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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hydropower

In New England, as we face electricity shortages, including brownouts and blackouts in the next few years, we North to Canada to provide, we hope, new large-scale supplies of hydropower.

Hydropower

Introduction

Hydropower is also referred to as the water power, and refers to power which derives from the force of energy of the moving water. Hydropower has very long history, and has been used since early days for irrigation, today hydropower is mostly used to generate electricity.

United States hydropower info

Hydropower is the most important renewable energy source in United States, which currently accounts for around 8% of nation's electricity.

The biggest hydroelectric dams in the United States are found in the Northwest, the Tennessee Valley, and on the Colorado River.

United States is currently fourth largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world, behind China, Canada and Brazil.

The United States currently has more than 2,000 hydroelectric power plants which supply close to 50% of its total renewable electricity.























The largest U.S. hydroelectric power plant is the 6,800-megawatt Grand Coulee power station on the Columbia River in Washington State.

Idaho, Washington, and Oregon are US states that use hydroelectricity as their main power source, and hydroelectric plants exist in at least 34 US states.

State of Washington leads the nation in hydropower and accounts for around 31% of the total U.S. generated hydropower.

Hydropower has very long history in United States as the first U.S. hydroelectric power plant was opened almost 130 years ago, on the Fox River near Appleton, Wisconsin, on September 30, 1882.
Most dams in the United States were built mainly for flood control and irrigation, and only a small percentage of all dams in the United States generates electricity.

US can currently generate enough hydropower to supply electricity needs for close to 29 million households.

In 2008, hydropower represented 2.5% of the total energy consumed in the United States.

Micro hydro systems info

Micro hydro systems are hydroelectric power installations that typically produce up to 100 kW of power, and are mostly used to provide power to an isolated home or small communities.

In some areas micro hydro systems are used to complement for solar energy panels. This is because in the winter, when the amount of sunshine is at minimum, available hydropower is at its maximum.
Micro hydro systems unlike large hydropower plants usually do not have a dam or reservoir because these systems compared to large hydropower plants require minimal flow of water to be available year-round.

Micro hydro systems are very efficient because they require a very small amount of flow to generate electricity (around two gallons per minute should be enough). They are also very reliable, and their peak energy season is during the winter when water flow is the highest.




















Micro hydro systems are not connected with high costs. A small-scale hydro-power system in average costs from $1,000 – $20,000, depending on site electricity, requirements and location. Maintenance costs are also fairly low.

Many energy experts believe small hydro systems would be one of the best energy options for developing countries because they are connected with low costs, and last for long time.

The main disadvantage of micro hydro systems are low power in the summer months because during the summer months there is less flow. Another disadvantage is the fact that is not that easy to find the suitable site to build these projects because you need to consider many factors like stream size, flow rate, distance from the power source, etc.

Micro hydro systems use several different types of water turbines, depending on the head of water, the volume of flow, and other factors like the availability of local maintenance and transport of equipment to the site. For mountainous regions where a waterfall of 50 meters or more may be available, a Pelton wheel is mostly used. For low head installations, Francis or propeller-type turbines are used while very low head installations of only a few meters may use propeller-type turbines in a pit.

Micro hydro systems have minimal environmental impact. Still, when building these systems constructors need to be cautious to ensure there will be no damaging impact on the nearby ecosystems.

California Is Rationing Water Use For First Time

Let's not lose sight of our pending crises, around the globe, as look head on into mega-droughts and severe water shortages.

California Is Rationing Water Use For First Time Thanks To Climate Change


This pole was supposed to measure snow.
On Wednesday, California Governor Jerry Brown walked into a meadow in the Sierra Nevada mountains with snow survey chief Frank Gehrke, who carried an extremely tall pole to measure snowpack depth. They wore hiking shoes instead of skis, which signaled a serious problem.

“We’re standing on dry grass,” Brown said. “We should be standing on five feet of snow.”

Standing on that dry land and facing a historic drought, Brown then demanded “unprecedented action.” That action took the form of California’s first-ever statewide mandatory water use restriction. Brown signed an executive order detailing to local water supply agencies how they could cut usage 25 percent from 2013 levels.

Last week Brown signed a $1.1 billion emergency drought relief bill, which could help localities meet the 25 percent water cuts outlined in the executive order. Brown said the order he was issuing was unique in its level of detail — the likes of which he’d “never seen … before.”

It directs the State Water Resources Control Board to implement water savings plans in cities and towns across the state to meet the 25 percent goal. Local water agencies will be changing their pricing structures to limit excess use. Landscaping will change from lawns to drought-tolerant vegetation across 50 million square acres of the state. Consumers can receive higher rebates for efficient appliances. And as desalination plants go up on the coast, urban areas can begin to reduce the drain on reservoirs.

Last year the state failed to achieve a voluntary 20 percent water use reduction, and while officials said punitive fines could be used to enforce the new guidelines, they expected not to have to resort to that.

The drought forcing these responses is now the worst on record.

California’s rainy season typically lasts from October to March, but instead of being flush full reservoirs and a healthy snowpack, the state has entered its fourth consecutive year of drought — the worst in 120 years of state recordkeeping. With the last week’s temperatures averaging more than 10°F hotter than normal, snowpack levels, already at five percent of normal, will continue to shrink at even faster rates. Five percent is less than one-third the previous record low: 25 percent of average set in 2014 and 1977.

“The west continued to cope with much-above-normal temperatures, further depleting already-dire snowpacks and reducing spring runoff prospects over much of the region,” reported the U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday.

