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Today’s big news is all about the great big sky. Not that it’s falling, but for some alarmists and reactionaries, it might as well be.
That’s because the big science news on Wednesday was that there’s a serious halt to sunspot activity, which might potentially impact the world’s climate and climate-change initiatives, including renewable energy projects. On the flip side of that–or more like 93 million miles away (sort of)–there’s the total eclipse of the moon, a rarity that few will see, unless they count Google’s cool animation as viewing the eclipse.
Of course, the lunar eclipse isn’t Chicken Little-worthy, even though it will cause millions of people to crane their necks in search of the reddening sky. But what about those dulling sun spots? And what does the alleged slowdown mean for renewable energy, particularly solar?
The New York Times’ Dot Earth blog did a round-up of quotes from scientists who say the sun is about to go into a dormant period.
However, Douglas Biesecker, a scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, responded to the author’s questions with: “I consider the strength of evidence to be anemic and the reasoning to be highly suspect.” The response was worthy of its own Dot Earth post, and Biesecker sent along a detailed PowerPoint presentation outlining “Why there is no evidence of a maunder minimum.” It’s worth watching, if you’re a science geek.
What actually happens remains to be seen. Only the fireball in the sky knows the answers to these big questions. Or maybe it doesn’t. (That would assume that the sun has a giant brain.)
But one thing’s for certain: Those sleepy sunspots won’t slow down the revved-up solar industry or the Department of Energy’s initiatives.
In fact, just yesterday, the same day of the solar scare, the DOE announced $2 million in conditional loans for concentrated solar projects in California; Google announced a $280 million solar fund to help homeowners finance rooftop installations; and a new report revealed that utility companies, which once snubbed the sun and its power, are now driving solar initiatives across the country.
But perhaps the most telling info released as of yet about what will happen if there is indeed another Maunder Minimum is from Wired.com:
The answer can be seen in the image at the top of this post, which estimates the temperature difference between a solar minimum future under “middle-of-the-road” climate scenarios and the Maunder Minimum. In a nutshell: It’s going to be much, much hotter in the future, solar minimum or not.
In other words, all those new solar panels will have plenty of sun and heat to draw from, even if those sun spots stop spitting fire.