Enbridge’s plans to build tar sands pipeline through Minnesota just hit a snag

ThinkProgress

Enbridge’s plans to build tar sands pipeline through Minnesota just hit a snag

Enbridge’s Line 3 in Minnesota just took a serious hit.

Samantha Page    September 12, 2017

https://i2.wp.com/thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ap_100729141216.jpg?resize=1280%2C720px&ssl=1In 2010, a worker monitors water in Talmadge Creek, near the Kalamazoo River as oil from a ruptured pipeline, owned by Enbridge Inc., is attempted to be trapped by booms. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 project — an effort to replace and expand an oil sands pipeline through Minnesota — hit a roadblock Monday when the state’s Department of Commerce said that the project is environmentally and economically risky and that the company has failed to show that the pipeline is even needed at all.

“Enbridge has not established a need for the proposed project; the pipeline would primarily benefit areas outside Minnesota; and serious environmental and socioeconomic risks and effects outweigh limited benefits,” the Department of Commerce said in a statement announcing its filings to the Public Utility Commission (PUC). The PUC is evaluating the project in advance of issuing — or denying — a Certificate of Need and a Route Permit. Public hearings will be held between September 26 and October 26, followed by additional filings and hearings. The PUC is expected to make its final determination at the end of April 2018.

In order to get approval from the PUC, Enbridge must show that the project is both necessary and beneficial to the people of Minnesota. According to the Department of Commerce’s analysis, which was conducted by external oil market experts, the Line 3 project is neither.

“The Commerce Department testimony is really damning and really well reasoned,” Aaron Klemz from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy told ThinkProgress. “They seem to have taken a really hard look at the facts and made a decision on them rather then just taking the company’s word for it.”

Enbridge’s application would relocate and expand a pipeline, already known as Line 3, which carries Canadian tar sands oil from the border to refineries in Wisconsin or to other pipelines. Opponents to the project say the new route will carry oil through sensitive wetlands, including some of the only wild rice marshes in the world. They also say that building more fossil fuel infrastructure now — oil sands is one of the dirtiest fuels in the world — is antithetical to efforts to transition to clean energy, reduce climate change, and keep air and water clean.

“This is a key moment,” Klemz said. “We are in the middle of a transformation in our energy systems. It makes no sense to invest billions of dollars in new energy infrastructure.”

For its part, Enbridge says not only does it need a bigger pipeline — doubling its capacity to 760,000 barrels per day — but the old pipeline is falling apart. According to the company’s own testimony, the current Line 3 is deteriorating. “There are no feasible technology or operational changes that can arrest or reverse the external corrosion on Line 3 and/or remove the defects that were inherent in the way the pipe was originally manufactured,” Laura Kennett, Enbridge’s supervisor of pipeline asset integrity projects, told the PUC.

But acknowledging the current Line 3’s problems may backfire on the company. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, a legal organization, filed a petition in July with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), citing Enbridge’s own testimony and calling for action to inspect the line and prevent leaks or shut it down.

“There is good cause to believe that Line 3 is a threat to environmental health, water and soil resources, and potentially public safety. It is PHMSA’s responsibility to conduct inspections if there is any reason to believe that a pipeline is not at par with safety standards,” senior staff attorney Leigh Currie wrote in the July 10 correspondence.

In its testimony, the Department of Commerce echoes calls to shut down the current line, saying, “in light of the serious risks and effects on the natural and socioeconomic environments of the existing Line 3 and the limited benefit that the existing Line 3 provides to Minnesota refineries, it is reasonable to conclude that Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built.”

In addition to being energy-intensive to extract and refine, tar sands oil presents a particular concern in waterways, if it spills. Tar sands oil is heavier than water and thinning agents (chemicals) are added when it is transported via pipeline. The current and proposed Line 3s cross several waterways in Northern Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes.

A request for comment from Enbridge was not immediately returned Tuesday.

New British wind power deals cheaper than nuclear supplies

Reuters

New British wind power deals cheaper than nuclear supplies

By Susanna Twidale, Reuters        September 11, 2017

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By Susanna Twidale

LONDON (Reuters) – The price Britain will pay for new offshore wind power has plunged below new nuclear generation for the first time, according to figures from a power auction on Monday.

The rapidly falling cost of wind power may stoke criticism of the government for promising much higher prices to investors in the long-delayed Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, the first to be built in Britain for more than 20 years.

Britain needs to invest in new capacity to replace ageing coal and nuclear plants that are due to close in the 2020s.

Renewables, such as wind power and solar, can only meet part of those needs because of their variable supplies determined by the weather and, for now, there are no large scale energy power storage options.

Nuclear plants can offer a steady supply, but plans for Hinkley Point C have been beset by delays and rising construction costs.

Britain’s subsidy auction for new offshore wind projects awarded contracts between at 74.75 pounds and 57.50 pounds per megawatt hour (MWh) depending on the delivery date.

That compares with the 92.50 pounds/MWh, index linked to inflation, awarded to France’s EDF in 2012 to build Hinkley Point C.

“This auction has demonstrated the real progress in cost reduction and our result shows how affordable offshore wind can be compared to other technologies, including new thermal generation,” said João Manso Neto, CEO of EDP Renováveis which was successful in the auction.

The eleven renewable energy projects that won contracts are expected to deliver up to 3 gigawatts (GW) of new electricity generation capacity from 2021-2023, with the contracts worth up to 176 million a year, the government said.

Dong Energy’s Hornsea 2 was the largest project to win a contract, and at 1.4 gigawatts (GW) is set to be the world’s largest wind farm when it begins generation in 2022.

“This is a breakthrough moment for offshore wind in the UK and a massive step forward for the industry,” said Matthew Wright, Managing Director for DONG Energy UK. Innogy Renewables and Statkraft’s [STATKF.UL] Triton Knoll offshore wind farm, secured 74.75 pounds/MWh, and EDP Renováveis and ENGIE’s Moray East project secured 57.50 pounds/MWh.

The cost of producing electricity from wind farms has plummeted in the past few years, helped by larger turbines.

This year, DONG won two German offshore wind power tenders with the promise of a zero subsidy bid.

The British and German subsidies are not directly comparable since the German tender did not include transmission costs which typically make up about 25 percent of a project’s total cost.

As part of extensive reforms to Britain’s electricity market, the government replaced direct subsidies with a contracts-for-difference (CfD) system.

Under the scheme, qualifying projects are guaranteed a minimum price at which they can sell electricity and renewable power generators bid for CfD contracts in a round of auctions.

“Falling prices for low carbon technologies show that electricity market reforms are working as intended. Early projects were more costly, but as technologies have matured, developers can achieve lower costs,” a spokesman for EDF’s British arm EDF Energy said.

(Reporting by Susanna Twidale, additional reporting by Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen.; Editing by Louise Heavens and Edmund Blair)

Offshore Wind Costs Fall Below New Nuclear Plants in U.K.

Bloomberg

Offshore Wind Costs Fall Below New Nuclear Plants in U.K.

By Anna Hirtenstein   September 11, 2017

https://assets.bwbx.io/images/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/iL4AbbMIQg_k/v0/1000x-1.jpgA general view of the worlds largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine at Fife Energy Park on November 4, 2013 in Methil, Scotland.  Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The cost of generating electricity from offshore wind farms fell sharply in the U.K. to below the price the next nuclear reactors will charge, making the form of clean energy one of the cheapest ways to supply the grid.

In a government auction that handed out power-purchase contracts worth 176 million pounds ($232 million) a year, all of the bids to build offshore wind farms and other renewable technologies were below the 92.50 pounds per megawatt-hour price awarded to the controversial Hinkley Point atomic plant due to be complete in the next decade.

Winners included the Danish utility Dong Energy A/S, with an offer of 57.50 pounds per megawatt-hour for power from its Hornsea 2 offshore wind farm, and EDP Renovaveis SA, and Engie SA, which will receive the same for their Moray Fifth East project. Environmental and renewable-energy groups said the 50 percent plunge in the cost of power from turbines sited in the sea indicates that clean-energy technologies are quickly rivaling traditional forms of generation without heavy subsidies.

