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  • richardmitnick 8:41 am on February 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Clean Energy, , ,   

    From GIZMODO: “Morocco Switches on First Phase of the World’s Largest Solar Plant” 

    GIZMODO bloc


    Jamie Condliffe

    Solar Panels in Morocco
    Image by AP

    Yesterday, Morocco switched on the first section of its new Ouarzazate solar power plant. The new installation already creates 160 megawatts of power and is expected to grow to cover 6,000 acres by 2018—making it the largest in the world.

    The first wave of power production is known as Noor 1. Situated in the Sahara Desert, its crescent-shaped solar mirrors follow the sun to soak up sunlight all day long. The mirrors, each of which is 40 feet tall, focus light onto a steel pipeline that carries a synthetic thermal oil solution. The oil in those pipes can reach 740℉, and that’s what’s used to create electricity: The heat is used to create steam which drives turbines. The hot oil can be stored to create energy overnight, too.

    Noor 1 will be joined over time by Noor 2 and 3 which are expected to be finished by 2018. When those sections come online, the whole plant will cover an areas of over 6,000 acres, which is larger than the country’s capital city of Rabat. With the extra mirrors in place, the plant will generate 580 megawatts of electricity—enough to provide energy for 1.1 million people.

    But, as our own George Dvorsky has pointed out, that wasn’t always to be the case. The initial plan was to deliver the generated electricity to Europe but several partners pulled out. Interventions by the African Development Bank and the Moroccan government saved the project, though, and are now using it to meet Morocco’s own power demands. As of today, it will do just that.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:53 am on February 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Clean Energy, , ,   

    From Sandia: “Algae raceway paves path from lab to real-world applications” 

    Sandia Lab

    February 2, 2016
    Patti Koning
    (925) 294-4911

    Sandia algae raceway testing facility

    In a twist of geometry, an oval can make a line. The new algae raceway testing facility at Sandia National Laboratories may be oval in shape, but it paves a direct path between laboratory research and solving the demand for clean energy.

    As the nation and California adopt policies to promote clean transportation fuels, that path could help bring the promise of algal biofuels closer to reality. As one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet, algae are an ideal source of biomass, but researchers have not yet found a cost-competitive way to use algae for fuels.

    “This facility helps bridge the gap from the lab to the real world by giving us an environmentally controlled raceway that we can monitor to test and fine tune discoveries,” said Ben Wu, Sandia’s Biomass Science and Conversion Technology manager.

    “The success of moving technologies from a research lab to large outdoor facilities is tenuous. The scale-up from flask to a 150,000-liter outdoor raceway pond is just too big.”

    The new Sandia algae testing facility consists of three 1,000-liter raceway ponds with advanced monitoring provides new advantages to researchers:

    Easy scale-up to larger, outdoor raceways
    Customizable lighting and temperature controls, operational by year end, to simulate the conditions of locations across the country
    Fully contained for testing genetic strains and crop protection strategies
    Advanced hyperspectral monitoring 24 hours a day

    Several ongoing projects will use the algae raceway right away. Researchers Todd Lane and Anne Ruffing will test genetically modified algae strains as part of a project funded by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. The algae raceway will allow the researchers to more quickly identify strains that promise improved performance.

    Lane is also part of a project partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory funded by the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) that is investigating a probiotic approach to algae crop protection.

    Another BETO project seeks to convert algae proteins into useful chemical compounds such as butanol. Wu expects the facility will expand opportunities for Sandia researchers to develop algae as a robust source of biofuels and increase collaborations and partnerships with the private sector, particularly in California where efforts to transform transportation energy are prevalent.

    “The bioeconomy is gaining momentum,” he said. “Biofuels from algae may be further off, but algae has sugar and proteins that can make fuel or higher valued products, such as butanol or nylon — products that currently come from fossil fuels.”

    See the full article here .

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    Sandia Campus
    Sandia National Laboratory

    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

  • richardmitnick 3:29 pm on February 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, , , Wind power in China   

    From SA: “China Blows Past the U.S. in Wind Power” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    February 2, 2016
    Daniel Cusick

    Wind farm in Xinjiang, China
    Wind farm in Xinjiang, China

    China solidified its standing as the world’s wind energy behemoth in 2015, adding almost as much wind power capacity in one year as the total installed capacity of the three largest U.S. wind-producing states: Texas, Iowa and California.

