1. Arctic sea ice second lowest extent
- On September 10, Arctic sea ice extent stood at 4.14 million square kilometers (1.60 million square miles). This appears to have been the lowest extent of the year and is tied with 2007 as the second lowest extent on record. This year’s minimum extent is 750,000 square kilometers (290,000 square miles) above the record low set in 2012 and is well below the two standard deviation range for the 37-year satellite record. Satellite data show extensive areas of open water in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and in the Laptev and East Siberian seas.
Here’s the image from NISDC:
Neven at Arctic Sea Ice Blog tells how the season unfolded. After low winter ice the early melt was strong, but in June and July when the sun was hottest, the sky was mostly cloudy. In 2007 it was mostly open. No good news in this story, I’m afraid.
2. Pumped storage with solar
The Kidston Mine solar project seems to be closer to realisation. The idea is to take two old gold-mining pits on a slope, pump water from the lower to the higher at times of low demand and then generate hydro power.
It’s thought to be a world first, because it is off-river, and will use large-scale solar as the power source.
Pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES) systems usually cost between $4m and $5m per installed megawatt to build. This one is expected to cost just $1m per installed megawatt.
Water will be re-used with an average ‘water head’ of 190m. It will shift 5 million cubic metres of water, or the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools, for each generation cycle. They have water, and can get more from a pipeline if needed.
- A 50 megawatt (MW) solar farm is already under construction and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2017. It will cost roughly $100m and will generate 145,000 megawatt hours (MWh) per year, or enough energy to power some 27,500 homes.
- Stage two of the project is a 300MW PHES. This will operate for seven-hour generation cycles once each day, delivering a maximum of 2250 MWh to the grid.
Here’s the photo:
The company claims they will eventually produce enough renewable electricity per year to power ~82,800 homes, or the equivalent of removing ~99,000 cars from Australian roads.
The company has had some help from ARENA and are seeking more from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility program.
3. World’s first large-scale tidal energy farm in Scotland
The MeyGen tidal stream project in the Pentland Firth has been launched outside Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.
Each turbine measuring about 15 metres tall, with blades 16 metres in diameter, and weighing almost 200 tonnes generates initially 1.5MW.
Eventually they are looking at 269 turbines, bringing the capacity to 398MW, enough electricity to power 175,000 homes.
Scotland is said to have 25% of the EU’s offshore wind and tidal power potential.
The bad news, says Jason Hickel, is that we’ve blown our chance of keeping warming below 2°C. And according to Prof Kevin Anderson, if we want to stay within 2°C, we’ll need to reduce emissions by 8%–10% per year. Now here’s the problem:
- efficiency improvements and clean energy technologies will only win us reductions of about 4% per year at most.
The one real hope is what you might call regenerative farming:
- Scientists and farmers around the world are pointing out that we can regenerate degraded soils by switching from intensive industrial farming to more ecological methods – not just organic fertiliser, but also no-tillage, composting, and crop rotation. Here’s the brilliant part: as the soils recover, they not only regain their capacity to hold CO2, they begin to actively pull additional CO2 out of the atmosphere.
A new study, not yet peer-reviewed, suggests that such changes in farming practices could sequester 40% of current emissions, or 100% if also applied to grazing.
David Spratt at Climate Code Red brings us up with a jerk again about the seriousness of climate change. He explains at length in what is an article rather than a blog post, with references. It comes down to this:
- 1.5°C is not a safe target. Indeed the current level of warming of 1°C is beyond adaptation for many nations and peoples.
- There is no carbon budget available for the 1.5°C target. Indeed warming of 1.5°C, and possibly more, is already “locked in”.
- Published 1.5°C carbon budgets give a 50% chance of success, a 33% chance of exceeding 2°C of warming, and a 10% chance of exceeding 3°C.
- The reason why we are not given more sensible targets in terms of risk, for example 90% or 95% or 99%, is simple – the horse has bolted.
The rational implication is that we should reach zero emissions as soon as possible and then head back to Holocene levels of 325ppm.
John Quiggin is a member of The Climate Change Authority which recently brought down its report on what the Government should do to meet its Paris commitments. John thinks a 40-60% reduction in emissions by 2030 is OK if we take action now, and the “toolkit” approach offered by the Authority provides Government with the means of meeting their obligations.
The indications are that the Government plans to do exactly nothing and is unlikely to ask the Authority for further advice.