Tag Archives: geothermal

Friday Linkage 5/12/2017

Is this how it ends?  With a complicit Congress, an ineffective opposition party, and an egomaniac in the White House do we end up miles down the road to tyranny in just a few years?  Or does America pull its collective head out of its ass and do something about the ridiculous state of affairs?

Considering how well things went during the prelude to the Civil War I do not have the highest hopes for a peaceful decade.  Maybe Dwayne Johnson really will be our next president.  Or Michelle Obama.

On to the links…

EPA Dismisses 5 Scientists from Key Review Panel—Let me guess what the industry panel members are going to recommend…regulation bad…oil and gas good…EPA bad…emissions are good for you…money is even better…and so on.  Your government is owned by fossil fuels and Russians.

Here’s How Easy It Is to Get Trump Officials to Click on a Fake Link in Email—I imagined that it would be as easy as saying “Click here to support Bill O’Reilly against all those evil women.”

Watch Anderson Cooper Roll His Eyes at Kellyanne Conway As She Tries to Defend Trump—And the Oscar goes to Anderson Cooper:

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A New Book Ranks the Top 100 Solutions to Climate Change. The Results are Surprising.—Maybe the solutions are within our grasp.  Drawdown is on my reading list at the library.  I just happen to be about ten people back in the queue.

Remorseless Coal Baron Gets Out Of Prison, Has Twitter Meltdown Over Mine Disaster—Do you notice a trend with Donald Trump and other narcissists like Don Blankenship?  In their mind’s eye he or she is never wrong.  Even when convicted in a court of law and sent to prison he is going back to the well that he did nothing wrong.

With a Letter a Day, West Virginian Tried to Remind Coal Executive of his Role in 29 Deaths—Don Blankenship was complicit in the conditions that directly led to the death of 29 people.  He does not care nor did he ever care about actual human beings in his employ as long as the coal kept coming out of the mountains and the profits kept flowing to bank accounts.

California’s Drought May Be Over, But Its Water Troubles Aren’t—Judging long term climatic conditions based on a single season is a bad idea.  Climate scientists, hydrologists, and anyone with half a brain has always said that but as California “exits” the recent drought it needs saying even more.

California Set an Ambitious Goal for Fighting Global Warming. Now Comes the Hard Part—The goals are ambitious.  We have to hope that California can be the model for the rest of the states because there will be no guidance from the capital.

Could Trump Dismantle the American West?—Why don’t we just come out and say that Donald Trump is bad for America?  Who stands to benefit from anything that has happened in Washington D.C. recently?  Jared Kushner maybe.

The First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Just Shut Down a Diesel Plant—It’s not a huge victory, but every dirty power generation source that we can shut down is a victory.  In the age of Trump and Pruitt I will take what I can get.

Iceland’s “Thor” Volcano Power Plant can Generate 10X More Energy than Oil or Gas Wells—Geothermal is the odd cousin who comes to your wedding who turns out to be a pretty cool guy that makes the weekend all the more fun.  This geothermal plant is the rock star cousin who owns the weekend.

Germany Breaks A Solar Record — Gets 85% Of Electricity From Renewables—These headlines are a little misleading, but generating this much renewable energy for this large an economy is a big deal.

Arrogance of Space—People ask me why I think bikes are such a great way to get around.  If I had to pick one photo to illustrate many of the reasons it would be this:

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Imagine what our infrastructure costs would look like if we were managing a world of cyclists instead of a world of single occupancy automobiles.  Believe it!

Dan Barber on the Future of Food—Dan Barber can get a little preachy, but so can Michael Pollan and Anthony Bourdain but I still listen to what they have to say about food.  Dan Barber is no different.  His thoughts on food matter because he is an influencer of chefs and what not the world over.

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Friday Linkage 1/6/2017

After more than a week spent skiing with family in Colorado I finally descended the mountains to the reality that it is really 2017.  Donald Trump will actually be our sitting president in less than two weeks.  Damn that is a reality check.

