renewable energy

  1. Good Reads
These 15 climate change books offer well-rounded perspectives on climate, sustainability, and the environment. I intentionally chose books with a wide range of (respected) opinions, from doomsday scenarios to climate optimists. That is intentional; climate change is not a dogmatic religious cult, it is an abstract scientific discussion that is 1) based on models and projections and 2) is constantly evolving. Let's treat it as such and respect diverse opinions with good insights and expertise to bring to the table.
  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People

The scoop: Cycling is a simple but effective way for individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. On a larger scale, cycling is an important tool in fulfilling the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Facts and figures:

Bottom line: Cycling allows individuals to lead a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. And when an entire society adopts cycling, it can profoundly impact the climate.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Planet
  3. Science
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: Tesla is probably the most famous and influential inventor/scientist you never heard of.

A few things Tesla did:

  1. In 1904, Tesla invented an efficient bladeless turbine.
  2. Tesla proposed electric power generation through geothermal, solar and wind energy.
  3. Tesla speculated on the existence of the ionosphere years before we discovered it.

Bottom line: Tesla imagined the world in many ways more like a philosopher than a scientist. But his scientific mind was as infallible as any. One thing is for sure: the modern world would be far behind without Nikola Tesla.

Dig deeper → 5 min.

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: El Salvador announced that Bitcoin is now legal tender. Citizens can pay taxes with it and stuff.

Why it matters: El Salvador is the first country to recognize a cryptocurrency as a legal form of currency. This marks a major shift toward government's view of decentralized financial systems, and a potential shift away from central banks.

The energy problem: We all know Bitcoin has an energy problem. To combat that, El Salvador plans to use geothermal energy from its volcanoes to produce cheap, clean energy for bitcoin mining. Let's see if they can build sophisticated infrastructure to match pent-up demand.

Bottom line: In the rush to make bets on the future of finance, governments around the world are responding with crypto plans for citizens.

Question: Will this push for legal forms of cryptocurrency help or hurt its climate impact in the long-run?

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Planet
  4. Water

10 reasons why seaweed farms are both sustainable and practical:

  1. Seaweed farms require no land.
  2. Seaweed farms are quite efficient, and can be harvested for commercial use within 90 days.
  3. Seaweed farms by-pass negative side-effects like deforestation or pesticide-use.
  4. Seaweed farms work in harmony with surrounding wildlife.
  5. Seaweed farms don't interfere with boats or ships, and create economic opportunities where none exist.
  6. Harvesting seaweed requires very little biofuel; it is a scalable process.
  7. Seaweed has multiple uses: it can produce both food and fuel.
  8. Seaweed is biodegradable, unlike solar panels and wind turbines that require heavy metals and create waste.
  9. Seaweed yields 30x more energy per acre than biofuel land crops like soy or corn.
  10. Only 2% of the fertile ocean is covered by kelp forests, so there is much more room to grow.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Brands
  2. Better Business
  3. Business
  4. Profit
Busy? Try the speed read.

Big picture: GM announced plans to release an electric Hummer in 2023. It got me thinking, is it time to make the switch to electric vehicles?

Benefit of electric vehicles:

  1. Lower carbon footprint... social impact ✓
  2. Lower maintenance costs... convenience factor ✓
  3. Tax credits... financial incentive ✓

Cost of electric vehicles:

  1. EVs require minerals like cobalt and lithium to function. Mineral mining is a tough industry with poor standards in developing countries like Bolivia and Chile. Organizations are working to change that.
  2. Electric vehicles have a limited driving range compared to their gas cousins. You may find yourself charging up more than usual.
  3. High sticker prices: The average price of a new electric vehicle is almost double the price of a gas car.
  4. Limited amount of charging stations: this is a tricky one, because there are still more charging stations per EV on the road than there are gas stations for gas cars. Unless you go on a road trip, most of your charging will probably be at home anyway.

Bottom line: With billions of dollars flowing in, electric vehicles are not only here to stay, they are booming.

If you 1) need a car in your life 2) want to be a part of a cleaner future and 3) can afford the extra monthly cost (for now), then making a switch to electric vehicles is the right thing to do.

