In his address to the United Nations, Pope Francis focused on a variety of issues, but paid special attention to the ecological crisis. He stated, “The ecological crisis along, with the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.” As with his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis linked the interdependence of humanity with nature (which he frequently referred to as “Creation”). As he put it, “Any harm done to the environment is harm done to humanity.” The harm caused to the environment, as well as to humanity, is a symptom of a “Culture of Waste”, another theme found in Laudato Si stated as a “Throwaway Culture.”
Noticeably absent, Pope Francis did not mention the term “climate change” or “global warming”. But his reference to Laudato Si, which heavily speaks about environmental degradation including climate change, is a nod towards the issue.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has released its 2014 Wind Technologies Market Report. This annual report highlights important achievements for the wind industry. Wind power purchase agreement prices have hit record lows. That’s good news for the South, where wind energy is beginning to make inroads. The National Renewable Energy Lab previously found that new innovative turbines, with taller towers and longer blades, open up billions of dollars worth of wind energy opportunity in the South. Listed below are a few highlights from LBNL’s most recent report.
Wind energy prices have dropped substantially over the past five years and wind power prices are now regularly in the $0.02-$0.035 per kilowatt hour range ($20-$35/MWh). As turbines improve performance and manufacturers reduce costs, utilities are beginning to naturally and voluntarily prefer wind power as an energy resource. Researchers and manufacturers are hard at work to ensure wind turbine performance and costs continue to drop in the near future. Listed below are just a few innovations the wind industry is testing and preparing for primetime.
While the Amazon Wind Farm US East isn’t the first wind farm in the South (as many, many news reports incorrectly stated), it certainly is the largest. In 2004, the wind development company Invenergy constructed the Buffalo Mountain wind farm near Oliver Springs, Tennessee. The Tennessee Valley Authority has purchased power from the Buffalo Mountain wind farm for over a decade. The Buffalo Mountain wind farm is made up of 13 wind turbines with a total capacity of 27 megawatts; meanwhile, the new Amazon Wind Farm US East will contain 102 wind turbines with a total capacity of 208 megawatts, with an option to add another 50 turbines (100 megawatts).
For utility companies, grid operators and other stakeholders interested in wind energy integration, collecting large quantities of high quality data on wind energy resources is vitally important. However, collecting such data has previously been limited by time constraints, budget constraints, or technical expertise. The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and Vaisala By 3Tier recently published the Wind Integration National Dataset (WIND) Toolkit. Peer-reviewed, and published in the scientific journal Applied Energy, the newly released WIND Toolkit by NREL is the largest, publicly available wind energy dataset, ever. The WIND Toolkit is user-friendly way for anyone to quickly evaluate the viability of utility-scale wind energy resources, and download the data necessary for wind energy grid integration analysis.
A new, peer-reviewed article published in the scientific journal SCIENCE estimates that 3 million hectares of land (that’s 11,583 square miles, or 30,000 square kilometers) have been lost due to oil and gas well pads, storage tanks and associated roads developed in North America since the year 2000. Rangeland and cropland through the heartland have been particularly [...]
One theme throughout Laudato Si is the juxtaposition of the “tyranny over creation” (anthropocentrism) versus a cooperation and cultivation of nature. As stated by Pope Francis, “If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.” Fossil fuels including “coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay,” are specifically identified as forms of tyranny over creation. In essence, fossil fuels reinforce a consumerist mindset of prideful, greedy and gluttonous (yet, false) control over nature – that humanity can extract and consume fossil fuels on our own terms (some would say, “dispatchable generation”). Alternatively, Pope Francis’ call to a cooperative (fraternal) relationship with creation highlights potential solutions to fossil fuels; “Fraternal love can only be gratuitous…That is why it is possible to love our enemies. This same gratuitousness inspires us to love and accept the wind, the sun and the clouds, even though we cannot control them.” The variability (some would say “intermittency”) of renewable energy provides an opportunity for humanity to exercise temperance, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility with nature. Faithful Catholics may recognize the juxtaposition of mortal sins versus holy virtues.
With its ambitious 35% renewable energy goals by 2020, and with key federal tax credit incentives soon expiring, it’s possible Coca-Cola could soon join other major, responsible corporations and purchase substantial quantities of wind and solar power.
Electric utility companies across the south are snapping up wind power contracts – and now a utility in Mississippi may jump on the wind rush bandwagon. South Mississippi Electric Power Association (SMEPA) recently released a request for proposals for up to 250 megawatts of wind power – a first for Mississippi. Depending on wind farm performance levels, 250 MW of wind power could represent about 8-9% of SMEPA’s power sales.