$12 Million Says Ocean Power Can Compete In The Big Leagues With Wind, Solar

The power of the ocean provides a new means of renewable energy generation.  The vast openness of the ocean allows for plenty of room for renewable energy generation.  But can it compete with wind and solar energy?

Wind and solar power are the heavy hitters of the global clean energy revolution, but the US Energy Department is still focusing an eyeball on ocean power and things just got a little more interesting. Despite the threat of steep budget cuts proposed by President Trump, DOE is forging ahead with a new round of $12 million in funding for ocean power projects, specifically aimed at accelerating the development of “game-changing,” low cost wave energy converters. The $12 million is a giant step up from the first iteration of the wave energy program, which launched back in 2015 with a $2.25 million pot in the form of the Wave Energy Prize Challenge . Why Ocean Power? The US has been steadily pumping dollars into wave energy, tidal energy and other ocean power projects, but progress has been slow ( Australia is among the countries that seem to be a step or two ahead). Partly due to the complications (corrosion, much?) involved in situating mechanical devices in salty water, at the present time wave energy is not competitive with wind, solar, or for that matter inland hydropower. However, the vast potential for sucking up energy from the ocean is certainly tempting. Here’s DOE enthusing over the possibilities: The Department’s latest nationwide wave and tidal energy resource assessments identify up to 1,400 terawatt hours of potential generation per year. One terawatt-hour of electricity is enough to power 85,000 homes, and developing a small fraction of the available wave and tidal energy resource could allow for millions of American homes to be powered with this clean, reliable form of renewable energy. DOE estimates that the Pacific Northwest could generate up to 70 kilowatts per meter of coastline all by itself, with 40 kilowatts being the minimum mark. More to the point, costs are coming down. DOE anticipates that the northeast and northwest coasts of the US will be among the more feasible spots around the globe to harvest wind energy. The agency also cites analysts who foresee that niche applications could be quite competitive. In that regard, it’s worth noting that cities — and high electricity demand — are concentrated along coastlines in the US and other countries. The US took several significant steps toward jump-starting a domestic ocean power industry during the Obama Administration, including a $10 million funding opportunity and expansion of an existing wave energy test facility in Hawaii. Tiny Wave Energy Developers Vault Into The Spotlight The new $12 million funding pot is being split four ways. Two of the projects receiving grants also placed in the Wave Energy Prize winner’s circle. The runner up was the University of California – Berkeley spinoff California Wave Power Technologies . Its prize winning device achieved a three-fold jump in the benchmark of energy capture per unit structural cost. The new round of funding will enable the startup to develop parameters for building a scaled up version. The grand prize went to a kind of floating Frisbee called Power Take Off. Developed by Oregon-based AquaHarmonics , Power Take Off clocked in with a five-fold rampup in energy capture per unit structural cost. As with the runner-up, the funds will go to developing a full scale version that meets the central goal of reducing costs. Group Hug For US Taxpayers! Since AquaHarmonics won the big prize, let’s zero in on them. The two-man team of Alex Hagmuller and Max Ginsberg formed at Oregon State University and began developing the converter about five years ago. With full time jobs to attend to, the two literally tinkered in a garage in their spare time (usually at night) to get their device off the ground. It could have stayed in the garage for another five years or more, but they credit the Wave Energy Prize for getting them to the next stage with structure, focus, and the chance to work with “extremely helpful, encouraging, and inspirational people.” As for the technology, Aquaharmonics approached the problem by looking at wind turbines. With some notable exceptions, turbine blades all look pretty similar because the technology is mature and generations of innovators have figured out the optimal shape. In the case of wave power, innovators are still trying to figure out the optimal approach, and Aquaharmonics is confident they have nailed it: Our device Power Take Off is unique in that it uses relatively simple and well known power technologies to convert wave motion to electrical power in very few steps, with no limit in operational stroke, meaning […]

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How EPA Data Keeps Citizens Safe

The Trump administration is trying to kill the EPA.  Concerned citizens are saving the EPA data to preserve what our tax dollars have accumulated.