Dig deeper ➝ 3 min

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet
Busy? Try the speed read.

Big picture

  • If all sunlight received by Northern Africa converted into solar energy, it could power all of Europe more than 1000 times over.
  • Concentrated solar power (CSP) technology can use lenses and mirrors to store large amounts of solar heat. 
  • Tunisian transcontinental transmission of photovoltaic power (PV) and CSP prove this concept.
  • PV is more reliable for decentralized plants to power rural regions in Africa.

Between the lines

  • To better understand how a CSP plant works, check out the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert (link below)
  • Desert solar panels can improve climate conditions in the region.
    • Compared to sand, panels reflect lower amounts of heat to space.
    • The result: surface heating in the desert and cloud formation.
    • Changing the desert’s heat budget may increase rain, but too many panels can raise temperatures to an unproductive level. Panels are less reflective than desert soil. 

Questions to consider

  • Which companies/countries would fund the project? 
  • Who benefits most from affordable solar electricity, Africa or Europe? 
  • How can you export energy to nations inside and outside of Africa?

Why it matters

  • CSP can release energy overnight, creating a 24-hour source of energy.
  • CSP has a high initial set-up cost but has long-term advantages over traditional forms of energy generation such as hydroelectricity.

Bottom line The developing world has a unique opportunity to learn harsh lessons from 20th century economic development principles. Using natural phenomena like the Sahara Desert for solar energy or the Congo River for hydro, Africa can become the energy superpower of the future.

Dig deeper ➝ 2 min

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet

The scoop: Below-freezing temperatures blasted the southern US this week, prompting rolling blackouts over the past few days.

Key takeaways:

  • Texas was not prepared to deal with the energy demand spikes.
  • Natural gas & coal were not sufficient, renewables failed in freezing temperatures.
  • America still needs a cocktail of energy supply to meet increasing consumer demand.

Zoom out: The Texas energy security issue is something every American should pay attention to. How can we carefully adopt a renewable-first economy without compromising reliability?

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: Biden vowed to sign the Paris agreement in his first day in office. As an environmentalist, I think it's all hype no action.

Why Paris no bien:

  1. It's a pledge, not a policy. There's no binding enforcement mechanism. So a country like Russia or Mexico can agree to it, but it doesn't hold them accountable.
  2. It lets China off the hook. China, the #1 carbon emitter in the world, can hide behind the US if we re-join it. If the US led the world on climate policy without Paris, it would expose China's energy reality (they are slated to make up nearly half of global coal demand in 2024).

Bottom line: We get it, Trump sucks and he left the Paris agreement so the Paris agreement must be amazing. Well, the Paris agreement is ultimately not that significant in terms of climate action. Policy reform > pretty pictures

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Business
  3. Energy
  4. Energy and Environment
  5. Profit

The International Energy Agency (IEA) rolled out its annual World Energy Outlook report with a bombshell. Solar power is expected to replace coal as the #1 source of energy production by 2025.

The backstory: In the last few years, governments and corporations flooded billions of dollars into the renewable energy space. Wind & solar energy have become cheaper than gas & oil as a result. It is now easier to manufacture and install solar panels than ever before.

By the numbers:

  • The IEA thinks 80% of new power generation will come from renewables.
  • We need to boost up investment in the energy grid by at least $460 billion in 2030 to hit our goals.
  • The global economy will return to pre-covid levels in 2021, but 7% smaller over long term compared to 2019 projections.

Between the lines: China alone will account for 40% of global growth for electricity demand over the next ten years. Southeast Asia and Africa will see major demand increases for energy over the next few decades.

Meanwhile, IEA's report found that global CO2 emissions will not return to 2019 levels until 2027, due to energy mix with renewables and coal's big drop in 2020.

Zoom out: We need a structural transformation of the global energy sector to hit on sdg's (those UN-sanctioned green goals we keep talking about), and that requires a lot of clean capital stock.

The report makes it clear that low growth of emissions ≠ a climate change solution. It's a means to an end.

Bottom line: Solar will replace coal as king sometime this decade.

Dig deeper → <2 min

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