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Wind farms DO NOT cause climate change

A study that just came out in Nature Climate Change found that wind farms can impact local temperatures, particularly at night. Basically, the turbines mix warmer air from high up with colder air closer to the ground. Hence, warmer air overall, in these very local spots.

So, of course, Fox News is telling people that "New research shows wind farms cause global warming." Not to be out-crazied, the Telegraph is going with "Wind farms can cause climate change." Gizmodo at least uses the word "local" in its headline. But unfortunately such restraint hasn't stopped the internet from deciding, as this apparently very patriotic gentleman on Twitter demonstrates, that "Wind farms = worse for local climate change than 100 years of pollution (0.6 degree F)."

Which, FINE, the scientists report that the temperature changes they've documented, "if spatially large enough, may have noticeable impacts on local to regional weather and climate." That impact, however, is different from what we normally mean by climate change. We're talking about the increase of global average temperatures, which -- funny how averages work -- is a much bigger deal than local temperature increases.

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We’re half-assing the clean-energy transition

Photo by Hans Gerwitz.

The International Energy Agency recently issued its annual progress report [PDF] on clean energy. Here's the five-cent version:

The transition to a low-carbon energy sector is affordable and represents tremendous business opportunities, but investor confidence remains low due to policy frameworks that do not provide certainty and address key barriers to technology deployment. Private sector financing will only reach the levels required if governments create and maintain supportive business environments for low-carbon energy technologies. [my emphasis]

Progress is inadequate -- relative to the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees C -- on virtually every low-carbon technology except onshore wind and solar (click for a larger version of this chart):

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Modern-day DeLorean? Airplane runs on trash

Photo by Paul O'Donnell.

One man's trash is another man's airplane fuel.

Adventure-seeker Andy Pag aims to obtain funding and become the first person to fly a trash-fueled plane from one end of the U.K. to the other. His aircraft, a microlight plane, will be powered by gasoline made from un-recyclable plastics like bags and packaging.

The fuel is made by a British company using Fischer–Tropsch synthesis--a process of making synthetic fuel that dates back to before WWII. Pag says the fuel is worth highlighting because it produces limited CO2, and reduces the volume of plastics that otherwise would go to landfills.

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Clean energy: Still a wedge issue that favors Democrats

wedge heel shoesOh, wait, not this kind of wedge?

In his much remarked-upon interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama said some (in my view fairly tepid and passive) things about climate change. What interested me more is the very first bit:

Let's talk about the campaign. Given all we've heard about and learned during the GOP primaries, what's your take on the state of the Republican Party, and what do you think they stand for?

First of all, I think it's important to distinguish between Republican politicians and people around the country who consider themselves Republicans. I don't think there's been a huge change in the country. ...

But what's happened, I think, in the Republican caucus in Congress, and what clearly happened with respect to Republican candidates, was a shift to an agenda that is far out of the mainstream – and, in fact, is contrary to a lot of Republican precepts. I said recently that Ronald Reagan couldn't get through a Republican primary today, and I genuinely think that's true. ... You've got a Republican Congress whose centerpiece, when it comes to economic development, is getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Doesn't all of that kind of talk and behavior during the primaries define the party and what they stand for?

I think it's fair to say that this has become the way that the Republican political class and activists define themselves.

Obama's contention is that the GOP political class and activist base have worked themselves into a blind ideological fury, but most people who identify as Republican do not share their rigidity. They are more likely to lean in the direction of Independents and moderates.

If this is true, it identifies a political vulnerability. Democrats ought to be able to exploit the differences between the masses and the ideologues, to set them at odds with one another.

I'm not sure how many genuine "wedge issues" there are, actually, but one that shows up in the polls over and over again is clean energy. As I wrote back in January, clean energy is a wedge issue that favors Democrats.

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Chinese farmer builds AMAZING solar- and wind-powered car

Electric vehicles are great and all, but they’re not exactly practical for everyone. Like, how’s a farmer in rural China going to a) afford a pricey green car and b) get enough access to electrical outlets and vehicle charging stations?

Well, if he’s Tang Zhengping from Beijing’s Tangzhou Wanji Yongle Town, he’ll build his own -- and it’ll be AWESOME.

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Donald Trump still blowing hot air about Scottish wind farms

Scotland’s plan to build offshore wind turbines would curb climate change, reduce the country’s reliance on foreign oil, and create thousands of jobs. But Donald Trump don’t give a f***.

Trump appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s economy, energy, and tourism committee today to speak out against the country’s plan to build offshore wind turbines. His argument? Eleven wind turbines -- located a full 1.5 miles from land -- will “ruin Scotland’s tourism.”

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India flips the switch on world’s largest solar power plant

The Indian state of Gujarat has built the world's largest solar photovoltaic power plant, a field of solar panels the size of Lower Manhattan. After only 14 months of preparation, they've just switched it on, adding 600 megawatts of power to the grid. That's enough to power a medium-sized city's worth of homes. Thing is HUGE.

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U.S. cleantech support about to fall off a cliff

If you care about cleantech in the U.S., this graph should make your blood run cold:

Boom & Bust: the coming cleantech cliff

That's from a new report -- "Beyond Boom and Bust: Putting Clean Tech on a Path to Subsidy Independence" -- from folks at the Breakthrough Institute, Brookings Institution, and World Resources Institute. It's a welcome and much-needed attempt to put some numbers behind the debate over federal cleantech support.

It's divided into three parts. The first tells the story of cleantech policy over the last five years. Early in his term, Obama unleashed a ton of support for cleantech, mainly via the stimulus bill, but also by funding some programs from the Bush era and earlier. At around $150 billion, federal cleantech spending from 2009-2014 will amount to over three times what was spent from 2002-2008. But that funding is dropping off a cliff:

In the absence of legislative action to extend or replace current subsidies, America's clean tech policy system will have been largely dismantled by the end of 2014, a casualty of the scheduled expiration of 70 percent of all federal clean tech policies. ... Furthermore, many of the remaining programs will end shortly after 2014.

Yikes.

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America could power a city on all the small-scale hydroelectric power we’re not harvesting

Every year, America misses out on 1.2 million megawatt-hours of electricity, enough to power a small city. Where's it all going? Literally, it's being flushed down the drain.

With the right kind of technology, we could harvest the energy of water running downhill through America's infrastructure, including canals, tunnels, pipelines, and existing dams, reports Susan Kraemer at Earth Techling.

The key is "micro-hydropower" devices, which can harvest small amounts of water power. For human-made waterways, there's Hydrovolts "Big Canal Turbine."

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Turbine makes fresh water out of thin air in the desert

If you've ever watched water drip out of a window air conditioning unit, you've seen the operating principle of Eole Water's new wind turbine in action. Tests of the turbine in Abu Dhabi have yielded between 500 and 800 liters of water a day, and the company thinks it can get it up to a cool 1,000 liters -- not bad for a desert.