NewEnergyNews: 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008

NewEnergyNews

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

The new challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: A UTILITY IN THE MAKING: THE MUNICIPALIZATION OF BOULDER, COLORADO
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT NATIONAL HIGH VOLTAGE TRANSMISSION SYSTEM?
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: THE STATE OF THE U.S. WIND INDUSTRY (AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR UTILITIES)
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: HOW SACRAMENTO'S PUBLIC UTILITY IS GETTING IN THE RESIDENTIAL SOLAR BUSINESS
  • -------------------

    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

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: HAS APS INVENTED A ROOFTOP SOLAR BUSINESS MODEL FOR UTILITIES?
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: THE GRID NEEDS INDEPENDENT DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM OPERATORS
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: HOW SHOULD UTILITIES VALUE SOLAR?
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: IS PUERTO RICO THE NEW POSTER CHILD FOR THE UTILITY DEATH SPIRAL?
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Reindeer Stresses
  • Weekend Video: Pink Fracking
  • Weekend Video: Fighting Duke For Solar
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: ARE NATURAL GAS AND RENEWABLES THE FUTURE OF TEXAS' POWER GRID?
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: COULD FERC PUT A PRICE ON CARBON?
  • --------------------------

    --------------------------

    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

    -------------------

    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

    -------------------

    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.

    -------------------

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

  • ---------------
  • Thursday, July 31, 2008

    SOUTH DAKOTA GETS IN THE WIND GAME IN A HUMONGOUS WAY!

    South Dakota is about to become host to the biggest wind farm ANYWHERE. This is the kind of humongous news the wind energy industry has been awaiting expectantly for some time.

    As T. Boone Pickens has been so vigorously pointing out this summer
    (see Saturday Video: The Problem and the Pickens Plan), the Midwestern plains – from the Texas panhandle to the Canadian border – have the richest land wind assets in the world. It was inevitable they would be developed. The only question was: When? Now we know the answer: Now.

    Clipper Windpower and BP Alternative Energy are going to add 3,500 megawatts to the previously announced 1,550-megawatt Titan (formerly Rolling Thunder) wind project. Although news reports indicate Titan will be ONE of the biggest wind installations in the world, NewEnergyNews believes it to be THE biggest now planned.

    This is not the end of the story, however. This is the beginning. The next chapter: Transmission.

    When John D. Rockefeller went into the oil business, he discovered he had to have a deal with the railroads in order to get his oil to markets. Likewise, the producing monsters now coming onto the wind energy playing field are going to need a way to get their product to market. That means a big new development of wires.

    A big new development of wires means a big face-off with a lot of individuals who may like New Energy but aren’t necessarily going to like the idea of wires in their backyards. It’s called NIMBY: Not In My BackYard.

    Just like New Energy needs new transmission, new transmission needs new ideas. Here are a pair.

    Solution 1:
    Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs). Texas wrote the book on CREZs. Localities can work out routes where New Energy and new transmission are welcome. Where there is no NIMBYism, just turn the entrepreneurs loose.

    Solution 2: People are much more likely to welcome wires for wind if they are getting some direct reward for them, a share of the profits or reduced electricity rates forever.

    When Big Oil went into the Middle East big time in the 1940s and 1950s, it ran roughshod over the local populations on the assumption it was doing them a favor by developing their natural resource. Result: Big Oil is still hated in the Middle East. So are the countries Big Oil came from.

    Point: New transmission can either treat locals like partners or roll roughshod over them. Either way gets long lasting results.


    Look at all that pink (good), purple (excellent) and red (outstanding) wind! (click to enlarge)

    Clipper Windpower, BP to develop 5050 MW wind farm in US
    Edward.Mcallister,
    July 30, 2008 (Thomson Financial via Forbes)
    and
    Clipper says strikes US windfarm pact with BP
    Hsu Chuang Khoo (w/Greg Mahlich) July 30, 2008 (Reuters)
    and
    Clipper Windpower and BP Alternative Energy Form Joint Venture
    Mary Gates, July 30, 2008 (Clipper Windpower)

    WHO
    Clipper Windpower (James Dehlsen, Chief Executive; Doug Pertz, Chief Operating Officer); BP Alternative Energy

    WHAT
    Clipper and BP have formed a 50-50 joint venture to develop the Titan wind energy project, one of the biggest wind installations in the world.

    click to enlarge

    WHEN
    - Project development is underway.
    - September 30, 2008: Official closing and final pricing of joint venture.
    - 2007: Clipper produced 137 turbines, lost $192 million
    - 2008: Losses of an equal amount expected.
    - 2009: Expected to produce 350 turbines, profit anticipated.
    - 2010: Dramatic increase in profits anticipated.

    WHERE
    - The Titan project was formerly called Rolling Thunder.
    - The Rolling Thunder wind project is in Miller, South Dakota.

    WHY
    - BP will acquire 1,750 MW of wind assets from Clipper for ~$26.25 million.
    - Clipper will sell 2,020 of its 2.5-megawatt Liberty turbines to the joint venture.
    - Clipper’s current financial difficulties are due to rising costs for steel. As the prices evens over the next 2 years and various startup costs flatten, Clipper’s financials are expected to improve.
    - Clipper owns ~6000 other megawatts of capacity and is developing more major deals.

    Texas will be at 6,000 megawatts by the end of this year. South Dakota will get over 5,000 megawatts from this new installation. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - James Dehlsen, Chief Executive, Clipper: 'Clipper has continued to grow its development portfolio; prior to this transfer of 1,750 MW, Clipper had 10,500 MW of development assets…Clipper remains aggressive and motivated to further build and optimize the full potential of its portfolio.'
    - Doug Pertz, Chief Operating Officer, Clipper: "The tough times are behind us…We've turned the corner and anticipate breaking even in the second half. We still anticipate being profitable next year."

    UTILITIES VS. INSTALLERS IN THE SOLAR WORLD?

    California’s dynamic solar energy market has separated into 3 segments: The distributed home solar system “retail” market, the utility- and big-money dominated solar power plant “wholesale” market and the “’tweeners,” distributed but larger-scale systems for commercial-sized buildings.

    Utility giant Southern California Edison (SCE), a solar industry leader, wants to own and operate 1- to 2-megawatt systems on all those tweener rooftops. It introduced its first 250-megawatt distributed generation initiative earlier this year to much fanfare.

    Nothing is better for a company like solar industry star First Solar than orders of the size SCE placed to kick off its initiative, the largest such commitment by a U.S. utility.

    First Solar is only too happy to take the order. Recent announcements have it getting the go-ahead and starting installation of a 2-megawatt commercial rooftop, the first 2 megawatts in SCE’s big undertaking.

    First Solar also got the go-ahead on a 7.5 megawatt solar power plant in SCE’s region of the California desert, a project that may grow to 21 megawatts.

    It was orders like this, and being able to effectively meet them, that sent First Solar’s profit margin for 2nd quarter 2008 soaring to unexpected heights. Market and solar industry analysts had expected profits, but not 57% quarter-on-quarter growth in profits.

    Behind the glitz, however, there is a potential battle brewing between California solar system installers and SCE. The smaller companies, fearful SCE’s big initiative will draw resources allocated by the state’s
    California Solar Initiative (aka CSI or “million solar roofs”) breakthrough program away from them, have gone to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to exert the only leverage they have: The installers are demanding SCE’s access to CSI be limited.

    SCE has an obligation to install solar under the terms of California’s
    Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), which requires the state’s utilities to obtain 20% of their power from New Energy sources by 2010. The installers claim it is enough that SCE’s undertakings will contribute to meeting that obligation.

    SCE has a variety of size and volume advantages over the independent installers, including the ability to drive costs in the solar industry up by employing union installers. The independents also claim the SCE initiative is ratepayer-financed and amounts to a de facto subsidy to the utility. The fiercely independent installers therefore demand CSI rebates and other state incentives be reserved for retail customers instead of going in any part to the volume-oriented utilities.

    There can be little doubt other utilities will follow SCE into the tweener market, even if the installers’ challenge succeeds. It is another indication of solar industry consolidation and the weakening of the independents’ ability to keep the big utilities from taking over.

