Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How SciFi is this?

In the world of sustainability, you do not get shocked too often.  We first heard about geoengineering when a guest on the radio show left us a DVD that showed some of the government efforts to control weather.  Of course, not all of the reasons behind their research was altruistic--part of the scheme was to use weather changes as a warfare tactic.

Now we see this story from MSN expanding government's use of a geoengineering techniques to potentially mitigate global warming.  Amazing.  Dangerous of course, too.

See what you think.  We'd love to hear your comments:

Experts — and CIA — look at manipulating climate

Researchers are exploring ways to possibly change Earth's atmosphere to counteract climate change. Will they work, and at what cost and what trade-offs?
It sounds like weird science, but experts — and the CIA — are investigating whether they can manipulate the environment to halt global warming.

Organizations including UNESCO, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Federation have conducted research to address climate change, but current efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming Earth are falling short. Two of the most vivid examples are the continued disappearance of Arctic sea ice and extreme weather. 

The National Science Foundation reports that the planet is warmer than it’s been in the past 11,300 years, and if the trend continues, temperatures will rise between 2 and 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

Now scientists are suggesting geoengineering — large-scale manipulations of the environment to counteract climate change.“The concept has gained recent attention as a possible backstop measure if other strategies, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to counter climate change are not successful,” William Kearney, spokesman for the National Academy of Sciences, told MSN via email.

The NAS received $631,000 from several governmental agencies, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the CIA, to evaluate research related to two geoengineering technologies: solar radiation and carbon dioxide removal, as originally reported by Mother Jones.

Solar radiation attempts to use artificial methods to reduce the amount of sunlight hitting Earth. The methods could include releasing billions of aluminized balloons into the stratosphere to act as a reflective screen or using aircraft to release stratospheric sulfur aerosols to modify the amount of solar energy reflected from the Earth back into space.
As the name suggests, carbon dioxide removal seeks to remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. The technologies for this include capturing carbon dioxide and compressing and storing it in geologic reservoirs, or adding iron sulfate to seawater to create algae blooms that absorb carbon in a process known as ocean iron fertilization.

The CIA is helping fund the research because the NAS also plans to evaluate “the national security concerns (that could be) related to geoengineering technologies being deployed somewhere in the world,” Kearney said.
In an emailed statement, Christopher White, a spokesman for the CIA's office of public affairs, told MSN, “On a subject like climate change, the agency works with scientists to better understand the phenomenon and its implications on national security.”

Although the CIA and the NAS are tight-lipped about what these concerns might be, one researcher notes that geoengineering has the potential to deliberately disrupt the weather for terrorist or military goals.
John Pike, the director of, a Washington-based firm that specializes in addressing emerging security concerns, says that worries about the potential impact of geoengineering aren't as paramount as the potential security issues that could arise if the United States doesn't use the technology.“A failure to engage in geoengineering could impact the political stability of other countries, and that could lead to trouble for the U.S.,” he said.

Other countries have already tried geoengineering. In China, cloud seeding, a process of dropping particles containing super-cooled water into clouds, where it dissipates and falls to the ground as rain, was reportedly used during the 2008 Olympics to force dark clouds to release rain before they reached Beijing.

As a means of providing “a clear scientific foundation for ethical, legal and political discussions surrounding geoengineering,” Kearney says, NAS scientists will be examining existing studies that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Their goal is to gain a better grasp of what is understood — and unknown — about the technologies.
The project is expected to run for 21 months. All of the research is unclassified, and a full report, which will include recommendations for additional research related to geoengineering, will be available to the public when the project is completed in 2015. 

One open question is how geoengineering could affect the environment.
A 2012 study published in Environmental Research Letters found that although solar radiation technologies could be effective in reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches Earth’s surface, the practice would not reduce greenhouse gases. In addition, researchers at Stanford University note that there are environmental concerns about ocean fertilization, including potential disruptions to marine ecosystems.

There also are concerns about the cost of these technologies. The research published in Environmental Research Letters found that it would cost $5 billion annually to put solar radiation into practice.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Good article from Ecopreneurist

On greening your business:

There are lots of ways to make your business more environmentally friendly. Some of these you can implement immediately, easily and cheaply – energy-saving light-bulbs, reducing unnecessary printing, turning appliances off when not in use, and so on.
Others are more complicated and may take a while to take effect and bring rewards, since they involve major investment or policies aimed at changing your employees’ environmentally unfriendly habits. Once you’ve implemented the quick wins, though, it’s worth thinking about these since over the long term they can bring substantial savings.