The Monitor noted that the last water year “ended on an abysmal note,” with 10 percent the normal precipitation levels over the last 30 days. It warned that additional precipitation “would likely do little to improve the state’s dire drought prospects.”

Even after the big storms that rolled through the state last December, it needed 11 trillion gallons of water to end the drought, a situation made worse as much of the precipitation fell as rain rather than snow.
The drought monitor map for the week ending on March 31, 2015, released on April 2.
The drought monitor map for the week ending on March 31, 2015, released on
In April 2014, at the end of last year’s rainy season, 23 percent of the state was in “exceptional drought” — this year it’s 41 percent.

The snowpack usually supplies 30 percent of California’s water use, and 60 percent of the water needed to help fill the rest of the state’s traditional reservoirs. But water resource managers like Gehrke are essentially telling reservoir operators not to expect water from the snowpack this year.
When it comes to reducing the demand those reservoirs have to meet, the elephant in the room is agricultural water use, which accounts for 80 percent of the state’s yearly consumption. Gov. Brown’s executive order addresses farming mainly in the form of an increased enforcement against illegal water waste.

Big agricultural water consumers “will be required to report more water use information to state regulators, increasing the state’s ability to enforce against illegal diversions and waste and unreasonable use of water under today’s order,” a state press release said.

But large farms will not fall under the 25 percent guideline. The state is likely mindful of keeping food prices from rising more than they have, wary of cutting water allocations to large farms further. But finding ways to cut water use significantly will become more critical for California’s growers, as the drought is likely to get worse, not better.

One big reason is climate change.

When people ask why this drought has been so bad, and how much worse it could get, scientists point to two main factors: lack of rain, and extreme heat. Droughts happen when it does not rain, and they get worse with extreme heat. When half the years are warm, and half are cold, this is less of a problem. But with climate change pushing global temperatures higher and higher, it’s very likely that California has not seen the worst of it.

The climate change connection to this particular drought’s lack of rain may be less direct, though for each degree warmer the atmosphere gets, it can hold four percent more moisture. This means less frequent precipitation events as the air holds more water, though when it does rain, it rains a lot all at once, making it harder for the land to easily soak up the water.

Princeton climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer put it to the New York Times this way: “The rain deficit isn’t clearly connected to climate change, but the planetary warming has made it more likely that the weather would be hotter in California.”

A recent study noted that soil moisture levels are worse than they’ve been for more than a millennium: “the current event is the most severe drought in the last 1200 years, with single year (2014) and accumulated moisture deficits worse than any previous continuous span of dry years.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

EPA: New Cars Are More Efficient Than Ever

We thought this would be a good story to run with the Tesla piece today.  Tesla's first priority is to build great cars while delivering a lot of miles-per-charge (though, using their amazing new battery technology to store energy at home is a great idea and application as well).  Part of keeping EPA ahead of their goals in terms of miles-per-gallon will depend a lot on hybrids and EV's.  We hope you shop them when buying a new car.

This is great news that we hope keeps traction.

EPA: New Cars Are More Efficient Than Ever, Beating Standards By A ‘Wide Margin’

     

shutterstock_130196342

 

For the second year in a row, new cars are ahead of the game when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint.

According to a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency, the auto industry beat out domestic greenhouse gas emissions standards by a “wide margin” in 2013, with cars getting an average of 1.4 more miles per gallon than required.

This trend is promising as the EPA is tightening greenhouse gas compliance regulations on light-duty vehicles — cars and small trucks — each year in an effort to meet the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards’ target of an average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Nine of the 13 biggest-selling automakers beat the CAFE targets.

Vehicles from 2013 achieved an all-time record fuel economy of 24.1 mpg, a 0.5 mpg increase over 2012 and an increase of nearly 5 mpg in the last decade. The CAFE standards covering vehicles made between 2012 and 2025 are projected to save 12 billion barrels of oil, cut 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases and save drivers more than $8,000 in fuel costs, according to the EPA.

The standards also help protect consumers from the pocketbook pain that can come from volatile gas prices.

“I think everybody is familiar with the fact that gas prices go up and down over time,” Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator of the EPA, said on a press call. “The best way for people to make sure that they’re going to be able to weather high gas prices or low is to invest in a fuel efficient vehicle.”

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), 2013 cars are emitting 9 percent less carbon pollution than in 2010.

“The EPA report shows that tailpipe emissions are falling, improvements in air-conditioning technology are happening even faster than expected, and on average, vehicles are a full year ahead of where they need to be to keep up with the standards,” said Don Anair, the research and deputy director of the Clean Vehicles program at UCS.

Two-thirds of the over-compliance in 2013 vehicles came from reductions in tailpipe emissions, according to the EPA, with the remaining third deriving from air conditioning improvements and automakers using credits for building things like flex fuel systems.

“In the design of the program, we anticipated automakers taking advantage of these different market mechanisms, so this was always part of our projections,” Chris Grundler, the EPA’s director in the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said on the press call. “The fact that the industry is doing substantially better is very good news and tells us that this kind of innovative policy design is indeed producing the results that we expected.”

While consumers turned towards fuel-efficient cars during the economic downturn and sustained period of high gas prices, the recent plummet in gas prices has caused interest in large, heavy-emitting vehicles to spike again. As Bloomberg reports, interest in “gas guzzling trucks and SUVs” started to pick up early in 2014 and has continued to increase as gas prices fell to their lowest levels in half a decade, approaching $2 a gallon.