    New data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance show China installed just under 29 gigawatts of new wind energy capacity in 2015, surpassing its previous record of roughly 21 GW set in 2014. The country also accounted for more than 46 percent of all wind power installed globally for the year, eclipsing the next largest market, the United States, which added 8.6 GW (ClimateWire, Jan. 28).

    Amy Grace, head of wind insight at BNEF, said the Chinese growth figure was the biggest surprise of 2015 and roughly 4 GW higher than analysts predicted. After China and the United States, the world’s largest markets for new wind power in 2015 were Germany, India and Brazil, with gross installs of 3.7, 2.6 and 2.6 GW, respectively.

    Grace noted in an email that Chinese developers “got very excited about qualifying projects” before the government implemented a second round of reductions to its feed-in tariff program for onshore wind farms. The reforms, initiated in early 2015, reduced payments to turbine owners by roughly 3 cents per kilowatt-hour across the country’s primary wind-energy-producing regions in the north and west of the country.

    But a rush to collect cash wasn’t the only driving factor behind China’s wind energy boom, according to other experts who track the country’s energy indicators. Nor does a boom in Chinese turbine installations necessarily translate into a proportionate gain in electricity flowing to China’s grid.

    Joanna Lewis, an associate professor of science, technology and international affairs at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, said China’s wind power sector has also been aided by a steep decline in manufacturing and installation costs, as well as the establishment of a robust domestic supply chain, led by the nation’s industry leader, Goldwind.

    “The feed-in tariff is still important as a driver,” Lewis said, “but there are other government policies and incentives that are continuing to drive the rapid pace” of wind power development in China. They include the central government’s commitment to replace heavily polluting coal-fired power plants, which are blamed for wrenching air conditions in China’s cities, with non-emitting resources such as wind, solar and hydropower.

    As part of that commitment, the government has pledged to produce 15 percent of all electricity by 2020 using renewable resources, including 250 GW of wind power expected to come online by the end of the decade.

    “This is partly about reducing carbon emissions, but it’s also an air quality issue that has become very, very urgent,” said Kate Gordon, vice chairwoman for climate and sustainable urbanization at the Paulson Institute, the China-focused environmental policy think tank led by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

    Gordon and Lewis also stressed that China’s clean energy story is only partly about capacity additions. The country still has considerable work ahead to effectively integrate renewable energy resources into the national grid. Among the hurdles are basic grid connectivity, but also the need for more effective management of the country’s power supply so that renewable energy resources are optimized.

    While investment in China’s power grid has risen substantially, the country still has some of the world’s highest curtailment rates for renewable energy, meaning thousands of turbines are taken offline, even under optimum wind conditions, because grid operators lack the knowledge and skills to integrate the clean energy with other sources, including baseload power from coal plants.

    Because of those limitations, Lewis said the United States remains a world leader in wind energy because capacity factors and utilization rates are much higher on average for U.S. wind turbines than for Chinese turbines.

    But China’s turbine technology is improving quickly, and it is closing the gap in the wind industry supply chain against other global brands.

    According to BNEF, Beijing-based Goldwind dominated the Chinese domestic market in 2015, accounting for 7.7 GW of China’s new capacity, followed by rival Guodian United Power Technology Co. Ltd. with 2.9 GW, and Envision Energy and Ming Yang Wind Power Group Ltd., each with 2.7 GW of new capacity.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:38 am on January 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy,   

    From Huff Post: “We’re Pouring A Record Amount Of Money Into Clean Energy, But There’s A Long Way To Go” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    Ben Walsh

    The largest solar thermal installation in the world, in California’s Mojave Desert. Even with falling oil prices, the world invested a record amount in clean energy last year. Ethan Miller via Getty Images

    The world invested $329 billion in renewable energy in 2015, an increase of 4 percent compared to 2014 and surpassing the $318 billion spent in 2011 to set a new record, according to a new report by Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance.