Policies and practice

These changes of business approach will need establishing gradually or over the course of months or years, since some of your employees may be resistant to doing things a different way. All the same, if you can win them over then you will find they bring both financial and environmental benefits.
1) Reconditioned computers. Computer hardware is both expensive and has a high Carbon cost – the so-called ‘embodied energy’ involved in its manufacture, as well as running costs. You can reduce this significantly by keeping your computers going for longer through proper maintenance, making sure they are reconditioned when you do need new ones, and by purchasing reconditioned machines where appropriate. Top-of-the-range computers are extremely powerful, and have functionality that most businesses simply won’t need. If you mainly need your computers for email and word processing, a reconditioned older machine should more than meet your requirements. Additionally, bear in mind that desktop computers consume around five times the power of laptops.
2) Cloudhosting or other off-site data storage. You may prefer to keep your own servers in the building, but moving to external storage is often a far cheaper option. Additionally, you can access economies of scale that make it more environmentally friendly. In any case, this is something you should consider as a back-up for your existing systems: holding all your data on the premises has serious risks in the event of fire or other accidents.
3) Lift-sharing and green transport. Your employees have to get to work somehow. How they do that depends on a number of variables – the distance between work and home, the time they start work, public transport provision, and personal preferences, to name a few. Incentivising staff to walk or cycle to work, or to share cars, will reduce their Carbon footprint.  Allowing employees to work flexitime or compressed hours – or from home some days – can also encourage them to change the way they travel. Depending on your jurisdiction there may even be tax breaks available for you to buy them bikes.

Investment and infrastructure

If you are prepared to make major financial investments, there are other ways to save money and energy over the long haul. These require careful planning but can have a substantial cumulative impact.
1) Solar panels or other micro-generation systems – geothermal, wind, biomass or even hydroelectric. Installing your own renewable power generators isn’t cheap. The good news is that once it’s done, they will generate free, green electricity for the foreseeable future. You may even make a profit if you sell excess power back to the grid.
2) Insulation. This is a simple fix but one that will be more disruptive for a business than for a residential property. Lagging the roof space is no big deal, but if you end up having to tear into walls to insulate the cavity, your office space is going to be out of action for a while – which could cost you more in lost productivity than the insulation itself costs to install. The good news is that there are tax breaks and subsidies available, and once you’re well insulated your heating/cooling costs should fall dramatically.
3) Power management systems. These come in all shapes and forms. At its simplest, this might involve instigating power-down policies for your computers and monitors, ensuring that they are set to go into ‘hibernate’ mode after a given period of inactivity. More complex (and costly) versions involve sensors that detect when people are present, and turn lights and other systems off in unoccupied areas.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Good update from Seth Handy, co-host on the radio side

Seth is one of the best environmental and energy lawyers in the northeast, and he's always watching developments on clean energy for us.  Here's the most recent story he sent from Wind Energy News:

Renewables Provide 25% of New U.S. Electrical Generating Capacity in First Half 2013

Renewables Outpace Coal, Oil and Nuclear Power Combined

 According to the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) accounted for 24.93 percent of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed in the first six months of 2013 for a total of 2,144 MW. That is more than that provided thus far this year by coal (1,579 MW - 18.36 percent), oil (26 MW - 0.30 percent), and nuclear power (0 MW - 0.00 percent) combined. However, natural gas dominated the first half of 2013 with 4,852 MW of new capacity (56.41 percent).
Among renewable energy sources, solar led the way for the first half of 2013 with 94 new "units" totaling 979 MW followed by wind with 8 units totaling 959 MW. Biomass added 36 new units totaling 116 MW while water  had 8 new units with an installed capacity of 76 MW and geothermal steam had one new unit (14 MW).
For the month of June 2013 alone, six new solar projects in North Carolina and one in New Mexico came on-line with a total capacity of 15 MW while a single 4-MW hydropower project was also added.  No new capacity was reported for the month for natural gas but coal and oil had additions of 618 MW and 26 MW respectively. 
For the first half of 2013, compared to the first half of 2012, new capacity from all sources declined by 16.16% (from 10,259 MW to 8,601 MW). However, solar capacity grew by 3.70 percent while natural gas capacity increased by 12.47 percent. Water power saw a more than ten-fold increase from 7 MW in the first six months of 2012 to 76 MW thus far in 2013.
Renewable sources now account for nearly 16 percent of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity:  hydro - 8.52 percent, wind - 5.17 percent, biomass - 1.31 percent, solar - 0.48 percent, and geothermal steam - 0.33 percent.  This is more than nuclear (9.05 percent) and oil (3.51 percent) combined. Note that generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources in the U.S. now totals about 14 percent according to the most recent data (i.e., as of April 2013) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

For today's radio show

 Organic food industry has been growing strong in the US, on the back of increasing awareness regarding health, environment protection, food safety, and animal welfare reforms. 

