Go Green! California Strengthens The Promise

By the end of 2030, half of California’s electricity will come from the wind, the sun and other renewable sources under a new law that sets one of the country’s most ambitious clean-energy targets.

The law, signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown, accelerates California’s shift away from fossil fuels as its dominant source of energy and marks another milestone in the state’s fight against climate change.

climate renewable_energy

And despite the loud complaints, and successes of fossil fuel addicts, the changes have brought more jobs to the state.

“It’s not an accident that the clean-vehicle industry is headquartered in California,” said Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra, a company that makes electric buses. Formerly based in South Carolina, the company this week celebrated the opening of its new headquarters — in Burlingame.

“California really invented the market, or forced the market, for hybrid technology and electric vehicles,” Popple said. “It’s attracted the kinds of companies that want to work on these technologies.”

SF Gate

CO2: One More Bad Milestone; One Small Improvement

From the BBC:

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have reached a new monthly record of 400 parts per million, according to scientists.

The milestone was announced by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

They said it was the first month that the entire globe broke 400ppm, reaching levels that haven’t been seen for about two million years.

400 ppm environment(1)

In Holland, meanwhile, good folks are still trying to come up with another grain of sand in the effort to reverse the above record setting.

Engineers in the Netherlands say a novel solar road surface that generates electricity and can be driven over has proved more successful than expected.

Last year they built a 70-metre test track along a bike path near the Dutch town of Krommenie on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

In the first six months since it was installed, the panels beneath the road have generated over 3,000kwh. This is enough to provide a single-person household with electricity for a year.

“If we translate this to an annual yield, we expect more than the 70kwh per square metre per year,” says Sten de Wit, spokesman for SolaRoad, which has been developed by a public-private partnership.


Environment Solar Road Pre-fabricated-concrete-slabs2-700x400

Power Progress

Elon Musk of the Tesla car fame is leveraging the battery technology for the car into much bigger stuff — wall batteries for home storage of solar power.

Calling it the “missing piece” in the renewable power revolution, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on Thursday unveiled the electric automaker’s latest products — batteries big enough to power homes, businesses or communities.

Paired with rooftop solar panels, Tesla batteries promise the ability to tap the sun’s energy, day or night. They could upend the way we produce and use electricity. And at a nighttime ceremony powered entirely by stored sunlight, Musk cast the batteries as essential to ending the reign of fossil fuels and fighting global warming.

“It’s the only path I know that can do this,” Musk told a crowd gathered at Tesla’s design studio in Hawthorne (Los Angeles County). “It’s something we must do, and we can do, and we will do.”

SFChron: David Baker

And even better, he is not alone.  Baker cites several others working on similar small scale power storage technology:

Oakland solar company Sungevity announced its battery offering on Wednesday, teaming up with Germany’s Sonnenbatterie to supply the equipment. Petaluma’s Enphase Energy, which makes microinverters for solar arrays, is testing a battery system that it plans to release next year. SunEdison, in Belmont, bought solar-battery startup Solar Grid Storage last month. And SolarCity, whose corporate board Musk chairs, has installed Tesla’s battery packs in a handful of its customers’ homes.

Of course one wants to know the full cradle-to-grave cost of such batteries, and what by products and unintended consequences might ensue.  If the numbers and the first models all work out, all I can say is that public power companies will have to re-think their business models.  The service of distributing power will remain, and some power generation, but far less in the next 50 years than in the previous 50.


And, some of the energy pumped into those batteries could well come from food waste – a 34 million ton per year problem in the U.S.  We’re glad to see the Cleveland Indians out in front on this one.

At Progressive Field, Mr. Gholston and the other dishwashers feed loads of food waste into the InSinkErator grinder, which is about 13 to 20 times as powerful as home models. The milkshake-consistency slurry that results from the discarded fruit and vegetable peelings, uneaten pasta, used cooking grease or leftover hot dogs that cannot go to a food bank is then pumped into a 3,000-gallon tank.

Once the tank signals to Grind2Energy that it is full, Quasar is alerted to send a truck to take the mass to its plant, where it is put into giant anaerobic digesters full of bacteria that break down the slurry. The system captures the released gas, which is then converted into electricity for the grid or transportation fuel. The leftover solids become fertilizer.

There is also a similar, pilot program being run by East Bay MUD 

Unloading Food Waste at EBMUD

Unloading Food Waste at EBMUD

Algae to Diesel: The Next Big Thing?

I’ve posted about Algae Systems before and am glad to see the New York Times picking up on what is going on in Mobile Bay.  Besides having an interest in another tool to slow the saturation of the atmosphere with CO2 I have a personal interest: my brother is part of the development team. [The big floating greenhouses are his design and implementation.]

Climate Algae Systems

…a Nevada company, Algae Systems, has a pilot plant in Alabama that, it says, can turn a profit making diesel fuel from algae by simultaneously performing three other tasks: making clean water from municipal sewage (which it uses to fertilize the algae), using the carbon-heavy residue as fertilizer and generating valuable credits for advanced biofuels.

If it works, the company says, the process will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than is added when the fuel is burned.

NY Times:Matthew Wald

Hope this proves out… the preliminary, 1/2 scale model seems to be working. Now, on to a full-scale beta, perhaps on a Pacific island which needs an energy source and can provide warm water, human waste and not too many hurricanes!

China Signals 30% of Car Fleet to be Non (less) Fossil Fuel

China’s official news agency reported that at least 30 percent of government cars that will be newly purchased will be electric cars or “new energy vehicles.”

“New energy vehicles” include plug-in hybrid cars, fuel cell-powered cars and solar-powered cars.

