Renewables could be a health boon for Great Lakes, Upper Midwest regions

Harvard analysis pinpoints where renewables would have the most bang for their buck

Image result for The Tatanka Wind Farm on the border in both North and South Dakota. (
The Tatanka Wind Farm on the border in both North and South Dakota. (Credit: USFWS)

Installing more wind turbines in the Upper Midwest, and more solar panels in the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions, would bring the largest health gains and benefits from U.S. renewable energy, according to a new Harvard University analysis.

The Upper Midwest—which, in this study, spans roughly from the Dakotas to the Western Upper Peninsula in Michigan down to Missouri — would reap an estimated $2.2 trillion in climate change mitigation and health gains from adding about 3,000 megawatts of wind power, which translates to about $113 in benefits per megawatt hour. Deploying the same amount of solar capacity in the Great Lakes/Mid-Atlantic region—spanning from Indiana to Northern Michigan then east to New York—brought about the same amount of health benefits.

“To ensure that climate policies are cost-effective, the location where renewables are built is much more important than the specific technology,” said Drew Michanowicz, a study author and a research fellow at the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement.

“If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of the health and climate benefits of renewables, investing in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions will keep populations downwind healthier while also taking important steps to decarbonize,” he added.

…The major take-homes from the study: when health benefits are considered, renewable energy is more cost effective than installing emissions reduction technology (such as carbon capture) at exiting coal and gas plants; and, just like real estate, when it comes to clean energy — it’s all about location, location, location. MORE

 

Building a department store powered by geothermal and solar

La Maison Simons is working to convert their stores across Canada to net-zero

The clothes that we wear have a far-reaching impact on the planet – from the extraction of the raw materials and manufacturing process all the way down to the mounds of textile waste from fast fashion and other discarded clothing. With all of these environmental concerns, it’s easy to overlook the energy requirements of the buildings that house their retail locations.

Seven years ago, Quebec City-based department store La Maison Simons set out to construct a building that generates as much energy on-site annually as it consumes. Teaming up with Oxford Properties, the shopping centre landlord for its Galeries de la Capitale location, the company began mapping out the different technologies required to become the first major net-zero retail store in the country.

The retailer decided to first road-test some of its plans at the Londonderry Simons store in Edmonton, installing a sizeable 636 kilowatt solar array and making numerous energy efficiency upgrades throughout the building. It led to a building that is 30-40% more energy efficient than an average Simons store, and where half the energy is generated on-site through renewables. It also benefited from an Alberta government green incentive program that covered 25% of the cost of the solar panels.

Simons applied many of the lessons learned from the Edmonton project in designing its net-zero Galeries location, which opened in March 2018 in Quebec City. It doubled the amount of solar power covering the parking lot and roof, while drilling 27 geothermal boreholes into the ground under the parking lot for geothermal heating and cooling. A high-tech LED lighting program combined with an energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system reduced energy consumption by 60% compared to its older location.

Buoyed by positive feedback from customers, the company is now exploring plans for several potential new net-zero retail locations throughout Quebec. MORE

Clean power, right in the heart of fracking country

“Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Don Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year.” 


The Bear Mountain wind project in BC. Photo by Don Pettit

Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

“Everything was rolling along nicely. We could have had factories producing wind blades, and we were on the verge of launching a major wind industry with thousands of jobs in B.C.. But just as it started to get going they dropped it.”

“Wind prospectors were coming into the region from all over the world. We wanted to tap into that and try to make at least one of these wind facilities at least partially locally owned — which we did. And I think we set a very high standard for community-supported wind development.”

Their ground-breaking work led to PEC’s inaugural green energy project, the Bear Mountain Wind Park, being fully commissioned in 2009, even as fracking activity was peaking in the Peace. B.C.’s first large-scale wind park at 102 megawatts, it stands a few kilometres south of Dawson Creek and continues to power the South Peace region.

And then, in 2010, things inexplicably went south.

Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year. A report issued last week by Clean Energy Canada, entitled Missing the Bigger Picture, calculates that the renewable energy sector employed about 300,000 workers in Canada in 2017 and has significantly outcompeted the rest of the economy in growth.

Yet Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

The potential health benefits of a transition to renewable appear similarly impressive. A 2016 Pembina Institute analysis estimated that by phasing out coal-fired power entirely by 2030, 1,008 premature deaths, 871 ER visits and $5 billion worth of negative health outcomes would be avoided between 2015 and 2035. And unlike the air and water contaminants emitted by coal and natural-gas plants that sicken local populations and warm the planet, Pettit enthuses that solar energy has “no moving parts and no pollution.” in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

“Alberta has a program called community capacity building. It’s about communities wanting to replace some of the power that they’re using with solar, but they can also make them bigger than they need and put extra power into the grid and get paid for it.”