A little light on the links this first week back from break because I really struggled to read through more than a week’s worth of news.  It is really refreshing to spend days untethered from the outside world save for quick glances at a television screen while grabbing a beer.  It’s almost human.

On to the links…

The Rape Of America Will Begin After Trump Inauguration—Donald Trump will be bad for the vast majority of American people.  He will only make the Trump family and it coterie of sycophants great in any measurable way.  Everyone else will suffer.

Donald Trump’s “Carbon Bubble” Economy is Bound to Pop — the Only Question is How Bad it Will Be—Right wingers led by Donald Trump are doubling down on fossil fuels at the same time technology and markets are signaling that the time may be ripe to reduce investment.  Think about someone pouring money into coal a couple of years ago.  How did that investment work out?  Not so well considering the rash of bankruptcies.

Germans Get Almost One-Third of Electricity from Renewables in 2016—A lot of ink has been spilled being critical of the German transition to clean energy, but the reality is that almost one-third of German power is coming from renewables.

US Geothermal Experiment Set To Go Global Real Soon—Geothermal may be the renewable that gets overlooked because it seems so much like traditional fossil fuels.  However, it is carbon free and it uses the power of the Earth’s core to generate electricity.

The Great Garbage Fire Debate: Should We be Burning our Trash into Energy?—Maybe the question should be how we reduce our garbage before resorting to incineration?

Michigan Just Made it Illegal for Cities to Ban Plastic Bags—Republicans love “local control” as long as it is their local control.  Considering that most of the populous cities in the U.S. are run by left of center politicians expect to see a lot of state and federal level control efforts because Republicans know best just like 1950s fathers of lore.

I Grew up in a House that Looked like a ‘hygge’ Postcard. It was a lot of work.—I look longingly at hygge scenes and wish for my wood burning fireplace.  Oh well.  It’s a lot of work.

Posters from World War 1 are Still Inspiring Today—These posters may be propaganda, but there is a salient message even in these dark times:

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Friday Linkage 9/25/2015

The rides the past couple of weeks have been perfect. Just perfect. The temps are in the 70s to low 80s, the winds have not been too bad, and the crowds are gone. Especially on Saturdays when people are busy tailgating and watching college football, I have the trails and gravel all to myself. Unheard of in July.

On to the links…

Ban on Microbeads Offers Best Chance to Protect Oceans, Aquatic Species—The U.S. needs to enact a nationwide ban on plastic microbeads. Exfoliation is not worth the health of the oceans.

How Strict California Rules on Emissions led to Lower Cancer Risk—Regulation works. Plain and simple. Without emissions reductions California would still be blanketed in a horrible stew of smog and death.

Taxpayers Lose Billions to Coal Subsidies—Stories like this cannot get enough press. As taxpayers we pay billions to coal companies in order for them foul our air, dirty the water, and generally behave badly.

Balls of DNA Could Fix Geothermal Energy’s Biggest Problem—Geothermal is a great renewable energy resource because it is dependable enough to be considered “base load” like coal, natural gas, or nuclear. Unlike hydropower, the other base load renewable, large dams are not required and drought will not impact production. It looks like one of the thorniest problems may now be solved as well.

Obama Sets Up Cost Of US Solar Energy For Another Freefall—Fundamental research is being paid for that will drive down the entire system cost for solar. Remember when solar panels were only something you saw in Mother Earth News or on the lot of some burnt out hippie? Yeah, it’s mainstream now and will be more so in a few years.

Beyond Sprawl: A New Vision of The Solar Suburbs of the Future—We have a lot of development tied up in suburbs. This infrastructure is not going to go away and be replaced by dense, urban communities. How can we reform the suburb to make sense in a new era?

Tesla Gigafactory & Battery Improvements Could Cut Battery Costs 50%–A reduction of this magnitude would make some serious waves.

