Chile Finds A Better Path To Renewable Energy

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The first geothermal energy plant in South America is in Cerro Pabellón, Chile, 14,760 feet above sea level, surrounded by volcanoes. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Chile’s near catastrophe with hydroelectric energy, averted in part thanks to the efforts of friends in the Patagonia Sin Represas campaign, made us wonder whether Chile’s path to a greener future would be straight and narrow. Thanks to the New York Times and Ernesto Londoño we think we have strong evidence helping us with the answer:

Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes

CERRO PABELLÓN, Chile — It looks and functions much like an oil drilling rig. As it happens, several of the men in thick blue overalls and white helmets who operate the hulking machine once made a living pumping crude.

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A worker inspecting solar panels in the Atacama Desert in Chile, one of the driest and sunniest places on Earth. The sun is so strong there that workers must wear protective suits and slather on thick layers of sunscreen. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

With the ability to power roughly 165,000 homes, the new plant is yet another step in Chile’s clean energy transformation. This nation’s rapidly expanding clean energy grid, which includes vast solar fields and wind farms, is one of the most ambitious in a region that is decisively moving beyond fossil fuels.

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Wind turbines in the Atacama Desert and other turbines along Chile’s 2,653-mile coast contribute to power to national grid. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Latin America already has the world’s cleanest electricity, having long relied on dams to generate a large share of its energy needs, according to the World Bank.

But even beyond those big hydropower projects, investment in renewable energy in Latin America has increased 11-fold since 2004, nearly double the global rate, according to a 2016 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization. Chile, Mexico and Brazil are now among the top 10 renewable energy markets in the world.

Chile3So as Latin America embraces greener energy sources, government officials and industry executives in the region have expressed a sense of confusion, even bewilderment, with the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the climate changecommitments contained in the Paris Agreement, declare an end to the “war on coal” and take aim at American environmental regulations. Continue reading

Sunlight and Seaweed

Daniel Poloha/shutterstock.com

Thanks to the Conversation for highlighting the potential of this inspiring technology.

How farming giant seaweed can feed fish and fix the climate

Bren Smith, an ex-industrial trawler man, operates a farm in Long Island Sound, near New Haven, Connecticut. Fish are not the focus of his new enterprise, but rather kelp and high-value shellfish. The seaweed and mussels grow on floating ropes, from which hang baskets filled with scallops and oysters. The technology allows for the production of about 40 tonnes of kelp and a million bivalves per hectare per year. Continue reading

Preparing For August 21

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Solar eclipse of November 13, 2012 as seen from Australia. Photo © Romeo Durscher on NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr through a Creative Commons license

Thanks to Cool Green Science for this set of instructions for North American viewing of the sun’s near-disappearance:

Where will you be on August 21, 2017 when the solar eclipse passes through North America?

Here’s a guide to viewing opportunities, including Nature Conservancy preserves where you can catch the spectacle in beautiful surroundings.

Solar eclipses can be viewed from the earth’s surface about two to four times a year, but they aren’t viewable from all parts of the earth’s surface and the path of totality (the places on Earth from which viewers can see the total eclipse) is only about 50 miles wide. Eclipse 2017 stands out because the path of totality cuts a wide swath through the United States and all of North America will have views of a partial eclipse.

NASA_map_508.jpg Continue reading

California Leading On Climate

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Dairy cows in Fresno County, Calif. Some of the reductions in a state proposal to reduce emissions would come from curbing emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from manure piles at dairy farms. Credit Scott Smith/Associated Press

We appreciate California’s heroic measures to take responsibility and show leadership where it can on climate change:

Over the past decade, California has passed a sweeping set of climate laws to test a contentious theory: that it’s possible to cut greenhouse gas emissions far beyond what any other state has done and still enjoy robust economic growth.

Now that theory faces its biggest test yet. Last August, the State Legislature set a goal of slashing emissions more than 40 percent below today’s levels by 2030, a far deeper cut than President Barack Obama proposed for the entire United States and deeper than most other countries have contemplated.

So how will California pull this off? Continue reading

The Sun Over Africa Is Powerful

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In eighteen months, entrepreneurs brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of people in places that the grid failed to reach. Illustration by Oliver Munday / Photographs courtesy Mathieu Young / Off-Grid Electric

The author has been featured in our pages mainly as an activist, but it is good to see he has returned to the New Yorker as a reporter, writer, and keen observer:

The Race to Solar-Power Africa

American startups are competing to bring electricity to communities that remain off the grid.