Even in the testing scenario of economic slowdown, the industry posted 5.1% year on year growth in 2009, which was well ahead of overall food industry growth in the country. Emphasizing on the existing and upcoming market trends, the "US Organic Food Market Analysis" - released by RNCOS institute - further reveals that the industry will orchestrate 12.2% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) during 2010-2014.

The research identifies fruit and vegetables segment as the most dominant segment among organic foods segments in the US. In 2009, the segment accounted for 38% of total organic food market and sustained its top slot. Improving economy is improvising job market and ultimately increasing income levels. This, along with various other factors, discussed and analyzed in the report, will make the US organic food industry one of the fastest developing markets during our forecast period.

According to an article on Sustainable Business, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) reported that organic food is now a $63 billion industry worldwide. From 2002-2011, the industry grew a whopping 170%, averaging about 19% per year.

The article also states that the United States is the “largest single market for organic food (and beverages)”. Recently, the U.S. organic industry reached $31.5 billion in sales, a 9.5% increase from the previous year. However, despite there being a high consumer demand for organic foods, there are still not enough organic farmers to support the need. The article says that Americans get most of their organic foods from developing countries.

Even though the organic farming industry has grown rapidly worldwide, organic agriculture still makes up less than 1% of the world's farming acreage “with 37.2 million hectares planted worldwide across 162 countries.”

Philippe van den Bossche, an organic agricultural advocate and Chairman and Owner of Advancing Eco-Agriculture, believes there needs to be more of a worldwide initiative with organic farming to ensure the industry remains on a global rise. “We’re gaining speed but we can’t get lackadaisical with our efforts to increase organic farming across the globe. It’s proven to have health advantages and to be economically and environmentally beneficial for all involved so we need to keep the momentum going.”

Philippe van den Bossche is an impact entrepreneur and investor and Chairman and Owner of Advancing Eco Agriculture, an agricultural and horticultural consulting and manufacturing company providing consulting services and specialty nutritional materials for use in irrigation systems and foliar applications. As an avid organic agricultural advocate, he believes that the production of healthy crops is a function of complex interaction between soil, plants and microbes.
- See more at:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Additional update from Nature's Conservancy

Have you wondered how we can prepare for severe weather changes arising out of an intensifying environment?   Here's some thoughts.  We'd love to hear yours.

Climate Change: Our Priorities

Preparing People and Nature for Rapid Change

Protecting and restoring nature can help protect people from climate change.

 From Mongolia’s grasslands to Palau’s tropical reefs to Long Island’s coastal marshes, The Nature Conservancy is using conservation to strengthen natural habitats and build the resilience of vulnerable people and communities by helping secure their water, food and livelihoods. 

These innovative, new approaches on-the-ground are also informing governments and communities around the world as they make policy and funding decisions about how to address the impacts of climate change.
Helping People and Nature Adapt
Longer droughts. Bigger floods. Stronger hurricanes. Melting glaciers. Rising seas. These are some of the impacts we hear most about, and some that are having the greatest impact on vulnerable people around the world. Water supplies for drinking and agriculture are at risk. Higher sea levels coupled with stronger storms put coastal communities in harm’s way.

By applying proven conservation methods and testing new approaches to make the natural systems we all rely on more resilient to climate change, “ecosystem-based adaptation” can help secure food, water and safety for people in the face of climate change threats.
Rising Seas and Stronger Storms 
Storms, sea level rise and warming ocean temperatures are all combining to put coastal communities here in the U.S. and around the world at risk. Promoting healthy reefs, mangroves and coastal wetlands can minimize damage to coastal communities by buffering them against increasingly frequent and intense storms.

