We don’t often write about Climate Change - our last piece on this topic was more than a year ago - not for any lack of passion about the subject, but mostly because we take the view epitomized in this cartoon that was being “shared” on Facebook yesterday from the League of Conservation Voters:
Solar has the potential to make the world - and your bottom line - better regardless of your politics and hence that is our focus.
But over the weekend a story broke that is so significant that it merits at least a passing reference.
Richard Muller is a physicist at U.C. Berkeley and for the past several years he has gained a certain notoriety by his public displays of skepticism regarding the science of climate change. In particular, he questioned the reliability of the temperate data itself - the very predicate upon which the climate change models are built. Climate change deniers seized on his skepticism: if the data are no good, then the conclusions drawn from that data cannot be any good either. For example, here is climate change denier Fred Singer praising Prof. Muller’s efforts - before the results were announced:
The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) Project aims to do what needs to be done: That is, to develop an independent analysis of the data from land stations, which would include many more stations than had been considered by the Global Historic Climatology Network. The Project is in the hands of a group of recognized scientists, who are not at all “climate skeptics” — which should enhance their credibility. The Project is mainly directed by physicists, chaired by Professor Richard Muller (UC Berkeley), with a steering group that includes Professor Judith Curry (Georgia Tech) and Arthur Rosenfeld (UC Santa Barbara and Georgia Tech).
I applaud and support what is being done by the Project — a very difficult but important undertaking. I personally have little faith in the quality of the surface data, having been exposed to the revealing work by Anthony Watts and others. However, I have an open mind on the issue and look forward to seeing the results of the Project in their forthcoming publications.
As far as I know, no government or industry funds are involved — at least at this stage. According to the Project’s website www.berkeleyearth.org, support comes mostly from a group of charitable foundations.
As it turns out, a significant chunk of the funding from a “charitable foundation” came from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation - the funder of first resort for climate change deniers across the country. Put most simply - the denier community was expecting the Koch-sponsored Project to slay the climate change dragon.
Didn’t happen that way.
Instead, Prof. Muller’s painstaking analysis, first released last Fall, demonstrated that the temperature data was solid and that the Earth was warming. Then, over the weekend, Muller published an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. Titled, The Conversion of a Climate Change Skeptic, the piece takes on the denialists in no uncertain terms:
Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.
Last night, Rachel Maddow interviewed Prof. Muller (video below) and it was interesting to watch from a number of perspectives. The key point - that climate change is real and humans are the cause - came through. But rather than call for policy that would provide real relief, he threw in with the oil and gas industry and supported “clean” fracking, which is a bit like supporting “clean coal” in that neither one exists.
The denialists might have lost their last great hope, but the oil and gas industry is far from calling it a day in favor of carbon-neutral technology. Sadly, Prof. Muller appears to be ready to lend them a hand.
We don’t usually borrow from other blogs (although we have seen our work re-appear in other locations from time-to-time) but this piece over at the Climate Denial Crock of the Week titled: A Republican Meteorologist: Acknowledging Climate Science Doesn’t Make You a Liberal, was so good, so important, that we really felt that this needed to be shared as widely as possible.
Paul Douglas is a Minnesota meteorologist and, as he puts it, “I am a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment, and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I’m a meteorologist, and the weather maps I’m staring at are making me uncomfortable. No, you’re not imagining it: we’ve clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern.”
Douglas then goes on to layout the reasons why he believes that climate change is real - and no, he doesn’t rely upon Al Gore. But neither is he swayed by Bill O’Reilly or talk radio. Instead, he relies upon the scientists who have studied this for thirty years and who have gone from, again in his words, “concerned [to] bordering on apoplectic.”
It is really a wonderful piece - well written and well-reasoned. Here is one more (extended) quote:
Climate Change: The Ultimate Test for Capitalism. Let The Markets Work
I’m an entrepreneur. The eight Minnesota companies I’ve created ultimately employed hundreds of professionals. Where others see chronic problems I see opportunity. One of my companies is Smart Energy, with a new level of wind forecast accuracy for global wind farms. Last summer, in response to the most severe two years since 1816, my partners and I launched a new, national cable weather channel (“WeatherNation Television”) – to keep Americans updated with 24/7 storm reports. “Global Weirding” has arrived. Why bother? Because it’s the right thing to do. And because going green will generate green. As in profits. We won’t drill our way out of this challenge; we’ll innovate our way into a new, lower-carbon energy paradigm. Something we’re pretty good at. Professional skeptics will hold up Solyndra as a reason why this will never work. For the sake of our nation’s future – don’t believe them.
“The Mother of All Opportunities”: Turning America Into The Silicon Valley of Energy
We can figure this out. Frankly, we won’t have a choice. But I’m a naïve optimist. We can reinvent America, leaving us more competitive in the 21st century, launching thousands of new, carbon-free energy companies – supplementing, and someday surpassing anything we can expeditiously suck out of the ground and burn, accelerating an already-warming planet. We don’t have to bury our heads in Saudi sand – we’ll never “frack” our way to a sustainable future. It’s time for a New Energy Paradigm. There’s no silver bullet. But there’s plenty of (green) buckshot, if we aim high and point America in the right direction.
As one of those “new, carbon-free energy companies,” at Run on Sun we completely agree with this reasoning. And frankly, we don’t understand how one can claim to be conservative but not be concerned about conserving the environment upon which everything else in life is based. Thankfully, some like Douglas totally get it and we can only hope that by speaking up - and having their statements repeated by others - they will encourage other true conservatives to step forward and acknowledge the simple truth - you don’t have to be a liberal to believe in climate change.
You owe it to yourself to give the entire piece a read. Here’s the link: A Republican Meteorologist: Acknowledging Climate Science Doesn’t Make You a Liberal.
We recently came across some analysis of future energy trends depicted in the International Energy Outlook 2011 published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (hat-tip to the folks at Climate Denial Crock of the Week). What struck us was how a simple change in U.S. tax policy will have a potentially devastating impact on the solar industry in this country.
Here is a graph that we have derived from the IEO data which shows the projected growth in installed solar generating capacity based on existing government policies for the US, Europe, Japan and China. (IEO’s total predicted solar capacity worldwide by 2035 is 119 GW.)
The first thing we noticed is that the US - the blue line in the graph - takes off in 2008, stays ahead of both Japan and China until 2017 when China shoots past us, and stays largely flat thereafter. Flat, as in dead, moribund, kaput! Meanwhile, Europe leads everyone, but sees its explosive growth scaled back dramatically in 2013. Even China’s growth is projected to flatten out after 2020. Indeed, only Japan shows significant growth after 2017, tripling its installed capacity from 9 to 27 Gigawatts by 2032.
We will leave it for others to comment on what is happening elsewhere, but here in the U.S. the obvious reason for the enormous reduction in growth after 2016 is the expiration of the 30% federal investment tax credit for solar installations. Indeed, the U.S. growth rate from 2008 to 2017 is just under 27%! But under the existing law’s sunset provision at the end of 2016, the overall projected growth rate from 2005 to 2035 is only 8.8%, with nearly all of that front-loaded.
Which has us wondering, what might happen if the U.S. were to retain its existing tax credit for solar installations indefinitely? After all, federal tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industries have been in place for a very long time so it only seems fair to give the new kid on the block a similar benefit. Here’s the chart again this time showing the U.S. with a long-term tax subsidy in place, but with somewhat moderated growth, declining from the ~27% depicted before to just 20%.
Wow - let’s hear it for compound interest! A stable U.S. tax policy for solar investment, even with a moderated growth rate, could lead to this country more than doubling the EIA’s present-policy prediction for worldwide solar by 2035! Put another way, under such a policy and growth rate, the installed U.S. solar generation capacity would be roughly one-fourth of the present U.S. total capacity of just over 1 TW.
All of which is just another reminder that policies matter and choosing leaders with the vision to support such policies is a very important piece of building a future where solar and other renewables can move us away from polluting energy sources.
It is bad enough that President Obama has failed to deliver on his promise from last Fall to install solar panels - PV and hot water - on the White House roof by the end of the Spring. But now Glenn Beck is using that failure as an opportunity to mock the President’s energy policies.
Here is how Mr. Beck marked the summer solstice:
(Video Clip of Energy Secretary Chu): The White House will lead by example. I’m pleased to announce that by the end of this spring, there will be solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity and solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House.
BECK: Oh, my goodness! I thought – when I heard that I thought – thank you, Jesus, for having a hot water tank powered by the sun on the top of the White House, because that’s going to make all the difference in the world. We’re fixed, America! That’s how upside down this White House is.
By the way, look at the clock, officially end of the spring. Yes!
Let me show you. What it looks like. Now at the top – I don’t see it. Where are the solar panels? It must be an old picture. Tiffany, is this an old picture?
FOX NEWS PRODUCER: It’s a brand new picture.
BECK: Brand new picture. So, I don’t know where the solar panels are. Maybe it was a different spring. Maybe it’s camouflage. Maybe they didn’t do it because it’s bull crap from the beginning. What do you think? No solar panels, even though this White House solar panel project was, quote, “designed to accelerate deployment” of solar technologies.
In tennis, this would be called an “unforced error." In the ER they would describe it as a “self-inflicted wound." To those of us in the solar industry, who constantly battle the bad PR about solar power and the misinformation that is floating around in the minds of the public, this is one more hurdle that we must overcome if we are going to see our way through to the future that we know can - and must - be developed in this country and the world.
Contrary to Mr. Beck’s surmise, solar power is for real and it is helping real people save money every single day. If you want to learn more about why solar isn’t “bull … from the beginning,” contact us and we will show you how it can make a difference for your home or business.
One of the paradoxes of our so-called Information Age is that while the Internet brings a world of knowledge to our fingertips, it comes at the cost of a fairly high carbon footprint. Those servers that sustain the World Wide Web consume enormous amounts of power - power which for the most part comes from burning coal. That dark little secret means that the very largest Internet entities - such as Google, Facebook and Twitter - could be responsible for enormous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.
While Google has been highly visible in its efforts to power its server farms from renewable sources - sporting everything from vast solar arrays to the latest fuel cell technologies - Facebook and Twitter have been largely silent on this issue.
At least for Facebook, that silence has now been broken. Announcing something that it is calling the Open Compute Project, Facebook is now offering information on the greening of its server farms and providing documentation on what it did so that others can follow suit. According to the OPC site, Facebook claims that its “vanity free servers” are 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build and run than what is generally found in state-of-the-art data centers. Still, the LA Times is reporting that Greenpeace is pushing Facebook to do more - including pledging to get all of the energy that it needs to run its data centers from renewable sources. No word yet on whether or not Facebook will make such a pledge.
All of that is good for Facebook, but what about the rest of us? True, most of us don’t run server farms or manage data centers, but we all use computers to access the Internet - to write and then to read this post, for example. What about us? If we are not in a position to upgrade our computers at home or at work to the latest and most efficient models, what are we to do?
In an effort to make our operations as green as possible (within our budget!) we recently installed “power saving software” called Granola from MiserWare that helps you “help save the planet” by lowering the energy usage of your PC. Or as they say:
Granola makes computers more energy efficient without slowing them down. It’s safe, it’s easy, and it lets your computer run like a hybrid Ferrari – fast when you need speed, but energy efficient when you don’t. Granola helps you save the world.
We have used the software for just over two months on our primary office PC and here are our results so far: 19.7 kWh saved for an overall efficiency improvement of 23.8% Will those numbers save the world? No. But imagine the savings if every PC adopted similar software? In our experience the software has been entirely transparent and we have had no problems using it at all.
We have said it before and we will say it again - energy efficiency is more cost effective than energy generation. We encourage all of our clients to make their buildings as energy efficient as possible before adding solar. In that vein, we applaud the efforts by Facebook and are happy to promote Granola - collectively we will save the world.