At the same time, interest in electric vehicles is ramping up as companies like Tesla and GM plan more affordable models of their EVs. Last year Tesla announced it was building its $5 billion lithium-ion battery “gigafactory” in Nevada. The plant is primarily meant to provide batteries for the forthcoming Model III EV, expected to be released in 2017 with a price tag of around $35,000.

In January, Chevrolet, a division of GM, revealed plans to launch the $30,000 Bolt, a car that the company thinks will directly compete with Tesla’s the Model III, which will have a similar price tag and a similar range of slightly over 200 miles-per-charge.

According to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, EV battery prices have been falling faster than expected and these vehicles may be able to compete economically with gas-powered cars sooner than expected.

“If prices keep falling at this rate, we could be on course to reach $150 per kWh — the price point around which some people believe EVs can become directly competitive with petrol-driven cars — in the next decade,” said the authors of the study, who work for the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Is TESLA About To Rebuild Your Home?

Get to our home site today as we have this and other great stories/updates waiting for you.  We also posted, which fits great with the live show we did today on our flagship station, WRNP 1320, our interview with Ian Leahy from American Forests  As we heard today as well, forest, urban canopies of trees, vegetation of all types play a critical, many times misunderstood role not just in our quality of life, but economic survival and prosperity as well.  Go to our front page--renewablenow.biz--to listen in and send us comments.

For now, here's the story on Tesla.  Get ready to be a big part of the next industrial revolution:



All eyes will be on Tesla this week as the eagerly awaited Tesla home battery is  unveiled.

The online world was abuzz last week when Jeff Evanson, Tesla’s 
VP of Investor Relations, said details of the Tesla home battery and a very large utility scale battery would be announced on April 30.

In February, Tesla founder Elon Musk said a residential battery storage solution would be in production in “About 6 months.”

Rumour has it that the Tesla battery will be initially available in 10 and 15 kWh configurations.
Any time the Tesla name pops up, it’s sure to grab attention. Expectations are high of a game-changing product – a top performing battery at a very competitive pricing point. If anyone can do it, Tesla can thanks to its extensive experience in refining electric vehicle batteries.

But Tesla is by no means Robinson Crusoe when it comes to home energy storage sector – in fact, the sector starting to look a little crowded already before the home battery revolution has even really kicked in. 

This is good news for consumers as affordable residential energy storage will happen far quicker than anticipated. It’s perhaps not such good news for power companies worrying about grid defection or equally as troubling, load defection. In north-east USA, customer load defection could reduce annual energy sales by ~10–20% by as early as 2020.

Assuming a reasonably priced and good quality product is available, many solar households kin the U.S. may choose to further reduce their reliance on the mains grid – or ditch it altogether by adding storage to an existing system.

As was the case with the rooftop revolution, with choice will come challenges for consumers in identifying quality battery products. However, some big names have already jumped onto the energy storage bandwagon; which will make an informed choice an easier task.
- See more at: http://www.renewablenow.biz/sustainable-home.html#sthash.xlLJMclG.dpuf

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Can Business Be More

What better piece to run today to coincide with the great radio show we are doing in a few hours.

Think, too, how can you be more eco friendly?

How Can Business Be More Eco Friendly?






















The world is striving to be a greener place with many people actively opting to reduce their own personal carbon footprint. But it shouldn’t stop there. Businesses can play a large part in helping to reduce pollution and contribute to a greener, more economically friendly environment for everyone.

In our latest post we have decided to look at some easy to achieve ways that businesses can actively reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a better environment.

How Can Business Be More Eco Friendly?

The world is striving to be a greener place with many people actively opting to reduce their own personal carbon footprint. But it shouldn’t stop there. Businesses can play a large part in helping to reduce pollution and contribute to a greener, more economically friendly environment for everyone.

 In our latest post we have decided to look at some easy to achieve ways that businesses can actively reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a better environment.

Lighting

One of the main ways that your business can reduce its impact on the environment is to change the lighting throughout your building to incorporate LEDs. LED lights typically last 25 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs while also using around 75% less energy which means they are a great way to not only save money but to also reduce your impact on the environment. The more lights that you switch to LEDs the more money you could potentially save as the running cost of an LED is far less when compared to incandescent bulbs.

Recycling

The European Environment Agency has set its members a target of recycling 50% of waste by 2020. While the UK is currently on track to achieve these targets there is always room for improvement and businesses can really help contribute to help achieve these targets. One key area of recycling that is often over looked is that of computers. Each year in the UK around 1.3 million tonnes of gadgets are thrown away and end up on the scrap heap but specialist recycling companies such as AWA Refiners can actually take your old and unwanted computer and help recycle them. This process is ideal for companies who are looking to upgrade a lot of hardware at once and are unsure of what to do with their old computers.

Become A Paperless Office

There are many benefits to becoming a paperless office and it’s not just to reduce your environmental impact. Firstly you will create more space without having large files or storage cabinets lying around. Secondly reducing the use of your printer and their expensive ink cartridges will have a positive effect on your office budget! It is estimated that around 50% of all office waste going into landfills is paper and if everyone switched to a paperless system then it could save around 1.4 trillion pounds of paper as well as a lot of CO2 emissions!

Encourage Carpooling

One of the biggest environmental challenges that the world faces is trying to encourage people to use their cars less often. Some companies have been able to offer incentives to their employees with the Government backed cycle to work scheme. You could look to offer some sort of incentive for those who carpool and it doesn’t even need to be financial, something as simple as being able to park closer to the building could help encourage lift sharing to work.

