Friday, May 30, 2008

Renewable OPEC: Careful What You Wish For

Not that I'm concerned that Europe is on the right track with respect to producing a majority (if not all) of their energy needs in the future with renewable energy (RE), but this opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal brings up an interesting conundrum. I've heard before (and even blogged about it) that African deserts can provide more than enough solar energy to provide Europe with their electricity needs. When I first heard this, my altruistic (albeit naive) nature immediately leaped to the conclusion that any nation that had better means to produce various forms of RE would provide that energy to other nations at a lower cost, rather than allowing market forces to take over and adjust the price. Silly, silly me. I forgot to put into the equation the world's warm and fuzzy embrace of capitalism.

So, the conundrum is that Europe can only produce so much of their energy consumption with RE. If Europe wants to stay true to their carbon reduction commitments, then they will have to purchase the rest of their energy needs from "renewable energy" producing nations such as Algeria (mentioned in the op-ed); nations that have the best means to produce solar generated power. It also brings to mind that the transmission of this "desert solar power" will have to tie into Europe's electricity grid. That means that Europe would hypothetically be at the mercy of a cartel of RE producing nations (like the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, i.e. OPEC, is with petroleum consuming nations today). In other words, these RE producing nations, like OPEC today, could hold Europe's collective energy fate in their hands (in the form of price fluctuations and even transmission "issues"). I'm not suggesting that future renewable energy producing nations would hold Europe hostage, but I am saying that the ability for all nations to be completely self-sufficient with respect to their energy production and consumption would be difficult if production is concentrated in the hands of a few nations, like what happens under OPEC. As an example today, if OPEC sneezes then the world's oil markets shiver. If anything the idea of a "Renewable OPEC," in light of what happens with the petroleum OPEC, certainly brings up some interesting, eerily familiar geopolitical ramifications for the future of RE production and consumption.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

DOE Report: Wind Could Power 20 Percent of US Grid by 2030

"A new report from the Department of Energy claims that wind turbines could generate 300 gigawatts by 2030, which would power about 20 percent of the US electrical grid."

20% is huge. It'll take a lot of work and investment. However, from the same article this little tidbit...

"Yet among the current renewable options, wind and solar thermal appear to be the only technologies that could produce power at the utility-scale."

Solar thermal is it. The quiet magic bullet. Remember this post?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Energy All Around Us

I really like this idea - covered parking with solar panels on top. Imagine all of the parking lots at America's malls with covered parking but also with PV panels on top! Time to lobby your neighborhood Walmart or Sears. Send 'em a letter, that begins like this, "I'm a loyal XYZ customer and I have an idea that would drive more traffic to your fine store in addition to providing a little positive public relations..."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Big Oil Now Seeing Green

Interesting article from the Denver Post that speaks to what the oil companies are doing to further renewable energy research. I wonder if these companies are truly interested in finding alternative methods of energy. We'll see.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Gift of Solar

Well written article on where solar needs to go in the next decade if it is to be a viable option to compete with/replace coal and natural gas in the marketplace. Solar technology is here and improving everyday. Now we need to figure out how make it more efficient and figure out how to store it better and for longer periods of time. With bright folks (see MIT) working on these issues I have reason to believe that we can solve these problems within the next decade. Exciting isn't it?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vestas Will Add 400 Colorado Jobs

400 people employed at Vestas' wind plant, right here in Colorado. That's a lot of jobs. According to Vestas' financial statements this plant will be the largest wind turbine tower factory in the world. I can't wait to go take the tour.

And also from the article:

"The company is also said to be close to deciding on a location for a research and development center, with Colorado high on the list. The center would be built in 2009 and employ 90 engineers and scientists, most of them recruited from within the region where the center locates."


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Billionaire Oilman Backs Wind Power

Wow. Just wow. An oil billionaire, T Boone Pickens, is buying 600 windmills from GE and is then going to essentially pay people to have them on their land. I think the money quote, which also falls in the category of sudden outbreak of common sense, is this:

"But we are going to have to do something different in America. You can't keep paying out $600 billion a year for oil."

You go T Boone!

Barriers to Solar Energy's Blockbuster Promise

Nice level-headed article on the state of solar photovoltaics (PV) today. I know I get antsy sometimes with respect to PV and want it now and want it cheap. But there are some other positive renewable energy technologies out there that are inexpensive and overlooked. Yes I want solar panels on every house in the Denver metro area, but at what expense to the market and to the consumer? Silicon production is not up to speed and today cannot meet the entire demand for PV. Tax credits may expire at the end of this year. The public hasn't been educated enough on the use of renewable technologies in the home. And legislation is all over the map, state by state. I know this will work itself out, as there are many intelligent and passionate people studying and working on these issues in every state. Bottom line is that we (me!) need to have some patience while consumers; private enterprise; and local, state, and federal governments work out some smart renewable energy policy.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

U.S. Renewable Energy Leaders: Don't Count on Carbon Price Alone

Good article on the various methods of boosting the renewable energy (RE) market here in the U.S. But whatever the process, policy, or method it is imperative (in my humble opinion) that the United States federal government provide subsidies to individuals and companies. This will allow the RE market to flourish, similar to the burgeoning European RE market. All of those subsidies that European governments provided the RE markets in the last decade created a boon to the European RE companies. Now guess what? Those European RE companies are turning their eye towards the U.S. market (see the work Spain's Abengoa Solar in doing here in the U.S.). Wouldn't it be nice to have American RE companies creating American jobs to build a U.S. RE infrastructure? What ever your reason - carbon reduction, self-reliance, or to make money, it makes sense to provide that necessary boost to the RE market. All we need is a little intelligent leadership and a willingness to make sound investments in our future.

Wind Energy Hits Big Time in Indiana

Good things happening Indiana. Wind energy conferences and wind farms in the Hoosier state. Rock and roll.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Coming to a Mall Near You: Power-generating Windows

Just think about all of those office buildings with all of those windows that face south. Now think about embedding solar panels within those windows. Cool?

"Solar company HelioVolt and Architectural Glass & Aluminum on Tuesday announced a partnership to produce glass windows capable of generating electricity."

Read the rest of the article here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Simply Green: Energy Audit Parts 1 and 2

Easy to read articles that give some good tidbits on how to reduce your home's energy consumption. Idea's as simple as turning your power strips off. Check it out. Part 1 and Part 2.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Boulder Company Specializes In Green Motorcycles

Found this on the CBS4 Denver web site. It's an electric motorcycle that you can plug-in. They say the range is about 75 miles on a full-charge. There are 20 lithium ion batteries and it starts at about $8,000. A little steep in price for an electric vehicle, but it's a start. Here's the company website for more info.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tools Help Homeowners Go Solar

Nice. $60,000 dollars worth of solar panels for about $23,000 for a homeowner in California. Plus the guy says they will pay for themselves in five years! This article also talks about companies that rent the solar panels to customers for a flat fee instead of the customer having to buy the whole P.V. system outright. If the utility company's rates rise the customer only pays the flat fee they negotiated with the rental company. Cool.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cohen: Bring on the Right Biofuels

Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune dispels some of the myths about the current demonization of biofuels but also informs us about the realities of the heavy subsidization of biofuels by the U.S. More food for thought on the ethanol front.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Time for an International Renewable Energy Agency?

Even though this would add another layer of international bureaucracy this could also jump start what I see as a painfully slow renewable energy adoption rate by some developing and industrialized nations. Check out the article and let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

UT Scientists Discover Key to an Alternate Fuel Source

Go Texans! Now this is what I'm talkin' about:

"The University scientists discovered how to use photosynthetic organisms, known as cyanobacteria, to make ethanol, which is a type of alternative fuel...The cyanobacteria can also grow in deserts using salt water and thus would not take up agricultural land, the researchers said."

We need to invest in this pronto. Cyanobacteria can grow in the desert? Using salt water? It's a no brainer.

State Environmental Laws Drive Power Producers to Renewable Resources

Brief article by The Washington Post that shows the proliferation of state legislation that forces utilities to generate a percentage of their power by renewable methods. As the Feds drag their feet we are going to continue to see this piecemeal legislation from each state. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I can see it costing the utilities extra money that could be saved with comprehensive national energy reform.

Wishful Thinking

*Before adding PV, wind, or solar thermal to your residential or commercial structure, the first step is to analyze this structure's energy consumption through a professional energy audit. I'd like to see some public education on the importance of an energy audit for any structure. Remember Smokey the Bear's forest fire shtick drilled into our heads over the last few decades? How about something like, "Henry the House" desperately wanting to know how much energy he consumes and wastes throughout the day?

*With over 300 sunny days a year on the Front Range is it too much to ask for solar PV and thermal modules on every residential and commercial unit (after an energy audit of course)?

*How about affordable plug-in electric cars that go more than 100 miles on a charge with PV and wind powered recharging stations?

*Dreaming of companies large and small adopting business sustainability practices to maximize profits, reduce their carbon footprint, and enhance the lives of their employees and the communities that surround them.


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