The Savannah International Clean Energy Conference, November 11-13, 2012, is fast becoming the must attend event of the year. Make sure you are part of this conference and join industry leaders and key players within the clean technology space, and take advantage of early registration rates through September 15th.
The Savannah International Clean Energy Conference will be a global gathering of the who’s who in clean technology. These industry leaders are bringing their unique perspectives to an agenda focused on exploring the significance and global impact Energy Independence will have on clean energy, clean technologies, and economic growth. This is an event you need to attend, so sure to register early!
Current line-up of Key Notes & Speakers:
Tom Fanning, President & CEO, Southern Company
Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, President, Acore
Tom Cain, Greener Capital Partners
Jamie Vollbracht – Carbon Trust
Bruce Kahn, Deutsche Bank
Michael Eckhart, Citigroup
Greg Montgomery, Abundant Power
Maurice Gunderson, Earth Energy Ventures
Gene Rodriques, Southern California Edison
Brian Parsonnet, Ice Energy
Alan Gotcher, Xtreme Power
William Wescott, Veolia
Greg Wolf, Duke Energy Renewables
Elmer Sun, Greentech Exchange
Roger Ammoun, Credit Suisse
Each day the earth receives more energy from the sun than humans could consume over the course of a quarter of a century, yet we still seem to be in the early stages of learning how to use that energy. The possibilities of utilizing the sun’s heat as an energy resource have been explored through the years, beginning with primitive methods like using magnifying glasses to create fire. However, several factors are bringing the emerging technology to the forefront today. First, the robust global environmentalism movement has generated a keen awareness about the need to preserve the earth’s non-renewable resources and focus on renewable forms of energy. In addition, the current economic and political climate demands that we find new ways to power our lives.
Despite the shortcomings of solar energy, the recent news is promising. The success of several modern advances suggests that good things are on the horizon for solar power.
Overcoming the Solar Energy Storage Conundrum
The chief challenge to making solar energy a viable option for most of the world is that it’s only available when the sun is out – generally, half of each day. Although the sun provides an abundant source of clean energy, it’s not always accessible.
Recent news about a new solar project located the Nevada desert has renewed interest and shined a promising light on the future of solar energy. The project led by a division of California-based SolarReserve, LLC takes advantage of new technology involving salt. During the day, power is generated by the sun heating salt, which can be stored for an extended period of time. Although the technology that introduced this salt storage method was first tested decades ago, it never took off. Today, with increased efforts to develop alternative sources of energy, the interest in this process is growing.
Other companies are working to extend the sun’s heating powers using similar ideas. BrightSource Energy, Inc. is one of several companies that use a hybrid solar-thermal technology to prolong the effectiveness of solar power into the night. BrightSource plans to construct a plant where the effect of the sun’s daytime heat will be carried into the evening through operation of solar powered steam generators.
With progress on the horizon in the private sector, the government is taking notice. The U.S. Department of Energy recently issued loan guarantees to American companies developing renewable energy technologies. Although critics feared that more borrowers would suffer the fate of energy company Solyndra at the expense of the American taxpayer, an independent oversight committee suggests that the loan guarantee program was a resounding success. In fact, a huge majority of the projects launched by this public funding achieved a great deal and have paved the way for new innovation in the industry. Not only are most of the borrowers on track to pay back their loans, the federal government will receive millions of dollars in interest from the program.
Solar Energy Leads to Job Creation
Research suggests that investment in solar energy helps with job creation. The Department of Revenue’s loan guarantee program has been credited with contributing to the creation of over 50,000 jobs for Americans. In addition, a report from the Solar Energy Industry Association indicates that the solar power industry currently employs a huge number of American workers, with the number expected to increase dramatically as existing technologies are perfected and new methods emerge. Some attribute this phenomenon to the fact that harnessing solar energy is a rather labor-intensive process.
Record Set in Germany
On one particular weekend in Germany in early 2012, approximately 50% of the country’s electricity was generated by solar power. Not surprisingly, that represented a world record. Although Germany is at the forefront of the movement to develop and utilize renewable energy, this achievement provides a shining example for nations across the globe.
As long as scientific innovation provides a glimmer of hope that solar power can replace (at least in part) our reliance on fossil fuels, the issue will remain near the top of the American political agenda. The same is true in many other countries, where efforts to utilize the technology far surpass that in the United States.
Brent Hardy oversees all corporate construction & facilities management activities for Extra Space Storage and leads corporate sustainability programs, implementing solar power, energy efficiencies and more. He writes about corporate sustainable practices at blog.extraspace.com/category/sustainability.
Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is
If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.
Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world’s nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn’t even attend. It was “a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago,” the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls “once thronged by multitudes.” Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.
When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn’t yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.
The First Number: 2° Celsius
If the movie had ended in Hollywood fashion, the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 would have marked the culmination of the global fight to slow a changing climate. The world’s nations had gathered in the December gloom of the Danish capital for what a leading climate economist, Sir Nicholas Stern of Britain, called the “most important gathering since the Second World War, given what is at stake.” As Danish energy minister Connie Hedegaard, who presided over the conference, declared at the time: “This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we get a new and better one. If ever.”
In the event, of course, we missed it. Copenhagen failed spectacularly. Neither China nor the United States, which between them are responsible for 40 percent of global carbon emissions, was prepared to offer dramatic concessions, and so the conference drifted aimlessly for two weeks until world leaders jetted in for the final day. Amid considerable chaos, President Obama took the lead in drafting a face-saving “Copenhagen Accord” that fooled very few. Its purely voluntary agreements committed no one to anything, and even if countries signaled their intentions to cut carbon emissions, there was no enforcement mechanism. “Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight,” an angry Greenpeace official declared, “with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport.” Headline writers were equally brutal: COPENHAGEN: THE MUNICH OF OUR TIMES? asked one.
The accord did contain one important number, however. In Paragraph 1, it formally recognized “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius.” And in the very next paragraph, it declared that “we agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required… so as to hold the increase in global temperature below two degrees Celsius.” By insisting on two degrees – about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit – the accord ratified positions taken earlier in 2009 by the G8, and the so-called Major Economies Forum. It was as conventional as conventional wisdom gets. The number first gained prominence, in fact, at a 1995 climate conference chaired by Angela Merkel, then the German minister of the environment and now the center-right chancellor of the nation.
Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.) Given those impacts, in fact, many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target. “Any number much above one degree involves a gamble,” writes Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes, “and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up.” Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank’s chief biodiversity adviser, puts it like this: “If we’re seeing what we’re seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.” NASA scientist James Hansen, the planet’s most prominent climatologist, is even blunter: “The target that has been talked about in international negotiations for two degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster.” At the Copenhagen summit, a spokesman for small island nations warned that many would not survive a two-degree rise: “Some countries will flat-out disappear.” When delegates from developing nations were warned that two degrees would represent a “suicide pact” for drought-stricken Africa, many of them started chanting, “One degree, one Africa.”
Despite such well-founded misgivings, political realism bested scientific data, and the world settled on the two-degree target – indeed, it’s fair to say that it’s the only thing about climate change the world has settled on. All told, 167 countries responsible for more than 87 percent of the world’s carbon emissions have signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, endorsing the two-degree target. Only a few dozen countries have rejected it, including Kuwait, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Even the United Arab Emirates, which makes most of its money exporting oil and gas, signed on. The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius – it’s become the bottomest of bottom lines. Two degrees.