For Today's Show/Kathryn Cooper/Sustainability Learning Centre

It is our pleasure to showcase great groups doing great work.  Today we record a segment for airing tomorrow on our flagship station--WRNP 1320, on the Renewable Now Radio Network--with Kathryn Cooper, Founder of the Sustainability Learning Centre.

Below is information on Kathryn, The Centre and a wonderful poem on their site we needed to share with you.  Get inspired today and every day.  You do make a difference.  Thank you for being part of the solution:

Our Founder

Kathryn A. Cooper, B.Sc., MBA, M.Ed. (Sustainability & Environment)

Kathryn_Zach__Matt

President & Chief Learning Officer

"I am here for the future of my children and all the children on the planet. 
Each of us has our own reasons for caring about sustainability. 
I am here because our children, youth and future generations urgently need our full commitment to transitioning to a sustainable way of "being" on this planet."

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner, educator and strong proponent of "collective impact".  Over the last several years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, Partners in Project Green, Green Enterprise Ontario, Pinchin Environmental, Trillium Insurance and others on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy.

The Sustainability Learning Centre (SLC) is a training, networking and technology transfer hub designed to mobilize people and technology for sustainability in industrial, commercial and institutional sectors.
The Centre focuses on the development of practical "Green Core Competencies" and Whole Employee Engagement for eco-efficiency, eco-effectiveness and eco-restorative practices and technologies.
The Centre delivers sustainability focused professional development workshops to hundreds of people each year, through public and in-house programs instructor-led programs and E-Learning. 

A Reflection

(The following is a  poem by Tom Atlee and Joanna Macey from "Active Hope" by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone)
When you act on behalf
of something greater than yourself,
you begin
to feel it acting through you
with a power that is greater than your own.

This is grace.

Today, as we take risksbethechange6
for the sake of something greater
than our separate individual lives,
we are feeling graced
by other beings and by Earth itself.

Those with whom and on whose behalf we act
give us strength
and eloquence
and staying power
we didn't know we had.

We just need to practice knowing that
and remembering that we are sustained
by each other
in the web of life.
Our true power comes as a gift, like grace,
because in truth it is sustained by others.

If we practice drawing on the wisdom
and beauty
and strengths
of our fellow human beings
and our fellow species
we can go into any situation
and trust
that the courage and intelligence required
will be supplied.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Researchers: Drought Improves

Ironic that less water, a major threat on the West Coast, brings cleaner water to Lake Tahoe.  Shows how much we do not understand on our natural resources.

Researchers: Drought Improves Lake Tahoe’s Clarity Once Again



                                  
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
RENO, Nev. (AP) – Lake Tahoe’s clarity improved again in 2014, and the drought was a factor why, researchers said.

The average clarity last year was 77.8 feet, up 7.5 feet from the previous year, reported the Tahoe Environmental Center of the University of California, Davis.

It represents the most year-to-year improvement in more than a decade and is part of a trend showing improvement in the lake’s clarity.

Researchers attribute last year’s improvement to the four-year drought and an ongoing environmental restoration project aimed at controlling erosion and runoff and restoring wetlands in the Tahoe Basin.

Light rain and snow led to less clarity-stealing sediment and other pollutants being washed into Tahoe. Warmer temperatures limited the mixing of lake waters in the winter to further increase clarity.

“While these latest  are very reassuring, they should not be interpreted as victory in our joint restoration efforts,” said Geoffrey Schadlow, director of the research center. “Complete restoration is still decades away and some of the greatest challenges still lie ahead of us.”

“We are enduring drier and warmer conditions than we have ever encountered, and the restoration consequences of that are still far from understood,” he added.

The clarity was based on the average of 28 readings taken during 2014 and represents the level at which a white disc lowered from a boat vanishes from view. The deepest level was 93.5 feet in July, and the shallowest was 57.4 feet in September.

Measurements have been taken since 1968, when the clarity was 102.4 feet. A coalition of groups and governmental agencies now is trying to reach a of 97.4 feet set by federal and state regulators.

For the most part, readings have steadily climbed since the clarity was recorded at 64.1 feet in 1997.

Utilizing Wastewater

We posted a story on this last week on our main site.  What a perfect, potential win-win on restoring balance to our environment while creating jobs and commerce.  Mankind historically has risen up when challenged.  We are fully challenged.  Can we correct some of our ruins and, together, build a clean,bright future?

Utilizing Wastewater Presents Environmental and Economic Opportunities  



Recycled Sewage Boosts Sydney Water Supply

Among the most urgent concerns for the future is to have enough water to sustain a human population projected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050.

 The UN Millennium Development Goals recognize that access to water and sanitation is essential to economic development and poverty alleviation. However, global consumption patterns indicate that we are becoming more water profligate, and the waste that pollutes water supplies generally remains an unmitigated hazard. According to some estimates, 70 percent of drinking water in India is contaminated by sewage, which is a significant impediment to equitable development that occurs in many lower-income countries. The UN estimated that if water consumption trends continue unabated, 1.8 billion people will experience water shortages as soon as 2025. Among solutions with great potential are the development and deployment of technologies that use wastewater as a resource, which can generate incentives for industries and municipalities to treat waste that is otherwise discharged into vital waterways.

