NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Your Utility Wants An App For You
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Better Price Signals To Customers for New Energy
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Oregon Lawmakers Order Battery Energy Storage
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: A Deeper Look At Utilities – Arizona Public Service
  • QUICK NEWS, August 23: The Climate Change Fight Will Boost The Economy; Solar Shingles Versus Solar Panels; How Very Much Oil & Gas Don't Need Their Tax Breaks
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: Wind Right Now
  • QUICK NEWS, August 22: Having Children In A Time Of Climate Change; Tips On Picking Solar Panels; 4 Things To Think About Before Buying An EV
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Dirty Talk About Big Oil’s Dirty Tactics
  • Weekend Video: Whose Land? Whose Climate? Whose Future?
  • Weekend Video: 100% New Energy To Beat Big Oil and Big Coal
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Netherlands Ban Outlaw Combustion-Powered Cars
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Wind Looking Ever Greater In Great Britain
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-China To Bring Sun To India
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Study Puts Costa Rica High In Global Geothermal
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 18:

  • TTTA Thursday-Is Climate Change War?
  • TTTA Thursday-NASA Connects Fracking And Methane Plume
  • TTTA Thursday-Battery Energy Storage Breakthroughs Flowing
  • TTTA Thursday-Car Dealers Not Doing Right By EVs
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, f is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

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    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 25:

  • Climate Change Could Cost Millenials Trillions
  • Is Rhode Island Wind Energy’s Wedge?
  • How Texas National Guard Could Go Green
  • California Leads The Way To Cars With Plugs

    Thursday, August 25, 2016

    Climate Change Could Cost Millenials Trillions

    The Price Tag of Being Young: Climate Change and Millennials’ Economic Future

    Sara Jordan, August 21, 2016 (NextGen Climate Action)

    “…Left unaddressed, [climate change] will have devastating impacts on our economy, our environment, our communities, and on future generations…[The Price Tag of Being Young: Climate Change and Millennials’ Economic Future concludes] the millennial generation as a whole will lose nearly $8.8 trillion in lifetime income because of climate change. The children of millennials will lose tens of trillions…Without action on climate change, a 21-year-old college graduate in the class of 2015 earning a median income will lose over $126,000 in lifetime income, and $187,000 in wealth…[A] 21-year-old earning a median income will lose $100,000 in lifetime income, and $142,000 in wealth…For the children of millennials, the losses from climate change will be drastically greater…A child born in 2015 with median-earnings will lose $357,000 in lifetime income, and $581,000 in wealth…A child born in 2015 who will be a college graduate will lose $467,000 in lifetime income, and $764,000 in wealth…[It is now clear] that failing to address climate change is an option that we simply cannot afford…Millennials have the numbers to elect climate champions this fall, but we have to show up to vote…” click here for more

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    Is Rhode Island Wind Energy’s Wedge?

    Rhode Island may pave way for Obama wind energy boom

    Timothy Cama, August 24, 2016 (The Hill)

    “Five wind turbines in the waters off Rhode Island’s coast will start producing electricity this fall, fulfilling a years-old clean energy dream from President Obama and others…Construction on the $300 million Block Island Wind Farm finished this month, becoming the United States’ first utility-scale offshore wind farm…[A]dvocates hope the project will prove that offshore wind can work in the United States…[and jumpstart an industry] that has already succeeded in Europe and Asia and contribute significantly to the country’s renewable energy portfolio at a time of historically high interest in fighting climate change…The Block Island farm, developed by Deepwater Wind, will only have a 30 megawatt generating capacity, enough to power 17,000 homes. But while the technology is far more expensive than traditional wind power, it’s both a small step and a giant leap, in terms of its power to demonstrate a technology…The Department of Energy, meanwhile, has worked on research and development for wind energy, studying best practices and looking into advanced technologies like floating wind turbines…[S]upporters are optimistic that Block Island is ushering an industry with great potential…” click here for more

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    How Texas National Guard Could Go Green

    New Study: Solar, Energy Efficiency Can Help the Texas National Guard Save Money and Water

    Kate Zerenner, August 24, 2016 (Environmental Defense Fund)

    “...[Many Texas defense facilities are in water-stressed counties that could lead to higher water costs and] power production constraints, since it requires a lot of water to produce and move electricity from traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas. Both of these challenges pose a direct threat to the budget and operating capabilities of the [Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) and threaten its ability to respond to emergencies. But a new report from CNA Analysis & Solutions shows] these same areas have great potential for solar energy, which requires little to no water to meet power needs on-site…By tapping into that potential and pursuing bolder energy efficiency initiatives, TXARNG could ease pressure on the electric grid and reduce utility bills, all while safeguarding residents and precious water supplies…More than 20 of the TXARNG facilities studied have significant solar potential on a daily basis…[I]nvestments in energy efficiency could also be very cost-effective and have the advantage of being independent of location…[A]lthough the study was specific to the Army branch, the results can help inform investment decisions for the entire Texas National Guard. With a strategy laid out, the TXARNG can continue defending not only Texans, but its future energy and water supplies.” click here for more

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    California Leads The Way To Cars With Plugs

    Who’s Leading on Electric Cars? (And Who’s Lagging Behind?)

