NewEnergyNews: Sunnovations: Solar Hot Water Is Where the Money Is; A huge market globally, solar hot water is an almost untapped market in the U.S. that’s still innovating and cutting costs.

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

  • 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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    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 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, October 30, 2012

    Sunnovations: Solar Hot Water Is Where the Money Is; A huge market globally, solar hot water is an almost untapped market in the U.S. that’s still innovating and cutting costs.

    Sunnovations: Solar Hot Water Is Where the Money Is; A huge market globally, solar hot water is an almost untapped market in the U.S. that’s still innovating and cutting costs.

    Herman K. Trabish, June 19, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    There are about 200 million solar water heating (SWH) systems in the world. There are about one million systems in the U.S. Year-on-year numbers, even during the recession, showed SWH to be an expanding domestic industry.

    There are approximately 100 million residential water heating systems in the U.S., according to Sunnovations CEO Matt Carlson, and just under half use electricity, fuel oil or propane. “I’m looking at a market of 50-million-plus homes that don’t use natural gas to heat their water,” he said. “That’s a pretty sizeable market, and that’s where the opportunity is.”

    In the U.S., natural gas is cheap and the infrastructure to deliver it is in place. Though many market watchers expect increased competition from liquid natural gas (LNG) exporters to soon drive the domestic price up, Carlson and other SWH proponents admit they cannot compete with natural gas at its present low rates.

    Eight million water heaters are sold yearly in the U.S., Carlson said, at a cost of $1,000 to $1,500. The yearly water heating bill of a typical family of four with an electric system, he said, is $400 to $500, the second biggest energy cost to homeowners. It is more than “all of the load from the lighting and electronics of a home,” he added, and a solar system “is going to substitute for a good three-quarters of that, depending on where you are.”

    The economics of SWH also depends on how much hot water is used. Commercial systems for businesses like agricultural and industrial operations, laundromats, and hotels are more economically viable. Companies like Skyline Innovations and FLS Solar offer third-party financing of SWH systems through power purchase agreements (PPAs) that allow commercial consumers access to solar water heating without bearing upfront costs or owner responsibilities.

    Provided as part of an overall building retrofit and energy management project, third-party financing allows business customers to pay for hot water on the basis of what they would have spent with the previous system. Margins allow the installer to own, maintain, and profit on the SWH system over the course of a twelve-year contract.

    “On the residential side, there are not many models out there yet, largely because you can't easily measure or net-meter thermal energy,” Carlson said. “The availability of third-party finance has made it easier to sell PV and in some respects has crowded out SHW.” Sunnovations and competitors like Alternative Energy Technologies, SunEarth, SHUCO and Solar Hot do not have federal incentives like those that boost residential solar PV.

    A residential SWH system usually has a five-year to seven-year payback, depending on local conditions, fuel costs and incentives, but “we need the U.S. homeowner to be aware of this as an option,” Carlson explained, because “homeowners don’t always buy things for strictly economic reasons. What’s the payback on the water heater they have in their home right now? What’s the payback on the granite countertop they bought?”

    A SWH system has a water heating tank that functions, Carlson explained, “exactly like a regular water heating tank except that it has a solar pre-heating heat exchange element in it that takes away the heating that the gas or electricity would do.” It also has “a backup heating element, because it is not sunny all the time.” SWH is, he said, “a fairly simple technology. A heat transfer fluid, glycol, runs through panels on the roof. The heated fluid runs into the tank and, voila, hot water.”

    Sunnovations is, Carlson said, “a startup with some resources that is trying to push the market.” It has raised $1.25 million in external capital. Its mission is to drive the costs of residential SWH down. “Solar thermal for water heating is too expensive right now,” he said. “Our technology,” he added, is “lower-cost because we are removing components that are expensive and time consuming to install.”

    Engineer and entrepreneur Arnoud Van Houten, a veteran of the IT sector, invented the Sunnovations technology and founded the company about four years ago because “what was on the market wasn’t fulfilling the potential of SWH in the U.S.”

    Carlson acknowledged Sunnovations only has "several dozen systems in the field” but said the company does have “a distribution network up and down the East Coast.” Installers are reporting, he said, that “our system price on an installed basis is at least a thousand dollars less than comparable systems [and] that the install time is almost always a single day.” One installer, he added, “reported they were saving ten man-hours per job.”

    Sunnovations just announced three technical advances that Carlson said are industry firsts: (1) The only “self-pumped” systems given the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” by SWH industry certifier Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC); (2) the only closed-loop glycol systems certified by the SRCC to use PEX for the solar loop piping; and (3) the only systems with passive overheat protection

    “Sandia National Labs did a ten-year failure rate [study] of active pump systems,” Carlson explained, “and found a 50 percent failure rate, and then identified the most common failure points. Our system simply doesn’t have two-thirds of the most common failure points, the components that are most prone to failure.”

    Sunnovations is keenly aware that “costs are too high now,” Carlson said, “but we are working toward a subsidy-independent technology.”

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