Operation Free

lavender_windmillIt’s the best use of either word I’ve seen or heard in a while:

Ohio’s clean energy law has come under attack by a lawmaker affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group funded by fossil fuel companies, corporate interests and the ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers — but local vets are taking a stand.

Despite failing in its previous effort to repeal any state renewable energy standards, ALEC convened for its 40th annual meeting in late July and leaked documents show the organization has no intention of backing down from its attacks on popular clean energy laws.

But in Ohio, a group of 2,000 veterans, military family members and supporters is pushing back against Seitz’s effort and other bills aimed at weakening Ohio’s renewable energy standard. Zach Roberts, a National Guard veteran and the Ohio director of Operation Free, a national campaign that gathers veterans and national security experts to advocate for clean energy policies, told Climate Progress that S.B. 58 would, “radically change the state’s clean energy standard,” and it ultimately “weakens Ohio’s energy security.”

The law in question, passed in 2008, requires Ohio to generate 25% of its electrical supply through alternative energy sources by 2025. Half of that must be from renewables and 0.5 percent specifically from solar. Is that too much? What are goals, enforced by law in this case, designed to achieve? A perfunctory ratio would have been 5%; a quarter is going to cause some pain but show people (and companies) how to move forward. Freedom, indeedom.

Image: Author photo, not from Ohio but just a bit east of that.

Solar power becoming cheaper than ______

So what does it mean when solar power generation starts to become cheaper than fossil fuel power? Via, Juan Cole, looks like we’re about to find out:

In a note this week in advance of the disruption report, Citi’s Jason Channell said that in many cases, renewables are already at cost parity with established forms of electricity sources.

The biggest surprise in recent years has been the speed at which the price of solar panels has reduced, resulting in cost parity being achieved in certain areas much more quickly than was ever expected; the key point about the future is that these fast ‘learning rates’ are likely to continue, meaning that the technology just keeps getting cheaper.

Below is a chart showing where “socket” or grid parity has already been achieved. (Grid parity is when a source of power becomes cost competitive with other sources.) The lines represent the pattern of expanding solar power in a given year — so at peak solar exposure, parts of the southwest U.S. are now already capable of meeting their electricity needs via solar panels.

Check out the graphs at both of those links. Cole also notes that important new research shows that hybrid power plants that have both solar and wind turbines dramatically increase efficiency and help with integration into the electrical grid. So while TV viewers have been distracted by herrings like Solyndra, utilities and leaders in other countries have been racing this technology to market. This is the dull edge of being led by a media-politico complex beholden to corporate paymasters, of having a nation that thinks of themselves as consumers instead of citizens. We have debates on the causes of global warming that are completely beside the point. Our giant corporations aren’t even acting like good capitalists, but rather fearful protectors of dying industries – maybe that’s the same thing. But they’re perfectly willing to string along as much of the public as possible for as long as they can, by sowing as much doubt as is possible about changing the ways we light up the night, drive to the store and cool our heels. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world: lower bills, lower carbon emissions, now types of manufacturing and careers… But not here – not just yet. And all just to wring every last bit out of the old ways of doing business. It’s beyond pathetic.

But this is what we have handed over to America, Inc. This is their leadership, and instead of innovation, we will begin to are hearing about how we need to protect fossil utilities when demand from their product collapses. Not kidding. They see renewable energy as a threat. so as this happens, the expected reaction of the fossil power industry resembles some version of the 5 stages of mourning.

So can we get on with the anger and bargaining, please?

The wind in your heir


Via Juan Cole, the budget deal from yesterday also included re-upping the tax credit for wind power:

The tax credit, which has been a major driver for wind development across the U.S. over the past two decades, is worth 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced by new wind installations for their first 10 years of operation.

A White House news release confirmed that the production tax credit extension is included in the Senate package that the House also passed. According to industry insiders, it would allow any project that begins construction in 2013 to claim the credit, even if it goes online in 2014. The tax credit that expired on Monday could only be claimed for projects that went online in 2012.

“Just simply, 30 percent of the value of a project is derived from the tax credit,” said Florian Zerhusen, CEO of WKN USA, a San Diego-based wind developer who flipped the switch on two new 3-megawatt turbines in the San Gorgonio Pass on Dec. 21, just days before the credit expired on Monday.

The nascent wind industry needs this, and so do we. If you want to get nationalistic about it, other countries like Germany are eating our lunch and sending us the bill on renewables. Maybe a little healthy competition among advanced nations is good – if we would just choose to act like one. It’s a new year so let’s get with it, and not just on wind. Check out that map. There’s no wind in the South, sure. But there’s a lot of sun, even today.

