NewEnergyNews: LANDMARK NEWS FOR SOLAR POWER PLANTS

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: THE COST OF ADDING SOLAR TO A UTILITY’S OPERATIONS
  • QUICK NEWS, 7-21: U.S. WIND, SOLAR TO GROW THROUGH 2020; NEW GEOTHERMAL RISING; CHINESE HAVE RIGHTS IN OREGON WIND BUY
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Colbert Gets Into Coal Rolling
  • Weekend Video: How Solar Power Plants Store And Use Solar Energy
  • Weekend Video: A Story About People And Wind Energy
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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-THE CLIMATE CHANGED WORLD IS NOW 5 TIMES MORE DANGEROUS
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE MONEY IN SOLAR, Q2 2014
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU STILL GROWING OCEAN WIND
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-$109MIL FROM GERMAN BANK BACKS KENYA GEOTHERMAL
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

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

  • TTTA Thursday-THE PREMATURE EVACUATION FROM CLIMATE CHANGE EXCITEMENT
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW ENERGY TO SUSTAIN BIG GROWTH – EIA
  • TTTA Thursday-SOLAR’S COST TO UTILITIES
  • TTTA Thursday-HOW UTILITIES CAN EVOLVE IN A NEW ENERGY WORLD
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: HOW TO PROTECT A CAP AND TRADE PROGRAM
  • QUICK NEWS, July 16: 88% OF NEW U.S. POWER IN MAY WAS NEW ENERGY; THE FIGHT FOR WIND IN OHIO; U.S. CRITICAL SYSTEMS REGULARLY BREACHED
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF NET ENERGY METERING FOR DISTRIBUTED RENEWABLES
  • QUICK NEWS, July 15: THE SMART GRID IS COMING; LA UTILITY WANTS A SOLAR FEED-IN TARIFF, NOT NET METERING; FORESEEING A SELF-DRIVING VEHICLE MARKET
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

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

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

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

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

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

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

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

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

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

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

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

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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

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

  • ---------------
  • Tuesday, January 06, 2009

    LANDMARK NEWS FOR SOLAR POWER PLANTS

    Big landmarks in the history of solar power plant installations were quietly passed in December.

    Following the most comprehensive permitting process ever done in California, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the Sunrise Powerlink transmission project.

    A few days later, the El Dorado Energy Solar project, the biggest thin film photovoltaic (PV) installation in North America, went on line in Nevada.

    The approval of Sunrise Powerlink, which will deliver power generated in California's Imperial Valley to the San Diego Bay region, makes it possible for installation of the astonishingly ambitious 900-megawatt Stirling solar power plant complex to proceed, answering the question raised by NewEnergyNews December 16:
    STIRLING IN THE SUN?

    The answer is yes.

    Financed by a power purchase agreement (PPA) from San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Stirling Energy Systems will now proceed with the installation of 12,000 of its other-worldly dishes, a 300-megawat capacity, and, if all goes according to plan, ramp-up for the installation of another 24,000 dishes, another 600 megawatts of generation capacity, after the first part of the project is operational.


    Stirling dishes. (click to enlarge)

    The Stirling dishes have been tested at Sandia National Labs for over a decade but have yet to face a real-life trial. Parabolic trough and solar power tower technologies are already in service. Putting the Stirling dish to work will offer a utility scale trial of another important solar power plant concept, moving the industry toward further clarity on the relative merits of the competing concentrating solar mirror designs.

    click to enlarge

    In Nevada, First Solar will get the biggest U.S. test yet of its cadmium telluride thin film PV formulation. First Solar’s thin film has been the hottest investment in solar energy for the last 2 years, primarily because of its wide use in Europe and its potential as a building-integrated energy-generating material. Its 2007 revenues were over $500 million.

    Sempra Generation signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with First Solar for the El Dorado Solar Project, a 10-megawatt installation adjacent to an existing fossil fuel power plant in Nevada run by Sempra Energy, Generation's parent utility.

    This puts Sempra in the solar power plant game for the first time and is yet another example of the expansion of utilities into New Energy ownership. California’s Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) made it easy for Sempra by signing a 20-year PPA for the entire 10-megawatt output.

    Financed by PPAs with California utilities, both projects owe much to California’s Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). The California RES requires the state’s utilities to obtain 20% of their power from New Energy sources by 2010. This is an indication of what it will mean for New Energy nationally when the incoming administration pushes through its campaign-promised national RES requiring all U.S. utilities to obtain 10% of their power from New Energy sources by 2012 and 25% by 2025.

    The El Dorado project will be a great opportunity for First Solar’s cadmium telluride thin film technology to prove itself, especially because the installation is immediately adjacent to Nevada Solar One, which is producing 64 megawatts of solar energy (75 megawatts peak) with the parabolic trough technology. First Solar promises more effective power generation in real world conditions from its panel formulation because it is designed to generate in varying levels of sunlight.

    Both the Stirling and First Solar technologies will give their utility operators the opportunity to see how meaningful it is to generate electricity at peak demand periods without water consumption or greenhouse gas emissions, 2 considerations likely to be quite important going forward.

    As the race to perfect a method for storing solar energy moves ahead, the storage concepts using compressed steam would favor the Stirling, parabolic trough and power tower generators whereas a breakthrough in battery-storage technologies would favor PV panel generation technologies.


    No sound, just amazing vistas of the El Dorado Solar Project, finishing with a fast-action view of the construction process. From marketwire via YouTube.

    Sempra Generation Completes North America's Largest 'Thin-Film' Solar Power Installation; PG&E Purchases New Project's Output
    December 22, 2008 (CNNMoney)
    and
    SDG&E's Sunrise Powerlink Gets 'Green Light' From State Regulators
    December 18, 2008 (CNN Money)

    WHO
    San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E); Sempra Generation (Michael W. Allman, President/CEO), subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE); Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) (Jack Keenan, COO); California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC); First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR); Stirling Energy Systems (SES)

    click to enlarge

    WHAT
    In the same 1-week period, CPUC granted final approval for the Sunrise Powerlink transmission project and the El Dorado Energy Solar project, a 10-megawatt thin film PV solar power plant went online.

    WHEN
    - Completion of the Sunrise Powerlink is planned for 2012.
    - Construction began on the El Dorado Energy Solar project in July 2008 and was completed in December 2008.
    - El Dorado is Sempra’s first solar energy project.
    - First Solar was formed in 1999.
    - Stirling Energy Systems was incorporated in 1996 and refinanced and reincorporated in 2006.

    click to enlarge

    WHERE
    - Sunrise Powerlink runs from California’s Imperial Valley to San Diego.
    - The El Dorado Energy Solar project is adjacent to Sempra’s 480-megawatt El Dorado Energy power plant near Boulder City, NV, ~40 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
    - The El Dorado Energy Solar project is the largest operational thin-film, solar power plant in North America.
    - PG&E is the utility for northern and central California.
    - First Solar is based in Phoenix, AZ.

    WHY
    - CPUC voted 4-1 vote to permit Sunrise Powerlink on the grounds it had met basic criteris for environmental protections and is necessary to deliver New Energy to San Diego.
    - Sunrise Powerlink will be 120 miles long, running from the state’s central desert, across a segment of the Mountains and down to supply the San Diego Bay population.
    - Sunrise Powerlink will cost $1.9 billion and will have a delivery capacity of up to 1,000 megawatts.
    - The Stirling installation: 36,000 mirrored 40-foot wide, 38-foot tall dishes focus sunlight on lawn-mower-sized engines heating parts of them to 1,300+ degrees Fahrenheit. In the sealed engine, heated hydrogen expands, drives a piston, migrates, cools, contracts and drives another piston. The action generates electricity. Each dish has a 25 kilowatt capacity. Covering 3 square miles, the installation would produce 900 megawatts of electricity generation, equal to or greater than a large natural-gas plant.
    The Stirling project will be built in 2 stages, a 300-megawatt (12,000 dishes) phase before completion of Sunrise Powerlink and a 600-megawatt (24,000 dishes) phase that requires the new transmission.
    - Stirling Energy Systems has 20-year power purchase agreements to provide 1,750 megawatts of electricity to California utilities.
    - First Solar did engineering, procurement, was construction contractor and will monitor and do maintenance.
    - The First Solar thin film semiconductor technology converts sunlight into electricity without air emissions or water use.
    - PG&E has a 20-year power purchase agreement for the new project's entire output, subject to approval by the CPUC.
    - At peak production El Dorado Energy Solar will generate 10 megawatts of electricity, enough for ~6,400 homes.
    - Expansion of El Dorado, in phases, is under consideration.

    First Solar's manufacturing capacity is ready to explode. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Debra L. Reed, President/CEO, SDG&E: "The CPUC's approval of the Sunrise Powerlink today will help pave the way toward achieving the state's aggressive environmental and energy policy goals…Reliable transmission infrastructure is critically needed to reinforce the region's electric system and to open up new avenues for delivering green energy to our customers."
    - Michael W. Allman, President/CEO, Sempra Generation: "This is a significant step in the development and deployment of renewable solar power…It reflects the commitment by Sempra Generation and western U.S. utilities to meet the challenges posed by climate change with reliable, renewable energy. The size and scope of this new solar generation facility clearly demonstrates that we can build projects on a scale that helps utilities meet their renewable energy goals."
    - Jack Keenan, COO, PG&E: "The El Dorado Energy Solar facility will be the first of our contracted solar projects to come online…We are pleased to partner with Sempra Generation as we add renewable resources to our power mix..."

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