Thursday, January 17, 2019

US Wind to Exceed Hydropower in 2019 for First Time

Amazon Wind Farm in Texas (Credit: Amazon) Click to Enlarge.
The latest energy and electricity forecasts from the US government has predicted that wind energy will outperform hydropower for the first time, providing a greater share of the country’s electricity mix in 2019.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) published its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) on Tuesday, the first of its reports to include forecasts for 2020.  Amidst forecasts covering the entirety of the US energy industry, EIA analysts noted that they expect wind energy’s annual share of electricity generation to exceed that of the hydropower sector, the first time this will ever have happened in the United States.

Specifically, the EIA expects wind energy capacity to increase from 96 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2018 to 107 GW by the end of 2019, and 114 GW by the end of 2020.  This would equate to predictions of 11 GW added in 2019 and 7 GW added in 2020.

Worth noting is the impact the United States’ Production Tax Credit (PTC) will have on the country’s wind energy industry in the coming years.  Specifically, according to the EIA, “The build out of new wind capacity through 2020 is strongly affected by the phase-out of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind, which began with projects under construction starting after 2016.  Such projects take several years to complete, and the last tranche of projects eligible for the full $25 per megawatt-hour tax credit will start to enter service in significant numbers in 2019.  Activity will taper off in later years as projects started in 2016 approach the limit of their safe harbor provisions and as the construction pipeline begins to shrink, reflecting reduced PTC pay-offs for projects beginning construction in 2017 and later.”

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Can the U.S. Keep Its Nuclear Industry Afloat?

Nuclear (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
When nuclear energy is still widely seen as one of the most promising solutions to climate change, as well as one of the most efficient replacements for the more traditional carbon-packed fossil fuels on which we so heavily depend, why is the nuclear sector in the United States is in steep decline?  As many other countries are working on building up their nuclear industries, in the United States nuclear simply can’t compete with cheap natural gas and other renewables growing more affordable all the time in the nation’s wholesale electricity markets.

In fact, just within the last five years six nuclear plants in the United States have closed and almost 35% of the nuclear plants that remain are being met with the possibility of early closure or are facing retirement.  Even with the application of the most promising technological advancements in development to boost efficiency and reduce cost, it likely wouldn’t be enough to make the plants competitive with other energy sources.

While many of these advanced nuclear technologies remain in the research phase and are largely untested, many of the current research shows great promise.  Technologies under development that would be able to make new reactors both cheaper and safer than the current standard include small modular reactors (SMRs), generation IV reactors, and liquid-sodium cooled reactors.

The SMRs, thanks to their compact size, would require less investment in infrastructure and less on-site construction.  The Generation IV reactors are innovative in that their design does not include complex external cooling systems, which, notably, are the apparatus that failed in 2011’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.  The benefit of the liquid-sodium cooled reactors is that they are able to utilize spent uranium and plutonium, meaning they can produce energy for much more extended periods of time without the need for expensive refueling.

Read more at Can the U.S. Keep Its Nuclear Industry Afloat?

Failure to Curb Climate Change a Top Risk:  Davos Survey

Flood waters lap at a high water warning sign that was partially pushed over by Hurricane Florence on Oak Island, North Carolina, U.S., September 15, 2018. (Credit: © Reuters/Jonathan Drake) Click to Enlarge.
The risk that global efforts to tackle climate change will fail has risen despite concerns about powerful storms, floods, and droughts, a survey released by the World Economic Forum said on Wednesday, days before its annual gathering in Davos.

The annual Global Risks Report, which incorporates the survey, highlighted several top risks for 2019 including massive incidents of data fraud and theft and large scale cyberattacks.

But the top risk by likelihood in the survey was extreme weather, in a survey of 1,000 experts from government, business, academia and non-governmental organizations.  And the risk that failure by governments to limit the magnitude of climate change and adapt to it has risen to second place in terms of both likelihood and impact, compared to only fifth place and fourth place in those categories last year in the survey.

“Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe,” said the report.

Read more at Failure to Curb Climate Change a Top Risk:  Davos Survey

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday 16

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

New U.S. Oil and Gas Drilling to Unleash 1,000 Coal Plants’ Worth of Pollution by 2050

The great American fracking boom threatens to undermine efforts to avoid climate catastrophe in this century.

A contractor works on a drilling site in the Permian Basin, a massive field stretching from Texas to New Mexico. (Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Amid mounting calls to phase out fossil fuels in the face of rapidly worsening climate change, the United States is ramping up oil and gas drilling faster than any other country, threatening to add 1,000 coal plants’ worth of planet-warming gases by the middle of the century, according to a report released Wednesday. 

By 2030, the U.S. is on track to produce 60 percent of the world’s new oil and gas supply, an expansion at least four times larger than in any other country.  By 2050, the country’s newly tapped reserves are projected to spew 120 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

That would make it nearly impossible to keep global warming within the 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages, beyond which United Nations scientists forecast climate change to be catastrophic, with upward of $54 trillion in damages. 

The findings ― from a report authored by the nonprofit Oil Change International and endorsed by researchers at more than a dozen environmental groups ― are based on industry projections collected by the data service Rystad Energy and compared with climate models used by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading climate research body.

Read more at New U.S. Oil and Gas Drilling to Unleash 1,000 Coal Plants’ Worth of Pollution by 2050

Permafrost Is Warming Around the Globe, Study Shows.  That's a Problem for Climate Change.

Rapid changes in the long-frozen soil are raising concerns about a surge of planet-warming greenhouse gases as the permafrost thaws.

Lake and ponds like these at the foothills of the Brooks Range in Alaska form when permafrost thaws. Thawing also releases methane and carbon dioxide. (Copyright Credit: Josefine Lenz/Alfred Wegener Institute) Click to Enlarge.
Vast areas of permafrost around the world warmed significantly over the past decade, intensifying concerns about accelerated releases of heat-trapping methane and carbon dioxide as microbes decompose the thawing organic soils.

The warming trend is documented in a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications.  Detailed data from a global network of permafrost test sites show that, on average, permafrost regions around the world—in the Arctic, Antarctic, and the high mountains—warmed by a half degree Fahrenheit between 2007 and 2016.

The most dramatic warming was found in the Siberian Arctic, where temperatures in the deep permafrost increased by 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Read more at Permafrost Is Warming Around the Globe, Study Shows.  That's a Problem for Climate Change.

World’s Largest Offshore Wind Turbine Prototype to Be Installed in Rotterdam

2GE wind turbine (Credit: GE Renewable Energy) Click to Enlarge.
The turbine is designed to capture offshore wind and turn it into electricity, however, the Haliade-X 12 MW prototype will be installed onshore to facilitate access for testing.  During the initial period of operations, it will allow GE to collect data needed to obtain a Type Certificate, a key step in commercializing the product in 2021, said the company.

The prototype is part of the $400 (€320) million investment in the Haliade-X development announced by GE last March.  The company aims to help reduce offshore wind's cost of energy in order to make it a more competitive source of clean, renewable energy.

Read more at World’s Largest Offshore Wind Turbine Prototype to Be Installed in Rotterdam