Green Power Research

Interesting takes on the world of Green Power

A plan to improve air quality everyone should examine

by Tony - July 25th, 2017

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city with smog

city with smog

The release of an air quality plan

The Bay Area Air Management District recently released its 2017 Air Quality plan. While it was designed for the San Francisco Bay Area, the strategies outlined in the plan can serve as an example of what a comprehensive air plan should contain. The proposal was published by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), which is responsible for reducing air pollution and protecting public health in the Bay Area.

The goals and core activities to increase air quality

The goals of the plan are to protect air quality, public health, and the climate. The core activities for how the plan seeks to accomplish its goals include: how we live, how we work, how we travel, what we produce and what we consume.

Inside the core activities

Between our living arrangements and places of employment, we all spend large amounts of time in buildings. The buildings of tomorrow will need to become energy efficient. Furthermore, these buildings will need to be heated, cooled, and powered by renewables. The four components identified as the keys to improving our air include increasing energy efficiency, adopting on-site renewables, increasing storage capacity and converting natural gas applications to electricity.

The long distance between where we live and work requires intense use of transportation. Travel of the future will involve fewer automobiles and employ more public transportation and electric vehicles.  The design of green buildings and sustainable neighborhoods will permit more people to use biking, walking, and public transit as viable modes of transportation. The three strategies include building new developments closer to where people live, deploying zero-emissions vehicles and adopting car sharing as an everyday practice.

Our gadget-based lifestyles require a large amount of electricity to maintain. Since the majority of power sources are fossil fuel-based, providing electricity to our electronics results in increased pollution and GHG emissions.  The future will be powered by clean, renewable electricity. The following policies were cited as being crucial to the implementation of a clean energy lifestyle: adopting a smart grid, promoting carbon-free power sources, reducing carbon intensity, and converting to an economy based on green jobs.

The consumption levels we practice collectively are much more than what is sustainable in the long term. A key component of reducing what we consume will be a transition to being a zero-waste society.   The reduction of our GHG footprint, adopting lower-carbon diets, and reducing food waste were identified as the three core strategies.

The reader may have recognized that the steps listed above would not only benefit us when we breathe air, but would benefit our planet as well.

Planning the future

Other cities and countries will surely be seeking ways to manage their air in a healthier way that reduces GHG emissions.  We will see more air management proposals like this implemented globally. Given the planet’s pollution levels, a defined course of action seems like a wonderful idea.

The time for global carbon pricing is now

by Tony - July 13th, 2017

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Target: Reducing GHG Emissions                         

Economists and scientists have supported a global carbon price for decades, arguing that making

price for carbon

price for carbon

it more expensive to create energy derived from fossil fuels is the most cost-effective way to cut the world’s use of fossil fuels and the planet-warming carbon dioxide they produce. But governments have been slow to respond. A small percentage of nations have put a price on carbon. Emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contribute to climate change. The recognition of this possibility has led to implementation of tax programs that are constructed to curb emissions. When GHG emissions are not priced, the costs of climate change are borne by people unrelated to the activities generating the emissions. A carbon price would send a message to those who buy and sell carbon-intensive products.  Higher prices will also encourage consumers to use less electricity and producers to develop new clean energy technologies and improve existing technologies like solar and wind energy.

Choose your pricing tool

There are four ways to price carbon. The first is to regulate carbon. Rules could be made into law by the federal government to limit carbon generation. Presidents have the authority to sign executive orders mandating federal policy. An example was President Trump undoing the order implemented by the Clean Power Plan by the Obama administration to fight climate change. Federal agencies, for example the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), bear the responsibility to enforce these orders once they become law.

The second method is to place a tax on carbon emissions. A carbon tax would directly establish a price on carbon dioxide emissions.  Polluters would be taxed a pre-specified amount based on their emissions.

