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.”

Read more at US Wind to Exceed Hydropower in 2019 for First Time

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

Volkswagen Chooses Chattanooga for EV Manufacturing, Looks to Ford for Light- & Medium-Duty Trucks

2Front of car with VW - EVS license plate (Credit: VW) Click to Enlarge.
Last September, Volkswagen said it was looking for a location in the US to build electric cars.  It opened an assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2011, but the company said that didn’t mean that’s were its new EV factory would be located.  But Monday, the company announced it will invest $800 million to add an EV assembly line to the Tennessee plant.

Read more at Volkswagen Chooses Chattanooga for EV Manufacturing, Looks to Ford for Light- & Medium-Duty Trucks

To Hold Warming to 1.5 Degrees, Study Says Nations Must Stop Building New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Immediately

Xcel Energy's Sherburne County (Sherco) Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant, near Becker, Minnesota. (Credit: Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
If nations commit immediately not to replace fossil fuel infrastructure as it reaches the end of its expected lifetime, the world would have a 64 percent chance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications.

To do this, the study argues, all fossil fuel infrastructure — from power plants, pipelines, and industrial facilities to vehicles, ships, and planes — would need to be replaced with zero-carbon alternatives at the end of their lifetimes.  Delaying this phase-out until 2030 reduces below 50 percent the likelihood that the world could stay under 1.5 degrees C of warming, the study’s authors wrote.

Read more at To Hold Warming to 1.5 Degrees, Study Says Nations Must Stop Building New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Immediately

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tuesday 15

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Global Automakers to Spend $300 Billion on EVs in 10 Years

Cars (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Global automakers are going all-in on electrification with plans to spend a combined $300 billion on EVs over the next decade, according to a Reuters analysis.

The rush towards EVs comes as environmental and climate regulations begin to tighten around the world, while technological improvements have made EVs cheaper than ever.

Among global automakers, Volkswagen has the most ambitious vision.  VW, the world’s largest automaker by sales, announced plans in December to spend $34 billion on e-mobility initiatives and $57 billion on battery procurement.  The combined $91 billion in planned spending on EVs over the next decade is unmatched by any other global car company.  VW will unveil 50 battery electric models by 2025, along with 30 hybrid election models.  And over time, the Germany automaker will offer electric versions of all of its 300 models.

The EV push comes at a tricky time for the global auto industry, which has recently run into trouble.  Overall auto sales screeched to a halt in China last year, a major sign of an economic slowdown.  As the world’s largest car market, the 6 percent contraction in sales in China in 2018 has inflicted economic pain on automakers around the globe.  According to RBC Capital Markets, the global auto industry saw sales dip by 2.9 percent in the third quarter of 2018, followed by a 4 percent decrease in the fourth quarter.  That marked the first time global auto sales fell in two consecutive quarters since 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis.  Goldman Sachs predicts that car sales in China will decline by another 7 percent this year as the economy slows and the effects of the trade war linger.

Read original at Global Automakers to Spend $300 Billion on EVs in 10 Years

Car Companies Aren’t Even Trying to Sell Electric Cars

Automakers are showing off SUVs and trucks — and few electric cars — at the Detroit auto show.

The 2018 Chevy Bolt. (Credit: Chevrolet) Click to Enlarge.
This week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, manufacturers are making good on their promise to phase out sedans in favor of more popular trucks and SUVs.  They are also making limited progress on their goal of building cheaper, better-performing electric cars.  But make no mistake, electric vehicles are still a side show for automakers.

Despite their commitments to go all-in on plug-in cars, car companies are doing almost nothing to sell EVs.  Research shows that manufacturers are spending far more money advertising trucks and SUVs than they are spending on advertising electric cars.  And dealers are failing to educate consumers about plug-in vehicles.

Read more at Car Companies Aren’t Even Trying to Sell Electric Cars

The West’s Great River Hits Its Limits:  Will the Colorado Run Dry?

As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought, the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its diminishing flow.  Now those who depend on the river must confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water may be cut off.  First in a series.

The Colorado flows 1,450 from its source in Colorado to the southwest, ending just short of the Gulf of California. (Map Credit:  David Lindroth) Click to Enlarge.
The Colorado River gathers momentum in western Colorado, sea-green and picking up a good deal of steam in its confluence with the Fraser, Eagle, and Gunnison rivers.  As it leaves Colorado and flows through Utah, it joins forces with the Green River, a major tributary, which has its origins in the dwindling glaciers atop Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains, the second largest glacier field in the lower 48 states.

