Cloud computing companies ranked by their use of renewable energy

Cloud-Providers Renewables use updated

UPDATE: After publication of this post I was contacted by Rackspace who informed me that they do, in fact, publish their megawatt electricity consumption. it is contained in an investor report (PDF) published on their Investor Relations page. This shows Rackspace used just over 105mWh of electricity in 2013. This means that the 35% of Renewables figure corresponds to 36.8mWh (in fact it comes to 36,785kWh, or 0.037m kWh, as it is now represented in the chart above). Consequently, I adjusted the chart and moved Rackspace up a number of places in the rankings.

Cloud computing is booming. Cloud providers are investing billions in infrastructure to build out their data centers, but just how clean is cloud?

Given that this is the week that the IPCC’s 5th assessment report was released, I decided to do some research of my own into cloud providers. The table above is a list of the cloud computing providers I looked into, and what I found.

It is a real mixed bag but from the table you can see that Icelandic cloud provider Greenqloud comes out on top because they are using the electricity from the 100% renewable Icelandic electricity grid to power their infrastructure.

On the Windows Azure front, Microsoft announced in May of 2012 that it was going to go carbon neutral for its facilities and travel. Microsoft are now, according to the EPA, the second largest purchaser of renewable energy in the US. In 2013 they purchased 2,300m kWh which accounted for 80% of their electricity consumption. They made up the other 20% with Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). And according to Microsoft’s TJ DiCaprio, they plan to increase their renewable energy purchases from 80% to 100% in the financial year 2014.

Google claim to have been carbon neutral since 2007. Of Google’s electricity, 32% came from renewables, while the other 68% came from the purchase of RECs.

SAP purchased 391m kWh of renewable energy in 2013. This made up 43% of its total electricity consumption. SAP have since announced that they will go to powering 100% of its facilities from renewable energy in 2014.

The most recent data from IBM dates from 2012 when they purchased 764m kWh of renewable energy. This accounted for just 15% of their total consumption. In the meantime IBM have purchased cloud company Softlayer for whom no data is available, so it is unclear in what way this will have affected IBM’s position in these rankings.

The most up-to-date data on Oracle’s website is from 2011, but more recent data about their renewable energy is to be found in their 2012 disclosure to the Carbon Disclosure Project (registration required). This shows that Oracle purchased 5.4m kWh of renewable energy making up a mere 0.7% of their total consumption of 746.9m kWh in 2012.

Rackspace have no data available on their site, but in email communications with me yesterday they claim that 35% of their electricity globally is from renewable sources. They declined to say exactly how much that was (in kWh) See update above.

Amazon discloses no information whatsoever about its infrastructure apart from a claim that its Oregon and GovCloud regions are using 100% carbon free power. However, they don’t back up this claim with any evidence, they don’t disclose to the Carbon Disclosure Project, nor do they produce an annual Corporate Responsibility report.

The other three cloud providers in the list, Softlayer, GoGrid, and Bluelock have no information on their websites (that I could find), and they didn’t respond to written inquiries.

I’ll be writing a follow-up post to this in the next few days where I look into the supply chain risks of utilising cloud platforms where there is no transparency around power sourcing.

Colt Technology and Verne Global’s dual renewably sourced data centre in Iceland

Icelandic landscape

Iceland’s a funny place. Despite the name, it never actually gets very cold there. The average low temperature in Winter is around -5C (22F) and the summer highs average around 13C (55.5F). Iceland is also unusual in that 100% of its electricity production comes from renewable energy (about 70% from hydro and 30% from geothermal).

I have written here several times about the high carbon cost of cloud computing, so when I received an invitation from Colt Technology to view the new data centre they had built with Verne Global in Iceland, I nearly bit their hand off!

The data centre is built on an 18-hectare (approximately 45-acre) complex west of Reykjavik, just beside Keflav?k Airport. The site is geologically stable and according to Verne:

The facility is situated on the site of the former Naval Air Station Keflavik, a key strategic NATO base for over 50 years and chosen for its extremely low risk of natural disaster. Located well to the west of all of Iceland’s volcanic activity, arctic breezes and the Gulf Stream push volcanic effects away from the Verne Global site and toward Western Europe.

