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Gas Production and Earthquake Damage
From: The Guardian Posted: October 10th 2015
In the Netherlands citizens from the neighbourhood of Groningen are preparing to press for compensation for damage to their homes caused by earthquakes following gas extraction from a field 2,900m below them. An estimated 60% of the 60,000 homes above the gas field have suffered damage and the selling prices of their homes have nosedived. A house placed on the market before the story broke for €225,000 (R3.4million) only received one offer of €105,000 (R1.6million) once the problem became widely known.
Fracking is not normally the direct cause of these earthquakes, but is often associated with the drilling of waste-water wells, which are used to dispose of the 'flowback' or 'produced' water which surfaces after the fracking operation. Even if the flowback is recycled, whatever waste that is removed during recycling must be disposed of and since it contains toxic substances like naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMS), it is not always possible to find waste treatment plants that can deal with it.
Oklahoma has seen an increasing swarm of earthquakes - from 1991 to 2008 usually less than 3 a year of greater than magnitude 3 has risen to 587 so far this year and counting. The industry acknowledges that the increase is occurring but is not open about the flow rates and pressures that are used.
21st Century Electricity Distribution
From: PV Magazine Posted: October 9th 2015
New York State governor, Andrew Cuomo, has announced plans that will dramatically change the way in which the state's citizens will receive their electricity. His plan, called 'Reforming the Energy Vision' (REV) is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, whilst at the same time moving to 50% renewable energy and reducing buildings use of electricity by 23%.
Laudable goals, for sure, but even more impressive is the encouragement of microgrids so that renewables can be integrated with minimal use of storage. Research from ABB indicates that the 'sweet spot' in cost terms for renewables is now between 60 and 80% of the mix, though that will require some storage. RMI takes a look at how modern techniques can help demand management by shifting loads to off-peak, reducing system losses and curtailment.
RMI also explains how only a small percentage of battery life is used when it is installed 'behind the meter' and how the remainder could be put to work for the benefit of the whole grid. ILSR explains how 'Utility 2.0' as they term it will transform the distribution of electricity and what the future holds. South Africa should follow this lead, with the municipalities acting as microgrid owners, but our government seems to want to stick with an outdated business model.
Wind for Everyone
From: The Guardian Posted: October 9th 2015
Lake Turkana in remote northern Kenya was Willem Dolleman's favourite fishing spot, but there was nowhere to stay and the constant wind frequently blew down his tent. He always said that the wind was so steady that its energy should be used to provide electricity for the local villages. Soon it will and moreover feed Kenya's grid with its massive surplus. Recently wind farms have improved their load factor to around 40% of their potential if the wind was blowing constantly at its ideal speed. Lake Turkana's will reach 62% and provide 20% of Kenya's capacity.
At 15,635MW, Texas has over 100 times the wind farm capacity as Lake Turkana's and so when conditions are perfect the state has an over-supply problem. The surplus capacity is sold through a wholesale market which at times is so large that its prices go negative - they pay to have it taken away. Eskom please note!
Smaller scale wind energy is on the way, not with turbines, but with a kite that turns a generator on the ground via its tether. Conventional turbines require accurate measurements of true wind speeds over a full year or more during the planning stage. MIT have developed a system that reduces that time to around 3 months and is much more accurate, so reducing the project time. Now, from start to finish, a wind farm can come on line within 18 months or less.
Diesel Engine Exhausts Surpass Regulation Limits
From: The Guardian Posted: October 9th 2015
Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi join 8 other auto manufacturers whose diesel engine exhausts emit more NOx than regulations in the UK allow, sometimes by as much as 20 times. That's primarily because real life road conditions are very different from the conditions under which they are tested, not because all of them try to deceive in the way that VW have. Diesel engines pollute and their emissions comprise the majority of NOx which has caused thousands of UK deaths and severe respiratory illness there. The problem is systemic and manufacturers should consider EV development rather than further attempts to clean up their act.
VW inform us that fixing the problem will require more than just a simple software upgrade, which will halt their engines from deceiving tests. Minimising the NOx pollution in the vast majority of cases will require extensive engineering to the exhaust systems and a longer visit to the service centre.
Proterra has just opened a new factory for its battery electric bus production and believes that it is seeing the beginning of a revolution away from big diesels to EVs. Tesla's megafactory will begin production in the early part of 2016, which should help control the backlog of Model X orders. Elon Musk has some interesting tweets about that vehicle and the upcoming mass market Model 3.
Our Oceans - Further threats
From: The Guardian Posted: October 8th 2015
The growing El Niño is seen as the likely cause of a new 'bleaching' event on the Great Barrier Reef. Because it is so early in the warming season scientists are concerned that recovery from bleaching, which requires cooler waters, will be jeopardised. If the sea temperature does not relent within a month, then the coral dies. Coincidentally, deep-sea coral is now seen as a very accurate way of dating CO2 events and has been used to identify two separate surges in the last deglaciation.
A further risk to continental shelf ecosystems is the possibility that Antarctic king crabs may soon migrate upwards and destroy many of the creatures that live at that level there. This has not happened for tens of million years and is being exacerbated by continued strong warming of the oceans at levels between 0 and 2000 metres.
Tamino's blog provides us with comments about the recent Hansen et al paper on subsequent sea level rise, Barack Obama has announced that the US is open to new partnerships with other nations to crack down on illegal fishing practices and a new paper predicts massive ocean damage by 2050.
Fossil Fuels do not make Economic Sense
From: The Guardian Posted: October 6th 2015
Jeremy Leggett criticises the UK government for promoting the self-same policies that the South African government are pursuing, namely shale gas and nuclear, whilst at the same time ignoring the unmistakable advantages of the coming transition to renewable and distributed power generation. The UK government is reducing its feed-in tariff by 87%, whilst the SA government has neither a feed-in tariff nor net metering for its home owners, even with exceptional solar resources.
The OECD tell us that its 34 members plus the BRICS countries are spending $200billion (R2.7trillion) every year on "supporting the consumption and production of coal, oil and gas that should be used to tackle climate change." Even that figure does not include the cost of climate change which has recently been re-assessed to include the additional GHGs that will be emitted from melting permafrost. In the UK, Bloomberg now calculate that onshore wind power generation costs 25% less than coal or gas, whilst in South Africa excellent wind resources are largely left untouched.
Climate smart cities could globally save $22trillion by 2050 by using expanded public transit, energy-saving buildings and better waste management. Uralla in New South Wales has made its plans to go zero net carbon by 2050 freely available to the public and 9 massive companies have now pledged to move to the RE100 100% renewable energy project.
Low Carbon Energy is Key to Solving Poverty
From: The Guardian Posted: October 2nd 2015
Lack of electricity tends to lock in poverty, but the way to unlock it is via renewable energy rather than trying to connect remote locations to the grid. Renewables, with storage if necessary, save the enormous cost of expanding the grid.
Abengoa tells us that CSP is a better choice than gas fired peaker plants and that both their CSP technologies (trough and tower) have their place, depending upon location. Joe Biden tells us that the falling cost of solar now mean that it is a close competitor with coal on price alone. When greenhouse gas emissions and health are taken into account it wins hands down.
Elon Musk follows his Tesla Model X launch by introducing SolarCity's step up in solar panel efficiency whilst their Buffalo factory is gearing up to produce 10,000 panels per day. Droogfontein in Northern Province is soon to provide its own electricity from a 100 hectare solar PV farm with subsequent benefits to the local community.
A Community Comes Together
From: The Guardian Posted: October 1st 2015
Balcombe, 40km south of London (UK) was the scene of lengthy protests against fracking in 2013. The police were called in to deal with the protesters and were accused of being heavy handed. The local population was divided over the issue, but saw sense when a plan to provide 100% of its electricity needs from a solar PV farm. They have just received planning permission and are racing to complete the installation in time to avoid the UK government's austerity cuts of 87% in their feed-in tariff. The community is much more united (and healthier) than it would have been with fracking.
