NewEnergyNews: 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009

NewEnergyNews

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

Hey, hey, Ms. Abby!!! Go get 'em!!!

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: THE IMPACT ON REAL PEOPLE OF RISING POWER PRICES
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 22: SCHOOLS SAVE W/GEOTHERMAL HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; BUILDING FOR NEXT-GEN U.S. BIOFUELS; ENERGY STORAGE MARKET EMERGING
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: WHERE U.S. OFFSHORE WIND WILL CONNECT
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 21: SOLARCITY TO CROWDFUND WITH $1,000 BONDS; NEW JERSEY LOOKS AT OCEAN WIND; SMART LED LIGHTING MRKT TO DOUBLE
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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

  • THE STUDY: NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN TRANSMISSION
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 20: ELEVEN GOOD THINGS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY; YAHOO BUYS WIND; SMART THERMOSTATS’ BILLION DOLLAR FUTURE
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: The Ocean Speaks Out
  • Weekend Video: Adapting To The Inevitable
  • Weekend Video: The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-HOTTEST SEPTEMBER EVER; WORLD’S HOTTEST MONTHS STREAK AT SIX
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU WIND BEATS FOSSIL, NUKE ENERGY PRICES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-DESERTEC SUCCUMBS TO MIDEAST TURMOIL
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-JAPAN UPS PUSH FOR GEOTHERMAL
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 16:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE MILITARY FALLS FOR THE HOAX
  • TTTA Thursday-FORTUNE 100 BUSINESSES BOOST SUN
  • TTTA Thursday-IOWA UTILITY BUYS WIND TO CUT COSTS
  • TTTA Thursday-GETTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY FROM THE CLOUD
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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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  • Thursday, April 30, 2009

    HOW TO HAVE THE IDEAL GRID

    Wired for Progress; Building the 21st-century grid needed to increase efficiency, security and renewable energy supply will require new regulatory tools and policy approaches.
    Bracken Hendricks, May 2009 (Solar Today)

    SUMMARY
    The nation will recover from its current stumbling under the burden of economic recession, unemployment, energy insecurity, climate crisis and myriad misjudgments in recent strife-torn years. HOW it recovers will determine its future competitiveness and long-term prosperity.

    Paving and reinforcing the way out with modern infrastructure, especially infrastructure that serves New Energy, will support future jobs and growth, the shift to domestic resources and low-carbon energy and it will capture new opportunity, innovation and productivity. Modern infrastructure is the foundation of solutions, whatever they turn out to be, for the short-term economic crisis and the long-term climate crisis.

    A modern electricity transmission and distribution system must be one of the cornerstones of such an infrastructure. 21ST century energy and a New Energy economy cannot be built on a 20TH century grid.

    The present U.S. grid is vulnerable to accidents and terrorism, it is inadequate to the unique needs of New Energy and it cannot be used to manage demand response or incorporate the information technology that could make electricity delivery more reliable and secure.

    The grid was designed to deliver local and regional energy supplies to localities throughout individual regions. Regulatory policies reflect that organizational concept. A national transmission system will require new federal control and coordination of policy and regulation.

    click to enlarge

    The transmission system of the 21ST century must handle solar panel-generated electricity and small wind turbine-generated electricity at their many distributed energy locations as well as solar power plant-generated electricity and wind project-generated electricity and geothermal plant-generated electricity and wave installation-generated electricity from the tens of megawatts to the thousands of megawatts.

    It must also have high carrying capacity reaching into the little-populated sun-drenched Southwestern Deserts, the under-populated wind blown Great Plains and Pacific Northwest, the windy offshore regions of the Great Lakes, the Mid-Atlantic Bight and the Gulf of Mexico, the ocean energy rich offshore sites of Florida’s Gulf Stream and the Pacific coast, the biomass-dense Southeast and the geothermally-endowed Mountain West.

    It must be able to accommodate the charging demands and the storage capacities of a coming national fleet of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) equipped with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) information technology.

    click to enlarge

    21ST century transmission must be able to bring enough New Energy onto the grid and introduce ample new Energy Efficiency into the system so as to allow dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs).

    Finally, it must be able to incorporate demand response information technology and coordinate between power suppliers, grid operators and end-users.

    A new transmission system must, therefore, make 3 crucial changes in the status quo: (1) It must go where New Energy is; (2) It must have a high carrying capacity that does not get bogged down at bottlenecks as it moves from where the New Energy is to where it is needed; and (3) It must have “smart" monitoring and control technology at the utility and consumer ends of the system that does not compromise efficiency or reliability.

    The current status of the U.S. grid and the necessary changes are fully detailed in Bracken Hendricks' Wired for Progress: Building a National Clean-Energy Smart Grid.

    click to enlarge

    COMMENTARY
    New transmission will require spending. Decades of rising demand and underinvestment in the means of delivery leaves the ratepayer no other choice if an adequate level of service is to be sustained. But the ratepayer is already paying for inadequate service.

    In the East, ratepayers may lose $16.5 billion every year to congestion. The cost of the 2003 blackout in the Northeast is estimated at $7-to-10 billion and might have been prevented by a less vulnerable and “smarter” system.

    A vulnerable, unreliable grid is a national security risk. If a wayward treebranch can cause a $7-to-10 billion loss, what kind of costs could a small band of humans with malicious intent inflict? R. James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA, recently said it would be hard to intentionally design a transmission system as vulnerable as the U.S. grid.

    The grid was designed in the 20TH century to run electric lights and radios. It now supplies the Internet through which the nation conducts its business and operates its defenses. Whatever the cost to build or rebuild, new capacities, new management tools and new regulatory mechanisms are not supplementary, they are central and the investment is not optional. It must come either sooner, as a way out of the economic crisis, or later, as a way out of a crisis more desperate.

    click to enlarge

    The necessary new transmission system can be described as a New Energy pipeline. It would include:

    (1) New Energy production at a utility scale;
    (2) An integrated, long-distance high-voltage electricity superhighway;
    (3) Smart regional grids with supply management-enabling technology to mesh New Energy and Old Energy sources and respond to peak demand periods with the cleanest mix of power available;
    (4) End-user information technology that communicates with power suppliers and grid managers, allowing demand responses in residential, commercial and industrial settings and higher efficiency choices by enabled customers;
    (5) Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology integrating New Energy storage by ever-larger fleets of plug-in transportation at public and private charging sites;
    (6) Investment in transmission that facilitates higher job standards and workforce performance to create more cost-competitive domestic manufacturing, infrastructure renewal and long-term economic development that benefits all tiers of U.S. life.

    click to enlarge

    Federal policy changes to accommodate a new national transmission system must include:

    (1) System-wide planning, connecting across jurisdictional, state and regional boundaries for optimal integration of and distribution of New Energy;
    (2) Consolidated review and certification of siting for energy and transmission projects instead of a process that requires duplicative, multi-agency approval from unconnected permitting agencies;
    (3) Cost sharing across all users to hold down individual cost-burdens and benefit sharing among all stakeholders, large and small, to increase acceptance;
    (4) Federal financial support in the form of incentives for deployment of smart technology, financial and technical assistance for regulators and implementers and federal grants to get regional smart-grid pilot projects started yesterday;
    (5) Just as with the pipeline, the policies must make certain investment in transmission facilitates higher job standards and workforce performance to create more cost-competitive domestic manufacturing, infrastructure renewal and long-term economic development that benefits all tiers of U.S. life.

