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Thread: The Remarkable Progress of Renewable Energy

  1. Top | #751
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    Work starts on huge wind farm that could power 4.5 million homes - "Dogger Bank Wind Farms will be made up of three 1.2 gigawatt offshore sites."

    Near Ulrome in Yorkshire, England, it will have a capacity of 3.6 gigawatts. "The scheme is set to use GE’s Haliade-X wind turbine, which has a 12 megawatt generator and stands 260 meters tall."
    The scale of that project is considerable: it is capable of powering more than 590,000 homes, has 87 turbines and covers an area of around 20,000 soccer pitches, according to Danish energy company Orsted.

    Europe as a whole is home to a significant offshore wind sector. According to industry body WindEurope, 409 wind turbines were connected to the grid in 2018. The average size of offshore turbines in 2018 was 6.8 MW, which represents a 15% rise compared to 2017.
    Solar 'Farms' Will Capture Greenhouse Gases to Store in the Soil
    When White Oak Pastures learned that their 'radically traditional farming' practices were sequestering more carbon than grassfed cows emit in their lifetimes, they knew the results were repeatable. Through the use of planned livestock grazing, which moves animals daily and restricts grazing to model how herds of ruminants behave in the wild, White Oak Pastures has increased organic matter in their soil from 0.5% to over 5%. That is the equivalent to approximately 919 tons of CO2 taken out of the atmosphere per year.
    So carbon capture with vegetation could be a good way to draw down atmospheric CO2.

  2. Top | #752
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    How China is cleaning up its air pollution faster than the post-Industrial UK
    Beijing has seen some of the lowest air pollution levels in recent history this past winter, just as China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) – now strengthened and renamed to Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) – has put the final touches on a new, three-year plan to improve air quality. But while the trend is positive, air pollution levels in China are still dire: The MEP calculates an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 43 µg/m3 for China’s cities in 2017, more than 4 times the level of 10 µg/m3 recommended by the WHO. Official measurements for Beijing even showed the capital’s air quality at 58 µg/m3

    ...
    Air quality in London is far from perfect, but it’s also come a long way from the days when people died in the “Great Smog.” The graphic above brings together the earliest known air pollution data from China, from 1980 to 2012, and from the UK from the Industrial Revolution until 2008. Air pollution levels in the main Chinese cities at the beginning of the 1980s were almost exactly at the level of London at the height of the Industrial Revolution in 1890 (a shocking outlier is Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, which reached a concentration of Total Suspended Particles of 1,501 µg/m3 in 1987, possibly the highest level of urban air pollution in recorded history).

    The difference is in the speed of improvements: Air pollution in China has been decreasing at a similar trajectory as London’s 90 years earlier, but at twice the pace. While extreme air pollution levels in China’s recent history are typical for an industrializing economy, its pace in cleaning up the pollution is fast by historical standards.
    I'm mentioning this here because much of that dirty air is due to coal burning, meaning that one can do a lot of cleanup by stopping burning coal. Renewable energy sources don't have emissions problems, and well-shielded nuclear reactors don't either.


    Sustainable building: The hottest new material is, uh, wood - Vox - "The many, many benefits of using wood in place of concrete and steel."

    Wood???

    However, a new way of using wood has put the material back in the spotlight. The hype is focused on structural timber or, as it’s more popularly known, “mass timber” (short for “massive timber”). In a nutshell, it involves sticking pieces of soft wood — generally conifers like pine, spruce, or fir, but also sometimes deciduous species such as birch, ash, and beech — together to form larger pieces.

    Yes, the hottest thing in architecture this century amounts to “wood, but like Legos.”
    Essentially super plywood - sheets of wood glued together. The sheets can be assembled from boards or strips, meaning that one does not need very old trees. The sheets are stacked with their wood grain in different orientations, for added strength. This makes slabs that typically have size 1 ft * 10 ft * 40 ft -- the main limitation on their size is from having to transport them.
    In Austria and in Europe generally, where it spread in the 2000s, CLT was developed for use in residential construction. Europeans do not like the flimsy wood stick-frame construction used for so many US houses; they prefer more solid materials like concrete or brick. CLT was meant to make residential construction more sustainable.

    But in the US, CLT can’t (yet) compete with stick-frame construction, which is cheap and ubiquitous. It wasn’t until North American architects got the idea of using CLT in bigger buildings, as a substitute for concrete and steel, that it began popping up in North America in the 2010s.

    In 2015, CLT was incorporated into the International Building Code (IBC), which jurisdictions across the US adopt as their default. A set of new changes that will enable mass timber structures up to 18 stories tall have been accepted and are expected to be formalized into the newest IBC code in 2021.

  3. Top | #753
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    How much of this cleanup is real, though?

    China does things like simply decree the air quality is not too bad, and prohibit people from reporting information to the contrary. Related, there's a law about not requiring people to work in heat above a temperature that I do not recall at the moment. It's amazing how many days have a high temperature just below the threshold.

  4. Top | #754
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    Assume anything from China is propaganda. There is no free press. There was recent mention in the news of a scientist in China publishing a paper on the threat of climate change and causes.