Originally published on The Climate Reality Project.

You might have heard about “data rescue” events happening around the country over the last several weeks. Librarians, data scientists, archivists, coders, and other volunteers are coming together to download and archive federal datasets. But why?

To understand why thousands of people are doing this, first let’s talk about what sort of data the federal government provides. Right now, agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Transportation, and more publish datasets as well as infographics, interactive tools, maps, and reports to display and communicate what they know about what’s happening with our land, our water, our health, our infrastructure and more to the public.

As citizens, we’ve paid taxes to support the collection, analysis, and publication of this information. And it’s been a critical resource for scientists to use for their research and reporting. For example, scientists can click through to the EPA’s site to get information on pipeline spills, then cross reference it with infrastructure reports from the Department of Transportation to identify potential danger points for future spills.

It’s not just scientists or researchers using this data. It’s available as a resource for all of us. Let’s say you’re moving to a new town in a state halfway across the country. Information from federal agencies can help you easily answer questions like “Can I drink the water? Do I know my child’s school wasn’t built anywhere near a dangerous chemical plant?”

So, citizen activists from all backgrounds and areas of expertise are coming together to “rescue” the data – archiving the webpages and downloading raw information to safely store on a publicly-accessible website for anyone – anyone – to access in the future. Regardless of the decision of an administration or agency makes, people have a right to access the data. And fortunately, citizens working to rescue data are helping to preserve that right, no matter what.

What does that look like? Let’s get specific. Here are four data sources recently saved at DataRescueDC and how they’re used to protect people around the country.

1. TOXICS RELEASE INVENTORY (TRI)

The Toxics Release Inventory is a set of publicly-available databases containing information on the release of specific toxic chemicals and their management as waste. It requires facilities in certain industries which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on how they release them. The reports contain information about the types and amounts of toxic chemicals released each year into the air, water, and land and by underground injection. The inventory also details information on the quantities of toxic chemicals sent to other facilities for further waste management.

2. NEPASSIST

NEPAssist is a tool that facilitates the environmental review process and project planning in relation to environmental considerations. The web-based application draws environmental data dynamically from EPA geographic information system databases and web services and provides immediate screening of environmental assessment indicators for a user-defined area of interest. These features contribute to a streamlined review process that can raise important environmental issues at the earliest stages of a project’s development.

This tool has been so successful in helping assess the overall environmental impact of large projects that it has been replicated in other countries.

3. FACILITY REGISTRY SERVICE

The Facility Registry Service provides quality location data to support EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment. Through the service, users can easily learn more about facilities, sites, or places of environmental interest subject to regulation.

Here’s an example. The Facility Registry Service connects to the US Department of Energy, so you can see fuel consumption for a power plant near your home. And, you can see EPA data about the air pollution it emit. With that information, you can compare the environmental costs of coal-fired power plants versus natural gas power plants.

Power plant data isn’t all the registry provides. By also offering wide-ranging information on pollution from a huge number of factories, plants, and more, the site helps businesses trying to cut their emissions and become more sustainable learn from each other and see the best practices that work.

4. EPA ENVIROATLAS

The EnviroAtlas is an interactive tool with geospatial maps containing 100 layers displaying data in areas like land use, land cover, climate change, habitats, and more. Through the tool, you can practically time travel using its enormous catalog of historical data, allowing users to compare the impacts of climate change, understand regional ecological difference, and learn more about biodiversity over the years. This long-view perspective helps us gain insight into the impacts of the climate crisis and habitats on ecosystems over time, highlighting how climate change is affecting the country.

WANT TO SAVE THE DATA?