The now sediment-laden Colorado (“too thick to drink, too thin to plow” was the adage about such rivers) gets reddish here, and earns its name – Colorado means “reddish.”  It heads in a southwestern direction through the slick rock of Utah and northern Arizona, including its spectacular run through the nearly 280-mile-long Grand Canyon, and then on to Las Vegas where it makes a sharp turn south, first forming the border of Nevada and Arizona and then the border of California and Arizona until it reaches the Mexican border.  There the Morelos Dam — half of it in Mexico and half in the United States — captures the last drops of the Colorado’s flow, and sends it off to Mexican farmers to irrigate alfalfa, cotton, and asparagus, and to supply Mexicali, Tecate, and other cities and towns with water.

While there are verdant farm fields south of the border here, it comes at a cost.  The expansive Colorado River Delta — once a bird- and wildlife-rich oasis nourished by the river that Aldo Leopold described as a land of “a hundred green lagoons” — goes begging for water.  And there is not a drop left to flow to the historic finish line at the Gulf of California, into which, long ago, the Colorado used to empty.
The hard lesson being learned is that even with the Colorado’s elaborate plumbing system, nature cannot be defied.  If the over-allocation of the river weren’t problem enough, its best flow years appear to be behind it.  The Colorado River Basin has been locked in the grip of a nearly unrelenting drought since 2000, and the two great water savings accounts on the river — Lake Mead and Lake Powell — are at all-time lows.  An officially announced crisis could be at hand in the coming months.
The bill for a century of over-optimism about what the river can provide is coming due.  How the states will live within their shrinking water budget will depend on how severe the drought and drying of the West gets, of course.  But however the climate scenario plays out, there is a good deal of pain and radical adaptation in store, from conservation, to large-scale water re-use, to the retirement of farms and ranches, and perhaps an end to some ways of life.  Worst case, if the reservoirs ever hit “dead pool” — when levels drop too low for water to be piped out — many people in the region could become climate refugees.

“I hate to use the word dire, because it doesn’t do justice to the good-thinking people and problem solvers that exist in the basin, but I would say it is very serious,” said Brad Udall, a senior scientist at the Colorado Water Institute.  “Climate change is unquantifiable and puts life- and economy-threatening risks on the table that need to be dealt with.  It’s a really thorny problem.”

Read much more at The West’s Great River Hits Its Limits:  Will the Colorado Run Dry?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday 14

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

How the Fossil Fuel Industry Got the Media to Think Climate Change Was Debatable

A brown-coal-fired power plant in Bergheim, Germany. (Credit: Sascha Steinbach/EPA-EFE/REX) Click to Enlarge.
Late last year, the Trump administration released the latest national climate assessment on Black Friday in what many assumed was an attempt to bury the document.  If that was the plan, it backfired, and the assessment wound up earning more coverage than it probably would have otherwise.  But much of that coverage perpetuated a decades-old practice, one that has been weaponized by the fossil fuel industry:  false equivalence.

Although various business interests began pushing back against environmental action in general in the early 1970s as part of the conservative “war of ideas” launched in response to the social movements of the 1960s, when global warming first broke into the public sphere, it was a bipartisan issue and remained so for years.  On the campaign trail in 1988, George H.W. Bush identified as an environmentalist and called for action on global warming, framing it as a technological challenge that American innovation could address.  But fossil fuel interests were shifting as the industry and its allies began to push back against empirical evidence of climate change, taking many conservatives along with them.

Documents uncovered by journalists and activists over the past decade lay out a clear strategy:  First, target media outlets to get them to report more on the “uncertainties” in climate science, and position industry-backed contrarian scientists as expert sources for media.  Second, target conservatives with the message that climate change is a liberal hoax, and paint anyone who takes the issue seriously as “out of touch with reality.”  In the 1990s oil companies, fossil fuel industry trade groups, and their respective PR firms began positioning contrarian scientists such as Willie Soon, William Happer and David Legates as experts whose opinions on climate change should be considered equal and opposite to that of climate scientists.  The Heartland Institute, which hosts an annual International Conference on Climate Change known as the leading climate skeptics conference, for example, routinely calls out media outlets (including The Washington Post) for showing “bias” in covering climate change when they either decline to quote a skeptic or question a skeptic’s credibility.