Cold aisle contained racks in Verne Global's Iceland facility

Cold aisle contained racks in Verne Global's Iceland facility

The data centre was built using Colt Telecom’s modular data center design. This is essentially a data centre in a box! The modular data centre is built by Colt, shipped to site, (in this case, it was literally put on a ship and shipped to site – but the modules fit on a standard wide-load 18-wheeler), where it is commissioned. In the case of the Verne Global data centre, the build of the data centre took just 4 months because of the modular nature of the Colt solution, instead of the more typical 18 months. Also, modularity means it will be relatively straightforward to add extra capacity to the site, while keeping up-front data centre development costs down.

The data center has an impressive number of configurable efficiency features built-in. In the Verne Global facility, cold aisle containment is used and it is a wise choice in this environment. The facility uses only outside air for cooling (no chillers) so it makes sense to vent the hot air from the servers into a room being cooled by outside air. In winter, if the outside air is too cold, it can be mixed with hot air from the servers before entering the underfloor space to cool the servers.

The underfloor space is kept free of plenums and obstructions to allow an unimpeded flow of air from the variable speed fans – this minimises the work needed to be done by the fans, increasing their efficiency.

From an energy perspective, though, what makes the site very unique is that it sources its electricity from dual renewable sources (hydro and geothermal). Iceland is in quite a unique situation with its excess of abundant, cheap renewable power. Energy is so cheap in Iceland that aluminium smelting plants locate themselves there to take advantage of the power. These plants require roughly 400-500MW of constant power, so adding even 10 large data centres to the grid there would hardly be noticed on the system!

Another unique aspect of the Icelandic electricity is that because it is renewably sourced, its pricing is predictable (unlike fossil fuels). In fact, the Icelandic electricity provider, Landsvirkjun, offers contracts with guaranteed pricing up to 12 years. Also, the Icelandic grid ranks 2nd in the world for reliability and has the most competitive pricing in Europe (currently offering $43/MWh for 12 years as public offering – with better private offerings potentially available).

Speaking to Verne Global’s Lisa Rhodes, while in Iceland, she told me that because Verne had guaranteed energy pricing from Landsvirkjun for the next 20 years, they would be able to pass this on to Verne’s hosting customers and, in fact, she claimed that hosting in the Verne facility would cost 50-60% of the cost of hosting in the East coast of the US.

On the connectivity front, Colt announced that they were putting a Colt POP in the Verne facility, so it is connected directly into the Colt backbone.

Also, the Emerald Express fibre-optic cable which is due to be commissioned late this year has been designed to support 100x100Gbs on each of its six fibre pairs, which should easily meet any connectivity requirements Iceland should have well into the future.

Interestingly, one of Verne’s Global’s first customers is greenqloud – a company offering green public compute cloud services (an AWS EC2 and S3 drop-in replacement). With this, can we finally say that cloud computing can be green? Unfortunately, with cloud’s propensity to promote consumption of services, no, but at least with Greenqloud, your cloud can have a vastly reduced carbon footprint.

Full disclosure – I had my travel and accommodation paid for to visit this facility. And Colt has a POP in CIX, the data centre I co-founded in Cork before joining GreenMonk.

Cloud Computing’s Green Potential – my talk at the Green Economy conference

The good people in Business and Leadership invited me to speak at their Green Economy 2011 conference on the topic of “Cloud Computing’s Green Credentials”

The event was in Dublin and was attended by around 200 people from all walks of business. Fellow speakers were Yvo de Boer from KPMG, Dick Budden from the Carbon Disclosure Project and Dr. Willfried Wienholt from Siemens who talked about Sustainable Cities.

In my own talk, I said that intuitively, you might expect Cloud Computing to be more energy efficient, and in fact some Cloud Computing providers are making claims that Cloud Computing is “potentially” Green and energy efficient. However, seeing as Cloud Computing providers are not publishing any data around Cloud Computing’s energy consumption, then it is impossible to say just how energy efficient Cloud Computing is.

An exercise I tried out was – I asked everyone in the room to put up their hands if their company had deployed apps to the cloud – a good few hands went up. Then I said, keep your hands up if you know what the energy utilisation of those apps was before they went up – you can see where I’m going with this. Unfortunately, no hands stayed up at this point. The final instruction I was going to put to them was to keep your hands up if you know the energy utilisation of your app now that it is deployed in the Cloud. If you don’t have that information (and no-one does because Cloud Providers are not supplying it) then you can’t say that Cloud Computing is energy efficient.

Sure, you can say that you deployed your CRM to the cloud for example, and you decommissioned the servers which were handling your CRM internally – so you are saving energy there. But those energy savings are simply outsourced to your Cloud CRM provider and you have no idea how much energy they are burning to provide you with your CRM solution.

