Renewable Energy

A Generational Challenge to Repower America

July 23, 2008 - 06:34:23 PM


Al Gore speaks at DAR Constitution Hall on 7/17/08

Ladies and Gentleman:

There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more - if more should be required - the future of human civilization is at stake.

I don't remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously. Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse, gasoline prices are increasing dramatically, and so are electricity rates. Jobs are being outsourced. Home mortgages are in trouble. Banks, automobile companies and other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure. Distinguished senior business leaders are telling us that this is just the beginning unless we find the courage to make some major changes quickly.

The climate crisis, in particular, is getting a lot worse - much more quickly than predicted. Scientists with access to data from Navy submarines traversing underneath the North polar ice cap have warned that there is now a 75 percent chance that within five years the entire ice cap will completely disappear during the summer months. This will further increase the melting pressure on Greenland. According to experts, the Jakobshavn glacier, one of Greenland's largest, is moving at a faster rate than ever before, losing 20 million tons of ice every day, equivalent to the amount of water used every year by the residents of New York City.

Two major studies from military intelligence experts have warned our leaders about the dangerous national security implications of the climate crisis, including the possibility of hundreds of millions of climate refugees destabilizing nations around the world.

Just two days ago, 27 senior statesmen and retired military leaders warned of the national security threat from an "energy tsunami" that would be triggered by a loss of our access to foreign oil. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan appears to be getting worse.

And by the way, our weather sure is getting strange, isn't it? There seem to be more tornadoes than in living memory, longer droughts, bigger downpours and record floods. Unprecedented fires are burning in California and elsewhere in the American West. Higher temperatures lead to drier vegetation that makes kindling for mega-fires of the kind that have been raging in Canada, Greece, Russia, China, South America, Australia and Africa. Scientists in the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Science at Tel Aviv University tell us that for every one degree increase in temperature, lightning strikes will go up another 10 percent. And it is lightning, after all, that is principally responsible for igniting the conflagration in California today.

Like a lot of people, it seems to me that all these problems are bigger than any of the solutions that have thus far been proposed for them, and that's been worrying me.

I'm convinced that one reason we've seemed paralyzed in the face of these crises is our tendency to offer old solutions to each crisis separately - without taking the others into account. And these outdated proposals have not only been ineffective - they almost always make the other crises even worse.

Yet when we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges - the economic, environmental and national security crises.

We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change.

But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we're holding the answer to all of them right in our hand.
The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

In my search for genuinely effective answers to the climate crisis, I have held a series of "solutions summits" with engineers, scientists, and CEOs. In those discussions, one thing has become abundantly clear: when you connect the dots, it turns out that the real solutions to the climate crisis are the very same measures needed to renew our economy and escape the trap of ever-rising energy prices. Moreover, they are also the very same solutions we need to guarantee our national security without having to go to war in the Persian Gulf.

What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don't cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?

We have such fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses.

And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America.

The quickest, cheapest and best way to start using all this renewable energy is in the production of electricity. In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses.

But to make this exciting potential a reality, and truly solve our nation's problems, we need a new start.

That's why I'm proposing today a strategic initiative designed to free us from the crises that are holding us down and to regain control of our own destiny. It's not the only thing we need to do. But this strategic challenge is the lynchpin of a bold new strategy needed to re-power America.

Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.

This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans - in every walk of life: to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen.

A few years ago, it would not have been possible to issue such a challenge.  READ MORE »


Majoring in Renewable Energy

April 01, 2008 - 01:36:31 PM


By KEITH SCHNEIDER

3/26/2008 The New York Times Company

AS business and industry are taking more interest in renewable energy, academia is not far behind. Anticipating increased demand for new technical and design skills, colleges and universities across the nation are offering degree programs in the field.

The Oregon Institute of Technology has developed the country’s first four-year undergraduate degree program in renewable-energy systems. This year the program is training 50 students and will graduate its first class.

The institute’s degree requires basic knowledge in engineering, electrical circuits, motors and generators, thermodynamics, heat transfer and the language of computers. Then come specialized courses in photovoltaics (solar energy research and technology), wind, biomass (the recycling of biological material), hydropower and geothermal energy development.