    David Reichmuth, August 24, 2016 (Union of Concerned Scientists)

    “…Car buyers can now find alternatives to petroleum-powered cars, choosing from a growing number of electric-drive cars but] the availability of EVs varies greatly, both by manufacturer and geography. Some automakers are simply not making EVs available, according to Electrifying the Vehicle Market from the Union of Concerned Scientists…Other companies severely limit the availability of EVs to California and a handful of states…On the other hand, EV leaders like BMW, Nissan, Tesla, and General Motors make their EVs much more widely available…California leads the nation in EV sales…[O]ver 3% of all new cars in the state were plug-in models in 2015, with two automakers (BMW and General Motors) having over 5% of sales EVs…[T]he greater availability of EVs plays an important role…Last year, 22 EV models were sold in California, while no other state had more than 14 models sold…In the Northeast, car buyers not only had fewer EV models to choose from than in CA, but had a harder time finding them on dealer lots…[P]olicies like the California’s Zero Emission Vehicle program are working to encourage the growth of the EV market. The ZEV regulation applies to California and nine other states, though until 2018 car companies can comply solely by selling EVs in California…” click here for more

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    Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Your Utility Wants An App For You

    What do utility customers want? There's an app for that; Potential savings attract customers to utility-designed apps designed for demand response, energy efficiency

    Herman K. Trabish, November 9, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    Utilities across the United States are starting to get the news: You want to reach your customers? Get an app for that. Residential customers are beginning to discover that apps can help them efficiently use and manage energy consumption. Utilities and private sector vendors mine data from smart meters, smart thermostats, and connected appliances to build apps that help customers save money. At the same time, the utilities benefit from better informed and more engaged customers who help make grid operations more efficient.

    Some 97% of downloads are consumer apps, with the remaining 3% split between utility engagement and prosumer apps. The vastly more popular consumer apps are typically successful because of their “cool” factors. Prosumer apps allow customers to add power or services for the grid. Utility engagement apps are usually from private sector app vendors and provide white label software that supports utilities in connecting with their customers. The four basic purposes of the apps are to (1) allow customers to learn about efficient energy use, (2) remotely control their thermostats and heating-cooling systems, (3) contact their utility and pay their utility bills, or (4) participate in energy efficiency or behavioral programs by being notified of savings opportunities during demand response events… click here for more

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    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Better Price Signals To Customers for New Energy

    Beyond fixed charges: 'Disruptive Challenges' author charts new utility path; If Peter Kind's 2013 paper put the utility sector on notice, this one could give it whiplash

    Herman K. Trabish, November 12, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    In "Pathways to a 21st Century Utility," Peter Kind – who warned utilities of coming "Disruptive Challenges" in 2013 – proposes a profound shift in how business should be done in the sector. The ultimate aim, he told Utility Dive, is a more nimble and competitive sector, likely made up of smaller utilities, that would help resolve the regulatory bickering between utilities, policymakers, and third party energy providers that has characterized the period since the publication of his 2013 work. And that new sector wouldn't be one that pushes policy proposals like high fixed charges.

    When that disruption begins to impact investor returns, “the cost and availability of capital to fund the utility sector will suffer,” he warns. “We must revisit the industry model to ensure alignment with customer and policy goals, while also ensuring that utilities and third-party providers are properly motivated to support their customer, societal and fiduciary obligations,” Kind writes. Four key changes are needed for a 21st Century electric utility, the paper reports:

    -The utility must be engaged to be at the center of resource integration and stakholder collaboration, and achieve policy objectives through accountability and incentives.

    -Regulators must shift focus to integrated distribution system planning and develop transparent accountability metrics.

    -Utility revenues must reflect incentives earned for deployment of DERs, energy management services, and other new technologies, and must be penalized if this does not happen.

    -Utility planning must identify the most cost-effective technologies and cap customer incentives based on the most economical options to achieve policy goals…” click here for more

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    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Oregon Lawmakers Order Battery Energy Storage

    Oregon saddles up to implement trailblazing energy storage mandate; Oregon's mandate is the second in the nation, but novel in the guidance it gives to regulators on storage

    Herman K. Trabish, November 17, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) is working on implementing the state's new energy storage law, which could produce a template for the rest of the nation. While Oregon's law is actually the second in the nation — California enacted a storage mandate in 2013 — sector stakeholders say the law is special in the guidance it provides to regulators on how to value energy storage technologies. Portland General Electric (PGE) has already proved energy storage can offer value to the grid for reliability and for capturing renewables and using the stored electricity when it is needed at its Salem Smart Power Center.

    Oregon House Bill 2193 (H.B. 2193) requires OPUC to issue an order by January 2017 on how PGE and PacifiCorp, Oregon’s dominant electricity providers, must add a minimum of 5 MWh of energy storage in service by January 1, 2020. The bill also limits the amount of storage a utility can procure or develop at 1% of the company's peak load, although they can obtain waivers from the OPUC for larger systems if more than one utility shares the program and its cost. Any technology that captures energy, stores and delivers it is considered eligible. That includes batteries, flywheels, compressed air energy storage, thermal storage, and pumped hydro-power. Key points in the legislative debates that led to the law's passage include Oregon's need to better integrate renewables by increasing grid flexibility, manage the peak demand strain on the system and to lower greenhouse gas emissions… click here for more

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    Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    TODAY’S STUDY: A Deeper Look At Utilities – Arizona Public Service

    Arizona Public Service Company/Pinnacle West

    Nancy LaPlaca, July 2016 (Energy and Policy Institute)

    Summary

    Despite the fact that Arizona is the sunniest state in the U.S., it is falling far behind on solar installations, and by the close of 2015, had fallen from 2nd in total U.S. installed solar to 6th. Not-so-sunny New Jersey has more small-scale, distributed rooftop solar than AZ (793 MW in NJ vs. 609 MW in AZ).

    Why would the sunniest state in the U.S. have so little solar, when solar power purchase agreements have been signed in the Southwestern U.S. for 4 to 6 cents/kWh?

    Why is Arizona less than 4% solar and over 40% coal?

    Why, then, is Arizona less than 4% solar and over 40% coal? One reason is that Salt River Project (SRP), which has nearly 1 million meters, is not regulated and thus is not bound by the REST. SRP has only 15,000 solar roofs, plus , and its recent addition of ~$50/month demand charges to homeowners installing solar has resulted in a 95% drop in residential solar installations. Other Arizona utilities, such as APS and Tucson Electric Power (TEP), as well as UNS, with the same parent company as TEP, have expressed an interest in also adding high demand charges.

    In a nutshell, it seems that Arizona utilities make far more money running old, polluting coal plants that generate electricity for ~3 cents/kWh, than risking a loss of sales to solar energy. Although utility-scale solar in AZ has been as cheap as new natural gas for a number of years, utilities like APS, TEP/UNS, SRP and the dozen or so electric cooperatives in Arizona have not lived up to the state’s solar potential.

    As is illustrated by its June 2016 request for a $3.6 billion rate increase over only three years, APS is investing far more money in coal and natural gas than in solar. APS’ 2017 Integrated Resource Plan, which outlines its how it will meet electricity demands over the next 15 years, states that its current 26% natural gas will increase to 36% by 2031.

    It’s baffling. What’s not to like about solar PV, with a 25% to 35% capacity factor (using single-axis trackers), that uses practically no water, generates no waste (coal ash, acid rain, greenhouse gas emissions or nuclear waste), generates no toxic emissions (acid gases, arsenic, hexavalent chromium and many others) and can be scaled up or down? And although solar PV output doesn’t exactly match Arizona’s peak load, technologies like the Solana Generating Station, which uses molten salt storage to generate electricity for up to 6 hours after the sun sets, can compensate when solar PV generation drops off, as could batteries, or natural gas peaking plants.

    APS’ 2015 10-k shows that solar accounts for a paltry 1.5% of its owned generation, with 5.1% purchased clean energy (both solar and wind). Thus, APS’ total coal, oil and natural gas fired electricity is a stunning 66.6%, and after adding in nuclear, total fossil fueled generation for 2015 accounts for 93.4% of electricity generated.

    In fact, APS’ 2012 purchase of Southern California Edison’s share of the Four Corners coal plant - adding 179 MW to APS’ owned coal capacity - is clearly a huge step in the wrong direction. And the staggering cost of emissions control for these units - over $400 million - is throwing good money after bad.

    Adding insult to injury, APS runs coal plants on groundwater – as do other AZ utilities. In a state that’s increasingly facing climate-change-induced heat waves and drought, regulators refuse to recognize the obvious pollution and carbon emissions from coal plants and the fact that solar PV uses very little water.

    APS’ Solana Generating Station, near Gila Bend, is a 280 MW Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) power plant that includes storage, providing up to 6 hours of electricity after the sun sets by using molten salt to store heat, which then turns a steam turbine. Although this plant was ‘expensive’ at the time it was built at an estimated 14 cents/kWh (which includes a 30% federal Investment Tax Credit), along with a $1.45 billion federal loan guarantee, the plant provides electricity at peak use times when it could cost APS 30 to 40 cents/kWh.

    There is only one conclusion to be drawn from Arizona’s lack of solar, and that is regulatory capture. Arizona is one of only 7 states with regulators that have constitutional power – which means that only the 5-member Corporation Commission makes all water, electric and gas utility decisions – and one of 13 states with an elected Commission, which makes it subject to large campaign contributions.

    This is amply illustrated by APS’ likely large ‘investment’ of over $3 million in a single election cycle, and the ongoing drama of front groups like 60-Plus and others that spend utility money on critical elections and also on public relations during debates over solar’s role in the state.

    Arizona Public Service Company (APS)/Pinnacle West: Electricity Background: All Utilities

    Electric Power Sector Energy Expenditure Estimates, 2013, Arizona:

    Coal: $934 million

    Natural Gas: $1.034 billion

    Uranium: $302.7 million

    Net summer capacity: 28,039 MW

    Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS), at 3,937 MW, is the largest nuclear power plant in the U.S., and the 2nd largest of any U.S. power plant.

    Twenty-five percent of AZ’s electricity is used for air conditioning, four times the national average of 6%.

    Electricity generation from Hoover Dam (2,080 MW) is down 25% since the level of Lake Mead is down to 37% full, the lowest level since it was first filled in the 1930s AZ’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, 15% clean energy by 2025, is one of the lowest in the U.S. AZ’s RPS is unique in that it includes a 30% set-aside for distributed generation. AZ’s Energy Efficiency Standard is one of the highest in the U.S. at 22% by 2020, and applies to all Arizona utilities (except for Salt River Project), with a slightly lower standard for coops

    Although Arizona’s Native American lands are some of the richest in the U.S. for solar, geothermal and wind, the Navajo Nation has the highest percentage of households without electricity among U.S. tribal lands.

    How Much Solar Is Installed In Arizona, The Sunniest State In The U.S.?...APS Electricity Generation - Current And Future Mix…How Much Clean Energy, Including Solar, Does APS Have?...

