Imposing On Pastoral Beauty To Capture Wind’s Power

Pinnacle turbines dot the skyline in Keyser, West Virginia, where, according to Andrew Cosner, a twenty-one-year-old technician, some residents remain hostile to the new wind farm: “They say it ruins the landscape and it’s ugly.”

It is to each of us whether we find the view attractive or not, and there was a time when I found large man-made structures an imposition on pastoral beauty.

Smith stands in the nacelle of one of the turbines just before daybreak.

As time passes I find myself drawn more to such a view as that in the photo above as a signal of progress.  It is not because the view is in a place far away from me– on the mountain ridge above where I live there is a row of such turbines and I am constantly gazing at that horizon. Published in the print edition of the November 28, 2022, issue of the New Yorker, with the headline “Blade Runners,” D.T. Max provides some context, but the photos do the heavy lifting:

THE BLADE RUNNERS POWERING A WIND FARM

In West Virginia, a crew of five watches over twenty-three giant turbines.

The Pinnacle wind-power plant extends for roughly four miles in the northeastern corner of West Virginia. Continue reading

Canada’s Best Tide Forward

As Brazil turns the tide to its better environmental self, the New York Times reporter Ian Austen explains how Canada harnesses its best tide for an environmental feat long dreamed of:

The Bay of Fundy’s funnel shape is part of the reason for its exceptional tides. Along its 96 or so miles of length, the bay dramatically narrows and its depth drops, from 765 feet to 147 feet. David Goldman for The New York Times

Who Will Win the Race to Generate Electricity From Ocean Tides?

The Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, has one of the world’s most powerful tides. Now, engineers and scientists hope to finally turn it into a clean energy source.

ABOARD THE PLAT-I 6.40 GENERATING PLATFORM, Nova Scotia — The Bay of Fundy, off the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, has long tantalized and frustrated engineers hoping to harness its record-setting 50-foot high tide to generate electricity. Continue reading

Greenhouse By Joost

We have not heard news of Joost Bakker in over a decade, so Max Veenhuyzen’s profile and introduction to the documentary previewed above is most welcome:

‘We can have houses covered with biology, plants, ecosystems and waterfalls’: Greenhouse by Joost documents the green-thinking initiatives of Future Food System. Photograph: Dean Bradley/Madman Entertainment

Mushroom walls and waste-fuelled stoves: inside the self-sufficient home of tomorrow

Joost Bakker believes a house can be more than a place to live: it can be a self-sustaining weapon against the climate crisis. A new Australian documentary explores his bold blueprint

Future Food System is anchored by self-watering garden beds filled with 35 tonnes of soil. Photograph: Earl Carter Images

“The most destructive things we humans do,” says Joost Bakker, “is eat.”

In terms of sentences that grab your attention, the introduction to new Australian documentary Greenhouse by Joost is right up there. Then again, Bakker – a multi-disciplinary designer, no-waste advocate and the film’s eponymous protagonist – has long been something of a provocateur. Continue reading

Choose Your Hope Vector Carefully

We all need an occasional dose of hope, especially when it comes to climate change. Choosing the right kind makes a huge difference, so give McKibben’s newsletter a thorough reading this week:

Magical Hope vs Actual Hope

Left or right, physics doesn’t much care about your wishful thinking

I spent the weekend in Reno, Nevada with, among other people, my old friend Rebecca Solnit. We were there to rally voters and knock on doors in one of the nastiest elections in the country—and at such times Solnit’s powerful reflections on hope are a balm and a spur. Continue reading

Community Challenges To Going Solar

Farmer Norm Welker on his land in Starke county, Indiana, where a solar power field is being constructed. Photograph: Taylor Glascock/The Guardian

Our thanks to Oliver Milman, as ever, and the Guardian, as always, for this story from the front lines of getting it done in spite of opposition:

One of Connie Ehrlich’s anti-solar billboards in Winamac, Indiana. Photograph: Taylor Glascock/The Guardian

‘It’s got nasty’: the battle to build the US’s biggest solar power farm

A community turns on itself over the aptly named Mammoth solar project, a planned $1.5bn power field nearly the size of Manhattan

When proposals for the largest solar plant ever conceived for US soil started to gather pace – a plan that involves spearing several million solar panels into the flat farmland of northern Indiana – something in Connie Ehrlich seems to have snapped. Continue reading

David Wallace-Wells & Co With New Perspective

After providing some of the deepest gloom, one of the environmental journalists we respect for not flinching or sugar-coating is singing a new tune, at least on this day:

Beyond Catastrophe

A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View

By David Wallace-Wells
Photographs by Devin Oktar Yalkin
Captions by Charley Locke

You can never really see the future, only imagine it, then try to make sense of the new world when it arrives Continue reading

Memo From Mr. Gates

We have only rarely linked to stories featuring or mentioning Mr. Gates.

