Past Articles
2023-01-24
Saline lakes around the world are disappearing. Many are already gone. Let’s talk about why we should care, what is causing this, and how we can solve it. For more details, check out gsl.byu.edu.

Why should we care? A fifth of the Earth’s land surface doesn’t drain to the ocean. These terminal basins occur on every continent in regions where there is enough water to create occasional river flow, but not enough to erode a channel to the ocean. Saline lakes account for a half of global lake volume—around 100,000 cubic kilometers of water. But back to our question, why should we care? Examples from around the world show that the loss of a saline lake sets off a sequence of environmental and economic damage that is extremely difficult to reverse. Lake shrinkage causes air and water pollution, collapse of agricultural productivity, loss of industry, economic depression, and devastation of lake and wetland ecosystems. Toxic dust released from the lakebed can cause clusters of cancer, reproductive disorders, and neurodegenerative disease. Aral Sea, Lake Urmia, Owens Lake—the names of dried saline lakes have become synonymous with ecological and societal catastrophe.

What is causing the decline? There are two culprits: irrigated agriculture and climate change. At its simplest level, the survival of a saline lake depends on just two factors. Without drainage to the ocean, these lakes rise and fall with water flow to the lake and evaporation from the lake. Diverting water for agriculture reduces the inflow to the lake. Warming the temperature increases evaporation. Currently, irrigation accounts for 70-90% of the total lake loss, with the rest attributable to climate change. There is thankfully major movement on the climate change front (renewables now make up around 90% of growth in energy), but warming is baked in for the next few decades. Irrigation is the major cause, and where we need to put our focus.

What can we do? You can’t negotiate with hydrology. The lake level won’t respond to the number of bills (or blog posts) written about it. We need to get more water to Great Salt Lake. We have called on the governor’s office and Utah legislature to lead an emergency rescue to that effect. We need extraordinary and unprecedented water conservation measures. Farmers need to transition to less consumptive crops and irrigation methods. The conserved water needs to be permanently granted to the lake—we need to finally recognize its inherent right to exist and our dependence on its health. For other saline lakes, success has looked like a slowing of the decline. By setting a goal not just to stabilize the lake but to restore it, we are in uncharted territory. It emphasizes the challenge of succeeding but also the need for an example. As lakeside communities, a state, a country, and as a human family, we need to come together to solve this issue. I have worked with the legislature on a wide range of issues, including renewable energy, air pollution, COVID-19, and local conservation measures. I have never seen the level of commitment and solidarity around an issue as for Great Salt Lake. Let’s take a warning from our friends around the world who haven’t managed to save their lakes and hold up Great Salt Lake as a new success story of multi-generational thinking and reverence for creator and creation.
2023-01-17
By John Abraham, Professor of Thermal Sciences, University of St. Thomas

I am a climate scientist – if you could see the measurements we are making all across this globe, you would be as concerned as I am. But you would also be optimistic about the future. My main job as a climate scientist is to make measurements of planet Earth. The measurements my research team makes are in the world’s oceans. We look to the oceans to determine what will happen to our planet because the oceans cover the majority of planet Earth (70% of the surface) and the oceans are the most important energy component. In fact, as humans emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and as the Earth subsequently warms, the vast majority of that heat (more than 90%), ends up in the oceans. I like to say “global warming is really ocean warming.”

The above image shows the heat measurements in the oceans, back to 1940. We measure ocean heat in a strange unit (zettajoules) which is a 1 with 21 zeros after it. So, compared to 1940, the world’s oceans have about 460,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Joules of heat.

How do we maintain optimism? The reason I am optimistic is because there have been tremendous advances in the production of clean energy. In fact, the cost of wind and solar power is now on par or less expensive than fossil fuels. I travel to the developing world to work on power and water projects. But with some hard work we [the USA] can become a supplier of energy equipment, and help the world simultaneously solve the energy problem while creating high-skilled jobs. It is a potential win-win situation that no rational person can be against.
2022-12-29
by Retired chemist with service in the US nuclear submarine fleet

This one is just a big picture idea and not at all valuable as IP. But, someone has to get the big ideas out in the public arena if we are going to survive. If you are interested in a collaboration, my suggestion is to submit a proposed post to the blog site titled “Seeking Collaborators on Carbon Capture” which includes your contact information.