Read a 3-part Breaking Energy series on wastewater recycling in the oil and gas industry here.
Effective wastewater management can grow an economy and protect the environment. The World Bank estimates that infrastructure for sanitation can reward investment fivefold, whereas poor sanitation can drain up to seven percent of GDP each year. That is because healthcare costs are lower and labor is more productive when workers are healthy. Pursuit of prudent strategies for water management will be more active if we recognize the resource potential of wastewater, which is a powerful opportunity for sustainable economic development and growth.  Wastewater treatment is a desirable process for mitigating the hazards of agricultural, industrial, and municipal by-products. However, investors are wary to finance water infrastructure projects demanding high upfront costs and long development periods. That is why multi-billion dollar wastewater treatment facilities are a privilege enjoyed mainly in developed economies and advanced regions in poorer countries. A UN study articulates this disparity; on average, high-income countries treat 70 percent of generated wastewater (North America treats 75 percent, or 61 km3 of wastewater annually), while low-income countries treat only 8 percent of generated wastewater. Because of projections for impending water scarcity, governments in water-poor regions are investing in technologies for desalination and water purification, but their impact will be limited to too few people and they fail to address water pollution more fully.

There are novel strategies for taking advantage of the resource potential of wastewater that can simultaneously generate marketable assets while diverting effluent from water supplies. Partially treated wastewater can be coolant for electric power plants; each year 26 billion gallons of “sullage” cool the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona. Biogas generated in anaerobic digesters can be used for power generation and heating; the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in New York has a 310 million gallon per day capacity, and sells enough natural gas to heat 2,500 to 5,200 homes each year. Assuming that governments will be challenged for resources to address increasingly frequent and difficult wastewater problems, market mechanisms will prove more effective to stimulate solutions for capturing and utilizing wastewater.

The most promising and potentially profitable strategy for wastewater management is to utilize it in processes for algae biomass production. Stimulated by the necessity for clean water and renewable energy, several firms operate plants that combine wastewater treatment with biomass production. Earlier processes for separating energy dense lipids from algae were too energy-intensive to qualify as cost-competitive or cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels. The breakthrough innovation distinguishing the new generation of plants is that they produce various products (fuel, clean water, fertilizer) and combine several utilities, which allows these hybrid facilities to generate revenue in an efficient, resourceful, and eco-friendly manner.

Despite the urgency of water sanitation issues among public health experts, dirty water is not effectively controlled by policies and regulations alone. Market-based approaches recognize problems and exploit opportunities for solutions that generate wealth, which is why there are excellent prospects for the development of wastewater resources for energy. The potential solutions above-mentioned address pressing concerns, and that is why economic development in the future will be more resourceful and sensitive to its synergies with vital food, water, and energy.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Clean Energy Revolution Is Ahead of Schedule

We see this as well.  Incredible strides are being made globally.  New mega-size, utility-scale are fast getting permitted and built.  Solarize residential programs, thanks to great groups like Smart Power, are spreading like wildfire across rooftops.  Wind is back on track and getting built both offshore and land based.

What we need is to couple this with waste reduction at the same accelerated pace.

 Clean Energy Revolution Is Ahead of Schedule



competitive


















 The most important piece of news on the energy front isn't the plunge in oil prices, but the progress that is being made in battery technology. A new study in Nature Climate Change, by Bjorn Nykvist and Mans Nilsson of the Stockholm Environment Institute, shows that electric vehicle batteries have been getting cheaper much faster than expected. From 2007 to 2011, average battery costs for battery-powered electric vehicles fell by about 14 percent a year. For the leading electric vehicle makers, Tesla and Nissan, costs fell by 8 percent a year. This astounding decline puts battery costs right around the level that the International Energy Agency predicted they would reach in 2020.

We are six years ahead of the curve. It's a bit hard to read, but here is the graph from the paper:
This puts the electric vehicle industry at a very interesting inflection point. Back in 2011, McKinsey & Co. made a chart showing which kind of vehicle would be the most economical at various prices for gasoline and batteries:

Looking at this graph, we can see the incredible progress made just since 2011. Battery prices per kilowatt-hour have fallen from about $550 when the graph was made to about $450 now. For Tesla and Nissan, the gray rectangle (which represents current prices) is even farther to the left, to about the $300 range, where the economics really starts to change and battery-powered vehicles become feasible.

QuickTake Batteries

But in the past year, the price of gasoline has fallen as well, and is now in the $2.50 range even in expensive markets. A glut of oil, and a possible thaw in U.S.-Iran relations, have moved the gray rectangle down into the dark blue area where internal combustion engines reign supreme.

Still, if battery prices keep falling, the gray rectangle will keep moving to the left. The Swedish researchers believe that Tesla’s new factories will be able to achieve the 30 percent cost reduction the company promises, simply from economies of scale and incremental improvements in the manufacturing process. That, combined with a rebound in gas prices to the $3 range, would be enough to make battery-powered vehicles an economic alternative to internal combustion vehicles in most regions.

But this isn't the only piece of good energy news. Investment in renewable energy is powering ahead.
The United Nations Environment Programme recently released a report showing that global investment in renewable energy, which had dipped a bit between 2011 and 2013, rebounded in 2014 to a near all-time high of $270 billion. But the report also notes that since renewable costs -- especially solar costs -- are falling so fast, the amount of renewable energy capacity added in 2014 was easily an all-time high. China, the U.S. and Japan are leading the way in renewable investment.

Renewables went from 8.5 percent to 9.1 percent of global electricity generation just in 2014.

That’s still fairly slow in an absolute sense. Adding 0.6 percentage point a year to the renewable share would mean the point where renewables take half of the electricity market wouldn’t come until after 2080. But as solar costs fall, we can expect that shift to accelerate. In particular, forecasts are for solar to become the cheapest source of energy -- at least when the sun is shining -- in many parts of the world in the 2020s.