    It is likely new transmission will come at a severe and emotionally divisive cost. Congress will need to validate the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to exercise the right of eminent domain. It will not be comfortable to see access to crucial New Energy and new transmission sites obtained over vehement objections from local regulators and landowners.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Bracken Hendricks, author, Wired for Progress: Building a National Clean-Energy Smart Grid: “If a primary national goal is to increase the use of renewable energy to 20 percent of our total electrical supply — a potential outlined by the Bush administration’s Department of Energy — or even 25 percent, as President Obama has advocated, then we will need new infrastructure designed for the task…”
    Hendricks: “Similarly, if we want massive numbers of consumers to make smart choices about how they produce and use electricity, then they will need access to real-time information on the true costs and impacts of their energy choices and their patterns of consumption…”



    - Hendricks: “Viewing the national clean-energy smart grid in its entirety — from the generation of new renewable energy to more efficient use by consumers in their homes and offices — reveals an incredible potential to optimize the benefits of the whole system…to both get the policy right to protect our global climate and to build new political alliances to rebuild our infrastructure…”
    - Hendricks: “Through a national commitment to plan for a renewable energy economy and to build the supporting infrastructure, we have an opportunity to strengthen our economy and ensure the wealth and welfare of future generations. We have faced similar challenges before, and with this vision we can roll up our sleeves and begin again, rebuilding our energy system to create good green jobs, new markets and strong and healthy communities.”

    VOLT GEARED UP?

    The Volt: Not Ready to Roll
    Charles Lane, April 29, 2009 (Washington Post)

    SUMMARY
    Part of General Motors (GM) financial struggle can be attributed to a billion dollar investment in developing the Chevrolet Volt, a precedent-setting plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The investment cannot pay off until the vehicle comes to market next year.

    Because GM is receiving federal funds to keep it in business, the Volt project is getting careful evaluation by the Obama administration's auto industry task force and many industry watchers.

    Charles Lane of the Washington Post believes the Volt is a “not-very-realistic” business choice because the $30,000+ price (after a federal tax rebate) will make the 4-passenger compact car unappealing to car buyers. He interprets recent task force statements to mean the Volt is not viable while gas pump prices are low.

    The PHEV Volt will be like the popular Toyota Prius in that it will have an electric motor and a gasoline engine (internal combustion engine, ICE). Unlike the Prius, which can only operate on electric power when the car is motionless or at very low speeds, the Volt will be able to drive on battery power at freeway speeds for 40 miles. When its stored battery power is used up, the Volt's ICE will seamlessly take over, runnng on gasoline (or any other liquid fuel) to charge the battery for another 250-to-300 miles of normal driving.

    Lane notes the financial decision by Silicon Valley venture capitalists to postpone bringing Norway’s Th!nk to U.S. and world markets and takes it as an indication the entire BEV concept lacks practical viability. He suggests the Obama administration should likewise pull its funding of the Volt. In fact, Th!nk is moving forward at a pace appropriate to the economy.

    Lane references The Comeback of the Electric Car?, a study by Boston Consulting Group, as well as a GSW Strategy Group study. Both found it would take significantly higher fuel prices to make the BEV an economical buyer choice. He points out that BEVs are inevitably victims to oil price cycles. In an apparent attempt to add fear to half-truths, Lane implies the Obama administration might resort to the dreaded “gas tax” to make the Volt viable.

    click to enlarge

    Apparently ignorant of studies proving otherwise, Lane suggests BEVs using power from a coal-fueled grid might create as much a greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) problem as petroleum fueled ICE vehicles.

    Apparently ignorant of plans to recycle used BEV lithium-ion batteries as low-cost New Energy storage systems, Mr. Lane suggests that used batteries could cause an environmental problem. (Instead, recycled BEV batteries may become a New Energy storage breakthrough and an environmental redemption.)

    click to enlarge

    COMMENTARY
    Lane is right that the price of the Volt will make it an undesirable choice for some consumers. He is utterly foolish to compare a Volt purchase to the purchase of the $100,000+ all-electric Tesla.

    Comparing the Tesla design with the Volt design shows how bombastic Lane’s suggestion is. There is no doubt the Tesla is a toy for the affluent. The Volt will be, like the very successful Toyota Prius, a choice that many sensible, responsible citizens will want to make. Like the Prius, the Volt will require a slightly higher purchase price but is likely to make that up in fuel costs in the long run as gas pump prices inevitably rise.

    Another pompously inaccurate comparison Lane makers is that subsidies to PHEVs are as big a waste as subsidies to first generation (crop-based) ethanol. First-gen ethanol cannot be a good investment because it requires more energy to make than it produces and it causes more greenhouse gas emissions than it saves. PHEVs – maybe the Volt or maybe a better vehicle with better funding – will sooner or later change U.S. and world driving habits and begin an inevitable migration to battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

    click to enlarge

    When Mr. Lane points out that BEVs are impractical because they will always be subject to oil price cycles, he reveals himself to be one of those who President Obama describes as lurching “from shock to trance” under bullying from Old Energy. Lacking information and vision, Lane's is not a voice the administration needs to listen to in deciding the fate of GM and its Volt.

    Lane’s suggestions to drive less, use smaller cars and improve existing technologies are perfectly sensible, the kinds of ideas that always come from conservatives.

    Even a great and important concept like the PHEV can be bungled by poor management so abandoning the Volt might be the best decision for the administration to make on behalf of GM. Abandoning the electric car for some future solution, however, is the strategy that inspired GM’s decision to abandon its 1990s BEV project, a strategy that inspired the movie Who Killed The Electric Car? and put GM on the road to its current situation.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Obama task force report on the Volt: "While the Volt holds promise, it is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable"

    GM showed the 2011 Volt at the recent Shanghai Auto Show. (click to enlarge)

    - Lane: “For some people -- environmentally friendly Hollywood stars and other wealthy dabblers -- cost is not the top concern in deciding what car to buy. For them, a Volt or even a $101,500 all-electric Tesla Roadster might be of interest.”
    - Lane: “To be sure, the green-leaning Obama administration has not ruled out allowing a restructured GM to continue pouring (federal) money into the Volt. But I hope it won't. The Volt and other electric vehicles could gobble up more subsidies than ethanol.”

    MORE NEWS, 4-30 (MONEY FOR SCIENCE, OH YEAH!; SAN DIEGO PRIZE FOR ALGAE THAT FLIES, DRIVES; FED MONEY TO WIND INDUSTRY)

    MONEY FOR SCIENCE, OH YEAH!
    Obama to double scientific research funding
    Edward Luce, April 28, 2009 (Financial Times)

    "Barack Obama… promised to double public funding of scientific research to exceed the level Washington spent during the "space race" unleashed by Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy 50 years ago.

    "The US president's pledge, made in a speech at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, included a promise to take ideology out of public research following what many scientists saw as the politicisation of science under George W. Bush - particularly in the field of climate change."


    Characteristic of the science done during the last administration. (click to enlarge)

    "Under Mr Obama's pledge, the US would increase to 3 per cent the proportion of gross domestic product it spends on scientific research and development - roughly the level as under JFK.

