Middle-Class Families Are Set To Receive Solar Panels With No Upfront Costs In The U.S.

Posted on March 23rd, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.




The U.S. is the best country in the world if you want to go solar – but only if you’re rich enough. Due to the steep upfront costs of around $32,000 in cash, only those upper-income families can afford to install solar arrays. A novel initiative is, however, looking to change that. This new project hopes to help middle class communities see the sun in a different light.

Using money raised by U.S. government incentives and private investors to help fight global warming, the Alternative Energy Solar Project goal is to get solar panels on the roofs of those who cannot afford them. According to recent news, the plan is to use the rebates set aside for solar and the money raised by companies who want to lower the per ton of carbon dioxide emitted.

The cost for the installation to the families: nothing. The homeowner gets solar panels on their roof and a new reduced electric rate from the power produced by the solar panels. Alternative Energy Solar Project predicts that it could save individual families up to $2,400 a year, which they hope could then be spent on other essential bills.

Alternative Energy Solar Project has been made promotional manager over the Solar Affordable Verified Establishment  (S.A.V.E.) project, one of the country’s first dedicated solar repayment system for middle class families. The goal is to install solar arrays to over 32,000 homes by the end of next year. One of the benefits to this reduced electric rate program is the homeowner isn’t responsible for the installation costs, maintenance costs, or upkeep costs as they are not the owners of the panels. Additionally, if you are interested in owning the panels, there are programs where the homeowner can purchase the panels with no money out of pocket and own them outright.

The United States government has talked about how they can contribute through raising money to be able to provide more rebates. In the attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and move toward installing solar arrays. In total, the solar program has totted up to an impressive movement.

By ploughing at least 30% of the money from government incentives and using private investors to back the solar installation, the project aims to kill two birds with one stone – saving Middle-Class families money, while also making big fossil fuel polluting companies help to cut energy emissions in the country even further.

Anyone who is currently living in a neighborhood in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Utah and is classed as middle-class is qualified to apply to get the arrays installed. More states are being added monthly so apply to see if your state has joined the program. The sun sets on the initiative as the year ends in 2017, so if you’re living in one of these states, you might want to jump on board soon.

Alternative Energy Solar Project invites everyone to find out if they qualify by signing up for a free visit. To increase the ease of finding out if you’re in the middle-class and qualified they specifically created a new website solarvisit.com. They hope that the funding put towards this new site will be well spent, if they can get interested homeowners reaching out to them, they estimate that they’ll be able hit their goal of 320,000 homes by the end of the year 2017.


New Technique Uses Solar Energy To Make Hydrogen From Biomass At Room Temperature

Posted on March 22nd, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



 Solar power may be useful for making hydrogen to power automobiles. Car companies around the world are working on electric cars that get their electricity from hydrogen fuel cells. The technology is appealing because fuel cells have only two byproducts — water vapor and heat. In fact, Honda plans to capture some of that water vapor and use it to humidify the interior of its upcoming Clarity fuel cell car that is scheduled to go on sale later this year.

The problem is, how to get all that lovely hydrogen in a way that doesn’t damage the environment? Hydrogen is one of the most reactive elements on the periodic table. It binds with anything and everything (water, for instance, is one hydrogen atom combined with two oxygen atoms). Pure hydrogen just does not exist in nature.

Chemically, the bonds hydrogen forms with other elements are extremely strong. It takes a lot of energy to break those bonds. In some cases, it can take more energy to create hydrogen than the purified hydrogen will contain.

In the US, most hydrogen is obtained from reforming natural gas, which sounds OK until you realize that most natural gas is derived from fracking — one of the dirtiest, least environmentally friendly human activities of all.

Hydrogen is contained in abundance in biomass waste — basically whatever is left over after plants stop growing. Corn stalks, switchgrass, lawn clippings, and food waste are all forms of biomass. Scientists know how to use biomass to make hydrogen but the process requires very high temperatures which means a lot of energy has to go in to get energy out.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge in England may have found an answer, however. They have developed a technique that uses solar power to produce clean hydrogen from biomass. The new technique involves the addition of catalytic nanoparticles to alkaline water containing biomass. The solution was put in front of a lab-based light that mimics sunlight.  The result was that some of the biomass was turned into hydrogen gas.

“There’s a lot of chemical energy stored in raw biomass, but it’s unrefined, so you can’t expect it to work in complicated machinery, such as a car engine,” David Wakerley, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry, said in a statement.

