Bahamas takes on renewable energy challenge – Missed Opportunity for Cayman?

The Bahamas has become the latest recruit to Richard Branson's green energy drive for Caribbean islands.

Branson's Carbon War Room NGO is aiming to help islands in the region transition from expensive fossil fuel imports to using their own renewable energy resources as part of its Ten Island Challenge programme.

This week the Bahamas joined the push, committing to developing 20MW of solar PV generation in the outer Family Islands, bringing energy efficiency and solar solutions to a local high school, and replacing streetlights across the nation with energy efficient LED lights.

Carbon War Room plans to support these goals by providing the country's government with a range of technical, project management, communications, and business advisory services.

The Bahamas joins the islands of Aruba, Grenada, San Andres and Providencia in Colombia, Saint Lucia, and Turks & Caicos in the challenge, which aims to generate how small states can decarbonise in a cost-effective manner.

“The Bahamas' entry into the Ten Island Challenge signals another step forward for the Caribbean region in the effort towards a clean energy future,” Branson said in a statement. “The progress made in The Bahamas will help inspire other islands to work towards accomplishing their renewable energy objectives.”

While the focus to date has been on Caribbean islands, earlier this year Peter Boyd, Carbon War Room's chief operating officer, told BusinessGreen the programme could expand into the Pacific and to isolated communities, military bases, or mines. “There are island energy economies even if the 'island' isn't surrounded by water,” he said at the time.

 

Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries

A recently discovered form of carbon graphite – the material in pencil lead – has turned out to have a completely unexpected property which could revolutionise the development of green energy and electric cars.

Researchers have discovered that graphene allows positively charged hydrogen atoms or protons to pass through it despite being completely impermeable to all other gases, including hydrogen itself.

The implications of the discovery are immense as it could dramatically increase the efficiency of fuel cells, which generate electricity directly from hydrogen, the scientists said.

The breakthrough raises the prospect of extracting hydrogen fuel from air and burning it as a carbon-free source of energy in a fuel cell to produce electricity and water with no damaging waste products.

“In the atmosphere there is a certain amount of hydrogen and this hydrogen will end up on the other side [of graphene] in a reservoir. Then you can use this hydrogen-collected reservoir to burn it in the same fuel cell and make electricity,” said Professor Sir Andrei Geim of Manchester Univeristy.

Ever since its discovery 10 years ago, graphene has astonished scientists. It is the thinnest known material, a million times thinner than human hair, yet more than 200 times stronger than steel, as well as being the world’s best conductor of electricity.

Until now, being permeable to protons was not considered a practical possibility, but an international team of scientists led by Sir Andre, who shares the 2010 Nobel Prize for his work on graphene, has shown that the one-atom thick crystal acts like a chemical filter. It allows the free passage of protons but forms an impenetrable barrier to other atoms and molecules.

“There have been three or four scientific papers before about the theoretical predictions for how easy or how hard it would be for a proton to go through graphene and these calculations give numbers that take billions and billions of years for a proton to go through this same membrane,” Sir Andrei said.

“It’s just so dense an electronic field it just doesn’t let anything through. But it’s a question of numbers, no more than that. This makes a difference between billions of years and a reasonable time for permeation. There is no magic,” he said.

The study, published in the journal Nature, shows that graphene and a similar single-atom material called boron nitride allowed the build-up of protons on one side of a membrane, yet prevented anything else from crossing over into a collecting chamber.

In their scientific paper, the researchers speculate that there could be many applications in the field of hydrogen fuel cells and in technology for collecting hydrogen gas from the atmosphere, which would open up a new source of clean energy.

“It’s really the very first paper on the subject so what we’re doing is really to introduce the material for other experts to think about it,” Sir Andrei said.

“It was difficult not to speculate. If you can pump protons from a hydrogen-containing gas into a chamber that doesn’t contain anything, you start thinking how you can exploit this?” he said.

“One of the possibilities we can imagine, however futuristic, which has to be emphasised because everything has been shown on a small scale, is applying a small electric current across the membrane and pushing hydrogen though the graphene or boron nitrite membrane,” he explained.