Let’s face it, carbon dioxide is pretty useless stuff. Any talk of converting it into some useful compound for making plastics or whatever is easily shown to be uneconomical, both from an energy point of view and from the dismally small impact on climate change. It’s a thermodynamic pit; that’s why we get so much energy out of making it in the first place.

Being such a stable substance means it is pretty inert to most chemical attacks. And who needs 50 billion tons of it anyway? That’s the scale of removal that will make a difference.

The IPCC tells us that carbon capture will be necessary to prevent catastrophic climate disasters. Not emission reduction but actual carbon removal is NECESSARY.

But how? I offer a way by an individual who has spent a life at sea. First, so to say, I was under the sea in my service in United State’s navy nuclear powered submarine fleet. Thereafter, so to say, I was on top of the sea in my own private inboard/outboard motor boat.

The only means of tackling a really big problem is with a really big solution, and the biggest solution we have is the oceans.
Given that carbon dioxide is chemically inert it seems reasonable to seek physical means instead. Fortunately, carbon dioxide has a relatively high boiling point, relative to nitrogen and oxygen that is. At sea level pressure carbon dioxide sublimes, going from solid to gas directly. But if one took a balloon of air and pulled it down into the depths of the ocean the increased pressure would liquefy the gas. The rest of the air would still be gaseous. Thus, the carbon dioxide could be easily separated from the air by a process that is essentially a distillation. In a flexible-wall container the liquid is now at ambient temperature and pressure, sitting in a bladder on the bottom of the ocean. Because it is chemically inert the containment material need not be exotic, polyethylene would work just fine (the plastic is already out there in the ocean anyway)

This would need to be done at a huge scale. At 400 ppm, a cubic meter of air has only 400 cubic centimeters of gaseous carbon dioxide at STP, which would become about 0.4 mL of liquid carbon dioxide, so thousands and thousands of cubic meters of air would need to be treated. I haven’t done the engineering, that would be a waste of everyone’s time, but the good news is that this could be done anywhere the ocean is deep enough; the ocean is pretty cold everywhere at depth. So every country with a coastline could participate.

Jobs, you ask? Of course there would be a lot of jobs in such an enterprise, not all high level.

Money, you ask? How much will it cost to do nothing? Not you, your grandchildren.
2022-12-25
By Mike McGehee, Mike.McGehee@chaberton.com
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily Chaberton Energy.

Community solar is designed to allow residents and small businesses to purchase electricity from an offsite solar installation. This allows people and companies who cannot have their own rooftop solar system to meet their electricity needs, to utilize clean solar energy, and to enjoy the financial and environmental benefits that solar energy provides. This spurs the development of solar installations, thereby helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-based generation while diversifying the grid’s energy portfolio with inflation-proof generation. These installations are typically less than 40 acres, much smaller than utility-scale installations that can be hundreds of acres, and they connect to the electrical grid at the distribution level, the same level as residential homes. A community solar program enables companies to develop and finance community solar installations that provide direct and tangible benefits to homeowners and businesses in the form of electricity savings. This electricity is provided to people who subscribe to the installation, often at a discount from the standard utility rates, and often do not require any long-term commitments. The program also benefit local landowners, who lease their land for roughly 30 years to host a community solar installation.

California currently has less than 1 MW of solar installed from its Community Solar pilot program started in 2018. This stands in stark contrast to the more than 16,000 MW of total installed rooftop, commercial and utility scale solar capacity in California today. Much of this has to do with historical tax and financial incentives for these systems in California. However, in true California fashion, there have been seismic shifts in legislation and regulation which have greatly changed these incentives and ultimately shifted the balance toward Community Solar. First, California recently passed AB 2316 in September of 2022, which codified a viable Community Solar program requiring the participation of the investor-owned utilities PG&E, SCE and San Diego Gas and Electric, who serve the vast majority of California customers. Second, in December of 2022, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) passed significant changes to the bill crediting (net metering) calculation for rooftop and commercial systems which result in variable credit rates and effectively much longer paybacks for future rooftop installations. These policy and regulatory changes act to dramatically redistribute the economics and benefits of solar throughout California. Community Solar is poised to offer the best overall combination of consumer value and grid benefit to the majority of Californians. Generally, the California Community Solar legislation allows each installation to be up to 5MW, with at least 50% of the output allocated to low-income households. With Community Solar, the financial benefits and savings of solar generation are now available to a much larger and economically diverse section of California residents.

While Community Solar does not require a roof, a full 5 MW facility equates to about 30 acres of land. Even though California is a large state, finding land “suitable” for solar is difficult with many other competing interests and regulations to consider. Agriculture is a large and extremely important industry in California, and Community Solar must carve out a complementary role. A solar array, especially a community solar project with its smaller footprint, can be sited alongside agricultural uses and provide tangible benefits to agriculture through the creation of new pollinator habitats. This also allows local landowners and farmers to diversify their investments while continuing to farm their properties. Additionally, solar energy projects act as a form of land preservation; these projects generally have an expected lifetime of 30-40 years. Afterwards, the array is easily removed, and the land underneath can be utilized for agriculture or other uses. Conservation programs like California’s Williamson Act make a majority of the land near appropriate infrastructure essentially ineligible for Community Solar in the near term. Beyond conservation programs and competing land uses, each county has unique zoning restrictions and must independently grapple with the concepts of Community Solar within their localized political and economic lenses. Finally, appropriate land must also be close to electric distribution lines and other infrastructure, which is often not the case in rural areas where land is available.

Despite these barriers, developers are actively seeking sites with the right combinations of characteristics for installations in California. When Community Solar is executed correctly, it can provide benefits to all stakeholders, from the lease revenue to local landowners, direct energy savings for local utility customers, benefits to local agriculture, and increased tax revenue to the local jurisdiction. The full program rules governing how Community Solar will be implemented are currently being written by the Public Utilities Commission and are expected to be finalized in the fall of 2023.
2022-12-22
by Rental Owner, Southern California

As a rental property owner, it behooves me to find solutions to reduce my utility costs and hence the long-term sustainability of my properties. To this end, I have looked into options both specific to my “micro” needs, and with thought to the global needs of our fine State of California.

There are two options available for personal properties as far as I know ….solar and wind. Based on the location of my properties, the former was the only viable option for me, as is the case with most Californians …. unless of course, one lives in the wind tunnel of the Banning Pass.

The concerns which prevented me from installing solar panels on the properties were the following: initial cost versus the time to break even with the investment, change to the physical look of the property, concerns about maintenance of the panels, and an overriding concern about future technological advances leaving my investment in the “so-called “ dust.

There are a number of competing companies vying to sell property owners like myself their “proprietary panels" with guarantees of lifespans up to 20 years. Who knows if that is true? Most of these companies and products are newer than 10 years of age, so I wouldn’t bank on their untested longevity claims. Also, as we all know, technology advances rapidly. What the world will look like in 20 years is anyone’s guess.

We all know the technology present in consumer items such as computers, cell phones and even automobiles is unrecognizable after five years. Would anyone consider driving a car that is 20 years old? Or how about a cell phone that is older than three years? The technology for solar energy production will also change over 20 years to the extent I know I will want newer, more efficient and streamlined panels in much shorter a period of time than what the solar companies project in their sales pitch. The cost of dismantling and reinstalling newer panels will be exorbitant, without a doubt.

