How Chinese Solar Energy Can Eclipse Chinese Coal

On a positive note, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reported in The Telegraph May 30 that China’s Wuxi Suntech Power projects that by 2016 it will be able to match the price of coal power with its photovoltaic panels. He writes:

“The company’s chief executive, Eric Luo, told RenewEconomy that grid parity is at hand, even in competing with the cheapest and dirtiest form of fossil fuels.

“We are sure that by 2016 – or at the latest 2017 – the levellised cost of solar PV will be the same as coal-fired generation. It is going to completely transform the energy market in China,” he said.”

Evans-Pritchard goes on to note that while the cost of solar is coming down, the cost of mining coal is going up. That points to a potential turning point in energy economics in China, where coal provides about 70 percent of the nation’s primary energy and where coal consumption has been inexorably rising.

But another important piece of the unfolding story involves storing energy from the sun to use at night and during cloudy weather. The Achilles heel of renewable energy so far has been its intermittent nature compared to coal, which burns brightly to provide power 24-7-365.

Now, another Chinese entrepreneur, Winston Chung, believes he may have that covered. In a little known move earlier this month, several public agencies in Riverside, California, switched on a solar system that includes a huge battery storage bank, using lithium-yttrium batteries developed by Chung’s company, Winston Battery Manufacturing Ltd.

The system consists of solar panels that can generate up to 4 MW when producing at peak capacity on a bright sunny afternoon. The California Energy Commission says that’s enough to power about 5,500 homes. However, in this case, the project being managed by the University of California at Riverside will instead send power to 27 electric vehicle charging stations in various locations on campus and in the city of Riverside, plus charge an electric trolley used by the Riverside Transit Agency.


Chung’s battery bank will be used to store energy from the sun and then feed to the bus and electric cars that plug into the charging stations.

Driving down both the price of solar panels and the price of energy storage batteries is the ability to achieve economies of scale, something China’s manufacturers have mastered.

Lower-priced solar panels, coupled with storage, could well be the game changer China needs to turn away from coal. And that would both clean up its foul air and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to stave off catastrophic climate change.

It’s a fascinating and important potential turn of events. Stay tuned here as it all unfolds.

Get Your May Hot-Enviro Links Here, Whether They Make You Depressed or Determined

Beijing, 2013

Beijing, 2013

*  The World’s Top Polluters: 1) China (with a bullet), 2) U.S., 3) India. Welcome to the Atmospheric Stranglers by Tonnage.  Global Post (link)

Bad news for the environment. After years of decline, US carbon dioxide emissions increased slightly last year, according to a new report by the US Energy Information Administration. That said, America is still a little better than the world’s worst polluter: China. The 2 percent jump in CO2 emissions in the United States was largely the result of higher natural gas prices last year, which prompted some utilities to switch back to a dirtier energy source — coal, according to The Washington Post. America’s CO2 emissions had fallen 12 percent from 2007 to 2012 before the latest report. Here, we take a look at the world’s five biggest polluters, according to CO2 emission estimates in 2012 from the EU-based Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research …

 * Not Music to Beijing’s Ears: A Call to Stop Bankrolling Chinese Certain Chinese Green Projects. Daily Caller (link)

The Chinese auto conglomerate Wanxiang Group has bought electric automaker Fisker Automotive, marking the second time they snatched up a failed green firm that received taxpayer dollars. The bankrupt Fisker was sold to Wanxiang last week for $149.2 million and the sale was approved by the bankruptcy court on Tuesday. Last year, the Energy Department’s $192 million loan of Fisker was sold of to Wanxiang for $25 million — netting taxpayers a $139 million loss. This is the second time a green energy company that got a loan guarantee from the Obama administration was sold off to Chinese investors, garnering criticism from conservatives that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted for the benefit of foreign businessmen. “In 2009, Secretary Chu promised American taxpayers that a $528.7 million conditional loan for Fisker Automotive would create or save 5,000 jobs,” Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The height of Fisker’s employment barely reached over 200 employees,” Blackburn added. “The only thing worse than these continued broken promises and lack of accountability from this administration is that yet another company that received taxpayer funding will be sold to China’s Wanxiang Group.” …

* Are California Earthquakes Being Triggered by Groundwater Pumping? Los Angeles Times (link)

For years, scientists have wondered what are the forces that keep pushing up California’s mighty Sierra Nevada and central coast ranges, causing an increase in the number of earthquakes in parts of Central California.On Wednesday, a group of scientists offered a new intriguing theory: that the quakes are being caused in part by pumping of groundwater in the Central Valley. “These results suggest that human activity may give rise to a gradual increase in the rate of earthquake occurrence,” said the study published in the journal Nature Wednesday, written by scientists at Western Washington University, University of Ottawa, University of Nevada, Reno and UC Berkeley. Using new GPS data, the scientists found a surprising observation that the mountains closest to California’s thirsty Central Valley were growing at a faster-than-expected rate compared to ranges further away — a rate of 1 to 3 millimeters a year, enough to lift them by less than half a foot over the last 150 years …

* Hot Sauce of Stinging Eyes: the Saga of One California Manufacturer.  New York Times (link)