As for whether or not Cloud Computing is Green, or not – this is a different question entirely. I gave the examples of FaceBook and Microsoft, for example. FaceBook have a massively energy efficient data center in Prineville Oregan. It’s PUE is 1.07 which is near the theoretical maximum (of 1.0) but it is powered by Pacific Corp 63% of whose electricity is generated by burning coal – very definitely not Green. Similarly for Microsoft’s Dublin data center – again a very respectably PUE of 1.2, but it is powered off the Irish electricity grid, 87.5% of which comes from fossil fuels – again, not Green.

On the other hand, Google have gone to extraordinary lengths, investing over $400m in renewable energy and signing 20 year power purchase agreements with renewable energy providers – so you have to suspect that their Cloud Computing platform is Green, as well as energy efficient (but again, until they start producing data to back such claims up, it remains a suspicion!).

I concluded on Flip Kromer‘s great quote:

EC2 means anyone with a $10 bill can rent a 10-machine cluster with 1TB of distributed storage for 8 hours

This is a superb example of Jevons Paradox whereby Cloud Computing leads to increased computer resource utilisation, not reduced – which is also, not very Green!

The organisers put some of my talk up on YouTube – this may help get some context around the slides above –


Friday Green Numbers round-up 10/01/2010

Green Numbers

Photo credit trindade.joao

And here is this week’s Green numbers:

  • Maintaining a diverse fleet of power plants in California and taking advantage of the complementary nature of wind and solar power are two of the findings in a renewables portfolio standard (RPS) integration study recently released by the California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO).

    ?This study provides a thorough analysis of the capability of the power grid to effectively manage an oncoming wave of highly intermittent energy resources and confirms the ISO is ready to manage the grid reliably under 20 percent RPS?

    The ISO and its study partners, including GE Energy Consulting, gained insights about grid dynamics through the ?Integration of Renewable Resources?Operational Requirements and Generation Fleet Capability at 20% RPS.? The study assumes California will add 2,246 megawatts of solar and 6,686 megawatts of wind resources by 2012.

  • Northern Ireland just outlined how it hopes to get 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and, apparently not to be outdone, First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond thinks that’s not an ambitious enough target. Speaking to Reuters, Salmond said Scotland should be able to produce 100% its electricity from low-carbon sources by 2025.

  • A new report by Oceana outlines, as previous studies have done, just how bountiful the offshore wind power potential of the Atlantic coast of the United States is. While it varies from state to state, a handful of states could generate more electricity than they need, and more could supply a large part of their demand. Overall, offshore wind could generate more power than than the economically recoverable oil and gas reserves in the same locations.

  • Big oil companies and other special interests have spent millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to defeat clean energy and global warming legislation, according to a new analysis released Monday by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

    The study ?Dirty Money? found that the top 35 spending companies and trade associations invested more than $500 million in lobbying and campaign contributions from January 2009 to June 2010 to defeat clean energy legislation.

  • Aviation emissions contribute to this health problem, according to a new study that suggests that airplanes flying at a cruise altitude of around 35,000 feet emit pollutants that contribute to about 8,000 deaths per year globally.

  • They’re not as photogenic as pandas, nor as captivating as tigers: among conservationists, plants have tended to attract rather less attention than animals. That could start to change with the publication this week of the first list of extinction risks for the world’s plants.

    The Sampled Red List Index for Plants indicates that 22 per cent of all wild plant species face extinction, comparable to the figure for mammals (21 per cent) and higher than that for birds (12 per cent). Of the threatened plant species, 63 per cent are found in tropical rainforest areas which could soon be cleared.

  • A group of businesses including British Airways, BT and The Co-operative as well as NGOs and MPs have issued a statement saying the GIB must be designed with a clear picture of the low carbon economy wants to achieve and over what timeframe.

    It said the government must ensure the GIB is sufficiently capitalised by at least ?4bn-6bn over the next four years.

  • Using a massive 8,400-kilometer-wide (5,220-mile-wide) solar sail to harvest the power in solar wind, the team hopes their concept could generate 1 billion billion gigawatts of power, far more power than humanity needs — if they can get that power back to Earth.

  • Time is running out to register for the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme.
    Businesses have until September 30 to register for the CRC, the mandatory scheme to reduce the carbon emissions and improve the energy efficiency of UK businesses and organisations.

  • One of Ireland’s biggest utility companies, GT Energy, has announced plans to build the country’s first geothermal electricity plant.