“Our system is able to convert the long, messy structures that make up biomass into hydrogen gas, which is much more useful. We have specifically designed a combination of catalyst and solution that allows this transformation to occur using sunlight as a source of energy. With this in place we can simply add organic matter to the system and then, provided it’s a sunny day, produce hydrogen fuel.”

Different types of biomass, including wood and leaves, were used, and did not need to be processed prior to the experiments, the university said.

“Our sunlight-powered technology is exciting as it enables the production of clean hydrogen from unprocessed biomass under ambient conditions,” Erwin Reisner, head of the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Sustainable SynGas Chemistry, where the technology was developed, said.

“We see it as a new and viable alternative to high temperature gasification and other renewable means of hydrogen production,” Reisner added. He suggested that a range of potential commercial options were being explored.

The key word here is “ambient.” For us non-scientists, that means “room temperature,” which means no massive energy input needed to heat things up to get the hydrogen flowing. Up till now, hydrogen power has been a pleasant dream but hardly a practical one. Perhaps scientists have found a way to use solar power to change that equation.


A New Breakthrough Method Allows Harvesting The Sun’s Energy Without Solar Panels

Posted on March 22nd, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



Reduce, reuse and recycle. It’s a mantra that doesn’t just apply to energy and natural resources. It’s the perfect principle to apply on carbon dioxide as well. Because if we learn how to reduce, reuse and recycle CO 2, our world will literally be in a much better state.

Burning fuel like carbon monoxide releases a huge amount of energy, at the same time creating harmful carbon dioxide as its by-product. To convert carbon dioxide back into carbon monoxide, it will take the same amount of energy that’s used in burning fuel. The impracticality of this cycle has now resulted in carbon dioxide build-up. And unless we find ways to reduce this carbon dioxide build-up, or at least figure out how to convert carbon dioxide from being harmful back to being neutral without using as much energy, we’ll be in big trouble. Think about it, every year we inject about 30 billion tonnes of CO 2 into the atmosphere.

This is exactly the situation we’re in now. To reduce carbon dioxide emission, we have the Paris Treaty in place. And to decrease the required energy for carbon dioxide conversion, a potential solution lies in the work being done by a team of scientists from the Indiana University led by Liang-shi Li, an associate professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry.

As reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the team has succeeded in engineering a molecule that is capable of using light or electricity to turn carbon dioxide back to carbon monoxide. Supposedly, it’s a method that’s more efficient than any other carbon reduction method being employed today.

The engineered molecule is comprised of nanographene and rhenium. Nanographene — a dark-colored nanometer-sized piece of graphite — serves as the collector of solar energy, absorbing a significant amount of sunlight due to its dark color. Rhenium serves as the engine that drives the production of carbon monoxide. The process is quite direct. As nanographene absorbs light, it drives electrons to the rhenium atom, which continually binds and converts carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide.

What makes this new method more efficient is the use of nanographene. Previous carbon reduction attempts that make use of sunlight were largely inefficient because the materials used — known as bipyridine-metal complexes — were only capable of using the invisible portion of light, in other words, those in the ultraviolet range. In contrast, nanographene is capable of using a big portion of visible light, which makes it absorb considerably more light than previously possible. Accordingly, the more light it absorbs, the more energy there is to power up rhenium into doing more carbon dioxide conversion.

Following this breakthrough, Li plans on figuring out ways to make their ‘molecular leaf’ even more powerful. Specifically, he plans on making the molecule last longer and sustainable in a non-liquid form because solid catalysts are much easier to use than liquid ones. He also intends to use manganese — which is more abundant and less expensive –in place of rhenium, a rare element.



Morgantown-based firm goes to bat for solar energy on abandoned coal lands in new report

Posted on March 22nd, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



A recent report from Downstream Strategies suggests the state of West Virginia could benefit from investments in solar energy on thousands of acres of degraded land.

“We have all of this land available that has been grated out,” Downstream Strategies Project Scientist Joey James said on Monday’s “The Gary Bowden Show” on the AJR News Network. “It’s flat. People for a long time have talked about putting solar panels up there, but no one has really looked into the true viability of these sites for that type of development.”

Citing exponential growth in the solar industry, a job market that already supports 260,000 people nationwide, and more than 200 square miles of degraded land in West Virginia that could be suitable for solar development, the study suggests that West Virginia has enough viable land for solar photovoltaic (PV) projects to create thousands of temporary and permanent jobs in the state through both power plant construction and operation.

“The entire state of West Virginia is better situated for solar resources than the country of Germany, which is often revered as the number one champion of solar and other types of renewable energy in the world,” James said.

