Gambit Energy Storage LLC, a Tesla subsidiary, is building a 100 megawatt energy storage project in Arlington, Texas, outside of Houston. The giant battery will plug into the Texas power grid, providing backup to a system that last month suffered a devastating failure when a severe winter storm knocked generation offline at the same time as demand soared.
Tesla introduced its Powerwall home batteries in 2016; the Gambit battery would store enough energy to power 20,000 homes during summer peak hours, and is expected to be operational on June 1st. Blackouts are becoming increasingly common as climate change exposes the energy grid's vulnerability to climate change, and battery-supported microgrids are increasingly seen as a critical backup for lifesaving systems.
As reported by NPR:
Like falling dominos, infrastructure around Texas, dependent on electricity, began failing in the extreme cold. In Austin, the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant shut down due to an electrical failure. That, combined with low water pressure from broken pipes, meant residents had to boil their water.
Blackouts are becoming increasingly common as extreme weather causes electricity demand to skyrocket, while simultaneously damaging the aging electric grid. Climate change-driven disasters, like more intense storms and hurricanes, only increase that risk.
So, some communities are looking for new ways to ensure that vulnerable people and infrastructure can withstand power outages. They're installing solar panels and large batteries to create tiny "microgrids" that continue working when the larger grid goes dark.
Some are being sited at crucial facilities, like water treatment plants, hospitals and emergency response centers. Smaller battery systems also aid people who rely on life-saving medical equipment at home. While electric utilities traditionally invest in keeping up the electric grid, disaster experts say they need to also explore newer solutions, adapted to extreme weather, for when the grid falters and can't be repaired fast.
"These natural disasters and disruptive events are going to continue," says Eliza Hotchkiss, senior resilience analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "We're seeing them, especially in hurricanes, happening more frequently with greater intensity. So we just can't bury our heads in the sand and ignore that this is a thing that's happening, because it will just continue to disrupt our lives."
For a deeper dive:
As electric vehicles become more mainstream, the demand for lithium ion car batteries is growing. But to increase production, the industry needs more lithium, cobalt, and nickel.
One possible source is batteries that are no longer in use.
"It's a bit of a waste to just have batteries sitting in a landfill. And there's opportunity there to reuse those materials, make them as good as new," says Kunal Phalpher of Li-Cycle.
Li-Cycle uses a two-step process to recover more than 80% of the materials in old lithium ion batteries.
"We take the batteries and shred them," Phalpher says. "And then phase two of the process is then to take that mixed material and separate each of the elements through chemical processing."
The approach generates less carbon pollution than mining those minerals from the ground. And it solves another problem the booming industry is grappling with: how to safely and sustainably dispose of spent batteries.
Li-Cycle has a demonstration plant in Canada, and Phalpher says it's building a new facility in Rochester, New York. Last December, the company shipped its first commercial load of recycled battery material to a customer – a critical milestone on the road to addressing this global challenge.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Construction is starting on what will be the world's largest liquid air battery, The Guardian reported Thursday.
The project, known as the CryoBattery, will also be the first commercial battery of its kind. It will be housed near Manchester in the UK and help the country store renewable energy. When it is completed, it will store 250 megawatt hours of energy, almost double what the world's largest chemical battery, the Tesla battery in South Australia, can store.
"This revolutionary new Cryobattery facility will form a key part of our push towards net zero, bringing greater flexibility to Britain's electricity grid and creating green collar jobs in Greater Manchester," UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said in a government press release. "Projects like these will help us realise the full value of our world-class renewables, ensuring homes and businesses can still be powered by green energy, even when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing."
The UK government is backing the project to the tune of £10 million. It is due to be completed by 2022 and, when it is, it will be able to power as many as 200,000 homes for five hours.
The government explained how the battery will accomplish this:
The CryoBattery works by using electricity to cool and compress air, turning it into liquid and storing it in industrial sized containers. It then feeds the liquid through a turbine, turning it back into electricity and pumping it back into the grid when it is needed.
The battery is being developed by Carlton Highview Storage, a partnership between UK independent power station developer Carlton Power and long-term energy storage firm Highview Power Storage, Current reported.
Highview chief executive Javier Cavada told The Guardian that liquid air batteries could be built anywhere.
"Air is everywhere in the world. The main competitor is really not other storage technologies but fossil fuels, as people still want to continue building gas and coal-fired plants today, strangely enough," he said.
For his part, Carlton Power chief executive Keith Clarke told Current his company looked at several energy storage solutions and settled on Highview's "because it is scalable, clean, can deliver the grid services we need, and can be deployed now."
