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Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Laurel Krause, MendoCoastCurrent, September 10, 2011 ~ 9/10/11

PRESIDENT OBAMA promised on October 27, 2007: “I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the FIRST THING I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.”

On Peace

President Obama has been in office for 32 months and there are still 45,000 troops in Iraq and 100,000+ troops in Afghanistan.

When we voted for Obama we expected our future President to keep his word, not involve us in FOUR MORE WARS!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You’re ON NOTICE ~ Next election Americans will come out in great numbers to vote for a peace-focused presidential candidate that will keep his word.

On Commercial-scale Renewable Energy

We felt validated that we voted for Obama when early in his presidency our President pledged to begin to develop safe, sustainable and renewable energy. We saw it as an excellent way to put the American workforce ‘back to work’ and begin to build a renewable energy future for America. Since then NOT ONE significant renewable or sustainable energy project has been created nor backed by the federal government. If there is one, please name it! The validation we felt back then has expired long ago into distrust and disrespect.

On the BP Gulf Oil Leak

Mostly based on watching our President minimize and shield his eyes (along with Energy Sec Chu) as the BP Oil Leak continues to leak and spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico, to this day. We are beyond disappointed that no significant or innovative remedial (as in clean up) action has been taken in the Gulf or poisoned coastal areas.

On Fukushima & Nuclear Reactors

Then we were shocked when our President in his address to the nation, moments after Fukushima went into melt-through in March 2011, disbelieving our President’s pledge of allegiance to more, new nuclear development in America. Except for President Obama’s corporate backers, the rest of us DO NOT WANT MORE NUCLEAR ENERGY REACTORS in the U.S. We demand our President begin to close down all U.S. nuclear reactors now, also a position very far from our President’s nuclear energy corporate BFF’s.

THE NATIVES ARE BECOMING RESTLESS MR. PRESIDENT!

PUT AMERICA BACK ON THE RIGHT TRACK

STEP 1) Immediately BRING ALL TROOPS HOME to be re-deployed in cleaning up the affected areas, as in making whole again, at the on-going BP Oil Leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

STEP 1-A ~ Fire & replace Energy Secretary Chu with a qualified, earth-friendly, safe renewable energy visionary.

STEP 2) Segment a significant portion of your new Jobs Bill towards sustainable and renewable energy R&D to create a VISION & PLAN FOR AMERICA to become the world leader in these new, safe technologies.

STEP 2-A ~ Consider and fund Mendocino Energy, a fast-tracked commercial-scale renewal/sustainable energy thinktank to get started TODAY. Learn more about Mendocino Energy ~ http://bit.ly/t7ov1

Mr President, let us live in peace on a healthy planet.

JOIN US, JOIN IN at the Peaceful Party: http://on.fb.me/hBvNE3

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MendoCoastCurrent, June 24, 2010

Public institutions and private sector organizations from across the country should form a coalition to help states, localities and regions develop and deploy successful and cost-effective electric demand response programs, a new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff report says.

The coalition effort is the centerpiece of the National Action Plan on Demand Response Report , issued today, that identifies strategies and activities to achieve the objectives of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

“There is strength in numbers. Coalitions harness the combined energy of individual organizations, producing results that can go far beyond what can be accomplished on an individual basis,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “The success of this National Action Plan depends on all interested public and private supporters working to implement it.”

The public-private coalition outlined in the National Action Plan would coordinate and combine the efforts of state and local officials, utilities and demand response providers, regional wholesale power market operators, electricity consumers, the federal government and other interest groups. Demand response refers to the ability of customers to adjust their electricity use by responding to price signals, reliability concerns or signals from the grid operator. Demand response is a valuable resource for meeting the nation’s energy needs.

The 2007 law required FERC to identify the requirements for technical assistance to states so they can maximize the amount of demand response that can be developed and deployed; design and identify requirements for a national communications program that includes broad-based customer education and support; and develop or identify analytical tools, information, model regulations and contracts and other materials for use by customers, states, utilities and demand response providers.

The National Action Plan applies to the entire country, yet recognizes Congress’ intent that state and local governments play an important role in developing demand response. It is the result of more than two years of open, transparent consultation with all interested groups to help states, localities and regions develop demand response resources.

The National Action Plan on Demand Response is available at here.

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May 22, 2010

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the State of California have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to coordinate procedures and schedules for review of hydrokinetic energy projects off the California coast.

