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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
Number of posts: 29,798

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America has a new word to learn: Dilbit.

Must Read: Investigation Reveals True Hazards Of Piping Tar Sands Across America
By Stephen Lacey on Jul 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm

America has a new word to learn: Dilbit.
Dilbit, short for diluted bitumen, is a combination of tar sands crude (bitumen) and dangerous liquid chemicals like benzene (the dilutant) used to thin crude so it can be piped to refineries.

And there is a lot of it being piped into America — in some cases through the backyards of communities that don’t even know it’s there.

The U.S. imports around half a million barrels of bitumen a day from Canada’s tar sands. According to the Sierra Club, if Keystone XL backers get their way, that number may grow to 1.5 million barrels per day.

A must-read investigation released this week by Inside Climate News illustrates ...


The Climate Progress write-up is a good summary, but if you want to go straight to the original 8 page investigative article, it is here:

(Louisiana) PSC rules against nuclear plant charges for Entergy customers

PSC votes against nuclear plant charges for Entergy customers
BY MARK BALLARD Capitol news bureau June 29, 2012

State regulators refused Wednesday to allow Entergy Corp. to immediately charge its customers for about $63 million spent preparing to build another nuclear power plant at River Bend, near St. Francisville.

Entergy, which had gone as far as to negotiate with a building contractor, suspended in January 2010 efforts to build a generator fueled by nuclear rods to make electricity. A dramatic drop in the cost of natural gas made the cost of building a multi-billion dollar plant economically unviable at this time, according to Entergy’s filings with regulators.

The New Orleans-based company then sought to recover from customers, rather than shareholders, the money spent on the reports, studies, examinations and other activities necessary for obtaining licenses and financing. The state’s Incentive Cost Recovery Rule for Nuclear Power Generation allows Entergy to pass those costs to its customers.

The five elected members of the Louisiana Public Service Commission voted 3-2 not to hear any public testimony but to approve an administrative law judge’s decision over that of their own staff.

In wording unusually harsh for regulatory decisions ...


Solar Thermal Scales New Heights in China

China installed 34 GW(thermal) of solar hot water in 2010, bringing the total to 118GWth.

Solar Thermal Scales New Heights in China
By Barbel Epp, Solrico June 27, 2012

Millions of roofs in Chinese cities now host solar thermal systems, often at great heights and increasingly integrated into buildings' designs.


Rio+20: ‘We Cannot Conflate The Negotiations With What Is Actually Happening On The Ground’

Perspectives From Rio+20: ‘We Cannot Conflate The Negotiations With What Is Actually Happening On The Ground’
By Stephen Lacey on Jun 25, 2012 at 10:33 am

As the crowds at the Rio+20 Earth Summit dwindled and attendees left the conference hall late in the day Friday, a small group of people sat around a lunch table in the cafeteria engaged in spirited conversation.

They weren’t talking about the failed negotiations. They weren’t complaining about diplomats, the UN process, or the lack of a strong agreement at the summit. Rather, they were debating the barriers faced by entrepreneurs delivering solar to under-served populations in India.

The group consisted of Carl Pope, former executive director of the Sierra Club; Jigar Shah, former CEO of the Carbon War Room; Simon Bransfield-Garth, CEO of Eight19, a company developing an off-grid solar lighting and battery system; and Mayank Sekhsaria, co-founder of Greenlight Planet, a firm helping entrepreneurs deploy off-grid solar technologies in India.

“What people don’t understand is that this isn’t about demand for solar, it’s about supply. If you could theoretically service these markets all at once, you’d solve the problem immediately,” said Sekhsaria, describing the different deployment bottlenecks within the off-grid Indian market.

Over the next hour... these experts debated the real, on-the-ground problems ...


Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Nearing Critical ‘Tipping Point’

Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Nearing Critical ‘Tipping Point’
by Andrew Freedman, via Climate Central

The Greenland ice sheet is poised for another record melt this year, and is approaching a “tipping point” into a new and more dangerous melt regime in which the summer melt area covers the entire land mass, according to new findings from polar researchers.

