THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT WEDNESDAY, January 22:
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Climate Change In Two Minutes, Version 2
How To Make Doubt
Friday, February 27, 2015
CLIMATE CHANGE COSTING BIG OIL BIG
…Shareholders ask the five largest US oil companies – Valero, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum, Phillips 66 and Chevron – to disclose the risks their operations and facilities face from rising sea levels and storm surges
Siri Srinivas, 26 February 2015 (UK Guardian)
“…[The five largest US oil companies were asked to disclose risks to their facilities from climate change impacts like from storms and flooding in letters from investors Calvert Investments, Pax World Management, Walden Asset Management and others and nonprofit advocates Ceres and the Union of Concerned Scientists after Stormy Seas, Rising Risks What Investors Should Know About Climate Change Impacts at Oil Refineries from] the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that coastal refineries owned by each of the companies – Valero, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum and Phillips 66 – are in danger of potentially costly disruptions due to rising sea levels and storms…Valero’s Meraux refinery in Louisiana faces the starkest physical risk…With forecasts that sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico could rise 3-4 ft (about 1 meter) by the end of the century, parts of the refinery are likely to be inundated by 2050…[It] suffered $330m in damages due to hurricane Katrina...Companies had little to say in response to the report…Of course, it’s difficult to discuss protecting assets from climate change without talking about climate change. And even though public rhetoric has changed, oil companies have funded climate-change denial for decades…” click here for more
WIND FOR THE EIFFEL TOWER
UGE's Vertical Axis Wind Turbines now provide green power for the Eiffel Tower
Charly Cameron, February 25, 2015 (Inhabitat)
“…[The Eiffel Tower’s new, sustainable facelift includes two of Urban Green Energy’s (UGE) vertical axis wind turbines. Installed 400ft up, within the tower’s iconic framework, the turbines are now providing 10,000kWh of green electricity each year…enough electricity to power all commercial operations on the first floor…[T]he iconic landmark now [also] features LED lighting, along with 10 m² of roof-mounted solar panels atop its visitors’ center…[The]two UGE VisionAIR5 vertical axis turbines are] uniquely suited to their unusual new home…above the Eiffel Tower’s second floor, some 400 ft up. The height enables optimum performance for the turbines, which can harvest wind from any direction, and the near silence of the mechanisms ensure they don’t distract from visitor experience. Additionally, the turbines were given a custom paint job so as to blend in with the tower’s frame…” click here for more
SOLAR FOR INDIA’S TRAINS
Indian Railways Plans 1,000 Megawatts of Solar Energy Projects
Ganesh Nagarajan, February 26, 2015 (Bloomberg News)
“…[The Indian Railways network] plans 1,000 megawatts of solar-power projects in the next five years…Developers can use the railway land and buildings to set up solar panels…Prime Minister Narendra Modi is asking state-run companies to start investing in clean energy as the world’s second-most populous nation targets 100 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2022. India’s armed forces will set up 300 megawatts of photovoltaics by 2019…Indian Railways will use solar power to light up stations and office buildings…[It will solicit] bids from generators and power exchanges, resulting in savings of 30 billion rupees ($485 million). Funds will be available for the solar project…” click here for more
GEOTHERMAL FOR KENYA GROWTH
Kenya’s Geothermal Investments Contribute to Green Energy Growth, Competitiveness and Shared Prosperity
February 23, 2015 (The World Bank)
“Kenya is investing in 280 megawatts of geothermal energy as part of its accelerated green energy growth program…The new geothermal power lowers electricity bills by over 30%, reducing the cost of doing business…The World Bank Group and other development partners are making a significant contribution to increasing electricity access to Kenyans, raising prospects for growth and shared prosperity…Kenya’s rapid investment in geothermal power in recent years is increasingly paying dividends…[Geothermal power] is generated from natural steam from the earth..[It is renewable but, unlike hydro, it] is not affected by vagaries of weather…Geothermal’s contribution to the national energy mix increased to 51% [in February, up from 13% in 2010], following the commissioning of two new plants with a combined capacity of 280 megawatts: Olkaria 1 and Olkaria 4 in the Rift Valley…Supported by the World Bank Group, Olkaria is one of the largest single geothermal investment projects in the world and geothermal is now the [country’s] largest source of electricity…[Kenya plans] to increase geothermal capacity by another 460 megawatts by 2018…” click here for more
Thursday, February 26, 2015
CO2 CAUGHT IN THE ACT OF HEATING GLOBE
Berkeley study directly IDs climate change culprit
David Perlman, February 25, 2015 (San Francisco Chronicle)
“…[Scientists] have caught the world’s major greenhouse gas right in the act of warming the planet…providing the first direct evidence that human activity is dangerously altering the environment…The instruments captured more than a decade of rising surface temperatures, changes that were directly triggered by the atmosphere’s increasing burden of carbon dioxide, a team of scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley reported...That gas, whose main source is emissions from burning fossil fuels, has long been the principal culprit in global warming investigations…Its rising levels in the atmosphere have been the basis for increasingly strong warnings about global warming…[This study] provides concrete evidence for the first time of carbon dioxide’s effect…[with evidence of] ‘radiative forcing’ — the process through which carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can block the Earth from reflecting the sun’s radiant energy and actually warm the atmosphere…[The data from 2000 to 2010 showed] that some of the heat from Earth was being blocked by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and…how much of that blocked heat was warming the planet…” click here for more
SOLAR’S ALL-OF-THE-ABOVE COALITION
Solar energy’s new best friend is … the Christian Coalition
Chris Mooney, February 20, 2015 (Washington Post)
“The politics of solar power keeps getting more and more interesting…In Indiana, a fight over net metering — basically, whether people with rooftop solar can return their excess power to the grid and thereby lower their utility bills — has drawn out groups ranging from the state chapter of the NAACP to the conservative TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed) in favor of the practice…Arrayed on the other side of the issue, meanwhile, are the Indiana Energy Association, a group of utilities, and Republican Rep. Eric Koch, sponsor of a bill that would… let utility companies ask the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to include [tariffs, rates and charges]…What’s particularly fascinating is how this debate has mobilized the religious community. Solar panels are going up on church rooftops in Indiana, and…the head of the Christian Coalition of America wrote a blog post favoring solar and referring specifically to the Indiana fight…” click here for more
APPLE'S 100% NEW ENERGY DATA CENTERS
Apple to Invest €1.7 Billion in New European Data Centres; State-of-the-art facilities in Ireland and Denmark will run on 100 percent renewable energy
February 23, 2015 (Apple) “…[Apple] announced a €1.7 billion plan to build and operate two data centres in Europe, each powered by 100 percent renewable energy. The facilities, located in County Galway, Ireland, and Denmark’s central Jutland, will power Apple’s online services…for customers across Europe…Like all Apple data centres, the new facilities will run entirely on clean, renewable energy sources from day one. Apple will also work with local partners to develop additional renewable energy projects from wind or other sources…The two data centres, each measuring 166,000 square metres, [will have the lowest environmental impact yet for an Apple data centre, are expected to begin operations in 2017, and will] include designs with additional benefits for their communities…Apple will eliminate the need for additional generators by locating the data centre adjacent to one of Denmark’s largest electrical substations. The facility is also designed to capture excess heat from equipment inside the facility and conduct it into the district heating system to help warm homes in the neighboring community…” click here for more
WHERE EV DRIVERS THRIVE
The best—and worst—places to drive your electric car
Nsikan Akpan, 20 February 2015 (American Association for the Advancement of Science)
“…Researchers have conducted the first investigation into how electric vehicles fare in different U.S. climates. The verdict: Electric car buyers in the chilly Midwest and sizzling Southwest get less bang for their buck, where poor energy efficiency and coal power plants unite to turn electric vehicles into bigger polluters…Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)…[found e lectric cars in California and the Deep South travel the farthest, as the balmy temperatures yield the best energy efficiency and therefore longer trips before they must be plugged in again…Vehicles in cold places, in contrast, have less battery capacity and thus shorter range. The average range of a Nissan Leaf on the coldest day drops from 112 km in San Francisco to less than 72 km in Minneapolis, according to the study [in Environmental Science & Technology]…When batteries are cold, they have a lower electrical capacity, which limits the duration in which they can pump power. But extremely hot cities, like Phoenix, were almost as bad…[because too much heat can degrade battery] life span and output...[T]emperature extremes require drivers to charge their cars for longer…Average energy consumption by electric cars was 15% higher in the upper Midwest and Southwest versus the Pacific Coast…[But electric] vehicles are still in their infancy, and the findings offer policymakers new insights into how best to introduce electric cars across the country…” click here for more
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
ORIGINAL REPORTING: OBAMA ADVISER: UTILITIES 'PROACTIVELY ENGAGED' ON CLEAN POWER PLAN
Obama adviser: Utilities 'proactively engaged' on Clean Power Plan; Utilities and grid operators have proved EPA solutions to be cost effective and reliable.
Herman K. Trabish, November 20, 2014 (Utility Dive)
One of President Obama’s key assistants on energy and climate says utilities and the administration are working toward accord on the President’s proposed emissions cuts.
Utilities and regulators have provided productive input, he said at the American Wind Energy Association Fall Symposium, despite vocal criticismfrom some of the nation's largest power providers, energy reliability regulators and grid operators.
“I think utilities are proactively engaged,” said White House Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech. “Even where there is a lot of noise at the top, people are working hard and thinking about how to make this work.”
The Clean Power Plan
The proposed Clean Power Plan, released June 2 of this year, aims to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. It will be finalized by June 2015. By June 2016, each state, alone or with regional partners, must formulate a proposal that either cleans up existing coal plants or shifts to natural gas, renewables, nuclear power, and/or energy efficiencies.
If a state does not submit a plan, EPA will impose one. All plans will be approved by June 2018. Emissions reductions must begin by 2020, with yearly targets through 2029 and a final 2030 goal.
“Each state’s goal is different because each has a unique mix of emissions, power sources, and resources,” Utech explained. The options look to solutions proven by utilities and grid operators to be cost effective and reliable.
“The key thing to underscore about the Clean Power Plan,” he said, “is thatstates have the flexibility to meet the targets any way they choose and that allows anybody to make the case for their role in the solution.”
Renewables in the plan
“We think states will look to wind for as much as 70 gigawatts of new capacity because they know it is cost-effective, reliable, and rapidly scalable,” explained American Wind Energy Association Vice President Tom Vinson. “It depends on the final rule, on what happens with natural gas prices, and on what states commit to, but the opportunity is there. We have to go out and seize it."
Utech referenced a recent chart comparing projections for global wind and solar deployment from Greenpeace, often regarded as too biased to be authoritative, and from the International Energy Agency, long a globally respected source on energy statistics.
“Greenpeace nailed it and the IEA woefully underestimated it,” Utech said. “It is a reminder that though there are significant challenges, the renewables industries have a track record of beating expectations.”
The EPA’s emissions rule will “establish the power sector trajectory for the next 15 years,” Utech said. “It will provide a durable foundation to scale up all renewables, with wind playing a huge role.”
Many utility industry leaders have voiced warnings that the changes in generation necessary to achieve that level of cuts will compromise reliability and drive up electricity rates. A just-issued Electric Reliability Council of Texas report found the plan “is likely to lead to reduced grid reliability for certain periods” because it disrupts “the natural pace of change in grid resources.”
The administration and utilities together
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and her team started working on this in 2013 at the direction of the President, Utech explained. The intent was to “be ahead of the curve” with a proposal that reflected a range of concerns. “It is a complex proposal. It took everybody, even experts within the industry, time to digest it,” he said.
The public comment period, which EPA extended to accommodate more input, ends December 1. Utech expects the Edison Electric Institute—a utility trade group—and other industry groups as well as individual utilities to weigh in.
They have done the work and now have an understanding of the proposal, Utech said. “They may have opinions about adjustments. We are not anticipating that everybody will embrace it immediately," he added. "But the level of engagement by both states and utilities, thinking about how it works and how they can make it better, has been more positive than a lot of people expected.”
Outreach to utilities and state energy and environmental regulators continues, Utech said.
The EPA and the White House will use the input “to make what we think is a strong workable proposal even better,” he explained. The goal is a rule that “maintains reliability and is cost-effective while driving carbon down and driving more clean energy into the power sector.”
The President views climate change as one of the most significant challenges we face and believes we have an obligation to act so we don’t leave a degraded planet to our children and grandchildren, Utech said.
“If you look at the surveys, most Americans understand the basics on climate and don’t challenge the science,” he said. “Where we need to make up ground is in where climate ranks as a voting priority.”
With its National Climate Assessment, the White House intended to demonstrate what climate change impacts mean at a more granular level and change the public’s perception of it “from something nebulous and 20 or 30 years down the road to something people can relate to in their backyards, their communities, and their livelihoods.”
The President also knows that climate change is “a huge economic opportunity,” Utech added. “Clean energy is already creating jobs. It is important to debunk the notion it is bad for the economy. That is the reflexive pushback we get in Washington.”
The administration, from the President down, has been working for international buy-in because “the only effective solution is a global solution,” Utech said. The just-announced joint China-U.S. agreement on emissions reductions “will give huge momentum for the Paris 2015 climate talks,” he said, “and it is hugely positive for the wind industry.”
Opportunity and challenge
In return for the U.S. commitment to cut its emissions 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2025, China agreed to peak its emissions by 2030 and expand its zero-emission energy sources to 20% by 2030. Between now and 2030, Utech said, China will have to build “the equivalent of a new nuclear plant or 500 wind turbines or about 200,000 rooftop solar installations every week.”
The White House expects the agreement to spark investment and innovation in clean energy generally, and especially in wind. Wind’s recent statistics are “astounding,” Utech said, noting that in the past 5 years the industry drove its prices down more than 50%, took the world lead in wind-generated electricity and produced a third of new U.S. generation, provided over 50,000 jobs, and brought its total manufacturing facilities to over 560.
Some fossil fuel-reliant states and utilities have initiated law suits to stop the Clean Power Plan. Utech does not see those as threats. Challenges will go to the D.C. Circuit Court, which has repeatedly upheld EPA’s right to act on emissions under the authority of the Clean Air Act. If a challenge goes to the Supreme Court, it is unlikely to be decided before 2019, by which time progress would make the decision moot.
The recent change in Congressional leadership could, however, affect implementation. “We have more unified opposition now,” he acknowledged. “There are many scenarios by which Congress might try to stop or alter our enforcement of this but we are confident we will prevail.”
Asked if the President would veto Congressional legislation to block the plan, Utech said, “the Clean Power Plan is the lynchpin of the President’s climate action. It is the core of what we are doing to reduce emissions and to get a long term framework in place for the power sector. We’re committed to seeing it through.”
QUICK NEWS, February 25: SOLAR ADDS VALUE TO HOME PRICE; NEBRASKA NEW ENERGY CAN BE HUGE; SAMSUNG RAISES APPLE WITH NEW EV BET
SOLAR ADDS VALUE TO HOME PRICE Appraising Solar Energy’s Value; Solar Panels and Home Values
Lisa Prevost, February 20, 2015 (NY Times)
“New research sponsored by the Department of Energy shows that buyers are willing to pay more for homes with rooftop solar panels — a finding that may strengthen the case for factoring the value of sustainable features into home appraisals…[ Selling Into The Sun from] Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory…examined sales data for almost 23,000 homes in eight states from 2002 to 2013. About 4,000 of the homes had solar photovoltaic systems, all of them owned (as opposed to being financed through a lease with the solar company)...Researchers found that buyers were willing to pay a premium of $15,000 for a home with the average-size solar photovoltaic system (3.6 kilowatts, or 3,600 watts), compared with a similar home without one…The Berkeley lab report notes that more research is needed into the effect of leased systems…” click here for more
NEBRASKA NEW ENERGY CAN BE HUGE Report: Solar, wind energy has huge potential in state
Russell Hubbard, February 21, 2015 (World-Herald News Service via The Grand Island Independent)
“…[Renewable energy has the potential to supply almost 75 percent of [Nebraska’s] needs…[according to Powering Up Nebraska from Creighton University and] ‘significant cost declines’ for electricity generated by wind and solar power are spurring development in Nebraska and nationwide…[T] he renewables industry is responsible for $1 billion worth of investment in Nebraska so far and has the potential to create as many as 44,645 construction jobs…Renewable energy is set to be a larger part of the state’s output. With environmental laws phasing out coal-fired plants, Nebraska Public Power District says it already is close to reaching its 2020 goal of 10 percent of its energy with renewables, primarily wind. The Omaha Public Power District says it has a long-term goal of generating 30 percent of its electricity from wind…” click here for more
SAMSUNG RAISES APPLE WITH NEW EV BET Samsung makes a big play for electric cars by nabbing a battery pack firm
Davindra Hardawar, February 23, 2015 (engadget)
“Samsung wants to ensure it's as integral to the electric car world as it is to the mobile arena. The Korean electronics giant is acquiring…Magna Steyr, which will fit nicely inside of Samsung SDI, its component division. SDI has already scored a major deal with BMW providing batteries for its new i3 electric car and i8 hybrid, and it will make up eight percent of Tesla's battery supply this year (it's also in talks to build even more)…[The move] should make Samsung a stronger competitor to Panasonic, which is Tesla's biggest supplier, as well as its partner for the massive "Gigafactory" battery plant…[Magna was] one of the companies Apple reportedly talked to for its rumored electric car project…[This is likely] a reaction to those Apple Car rumors, but [fits] with Samsung's general strategy for new markets: Make the components everyone needs and reap the profits…” click here for more
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
TODAY’S STUDY: A NEW PLAN FOR U.S. OCEAN WIND
Up In The Air; What the Northeast States Should Do Together on Offshore Wind Before It’s Too Late
Clean Energy Group Lewis Milford and Val Stori & Navigant Bruce Hamilton and Jim Peterson February 2015
According to the latest news, the country’s first proposed offshore wind project, Cape Wind, might never be built. Despite the best efforts of Massachusetts state officials to support the market for years, the disappointing news highlights a stark conclusion: current offshore wind policy isn’t working.
While the Cape Wind project floundered amidst fierce local opposition, the project’s difficulties highlight a larger policy problem—it is difficult, if not impossible, for any single state to jumpstart the offshore wind industry.
With the Northeast’s keystone project in limbo, only a few small projects might be built.
Going forward, there is no solid pipeline of large projects to prove the economic and environmental benefits of this technology and bring it to scale.
The bottom line is that a new policy approach must be put in place to support a robust offshore wind industry in the United States. To be effective, that approach must rely on multi-state collaboration.
Offshore wind will only become cost competitive and reach its true potential if the states in the Northeast region act together to help create a market for the technology. The current, go-it-alone, single-state policy approach has failed.
Without effective collaboration among the states, a market for offshore wind in the Northeast will not develop and the few small projects in development might well be the last. It is that simple.
This paper takes up the challenge of multi-state policy collaboration on offshore wind. It does the following:
• It shows the strong regional economic opportunities for offshore wind in the Northeast.
• It shows the multiple regional environmental benefits of a growing offshore wind market.
• It details the many challenges and barriers to a strong regional market, and then lists actions Northeast states could take together to build this market—from setting regional procurement targets to developing joint financing and development mechanisms to concerted supply chain development.
• It details specific policy measures states could adopt together to build out this market, including creation of multi-state buyers’ networks and bargaining agents to purchase offshore wind power on behalf of multiple states.
• It then proposes a regional collaborative process for the states to use to consider these measures and to decide whether to pursue offshore wind as a regional no-carbon resource.
While hopeful, this paper does not minimize the challenges. It notes that offshore wind is currently an expensive power resource, much as solar PV technology was twenty years ago. Since that time, policy measures, business models, and incentives—all targeted directly to solar technology—have brought precipitous drops in solar prices to customers.
As a result of those concerted policies, in many regions of the country, solar has become an affordable, financeable, and commercially viable source of energy.
The same can happen with offshore wind. But its high upfront capital costs require significant policy support and greater multi-state collaboration to achieve scale.
If the states do not act together, the region might well lose the ability to capture the benefits of an expanding offshore wind market. That will leave the offshore wind technology and supply chain development to foreign countries to capture the global market for offshore wind. It will leave the region ever more reliant on imported power or on natural gas to try to meet climate goals. It will mean the region will miss out on the economic and environmental benefits of this promising, large-scale, no-carbon energy technology.