This marks the fourth hydrokinetics MOU that FERC has signed with other states, following agreements signed last year with Washington and Maine, and with Oregon in 2008. Today’s agreement ensures that FERC and California will undertake all permitting and licensing efforts in an environmentally sensitive manner, taking into account economic and cultural concerns.

“This agreement with California shows FERC’s continuing commitment to work with the states to ensure American consumers can enjoy the environmental and financial benefits of clean, renewable hydrokinetic energy,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said.

“I am delighted the State of California has signed an MOU with the Commission on developing hydrokinetic projects off the California coast,” Commissioner Philip Moeller said. “This completes a sweep of the West Coast which, along with Maine, is showing its commitment to bringing the benefits of clean hydrokinetic energy to the consumers of the United States.”

FERC and California have agreed to the following with respect to hydrokinetics:

  • Each will notify the other when one becomes aware of a potential applicant for a preliminary permit, pilot project license or license;
  • When considering a license application, each will agree as early as possible on a schedule for processing. The schedule will include milestones, and FERC and California will encourage other federal agencies and stakeholders to comply with the schedules;
  • They will coordinate the environmental reviews of any proposed projects in California state waters. FERC and California also will consult with stakeholders, including project developers, on the design of studies and environmental matters; and
  • They will encourage applicants to seek pilot project licenses prior to a full commercial license, to allow for testing of devices before commercial deployment.

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DAVID HELVARG, Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2010

President Obama’s decision to have Interior Secretary Ken Salazar open vast new areas of federal ocean waters to offshore oil drilling is no surprise. In his State of the Union address, the president explained that his vision for a clean energy future included offshore drilling, nuclear power and clean coal. Unfortunately, that’s like advocating a healthy diet based on fast-food snacking, amphetamines and low-tar cigarettes.

If the arguments you hear in the coming days for expanded drilling sound familiar, it’s because they’ve been repeated for generations. We’ve been hearing promises about safer drilling technologies since before Union Oil began drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel. And if you don’t remember what happened that time, you should. Soon after the wells were bored, one of them blew out in January 1969, causing a massive oil slick that slimed beaches and killed birds, fish and marine mammals. The resulting catastrophe helped spark the modern environmental movement.

The president has promised no new drilling off the West Coast, and it’s no wonder. Opposition was unified and vociferous during Salazar’s public hearing on offshore energy development in San Francisco in April 2009. More than 500 people – including Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Gov. Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, California’s lieutenant governor and four House members – testified and rallied for clean energy and against any new oil drilling.

Boxer noted that the coast was a treasure and a huge economic asset “just as is,” generating $24 billion a year and 390,000 jobs.

Still, in the new Department of Interior announcement, one can hear echoes of President Reagan’s Interior secretary, Don Hodel, who warned us in the 1980s that if we didn’t expand offshore drilling, we’d be “putting ourselves at the tender mercies of OPEC.”

We did expand offshore drilling then, not off the stunning redwood coastline of Mendocino, Calif., as Hodel wanted, but where the oil industry knew most of the oil and gas actually was and is: in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. We even created a royalty moratorium for the oil companies that went after those huge deep-water fields.

But offshore drilling has done little to wean us from Middle Eastern oil. And with less than 5% of our domestic oil located offshore, more ocean drilling won’t help now either.

The only real way to quit relying on foreign oil is to wean ourselves from oil, and that’s something our leaders are unlikely to fully embrace until we’ve tapped that last reserve of sweet crude.

Nor is it likely that oil-friendly politicians in Louisiana, Alaska and Virginia, where new drilling will take place under the Obama plan, are going to embrace administration-backed climate legislation that recognizes drilling as a temporary bridge to a post-fossil-fuel world.

The only real difference in the drilling debate from 30 years ago is that back then the issue was energy versus marine pollution. Today we know it’s even more urgent. Oil, used as directed, overheats the planet.

Plus, any new platform drilled is a structural commitment to at least 30 more years of fossil fuel extraction – assuming it’s not taken out by a big storm like the jack-up rig I saw washed onto the beach at Alabama’s Dauphin Island after Hurricane Katrina.

I’ve visited offshore oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel and the Gulf of Mexico and was impressed by the oil patch workers I met there. The innovative technologies they use for extracting ever more inaccessible reserves of oil and gas are also impressive.

But now we need to direct that can-do spirit of innovation to large-scale carbon-free energy systems, including photovoltaics, wind turbines, biomass, hydrogen fuel cells and marine tidal, wave, current and thermal energy. The difficulties of producing energy with those technologies will make today’s drilling challenges seem simple.

