Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Jul 24 2014

Assessing Environmental Impacts with Marine Organism Tracking

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Undoubtedly, the development and installation of offshore energy devices comes with environmental impacts. Out of the many areas of impact, the area which receives perhaps the most attention is the impact on marine organisms—specifically pelagic predators. An interest in pelagic predators such as whales, marlins, tuna, sharks, and seals has led to a respectable amount of research and observation of these organisms. One program aimed at studying these organisms’ behavior is Global Tagging of Pelagic Predators (GTOPP). The aim of this program is “tounderstand the factors that influence animal behavior in the blue ocean and to build the tools required for protecting their future” (TOPP). As of now 120 white sharks, 27 salmon sharks, and five mako sharks are carrying acoustic tags and relaying information about their location and depth to researches of the TOPP program. Tracking devices are extremely useful in relation to offshore renewable energy technologies as they can assess in carrying out environmental impact assessments. Before a developing company may install its device it must obtain a permit and in order to obtain this permit, it must prove that the device will not significantly impact marine populations. Part of the difficulty in conducting these studies stems from the lack of knowledge pertaining to marine organisms and their behavioral patters which currently exists. In order to observe how ocean energy technologies impact marine species, we first need to understand how these species act in the absence of anthropogenic factors.

An example of a tracking device used by the TOPP program

An example of a tracking device used by the TOPP program http://cdn.phys.org/newman/gfx/news/hires/2013/2-studymapshum.jpg

In cooperation with the GTOPP program, which Stanford coordinates in part, Stanford marine biologists and engineers launched an aquatic robot named Carey. This robot is a modified Wave Glider, a robot originally designed by Liquid Robotics to make collect data on ocean conditions (LRI 2012). For example Liquid Robotics just signed an agreement with NOAA in which the Wave Glider robots will be used to improve weather forecast techniques, specifically the forecasting of extreme weather events. Stanford describes the design as a “surfing robot” as it rides waves and currents around designated areas of the ocean (Carey 2012). With the specific receiver outfitting on the Carey Wave Rider, Stanford marine biologists plan to study the behavior of marine animals in ways in which they could not previously. Currently, researchers rely on buoys attached to the seafloor with mooring lines receive transmission signals from a tagged animal when it is with in 2,000 feet (Carey 2012). These new surfing robot receivers will be able to travel and survey designated areas in order to track animals with tracking devices and gain a fuller understanding on migratory and behavioral patterns.

Dual views of the Wave Glider http://www.roboticsbible.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/unmanned-wave-glider-300x154.jpg

Dual views of the Wave Glider
http://www.roboticsbible.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/unmanned-wave-glider-300×154.jpg

This new technology would prove extremely beneficial in studying the environmental impacts of offshore energy devices. Another problem in determining the how human activities influence the behavior of animals is the absence of a reliable technique of observing these animals. With the Carey Wave Glider offshore energy companies could not only make observations prior to device installation, but they could also make assessments during and after the operation of these devices.

Citations:

 

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Jul 24 2014

Australia’s Uncertain Future

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The Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme in Australia was designed to ensure that 20 percent of the country’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2020. Since 2011 the scheme has operated in two parts: the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) and the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) (Renewable Energy Target, Australian Government). The LRET is meant to create an incentive for energy companies via making certificates for every megawatt-hour produced by an accredited power station. These certificates can then be sold to electricity retailers who must surrender them annually in order to show their compliance with the RET’s protocol (Renewable Energy Target, Australian Government). Essentially, this makes the electricity companies in Australia fulfill the role of middle-man in order to meet the national quota for renewable energy.

 

http://www.ecocitizenaustralia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/renewable-energy-map.jpg
The SRES creates an incentive for households and small businesses to install renewable energy systems, again, in exchange for certificates that can be sold to electricity companies. In practice, most installation companies usually offer a payment for the right to create their own certificate in order to simplify the process (Renewable Energy Target, Australian Government).
The energy developer, Pacific Hydro, has reportedly withdrawn millions of dollars worth of investment in Australia due to uncertainty over the country’s plan to have 20 percent renewable resource generation by 2020. A review by the federal government of Australia is underway, but Pacific Hydro says the review is taking too long (Gibson, 2014). Many leaders in Australia have said that this review is unnecessary and has only served to cause hesitancy in potential energy companies like Pacific Hydro. The executive manager of Pacific Hydro recently made a statement saying that no one want to invest in a climate where renewable energy targets are being debated and banks are unwilling to finance these energy projects (Gibson, 2014).

http://www.aph.gov.au/binaries/library/pubs/briefingbook43p/images/powering-australia-from-renewable-sources-pie-chart.png
During this review period there is virtually no investment in renewable energy at this time. If the Australian government decides to reduce their RET policy or scrap it completely, foreign investors will likely be out of the picture for the foreseeable future (White, 2014). Many advocates of the renewable energy sector feel that the entire purpose of the the review in order to reduce the target goal or get rid of it completely (White, 2014). Either way, Australia’s hesitancy to engage in the renewable energy market at this time will hinder them significantly into the future. These companies only want to invest in areas where renewable energy progression is a certainty and not up for debate.
Citations;
Gibson, Sallese. Industry uncertainty puts renewable energy projects at risk. July 21, 2014. <http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2014/s4050081.htm>

White, Andrew. Green energy warns against RET flip-flop. July 9, 2014. <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/green-energy-warns-against-ret-flipflop/story-e6frg8zx-1226982269655?nk=4136dcad3af02df2e998c736e17681e6>

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme. Australian Government, Department of the Environment. <http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/renewable-energy-target-scheme>

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Jul 22 2014

NY Energy Proposal

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New York’s Goal of 30% by 2015

Back in September 2004 the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) created a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Essentially, it was designed to set goals for future renewable energy use within the state. Implementation rules were issued in April 2005. Initially the goal was to have a renewable energy target of 25% for state electricity consumption. The PSC later, in January 2010, decided to increase this to 30% by 2015. Of this 30%, 20.7% was planned to be produced from the existing renewable energy resources throughout the state. An additional one percent was expected to be derived from voluntary green power sales by 2015; that is, basically, when renewable facilities designate a certain portion of their output to be sold on the green-power market (DSIRE, 2014).

The remainder of the 30% goal is supposed to be derived from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). NYSERDA is responsible for the state’s future renewable energy sources and is among 24 other state organizations and the District of Columbia to implement portfolio based policies with binding goals. One of the main goals of these policies is to help the renewable energy industry in the U.S. develop a stronger infrastructure. In an ideal world, RPS implementations would not be permanent, but merely a jumping off point in which more companies join the market and help the increase the economic efficiency and sustainability of projects. Realistically, this is not likely to happen for several decades. As it stands, NYSERDA is required to contract for 10.4 million megawatt hours, annually by 2015 (NYSERDA.ny.gov).

niagara1

Hydroelectric power represents the vast majority of renewable energy production in NY, and accounts for about 19 percent of all electricity in the state. Wind power is the closest behind at roughly 2 percent, and is considered to hold the greatest future potential. Governor Andrew Cuomo has pushed for renewable projects throughout the state and has grown solar energy within the state by 300 Megawatts. One of the biggest potential projects for the state is called the Long Island Offshore Wind Farm, which would initially generate 350 megawatts of power, with the possibility of expanding to 700 megawatts (LINYCOWP).

Long_Island_Offshore_Wind_P           first-offshore-wind-turbine-us

A 350 megawatt facility would be able to generate around 1.2 million megawatt hour a year, or enough o power 112,000 homes in the New York City area. The turbines would be located 14 miles south of Long Island and would be 5 megawatts each, with blade span diameters of 110 meters (LINYCOWP) Currently, the permitting process is projected to be completed no earlier than 2017. Initial assessment of costs showed that construction would require $415 million for the 350 megawatt facility and an additional $406 million needed were it to expand to 700 megawatts (Joint Con Edison – LIPA Feasibility Assessment). There have been several demonstrations throughout New York City that have been in support of the Long Island Wind Turbine project and, with the support of its city, New York may have a chance at creating a new trend in renewable energy.

Citations:

DSIRE, March 10, 2014 <http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=NY03R>

NYSERDA. NY.gov. <https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/Energy-Data-and-Prices-Planning-and-Policy/Program-Planning/Renewable-Portfolio-Standard/Main-Tier/FAQs.aspx?p=1>

Long Island New York City Offshore Wind Project. <https://www.linycoffshorewind.com>

Joint Con Edison – LIPA. Feasibility Agreement. <http://www.linycoffshorewind.com/PDF/Feasibility%20Study.pdf>

 

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Jul 22 2014

FAU Gets Green Light on Experimental Lease

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The Gulf Stream is a current which travels from the Gulf of Mexico, around the coast of Florida, along the mid-Atlantic cast, and toward Europe and possesses vast amounts of energy. This current moves eight billion gallons of water every minute. The energy behind movement of this water could be harnessed as a clean energy source to help meet the demands of the increasing human energy demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy (BOEM) the Gulf Stream has the potential to provide Florida with 35% of its electrical needs (BOEM 2013). Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthrone, cleared the gulf stream as a usable location for offshore energy production in 2007 (Allen 2007) and FAU has since then gone through the permitting process and recently was awarded a permit.  In August of 2013, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) was a granted a lease permitting it to begin experiments and observations involving the Gulf Stream as a potential source of renewable energy. With the five year, 1,000 acre lease FAU will test electricity-generating devices directly in the flow of the Gulf Stream current as well as conduct further environmental impact assessments and complete observations in attempt to better understand marine life and recognize standards for marine behavior near the Gulf Stream. One particular study which FAU is conducting focuses on observing how schools of fish approach and react to man-made devices in the water column. FAU will test its own turbine as well as private companies. It has nondisclosure agreements with over 40 private companies, only 10 of which have prototypes prepared for testing and experimentation (Sagastume 2014).

http://i1.wp.com/cleantechnica.com/files/2012/04/gulf-stream-e1335437138291.jpg?resize=500%2C314

http://i1.wp.com/cleantechnica.com/files/2012/04/gulf-stream-e1335437138291.jpg?resize=500%2C314

One company in particular, Firth Tidal Energy LTD—a sub-company of Ocean Current Energy, has captured the attention of many developers and energy companies as it plans to test a tidal turbine design in cooperation with FAU and its lease. Firth Tidal Energy was granted a permit to begin construction of the “largest turbine array in Europe” in the Pentland Firth which lies between Orkney and the Scottish mainlandin September of 2013 and have since begun the deployment process. Engineers and from Edinburgh and Oxford assessed the potential for energy harnessing in the Firth and found that there is potential to harness 4.2GW of energy from this stretch of water. Further calculations which took into consideration turbine efficiency and other factors reduced this number but the engineers found that the tidal farm could harness an astonishing 1.9GW of clean energy (BBC 2014). This energy would be enough to power nearly half (43%) of Scotland. Bruce Heafitz, CEO of Firth Tidal Energy and Ocean Current Energy has exciting plans for the Gulf Stream as plans to test a honeycomb-shaped tidal device which is constructed of Kevlar and carbon fiber. This device utilizes a combination of numerous small turbines and the Kevlar/carbon fiber casing. Heafitz and his team plan to use mooring line to suspend the tidal energy device and place it near the surface where “the current is equivalent to 200 mile-an-hour wind force.” This revolutionary device has potential to change the way tidal turbines are constructed and designed based on its success. Heafitz claims that the smaller turbine design will be both easier and cheaper to construct and maintain (Sagastume 2014).

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/10/30/article-1325152-0BD71B60000005DC-891_468x284_popup.jpg

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/10/30/article-1325152-0BD71B60000005DC-891_468x284_popup.jpg

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/7/14/gulf-stream-energy.html

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/7/14/gulf-stream-energy.html

The recent developments of the FAU lease are exciting and provide hope for the development of tidal energy devices and technologies not only in the U.S., but also around the world. Although the university was granted a relatively small area in which to experiment, the lease has potential to facilitate an offshore energy research center in the U.S. As of now the main research center for marine energy exists in Europe as the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC). Hopefully researchers in cooperation with FAU will be successful in improving tidal energy devices as well as furthering the understanding of marine life and the possible anthropogenic affects.

Citations:

 

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Jul 22 2014

Desalination: reconclining fresh water needs with energy demand

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The Water-Energy Nexus has become an increasingly nascent consideration for innovating solutions to environmental problems and managing natural resources. The term simply explains the inextricable connection between water and energy, meaning sources of one are often required by the presence of the other (Gliek 1994.) Fresh water resources is now considered one scarcest natural resources on earth. Particularly in coastal areas, the decreasing availability of fresh water opposes growing resource demands with an increasing population. As a result, water utility companies have chartered the exploration of desalination technologies. However, coinciding with the reality of the Water-Energy nexus, many desalination processes are scrutinized for having both water and energy intensive technologies. Thus, evaluations of coastal desalination projects are crucial for assessing both the environmental and economic feasibility for employing desalination as an effective method of water resource management.

Schematic of the Water-Energy Nexus (Vox Global)

Schematic of the Water-energy Nexus (Vox Global)

Desalination Processes               

While desalination accounts for only 2% of the world’s fresh water consumption, it has seen a tremendous growth rate of 15% per year (Tal, 2011.) Desalination occurs through two primary technologies: distillation and reverse osmosis. The primary distillation technology is known as multiple effect distillation (MED) in which salt water is condensed and evaporated through multiple cells at low pressures (Martin-Lagardette, 2001.) Although this technology is seemingly simple when translated to large installations, the energy benefits are largely negligible with increasing scale (Martin-Lagardette, 2001.) Consequently, reverse osmosis (RO) technologies are widely utilized in large scale operations. RO technologies use several consecutive permeable membranes to manipulate the movement of salts in opposite directions under conditions of tremendous pressure, which creates fresh water and concentrated wastewater  (Tal, 2011.) Thus, one potential environmental impact from RO plants is found in the high salt concentrations of brine (wastewater) accrued in production. In some cases, the high salinity of brine is much greater than that of seawater, which could pose a threat for the dynamics of benthic communities and marine organisms (Tal, 2011.) However, impacts on both economic and energy costs posit greater threats to environmental prosperity.

Desalination in Israel

The arid conditions of the Mediterranean in collusion with ubiquitous proximity to large bodies of saltwater present ideal geographical and climatic conditions for desalination technology. For Israel, its controversial foreign policy track record validates its candidacy for desalination, such that with by domestic fresh water resources, political vulnerability is minimized. Israel uses reverse osmosis technology in their three largest desalination plants, which produced 300 million cubic meters of fresh water per day in 2011 and are arguably the most efficiency facilities in the world (Tal, 2011) Moreover, Ashkelon, Israel’s largest desalination facility, is a self-sufficient energy generation plant (Tal, 2011.) Conversely, the other dominant facilities in Israel rely on electricity from the coal-dominated grid system (Tal, 2011.) To put this in perspective, one of these grid reliant systems requires 60 megawatts per hour of electricity, which can generate greenhouse gases comparable to a city of 45,000 people (Tal, 2011.)

 

http://www.ide-tech.com/case-study/ashkelon-project/

Aerial view of the Ashkelon Desalination Facility (IDE Technology)

Additionally, private financiers of Israeli projects often retain contractual ownership rights in exchange for covering capital costs (Tal, 2011) As a consequence, the costs of desalinized water often reflect energy prices used to power the facilities, creating highly variable water costs dependent on rising energy prices (Tal, 2011.) Therefore, the exorbitant energy demands of and subsequent impacts on climate change call into question the economic and environmental sustainability of widespread desalination in Israel.

The Australian Strategy: Renewable Desalination Generation

The Australian climate historically oscillates between periods of drought and flooding. However, the severity and duration of either extreme is increasingly exacerbated by climate change, creating great stress on fresh water supplies. In 2005, amidst the country’s worst drought in history, the government declared its intentions to build a $2 billion desalination facility in the capital Sydney (Tal, 2011.) Australia was the first nation to power its desalination plants exclusively through renewable energy technologies, which accounted for the great increases in construction costs. Consequently, estimations during construction predicted that the cost of desalinized water would reach $2 per cubic meter of water when including costs of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions (Tal, 2011.) In reality, consumers only saw an increase of approximately $110 per year over a five year period. (Tal, 2011.)

Despite the positive outcomes from reducing carbon emissions, critics of the project claim that employing supply-side solutions to water scarcity problems encourages the continuation of wasteful consumption, rather than promoting adaptive behaviors within technical and social spheres (Tal, 2011.) This argument comes back to a central paradox of desalination, such that it is a solution utilized by developed countries to extend water-inefficient consumption patterns rather than reducing demand through widespread social initiatives. In other words, desalination adds economic and philosophical complexity to the cycle of water-energy interdependence, even in efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Conclusions

The different experiences and results of desalination provide variable evidence when assessing long term viability of desalination. In many cases, initial environmental impact assessments have not translated into having any significant impact on marine ecosystems. Thus, questions of energy demands bring about the most poignant concerns for environmental feasibility. The advent of renewable energy innovation complicit with advances in desalination technologies could alleviate reliance on fossil energy demand, but conversely stands to increase water costs in the long term.

 

Citations

Tal, A. (2011). The Desalination Debate: Lessons Learned Thus Far. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 53(5), 34–48. Retrieved from http://scholar.google.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/scholar?q=the%20desalination%20debate%20lessons%20learned%20thus%20far

 

Martin-Lagardette, J. L. (2001). Desalination of Seawater . Water and Energy Management , 18–20. Retrieved from http://www.wqpmag.com/sites/default/files/Desalination_4_01.pdf

 

Gleick, P. H. (1994). Water and Energy  . Annual Review of Energy and Environment, 19(1), 267–299. Retrieved from http://www.annualreviews.org.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.eg.19.110194.001411

Images:

http://voxglobal.com/2011/03/the-energy-water-nexus-an-emerging-risk/

IDE Technology . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ide-tech.com/case-study/ashkelon-project/

 
Vox Global . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://voxglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/Energy-Water-blog.gif

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Jul 21 2014

Blue Carbon – A Sequestration Mechanism in Decline

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As carbon dioxide remains one of the most targeted and analyzed compounds contributing to both Earth’s natural and anthropogenic greenhouse effect and subsequent global warming, scientists and citizens alike turn to the abilities of natural features to engage in carbon sequestration to capture and store detrimental atmospheric carbon. There are many approaches to deal with CO2 abundance issues such as: geoengineering practices, carbon capture from flue gases to be stored in underground reservoirs, and biogeochemical cycling that moves carbon between the atmosphere and natural land formation reservoirs. In acknowledging these feats of natural phenomenon coupled with scientific achievement, the concept of ‘blue carbon’ emerges as an increasingly salient mechanism that aids in the sequestration of atmospheric carbon into ocean ecosystems. Although it is the common belief that the ocean has a nearly infinite ability to assist in removal of harmful CO2 particles emitted naturally and through anthropogenic activities, this is clearly not the case, as evidence resounds from the scientific community exemplifying the declining rates and ability of carbon sequestration by some of earth’s most critical vegetated coastal ecosystems, a direct result of habitat destruction.

Picture1

http://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/oceanography/ocean-earth-system/ocean-carbon-cycle/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oceanic Carbon Cycle

Although commonly accepted scientific data and corresponding figures attribute fossil fuel combustion as the largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere, another major contribution proceeds from acts of deforestation and land use conversion, estimated to be the source for 8-20% of international emission totals (van der Werf GR, 2009). This concept has recently been expounded upon, further attributing GHG emissions to the ‘use’ of vegetated coastal ecosystems, thus disturbing carbon deposited both in the underlying sediments as well as the various organic matter found in these networks. The carbon stocks residing in these storehouses or pools are entitled ‘blue carbon’, and while there are no exact data sets to produce a precise quantitative measure, current studies reveal better figures and enhance predictions, lending insight as to the detrimental effects of GHG leaching that results from the degradation and loss of these ecosystems. As is often the case in dealings of policy, politicians designate a certain extent of neglect or mistrust to relevant but newly released and comparatively under-reviewed data, and thus the protection of blue carbon systems has gone mostly unaddressed in the political realm.

carbon_cycle

http://www.habitat.noaa.gov/coastalcarbonsequestration.html

In terms of geographic situation, there are three main regions where carbon deposits can be found in high density among vegetated portions of coastal wetlands. Tidal (or salt) marshes can be found throughout all climactic regions, while sea grass beds range from polar waters to tropic regions, and mangroves appear only in the tropics and sub-tropics. These areas cover a total of about 49 million hectares, thus lending a range of services from recreational activities, such as fishing, to environmental protection through buffering nearby coastlines and absorbing carbon emissions and other atmospheric pollutants (Barbier EB, 2011). Because of habitat conversion and land-use of these ecosystems, anthropogenic accelerated changes over the last century have produced a 25-50% decline in total area of each type, internationally (McLeod E, 2011). In terms of the current annual scale, scientists have placed estimates of vegetated coastal ecosystem degradation at approximately 0.5-3% per year. To be more specific, pooling the resources presented and cited throughout this review provides that the current rates of global vegetated coastal ecosystem land loss is about 1-2% annually for tidal marshes, 0.4-2.6% for seagrasses, and 0.7-3% for mangroves (McLeod E, 2011). Although this number varies with the type of region as listed above, the decline translates to about 8000 square kilometers per annum. If projections for the next 100 years are made based upon these figures, the above statistics translate to a 30-40% decline in tidal marshes and seagrasses, and even more severe deterioration to mangroves, reaching up between 90 and 100% (Waycott M, 2009). In a modern era where a growing proportion of nations are installing and commissioning renewable energy sources to address problems posed by the presence of previously emitted greenhouse gases, understanding the necessity of blue carbon mechanisms and abating the degradation of their respective environments could prove pivotal to reducing the stressors brought on by global warming.

Picture3Picture4Picture5

Citations:

  • Barbier EB, Hacker SD, Kennedy C, Koch EW, Stier AC, et al. (2011) The value of estuarine and coastal ecosystem services. Ecological Monographs 81:169–193.
  • van der Werf GR, Morton DC, DeFries RS, Olivier JGJ, Kasibhatla PS, et al. (2009) CO2 emissions from forest loss. Nature Geoscience 2: 737–738.
  • McLeod E, Chmura GL, Bouillon S, Salm R, Bjork M, et al. (2011) A blueprint for blue carbon: toward an improved understanding of the role of vegetated coastal habitats in sequestering CO2. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9: 552–560.
  • Waycott M, Duarte CM, Carruthers TJB, Orth RJ, Dennison WC, et al. (2009) Accelerating loss of seagrasses across the globe threatens coastal ecosystems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 106: 12377–12381.

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Jul 25 2013

Lessons from ‘Cape Spin!’

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Cape Spin, a documentary by Robbie Gemmel and John Kirby neutrally follows the back and forth struggle between opponents and supporters of the proposed 130-turbine wind farm to be placed in Nantucket Sound. Having primarily learned about the environmental impacts and the logistical side of finding suitable locations for wind farms in an academic setting, I found this documentary to be an incredible asset for explaining the social aspects that make alternative energy development so difficult.

The film begins at the very start of the dispute, back in 2001 when the director of Cape Wind, James Gordon publicly announced the planned development of 170 turbines in Nantucket Sound. Through interviews with local residents of Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard as well as lobbyists (both for and against) and reporters following the story, the film directors are able to show the complex relationships between the public, the politicians, and the developers. Over the ten years that the film follows, the audience sees the spectrum from Congressional floor battles, New England Yacht races, alternative proposals for clean energy, and the tension between the federal government and the Wampanoag tribe.  It concludes in 2011 with the Obama administration’s Department of the Interior’s announcement that Cape Wind would be granted permission to continue development.

 

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/7932720[/vimeo]

The New York Times professes its lukewarm approval in their May review citing the film’s ‘studied neutrality’ as a negative quality. The co-director himself comments below the article rebutting the claim:

We suppose our only option in the future is to hold the hand of our audiences while we beat them over the head with our point of view.- John Kirby

The staunch neutrality of the film illustrates for audiences the multitude of public and private interests at stake with the development of alternative energy as opposed to similar documentaries that have an obvious bias, such as Gaslands (2010) which was firmly anti-fracking. ‘Cape Spin’ highlights the importance of involving locals in the entire process when dramatically altering the infrastructure of an area. Cape Cod fishermen voice well-founded concerns that the construction in the sound, particularly Horseshoe Shoals will significantly impact their livelihood. Other opponents cite how the introduction of a more expensive form of energy will raise the overall price for consumers. All of these are relevant concerns and ‘Cape Spin!’ has done a fantastic job of balancing the political voices with these relatable worries, particularly for anyone living in a coastal area where offshore wind may be developed.

