US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

May 21, 2020 by  
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The  COVID-19  pandemic has disrupted nationwide  energy  supply-and-demand patterns. Stay-at-home social distancing measures have altered U.S. electricity consumption. Bulk electricity usage by commercial businesses and industrial manufacturing has given way to increased household electricity consumption as the general population isolates at home. In turn, this economic slowdown has shifted electricity generation to rely more on the renewable energy sector. Both the  US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  and the  Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA)  have revealed that, from March 25th through May 3rd, utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower collectively generated more electricity than coal! This record 40-day timespan has edged over 2019’s run of 38 days when U.S.  renewables  first beat coal last year. Last year marked the first time renewables outpaced coal-fired electricity generation. This led to  IEEFA forecasts  of renewables eclipsing coal by 2021. Unexpectedly, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated  renewable energy ‘s first-quarter performance in producing electricity. Hence,  EIA forecasts  expect electric power generated by coal “will fall by 25% in 2020.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Interestingly,  Forbes  notes that “The electric power sector consistently sees its lowest  coal  demand in April,” owing to seasonal temperature adjustments when winter transitions into springtime. Because of the change in season,  natural gas  and coal generators often “schedule routine maintenance for the spring…and many coal plants spen[d] part of April offline for planned, temporary outages.” This illustrates why wind generation is typically relied upon most in springtime. As for  hydropower , snowmelt often feeds rivers, thus accounting for increased electricity generation downstream each spring as well, Forbes explains. Last year’s forecasts showed trends at play within the energy industry. Not only have upgrades expanded  solar , wind and hydro infrastructure capacities, but coal plant closures have likewise been commonplace, hinting at the changing energy landscape. Several factors have quickened the demise of coal reliance. As the  EIA  has shared, both investor-owned and publicly-owned municipal electric utilities began decommissioning coal-fired power plants a decade ago at the behest of local and state government public utilities commissions. Secondly, costs to construct  wind farms  have slid over 40%, whereas solar costs have sunk by over 80%, making both more appealing. Naturally, the decline of coal-fired power plants has positive implications for the environment and  climate , since coal produces excess  greenhouse gas emissions .  But another concern is alleviated, too. Back in 2008, a joint Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) and University of Minnesota  research report  raised alarms on critical infrastructure planning. This report warned that pandemics could adversely affect coal supply chains and thereby prompt shortages in generating electricity to the Midwest, a region that relied on coal for 75% of its power generation, as opposed to only 5% on the West Coast. Transitioning away from coal-generated electricity these past 12 years following this report has mitigated the risk of wide swathes of Middle America losing electricity during the 2020 pandemic. + US Energy Information Administration (EIA) + Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA) Images via Pexels

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US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

May 21, 2020 by  
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The  COVID-19  pandemic has disrupted nationwide  energy  supply-and-demand patterns. Stay-at-home social distancing measures have altered U.S. electricity consumption. Bulk electricity usage by commercial businesses and industrial manufacturing has given way to increased household electricity consumption as the general population isolates at home. In turn, this economic slowdown has shifted electricity generation to rely more on the renewable energy sector. Both the  US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  and the  Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA)  have revealed that, from March 25th through May 3rd, utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower collectively generated more electricity than coal! This record 40-day timespan has edged over 2019’s run of 38 days when U.S.  renewables  first beat coal last year. Last year marked the first time renewables outpaced coal-fired electricity generation. This led to  IEEFA forecasts  of renewables eclipsing coal by 2021. Unexpectedly, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated  renewable energy ‘s first-quarter performance in producing electricity. Hence,  EIA forecasts  expect electric power generated by coal “will fall by 25% in 2020.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Interestingly,  Forbes  notes that “The electric power sector consistently sees its lowest  coal  demand in April,” owing to seasonal temperature adjustments when winter transitions into springtime. Because of the change in season,  natural gas  and coal generators often “schedule routine maintenance for the spring…and many coal plants spen[d] part of April offline for planned, temporary outages.” This illustrates why wind generation is typically relied upon most in springtime. As for  hydropower , snowmelt often feeds rivers, thus accounting for increased electricity generation downstream each spring as well, Forbes explains. Last year’s forecasts showed trends at play within the energy industry. Not only have upgrades expanded  solar , wind and hydro infrastructure capacities, but coal plant closures have likewise been commonplace, hinting at the changing energy landscape. Several factors have quickened the demise of coal reliance. As the  EIA  has shared, both investor-owned and publicly-owned municipal electric utilities began decommissioning coal-fired power plants a decade ago at the behest of local and state government public utilities commissions. Secondly, costs to construct  wind farms  have slid over 40%, whereas solar costs have sunk by over 80%, making both more appealing. Naturally, the decline of coal-fired power plants has positive implications for the environment and  climate , since coal produces excess  greenhouse gas emissions .  But another concern is alleviated, too. Back in 2008, a joint Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) and University of Minnesota  research report  raised alarms on critical infrastructure planning. This report warned that pandemics could adversely affect coal supply chains and thereby prompt shortages in generating electricity to the Midwest, a region that relied on coal for 75% of its power generation, as opposed to only 5% on the West Coast. Transitioning away from coal-generated electricity these past 12 years following this report has mitigated the risk of wide swathes of Middle America losing electricity during the 2020 pandemic. + US Energy Information Administration (EIA) + Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA) Images via Pexels