I respect the roughnecks and roustabouts I’ve met who continue to practice a dangerous and challenging craft, and the contribution they’ve made to our nation’s maritime history. But I believe it’s time for them to exit the energy stage. Apparently the president does not.

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DAVID TOW, Future Planet, January 16, 2010

By 2015 India and China will both have outstripped the US in energy consumption by a large margin. Cap and Trade carbon markets will have been established by major developed economies, including India and China, as the most effective way to limit carbon emissions and encourage investment in renewable energy, reforestation projects etc.

There will have been a significant shift by consumers and industry to renewable energy technologies- around 25%, powered primarily by the new generation adaptive wind and solar energy mega-plants, combined with the rapid depletion of the most easily accessible oil fields. Coal and gas will continue to play a major role at around 60% useage, with clean coal and gas technologies still very expensive. Nuclear technology will remain static at 10% and hydro at 5%.

Most new vehicles and local transport systems will utilise advanced battery or hydrogen electric power technology, which will continue to improve energy density outputs.

Efficiency and recycling savings of the order of 30% on today’s levels will be available from the application of smart adaptive technologies in power grids, communication, distribution and transport networks, manufacturing plants and consumer households. This will be particularly critical for the sustainability of cities across the planet. Cities will also play a critical role in not only supporting the energy needs of at least 60% of the planet’s population through solar, wind, water and waste energy capture but will feed excess capacity to the major power grids, providing a constant re-balancing of energy supply across the world.

By 2025 a global Cap and Trade regime will be mandatory and operational worldwide. Current oil sources will be largely exhausted but the remaining new fields will be exploited in the Arctic, Antarctic and deep ocean locations.  Renewable energy will account for 40% of useage, including baseload power generation. Solar and wind power will dominate in the form of huge desert solar and coastal and inland wind farms; but all alternate forms- wave, geothermal, secondary biomass, algael etc will begin to play a significant role.

Safer helium-cooled and fast breeder fourth generation modular nuclear power reactors will replace many of the older water-cooled and risk-prone plants, eventually  accounting for around 15% of energy production; with significant advances in the storage of existing waste in stable ceramic materials.

By 2035 global warming will reach a critical threshold with energy useage tripling from levels in 2015, despite conservation and efficiency advances. Renewables will account for 60% of the world’s power supply, nuclear 15% and fossils 25%. Technologies to convert CO2 to hydocarbon fuel together with more efficient recycling and sequestration, will allow coal and gas to continue to play a significant role.

By 2045-50 renewables will be at 75-80% levels, nuclear 12% and clean fossil fuels 10-15%. The first Hydrogen and Helium3 pilot fusion energy plants will be commissioned, with large-scale generators expected to come on stream in the latter part of the century, eventually reducing carbon emissions to close to zero.

However the above advances will still be insufficient to prevent the runaway effects of global warming. These long-term impacts will raise temperatures well beyond the additional two-three degrees centigrade critical limit.

Despite reduction in emissions by up to 85%, irreversible and chaotic feedback impacts on the global biosphere will be apparent. These will be triggered by massive releases of methane from permafrost and ocean deposits, fresh water flows from melting ice causing disruptions to ocean currents and weather patterns.

These will affect populations beyond the levels of ferocity of the recent Arctic freeze, causing chaos in the northern hemisphere and reaching into India and China and the droughts and heat waves of Africa, the Middle East and Australia.

The cycle of extreme weather events and rising oceans that threaten to destroy many major coastal cities will continue to increase, compounded by major loss of ecosystems, biodiversity and food capacity. This will force a major rethink of the management of energy and climate change as global catastrophe threatens.

Increasingly desperate measures will be canvassed and tested, including the design of major geo-engineering projects aimed at reducing the amount of sunlight reaching earth and reversal of the acidity of the oceans. These massive infrastructure projects would have potentially enormous ripple-on effects on all social, industrial and economic systems. They are eventually assessed to be largely ineffective, unpredictable and unsustainable.

As forecasts confirm that carbon levels in the atmosphere will remain high for the next 1,000 years, regardless of mitigating measures, priorities shift urgently to the need to minimise risk to life on a global scale, while protecting civilisation’s core infrastructure, social, knowledge and cultural assets.

Preserving the surviving natural ecosystem environment and the critical infrastructure of the built environment, particularly the Internet and Web, will now be vital. The sustainability of human life on planet Earth, in the face of overwhelming catastrophe, will be dependent to a critical degree on the power of the intelligent Web 4.0, combining human and artificial intelligence to manage food, water, energy and human resources.

