Worldchanging reports on renewables

August 6, 2008

Mapping the World’s Renewable Energy Potential

by Sarah Kuck

As renewable energy technologies become more competitive, investing in them is becoming a more viable venture. Yet, uncertainties about cost and ROI are still keeping some investors at bay.

Wind blows, rain falls and the sun shines, but differently at different times and locations, making wind, hydroelectric and solar power dependent upon weather and climate systems. A new Northwest-based energy efficiency company, 3TIER, is using their science skills and computer smarts to remove some of that guesswork.

Over 90 percent of the renewable energies used for electricity generation are weather-driven; in other words, they are completely dependent on the weather/climate system for their fuel. So while these sources of renewable energy have the capability to liberate us from our dependence on fossil fuels, they introduce another complicating dependency: the weather. This dependency affects all aspects of weather-driven renewable energy projects: from proper placement to ongoing operation and integration.

This map of the United States shows the amount of available solar power, ranging from from 4 (blue) to 5.5 (red) kWh/m/day.

The 3TIER team uses their technology-assisted powers of analysis to calculate the weather and climate and its impacts on renewable energy. The group customizes their forecasts with data from each client’s site to help them save money and optimize power. They take multiple readings from the site, for an extended period of time, and combine the reading with weather and climate knowledge for that region to tell wind farmers, for example, an estimate of how much energy they’ll be generating, and at what time.

The group recently finished helping oilman turned renewable energy propent T. Boone Pickens illustrate his national plan to help propel the U.S. energy economy with wind. Using wind maps from 3TIER, the Pickens Plan explains how the U.S. can use wind power to meet more than 20 percent of its electricity demand within 10 years. (View a video about the plan here).

3TIER is currently working on a project called REmapping the World, which combines their prediction technology and analysis with Google maps to assess solar and wind energy potential from locations around the world. So far, they have mapped North America, but they plan to map the renewable energy potential of the entire world by 2010.


Take a FirstLook at the project’s “Find Wind Fast” function. Here clients from renewable energy project operators to developers, financiers to marketers, can select the height of a proposed turbine and its location to get an estimated read on how much wind power is in that area. For more exact details, clients can order custom reports that provide information like monthly windspeed and power capacity, hourly windspeed and power distribution and more.


But you don’t need to be one of their clients to play around with the maps, and it is pretty fun to look at the potential from afar as well as to click around and see how much specific potential lies where.

Potential just happens to be the perfect word to describe this project, this company and the renewable energy movement. Being able to more accurately estimate how much we can depend on renewable energy systems will only aid in their much needed proliferation, and hopefully, forecasting where the wind will blow will only become more valuable with time.

Image credits: The 3TIER Group


Clean energy mega grid proposed

June 19, 2008

DESERTEC: A Club of Rome initiative to build a super clean energy power grid

The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) is an initiative campaigning for the transmission of clean power from deserts throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The DESERTEC Concept was founded in 2003 by The Club of Rome, the Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation and the National Energy Research Center of Jordan, and is being researched in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

The DESERTEC Concept of TREC is to boost the generation of electricity and desalinated water by solar thermal power plants and wind turbines in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and to transmit the clean electrical power via High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines throughout those areas and as from 2020 (with overall just 10-15% transmission losses) to Europe.

June 16, 2008

China and the world discuss the environment

chinadialogue is a bilingual environmental issues website featuring news feeds, articles, books, podcasts and events. One of their partnership education initiatives is with China’s Green Beat, an organization creating films that engage people in fun and informative ways to promote green design, lifestyles, and investments.

Below is Episode 5, “Winds of Change” The green brothers visit a wind farm outside Beijing and discover how renewable energy can transform China’s environment

Good Morning World

April 25, 2008

It is 8 am in San Francisco and we’re looking forward to the program:


The Future of Transportation and City Structure

  • Jeff Kenworthy, world expert on urban form and function, Perth, Australia
  • Fiona Ma, CA State Assembly Majority Whip, Chair of the Legislative High-Speed  Rail Caucus
  • Wulf Daseking, Director of Planning, City of Freiburg, Germany

Moderator: Peter Albert, Deputy Director, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency


Main Hall:  The Future of Energy Tuned to Cities, Towns and Villages

  • Nancy McFadden, Sr. VP, Public Affairs, PG&E, past Deputy Chief of Staff to US Vice President Al Gore, past Chief Counsel to US Department of Transportation
  • Charlie Ricker, Senior Vice President, Bright Source Energy, (solar energy), Oakland CA and Jerusalem, Israel
  • Peter Droege, Chair, World Council for Renewable Energy, Asia Pacific, author, “Renewable City,” Sydney, Australia

Moderator: Wade Crowfoot, Sustainability Officer, San Francisco Mayor’s Office


Main Hall : The Future of Information Technology and Cities, Towns and Villages

  • Doug Eberhard, Senior Director, Autodesk Geospatial Division, new systems for design and planning visualizations, San Rafael, CA
  • Colin Grant, Founder and CEO, Visible Strategies, strategy mapping and reporting software, Vancouver, Canada
  • Gil Friend, CEO, Natural Logic, metrics for successful sustainable businesses, Berkeley, CA

Moderator: Michael Gosney, infotech media guru


Main Hall: The Future of Consumption, Population and Equity

  • Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director, Global Footprint Network, Oakland, California
  • Carolyn Finney, Assistant Professor/Geographer at University of California, Berkeley, California
  • Jennie Moore,  Director, Sustainable Stewardship Program, British Columbia Institute of Technology, Canada

Moderator: Claire Greensfelder, International Forum on Globalization, SanFrancisco


Main Hall : Economy, Business, and City Building

  • Steve Pinetti, Sr. V.P. for Sales and Marketing Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, on greening hotels and restaurants
  • Shanfeng Dong, Chief Planner, Shanghai Int’l. Investment Co., Shanghai, China
  • ZhenHua Qian, Shanghai Architectural Society, Shanghai, China

Moderator: Lesley Nagy, Your TV 20, San Francisco