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US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

What You Need To Know About Natural Gas Power

February 17, 2020 by  
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This is the final article in a six-part series that explores … The post What You Need To Know About Natural Gas Power appeared first on Earth911.com.

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What You Need To Know About Natural Gas Power

What You Need to Know About Coal Power

January 31, 2020 by  
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This article is the fifth in a six-part series that explores … The post What You Need to Know About Coal Power appeared first on Earth911.com.

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What You Need to Know About Coal Power

Earth911 Inspiration: Be True to the Earth — Edward Abbey

January 31, 2020 by  
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This week’s quote is from American novelist and pioneering environmentalist … The post Earth911 Inspiration: Be True to the Earth — Edward Abbey appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Inspiration: Be True to the Earth — Edward Abbey

Fukushima on track to become a renewable energy hub

November 14, 2019 by  
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In hopes of reinventing its image, new life is breathing into Fukushima, the Japanese northeastern prefecture that was devastated by a 2011 tsunami and consequent nuclear power plant meltdown. Fukushima, which is Japan’s third largest prefecture, is revitalizing and transforming into a renewable energy hub. Eight years ago, in March 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami, overwhelming the Fukushima reactors and causing the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl incident. Decontamination of Fukushima’s nuclear plant and surroundings are ongoing. Related: Global renewable energy is projected to rise by 50% in the next 5 years, IEA finds Since 2011, both the Japanese state and Fukushima local governments have ramped up the prefecture’s renewable energy production. To meet the entire region’s needs with 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, endeavors are underway to cultivate and integrate clean energy sources like biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. There are already investor plans to construct 11 new solar farms and 10 wind power plants on under-utilized farmlands and hillsides tainted by radiation. Development of these new solar and wind power plants will take place in the next five years, with the first solar plant being a 20-megawatt (MW) installation planned for Minamisoma. Estimated costs for all the green energy construction runs upward of 300 billion Japanese yen, or $2.75 billion in U.S. dollars. Financiers and stakeholders supporting the renewable energy hub construction include the state-run Development Bank of Japan and the private lender Mizuho Bank. The Japanese are optimistic about the electrical power that will be generated, given the region’s current trajectory. Back in 2012, Fukushima only generated 400 MW of electricity, then increased to 1 gigawatt (GW) in 2016. By 2018, Fukushima region’s combined electrical power generation from renewables reached 1.5 GW. The 21 new plants under construction are expected to bring additional 600 MW to Fukushima’s energy output, the equivalent to powering 114,000 average American households. A new, 50-mile wide grid is similarly in the works. Via the power transmission network of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the grid will connect and feed power from Fukushima into metropolitan areas of Japan’s capital, Tokyo, about 155 miles south of the prefecture. Cost projections for the grid are 29 billion yen, or $267 million. This new clean energy action plan is aligned with the Fukushima prefecture’s goal of having renewables supply 40 percent of its electricity demand by 2020, two-thirds by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. The end goal for 2040 is that the entire Land of the Rising Sun will be completely powered through renewable energy. Via Yale360 , Japan Times and Nikkei Asian Review Image via Andreas

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Fukushima on track to become a renewable energy hub

Southern California Edison’s Bill Chiu on how electric grids benefit the private sector

November 11, 2019 by  
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The state of California has ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which motivates various sectors to realign their efforts. The managing director of grid resilience at Southern California Edison (SCE), Bill Chiu, shares how he is driving an “existential transformation” for the electricity supply company by implementing a roadmap called the Clean Power and Electrification Pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Southern California Edison’s Bill Chiu on how electric grids benefit the private sector

General Motors’ Rob Threlked on advancing utility-customer partnerships

November 11, 2019 by  
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Utility-customer partnerships are key to advancing clean energy programs in corporations. Hear Rob Threlked’s take on how General Motors are beginning to align their sustainability targets with their customers in order to move the industry forward.

