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Member since: 2002
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Lake's freezing and thawing shows warming trend


NEWCOMB, N.Y. — Wolf Lake in the Adirondack High Peaks region is considered a "heritage lake," one of the most pristine freshwater bodies in the northeastern United States.

It remains as it was when European settlers arrived in North America. As part of a private preserve bordering the state-owned 300-square-mile High Peaks Wilderness Area, it has escaped pollution and the ravages of invasive plants and animals. It's one of a dwindling number of lakes with heritage brook trout and calcium-rich soils buffering its water from fish-killing acid rain.

But there's no shelter from climate change, and Wolf Lake's pristine days may be numbered. A new study shows the length of time the lake is covered with ice each winter has declined by three weeks since 1975, indicating a change that may alter the lake's ecology and harm cold-water species such as trout.

"Lake ice is a better indicator of climate than weather stations, which require instruments and people to read them and are thus prone to errors," said ecologist Colin Beier, lead author of the study published online this week by the international journal Climatic Change. "Lake ice doesn't lie. The process of ice formation and lake closure and opening is a straightforward physical process, and people have kept records of it for decades."


Changes in climate will alter Maine, speaker says


FARMINGTON - Maine is going to look a lot different in 100 years if climate changes continue on the same trajectory.

Lake's freezing and thawing shows warming trend
Moose may all but disappear from the forests, replaced by migrations of white-tail deer.

The forests probably will be taken over by trees found today as far south as Maryland, rather than the red spruce that make Maine's woods unique.

Even black-capped chickadees, the state bird, may start to head farther north for cooler climes.


Utilities boost investments in offshore wind power


LONDON (MarketWatch) — Electricity to power European televisions and toasters will increasingly come from energy generated at sea as utility companies shore up offshore wind-energy capacity amid rising fossil-fuel prices and political pressure.

Over the past three years, yearly installed capacity from offshore wind turbines has more than doubled in Europe to 866 megawatts in 2011, exceeding growth rates for its onshore counterpart, according to the European Wind Energy Association, or EWEA.

New onshore installations rose only 10% in the same period. Further, in 2011, new installed capacity at sea accounted for 10% of the total new installations in the European Union, up from 5% in 2008.

“In the North Sea alone we have a potential to economically exploit the offshore resources to cover seven times Europe’s total energy consumption,” said Christian Kjaer, chief executive at European Wind Energy Association. “We wouldn’t have to import fuel if we can tap into that.”


Green Energy Prices Aren't High, Its Detractors Are!


If you live in Ontario, you know there's an all-out assault on renewable energy like windmills and solar power. What you might not know is that despite all the nay-saying, clean energy is actually responsible for emissions going down, not for prices going up.

New numbers released this week show that nuclear, natural gas, and coal are behind almost all of the increase in the bills. In spite of the impressive growth of renewable projects in Ontario, they still contribute just a small piece towards the big picture.

An honest look at energy costs shows that the cost of operating and refurbishing nuclear reactors is by far the biggest expense, along with costs associated with shutting down our dirty coal plants and building brand new natural gas plants. Because of years of neglect, Ontario's energy system simply needed rebuilding. This would have happened with or without renewable energy.

Why the confusion?

You might think the cost of generating electricity in Ontario is reflected in "market rates." In reality, due to the complexity of its energy system, the market rate doesn't come close to covering the cost of generating electricity anymore. To make up the difference, almost all major electricity generators in Ontario also have price contracts with the government. The total cost of these contracts make up what is known as the 'global adjustment'.


California Utilities Balk as Home Solar Producers Near 5 Percent Limit


California solar produced on rooftops is about to breach the next limit of 5 percent of aggregate customer peak demand. The effect could be to sunset the incredible growth of distributed solar rooftop power in the state, as utility payments are ended for future rooftop solar production.

Why is there a limt? Because utilities in California must pay homeowners who generate clean power for the grid. “Net metering” gives solar customers fair credit on their utility bills for the power they generate. There is a five percent cap on the amount of net metering that utilities must make available to customers. That limit was already raised once a couple of years ago, from about half that amount.

The state regulators at the CPUC have proposed closing that loophole and requiring utilities to calculate net metering participation in a way that permits more participation by more customers. Once there is more than five percent provided there’s no guarantee that utilities will continue to credit new solar customers for their contribution to cleaning the grid with their rooftop solar.

Most solar in California – like most urban states – is on grid: that is, the grid is the battery. Everyone who puts solar on their roof contributes to the grid, and is credited for their contribution, and takes from the grid, for example, at night, and is debited for that. It’s like rollover minutes for solar.


China Reduces Solar Subsidy on Declining Costs of Components


China, the world’s biggest maker of solar panels, cut the subsidy for demonstration sun-power projects approved this year by 21 percent amid a decline in the prices of components.

The government reduced the incentive to 5.5 yuan (87 cents) a watt from the 7 yuan set in February, according to a statement on the central government’s website. The subsidy applies only to projects whose developers will consume the power for their own use under the so-called Golden Sun program.