    The durability of spending on renewable energy is made more significant, the authors of the report note, by the fact that oil, coal and natural gas prices continued to decrease, after declining in 2014 and continuing to fall throughout last year.


    “These figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices. They highlight the improving cost-competitiveness of solar and wind power,” the chair of Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance’s advisory board, Michael Liebreich, said in a release.

    The 2015 number also does not capture spending that may be driven by the Paris climate agreement, which was reached at the end of the year. In connection with the Paris talks, a group of governments led by the U.S. and France, and private investors led by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros, promised to invest in new energy technologies.

    But despite the good news, clean energy spending still needs to increase dramatically if the world is going to meet the goal of limiting climate change to 2 degrees celsius, a cornerstone of the Paris agreement. That would require an annual investment of $7 trillion, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

    In that context, the 2015 investment record, while laudable, still leaves a gaping clean energy investment gap.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:43 pm on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From SA: “The Power of the Nudge to Change Our Energy Future” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    December 29, 2015
    Sebastian Berger

    Temp 1
    Credit: Elenathewise via ©iStock

    More than ever, psychology has become influential not only in explaining human behavior, but also as a resource for policy makers to achieve goals related to health, well-being, or sustainability. For example, President Obama signed an executive order directing the government to systematically use behavioral science insights to “better serve the American people.” Not alone in this endeavor, many governments – including the UK, Germany, Denmark, or Australia – are turning to the insights that most frequently stem from psychological researchers, but also include insights from behavioral economics, sociology, or anthropology.

    Particularly relevant are the analysis and the setting of “default-options.” A default is the option that a decision maker receives if he or she does not specifically state otherwise. Are we automatically enrolled in a 401(k), are we organ donors by default, or is the flu-shot a standard that is routinely given to all citizens? Research has given us many examples of how and when defaults can promote public safety or wealth.

    One of the most important questions facing the planet, however, is how to manage the transition into a carbon-free economy. In a recent paper, Felix Ebeling of the University of Cologne and I tested whether defaults could nudge consumers into choosing a green energy contract over one that relies on conventional energy. The results were striking: setting the default to green energy increased participation nearly tenfold. This is an important result because it tells us that subtle, non-coercive changes in the decision making environment are enough to show substantial differences in consumers’ preferences in the domain of clean energy. It changes green energy participation from “hardly anyone” to “almost everyone”. Merely within the domain of energy behavior, one can think of many applications where this finding can be applied: For instance, default engines of new cars could be set to hybrid and customers would need to actively switch to standard options. Standard temperatures of washing machines could be low, etc.

    In our main study, we conducted a randomized-controlled trial involving about 40,000 households in Germany. In collaboration with an energy supplier, we observed these households as they went through the decision screens when purchasing an energy contract online (e.g., because they had moved or they simply changed from one supplier to the next). Households made two decisions: First, they could choose to purchase a more expensive high-service contract (i.e., including phone assistance, regular billing, etc.) versus a less expensive low-service contract (i.e., only web-based assistance, e-billing, etc.). Second, households could choose whether their energy is sourced from 100% renewables or not.

    Due to the energy pricing specifics in Germany, the supplier sold renewable energy at a slightly higher price (0.3 cents per kilowatt hour, about €10 (around $15 at the time) annually based on an average household) making it only minimally more expensive. Purchasing green, however, assures that the supplier changes its energy mix to reflect the consumer’s preference for sustainable energy. For instance, if a consumer uses 5,000 kilowatt hours per year, the supplier will purchase this exact amount of green energy and add it to the overall energy mix.

    This is where our experiment kicked in: Half of our households were guided through decision screens in which they actively had to opt into green energy. Besides their choice about the service intensity, household decision makers could click a button that said: “I would like that 100% of my energy is sustainable”. Clicking and unclicking that button dynamically updated the prices. The other half of our households was guided through identical decision screens, but we had pre-selected the same button as above. The difference between the experimental conditions is minimal. Households had to actively “opt-in” in half of the cases or actively “opt-out” in the other half, simply by (un-)clicking the button.