    NewEnergyNews can find no report of a decision from the CPUC on the installers’ challenge. Nevertheless, along with its announcement CPUC has granted First Solar permission to build the solar power plant, First Solar also announced it begun the 2-megawatt build for SCE. Do they know something about the CPUC’s decision the solar installers don’t know?

    How will the installers react? California solar installers are an organized and vociferous lot. Stay tuned.

    In a related story, First Solar is pursuing opportunities in Italy and France but not pursuing the legendary market in Germany or the booming market in Spain. Why? Germany is about to cut its subsidies (including its feed-in-tariff) and the world-leading market there is expected to fall off fast. Spain’s big market is considered inflated because of its feed-in-tariff and the government has just acted to cut it dramatically. More on feed-in-tariffs soon.


    SCE was just ranked as one of the best U.S. utilities for solar energy. (click to enlarge)

    First Solar 2nd-qrt net soars past view, shrs rise
    Nichola Groom (w/Jeffrey Benkoe, Toni Reinhold), July 30, 2008 (Reuters)
    and
    First Solar starts constructing panels for 2-megawatt Calif. rooftop plan, gets OK for plant
    July 16, 2008 (AP via CNN Money)

    WHO
    First Solar Inc (Mike Ahearn, Chief Executive Officer; Jens Meyerhoff, Chief Financial Officer); Southern California Edison (SCE);

    WHAT
    First Solar reported a higher-than-expected 57% quarter-on-quarter 2nd quarter 2008 profit. It announced the beginning of the first 2-megawatt installation in a 250-megawatt undertaking with SCE and it got approval on a 7.5-megawatt solar power plant that could expand to 21 megawatts.

    But is SCE's success these guys' loss? (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - SCE’s rooftop project, initiated with the 2-megawatt project begun July 14, would see installations developed over a 5-year period.
    - The initial project is scheduled to be ready for grid hookup in September.
    - First Solar went public in 2006 and its stock gained 795% in value in 2007. The stock value is up 7% for 2008 in a falling market.
    - The company’s first two production lines at its Malaysian plants are progressing faster than expected. Full capacity on the 1st line will be in 3rd quarter 2008. The 2nd line will begin production in 3rd quarter 2008 and get to full capacity by year’s end.

    WHERE
    - The 7.5- to 21-megawatt solar power plant will be in Blyth, Calif.
    - First Solar is based in Phoenix, AZ.
    - First Solar’s new plant in Malaysia, just on line, helped the company meet increased demand and up its profits.
    - First Solar is largely focusing on utility-scale projects in California and in stable European markets.

    Either way First Solar makes money. They're a little like Microsoft - no matter what, they make money. (click to enlarge)

    WHY
    - First Solar’s conversion efficiency got better in 2nd quarter 2008 as well, going from 10.6% to 10.7%.
    - First Solar 2nd quarter 2008 net income: $69.7 million (85 cents/ share) (analysts' estimate: 57 cents/share) 2nd quarter 2008 net income: $44.4 million (58 cents/share).
    - First Solar 2nd quarter 2008 revenue: $267 million (2nd quarter 2007: $77.2 million (analysts estimate: $217.3 million).
    - The new Malaysian plant did $47.4 million of the 2nd quarter sales.
    - First Solar expects 2008 sales of $1.175 billion to $1.225 billion. (Analysts estimate: $1.037 billion).
    - First Solar solar module output forecast upped to 470 - 485 megawatts from April forecast of 420 - 460 megawatts.

    QUOTES
    Mark Bachman, analyst, Pacific Crest: "Despite expectations being so high, they completely outdelivered again…"

    ARMY CUTTING CARBON ‘BOOTPRINT’

    The U.S. Army wants to be more “sustainable.” Is this a new recruiting strategy? Well, there was no point in “going green.”

    The truth: Turns out the Army thinks efficiency is more than just (as Vice President Cheney once condescendingly dubbed it) a sign of "personal virtue." The Army has come to see energy efficiency as a matter of life and death.

    The Army’s move to more efficient ways came out of the Iraq insurgency’s roadside bomb (Improvised Explosive Device, IED) attacks on convoys in the 2004 through 2006 period. The more energy efficient the Army became, the fewer fuel supply convoys were required. The fewer the convoys, the fewer the soldiers killed and maimed by IEDs.

    Tad Davis, deputy assistant secretary for environment, safety and occupational health, U.S. Army: "If we can reduce consumption on our forward operating bases by using renewable energy, let's say wind or solar instead of a diesel generator outside the tent ... then we can reduce the number of these supply convoys that need to come forward that are getting hit by these IEDs…"

    So the Army turned to base wind installations and battlefield solar materials and started using biodiesel in its generators.
    (See GREENING IRAQ THE HARD WAY)

    This offers (finally) a solution for how to drive Middle America to higher levels of efficiency: Line suburban commuter routes with punishing explosives.

    Not all that funny a joke. Sorry. But there IS an analogy with what the Army has gone through and where Middle America must go.

    After the Army started using New Energy, it realized the best way to improve energy use was to improve energy efficiency. It found a foam insulation surface spray and cut power consumed cooling forward desert bases in half.

    Just like the U.S. Army, saving what New Energy guru
    Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute calls “negawatts” is what Middle America can do most immediately and most effectively to ease the current energy crisis. As the Army discovered, the watts that don’t get burned are the cheapest watts of all – and none of them are imported.

    Efficiency isn't glamorous. Often the most important ideas aren't. But efficiency is the single most patriotic thing any citizen can attend to. Don't take NewEnergyNews's word for it - ask the Army.

    The Army is also moving to lightweight yet stronger and more durable carbon nanotube vehicle materials. An electric or plug-in hybrid electric Humvee is in the works.


    Self-powering field quarters require no fuel deliveries, risk no delivery missions. (click to enlarge)

    U.S. Army works to cut its carbon “bootprint”
    Deborah Zabarenko, July 27, 2008 (Reuters)

    WHO
    The U.S. Army (Tad Davis, deputy assistant secretary for environment, safety and occupational health); Enviance (Lawrence Goldenhersh, President)

    WHAT
    The Army is taking aggressive steps to decrease the generation of greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs), i.e., to reduce its “carbon bootprint.”

    Solar power, ready to deploy. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - The Army’s goal is to cut its GhGs 30% by 2015.
    - 2001: First push for environmental sustainability (Fort Bragg, North Carolina)
    - June 2008: The Army’s Enviance online emissions-tracking program went online.

    WHERE
    - The Army is discovering ways to cut GhGs at forward areas (Djibouti, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan) and on U.S. training ranges.
    - The Army’s online emissions-tracking program is in service at Fort Carson, Colorado.
    - The Army’s Enviance emissions-tracking program is used by corporations and utilities in 45 countries to track environmental and safety regulation compliance.

    WHY
    - First changes toward sustainability: changing training ranges. Fort Bragg mock towns and villages used in combat training were ~$400,000 to build. Now, made of recycled truck-sized shipping containers, they cost ~$25,000 and the shipping containers do not go into waste.
    - 85%+ of power at forward bases was used for air conditioning in (poorly insulated) tent sleeping quarters and to keep communications equipment cool in (poorly insulated) temporary buildings. Foam insulation sprayed directly on tent and temp building surfaces cut energy loss 45%.
    - The Army is now studying advanced carbon nanotube vehicle materials that sacrifice nothing in strength or durability but are dramatically more lightweight for next-generation Humvees or Bradley fighting vehicles.
    - The Enviance program shows that Fort Carson emits 205,000 tons of GhGs/year, the equivalent of a town of 25,000.

    PHEV: Plug-in Humvee Electric Vehicle. More of these and we wouldn't have to be there to begin with. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Tad Davis, deputy assistant secretary for environment, safety and occupational health, U.S. Army: "What I'm interested in doing is finding out what the greenhouse gas emissions, this carbon bootprint, are for the Army in two to three years at the latest…We want to emit less that do that, hand in hand with reducing energy consumption from fossil fuels."
    - Tad Davis, deputy assistant secretary for environment, safety and occupational health, U.S. Army: "There's emerging technology that is providing lighter-weight armor, so I think at some point ... you're going to see more hybrid vehicles in the tactical military fleet…"

    Wednesday, July 30, 2008

    SPECULATION LEGISLATION & INCENTIVES OR NOT, THE SMART MONEY IS ON NEW ENERGY

    The price of oil is finally dropping. Could the threat of action against speculators have moved them out of the futures market?

    A deadlocked Congress now teeters on the brink of a deal. Legislators may vote to do something about speculation and to extend the vital New Energy incentives or may leave D.C. for their summer break and the presidential conventions still yapping about oil drilling.

    Congressional inaction would be in spite of advice from experts like economist Hazel Henderson that speculation regulation is the only effective short-term action possible against high pump prices. Congressional inaction would also be in spite of predictions from New Energy entrepreneurs in the booming solar and wind industries that a failure to extend vital production tax credits (PTCs) and investment tax credits (ITCs) will likely cause a downturn in one of the nation’s few expanding sectors, a downturn expected to last well into 2009.

    The good news, sort of: If this nearly paralyzed-by-partisanship Congress does manage to find its way to legislative compromise, the deal looks like it will include New Energy incentives (PTCs and ITCs) and oil speculation regulation - in exchange for expanded oil drilling in protected areas.

    Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) seems focused on getting the vital New Energy incentives: "The number one issue for the American people is to do something about energy…And the number one thing we can do about energy that is meaningful, that will create lots of jobs, improve the economy and help the environment, is to do something with the renewables."

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky) office says there could be a deal by the end of the week. Senator McConnell is unlikely to give up anything without getting some oil drilling in return.

    President Bush was his usual conciliatory, constructive, penetrating self on Tuesday: "If we got a problem with not having enough oil, let's go after some oil right here in the United States of America in environmentally friendly ways…"

    The bad news, sort of: It is not at all clear these people are as interested in making a deal as they are in making speeches and positioning themselves for the fall election. Leaving this decision to the voters might seem to them the best solution (and it might very well be).

    In a new essay, economist Henderson offers further insights into the oil speculation tribulations and explains why the smart money will move to New Energy when speculating on oil is effectively controlled.

    Henderson: “We have lived through bubbles in art, antiques, jewelry, junk bonds, dot.coms and housing, as investors continually search for safety and diversification…Today, it's commodities – oil, corn, wheat, rice – that are in the news…”

    With a deep understanding of how the markets work, Henderson describes the way speculation has skewed the ability of traders to use commodities futures markets for what they evolved to do, which is to allow businesses to invest against future vicissitudes.

    In a classic case of politics making strange bedfellows, Henderson uses conservative Republican Alaska Senator Ted Stevens’ call for criminal prosecution of oil speculators to demonstrate how really dangerous unregulated speculation is. Stevens, now under investigation and threatened with criminal prosecution himself, would seem to have unique authority as to who or what is a threat requiring prosecution.

    Henderson wants regulation, not prosecution, regulation that will not disrupt commodities trading, only guide it to a higher level of effectiveness.

    Where will smart money go if speculating in oil futures is put off-limits?

    Not to currencies, Henderson predicts, not with the dollar in freefall.

    Not to corn, wheat, rice and other food crop futures, also seen as "immoral" and off-limits to speculation.

    Not, the daily headlines make it obvious, to real estate or banks.

    Yet institutional investors don’t have the option of putting fund money in their mattresses.

    Where should the money go?

    Henderson: “…my candidate for the best new asset class is all the entrepreneurial companies that make up the Sustainability Sector. Many of these have quietly out-performed the Dow and S&P indexes…”

    What she means is a variety of “…companies geared to the ecological and social sustainability of human societies and providing a healthier planet for our children…” Sounds like New Energy to NewEnergyNews. The kind of New Energy investments traded on small exchanges and, Henderson says, as yet unrecognized by investors.

    Henderson: “Obsolete accounting methods used by traders, asset managers and security analysts keep their minds hypnotized by the indicators of the dying, fossil-fueled Industrial Era.”

    The old “sectors” ( “Energy,” “Retail,” “Military,” “Health,” etc.) are incapable of categorizing investments in the “Sustainability” sector. The market has even failed to account for the shift of the newer “Technology” sector from digital investments to New Energy venture funding. The market's traditional “Energy” sector is still mainly taxpayer-subsidized oil, coal, gas and nuclear projects.

    Henderson: “…wind power (which added 35% of newly installed electricity in the US in 2007); solar (growing at 35% per year); geothermal (which is gearing up to power millions of homes in the US) are overlooked and have been largely ignored by mainstream financial media. Similarly, Whole Foods Markets and the growth of organics are buried under Wal-Mart, Target and Costco in ‘Retail’...”

    Henderson’s piece ends by pointing to information about “Sustainability” sector investing at
    Ethical Markets.

    Henderson has spent a lifetime ahead of the curve. She was responsible for the first U.S. air quality index notices – in the late 1960s. She was writing about solar energy in the 1970s and 80s. She has been involved in socially responsible investing for decades. Here again, with this idea about the “Sustainability” sector, she is taking the lead. But this time there is a market full of investors hungry for the information she is offering.

    Full disclosure:
    Ethical Markets is a NewEnergyNews sponsor.

    From StopOilSpeculationNow. (click to enlarge)

    Nervous Investors Searching For New Asset Classes
    Hazel Henderson, July 23, 2008 (© 2008 Other News)
    and
    Senate deadlocked over energy speculation bill
    Ayesha Rascoe (w/Marguerita Choy), July 29, 2008 (Reuters)

    WHO
    Paper players in the real commodities markets (ETFs (exchange-traded funds), hedge funds, pension funds, university endowments, etc.); Hedgers in real commodities

    WHAT
    While paper players speculate on commodities creating the impression of scarcity and driving prices up, players attempting to use the commodities as hedges against tempestuous business circumstances struggle to cope with markets that defy logic.

    From StopOilSpeculationNow. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - Institutional investors never expect to take delivery on commodities.
    - Hedgers buy and sell according to their real anticipated need for the commodities.
    - 2008 survey: 65% want more regulation of oil futures trading; 80% believe there is price manipulation.
    - Since 2002: The US dollar has lost ~1/3 of its value

    WHERE
    - StopOilSpeculationNow is a website dedicated to organizing opposition to the unregulated speculation and demanding action from the Commodity Futures Trading Commision (CFTC) and Congress.
    - Henderson’s nominated best new asset class is “hidden in plain sight,” obscured by a system that has not yet recognized their value, traded over-the-counter, on Nasdaq or smaller exchanges.

    WHY
    - Regulations that would control speculators without interrupting futures trading: (1) raise margins to 50% on contract purchases; (2) limit the amount of futures contracts; (3) add staff and enforcement measures for CFTC oversight.
    - Paper players are looking for the next good investment.
    - Food commodity speculation will be widely seen as immoral and off limits.
    - Currency trading is $2+ trillion/day, 90% speculation, volatile and with inflation rising worldwide.
    - Bonds are questionable investments due to rising inflation.

    From StopOilSpeculationNow. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Henderson: “Sure, demand is growing worldwide while supply may be peaking. The world is transitioning from the fossil-fueled Industrial Age to the emerging Solar Age as I predicted in my The Politics of the Solar Age (1981). But, the current price spike is also due to the $200 billion from speculators.”
    - Henderson: “Thankfully, all this is changing rapidly with the birth of new indexes for clean technology, renewable energy and other "green" and "ethical" mutual funds as well as new ETFs in wind energy, the fastest growing, cheapest new electricity source (one third the cost of building equivalent nuclear power plants). You can find all the best new newsletters and indexes at Ethical Markets

    WIND + WAVES IN GULF OF MEXICO

    Two New Energy companies with an interest in developing the Gulf of Mexico's wealth of resources are pooling their talents in an incredibly exciting venture.

    Hydro Green Energy LLC of Houston, TX, describes its technology as “hydrokinetic power systems.” Call it what they will, it is the harvesting of wave energy. Exciting enough on its own, it is literally only half the story.

    Hydro Green Energy has formed an agreement with Wind Energy Systems Technology Group (WEST), an offshore wind developer. Hydro Green Energy will use WEST platforms and lease areas to assess wave energy potentials in the Gulf.