The UK gets a third of its electricity from renewable energy and is home to the world's largest offshore wind farm, the government said. Storing that energy when it is not needed can help the UK meet its goal of going carbon neutral by 2050.
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By Lacey Shaver
When a city decides to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, headlines follow. But the work has only just begun. Cities have many options for generating and purchasing renewable electricity, each of which comes with distinct benefits and challenges.
Large, off-site projects tend to offer scale and help make a measurable difference towards locally-defined renewable energy goals. But they can be legally and financially complex and harder to sell to elected officials and residents. For this reason, the first renewable project that a city undertakes is often based in its own community. This might be an on-site solar project, which is installed at the same location where the electricity is consumed. Or it could be a community solar program, which allows residents to subscribe to a shared solar project within the community.
These kinds of projects visibly demonstrate a local government's dedication to climate action. The clean electricity they provide to municipal facilities and residents can reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions.
But fewer emissions and cleaner air aren't the only reasons that cities want to go renewable. Many are using local solar projects to achieve broader community benefits and align with other priorities. These include saving money, creating local jobs, expanding renewables access to low-income residents, and advancing local resilience.
1. Saving Money and Managing Future Price Risks
Generating wind and solar is increasingly more competitive or cheaper than other forms of energy. That means switching to renewables can help municipal governments save taxpayers money. Nevertheless, the upfront cost of installing solar can be daunting to cash-strapped local governments.
One way a city can manage costs is by entering into an on-site physical power purchase agreement (PPA), a financial contract in which a solar developer owns and maintains a solar photovoltaic system that is installed on a municipally-owned building and sells the electricity to the city at a discount. A PPA allows a local government to leverage one of its key assets — land and roof space — in exchange for a cheap, fixed-term source of clean electricity.
This is exactly the kind of arrangement completed by Washington, DC. In April 2018, Mayor Muriel Bowser gathered community members to announce the completion of a 10.9 megawatt system comprised of on-site solar projects spread across 35 municipally-owned properties, including schools, hospitals and recreation centers. Over the 20-year term of the contract with developer Sol Systems, Washington anticipates saving $25 million from reduced electricity costs.
Fayetteville, Arkansas used a similar model to make progress toward its goal of achieving 100 percent municipal use of clean energy by 2030. In November 2018, Fayetteville's City Council signed an agreement with Ozarks Electric Cooperative and Today's Power, Inc. to install 5 megawatts of solar panels and 12 megawatt-hours of battery storage at each of the city's two wastewater treatment plants, which combined make up about two-thirds of municipal electricity use. The 20-year project is expected to save the city $6 million.
2. Stimulating the Local Economy and Creating Well-Paying Green Jobs
In 2018, the U.S. added 110,000 net new clean energy jobs, outnumbering jobs from fossil fuels by about three to one. Leading cities are working to bring these well-paying jobs to their own communities.
In August 2018, Philadelphia's Office of Sustainability released a roadmap for how the city can reduce carbon emissions 80 percent from 2006 levels by 2050 while emphasizing equity and community health. Local stakeholders encouraged the city to take a holistic view of energy and climate action when developing the plan and identify the potential for co-benefits such as job creation and air quality improvements.
Leading the roadmap's implementation is the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA), an independent municipal authority that provides targeted expertise for local energy efficiency and generation efforts and facilitates the purchase of energy services on behalf of the city. PEA is leading the Philadelphia Energy Campaign, an effort that leverages $1 billion in public and private financing to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency. The Campaign is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs for Philadelphia residents in 10 years and create $200 million in savings for the local economy.
Philadelphia leaders announce Solarize Philly as part of the $1 billion Philadelphia Energy Campaign.
Flickr / Philadelphia City Council
3. Expanding Clean Energy Access to Residents Who Can't Install Solar on Their Property
To bring clean electricity to renters and low-income communities, cities are launching innovative community solar programs, which allow residents to purchase a share of a solar installation and reap the benefits of clean energy (including cost savings) without having to physically install panels on their property.
Austin, Texas spearheads multiple initiatives to meet the solar requirements in the city's renewable portfolio standard — for example, solar rebates and a utility green pricing program that allows customers to pay a premium for wind projects from across the state. However, wealthier residents tend to take advantage of these programs more often than those from low-income neighborhoods: Austin zip codes with an above-average median family income received 75 percent of all solar rebates in 2017. To expand solar access more equitably across the community, Austin Energy has created a community solar program and is piloting an innovative shared solar solution that targets hard-to-reach solar markets, like multi-family affordable housing and non-profits.