    The results were striking. Using the opt-in rule, merely 7% of households purchased a green energy contract. Using the “opt-out” rule, however, increased participation tenfold to roughly 70%. Choices were largely anonymous and cost of switching to a conventional vs. green contract is negligible. Yet, we observe drastic changes in preference suggesting that a simple change in the decision architecture is enough to boost demand of green energy.

    But anyone who has ever unwillingly installed a “browser tool bar” when downloading free software from the internet must wonder now: Well, probably the majority of “green” consumers must have failed to notice that an option to “opt-out” existed. It is a reasonable objection. Therefore, in another study we tested whether participants were aware of their choice.

    To do this experiment, we relied on American participants recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk. Amazon’s platform is frequently used for social science research and generally regarded as a valuable and efficient way to recruit study participants. But it is sometimes criticized as a platform with inattentive or even unmotivated study participants. In other words: Exactly what we needed. If relatively inattentive and unmotivated people can recall their decision in a fictive scenario study, then, we argued, people who are actually purchasing green energy contracts are likely to do so as well.

    So, we ran another study involving 290 participants and guided them through the same decision screens as in the randomized-controlled trial. Our main result replicated well. But additionally, we asked a share of them to recall their behavior in the end. In this trial, 84 percent of the people who were nudged into green energy by the default change were able to recall their choice. (When people had to “opt-in” to the green choice, all of them recalled their choice.)

    Interestingly, by matching regional election results to behavior of our 40,000 trial-participants, we could also investigate the effect of partisanship. Not surprisingly, approval of the German green party correlates with green energy choices, but only in absence of the default nudge. When consumers need to opt in, support for the greens predicted sustainable behavior. When the nudge was in place, though, there was no correlation: Almost everybody acted green and even partisanship no longer mattered.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:18 pm on December 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Clean Energy   

    From Caltech: “Toward Liquid Fuels from Carbon Dioxide” 

    Caltech Logo

    Ker Than

    C1 to C2: Connecting carbons by reductive deoxygenation and coupling of CO Credit: Kyle Horak and Joshua Buss/Caltech

    In the quest for sustainable alternative energy and fuel sources, one viable solution may be the conversion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into liquid fuels.

    Through photosynthesis, plants convert sunlight, water, and CO2 into sugars, multicarbon molecules that fuel cellular processes. CO2 is thus both the precursor to the fossil fuels that are central to modern life as well as the by-product of burning those fuels. The ability to generate synthetic liquid fuels from stable, oxygenated carbon precursors such as CO2 and carbon monoxide (CO) is reminiscent of photosynthesis in nature and is a transformation that is desirable in artificial systems. For about a century, a chemical method known as the Fischer-Tropsch process has been utilized to convert hydrogen gas (H2) and CO to liquid fuels. However, its mechanism is not well understood and, in contrast to photosynthesis, the process requires high pressures (from 1 to 100 times atmospheric pressure) and temperatures (100–300 degrees Celsius).

    More recently, alternative conversion chemistries for the generation of liquid fuels from oxygenated carbon precursors have been reported. Using copper electrocatalysts, CO and CO2 can be converted to multicarbon products. The process proceeds under mild conditions, but how it takes place remains a mystery.

    Now, Caltech chemistry professor Theo Agapie and his graduate student Joshua Buss have developed a model system to demonstrate what the initial steps of a process for the conversion of CO to hydrocarbons might look like.

    The findings, published as an advanced online publication for the journal Nature on December 21, 2015 (and appearing in print on January 7, 2016), provide a foundation for the development of technologies that may one day help neutralize the negative effects of atmospheric accumulation of the greenhouse gas CO2 by converting it back into fuel. Although methods exist to transform CO2 into CO, a crucial next step, the deoxygenation of CO molecules and their coupling to form C–C bonds, is more difficult.

    In their study, Agapie and Buss synthesized a new transition metal complex—a metal atom, in this case molybdenum, bound by one or more supporting molecules known as ligands—that can facilitate the activation and cleavage of a CO molecule. Incremental reduction of the molecule leads to substantial weakening of the C–O bonds of CO. Once weakened, the bond is broken entirely by introducing silyl electrophiles, a class of silicon-containing reagents that can be used as surrogates for protons.