Tech Times

If true, and done, good.  How about throwing down the challenge glove China?  We won’t accept number 2.! Anyone else who promises 31% we’ll go to 32%.  A race to the top, instead of the bottom!  What a concept.

What about a World Cup, alternative fuel vehicles competing?

Fracking and Earthquakes

No, Drillers, they are not being imagined”

From 1976 to 2007, Oklahoma each year averaged about one quake of magnitude 3 or more — strong enough to feel locally but too weak to cause damage. But from 2008 to 2013, the state averaged 44 earthquakes of that size every year. So far this year there have been another 233,


A new study shows why:

[four massive] wells daily pour more than 5 million gallons of water a mile or two underground into rock formations, the study found. That buildup of fluid creates more pressure that “has to go somewhere,” said study lead author Cornell University seismologist Katie Keranen.

Researchers originally figured the water diffused through underground rocks slowly. But instead, it is moving faster and farther and triggers quake fault lines that already were likely ready to move, she said.

“You really don’t need to raise the pressure a great deal,” she added.

NY Times: Science

Wind Assisted Transportation

Scudding across the San Francisco Bay of late has been a trimaran with a novel, wing-like sail, which ferry boat operators have expressed interest in fitting onto passenger carrying boats.  It’s not ready for prime time yet but serious money is being put up and serious operators watching the results.

Richard Jenkins, a longtime sail engineer, designed the sail that’s being tested for ferry service. He previously built a land sail to set the world speed record for wind-powered vehicles, hitting 126 mph in the Nevada desert in 2009, and more recently built an ocean-crossing drone with funding from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.

“The same principles work really well for wind-assisted ferries,” Jenkins said.

The test sail that Jenkins created, which looks more like an upright airplane wing than a cloth sail, is powered by a built-in, solar-powered computer that rotates the glistening monolith to capture an optimal amount of wind and pass that power to the boat.

A unique trim tab attached to the top of the sail controls the angle at which the sail harnesses the wind.

There’s no rigging or tacking required, and all the pilot must do is turn on the sail, via a remote switch, and then watch the speed increase without revving the engine.

Wind Assist

…At a cost of about $250,000 to build, the group says the sail will quickly pay for itself through cutting fuel costs by 20 to 40 percent. A ferry can go through $1.2 million worth of fuel annually.

The prospect of curbing emissions of greenhouse gases and diesel particulate by up to 40 percent is what drew the attention of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which helped the group secure its grant from a 2007 pot of state money for promoting clean air.

SF Gate

And that’s not all.  Promised for 2013 but not sailing yet is a four masted [or more] container ship which would radically drop the use of fossil fuel on long-haul ocean transport.


President Carter Adds His No

In an open letter to President Obama, former president Jimmy Carter put it plainly”

“You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced — climate change,” reads the letter from Carter and nine other Nobel Peace Prize recipients. “As you deliberate the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, you are poised to make a decision that will signal either a dangerous commitment to the status quo, or bold leadership that will inspire millions counting on you to do the right thing for our shared climate.”

Talking Points Memo  and Bloomberg can help you out on the celebrity No list, if you like.

CO2 Accumulating Faster than Ever

Front page around the world about the latest IPCC report/warning.  It’s bad and getting badder….

The countries of the world have dragged their feet so long on global warming that the situation is now critical, experts appointed by the United Nations reported Sunday, and only an intensive worldwide push over the next 15 years can stave off potentially disastrous climatic changes later in the century.

NY Times

Global greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade were the “highest in human history”, according to the world’s leading scientific body for the assessment of climate change. Without further action, temperatures will increase by about 4 to 5C, compared with pre-industrial levels, it warns, a level that could reap devastating effects on the planet.

The Independent

Though it’s small solace, innovations keep coming.  Here’s one from Seattle.

At the end of last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the go-ahead for a 10-year project testing our ability to generate electricity from the movement of the ocean.

The license permits Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County to install two underwater turbines in the Admiralty Inlet near Seattle, Washington. The turbines will be provided by OpenHydro, and should produce 300 kilowatts a piece. Each turbine is nearly 20 feet high and will be mounted to the sea floor by triangular bases, about 200 feet underwater. They’re designed to generate power over a range of water flow velocities regardless of which direction the tide is flowing. Two 7,000 foot cables will carry the electricity they generate to shore.

Climate Progress



Bakken Crude Railed Through Albany

For most of us, most of the time, the underpinnings of American industrialism — from oil extraction to chicken farming– is out of site and out of mind.  When disasters happen, or dissatisfied voices join in protest, we begin to see — this Best of All Possible Worlds has its netherworlds.  The good folks of Albany, New York — that would be the state capital– are the latest to have the bright lights turned on.

Albany has become a major hub for trains carrying oil from the Bakken Formation to the East Coast. Oil leaves Albany for points south via train or tanker down the Hudson River.

Albany has become a major hub for trains carrying oil from the Bakken Formation to the East Coast. Oil leaves Albany for points south via train or tanker down the Hudson River.

Hidden in plain sight, Albany’s oil boom has taken local officials and residents by surprise. Many became aware of the dangers of oil trains after a recent series of derailments and explosions, including one that killed 47 people in Quebec last July, which have generated concerns about growing rail traffic into the city. Trains rumble through the heart of Albany every day and often idle along the busy Interstate 787 highway while waiting to get into the port’s rail yards.

“This has caught everyone off guard,” said Roger Downs, a conservation director at the Sierra Club in Albany.

About 75 percent of Bakken oil production travels by rail and as much as 400,000 barrels a day heads to the East Coast, said Trisha Curtis, an analyst at the Energy Policy Research Foundation. Albany gets 20 to 25 percent of the Bakken’s rail exports, according to various analyst estimates.

“Albany has become a big hub,” Ms. Curtis said.