“This is a breakthrough moment for offshore wind,” Matthew Wright, managing director for Dong in the U.K. said in a statement. “It will also deliver high quality jobs.”

This was the U.K.’s second contracts-for-difference auction, where would-be developers compete for projects by bidding the price it would be willing to accept for its electricity. The contest was for “less-established technologies” such as offshore wind, tidal and anaerobic digestion.

Cheaper Power

The power-purchase agreements are fixed for 15 years with a CfD mechanism. If the wholesale rate is lower than the set price, the government pays the developer the difference. If it’s higher, the company reimburses the state. Wholesale power prices in the U.K. have averaged about 47 pounds per megawatt-hour over the past year.

The government said the contest indicated it’s succeeding in drawing in investment needed to replace aging power plants with low-pollution forms of generation.

“We’ve placed clean growth at the heart of the industrial strategy to unlock opportunities across the country, while cutting carbon emissions,” said Richard Harrington, minister for energy and industry. “The offshore wind sector alone will invest 17.5 billion pounds in the U.K. up to 2021 and thousands of new jobs in British businesses will be created by the projects announced today.”

Other Winners

Other developments that received contracts included two biomass facilities and six advanced conversion technologies, including waste to energy, according to a statement from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Innogy SE and Statkraft AS also won accords for their Triton Knoll offshore wind farm, although with a higher bid than Dong’s.

All of the 11 selected projects, which will total 3 gigawatts of capacity, were cheaper than the price fixed for the controversial nuclear plant at Hinkley Point. The most expensive was 19 percent cheaper and offshore wind is now over a third less.

As the renewable energy becomes more affordable, the government’s decision on the new nuclear project may come under additional scrutiny. It was approved in September 2015 and developer Electricite de France SA has increased the cost estimate from 18 billion pounds to more than 20 billion pounds.

Costs Falling

The offshore wind industry by contrast has seen its costs plunge as the capacity of its turbines doubled since 2007. It’s set to double again by 2020, driving down costs further, according to research by the environmental group Greenpeace.

“We are witnessing a revolution in U.K. energy,” said Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace in the U.K., which has spent decades opposing nuclear energy. “The government needs to seize the opportunities of this great deal.”

Until last year, developers offshore wind developers in Europe were targeting to reduce their costs to 100 euros a megawatt-hour by 2020. This target was broken by Dong Energy in July 2016, while an April auction in Germany yielded three projects that will require zero subsidy once they’re completed in the next few years.

The U.K. auction didn’t result in projects as cheap as in Germany partly because the government in Berlin pays the cost to connect wind farms to the national electricity grid. Britain requires developers to cover those costs, so the companies contend that their projects need to be paid a higher price to make money.

“The level of upfront government enablement is higher in some European markets, site selection to some upfront development costs are not shouldered by equity sponsors, leading to a lower cost of capital,” said Rob Marsh, head of renewables at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright LLP. “Water depth is another factor as well.”

Hurricane Irma Already Destroyed One Trump Mansion. Now Mar-a-Lago Is Being Evacuated

Fortune Business

Hurricane Irma Already Destroyed One Trump Mansion. Now Mar-a-Lago Is Being Evacuated

Chris Morris       September 8, 2017

https://s.yimg.com/lo/api/res/1.2/s6NwFdRyGUVxYGGFFnhIJQ--/YXBwaWQ9eW15O3E9NzU7dz02NDA7c209MQ--/http://media.zenfs.com/en-US/homerun/fortune_175/a96b0ec0f6eee5d09558aa531e3756a3Hurricane Irma seems dead set on targeting Donald Trump’s properties.

After destroying “Le Chateau des Palmiers,” Trump’s 11-bedroom mansion located on the Caribbean island of St. Martin (as well as Richard Branson’s home on his private island), the storm has South Florida in its crosshairs. And the president’s seaside resort, Mar-a-Lago, has been ordered to evacuate as Irma approaches.

