According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wave energy has the potential to power over 100 million US homes, but is completely underutilized at the moment. Wave energy has the advantage of higher predictability, nighttime availability, and a high energy density (~30 kW/m of coastline). Such high energy densities also enable the use of the renewable resource for desalination. The Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley has partnered with CalWave Power Technologies, one of the winners of the US Wave Energy Prize, to better assess this potential. To learn more about CalWave, please visit http://calwave.org. This presentation will include preliminary results from this collaboration including appropriate siting, economic modeling, and performance characterization for wave energy technologies.
A video abstract for the paper is available here.
The global carbon emissions budget over the next decades depends critically on the choices made by fast-growing emerging economies. Few studies exist, however, that develop country-specific energy system integration insights that can inform emerging economies in this decision-making process. High spatial- and temporal-resolution power system planning is central to evaluating decarbonization scenarios, but obtaining the required data and models can be cost prohibitive, especially for researchers in low, lower-middle income economies. Here, we use Nicaragua as a case study to highlight the importance of high-resolution open access data and modeling platforms to evaluate fuel-switching strategies and their resulting cost of power under realistic technology, policy, and cost scenarios (2014–2030). Our results suggest that Nicaragua could cost-effectively achieve a low-carbon grid (≥80%, based on non-large hydro renewable energy generation) by 2030 while also pursuing multiple development objectives. Regional cooperation (balancing) enables the highest wind and solar generation (18% and 3% by 2030, respectively), at the least cost (US$127 MWh−1). Potentially risky resources (geothermal and hydropower) raise system costs but do not significantly hinder decarbonization. Oil price sensitivity scenarios suggest renewable energy to be a more cost-effective long-term investment than fuel oil, even under the assumption of prevailing cheap oil prices. Nicaragua's options illustrate the opportunities and challenges of power system decarbonization for emerging economies, and the key role that open access data and modeling platforms can play in helping develop low-carbon transition pathways.
The large-scale utilization of electricity generated from biomass partnered with carbon capture technology — dubbed bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) by the researchers — could result in greatly reduced emissions and a “carbon-negative” power system in the western US, according to new research from the University of California at Berkeley.
Study lead author, Daniel Sanchez, noted in a recent press release that this combination could potentially offset the carbon emissions associated with other sources as well — such as fossil fuel power plants, and the transportation sector (diesel- and gas-powered vehicles).
o be specific, the new research found that BECCS when combined with aggressive renewable energy deployment and fossil fuel–associated emissions reductions could result in a “carbon-negative power system” in Western North America by the year 2050 — with an up to 145% emissions reduction as compared against 1990 levels.
Reductions that significant could occur with as little as 7% of total electricity coming from BECCS, according to the new findings — which were arrived at via computer modeling.
In many of the other scenarios explored by the new research, the offsetting of carbon emissions provided by BECCS was more valuable to the electric system than the electricity produced itself was. Of course this kind of “value” is a relative one — as all values are. If governments don’t value the offsetting of carbon emissions, for instance,…
Those behind the new research admit that biomass + carbon capture is still a bit of an unknown in many ways, so the findings are tentative ones, until put into practicem that is — which is what the researchers want.
“There are a lot of commercial uncertainties about carbon capture and sequestration technologies,” stated researcher Sanchez. “Nevertheless, we’re taking this technology and showing that in the Western United States 35 years from now, BECCS doesn’t merely let you reduce emissions by 80% – the current 2050 goal in California – but gets the power system to negative carbon emissions: you store more carbon than you create.”
Possibly… that is. I admit to having some doubts about this, but interesting work nonetheless.
