NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: SUN AT UTILITIES

NewEnergyNews

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

The new challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: THE DOE LOAN PROGRAM PAYS OFF
  • QUICK NEWS, November 25: THE PRESIDENT’S CLIMATE CHANGER; SOLAR AND WIND BEAT COAL, GAS ON PRICE; LED LIGHTING TO DISRUPT, TRANSFORM THE INDUSTRY
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: RUNNING OUT OF GAS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 24: NEW ENERGY DOMINATES THE U.S. NEW BUILDS AGAIN; SIERRA CLUB, UNITED STEELWORKERS WANT WIND JOBS; THE ABUNDANCE OF SOLAR
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Much More Inhofe Now
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart Talks Keystone, Politics, And Jobs
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart On How Keystone Opponents May Be Caught In Their Own Trap
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-A NEW WAY TO SEE CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU OCEAN WIND TO CUT COSTS, KEEP GROWING
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-COST-COMPETIVE NEW ENERGY, GERMANY’S ‘GIFT TO THE WORLD’
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NEW ENERGY MATCHES COAL ON COST, CAPACITY IN TURKEY
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, November 20:

  • TTTA Thursday-TOP REPUBLICAN DROPS CLIMATE DENIAL
  • TTTA Thursday-FORD ELECTRIC CARS FOR ‘THE MASSES’
  • TTTA Thursday-MIDWEST SOLAR MAKES SENSE AND CENTS
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW ENERGY JOBS BY THE BAY
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: THE MIDWEST GRID IS READY FOR 40% NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, November 19: OHIO NEW ENERGY JOBS REPORT SUPPRESSED; SOLAR GIANT BUYS WIND DEVELOPER; BUSINESS TO MAKE IT BIG IN SMART CITIES
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

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

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

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

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

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

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

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

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

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

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

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

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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

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  • Wednesday, May 09, 2012

    TODAY’S STUDY: SUN AT UTILITIES

    Utility Solar Top Ten Rankings for 2011 April 2012 (Solar Electric Power Association) Executive Summary The Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA) fifth annual Utility Solar Rankings analyzes the amount of new solar power interconnected by U.S. electric utilities in 2011. It covers more than 240 of the most solar-active utilities representing more than 99% of the U.S. solar electric power marketplace. This summary examines key market trends and national rankings.

    Key Trends:

    Utilities are adapting to solar as their fastest growing electricity source. In 2011, utilities interconnected over 62,500 PV systems. Thirteen utilities interconnected more than 1,000 PV systems and 22 interconnected more than 500 systems. To put this in perspective, about 350 non-solar power plants (> 1 MW) were expected across the entire U.S. in 2011.1 This annual volume of smaller, distributed solar interconnections is unlike anything the utility industry has previously managed, and conservative forecasts indicate that this number will grow to more than 150,000 interconnections in 2015.

    The magnitude of these numbers poses strategic questions related to how utilities will physically process this volume of interconnection requests, how the distribution grid will accommodate this high-penetration growth, and how the utility and solar industries will resolve the economic implications of reduced sales of electricity.

    For the fourth straight year, utilities integrated a record amount of new solar power, despite the recession. The nation’s most solar active utilities integrated almost 1,500 megawatts (MW-ac) of new solar, equivalent to six natural gas power plants, breaking the 1 gigawatt threshold for the first time. In addition to the large number of PV systems, 15 utilities reported integrating more than 20 MW each, and eight reported more than 50 MW each. While residential homes accounted for more than 89% of the installations, commercial rooftop installations accounted for more than 53% of the capacity.

    These 2011 numbers represent a 38% growth in the number of installations and a 120% growth in the megawatts installed over 2010. SEPA expects continued growth in 2012, driven by sustained price decreases and a build-out of large solar power plant contracts.

    1

    Utility-driven solar procurement is vital to rapid solar market expansion. Utility-driven procurement represented 39% of the new solar capacity in 2011, versus 9% in 2008. As compared to the more traditional customer-oriented market segment, this sector consists of direct wholesale purchases and utility-owned projects, which were 26% and 13% of the market respectively. Large solar projects (> 10 MW) make up the bulk of this capacity with an estimated 18 projects totaling 332 MW, up from 226 MW in 2010. SEPA anticipates that this utility segment could increase to 1500 MW in 2012, equivalent to the 2011 market in its entirety.

    Today, the most solar-active utilities are no longer theoretically talking about solar in the future – they are engaged with solar today in substantial ways. As solar markets grow, these utilities are already adapting to this rapid growth and the operational and regulatory changes that it requires, and in the process laying a path that other utilities will soon follow.

    2

    National Utility Solar Rankings

    The Top 10 annual national rankings measure a utility’s newly integrated solar power and includes photovoltaic systems interconnected in 2011. There are two rankings categories: Solar Megawatts, measuring a utility’s total solar capacity and Solar Watts-per-Customer, standardizing the capacity on the number of customers.

    Solar Megawatts

    Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) ranked first and installed 288 MW. Their portfolio was about half large projects, including three utility owned projects totaling 50 MW and a PPA with the largest project completed in the U.S. in 2011. PG&E also integrated more than 13,600 customer-sited projects. Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) ranked second with a 181 MW portfolio, a 142 percent growth over 2010. Their portfolio was 83% distributed projects and 13% utility-owned. Both are investor-owned utilities.

    Two public power utilities made the rankings, with Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) ranking #7 and Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) ranking #9. Both utilities had annual solar portfolios largely driven by large projects (79% SMUD and 69% LIPA).

    To make this year’s rankings, it took a minimum of 45 MW, compared to 20 MW in 2010.

    Solar Watts-per-Customer

    Vineland Municipal Electric Utility ranked first nationally with 769 watts-per-customer (w/c) after integrating nearly 19 MW of PV relative to their nearly 25,000 customers. Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation and Fayetteville Public Utilities follow at #2 and #3, respectively. Both utilities participate in Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Partners program. Blue Ridge was the only rural electric cooperative utility on either list.

    It required 83 w/c to rank this year, compared to 28 w/c in 2010. This ranking was balanced between utilities on both coasts, six of which were investor-owned. Five utilities made both Top 10 lists.

    Conclusion

    This year’s Top 10 report depicts a rapid rise in the amount of solar interconnected on utility grids and a trend towards utility-led initiatives. A few years ago, the solar integrated into the grid was dominated by customer-owned, net metered systems, but there is a marked shift toward the utility-side of the meter as utilities influence solar markets in new ways.

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