Mar-a-Lago isn’t Trump’s only South Florida holding, though. Sixty miles south of the resort, on Sunny Isles Beach, Trump owns three 45-story luxury condo towers, collectively known as Trump Towers, Sunny Isles. Floor plans for apartments in the buildings range from 1,435 square feet to 2,558 square feet, with prices on units currently for sale reaching as high as $3 million.

Trump also owns a golf course in the Miami area. Trump National Doral Miami is an 800 acre estate with four courses, a spa, pools, and dining.

What does that mean in terms of hard dollars? “Le Chateau des Palmiers” is for sale for $16.9 million (down from its original $28 million asking price). Mar-a-Lago is valued at $20 million. The overall value of Trump Towers, Sunny Isles couldn’t be determined. And Trump National Doral had a 2016 market value of roughly $92 million, but in 2014 Trump reportedly completed $250 million in renovations to the resort.

Hurricane Irma, which is now a Category 4 storm, has killed at least 14 people after tearing through the Caribbean, including Barbuda and Turks & Caicos. It’s currently expected to hit Florida early Sunday morning.

Harvey spells it out: markets alone won’t protect you

The Guardian

Harvey spells it out: markets alone won’t protect you

Joseph Stiglitz   September 8, 2017

We should have learned the lessons of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy – we need political action to help prevent disasters

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0a18bfbbe19beec30b1e5e4d4e3a1a4fb34e1150/415_0_6065_3639/master/6065.jpg?w=620&q=20&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&dpr=2&s=b5df99c1c88c2089a16b95b1b60cb7aeUS CBP Air and Marine Operations aircrew evacuate stranded residents trapped by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Photograph: Donna Burton/Zuma/Avalon.red

Tropical Storm Harvey has left in its wake upended lives and enormous property damage, estimated by some at $150 to $180 billion. But the storm that pummeled the Texas coast for the better part of a week also raises deep questions about the United States’ economic system and politics.

It is ironic, of course, that an event so related to climate change would occur in a state that is home to so many climate-change deniers – and where the economy depends so heavily on the fossil fuels that drive global warming. Of course, no particular climate event can be directly related to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But scientists have long predicted that such increases would boost not only average temperatures, but also weather variability – and especially the occurrence of extreme events such as Harvey. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded several years ago, “There is evidence that some extremes have changed as a result of anthropogenic influences, including increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.” Astrophysicist Adam Frank succinctly explained: “Greater warmth means more moisture in the air which means stronger precipitation.”

To be sure, Houston and Texas could not have done much by themselves about the increase in greenhouse gases, though they could have taken a more active role in pushing for strong climate policies. But local and state authorities could have done a far better job preparing for such events, which hit the area with some frequency.

In responding to the hurricane – and in funding some of the repair – everyone turns to government, just as they did in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. Again, it is ironic that this is now occurring in a part of the country where government and collective action are so frequently rebuked. It was no less ironic when the titans of US banking, having preached the neo-liberal gospel of downsizing government and eliminating regulations that proscribed some of their most dangerous and antisocial activities, turned to government in their moment of need.

There is an obvious lesson to be learned from such episodes: markets on their own are incapable of providing the protection that societies need. When markets fail, as they often do, collective action becomes imperative.

And, as with financial crises, there is a need for preventive collective action to mitigate the impact of climate change. That means ensuring that buildings and infrastructure are constructed to withstand extreme events, and are not located in areas that are most vulnerable to severe damage. It also means protecting environmental systems, particularly wetlands, which can play an important role in absorbing the impact of storms. It means eliminating the risk that a natural disaster could lead to the discharge of dangerous chemicals, as happened in Houston. And it means having in place adequate response plans, including for evacuation.

Effective government investments and strong regulations are needed to ensure each of these outcomes, regardless of the prevailing political culture in Texas and elsewhere. Without adequate regulations, individuals and firms have no incentive to take adequate precautions, because they know that much of the cost of extreme events will be borne by others. Without adequate public planning and regulation, including of the environment, flooding will be worse. Without disaster planning and adequate funding, any city can be caught in the dilemma in which Houston found itself: if it does not order an evacuation, many will die; but if it does order an evacuation, people will die in the ensuing chaos, and snarled traffic will prevent people from getting out.

