NewEnergyNews: On The Road Reading - Can Solar Clean Up Its Life(Cycle)? The SVTC holds solar to a higher standard of green.

NewEnergyNews

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

Every day is Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

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

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

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

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

  • THE STUDY: THE MONEY IN NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, April 15: WORLD WIND TO BOOM THRU 2014; NAT GAS AND SOLAR WERE 75% OF U.S. 2013 NEW POWER; MAINE OFFICIALLY AFFIRMS SMART METERS’ SAFETY
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THIS COULD BE THE REAL VALUE OF SOLAR
  • QUICK NEWS, April 14: DE-RISKED RENEWABLES HAVE MORE INVESTORS THAN DEALS; THE MYTH OF CONSOLIDATION IN SOLAR; TEXAS BREAKS MORE WIND RECORDS
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • Weekend Video: Bill Maher On What’s Happening In The Oceans
  • Weekend Video: The Human Disharmony In The Climate System Symphony
  • Weekend Video: A Few Thoughts About Solar 2.0
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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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  • Thursday, October 11, 2012

    On The Road Reading - Can Solar Clean Up Its Life(Cycle)? The SVTC holds solar to a higher standard of green.

    On The Road Reading - Can Solar Clean Up Its Life(Cycle)? The SVTC holds solar to a higher standard of green.

    Herman K. Trabish, May 31, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) 2012 Solar Scorecard, intended to push the photovoltaic (PV) panel manufacturing industry to do the right thing, was just released.

    Compelling an industry struggling to weather economic, political and technological upheaval is challenging, but the SVTC is making progress. In its first year, the scorecard got fourteen responses, representing 24 percent of the PV industry market share, from the approximately 200 queried companies. Last year, it got 46.6 percent. This year the number of queries was pared to 116 and fifteen responses covered 51 percent of the market.

    In defiance of clichés about Chinese manufacturers, China’s Trina Solar, which manufactured 1,702 megawatts in 2011, was first on the scorecard, with 94 points out of a possible 100. It got perfect scores in Extended Producer Responsibility (25), Worker Rights, Health, and Safety (20) and Sustainable Design and Life Cycle Assessment (15) and high scores in Chemical Use (16 of 20) and Supply Chains (18 of 20).

    Trina’s high ranking “flies in the face of a lot of what American consumers have heard about how business is done and how products are produced in China,” said Trina Solar Americas Director of Marketing Mike Grunow.

    “We are one of the two industry leaders [with Yingli Solar] and we are doing all this while maintaining cost leadership,” Grunow said. Trina “would not make such investments,” he added,” if they didn’t make sense from a return on total capital perspective.”

    Industry observers are expecting “a solar shakeout, a consolidation, where we go from 100-plus suppliers to fewer than ten key ones,” Grunow said. “We think the SVTC award should reinforce the concept that we are stewards of our environment as well as stewards of our balance sheet.”

    SunPower, which manufactured 837 megawatts in 2011 at facilities in Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines and the U.S., was second, with 93 points. SolarWorld, which made an estimated 800 megawatts at U.S. and German facilities, was third, with 91 points. Chinese manufacturer Yingli Solar, which produced 1,600 megawatts, was fourth, with 88 points. AndREC, which manufactured 700 megawatts in 2011 at its Singapore facility, rounded out the top five with 87 points.

    The bottom five were all survey non-responders. China’s Jinko and LDK scored zeros. Canadian Solar (China), HanWha Solar One (Korea) and Schott (Germany, China, U.S. and the Czech Republic) each got two points for having some information on their website.

    “We give them every opportunity to respond,” said SVTC Campaign Director Lauren Ornelas. “It seems some are more concerned about how well they would do than in being transparent.” In an effort to drive participation, Ornelas said, SVTC this year began using information from the companies’ websites and scoring them even if they didn’t respond.

    That, said San Jose State University Assistant Professor of Sustainable Energy Resources Dustin Mulvaney, “is probably the most important aspect of this survey.” No longer can companies like Jinko and LDK “hide behind their ‘did not reply’ instead of actually engaging,” he said.

    "We’re talking about an industry that has a reputation of being green,” explained Ornelas. The point of the scorecard, she said, is “making sure they live up to their reputation.” SVTC supports the solar industry, Ornelas insisted. “We just want to make sure the industry confronts these issues right now instead of looking back in twenty years and asking why they didn’t think about them sooner.”

    PV panels’ expected 30-year lifespans means recycling won’t be a big issue for another two decades, but the SVTC scorecard allots 25 points, the biggest single portion of its score, for a company’s take-back/recycling program. “When you have millions of solar panels coming off roofs,” Ornelas explained, “that’s not the time to say, ‘Oh my gosh, now we have a toxic waste issue.’ We want them to start thinking about it now.”

    The European Union’s PV Cycle program led the way with a voluntary “pre-pay” fund that will cover the cost of recycling whether or not the manufacturer is around in 30 years, noted Ornelas. But SVTC is pushing for a mandatory program because it has seen that voluntarye-waste programs are inadequate.

    Worker health and safety issues, at twenty possible points, were almost as important in the rankings. “We don’t think you can have a green industry,” Ornelas said, “unless it matters how workers are treated.”

    Chemical use is another twenty-point issue. Mulvaney noted that cadmium used in CdTe thin film panels, selenium used in CIGS thin film panels and lead used in silicon panels are the three top toxicity concerns, but many other chemicals used in processing are also hazardous. Obtaining information about how chemicals are used and disposed of is very difficult, Mulvaney said, so SVTC chose to reward participation.

    “We gave them points just because they told us they had taken federal or state tests,” Mulvaney explained. “The direction the scorecard is headed is more external evaluations, not relying so much on companies self-reporting, and actually getting at data that reveals practices and performance.”

    Encouraging participation, Ornelas said, seems to be slowly turning the industry toward greater disclosure. Both Trina and SunPower, she noted, were non-responders in previous years. But “solar companies are looking at the questions we are asking and that is guiding them,” she concluded. “What solar company wouldn’t want to score high in social responsibility? That’s what they’re all about.”

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