NewEnergyNews: BREAKING: CLOUDS OVER ‘MILLION SOLAR ROOFS’

NewEnergyNews

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

Every day is Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 5 (continued from yesterday)
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 6
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 7
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 8
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, April 17:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 1
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 2
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 3
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 4
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: NEW ENERGY POSSIBILITIES – THE MICHIGAN EXAMPLE
  • QUICK NEWS, April 16: THE RACE AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE; THE FAST RISING POTENTIAL OF U.S. NEW ENERGY; BIG TEXAS WIND SHRINKS ELECTRICITY MRKT PRICE
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE MONEY IN NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, April 15: WORLD WIND TO BOOM THRU 2014; NAT GAS AND SOLAR WERE 75% OF U.S. 2013 NEW POWER; MAINE OFFICIALLY AFFIRMS SMART METERS’ SAFETY
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THIS COULD BE THE REAL VALUE OF SOLAR
  • QUICK NEWS, April 14: DE-RISKED RENEWABLES HAVE MORE INVESTORS THAN DEALS; THE MYTH OF CONSOLIDATION IN SOLAR; TEXAS BREAKS MORE WIND RECORDS
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • Weekend Video: Bill Maher On What’s Happening In The Oceans
  • Weekend Video: The Human Disharmony In The Climate System Symphony
  • Weekend Video: A Few Thoughts About Solar 2.0
  • --------------------------

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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • 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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    Your intrepid reporter

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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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  • Monday, March 19, 2007

    BREAKING: CLOUDS OVER ‘MILLION SOLAR ROOFS’

    CLOUDS OVER ‘MILLION SOLAR ROOFS’
    by Herman K. Trabish, March 19, 2007 (Exclusive to NewEnergyNews)

    Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger’s “Million Solar Roofs” legislation, signed with so much fanfare last fall, has become an impediment to the installation of solar energy systems, according to people who work in the field.

    “It’s a disaster,” says Doug Korthoff, of EE Solar in Pomona, about the California Solar Initiative (now known as CSI, and known during its legislative gestation as Senate Bill 1 or SB1).
    Korthoff described paperwork that jumped from 5 pages to 50 pages, excessive red tape and destructive redundant inspection requirements in the new legislation. But the worst problem may be ambiguities and reductions in rebate programs designed as incentives for homeowners to purchase solar energy systems.

    “One of the effects of SB1 was to transfer responsibility for solar administration from the California Energy Commission to the local regulated utilities, such as SCE, PGE and Sempra, and to add new regulations to programs already in place at the municipal utilities such as LA DWP, Burbank, Anaheim, Pasadena…” Korthoff said in a email. “SCE, for example, is still working on a “DRAFT” set of guidelines, which puts all current rebate requests at risk since changes in the past have often been retroactive and punitive. It’s going on three months into the new program, and procedures are not yet solidified…”

    Korthoff used the example of a $40,000 solar installation to illustrate the problem with the new rebate system. Prior to the institution of CSI, “…the customer only had to pay $30,000, the $10,000 rebate was sent directly to the installer, meaning that the homeowner only had to come up with the lesser amount. Often, this was critical, so that the solar customer only had to borrow the smaller amount…Both the installer and the customer knew, at the time of contract signing, what the rebate would be, what the cost of the system would be, and what the output was certified to be.

    ”Now, with CSI's Performance-Based system, the rebate amount depends on dividing the solar system up into planes, calculating the angle of each plane to the ecliptic, allowing for the orientation and for shading, and then using a conversion factor…Since each as-built system varies…and some of these angles cannot be calculated with certainty until the system is built, there is almost always, in practice, a difference between the original estimate…and the final estimation (which is verified by an on-site inspector and inclinometer)…the rebate amount may eventually vary, depending on who does the calculations…from $8,500 to $12,500. This changes the customer cost…and vitiates the credibility of the bid.

