QUICK NEWS, June 21: PRICE WAR – NAT GAS V. NEW ENERGY; TREND – NAT GAS + NEW ENERGY; WIND BOOM IN TEHACHAPI; UTILITY REDESIGNS WIRES FOR SUN
PRICE WAR – NAT GAS V. NEW ENERGY
Analysis: Gas is killing green energy in price war
Gerard Wynn (w/Nina Chestney, Vera Eckert, Barbara Lewis, Karolin Schaps, Muriel Boselli, Christoph Steitz, Nichola Groom, Alister Doyle, Eileen O'Grady and Leonora Walet), June 16, 2011 (Reuters)
"A widening shale gas revolution is killing the economics of renewable energy, even as falling costs allow wind and solar to overtake fossil fuels in niche areas, say energy executives and analysts.
"Solar panel prices are down about 10 percent this year, but chasing a moving target as discovery of cheap shale gas spreads beyond the United States…Even big renewables investors, such as French energy company Total, see solar as a tiny part of the picture decades out, compared with gas. Total paid $1.4 billion for a majority stake in U.S.-based SunPower Corp…"
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"The trouble is that a new "golden age of gas," as the International Energy Agency dubbed it, has created massive over-capacity in a key rival fuel for power generation…Building new gas plants was half the price of new nuclear, and much cheaper than wind and solar, said John Rowe, chairman of U.S. power company Exelon Corp. Shale gas has especially suppressed prices in the United States…Energy ripples from a Japan quake, where some countries are now rolling back nuclear plans after the Fukushima crisis, would favor coal and gas as much as renewables, said International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol…
"Offshore wind may be in the same cost range as gas by 2015, said Joergen Kildahl, a board member at Germany's E.ON group, one of the world's biggest utilities…But that did not include the cost of building back-up for the intermittent power source…"
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"After steep price falls solar power is now close to being economic without subsidies -- called grid parity -- but only…sunny places with high power prices and fewer alternatives…Falls in solar panel prices may flatten by 2013-2014…[and studies suggest there will be] widespread grid parity with retail power prices by 2015…Industry module prices had fallen by about 10 percent in the first half this year and would fall a further 4-5 percent in the summer…[And analysts] and renewable energy supporters often point to hidden costs in the case of fossil fuels and nuclear.
"Fossil fuels, for example, produce carbon emissions whose damaging impact on the world's climate is not priced outside Europe. Rare accidents and waste disposal may not be fully costed in the case of nuclear power. Question marks have been raised over the impact of shale gas on water quality…"
TREND – NAT GAS + NEW ENERGY
Natural gas, renewables the long-term trend: GE
Nina Chestney (w/Gerard Wynn and Jane Baird), June 10, 2011 (Reuters)
"A move to natural gas and renewable energy will be a global long-term trend, even though technology such as wind power is currently more costly than fossil fuels and nuclear, a General Electric executive said…GE is well placed to estimate relative costs as one of the world's biggest suppliers of all major power technologies."
[Paul Browning, vice president of thermal products, GE power and water division:] "GE believes we are seeing a megatrend in natural gas and renewables. These two trends will be long-standing ones, which we will be investing in…In the future, we will need a bit of everything, but gas is certainly going to be an advantaged fuel because unconventional (shale) gas is changing the dynamics."
from AWEA - click to enlarge
"The International Energy Agency said this week that rising gas supplies from unconventional sources could encourage demand to rise to levels exceeding coal by 2030. However, coal is the cheapest form of power generation of all, a fact borne out by energy statistics from oil major BP, which show that world coal consumption last year reached a new record, with 50 percent more burned than in 2000…[S]oaring coal demand…pushed up Chinese CO2 emissions by more than 10 percent last year…
"While the cost of wind power is falling, making it a long-term prospect for investing, it still lags gas, coal and nuclear power, Browning said…The cost of generating electricity includes the up-front capital cost of building a power plant plus ongoing fuel costs. Those costs can be combined in a term called the levelized cost…The levelized cost of onshore wind was around 9-10 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour (KWh)…about double the cost of the cheapest form of coal-fired power generation at 5 cents, and also above 6 cents for U.S. natural gas and 7-8 cents for nuclear…He saw the levelized cost of solar PV at about 15 cents."
Artist's concept of GE's combined nat gas-solar-wind energy complex (click to enlarge)
"GE wants to drive down the costs of technologies such as solar thermal and integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal technology, but natural gas will be in abundant supply for at least the next 25 years, making it the cheapest energy source…Turkish private equity firm MetCap Energy Investments said it would use GE technology to build a $500 million power plant in Turkey that will use both gas and renewable energy…The plant will integrate a gas turbine, a steam turbine, 22 MW of GE wind turbines and 50 MW of solar thermal technology…
"GE is also aiming to drive down the cost of IGCC technology, which burns coal after turning it into gas, improving power conversion efficiency and thereby reducing carbon dioxide emissions…IGCC levelized costs are currently around 15 cents/KWh, but GE hopes to lower the cost to 8-9 cents, partly through a joint venture with China's Shenhua Group Corporation to develop the technology."
WIND BOOM IN TEHACHAPI
Expansion of AWEC brings new jobs to Tehachapi
Piper Hatfield, June 15, 2011 (Tehachapi News)
"Terra-Gen Power is starting the next phase of its expansion project to the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC)…Vestas…has been contracted to provide delivery and commissioning of 100 new wind turbines starting in fall of this year. Upon completion, AWEC will be the largest wind facility in the nation and the nation’s first giga-watt scale wind facility.
"As the AWEC expands, Kern County’s tax revenues grow, along with other sectors of the local economy…Terra-Gen Power…[expects to pay] nearly $40 million per year in property taxes, landowner royalties, procurement of goods and services, and operating personnel…[T]he company has 300 employees and its contractors have hired more than 50 full-time employees…Terra-Gen estimates that Alta VI and Alta VIII will increase the wind energy jobs in California by 20 percent and add an additional 3,000 domestic manufacturing, construction, operation and maintenance jobs."
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"This expansion is called Alta VI and Alta VIII. The first five Alta projects were finished in April of this year when Vestas finished installation of 190 turbines, which transmit 720 mega-watts (MW) to Southern California Edison (SCE)…Alta VI and Alta VIII each represent 150 MW of wind capacity, for a grand total of 1,020 MW…
"[AWEC] will supply [enough power for] 450,000 homes…[cut] carbon dioxide emissions…[by] about 52 million metric tons…[and] contribute to California’s [20 percent by 2010 and 33% by 2020] requirements on using renewable energy sources…"
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"…[Utility Southern California Edison (SCE)] has played a key role in the expansion of the AWEC with the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP), which is the first major wind energy transmission project in California…[It] will bridge the gap between the remote areas that produce renewable energy and the populated cities that can use it…The project should be completed in 2015 and will then be able to transmit 4,500 MW of wind and solar energy…[the] 250 miles…to Los Angeles…[and] San Bernardino [Counties]...
"Access to transmission, along with the 1,550 MW power purchase agreement with SCE, contributed to the marketability of the AWEC, attracting investors like Google and Citi…[which each] invested $55 million in the Alta IV project…[L]ocal businesses have seen a boost from increased activity in the wind industry…"
UTILITY REDESIGNS WIRES FOR SUN
Southern California Edison Redesigning Power Circuits To Accept More Solar
14 June 2011 (Solar Industry)
"Southern California Edison (SCE) has begun an initiative to re-engineer traditional neighborhood power circuits in order to accept large amounts of fluctuating solar generation.
"SCE… is currently connecting large solar power stations to the middle of such circuits. To support this advance in distributed renewable generation, the utility's grid engineers have launched the first major redesign of this component of the traditional power delivery system."
With growth like this through 2020, new technologies to integrate solar will surely be necessary. (click to enlarge)
"Historically, these distribution circuits have been one-way routes for electricity channeled from neighborhood substations to some 1,200 nearby homes and businesses each. Components built into these power paths compensate for the natural drop-off in voltage, ensuring that the customer at the end of a circuit receives the same stable voltage supply as the one nearest the substation."
[Mike Montoya, director of grid advancement, SCE:] "Power delivery engineers have long recognized that smarter distribution circuits would be needed - two-way power paths that include a new generation of components that can sense and adjust instantly to fluctuating power conditions.. To support SCE's decision to install large solar generation stations, our grid engineers have begun identifying, testing and helping the industry create these smarter distribution circuit technologies…"
This is the SCE inverter lab where solar system - transmission system technology is proven (from PV Tech - click to enlarge)
"Lessons learned as SCE deploys its network of community solar plants and upgrades its power distribution system are being shared with other utilities and the solar sector to foster similar advances elsewhere…"