First foundation for Deepwater wind farm installed off Block Island

As reported in the Providence Journal and AP News – Deepwater Wind on Sunday installed the first foundation for the five-turbine wind farm it’s building in waters off Block Island, Rhode Island. In a process mirroring that used to install offshore drilling platforms, the Weeks 533, the largest barge mounted revolving crane on the East Coast, lifted the 440-ton  steel jacket off its transport barge and slowly lowered it to the sea floor. Steel piles will be driven through the hollow tubular legs of the jacket to secure it firmly to the seafloor, and wind turbines will ultimately be installed on top of the jacket.

The wind farm is the first to be constructed in the United States and is expected to be operational in the third quarter of 2016. Company, industry, and government officials as well as environmental agency leaders hailed this as an important step in the development of a new industry.

Visit: Providence Journal Deepwater Wind Farm and AP News 1st US Offshore Wind Farm.

Solar Desal Plant Addresses Two Serious Issues

Solar power and desalination have typically been employed separately, with solar power converting the sun’s energy into electricity and desalination removing unwanted minerals from saltwater so it can be used for drinking or agriculture. WaterFX, a San Francisco-based water producer, has found a way to merge the two technologies and plans to build California’s first commercial solar desalination plant. The plant will be located in the Central Valley, where sunshine is plentiful, and will ultimately generate up to 5,000 acre-feet, or 1.6 billion gallons, of clean water per year — enough water for 10,000 homes or 2,000 acres of cropland. It will turn unusable irrigation water from a 7,000-acre drainage area into freshwater by removing unwanted mineral and salts.

The system uses heat generated from parabolic solar panels to evaporate clean water out of the original source water. The condensate is then recovered as pure water at over 90 percent efficiency. When the sun isn’t shining, thermal heat storage allows the process to continue.

The implications are far-reaching. In a state that has endured 4 years of drought, agriculture accounts for 80 percent of water used and results in an estimated one million acre-feet of irrigation drainage that could be treated and reused if solar desalination catches on.

For more information, see Climate Progress “Have You Heard of Solar Desalination?”.

Category: Cool Tech

Toyota Mirai – The Turning Point

Today, Toyota started taking orders for the new Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) with delivery estimated in late 2015 at an MSRP of $57,500.  Toyota has been developing their FCV technology over the past 20 years and believes that the Mirai will be a game changer in the transportation industry, much as the Prius hybrid vehicle was a decade ago. The Mirai uses no gasoline; rather, it converts hydrogen to electricity using a fuel cell battery with the only emission being water vapor.  It will be the only zero emission electric vehicle on the market that tops the 300 mile range milestone (an EPA estimated driving range rating of 312 miles) and offers an EPA estimated 67 mpge city/highway/combined. As part of the announcement, Toyota also identified the current and planned refueling stations (all in California) over the next 2 years. There are 4 stations currently available, with an additional 7 scheduled to open by the end of 2015 and 31 more in 2016.

You can visit their order web site at: Toyota Mirai Order Request Site. See also OWOE What is a Fuel Cell Vehicle?

Category: Cool Tech

Affordable Solar Power for All

Solar power’s contribution to the United States’ energy mix comes in two primary forms: 1) utility scale solar such as the recently completed Ivanpah and Crescent Dunes power generating stations which supply power to the existing electrical grid and which is indistinguishable from electricity generated by other fuel sources, and 2) distributed solar from rooftop solar systems or community solar gardens which is primarily used for local houses or businesses that have installed the system. Although both forms of power generation are growing at rapid rates, industry experts see distributed solar as having the greatest potential. Continue reading Affordable Solar Power for All

Wind power generates 140% of Denmark’s electricity demand

As reported in the Guardian on July 10, unusually high winds allowed Denmark to meet all of its electricity needs – with plenty to spare for Germany, Norway and Sweden. On an unusually windy day, Denmark found itself producing 116% of its national electricity needs from wind turbines during the evening. By 3am, when electricity demand dropped, that figure had risen to 140%. Interconnectors allowed all of the power surplus to be shared between Germany, Norway, and Sweden.

Although Denmark is a small country relative to the United States with significantly higher wind energy potential per capita, it is still a significant achievement that demonstrates to the rest of the world that a 100% renewable electrical power system is achievable.

For more information, see theguardian: Denmark Wind Energy.

BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

As reported in the New York Times, an $18.7 billion settlement was announced last Thursday to address all federal, state and local claims against BP arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling blowout and subsequent oil spill. If approved by the federal judge presiding over the litigation, it would be the largest environmental settlement and the largest civil settlement with a single entity in the nation’s history. BP had already agreed to pay $4 billion in criminal fines. Claims from shareholders or individuals are not affected.

The April 2010 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 and injured 16 drilling crew members and resulted in a spill of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

See NY Times – BP Oil Spill Settlement

Argentina orders asset seizure from Falkland oil firms

Over the weekend an Argentine judge ordered the seizure of $156 million and other assets from British and US oil companies exploring for oil in waters off the Falkland Islands. The Falkland Islands have been a disputed territory since colonization by Europeans, and the islands have had French, British, Spanish, and Argentine settlements. The UK has asserted control since 1883, and the islands were the scene of a fairly brief but deadly war between the UK and Argentina in 1982. Recently, the rhetoric from Argentina has heated up with the discovery of significant oil reserves. This judicial ruling is the most recent in a series by the government to stop exploration and potential development by other countries. Although there is little Argentina can do to enforce these orders, they do create uncertainty and cast a pall over any attempted development in this frontier region.

Visit BBC World Latin America