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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (8/14/14)

Posted By Lowell F. on August 14th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (8/14/14).

  1. RenewEconomy discussees the “madness of [Western Australia]’s multi-billion fossil fuel energy disaster.”
  2. According to Clean Technica, “Saudi Arabia Could Beat US To Low Cost Solar Punch.”
  3. The New York Times reports, “NRG Energy, one of the country’s largest independent power producers, is getting into the mobile solar business with the acquisition of a start-up called Goal Zero, company executives said on Thursday.”
  4. Greentech Media asks, “How Long Until Residential Battery Storage Reaches Grid Parity in Germany?” The answer: “It’s very close, according to the German government and some industry observers.”
  5. InsideClimate News reports, “Two major oil companies have asked a Texas judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit that could draw new attention to the toxic air emissions from oil and gas production.”
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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (8/13/14)

Posted By Lowell F. on August 13th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (8/13/14).

  1. Climate Progress reports: “To hear its critics tell it, Germany’s ambitious push to switch over to renewable energy has delivered an electrical grid that’s capricious, unreliable, and prone to blackouts. But according to data highlighted by ECO Report last week, the reality on the ground couldn’t be further from that caricature.”
  2. According to Media Matters: “The media heralded a report in early 2014, which claimed that building the controversial Keystone XL pipeline would not have a significant impact on climate change. Since then, multiple studies have found that same report to be flawed, but most mainstream media outlets have refused to give these studies coverage.”
  3. Gigaom reports that “advanced, more efficient power electronics can reduce the energy used by the battery by 20 percent, which means the cars can use a smaller battery, and reduce overall cost of building a car by 8 percent, which would be $6,000 off the cost of the [Tesla] Model S.”
  4. Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations writes that “Fossil fuel subsidies are an economic, environmental, and security scourge,” but that there are “[t]wo thought-provoking new studies suggest ways forward” in reform[ing] and reduc[ing] them.”
  5. Greentech Media reports, “In California, where rooftop solar PV, distributed energy storage and energy-engaged consumers are becoming an increasingly important part of the grid mix, state regulators and utilities are starting to think about how these grid-edge systems will work together for the benefit of the grid, the environment and ratepayers alike.”
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Daydreaming, Vacationing and Catnapping to Cleantech Breakthroughs?

Posted By Lowell F. on August 12th, 2014

This article isn’t directly cleantech related, but it does apply to those working in cleantech – or any other industry for that matter. Specifically, it highlights the importance of segregating electronic interruptions and social media, and of taking work-free, electronics-free vacations.

Every day we’re assaulted with facts, pseudofacts, news feeds and jibber-jabber, coming from all directions. According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986. As the world’s 21,274 television stations produce some 85,000 hours of original programming every day (by 2003 figures), we watch an average of five hours of television per day. For every hour of YouTube video you watch, there are 5,999 hours of new video just posted!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain). The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.

Come to think of it, there actually is a connection to cleantech here. How so? Because the type of insight that creates technological breakthroughs — including in solar power, wind, energy efficiency, smart grids, electric vehicles, and batteries — come from humans’ “two-part attentional system.”

This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness.

But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears. This is the mind-wandering mode, making connections among things that we didn’t previously see as connected.

So who knows, maybe the next great breakthrough in cleantech will come from somebody who just took a vacation, just finished daydreaming, or just woke up from pleasant nap?

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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (8/12/14)

Posted By Lowell F. on August 12th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (8/12/14).

  1. Climate Progress reports: “A massive wind farm in Wyoming is getting closer to reality. Last week Wyoming’s Industrial Siting Council voted unanimously to approve a permit to construct and operate the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, which could eventually generate 3,000 megawatts of energy — enough to power nearly one million households. The $5 billion project, which could include up to 1,000 wind turbines, is being undertaken by Power Company of Wyoming.”
  2. According to Reuters, “Grappling with its worst energy crisis in more than a decade, Brazil is making its first big move to develop a local solar power industry that could help reduce its dependence on a battered hydro power system.”
  3. The Economic Times (India) reports, “The government plans to rapidly accelerate wind energy generation, adding an ambitious 10,000 MW every year, or five times the total new capacity that came up in the last fiscal, as the Modi government takes steps to reduce India’s dependence on costly energy imports. ”
  4. According to, Prospects for large-scale wind farms off North Carolina’s coast got a lot smaller Monday when the U.S. Department of Interior announced it reduced the areas of the Atlantic Ocean where turbines can be built.”
  5. DeSmogBlog reports, “An alarming new study has found that human activities mostly associated with burning fossil fuels has resulted in a massive increase in the levels of toxic mercury in the world’s oceans.”
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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (8/11/14)

Posted By Lowell F. on August 11th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (8/11/14).

  1. Politico reports; “The much-debated Keystone XL pipeline could produce four times more global warming pollution than the State Department calculated earlier this year, a new study concludes. The U.S. estimates didn’t take into account that the added oil from the pipeline would drop prices by about $3 a barrel, spurring consumption that would create more pollution, the researchers said.”
  2. According to USA Today: “The winds of change are blowing through Texas—both literally and figuratively. Home to both vast repositories of conventional and shale oil, the Lone Star State is also a major player in wind power, a new twist on the U.S. energy independence narrative. However improbable, the nation’s second largest state has been ground zero for a quiet renewable energy revolution.”
  3. The Guardian reports, “The [U.K.] government has been criticised for censoring a report into the impact of shale gas drilling that examines the effect on house prices and pressure on local services.”
  4. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists: “Shining. Soaring. Skyrocketing. Solar is so exciting, we’re running out of adjectives. The what, the why, and the where-to of America’s solar power revolution are the subjects of a new UCS report and infographic. It’s a story worth celebrating.”
  5. Climate Progress reports: “Electric cars are doing well across the pond: sales have jumped 77 percent in Europe from where they were at this point last year. EV Obsession was able to pull the numbers for European countries as a whole from the monthly electric car and plug-in hybrid sales numbers put out by Avere France. That allowed them to tease out the sales for the first half of 2014 versus the first half of 2013.”
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