Fall mid-review

The public is invited to attend the fall mid-review presentations for LA301L and LA401L at Cal Poly Pomona on Monday, October 29th.

301L teams are identifying culturally relevant sites along the LA Aqueduct and discussing the landscape character. 401L students have mapped the water-energy nexus for Los Angeles and are selecting sites to enhance the resilience of the Aqueduct (plus there is a team who are hoping to win the EPA’s Campus RainWorks Competition).

Guest Jurors

  • 301L: Andrew Kanzler, Perry Cardoza
  • 401L: Robert Lamb, Jonathan Linkus

Cal Poly central campus map [pdf]

Please send a note if you are interested in being a guest juror for either mid-review session or final presentations (November 28th)

Advertisements

Sustainable Energy Landscapes

 

I’m really excited to announce the publication on October 19th of Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning, and Development, (edited by Sven Stremke and Andy van den Dobbelsteen) that includes my Chapter 21, written with the help of my Zero+ Campus Project’s colleagues at the University of Minnesota.

In the near future the appearance and spatial organization of urban and rural landscapes will be strongly influenced by the generation of renewable energy. One of the critical tasks will be the re-integration of these sustainable energy landscapes into the existing environment—which people value and want to preserve—in a socially fair, environmentally sound, and economically feasible manner. Accordingly, Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning, and Development focuses on the municipal and regional scale, where energy-conscious interventions are effective, and stakeholders can participate actively in the transition process.

This book presents state-of-the-art knowledge in the exciting new field of sustainable energy landscapes. It bridges the gap between theory and fundamental research on the one hand, and practice and education on the other. The chapters—written by experts in their fields—present a selection of interdisciplinary, cutting-edge projects from across the world, illustrating the inspiring challenge of developing sustainable energy landscapes. They include unique case studies from Germany, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Austria, Italy, and the United States.

The editors and team of contributing authors aim to inspire readers, providing a comprehensive overview of sustainable energy landscapes, including principles, concepts, theories, and examples. The book describes various methods, such as energy potential mapping and heat mapping, multicriteria decision analysis, energy landscape visualization, and employing exergy and carbon models. It addresses how to quantify the impact of energy transition both on landscape quality and energy economy, issues of growing importance. The text infuses readers with enthusiasm to promote further research and action toward the important goal of building energy landscapes for a sustainable future.

The full marketing announcement: K14201_NTI FL [pdf]

 

Robert Bryce lies again about coal

Robert Bryce, of the Manhattan Institute, follows up his pro-coal 2011 propaganda in the NYTimes (see my earlier rebuttal here) with an op-ed in the LAtimes. Here is my complete comment (which happens to be 576 characters too-long to have been posted in full):

This is not the first time Mr. Bryce has provided misleading propaganda for the carbon industry (or maybe he should just be labeled an anti-solar lobbyist) – so shame on the LATimes for publishing his piece.  His June 2011 op-ed in the NYTs was also filled with similarly misleading statistics that are clearly slanted to cast a more favorable light on coal (the statistics chosen when discussing this topic must compare life cycle costs/total costs/energy return on energy invested/energy per unit of CO2, not just the direct costs).

The biggest (pun intended) flaw in his argument is downplaying the physical footprint of coal: ‘the mine covers just 80 square miles, while domestic wind projects alone cover about 9,400 square miles.’ This is comparing apples with an turd.

That coal mine may ‘just’ be 80 square miles, but only citing the mine’s area as the total footprint of coal willfully ignores the facilities and infrastructure off-site, the hundreds of square miles covered by coal ash lagoons, the massive quantity of water needed to clean the coal and produce the steam (the energy sector uses more water than agriculture does in the US), and the global impact of emissions from burning the coal including the CO2, SOx, NOx, mercury, and acid rain that continue to devastate ecosystems around the world.

Yes, the wind industry may currently have 9,400 square miles of wind farms, but cumulative footprint of the turbines, crane pads, and road are just fractions of the entire project area.  There is nothing about a wind farm that destroys the ecological or economic productivity of the landscape – mine reclamation has never managed to restore the lost ecological vitality after coal (or tar sands) extraction. Then there is the energy return on energy invested – you can only extract coal once – while wind and solar are perpetual energy sources. LAGI has lots more comparison of energy footprints if you want to further dig into this topic.

Coal is NOT essential for progress, but certainly it is essential to the preventable climate change caused catastrophic disruption of our global civilization.

Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project

Richard A. Muller shares the findings of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project in an NYTimes Op-Ed. Dr. Muller was a vocal critic of the IPCC and earlier climate change research, but the project finds that human carbon emissions are the entire cause of observed change in the climate over the past 250 years! (The IPCC only stated the link was for the past 50 years.)

…studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off)…

How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic - NYTimes.com

What about the future? As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.

Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.

