Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The end all be all

If there's been one 'controversial' portion of my blog thus far, it's the posts where I've talked about the Japanese nuclear crisis, and the changes it might bring to energy around the world. And when I mean controversial, only in the sense that it has garnered the most attention. With that said, I look to bring one last story about the situation in Japan. Following the events and fallout from Fukushima, there has been a growing number of Japanese people calling out for a revolution of renewable energy. Apparently the crisis has spawned several antinuclear protests in Tokyo on a scale that hasn't been seen for decades. Japanese media have estimated that 15,000 have marched through Tokyo calling for the end to all of the nuclear plants in Japan. This may seem like a minimal part of the population, but Japan's people aren't normally known for doing something like this, and I don't blame them after the events that have occurred.

There are now a large growing number of the population that are in favor of completely overhauling their energy system to include a lot more renewable plants instead of updating the current ones to better safety standards. The sentiment, it seems is that there is a larger cost for these nuclear plants than what appears on the surface. The hidden costs of nuclear include aging plants that need to be updated as well as the issue of disposing of spent fuel. Renewables, on the other hand, don't have these waste issues and many in Japan believe that clean energy could supply the necessary energy to Japan through smaller scale production. The group in favor of these renewables wants all of Japan's nuclear plants removed by 2020, which doesn't seem like a reasonable request at all considering how many nuclear plants Japan has. So the culture surrounding nuclear energy has definitely changed within Japan, as expected, but it will be interesting to see if Japan's government follows. I definitely think the culture about nuclear around the world will go in a negative direction over the next few years, but we shall see.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2011/0503/Japan-s-nuclear-energy-debate-some-see-spur-for-a-renewable-revolution

Well that ends this blog at least in its current form. This will definitely be the last post concerning renewable energy and possibly the last post of this blog. I may turn this blog into something else (sports, music) if I get an itch to write. I'd like to thank any readers that I may have had over the past four months. It's been a pleasure writing...

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Feds not backing clean energy?

Here's a story that I had never considered and I'm sure most of you haven't either. Apparently, the government has done a very poor job of guaranteeing loans to alternative energy development. This is news to me, as I figured that these loans would be automatic since this sector will be growing in the next few decades. Clean energy companies need these federal loans because private investors are unwilling to fund expensive new technology. What's interesting about this is that the US Government Accountability Office examined the federal loan guarantee program and found that the Energy department has treated applicants for these loans inconsistently, favoring some and disadvantaging others. It looks like if we want consistent results in our renewable energy production then we should be giving out these loans on a consistent basis.

Source: http://michiganmessenger.com/48707/lack-of-federal-loan-guarantees-slows-alternative-energy-development

Sunday, May 1, 2011

As Predicted...

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the outlook for cleaner energy doesn't look as good as it should by 2035. The EIA has released a report (Annual Energy Outlook 2011) that explains in detail future outlook of energy production in the US. There's definitely a lot of information in there, and I actually didn't read it, but took my information from: msnbc. Within this report there's some good news and quite a bit of bad news.

Our energy imports will drop from 25% in 2009 to 17% in 2035, which means that we are becoming less reliant on foreign oil, especially from Saudi Arabia. However, with this comes increased production in natural gas to meet increasing demands, so this doesn't necessarily mean that our energy will become cleaner. This also means that oil prices are expected to increase to about $135 a barrel, so gas will definitely keeping rising in the next 25 years. Renewable energy is also expected to increase, from about 8% of the country's total production in 2009 to about 13% in 2035. So its good that renewables will become a bigger part of USA's energy but its not the nearly 20% that we should have according to the Renewable Portfolio Standards. I believe that renewables are growing at a slower rate than we want is because of the ever increasing demand for more energy as well as the technology gap to get these renewables on the grid. For these renewables to work on the grid properly, many transmission lines with appropriate ratings and power electronics have to be built. Once this technology gets caught up, I think renewable energy production may rise at an exponential rate. That's pretty much where most of the good news ends.

With current laws and regulations set in place, we are set to make very slow growth in terms of renewable energy production. With this in mind, shale gas production will grow fourfold to meet growing energy demands. Coal will be looking at a 25% increase in production from 2009 to 2035, and carbon emissions are also expected to grow, but at a much slower rate than before. Keep in mind that this is a scenario where the current laws and regulations remain in place, but like I've stated earlier, much has to be done within the power electronics sector to get these renewables on the grid to begin producing at a stable rate. I also believe that if corporations became more incentivized to purchase clean energy like Google and Microsoft do, then growth in the renewable sector would increase a substantial amount.

