The World Is Getting Windier And Renewables Will Benefit

Wind Power

Renewable energy just got some major investment tailwinds–quite literally. In fact, the biggest breakthrough in wind power generation right now isn’t technological–it’s natural, and it costs nothing.

For three decades, from about 1980 until 2010, wind speeds around the world were slowing down. Now, researchers say that the world is going to keep getting windier for the next 10 years.

According to a new study by Princeton University, this reversal has come about due to changing ocean-atmosphere dynamics–or shifting ocean circulation patterns–that have seen wind energy potential increase by approximately 17% between 2010 and 2017.

In turn, the capacity of wind power in the United States has grown by around 2.5%, just on windier times alone. Furthermore, the study says, “In the longer term, the use of ocean-atmosphere oscillations to anticipate future wind speeds could allow optimization of turbines for expected speeds during their productive life spans.”

This trend, which is expected to continue for another decade, could translate into a nearly 40% increase in the amount of wind power generated between 2010 and 2024.

While about half of our increased wind energy is attributable to technological advancement, the rest is all Mother Nature.

Mapping the Wind Market

The U.S. wind market has just reached 100 GW of capacity. That puts it second only to China.

Wind will be the fastest-growing energy source in the United States in 2020, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In fact, the EIA forecasts that total power produced from wind will have grown 6% this year and another 14% next year, both onshore and offshore.

And Texas, the country’s oil and gas giant, leads the pack in wind power generation, with more than 3GW of wind power capacity added to the state’s energy resources since 2018 alone. By the end of next year, another 7 GW will have been added.

Countrywide, the EIA expects operators to bring another 8.5 GW of capacity online by the end of this year, and another 14.3 GW by the end of 2020. That means Texas is accounting for half of the country’s new capacity all by itself–another record for the Lone Star state.

Wood Mackenzie predicts that the U.S. market will see some 27 GW of capacity coming online from the fourth quarter of this year into 2020.

And when Mother Nature isn’t intervening, progress is tied closely to changes in tax incentives in the form of the production tax credit (PTC), which gives operators a tax credit per kilowatt hour of renewable electricity generated in the first 10 years of a facility’s operations.

That expired at the end of 2012, initially, but was retroactively renewed in 2013. But we’re nearing the phaseout of this tax credit. Any new facilities that begin construction after the end of 2020 cannot claim the PTC. That means that until then there could be a bit of a run on wind power facility construction to get in before the phaseout.

From an investment standpoint, one could expect a slowdown to hit the wind market in the middle of next year if lobbyists fail to get the PTC extended. But that tailwinds on that are fickle, so anything can happen between now and then.

Wood Mackenzie also forecasts some 85GW of new U.S. wind capacity by 2028. Related: Scientific Breakthrough: MIT Solves Two Huge Energy Problems

Globally, according to the bi-annual report on the future of the wind industry by Greenpeace International and the Global Wind Energy Council, wind power could supply up to 12% of global electricity by 2020, while at the same time creating 1.4 million new jobs. By 2030, wind could provide more than 20% of global electricity supply.

Offshore, is an entirely different story than onshore. The first U.S. offshore wind farm came online in 2016, but it’s a global phenomenon that’s spreading rapidly. For now, the UK is the world’s largest offshore wind market, accounting for 36% of installed capacity. Germany gets second place, followed by China, Denmark and the Netherlands.

And investor confidence is growing at a fast clip.

Look no further than New Jersey for the next big offshore wind investments. Last week, the governor of New Jersey signed an executive order upping the targeted capacity from 3,500 megawatts by 2030 to 7,500 megawatts by 2035, saying: “There is no other renewable energy resource that provides us with either the electric-generation or economic-growth potential of offshore wind.”

New Jersey is riding these tailwinds, but one cautionary note: We don’t know what the climate will have in store for wind power a decade from now. Zhenzhong Zeng, the lead author of the Princeton study, noted that those conveniently shifting oceanic patterns that are making the world windier might not last forever.

Glass Half Full? Innovative Technologies Could Increase Global Water Security

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Where’s the talk abut a guaranteed livable income?

Let’s hear where party leaders stand on the idea, because as work becomes more precarious, more Canadians will need help, no strings attached

Image result for policy options: where's the talk

hen Canadians head to the polls on October 21, they should ask themselves how Canada’s political parties will tackle inequality.

