From the climate’s point of view, wind turbines are a great way to generate electricity. The energy source is absolutely free, and turning breezes into kilowatts releases precisely zero heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Sure, it takes energy to build and transport and assemble turbines — some of it, undoubtedly, derived from fossil fuels — but once that giant pinwheel is up and turning, emissions drop off the map. The other thing people like about wind power is that it’s essentially limitless.
Limitless, that is, unless you’re a scientist who thinks hard about such things. Three of those scientists have been thinking hard about the limits of wind power — and their thoughts have turned into a paper just published in Nature Climate Change.
In principle, they argue, the very existence of wind turbines could slow the planet’s winds to the point where they couldn’t generate any more energy. In practice, fortunately, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
The analysis considers both conventional, ground-based wind turbines and futuristic flying turbines that could take advantage of the steadier, stronger winds that blow at high altitudes. In both cases, a big enough fleet would slow the wind and limit the total energy available for electricity making.
For the flying windmills, that limit would be 1,800 terawatts, or 1.8 billion watts — 100 times more electricity than the entire planet currently uses. The ground-based turbines would top out at a mere 40...
Compared to coal and natural gas, nuclear power plants offer a significant advantage when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions — they don't emit any. However, in an ironic twist, it seems that climate change is increasingly causing problems for operators of nuclear plants.
The Braidwood nuclear power plant located in Will County, Illinois.
Like coal-fired power plants, nuclear facilities use large amounts of water for cooling purposes. After water has cycled through the plant, it is discharged back into a nearby waterway, usually a lake or a river, at a higher temperature. State regulations prohibit nuclear plants from operating once water temperatures go above a certain threshold, in part because it could compromise the safe operation of the facility, and also because discharging very warm water can kill fish and other marine life.
According to the New York Times' Matthew L. Wald, the Braidwood Generating Station, located about 60 miles southwest of Chicago, was recently granted a waiver to continue operating despite the fact that the unusually hot and dry summer had heated the water it was taking in to a toasty 102°F — 2 degrees above the legal operating limit for the plant.
Like much of the country, Illinois has had an extremely hot summer. In fact, Illinois had its warmest January-to-June period on record.
Map showing that temperatures across much of the U.S., including Illinois, have been running well above average during the past 30 days.
According to Wald's story, operators of the Braidwood plant have been hit by the combination of extremely hot days and very warm nights. Nationally, thousands of daily high temperature records a...
The nonprofit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a report this week ranking the top 12 global economies in terms of their energy efficiency. The U.S. was 9th, trailing not only the United Kingdom, which ranked 1st, but also behind the European Union and China.
The report, called the “International Energy Efficiency Scorecard,” analyzed the efficiency of the 12 largest global economies, which included Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. These 12 economies consume 63 percent of the world energy and are responsible for 62 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions.
As the Los Angeles Times reported, the ACEEE used 27 metrics to produce the rankings. Those metrics were organized into four categories – buildings, industry, transportation and national effort -- in which the economies were also ranked. The U.S. was last in transportation.
The LA Times said that instead of expanding public transportation, the U.S. “focuses on road construction” and “has been slower to adopt fuel-efficient vehicles,” possibly leading to its low ranking. In total, the U.S. scored a 47 out of 100, leading to its 9th-place finish, while the U.K. had a 67 out of 100.
The report said that the U.S. has made “limited or little progress toward greater efficiency at the national level,” in the past 10 years, according to the press release. “The U.K. and th...
A report released by a panel from the Japanese parliament declared that the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was avoidable.
Following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March of 2011, the plant suffered damage and radioactivity was subsequently discharged into the areas surrounding the power plant.
The New York Times said that before releasing its 641-page report, the panel, called the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation, had upwards of 900 hours of hearings and interviews. The panel talked to 1,167 people.
Instead of citing the unusually large tsunami as the source of damage at the plant, which is what the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), blamed, the report suggested that the earthquake could have been responsible for much of the damage. The commission viewed Tepco’s concentration of the blame on the tsunami and “not on the foreseeable quake” as “an attempt to avoid responsibility,” the New York Times reported.
Despite having knowledge that the plant was at risk of a far more powerful earthquake than it was designed to withstand five years before the 2011 disaster, Tepco and nuclear regulators still did not take necessary precautions. The report said, “there were many opportunities for taking preventative measures before March 11. The accidents occurred because Tepco did not take these measures” and the regulators did not push them to do so, according to the New York Ti...
By Alex Kasdin
According to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, off-shore oil exploration in Alaska could be imminent.
According to the New York Times, Salazar indicated that Shell would most likely get to start off-shore exploration near Alaska’s North Slope this summer, once they jump a few more hurdles. “If Shell meets our standards and passes our inspections, exploration activities will be conducted under the closest oversight and most rigorous safety standards ever implemented in the history of the United States,” Salazar told the Associated Press. According to the Los Angeles Times, if Shell does start drilling, it will be the first time offshore drilling has occurred in the Arctic in nearly 20 years.
In 2008, Shell purchased the right to drill in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea off of the coast of Alaska. Numerous lawsuits and permit appeals later, Shell has yet to drill.
In addition to Shell’s exploration, the New York Times said that within the week, the Interior Department will also release an offshore leasing plan for the next five years that will allow for more Arctic oil and gas exploration and drilling. However, these new leases will only go on sale in 2016 and 2017.
The Los Angeles Times reported that in the four years before these leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas become available, there will be additional scientific study and analysis. The Interior Department said that this analysis would ensure that the places made available...