by Richard (Rick) Mills, Ahead of the Herd:
Pollution and climate change are key drivers for the global adoption of clean renewable energy – solar, wind and tidal – but the high cost of solar installations and the lack of economically efficient storage batteries has held back widespread adoption of clean renewable energy.
In the past million years, the Earth has experienced a major ice age about every 100,000 years. This temporary reprieve from the ice we are now experiencing is called an interglacial period – the respite from the cold locker began as the earth started heating up and warming its way out of the Pleistocene Ice Age (began about 1.8 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago).
At one point during the Pleistocene Ice Age vast incredibly thick sheets of ice stretched over Greenland, Canada and parts of the northern United States.
The close of the Pleistocene Ice Age started when a shift in sunlight caused a slight rise in temperature – this raised gas levels over the next few hundred years and the resultant greenhouse effect drove the planet’s temperature higher, which drives a further rise in the gas levels and so on. The exact opposite happens when sunlight weakens, we get a shift from emission to absorption of gases which causes a further fall in temperature… and so forth.
According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880.
Small rises or falls in temperature – more, or less sunlight – causes a rise, or fall, in gas levels.Changing atmospheric CO2 and methane levels physically linked the Northern and Southern hemispheres, warming or cooling the planet as a whole.
Many scientists say it’s very likely that most of the warming since the mid-1900s is because our burning of fossil fuels for energy production and transportation adds heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the air.
Climate models predict that Earth’s average temperature will keep rising.
According to science the world is going to continue to get warmer, polar ice caps will melt, so will the Greenland ice sheet and most glaciers. More sunlight will be absorbed by the Earth’s oceans, causing increased evaporation. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas and amplifies twofold the effects of other greenhouse gases. With Earth’s ice gone there will be significantly less sunlight reflected back into space, vast expanses of Arctic tundra will thaw releasing unbelievable amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent then CO2.
The polar jet stream has already been altered, wide swinging north-south deviations (meanders) have become the norm – deviating far from its normal path and meandering north into Canada, the jet stream brings warm air while dipping far south over Europe, the polar jet stream brings record cold and snow.
Ocean currents will be altered further impacting our climate and sea levels will rise. Freshwater aquifers will suffer from saltwater intrusion, once habitable zones will become uninhabitable.
Because of increased average global temperatures the tropical rain belt will have widened considerably and the subtropical dry zones will have pushed pole-ward, crawling deep into regions such as the American Southwest and southern Australia, which will be increasingly susceptible to prolonged and intense droughts.
A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that climate change will amplify extreme heat, heavy precipitation, and the highest wind speeds of tropical storms. Extreme weather events are going to happen with increasing frequency, the climate for the area you live in is, if it hasn’t started already, going to change. We are all watching and experiencing these events and changes in real time because changes that use to take tens and tens of thousands of years are now happening in decades.
Earth’s average temperature is expected to continue to rise even if the amount of human caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere decreases. But the rise would be less than if greenhouse gas amounts remain the same or increases.
Solar good news
The average price of a solar module was $76.67/watt in 1977, $4 per watt in 2008, $0.74/watt in 2013 and according to PVinsights $0.49/watt on July 15, 2016.
Oxford University researchers say solar’s share of global electricity will grow from roughly 1.5% today, to as much as 20% by 2027.
The U.S. solar industry expects to have installed 14.5 gigawatts of solar power in 2016, a 94% increase over the record 7.5 gigawatts in 2015.
For the first time, more solar systems came online in 2016 than natural gas power plants – the top source of electricity in the US in 2015 – as measured in megawatts
Solar capacity is irrefutably going up, and prices are collapsing.
Wind good news
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says technological advancements are expected to continue reducing the cost of wind energy. Surveyed experts anticipate minimum wind energy cost reductions of 24% with 30% reductions possible by 2030, and 35% to 41% by 2050 due to larger and more efficient wind turbines, lower capital and operating costs, and other advancements.
The capacity-weighted average installed project costwas $1,690/kW, down $640/kW or 27% from average reported costs in 2009 and 2010.
Efficient storage batteries
You can’t control the supply of solar, or wind. Sometimes it’s cloudy or it’s nighttime, sometimes the wind isn’t blowing. Other times conditions are excellent, the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. There has to be a way of balancing renewable energy output.
“One of the distinctive characteristics of the electric power sector is that the amount of electricity that can be generated is relatively fixed over short periods of time, although demand for electricity fluctuates throughout the day. Developing technology to store electrical energy so it can be available to meet demand whenever needed would represent a major breakthrough in electricity distribution. Helping to try and meet this goal, electricity storage devices can manage the amount of power required to supply customers at times when need is greatest, which is during peak load. These devices can also help make renewable energy, whose power output cannot be controlled by grid operators, smooth and dispatchable.” ENERGY.GOV
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