NewEnergyNews: WIND – SO BIG IT WON'T FAIL

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 JOBS BONANZA IN INDIA SOLAR
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 30: NAT GAS, SOLAR, WIND LEAD 1H 2014 NEW BUILD; COOLER PANELS COULD HEAT UP SOLAR; OFFSHORE WIND, PROMISE AND POLITICS">
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: ADDING UP THE CLIMATE CHANGE NUMBERS
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 29: PRES SAYS YES TO CLIMATE ACTION, SENATE STUCK; FLAWED NEW PLAN FOR NEW ENERGY IN CALIF; SOLAR PANELS GET BETTER
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Obama On Climate Change At The UN
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart Heats Up Over Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: Colbert Asks If “This Changes Everything”
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-HIGH WATER RISING – EVERYWHERE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-MOROCCO WIND BOOM COMING
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA BOOSTS ITS SOLAR BUILD
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-ABU DHABI BUYS A PIECE OF NORWAY’S STAKE IN UK OFFSHORE WIND
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Sept. 25:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE PRIVATE SECTOR FACES CLIMATE CHANGE
  • TTTA Thursday-SOLAR WILL POWER SCHOOLS, EARN MONEY FOR TEACHERS
  • TTTA Thursday-A RIDE IN TOMORROW’S CAR
  • TTTA Thursday-A LOOK AT SEE-THROUGH SOLAR
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: FREEING THE NATIONAL TREASURE IN U.S. NATIONAL LABS
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 24: ROCKEFELLERS DIVEST OIL FOR NEW ENERGY; BOLD $8BIL WIND BUILD-TRANSMIT-STORE PROJECT; CALIF TARGETS 1.5MIL 0-EMISSIONS CARS BY 2024
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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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  • Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    WIND – SO BIG IT WON'T FAIL

    Fighting Against Impact Of Economic Crisis, U.S. Wind Energy Industry Installs 1,200 MW In Second Quarter; Manufacturing slowdown seen; industry calls for strong near-term renewable energy targets to keep US in worldwide lead
    Shawna Seldon, July 28, 2009 (American Wind Energy Association)

    SUMMARY
    The AWEA 2nd Quarter 2009 Market Report has been interpreted in the media as success and failure, with foreboding and celebration, and in many shades between.

    Cries of both hurrah and woe miss the mark. The report is a matter of fact, the activity of an industry once thought niche and even now called by some incipient that in fact is just beginning to take its rightful place among the nation’s Big Energies.

    Like most of the biggest and most successful of the major market players these days, the wind industry’s performance this year has not been what it was last year but wind power is holding its own.

    The economic downturn had one clear and immediate short-term impact on all major energy projects. It dramatically impeded developers’ access to capital. The dearth of financing is, now, being felt. Effects are expected to continue registering until the benefits of the federal stimulus package work their way through the qualifying process.

    click to enlarge

    A surprisingly productive 1Q 2009, in which more than 2,800 megawatts of capacity were installed (see WIND BOOMS IN FIRST QUARTER 2009), was the result of momentum developed by the wind industry in 2008.

    Growth slowed by almost 2/3 in 2Q 2009, when 1,210 megawatts of new capacity were installed. It is important to confront the enormous drop off from 1Q to 2Q before taking comfort in the fact that the cumulative 4,000+ megawatts of installed capacity for 2009, thanks to the remarkable buildup in the first quarter, remains greater than the 2,900+ megawatts of cumulative capacity installed in the first half of 2008.

    2009’s bigger number led to hurrahs. The steep drop off led to cries of woe.

    In 2Q 2009, the U.S. wind energy industry’s 1,210 megawatts of new capacity, built in just 10 states, brought the total installed U.S. wind power capacity to 29,440 megawatts, the most in the world. Wind power now offsets a full 2% of U.S. electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs). That’s like taking 9 million cars off the road.

    click to enlarge

    2Q 2009’s biggest growth was in Missouri, which expanded its capacity 90%. Pennsylvania (28% expansion) and South Dakota (21% expansion) filled out the top 3. Texas remains the leader in cumulative installed capacity, with 2/3 as much wind power as the entire nation of China.

    While impressive metrics are always welcome, trends matter. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) noted reduced turbine and component orders and less turbine and component manufacturing activity in Q2 2009. There is simply no way to characterize that as anything other than a troubling trend boding ill.

    AWEA CEO Denise Bode described manufacturing as the “canary in the mine.” She used the opportunity of the Q2 report’s release not just to celebrate, but to look ahead and call on Congress to strengthen and pass the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) now before it that requires regulated U.S. utilities to obtain a significant portion of their power from New Energy sources over an extended period.

    In the absence of a national policy supportive of New Energy growth, Bode and other New Energy industry leaders see a continuance of the trend toward diminishing manufacturing, the loss of jobs and the migration of opportunity to China and Europe.

    There will be an AWEA webcast on the Q2 report Wednesday, July 29, at 2PM ET. Click to register.

    click to enlarge

    COMMENTARY
    Ask any surfer: It is exhilarating and terrifying to stand precariously at the crest of a momentous wave without knowing exactly when and how it will break.

    The one thing everybody knows about this moment in history is that it surely will be historic. The economy will come back, carrying with it a wave of change unlike anything the U.S. has known in at least a half century – or it will fall away and leave the vagaries of possibility floundering and contending.

    Exemplary of the times it typifies, the wind industry may send its riders crashing into the undertow (of a worsening economy) or carry them smoothly to the warm safe harbor of shore (and a New Energy economy).

    click to enlarge

    A recent study of the industry by Ryan Wiser and Mark Bolinger of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (see WIND, A BOOM, A WIND JOBS BOOM) called 2008 a “banner year” and described the consequences of the economic downturn as “upheaval.”

    Reporting that wind power constituted 42% of all new energy generation capacity built in the U.S. in 2008, Wiser and Bolinger bothered little with predictions and, instead, described what wind needs going forward: (1) New interconnections to existing transmission, (2) New transmission, and (3) A national RES.

    The urgency of instituting the policies and building the infrastructure to support the wind industry’s growth has never been greater. With the pressures of global climate change impinging on it, the GhG-spewing coal industry can no longer be the backbone of power generation it once was. Paying for their spew will make coal plants too expensive and capturing their spew will also make coal plants too expensive.

    click to enlarge

    Despite what some misled politicians might preach, nuclear energy is not the answer. It is neither truly emissions-free nor without seriously worrisome problems. It presents the risks of weapons proliferation and the piling up of radioactive waste. And in a world where water resources will become progressively precious, it is terribly water-intensive and water wasteful. Indicative of how economically untenable nuclear power really is, the Department of Energy recently withdrew loan guarantees from a major project.

    Because the U.S. must and will need to rely more and more on wind power as the industry grows its capacity toward its goal of supplying 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030, the nation must build its wind manufacturing base. It is acceptable, for now, to rely on imported towers, blades, nacelles and components. But the U.S. can never again allow itself to be reliant on imported energy.

    The good news: 3 turbine/turbine component manufacturing facilities opened, 4 were expanding, and 8 were announced in 2Q 2009. A total of 20 facilities have opened, are expanding or were announced in 2009.

    click to enlarge

    The bad news: There were 55 such facility additions/expansions/announcements in 2008. Also, supply chain companies have stopped hiring or have furloughed employees because deals for new installations are not closing.

    In the 2nd half of the 20th century, reliance on imported energy meant succumbing to the whims of oil-rich tin pot potentates. 21st century energy dependence would be the reliance on Asian wind and solar manufactories. That is unacceptable. Let Asians build for themselves if they can. The U.S. must restore its capacity for making things and that should begin with wind.

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    QUOTES
    - From the Wiser/Bolinger Wind Technologies report: “…2008 continued a string of record-breaking years for the U.S. wind industry, which has put the U.S. ahead of schedule vis-à-vis the deployment path laid out by the U.S. Department of Energy (2008) to reach 20% wind penetration by 2030.”
    - From the Wiser/Bolinger Wind Technologies report: “…expectations are for a slower year in 2009, in large part due to the impact of the global recession…After a slower 2009, most predictions show market resurgence in 2010 and continuing for the immediate future, as the ARRA 2009 policy changes come into full swing, and as financing constraints are relieved…[T]hese near-term projections would maintain the nation’s early progress towards meeting 20% of its electricity demand with wind power by 2030.”
    - Denise Bode, CEO, AWEA: “The numbers are in, and while they show the industry has been swimming upstream…the fact is that we could be delivering so much more…Our challenge now is to seize the historic opportunity before us to unleash this entrepreneurial force and build up an entire new industry here in the U.S. that will create jobs, avoid carbon, and strengthen our energy security. To achieve that, Congress and the Administration must pass a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) with strong early targets.”

    click to enlarge

    - Missouri Governor Jay Nixon: “Missourians know that in order for us to grow our state’s economy and create the jobs of the twenty-first century, we must embrace new technology and advances like the ones presented to us through renewable wind energy…So I’m proud that the American Wind Energy Association’s quarterly report shows no state has capitalized on these growth opportunities more aggressively over the last three months…”
    - Denise Bode, CEO, AWEA: “Manufacturing investment is the canary in the mine, and shows that the future of wind power in this country is very bright but still far from certain…The reality is that if the nation doesn’t have a firm, long-term renewable energy policy in place, large global companies and small businesses alike will hold back on their manufacturing investment decisions or invest overseas, in countries like China that are soaring ahead. The instances where manufacturing investment is moving forward in the U.S. are in states like Kansas that have demonstrated a commitment to renewable energy and passed a renewable electricity standard. This type of commitment now needs to be made at the national level.”

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