    This cleavage results in the formation of a terminal carbide—a single carbon atom bound to a metal center—that subsequently makes a bond with the second CO molecule coordinated to the metal. Although a carbide is commonly proposed as an intermediate in CO reductive coupling, this is the first direct demonstration of its role in this type of chemistry, the researchers say. Upon C–C bond formation, the metal center releases the C2 product. Overall, this process converts the two CO units to an ethynol derivative and proceeds easily even at temperatures lower than room temperature.

    “To our knowledge, this is the first example of a well-defined reaction that can take two carbon monoxide molecules and convert them into a metal-free ethynol derivative, a molecule related to ethanol; the fact that we can release the C2 product from the metal is important,” Agapie says.

    While the generated ethynol derivative is not useful as a fuel, it represents a step toward being able to generate synthetic multicarbon fuels from carbon dioxide. The researchers are now applying the knowledge gained in this initial study to improve the process. “Ideally, our insight will facilitate the development of practical catalytic systems,” Buss says.

    The scientists are also working on a way to cleave the C–O bond using protons instead of silyl electrophiles. “Ultimately, we’d like to use protons from water and electron equivalents derived from sunlight,” Agapie says. “But protons are very reactive, and right now we can’t control that chemistry.”

    The research in the paper, “Four-electron deoxygenative reductive coupling of carbon monoxide at a single metal site,” was funded by Caltech and the National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .

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    The California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech) is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering. Its 124-acre (50 ha) primary campus is located approximately 11 mi (18 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. “The mission of the California Institute of Technology is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”
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  • richardmitnick 1:08 pm on December 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy,   

    From Discovery: “Iceland Volcanoes Could Help Power the UK” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Dec 22, 2015
    Patrick J. Kiger

    An geothermal power station in Iceland, which produces the most electricity in the world per person. Hansueli Krapf, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

    For decades, this has been one of the most tantalizing — but elusive — renewable energy ideas around. Lightly-populated Iceland could tap into geothermal energy from its volcanoes, and its ample wind and hydro-power potential as well, and then transmit electricity along a proposed submarine cable to Great Britain, which has a lot more consumers to use it.

    The $6.6 billion project would give Iceland an lucrative market for its energy and help the U.K. wean itself from dependence upon fossil fuels. Seeing the mutual advantages, the two governments agreed to explore the idea as part of a memorandum of understanding on energy issues that they signed in 2012. Three years later, the project is at last showing tentative signs of moving forward.

    In late October, after British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Iceland and met with his counterpart, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, British officials told the media that a new UK-Iceland Energy Task Force had been created to examine the power project’s feasibility and report back in six months, the U.K.’s Independent newspaper reported.

    Recent press reports put the proposed submarine line’s length at close to 750 miles, which would make it the longest underwater power line on the planet, according to Offshore Support Journal.

    Iceland Review Online reports that the project would take seven to 10 years to complete. Recent advances in power cable technology, such as the use of cross-linked polyethylene plastic to replace paper as an insulation material — have made cables easier and less expensive to manufacture, and improved their performance.

    In some ways, Iceland already is a model of renewal energy, according to a 2012 Bank of Iceland report. The nation gets 78 percent of its electricity from hydro-power and another 27 percent from geothermal, with just 0.01. percent of its electrical capacity coming from fuel-run generation. The island nation produces by far the most electricity in the world per person — 53.9 megawatt hours per Icelander.

    But despite its green energy, Iceland paradoxically has the one of the biggest per-capita carbon footprints in Europe, in large part because three-quarters of its electricity goes to run aluminum smelters that burn carbon electrodes, giving off huge amounts of C02, as environmental journalist Cheryl Katz reported in a 2013 article for Yale University’s Environment 360 website.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:54 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From SA: “A Turning Point in Combating Climate Change May Be Here” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    December 14, 2015
    Shannon Hall

    Investigations against oil and coal companies raise optimism for a cleaner future

    Darryl Peroni ©iStock.com

    The world is shifting. At least that’s what Bill McKibben, a leading environmental activist, tweeted on November 6. He was referring to the recent wave of push-back against fossil fuel companies. On November 5 New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation against ExxonMobil for potentially lying to the public and investors about the risks of climate change. The next day, the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Canadian tar sands to refineries near Houston, was rejected by Pres. Barack Obama and effectively killed. Then only two days later, Peabody Energy announced that a two-year investigation by Schneiderman had come to a close, forcing the company to disclose any financial risks it faces from future government policies and regulations related to climate change.