Around the world, The Nature Conservancy is examining how conservation solutions can address coastal threats.
  • In Long Island Sound — one of the most densely populated coastal environments — our Coastal Resilience decision support tool helps stakeholders visualize the likely risks of sea level rise and coastal storms and cost-effective, ecosystem-based solutions, such as increasing the conservation of wetlands, to help protect communities and their properties. The Conservancy is working to adapt this experience to coastal communities in the Caribbean and Western Pacific. 
  • In partnership with the Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Communities, the Conservancy worked with local communities in the Choiseul province of the Solomon Islands to create a three-dimensional model to help plan local coastal land and resource management in response to climate impacts. Based on this and other work in the Solomon Islands, we are convening partners and government agencies to scale up and integrate ecosystem-based adaptation into national and regional planning in Pacific Islands.
  • As rising sea levels eat away at North Carolina’s Albemarle Peninsula, we are restoring oyster reefs to reduce wave erosion and conserving additional vegetation in anticipation of a redrawn coastline.
  • A healthy reef provides people with a buffer from waves and storm surge, feeds coastal communities dependent on the sea for protein and livelihoods and sustains tourism economies, but corals reefs are already experiencing climate-related impacts. The Nature Conservancy is training managers around the world on how to maintain healthy reefs by reducing local stresses, such as overfishing and pollution, and how to design and maintain networks of protected areas to increase resilience of the entire reef system. 
  • Drought and Reduced Water Aupplies
    Changes in how much and how often in rains has the potential to reduce water availability for people, agriculture and wildlife. Healthy forests and grasslands have natural water-retention abilities that, when effectively protected and managed, can store and release water even when rain is not falling.

    The Nature Conservancy is exploring how investments in conservation now can keep these natural systems healthy and maintain their water-storing benefits in the face of climate change.
    • In various watersheds in South America, The Nature Conservancy has worked with water users — often including utility companies or downstream municipalities — to create a sustainable funding source for conservation projects that benefit the watershed. Now, we are evaluating the impacts climate change will have on these watersheds and exploring how these “water funds” can be part of the solution for communities and governments facing future water shortages.
    • In Mongolia, warmer and drier summers, coupled with heavier winter snows, have the potential to weaken livestock herds and put the livelihoods of Mongolian herders at risk. The Nature Conservancy is looking at how to set aside grassland areas from grazing during most years, and then use these “grass banks” for grazing in drought years when there is not enough forage for livestock. This can be thought of as type of insurance policy to help herders and their livestock survive tough years.

Good magazine to read

New Magazine Edition Now Available

Check out exclusive photo galleries, videos, audio commentary and interactive maps in Nature Conservancy magazine's digital edition for iPad.

Download Now »
Dear Mr. Arpin,

Nature springs to life in Nature Conservancy magazine's digital edition, available on the iPad.

This free app features exclusive photo galleries, videos, audio commentary and interactive maps in addition to the same engaging stories and stunning photography as the award-winning print magazine.

Download your free July/August issue on the iPad today to:
  • Explore the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and discover how America's most famous hike connects humans with nature and biodiversity to its future

  • Follow a remarkable 6,000-mile exploration of Latin America that blazed a path for modern conservation. Browse lithographs from Prussian scientist Alexander Von Humboldt's journey

  • Learn how loggers and conservationists are working together to restore Arizona's overgrown forests before tinderbox conditions spark the next megafire, packed with interactive features
Download the latest issue of Nature Conservancy magazine on the iPad and see how your support makes a difference in your region and around the world

Monday, July 22, 2013

Background on one of our radio guest last week

Lightning Hybrids is an innovative automotive research and manufacturing company based in Loveland, Colorado. We focus on providing hydraulic solutions – including fuel efficient hydraulic hybrid systems for vehicles (especially fleet work trucks and shuttle buses) and lightweight composite high pressure accumulators.


In October of 2008, founders Dan Johnson and Tim Reeser, motivated by a challenge from Dan’s father, Sam Johnson, assembled a team and started work on a 100 MPG hydraulic hybrid sports sedan.  They entered the $10 million Automotive X PRIZE race for “super fuel-efficient vehicles that people will want to buy” slated for mid-2010. (Click the X PRIZE above to see the outcome of that competition.)
In April 2009 we introduced the LH4 car at the Denver Auto Show. At that show we were asked many times, “When are you going to make a hydraulic hybrid kit or retrofit for trucks?”
When we returned from the show we found ourselves at a crossroads. The X PRIZE was becoming prohibitively expensive. We knew that if we could get the car to market we could certainly sell a 100 MPG sports sedan, however the cost of getting to market would be well over $12 million because of all the regulations and testing that would have to occur.
As we explored ways to push forward in our work on hydraulic hybrids, we began developing the hybrid drivetrain as a kit or retrofit for trucks. In summer 2009 we dropped out of the X PRIZE race and to fully focus our team on the development of our patent-pending  Hydraulic Hybrid retrofit system for light and medium-duty fleet vehicles.