America and the world are paying a high price for devotion to the extreme anti-government ideology embraced by Donald Trump and his Republican party. The world is paying, because cumulative US greenhouse-gas emissions are greater than those from any other country; even today, the US is one of the world’s leaders in per capita greenhouse-gas emissions. But America is paying a high price as well: other countries, even poor developing countries, such as Haiti and Ecuador, seem to have learned (often at great expense and only after some huge calamities) how to manage natural disasters better.

After the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the shutdown of much of New York City by Sandy in 2012, and now the devastation wrought on Texas by Harvey, the US can and should do better. It has the resources and skills to analyze these complex events and their consequences, and to formulate and implement regulations and investment programs that mitigate the adverse effects on lives and property.

What America doesn’t have is a coherent view of government by those on the right, who, working with special interests that benefit from their extreme policies, continue to speak out of both sides of their mouth. Before a crisis, they resist regulations and oppose government investment and planning; afterwards, they demand – and receive – billions of dollars to compensate them for their losses, even those that could easily have been prevented.

One can only hope that America, and other countries, will not need more natural persuasion before taking to heart the lessons of Hurricane Harvey.

Joseph E Stiglitz is a Nobel prizewinner in economics, professor at Columbia University, a former senior vice-president and chief economist of the World Bank, and one-time chair of the US president’s council of economic advisers under Bill Clinton

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Severe Wildfires Spread in Western States During Unprecedented Drought

EcoWatch

Severe Wildfires Spread in Western States During Unprecedented Drought

https://resize.rbl.ms/simage/https%3A%2F%2Fassets.rbl.ms%2F10845638%2Forigin.jpg/1200%2C630/MUrJvTIQOSj0P%2Fbh/img.jpgSmoke obscures much of the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 6, 2017. NASA / Goddard, Lynn Jenner

By Climate Nexus     September 8, 2017

An intense and deadly fire season continued to exhaust Western firefighters this week as drought envelops the region.

Officials reported Wednesday that more than one million acres total have burned during Montana’s fire season. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency last week, calling this “one of the worst fire seasons” in the state’s history.

As The Guardian reported, fires and drought are stunting crop yields and endangering cattle in one of the country’s most important agricultural areas. Climate change is intensifying drought conditions in the West: an exceptionally warm spring and summer helped to dry out the landscape after a wet winter. High temperatures and dry conditions increase the chance of a fire starting and can help an existing fire spread.

“Thinking about temperature trends due to human-caused climate change, we think that the western United States is 1.5 [degrees] Celsius, or 3 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than it would be in absence of climate change,” Park Williams, a research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, told The Atlantic.

“And there’s a heat wave on top of that,” said Williams. “Because of the exponential influence of temperature, that means that this heat wave is having a way worse influence on fire than it would in absence of human-caused warming.”

Wildfires Are a Climate Change Wake-Up Call

EcoWatch

David Suzuki: Wildfires Are a Climate Change Wake-Up Call

https://resize.rbl.ms/simage/https%3A%2F%2Fassets.rbl.ms%2F10242116%2Forigin.jpg/1200%2C800/pBCKrSR4VfCf6Bvi/img.jpg

Dr. David Suzuki    August 16, 2017

Wildfires are sweeping BC. Close to 900 have burned through 600,000 hectares so far this year, blanketing western North America with smoke. Fighting them has cost more than $230 million—and the season is far from over.

It’s not just BC. Thousands of people from BC to California have fled homes as fires rage. Greenland is experiencing the largest blaze ever recorded, one that Prof. Stef Lhermitte of Delft University in the Netherlands called “a rare and unusual event.” Fires have spread throughout Europe, North America and elsewhere. In June, dozens of people died in what’s being called Portugal’s worst fire ever. Meanwhile, from Saskatchewan to Vietnam to New Zealand, floods have brought landslides, death and destruction.

