NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

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

The People's Climate March is Sunday in Manhattan.

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CHINA, INDIA, RUSSIA LEADERS TO SKIP UN CLIMATE SUMMIT
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WORLD’S OFFSHORE WIND TO HIT 40 GW BY 2020
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-SOLAR IS THE SOLUTION FOR SOUTH ASIA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-PARIS DIGS GEOTHERMAL
  • THE DAY BEFORE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Sept. 18:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE WORLD HAS 15 YEARS TO DO THE RIGHT THINGS
  • TTTA Thursday-WIND MAKES THE GRID MORE RELIABLE
  • TTTA Thursday-SOLAR OIL DRILLING
  • TTTA Thursday-A SPORTS CAR THAT RUNS ON SALT-WATER
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE GREEN TRANSITION – MONEY KEEPS COMING TO NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 17: THE NEWEST NUMBERS ON BIRDS AND WIND; BIG SOLAR COMES TO THE SOUTHEAST; WHERE THE EV CUTS EMISSIONS MOST
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE BENEFITS OF PUMPED HYDRO STORAGE CALCULATED
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 16: THE ENERGY TRANSITION TAKES SHAPE; A LABOR-ENVIRO CALL FOR NEW ENERGY, NEW WIRES; ADVANCES IN WATER POWER
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: RENEWABLES IN THE COMING ARAB WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 15: SOLAR SUCCEEDING ON PRICE; EVEN MORE WIND THAT HONDA EXPECTED; THE HUGE UNRECOGNIZED BENEFITS OF EFFICIENCY
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • Weekend Video: Climate Change For The Birds
  • Weekend Video: The Evidence Mounts
  • Weekend Video: Colbert On Birds And Climate Change
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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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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Tuesday, October 09, 2012

    On The Road Reading - BrightSource: The Rumors of Concentrating Solar Power’s Demise Are Wrong; But are the promises of cost reduction as real as the promises of jobs?

    Herman K. Trabish, May 24, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    The seemingly endless stream of cars coming out of BrightSource Energy’s 370-megawatt Ivanpah solar power plant complex bolsters the company’s recent declarations about its growth and the progress of the U.S. concentrating solar power (CSP) sector.

    “We’ve got 1,700 [people] at work,” said BrightSource Vice President for Government Affairs and Communications Joe Desmond. He added, many are from California’s Inland Empire, where unemployment reached 15 percent at the height of the Great Recession. “These are family-wage jobs. They’re electricians, pipefitters, welders, heavy equipment operators, engineers and biologists.” There is also a helmets-to-hardhats program designed for veterans.

    “People talk about the CSP industry being dormant or paused,” explained BrightSource Communications Director Keely Wachs. “Last year, PV had a banner year. The industry installed 868 megawatts in the U.S.,” said Wachs. “Now, there are 1,200 megawatts of CSP under construction in the U.S. alone, which will mean a 120 percent increase by 2013 over the 530 megawatts of operational CSP in the U.S. today.” And that, he added, “is not including the 3,000-plus megawatts under development.”

    Competitors SolarReserve (which has projects under way in Nevada and California) and Abengoa (which is developing in Arizona) would agree. But BrightSource is the biggest. A 29-megawatt plant is on-line, doing enhanced oil recovery (EOR) for Chevron. The three-tower, 370-megawatt Ivanpah project, in Ivanpah, CA, near Las Vegas, is on schedule to go on-line in 2013. And both its three-tower, 500-megawatt Hidden Hills project and its three-tower, 750-megawatt Rio Mesa project are under permitting review by the California Energy Commission, with decisions expected by the middle of 2013.

    Altogether, BrightSource expects to have thirteen plants, totaling 2,377 megawatts of capacity, on-line by 2017.

    The BrightSource solar power tower technology was developed by the builders of the original CSP trough technology at the nine Solar Energy Generating Stations (SEGS) still in operation today -- and not far from Ivanpah.

    “We produce high-temperature, high-pressure steam to turn a turbine,” Desmond explained. And, where it is contracted for, “we transfer heat from the solar field through a heat exchanger to molten salt for storage.” The technology is sophisticated enough that multinational engineering giant Bechtel was brought on at Ivanpah for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) duties.

    The Ivanpah facility without storage, said Desmond, has a 32 percent capacity factor. “A PV panel might have a 21 percent capacity factor,” Desmond went on. “If we add between two and six hours of storage, the capacity factor will be above 50 percent.” More importantly, Desmond added, “when you increase the capacity factor, you’re not necessarily increasing your cost at the same rate. You’re taking your fixed costs and spreading them out over more hours, which helps drive down cost.”

    BrightSource is concerned about costs. To minimize transport expense, it has built a heliostat assembly plant at the Ivanpah facility where a union workforce turns flat mirrors into heliostats at the rate of 500 per day.

    Moving to air cooling also promises cost savings. With trough technology, he explained, “there was a preference not to go to dry cooling because there was an efficiency loss.” But the tower operates “at a higher temperature and pressure that allows us to offset some of that efficiency change.”

    “That is the conversion of thermal energy to electricity -- photon to electron -- efficiency,” Wachs added. “The troughs were about 36 percent. Ivanpah is 42 percent with air cooling. Hidden Hills goes up to almost 44 percent. And when you get to supercritical levels, you get to 46 percent. Like a super-efficient coal plant. That is where we are headed, because of our heliostat design and our ability to understand the sun.”

    Water use is also minimized, Wachs added, because the entire system is a closed loop. The steam is condensed to water and recirculated. “We don’t require external water for cooling purposes.”

    BrightSource engineers are using on-the-ground experience to find new design efficiencies. “As we go from one project to the next,” Desmond said, “we are figuring out how to do it faster, better, and cheaper. We see that already at Ivanpah. We are ahead of schedule on unit three based on what we’ve learned with work done so far on units one and two.”

    A better understanding of the plant’s power block has produced a new design for the Hidden Hills project that, Desmond said, is expected to cost 40 percent more but double the output. Overall, he added, Hidden Hills is projected to be 20 percent less expensive to build.

    “This is our roadmap for driving down costs,” Desmond said. “When the original SEGS plants were built here in California 25 years ago, from the construction of the first to the ninth plant, the costs came down 50 percent. Our long-term goal is a 50 percent cost reduction from where we are now. That is different from PV. They have already had an opportunity to achieve the volumes that have led to their cost reduction.”

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