Costa Rica achieved 99% renewable energy this year

costa rica

While it may often seem like we have a long way to go when it comes to global renewable energy generation, there are a few countries that are already closing in on being fully powered by renewables that give us hope that one day soon all countries will be able to boast the same results.

Costa Rica has shown the world what is possible this year by achieving 99 percent renewable energy generation. Michael wrote back in April that the country had not used any fossil fuels for electricity so far at that point in the year and, in fact, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute said in a statement that 285 days this year were fossil fuel-free.

Costa Rica is lucky to have a wealth of renewable energy sources to choose from. The bulk of its power generation comes from hydropower thanks to a large river system and heavy tropical rainfalls. The rest is made up of a mix of geothermal energy, which the country is also rich in, wind, biomass and solar power.

The institute said that even though 2015 was a very dry year, Costa Rica was still ahead of its renewable energy targets and goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021. The country doesn’t just want to hit 100 percent renewable energy, but it also wants to clean up energy consumption in general like moving the transportation sector away from fossil fuels and becoming less dependent on hydropower by adding more geothermal energy plants and harnessing energy from other sources.

The citizens of the country have benefited from the cost of energy actually falling by 12% this year and the institute expects it to keep falling in the future.

The U.S. still has a long way to go before it will reach the same milestones, but renewable energy plants make up most of the new energy sources being added to the grid. It’s a larger country with a larger population, but we can still be inspired by Costa Rica and do our part to make sure renewable energy grows and prospers in the U.S.

Source: Costa Rica achieved 99% renewable energy this year

Costa Rica achieved 99% renewable energy this year

Here’s how 139 countries could run on 100% wind, solar, and hydro power by 2050

The world could be powered almost entirely by clean, renewable energy sources in the space of a few decades, and two engineers in the US say they’ve have figured out exactly how it can be done.

Blueprints for 139 countries around the world, including the US, Japan, and Australia, break down exactly how many wind turbines, solar farms, hydroelectric dams, and other facilities are required to cover each nation’s personal, business, industry, agriculture, and transport power needs, and how much it would cost. They’ll be presented to leaders of 195 nations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris, starting on November 30, where a binding and universal agreement on climate will be set.

The people there are just not aware of what’s possible,” one of the researchers, Mark Jacobson, a civil and environmental engineer at Stanford University, told Mark Fischetti at Scientific American. Jacobson has been granted two opportunities to speak at the conference, which will run from November 30 to December 11, and plans to get on-on-one time with as many world leaders as possible during that time with his colleague, engineer Mark Delucchi from the University of California, Davis.

The purpose of the blueprints is to show that 100 percent renewable energy isn’t just a green pipe dream – it’s technically and economically feasible. And it won’t only save countries a significant amount of cash – Jacobson and Delucchi have figured out how many jobs it could create and lives it could save, and it’s a whole lot.

As Fischetti reports for Scientific American, if all 139 countries followed their plans for permanently ditching fossil fuels, it would open up 24 million construction jobs and 26.5 million operational jobs, each with a 35-year lifespan, which more than covers the 28.4 million jobs that would be lost in collapsed fossil fuel industries.

The change would also lead to considerably cleaner air, which the engineers have estimated will prevent the 3.3 to 4.6 million premature deaths that occur every year due to atmospheric pollution. Right now, these deaths cost around 3 percent of the global GDP to mitigate.

And that’s not the only saving that a fossil fuel-free world can bring. Wind is now the cheapest source of electricity in the US, costing around half as much as natural gas – and that’s unsubsidised. And the cost of solar is not far behind.

As Ramez Naam reports over at Energy Post, if the technology continues to grow in efficiency at the current rate, by the time solar capacity triples to 600GW – predicted by around 2020 or 2021 – the unsubsidised price for solar power will be roughly 4.5 cents per kWh in places that get a lot of sunlight, such as the the US southwest, the Middle East, and Australia. For moderately sunny places, such as India and China, this price will hit 6.5 cent per kWh.

Not bad, when you consider coal-fired electricity can cost anywhere from 6.6 to 15.1 cents per kWh and it’s 6 to 8 cents for natural gas. And that’s not including all the associated health costs mentioned above.

