But models have shown that large solar or wind farms could also change the climate directly by their presence.
Now, a group of scientists led by researchers at the University of Maryland and the University of Illinois set out to model what would happen if solar and wind farms large enough to power the planet were installed in the Sahara desert, and uncovered a form of climate change that might actually help more than it hurts.
The results, published Friday in Science, found that the installations would increase rainfall and vegetation in the Sahara and neighboring Sahel region, which lies between the Sahara and the Sudanian Savanna, making them a potential net positive for the region and the planet.
"The increase in rainfall and vegetation, combined with clean electricity as a result of solar and wind energy, could help agriculture, economic development and social well-being in the Sahara, Sahel, Middle East and other nearby regions," study author Safa Motesharrei said in a University of Illinois press release published by ScienceDaily.
The researchers focused on the Sahara because it is an ideal location for such an ambitions renewable energy scheme.
"We chose it because it is the largest desert in the world; it is sparsely inhabited; it is highly sensitive to land changes; and it is in Africa and close to Europe and the Middle East, all of which have large and growing energy demands," lead author Yan Li said.
The study found that wind farms would increase rainfall because they would both increase temperature by drawing warm air down at night and decrease wind speed by creating more friction. This would lead to a doubling of rainfall where wind farms were installed.
The solar farms would increase rainfall by reducing albedo, the amount of light reflected by the land, which in turn would increase precipitation.
In both cases, researchers found that precipitation would increase vegetation, which would reduce albedo further, leading to more precipitation. The effect was increased if both solar and wind farms were installed.
Study author Daniel Kirk-Davidoff told AFP that the effect would not be that dramatic in the grand scheme of things—the desert would stay dry—but that the additional vegetation in the region's south would make an important difference for the people living there because it would increase grazing opportunities.
"It is hard to imagine that this would be a bad thing from the point of view of human communities there," he said.
While local temperature increases were part of the projected impact of the installations, the researchers made clear that those changes would stay in the Sahara and Sahel, not spread around the world like the global warming caused by greenhouse gasses, AFP reported.
One element that separated the study from previous research was its focus on vegetation, Li said in the University of Illinois press release, since most studies that have looked at the impact of solar or wind installations on climate have not also looked at how those climate changes would impact vegetation, or how the changed vegetation would then change the climate.
"Previous modeling studies have shown that large-scale wind and solar farms can produce significant climate change at continental scales," Li said. "But the lack of vegetation feedbacks could make the modeled climate impacts very different from their actual behavior."
The world's largest offshore wind farm opened in the Irish Sea on Thursday, covering an area of 145 square kilometers (55 square miles).
The 659-megawatt Walney Extension, located approximately 19 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of Cumbria, England, consists of 87 turbines and is capable of generating enough renewable energy to power almost 600,000 UK homes.
The 87 turbines are located in the Irish Sea, covering an area the equivalent of 20,000 football pitches.Ørsted UK
To compare, the 175-turbine London Array—now the second largest offshore wind farm in the world—has a 630-megawatt capacity, or enough to power about half a million homes.
The Walney Extension is run by Danish energy giant Ørsted (formerly Dong Energy) and the Danish pension funds PKA and PFA.
The project was constructed on time and within budget, Ørsted UK managing director Matthew Wright said in a press release.
The wind farm features 40 MHI Vestas 8-megawatt turbines and 47 Siemens Gamesa 7-megawatt turbines, the first project to use wind turbines from two different manufacturers. That's less than half the number of turbines used at the London Array, but Walney's turbines are more powerful.
"It's another benchmark in terms of the scale. This—bigger turbines, with fewer positions and a bit further out—is really the shape of projects going forward," Wright told The Guardian.
MHI Vestas turbines stand 195 meters (213 yards) tall, and are the most powerful being used globally.
The UK government approved the Walney Extension contract in 2014 that promised a minimum price of £150 ($195) per megawatt hour for 15 years. Since the contract was awarded, costs of offshore wind plummeted more than 50 percent, with the latest auction dropping as low as £57.50 per megawatt hour, Reuters noted.
Offshore wind technology is advancing at a rapid pace, meaning the Walney Extension could soon lose its title. For instance, Ørsted's Hornsea Project One off the UK's Yorkshire coast is expected to be fully operational by 2020 and will have a capacity of 1,200 megawatts, or enough power for more than one million UK homes.