    If all goes as expected, the two companies will develop a combination technology to simultaneously harvest wind AND wave energies. It is a brilliant and exciting and yet obvious synergy. The potential exists for the companies to pool investment in costly factors like transmission infrastructure. They can also cut costs for ongoing expenses like maintenance nearly in half. The combined output could be twice that harvested by either New Energy alone, doubling the production of an installation while dispersing the overhead.

    One early estimate puts the potential production capacity of a Gulf of Mexico (GOM) wind/wave installation at 5000 megawatts.

    If NewEnergyNews sees genius in this synergistic concept it might be because it was one of several potential New Energy combinations proposed here almost a year ago.
    (See WIND AND SOLAR TOGETHER IN WASHINGTON STATE)

    Artist's concept: One of several possible wind/wave energy configurations. (click to enlarge)

    Hydro Green, Wind Energy Systems to explore hybrid offshore power projects
    Ford Gunter, July 28, 2008 (Houston Business Journal)

    WHO
    Hydro Green Energy LLC (Wayne Krouse, Chairman/CEO); Wind Energy Systems Technology Group (WEST); the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); Quercus Trust

    WHAT
    Hydro Green Energy and WEST have formed an agreement that could lead to one of the world’s first combination offshore wind and wave energy projects.

    Artist's concept: One of several possible wind/wave energy configurations. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - Hydro Green Energy filed permit applications the week of July 21-25 with FERC for wave energy project testing and development that would last 3 years.
    - The Hydro Green Energy hydrokinetic power systems will soon be deployed for the first time. It will be the first federally licensed commercial “hydrokinetic power” project.
    - Hydro Green Energy plans to build a manufacturing facility in 2009.

    WHERE
    - WEST holds Texas-granted leases to develop Gulf of Mexico (GOM) offshore wind projects.
    - Hydro Green Energy’s permit applications with FERC are for the same waters.
    - Hydro Green Energy is based in Houston, TX.
    - WEST is based in New Iberia, LA, and Houston, TX.
    - The first deployment of the hydrokinetic power systems will be deployed in Hastings, Minn.
    - Projects are also under way in six other states, including Texas and Louisiana.

    WHY
    - Hydro Green Energy is funded by Quercus Trust, recently identified as one of the top 5 venture investors in New Energy.
    - Hydro Green Energy describes its ocean energy technology as hydrokinetic power systems.
    - Hydro Green Energy filed for10 preliminary permit applications with FERC to do ocean energy testing and development in Texas Gulf of Mexico waters.
    - WEST already holds GOM leases for wind power projects.
    - The (optimistic) assessment of potential combined wind/wave installations energy production in the areas to be studied is 5,000 megawatts.
    - The agreement gives Hydro Green access to WEST platforms and lease areas for research and testing.
    - Hydro Green Energy’s planned manufacturing facility is expected to provide ~100 manufacturing jobs.

    Artist's concept: One of several possible wind/wave energy configurations. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    Wayne Krouse, Chairman/CEO, Hydro Green Energy: “If the data we gather confirms that the Gulf has the currents needed for utility-scale ocean power, we plan to aggressively move forward to develop the world’s first offshore wind-hydrokinetic power projects…”

    ANOTHER SOLAR POWER PLANT FOR ARIZONA

    A few names are emerging at the forefront of the solar power plant development explosion in the U.S. southwest. Among those there is no more prominent a name, in fact no finer a pedigree, than that of Luz.

    BrightSource Energy, a Silicon Valley-based firm, owns Luz, an Israeli company. It purchased Luz II in order to “own” the most experienced designers of solar power plants in the world.

    Luz I built the original Solar Electricity Generating Stations (SEGS) plants in California’s Mojave Desert. SEGS proved the concept of concentrating solar technology in the 1980s. The Luz I concentrating solar installations have been in service for nearly 2 decades but were not expanded in the intervening years because cheap natural gas prices made development uneconomic.

    With a whole new set of market factors driving natural gas prices up at the same rate as oil and auto fuel pump prices, solar power plant development has exploded. Every competing version of the technology has proponents and big installations in the works.

    In response to a growing recognition of the value of and need for solar power plants, Arizona political leaders have been hard at work creating policy to incentivize solar development.
    (See ARIZONA POLICY TO PROMOTE SOLAR)

    The Mayor of Phoenix likes the idea of using the withering south Arizona sun to generate something besides the urgent need for air conditioning. (See ARIZONA: SOLAR AMBITIONS) Looking around for somebody to turn his solar burden into an energy asset, he seems to have settled on the finest solar power plant “bloodline.”

    Other Arizona financiers, however, are working with
    Abengoa, a Spanish company with a lot of its own experience in solar power plant development. (See BIGGEST SOLAR PLANT IN THE WORLD)

    And Stirling Energy is phenomenally busy building 900 megawatts of solar capacity with its unique technology in the California desert near San Diego. ( See CALIF SOLAR POWER PLANTS GET $100 MIL FUNDING FROM IRELAND)

    There will no doubt eventually be a shakeout in the industry and one solar power plant technology will emerge as the most efficient choice. For now, Arizona has enough sun for everyone.

    click to enlarge

    Luz II parent in Phoenix solar talks; The company has confirmed that its parent, BrightSource Energy, is negotiating to purchase suitable land in Arizona
    Merav Ankori, 29 July 2008 (Globes)

    WHO
    BrightSource Energy Inc./Luz II Ltd.; Joshua Bar Lev, VP regulatory affairs, BrightSource Energy; Phil Gordon, Mayor, Phoenix

    WHAT
    BrightSource/Luz are seeking real estate for a 400-megawatt solar power plant in Arizona.

    One of the original Luz SEGS parabolic trough installations, still generating megawatts 2 decades later. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    Mayor Gordon visited the BrightSource/Luz R&D facility in Israel earlier this year and reportedly initiated talks on bringing the technology to south Arizona.

    WHERE
    - A solar power plant building boom is ongoing in the U.S. southwest.
    - BrightSource/Luz would build its plant at a location convenient to supply the large and burgeoning power needs of Phoenix and south Arizona.

    The new BrightSource/Luz II technology uses a solar power tower. (click to enlarge)

    WHY
    BrightSource/Luz is building a 900 megawatt solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert in partnership with the states Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) utility.

    QUOTES
    Joshua Bar Lev, VP regulatory affairs, BrightSource Energy: "A 100-MW generating station would bring up to 500 construction jobs during the 18 to 24 months it would take to build, and then the facility would run on a staff of about 20 to 24 people."

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    ‘CLEAN’ COAL TRIAL PROCEEDING APACE, RESULTS DUE IN 10 YEARS

    This slightly dated but highly relevant May 15 news item just came to the attention of NewEnergyNews.

    Almost 3 months old and only slightly dated? Well, it’s about scientific research on "clean" coal and not expected to produce final conclusions for 10 years, so there didn’t seem to be any hurry reporting on it.

    Which brings up Point Number One about "clean" coal, or carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS), the widely-heralded so-called “solution” to global climate change. Television commericals and politicians on both sides of the aisle keep talking about CCS like all the world has to do is implement it tomorrow and stop worrying about climate change the next day. Thus, Point Number One: SCIENCE HAS NOT PROVEN CCS IS SAFE.

    Going forward with a plan to pump gazillions of tons of gas into rock formations underground without proving it is safe is reminiscent of something…oh, yeah! It’s like generating nuclear power without having any place to put the radioactive waste. Ready to leave an even larger-scale problem for the next generation?

    Those who would overconfidently move forward on storing CO2 gases on the assumption the theory is sound and oil field injection experience has already proven the technology practical need to know it would be in opposition to the best scientific advice.

    Anders Hansson, doctoral candidate, Department of Technology and Social Change/Linköping University: “In full scale this technology only exists in the imaginations of the people developing it…It’s overly optimistic to place such great faith in it, considering all the uncertainties found in the scientific literature.”
    (See ”CLEAN’ COAL NOT READY – SWEDISH STUDY)

    And that brings up Point Number Two: SCALE. California Institute of Technology Professor Nathan Lewis likes to joke that at the scale it will be necessary to inject CO2 into geologic formations in order to go on generating electricity with coal, there is likely to be a beneficial unintended consequence: The rising of the earth’s crust on the injected gases will postpone the worst impacts of rising sea levels.