Programs like these are more than just feel-good — they offer financial benefits to those who need it most. Minneapolis, which has one of the most successful community solar programs in the country, saves money for 92 percent of their solar subscribers, and nearly a third of the program serves public entities such as schools.
4. Contributing to Local Resilience
In addition to cost savings, renewable energy projects can also increase community resilience. Pairing renewable energy with storage or microgrids can reduce dependence on the grid in times of natural disaster.
Too often, city resilience efforts begin with a catastrophic local event. In September 2013, Boulder, Colorado experienced a 100-year flash flood event that caused fatalities, widespread power outages and critical infrastructure damage. As part of the recovery, Boulder sought to rebuild in a more resilient way that would mitigate the risks and damages of future floods. The city partnered with Boulder Housing Partners (BHP), an affordable housing developer, to implement a solar-plus-storage system that allows operations to continue during emergencies. It includes electric vehicle charging stations to ensure that emergency transportation is available even if the grid is down.
Similarly, Santa Barbara County, California was ravaged by a series of wildfires in late 2017, followed by disastrous flooding and mudslides in the following year. Besides suffering extensive property damage, cities and towns in the area dealt with a series of widespread power outages. Perched at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the community is located at the end of Los Angeles' transmission line, where natural disasters can quickly leave residents in the dark. To reduce grid dependence, local cities like Santa Barbara and Goleta are exploring the potential to pair distributed renewable electricity generation with a microgrid and storage to mitigate future power outages.
It Takes Multiple Approaches
To achieve their clean energy and climate goals, cities will need to take a creative portfolio approach to renewable energy procurement that combines the tangible benefits of local solar projects with the scale of innovative large, off-site procurement options. The portfolio of renewable energy solutions will vary from city to city and should be paired with energy efficiency initiatives that reduce future electricity demand and enable a net zero-carbon electricity system. Successful implementation of local solar projects can be an effective first step to build momentum for other more ambitious renewable projects.
A Tale of Two Cities: How San Francisco and Burlington Are Shaping America's Low-Carbon Future… https://t.co/54F0M04M7a— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1521483808.0
The Renewables Accelerator is a key resource for cities already leading on renewable energy and those kickstarting their clean energy programs. Learn more about renewable energy procurement options for cities and the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator at www.cityrenewables.org.
Lacey Shaver is the city renewable energy manager within the global energy program at World Resources Institute.
Kauai Island Utility Cooperative /YouTube screenshot
Hawaii has a new, game-changing tool in its renewable energy arsenal. Power producer AES Corporation and the not-for-profit Kaua'i island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) unveiled what's claimed to be the world's largest solar-plus-storage peaker on the island of Kauai on Tuesday, the Lāwa'i Solar and Energy Storage Project.
This is a significant step to help the Aloha State reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2045, one of the most aggressive decarbonization targets in the nation.
So what exactly does this thing do? The battery-based energy storage system—consisting of a 28-megawatts of solar PV and 20-megawatt lithium-ion battery—is designed to supply the grid with peak power output for up to five hours while simultaneously charging the batteries, according to the member-owned energy cooperative.
Essentially, the new facility solves a big hiccup with standalone solar plants, which traditionally turn to peaker plants that run on fossil fuels to meet peak demand on the grid.
Once it's fully integrated, the Lāwa'i plant will offset the use of 3.7 million gallons of diesel each year, the developers touted in a press release.
"Now that the Lāwa'i project is on line, as much as 40 percent of our evening peak power will be supplied by stored solar energy," KIUC's president and CEO David Bissell said at the unveiling on Tuesday. "I think it's safe to say this is a unique achievement in the nation and possibly the world."
All told, the plant will be able to meet an estimated 11 percent of Kauai's energy needs, making the island more than 50 percent powered by renewable energy, the developers said.
Power from the facility will be purchased by KIUC at 11 cents per kilowatt hour via a 25-year power purchase agreement—that's "roughly 1/3 lower than the current cost of diesel," the cooperative commented Tuesday on Facebook. "So it will save our members money."
KIUC's Bissell added, "Replacing fossil fuels with stable, lower-priced renewables helps us keep rates as low as possible for our members."
Today with @KIUC, we inaugurated the largest #solar PV peaker plant in the world. Our Lāwa’i solar+storage site mar… https://t.co/9X7hpxKsZP— AES DE (@AES DE)1546987629.0
AES president and CEO Andrés Gluski said that the Lāwa'i project will help Kauai reduce its reliance on fossil fuels all while generating clean, reliable and affordable energy.
