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 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
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 →
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
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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
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 →
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 →
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 →
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.” 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. 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 →
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 →
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 panels installed near the Heart-Butte schools in Montana. Janie Osborne for The New York Times
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:
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
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, 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 →
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 →
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 →
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:
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:
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 →
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 →