The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a study assessing the operational impacts and economics of increased contributions from wind and solar energy producers on the power grid. The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study examines the benefits and challenges of integrating enough wind and solar energy capacity into the grid to produce 35 percent of its electricity by 2017. The study finds that this target is technically feasible and does not necessitate extensive additional infrastructure, but does require key changes to current operational practice.
The study found that if utilities generate 27 percent of their electricity from wind and solar energy across the Western Interconnection grid, it would lower carbon emissions by 25 to 45 percent.
The study can be downloaded at http://www.nrel.gov/wwsis.
News of three more major reports on global warming hit today from the US National Academy of Sciences. The reports call for immediate action by Congress to put a cost on carbon pollution.
A story in USA Today highlighted the breadth of political views endorsing the urgent call for action.
“The reports reinforce that we know enough, now, to take sensible actions to address climate change,” says James Connaughton, former environment council chief for the Bush administration. (…)
“This is a wake-up call from science telling Congress to get real,” says Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. “Wake up and smell the carbon.”
The numbers are sobering:
Echoing past reports such as those by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, researchers in the new reports expressed confidence that average global atmosphere temperatures were about 1.4 degrees warmer in this decade compared with a century ago and that future fossil-fuel emissions of greenhouse gases and related activities would increase temperatures anywhere from 2 to 11 additional degrees by 2100.
The news out of the Gulf of Mexico is sickening, but it is hardly the only environmental disaster associated with fossil fuels in recent news. Thirty coal miners are trapped in Turkey in an explosion that occurred May 17, following similar coal mine disasters in Russia, China and West Virginia.
A wire story in Sunday’s newspaper about environmental devastation from oil drilling put the overall cost in context. “Quest for oil leaves trail of damage across the globe” tells of impacts from Alberta to Newfoundland to Nigeria. The point of the story is America is driving the quest for more and more oil, but when the impacts are not felt inside our borders, Americans seem not to care.
Despite calls for more domestic drilling and new sources of energy, America’s reliance on foreign oil has climbed steadily over the years, from 44.5 percent of consumption in 1995 to 57 percent in 2008.
“Spills, leaks and deliberate discharges are happening in oil fields all over the world, and very few people seem to care,” said Judith Kimerling, a professor of law and policy at the City University of New York and the author of “Amazon Crude,” a book about oil development in Ecuador.
A particularly chilling quote was this one:
“We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the USA,” Bassey added. “In Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people’s livelihood and environments.”
The old adage “Think globally, act locally” may need some rethinking if we’re to be honest about our country’s energy policies and practices.
Age has not been kind to Glacier National Park.The gorgeous million-acre park in northwestern Montana celebrated its 100th birthday today. But many of its glaciers have melted, and scientists predict the rest may not last another decade.
That’s how the story begins about the celebration of the first 100 years of Glacier National Park. The Associated Press story continues:
Many experts consider Glacier Park a harbinger of Earth’s future, a laboratory where changes in the environment will likely show up first.
“What national parks all give us is, in effect, a controlled landscape where we can see the natural and climatic processes at work,” said Steve Running, a University of Montana professor and co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in 2007 for his work on climate change.
Average temperatures have risen in the park 1.8 times faster than the global average, said Dan Fagre, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist.
The change is visible to the naked eye, with the vast moraines left behind as the giant glaciers melt away. Climate change is blamed for the increasing size and frequency of wildfires, and lower stream flows as summer progresses.
What this all means for the bears, wolves and other big predators in the park is unclear, Fagre said.
The article notes that there were 150 named glaciers in the Park 150 years ago, with just 25 glaciers today. It is possible they will all be gone as soon as 2020.
Yes, there is real urgency to our efforts to build the Greater Echanis wind projects. Oil spills, coal mine disasters and disappearing glaciers are signals to us all that we need to take urgent action to reverse our dependence on fossil fuels.