Elon Musk, the star CEO of the electric car company Tesla Motors and the rocket company SpaceX, staged an elaborate event last month to unveil a new product. Not a sleek new luxury car. Not a rocket that can ferry people to Mars. A home appliance — a battery — that can be mounted on a garage wall and ignored. The reason for all the excitement is because of what batteries like these might someday do. They may make the electric power grid more robust and able to handle increasing amounts of wind and solar power. In conjunction with rooftop solar systems, batteries may help homeowners reduce their electric bills. And some homeowners, like Mike Thielen — who installed a Tesla battery prototype last year in his Redondo Beach, California, home as part of a state home storage testing program — would like to use them to say goodbye to their electric utility forever.
The goal passed by Hawaii’s Legislature this month to some sounds like a blueprint for a future utopian world: 100 percent renewable power. But lawmakers in the Aloha State want it to happen in 30 years. The mandate put on utilities under H.B. 623, if accomplished, would make Hawaii the nation’s first state with all green power. Across the Pacific Ocean, California also wants to increase clean energy, though it’s aiming for 50 percent by 2030.
More than 6,000 gallons of oil had been raked, skimmed and vacuumed from a spill that stretched across 9 miles of California coast in a cleanup effort that is now going 24 hours a day, officials said, but that’s some of the sticky, stinking goo that escaped from a broken pipeline. Investigators took stock of the scope of the spill on Wednesday a day after the pipeline break, finding that up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked out, and up to a fifth of that amount — 21,000 gallons — reached the sea, according to estimates. Federal regulators were investigating the leak as workers in protective suits raked and shoveled the black sludge off the beaches, and boats towed booms into place to corral the two slicks off the Santa Barbara coast.
The bill ends an exemption that allows wind developers to avoid paying property taxes for five years. It has proven costly for the state at a time when Oklahoma is facing funding shortfalls. A major property tax exemption for new wind developers will end on Jan. 1, 2017, under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Mary Fallin. The exemption allows wind developers to avoid paying property taxes for five years.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) yesterday announced a pact with a dozen subnational governments from around the world, aimed at spurring ambitious climate commitments at upcoming U.N. negotiations. Officials from regional governments in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States signed an agreement in Sacramento limiting their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to levels that scientists say would stave off catastrophic climate change. The governments represent a combined population of 100 million people and a gross domestic product of $4.5 trillion, enough to qualify as the fourth-largest economy in the world when grouped together.
In the United States, the boom in wind energy has been dramatic. Last year wind generation grew more than all other sources of energy in the United States — and supplied almost five percent of total demand for electricity. And no wonder, as the cost of wind technology has plummeted 58 percent over the last five years, according to the American Wind Energy Association. If a new report from the Department of Energy is correct, the potential for wind to generate energy in the United States is far, far greater. At the same time, though, it’s also greatly limited by a key factor — most of the wind turbines being used in the country today aren’t tall enough. If they were extended higher, where winds tend to be stronger and also more constant, they could potentially not only tap more energy — they could tap it in vastly more places.
Technological advances from taller turbine towers to the integration of digital infrastructure into wind farms are defining the next growth phase within the U.S. wind energy sector, experts attending the American Wind Energy Association’s annual conference said yesterday. In comments to industry leaders gathered in Orlando, Fla., Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the wind energy sector’s research-and-development investments, especially the deployment of turbines at heights of greater than 100 meters, are opening up significant new areas of the United States that used to be considered marginal for wind power, including Florida and much of the Southeast.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande confirmed their commitment to fighting global warning Tuesday, gathering with others in Berlin to prepare for this year’s U.N. Climate Change Conference. Merkel and Hollande said in a joint statement that both countries “are firmly decided to take all efforts to reach an ambitious, comprehensive and binding U.N. climate agreement by the end of this year in Paris.” The preparatory talks in Berlin involve 35 countries. The Paris summit in December aims to curb climate change and rising global temperatures, which scientists say are largely driven by carbon emissions.
California has joined a pact with 11 other states and countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change. Gov. Jerry Brown signed an agreement Tuesday as part of a broader effort to pressure global leaders to adopt an aggressive emissions treaty at a United Nations-led summit in Paris later this year. “This global challenge requires bold action on the part of governments everywhere,” Brown said in a statement. “It’s time to be decisive. It’s time to act.” The 12-member agreement includes the U.S. states of Oregon, Washington and Vermont, as well as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. The Mexican states of Baja California and Jalisco also joined, along with the British country of Wales and states and provinces in Brazil, Germany and Spain. Together, the group represents more than 100 million citizens and $4.5 trillion in gross domestic product.
The United States could increase its wind power deployment by more than 50 percent with larger components, but the outsized technology would also boost potential problems with transportation and wildlife deaths, according to a new report from the Energy Department. Wind hub heights — from the ground to the center of the blades — soaring to 110 meters would lower the overall costs of the renewable energy source because it could capture more power from the same amount of wind with longer turbines and larger rotors compared to current 80-meter technology, the report says.