Tag Archives: solar energy

Good news from pandemic

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This has to be far more than just a sliver of good news as a result of the COVID pandemic.

It is that renewable energy production has spiked considerably in the year since Earth became consumed by the coronavirus that has killed more than 2 million human beings worldwide, and more than 580,000 Americans.

A study by the International Energy Agency reports that wind power has boomed along with solar energy. The IEA reports that renewable energy jumped 45 percent in 2020 to 280 gigawatts. As National Public Radio reported: In 2020, renewable power was “the only energy source for which demand increased … while consumption of all other fuels declined,” says the IEA, whose mission is to make the world’s energy supply more reliable, affordable and sustainable.

You might be wondering: What is a gigawatt? It equals 1,000 megawatts, or 1 billion watts of energy. So, the pandemic helped spike the renewable energy output to 280 billion watts of power.

You know, from my perch, that means it can turn on a whole lot of light bulbs … you know?

This is good news for anyone — and it should be everyone — who is concerned about the impact that finite energy sources are having on Earth’s environment.

Renewable Energy Capacity Jumped 45% Worldwide In 2020; IEA Sees ‘New Normal’ | 88.9 KETR

Coal production fell by 4 percent, according to the IEA. Indeed, coal-burning power plans are seen as a primary cause of climate change, which is a serious existential threat to our national security, as well as a threat to the very life of our precious planet.

I do not wish this pandemic to continue. I do wish — and hope — to keep the trend toward more renewable energy tracking in the direction it has been headed since the pandemic struck.

OPEC to cut production; get ready for a price increase at the fuel pump

As a red-blooded American consumer of goods and certain commodities, I cannot endorse a nearly 10 percent reduction in the production of petroleum products.

You see, I am one of those Americans who has no problem watching the price of automobile fuels plummet. I looked today at the price of gasoline and diesel in Princeton, Texas, and saw the gas price at $1.41 per gallon, with the price of diesel at $2.11.

Not bad, eh?

The plummeting fuel prices are a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Motor vehicles are becoming a rare sight on our streets and highways. Businesses are shuttered. Employees have lost their jobs. The economy is tanking.

Are we supposed to be salute OPEC and other oil-producing nations — including the U.S. of A. — for enacting a policy that is going to bite a bit more deeply into our budgets? I won’t do that.

I’d rather take the longer view.

I would prefer to see fossil fuel companies reinvest their still-substantial largesse into alternative energy sources. I am a bigger fan of renewable energy — wind, solar and hydropower — than I am in depleting fossil fuels, which I hasten to add is a finite resource.

Donald Trump hailed the reduction in output as a boon to the oil industry. I guess it is. However, we are going to pay a price farther down the road as we continue to guzzle this resource and, dare I say, pollute the air we breathe.

Gasoline projected to drop … then it spikes up!

No sooner than I finished reading reports about projected steep declines in the price of gasoline in the United States …

Then the price of unleaded regular gas spikes up 15 cents overnight in little ol’ Amarillo, right here in the heart of the Oil and Natural Gas Patch.

What gives with that?

One of the reports I read said the price decline can be attributed to a number of factors:

* Automakers are making more fuel-efficient cars. My wife and I are driving one now, a Toyota Prius. We’re doing our part.

* There’s a glut of higher-quality gasoline that needs to be used up. Once that supply is gone, then refiners are going to start turning out lower-grade gasoline, which will sell for less than the better quality go-juice.

* Alternative energy sources are becoming more of the norm across the country. The wind and the sun are heating and cooling more homes, although Texas — one of the sunnier places in the country — needs to get more involved in the solar energy game.

I always have trouble trying to figure out the gasoline pricing structure in Amarillo and the Panhandle. A friend who owns a chain of convenience store/gas stations has tried to explain it to me. It has something to do with the price he pays wholesalers for the gasoline he sells at his stations.

I’ll admit, though, to being annoyed when I read about consumer price projections — only to watch the price of the commodity at issue going in the other direction.

I guess I just need to settle down.



Texas city becomes environmental pioneer

Who would have thought that a Texas city would blaze an impressive environmental trail?

Georgetown has announced plans to become the first city in Texas to use renewable energy sources for all its power needs.

Is this the start of something environmentally revolutionary?


Georgetown is in Central Texas. It owns the utility company. Thus, it is able to convert to wind and solar energy exclusively, no longer over time relying on fossil fuels.

Are you paying attention to this, Amarillo, which has abundant sun and even more abundant wind.

OK, the cities are different. Amarillo does not own the utility company that provides electricity to the city’s 200,000 residents. Xcel Energy controls the source of fuel it receives to power its energy plants.

It’s a hopeful sign nevertheless to see a Texas city — which happens to be near the capital city, Austin — engaging in this kind of ecological pioneering.

According to the Texas Tribune: “Because of its size and intense radiation, Texas leads the nation in solar energy potential, but the solar industry has long struggled to get a foothold in the state, as policymakers have provided fewer incentives than other states, and solar energy currently makes up a tiny percentage of the state’s energy portfolio.

“That’s beginning to change.

“Improving technology has driven down the price of solar power, making it more competitive with other resources­ — even without extra incentives, developers say. That trend has sparked what some industry experts describe as a small “land rush” in West Texas, and it’s increasingly convincing utilities that solar power is workable.”

Texas already has joined California among the nation’s leading producers of wind energy. That’s a hopeful sign as well of a commitment to renewables in a state that has relied for more than a century on fossil fuel — oil and natural gas — to fill its energy needs.

Here’s hoping this decision by a single Texas city is a harbinger of a cleaner energy future.


News flash: Earth sets temp record once again

This just in: Planet Earth just set yet another record for temperatures around the globe during a calendar year.