Read more at How the Fossil Fuel Industry Got the Media to Think Climate Change Was Debatable

Toon of the Week - Ocean Levels Rising! Ice Caps Melting!

Toon of the Week - Ocean Levels Rising!  Ice Caps Melting! / I'm hoping this is just high tide ... Click to Enlarge.

2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #2

Poster of the Week - "The earth is a fine place and worth fighting for."

Poster of the Week - "The earth is a fine place and worth fighting for."  Enerst Hemingway  (Credit: Stop Climate Science Denial)  Click to Enlarge.

2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #2

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday 13

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Warning:  A ‘Shrinking Window’ of Usable Groundwater — and the Oil and Gas Industry Isn't Helping

New analysis reveals that we have much less water in our aquifers than we previously thought — and the oil and gas industry could put that at even greater risk.

Produced water from gas drilling in the Marcellus shale. (Image Credit: Tara Lohan, The Revelator) Click to Enlarge.
We’re living beyond our means when it comes to groundwater.  That’s probably not news to everyone, but new research suggests that, deep underground in a number of key aquifers in some parts of the United States, we may have much less water than previously thought.

“We found that the average depth of water resources across the country was about half of what people had previously estimated,” says Jennifer McIntosh, a distinguished scholar and professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona.

McIntosh and her colleagues — who published a new study about these aquifers in November in Environmental Research Letters — took a different approach to assessing groundwater than other research, which has used satellites to measure changes in groundwater storage.  For example, a 2015 study looked at 37 major aquifers across the world and found some were being depleted faster than they were being replenished, including in California’s agriculturally intensive Central Valley.

McIntosh says those previous studies revealed a lot about how we’re depleting water resources from the top down through extraction, such as pumping for agriculture and water supplies, especially in places like California.

But McIntosh and three other researchers wanted to look at groundwater from a different perspective:  They examined how we’re using water resources from the bottom up.

The study may help close the gap about what we know and don’t know regarding how much water is available deep underground, as well as its quality.

It also rings some alarm bells.

A Different Approach
Instead of examining how fast water tables were falling, as in previous studies, the researchers looked at water chemistry to determine how deep underground you could drill for freshwater or brackish water before that water became too salty to use.
The researchers used information from the U.S. Geological Survey on the quality of groundwater across the country and looked specifically at salinity — how salty the water is.  “We looked basin by basin at how that depth of fresh and brackish water changes across the United States,” says McIntosh.

The results were about half as much usable water as previous estimates.  That means that deep groundwater reserves are not nearly as plentiful as we’d thought in some places.

That’s important because when shallow groundwater reserves become depleted or polluted, the strategy so far has been to drill deeper and deeper wells to keep the water flowing.

But we may not always be able to drill our way out of water shortages.  “Tapping into these deep waters works for now, but the long-term prospects for using these waters are quite concerning,” says the report’s lead author, Grant Ferguson, an associate professor in the department of Civil and Geological Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan.

Read much more at Warning:  A ‘Shrinking Window’ of Usable Groundwater — and the Oil and Gas Industry Isn't Helping

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Saturday 12

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

UMass Amherst Geoscientists Reconstruct 'Eye-Opening' 900-Year Northeast Climate Record

Doctoral students Daniel Miller, in the water, with Helen Habicht and Benjamin Keisling, handle two recaptured sediment traps from an unusually deep lake in central maine, where they collected 136...(Image Credit: UMass Amherst) View More  (Credit: Umass Amherst) Click To Enlarge.
Deploying a new technique for the first time in the region, geoscientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have reconstructed the longest and highest-resolution climate record for the Northeastern United States, which reveals previously undetected past temperature cycles and extends the record 900 years into the past, well beyond the previous early date of 1850.

First author Daniel Miller, with Helen Habicht and Benjamin Keisling, conducted this study as part of their doctoral programs with advisors geosciences professors Raymond Bradley and Isla CastaƱeda.  As Miller explains, they used a relatively new quantitative method based on the presence of chemical compounds known as branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetra ethers (branched GDGTs) found in lakes, soils, rivers and peat bogs around the world.  The compounds can provide an independent terrestrial paleo-thermometer that accurately assesses past temperature variability.