In the process of developing the Hydraulic Hybrid technology and in an effort to make the system lighter and safer we designed a carbon fiber accumulator that is a fraction of the weight of its steel counterpart.  The Carbon Weight accumulator is in use in our own system and can be used in a number of other applications.
Currently Lightning Hybrids is focused completely on the design and testing of our Hydraulic Hybrid system for fleet vehicles such as shuttle buses and work trucks.  Road testing of the first hydraulic hybrid work truck model, a GMC 3500 cutaway, has been on-going since November of 2011. And the truck made its public debut at the Work Truck Show in March of 2012.

Friday, July 19, 2013

This week's radio show is now available

Is now available 24/7 on and Blog Talk Radio, Renewable Now channel.  Don't forget that starting August 1, our radio shows will archive only on our web site,

Here's a link:

And some background:  Join us in this show as Peter Arpin and Jack Gregg will be taking a fascinating look into the world of hydraulic hybrid solutions with Tim Reeser who is President of

Also we will get up to speed with electrically charged Motorcycles ,Scot Harden who is Vice President of Global Marketing for Zero Motorcycles will provide us will several benefits of using electric motorcycles vs gasoline ones .
We will learn the environmental benefits as well .

Good to see a report on geothermal

 We are always looking for stories on the development of geothermal and, quite frankly, this one surprised us.  There's no doubt there's plenty of controversy surrounding fracking.  Now we see that spill over to geothermal as the industry tries and maximizes productions from their wells.

Shooting thousands of gallons of water deep into the earth's core to free up energy is, in our opinion, a dangerous process.   With gas it has contaminated water supplies, to the point residents can lite their water on fire, and we worry very much about platonic changes in the earth's surface.  To the point of worrying about more frequent and powerful earthquakes.

As you will see in the article, there's a major difference in the technology between fracking for geothermal heating and cooling and natural gas.  And, according the geothermal industry, these differences are part of the reason they dismiss our fears on creating seismic activity.

Take a look and see what you think: Renewable Energy World Logo

Is Fracking for Enhanced Geothermal Systems the Same as Fracking for Natural Gas?

Advocates for both natural gas and geothermal are up in arms over whether fracking for enhanced geothermal systems should be scrutinized with the same parameters as natural gas

