I couldn’t help but notice a collection of four articles that were recently posted on Think Progress’ Climate page concerning some remarkable advances in “thinking” concerning energy production. First of all, America’s most hated arch-enemy, France, has finally managed an ‘absolute’
. . . ban on fracking [which] was finally completed Friday [October 11], as its constitutional court upheld a 2011 law prohibiting the practice and canceling all exploration permits. The decision posted on the court’s website said the ban “conforms to the constitution” and is not “disproportionate,” effectively protecting it from any future legal challenge.
U.S. driller Schuepbach Energy brought its complaint to the court after two of its exploration permits were revoked due to the ban. Schuepbach attempted to argue that since no study had established fracking risks, there was no cause for the ban, and that since fracking isn’t banned for geothermal energy projects, it was unfair. The court didn’t find that convincing, citing the differences between geothermal and shale gas exploration.
Environment Minister Philippe Martin framed the decision as a victory in the larger effort to limit fossil fuels and carbon emissions. “Beyond the question of fracking, shale gas is a carbon emitter,” he said in a statement. “We must set our priorities on renewable energies.”
Well, it is the French after all. How did Mark Twain put it? Something like, ‘man was originally created on the level of the angels but has been slipping ever since to where now he’s somewhere between the angels and the French.’ Oh well, no more French Fries will surely serve to improve our nation’s health.
Then there were a pair of surprises . . . BIG surprises, given the political bent of the two states. First, New Arizona Solar Plant Uses Salt To Keep Producing Electricity When The Sun Goes Down . . .
The 280 megawatt (MW) Solana solar plant just came online in Arizona, with one unique distinction: for the first time in the U.S., the plant will use a ‘salt battery’ that will allow it to keep generating electricity even when the sun isn’t shining.
The three-square-mile commercial-scale facility near Gila Bend, Arizona will use thermal energy storage, in the form of a molten salt system, to continue producing clean energy without sunlight. “This technology enables Solana to produce electricity at full capacity for up to six hours after sunset, including the early evening hours when customer demand for power typically peaks in Arizona,” according to an Arizona Public Service (APS) press release.
This is a big step forward from the more common solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, which requires direct sunlight to create electricity.
And . . . not only is the Solana plant a technological breakthrough in terms of thermal energy storage, it’s also the largest plant in the world to use to use parabolic trough mirrors to concentrate solar energy. This concentrated solar power (CSP) technology uses the mirrors to focus the sun’s heat on pipes, heating a synthetic oil that flows to boilers, which create the steam that drives two 140 MW turbines to produce electricity, much like a traditional power plant.
And then, miracle of miracles, there’s this from, of all places, Inhofe’s Oklahoma: Oklahoma Utility Buys 600 MW Of Wind Power To ‘Provide Substantial Savings To Our Customers’ . . .
Oklahomans will soon be paying less for their electricity because their utility looked at the market and decided that wind power would be the most cost-effective option.
On Thursday, the 100-year-old Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) — a division of American Electric Power (AEP) — signed an agreement to buy 600 megawatts of power from wind farms being developed in the northwestern part of the state. Currently there is just one large-scale wind farm in the Panhandle and in almost two years, there will be three more.
“The Panhandle of Oklahoma truly is one of the mother lodes of wind in this country,” said Clean Line Energy Partners President Michael Skelly.
The initial plan was just to buy one 200 MW project, but PSO tacked on another 400 MW “after seeing extraordinary pricing opportunities that will lower utility costs by an estimated $53 million in the first year and even more thereafter,” according to Tulsa World.
The Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement means that on January 1, 2016, 600 megawatts of wind energy will be available, enough to power 200,000 average American homes. This is pending the approval of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
So. Progress seems to be on the move. At least one country has said absolutely NO to any and all fracking, and in the US, electric utilities in a pair of deeply red states are seriously advancing the renewable energy programs which, with persistence and a little bit of luck will one day in the not too distant future overwhelm the fossil fuel industries once and for all and for good.
And finally, this pertinent ‘footnote': Renewable Energy Patents Booming, Led By Solar And Wind.
” . . . while patents in fossil fuel technologies grew modestly, and nuclear technology remained flat, between 2004 and 2009 the number of patents issued annually for solar energy increased by 13 percent per year, while those for wind energy increased 19 percent per year on average.
“The study attributes investment in R&D and market demand for helping spur such growth, which for solar and wind exceeded patent growth rates for semiconductor and digital communications technologies.”
It appears as though THE major capitalist driving force may be coming into play in the energy world: Profit! Imagine the consequences . . . cleaner air, less environment destruction, not to mention a great many less Republicans to stand in the way of thoughtful progress. Of course, someone will have to clean up the mess left behind by all the slashed wrists, but I’m sure that’s a more manageable task than, say, cleaning up the mess left behind by a leaky oil pipeline.