NewEnergyNews: What Solar and Offshore Wind Can Do Together; When cities are running at full speed, a combined approach to renewables might be needed.

NewEnergyNews

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

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
  • 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
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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 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
  • 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
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Climate Change For The Birds
  • Weekend Video: The Evidence Mounts
  • Weekend Video: Colbert On Birds And Climate Change
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NOW CO2 TOO HIGH FOR PLANTS AND OCEANS TO ABSORB
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NEW ENERGY IS THE WORLD’S BEST OPTION
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-SWEDEN WINNING SCANDINAVIAN WIND RACE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA DISPLAYS SOLAR'S VERSATILITY
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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

    What Solar and Offshore Wind Can Do Together; When cities are running at full speed, a combined approach to renewables might be needed.

    What Solar and Offshore Wind Can Do Together; When cities are running at full speed, a combined approach to renewables might be needed.

    Herman K. Trabish, June 15, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    For cities along the coast, where the price of electricity is highest and demand, especially at peaking periods, is greatest, researchers are exploring the idea of combining solar and wind to offer a new solution to meeting peak demand.

    “I assumed offshore wind is going to happen,” explained State University of New York atmospheric sciences researcher Richard Perez, whose previous research has been in the use of photovoltaic (PV) solar to meet peak demand.

    Perez also assumed the Google-backed Atlantic Wind Connection, the offshore windtransmission backbone being developed along the Eastern seaboard, will provide adequate interconnection. “There is more and more serious talk that it is going to happen, so I just assumed a wind farm off the coast of New York City could plug into it.”

    Pioneering projects that combine solar and wind are being developed around the world and researchers are beginning to quantify the synergistic value of such an approach. Because of his “study of the capability of dispersed PV to do peak shaving,” Perez was approached by co-researchers Jeff Freedman of AWS Truepower and Thomas E. Hoff of Clean Power Research to consider the potential of offshore wind.

    “The sun creates the heat wave that creates the peak demand and at the same time the sun can supply the power for PV. It’s a natural match,” Perez explained. Offshore wind, Freedman pointed out to him, works similarly. “When heat builds up on land along the coast with the cold ocean next to it, there is a natural updraft and a down draft at sea,” Perez said. “The wind comes in. Inland a few miles, there will be no wind but on the coast and immediately offshore there will be. If you have been on the beach on a hot afternoon, you will know this.”

    The wind comes up a after the sun gets hot and lasts longer. “The sun will peak at noon,” Perez said. “Offshore wind will peak at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., and the load peaks at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. in big cities like New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., so the wind and solar are really complementary.”

    One of the key obstacles for offshore wind in the U.S. has been cost. But peak shaving -- this is called capacity value -- has the highest value of all electricity generation.

    “If I were to do customer-side economics in New York City, where I get my peaking value from peaking reduction, I would say forget about offshore wind, because I’m better off using all PV,” Perez acknowledged. “However, if I see a bigger picture and I’m a regulator or a utility concerned with stability on the grid, I will pay a little more attention to what my options are for that later part of the peak.”

    The options, he said, are backup generation, demand side management or storage technology. “I have not done the optimization of cost between those options,” he conceded. “We just looked at the physical match.”

    The synergy between offshore wind and PV is potentially valuable, Perez speculated, because so much of coastal cities’ peak demand is from commercial consumers. “If you put a PV system on top of a commercial office building, you will have a probability to cut demand by about 60 percent of your total capacity,” Perez said. In the New York City Con Ed and LIPA utility regions, “demand is worth about $25 per kilowatt per month in the peak summer months. That is a good chunk of cash flow.”

    Whereas “PV’s economics are calculated on the customer side of the meter, wind’s are on the supply side,” Perez said. “But in the end, it is about putting electrons on the grid, and the meter is just a piece of regulatory equipment.” Ultimately, he said, “you have to care about what you bring to the grid in terms of value.”

    By combining offshore wind and PV, there is much more than an increase in energy supply to be gained. There is also, Perez said, “grid capacity, transmission and distribution risk of outage minimization, and fuel price mitigation value.” The benefit to the grid at peak demand could very well exceed the cost of adding wind and PV generation and the capacity value of both combined would be higher than each individually.

    “What we found out,” Perez said, is that “the more you put those two technologies on the grid, the bigger the synergy effect. At very low penetration, like 1 percent or 2 percent, PV does very well alone; it doesn’t need wind. But as you gradually penetrate from 2 percent all the way to 40 percent, the synergy between them grows. When you reach that 30 percent or 40 percent penetration, you see that solar absolutely needs wind, because you need to address that later part of the peak in the day.”

    The researchers’ modeling showed, as other modeling has, that there is “almost twice the capacity value with wind and solar than you would get with solar alone at 30 percent penetration. And compared to wind alone, it is huge, maybe five or six times.”

    The economics of offshore wind in the U.S. is still largely speculation. Cape Wind was accused of having too high a cost for rate payers. But regulators found the price reasonable, given its wide range of as-yet unquantified values. Adding its potential capacity value to that calculation could make offshore wind an even more interesting proposition.

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