressional subcommittee. “As schedulable generating plants shut down because it is uneconomic for them to operate, they jeopardize reliability, and increase the costs of maintaining reliability because additional gas-fired generators must be placed on standby or operated at a higher cost.”
In extremely infrequent instances, in isolated regions where wind development is ahead of the transmission build-out needed to move it to larger load centers, the market price is set by wind, Goggin explained. When there is nothing but wind to sell, wind project owners can pay grid operators to take their output. With the PTC, they can sell as low as negative $23 per megawatt-hour and still break even.
“This almost never happens,”...
...Wind only sets the market price if it is the most expensive resource on the system, and that almost never happens because wind has a zero fuel cost, Goggin explained. If wind is setting the price, it means that everything else in the area has been turned off, and that only happens on very localized parts of the grid..
Posted by kristopher | Sat May 25, 2013, 08:28 AM (0 replies)
Here’s the secret sauce: E+C-Co+Be+Ext.
The process of valuing energy resources can be very complex. As a result, the current model for assessing value is a reflection of the assets that have traditionally populated the grid, such as large centralized power plants, sprawling transmission and distribution lines, and the inherent costs for operating and managing this system. The valuation model has been to compensate these big investments over long periods of time through consumer’s electricity bills.
A new paper from Travis Bradford of Columbia University and Anne Hoskins of Princeton University has tackled this issue head on, laying the groundwork for an expert energy policy roundtable that will aim to come up with a new model for valuing distributed energy. The full report has two important points:
1) A new valuation model must consider both the energy and capacity value of distributed energy....
2) A new valuation model should consider both the costs and benefits of distributed energy....
Creating a New Valuation Model
Based on these findings, the authors suggest a new model for valuing distributed resources. The alphabet-soup version is "E+C-Co+Be+Ext." In layman’s terms, this means adding the savings from offsetting wholesale energy purchases (E) to the savings from avoided capacity investments (C), subtracting the range of costs listed above (Co), and adding the benefits (Be). The “Ext” part of the equation is the right of states to assess environmental, security, and job creation into the mix and value those benefits accordingly.
This is actually very straightforward. The equation boils down to valuing energy based on the savings from using distributed energy compared to using the next best option, along with considering the balance from a cost-benefit analysis perspective. There are a few real-world examples of this, but unfortunately, as the report notes, “none of them are comprehensive.” Examples include net energy metering, which allows consumers to be compensated for the electricity they generate, but only assesses retail energy value and not the long-term energy and capacity values or the costs and benefits.
There is also the ...
Posted by kristopher | Sat May 25, 2013, 07:50 AM (0 replies)
The Unclear Fate of Nuclear Power
Two years after the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi, can the nuclear renaissance regain its momentum?
By Josie Garthwaite
Smithsonian.com, May 23, 2013
....Nuclear has sometimes been promoted as an important weapon in the fight against climate change, but "the level of deployment of nuclear power you would need over the next couple decades to make a dent in global warming emissions would be so enormous, it's just not feasible," ....
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ideas-innovations/The-unclear-fate-of-nuclear-power-208386481.html#ixzz2UGsoh4OH
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
Posted by kristopher | Fri May 24, 2013, 11:31 PM (0 replies)
Google Reels In Wind-Kite Firm Makani
James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
May 23, 2013
Extending its already deep reach into renewable energy, Google reportedly has acquired a startup and its flying-kite wind turbines that promise to tap better wind energy resources at higher altitudes with far lower costs and more efficient output.
Google, no stranger to clean energy as both a purchaser and investor of large-scale wind and solar power, reportedly has acquired Makani Power and its flying kite-design wind turbine, after years of being a major investor in the firm. Makani would be paired up with the Google X research labs, whose early-stage offspring include driverless cars and Google Glass. BusinessWeek's Brad Stone says Google CEO Larry Page finally approved the deal which was proposed a year ago, with the stipulation that they must "crash at least five of the devices in the near future" — presumably amid efforts to prove and improve the technology's performance and reliability.
We've looked at Makani and similar high-flying wind technology innovations in the past, but here's the Makani pitch in a nutshell: its Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) flies in a big circle within stronger winds at 800-2,000-foot altitudes, with rotors designed to act as both a turbine and as a propeller; direct-drive generators send electricity back down its tether to a ground station. The AWT could be reeled in and "perched" and then reeled out again during extended periods of low wind or bad weather, or for maintenance. It's especially well suited for deployment in areas less favorable to traditional tower-based designs, such as lower-wind-speed areas and offshore (especially deeper water).