    NewEnergyNews would (ironically) add it will make elevations everywhere higher and thereby cooler, a good thing since continued massive use of coal means continued uncontrolled spewing of greenhouse gases in the coal mining and coal transport processes and thereby a continued worsening of “warming” in many locations.

    Burying that much CO2 would also require moving it to sequestration sites, a task experts have suggested would require a new pipeline system as big as the one built up over the second half of the last century to transport oil and natural gas. Building such a system would add incalculable costs to a technology already being rejected by the coal industry because it is so costly to implement.

    The real point, of course, is that the scale of the matter makes the likelihood of burying the problem unlikely.

    John A. Rupp, assistant director of research, Indiana Geological Survey: "Large fossil fuel-burning facilities can generate tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide per year…If we want to reduce anthropogenic emissions using carbon sequestration, we will have to deploy this technology on a massive scale…"

    Burying is a solution to energy issues unworthy of humankind, whether it is the burying of nuclear or coal waste. Burying is something cats do with their waste. It is an instinct. Humans can be smarter than that, can rise above the instincts to burn and bury. Or, at the very least, consider the familiar instincts of dogs to stick their noses in the wind, splash in the waves and sleep in the sun.


    Schematic of the concept. (click to enlarge)

    Indiana Geological Survey scientists to evaluate carbon sequestration technique in large-scale test
    May 15, 2008 (Indiana University)

    WHO
    Indiana Geological Survey (Indiana University) scientists; U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

    WHAT
    As part of the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, a public-private research consortium led by Battelle Memorial Laboratories, the Indiana Geological Survey will sequester a million tons of CO2 in saltwater-filled sandstone formations and study the site.

    click to enlarge

    WHEN
    - Evaluation of the CO2 sequestration will be over a 10-year period.
    - This will be Phase III of the DOE study of CCS as a solution to the mitigation of global climate change-inducing greenhouse gas emissions generated by burning fossil fuels in power plants by capturing and burying them.

    WHERE
    - CO2 used for the study will be captured from a Greenville, Ohio, ethanol refinery.
    - The gases will be injected into the saltwater-filled Mount Simon Sandstone formation 3,000 feet underground.
    - Survey scientists will also evaluate the area around a Duke Energy Corporation gasification power plant under construction at Edwardsport, Ind.
    - Battelle Memorial Labs are in Columbus, Ohio.

    WHY
    - The question of the sandstone and saltwater to contain the injected gases will be evaluated.
    - The theory that the dense shale caprock of the formation will keep the gases from rising up through it will also be studied.
    - Phases I and II of the DOE/Geological Survey program determined locations for injection and studied small-scale (10,000 metric ton) injections.
    - 6 Phase III (one million ton) tests are funded at locations around the U.S.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    John A. Rupp, assistant director of research, Indiana Geological Survey: "As experts on the regional geology, the Indiana Geological Survey will support Battelle's overall evaluation of the sequestration technology by providing detailed information about the character of the reservoir rock as well as the seal…"

    FRENCH NUKE LEAKS: HOW MANY IS TOO MANY?

    Whenever the nuclear industry wants to trumpet its safety and practicality, it always points to France. The industry can’t repeat often enough how France gets 80% of its energy from nuclear power and has never suffered from the potential dangers.

    Yeah, well, here’s the thing: When an industry’s motto is, “What THEY don’t know can’t come back to bite US in the butt,” there’s no end to what it will say.

    Deeds speak louder than words.

    A nuclear fuel processing site spilled uranium into a nearby river July 7.

    From Reuters: “Nuclear safety authority [Autorité De Sûreté Nucléaire, ASN] criticized Areva for its handling of the incident, notably in the way in which it communicated with authorities.”

    A British paper reported that ASN found Areva had “delayed communication of the problem.”

    But leaks of nuclear waste don’t stay hidden easily. During the investigation of the spill, a leak was found at another site. Two more leaks have turned up since.

    Corinne Castanier, head,
    Independent Commission on Research and Information on Radioactivity (CRIIRAD): "In less than 15 days, the CRIIRAD has been informed of four malfunctions in four nuclear plants, leading to the accidental contamination of 126 workers…This is the first time I have seen so many people being contaminated in such a short period of time."

    Maybe the first time but not necessarily the last. The occurrence of so many low-dose contaminations suggests some kind of ongoing problem. The contamination was below levels considered health-threatening under regulatory limits.

    CRIIRAD website: "The regulatory limits for radiation... do not mean there is no risk but relate to a maximum risk level that can be permitted…"

    How long will it be until the public is told of the cause of the contamination?

    CRIIRAD was created in 1986, after the devastating incident at Chernobyl in Russia, when the French people were deceived into believing they were safe, wrongly told the Chernobyl radioactivity had not spread past Italy and told there were no safety measures needed in France.

    From Reuters: “[Nuclear safety authority ASN] also pointed to unsatisfactory security measures and operational procedures” at the Tricastin site.

    Areva fired the Tricastin director. Can’t wait to hear his statement.

    From AFP: “[Jean-Louis Borloo, French Environment Minister] said that while there were "very, very tight controls" when it came to nuclear reactors, the safeguards appeared to be not as foolproof for treatment plants and other facilities.”

    The whole business definitely leaves one uneasy about Areva’s management of the trumpeted “next generation nuclear technology” project,
    European Pressurize Reactor, already more than a year and a half behind schedule and at least 25% over budget.

    click to enlarge

    Too many French nuclear workers contaminated
    Muriel Boselli (w/Francois Murphy), July 24, 2008 (Reuters)
    and
    French nuclear firm admits uranium leaks at two plants
    Angelique Chirsafis, July 19, 2008 (UK Guardian)
    and
    New uranium leak discovered at French nuclear site
    July 18, 2008 (AFP)
    and
    Checks ordered at French nuclear sites after leak
    James Mackenzie (w/Jon Boyle), July 17, 2008 (Reuters)

    WHO
    French nuclear workers; Jean-Louis Borloo, Environment Minister, France; Corinne Castanier, head, Independent Commission on Research and Information on Radiocactivity (CRIIRAD); Areva

    WHAT
    - 30 cubic metres of liquid containing 12 grams of non-enriched uranium per litre was accidentally poured on to the ground and into a river at the Tricastin nuclear site when a tank was being cleaned. Subsequent checks are turning up disturbing findings.
    - A leak was found at the Romans-sur-Isère nuclear site.

    Dr. Caldicott has the right prescription...(click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - The Tricastin incident occurred July 7.
    - The Romans-sur-Isère leak is thought to be from a pipe that may have been broken for “years.”
    - In all of 2007: 86 level one incidents, fewer than 100 workers contaminated.

    WHERE
    - Tricastin is in the southeastern Vaucluse area of France.
    - Romans-sur-Isère is in the southeastern Drôme region.

    WHY
    - The plants and nuclear sites are operated by French multinational energy giant Areva.
    - In the wake of the Tricastin incident, drinking well water, swimming and water sports were banned. Irrigating crops with potentially contaminated water was stopped.
    - Both leaks ranked as a level-one incidents on the seven-point scale of nuclear accidents.
    - On July 23, 126 workers were found contaminated with low doses of radiation, suggesting ongoing problems.
    - There are incidental reports of worsening morale and increasing tensions in France’s nuclear facilities.

    ...Though Dr. Lovins has pronounced the patient not worth reviving. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Jean-Louis Borloo, Environment Minister: "The committee will follow the consequences of the incident, especially at the local level…But I want it to look at the radioactivity and environmental situation at all nuclear sites and I particularly want the state of the ground water tables around all French nuclear stations to be looked at…We have to carry out a review of the sites and I expect an analysis from the committee…"

    DEM CONVENTION OFFSETS: MISUNDERSTOOD ANSWER TO CLIMATE QUESTION

    The 5000 delegates to the Democratic National Convention have been asked to spend $7.50 each to offset their greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs). When delegates to a national presidential convention are asked to consider “offsetting” their GhGs, it is time to think about “offsets.”

    The idea is controversial and easily satirized.

    Susan Innis, program manager, Colorado state own carbon fund (launching in August): "The most common criticism is that they are not a panacea for global warming…To some, it's like
    cheatneutral. Pay a couple to be faithful to offset your own infidelity."

    Just because something is not a panacea does not mean it is a joke. If anything and everything satirized was unworthy of serious consideration, nothing would be worthy of serious consideration.

    A legitimate offset means a unit of GhGs that would otherwise have been generated is not. That unit of GhGs would do irreversible harm and paying to prevent it is worthwhile.

    If it is not clear how that is different than paying somebody else to respect their partner while you disrespect yours, seek spiritual guidance.

    That offsets are imperfect and subject to abuse only means there is an opportunity for 3rd party oversight like that obtained by NativeEnergy, the official offsetting agency for the Democrats.

    Billy Connelly, marketing director, NativeEnergy: "It's a big deal for NativeEnergy and for the DNCC…They're demonstrating that they walk the talk, that they reduce their impact on the environment and then offset the inevitable remainder of carbon that's going to be created by the convention."

    Offsets are controversial. Even respected agencies like NativeEnergy are challenged when they refuse to disclose financial details no other business would even be asked to disclose.
    Tufts Climate Initiative lists NativeEnergy among “the companies we liked best” but Carbon Catalog puts it far down the list.

    Lori Bird, senior energy analyst, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: "It's a really young field that took off before the (regulatory) infrastructure could catch up."

    These are the questions experts (at Rocky Mountain News) recommend asking:

    (1) Have emissions been cut everywhere possible (turn down the thermostat, insulating the house, take the bus)?
    (2) Who is the offset seller and how is the seller ranked (for quality of offsets, transparency to consumers, etc.)?
    (Check Green-e, Carbon Catalog, Tufts Climate Initiative, etc.)
    (3) Is the offset generated from New Energy or tree planting and is it verifiable and sustainable?
    (4) Is the offset verified by an independent third party?
    (5) Is the offset listed in a formal registry so it will not be sold again?

    The implications of the questions are clear. Offsets are still not adequately regulated. Abuses are possible. Caveat emptor (Buyer beware).

    And step back a moment. Thinking about offsets means thinking about climate change. It means thinking about personal actions and putting the elimination of GhGs ahead of everything else. It means funneling money to New Energy and tree planting.

    All much better ideas than paying for the privilege of disrespecting and betraying yourself and someone’s faith in you.


    NativeEnergy will offsets for the Dems. (click to enlarge)

    Bet on carbon offsets; Green challenge aimed at clean energy sources
    Jerd Smith, July 26, 2008 (Rocky Mountain News)

    WHO
    The Democratic National Committee; Delegates from all 50 states to the convention;

    WHAT
    - The Democratic National Convention's Green Delegate Challenge calls on all delegates to “offset” the greenhouse gas emissions from their participation (travel and consumption) by the purchase of “credits.”

    click to enlarge

    WHEN
    - The Democratic National Convention will be August 25 thru 28.
    - The concept of offsetting has emerged in the last ~5 years along with the growing awareness of global climate change and the only controllable causal agent, GhGs.
    - 2007: Congress held hearings on developing offset oversight.

    WHERE
    - The Democratic National Convention will be in Denver, CO.
    - Delegates from 37 states have volunteered to participate.
    - 4 states have all delegates enrolled.
    - NativeEnergy is based in Vermont.

    WHY
    - Carbon offsets are designed to put marketplace principles to work on GhG reduction.
    - NativeEnergy found 4 projects for the DNC’s Green Delegate Challenge: (1) a wind turbine in Wray, CO; (2) a turbine in rural Minnesota; (3) a methane digester fueled with farm animal waste in Pennsylvania; (4) a methane digester fueled by landfill gas in Iowa.
    - Each benefits a local community, brings emissions-free electricity to the grid, and each project has a 25-year power-purchase agreement.
    - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is in the process of writing rules for offsets.

    Offsetting is NOT about absolving guilt - it's about doing something constructive instead of doing nothing but ridiculing those who are making a difference. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Gideon Greenspan, entrepreneur-operator, Carbon Catalog: "I created the catalog because I had begun buying offsets for myself and found the process incredibly frustrating…There were a lot of providers out there, but assessing how good or bad they were, there just wasn't a lot of information."
    - Billy Connelly, marketing director, NativeEnergy: "We're extremely transparent…The only thing we're not disclosing are our financials. Greenspan is one guy. He doesn't have a lot of credibility…[Tufts University Climate Initiative ranks NativeEnergy in its top tier] because of our transparency, our disclosure and the types of projects we use…"
    - John Suthers, Attorney General, state of Colorado: "There is no question that carbon offsets are the new frontier in consumer protection because there are no specific rules that pertain to them…I suspect that if you analyzed the Colorado population," Suthers said, "we're probably more environmentally responsible as a whole. But a lot of people won't take the time to see if the offsets they're buying have the transparency that is needed or the verification that is needed."

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    IMPASSE? MARKETS ACT ON NEW ENERGY, WHY CAN’T CONGRESS?

    Article after article like The Next Generation of Alternative Energy...(July 25, U.S. News & World Report) highlights the growing rush of venture capital funding to New Energy.

    Solar power plant technology, algae-to-liquid fuel technology and ocean energy electricity-generation technology are the “fav raves” that a recent report from Cleantech Group described as leading a record $2 billion second quarter 2008 surge in New Energy venture investment.
    (See NEW ENERGY VENTURE INVESTMENT HITS NEW HIGH)

    Think about it: While the economy floundered and then fell in the first half of the year, risk-taking capitalists set a RECORD for putting money into New Energy. And they haven't been putting their money into quaint, arcane anti-technologies like “coal-to-liquids” or unproven technologies like “clean” coal but into exciting, cutting-edge, CO2-defeating ideas.

    And what news of national political leadership follows this news of an uplifting commitment to tomorrow? Impasse.

    Republican leaders believe they have convinced the public more oil drilling will somehow miraculously affect pump prices. They refuse to move forward in the Senate with energy legislation that does not include amendments for new drilling. They are willing to go into the fall election season on the strength of their commitment to oil.

    Senator Pete V. Domenici (R-NM), senior Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee: “Give us a week to present issues that the American people will understand…And let’s vote on them. That’s what this is about.”

    In the face of the Republican demand to include drilling in any legislation considered, Democrats will reportedly forego needed oil market speculation regulation legislation. They are ready to take their stance against feeding the U.S. oil addiction to voters in the upcoming campaign.

    Senator Chuck Schumer (R-NY), on the Senate floor, July 25: “Republicans: Big Oil, The Past. Democrats: Alternative Energy, The Future.”

    July 28 is the first day of the last week of Congressional activity before the summer holiday and the presidential conventions. Although compromise measures are still in play, including an idea to allow more drilling but dedicate royalties to New Energy development, insiders do not expect legislation to emerge.

    If Congress goes on vacation without passing anything, it will be leaving a host of important measures on the table. By failing to extend New Energy production tax credits (PTCs) and investment tax credits (ITCs), legislators are leaving wind, solar, geothermal and electric transportation innovation hamstrung until a new Congress can undo the harm.

    By failing to reach compromise on a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), they are bowing to the influence of the fossil fuels industries and fossil fuel-burning utilities and failing to incentivize the growth of the future’s New Energy in deference to the power of Old Energy.

    By failing to reach compromise on a global climate change measure instituting a national cap-and-trade system, they are leaving all of U.S. business in limbo about the nevertheless inevitable coming price on emissions and failing the rest of the world in its fight against the rapidly changing climate.

    By failing to implement all of these, they are making it harder for U.S. New Energy entrepreneurs to fulfill their potential and take the world lead in New Energy technologies.

    The race to November is going to be interesting. There is no doubt about that. But there is a much more important race going on right now, a race for every vital emissions-free gigawatt that can be generated. Congress is simply not in that race right now.

    As legislators go into their last week of action, they should remember one thing: Voters will get the opportunity in November to vote for further impasse or for marketplace-like action.


    Solar power plants are one of the 2 hottest bets. (click to enlarge)

    Senate Energy Debate at Impasse
    Carl Hulse, July 26, 2008 (NY Times)
    and
    The Next Generation of Alternative Energy; Venture capitalists flirt with solar thermal, algae, and wave power
    Katy Marquardt, July 25, 2008 (U.S. News & World Report)
    and
    Cleantech investments hit a record high
    David Ehrlich, July 8, 2008 (Cleantech Group)

    WHO
    Cleantech Group LLC (venture capital firms, investment banks, other investors); Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Foundation Capital, Quercus Trust, Khosla Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson

    WHAT
    New Energy venture investment was a record-setting $2 billion in the second quarter (Q2) of 2008.

