Category Archives: solar

G8 – Electricity production, the times they are a changin’

Perhaps it’s just human nature to be more reactionary than proactive. Maybe we’ve grown complacent.  Perhaps the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster in Japan has been a real wake up call.  Whatever the reason, countries all over the world are finally rethinking  electricity production and making a move from non renewable to renewable.

This has to make us wonder how far do we have to go?

Here’s information about how the G8 countries produce electricity. (these are in no particular order)

United States

Nuclear -20% Coal -45%, Natural gas -23%- Hydroelectric and other renewables make up the rest.


Nuclear – 75% (, Coal, Hydropower, and Natural gas make up the vast majority of the rest.


Lignite (a soft brown coal like substance) – 23.5%, Natural gas – 23%, and Coal -20%  are the big three- wind brings in  a not too shabby 6.5%  and others making up the rest (


Nuclear – 18%,  Natural gas -38.5%, Coal -34%, Oil, wind, hydro and biofuels make up the rest. (


Natural gas (imported)- 50-60%, Coal – 15% Renewables -15-25%


Hydropower – 58%, Coal – 16%, Nuclear- 15%, Natural Gas -6%, Other – 5%


Natural Gas – 48%, Hydropower -18%, Coal – 17%, Nuclear – 15% (


Nuclear-40%, Natural Gas -25%, Coal -20%, Hydropower- 8%, Other – 2%

While nuclear and fossil fuels still dominate, some countries are making headway in renewable energy production like Canada and Russia’s hydropower  along with Germany and Italy’s push for wind.   In the UK however, they have decided to go ahead with even more nuclear productionIt will require a major financial commitment and infrastructure overhaul for any one of these countries to become truly sustainable. Population and resources will be tested. Only time will tell if we are merely reacting to the nuclear disaster in Japan or if we are  interested in real change for the future.


Updated: American Energy 2011

Listening to NPR the other morning I heard a disturbing story about energy production in the US.  On one hand, given the ongoing disaster in Japan, our country is turning away from nuclear, on the other hand, we are turning towards natural gas.

Hearing this has prompted me to find out more about energy production in the US. Rather than run this as one gigantic post, it will broken into a series, titled   “American Energy 2011.”  The series will begin with look at natural gas.

According to, natural gas is defined as a nonrenewable fossil fuel.  It is produced in 33 states and it is also imported for heating and electricity purposes in the US. It is very accessible to the US population and is the 2nd largest producer of electricity after coal. It is literally everywhere.  There is natural gas  located under  the Marcellus Shale reserves, which runs from Kentucky to upstate New York.

map from

The map above shows drilling/fracking sites or potential sites, and the skulls (they look like black dots) are the sites of “fraccidents.” In producing anything, there are unintended consequences, and in the case of natural gas, I”m going hope that the effects of  fracking are an unintended consequence.  Natural gas is extracted by forcing highly pressured chemically treated water into the ground which frees the gas, here is a link to the staggering amount of chemicals that are used,  This water, which may be radioactive,  is then released and finds its way into local water ways (read drinking water).

There is a  plan in Pennsylvania, the focus of the NPR report,  to add 50% more wells than exist today.  The governor hopes to move quickly on this to create jobs for the residents of his state, he also hopes to make “Pennsylvania the Texas of natural gas.”

The governor of Pennsylvania’s plan to move forward with natural gas production is being held up by regulators who have temporarily barred the creation of new wells pending investigation into the environmental effects of fracking, specifically water contamination.

On April 19th, in LeRoy Township, Bradford County,  Pennsylvania, there was a gas drilling emergency.  Thousands of gallons of fluid spilled onto farmlands and into  Towanda Creek.  Neighbors and authorities, specifically the DEP are monitoring the water as it flows into the Susquehanna.  Chesapeake Energy is the company in charge of the well.

In a Reuters article on  April 26th there was some positive information,

    • Chesapeake, one of Pennsylvania’s biggest shale gas producers, last week suspended all seven of its fracking operations in the state after the incident released thousands of gallons of drilling fluid into the surrounding area.
    • On Monday Chesapeake said it replaced a damaged wellhead and gained control of the well that gushed the fluids.
    • One analyst said the federal government may keep a close eye on fracking operations after Congressional hearings questioned the quality of the oversight.
    • “Enhanced oversight from the federal EPA is to be expected,” Christine Tezak, an energy policy analyst at Robert W. Baird and Co, said in a research note on Tuesday.

The effects of the April 19th episode may be long felt but it seems there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Pennsylvania has requested that the natural gas industry cease and desist from dumping the chemical soup into rivers by May 9th.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a leading industry group announced that its members were committed to halting the practice by the state’s stated goal of May 19.

For more information and to find out what you can do visit:

UPDATE: WGAL has started a series looking at natural gas and its effects. Watch the first episode here :Gas Rush: How Adequate Are Drilling Regulations? Part II – Video – WGAL The Susquehanna Valley.

Japan’s Greensburg Opportunity

In May 2007, the town of Greensburg, Kansas was devastated by a massive tornado. More than ten residents were killed and 95% of the town was left flat.  After recovering from the destruction the town did something smart- they took their time,  did the research and came to the conclusion that they were going to rebuild green.

Greensburg, Kansas after a 1.7 mile wide F5 Tornado roared through the town.

The town has been rebuilt with many green homes and businesses, it is powered by solar, wind and geothermal, and most importantly it will be able to withstand another F5 tornado should it happen. 

In an interview with CNN , Daniel Wallach, one of the  men behind the movement said, “This town is definitely an example for the rest of the world. We have people from around the world coming out of their way to come to Greensburg.  So it’s a great place for people to come and have an emerging experience with what a town of the future looks like and feels like.”  The experience has been so powerful that the town even changed to motto on their website ( to “Greensburg: Stronger, Better, Greener”

Japan’s Greensburg opportunity.

On March 11 and 12, 2011 Japan was devastated by an earthquake and a tsunami and are still facing a mounting toll of death and destruction from nuclear reactor leaks. 

Japan’s prime minster has pledged that they will rebuild.  The mountainous tasks of clean-up, body removal, and infrastructure repair in order to meet the needs of the survivors will undoubtedly take a long time- but with the help of the world Japan has the opportunity to rebuild green.  There is the opportunity to rethink nuclear, which in the wake of this tragedy many other nations are doing.  There is the opportunity to rethink infrastructure and architecture (watching video in the days after the earthquake of buildings in Tokyo swaying but not falling was very impressive) to make it better for the survivors of this tragedy and future generations.

I only hope that the world will help Japan rebuild to become “Stronger, Better, Greener” just like Greensburg.


Turkey and South Africa- What will it take?

The tragedy in Japan has claimed more lives – two nuclear power workers have died as a result of the tsunami, they were not found for three weeks inside the nuclear power plant.  In the wake of this ongoing devastation many countries around the globe are rethinking nuclear power – either looking for alternatives to provide power or scaling back already existing plants.  Two exceptions have arisen this week: Turkey and South Africa.

The following countries have a nuclear power industry: the United States, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Ukraine, Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Taiwan, Spain, Belgium, India, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Finland, Slovakia, Brazil, South Africa, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Mexico, Argentina, Slovenia, Holland, Pakistan, Armenia and Iran. (

Turkey already has nuclear power but the controversy is that they have decided to build a plant on the coast of the Mediterranean and over an existing fault line.  Have they learned nothing from the rising death toll and years of cleanup Japan is facing?

South Africa has a controversial plan to wean themselves off of coal by using a combination of solar, wind and nuclear.  So on the one hand, solar and wind – very environmentally responsible,  and on the other nuclear.  Several new sites will have to be built along the coastline and a fault line.

It seems that it is too difficult to predict “Mother Nature” if you will,  to be certain that a plant could be built that can withstand a significant earthquake. Is it not then reasonable to assume that if the South African government is attempting to move in a more responsible  direction that they cannot at least call a moratorium on the development of new plants until further investigation is done into the devastation in Japan?

This tragedy will strike even more severely if no other nation learns from it and no other nation attempts to change its own course.


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