Home to 3,800 inhabitants, Samso became world famous in 2008 for becoming the first island run on 100% renewable energy. The project initially began in 1997, when Samso won a government competition to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable sources.
Since Samso became 100% renewable, cities, countries and islands across the world have made pledges to also go 100% renewable, including Hawaii, San Diego, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. In fact, several small cities and islands are already 100% renewable, including Aspen, Colorado, and Tokelau, a small island in the South Pacific claimed by New Zealand.Continue reading
In 2015, the first evidence of the Beijing government’s determination to reduce carbon emissions may have been seen globally, as it continued an unprecedented increase in carbon-free energy substitutions and cut coal use by a full third in just a year.
According to a peer-reviewed paper just published at Nature Climate Change; “Future cost-competitive electricity systems and their impact on U.S. CO2 emissions” – the cheapest way to radically cut greenhouse gas emissions from generating electricity by 2030, would be a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) grid connecting America’s prime renewable resources to 256 electricity markets.
DONG Energy is building a massive offshore wind farm 15 miles out to sea south of Martha’s Vineyard. Their humungous 1 GW Bay State Wind project is likely to go ahead while previous attempts at developing offshore wind in the US failed.
According to the energy markets research firm Green Energy Markets (GEM), Australian utilities will need to sign 3,800 MW of contracts for new renewable energy by the end of 2016, in order to be in compliance with the renewable energy target.
Sweden has almost 500 MW of wind, split between only 10 million people, so each person has almost half a kilowatt just of wind, if apportioned on a per person basis. For comparison, an average solar roof for a home is from around 2 kilowatts (if a frugal and sunny Australian home) up to about 12 kilowatts (if an extravagant mansion in cloudy Massachusetts).
China leads the world in total built wind capacity, with some 181 GW as of the end of 2014, with the US in second place with 65 GW. But both these nations obviously have many more inhabitants than tiny Sweden with its ten million.
Renewable energy naysayers often raise the objection that renewables – like big solar projects in the deserts and gigantic wind farms on the prairies – just take up too much space and so we shouldn’t have them.
Instead, we should stick to their preferred default for our energy supply – fossil fuels.
In fact, renewable energy takes up less space than even the golf courses that fossil fuel executives love to be pampered on while raking in their billions from carbon combustion.
In a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Future of Solar Energy the authors estimated how much land it would take to power 100% of the US entirely with big solar projects.
To supply 100% of the entire nation’s electricity needs in 2050 with solar, it would take 12,741 square miles. That sounds like a lot! But if the solar were concentrated in the sunniest part of the US where it would make the most sense and be the most efficient – like the deserts of the southwest – then the land use drops to just 4,633 square miles.
Compared to many other things we use land for in the US, including housing us in cities, growing our fruits and veggies from farmland, making all of our electricity from solar on 4,633 square miles is actually not very much land at all. Farms alone span a much greater 700,000 square miles in the US.
Even just golf courses; hardly something we all need — unlike homes, and fruits, and veggies, and electricity. Yet just today’s golf courses use nearly as much land as the amount we’d need to power the nation entirely from solar by 2050.
But why would we want to power 100% of our future need with just solar? Most experts agree that we will wind up supplying somewhere between a quarter and a half of our future power from solar. Splitting that difference and estimating solar needs if we went one-third solar, they come up with around 2,702 square miles for solar.
After all – we have wind in abundance too.
According to one study, powering another third of the US on wind energy could take a land area spanning on the order of 23,000 square miles of wind farms.
The MIT study concedes that that is a lot of land, but only twice what we’ve already devastated with coal mining, including mountain top removal. Unlike coal mines, wind farms are safe and healthy places for farming underneath, and are often combined with farms, as in Iowa and Texas.
So really, a wind farm only takes out of use the land needed for wind turbine pads and new access roads for workers to drive to maintain the turbines. That is only about 1% of the average wind farm. So, 1% of 23,000 square miles is just 230 square miles for one third of our electricity in 2050 from wind power.
How about coal? Sure, harvesting sunlight takes up land space, but chopping down mountains to harvest the energy from coal actually really uses up even more, because that land is gone for good. And that’s not even counting the average coal power plant size needed to burn all that coal. That’s usually about another square mile each.
Unlike solar and wind farms that don’t use up all the available solar and wind in each solar farm or wind farm, and have to move on to mine more sunlight and breezes elsewhere, coal mines do.
Coal mines must constantly move on once they exhaust each mined area, often in just two to twelve years, and each mined region produces relatively little electricity.
So here we have to compare GWhs generated per acre of harvested land over a period of time of harvesting, whether that is harvesting sunlight or coal.
And here, solar and wind are clear winners, according to Sourcewatch.
Coal will produce 15 GWh per mined acre over 60 years, while the average solar farm will produce 18 GWhs of power per acre, over the same 60 years. Because solar doesn’t have to move on, to harvest sunlight in the space next door the way a coal mine must, because mining depletes all the potential energy from each acre of land as it scoops up its coal.
So, looked at energy generation over time, the land footprint of coal is at least 20% bigger than that of solar.
And that is with solar at its current efficiency. And we know that solar is getting more efficient over time. The more efficient solar becomes, the less space it needs to generate each kilowatt. So a future calculation will be even more favorable to sunshine.
Image credits: via FlickR under CC license
Imagine waking up in the morning to the roaring sea as you saunter out of your tiny home turned beachfront cottage. Or putting out the campfire and getting a good night’s sleep under the stars as a tiny home serving as a yurt. Gizmodo reported on Ecocapsule, a brand new tiny smart home, is “the first truly independent micro-home” as it is powered 100 percent by sun and wind.
Ecocapsule is a compact, low-energy house that combines off-grid capabilities with the luxuries of small living. Think of it like energy efficient camping, big enough for two adults (or one if you don’t like to share).
The very cool features in this smart tiny home include clean energy dreams: padded walls with high performance thermal insulation, and a capsule with water filters installed in the upper surface that remove rainwater bacteria before funneling it beneath the floor. Everything in this pod house works to reduce energy requirements and maintain a temperature indoors that’s comfortable no matter the weather outside.Continue reading
There’s been a lot of news about the growth of the solar industry in the last few years. Given that prices keep falling, rooftop solar’s popularity keeps rising, and large businesses like giant tech companies are getting on board with using solar for their business, it’s expected that solar job growth should keep growing as well. The good news is, it has, and in a huge way. A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says that in 2014, there was an 18 percent rise in employment across the renewable energy industry, up from 6.5 million to 7.7 million people!
In the U.S., the biggest and most motivated state to push for clean energy is Hawaii. They recently announced they aim to reach using 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, by far the most demanding yet enthusiastically pro-solar goal in the country. However, across the Pacific Ocean, Australia is ready to compete for the same goal. According to Renew Economy, Australia could reach a goal of using 100 percent renewable energy as soon as 2040.
To reach this ambitious goal, Australia is looking to add 1.9 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic power, as well as 1.9GW of wind power capacity per year. Not in a few years, but every year.
From Renew Economy: “Andrew Blakers, director for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University, told the Australian Solar and Energy Storage conference in Melbourne that his conservative prediction was that Australia would reach 90 per cent renewables by 2040 – just through natural attrition.” At the rate Australia is adding solar and wind power in general (it cites that nearly 1GW of solar was added to rooftops last year alone), reaching 100 percent isn’t that crazy.Continue reading