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General Motors’ Rob Threlked on advancing utility-customer partnerships

Your favorite playlist has a carbon footprint

May 24, 2019 by  
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You would think streaming music is more eco-friendly than CDs, tapes and records, right? Afterall, there’s no waste. A new study by the Universities of Glasglow and Oslo calculated the carbon footprint associated with downloading and streaming music and the answer is surprising. According to data from 2015 and 2016, music streaming accounted for 200 to 350 million kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions . The study used data records from the Recording Industry Association of America. First, researchers took the total number of streamed and downloaded songs and multiplied it by the amount of electricity it takes to download 1 gigabyte of data. Each gigabyte is equivalent to the amount of electricity needed to light one light bulb for an hour. Next researchers investigated what kind of fuel sources are typically fueling music streaming sites— such as coal or renewable energy — and averaged the carbon dioxide emitted. Related: Music festivals and events can set the stage for sustainability The totals do not reflect the carbon footprint of data storage and processing centers, nor the electricity it takes to power your cellphone or steaming device, so the comprehensive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is actually much higher than the study initially indicates. Music streaming giant, Spotify, did not respond to The Rolling Stone journalist’s request for comment, but they did publish a sustainability report in 2017, which promised to work toward carbon neutrality. By 2018, the new sustainability report indicated that they had closed almost all of their data centers and reduced their carbon footprint by 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide . In actuality, Spotify shifted to using Google Cloud services, which means that now Google data centers are responsible for the emissions, not that emissions have necessarily been cut. Streaming competitors Apple and Amazon have recently invested in renewable energy options for their centers. Data centers in general are responsible for 2 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to the airline industry. Music lovers who want to be more sustainable should buy full albums rather than streaming individual songs, especially if you plan to hit that repeat button a lot. According to their calculations, streaming 27 songs uses more energy than manufacturing the disc. For those of you who can’t imagine hopping in a time machine and buying a CD again, the authors suggest that downloading songs for offline listening could reduce the associated energy consumption. Via Rolling Stone Image via PhotoMIX-Company

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Your favorite playlist has a carbon footprint

Green-roofed NY home taps into passive solar with contemporary style

March 13, 2019 by  
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New York-based design firm Slade Architecture has reconciled a client’s need for privacy with their desire for connection with the landscape in the Link Farm House, a contemporary home that splits the public and private areas into two perpendicular volumes. Located on a 220-acre organic farm in Dutchess County, New York, the expansive home engages the bucolic surroundings with a glass public-facing volume balanced atop a grassy knoll and a lower, private-facing volume built of locally sourced stone. The two volumes are optimized for passive solar benefits and heavily insulated, from the lower volume’s thermal barrier-like stonewalls to the upper volume’s triple-glazed facade. Built for a couple with three children, the Link Farm House serves as a family retreat from Manhattan. The home’s two perpendicularly intersecting volumes are positioned so that the lower volume is hidden from view in the entry sequence and only reveals itself in close proximity. The conspicuous upper volume is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glazed walls and topped with a flat roof with overhangs that shield the walls of glass from unwanted solar heat gain in summer. Geothermal wells power the home’s heating and cooling and are complemented with radiant floors heated with a geothermal heat pump-driven forced-air system. Remote solar cells are tapped for electricity.   “The building uses the site and the unique characteristics of the two volumes opportunistically maximizing the passive benefits of the two conditions as well as the active potential of the site for energy conservation,” the architects explain. “In terms of passive thermal strategies, the upper volume engages the exterior conditions and the lower volume insulates against the exterior environment. The triple insulated glass walls and roof overhang of the upper volume leverage summer and winter sun angles to shade the interior in summer and maximize solar penetration and heat gain in winter. The lower volume uses super-insulated walls and windows to create a thermal barrier. In addition, the stone flooring throughout this lower volume creates a thermal flywheel, stabilizing the temperature.” Related: LEED Gold home celebrates Utah’s brilliant light and beauty To reduce the home’s embodied energy footprint, the architects sourced wood from the client’s farm property for use throughout the house from the solid cherry paneling in the mudroom and study to the locally sourced timber used for the cabinetry and ceiling of the master bathroom. The lower volume, which contains the private areas, consists of five bedrooms, a family room, mudroom, and a study. The upper level comprises an open-plan living room, dining room, kitchen and family room that opens up to a green-roofed terrace. + Slade Architecture Images via Tom Sibley

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