These are just four tools among countless more that help people understand the safety of their own communities. So when it comes to policy decisions, access to this information is vital to helping make smart decisions that protect our air, water, and health. Think of it this way: without the right data, even the best-intended decisions can result in unforeseen negative consequences. Data – and open data, specifically – give us the tools to make the best decisions possible.

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Why The US Army, Navy, & Military Veterans Love Solar

When our soldiers are asking “why are we here” and the answer to them is oil, that is a problem.  With the introduction of renewable energy into the US military, our soldiers are seeing the great benefit of renewable energy.

Originally published on Solar Love.

Donald Trump says he wants to create American jobs, but he is cool to the idea of renewable energy, which he claims is “too expensive.” Don’t tell that to the US military, however. Last year, the Navy broke ground on a 4 megawatt (MW) solar array at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Mississippi and the Army completed a large 30 MW solar array at Fort Benning, Georgia. Many soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen first hand how human and economic resources are wasted to protect fossil fuel assets. After serving, they are also finding jobs in the solar industry.

As it turns out, solar power has become cheaper than fossil fuels and solar jobs have been flying through the roof — a dozen or so times faster than overall US job growth.

Largest Coal-Fired Generating Plant West Of The Mississippi To Close In 2019One such soldier is Kevin Johnson, a West Point graduate who has served in Iraq and seen first hand the ferocity of attacks on oil wells and pipelines by insurgents. “For me, that was a key wake-up call,” Johnson said. “You have 100 soldiers asking you every day what we’re doing there, and it was hard not to see the combination of the economy of Iraq being based on oil exports and the attacks there on the infrastructure.”

His experience led Johnson to believe that protection of fossil fuel assets would continuously put American soldiers in harm’s way. After his tour of duty, he committed himself to learning all he could about clean, renewable solar power. Now he runs CleanCapital, a renewable energy investment firm he founded with, among other partners, a fellow Army veteran.

“The most challenging thing for veterans is that transition process and finding that same level of mission-driven culture in their professional careers,” Johnson says. “The solar industry, specifically, provides that.” Today, almost one out of every ten veterans have found jobs in the solar industry. Many like Nat Kreamer have formed their own companies. Kreamer is chairman of Solar Energy Industries Association. He is a former Navy officer who received a Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan. Under his leadership, the solar sector has committed to hiring 50,000 vets by 2020.

According to Think Progress, Americans are now twice as likely to be employed in the solar energy industry as in the coal industry. Last year, more than 51,000 people in the United States were hired to design, manufacture, sell, and install solar panels, according to a new report from The Solar Foundation. That means the solar industry created jobs 17 times faster than the economy as a whole. “In 2016, we saw a dramatic increase in the solar workforce across the nation, thanks to a rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels and unprecedented consumer demand for solar installations,” said Andrea Luecke, The Solar Foundation’s president and executive director.

solar energy panelsNick Boateng has his own story to tell. “I served in the active Army for eight years, three months and 28 days,” says Boateng, a veteran now working in solar. “From the experiences that I had, I noticed that one of the main reasons we were fighting these conflicts was resources.” His military service piqued his curiosity about solar power but it was not until he visited his ancestral home in Ghana that he became a true solar convert. While he was there, Ghana was suffering from rolling blackouts, but Boateng discovered one home that managed to keep its lights on. “I was curious how that house wasn’t running a generator but still had electricity,” he says. “When I went there, I noticed they were running a solar PV system.”

That inspired a dream of erecting solar installations all across Ghana, but he had no expertise in the industry. So he signed up for classes through the GI bill and managed to get a job at the Los Angeles office of GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit that performs free solar installations in economically deprived communities. “Right now, my primary job is here in California,” he says. “The project I’m working on in Ghana is a progressive thing that I am phasing in over time.” Boateng’s dream merges perfectly with pop entertainment star Akon, who is putting his fame and resources into bringing solar microgrids to parts of Africa that have never had reliable access to electricity. For more on that, see our Akon exclusives:

If Donald Trump believes the way to put Americans back to work is by having them dig coal, he is either lying to himself or the American people. Or both.