"As a supplier of power to Hawaii for more than 25 years, we are honored to have been chosen by KIUC to help demonstrate its commitment to the state's vision of a cleaner energy future," Gluski said in a press release. "We believe this project is a significant step toward ushering in the wider era of firm renewables."
Elon Musk: Tesla Battery Will 'Fundamentally Change the Way the World Uses Energy' http://t.co/vjWsbkX4AX @Act4Renewables @Ecofys— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1430604917.0
This year's Living Planet Report shows that populations of animals—including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians—plummeted by 60 percent between 1970 and 2014. But those living in freshwater are experiencing a far more drastic decline: 83% since 1970. It's a sobering statistic and one tied directly to the ever-increasing pressures that people are putting on natural habitats.
We can learn a lot about the health of freshwater habitats overall by studying the animals that live in them. If freshwater animals are on the decline, that's a sign that the entire ecosystem is in trouble. Freshwater habitats face a host of threats, including increases in the amount of water we take from them; drainage of wetlands; pollution from industry, sewage and farms; invasive plant and animal species; climate change; and infrastructure development in and along waterways.
Perhaps the most urgent threat to freshwater animals and their homes is the dams, bridges, roads and other infrastructure that interfere with the natural flow and connectivity of rivers. Many freshwater fish, for example, rely on free-flowing rivers to eat, reproduce and access nutrients necessary for their survival.
Connected rivers help people, too. Free-flowing rivers move sediment to floodplains and deltas downstream, providing nutrients and soil for floodplain agriculture, allowing for healthy fisheries and supporting the resilience of delta habitats under a changing climate.
Keeping Rivers Connected and Flowing
There are currently nearly 60,000 large dams on rivers around the world and more than 3,700 more hydro dams—structures that give us energy from the flow of water—are planned globally. While hydropower plays an important role in today's renewable energy revolution, it must be carefully planned so as to minimize loss of river health.
This means considering the health of an entire river basin to find energy opportunities with the least amount of impact on the environment and people. Into the future, the dropping prices of wind and solar power, along with innovations in the ability to store power, provide the possibility for countries to meet energy demands with less hydropower and therefore fewer dams.
We can also set aside a certain amount of water in a river basin exclusively for the protection of nature and for people. Called a "water reserve," this concept requires a careful calculation of how much water people can use for energy, agriculture and other purposes and how much must remain in the river to sustain a healthy ecosystem.
This summer, Mexico authorized water reserves in nearly 300 river basins, including in one of the country's longest remaining free-flowing rivers, the Usumacinta. WWF worked with Mexico's National Water Commission to calculate how much water could be allocated to human activity and how much water should remain in the river to sustain a healthy ecosystem. This science-based planning and policies backing it up ensure water quality and quantity for 45 million Mexicans for the next 50 years—all while protecting the river's plants and wildlife.
You Can Help
The decline in groups of freshwater animals is staggering, but we can help reverse the trend. Join WWF's Freshwater Force to take action to stop bad dams and infrastructure development in freshwater habitats, raise awareness of the importance of freshwater, and champion the wildlife and communities that depend on free-flowing, clean rivers for survival.
Earth Hour 2018: Globe Unites to Celebrate People’s Connection to Planet https://t.co/B66o5zcVjS @GreenpeaceUK @wwwfoecouk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1522149013.0
By Mikhail Chester, Braden Allenby and Samuel Markolf
The most recent international report on climate change paints a picture of disruption to society unless there are drastic and rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Although it's early days, some cities and municipalities are starting to recognize that past conditions can no longer serve as reasonable proxies for the future.
This is particularly true for the country's infrastructure. Highways, water treatment facilities and the power grid are at increasing risk to extreme weather events and other effects of a changing climate.
In our work researching sustainability and infrastructure, we encourage and are starting to shift toward designing man-made infrastructure systems with adaptability in mind.
Designing for the Past
Infrastructure systems are the front line of defense against flooding, heat, wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters. City planners and citizens often assume that what is built today will continue to function in the face of these hazards, allowing services to continue and to protect us as they have done so in the past. But these systems are designed based on histories of extreme events.
Pumps, for example, are sized based on historical precipitation events. Transmission lines are designed within limits of how much power they can move while maintaining safe operating conditions relative to air temperatures. Bridges are designed to be able to withstand certain flow rates in the rivers they cross. Infrastructure and the environment are intimately connected.
I-10 flooding gives a new meaning to car pool! #azwx #monsoon http://t.co/QaGFvUvs8f— Michael Chow (@Michael Chow)1410186689.0
Now, however, the country is more frequently exceeding these historical conditions and is expected to see more frequent and intense extreme weather events. Said another way, because of climate change, natural systems are now changing faster than infrastructure.