City Power estimate that 4MW of solar PV is installed in Johannesburg and there are 32MW of applications compared with Balcombe's 5MW. But sunny Jo'burg has 2,500 citizens for every villager in cloudy Balcombe. It's a start, but the comparison highlights how much could already have been done, maybe enough to stave off Eskom's load shedding.
Accéntuate is one company that is looking to take its plant off-grid. Two hours of load shedding create 7 hours of downtime at its flooring products plant in East London due to the time it takes to clean the machinery and restart production.
What the Coming Climate Will Mean
From: The Guardian Posted: September 29th 2015
Global surface temperatures for August were 0.8°C above the commonly used 1951-1980 levels. As a consequence we are seeing major droughts, storms and sea level rise around the globe. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, and inaction will lead to "financial crises and falling living standards" and "global impacts on property, migration and political stability, as well as food and water security".
Ian Angus lays out where he perceives the risks to fall and how the heat alone will manifest itself. He emphasises that action is now urgent, not somewhere in the future. Joe Romm adds to his message of how little action will cost compared to the massive costs of doing nothing.
Karel Beckman muses on where Shell are headed now that they have pulled out of the Arctic and are faced with the growing conviction amongst the nations of the world that we must restrict fossil fuel use. Alberta's premier, Rachel Notley, outlines her energy policy to do just that with the tar sands development in her province. Surprisingly the world's governments continue to subsidise fossil fuels to the extent of to the tune of $200 billion annually and even more surprisingly, the BRICS nations provide more than half of that, much higher than the 34 OECD countries.
SA Commits to Increasing Emissions
From: IOL Posted: September 28th 2015
South Africa has submitted its plans to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). By 2025 SA plans a range of measures that will result in changes between a decrease of 14% and an increase of 32% compared with 2012.Yes! An Increase of 32%! The country is also looking for contributions to its investment to achieve that from nations that have high cumulative emissions, despite the fact that on a per capita basis SA is one of those very nations. The myth that SA is environmentally clean as far as GHGs are concerned is destroyed by our coal fuelled power stations.
Compare SA's submission with China's which plans to halve its emissions by 2030. That they are serious is underlined by the laying off of 100,000 employees at one coal mining company.
Joe Romm explains what the UNFCCC's nationally determined contributions amount to in terms of addressing climate change, but concludes that not enough is being done to prevent a 2°C rise this century. Sadly SA falls deeply into the category of those who wish to do least whilst being funded most. Let's get back to Proudly South African.
Solar PV and Design
From: Clean Technica Posted: September 27th 2015
Not all roofs are ideal for rooftop solar. They may have multiple gables, shade from chimneys and trees or not quite face the right way. When panels are retrofitted on them they may look unnatural or awkward, so there's an opportunity for ground mounted structures to replace or co-exist with roof-mounted. Current designs mostly focus on simple racking, with or without tracking systems to follow the sun, a feat that cannot be achieved with roof-mounted. But there's a welcome movement towards more elegant design. For the moment that's expensive and mostly confined to one-off installations. But form has a place alongside function.
Welcome, too, is the Sunday Times' first green edition which announces its co-operation with Woolworths to "raise R100million for schools in need across the country and to make sustainability cool for the next generation of South Africans." It's a hard road they've chosen and some of the issues are uncomfortable to face and difficult choices must be made. Accuracy and research are paramount. So when the edition parades SA's success with solar power it tells us that CSP is the only large-scale technology that can deploy power storage, they've not done their homework as just one example of many, the Younicos project in Texas, shows. SA must not hype its green credentials.
South Africa has a larger per capita carbon footprint than France, Germany, UK, China, Italy or Spain largely because of our focus on coal as a means of generating electricity. Long haul flying contributes to that and a single round-trip economy flight from Johannesburg to Madagascar, for example, contributes around a ton of carbon to the problem. So when the Sunday Times in its greener travel tips tells us "For most long distance travellers a plane ride is inevitable.", the reporter is sidestepping the issue and reducing it to a sound bite. Three cheers for the Sunday Times and Woolworths, though.
