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Oh, it feels like Christmas! Tomorrow, Senators Kerry & Liberman will introduce the "American Power Act", otherwise known as the Kerry/Graham/Lieberman bill, before Graham threw a temper tantrum and walked away.  Actually, it doesn't really feel like Christmas.  If feels like that really lousy Christmas, when you didn't get any of the presents you wanted, but your parents tried to make you feel like it was a good Christmas.  Maybe you got a Chinese bicycle or a generic coat that is supposed to look just like the name brand one you really wanted.  Either way, at least you got something.  

More wind energy is coming to Texas:

Expansions in local wind energy operations could blow in more jobs to the Abilene area.

Anywhere from eight to 12 skilled workers will be needed soon, as executives of Run Energy have just finalized a long-term, multiyear contract with an undisclosed energy company to maintain 315 turbines on three wind farms. As operations progress, even more positions will need to be filled, said Brad Gryder, vice president of business development for Run Energy.

Hopefully, one day we'll be able to stop using oil.  That day may not be soon, but it could happen. What would replace it?  Find out here.

Solar energy has expanded in New York:

With a snip of the "big scissors" at the obligatory ribbon-cutting that comes with all grand openings, a solar manufacturer that is expected to create up to 150 jobs by the end of next year is officially open.  SpectraWatt produces crystalline silicon solar cells for solar panels.

Rep. John Hall, D-Dover Plains, lauded the opening, saying the jobs created by the plant are what he means when he talks about "green jobs."
"When I say green jobs, I'm not thinking of jobs scrubbing beaches on the coast of Louisiana," he said, referring to the ongoing cleanup of the massive BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf Coast. "I'm thinking of jobs that prevent the need for jobs scrubbing beaches on the coast of Louisiana."

The nation's first off shore wind project has made a deal to sell the energy it produces:

The nation's first offshore windfarm, Cape Wind, gained approval last week from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Now it's gained a utility to buy its power in the form of National Grid PLC, which agreed Friday to purchase 50 percent of the supply from the 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound. The cost? National Grid will pay 20.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, starting in 2013.

For consumers, National Grid says that it will cost an additional $1.59 per month for rate payers who uses 500 kilowatt-hours. That figure represents only a 2 percent rate increase for consumers, who can now rest assured knowing that they are using clean and green energy.

If we are going to transition to a carbon-free economy, we'll need people to work it. There's a program for that:

A new instructional program at Texas State Technical College-Harlingen could supply technicians for future wind farm expansion in South Texas.

TSTC’s wind energy technology program, funded through a $238,678 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, begins Monday and runs two semesters, ending in the second week of December.  The grant includes a provision allotting $75,000 in scholarships to qualifying students who enroll in wind turbine courses.

Students who complete the program will earn Level-1 wind turbine technician certifications, which certify demonstration of basic knowledge of hydraulics and pneumatics, Enrique Carrillo, the program’s instructor, said.

Wind energy is expanding out west:

A Montana renewable energy company says it has the backing of 10 wind farm developers to pursue a sprawling power collection grid serving Montana, North Dakota and Alberta.

The announcement by Grasslands Renewable Energy of Bozeman came as the company received initial approval Friday for a reservoir project that would store excess power from the developers' prospective wind farms.

Grasslands president Carl Borgquist says wind-generated electricity would be used to pump water uphill to a 50-acre reservoir on Gordon Butte near Martinsdale. When the wind stops blowing, the water could be released to a lower reservoir — turning hydropower turbines to keep electricity flowing.

The greening of the American military continues:

It was probably inevitable that the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces would try to one-up each other in the race to marginalize fossil fuels, and here’s just the latest example. Just a few months after the U.S. Marines announce a portable solar power system the size of a large suitcase, the Air Force signs a $3.5 million contract with Lockheed Martin to outfit entire shipping containers as portable solar power generators for rapid field deployment.

It’s just one part of an all-out push by the U.S. Armed Forces to wean themselves – and the rest of us – off fossil fuels, and though we don’t need any more reminders that it’s way past time to do that, here’s the BP oil spill, the Massey coal mine disaster (to say nothing of mountaintop coal mining), the Tennessee coal ash flood, and the Iraq War. Not too long ago the U.S. ran on firewood, whale oil and raw horsepower, so what’ s the big deal about continuing to move up the energy ladder?

Shipping containers are are cheap, available, easy to move around the world through existing infrastructure, and ripe for recycling, so using them as a platform for portable solar power is yet another great example of a sustainability twofer. The new system is part of the Air Force’s Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources (BEAR) program, which aims to establish mobile bases with portable assets including housing, water and other support systems for thousands of troops. Lockheed’s system will hook into the existing BEAR grid with the triple goals of cutting fuel consumption by 25%, alleviating the crippling logistics of fossil fuel supply, and providing for a more reliable power stream.

And continues:

Top U.S. defense officials and executives from the petroleum, alternative fuels and renewable energy sectors are meeting outside Washington this week to address new technology developments and initiatives such as the Pentagon's work on developing biofuels to power military aircraft.

The long-term goal is to decrease U.S. dependence on foreign crude oil, said Air Force Colonel Francis Rechner, director of operations of the Defense Energy Support Center, run by the Pentagon's main logistics agency.