What will it take to wake us up to the need to address climate change? Fires and floods have always been here, and are often nature’s way of renewing ecosystems—but as the world warms, they’re increasing in frequency, size and severity. Experts warn wildfires could double in number in the near future, with the Pacific Northwest seeing five or six times as many.

In the western U.S., annual average temperatures have increased by 2 C and the fire season has grown by three months since the 1970s, leading to “new era of western wildfires,” according to a recent study led by University of Colorado Boulder wildfire experts, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Climate change doesn’t necessarily start the fires—lightning, unattended campfires, carelessly tossed cigarette butts and sparks from machinery are major causes—but it creates conditions for more and larger fires. Lightning, which causes up to 35 percent of Canada’s wildfires and is responsible for 85 percent of the area burned annually, increases as temperatures rise, with studies showing 12 percent more lightning strikes for each degree Celsius of warming.

Drier, shorter winters and earlier snowmelt extend fire seasons. As the atmosphere warms, it holds more moisture, some of which it draws from forests and wetlands, and increasing precipitation is not enough to offset the drying. This means fuel sources ignite more easily and fires spread faster over greater areas. Outbreaks of pests such as mountain pine beetles—previously kept in check by longer, colder winters—have also killed and dried forests, adding fuel to the fires. Because trees and soils hold moisture on slopes, fires can also increase the risk of flash floods when rains finally arrive.

The human and economic impacts are staggering—from property destruction to firefighting and prevention to loss of valuable resources and ecosystems. As human populations expand further into wild areas, damages and costs are increasing.

Health impacts from smoke put people—especially children and the elderly—at risk and drive health care costs up. Wildfires now kill more than 340,000 people a year, mainly from smoke inhalation.

Fires also emit CO2, creating feedback loops and exacerbating climate change. Boreal forests in Canada and Russia store large amounts of carbon and help regulate the climate, but they’re especially vulnerable to wildfires.

Suggested solutions are wide-ranging. The authors of the PNAS study recommend letting some wildfires burn in areas uninhabited by people, setting more “controlled” fires to reduce undergrowth fuels and create barriers, thinning dense forests, discouraging development in fire-prone areas and strengthening building codes.

These adaptive measures are important, as are methods to prevent people from sparking fires, but our primary focus should be on doing all we can to slow global warming.

According to NASA, Earth’s average surface temperature has risen by 1.1 C since the late 19th century, with most warming occurring over the past 35 years, and 16 of the 17 warmest years occurring since 2001. Eight months of 2016 were the warmest on record. Oceans have also been warming and acidifying quickly, Arctic ice has rapidly decreased in extent and thickness, glaciers are retreating worldwide, and sea levels have been rising at an accelerating pace. Record high temperature events have been increasing while low temperature events have decreased, and extreme weather events are becoming more common in many areas.

Today’s wildfires are a wake-up call. If we are serious about our Paris agreement commitments, we can’t build more pipelines, expand oil sands, continue fracking or exploit extreme Arctic and deep-sea oil.

There are over 341,000 wind turbines on the planet: Here’s how much of a difference they’re making

CNBC    Business

There are over 341,000 wind turbines on the planet: Here’s how much of a difference they’re making

Anmar Frangoul, CNBC     September 8, 2017 

https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/nJRtd7rNhzmWt0N.UlXYQQ--/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjtzbT0xO3c9ODAw/http://media.zenfs.com/en-US/homerun/cnbc.com/30b70f07fba1dd7029038eb9086fa436William Campbell | Corbis News | Getty Images. Sustainable Energy takes a look at the nuts and bolts of wind power.

From the intense heat of the Californian desert to the green hills of Scotland, wind turbines are popping up all over the world.

Humans have been using wind energy for thousands of years. Today, its scope and scale is big and getting bigger. According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), at the end of 2016 more than 341,000 wind turbines were spinning and generating energy.

CNBC’s Sustainable Energy takes a look at the nuts and bolts of wind power – how turbines work, wind energy’s impact on the environment, and its role in the planet’s energy mix over the coming years.

Offshore and onshore

With their considerable height and large blades, modern wind turbines are instantly recognizable.

How they produce energy can be broken down into several parts. Put simply, when the wind blows, a turbine’s blades turn around a rotor. As the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) explains, the rotor is connected to a main shaft, which in turn rotates a generator to produce electricity.

Wind energy can be produced both offshore and onshore. While the U.S. offshore wind industry is still in its infancy – America’s first offshore wind farm only began commercial operations last December– it is well established in other parts of the world.

According to the GWEC, at the end of last year Europe was home to 3,589 offshore wind turbines. Furthermore, almost 88 percent of the world’s offshore installations were based off the coast of 10 European countries.

The U.K. is a world leader in offshore wind, representing just shy of 36 percent of installed capacity, with Germany and China close behind.

Environmental impact

The GWEC says that in 2016 wind power helped the planet avoid more than 637 million tons of CO2 emissions.

The executive director of Renewable UK explained to CNBC how wind power had several plus points when it came to the environment.

“Wind energy doesn’t require a fuel source… once we’re built we don’t need to mine for anything and we don’t need to burn fossil fuels which, as we know, are contributing to climate change,” Emma Pinchbeck said.

“It’s sustainable as a form of energy production, but then it’s also fairly sustainable as a form of infrastructure because of how we build it,” she added. “The amount of energy that goes in to building a wind farm is ‘paid off’ after one year of generation from that wind farm.”

There are some drawbacks, however. To give just one example, while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) acknowledges that wind power has a “significant” part to play in the U.K.’s efforts against climate change, it adds that available evidence suggests that wind farms “can harm birds in three possible ways – disturbance, habitat loss and collision.”

The future

Looking forward, the GWEC says that in the European Union, 520,000 people are expected to be working in the wind industry by 2020.

The DOE’s Wind Vision Report says that wind could potentially support more than 600,000 jobs by the year 2050 and help avoid 12.3 gigatons of greenhouse gases.

Unsurprisingly, Renewable UK’s Pinchbeck was incredibly positive about the future when it comes to renewables. “If I were an investor and I wanted to put my money on what the cheapest forms of energy were going to be, not just today but in ten years’ time, it would be in renewables by a country mile,” she said.

70% of Australia’s Homes are Now Powered by Renewable Energy

9 million households. Read more: http://bit.ly/2vIqeQr

Posted by EcoWatch on Thursday, September 7, 2017

EcoWatch

World’s Largest Solar Thermal Power Plant Approved for Australia

https://resize.rbl.ms/simage/https%3A%2F%2Fassets.rbl.ms%2F10245353%2Forigin.jpg/1200%2C600/01MLSSc7V90AbYmz/img.jpgCrescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant in Nevada. SolarReserve

Lorraine Chow August 16, 2017

The South Australian state government has approved the construction of a 150-megawatt solar thermal power plant.

The AU $650 million (US $510 million) structure will be built in Port Augusta and is slated for completion by 2020. It will be the largest such facility in the world once built.

California-based SolarReserve was awarded with the contract. The company is also behind the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant in Nevada, the world’s first utility-scale solar thermal power plant.

Solar thermal plants are different from traditional photovoltaic panels on rooftops and solar farms around the world. These plants, also known as concentrated solar plants (CSP), consists of a large field of mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays to heat molten salt, which then produces superheated steam to drive a generator’s turbines.

A major advantage to this type of power plant is how it can store up to eight hours of molten salt thermal energy storage, allowing for power usage when needed.

“The significance of solar thermal generation lies in its ability to provide energy virtually on demand through the use of thermal energy storage to store heat for running the power turbines,” said sustainable energy engineering professor Wasim Saman, from the University of South Australia. “This is a substantially more economical way of storing energy than using batteries.”

This technology is critical for South Australia, which has been plagued by blackouts. Australia itself also has a major gas shortage looming and its decades-old coal plants are shutting down, sparking potential price hikes and putting energy security at risk.

