NewEnergyNews: Is the World’s Biggest PV Project About to Get Stopped Cold?

NewEnergyNews

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

Every day is Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: THE ECONOMIC ADVANTAGES OF NEW ENERGY – THE NORTH CAROLINA CASE
  • QUICK NEWS, April 22: ON EARTH – A QUICK LOOK BACK; OBSERVATIONS FOR EARTH DAY (continued); OBAMA ADMIN UPS BACKING FOR NEW ENERGY
  • -------------------

    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

    -------------------

    THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE U.S. NEW ENERGY MARKET NOW AND AHEAD
  • QUICK NEWS, April 21: OBSERVATIONS FOR EARTH DAY; BACK TO OWNERSHIP IN SOLAR; 15X GROWTH FOR ASIA PACIFIC MIDROGRIDS
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Happy Birthday Solar Cell
  • Weekend Video: Offshore Wind As A Hurricane A Wall
  • Weekend Video: Get On The Climate Policy Train
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

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

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

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

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

    --------------------------

    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.

    -------------------

    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

    -------------------

    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

    -------------------

    Your intrepid reporter

    -------------------

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

    -------------------

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

  • ---------------
  • Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Is the World’s Biggest PV Project About to Get Stopped Cold?

    Is the World’s Biggest PV Project About to Get Stopped Cold? First Solar’s 230-megawatt AV Solar Ranch One is unexpectedly knocking heads with some irate neighbors
    Herman K. Trabish, June 29, 2011 (Greentech Media)

    First Solar is scheduled to begin construction on AV Solar Ranch One, the world’s biggest solar photovoltaic project, on July 5 in Antelope Valley. But Development Director Jack Pigott has just begun facing off with residents of Fairmont, the nearby community.

    Fairmont’s people are adamant about on-the-ground issues, like fences that will surround the 230-megawatt installation, the effect of fenced-off desert on hiking, horseback riding and other recreation, the impact of dust coming off the cleared and leveled land, and of wildlife displaced to their yards in the process.

    They are even more concerned with how much water Solar Ranch One will require, who will administer desert lands purchased by First Solar to mitigate the project’s impacts, who will get the jobs at Solar Ranch One, and what public benefits First Solar will offer Fairmont in return for permanently altering the community.

    The first time Pigott -- or anybody from First Solar -- faced the people of Fairmont, neither side was happy.

    “When you’re this giant corporation,” David Kerr, President of the Fairmont Town Council, told Pigott, “and your project is deep in our area and you don’t respond to our requests for a meeting, it can only mean one of two things: laziness or that’s your policy.”

    It was neither, according to Pigott. Since First Solar took on the project, he explained, the company has had over 100 meetings with 40 different groups, listening to and addressing concerns. At that time, he said, there was no Fairmont Town Council.
    The company was told Antelope Acres was the governing community.

    That was true then, Kerr acknowledged. In November 2010, after a long struggle to free itself from what residents consider the dictates of Antelope Acres, Fairmont -- which was established as a farming district in the nineteenth century -- created its own town council. Kerr began requesting meetings with First Solar that December. His requests went unanswered.



    Pigott said there was no response because the company was on Christmas season hiatus. “By December 2010,” Pigott said, “the plan for our project was done and mitigation measures were in place.” The only answers he had to the community’s concerns, he said, were those in the project’s environmental impact study (EIS), which was done publicly and transparently according to state and county guidelines.

    By the time Pigott appeared at Fairmont’s Town Council, Kerr and his fellow citizens suspected the worst. “If you had been talking to us three or four months ago,” Kerr told Pigott, “you might have our answers.”

    Pigott wearily but patiently listened to questions and explained the mitigations detailed in the thoroughly vetted EIS.

    As a photovoltaic project, Solar Ranch One will use no more water on its 4,000-acre site than would be used by 12 houses, according to Pigott. Fences will be set back and off the ground to accommodate wildlife. Dust will be kept in check during construction by water and solvents and during operation by re-vegetation. Hiking and riding trails and recreational access will be available.

    First Solar’s construction manager, Pigott said, will be living in the community during the 2.5 years of building. Both construction and permanent jobs will go to locals.

    The contentious meeting concluded with Fairmont’s officers voting to hold further action, pending a follow-up meeting.

    At that second meeting, it was reported that Antelope Acres, some twelve miles from the Solar Ranch One location, was granted $100,000 for its town council, $10,000 for its 4H Club and $10,000 for a community center, among other considerations. First Solar also donated mitigation lands to Antelope Acres’ chosen desert conservancy.

    click to enlarge

    Fairmont, whose residents live within 500 feet of the site, has been granted nothing.
    When First Solar’s Pigott told Fairmont’s residents he considered them to be part of the Antelope Acres settlement, the room erupted, according to an attendee.

    Fairmont residents insisted they were not involved in the First Solar-Antelope Acres planning process. First Solar claimed they have Fairmont Town Council members’ names on planning meeting sign-in sheets.

    At the end of the second meeting, differences remained unresolved. One attendee said she thought First Solar felt ambushed. “If they did,” she added, “they deserved it. We’re for green energy and we have the perfect location for it but they’re not taking our lives into consideration.”

    “We’re not trying to stop them,” another resident said angrily, “but they’re giving so much to Antelope Acres and ignoring us.”

    Fairmont’s Town Council voted to send a letter detailing its grievances to the Los Angeles County Planning Commission and request an emergency hearing. It tabled legal action, pending the Planning Commission’s response. And it formed committees to formally describe the mitigation measures that it seeks.

    Alan Bernheimer, First Solar’s corporate spokesperson, said the circumstances are “regrettable” and the company is “trying to make up lost ground.”

    More importantly, Bernstein added, “we intend to keep meeting and working with them to resolve this. I understand they feel their point of view has not yet been taken into account. We will try to address that.”

    Solar Ranch One construction may proceed as scheduled July 5 because Fairmont does not have funds for swift legal action. But Fairmont counts experienced attorneys among its residents and allies. First Solar could soon be faced with an injunction and a potentially costly disruption of plans.

    “People are mad as hell,” a longtime Fairmont resident said, “and they’re not going to take it anymore.”

    8-30-2011 update: While First Solar and the Fairmont Town Council continue to negotiate, pre-construction activities have begun at the site of Solar Ranch One, which is now the world's second biggest PV power plant.

    0 Comments:

    Post a Comment

    << Home

    *