One significant benefit is a locked-in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

When asked what the provincial government could do to promote its spread, he answers without hesitation. Instead of spending billions on Site C to power the fracking industry, which he says would mostly benefit big corporations in the short term, it could offer small, targeted incentives.  MORE

100% Clean Energy & Cars In 20 Years Is Viable (But Unlikely)

Image result for wind farm china
Wind farm in Xinjiang, China

The two biggest hitters causing global warming are electrical
generation using fossil fuels and transportation using fossil fuels. If we made all electricity carbon neutral, most of which would come from wind and solar generation, that would be about a third of the problem. If we made all vehicles run off of carbon-neutral electricity (or biofuels where electricity just won’t cut it, an increasingly small niche), that would deal with another third of the problem or so.

This action would have a huge impact on global warming targets. Could we do it in 20 years globally in a crash plan? Let’s start with what it looks like today, or at least in 2016 per the IEA. Globally, we generated about 25,000 TWH of electricity (reminder on units: KWH, MWH, GWH then TWH, each 1000 of the previous unit).

Could we replace 16,250 TWH of electrical generation with wind and solar in 20 years? Well, it’s not actually that hard to generate a TWH of electricity.

A single 2.5 MWH wind turbine running for a year with a mediocre capacity factor of 35% will generate 7,665 MWH. To get a TWH, you’d need 130 of them, a reasonably sized wind farm of 325 MW capacity. For context, the Gansu Wind Farm in China is already at 8,000 MW capacity and is expected to reach 20,000 MW capacity by 2020, 60 times larger.

A solar farm is a bit different and has a typically lower capacity factor. Let’s go with a middling 20%. To get a TWH you’d need a solar farm with a capacity of around 570 MW. For context, a couple of solar farms in India are 1,000 MW and 2,000 MW capacity 2-4 times the capacity. MORE

The Green New Deal Just Speeds Up The Current Green Wave. Case In Point: Solar-Plus-Storage

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, speaks as Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, right, listens during a news conference announcing Green New Deal legislation in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. A sweeping package of climate-change measures unveiled Thursday by Ocasio-Cortez drew a tepid response from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who didn’t explicitly throw her support behind the measure. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg© 2019 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP

The rollout of the Green New Deal will hit some roadblocks. But its overarching theme is that the nation should go totally green by 2030 to avert the irreversible effects of climate change. It’s the latest volley in the war of energy ideas — one that must ultimately address jobs, the economy and cost.

The Green New Deal is not an “abstract” idea. Globally economies are trending toward cleaner energies — efforts initiated by public demands, improved technologies and forward-thinking policies: The sponsors are compelled to accelerate the pace — to not just help impoverished communities but to also prevent environmental catastrophe.

Think this wild-eyed? Think again. Wind costs have fallen by 67% since 2009 while utility-scale solar has dropped by 86% since that time, according to the financial adviser, Lazard. Prudence has been a virtue. But what green energy skeptics have learned is that the public incentives and the overall economics are adding up — progress that will only go forward, given that prices continue to fall while the quality continues to improve.

Getting to 100% renewable energy levels is a hard task under the best of circumstances. Step one, though, is to bring down the cost of energy storage. Once advanced batteries can be produced in sufficient quantities, the cost of manufacturing them will fall. Prices, in fact, are dropping because companies like Tesla Inc. have been investing billions into production facilities.

MORE

Breakthrough could triple the energy collected by solar to 60% efficiency

Current solar cells are able to convert into electricity around 20% of the energy received from the Sun, but a new technique has the potential to convert around 60% of it by funneling the energy more efficiently.

UK researchers can now ‘funnel’ electrical charge onto a chip. Using the atomically thin semiconductor hafnium disulphide (HfS2), which is oxidized with a high-intensity UV laser, the team were able to engineer an electric field that funnels electrical charges to a specific area of the chip, where they can be more easily extracted.

This method has the potential to harvest three times the energy compared with traditional systems. The researchers believe their breakthrough could result in solar panels, no bigger than a book, producing enough energy to power a family-sized house. MORE

Renewables overtake coal as Germany’s main energy source

Renewables overtook coal as Germany’s main source of energy for the first time last year, accounting for just over 40 percent of electricity production, research showed on Thursday.

Wind turbines are pictured in RWE Offshore-Windpark Nordsee Ost in the North sea, 30 km from Helgoland, Germany.
Wind turbines are pictured in RWE Offshore-Windpark Nordsee Ost in the North sea, 30 km from Helgoland, Germany, May 11, 2015. REUTERS / Christian Charisius/Pool

The shift is in part due to a surge in solar panel installations and coal-plant closures, research showed Thursday.

The predominance of renewable energy in 2018 brings Germany’s goal for renewable sources to provide 65 percent of its energy by 2030 closer. It is part of an organized, long-term plan to transition from nuclear power by 2022 and to wean the country off coal. MORE