How can infrastructure systems adapt? First let's consider the reasons infrastructure systems fail at extremes:
- The hazard exceeds design tolerances. This was the case of Interstate 10 flooding in Phoenix in fall 2014, where the intensity of the rainfall exceeded design conditions.
- During these times there is less extra capacity across the system: When something goes wrong there are fewer options for managing the stressor, such as rerouting flows, whether it's water, electricity or even traffic.
- We often demand the most from our infrastructure during extreme events, pushing systems at a time when there is little extra capacity.
Gradual change also presents serious problems, partly because there is no distinguishing event that spurs a call to action. This type of situation can be especially troublesome in the context of maintenance backlogs and budget shortfalls which currently plague many infrastructure systems. Will cities and towns be lulled into complacency only to find that their long-lifetime infrastructure systems are no longer operating like they should?
Currently the default seems to be securing funding to build more of what we've had for the past century. But infrastructure managers should take a step back and ask what our infrastructure systems need to do for us into the future.
Agile and Flexible by Design
Fundamentally new approaches are needed to meet the challenges not only of a changing climate, but also of disruptive technologies.
These include increasing integration of information and communication technologies, which raises the risk of cyberattacks. Other emerging technologies include autonomous vehicles and drones as well as intermittent renewable energy and battery storage in the place of conventional power systems. Also, digitally connected technologies fundamentally alter individuals' cognition of the world around us: Consider how our mobile devices can now reroute us in ways that we don't fully understand based on our own travel behavior and traffic across a region.
Yet our current infrastructure design paradigms emphasize large centralized systems intended to last for decades and that can withstand environmental hazards to a preselected level of risk. The problem is that the level of risk is now uncertain because the climate is changing, sometimes in ways that are not very well-understood. As such, extreme events forecasts may be a little or a lot worse.
Given this uncertainty, agility and flexibility should be central to our infrastructure design. In our research, we've seen how a number of cities have adopted principles to advance these goals already, and the benefits they provide.
A "smart" tunnel in Kuala Lumpur is designed to supplement the city's stormwater drainage system. David Boey, CC BY-SA 4.0
In Kuala Lampur, traffic tunnels are able to transition to stormwater management during intense precipitation events, an example of multifunctionality.
Across the U.S., citizen-based smartphone technologies are beginning to provide real-time insights. For instance, the CrowdHydrology project uses flooding data submitted by citizens that the limited conventional sensors cannot collect.
Infrastructure designers and managers in a number of U.S. locations, including New York, Portland, Miami and Southeast Florida, and Chicago are now required to plan for this uncertain future—a process called roadmapping. For example, Miami has developed a $500 million plan to upgrade infrastructure, including installing new pumping capacity and raising roads to protect at-risk oceanfront property.
These competencies align with resilience-based thinking and move the country away from our default approaches of simply building bigger, stronger or more redundant.
Planning for Uncertainty
Because there is now more uncertainty with regard to hazards, resilience instead of risk should be central to infrastructure design and operation in the future. Resilience means systems can withstand extreme weather events and come back into operation quickly.
Microgrid technology allows individual buildings to operate in the event of a broader power outage and is one way to make the electricity system more resilient. Amy Vaughn / U.S. Department of Energy
This means infrastructure planners cannot simply change their design parameter—for example, building to withstand a 1,000-year event instead of a 100-year event. Even if we could accurately predict what these new risk levels should be for the coming century, is it technically, financially or politically feasible to build these more robust systems?
This is why resilience-based approaches are needed that emphasize the capacity to adapt. Conventional approaches emphasize robustness, such as building a levee that is able to withstand a certain amount of sea level rise. These approaches are necessary but given the uncertainty in risk we need other strategies in our arsenal.
For example, providing infrastructure services through alternative means when our primary infrastructure fails, such as deploying microgrids ahead of hurricanes. Or, planners can design infrastructure systems such that when they fail, the consequences to human life and the economy are minimized.
The Netherlands has changed its system of dykes and flood management in certain areas to better sustain flooding.
This is a practice recently implemented in the Netherlands, where the Rhine delta rivers are allowed to flood but people are not allowed to live in the flood plain and farmers are compensated when their crops are lost.
Uncertainty is the new normal, and reliability hinges on positioning infrastructure to operate in and adapt to this uncertainty. If the country continues to commit to building last century's infrastructure, we can continue to expect failures of these critical systems and the losses that come along with them.
