Understanding the heatwaves across the Northern Hemisphere

You’re not imagining it–this summer is brutally hot. Runways and railways buckle in England, wildfires sweep Europe, Texas, and the Midwest, and thousands perish from the heat in Portugal. Midway through the summer of 2022, weather reports from around the globe leave little doubt that our weather is changing.

It can be difficult to understand what’s just a normal hot summer and what are real signs of climate change. Even as we look for energy solutions that can help deal with global warming, more and more academic authorities are mapping extreme weather events to specific human activity.

Bloomberg recently surveyed the work being done in the field. Of particular note is Columbia Law School’s Climate Attribution Page at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. Another critical resource to help understand how the climate is changing is Carbon Brief’s Attribution page, which compiles hundreds of scholarly papers following the matter.

Tracking the data of shrinking lakes in Africa or the American Southwest can be discouraging, but Alexander Gard-Murray, a scientist at Brown University’s Climate Solutions Lab, has created a Climate Opportunity Map, an ongoing project tracking potential wins on the climate front along with the economic opportunity for those addressing change.

“I am more optimistic today than when I started working on climate [10 years ago], Gard-Murray told Bloomberg. “I think politicians were taking it way less seriously a decade ago and I also think that the immediate benefits that society could see [from climate action] were less clear a decade ago. And that last part is what this map is trying to capture.”

Dallas Texas skyline during sunset

Texas struggles through the heat

In the U.S., Texas continues to bear the worst of the heat wave. The state has managed to avoid significant blackouts even as the mercury hit triple digits regularly throughout the past two weeks. Keeping the lights on comes with a cost, though. Toyota, Samsung, and several other manufacturers cut back on production shifts over concerns about energy stability. And even as industry adjusts to the blistering heat, the Texas power grid is deferring maintenance and scheduled shutdowns to meet record demand. “Things are going to break,” Michele Richmond, executive director of Texas Competitive Power Advocates, told Bloomberg. “We have an aging fleet that’s being run harder than it’s ever been run.”

Source: Bloomberg, Reuters,

electric vehicle charging at ev charge station

A country where EVs rule the road

Even as Norway sits on massive oil reserves, it leads the charge in EV innovation. The country’s incentives to go electric range from discounting tolls, ferries, and parking fees by 50% for EVs to eliminating VAT and import taxes for zero emission vehicles. Driven by these generous subsidies, the country expects to easily beat its goal of eliminating sales of new gas vehicles by 2025. In January of this year, a whopping 84% of all new car sales were zero-emission vehicles. Only 347 gasoline-powered cars were sold in that month. With fuel prices up over 43% in the last year, it’s hard to imagine the trend reversing.

We tend to think that the number of electric vehicles on the road is the most crucial indicator of the growth of EV adoption, but that’s not true from an environmental perspective. For that calculation, the number of miles driven by each type of car tells a better story. If there are two gas-guzzlers in the garage while the one EV in a family is getting used every day, there are fewer emissions in the air. And as more Norwegian families buy EVs, they are also taking them out more often. Bloomberg reports that the average EV in Norway is outpacing the average gas vehicles on the road, indicating that people that own EVs prefer them for day-to-day use.

Source: Bloomberg

Fusion no longer 30 years away

Without question, the holy grail of energy research is sustained fusion. Put simply, the idea is to create the same nuclear reaction that powers the sun in a generator here on Planet Earth. Clean, safe, and with limitless fuel available, fusion energy would be a transformative technology. The technology would require common hydrogen isotopes as fuel, and the byproduct would be harmless helium and hydrogen, which is a valuable energy source in and of itself.

For decade after decade, research scientists have predicted the technology was a minimum of thirty years away. And for many, the idea of practical fusion had become solely the stuff of science fiction. Until now.

The Fusion Industry Association released its second annual report on July 14 in Brussels, and the outlook is so bright it’s like staring into the sun.

A few scientific milestones from the past year included:

  • First time-controlled “burning plasma” at the National Ignition Facility in California
  • Record high energy produced at the Joint European Torus in Oxford, England
  • The longest record of high-temperature plasma confinement at KSTAR in South Korea
  • The world’s strongest magnet demonstrated by Commonwealth Fusion Systems in Massachusetts
  • Plasma heated above 100 million degrees by Helion in Washington.

If those kinds of abstract benchmarks leave your head spinning, an easier way to understand how experts value the progress is to follow the money. In the last 12 months, over $4.7 billion in private venture capital has flowed into the fusion industry.

According to the FIA’s recent survey, the industry consensus is that fusion electricity will be on the grid in the 2030s.

Source: Fusion Industry Association

James Webb Telescope photo

About those James Webb Telescope photos

Everyone has been transfixed by the stunning photos of the sand-speck-sized piece of the cosmos that NASA’s latest marvel has been sending our way. For some, images from the James Webb Observatory are changing how they see themselves and their place in the world.

For us at ADT Solar, we want to point out that it is all possible because of solar panels. Yes, if you’re going to send a telescope into a solar orbit, having it powered by the sun makes a lot of sense. According to the folks at PV Magazine, Webb’s 20-foot, five-panel array is good for 2 kW, double the electricity required to operate the instruments on board. NASA has been relying on solar panels for much of its history, launching its first photovoltaic solar panel into space in 1958, just four years after scientists at Bell Labs invented them.

So the next time you stare in awe of another picture of a distant galaxy, remember that it is brought to you by solar power.

Source: PV Magazine

This Week’s Sun Song

Since we’re talking about fusion, being very hot, and cosmic things this week, it’s time to cue up Pink Floyd’s “Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun.”