Only the enormous problem-solving capacity of this human-engineered entity, will be capable of ensuring the continuing survival of civilisation as we know it.

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JESSICA MARSHALL, Discovery.com News, November 30, 2009

The patterns that schooling fish form to save energy while swimming have inspired a new wind farm design that researchers say will increase the amount of power produced per acre by at least tenfold.

“For the fish, they are trying to minimize the energy that they consume to swim from Point A to Point B,” said John Dabiri of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who led the study. “In our case, we’re looking at the opposite problem: How to we maximize the amount of energy that we collect?”

“Because both of these problems involve optimizing energy, it turns out that the model that’s useful for one is also useful for the other problem.”

Both designs rely on individuals capturing energy from their neighbors to operate more efficiently.”If there was just one fish swimming, it kicks off energy into the water, and it just gets wasted,” Dabiri said, “but if there’s another fish behind, it can actually use that kinetic energy and help it propel itself forward.”

The wind turbines can do the same thing. Dabiri’s wind farm design uses wind turbines that are oriented to rotate around the support pole like a carousel, instead of twirling like a pinwheel the way typical wind turbines do.

Like the fish, these spinning turbines generate a swirling wake. The energy in this flow can be gathered by neighboring turbines if they are placed close enough together and in the right position. By capturing this wake, two turbines close together can generate more power than each acting alone.

This contrasts with common, pinwheel-style wind turbines where the wake from one interferes with its neighbors, reducing the neighbors’ efficiency. The vortexes occur in the wrong orientation for the neighboring turbines to capture them.

For this reason, such turbines must be spaced at least three diameters to either side and 10 diameters up — or downwind of another, which requires a lot of land.

Although individual carousel-style turbines are less efficient than their pinwheel-style counterparts, the close spacing that enhances their performance means that the amount of power output per acre is much greater for the carousel-style turbines.

Dabiri and graduate student Robert Whittlesey calculated that their best design would generate 100 times more power per acre than a conventional wind farm.

The model required some simplifications, however, so it remains to be seen whether tests of an actual wind farm produce such large gains. That will be the team’s next step. “Even if we’re off by a factor of 10, that’s still a game changer for the technology,” Dabiri noted.

In the end, schooling fish may not have the perfect arrangement. The pair found that the best arrangement of wind turbines did not match the spacing used by schooling fish.

“If we just mimic the fish wake, we can do pretty well,” Dabiri said. “But, as engineers, maybe we’re smarter than fish. It turns out that for this application there is even better performance to be had.”

This may be because fish have other needs to balance in their schooling behavior besides maximizing swimming efficiency. They seek food, avoid predators and reproduce, for example.

“I think that this is a very interesting possibility,” said Alexander Smits of Princeton University, who attended a presentation of the findings at a meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics in Minneapolis last week.

But a field test will show the idea’s real potential, he noted: “You have to go try these things. You can do a calculation like that and it might not work out. But it seemed like there was a very large reduction in the land usage, and even if you got one half of that, that would be pretty good.”

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WENDEE HOLTCAMP, National Wildlife, December/January 2010

Frank Fish was browsing in a Boston sculpture shop a few years ago when he noticed a whale figurine. His first thought was, “This isn’t right. It’s got bumps on the leading edge of its flipper. It’s always a straight edge.”

Fish, a West Chester University professor specializing in the dynamics of locomotion, was surprised because all flippers he knew of had straight edges—including those of dolphins, penguins and even most whales. The straight-edge blade is also shared by ceiling fans and most industrial blades and rotors. But the store manager showed him a photo of a humpback whale, and sure enough, it had tubercles on its flippers. Humpbacks have a unique habit of catching fish in a bubble net that they create by diving deep and swimming in a spiraling circle, and Fish speculated that the tubercles may somehow give them a hydrodynamic advantage.

Turns out he was right. After testing a scaled-down flipper replica in a wind tunnel, Fish and colleagues Loren Howle and Mark Murray found the tubercles reduced drag by 32% and increased lift by 6% compared with a smooth-edge flipper. The bumps have the same effect on rotors and blades in air—a revolutionary discovery in aerodynamics. Fish co-patented so-called “Tubercle Technology” and in 2005 he helped found Whale Power, a company that is building energy-efficient windmills using scalloped-edge blades. The technology could eventually improve energy-efficiency for any machine that uses turbines, fans or pumps.

Fish is among an increasing number of scientists, inventors and companies turning to the natural world to help them create better, more sustainable products and to find solutions to some of humanity’s most vexing problems. The concept is called biomimicry and the idea behind it is simple: Over the millennia, living organisms in the natural world already have tested and solved many of the challenges humans are grappling with today.

“People are looking for ways to reduce material use, get away from toxic substances and reduce energy use. When they hear about biomimicry, they realize it’s an R&D program that’s been going on for 3.8 billion years,” says biologist Janine Benyus of the Biomimicry Guild, a Montana-based consulting firm that provides research and guidance on natural solutions for some of the country’s largest companies and government agencies.

In her landmark 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Benyus issued a call to action, urging people to engage not just in shallow biomimicry—copying nature’s forms—but to push for deep biomimicry where manufacturing processes follow nature’s lead of sustainability. The ideal industrial loop, she says, would work as seamlessly as a redwood forest, where one’s processed wastes become food or input for another and nothing is wasted. In the book, Benyus also compiled dozens of examples of how people are emulating natural processes.

Velcro, for example, one of the most famous products to come from mimicking nature, was created by a Swiss engineer in the 1940s after observing how cockleburs got stuck in his dog’s fur. Three decades later, a German botanist discovered that lotus leaves contain tiny waxy bumps that cause water to bead up and run off the surface, washing and cleaning the leaves in the process. The discovery has since inspired a number of waterproof products including Lotusan, a self-cleaning paint that keeps the outsides of buildings free of algae and fungi.

More recently, scientists from the University of New South Wales discovered a revolutionary antibacterial compound in a type of red algal seaweed that lives off the coast of Australia. Bacteria form slimy biofilms but require a “quorum” to congregate, and so they constantly communicate with one another. The seaweed stays bacteria-free by emitting the compound furanone, which jams the bacteria’s communication sensors. Mimicking that natural action, the Australian company Biosignal created cleaning fluids that keep surfaces bacteria-free without killing them, which is a breakthrough because its use does not lead to the evolution of antibiotic resistance, as has happened with the proliferation of so many antibacterial cleaning compounds. So far, furanone works on various bacteria, including staphylococcus and vibrio, which causes cholera. It also works on the bacteria that corrode pipes, leading to oil spills.

In another flip on tradition, Mercedes-Benz recently modeled an ecologically friendly, fuel-efficient concept vehicle called the Bionic Car after the yellow boxfish, a squarish tropical creature found in reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Traditionally, aerodynamic cars have been built long and lean, but it turns out the boxfish has a drag coefficient nearly equal to that of a drop of water, which has one of the lowest drags possible. The automobile company not only borrowed from the boxfish’s boxy but aerodynamic shape but also from its unique skeletal structure that protects the animal from injury, making the car safer by putting extra material in certain parts of its frame and economizing by lightening up the load elsewhere.

Another product, the UltraCane, was developed not long ago as a result of research at the University of Leeds in Great Britain to help the blind “see” by utilizing the echolocation systems of bats. The cane emits an ultrasonic sound that bounces off objects, allowing vision-impaired people to develop a mental picture of where and how far away objects are—and hence better navigate around them.

In Zimbabwe, the architectural design firm Arup Associates modeled the country’s largest office complex, Eastgate Centre, after the passive cooling system used by African termites in their mounds. Termites farm fungus that they must keep at a precise 87 degrees F, while outside air varies from 35 degrees at night to 104 by day. To accomplish this amazing feat, termites constantly plug and unplug cooling vents that create convection currents, drawing air through the mound as needed. The Eastgate Centre builders copied this model, using fans and chimneys to shunt hot air out, and ground-level cavities to allow cooler air in—a concept known as passive cooling. Without any modern heating or air conditioning, the facility uses only 10% of the electricity of a conventional building its size. The energy-cost savings trickle down to tenants, who pay 20% lower rent than in neighboring buildings.

Elsewhere, scientists are turning to Mother Nature for inspiration for other energy-related materials. To increase the amount of sunlight that is absorbed by solar panels, for instance, a University of Florida researcher is developing a coating for the panels based on the structure of moth eyes, which reflect little light. In China and Japan, scientists are modeling more efficient solar cells after the scales on butterfly wings, which serve as highly effective, microscopic solar collectors.

The benefits humans gain as a result of such research provide a strong argument for conserving wildlife. “Protecting plant and animal habitats means also preserving the wellspring of ideas for the next industrial revolution,” says Benyus, who in 2007 was named by Time magazine as one of its “International Heroes of the Environment.”