Rechner cited the March flight of an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane, powered by a mix of biomass and jet fuel, and the flight of the Navy's "Green Hornet," a Boeing Co (BA.N) F/A-18 fighter jet powered a blend of jet fuel and a biofuel made of camelina, a hardy U.S. plant.
Both aircraft performed well using the new bio-based fuels, he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The goal is to promote construction of facilities that could produce large quantities of biofuels using algae, camelina and other plants, which would be good for all of us, not just the military.  Also, the article notes that the tragedy in the Gulf has spurred interest in alternative fuels.

A professor in Utah has made strides with biofuels:

One mile southwest of Salt Lake International Airport, a 20-acre crop of safflower plants is growing on previously unused municipal land.  This fall the plot will be harvested, and oil from the plants will be processed into biodiesel fuel to operate Salt Lake County vehicles.

The new use for the vacant land in the airport's flight path is part of a Utah State University program that uses highway rights of way and other unused open spaces to grow oilseed crops for biodiesel fuel.

Scientists, educators and transportation officials see it as a promising environmental and economic step, and the program is spreading to a growing number of universities across the nation.

Here's another article on a subject I find very interesting, using brownfield & Superfund sites for alternative energy:

It’s not often two government agencies get together to do something that is almost inspired. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have done that by joinin forces in their evaluation of sites that could be used for renewable-energy production. These can be Superfund and brown field sites, as well as former landfills and mines. Although there are many such sites, 12 in particular will get a close look for development. They are in California, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The project will analyze the potential development of wind, solar, or small hydroelectric power facilities. Analyses will determine the best renewable energy equipment for the site, its best placement, the potential energy-generating capacity, and the economic feasibility of the renewable energy projects, including return on investment. Some sites under consideration have completed cleanup activities, while others are in various stages of assessment or cleanup.

Superfund sites are the most complex. They are often abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous-waste sites that pose a risk to human health and hence are identified for cleanup. Brown fields are properties for which expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence of contaminants. Abandoned factories are examples. The EPA is investing more than $650,000 into this project which pairs the Agency’s expertise on contaminated sites with the NREL’s renewable energy expertise.
U.S. electricity production is expected to increase by nearly 30% by 2030 to meet growing demand, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2008. It estimates the equivalent of more than 320 mid-sized, coal-fired power plants will be needed to increase U.S. electricity production to meet such growth.

The EPA estimates there are about 490,000 sites and almost 15 million acres of potentially contaminated properties across the U.S. For more info, check here.

Lufthansa is looking to shrink its carbon footprint:

Lufthansa is set to become one of the world's first airlines to mix biofuel with traditional kerosene on commercial flights as carriers seek ways to cut soaring fuel costs, its chief executive said.

The German flag carrier will start running its engines on some flights on a mix of biofuel and kerosene within two years, Wolfgang Mayrhuber told reporters on the sidelines of an event late on Saturday.  A spokesman for Lufthansa added the airline will likely decide on a more precise schedule by the end of this year.

Aircraft account for an estimated 2-4 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which scientists say could cause global temperatures to rise, triggering widespread disease, famine, flooding and drought.

As we've discussed before, while it's great to put more electric cars on the road, it's not enough.  You need a complete electric vehicle infrastructure.  For more on what is needed, check out this article:

A driver with an all-electric vehicle will need a 240-volt charger for rapid charging. But many homes built before the mid-80's don't have the panel capacity or wiring to accommodate that type of outlet, says Toyota's Reinert.

"All of a sudden, you end up not with a $2,500 charger, but a $15,000 electrical upgrade to your house. It's that kind of stuff that we need to think through and be smart about," he says.

And electric cars are popular among Americans.  Nissan plans to deploy 10K of the all-electric Leaf in the U.S. over the next 18 months, & it already has a waiting list of 100,000 potential buyers.

Finally, something very significant has happened recently: we have an energy goldmine beneath our feet:

Over the past decade, a wave of drilling around the world has uncovered giant supplies of natural gas in shale rock. By some estimates, there's 1,000 trillion cubic feet recoverable in North America alone—enough to supply the nation's natural-gas needs for the next 45 years. Europe may have nearly 200 trillion cubic feet of its own.

We've always known the potential of shale; we just didn't have the technology to get to it at a low enough cost. Now new techniques have driven down the price tag—and set the stage for shale gas to become what will be the game-changing resource of the decade.

To understand why, you have to consider that even before the shale discoveries, natural gas was destined to play a big role in our future. As environmental concerns have grown, nations have leaned more heavily on the fuel, which gives off just half the carbon dioxide of coal. But the rise of gas power seemed likely to doom the world's consumers to a repeat of OPEC, with gas producers like Russia, Iran and Venezuela coming together in a cartel and dictating terms to the rest of the world.

Now, natural gas is not ideal.  But it is much better than coal, and it could prove as a bridge to much cleaner energy sources.  If we can incorporate home-made natural gas energy into the our economy, it would be a big step forward.  We just have to make sure it is not the sole element of our energy future.

eKos earthship

Thanks to RL Miller, here's a sneak peek @ the American Power Act (PDF).

Originally posted to mark louis on Tue May 11, 2010 at 02:23 PM PDT.

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