    Water Use By APS Power Plants…Aps June 2016 Rate Case For $3.6 Billion Increase…APS Buying Cut-Rate, ‘Excess’ Solar Generation From California…APS Operations And Maintenance Costs…The Arizona Corporation Commission…

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    QUICK NEWS, August 23: The Climate Change Fight Will Boost The Economy; Solar Shingles Versus Solar Panels; How Very Much Oil & Gas Need Their Tax Breaks

    The Climate Change Fight Will Boost The Economy How a War on Climate Change Could Restore Economic Growth in America

    Wade Roush, August 23, 2016 (Xconomy)

    Editor’s note: Lots of valuable history and economics in this one.

    "…[Slow economic growth and climate change are likely the biggest challenges facing the U.S. right now and] both problems pose a threat to our way of life, so we can’t prioritize just one…It would be fruitless to fixate on growing the economic pie, and/or slicing it up more equitably, if we knew that whole pie was about to be charbroiled…[But] the two problems have a common solution…[T]he massive investments needed to blunt the effects of climate change—in areas like zero-carbon energy and transportation technology and climate-change adaptation—are exactly the same kinds of investments we would make if we wanted to restore our aging infrastructure, strengthen manufacturing, provide millions of people with new skills, put them to work in rewarding jobs, and boost overall productivity…[T]echnological change does not regress—it only goes forward. The question is whether we’re smart and level-headed enough to tackle both of our scariest threats at once…” click here for more

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    Solar Shingles Versus Solar Panels The company that offered integrated solar roofs before Elon Musk

    Lacy Cooke, August 17, 2016 (inhabitat)

    “…[SolarCity is working on a solar roof that would replace solar panels with solar shingles or tiles integrated into the building’s structure and wiring but] SunTegra Solar Roof Systems (formerly Integrated Solar Technology) has already installed integrated solar systems in the northeastern United States and California…Their tile can produce 67 watts, and their shingle can produce 100 watts. Additionally, the SunTegra shingles utilize ‘50 percent fewer parts’ than traditional rooftop solar panels, and can be rapidly installed in ‘half the time.’ Their systems are lighter than racked panels too. Ventilation built into SunTegra’s units help them stay cool…While SunTegra’s units are around 15 percent more expensive than traditional rooftop panels, if homeowners need a new roof, pricing can be competitive. None of SunTegra’s roofs have leaked, and the company notes they’ve received ‘exceptional wind, snow, and fire ratings…’” click here for more

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    How Very Much Oil & Gas Don't Need Their Tax Breaks The Impact of Removing Tax Preferences for U.S. Oil and Gas Production

    Gilber Metcalf, August 2016 (Council on Foreign Relations)

    “…Reform advocates argue that eliminating tax preferences for producers of oil and gas could increase government revenues by billions of dollars each year while defenders of the existing tax regime contend that changing it would lead to large declines in domestic oil and gas production and to significant job destruction…[This report] models firm behavior in response to the potential loss of each of the three major tax preferences in the United States. The potential losses are measured as equivalent price impact (EPI), the percentage drop in the price of oil or gas that would reduce the profitability of drilling a well as much as tax reform would…

    “…[It finds] that removing tax preferences would increase the global price of oil by only 1 percent by 2030. Domestic oil production could drop 5 percent and global consumption could fall by less than 1 percent in that timeframe. Meanwhile, domestic natural gas prices could rise between 7 and 10 percent, and both domestic gas production and consumption could fall between 3 and 4 percent…[It concludes] none of the three preferences directly and materially improve U.S. energy security or mitigate climate change. If eliminated, however, they could enhance U.S. influence to advocate for international climate action and generate fiscal savings.” click here for more

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    Monday, August 22, 2016

    TODAY’S STUDY: Wind Right Now

    2015 Wind Technologies Market Report

    Ryan Wiser, Mark Bolinger, et. al., August 2016 (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

    Executive Summary

    Annual wind power capacity additions in the United States surged in 2015 and are projected to continue at a rapid clip in the coming five years. Recent and projected near-term growth is supported by the industry’s primary federal incentive—the production tax credit (PTC)—as well as a myriad of state-level policies. Wind additions are also being driven by improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technologies, yielding low power sales prices for utility, corporate, and other purchasers. At the same time, the prospects for growth beyond the current PTC cycle remain uncertain: growth could be blunted by declining federal tax support, expectations for low natural gas prices, and modest electricity demand growth.

    Key findings from this year’s Wind Technologies Market Report include:

    Installation Trends

    • Wind power additions surged in 2015, with 8,598 MW of new capacity added in the United States and $14.5 billion invested. Supported by favorable tax policy and other drivers, cumulative wind power capacity grew by 12%, bringing the total to 73,992 MW.

    • Wind power represented the largest source of U.S. electric-generating capacity additions in 2015. Wind power constituted 41% of all U.S. generation capacity additions in 2015, up sharply from its 24% market share the year before and close to its all-time high. Over the last decade, wind power represented 31% of all U.S. capacity additions, and an even larger fraction of new generation capacity in the Interior (54%) and Great Lakes (48%) regions. Its contribution to generation capacity growth over the last decade is somewhat smaller in the West (22%) and Northeast (21%), and considerably less in the Southeast (2%).

