Castro exits  

Posted by Big Gav

Fidel Castro must have died a reasonably happy man, having managed to defy an endless succession of US governments determined to kill him.

I've never been to Cuba so I never formed a strong opinion of him or his government, but they did seem to be remarkably effective in areas like healthcare even if they weren't so effective at creating material prosperity.

The hapless BBC interviewer in the video below made me laugh - a classic demonstration of our post truth era. She couldn't manage to deliver even a half coherent official government propaganda line.

German Leaders at Odds with Industry over Electric Cars  

Posted by Big Gav in

Der Spiegel has an article on the slow progress German carmakers are making towards switching to electric vehicles - German Leaders at Odds with Industry over Electric Cars.

With the trend in electric cars picking up, and not just in China, Berlin government circles are increasingly worried that the apparent technological dominance of Daimler, BMW and other German carmakers could soon be a thing of the past. Germany's industry value is being "put to the test" on a "scale that perhaps hasn't yet been totally registered," Chancellor Angela Merkel warned last week in parliament. Economics Minister Gabriel, who is also Merkel's deputy chancellor, pleaded with the industry "to preserve car manufacturing as the leading industry in Germany and Europe." An internal report from his ministry also warned that the companies in question are falling behind in the development of key electromobility components.

Two-wheel takeover: bikes outnumber cars for the first time in Copenhagen  

Posted by Big Gav in

The Guardian has an article on Copenhagen's switch from cars to cycling - Two-wheel takeover: bikes outnumber cars for the first time in Copenhagen.

Bicycle sensors in Copenhagen clocked a new record this month: there are now more bikes than cars in the heart of the city. In the last year, 35,080 more bikes have joined the daily roll, bringing the total number to 265,700, compared with 252,600 cars.

Over in the Netherlands, the Dutch are already reaching the point at which bike traffic is overtaking car traffic. In Amsterdam, 48% of city-centre trips are pedal-powered, while in Groningen’s core, bikes are used for 61% of all trips.

1 GW Solar PV array, the world’s largest, comes on line in China  

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Looks like the Indian PV plant touted as the world's largest at 648 MW has lost its crown very quickly to a much larger Chinese installation - 1 GW PV array, the world’s largest, comes on line.

The same solution but on a much larger scale has now been applied at the gigantic Yanchi, Ningxia, solar park, which came on line in September this year and is at 1000 MW the largest contiguous array in the world. Originally planned as a 2 GW array, the park currently contains 1 GW of solar panels controlled by SUN2000-40KTL and SUN2000-50KTL smart PV controllers with internal connection via a smart PV wireless transmission system.

IEA World Energy Outlook 2016  

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The IEA has released the 2016 version of their annual world energy outlook report - World Energy Outlook 2016.

The report has prompted a spate of articles about "peak oil demand" (with earlier reports from the Economist and WSJ being joined this week by Forbes, Bloomberg and The FT).

Other than speculation about when demand-driven peak oil production will occur, attention concentrated on:

1. Chinese coal use peaking in 2013 - China's coal use likely peaked in 2013 amid rapid shift to renewables, global energy report says (ABC).

2. Wind and solar will contribute will become the dominant source of energy in most major economies within two decades - IEA makes mockery of Turnbull’s renewable energy scare campaign (RNE).

3. Oil production from conventional non-OPEC fields and oil sands will drop by 6.1 million barrels a day by 2040 (although they still predict overall production will rise) - How Big Oil Loses Even Without Peak Demand (Bloomberg).

4. Fatih Birol says"We see clear winners for the next 25 years — natural gas but especially wind and solar — replacing the champion of the previous 25 years, coal" - Renewables & Natural Gas Win Out In World Energy Outlook, But Investors Must Not Misread Oil Demand (Cleantechnica).

5. A combination of efficiency and deployment of renewables has decoupled economic growth from carbon emissions - Massive report details the energy economy that limits warming to 2°C (Ars Technica).

Key Glacier In West Antarctica Breaking Apart From Inside Out  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

CleanTechnica has an article on danger signs emerging on the west antarctic ice sheet - Key Glacier In West Antarctica Breaking Apart From Inside Out — “We May See Significant Collapse Of West Antarctica In Our Lifetimes”.

One of the key glaciers in West Antarctica, as far as the stability of the ice sheet there, Pine Island Glacier, was the site of an enormous 225-square mile iceberg calving in 2015. New research from Ohio State University has determined that this event was even more notable than first thought, as it was the result of a deep, subsurface crack that had formed approximately 20 miles inland — nowhere directly near the calving event.

What this means is that the the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is becoming more unstable far inland, rather than just at the edges in, or near, direct contact with the ocean — very likely due to mechanisms similar to those witnessed in Greenland in recent years. As the bottom of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet actually lies below sea level, relatively warm ocean water can make it far inland, unseen, slowly eroding the foundations — causing increased ice sheet flow, mobility, breakage, and general instability.

Dawn in the desert ?  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , , ,

During the mid-noughties I thought that solar thermal power was going to become in the dominant form of renewable energy in the medium term - failing to foresee just how dramatic the price and performance improvements for solar PV and energy storage would be over the following decade.

Back then a vision called Desertec promised cheap, clean north African solar power providing Europe with a healthy slice of its energy needs (and reducing dependence on Russian gas as a side benefit).

The vision slowly faded as it become clearer that Europe could be largely self-sufficient in renewable energy and that building the grid interconnects between Africa and Europe was going to take along time to eventuate. The organisation pivoting in 2013 to focus more on supplying local power demand, particularly in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

There have been some concerns voiced about the 2.25 GW Tunisian project at Tunur in particular, which still aims to export power to Europe in spite of local power shortages by 2018, via a HVDC interconnect to Malta.

The other major North African solar thermal plant under development is at Ouarzazate in Morocco, featuring in a recent BBC report - The colossal African solar farm that could power Europe.

Noor 1, the first phase of the Moroccan plant, has already surpassed expectations in terms of the amount of energy it has produced. ... Noor 2 will be similar to the first phase, but Noor 3 will experiment with a different design. Instead of ranks of mirrors it will capture and store the Sun’s energy with a single large tower, which is thought to be more efficient. Seven thousand flat mirrors surrounding the tower will all track and reflect the sun’s rays towards a receiver at the top, requiring much less space than existing arrangement of mirrors. Molten salts filling the interior of the tower will capture and store heat directly, doing away with the need for hot oil.

Similar systems are already used in South Africa, Spain and a few sites in the US, such as California’s Mojave desert and Nevada. But at 86ft (26m) tall, Ouarzazate’s recently erected structure is the highest of its kind in the world. Other plants in Morocco are already underway. Next year construction will begin at two sites in the south-west, near Laayoune and Boujdour, with plants near Tata and Midelt to follow.

The success of these plants in Morocco – and those in South Africa - may encourage other African countries to turn to solar power. South Africa is already one of the world’s top 10 producers of solar power and Rwanda is home to east Africa’s first solar plant, which opened in 2014. Large plants are being planned for Ghana and Uganda.

400 ultra-fast charging stations for electric vehicles on the way for Europe  

Posted by Big Gav in

Elektrek reports that Ford and a group of German car manufacturers are rolling out a network of fast charging stations in Europe - 5 major automakers join forces to deploy 400 ultra-fast (350 kW) charging stations for electric vehicles in Europe.

BMW, Daimler’s Mercedes, Ford, and Volkswagen’s Audi and Porsche announced today that they are creating a joint-venture with the goal of a “quick build-up of a sizable number of stations in order to enable long-range travel for battery electric vehicle drivers.” ...

The new network will be based on Combined Charging System (CCS) standard technology and each station will feature not only both level 2 AC chargers and level 3 DC chargers, but also the new ” ultra-fast high-powered chargers” and, like the ones of the Ultra E project, they will be able to deliver up to 350 kW – more than twice the capacity of the current best charger, Tesla’s Supercharger at 145 kW. 400 sites are apparently just the “initial target” of the joint-venture and deployment will start in 2017.

The automakers confirmed that every vehicle using the CCS standard will be able to use the new network – meaning that they will create an independent network. It reflects recent comments made by Porsche executives regarding the deployment of their new 800 volts charging system being compatible with other vehicles, like Tesla’s.

Tesla currently has just over 260 Supercharger stations in Europe, but it plans to almost double that number before the Model 3 arrives in Europe in 2018. Some good healthy competition in charging station deployment is likely to accelerate adoption.

India unveils the world's largest solar power plant  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

Al Jazeera has a report on India's massive Kamuthi solar PV power plant - India unveils the world's largest solar power plant.

The facility in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, has a capacity of 648 MW and covers an area of 10 sq km. This makes it the largest solar power plant at a single location, taking the title from the Topaz Solar Farm in California, which has a capacity of 550 MW. The solar plant, built in an impressive eight months and funded by the Adani Group, is cleaned every day by a robotic system, charged by its own solar panels.