If the country wants to capture these benefits, now is the time to decide which way the region and the industry in the U.S. will go. The policy status quo will not do.
Multi-State Actions on Offshore Wind: Policies and Process to Move Forward
If it is the ultimate goal of any East Coast state to develop major offshore wind projects, it is imperative that those states work together through consistent and cooperative regional policies.
Multi-state action is needed to drive demand, organize procurement, and plan for transmission and distribution. Multi-state cost sharing will reduce impacts on rate-payers and improve the prospects for the participating states to develop a native supply chain.
This paper recommends the states consider seven multi-state policies for regional action.
• Regional Offshore Wind Target. The establishment of a practical regional target (or target range) for offshore wind capacity would create a clear demand signal to offshore wind developers that the region is open to support projects.
• Coordinated Policy Incentives. Individual state policy drivers, including any incentives for developers, should be consistent across the region to drive demand and produce cost reductions over time through scale up of the offshore wind resource.
• Financing. States should develop new, regional financing mechanisms for regional and single projects including use of bonds and various measures through green bank financing.
• Procurement. Through various policy mechanisms, states should jointly mandate the procurement of power from one or more large offshore wind projects to reduce costs and create a reliable pipeline for project developers with an aggregated demand from multiple states.
• Economic Development. Coordinated rather than purely competitive action would spur economic development activity in the region through the creation of clean energy jobs and potentially new manufacturing facilities.
• Transmission. States should develop joint public funding of regional transmission and interconnection facilities associated with regional projects.
• Permitting. It is essential to the success of the multi-state projects that the policies ultimately adopted for permitting these facilities be standardized.
The paper also recommends consideration of various implementing mechanisms for these policies to be adopted, including a multi-state buyers’ consortium, a state acting on behalf of other states as a bargaining agent, and a multi-state authority.
The paper also recommends the creation of a multi-year process for states to assess whether and how they would pursue these policies together.
Regional Opportunities for Offshore Wind…Economic, Environmental, and Energy Assurance Benefits to the Region…Policy Goals and Rationale for Multi-State Collaboration…Regional Offshore Wind Target…Coordinated Policy Incentives…Financing…Offshore Wind Energy Procurement…Economic Development and Supply Chain Strategies…Transmission…Permitting…Implementation Mechanisms for Policy Goals…Multi-State Consortium…Multi-State Bargaining Agent Arrangements…Multi-State Power Authority…Regional Process for Multi-State Collaboration…Proposed Activities for Consideration…Timeline…
After the troubling conclusion of the Cape Wind project and the uncertainty about future offshore wind projects, energy policy makers who care about the industry are at a crossroads.
The current policy direction is not working to attract developers to the U.S. There is now little to show for a decade of policy experimentation to create large-scale, offshore wind projects and markets. The industry’s fate in limbo.
At the same time, there is no clear new direction that has yet emerged to capture this attractive renewable resource. Doing more of the same—the single-state approach to create market demand—obviously will not work.
The only feasible policy goal is to achieve scale through coordinated, multi-state policies.
It is clear that such an approach would be difficult and complicated. However, the positive news is that states in the Northeast probably have the longest history of working together on complex energy and environmental issues.
It is time for the states to come together once again to explore whether they want to do what’s needed to create an offshore wind industry. A great deal of work is required to analyze whether the recommendations offered here, and others, would produce the desired results. But we will not know unless the states agree to come together and find out.
Without a commitment to explore new multi-state policies, the future of offshore wind in the region will remain up in the air.
QUICK NEWS, February 24: VIRGINIA FINALLY MOVES ON SOLAR; WIND TURBINE MAKERS BREAKING RECORDS; GEOTHERMAL COULD GET HOT
VIRGINIA FINALLY MOVES ON SOLAR Bill heads to Senate in effort to establish solar development authority
Jacob Geiger, February 23, 2015 (Richmond Times Dispatch)
“...[The Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority will go before the state Senate]…The authority would encourage the solar energy industry in Virginia by developing programs that make it easier for solar energy projects to get financing. And it would also help Dominion Virginia Power…the state’s largest electric utility…invest $700 million in large-scale solar photovoltaic projects in a number of locations. The projects would generate at least 400 megawatts of power by 2020…An amendment approved [in committee] was tailored specifically to Dominion. It charged the authority with assisting Dominion’s plans by ‘providing for the financing or assisting in the financing of the construction or purchase of such solar energy projects’ authorized by state law…[A Dominion lobbyist who was previously a Republican delegate from Fairfax County…said the amendment will help Dominion develop solar power plants as cheaply as possible...[because] much of the solar power industry relies on tax-exempt financing or government grants for which Dominion is not eligible. The changes to the proposed solar development authority will help Dominion and private developers who might build the projects…” click here for more
WIND TURBINE MAKERS BREAKING RECORDS 2014 a record breaking year for wind turbine manufacturers
Charlotte Malone, February 23, 2015 (Blue&Green)
“For wind turbine manufacturers, 2014 was a record breaking year…[though] the sector could see a fall in demand in 2016 because of regulatory uncertainty…Global Wind Market Update – Demand & Supply 2014 [from FTI Consulting reports]…that global wind capacity reached more than 50 gigawatts in 2014, over 40% growth on 2013. The record breaking growth is mainly driven by China, Germany and Brazil. All ten of the top wind turbine original equipment manufacturers have benefitted from the growth, reporting individual records for installations…[T]he wind industry is continuing to see a transition away from feed in tariffs and towards more ‘market-reflective’ support mechanisms in 2014. Despite the progress made last year, it adds that the global wind market is likely to fall next year, partly due to uncertainty in regulations…” click here for more
Lloyd Alter, February 22, 2015 (Mother Nature Network)
“…[Geothermal energy systems use the Earth's underground heat] to make steam, which drives turbines, just like coal or nuclear plants do. This heat is close enough to tap at geologic faults, so the hot spots are along the Pacific rim and Iceland, the geothermal capital of the world…[T]hanks to the drop in the price of oil, now might be a good time to drill…[D]rillers are parking rigs as oil prices collapse and have laid off thousands of workers…[I]n Alberta, Canada, the] head of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), Alison Thompson, is teaching drillers how to adapt oil technology to geothermal drilling…Tech transfer from the oil industry is actually happening in the geothermal world; Norway's Statoil is drilling for geothermal in Iceland, and Chevron is a big player in geothermal…[Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)] can provide base-load electric power and heat at a level that can have a major impact on the United States, while incurring minimal environmental impacts. With a reasonable investment in R&D, EGS could provide 100 GWe or more of cost ¬competitive generating capacity in the next 50 years…” click here for more
Monday, February 23, 2015
TODAY’S STUDY: WHAT UTILITIES NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SOLAR TECHNOLOGY
Solar Fundamentals; Volume 1: Technology
Becky Campbell and Daisy Chung, February 2015 (Solar Electric Power Association)
This report serves as one component of a multi-part series of publications that SEPA plans to produce throughout 2015. The purpose of this effort is to provide a broad introduction to several facets of the solar industry, including: a discussion of different technologies; an update on the current state of the U.S. market; a summary of project financing options; and, an overview of some of the solar integration challenges that utilities are encountering (or soon will be).
SEPA undertook this effort to assist in educating those seeking to become more familiar with the solar industry. Whether you are reading this publication as a new utility regulator seeking information to better inform your decision-making process or as a student researching potential career paths, the goal of this series is to distill information into short publications that any individual can use to gain practical knowledge of the industry.
This portion of the series introduces solar technologies, explaining each technology’s applications. There is a brief section that describes the ancillary components that make up a photovoltaic system and explains how these components can be used to optimize energy generation. This report also describes solar insolation, explaining how it impacts energy generation and illustrating where solar energy is a viable option. A final section highlights important considerations in siting a solar project including opportunities to maximize system production and avoid unexpected project development challenges.
Types of Technology
Solar generating technologies can be generalized into two groups: photovoltaics and concentrated solar power. Photovoltaics (PV) are semiconducting materials used to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. Concentrated solar power (CSP) uses a collection of mirrors to concentrate solar thermal energy, which in most cases drives a steam turbine, thus producing alternating current (AC) electricity. This section will describe both technologies in detail, examining the various options available for each and their potential market applications.
Put simply, PV cells are composed of semiconductor materials that exhibit the photoelectric effect – that is, materials that display properties that allow them to absorb the photons in sunlight and, in turn, release electrons which can be captured to generate electricity. As indicated in Figure 1, individual PV cells are combined to form PV modules (or panels), and modules are connected to form PV arrays. 1 PV arrays are connected to accessory components to form a solar system (see the Balance of System section for further discussion).
PV technologies are primarily differentiated based on the nature of the absorber material responsible for converting light into electricity. This section will focus on crystalline silicon and thin film PV technologies, which represent the most commonly used PV technologies as of this date. A brief discussion of emerging PV technologies is also included.
Crystalline silicon (c-Si) is the most commonly used PV technology in the world. This prevalence is due, in part, to a mature process technology that greatly benefited from the knowledge of the semiconductor industry. Typically, a c-Si module consists of a dozen or more individual PV cells electrically wired together. Crystalline silicon PV can further be divided into four broad categories — monocrystalline, multicrystalline (or polycrystalline), ribbon, and ‘super’ monocrystalline. Mono- and multicrystalline technologies accounted for approximately 90 percent of the total global PV manufactured in 2013. 2 Monocrystalline cells are composed of a uniform material grown from a single crystal of silicon, while multicrystalline cells are made up of materials from several, smaller crystals. The process of “growing” a monocrystalline cell is slower and more expensive than the process used to create multicrystalline cells. Because the composition of monocrystalline cells is uniform throughout, they are generally more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity than multicrystalline cells.
Unlike crystalline silicon, where the substrate is nearly always glass, thin-film PV can use a range of both rigid and flexible substrates, such as metal foils (steel or aluminum) or plastics. Also unlike c-Si, which requires a manufacturing process that produces modules batch by batch, thin-film manufacturing processes can, in principle, continually produce modules at higher speeds. Thin-film can be grouped into three categories: amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), and copper gallium indium diselenide (CIGS). In 2013, CdTe accounted for approximately 54 percent of global thin-film production, while a-Si and CIGS accounted for 23 percent each. Collectively, thin-film technologies account for approximately 10 percent of the global PV market share.
Efficiency describes the effectiveness of a technology at capturing the energy in sunlight and converting it to usable electricity. The highest recorded efficiency in a laboratory environment for a c-Si PV cell is approximately 25 percent, but commercially available modules have efficiencies closer to 20 percent. 7 The highest observed laboratory thin film efficiencies have surpassed 21 percent, but commercially available technologies range from approximately 10 to 15 percent. Monocrystalline modules maintain a sizeable efficiency advantage to thin-film products, but some thin-film technologies have started to surpass multicrystalline modules in efficiency.
When comparing efficiencies of modules, it is important to take into account the price compared to the estimated lifetime generating capability. Purchasing a nominally more efficient module for a significantly higher price is not necessarily a sound investment. It may be worth exploring whether lower-cost, lower-efficiency modules will produce a more attractive return on investment over a project’s lifetime. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has several tools that help users estimate PV production. PVWatts is a simple tool that quickly and easily estimates production based on location and efficiency assumptions. 8 The System Advisor Model (SAM) is a more advanced tool capable of modeling both the performance and economics of a PV system, based on inputs such as location, specific system components, and system costs.
Applications for PV technologies vary widely. This technology is easily scaled to suit energy needs of any size. In some of its smallest-scale uses, PV is used to power calculators, street lights, and water pumping stations, but it is also commonly used to meet larger energy needs. PV is widely deployed to generate on-site energy for residential and commercial users. It is also increasingly deployed through utility-scale power projects — projects that can range from five to hundreds of megawatts in capacity and directly supply power into the electric grid (similar to a traditional power plant). PV projects can easily be built and powered up in phases, making it convenient to expand projects over time as demand increases. While most PV projects are interconnected to the electric grid, off-grid PV systems are possible with proper use of storage technologies (albeit often cost prohibitive for significant energy needs).
PV can be mounted for use on rooftops or at ground-level, and is increasingly incorporated into accessory structures, such as parking canopies and pergolas. Some of the emerging technologies directly integrate PV into building materials, such as windows, roofing tiles and shingles.
Concentrated Solar Power
Concentrated or concentrating solar power (CSP) refers to the general technology of redirecting sunlight via mirrors and concentrating it to a focal point, where it is used to form thermal energy. Mirrors used in CSP have specified reflectivity and are set in strategic shapes/placement. They serve as the “collector” of sunlight, and reflect it to a central “receiver.” The receiver absorbs the focused solar thermal energy, becoming a heat source. This heat source may boil water or other fluids to form steam that spins a turbine to generate electricity. Turbine-generated electricity from CSP works in a similar manner as coal, nuclear, oil and natural gas turbine generators with the only significant difference being the heat source.
There are three main established CSP technologies, easily distinguished by their mirror configurations. In increasing complexity, these technologies are linear concentrators, dish/engines and power tower systems.
Linear Concentrator System
The linear concentrator system features a set of linear collectors and receiver tubes. The collectors face the sun to focus its energy on the receiver, which is placed in parallel above the collector. The linear receiver tube contains water or another heat-transfer fluid, which absorbs the heat of the focused sunlight. The heated fluid is used to generate steam, which, in turn, powers a turbine to generate electricity.
There are two types of linear concentrator systems. The most common and proven is the parabolic trough system. It consists of parabolic, or near u-shaped, mirrors placed in rows that run north-south and make use of single axis tracking to maximize sun exposure. A linear receiver tube is placed parallel to each row of mirrors. The curvature of the u-shaped mirrors collects sunlight and reflects it onto the dedicated receiver tube. Figure 5: An illustration of a parabolic trough power plant. (Credit: DOE/NREL 1996)
The second, newer type is called the linear Fresnel reflector system. In general, linear Fresnel systems operate similarly to parabolic trough systems; however, this system uses a shared receiver placed higher above multiple rows of mirrors, which use tracking and are flat or nearly flat. The equipment setup of the linear Fresnel reflector system is simpler than the parabolic trough system.
The dish/engine system describes the combined usage of a dish-shaped collector (or “concentrator”) attached with a centrally mounted engine unit that serves as a receiver and electricity generator. Each dish apparatus tracks and concentrates sunlight onto an engine, similar to the operation of a satellite dish, and can be made of large concave mirrors or many small, flat mirrors mounted into a dish shape (often the cheaper of the configurations). The engine absorbs the thermal energy of the concentrated sunlight through its receiver, where a heat-transfer medium is heated. The heated medium then drives a spinning generator, commonly through moving pistons in an electricity-generating Stirling engine.
Power Tower System
The power tower system also concentrates sunlight like the dish/engine system, but on a massive scale. It collects sunlight via many large, flat, ground-mounted mirrors, called heliostats, placed in a circular pattern around a receiver tower that can be hundreds of feet tall.
Each heliostat tracks and concentrates sunlight onto the receiver tower, where the absorbed heat produces steam to power a conventional turbine generator. Because the scalable configuration demonstrates favor in economies of scale, the power tower system exhibits the largest deployment on a per-system basis, to as large as 200 megawatts.
CSP Efficiencies and Advancements in Technology
The Department of Energy’s SunShot Vision Study compares the annual average efficiencies as well as technology improvement among CSP system designs. 14 Both are important factors because they directly affect project viability and upfront investment ultimately influencing delivered cost of electricity and annual revenue. 15
Average annual efficiencies are used as a comparison by the Department of Energy (DOE) because they are closer to actual, rather than ideal, design-point, solarto-electric conversions of an operating CSP facility. The table below identifies the average annual efficiencies for the CSP technologies discussed in this section.
Balance of System (BOS)…Solar Irradiance…Siting Considerations …
QUICK NEWS, February 23: MORE ON APPLE’S iCAR; BIG HAWAII WIND FROM NEXTERA; BIG CALIFORNIA SOLAR FROM KAISER
MORE ON APPLE’S iCAR Report: Apple aims to launch electric car by 2020
February 22, 2015 (Fox News)
“…Sources familiar with [Apple’s unannounced electric car project said the company is moving forward with an aggressive plan to develop a battery-powered car to compete with Tesla, General Motors, Nissan, and other established automakers in the electric car segment. Production on a car could reportedly kick off in five years…[T]he tech company has been luring engineers from other outfits in the automotive sector, including Tesla, and has been in contact with a manufacturer capable of producing vehicles on a contract basis…[E]lectric car battery-maker A123 Systems, has reportedly gone as far as filing a lawsuit to try to stop Apple from poaching its staff… A123 Systems is owned by Wanxiang Group, the parent company of Fisker Automotive, which [is revamping] its Karma plug-in hybrid sedan…Apple is already heavily invested in the automotive sector with its Siri Eyes Free and Apple Car Play software platforms, which allow its mobile devices to work with a variety of in-car infotainment systems…[It competes with Google’s] Android Auto system…Analysts have estimated that Fisker and Tesla each spent about $1.5 billion to develop the Karma and Model S, respectively, and Apple is currently sitting on a cash reserve of $178 billion. That's more than enough to buy Tesla outright six times over, or GM, Ford and Chrysler combined at their current market capitalization, let alone develop its own car from scratch…” click here for more
BIG HAWAII WIND FROM NEXTERA NextEra Energy plans to build Hawaii's largest wind farm on Maui
Duane Shimogawa, February 20, 2015 (Pacific Business News)
“…[NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, plans to build, own, and operate] the largest wind energy farm in Hawaii on the southern coast of Maui…The more than 120-megawatt [Kahikinui Wind project would be built on about 500 acres of Department of Hawaiian Home Lands at the Kahikinui homestead on the southern slopes of Haleakala leased for 35 years. NextEra] said that it would benefit Hawaii to develop up to 200 megawatts of additional wind or solar capacity on Maui…NextEra also is one of the companies looking to build an undersea cable that would connect the electric grids on Oahu and Maui…First Wind owns the biggest wind farm in Hawaii, the 69-megawatt Kawailoa Wind project on Oahu's North Shore [and three other wind farms]…Sempra U.S. Gas & Power owns one wind farm in Hawaii…California's Champlin Hawaii Holdings LLC has plans to build a $90 million, 24-megawatt wind farm near the Kahuku Wind project on Oahu's North Shore…” click here for more
BIG CALIFORNIA SOLAR FROM KAISER Kaiser to buy solar power from Riverside County project
Sammy Roth, February 19, 2015 (The Desert Sun)
"…[Health care giant Kaiser Permanente will] buy 110 megawatts of power from NextEra Energy Resources' Blythe solar project…NextEra can now start construction on the stalled Blythe project, which is expected to employ nearly 500 people at the height of construction and should come online by the end of 2016, just in time to secure a 30 percent tax credit…Kaiser committed in 2012 to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent below 2008 levels by 2020, and it now expects to meet that goal three years ahead of schedule…Federal officials approved the 485-megawatt, 4,000-acre Blythe project in August, but NextEra didn't start construction right away because it hadn't found a buyer for the electricity the project would generate. Now that Kaiser has signed [a 20 year, $25 million contract], NextEra will start building…At least half a dozen [other] large-scale projects proposed for [the eastern California Mojave Desert] have stalled or slowed…hamstrung by an inability to secure power-purchase agreements with utilities. As California's major utilities have gotten closer to meeting the state's 33 percent renewable energy mandate, they've had less incentive to sign contracts…That could change if California lawmakers adopt a 50 percent renewable energy mandate…" click here for more
Saturday, February 21, 2015
The Newest New Solar Thing
Put a few of these little things on the window sill. From VTTFinland via YouTube
The Newest New Wind Thing
Atomic forces to catch the wind. From TU Delft via YouTube
The Newest New Battery Thing
Anybody out there have a few billion dollars extra to get this across the innovation Valley of Death between concept and commercialization? From Qichao Hu via YouTube
Friday, February 20, 2015
IRAN, U.S. AGREE ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Top Iran official warns of climate change
Arash Karami, February 18, 2015 (Al Monitor)
“In a speech at the National Conference on Urban Policy, Masoumeh Ebtekar, the head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization, warned about the dangers of climate change. Ebtekar, who is also one of President Hassan Rouhani’s vice presidents, said that climate change would impact not only Iran and the Middle East region but the world…[and is] ‘a serious threat for life on Earth’…[because it] will be followed by ‘devastating impacts and consequences’…Ebtekar also warned about the water crisis in Iran, saying that…14 cities in the country have ‘alarming conditions’…According to Iran’s meteorological service, with the exception of just three years, Iran has experienced 23 consecutive years of reduced rainfall and increases in temperature…Ebtekar said that Iran needs a national policy to address this crisis…In July 2013, former Agriculture Minister Issa Kalantari warned that…in 30 years, Iran could become a ‘ghost town’ and that millions of Iranians would be forced to migrate…” click here for more
WORLD MONEY FLOWS TO INDIA WIND AND SOLAR
China, UK cos to invest billions in solar, wind energy
Anupama Airy and Arnab Mitra, February 17, 2015 (Hindustan Times)
“Companies from China and Britain will invest billions of dollars in India’s solar and wind power industries under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative…China, which has already committed to invest $20 billion in India over the next five years, wants to set up new solar manufacturing facilities…Britain also wants to partner…in the renewable energy sector…India has presently set a target of adding 175,000 megawatt (mw) of renewable energy that includes 100,000 mw of solar power and 75,000 mw from other sources including wind, mini-hydro and biomass…UK and Chinese companies would invest in the manufacturing of components, including solar cells…to [supply] domestic user industries as well as export…” click here for more
UK TO BUILD WORLD’S BIGGEST OCEAN WIND
U.K. Approves World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm, Farthest Ever From The Coast
Ari Phillips, February 18, 2015 (ClimateProgress)
The United Kingdom has approved what will become the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, and one of the U.K.’s biggest power stations of any sort…[T]he Dogger Bank Creyke Beck project will have a total generating capacity of 2.4 gigawatts, enough to power about 2.5 percent of the country’s electricity needs. Made of up two separate 1.2-gigawatt farms of up to 200 turbines each, the project will be located about 80 miles off the coast…[F]inal investment decisions are still being made, which will likely include backing by the U.K.’s renewable energy subsidy…[T]he project would far exceed the 175-turbine capacity of the London Array, currently the world’s largest operating offshore wind farm at 630 megawatts…[T]he Dogger Bank Creyke Beck project would [also] be the farthest offshore [in shallow waters approximately 100 feet deep]…More powerful and reliable offshore wind turbines are being developed to harness the strong winds located farther offshore…[T]he U.K. has more offshore wind-generating capacity than the rest of the world combined, with…a total generating capacity of about 4 gigawatts…” click here for more
JORDAN’S SOLAR POWERED MOSQUES
All 6,000 Mosques in Jordan to Run on Solar Energy
Mihai Andrei, February 18, 2015 (ZME Science)
“…[All of the Kingdom of Jordan’s] mosques will soon run on solar energy, in an attempt to save money and promote sustainable development…The Jordanian economy is beset by insufficient supplies of water, oil and other resources, and to make things even worse, they import 96% of the energy they use [but the country gets 300 days of sun power per year]…The [solar] project will start by covering 120 mosques and tenders will be soon floated to install such systems at other mosques across the country…[Mosques] use large amounts of electricity and the project will help to significantly reduce their electricity bills…The funding is a pioneering move in the Middle East, and will hopefully pave the way for other countries…[Jordan has] set a target to obtain 10% of energy from renewable resources by 2020… As of November 2014 Jordan had 10MW of installed capacity from renewable energy, and had over 15 renewable energy power plants in progress to be completed by the end of 2015, raising the installed capacity to 500MW, representing 14% of the overall installed capacity…” click here for more
Thursday, February 19, 2015
CREATIVE CLIMATE DENIAL AND HISTORY
Denying climate change gets creative
John M. Crisp, February 19, 2015 (AZ Daily Sun)
“Climate-change denial persists in various modes, none of which is particularly convincing…They're successful if they raise enough doubt about the scientific consensus…There's the "I-am-not-a-scientist" mode, which depends on a resigned know-nothingness to suggest that climate is too complex for an ordinary person…The opposite of this mode of denial is the notion that humankind has always managed to come up with the ingenuity to solve the dilemmas that face us…Then there's… a false humility thoroughly at odds with the history of civilization. For the most part, the narrative of human progress has involved the careless exploitation and depletion of local resources…but now the growth of both human population and of our technological capacity has pushed us up hard against the globe's natural limits…
“…[T]he great modern parable of humankind's capacity to affect the environment…[was] the Dust Bowl…In the 19th Century, the Great Plains, a vast swath of our country's mid-section from Canada to Texas, was covered with grass…[Then] thousands of farmers moved to the Great Plains and plowed up the sod that had held the soil in place for millennia…Dry land farming flourished in [the 1920s]…But a devastating drought began in the early 30s and the hard winds blew…One hundred million acres were stripped of topsoil…[and the land and people were] destroyed by blowing dust…[This is] the future in our own past…Our biggest threat isn't our climate; it's our denial.”
“…[T]he great modern parable of humankind's capacity to affect the environment…[was] the Dust Bowl…In the 19th Century, the Great Plains, a vast swath of our country's mid-section from Canada to Texas, was covered with grass…[Then] thousands of farmers moved to the Great Plains and plowed up the sod that had held the soil in place for millennia…Dry land farming flourished in [the 1920s]…But a devastating drought began in the early 30s and the hard winds blew…One hundred million acres were stripped of topsoil…[and the land and people were] destroyed by blowing dust…[This is] the future in our own past…Our biggest threat isn't our climate; it's our denial.”click here for more
NEW ENERGY CAN GET IT DONE
Conversion to Renewable Energy is Going Too Slow to Avoid Catastrophe – Part 3
John Lawrence, February 14, 2015 (San Diego Free Press)
“…[From a technical perspective, we] could eliminate fossil fuels over a period of 20 to 40 years…if we went full steam ahead without being blocked by fossil fuel corporations, the politicians beholden to them and various other vested interests who stand to profit from the status quo…[Jacobson-Delucchi Scientific American research] showed how 100% of the world’s energy could be supplied by wind, water and solar (WWS) resources by as early as 2030…[A Plan for a Sustainable Future by 2030] includes not only power generation but also transportation, heating and cooling…Whether it is politically feasible or not remains to be seen…The problem is that in today’s society large scale government directed projects like the interstate highway system or the transcontinental railroad are just not on the table. Even the space effort has been defunded…And private enterprise is not about to take them on. They would require money from somewher, and there is much resistance to new taxes. The money could be provided, however, in the same way Abraham Lincoln got the money for the transcontinental railroad – by just creating it as fiat money or establishing a public bank...” click here for more
Researchers create solar electric forest with 3D-printed trees
February 19, 2015 (NanoWerk)
“Scientists at [the VTT Technical Research Center] of Finland] have developed a prototype of a tree that harvests solar energy from its surroundings - whether indoors or outdoors - stores it and turns it into electricity to power small devices such as mobile phones, humidifiers, thermometers and LED light bulbs. The technology can also be used to harvest kinetic energy from the environment…The ‘leaves’ of the tree are flexible, patterned [ultra-thin] solar panels made using a technique developed by VTT on a printing process…[They] form an electronic system complete with wiring that conduct energy into a converter that feeds electricity to devices such as mobile phones or sensors analysing the environment. The tree trunk is made with 3D technology by exploiting wood-based biomaterials VTT has developed…The more solar panels there are in a tree, the more energy it can harvest.” click here for more
A WIND WHEEL
Dutch Windmill Might Revolutionize Wind Energy Generation
February 16, 2015 (ZME Science)
“The Dutch Windwheel…[would generate wind energy silently and] capture rainwater, recycle tap water, produce biogas – and most importantly, [host 72 apartments, 160 hotel rooms, commercial outlets and a restaurant]. It will also have some rotating cabins providing a brilliant view of the Dutch city of Rotterdam…The key here is a bladeless wind turbine with no moving parts that produces electricity using charged water droplets…The technology, called EWICON (Electrostatic Wind Energy Converter) creates energy through the displacement of charged particles by the wind in the opposite direction of an electrical field. Each tube features several electrodes and nozzles which release positively-charge water into the air, through [‘electrospraying’] process…developed by Delft University of Technology researchers…[I]t can come in any shape and size, it is silent and has very little wear and tear (due to no rotating parts)…[No figures regarding energy generation and recycling [are available but] construction is set…” click here for more
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
ORIGINAL REPORTING: HOW THE U.S. WILL GET A THIRD OF ITS ENERGY FROM WIND BY MIDCENTURY
How the U.S. will get a third of its energy from wind by midcentury; Wind power doubles by 2020, doubles again by 2030, and almost doubles again by 2050
Herman K. Trabish, November 20, 2014 (Utility Dive)
New numbers from the Department of Energy put U.S. wind’s share of the country’s electricity production in 2020 at 10%, up from 2013’s 4.5%.