The Netherlands is also planning a massive offshore wind farm proposed by Dutch electric grid operator TenneT. If that gets the green-light, the 10,000-turbine complex could produce up to 30 gigawatts of power by 2027. That's enough electricity to power a city of 20 million people.
Watch here to learn more about the Walney Extension:
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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.
Four U.S. states generated 30 to 37 percent of their energy from wind power in 2017. That's just one of the findings of the Department of Energy (DOE)'s annual Wind Technologies Market Report, released August 22.
Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota were the leaders in terms of how much wind contributed to their state's overall electricity generation, but 14 states got more than 10 percent of their in-state energy from wind power last year. Texas took the lead in added wind capacity, installing 2,305 megawatts worth.
Overall, 2017 was a good year for U.S. wind power, with $11 billion invested and 7,017 megawatts of capacity added to increase total U.S. wind capacity to 88,973 megawatts.
The U.S. added the second most wind capacity globally in 2017 after China, but when it comes to the percentage of energy the U.S. generates from wind, the U.S. lags farther behind. While wind power meets around 48 percent of Denmark's electricity demand, and around 30 percent of Ireland and Portugal's, it accounts for only 7 percent of overall U.S. electricity demand in an average year.
Low costs are currently helping the U.S. wind industry to grow.
"Wind energy prices–particularly in the central United States, and supported by federal tax incentives–remain at all-time lows, with utilities and corporate buyers selecting wind as a low-cost option," Ryan Wiser, a senior scientist at the Electricity Markets & Policy Group of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which prepared the report for the DOE, said in a press release.
The cost of wind turbines has fallen to $750 to $950 per kilowatt, which has in turn decreased the cost of installing new projects. In addition, the cost of wind energy has fallen from its 2009 peak of 7 cents per kilowatt-hour to a national average of 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, which has made wind power an attractive purchase for corporations, municipalities and universities, as well as traditional utilities.
One technological improvement helping the sector has been the development of bigger wind turbines. The average generating capacity of wind turbines installed in 2017 has risen 224 percent from what it was two decades ago.
The report predicted that wind power would continue to grow in the U.S. through 2020, in large part because of a production tax credit (PTC) that Congress extended for five years as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016.
Projections for 2021 to 2025 are less optimistic, though.
"Expectations for continued low natural gas prices, modest electricity demand growth and lower demand from state policies also put a damper on growth expectations, as do limited transmission infrastructure and competition from natural gas and solar energy," the report said.
However, the report also thought that technological innovations, as well as state renewable energy policies, could boost wind power in the long term.
2017 Clean Energy By the Numbers: A State-by-State Look https://t.co/NPYOUXPCCc @ClimateReality @NRDC @SierraClub… https://t.co/nVzqed6PAB— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1519928674.0
The final tests of a new system that will allow the island to power itself with batteries recharged by a solar park and 800-kilowatt wind turbine are taking place this summer, and the system is expected to go live later this year.
"The innovation of this program and its funding lies in the batteries—the energy storage—that's what's innovative," project manager Spyros Aliferis told The Associated Press. "The energy produced by the wind turbines and the photovoltaics will be stored in batteries, so that this energy can be used for the grid when there is demand."
The switch is practical as well as sustainable. Tilos is a small island with an outdated, costly power system that is strained when its winter population of 400 expands to 3,000 in the summer.
It currently gets its power from a diesel plant on the island of Kos, which is 69 kilometers (approximately 42.87 miles) away. Tilos is the last of three islands connected to the plant by an underwater cable, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported.
The system is vulnerable to outages, which can last as long as 12 hours, making life difficult for hotel owner Andreas Lardopoulos, since it can lead to spoiled food and appliance failures.
"Hopefully the renewable energy will help us solve these problems and save some money," Lardopoulos told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Which is not to say that environmental concerns aren't also part of the island's motivation.
The island's late mayor Tassos Aliferis was an environmentalist. In addition to first proposing the idea of going renewable, he also banned hunting and expanded eco-tourism.
His successor, Maria Kamma, also hopes green energy will provide a better future both for the island's human residents and its rich biodiversity—it boasts more than 150 bird species and around 350 plant varieties.
Kamma told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the island's population shrunk to 200 in the 1990s and was only increased due to infrastructure and transportation updates. She said she hoped the green energy initiative would continue this trend and ensure residents "have a very good standard of living."
The European Commission also hopes Tilos can be a model for other islands with similar power woes, The Associated Press reported. The EU funded the 13.7 million-euro ($15.7 million) project to the tune of 11 million euros ($12.5 million).