“Essentially you pump your fuel from the atmosphere and get electricity out of this fuel, in principle. Before this paper, this wouldn’t even be speculation; it would be science fiction. At least our paper provides a guidance and proof that this kind of device is possible and doesn’t contradict to any known laws of nature,” Sir Andre added.

Graphene: potential uses

Graphene is tough, about 200 times stronger than steel, yet incredibly light. It is considered the first two-dimensional material because it forms sheets of crystal that are just one atom thick.

It is also an excellent conductor of electricity, so is useful for anything involving electronics, such as bendable mobile phones and cameras, and wearable electrical devices attached to clothing.

Medical applications include its possible use as a material for delivering drugs to damaged sites within the body, which could open new avenues for treating patients with brain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or cancer.

Graphene is also being developed as a new material for membranes involved in separating liquids. It could be used to purify water in the developing world or to create more efficient desalination plants.

Scientists also believe that graphene’s high strength and low weight can be harnessed in the making of new composite materials and polymers for the transport industry, making travel safer and more fuel efficient.

Now, it seems, graphene might also be used to generate new forms of generating clean electricity using hydrogen fuel cells, and even as a technology for harvesting hydrogen fuel from air. More

 

Climate change and smart grid? There are more linkages than you think

When you think of climate change and energy, what springs to mind? Coal, fossil fuel, power plants, renewables, and efficiency are likely on your list, whether as contributors or mitigation options. But if demand response and smart grid are not on your list, it is incomplete.

Smart Grid

You are not alone. The EPA didn’t put them on its “list” when it put out its draft Clean Power Plan (111d) earlier this year. The fact is, however, that smart grid and things under its umbrella like DR, storage, etc. should be squarely on the table when climate-related plans are being made.

There are three questions regarding smart grid and climate change that are being asked these days. There is also one question that is not being asked but should be. They will all be part of the discussion at the upcoming National Summit on Smart Grid and Climate Change on December 2-3, but let’s take a quick look at them now.

The first two are:

  1. Can states use smart grid (and anything like DR, storage, etc that is under its umbrella) in their compliance plans under the EPA Clean Power Plan (111d)?
  2. If the answer to the first question is yes, will that give a boost to smart grid activity?

The third one is:

3. Which should happen first? Grid Hardening or Grid “Smartening”? Or should they be done together?

The first two questions fall into the category of climate mitigation and emissions reduction. Even before the EPA Plan came out, smart grid and DR were not seen as saving kWh, and therefore emissions. They were focused on kW reduction, and only for short amounts of time, usually on peak, right?

Well, that may have been true once, but that is not the case anymore. DR is no longer just about the peak. It has evolved into technology-based intelligent energy management. It has become dynamic efficiency, as opposed to traditional end-use efficiency. As such, it optimizes and reduces energy consumption and emissions. But even where DR is used solely as a peak management tool, studies show that there is little if any “bounce back” effect during the off-peak( i.e. not all of the usage that was reduced is replaced) and that on average there is a 4-5% overall reduction.

Let’s look at another smart grid option – Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR). This option is essentially one where smart grid technology allows a utility to provide the same service to the customer while also lowering voltage, which in turn lowers usage and therefore emissions. CVR has been shown to generate around 1% savings, and customers don’t have to do anything.

Thankfully, with a little prodding by the SG and DR community, EPA has seen the light and now commonly speaks out to say that smart grid is definitely eligible for states to consider putting in their 111d compliance plans. EPA has clarified that the four specified “building blocks” in its plan were for purposes of determining goals. They are not prescriptive choices. States can put anything they want to in their plan, as long as they demonstrate that there will be reductions.

So that brings us to question 2 – what does that mean for smart grid? Well, if it is eligible to be used in a state plan, that should be good, right? Not necessarily. First, the people putting together the state plans need to not be hung up on the myth that there are no reductions from smart grid. EPA saying it is eligible only means it is on the shopping list for states. The key is getting them to select it, and that may take a focused education effort on the part of the smart grid and DR community. And it wouldn’t hurt if as part of that effort, states were reminded that they can’t plan to do large amounts of intermittent renewables on the system and not think about DR and smart grid – yet another reason to put them into a plan.

Finally, let’s examine question 3on climate adaptation. Whatever climate change scenario one subscribes to, few if any speak out against the need to prepare for change, whether it is sea level rise, storms, or rising temperatures. So is there a role for smart grid? At the National Summit on Smart Grid and Climate Change, an entire track has been devoted to that discussion.

