Monday, January 21, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

EPA Proposes Emissions Cut For Coal-Firing Navajo Generating Station

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 12:00 AM PST

Visiting the Grand Canyon is the trip of a lifetime. Trying to take in the natural beauty of the Southwest through a nitrogen oxide haze is a total bummer. To avoid this scenario the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed an emissions cut for the coal-firing Navajo Generating Station power plant, located on the Navajo Nation about 20 miles from the Grand Canyon. The proposal aims to reduce emissions by 84% by 2018, with selective catalytic reduction technology and voluntarily installed low nitrogen oxide burners.

Nitrogen oxide reacts with other chemicals in the air to form ozone and has been associated with respiratory problems.

The proposal will undergo a 90 day public comment period once its been published in the Federal Register. In a press release, the EPA said the time-frame could include an additional five years, pushing the deadline to 2023, if other options that satisfy the Clean Air Act and achieve additional emissions reductions are put forth.

Power plants and coal mining have regularly been disputed in recent years. In 2008 a permit to mine coal for the Navajo Generating Station on Navajo grounds was fought against by Navajo and Hopi activists, as well as a suit in 2012 brought against the federal government about the expansion of BHP Billiton’s Navajo Coal Mine.

An 84% reduction in emissions is nothing to scoff at, but is a far cry from Ontario’s nearly complete abandonment of coal-fired power stations. And how’d those Canadians get away from coal? By implementing feed-in tariffs and emphasizing efficiency efforts.

Source: EPA

EPA Proposes Emissions Cut For Coal-Firing Navajo Generating Station was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

“Smart from the Start” — Government Establishes Arizona Solar Energy Zones

Posted: 20 Jan 2013 07:34 PM PST

Departing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on January 18 announced the designation of 192,100 acres of public land in Arizona "as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development." Publication of Interior’s Record of Decision (ROD) also establishes the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone, "the third solar zone on public lands in Arizona and the 18th nationwide."

Establishing the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone follows on as part of the Obama Administration’s federal blueprint for environmentally sensitive development of large-scale solar power projects spanning six Western states. The Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) was officially launched with a press conference in Las Vegas last October.

The Interior Department, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Department of Energy determined there’s a whopping 31,000 MW of solar energy potential across the 17 areas spanning the six western states.

The Arizona Restoration Design Energy Project

Dubbed the Restoration Design Energy Project (RDEP), the ROD caps "a three-year, statewide environmental analysis of disturbed land and other areas with few known resource conflicts that could accommodate commercial renewable energy projects" the Interior Department explains in a press release.

"This project is a key milestone in our work to spur smart development of solar and wind energy on public lands across the West," Secretary Salazar said. "Arizona has huge potential when it comes to building a clean energy economy, and this landscape-level plan lays a solid foundation for making sure that it happens in the right way and in the right places.”

Secretary Salazar emphasized the comprehensive, inclusive, and collaborative nature of the federal Arizona ROD and Solar Energy Zone initiative.

"As we advance the President's energy strategy, we continue to work closely with states, local communities, tribes, industry, conservation and other groups to reduce potential resource conflicts and expedite appropriate projects that will generate jobs and investment in rural communities."

Environmentally Sensitive Renewable Energy Development

The BLM administers 12.2 million acres of public land in Arizona. Those designated suitable for renewable energy project development include sites such as agricultural lands that have been disturbed, as well as those deemed of "low resource sensitivity and few environmental conflicts."

Those BLM lands in Arizona that contain "sensitive resources" that require protection — such as those home to endangered or threatened wildlife and cultural and historical importance — were excluded from consideration.

In addition, the Department of the Interior explains that the ROD sets project standards designed to avoid impacts on watersheds, ground water supplies, and water quality. It also sets an environmental protection baseline for proposed renewable energy projects.

"This initiative exemplifies our 'Smart-from-the-Start' review process, which puts appropriate pieces in place for responsibly developing renewable energy projects on public lands," acting BLM Director Mike Pool commented. "The Arizona project can really serve as a model for future statewide analyses for responsible energy development in the West."

