Wind power costs; Geothermal on Mars; NSF team makes geologic discovery; Geoscience students make a difference

See key findings from the Institute for Energy Research’s study “Assessing Wind Power Cost Estimates.” An article notes geothermal similarities between Mars and Earth. An NSF Research and Technology Team is studying new information on the Earth’s basic geologic functions. An AGI survey tracks students of Geoscience studies.

Study Shows Costs of Wind Power
Geothermal Deposits on Mars Could Provide Historical Knowledge
NSF Research and Technology Team Looks at Geologic Functions
AGI Survey Tracks Students of Geoscience Studies

Study Shows Costs of Wind Power
The Institute for Energy Research released a study on October 15 titled “Assessing Wind Power Cost Estimates.” The study looks at categories of costs that are often not considered by NREL and others who study Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE). A press release lists key findings:

• Under more accurate assumptions, the LCOE for wind power is $109 per MWh rather than NREL’s estimate of $72 — a more than 50 percent increase.
• NREL’s cost estimates exclude key categories of costs such as the cost of transmission and grid balancing for far-away, intermittent wind sources.
• PTC-subsidized wind power projects distort electricity markets because they can bid as low as negative $35 per MWh and still profit through the PTC.
• Adding wind power via the PTC cannot reduce the overall cost of power to the economy — it merely shifts costs to taxpayers.

The study was written by Dr. Michael Giberson, an economics professor at Texas Tech University. To read the full study, click here (PDF); to read the executive summary, click here (PDF).

Geothermal Deposits on Mars Could Provide Historical Knowledge
What’s under the surface of Mars? An article on explores what we do and don’t know about Mars, including its similarities to Earth that may mean it has preserved geothermal deposits from its past buried deep under its surface.

NSF Research and Technology Team Looks at Geologic Functions
Scientists are working on a new discovery that could be key to understanding basic geologic functions, according to an article on A previously unknown layer of liquefied molten rock in Earth’s mantle was discovered as a result of using electromagnetic imaging technology on a 2010 research expedition near Nicaragua at the Middle America trench. The team deployed advanced seafloor instruments that recorded natural electromagnetic signals in order to map features of the crust and mantle. Scientists think this newly discovered layer of magma in the Earth’s mantle could help explain the sliding motions of the planet’s tectonic plates. “This new image greatly enhances our understanding of the role that fluids, both seawater and deep subsurface melts, play in controlling tectonic and volcanic processes,” Bil Haq, program director in National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Division of Ocean Sciences was quoted. NSF funded the work through its Directorate for Geosciences’ MARGINS (now GeoPRISMS) Program.

AGI Survey Tracks Students of Geoscience Studies checks out graduates’ “decision points” for majoring in the geosciences. The American Geosciences Institute (AGI)’s National Geoscience Student Exit Survey found that “The majority of graduates at all degree levels chose to major in the geosciences at some point during their undergraduate education.” The survey tracked reasons given by students for why they chose a geoscience major: “As the most mentioned reasons for choosing the geosciences, 13% of graduates expressed enjoyment of an outdoor or field experience, 11% of graduates found their entry level course to be stimulating, 11% cited a life-long interest in the subject matter, and 11% chose the major because of the career opportunities. Other cited reasons include the influence of the department faculty or fellow students, a desire to better understand earth processes and research related to these discoveries, and a desire to make an impact on society.”

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