Tuesday, August 17, 2010

There is NO alternative to renewable energy

The only questions are: What form will it take?  And will we make our economics conform to this reality?

Let's get one thing perfectly clear.  Humans require energy to live.  There is no greater truth.  It is also clear that we have run out of cheap ways to get oil--the ultimate energy source EVAH!

There ARE technical solutions for the replacement of an oil-powered society with one run on renewables.  The BIG problem is getting the folks who control the money to agree to pay for such a conversion.

But hasn't this always been the case?  The Producers can revolutionize the way the world works in a generation.  The Leisure Classes are lucky if they can come up to the standards of their grandparents.  Compare the long decline from Lincoln to W. Bush with a Producer achievement like the recent gigantic increases in computer power and you get the idea that historically, the Predator side of a society will always be a drag on any possible solution.
IEA: ‘Cheap oil is over’ as demand approaches new record
by Matthew Wild
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is forecasting world oil demand will set a new record next year when is smashes through 2008’s pre-recession high – and warning that the “era of cheap oil is over.”
According to the IEA’s latest Oil Market Report, published August 11, global demand will reach 86.6 million barrels per day in 2010, and then 87.9 million barrels per day in 2011, assuming a continuing global economic recovery. This means demand is set to pass the all-time high of 86.9 million barrels per day established in 2008 before the global economic downturn.
The figure has been given significance by those that say oil peaked midway through 2008. Peak oil refers to the time of maximum production – the high point of the oil output bell chart, after which, as geologist M King Hubbert showed, output will diminish even though much oil remains to be extracted. If oil did peak at 86.9 million barrels per day, then demand would be expected to overtake supply early in 2011. (Personally, I don’t believe oil has peaked – but this will soon be put to the test.)
Another significant figure bandied around relates to oil’s mid-2008 price spike: it traded at $147 a barrel in July of that year. People that believe oil peaked will tell you this was a simple matter of supply and demand, while Opec has all along blamed speculators for pushing the prices up. Another factor, as reported at the time by Reuters, was the then tension between Israel, the US and Iran, including Iranian missile tests and rumoured Israeli air force drills in Iranian airspace that “left the oil markets worried about a potential supply disruption.” more
Embodied energy: An alternative approach to understanding urban energy use
by David Fridley
Everyone knows that it takes energy to produce anything. The energy used in mining, transport, processing, manufacturing, delivery, and disposal is “embodied” in every product we consume, from food to diapers to televisions and insurance policies. Our traditional way of looking at energy, however, highlights only current consumption, traditionally disaggregated into agricultural, industrial, transportation, commercial, and residential sectors. As a result, the energy embodied in the food we eat, for example, is reported as energy consumption across all these sectors, making it difficult to assess the full energy impact of our consumption choices. Looking at urban energy consumption from this traditional framework diminishes the role of people in driving urban energy consumption.
Because cities are the source of the majority of energy consumption in many industrial and high population countries, much research is underway to promote development of “Low Carbon Cities,” a concept that to date has primarily focused on ways to reduce the impacts of current energy consumption in transportation and buildings. This is especially true in China, where urbanization has yet to reach 50% and the government is projecting the urbanization of an additional 350 million people—greater than the population of the United States—over the next 15 years. All of these new urban residents will need accommodation, schooling, health care, appliances, energy supply, transportation, food, clothing, water, sewerage, and other services, and the potential energy impact is enormous.
A typical Chinese urban resident consumes 3 times as much commercial energy as a rural resident (in total energy terms, rural residents consume more, but the majority is inefficiently combusted biomass, which is often ignored in energy reporting). Consequently, the Chinese government is looking to require cities to develop low-carbon action plans to respond to growing urban energy needs. For the most part, these low-carbon action plans focus on ways to reduce the growth of current energy consumption and to supplant some portion of it with non-fossil energy sources. more
The Birth of a U.S. Wind Power Manufacturing Industry
By Herman K Trabish, greentechmedia.com  
August 15, 2010 | 
As the U.S. wind industry’s installed capacity went from 6.7 megawatts to 35,000 megawatts between 2004 and 2009, its manufacturing sector expanded from a few dozen facilities to more than 240. By 2009, over 60 percent of wind’s U.S. capacity was sourced domestically.
This is a growing ecosystem supporting U.S. middle-class labor as well as capacity to generate emissions-free electricity. “For wind turbines, which have large components like towers, nacelles and blades,” according an American Wind Energy Association, or AWEA, spokesperson, “transportation is a big part of the cost.”
In fact, according to the recent report Harnessing the Potential of Open Trade … in the Wind Energy Industry from the World Resources Institute, off-shoring wind industry manufacturing to places where labor is cheap has no significant cost benefit over domestic manufacturing because of transport costs. The U.S. wind manufacturing base can, therefore, be expected to grow as long as the industry does.
The wind industry’s parts could be great for the U.S. economy as a whole — and especially the U.S. job market
California-based Clipper Windpower, for instance, opened a manufacturing facility in 2006, captured 1 percent of the turbine market in 2007, moved up to 6 percent in 2008 and, in 2009, exported its first turbines, to Mexico.
According to the just-released 2009 Wind Market Report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a contemporary wind turbine averages about two megawatts in capacity, or enough power for almost 500 U.S. homes. According to Winds of Change; A Manufacturing Blueprint for the Wind Industry (.pdf) from AWEA, the Blue-Green Alliance and the United Steelworkers, the average turbine weighs 200 to 400 short tons, 90 percent of that in steel and most of the rest in fiberglass, copper, concrete, aluminum and adhesives. It has about 8,000 components, many already manufactured domestically in smaller versions for aerospace, defense, energy and mining.
The five U.S. turbine manufacturers in operation in 2005 grew to 15 in 2009. Nine of 2009’s top 10 original equipment manufacturers — Acciona, Clipper, GE, Gamesa, Mitsubishi, Nordex, Siemens, Suzlon, Vestas — have current or announced U.S. facilities for towers, blade manufacturing, or nacelle assembly. more
And let's hear it for a Producer with a Plan!
The Power of One: Tracy Hall Brings Renewable Energy to Northwest Indiana
July 22, 2010 
By Andrea Buffa
Apollo News Service 
Tracy Hall of Munster, Indiana has been an electrician for 30 years. He is among the thousands of construction trades workers hit by the current recession, who have seen unemployment in the trades rise to almost 25 percent nationally. But Hall hasn’t had time to sit around getting depressed about the state of the economy. Instead, he’s spent the time when work has been scarce developing a new expertise. As the only union worker in Indiana who is certified as a solar photovoltaic installer by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, and a LEED Accredited Professional by the U.S. Green Building Council, he has become one of Northwest Indiana’s most knowledgeable renewable energy technicians.
“Tracy has single-handedly become one of the experts in the region on renewable energy—and not just the pros and cons of renewable energy, but the installation specifics and the technical aspects of how you build and install solar systems and wind mills,” said Howard Fink, the town administrator of Merrillville, Indiana, where Hall installed solar panels on the town hall building.
Hall’s story shows the positive impact that one determined individual can have on the adoption of clean energy practices by his workplace and local community. He convinced his labor union, Local 697 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), to offer a journey-level class in solar photovoltaics and then set about obtaining the skills he would need in order to be able to teach the class. Hall attended workshops offered by the Illinois Solar Energy Association, studied LEED green building standards at Wilbur Wright College in Chicago, participated in online courses offered by Solar Energy International and graduated from solar installation classes at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. He also went to an IBEW training-the-trainer course on photovoltaics so that he would be prepared not only to do installations but also to teach about them. more
And then there is the real possibility that widespread use of renewables can also repair the economy.