This is not because we do not value his opinions; we think he is the smart money on multiple fronts. Climate change is one of them.

Even if we consider McKibben the more reliable scribe, and even if we give Malmo his due, this is still smart money territory:

The state of the energy transition

My annual memo about the journey to zero emissions.

When I first started learning about climate change 15 years ago, I came to three conclusions. First, avoiding a climate disaster would be the hardest challenge people had ever faced. Second, the only way to do it was to invest aggressively in clean-energy innovation and deployment. And third, we needed to get going. Continue reading

Deep Sea Creatures & Deep Sea Materials

Another type of gummy squirrel found on an expedition in the CCZ called Psychropotes semperiana. DeepCCZ Project

We have linked to articles concerned about mining deep sea locations for the materials needed in electric vehicle batteries, and other articles featuring deep sea creatures we had no previous knowledge of.  Now it is time to combine the two topics more explicitly, and we thank Benji Jones at Vox for this article:

Relicanthus daphneae, an anemone-like organism in the CCZ, stuck on top of the stalk of a dead sea sponge. Its tentacles can extend several feet long. Diva Amon and Craig Smith/University of Hawaiʻi

These spectacular deep-sea creatures live in a potential mining hot spot

The world needs more metals for batteries to fight climate change. Should it come at the cost of these animals?

Metallic nodules recovered from the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Abyssline Project

If you were to dive to the bottom of the ocean somewhere between Hawaii and Mexico, you might see a field of sunken treasure. Here, in what’s called the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), much of the seafloor is covered with fist-sized rocks that contain valuable metals like cobalt, manganese, and nickel. Continue reading

The Race That Matters Most

Bernice Lee, an expert on climate politics at Chatham House, says: “Good results at a global level are built on strong domestic, local and regional action.” Illustration: Nathalie Lees

Thanks to the Guardian’s Environment editor, Damian Carrington, as always, for reminding us which horse to bet on:

Hope amid climate chaos: ‘We are in a race between Armageddon and awesome’

Renewables, decarbonisation, activism, cooperation … The challenge is immense, but the situation is far from hopeless

Every one of us will love someone who is still alive in 2100, says climate campaigner Ayisha Siddiqa. That loved one will either face a world in climate chaos or a clean, green utopia, depending on what we do today.

It’s a powerful reason for action, providing hope that the will for transformative change can be found. Continue reading

Previously Unheralded Climate Policy Good News

(David McNew / Getty)

Robinson Meyer‘s newsletter this week is the most positive in its history, so if only for that read it and click the banner above to sign up:

America’s Climate Bill Looks Even Better Than Before

Late last month, analysts at the investment bank Credit Suisse published a research note about America’s new climate law that went nearly unnoticed. The Inflation Reduction Act, the bank argued, is even more important than has been recognized so far: The IRA will “will have a profound effect across industries in the next decade and beyond” and could ultimately shape the direction of the American economy, the bank said. Continue reading

Reducing Emissions & Living Well

Gauchos at the Pintado wind farm in Corral de Piedra, Uruguay.

Gauchos at the Pintado wind farm in Corral de Piedra, Uruguay. Alessandro Cinque for The New York Times

We normally think of Costa Rica to answer this question, but it is in good company:

No greater challenge faces humanity than reducing emissions without backsliding into preindustrial poverty. One tiny country is leading the way.

Let’s say you live in the typical American household. It doesn’t exist, not in any sense except in a data set, but it’s easy enough to imagine.

“We learn to live with less here,” says a former bank analyst, Ignacio Estrada, who had decided to take a 75 percent pay cut to return home. “And it’s made my life better.”

“We learn to live with less here,” says a former bank analyst, Ignacio Estrada, who had decided to take a 75 percent pay cut to return home. “And it’s made my life better.” Alessandro Cinque for The New York Times

Maybe it’s your aunt’s, or your neighbor’s, or a bit like your own. Since more than half of us live outside big cities, it’s probably in a middle-class suburb, like Fox Lake, north of Chicago.

Uruguay’s national director of energy, Ramón Méndez, at home in Montevideo.