Miller says, "This is the first effort using these compounds to reconstruct temperature in the Northeast, and the first one at this resolution."  He and colleagues were able to collect a total of 136 samples spanning the 900-year time span, many more than would be available with more traditional methods and from other locations that typically yield just one sample per 30-100 years.

In their results, Miller says, "We see essentially cooling throughout most of the record until the 1900s, which matches other paleo-records for North America.  We see the Medieval Warm Period in the early part and the Little Ice Age in the 1800s."  An unexpected observation was 10, 50-to-60-year temperature cycles not seen before in records from Northeast U.S., he adds, "a new finding and surprising.  We're trying to figure out what causes that.  It may be caused by changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation or some other atmospheric patterns.  We'll be looking further into it."

Read more at UMass Amherst Geoscientists Reconstruct 'Eye-Opening' 900-Year Northeast Climate Record

Renewables, Natural Gas to Lead New U.S. Electric Capacity

Windmills surround farm (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Wind, natural gas, and solar capacity will lead the new electricity capacity in the United States this year, while coal-fired generation will account for more than half of scheduled capacity retirements, the EIA said in its latest inventory of electric generators.

In 2019 the U.S. electric power sector is expected to add 23.7 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity, while 8.3 GW capacity is planned to be retired. 

New utility-scale capacity will be led by wind power, which will account for 46 percent of the additions, followed by natural gas with a 34-percent share of new capacity, and solar photovoltaics, which will make up 18 percent of new electric capacity, the EIA said.  The remaining 2 percent of new additions will consist mainly of other renewables and battery storage capacity.

In wind power, a total of 10.9 GW of capacity is currently planned to start up this year, with Texas, Iowa, and Illinois accounting for more than half of the 2019 planned wind capacity additions.

Read more at Renewables, Natural Gas to Lead New U.S. Electric Capacity

14 New Massachusetts State Reps Support 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

Children take part in a protest in the New Orleans Superdome against a new auction of federal Gulf of Mexico drilling leases. (Image Credit: Julie Dermansky ©2016) Click to Enlarge.
With the swearing in of new members last week, the Massachusetts legislature, not unlike the U.S. Congress, is receiving an infusion of brand-new state representatives who already are pushing an aggressive agenda focused on addressing climate change and transitioning to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2050.

So far, 14, or over half of the 24 new recruits, have formed an informal but unified group known as GreenTeamMA. Their initiatives are straightforward. They’ve agreed to refuse campaign contributions from fossil fuel PACs, they support carbon pricing, and they’ll be working with constituents to drive higher demand for wind, solar, and hydropower in the Bay State, where today almost one-sixth of electricity comes from renewable sources.

“It’s a bottom-up approach that may well work,” said newly elected State Rep. Patrick Kearney of the South Shore’s 4th Plymouth District. “It’s a bipartisan effort we’re undertaking because the climate affects the health and well-being of every community.”

Read more at 14 New Massachusetts State Reps Support 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

To Boost Lithium-Ion Battery Capacity by up to 70%, Add Silicon

Silicon-rich anodes will let batteries hold more energy.

(Photo-Illustration Credit: Edmon de Haro) Click to Enlarge.
There was a time when budding inventors were advised to build a better mousetrap. Nowadays, they’d do rather well to build a better lithium-ion battery.  These are what power our phones, laptops, portable power tools, an increasing number of cars, even homes.  Some places are turning to giant lithium-ion batteries to store energy from solar panels so that it can be used after dark.  While lithium-ion cells have gotten incrementally better over the years, they seem set for a big boost in 2019 through the increased use of an element not unfamiliar to the electronics industry:  silicon.

The reason lies in some fundamental electrochemistry.  Lithium-ion cells work by sending lithium ions from the positive electrode (in a battery, it’s called the cathode) to the negative electrode (the anode) during charging.  During discharge, lithium ions move in the opposite direction, from anode to cathode.  So charging such a battery amounts to storing lithium in the anode.  If your battery could store more lithium, it would store more energy.

In the garden-variety lithium-ion battery used in smartphones, laptops, and most electric cars, the anode is made of graphite, a form of carbon.  Lithium is stored in the electrode in the form of LiC6, in which one lithium atom is surrounded by six carbon atoms.

