Thursday, June 30, 2011

EPA Under Attack by King Coal

As we strive to move toward sustainability and limit green house gas we would like to think the nation is behind the movement. 
In 1972 the Clean Water Act was a direct response to industries lack of regulation and rampant pollution into the nation’s waterways. At the time two-thirds of the country’s lakes, rivers and coastal waters had become unsafe for fishing or swimming. Fast forward to today where a bipartisan effort is moving through the U.S. House of Representatives to restrict the power of EPA rules covering mountaintop mining, waterways and wetlands. It should surprise no one that Rep. Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia) is pushing this bill along with 35 other co-sponsors. West Virginia has long been touted as an area where mining is king. The bill will give power back to the state by allowing them to create their own water quality standards and undermine a land mark bill in the Clean Water Act. The legislation is geared toward coal mining, where EPA permits the process of surface mining through the CWA. Even if the bill passes through the House, it is not expected to make it through the Senate. The issue of loose regulation does raise concerns as allegations are surfacing that the Massey Energy Co. and the Mine Safety and Health Administration did not report safety issues that led to the explosion and killing of 29 coal miners in West Virginia last year. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wave Energy Trust Partners with PSU

It appears that our own Portland State University is now participating in a program that supports the expansion and production of the growing wave energy industry. The Oregon Energy Wave Trust recently announced their new Oregon Wave Energy Commercialization Program and partnered with the PSU School of Business Administration, which is the first of multiple universities who will partner with this program. This is all in hopes of boosting Oregon's wave energy industry. The Wave Energy Trust currently works with seven different Oregon businesses and recently released a report that detailed their goals to achieve by 2015. These goals include: a 10-megawatt project in addition to smaller ocean-energy installations, improved coordination of regulatory processes and an informed selection of potential ocean-energy sites.

For additional information, please CLICK HERE

Friday, June 10, 2011

More Cool Facts About Nuclear Energy!

What is nuclear energy?

    Nuclear energy is released by three exothermic processes:
    1. Radioactive decay, where a proton or neutron in the radioactive nucleus decays spontaneously by emitting a particle
      2. Fusion, two atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus
        3. Fission, the breaking of heavy nucleus into two nuclei

          The sun uses nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium atoms. This gives off heat and light and other radiation. 
            Nuclear energy (nuclear power) accounts for about 19 percent of the total electricity generated in the United States, an amount comparable to all the electricity used in California, Texas and New York, three most populous states. 
              Nuclear energy is produced by a controlled nuclear chain reaction and creates heat—which is used to boil water, produce steam, and drive a steam turbine.
                Nuclear power plants need less fuel than ones which burn fossil fuels. One ton of uranium produces more energy than is produced by several million tons of coal or several million barrels of oil. 

                Hydropower & The Bonneville Dam

                About 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water.  It is an amazing and powerful resource and is the most common renewable source of energy in the United States today.  Hydropower is the use of our great resource, water, to generate electricity.  A plethora of power plants use dams on rivers to store water.  The Bonneville dam of the Cascade Locks is a beautiful example of the continued production of renewable energy.  It was constructed using Federal money under the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration at a time when electricity production was crucial.  The Bonneville Dam is located 40 miles east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge.  The Bonneville Dam’s primary functions include electrical power generation and river navigation.
                Much hydroelectric power is generated through the use of a dam on a river to store water. The water released from behind the dam flows through a turbine, which spins it, and turns a generator to produce electricity.  The energy production resulting from this process is hydroelectricity and accounts for 7% of the electricity used by the nation.  Hydroelectric power can be seen on a large scale like a dam or on a smaller scare on a ranch with the use of a channel to produce energy.  The minimal cost of hydroelectricity attracts many industries that use large quantities to the renewable energy source.  Hydroelectricity will continue to be an effective resource promoting renewable energy has it has for about 100 years. 

                ~Kristen Roland


                Pelamis Wave Energy

                Offshore wave energy has the potential to be one of the most environmentally benign forms of electricity generation.  When considering the risks involved with others forms of energy, including nuclear, wave energy is an exceptional option for preserving the environment.  The Pelamis Wave Energy Converter uses the motion from the ocean's surface waves to create electricity.  When the sections of the machine flex and bend as waves pass, the motion generates electricity.  The wave energy from around the British Isles has been estimated to be equivalent to three times the current UK demand for electricity.  There are many other areas around the world where Wave energy would flourish and provide a significant amount of energy without depleting more of the earth’s natural resources and without the risk of toxins and other harmful substances such as nuclear waste.  Pelamis Wave Power has also expressed an interest in installing Pelamis devices at the wave hub development off the north coast of Cornwall, in England, as well as in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Tillamook, Oregon.  Pelamis Wave Energy is a massive and promising option for obtaining energy without harsh side effects that may paralyze us in the future.

                -Kristen Roland

                Sunday, June 5, 2011

                Windows Transforming into Solar Panels

                There has been a new development in the solar industry that could make great advancement in producing large amounts of solar energy. There has been a new class of transparent photovoltaic cells has been developed that could make an ordinary window into a solar panel. This is a great advancement because in the near future skyscrapers could be transformed into giant solar collectors.  

                There have been previous attempts at transparent solar cells, but have either failed to achieve high efficiency or blocked too much light to be used in windows. The new solar cells are based on organic molecules similar to dyes and pigments are designed to absorb only the near-infrared spectrum and the ability to transform light into electricity with a relative high efficiency. The current efficiency of cells are only about 2 percent, but doing some modifications could increase efficiency to 10 percent, Dr, Lunt said.

                The biggest challenge in developing an industrial application lays on if the new solar cells being able to last the same about as regular windows. Vladimir Bulovic, a professor of electrical engineering at M.I.T who collaborated in the development stated that the solar cells would have to last at least 20 years.  He also stated the problem of longevity was not an extraordinarily difficult problem to overcome.  The problem could be expected to fix within less than a decade.

                If the transparent cells are proven to be made commercially able, the power they create could potentially offset the energy use of large building. This advancement is not will not supply ALL the energy needed to run a building, but would be enough for things like lighting and powering everyday electronics.  This is a great movement, but this will defiantly not fix our energy crisis. The department of Energy provided funds for the research. 

                Isai Montes De Oca 

                The European Union Starts Stress Tests

                On June 1st, the EU started preforming stress tests on its nuclear facilities.  This action is a direct result of the nuclear crisis in Japan.  These tests include resistance to earthquakes and floods, breakdown of cooling systems and electrical blackout.  Reports will be due on August 15th and September 15th.  These reprots will then undergo a peer review process, which is expected to be completed in April 2012.

                EU starts nuclear stress tests

                Should we be doing similar stress tests on our nuclear plants?  If you think so you should contact your state representative! You can find their information HERE

                -Ryan Cohen

                Changing Behaviors

                According to a report by the America Psychological Association there are 6 main obstacles that make “going green” a challenge for people. They found that uncertainty, mistrust, denial, undervaluing risks, lack of control and habit all make it difficult to change. With all the information out there on the different reasons to promote ecologically friendly habits, some people doubt that it really is a problem. They can mistrust the government and scientists that show evidence of a serious problem or deny that it was a problem caused by human, and therefore, think it doesn’t need to be solved by humans. When people undervalue the risks of environmental conditions by thinking it will worsen in 25 years and can be dealt with then, but by then it will be too late. Individuals can make a difference but the thinking that any single action will be too small to make a change often keep people doing what they have always been doing without the concern for the effect on the environment.

                In relation to nuclear energy, many people are uncertain of the risks in using nuclear energy and mistrust the information out there. The ease of using nuclear energy makes it difficult to change. Locally, Portland General Electric offers a solution by giving customers a choice of standard nuclear energy or sustainable wind energy for just a few cents more. I can say that putting a piece of paper in with my bill didn’t do much to make me want to make the effort to change to wind energy even though I know it is the right thing. However when they had a representative from the PGE walk around the neighborhood and offer an easy way to change to wind energy I didn’t think twice. The ease of being able to make a change definitely made a difference in actually changing my behaviors and I think that in order to make a difference it needs to be easy to make the correct choice.

                -Cristina Coyne

                Saturday, June 4, 2011

                10 Clean Energy Trends To Watch In 2011 And Beyond

                This article by Tracey De Morsella talks about which alternative energy sources are raising or changing in 2011 and which are dying. De Morsella talks about the change in the US and the UK policies toward wind energy and how they trying to offshore wind energy due to the affects on population density and birds population. Also, that the offshore wind energy facilities are trying to finance their new plants due to the change of policies in the US and the UK. While wind energy is taking off as an alternative source, the design and scale of it will change significantly in the coming years. Moreover, the reporter explains about the problems facing wind power in China, knowing that China is the largest wind power producer the demand is raising dramatically that the power produced there will not be able to cover the demands of the Chinese market.

                To read the full article follow this link:


                Friday, June 3, 2011

                A Win for Yucca Mountain...a Lose for Renewable Energy Programs...and the Big Oil Companies Remain on Top


                After two years without funding of the $13.5 billion project, the licensing and development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada can continue. This was included in the energy and water bill that passed a House panel on Thursday. So what gets cut? Of course, steep cuts to renewable energy programs. I will never understand why such important programs, in terms of the direction for the future, get cut when big oil companies receive billions of dollars in tax subsidies. So many things are so backwards in our government.

                -Melissa Carter

                Geothermal Energy in Oregon!

                Since we are talking about renewal energy we need to take into consideration geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the earth. Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. The Untied States does have geothermal resources but best ones are located here in the western states.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Technologies Program show the best resources are located in areas such as Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

                There are fast moving states that are already taking advantage of this fine source, one the leading and largest plants is Idaho.  Recently, Nevada has signed a 25 year power purchase agreement with US Geothermal Inc, a renewal energy development company. This company also has a large plant located in their state.

                According to the maps provide by the UDEGTP Oregon has the same ability as Idaho and Nevada do. Why hasn’t Oregon invested in this resource we have laying under our feet? Oregon is considered to be on of the Greenest states having the top Green city, Portland in the whole nation.

                According to tracking Saf Dhillon, who handles investor relations for U.S. Geothermal, Inc., a company that is currently developing projects in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon, said, “Traditionally Wall Street and political support has been behind wind and solar, seen as the only renewable options. Geothermal has always taken the backseat in terms of funding and subsidy support. As the markets have educated investors they have come to realize that over the long term these geothermal assets are obviously much more profitable, but they have also realized that they are very capital intensive up front.” The location of the project is Neal Hot Springs in eastern Oregon” (Mike Breslin, 2011).

                Neal Hot Springs is a new 23 megawatt facility under construction and expected to cost approximately $130 million. “This is the first geothermal plant to qualify to receive the ITC and the DOE Loan Guarantee Program. DOE will provide and guarantee a low interest loan of approximately $97 million. In addition, 60 days after the plant starts production, we will receive a check for 30 percent of the plants total capital expenditure under the Treasury Grant Program,” Dhillon explained (Mike Breslin, 2011) .

                Oregon again will be one of the pioneering states to start using less nonrenewable energy. Hopefully the government can start to give tax credits and incentives for geothermal energy, which is still considered to be the poor relative to wind and solar.

                Although geothermal energy hasn’t been fully exploited in the US in other countries such as Ice Land geothermal provides 53% of all their energy. They plan to be completely fossil-fuel free in the near future. Ice Land gives me great enthusiasm for Oregon in the near future and its potential to be one of the leading states with geothermal capabilities. 

                Isai Montes De Oca 

                Playing Catch Up with Green Economies

                We can all agree on the fact their must be a change on the way we fuel our world. The problem is that there are too many different aspects to change quickly to meet those needs. All of the stakeholders need to contribute into finding a solution to our crisis.

                What is the solution to this crisis? Many will suggest multiple solutions that only hit one topic, but to be able to implement a successful strategy we need to have a strategy that applies to what drives the world, Markets.
                We need to move completely away from the “brown” or traditional economy to the “green’’ economy. Green economy involves improving the wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. This is all had to done with profitability in mind.

                According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), green economy comes against the backdrop of serious crises in climate, biodiversity, food, fuel and water, and more recently, the financial crises which has all been characterized by gross misallocation of capital while being exacerbated by existing policies and market incentives.

                A recent report by Unep titled “Towards a Green Economy” states that sustainable development can only be achieved if there is an economic transformation that promotes resource and energy efficiency and reduces environmental degradation.

                Multiple countries around the world such as the African Union have declared to implement Green economies.  For developing countries this is a key advantage due to their lack of established infrastructure. They will be able to implement and educate the cultures about Green economies.

                “Speaking at the inaugural Green Economy Summit in Johannesburg in 2010, South African President Jacob Zuma said the green economy requires integrated strategies and plans that balance economic, environmental and social development objectives with carefully crafted policy and institutional frameworks to ensure sustainable development.”

                I noticed that a lot of upcoming nations are starting to implement or fully discuss the idea of converting their whole nation into a green economy, not just talk about it and use it as an election tool to gain votes. I ask myself why a nation that spends trillions of dollars on wars and weapons isn’t able to fully implement a progressive economy. Other countries will fully implement green economies and we will be the once trying to catch-up. Throughout my education there has been an emphases on how a sustainable society benefits everyone in the chain; government, population, and business.  We have to remember that Suitability is not just a trend or the right thing to do; it’s a strategic move that will enable us to gain advantage over other countries.

                Isai Montes De Oca 

                Wind Power Diversification

                Wind Power is not just the typical wind turbine anymore. Wind Power is diversifying by both design and scale. Wind power is now moving offshore. Currently, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Denmark all obtain more than 25% of its electricity from wind power. China is looking to catch up with the UK and Germany by 2017. The United States and The United Kingdom are looking to move future wind power projects offshore. 
                Wind power is also looking to move to residential areas. A county in Kansas just made the permit process for installing a residential wind turbine much easier for its residents. Ground turbines will not be allowed to exceed 80 feet and roof-mounted turbines cannot be more than 20 feet above the highest point of the roof. So far there is only one resident in the county that has installed a residential wind turbine. The county is waiting to see if the new permit process will attract more. 

                -Melissa Carter

                Germany sets 2022 as closing date for all nuclear plants in the country

                German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans for a gradual closing of all of Germany's nuclear power plants, with the last of them closing by 2022. The plan would be for plants to close in 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2022, while offsetting each of these closures with more alternative energy sources, especially onshore and offshore wind farms.
                This story really came out of left field for me, because I had no idea there was even a single country that is actually near instituting a nuclear power exit policy. We see many countries implementing safer nuclear plants or just adding more renewable energy sources, but germany seems to be taking the Fukishima incident to heart and determined to lead the way in clean energy use. Germany will definitely be watched by other nations as an example of a major western country removing most or all of its nuclear plants, and determining the feasibility of a near wholesale switch to clean energy.


                Thursday, June 2, 2011

                Floating Wind/Wave Energy Platform Bound for U.S

                A new U.S.-based company to be called Floating Power is meant to commercialize a Danish company called Floating Power Plant ( FPP) which specializes in wave energy. In 2008, FPP launched a roughly 121 foot testing and demonstration plant at an open sea site in the Southern part of Denmark. FPP says that the data that was gathered during this two year long, grid-connected test indicates that their device [Poseidon 37] is stable and efficient. The company seems optimistic that the Poseidon can generate predictable energy that could address what it sees as an intermittency issue while, perhaps, approaching base load consistency.
                Oregon-based Floating Power will reportedly have exclusive rights to the installations of the devices produced by FPP throughout the Americas & U.S. government facilities worldwide. According to Bridgeworks Capital, Oregon was chosen because of its demonstrated support of wave energy projects. A combination of factors including "optimal wave conditions, electrical grid availability, preparatory work by the Oregon Innovation Council and Oregon Wave Energy Trust, a cluster of marine universities (including Oregon State University), port infrastructure and the presence of heavy industry offer a favorable climate for commercializing the technology" were said to be what sealed the deal for the Oregon location.



                US to Offer More Funds for Solar Energy

                The US. Department of Energy has just announced that $27 million will be granted to aid solar energy projects. This money is expected to help cut costs of solar energy and encourage use of solar energy by homeowners. It should be noted, however, that this funding does not apply to the panels themselves, only the hardware associated with the panels.

                Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary, said:

                "These investments under the SunShot program can help to transform the solar energy industry by addressing significant challenges to solar energy deployment, including permitting and installation." 
                Perhaps with monetary aid citizens may be more willing to consider other energy options. What do you think?

                ~Erin Bovelle~

                Read more:

                Wednesday, June 1, 2011

                Co-Founder of Greenpeace is very much Pro Nuclear Energy

                Dr. Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace International and ex member, left his organization in 1980's due to idealogical differences. 
                "It became clear to me that there was a logical disconnect. The people who were most concerned about climate change were most opposed to nuclear power. Greenpeace is against fossil fuel, nuclear and hydroelectric power. Those three technologies produce over 99 percent of world energy. What kind of a path to a sustainable future is that?"
                Now, Dr. Moore is currently co-chairman of the  Nuclear Energy Institute's new Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. 
                Read "moore" about this great man in this article from Wired Magazine  here:
                Also, check out the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition webpage to learn more about this great man's proactive search for sustainability!