YourEnergyBlog gave us the evolution of energy from torches to solar panels. A summary of man’s 800,000 year obsession with finding more and more efficient energy sources.

The Caller reminded us No source of energy is a risk-free lunch. “Every source of energy comes with some kind of risk” – whether in terms of economic and resource cost, environmental impacts and effect on wildlife, or its aesthetic effect on the landscape. The human task is to learn to manage these risks so as to minimize their negative effects.

Wind energy is “cleaner” than burning coal to make electricity, or even burning natural gas, but, like all energy, it does have risks. Those risks are mostly invisible to us now simply because wind farms are still relatively scarce or are located distant from our own horizons. We can’t completely eliminate risk if we want our houses air-conditioned, or the lights to come on, and our vehicles to operate. We can’t get rid of risk, but we can manage it. We’ve done it with petroleum and we have to do it with wind energy, too.

From Geo we learned that the meteor that caused havoc for the city of Chelyabinsk in eastern Russia had 500 kilotons of energy. According to NASA scientists, it exploded with the power of 30 nuclear bombs and produced more energy than all of the weapons used in World War II.

From the Bangkok Post we were told about the fragility of a country’s electricity system. Thailand’s electricity generation is 70% dependent on natural gas and imports from neigbouring Myanmar which accounts for around one-fourth of the country’s total gas supply. Now the Myanmar gas will soon be shut off do to annual maintenance. As a result, the country’s energy minister has told homeowners and government agencies to cut back on their electricity use or there will be blackouts. This will insure that businesses keep operating. To overcome this annual problem the country could build more coal-fired generation facilities. However, the public is against the increased use of coal as well as the building of more dams to produce hydro-power on increase domestic natural gas production.  So Thailand faces a conundrum if it is to have a secure supply of back-up power generation.  It could import liquified natural gas at 3 times the cost of gas from Myanmar or use diesel which is twice as expensive as gas.  In the long-term the country is hoping that clean coal will become available. If it does not the country will have to take a hard look at nuclear and hydroelectric sources.

Power Engineering International reported that Spain’s turnaround on commitment to green energy may lead to legal action by foreign investors. Spain, like some other European countries, is finding subsidies to renewable energy to costly as well as not meeting the goals pushed by green energy supporters. (See here)  As a result, Spain brought in new rules cutting back the subsidies available to companies using this energy source to produce electricity. The implications of having to compensate these investors could be costly:

Investors fear that this latest legislation, along with other recent laws, will virtually wipe out profits for photovoltaic, solar thermal and wind power plants…investors from the US, Japan and the United Arab Emirates are among those pursuing action through the Brussels-based Energy Charter, an internationally ratified treaty that binds members to rules on energy and arbitration…It is not known what the claims might be worth, but international funds are thought to hold more than EUR13bn ($17bn) of renewable energy assets in Spain.

CleanBiz Asia wrote Asia is about to upset world energy flows. The International Energy Agency says this continent is at the center of vast changes that will alter the global map of energy trade over the next five years. In particular, if the region can liberalize its energy markets and make the investment environment attractive for the private secto, it can be “rich” in renewable energy to support its rapid growth.  Geothermal alone has the potential to meet 15% of Asia’s energy demands.

Bloomberg told us wind energy is now cheaper than coal and natural gas for producing electricity in Australia. Electricity supplied from a new wind farm in Australia costs A$80 ($84) per MWh, compared with A$143 a MWh from a new coal-fired power plant or A$116 from a new station powered by natural gas when the country’s carbon emissions tax is included. However, coal-fired power stations built in the 1970s and 1980s can still produce electricity at a lower cost than that of wind.

The Globe and Mail reported more than a quarter of the world’s wind power capacity is in China. The Asian country had more than 75 GW of wind energy in place at the end of 2012. The United States comes second at 60 GW and Germany is third at 31 GW.

Wind will power 9 million homes in central and eastern Europe by 2020 said Power Engineering. According to a new report, Eastern Winds,” analyzing the emerging wind power markets in Central and Eastern European countries, plus Turkey, Ukraine and Russia, wind power will be a significant source of electricity production by 2020. Wind energy is expected to reduce the fossil fuel dependency of the power sectors of this region.  The report outlines the plans by 12 new European Europe Member States in the region that plan to accelerate the wind power capacity to 16 GW by 2020, up from the 6.4 GW installed capacity at the end of 2012.

EcoSeed said wind will power half of Europe’s energy needs by 2050. This conclusion comes from MAKE Consulting. Onshore wind is expected to reach parity with other electricity-generating technologies in the European Union by 2015, followed by offshore wind sometime between 2022 and 2023. The International Energy Agency believes nearly all onshore wind projects in the EU. will be fully competitive with natural gas over coming years.

Here are 101 renewable energy web sites from environmental science degree.

The South China Morning Post tells us about a new energy efficient light bulb. Canadian scientists claim to have invented the world’s most energy-efficient bulb: a 12-watt LED light that shines as bright as a 100-watt incandescent bulb. The scientists are now working on a version of the bulb that can be dimmed.






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1 Comment on The Energy Blog World: The Week in Review (Part 1)

  1. Elroy Jetson says:

    Interesting suggestion from The Caller that wind power is greener than natural gas. Given that a natural gas plant has a very small footprint and can deliver a large amount of power to nearby end users (local politicking notwithstanding) I wonder how much greener a wind farm really is than natural gas? Each turbine sits on it’s own CO2-intensive concrete pylon and roads have to be built so each turbine can be accessed for service. Each turbine needs its own cabling for connection to the grid (copper mining is not high on the list of green things people do) and has a minimum set-back from homes, etc. Lots of copper is needed to link rural wind farms to urban end users. The grid itself needs expensive and sophisticated modification and management to tolerate the variations in output from turbines. What form of storage will be used for wind generated power — batteries, perhaps, with their attendant environmental issues?

    And we haven’t said anything about the slaughter of birds and bats, or health effects on nearby humans, much less the impact on real estate values. (Ontario just authorized the removal of an eagle’s nest to facilitate a wind farm.) The Caller does, to its credit, say there are risks with every power source. But to then declare wind as greener than natural gas seems premature.