Energy

Will Huge Batteries Save Us From Power Blackouts?

Publication: National Geographic   Date: April 29, 2015   View Article

Glacier, Washington, is the final stop for coffee and treats on the Mt. Baker Highway, which ends at a ski area holding the world record for most snowfall in a season. The small town in the woods might seem an unlikely spot for a $9.6 million warehouse to store excess energy, but it might prove the perfect testing ground.

The area’s winter storms routinely knock out power to Glacier, home to about 250 residents year-round and more than 1,000 on busy weekends. Come 2016, its outages should be less frequent thanks to a shipping container humming with lithium-ion batteries hooked up to a substation that will provide up to 18 hours of backup electricity.

The two-megawatt system will allow Puget Sound Energy to study broader applications for grid-scale energy storage such as using it to provide power during peak-hour demand and to maintain minute-by-minute grid balance.

More Fuel-Efficient Jets Could Lead to Passenger Nirvana

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 4, 2015   View Article

Want more legroom, more direct flights, and less time stuck in holding patterns? It could be coming to airline passengers, but at a price: higher fares.

Regulators are moving along with targets intended to push commercial airlines to slash their emissions of carbon dioxide not by stuffing more of us onto the existing fleet, but by targeting the underlying issue of aircraft fuel efficiency. That will mean new, fuel-efficient airplanes, an upgrade that could come with creature comforts such as more legroom and state-of-the-art inflight entertainment.

But integrating new airplanes into existing fleets and upgrading technology will cost money, which may lead to higher fares, noted Vera Pardee, a San Francisco-based attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of several environmental groups that are pushing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate airline greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental Consequences of Oil Train Derailment Unclear

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 17, 2015   View Article

Wreckage from a derailed oil train smoldered in West Virginia on Tuesday as environmentalists waited to see whether surrounding water and wildlife would be tainted by the train’s cargo of North Dakota crude.

For some in the area, the latest incident also brought on memories of when a coal-cleaning chemical spilled into a nearby riverĀ a year ago and shut off drinking water to nearly 300,000 people for several weeks, said Judith Rodd, director of Friends of the Blackwater, an environmental group based in Charleston, West Virginia.

New Technologies, Contracts Bolster Growing Energy Storage Business

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 25, 2015   View Article

Promising technological advances and a host of lucrative new contracts and incentives are encouraging signs to alternative energy watchers who say that the market for storing wind and solar-generated electricity could become a multibillion-dollar industry in the next decade.

Electric engineers have long argued that affordable and reliable energy storage is an essential component of an electric power grid that is supplied by an ever-growing share of renewable energy. That’s because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow exactly when utilities need it to.

But the cost of energy storage, until recently, remained too high to serve as a practical option. Instead, utilities largely relied on so-called “peaker plants” that they can ramp up within a few minutes to meet demand when, for example, air conditioners are cranked up on a steamy summer day.

Who Digs Solar and Wind Power? That’s Right: Miners

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 9, 2015   View Article

Mines from the Americas to Africa and Australia are slowly becoming unlikely hotspots for the production and use of green energy.

In some places, wind and solar farms resurface revenue from deserted mine lands. Elsewhere, mining companies are powering a portion of ongoing operations with renewable energy, which is now cost competitive with traditional fossil fuels and gives a green sheen to an industry often maligned by environmentalists.

To be sure, these are early days for these strange bedfellows. The reason for the coupling of mines and green energy varies from site to site and country to country, according to experts, but the trend is global and growing.

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.

We’re Kidding Ourselves on 2-Degree Global Warming Limit: Experts

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 28, 2014   View Article

A temperature rise that could cause irreversible and potentially catastrophic damage to human civilization is practically inevitable, according to rising chatter among experts in the lead up to a year of key negotiations on a new climate change global accord.

World leaders have voluntarily committed to limit warming by the end of the century to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial level, a threshold beyond which, scientists argue, severe drought, rising seas and supercharged storms as well as food and water security become routine challenges.

Given the world’s historic emissions combined with a continued reliance on fossil fuels to power humanity for the foreseeable future, limiting the increase to 2 degrees Celsius is all but impossible, according to David Victor, a professor of international relations and an expert on climate change policy at the University of California, San Diego.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach