Climate clippings 66

New solar PV nanotechnology

There have been so many developments in PV technology it’s hard to know which will be significant.

Gizmag tells us about new material consisting of tiny hollow spheres, made out of nanocrystalline-silicon.

The new material is efficient, light, flexible, should be easy and cheap to make and their efficiency is less affected by the angle of the sun.

No downsides are mentioned. Continue reading Climate clippings 66

Climate clippings 65

I’m still stressing out over the project I’m working on and various health matters that are annoying, time-consuming but OK-ish. John D has helped as always, but don’t blame him for the fourth one, the one on Rupert’s WSJ.

Australian solar project to be the world’s tallest building

Hyperion solar chimney

Hyperion believes their so-called “solar updraft tower” would provide much needed power to mining operations in Western Australia, and could also connect to the grid. It hopes to go live by 2014. The company is currently seeking approval for the $1.7 billion plan.

Unlike many solar projects, this one would keep the generators humming day and night, as the ground continues to give off captured heat from dusk to dawn. Continue reading Climate clippings 65

Climate clippings 64

I’m currently working on another project, which is taking up much of my time. This week we had about 200mm of rain in one day. That could have been why my cable connection to the internet disappeared for 36 hours. I’m grateful to John D who sent me the links for each item in the following except the last.

Zero-emissions engine that runs on liquid air

A new zero-emissions engine capable of competing commercially with hydrogen fuel cells and battery electric systems appeared on the radar when respected British engineering consultancy Ricardo validated Dearman engine technology and its commercial potential.

The Dearman engine operates by injecting cryogenic (liquid) air into ambient heat inside the engine to produce high pressure gas that drives the engine – the exhaust emits cold air. It’s cheaper to build than battery electric or fuel cell technology, with excellent energy density, fast refuelling and no range anxiety. It just might be a third alternative.

Among the advantages are that it doesn’t catch fire or explode and doesn’t require rare materials. Continue reading Climate clippings 64

Climate clippings 63

China report on climate change

China's economicChina's advance will be hampered by climate change, a government report finds

(Photo from Reuters, via The Age.)

From Reuters we hear about the Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change which sums up advancing scientific knowledge about the consequences and costs of global warming for China:

Global warming fed by greenhouse gases from industry, transport and shifting land-use poses a long-term threat to China’s prosperity, health and food output, says the report.

In 2010 China’s emissions grew by 10.4%. This rate is expected to slow, but for reductions we will have to wait until about 2030, “with big falls only after mid-century”.

Here’s the Executive Summary. Continue reading Climate clippings 63

Climate clippings 62

Energy savings work!

It had passed me by, but an outfit called the Breakthrough Institute (BTI) has been suggesting that energy savings don’t work, according to a guest post at Climate Progress. They say there is a “rebound effect” which causes 60 to 100% or more of energy savings to be lost. For example, if you save on your power bill you will spend that money on a thing or activity that uses energy. The contention has been amplified in the MSM in the US.

A thorough examination of this theory has found that the rebound effect exists, but it’s 10 to 30%. So 70 to 90% of savings are permanent. This is important because, they say, 25-40% of GHG abatement could be achieved through energy savings. Continue reading Climate clippings 62

Remembering the floods

As I write we have brutal heat in Brisbane, with a dry west wind. On 11 January last year Robert Merkel put up a post, Queensland floods get worse. Later that day Mark put up a post, Brisbane flood maps and up to date flood information and slaved mightily for a time passing on information gleaned from twitter and other sources, until he went quiet. By the 12th he was a refugee at my place. His place was high and dry, but the power went off. By the 14th the Brisbane floods were in retreat.