The third route to decreased emissions would be the implementation of a cap-and-trade program that would limit total emissions, and issu­ing tradeable emissions allowances for those who exceed the limit.  Emitters need to purchase enough permits or allowances to cover their emissions. The advantage of cap-and-trade programs is they ensure a given level of emissions reductions.

The last proposed method is described as fee and dividend. In this case, a fee is added to carbon-based fuels based on the amount of carbon they contain. The fee is collected upstream, at the source (well, mine, port of entry) of where the carbon enters the country. The plan is “revenue neutral”, which means the government doesn’t keep any of the revenue which is true in the case of a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade program.  The money collected using this type of carbon pricing is returned to American households on an equitable basis.

The choice is ours – but pick one

There have been arguments to utilize each of the carbon pricing methods described. In my view, all have some merit. Regardless of the decision made, the chosen path needs to be selected as the longer we wait to act the longer time will elapse before any results can be expected.

 

Reasons to Utilize Renewable Energy Sources

by Tony - October 11th, 2016

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solar energy panels and wind turbines

solar energy panels and wind turbines

Carbon Emissions

There are many reasons to move towards utilizing renewable energy sources, but here are four of the most prominent. The first is carbon emissions. Renewable energy technologies are referred to as “clean” or “green” because they produce few, if any, pollutants. Burning fossil fuels, however, sends greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases trap the sun’s heat and contribute to global warming. Climate scientists generally agree that the earth’s average temperature has risen in the past one hundred years’ century. If this trend continues, sea levels will rise, and scientists predict that floods, heat waves, droughts, and other extreme weather conditions will become yet more prevalent.

Finite supply of Fossil Fuels

The second reason to use renewable energy resources is that fuel supplies are finite. Today, fossil fuels are the primary resources used to heat and power homes and fuel automobiles. While it is convenient to use coal, oil, and natural gas to meet our energy needs, these fuels are in limited supply. The rate at which we consume these fuels is much higher than the rate at which new sources are being produced. The world’s global energy needs are expected to grow by 33 percent in the next 20 years. Eventually, there will not be enough nonrenewable fuel to meet these growing needs. Renewable energy can help ensure that ample energy sources are available in the future.

Pollution

The third reason is the pollution generated by traditional methods of energy creation. Pollutants are released into the air, soil, and water when fossil fuels are burned. These pollutants are the byproducts of incomplete combustion, and include sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. They take a dramatic toll on the environment – and on humans. Acid rain from sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides harms plants and animals. Nitrogen oxides also contribute to the formation of smog. Smog is a type of air pollution derived from vehicular emissions and industrial fumes that reacts with sunlight to form secondary pollutants. It is a growing health risk in many of the most populous areas of the world

Energy Independence

The final reason to embrace renewable energy sources and technologies is that renewable energy will help us develop energy independence and security. The United States imports more than 50 percent of its oil (this figure has grown from 34 percent in 1973). If we replaced some of this imported petroleum with fuels made from plant matter, for example, we could both save money and strengthen our energy security. Renewable energy is plentiful, and the technologies that create it are improving all the time. Renewable energy sources and technologies are a safe, sustainable, and ethical investment.

An unexpected source of Water, thanks to our friends in the oil and gas industry

by Tony - July 27th, 2016

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Image of an Oil Rig

Image of an Oil Rig

Oil Production as a source of water?

Many sustainable minded people believe the oil industry is the last place you would expect to receive ideas on how to be more green. However, in water scarce locations any possible source of water which might produce additional non-potable water should be examined as a method to ensure as much potable water is available for the people whose lives depend on it.

Produced Water

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas exploration and production. The water which was trapped in underground formations is brought to the surface in traditional oil and gas wells along with the gas and oil.

The major constituents of interest in produced water are salt, oil and grease, various inorganic and organic chemicals and naturally occurring radioactive material, for example Radium.

Produced water is the largest volume byproduct stream associated with oil and gas exploration and production. In fact, more than 98% of produced water from onshore wells is re-injected back into the ground after the oil and gas are extracted.

