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New Weapon Emerges in Fight Against Fossil Fuel Dominance and Escalating Climate Change: A Wind Turbine That Achieves Grid Parity While Eliminating Intermittency

Last year, Republicans fought tooth and nail to block and delay the only federal funding program for wind energy — the Production Tax Credit. Their energy brinksmanship and political hostage taking forced a delay of a critical renewable energy investment decision until the last minute even as US wind capacity surged to 60 gigawatts and is attributed to increasing US economic growth by .25% in the 4th quarter while adding over 80,000 new jobs. This cynical political action, on the part of republicans and other opponents to renewable energy, resulted in an unconscionable stalling of new installations in early 2013 even as extreme weather and climate change continued to batter countries around the globe.

By comparison, US fossil fuel companies still enjoyed billions of dollars in subsidy, tax incentive, land use donations, and direct investment support from the federal government, risk free. To this point, it is worth considering the following info-graphic provided by the Environmental Law Institute:

energy subsidies -- black, not green

They were the true beneficiaries of a government funded welfare system for energy sources, that year after year, continue to worsen our weather and climate — resulting in escalating physical and financial harm in the US and around the globe.

But even as new wind installations lag due to a toxic brew of investment uncertainty conjured up by republicans, new alternative energy technology continues to undercut prospects for long-term fossil fuel market dominance. In particular, a new wind turbine, this one produced by GE, breaks a number of key market barriers to wind energy adoption in both the US and around the world.

GE achieves grid parity and energy storage with new turbine.

GE achieves grid parity and energy storage with new turbine.

The systems, pictured above, include GE’s 1.6-100 and 1.7-100 wind turbines.

These turbines include two revolutionary advancements that put it toe-to-toe with traditional fossil fuel and nuclear generation sources in both capability and cost. First, the new turbines achieve a staggering 20-24% efficiency gain. This puts prices for these turbines at less than coal for new generation construction.

Other alternative energy systems have recently made similar gains, with solar and wind plants increasingly available that provide energy at, near, or lower than the cost of new coal. But the crowning blow of this new system to fossil fuel dominance lies not just in its staggering efficiency gains. The system also includes distributed storage.

Each turbine is equipped with a battery system that stores excess energy generated during times when the wind is blowing. This new capacity levelizes transmission to the grid during times of high energy production. It also enables the wind turbine to store the excess energy for later use. As a result, the capacity factor of an individual turbine jumps from around 30% to 54%. It also allows wind producers with the new turbine to directly compete with fossil fuel based energy sources in the highly lucrative frequency regulation business.

Fossil fuel cheerleaders have often derided the intermittency and lack of storage potential in renewable energy sources, claiming this was an impenetrable barrier to broader adoption. Now, these new turbines render that argument mostly moot. Higher net capacity factor for advanced wind and lower costs than traditional fuels results in an increasingly serious market challenge to dirty energy sources. Now, if we can just get a few friends in the US government to provide the funding these systems merit, then we might begin to make some serious gains in both net carbon emissions and a more permanent US energy independence.

As noted above, republicans are doing their best to block such critical advancements. And, it seems, they and their fossil fuel allies are seriously threatened by continuously advancing renewable energy technology. As of June, republicans and their oil company backers pushed to de-fund the US ARPA-E renewable energy research program providing critical funding for advancements such as the one produced by GE. Apparently, republicans are bound and determined to prove their theory of dysfunctional government by creating the level of dysfunction they so often criticize while at the same time support fuels that ruin humanity’s future prospects.

Links:

Next Generation Wind Turbines are Cheap, Reliable and Brilliant

Virtually all Federal Incentive for Wind Energy Comes From a Single Program

Republicans in the House of Representatives have pushed to increase US coal burning, approve the Tar Sands Keyston XL Pipeline, remove energy efficiency standards, and to slash US government (ARPA -E) R&D funding for new renewable energy technology by 80 percent. Fully 55% of all Republicans in the US Congress deny that human caused warming even exists.

The Price of Fossil Fuel Subsidies

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Chevy Volt Breaks Monthly Sales Records Again

America’s most customer-loved automobile broke a new monthly sales record this August. According to GM, sales figures for the Chevy Volt exceeded 2,800 vehicles for August. The Volt’s previous best sales month was March at 2,289 vehicles.

So far this year, the Volt has sold over 13,000 automobiles in the US and is on track to sell nearly 20,000 by the end of this year. Worldwide, the Volt has already sold over 25,000 vehicles in 2012.

In 2011, the Volt was the highest-rated vehicle for customer satisfaction. This despite a wide-ranging political attack by republicans and oil-special interest sources to discredit the vehicle.

The Volt’s revolutionary engine system allows the vehicle to travel for 40 miles in an all-electric mode before switching to gasoline assisted driving. Many Volt drivers report making it more than 1,500 miles between fill-ups in day-to-day driving.

If large portions of the US vehicle fleet were made up of cars like the Volt, it would drastically reduce oil imports. Just a 30% market penetration of plug-in electric hybrids could cut US oil consumption by as much as 2.5 million barrels per day. That’s more than twice the domestic oil produced via Eagle Ford and Bakken combined.

In addition, the Volt emits far less in the way of greenhouse gasses. According to the EPA, the Volt emits 84 grams of carbon per mile averaged over its lifetime. In comparison, a similar-sized combustion engine sedan emits four to five times as much carbon over its lifetime. Considering that personal vehicle transport accounts for 20% of CO2 emissions, a world-wide adoption of vehicles like the Volt could cut total emissions by as much as 15%.

This beneficial reduced fuel demand, however, is likely to eat into oil company profits. Which is probably one reason why the Volt has drawn flack from certain media and political circles. Increasingly, these sources have towed the oil industry line in messaging, both denying global warming and simultaneously attacking any replacements for fossil fuel energy. This destructive attempt at market domination would result in vast harm to technological progress as well as call into question the future health and even continuance of civil society should the worst impacts of climate change emerge.

So one should take any such dissuasion with a grain of salt. These aspersions hold no value and result only in harm to US interests and world climate security.

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