Donald Trump and his alternative fact cronies may have a harder time pushing their corrupt agenda with the military turning against them.  Soldiers do not have a horse in the game, so for them it is easy to see solar is the future, not coal.

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Silicon Energy Storage Technology Scales Up for Commercial Production

Energy storage is an important factor when it comes to renewable energy sources.  With solar energy, power is produced only while the sun is up and the solar panels are absorbing the rays.  This energy needs a place to be stored for night time use.

Corporate Renewable Energy PPAs Could See Big Year In Australia, Says EnergeticsOne of the most abundant elements on earth is being used to create an energy storage system that can heat homes as well as store electricity.

South Australian company 1414 Degrees has developed technology to store electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon at a cost estimated to be up to 10 times cheaper than lithium batteries.

Silicon is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust after oxygen.

A ton of silicon can store enough energy to power 28 houses for a day.

Its high latent heat capacity and high melting temperature of 1414 C – make it ideal for the storage of large amounts of energy.

The process also generates large amounts of clean useable heat, which can easily be utilized for district heating or industrial purposes.

1414 Degrees has created a full prototype ready for commercialization in Adelaide, South Australia, of its patented thermal energy storage system (TESS).

The company completed its first trials in September with a small prototype test system using about 300kg of silicon to store about 150 kW of energy.

It is now scaling up its technology to grid-scale thermal energy storage systems with potential to dramatically improve the efficiency of wind and solar farms and will launch the first commercial machines this year.

1414 Degrees Chairman Dr. Kevin Moriarty said the company was waiting for AusIndustry, a division of the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, to sign-off on the 10-MWh project in February so manufacture could begin.

California Solar Farm Produces Power At Record Low PriceHe said the company has two target markets: a device capable of storing 10 MWh of energy is targeted at industry, while the second 200-MWh device was suitable for a wind farm, large solar array or gas-fired power station.

As well as its ability to stabilize South Australia’s electricity supply, which relies heavily on wind power, the system is likely to appeal to northern European countries because of its ability to store the wind energy of a cold Scandinavian night while keeping residents warm and running their computers the next day.

Australian CleanTech Managing Director John O’Brien said energy storage would undoubtedly be a very significant part of the energy system as nations moved towards low- or zero-carbon targets in the next decade or two.

He said the relatively cheap price of silicon and its ability to be used over and over would help keep the overall lifecycle price down.

“The main alternative at the moment is large-scale lithium batteries — there’s plenty of lithium around as well and there’s some very large companies with massive factories producing lithium batteries,” O’Brien said.

“But if they can scale up what they are doing with silicon then that certainly has potential.

“Clearly the sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind doesn’t blow all of the time so we have to think a bit more carefully about how we manage it.”

This article was originally published by The Lead under a Creative Commons license and was edited for style and content. Read the original article here.

The storage of power is half the battle with clean energy sources.  Advancements in energy storage will greatly help the push towards green energy.

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Solar Energy “Historic” Job-Creating Pace Endures, For Now

Solar jobs are booming, for now.  Trump and the “oil” cabinet may put a huge dent into the solar energy job growth.

solar installationSolar energy jobs are booming, according to the non-profit Solar Foundation. The organization’s annual National Solar Jobs Census for 2016 showed that the solar industry’s contribution to the national employment picture is significant, adding up to one out of every 50 new jobs created last year.

That kind of firepower makes the solar workforce a political force. President Donald Trump has already riled up practically the entire tech industry over the Muslim ban, with more than 100 top companies joining the ACLU and other stakeholders in a legal battle against it. Provoking the solar industry could yield similar results.

The 2016 National Solar Jobs Census

The Solar Foundation has described last year’s solar jobs growth as running at a historic pace, and they’re not kidding:

The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 found that solar industry employment growth outpaced the overall U.S. economy by 17 times as it increased by over 51,000 jobs, for a total of 260,077 U.S. solar workers.