Battery developers have been trying for years to figure out how to use silicon instead of carbon in anodes, because lithium ions combine with silicon to form Li15Si4.  The 15-to-4 ratio means a smaller amount of anode material can store a lot more lithium.  Silicon anodes could thus provide much larger capacities.

The rub is that silicon expands almost 300 percent in volume when it reacts with lithium during charging.  It then shrinks by the same amount during discharge.  Repeated charge-discharge cycling causes the anode to begin to disintegrate.  That in turn creates more surface area on the anode, which then reacts chemically with the electrolyte, damaging the battery.  So batteries with silicon anodes tend not to hold up for long.

Happily enough, silicon’s expansion problem is not insurmountable.  Even now, some lithium-ion batteries have anodes that include particles containing silicon combined with silicon dioxide (the stuff of sand) and coated with carbon.  Elon Musk revealed in 2016 that the Tesla’s lithium-ion cells are built that way.  But to date, the amount of silicon in anodes has been minimal.

Expect that to change in 2019.  To begin with, a California startup named Sila Nanotechnologies plans to commercialize a silicon-rich anode material.  Company cofounder and Georgia Tech professor Gleb Yushin says that Sila has developed a “drop-in solution” for existing battery manufacturers, which is slated to go into commercial production in 2019.

Depending on the application, use of this anode material will boost battery capacity initially by about 20 percent and eventually by 40 percent or better.  What’s more, explains Yushin, it allows the anode to be reduced in thickness by up to 67 percent, which in turn may permit the battery to be charged as much as nine times as fast.  And it brings safety benefits as well, he claims, because it suppresses the formation of threadlike metallic dendrites, which can cause cells to short out internally and burst into flame.

Read more at To Boost Lithium-Ion Battery Capacity by up to 70%, Add Silicon

Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday 11

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

General Motors to Collaborate with EVgo, ChargePoint, and Greenlots on EV Charging Network

Charging at EVgo (Credit: EVgo) Click to Enlarge.
General Motors will collaborate with EVgo, ChargePoint and Greenlots—three of the US’ leading electric vehicle (EV) charging networks—to enable access to the largest collective electric vehicle charging network in the United States, including more than 31,000 charging ports.

GM plans to aggregate dynamic data from each of the EV charging networks so owners of the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV can have a more seamless charging experience with their GM vehicles.
GM believes in an all-electric future, and this is a significant step to make charging easier for our customers.  By collaborating with these three companies, we expect to reduce barriers to create a stronger EV infrastructure for the future.  This is an important step toward achieving GM’s vision of a world with zero emissions.

—Doug Parks, General Motors vice president of Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs
Dynamic charging information received from EVgo, ChargePoint and Greenlots will enhance future versions of the myChevrolet app. New information to be provided by the charging networks will include real-time data on charge station health to report if a charging station is working, available and compatible with a Bolt EV, offering a one-stop shop for all range and charging data before or during a trip.

GM also expects to make enrollment for charging with these networks easier by creating an app interface for all three networks to streamline charger access and potentially allow activation of a charging session using the app instead of a membership card.

Read more at General Motors to Collaborate with EVgo, ChargePoint and Greenlots on EV Charging Network

World's Oceans Are Warming Faster, Studies Show, Fueling Storms and Sea Rise

'Global warming is here, it has major consequences, and it's going to be very, very difficult to get this under control,' an author of a new report says.

Ocean warming fuels hurricanes and sea level rise and also affects sea life, sending fish populations migrating to cooler water and causing coral bleaching. (Credit: Kelsey Roberts/USGS) Click to Enlarge.
A new study published Thursday strengthens the consensus that the warming of the world's oceans is accelerating.

It's a trend that climate models have long predicted, but it had been difficult to confirm until recently.

The findings are vindication of the scientific community's work so far and lend greater weight to the projections for warming through the end of this century, said Gavin Schmidt, a leading climate scientist at Columbia University who was not involved in the study.

The new paper, published in the journal Science, reviews four studies conducted over the past decade and was partly a response to a controversy over one of them, an article published in the journal Nature on Nov. 1. The authors of the November article were forced to issue a correction after discovering they had made errors in their assumptions and that the uncertainty in their findings was much greater than they had thought.

While the November paper made some "disquieting" assumptions, the corrected version is closely in line with three other studies that used different techniques, said Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and coauthor of the new review.

The overall point—that warming is accelerating—holds true, and it helps explain why we're starting to see the effects of warming through stronger storms and severe weather, he said.

