NewEnergyNews: Year-End Reading – Leading Scientists Predict Which PV Material Will Win the Market; Lengthy technical discussion concludes that nobody knows

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • LABOR DAY STUDY: CHINA NEW ENERGY MOVES AHEAD
  • NO QUICK NEWS TODAY. BACK TOMORROW.
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: The Economic Opportunity In The Climate Fight
  • Weekend Video: The Future Of Energy
  • Weekend Video: Advances In BioEnergy
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CLIMATE CHANGE – IT GETS WORSE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WHERE AND HOW WIND IS GROWING IN THE WORLD
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CHINA TO LEAD SOLAR MARKET GROWTH DESPITE OBSTACLES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE ENORMOUS POTENTIAL OF WORLD GEOTHERMAL
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 28:

  • TTTA Thursday-PRESIDENT TO TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE
  • TTTA Thursday-BIRDS AND ENERGY, THE BIGGER STORY
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW CA LAW STREAMLINES SOLAR PERMITTING
  • TTTA Thursday-DATA CENTER EFFICIENCIES CAN SAVE U.S. $3.8BIL/YR
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE RISKIEST ENERGY IN THE WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, August 27: VERIZON’S $40MIL SOLAR BUY; WIND PRICES HIT RECORD LOWS; NUKE INSPECTOR SAYS DIABLO CYN IS UNSAFE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: U.S. WIND RIGHT NOW
  • QUICK NEWS, August 26: CLIMATE MODELS PROVE RIGHT AGAIN; ABOUT INVESTING IN SOLAR; GM VS TESLA IN THE 200 MILE RACE -

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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

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

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

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

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

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

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

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

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

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

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

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

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • Wednesday, December 29, 2010

    Year-End Reading – Leading Scientists Predict Which PV Material Will Win the Market; Lengthy technical discussion concludes that nobody knows

    Leading Scientists Predict Which PV Material Will Win the Market; Lengthy technical discussion concludes that nobody knows
    Herman K. Trabish, October 13, 2010 (Greentech Media)

    “I’m going to quote Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny,” said Ryne Raffaelle, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s prestigious National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “'It’s a bullshit question.'”

    Raffaelle was responding to two questions posed by the moderator of the “Which Technology Will Emerge Dominant in the Market?” panel at Solar Power International 2010, the U.S.’s biggest yearly gathering of solar businesses.

    Following a detailed presentation of the competing technologies and the scientific strengths and challenges of each, the panelists were asked to say which was most likely to be first to achieve unsubsidized grid parity and which would be dominant when solar is producing twenty percent of U.S. power.

    click to enlarge

    Johanna P. Schmidtke of Lux Research was first to field the questions. She said it would only be possible to answer the grid parity question by first knowing where the solar was installed and what kind of installation it was. “Crystalline silicon,” she pointed out, “is relatively close to grid parity in some areas like parts of California” where the sun is abundant and retail electricity rates are high. “For large-scale applications, in the long term,” Schmidtke said, concentrating PV, though it has challenges like complexity of materials and overall system performance and has not been conclusively demonstrated, “does have some significant value, just not quite yet.”

    Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

    “The technology not only needs to reach grid parity but also needs to be produced at scale,” said Simone M.P. Arizzi of DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions. “I see no reason why, certainly, crystalline silicon and also the thin film technologies and amorphous silicon should not be able to reach, in a reasonable amount of time, certainly less than a decade, grid parity at a large scale.”

    It takes a scientist to predict that?

    As to which will be dominant, Arizzi said, “The question of who’s going to be the number-one horse almost implies that all the other horses are going to somehow fall off.”

    A strength of the solar industry, he said, is the fact that contrary to what happens in many other industries, “whenever there is a technology barrier, the other can be the supply” and the barrier can be overcome because there are “so many technology options when one thinks about third-generation technologies” like multijunction cells, organic photovoltaics and quantum dots.

    “It’s going to be really, really difficult to displace silicon,” Chris Constantine of Oerlikon Solar said. “It’s tough to not bet on silicon.” As for grid parity, Constantine pointed out, “it’s clearly regional, it’s clearly policy-driven, it’s clearly something that’s a lot more complex than an easy answer.” But, he said, “80 percent of everything being put up facing the sky is silicon.”

    As to the future, Constantine said, “we’ve got two different PV systems. There’s the crystalline silicon,” he went on, “and clearly, that system has come a long way. There’s also the thin film approach. Put in there what you want, whether it’s CdTe, whether it’s CIGS, whether it’s amorphous silicon or microcrystalline silicon.” But, he said, these materials may well come together. “And you know what? They really do, based on the science, at least, go together rather nicely.”

    click to enlarge

    In other words, like Arizzi, Constantine says the answer is 'all of the above.'

    That’s when Raffaelle chimed in with the Marisa Tomei answer. There are many places, he said, “where PV is already below grid parity. And there are places where it’s CPV and there are places where it’s silicon and there are places where it’s thin film. And some places, all three of them can do it. [The question] also assumes that 'grid parity' means something. You’re assuming that the coal industry isn’t subsidized. That the nuclear industry isn’t subsidized.”

    Raffaelle then turned to the question of which technology will emerge. “To sit here today and say what will the technology be when we hit twenty percent of penetration -- it’s not going to be what we’re looking at right now, it’s going to evolve.”
    He obviously doesn’t know, either.

    Jim Armour of Spectrolab brought the discussion to a close by going back to the panel’s most consistent theme. “The sun is a diffuse resource and it’s not a uniform resource,” he said. “To think that one size is going to fit all, from a PV standpoint, is just ridiculous.”

    He went on: “CPV works in certain areas very well. It’s more than cost-competitive, it’s cost efficient. And in other areas, it absolutely does not work at all. And there are thin films that work very well in those areas. In fact, there are places where the best way to use the solar resource is to put up a windmill.”

    Didn’t see that one coming.

    1 Comments:

    At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The “total cost” of each technology should be considered. Ironically, Hemlock Semiconductor, a very large maker of polycrystalline silicon for solar power (to save us from global warming) is the largest user of coal generated electricity in Michigan. I read it takes up to 4 years for a polycrystalline cell to offset the electricity that went into making it.
    Hemlock uses the very energy intensive Siemens process to manufacture polycrystalline silicon from trichlorosilane. www.hscpoly.com › Home › Products/Applications
    Articles indicate that a fluidized bed process uses 90% less electricity to make silicon than Hemlock's current Siemens process. http://international.pv-tech.org/chip_shots_blog/the_view_from_moses_lake_part_ii_rec_silicon_learns_to_go_with_the_granular frank Zaski

     

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