Image Credit: UC Berkeley
The need to mitigate climate change, safeguard energy security, and increase the sustainability of human activities is prompting a rapid and global transition from carbon-intensive fuels to renewable energy (IPCC 2014). Among renewable energy systems, solar energy has one of the greatest climate change mitigation potentials with life cycle emissions as low as 14 g CO2-eq KWh-1 (carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt hour; compare this to 608 g CO2-eq KWh-1 for natural gas). Solar energy embodies diverse technologies able to capture the sun’s thermal energy, such as concentrating solar power (CSP) systems, and photons using photovoltaics (PV). Solar energy systems are highly modular ranging from small-scale deployments (≤ 1 megawatt [MW]; e.g., residential rooftop modules, portable battlefield systems, solar water heaters) to centralized, utility-scale solar energy installations (USSE, ≥1 MW) where a large economy of scale can meet greater energy demands. Nonetheless, the diffuse nature of solar energy necessitates that large swaths of space or land be used to collect and concentrate solar energy into forms usable for human consumption, increasing concern over potential impacts on natural ecosystems, their services, and biodiversity therein. For example, at a capacity factor of 0.20, a single terawatt of USSE capacity scales to 142,857 km2, roughly the area of the state of New York, USA, providing challenges for the integration of potentially massive projects into complex and fragmented landscapes.
The decisions humans make about how much land to use, where, and for what end-use are drivers of Earth system processes. For example, changing the use of land or converting it from one land-cover type to another is a source of greenhouse gas emissions, which are released to the atmosphere when biomass, including soil, is disturbed or removed. How then do we decide when to convert a forest that serves as a carbon sink into a farm that feeds a community, or a farm into a PV park that electrifies a rural village? Innovation and policies directing sustainable pathways of land use for energy and food production can be utilized to address an increasing global population of which 1.5 billion today live without access to electricity. Energy poverty leads to a loss of human health and wellbeing and depressed economic and educational opportunities, particularly for women and children. Our research here is designed to demonstrate, quantify, and facilitate the potential of solar energy systems to address global problems related to climate change, energy access, and the sustainability of food systems, which are interconnected. This research draws from ecological field experiments, knowledge data discovery, geographic information systems, spatial and economic modeling, and is comprised of five interrelated projects:
Environmental co-benefits of solar energy
The Energy-Food-Water Cube: Capability and scalability in on-farm energy production
Global solar energy brightspots: Shinning light on the world’s energy insecure
The land-energy-food nexus in California's Central Valley
Limits of land: Global estimates of land for food and energy
Decarbonizing electricity production is central to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Exploiting intermittent renewable energy resources demands power system planning models with high temporal and spatial resolution. We use a mixed-integer linear programming model – SWITCH – to analyze least-cost generation, storage, and transmission capacity expansion for western North America under various policy and cost scenarios. Current renewable portfolio standards are shown to be insufficient to meet emission reduction targets by 2030 without new policy. With stronger carbon policy consistent with a 450 ppm climate stabilization scenario, power sector emissions can be reduced to 54% of 1990 levels by 2030 using different portfolios of existing generation technologies. Under a range of resource cost scenarios, most coal power plants would be replaced by solar, wind, gas, and/or nuclear generation, with intermittent renewable sources providing at least 17% and as much as 29% of total power by 2030. The carbon price to induce these deep carbon emission reductions is high, but, assuming carbon price revenues are reinvested in the power sector, the cost of power is found to increase by at most 20% relative to business-as-usual projections.
While a doctoral student in RAEL and ERG, Gang He was also a Visiting Faculty Affiliate for the China Energy Group, Energy Technologies Area, at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as well as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Technology and Society, at Stony Brook University. He has worked with the China Energy Group since 2011. His work focuses on energy modeling, energy economics, energy and climate policy, energy and environment, domestic coal and power sectors and their key role in both the global energy supply and in international climate policy framework. He also studies other interdisciplinary aspects of global climate change and the development of lower-carbon energy sources.
Prior to Berkeley, he was a research associate with Stanford University's Program on Energy and Sustainable Development from 2008 to 2010.
Actualizing the Vision of Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common HomeRoundtable at the Pontifical Academy of SciencesNovember 2, 2016
On the Vatican website: click here.
Laudato Si’ is a powerful text, political and poetic, and deeply inspiring. It addresses the most critical issues of our time in vision and substance. It elucidates the necessity and means of “individual ecological conversion”, to see the “world as a sacrament of communion.”
Two of its guiding tenets are “the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together”, and that we have mutually reinforcing obligations to the earth and to each other. The Beatitudes provide the philosophy to shape our work of transforming and healing society and our planet. The Encyclical provides the blueprint.
The following means and principles to actualize the vision of Laudato Si’ were put forward at the 2 November 2016 Roundtable at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences:
Expand the dialogue with those with influence and power (noting specifically those who drive investment decisions) on the dovetailing of environmental and social issues - “the book of nature is one and indivisible” - and its relevance and implications; toward that end establish a sustainable investment advisory committee for the Vatican’s own investment activities.
Continued personal engagement and presence of the Pope in delivering and keeping current the message of Laudato Si’. The more Pope Francis speaks about climate change and Laudato Si’, the more he will influence public opinion around the world.
A detailed and well resourced communication and messaging strategy for Laudato Si’, targeted to diverse audiences, which stresses the urgency of the challenge. A plan, differentiated in style, tone, pace and suggested terms of engagement for the four different generations that are active at this moment in history. The different generations should be addressed on their own terms, and with their input. Engage leaders in social media to spread and evolve the message of Laudato Si‘.
That the institution of the Catholic Church, serving as spiritual guide and moral messenger, also serve as physical and behavioral example, modeling in microcosm, the planetary vision of Laudato Si’ by accelerating the conversion to sustainable stewardship of its own land and assets, the Church’s training programs for priests being a powerful, integral aspect.
Promote an interdisciplinary interfaith forest, land and climate initiative - which acknowledges the “mysterious relations between things” - convened and directed by an inclusive public private partnership.
Be aware of and address the emotional and spiritual implications and sorrow deriving from our “disfigurement” of our common home, which we have “burdened and laid waste,” and from distressing commercialism, which “baffle[s] the heart.” Laudato Si’ needs to be widely discussed, shared and acted upon in public and mental health circles, for which it has profound relevance.
Principles to incorporate in the various work of our communities, and additional points of discussion:
Understand the relationship between “velocity” of current culture and the loss of internal, spiritual time and time for reflection, which is necessary for building a just and compassionate society.
Recognize that energy poverty is a major impediment to equity and harmony both within and between communities and nations, and greatly impedes our progress in sustaining the Earth as our common home.
Support grass roots activist movements and individuals, as powerful countervailing as well as spiritually enriching forces that make the need for global stewardship vibrant and accessible.
Assure that indigenous forest inhabitants have meaningful work that arises from their values, and their relationship to the land. Assure that there are specific avenues for the wisdom of these communities to permeate our atomized civil societies.
Encourage down to earth dialogue among faith communities and civil society on the subject of environmental market mechanisms which, like any other tool, can be used either for good or ill, remaining mindful that the Economy is a subset of Nature, and not the other way around.
Support governments in crafting policies and laws which reflect our moral and spiritual obligations to each other and to Nature, as they translate into physical and material obligations.
Work to establish local and national commitments to use-inspired basic research, required for sustainable energy and water systems and valuing forests. Research and innovation is a vital tool in implementing the Encyclical, will foster beneficent new technologies, narrow the gap between Nature and technology, and allow people and Nature again to “extend a friendly hand to one another.”
We need a change of heart; we need to increase tenderness towards each other and the environment, and the way we will get there is not built solely on greater analytical insights and new policy, but also moving aesthetic experiences that raise our minds, hearts, and souls towards the good the transcendental, and the holy.
Diets of those consuming industrially produced meat, notably cattle, require a disproportionate amount of arable land, and water. This extravagant inequity highlights that, as with what we purchase, what we eat is a moral choice. Nature’s bounty can be sufficient for all needs, but not all greed.
Engage the spiritual infrastructure of our world geographically, and include georeligious dynamics in dialogues about environmental programs and policy. Keep the spirit of Laudato Si' alive, repeated, and deeply ingrained in communities of faith through communications media, actionable geography-relevant materials (like maps with guided land-use and land/facility maintenance suggestions for various dioceses), and through scientific, and NGO partnerships.
Disseminate a central lesson of Laudato Si’: that we bear moral responsibility for the full lifecycle of activity resulting from our individual economic actions. We each have personal responsibility for the environmental harm caused by the energy we use or the food we eat, any inequity or injustice in the product supply chains that provide us goods and services, and the byproducts and waste we create.
Operationally capitalize on and expand the commonalities between religions, communities, and beliefs around the planet, a shared language that can build understanding and cooperation to support sustainability.
