Tesla’s Big Battery Will Change Power And Politics

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/ Elon Musk unveiling new Power Pack

By Lloyd Alter for Tree Hugger – We have written previously about how Tesla will kill the duck in Australia in 100 days or it’s free. Now more detail has come out about what is being called the world’s largest battery, that Elon Musk is building. It will store energy generated at a big wind farm and deliver power during peak hours in South Australia. Tesla said it “will help solve power shortages and manage summertime peak load to improve the reliability of South Australia’s electrical infrastructure.” Elon Musk told a press conference how his $50 million bet on the 129MWh battery will work: You can essentially charge up the battery packs when you have excess power when the cost of production is very low … and then discharge it when the cost of power production is high, and this effectively lowers the average cost to the end customer. It’s a fundamental efficiency improvement for the grid. I have complained that electric cars really don’t change all that much, but the work that Musk is doing on batteries like this is going to be world-changing. Politicians do not want to recognize this; in the USA right now, Energy Secretary Rick Perry is “studying,” as David Roberts of Vox puts it, “whether baseload power plants (mostly coal and nuclear) are being unfairly pushed off the grid, thus threatening grid reliability, national security, and our precious bodily fluids.”

350+ Groups Oppose Dirty Senate Energy Bill That Will Hasten Climate Chaos

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By Staff of Food & Water Watch – As the Senate considers a broad energy policy package that would encourage increased fossil fuel extraction and consumption, more than 350 national, statewide and local groups sent a letter to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today calling on him to lead opposition to the bill – S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 – and ultimately prevent its passage. The letter, organized by the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, states in part: “No energy legislation is better than bad energy legislation that serves to increase our dependence on dirty fossil fuel production instead of building on successful policies to expand clean energy sources… We find it astounding that any energy bill could contain a ‘Renewables’ subtitle but not include provisions on solar and wind energy.” The letter is signed by notable national organizations including: Food & Water Watch, League of Women Voters, Our Revolution, CREDO, Working Families Party, Friends of the Earth and Center for Biological Diversity. “This energy bill is long-term commitment pledge between America and the fossil fuel industry, and it will hasten our reckless advance toward climate chaos,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

Renewables Generated More Power Than Nuclear In March And April

A new rate settlement in Colorado could help boost rooftop installations like this one in Boulder. Credit: Getty Images

By Eric Wesoff for GTM – Solar farms planted on an abandoned nuclear plant site or powering a coal museum or atop a strip mine offer stark images of the ascendance of renewables. But forget metaphorical images — utility-scale renewable electricity generation in March and April actually surpassed nuclear for the first time since July 1984. (Ronald Reagan was president, and “When Doves Cry” was the No. 1 hit on the radio.) Recent months have seen record generation from wind and solar, as well as increases in hydroelectric power because of 2017′s wet winter (note that these numbers, from the Energy Information Administration, do not include distributed solar). Most of the time, conventional hydroelectric generation is still the primary source of renewable electricity. But one of the takeaways from this data set is the emergence of wind in the last decade as a material slice of the energy mix. The U.S. wind industry installed more than 8 gigawatts in 2015 and did it again in 2016. The country now has over 84 gigawatts of installed wind capacity. Another takeaway is the relatively diminutive contribution from solar, which falls between geothermal and biomass in its annual contribution. The U.S. installed 14.5 gigawatts of solar last year, up 95 percent over 2015.

Our Best Shot At Meeting Paris Goals? Make Energy Public

“Cities and towns that want well-run water and sanitation services, low-cost access to the internet, and affordable housing should keep those operations public.” Photo by Charles Cook via Wikimedia Commons.

By Sarah van Gelder for Yes! Magazine – Mayors across the country have vowed to deliver on the goals of the Paris climate accord in defiance of President Trump’s decision to back out. But how can they, realistically, when the national government is questioning climate science and promoting coal, fracking, and pipelines? Simply put: Make energy public. Instead of privatizing city services, as some policymakers have long advocated, a new report shows that public ownership gives cities and towns the best shot at meeting renewable energy and efficiency targets. “Reclaiming Public Services: How Cities and Citizens are Turning Back Privatization,” a study by the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute, challenges the ideas that governments are ineffective service providers, that private companies are more efficient, and that austerity budgeting and reductions in public service are inevitable. Cities and towns that want well-run water and sanitation services, low-cost access to the internet, and affordable housing should keep those operations public or run by local nonprofits, the report found. If these services are now private, the institute recommends “re-municipalization.” The report is based on research involving 1,600 cities in 45 countries that have chosen public ownership over corporate ownership, especially of their energy and water systems.