When it comes to the electricity system, resiliency is the word one hears most. While definitions of that differ, two of the common attributes of a resilient system are flexibility and diversity. That means not putting all of your eggs into one power system, or one line. It means seeking strength through a distribution system that is really distributed – not just for delivery of power, but for generating it. That is where distributed energy resources (DER) and microgrids – both part of the smart grid diaspora – come into play. They help increase the resiliency of a system. Of course such a system needs management. But that is where the new smart grid technologies provide the ability to sense, monitor, communicate, and control.

The challenge in the question is this: some grid resiliency efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and other similar events are focusing on grid hardening – not grid smartening. Now I agree that grid hardening sounds conceptually comforting. After all, raising the level of a substation so that storm waters will flow underneath it (a real example) is pretty straightforward and understandable. But where does that get us in the end? How has that modernized the grid? Don’t get me wrong, I believe that grid hardening should be pursued where it makes sense, but not at the total exclusion of grid smartening.

In an ideal world, states would be looking at a climate adaption plan at the same time they are putting together a climate mitigation plan. In that ideal world, smart grid would get bonus points for being something that can go into both plans. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and state agencies operate in silos. It may be up to the DR and smart grid communities to help them with their plans, and help them connect the dots that will make those plans better and create better opportunities for smart grid. More

 

ISIS and Our Times – Noam Chomsky

It is not pleasant to contemplate the thoughts that must be passing through the mind of the Owl of Minerva as the dusk falls and she undertakes the task of interpreting the era of human civilization, which may now be approaching its inglorious end.

Bajid Kandala refugee cam, Iraq

The era opened almost 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates, through Phoenicia on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to the Nile Valley, and from there to Greece and beyond. What is happening in this region provides painful lessons on the depths to which the species can descend.

The land of the Tigris and Euphrates has been the scene of unspeakable horrors in recent years. The George W. Bush-Tony Blair aggression in 2003, which many Iraqis compared to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, was yet another lethal blow. It destroyed much of what survived the Bill Clinton-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, condemned as “genocidal” by the distinguished diplomats Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who administered them before resigning in protest. Halliday and von Sponeck's devastating reports received the usual treatment accorded to unwanted facts.

One dreadful consequence of the US-UK invasion is depicted in a New York Times “visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria”: the radical change of Baghdad from mixed neighborhoods in 2003 to today's sectarian enclaves trapped in bitter hatred. The conflicts ignited by the invasion have spread beyond and are now tearing the entire region to shreds.

Much of the Tigris-Euphrates area is in the hands of ISIS and its self-proclaimed Islamic State, a grim caricature of the extremist form of radical Islam that has its home in Saudi Arabia. Patrick Cockburn, a Middle East correspondent for The Independent and one of the best-informed analysts of ISIS, describes it as “a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn't believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam.”

Cockburn also points out the contradiction in the Western reaction to the emergence of ISIS: efforts to stem its advance in Iraq along with others to undermine the group's major opponent in Syria, the brutal Bashar Assad regime. Meanwhile a major barrier to the spread of the ISIS plague to Lebanon is Hezbollah, a hated enemy of the US and its Israeli ally. And to complicate the situation further, the US and Iran now share a justified concern about the rise of the Islamic State, as do others in this highly conflicted region.

Egypt has plunged into some of its darkest days under a military dictatorship that continues to receive US support. Egypt's fate was not written in the stars. For centuries, alternative paths have been quite feasible, and not infrequently, a heavy imperial hand has barred the way.

After the renewed horrors of the past few weeks it should be unnecessary to comment on what emanates from Jerusalem, in remote history considered a moral center.

Eighty years ago, Martin Heidegger extolled Nazi Germany as providing the best hope for rescuing the glorious civilization of the Greeks from the barbarians of the East and West. Today, German bankers are crushing Greece under an economic regime designed to maintain their wealth and power.

The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.

The report concludes that increasing greenhouse gas emissions risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” over the coming decades. The world is nearing the temperature when loss of the vast ice sheet over Greenland will be unstoppable. Along with melting Antarctic ice, that could raise sea levels to inundate major cities as well as coastal plains.