Each of these trends -- cheaper batteries and cheaper solar electricity -- is good on its own, and on the margin will help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, with all the geopolitical drawbacks and climate harm they entail. But together, the two cost trends will add up to nothing less than a revolution in the way humankind interacts with the planet and powers civilization.

You see, the two trends reinforce each other. Cheaper batteries mean that cars can switch from gasoline to the electrical grid. But currently, much of the grid is powered by coal. With cheap solar replacing coal at a rapid clip, that will be less and less of an issue. As for solar, its main drawback is intermittency. But with battery costs dropping, innovative manufacturers such as Tesla will be able to make cheap batteries for home electricity use, allowing solar power to run your house 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

So instead of thinking of solar and batteries as two independent things, we should think of them as one single unified technology package. Solar-plus-batteries is set to begin a dramatic transformation of human civilization. The transformation has already begun, but will really pick up steam during the next decade. That is great news, because cheap energy powers our economy, and because clean energy will help stop climate change.

Of course, skeptics and opponents of the renewable revolution continue to downplay these remarkable developments. The takeoff of solar-plus-batteries has only begun to ramp up the exponential curve, and market shares are still small. But it has begun, and it doesn’t look like we’re going back.

How Can Business Be More Eco Friendly?

This is right in our sweet spot of the business side of green.  Sustainability is driven by many millions of little steps forward.  Engaging every singe company into this transformation, even on a small basis, will bring huge rewards.

How Can Business Be More Eco Friendly?






















The world is striving to be a greener place with many people actively opting to reduce their own personal carbon footprint. But it shouldn’t stop there. Businesses can play a large part in helping to reduce pollution and contribute to a greener, more economically friendly environment for everyone.

In our latest post we have decided to look at some easy to achieve ways that businesses can actively reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a better environment.

How Can Business Be More Eco Friendly?

The world is striving to be a greener place with many people actively opting to reduce their own personal carbon footprint. But it shouldn’t stop there. Businesses can play a large part in helping to reduce pollution and contribute to a greener, more economically friendly environment for everyone.
In our latest post we have decided to look at some easy to achieve ways that businesses can actively reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a better environment.

Lighting

One of the main ways that your business can reduce its impact on the environment is to change the lighting throughout your building to incorporate LEDs. LED lights typically last 25 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs while also using around 75% less energy which means they are a great way to not only save money but to also reduce your impact on the environment. The more lights that you switch to LEDs the more money you could potentially save as the running cost of an LED is far less when compared to incandescent bulbs.

Recycling

The European Environment Agency has set its members a target of recycling 50% of waste by 2020.

While the UK is currently on track to achieve these targets there is always room for improvement and businesses can really help contribute to help achieve these targets. One key area of recycling that is often over looked is that of computers. Each year in the UK around 1.3 million tonnes of gadgets are thrown away and end up on the scrap heap but specialist recycling companies such as AWA Refiners can actually take your old and unwanted computer and help recycle them. This process is ideal for companies who are looking to upgrade a lot of hardware at once and are unsure of what to do with their old computers.

Become A Paperless Office

There are many benefits to becoming a paperless office and it’s not just to reduce your environmental impact. Firstly you will create more space without having large files or storage cabinets lying around.

Secondly reducing the use of your printer and their expensive ink cartridges will have a positive effect on your office budget! It is estimated that around 50% of all office waste going into landfills is paper and if everyone switched to a paperless system then it could save around 1.4 trillion pounds of paper as well as a lot of CO2 emissions!

Encourage Carpooling

One of the biggest environmental challenges that the world faces is trying to encourage people to use their cars less often. Some companies have been able to offer incentives to their employees with the Government backed cycle to work scheme. You could look to offer some sort of incentive for those who carpool and it doesn’t even need to be financial, something as simple as being able to park closer to the building could help encourage lift sharing to work.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Four Federal Agencies Team Up

Four Federal Agencies Team Up To Resolve Algal Bloom Threat

   by Deborah Grace
 We've seen, in many places, great cooperation between agencies, and we see it again here as we attack an algae threat that will have tremendous economic repercussions as well.

Algal blooms have become a massive worldwide environmental problem which could both animals and humans at risk. It is one of the consequences of global warming and many things are at stake.

Acting director of the US Geological Survey (USGS), Suzette Kimball, explains, “Harmful algal blooms have emerged as a significant public health and economic issue that requires extensive scientific investigation. USGS uses converging lines of evidence from ground to space to assess changes in water quantity and quality, ecosystems, natural hazards, and environmental health issues important to the nation.”

The USGS is one of four federal agencies—including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—that have joined forces to translate satellite data into information which can be used to improve protection for our fresh water reservoirs.

Algal Bloom

 Algal blooms can be dangerous because some species of algae can produce toxins that can kill any wildlife and can cause major illness in humans.

Acting NOAA Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management and Deputy Administrator, Holly Bamford, adds, “Observing harmful algae is critical to understanding, managing and forecasting these blooms. This collaboration will assure that NOAA’s efforts will assist the coastal and inland public health officials and managers across the country to distribute this information to the community in an easily understandable fashion.”

Finally, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy comments, “EPA researchers are developing important scientific tools to help local communities respond quickly and efficiently to real-time water quality issues and protect drinking water for their residents. Working with other federal agencies, we are leveraging our scientific expertise, technology and data to create a mobile app to help water quality managers make important decisions to reduce negative impacts related to harmful algal blooms, which have been increasingly affecting our waterbodies due to climate change.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

45th Anniversary and Still Growing!

