NewEnergyNews: WILL AUSTRALIA CAPTURE THE OCEAN ENERGY PRIZE?

NewEnergyNews

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

Every day is Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 5 (continued from yesterday)
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 6
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 7
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 8
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    THE DAY BEFORE

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

  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 1
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 2
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 3
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 4
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: NEW ENERGY POSSIBILITIES – THE MICHIGAN EXAMPLE
  • QUICK NEWS, April 16: THE RACE AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE; THE FAST RISING POTENTIAL OF U.S. NEW ENERGY; BIG TEXAS WIND SHRINKS ELECTRICITY MRKT PRICE
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE MONEY IN NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, April 15: WORLD WIND TO BOOM THRU 2014; NAT GAS AND SOLAR WERE 75% OF U.S. 2013 NEW POWER; MAINE OFFICIALLY AFFIRMS SMART METERS’ SAFETY
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THIS COULD BE THE REAL VALUE OF SOLAR
  • QUICK NEWS, April 14: DE-RISKED RENEWABLES HAVE MORE INVESTORS THAN DEALS; THE MYTH OF CONSOLIDATION IN SOLAR; TEXAS BREAKS MORE WIND RECORDS
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • Weekend Video: Bill Maher On What’s Happening In The Oceans
  • Weekend Video: The Human Disharmony In The Climate System Symphony
  • Weekend Video: A Few Thoughts About Solar 2.0
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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.

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  • Sunday, August 09, 2009

    WILL AUSTRALIA CAPTURE THE OCEAN ENERGY PRIZE?

    Pioneer ventures to tap ocean power into usable electricity
    Morris Kaplan, August 1, 2009 (The Australian)

    SUMMARY
    BioPower Systems, a start-up owned by Australian Timothy Finnigan and backed by Australian venture capital, has ocean energy pilot programs supplying power to Australia's Flinders Island and King Island, and the big European ocean energy developers are taking note.

    Finnigan, a marine engineer, started 5 years ago with his wave and tidal technologies and $5000 and has won $12+ million in private equity investments and government grants. He formed BioPower Systems in 2006 to bring his BioWAVE, BioSTREAM, and BioBASE technologies to market.

    BioWave. (click to enlarge)

    Experts like the U.S.'s Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Frost & Sullivan, the UK private research authority, agree that the hydrokinetic energies have the potential to supply at least 10% of world power. They are unique among the New Energies because they are predictable and generate 24/7, giving them the potential to be used as base-load power sources.

    A recent Pike Research paper (see OCEAN ENERGY ON THE VERGE) catalogued 5 major hydrokinetic technologies: (1) Tidal stream turbines (2) Wave energy (3) River hydrokinetic (4) Ocean current (5) Ocean thermal.

    The BioPower Systems devices are designed to capture wave and tidal energies.

    Waves are caused by winds blowing across the surface of the water (and winds are caused by temperature changes that result from variations in solar energy between the equator and the poles). Anywhere there are great swaths of open ocean, blowing winds can generate powerful waves. The winds blowing across the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans make Australia a triple-edged wave energy powerhouse.

    BioStream. (click to enlarge)

    The rise and fall of tides are caused by the gravitational tugs of the moon and sun on the oceans. The rising and falling of oceans also cause currents and generate streams, such as the Gulf Stream, and affect other water bodies, causing tidal phenomena.

    All these motions (kinetics) in water (hydro) can be captured and used as mechanical energy to turn a turbine to generate electricity.

    The basic principle of Finnigan’s technology is no different than other ocean and wind installations. A “farm” of devices is set out. The sum of mechanical energy is transformed into electricity and transferred ashore, into the local grid via local cable transmission.

    Now out of the test pool and into the ocean for pilot projects. (click to enlarge)

    Beginning with the impulse that he could figure out a way to harvest the ocean’s energy, Finnigan developed his technologies from back-of-the-envelope jottings to computer assessments rigorous enough to win early funding.

    The BioPower Systems pilot projects put it now in an early, high-risk stage for investors. It is an especially challenging place to be for the engineer-turned- innovator-turned-entrepreneur trying to win backing in risk-averse Australia where coal is king. Nevertheless, venture firm CVC Reef continues to back him and they recently won recognition from National Geographic television.

    The next stage is to demonstrate the technology can produce power at utility-scale volumes. The plan calls for installations with 30 megawatt capacities. Ultimately, Finnigan believes ocean energies will supply 5-to-10% of Australia’s power.

    Biopower Systems recently got new financial backing from equity investment firms Lend Lease Ventures and CVC Sustainable Investments which, with the backing from CVC Reef, brings its current private funding to $6 million. Finnigan was also awarded a $5 million Renewable Energy Development Initiative grant from the Australian government. The money will be used for pilot project installations at grid-connected sites in Tasmania.

    BioWave. From ceme1991 via YouTube

    COMMENTARY
    Breakthrough technologies like offshore wind and ocean energies have an enormous disadvantage in places with cheap, abundant coal supplies like the U.S. southeast and Australia. New Energy is economically competitive where electricity supplies are in higher demand and more expensive.

    The biggest challenge for ocean energies, however, is enduring the harsh ocean environment and the heavy, incessant pounding of the waves.

    According to Pike Research, hydrokinetic energy installations produce more energy per unit of capital cost than solar or wind energy installations. The expense is in the operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. O&M is 10% of solar energy project costs. For wind, it is 20%. Because of the harsh ocean environment, O&M is estimated by Pike Research to be as much as 40% of the cost of hydrokinetic energies. Only by developing technologies that can keep O&M costs down can the hydrokinetic energies expect to be competitive.

    Finnigan took a clever approach to meet that challenge. He examined how ocean plants and animals deal with ocean forces and observed that they flex and move and give. This was his design clue. He built flexibiltiy, mobility and adaptability, what he calls “nature's mechanisms for survival and energy conversion,” into his devices and systems. They move and sway and reflexively “streamline” in extreme conditions. To give the technology these qualities, Finnigan had to make it lightweight and this fortuitously makes it less expensive.

    There is development activity worldwide. (click to enlarge)

    At work, the BioPower devices are fully submerged, making the durable design principles invaluable. Because they are not visible from the land or water surface, there is unlikely to be any aesthetic objection to them. This gives them a competitive advantage over the other hydrokinetic energy devices with which they will also be required to prove they will not harm aquatic life or habitat, not spoil commercial fisheries, not interfere with recreational ocean activity and not be an obstacle to the exercise of naval security operations.

    As entrepreneurs like Finnigan forge ahead, the traditional excuses for not developing earth’s biggest environmental feature, its waters, disappear. Ocean, river and lake jurisdictions are settled, technologies are progressing and readily accessible materials and construction methods to generate electricity at cost effective prices are emerging.

    The growth is impressive and its just getting started. (click to enlarge)

    But Finnigan’s unique approach highlights the biggest remaining obstacle to the advancement of the hydrokinetic energies, the competing good ideas from the more than a hundred companies, mostly small start-ups like BioPower Systems. They are vying to get a piece of what promises to be big action, using original innovation as a wedge. In the absence of a dominant technology (like the wind industry's 3-blade turbine) or a few dominant technologies (like the solar industry's few different kinds of solar panels and few different solar power plant concepts), there can be no economies of scale and no focused technological advancement.

    Will Finnigan prevail? Many companies are out ahead of him, especially at European research centers in Portugal and the UK. Perhaps one of them will establish the dominant technologies. Or perhaps the winning idea has yet to emerge but will come in Finnigan's (sic) wake.

    BioStream. From ceme1991 via YouTube

    QUOTES
    - Finnigan, founder and owner, BioPower Systems: "There's huge opportunity; this is not just an environmental breakthrough technology but an economic one…We won't be competing against coal; we'll sit alongside wind and solar as a renewable energy source…"
    - Finnigan, on the role of climate change in the development of New Energy: "There's been a change over the last year or two. It's become such an important issue to everyone. People are looking to renewable energy. Investors and government will follow to take a stake in renewable technology."
    - Finnigan, explaining his background: "A marine engineer understand the wave mechanics of the ocean and the way wave and ocean imparts forces on structures. They work on design and development of oil rigs and structures like jetties…I moved into hi-tech to try to get wave and tidal energy working. I saw how heavy structures need to resist heavy forces in the ocean. I took a simple approach, looking at what types of systems work well in the ocean…I needed to consider all the elements of what would construe a viable, commercial technology and build them one by one in a design, coming out the other end with a prototype."

    The untapped potential is enormous. (click to enlarge)

    - William Highland, principal, venture firm CVC Reef: "We did a lot of homework. The ocean and wave as a renewable source of energy is differentiated (from other energy forms). But for us it was also backing the man…Timothy Finnigan had good experience, he had a vision which we liked and he had a mature approach to working with investors. He understood the need to work to milestones in order to go to future funding rounds. Early stage technology ventures will hit hurdles; sometimes things fall over. You need people who will get up and surmount the hurdles."
    - Finnigan, on the future of his technology: "Wave and tidal have to contribute to the mix. There are cases where wind and solar don't deliver. Wind is erratic; solar turns off at night; waves are much more regular. It fills that need for stable supply. Currently it's on the fringe because it's not yet commercial. But it is on the brink…We need a commercial-scale demonstration that (it) can compete against other energy sources. At the early stage it'll be on the expensive side; we'll be looking for government subsidy by way of rebates to make it viable while we move down the cost curve…There's a clear path to getting to market in Australia. But there's a global industry too. We see opportunities in Europe. Being a small company, one of the ways to get into markets is with strategic partnerships, like utilities or engineering construction companies or government agencies."

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