The era of civilization coincides closely with the geological epoch of the Holocene, beginning over 11,000 years ago. The previous Pleistocene epoch lasted 2.5 million years. Scientists now suggest that a new epoch began about 250 years ago, the Anthropocene, the period when human activity has had a dramatic impact on the physical world. The rate of change of geological epochs is hard to ignore.

One index of human impact is the extinction of species, now estimated to be at about the same rate as it was 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the Earth. That is the presumed cause for the ending of the age of the dinosaurs, which opened the way for small mammals to proliferate, and ultimately modern humans. Today, it is humans who are the asteroid, condemning much of life to extinction.

The IPCC report reaffirms that the “vast majority” of known fuel reserves must be left in the ground to avert intolerable risks to future generations. Meanwhile the major energy corporations make no secret of their goal of exploiting these reserves and discovering new ones.

A day before its summary of the IPCC conclusions, The New York Times reported that huge Midwestern grain stocks are rotting so that the products of the North Dakota oil boom can be shipped by rail to Asia and Europe.

One of the most feared consequences of anthropogenic global warming is the thawing of permafrost regions. A study in Science magazine warns that “even slightly warmer temperatures [less than anticipated in coming years] could start melting permafrost, which in turn threatens to trigger the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases trapped in ice,” with possible “fatal consequences” for the global climate.

Arundhati Roy suggests that the “most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times” is the Siachen Glacier, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have killed each other on the highest battlefield in the world. The glacier is now melting and revealing “thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate” in meaningless conflict. And as the glaciers melt, India and Pakistan face indescribable disaster.

Sad species. Poor Owl.

© 2014 Noam Chomsky
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate


 

Leaders sign historic sustainable energy & climate resilient treaty

September 2: Over 150 delegates and members of the international development community from more than 45 countries were stunned to see leader after leader approach the podium to sign a historic sustainable energy and climate resilient treaty that will significantly change the lives and destiny of over 20 million small islanders, for the better.

Led by the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon. Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo, multiple leaders from the Pacific, Caribbean and African, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea (AIMS) regions, forcefully raised their voices in unison and accepted responsibility for fulfilling the commitment to the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Sustainable Energy mechanism – SIDS DOCK. The opening for signature of this historic SIDS DOCK Treaty – a SIDS-SIDS Initiative – was a major highlight of the first day of the United Nations (UN) Third International Conference on SIDS, taking place in Apia, Samoa, from 1-4 September.

The unprecedented and unexpected number of Heads of State and Government present, sent a strong signal to the standing room only audience, the SIDS population and the international community, demonstrating how deeply committed SIDS leaders are and that they all firmly believe that SIDS must, have and will take responsibility for charting the future of their countries towards a path that would see a total transformation of the SIDS economy away from fossil fuels, to that of one driven by low carbon technologies. The event was considered so important to the Republic of Cabo Verde, that the Prime Minister, Hon. José Maria Neves, excused himself and his entire delegation from the Plenary Hall, to ensure that Cabo Verde, a SIDS DOCK Founding Member was well-represented at the signing – the Cabo Verde Government has one of the most ambitious plans in SIDS, that aims to achieve 100 penetration of renewable energies in Cabo Verde, by 2020.

More than half the members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) were present for the signing of the historic treaty, witnessed by the SIDS DOCK partners Denmark, Japan and Austria, whose kind and generous support facilitated SIDS DOCK start -up activities; also present were SIDS DOCK partners, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Clinton

Foundation. The treaty was signed by the governments of Barbados, Belize, Bahamas (Commonwealth of the), Dominica (Commonwealth of), Cabo Verde (Republic of), Cook Islands, Dominican Republic, Fiji (Republic of), Grenada, Guinea Bissau, Kiribati (Republic of), Niue, Palau (Republic of), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa (Independent State of), Seychelles (Republic of), and Tuvalu.

The Statute will remain open for signature in Apia, Samoa until September 5, and will reopen for signature in Belmopan, Belize, from September 6, 2014 until it enters into force. Belize is the host country for SIDS DOCK, with Samoa designated as the location for the Pacific regional office. More

 

 

 

Geothermal Power Approaches 12,000 Megawatts Worldwide

In 2013, world geothermal electricity-generating capacity grew 3 percent to top 11,700 megawatts across 24 countries. Although some other renewable energy technologies are seeing much faster growth—wind power has expanded 21 percent per year since 2008, for example, while solar power has grown at a blistering 53 percent annual rate—this was geothermal’s best year since the 2007-08 financial crisis.

