Wind

Richard Branson Joins Forces With Amory Lovins in Climate Fight

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 16, 2013   View Article

Sir Richard Branson’s climate change-fighting foundation is aligning forces with one of the world’s most heady alternative energy think tanks to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, the two organizations said Tuesday. First up: Helping Caribbean island nations shift away from dependence on diesel fuel.

“Together we can go further, faster,” Branson, the entrepreneur who founded Virgin Atlantic Airways, said in a statement announcing the alliance between his Carbon War Room and Amory Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing market-based solutions to drive global energy use away from fossil fuels.

Executives from both organizations tapped to lead the alliance described it as a marriage between an agile and young entrepreneurial organization full of make-it-happen passion with one that is steeped in analytical rigor, insight and thought leadership.

Burned Birds Become New Environmental Victim of the Energy Quest

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 20, 2014   View Article

Birds singed in midair by a solar thermal power plant in the Mojave Desert — known as “streamers” for the smoke plume they emit — viscerally highlight the reality that the quest for energy almost always causes some form of environmental harm, even through technologies considered green and clean.

The same power plant that’s creating streamers was nearly derailed due to concerns about its potential impact on habitat for rare desert tortoise, for example. Wind power projects routinely kill birds and ruffle residents within their eyesight with concerns about visual blight. Geothermal energy projects have rattled nerves over elevated earthquake risks. Hydroelectric dams drove salmon runs to extinction.

“There are sacrifices that every technology has and the question is how visible those are,” Nathan Lee, a graduate student and researcher with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative who is developing a course on the ethics of energy policy with his adviser Lucas Stanczyk, told NBC News. “In the case of the birds getting singed by giant towers, it’s pretty visible and understandably it is therefore probably more upsetting than the quieter ways in which energy technologies cause a lot of harm.”

Big Batteries Are Starting to Boost the Electric Grid

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 5, 2014   View Article

Long hailed as a game changer that will allow unlimited amounts of wind and solar energy onto the electric power grid, big rechargeable batteries are beginning to move out of research labs and find a home amid the real-world tangle of smokestacks, turbines and power lines. Today, the reality falls short of the hype about fossil-fuel-free electricity — but experts say that future could be in store.

For the foreseeable future, electric utilities will rely on coal, gas and nuclear power plants to provide a steady base of power, according to Paul Denholm, a senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. But batteries can help balance the flow of electricity as demand ramps up and down throughout the day.

“That is where the hot applications are right now for energy storage,” he told NBC News.

Global Warming Pause? The Answer Is Blowin’ Into the Ocean

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 9, 2014   View Article

For the past 13 years, global surface air temperatures have hardly budged higher despite continual pumping of planet-warming gasses into the atmosphere from the engines of modern life. Does this prove global warming is a giant hoax? No, according to a new study, which says the missing heat is being blown into the western Pacific Ocean by extraordinarily powerful and accelerating trade winds.

“Their acceleration over the last couple of decades is way stronger than you’ve ever seen in a climate model, about twice as strong,” Matthew England, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, told NBC News. “This is an unprecedented level of strengthening and it is strong enough that it is actually pushing heat in the Pacific Ocean into the ocean’s interior,” he added.

As the heat is drawn down into the ocean’s interior, cooler water rises to the surface and cools air temperatures. When — it’s not a matter of if, noted England — the winds slacken, the heat stored in the Pacific Ocean will return to the atmosphere, allowing the surface air temperatures to spike higher and “catch up to the original projections of global warming in under a decade.”

Bank of 1,440 lithium-ion batteries to make power grid smarter

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 31, 2013   View Article

A bank of lithium-ion batteries big enough to supply about 500 U.S. homes with electricity during a power outage went online today to demonstrate the future of smart grid technologies.

The 5-megawatt battery is a piece of a larger, government-backed $178 million research project in the Pacific Northwest to make the electric grid more efficient and friendly to additional loads of renewable energy such as wind and solar, which fluctuate depending on the weather and time of day.

Tornado-proof homes? Up to 85 percent can be spared, expert says

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 21, 2013   View Article

Homes in the direct path of the monster tornado that roared through Oklahoma City suburbs Monday were all but certain to be destroyed. Yet inexpensive construction techniques could have kept up to 85 percent of the area’s damaged houses standing, according to a civil engineer.

The trick is already common along the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast — the use of clips and straps to keep the walls bolted to the roof and the foundation, explained Andrew Graettinger, a civil engineer at the University of Alabama. These parts cost about $1 each.

Into the maelstrom: US coastal population grows as storms intensify

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 25, 2013   View Article

The percentage of the U.S. population living in counties adjacent to coastline has reached nearly 40 percent in recent years, meaning more of us are exposed to extreme — and extremely costly — coastal storms such as Sandy and Isaac, according to a government report released Monday.

These coastal counties account for less than 10 percent of the U.S. land area, excluding Alaska, meaning that this growing population is packing into a finite amount of space, one that’s increasingly threatened by rising seas, storm surge flooding and damaging winds.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach