Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.




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  • Weekend Video: The Ocean Speaks Out
  • Weekend Video: Adapting To The Inevitable
  • Weekend Video: The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun
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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


    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 ( 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


    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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  • Monday, January 07, 2013


    Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis; Annual Market Assessment

    Lisa Frantzis, et. al., November 28, 2012 (Navigant Consulting)

    Executive Summary

    The U.S. offshore wind industry is slowly transitioning from early development to demonstration of commercial viability. While there are no projects in operation or even in the construction phase, there are nine U.S. projects in advanced development, defined as having either having been awarded a lease, conducted baseline or geophysical studies, or obtained a power purchase agreement. There are panels or task forces in place in at least 13 states to engage stakeholders to identify constraints and sites for offshore wind. U.S. policymakers are beginning to follow the examples in Europe that have proven success in stimulating offshore wind technological advancement, project deployment, and job creation.

    This report is the first annual assessment of the U.S. offshore wind market. It includes the following major sections:

    » Section 1: key data on the global development of offshore wind projects, with a particular focus on progress in the U.S.; » Section 2: analysis of developments in the offshore wind technology sector; » Section 3: analysis of policy developments at the federal and state levels with the potential to affect offshore wind deployment in the U.S.; » Section 4: analysis of actual and projected economic impact, including regional development and job creation; and » Section 5: analysis of developments in relevant sectors of the economy with the potential to affect offshore wind deployment in the U.S.

    Section 1. Global and U.S. Offshore Wind Development

    There are approximately four gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind installations worldwide. Nearly all of this activity has centered on northwestern Europe, which has led the industry’s development since 1999, but China is gaining market position. Europe has seen 3 GW of offshore capacity additions over the past five years (2007-2011), and the rate of annual installations has grown from 225 MW installed in 2007 to nearly 1,258 MW installed in 2010.1 The emerging Asian offshore market has also gained ground in recent years, with China adding 107.9 MW in 2011, bringing its cumulative installed capacity to more than 200 MW. Various forecasts have predicted between 55 and 75 GW of cumulative offshore wind capacity by 2020.

    Thirty-three announced offshore wind projects lay in varying stages of development in the U.S., primarily along the Atlantic Coast. Nine of these projects have reached what this report considers an advanced stage of development. A map showing the announced locations and capacities of these nine advanced-stage projects appears in capacity, but many of these projects still face challenges prior to achieving final development. As shown in the figure, three of these projects, representing about one-third of planned, advanced-stage capacity, lie in federal waters.

    The average nameplate capacity of offshore wind turbines installed globally has grown from 2.98 MW in 2007 to 3.94 MW in 2011. This trend toward larger turbines will likely continue, driven by advancements in materials, design, processes, and logistics, which allow larger components to be built with lower system costs. The average turbine size for advanced-stage, planned projects in the U.S., however, is expected to range between 4.7 and 5.5 MW, indicating that the U.S. is largely planning to utilize larger offshore turbines rather than smaller turbines that have previously been installed in European waters.

    Foundations for U.S. planned projects will likely follow similar trends as European projects, with mostly monopile substructures and increasing numbers of jackets and tripods. In the longer term, the most likely substructure types for the U.S. market will depend on site-specific requirements and the development of floating foundations.

    Direct drive turbines will continue to gain market share. Some OEMs have begun designing offshore wind turbines that will utilize direct drive technology in an effort to alleviate costly downtime and maintenance issues associated with some traditional gearboxes. These potential costs will likely increase with the added logistical difficulty of performing such maintenance further offshore. Of the five U.S. projects that have committed to a turbine supplier, four will use direct drive technology.

    Section 2. Analysis of Technology Developments

    The added complexities of the offshore wind market mean that non-turbine costs may take on heightened importance relative to land-based wind. As a result, cost-reduction opportunities may arise not only from advancements in wind turbine technology but also from emerging trends and conceptual models in any one of several categories, including, trends in manufacturing, foundations, logistics and vessels, electrical infrastructure, and operations and maintenance strategies.

    The design of offshore turbines will continue to deviate from that of land-based turbines. Significantly more attention is being paid to the demands of the marine environment. Design conditions unique to offshore wind turbines include higher wave loads, corrosive salt water, and a requirement for submarine electrical cabling and infrastructure. Offshore turbines are located further from human habitations and have significantly more challenging accessibility; as a result, newer offshore designs have enhanced turbine/nacelle access and area to perform more uptower repairs. Lower wind shear suggests that offshore turbines may not require towers as tall as might be preferred for land-based installations, despite a movement toward larger turbines.

    Technological advancements and cost reductions in offshore turbines will likely be derived from incremental improvements in the various subsystems throughout the turbine. With blades, advanced composites including carbon fiber, new resins, epoxies and other materials are likely to be increasingly deployed. With foundations, it is likely that the combination of diverse seabed conditions, deeper water, and larger turbines will push the industry away from monopile foundations to alternatives such as jackets, tripods, gravity base structures, floating structures, and suction caissons. With drivetrains, high-energy density permanent magnets sourced from rare earth materials offer the potential to realize direct drive technologies, although new direct drive platforms lack an extensive performance record. It is not yet clear that direct drive generators offer superior performance and reliability under the actual working conditions experienced by offshore turbines. As a final example, lower cost power conversion is expected from deployment of higher voltage power electronics.