Makani says the AWT delivers about twice the energy per unit of capacity than conventional turbines, producing power at half the cost, and using 90 percent less material. ...
Posted by kristopher | Fri May 24, 2013, 09:39 AM (1 replies)
The Odds of Disaster: An Economist's Warning on Global Warming
By Martin Weitzman
No one can say with any assurance what the dollar value of damages would be from the highly uncertain climate changes that might accompany a planet earth that is steadily warming.
Paul Solman: Are headlines trumpeting the fact that carbon dioxide levels in the earth's atmosphere have now passed 400 parts per million for the first time in something like three million years unduly alarmist? Or are they a timely warning?
Weitzman's central idea is not unlike the legendary bet proposed by the 16th century Catholic French philosopher Blaise Pascal. One way to interpret Pascal's argument: even if you think the likelihood of God's existence is vanishingly small, the cost if you're wrong -- eternal damnation -- is infinitely high. An infinite cost times even a tiny probability is still ... an infinite cost.
So you make a finite investment by believing in God and acting accordingly in order to avoid an infinite cost. To put it another way, you're obliged, mathematically, to make the investment in belief.
You might keep Pascal's argument in mind while reading Weitzman. Or think of the "Black Swan" argument of Nassim Taleb: certain events, however unlikely you think they may be, could have such enormous consequences, you just can't take the chance of letting them happen.
Martin Weitzman: Recently the ....
Posted by kristopher | Fri May 24, 2013, 05:48 AM (1 replies)
Posted by kristopher | Fri May 24, 2013, 05:33 AM (0 replies)
REN21 Renewables Global Futures Report (GFR)
The REN21 Renewables Global Futures Report (GFR) is a pioneering publication that provides access to the range of credible possibilities on the future of renewable energy. The report is based on interviews with over 170 leading experts around the world and the projections of 50 recently published scenarios. The report can serve as a tool for dialogue and discussion on future options, and compliments well the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report.
Released in January 2013, the report was authored by Dr. Eric Martinot and was the product of a unique collaboration between REN21 and the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) during 2011-2012.
Now, here is what sets it apart. They have unintentionally accomplished a report card, of sorts, for the agencies and organizations that crafted the scenarios they used.
Detractors of Renewable Energy and Future OutlooksBox 1, pg 11 REN21 2013
Renewable energy has historically had many detractors. “Renewable energy is too expensive,” many have said over the years. “Increasing amounts of public subsidies will be required for a long time,” many have also said, or its variation, “renewable energy is only developing because there is policy support.” And many have considered renewable energy technologies relatively immature and requiring further research.
Such views persist today in the energy industry. For example, ExxonMobil, in its 2012 Outlook for Energy to 2040, said, “advances in technology will be necessary to make fuels more practical and economic ... geothermal and solar will remain relatively expensive.” ENI noted, “the technologies pres- ently available only allow for limited production of energy at high prices.” And Chevron said, “because of major technical hurdles— such as scalability, performance, and costs—as well as market- based barriers, broader adoption can’t happen overnight.”
Renewables advocates reply that conventional cost comparisons are unfair for a host of reasons, including existing public sub- sidies for fossil fuels and nuclear, the failure to properly incor- porate future fuel-price risks in comparisons, and the failure to adequately count environmental costs. (See “Great Debate 1” on next page.) They also say that some renewable technologies are already fully competitive, and that for others, policy support will not be necessary in the long run, as rapid evolution in markets, technologies, and costs, driven by past policies, are making more renewable technologies fully competitive more quickly. Most scenario projections of renewable energy show lower renewables costs in the coming decade and beyond. (Some do not, however. ExxonMobil (2012) forecasts that the price of electricity gener- ated from renewables will be higher than the price of conven- tional electricity even in 2030, with the exception of onshore wind power.) (See Chapter 6.)
The range of contemporary thinking by experts, industry players, published scenarios, and many energy companies themselves, as portrayed throughout this report, is mostly at odds with the above thinking of detractors. Although it was not the purpose of this report to directly refute such viewpoints, one cannot help but see, after reading the entire report, that such viewpoints face diminishing validity in the future.
Posted by kristopher | Thu May 23, 2013, 06:48 PM (0 replies)