NewEnergyNews: First Solar Installs First PV Module at 230 MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One; Furloughed workers go back on the payroll as the First Solar share price rises.

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

THANKSGIVING THURSDAY, November 27:

  • Thanksgiving Thursday-Fast Fun Facts About Thanksgiving
  • Thanksgiving Thursday-A Lesser Known Bit Of Thanksgiving History
  • Thanksgiving Thursday-A Funky History Of Thanksgiving
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: A SUPPRESSED STUDY OF OHIO NEW ENERGY JOBS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 26: WHY PEOPLE DENY CLIMATE CHANGE; THE FORCE OF SOLAR; POWER ELECTRONICS MARKETS TO BOOM
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE DOE LOAN PROGRAM PAYS OFF
  • QUICK NEWS, November 25: THE PRESIDENT’S CLIMATE CHANGER; SOLAR AND WIND BEAT COAL, GAS ON PRICE; LED LIGHTING TO DISRUPT, TRANSFORM THE INDUSTRY
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: RUNNING OUT OF GAS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 24: NEW ENERGY DOMINATES THE U.S. NEW BUILDS AGAIN; SIERRA CLUB, UNITED STEELWORKERS WANT WIND JOBS; THE ABUNDANCE OF SOLAR
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Much More Inhofe Now
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart Talks Keystone, Politics, And Jobs
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart On How Keystone Opponents May Be Caught In Their Own Trap
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • 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
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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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  • Thursday, November 15, 2012

    First Solar Installs First PV Module at 230 MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One; Furloughed workers go back on the payroll as the First Solar share price rises.

    First Solar Installs First PV Module at 230 MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One; Furloughed workers go back on the payroll as the First Solar share price rises.

    Herman K. Trabish, June 29, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) celebrated the installation of the first of its thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) modules at the 230-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) project June 28.

    “This is the first of 3.8 million panels,” said First Solar Vice President Jim Woodruff, who kept his welcoming talk short, remarking it was “a day for action, not talking.” Woodruff had clearly had his fill of talk during the two-month delay the project had been forced into during its dispute with Los Angeles County over the safety of the modules’ electrical connectors.

    Woodruff was instrumental in negotiations that resulted in LA County accepting First Solar’s documentation that certified the module connectors as safe. “What a sweet day,” Woodruff said as he watched a County safety official ceremonially assist with the first module’s installation.

    When construction on AVSR1 began in September 2011, module installation had originally been scheduled for April. But in early April a County safety inspector refused to allow installation to begin because the CdTe photovoltaic (PV) modules’ connectors did not have Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certification.

    First Solar insisted its International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) approval, accepted by the National Electric Safety Code (NESC), was sufficient.

    UL certification is the U.S. standard, whereas IEC certification is the international standard. First Solar panels are manufactured in Germany and Malaysia as well as in the U.S. and won acceptance internationally slightly before they became widely used domestically.

    With the dispute settled, furloughed AVSR1 construction workers have begun returning to work.

    At the current level of 250 people, explained First Solar Director of Engineering, Procurement and Construction Tony Perrino, they will be installing 7,500 modules per day. By the time the full 385-person workforce is up to speed, they will be installing 27,000 modules per day.

    First Solar Communications Director Alan Bernheimer said he is confident the project, located on 2,100 acres of former farmlands an hour northeast of Los Angeles, can get back on track. Phase one is scheduled to go on-line in the third quarter of this year. The full 230 megawatts are expected to be in service by the end of 2013.

    First Solar is in charge of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) at AVSR1, which is owned by Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC). First Solar is also in charge of EPC for the nearby 66-megawatt Alpine Solar project, owned by NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG), where First Solar’s thin-film modules are also slated to be installed. When installation stopped at AVSR1, construction also slowed at Alpine and 65 construction workers were released.

    The job losses fell hard on the already struggling rural region where recent studies found as many as one in three homeowners behind or underwater with their mortgages. As the delay dragged on, the workers self-organized through an email chain and pushed the disputants to find a settlement.

    Construction worker Karl Christensen of nearby Lancaster had been furloughed and out of work four weeks when he went back to work at AVSR1 June 25. Now, he said, he can bring his father, ill with stage four cancer, out from Kentucky.

    Antelope Valley township residents Carolyn Perry and John Cubano were both furloughed from construction jobs for a month and called back immediately after the settlement. “I’m so grateful,” Perry said. Cubano added he was “thrilled to be back.” Both praised the efforts of Oso Town Council President Richard Skaggs, Vice President Gerard Conroy, Deputy County Supervisor Norm Hickling, and Fifth District Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office for pushing toward the resolution that got them back to work.

    First Solar’s share price, which was up near $140 in July 2011, was in the $25 range before the dispute arose. It fell below $13.50 near the beginning of June but jumped back to nearly $16 at the announcement of the settlement and now remains above $15.

    It is possible the company’s prospects are on the rise. Also under development with First Solar as panel supplier and EPC leader are the 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County (owned by MidAmerican Holdings) and the 550-megawatt Desert Center Solar Farm in Riverside County (owned by NextEra Energy and GE). And First Solar was named the panel supplier for enXco’s wind-adjacent 61-megawatt Catalina Solar Project just across Antelope Valley from AVSR1 in Kern County.

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