I guess it depends the main reason for choosing solar. If one is a true believer in climate change and desires to have an immediate impact — as little as that is — you go solar. However if one is looking for long-term cost reduction in energy production for one's home or properties, it seems to make less sense.

Another overriding concern with solar installations, in particular with sustainability and reduced environmental impact, is the effect of solar panel disposal in the future. At some point they’ll need to be dismantled and disposed of in some manner that does not disrupt the environment. Landfills filled with “aged-out” solar panels maybe more environmentally damaging than the effects of other energy sources to be discussed below. I think there is no good answer for this conundrum.

I also had concerns about the maintenance of the panels. How often they need to be washed to maintain maximum efficiency, how to safely clean their absorptive surfaces and the cost involved in repair if damaged due to unforeseen circumstances.

Finally, until solar panels have a more pleasing or less disruptive look on a roof, my wife and I will choose to maintain the design elements of our roof rather than allow it to look like a solar farm installation.

Instead of California government and private solar installation companies pushing the solar agenda, I would like to see an immediate, effort to develop cheap, reliable, abundant energy based on nuclear fission now, and fusion in the future as soon as it’s viable. To me it is unconscionable that our government has given up on nuclear energy for our societal needs, when it is cheap, safe and easy produced with limited environmental impact. We are 40 years post-Three Mile Island, our world and nuclear fission safety has progressed substantially. Time to make the change to nuclear power again.
2022-12-19
By an Economist, Southern California

As of November of 2022, “rich” countries will now compensate “poor” countries for the burden being suffered by climate change. Since the industrial revolution starting in the 1800s, petroleum-based industries in the Western World have been the main contributor of greenhouse gasses. We now know that past carbon emissions continue to effect climate change for decades to centuries.

In contrast, undeveloped countries in the past 200 years have contributed little to greenhouse gas emissions that caused global warming. Yet a big portion of global warming effects lay on the shoulders of the poor developing countries. Developing countries’ economies heavily rely on agriculture. Events of global warming such as drought, flood, and heatwaves are a big hit to poor countries’ agriculture resulting in billions of dollars in losses. These devastating economic consequences of global warming have only deepened the economic distress of already poor populations in developing countries.

There is no doubt that rich and developed countries have to come forward to take responsibility for their actions. In the recent COP27 climate summit participants from developed and poor countries reached an agreement to establish a fund called “loss and damage funds”. Funds to this initiation will be contributed by developed countries to assist poor countries to restore and rebuild their economy. This agreement is the first step in the global collaboration between developed and poor countries to stop carbon emissions. It is especially important that poor countries will apply clean energy technology in their growing economy because most of the population on the planet reside in poor countries that still developing their economy. China alone has about 3 billion in population and India has about 1.5 billion in population. COP 27 agreement initiation is long overdue and more actions of global effort are urgently needed to be established in the future.
2022-12-17
By Stone Paper, Inc., Los Angeles, California

Stone Paper Inc, a US based renewable material technology company out of Los Angeles, California is introducing a disruptive technology reversing the effects of climate change. The new technology will effectively change the composition of polymer-based products to mineral based products with the same functionality. Literally modern Stone Age come to life.
Stone Paper® newly disruptive technology will reduce environmental impact by repurposing mineral based composite waste for re-use in various industries, including manufacturing, aerospace, construction, defense, 3D printing, paper and board, green and clean oil and gas, carbon reduction technologies, and more.

Stone Paper® piloted the project and disrupted the traditional, cumbersome recycling process by introducing new repurposing technology in its mineral paper life-cycle. Recycling has been at the forefront of environmentalism for many years. Greenwashing has been embedded in every single industry. While it is great that people and businesses have become conscientious about the environment and are recycling many items, recycling is not a ‘clean' process itself, and only an interim solution to the waste problem. Considering only a fraction of all items, across all industries, can be recycled, this problem is destined to compound.

