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O Pioneers

Western states fired up over clean energy When it comes to clean energy, the West is the best -- or at least, it wants to be. In Deadwood, S.D., this week, 10 Western U.S. governors and two Canadian provincial premiers are meeting to talk about the region's power prospects, including solar, wind, biomass, and "clean coal." Reporting that the region is on track to add 30,000 megawatts or more of "clean and diversified" energy by 2015, the Western Governors' Association took the federal government to task for withholding support. "Western states are serious about the development of domestic renewable energy," …

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Modular pumped storage: The least expensive and ecologically soundest means of electricity storage

If renewables are to work, we need good storage

David's recent post on pumped storage attracted enough angry responses that I guess it is time for a more detailed post on energy storage and renewable sources. Solar and wind energy are variable sources. If we want them to provide more than 20%-40% of our power, we will need some storage method. Fortunately, long-distance transmission lines can reduce this need. While the sun and wind have gaps at any one spot, if we use long distance HVDC transmission lines to connect sites thousand of kilometers apart, the sun will be shining or wind blowing somewhere almost all the time. As …

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Umbra on installing solar power

Dear Umbra, I live on Long Island, N.Y., and am interested in getting solar power for my home. I am not sure, however, if that is viable in this area. Do you have any recommended reliable sources that I can reference? There is just so much confusing information in the marketplace. Thanks, Rick Port Washington, N.Y. Dearest Rick, Don't thank me until you've tried my recommendations in the marketplace. Solar power to the people. Photo: iStockphoto Your county's rating for solar is "good," according to Findsolar.com, a private/public collaborative website that has various worksheets helping you figure out what solar …

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Adventures in the Smart Grid no. 1

Why the Smart Grid is important

It's the world's largest machine -- the interconnected network of power plants, transmission towers, substations, poles, and wires that make up the power grid. When you flip the switch you expect the juice to flow and don't have much reason to think about it, except during the occasional blackout. Power engineers and energy wonks might get passionate about the grid, but for most people it's just a background fact of life. It's time to bring the grid into the foreground, because it positions at the exact center of the world's most crucial issue, global climate change. The power grid is …

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Electricity storage and renewable energy

How can renewable energy ‘power up’?

In coming days, we'll be talking about how to "power up" renewable energy. Everyone's talking renewables. G8 leaders are talking about reducing CO2 emissions and increasing renewables; federal and state officials are talking about tough new renewable portfolio standards; many in the general public seem eager to embrace renewables as the only logical way to address global warming (although whether or not they are aware of the price of renewable energy remains unclear). There's a fundamental problem, however. The one thing no one is talking about is perhaps the one thing that would make the transition to renewables work, namely …

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Yet another guide to the candidates on global warming

They just keep coming

Speaking of guides to the candidates' positions on global warming and other guides to the candidates' positions on global warming, here's yet another guide to the candidates' positions on global warming -- this one from NPR. And while you're there, check out this story about how global warming is playing big in the presidential race.

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Medium wind: Village-sized turbines make a contribution in Alaska

Built to scale

Small and medium size wind generators of about 100 KW each are playing an important role in the power supplied by the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) -- a non-profit customer-owned electric co-op serving 52 villages throughout interior and western Alaska. Wind power on this scale, and in these conditions, is not cheap. Unlike megawatt scale wind turbines which cost around $1,600 per KW of installed capacity, these smaller generators run around $10,000 per installed KW. Part of that cost is simply a matter of buying on a smaller scale. But according to Brent Petrie, Key Accounts Manager for AVEC, …

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Low-hanging fruit

Dirt cheap carbon

Great interview over on Mongabay with Daniel Nepstad, head of the Woods Hole Research Center's Amazon program. When it comes to immediate carbon emissions reductions, the biggest bang for the buck is to stop deforestation of the tropics. This revelation would have much less relevance if there were not also a mechanism envisioned to achieve it called the RED initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation). As with anything, the concept has its critics. In my unqualified opinion, one of the biggest potential flies in the ointment is fire. How do you keep a carbon sink from going up in smoke? Once …

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Don't worry about biofuels

Say the developed countries to OPEC

Biofuels will provide only a small proportion of the world's demand for fuel in the next decade, the developed countries' energy watchdog has said in an attempt to reassure OPEC that the need for oil will continue to grow. Well I feel reassured.

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Nuclear debate

Lovins v. Richter

Energy guru Amory Lovins and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Burton Richter face off, mano a mano, debating the merits of nuclear energy for addressing the climate crisis. MongaBay offers a blow-by-blow account. No one will be shocked to hear that I would call the bout for Lovins, though it was far from a TKO.

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