NewEnergyNews: TEXAS: LIGHTS ALMOST WENT OUT; FLORIDA: LIGHTS WENT OUT

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: RENEWABLES IN THE COMING ARAB WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 15: SOLAR SUCCEEDING ON PRICE; EVEN MORE WIND THAT HONDA EXPECTED; THE HUGE UNRECOGNIZED BENEFITS OF EFFICIENCY
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Climate Change For The Birds
  • Weekend Video: The Evidence Mounts
  • Weekend Video: Colbert On Birds And Climate Change
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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 THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NOW CO2 TOO HIGH FOR PLANTS AND OCEANS TO ABSORB
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NEW ENERGY IS THE WORLD’S BEST OPTION
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-SWEDEN WINNING SCANDINAVIAN WIND RACE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA DISPLAYS SOLAR'S VERSATILITY
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Sept. 11:

  • TTTA Thursday-GETTING GREEN BY MIXING RED AND BLUE
  • TTTA Thursday-PRICEWATERHOUSE COOPERS’ CLIMATE CHANGE NUMBERS
  • TTTA Thursday-THE RACE FOR EV DOMINANCE
  • TTTA Thursday-THE BIG FUTURE FOR ZERO ENERGY BUILDINGS
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE 2013 U.S. DISTRIBUTED WIND MARKET
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 10: A WAY TO INVEST IN WIND ENERGY; SOLAR POWER TOWERS GET SAFER; TEST COMING FOR GIANT TURBINE BLADE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: COMPARING SOLAR IN JAPAN AND THE U.S.
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 9: CLIMATE CHANGE TO GET MORE THAN HALF OF ALL BIRDS; U.S. OFFSHORE WIND STARTS BUILDING; THE EMERGENCE OF COMMUNITY SOLAR
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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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  • Monday, March 03, 2008

    TEXAS: LIGHTS ALMOST WENT OUT; FLORIDA: LIGHTS WENT OUT

    When a drop in Texas wind energy facilities’ production on February 26 forced The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s grid operator, to shuffle energy supplies around, the Operations Center sent out an email: "This situation means that there is a heightened risk of ... regular customers being dropped through rotating outages, but that would occur only if further contingencies occur, and only as a last resort to avoid the risk of a complete blackout…"

    In other words, “Don’t worry, everything’s fine, we have plans for just such a contingency…”

    Earlier the same day, human error at a Florida Power & Light (FPL) switching station took two nuclear facilities, a natural gas facility and two other plants offline, causing a widespread power failure affecting approximately 2.2 million people.

    FPL president Armando Olivera: "We don't know, still, why that particular employee took it upon himself to disable both sets of relays…"

    The drop in wind was foreseeable, predictable and manageable. Human error, though surely foreseeable, is unpredictable. So here’s the question: Does U.S. leadership going forward choose to build an energy infrastructure consisting of New Energy with manageable intermittency issues? Or nuclear power plants and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facilities that become potential disasters in the event of an unpredictable and statistically unlikely but eventually inevitable human error of greater consequence?

    In the short term, the next quarter-century, vested economic interests will hold their places in the market. There will be new nuclear plants. A license application moved forward this past week. And it is to the credit of the Florida nuclear facilities that they handled the shutdown safely. Considering the potential consequences of a nuclear accident, it is indeed a good and fortunate thing that everything went well and the nuclear industry insists its plants are now safer than ever.

    There will also likely be new coal plants in the next quarter-century, though perhaps not before a system of carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) becomes mandatory for them
    (see KANSAS REJECTS EMISSIONS) or at least economically necessary as a result of a cap-and-trade system (see CALIFORNIANS FIGHTING CAP-AND-TRADE). Coal is ambitiously developing and testing CCS technology.

    It was North Texas wind that finally saved the situation at ERCOT. It took some time to manage the “interruptible” customers, find out first-choice back-up energy supplies were unavailable and shift the North Texas power. Newer levels of wind prediction are available but were not yet in use last week. But there will soon be better ways to know of such wind changes in advance and mediate with other wind energy sources. Solar energy and wave energy will eventually be available to supplement wind, too, and there will soon be ways to store solar- and wind-generated electricity against periodically lagging supplies or suddenly peaking demand.

    Leadership is about setting long-term goals, like when JFK pointed to the moon and when President Truman established a cold war doctrine. The upcoming change to new leadership offers an opportunity to imagine an energy infrastructure for the 21st century and create energy policies to move the country in that direction. Right now, there is no perfect choice. Representatives of Old Energy (coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear) will complain that New Energy offers problems like underdevelopment and intermittency. Old Energy’s problems, global climate change and nuclear nightmare, are all too well known.

    Tuesday, February 26, the citizens of Texas and Florida and the rest of the country got a chance to compare the quality of those problems. It was not the first look and it will not be the last. Given an overburdened, constrained economy and the nation’s many competing needs, the decision is this: What kind of energy infrastructure does the nation build for its future? Not yet perfected or widely-used New Energies like wind, solar, wave and biofuels? Or widely-used but presently destructive and potentially dangerous Old Energies?


    ERCOT is proudly independent. Florida is hanging off the end of the Eastern Interconnect. (click to enlarge)

    State almost saw rolling blackouts Tuesday night
    February 28, 2008 (AP via Houston Chronicle)
    and
    Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency
    Eileen O'Grady (w/Carol Bishopric), February 28, 2008 (Reuters)
    and
    Human error caused widespread power failures in Florida, state’s largest electric utility says
    March 1, 2008 (AP via International Herald Tribune)
    and
    FPL Group Says Human Error Caused Power Outage
    Matthew Dalton, February 29, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires via CNN Money)

    WHO
    The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT); Florida Power & Light (FPL)

    A lot of that Eastern Interconnect, including lines into Florida, is heavily congested. (click to enlarge)

    WHAT
    - Texas: A dramatic drop in wind energy generation in conjunction with a failure of other energy providers to meet scheduled production and a spike in demand led to a stage two emergency and cutoffs to industrial clients whose power arrangements include lower rates in exchange for “interruptible” service.
    - Florida: An engineer disabled two levels of system protection to check a malfunctioning switch. During the check, there was a short, a noise and smoke that was read as fire, setting off a response that, without the two levels of protection, led to a cascading shutdown.

    WHEN
    - Texas: The event began at 6:41 PM, the “interruptible” service was restored within 90 minutes and the event was history by 9 PM.
    - Florida: The power outage began around 1 PM and was essentially smoothed out by 8 PM.

    Interestingly, FPL is one of the biggest boosters of wind energy. (click to enlarge)

    WHERE
    - Texas: The West Texas wind fell off and soon North Texas power was shifted to replace it.
    - Florida: 26 of FPL’s 435 transmission lines and 38 of 600 substations were affected. The two Turkey Point nuclear reactors and a natural gas unit at Turkey Point, as well as Indiantown and Lauderdale plants shut down protectively. The outage was from Dade County to the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville regions.
    - ERCOT is based in the Texas capital of Austin.
    - FPL is based in Miami.

    WHY
    - Both ERCOT and FPL have customers who voluntarily sacrifice power at times such Tuesday in exchange for lower overall rates and both lost power on Tuesday, in Texas for approximately 90 minutes and in Florida for approximately 7 hours.
    - Because colder temperatures moved into the region, West Texas wind dropped from 170 megawatts to 300 megawatts Tuesday evening. At the same time, demand jumped from 31,200 megawatts to 35, 612 megawatts. Normal emergency response procedures put 1100 megawatts onto the grid within 10 minutes.
    - In conjunction with new capacities to anticipate drops in wind, new grid technologies make it possible to link wind farms in a 500 square mile area to eliminate the impact of wind variability.
    - FPL officials are investigating the employee. They explain he probably needed to disable one level of protection in order to test and repair a switch. They have no explanation as to why he disabled two levels.

    FPL, in fact, owns a lot of wind power in Texas and is building more. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Susan Williams Sloan, spokeswoman, American Wind Energy Association: "When the wind is not blowing somewhere, it's always blowing somewhere else…"
    - Armando Olivera, President, FPL: "While the investigation is ongoing, to this point we have no indication that there are any deficiencies with the design of our facilities or with our maintenance procedures…"

    1 Comments:

    At 7:58 AM, Blogger Tom Gray said...

    For a good followup on the Texas utility system event, see the March 1 Houston Chronicle article.

    When the wind stops blowing and wind farm electricity generation drops, the process usually takes hours. By contrast, other power plants may go out of service instantaneously when a problem occurs. Wind forecasting, which could have helped address the ERCOT situation, can be and is being used by utility system operators to manage wind on their systems, and will become standard practice as the use of this clean, renewable energy source continues to grow.

    Regards,
    Thomas O. Gray
    American Wind Energy Association
    www.powerofwind.org
    www.awea.org

     

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