A supply glut in all parts of the solar manufacturing chain has led to declining prices as European governments cut back on subsidies. The average spot price of polysilicon has fallen by a third since September, wafers are 35 percent lower and silicon- based solar panels are 25 percent cheaper, Bloomberg New Energy Finance data shows.

“The reduction in the subsidy is significant and is likely to discourage developers that applied when it was higher,” Lian Rui, a senior analyst for the research company Solarbuzz, said today by phone. “Developers will only get about a 10 percent of internal rate of return with the new rate.”


China, Inc. Locked In on World Solar, Wind Manufacturing Domination


The collapse of the USSR and the “liberalization” of formerly closed, socialist economies opened up the path to globalization, which, proponents wanted us to believe, would transcend longstanding political and economic differences and pave the way to a global, free market economy based on fair trade. Well, it hasn’t exactly turned out that way.

It’s abundantly clear, though much less often or openly discussed, just how wide the gap is and differences are between countries with economies based largely on free, open market principles and driven by private sector businesses and capital allocation and those where centralized government planning determines how much and where investment capital will be allocated and how much of what should be produced. Nowhere is this more publicly in evidence than in the recent trade disputes between the US and China regarding the manufacturing and export of silicon solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, panels and wind turbine towers from China to the US.

A Subsidy is a Subsidy is a Subsidy…Not

Now, the US government has been subsidizing the US solar and wind power markets and industries, and these incentives have been a critical driver of rapid growth in terms of “green” job creation as well as economic activity in both emerging renewable energy sectors. Not only are US subsidies dwarfed by those of China, they are fundamentally different in nature and in their results, however.

US state renewable energy/power standards (RPS) and state feed-in tariffs that require a certain amount of electricity be generated from renewable energy resources have been key to rapidly growing clean energy development in the US. So have federal investment and production tax credits and accelerated depreciation schedules.


Wind’s $168 Billion North Sea Boom Lures Oil Industry


Oil service companies led by Technip SA (TEC) and Subsea 7 SA (SUBC) for the first time are working with wind energy developers in the North Sea’s 14 billion-euro ($19 billion) a year market.

The offshore engineers plan to exploit the similarities between building undersea oil installations and constructing offshore wind farms and have both established renewable energy units. Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) also offers expertise to wind developers in the North Sea, where fossil fuels first discovered in 1966 are being depleted as clean energy demand rises.


The move into renewable energy comes after Britain’s oil and gas production has shrunk more than half since peaking in 1999 at about 4.5 million barrels of gas and oil equivalent a day to about 2.2 million barrels now, according to the Oil & Gas U.K. industry group. Production from Britain’s continental shelf has fallen about 6.2 percent annually in the past 23 years.

Drawing on offshore energy expertise and government mandates to raise the amount of power derived from clean energy, countries around the North Sea led by Britain plan to have 35.5 gigawatts of offshore wind projects by 2020 from 2.9 gigawatts today, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The total cost of the increase will be 127 billion euros and the facilities would provide 3.2 percent of the European Union’s electricity demand.


The Transition is here...


Wind power fuels renewable-energy revolution in rural Alaska


Alaska's alternative energy revolution will take a new twist this summer when 15 turbines spin to life over a trio of Southwest Alaska villages, in one of the most notable wind projects ever to reach the Bush.

Like so much heavy equipment in Southwest Alaska, the turbines are old-school hand-me-downs imported from the Lower 48 -- in this case, the California desert. They seem small and stodgy by today's standards, resembling Kansas farm ornaments with four-legged bases and lattice-work sides. But at 12-stories tall, they'll tower over tiny Kwigillingok, Kongiganak and Tuntutuliak, home to about 1,200 residents total.

They're a perfect fit for the small communities, experts said. And refurbished though they are, the turbines are part of a decidedly high-tech project that includes online meters residents can use to monitor electric use from home computers and electric heaters that automatically fire up when extra wind blows.

People are ready for relief from high costs in the Yup'ik villages near the Kuskokwim River mouth, where the diesel fuel that provides power and heat is barged up the coast at great expense, said William Igkurak, longtime manager of the local power company.


Study Questions Natural Gas's Environmental Benefits


WASHINGTON—As U.S. lawmakers promote natural gas as a way to reduce air pollution, a scientific study published this week questions the benefits of the fuel when used to power vehicles and generate electricity.

The study authors said methane leaks from the production and transportation of natural gas should be studied in greater detail before the U.S. adopts any major policy shifts.

The study, co-written by scientists at several universities and the environmental group Environmental Defense Fund, wades into an increasingly murky area of energy research. In it, scientists said the production of natural gas results in methane leaking into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change and limits the environmental benefits of natural gas. Methane, the primary component in natural gas, is more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas but decomposes more quickly in the atmosphere.

The research comes at a time when President Obama and other U.S. lawmakers are hailing natural gas as a fuel of the future, capable of replacing coal in power plants and gasoline in cars. That is because it is thought to be better for the environment and is produced in abundance in the U.S.

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