Since the water has been in contact with the hydrocarbon bearing formation for centuries before it was extracted from the ground it exhibits some of the chemical characteristics of the hydrocarbon. It may include, any chemicals added during the drilling, production, and treatment processes.

With treatment……

Produced water can be used beneficial in application including crop irrigation and livestock watering provided the water is treated appropriately prior to being used.

Sodium, the most commonly occurring dominant cation in produced water is the reason water needs to be treated. Elevated sodium levels compete with calcium, magnesium, and potassium for uptake by plant roots can cause poor soil structure and inhibit water infiltration in soils.

In response to our water challenges

The nation faces an increasing set of water resource challenges which include aging infrastructure, rapid population growth, depletion of ground water resources, and climate variability and change. Produced water could potentially augment conventional water supplies.

The expected water scarcity will require consideration on any possible sources of water to meet our future demand. Even if the end use of not as “green” as we would like the future may not give us a choice of where we obtain the water needed keep the maintain the water we depend on.

Carbon Utilization – Key to the future of reducing CO2 already in the air and oceans?

by Tony - June 19th, 2016

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Image of Carbon Dioxide

Image of Carbon Dioxide

Elimination of Carbon Dioxide from the source

One method of reducing carbon dioxide, CO2, is to eliminate the source. According the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a turn has occurred where the rise of global average surface temperatures will not be able to limited of 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century even if all CO2 emissions were curtailed today. Clearly, more methods which remove the carbon dioxide residing in the atmosphere and oceans is needed.  One idea which had been proposed to reduce Green House Gas emissions is carbon utilization.

The Possibilities

The Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum states carbon utilization technologies potentially could reduce CO2 emissions by at least 3.7 gigatons per year (Gt/y), equal to about 10 percent of the worlds current annual emissions.

Carbon Utilization uses carbon dioxide to produce high value chemicals. Currently these technologies to expensive and energy intensive. But technology, policy and a business climate based on carbon markets may change this.

The Approaches

There are four primary approaches: The first is mineralization where CO2 is converted to carbonate which can then be used in cement. The second approach involves chemical conversion where chemical means are used to convert carbon dioxide high energy molecules such as liquid fuels. The third approach is an electrical conversion which mimics photosynthesis. The last approach is biology based where synthesis of products using carbon dioxide are created by biological organisms such as algae or bacteria.

Regardless of the approach it is helpful to think of this technology as closing the carbon loop. Those familiar with recycling and the cradle-to-cradle concept can view carbon utilization as similar except instead plastic the material would be carbon.  The additional impact would result in the ability to remove the accumulated carbon dioxide but to use the same carbon dioxide as a feedstock for things we are now using fossil fuels for.

In need of more ways to utilize CO2

Carbon utilization is one way to help reduce emissions and remove the CO2 generated from man-made processes. The technology does not need to be the only idea; more innovative solutions will be required. At least someone is working on solution to what may be our planet biggest threat to a sustainable future.

Can Fracking be classified as just another reason to adopt alternative energy technologies?

by Tony - June 19th, 2016

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Increased natural gas thanks to Fracking

Image of Fracking Well

Image of Fracking Well

Hydraulic Fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking allows the increased production of natural gas.  The process has been described as a method to reduce our carbon footprint in comparison to burning conventional fossil fuels since natural gases burn cleaner with less pollution causing by-products. But at what price?

 

The fracking process uses a fluid mix of water, sand and chemicals to release the natural gas locked within shale deposits. The technology allows access to oil in some cases but mostly natural gas which are unavailable with other extraction technologies.

 

The United States and Canada contain massive reserves of natural gas within its Shale deposits which could become a domestic alternative to reducing foreign dependency on oil.

Pollution of water supplies

Natural gas produced by fracking been known to pollute ground water and the air in the areas where wells have been installed.  The industry is not required to reveal the components of its fracking chemicals as the result of exception to the Clean Water Act the oil and gas industries received in 2005.

