NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: THE FACTS ABOUT WIND

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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

  • 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
  • THE DAY BEFORE

    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
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • 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
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE NEW ENERGY LIFE-CYCLE CUTS EMISSIONS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 18: U.S. TAKES WORLD LEAD IN WIND; SOLAR TO SHOW MISSOURI JOBS; WAVE ENERGY ROLLING SLOWLY IN
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: A NEW TAKE ON THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF SOLAR
  • QUICK NEWS, November 17: BIG TEST FOR SOLAR ROADS KICKS OFF; FORD TURNS TO NEW ENERGY; ADVANCED BATTERY SUPPLY CHAIN TO TRIPLE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • Weekend Video: Hearing From Idiotic Idiots And Others
  • Weekend Video: The Aussies Say It Plainly
  • Weekend Video: Living In The Wasteland Of The Free
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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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  • Tuesday, September 04, 2012

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE FACTS ABOUT WIND

    Beyond The Bluster; Why Wind Power Is An Effective Technology

    Reg Platt, Oscar Fitch-Roy, Paul Gardner, August 2012 (Institute for Public Policy Research via GLGH)

    Foreword -- Getting ‘Beyond The Bluster’ On Wind Power

    The British Isles sit at Europe’s windy Atlantic fringe. As a result of its exposed location, the UK has the greatest potential for wind power of any European country, both onshore and offshore (DECC 2012a). This resource, when combined with the UK’s engineering heritage and the right market and policy framework, could be a source of significant economic opportunities for the UK. However, whether or not Britain should pursue an ambitious wind power strategy is hotly contested.

    In February 2012 a group of more than 100 MPs sent a letter to David Cameron arguing for a cut in government support for onshore wind power. Many of these MPs are based in rural constituencies where onshore wind developments may be sited. Wind farm developments are sometimes strongly opposed by people in local areas and it is right that their views are properly considered in debates about how we generate electricity. At the same time wider public opinion, which consistently and strongly supports wind power, should also be considered (see for example DECC 2012a). Similarly, with households’ budgets under pressure and energy bills at high levels, it is right that the costs of government support for wind power and other low-carbon technologies are scrutinised.

    However, it is important to recognise that recent increases in energy bills are far less the result of subsidies for renewable power than they are due to rises in the wholesale cost of gas. From 2004 to 2010, government support for renewables added £30 to the average energy bill while rises in the wholesale cost of gas added £290 (CCC 2011a).

    Despite these legitimate concerns about local impact and cost, much opposition to wind power appears to be based on the belief that it is an inef fective technology. For example, in the letter sent to David Cameron, the technology was described as ‘inefficient’ and less reliable than other energy sources. This claim is untrue and it is important to get ‘beyond the bluster’ in assessing the effectiveness of wind power.

    IPPR has worked with GL Garrad Hassan, a leading renewable energy consultancy, to produce this report, and the findings have been reviewed by a leading academic. The report addresses two commonly held misconceptions around two important, often misunderstood, questions:

    - Is wind power an effective way of reducing carbon emissions?

    - Is wind power a secure and reliable source of energy for the UK?

    This report shows unequivocally that wind power can significantly reduce carbon emissions, is reliable, poses no threat to energy security, and is technically capable of providing a significant proportion of the UK’s electricity supply with minimal impact on the existing operation of the grid. Claims to the contrary are not supported by the evidence.

    Wind power and energy policy

    The government is committed to securing Britain’s energy supply, keeping consumers’ energy bills as low as possible, and reducing carbon emissions in line with its legal commitments. As part of this process, the government has pledged to produce 15 percent of the country’s energy and 30 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Wind power has a vital role to play in meeting these objectives.

    Onshore wind is one of the most cost-ef fective of the low-carbon technologies and, with continuing government support, the average wind farm globally may produce power at costs that compete with fossil fuels as soon as 2016 (BNEF 2011). This means that it is an important technology for keeping down the costs of reducing emissions and meeting the 2020 renewable target. A low ambition for onshore wind would mean a greater amount of generation from other, more expensive, technologies and, therefore, higher electricity bills.

    Offshore wind is more expensive than onshore wind but the cost is expected to come down rapidly (DECC 2012c). It is capable of providing huge amounts of low-carbon electricity for the UK (potentially 45 percent of the UK’ s total electricity needs in 2030 (CCC 2011b)) and can make a major contribution to the 2020 renewables target. It could also generate significant benefits for the economy, with the Carbon Trust estimating it could contribute £3–10 billion annually between 2010 and 2050 (Carbon Trust 2011).

    The energy minister, Charles Hendry, has described offshore wind as ‘an industry of strategic national importance’ for the UK.

    In light of these important and positive potential outcomes for the UK, wind power should be the subject of a balanced debate based on accurate evidence. False claims that influence policy outcomes and result in a low ambition for the technology could sacrifice important opportunities for the British economy. Inconsistent support from government will increase the riskiness with which businesses regard investment opportunities and increase their cost of capital. This will ultimately mean higher energy bills for consumers and businesses.

    The government’s recent approach to wind power is worrying. Although a decision has now been reached to reduce financial support for onshore wind by the anticipated amount of 10 per cent, rather than 25 per cent as HM T reasury had preferred, the postponement of the announcement and the decision to almost immediately conduct a further review of this support level has created widespread concerns in the industry.

    It is entirely proper that subsidies for wind power are not overly generous and that local concerns are taken into account through the planning process with opportunities for local residents to share in the dividends of local development. But an ad hoc approach to policymaking based on political whims is not the right approach. The government should only alter support levels for wind power, and any other low-carbon technology, on the basis of evidence that has been published and consulted on in a timely fashion with industry.

    The transition to a secure, affordable and low-carbon energy system will be extremely challenging and an important subject of debate for years to come. This report does not attempt to provide all of the answers. Nor does it aim to bring an end to the debates on wind power. Instead, we hope to show that of the many challenging issues that must be resolved, the area of wind power technology is one of the least troubling.

    Technical Report On The Effectiveness Of Wind Power Technology

    Executive Summary

    This report aims to improve the quality of public debate on wind power by addressing two common misconceptions about wind power technology:

    - Is wind power an effective means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions?

    - Is wind power a secure and reliable source of energy for the UK?

    We show that the answer to both of these questions is unequivocally ‘yes’. 2 Is switching to use more wind power an effective way of reducing carbon emissions? Wind turbines convert wind into electrical energy without emitting polluting gases. However, the effectiveness of wind power in reducing emissions has been questioned. Using a simple model we show that every megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity produced by wind power in Great Britain results in a minimum CO2 saving of around 350kg. On this basis carbon dioxide emission savings from wind energy were at least 5.5 million tonnes in Great Britain in 2011. While this is a reliable minimum, there are good reasons to think that the actual figure is considerably greater (DECC 2012) and empirical examples from electricity systems in the US support this conclusion. Is wind power a secure and reliable energy source?

    Although wind is a variable energy resource, it can be easily integrated into electricity systems. Wind power output is predictable and varies at similar rates to existing electricity demand. Our ability to ‘keep the lights’ on during ‘cold, calm spells’ is secure at the levels of wind power projected for the UK by 2020. The experience of overseas systems such as the Iberian peninsula and island of Ireland show that the level of wind contribution expected by the government in the UK in 2020 is achievable. W e show that there are several adaptations to the grid that could enable a much greater contribution from wind…

    Is wind power an effective way of reducing carbon emissions? … The marginal emissions approach to calculating emission savings: a simple ‘steady-state’ model…An empirical approach to assessing the carbon savings from wind power…Summary…

    Is wind power a secure and reliable energy source? …Managing the variability of wind power output…International precedents for the UK’s 2020 wind power ambitions…Options for adapting the grid to maintain security of supply with very high levels of wind generation…Summary

    Conclusions

    This report has addressed two common misconceptions on wind power technology: firstly, that it is not an effective way of reducing carbon emissions; and, secondly, that wind power is too variable to be a reliable source of electricity. We have clearly demonstrated that deriving energy from wind power is a potent way of reducing carbon emissions and does not threaten energy security. In the UK during 2011 wind energy reduced emissions of carbon dioxide by at least 5.5 million tonnes. Even during a prolonged period of calm, cold weather it poses no threat to the security of electricity supply.

    We have also shown that wind power is able to provide a significant proportion of the UK’s electricity needs with little impact on the existing operation of the grid . Evidence from numerous rigorous studies shows that integrating wind generation in the UK system at the levels expected in 2020 is technically feasible without major modification to the electricity system. The experience of high levels of wind power in the Iberian peninsula and the island of Ireland offer examples of where these levels of wind power have been successfully integrated.

    Finally, we have outlined how the role for variable, low-carbon generation technologies like wind power could extend significantly beyond the levels that are currently expected in the UK. As the GB grid makes a transition to a low-carbon, secur e and affordable system it will need to adapt in important ways. While the optimal mix and ultimate costs of the options remain uncertain, a range of different technologies will have a part to play in this transformed energy system.

    The transition to a low-carbon, secure and affordable GB electricity system will be the subject of debate for some years to come. W ith this report we hope to have shown that of the many challenging issues that must resolved, the area of wind power technology is probably one of the least troubling.

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