As Trump Neglects Climate Threats, Cities Move Forward https://t.co/YnPifJBSp0 #ClimateChange @NRDC @UCSUSA… https://t.co/VfFc2cMVIc— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1519142429.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
By Seokheun Choi
It seems like every few months there's a new cellphone, laptop or tablet that is so exciting people line up around the block to get their hands on it. While the perpetual introduction of new, slightly more advanced electronics has made businesses like Apple hugely successful, the short shelf life of these electronics is bad for the environment.
Modern electronics are filled with circuit boards on which various metals and plastics are soldered together. Some of these materials are toxic—or break down into toxic substances. There are efforts underway to boost recycling of e-waste, recovering materials that can be reused and properly disposing of the rest. But most devices end up added to the growing piles of e-waste in landfills.
Instead of adding more trash to these ever-growing piles, there is an opportunity to create electronics that are biodegradable. That's why other researchers and I are looking to the emerging field of paper-based electronics—known as "papertronics." They're flexible—even foldable—sustainable, friendly to the environment and low-cost.
But to be truly eco-friendly, papertronics can't use traditional batteries, which are made of metals and caustic acids, to store and discharge electricity. Recently, my chemist colleague Omowunmi Sadik and I developed a paper battery that's recyclable and biodegradable, as well as reliable enough to actually use. The key is bacteria.
I've developed flexible batteries, batteries powered by saliva and more. I figured that when seeking to power paper-based electronics, it made sense to try to make a battery out of paper. Fortunately, paper is a good potential battery material: It's flexible, a good insulator—which makes it a good platform for mounting electronic components on—and absorbs and releases fluids easily. We added polymers—poly (amic) acid and poly (pyromellitic dianhydride-p-phenylenediamine)—to improve those electrical characteristics.
Then, to store energy in the battery, in place of the metals and acids that react chemically to generate electrons, we added bacteria. When these batteries are eventually commercialized, they'll use bacteria that are safe for humans and the environment and well-contained to reduce any other contamination.
Because the paper is rough and porous, the bacteria stick to it, and generate their own energy by breaking down almost any available organic material, including plant material or wastewater. At the moment, we're prepackaging source material, but it could also come from the environment. This chemical reaction produces electrons. Normally in a bacterial reaction, those electrons would bond with oxygen, but we've built our battery to limit oxygen and substitute an electrode, meaning we can capture the electron flow and use it to power devices.
We were concerned that oxygen could get into the paper and interrupt the electron flow between the bacteria, decreasing the battery's efficiency. We found that while that does happen, it has minimal effects. That's because so many bacterial cells are so tightly attached to the paper fibers; they form a multi-layer biofilm that shields the chemical reaction from most oxygen.
We also wanted a battery that could biodegrade. The bacteria in the battery itself, once they're done releasing energy, can break down the paper and polymers into harmless components. In water, our battery easily biodegraded, without any special equipment or other microorganisms to aid in the breakdown.
The polymer-paper structures are lightweight, low-cost and flexible. That flexibility also allows for the batteries to fold like a normal piece of paper, or be stacked on top of each other. That lets more battery power fit into smaller spaces.
A group of folded batteries can power a paper-based electronic device. Seokheun Choi / Binghamton University, CC BY-ND
Promises and Opportunities
Papertronics can be particularly useful in remote areas with limited resources because they're powered by bacteria that can inhabit even the most extreme of conditions and break down nearly any material to produce electrons. They don't need a well-established power grid, either. In addition, though paper batteries are designed to be disposable after they're used, their materials are recyclable—and new batteries can be created from recycled paper.
As revolutionary as paper-based bio-batteries are for future electronic devices, they're fairly straightforward to make. The polymers and bacteria can be blended with paper in traditional manufacturing processes, including roll-to-roll printing and screen printing—or even be painted or poured right onto paper.
Other materials can also be added to the paper batteries—like metals, semiconductors, insulators and nanoparticles. These and other substances can add more properties and capabilities to paper-based devices, opening new doors for the next generation of electronics.
Seokheun Choi is associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Disclosure statement: Seokheun Choi receives funding from the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
As a growing number of U.S. cities make pledges towards 100 percent renewables, it's easy to forget that the entire state of Hawaii set this important benchmark three years ago when it mandated that all of its electricity must come from renewable sources no later than 2045.
To help the Aloha State meet this ambitious commitment, in 2015, the University of Hawaii (UH) and the Hawaiian Legislature set a collective goal for the university system to be "net-zero" by Jan. 1, 2035, which means the total amount of energy consumed is equal to the amount of renewable energy created.