Renewable Energy: The Power of Positive Feedback Loops
Monday, 08/16/2010 - 2:01 pm
by Jon Rynn

When you design a national wind/solar/geothermal energy system, the benefits of each part are increased and reverberate through the economy, creating a virtuous cycle.
When the Roosevelt Administration designed the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), it was designed as a set of mutually self-reinforcing parts, as a holistic system – including electrification, flood control, soil conservation, fertilizer production, and plenty of good, long-term jobs. The same concept of mutual gain applies to renewable energy – at a regional, and even national level, an economy running on solar, wind and geothermal energy would constitute a system, creating more than the sum of its parts.
By building dams, the TVA both controlled floods and provided electricity. By teaching farmers about soil erosion and good soil conservation practices, rains stopped turning into the floods that occur when soil is poorly maintained. By controlling floods, agriculture became more dependable, and it became possible to set up industries such as fertilizer manufacture, whose output was then used to strengthen the farming economy. With a strong farming system, the commercial sector expanded, using the electricity provided by the dams – which were made more reliable because there was less flooding. These relationships are examples of positive feedback loops, that is, by increasing something (like electricity) you increase something else (like manufacturing) that then loops back to increase the first set of factors (in this case, by enriching the region).
In just the same way, by designing a national wind, solar, and geothermal system, the benefits of each individual piece of equipment are increased, and those benefits reverberate within the wider economy, looping back to support the renewable system. One of the common criticisms of renewable energy is that it is intermittent – that is, the wind doesn’t always blow, and at night the sun doesn’t shine. However, asProfessor Mark Jacobson of Stanford University has been arguing, since the wind is always blowing someplace in the continental United States, if you design a regional or even national system that places wind turbines in areas with different wind patterns, the output of power becomes reliable. In fact, an interconnected system could provide at least 33% of a wind system as baseload power, that is, you would be confident that at least one third of your power needs were provided for by wind, a function now filled by coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy. more

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