UK To Remain Offshore Wind Giant With Forecasted 23.2 GW By 2025, GlobalData—I keep wondering when offshore wind is going to explode. Maybe that time is now.

China’s Wind Energy Capacity To Triple By 2020, Says GlobalData—For all of the bad things China does—pollution out of control, corruption, political repression—they sure are going after this whole renewable energy thing with gusto.

Your Body Immediately After Drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte—It’s that time of year when the pumpkin spice comes out and everyone wearing Ugg boots seems to have one in their hands. Here is what that concoction from satan’s belly does to your body.

I Ate a Bunch of Vegan Cheese, and It Was Actually Quite Tasty—As someone who has a child who is lactose intolerant and loves cheese all of these products are going to be on my next shopping list.

If You Never Knew You Needed It, Don’t Buy It—This is a rule we all should live by when shopping. How do you think Costco works? How many times have you ended up with something that was not on your list because it seemed so cool and useful?

Imagine a World without Waste: It’s Possible with a Circular Economy—Would this even fly in the west anymore? The minute someone would talk about these concepts in a political space the cries of “socialist!” and “communist!” would ring out.

Friday Linkage 3/6/2015

I do not know if is a function of human derived climate change or the fact that weather in the Midwest can be schizophrenic, but we have seen the temperature go from 35 on Monday down to negative 5 on Thursday and back up to 35 by Friday afternoon. Whiplash anyone?

On to the links…

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts—After much public pressure and bad behavior on Ringling Bros. part the misuse of elephants as entertainment appears to be coming to an end. It is too bad that these animals are still going to live in a facility run by Ringling Bros. More pressure is needed to get these animals to a real sanctuary.

How Global Warming Helped Cause the Syrian War—If you do not believe that global warming and climate change are a threat to national security you are probably a stooge getting payments from the Koch Brothers or Exxon.

The U.S. Just Got One Step Closer To Regulating Airplane Carbon Emissions—Air travel is a huge source of carbon emissions. Regulating these emissions is a big deal. There is progress being made. If you ever doubt the importance of the election in 2016 remember that a Republican president would roll back any of the progress that has been made on issues like these. Those are the stakes.

Solar Energy’s Unexpected Conservative Backers—The price is right and the technology is available. It finally looks like the political roadblocks to widespread solar adoption are falling as conservative—just not the right wing of the right wing—politicians and pundits are jumping on the bandwagon.

Google Invests $300 Million in SolarCity Rooftop Solar Installations—So, $300M supports at least 25,000 solar installations. Imagine if we just stopped subsidizing oil and gas to the tune of billions of dollars and funneled that same amount of money into funds deploying solar? I know, it’s crazy talk.

Solyndra’s Fall was Great for Solar, Just Ask Henry Ford—The shakeout in the solar industry was good for the industry as a whole and consumers because it got rid of the weaker players or non-competitive technologies. It is the sign of a maturing market.

Why Utility-Scale Solar is Booming on the East Coast—Solar is not just about the sunny climes west of the Mississippi.

“Countertop” Flow Battery Is Coal-Crushing Energy Storage On Steroids—Cheap and abundant energy storage is the killer technology for distributed renewables. With this technology the peaks and valleys of energy production and demand can be leveled out without the need for fossil fuel base load power.

Deepwater Gets Financing for First US Offshore Wind Farm—Cape Wind’s financing appears to be in trouble, but this wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island might go forward. It’s a small project—only five 6 megawatt turbines—but think of it as a proof of concept that could lead to a lot more deployment.

Electricity Cost Decreases By 30% In Kenya Due To Geothermal—Where available and appropriate, geothermal is a wicked good renewable energy choice.

Is Grass-Fed Beef Really Better for You, the Animal and the Planet?—The moral of the story is that we should eat a lot less meat, especially a lot less beef.