Drought Hits Food & Electricity Generation
From: Engineering News Posted: September 23rd 2015
Drought is biting in sub-Saharan Africa. Zambia's estimated electricity supply deficit rose to 985MW in September from 560MW in March, due to lack of rain to drive its hydro-power generating stations which normally provide around 2200MW. The country now plans to triple its grid capacity within 2 years using solar PV farms.
Elsewhere, in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana, drought is worsening and since exchange rates have fallen sharply for SA and these countries, the price of imported staples has added an extra burden. Parts of Gaborone are without water for 3 weeks at a time and South Africa is likely to worsen that situation by cutting off supplies from its Molatedi dam, because it is down to 8% of its capacity.
Drought was predicted for the region by the IPCC as a result of climate change, but the consensus was that the effects would not be felt for some years yet. A deepening El Niño which tends to reduce rainfall here could exacerbate the situation. Scientists have been warning our governments of these risks for over 25 years. It is very late to heed their advice, but for the sake of the impoverished, they must do so now.
Volkswagen and Climate Blunders
From: The Guardian Posted: September 22nd 2015
The European commission was lobbied strongly by big German car makers BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler, to incentivise diesel as a means to reduce their carbon emissions, since petrol engines emit 15% more CO2 than diesels. However, without exhaust controls diesel engines emit 4 times as much nitrogen dioxide as petrol engines and 22 times as much particulates, both of which are major causes of respiratory diseases. VW's exhaust control system caused their engines to run hotter, shortened their life and led to more wear and tear. So the company added software that effectively switched that system off unless it was running in test conditions.
Questions now arise about other car manufacturers and it seems likely that some big names have similarly set out to deceive the public. Should that be confirmed, the whole industry will be under a cloud. The fossil fuel industry will lose their case for less oversight from environmental protection bodies and we will be subjected to lessened health risks.
Expected lower second-hand values for VWs are making their existing owners think of their pockets and legal action is being contemplated wherever the deceit has occurred. That coincides with talk of US climate change deniers being prosecuted under their racketeering laws as were the executives of tobacco companies when they deceived the public
Oceans in Crisis
From: Huffington Post Posted: September 21st 2015
Unless we spend time upon the waves or gaze out to sea from the coast, humanity in general does not dwell upon the plight of our seas and oceans. But we should, since 37% of our global population depends upon them as their primary source of protein. And they are struggling to survive and provide in the way we take for granted.
Fish stocks are in deep decline as is marine plant life. Within traditional fishing grounds fish have retreated to wrecks because bottom trawlers don't risk entangling their nets in submerged hazards. Marine plants not only provide for the bottom of the food chain, they also absorb carbon dioxide and are part of the carbon cycle.
Even clouds are affected by the upper regions of our seas. Wind and waves waft microscopic particles from plant life high into the atmosphere where they can modify the quantity of ice particles in a cloud as well as its rate of formation. The world's oceans are an integral part of our life, whether we can see them or not. It is urgent that we care for them better.
Renewables and Jobs
From: Climate Progress Posted: September 21st 2015
The path to 100% global renewable energy is achievable by 2050 and 85% can be achieved within 15 years according to a new report from Greenpeace, without the need for new technology. Naysayers frequently state that is not feasible economically, but the report rejects that and brands the expansion as cost-neutral. In addition 9.7 million people would be working in the renewables industry by 2030 and most of those jobs would be new. Greenpeace has a fine reputation for accuracy in this field. Only the lack of political will is holding us back from meeting an epic challenge.
A Citigroup study finds that lifetime costs of wind energy in Australia are already below coal and that within 4 years or so solar PV will be in the same position. That's without taking into account the monumental costs of damage to the environment from coal. Both these renewable sources are already cheaper than gas.
Oxfam identifies South Africa with equality, poverty and unemployment and calls for 1 million climate jobs to be created, many in renewables, others in water‚ sanitation‚ housing‚ education‚ health care‚ food security and safety.