 

The “Halliburton Loophole” of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which is the exemption the natural gas industry from meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act as well as the Safety Water Drinking Act.

 

Amazingly only 40 % of chemicals used to extract the natural gas are recovered while the other 60 % goes into the soil and is introduced into the water table. In any case, the pollutants wind up in the groundwater supply. This is more of a threat to 25% of Americans who use wells as their source of potable water.

 

Fracking is very water intensive which will become problematic as water resources will become more and more stretched in the coming years. A large amount of the water used after the process is complete needs to be disposed of and shipped off for waste treatment processing. Furthermore, instances of health issues among the residents in places where fracking wells are used have been documented.

Alternative options to meet our energy requirements

In my view, would we all be better off to support technologies from renewable energy sources like wind and solar which are truly sustainable as alternatives to the meeting our energy requirements.

Community Choice Energy – The future of energy transmission

by Tony - May 31st, 2016

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Launch of a community choice energy program

Earlier this year the Santa Clara Board of supervisors and the city councils of 11 cities including Cupertino and established the Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE).

Over the next year the SVCE will launch a community

electricity transmission

electricity transmission  tower

choice energy (CCE) program which will provide residents and businesses with a new choice other at the traditional method of receiving power from the utility. Also referred to as Community Choice Aggregation (CCA).

The function of a community choice program

A community choice energy functions as an electricity provider which is totally owned and operated locally. The agency buys power instead of the utility on the open market resulting in more renewable energy as a result of increased competition. The CCE will pool demand within their communities and purchase clean energy on the behalf of the residents and businesses.  Under CCE the utility would continue to deliver the electricity over the existing infrastructure.

The Goal

The goal is to help local cities meet their local climate action goals by reducing greenhouse gases emissions from electricity generation.

These are gaining popularity throughout the United States since they provide communities more choices to increase the amount of electricity produced from renewable resources. These programs have been put in place in various places in the Bay Area which has allowed thousands of customers to purchase cleaner energy at lower rates than the commercial utility.  And I would expect there will be more adoption of similar programs throughout the United States and eventually throughout the world.

The prognosis and my action item

As far as I am concerned this will be the future. Programs like these will be required in order to meet the aggressive renewable energy targets set and beyond which is why these will become commonplace. The method is which electricity is transmitted will never be the same. Closer to my home, the county where I reside does not provide a CCE options for its residents in place at the present time. Time to go find out why.

 

Now here is where solar really makes sense

by admin - April 27th, 2016

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SolarHutTrimThis one photograph tells it all. One place where solar power really makes sense. Even if regular electricity was abundant in this area, which I very much doubt, how would you get it to every little hut and village? Now at least they can charge their cell phones and listen to the radio by day. Maybe even run a power tool or computer or stove or refrigerator or charge a battery.

But what happens on days when the sun doesn’t shine? Look at the barren background in the picture! The sun surely shines there almost every day of the year – and with blazing strength most of the time.

To all the NGO’s working in Africa, I beg of you to print this picture out big and see what you can do to help deploy solar where it really works and is really needed. Nomadic tribes can even load it on their ox carts and take it with them to the next encampment. They will not need sophisticated alignment tools. These Africans are masters of the weather and can surely tell you the best angles to the sun.

Also, electric water pumps are very small and use very little electricity, as I have discovered since moving to the Sierra foothills where most of us have our own wells. Now with solar power you can also supply clean drinking water to people throughout the great and challenged mother continent of Africa.

 

by Athol Foden of www.brighternaming.com

The power source with the largest water consumption

by Tony - March 1st, 2016

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I was preparing for a presentation I was giving to the Eco Green Group of Silicon Valley on the water energy nexus. While in the process of researching the renewable power sources which used the lowest and highest amounts water in their energy production I encountered something I found surprising.

