NewEnergyNews: Holiday Reading: Will AMSC Make History in China? AMSC’s wind and grid businesses have “stabilized” as it fights for its rights in China.

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

  • 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

  • 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
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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

  • Weekend Video: Climate Change For The Birds
  • Weekend Video: The Evidence Mounts
  • Weekend Video: Colbert On Birds And Climate Change
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • 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
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Sept. 11:

  • TTTA Thursday-GETTING GREEN BY MIXING RED AND BLUE
  • TTTA Thursday-PRICEWATERHOUSE COOPERS’ CLIMATE CHANGE NUMBERS
  • TTTA Thursday-THE RACE FOR EV DOMINANCE
  • TTTA Thursday-THE BIG FUTURE FOR ZERO ENERGY BUILDINGS
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: THE 2013 U.S. DISTRIBUTED WIND MARKET
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 10: A WAY TO INVEST IN WIND ENERGY; SOLAR POWER TOWERS GET SAFER; TEST COMING FOR GIANT TURBINE BLADE
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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, December 28, 2012

    Holiday Reading: Will AMSC Make History in China? AMSC’s wind and grid businesses have “stabilized” as it fights for its rights in China.

    Holiday Reading: Will AMSC Make History in China? AMSC’s wind and grid businesses have “stabilized” as it fights for its rights in China.

    Herman K. Trabish, July 17, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    When China's wind power industry exploded between 2008 and 2010, Sinovel led the way. One of Sinovel’s secret weapons was AMSC, which provided designs, power electronics and controls for Sinovel’s turbines. Though that partnership went bad, it could write AMSC into international business history.

    AMSC had pursued opportunities in China as early as 2006. Having secured Sinovel’s business, AMSC was trying to diversify when, trapped by China’s unprecedented growth, it found itself tethered to Sinovel.

    AMSC’s hard choice was between giving itself over to a customer demanding 70 percent of its business or letting new Sinovel orders go.

    In March 2012, AMSC was still scrambling when Sinovel unexpectedly refused delivery from AMSC on contracted shipments of wind turbine core electrical components. Sinovel told the Chinese media it refused the AMSC shipment because of a “failure to perform,” alleging that AMSC had provided “backward technology.”

    Subsequently, an Austrian court found a former AMSC employee guilty of taking money from Sinovel for surreptitiously transferring codes for the supposedly backward and failing technology. Evidence for conviction included emails containing the bribe offer, the technology transfer, and the money transfer, as well as proof the stolen technology is being used in a Sinovel customer’s turbines.

    AMSC is pursuing recompense in Chinese courts. Four cases, requesting a total of $1.2 billion in losses and damages, are working their way through the Chinese legal system. The outcome is likely to set an historical precedent for what protections are available to foreign companies in China.

    Sinovel has since struggled. In 2010, it was the leading Chinese turbine manufacturer with a 10.7 percent global market share. It has fallen to second with a 7.3 percent market share. The Chinese press recently reported management salary cuts and layoffs of twenty percent of Sinovel’s workforce. And reports are emerging of the failure of Sinovel’s replacement technology. (Sinovel has not answered GTM requests for comment.)

    The impact on AMSC was profound. Its revenues, over $180 million in 2008 and over $350 million in 2010, fell to just below $80 million for fiscal 2011.

    “We had a dramatic shift last year,” Jason Fredette, AMSC's vice president of marketing and communications, said. “But we have stabilized and we are regaining traction -- in a tough market.”

    At the end of fiscal year 2010, “e had a little over 800 employees,” Fredette said. At the end of fiscal year 2011, “we had a little over 400.” But, he added, “we have kept a stable headcount over the past eight months.”

    And AMSC has continued to diversify. “But that takes time,” Fredette said.

    In Korea, Fredette said, AMSC is working with Hyundai and Doosan Heavy Industries. “Both are multi-billion-dollar corporations who in the past few years have gotten into wind power through our Windtec Solutions.” AMSC's Windtec Solutions range from full wind turbine designs to turbine power electronics and controls.

    Both Korean customers are quickly moving toward that nation’s rapidly developing offshore market, Fredette said. The government has targeted a 2.5-gigawatt capacity.

    On the grid side, Fredette said that LS Cable & Systems and Korean Electric Power Company (KEPCO), Korea’s electric utility, are using AMSC’s second-generation superconductor wire to get their first superconductor cable up and running outside of Seoul.

    "It is only a half mile,” Fredette acknowledged, but “any superconductor cable in the grid is a big step forward.” Global activity in superconductor wire “is not amounting to much in revenues,” but in the past twelve months AMSC has shipped wires to Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the Netherlands and the U.S., a pretty long list of countries that Fredette described as "anywhere from dabbling to really starting to get serious.”

    AMSC’s two biggest superconductor wire competitors, Sumitomo Electric and Furukawa, are cable companies, but AMSC is “cable-agnostic,” Fredette said. France’s Nexans and Korea’s LS Cable, two of the world’s top three cable manufacturers, are AMSC partners.

    In India, AMSC has partnered with Inox Wind. “Suzlon is number one in that market,” Fredette said, but is now losing market share to companies like Inox in the rapidly expanding India wind sector.

    “Wind is about two-thirds of our revenue,” Fredette said. The remaining third comes from grid-related business, and of that, some three-quarters is made up of AMSC's DVAR technology, which provides voltage regulation for utility-scale renewables projects. Globally, over 300 megawatts of solar and over five gigawatts of wind projects use AMSC’s DVAR, Fredette said.

    Where there are strict mandates for how renewables interconnect, there is “a big DVAR opportunity for us,” Fredette said. Australia, the U.K., Canada and the U.S. are “good markets.” AMSC does not have wind partners in the U.S., he added, so the failure of Congress to extend the PTC will not have a direct impact, “Though, of course, we would like to see the PTC renewed.”

    AMSC continues to sell into the burgeoning though troubled Chinese wind market. “That will remain a part of the story, but it will be much more balanced,” Fredette said. Two key partners, he said, are “Shen Yang Blowerworks, a large company that has served the power generation industry for decades [and] JCNE, Jin Chang New Energy, part of Beijing Heavy Industries, a company that has been around 55 years.”

    “We haven’t abandoned China in any way,” Fredette said. But AMSC seems to have learned that doing business in China requires being aware of, and taking precautions against, both internal and external threats.

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