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

Catholic Church Papal Encyclical Addresses Climate Change

In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis issued an encyclical, or papal letter to all bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, to highlight the crisis posed by climate change, particularly on poor countries. He places most of the blame on human activity and the burning of fossil fuel and warns of serious consequence for all of us” if corrective action is not taken swiftly”. He points to developed, industrialized countries as mostly responsible and obligated to help poorer nations.

Soda Mountain Solar Project in Jeopardy

In the “Say it isn’t so” department, on June 11th the city of Los Angeles announced that it has dropped plans to buy electricity from the Soda Mountain Solar Project proposed for the Mojave Desert, just south of Baker, CA. City officials said that the project would be too damaging to bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and other wildlife near the site. This decision has left developers scrambling to find other customers and has put the project at risk. At a time when the State of California has reached an impressive milestone of 25% of its power needs from renewable sources, including 5% from solar power (over 10 times the national average), maintaining momentum in the quest to convert from fossil fuels to renewable power is critical. One would expect that environmental groups that have lobbied for so long and hard such a change would be embracing projects such as Soda Mountain. Particularly when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which includes a modified proposal that responds to concerns raised by the public and various agencies about the project’s potential impacts to bighorn sheep movement, groundwater and scenic vistas. The alternate proposal includes a smaller project footprint that reduces potential interference with future efforts to re-establish bighorn sheep movement across Interstate 15 as well as other changes to address concerns. But instead of celebrating success, the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council, and other environmental activists groups have lauded the city’s decision. Continue reading Soda Mountain Solar Project in Jeopardy

Shell Drilling Rig Leaves Seattle for Alaska

The Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig Polar Pioneer that has been the focus of environmentalists while it was docked in Seattle left port on Monday for Alaska as the first step of a summer 2015 drilling campaign in the Arctic. Dozens of activists in kayaks dubbed “kayaktivists” tried to stop it, but the Coast Guard enforced the marine safety zone around the vessel and prevented any disruption. Around two dozen people were temporarily detained and fined $500 each for violations. Although final permits are still pending, Shell cleared major hurdles when a federal appeals court struck down a challenge to its oil spill response plans and after President Barack Obama upheld the 2008 Arctic lease sale. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates Arctic offshore reserves at 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Shell says developing these reserves could increase domestic oil supplies by more than 1 million barrels a day.

EPA Report on Fracking Confirms Minimal Impact to Water Resources

The EPA just issued a draft report on their four-year study of the impact of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water (“Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources”, June 2015). In it they conclude that although there are mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources, there is no evidence of widespread, systemic impacts. Although there are specific instances of concern, the number of identified cases was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells. This helps confirm industry experts who have contended that properly designed, planned, and executed fracking activities do not contaminate water resources.

Chevron Big Foot Project in Gulf of Mexico Delayed Due to Tendon Damage

Chevron Corporation has announced that the Big Foot tension-leg platform (TLP) will be moved to sheltered waters from its location in the deepwater U.S. Gulf of Mexico following damage to its tendons during attempted installation of the platform late in May. Tendons are the long, ultra-strong steel pipes that connect the platform to the seabed and are typically buoyant. The tendons were pre-installed to the seafloor with the top end floating below the water surface in preparation for connection to the TLP. It appears that nine of the 16 tendons lost buoyancy and fell to the seafloor. No injuries or environmental damage have been reported with the incident, and the TLP itself was not affected.

The problem is quite serious and Chevron will need to rebuild at least some of the tendons. This will result in a significant delay in start-up of the platform and will likely increase project cost beyond its current $5.1 billion estimate. Big Foot will ultimately be installed in approximately 5,200 ft of water, which is the deepwater depth for a TLP. It will also be the largest TLP in the Gulf of Mexico.