The EU's goal is one shared by Zisimos Mantas, the chief business development officer of the Greek company in charge of the project: Eunice Energy Group.
"We hope that the Tilos project will be replicated in many more islands," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Renewable energy is truly getting cheaper every day. The 800-megawatt wind farm Vineyard Wind project, the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S., has offered a total levelized price of $65 per megawatt-hour (MWh)—a record low.
The planned wind farm, located 15 mies south of Martha's Vineyard, will be jointly developed by Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Their contract was filed Wednesday with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.
In all, Massachusetts electricity users will save about $1.4 billion over the 20-year duration of the contract, Bloomberg reported.
Energy expert Peter Kelly-Detwiler tweeted that the $65/MWh figure was "astonishing." To put that price into context, he went on, the next record-low price for offshore wind was Maryland's recent $131.9/MWh offer. Rhode Island's Block Island wind farm is set at $244/MWh. Kriegers Flak, a proposed offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea, will cost $73/MWh.
https://t.co/FiEa0gcqdV $65/MWh is the price from offshore Vineyard Wind project. That is astonishing. By way of c… https://t.co/3WZ6ipt6yK— Peter Kelly-Detwiler (@Peter Kelly-Detwiler)1533204140.0
Bloomberg reported that Vineyard Wind's bid is lower than the wind industry expected.
"That's pretty shocking for us," explained Tom Harries, a wind analyst at Bloomberg NEF. "I think the wider industry expected much higher prices. The repercussions of this are it will probably awaken a lot of other coastal states to the value of offshore wind."
As CommonWealth Magazine noted, while the price is above the average wholesale price of electricity in New England of $34/MWh, wind energy has a host of environmental benefits.
Wind power could also offer public health benefits, especially areas that are heavily reliant on polluting fossil fuels to generate electricity.
Lars Thaaning Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, said in a press release that the "historic filing represents the start of an industry, one that will assure access to abundant clean energy resources for decades to come."
He said that Vineyard Wind was "able to offer an attractive price to the benefit of consumers" thanks to Federal tax credits and a long-term power-purchase agreement.
Massachusetts has set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. In August 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law requiring utilities to competitively solicit and contract for approximately 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind.
"By positioning Massachusetts as a hub for the emerging offshore wind industry, this competitive procurement will ensure the Commonwealth continues to lead the nation in innovation and renewable energy generation," Gov. Baker stated the Vineyard Wind project was selecting in May.
The project is on track to start in-state construction in 2019 with a goal of entering operation by 2021.
World's First Offshore Wind Battery Installed at Floating Farm https://t.co/TtZLrQP7pP @Siemens_Energy @ClimateReality— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1530236706.0
The commitment is part of the city's larger 80×50 Climate Action Plan unveiled by Hancock Tuesday, which seeks to reduce Denver's greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2050.
"Climate change threatens our people directly, putting our health, environment and economy—our very way of life—at risk," Hancock said, as reported by The Denver Post.
Denver first made its commitment to reducing emissions 80 percent of 2005 levels by 2050 in its 2015 Climate Action Plan. The current plan is the result of almost two years of discussion with experts and community stakeholders, Hancock wrote in a letter introducing the full text of the plan.
Hancock said that cities had a particular responsibility to act on climate change.
"Though cities account for only two percent of land globally, they are responsible for more than 70 percent of carbon emissions," he wrote.
Denver is not alone in its state in taking climate action seriously. In recent years, Colorado has emerged as a non-coastal leader in the fight against climate change. In April, Boulder and two counties in Colorado became the first inland municipalities to sue big oil over the cost of adapting to climate change, and in June, the entire state of Colorado became one of the few non-coastal states to choose to follow California's stricter vehicle emissions standards.
Denver is the 10th municipality in the state to adopt a 100 percent renewable energy goal, according to The Denver Post, but its Climate Action Plan goes beyond electricity and also sets goals for reducing emissions in buildings and transportation.
By 2050, the city hopes to make sure its fleets of taxis and light duty vehicles are 100 percent electric, its public transportation is 100 percent carbon-free and that 75 percent of freight trucks will use carbon-neutral fuel.
Building goals include making sure all new buildings emit net zero energy by 2035 and reducing the energy use of commercial buildings by 50 percent by 2050.
The plan also hopes to use the greening process as a way to make life better for all Denver residents.
"Low income families and other vulnerable communities who historically may have been excluded will be a central part of Denver's climate programs," Hancock wrote in the opening letter.
