Emerging Wind and Solar Landscapes–#S-L Week 13

Energized by Sylvain Landry’s photo challenge, week 13, ‘Ecology’ theme, I have gathered a few photos documenting Ontario’s emerging wind turbine and solar panel landscapes. There are many other scenes not reflected here, such as fields of solar panels, visible from highways; panels on stands and rooftops on residential properties;  almost one hundred turbines on St Lawrence Seaway island farmlands; and large land-based wind farms.  The building of renewable energy infrastructure in Ontario, particularly wind turbines, has not been without controversy and intense legal battles.  I feel sad when I think that perhaps some individuals are being trampled on for the common good, ie our transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  I hope that governments play a leadership role in identifying locations for projects that provide the least environmental interference possible –taking into account wildlife, waters, soil, vegetation, and humans.  Ideally we would have a plan–just as we have official plans for building and development.

These are Sunday morning reflections.  If I come across more information about these concerns, I will let you know.

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Eastern Ontario Farmland
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Wind Turbines and Solar Panels in Loyalist Township, Ontario

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For more Ecology-themed photos, please visit  S-L Week 13.   The featured image is an amazing, artistic view of a gigantic wind turbine, posted by Sylvain Landry, photographer.

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Road to Paris 2015: Sizing Up America’s Clean Power Plan

I am a climate change traveller–an explorer. Welcome to my excursion through the sometimes confusing terrain of climate change initiatives and  international negotiations–a landscape littered with acronyms, numbers, science, law, and politics–yet of utmost importance, affecting global welfare today and for generations to come.

Nobody cleared a path for themselves by giving up.

Palacia Bessette, Simply from Scratch, 2010; Courtesy of Quotationspage.com

Under the Clean Power Plan announced by the President of the United States almost two weeks ago,  power plant emissions will be reduced by 1/3 of 2005 levels by 2030.  Power plants are responsible for a major chunk of U.S. carbon emissions. The diagram below shows that electricity generates almost 40% of  U.S. carbon and that transportation is the runner up generating 34% :

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Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration published in How much U.S. electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015.

Some states have already started to promote clean energy and others will have catching up to do. The end result will be a change in the types of energy used to generate electricity. The image below shows the energy mix for power generation on a national level in 2014. Did you know that after hydro, wind is currently the leading source of renewable energy? Carbon emitting fossil fuels–coal and natural gas– make up almost 70% of the national mix.

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Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration, published in How much US electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015.

Few cases of eyestrain have been developed by looking on the bright side of things.

Author unknown. Courtesy of Quotationspage.com.

Under the Clean Power Plan, less coal will be burned–to be replaced by natural gas and clean renewable energy sources (wind,sun, geothermal, biomass and hydro). Recognizing that energy mix profiles vary from state to state, power plan strategies will be designed by each state to address their unique situations.

The graphs below show how the national electricity energy mix will change under the Clean Power Plan.  The starting point is on the left, projections for a no Power Plan scenario in the middle, and expected changes with a Clean Power Plan on the right. The colours are intuitive, with green for renewable energy, blue for natural gas, black for coal, and red for nuclear. Notice how on the far right there is more green renewable energy and less black coal.  By 2040, fossil fuels–coal and natural gas–will drop from 70% of the national mix to 55%.  

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (May 27, 2015)

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (May 27, 2015)

Looking at the Big Picture

A considerable amount of fossil fuels will continue to be part of the power mix.  The Clean Power Plan contributes only a fraction of  Total U.S. emission reductions planned for post-2020 under the United States INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution), submitted for the UN climate treaty negotiations in Paris later this year, which in its simplest form is:

26 to 28% reduction from total 2005 carbon emissions (not just from power plants) by 2025 and at least 80% reduction by 2050

Nevertheless, I choose to be optimistic.  If allowed to unfold, the Clean Power Plan will reinforce current momentum and inspire new initiatives, unleashing a snowball effect.

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Colin Powell, U .S. General (1937-); Courtesy of Quotationspage.com.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan, is in part a catch-up measure. As the President noted in his August 3 speech,  many power plants are already improving efficiency,  almost 50% of states have efficiency targets, more than 35 states have renewable energy targets, over 1000 city mayors have committed to reducing carbon pollution, and major corporations have set targets for reducing their emissions. The map below shows the number of states having targets for increasing renewable energy in power generation:

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Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration Institute How much U.S. electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015

Opposition to the Plan is a reality, especially from the coal industry and those states that rely on coal the most.  The top 10 coal-burning states rely on coal for 67 to 97 % of their energy mix.  Clearly these states will face the stiffest challenges in formulating and complying with Clean Power Plan targets.  Nevertheless, their citizens can look forward to significant improvements in air quality and health as they switch to other energy sources.

The Paris Summit in December will be a major turning point.

The Clean Power Plan will give the United States more credibility at the negotiating table.  If world leaders successfully forge a binding climate agreement, the Clean Power Plan will be  less vulnerable to neglect, postponement, or repeal.

Want to know more  about your nation’s commitments and emissions? Take a look at these resources:

Interactive map showing which countries have submitted their INDC (post-2020 climate action plan) in preparation for the Paris talks. Click a country or area of interest for a pop-up summary of the INDC. Source:  World Resources Institute Climate Data Explorer.

Interactive map showing total CO2 emissions for the period 1990-2012 expressed in million metric tons (Mtco2e). Click  countries of interest to discover total carbon output. Source: World Resources Institute  Historical Greenhouse Gas Emissions Map.

Road to Paris 2015: America’s Clean Power Plan Launch

I am a climate change tourist–an explorer. Welcome to my excursion through the sometimes confusing terrain of climate change initiatives and  international negotiations–a landscape littered with acronyms, numbers, science, international law, and politics.

“No challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a changing climate.”

“I believe there is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”

“We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”

U.S. President Barack Obama, in Clean Power Plan announcement, Aug. 3, 2015

Will humanity rise to meet the climate change challenge on time?  Do you have hope and if so, what do you pin your hope on?  Listening to the words of the President of the world’s largest economy as he launched the Clean Power Plan last Monday, has given me more hope that  global commitments will be forged when world leaders meet in Paris at COP21 in December.

The Clean Power Plan is the most ambitious American climate action to date. For the first time, the United States government has placed significant limits on carbon emissions from electrical power plants, the source of almost 1/3 of national carbon output.

By the fall of 2016, each state must submit a preliminary plan for reducing power plant emissions by 32% below 2005 levels, by 2030. Carbon output reductions may be achieved a variety of ways including:

  • increasing efficiency of power plants (less pollution for each unit of output);
  • shifting to lower-polluting fossil fuels (use of coal will decrease);
  • increasing use of renewable resources such as wind and solar;
  • promoting energy efficiency for electricity users (reducing emissions by using less power); and
  • market-based programs, such as carbon cap and trade.

In fact, many states, municipalities, and NGOs have already taken some of these steps–now the Clean Power Plan, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, levels out the playing field, making cleaner electrical production a national goal.

Launched on August 3, 2015, the finalized Clean Power Plan has been two years in the making with extensive public consultations.  President Obama foreshadowed the big announcement on the day before with a video: “Memo to America”  and then made the official address the next day presenting, in his words, ‘the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against climate change.’  If you haven’t seen these videos yet and have time, I highly recommend them–the first one is very brief with the President’s voice over compelling images, and the second is an address to the Nation.

Will the new standards inspire new initiatives or will progress be mired in resistance and legal manoeuvrings–is the plan sufficiently bold to have an impact?  These are questions of the hour.  I will tackle these questions in an upcoming post.

Wind Turbines, Symbols of Progress and Hope

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Symbol.”  –Weekly Photo Challenge–

When I see the local wind farm I feel happy.  To me, the towering white turbines are  signs of progress, and reason for hope that we will successfully transition to renewable resources, to replace fossil fuels.  The first photo, taken by me, shows a wind farm in my Ontario, Canada neighborhood. I have added the second and third photos (Getty Images) to depict how wind farms are a global phenomena.  The second photo shows turbines in Paracuru, Brazil, at sunset; and the third shows a wind farm in Ayrshire, Scotland.

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Ontario Wind Farm

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Engineers develop state-by-state plan for 100% renewable energy by 2050

As the Bonn climate talks wind up, another report confirming that a transition to 100% renewable energy by mid-century is possible, is good news indeed. Thank you to Iowa Environmental Focus for the excellent graphic and summary which I have reblogged below.

Iowa Environmental Focus

(The Solutions Project) (The Solutions Project)

Nick Fetty | June 10, 2015

Researchers at Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley have developed a state-by-state plan for the United States to generate 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

The study – which was published last month in the journal Energy and Environmental Sciences – calls for major changes to infrastructure as well as current energy consumption practices. The study’s authors outline ways to combat climate change, eliminate air pollution mortality, create jobs, and stabilize energy prices.

“The main barriers are social, political and getting industries to change. One way to overcome the barriers is to inform people about what is possible,” Stanford engineering professor Mark Z. Jacobson said in a press release. “By showing that it’s technologically and economically possible, this study could reduce the barriers to a large scale transformation.”

Jacobson – who also serves as a…

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What Will You Do Beyond Earth Hour?

Earth Hour is going one step further in 2011 with its “Beyond the Hour” campaign.  What’s this about?  It’s about going one step further.   First you show your commitment to the planet by turning off your lights, TV etc. for an hour, starting at 8:30 pm on Saturday, March 26.  Next, you pledge to an action or project, big or small, that will sustain our planet’s health and resources.

There are many places to find inspiration, such as:

-The beyondthehour pledge page (hover over the squares to see pledges),

-The global website  and the Earth Hour Canada websites—look for personal projects or organize an action at your work, school, or community group

– The Youtube video below or go to the Youtube Earth Hour site and watch the longer 8-minute video with many clips of people describing their actions.

Whatever you do, don’t be intimidated by the “high-profile” initiatives–small changes made by individuals have an impact.  For example, my pledges are modest— even one would have been sufficient but these are changes I want to make:

  • conserve more water, for example, by using bath water in the garden,
  • use more energy-efficient light bulbs, and
  • check car tire pressure regularly to reduce fuel consumption.

My inspiration came from a list posted by Earth Hour ambassador, Miranda Kerr.  Here is my paraphrase of items on her list—if the list isn’t useful for you, please scroll down and check out the Youtube video!

  • Buy local produce to reduce carbon emissions from transportation
  • Walk, cycle, or use public transit whenever possible
  • Keep tires inflated at the correct level to minimize fuel consumption
  • Turn off the lights when not in use
  • Unplug computers, TVs, and other electronics when not in use
  • Use less heat in winter and less air conditioning in summer
  • Use chemical-free cleaning products
  • Use cold water instead of hot whenever possible
  • Recycle
  • Use bath water to water garden plants
  • Avoid packaging when possible; choose packaging that can be recycled
  • Purchase clothing that is “ethically made, not mass produced”
  • Use water-saving shower nozzles and low-flush toilets
  • Compost
  • Avoid wasting food
  • Have shorter showers
  • Convert to energy-efficient light bulbs

Nitrogen Footprint Calculator Now Available

Footprint calculators are useful tools for measuring personal impact on the environment.  A global research project called the N-Print Team has come up with a tool for calculating how many pounds (or kilograms) of nitrogen your lifestyle releases into the environment.  I visited the website today and found a very user-friendly, informative, and visually appealing calculator.

CO2 Has Had the Limelight, but Human Nitrogen Emissions Need to be Reduced as Well

There has been a lot of public discussion about CO2 emissions, but less publicity about how nitrogen affects the environment.   The N-Print website explains that there has been more carbon research over the last decade, and nitrogen issues are more complex.   The nitrogen knowledge gap is about to reduce as the N-Print team and its sponsors, the International Nitrogen Initiative Project, do their work.

 What’s the Nitrogen Problem?

Over 100 years ago the development of nitrogen fertilizers was a breakthrough, allowing food production to keep up with the world’s growing population.  However, excess nitrogen used in crop farming has been running off into waterways and escaping into the atmosphere.  Farm animal excrement and fossil fuel burning has also increased the nitrogen load, resulting in smog, acid rain, dying forests, clogged waterways, and the greenhouse effect.

Basically, just as we have upset natural carbon cycles, we have upset the planet’s nitrogen cycles.   As you may notice, I’m not an expert on this topic, but I highly recommend the UTube video below which is also found on the N-Print website.

How Can We Reduce Our Nitrogen Footprints?

Recommended steps  for solving the nitrogen problem may sound familiar:

  • Eating less animal protein, particularly beef,
  • Buying food from sustainable farms that take measures to reduce nitrogen runoff —and asking  governments to help farms to adopt sustainable practices,
  • Limiting activities that depend on fossil fuel burning (e.g. electricity, home heating, car use, air travel etc.)
  • Using and supporting development of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

 The Nitrogen Cascade Video

The Nitrogen Cascade is a collaboration of Erin Siegel (director, writer, visuals) and Myrna Jacobson Myers (co-writer, scientific advisor) and is a 2010 production of the University of California.   Enjoy: