There is no question that solar power has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, but whenever one really looked at the numbers, it seemed to still be only a tiny fraction of the country’s power generation – until quite recently, less than one percent.
Global consumption of coal dropped by 1.7% last year. This is a major change considering that it had increased by an average of 1.9% per year from 2005 to 2015. China, which accounts for about half of the coal burned in the world, used 1.6% less in 2016, as compared to an increase of 3.7% per year over the previous 11 years.
The world’s largest floating solar power plant is now operational and connected to the electric grid in China. It is a 40-megawatt facility and floats in water 13 to 30 feet deep in a lake that was created by a former mining operation.
The end of 2013 marked the first occasional observations of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere of 400 parts per million. There is nothing magical about that value, but we do tend to focus on round numbers.
The North-Rhine Westphalia region of Germany was the crucible of that country’s industrial revolution and it still generates a third of Germany’s power, much of it using aging coal plants. However, Germany’s national energy transition program is pushing the country away from coal and other fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources.
This Saturday is Earth Day and it’s also the occasion for the March for Science taking place in Washington, DC and in many other cities around the world. The purpose is to express support for scientific research and evidence-based policies in a tumultuous political environment.
According to a new study by the non-profit group Carbon Brief, carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom are at their lowest levels since the 1920s. Four factors are responsible: a record drop in coal use, the rapid growth of renewable energy, the expansion of energy efficiency programs, and the increased use of natural gas for electricity power plants.
Installations of solar power continue to increase rapidly around the world and in no place more than China. By the end of 2016, total solar generating capacity in China reached 77.4 gigawatts, making it the largest producer of solar energy in the world. Globally, there is a total of 228 gigawatts of solar power installed, although that number keeps changing rapidly.
High levels of an element found in coal ash have been detected in fish in two lakes where Duke Energy coal-fired power plants are located, according to a peer-reviewed study at Duke University. The element, selenium, occurs naturally but is concentrated in coal ash.
China has worked to reduce its coal consumption in recent years but the air quality in cities like Beijing is still notoriously poor and a major health hazard.
A recent report from the Energy Information Administration notes that for the first time in 40 years, carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation are less than those from transportation. The reason is that power plants nationwide are abandoning the use of coal and turning to cleaner burning natural gas, as well as newer sources such as solar and wind power.
We have heard the term “clean coal” for years, mostly from politicians and in coal company advertising. The concept sounds good: burn coal but don’t produce carbon dioxide emissions. While there have been various small-scale tests of technologies to accomplish this, it has not actually been a viable option for the power industry.
There are many good reasons why we should be making the transition from fossil fuel energy sources but the one that is likely to be the most persuasive is strictly economic. It has long been said that the renewable energy future will truly arrive when installing new solar panels is cheaper than a comparable investment in coal, natural gas, or other options.
The new administration has promised to revitalize the coal industry in the U.S. A major part of this plan is to eliminate various regulations that hamper that industry. But the truth is that coal has lost ground for far more important reasons than regulation.
China and the United States today produce nearly half of the world’s carbon emissions, so the fight against global climate change depends greatly upon what actions the two countries take. China has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past twenty years from a largely rural society to one that is far more urbanized and far more energy intensive. In 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol on climate was negotiated, China was only responsible for 14% of global CO2 emissions. It then surpassed the US on that front in less than 10 years and now accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s emissions.
Americans comprise less than 5% of the world’s population, but we use almost 20% of its energy. This is a problem from many perspectives and it is one that we are at least trying to solve.
Electric cars are generally seen as the way to eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the disastrous effects of personal transportation on the environment. They still constitute only a tiny fraction of the cars on the road, but their popularity and availability is growing.
Very few people are against the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power in principle. It is hard to argue against generating power from resources that are free and plentiful. The main knock against renewable power sources has been that they cost too much compared with conventional, fossil-fuel technologies.
The Carbon XPrize is a five-year, $20 million competition to identify ways to convert carbon emissions into successful, profitable and useful products. Forty-seven organizations from seven countries are competing for the prizes and include large companies, startups and university researchers.