    "New measures would include making an R&D tax credit permanent for businesses, boosting funding for energy and healthcare research, and efforts to restore the quality of US teaching in maths and sciences…Mr Obama's speech goes part of the way towards fulfilling a long-standing campaign promise…"


    Time to turn this around. (click to enlarge)

    "Some critics of the Obama administration point out that elements of his programme, including the pledge to enact a full "cap and trade" system this year for carbon emissions, already look to be in danger because of the political fallout in Congress from the economic crisis…However, Mr Obama also won plaudits for sticking to his longer-term agenda…

    "…[The President said] there was a strong link between previous eras of high public funding for scientific research and subsequent US economic competitiveness…linked his new research funding to US job creation…[and] argued that the steep slide in the quality of teaching at US schools was in need of urgent reversal…"




    SAN DIEGO PRIZE FOR ALGAE THAT FLIES, DRIVES
    Regional Partnership Announced For Algae Project
    April 28, 2009 (CNN Internet Broadcasting via KGTV-10 San Diego)

    "The San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology announced a regional partnership with the city and the University of California, San Diego… for developing fuel from algae.

    "Mayor Jerry Sanders said San Diego, home to more than 500 biotechnology companies, could become a major center for renewable energy…"


    click to enlarge

    "UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said she hoped the partnership would make sustainable algae-based fuel production a reality in the next five to 10 years…

    "According to a San Diego Association of Governments study cited by UCSD, research into algal biofuels already has a $63 million economic impact in the region and employs 513 people."


    click to enlarge

    "Various fuels can be made from algae, including a kind of biodiesel and butanol, which is similar to gasoline. On Jan. 8, Continental Airlines successfully tested a twin-engine jet that burned a 50-50 blend of traditional jet fuel and biofuel derived from algae.

    "Algae grows faster than some other food crops used for producing biofuels -- it also takes in carbon-dioxide and gives off oxygen -- and contains a high percentage of combustible oils."



    FED MONEY TO WIND INDUSTRY
    Chu announces new wind energy funding
    April 29, 2009 (UPI)

    "Secretary of Energy Steven Chu says his department will provide $93 million to support development of wind energy in the United States.

    "Chu announced the plans… during a visit to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. The money will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as will more than $100 million for infrastructure improvements at the NREL facility…"


    click to enlarge

    "Included in the funding projects are enhancements of current and next generation wind turbine drive-train systems; improvements of the quality and use of lighter advanced materials for turbine blades, towers and other components, and creation of a National Wind Technology Center.

    "Chu said wind energy is among the fastest growing energy technologies in the United States, with the U.S. now leading the world in wind energy generation and new wind energy capacity."

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    OCEAN ALMOST READY TO GIVE UP ITS ENERGY

    Ocean power surges forward; Wave power and tidal power are still experimental, but may be little more than five years away from commercial development.
    Mark Clayton, April 24, 2009 (Christian Science Monitor)

    SUMMARY
    Although commercial-scale deployment of U.S. ocean energy projects is considered by mainstream energy developers to be 5 years off, WaveConnect, a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) wave-energy pilot project has been granted approval by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to move ahead.

    PG&E will use a small portion of ratepayer funds to deploy and test 5 different 1-megawatt systems at a site 3 miles outside Humboldt Bay off the rugged Northern California coast.

    CPUC's approval follows a major shift in federal policy on offshore energy. After years of foot-dragging by the Bush administration, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Department of Interior (DOI) have settled regulatory jurisdiction issues and the Obama Department of Energy (DOE) will quadruple ocean-power R&D funding to $40 million for the next fiscal year.

    Success at the Humboldt site would open the possibility of commercial-scale projects along all the U.S. coasts.

    Note Pacific coast 30, Atlantic coast 20. (click to enlarge)

    50-to-80 international companies and 15-to-20 U.S. companies are developing ocean power prototypes. In Fall 2008, FERC had allowed 34 tidal-power and 9 wave-power U.S. permits. Another 20 tidal-power, 4 wave-energy and 3 ocean-current applications are pending.

    Funding is problematic. Financing for all energy projects has disappeared with the economic downturn. One report counted 17 Wall Street firms that funded New Energy before the financial crisis, of which 7 remain active in the sector. As the newest and most unproven of the New Energies, wave, tidal and current power will surely struggle. The struggle will postpone emergence at commercial scale.

    When the money starts coming, technologies that demonstrate “survivability” in the harsh ocean environment will be the ones to get it.

    PowerBuoy, from Ocean Power Technology (OPT), is a 135-five-foot-long floating steel cylinder with a pistonlike structure inside to translate the bobbing of the waves into as much as 150 kilowatts of electricity sent to power stations ashore via seafloor cable. Wave battering has sunk some PowerBuoys but a 56-foot-long prototype unit functioned 2 years nonstop before being taken out of the water for further study.

    OPT PowerBuoy. (click to enlarge)

    Christopher Sauer’s Ocean Renewable Power expects to deploy an underwater tidal energy generator, in testing since December 2007, near Eastport, Maine, later in 2009. It is a series of propellers that can covert 6-knot tide flows into as much as 100,000 watts of power using a series of 52 foot wide by 14 foot high “stacked” turbines.

    Pelamis, a series of red metal cylinders connected by hinges and hydraulic pistons, tested last fall off the coast of Portugal until the harsh ocean environment closed down the project. Evaluation of a Pelamis unit off the coast of Massachusetts a few years ago concluded a $273 million, 206-device installation could produce 13.4 cents/kilowatt-hour electricity and that price would drop with economies of scale. The evaluation concluded that wave energy could be price competitive with onshore wind power if the industy designated a technology that was then mass-produced.

    Offshore wind will also get a big boost from new clarity at the regulatory and funding agencies (FERC, DOI, DOE). It is regarded as a commercially ready technology desptie the fact that there are as yet no U.S. offshore wind installations. Europe has deployed 10,000 megawatts offshore. It is estimated the U.S. has an offshore potential of ~500,000 megawatts. The offshore potential of the 10-to-11 Mid Atlantic Bight states could supply as much as 20% of their electricity.

    Burt Hamner’s Gray’s Harbor Ocean Energy is developing a hybrid offshore wind/wave energy device that will get 10% of its power from waves and 90% from wind power – IF the company can untangle the permitting process.Even under the new jurisdictional clairifications, it is not yet entirely certain whether wind or wave energy regulation should take precedence.

    Note all the Pacific action. (click to enlarge)

    COMMENTARY
    New Energy industry veterans say the hydrokinetic (wave, tidal and current) energies are at about the same stage now as onshore wind power was in the early 1980s. There is one difference: Timing. Technology, the marketplace and the demand for emissions-free, domestic energy are all a quarter-century farther along. There is a pipeline full of industrious development awaiting that one commercial ocean energy success that will set the sector aboom.

    Artist's rendering of what an OPT PowerBuoy installation off the California coast might look like. (click to enlarge)

    A 2007 study from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the research arm of the public utility industry, found wave energy could produce as much as 6.5% of U.S. electricity (10,000 megawatts). Because waves hit harder on the Pacific coast's shorter, deeper continental shelf, wave energy could produce 17% of California’s electricity with comparable amounts coming from Oregon, Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii.

    Together, EPRI estimated the hydrokinetic energies could provide more than 10% of U.S. electricity needs.

    Tidal energy already has pilot projects, by Verdant Power in New York City’s East River and Hydro Green Energy on the upper Mississippi River, under way. Though farther along than ocean energies and offshore wind in the U.S., it has fewer potential sites but could still eventually provide 3,000 megawatts of domestic power.

    A major hurdle remaining before the hydrokinetic energies is the study of environmental impacts. Though widely thought to be relatively benign, the hydrokinetic energies must nevertheless develop standards and practices and meet clearly designated criteria. A PowerBuoy installed near a Navy base in Hawaii was found to have “no significant impact…” but the entire range of technologies must demonstrate they will not have deleterious effects.

    If, in the process of study, harm is discovered to marine life or habitat, the hydrokinetic energy industry must show it can develop mitigations. Disruptions, if there are any, to fishing, recreational boating and surfing, environmental and tourism businesses must be abridged. The industry must demonstrate it can genially cohabit offshore waters.

    NYC East River current devices. (click to enlarge)

    There are many study centers, like WaveConnect, for the hydrokinetic energies. They include the Wallace Energy Systems & Renewables Facility at Oregon State University, the European Marine Energy Centre in Scotland’s Orkney Islands, and the Wave Energy Centre (WavEC) in Lisbon, Portugal. It would be wise for one or all of them to copy the example of the American Wind Wildlife Institute, a public-private partnership between the U.S. wind industry, federal regulatory agencies and environmental groups, that is engaged in proactive confrontation with siting issues.

    Offshore wind is more expensive to build than onshore wind but both are more economical, especially during the current financial difficulties, than building new coal, nuclear or natural gas plants. Offshore wind is significantly more productive and less intermittent than onshore wind. It is the only ocean energy technology presently ready to be deployed at gigawatt scale.

    The hydrokinetic energies are expected to play an important role in New Energy production toward 2020 – IF undertakings like WaveConnect get started now.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - George Hagerman, ocean-energy researcher, Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute: “Even without much support, ocean power has proliferated in the last two to three years, with many more companies trying new and different technology…”
    - Christopher Sauer, CEO, Ocean Renewable Power: “It’s really been a struggle, particularly since mid-September when Bear Sterns went down…We worked without pay for a while, but we made it through…[Venture capitalists are] not writing checks yet, but they’re talking more…”
    - Roger Bedard, ocean technology leader, EPRI: “Wave-power technology is still very much in emerging pre-commercial stage…But what we’re seeing with the PG&E WaveConnect is an important project that could have a significant impact.”
    - EPRI study, 2004: “Even with worst-case assumptions, the economics of wave power compares favorably to wind power…”

    click to enlarge

    - Charles Dunleavy, CFO, OPT: “The ability to ride out passing huge waves is a very important part of our system…Right now, the industry is basically just trying to assimilate and deal with many different technologies as well as the cost of putting structures out there in the ocean.”
    - Bedard, EPRI, on the hydrokinetic energies’ environmental impacts: “We think they’re benign…But we’ve never put large arrays of energy devices in the ocean before. If you make these things big enough, they would have a negative impact.”
    - David Eisenhauer, spokesman, PG&E: “There’s definitely good potential for [WaveConnect]… It’s our responsibility to explore any renewable energy we can bring to our customers – but only if it can be done in an economically and environmentally feasible way.”
    - Burt Hamner, CEO, Gray’s Harbor: “What the public has to understand is that we are faced with a flat-out energy crisis…We have to change the regulatory system to develop a structure that’s realistic for what we’re doing.” -- “There is no cheap solution…But if we’re successful, the prize could be a big one.”

    NEW ENERGY STANDARD (RES) WON’T RAISE RATES

    Impacts of a 25-Percent Renewable Electricity Standard as Proposed in the American Clean Energy and Security Act Discussion Draft
    April 2009 (Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy)

    SUMMARY
    Impacts of a 25-Percent Renewable Electricity Standard as Proposed in the American Clean Energy and Security Act Discussion Draft was produced by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in response to a request from Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass). Markey is Chair of the Energy Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-author of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) of 2009, the draft legislation that contains the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) evaluated by the EIA.

    Markey asked the EIA to consider what impact a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) would have on U.S. energy prices. The EIA's conclusion is that an RES would have little impact on prices.

    The analysis begins with an updated version of the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2009 that takes into consideration projected impacts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the $787 billion stimulus bill passed by Congress in February.

    click to enlarge

    President Obama has repeatedly said he wants to see U.S. New energy capacity doubled in the next 3 years. EIA says ARRA (the stimuluas bill) will kick-start the process. Finding that ARRA funds will have a “significant impact” on the growth of New Energy in the next 5 years, EIA has adjusted its “reference case” scenario accordingly.

    As written in the ACESA (the energy and climate change bill), the proposed RES will require U.S. utilities to obtain 25% of their power from New Energy sources by 2025.

    As written in the ACESA, the New Energies that meet the standard are: (1) wind energy, (2) solar energy, (3) geothermal energy, (4) biomass or landfill gas, (5) qualified ydropower, (6) marine and hydrokinetic renewable energies.

    As written in the ACESA, the required percent of U.S. power to come from New Energy would begin in 2012 at 6% and proceed stepwise: 2013 – 6.0%, 2014/15 – 8.5%, 2016/17 – 11.0%, 2018/19 – 14.0%, 2020/21 – 17.5%, 2022/23 – 21.0%, 2024 – 23.0%, 2025 through 2039 – 25%.

    20% of each year’s requirement can be met, if so granted by the state’s Governor, by stepped up efficiency measures but the Governor must reconcile the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) included in the ACESA so that the improved efficiencies are not counted twice. The EIA analysis considers a scenario with full use of the 20% efficiency allowance (RESFEC) and a scenario with no use of the 20% efficiency allowance (RESNEC).

    click to enlarge

    COMMENTARY
    The EIA assessment’s key findings:
    (1) Provisions of the bill allowing various leeways (such as the efficiency allowance) in reaching the 25% standard could keep New Energy capacity to 17% of total electricity.
    (2) The main New Energy sources in meeting the standard are expected to be biomass and wind. Solar and geothermal are projected to grow significantly. The emphasis on biomass has surprised many in the New Energy community.
    (3) EIA says most of wind’s growth will come from state RESs and ARRA funds and the national RES will have a greater impact on biomass growth. EIA’s numbers are somewhat confusing but, according to chatter in the New Energy blogosphere, it may be assuming significantly less than 20% of U.S. electricity to come from wind by 2030. If the wind industry is to reach its 20% goal by 2030, the national RES will play a significant role.

    click to enlarge

    (4) The national RES will increase the use of New Energy and therefore decrease the use of coal and natural gas. Coal use will drop 8-to-11% and natural gas use will drop 6-to-15%.
    (5) The RES will not affect power prices (“national average electricity prices”) until after 2020 and only 2.7-to-2.9% after that. Prices by 2030 will not likely change by more than 1% from what they otherwise would have been.
    (6) Smaller-scale regional impacts on price will vary from 1-to-6% between 2025 and 2030.
    (7) Renewable Energy credits used to offset standard requirements will not be of significance before 2020 and lose value after as supplies of New Energy outreach demand.
    (8) Greenhouse gas emissions will fall 7-to-12% by 2030.
    (9) Impacts could be different due to unanticipated effects from unconsidered provisions in the ACESA discussion draft.
    (10) A cap-and-trade system to reduce GhGs should cause faster growth of New Energy by driving up the cost of fossil fuel use. Whether the growth is attributable to the RES or cap-and-trade is in question but could be determined by a study in the change in value of emissions allowances.
    (11) The interaction of the RES with EERS, cap–and-trade or other policies could affect the EIA assessment conclusions. Examples: (a) If the EERS and other Energy Efficiency policies cut demand for electricity, utilities may not be willing to invest in New Energy. (b) Cap-and-trade could drive the building of nuclear and “clean” coal, diminishing interest in New Energy.

    click to enlarge

    The EIA assessment acknowledges other uncertainties:
    (1) Future fuel and technology costs are “highly” uncertain. Decreased fossil fuel prices discourage New Energy investment. Increased fossil fuel prices drive New Energy investment.
    (2) EIA assumes technology costs go down and performance goes up with economies of scale but obstacles could emerge.
    (3) Assumptions about biomass co-firing at existing coal plants could be way off if GhG regulation forces coal plants to close because the cost of retrofits are too high.
    (4) Lack of adequate transmission could foil the growth of New Energy and the improvement of the grid could facilitate growth.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - From the EIA assessment: “The level of renewables required to comply with the RES will be lower than the nominal target because of the exemptions and baseline adjustments…”
    - From the EIA assessment: “The increase in renewable generation stimulated by the Federal RES leads to lower projected coal and natural gas generation…”
    - From the EIA assessment: “Given the amount of eligible renewable generation projected in the reference case, the RES is not expected to affect national average electricity prices until after 2020…The peak effect on national average electricity prices, 2.7 percent [to]…2.9 percent…, occurs as the required renewable share ramps up more rapidly than the demand for electricity is growing. In the later years of the projections, the impact on national average electricity prices is smaller, as the impact of the RES requirement on the cost of coal and natural gas, fuels whose use is reduced by added renewables, is increasingly reflected in electricity prices. By 2030, electricity prices are projected to be little changed…with 2030 prices less than 1 percent higher than in the reference case…”
    - From the EIA assessment: “Within the electric power sector, the RES is projected to result in reductions in carbon dioxide emissions…”
    - From the EIA assessment: “Among the key uncertainties are projections of the growth in the demand for electricity, future fuel prices, and the cost and performance of new generating equipment, both renewable and nonrenewable technologies. Future energy and environmental policy is also a key uncertainty…”

    MORE NEWS, 4-29 (WIND BOOMS IN FIRST QUARTER 2009; BUY PRIME SUN, NOTHING DOWN; MASS. CO GETS SCOT & L.A. $$$ FOR UTAH WIND)

    WIND BOOMS IN FIRST QUARTER 2009
    Wind industry adds nearly 3,000 MW, group says
    Sandy Shore, April 28, 2009 (AP)

    "Wind farms added more than 2,800 megawatts of capacity in the first quarter…offering a sliver of good news for an industry pummeled by frozen credit markets and the recession.

    "From January to March, about three dozen developers started wind farms in 15 states adding about twice the capacity that came on line last year during the same period, according to
    a report by the American Wind Energy Association…"

    click for report

    "Most projects were already under construction in 2008 as the economy weakened…A number of companies were forced to shelve projects and lay off workers, particularly from October to December when credit became scarce…[I]nvestments began to tail off because of the way tax credits for projects are structured. Tax credits do not pack the same punch when the economy falters.

    "The Treasury Department is expected to release new rules as part of the U.S. stimulus package that would allow for something closer to a rebates for wind investments as an alternative to tax credits…The stimulus package has already had an effect on the industry."


    click to enlarge

    "By the end of March, about three dozen new projects had been announced with a potential of 3,540 megawatts…[T]hose projects were motivated by the stimulus package…

    "The industry is still wrestling in the current economic climate…Vestas A/S, the world's biggest wind turbine manufacturer [will]… lay off 1,900 workers primarily in Denmark and Britain, because of sluggish demand in Europe…"



    BUY PRIME SUN, NOTHING DOWN
    Kiss the upfront costs of solar goodbye
    Josh Dorfman, April 27, 2009 (Miami Herald)

    "…In 2008, SolarCity introduced SolarLease, a program that enables homeowners to lease solar panel systems for a low monthly rate and zero money down. SolarCity even provides free repair service and free monitoring for optimal output as part of the performance guarantee, which lasts as long as the lease. Leases run for 15 years, after which time you can apply your accumulated monthly payments toward purchasing your system or opt to return it back to the company. Along the way, you'll very likely lower your overall monthly energy costs…This works for your bottom line and the planet's too.

    "…SolarCity has plans in the works to expand its innovative service (also available in Oregon and Arizona) into 10 additional states this year…"


    From solarcity100 via YouTube

    "…Akeena Solar has developed a sleek, easy-to-install solar panel system called Andalay and has partnered with a solar financing company called Sun Run to help consumers go solar without incurring much of the up-front costs. Sun Run enables residents to enter into a long-term contract called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which helps a homeowner purchase the energy being produced by the solar panels on the roof without actually purchasing or leasing the panels.

    "…Operating throughout the Northeast, Northwest and Canada, GroSolar is steadily becoming one of the largest solar installers in North America. Where rebates and incentives are available in your state, GroSolar files all of the paperwork on your behalf. And since rebate checks can take a while to arrive, GroSolar charges you the "after rebate" price when installing your system and then collects the incentive checks directly, helping to lower your out-of-pocket costs."


    From drumat5280 via YouTube.

    "…Ready Solar offers a deceptively simple modular system - aptly named Solar in a Box - that can be installed quickly and at a reduced cost. Because Solar in a Box is a modular system, you can choose as little or as much solar power as you'd like and then add more capacity over time."

    [From Josh Dorfman's recently published book, "The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget."]



    MASS. CO GETS SCOT & L.A. $$$ FOR UTAH WIND
    Newton wind-energy firm raises $376m
    Chris Reidy, April 23, 2009 (Boston Globe)

    "First Wind, a Newton [Mass.] wind-energy company, has obtained $376 million in financing for a project in Milford, Utah.

    "Royal Bank of Scotland PLC, the parent company of Citizens Bank, was lead arranger for the loan…"


    click to enlarge

    "With 97 wind turbines, the Milford Wind Project will generate up to 203.5 megawatts of clean energy and will be one of the largest renewable energy facilities in Utah and the largest wind-energy project in the state…

    "Its chief executive, Paul Gaynor, said…[the financing is a testament to stakeholders such as] the Southern California Public Power Authority."

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    WINDY CITY TO BUILD BIG SUN

    South Side solar power could draw on stimulus funds
    Kellen M. Henry, April 22, 2009 (Medill Reports)
    and
    Exelon plans to build solar power plant on Chicago's South Side; Company would rely on Energy Department loan guarantees for $60 million project
    Joshua Boak, April 22, 2009 (Chicago Tribune)

    SUMMARY
    Exelon Corp. will put stimulus funds to work by building the biggest urban solar power plant in the U.S., a 10-megawatt, $60 million solar photovoltaic (PV) installation on Chicago's South Side.

    SunPower Corp. will supply the PV panels and handle the installation for Exelon. To maximize productivity, the panels will be mounted on a frame that allows an automated tracking system to rotate them each day along the sun’s path, keeping them fully exposed to the sun.

    Unlike a nuclear, natural gas or coal plant, a solar power plant occupies a larger, more landscape-integrated space. It requires little in the way of resources (like water) from the environment, produces virtually no pollution and generates zero climate change-aggravating greenhouse gas emissions.

    The Exelon installation will have 32,800 PV panels spread over a 39-acre former industrial “brownfield” site in the West Pullman Industrial Redevelopment Area to be leased from the City of Chicago. Other brownfield sites are being studied for future development.

    Constructed image of the planned solar power plant in the renewed brownfield. (click to enlarge)

    Exelon hopes to obtain American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus fund resources in the form of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantees designated for New Energy projects, part the incentive program through which President Obama intends to double U.S. New Energy capacity in the next 3 years. Such guarantees of 80% of the project costs are not available to Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison Co., a major Chicago utility, for expanding its fleet of 17 nuclear reactors.

    The remaining 20% of the project cost will come from project equity.

    The project will also be eligible for a 30% federal investment tax credit, an Illinois enterprise zone investment tax credit and reduced sales and property tax rates.

    Why are New Energy projects given stimulus funding preference? If funding is approved, construction at the West Pullman site is expected to begin this summer and the installation will likely come online by the end of the year. A nuclear plant would require 3-to-6 years of planning and 10 or more years of construction.

    Construction will create 200 jobs for the local workforce.

    The project will help Commonwealth Edison meet the Illinois Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) that requires the state’s utilities to obtain 25% of their power by 2025.

    The Exelon project is small compared to a single traditional power source project but its advantages (clean energy, relief from fossil fuel cost fluctuations, relief from imported energy sources, short-term planning and construction, shovel-ready jobs) can be applied repeatedly at many brownfield and open space locales. This project, by itself, represents peak demand relief for the local grid because it generates most at the hottest part of the summer day when consumers put the most stress on the power system.

    Some continue to be reluctant about solar energy because of cost and intermittency issues.

    click to enlarge

    COMMENTARY
    Less than 1% of U.S. power comes from solar energy but Al Gore told a House of Representatives subcommittee last week that enough sun falls on the land masses of the earth in 45 minutes to provide a year of electricity to the world. Conclusion: Growth opportunity in the sector is humongous.

    Solar energy’s biggest obstacle to growth is the cost of generating electricity from solar panels. Estimates vary according to the type of solar energy system being evaluated.

    A recent Moody's Investor Service analysis reportedly concluded solar PV-generated electricity is 3 times more expensive than nuclear energy-generated electricity and 4 times the cost of electricity from natural gas. But it is important to remember that one of the causes of the recent financial downturn is the rigged "ratings" of investment vehicles by “qualified experts.” Estimates of power costs vary according to who is paying for the estimate.

    Another reported estimate: Capital costs for coal are $1-to-$3 billion/1,000 megawatts; natural gas costs are $1-to-$2 billion/1,000 megawatts; Solar PV power costs may be $5-to-$7 billion/1,000 megawatts.

    Costs for coal and natural gas are significantly higher for NEW deployment and can be expected to rise over time, especially after a price is placed on greenhouse gas emissions.

    A more recent evaluation of prices from investment bank Credit Suisse. (click to enlarge)

    Proponents of solar PV energy contend it is approaching “grid parity,” the point at which solar energy-generated electricity costs the same as electricity from any other source feeding the grid. Industry-leading First Solar recently announced it had reached a large enough volume of output to reap economies of scale benefits. The cost of generating electricity using First Solar's thin-film photovoltaic solar panels is at present reportedly no more than $1/watt.

    Indicative of the success of the Obama stimulus plan at increasing New Energy capacity, utilities are aggressively investing in solar power plants. Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) recently indicated interest in a $350 million PV project for a Florida urban development. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) is developing 500 megawatts of solar PV in California. New Jersey’s Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G) is planning a $773 million installation of PV panels across its cities’ urban environment from streetlights to public school roofs. Due to federal tax credits and state incentives, the average PSE&G residential bill of $1,270 a year will increase ~$4/year if the project is approved.

    Such increased activity is driving PV manufacturing growth. Economies of scale will inevitably drive prices down and make the predictions about reaching grid parity come true. Ken Zweibel, director of the Institute for Analysis of Solar Energy at George Washington University, says the cost of solar energy-generated electricity drops 20% whenever solar panel production volume doubles and such doubling has been taking place approximately every 30 months.

    SunPower Corp. was the solar developer for the 14-megawatt project at Nellis Air Force Base, currently North America’s biggest PV solar power plant.

    The biggest PV solar power plant in North America, installed at Nellis Air Force base in Nevada by SunPower. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Tom O'Neill, senior vice president, Exelon: "It's a way to start participating in renewable energy…Ultimately, we are putting 10 megawatts of electricity on the grid. It's not much. But you've got to start somewhere…We're a nuclear company…But we know which way the wind blows, no pun intended. Nothing is off the table."
    - Julia Hamm, executive director, Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA): "As the size of market increases, manufacturers can ramp up production and drive down cost…"
    - Julie Blunden, vice president of public policy, SunPower: "Chicago has better sun than Germany…And Germany is the largest solar market in the world today."

    click to enlarge

    - Paul Elsberg, spokesman, Exelon: “We believe that low carbon energy is the future…There will be a price on carbon and a cost to pollute. For us it’s a strategic business decision.”
    - Jonathan Feipel, energy division manager, Illinois State Energy Office: “…Exelon would put us on the map in confirming that Illinois is a major player in the energy market…[Solar energy is] more expensive, but once the solar panels go up… they’re free to operate…Instead of having to use that high-priced fuel, we can swap out for solar energy…When we really need it is when it’s at its best – when the sun is the hottest.”

    COST MAKES COAL A BAD BET FOR POWER COMPANY STOCKHOLDERS

    The Financial Risks to Old Dominion Electric Cooperative’s Consumer-Members of Building and Operating the Proposed Cypress Creek Power Station
    David Schlissel and Lucy Johnston, April 22, 2009 (Synapse Energy Economics)

    SUMMARY
    The Financial Risks to Old Dominion Electric Cooperative’s Consumer-Members of Building and Operating the Proposed Cypress Creek Power Station from Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. concluded that construction of the proposed Cypress Creek Power Station coal-fired power plant would not be a good investment for the consumer-members of Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) due to a variety of risks.

    The risks:
    (1) Coal plant construction costs are expected to rise unpredictably and construction times are expected to be delayed by regulation and controversy.
    (2) Financing for coal plants is not expected to be readily available due to the cost of construction and long delays in obtaining returns.
    (3) Federal, regional and state actions are expected to on greenhouse gas (GhG)-emissions from power plants.
    (4) Compliance with GhG regulation and purchase of permits to emit are expected to add costs to coal-burning.
    (5) There is doubt about the technical viability of the Cypress Creek Power Station’s pulverized coal post-combustion carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology.

    click to enlarge

    (6) Due to the cost of pulverized coal post-combustion CCS technology, it is not expected to be economically viable if and when it is technically achievable.
    (7) It is not certain demand increases will be big enough to justify the Cypress Creek Power Station.
    (8) A federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) proposed by the Obama administration, requiring U.S. utilities to obtain 10% of their power from New Energy sources by 2012 and 25% by 2025, is expected to curtail demand for power generated by coal.
    (9) Recent studies suggest economically recoverable coal supplies may be significantly more limited than thought. That would drive the price of coal-generated electricity up.
    (10) The Obama administration may make the use of coal more expensive by making restrictions on current criteria pollutants (examples: NOx, SO2, mercury) more stringent.

    click to enlarge

    COMMENTARY
    The study estimated the cost of the Cypress Creek Power Station at $6 billion or more. Given the difficulty of obtaining such financing and the high cost of capital, the study recommended postponing construction and awaiting clarity on financing circumstances going forward.

    The study makes 10 findings based on the risks it identified.

    Finding 1: The Cooperative proposes to commit to a very expensive and capital-intensive project at a time of significant economic and financial uncertainty.

    Finding 2: Uncertainty over construction costs and the costs of compliance with future emissions reduction requirements have led to 80+ coal plants being cancelled, delayed or rejected by state regulatory commissions.

    Finding 3: The construction cost of Cypress Creek Power Station is estimated at more than $6 billion.

    Finding 4: Federal policy requiring sharp GhG reductions is coming soon. It will seriously impact the cost of coal-generated electricity.

    click to enlarge

    Finding 5: The 1,500 megawatt Cypress Creek Power Station will, by ODEC’s estimate, generate far more GhGs than any present pulverized coal CCS trial technology has the capacity to handle.

    Finding 6: The cost to ODEC consumer-members of permanently sequestering emissions from the Cypress Creek Power Station will be prohibitive to develop and insure and sequestration is by no means proven safe.

    Finding 7: If the Cypress Creek Power Station is the best investment for its consumer-members, ODEC has not demonstrated it.

    Finding 8: The costs for Cypress Creek will burden ODEC consumer-members for at least 45 years.

    Finding 9: The need for Cypress Creek, in terms of projected demand, does not come until 2030 or later.

    Finding 10: There are better energy-generating investments for ODEC consumer-members.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - From the study: “The current economic recession represents a near term challenge for utilities, and exacerbates risks that ODEC and other electric utilities face. In fact, according to the Wall Street rating agency Standard and Poor’s, the ‘worst economic slump since World War II’ will present significant challenges to U.S. electric cooperatives and public power utilities just as ‘prospects for regulation of greenhouse gas emissions have never been higher and capital needs abound.’ Standard & Poor’s also believes that ‘the worst of the [economic] downturn is still ahead’ and that ‘the downturn is likely to be relatively prolonged, and recovery should be sluggish.’”
    - From the study: “At the same time that the economic recession strains utilities like ODEC, the financial crisis and ongoing credit crunch create uncertainty as to their ability to raise needed capital and to determine what the costs of borrowing will be for the capital they need in order to undertake proposed projects. Standard & Poor’s has warned that ‘The financial market turmoil poses a challenge for public power utilities in the midst of large-scale capital projects that have no other source of funds, and could face construction delays, and higher borrowing costs whether they obtain short- or long-term financing.’”

    click to enlarge

    - From the study: “The Obama Administration indicated in its recently released federal budget that it would seek to establish a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. Purchasing emissions allowances through such a cap-and-trade system will increase the cost of running power plants that emit CO2; due to the high carbon content of coal, those plants that are coal-fired will be particularly affected…The Administration’s proposal is one of several. There are two likely avenues for federal regulation of greenhouse gases. Congress could pass legislation, or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could adopt regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Both paths are currently under active consideration…Leaders in both the House and Senate are pursuing plans for aggressive legislative action on climate change during this session. To date, the most substantive legislative proposals have focused on establishing a cap on carbon emissions and allowing affected emitters to trade emission allowances; however, another option would be to establish a tax on greenhouse gas emissions. Legislative proposals in the 111th Congress include an emissions cap with aggressive reduction targets. Proposals announced by Representatives Markey and Waxman, and Representative Van Hollen have included greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2050 of 83% and 85%, respectively, below 2005 emission levels…”

    MORE NEWS, 4-28 (HOUSE CLIMATE BILL TO HAVE FREE ALLOWANCES; TEXAS WILL SPEND FOR SUN; HOME ENERGY EFFICIENCIES)

    HOUSE CLIMATE BILL TO HAVE FREE ALLOWANCES
    U.S. House climate bill to include free carbon permits
    Ayesha Rascoe (w/Christian Wiessner), 23 April 2009 (Reuters)

    "A U.S. House of Representatives bill aimed at fighting global warming will allow some polluters access to free permits to emit greenhouse gas emissions in its cap-and-trade system, Democratic Representative Edward Markey said…

    "Markey and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman unveiled climate-change legislation last month that would limit greenhouse gas emissions and require companies to acquire permits to emit carbon dioxide."


    They called it a "discussion draft" because they intend to negotiate. (click to enlarge)

    "U.S. President Barack Obama has supported auctioning all carbon permits, essentially making big polluters such as coal-powered power plants pay heavily for their emissions. The White House has indicated flexibility on this point, however.

    "Markey said backers of the bill are talking with all members of the Energy and Commerce Committee on how to structure the carbon allowances…[I]nfluential committee member Democrat Representative Rick Boucher of Virginia is planning to unveil a proposal that would give 40 percent of carbon allowances to utilities and 20 percent to industrial companies and refineries…"


    They've long known the debate would hinge on the percent of credits auctioned. (click to enlarge)

    "The issue of how carbon permits are distributed will be key to the success or failure of the bill…Republicans have been strongly opposed to the measure…Democrats from heavy industrial states have voiced concerns about placing too much burden on companies by forcing them to buy permits…Representative Jay Inslee said lawmakers are working to find consensus…Obama's climate change plan would use the revenue from the sale of carbon permits for investments in clean energy technology and to offset higher energy costs for consumers through tax breaks."

    "…Democratic leaders want [the bill] approved by the panel by Memorial Day, with a full chamber vote later this year…U.S. utilities…urged lawmakers… to provide power companies with free permits to emit greenhouse gases, at least initially….[T]he Edison Electric Institute…supports a gradual transition to a full auction system, with utilities being allocated 40 percent of all allowances annually until technology that can trap and store carbon emissions from coal power plants is commercially viable…"



    TEXAS WILL SPEND FOR SUN
    Texas Senate passes $500M solar incentive bill
    Jim Vertuno, April 22, 2009 (AP via Forbes)

    "Texas would develop a $500 million solar energy rebate program to help make it easier for homeowners and businesses to tap into the power of the sun under a bill passed in the Senate.

    "Environmentalists hailed the 26-4 vote…[B]y getting more Texans use solar power, consumers can reduce dependence on foreign oil, said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Troy Fraser, a Horseshoe Bay Republican."


    Time to develop this asset. (click to enlarge)

    "The fund would be paid for with fees built into monthly electric bills. Homeowners would pay 20 cents, commercial users $2 and industrial users $20 a month.

    "It's a small price to pay for a program that could let Texans recoup thousands of dollars through rebates, federal tax incentives and lower energy bills, said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas."


    click to enlarge

    "The bill also requires developers to offer solar as a standard option in developments with 50 or more homes, creates a loan program for schools and prohibits neighborhood associations from banning homeowners from installing solar projects.

    "Although solar is becoming more mainstream as an energy source, the cost of installation can be too much for homeowners or businesses without rebates and tax incentives…Fraser's bill is designed to collect up to $100 million annually over five years. It would pay rebates of up to 30 percent of the cost of installing solar technology. The federal government also allows tax credits of up to 30 percent."



    HOME ENERGY EFFICIENCIES
    Help in finding energy savings around house
    Bill Lahay, April 26, 2009 (Philadelphia Inquirer)

    "These days, the consensus on climate change suggests that, contrary to the old saying, we're all doing something about the weather…For homeowners, the indictment is even harsher. The potential environmental damage from most vehicles pales in comparison with the energy and resources consumed by the typical American house.

    "To keep us and our belongings dry, well-lighted, and within the fairly narrow temperature range required for comfort, our houses consume fossil fuels and emit pollutants virtually around the clock, and are otherwise hard on the environment…"


    click to enlarge

    "…Two renewable-energy experts, Dave Bonta and Stephen Snyder, have summed up a host of practical strategies in their book, New Green Home Solutions: Renewable Household Energy and Sustainable Living (Gibbs Smith Publishers, $24.99).

    "The authors specialize in solar-energy systems, but their approach here is deliberately broader, expanded to include approaches ranging from simple conservation measures to wind-turbine generators and entire new home designs…"


    The ultimate authority. (click to enlarge)

    "…Common inefficiencies allow corrective measures that can reduce energy consumption of the typical home by as much as 60 percent, largely without circumscribing the comforts and convenience of modern life…Drafty doors and windows, insufficient insulation, old appliances, and our own bad habits are all targets…Together, these factors increase the biggest energy loads in our homes - lighting, heating and cooling space, and heating water. Some common-sense suggestions include installing window-wrap kits and weather-stripping, using compact fluorescent light bulbs, and arranging for your local utility company to perform an energy audit to pinpoint the biggest energy losses…

    "…[O]ther details are not so self-evident. Roof-mounted solar sky tubes…low-emissivity glass…south-facing windows…Extended roof overhangs and strategic landscaping and tree placement…Not every solution is right for every home or homeowner, but the a la carte approach lets you look at individual options to find a good mix."

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    SCIENTISTS WARNED BUSINESS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE BUT BUSINESS CHOSE PROFITS

    Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate
    Andrew C. Revkin, April 23, 2009 (NY Times)

    SUMMARY
    The Global Climate Coalition (GCC) was employed from 1989 to 2002 as a front group for fossil fuel-consuming industries to argue against the reality of global climate change.

    According to documents obtained by the NY Times, science and technical advisors to the GCC made it clear to them their arguments were inaccurate and the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) and global climate change was real.

    GCC nevertheless proceeded to run a multimillion dollar PR campaign denying the validity of ongoing scientific documentation of climate change and its human-generated GhG cause. The effect was to slow the completion of the Kyoto treaty, sway public opinion against it and make it politically impossible for the U.S. to sign onto Kyoto or take any other substantive actions against climate change.

    GCC was funded by oil, coal and car companies and trade groups. Its budget in 1997, the same year the Kyoto Protocol was completed, was $1.68 million.

    Lingering doubt about the validity of the science done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the panel of scientists created by the United Nations (UN) to assimilate information and render conclusions about global climate change, is a tribute to the effectiveness of GCC’s PR campaign.

    click to enlarge

    GCC capitalized on the media’s inclination to offer opposing points of view. To every substantive scientific presentation on climate change, GCC obtained the opportunity to present its unscientific and unsubstantiated propaganda as a self-legitimating counterpoint.

    William O’Keefe, an American Petroleum Institute executive and Chairman of GCC in the 1990s, continues to contend they were unaware of scientific information contradicting their work and that questioning the science was a legitimate exercise in questioning incomplete information.

    GCC was dissolved in 2002. Some members (the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute) continue to work against climate change legislation and U.S. participation in international agreements to cut emissions. Others (Exxon Mobil) now ostensibly recognize anthropomorphic global climate change and claim to not fund such lobbying efforts.

    The new evidence condemning GCC as a knowing participant in a fraudulent deception came out in a classic example of the law of unintended consequences. GCC's science advisory committee paper, containing the scientific information that was ignored and suppressed, thereby proving GCC's malicious intent, emerged as evidence in a 2007 lawsuit brought by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, a GCC member, to block California’s efforts to limit vehicle GhGs.

    Leonard S. Bernstein, a chemical engineer and climate expert then with Mobil Corp led the GCC science advisory committee and presented the paper to GCC's board that warned against using "contrarian" arguments discounting the relationship between climate change and human GhG spew.

    The legal documentation was passed to environmental groups by an attorney in the lawsuit and passed to the NY Times by the environmental groups.

    GCC approved the science advisory committee paper in 1996 after forcing the removal of the parts most contradictory to GCC's propaganda.

    More details on GCC are available from SourceWatch.

    More about how public opinion on climate change has been shaped. From greenman3610 via YouTube.

    COMMENTARY
    There is no doubt that climate change deniers must be vigilantly confronted. That is their only real intent. In the long run, their lies will inevitably be exposed but the noise they make is a terrible distraction that divides and – most importantly – delays response to global climate change.

    The businesses that employed GCC – and continue to employ other front groups and pay politicians to continue to distract, divide and delay – profit by billions for every year that crackdowns on GhG emissions are not aggressively pursued.

    Lies, sweet, sweet lies. (click to enlarge)

    GCC tactics have been compared to the tobacco industry's denials that smoking was the cause of lung cancer and heart disease. The lies have been exposed but the tobacco industry bought itself decades of sales, the opportunity to create an addiction to smoking in a next generation and time to prepare for a shift of its business to international markets.

    GCC was employed as a direct response to the formation of the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Funders included Amoco, the American Forest & Paper Association, American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, Chrysler, Cyprus AMAX Minerals, Exxon, Ford, General Motors, Shell Oil, Texaco, the United States Chamber of Commerce and many more. (See SourceWatch)

    The GCC arguments now seem specious as the Obama administration leads a new movement in the U.S. to respond to climate change, create a national standard for New Energy and commit to an emissions reduction regime.

    William O’Keefe did not go back to the American Petroleum Institute after leaving the chairmanship of GCC but became CEO of the Marshall Institute. Marshall, not surprisingly, opposes mandatory caps on GhGs.

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    Benjamin D. Santer was a climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and part of the IPCC effort in the 1990s. The fight to be heard over GCC’s propaganda compromised his ability to make heard his conclusion that there was evidence even then of human influence on the climate.

    QUOTES
    - GCC 1990s science propaganda: “The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood…scientists differ[on it]…”
    - GCC science advisors internal report to propaganda writers: “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied…”
    - George Monbiot, British environmental activist/writer: “They didn’t have to win the argument to succeed…only to cause as much confusion as possible.”

    Some former GCC people are still denying climate change. (click to enlarge)

    - From the GCC scientific advisory committee primer on climate change: “The contrarian theories raise interesting questions about our total understanding of climate processes, but they do not offer convincing arguments against the conventional model of greenhouse gas emission-induced climate change…”
    - Minutes from the GCC meeting approving the abridged science advisory committee primer on climate change: “This idea was accepted…and that portion of the paper will be dropped.”

    It's not about lying, it's about obscuring the truth. (click to enlarge)

    - William O’Keefe, CEO, Marshall Institute: “I have no idea why the section [of GCC’s science advisory committee primer on climate change] on the contrarians would have been deleted…One thing I’m absolutely certain of,” he said, “is that no member of the board of the Global Climate Coalition said, ‘We have to suppress this.’ ”
    - Benjamin D. Santer, climate scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: “I’m amazed and astonished…that the Global Climate Coalition had in their possession scientific information that substantiated our cautious findings and then chose to suppress that information.”

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