That same year, she also founded the nonprofit Biomimicry Institute, which urges companies to donate a percentage of their profits to the habitat from which their biomimicry-inspired products come from. “We must become nature’s apprentice at this point,” she says, “and part of that path has to be preserving the wild places we now realize are the homes of geniuses.”

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MendoCoastCurrent from Platts Energy Podium, February 12, 2009

The recently approved Economic Stimulus Plan includes expanding the US electric transmission grid and this may be the just the start of what will be a costly effort to improve reliability and deliver renewable energy to consumers from remote locations, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Acting Chairman Jon Wellinghoff told the Platts Energy Podium on February 12, 2009.

Wellinghoff defines the Stimulus energy funds as “seed money. But it really isn’t [enough] money to make huge advances in the overall backbone grid that we’re talking about to integrate substantial amounts of wind.”

While details of the plan compromises are unclear, the measure could provide $10 billion or more to transmission upgrades. Wellinghoff said backbone transmission projects could cost more than $200 billion. “And I think we’ll see that money coming from the private sector,” based on proposals already submitted to FERC.

Wellinghoff’s focused on Congress strengthening federal authority to site interstate high-voltage electric transmission lines to carry wind power to metropolitan areas and expects FERC to be heavily involved in formulation of either a comprehensive energy bill or a series of bills meant to address obstacles to increasing renewable wind, solar and geothermal energy, and other matters that fall within FERC’s purview. 

FERC plays a critical role “given the authorities we’ve been given in the 2005 and 2007 acts and our capabilities with respect to policy and implementation of energy infrastructure.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 8, 2009

obama-hope1Key President-elect Barack Obama renewable energy quotes from his January 8, 2009 speech to the U.S. Congress and citizens, on his top economic priorities as he takes office.

“. . .the first question that each of us asks isn’t ‘what’s good for me?’ but ‘what’s good for the country my children will inherit?”

On creating new jobs and investing in America’s future:

“This plan must begin today. A plan I’m confident will save and create at least three million jobs over the next few years.”

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Program:

“It’s not just a public works program. It’s a plan that recognizes both the paradox and promise of the moment. The fact that there are millions of Americans trying to find work, even as all around the country there’s so much work to be done and that’s why we’ll invest in priorities like energy and education, healthcare and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century. That’s why the overwhelming majority of the jobs created will be in the private sector while our plan will save public sector jobs . . .”

“To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years. We will modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.”

“In the process, we will put Americans to work in jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced. Jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, constructing fuel efficient cars and buildings, and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.”

“The time has come to build a 21st century economy in which hard work and responsibility are once again rewarded.”

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Science Daily, December 20, 2008

0812161141021MIT researchers are working with Portuguese colleagues to design a pilot-scale device that will capture significantly more of the energy in ocean waves than existing systems, and use it to power an electricity-generating turbine.

Wave energy is a large, widespread renewable resource that is environmentally benign and readily scalable. In some locations — the northwestern coasts of the United States, the western coast of Scotland, and the southern tips of South America, Africa and Australia, for example — a wave absorbing device could theoretically generate 100 to 200 megawatts of electricity per kilometer of coastline. But designing a wave capture system that can deal with the harsh, corrosive seawater environment, handle hourly, daily and seasonal variations in wave intensity, and continue to operate safely in stormy weather is difficult. 

Chiang Mei, the Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been a believer in wave energy since the late 1970s. After the recent oil price spike, there has been renewed interest in harnessing the energy in ocean waves.

To help engineers design such devices, Professor Mei and his colleagues developed numerical simulations that can predict wave forces on a given device and the motion of the device that will result. The simulations guide design decisions that will maximize energy capture and provide data to experts looking for efficient ways to convert the captured mechanical energy to electrical energy.

One country with a good deal of expertise in wave energy research and development is Portugal. For the past three years, Mei has been working with Professors Antonio Falcao, Antonio Sarmento, and Luis Gato of Insitituto Superior Tecnico, Technical University of Lisbon, as they plan a pilot-scale version of a facility called an oscillating water column, or OWC. Situated on or near the shore, an OWC consists of a chamber with a subsurface opening. As waves come in and out, the water level inside the chamber goes up and down. The moving surface of the water forces air trapped above it to flow into and out of an opening that leads to an electricity-generating turbine. The turbine is a design by A.A.Wells in which the blades always rotate in the same direction, despite the changing direction of the air stream as the waves come in and out.