Filming wrapped up in late 2010 and 2011, so what has happened since then?

The Cape Wind project website claims they will begin construction before the end of 2013 and there was a recent announcement that it has received $200 million in funding from PensionDenmark.  Siemens is backing the development as well. However with 10 years of dispute as precedent, there are still new opponents seemingly coming out of the woodwork to continue fueling the debate. ‘Cape Spin’ skillfully captures the many issues facing offshore wind energy development, still in its early days. Interest is gaining momentum in Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Cape Spin! is an important documentary for alternative energy enthusiasts, students, and developers to watch. It is witty and engaging, but most importantly, it presents all sides of the issue with equal weight. A common complaint has been that the 3rd option, of more local, co-op, or individual wind energy development rather than power company investments, was not given enough attention. For the size of the project, no local municipality could foot a  $2.6 billion dollar energy project, so the alternative option of going local with offshore wind energy of that scale seems unreasonable at this time.  More people need to consider their stances on these issues before it becomes an battle, and developers must do all they can to work with the residents of these areas of interest.

 

Sources:

Burr, Ty “Cape Spin: An American Power Struggle” June 15, 2013 Boston Globe:

Cape Wind Project Timeline c 2012

Gold, Daniel M. “Battle of Bullhorns as Wind Project Beckons” May 16, 2013 NY Times 

Guillen, Alex “After much delay, offshore wind set to sail.” June 28, 2013 Politico

Lindsay, Jay “Cape Wind gets $200M investment from Danish Fund” July 17, 2013 R&D

Marcacci, Silvia “Virginia’s Coastline Could Soon be Home to 2GW of Offshore Wind” July 24, 2013 Clean Technica

Sullivan, Jack “A New Mysterious Cape Wind Foe” July 11, 2013 Commonwealth 

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Jul 24 2013

Advancement wtih Anacondas

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Ocean wave energy is certainly gaining popularity around the world but it is still in its beginning stages. There are many different prototypes of machines that have been tested in the recent years and some do well but others don’t do very well. Therefore, no design has been come up with yet that is widely accepted as the best and most efficient wave energy converter. However, the Wave Anaconda might just be that break through that wave energy machines need.

Picture of the Wave Anaconda

Picture of the Wave Anaconda

Although wave energy devices seem pretty promising, they are definitely trailing offshore wind and tidal devices in terms of power generation. The main reason for this is that devices that generate their electricity by way of a turbine appear to be more efficient than any other type of energy generating system. Offshore wind and tidal devices almost all use turbines as their bases for power take off, wave energy devices however, do not. But that is where the Wave Anaconda comes in. It is one the first wave energy prototypes that uses a turbine, almost directly spun by wave energy as its power takeoff mechanism. Most of the other types of wave energy devices use the simple motion of a surge flap, a buoy, the entire device itself, or an indirect way to turn a turbine  to generate electricity. The designers of the Wave Anaconda on the other hand were able to come with a way to take the energy of a wave and directly make it turn a turbine. The wave anaconda is a large rubber tube full of water with a power generating system at the tail end. This tube is aligned so that the tail is pointing in the direction of the wave flow. When a wave passes the front of the devices is creates a bulge inside the rubber tube that travels all the way down to the tail of the structure. When the bulge reaches the tail it enters a high-pressure accumulator that speeds up the velocity of the water in the bugle wave. That high velocity water then turns a turbine, which in tern generates electricity. (For a more detail description of how the Anaconda work you can read a paper done by J. R. Chaplin and others titled, Development of the ANACONDA all-rubber WEC). Where most single wave energy devices produce power in the kilowatts, a single wave anaconda can produce up to a megawatt of power. Just image all the power a whole sea of these over-sized worms could generate.

Untitled

Picture of power takeoff mechanism

Picture of power takeoff mechanism

So the Wave Anaconda’s main advantage over most other wave energy devices is that it generates electricity through the turning of a turbine. It does however have other advantages as well. Because of its relatively simple design, the Anaconda is moderately inexpensive to make and easy to install. It can be coiled up so it can fit on a normal sized barge and not need a special boat to carry it around, and all you really need to do to install it is attach a more from front side of the device to the seabed. The estimated price of a Wave Anaconda is about 1.3 millon pounds, which seems like a lot, but if you compare it to the Oyster, one of the more well known surge converters, which costs 2.5 million pounds, it doesn’t seem so bad.