By Bill McKibben

The cacao-farming community of Daban, in Ghana, is seven degrees north of the equator, and it’s always hot. In May, I met with several elders there to talk about the electricity that had come to the town a few months earlier, when an American startup installed a solar microgrid nearby. Continue reading

Big USA Cities & Potential For Solar

980x.pngThanks to EcoWatch for this note about the Google site that helps residents of major cities in the USA think more clearly about solar as an option:

It just got a whole lot easier to decide whether or not to get solar panels for your roof. Google’s Project Sunroof site will help you locate your home, see how much sun it gets on average and what you could save if you purchased panels. Continue reading

Install Solar Power In Your Home

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Thanks to the Guardian for this series of videos:

Every day, the sun kickstarts mini power plants in about 942,000 homes around America. We are of course talking about solar energy – and in 2017, it’s never been cheaper to invest in it for your home. The Guardian looks at key tips for installing solar panels and why now is the time to switch

How to install solar panels at home

You Had Us At Non-Toxic

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Photo: Organic mega-flow battery in the Harvard SEAS lab. (Photo by Eliza Grinnell, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)

Thanks to Anthropocene:

This non-toxic battery lasts a decade, could be renewable energy’s missing piece

by Prachi Patel

As more and more people install solar panels, the need to store solar power is growing. Batteries that store sun-generated electricity are key for houses to have power at night or when it’s cloudy. But today’s battery technologies are riddled with issues such as high cost, toxicity, and short life. Continue reading

Redeeming Schemes Punctuated With Question Marks

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An impression of the town square at the Babcock Ranch development in Florida. Photograph: Babcock Ranch

For every redemption story there seems to be at least one more redemption puzzle. Conundrums. This is one of those. We want to love the scheme for some of its nobler aspects, but then realize it is impossible to do so unconditionally. And finally, simply, impossible:

The solar-powered town: a dream for the environment – or a wildlife nightmare?

Babcock Ranch, the brainchild of ex-NFL player Syd Kitson, aims to be a model of sustainability but campaigners fear it will be tragic for endangered panther

Edward Helmore in New York

Florida real estate has a bad habit of reflecting the boom-and-bust cycles of the US economy but Babcock Ranch, a new development opening early next year and designed to be the world’s first solar-powered town, is hoping it can provide the Sunshine state with a model for sustainable living. Continue reading

Solar Road In Normandy Breaks New Ground

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A test phase will evaluate whether the solar panel road can provide enough energy to power street lighting. Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

When we think of Normandy, apples and oysters come to mind. Calvados, too. We are happy those traditions endure but even happier to see the roads there as a hotbed of environmental innovation:

World’s first solar panel road opens in Normandy village

Route in Tourouvre-au-Perche cost €5m to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during two-year test period Continue reading

Bright Spot To Close Out 2016

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Thanks to Bloomberg for a surprising bit of good news about the prospects for solar energy going forward:

World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar That’s Cheaper Than Wind

Emerging markets are leapfrogging the developed world thanks to cheap panels.

by Tom Randall

A transformation is happening in global energy markets that’s worth noting as 2016 comes to an end: Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity.  Continue reading

Understanding The Solar-Carbon Threshold

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Image: Daniel Parks/Flickr

We are constantly playing catch up with the terminology, let alone the science, of environmental efficiency in all its forms and considerations. Anthropocene delivers the daily goods, in the form of a summary of an environmentally-oriented scientific study, that we constantly find useful:

Solar power will cross a carbon threshold by 2018

Alternative Energy Will Boom

hawaii-solar-570x562The title is either wishful thinking, or stating the obvious; we are not sure which. Thanks to our colleagues at Clean Technica for this:

Hawai’i Solar Power (In Depth)

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Glorious blue skies and endless sunshine. Warm, balmy breezes. Isn’t that how you envision Hawai’i? Like the slogan, “Everything’s better in Hawaii,” right?  Oops, one thing does dampen the impression of Hawai’i, though: its high cost of living, especially for energy. Continue reading

Renewable Energy Outlook

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World electricity production going from black to green

In a time of troubling headlines, the more promising headlines can get lost, but they are there. At least with regard to renewable energy. Click the image above to read the summary of this book at Anthropocene or the image below to go to the source:

