US solar power market booming, states industry study

According to a just released study by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, the demand for solar power installations in the US is booming, fueled in part by a global oversupply of solar technology. GTM Research forecasts that 3.2 GW of solar generation will be installed in 2012, up from 1.9 GW in 2011. (For comparison, total installed electricity generating capacity in Ontario, Canada, is about 36GW, according to the Ontario Independent Electricity System operator.)

In Q3 of 2012:

  • The residential market grew 12% over Q2 2012 and had its largest quarter in history.
  • The non-residential market grew 24% over Q2 2012.
  • There is now a total of 5.9 GW of PV operating in the U.S. from over 271,000 installations.

The top three states by total installed solar capacity are California, New Jersey, and Arizona.

An Executive Summary, slide show and fact sheet from the report are available at http://www.seia.org/research-resources/us-solar-market-insight  Lots of information in each of the three documents. The full report can also be purchased, with industrial pricing ($5,995),  from this location.

Climate negotiations reach a number of minor agreements

Though media coverage in Canada has been sparse, European media have paid somewhat more attention to the agreements reached at the climate change talks in Doha, Qatar, which concluded on Saturday. While far from the ultimate agreement that many see as essential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, many of the components of the Doha agreement point towards the nature of a global agreement that now seems more likely to be reached in three to five years.

Foremost among the agreements is the extension of the Kyoto Protocol until 2020. This is likely to have little impact on Canada (think Canada-Europe free trade talks) but at least keeps some of the key elements of Kyoto alive. Foremost among these is the Clean Development Mechanism, though lack of new funding may mean that Certified Emission Reductions from the CDM have little value (think 50 cents a tonne) for the time being. The CDM is a mechanism under which organizations in developed countries can invest in projects in developing countries and receive carbon credits for the carbon emission reductions achieved.

The agreement also commits to a new agreement which will succeed but is not necessarily based on the Kyoto Protocol. Frameworks were also agreed for issues such as finance for developing countries, technology transfer, and measurement of emissions from forestry activities.

The full text of the agreements from the Doha conference is available at http://unfccc.int/2860.php#decisions

A special issue of Gallon Environment Letter will be published next week with a summary of the Doha decisions and reviews of some of the key research and other documents presented during the Doha conference. To subscribe to Gallon Environment Letter visit http://www.cialgroup.com/subscription.htm

Recycle your cup for fun and learning

Recycling of end-of-life resources into products that we don’t really need is not normally an activity that GallonDaily considers to be a component of sustainable development but a new initiative in Holland is so innovative and potentially educational that it may be worthy of an exception.

The Perpetual Plastic Project is a consumer recycling initiative that is bound to attract interest. Designed for exhibitions and events, the Perpetual Plastic Project is a portable system that enables people to recycle their used bioplastic drinking cups into such souvenirs as rings and key chain tags. Sponsored by Purac, a manufacturer of PLA bioplastic cups, and other sponsors, the system provides users with an opportunity to wash and dry their used PLA beverage cup, to shred it, and to insert the shreddings into a machine which melts them to form a plastic ‘string’, and then to pass the string to a 3D printer which ‘prints’ it into a souvenir item. It is easier (and more fascinating) to watch than to describe: you can see the whole process in action at http://www.perpetualplasticproject.com/Perpetual_Plastic_Project/Project.html

This would seem to be a fantastic way of demonstrating the potential for recycling of many types of plastic and for engaging users in an educational activity around bioplastics. People have not yet got tired of midway machines that flatten pennies into medallions so we have hope that the Perpetual Plastic Project may have a long life in fun education about plastics. Let’s hope that Purac or one of its several partners finds a way to bring this kind of interactive exhibit to events in Canada.

OAS tackles social protest over Peru mining projects

The Organization of American States is hosting a conference in Lima, Peru, today and tomorrow on the topic of Management of Socio-Environmental Conflict for the countries of Central America and the Andean Region. The conference will address themes such as citizen participation in public policy formation, prior consultation, early warning systems, and dialogue as a tool for conflict management.

The objective of the conference is to “strengthen the institutional capacities of governments in addressing socio-environmental conflicts through the exchange of information and the presentation of institutional mechanisms used to bring about solutions to these problems” in the Central America and Andean region. Conflict between indigenous people and communities on one side and mining companies on the other has reached serious levels in Peru and elsewhere.

Though the meeting is primarily for government experts, GallonDaily commends the OAS for taking a discussion initiative on some of the most appropriate tools for bringing together citizens and the resource extraction sector. We wish the initiative every success.

Interestingly, the conference is organized by an OAS department funded by the Government of Canada.

Details are available at http://www.oas.org/en/media_center/press_release.asp?sCodigo=E-449/12

Study indicates lead, mercury and PCBs passed to breastfeeding infants

A recently published study from Brown University researchers Marcella Remer Thompson and Kim Boekelheide in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research indicates that the risk of above median levels of lead, mercury and PCBs in the bodies of women of child-bearing age increases with increasing age and that decreased risk of above median levels is found in women who have breast-fed an infant, leading to the almost inescapable conclusion that the toxic substances are commonly discharged from the mother in the breast milk.

The research found three statistically significant risk factors for above median levels of these three substances in females: age, eating of fish, and heavy alcohol consumption. Women in the study group of 3,173 American women aged 40 to 49 had a 30 times greater risk of having above median concentrations of these substances in their bodies than women aged 16 to 19. Part of this increased risk may stem from increased environmental exposure to these substances in the 1950s and 1960s than today. It is not known why heavy alcohol consumption leads to increased pollutant levels in the body. The only factor that led to a reduced risk of having above median concentrations of these three contaminants in a women’s body was a history of breastfeeding.

The study can be found at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935112002885 – abstract is free; fee required for full article. A good summary is published by Brown University at http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2012/11/toxicants

Literature research demonstrates minimal scientific uncertainty over climate change

A recent article by Dr. James L. Powell uses research of the peer-reviewed scientific literature to demonstrate that scientific uncertainty over human induced climate change has been at a negligible level for the last 20 years, contrary to common reports in popular media.

Powell, who is currently Executive Director of the US National Physical Science Consortium and who was appointed by both Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush to the National Science Board, conducted an analysis of the peer-reviewed scientific literature over the period January 1991 to November 2012. He found 13,950 peer-reviewed scientific articles by 33,690 individual authors. A total of 24 of the articles, 0.17%,  by 37 individual authors, 0.11%, rejected human-induced climate change.

In short, Powell’s literature search shows that 99.89% of scientists who have published  in peer-reviewed journals on the science of climate change since 1991 are in agreement that climate change exists and results to a greater or lesser extent from human activity.  Hardly the kind of massive scientific disagreement that many in the media have touted.

GallonDaily suggests that business should no longer promote climate change denial. Doing so suggests that such companies might not use scientific principles when it comes to designing or promoting their products.

The Powell study, including a discussion of the methodology used, can be found at http://www.jamespowell.org/