Now, UH's Maui College is on its way to become the first campus in the United States to transition off fossil fuels by using on-site solar systems coupled with battery storage, university officials announced.
The campus' solar-plus-storage project—consisting of 2.8 megawatts of solar PV and 13.2 megawatt-hours of battery distributed energy storage—is scheduled to become fully operational by 2019.
UH Maui College students.University of Hawaii
The project is part of a partnership with Johnson Controls, which developed the systems, and Pacific Current, a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries.
Not to be left behind, four other Oahu-based UH campuses have also committed to slashing their carbon footprint with their own energy and infrastructure improvements. Through a combination of solar shade canopies, distributed energy storage and energy efficiency measures, Leeward Community College, Honolulu Community College, Kapi'olani Community College and Windward Community College will see a reduction of fossil fuel use for energy by 98 percent, 97 percent, 74 percent and 70 percent, respectively, university officials touted.
"We are proud to move the entire University of Hawaii System closer to its net-zero energy mandate, to celebrate UH Maui College's achievement and to position the Oahu community college campuses within reach of 100 percent renewable energy generation," said UH Vice President for Community Colleges John Morton.
"Hawaii's leaders set the national example of sustainability and renewable energy standards with the net-zero mandate by 2035 for UH, and we're proud to partner with the university to help it reach that commitment and aim for UH Maui College to become the first campus in the U.S. to generate and store 100 percent renewable energy onsite, 16 years ahead of schedule," added Rod Rushing, president, Building Solutions North America, Johnson Controls.
UH Maui College Physical Plant Manager Robert Burton looks at battery array. University of Hawaii
According to Fast Company, UH's eventual clean energy savings are not the only appealing aspect of the project—it's also an educational opportunity for its students:
"While the new energy efficiency measures and solar arrays will save the UH system around $78 million, that's not what makes it unique: Johnson Controls and UH have also partnered on an educational program, featuring curriculum, an internship program, and workshops for faculty and students, that will roll out alongside the new energy systems."
Editor's note: Following the publication of this story, a tipster has helpfully shared with EcoWatch that other campuses are in the race to become 100 percent renewable, including Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Once finished, the 70-megawatt system will be the largest in the world by far; the current record-holder is the comparatively shrimpy 11.5-megawatt array in India that can power 8,000 homes.
Building Tesla has posted satellite images of the GF1 construction site, showing solar panels installed on the north side of the factory.
The Gigafactory is part of Tesla CEO Elon Musk's vision to fast-track a cleaner, more sustainable future. He previously announced intentions to power the Nevada building without fossil fuels, relying instead on renewable energy and batteries.
Should mention that Gigafactory will be fully powered by clean energy when complete & include battery recycling— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1469639997.0
"GF1 is an all-electric factory with no fossil fuels (natural gas or petroleum) directly consumed," Tesla said then.
"We will be using 100 percent sustainable energy through a combination of a 70 megawatt solar rooftop array and solar ground installations. The solar rooftop array is ~7x larger than the largest rooftop solar system installed today."
The Gigafactory 1 is being built in phases so Tesla and its partners can manufacture products while the building continues to expand. It officially kicked off the mass production of lithium-ion battery cells in January 2017.
The building is expected for completion sometime this year, at which point the Gigafactory stands to claim the title of world's largest building by footprint.
Impressively, Tesla touts that its current structure already has a footprint of 1.9 million square feet, which houses 4.9 million square feet of operational space across several floors.
"And we are still less than 30 percent done," the firm boasted.
Once fully built, the Gigafactory will produce 35 GWh/year of lithium-ion battery cells annually, which is "nearly as much as the rest of the entire world's battery production combined."
3 More Gigafactories Coming Soon to 'Change the Way the World Uses Energy' https://t.co/ReNoVNymiW @LeoDiCaprio @elonmusk @TeslaMotors @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1487882097.0
It warns stakeholders that in the case of Indian coal, "trends portent that in the long run the demand is likely to decrease substantially."
"With the increasing threat of climate change impacting humanity (irrespective of the U.S. position) and the global funding focus on renewables, it is a matter of time when alternate clean energy would displace coal," the report states.
Coal India's analysis lists a number of global and domestic events that have intensified doubts on the future of its main product, including:
- Developments in solar PV and energy storage technologies
- COP21 commitments by India
- Apparent shrinkage in global coal consumption
- Apparent downward revision of the economic growth projections of India
- Response to recent tranches of coal block auctions
- Non-performing assets (NPA) crises, especially in the iron and steel, and power sectors, two major consumers of coal and important sectors linked to economic growth
- Changes in various policies pertaining to the domestic energy sector
While coal remains India's main source of fuel, the report notes, "standing in the midst of a change, it is very difficult for anyone to imagine its scale and often most people remain in a state of denial until the change is upon them."
Coal Vision 2030
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to get 40 percent of India's electricity from non-fossil sources (which includes renewables, nuclear and large hydropower) by 2030. The Indian government aims to triple its renewable energy capacity to reach 175 gigawatts by 2022. India's Central Electricity Authority will also halt building new coal plants in 2022.
However, the Coal Vision 2030 report suggests that India's future will remain tied to coal. Interestingly, even though the report says renewables and storage will likely emerge as "key substitutes" to coal, Coal India still expects demand for the fuel to roughly double to 1,300-1,900 million tonnes in 2030.
"The messages are extremely contradictory," Swati D'Souza, energy policy expert at India's energy think-tank, Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), told Climate Home News. "The [coal demand] numbers are very high given current trends on solar and wind penetration in the power sector … The document does not really give clarity on how they arrived at these numbers."
Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm, which tracks existing and proposed coal plants worldwide, added that 1,900 million tonnes is "an absurd figure for coal demand in 2030."
"Finance has completely dried up for privately sponsored coal plants; the only ones moving forward at this point are government-owned," Nace continued. "Without significant growth in coal power capacity there will not be the doubling or tripling of coal demand that this report talks about."
Coal India did not respond to Climate Home News' questions about the report's projections.
World's Biggest Coal Company Closes 37 Mines as Solar Prices Plummet https://t.co/zDRw85oAJL @GreenpeaceUK @globalactplan— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1498390217.0
Shealah Craighead / White House / Public Domain
Did you make it through Donald Trump's State of the Union address? If you did, congratulations on your endurance. Not everyone can handle sitting through more than an hour of lies, deceit and distortions. Then again, we've all been surviving and fighting through the past 12 months of this administration. Resistance takes stamina, and it's clear that it's made us stronger.
It's also enabled us to stop the worst of this administration's attempts to hurt our families and our communities. Because of you, we've been able to fight back every single time that this administration and president have assaulted our families and communities and tried to undermine safeguards to protect our air, our water, our forests, our climate—even our democracy.
Last night's speech, though, was a reminder that we have much more work to do. Viewing it was almost like being in an alternative reality. We were forced to watch an ugly celebration—with standing ovations—of racist ideals and policies. We had to witness the exploitation of grieving parents. And then came one of the most enthusiastic ovations of all—for irresponsible attacks on our air, water and climate. They say it was only the third-longest address to Congress in history, but it felt interminable.
Now that we're back in the real world, though, here are some non-alternative facts:
Fact #1: Coal is not coming back. A coal plant has retired every 16 days since Trump was elected, and we'll continue to see coal-fired power replaced by solar, wind, energy efficiency and storage. We know that clean, renewable energy creates more jobs, while also cutting air, water and climate pollution. On top of that, renewable energy saves money for millions of Americans.
So no matter how "beautiful" Trump finds it, coal is never coming back. Every time Trump promises a revival of the coal industry, he's making a pledge he cannot keep and betraying the long-suffering coal workers and their families—and communities that need a vision for a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
Fact #2: Ours is a nation of laws. For decades now, those laws have helped to protect our air and safeguard our water. They are the basis for protecting our climate. And they are the bulwark that defends our democracy from a chaos president like this one. This nation of laws lifts up the quality of life of all Americans (even if that means someday bringing down this administration).
Fact #3: Clean energy is still winning. More than 50 U.S. cities have now made a commitment to clean, renewable energy. They are governed by both Republicans and Democrats. They are located in red states, blues states and almost every part of this country. Regardless of what the Trump administration does, we will continue to see visionary local, state, regional and corporate leaders raise the level of their ambition to advance energy and displace fossil fuels in the process. That was already happening before Trump, but his election has accelerated and amplified the trend.
Finally, as we enter year two of this administration, I want to once again thank everybody who has been organizing and working all across the country to resist its attacks. You haven't given up. That's why, in spite of this president, we've been able to defeat pipelines, defeat coal and gas plants, and stand up for our democracy and for workers, families and immigrants. The biggest silver lining: In the process, we've found the vibrant heart of our democracy at the intersection of civil rights, environmental justice and many other issues. So keep marching, organizing and working to stand up for the best that this country can be. And be assured that the Sierra Club will stand with you.
50 Ways 100% Clean Energy Won In 2017 https://t.co/t8mxstdoTP @Good_Energy @GregBarkerMP— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1514715006.0