Technologies to Combat Global Warming -- energy sources
Small scale solar electricity lights up the night for families in Kiribati.
Nations in the South Pacific which are under threat from climate change are also showing the way in small scale solar energy -- reducing their already small carbon footprints and creating more productive evening time for families. The family of Bepano Tamara in Nooto village, North Tarawa, Kiribati, shown here, is enjoying increased nighttime use of their thatch-roofed home with the small solar panel set seen in the foreground. The panel charges a car battery during the day and the battery runs a single CFL bulb mounted inside for most of the night, so the family and friends can read, study and weave mats. This eliminates the need for a generator and the cost of kerosene of up to $70 a month -- and its noise, odor and pollution. A Kiribati government corporation installs the PV panels, battery and wiring for about $80, after which the family pays $9 each month as a maintenance charge. Programs to introduce solar power to the outer islands of Kiribati began almost 20 years ago, funded by Japan and the EU. Now up to 80 percent of the families on some outer island villages have solar.
New solar and wind in California:
Throughout California and the Southwest, new energy sources are being constructed and connected to the grid. Solar power is burning bright all around southern California and Nevada. The nation's only concentrated solar power station, owned by eSolar in Lancaster CA, focuses the sun on central towers with 20,000 ordinary mirrors, boiling water for a standard GE turbine. The 5 mW plant is a demonstration that this technology, used frequently in Spain and being demonstrated also now in India, is feasible for wide application.
A new set of three similar solar plants is just beginning on BLM land near the Nevada-California border -- and already employs hundreds. The BrightSource Energy installation to provide about 400 mW of power, is on land that is habitat for the California desert tortoise, Federally listed as threatened. So besides 50 fence installers, along with road builders, engineers and security staff being employed, the BLM and the company have 40 biologists patrolling the site to keep tortoises from being killed or injured. Eventually the project will put an average 650 people to work in construction over the coming few years.
The desert tortoises -- an estimated 32 of them live on the solar site -- will be relocated to nearby habitat. During the planning and public comment phase of the project, with input by BLM and NGO endangered species advocates, BrightSource reduced the size of the plant and its footprint to lessen its impact on the land and the tortoises. However, for this and all kinds of energy, we must be humane and far-sighted in where to place installations which will change the land. The habitat for the tortoises and other rare species is limited, so tight concentration of solar installations which leaves lots of open untouched desert land is probably the best solution -- and to reduce the need for giant new installations, we also must have intense local efforts toward using less electricity and local generation of needed power on roofs, parking lots and already-developed land.
We saw hundreds of people at work on the energy future encouraged by the California climate laws. Truck drivers are delivering huge Vestas wind turbines, and electricians, engineers and crane operators work to install the 300 foot towers for Terra-Gen's vast expansion of the Alta Wind center, Kern County. When completed these 190 turbines made in Pueblo Colorado by Portland Oregon-based Vestas will provide 570 megawatts of power -- and the entire project is estimated to create more than 3,000 mW.
Other energy issues and solutions will be covered in coming reports.