Even though there needs to be a shift to encourage the elimination of product waste and a focus on quality' over ‘quantity', sustainable lifestyle requires a tandem contribution throughout the entire supply chain. Stone Paper’s new technology achieves the long-awaited sustainable lifestyle by elimination of waste throughout the entire product lifecycle.
2022-12-17
By RQT Energy Storage Corp, Palm Desert, California

RQT Energy Storage Corp is located in Palm Desert, California. Our mission is to invent and develop devices to bring about the energy transition from carbon-based fuels to sustainable and eco-friendly energy storage solutions. We envision Green Hydrogen, i.e. hydrogen made from water, as a first step, with hydronitrogens to follow. To this end we have devoted our efforts to investigating all the factors involved in the hydrolysis process, and discovered a significant savings at the very heart of the process, namely the electrode surface.

Molecular oxygen is one of the two gases formed by the process, and contains two electrons that are not spin-paired. Also, atomic hydrogen has only one electron without a partner for spin pairing. Any electron that is not spin paired has a magnet moment, and this magnetic moment will align with a strong external magnetic field. By aligning the spins of the electrons of these reactants and products the orientation factor of the Arrhenius equation is greatly increased thus allowing for a faster, lower energy pathway for the overall reaction to proceed. The metallic surfaces that participate as catalysts are also magnetic. The fine metal particles thus self-assemble into a “starburst” pattern. This pattern exposes the maximum surface area for electrolyte interaction.

Realizing the benefits of the enhanced reaction rate in a physical device has proved more challenging than anticipated due to the properties of the hydrogen gas in an alkaline solution. For safe long term storage the hydrogen must not contain air or oxygen (water vapor is ok). This separation must be effected by the geometry of the flows and balancing of pressures as well as temperature. Several generations of devices have been developed to date, and the critical parameters are becoming clear. Another key factor is the supply of water, and recently a process has been discovered which will allow any source to be used, even seawater, with little or no input of energy. RQT needs investors to help realize these promising developments.

The market RQT envisions serving goes far beyond transportation. The major energy needs of a household are heating and cooling the environment, made more critical by rising temperatures. Air conditioners, water heaters, furnaces, cooking stoves and refrigerators can all be operated on low pressure hydrogen and oxygen. All these devices are available to operate with methane gas, and the hydrogen-oxygen flame is much more efficient than methane. The advantage over batteries is both cost and duration; no set of batteries will operate a house for more than a day, but hydrogen can be accumulated to last several days of low sunlight.
2022-12-12
By Darryl Banton, Glalienation Expert (Uprooting Values)

Sustainability touches on what humans all need to think about the natural resources that we use, and the way we use the land that we depend on for shelter and sustenance. This is also focused on the way that we care for and about the world’s environment, as well as the way we adapt to the changes and challenges present in both climate and resources. Sustainability calls for us to be careful and diligent stewards of the resources present in the land, water, and air that we rely on here on Earth.

There is much interest, and many examples, around the world about designing and constructing self-sufficient, or green, buildings in which to live and work. In addition to being sturdy and practical, much attention is given to these structures being carbon-neutral, or as close to it as possible. This means that the energy needs and uses within the building and by its occupants will be met internally, and not be a drain on outside resources or the environment itself. Such a feat includes providing for electricity generation and storage, the collecting of rainwater or limited access of freshwater which is then recycled and/or purified after use, and provisions for heating and cooling the interior of the structure. Respect for the surrounding landscape, terrain, and water sources are important considerations when planning a green building.

The particular needs and circumstances of the building’s use and location also dictate the most sensible and practical requirements for a green, or self-sustaining structure. An example of this is the Shanghai Tower, in Shanghai, China. This building utilizes a series of wind turbines built into the façade of the 2,073 foot skyscraper to produce electricity to power the structure’s external lights. Another example is that of the Bullitt Center, in Seattle, Washington, USA. Solar panels coating the outside of the entire building provide its source of electricity. The building also features an advanced graywater treatment system that includes a capability for composting toilet waste. Technology is an important component in the overall effort of a self-sustaining, or green, building.