    That being said China has tried large scale solar for transportation, I believe it failed. They see it and are trying. They are reported to be the biggest consumer of solar panels. Probably a lot cheaper outside major developed areas than electric infrastructure.

    India has a program to bring solar to small villages. Nothing big like refrigerators. Enough for indoor lighting in the day/night and internet/education access for kids.

    Brazil has a program to lease solar systems for farms off grid.

    Farmers over here were adapting windmills to generators. From a solar text I had in the late 19th century there was a growing market for solar heading.. Eventually it was killed off by cheap natural gas.

  5. Top | #755
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    "Mass wood" has some virtues.

    Unlike stick-frame construction, it is difficult to ignite.
    The thing is, large, solid, compressed masses of wood are actually quite difficult to ignite. (Hold a match up to a large log some time.) In the case of fire, the outer layer of mass timber will tend to char in a predictable way that effectively self-extinguishes and shields the interior, allowing it to retain structural integrity for several hours in even intense fire.

    ...
    An interesting aside: Most people don’t realize that “steel is terrible in fire,” says Green. “Once it reaches a yielding temperature, it becomes highly unpredictable, and it’s done. Your building has to be torn down.” When Green does use steel, he often surrounds it with CLT to protect it in the event of fire.
    Thus using mass wood as a sacrificial kind of insulation.
    Roughly 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from building materials and construction; another 28 percent comes from building operations, which mostly involve energy. As energy gets cleaner in coming years, materials and construction will represent a growing fraction of buildings’ carbon impact. That’s what mass timber aims to reduce.

    First, some greenhouse gas emissions are released by the supply chain, starting with forestry. ...

    Second, there is some amount of carbon embedded in the timber itself, where it is sequestered in buildings that could last anywhere from 50 to hundreds of years ... 1 m^3 of mass wood = 1 mt of CO2

    Third and most significantly, substituting mass timber for concrete and steel avoids the carbon embedded in those materials, which is substantial. Cement and concrete manufacture are responsible for around 8 percent of global GHG emissions, more than any country save the US and China. The global iron and steel industry is responsible for another 5 percent. Something like half a ton of CO2 is emitted to manufacture a ton of concrete; 2 tons of CO2 are emitted in the manufacture of a ton of steel. All those embodied emissions are avoided when CLT is substituted.

    Exactly how those three carbon effects balance out will depend on individual cases, but research suggests that, for all but the most poorly managed forests, the overall impact of using CLT in place of concrete and steel will be a reduction in GHGs
    Concrete is sand and gravel held together with Portland cement, and the latter is made by baking limestone with clay rocks like shale. Limestone is CaCO3, and baking it makes CaO and drives off CO2. That makes "clinker", and it is then ground up. Adding water makes Ca(OH)2, and absorbing CO2 from the air gives CaCO3 again.

  6. Top | #756
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    Rolling Stone on Twitter: "Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. An investigation shows how it could be making workers sick and contaminating communities across America. Rolling Stone investigates America's radioactive secret https://t.co/mGoTxle53a https://t.co/2uJi1bRz1U" / Twitter
    noting
    Beyond Fracking: Oil-and-Gas Industry's Toxic Waste Is Radioactive - Rolling Stone
    He hauls a salty substance called “brine,” a naturally occurring waste product that gushes out of America’s oil-and-gas wells to the tune of nearly 1 trillion gallons a year, enough to flood Manhattan, almost shin-high, every single day. At most wells, far more brine is produced than oil or gas, as much as 10 times more. It collects in tanks, and like an oil-and-gas garbage man, Peter picks it up and hauls it off to treatment plants or injection wells, where it’s disposed of by being shot back into the earth.

    One day in 2017, Peter pulled up to an injection well in Cambridge, Ohio. A worker walked around his truck with a hand-held radiation detector, he says, and told him he was carrying one of the “hottest loads” he’d ever seen. It was the first time Peter had heard any mention of the brine being radioactive.

    ...
    “A lot of guys are coming up with cancer, or sores and skin lesions that take months to heal,” he says. Peter experiences regular headaches and nausea, numbness in his fingertips and face, and “joint pain like fire.”

    ...
    Radium, typically the most abundant radionuclide in brine, is often measured in picocuries per liter of substance and is so dangerous it’s subject to tight restrictions even at hazardous-waste sites. The most common isotopes are radium-226 and radium-228, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires industrial discharges to remain below 60 for each. Four of Peter’s samples registered combined radium levels above 3,500, and one was more than 8,500.

    “It’s ridiculous that these drivers are not being told what’s in their trucks,” says John Stolz, Duquesne’s environmental-center director. “And this stuff is on every corner — it is in neighborhoods. Truckers don’t know they’re being exposed to radioactive waste, nor are they being provided with protective clothing.

  7. Top | #757
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    How Germany helped make renewable energy cheap for the rest of the world - Vox - "One man, some very old solar panels, and a law that looks a lot like part of the proposed US Green New Deal helped transform the way Germany gets its power."
    For this episode, The Impact partnered with NPR’s Planet Money to investigate the consequences of Germany’s green push. In some ways, the law succeeded beyond Fell’s wildest dreams. Demand for renewables grew so much in Germany that other countries, including China, started to mass-produce solar panels and wind turbines, which drove down prices. Now, people all over the world can afford this technology.

