NewEnergyNews: 03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011

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

THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, July 31:

  • TTTA Thursday-HOPE EMERGES IN THE CLIMATE FIGHT
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW ENERGY CHEAPER, CLEANER THAT NUKES, CLEAN COAL
  • TTTA Thursday-ARIZONA UTILITY PROPOSES ROOFTOP SOLAR LEASING BUSINESS PLAN
  • TTTA Thursday-ENORMOUS NEW ENERGY IN THE GULF STREAM
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: HOW BIOFUELS CAN BE IMPORTANT NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, July 30: SOLAR AND UTILITIES SHAPE EACH OTHER; ‘HIDDEN’ WIND COSTS DWARFED BY ‘HIDDEN’ FOSSIL COSTS; GM’S RUN FOR THE 200 MILE CHARGE
  • -------------------

    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 DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: A CHRONICLE OF EXTREME CLIMATE IMPACTS
  • QUICK NEWS, July 29: OFFICIAL FORECASTS OVERLOOK NEW ENERGY; NEW ENERGY NEEDS NEW TRANSMISSION; BRITISH COLUMBIA EMISSIONS TAX SUCCEEDING
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: MORE AND SMARTER MEDIA COVERAGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN 2014
  • QUICK NEWS, July 28: CLIMATE SKEPTICS REACHING ‘CATASTROPHIC’ NUMBERS; THE COST OF THE EPA EMISSIONS CUTS; GEOTHERMAL DRILL SKILL ADVANCES
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: John Oliver On Visiting Antarctica
  • Weekend Video: Warmest May And June Ever And Non-Stop Record Heat
  • Weekend Video: Meet The Microgrid
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE- STAR WARS PLANET TATOOINE’S CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-BIG NEW THREAT TO CLIMATE FROM COAL-TO-GAS IN CHINA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA VILLAGE OF 2,400 GOES 100% SOLAR WITH BATTERIES, MICROGRID
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-GERMANY IS WORLD’S MOST EFFICIENT MAJOR ECONOMY
  • -

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

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

    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.

  • ---------------
  • Thursday, March 31, 2011

    TODAY’S STUDY: LEARNING HOW TO USE GEOTHERMAL BY USING IT

    On Babe Ruth Day at Yankee Stadium in 1948, the Bambino urged Major League Baseball to help get baseball to “the kids” because “that’s where it has to start.”

    Is there enough effort in that direction by the New Energies? In the paper outlined below, the National Wildlife Foundation describes how the development of geothermal technologies on college campuses can be a home run for both the eductational institutions and the geothermal industry. It would offer the colleges a secure supply of renewable, emissions-free electricity at stable prices while at the same time turning the kids studying on those campuses into a geothermally-aware generation more fully prepared to advance the technology both in the marketplace and the laboratory.

    Ground source heat pumps, one of the technologies described below, are the subject of a controversy especially ripe for the kind of debate that thrives in the halls of knowledge. In the heat pump concept, water is pumped underground and then re-circulated through the building. This captures below-earth temperature-moderating effects that cool the water in the summer and warm it in the winter. As a result, significantly less energy is required to cool water and buildings in the hot part of the year and less is needed to heat them when it is cold.

    Some purists have objected to NewEnergyNews’ coverage of ground source heat pumps, insisting it is not real geothermal energy. Traditionally, geothermal energy captures the earth’s deep heat to turn water into steam that is used to drive electricity-generating turbines in the same way that other power plants use nuclear reactions, burning coal or gas, and focused solar heat to boil water, make steam, drive turbines and create power.

    The purists may be right about the non-traditional nature of the heat pump concept but even outside the ivy-covered tower it is hard not to notice that “geothermal” is a portmanteau word composed of “geo” (earth) and “thermal” (temperature). It might seem academic to ask, but isn’t that exactly what ground source heat pumps are about?

    Now if Boston and New York were to come up with a way to capture all the hot air expended by fans debating the relative merits of the Red Sox and the Yankess and call it a kind of geothermal energy, THAT would be a real debate. It, obviously, is wind power.



    Going Underground on Campus: Tapping the Earth for Clean, Efficient Heating and Cooling; A Guide to Geothermal Energy and Underground Buildings on Campus
    Stan Cross, David J. Eagan and Paul Tolmé with Julian Keniry and John Kelly, March 2011 (National Wildlife Foundation)

    Overview

    This geothermal energy guide is for higher education administrators, staff, faculty and students who are exploring the implications of climate change and seeking cost-effective solutions. It presents information about various types of geothermal energy projects, and provides many case studies from 160 campuses in 36 states across the U.S. that are leading the way in the implementation of such projects. Five different geothermal systems are highlighted: ground-source heat pumps, direct geothermal, aquifer and lake-based, geothermal electricity, and earth-sheltered buildings. The goals of this guide are to inform institutions about geothermal energy’s potential to heat, cool and power American higher education, to inspire campuses to consider using geothermal technologies to lower long-term energy costs and energy demand, and to reach greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

    As a founding organization of the climate action movement, NWF’s Campus Ecology has helped hundreds of colleges and universities cut greenhouse gas emissions, save millions on energy costs and embed environmental values in campus operations and curriculum. Campus Ecology has worked closely with all types of schools: public and private, large and small, community and technical colleges. As a result, it has a breadth of experience, ideas and resources to offer any college or university. The mission of Campus Ecology is to foster climate leadership on campuses nationwide and to protect wildlife and our children’s future against the growing threat of global climate change. This report is a guide for administrators, staff, faculty and students exploring the implications of climate change and seeking cost-effective solutions. It presents a scientific overview of global warming and a review of the business, educational and moral arguments for confronting this problem. Case studies from a diverse group of leading campuses illustrate energy-conserving and emissions-saving projects, effective financing strategies and creative ways to involve the campus community. A section on the planning process and implementation steps is included to help campuses get a jump on cutting costs and reducing their carbon footprint.

    NWF’s goal for society—and for higher education—is to reduce carbon emissions by 2% per year, leading to an 80% cut by 2050. Achieving 2% or greater reductions each year can start with simple actions like lowering the thermostat or installing occupancy sensors. But this call for action on campus goes beyond asking for small steps. Heeding the world’s top scientists who warn that global warming will trigger a potential cascade of negative consequences, Campus Ecology urges bold action and critical leadership today and throughout the next decades, when our actions will determine the fate of the climate for generations to come.

    U.S. Geothermal (click to enlarge)

    The National Wildlife Federation and Global Warming

    In 2005, the National Wildlife Federation established global warming as one of three chief concerns for the organization, recognizing that it could not successfully protect wildlife without also working to stabilize the climate. While the impacts of global warming are an overarching threat to wildlife and ecosystems, their reach also will touch every facet of society—human health, agriculture, national security and the economy. Turning the tide on global warming may be the most far-reaching challenge of our time, but it also is an extraordinary opportunity to create more efficient, resilient and sustainable colleges and universities—and to inspire students to make a commitment to climate action in their lives and careers.

    NWF’s Campus Ecology program has focused its attention on global warming solutions and is committed to providing resources to assist postsecondary institutions make the transition to a low-carbon, clean energy future. Contrary to conventional opinion, the path to climate sustainability not only is technologically possible but it can save substantial amounts of money. This report offers a roadmap for how colleges and universities can make it happen.

    Foreword

    You are in for a treat. The National Wildlife Federation has compiled in this document a concise, well-organized and very instructive survey of the landscape of opportunities for colleges and universities to employ geothermal technologies and earth-integrated architecture on their respective campuses….The benefits and challenges are many…Installing geothermal technologies sets the stage for more strategic climate action planning…Cost benefit considerations affect decisions…In running such projections, even at modest unit-cost per ton of CO2e emissions, colleges and universities will face significant long-term annual tax encumbrance for on-site (SCOPE 1) fossil-fuel combustion. Geothermal technology shifts that avoidable cost upstream to the utilities that generate the electrical power…

    Required acreage can be a challenge. To the extent that placement of bore-hole fields for closed-loop heat pump systems can be aggregated in one or two centralized areas of a campus, the challenge is less daunting…Another challenge is that of time…The better strategy for implementation over time requires a whole-systems vision and scheduled integration of campus-wide geothermal technologies…Geothermal technology can be integral to the educational…Active learning that can be structured into day-to-day operation of such systems…Campuses are uniquely suited to lead the way in geothermal technology implementation…Nonetheless, the jury is still out on several important concerns. One involves the unfortunate continuing use of ‘years of payback’ as a decision metric…Another concern is the confrontational nature of ‘reactionary planning’ for a new technology…

    click to enlarge

    Introduction

    WHAT IS GEOTHERMAL ENERGY?

    Renewable energy is steadily gaining ground on higher education campuses, and with good reason. The primary reason may be to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, but many schools are also finding that on-campus renewable energy initiatives create economic advantages, educational opportunities, energy security and even green jobs. Of the sources of largely carbon-neutral renewable energy available to colleges and universities—including solar, wind, biomass, micro-hydro and geothermal—it is geothermal energy that offers the most dependably-constant and low-impact supply.

    Geothermal energy is defined most simply as ‘heat of the earth.’ It is naturally abundant everywhere and is considered a renewable resource because it is generated from continually available sources—either solar radiation striking and stored in the ground or residual heat released from deep within the earth’s crust. Different technologies have been developed to use the earth’s heat to provide clean, renewable energy options for heating and cooling buildings, and—where conditions are right — the production of abundant electricity.

    click to enlarge

    WHY GEOTHERMAL ENERGY?

    There are many advantages to using geothermal energy, including rapid return on investment, relatively low cost, and longevity of duration. Compared to other renewable energy sources, geothermal applications have high returns on investment (ROI) as a result of relatively short payback periods. The costs for installing geothermal heating and cooling systems or electric power generation are quickly recouped as a result of significant energy cost savings. The long term environmental and economic benefits combine to make geothermal energy a very attractive option, especially with the heating, cooling and powering of campus buildings which are responsible for the largest share of higher education’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This is why government agencies, the commercial renewable energy sector and renewable energy advocates are pushing for increased investment in geothermal energy technologies, which currently contribute to only around five percent of total U.S. renewable energy delivery…

    ABOUT THIS GUIDE

    This geothermal energy guide is for higher education administrators, staff, faculty and students who are exploring the implications of climate change and seeking cost-effective solutions. It presents information about various types of geothermal energy projects, and provides many case studies from a diverse group of campuses across the U.S. that are leading the way in the implementation of such projects. The goals of this guide are to inform institutions about geothermal energy’s potential to heat, cool and power American higher education, to inspire campuses to consider using geothermal technologies to lower long-term energy costs and energy demand, and to reach greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

    click to enlarge

    THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR USING GEOTHERMAL TECHNOLOGIES ON CAMPUS

    Over the past decade, higher education institutions across the country have invested heavily in geothermal energy. There are now around two hundred American campuses that have implemented geothermal technologies—including earth-integrated buildings—and many more are in the planning process. (See Appendices A and C for lists of schools with geothermal systems and earth-integrated buildings.)

    The great majority of installations are geothermal ground-source heat pumps (GHPs) and earth sheltered buildings, but there are a handful of other successful projects including lake-cooling, direct-use high temperature geothermal, and electricity-generating geothermal. The growth in numbers of systems is largely the result of both rising energy costs and increasing concern about climate change. Explanations and illustrations for each type of system are ahead in section III.

    click to enlarge

    Geothermal resources offer an efficient, renewable alternative for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems needed for buildings. Plus, such earth-heat resources are found in virtually every geographical location in the U.S. where campuses have been built. Across the country, decision makers are coming around to the fact that geothermal energy is a smart environmental and economic investment.

    Strategic use of of geothermal energy can be a key component of a climate action plan. While improving energy efficiency and reducing demand are essential approaches to cutting a campus carbon footprint, using carbon-neutral renewables like geothermal can offer significant, long-term reductions. Realizing the savings potential, Ball State University (IN) has already broken ground on an ambitious campus-wide geothermal system to provide heating and cooling energy for its entire campus (see story on page 24). And the University of Minnesota has cut energy demand by placing major portions of several structures below ground.

    click to enlarge

    There are thousands of colleges and universities in America, and a quarter million individual campus buildings (see box). Since the vast majority are still heated and cooled with fossil fuels, buildings are one of schools’ primary sources of harmful emissions. In fact, the coal, oil, natural gas and electricity required to maintain comfortable temperatures throughout the year accounts for fifty to ninety percent of total direct emissions—primarily carbon dioxide (CO2)—on a typical campus. In addition, fossil fuels are associated with many serious environmental and social costs due to extraction, processing and shipping. Because geothermal energy does not rely on these CO2-intensive resources or require any offsite extraction, processing or shipping, it provides energy that has a significantly smaller carbon (and overall environmental) footprint. Renewable sources of energy, while not perfect, offer a significantly lesser overall impact and carbon footprint.

    Another advantage to geothermal energy projects is the flexibility of application. Whether constructing new buildings or renovating older structures, schools can design and install geothermal systems to meet part or all of their HVAC heating and cooling requirements. Urban campuses excluded, the majority of colleges and universities are typically situated on campuses that have abundant land where such systems can be hidden from sight. In fact, unlike highly visible installations, such as solar panels or a wind turbine, a school may need to maintain an educational effort to keep the campus—and especially new students and staff—informed about the presence and benefits of their geothermal installations.

    click to enlarge

    FINANCING STRATEGIES

    In addition to investing campus resources, administrators drew on one or more of at least ten different sources to finance some of the geothermal systems featured in this guide. This table shows the range of possibilities…

    PUTTING THEORY INTO PRACTICE

    The rest of this guide focuses on the practical applications of earth-based thermal resources, both geothermal technology and earth-integrated architecture, for colleges and universities. This vast renewable resource—possibly the best means to effectively displace fossil fuels currently used for heating and cooling buildings—holds great promise as one of the key solutions needed to put a halt to greenhouse gas pollution, not just from campuses but from the built environment nationwide.

    click to enlarge

    REVIEW OF GEOTHERMAL TECHNOLOGIES: WHAT IS GEOTHERMAL ENERGY? A TECHNICAL EXPLANATION

    Geothermal energy originates from one of two sources:

    1. Solar energy stored in ground or water near the surface and

    2. Heat from the earth’s inner mantle that is accessible relatively near the surface (within a few miles).

    Five technological processes are commercially available to capture this abundance of
    renewable energy, and each is reviewed below:

    1. Geothermal heat pumps (also called ground source heat pumps)

    2. Aquifer thermal energy storage

    3. Direct-use geothermal

    4. Geothermal electricity

    5. Earth-integrated architecture

    Geothermal heat pumps and earth-sheltered buildings can be used nearly anywhere in the country. Geothermal electricity, direct-use geothermal and aquifer thermal storage have special geologic requirements and hence are more site-specific. Although each of these technologies comes with a higher upfront cost than traditional heating and cooling and electricity generation systems, payback periods can be as short as one to seven years and the long-term energy savings can be worth millions. See Section IV, Campus Case Studies, for examples of campuses across the country that are reaping the economic and environmental benefits of geothermal energy…

    click to enlarge

    GEOTHERMAL TECHNOLOGIES ON CAMPUS: PRESENT AND FUTURE

    The future of geothermal energy and earth-integrated architecture on college and university campuses looks promising indeed. The snapshots above of 35 campuses with either geothermal installations or underground buildings are just a modest percentage of the total of 77 schools and 230 buildings across the country (see Appendices A and C) that are teaching—by example—the art of the possible. But these are just a hint of what’s to come.

    In this final section we explore several important themes that bear further emphasis. First, renewable energy technologies on campus not only have financial, environmental and societal benefits, they also can yield significant educational value. Most schools, it seems to us, appear to have under-utilized those potential learning opportunities and so we encourage all schools to do more.

    Next, we look briefly at the potential for careers in geothermal technologies. There is, of course, massive job growth anticipated in all renewable energy fields—and community colleges in particular have heeded that call. Finally, we raise the question that must always be asked by a wildlife protection organization: can we move forward with minimal impact on the environment and on the animal and plant life which depend on it for their long term survival? The National Wildlife Federation’s mission is to protect wildlife and natural systems for our children’s future. College and university campuses offer a shining hope to instill that value in the next generation of national leaders.

    click to enlarge

    An Extraordinary Educational Opportunity

    Geothermal systems and earth-sheltered architecture, regardless of their respective scales of installation or technology type, may be mostly hidden from view underground—but lessons about them can be lifted up and brought into educational programming within and beyond the classroom. As Professor Koester mentions in his foreword, students who study engineering, energy technologies, green buildings and other disciplines have much to learn about systems-based energy design especially on campuses that use district (multiple buildings) or whole campus heating/cooling systems.

    As part of their educational experience, students on campuses with geothermal, solar or other types of clean energy systems can be asked to track system performance over time, evaluate returns on investment and educate the wider campus and public communities. At places such as the Oregon Institute of Technology and Richard Stockton College, students sometimes give tours to show their geothermal installation to peers and visitors. When geothermal systems are metered and incorporated into real-time energy monitoring, students and building occupants can begin to visualize energy and resource use, compare operational performance and follow trends across monthly climate variation and/or building types.

    And educational options aren’t only for an individual college or university. Thanks to the internet, schools can educate not only their campus community but also the world beyond by showcasing their campus geothermal systems and other sustainability initiatives with descriptive narratives and real-time performance ‘dashboards’ posted to campus websites. Creating and updating such information sources is a perfect opportunity for students to make a far-reaching and lasting contribution. In short, as with any project on campus that conserves resources, the benefits beyond the purely environmental or financial aspects can be substantially educational—for students, faculty, staff and the wider community.

    click to enlarge

    Expanding Career Pathways in Renewable Energy

    The geothermal industry—in the electricity-generating sector alone—saw an estimated twenty-six percent surge in domestic geothermal projects since 2009, according to a recent U.S. Department of Energy report.54 This is good news for colleges and universities, as the report notes: “This substantial growth will require an educated and trained workforce to locate new geothermal resources, develop new reservoirs, and build and administer the power plants.” The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) estimates that geothermal energy employed 18,000 people in 2008—5,000 direct and 13,000 supporting positions, not including those employed in the manufacture or installation of geothermal heat-pumps.55 Employment in geothermal energy is expected to continue to increase in coming years.

    Energy analysts hold that geothermal technologies offer more and better jobs than conventional fossil fuel technologies. For example, total employment for a 500 MW natural gas plant is around 2,500 workers versus around 27,000 for a geothermal energy plant.56 In its 2010 study, “Green Jobs through Geothermal Energy,” the GEA notes that geothermal industries offer relatively higher-paying and longer-term jobs than local averages and that one plant can involve as many as 860 different people with a broad range of skills.57

    Career pathways in the geothermal power industry will be open to skilled workers in a wide variety of fields. The GEA green jobs study offers detailed charts on types of jobs involved and education levels required at each phase of project implementation from start-up to exploration, to feasibility (test) drilling, installation drilling and site construction, to operations and maintenance. Roles include degreed professionals such as engineers, geologists and geophysicists as well as ‘green collar’ laborers who work as drill rig operators, welders, mechanics and safety managers. In support positions, geothermal development will also require greater numbers of lawyers, project managers, archeologists, sales people, assembly workers and administrative staff.

    click to enlarge

    Job opportunities and career paths in the ground-source geothermal heat pump (GHP) industry, similarly, are expected to increase. The use of GHP technologies represented four percent of new single-family home HVAC heating/cooling tonnage58 in 2008 rising to six percent in 2009, according to GEO. It cites the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal for industry growth of one million GHP installations annually by 2017—a cumulative total of 3.3 million GHP installations—creating an estimated 100,000 new jobs and reducing U.S. annual CO2 emissions by approximately 26 million metric tons.

    Among the professions and trades benefiting from the GHP industry are water well drilling companies that have entered the market for drilling boreholes to install loop fields and wells. HVAC companies have expanded their business to include installation and maintenance of geothermal heat pumps and related equipment. Architects and design firms have embraced geothermal alternatives, working with clients on GHP and direct-heat projects at all levels.

    To meet the increasing demand for education and training, programs in renewable energy technologies, including geothermal, at community colleges and other postsecondary institutions across the U.S. have been going strong.60 An internet search quickly brings up geothermal courses and programs at dozens of schools. And places like the Energy Center of Wisconsin61 are meeting the needs of working building industry technicians and professionals with courses on commercial and residential geothermal systems.

    click to enlarge

    Protecting Wildlife and the Environment

    No energy source is free of environmental impacts. Although geothermal systems can dramatically reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with heating and cooling buildings, they are not a panacea and must be carefully designed and monitored to safeguard environmental values such as biological diversity and water quality. As documented in many of the case studies within this guide, campus leaders are evaluating these impacts and devising best practices to avoid or reduce them. Schools employing open loop and aquifer-based systems, in particular, are evaluating the impact of underground water temperature changes on microbes and other life forms, aiming to maintain normal seasonal water temperatures, protect freshwater resources and prevent any harm to wildlife.

    The use of antifreeze or refrigerants in some geothermal systems that may mix with groundwater or release ozone-depleting chemicals and greenhouse gases (CFCs and HCFCs) is another issue of concern, yet little is known about these impacts. By optimizing building efficiency, campus designers can reduce the required quantity of bore-holes (and resulting closed loop system field size) or minimize open loop well-withdrawal requirements, further reducing environmental changes. In the final analysis, however, any geothermal technology impacts must be evaluated and balanced against the alternative environmental harm that would be caused by other sources of heating and cooling , primarily those that require the extraction, transport and burning of fossil fuels. It always should be the case that conservation and efficiency measures are the first priority before a campus chooses to employ geothermal technologies or any type of clean energy system for buildings.

    QUICK NEWS, 3-31: OBAMA CALLS FOR “CLEAN” ENERGY; WAVE-TIDAL-CURRENT KNOW-HOW GROWS; 25% NEW ENERGY ON OAHU; CUTTING OCEAN WIND COSTS

    OBAMA CALLS FOR “CLEAN” ENERGY
    An Energy Plan Derailed by Events Is Being Retooled
    John Broder, March 30, 2011 (NY Times)

    "…President Obama has seen the major elements of his energy and climate-change strategy demolished by a succession of economic, political, technical and natural disasters…[He wanted a] market-based [cap-and-trade] system to combat global warming and encourage development of alternative energy sources…The plan’s complex structure depended on an expansion of offshore oil drilling and nuclear power generation, creation of a trillion-dollar market in carbon pollution credits, billions of dollars of new government spending on breakthrough technologies and a tolerance for higher energy prices by consumers and businesses…But one after another the pillars of the plan came crashing down…Huge Republican gains in the midterm elections also dashed hopes…

    "Cap and trade has morphed into a 'clean energy standard,' under which 80 percent of electricity in the United States would be generated from clean sources by 2035…In a speech at Georgetown University…the president went further to try to recapture the initiative on energy policy…Mr. Obama set a new goal — to reduce American oil imports by one-third over the next decade…He called for producing more electric cars, converting trucks to run on natural gas, building new refineries to distill billions of gallons of biofuels and setting new fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. He also said that the United States would continue to rely on nuclear power for decades and would have to find a way to burn coal with fewer climate-altering emissions…"


    click to enlarge

    "The president acknowledged that his energy proposals would require legislation and new money for innovative technologies and that getting either would be difficult…Some early efforts toward the president’s plans are now under way in Congress…Senate Democrats are trying to write legislation to meet part of the president’s goal, but the Republican majority in the House seems determined to thwart any energy policy that does not begin with a major expansion of domestic coal production and oil and gas exploration…[T]he administration has fallen back on a two-pronged strategy of discouraging dirty, old energy sources through regulation and encouraging clean, new technologies by heavy spending on innovation…

    "…[Secretary of Energy] Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, is a technology enthusiast and says the nation can produce the innovations in clean energy necessary to meet the president’s goals if the right incentives are in place…[First is] legislation that will require utilities to produce a growing proportion of electricity through clean sources — nuclear, natural gas, hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal and new technology players to be named later…[Second] is a robust federal research and development program…"


    click to enlarge

    "The president’s plan includes $36 billion in new loan guarantees for building nuclear power plants, in addition to the $18.5 billion for the program left from the Bush administration…[though] the rules of the game for nuclear power in the United States might change, just as regulations for offshore drilling were tightened after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill…

    "The other part of the strategy, federal regulation of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from conventional power sources, also faces a tough challenge. Most Republicans in Congress are skeptical about the science of global warming, some even declaring it a hoax perpetrated by a coterie of self-interested scientists. Hefty Republican majorities oppose virtually any form of federal regulation of the greenhouse gases that contribute to the problem…The House Energy and Commerce Committee has already passed a bill that would forbid the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing any nationwide standard on emissions…The full House is expected to endorse the measure soon, although it is unclear whether Republicans can muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate…"



    WAVE-TIDAL-CURRENT KNOW-HOW GROWS
    Understanding the Effects of Ocean/Tidal/Stream Power
    Russell Ray, March 29, 2011 (HydroWorld)

    "Generating electricity from river currents, ocean waves and tides is a budding industry…The Earth’s oceans and rivers could supply us with a lot of clean energy…

    "Wave energy technologies developed by Aquamarine Power, Ocean Power Technologies and Pelamis Wave Power are ready for commercial operation…Still, hydrokinetic energy devices are largely unproven and require extensive testing, especially to determine their effect on the environment."


    click to enlarge

    "In a report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Energy identified the potential environmental effects of hydrokinetic energy devices that need further monitoring and testing. The report also identified ways to mitigate the adverse environmental effects related to the installation and operation of hydrokinetic projects…

    "Among other things, the report points to concerns about installation, electromagnetic fields, spinning turbines, accidental leaks and changes in currents and waves. All of these could alter migration paths, transform beaches and bays, injure marine life, disturb the seabed and diminish food availability…[But] few devices have actually been deployed and tested in rivers and oceans in the U.S. For some environmental issues…effects will prove minor…The report encouraged the use of adaptive management principles…[that] would require the developer to adjust the project to mitigate any unacceptable environmental effects."


    click to enlarge

    "The DOE is funding several efforts to assess the environmental effects…[and] improve the siting…[M]ore support for research and assessment in the U.S. is needed. The U.S. is far behind the UK…[which] plans to install 300 MW of new hydrokinetic capacity in the next five years while the U.S. plans to install 50 MW…

    "The technical potential of ocean wave power in the U.S. is 90,000 MW, according to estimates by the Electric Power Research Institute. If the U.S. adopted a national renewable electricity standard of 25 percent, more than 13,000 MW of that potential could be realized by 2025, according to a study by Navigant Consulting..."



    25% NEW ENERGY ON OAHU
    Wind & solar can reliably supply 25% of Oahu’s electricity need, new study shows
    March 17, 2011 (Hawaiian Electric Company)

    "When combined with on-Oahu wind farms and solar energy, the Interisland Wind project planned to bring 400 megawatts (MW) of wind power from Molokai and Lanai to Oahu could reliably supply more than 25% of Oahu’s projected electricity demand, according to the Oahu Wind Integration Study (OWIS).

    "…[The OWIS] studied the impact on the Oahu grid of a total of 500 MW of wind energy and a nominal 100 MW of solar power, though a good deal more utility-scale and customer-sited solar power is expected on Oahu…[It] found that the 500 MW of wind and 100 MW of solar power could eliminate the need to burn approximately 2.8 million barrels of low sulfur fuel oil (LSFO) and 132,000 tons of coal each year while maintaining system reliability, if a number of recommendations are incorporated including…"


    click to enlarge

    "…[1] Provide state-of-the-art wind power forecasting to help anticipate the amount of power that will be available from wind…[2] Increase power reserves (the amount of power that can be called upon from operating generators) to help manage wind variability and uncertainty in wind power forecasts…

    "…[3] Reduce minimum stable operating power of baseload generating units to provide more power reserves…[4] Increase ramp rates (the time it takes to increase or decrease output) of Hawaiian Electric’s thermal generating units…"


    click to enlarge

    "…[5] Implement severe weather monitoring to ensure adequate power generation is available during periods of higher wind power variability…[ and, 6] Evaluate other resources capable of contributing reserve, such as fast-starting thermal generating units and load control programs.

    "…[A]ssuring reliability will require further studies, upgrades to existing and new infrastructure, as well as specific requirements on the wind farms to be connected to the Oahu system. With these and other proposed changes, the technical analysis suggests, Oahu can accommodate increased wind and solar projects with minimal limits on output of renewable resources…"



    CUTTING OCEAN WIND COSTS
    Keeping the lid on offshore installation costs
    Andrew Williams, 28 March 2011 (Wind Energy Update)

    "Several sector-wide factors have raised the underlying costs for offshore wind over the last few years, including rising commodity prices, currency fluctuations and bottlenecks in the supply chain. At the project level, a sluggish planning and consenting process has also eaten into budgets…

    "At the installation stage, day rates for hiring installation vessels are also very high, so it is essential that developers maximise utilisation rates [by avoiding fabrication and weather delays to ensure vessels aren't sitting idle]…[O]ver-optimistic planning schedules for installation, that don’t consider the compounding impact of delays on other elements of the project, and delays on milestone payments and income from generation, are another cause of cost overruns…"


    click to enlarge

    "Planning for weather effects is complex. The impact of a delay in good weather can deliver a one-two punch to project schedules - one at the time, and another later when the installation schedule slips in to periods where the likelihood of weather down time is higher…

    "In an effort to minimise costs and reduce risks…wind energy companies should ensure they devote sufficient time and resources to making the best technology choices and…[do] ‘front end’ engineering design…[along with] more effective project teams and detailed project development process schedules, including integrated contracting strategies and project control mechanisms…"


    click to enlarge

    "Another effective strategy is to engage early with experienced installation companies on the wind farm layout and installation infrastructure. This would allow cable manufacturers, foundation manufacturers and installers to collaborate…for optimal installation…[L]ogistics providers…should bring more value to projects…by proposing commercial models that would spread the risk and minimise installation times…[such as] building interesting partnerships with the supply chain, including turbine manufacturers, fabricators and installers - essentially taking lessons from oil and gas to align incentives to minimise system costs…

    "…[A] more rigorous, detailed and integrated approach to the planning, management and execution of key project stages could well pay dividends for forward thinking companies."

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    TODAY’S STUDY: STATE WORKERS CAN LEAD EFFICIENCY

    For 40 years, California has led the way in boosting energy efficiency. With innovative policies instituted in the 1970s, it has reduced its energy intensity while growing its economy and expanding its green jobs market at nation-leading rates.

    California’s average consumer today uses only two-thirds of the energy of the average U.S. consumer (and generates about half the greenhouse gas emissions).

    The keys have been better appliance standards, better building standards, and a pioneering “decoupling” program that “decouples” utility profits from electricity sales by rewarding utilities for better customer efficiencies.

    As other states institute energy efficiency resource standards (EERSs) and decoupling programs that will bring them into line with California, leaders on the Crazy Coast are moving on to a new idea: Training workers to be more efficient and build better efficiency.

    As the report highlighted below makes clear, the opportunity runs the gamut from blue-collar skills and on-the-job training programs to university and graduate school research and management curricula.

    This is far more than just another jobs scheme. It is expected to create over 200,000 new jobs in California by the end of this decade. At the same time, it will continue California’s drive toward reduced reliance on Old Energy sources.

    And, because every dollar invested in energy efficiency saves three dollars in energy costs, the enhanced efficiency will fund the California utilities’ building of New Energy infrastructure as they transition to a New Energy economy.


    California Workforce Education and Training Needs Assessment for Energy Efficiency, Demand Response and Distributed Generation
    Carol Zabin, Karen Chapple, Ellen Avis, Jessica Halpern-Finnerty, et. al., March 2011 (Center on Employment in the Green Economy/U.C. Berkely)

    Executive Summary

    Purpose and Scope

    This report presents the results of the California Workforce Education and Training Needs Assessment for Energy Efficiency, Demand Response, and Distributed Generation (CA Workforce Needs Assessment, or the WE&T Needs Assessment), conducted throughout calendar year 2010. It has benefitted from the contributions of many individuals and organizations, including those who helped plan and participated in the December 2010 Workforce Strategies, Energy Efficiency, and Green Jobs Summit…

    Why A Workforce Needs Assessment

    The WE&T Needs Assessment was called for in the California Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan (EE Strategic Plan).2 The EE Strategic Plan, adopted by the CPUC in September 2008, provides a road map for a dramatic scaling up of statewide efforts to meet California’s clean energy goals for energy efficiency.3The objective of the Plan is to compel sustained market transformation, thus moving California toward long-term deep energy savings in the residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural sectors of its economy. The EE Strategic Plan is a central element in the implementation of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) and is also a main component of the implementation of AB 758, California’s Comprehensive Energy Efficiency Program for Existing Residential and Nonresidential Buildings law, passed in 2010.

    Workforce Education and Training was one of the key issues addressed in the EE Strategic Plan, with this WE&T Needs Assessment identified as a necessary first step to guide further action. The importance of the workforce in achieving the state’s clean energy goals was articulated in the EE Strategic Plan in the following vision statement:

    “By 2020, California’s workforce is trained and fully engaged to provide the human capital necessary to achieve California’s economic energy efficiency and demand-side management potential.”

    click to enlarge

    The Plan also recognizes the impact of energy efficiency programs and policies on career opportunities for California’s students, job seekers, and workers. It specifically calls for promoting the inclusion of low-income, minority, and disadvantaged communities in energy efficiency training programs; establishing energy education and training for employment in the energy efficiency workforce at all levels of California’s educational system; and engaging in a collaborative effort among state agencies, educational institutions, community-based and non-profit organizations, private industry, and labor to these ends. This direction explicitly articulates the importance of equity issues and career opportunities for all Californians, not only those with ready access to college and professional jobs. It also recognizes that developing a qualified energy efficiency workforce involves working with collaborators from the workforce community who have as their primary goal improving job opportunities and workforce outcomes for Californians.

    The CPUC’s mandate is focused on the regulation of the energy and several other industries, but as a driver of investment in energy efficiency and related activities its actions impact the quantity and kinds of jobs that are created in the state. The CPUC’s recognition that its work affects the state’s workforce goals is analogous to its early foresight that achieving the state’s environmental objectives is intertwined with and heavily influenced by state energy policy.

    The dual goals of clean energy and improving job opportunities and workforce outcomes for Californians, including those from disadvantaged communities, has led the WE&T Needs Assessment to focus explicitly on strategies that value both of these two goals, as well as to identify the trade-offs between these goals where they exist. The conceptual framework for connecting these goals is based in business and economic literature and is known as high-road economic development. High-road economic development consists of a market environment that favors business strategies built on quality work and innovation, resulting from investments in a workforce that is both highly skilled and rewarded for those skills. Such workforce investments, in turn, encourage the development of a stable and professionalized workforce with the capacity to adapt to new technologies and practices. In contrast, low-road economic development consists of a competitive environment that favors competing on the basis of cost rather than quality. This leads to jobs that do not pay as well and/or do not have career ladders and results in higher turnover, undermining worker and employer incentives to invest in training.

    click to enlarge

    Summary Of Results…

    The condition of the California economy sets the overall context for analyzing the impact of energy efficiency and related policies and programs on jobs, and subsequently the possible need to adjust workforce development policies and programs. At present, two major problems plague the California economy. The first, a result of the Great Recession and the jobless recovery, is California’s unemployment rate, which remains at over 12 percent as of early 2011. The second problem is the long-term structural bifurcation of the state’s labor market into well-paid, higher-skill jobs and low-wage, lower-skill jobs, with little growth of jobs in the middle.