MTrenew2016.jpgThe rapid spread of renewable energy is a bright spot in the global energy transition towards a low carbon economy. Despite lower fossil fuel prices, renewable power expanded at its fastest-ever rate in 2015, thanks to supportive government policies and sharp cost reductions. Continue reading

Solar Rising

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A road divides solar panels at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert, Nevada. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Those of us who live near the Kochi Airport in Kerala, India feel pretty proud of our 100% solar-powered access to the outside world; but this story tells us to expect even more in the USA soon:

US energy shakeup continues as solar capacity set to triple

Solar expected to almost triple in less than three years by 2017 as coal continues to fall, solidifying gas as country’s chief electricity source, reports Climate Central

Bobby Magill for Climate Central, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Solar power capacity in the US will have nearly tripled in size in less than three years by 2017 amid an energy shakeup that has seen natural gas solidify its position as the country’s chief source of electricity and coal power continue to fade, according to monthly data published by the US Department of Energy. Continue reading

Solar’s Silicon Future

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Thanks to the BBC for this story:

Why Apple And Google Are Moving Into Solar Energy

Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are investing in renewable energy in a serious way – a sign, perhaps, of rapid changes in the energy market.

By Chris Baraniuk 14 October 2016

Most people think of Apple as a company that makes phones, computers and smart watches – not an energy provider. But in August all of that changed when the firm was given permission to sell energy from a Californian solar farm that it acquired last year. Continue reading

Price of Solar Continues to Decline

Precisely two months ago we shared a great function by Google for investigating the potential for installing solar power in your neighborhood (mostly if you’re in the US). Last week, one of our most successful Instagram posts was of three shades of blue at Villa del Faro (see above), where photovoltaics are key. Panels are becoming less and less expensive, so hopefully the alternative energy will keep spreading!  Continue reading

First Solar Plane Voyage Around the World

After a pit stop in Oman Solar Impulse 2 sets off for Ahmedabad, India on 10 March 2015 Photograph: Jean Revillard/Solar Impulse

The strange rear profile you see in the photo above is that of the Solar Impulse 2, a two-ton plane (a Boeing 747 weighs 154 tons) with solar panels on its wings that made history this week as it completed a round-the-globe voyage over the course of roughly three weeks in flight. The Solar Impulse 2 and one of its pilots, André Borschberg, broke the record for the longest nonstop solo flight ever a few weeks ago, when Borschberg flew from Japan to Hawaii. Damian Carrington reports for The Guardian:

The final leg of the feat, aimed at showcasing the potential of renewable energy, was a bumpy one, with turbulence driven by hot desert air leaving the solo pilot, Bertrand Piccard, fighting with the controls.

The plane, which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747 and carries more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings, began the circumnavigation in March 2015 in Abu Dhabi. It has since crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans using no fossil fuel and has spent more than 23 days in the air.

Continue reading

Concentrating Solar with Mirrors and Molten Salt

A tower of salt, surrounded by sunlight-sensing and -reflecting mirrors. Photo © SolarReserve

Two months ago we posted about non-photovoltaic solar power via a story from Scientific American, and this week they’re exploring the subject again, this time in the desert of Nevada with the first utility-scale “concentrating solar” plant that can provide electricity even at night. Concentrating solar involves storing heat from the sun rather than converting light into electricity, and apparently molten sodium and potassium nitrates can do this very effectively. Knvul Sheikh reports:

Deep in the Nevada desert, halfway between Las Vegas and Reno, a lone white tower stands 195 meters tall, gleaming like a beacon. It is surrounded by more than 10,000 billboard-size mirrors focusing the sun’s rays on its tip. The Crescent Dunes “concentrating solar power” plant looks like some advanced communication device for aliens. But the facility’s innovation lies in the fact that it can store electricity and make it available on demand any time—day or night.

Continue reading

Solar for Homes, Empowered by Google

First result when searching “solar power” in Google

We posted about a solar oven yesterday, and today we heard about a less tangible but equally valuable product offered for free by Google: by visiting their Project Sunroof webpage, you can find out in seconds if your roof is suitable for panels, how many panels you’d need, and finally, what your payment options are depending on your location (at the moment it seems focused on the US and the different state and federal tax credits available). From their About page:

Why are we doing this?

As the price of installing solar has gotten less expensive, more homeowners are turning to it as a possible option for decreasing their energy bill. We want to make installing solar panels easy and understandable for anyone.

Project Sunroof puts Google’s expansive data in mapping and computing resources to use, helping calculate the best solar plan for you.

Continue reading