The Portuguese plan is to integrate the OWC plant into the head of a new breakwater at the mouth of the Douro River in Porto, a large city in northern Portugal. Ultimately, the installation will include three OWCs that together will generate 750 kilowatts — roughly enough to power 750 homes. As a bonus, the plant’s absorption of wave energy at the breakwater head will calm the waters in the area and reduce local erosion.

The challenge is to design a device that resonates and thus operates efficiently at a broad spectrum of wave frequencies — and an unexpected finding from the MIT analysis provides a means of achieving that effect. The key is the compressibility of the air inside the OWC chamber. That compressibility cannot be changed, but its impact on the elevation of the water can be — simply by changing the size of the OWC chamber. The simulations showed that using a large chamber causes resonance to occur at a wider range of wavelengths, so more of the energy in a given wave can be captured. “We found that we could optimize the efficiency of the OWC by making use of the compressibility of air — something that is not intuitively obvious,” Mei says. “It’s very exciting.”

He is currently working with other graduate students on wave power absorbers on coastlines of different geometries and on how to extract wave power from an array of many absorbers.

Mei continues to be enthusiastic about wave energy, but he is not unrealistic in his expectations. Although costs have been falling in recent years, wave energy is unlikely to be commercially viable for a long time — perhaps several decades. Nevertheless, Mei is adamant that more attention should be given to this renewable source of energy, and he would like to see a team of MIT experts in different fields — from energy capture and conversion to transmission and distribution — working collaboratively toward making large-scale wave energy a reality.

“Given the future of conventional energy sources, we need lots of research on all kinds of alternative energy,” he says. “Right now, wind energy and solar energy are in the spotlight because they’ve been developed for a longer time. With wave energy, the potential is large, but the engineering science is relatively young. We need to do more research.”

This article is adapted from a longer version that appeared in the autumn 2008 issue of Energy Futures, the newsletter of the MIT Energy Initiative.

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DEBORAH CHARLES, Reuters, December 10, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama’s team to address climate change emerged on Wednesday as Democratic officials said he had chosen a Nobel laureate for U.S. energy secretary and was likely to pick an environmental veteran to serve as coordinator of climate policies.

Announcements to come in the days ahead include several key environment-related appointments — Steven Chu as energy secretary, Carol Browner as energy and climate coordinator, Nancy Sutley to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Lisa Jackson to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

They will be charged with developing policies to reduce carbon emissions blamed for global warming, develop new sources of energy and create new jobs — a top priority for Obama.

Chu is director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics. He was an early advocate for scientific solutions to climate change.

Browner was administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration. A principal at global strategy firm The Albright Group LLC, she heads Obama’s advisory team on energy and the environment.

Sutley has a long history in the environmental community. She is currently deputy mayor for energy and environment for Los Angeles and served on the California State Water Resources Control Board earlier this decade.

Jackson has served as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection in New Jersey.

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CPUC, February 14, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today announced the availability of new tariffs to support the development of up to 480 megawatts (MW) of renewable generating capacity from small facilities throughout California. These “feed-in tariffs” present a simple mechanism for small renewable generators to sell power to a utility at predefined terms and conditions, without contract negotiations. The CPUC expects that participating facilities will sell their power to utilities and help contribute to California’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy goals.

“Up until now, only large renewable projects were able to effectively participate in the Renewables Portfolio Standard program,” said CPUC President Michael R. Peevey. “Now small facilities can easily contribute to this program and be compensated for their renewable generation by signing up for these tariffs.

The power that is sold to the utilities under the feed-in tariffs will count toward the utilities’ Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) goals. California’s RPS program is one of the most ambitious renewable energy standards in the country. The RPS program requires electric corporations to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources by at least 1 percent of their retail sales annually, until they reach 20 percent by 2010. As of August 1, 2007, California’s three large Investor-Owned Utilities collectively served 13.2 percent of their 2006 retail electricity sales with renewable power.

The small renewable generator feed-in tariffs available as of today provide a 10, 15, or 20-year fixed-price, non-negotiable contract to participating small renewable generators, sized up to 1.5 MW. Customers can sell renewable power under the feed-in tariff terms to Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), San Diego Gas and Electric Company, PacifiCorp, Sierra Pacific Power Company, Bear Valley Electric Service Division of Golden State Water Company, and Mountain Utilities. Any customer may sell to Edison or PG&E, but the feed-in tariffs are limited to water and waste water customers in the other four utilities.