    It is tempting to take the rush of recent events optimistically, especially if you have been waiting to see more concerted action against human causes of climate change. In addition to McKibben, several activists, scientists and environmental lawyers agree the world is shifting from one doused in denial to one that might take big steps in the right direction. Such news, however, begs the question: What’s behind this change of heart? “The science is strong and getting stronger,” says Richard Alley, a geoscientist at The Pennsylvania State University. “And despite great efforts by clever people over decades, no one has succeeded in finding any real problems with the science or in generating any serious competing ideas.” But what’s more likely to change public opinion, many climate scientists point out, is the extreme weather prevalent today. Whether it is California’s record-breaking drought or the fact that 2015, like the year before it, will set yet another first for the hottest year on record, people are now seeing the impacts that likely arise from climate change in their own backyards. It is no longer a threat relegated to the future and faraway places.

    Not only is the public beginning to accept climate change as a real danger, they’re realizing that fighting it is a viable option. Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann points to “the remarkable growth of renewable energy” as adding to the sense that public perception is at a tipping point. Cleaner energy sources are surging so much that 2014 marked the first time in 40 years that global carbon dioxide emissions stalled, and even dropped during a time of economic growth. With the tie between economic growth and lower carbon emissions severed, the public has begun to see renewable energy as a viable alternative. Indeed, a recent Pew Research Center survey showed a clear global consensus on a need to tackle climate change. Across all 40 nations polled, roughly 78 percent of residents supported the idea that their countries should limit greenhouse gas emissions.

    The perceived turning point from climate denialism to action does not appear to be a scientist’s pipe dream, either. Lawyers who work at the forefront of climate policy agree that strong science and the ability to tackle climate change are changing people’s minds. But several legal turns have also taken place. “I actually think there is a trend in public conversations and even in private conversations toward thinking about liability for major energy companies for climate harm in a way we haven’t seen in many years,” says Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. And proving companies libel might just be the next step toward a renewable future.

    Horowitz says a legal angle into challenging big, man-made sources of carbon emissions began in court cases in the mid-2000s, particularly three lawsuits that were brought against fossil fuel companies under the federal common law of nuisance. Villagers in the Alaska coastal town Kivalina filed suit against several oil and gas companies in an attempt to be compensated for their relocation costs after flooding caused by the changing Arctic climate destroyed their homes. Residents along the Gulf of Mexico coast sued dozens of the nation’s largest carbon polluters when they suffered losses from Hurricane Katrina. And several states brought a lawsuit against some of the nation’s largest electricity generators to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

    All three cases failed after they reached the U.S. Supreme Court but they laid the groundwork for the legal thinking that Horowitz says is resurging now. Several changes have taken place in the years since. A crucial event occurred in 2013 when researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute calculated that only 90 companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil and BP, were largely responsible for the climate crisis. “So relatively few companies really are proportionally responsible for a pretty large share of the climate change problem in a way that allows lawyers and others to start thinking about causality in a legal sense,” Horowitz says.

    Fuel was added to the fire earlier this year when an InsideClimate News investigation revealed that Exxon was aware of climate change as early as 1977 (before the oil giant merged with Mobil). The news group claimed that despite the information, the company spent decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change, arguing the science was still highly uncertain. It even promoted climate misinformation—in 1989 the company helped create the Global Climate Coalition to question the scientific basis of climate change concerns and dissuade the U.S. from signing the Kyoto Protocol to control greenhouse gas emissions. Had Exxon been immediately transparent about its own research, the world might have begun developing clean energy decades earlier. As such, many experts have likened these actions to the deceit spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking.