“People who are trying to prevent this change would argue that it’s too expensive, or there’s just not enough power, or they try to say that it’s unreliable, that it will take too much land area or resources,” Jacobson told Adele Peters at Fast Company. “What this shows is that all these claims are mythical.”

The timeline states that countries could stop building new natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants, by 2020 and all gas-fired home appliances would be shifted to electric. Over the next five years, governments and industry leaders could work on getting large ships, trains, and buses off fossil fuels to run on electric power instead, followed by all cars and trucks over the next five years. By 2050, everything that currently guzzles fossil fuels could feasibly be switched over to renewable power sources.

Of course, not everyone is convinced, says Fischetti, reporting that the plans “have been heralded as transformational, and criticised as starry eyed or even nutty”, but the beauty of what Jacobson and Delucchi have put together is that everything is there for you to read through and analyse yourself, so you can make up your own mind.

Source: Here’s how 139 countries could run on 100% wind, solar, and hydro power by 2050

Here’s how 139 countries could run on 100% wind, solar, and hydro power by 2050

Construction Begins On Europe’s Largest Floating Solar Plant

Construction has begun on what will end up being Europe’s largest floating solar plant, atop Godley Reservoir in the UK.


The project developer, and the UK’s largest listed water company, announced this week that the installation of Europe’s biggest floating solar power system had begun construction, on the Godley Reservoir in the town of Hyde in Greater Manchester, UK. The entire project will consist of 12,000 solar panels, covering an area of 45,5000 square meters of the reservoir’s total 60,000 square meters. Once completed, the project will provide the utility with 2.7 GWh of electricity per year, for use directly onsite.

With construction already under way, United Utilities is hoping construction, testing, and full operation will all be completed by Christmas, 2015.

“We have a target to generate 35 per cent of our power requirements by 2020 and this project will make a significant contribution to that aim,” explained Chris Stubbs, head of renewable energy at United Utilities. “As part of United Utilities’ energy strategy to generate more power we identified the Godley reservoir as a suitable site to install a floating solar array to provide the water treatment works with approximately 33 per cent of its energy requirements.

“While floating solar has been deployed elsewhere around the world, most notably in Japan, it is a new technology to the UK. Installations such as the Godley solar scheme will help us to keep energy costs and water customers’ bills low.”

Floating solar is by no means a new idea, with a bevy of such projects in development or in operation all around the world. The new Godley Reservoir plant will dwarf the UK’s only other site, an 800-panel pilot project in Berkshire (whose construction is seen below).

Japanese multinational manufacturer Kyocera is currently the developer and manufacturer behind a number of projects trending for largest floating solar power plant. In November 2014the company announced that it would be developing a 7.5 MW solar power plant atop the Umenokifurukori reservoir in Japan, which was followed a month later by an announcement for a 13.4 MW floating solar power plant atop the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.

In May alone, Kyocera completed two separate floating solar projects in Japan — the first, two projects totaling 2.9 MW at Nishihira Pond and Higashihira Pond in Kato City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan; the second, a 2.3 MW project in Hyogo Prefecture.

Japan isn’t the only country moving forward with floating solar, however. Brazil announced earlier this year a phenomenal 350 MW pilot project planned for the Balbina hydroelectric plant. Australia saw the installation of a $9.5 million, 4 MW PV system atop a wastewater at a treatment facility in South Australia, India had plans for a 50 MW floating solar project, as did the US.
Source: Construction Begins On Europe’s Largest Floating Solar Plant

Construction Begins On Europe’s Largest Floating Solar Plant

Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Scientists in Canada are developing an industrial carbon dioxide recycling plant that could one day suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and convert it into a zero-carbon e-diesel fuel. Developed by tech start-up Carbon Engineering and partly funded by Bill Gates, the system will essentially do the job of trees, but in places unable to host them, such as icy plains and deserts.

Just like these new solar cells that are designed to split water into a hydrogen fuel, the CO2 recycling plant will combine carbon dioxide with hydrogen split from water to form hydrocarbon fuel. The plan is to provide the technology that could one day produce environmentally friendly fuel to complement the renewable energy systems we have now. “How do you power global transportation in 20 years in a way that is carbon neutral?” Geoff Holmes, business development manager at Carbon Engineering, told Marc Gunther at The Guardian. “Cheap solar and wind are great at reducing emissions from the electricity. Then you are left with the transport sector.”Carbon Engineering is one of a handful of companies around the world that are now set on coming up with ways to suck enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to actually put a dent in the effects of climate change. There’s also the New York City-based start-up Global Thermostat, and Swiss-based Climeworks, which demonstrated earlier this year with Audi how its technology can capture carbon dioxide, and deliver it to German company Sunfire, where it was recycled into a zero-carbon diesel fuel.

While Climeworks’ demonstration was impressive, what all three companies now need to do is figure out how to make their atmospheric carbon dioxide to fuel systems economically viable. And this won’t be easy. One problem they’re going to have to overcome is the high cost of heating their carbon dioxide to around 400 degrees Celsius so they can process it properly. Another problem is that few investors are interested in giving them money until they can prove that this is actually feasible.

As Gunther reports for The Guardian, governments and private investors aren’t interested in paying anyone to come up with ways to simply suck carbon dioxide out of the environment, no matter how beneficial to the environment it might be. Plus even if someone was interested, they’d better be willing to fork out the billions of dollars it’s going to take to build a system that could actually make a discernible difference to the world’s climate. These developers need to offer their investors something valuable in return, and the obvious answer is fuel.


Right now, Carbon Engineering’s planned system could only capture only about 450 tonnes of CO2 each year, which would barely cover the carbon emissions of 33 average Canadians, but they say this system could be scaled up to 20,000 times to make it more practical.

As the video explains below, direct air capture seems to be the only potentially feasible way to absorb carbon dioxide that’s already been emitted from small mobile sources such as cars, trucks, and planes, which make up 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions today. The systems require 1,000 times less land than carbon-sucking trees, and can be installed on land, like desert plains, that isn’t worth cultivating or inhabiting.

“I believe we have reached a point where it is really paramount for substantive public research and development of direct air capture,” Klaus Lackner of Arizona State University’s Centre for Negative Carbon Emissions said at the American Physical Society meeting in the US earlier this year.

“Scientists are increasingly convinced that we are going to need large scale removal systems to fight climate change,” Noah Deich from the California-based Centre for Carbon Removal told The Guardian. “I’m excited about direct air capture. It could be a really important technology to add to the portfolio.”

Watch the video below to see how Carbon Engineering plans on doing it. It’s going to take a while before we see the captured carbon to fuel model become a viable solution, but that’s not stopping the likes of Carbon Engineering, Climeworks, and Global Thermostat. We’re excited to see what they come up with.

Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Clean energy solutions that achieve benefits in health

Energy access is a basic requirement for human development and well-being, but it is vastly different for the poorest 3 billion people on Earth than it is for the richest 1 billion. The top billion consume 50 per cent of available fossil energy while—more than two centuries after the industrial revolution—the poorest 3 billion are still forced to rely on traditional fires (fueled by wood, dung, agricultural waste, charcoal and coal) to cook and heat their homes. One third of them are also forced to use kerosene and candles for lighting. This imbalance in access to modern energy comes at enormous costs to human health and the environment, and creates further disparities in how the effects of those costs are experienced.

In their use of fossil fuels, the top 1 billion contribute more than half the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming. If they (and the middle-income 3 billion) continue current rates of fossil fuel consumption, the world will witness warming of 2°C or more in a few short decades. The brunt will be borne by the bottom 3 billion, who live on the edge of subsistence and are most vulnerable to the resulting droughts or other changes in weather and climate.

At the same time—through being limited to using inefficient cooking fires and lamps—the poorest 3 billion are exposed to large quantities of soot (or black carbon) and brown carbon. Once emitted, black carbon particulates both escape into the atmosphere and contribute to household health risks. They are unquestionably deadly. About 4 million people die each year from the toxic smoke emitted by household fires and lights. Exposure to household air pollution kills more people than malaria, TB and HIV combined.

Such household emissions may also contribute as much as 20 per cent to black carbon emissions worldwide. This is vastly significant because black carbon (from stoves and other sources) is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide and leads to crop loss, deforestation and the melting of glaciers, threatening critical food and water sources.

About 4 million people die each year from the toxic smoke emitted by household fires and lights. Exposure to household air pollution kills more people than malaria, TB and HIV combined.

The consequences of energy imbalance are dire.

But the new United Nations initiative Sustainable Energy for All, which aims to provide access to sustainable and renewable energy sources to everyone, is unprecedented and extremely productive.

The health benefits of providing energy to the bottom 3 billion would be far ranging, and the climate benefits would be felt by all.

Project Surya, which we lead, focuses on clean energy solutions for the poorest that achieve benefits in health, climate and sustainability by employing clean cooking and lighting technologies that reduce smoke emissions by 90 per cent or more. One chronic issue with these advanced technologies—which still use locally available solid biomass— is that with the added performance comes additional cost. The costs—typically, about six weeks of income for rural households—along with the lack of robust supply chains, inhibit scaling up the technologies to the hundreds of millions of households where they are needed.

Yet the use of advanced energy technologies enables us to leverage the link between household pollution and climate change. Surya now provides users of advanced improved stoves with the credit they deserve for mitigating climate change. Households that employ them generate quantifiable reductions in black carbon and carbon dioxide, with direct positive impacts on the climate—and so should be able to sell the resulting credits in a market. Much as a company can sell carbon credits for cleaning up its operations, we believe individual women should also receive financial benefits for their actions to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and black carbon.

Generating carbon credits for switching to improved stoves is nothing new. After all, burning firewood leads to 1-2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. The contributions from each household do not reflect the total potential climate mitigation achieved, although improved stoves also help to reduce deforestation. But quantifying the black carbon reductions—which work separately from carbon dioxide—reveals that their true carbon savings are two to three times greater. Moreover, including black carbon may bring new investors and buyers to carbon markets because reducing it has more immediate climate mitigation impacts than cutting carbon dioxide and has clear health and sustainability benefits. So this new approach could catalyze new funds to support energy access at scale.

While this seems straightforward in principle, there are some formidable challenges. One example of these is verifying the use of clean stoves on a house-by-house basis. Another is accurately translating stove usage to “climate credits”, saleable via a carbon market (or results-based financing mechanism), which encompass reductions in both carbon dioxide and black carbon particulates from adopting the cleaner energy technology.
And a third is distributing the financial credits to the women using the stoves, or the stove distributor.

Project Surya’s Climate Credit Pilot Project (C2P2) combines cutting-edge air pollution and climate change science with pioneering wireless sensor technologies to work towards universal access to advanced cook stoves and solar lighting systems. Through an international partnership that includes NGOs, private donors, academics, government banks, The Gold Standard Foundation’s Voluntary Carbon market, rural entrepreneurs, village chiefs and small women’s groups, Surya uses wireless sensors integrated into kitchens to document climate credits generated by using improved stoves. Close to a quarter of households now use the improved stoves for 50-100 per cent of their daily cooking needs. Each household that uses the stove for all cooking could earn approximately $35 per year (assuming an estimate of $6 per tonne of CO2 equivalent). Carbon markets ensure a level of transparency and standardization of methods for verification and validation that will be important if this initiative is to scale up beyond Surya or any single institution. Surya is now working to expand this carbon market approach to encourage the adoption of clean lighting, as well as cooking, technologies.

Through this work, Project Surya is celebrating and rewarding the role of the poorest women in the world as climate warriors.

We acknowledge the contributions of Tara Ramanathan in leading the Nexleaf Analytics cookstove programme in the field and significant contributions from Omkar Patange in India. We thank Charlie Kennel and Ellen Lehman, Mac McQuown, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, UK AID, and the United Nations Environment Programme for their explicit support of C2P2.

Source: Credit Where it’s Due

Clean energy solutions that achieve benefits in health

Hydroelectric dams drastically reduce tropical forest biodiversity

Widely hailed as ‘green’ sources of renewable energy, hydroelectric dams have been built worldwide at an unprecedented scale. But research from the University of East Anglia reveals that these major infrastructure projects are far from environmentally friendly.

A study published today in PLOS ONE reveals the drastic effects of the major Amazonian Balbina Dam on tropical rainforest biodiversity.

