Pretty exciting week for clean energy. Here’s a snippet of news I’ve been reading about in the past few days.
- Rockport, MO town goes 100% wind! This rural town installed wind turbine to generate its entire annual electricity usage from clean energy. This also means that as the costs of coal/gas/nuclear skyrocket – they will have fixed power costs that will stay cheap. Some people seem to think expanding our use of dirty coal will alleviate poverty but this shows a much better model for development – smart investments that aren’t based on expensive fluctuating commodities, support for local self-reliance, and clean sustainable energy solutions.
- Land Use of Solar vs Coal I’m sure we’ve all heard the offhand comments that “… solar panels covering 1% of the Sahara desert could power the whole world…”. Which is true, but obviously not that practical or even desirable. There still seems to be a mythology that solar (either photovoltaic or concentrated) require massive amounts of land. But it’s just not true – when you factor in the millions of acres lost to coal and uranium mining, natural gas wells, oil drilling, and the related infrastructure like railways and refineries- solar provides far more energy per acre of land than even hydroelectric dams! And solar can be installed amongst our daily lives – on rooftops of residences and schools and offices – furthering goals of locally-controlled energy.
Gar Lipow made an excellent post over at Grist on this very subject comparing Nevada’s Solar One project to a mountain top removal mine. While he openly admits to using back-of-the-envelope math – he illustrates the point the fact that solar is a far better use of land resources than coal. (not to mention the environmental and economic benefits!)
- Greenpeace successfully blockaded a coal power plant in the Philipines last week for three days. The action finally ended when the Secretary General of the Philippine ruling party stated “I will file a resolution in the Senate seeking a halt in the construction of new coal fired power plants in the country. In tandem will be a strong Renewable Energy Bill that shall allow us to shift towards a low carbon economy, and away from dependence on fossil fuels, particularly coal. Coal carries huge environmental, health and social costs.”
- Duke Energy to buy largest photovoltaic solar farm in country. Yes, even Duke Energy is slowly jumping on the solar bandwagon. Last week they announced they will create a 16 megawatt PV farm in North Carolina. While it will likely be the largest PV installation in the US when it opens in 2 years, it isn’t large enough to cover it won’t excuse the fact that Duke is planning to build 2 new coal power plants at Cliffside, North Carolina and Indiana. Never mind that those dirty coal plants will be nearly 1000 times larger than the proposed solar plant, or Duke’s offensive attempt at an energy efficiency program that will charge consumers for NOT using energy.
- Billions Wasted on UN Climate Programme (Guardian UK) It’s no secret that the United Nation’s Clean Development Mechanism (part of the Kyoto Protocol) is rife with controversy and corruption. But this recent article by the UK Guardian points to studies than up to 2/3rd’s of carbon credits (essentially offsets) are bogus – and not actually reducing emissions. The European Unions Emissions Trading Scheme is widely recognized to have been a failure, and while the controversy is raging on the Lieberman-Warner bill here in the states – the allowance of dubious offsets in the bill aren’t even the worst of it.
- Joyce Foundation – giving $$$ to environmental groups to promote coal while making money off coal? There has been some past discussion about the Joyce Foundation – a philanthropic group that has given out millions of dollars in grants to environmental groups to actively promote “clean coal” across the US. Groups like NRDC, Clean Air Task Force and others have accepted large grants to actively promote technologies like IGCC and CCS. But some recent research from Carol Overland over at Legalectric Blog shows that not only is Joyce Foundation giving OUT money for coal – they made quite a tidy sum in recent years from the stocks they hold in coal companies like Foundation Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, American Electric Power, Duke Energy, Dominion and more.