Image: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Gravity Dam

One of the world’s largest renewable energy projects, largest project’s period, was constructed in the 1930’s. The Grand Coulee Dam.

Not without controversy, it was also the beneficiary of some terrific luck when, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and outbreak of WWII, President Roosevelt and other supporters looked like geniuses for having had the foresight to push through such a crazy-expensive project. Hydro-electric power from the dam made possible the building of planes by Boeing and ships in Portland, not to mention the transformations of Seattle and Portland from outposts into major Northwestern cities.

This, really well-done, documentary tells a lot of the story, including choice bits about Woody Guthrie being paid to come up with promotional tunes for public energy (!) [who has that gig now?] and environmental consequences like the interruption of salmon runs on the Columbia River, the restoration of which have been probably more feel good and window dressing for preserving regional identity than anything. Anyway, recommended.

Turning off the Lights

One of the hotels I was in last week reminded me of this:

When Antoine goes down to take out the garbage before bed (at around 18:44), the lights turn off on him while he’d dumping the pail. He clicks it back on. This used to be the norm all over Europe, to cutdown on postwar energy consumption

One of the hotels I stayed in Italy last week had a version of this, where the lights were on a timer and if they turned off before you got to your room, you had to feel around for the switch. Another nicer one had a better system, where the hall lights clicked off then a motion sensor turned them back on if there was anyone in the hallway. This system had been updated with a Fob entry system, which you then (without instructions, must be in wide use) had to insert into a slot inside the room to make the lights work. Guests have to take the Fob with then when they leave the room, thus insuring no lights can ever be left on when the room unoccupied. Italy is so backward.

We already know a ton of ways to save energy. Though of course, instead of these methods, we need an app.

Solar all night

I’m usually pretty hard on CNN, and they always deserve it, despite the many fine people in their employ. So here’s an attaboy, CNN.



A new national 10-year plan from Brazil shows that the country will triple its use of renewable energy by 2020 and that a lot of that energy will be wind energy.

Going from 9 GW of wind, biomass and small hydropower in 2010, the country intends to hit 27 GW by 2020. It wants to have 16% of its electricity supply coming from renewables in 10 years.

On wind energy, the country hit the 1 GW milestone in May but plans to get to 12 GW by 2020. Last year’s 10-year plan only had the country getting 6 GW from wind by 2019, so you can see that the country is really stepping up its wind energy goals.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/12CMD)

By comparison, renewables met 8% of total energy demand in the U.S. during 2009 and 10% of total electricity generation. We don’t expect to hit the 17% mark until 2035. Which is not a goal, but more like a foul.

More Than Ever?

Not to be alarmist but… are we using more electricity than ever?

Picture 2

Sustainable growth? Remember that? Green me. When the mustache of understanding brings up sustainable growth, let’s not forget this part of it. How much electricity we are using, where the 20 million barrels of oil we use per day comes from… this is the new ‘destroying the village in order to save it’: incoherence.

Bonus: what is the appropriate use of alarmism?

*Countries in the graph picked at random. Sweden is eating our per capita lunch for some reason. Electronics?

Greenface vs. Peacebook

It seems a little much.

Social networking giant Facebook has been taking heat from enviros recently for its decision to site a massive new data center in Prineville, Ore. The issue? Pacific Power, the utility that serves Prineville,gets most of its power from coal, the enemy of the human race. Greenpeace International has started a Facebook group opposing the move.

But as Roberts points out, it’s the movement of the societal norm needle against/away from coal that’s the key here. Coal sucks and is doing some very terrible, long term damage the longer we use it. But we have quite a lot of it and it’s cheap – the perfect storm for planetary self-extortion. We’d like to change but we can’t afford to. We hedge about its effects on the future as a way of making ourselves feel better, but this ploy does absolutely nothing for long term self-preservation. It’s not a ploy in that direction at all, but a psychological ameliorative. Until somebody does something.

Big manufacturers can’t envision a way to replace the trainloads of coal flowing into their plants each day, so they do nothing. The government hasn’t found the courage to begin to discourage coal usage and/or incentivize clean energy on a grand scale. So what to do? One thing: you might begin to castigate, ridicule and generally create negative PR buzz on the coal front for the entities who are effected by such things. It’s weak, I’ll admit. But we already make all kinds of small decisions like this that re-enforce the status quo on energy consumption, and there are and will be that many more that will have to be reckoned with – or ignored on the basis that nothing can be done – to begin to effect change.

If it’s going to happen.


I thought it was something I had already mentioned, but this kinda makes sense: harnessing consumer power to help communities buy solar power. One Block Off the Grid, or 1BOG.


Cool logo. Check it out.

h/t Times Green blog.