Two ears of corn isolated over black

Two ears of corn isolated over black

The lowest water consumer

Wind Power wound up being the lowest consumer of water, requiring no water while solar power uses only 1% of the water used in conventional fossil fuels.  The water requirement in solar panels results from a small amount of water needed to wash dust off the panels which if allow to accumulate up will hamper a panel’s energy production.

The highest water consumer

According to climaterealityproject.org coal uses 1,000 gallons of water per megawatt hour produced while nuclear power uses 800 gallons per megawatt hour. Natural Gas uses 300 gallons per megawatt of power produced.

Conventional fossil fuels use water to produce steam in addition for using water for cooling purposes. Therefore, it seems logical since wind and solar power does not use steam or cooling by water these would be expected to be pretty low. Interestingly enough, the largest consumer of water is not so straightforward.

Ethanol, which is used as an additive in gasoline in addition to being viable as a biofuel had the largest water consumption of any renewable power source because of the water needed to grow the corn which it eventually used to produce ethanol.

Ethanol is produced from corn typical uses the dry grind process in which corn grain is milled, then mixed with water to create “mash.” Enzymes are added to the mash and this mixture is then cooked to convert the starch into sugars. Yeast is used to ferment the sugars into ethanol and carbon dioxide and the ethanol is purified to create fuel ethanol.

How much water?

Roughly 3 to 15 gallons of water per gallon is used to produce one gallon of ethanol which is more than twice the rate of water usage for refining gasoline.  Once the water to produce the corn and prepare the ethanol is taken into account approximately 50 – 100 gallons of biofuel are required for per megawatt hour of power produced. Roughly on the high end of the ranges 1,500 gallons for water for every megawatt produced using biofuels.

Until the time comes when wind and solar power generate more of our energy requirements than they do at present time the water energy nexus will require everyone to think about the water consumption used to supply the electricity ubiquitous with everyday life.

Originally posted on www.speakinggreencommunications.com/blog

Wind Power in the U.S. – still quietly making an impact

by Tony - January 1st, 2016

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President Obama passed the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind power which will extend the credit for the

Image of Off Shore Wind Turbines

Image of Off Shore Wind Turbines

next 5 years. The Production Tax Credit (PTC) is a federal incentive which provides financial support for the development of renewable energy facilities.

The importance of the Production Tax credit

Proponent’s feared failure to extend the credits would lead to significant job losses and roll back the progress achieved in the wind power industry. Historically large dips in growth occurred when the credit was not renewed. The PTC for wind and other renewable energy technologies expired at the end of 2013 and was retroactively extended the projects were under construction by the end of 2014.

What happened to Wind Power?

I had the opportunity to attend AWEA’s annual wind power conference in Chicago in 2010 and at the time, the sky seemed was the limit in regards to the impact wind power could make on our renewable energy portfolio.

Recently, other technologies such solar power have been grabbing headlines in the news which was emphasized when I was asked, “What happened to Wind Power?” since updates were not in the news anymore.

The reality is, while not in the news, the adoption of wind power is making huge strides. Here is where things stand since I left Chicago in 2010. Wind power provided 28% of all new installed U.S. power capacity during the past year.

The United States installed a total of 4.378 GW of wind power between January and November of 2015.  Wind power installations experienced a 46.7% rise during this 11-month period which brings the United States total installed wind capacity to 70.24 GW.

Where Wind Power Stands

The U.S. generated 4.4% of its electricity from wind energy in 2014 and currently stands at 6% of its electricity being produced from wind. As a comparison hydro-electric and nuclear powered sources both provide 9% of our energy requirements.  In the states of Iowa and South Dakota, wind now generates more than 25% of the states’ electricity requirements. Wind energy provides more than 20% of the total electricity generated in Kansas, and more than 15% in 9 states.

The Future is still Bright

The future for wind power is as bright today as its outlook was in 2010 even if the latest successes not are regularly covered in the news.  Honestly, as long as we move forward with adopting renewable energy sources that is fine with me.

Image Courtesy of dreamstime.com

Posting originally appeared on SpeakingGreenCommunications.com