Uruguay’s national director of energy, Ramón Méndez, at home in Montevideo. Alessandro Cinque for The New York Times

You picked it because it’s affordable and not a terrible commute to your job. Your house is about 2,200 square feet — a split-level ranch, perhaps. You’re in your mid-30s and just welcomed your first child. Together with your partner you make about $70,000 a year, some of which goes toward the 11,000 kilowatts of electricity and 37,000 cubic feet of natural gas you use to heat the house, play video games and dry your clothes. You take six or seven plane flights a year, to visit your mom after her surgery or attend a conference, and drive about 25,000 miles, most of which you barely register anymore, as you listen to Joe Rogan or Bad Bunny. Maybe twice a month you stop at Target and pick up six or seven things: double-sided tape, an extra toothbrush, an inflatable mattress. Continue reading

Electrify, The Book

Thanks to MIT Press for this preview:

How to Fix Climate Change (A Sneaky Policy Guide)

We may already have a “miracle” fix for climate change: Electrify everything.

Climate change is a planetary emergency. We have to do something now — but what? Saul Griffith, an inventor and renewable electricity advocate (and a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant), has a plan. In his book “Electrify,” Griffith lays out a detailed blueprint for fighting climate change while creating millions of new jobs and a healthier environment. Griffith’s plan can be summed up simply: Electrify everything. He explains exactly what it would take to transform our infrastructure, update our grid, and adapt our households to make this possible. Billionaires may contemplate escaping our worn-out planet on a private rocket ship to Mars, but the rest of us, Griffith says, will stay and fight for the future. Continue reading

Pushing Decarbonizing Technology Via Industrial Policy

The NLMK mill in Portage, Indiana, which uses a furnace powered by electricity and produces steel from recycled scrap. SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES

Thanks to Yale e360:

Beyond Biden’s Climate Plan, a New Industrial Revolution Is Needed

The new U.S. climate plan is historic and will pump billions of dollars into advancing the transition away from fossil fuels. But a more far-reaching, innovative approach is needed to push forward the radically new technologies that will be required to decarbonize the economy.

Workers guide a hydrogen-powered truck, part of Anglo American Plc’s NuGen carbon-neutral project, during a moving demonstration at the Anglo American Platinum Ltd. Mogalakwena platinum mine in Mogalakwena, South Africa, on Friday, May 6, 2022. Anglo American unveiled the worlds biggest green-hydrogen powered truck at a platinum mine in northeast South Africa where it aims to replace a fleet of 40 diesel-fueled vehicles that each use about a million liters of the fossil fuel every year. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

For all the great news in the Biden administration’s massive new climate spending plan, the hardest work of transforming the economy to stop global warming lies ahead. That’s because nearly all the money in the $369 billion plan will be spent on technologies that American companies already know how to deploy, such as solar farms, making buildings more efficient, and developing networks of electric vehicle charging systems.

Doing a lot more of the same will undoubtedly bring down emissions faster. But deep decarbonization requires a transformation of the American economy that will demand a much more active effort to push the technological frontier and build new industries so emissions can be driven to zero. Continue reading

Solar@School, Win-Win-Win

Solar panels installed near the Heart-Butte schools in Montana. Janie Osborne for The New York Times

Two elementary school students stand at table covered in papers, markers and other school materials, and face a wall with a poster map of Montana, divided by tribal territories. The child at left uses an orange marker to point at an area called “Blackfeet & Gros Ventre.”

Students at Heart-Butte School exploring their area of the world on a map in the “Blackfeet Immersion” classroom. Janie Osborne for The New York Times

In the USA it has become normal to think that partisan divisions prevent collaboration on issues of common interest. The partisan divisions are real, and then some; but there are silver linings here and there.  Cara Buckley, a climate reporter, continues to demonstrate a talent for finding cases where communities benefit from collective action in the act of taking better care of the environment:

Black and white goats frolic in grass on a field, which is fenced off and behind which is a series of solar panels angled at the sun. Trees line the horizon.

Goats cared for by Batesville High School’s 4-H students, next to the school’s solar panels. “If you’re conservative, we didn’t ask you for more taxes, if you’re liberal, you love the green concept,” Dr. Hester said. Terra Fondriest for The New York Times

Facing Budget Shortfalls, These Schools Are Turning to the Sun

Public schools are increasingly using savings from solar energy to upgrade facilities, help their communities, and give teachers raises — often with no cost to taxpayers.

One school district was able to give pay raises to its teachers as big as 30 percent. Another bought new heating and ventilation systems, all the better to help students and educators breathe easier in these times. The improvements didn’t cost taxpayers a cent, and were paid for by an endlessly renewable source — the sun.

Mike Tatsey, in jeans and a light blue plaid short sleeve shirt, his thumbs hooked into his jean pockets, stands in a field with solar panes in the background. Brush partially obscures the foreground.

Mike Tatsey, superintendent of schools in Heart-Butte, believes that freeing up extra money for staples like groceries and shoes could have a ripple effect in classrooms. Janie Osborne for The New York Times

As solar energy gains traction across the country, one beneficiary have been schools, particularly those in cash-strapped districts contending with dwindling tax bases.

From New Jersey to California, nearly one in 10 K-12 public and private schools across the country were using solar energy by early 2022, according to data released Thursday by Generation180, a nonprofit that promotes and tracks clean energy. That’s twice as many as existed in 2015. Continue reading

Unintended Consequences Of A Green Energy Strategy

This multimedia story explains powerfully how one of Europe’s green energy strategies went awry:

Europe Is Sacrificing Its Ancient Forests for Energy

Governments bet billions on burning timber for green power. The Times went deep into one of the continent’s oldest woodlands to track the hidden cost.

Burning wood was never supposed to be the cornerstone of the European Union’s green energy strategy.

When the bloc began subsidizing wood burning over a decade ago, it was seen as a quick boost for renewable fuel and an incentive to move homes and power plants away from coal and gas. Chips and pellets were marketed as a way to turn sawdust waste into green power. Continue reading

The Philosophers’ Stone In Appalachia

Illustration by Leif Gann-Matzen

Our gratitude to Eliza Griswold, writing in the New Yorker this week, for a look at research hinting at a potential solution to myriad challenges, that has the ring of alchemy to it:

Could Coal Waste Be Used to Make Sustainable Batteries?

Acid mine drainage has long been a scourge in Appalachia. Recent research suggests that we may be able to simultaneously clean up the pollution and extract the minerals and elements needed to power green technologies.

On a recent afternoon, near the headwaters of Deckers Creek, in West Virginia, Paul Ziemkiewicz, the biological scientist who directs the Water Research Institute at West Virginia University, squatted by a blood-red trickle seeping from a hillside. Continue reading

Really, Washington Post?

Before we compromise further on planet earth, the question Really? is often a good place to start. Let’s be sure our revered journalists and the publications they work for call apples as apples, and oranges as oranges, says Bill McKibben:

A pipeline is not a windmill

Rally Thursday Against Manchin’s Dirty Deal–and Do Some Lobbying in the Meantime!

The Washington Post, which has done remarkable climate reporting in recent years, had a less successful story in this morning’s paper. Continue reading

England’s Green And Pleasant Land

Solar farm in Wroughton, England. Planning permission for 23 solar farms has been refused across England, Wales and Scotland between January 2021 and July 2022. Photograph: Chris Gorman/Getty Images

Nature gets disrupted even by the most sensitively planned green solutions. Here is a parallel story to yesterday’s, with solar replacing wind and England replacing Western USA, illustrating the challenges facing renewable energy:

Exclusive: Projects which would have cut annual electricity bills by £100m turned down

Solar farms are being refused planning permission in Great Britain at the highest rate in five years, analysis has found, with projects which would have cut £100m off annual electricity bills turned down in the past 18 months.

Continue reading

Western Wind Power’s Impacts

Pads have been cleared in preparation for massive wind turbines at Overland Trail Ranch. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Wind power is part of our future. Full stop. But it is worth thinking about how the infrastructure for that power will change places of vast beauty and tradition.

A worker herds cattle at Overland Trail Ranch as a snowstorm moves in. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

This article by Sammy Roth, with photography by Robert Gauthier, is a worthy thought piece on what we gain, what we give up, and who decides how and where wind energy comes to town:

This power line could save California — and forever change the American West

PacifiCorp’s Ekola Flats wind farm has 63 turbines, most of them rated at 4.3 megawatts — almost six times as much power as some of the old steel-lattice wind towers in the California desert outside Palm Springs. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

I know the wind turbine blades aren’t going to kill me. At least, I’m pretty sure.

No matter how many times I watch the slender arms swoop down toward me — packing as much punch as 20 Ford F-150 pickup trucks — it’s hard to shake the feeling they’re going to knock me off my feet. They sweep within a few dozen feet of the ground before launching back toward the heavens, reaching nearly 500 feet above my head — higher than the highest redwood.

They’re eerily quiet, emitting only a low hum. But in the howling wind, the tips could be barreling past at 183 mph. Continue reading

Alpine Hydroelectricity

The Nant de Drance pumped hydropower project. NANT DE DRANCE

Especially with news of rivers drying up across Europe, this is a welcome, if surprising story:

Massive Pumped Hydro Facility to Open This Summer in the Swiss Alps

One of the world’s largest pumped hydropower projects, with an electricity storage capacity equivalent to 400,000 electric vehicles, is set to begin operations soon in the Swiss Alps. Continue reading