    This situation has two implications for the WE&T Needs Assessment. First, the high and persistent unemployment rate means that, at present, there is a large queue of unemployed workers, particularly in the construction sector, where the number of jobs dropped over 40 percent since the peak in 2006. Second, the bifurcation of the labor market means that, without specific policy interventions, the jobs created by the investments in energy savings will mimic the wage disparities seen in the rest of the economy, with some high-wage jobs in professional occupations and many low-wage jobs for those without a college degree. These wage disparities have immediate and serious social implications for families and communities in California, and they ultimately affect the competitiveness and efficiency of the California economy…

    click to enlarge

    JOB IMPACTS AND LABOR SUPPLY

    The WE&T Needs Assessment forecasts the number of jobs that will be created in 2010, 2015 and 2020 as a result of the energy efficiency and related policies and programs in California, using a variety of modeling and estimation techniques and three scenarios for levels of investment (low, medium, and high) during the next ten years. Using our medium scenario, we project these programs and policies will result in an investment of about $11.2 billion dollars from ratepayers, state, federal, and private sources for 2020, as shown in Figure 1, up from an investment of about $6.6 billion in 2010. This investment is projected to create a total of 211,000 jobs for that year, including direct jobs generated by the investments in energy efficiency activities, indirect jobs resulting from demand for inputs for these activities, and induced jobs resulting from the increased household and business incomes and reduced energy expenditures from these activities. These are person-year jobs, meaning that each job represents one full-time, one-year job, not one permanent job. This forecast shows that energy efficiency and related investments resulting from programs and policies identified in this report provide a significant stimulus to the California economy.

    The number of directly-generated jobs in energy efficiency and related activities is projected at 52,371 full-time equivalent jobs for the year 2020; the remaining jobs are the result of the indirect and induced labor demand. These direct jobs represent a significant growth from the 27,718 total direct jobs we estimate were generated in 2010 from energy efficiency and related policies and programs. Direct jobs are the focus of this study because they are directly linked to energy efficiency and related activities and thus to the potential need for skill development.
    As shown in Table 1, the number of trained workers needed to fill the new jobs created is projected to be at least 78,205 over the 11-year period beginning in 2010. This number is larger than the number of full-time equivalent jobs (38,937 net of 2009) because most jobs include both energy efficiency and other work. That is to say, the work from one new full-time equivalent job will distributed to more than one worker. To forecast training needs, the key estimate is the yearly increment of workers needed to fill new positions, above and beyond those hired in the previous year, since the latter were presumably already trained before hire. For the year 2020 alone, the number of new workers that require specific training in energy efficiency and related sectors is forecast at 5,262. Thus, from a total job creation forecast of 211,000 workers in 2020, the number of new slots available for workers needing specific skills in energy efficiency and related activities is only 5,262.

    click to enlarge

    Two-thirds of the direct jobs are expected to be in the construction trades (e.g., electricians, plumbers and pipefitters, sheet metal workers, carpenters, laborers, and construction supervisors). Another 17 percent of the jobs are in the fields of architecture and engineering, management, and public administration (including utility and third-party program administrators).
    The remaining 16 percent are in manufacturing, advertising, office administration, and other industries.

    Most of the new jobs are in traditional occupations, dwarfing the number of workers in new and emerging specialized occupations (e.g., solar installers or energy auditors). This finding is based on current staffing patterns; if specialized energy efficiency occupations become more prevalent over time, this balance may change. The degree of specialization depends partly on business decisions, but also on what certifications the state encourages and which training programs it funds.

    At present, there are a significant number of unemployed and underemployed skilled workers in all of these industries. Graduates of training programs will compete against these experienced workers and can be expected to have difficulty in finding work utilizing their newly acquired skills, a point echoed many times in interviews we conducted with training providers as part of this study. In all sectors, this pool of unemployed workers is likely to exceed the number of new jobs created in the energy efficiency and related sectors at least until 2020.

    In addition, the number of workers currently employed in energy efficiency and related occupations far outweighs the number of new workers that are projected to enter these fields through 2020. Some, if not many, of these incumbent workers are likely to require skills upgrade training as new best practices and new technologies are introduced.

    The quantitative analysis shows that, at least through 2020, concerns about shortages of new workers for energy efficiency and related work are unwarranted, particularly for the most prominent energy efficiency occupations. There may be difficulty hiring for specialized niches, such as professionals with significant work experience, or short-term shortages for positions with new certification requirements, but these are the exception. In contrast, concerns about shortages of jobs for graduates from education and training programs are real and likely to persist through 2020, particularly for those with less than four years of college. As a result, great caution should be used in considering the funding of new training programs. For achieving energy efficiency goals the focus should be on upgrading the energy efficiency skills and knowledge of the incumbent workforce…

    click to enlarge

    Findings

    The WE&T Needs Assessment findings provide the basis for developing the specific recommendations presented below.

    Key findings from Part 1 of the WE&T Needs Assessment include:

    → The forecast of large overall stimulus and job creation coupled with the relatively small number of new jobs needing workers with specific training in energy efficiency and related skills;

    → The primacy of the building and construction trades, which make up about two-thirds of the overall jobs resulting directly from energy efficiency and related programs and policies;

    → The predominance of work in traditional construction trades, rather than in narrow specialized emerging occupations, disproving the view that such jobs are fundamentally different than other construction trades jobs, and highlighting the importance of greening the traditional trades;

    → The long queue of experienced unemployed workers, particularly in the construction trades;

    → The problems of work quality, particularly in residential and small commercial retrofit and HVAC, which are attributable to low-road market conditions and cannot be solved by training alone; and

    → The limited existence of industry recognized skill certifications in the relevant occupations.

    Key findings from Part 2 of the WE&T Needs Assessment include:

    → The overabundance of training programs that can serve energy efficiency and related occupations, spread in many institutions but not coordinated under one strategy;

    → The availability of the state-certified apprenticeship infrastructure for the most prominent occupations, one of the few highly functional forms of training for middle-skill jobs, serving the needs of both employers and workers;

    → The availability of a strong public post-secondary education system (though now under acute budgetary pressure) that is effective for professional occupations requiring a four-year degree, but less so for other occupations;

    → The partial incorporation of energy efficiency skills and knowledge into apprenticeship programs and the two- and four-year colleges, and the opportunity for greater degrees of incorporation;

    → The particular weakness in articulated training paths or links to good jobs for the residential occupations compared to the more strongly articulated training paths in the professions and the commercial and public sector trades;

    → The lack of guideposts on which skills to train for, particularly in the residential sector, due to lack of industry recognized credentials;

    → The recent growth of short-term training for new workers in specialized occupations in private organizations and community colleges, which does not build on the strengths of California’s workforce infrastructure and may not lead to good careers for graduates.

    click to enlarge

    Recommendations

    Our targeted recommendations fit into two overarching prescriptions that are driven by the state’s intertwined clean energy and workforce goals. They address the role that the California state government has in shaping the kinds of jobs that are created as the state moves towards a clean energy economy, as well as the role of the workforce development infrastructure in effectively responding to this economic restructuring. Implementing these recommendations will require some redirection of programs since clean energy programs have not consistently addressed their implications for the state’s workforce objectives. The recommendations are not limited to those that can be carried out only by the CPUC or the utilities, but rather are aimed at a broader set of state agencies and stakeholders that can drive the needed changes.
    • CREATE AND ENFORCE STANDARDS to expand the higher quality segments of energy efficiency sectors: Establish policies and require utility and other publicly-funded programs focused on energy efficiency and other demand-side management activities to clearly delineate and align the skills, certifications, and additional standards governing workers and contractors, so that quality work conditions can be maintained and workforce planning can occur.
    • IMPROVE WE&T PLANNING AND COORDINATION: Establish state-level policies, support effective collaborations, and provide incentives to improve workforce planning and coordination among clean energy agencies and workforce agencies, and among the major education and training institutions, particularly apprenticeships, community colleges, and utility training programs. Emphasis should be placed on sector strategies built on partnerships between business, labor, and training and educational institutions…

    click to enlarge

    RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CPUC, CEC, UTILITIES AND OTHER AGENCIES AND STAKEHOLDERS SUPPORTING INVESTMENT IN ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND DEMAND-SIDE MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES

    State agencies, utilities, and others involved in energy efficiency and related programs and policies should determine and align skill certifications and analyze costs and options for encouraging their adoption by industry in the following ways:

    • INCENTIVE PROGRAMS: Require contractors who participate in energy efficiency rebate and incentive programs to have third-party certifications, licenses, building permits, and/or meet other relevant standards and certifications. Certification requirements should apply to both workers and contractors.
    • DIRECT CONTRACTS: Award state and utility direct-install contracts using a best-value contractor rating system that includes documented history of high-quality work, hiring of workers with appropriate certifications, ongoing investments in worker training, and compliance with building codes and employment laws.
    • LOW-INCOME STATE AND IOU RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS: For fully subsidized low-income programs, modify program objectives to include workforce outcomes. Assess current workforce outcomes and if they are not adequate, use high-road agreements and sector strategies to pilot incorporation of the new national DOE skill standards and certifications or other strategies to improve both energy efficiency and workforce outcomes.
    • ENERGY UPGRADE CALIFORNIA FOR RESIDENTIAL: Require Energy Upgrade partners and implementation contractors to include, not only building envelope standards, but also standards for HVAC installations and other building systems. Establish pilot programs that include high-road agreements as part of the portfolio of funded programs, paying particular attention to strategies that bundle jobs to achieve a large enough scale to attract a broad set of contractors, including those with strong administrative and training capacity.
    • ENERGY UPGRADE CALIFORNIA FOR COMMERCIAL: Require the use of high-road agreements, including apprenticeship, prevailing wage, and local hire provisions. The use of high-road agreements will support higher quality installations, increase the benefits of training investments, and promote the achievement of California’s workforce goals.
    • LICENSING: Review and, if warranted, change licensing requirements for building and construction trades contractors and technicians to ensure competency-based licensing.
    • PUBLIC CHARGE REAUTHORIZATON: Include desired workforce outcomes in the list of goals for energy efficiency, low-income, and renewable energy programs (including distributed generation) with the reauthorization of the public goods charge.
    • SECTOR STRATEGIES: Encourage drivers of energy efficiency investments to support sector strategies for deployment of new measures and technologies such as energy storage, integrated demand side management, commercial building benchmarking, and others, through co-funding, participation in setting work and skill standards, and serving as conveners of contractors and other key stakeholders.
    • REPORTING OF WAGES, TURNOVER, AND OTHER LABOR CONDITIONS: Modify program evaluation methodologies and protocols for energy efficiency, demand response, and distributed generation to require the inclusion of worker outcomes, including compensation, benefits, turnover, and retention rates. Existing methodologies address energy and environmental costs and benefits but do not address workforce costs and benefits. Workforce issues affect both the costs and benefits of these programs, by way of the quality of installations and maintenance and the benefits associated with investments in training. Moreover, the achievement of the state’s energy efficiency goals needs to be considered alongside the achievement of the state’s workforce goals.

    click to enlarge

    RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT POLICYMAKERS, FUNDERS, AND PRACTITIONERS

    • SECTOR STRATEGIES: Support workforce development funders (including Workforce Investment Boards, the Employment Training Panel, etc.) and training and education institutions as they develop, serve as intermediaries for, and coordinate their programs with sector strategies. When key elements of sector strategies already exist, as in the case of the Western HVAC Alliance for example, the workforce development community should participate by providing co-funding and technical assistance on sector strategy best practices, in addition to providing training and education services.
    • GREENING TRADITIONAL OCCUPATIONAL PROGRAMS: Incorporate energy efficiency skills and knowledge into traditional occupations in the construction trades and the relevant professions, particularly engineering and architecture. This greening should focus on the main training institutions of apprenticeship, community college, and four-year colleges, and be a preferred alternative to creation of new, shorter-term, narrowly focused programs in specialized skills related to energy efficiency.
    • INCUMBENT WORKER TRAINING: Focus resources on incumbent worker training and journey upgrade training. Consider the adoption of meaningful continuing education requirements for licenses and certifications to support participation of incumbent workers in these trainings and to integrate energy efficiency into the main knowledge and skill base of the relevant professions and trades.
    • COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND APPRENTICESHIP COLLABORATION: Promote system-wide collaboration between the community colleges and the apprenticeship programs at the pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, and continuing education levels. Leverage the strength of the community colleges in providing pathways for students from disadvantaged communities.
    • CERTIFYING PRE-APPRENTICESHIP: Support and strengthen pipelines into skilled trades work, using models such as PG&E’s Power Pathways program, other successful community college pre-apprenticeship programs, and high school career academies. These pre-apprenticeship programs should be linked to state-certified apprenticeship programs and built on best practice models. Efforts to build stronger pipelines should be connected to clean energy investment policies, including high-road agreements with local hire clauses.
    • DATA ON TRAINING OUTCOMES: Promote improved data availability on outcomes for training program participants by making available (with security safeguards) administrative data on employment of publicly-funded training program graduates. Job placement rates and career advancement should be adopted as priority metrics of program success. New policy is needed to make existing data available for research, while safeguarding privacy and confidentiality.

    click to enlarge

    RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHANGES TO UTILITY WORKFORCE EDUCATION AND TRAINING PROGRAMS

    • SUPPORT SECTOR STRATEGIES: Initiate, help fund, and partner with other organizations to develop robust sector strategies in key energy efficiency sectors such as HVAC, building operations and maintenance, benchmarking, and other emerging areas (as well as LIEE or other programs undergoing review or redesign).
    • TRAINING CENTER CLASSES: Modify the structure of classes offered by the Energy Training Centers to increase the number of course series that are longer in length than current typical classes, focus on a specific occupation, have a workplace-based hands-on component, and offer clear learning objectives that lead to certification.
    • COLLABORATIONS: Expand collaborations between the Energy Training Centers and building and construction trades associations. The emphasis should be on collaborations with high-road associations demonstrating commitment to investments in ongoing workforce training, such as participating in apprenticeship programs.
    • CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT OR UPDATING: Actively participate in the content development, review, and updating of curricula, and support instructor professional development for the main “home institutions” that train building and construction professionals and trades people, such as apprenticeship programs, community colleges, and four-year institutions. Energy Training Center staff should be encouraged to share their expertise as appropriate to ensure that curricula incorporate up-to-date information on new technologies and practices.
    • GOALS FOR INCLUSION OF DISADVANTAGED WORKERS: Adopt as a goal for the Energy Training Centers the inclusion of low-income, minority, and disadvantaged workers and job seekers. Develop and implement specific programs in collaboration with organizations that have a track record in this arena, emphasizing sector strategies that can lead to placement in good jobs with career ladders.
    • EVALUATION OF WORKFORCE OUTCOMES: Assess and determine what additional information is required to evaluate workforce outcomes for the Energy Training Centers. At a minimum, the Energy Training Centers should begin to collect information from participants on occupation, prior education, and work experience and demographic characteristics.
    • CAREER DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRATION IN K-12 PROGRAMS: Increase the emphasis on career awareness and career exploration in ratepayer-funded education programs serving K-8 students and support career preparation programs in career academies and Regional Occupational Programs. Evaluate and work toward the integration of environmental and ratepayer-funded energy curricula. There is substantial evidence that the integration of environmental and energy curricula will increase the support of teachers for these programs. These efforts should be supported by strong collaborations with K-12 schools, particularly those programs, like the California Partnership Academies, that target disadvantaged students.
    • EVALUATION OF K-12 EDUCATION PROGRAMS: Work with education agencies, schools, and funding partners to allow for the collection and reporting of demographic information on students participating in
    ratepayer-funded Connections education programs. The present lack of information hampers the evaluation of existing programs.

    RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH AND CAPACITY BUILDING

    • WORKFORCE OUTCOMES OF ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAMS: Expand funding for research on the implications of energy efficiency and related investments on jobs, job quality, and job access, and on employment and career outcomes for training program graduates. Comparative research that captures the impact of different labor conditions on energy efficiency outcomes should be prioritized. Basic job and workforce information is needed for the state’s major clean energy and efficiency investments, including wages, turnover, retention and workforce characteristics.
    • SECTOR STRATEGIES RESEARCH AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE: Provide funding to support research on, and technical assistance and capacity building for, existing and emerging sector strategies in the energy efficiency sectors. These funds should be used to disseminate best practices of CALCTP and other successful sector initiatives to new initiatives, and to provide technical assistance to these initiatives.
    • FUTURE WE&T NEEDS ASSESSMENTS: Future studies in targeted sectors are needed to assess the specific skill requirements and effectiveness of training programs. These needs assessments, including the one programmed for HVAC, should not be limited to skill gaps analyses but should include analyses of key labor conditions such as wages, career ladders, turnover and retention rates, and employer investments in training and retention. Needs assessments should include an employer survey of the various segments of the targeted sector in order to gather this information. This approach is critical to assess the higher quality segments of the industry, determine skill standards and certifications when necessary, and ensure that training investments help support the higher quality segments of each market.
    • NATIONAL CENTER FOR THE CLEAN ENERGY WORKFORCE: Support the California Energy Commission’s proposal to create a National Center for the Clean Energy Workforce. The mandate of the proposed center is to help California grow a clean energy economy by promoting high-road economic and workforce development. The proposed center would work toward these ends by supporting research, providing technical assistance, and serving as an information clearinghouse and communications hub. In these ways, the center would help the state achieve energy savings while improving the lives of California workers.

    QUICK NEWS, 3-30: IN JAPAN’S INDOOR EVAC ZONE; DELAWARE OCEAN WIND GETS GO; BEST IN SOLAR; SO DAKOTA WIND TEMPTS UTILITY

    IN JAPAN’S INDOOR EVAC ZONE
    Japan quake: Inside the evacuation zone
    Dai Saito, 29 March 2011 (BBC News)

    "I am still in the area. Once my mother decided to stay I knew I could not leave her. However I never imagined the situation would become so serious…There are still not enough fuel or relief supplies but some shops are gradually opening and, as long as we don't want a luxurious life, we can get on…My life has calmed down considerably compared to immediately after the earthquake but we still need relief supplies.

    "Rice, bread and emergency rice (onigiri), drinking water, petrol and kerosene are all rationed…But we don't get enough daily necessities like toilet rolls…And although we get fuel rations they are usually not enough…This is my life now. We can't live a 'relatively normal' life if we stay inside our house for too long but also, I have to worry about my health when we have to go outside to pick up the rations."


    click to enlarge

    "The nuclear power plant is a worry. When will this situation end and what will happen now? …I don't have confidence in the government's actions especially because I am in the area that has been ambiguously designated the "Indoor Evacuation Zone" …[and] apparently they are now encouraging voluntary evacuations from here…

    click to enlarge

    "Indoor evacuation makes no sense because you cannot stay at home all the time. It makes me wonder if this is a ploy by the government to avoid responsibility if we all suffer health issues as a result of radiation exposure - I suppose they could argue that they had informed us not to go out. One just has to laugh...

    click to enlarge

    "It angers me that that they are putting much effort into covering up and making deliberately ambiguous statements. We now know that some of the reports were at least a day old at the time of disclosure. Even today, they reported the finding of plutonium at a press conference that was held in the middle of the night…The fact that our lives are in danger right at this minute is apparently less important than the number crunching they seem to do in a safe office far away."


    click to enlarge

    "I personally think this accident at the nuclear power plant is, at least partly, a man-made disaster therefore it is Tepco's duty to hold a press conference and report the facts…However, they have been releasing reports that don't give us accurate pictures and at such times that no one would be awake to see them.

    "One cannot help but think they are deliberately trying to tell very little to people like us who live in the area…I am not aware of any actual aid organised by Tepco. The president and the chairman of Tepco have not been seen in public since the earthquake. I demand prompt disclosure of information and immediate relief for the people in the stricken area."



    DELAWARE OCEAN WIND GETS GO
    Delaware energy: Bluewater wins right to take the next step; Offshore wind energy project clears federal hurdle
    Aaron Nathans, March 25, 2011 (Delaware Online/Gannett)

    "NRG Bluewater Wind has won the exclusive right to negotiate with the federal government to build an offshore wind farm off Delaware, federal officials announced…The decision is the first formal step along a gamut of environmental and permitting reviews that company officials expect will culminate in a landmark renewable-energy project supplying enough power to support at least 54,000 homes.

    "Bluewater is planning a wind farm13.2 miles off the Delaware coast, with between 49 large turbines and 150 smaller ones…The decision by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement [BOEMRE] marks the first time that it has begun lease negotiations with a wind-power developer under new federal rules, and comes nearly three years after Bluewater signed a 25-year supply contract with Delmarva Power."


    click to enlarge

    "The contract requires the turbines to start producing electricity no later than 2016…[It] helps Bluewater avoid further delays in its effort to gain a lease and permit to start construction…because it won't have to grapple with another developer for the rights to build on the ocean tracts it has chosen [and done environmental and technical studies for]…[T]he decision was [taken as] a vote of confidence in Bluewater's financial and technical ability [- backed by new parent energy giant NRG Energy -] to complete the project…

    "Bluewater officials estimated in 2008 that the project would bring 400 to 500 construction jobs to the state, as well as at least 80 ongoing operations and maintenance jobs. A Port of Wilmington official estimated last year that building a regional turbine assembly facility there could result in about 770 jobs during construction, and another 750 operational jobs."


    click to enlarge

    "…[I]t's difficult to predict when turbines [will] begin spinning. In addition to lease negotiations, Bluewater will need rigorous environmental reviews that will weigh the impact each turbine will have on the ecosystem and human activity…Bluewater expects later this year to build an offshore tower to measure wind speeds and bird migration patterns…

    "…Bluewater's planned Mid-Atlantic Wind Park may not be the first offshore wind farm in the nation. A small pilot project in state waters off Atlantic City has a faster path to permitting…And the planned Cape Wind offshore wind farm off Massachusetts already has its construction permit under old federal rules. With offshore wind energy's high price, however, it's struggling…As the first developer to use the new federal rules, Bluewater's Delaware project is blazing a trail that all large U.S. offshore wind farms are expected to follow…"



    BEST IN SOLAR
    target="_blank">BELECTRIC tops Global PV System Integrator Rankings: German suppliers continue to dominate
    March 23, 2011 (IMS Research)

    "Germany’s BELECTRIC developed more than 300 MW of PV systems in 2010, propelling it to the top of IMS Research’s 2010 Global PV System Integrator Rankings…

    "…[D]espite the top spot and a three-fold increase in PV systems developed, BELECTRIC still only managed to capture a 2.4% share of the non-residential PV market, estimated at 13.2 GW by IMS Research."


    click to enlarge

    "The company (formerly known as Beck Energy) narrowly edged out Germany-based juwi, and ranked five places ahead of 2009 leader Q-Cells International, which saw close to zero MW growth last year…

    "The latest global rankings also reveal Germany’s ongoing PV dominance, with 13 of the top 30 system integrators from that market. And despite the fact that newly added annual German PV capacity is expected to decline in the coming years, it is clear that these companies will remain prominent…"



    SO DAKOTA WIND TEMPTS UTILITY
    N.C. wind company eyes Meade County; Spokesperson says weather data ‘encouraging,’ but project is early stages
    Heather Murschel, March 26, 2011 (Black Hills Pioneer)

    "Data from a meteorological tower in Meade County [that Duke Energy Renewables, a renewable energy business unit that is a part of North Carolina’s Duke Energy Corp., began reading in 2009] is already showing encouraging results that it is in an ideal location for a large-scale wind farm…

    "Steve Wegman, the executive director of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association, said Duke Energy is one of many companies [in preliminary stages of] competing for wind energy projects [which are five or more years from construction] in western South Dakota…"


    Look at all that wind! (click to enlarge)

    "Because [Duke] is simply in the in the exploratory stage…no specifics on the scale, or exact location of the project have been set…[but is clear about] the advantages of constructing a large-scale wind farm in Meade County include the proximity to transmission lines that the wind project could tap into, and the availability of private land for potential lease…[Duke is aware of and plans to protect the regional heritage] of Bear Butte…

    "…[A Duke spokesman said] the company will only commit to building a commercial renewable energy project…after it has signed a long-term agreement with a power purchaser, typically regional utilities, electric cooperatives or municipalities…[and has not] secured one yet [in South Dakota]...Wegman said the actual construction of a wind farm, depending on the size, takes less than 180 days…Wegman said the success of any wind energy company in South Dakota is directly related to economic development…"


    South Dakotans could get 135 times more electricity from their wind than they need. If they invested in wires, they could get richer than Texas. (click to enlarge)

    "Duke Energy is no stranger to the wind energy business…[It] has more than 5,500 megawatts in its pipeline…[and] upwards of 1,000 mega-watts of wind energy online at nine wind farms in the United States. Since 2007, they have invested more than $1.5 billion, and are already in the top 10 for wind generation capacity.

    "…[O]ne megawatt would serve approximately 300 homes with electricity, and a typical residential home uses 1.8 kilowatts an hour, while small businesses such as a hotel or a grocery store, uses 500 kilowatts an hour."

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    TODAY’S STUDY: FOR ALGAE TO REPLACE OIL

    Are the two challenges most commonly mentioned as obstacles to replacing oil with something else – scale and cost – really obstacles?

    Electric vehicles were disdained as a too costly niche concept just a decade ago yet are now selling out of showrooms as fast as dealers can supply them.

    It is a pattern that new technologies regularly repeat. When an idea's time comes, the market demands, momentum gathers and supply emerges.

    Are algae-based biofuels an idea whose time is imminent? There is need. Electric vehicles will do for personal transport but batteries cannot now meet commercial needs for heavy highway and roadway transport or air flight.

    The potential is also there. Of all the biofuel formulas now proposed, algae show the best potential for being refined into heavy transport and jet flight fuels.

    Algae can be grown very cheaply and advocates say the methods to ramp up production to meet demand in obtainable space is available.

    The biggest obstacle so far has been producing and refining algal oils into commercial products affordably but, as the report highlighted below demonstrates, technologies to bring the cost of production down are coming out of innovative labs everywhere.

    There are likely still some years before big rigs will be fueling up with algae stuff. That is the rub. What will happen sooner, affordable algae-based biofuels or better batteries?

    Exciting, competitive times in New Energy, these.


