Personally, I have mixed feelings about carbon taxes. The basic idea is to tax carbon energy so the price more accurately resembles what burning this stuff actually costs the environment. Intellectually, this makes sense. Unfortunately, raising the costs of energy is the surest way possible to screw up the real economy and goodness knows there are already far too many ways to do that. I probably could get behind the idea of carbon taxes IF they were directed into a fund that could only be used to finance projects that actually replaced carbon fuels. Even better would be if the carbon taxes were used to capitalize one of Ellen Brown's public infrastructure banks so we could leverage up some SERIOUS projects. You cannot just tax a necessity like fuel—you must promise to provide a meaningful alternative so that people can choose to behave so they can avoid the tax.
In any case, carbon taxes are still 1000 times better than bogus schemes like cap-and-trade.
But getting back to Australia. She is rapidly discovering that even without carbon taxes, the solar alternatives have become realistic and cost-competitive. Again, cheap solar cells change a very great deal. Australian has a LOT of coal but she has even more sunlight. The whole continent is one big solar site.
Thermal solar goes supercritical. I am not absolutely convinced that thermal solar has much of a future—too much complicated equipment and monkey motion to get to the electricity. But this is still an amazing accomplishment.
Aussie Households Go Solar: Game-ChangerDr. Reese Halter 07/23/2014
Australia's household solar revolution has caught the government-owned electricity sector by surprise.
More than one million Australians have already installed solar panels on their rooftops. It has caused demand for electricity from the grid to plummet.
Despite being a sun-rich country, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott continues to promote coal, a known heat-trapping pollutant, as the only source of energy for the future.
The government has just spent over $50 billion upgrading the coal-powered energy grid expecting more demand for more electricity.
As a result of falling demand, the remaining customers are being charged more for electricity. So more people are switching to solar.
The Australian boom for solar installations shows no sign of slowing down.
In the meantime, Abbott's Coalition government has abolished the carbon tax. It's just another in a series of initiatives to promote coal and undermine innovations in renewable energies like solar thermal and ocean wave farms.
The Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, spent one year studying and writing a university thesis on "A Tax To Make The Polluters Pay." It appears that at one point in his life he believed, "it better ensures that the polluter bears full responsibility for the cost of his or her conduct." That was when he was young and not in charge of the environment, which regularly takes a back-seat to the Coalition's economic plan for the coming decade, one which will see a ramping-up of coal production to a whopping 770 million metric tons per annum - a death knell for the biosphere.
The abolition of the carbon tax comes at a time when Australian researchers lead the renewable energy sector with breakthrough solar thermal 'supercritical' steam. It's another game-changer for power stations enabling them to utilize supercritical solar steam that pressurizes water with enormous force.
Solar thermal can almost compete with the peak performance capabilities of fossil fuel sources especially as the International Monetary Fund disclosed when the global fossil fuel industry subsidies of $1.9 trillion annually are removed and the playing field is leveled.
For the past 15 years, climate disruption has battered the Australian continent. Bushfires, prolonged sub-continental drought, extreme heat waves and enormous floods are occurring more often, eclipsing more records more frequently.
Australian households are fighting back against climate disruption by leaving the coal-powered electricity grid in droves. Technological advances in battery capacity enable households to now operate during peak demand, at night.
The price of solar panels in Australia has plunged by 80 percent over the past 4 years. One in eight households is now powered by the sun and the race has only just begun!
Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt have bet the 'family farm' on coal, a dirty, old, heat-trapping technology that's killing the Great Barrier Reef and contaminating the biosphere. Australian households, on the other hand, are leaving the coal-powered grid by capitalizing on innovation that harnesses the power of the sun thereby erasing their carbon footprints. We need a government that is in touch with the people. more
And even in the US which has made only the most feeble attempts at a solar energy policy, renewables are growing anyway. My most vivid memory of an official response to the energy problems by a Washington policymaker is of Jimmy Carter claiming that becoming reliant on foreign-sourced energy was the Moral Equivalent of War (which it was) and then went on TV wearing a cardigan sweater (which doesn't really keep you warm, it just makes you look ugly.)
World first: Australian solar plant has generated “supercritical” steam that rivals fossil fuels’SCIENCEALERT STAFF 05 JUNE 2014
A CSIRO test plant in Australia has broken a world record and proved solar power could efficiently replace fossil fuels.
A solar thermal test plant in Newcastle, Australia, has generated “supercritical” steam at a pressure of 23.5 MPa (3400 psi) and 570°C (1,058°F).
CSIRO is claiming it as a world record, and it’s a HUGE step for solar thermal energy.
"It's like breaking the sound barrier; this step change proves solar has the potential to compete with the peak performance capabilities of fossil fuel sources," Dr Alex Wonhas, CSIRO’s Energy Director, told Colin Jeffrey for Gizmag.The Energy Centre uses a field of more than 600 mirrors (known as heliostats) which are all directed at two towers housing solar receivers and turbines, Gizmag reports.
This supercritical steam is used to drive the world’s most advanced power plant turbines, but previously it’s only been possible to produce it by burning fossil fuels such as coal or gas.
"Instead of relying on burning fossil fuels to produce supercritical steam, this breakthrough demonstrates that the power plants of the future could instead be using the free, zero emission energy of the sun to achieve the same result,” Dr Wonhas explained.
Currently, commercial solar thermal or concentrating solar power power plants only operate a “subcritical” levels, using less pressurised steam. This means that they’ve never been able to match the output or efficiency of the world’s best fossil fuel power plants - until now.
The commercial development of this technology is still a fair way off, but this is an important first step towards a more sustainable future. more
Half of All New Energy Capacity in the US This Year Is RenewableBrandon Baker July 21, 2014 |
Solar and wind lead the way.
Renewable energy continues growing its share of new electricity generation in the U.S.
According to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, solar and wind energy constituted more than half of the new generating capacity in the country for the first half of 2014. Solar and wind energy combined for 1.83 gigawatts (GW) of the total 3.53 GW installed from January to June.
New generation in-service (new build and expansion). Graphic credit: FERC
Natural gas constituted much of the remainder of installed capacity with about 1.56 GW. Coal and nuclear energy came to a complete half with zero projects and zero capacity. Last year, coal had two new units during the same time period. Since then, the Obama Administration issued a proposal for U.S. power plants to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent compared to 2005 level. Coal plants account for nearly half of the country’s carbon emissions.
Solar and wind combined for 120 of the 180 projects in the first half of the year. That figure is slightly down from the 137 projects during this period last year. Installed capacity was also higher by this point last year at about 2.16 GW.
Still, natural gas suffered a much larger fall from the 41 units for nearly 4.5 GW during the first six months of 2013.
In 2013, renewable energy projects tripled the amount of new coal, oil and nuclear projects. Natural gas accounted for more than half the installed capacity for all of last year.
Here are a few renewable energy highlights from the first half of the year:
- First Wind’s 14 MW Warren Solar project in Worcester County, MA is online. The power generated is sold to National Grid USA under long-term contract.
- NRG Solar Community I LLC’s 6 MW Community Solar 1 project in Imperial County, CA is online. The power generated is sold to Imperial Irrigation District under a long-term contract.