Minneapolis Compost Rules Scrutinized with Pets in Mind—Someone’s pet gets into a compost bin that is not their own and it is the fault of the compost program that the dog got sick. How come no one asks the question about the dog owner’s responsibility to keep their pet from ingesting scraps bound for a compost facility?

Amsterdam is Out of Bicycle Parking Spaces, so it’s Building 40,000 More—If I ever had to pick someone other than the U.S. to live it would be the Netherlands. It’s the only place I have seen with high tech bike parking right next to a train station and a giant parking ramp for bicycles in the city center.

10,000 Elephants in the Room: I Made It Through CPAC Without Puking—Granted, every major political conference brings out the crazies. However, CPAC seems to have more than its fair share of whack jobs in Duck Dynasty garb, gun nuts, John Birch types, and whatever is left of the Tea Party.

3 Vile Myths too Many Food Companies are Shoving Down our Throats—Like urban legends, these food myths refuse to die.

Starve a Landfill: Efficiency in the Kitchen to Reduce Food Waste—Everything but the oink became a sign of the lengths the industrial food machine would go to extract profit from the slaughter of animals, but the same principle needs to be applied in our homefront war on global warming. With so much food waste in the U.S. it is imperative that we waste less in order to live better.

11 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Waste Today—Sometimes we forget about the little things that we should be doing to make this planet a better place. Just a friendly link reminder.

Friday Linkage 5/23/2014

Who knew that Pat Sajak—he’s still on the air?—was a climate denier? Maybe he is the one feeding Marco Rubio his dubious stance on climate and the environment. It would make sense given that neither make any sense to a person with a quarter ounce of sense.

On to the links…

Minnesota Becomes First State To Ban Antibacterial Chemical Triclosan From Soaps—This is important news because I hope it is the start of a nationwide trend to get this chemical off our store shelves. There is no need for us to use this chemical and it has a lot of downside risks to the environment. Clean freaks and germophobes will probably cry into their sanitary wipes, but it is progress.

The Big Melt Accelerates—Well, here is some real crap news. We are living in the moment when our actions our visibly changing the planet. Do humans suck or what?

Dust Bowl Days: Will We Cut Carbon Pollution Fast Enough To Prevent Permanent Droughts?—There may be more water in the oceans because of global warming and ice melt, but a lot of regions are going to be a lot drier. Maybe permanently. When will we listen up and make fundamental changes?

The Red Hot Renewable That Could Incite A Green Power Revolution—I’ve linked to articles and written about geothermal power before. It’s an untapped resource—pun is actually intended. It’s clean power that can be counted on as baseload power. That is huge when you have variability in your other renewables like wind or solar.

The Birthplace Of Big Oil Is About To Get Its Biggest Solar Plant Yet—Texas is behind the eight ball when it comes to solar. It’s a state bathed in sun, but it’s also the home of big oil so you can understand why they are more prone to drill their way to freedom.

India’s New Prime Minister Plans To Make A Major Push on Solar Energy—Narendra Modi, the presumptive new prime minister of India, is making pledges to goose development of solar resources in India. If you do not think that this will have an impact on the global market, you do not understand the concept of the “India price.”

Jane Kleeb vs. the Keystone Pipeline—The opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has made for some interesting bedfellows. You have “cowboys,” “Indians,” ranchers, environmentalists, state’s rights advocates, libertarians, etc.

How to Fight a Factory Farm and Win—Apparently, when you have exhausted trying to stop a factory farm because of the environmental and animal welfare reasons there is always the stink. People understand the stink and no one likes the stink.

EPA Finalizes Power Plant Water Intake Rules To Save Billions Of Aquatic Animals Every Year—This is totally one of those regulations where you can see John Boehner and Eric Cantor standing at a podium stressing the “job killing” administration of President Obama. Sometimes, the impact on jobs is less important than the impact of everything else.

How USDA Rubber-Stamps ‘Humane’ and ‘Sustainable’ Food Claims—This is why it is critically important to know from whom and where your food originates. Too often the people we believe are entrusted with preserving our health and safety are nothing more than shills for industry.

In Federal-State Marijuana Battle, Hemp Is The New Frontier—Apparently, there is one issue that Mitch McConnell and his opponent in November’s election Alison Lundergan Grimes can agree upon: hemp. Both candidates for elected office have declared that the federal government should release hemp seeds to the state of Kentucky. Common ground over hemp. Imagine that.

How to Make the Twin Cities the Best Region in America—You could take these ideas to any town and it would be a great list to work on. The article’s title is so interchangeable that it could be “How to Make the BLANK the Best Region in America.” Who does not want more livable communities? Oh right, republicans.

The 20 Deadliest U.S. Cities for Pedestrians—I love how this list corresponds nicely to places that I would never live. It also shows that pedestrians in Florida are little more than collateral damage.

Friday Linkage 10/4/2013

The government is shut down, the debt ceiling is about to be reached, and all we hear is politicians crowing on the news shows about how no one wants to “compromise.”  Note to any tea party Republicans, when you only control one chamber of the legislature and do not occupy the office of the executive compromise does not equal getting everything you want.  As it was said so many times during the second Bush’s dastardly administration, elections have consequences.  I also remember a lot of these same blowhards saying “love it or leave it” but that sentiment seems to be one that only bloviating Rush Limbaugh types like to bust out.

On to the links…

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions down 11 Percent Since 2007—There are a lot of interesting graphs to drive home the point, but comes down to some pretty simple facts—we are burning less coal, driving fewer miles, and getting more miles per gallon from our cars.

America’s First “Legal” Hemp Crop in Almost 60 Years—It’s legality can be questioned because the federal government probably does not view it the same as state authorities.  Granted, the feds have other things to worry about right now.  It’s a small step, but hemp could be an interesting crop for farmers to add to the rotation.

Can the Economy go Full Circle—The idea of a circular economy—where new goods are produced from old goods without using new resources—is the holy grail of the green community.  Instead of downcycling, things are truly recycled.

Tastes Like Chicken—Is non-meat meat the future?  If you read this article by uber food dude Alton Brown there might be a glimmer of hope for faux meat to reach the promise of replacing the conventional meat in the future.

The Benefit of Frozen Foods—I do not get why people hate on frozen foods so much.  Sure, it seems like buying reusable bags full of fresh food all the time is the best solution but there is a place for frozen foods in the equation of healthy living.  I am not talking about frozen pizzas or T.V. dinners.  Think about the utility of frozen vegetables or fruits.

The Nacho Dorito Taste—Do you want to know why you crave a half dozen Doritos Los Tacos at 2 AM?  Watch this video from Michael Moss and find out.  Or, just stay blissfully ignorant about the ways that our brains are manipulated by food scientists.  Hmmmm, tacos…

IKEA to Sell Residential Solar Panels in Britain—A lot of analysts talk about something meeting the China or India price.  That is the point when things become affordable in emerging markets.  Well, for the developed world I think it should be called the IKEA price.  Now you are going to be able to buy a solar PV system at everyone’s favorite purveyor of flat pack furniture.

Xcel Energy Opens Way to Solar Gardens—Solar gardens are a sweet idea.  A lot of people do not live in homes that can take advantage of roof mounted racks of solar panels.  These people would probably like to take advantage of renewable energy.  This is where a solar garden comes in.  You buy into a portion of the power produced and the array is built in a location that is suitable.  It’s a great idea because it expands the pool of people who can participate and it scales up projects to take advantage of cost efficiencies.

Iceland Seeks to Cash in on its Abundant Renewable Energy—Iceland is always a fascinating country to me.  Something about it just intrigues me.  Already the country gets most of its electricity from renewable sources, geothermal and hydro, and it is looking to export that power via an undersea cable to Europe.  I guess international banking was a bust, so something had to give.

Composting Made Easy—Besides making your children do it, I dig the idea of just burying kitchen scraps in the garden.  A lot of permaculture gardens use a similar method of burying organic matter to decompose deep within beds.

How to Grow a Food Forest—I just love food forests.  There is something magical about a lush landscape that produces food.  It’s like living in Pixie Hollow.

Siberian Tigers Making a Comeback in China—It looks like one of the most endangered apex predators in the world has a shot at survival.  If an animal can make a comeback in China, it can probably be something that is repeated just about anywhere else.

Elephant Says Goodbye to an Old Friend—As elephants are slaughtered in Africa, it is essential to remember the humanity of these majestic creatures.  Here is a picture of an elephant standing guard over an old friend who has passed away.  It’s gut wrenching and touching at the same time.

Geothermal Potential

Wind and solar get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to discussing renewable energy and the portfolio of options for zero carbon electricity generation.  Nuclear energy is brought up by its proponents as part of the solution, but the cost and risk, in regards to both the project liability and the waste disposal issue, preclude it from being a serious part of the discussion.  Hydropower is definitely part of the solution because it is well proven and can provide consistent power, but it is unlikely that any new major hydropower projects are going to be built because of the damage existing facilities have done to our waterways.  Any gain in hydropower will be achieved through wringing out more electricity from currently running facilities, replacing derelict power generation facilities, or retrofitting existing dams to accommodate hydropower.  Granted, there is probably a lot of potential in those three options but I am no expert.

One renewable energy source that is consistently overlooked is geothermal.  Maybe it’s because we cannot picture a geothermal plant or, if we can, it conjures up images of Iceland.  However, geothermal power is an excellent source of base load renewable power.  What do I mean by base load?  This is the power that is available consistently 24 hours a day.  Wind and solar are intermittent and variable, so it is hard to go to a system that depends upon such power.  This is the argument that the coal and natural gas lobbies use to defend the construction and operation of their facilities.  Geothermal power, however, is there all the time.

But what is the potential for the power?  Not everyone lives in a place like Iceland or Hawaii where the hot core of the earth is literally bursting at the seams and pouring out as lava.  Here is what the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) worked up using date from Southern Methodist University:

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The western United States is brimming with potential for geothermal power.  Even my little portion of southeast Iowa looks like it might be sitting on a potential spot for favorable, if not optimum, conditions.

Iceland, a country known for its volcanic activity and hot springs, gets an estimated 30% of its electricity from geothermal sources.  Now, imagine a world where everyone got 30% of their electricity from geothermal and what that would represent in terms of closures of dirty fossil fuel plants.

Don’t think it can be done in the U.S.?  Why not?

Let’s look at Iowa, my home state, for a moment.  According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) the production of electricity in January 2013, the latest month for which data is available publicly, looked like this:

Chart Energy

Iowa is already getting almost one-third of its electricity from renewables, a combination including a small amount of hydroelectric, with the rest coming primarily from coal.  At these levels there is approximately 100 GWh of coal fired electricity being generated per day.  Using my crude mathematics skill—100 GWh per day = 100,000 MWh per day = 4167 MW per hour—you would need to install ~4200 MWs of capacity to totally supplant coal.  Granted, no facility is 100% efficient so assuming 75% efficiency the installed capacity would have to be rated at approximately 5,500 MW.

Now, the U.S. as a whole does not have that much installed capacity for geothermal but I was trying to replace all coal fired generation.  There is nothing to say that coal cannot be supplanted by a portfolio of options, one of which could be geothermal.  I am just trying to show that there is a place in the conversation for geothermal energy.

The more research that I do into the issue the more I am left with the distinct feeling that no one really knows how much geothermal power potential exists.

The problem is that there does not appear to be a lot of movement to develop these resources in any cohesive national way.  We hear a lot about the production tax credit for wind power or feed-in tariffs for solar energy, but there is no equivalent government incentive for geothermal that would spur development.  Why?

As we look to transition to a carbon neutral economy a solution like geothermal power cannot be ignored.