ReNEWable articles

My Visit to Abound Solar

My Visit to Abound Solar

Checking the headlines today, I noticed one declaring that Abound Solar, a solar panel manufacturing business located in Colorado, had filed for bankruptcy and was going to lay off all 125 of its employees. I was struck by the news first because I just finished writing my book about renewable energy and so I’m generally

Geothermal in America: The Geysers

Driving north on the 101 up the California coast, I stifled a yawn. Partly because I’d started out early, around 6am, to make a 9am interview and tour I’d scheduled at The Geysers–a complex of geothermal energy plants about two and a half north of San Francisco. But also because the thought of spending an

Steaming Ahead with Steam Power?

Think of steam power and you might imagine big, black locomotives puffing white clouds as they chug across the tracks, or steam boats paddle-wheeling down the Mississippi, or maybe dark, dirty, coal-choked factories of the Industrial Age. In other words, steam–and the coal furnaces that produced it–may seem like a relic of the 19th and

Solar Decathalon 2011 Preview

After two years of planning, many sleepless nights, and crash courses in construction, the university teams competing in this year’s Department of Energy Solar Decathlon are ready to build! The Team Meeting to kick off the competition brought all the students together for the first time for final instructions, a good meal, and pep talks

Why We Need a National Renewable Energy Standard

Over the past two years I’ve spent working on the book, the most frequent question I’ve gotten from friends, family, and the occasional curious blog reader goes something like this: “is renewable energy for real, or is it just another hippie fad.” It’s a legitimate question, because for many people, renewable energy is something they

The Promise of Enhanced Geothermal Systems

Geothermal power is the red-headed stepchild of renewable energy. Unlike wind, solar, and biofuels, it rarely makes headlines or stirsup controversy. Politicians and pundits never hail geothermal as theNext Big Thing and often fail to even mention it when speechifying onthe importance (or, depending on their political slant, boondoggle) ofgreen energy. The average citizen, meanwhile,

Why the U.S. Needs a Renewable Energy Policy

In his 2011 State of the Union speech and in dozens of recent public appearances, President Obama has talked up clean energy setting a goal for the United States to produce a whopping 80 percentof its electricity from “clean energy sources” (including nuclear,natural gas, and “clean(er) coal”) by 2035. It’s an ambitious, welcomegoal. But how realistic is

Did Abraham Lincoln Invent Wind Power?

You know who predicted the age of wind power? Abraham Lincoln, that’s who. A New York Times article dated Nov. 22, 1936, quotes from a lecturetitled “Discoveries and Inventions” Lincoln gave in 1860, before hebecame president.  Here’s the relevant part: “Of all the forces of nature, I should think the wind contains thelargest amount of

Who Cares About Energy?

I’m sitting in my studio/cell, as usual, working on the book, miredin one of those necessary periods where in order to write the next bit I have to do a lot of reading and thinking. Always good to learn more,but also frustrating because it seem unproductive, even thought it’snot. During these times my mind often

Knowing Which Way the Wind Blows

“You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows,” Bob Dylan once sang. But if you’re a wind farm developer, you absolutely do needsomeone to help you know not only which way the wind blows, but alsowhere, when, how often, and for how long. That’s where wind energy forecasting comes in.

Hearts and Minds

A few weeks ago I blogged about the “efficiency vs. renewables”dictum — that is, the commonly held wisdom that, practically speakingenergy efficiency comes first, renewables second. Whether you’re ahomeowner, business owner, or government, investing in renewables onlymakes sense if you’ve first done everything possible to use energyderived from all sources–fossil and renewable–more efficiently. In that

Prospecting for Wind

Now that I’m working on a chapter about wind power, I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about … wind. What is windand how does it work? On the one hand it’s simple–wind happens what warm air rises and cooler air rushed in to replace it. But when and how much wind blow

Efficiency First, Renewables Second.. or Vice Versa?

While working on my book on renewable energy over the past year, I’ve repeatedly come across the common argument that while renewables areall well and good, they make little sense without first doing everything we can to make homes, businesses, cars, etc. more energy-efficient. Only then, the reasoning goes, will the average consumer get the

The Story of a Windmill

I’m starting a new chapter, on wind power, and have spent the past few days digging into newspaper archives (digital digging, that is) to learn about the history of windmills and wind power.  I came across a strange story published in the Chicago Daily Tribune, August 31, 1873, titled “The Story of a Windmill.”  I

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