Let me say the Wave Anaconda is not the only wave energy device that uses a turbine to generate power, the Oyster as mentioned above uses one and the Wave Dragon, an over topping model, also uses one. However after saying that, the wave Anaconda produces more power than the Oyster and is less expensive. The Anaconda does not make as much power as the Wave Dragon but the Dragon also costs 12 million dollars to make. So, the Anaconda produces a lot of power for its cost, because it is directly able to turn a turbine by wave energy, and that is why I believe is it the future of wave energy devices.

Sources and links:

Chaplin, J. R., F. J. M. Farley, M. E. Prentice, R. C. T. Rainey, S. J. Rimmer, and A. T. Roach. “Development of the ANACONDA all-rubber WEC.” Proc. 7th EWTEC (2007).

http://knowledge.allianz.com/environment/energy/?247/ocean-energy-from-the-oyster

Overtopping Terminator

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Jul 17 2013

Frack: Forget the Facts

The passing of the Fracking bill was news in North Carolina. Its passage had many outraged because of how quickly the legislation passed and how heavily influenced by private energy companies the passing was. The influence was blatant when the state Mining and Energy Commission approved a move to have energy companies disclose some the chemicals they are using in the process and Halliburton , a heavyweight in the energy industry, pressured the commission into withdrawing it. This is just a small example of the free-wheeling legislature that is very weak or non-existent for power companies to follow when using this relatively new form of energy extraction. The NC legislature, in particular Sen. Rucho, will have to come to terms with their decision for allowing fracking as of October 2014. This is the current deadline for regulations on fracking to be created in our state and it is fast approaching (more information on fracking and the legislature: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/north-carolina-fracking-wastewater-questions_n_3237895.html).

What concerns many citizens is that the majority of the reserves are in the Piedmont or the mountains and the bedrock there does not absorb as well as a more silt and sand based ground found in the Coastal Plains of the state. With the coastal plains having more absorbent soil, the plains will mostly become the wasteland for the fracking fluids from the more western lands in the state. This is particularly dangerous to choose the coastal plains because the disposal methods for fracking are grossly, and in some cases, disgustingly under researched and managed (more on coastal damage: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/north-carolina-fracking-wastewater-questions_n_3237895.html). So far, the chemical-laden water from fracking has been spread on roads because of its salty properties, dumped in open pits (impoundments), injected in the ground, or sent to regular water treatment plants ill-equipped to deal with those kinds of chemicals. The chemicals sent to the ill-equipped treatment plants are not truly processed and can lead the toxic chemicals to being sent directly into surface water. This exposes large areas of the environment to major damage considering the toxins and radioactive properties of many of the chemicals (more information on poor management of chemicals: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/rhammer/frackings_aftermath_wastewater.html).

Deteriorated water quality is a serious possibility with incorrect chemical dumping.

The State of Ohio is coming up on some of the logistic problems associated with fracking because they are on land similar to the NC Piedmont and cannot inject the chemicals into the ground because it will not be absorbed. They are likely going to have to dump in the Appalachians. Secondly, they are seeing how grossly unprepared the legislature is to deal with the human rights, land rights, and the strong arming the energy companies are prepared to do to make more money off the reserves. Some landowners were forced to accept the drilling of fracking on their land and get paid or they become a part of the parties responsible for the clean-up of the machinery left behind including the ruined water sources (more info on damaged drinking water: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LBjSXWQRV8). The biggest problem of all though is when someone agrees to have the chemicals injected into their land or drilling done, the toxic water can no longer be controlled once bedrock is cracking. This means the process can cross property boundaries, seep into water sources, and create environment and legal troubles that in some cases cannot be fixed (more information: http://sustainability.thomsonreuters.com/2012/09/27/litigating-the-aftermath-of-fracking-in-ohio/).  What is worse is the NC legislature is contemplating turning over the anti-drilling legislature to protect the state from irresponsible drilling for the fracking endeavors. It not only opens the door for irresponsible fracking but well storage. The improper storage of materials in a well can become a major problem when other states like Ohio looking for places to dump their toxic fracking water because our state could become a dumping ground for fracking projects across the nation (more info: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/north-carolina-fracking-wastewater-questions_n_3237895.html).

NC residents are not ignorant to the dangers associated with fracking which induced the legislature to add a 43-page bill that acts more as the duct tape around the fracking bill that passed and has many holes (more info on that bill: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/blog/state/x1065838522/AP-NC-Senate-bill-adds-divisive-new-fracking-measures). Since the infrastructure for fracking is already beginning, there have been protests at a chemical plant in Morgantown, NC who will be producing the fracking chemicals for energy companies drilling in the state. The citizens are trying to stop fracking before it begins. The protesters were so persistent that arrests did occur which is a sign that this anti-fracking movement is far from over with the citizens (more info on protesting citizens: http://wunc.org/post/croatan-earth-first-protests-fracking-western-nc).

This is a simplified example of how the chemically laden water is injected into the ground and energy source is extracted.