The ice sheet is the focus of scientific research because its fate has huge implications for global sea levels, which are already rising as ice sheets melt and the ocean warms, exposing coastal locations to greater damage from storm surge-related flooding.

Greenland’s ice has been melting faster than many scientists expected just a decade ago, spurred by warming sea and land temperatures, changing weather patterns, and other factors. Until now, though, most of the focus has been on ice sheet dynamics — how quickly Greenland’s glaciers are flowing into the sea. But the new research raises a different basis for concern.

The new findings show that the reflectivity of the Greenland ice sheet, particularly the high-elevation areas where snow typically accumulates year-round, have reached a record low since records began in 2000. This indicates that the ice sheet is absorbing more energy than normal, potentially leading to another record melt year — just two years after the 2010 record melt season.

“In this condition, the ice sheet will continue to absorb more solar energy in a self-reinforcing feedback loop that ...


Big News for Renewable Energy: FERC Rules for Wind, Solar, Storage

Big News for Renewable Energy: FERC Rules for Wind, Solar, Storage

Like a Jedi responding to changing events by striving to bring balance to the Force, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under Chairman Jon Wellinghoff has been rapidly reshaping the formerly sclerotic electricity sector to make it responsive to new technologies.

Some of the sector’s fossil fuel-centric rules left a high barrier to entry for so-called variable resources: energy like wind and solar that are only created when the wind blows or the sun shines, unlike, say, a gas or nuclear power plant that generates electricity around the clock.

A year ago, Wellinghoff told me: “[North American Electric Reliability Corporation] projects in its 2010 Long-Term Reliability Assessment that approximately 60 percent of all new resources expected to be added to the bulk power system by 2019 will be new wind and solar resources."

The FERC aims to remove regulatory barriers to ensure that all of these resources can get access the grid and play a competitive role in the energy markets.

To that end, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission passed ...


Renewables Make German Power Market Design Defunct, Utility Says

That "market design" being referenced means "centralized thermal", the design built around coal and nuclear. So this is a description of renewable energy in the first and most critical stage of putting fossil fuel generation out of business as a new "market design" centered around distributed renewables takes form.

If you are serious about climate change, this is what you've been waiting to see happen.

Renewables Make German Power Market Design Defunct, Utility Says
By Rachel Morison, Bloomberg
June 26, 2012

LONDON -- Electricity generation from renewable energy in Germany is reducing power prices and has left the country with a market whose design no longer works, according to Stadtwerke Leipzig GmbH.

Renewable generation, such as wind and solar, receives support from the German government in the form of a feed-in tariff, or FIT. Because there are no costs associated with the wind and sunshine, renewables have a generating margin of zero, as well as legally mandated priority access to the grid. As a result, fossil fuel-fired plants are generating for fewer hours and selling their power at cheaper prices, making them less profitable.

“As long as renewables have zero margin costs, the market design we have doesn’t work,” Jens Teresniak, team manager for business development and market analysis at Stadtwerke Leipzig, said in an interview in Leipzig on June 21. “Capacity markets could be a solution.”

So-called capacity markets allow utilities to fix prices for guaranteed backup power supply in advance, boosting margins for gas and coal electricity plants as renewables output rises. German policy makers are considering how to ensure there are enough round-the-clock plants to keep the lights on when nuclear reactors are phased out and renewables output falls short.

Merit Order

Increasing supply of renewable energy is one of the main reasons electricity prices in Germany have declined, Teresniak said....


“China must alter nuclear policy” (2)

“China must alter nuclear policy” (2)
He Zuoxiu
October 12, 2011

China not only needs to guarantee the absolute, long-term safety of existing and new nuclear power plants to avoid a Fukushima-style disaster, it also needs to find ways of dealing with the large quantities of highly radioactive waste its reactors produce. This waste must not be allowed to pollute the environment or groundwater over its lifespan (which could be thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years).

It needs stating from the outset that, when talking about the paramount importance of nuclear safety, I am not focusing on the number of fatalities in the immediate aftermath of an accident. People who compare these figures to the numbers of people killed in airplane or car crashes are missing the point: a nuclear accident could affect the environment of future generations for tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years.