    • The United States ranked second in annual wind additions in 2015, but was well behind the market leaders in wind energy penetration. A record high amount of new wind capacity, roughly 63,000 MW, was added globally in 2015, yielding a cumulative total of 434,000 MW. The United States remained the second-leading market in terms of cumulative capacity, but was the leading country in terms of wind power production. A number of countries have achieved high levels of wind penetration; end-of-2015 wind power capacity is estimated to supply the equivalent of roughly 40% of Denmark’s electricity demand, and between 20% to 30% of Portugal, Ireland, and Spain’s demand. In the United States, the wind power capacity installed by the end of 2015 is estimated, in an average year, to equate to 5.6% of electricity demand.

    • Texas installed the most capacity in 2015 with 3,615 MW, while twelve states meet or exceed 10% wind energy penetration. New utility-scale wind turbines were installed in 20 states in 2015. On a cumulative basis, Texas remained the clear leader, with 17,711 MW. Notably, the wind power capacity installed in Iowa and South Dakota supplied more than 31% and 25%, respectively, of all in-state electricity generation in 2015, with Kansas close behind at nearly 24%. A total of twelve states have achieved wind penetration levels of 10% or higher.

    • The first commercial offshore turbines are expected to be commissioned in the United States in 2016 amid mixed market signals. At the end of 2015, global offshore wind capacity stood at roughly 12 GW. In the United States, the 30 MW Block Island project off the coast of Rhode Island will be the first plant to be commissioned, anticipated by the end of 2016. Projects in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, and Oregon, meanwhile, all experienced setbacks. Strides continued to be made in the federal arena in 2015, both through the U.S. Department of the Interior’s responsibilities in issuing offshore leases, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) funding for demonstration projects. A total of 23 offshore wind projects totaling more than 16 GW are in various stages of development in the United States.

    • Data from interconnection queues demonstrate that a substantial amount of wind power capacity is under consideration. At the end of 2015, there were 110 GW of wind power capacity within the transmission interconnection queues reviewed for this report, representing 31% of all generating capacity within these queues—higher than all other generating sources except natural gas. In 2015, 45 GW of wind power capacity entered interconnection queues (the largest annual sum since 2010), compared to 58 GW of natural gas and 24 GW of solar.

    Industry Trends

    • GE and Vestas captured 73% of the U.S. wind power market in 2015. Continuing their recent dominance as the three largest turbine suppliers to the U.S., in 2015 GE captured 40% of the market, followed by Vestas (33%) and Siemens (14%). Globally, Goldwind and Vestas were the top two suppliers, followed by GE, Siemens, and Gamesa. Chinese manufacturers continued to occupy positions of prominence in the global ratings, with five of the top 10 spots; to date, however, their growth has been based almost entirely on sales in China.

    • The manufacturing supply chain continued to adjust to swings in domestic demand for wind equipment. With growth in the U.S. market, wind sector employment reached a new high of 88,000 full-time workers at the end of 2015. Moreover, the profitability of turbine suppliers has rebounded over the last three years. Although there have been a number of recent plant closures, each of the three major turbine manufacturers serving the U.S. market has one or more domestic manufacturing facilities. Domestic nacelle assembly capability stood at roughly 10 GW in 2015, and the United States also had the capability to produce approximately 7 GW of blades and 6 GW of towers annually. Despite the significant growth in the domestic supply chain over the last decade, conflicting pressures remain, such as: an upswing in near- to medium-term expected growth, but also strong international competitive pressures and possible reduced demand over time as the PTC is phased down. As a result, though many manufacturers increased the size of their U.S. workforce in 2015, expectations for significant supply-chain expansion have become more pessimistic.

    • Domestic manufacturing content is strong for some wind turbine components, but the U.S. wind industry remains reliant on imports. The U.S. is reliant on imports of wind equipment from a wide array of countries, with the level of dependence varying by component. Domestic content is highest for nacelle assembly (>85%), towers (80-85%), and blades and hubs (50-70%), but is much lower (<20%) for most components internal to the nacelle. Exports of wind-powered generating sets from the United States rose from $16 million in 2007 to $544 million in 2014, but fell to $149 million in 2015.

    • The project finance environment remained strong in 2015. Spurred on by the December 2014 and March 2015 single-year extensions of the PTC’s construction start deadline and IRS safe harbor guidance, respectively, the U.S. wind market raised ~$6 billion of new tax equity in 2015—the largest single-year amount on record. Debt finance increased slightly to $2.9 billion, with plenty of additional availability. Tax equity yields drifted slightly lower to just below 8% (in unlevered, after-tax terms), while the cost of term debt fell to just 4% by the end of the year—perhaps the lowest it has ever been. Looking ahead, 2016 should be another busy year, given the recent 5-year PTC extension and phase down.

    • IPPs own the vast majority of wind assets built in 2015. Independent power producers (IPPs) own 85% of the new wind capacity installed in the United States in 2015, with the remaining assets owned by investor-owned utilities (12%) and other entities (3%). On a cumulative basis through 2015, IPPs own 83% and utilities own 15% of U.S. wind capacity, with the remaining 2% owned by entities that are neither IPPs nor utilities (e.g., towns, schools, businesses, farmers).

    • Long-term contracted sales to utilities remained the most common off-take arrangement, but direct retail sales gained ground. Electric utilities continued to be the dominant off-takers of wind power in 2015, either owning (12%) or buying (48%) power from 60% of the new capacity installed last year. Merchant/quasi-merchant projects accounted for another 29%, while direct retail purchasers – including corporate off-takers – are buying the remaining 10% (a share that should increase next year). On a cumulative basis, utilities own (15%) or buy (53%) power from 68% of all wind capacity in the United States, with merchant/quasi-merchant projects accounting for 24%, power marketers 6%, and direct retail buyers just 2% (though likely to increase in the coming years).

    Technology Trends

    • Turbine nameplate capacity, hub height, and rotor diameter have all increased significantly over the long term. The average nameplate capacity of newly installed wind turbines in the United States in 2015 was 2.0 MW, up 180% since 1998–1999. The average hub height in 2015 was 82.0 meters, up 47% since 1998-1999, while the average rotor diameter was 102 meters, up 113% since 1998–1999.

    • Growth in rotor diameter has outpaced growth in nameplate capacity and hub height in recent years. Rotor scaling has been especially significant in recent years, and more so than increases in nameplate capacity and hub heights, both of which have seen a stabilization of the long-term trend since at least 2011. In 2008, no turbines employed rotors that were 100 meters in diameter or larger; by 2015, 86% of new installed wind capacity featured rotor diameters of at least 100 meters.

    • Turbines originally designed for lower wind speed sites have rapidly gained market share. With growth in average swept rotor area outpacing growth in average nameplate capacity, there has been a decline in the average “specific power” i (in W/m2 ) over time, from 394 W/m2 among projects installed in 1998–1999 to 246 W/m2 among projects installed in 2015. In general, turbines with low specific power were originally designed for lower wind speed sites. Another indication of the increasing prevalence of lower wind speed turbines is that, in 2015, the vast majority of new installations used IEC Class 3 and Class 2/3 turbines.

    • Turbines originally designed for lower wind speeds are now regularly employed in both lower and higher wind speed sites; taller towers predominate in the Great Lakes and Northeast. Low specific power and IEC Class 3 and 2/3 turbines are now regularly employed in all regions of the United States, and in both lower and higher wind speed sites. In parts of the Interior region, in particular, relatively low wind turbulence has allowed turbines designed for lower wind speeds to be deployed across a wide range of site-specific resource conditions. The tallest towers, meanwhile, have principally been deployed in the Great Lakes and Northeastern regions, in lower wind speed sites, with specific location decisions likely driven by the wind shear of the site.

    Performance Trends

    • Sample-wide capacity factors have gradually increased, but have been impacted by curtailment and inter-year wind resource variability. Wind project capacity factors have generally increased over time. For a large sample of projects built from 1998 through 2014, capacity factors averaged 32.8% between 2011 and 2015 versus 31.8% between 2006 and 2010 versus 30.3% between 2000 and 2005. That being said, time-varying influences—such as inter-year variations in the strength of the wind resource or changes in the amount of wind energy curtailment—have partially masked the positive influence of turbine scaling on capacity factors. For example, wind speeds throughout the interior and western U.S. were significantly below normal for much of 2015, which negatively impacted fleet-wide capacity factors. Positively, the degree of wind curtailment has declined recently in what historically have been the most problematic areas. For example, only 1.0% of all wind generation within ERCOT was curtailed in 2015, down sharply from the peak of 17% in 2009.

    • The impact of technology trends on capacity factor becomes more apparent when parsed by project vintage. Focusing only on performance in 2015 (to partially control for time-varying influences) and parsing capacity factors by project vintage tells a more interesting story, wherein rotor scaling over the past few years has clearly begun to drive capacity factors higher. The average 2015 capacity factor among projects built in 2014 reached 41.2%, compared to an average of 31.2% among projects built from 2004–2011 and just 25.8% among projects built from 1998–2003. The ongoing decline in specific power has been offset to some degree by a trend—especially from 2009 to 2012—towards building projects at lower-quality wind sites. Controlling for these two competing influences confirms this offsetting effect and shows that turbine design changes are driving capacity factors significantly higher over time among projects located within given wind resource regimes. Performance degradation over time is a final driver examined in this section: though many caveats are in order, older wind projects appear to suffer from performance degradation, particularly as they approach and enter their second decade of operations.

    • Regional variations in capacity factors reflect the strength of the wind resource and adoption of new turbine technology. Based on a sub-sample of wind projects built in 2014, average capacity factors in 2015 were the highest in the Interior region (42.7%). Not surprisingly, the regional rankings are roughly consistent with the relative quality of the wind resource in each region, and they reflect the degree to which each region has adopted turbines with lower specific power or taller towers. For example, the Great Lakes has thus far adopted these new designs to a much larger extent than has the West, with corresponding implications for average capacity factors in each region.

    Cost Trends

    • Wind turbine prices remained well below levels seen several years ago. After hitting a low of roughly $750/kW from 2000 to 2002, average turbine prices increased to more than $1,500/kW by the end of 2008. Wind turbine prices have since dropped substantially, despite increases in hub heights and especially rotor diameters. Recently announced transactions feature pricing in the $850–$1,250/kW range. These price reductions, coupled with improved turbine technology, have exerted downward pressure on project costs and wind power prices.

    • Lower turbine prices have driven reductions in reported installed project costs. The capacity-weighted average installed project cost within our 2015 sample stood at roughly $1,690/kW—down $640/kW from the apparent peak in average reported costs in 2009 and 2010. Early indications from a preliminary sample of projects currently under construction and anticipating completion in 2016 suggest no material change in installed costs in 2016.

