My latest article in Earth Magazine co-authored by Michael Webber is now available online. Here’s an excerpt:
Humans have harnessed wind energy throughout history for milling, pumping and transportation — in a way you could say it’s the “original” form of industrial energy. But only recently have we built massive, powerful turbines to convert that wind into electricity. As concerns about pollution, carbon emissions, resource depletion and energy security mount, wind farms are an increasingly attractive alternative for meeting growing energy demand.
Unlike many other “solutions,” capturing the wind’s potential emits no hazardous wastes or greenhouse gases, and is an inexhaustible energy source. A boom in development has also created thousands of new jobs during a period when most industries are letting workers go. In 2009 alone, the American wind power industry grew by 39 percent and now accounts for 2 percent of electricity produced in the United States. The total resource in the U.S. central wind corridor could satisfy our total demand for electricity. In the last year, although many renewable technologies have taken a hit as the global economy continued to struggle, wind power — especially offshore wind power — seemed to do all right.
Offshore wind projects are particularly attractive because coastal wind tends to blow more reliably than onshore winds, especially in times of greater demand, such as hot summer afternoons. In addition, a significant fraction of the U.S. population lives near the coasts, so coastal wind farms are close to demand centers, obviating the need for transmission lines that are hundreds or thousands of kilometers long. Ideal conditions involve relatively shallow water, low wave heights and high-speed winds. Development has been rapid, but not uniform because each state must work within its own governance framework to establish the institutions to support them. In 2010, things have progressed in intriguing ways in Massachusetts and Texas, two states with very different perspectives on energy.
Read our full piece here…
The December Issue of EARTH Magazine is now on newsstands and inside you’ll find the latest article I wrote with Michael Webber entitled, A Tale of Two States: Offshore Wind in Texas and the Curious Case of Massachusetts. Our piece explores the ways that development of offshore technology has progressed in Massachusetts and Texas– two states with very different perspectives on energy. Here’s a short excerpt:
Offshore wind projects are particularly attractive because coastal wind tends to blow more reliably than onshore winds, especially in times of greater demand, such as hot summer afternoons. In addition, a significant fraction of the U.S. population lives near the coasts, so coastal wind farms are close to demand centers, obviating the need for transmission lines that are hundreds or thousands of kilometers long. Ideal conditions involve relatively shallow water, low wave heights and high-speed winds. Development has been rapid, but not uniform because each state must work within its own governance framework to establish the institutions to support them.
It’s an interesting comparison and the graphics in EARTH Magazine are great. I’ll also link to the full article when it becomes available online.
I’m glad to finally be able to announce that today I begin my new position at The University of Texas at Austin. I’m joining the Webber Energy Group as a research scientist at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy.
Here at The Intersection, I’ll be exploring a myriad of related topics from renewables to fossil fuels (including oil spills) to thermodynamics, and so much more. I’m really looking forward to the discussions that will ensue.
As I wrote last week, if we want to establish better energy institutions, it’s up to us to make it so. Given the enormous challenges we face, improving public understanding of related issues is a big part of the solution and more important than ever.
Some readers have already requested energy topics in a previous thread and I continue to be very interested in your questions. Also, if there are specific subjects you’d like to see covered, leave ideas in comments below.
With that, I’m off to work… Hook ‘Em Horns!
Well, I’m back. Over the past month, the devastating BP spill that began April 20th has become catastrophic in scale. And that’s an understatement.
When I checked on my inbox early May, it was overflowing with questions from our readers about oil’s impact on the marine realm, its potential to spread, and the long-term possibilities across sectors. Foremost, I want to thank Wallace J. Nichols and Philip Hoffman for posting in my absence when I asked them to provide details. Chris has also done a good job covering the reasons we should all be concerned about the 2010 hurricane forecast.
In short, the BP oil spill is as bad as it gets. It’s an unprecedented social, environmental, and economic disaster in the US. And it’s not over. The public seems to have expected that scientists and engineers would have a quick fix immediately–not surprising given that on television, problems take less than an hour to solve (with commercials). Now any fix will do, but no one’s sure what we’re dealing with 5000 feet below sea level. I haven’t kept up with all of the coverage while overseas, though I’m sure much of what I’d say about the tragedy itself would be repetitious. Instead, I will add this…
No matter what took place and why it happened, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico belongs to all of us. Now it is our collective responsibility to make sure we establish the policies that will prevent it from happening ever again It’s related to oceans, economics, security, and climate change. But most of all, this is all about energy. And the truth is, regardless of the renewable options that are coming down the pipeline, we’re not there yet. Earth will continue to be a primarily fossil-fuel based planet for decades to come. So if we want better related institutions, it’s our choice to enact them.
Over the next three days, I’ll be on the road driving from NY to Austin, Texas. Once I arrive, I’ll share the details of my new job working on energy solutions for the 21st century.
This is a guest post from Melissa Lott, a dual-degree graduate student in Mechanical Engineering and Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work includes a unique pairing of engineering and public policy in the field of energy systems research. Melissa has worked for YarCom Inc. as an engineer and consultant in energy systems and systems design. She has previously worked for the Department of Energy and the White House Council on Environmental Quality for the Obama Administration. She is a graduate of the University of California at Davis, receiving a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biological Systems Engineering. Melissa is also the author of the blog Global Energy Matters: Energy and Environment in Our Lives.
As the nation moves toward a green energy future, it has found a leader in Texas. While Washington debates federal clean energy policies, the Lone Star State has taken up the reins in the renewable energy sphere. Should we be surprised that this iconic leader in our nation’s energy history is now uniquely positioned to lead us into our energy future?
As a University of Texas at Austin graduate student and a woman with deep hill country roots I’m well acquainted with the state’s reputation as the home of big oil and gas. This image has been cultivated over the years through scenes with James Dean (Jett Rink) in Giant and Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing) in Dallas. Truth-be-told, much of the economic development in the past 100 years in Texas can trace its roots back to 1901 when Spindletop came gushing in and the real-world Jetts and J.R.s found their strides.
Today, Texas is the nation’s leader in total energy consumption, using about 12 percent of the country’s total energy. If Texas was a nation, it would rank seventh in the world for carbon dioxide emissions – just ahead of Canada and a smidgeon behind Germany. Texas boasts some of the largest petroleum refineries in the United States and the Houston area, including its aptly named Energy Corridor, is home to many oil and gas giants including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell, BP America, and Exxon Mobil. The Lone Star State is undeniably a principal in the traditional energy industry and at the same time is uniquely positioning itself to be the nation’s leader in the green energy movement, particularly green electricity.
Texas is not only rich in oil and gas reservoirs (good ole Texas Tea), but also has expansive renewable energy resources including solar and wind. Over the past decade, the state has cultivated its wind power industry with a set of progressive policies including a statewide renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that have driven Texas to be the nation’s leader in wind power. To date, almost 10 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity have been installed within the state’s borders – enough to power almost 3 million homes. On February 28, 2010 Texas hit another impressive benchmark when it supplied a jaw-dropping 22% of its total electricity demand using wind energy. In doing so, it demonstrated the state’s ability to be a model for adding renewable electricity to the grid throughout the nation.
Why Texas? What makes Texas unique? Read More
Having now been here a couple of weeks, I can say that Austin is possibly the best place I’ve lived–or at least ranks alongside New York. I’ll wait a few months to decide for sure, as it doesn’t count until I’ve made it through the summer heat.
So far I’ve been exploring town on foot and meeting all sorts of friendly people. Breakfast tacos are the staple and there are fresh avocados everywhere. Dogs and bicycles are popular, flip-flops are ‘the Austin work boot’, and wildflowers abound thanks to Lady Bird Johnson.
I’ve been hanging out with a lot of great folks involved in energy and recently toured a coal power plant. I also visited Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge which offers great birding opportunities. And since it’s Austin, it was easy to find a group of talented guys to play music with. Something about this place already feels like home.
CM’s on the way over to visit, so I’m hoping the city inspires him to pick up his guitar again…
Having just signed our lease in Texas, I’m extremely disappointed with my new state’s Board of Ed. In case you missed it, they’ve voted to remove Thomas Jefferson, the Enlightenment, and more from the world history standards. And it gets much worse:
As I get started writing about energy, I’m interested to get a sense of what readers are most interested to discuss…
Hydrogen Fuel Cells?
The relationship to climate change?
The list could go on and on, so let’s start a thread of your questions and get the ball rolling… Which technologies do you think hold the most promise?