texas-big-windWhile the rest of the United States remains mired in a sluggish recovery from the 2008 financial meltdown and the persistent recession that has followed, the great state of Texas has not. Not only has the Lone Star State's economy grown and its population increased, employment figures continue to rise at pleasing rates, and all of these factors combine to make the state a model in the promise of managed dynamic growth.

With all of that relative atypical growth comes an ever increasing hunger for electricity  Since 1960, Texas' total energy consumption has grown by an average of 2.2  percent per year, and it shows no signs of abating.

Not surprisingly, Texas produces and consumes more electricity than any other state in the Union. But what may be surprising to some is the fact that more and more of that demand for electricity is being met by wind power, a bit of an odd concept for a state that was made and is still dominated today by Big Oil.

The strain on the state's power grid has, of course, become a massive problem, especially during summer months when demand outstrips supply. In 2011, several spikes in wholesale electric prices were the result, causing headaches for businesses and residents and the power reserves alike. The two following summers were equally bad, but generally cooler weather in 2013 prevailed and helped to relieve the strain on the grid.

Since that time, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas , which operates some 85 percent of the state's power grid, has added coal and natural gas generators to meet the demand, but even so, the lion's share has been from its installation of wind generators, located mostly in windy western Texas.


The world's largest offshore wind turbine generator has just been installed some 28 miles off the coast of Ostend, Belgium, and the massive structure is capable of generating a whopping six megawatts of power, enough to provide ample power to 5,000 households, a decent 15 percent more than today's turbines.

Working at the behest of Belwind Offshore Energy of Belgium, Alstom is the designer of this particularly efficient piece of oxygen-friendly technology. A French multinational leader in the world of power generation, transmission and rail infrastructure, Alstom is based in Levallois-Perret, which is just west of Paris.

Scientists working on this prototype high concentration PV thermal system believe they can produce energy as much as 3x cheaper than with comparable systems, and all with common, abundant materials.
The prototype uses mirror facets aligned into a parabolic dish, focusing light onto smaller photovaltic panels, while the whole apparatus tracks the sun to ensure the perfect angle. Developments like this are putting us on track to have renewable, solar energy with prices that are competitive even with wasteful sources of energy like coal!

How's that for some good news?

The discussion that revolves around environmental conservation can sometimes make the future seem bleak. While global warming, the health costs of pollution and the destruction of our forests are serious topics worthy of discussion, sometimes it's easy to overlook small, and not so small victories for Mother Earth.

In the latest video from Story of Stuff, narrator Annie Leonard uncovers the secret life of our electronics and exposes some startling information about the effects our cherished gadgets have on human health and the environment.

Ever wonder why our electronics seem to have a life span just short of two years? It all started back in the 1960s when semiconductor pioneer, Thomas Moore, predicted that "electronic designers [could] double processor speed every eighteen months." This novel idea became known as Moore's law and has since proven fairly accurate. Sadly, electronics companies have taken this to mean they can make their products shoddy, so people will buy more and more often. The result is a substantial increase in profits for them, but ample trouble for us.

One big reason is because "today's electronics routinely contain toxic chemicals like lead, mercury, PVC, chlorine, and bromines."  During the 90s,  Electronics giant IBM found themselves in a lot of trouble after the study they commissioned revealed that women who worked on computer chips in their Silicone Valley facilities suffered more miscarriages than women in the general populous. According to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) , IBM, among many others, have since taken "their manufatcoring to offshore places of lower environmental and labor protections." Mostly in countries like "Costa Rica, Mexico, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Scotland."

At the end of their short lives, most of our old televisions, computers and cell phones are sent to landfills; a mere 20 percent are recycled. However, in many cases, the outcome is just as dismal. As it turns out, about "50 to 80 percent of [recycled electronics are] shipped overseas to Asia and Africa where [they are] broken apart by workers to extract the small bits of valuable metals." The workers and their surroundings then