    ”The installer is in the awkward position of having to go back to the customer and tell them that the bill is off…sometimes in the thousands of dollars, or…eat the difference. The final rebate amount, under CSI, is often not known until the second of the final inspections.”

    Noah Golden, of Golden Energy in West Los Angeles, has a different take on the legislation. He describes the new requirements as “very, very administratively burdensome” and “dizzyingly complex.” “Handling the paperwork end of the business has always been hard and it just got harder.” He estimates that the regulations will require 10 to 15 hours of paperwork per installation. “There’s no way it hasn’t increased the cost we pass on to the consumer,” he says.

    But Golden stresses the good intentions of the legislation. “People in the solar world have so much integrity, they designed legislation with the noble goal of guaranteeing that every system be great.” He insists that the problems can be worked out. “I call it a solution in search of a problem,” he says. “The standards are to protect the public and the technology.”

    He suggests it might be more effective to design an incentive program modeled on the one in Germany, where compensation is not provided for the purchase of the system but for energy produced. But Golden rejects the idea of any nefarious intent on the part of the utilities. “I have no doubt CSI was supposed to spur the growth of solar energy. But it is impossible to think the utilities don’t have a divided soul because they are in business to distribute electricity at a profit.”

    Golden also distinguishes between the California Energy Commission’s “New Solar Homes Partnership” which he contends is working out well (at least in San Diego, where he is familiar with it) and CSI. He argues that the difference may be in administration. “Partnership” administration, Golden says, is mediated by a more neutral energy regulatory office.

    One indication that Golden’s optimistic belief that difficulties can be worked out is right can be found in a letter on the California Solar Energy Industry Association (CALSEIA) website from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) President Michael R. Peevey to California Assemblyman John J. Benoit acknowledging a discrepancy in electricity rates arising for CSI customers and pledging to resolve it.

    Patrick Redgate, of AMECO Solar in Long Beach, and a CALSEIA board member, does not share Golden’s optimism. Though he has not often communicated with Korthoff, he has reached a similar conclusion. “I have renamed the CSI the California Solar Infarction…” he wrote in an email. “The program is a classic example of bureaucratism gone wild and features the combined objectives of an unholy alliance determined to keep solar in the domain of the utilities, rather than adopters…This program will not help our industry or consumers…”

    Redgate, a 32-year veteran of the solar industry, recounted, in a telephone interview, the recent history of the solar industry in California. He cited three major battles between the utilities and the solar industry. Utilities won early restrictions limiting solar installers’ customer base (to 0.5% of the market); utilities unsuccessfully sought an “exit fee” paid by solar adopters to utilities for leaving the grid in 2003; and, just 6 weeks ago, utilities were denied the right to claim clean energy credits earned by solar adopters for trading in carbon markets. CSI was the culmination of this history and a political tug-of-war between Governor Schwartzenegger and the legislature, out of which came a complicated and inadequate bill, Redgate said.

    Such efforts have left the utilities, as the optimistic Golden even pointed out, with nothing to gain from supporting solar energy. Redgate agrees. CSI is not necessarily, in his view, a nefarious plot by the utilities to discourage solar. It is the result of a long process of legislative compromises and struggles, which culminated in flawed legislation. As a result, according to internal industry figures cited by Redgate, California solar installations are sharply down in 2007. The contention between the PUC and the solar industry, which Peevey has pledged to resolve, does not leave Redgate optimistic. “It’s already legislated,” he says.

    A California-wide CSI Program Forum is scheduled for April 2 at the PG & E Auditorium in San Francisco where, Redgate says, many of these complaints will be aired. Whether the problems can be rectified, however, remains to be seen.

    1 Comments:

    At 3:24 PM, Anonymous n6ac said...

    As a homeowner who was ready to go solar, may I express my deep disappointment with the governor and the legislature of California. While spouting platitudes of environmental leadership, they have set up roadblocks to real conservation to favor the big gens. And this article did not point out that small residential solar users would actually be billed higher than before the installation!

     

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