World's Oceans Are Warming Faster, Studies Show, Fueling Storms and Sea Rise

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thursday 10

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

America's No. 2 Natural Gas-Producing State Sets a Climate Goal

The Pennsylvania governor’s new target matches the U.S. commitment under the Paris accord, but he’ll need the Republican-controlled legislature’s help to meet it.

Gov. Tom Wolf's first economy-wide greenhouse gas reduction goal for Pennsylvania is in line with the U.S. Paris climate agreement pledge but doesn't go beyond it. “What I try to make sure is that what I do is not too much, but not too little,” he said. (Credit: Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
In Pennsylvania, where the fracking boom has pushed natural gas production to the second highest levels in the nation, Gov. Tom Wolf is launching into his second term with a conspicuous move on climate change.

Wolf issued an executive order on Tuesday to set the state's first economy-wide targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

His goal to cut emissions 26 percent by 2025 mirrors the commitment the U.S. made as part of the Paris climate agreement.  And his longer-term target—an 80 percent reduction by 2050—is in line with the decarbonization that scientists have said will be needed to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

But meeting that target is easier said than done with Republicans in control of both chambers of the legislature, as the Democratic governor pointed out.

The governor can set energy efficiency targets for state agencies, take steps to increase the number of electric cars in state fleets, and increase purchases of renewable energy, but those moves would be insufficient on their own to curb Pennsylvania's emissions.

Pennsylvania now ranks fourth in the country, behind Texas, California and Florida, in carbon emissions.  The state is second behind Texas in natural gas production and the third-largest coal producer after Wyoming and West Virginia.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Wednesday 9

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

U.S. Carbon Emissions Spike in 2018 on Industry, Fuel Demand

The U.S. flag flies on a towboat as it passes a coal-fired power-plant along the Ohio River in Stratton, Ohio, U.S., September 10, 2017. (File Photo Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder) Click to Enlarge.
U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, spiked last year after falling for the previous three, as cold weather spurred natural gas demand for heating and as the economy pushed planes and trucks to guzzle fuel, an estimate released on Tuesday showed.

The Rhodium Group, an independent research group, said emissions rose 3.4 percent in 2018, the biggest jump since 2010, when the economy bounced back from the Great Recession.

Rhodium said the boost from the world’s second-biggest carbon emitter after China could make it harder for the United States to meet reductions targets it set under the Paris Agreement in 2015.  To do so, the United States would have to cut energy-related carbon emissions by 2.6 percent on average over the next seven years, a pace more than twice that achieved between 2005 and 2017.

“It is certainly feasible, but will likely require a fairly significant change in policy in the very near future, and/or favorable market and technological conditions,” the group said.

The spike occurred even though 2018 brought a record number of shutdowns of power plants fired by coal, the fuel richest in carbon output when burned.

Natural gas, which emits about half the carbon of coal, replaced most of the lost coal generation.  But it also served the vast majority of load growth for electricity last year, the report said.

The Trump administration, which has announced its intent to leave the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, is relaxing Obama-era rules on emissions from power plants and vehicles as it seeks to boost production of oil, gas and coal.  The earliest the administration can leave the accord is after the 2020 presidential election.

Read more at U.S. Carbon Emissions Spike in 2018 on Industry, Fuel Demand

Boeing Unveils Refreshed Jet Concept with Ultra-Thin Wings

Boeing Co unveiled a speedier and higher-flying version of a concept plane on Tuesday aimed at sharply reducing fuel use thanks to its elongated ultra-light wings.

The so-called Transonic Truss-Braced Wing aircraft boasts a 170-foot (52 meter) wingspan that sits atop the fuselage and is braced from underneath by a truss in a design reminiscent of biplanes from the early years of aviation.

The world’s largest planemaker and U.S. space agency NASA have been studying the concept plane for nearly a decade as part of the Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research program.  Boeing unveiled a reconfigured model or prototype and artist’s rendering at an aerospace conference in San Diego.

Chicago-based Boeing said it tweaked the plane’s designs with an optimized truss and a modified wing sweep that allow it to fly at speeds of Mach .8, or about 600 miles (965 km) per hour, slightly faster than previous designs but on par with current passenger jetliners.