    But the law has also had some unintended consequences. Because of amendments to the law and technological improvements, the surcharge on Germany’s electric bills have skyrocketed. Now, Germany has the highest electric bills in Europe. Electricity has become a burdensome expense for some Germans living on welfare, and the high cost has left a few spending a lot of time in the dark.
    That's the downside of being an early adopter - one has to pay more than if one got involved later.

    Tri-State Generation to end coal operations in Colorado, New Mexico | Business | gazette.com
    Tri-State, a Westminster-based electricity wholesaler, said in a news release Thursday it will close the Escalante Station in New Mexico by the end of the year and the Craig Station in Craig and the Colowyo Mine in northwest Colorado by 2030.
    Vestas announces plans for 'zero-waste' turbines
    Danish firm Vestas said Monday that it was aiming to produce "zero-waste" wind turbines by the year 2040.

    The wind turbine manufacturer explained that its goal would mean operating a value chain that produced no waste materials.

    This, it added in a statement, would be achieved through the introduction of a "circular economy approach" in the design, production, service and end-of-life parts of the value chain.
    Commendable ambition.

    Desert solar farms can improve tortoise habitat – pv magazine International - "With openings in the fence and improved growth of plants vital for tortoise survival, solar farms in Nevada can provide better habitat than the surrounding desert. First Solar has found similar habitat gains in California."

  8. Top | #758
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    I checked on PV Magazine's regional sites again, and by language:
    • English: US, Australia, India
    • Spanish: Spain, Mexico, Latin America
    • French: France
    • German: Germany
    • Chinese: China


    Congolese president makes off-grid renewables pledge – pv magazine International
    The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reportedly pledged to use off-grid renewable energy systems to bring electricity to at least 21 million people by 2029.

    A press release issued by London-based off-grid solar system supplier Bboxx yesterday quoted an announcement made by president Félix Tshisekedi, apparently at the UK-Africa Investment Summit held in London on Monday.

    According to Bboxx, Tshisekedi said: “With the DRC’s growing population, new grid connections are needed each year to keep the electrification rate constant. My ambition is to use decentralized and renewable energy solutions as a foundation to improve the country’s electrification rate from 9% to 30% during my presidency.”
    Good to see a Third World nation bypass fossil fuels. The way that such nations have often bypassed landline telephone service in favor of cellphones.

    Germany tops global league table for renewable energy – pv magazine International
    • Germany: 12.74%
    • UK: 11.05%
    • Spain: 10.17%
    • Italy: 7.35%
    • Japan: 5.3%
    • Turkey: 5.25%
    • Australia: 4.75%
    • US: 4.32%

    The next 10 listed were, in order, China, France, India, Canada, South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico and South Korea, with Russia and Saudi Arabia far behind.

    This seems like total energy rather than just electrical energy, but it's hard to tell from that article.

  9. Top | #759
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    Renewable Energy Prices Hit Record Lows: How Can Utilities Benefit From Unstoppable Solar And Wind?
    Over the last decade, wind energy prices have fallen 70% and solar photovoltaics have fallen 89% on average, according to Lazard's 2019 report. Utility-scale renewable energy prices are now significantly below those for coal and gas generation, and they're less than half the cost of nuclear. The latest numbers again confirm that building new clean energy generation is cheaper than running existing coal plants.
    noting
    Lazard's Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis - cost in US: $/MWh
    • 151 - 242 - Solar PV - Rooftop Residential
    • 75 - 154 - Solar PV - Rooftop C&I
    • 64 - 148 - Solar PV - Community
    • 36 - 44 - Solar PV - Crystalline Utility Scale
    • 32 - 42 - Solar PV - Thin Film Utility Scale
    • 126 - 156 - Solar Thermal Tower with Storage
    • 69 - 112 - Geothermal
    • 28 - 54 - Wind
    • 150 - 199 - Gas Peaking
    • 118 - 192 - Nuclear
    • 66 - 152 - Coal
    • 44 - 68 - Gas Combined Cycle

    It's good to see wind and solar beating fossil fuels. Now what we need is good batteries and other such storage.

  10. Top | #760
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    India Added 50 Gigawatts Of Renewable Energy Capacity In Last Five Years | CleanTechnica
    India has added 50 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity over the last five years, a major achievement for the country in which two-thirds of its capacity still uses fossil fuels to generate electricity.

    As per government data, between March 2015 and December 2019 India added 98 gigawatts of power generation capacity. 52% of this was based on renewable energy technologies dominated by solar power, which saw addition of 30 gigawatts of new projects. Over the last five years, solar power capacity in India has increased 10 times to 33.7 gigawatts as of 31 December 2019.
    With its low latitudes, India is a good place for solar power. From the graph, India's solar-power capacity has increased by 10% every 2.5 years. That means 100% in 25 years. Not very fast.


    If Madrid and Barcelona can build a high-speed rail connection, why can’t Toronto and Montreal? | The Star - continued failure to get a high-speed line in place, or even an upgraded one.

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