Percentage wise, the industry achieved a growth rate of 25% over 2015. That beats the rate of growth for every other Solar Foundation census going back to the first one in 2010.

Solar Energy Can Surprise You

On a state by state basis, California came in first for highest number of total solar jobs. That’s no surprise given its size and its favorable policies for solar energy and other clean tech.

California is also staking out a leadership position in terms of making solar energy affordable. The new solar seed fund RE-volve, for example, chose the University of California – Santa Barbara as one of three launch sites for a nationwide affordable solar program.

Of the remaining top five job-creating states for solar energy, three may surprise you. Texas, Florida, and Nevada all made the top five despite the outsized influence of Republican party members on energy policy in those states.

The state of Massachusetts is also a bit of a surprise. Unlike the other top five, Massachusetts can hardly claim fame for a warm, sunny, solar-friendly climate. However, this deep blue state shows that favorable policies can counterbalance less than ideal conditions.

Political Force Aligns For Solar Energy

Trump Administration Spurs Solidarity Wake-Up Call In US & AbroadThe Trump Muslim ban is being decided in court today, following on the national uproar that erupted after Trump’s January 27 executive order abruptly stopped entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, even those with valid green cards or visas.

The problem for the Trump Administration is that global culture is firmly entrenched in the US, especially in recent years as global connections have flourished alongside the growth of the tech field.

The Muslim ban effectively united the tech industry, workers, and consumers all together in a common interest.

As the culture of solar technology becomes more deeply embedded in the American energy landscape, a similar kind of connectivity is emerging.

Here’s the Solar Foundation President and Executive Director Andrea Luecke connecting the dots:

…the solar industry is an American success story that has created hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs…In 2016, we saw a dramatic increase in the solar workforce across the nation, thanks to a rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels and unprecedented consumer demand for solar installations. More than ever, it’s clear that solar energy is a low-cost, reliable, super-abundant American energy source that is driving economic growth, strengthening businesses, and making our cities smarter and more resilient.

US Vets For Solar

Speaking of solar jobs, some of the political force supporting continued growth in the solar industry could come from an important sector of the population, US military veterans.

The solar industry positioned itself as a veteran-friendly opportunity throughout the Obama Administration, and last year the Solar Foundation pumped the hire-a-vet scenario up a notch or two.

In partnership with the outgoing Obama Administration, last spring the organization rolled out a new program called Solar Ready Vets. Based on a 2015 pilot program, Solar Ready Vets is designed to train active duty military for solar jobs before they reach the end of their stints. That way they can hit the ground running after their discharge.

The jobs are certainly out there if the growth rate continues. Here’s the rundown from the 2016 Solar Jobs Census:

Solar job growth in 2016 took place in all job sectors, including a 26 percent growth in manufacturing companies to 38,121 jobs nationwide. Installation jobs increased by 14 percent to a total of 137,133 jobs. Project development jobs increased by 53 percent to 34,400 jobs, while sales and distribution jobs increased by 32 percent to 32,147 jobs.

The 800 pound gorilla in the solar jobs room is President Trump, but if nationwide reaction to the transparently bigoted Muslim ban is any indication, it looks like nothing can stop solar jobs from continuing to grow this year.

How much money can a solar roof save you in California?

Hopefully the will of the people will prevail by continuing the solar growth our Country has experienced over the last couple of years.  States such as California continue to lead the way in solar energy.

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US Clean Energy Jobs Surpass Fossil Fuel Jobs By 5 To 1

The smart thing for the USA to do is to continue on the path of renewable energy.  Trump says he is going to create jobs but he fills his cabinet with billionaires and oil CEO’s.  Renewable energy creates far more jobs than fossil fuel related jobs.  With Trump in office oil will be the way of the land.