Boeing said the jet ideally would reduce fuel burn by 60 percent compared to an aircraft in 2005, but said it did not have final data to compare the fuel savings to present-day aircraft.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Tuesday 8

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

U.S. Top Court Rejects Exxon in Climate Change Document Dispute

A logo of the Exxon Mobil Corp is seen at the Rio Oil and Gas Expo and Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil September 24, 2018. (Credit: Reuters/Sergio Moraes) Click to Enlarge.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for the attorney general of Massachusetts to obtain records from Exxon Mobil Corp to probe whether the oil company for decades concealed its knowledge of the role fossil fuels play in climate change.

The justices declined to hear Exxon’s appeal of a ruling by the top court in Massachusetts holding that state Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, had jurisdiction to seek records to probe whether the company misled consumers and investors.

The high court’s action marked the latest setback for Exxon in its efforts to halt the Massachusetts investigation and a similar one by New York’s attorney general, who in October filed a lawsuit against the company.

Read more at U.S. Top Court Rejects Exxon in Climate Change Document Dispute

Monday, January 07, 2019

Monday 7

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Katharine Hayhoe:  'A Thermometer Is Not Liberal or Conservative'

The award-winning atmospheric scientist on the urgency of the climate crisis and why people are her biggest hope.

Katharine Hayhoe: ‘Fear is a short-term spur to action, but to make changes over the long term, we must have hope.’ (Photograph Credit: Randal Ford) Click to Enlarge.
Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.  She has contributed to more than 125 scientific papers and won numerous prizes for her science communication work.  In 2018 she was a contributor to the US National Climate Assessment and was awarded the Stephen H Schneider award for outstanding climate science communication.

In 2018 we have seen forest fires in the Arctic circle; record high temperatures in parts of Australia, Africa and the US; floods in India; and devastating droughts in South Africa and Argentina.  Is this a turning point?
This year has hit home how climate change loads the dice against us by taking naturally occurring weather events and amplifying them.  We now have attribution studies that show how much more likely or stronger extreme weather events have become as a result of human emissions.  For example, wildfires in the western US now burn nearly twice the area they would without climate change, and almost 40% more rain fell during Hurricane Harvey than would have otherwise.  So we are really feeling the impacts and know how much humanity is responsible.

Read more at Katharine Hayhoe:  'A Thermometer Is not Liberal or Conservative'

Toon of the Week - Rats.  If I'd known climate change was real, I would've bought water skis!

Winters to Come / Rats.  If I'd known climate change was real, I would've bought water skis! (Credit: Climate Change Denial) Click to Enlarge.

Poster of the Week - Will We Dance into Climate Action in 2019?

2014 SkS Weekly Digest #1

Saturday, January 05, 2019

MBTA Orders 194 Series Hybrid Systems from BAE Systems for New Buses

Series-ER components. (Credit: BAE Systems) Click to Enlarge.
BAE Systems, a global provider of more than 10,000 electric-hybrid, battery-electric, and fuel-cell electric systems, announced that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has ordered 194 electric-hybrid buses using the BAE Systems Series-ER extended range propulsion system.

Series-ER components.
The Series-ER uses the same components as the Series-E hybrid-electric system, but with a larger battery.  Series-ER extends the electric driving range and provides electric operating modes such as:
  • Extended EV range:  Driving on all-electric power in no- or low-emission areas can be programmed according to each transit agency’s specifications, to shut the engine off in a tunnel or other preferred areas.
  • Electric accessories:  Accessory Power System options can power all conventional electric loads, such as cooling fans and pumps, plus all hybrid cooling systems.
  • Stop/start technology:  With bus accessories powered by the Accessory Power Systems (APS), the engine can be shut off at stops to prevent idling and emissions.  The stop/start function can be programmed with a global positioning system to automatically shut down the engine at specified locations.
  • Depot drive:  The engine can be shut down in specified locations to allow for electric drive mode in low- and no-emission areas, when traveling less than 500 yards.
With the series hybrid system, there is no mechanical link between the diesel engine and the axle; all traction power comes from the electric motor. Power flows in series from engine to generator to traction motor.

As transit agencies continue to advance toward more electric systems to help them meet their environmental goals, the demand for BAE Systems’ reliable and efficient hybrid-electric systems continues to grow. Half of the 10,000 system deliveries were made in the past three years.

Read original at MBTA Orders 194 Series Hybrid Systems from BAE Systems for New Buses