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 Paris Climate Agreement seeks to reduce global carbon emissions. The nearly 200 countries who signed it have pledged to reduce their own emissions within their borders. And therein lies the rub: the agreement says nothing about the impact their products have across the world. For some countries, the problem is not so much the emissions they produce; it is those they export.
Last December, the first commercial offshore wind farm in the United States started operation off the coast of Rhode Island. The Fisherman’s Energy Atlantic City Windfarm off the coast of New Jersey is under construction. With the lengthy logjam finally broken, there is increasing activity in the emerging U.S. offshore wind sector.
The changing climate is having a marked effect on forests in this country. In particular, trees along the U.S. eastern seaboard are changing their range as they slowly seek to escape rising temperatures.
The amount of solar energy striking the surface of the earth in two hours is enough to supply all of humankind’s needs for an entire year. For this reason, it is widely thought that solar energy should be our primary source of electricity. If this is to happen, however, there must be cost-effective ways to obtain solar electricity regardless of the time of day, weather, or seasonal changes. Essentially, there must be ways to store the energy from the sun to use it when we need it.
China and India have 36% of the world’s population and produce about 35% of global CO2 emissions, ranking first and third respectively in that category. The United States, with a little over 4% of the world’s population, produces about 16% of global CO2 emissions, good for second place.
The transition to sustainable energy sources faces many challenges. One important one is to make those sources as reliable as conventional energy systems. For technologies like solar and wind power, which can’t operate around the clock, an enabling element is effective energy storage. Energy storage is critical for both the electricity grid and for transportation.
Capturing carbon dioxide instead of releasing it into the atmosphere is a way we can use fossil fuels without it having harmful effects on the climate. Energy storage is a way to address the volatility of clean energy sources like wind and solar power. Excess energy stored during peak production can be used when production ceases, such as when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.
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.
The worldwide decline in the population of bees and other pollinators has impelled farmers to do what they can to encourage and nurture bees on their land. Protecting bees is important because pollinators are essential for growing many foods including coffee, cacao, almonds and many other fruits and vegetables.
Islands around the world have a difficult time developing the infrastructure for electricity generation. Many are simply too small or too poor for conventional power plants. The most common electricity source on islands is diesel generators which are not environmentally friendly and result in some of the most expensive electricity in the world.
For many decades, hydroelectric dams were the top source of renewable energy in the United States. But for the first time ever, by the end of last year, installed wind power capacity in the U.S. outpaced hydroelectric capacity.
Batteries have never been more important. Not only do we all depend on cell phones, tablets and laptop computers that run on batteries, but two enormous industries are in major transitions that rely upon battery technology: personal transportation and the utility industry. The electricity grid is increasingly turning to solar and wind power for generation and both will require effective energy storage if they are to truly become the predominant sources of electricity.
At the end of last year, Southern California Edison turned on the largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in the world in Ontario, California. It is a substation with 80 megawatt-hours of capacity, enough energy to power 2,500 households or charge 1,000 Tesla cars a day.
Regardless of the new administration’s position on climate change, America’s corporations have assumed a leadership role in the country’s ability to meet and beat previous domestic climate pledges.