Experts who base pro-nuclear arguments on the fact the number of deaths per terawatt-year (a unit for measuring produced energy, electricity and heat) are among the lowest for nuclear power – only eight compared to 342 for coal, 85 for natural gas and 883 for hydropower according to statistics from the International Atomic Energy Agency – should be criticised. They are making the wrong comparison.

In the United States, government policy has so far failed to deal with the waste issue. For many years, the US has converted nuclear waste into solid form, placed it in stainless-steel containers, and buried it. But available storage space is dwindling, while the country still has almost 80,000 tonnes of waste material waiting to be dealt with.

In France and the United Kingdom...


Member of Chinese Academy of Sciences: “China must alter nuclear policy" (Too risky to justify)

Editor’s note: On June 23 this year, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the China Science Media Centre held a seminar on nuclear solutions and challenges in Beijing. Speaking at the event, He Zuoxiu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and a researcher at the CAS Institute of Theoretical Physics, fiercely criticised China’s “Great Leap Forward” in nuclear development. An edited extract of his presentation is, with He’s permission, made public for the first time here in two parts. In part one, He outlines three lessons he believes China must take from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

“China must alter nuclear policy” (1)
He Zuoxiu
October 12, 2011

Important lesson from Fukushima 1: China must immediately halt its plans for a nuclear “Great Leap Forward”, formulated by a small number of people behind closed doors.

Let’s take a look at China’s planned nuclear “Great Leap Forward”. Today, China has 11 reactors in operation, generating 9 gigawatts of electricity. Twenty-six more are under construction and will generate 28 gigawatts of electricity. The National Energy Administration and Chinese Academy of Engineering are working on targets which will see 70 gigawatts of nuclear generating capacity by 2020, 200 gigawatts by 2030, and 400 to 500 gigawatts by 2050. Nuclear power will gradually become one of China’s main energy sources.

Globally, there are over 400 reactors up and running, generating 400 gigawatts of electricity. Over the next 10 to 40 years, China aims to match, or even exceed that total.

The United States is an example of a nation that rapidly developed nuclear power (although, after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, it drastically reduced the pace of nuclear development.) Today, the United States has 100 gigawatts of nuclear-generating capacity, and remains the world leader. Within 40 years, China plans to have four to five times the generating capacity of the United States. My question is: has China made the necessary preparations to undertake this “Great Leap Forward”?



German Solar Installations Coming In at $2.24 per Watt Installed, US at $4.44

The fruits of yet another effort by Republican Obstructionists working on behalf of corporate interests.

German Solar Installations Coming In at $2.24 per Watt Installed, US at $4.44
What steps can the U.S. take to keep up with the Johanneses?


...According to the BSW, average German system prices in the second quarter of 2012 were estimated at EUR1.776 per watt peak, or $2.24 per watt peak at current exchange rates. Since Germany is dominated by rooftop systems (72 percent of installations in 2011), this is an impressively low number. Assuming a module price of around $0.90 per watt peak, this implies an average balance of system cost of $1.34 per watt peak.

This is one of the reasons why, as Mehta puts it, the German downstream market is still alive and well. While only 650 megawatts were installed in January and February (typical for Germany), preliminary results from the BSW indicated deployment of 1.15 gigawatts in March, largely due to pull-in effects of an expected April feed-in tariff cut, which was subsequently delayed. Second-quarter installation run-rates are proceeding at a healthy clip, in large part due to the deployment of “grandfathered” ground-mounted projects under the pre-April 1 feed-in tariff regime.

GTM Research is currently estimating 2012 installations in Germany to come in at around 6.5 gigawatts, compared to 7.5 gigawatts in 2011.

On the other hand -- as just detailed in GTM Research's U.S. Solar Market Insight -- the U.S. average system price was $4.44 per watt in the first quarter of 2011...


See also:
NREL says 80% of US electricity can be renewable by 2050 with current technology
US National Renewable Energy Lab says 80% of US electricity can be renewable by 2050, even with current technology.

Original study with great interactive features here:
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