Nuclear Waste On Highways: Courting Catastrophe

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By Ruth Thomas for War Is A Crime – The federal government has secretly been working on a plan to transport highly radioactive liquid from Chalk River, Ontario, Canada, to the Savannah River Site in Aiken, SC — a distance of over 1,100 miles. A series of 250 truckloads are planned by the Department of Energy (DOE). Interstate 85 is one of the main routes. Based on published data of the US Environmental Protection Agency, a few ounces of this liquid could destroy a whole city water supply. These liquid shipments are unnecessary. The radioactive waste can be down-blended on-site, making it into a solid. This has been done for years at Chalk River. Records from the past are very clear about this liquid and how it should be managed. The report “Detailed Statement on the Environmental Considerations By the Division of Material Licensing, US Atomic Energy Commission” (December 14, 1970) — which has within it Allied General’s application for the Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant (Docket No. 50-332) — describes the waste generated at that facility, and describes how to manage the waste. I knew of this report because of the successful legal challenge to this facility in the 1970s in which I participated.

Electric Cars Tested As Power Grid Stabilizers

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By Leslie Kaufman for Inside Climate News. California – In an important real-world test of whether electric vehicles could play a bigger role in backing up the green power grid of the future, a group of San Francisco-area drivers showed that they were willing and even eager to adjust their charging times for the right financial incentives. The small but sophisticated pilot test that took place over 18 months. During that time, BMW asked owners of its electric cars if they would be willing to delay recharging them by an hour on the company’s cue. An app notified the owners when a delay was coming, and they could opt out if they needed to charge at that time. “Eighteen months later, I can unequivocally state that participation was transparent, hassle-free and mind-numbingly dull to the point that I mostly forgot about it,” one participant, John Higham, wrote in a first person account of his experience for Inside EVs.

Protesters Interrupt Rick Perry’s Speech At Energy Conference

Rick Perry smiled to photographers Monday as he left Trump Tower after a meeting with the president-elect. (Photo: AP)

By Dominique Mosbergen for The Huffington Post – In an attempt to defuse the tense moment, Perry described the protester as “one of the more interesting EIA employees,” prompting laughter from the audience. Undeterred, the protester kept shouting questions at Perry, who then told her: “If you’ll sit down, young lady … I’ll finish my remarks.” “Answer my question, why will you not say that climate change is caused by carbon dioxide?” she pressed. “For your information … I didn’t say that,” Perry responded. “I said it’s not the main dial…” Perry was referring to remarks he made during an interview last week with CNBC “Squawk Box.” Perry told host Joe Kernan that carbon dioxide was not “the primary control knob” for climate change. While man is “having an effect” on climate, he said, “most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.” His response is in stark contrast to overwhelming scientific consensus based on facts, which says human activity, specifically greenhouse gas emissions, is the primary driver of global warming. The American Meteorological Society skewered Perry for his comments, saying in a letter last week that he lacked a “fundamental understanding of the science” behind climate change.

Shell Will Test Energy-Generating Kites This Summer

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By Anna Hirtenstein for Bloomberg – “The reason we are interested in something like this is that it has potential to reduce the cost of offshore wind in the future,” said Geert van de Wouw, managing director of Shell Technology Ventures BV. “Fundamentally, looking at the science, flying the kite at high altitudes so there’s lots of wind, and the cost of materials is quite a lot lower than a normal offshore wind turbine.” Alternatives to traditional wind turbines are in the works at multiple start-ups, some backed by corporations in energy and tech such as Alphabet Inc. German utility EON has also invested in a test site in Ireland for dronesthat are designed to fly at high altitudes and generate energy. The kites work by sending aloft a wing to fly in a circular looping path much like the tip of a wind turbine blade. The machines harness aerodynamic lift from the wind exerted against the tether linked to the ground. Tension in that tether causes the line to rapidly spool out from a drum, which is connected to a generator. Kite Power Systems will start testing its machines in July or August at a site in Scotland. Offshore wind farms could someday be repowered with the technology, according to David Ainsworth, interim chief executive officer.

Rick Perry’s Early Days As Energy Secretary: Bonanza For Corporations And Koch Brothers

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By Alex Kotch for AlterNet – Most people who know anything about Rick Perry know he’s a friend to the fossil fuel industry. For 14 years, he was the Republican governor of Texas, a state that contains one-third of the nation’s oil reserves and is home to oil giants ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Valero Energy. As a political candidate, Perry received millions in donations from oil and gas companies and their executives. Until recently, he was a board member of Energy Transfer Partners, the co-owner of the dirty tar sands oil transport mechanism, Dakota Access Pipeline, which was approved by Donald Trump in January and runs through Native American lands in North Dakota. Perry supported new coal plants in Texas as well, but he also allowed a major expansion of wind energy and signed a renewable portfolio standard that aided growth in that industry. He appears to favor an all-of-the-above approach to energy production, as opposed to the severely anti-clean energy agenda Trump projects and which the conservative Heritage Foundation hoped he would adhere to. In the past, however, Perry called the science of climate change a “contrived phony mess.”