Originally published on NRDC.
By Lara Ettenson, Director, California Energy Efficiency Policy, Energy & Transportation program

The recently published Department of Energy 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report shows that clean electricity jobs are no doubt the engine that drives America’s electric energy economy, outstripping the number of paychecks provided by the fossil fuel industry by at least five to one. While that doesn’t mean fossil fuel generation is gone, it certainly means that if you are a politician looking for ways to grow jobs for the long term in your community, clean energy is the path to take.

Check out the numbers

solar installationAll told, nearly 1 million Americans are working near- or full-time in the energy efficiency, solar, wind, and alternative vehicles sectors. This is almost five times the current employment in the fossil fuel electric industry, which includes coal, gas, and oil workers.

And if you add in those who only work part-time, such as a construction worker who doesn’t spend all of his or her work hours installing energy efficient components like high-efficiency windows, the number jumps to nearly 3 million Americans working in part or in whole for the energy efficiency, solar, wind, and alternative vehicles sectors. That’s 14 times the current employment in the fossil fuel electric industry.

Here are some more impressive statistics from the report:

  • More than 350,000 people last year worked in part or in whole on solar energy production (with over 260,000 of those employees spending the majority of their time on solar). This is more than 40 percent of the overall electrical generation workforce and exceeds the combined employment of coal, gas, and oil workers connected with producing electricity that reached just under 200,000.
  • 2.2 million American jobs contribute in some manner to energy efficient products and services. Nearly 1.5 million of these jobs are in the construction industry involved in making our homes and businesses more energy efficient and almost 300,000 are manufacturing jobs, producing ENERGY STAR® certified products and efficient building materials in the United States.
  • The number of wind energy employees reached more than 100,000 across the nation, twice the number recorded in 2013 by the American Wind Energy Association. See my colleague’s blog for more good news about U.S. wind power jobs and manufacturing.
  • At least 700,000 jobs in the motor vehicle sector are focused on increasing fuel economy or transitioning to alternative fuels. There are also more than 250,000 employees spending the majority of their time working with alternative fuels vehicles, including natural gas, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all electric, and fuel cell/hydrogen vehicles.
  • These clean energy jobs can be found in every single state. See here for a state-by-state breakdown.

The job growth trends also favored clean energy in 2016: Wind employment went up by 32 percent over the previous year and the solar workforce increased by 25 percent. Efficiency alone increased 7 percent (12 percent in the construction industry), which represents relatively large numbers given the size of the efficiency workforce. Jobs in alternative fuels vehicles also saw an increase of almost 70,000 jobs in 2016.

Looking forward, energy efficiency employers project the highest growth rate over the next 12 months (about 9 percent) while the fuels sector reported it expects a decline in employment of about 3 percent over the same time period.

What does this mean for the American people?

Rex Tillerson Moves One Step Closer To Secretary Of State — Is This A Bad Thing?A key takeaway is that if the Trump administration hopes to fulfill its promise to Americans to create good-paying local jobs, it needs to look no further than the rapidly developing clean energy arenas. As my colleague wrote, a key factor in creating clean energy jobs is state policy that encourages development in those sectors. As shown by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, states like California, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania all have energy efficiency policies that support a strong and growing efficiency workforce.

These policies can also keep energy bills low despite claims that investing in clean energy automatically leads to higher costs. But it’s not just good news for energy efficiency – a recent NRDC report shows that clean energy actually costs less than the dirty alternative.

What’s next?

Without federal leadership, states must push for strong efficiency and renewable energy policies within their borders to experience these benefits and support their growing clean energy workforces. We also need to make sure that opportunities are available and easily accessible for underserved communities and workers transitioning out of polluting energy occupations.

Unfortunately, President Trump has ignored the entire burgeoning clean energy movement in his new so-called “America First” energy plan and is threatening to clamp down on the very agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy – that augment this progress.

States must push for renewable energy as Trump’s leadership will not.  States like California continue to be ahead of the curve when it comes to clean energy.

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