NewEnergyNews: FIRST SOLAR: FIRST IN SUN, FIRST IN EARNINGS

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: IMPORTS, EXPORTS AND NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, August 20: COURTS DISMISS 98% OF WIND HEALTH COMPLAINTS; TURNING OLD CAR BATTERIES INTO NEW SOLAR PANELS; OCEAN ENERGY PIONEERS
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA
  • QUICK NEWS, August 19: LOW-PRICED WIND ENERGY ATTRACTS UTILITIES; TEXAS SUBURBS BLOCK SOLAR; WHAT UTILITY CUSTOMERS WANT
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE THREATS TO OLD ENERGIES AROUND THE WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, August 18: GERMANY UPS GRID STABILITY WITH NEW ENERGY ; U.S. SOLAR MANUFACTURING TO RISE; TEXAS LEADS U.S. WIND BOOM
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Buy Or Lease Rooftop Solar?
  • Weekend Video: The Sound Of The Wind
  • Weekend Video: Why Energy Efficiency?
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CLIMATE CHANGE IN CHINA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-RUSSIA-CAPTURED CRIMEA DIALS DOWN NEW ENERGY
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-A NEW LOOK AT THE WORLD’S OCEAN ENERGIES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WORLD BANK PLEDGES $5BIL FOR AFRICA NEW ENERGY
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 14:

  • TTTA Thursday-KELLOGG CALLS FOR LOW CARBON CORN FLAKES
  • TTTA Thursday-SIERRA CLUB HAILS WIND CHAMPIONS IN CONGRESS
  • TTTA Thursday-THE BOOM IN SOLAR CARPORTS
  • TTTA Thursday-EV BATTERIES GET SECOND LIFE
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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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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

  • ---------------
  • Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    FIRST SOLAR: FIRST IN SUN, FIRST IN EARNINGS

    The Wall Street Journal writer in this good news about First Solar Inc. raises the oft-repeated canard about solar energy’s land requirements: “One drawback of solar technology is that it takes lots of modules spread over a large geographic area to make a significant amount of electricity. Project costs are driven by land and equipment costs. By contrast, a gas-fired power plant makes vast amounts of electricity from a small footprint. Fuel, not equipment or land, drives the cost.”

    A small footprint? Those gas plants are big facilities and the ones to be equipped with emissions-capture equipment are going to be bigger. And what about gas pipeline rights-of-way? That's more land. And gas fields. That’s all land usage. And the gas drilling equipment, the pipelines, the plant hardware - that costs less than solar modules? Not likely. And what about the costs of carbon capture equipment? And then there are the LNG factors necessary to keep the U.S. burning gas as domestic supplies dwindle: A special fleet of ships, offshore terminals, undersea pipelines...How anybody can think solar installations require significantly more costs and space than all that is utterly baffling.

    NewEnergyNews reported First Solar’s stunning 2007 growth early in February in
    FIRST SOLAR & IBERDROLA JOIN BIGGEST ENERGY when PFC Energy recognized First Solar as the ENERGY COMPANY with the biggest growth in stock value for 2007.

    Now the Wall Street Journal recognizes First Solar for having the biggest stock value growth of ANY COMPANY. The First Solar stock value grew 795.2%. No, that’s not a typo. SEVEN HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE (point two) percent.

    First Solar’s growth was no doubt buoyed by a general boom in New Energy and a specific expansion of impressive proportions in the solar energy industry. Driven by favorable state and federal policies, solar module manufacturers are making and selling their products as fast as their capacities allow.

    When First Solar’s newest plants come on line in 2009, the company will have a one gigawatt/year capacity, 3 times what it can produce now. It is aiming to wholesale modules at $1/watt by 2012, which would put it at price parity with other power sources without subsidies. The price it was producing modules at in late 2007 was calculated at $2.48/watt.

    A caution: While investment in New Energy is expected to continue expanding, First Solar’s growth has been extraordinary and it would be unreasonable to expect any company to sustain it.

    Second caution: Federal Investment Tax Credits (ITCs) will expire at the end of 2008 and so far the U.S. Senate has refused to extend them. Absent such policy support, there may be a contraction in the industry’s growth.

    Learn more about how to support solar energy at
    : WHAT SOLAR NEEDS

    First Solar has taken the business principle of specialization to heart and focused on the newest kind of solar panel material, thin film. (click to enlarge)

    Best 1-Year Performer: First Solar
    Rebecca Smith, February 25, 2008 (Wall Street Journal)

    WHO
    First Solar Inc.; The Wall Street Journal (WSJ); Wedbush Morgan Securities (Al Kaschalk, analyst)

    WHAT
    WSJ recognized First Solar as the company with the single biggest stock growth last year.

    WHEN
    - Stock value when First Solar first went public in late 2006: $20/value.
    - Stock value peak in late December 2007: $283
    - First Solar was founded in 1999.

    Thin film solar is growing so fast the manufacturers are literally selling the panels as fast as they can make them. (click to enlarge)

    WHERE
    - First Solar ranked number one among the 1,000 companies on its Shareholder Scoreboard.
    - First Solar plants: (1) Perrysburg, Ohio – 3 high volume lines, opened in 2003; (2) Frankfurt-Oder, Germany – 4 lines, opened in 2007; (3) Malaysia – 4 unfinished plants, 16 lines, expected to open in 2009.

    WHY
    - $1,000 in First Solar at the end of 2006 = $8,952 at the end of 2007.
    - $1000 in in the Standard & Poor 500 index at the end of 2006 = $1,055 at the end of 2007.
    - First Solar presently has orders for $6 billion in solar modules. That will be most of First Solar’s output capacity through 2012.
    - First Solar revenue quadrupled in 2007. Earnings were 40 times the previous year’s earnings.
    - There are reasons such levels of expansion may be hard to sustain over a longer term. Wedbush Morgan Securities issued a hold rating for the stock in late January.

    Schematic of the First Solar Cadminum Telluride thin film construction. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Rebecca Smith, Wall Street Journal: “Call it a year in the sun.”
    - Al Kaschalk, analyst, Wedbush Morgan on First Solar’s strategy in the marketplace: "They're picking off the edges of the market where they can help [boost the power] grid…"

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