The draft Wind Vision Study projects 20% of the nation’s electricity coming from wind in 2030 and foresees wind becoming more than a third of the U.S. electricity supply by midcentury.
“Wind has done a lot of things that many would have argued in 2008 were unachievable,” said DOE Director of the Office of Wind & Water Power Technologies Jose Zayas in explaining why he calls the new vision “an aggressive yet credible scenario.”
In 2008, the U.S. wind industry had installed 25 gigawatts in 29 states at an installed price of $0.07 per kilowatt-hour. DOE’s projection for 2013 at that time foresaw an installed capacity of 48 gigawatts in 35 states and a price of $0.066 per kilowatt-hour, Zayas said. The 2013 reality was 61 gigawatts of installed capacity in 39 states and a price of $0.045 per kilowatt-hour.
The draft Wind Vision Study is the product of work by over 100 private companies and public agencies and is scheduled for official release in early 2015. It estimates the U.S. wind resource at “more than 10 times our current electric sector capacity.” Its numbers are based on harvesting “less than 5%” of that.
The big numbers
The study projects that by 2020, the installed capacity of U.S. wind will be 113 gigawatts, with 110 on land and 3 offshore. The 2030 total will be 220 megawatts, with 200 on land and 20 offshore. By 2050, the U.S. will have a 405 gigawatt installed wind capacity, with 320 on land and 85 offshore.
What the Wind Vision Study foresees “is a steady growth of 7 gigawatts per year through 2020, followed by 12 gigawatts per year between 2020 and 2030,” explained Terra-Gen Power Government Affairs VP Gregory Wetstone. “That’s a big order. But the industry has been largely on that path. If we can secure the right kind of policies, we can get there.”
“Getting from where we are today to where we need to be will not be easy,” Zayas said. “There are a lot of things that have to happen.”
The study shows cost reduction pathways from now through 2050 for land based and offshore wind, Zayas explained. Given different variables, those costs can be higher or lower. The study attempts to provide clarity aboutwhere the industry must focus to get the more aggressive cost reductions “because cost so strongly impacts deployment.”
The Wind Vision study describes 3 broad areas of action: Reduce the cost of wind, expand developable areas, and increase the economic value to the nation.
In the “expand developable areas” category, Zayas said, transmission is a key. Required transmission additions are estimated at approximately 900 circuit miles per year in the 2020s and approximately 1,100 circuit miles per year from 2031 to 2050. This is about the average 850 circuit miles to 900 circuit miles per year built in the U.S. since the early 1990s and the 3,800 circuit miles now under construction, the study reports.
The projected cost for that transmission expansion is an estimated at $4 billion per year, slightly less than the $4.3 billion per year currently being spent on new transmission, according to PJM Vice President Andrew Ott. “And there are no engineering or technical obstacles. Only siting and permitting would limit the necessary growth.”
“What we all acknowledge in the environmental community is the reality of climate change,” replied Defenders of Wildlife President andCEO Jamie Rappaport Clark. “Our renewable energy future and the long term conservation of our rich wildlife heritage are flip sides of the same coin. Finding pragmatic solutions for wind development is very important.”
“There are challenges,” Zayas said. “But we have a track record of being able to meet them.”
The costs and benefits
Further projections from the draft study, all still subject to revision, include: Cumulative savings through 2050 of $149 billion will come from reduced fossil fuel purchases that cut power system capital costs, operations and maintenance costs, and fuel costs in power sector generation, storage, and transmission.
Electricity rates through 2030 increase just under 1%, but that build-out provides significant “quantified, monetized social benefits” in return, Zayas said. By 2050, rates are expected to drop $0.003 per kilowatt-hour, a 2% savings for ratepayers.
The cumulative 2013 through 2050 reduction of 12.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent, producing a savings of $400 billion in averted damage from global climate change.
The reduction in other air pollutants prevents 22,000 premature deaths through 2050 and saves $108 billion in avoided health and economic damages.
Water use is reduced 4% by 2020, 11% by 2030 and 23% by 2050.
Increased wind puts downward pressure on natural gas prices and makes the total electricity system an estimated 20% less sensitive to natural gas price fluctuations, resulting in a $280 billion savings for electricity consumers by 2050.
The final question
The last question is how to tell the story in a way that builds support and the study tries to articulate that, Zayas said. “Wind deployment can provide U.S. jobs, U.S. manufacturing, and lease and tax revenues in local communities to strengthen and support a transition towards a low-carbon economy,” it concludes.
Yearly lease payments to landowners for allowing wind development on their property grow from $350 million in 2020 to $650 million in 2030 and $1 billion in 2050, the study reports. And yearly taxes paid to local communities grow from $900 million in 2020 to $1.7 billion in 2030 and $3.2 billion in 2050.
With the fall of coal and nuclear, with possible limits on shale gas supplies, and with the skyrocketing rise of solar, a veteran wind industry researcher pointed out to Utility Dive informally, wind could be the leader in the U.S. energy mix by mid-century.
“The days when wind was thought of as a boutique industry are gone,” Zayas said.