I feel this situation could be completely avoided if the magnitude of the energy business lobby could be reduced, politicians could hear more independent voices, and listen to what is in the best interest of the state for the long-term. For instance, the reserves in NC were downgraded to only 5 years of reserves which is much below the original projection. Additionally, the possible human rights infringements and property damage incurred from the uncontrollabletoxic water is a headache no one wants, especially in an agriculturally based state like ours. Additionally, the problem with storing your chemicals in the coastal region is that we have so many aquifers, water basins, and coastline that are beautiful and the toxins can easily leak into those water sources and travel into the estuaries and eventually the ocean if large quantities of the water is injected into the ground. This is an even greater problem if we accept fracking water from other states since larger amounts of the fluid will be stored.  What really struck me is Rep. Rick Catlin suggesting we rather view water as the new gold over conventional energy sources. As places like the American West are drying out, there is much to be said for the importance of having clean water sources that can bring in more business to our state than a single, small energy source like fracking. We have to be smarter than what the energy companies are telling us. If you frack and forget, you will always remember it.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8864938/Protesters-vow-to-stop-fracking-after-energy-company-admits-causing-earthquakes.html

Biobliography

  • Associated Press, 2013, “AP: NC Senate Bill Adds Divisive New Fracking Measures.” The Herald-Sun. The Herald Sun, 25 June 2013. Web. 14 July 2013. <http://www.heraldsun.com/news/blog/state/x1065838522/AP-NC-Senate-bill-adds-divisive-new-fracking-measures>.
  • Hammer, Becky, 2012, “Fracking’s Aftermath: Wastewater Disposal Methods Threaten Our Health & Environment.” Switchboard: Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog. Natural Resources Defense Council, 9 May 2012. Web. 14 July 2013. <http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/rhammer/frackings_aftermath_wastewater.htm
  • Malewitz, Jim, 2013, “North Carolina Fracking Options Leave Looming Questions About Wastewater.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 08 May 2013. Web. 14 July 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/north-carolina-fracking-wastewater-questions_n_3237895.html>.
  • O’Reilly, James T., 2013, “Litigating the Aftermath of Fracking in Ohio.” Sustainability. Thomson Reuters, 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 14 July 2013. <http://sustainability.thomsonreuters.com/2012/09/27/litigating-the-aftermath-of-fracking-in-ohio/>.
  • Tiberii, Jeff, 2013, “Croatan Earth First! Protests Fracking in Western NC.” WUNC. North Carolina Public Radio, 8 July 2013. Web. 14 July 2013. <http://wunc.org/post/croatan-earth-first-protests-fracking-western-nc>.

Pictures and Video

 

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Jul 13 2013

Awesome Osmosis

Published by under Uncategorized

Oceanic renewable energy is becoming more and more popular as we have discovered the vast amounts of energy that is contained in the ocean. A great many of techniques and strategies have been brooding in the minds of scientists to harness all of this energy, and one of the most interesting and intriguing ideas is extracting energy by way of osmosis. This process includes pumping seawater into a chamber that is sitting in fresh water and has a semipermeable membrane. Water diffuses into the chamber as a result of the differences in osmotic pressure between fresh and seawater. This causes an increase in volume inside the chamber, which in turn increases the pressure which then turns a turbine.

This type of renewable energy is so fascinating because of all the advantages it has over other oceanic renewable energy sources. First of all, the source of the energy is always constant. The rivers flowing into the ocean will always continue to flow unless they are somehow dried up. Wind, however, is not always constant; sometimes it will be there in full force but other times it may merely be able to make a turbine quiver. Waves are also variable in their strength. Another huge advantage of energy by osmosis is the location of the power plants. The plants are located on land where rivers meet the ocean. This location has two big upsides. The first one is that many big cities are built next to large rivers on the coast meaning that the electricity will not have far to travel from the plant; this will cut down on energy lost due to transportation. The other advantage of this location is the cost of production and maintenance. Workers won’t to have to travel out far into the ocean to build and or fix the plants (as the plants are on land), and the facilities will not have to endure the torturous open ocean, unlike wind turbines and wave buoys.

First osmosis power plant build in Norway

A third advantage of extracting energy by way of osmosis is that it won’t interfere much with the cycles of life. The pressure created by the osmosis is what is actually being used to spin the turbine not the energy in the flow of the water. Once the water is done being used it will be released back into the ocean therefore not interfering too much with the cycle of rivers flowing into the ocean. Wind turbines however generate their power directly from the energy of the wind. This physically takes some of the wind out of the air, which could effect the wind cycles.

So not only is the idea of extracting energy by way of osmosis a very interesting concept, it also has many advantages to it and seems like a very promising source of renewable energy for the future.

Sources:

“Power of Osmosis used to Deliver Eco-Friendly Energy” The Guardian, November 25, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/25/osmosis-plant-emission-free-energy (July 12, 2013)

Roger Bernard and others, June 2010, An Overview of Ocean Renewable Technologies, (July 12, 2013)

Rachel Nuwer, April 2012, A Jones for Osomsis; New Potential Power in Rivers’ Flow to Sea, Renewableenergyworld.com, http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/04/a-jones-for-osmosis-new-potential-for-power-in-rivers-flow-to-sea (July 12, 2013)

 

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