    Today there are three primary conceptual models envisioned for producing, staging, and installing equipment: (1) import-dominated, (2) regional hub, and (3) dispersed manufacturing. These models source equipment as follows:

    » Import-dominated model. The most likely major piece of equipment to be manufactured domestically is the foundation, since U.S. oilrig foundation fabrication experience could be transitioned to serve offshore wind, even for the initial projects. » Regional hub model. Only the very specialized electrical infrastructure equipment might not be produced in the region where the equipment is installed. » Dispersed manufacturing model. Production, fabrication, and investment are less centralized and would likely develop more organically as the industry matures and demand grows over time. Existing ports are adapted or retrofitted to accommodate the immediate staging, storage, lift capacity, and air draft needs of the industry, without trying to become exclusive sites for all future offshore manufacturing and staging activities.

    As the industry matures, there will be a need for increased production of offshore wind vessels capable of installing 5+ megawatt (MW) turbines in deeper waters. Heavier rotors, nacelles, and foundations will require cranes with greater lifting capacity. Many of the vessels that have been taken from the offshore oil and gas industry for use in the offshore wind industry are too small, forcing contractors to make more trips to port. As the industry moves toward purpose-built vessels, these vessels will have larger storage capacity and larger cranes.

    Much of the expertise gained in the oil and gas sector has been leveraged in the offshore wind sector. Early turbine installation vessels were jack-up barges repurposed from the oil and gas sector. Companies with expertise in oil and gas, such as Statoil and Fluor, have moved into offshore wind. Moreover, turbine foundation designs such as the jacket type have been adapted from the oil and gas sector.

    There is a need for significant upgrades in ports since they were not designed with the offshore wind industry in mind. The three main wind-specific requirements for ports are sufficient quaysides, adequate laydown areas, and sufficient clearances. Quaysides generally need to be 200-300 meters long for vessels to be able to load and unload large components such as towers and blades. Laydown acreage is key for storage and preassembly of turbines and foundations. Overhead clearances of 100 meters are necessary to enable passage of vertically positioned tower sections, but, many vessels can accommodate horizontally positioned tower sections reducing the required vertical clearances. Lateral clearances must accommodate for either star or bunny ear rotor configurations.

    The offshore wind industry faces similar transmission planning issues as the land-based wind industry. There has always been a “chicken and egg” dilemma when it comes to transmission expansion, often leading to project delays. Wind developers often will not build wind farms without sufficient transmission. Transmission operators often will not build new transmission lines without sufficient assurances that they will be able to recover their costs. Cost allocation methodologies are complicated as well, and require adequate advance planning time on the part of multiple stakeholders.

    Improved siting of wind farms, new operations strategies and technologies, and enhanced access to turbines designed exclusively for the offshore market are anticipated to boost plant production and minimize operations expenditures. Operators tend to be focused on minimizing unplanned maintenance and replacing corrective maintenance efforts with more regular and more effective preventative maintenance. Advanced condition monitoring techniques might also include self-diagnosing systems, real-time load response, and enhanced abilities to manipulate and control individual turbines from an onshore monitoring facility. Coordinating preventative maintenance efforts with improved wind and weather forecasting should allow operators to minimize turbine production losses.

    Section 3. Analysis of Policy Developments

    U.S. offshore wind development faces significant challenges: (1) the relatively high cost of offshore wind energy; (2) a lack of infrastructure such as transmission and purpose-built ports and vessels; and (3) uncertain and lengthy regulatory processes. Various U.S. states, the federal government, and European countries have used a variety of policies to address each of these barriers with varying success.

    For the U.S. to maximize offshore wind development, the most critical near-term policies are those designed to stimulate demand (i.e., policies that address high cost). A portfolio approach that incorporates multiple policy elements could be effective, similar to the U.S. land-based wind market, which has been stimulated through a mix of above-market Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), Production Tax Credits (PTCs), Investment Tax Credits (ITCs), and Renewable Energy Credits to demonstrate compliance with Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs). However, other examples such as the Feed-in Tariff (FiT), which many European countries have used to stimulate offshore wind demand and U.S. states have begun adopting for smaller renewable energy projects, could also be effective.

    Infrastructure policies are generally longer term and necessary to allow demand to be filled. Examples of transmission policies that can be implemented in the short term with relatively little effort are to (a) designate offshore wind energy resources zones for targeted grid investments, (b) establish cost allocation and recovery mechanisms for transmission interconnections, and (c) promote utilization of existing transmission capacity reservations to integrate offshore wind.

