Robert Walker: No More Men on the Moon
The Sunshot Vision for Solar Technologies
The DOE's Sunshot Vision Study provides an in-depth assessment of the potential for solar technologies to share a significant portion of electricity demand in the United States in the coming decades.
Tesla's Next Car: An Electric BMW 3-Series Fighter
by Christopher DeMorro
Unlike many other also-rans, Tesla Motors is succeeding where other electric car companies have failed. And by succeeding, we mean Tesla is actually selling cars, with the Model S sedan reportedly receiving over 10,000 $5,000 deposits to date. At $50,000 after tax credits though, the Model S is still well beyond what most people can afford. So what is Tesla planning to build next? From the sounds of it, an all-electric BMW 3-series rival.
An Electric Rivalry
Talking to AutoCar, Tesla's chief designer Franz von Holzhausen said that after the Model X SUV (which has also received plenty of deposits), the electric automaker would focus on bringing an event cheaper vehicle to market. The targeted price range is around $30,000, which judging from Tesla's record on pricing so far, probably includes the $7,500 Federal tax credit.
So far, Tesla's recipe for success has been simple; produce good-looking electric cars with enough range to justify a premium price tag. The result is a long waiting list for Tesla vehicles, and CEO Elon Musk has always intended to work his way into the lower price brackets. And going after the BMW 3-series only makes sense; it is the dominant luxury sedan in the $30,000-$40,000 price range. Considering that the average new car sells for over $30,000 these days anyways, Tesla might be able to move quite a few reasonably-priced electric luxury sedans with more range for more money.
I still have my doubts about Tesla's ability to survive on its own. Selling cars is serious business, and selling electric cars is risky business on top of it. But Elon Musk and Tesla Motors are making a good run at it so far. The question is, will they be around long enough to bring an electric 3-series rival to market?
Reprinted with permission from Gas 2.0
More Than $50 Million of New Investments in Renewable Energy
Even though the Rio+20 Conference has been deemed a failure in the media the last few days it should be mentioned that some positive changes are happening. United Nations just announced on the conference this Thursday that more than $50 Million of new renewable energy investments from the private sector have been made.
Maybe more importantly is the fact that 50 governments reported new energy strategies. Some of them including United States pledging $2 billion in grants and loans for sustainable energy and Brazil where $4.3 billion will be invested ensuring that everybody in the country has energy access by 2014. 48 other countries also have new strategies and goals in place.
Big giant in the private sector, Microsoft, have planned to become completely carbon neutral in more than 100 countries. Many companies presented ambitious new goals at the summit.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon presented these commitments in his "Sustainable Energy for All" initiative on the conference in Rio. The "Sustainable Energy for All"-initiative has three clearly defined goals: By 2030, double the share of renewable energy, double the rate of energy efficiency improvement, and ensure universal access to modern energy services for everyone.
1.3 billion people - one in five - do not have access to electricity for their homes or businesses. Double this, 2.6 billion people are reliant on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste for heating and cooking. According to Sustainable Energy for All,
"replacing outdated cookstoves and open fires with modern energy services would prevent 800,000 child deaths annually".
Ban Ki-moon said that another reason for the "Sustainable Energy for All"-initiative was to ensure that the conversation keeps rolling after the Rio summit.
Analysts at HSBC said the following about the initiative:
"The Sustainable Energy for All initiative is an example of a new way of working for the U.N.: using its convening power to identify critical bottlenecks to renewables, efficiency and universal access to energy, and then designing focused packages of policy incentives, public finance and private capital,"Reprinted with permission from Ecopreneurist
Warmer Ocean Waters Lead to a Glut of Lobsters in Maine
Warmer Atlantic Ocean temperatures off the coast of Maine have caused the state's bountiful supply of lobsters to shed their shells and come onto the market six weeks earlier than normal, creating a glut that has driven prices sharply down. The state's 5,000 lobster fishermen are receiving less than $3-per-pound at the dock for their catch, which is below the $4-per-pound break-even point. As a result, many lobsterman have stopped fishing and are waiting for the oversupply of lobster to ease before heading back out on the water. An extremely mild winter and spring in New England has increased ocean temperatures, which in turn has caused Maine's lobsters to shed their shells far earlier than normal. The abundance of so-called soft-shelled lobsters led to the largest lobster harvest on record in June, state officials said. The warmer temperatures also caused a boom in the lobster fishery in Canada, which has exacerbated the market glut. Soft-shelled lobsters are more difficult to ship out of state than hard-shelled lobsters, meaning that Maine's lobster processing plants are overflowing with the crustacean, causing prices to plummet.
Photo by man pikin/flickr/Creative Commons
Reasons For Optimism: Why Climate Change is not a 'Zero Sum Game'
by Jonathan Koomey
This blog post is the ninth of an eleven-part series on CSRwire that summarizes key lessons from the new book Cold Cash, Cool Climate: Science-based Advice for Ecological Entrepreneurs.
"Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."--Henry Ford
The Pessimism Trap
One of my students at Yale in Fall 2009 emerged from my lecture summarizing the climate problem and told me it depressed her. "It seems so hopeless," she said. I acknowledged that the problem was a daunting one, but explained again why I thought it wasn't insoluble. And the problem of assuming we can't fix the problem is that we'll stop trying things that might actually work. I call this "the pessimism trap." If we don't even try, we're ensuring the bad results we fear will actually come to pass.
Here's why I think we can still address the climate issue in a way that avoids catastrophe and preserves reasonable continuity for human society. That outcome is not guaranteed, of course, but I'm still optimistic that we will, at long last, do the right thing.
By we, I mean first the United States, because most of the rest of the world already takes this issue seriously, and U.S. leadership can transform the current stalemate into real movement. I'm hopeful that Winston Churchill's reading of the American character was correct when he said "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."
To Break the International Logjam, the U.S. Must Step Up to the Plate
To that end, the U.S. needs to adopt a carbon price, set real emissions targets, and begin aggressive mitigation as soon as possible. It also needs to take the international relations aspect of this problem seriously, because the climate problem can't be solved without international cooperation, and the recent U.S. public debate (such as it was) almost completely ignores this fact.
Each major country or group of countries could by themselves destroy the climate, so we cannot avoid the need for binding international commitments, but those cannot come about without real progress in the US, which stands today as the biggest roadblock to prompt global action.
The Chinese have already indicated, by their substantial investments in renewable energy production, that they are prepared to build the technologies of the future (and to beat us in that game). If we make a real commitment to meet the constraints of the Safer Climate case, we can give the Chinese a real run for their money, and that's a race in which the whole planet wins. Once we realize that this isn't a "zero sum game", it opens up possibilities that we haven't thought of before.
Aggressive Climate Action Easier Than We Think
There is a tendency in formal modeling assessments of the climate problem towards pessimism about the future, as I discussed in Chapters 3 and 4 of Cold Cash, Cool Climate. Our own cognitive limitations make us unable to fully evaluate all of the options before us, and as has been shown many times before, any evaluation of options that excludes important ones will underestimate the possibilities for action and overestimate its cost.
But of course, we always exclude important possibilities (because we can't think of everything), so this bias is systemic. In addition, the methods used in these analyses embed structural rigidities in the forecasts that wouldn't actually be present in a world aggressively pursuing the Safer Climate case, like assuming that institutional behavior and the structure of property rights remain constant.
They also ignore critical factors like increasing returns to scale, which make emissions reductions significantly easier as long as we start down a path of implementation that is a promising one. So aggressive climate action will almost certainly be easier than we think, although by no stretch of the imagination should effort at the required level be called "easy".
Rethinking Our Energy System From the Ground Up
It is for all these reasons that I strongly advocate the "working forward toward a goal" approach to evaluating this problem, which embodies the "can do" spirit of most entrepreneurs and frees us from the mostly self-imposed constraints that prevent us from envisioning a radically different future.
Humans are smart and innovative, and when challenged with a clear goal we almost invariably figure out a way to meet it. We also have at our disposal new tools that give us unprecedented power to reduce emissions and generate wealth at the same time.
For example, the renewable resource base - solar and related sources plus geothermal - is much larger than current human needs, and the last few decades of developments in renewable energy technology can allow us to move past combustion.
But to do so we'll need to rethink our energy system from the ground up.
We'll need to radically improve our efficiency of energy use and rely on whole system integrated design to help us get there, tapping increasing returns to scale, exploiting information and communications technology (particularly mobile ICT), and fundamentally altering our institutions. We'll also need to rethink the structure of property rights, not just related to climate risks but to broader issues of sustainability (that's one lever that is usually ignored but has great power to alter the economy's direction).
Making Fossil Fuels Redundant
To paraphrase former CIA director Jim Woolsey, our goal is to turn fossil fuels into salt. In the old days, salt was an incredibly expensive strategic commodity because it was essential for preservation of meat. Now we buy a pound of it for less than a dollar in the supermarket. That's because technology has put salt in its place - refrigeration now makes salt obsolete for this previously essential application, and we need to do the same for fossil fuels.
As I explained in Chapter 1 of Cold Cash, Cool Climate, there's now no doubt that human choices can have consequences that reverberate through generations. With every action, with every day we live, we create the future. Of course, forces beyond human control also have influence, but it is how our choices relate to these external events that determine the outcome.
Of course, this realization cuts both ways.
On one hand, our current path has terrible consequences for the earth and for human society, but on the other hand, it means that there's nothing preordained about the path we're on. We have the capacity to change, learn, grow, and alter course, and now's the time to do it. Ultimately it's up to us to choose the kind of world we want for our children and grandchildren, and defeatist pessimism is in the way. I, for one, refuse to let it get the better of me.
Reprinted with permission from CSRwire
World's Largest Wave Energy Project Headed for Australian Coast
by Silvio Marcacci
Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) and Lockheed Martin have announced they will team to develop a 19-megawatt (MW) wave energy project off the coast of Victoria, Australia. When complete, the project will be one of the largest wave energy generation projects in the world.
OPT's PowerBuoy generator will be used in the project to capture and convert the potential energy of Australia's famous surf into clean energy. Once the system is installed, it will generate electricity via the rising and falling of waves, which drives an underwater generator in each buoy. The generated electricity will then be transmitted ashore via an underwater electricity cable.
The potential for wave energy is significant. Wave energy has the potential to produce 2,000 terawatt (TwH) hours of electricity per year, or about 10 percent of the world's total energy needs, according to the World Energy Council. In addition, wave energy projects can be deployed near large shoreline cities, which often have the largest electricity demand but the most constrained transmission and generation capacity.
A previously announced grant of $65.3 million has been provided by the Australian government for the project, but this funding stipulates the project secure additional project financing, likely in the form of power purchase agreements with local industries and utilities.
While project completion is far from assured, it's a significant step toward expanding offshore renewable energy resources. OPT has produced an interesting animation of how their technology works, and it's worth a quick watch.Reprinted with permission from Earth & Industry
Hospital of the Future Opens in San Diego
The largest construction project in California is the "Hospital of the Future," incoporating best practices in healthcare and green design.
It's one of just two hospitals in the US that bring natural light into operating rooms, for example.
Located in San Diego County and designed by CO Architects, the 288-bed Palomar Medical Center opens in August.
Some of the design innovations in this 11-story, 740,000-square-foot complex are:
- Exterior and interior gardens are on every floor, and there's a 1.5-acre green roof.
- First project of its size and complexity to employ Building Information Modeling in the design phase, where all parties participate upfront
- Largest project to use Integrated Project Delivery, where each partner - building owner (Palomar Health), architect (CO Architects), and contractor (DPR) - have a financial stake in the on-time and on-budget completion of the building.
- Design decisions were guided by Evidence-Based Design, a process that includes documented input from individuals in all hospital departments.
- Progressive healthcare delivery, such as same-handed design of operating and patient rooms, patient rooms designed to be acuity adaptable, and distributed nursing stations.
The $956 million hospital, which was partially funded through a local proposition, is designed for easy adaptation to future space and technology needs over the next few decades.
Although the architects say the building is optimized for efficient water and energy use and air quality, they don't mention LEED certification.
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