Looks like the state is firmly placing its bet on renewables. The state government also recently approved the construction of the worlds largest battery farm in the Riverland region with help from Tesla.

Harvey’s floodwaters give way to festering piles of garbage

Yahoo News, Associated Press

Harvey’s floodwaters give way to festering piles of garbage

Brian Melley and Paul J. Weber, Associated Press     September 7, 2017

View photos:   In this Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, photo, Steve and Sherri Blatt pose for a photograph among the debris from theirs and their neighbors’ homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Harvey’s record-setting rains now have the potential to set records for the amount of debris one storm can produce. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

HOUSTON (AP) — Roiling waters in the streets have given way to festering piles of garbage on the curbs.

Harvey’s record-setting rains created heaps of ruined possessions that now line entire neighborhoods, some nearly up to the rooftops of the homes that were swamped. All that sodden drywall, flooring, furniture, clothing and toys adds up to an estimated 8 million cubic yards in Houston alone, enough to fill the Texans’ football stadium two times over.

Texas and city officials have pledged to make a priority of the monumental task of cleaning it all up, though they stopped short of giving specific timelines, mindful that such cleanups have dragged on longer than anticipated after other major storms.

“We want to get it removed as quickly as possible,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters Thursday.

For now, the piles big and small have become evidence, of sorts, of the losses from more than 200,000 damaged homes up and down the Texas coast.

Not only are the heaps eyesores, but they are starting to give off a musty funk. And the longer they sit, officials warn, they could become havens for mold, not to mention snakes, rats, skunks and other critters. The junk could also turn into projectiles if, heaven forbid, another hurricane strikes.

“I just can’t stand it anymore,” said Peggy Lanigan, who took a break from clearing out her Houston home that flooded for the first time in 22 years.

The city is pushing to complete a “first pass” of debris removal within 30 days, said Derek Mebane, deputy assistant director of Houston’s solid waste department. He said collecting subsequent piles could take months and warned that if Hurricane Irma causes extensive damage in Florida, the cleanup in Houston could be slowed if resources are diverted. While local crews do the pickups, FEMA covers 90 percent of the costs.

As it stands now, clearing even just one Houston street can take days. Some piles are so massive that a single stack of debris from one home can fill an entire truck.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner this week pleaded for help, asking for anyone with heavy equipment suitable for debris removal to reach out.

The trash will go into the city’s existing landfills. San Antonio trucks have been sent in as part of an agreement between the two cities to help each other in disasters, the mayor said.

Soon after the storm hit, state officials suspended some environmental rules on waste removal that they said could impede the pace of disaster recovery, which raised concerns among environmentalists.

Trash looters are another concern. Some homeowners spray-painted messages on mattresses to leave them alone because the debris is needed for insurance claims. Others posted signs saying they were just drying out items they intended to save.

Mike Martinez said a king-sized mattress that had been floating in his bedroom days earlier was taken from his yard along with a La-Z-Boy sectional couch. The $5,000 sofa still looked brand new after the flood but was like a sponge if you sat on it. He couldn’t understand why anyone would take it because it’s contaminated with floodwater and probably mold.

“It was like a parade of people going by looking at the devastation,” Martinez said. “Then there was a parade of people picking up the garbage.”

Overturned sofas, listing mattresses and toppled chairs dominate the rubble while smaller, more intimate items hide in the cracks.

The piles also created a sort of archaeological record of the households from which they came. There’s a moldering red cooler, a beat-up blue kiddie pool, a pornography stash spilling onto the street. Brand-new golf balls, a full jar of mangoes and a twisted artificial Christmas tree. A book titled “The Inheritance of Loss” seemed particularly poignant.

Sherri Blatt’s main concern is that it could be a long wait before the mess is carted away. “This is too long,” she said. “Once all the stuff is gone, I’ll feel safe.”

Almost on cue, a garbage truck rumbled around the corner. But it wasn’t there for flood debris — only for the trash that hadn’t been picked up in a week and was adding its own odor to the mix.

Weber reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Juan A. Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.

For complete Harvey coverage, visit https://apnews.com/tag/HurricaneHarvey .

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