    The other hot bet with venture capitalists. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - From Q2 2007 to Q2 2008: New Energy venture investment up 58%
    - From Q1 2008 to Q2 2008: New Energy venture investment up 48%
    - Solar power plants are already in operation and more are being built around the world
    - Airbus/Honeywell are co-developing an algae jet fuel and predict it will fuel a third of commercial aircraft by 2030. Others beginning algae fuel development: Boeing, Virgin Atlantic, Chevron, and Royal Dutch Shell. It will take at least 3 to 5 years to get to market.
    - Ocean energy development in Europe is ahead of the U.S. Utility-scale production is still some time off.

    WHERE
    - Areas leading increased venture investment activity: (1) solar power plant technology and (2) next-generation biofuel technologies.
    - U.S. companies: 74% of the $2 billion
    - European companies: 13% of the $2 billion
    - Chinese companies: 12% of the $2 billion
    - Solar power plants operate in the California deserts and in Spain and are being built throughout the U.S. southwest, in Spain and in North Africa. They are being planned around the world.
    - There are reportedly 20 companies around the world developing algae fuels.

    WHY
    - Previous single quarter high for New Energy venture investment was $1.8 billion in Q3 2007.
    - Top New Energy venture investors: Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Foundation Capital, Quercus Trust, Khosla Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson.
    - Top solar power plant technology money winners ($278 million): BrightSource Energy, SkyFuel, Infinia and Sopogy.
    - Top next-generation biofuel technology winners ($280 million, $136 million to cellulosic ethanol and $84 million to algae): Range Fuels, Sapphire Energy, Mascoma, EdeniQ, Amyris Biotechnologies, Greenline Industries, Fulcrum Bioenergy, Gevo, GreenFuel Technologies and Aurora BioFuels.
    - The attractions of solar power plant technology: It is proven and it generates solar energy-produced, emissions-free electricity at utility scale.
    - The attractions of algae fuel: It in no way impedes food crops, all water used is recycled, it is energy dense, unlike AGROfuels it can be refined into high octane fuels and it consumes dirty power plant greenhouse gas emissions to grow.
    - The attractions of ocean energy: It is regular, predictable, 24/7, emissions-free energy, it is on every coast, lake and river (in varying abundance and in the varying forms of wave, tide and current) and it is immensely abundant.

    A favorite longshot. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Cleantech Group: "[R]eflecting strong potential for future growth in the Chinese cleantech sector [was $6.9 billion of venture investments to Chinese companies]…"
    - Brian Fan, senior director of research, Cleantech Group: "The actual technology itself may not be the sole important determination in who wins this game. Whoever gets to scale first has a much better chance of becoming a dominant player in the space."
    - Ed Guinness, Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy fund, on algae: "You've got to grow it at a low enough cost so that you can take advantage of the high yield…"
    - John Balbach, managing partner, Cleantech Group: "Silicon Valley is going through yet another transformation…"

    TOP TEN UTILITIES FOR SOLAR

    Utilities have become the driving force behind the installation of solar energy systems in the U.S. But there is a driving force behind them.

    The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) released the results of a market survey and research, a ranking of utilities for their use of solar energy to generate electricity. Three facts: (1) California utilities lead. (2) California has the longest standing incentives for utilities to use solar. (3) California does NOT have the most sun.

    Conclusion: All the utilities need is the incentive.

    Mike Taylor, director of research, SEPA: “What has become apparent however is that over the next few years, there will be an unprecedented level of new utility engagement in the solar industry that develops both centralized and distributed systems in new and unique ways. Several U.S. utilities, some of whom aren’t in these rankings yet, are positioning themselves to be the solar industries largest and most innovative customers.”

    In the absence of federal action, state legislatures all over the U.S. have been scrambling to pass effective incentives to support utilities in the building of a 21st century energy infrastructure. Expect the rankings to show lots of new names and states next year.


    From the report. (click to enlarge)

    Nation’s Most Solar Integrated Utilities Revealed; Solar Electric Power Association Announces Top Ten Rankings and Results of 2007 ‘Utility Solar Electricity Market’ Survey
    Josephine Mooney, July 24, 2008 (Solar Electric Power Association)

    WHO
    Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA)

    WHAT
    Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings, rankings of U.S. utilities for use of solar electricity intheir power output.

    From the report. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - The rankings are based on 2007 usage as derived from a 2007 utility solar electricity market survey.
    - 2008 data will be published in the 2nd annual rankings in 2009 and are expected to reflect more variety.

    WHERE
    - Total solar electric capacity by megawatts: Southern California Edison (SCE) in California.
    - Most solar into the grid from its customers (‘customer side of the meter”): Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in California.
    - Most solar into the grid from the utility (“utility side of the meter”): SCE
    - California gets the most high rankings but Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin are coming on.

    WHY
    - Information obtained by a SEPA survey of utilities plus independent research.
    - California’s lead is thought to be from longstanding policies promoting solar. States coming on have added good policies.
    - SCE’s solar power plants in the Mojave Desert gave it its number one ranking. With other utilities currently funding new power plants throughout the southwest, SCE’s top ranking could be challenged.
    - PG&E has the most megawatts generated and the most per customer in customer-to-grid solar electricity. SCE has both number one rankings on its side of the meter.
    - Other customer-side leaders: Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (Calif) (most overall capacity), Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (HI) (highest capacity per customer).
    Other utility-side leaders:

    From the report. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    Julia Hamm, executive director, SEPA: “SEPA anticipates that utilities will quickly become the largest and one of the most important customers for the solar industry…Whether solar electric systems are developed by utilities, their customers, or solar companies…This market survey and resulting rankings provide a baseline against which increased utility activity can be measured in the future.”

    LONDON ARRAY, WORLD’S BIGGEST OFFSHORE WIND, GETS FUNDING

    Many observers heralded Royal Dutch Shell’s May withdrawal of its share of the financing for the London Array, the world’s biggest offshore wind installation, as the beginning of the end for Britain's offshore wind ambitions. NewEnergyNews immediately predicted other financing would be found and the project would go forward. (See WORLD’S BIGGEST OFFSHORE WIND TO UK)

    Shell’s partners, two European power companies, announced July 21 they would buy out the multinational oil giant and complete the project.

    There is more to it than the obvious undeniable logic of wind energy (and offshore wind in particular). There is more even than the inevitability of New Energy in general. It was easy to see the project would eventually go forward despite Royal Dutch Shell's intimations about prohibitive rising costs. Here’s how NewEnergyNews explained in May why it was so certain the London Array would find new financing:

    “…A utility may see more longterm benefit from wind than an oil company in an emissions constrained economy. An oil company like Shell has the option of choosing from a variety of emissions-reducing investments to meet its EU ETS/Kyoto caps. A utility like SSE or E.ON must obtain a certain percent of its power from New Energy sources…The oil company is guided by the EU’s cap-and-trade system. The utility is guided by the EU-wide Renewable Energy Standard (RES)…”

    And out of that logic emerges the completed financing deal: The power companies want the investment. The oil company sold it to them.

    Effectively designed incentives clearly played a significant role here.

    In the long run it is the oil company’s loss. Since at least the 1970s, oil companies have been making these kinds of shortsighted decisions. Will they eventually get the idea? It will certainly start sinking in as their access to inexpensive oil sinks into deep, frigid waters, hard to refine sands, hard to produce shale mountains and violent nations.


    Click here for more info on offshore wind in the UK

    click to enlarge

    E.On and Dong Energy buy Shell’s stake in world’s biggest wind farm near London
    July 21, 2008 (AP via CNN Money)
    and
    Britain moves closer to green energy goals
    July 21, 2008 (Reuters)

    WHO
    E.ON UK (Paul Golby, Chief Executive); Dong Energy; Royal Dutch Shell PLC; Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) (Ian Marchant, Chief Executive)

    WHAT
    - E.ON UK and Dong Energy will buy Royal Dutch Shell’s shares in the proposed 1000-megawatt London Array, the biggest off shore wind installation yet planned.
    - SSE got approval from Scottish Ministers for the 456-megawatt Clyde Wind Project.

    click to enlarge

    WHEN
    - Royal Dutch Shell announced in May it would sell its share of the project.
    - The offshore installaion is seen as a key for the UK in meeting its goal of obtaining 10% of its power from New Energy by 2010.
    - Construction on the Clyde project is expected to begin later in fiscal 2008 with the 1st phase going on line in 2010 and completion in 2011.

    WHERE
    - E.ON is based in Germany.
    - Dong Energy is based in Denmark.
    - The London Array will be built where the UK’s Thames River meets the North Sea, 60 miles to the east of London.
    - The Clyde Wind Project will be in South Lanarkshire in southern Scotland.

    WHY
    - The plan for the London Array calls for 341 turbines exceeding 1,000 megawatts of generation capacity.
    - Estimated cost is in the area of $5 billion. Shell’s excuse for pulling out, escalating costs, was only part of why the project makes less sense for a multinational oil company than for a European power company.
    - The Array is expected to supply approximately one third of London’s electricity.
    - Estimated cost of the 152-turbine Clyde Wind Project is L600 million ($1.19 billion).
    - The Clyde Project was obtained by SSE when it bought Airtricity in early 2008.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Paul Golby, Chief Executive, E.ON UK: "We're pleased that, together with DONG Energy, we've been able to secure the future of the project…We hope to be able to keep the project on track and we should be able to complete the first phase by the end of 2012, subject to securing a number of important contracts, such as those for the wind turbines."
    - Ian Marchant, Chief Executive, SSE: "Projects like Clyde are essential if Scotland and the UK are to have any hope of meeting legally-binding EU targets for renewable energy…"

    Sunday, July 27, 2008

    HIGH WINDS IN CHINA

    Numbers from China are always impressive. Reports of new coal plant construction and burgeoning greenhouse gas emissions are mind boggling. Numbers for New Energy building in China, especially wind energy installation, are also impressive.

    Steve Sawyer, secretary general, Global Wind Energy Council: "China's wind energy market is unrecognisable from two years ago, It is huge, huge huge. But it is not realised yet in the outside world…A few years ago wind energy was boutique, something to show off to foreigners to prove how green they are but now it is a very serious part of their energy policy…They can make things happen so quickly in China compared to the west. When they make up their minds, it is incredible how fast things happen."

    China’s installed wind capacity has doubled every year for the last 3 years and looks like it will double in 2008, 2009 and 2010. China is already or will soon be the world’s biggest turbine manufacturer and will likely lead the world in new generating capacity by 2010.

    Huitengxile Huadian Wind Farm in Inner Mongolia is China’s biggest installation and supplies electricity to Beijing.

    Li Yanjun, duty operator, Huitengxile Huadian Wind Farm: "We call it the Three Gorges of the sky. The hydroelectric dam there taps the water, here we tap the wind…I've been here since the beginning. The turbines are like my children. It took 10 years to reach 64,000 kilowatt/hours because that period was the research phase, but now the government is committed to wind energy so we can grow quickly."

    NOW they can grow quickly? Doubling every year isn’t QUICKLY?

    Nope. Jiuquan in Gansu province will soon pass Huitengxile Huadian and become a bigger biggest wind installation. Jiuquan’s 1st phase will be 3,800 megawtts. When it is completed it will be more than 10,000 megawatts. China is planning the long-term development of a national wind corridor and the necessary new transmission to support it in Gansu province.

    That’s the same concept T. Boone Pickens called for on the midwestern plains. Does this represent a classic challenge between free markets and central planning?

    The China turbine industry has been dominated by multinational giants Vestas (Denmark), Gamesa (Spain) and GE (the U.S.) but Chinese manufacturers took 50% of the market in 2007. The biggest player is Goldwind, based in Urumqi. It specializes in the world wind industry standard 1.5 megawatt turbine and is planning a 3-megawatt model for 2009.

    Sebastian Meyer, director of research/advisory, Azure International: "It is probably going to be the most competitive turbine market in the world very quickly. Elsewhere, it is a seller's market. Now in China, we are on the tipping point of it becoming a buyers' market…In 2008 it is likely to grow 1.5 times so growth is actually decelerating, but in terms of volume, size and scale this has become a respectable market globally."

    When there is a report of such growth in the west, there is an inevitable next question: Is it a bubble?

    Due to huge demand for electricity and tightening coal mine safety regulations, domestic coal prices are so high power plants in southern China import coal from Australia.

    The logic is obvious: Spend to develop domestic wind instead of importing coal.

    The only obstacles to more wind development in such a market: New coal and hydro are still cheaper in China.

    But the air quality in China is so bad from coal and water shortages are so severe from hydro projects and the impacts of radical weather events from global climate change are so unavoidably apparent that the logic of wind will inevitably become irresistible.

    China President Hu Jintao: "Our task is tough, and our time is limited. Party organisations and governments at all levels must give priority to emission reduction and bring the idea deep into people's hearts…"


    Everything about China wind here.

    The working man. (click to enlarge)

    Energy in China: ‘We call it the Three Gorges of the sky. The dam there taps water, we tap wind.’ Wind energy output is trumping targets, and competition between operators is fierce, but coal still reigns supreme.
    Jonathan Watts, July 25, 2008 (UK Guardian)

    WHO
    China’s wind industry, its political leaders and its power companies

    WHAT
    The ferocious winds of Dabancheng drive one of Asia’s biggest wind installations. It exemplifies the ferocious growth of China’s wind industry, part of Chinese leaders’ efforts to turn around the terrible Chinese air quality and environmental situations.

    The trend is toward domestic development. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - From 2005: China’s wind capacity has grown 100% or more per year.
    - China goal: To obtain 15% of its power from New Energy sources by 2020.
    - The 1st phase of the Jiuquan wind project is scheduled to be completed in 2010.
    - 2004: The share of world wind investment from China, India and Brazil - 12%.
    - 2007: The share of world wind investment from China, India and Brazil - 22%.
    - 2009: Goldwind, China’s biggest turbine manufacturer, will introduce its 3-megawatt turbine.

    WHERE
    - Dabancheng, a 6-mile wide plain, was once part of the Silk Road.
    - Dabancheng is near the city of Urumqi in Xinjiang, the most westerly region of China.
    - Bigger facilities operating or under construction in Gansu, Inner Mongolia and Jiangsu.
    - Goldwind recently sold turbines to Cuba and (with other Chinese turbine companies) is negotiating with Pakistan, the Philippines and South Korea.

    WHY
    - Winds on the Dabancheng plain have blown trains off the tracks and overturned trailer trucks. The Dabancheng winds now drive 118 turbines tha send electricity to nearby Urumqi.
    - Chinese policy makers doubled predicted wind capacity for 2010 because the 1st goal of 5 gigawatts came 3 years early.
    - 202 projects now produce 6 gigawatts. 445 sites are being planned or developed. One estimate has 130 gigawatts in the pipeline.
    - Goldwind, China’s turbine manufacturer, has grown 100% or more every year for the last 8 years.
    - The China wind industry is dominated by 5 state-owned utilities and a few other companies. They kicked off the industry but competition is growing.
    - Greenpeace says China can have 120 gigawatts of wind by 2020, 10% of its power.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Junfeng Li, secretary general, China Renewable Energy Industries Association: "China is witnessing the start of a golden age of wind power development, and the magnitude of growth has caught even policymakers off guard…It is widely believed that wind power will be able to compete with coal generation by as early as 2015. That will be the turning point in China, which by then will be the world's largest energy consumer."
    - Li Yanjun, duty operator, Huitengxile Huadian Wind Farm: "This is the future in China…Everyone is opting for big turbines. It is more economic to have one 1,500 kw turbine than two 750kw turbines and the maintenance costs are lower."
    - Unnamed Goldwind executive: "There is still a gap between Chinese companies and western companies in terms of research and development because we started later…Most of our technology comes from Germany. But in the first half of this year, we bought the company that taught us how to do things. That has solved the problem of research and development. Now we want to start selling overseas."
    - Sebastian Meyer, director of research/advisory, Azure International: "China is catching up fast…The market is ripe for China not replicating what Europe and US did in the past, but doing it better."

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