Yuma County’s Agua Caliente Solar Energy Development Zone

Located in Yuma County near Dateland in the southwestern corner of Arizona, the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone spans 2,550 acres of public land. BLM estimates that more than 20 MW of clean, renewable electricity could be generated across the area via utility-scale solar power projects.

The Obama Administration has approved proposals for 34 renewable energy projects on public lands since 2009, including solar, wind, and geothermal projects with a combined capacity to generate some 10,400 MW of clean, renewable power.

"Energy from sources like wind and solar have doubled since the President took office, and with today's milestone, we are laying a sustainable foundation to keep expanding our nation's domestic energy resources," Secretary Salazar stated during the launch of the federal Solar PEIS in Las Vegas last October.

"This historic initiative provides a roadmap for landscape-level planning that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands and reflects President Obama's commitment to grow American made energy and create jobs."

"Smart from the Start" — Government Establishes Arizona Solar Energy Zones was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Keystone Pipeline Adversaries Hope It Wilts Under Pressure, Now Petcoke Is The Problem

Posted: 20 Jan 2013 12:52 PM PST

With President Obama set to announce climate change as a top priority for his second term, the stage is set for considering the Keystone XL Pipeline squarely within a global warming context, and a new report commissioned by the group Oil Change International certainly won’t provide much comfort to pipeline advocates.

The Keystone project has already taken on a serious amount of baggage because it will add new “dirty” tar sands oil from Canada to a global fossil fuel mix that has already been linked to increased droughts, floods and destructive weather events. The new report adds fuel to the fire by pointing out that previous analyses have generally left a key element out of the Keystone equation, and that is the increased production of another “dirty” fuel, petroleum coke or petcoke as a byproduct of tar sands oil refining.

new report on petcoke adds to keystone xl pipeline controversyPetroleum Coke and Tar Sands Oil

Petroleum coke is a rocklike substance similar to coal, though according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (USEIA), petcoke generally has a higher sulfur content than coal.

The heavier the crude oil, the more petcoke is produced during the refining process, and Oil Change International notes that “there is 24 percent more CO2 embedded in a barrel of tar sands bitumen than in a barrel of light oil.”

The new report, called "Petroleum Coke: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sands," basically points out that increased petcoke production threatens to undermine the progress that the U.S. has made in managing its domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. already produces plenty of petcoke on its own account, and the Keystone XL pipeline would result in additional quantities. The pipeline is designed to convey tar sands oil from Canada down through the American Midwest to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

According to the report, additional petcoke production linked to Canadian tar sands refining would be enough to supply five typical coal-fired power plants. If the carbon dioxide from that activity was factored into the Keystone XL Pipeline, the result would boost global warming emissions related to the pipeline by 13 percent above the amount already calculated by the State Department.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

In a global context, the petcoke factor sure takes a lot of steam out of public support for U.S. clean energy investments. After all, what’s the point of spending all that money and effort to cut global warming emissions here, while facilitating their increase in other countries?

Potentially, the burden of responsibility for additional petcoke production could be shifted by building more refineries in the country of origin (namely, Canada), but unless something changes a major transportation route to overseas markets would still depend on U.S. railways, and petcoke dust emissions related to railway transport have already been raising red flags.

Exporting Global Warming Emissions

Since the use of coal-fired power plants has been decreasing in the U.S., it’s safe to assume that the bulk fo the additional petcoke produced by Gulf Coast refineries from Canadian tar sands oil will make its way into the export market.

Even without Canadian tar sands oil, the petcoke export issue has already been throwing a monkey wrench into President Obama’s climate policy. USEIA notes that petcoke is one of the primary reasons why the U.S. finally became a net exporter of petroleum products in 2011, for the first time in over 60 years.

According to USEIA, petcoke exports also rose last year, achieving their highest-ever volume for the January-February period at a rate of about 470,000 barrels per day. The increase was spurred primarily by demand in Asia, for power plants, steel production and cement manufacturing.

In other words, aside from global climate change issues, petcoke exports also come back to haunt the U.S. in the form of smog from China and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Follow the Money

The Natural Resources Defense Council has a good rundown of the report, but if you don’t have time to read the whole thing it’s worth checking out Oil Change International’s summary, which includes an additional tidbit of information for those of us who have been following the involvement of the Koch brothers in fossil fuel promotion and climate change denial.

According to Oil Change International, the Koch brothers’ Oxbow Corporation is the largest petcoke trader in the world (for more details you can also take a look at an article on the Koch brothers petcoke and lobbying activities at thinkprogress.org).

Image: Pipeline by Valerie Everett

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Keystone Pipeline Adversaries Hope It Wilts Under Pressure, Now Petcoke Is The Problem was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Exclusive Interview: Connie Hedegaard On EU 2020 Renewable Energy Target & Climate Change Messaging (VIDEO)

Posted: 20 Jan 2013 07:00 AM PST

In addition to the videos I recorded of Connie Hedegaard’s keynote speech at the start of the World Future Energy Summit (part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, hosted by Masdar), I also got to sit down with her after her speech, ask her a few questions, and videotape it all. My initial question (not included in the video) was about the EU’s 2020 CO2 emissions reduction target — in particular, whether or not the push for an increase in the target from 20% to 30% might soon meet success; if it seemed that it might be possible to soon convince some of the blocking countries (most notably Poland) to get on the bandwagon. As mentioned in the video, studies have shown that Poland would actually experience a net economic benefit from an increased target. Here’s the video:


All of Connie’s points were excellent. She’s one of the best around. But some of my favorite points she made in this interview were:

  • There are a ton of different ways to make climate action progress; if we run into difficulty with one, that doesn’t mean we can’t change the way we’re addressing the problem and still make significant progress.
  • We need to make it very clear to people that there are huge costs to “doing nothing,” or business as usual. She made this point very well in her speech, as you’ll soon see. In short, we need to really draw people’s attention to the cost of superstorms like Sandy, flooding that makes billions of people evacuate their homes and causes trillions of dollars in property and economic damage, droughts and heat waves that destroy crops and drive up the price of food, dwindling water supplies in the midst of a growing global population, and more.
  • We also need to think and discuss in a more integrated, holistic way. With regards to climate change and clean energy, we need to also focus on the tremendous economic benefits and job growth that comes with a clean energy revolution, the tremendous health benefits, and the tremendous quality of life benefits in general.

Those were the key points I got from the interview. And simply that Connie totally rocks! More to add?
 
For more content from Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, for the World Future Energy Summit, and/or for the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover specific events, Masdar, or any other corporations in any particular way.

Exclusive Interview: Connie Hedegaard On EU 2020 Renewable Energy Target & Climate Change Messaging (VIDEO) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Connie Hedegaard: Clean Energy Revolution Is Critical, Do-Able, & Good For Jobs & The Economy (VIDEOS)

Posted: 20 Jan 2013 06:45 AM PST

Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action in the European Commission since February 2010, gave a great keynote speech at the World Future Energy Summit (part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week) a few days ago. Below are two videos of her speech and a text summary of the key points (in my opinion). (Note: CleanTechnica also landed an exclusive interview with Connie that I think is worth your time.)

Connie started off with a staggering figure: “By 2030 — it’s only 17 years from now — the world will need at least 45% more energy.” Alone, that would be a huge challenge, but we also have an equally or even greater challenge, Connie immediately adds: “At the same time, climate change is accelerating. And sometimes I wonder if we really do need a moral compass; do we really need more incidents, more floodings, more heavy precipitation, more storms, more hurricanes, more melting, in order for all of us to realize, that to continue business as usual does not come for free – that actually comes with quite a substantial price tag. So, we need to change course. And it will take a lot of political will, and it will take significant investment to meet the rising energy demand whilst mitigating climate change. But the good news is that it is do-able.”

She then transitioned into Europe, and the positive economic benefits that Europe is seeing as it transitions to a clean energy economy (note that 70% of new EU power came from renewable energy sources in 2011). “In Europe, the clean energy revolution is already under way. It is not only a huge challenge, but we also tend to see it as a huge opportunity, also to help us combat the economic crisis, and to exit the economic crisis, because we can see that this sector also has a huge potential for job creation, and that is what we need more than ever. So it’s an opportunity to create jobs; it’s also an opportunity to diversify our economies and investment portfolios.”

Great points — what a high-quality call to action and what important reflections on some of the key and underacknowledged benefits of a clean energy revolution! Here’s more from Connie’s speech, followed by what I consider some of the key quotes:

From that video above, below are some of Connie’s key points.

Jobs

“In the United Kingdom, they have continued to focus on renewables, and if they actually do that as they have planned up to 2020, what we can see is a 4-time increase in the jobs in the renewable sector… to 400,000 by 2020.”

“Even if fossil fuel resources are not going to run out tomorrow, making a fossil fuel transition to”

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Must Go

“Furthermore, [the EU has] mapped out a cost-effective pathway to becoming a low-carbon society by the middle of this century. Even if fossil fuel resources are not going to run out tomorrow, making a transition to the low-carbon economy is imperative if we to avoid leaving a world at the mercy of dangerous climate change to our children and grandchildren. The challenge we face is to ensure that the projected growth of global energy use is accompanied by a substantial reduction in the world’s greenhouse gas emissions….”

“First, we need to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. The G20 has pledged to do so — they actually pledged it many times — but we still need to see it implemented…. Last year, development went in the wrong direction and fossil fuel subsidies globally grew by 30%. Now it’s up to $523 billion in a year. How wise is that as a strategy, if we actually cared about developing into a low-carbon world?

“According to the International Energy Agency, they estimate that if fossil fuel subsidies were completely phased out by 2020, global energy demand would fall by 5%, equivalent to the current consumption of Japan, Korea, and New Zealand combined.

“But for now, consumer subsidies for the use of fossil fuels are still around 6 times higher than what we use for subsidies for renewables. Here’s something to address politically, and it’s actually urgent.”

Price Pollution

Not only should we not be subsidizing fossil fuels, but we should actually be adding the cost of pollution to their price tag, as Connie eloquently argues.

“The second big change that would help with this: the price of different energy sources needs to reflect that cost to the climate and to the environment in general. Carbon markets is one key tool here.” She was happy to note that at least, aside from the EU, other countries have implemented such policies. She noted South Korea and California (not mentioning Australia for some reason). And, “most exciting maybe,” noted a pilot project by China in this regard.

Water

The water–energy nexus was the focus of this first-ever Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. Naturally, Connie did an excellent job nailing the link. She focused on the fact that water is fresh, clean already a scarcity in many parts of the world, and that it will become more of one as global warming grows and climate change continues. As few do, she pointed out that we need to stop wasting this water in our electricity production processes by contaminating it or evaporating it. She didn’t explicitly say so, but that is what happens when we produce electricity using natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy. Solar PV and wind power are tens or even hundreds of times better for the preservation of our water supplies.

Beyond water, she also noted how increasing droughts and record heat are already driving the price of various crops to socially destructive levels, and how that story will only grow as the world continues to warm.

What can I say — as expected, Connie nailed the concerns of climate change, the various benefits from tackling it, and how to tackle it.

Your thoughts?

For more content from Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, for the World Future Energy Summit, and/or for the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover specific events, Masdar, or any other corporations in any particular way.

Connie Hedegaard: Clean Energy Revolution Is Critical, Do-Able, & Good For Jobs & The Economy (VIDEOS) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Verizon, VIA Motors, And The New Black Carbon Report

Posted: 20 Jan 2013 05:00 AM PST

Much of the attention on global warming has been focused on invisible sources, namely carbon dioxide. However, a new report underscores the significant role that ordinary soot, also known as particulate emissions or black carbon, has been playing in climate change. The good news is that black carbon only persists in the atmosphere for a matter or weeks rather than years, so a serious effort to target black carbon could have an immediate, significant effect on global warming management.

One of those efforts is the Obama Administration’s National Clean Fleets program, which has enlisted Verizon along with some of the nation’s largest fleet owners to transition out of diesel-powered vehicles, and that’s where a new partnership between VIA Motors and Verizon comes in.

