NewEnergyNews: On The Road Reading - Is Mixing Wind and Solar Catching On? Three things made Element Power want to add solar to Macho Springs Wind.

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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

  • 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

  • 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
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • 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 DAY BEFORE THAT

  • 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
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, July 24:

  • TTTA Thursday-CLIMATE FACTS VERSUS CLIMATE CULTURE
  • TTTA Thursday-MONEY IN WIND UP FOR QUARTER, DOWN FROM 2013
  • TTTA Thursday-MIDWEST BIOFUELS CAN BE NEW ENERGY – UCS STUDY
  • TTTA Thursday-TESLA CHAMPIONS THE PLUG AND THE CAR
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: EUROPE’S OFFSHORE WIND PROGRESS THIS YEAR
  • QUICK NEWS, July 23: NEW ENERGY WAS 55% OF 1H 2014 U.S. NEW BUILD; EV SALES LEAP; OCEAN ENERGY’S FINANCES UNDER SCRUTINY
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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

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  • Friday, October 12, 2012

    On The Road Reading - Is Mixing Wind and Solar Catching On? Three things made Element Power want to add solar to Macho Springs Wind.

    On The Road Reading - Is Mixing Wind and Solar Catching On? Three things made Element Power want to add solar to Macho Springs Wind.

    Herman K. Trabish, June 5, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    Though Element Power did not set out to co-locate wind and solar, harvesting solar at a site adjacent to its Macho Springs Wind project in New Mexico became an opportunity it couldn’t resist.

    “This was not envisioned as a wind/solar play, but rather as two distinct projects, one wind and one solar, that were developed separately,” said Element Power Chief Operating Officer Raimund Grube.

    While developing wind at Macho Springs, Element Power saw that the sun is just as exploitable at the Luna County site in New Mexico’s southwestern corner. The 50.4-megawatt wind project’s El Paso Electric-owned substation, Element Power realized, provides a ready interconnection to the existing 345-kilovolt transmission system for an adjacent solar project.

    “It’s not the co-location, per se,” Grube said. “The substation was built for the wind project [and] that is part of the expense of any energy project.” But, he explained, “there are some economies of scale as you bring on more megawatts into an existing substation.”

    “Building the wind farm allowed us to learn from New Mexico and Arizona,” said Element Power Senior Project Manager John Knight. “It opened up new opportunities and got us thinking about how we could further develop the project. We were sitting in a meeting one day and the question just came up -- ‘What about solar?’”

    “There is a demand for renewables in that part of the country and it’s a place where both solar and wind can be competitive,” added Grube. “The opportunity, land and resource converged.”

    The success of the 2,000-acre wind project, which employed 150 people during construction, Knight said, was important. “Any time you’re developing a project,” he explained, “if you do your job right, phase two, three, and four are going to be a lot easier because you will have gained the support of the local community.”

    In building the Macho Springs wind project, composed of 28 Vestas V100 1.8-megawatt turbines, Knight added, “we made sure that everything we said we would do in the community, we did.” The company sourced “as much of the labor force as [it] could locally and sourced materials locally so that we could have a true economic impact.” As a result, Element Power has “the support of local government and the business community.”

    “The starting point,” Grube said, “is that there is good solar and good wind, which enables both to be cost-competitive sources of energy for utilities.” But, he added, “relationships that we’ve established in New Mexico and in the local community are instrumental.”

    Macho Springs Solar will be a 50-megawatt photovoltaic (PV) installation, Knight said. The specific technology remains undecided. It “is in what we term a late stage of development,” Knight elaborated. “We are finalizing land agreements [and] the final negotiation of an offtake or power purchase agreement (PPA) is pending for the solar project’s output.”

    He could not yet say whether the power purchaser is Tucson Electric Power, the Arizona utility taking the wind project’s output, but he did say the PPA deal was “a key” to development. “We hope to break ground by the fourth quarter of this year,” Knight said.

    Transmission system operators consistently express concern about managing wind and solar variability but adjacent projects makes the task somewhat simpler, according to enXco Vice President Mark Tholke, who is leading the development of adjacent solar and wind projects in California’s Tehachapi Mountains. “Studies show that wind and solar generate at different times,” he said. “Wind might feed the transmission system 30 percent to 40 percent of the time. When you layer in the solar, that puts more power onto those same lines.”

    Combining solar and wind is not uncommon in backyard-sized setups. Where there is no grid service, or to minimize grid reliance, a combination of solar panels and a small wind turbinecan maximize local resources.

    According to China state news agency Xinhua, North China Grid Co., a subsidiary of State Grid Corp, China's biggest transmission operator, brought a 140-megawatt wind-solar hybrid project, composed of 100 megawatts of wind and 40 megawatts of PV solar, on-line in January. It may be the only large on-line utility-scale solar-wind hybrid project in the world. Described as a “demonstration project” in Hebei Province, it reportedly also incorporates a 20-megawatt battery storage capability.

    There are some small utility-scale U.S. hybrid experiments. The most widely known is Western Wind’s “fully integrated” 10.5-megawatt Arizona system composed of five two-megawatt Gamesa turbines and a 500-kilowatt Suntech crystalline PV array. A number of developers have announced plans similar to those of Element Power at Macho Springs to retrofit solar energy systems adjacent to producing wind projects to test grid operators’ capability to integrate the two.

    There is nothing in the U.S. on the scale of the enXco Pacific Wind/Catalina Solar undertaking. It will have 70 two-megawatt REPower turbines and will be the biggest Solar Frontier copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) PV installation in the world. It will demonstrate, Tholke said, how effective it can be to feed the grid with both resources.

    EnXco has already learned things Element Power could benefit from knowing. “It would have,” Tholke noted, “been more efficient if we had figured out the mechanics of how to share the gen-tie earlier.”

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