    Regulatory policy recommendations cover three general categories: (a) policies that define the process of obtaining site leases; (b) policies that define the environmental, permitting processes; and (c) policies that regulate environmental and safety compliance of plants in operation. An effective option for leasing policy is for the U.S. to further streamline the model set by the U.K. and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM’s) “Smart from the Start” program, which conducts leasing in three phases. An effective option for permitting policy is to conduct a new programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for offshore wind construction, then require only site-specific Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for limited site-specific issues to reduce the time to issue a Final EIS and construction permits. An effective option for operating plant environmental and safety compliance is self-monitoring by owner/operators, balanced with government oversight in critical areas.

    Section 4. Economic Impacts

    A 500 MW reference plant installed in the mid-Atlantic in 2018 is estimated to have capital costs of $3.04 billion or $6,080/kilowatt (kW). Total operations and maintenance (O&M) costs are assumed to be approximately $68 million/year or $136/kW-year. On a per kW basis, these estimates are 2.5 to 4 times the cost of land-based wind. Offshore wind costs are expected to decrease by 3.7% per year in the near term, slowing to 1.5% per year by 2030. These cost estimates are key inputs to a new Jobs and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) model for offshore wind and are sensitive to multiple assumptions such as water depth, distance to the nearest staging port, foundation type, and financing rates.

    The Offshore JEDI model shows that a 500 MW reference wind plant could support approximately 3,000 job-years over the construction period and drive $584 million in local spending over the same period. During operation, the plant (and the resulting local impacts) could support 313 jobs each year in the local economy and $21 million per year in local spending. These numbers are strongly dependent upon the percentage of local assumptions and would increase by three to fourfold if all components and services were sourced from the region.

    In the high-growth scenario, the U.S. offshore wind industry could support ~350,000 FTEs by 2030, but in the low-growth scenario, it could be ~50,000. Given the supply chain and industry dynamics of the offshore wind industry, most jobs are in indirect and induced industries. These results are strongly dependent on the domestic sourcing assumptions. For the North Atlantic region alone over the same time period, construction and operation of offshore wind plants in the region could support ~70,000 FTEs in the high-growth case and ~17,000 FTEs in the low-growth case.

    In the high-growth scenario, the U.S. offshore wind industry could drive $70 billion (in 2011 dollars) per year by 2030 but in the low-growth scenario it could be ~$10 billion. Given the supply chains and industry dynamics of the offshore wind industry, most of the economic activity is in indirect and induced industries. These results are strongly dependent on the domestic sourcing assumptions. For the North Atlantic region alone over the same time period, construction and operation of offshore wind plants in the region could drive $14 billion per year in the high-growth case and $3.5 billion per year in the low-growth case. These results are strongly dependent on the local sourcing assumptions. If more components and services were sourced locally, the numbers could increase by three to fourfold

    Section 5. Developments in Relevant Sectors of the Economy

    The development of an offshore wind industry in the U.S. will depend on the evolution of other sectors in the economy. Factors within the power sector such as the capacity or price of competing power generation technologies will affect the demand for offshore wind. Factors within industries that compete with offshore wind for resources (e.g., oil and gas, construction, and manufacturing) will affect the price of offshore wind power.

    Factors in the power sector that will have the largest impact include: (1) the change in the price of natural gas, and (2) the change in coal-based generation capacity. Natural gas-fired generation is wind’s primary competitor in the U.S. Natural gas prices declined from above $4/MMBtu in August 2011 to below $2/MMbtu in April 2012, in large part due to the supply of low-cost gas from the Marcellus Shale. Between January 2010 and March 2012, 106 coal plant retirements had either been planned or executed, representing 42,895 MW or 13% of the coal fleet. Continued coal plant retirements could increase the demand for offshore wind plants in the U.S.


    The development of a comprehensive annual market report is an important step for the U.S. offshore wind industry for two reasons. First, market assessments, especially those produced for government agencies, provide stakeholders with a trusted data source. Second, the production of a comprehensive assessment covering technical, regulatory, financial, economic development, and workforce issues will annually inform the creation of policy to remove barriers facing the U.S. offshore wind industry.

    This report provides readers with a foundation of information to help set appropriate policies to guide U.S. offshore wind energy development. As discussed in this report, significant technological advances are already unfolding within the offshore wind industry, but clearly additional policies could help to direct needed improvements to further reduce offshore wind costs and to stimulate needed infrastructure development. Policy examples from other countries have shown that proper policy designs can stimulate offshore wind markets, and in turn, offshore wind markets can have a significant impact on economic development throughout the U.S. The analysis showed that in the high-growth scenario, the U.S. offshore wind industry could support ~350,000 FTEs in 2030, and 50,000 FTE in the low-growth scenario. Policies that can direct the market toward the higher growth scenario can therefore have a large benefit to the U.S. economy. As this report is updated and published annually for the next two more years, the Navigant Consortium team hopes that the information provided will prove to be a valuable resource for manufacturers, policy makers, developers, and regulatory agencies to move the market toward a high-growth scenario for the offshore wind industry…


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