The study estimates that one permanent post-construction job is created for every five megawatts of solar power installed in the state.

“In the state of Virginia alone right now, we have nearly 5000 megawatts of large-scale solar understudy, which is really amazing when you compare that to West Virginia,” James said. “We have less than five megawatts under study right now.”

The report outlines, if West Virginia were to strive to offset 10 percent of the state’s power plant emissions with solar, an estimated 70,000 temporary construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs could be supported.

“It creates a modest amount of permanent jobs, which can be worked by unemployed in rural communities. All they had was an empty field,” he said. “Now they can make a job out of it.”

The study is also fueled by concerns over man-made climate change–particularly noting that 2016 was the hottest year on record. Additionally, 2014-2016 were considered by NASA to be the three hottest years on record.

While coal mining employment was down 43 percent between 2012-2016 and coal’s share of the national electric power sector declined, the solar industry added 35,000 jobs nationwide last year. James said that should provide lawmakers with some sense of resolution to current economic urgency.

“The strategic development of large-scale solar facilities on degraded lands that have already been disturbed can be one part of that solution,” James said. “We’re not going and mowing down more trees and mountains to coat the state in solar panels. We’re really just taking advantage of what’s already been done.”

According to an earlier study in 2013 from Downstream Strategies, increasing the “carve-out” for solar energy produced by investor-owned utilities with more than 30,000 residential customers would help spur solar growth in the state on a significant level. Designing a pure solar carve-out in West Virginia of 0.75 percent would be less than neighboring Maryland (2 percent) and regional solar leader New Jersey (3.38 percent) but still offer similar benefits in job growth. James said it would take action at the legislative level or private initiative by utilities to accomplish such a carve-out.

“People are definitely looking to West Virginia and just kind of waiting for that kind of signal from the state that it’s a safe place,” he said.

The study concludes that the process would be environmentally friendly in a number of different ways while also helping West Virginia diversify its energy portfolio. Perhaps most notably, the study reads:

“Many skilled laborers once employed by the mining industry have compatible skill sets and experience to compete for these jobs.”


Germany Converts Coal Mine Into Giant Battery Storage for Surplus Solar and Wind Power

Posted on March 21st, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



 Germany is embarking on an innovative project to turn a hard coal mine into a giant battery that can store surplus solar and wind energy and release it when supplies are lean.

The Prosper-Haniel coal mine in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia will be converted into a 200 megawatt pumped-storage hydroelectric reservoir that acts like a giant battery. The capacity is enough to power more than 400,000 homes, Governor Hannelore Kraft said, according to Bloomberg.

Pumped storage planUniversity of Duisburg-Essen

Founded in 1863, the Prosper-Haniel coal mine produces 3,000,000t/y of coal and is one of the few active coal mines remaining in Germany. But the mine is slated for closure in 2018, when federal subsidies for the industry dry up.

Kraft said that the miners in the town of Bottrop will remain employed at the site as it converts to its new function.

Pumped-storage facilities are not a new idea, as such systems are already in operation around the world. However, this is the first time that a coal mine will be used as part of the infrastructure.

Engadget explained how such a facility would work:

Similar to a standard hydroelectric power plant, pumped hydroelectric storage stations generate power by releasing water from a reservoir through a turbine to a second reservoir at a lower altitude. Rather than releasing the outflow, however, the water is then stored in the lower reservoira until it can be pumped back up to the top reservoir using cheaper, off-peak power or another renewable energy source. In the case of the Prosper-Haniel plant, the lower reservoir will be made up of more than 16 miles of mine shafts that reach up to 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) deep. The station's 200 megawatts of hydroelectric power would fit into a mix of biomass, solar and wind power. It's not a perpetual motion machine, but the water stored in the surface reservoir will effectively act as as backup "battery" that could kick in and fill any gaps in the energy mix whenever the other sources fall short.

Germany's ambitious "Energiewende," or energy transition, aims for at least an 80 percent share of renewables by 2050, with intermediate targets of 35 to 40 percent share by 2025 and 55 to 60 percent by 2035. 

The country is well on track, as renewables supplied nearly 33 percent of German electricity in 2015, according to Agora Energiewende.

Germany has such an impressive renewable energy mix that last year, on a particularly windy and sunny day, so much power was generated that people were paid to use it.

And while that's good news for the environment and German consumers alike, renewable energy has a well known storage problem. The electricity produced by, say, wind turbines or solar panels must be used or else it's lost. On the flip side, renewables might not be able to meet demand on cloudy days with no wind.

Batteries, working as pumped-storage facilities, are a promising solution to this problem, since they store excess renewable energy on productive days and discharge it during energy shortfalls.

"We have a very sympathetic ear" to sustainable and cost-effective storage, Governor Kraft said in a March 14 speech in Dusseldorf.

More mines could be converted into industrial-scale storage facilities as North-Rhine Westphalia seeks to double the share of renewables in its power mix to 30 percent by 2025, Kraft said.


India Secures $500 Million For Dedicated Renewable Energy Transmission Project

Posted on March 21st, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



India’s state-owned power transmission infrastructure developer has signed an agreement for $500 million in debt financing to set up dedicated transmission lines for renewable energy projects.

Last month, Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) reported that it signed an agreement to secure $500 million of debt funding from the Asian Development Bank. A large portion of these funds are expected to be used to set up transmission lines dedicated for the transfer of electricity generated from renewable energy projects.

The dedicated transmission lines will run from Rajasthan, which has the highest concentration of wind and solar power projects in north India, to neighboring Punjab and Haryana, agricultural states where the cost and availability of land to set up renewable energy projects is a constraint.

It is not immediately clear if this was a fresh agreement between the two entities or a follow-up of previously signed agreements. In late 2015, the ADB had announced plans to provide $500 million in government-backed loan and an additional $500 million in non-sovereign loan.

Germany’s KfW had also announced financial assistance worth €1 billion for this project. The latest funding will be used for setting up new direct current terminals in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Chhattisgarh.


The Power Grid Corporation of India has already started work on the green energy corridors project, having operationalized the second phase of the green corridor program, and allocated a transmission project in Andhra Pradesh, while completing the tendering process for projects in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. All these states have completed multiple auctions under their respective solar power policies.


North Sumatra eyes cooperation in tourism, renewable energy with South Korea

Posted on March 21st, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



The North Sumatra administration is exploring the possibility of teaming up with its counterpart, the provincial government of South Korea’s Jeju Island, to further develop tourism and renewable energy sectors.

North Sumatra Governor Tengku Erry Nuradi said Tuesday that his administration planned to adopt an eco-friendly approach on Samosir Island in Toba Lake and Nias Island while promoting tourism.

Both islands are considered as having similarities with Jeju Island.

“We plan to build an eco-friendly floating power plant in Toba Lake because it has been designated as a world tourism destination and UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] Global Geopark,” Erry said in Medan as quoted by kompas.com.

Apart from attracting South Korean investment to the power plant project, North Sumatra also expects the East Asian country to contribute to developing the province’s tourist sector as well as skilled labor in the hospitality industry.

During his recent visit to the country, Erry met up with Jeju Island Governor Won Hee-ryong to discuss the potential bilateral cooperation.

Also listed as a UNESCO global geopark, South Korea’s biggest island is home to half of all electric vehicles in the country.

“We agree with this renewable energy cooperation and we will carry out research as a follow up to the collaboration between these two provinces,” Won said. (lnd)


How an Indigenous renewable energy alliance aims to cut power costs and disadvantage

Posted on March 17th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Like so many of the Indigenous communities dotted across the Australian continent, the remote communities in north-west New South Wales are struggling. “These are not happy places,” says the Euahlayi elder Ghillar Michael Anderson.

Many of the 300 or so residents of Anderson’s hometown of Goodooga rely on welfare, he says. Exorbitant electricity bills – up to $3,000 a quarter for some households – further exacerbate the poverty. “We’re always at the end of the power line, so the service that is there is quite extraordinary in terms of cost.”

Many other communities rely on expensive, emissions-intensive diesel-powered generators to meet their electricity demands. “It’s a real problem and we need to make sure that we fix this,” Anderson says.

To that end, Anderson and 24 other Indigenous leaders have formed the First Nations Renewable Energy Alliance, which aims to tackle high power costs and entrenched disadvantage – along with climate change – by pushing for renewable energy in Indigenous communities.

The alliance, formed at the Community Energy Congress in Melbourne last month, will lobby government and partner with private enterprise and other community energy alliances to support Indigenous communities looking to transition to renewable energy.

Anderson, who is a member of the alliance’s seven-member steering committee, says the move is an important step towards self-sufficiency for Indigenous communities.

The renewable energy company 360 Energy Group, which is based in Melbourne, has stepped up with $10,000 and an offer of office space and knowhow to help get the alliance off the ground.

Its director, Michael Anthony, sees immense potential for renewables – such as solar or wind power generation combined with battery storage – to empower remote communities. Renewables, he says, can “provide communities with a really strong, consistent, stable power solution at about half the cost of [current] solutions”.

Whereas high energy prices often drive Indigenous people off their traditional lands, lower-cost renewables can help communities to thrive no matter how remote.

“We can build a power station where the community exists,” Anthony says, “so people are able to successfully live in the environment the way they want to live and have access to power which enables them to better determine their economic future.”


Only a handful of Indigenous communities have embarked on renewable energy projects in Australia. The Indigenous-owned and -operated company AllGrid Energy, for instance, has installed solar panels and battery storage systems to replace diesel generators in the Aboriginal communities of Ngurrara and Kurnturlpara in the Northern Territory’s Barkly Tableland. Within two months of the system being installed in May 2016, people were moving back to their homelands from Tennant Creek, the communities growing from just two permanent residents to about 40.

The Murrawarri elder Fred Hooper, also on the alliance steering committee, is hoping that Australian Indigenous communities can follow the lead of other Indigenous communities around the world. In Canada’s First Nations communities, for instance, renewable energy projects are becoming commonplace. “It’s very inspiring,” he says.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, from the Lubicon Cree First Nation in Alberta, Canada, has led the push for her own community of Little Buffalo – which lies at the heart of the Peace river oil sands – to adopt renewable energy after a 2011 oil spill just 10km from the township. A 20.8kW solar installation, built and operated by locals, now powers the community health centre. Additional projects are being planned to wean the community off the propane heating and coal-powered electricity that it relies on.

Laboucan-Massimo, who is a member of Canada’s Indigenous Clean Energy Network, has seen the benefits that alliances can provide. “It’s really important to share information,” she says, “because, when you’re dealing with companies, or utilities, it’s really good to know what’s being told to one community or what kind of deals are being offered.”

The First Nations Renewable Energy Alliance will go one step further, working with community leaders and acting as a conduit between the communities and the businesses they are dealing with. This is essential, says Anderson, to avoid predatory practices they have seen in the past, with companies “playing on the psychology of poverty” to gain advantage.

The alliance has drafted protocols and memoranda of understanding that will guide how companies engage with Indigenous communities for renewable energy projects.

While lowering the cost of energy is a high priority for remote Indigenous communities, the environmental credentials of renewables are also an important consideration, says Hooper. “One of the best things about renewable energies is that it’s relying on natural sun from the sky, wind that’s blowing across the landscape and other renewable energies are not raping our mother earth of the precious resources that she holds,” he says.

One of the next steps for the alliance will be to identify a community that can act as a test case for a renewables project. “Our experience is that if we can make it work for one community, it will work in every other community,” Anderson says.



Wind Energy Takes Flight In The Heart Of Texas Oil Country

Posted on March 17th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



Georgetown, Texas, is a conservative town in a conservative state. So it may come as something of a surprise that it's one of the first cities in America to be entirely powered by renewable energy.

Mayor Dale Ross, a staunch Republican who attended President Trump's inauguration, says that decision came down to a love of green energy and "green rectangles" — cash.

When Georgetown's old power contract was up in 2012, city managers looked at all their options. They realized wind and solar power are more predictable; the prices don't fluctuate like oil and gas. So, a municipality can sign a contract today and know what the bill is going to be for the next 25 years.

That's especially appealing in a place like Georgetown, where a lot of retirees live on fixed incomes.

"First and foremost it was a business decision," Ross says.

City leaders say the debate over renewables never even mentioned climate change, a wedge issue in Texas politics.

It's not just Georgetown that is defying expectations of conservatism and renewable energy. As a state, Texas is by far the No. 1 producer of wind energy in the United States; it produces more wind energy than the next three states combined. In fact, if it were its own country, Texas would be the fourth-largest largest wind-producing country in the world by the end of 2017. Ross says former Texas Gov. Rick Perry deserves the credit: "I truly believe he was a visionary."

Today, Rick Perry is the head of the U.S. Department of Energy. At his swearing-in last week, Perry described what President Trump told him when he offered him the job: "I want you to do for American energy what you did for Texas."

If that request extends to wind power — after all, Trump is seen as emphasizing fossil fuels, with his support for coal and through his Cabinet picks — the U.S. can expect a further explosion in wind energy production and in the jobs needed to support the industry.

Already, the fastest-growing job in the U.S. is wind turbine technician. Though the absolute numbers are small — 4,400 in 2014 — it's growing at more than double the pace of the next closest profession.