The research reveals a loss of mammals, birds and tortoises from the vast majority of islands formed by the creation of the vast Balbina Lake, one of the world’s largest hydroelectric reservoirs.

Lead author Dr Maíra Benchimol, a former PhD student at UEA and now at Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Bahia, Brazil, said: “Hydroelectric dams have been thought to be an environmentally friendly source of renewable power — and in recent years they have been built to supply the burgeoning energy demands of emergent tropical countries.

“Previous studies have shown that large dams result in severe losses in fishery revenues, increases in greenhouse gas emissions, and socioeconomic costs to local communities. Our research adds evidence that forest biodiversity also pays a heavy price when large dams are built.

Prof Carlos Peres, from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, said: “Of course, it is widely known that dams cause massive population losses in terrestrial and tree-dwelling species within lowland forest areas that are flooded. However, we’re only beginning to realize the staggering extent of extinctions in forest areas that remain above water as habitat islands.

“The Brazilian government is currently planning to build hundreds of new dams in some of the world’s most biodiverse tropical forest regions. But the high biodiversity costs of mega dams should be carefully weighed against any benefits of hydropower production.”

The Balbina Dam in the Central Brazilian Amazon is one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams in terms of total flooded area. The creation of this dam saw a formerly unbroken landscape of undisturbed continuous forest converted into an artificial archipelago of 3,546 islands.

The research team carried out intensive biodiversity surveys over two years on 37 islands isolated by the hydroelectric reservoir and three neighbouring continuous forest areas. They also surveyed land and tree dwelling vertebrates at these 40 forest sites.

Further research focused on plants and used high-resolution satellite images to better understand the level of forest degradation on the islands.

Key findings:

– Clear evidence of widespread loss of animals on forest islands following 26 years of isolation, even under the best-case protection scenario ensured by the largest biological reserve in Brazil.

– Large vertebrates including mammals, large gamebirds and tortoises disappeared from most islands formed by the creation of the Balbina Lake.

– Of the 3,546 islands created, only 25 are now likely to harbour at least four fifths of all 35 target species surveyed in the study.

– Island size was the most important factor predicting the number of forest vertebrate species retained.

Dr Benchimol said: “We found that only a few islands larger than 475 hectares still contained a diverse community of animal and bird species, which corresponds to only 0.7 per cent of all islands in the reservoir.”

“In addition to the effects of area reduction, most small islands succumbed to wind exposure and ephemeral fires that occurred during a severe El Niño drought in 1997-98. Post-burn islands retained even fewer wildlife species than islands of similar size that had not been affected by wildfires.”

In another study published last month in Journal of Ecology the authors showed that fires on these small islands have a knock-on effect for animal life, with extinction rates accelerated by the reduction of habitable forest.

Dr Benchimol said: “Different wildlife species respond differently depending on their lifestyles. Those that need small home ranges coped better with forest habitat loss caused by the dam. Nevertheless, the future demographic and genetic viability of small isolated populations in areas affected by major dams seems bleak, as few species are able to maintain gene flow by swimming long distances to reach other islands.”

Prof Peres said: “We predicted an overall local extinction rate of more than 70 per cent of the 124,110 wildlife populations of the species we studied occurring in all 3,546 islands across the entire archipelago. We’re shedding new light into the devastating impacts of large infrastructure projects on tropical forest biodiversity, which should be considered in any Environmental Impact Assessments of new hydroelectric dams.”

‘Widespread forest vertebrate extinctions induced by a mega hydroelectric dam in lowland Amazonia’ is published in the journal PLOS ONE on July 1, 2015.

This research was funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), The Rufford Small Grant Foundation, the Conservation Food and Health Foundation, Idea Wild, the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) programme, Amazonas Distribuidora de Energia S.A, Associação Comunidade Waimiri Atroari, and the Brazilian Ministry of Education.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of East Anglia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Maíra Benchimol, Carlos A. Peres. Widespread forest vertebrate extinctions induced by a mega hydroelectric dam in lowland Amazonia. PLOS ONE, July 1, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129818
Hydroelectric dams drastically reduce tropical forest biodiversity