Until a few months ago,Sriracha was a mere hot sauce, offering a spicy kick to eggs, soup, grilled cheese or a Bloody Mary.But since this small, industrial city east of Los Angeles began taking legal action against the Sriracha factory here — responding to complaints from residents about the strong scent of chiles — this trendy hot sauce has turned from a culinary symbol into a political one for business leaders and Republicans who have long complained that California is hostile to industry. “Why do you hate me?” David Tran, whose company makes Sriracha, asked at the last City Council meeting here. “Why do you want to shut me down?” …

* Climate Change Denial at the Pentagon? Don’t Think So. NBC News (link)

U.S. military and intelligence agencies are increasingly monitoring and preparing for how, when and where the consequences of a warmer planet will collide with national security, requiring the eventual need to deploy American troops to weather-torn lands.As climate-change arguments continue at home — including pundits who assert the scientific consensus on the issue is overblown or concocted — current and former Department of Defense officials are mapping future strategies to protect U.S. interests in the aftermath of massive floods, water shortages and famines that are expected to hit and decimate unstable nations. “For DoD, this is a mission reality, not a political debate,” said Mark Wright, a Pentagon spokesman. “The scientific forecast is for more Arctic ice melt, more sea-level rise, more intense storms, more flooding from storm surge, and more drought …

* On This Last Earth Day, Los Angeles — Redoubt of the World’s First, True Environmental crisis — Gets Snubbed by Attention-Hog Co2. San Gabriel Valley Tribune (link)

Forty-four years ago today during the first Earth Day, skywriting planes inscribed the word “air” across the rust-colored skies of Los Angeles. Protesters and lawmakers came together in a miraculous kind of Kumbaya moment to solve the problem of L.A.’s dirty air that was damaging our lungs and lowering property values. Today, more than four decades and hundreds of advancements and regulations later, scientists, lawmakers and officeholders can say they got the message. The air in Southern California has greatly improved since Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes launched the first-ever national rally aimed at healing Earth’s ills. Now, however, a more insidious gas — carbon dioxide — is enveloping the atmosphere, causing the warming of the entire planet and unleashing extreme weather events along with predictions from UCLA scientists of higher temperatures in inland suburbs, drier years, more wildfires and less snowpack collecting in the Sierra Nevada to satisfy a thirsty Golden State. As millions around the world celebrate what is labeled the biggest secular holiday, Earth Day, local leaders say the successes since 1970 are many, but the problems — particularly the 800-pound gorilla of global climate change — have grown into a daunting challenge. Some say stopping climate change, for example, is impossible and that adapting is the next step …

Bill and Chip back on CCTV-America digging into climate change and coal

Excuse the odd blinking and conversational false-starts. Your authors were positioned in different rooms at the same Los Angeles production building so it’d appear, with the aid of those magic green screens, that we were being interviewed in different parts of the city. Hopefully, our words exceed the theatrics.

PRC Authors Featured on CCTV in China


Playing a bit of catch up, we wanted to share this TV news report and also this one, which ran in China on CCTV in April. (Enjoy the commercials before the stories!) CCTV reporter Shen Chen traveled to Los Angeles to interview us overlooking the city at the Griffith Park Observatory, near the famous Hollywood sign. While the air is better today in Los Angeles, due to the drought this winter particle pollution was worse than normal, which is evident from the haze in the background. You can read about it here in a Los Angeles Times piece by reporter Tony Barboza. Stay tuned for more soon.

Springtime in Shanghai

After a winter of western media stories on China’s air pollution problem depicting people wearing masks it’s time for a little spring fashion and a breath of fresh air. Those who know little about pollution assume the Chinese wear masks to protect themselves against the smoggy skies, but that may not necessarily be so. Consider this from Forbes May 1. Genevieve Flaven writes in Air Pollution In China Inspires New Fashion Trend:

“It all ended with an anti-pollution mask!

“At the Shanghai Fashion week last month, a pollution mask printed with black and white geometric patterns was given to the audience after the show of the menswear brand Blackgateone. A disturbing little gift imagined by Blackgateone’s artistic director Hadas Zucker reminded Shanghainese fashion lovers of this cold fact: fashion aims to capture l’air du temps (a literal translation would be “air of the time,” but commonly understood to mean the trends of the time), but what happens when that air becomes unbreathable? As a response to this year’s Chinese Airpocalyse, Blackgateone’s collection provided a palette of multi-functional pieces to equip urban nomads and enable them to survive in the city or escape it quickly.

“Escapism from polluted cities and the appeal of the unspoiled landscapes of ancient China inspired most of the Menswear designers presenting their collections at the 2014 Shanghai Fashion Week.”


As Flaven points out, wearing masks often is driven by other motivations, be it style  or wishful thinking. It’s also a sign of protest over the nation’s murky skies and environmental contamination, notes Greenpeace East Asia activist Deng Ping in Beijing. She explains many dawn masks to alert their fellow citizens of the health dangers of pollution, which the Health Effects Institute estimates kills more than a million a year prematurely in China. People also wear them, she says, as a perhaps not so subtle form of protest to government officials.

The fact that Blackgateone distributed masks during Shanghai Fashion Week shows the growing openness of China about its air pollution problem and the need for change. Indeed, fighting for a cleaner environment is now fashionable in China. But does fashionable equate to effectiveness? Stay tuned to this blog to learn more.