  • More than 10 million children’s toys have been recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the toys’ manufacturer Fisher Price, the CPSC announced today.

  • The 10:10 climate change campaign have given us the scoop on this highly explosive short film, written by Britain’s top comedy screenwriter Richard Curtis, ahead of its general release.

    It’s most definitely striking and if you haven’t watched it yet ? taking into account the warning that it contains scenes some people may find disturbing ? do so now, before I give too much away.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday Green Numbers round-up 07/16/2010

Green Numbers

Photo credit XcBiker

And here are this week’s Green Numbers:

    Smart Grids

  • GE wants to spark a revolution in the way we create and distribute electricity, and seizing on a critical underfunding of grid investments by the U.S. government (a paltry $3.4 billion) the 2nd largest company in the world (as ranked by Forbes) wants to do something about it.

    GE is partnering with four major venture capital firms, including Al Gore-advised Kleiner Perkins, to issue the $200 million challenge to “…businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students to share their best ideas and come together to take on one of the world?s toughest challenges ? building the next-generation power grid to meet the needs of the 21st century.”

    tags: ge greennumbers electricity $200 million challenge smart grid

  • The smart grid has been a lumbering but steady and inevitable presence in the utility industry, with a speedy uptake in the number of start-ups interested in creating everything from energy storage technology to user dashboards for home energy consumption and a somewhat slower uptake in the number of smart grid pilot projects popping up nationwide. Less than two years ago it was expected to grow to at least $65 billion by 2013. Cisco has identified at least $20 billion in potential business opportunities around the grid, which the company says will be bigger than the Internet, and $3.4 billion of stimulus money was to be dished out to 100 projects. So why the projection from Pike Research that the spending will top off at $35 billion by 2013?

    tags: greennumbers smart grid investments spending

  • Trilliant Incorporated, a leader in delivering Smart Grid solutions that enhance energy efficiency, utility operations, and renewable resource integration, today announced that it has closed financing totaling $106 million from a global syndicate of industry and financial leaders.

    The financing round was led by two highly-respected financial investors, Investor Growth Capital (the wholly-owned venture arm of Investor AB of Sweden) and VantagePoint Venture Partners and two leading global grid-related equipment companies, ABB and GE. The financing, which was coordinated by Deutsche Bank, also includes a significant credit facility from a major venture credit provider as well as continuing financial support from existing investors MissionPoint Capital Partners and zouk ventures. The new investment will be used to finance Trilliant?s continued growth in North America and globally.

    tags: trilliant smart grid financing round investment greennumbers

  • Policy and Regulation:

  • An excellent article by the UK climate change secretary, German federal environment minister and French environment minister:
    Europe’s current focus on recovery from recession must not distract us from the question of what kind of economy we want to build. Unless we set our countries on a path to a sustainable low-carbon future, we will face continued uncertainty and significant costs from energy price volatility and a destabilising climate.\nThis is why we today set out our belief that the European Union should raise its emissions target. A reduction of 30 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 would represent a real incentive for innovation and action in the international context. It would be a genuine attempt to restrict the rise in global temperatures to 2?C – the key climate danger threshold – stiffening the resolve of those already proposing ambitious action and encouraging those waiting in the wings. It would also make good business sense….

    tags: europe eu low carbon emissions 30% 20% carbon greennumbers

  • “The new Coalition Government has pledged to be the ?greenest government ever? and has committed to reduce carbon emissions across the central Government estate by 10% within 12 months. Launched at the end of May, our Central Government Carbon Management Service is already working with twenty one Central Government bodies to help them meet this challenge.”

    tags: uk govt greennumbers central Government estate Central Government Carbon Management Service

  • The state-owned electric transmission company in China, State Grid, has moved forward with establishing a set of industry rules, standards and favored technologies for the growing smart grid industry in China. But the aggressive move to establish industry standards has competitors in the nascent smart grid sector a bit concerned.

    tags: china smart grid state grid greennumbers

  • Sustainability

  • Seven ‘Triads of Sustainability’ – where seven issues (participation, decision-making, partnership, governance, knowledge and information, continual improvement, and lifestyles) leading to sustainability are explained in detail with case studies . These triads are key ingredients that define and drive sustainability, particularly at the local level.

    tags: sustainability triads Seven Triads of Sustainability greennumbers

  • Eurosif partnered with EIRIS for the Remuneration theme report.