The project is comprised of 2.5 million individual solar modules, and cost $679m to build. The new plant has helped nudge India's total installed solar capacity across the 10 GW mark.

Daimler to invest $11 billion in electronic vehicles  

Posted by Big Gav in

Reuters reports that Daimler is about to move into the electric vehicle market - Daimler to invest $11 billion in electronic vehicles.

uxury carmaker Daimler is planning to invest up to 10 billion euros in developing electric vehicles, its research and development head told a German daily. German firms are investing heavily in electric cars, once shunned for their high cost and limited operating range but now benefiting from recent advances in battery technology and a backlash against diesel fumes.

Danish wind nears 100% of demand over weekend  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

RNE reports that Danish wind power generation is getting close to power demand on good days - Graph of the Day: Danish wind nears 100% of demand over weekend.

Wind energy had a good run in Denmark over the weekend, with the nation’s wind farms at times generating enough electricity to meet demand over the course of Saturday, November 26. ...

Denmark – a world leader in both onshore and offshore wind power development – aims to have wind supply 50 per cent of electricity consumption by 2020. In 2015, wind energy supplied 42 per cent of domestic electricity consumption.

Since installing the world’s first offshore wind farm in 1991, the country has installed a total of 1,271MW offshore wind, which combined with its onshore wind capacity amounted to 5,070MW as at January 2016.

WSJ: Oil Industry Anticipates Peak Oil Day of Reckoning  

Posted by Big Gav in

The Wall Street Journal has an article on the looming prospect of peak oil demand - Oil Industry Anticipates Day of Reckoning.

Last month Shell finance chief Simon Henry caused a stir when he said the company sees oil demand peaking in five to 15 years. Shell’s latest published forecasts have consumption flattening toward the end of that period.

State-owned China National Petroleum Corp. quietly issued a report in the summer predicting that China’s oil consumption—a major driver of growth in recent decades—will begin to fall by 2030, if not sooner. Global demand is expected to follow suit.

The International Energy Agency, which advises industrialized countries on energy policy, says consumption will continue to rise for decades in its most likely scenario. But that picture shifts radically if governments take further action to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius with more stringent policies like carbon pricing, strict emissions limits and the removal of fossil-fuel subsidies. If that happens, oil demand could peak within the next 10 years, the IEA says.

“The question is more a question of when, rather than if,” Dominic Emery, BP’s vice president for long-term planning and policy, told the Economist Energy Summit in London this month. BP says oil demand could fall by the late 2020s if tougher emissions laws are enacted.

Arctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Guardian has a look at the melting arctic - Arctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level.

Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe. The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

The Economist on The future of oil  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The Economist has a special report on energy, looking at how to break the oil habit - The future of oil.

For all its staying power, oil may be facing its Model T moment. The danger is not an imminent collapse in demand but the start of a shift in investment strategies away from finding new sources of oil to finding alternatives to it. The immediate catalyst is the global response to climate change. An agreement in Paris last year that offers a 50/50 chance of keeping global warming to less than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, and perhaps limiting it to 1.5ºC, was seen by some as a declaration of war against fossil fuels.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), a global forecaster, says that to come close to a 2ºC target, oil demand would have to peak in 2020 at 93m barrels per day (b/d), just above current levels. Oil use in passenger transport and freight would plummet over the next 25 years, to be replaced by electricity, natural gas and biofuels. None of the signatories to the Paris accord has pledged such draconian action yet, but as the costs of renewable energy and batteries fall, such a transition appears ever more inevitable. “Whether or not you believe in climate change, an unstoppable shift away from coal and oil towards lower-carbon fuels is under way, which will ultimately bring about an end to the oil age,” says Bernstein, an investment-research firm.

Few doubt that the fossil fuel which will suffer most from this transition is coal. In 2014 it generated 46% of the world’s fuel-based carbon-dioxide emissions, compared with 34% for oil and 20% for natural gas. Natural gas is likely to be the last fossil fuel to remain standing, because of its relative cleanliness. Many see electricity powered by gas and renewables as the first step in an overhaul of the global energy system.

This special report will focus on oil because it is the biggest single component of the energy industry and the world’s most traded commodity, with about $1.5trn-worth exported each year. Half of the Global Fortune 500’s top ten listed companies produce oil, and unlisted Saudi Aramco dwarfs them all. Oil bankrolls countries that bring stability to global geopolitics as well as those in the grip of tyrants and terrorists. And its products fuel 93% of the world’s transport, so its price affects almost everyone.