58m Sea Level Rise Possible
From: Reporting Climate Science Posted: September 15th 2015
A new study from Ken Caldeira and the Potsdam Institute warns us that we may be precipitating an unstoppable rise in sea levels that would engulf many of the world's greatest coastal cities and displace hundreds of millions of people.
The rise would take many centuries, probably millennia, and would be mainly caused by the melting of both the West and East Antarctic ice sheets (WAIS & EAIS). Currently predictions only include the WAIS, much the smaller of the two.
Stories faithfully handed down through generations of indigenous Australians concur with the 120m sea level rise that occurred between 18,000 and 7,000 years ago. Evidence for the rise has been found in areas far beyond Australia's shores.
From: Inside Climate News Posted: September 15th 2015
Exxon's own scientific research confirmed that fossil fuels induce climate change nearly 40 years ago, using the Esso Atlantic as a floating laboratory. At first its top executives wanted to lead both global research and discussions with governments, but later reversed course. In the 1980s the company curtailed its research and began to fund climate change denial. The first two parts of Inside Climate News are an example of fine investigative reporting. The third part will be available next week.
Pressure from leading figures to move away from fossil fuel use as fast as possible is becoming decidedly stronger. 33 leading climate experts have signed an open letter to the MIT President, Rafael Reif, urging that prestigious university to divest its holdings in carbon intensive fossil fuel companies. Sir David Attenborough heads a group of mainly UK learned folk who call for a global Apollo Program like research effort aimed at ensuring that renewable energy sources are cheaper than coal.
Canada has a similar call via its 'Leap Manifesto', whilst Gail Tverberg and Allan Stromfeldt Christensen both take a thoughtful look at the economic problems that were caused by the sharp increase in oil prices, but which will not be cured by a return to them.
Obama: ‘Opponents Standing in the Way of the Future’
From: The Guardian Posted: August 25th 2015
"Every three minutes another business in America goes solar" and thousands of jobs were being created. But irrational opposition from fossil fuel interests was standing in the way of progress
"You do not have to share my passion for solving climate change to like renewable energy. People are doing it not because of tree huggers – even though trees are important – but because they are cost-cutters," he said.
" When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests or conservative thinktanks or the Koch brothers, pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that’s a problem."
TEDX study reveals more detail about the dangers of gas drilling
From Ian Perrin Posted: 14th November 2012
"The study shows that air sampling near natural gas operations reveals numerous chemicals in the air, many associated with natural gas operations. Some of the highest concentrations in the study were from methane, ethane, propane, and other alkanes that occur as a result of natural gas operations"
"Although concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in this study appear low, they may have clinical significance."
We thank them sincerely on behalf of all South Africans for the effort they are making to understand the effects of drilling and fracking for natural gas that will result in better protection for our workers and communities alike. [Ian]
|Greenhouse Gas Theory explained|
From Ian Perrin Posted: 24th October 2012
You might have gained the impression climate change caused by rising amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere is a contentious theory added only recently to our scientific understanding.
Not so – we can trace the basis for it all the way back to Isaac Newton's work in the early 1670's and the first, generally accepted theory around 1859, more than 150 years ago."
Here's our plain English version of the history of its development and some detail on the scientists involved.
We Must Heed James Hansen
From: Joe Romm & Michael Mann Posted: 9th August 2012
"During the hot, dry summer of 1988, Hansen announced that 'it is time to stop waffling…. The evidence is pretty strong that the [human-amplified] greenhouse effect is here.'" Much criticism followed.
"Hansen, it turns out, was right, and the critics were wrong. Rather than being reckless, as some of his critics charged, his announcement to the world proved to be prescient – and his critics were proven overly cautious."
"Given the prescience of Hansen’s science, we would be unwise to ignore his latest, more dire warning."
"The time for debate about the reality of human-caused climate change has now passed. We can have a good faith debate about how to deal with the problem – how to reduce future climate change and adapt to what is already upon us to reduce the risks that climate change poses to society. But we can no longer simply bury our heads in the sand."
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