    Research highlights and recommendations for shareholders and regulators include:

    ?- 29% of FTSE Eurofirst300 listed companies have some commitment to linking remuneration to ESG performance ? although concerns exists around the extent to which performance targets are set as ?soft targets? thereby guaranteeing a minimum level of bonus
    ?- Financial institutions account for 23% of the FTSE Eurofirst300 index but only 16% of financial institutions have an ESG-linked remuneration system
    ?- Shareholders should engage with companies by voting against unacceptable remuneration packages and calling for and taking part in shareholder dialogue in determining remuneration policy,
    ?- Regulators should promote active dialogue between companies and shareholders by legislating for a binding ?say on pay? vote and setting appropriate guidelines to promote good remuneration practices and disclosure.

    The report examines critical challenges and opportunities for companies in relation to remuneration, incentives and long-term sustainability.

    tags: remuneration remuneration report eurofirst300 greennumbers

  • Companies could be asked to publish details of their environmental and social impacts alongside their financial accounts under new rules being discussed with the organisations that set accounting standards.

    News of the initiative ? which would mean that businesses have to account for the impacts they have on local water quality, plants and animals ? emerged as a major report for the UN is published today. It warns that companies are causing vast damage to the “living fabric of this planet”, raising threats to society and their own profits, but also that the business opportunities to make money from improving the environment are forecast to quadruple over the next decade.

    tags: environmental impacts social impacts csr corporate reporting greennumbers accounting standards

  • AT&T today announced the deployment of the 2,000th alternative fuel vehicle and 1,500th compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle in its corporate vehicle fleet, giving it one of the largest CNG vehicle fleets in the U.S. These milestones are part of a $565 million planned investment announced in March 2009 to replace more than 15,000 fleet vehicles with alternative fuel models through 2018. Currently, the AT&T corporate fleet includes more than 75,900 vehicles.

    AT&T anticipates purchasing approximately 8,000 CNG vehicles over a five-year span, at an anticipated cost of $350 million. AT&T expects to spend an additional $215 million through 2018 to replace 7,100 fleet passenger cars with alternative fuel models. According to the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), AT&T’s alternative fuel vehicle initiative will:

    – Save 49 million gallons of gasoline over the 10-year deployment period.
    – Reduce carbon emissions by 211,000 metric tons ? the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing 147,929 passenger vehicles from the road for one year.

    tags: at&t att cng compressed natural gas vehicle fleet greennumbers

  • Renewables

  • Earlier this week, Morocco?s King Mohammed VI officially inaugurated a wind farm in the town of Melloussa.?? With 165 turbines and a production capacity of 140 megawatts, the farm is touted as Africa?s largest wind farm. Besides significantly reducing CO2 emissions, the farm is expected to save over 125,000 metric tons of oil annually.

    tags: morocco wind farm greennumbers

  • Germany could derive all of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050 and become the world’s first major industrial nation to kick the fossil-fuel habit, the country’s Federal Environment Agency said today.

    The country already gets 16% of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources ? three times’ higher than the level it had achieved 15 years ago.

    “A complete conversion to renewable energy by 2050 is possible from a technical and ecological point of view,” said Jochen Flasbarth, president of the Federal Environment Agency.

    “It’s a very realistic target based on technology that already exists ? it’s not a pie-in-the-sky prediction,” he said.

    tags: germany electricity renewable energy greennumbers fossil fuel

  • Is shutting down offshore drilling more risky than carrying on? What about jobs that real families depend on? Do we have to choose between dolphins and employment? What are the real issues in the Gulf? Here?s 10 Questions that were fielded by Andy Sharpless, the CEO of Oceana at a recent TedxOilSpill conference. We?ve let Andy speak in his own voice here unedited.

    tags: Andy Sharpless TedxOilSpill oilspill offshore drilling greennumbers

  • A lead congressional committee investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has broadened its inquiry, now checking if tens of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells are leaking or even being monitored for leaks.

    tags: salazar oilspill Gulf of Mexico oil wells gas wells abandoned oil wells greennumbers

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Friday Green Numbers round-up 06/18/2010

Green numbers

Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

And here is this week’s Green numbers:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

You should follow me on twitter here.

SunSpec Alliance setting standards for the solar industry

BP Oil Spill

Photo credit Tom Raftery (Me!)

Sunspec.org is an alliance of renewable industry companies whose aim is to define communication standards data monitoring for the solar power industry.

Up until now there haven’t been any standards agreed around data communication in the solar power industry which added huge cost and complexity to the monitoring and management of solar farms – especially when there were multiple vendors involved. These lack of interoperability and increased cost issues have greatly hobbled solar power’s growth.

To address this the SunSpec Alliance was formed last year with the express purpose of defining standards which, if widely adopted, should significantly speed up the deployment of solar energy systems and be a big help in their management, reporting and maintenance.

On this coming May 11th, the Alliance will publish their initial set of proposed communication standards for the industry and open them up for public review and comment. The first specifications cover the inverter, the meter and the environmental sensors.

The release of these documents will be followed up by implementations of the specifications by Alliance member companies, testing, certification and a branding project to bring those products to market. Once these standards start to become widely adopted, they can be proposed to the IEC or the IEEE to become official international standards.

Standards are hugely important for the growth of any emerging industry. In the case of solar power, the standards will be all the more important, coinciding as they are with the with the arrival of smart grids and the development of smart grid interoperability standards.

You should follow me on twitter here.

Friday Morning Green Numbers round-up 03/19/2010

Green numbers

Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

Here is this Friday’s Green Numbers round-up:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Is there really any need for baseload power?

No nuclear waste

Photo credit wonderferret

The electricity grid may not need “baseload” generation sources like coal and nuclear to backup the variability of supply from renewables.

Jon Wellinghof is the Chairman of the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC is an independent agency that amongst other things, regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil – for more on FERC’s responsibilities see their About page. Chairman Wellinghoff has been involved in the energy industry for 30 years and appointed to the FERC as a commissioner by then president Bush in 2006.

Last year, shortly after being appointed as Chairman of the FERC, Mr Wellinghoff announced that:

No new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States….

Wellinghoff said renewables like wind, solar and biomass will provide enough energy to meet baseload capacity and future energy demands. Nuclear and coal plants are too expensive, he added.

“I think baseload capacity is going to become an anachronism,” he said. “Baseload capacity really used to only mean in an economic dispatch, which you dispatch first, what would be the cheapest thing to do. Well, ultimately wind’s going to be the cheapest thing to do, so you’ll dispatch that first.”…

“What you have to do, is you have to be able to shape it,” he added. “And if you can shape wind and you can effectively get capacity available for you for all your loads.

“So if you can shape your renewables, you don’t need fossil fuel or nuclear plants to run all the time. And, in fact, most plants running all the time in your system are an impediment because they’re very inflexible. You can’t ramp up and ramp down a nuclear plant. And if you have instead the ability to ramp up and ramp down loads in ways that can shape the entire system, then the old concept of baseload becomes an anachronism.”

This was quite an unusual contention at the time (and still is) and despite the Chairman’s many years working in the sector it was, by and large, ignored – even by the administration who had appointed him to the Chairmanship. In fact, the Obama administration has since announced financial backing for new nuclear power plants.

However, a study published last week by the Maryland-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research backs Chairman Wellinghoff’s assertion. In a study of North Carolina’s electricity needs it concluded backup generation requirements would be modest for a system based largely on solar and wind power, combined with efficiency, hydroelectric power, and other renewable sources like landfill gas:

“Even though the wind does not blow nor the sun shine all the time, careful management, readily available storage and other renewable sources, can produce nearly all the electricity North Carolinians consume,” explained Dr. John Blackburn, the study’s author. Dr. Blackburn is Professor Emeritus of Economics and former Chancellor at Duke University.

“Critics of renewable power point out that solar and wind sources are intermittent,” Dr. Blackburn continued. “The truth is that solar and wind are complementary in North Carolina. Wind speeds are usually higher at night than in the daytime. They also blow faster in winter than summer. Solar generation, on the other hand, takes place in the daytime. Sunlight is only half as strong in winter as in summertime. Drawing wind power from different areas — the coast, mountains, the sounds or the ocean — reduces variations in generation. Using wind and solar in tandem is even more reliable. Together, they can generate three-fourths of the state’s electricity. When hydroelectric and other renewable sources are added, the gap to be filled is surprisingly small. Only six percent of North Carolina’s electricity would have to come from conventional power plants or from other systems.”

With larger and more inter-connected electricity grids, the requirement for baseload falls even further because the greater the geographical spread of your grid, the greater the chances that the wind will be blowing or the sun shining in some parts of it.

So, is there really any need for baseload power any more, or is this now just a myth perpetuated by those with vested interests?

Friday Morning Green Numbers round-up 03/12/2010

Green numbers

Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

Here is this Friday’s Green Numbers round-up:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.