Melting Ice Caps

The ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are melting, sea levels are rising, and the rate of ice loss is increasing.  These are the conclusions a new peer-reviewed report published in the journal Science came to.  The study, authored by 47 experts from 26 institutes, used satellite images to show that the ice sheet melting has contributed to an 11 mm (0.4 in) rise in sea levels.  The Greenland ice sheets contributed 2/3 to this rise while Antarctica contributed the remaining 1/3.  Also startling were the comments on the Pine Island Glacier, an iceberg the size of New York City that is set to calve off in the upcoming months.  While most of this information is probably not news to you, it does offer scientific proof that the planet is warming.  We must act now.  Please inform yourselves about solutions to climate change – whether through cap-and-trade or a carbon tax – and pressure your elected officials to enact policy measures.  The only way to slow the rate of warming is to reduce our emissions through every means possible.  Use less energy by making energy-efficient upgrades to your house.  Write a letter to your representatives to end subsidies for fossil fuels so renewable technologies can compete on a level field.  Or simply turn off electronics when they are not in use.  Climate change is a problem that touches all areas of modern society – it is a national security issue, an economic issue, a development issue, and a humanitarian issue.  And as this study proves it is getting worse.  The paradox is that by the time we see changes that affect us, it may be too late to stop it.

ice sheet

Centralized vs. Distributed Generation

Centralized Generation has been the predominant power distribution system in the United States for a long time but there seems to be many drawbacks to this plan and many more reasons to switch to a distributed generation system.
Centralized generation is what you typically think of when you think of a power plant, whether it be coal, natural gas or large scale solar. This involves a large factory where electricity is produced, usually situated far away from the end user. Many times, these projects face hurdles such as “not in my back yard” from communities and opposition from environmental groups because the project must be built away from civilization and usually ends up destroying precious natural habitat. The projects can be an eyesore, produce pollution, and are generally inefficient due to the distance the electricity must travel before it gets to the users.
Distributed generation has been gaining traction in recent years, especially in the solar community because these projects are small and convenient. An example would be solar panels on top of a building that would use the electricity produced. It just makes sense. Now picture solar panels on the roof of every building in New York City – some buildings would use more energy than others and the excess energy could be sold back to the grid through the use of net metering. Distributed generation also makes sense from a security standpoint because the power source is spread out over a wide geographic region and less vulnerable to a single occurrence. As anyone who lived in the northeast during the 2003 Blackout remembers, something as simple as overheated wires touching a tree branch can cause power failure for millions. This is simply unacceptable. Long term, we need to move towards smarter development and community planning, but in the short term net metering can reduce our energy costs as well as allow us to sell energy back to the grid during peak hours. Who wouldn’t like to get a check from their utility every month?