Germany Breaks Record: 85% Of Energy Comes From Renewables Last Weekend

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By Lorraine Chow for Eco Watch – “Most of Germany’s coal-fired power stations were not even operating on Sunday, April 30th,” Patrick Graichen of Agora Energiewende told RenewEconomy. “Nuclear power sources, which are planned to be completely phased out by 2022, were also severely reduced.” Graichen added that days like Sunday would be “completely normal” by 2030 thanks to the government’s continued investment in the Energiewende initiative. Following the Fukushima disaster in Japan, Germany announced in May 2011 that it plans to phase out nuclear and shut down all its nuclear power plants by 2022. That Sunday, nuclear power plants reduced their output from 7.9 to 5 gigawatts. Germany’s ambitious energy transition aims for at least an 80 percent share of renewables by 2050, with intermediate targets of 35 to 40 percent share by 2025 and 55 to 60 percent by 2035.

Half Of California’s Energy Met With Solar For First Time

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By Danielle Ola for PV Tech – From the hours of 11am to 2pm on 11 March, the total solar share of gross demand exceeded 50%, according to the EIA. Source: Flickr/ lindalino. On 11 March, for the first time ever, over 50% of California’s power needs were met with solar power, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). From the hours of 11am to 2pm, “the total solar share of gross demand probably exceeded 50%,” the EIA said – noting that it was a combination of residential and commercial rooftop generation that constituted 4 million kWh of electricity during peak time. During the same time window, wholesale electric rates dipped below zero, compared to the average price of between US$14-$45MWh in March between 2013 and 2015.

Utility Survey: Trump Will Not Stop the Clean Energy Transition

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By Gavin Bade for Utility Dive. Today, President Trump is poised to release a long-anticipated executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature climate initiative. The order is expected to be accompanied by directives to lift a moratorium on federal land coal leases and to cease the use of the social cost of carbon — all part of a broad campaign to dismantle environmental regulations on the power sector that Trump blames for the decline of the coal economy in the United States. But while rescinding the rules could help slow coal power’s decline in the short term, analysts say it is unlikely to reverse its long-term downturn, mostly due to the economics of natural gas and renewables. That attitude is shared not just by market observers, but by electric utilities themselves.

Why Protest Camp In Florida Is Being Called The Next Standing Rock

Opponents of the Sabal Trail pipeline say it is not only harming the natural beauty of the Suwannee river but also doing irreversible environmental damage. Photograph: Richard Luscombe for the Guardian

By Richard Luscombe for The Guardian – At first glance the quiet town of Live Oak seems an unlikely venue for a stand against Big Energy. But in recent weeks it’s become a centre of opposition A north Florida river that attracted the state’s first tourists a century before Walt Disney’s famous cartoon mouse is emerging at the centre of a fight against a contentious 515-mile natural gas pipeline that many are calling America’s next Standing Rock. One section of the so-called Sabal Trail pipeline is being laid beneath the crystal waters of the Suwannee river, whose pure mineral springs were once fabled to cure anything from marital strife to gout.

Time And Money Run Out For Nuclear Revival

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By Paul Brown for Climate News Network – LONDON, 11 January, 2017 – The prospects for expansion of the nuclear industry worldwide look worse in 2017 than at any time since the first atom stations were built in the 1950s. Toshiba, the giant Japanese company that owns the American reactor designer Westinghouse, is the latest company to face financial difficulties due to unforeseen cost overruns and delays that run into billions of dollars. Westinghouse Electric’s troubles began after it bought construction contractor CB&I Stone & Webster and then had to write down the value of the acquisition by billions of dollars because of problems with building four new reactors for US utilities.

Rick Perry, DAPL Board Member, Chosen For Energy Secretary

Rick Perry smiled to photographers Monday as he left Trump Tower after a meeting with the president-elect. (Photo: AP)

By Nika Knight for Common Dreams – President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday appointed former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. Perry infamously forgot the name of the department at the same time that he advocated for axing it, during his failed 2012 presidential bid. Perry’s career—which has included two presidential campaigns and a turn on the reality TV show “Dancing With The Stars”—has shown him to be a stalwart friend to Big Oil. Indeed, the transparency advocacy group OpenSecrets.org observed Tuesday that the industry donated nearly $2 million to Perry’s 2016 campaign: