California's record-setting drought stands to do major harm to the state's ability to generate hydroelectric power, with a possible drop in output from just the state's ten largest hydro power plants potentially exceeding the loss of generating capacity from the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.
According to realtime data provided by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), 10 of the state's 12 largest reservoirs are well below historic average water levels, with half of those reservoirs holding 55 percent or less of the average amount of water that managers generally expect in January.
Those reservoirs feed water through hydroelectric plants with a total generating capacity just above 2,500 megawatts. The longer the drought continues, the less likely it is the state will be able to count on that generating capacity, which could mean a loss of power greater than that from the closure of San Onofre.
Another day, another Gizmodo piece on renewable energy gadgets to debunk. Last week ReWire took a critical look at the gadgetry site's strange lauding of a car-top wind turbine that couldn't possibly work. This week, it's solar orbs: a form of concentrating solar involving glass ball lenses.
In a piece published Monday, Gizmodo writer Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan waxed lyrical over Rawlemon, a startup currently crowdfunding its concentrating photovoltaic design. Rawlemon uses a large ball lens to focus light on photovoltaic cells. Rawlemon's designer claims the lens can concentrate available light by up to 10,000 times, boosting the output of the small solar cells by a considerable amount.
Campbell-Dollaghan's take on the potential product is somewhat breathless. "Rawlemon," she writes, "by sheer force of numbers, has the power to outperform traditional solar panels by many thousands of times," even offering the possibility of generating power from moonlight. Sadly, a bit of simple math deflates her claim. While Rawlemon's technology may well offer some nifty advantages for specialized uses, the system is unlikely to be competitive with plain old solar panels anytime soon.
Despite earlier gloomy prognostications that California's greenhouse gas cap and trade system would violate the law and tank the state's economy, the program's first year has been a remarkable success. That's according to a report on the program released this week by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
According to the report, entitled California Carbon Market Watch: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Golden State's Cap-and-Trade Program, Year One,, the first year of the cap and trade program's emissions credit auction coincided with a strengthening state economy and a growing renewable energy sector, while setting a stable price for the privilege of emitting greenhouse gas pollution.
According to the report, those achievements -- along with last week's link to Quebec's similar cap and trade market, and moves to do likewise with Australia and China -- show that it's possible to strictly regulate greenhouse gas emissions without plunging the world's economic activity into chaos.
After a lot of public criticism, Gizmodo has changed the headline on a story by Andrew Liszewski from Wednesday. The criticism wasn't surprising. The old headline gave the impression Gizmodo thought perpetual motion machines were possible: "Strap this wind turbine to your electric car and you can drive forever."
The claim, repeated in a corresponding Tweet, provoked a cascade of eyerolling comments on the site and at least one link to a video containing a statement by a noted fictional expert in the physical sciences. It's understandable that Gizmodo changed the piece's head to "Strap This Wind Turbine To Your Electric Car To Stay Juiced in Park," claiming the original headline was intended tongue-in-cheek.
ReWire will take Gizmodo at its word on that. But there are still some problems with the claims that remain in the piece. Attaching a wind turbine to your vehicle and expecting to gain any energy at all, other than when it's parked facing the wind, still violates the laws of physics.
Here's an interesting bit of news first reported by the San Diego County-based East County Magazine: The County is working on approval of 1,490 acres of solar projects near the town of Boulevard based in part on wildlife studies performed illegally by a biologist later convicted in Federal court for related offenses.
The projects, proposed for four discrete sites by Soitec Solar, hired the controversial Wildlife Research Institute (WRI) to perform studies of the sites' potential impact on local eagle populations. The County's Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Report relies heavily on data collected by WRI in its Biological Resources section, in which it concludes that building more than two square miles of total concentrating solar photovoltaic projects in eagle migration and foraging habitat would have a "less than significant" impact on the birds.
But much of that that data from WRI was collected during a period in which the organization, and its director David Bittner, lacked the necessary permits to study, trap, and otherwise harass eagles. Bittner was convicted of violating federal wildlife protection law in August 2013, after at least three years of working an energy developers' wildlife consultant without the necessary permits, using methods strongly questioned by other biologists. But East County Magazine reports that San Diego County has no plans to tell Soitec to redo its application with data obtained legally.
It's hard to know just where to start in examining "60 Minutes'" embarrassingly unprofessional look at "The Cleantech Crash" the newsmagazine aired Sunday. The problems with the piece range from details around the edges to the segment's very core, and writers across the web have spent the last couple days pointing out obvious flaws.
The piece didn't mention climate change once. One expert interviewed by reporter Lesley Stahl says his remarks were edited deceptively. In a nearly 14-minute piece, there was one ten-second mention off the astounding growth of solar power capacity in the last five years, and no mention at all of other astounding advances -- for instance, that the cost of LED light bulbs is about 15 percent of what it was in 2008. Or the growth in wind generation. Or the drop in prices of electric cars and the burgeoning network of charging stations nationwide.
Instead, the segment advanced an argument based on a claim that we here at ReWire debunked as long ago as late 2012 -- a claim that just happens to be a slightly updated talking point from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.