Earlier on the 10th there had been what we used to call a ‘cloudburst’ on the Toowoomba Range, when 150mm (6 inches in the old money) fell in about half an hour. I posted some Toowoomba flood pics taken by my cousin’s brother-in-law. Yesterday I heard Anna Bligh tell the story of a year ago, how she was addressing the umpteenth, by that time, press briefing on the Queensland floods. From September 2010 there had been many cities and towns flooded across Queensland, some of them totally evacuated several times. As she fronted the media a minder handed her a sheet with breaking news. She found herself talking about swift water rescues in the main street of Toowoomba. “This can’t be right”, she thought. “It’s impossible.” It wasn’t. This is what was going on in Toowoomba:

Toowoomba flooding
Raging floods_Toowoomba

Continue reading Remembering the floods

Climate clippings 61

David Archer on methane

Arctic methane plumes

Climate clippings 58 led with an item on Methane worries. @ 18 I identified David Archer as one who is “very knowledgeable on the matter [and] thinks the process will be chronic rather than catastrophic.” Continue reading Climate clippings 61

Climate clippings 60: 2011 review edition

The year in review

For me the year began with the post Climate crunch: the fierce urgency of now, wherein we were reminded that the time for significant action on climate change was now and that postponing such action would make things quite a lot harder.

This message was reinforced by the Climate Commission’s report The Critical Decade with the following message:

“This decade is critical. Unless effective action is taken, the global climate may be so irreversibly altered we will struggle to maintain our present way of life.” “Without strong and rapid action there is a significant risk that climate change will undermine our society’s prosperity, health, stability and way of life.

Continue reading Climate clippings 60: 2011 review edition

Climate clippings 59

Tokelau leads the world!

I’ve been looking for some positive stories for Christmas. What can be more positive than Tokelau going almost completely to renewables?

I guess it helps if you’ve got only 1,500 people and three cars.

Harnessing desert sun power

We’ve posted before on Desertec, the plan to generate solar power in North Africa and pipe it to Europe, to supply up to 15% of its energy by 2050. They expect to see the first solar electricity flowing from Morocco to Spain as early as 2014.

This report tells us that Morrocco itself “wants to produce 42% of its electricity from renewable sources – solar, wind and hydro-electric – by 2020.” That’s got to be good.

There are critics, however:

Valentin Hollain of Eurosolar, a German non-profit organisation that promotes renewable energy, queries the entire concept of Desertec.

He argues that big corporations are using large-scale projects like Desertec and Medgrid to retain their position into the next generation, and that a mix of renewable power supplied locally can meet demand while keeping prices down for consumers.

Continue reading Climate clippings 59

Climate clippings 58

Methane worries

A team of Russian research scientists have been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

“Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It’s amazing,” Dr Semiletov said. “I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them.”

I realise this has been linked to three times in the previous thread, but it’s important and not everyone reads the comments threads.

A separate study has found that the methane stored in permafrost is three times larger than earlier estimates. It could release 1.7-5.2 times more carbon than previously thought, depending how rapidly the world warms.

In a cautionary note here, James Hansen reckons we are forcing the system 20,000 times faster than commonly happened through natural caused in the past 50 million years. Continue reading Climate clippings 58

Climate clippings 57

WMO on the 2011 climate

Via Climate Progress we have the WMO’s Provisional Statement on the Status of the Global Climate and press release. This graph is interesting:

Temperatures relative to 1960-1990

2011 is shaping as the 10th highest on record and are higher than any previous year with a La Niña event. The 13 warmest years have all occurred in the 15 years since 1997. WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud:

“Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached new highs. They are very rapidly approaching levels consistent with a 2-2.4 degree Centigrade rise in average global temperatures which scientists believe could trigger far reaching and irreversible changes in our Earth, biosphere and oceans,” he said.

Continue reading Climate clippings 57

Climate clippings 56

Energy from biomass

A new report suggests that we should be able to feed a growing population, conserve the environment and produce 20% of world energy needs from biomass by making “the best use of agricultural residues, energy crops and waste materials”.

The report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) can be downloaded from here.

I’m not sure how well they took into account the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity. They did consider an IPCC report on renewable energy (large pdf) and a study by the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WBGU). Of the latter they said:

The WGBU08 report is arguably the most comprehensive study of the implications of growing bio-energy crops considered here. The approach uses a spatially explicit yield model for terrestrial productivity (LPjmL) driven by IPCC climate models, and scenarios. (p. 35)

You would need to go back to those studies to see what changes of weather, melting glaciers, sea penetration of river deltas etc were taken into account. Continue reading Climate clippings 56

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff