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The clock is ticking

California utilities (just) miss renewable energy deadline

Time's up.Photo: elfonThe California Legislature is moving to put into law a regulation requiring the state's utilities to obtain a third of their electricity from renewable energy by 2020. But how did California's three big investor-owned utilities do in meeting a previous mandate to secure 20 percent of their electricity supplies from carbon-free sources by the end of 2010? Close, but not quite. Overall, the three utilities -- Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric -- are getting 18 percent of their electricity from wind farms, solar power plants, geothermal, and biomass facilities, according …

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breaking wind news

The (b)low-down on wind [VIDEO]

You know that saying about March coming in like a lion? If the roar refers to the wind, the saying holds true. Hang onto your hats as we enter the windiest time of the year. Besides being a force of nature, the wind is a promising renewable energy resource. Understanding wind is critical both to predicting the weather and determining the best way to harness the wind’s power. As climatologist Dr. Heidi Cullen explains, understanding the wind actually begins with the sun:

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Wind production in Gansu, China

As of the end of 2009, according to the China Renewable Energy Industries Association, more than 10,000 utility-scale wind turbines had been installed nationwide. And in 2010, according to figures released last month by the China Industry Energy Conservation and Clean Production Association, China spent approximately $US 45.55 billion on 378 big wind power projects, including roughly 8,000 new wind turbines that were installed last year. Wind generating capacity in China has reached more than 42 GW -- the most of any country, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. The industry is growing so fast, in fact, that China's …

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Nor any drop to drink

New wind and solar sectors won’t solve China’s water scarcity

JIUQUAN, China -- Business for wind and solar energy components has been so brisk in Gansu Province -- a bone-bleaching sweep of gusty desert and sun-washed mountains in China's northern region -- that the New Energy Equipment Manufacturing Industry base, which employs 20,000 people, is a 24/7 operation. Just two years old, the expansive industrial manufacturing zone -- located outside this ancient Silk Road city of 1 million -- turns out turbines, blades, towers, controllers, software, and dozens of other components for a provincial wind industry already producing more than 5,000 megawatts per year. Photo © Toby Smith/Reportage by Getty …

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Chart attack

Charts explain our current situation and how to improve it

The hundreds of data sets that accompany Lester Brown’s latest book, World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, illustrate the world’s current predicament and give a sense of where we might go from here. Here are some highlights from the collection. Veering toward the edge: As the world economy has expanded nearly 10-fold since 1950, consumption has begun to outstrip natural assets on a global scale. The same values that have allowed ecological deficits to grow are contributing to ballooning fiscal deficits around the world, threatening to undermine economic progress. Some of the planet’s natural capital, …

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Revolution greens

The energy [r]evolution has begun

Access to energy is vital for our economies, but energy is one of the main sources of the greenhouse gas emissions putting our climate at risk. It follows that we need to transition to a low-carbon, renewable energy mix. That aspiration is frequently debated -- at times encouraged, often mocked -- but it bears emphasizing: the energy revolution is already underway. Greenpeace, the German Space Agency (DLR), and the European Renewable Energy Council -- representing over 400,000 renewable energy workers -- joined forces back in 2007 and have since published more than 40 global, regional, and national Energy [R]evolution scenarios. …

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Batteries included

California to green its grid with energy storage

With intermittent sources like wind and solar becoming more common, energy storage is increasingly seen as crucial for greening the grid.Photo: mike_tnIn just about every story on renewable energy, there's a familiar cast of characters: green power developers, utilities, and sundry state and federal regulators. But there's one key player that often lurks in the background -- the grid operator. In the Golden State, most of the power grid is controlled by the California Independent System Operator. Based in a suburb of Sacramento, Cal ISO, as it's known, essentially ensures that electricity supply and demand stay in balance to prevent …

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Go big or go homeless

The gobsmackingly gargantuan challenge of shifting to clean energy

If I were king, I'd make everyone in America set aside time to watch the first hour of this video. It will change the way you think. Since I'm just a blogger, I expect most people won't, so beneath, I've extracted some of the key slides from Saul Griffith's extraordinary presentation, to give a clear sense of just what an enormous task lies ahead of us this century. Say we decide we want to prevent the climate from entering irreversible feedback loops that spin us into biophysical circumstances our species has never experienced. Seems reasonable, no? To avoid those feedbacks, …

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Blowing coal away

Wind power now competitive with coal in some regions

Photo: Vlasta JuricekMore good news on the renewable energy front Monday: The cost of onshore wind power has dropped to record lows, and in some regions is competitive with electricity generated by coal-fired plants, according to a survey by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a market research firm. "The latest edition of our Wind Turbine Price Index shows wind continuing to become a competitive source of large-scale power," Michael Liebreich, Bloomberg New Energy Finance's chief executive, said in a statement. "For the past few years, wind turbine costs went up due to rising demand around the world and the increasing price …