I am writing a few posts that explore problems associated with renewable energy.
One serious issue of utility scale renewables is the vast amount of land required to build them. Not only are most of our renewable resources in remote locations that require new transmission lines, substations and telecommunications, but those locations are often undisturbed, fragile ecosystems.
For instance, the map above (go ahead and zoom in!) illustrates the tale of two generators. Both are in Blythe, California. Both are approximately 500 MW of electricity. However, the (proposed) solar field is about 3 miles long and 5,000 acres while the natural gas plant is about 50 total acres, 100xs smaller. The actual location of the natural gas plant is southeast of the solar field, but I have overlayed the footprint to illustrate the size difference. (If you are on a mobile device, or just want to play with the KMZ, you can download here.)
Climate change is the potentially the most serious environmental issue we face, and solar will be part of our solutions, but, think of the poor turtles that are homeless in Blythe.
Also, this…is pretty bizarre.
California has a mandated target of 33% renewable energy procurement by 2020 (excludes large hydro). This pie chart is the state of the union…er…republic. Right now, we are floating right around 20%.
The next few posts will discuss the problems that renewables are creating and the hope that they provide.
Here are a few items on the agenda:
- Grid integration,
- Habitat depletion,
- Accommodating distribution,
- A really, really really outdated grid.
So, if climate change is a serious problem, that will drastically impact resources and ways of life, why aren’t we doing anything about it? My friend, colleague and classmate Michael Conrardy has an article in Ecology explaining why we don’t act collectively in the face of emergency. Congrats Michael!
Hopefully for Kriss and Kross, missing the bus may be something that none of us have to “never ever ever do again.” Thanks to mobile-apps that work as real time ride aggregators, group transportation on linear, fixed routes may become a thing of the past. Yaygo, a start up out of Berkeley’s Haas Business School is working on an app that adds your location to a van’s route with the touch of a button. People with similar locations and destinations are aggregated along the ride, creating an ad-hoc carpool. Programs like this may put an end to the days of empty (or overpacked) bus routes rolling through city streets and have the potential to alter how we think of public transportation.
In the meantime, getting schwasty-faced in San Francisco just got a little easier, and with increased van-pooling, it may become a little more sustainable too!
Locavores would be hard pressed to land in a better place than Santa Barbara. There are plenty of local fish markets and everybody knows somebody whose avocado tree won’t stop. (my own backyard has figs, avocados, oranges and clementines). The farmer’s markets are always flush with great food too.
I just wanted to take a second to hype a few friends and their ventures into providing local options for food. Pacific Pickle Works hand packs fresh, local, in-season produce with some ah-mazing flavors. If you have any compassion for your next bloody mary, find a way to get a spear of Pacific Pickle Work’s asparagus into it!
On a more “do-it-yourself” note, another local Santa Biz, Santa Barbara Aquaponics, installs food “ecosystems”-both hobby and commercial scale. Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, so you essentially raise fish while growing lettuce (or whatever other hydroponically grown plan you may want…like…tomatoes). It is really one of the more intriguing things I have seen in a while. These systems are definitely worth a look!
So, if you are lucky enough to live in the area, give these guys some love, and if you don’t…book a trip! I got plenty of avocados…
So, my friend Ryan Smith joked that, in choosing our costume, we should elect for the most sustainable option this year. The sppoooooky truth about most of what we wear, however, is that the vast majority of clothing’s environmental impact comes from the use phase, not from materials or production. The Danish Ministry of the Environment published a paper that examined the impact of textiles across a wide range of impacts, including toxicity, ozone formation, nutrient loading and…
ENerGY consumption. The table below represents the impact of each phase of textile life cycle, and, as you can see, owning clothes is much, much more intense than buying them. Good news for H&M, bad news for the environment. (As a side note, it makes me very curious about whether or not Levi’s recent movement to re-purpose used bottles as jeans will actually reduce environmental impact…)
So, what can you do to save the environment while scaring up some candy? After you wash out whatever jello-shot-snickerdoodle-lipstick ends up on your (hopefully purchased second-hand) shirt….hang it on the line instead of throwing it into the drier.
This weekend I attended a carrot mob at Telegraph Brewing. The event was hosted by Santa Barbara’s CEC and a portion of all sales were committed to sustainability upgrades for Telegraph’s new building. They will be installing a “cool roof” (reflects heat rather than transmitting it into the building).
Pretty awesome to see a showing of 100 or so folks supporting sustainable business with a carrot instead of a stick!
If you ever are lucky enough to grab a Graham Cracker Porter at the Denver Beer Company, take a spin on their malt crushing bike! The gears are connected to a mill that crushes specialty grains that add flavor, color, and yes, booze to beer.
According to a study by the Berkley National Laboratory, pumps, drives and motors consume a great deal of a brewery’s electricity (this does not account for natural gas, just electricity). So, although the bike is primarily novelty, it is displacing an energy intensive process. If nothing else, as my friend Pete said: “It’s good to know that we will still be able to make beer after the apocalypse.”
As a bonus here is a graph of energy use by process:
and a bonus-bonus, here is a graph that shows energy intensity per unit of production. (Coors!?!?!)
Efficient cars have become more present in the mind of sustainable thinking, but what about all of the things we do before we even leave for work? Heating water is an energy intensive endeavor. I made a calculator that converts your shower’s energy into miles driven using energy equivalences.
This does NOT mean that I advocate hippie stench…just something to zone out and consider in the shower tomorrow morning. (again… you have to scroll back up a little bit to see your result. God bless people who work with computers for a living.)
If you didn’t get it from the title of my blog, I love the Great Gatsby. And, if you haven’t read the last page of that in a while, I have included it here. For me, Gatsby has always embodied the central dilemma: human desire is expansive and while our world is elastic it is also finite.
As a bonus, this article from the Paris Review is a real treat for anybody who gets lost in books.
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes — a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
"I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live..."