    The key word, “deceit,” has opened up a new legal pathway to investigate these companies—New York State’s 1921 Martin Act. Because of the state’s rich history of publicly traded financial markets, the law confers on its attorney general broad powers to investigate financial fraud. “There’s no law quite like the Martin Act,” says Patrick Parenteau, former director of Vermont Law School’s Environmental Law Center and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, “[It’s] the strongest law in the country.”

    Although the law is nearly a century old, it has never been used in the fight against climate change. Using it against ExxonMobil will not be based on claims of injuries wrought by global warming (like the cases in the mid-2000s) but rather on failure to disclose information that investors need to know. If more companies have to accurately disclose any risks to their bottom line, like Peabody Energy now has to do, they might no longer stand on firm financial ground. They may lose investors and customers, helping shift investment from fossil fuel companies and toward those promoting clean energy. “It’s kind of a back door to influencing the behavior of some of the largest oil and gas companies for the sake of climate change,” Horowitz says.

    And it is likely that the investigation will spur legal inquiries into other oil companies. ExxonMobil is not the only oil and gas company whose public stance on climate change did not match what we—and almost certainly they—knew about the risks of global warming at the time, Horowitz says. She and Parenteau agree that other companies likely listened to Exxon’s experts and did some of their own research as well. If other investigations can prove that these companies also deceived the public, they too could lose investors. “It wouldn’t surprise me,” Horowitz says, “if this is the beginning of a storm.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:09 am on December 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, , Morocco,   

    From phys.org: “Vast desert sun farm to help light up Morocco” 


    December 13, 2015
    Jalal Al Makhfi

    Solar mirrors at the Noor 1 Concentrated Solar Power plant, outside the central Moroccan town of Ouarzazate. No image credits.

    On the edge of the Sahara desert, engineers make final checks to a sea of metal mirrors turned towards the sun, preparing for the launch of Morocco’s first solar power plant.

    The ambitious project is part of the North African country’s goal of boosting its clean energy output with what it says will eventually be the world’s largest solar power production facility.

    Morocco has scarce oil and gas reserves, and is the biggest importer of energy in the Middle East and North Africa.

    The plant is part of a vision to move beyond this heavy dependency and raise renewable energy production to 42 percent of its total power needs by 2020.

    About 20 kilometres (12 miles) outside Ouarzazate, half a million U-shaped mirrors—called “parabolic troughs”—stretch out in 800 rows, slowly following the sun as it moves across the sky.

    Spread over an area equivalent to more than 600 football pitches, they store thermal energy from the sun’s rays and use it to activate steam turbines that produce electricity.

    King Mohamed VI launched construction of the plant, called Noor 1, in 2013, at a cost of 600 million euros ($660 million) and involving roughly 1,000 workers.

    Its start of operations by the end of this month was set to coincide with the conclusion of high-stakes COP21 global climate talks in Paris.

    “Construction work has finished,” said Obaid Amran, a board member of Morocco’s solar power agency.

    “We are testing components of the production units with a view to connecting them to the national grid at the end of the year.”

    Morocco is boosting its clean energy output with what it says will eventually be the world’s largest solar power production facility.

    The project’s next phases—Noor 2 and Noor 3—are to follow in 2016 and 2017, and a call for tenders is open for Noor 4.

    A million homes

    Once all phases are complete, Noor will be “the largest solar power production facility in the world”, its developers say, covering an area of 30 square kilometres (11.6 square miles).

    It will generate 580 megawatts and provide electricity to a million homes.

    The solar power project will also help reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

    The energy ministry estimates that its first solar power plant will allow the country to reduce CO2 emissions by 240,000 tonnes per year initially, and by 522,000 tonnes with the second two phases.

    That is equivalent to nearly one percent of Morocco’s CO2 emissions of around 56.5 million tonnes in 2011, according to World Bank figures.

    The so-called “greenhouse effect” is a natural phenomenon—an invisible blanket of gases including small amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2)—that has made Earth warm enough for humans to survive on it comfortably.

    King Mohamed VI launched construction of the solar plant, called Noor 1, in 2013, at a cost of 600 million euros ($660 million) and involving roughly 1,000 workers.