    • Installed costs differed by project size, turbine size, and region. Installed project costs exhibit some economies of scale, at least at the lower end of the project and turbine size range. Additionally, among projects built in 2015, the windy Interior region of the country was the lowest-cost region, with a capacity-weighted average cost of $1,640/kW.

    • Operations and maintenance costs varied by project age and commercial operations date. Despite limited data availability, it appears that projects installed over the past decade have, on average, incurred lower operations and maintenance (O&M) costs than older projects in their first several years of operation, and that O&M costs increase as projects age.

    Wind Power Price Trends

    • Wind PPA prices remain very low. After topping out at nearly $70/MWh for PPAs executed in 2009, the national average level-through price of wind PPAs within the Berkeley Lab sample has dropped to around the $20/MWh level, inclusive of the federal production tax credit (PTC), though this latest nationwide average is admittedly focused on a sample of projects that largely hail from the lowest-priced Interior region of the country, where most of the new capacity built in recent years is located. Focusing only on the Interior region, the PPA price decline has been more modest, from ~$55/MWh among contracts executed in 2009 to ~$20/MWh today. Today’s low PPA prices have been enabled by the combination of higher capacity factors, declining costs, and record-low interest rates documented elsewhere in this report.

    • The relative economic competitiveness of wind power declined in 2015 with the drop in wholesale power prices. A sharp drop in wholesale power prices in 2015 made it somewhat harder for wind power to compete, notwithstanding the low wind energy PPA prices available to purchasers. This is particularly true in light of the continued expansion of wind development in the Interior region of the U.S., where wholesale power prices are among the lowest in the nation. That said, the price stream of wind PPAs executed in 2014-2016 compares very favorably to the EIA’s latest projection of the fuel costs of gas-fired generation extending out through 2040.

    Policy and Market Drivers

    • A long-term extension and phase down of federal incentives for wind projects is leading to a resurgent domestic market. In December 2015, Congress passed a 5-year phased-down extension of the PTC. To qualify, projects must begin construction before January 1, 2020. In May 2016, the IRS issued favorable guidance allowing four years for project completion after the start of construction, without the burden of having to prove continuous construction. In extending the PTC, Congress also included a progressive reduction in the value of the credit for projects starting construction after 2016. Specifically, the PTC will phase down in increments of 20 percentage points per year for projects starting construction in 2017 (80% PTC), 2018 (60%), and 2019 (40%).

    • State policies help direct the location and amount of wind power development, but current policies cannot support continued growth at recent levels. As of July 2016, RPS policies existed in 29 states and Washington D.C. Of all wind capacity built in the United States from 2000 through 2015, roughly 51% is delivered to load-serving entities with RPS obligations. Among just those wind projects built in 2015, however, this proportion fell to 24%. Existing RPS programs are projected to require average annual renewable energy additions of roughly 3.7 GW/year through 2030, only a portion of which will come from wind. These additions are well below the average growth rate in wind power capacity in recent years.

    • System operators are implementing methods to accommodate increased penetrations of wind energy, but transmission and other barriers remain. Studies show that wind energy integration costs are almost always below $12/MWh—and often below $5/MWh—for wind power capacity penetrations of up to or even exceeding 40% of the peak load of the system in which the wind power is delivered. System operators and others continue to implement a range of methods to accommodate increased wind energy penetrations and reduce barriers to deployment: treating wind as dispatchable, increasing wind’s capability to provide grid services, revising ancillary service market design, balancing area coordination, and new transmission investment. About 1,500 miles of transmission lines came on-line in 2015—less than in previous years. The wind industry, however, has identified 15 near-term transmission projects that—if all were completed—could carry 52 GW of additional wind capacity.

    Future Outlook

    With the five-year phased-down extension of the PTC, annual wind power capacity additions are projected to continue at a rapid clip for several years. Near-term additions will also be driven by improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technologies, which continue to yield very low power sales prices. Growing corporate demand for wind energy and state-level policies are expected to play important roles as well, as might utility action to proactively stay ahead of possible future environmental compliance obligations. As a result, various forecasts for the domestic market show expected capacity additions averaging more than 8,000 MW/year from 2016 to 2020. Projections for 2021 to 2023, however, show a downturn in additions as the PTC progressively delivers less value to the sector. Expectations for continued low natural gas prices, modest electricity demand growth, and lower near-term demand from state RPS policies also put a damper on growth expectations, as do inadequate transmission infrastructure and competition from solar energy in certain regions of the country. At the same time, the potential for continued technological advancements and cost reductions enhance the prospects for longer-term growth, as does burgeoning corporate demand for wind energy and longer-term state RPS requirements. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, depending on its ultimate fate, may also create new markets for wind. Moreover, new transmission in some regions is expected to open up high-quality wind resources to development. Given these diverse underlying potential trends, wind capacity additions— especially after 2020—remain uncertain.

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    QUICK NEWS, August 22: Having Children In A Time Of Climate Change; Tips On Picking Solar Panels; 4 Things To Think About Before Buying An EV

    Having Children In A Time Of Climate Change Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?

    Jennifer Ludden, August 18, 2016 (National Public Radio)

    Editor’s note: This is a deeply thoughtful piece worth taking a full-length look at.

    …[Because of climate change, philosopher Travis Rieder of the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics is suggesting to college students that they think hard about having children, about how many they should have, and about adoption because they have] a moral duty to future generations that will live amid the climate devastation being created now…[His wide Sadiye] wanted a big family…But by the time Sadiye began feeling ready for motherhood, Travis' research had delved into the morality of adoption, which led to the ethics of procreation and to its impact on the climate…By midcentury, possibly before, the average global temperature is projected to rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius, the point scientists and world leaders agree would trigger cataclysmic consequences. Last year's historic Paris climate agreement falls short of preventing that…Adding to that challenge, the world is expected to add several billion people in the next few decades…[Without dramatic action], the world is on track to hit 4 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century, and worse beyond that…[But can you actually expect people to forgo something as deeply personal as having children? To deny the biological imperative that's driven civilization? …” click here for more

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    Tips On Picking Solar Panels To be Solar, or not to be? Part 2: What solar panels should I choose?

    John Fitzgerald Weaver, August 21, 2016 (electrek)

    “…That solar panels allows us to collect photons from the skies and drive – literally if it’s an electric vehicle – our modern world is almost magical…[After considering a house’s structural readiness for a rooftop array, it is necessary to decide what hardware you want to include – solar panels, inverters and racking are the three main components to a system…[The solar panel decision comes down to how much electricity you want and how much up front money] you want to spend…Premium manufacturers like SunPower, Kyocera and SolarWorld have products that have been steadily generating electricity for 30 years and more. Any panel in the top ten list by volume is probably a safe investment…The most efficient product that you and I have access to is SunPower’s 21.5% X Series…[but] they cost 2.5 times the best priced Tier 1 panels on the market…The end argument for efficiency comes down to a dance between need and price…[There should also be a warranty on power production and hardware but there is no reason to] wait for the latest and greatest technology that is just around the corner…” click here for more

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    4 Things To Think About Before Buying An EV Thinking about buying an electric car? A 4-point decision guide; A 4-point decision guide; A decision’s got to be made. Is an electric car the right choice?

    John O’Dell, August 14, 2016 (Christian Science Monitor)

    “…If you are considering either a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) that runs on electricity only, or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) that has a shorter all-electric range and then switches to using a mix of electric and gasoline powertrains…[Think about what] driving green worth…[as well as noneconomic reasons like air quality and] dependence on oil…[Next, think about how far you need to drive. But] having to drive long distances is the exception for most drivers. AAA in 2015 found that the average motorist drives 29.2 miles per day…[Then, think about what the car will be used for because a] plug-in hybrid might be a better choice as a family car...An all-electric car can fit into a one-car lifestyle if you use it primarily as a commuter car. If you want to go on a road trip, you can always rent a car…[Finally, think about charging because charging can take up to 17 hours with a normal 120-volt household outlet but] about four hours to charge at 240 volts if it has a 24 kWh battery pack…” click here for more

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    Saturday, August 20, 2016

    Dirty Talk About Big Oil’s Dirty Tactics

    This is vulgar but so is Big Oil’s spin. And when it comes to spin, Big Oil has the advantage because it has the money to grease the works. From Last Week Tonight via YouTube

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    Whose Land? Whose Climate? Whose Future?

    Climate change warriors are winning the war against coal but there is a big chunk of ground they need to retake from the enemy. From Climate Reality via YouTube

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    100% New Energy To Beat Big Oil and Big Coal

    This is the goal. The work is ahead. The need has never been greater. From Greenpeace Africa via YouTube

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    Friday, August 19, 2016

    Netherlands May Ban Combustion-Powered Cars

    Climate change: Netherlands on brink of banning sale of petrol-fuelled cars; 'We need to phase out CO2 emissions and we need to change our pattern of using fossil fuels if we want to save the Earth,' says a Dutch Labour Party member

    Jess Staufenberg, August 18, 2016 (UK Independent)

    “…If the measures proposed by…[the Netherlands Labour Party to ban the sale of petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars by 2025] are finally passed, it would join Norway and Denmark in making a concerted move to develop its electric car industry…[B]oth India and China have demanded that citizens use their cars on alternate days only to reduce the exhaust fume production which is causing serious health problems for the populations of both nations…According to Quartz, sales of electric cars have surged in the Netherlands with an all-time high last December. Meanwhile, the country has one of the lowest levels of CO2 emissions from new cars in the European Union…Norway has hit its target of selling 50,000 electric cars three years ahead of its own target, in part owing to strong financial…One point of concern for the Netherlands will be ensuring the current design of electric cars can be adequately scaled-up for densely populated urban environments…” click here for more

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    Wind Looking Ever Greater In Great Britain

    Britain's vast national gamble on wind power may yet pay off

    Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 14 August 2016 (UK Telegraph)

    “…Opposition to wind power from the conservative press, Tory backbenchers, and free market economists dates] to the 1990s and early 2000s when…[taxpayer subsidies went to undependable, low-output pre-modern turbines but the cost] calculus is starting to vindicate Britain's vast investment…The UK is already world leader in offshore wind. The strategic choice now is whether to go for broke, tripling offshore capacity to 15 gigawatts (GW) by 2030…Scale is the crucial factor in slashing costs, so [the gamble is worth taking. New] turbines are five times taller than their primitive 20th Century ancestors, reaching 720 feet and [reliably] generating seven or eight megawatts (MW) each…The biggest offshore companies have together vowed to cut costs to €80 per MWh - or £69 - by 2025…[which will be close to the UK] wholesale price of electricity…The industry's research arm Inwind is already drawing up plans for the next generation of 10-20 MW turbines. The Sandia National Laboratories in the US are exploring 50 MW monsters…that could in theory halve costs again…” click here for more

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