Over the past two decades, the richest Canadians have seen their share of income go up and up. The top one per cent absorbed almost a third of all income growth between 1997 and 2007, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Meanwhile, one in seven people in Canada lives in poverty — which hurts everyone, because poverty is expensive. In 2008, for instance, the cost of failing to address poverty in Ontario – including everything from health care and criminal justice system costs to lost tax revenue – was estimated to be 10 to 16 per cent of the province’s budget. That’s around $2,000 to $3,000 per household per year.

It’s time to consider a guaranteed livable income.

Unlike the current support offered by social assistance, a guaranteed livable income would not impose strict eligibility criteria, require recipients to work or get clawed back if recipients were to exceed a particular financial threshold.

The current social assistance model makes people dependent on that assistance; a person can essentially be punished for even limited financial success through a corresponding reduction of benefits.

Canadians are rightly proud of the improvements in quality of life achieved thanks to current forms of guaranteed income, namely programs such as the Canada Child Benefit and Old Age Security.

But providing a guaranteed livable income can go well beyond poverty reduction. It could also allow Canadians to navigate an increasingly volatile economy.

Industrial jobs are drying up. Precarious, non-unionized work without benefits – what some call the “uberization” of the labour market – is leading to job insecurity. New technologies, automation and artificial intelligence will affect jobs in industries like transportation and retail. Climate change threatens jobs in the natural resource sector as well.

In short, the economy is changing. Young people can no longer count on stable employment or career-long ties with one company, and secure pensions are becoming scarce.

A guaranteed income on its own will not be sufficient to ensure that standards relating to employment insurance, pensions and minimum wage hold strong in the new “gig economy.” It is not a silver bullet. But a guaranteed livable income could ensure no one falls through the cracks.

The idea is hardly new. Guaranteed income has been appearing in the platforms of some United States politicians. Pilot programs have been tested in in the US, Finland, Belgium, Namibia, Uganda and India. Manitoba and Ontario also launched pilot programs in 1974 and 2017 respectively – but Ontario’s program and plans to analyse Manitoba’s data were both cancelled after changes in government.

Senators, too, have long taken an interest in guaranteed income, from the 1971 Report of the Special Senate Committee on Poverty to more recent studies and advocacy on the issue, primarily led by former Conservative senator Hugh Segal and former Liberal senator Art Eggleton.

As recently as 2017, the Senate called on the federal government to put its weight behind provincial, territorial and Indigenous basic-income initiatives.

In that same tradition, we now call on political parties to take up the challenge.

We note that the Green Party has committed to support a guaranteed livable income. The Liberal Party has also gotten behind an option for new parents: a guaranteed paid family leave for those without employment insurance benefits.

One way or another, we senators are ready to continue the effort. We hope to connect with a range of experts and activists who have long been working on these issues, and we commit to re-energizing parliamentary debate about a guaranteed livable income. MORE

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This election, ask representatives where they stand on universal basic income

Machine learning is making pesto even more delicious

Researchers at MIT have used AI to improve the flavor of basil. It’s part of a trend that is seeing artificial intelligence revolutionize farming.

What makes basil so good? In some cases, it’s AI.

Machine learning has been used to create basil plants that are extra-delicious. While we sadly cannot report firsthand on the herb’s taste, the effort reflects a broader trend that involves using data science and machine learning to improve agriculture.

The researchers behind the AI-optimized basil used machine learning to determine the growing conditions that would maximize the concentration of the volatile compounds responsible for basil’s flavor. The study appears in the journal PLOS One today.

The basil was grown in hydroponic units within modified shipping containers in Middleton, Massachusetts. Temperature, light, humidity, and other environmental factors inside the containers could be controlled automatically. The researchers tested the taste of the plants by looking for certain compounds using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. And they fed the resulting data into machine-learning algorithms developed at MIT and a company called Cognizant.

The idea of using machine learning to optimize plant yield and properties is rapidly taking off in agriculture. Last year, Wageningen University in the Netherlands organized an “Autonomous Greenhouse” contest, in which different teams competed to develop algorithms that increased the yield of cucumber plants while minimizing the resources required. They worked with greenhouses where a variety of factors are controlled by computer systems.

Similar technology is already being applied in some commercial farms, says Naveen Singla, who leads a data science team focused on crops at Bayer, a German multinational that acquired Monsanto last year. “Flavor is one of the areas where we are heavily using machine learning—to understand the flavor of different vegetables,” he says.  MORE