That explosion is apparent in Sweetwater, Texas, which sits on a vast open plain — an area that the town's former mayor, Greg Wortham, describes as the wind capitol of the world. In every direction, row after row of 300-foot-tall wind turbines dot the horizon.

The construction and maintenance of these three-armed behemoths has created a new industry in town. Heath Ince teaches in the wind program at Texas State Technical College, Sweetwater.

"A lot of people don't realize how physically demanding and even mentally challenging it can be at times," Ince says of the job maintaining machinery in an environment that is scalding hot in the summer and frigid in the winter.

And yet, the program has doubled in size since its launch, to 52 students from 25 in 2008. Demand is high — renewable energy companies are hiring Ince's students, sometimes before they even finish the program — and the salaries are good, too: Median pay in 2015 was about $50,000.

In policy circles, the debate surrounding renewable energy and fossil fuels often pits them against one another. Liberals are supposed to support solar and wind; conservatives are supposed to support oil and gas.

In Texas, the attitude is "all of the above."

"Any time there's an opportunity to put a little extra income in people's pockets, we're all for it," says Russ Petty, who owns a print shop in Sweetwater and whose relatives have been ranchers in the area for generations.

The income derived from leasing a single turbine varies. But Wortham, the former mayor, says $10,000 per turbine per year is a good estimate.

That's significant, says developer Monty Humble.

"For a land owner, a ranching family to have the opportunity to produce oil and gas or the opportunity to have a wind turbine or a solar farm, it may well mean that another generation can remain on the land," Humble says.

But just because West Texas towns like Sweetwater had the potential to produce a lot of wind energy didn't mean that energy had anywhere to go. That changed when Gov. Perry signed into law a 2005 bill to build transmission lines connecting the windy plains to population centers like Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. And Perry made every Texas citizen pay for it in their energy bills.

That's not the most conservative position in the world, says David Spence, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who specializes in energy and the environment.

"It's a full socialization of the costs," Spence says. "We don't use that word in the public discussion. But, yeah, we socialize the costs across all Texas ratepayers."

Texas has a unique advantage that enabled some of these changes. Continental America is divided into three electrical grids: East, West and Texas. Since the Texas grid is self-contained, wind energy doesn't cross state lines and isn't subject to as many federal regulations.

Even so, the simple abundance of wind and an independent grid by no means guaranteed the explosion in wind energy production in Texas. Jay Root, who covered Perry's governorship as a reporter for The Texas Tribune, says Perry pushed for wind energy and "if he hadn't, we would not be where we are today."

But, Root adds, "I don't think anyone would call Rick Perry an environmentalist, including Rick Perry. ... But the guy knows how to sniff out a dollar. Here's a guy from West Texas who saw that you can make money off of the wind blowing. Like, that's a no brainer."

Of course, this Texas wind revolution was begun before the Tea Party revolution, when it was easier for Republicans to buck strict conservative principles on a case-by-case basis. So Perry, as U.S. energy secretary, faces challenges at the national level that will make it much harder for him to expand what he did in Texas.

But if he does, it would be almost as surprising as what happened in his home state when a red-state, conservative guy from oil country managed to help build one of the biggest renewable energy systems in the world.


Europe's renewable energy revolution

Posted on March 17th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



More than 2km down a dark tunnel deep inside a Norwegian mountain, a drilling machine is boring out holes in the rock. It’s part of a major project that will connect Britain to Norway’s huge hydroelectric power supplies, passing power lines through the mountain near Kvilldal, southwest Norway, before laying the world’s longest undersea power cable, 450km long, to Blyth in Northumberland.

It will take years to build, but when it is completed, the UK could import 1,400 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 750,000 homes. It will also allow Britain to export any surplus wind energy back to Norway.

This is just part of a quiet revolution in renewable energy across Europe. An international power grid is gradually developing, using power interconnectors to trade surplus energy across national electricity networks, allowing big wind power producers in northern Europe, for example, to trade electricity with large solar energy generators in southern Europe.

The UK has already plugged into the network through interconnectors to Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, and there is a proposal for a highly ambitious project to connect Britain to Iceland’s abundant supply of geothermal and hydroelectric power using a subsea cable around 1,000km long.

This international power grid gives more reliable supplies, helping to smooth out the intermittent power produced from renewables such as wind and solar energy. It also gives Britain more secure power sources as old nuclear and out-of-favour coal plants are shut down.

In theory, it could even bring the wholesale energy price down, thanks to the increased availability of cheap renewable power generated far away from where the main energy demand centres are.