    But human activities such as burning coal and oil inject additional CO2 into the atmosphere, leading to global warming.

    Humanity’s annual output of greenhouse gases is higher than ever, totalling just under 53 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2014, according to the UN.

    Morocco, to host next year’s COP22, aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030 as it develops renewable energy production.

    “We have a project to introduce 6,000 megawatts to the existing electricity production nationwide,” Energy Minister Abdelkader Amara said recently.

    “Two thousand megawatts will come from solar energy and 2,000 megawatts from wind and hydroelectric power.”

    Morocco started producing electricity at Africa’s largest wind farm in its southwestern coastal region of Tarfaya last year.

    “Things have been going well so far,” the minister said. “We’re likely to go beyond 2,000 megawatts by 2020 in the area of wind power.”

    But Rabat has not abandoned fossil fuels altogether—last December, Amara announced a multi-billion-dollar project to step up Morocco’s search for natural gas to produce electricity.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on December 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, , ,   

    From The Conversation: “How a global solar alliance can help developing countries” 

    The Conversation

    December 4, 2015
    Xavier Lemaire

    The International Solar Alliance announced by India at the Paris climate conference invites together 120 countries to support the expansion of solar technologies in the developing world.

    The cost of solar cells has decreased spectacularly over the past four decades, and the trend seems likely to continue. Solar energy has moved from a niche market for providing power in remote places (at the very beginning in 1958 to space satellites) to a mainstream technology which feeds into the national grid.

    Most richer countries have been supporting solar power for some time and the rest of the world is now catching up, turning to solar not only for energy access in remote areas but to power cities. Emerging countries such as China, India, Brazil, Thailand, South Africa, Morocco or Egypt are investing in large solar plants with ambitious targets. In developing countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal or Ghana, solar farms or the large roll-out of solar home systems are a solution to unreliable and insufficient electricity supplies.

    Most developing countries benefit from high solar radiation. Source: SolarGIS © 2015 GeoModel Solar

    Large solar farms can be built in just a few months – compared to several years for a coal plant and even longer for a nuclear plant – without generating massive environmental and health damages. Modular decentralised generation with solar is a way to increase access to energy while still remaining on top of rapidly increasing appetites for electricity.

    Culture of innovation

    This alliance could boost the solar market in the Global South by accelerating the circulation of knowledge, facilitating technology transfer and securing investments. Such a partnership would aim to create a common culture among people working in solar energy. Permanent innovation is the key to success in a field where technologies evolve fast and where norms and standards are not yet established. So an alliance could help countries exchange policy ideas while benchmarking performance against each other.

    The decrease of the price of solar cells: a long term trend. Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance & pv.energytrend.com Author provided

    Indeed in developing countries, where regulations and regimes tend to be less stable, investments suffer from a perceived risk. Given that the initial construction of solar plants makes up most of their cost (sunlight, after all, is free so ongoing expenses are minimal), the business model requires them to run for a long period. High risk means higher costs of financing the initial investment. Countries with well-designed regulatory frameworks and policies can reduce risk and attract investors.

    Not California or Spain – this is Egypt. Green Prophet, CC BY

    The alliance could also support a network of universities and local research centres in each country to capitalise on local experience and build knowledge. Research and development can then more easily target the specific needs of developing countries.
    … and the real politics of renewables

    The intensification of globalisation and competition between technology firms and utilities is sparking a revolution in the electricity sector which could result in a new world of energy providers. A number of countries are keen to position themselves as leaders.

    For the moment, both China and India want massive investments in solar only on top of further investments in new coal and gas plants. They need to make their growth less carbon intensive – but do not yet consider solar power as a complete substitute for fossil fuels.

    But renewables accounted for nearly half of all new power generation capacity across the world last year. As the cost of solar power is falling to the same level as traditional energy supplies all over the world, some players in the electricity sector are – willingly or not – shifting away from fossil fuels. The decarbonisation of the electricity sector may be not just an empty political pledge, but an economic necessity.

    See the full article here .

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    The Conversation US launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
    Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.
    Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.

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