 The U.S. geothermal industry recently scored a big win when its first enhanced geothermal system (EGS) project went online in April. ORMAT was able to stimulate a previously unproductive well at its Desert Peak project with EGS technology — injecting fluid into a well to reopen cracks and create a resource reservoir — and found an additional 1.2 megawatts (MW) of capacity. Renewable energy experts applauded the project, dubbing it a "game-changer" and a "shining moment" for the industry.
This article can be found in our completely redesigned Renewable Energy World digital magazine. Subscribe here to recieve a free copy.
Though the project represents a breakthrough for EGS technology and the geothermal industry in general, EGS has come under fire, with opponents accusing it as being just as dangerous as oil or natural gas hydraulic stimulation, commonly known as fracking. While traditional geothermal energy is viewed as clean renewable energy, could EGS technology, with its similar "fracking methodology," coupled with its rocky past, come under the same intensive scrutiny as natural gas fracking? 
EGS and Earthquakes
Perhaps the most notorious EGS project is one that was never completed in Basel, Switzerland — constructed on a known seismic fault and suspended in 2006 when it generated earthquakes that reportedly caused millions of euros in damage to local infrastructure. The project was cancelled in 2009 after several reports said that if continued, it would cause more earthquakes and would lead to more damage each year.
"It's easy to generate a lot of fear. You can scare people about things without providing much solid information," said David Stowe, communications director at AltaRock. "The Basel story is dredged up over and over again — but we have learned from it, and it is pretty easy to put safeguards in place that will severely minimize risk."
Since its cancelation, many have pointed to the Basel project as a reason to avoid EGS altogether. However, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) remained undeterred, and developed geothermal-induced seismicity protocol and further stringent safety measures with Lawrence Berkley National Labs to prevent major seismic events - the only protocol in place for any sub-surface energy industry, according to Doug Hollet, director of the DOE geothermal energy program.
The DOE has been working on several EGS projects, including AltaRock's innovative Newberry project in Bend, Oregon. To ensure that the Newberry project does not cause significant seismic events, AltaRock has implemented rigorous protocols and created an advanced microseismic network system of about 20 seismometers that surrounds the project both on the surface and in wells 1,000 feet below the earth. The seismometers pick up the sounds that fractures make when they grow, triangulate and then displays the location of the fracture zone on a computer screen — AltaRock has its own modeling software for this, said Stowe.
"We have engineers outside monitoring pumps, two or three geologists on the command trail monitoring computer screens, and additional monitoring equipment," explained Stowe. "It's an intricate operation."
In natural gas, seismic activity is not the major concern when it comes to the fracking process. According to Stowe, the reinjection of the spent working fluid causes the most problems. "It creates a huge bulge when you re-inject all this water; pressure builds and the earth moves to compensate for that, which can cause a seismic event," said Stowe — adding, however, that this isn't a common occurrence.
According to Andrew Place, interim director and president of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, seismicity is more of a concern for EGS due to the ongoing nature of the technology, whereas natural gas enters a site, fracks for the resource and moves on. "[For natural gas] the strong concern is for disposal wells, and if you don't site them carefully and drill in a close proximity to an existing fault that is highly stressed, you could set off a substantial seismic event," he said. This can be avoided with pre-drill modeling to ensure the avoidance of fracture networks and monitoring for seismic events — similar to the precautions already being taken at the Newberry project site.
Fracking vs Slipping
According to Hollett, the fundamental difference between natural gas fracking and EGS fracking is the injection process. The oil and gas industry injects water and a proppant (a mix of sand and chemicals), at a very high pressure of around 9,000 psi or more, which breaks though the rock and holds the cracks open; otherwise they would close when the fluid stops flowing.
EGS, however, uses water, and sometimes acid, to shear the rock and cause a "slip." "You're trying to make two rock faces slide past each other slightly, which creates a little bit more space between them," said Lauren Boyd, EGS program manager at the DOE. This is where fractures or weaknesses in the rock likely existed already and were plugged by mineral deposits over time. Boyd compared the process to putting an ice cube in a glass of hot liquid: "cracks will form where there are existing deformities in the ice, which is similar to what happens in the subsurface with closed fractures," she said.
As for long-term effects, "we are talking about very small fractures very deep in the earth — there is really little or negligible long-term impact there," said Hollett.
Contamination Concerns
Since many believe EGS technology to be similar to natural gas fracking, the same concerns about leakage, spills and resulting groundwater and soil contamination exist for both technologies. After all, according to Popular Mechanics, in the past two years alone, natural gas fracking has caused numerous surface spills including several projects that have contaminated groundwater.
AltaRock plans to combat these problems at the Newberry project by using a multizone stimulation process. Water is injected into a single well at a pressure of about 2,000 psi to stimulate cracks in the rock, which eventually spider out to create a "zone." Once a zone is complete, pressure is dropped to 1,000 psi and a diverter made of biodegradable plastic (similar to plastic developed that allows water bottles to biodegrade in landfills) is injected into the well to "gum up" the cracks, according to Stowe. Pressure is then increased to 2,000 psi to start a new fracture zone, and then a new batch of diverter is made to plug up holes at hotter temperatures. The process repeats until all zones are created, and water flow is then stopped to allow the well to heat up. It takes about one week for the diverter to break down into water and CO2, which is eventually used to generate power once the plant is built, said Stowe.
According to several experts, many of the issues related to natural gas fracking can be prevented with the same type of proper protocol and procedures in use at the Newberry project. For example, in 2011 Chesapeake Energy reportedly lost control of a well in Pennsylvania. The well cracked, spilled and contaminated a nearby stream - this could have been prevented by using stronger cement and casings to ensure an impermeable seal.
The natural gas industry is slowly realizing that it needs to reduce these issues to gain public confidence, said Stowe, so it is working with state regulators to create some of the same regulations that exist for geothermal. Texas became the first state to require companies to reveal what is in its fracking solutions. And more recently, Illinois passed some of the "toughest fracking regulations" in the U.S., and will require companies to reveal chemicals used and test groundwater before and after fracking. "The best way to get around issues is to adequately fund state agencies, employ smart people with decades of experience, gain support from the surrounding regulatory framework and a commitment from the Environmental Protection Agency," said Place.
Though there are far fewer EGS projects compared to the thousands in natural gas, Hollett is confident that if the geothermal sector follows best practices, drills wells properly and works with regulatory agencies, it will mitigate the potential for any adverse environmental impacts.
Place agrees, and points out that both technologies have potential risks, neither of which are served well by avoiding them. Though there are different risk pathways, he said, risks are risks, and the industries not only needs strong regulations, but strong practices and responsible development — it "goes hand-in-hand" for both technologies.
"At Newberry [regulations are] rigorous - that's how it should be, and that's okay. Fracking should be completely safe, and if it isn't then someone is doing a sloppy job," said Stowe. "I'm hopeful that the natural gas industry will [work to create regulations and protocols], because in my opinion fracking is here to stay — I don't see it going anywhere any time soon."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Profiles on radio guests/Zero Motorcycles

We will start to profile weekly radio guests so you can read more about their companies and organizations and see their technology and environmental/economic solutions up close.

