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Two oil giants plunge into the wind business
John Donnelly, Boston Globe
WASHINGTON -- Two of the world's leading oil producers have almost overnight joined some of the biggest players in wind power in the United States, accelerating a trend of large corporations investing in the rapidly growing alternative-energy field.
As global warming and clean fuels have gained more attention, Shell Oil Co. and BP have accumulated impressive credentials. Shell is one of the nation's top five generators of wind power, while BP's Alternative Energy group -- launched 16 months ago -- aims to develop projects that produce 550 megawatts of electricity this year, one-sixth of the projected US wind energy output in 2007.
"Shell and BP see wind as an increasingly important part of the energy industry. They are looking to continue to grow," said Randall Swisher , executive director of the American Wind Energy Association , a Washington-based industry group. "They want to look for new opportunities, and wind is clearly in their sights." ..
Shell's Sweeney said he believes the concerns over global warming will be the biggest impetus for wind power investment. "We need to remember that fossil fuels are not going away. They will be with us for most of this century," he said. "We need to meet the energy challenge and do it an environmentally responsible way."
(2 Mar 2007)
Start-Up Fervor Shifts to Energy in Silicon Valley
Matt Richtel, Der Spiegel
After venture capitalists have begun pouring billions into energy-related start-ups, interest is now spilling over to many others in Silicon Valley. Lawyers, accountants and business school graduates all want a piece of the energy pie.
Silicon Valley's dot-com era may be giving way to the watt-com era. Out of the ashes of the Internet bust, many technology veterans have regrouped and found a new mission in alternative energy: developing wind power, solar panels, ethanol plants and hydrogen-powered cars.
It is no secret that venture capitalists have begun pouring billions into energy-related start-ups with names like SunPower, Nanosolar and Lilliputian Systems. But that interest is now spilling over to many others in Silicon Valley -- lawyers, accountants, recruiters and publicists, all developing energy-oriented practices to cater to the cause. ..
(13 March 2007)
Towards Renewables in the UAE
Sarah Rich, WorldChanging
The United Arab Emirates are seeing an astonishing explosion of building and development right now: Zaha Hadid's semi-biomorphic Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre; what will soon be the world's tallest building in Dubai; and the astounding/appalling man-made island development, The World, where a series of islands will recreate a map of the world in the Arabian Gulf (a different kind of "terraforming" than we've previously discussed).
All of it comes with a lining of luxury and a sense that the oil-rich UAE will be the 21st century's cosmopolitan trophy. But it also looks like it'll be the next Vegas, kicked up many notches; and another fantasyland of faux iconic structures in the middle of another desert doesn't sound like what the planet needs right now. A New York Times article a few days ago characterized the Vegasization of nearby Mecca as disastrous.
Fortunately, there are groups in the UAE who see that halting high-impact development and working towards greener building and operating strategies has to happen before the mushroom cloud of growth has finished its first spurt. Recently, word spread that Abu Dhabi plans to build a $350 million solar power plant. In a place that reaches 130 degrees fahrenheit in summer months, the plan makes a whole lot of sense, both because air conditioning demands skyrocket in that kind of heat, and because the scorching sun is a massive untapped energy source.
...So like everywhere, the race is heating up (along with the planet) to see if renewable energy initiatives can outrun the shadow of big energy corporations who still want to capitalize on hydrocarbons until the bitter end.
(13 March 2007)
I've just noticed a spate of good articles from Sarah Rich, the new Managing Editor of WorldChanging. She might be a good role model for young journalists who yearn for an alternative to corporate journalism. -BA
Suburban Solar Retrofit
Jeff Vail, A Theory of Power
It was a wonderful, spring-like day in Denver yesterday...75 degrees, sunny, the perfect excuse to sit on the back patio. With a diurnal temperature swing of 38 degrees at night, 75 in the day, heating and cooling my house seemed like distant concerns. Still, sitting out in the sun makes for a fine environment to brainstorm: How to best retrofit our nation's huge investment in suburbia?
I don't feel too hypocritical about my house. It isn't the straw-bale/adobe hybrid, passive-solar driven, food-forest enveloped home that I eventually hope to have, but it isn't exactly a McMansion either. It's 2300 square feet (while that may not seem small to most people, many of my neighbors come in at well over 6000 square feet of semi-custom goodness), and while it is in suburbia, it's very close to a light-rail station. I have a relatively efficient, natural-gas powered forced-air heater, and a high-efficiency air conditioner, but no matter how much they may have "efficiency" on the label, they are a problem. My utility bills are not exactly cheap in peak heating or cooling months (though quite affordable compared to the average around here). What to do?
The primary energy demands of my home--like most suburban homes--are for heating, cooling, and hot water, in that order. How can I retrofit my house to 1) save me money, 2) make me immune to future energy supply disruptions or price spikes, and 3) provide a positive example? Today I'll look at some solar options that I'm considering.
(13 March 2007)
White House Seeks to Cut Geothermal Research Funds
Bernie Woodall, Reuters
The Bush administration wants to eliminate federal support for geothermal power just as many U.S. states are looking to cut greenhouse gas emissions and raise renewable power output.
The move has angered scientists who say there is enough hot water underground to meet all U.S. electricity needs without greenhouse gas emissions. "The Department of Energy has not requested funds for geothermal research in our fiscal-year 2008 budget," said Christina Kielich, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy. "Geothermal is a mature technology. Our focus is on breakthrough energy research and development."
Last year, the DOE requested no funding for geothermal for the 2007 fiscal year, after funding averaged about $26 million over the previous six years, but Congress restored $5 million.
This year, the DOE's $24.3 billion budget request includes a 38 percent federal spending increase for nuclear power, but nothing for geothermal. Advocates say they hope Congress can restore at least $25 million in funding to keep geothermal research on track. ..
(14 March 2007)