Another article in the report looks out into the post oil future - When oil is no longer in demand.

As the world enters what could be the twilight of the oil age, some wonder whether Aberdeen’s travails could be a harbinger of things to come in oil-producing regions across the world. Mr Spence thinks so. He still runs the smartest hotel in Aberdeen and is about to install a charging station for electric vehicles. ...

Statoil, the Norwegian state oil company, has set an example of what oil companies might do in future. Earlier this year it acquired a lease to build the world’s largest floating wind farm 15 miles off the coast of Peterhead, north of Aberdeen. Each of its five 6MW turbines will be tethered to the seabed on a floating steel base, enabling it to operate in deeper water than a conventional turbine embedded into the sea floor. That will give it access to stronger winds farther offshore, making it cheaper to produce electricity.

A Trump adviser wants to scale back NASA’s ability to study climate change  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Vox has a report on a Trump "science" adviser speculating about cutting NASA's earth science research to cut down on all that annoying global warming data being captured (echoing the Australian government's attempts to purge itself of climate scientists) - A Trump adviser wants to scale back NASA’s ability to study climate change. As the UCS says - Bad decision !.

Donald Trump isn’t just vowing to undo US climate policies as president. His transition team is also talking about curtailing NASA’s ability to study climate change. ... In the piece, it becomes clear that what Walker really dislikes is NASA’s research on global warming, which he called “heavily politicized” without any justification. (Walker, who was the Republican chair of the House science committee from 1995 to 1997, claimed that “half” the world’s climatologists doubt the human role in global warming — that’s just not true at all.)

A move like this, if it actually happened, could be a big deal. Not only would it mean serious changes to America’s ability to study global warming, but it could affect a host of other key NASA programs that provide info on everything from weather to wildfires to drought and much more. And while any change to NASA’s budget would require congressional approval, plenty of Republicans in both the House and Senate are on board with removing the agency’s earth science programs.

LNG: Having spent $200bn to export gas, is Australia about to import it?  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

Now the Australian building boom for LNG plants (exporting natural gas from the north west and coal seam gas from the north east) is over, local utility AGL is wondering if the easiest source of gas in future may be LNG imports from elsewhere - LNG: Having spent $200bn to export gas, is Australia about to import it?.

In a 21st century variant of "selling coals to Newcastle", energy supplier AGL has flagged it may need to spend up to $300 million to build an LNG import depot to shield itself from soaring gas prices and increasing difficulty in finding reliable local supplies.

Solar Roads to Be Built on Four Continents Next Year  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

Bloomberg has an update on progress developing solar roads - Solar-Panel Roads to Be Built on Four Continents Next Year.

Electric avenues that can transmit the sun’s energy onto power grids may be coming to a city near you. A subsidiary of Bouygues SA has designed rugged solar panels, capable of withstand the weight of an 18-wheeler truck, that they’re now building into road surfaces. After nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, they’re constructing 100 outdoor test sites and plan to commercialize the technology in early 2018.

Canada to phase out coal-fired power by 2030  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Independent reports that Canada is looking to retire coal fired power within 15 years - Canada set to phase out coal-fired power by 2030.

Canada will close its coal-fired power plants by 2030 as part of its strategy to cut greenhouse gas emission under the Paris climate accord, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced on Monday.

The woodwide web  

Posted by Big Gav in

The Guardian has a review of a book called "The Hidden Life of Trees" by German forester Peter Wohlleben - The man who ​thinks trees talk to each other. Maybe they use "nature's internet" to communicate with each other ?

Trees have friends, feel loneliness, scream with pain and communicate underground via the “woodwide web”. Some act as parents and good neighbours. Others do more than just throw shade – they’re brutal bullies to rival species. The young ones take risks with their drinking and leaf-dropping then remember the hard lessons from their mistakes. It’s a hard-knock life.

Scottish mainland gets electricity from tidal power for first time  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The Independent has an update on Atlantis' 400MW Maygen tidal power project in Scotland - Scottish mainland gets electricity from tidal power for first time.

Scotland's mainland has received electricity from tidal power for the first time ever. A 1.5MW tidal stream turbine off the Caithness coast started operating last week, sending power back to the shore. Atlantis, the company behind project MayGen, hopes to eventually deploy up to 269 turbines, which will generate around 400MW of electricity.

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