Geothermal power’s relatively slower growth is not due to a paucity of energy to tap. On the contrary, the upper six miles of the earth’s crust holds 50,000 times the energy embodied in the world’s oil and gas reserves. But unlike the relative ease of measuring wind speed and solar radiation, test-drilling to assess deep heat resources prior to building a geothermal power plant is uncertain and costly. The developer may spend 15 percent of the project's capital cost during test-drilling, with no guarantee of finding a viable site.

Once built, however, a geothermal power plant can generate electricity 24 hours a day with low operation and maintenance costs—importantly because there is zero fuel cost. Over the life of the generator, geothermal plants are often cost-competitive with all other power sources, including fossil fuel and nuclear plants. This is true even without considering the many indirect costs of fossil- and nuclear-generated electricity that are not reflected in customers’ monthly bills.

The top three countries in installed geothermal power capacity—the United States, the Philippines, and Indonesia—account for more than half the world total. California hosts nearly 80 percent of the 3,440 megawatts of U.S. geothermal capacity; another 16 percent is found in Nevada.

Despite having installed more geothermal power capacity than any other country, the United States currently generates less than 1 percent of its electricity from the earth’s heat. Iceland holds the top spot in that category, using geothermal power for 29 percent of its electricity. Close behind is El Salvador, where one quarter of electricity comes from geothermal plants. Kenya follows at 19 percent. Next are the Philippines and Costa Rica, both at 15 percent, and New Zealand, at 14 percent.

Indonesia has the most ambitious geothermal capacity target. It is looking to develop 10,000 megawatts by 2025. Having only gained 150 megawatts in the last four years, this will be a steep climb. But a new law passed by the government in late August 2014 should help move industry activity in that direction: it increases the per-kilowatt-hour purchase price guaranteed to geothermal producers and ends geothermal power’s classification as mining activity. (Much of Indonesia’s untapped geothermal resource lies in forested areas where mining is illegal.) Even before the new law took effect, geothermal company Ormat began construction on the world’s largest single geothermal power plant, a 330-megawatt project in North Sumatra, in June 2014. The plant should generate its first electricity in 2018.

Indonesia is just one of about 40 countries that could get all their electricity from indigenous geothermal power—a list that includes Ecuador, Ethiopia, Iceland, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, and Tanzania. Nearly all of them are developing countries, where the high up-front costs of geothermal development are often prohibitive.

To help address this mismatch of geothermal resources and funds, the World Bank launched its Global Geothermal Development Plan in March 2013. By December, donors had come up with $115 million of the initial $500 million target to identify and fund test-drilling for promising geothermal projects in the developing world. The Bank hopes that the experience gained from these projects will lead to lower costs for the geothermal industry overall. This would be good news on many fronts—simultaneously reducing energy poverty, air pollution, carbon emissions, and costly fossil fuel imports. More

 

How extensive is California’s drought?

A snake-like trickle of water flows underneath Lake Oroville's Enterprise Bridge — just one striking example of how much California's chronic drought is affecting the state's lakes and reservoirs.

Situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas in Butte County, Lake Oroville is one of the largest reservoirs in California, second only to Shasta Lake. After enduring three straight years of drought, the lake is currently only filled to 32 percent of its capacity.

In any case, the drought in California is getting serious. Phase 2 of Los Angeles' mandatory water conservation ordinance is now in effect, which means a team of water-use inspectors are tasked with enforcing water restrictions and fining water wasters. If the drought continues through fall and winter, the ordinance will move to Phase 3, which entails even stricter rules and some prohibitions.

To get a better idea of the dire situation in the Golden State, continue below for a photo comparison of water levels taken in 2011 and 2014, looking at Lake Oroville and Folsom Lake, another major California reservoir located in Sacramento County that is now filled at 40 percent of its capacity.

Bidwell Marina, Lake Oroville

Folsam Dam, Folsom Lake

Enterprise Bridge, Lake Oroville