Robert Bass, 33, the assistant professor who directs the program, said his students would be applying their new bachelor of science degrees in a range of design, engineering, installation, auditing and programming careers in the region’s expanding green-power sector.

“We’re constantly getting phone calls from renewable-energy companies who advertise jobs,” said Dr. Bass, adding that two of his graduating students were already employed full time. “A student graduating from this program has a range of choices about where they want to start their careers. And starting salaries are very good.”  READ MORE »


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Windbelt, Cheap Generator Alternative Set to Power Third World

March 16, 2008 - 10:09:02 PM

Shawn Frayne us proof positive that real wealth (as Bucky Fuller often reminded us) is know-how and the most valuable and plentiful renewable energy source in the world is appropriately focused and applied human creativity and ingenuity. If you really need a shot of hope these days, don't look to Washington and politicians. Instead look for people like Shawn and the other winners of Popular Mechanics "Breakthrough Awards". They are the individuals who are searching for real solutions to the critical problems facing humanity.

The windbelt technology developed by Shawn Frayne has the potential for complementing utility-scale wind technology with units that can be economically scaled to individual and community applications. Does it work? We won't know for sure until some units are up and running which hopefully will be soon. The most important thing, I believe, is simply that people like Shawn are focusing their energy and considerable talents on things that matter. (Greg Watson 12 Degrees of Freedom)

 READ MORE »


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Whale Inspired Wind Mills

March 07, 2008 - 09:27:13 AM


"WhalePower, based in Toronto, Ontario, is testing this wind-turbine blade at a wind-testing facility in Prince Edward Island. The bumps, or "tubercles," on the blade's leading edge reduce noise, increase its stability, and enable it to capture more energy from the wind."
Credit: WhalePower


Mimicking the bumps on humpback-whale fins could lead to more efficient wind turbines. By Tyler Hamilton

via:MIT Technology Review

Marine scientists have long suspected that humpback whales' incredible agility comes from the bumps on the leading edges of their flippers. Now Harvard University researchers have come up with a mathematical model that helps explain this hydrodynamic edge. The work gives theoretical weight to a growing body of empirical evidence that similar bumps could lead to more-stable airplane designs, submarines with greater agility, and turbine blades that can capture more energy from the wind and water.  READ MORE »


Offshore Floating Energy Islands

February 12, 2008 - 04:56:33 PM

Offshore Energy Island

The concept - creating artificial islands to collect wind, wave and solar power in the tropics - is based on the work of Jacques-Arsène d’Arsonval, a 19th-century French physicist, who envisioned the idea of using the sea as a giant solar-energy collector.

Inspired by Jacques-Arsène d’Arsonval, architect and engineer Dominic Michaelis, his son Alex Michaelin (also an architect), and Trevor Cooper-Chadwick are developing a new technique called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) that takes advantage of differences in temperature between the ocean surface sea (up to 29°C in the tropics) and water a kilometer down (which is typically 5°C). Here’s how it works: warmer surface water is used to heat liquid ammonia, converting it into vapor, which expands to drive a turbine — which in turn produces electricity. The ammonia is then cooled using cold water from the ocean depths, returning it into a liquid state so the process can start all over again.  READ MORE »


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Company Brings Sustainable Light and Power to 1000s of Bangladeshi villages

December 21, 2007 - 02:04:40 PM

 

Grameen Shakti, under its Managing Director Dipal Barua, has installed more than 110,000 solar home systems in rural Bangladesh. It has shown that solar energy applications can be scaled up massively and rapidly to provide an affordable and climate-friendly energy option for the rural poor.

The company

Grameen Shakti (shakti meaning "energy" in Bengali) was created in 1996 as a not-for-profit company under the Grameen Bank. The goal of Grameen Shakti is to promote and supply renewable energy technology at an affordable rate to rural households of Bangladesh. Thus, their work not only focuses on the technical and capacity-building sides of renewable energy promotion. They have also adopted the Grameen Bank's experience in micro financing to make renewable energy applications affordable for poor rural people.  READ MORE »


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