Our main site, renewablenow.biz, not only celebrates Earth Day and Earth Week with our newest update, but does so in style as we repeat a fascinating interview with Earth Day Network Ex-Dir, Kathleen Rogers.  

Are you helping the Earth build a cleaner, brighter future today?  If you are, send us a note, and, thank you.



Wow! Forty five years, it seems like yesterday for some of us that the first Earth Day celebration (or day of recognition) took place back in 1970. We always make reference to what a success Earth Day was in turning itself into a movement way back before social media existed. It just goes to show the effectiveness of the organizers, but more importantly, how the message resonated with so many as something as important as it is. Well, today, April 22, 2015, reinforces that the message is as strong as ever and is growing at a rapid pace.

Under EDN's leadership, Earth Day has grown from a single-day event to a year-round movement to promote sustainability. EDN also runs A Billion Acts of Green; the world's largest environmental service and advocacy program. Momentum is growing with a goal to reach 1.5 Billion Acts of Green on Earth Day, April 22, and more than 2 Billion Acts of Green by the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France at the end of 2015.
  • “Earth Day Network believes that this will be the most environmentally active and important year yet,” Rogers says.

  • Two billion people across 192 countries will participate in Earth Day 2015, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

  • Hundreds of major cities around the world from Milan to Houston, Delhi to Des Moines, Rome to Seattle, Dallas to Dubai are organizing actions in their communities.

  • 2,000 mayors are expected to participate in Town Hall meetings where local representatives will discuss sustainability issues and solutions with their communities.

  • Global religious leaders will reinforce the spiritual imperative of protecting the Earth.

  • Hundreds of thousands of schools worldwide will participate in Climate Education Week – an educational program empowering today’s students to become tomorrow’s climate literate, green economy leaders.

On the National Mall in Washington DC on April 18, 2015, Earth Day Network will partner with the Global Poverty Project to present “Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day,” a large-scale public event that for the first time joins the climate movement with movement to end extreme poverty

April 22 also kicks off the countdown to 2020 and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day that marks the date by which cities, local governments, countries and corporations have committed to achieving significant progress on reducing the impacts of climate change.

“Where does the world want to be on Earth Day’s 50th anniversary?” This is the question we cannot leave to governments alone,” Rogers says. “This is our call to action. It’s our time to lead.” - See more at: http://www.renewablenow.biz/renewable-education.html#sthash.bs5rdVsK.dpuf

Beautiful Vacation Destinations Overtaken By

Last week we did a very unsettling show on the trash problem in Nigeria.  This does not alleviate any of our concern or consternation.

Managing trash and energy are the two biggest components, the challenges that will make or break our sustainability goals, we face today.  Plastic chokes our oceans, bottles and cans drowned Haiti after the earthquake, landfill are full and cities are littered with garbage.  Finally, as we see here, some of our most pristine sites are decayed and destroyed by waste.

From this point forward, every company that delivers food products, electronics, any consumer goods should be required to provide the buyer with an easy means of recycling the packaging.  We need accountability.  We need packaging to be biodegradable.  We need to change...fast.

Beautiful Vacation Destinations Overtaken By Trash

by Sophie Forbes

Our planet is inhabited by more than seven billion people and grows by nearly 100,000 people a day. The World Bank estimates that three billion of our population lives in urban areas, and produces more than 1.3 billion tons of solid waste a year.

By 2025, the amount of waste we produce as a planet is set to exceed 2.2 billion metric tons a year, and by 2100 we will be churning out more than 11 million tons a day.

As a result many of our world’s most beautiful and historic destinations are being buried under mountains of trash that just can’t be disposed of at a fast enough rate. Here are some of the worst: 
Maldives

Beautiful Vacation Destinations Overtaken By Trash

Trash litters the beach in Maldives. (Photo: Michele Westmorland/Corbis)
Tourism is a major cause of increased trash production for many countries, and island communities are particularly at risk due to their isolation and space issues. Every year, more than 750,000 head to the paradise-like resorts of the Maldives islands, but this massive influx of people has created an uncontrollable flow of trash buildup that the country’s government is now struggling to deal with. 
Things got so bad, that in 1992 the country allocated one of the islands, Thilafushi, to be turned into a makeshift dumping ground for all of the nation’s waste — and it has been nicknamed “The Rubbish Island.” What was once a picturesque lagoon with white sand, coral reefs and crystal-clear waters was turned into a toxic dump where hundreds of tons of rubbish were dumped and burned on a daily basis, creating a reclaimed island spanning more than 124 acres. 

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Smoke billowing as trash is burned off on Thilafushi Island, which has been dedicated to waste disposal. (Photo:  Ibrahim Muneez/National Geographic Creative/Corbis)
Broken oil drums, lead, asbestos and other metals, along with an abundance of plastics and food waste created a major biohazard as well as disgustingly increased fly and bug activity. Smoke also polluted the air around the island from all the burning waste. Gross. 
This practice of using the island as a dumping ground began being phased out in 2011 after several ships bringing piles of waste to the island began dumping it straight into the ocean. All waste is now shipped to India, where it is sorted and sold. But it will be years, if not decades, before the islands local habitat will be returned to is former natural beauty. If that is even possible.
Mount Everest 

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Trash and abandoned supplies left behind by climbers on Mount Everest. (Photo: Barry C. Bishop/National Geographic/Getty Images)
Every year, more than 300 climbers attempt the daring and dangerous feat of scaling Mount Everest. These mountaineers are usually joined by just as many sherpas who are responsible for guiding the expeditions up the peaks. 
Over the years, these groups of explorers have left behind huge amounts of trash on the mountain — everything from tents, equipment and clothing to plastic bottles, tins and food packets. There is also an insane amount of human feces that have accumulated in the base camps and camping sites on the climbing routes. Because of the amount of buildup, Mount Everest is now being referred to as the World’s Highest Junkyard.

The situation has become such that the levels of toxic waste are now threatening the ecosystem and could potentially spread disease down through mountain streams to local communities living at the foot of the range. Napal has now introduced very strict penalties on groups littering the natural wonder and religious site, introducing a rule that requires a $4,000 deposit which is forfeited should a climber fail to bring back an 8-kilogram bag of trash and human waste to the base camp.

The Indian Army is also planning several clean up operations this climbing season, which runs from March to May.

Mexico City 

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Rubbish is piled up next to the monument of Mexico’s late President Benito Juarez in Mexico City. (Photo: REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya)
Mexico City is the country’s largest city as well as its political, financial and cultural center. Originally founded and built in 1325, it is considered the oldest capital city in all the Americas, rich in history and deep cultural qualities dating to the Aztecs. The city has a population of more than 21 million people, making it the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere. 

In the past few decades, the city has developed one of the world’s worst garbage problems. For years, the majority of the city’s waste was taken to the Bordo Poniente landfill. One of the largest on the planet, this site took more than 14,000 tons of trash per day and took up more than 927 acres of land on the outskirts of the city. After years of pollution, illegal dumping and fighting amongst politicians, the site finally closed, but this was the start of just more trash problems. 

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Illegally dumped garbage in the canals of Xochimilco and the Chinampas (floating gardens) located in the south of Mexico City. The uncontrolled urbanization of the area has caused severe deterioration of the canals’ water quality. (Photo: Carlos Cazalis/Corbis)
With nowhere else to take their waste, people have turned to thousands of illegal dumping sites. These have appeared all over the city, with lines of trucks stretched for miles to get into two overworked sites, and trash has began to pile up in the streets.

What was once a picturesque classical city is now drowning in a sea of its own waste. The Mexican government has been working to fix the city’s trash disposal problems by implementing recycling schemes and repurposing trash.

They are also attempting to work on the existing Bordo Poniente site, which leaks large quantities of greenhouse gasses from trash decay into the atmosphere. Officials hope to harness the gas, turning it into a form of biofuel that could power area homes and businesses. 

Cairo 

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An Egyptian woman searches through garbage on a Cairo street. (Photo: AP/Hassan Ammar)
The ancient Egyptian city of Cairo and its surrounding areas are home to one of the highest concentrations of historical landmarks seen anywhere on Earth. The Pyramids at Giza, Abu-Simbel Temples and the Temple of Luxor are just some of the attractions that have seen millions of tourists flock to the area in years past.

Of the more than 600 historical sites spread around the city, many dating to the 7th or 8th century, are now crumbling and surrounded by growing piles of garbage.

The problem that this city has with trash has been ongoing for years, largely to do with the inefficiency of the collection system. Cairo does not have a government-run trash collection service.

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Two men who work as Zabaleen sort a garbage bag of glass by color at a recycling depot in Cairo. While unconventional, the Zabaleen system led to almost 90% of the city’s trash being recycled. (Photo: Martyn Aim/Corbis)
For the past 70 or more years, the city’s waste has been picked up a group of thousands of trash collectors known as the Zabbaleen. For a small fee, they go door to door, removing everyone’s garbage. They take it to a village on the edge of the city called Manshiyat Naser, where they pick through it in the streets looking for recyclable materials and items that can be sold off. Any leftover food items were fed to the city’s hundreds of wild pigs that roam the streets.

While unconventional, the Zabaleen’s methods meant that almost 90% of all the trash in the city got recycled. Figures that exceed the majority of other countries in the developed world.

In the past decade, the government have attempted to change the system, hiring private companies to deal with some of the trash. But in 2009, in the aftermath of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico, the authorities ordered the slaughter of all the wild pigs, leaving no way of disposing of the non-recyclables. The trash began to overflow into the streets, with rotting food piling up and a horrendous smell constantly drifting through the city.

Due to the recent political instability in the country, the trash issue has been moved further and further down the to-do list, and there doesn’t yet seem to be a solution to this devastating problem faced by Egypt.

Mediterranean Sea 

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Plastic and garbage floating in the Mediterranean Sea near Marseille’s islands. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Mediterranean Sea is a 2.5-million-kilometer-square mass of water that is almost completely enclosed by land. It also contains more than 3,300 islands and touches the coastlines of 24 countries and two continents.

It has long been considered one of the most beautiful and diverse places on Earth, rich with marine animal and plant life, and draws millions of tourists to its shores every year. But just this week a new survey found that large volumes of plastic debris are building up in the sea.

Scientists have found plastic in the stomachs of fish, birds, turtles, and whales. Tiny pieces of plastic have also been found inside oysters and mussels grown on the coasts of Northern Europe.

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Trash and debris on the coast of Caprera, off the coast of Sardinia, Italy. (Photo: M.L. Sinibaldi/CORBIS)
The rate of buildup has been compared to that of the ocean gyres that have accumulated due to the rotating oceanic currents of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The study has scientists particularly worried about the levels of microplastics (less than 5mm in length) that have been registered in the water. Eighty percent of the plastics there fall into this category. The problem with these plastic fragments is that they get swallowed by marine wildlife, and then potentially release chemicals into their guts. This also, frighteningly, puts the plastic into the food chain to be consumed by bigger species, including humans — and the long-term effects of this are unknown.