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Countdown to Copenhagen: Despite doubts about a treaty, 2009 shapes up as pivotal year for renewable energy

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Copenhagen,renewable energy,wind,MoncktonBeginning with the Obama administration’s $70-billion commitment to ramping up the U.S.’s reliance of wind, water and solar power (not to mention hybrid vehicles) in February through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and ending with December’s international climate conference in Copenhagen, this year promises to be pivotal in the worldwide development and adoption of renewable energy sources. Pivotal in the sense that 2009 could go down as the moment the green revolution gained substantial footing thanks to a swelling of political and financial support or as a colossal missed opportunity due to power grabbing and misguided policy.

Controversy has been swirling around the proposed Copenhagen conference climate-change treaty (pdf) intended to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece on Wednesday, Janet Albrechttsen, a columnist for The Australian, criticizes the treaty as being "convoluted." She cites an address given by England’s Lord Christopher Monckton earlier this month at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., in which he warned that the treaty’s aim is to set up a transnational "government" with the power to directly intervene in the financial, economic, tax and environmental affairs of all the nations that sign the proposed Copenhagen treaty.

Even if the Copenhagen conference and its proposed measures aren’t being met with optimism, the movement toward increased use of sustainable energy and decreased reliance on fossil fuels are. In the November issue of Scientific American, researchers Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi lay out an ambitious plan to deliver all of the world’s energy via wind, water and solar resources by 2030. In fact, the researchers argue in their article, if the planet were powered entirely by wind, water and solar resources, global power demand would drop by about one third (from 16.9 terawatts to 11.5 terawatts) because in most cases "electrification is a more efficient way to use energy." The article includes an interactive infographic created by FlypMedia.com to illustrate Jacobson and Delucchi’s plan.

Meanwhile, renewable energy installations continue to move forward worldwide. Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S Wednesday announced that the municipality of Santo Domingo de Ingenio, Juchitan de Zaragoza, in Oaxaca, Mexico, plans to install 51 of the 2.0-megawatt wind turbines by the end of 2010  (pdf). Although this planned installation alone is not overwhelming, it follows last month’s order for 60 1.65-megawatt Vestas turbines for a wind power project in Theni in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India (pdf), and an August order by Eufer (a joint venture between the Italian Enel Green Power and the Spanish Union Fenosa) for 24 1.8-megawatt turbines to be placed in three locations throughout Spain (pdf).

Image ©iStockphoto.com/ Sean Locke





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  1. 1. sethdayal 1:39 am 10/29/2009

    The Jacobson article has been completely debunked in the comments following the article.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030

    It’s funny Obama was out making a speech on smart metering yesterday on a solar plant in Florida – the largest in the US.

    DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center Arcadia, Florida cost $150 million and is expected to produce 42000 megawatt hours annually. Works out to $30000 kw baseload equivalent, or 28 cents a kwh three times what our pulp fiction authors estimated

    Recent wind power projects are coming in at $2000 a kw 20 cents a kwh when transmission, load balancing, storage and OM and their average 23% capacity is factored in. That’s also three times what our pulp fiction artists estimated.

    Germany has already wasted 10 years and $100 billion dollars on renewables and has not reduced its greenhouse emissions one iota. To help with its wind powered addiction to Russian gas, it is planning a massive build of dirty coal plants to meet its baseload power requirements.

    The United States spends $1 trillion annually on fossil fuels. Projections and now evidence from India shows that mass production of nuclear reactors have cut costs from todays less than $2 billion to less than $1 billion a gigawatt – 5% of current renewable costs. $2.5 trillion in nukes saves $1 trillion annually for a 2.5 year payback.

    Efficient, nuclear waste burning Gen IV reactors are now coming into service with centuries worth of nuclear fission fuel available and producing waste no more dangerous than natural uranium.

    The nuclear conversion saves us a ton of money, eliminates our air pollution, creates a huge employment boosting domestic and export industry, and makes our economy far more competitive than Europe’s run by fools with the "renewable" religion. With the current depression, the industrial capacity is available. We can do this.

    We are as little as ten years from a civilization ending global warming/peak oil catastrophe so solution is urgent. Read this paper and buy a lotto ticket because it might already be happening.

    http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?cid=9986&pid=12455&tid=282

    Nuclear is the only way to solve this in time frame. The editors and the authors of this paper seem to want civilization to end. They are gambling with a billion peoples lives with their fuzzy wuzzy distorted renewable nonsense.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Don Williams 12:33 pm 10/29/2009

    Will the hydrolic compression of the opposing magnetic fields excite the electrons enough to produce an electric current on a conductive element. Don Williams Jr. Orlando fl.

    Link to this
  3. 3. vagnry 3:38 pm 10/29/2009

    I think it would be naive to think, that there is only one cure to global warming, many different approaches are necessary.

    Lowering the rate of population explosion is probably the most important, ans difficult, reducing energy consumption (more efficient technology, insulation of buildings etc), renewable energy sources AND nuclear energy are all essential parts.

    Of course, having shares in Vestas, I believe in wind turbines, but all renewables are unsteady, no wind, no sun etc.(to some extent apart from waterturbines [drought is rare but happens] and geothermal energy), so we still need something to maintain a steady, Carbon Dioxide free, energy supply, which is where nuclear energy haan important role to play,

    Link to this
  4. 4. dwbd 8:08 pm 11/1/2009

    Vagnry, Nuclear is not one cure to AGW. Saying Nuclear is a single technology is even more extreme than saying Renewable Energy is a single technology or Fossil Fuels are a single technology.

    Nuclear is a CLASS of energy. It has three subclasses i) Fission, 2) Fusion, 3) exotic (i.e. antimatter, zero point energy, blacklight pwr)

    Just in the Fusion & Fission subclasses, I can give you long lists of VERY DIFFERENT technologies, that have great potential. It is absurd to state that the Nuclear class is not capable of supplying all of civilizations energy needs. Why not? France has almost done it, with minimal R&D and low effort. Mainly they need to complete electrification of transport. South Korea & Japan are close to doing it. India is planning on doing it.

    Nuclear is a much greater class of energy than Renewable Energy or Fossil Fuels. Can either of those claim to work effectively 1) Underwater 2) in confined spaces 3) upper atmosphere 4) the Moon 5) anywhere in Outer Space and 6) isolated place where transport of fuel is impractical.

    Fossil Fuels require a giant air intake to supply the huge quantities of oxygen they require. Renewables, except Hydro, have an energy density of < .06% of Nuclear. Nuclear is the big kid on the block, ready to take over from the children, when they finish playing.

    To understand the harsh reality of Renewables and why they are not even REMOTELY CAPABLE OF REPLACING FOSSIL FUELS, see:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/10/18/tcase4/

    Link to this
  5. 5. dwbd 8:10 pm 11/1/2009

    Vagnry, saying Nuclear is a single technology is even more extreme than saying Renewable Energy is a single technology or Fossil Fuels are a single technology.

    Nuclear is a CLASS of energy. It has three subclasses i) Fission, 2) Fusion, 3) exotic (i.e. antimatter, zero point energy, blacklight pwr)

    Just in the Fusion & Fission subclasses, I can give you long lists of VERY DIFFERENT technologies, that have great potential. It is absurd to state that the Nuclear class is not capable of supplying all of civilizations energy needs. Why not? France has almost done it, with minimal R&D and low effort. Mainly they need to complete electrification of transport. South Korea & Japan are close to doing it. India is planning on doing it.

    Nuclear is a much greater class of energy than Renewable Energy or Fossil Fuels. Can either of those claim to work effectively 1) Underwater 2) in confined spaces 3) upper atmosphere 4) the Moon 5) anywhere in Outer Space and 6) isolated place where transport of fuel is impractical.

    Fossil Fuels require a giant air intake to supply the huge quantities of oxygen they require. Renewables, except Hydro, have an energy density of < .06% of Nuclear. Nuclear is the big kid on the block, ready to take over from the children, when they finish playing.

    To understand the harsh reality of Renewables and why they are not even REMOTELY CAPABLE OF REPLACING FOSSIL FUELS, see:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/10/18/tcase4/

    Link to this
  6. 6. Angema 7:33 pm 11/13/2009

    Your figures are way off. Germany has reduced carbon emissions some 20% below 1990 levels.

    Check here:
    http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,3834202,00.html

    or here:
    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/tre_reg_ger.html

    Link to this
  7. 7. Angema 7:38 pm 11/13/2009

    Nuclear may come in several different categories, but only ONE is capable of producing energy with current technology: fission. And South Korea and Japan are not "almost there," they get some 34-35% of there power from nuclear.

    And nuclear here in the US is much different than in France. France gets 85% of its electricity from nuclear, yet the US has more nuclear capacity. We just use much more energy, so it only accounts for 20% here. Nuclear should certainly be explored and new reactors built, but the idea that it will satisfy all energy needs for the entire human population is fantasy.

    Link to this
  8. 8. dwbd 7:40 pm 11/15/2009

    Angema, Germany reduced emissions only when it merged with East Germany and shutdown most of their antiquated, inefficient "dirt burning" coal power & steel plants. After that, they didn’t do zip. Compare Germany with Nuclear France for carbon free energy sources:

    http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/FRTPES.pdf

    http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/DETPES.pdf

    Note the little sliver of red on the graph. Germany’s mega-bucks, all out effort on renewables, and compare it with France’s mediocre effort on Nuclear.

    And Germany’s Solar program, by 2013 it is expected to be 1375 MW avg. Which will cost the German taxpayer US$113 billion, that’s $82,000 per kw. You could buy 55 of the most advanced USA Nuclear Subs for that, the Virginia class, with 50 MW reactors in each, with a 33 yr refueling cycle. Would generate double the power of Germany’s intermittent, unreliable Solar Power. And the rest of the Sub’s hardware – the most technologically sophisticated machines on Earth – would be a freebie.

    Nuclear is most assuredly capable of supplying all of the Earth’s energy needs. On what basis would you call that a fantasy. You are saying what was done in France – can’t be done elsewhere, in spite of the fact that standard, modern, assembly line production methods have not been used for non-military reactors. The cost of Nuclear, taking away roadblocks put in place by the fossil fuel lobbies, is certainly less than any other form of energy available today.

    There is no reason whatsoever, that Nuclear can’t be scaled up to power the entire World’s energy supply. A couple basic plans here:

    http://coal2nuclear.com/

    http://www.radscihealth.org/rsh/papers/Muckerheide05_21stC-6000plants.pdf

    Steve Kirsch explains how the Mega-Bucks Renewables Scam is not even coming remotely close to doing the job:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-kirsch/add-a-gigawatt-a-day-to-k_b_261728.html

    The results of Denmark’s INCREDIBLE SUBSIDIES on Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy are shown here:

    http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/DKELEC.pdf

    Note that only half of the Wind Energy shown is actually used in Denmark – half must be exported, where it displaces Cleaner & Greener Hydro. Denmark produces 881 gms CO2 per kwh generated (the highest in Europe). Nuclear France simply took a basic USA LWR design, standardized it and without much effort replaced virtually all their fossil fuel power generation. They produce 83 gms CO2 per kwh generated. See:

    http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/FRELEC.pdf

    Link to this

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