2014 was 0.07 degrees hotter than the previous record year, says the National Climatic Data Center.


Will that put the kibosh on the climate-change deniers? Do not even bet on that. Not for a minute.

They’ll suggest that the scientists at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration are much of politically driven zealots whose aim is to destroy the fossil fuel industry.

They likely might contend that the White House cooked up the numbers just to advance their agenda aimed at developing those nasty clean-energy alternatives. You know, those wind farms and solar panels that are harvesting the wind and the sun and producing actual energy to heat and cool our homes.

Weather forecasters began keeping worldwide temperatures in 1880. The year just past set a record. Who or what is responsible? Scientists say it’s humans. Other scientists it’s all part of Earth’s ecological cycle which repeats itself about, oh, every other millennia.

Let’s be mindful, though, of an important factor.

No matter the cause, billions of human beings are going to be affected by the changes occurring in our climate. Storms are getting more severe. Ice caps are receding. Rainy regions are getting less rain. Sea levels are rising.

And the world’s 7 billion souls — and counting — are standing right in the path of Mother Nature’s infinite power.

I don’t know about you, but I worry for Planet Earth.


'P' offers a pleasant surprise

Politicians occasionally surprise me — pleasantly so.

Sometimes I draw conclusions about politicians, only to have them suggest I might have been a bit too quick on the trigger.

George P. Bush has been, well, one of those pleasant surprises as he runs for Texas land commissioner.

It turns out that the tea party wing of the Republican Party with which he has aligned himself might be gnashing its teeth over P’s environmental policies. As land commissioner, environmental protection goes with the territory.


P, the grandson of President George H.W. Bush, nephew of George W. Bush, son of Jeb Bush and a darling of the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, turns out to be keenly aware of some issues that interest those of us who tilt the other direction.

The young man acknowledges the Earth’s climate is change, that it’s getting warmer; he likes the idea of developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power; he stops short of calling for abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency; he’s concerned about protecting coastal wetlands; he wants the state to use less coal and use more natural gas to fire electrical power plants.

This guy just might be OK if he gets elected. In a state that leans so far toward the GOP, that event is a near-certainty.

The land commissioner has other responsibilities as well, such as administering the state’s veteran home loan program. On that score, I give the incumbent Commissioner Jerry Patterson and his immediate predecessor David Dewhurst loads of credit. P likely will need to study up on the impact the program has on prospective homebuyers.

I’ve long thought of the land commissioner, though, as one of the state’s chief environment stewards. The office’s very name suggests that protecting “the land” is its top priority.

On that score, George P. Bush is sounding more reasonable than his tea party affiliation would suggest.

I presume he’ll know that many Texans — including yours truly — will be watching him to ensure he stays true to his stated beliefs about our environment.

We’ve only got one planet, P. We need to take care of it.



Here comes the sun … power

President Obama has decided to crack down on carbon dioxide emissions produced by power-generating plants.

He has implemented federal environmental rules requiring a 30 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. Is the president the enemy of the coal industry, which produces a lot of energy to fuel these plants? Not according to Bloomberg View, which reports that the solar industry is the biggest threat to the fossil fuel industry.


I’ve read the article attached here and it brings to mind something I’ve wondered for almost the entire time I’ve lived in West Texas: Why isn’t solar energy more prevalent here?

I think I know one reason: natural gas. We have lots of natural gas here and it remains a large employer and is quite important to the electricity-generation grid. There’s little incentive, therefore, to move away from natural gas.

West Texas is producing a lot more wind energy now than when we moved here in early 1995. Indeed, Texas and California are the two top alternative-energy producing states in the country — a fact that I’m sure drives the governors of both states, Democrat Jerry Brown of California and Republican Rick Perry of Texas stark-raving mad.

West Texas also has a large amount of sunshine. The Panhandle has more than 300 days of sunshine annually. We can erect a lot of solar panels on new home construction here and have them heat and cool houses while using less fossil fuel that has limits on its supply.

As Carl Pope, a Sierra Club activist, writes for Bloomberg View: “Solar panels — whether utility scale or residential rooftop — generate maximum power on exactly those hot afternoons when demand peaks. What’s more, they do so at no marginal cost; the sun is free. This reduces reliance on peakers, causing prices to fall across the board, including for customers without solar power.”

It’s an interesting concept that ought to find its way to West Texas … eventually.

Time to harvest abundant sunlight in West Texas

Let the sun shine, which it does continually in West Texas.

A huge solar plant is now being planned for an area west of Fort Stockton in Pecos County. It will be a 22-megawatt operation, one of the largest of its kind in Texas — and it could signal a new twist in the state’s ability to harvest alternative forms of energy.


The sun does shine a lot out here in the West Texas prairie. Amarillo gets more than 300 days of sunshine, some of it intense — such as it is today, even though it’s colder than a well-digger’s backside.

Why not harvest that sunlight for energy, kind of like what’s happening with wind, another energy commodity that is in infinite supply out here?

Oh, I forgot. West Texas also is home to a lot of oil and natural gas operations. Do you think those folks have something to say about how we configure the energy grid? I’m guessing, well, yes, in a big way.

Back to the Pecos County plan.

The Texas Tribune reports: “This is an important step forward in our efforts to establish West Texas as a center for renewable energy,” Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster said in a statement. “We are not resting on our legacy of leadership in oil and gas. We welcome solar as the next new component in our portfolio of energy resources.”

The Barilla plant won’t be the biggest solar plant in Texas. Operations near San Antonio and Austin will generate more megawatts of energy than the Pecos County operation. Still, it does signal an opportunity to invest in yet another seemingly limitless energy resource that can heat homes in the winter, cool them in the summer — and do all of that without burning up the state’s finite amount of fossil fuel resources.

Let the sun shine, indeed.