Other than the fact that we have only received a trace of rain so far this July, the most interesting thing in the weather lately is a very cool start to the month. This morning, for the second morning in a row, Merrill broke a record low. Yesterday the new record was set at 39 degrees. This morning the low was 40 which broke the old record of 42. Here in Wausau, it was close. The unofficial low temperature was 50. The record is 48 set back in 1953.
Temps will finally be warming up a bit more today and tomorrow. The mercury should be around 80 today and in the low 80s on Friday. Over the weekend high temps will once again dip into the upper 70s. Along with the slightly warmer weather will come a chance of thunderstorms tonight and Friday. The SPC is indicating a slight risk of severe storms in our area. Even though we could end up with a couple severe storms, it still doesn’t mean there will be widespread heavy rain. The highest chance of heavy rain will be in the southern half of the area on Friday – from Marathon county on south. After Friday, the next chance of rain will come on Tuesday. That’s nice, but we really need the rain now. If we don’t get rain until Tuesday, many non-irrigated crops will be irreparably damaged. So let me finish the weather discussion with a look at the Drought Monitor. Sadly, most of our area in now in a moderate to severe drought.
Yesterday I covered some of the most recent solar energy news. I like to keep track of the latest and greatest breakthroughs because I can’t wait to see a new cleaner energy supply. However, I have to be a realist as well. The alternatives are not yet cost competitive with fossil fuels. This makes widespread adoption very difficult. In the solar business, the recent downturn is hurting equipment supplierssuch as Applied Materials. Besides the macro economic woes, it is also a case of solar power meets the real world. Many things that look great on paper end up costing more in the real world. Here is a quote from the article:
“But here’s the bad news: Jim Hines, an analyst at Gartner, listed several remaining barriers to solar adoption, including low efficiency, short lifetime of inverters, labor-intensive installation and monitoring and diagnostic problems with the cells.”
Labor, monitoring, and repair costs are things that cause the overall or “lifetime” cost of solar power to creep up, and things people don’t always plan for. The same thing goes for wind power. Erecting and maintaining those huge turbine towers incur extra cost above and beyond what it costs to manufacture them. Not only that, you also need to run high voltage powerlines from the remote areas that wind turbines operate to the big cities where the electricity is used. Getting permits for these lines can be troublesome and building them is an extra expense. Let us call it “wind power meets the real world”. This is why the Pickens Plan has been delayed. Last year I covered the story of oil tycoon Boone Pickens’ plan to erect 667 wind turbines in the Texas panhandle. A year later and the entire plan is stalled because he cannot get high voltage lines to the areas where the turbines were planned to go up. This is especially sad because Pickens has put so much effort into this project. It was a daring plan by a private citizen (taxpayers would not be on the hook for its development), but now the plan has to be reformulated.
Thinking about the Pickens Plan reminds me of an article from a while back that proclaimed all the electricity needed in the city of New York could be generated by high flying kites tapping the power of jet stream winds. This is something that sounds great on paper, but I can imagine labor and maintenance costs would be much higher than for wind turbines. We certainly need a proof of concept in a real world situation very soon before much more effort is put into kite development.
As if I didn’t already bring enough semi-gloomy news, it appears wind speeds have declined in many parts of the U.S. The article does not mention Wisconsin as one of the places where winds speeds have declined, most likely because they haven’t – or at least that seems to be the subjective case. Many people have commented to me as to how it seems much windier in our area over the last couple of years. When Megan Syner first started working here it was one of the first things she mentioned - how windy it was in Wisconsin. I told her that I could not remember so much wind a decade or two ago. Of course, the decline in wind speeds (in some states) is being blamed on Anthropogenic Global Warming, as everything is. I’ll have to add it too the big AGW list. Less wind also means less opportunity for wind power generation.
So how about some good news. Solar power generation using stirling engines is getting more testing. Here is a story about Stirling Energy Systems conducting tests in New Mexico.
Lastly, here is an interesting article about an extreme event that occurred on this date back in 1958. It was the world’s largest tsunamiand it occurred in the U.S. It wreaked havoc in an Alaskan fjord north of Juneau. Can you believe this – the height of the wave was 1,720 feet. It was a megatsunami. Scientists still cannot fully explain how a wave could have gotten to the height of 1,720 feet.
Have a nice Thursday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
Posted under Alternative Energy, Drought, Records
This post was written by jloew on July 9, 2009