Laudato Si’, explicitly and implicitly, grounds our material reality in a cosmological view of interrelatedness - in the tradition of St. Francis, Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, among others - proclaiming the Universe a “communion of subjects,” and not “a collection of objects.” (Thomas Berry, 1999)
OAKLAND, CA: JULY 27, 2016: GRID Alternatives has announced a partnership with the University of California, Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), to integrate research into GRID Alternatives projects providing solar power to communities around the world that lack access to electricity.
RAEL researchers will work with GRID Alternatives staff and partners to study off-grid solar projects by GRID Alternatives in Nicaragua, Nepal, and tribal communities in the United States. The research will evaluate project models and outcomes to inform energy access practices worldwide. RAEL is part of UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group and was founded by Professor Dan Kammen with a mission to design and implement environmentally sustainable development in culturally and socially appropriate ways. The GRID-RAEL partnership builds on more than four years of informal collaboration with UC Berkeley students interested in renewable energy.
Through its international program, GRID Alternatives has installed 70 solar PV systems in Nicaragua to-date, and continues to ensure the systems remain online and provide long-term benefits to residents. GRID Alternatives is also developing a 16-kilowatt solar-powered microgrid project in Dhapchung, Nepal to provide electricity to the community’s school, 40 families, and several businesses to aid in earthquake recovery and create a sustainable economy.
“GRID’s volunteer-based model has long provided a way for people interested in renewable energy work--from industry representatives to academics and the general public--to get hands-on with solar technology and see how it makes a difference for underserved communities,” said GRID Alternatives co-founder and CEO Erica Mackie. “This partnership will help us go a step further and contribute to a global body of knowledge around how to maximize impact and ensure that projects are sustainable for the long term.”
The partnership will provide direct and indirect benefits through GRID Alternatives’ energy access projects and help expand off-grid solar internationally. RAEL researchers will participate in and have access to beneficiaries of GRID Alternatives’ projects, and RAEL will work with GRID to secure funding for research projects as appropriate. RAEL will conduct system modeling and design research, technical potential analysis, qualitative surveys, and impact analysis with a focus on social and cultural issues.
Dr. Kammen is a member of GRID’s National Advisory Council, was recently appointed U.S. Science Envoy for the U.S. State Department, and has been a leading voice in renewable energy deployment globally.
“Getting electricity to the 1.2 billion people who still lack access is about more than cutting edge technologies. It’s about finding solutions that are culturally, socially and economically appropriate, and are really solving the problem they are intended to solve,” said Dr. Kammen, “Partnering with organizations like GRID doing this work on the ground is a great opportunity to study what’s working and why, and get that information to the people who can use it
ABOUT GRID ALTERNATIVES
GRID Alternatives is an international nonprofit solar installer bringing clean energy technology and job training to low-income families and underserved communities through a network of community partners, volunteers, and philanthropic supporters. GRID has installed more than 7,000 rooftop solar systems with a combined installed capacity of nearly 25MW, saving $192 million in lifetime electricity costs, preventing more than 537,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and providing more than 27,000 people with solar training. For more information, visit www.gridalternatives.org
Based at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1999, RAEL has focused on systems approaches to fostering sustainable development at the household, community, and national levels. With a mixture of students, post-doctoral fellows and visiting scholars and practitioners, RAEL is currently active in the Balkans, China, Central America, East Africa, Southeast Asia, across North America in the design of technical and analytic approaches to clean energy systems. For more information see rael.berkeley.edu.
Joining RAEL in October 2015:
Dr. Deborah A. Sunter is currently a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the Department of Energy: Advanced Manufacturing Office. Her current interests include renewable energy systems, advanced manufacturing techniques, and the interaction of science and policy in academia, industry and government.
She received a B.S in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. There she developed a nanosatellite mission that was successfully launched into orbit. Although fascinated by aerospace applications, the time-critical issue of global warming shifted her focus in graduate school to explore renewable energy. Specializing in computational modeling of thermo-physics in multiphase systems, she developed a novel solar absorber tube and received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. The need for a global environmental solution led her to do research abroad in both Japan and China.
Dr. Sunter’s JHU email is firstname.lastname@example.org. She teaches 425.625 Solar Energy: Science, Technology and Policy.