Renewable Energy

Wind Power

Texas to install world’s largest wind energy storage system

The Notrees wind farm.Photo: Duke EnergyThey like to do things big in Texas, so it’s no surprise that the Lone Star state will launch the world’s largest wind battery storage project. Duke Energy is not a Texas company, but it owns the aptly named Notrees wind farm in the Texas panhandle. The North Carolina power giant is teaming up with an Austin area startup called Xtreme Power to install a 36-megawatt battery at the 153-megawatt Notrees Windpower Project near Kermit, Texas. That’s one big battery. Such technology is likely to become crucial as wind farms become ever larger but erratic …

Solar Power

Australia announces big solar project — at a coal plant

The Kogan Creek Power Station.Photo: Kogan Solar BoostAustralian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday appeared at giant coal-fired power plant to announce that the Southern Hemisphere’s largest solar project would be built in Queensland. Why, you may be wondering, would the PM travel to a remote 750-megawatt coal power station to make a big renewable energy news pronouncement? Well, coal is king in Australia, and the 44-megawatt solar thermal project to be built by Areva Solar at the Kogan Creek Power Station will generate additional steam to drive the coal plant’s turbines. “By using energy from the sun with Areva’s …

Renewable Energy

California solar has a sunny week

A rendering of the future Ivanpah solar plant. Photo: BrightSource EnergyIt’s only Tuesday but two milestones have been reached this week in the long march toward a carbon-free future. On Monday, BrightSource Energy became the first solar power plant developer to complete the financing of a large-scale project in two decades. The United States Department of Energy finalized a $1.6 billion loan guarantee BrightSource’s 370-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System solar thermal power plant now under construction in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. (The feds initially had pledged $1.37 billion but threw in another $230 million Monday.) As the …

Google goes all in on solar — to the tune of $168 million

Google has saved you from getting lost, running out of email storage space, and not knowing trivial facts about 90s TV shows. And now it’s going to help save you from a dystopian Mad Max future by investing in solar energy. The company just bet $168 million on solar tech, in the form of the Ivanpah “power tower” plant in the Mojave Desert in California, which should be finished in 2013. Power towers are simple: lay out an array of mirrors — 346,000, in this case — and aim them at a tower full of water. On a sunny day, …

Sustainable Business

Pro sports are going greener, and that means the rest of us are too

The Seattle Sounders don’t just have crazy fans. Their facilities have a 57.6 percent landfill diversion rate.Photo: Mike HPro sports may not seem like a natural ally for environmentalists. Players fly from Boston to Los Angeles and back for a single game. Leagues and teams convince cities to build expensive and often unneeded new facilities with taxpayer money. Fans clog up roads as they drive to games and clog up trash cans with hot-dog wrappers and beer cups once they arrive. But six teams representing six major North American sports leagues have kicked off a new effort to make themselves …

Paris to be powered by body odor

Okay, not quite. But the City of Lights is fast becoming the City of Innovative but Slightly Bizarre Energy Solutions, including new ways to harness the heat you might otherwise not want to touch. Sewer water: French children are probably too classy to be delighted by this the way American children would be, but last week a Paris primary school started heating itself with poo. The school recovers heat from nearby sewer pipes, which are full of euphemistic “waste water.” Steel plates in the pipes draw heat from fast-moving water and pump it to the school’s heating system. The new …

Climate & Energy

America’s energy use, in one nifty chart

Periodically, it’s nice to step back and get reacquainted with some energy basics. There’s no better way to do it than with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s famed (or oughtta be famed) energy flow charts. Here’s the most recent, from 2009 (click for larger version): Chart: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory I’m not going to ruin the pretty picture with a bunch of wonk talk. Just a few basic things that are worth noticing: 1. Holy sh*t we waste a lot of energy! I mean seriously. Look up there in the top right — “rejected energy.” Well over half of the raw …

Renewable Energy

Can the Keynes notion of ‘spontaneous optimism’ help U.S. investments in clean energy?

This post originally appeared on the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward.  John Maynard Keynes, a giant in modern economic theory, famously wrote, “Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits.” This notion, laid out in his seminal book, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, was meant to push back on the notion that people behave in an purely economically rational manner, that many of our decisions …

Renewable Energy

How green are those solar panels, anyway?

SolarWorld’s ratings aim to keep the photovoltaic industry on the sunny side.So which is the sunniest solar manufacturer of them all? I don’t mean companies whose photovoltaic panels generate the most carbon-free electricity, but which are the most environmentally friendly in their manufacturing, labor, and recycling practices. Solar modules can contain toxic materials, and they have a finite life cycle. As the industry booms — the number of megawatts installed in the United States in 2010, for instance, spiked 67 percent — photovoltaic trash eventually will become an issue. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition this week released its annual Solar …

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