VIA Motors and Verizon partner on extended range electric vansVIA Motors Extended-Range Electric Cargo Van

The new van was developed by VIA Motors to fit Verizon’s particular needs, so it may not be a universal solution. However, the overall concept does have wide application among delivery and maintenance fleets that make short runs in urban areas, which is the focus of the Clean Fleets program (it’s part of a broader EPA program to reduce the concentration of particulate emissions in cities, called Clean Cities).

The basic idea behind the VIA cargo van is similar to the Chevy Volt, which can run exclusively on electric power but also comes with a gas tank, giving it an extended range of several hundred miles. Like the Volt, the new van is equipped with an onboard generator so that even when liquid fuel is in use, the car is always running on an electric powertrain.

Depending on the needs of the drivers and their ability to plan and manage routes efficiently, the liquid fuel is a security cushion that is called into play rarely, if ever.

Generally, VIA Motors’s E-REV powertrain can enable any sport utility or light truck to go about 40 miles exclusively on electricity, or about 400 miles on a full tank of fuel. The equivalent for a day’s worth of local driving is about 100 mpg.

The vehicle’s advanced lithium-ion battery can be recharged from a conventional 110 volt household outlet, providing fleet managers with the option of having employees take their vehicles home at night, rather than making an extra trip to a central garage.

Vehicle-to-Grid Advantages

The new van also has an energy exporting capability, also known as vehicle-to-grid, in which the EV battery functions as a mobile energy storage device that can provide power for purposes other than running the vehicle. In the case of Verizon, that would enable the van to serve as a clean, practically noiseless power source for fieldwork and emergency response, using electric power rather than a diesel generator.

For the new van, VIA developed a dashboard that sports a removable tablet as an information interface (voice-dependent, to reduce distractions), enabling the driver to plan more effectively for routing and fuel optimization. The vehicle analytics also include a diagnostic component to spot maintenance issues more quickly.

Big Bottom Line Savings for Electric Vehicles

All in all, VIA expects the Verizon vans to operate exclusively on electric power during most of the days they are in use, saving about 750 gallons of petroleum fuel annually per vehicle. That represents a fuel economy improvement of up to 300 percent, given Verizon’s fleet requirements.

As for the cost, in some states the overnight charge would come out to as little as $1.00 per day.

Black Carbon Reduction and Electric Vehicles

As a black carbon reduction measure electric vehicles are only as good as their power source, and right now the power mix in the U.S. is still heavily dependent on coal. Biomass-fired power plants and biofuels can also be significant sources of black carbon, without appropriate pollution controls.

The ultimate solution is to use emission-free wind, solar and other emission-free energy sources to charge electric vehicles. That transition is rapidly occurring in the U.S. especially in regards to wind power, which just last year surpassed both coal and natural gas for new installed capacity.

Small Steps to a Black Carbon Solution

In terms of the financial wherewithal to transition to cleaner energy practices, the black carbon problem involves perhaps one of the most inclusive solutions on a global level.

Electric vehicles are far beyond the reach of millions of households in developed countries, let alone in undeveloped world regions, but cleaner vehicles are only part of the solution.

Last Secretary of State Hilary Clinton launched a broad international effort to reduce black carbon along with methane and hydrofluorocarbons, called the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, which is focused particularly on providing cleaner alternatives to the primitive, open-flame cookstoves in widespread use throughout undeveloped countries.


Aside from contributing a significant amount to black carbon emissions, indoor air pollution from poorly ventilated cookstoves is linked to poor health outcomes and the soot from primitive cookstoves can inhibit local agricultural productivity. In addition, depending on the kind of fuel used, fuel-gathering can result the degradation of the local environment, with a consequent ripple effect on public health and economic activity.

In that regard, despite the wide gulf in cost between electric vehicles and cleaner cookstoves, the result of transitioning to new technology and new practices will not only consist in the better management of global warming emissions, but also an improvement in local environmental quality, public health and economic viability.

Image: VIA Motors electric drive train, courtesy of VIA Motors.

Verizon, VIA Motors, And The New Black Carbon Report was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

No comments:

Post a Comment