Top 10 Green Energy Good News Stories Today

1. The Department of the Interior has given the green light to a power transmission line that is intended to bring power from Google, Inc.- backed offshore wind farms in the Northeast of the US to the mainland. Environmental impact studies will take 18 months to two years. The US, unlike Germany, so far has no offshore wind farms, and the US electricity grid needs to be re-done so as to bring power from such sources to consumers.

2. Inexpensive natural gas is being preferred to coal in the US, so that coal electricity generation has fallen 19 percent in the past year and now accounts for only 36% of US power. Natural gas is cleaner than coal, though it still pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is sort of like getting the good news that you’re being poisoned, but it isn’t with arsenic but rather something much more slow-acting.

3. Coal burning in the US will likely soon be phased out, since natural gas will likely stay inexpensive and EPA limits on carbon dioxide emissions are harder and harder for coal plants to meet. This according to a new Blooomberg Report.

4. The average American is willing to pay a 13% premium for power from wind and solar, over dirty sources such as coal, petroleum and natural gas.

5. A new design for a power-generating buoy powered by ocean waves is showing promise.

6. ReNew Power Ltd. is investing $1.1 billion in wind farms to generate electricity in India. Indian has little petroleum or natural gas so far, but enormous potential for wind and solar power generation.

7. “Big Solar” ran into some problems in the US, but the wave of the near future may anyway be “small solar”.

8. Saudi Arabia is investing $100 billion in solar energy for domestic electricity generation. Since it doesn’t have so much gas or coal, Saudi Arabia uses petroleum to generate electricity, which is relatively rare. But the more its uses its oil for such domestic purposes, the less money it can make from selling its oil abroad. Hence, solar for electricity generation in the kingdom.

9. Eight automakers have agreed on standardized electric vehicle charging.

10. Two geothermal companies have signed contracts worth $700 million to explore geothermal energy in Kenya. Underground steam could bring electricity to many parts of rural Kenya.

16 Responses

  1. Hi Juan, the only criticism I would have with this list is #2. Natural Gas may not be much better then Coal due to a great number of reasons. While it would be convenient to have such a “bridging” Energy source, the nature of Nature is rarely convenient. See bellow for some info on Nat. Gas:

    link to sourcewatch.org

    • From David’s link, re: the combusticonsumption (consumibustion?) of what is so euphemistically called “natural gas.” Which is actually methane, ethane, propane, butane, sulfur and secret schmutz from the “extraction processes,” stuff that most would recognize as an explosive poisonous brew when stated that way. But most will cheer at the idea that “clean” methane will outstrip “dirty” strip-mined coal. And gloss right over the reality, the resulting steady increase in human-excreted slow poisons — cheering that “this contribution is projected to grow.”

      We love our comforting euphemisms. “Natural” — what could be safer and more wholesome than that? Those healing, “surgical” things called “drone strikes.” “New! Improved!”, which usually means “Crummier! and Less For The Same Or More Money!” Even “consumption” is mostly a good thing, to the point that many people sport their “I’M A BIG-TIME CONSUMER” badges on the T-shirts that say “We’re spending our children’s inheritance!”

      Highlight the word “grow,” a euphemism that papers over a huge number of sins. That’s probably the worst and most misleading of all. “Growth” is what cancers and parasites are best at, up to the point they kill their host. But almost uniformly, and certainly uninformedly, humans cheer dang near ANYthing that “grows,” from fracking, to nuclear power generation, to a patently finite “housing market” and all the efforts to re-inflate that bubble that are now in play — hey, we HAVE to “grow” jobs in the construction industry, a traditional plow horse for “the growth of the economy.

      But all the drivers in the various parts of the planetary ecology, the ones that move-and-shake the movers-and-shakers, are all part of a full set of positive-feedback loops, with nary an effective short-term counterbalance to limit or terminate them. As in, you can win “investment bets” by betting on the growth of frackers, which gives you lots of money to spend on consuming more crap made with methane heat and petroleum feedstocks.

      Wish I could figure out how to make a quick buck off all this. Knowing that I’m not gonna be around much more than another 20 or 30 years, so my little bits of badness will be someone else’s problem, and there’ll be not a damn thing they could to me, or to undo me getting my “growth” now…

      • Unnatural Gas

        If a plant can run on natural gas, it shouldn’t be difficult to phase it over to methane produced by renewable means. Chemically, they’re pretty much the same and their combustion produces the same greenhouse gas pollution, BUT! One introduces “new” carbon into the biosphere that has been sequestered deep beneath the surface for millions of years; the other just recycles carbon that’s already in the biosphere.

        So, switching electrical plants over to natural gas can become a positive change – particularly if it gets coal-fired plants offline at last.

      • And gloss right over the reality, the resulting steady increase in human-excreted slow poisons

        What “increase?” Are you under the impression that natural gas and coal release comparable levels of toxins?

        There is no “increase” in the excretion of poisons involved in the replacement of coal with natural gas (which is called “natural” gas to distinguish it from synthetic, manufactured gas). Such a transition represents an enormous reduction in the emission of toxics.

  2. Low-cost natural gas can only be maintained by unconstrained ‘fracking’ that poisons the water table and makes moonscapes out of bucolic forest land. It’s clear at all that its increased use is good news

    • But does the highly expensive fracking process really produce “cheap” natural gas? Moreover, wait until the lawsuits come flooding in from communities whose groundwater has been poisoned, people blown up in their showers and kitchens, etc. The fracking process contains the seeds of its own demise.

      • Well, no. Like a lot of things “cheap” natural gas is just a matter of shifting the real costs off to the side.

        But if there’s “cheap” natural gas, why the frenzy to frack? I expect the direct costs are subsidized and those frightening deferred costs are ignored.

  3. If there is a magic bullet left in America’s glove box it is distributed electrical production, NOT large scale arrays. “Near term’ as you put it really means the acceptance of that fact. The mighty state of Texas found it wasn’t so mighty after all when it finally came to grips with the real cost of an upgraded smart grid.

    Put another way, a few major lines of supply are eternally prone to interdiction, either for intentional disruption or systematized bloodsucking. Afghanistan, for example, or the Iraqi insurgency, or the Viet Cong. US military presence in Afghanistan is the military version of a fully implemented smart electrical grid. But the Taliban’s distributed supply on the backs of one’s and two’s has not been beaten and America is now looking for the right wording and time to pronounce victory and leave town to set up shop in some greener, less battle scarred landscape.

    Loss of corporate control of electrical production is what inhibits dispersed electrical production, and is the major driving force of why US military action around the globe will continue, a Mississippi sized sluice of dollars that each year subtracts from the resources America will require to survive an oil-starved future it just doesn’t want to think about. We already have all the technology we need. Some new magic bullet that is effective enough to provide a different American energy future, and cheap enough for wide distribution is no more ‘right around the corner’ than it was for Hitler. But the national security of American is not as important as maintaining some non-human citizen’s all important income stream. As long as we have politicians that are ideologues rather than thinkers, and a news media that is entertainment based on indulgences of profit mongers, the resulting near total absence of pragmatic discourse about how to get from where we are to where we can survive will not change. Obama? Romney? Abject silence.

  4. A couple of points: natural gas-fired power plants release half the GHG per unit of power that coal plants release. The gains from switching from coal to natural gas, as a transition while renewables ramp up, should not be understated.

    Also, the EPA regulations that will put the coal industry out of business did not just drop from the sky. This is a deliberate effort by Obama’s awesome EPA Director, Lisa Jackson. After she leaves office, she’s going to mount the coal industry’s head on the wall of her den.

  5. Besides the point of paving the way to biomethane use, the main good thing I could see about natural gas is CO2 sequestration at a gas-driven electrical plant being easier than at a coal-driven plant. But that doesn’t mean that CO2 sequestration is really a proven concept, and our biased desire to imagine that it is could trap us into business-as-usual thinking.

  6. With reports that methane is already being released from the siberian trunda as it thaws and from the artic ocean sea bed as it warms up I wonder if it is possible to capture any significant portion of this gas that is naturally being released in to the atmosphere.

    • One might ask whether human-induced heating, leading to all that gas being released, could honestly be called a “natural” phenomenon. Kind of like acidification of the oceans is “natural,” onaccounta what CO2 does when it meets the ‘magical microlayer’ at the sea’s surface. Or all those termite flatulences, on the increase of which one can note that slash-and-burn agriculture and other “natural” human activities opening up new niches for these critters, or McCowflatulence…

    • 1. No. You’re talking about putting a giant blanket over a continent. We don’t have the cash, and there would be too many consequences.

      2. If, in fact, the methane hydrates are already in runaway release from the Arctic Ocean, we can kiss our asses goodbye, because it’s far too late to save ourselves.

  7. Thanks for the great roundup, Juan. (Two or three of those non-CleanTechnica stories will eventually be on CleanTechnica.)

    Since there’s a lot of discussion here on the nat gas article, thought I’d chime in.

    I’m the optimistic type, so I keep hoping that nat gas is a useful bridge fuel that will speed up a shift to renewables. However, beyond thinking that it may slow it down more than speed it up (though, this is a highly complicated discussion), it does clearly have a few big issues (at least).

    1) Research has shown that while it is probably better than coal, it is still a lot worse than renewables… and won’t keep us from extreme climate catastrophe. (see: link to cleantechnica.com)

    2) There also seems to be more and more evidence that natural gas leaks are greater than we have thought and are anything but easy to address. (see: link to cleantechnica.com)

    3) There seems to be a strong case for the argument that cheap natural gas is completely artificial and we’re blowing up a natural gas bubble. (see: link to cleantechnica.com)

    4) And then, of course, there’s that whole water thing.

    Am I happy coal is being phased out? Certainly.

    Is natural gas much better? No. (Probably better, but not much.)

    What do I expect you to do about it? Well, not much — just posting this to add to the discussion. And, like you, I’ll keep happily sharing news of coal being phased out. (Just hope we replace it with renewables a ton more than with nat gas.)

  8. “since natural gas will likely stay inexpensive and EPA limits on carbon dioxide emissions are harder and harder for coal plants to meet.”

    — I am not sure that is a good prediction for natural gas prices. The way natural gas is priced is based on predicted demand and available underground storage facilities [since gas travels much slower in pipelines than electrons on transmission lines, we get gas from storage facilities]. With an increase in demand (from a decrease in coal-power) comes the need for new storage facilities, which will drive up the cost of natural gas.

    Don’t forget, there is NO FREE LUNCH. Natural gas is not as “natural” as it sounds.

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