    The potential impact of VG Energy’s lipid oxidation inhibitors on the economics of algal biofuels
    John Sheehan, February 2011 (VG Energy/SheenBoyce)

    VG Energy has recently announced that it has been able to translate a research discovery related to cancer treatment into a potential breakthrough for biofuels made from algae. Laboratory experiments show that molecules which can disrupt the burning of fats (lipids) in tumor cells can also encourage microscopic plant cells like algae to accumulate and even secrete fats. These fats can be used to produce diesel and jet fuel substitutes for traditional petroleum fuels. This note summarizes a preliminary analysis aimed at understanding the potential for exploiting these findings in commercial technology. The scenarios evaluated include:

    Enhanced production of higher value oils such as omega-3-fatty acids in open pond algae systems

    Enhanced production of fats for oil produced as a feedstock for biofuels in open pond algae systems

    Scenarios that take advantage of observed oil secretion in VG-treated algae to permit non-destructive recovery of oil and recycle of algae to ponds.

    click to enlarge

    The enhanced production scenarios are compared with scenarios based on literature values for currently achievable productivity levels of algal open pond systems. The results show that VG Energy’s discovery could transform algae technology from being a negative rate of return proposition to being an attractive and profitable venture. There are many caveats that go with such a statement. The preliminary nature of this analysis, which has a wide margin of error associated with it, and the uncertainty of how these early lab results will translate into practical process schemes are chief among them. Furthermore, while the high price of nutritional markets makes them an attractive near term target for the technology, it is important to bear in mind that any new technologies will face stiff competition from existing commercial producers. It is in the fuel markets that VG Energy’s technology show the promise to compete with crude oil in today’s market.

    Caveats

    Any one considering this analysis should understand that it is preliminary and subject to significant error. The available performance data is simply too thin at this point to give this estimate more than an order-of- magnitude precision. That said, it signals a green light to move forward. Among the things I have not accounted for in this analysis is the value of recycling algae.

    click to enlarge

    Evaluating the economics of algal oil

    The basics of an open pond algal oil production system are shown in Figure 1. Algae are grown in shallow ponds in which an aqueous suspension of algae circulates in a raceway pattern to maintain mixing and turnover of algae at the surface to improve access to sunlight for photosynthesis. CO2 from a waste source such as a power plant or ethanol plant is sparged into each pond. Nitrogen, phosphate, potassium and iron are added to support growth. Growth rates are measured in grams of algae per day per square meter, with typical values ranging 10 to 20.

    The algae can accumulate large amounts of carbohydrates (sugars and starches), lipids (fats) or protein depending on the species and the condition under which they are grown. Of particular interest to energy technologists is the ability to achieve high levels of lipid content in these fast growing simple plants. The combination of rapid growth and oil production makes algae technology potentially more productive than even the fastest growing oil crops in the world such as oil palm.

    This analysis only considers open pond systems. They represent the lowest cost and simplest design of an algae production system. Many companies are currently working on new so-called photobioreactor systems. These designs may change the economic landscape for algae given the extent to which they can lead to improved light capture, better control of (and therefore independence from regional) climate conditions, and increased concentration of algal biomass. The obvious trade-off for such systems is cost. Even the simplest step toward enclosing algae production systems (plastic covers or greenhouse type enclosures) dramatically increase the capital cost of the system.

    click to enlarge

    Table 1 summarizes other key inputs and assumptions in the analysis. The analysis is based on a process engineering model developed in the form of an Excel® spreadsheet several years ago. The model incorporates two downstream process options. In the first option (shown in Figure 2), a conventional hexane extraction is used to recover the oil. This is an energy intensive process that requires two stages of water removal followed by drying of the algal biomass prior to extraction. Dried biomass from extraction is assumed to have value as a fertilizer coproduct. Note that CO2 is not free. It is assumed to cost $80 per metric ton.

    The second option (shown in Figure 3) is a much lower cost and lower energy alternative that uses a three phase centrifugal extractor to directly remove the oil from a wet paste of algal biomass. Such an approach has been used in a commercial process for recovering neutraceutical grade beta carotene from open pond algae systems. It’s use for high yield recovery of total neutral lipids from algae has not been demonstrated. Thus, this second option represents an unproven but plausible scenario. Liquids and biomass from the extractor in this second option are sent to an anaerobic digester, which produces methane used for heat and power production. It also generates a CO2 stream and a liquid effluent containing some of the nutrients (nitrogen, phosphate and potassium), both of which can be recycled to the growth ponds and used to reduce total nutrient supply costs.

    Lipid products recovered from the algae fall into two market categories: High value oil products such as omega-3-fatty acids for use in food products and generic triglycerides (neutral lipids) that can be used as a feedstock for biofuels production. The high value oils could range in value from $10 to $40 per gallon. Neutral lipids for biofuels production must be competitive with current crude oil prices, which would be around $2.14 per gallon ($90 per barrel).

    click to enlarge

    Findings

    Tables 3 summarizes the findings of this analysis. The results are expressed as a minimum selling price of the algal lipid product required to meet a 10% real rate of return on capital.

    The improved performance scenarios with the VG additive all fall well below the low end of the high value oil market benchmark of $10 per gallon. Of greater interest is how the VG additive scenarios, with the addition of recycle made possible by the ability to non-destructively recover oil secreted by the algae, fare against price of crude oil as a feedstock for fuel production.. As Figure 2 shows, oil futures have been highly unstable, reaching a high of around $140 per barrel in mid 2008 and dropping to under $40 per barrel after the economic collapse in late 2008. As the economy as slowly begun to rebound, oil prices have once again climbed. Even before the recent unrest in the Middle East, prices were back in the $70-$84 per barrel range. USDOE’s long term estimates for oil price are conservatively low at $135 per barrel in the year 2010.

    Figure 3 shows compares selected scenarios of improved performance and recycle of biomass with the VG additive, high value oil price ranges and petroleum prices. At 75% recycle levels (cases 3a and 3b), algal oil prices are $94 to $139 per barrel, easily within range of DOE oil price projections for 2035, and almost competitive with current oil futures prices. At the theoretical (but not likely practical) maximum for recycle rate of 100%, the price of algal oil competes favorably at only $67 per barrel.

    click to enlarge

    Conclusions

    The introduction of VG Energy’s additives offers the ability to knock down the cost of algal oil production by almost a factor of ten as a result of productivity improvements. If oil secretion currently observed in the lab can be fully demonstrated in larger scale growth systems, there is a potential for further decreasing costs by another factor of roughly two. These represent dramatic changes in the economics of algae technology, and are truly game-changing. A lot of work remains to be done to establish the robustness of the VG Energy’s lab results, but these preliminary economic analyses show that the promise of the technology warrants further investment and investigation.

    click to enlarge

    Discussion

    There are two major benefits to VG Energy’s discovery: 1) the ability to maintain and even increase growth rates of algae while also increasing the relative amount of lipid produced per unit of biomass; and 2) the observation that the algae actually secrete the lipids as they accumulate in the cell. The economic repercussions of higher growth and lipid production are obvious. The ability to get cells to secrete the lipids offer some less obvious advantages. First, it improves the ease with which lipids can be separated from the water and biomass coming out of the growth systems. Second, it opens up the possibility that oil can be separated and recovered from the algae in a non-destructive way. This is important because it means that it is now possible to recycle living cells back to growth system. The system no longer has to completely replace biomass that is lost in conventional destructive processes for recovery of lipids.

    click to enlarge

    This analysis has been done in such a way that we can evaluate these benefits separately. In particular, results are presented for:

    A conservative base case growth rate and oil production with conventional extraction

    A conservative base case growth rate and oil production with centrifugal extractor and recycle options

    Enhanced growth rate and oil production with conventional extraction

    Enhanced growth rate with centrifugal extractor and recycle options

    Each of these cases are further split into two scenarios. One in which the ability to get light into the system limits the concentration of biomass to 0.5-0.6 grams per liter, and one in which limit limitations are ignored and the cell concentration is allowed to increase with increasing recycle rate. Maintaining cell concentration at a lower level is achieved by reducing the residence time of the growth reactors as recycle rate is increased.

    click to enlarge

    ...[On] net and total cost results...a few points to note.

    First, that, as recycle rate increases, the relative difference between net and total cost declines. That is because recycling reduces the amount of biomass available for coproduct and electricity production.

    Second, the impact of recycling of the algal biomass is much greater for the low base case productivity scenarios. To understand this, just consider that if 80% of the biomass recycled, that means that the reactor volume needed to grow algae drops by a factor of 5. At lower growth rates, the starting cost of the growth reactors (that is, without recycle) is much higher than the starting cost of the enhanced growth system.

    Third (and really the inverse of the second point), the relative cost savings as a function of recycle rate is much lower for the higher growth rate scenarios.

    Fourth, the difference between conventional hexane and centrifugal extraction processes is much greater for the higher growth rate scenarios. This makes sense since, under higher growth rates, the cost of the growth systems is lower and the savings associated with downstream recovery steps represent a larger portion of the total cost of the system.

    Finally, if light limitations require the growth reactors to be operated so as to maintain lower cell concentrations, the benefit of recycling the biomass is reduced by roughly a factor of 2...

    *