So what do we do next? My money and scholarly efforts are focused on developing site and municipal scale solutions to reduce emissions, increase energy/locational efficiency, and improve the resilience of our cities. But what about the bottom billion and the majority of humanity that isn’t historically responsible for climate change (yet will bear the brunt of the impacts) – there are plenty of efforts that working to improve their standard of living (health, education, food/energy security) while reducing our global footprint. Policy is a huge factor, but don’t count on either national or global consensus or action – the polical/economic forces of the status quo have too much to loose (see ‘Canada’s oil, the world’s carbon‘) – humanity has too much to loose by inaction.

More findings

  1. Berkeley Earth Temperature Averaging Process (commonly referred to as the “Methods” paper) and its appendix
  2. Influence of Urban Heating on the Global Temperature Land Average
  3. Earth Atmospheric Land Surface Temperature and Station Quality in the United States
  4. Decadal Variations in the Global Atmospheric Land Temperatures
  5. A New Estimate of the Average Earth Surface Land Temperature Spanning 1753 to 2011

http://berkeleyearth.org & their dataset

via The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic – NYTimes.com.

Solar Southwest

The Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Solar PEIS) from by the Bureau of Land Management and Department of Energy’s EERE have just issued the final report for public comments that identifies 17 zones covering 445 square miles of public land in the Mojave Desert appropriate for fast-tracking large-scale industrial solar energy development along with the mitigation strategies, policies and regulations. If all the sites get developed, they could generate 24,000 megawatts of carbon-free electricity by 2030. (But what about their water consumption?)

Original PDF [18mb] here

 As significant as defining appropriate sites for development, the Solar PEIS defines exclusion areas like the Ivanpah Valley on the CA/NV border where BrightSource Energy is already building two projects.

Thirty-two categories of lands are proposed for exclusion from solar development through the Final Solar PEIS (see Final Solar PEIS, Chapter 2). The exclusions proposed include (1) explicit exclusions that will be delineated in the Solar PEIS ROD by a land base that would not change except by future land use plan amendment; and (2) implicit exclusions that will be defined in the Solar PEIS ROD by the presence or absence of a specific resource or condition where the land base may change over time (e.g., critical habitat). Implicit exclusions will be determined at the time of application for individual solar ROWs, and based on information in applicable land use plans as amended, Species’ Recovery Plans, or similar planning or guidance documents, and verified by site-specific information as necessary.

For the purposes of the Solar PEIS and its associated NEPA analysis, the BLM has mapped and estimated the acreage for proposed exclusions in the aggregate based on best available existing information. Data were available to map the following exclusion categories:

  1. BLM-administered lands where development is prohibited by law, regulation, Presidential proclamation or Executive Order (i.e., lands in the National Landscape Conservation System [NLCS]),
  2. Lands having slopes greater than 5%,
  3. Lands with solar insolation levels less than 6.5 kWh/m2/day,
  4. BLM Areas of Critical Environmental Concern,
  5. Critical habitat for USFWS designated threatened and endangered species,
  6. BLM Right-of-Way Exclusion and Avoidance Areas,
  7. BLM No Surface Occupancy Areas,
  8. Special Recreation Management Areas (note these were not excluded in the State of Nevada or in a portion of the Yuma East SRMA in Arizona), and
  9. Greater sage-grouse habitat in California, Nevada, and Utah; Gunnison’s sage-grouse habitat in Utah; and Desert Wildlife Management Areas, Flat Tailed Horned Lizard habitat, and Mojave Ground Squirrel habitat in California.

As desert tortoises are the charismatic megafauna most impacted by solar farms and a favorite topic of infrascape design, I couldn’t resist sharing this picture accompanying the LATimes article on the PEIS:

Mark Boster/LAtimes

Drought induced Blackouts

Water energy nexus

The water-energy nexus goes both ways. It takes energy to supply potable water to our homes, and it takes massive amounts of water to produce the energy we use. Prof. Micheal Webber of UT Austin wrote an op-ed for the NYTime about the dangers faced by the climate change induced drought the US is experiencing.

Our energy system depends on water. About half of the nation’s water withdrawals every day are just for cooling power plants. In addition, the oil and gas industries use tens of millions of gallons a day, injecting water into aging oil fields to improve production, and to free natural gas in shale formations through hydraulic fracturing…

All told, we withdraw more water for the energy sector than for agriculture…

energy use by sector

New carbon emissions standards can also help save water. A plan proposed by the Obama administration (requiring new power plants to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour generated) would encourage utilities to choose less carbon- and water-intensive fuels. Conventional coal plants, which are very thirsty, exceed the standards proposed by the president. But relatively clean, and water-lean, power plants that use wind, solar panels and natural gas combined cycle, would meet them. Thus, by enforcing CO2 limits, a lot of water use can be avoided.

Drought induced blackouts

via Will Drought Cause the Next Blackout? – NYTimes.com.

Related in the NYTimes – more reporting on how the weird weather is causing unanticipated failures at power plants, transportation networks, and water system.