The feed-in tariffs were developed pursuant to Public Utilities Code 399.20, established by Assembly Bill (AB) 1969 (2006, Yee) that directed the CPUC to develop feed-in tariffs to support the deployment of renewables specifically on publicly owned water and wastewater treatment facilities. In July of 2007, the CPUC adopted Decision (D.) 07-07-027 to implement AB 1969, and established the pricing terms for the tariffs. In the same decision, the CPUC expanded the feed-in tariff approach to non-water and non-wastewater facilities for only Edison and PG&E areas. By today’s action, the CPUC adopted Resolution E-4137, which approves the feed-in tariffs submitted in compliance with D. 07-07-027.

“I am thrilled to see AB 1969 being expanded and offered to a broader audience of customers,” said Senator Leland Yee. “AB 1969 will significantly help the state meet our renewable energy goals and improve the environment through a reduction in greenhouse gases.”

The feed-in tariff option is distinct from net metering and direct financial incentives offered to customers to generate electricity onsite specifically to offset their own electrical load. Under the California Solar Initiative (CSI) and the Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), customers are offered upfront incentives to install solar, wind, and biogas generating capacity that can offset their customer load.

“Although many customers that want to pursue onsite generation to offset onsite load may be better served through existing programs like the CSI, SGIP and net-metering, this program allows those entities with significant onsite renewable generating potential, in excess of what they can use onsite, to be compensated for that generation,” said President Peevey. “I believe this will be a particularly attractive option for those facilities that have access to a substantial biogas resource, like livestock operations and water and waste-water treatment facilities.”

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East Bay Business Times, February 22, 2008

PG&E saw its fourth-quarter earnings rise sharply as it reaped gains from capital investments.

The company reported net income of $203 million, or 56 cents a share, compared with $152 million, or 43 cents a share, in the same quarter in 2006. The 2006 quarter included $18 million, or 5 cents a share, in severance costs from job cuts, the company said.

Net income for the full year year was $1 billion, or $2.78 per share, compared with $991 million, or $2.76 per share, in 2006. Total operating revenue for the year stood at $13 billion, up from $12.5 billion in 2006.

The company affirmed previous guidance that it will see 2008 earnings from operations in the $2.90 to $3.00 per share range and reaffirmed guidance for 2009 earnings from operations in the $3.15 to $3.25 per-share range.

Whether or not the company achieves that guidance and its target growth rate depends on its success in efforts to become more efficient and drive costs down, said Christopher Johns, senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, on a conference call with analysts and investors. The company has just rolled out a major initiative to automate the scheduling and execution of field work. “Realizing the expected benefits from that release and other operational improvements is vital to reaching our 2008 forecast and 8 percent growth rate,” he said.

Even as the company tries to wring cost savings out of operations, it is facing the challenge of costs for materials, permitting and labor rising at a faster pace than the scenario it included in its general rate case before the California Public Utilities Commission, he added. “These rising costs and demands on our business increase the pressure on our initiatives to achieve greater operational efficiency.”

The company is looking to identify broader operations savings, and is conducting a full review of plans, operations and spending levels for 2008 through 2010.

Johns also noted that PG&E filed a petition with the CPUC on Feb. 21 that seeks to modify a September CPUC decision on a broad energy efficiency program that incentivizes utilities and their customers to become more energy efficient. PG&E wants assurance it will be able to recognize of portion of earnings from the incentives on an annual basis, rather than at the end of the three-year energy efficiency program cycle. A decision on the petition to modify could take several months.

On a conference call with analysts and investors, Peter Darbee, chairman, president and CEO, said the utility is determined to continue to move forward with a key goal of becoming an environmental leader.

So far this year, the company has signed contracts for 800 megawatts of new renewable energy resources, including the recently signed contracts with Calpine Corp. for 175 megawatts of geothermal energy, and its contract with EnXco for 150-megawatts of wind energy.

It has signed several big solar contracts, including an agreement to purchase over 500 megawatts of clean energy from a new solar power plant that will be built by Solel Solar Systems in the Mojave Desert. Over the next five years, PG&E expects to have a solar thermal portfolio of about 2,000 megawatts, which is the equivalent of the four new gas-fired plant the company is completing at its Gateway Station plant in Eastern Contra Costa County.

The company also raised its quarterly common stock dividend to $0.39 per share from $0.36 per share, beginning with the first quarter.

Shares of PG&E closed at $39.30, up 13 cents, or 0.33 percent.

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