Bird Brains Avoid Wind Farms

wind turbine

Opponents of clean energy try to find any reason to stop renewable installations (I guess they hate the planet?) and when it comes to wind farms they suddenly start caring about birds. Their argument is that birds will fly into the blades of wind turbines. This argument was recently studied on the shores of the UK and found to be marginally correct, instead of killing thousands of birds a wind farm found only an average of one every four months. This death rate is notable less than the amount of birds killed by flying into windows on skyscrapers. Hopefully the anti wind energy people now redirect their own energy to protecting birds from pointless deaths from lights being left on in towers.

Tim Frayling, Senior Environmental Specialist Ornithology, Natural England said: “Natural England acknowledge the significant achievement of providing empirical evidence of bird avoidance in relation to an offshore wind farm for the first time, and the progress in starting to address some key questions in this area.

“The proof of concept has been successfully demonstrated and we would look forward to seeing similar studies in different locations, including wind farms closer to seabird colonies.”

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Floating Wind Farm in Scotland is a Success

ocean shore

Oil and gas companies have seen the writing on the wall about the future of energy: it’s all about renewables. The Norwegian state-owned company Statoil installed a massive wind farm off the coast of Scotland and it’s a roaring success. The wind turbines float in the water and are operating more efficiently than their land-based counterparts. What’s more is that they survived hurricane force winds.

Hywind in particular was built much like a floating offshore oil drilling rig, with the platform anchored down to the seabed using suction anchors. These eliminate the need to construct expensive fixed structures under water and allow Statoil and others to site the turbines farther out to sea in deeper waters. Hywind specifically is 15.5 miles out from Aberdeenshire, Scotland. At maximum capacity, it can power 20,000 homes.

Despite its “floating” moniker, Hywind is well-equipped to withstand violent storms without capsizing. The system performed as expected during the extreme storms that hit it over the winter. In October, the proximity of Hurricane Ophelia exposed Hywind to wind speeds of 125km/h (80mph), and, later in December, another storm delivered “gusts in excess of 160km/h (100mph) and waves in excess of 8.2m (27ft).”

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Solar is Booming in Australia

solar

Solar in places with a lot of sun might seem like a no-brainer; yet in Australia it’s taken a long time for the idea to take off. This year is clearly going to be a turning a point for solar in the sunny nation based of the already exploding demand for solar installations. It’s great to see that solar has gotten so cheap that it’s being installed at such a high rate and that at least one nation has reached a tipping point around the culture acceptance of solar power.

“These solar farms can be built within a matter of weeks,” he said. “They’re really quick and simple.”

Together, the new large-scale projects could add between 2.5GW and 3.5GW to the national grid and rooftop installations could add another 1.3GW, according to the Smart Energy Council’s estimates. This would nearly double the nation’s solar energy capacity, currently 7GW, in a single year.

“The train tracks are about to converge,” Grimes said. “Rooftop installations and utilities are both booming and could turbo-boost the solar numbers overall.”

In Queensland, residential solar panels are already the state’s largest source of energy, producing more combined than the 1.7GW Gladstone power station. Just under a third (30%) of residential homes in the state have solar installed – the most in the country.

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As Oil Industry Declines, Workers Turn to Solar

solar

The tar sands in Alberta is killing a Canadian climate-friendly future and the people who work there have also realized that jobs in the tar sands isn’t their future. A new not-for profit, Iron and Earth, is building a sustainable future for the climate and for workers. The worker led cooperative takes people who want out of the unstable oil economy into the growing field of renewable energy installations.

Iron and Earth is now running short solar training programs for oil and gas workers who want new options. “Our approach is really that so many of the tradespeople that work in the oil sands are highly skilled, and really require only a few days of specialized training for solar energy and potentially other renewable energy technologies as well,” Hildebrand says.
In the first five-day course, in October, 15 trainees installed solar panels at a community daycare on tribal land in Alberta. A similar course happened in November. The organization plans to train 1,000 oil and gas workers in its first campaign.

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Using a Blockchain for a Smarter Energy Grid

Blockchain technology stems from Bitcoin and provides a platform for change greater than Bitcoin itself. Researchers in the renewable energy industry have realized that blockchains can be used to replace outdated billing and tracking. Presently when a company produces energy it requires verification form other companies and each step eats into profits – a more efficient system would be use blockchains to verify the system by cutting out the middleman. The blockchain also provides a transparent solution that makes for easier monitoring and accountability than what’s currently provided.

The blockchain being used the example below is powered using my favourite cryptocurrency Ethereum. It is another way that distributed ledger systems mixed with computing power can alter our economies for the better.

Keeping track of renewable-energy certificates is one of dozens of potential applications of blockchain technology that could solve data management challenges in the electricity sector without disrupting business as usual, according to Morris. He and many others believe that in the long term, the technology could help transform the very architecture of the grid itself.

To unleash the potential of blockchain in the energy sector, Jesse Morris’s team at RMI has joined with Austria-based blockchain startup Grid Singularity to create a new nonprofit called the Energy Web Foundation. Earlier this month, the EWF launched its own blockchain, which Morris says is “purpose-built for the energy sector.” Based on Ethereum, the network will be a test bed for promising use cases. To validate transactions during the test, EWF will rely on 10 major energy companies that have signed on as affiliates.

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