For example, the plan hopes to implement "100 percent low income community solar programs."
[email protected]: 118 U.S. mayors endorse 100% renewable energy goals | @EcoWatch https://t.co/P5zS7awg0Y #climate… https://t.co/Gn38OozUWX— climatehawk1 (@climatehawk1)1498361043.0
With the 1.2-megawatt storage system known as "Batwind" in operation, it will be possible for the first time to store energy produced from an offshore wind farm, developers Masdar and Equinor touted in a press release Wednesday.
As EcoWatch mentioned previously, if we want to accelerate the world's renewable energy transition, we're going to need much better batteries. Energy storage is crucial to mitigating intermittency and optimizing output. In other words, when there's too much or too little wind, batteries can help store or release energy.
"The variability of renewable energy can to a certain extent be managed by the grid," said Sebastian Bringsvaerd, development manager for Hywind and Batwind in a statement. "But to make renewable energy more competitive and integrate even more renewables to the grid, we will need to find new, smart solutions for energy storage to provide firm power. How to do this in a smart and value creating way is what we are aiming to learn from Batwind."
Batwind is located on an onshore substation in Peterhead that's connected to the grid. Testing of the new technology will begin soon.
"We want to teach the battery when to hold back and store electricity, and when send power to the grid, thus increasing value of the power," Bringsvaerd said. "It will be really exciting to see how we can develop the combined battery and software solution and make Batwind as smart as possible."
We were delighted to launch #Batwind today with @Equinor in #Scotland, a first of its kind battery storage solution… https://t.co/A9yyOD0YOa— Masdar (@Masdar)1530107042.0
Bringsvaerd noted that Batwind can one day be utilized for other renewable energy systems such as solar and onshore wind.
"We believe this will expand the market for all renewable energy sources," he said.
The 30-megawatt Hywind Scotland switched on last October. Three months later, the facility was already performing better than expected. The floating wind farm churned out 65 percent of its maximum theoretical capacity during November, December and January, according to Statoil.
The Hywind's five floating turbines produce 6 megawatts each on top of waters more than 328 feet deep. At full capacity, the facility can generate enough power for 20,000 homes.
Tesla's Giant Australian Battery Saved Consumers $35 Million in Four Months https://t.co/0sgrLy8vaF @Tesla… https://t.co/1XIeb68OZp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1526309066.0
These are the conclusions of the Renewables 2018 Global Status Report, the most recent annual report from Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), an organization that works to facilitate a transition to renewable energy by sharing knowledge, developing policy and urging action.
The report found that the power sector was making inspiring progress in moving towards a renewable future, but that more had to be done by the heating, cooling and transport sectors, which account for 80 percent of global energy demand.
"We may be racing down the pathway towards a 100 percent renewable electricity future but when it comes to heating, cooling and transport, we are coasting along as if we had all the time in the world. Sadly, we don't," REN21 Executive Sec. Randa Adib told Reuters.
Renewable electricity strides included the fact that 70 percent of all new power capacity added to the grid in 2017 came from renewable sources. This was mostly due to the falling price of solar and wind power. Renewable power upped its capacity by almost 9 percent compared with 2016, it's largest annual increase ever.
Solar took the lead, making up almost 55 percent of that increased renewable capacity. The REN21 report found that more solar capacity was installed than capacity for fossil fuels or nuclear energy, echoing an earlier UN-backed report that found that more additional solar capacity was installed in 2017 than all other fuel sources combined. Wind made up 29 percent of new renewable capacity, and hydropower 11 percent.
In another hopeful indicator, the report found that adding new renewable energy capacity was cheaper than adding new fossil fuel capacity in many parts of the world and, in some places, even cheaper than continuing to run existing fossil fuel plants.
However, despite these positive tidings, the report acknowledged that greenhouse gas emissions had also increased by 1.4 percent in 2017, the first time they rose in four years. The report linked this to an increased energy demand of 2.1 percent largely due to economic growth.
The report further highlighted the work that needed to be done in the heating, cooling and transportation sectors. While electricity accounts for only 20 percent of final global energy use, renewable energy accounted for 25 percent of global electricity use. On the other hand, heating and cooling account for 48 percent of final energy use, but only about 10 percent of that is powered by renewable sources and around 16 percent by traditional biomass. Transportation accounts for 32 percent of final energy use, and only around 3 percent of that comes from renewables, according to the report's highlights.
The disparity in progress between the electric and other sectors is reflected in policy: 146 countries (out of 197) have set targets for increasing renewable energy use in the power sector, but only 48 have set renewable targets for heating and cooling and only 42 for transportation.
Since switching on in December, Tesla's massive battery in South Australia has already drastically lowered prices in the region's frequency and ancillary services market (FCAS) and has taken a major share of that market, Renew Economy reported.
During Australian Energy Week, McKinsey and Co. partner Godart van Gendt boasted about the stunning efficiency of the 100-megawatt Powerpack system, which is connected to Neoen's Hornsdale wind farm.
"In the first four months of operations of the Hornsdale Power Reserve, the frequency ancillary services prices went down by 90 percent, so that's 9-0 per cent," van Gendt said Thursday, as quoted by Renew Economy.
"And the 100 megawatt battery has achieved over 55 percent of the FCAS revenues in South Australia. So it's 2 percent of the capacity in South Australia achieving 55 percent of the revenues in South Australia."
The Australian Energy Market Operator calls upon the FCAS to provide back-up energy whenever generators fail or fall short. This service has typically relied upon costly gas generators and steam turbines, with electricity rates up to $14,000 per megawatt during these outages.
But Tesla's big battery, which was designed to feed South Australia's unstable power grid, has changed the game. Whenever it has needed to discharge its power to the grid, costs have hovered as low as $270 per megawatt, as The Guardian noted.
As Renew Economy noted, "various estimates have put the cost savings to consumers from the FCAS market alone at around $35 million, just in the first four months of its operation."
What's more, the Powerpack system has responded much quicker to power outages (within milliseconds), with the benefit of no greenhouse gas emissions.
Battery Storage Revolution Could 'Sound the Death Knell for Fossil Fuels' https://t.co/HXbegsfUqn @Tesla @elonmusk… https://t.co/7d7APPuBUd— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516303748.0
- Australia to Build Largest Battery in Southern Hemisphere - EcoWatch ›
- Tesla Is Building Giant Battery in Texas to Back up Grid - EcoWatch ›
In Energy Breakthrough, India Added More Renewable Than Fossil Fuel Capacity for the First Time Last Year
India added more energy capacity from renewable energy sources last year than from conventional sources like coal for the first time, an important breakthrough for a country that struggles with high greenhouse gas emissions and deadly air pollution.
Not only did renewables exceed conventional sources, they exceeded them by more than two times. Between April 2017 and March 2018, the subcontinent added about 11,788 megawatts of renewable energy capacity and only 5,400 megawatts of capacity from fossil fuels or large hydropower projects, Quartz India reported Thursday.
The vast majority of that that added capacity—9,009 megawatts—came from ground solar power. A total of 1,766 megawatts came from wind power, 352 came from rooftop solar and 657 megawatts came from biomass, small-scale hydropower and waste-to-energy.
The added capacity reflects an increased commitment by India's government to add 175,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2022. However, while last year's progress was impressive, it actually fell behind government targets for wind and rooftop solar. The government had set an added wind power capacity target of 4,000 megawatts and a rooftop solar capacity target of 1,000 megawatts.
Still, pushing past fossil fuels, which currently supply more than 70 percent of India's power, is a good sign for the global fight against climate change. In 2016, India's greenhouse gas emissions rose by 4.7 percent, more than any other major emitter's, The Hindustan Times reported in September 2017.
It is also a positive move for a country with two of the world's most polluted mega-cities, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data released Tuesday. Delhi is the most polluted mega-city in the world, with pollution levels 10 times worse than WHO guidelines.
Pollution levels have gotten so bad that they are impacting one of the country's most famous landmarks. The Indian Supreme Court warned on Tuesday that the Taj Mahal is turning brown and green due to air pollution and to excrement from insects attracted to the polluted Yamuna river nearby, The Independent reported Wednesday.
"It is very serious. It seems you are helpless. It has to be saved. You can get help from experts from outside to assess the damage done and restore it," Supreme Court judges Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta said, ordering the state government to fix the problem.
According to The Independent, monsoon rains used to be enough to clean the monument, but as pollution levels have increased, that is no longer the case.
- UK Goes 55 Hours Without Coal Power, Breaking Record ›
- China Tops Renewables Investment Rankings, U.S. Regains No. 2 ... ›
2018 is off to a bright start for at least one U.S. sector—renewable energy.
The February Infrastructure Update from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reported that 98 percent of power plants built in the first two months of 2018 were renewable, Popular Mechanics reported Thursday.