Oh yeah... and GO AMERICA. As I wrote this, Osama was confirmed dead. Truly a historical moment in American history. We'll see how it plays out though.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Google brought to you by wind power

Not many think of internet companies like Google or Amazon as dirty, but much of the energy fueling these companies come from fossil fuels, according to How Dirty is Your Data: A Look at the Energy Choices that Power Cloud Computing. That's why Google is investing in a power purchase agreement (PPA) with NextEra wind energy. Under this PPA, Google has signed a 20 year energy contract to lock in electric prices. Last Year, Google purchased a PPA for 114 megawatts in Iowa, and this year they have purchased a PPA 100.8 MW in Oklahoma. These PPA's are in the same area where Google holds data centers.

This is definitely a practice of large companies like Google that I can get behind. If large corporations continue to invest in renewables, whether its for PR purposes or genuine it doesn't matter, then this will definitely help push better renewable technologies for the future. Currently, data centers consume 1.5-2 percent of the world's electricity and is growing by 12% a year. Moving away from fossil fuels to wind power will greatly effect the world's energy distribution in the near future. Microsoft has already started to do the same thing, and I would like to see more companies to do this as well.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/26/idUS264144745920110426

Monday, April 25, 2011

Renewable Portfolio Standards may happen after all

It looks like those energy standards set by Congress have hope after all.  According to the recently released report, Community Power: Decentralized Renewable Energy in California, the way to meet those standards for California is through focusing on decentralized renewable energy. For those of you that don't know, decentralized energy is basically energy that is generated at the point of use, as opposed to centralized energy which utilizes the grid to distribute power. Not only are these findings applicable in California, but according to the report, they are applicable to all states in the US.

One of the main benefits of decentralized renewable energy is that there is no longer a need for expensive, high-voltage transmission lines that take up to 10 years to put in place. This greatly reduces the cost of energy, as well as saving time in the engineering process to come up with more efficient renewable practices. The major beneficiary of decentralized energy is solar power. Decentralized production from photovoltaics has better economics than centralized solar thermal plants. The report shows that through rooftop solar alone, California can exceed its requirement of 33% renewables by 2020. Decentralized wind also has promising results as well, and this report states that the only way for the RPS goals to be met by the required dates are through decentralized energy. [1]

With all of these great benefits from decentralized renewable energy, there may be problems in terms of financing, at least in California. Apparently the state has been very lazy in terms of enforcing the standards  on utilities. So, these utilities haven't been doing much to produce more renewable energy sources. Federal laws have also been established in support of large-scale centralized energy. This means that the money may not be there to focus on decentralized energy. In order to overcome these barriers, there has to be some legislation passed in support of these methods. Colorado, for example, has passed a “community solar gardens” law to encourage the development of solar power with multiple owners and to allow folks without sunny roofs to “go solar.”

Hopefully, the funding for decentralization happens so that we can actually meet these RPS goals set by the government. As you can tell from an earlier post of mine, I was very pessimistic of actually meeting these goals, but now it looks more promising.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Round 2. Fight!

So a couple posts ago I posted about industrial ecology and the economics around it, I now plan to look at a broader view of economics surrounding the environment and energy.

The first evaluation method is known as the economic evaluation method. This assumes that energy and environmental factors can be evaluated the same way that factors of production, goods and services are. Basically, this technique tries to put a price on natural resources, environmental and energy inputs, even on things like clean water, or pollution created from energy production. By assigning values to each of these inputs, we are able to include them into the economic models such as supply and demand curves. By looking at these economic models, one can apply the appropriate technique to get the model to the desired level, such as taxing companies that aren't "going green" or giving a subsidy to power plants that are using renewable forms of energy.

Then there's the ecological economics approach which understands that just looking at clean air, pollution, green energy, etc, in terms of just a price and quantity isn't always applicable or desirable. This method argues that the economic evaluation method doesn't take into account certain ecological concerns and things such as energy flows, carrying capacity, as well as ecological balance must be supplemented into the evaluation methods. This method usually calls for more drastic methods such as changing habits of people, or working more towards conservation techniques instead of just applying economic techniques such as taxes, or subsidies.

So thats some of the basics when it comes to economics with regards to energy and the environment. It seems a little boring to me, so I'm not sure if I'll right another one like I had planned to do. Anyway, to entertain you somewhat, here's what I was listening to while I wrote this post... along with the rest of Girl Talk's new album.