Today we profile Zero Motorcycles and ask you to look at all electric motorcycles as an alternative, when you go to buy a bike, to gas-fired bikes:

 A link to their site:

Some info: 



There are some clear advantages to going electric, including: no need to visit the gas station, no oil, no exhaust, etc. In addition to these clear advantages, there are a host of additional benefits experienced by Zero owners on a regular basis that are not as obvious. Behind the design of each cutting edge model is a philosophy of elegant simplicity that keeps the weight of the motorcycle low, virtually eliminates all routine powertrain maintenance and yields stealthy acceleration. The result is an incredibly exhilarating ride and an ownership experience that appreciates mile after mile.
Zero DS turn on highway
Zero Motorcycle ownership - savings over time


As a premium brand, Zero designs each motorcycle with the sort of quality and integrity that inspires an exceptional riding experience. Beyond that, the upfront cost of a Zero is not what it appears to be when compared against its traditional internal combustion counterparts. Each mile ridden on a Zero is considerably less expensive, making it considerably more enjoyable, due to the elimination of routine powertrain maintenance and no gas expenses. As it turns out, when compared to other premium brands, a Zero starts saving the owner money on gas and maintenance from day one. In fact, over the life of their motorcycle many Zero owners actually save more than they would have if they had purchased a comparable internal combustion model.


Zero Motorcycles uses direct drive in every model, and the street models have an entirely maintenance-free powertrain. An incredibly efficient system, direct drive channels power directly from the motor to the rear wheel; on the street models via a strong and silent, constant tension belt. Not only does direct drive minimize friction loss by eliminating clutches and gears, but it also helps eliminate the need for routine powertrain maintenance and reduces the weight of the motorcycle.
The Z-ForceTM powertrain uses revolutionary technology to maximize efficiency and eliminate the need for complex cooling mechanisms. The resulting system produces so little heat under typical operation, that everything from the power pack to the motor itself is entirely air-cooled. The result is fewer possible mechanical problems and increased range. When it comes to maintenance, parts, fluids, transmissions and heat, less is more.
Zero Motorcycles Powertrain


Top 15 Things You’ll Never Do Again

Why don't we hear more about hydropower?

We ran a story last month about RI's contested effort to import large quantities of hydro-generated electricity, and it go us thinking why we are not hearing more about an expanded role for hydro to play as we invest in clean energy?

Then we saw this piece from Bloomberg and realized, again, that production of alternative energy sources rides squarely on the price of conventional fuels.  If those conventional sources are expensive, it allows developers to bring on competing, clean plants and do so a competitive but profitable rates.  

Of course, having the natural resources--water, wind, sun--always helps, too.

It surprises us, in a good way, to see Turkey possibly surpass Germany as a power market.  That is a good success story and one we wanted to share with our audience.

Statkraft Seeks Hydropower Profits in Turkey as Europe Margins Shrink

Statkraft SF, Europe’s biggest hydropower producer, is boosting capacity and trading in Turkey to offset falling demand and profitability in western Europe.
Higher prices in Turkey make trading more attractive and plants more profitable than in Europe, according to Claus Urbanke, Oslo-based Statkraft’s head of new markets. Day-ahead power in Turkey cost 70 percent more on average than in Germany in May, according to Bloomberg calculations using data from Turkish day-ahead market PMUM and the EPEX Spot exchange.
European utilities from Germany's E.ON to the Czech Republic's CEZ  are entering new markets as the euro area’s longest recession cut German power demand to a 10-year low. Electricity use has risen more than 15 percent since 2010 in Turkey, where Statkraft is currently building two hydropower plants, compared with a 2.5 percent drop in Europe’s biggest economy.
“Turkey could surpass Germany as a power market by 2020 and is a good opportunity for us to make up for shrinking markets at home,” Urbanke said in an interview in Dusseldorf. “Turkey has a large potential for hydropower along with very good growth in demand over the past 10 years, which we expect to continue in the coming years.”
Day-ahead electricity sold for an average of €55.43 (US $72.04)/MWh in May on PMUM. That compares with €32.56 for Germany on the EPEX Spot exchange.
A boost in solar generation in Germany has reduced prices during daylight hours, when demand is at its highest. The premium of next-month power for delivery in the 12 hours from 8 a.m. over the around-the-clock contract in Germany has shrunk to an average €8.94/MWh in 2013, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with a mean of €11.38 in the four years through 2012.
Statkraft has one 20-MW hydropower plant in Cakit in southern Turkey, which supplies about 32,000 households, according to its website. The company plans to start a 102-MW plant in Kargi in the north in 2014 and a 517-MW unit in Cetin in the southeast in 2016, Urbanke said.
Turkey’s economy is expected to grow 4 percent this year, compared with an increase of 0.4 percent in Germany and a 0.6 percent contraction in the euro area, according to Bloomberg News surveys of economists.
Turkish power use rose to 242 TWh last year from 210 TWh in 2010, according to a Statkraft presentation. German consumption last year fell to 595 TWh, the lowest since 2003, from 610 TWh in 2010, according to AG Energiebilanzen e.V., an association of energy lobbies and economic research institutes.
“Gas power plants are the price setters in the Turkish market during most hours of the day,” Urbanke said. “That’s why prices on the wholesale power market in Turkey are significantly higher than in Germany.”
The Turkish Privatization Administration is currently looking to sell 45 power plants with a total generation capacity of 16,200 MW, including 27 hydropower stations, according to its website.
Statkraft is interested in the plants as it seeks to boost its power generation capacity in Turkey, Urbanke said.
Copyright 2013 Bloomberg

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In anticipation of today's radio show

Take a look at one of the lead stories we ran on the main site today (  We'll be talking about this and amazing new technology around hydraulic hybrid energy systems for medium and heavy trucks.  Listen in live at 1-2p, EST

The effects of well over a century of fossil fuel usage on our planet are becoming increasingly evident. The summer of 2012 is was one of the hottest and driest on record. More extreme weather and rising sea levels are expected in the coming years, with most experts pointing to the warming planet and widespread natural resource use by humans. In order to avoid crises around the world due to resource use, ecologists, engineers and even enterprising environmentalists have been working to create new biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels.

While progress has been sporadic and at times controversial, the relatively untapped potential of biofuels may prove instrumental in protecting both human culture and our natural environment.

Despite years of conversation on environmental solutions, many people are still unsure of how exactly to define biofuels. Essentially, biofuels are any fuels derived directly from living matter. In fact, the often demonized crude oil we use around the world today is technically biofuel, only the plants and animals from which the fuel is derived have been extinct for millions of years. That makes crude oil a non-renewable biofuel. So the energy sources that scientists have studied recently and now refer to as biofuels are derived from common plant substances like corn, sugar cane or vegetable oil. Since these crops have been grown and harvested recently, the carbon dioxide they release when burned as fuel represents a net zero contribution to the harmful greenhouse effect that is largely behind climate change.

Two major biofuel sources are in effect today. Ethanol, made from heavily processed corn, is the most commonly used biofuel. In fact, much of the gasoline used in the U.S. is blended with ethanol. For use as a biofuel, the starches, sugars and other molecules in ethanol are broken down through chemical reactions, fermentation and heat. 

Two major biofuel sources are in effect today. Ethanol, made from heavily processed corn, is the most commonly used biofuel. In fact, much of the gasoline used in the U.S. is blended with ethanol. For use as a biofuel, the starches, sugars and other molecules in ethanol are broken down through chemical reactions, fermentation and heat. 

Biodiesel is another common biofuel, usually made from combining methanol with vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking grease. Biodiesel is often used as an additive to reduce vehicle emissions, though biodiesel can solely fuel diesel engines, creating a truly renewable alternative energy source that many diesel drivers have embraced. Co-op Baltimore Biodiesel in Maryland has reported that environmentally conscious drivers are prepared to spend a premium of 30% over the cost of petroleum-based diesel in order to use the renewable biodiesel. 

Though its use has caught on rapidly among environmentalists, recent controversies have put the future of biofuel use in jeopardy. There is much concern that the increasing use of the world's crops for biofuels could contribute to higher food prices and hunger. Furthermore, the process of growing the crops, making fertilizers and pesticides and processing the plants into fuel actually consumes a great deal of energy, adding to debate that ethanol from corn may actually require more energy to be grown and processed than it saves.

Yet, the logic of biofuel use has been too enticing for many energy experts to ignore. Scientists are already looking at microorganisms in algae that use the sun's energy to combine carbon dioxide with water, creating biomass more efficiently and rapidly than terrestrial plants. Cellulose, the material making up plant cell walls, has also been looked to as a biofuel that may run far more efficiently than current biofuels while emitting less carbon dioxide. Indeed, compared to the vast array of biological organisms on Earth, the amount of research into biofuels has thus far been limited. With advances in technology and support from government and civilians, scientists may be mass producing truly sustainable and efficient biofuels in the near future.