During January and February, the U.S. saw an additional 2,173 megawatts of electricity generation constructed. A full 1,568 of those megawatts came from wind power and 565 from solar. The only fossil fuel to add megawatts to the grid was natural gas, with a mere 40.
This isn't an isolated uptick. The update indicates a hopeful trend away from fossil fuels, estimating that 69 percent of new energy sources built over the next three years will be renewable.
The FERC update also suggests that, for all of President Donald Trump's rhetoric about "bring[ing] the coal industry back 100 percent" and "end[ing] the war on beautiful, clean coal," the future is against him. No new coal plants were added at the start of 2018, and the update estimates that 15,000 megawatts of coal power will be removed from the grid due to plant closures by 2021.
This confirms the trajectory outlined in a Climate News Network piece published by EcoWatch in January, which reported that, while coal mine production went up 10 percent in 2017, that was an upward blip in a downward trend due to a 50 percent rise in international coal exports last year. As countries like India, China and Brazil shift towards renewables to combat air pollution and climate change, that blip is likely to disappear. On a longer time-scale, U.S. coal production has decreased by a third over the last five years.
In addition to touting coal, Trump has also thrown a wrench in the renewable energy industry by introducing a new tax on imported solar cells and modules, which went into effect in February, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported. The Union of Concerned Scientists further reported that an estimated 7,600 megawatts of solar power would not be added to the grid because of the tariffs over the next five years, but the news from the FERC suggests that the new taxes won't prevent renewables from growing overall.
The FERC update isn't the only good news for renewable energy this week. Kaiserwetter Energy Asset Management, an industry asset manager based in Germany, wrote in a note to clients that the production costs for renewable energy are lower than the production costs for fossil fuels for the first time in history, Forbes reported Tuesday.
Kaiserwetter used data from Bloomberg, the Frankfurt School, Renewable Cost Database of the International Agency for Renewable Energy (IRENA) and UN Environment and concluded that it cost G20 countries $49 to $174 per megawatt hour to generate energy from fossil fuels in 2017 and only $35 to $54 per megawatt hour to generate energy from renewable sources.
Renewables Now Contribute Nearly One-Fifth of U.S. Electricity Generation https://t.co/YdZBsMVxsZ @worldresources @RenewablesNews— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1518915632.0
The world's largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine will test its wings at an innovative facility in northeast England.
The 12-megawatt Haliade-X, developed by GE Renewable Energy, stands 853 feet tall, or about three times the height of the Flat Iron building in New York City. Its massive rotor diameter of 722 feet is roughly the tower height of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge above water.
GE touts that a single one of these turbines can generate enough power to supply 16,000 European households. A 750-megawatt wind farm configuration could produce enough power for up to 1 million homes.
GE Renewable Energy and the British government-funded Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult signed a five-year agreement to test the massive machine at a power train test facility at the National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, Northumberland.
"This is an important agreement because it will enable us to prove Haliade-X in a faster way by putting it under controlled and extreme conditions," John Lavelle, president and CEO of GE's Offshore Wind business said in a statement.
Lavelle also noted, "Traditional testing methods rely on local wind conditions and therefore have limited repeatability for testing. By using ORE Catapult's facilities and expertise, we will be in a better position to adapt our technology in a shortened time, reduce unplanned maintenance, increase availability and power output, while introducing new features to meet customers' demands."
Once installed, GE's turbine will surpass MHI Vestas' 9-megawatt turbines at Vattenfall's offshore wind farm off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland. One rotation of those turbines is sufficient to power the average UK home for an entire day, the developers boasted.
World's Most Powerful Wind Turbine Installed in Full View of Trump's Scottish Golf Course https://t.co/muyYtyXURI @wwwfoecouk @GreenpeaceUK— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523611505.0
As EcoWatch mentioned previously, companies are making larger and larger offshore turbines that can capture more wind and produce more power. This is appealing for wind farm operators because fewer turbines can simplify operations and lower maintenance costs.
GreenTech Media reported in March that more than $400 million will be invested over the next three to five years to develop the Haliade-X. The company aims to supply its first nacelle, or power generating unit, for demonstration in 2019 and ship the first units in 2021.
Britain's Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry welcomed the collaboration between GE and ORE Catapult.
"We are making the UK a global leader in renewables, including offshore wind, with more support available than any other country in the world," Perry said in a statement, noting that 22 percent of all investment in European wind projects are coming to the UK.
Check out more of the specs below: