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

The new challenge: To make every day Earth Day.



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  • Weekend Video: TED - Humor At The Edge Of Despair
  • Weekend Video: Just A Drop In The Ocean
  • Weekend Video: FLA Leaders Still Drowning In Denial



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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews


    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • 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



    Your intrepid reporter


      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.


    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Thursday, May 21, 2015


    Climate change threatens electric power supply in California, report warns; By 2050 extended years of drought could lead to an electricity shortage as well as a water shortage…

    Rose Hackman, 18 May 2015 (The Guardian)

    “…By 2050, extended years of drought in the state could lead to an electricity shortage as well as a water shortage, according to [Impacts of climate change on electric power supply in the Western United States] in the journal Nature Climate Change…[A]uthors Matthew Bartos and Mikhail Chester found that almost half (46%) of 978 electric power stations in the western US should expect to face a decrease in electricity generating capacity by…[2040 to 2060], due to climate change…Worse, the study warns that current plans looking at electricity generating facilities in the western US have not taken into account the effects of climate change on productiveness, meaning they may have grossly overestimated the region’s preparedness…” click here for more


    DOE: Bigger Turbines Could Unlock Wind Energy Potential In All 50 States

    19 May 2015 (North American Windpower)

    “Larger wind turbines could allow the U.S. to access untapped, stronger wind resource areas across the country and lead to wind energy development in all 50 states, according to [Enabling Wind Power Nationwide from] the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)…[T]he new report highlights the potential for technical advancements [like taller turbine towers of 110 and 140 meters and larger rotors] to tap wind resources in regions with limited wind development today, such as the Southeast. These new regions represent an additional 700,000 square miles - or about one-fifth of the U.S. - bringing the total area of technical wind potential to 1.8 million square miles…” click here for more


    More evidence that Apple is working on an electric car, and possibly a breakthrough battery

    Michael Graham Richard, May 19, 2015 (TreeHugger)

    “…New court documents from a lawsuit that A123 Systems, a battery company that filed for Bankruptcy in 2012, has filed against Apple…[show] Apple has ‘poached’ some of its employees, including its former Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Mujeeb Ijaz...[who] was in charge of the technical side at A123, making $294,000 per month, guiding a team of engineers to try to make the best electric car battery yet…Getting him to change employers probably required dangling not just money in front of his face, but a big exciting project too…Before working at A123, Ijaz was at Ford, so he's an automotive guy as much as a battery guy…Apple has also hired battery experts that previously worked at Toshiba, LG, Samsung, and Panasonic…It would be rather strange for Apple to hire all these people with automotive background if they had no plans to use their skills…An electric car would certainly fit with Apple's renewed interest in all things green, and the automotive industry is one of the few large markets that could move the needle for the largest public company on Earth.” click here for more


    America Is Finally Getting Its First Offshore Wind Farm. Conservatives Are Trying to Make Sure It’s the Last.

    Rebecca Leber, May 14, 2015 (New republic)

    “…Europe has at least 70 complete [offshore] wind farms and 2,300 turbines in its waters. The United States is just getting started…If all goes according to plan, the Block Island wind farm [off Rhode Island] will begin generating power by fall 2016…[C]onservatives like to propose funding only for research, which doesn’t help businesses take the leap into entry—the nascent [offshore wind] energy source is still several times more expensive to produce than conventional fuels, like oil and gas, that have benefited from over a century of government subsidies…The industry requires some taxpayer help to overcome the initial costly barrier to entry…” click here for more

    Wednesday, May 20, 2015


    How new turbine technology will open up the Southeast to wind development; New NREL maps, fact sheets reveal an 82,000-plus MW opportunity in the region

    Herman K. Trabish, January 15, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    Wind turbine technology is about to open up an almost untouched sector of the U.S. market.

    With over 82,000 MW of coal, natural gas, and nuclear capacity in the region being generated by infrastructure that is over 40 years old, the economic opportunity could be enormous.

    “A new set of resource maps show the impact of turbine technology on the viability of wind in the southeast,” explained Southeastern Wind Coalition President Brian O’Hara. “The present looks a lot better than the past but the future looks even better.”

    The past map assumes the last generation of wind technology’s 80 meter hub height and not much wind potential shows up in the Southeast, O’Hara said. “That’s why there hasn’t been much wind development in the region.”

    The present map assumes today’s more common 110 meter hub height. “The trend in machines has been to taller towers and longer blades, which can be productive in lower wind speed areas,” O’Hara said.

    The future map reflects turbine manufacturers’ plans for wind technology in the coming 5 years to 10 years. “Hub height goes to 140 meters and blades will be longer,” O’Hara said. “That really lights up regions on maps of the Southeast that could produce wind at a 35% or higher capacity factor.”

    What the maps mean to utilities and developers

    The maps won’t change wind developers views, O’Hara said. “They know what is available.”

    What is available is lower costs and a big market advantage.

    Even in the short term, explained Renewable Energy Systems Americas CEO Glen Davis, the recent downward trend in wind’s cost is likely to continue from increased deployment of the newer turbines because they supply more power at the same cost.

    Power purchase agreements (PPAs) for wind-generated electricity at a twenty year fixed rate can also be a very important hedge against fossil fuel price volatility, according to a recent Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) study.

    In North Carolina, both Iberdrola Renewables’ proposed 300 MW Desert Wind project and Apex Clean Energy’s proposed 300 MW Timbermill Wind projectare on hold until the developers can interest a utility in a PPA. Apex also has proposed projects in South Carolina and Tennessee that are unlikely to advance without PPAs.

    The fact sheets and maps, developed by research scientists at the U.S Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), are tools intended “to restart the discussion,” O’Hara explained.

    The fact sheets show the data behind the maps. They highlight things like the current electricity mix, the current age of generators in the states, and the supply chain for wind in the states, he explained.

    “For regulators and utilities not familiar with how much and how quickly the technology has changed," he said, "the message is that wind energy could be a more significant generation opportunity in this region than you thought.”

    For policymakers, both on the state and local levels, the maps and fact sheets will challenge old assumptions and re-open the discussion about wind energy as a viable energy generation option and economic development opportunity, O’Hara said.

    For officials at the county and municipal level, O’Hara added, the message is tostart educating yourself for when the opportunity presents itself.

    Advantages for wind in the Southeast

    Besides the 82,000 MW potential opportunity from aging fossil and nuclear infrastructure, there will be opportunity in the region's rising electricity demand. Southeastern states have 5 of the 6 fastest growing populations and 5 of the 6 biggest electricity markets on the East Coast. They already account for62% of the total East Coast electricity consumption.

    Because the costs for building new fossil and nuclear generation are dominated by federal emissions and safety regulations while building new wind is largely a matter of development and construction costs, the Southeast’s lower labor and materials prices are likely to advantage wind.

    The Southeast’s vertically integrated, regulated utilities will play a critical role in the region's wind growth, according to the Southeastern Wind Coalition. Utilities will see opportunity in owning projects. That will allow for longer-term, more stable development planning that avoids boom-bust cycles. It will also drive larger-scale deployment that will streamline the emergence of a stable supply chain and job market and grow economies of scale that drive costs down further and faster.

    First looks at Southeastern wind

    After Southern Company subsidiaries Alabama Power and Georgia Power signed PPAs for Oklahoma wind that proved more advantageous to the utilities than expected, the Georgia Public Service Commission approved expenditures for further investigation of the in-state resource, O’Hara said. As one of the first on-the-ground resource assessments in the region, it will be crucial to see if results match the NREL projections.

    Georgia Power also issued a Request For Information (RFI) to investigate wind options.

    Responses were due in early January and will be reported to regulators late in February. Wind PPA prices have reached “all-time lows” and the “relative competitiveness of wind” has continued to improve in comparison to wholesale electricity prices, according to LBNL’s most recent Wind Market Technologies Report. But LBNL was only able to evaluate six contracts and one installation in the Southeast.

    Because of the new technology, that will sooner or later change. “The maps and fact sheets highlight this technology trend that is already under way,” O’Hara said. “The future maps light up pretty broad swaths of the states.”

    Development in the Southeast will, however, not be “anywhere and everywhere,” O’Hara added. “Developers will only go where it is appropriate to site projects and generally developers only want to develop where they are welcome.”


    HOT PLAYERS IN ENERGY STORAGE SYSTEMS MRKT Navigant Research Leaderboard Report: Energy Storage Systems Integrators Assessment of Strategy and Execution for 12 Energy Storage Systems Integrators

    2Q 2015 (Navigant Research)

    “…One area of critical importance for the energy storage market is energy storage systems integration (ESSI). This is particularly important in the utility and commercial storage segments, which are growing quickly but often require customization and lengthy interaction with the end user…Systems integrators possess the technical and experiential capability to physically integrate hardware and software components into a working energy storage system (ESS) that meets an end user’s requirements…Players that have differentiated themselves include firms with strong, compelling, and scalable models and ESSI offers…[that] have well-thought out strategies with innovative offers that are responsive to observable market demand…” click here for more

    FLA MISSING OUT ON SOLAR OPPORTUNITY Sunshine State' or Not, Florida Badly Behind on Solar Power

    Jason Dearen, May 19, 2015 (AP via ABC News)

    “…Florida ranks third in the nation in rooftop solar energy potential but 13th in the amount of solar energy generated, according to industry estimates…The industry views Florida as a sleeping giant that could rival California in solar potential…[Utilities say solar, with 2 percent of the market, is growing slowly in Florida because energy costs are 30 percent lower than the national average, making it a bad financial choice] but renewable energy experts say the state lags behind because old laws [make it one of only four states that require solar energy be sold exclusively by utilities, banning sales from companies that install rooftop solar panels at little or no cost and then sell the energy generated to the property owner. A 2016 ballot initiative would change Florida's constitution to allow businesses other than utilities to sell solar power to consumers and drive solar growth]…” click here for more

    SIEMENS TARGETS U.S., LATIN WIND MARKETS Siemens launches new wind turbine in the U.S. with industry-leading capacity factor

    May 19, 2015 (Siemens)

    “…The Siemens SWT-2.3-120 is the first wind turbine designed by Siemens to specifically meet the demands of its North and South American customers. The powerful new turbine features a 120-meter rotor, enabling it to achieve an industry-leading capacity factor…Serial production of the SWT-2.3-120 will commence in the U.S. in 2017 [at Siemens’ Iowa blade factory and its Colorado aerodynamic engineering center]. The product was developed with an eye toward increasing energy production for sites with medium to low wind conditions, which are prevalent in markets within the Americas region…” click here for more

    Tuesday, May 19, 2015


    2014 Hydropower Market Report

    Uría-Martínez, O’Connor, et. al., April 2015 (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

    Executive Summary

    The U.S. hydropower fleet has been providing clean, reliable power for more than a hundred years. However, no systematic documentation exists of the U.S. fleet and the trends influencing it in recent years. This first-ever Hydropower Market Report seeks to fill this gap and provide industry and policy makers with a quantitative baseline on the distribution, capabilities, and status of hydropower in the United States. Overall, the size of the U.S. hydropower fleet has continued to grow over the last decade as owners optimize and upgrade existing assets. Despite some retirements, U.S. hydropower capacity increased by nearly one and a half gigawatts (GW) from 2005 to 2013. For those new projects that have been constructed during that time, only four—out of more than a hundred—were not associated with existing water infrastructure. Instead, the industry has focused on opportunities to develop hydropower on existing pieces of water infrastructure at non-powered dams (NPDs) and conduits. These types of projects, along with dozens of new large-scale pumped storage hydropower (PSH) projects that are being pursued, dominate the current development pipeline and face at least two differences relative to projects completed since 2000. The permitting and licensing process for many smaller hydropower projects has changed in recent years, which could result in less cost and time spent in federal permitting. Also, the extensive bond, tax credit, and grant programs that helped fuel development in recent years are no longer available, and hydropower projects might have to rely on alternative sources of funding and revenue, which could complicate or slow future developments.

    Key findings from this report include the following:

    Section 1—Description of Existing U.S. Hydropower Fleet

    • The U.S. hydropower fleet contains 2,198 active plants with a total capacity of 79.64 GW (approximately 7% of all U.S. generating capacity). Half of the installed capacity is located in three states (Washington, California, and Oregon). The Northwest has the largest amount of installed capacity, but the Northeast ranks first in number of facilities. Despite slow recent growth, in 2013 hydropower remained the largest renewable energy source in the United States.

    • Hydropower projects support more than just the power system—most installed hydropower capacity, particularly in large projects, is connected to reservoirs that also provide recreation, flood control, irrigation, navigation, and/or water supply. At least 84% of the fleet (by capacity) provides one or more of these additional benefits, with recreation being the most common. The multipurpose nature of these projects influences their design, operations, and life cycle costs and benefits.

    • Most of the installed capacity is located at large projects built between 1930 and 1970. On the other hand, the most active decade in number of projects built was the 1980s. But most of those projects were small or medium size and did not represent a large capacity increase compared with previous decades.

    • Federal agencies (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority) own nearly half of the installed hydropower capacity. The 176 plants they own account for 49% of the capacity but only 8% of the plants. Publicly owned utilities, state agencies, and electric cooperatives own an additional 24% of capacity. The remaining quarter—which corresponds to 62% of the plants—belongs to private owners

    Section 2—Trends in Hydropower Development Activity

    • Although the expansion of the U.S. fleet has slowed, growth is still occurring from three different kinds of projects: (1) unit additions and upgrades at existing facilities; (2) NPD and conduit projects to which hydropower generating equipment is added; and (3) low-impact, new stream-reach developments (NSDs).

    • Installed capacity in the United States experienced a net increase of 1.48 GW from 2005 to 2013. Capacity additions to existing projects accounted for 86% of the increases. The net capacity change was positive in every region but was largest in the Northwest (586.75 megawatts [MW]). A total of 432 MW were lost to either downrates (61%) or retirements (39%). In a few cases, retirements involved full decommissioning of the plant (including dam removal).

    • Significant capital investment toward modernizing and upgrading the existing fleet is consistently taking place. Since 2005, the industry has invested at least $6 billion in refurbishments, replacements, and upgrades to hydropower plants. Nonfederal owners have spent more per installed kilowatt than federal owners. Funding mechanisms play an important role in explaining differences in spending within the federal fleet.

    • The length of the development process varies widely across hydropower projects that require a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license depending, among other factors, on size, location, and environmental effects. For new projects requiring a FERC license that came online in the last decade, postlicensing activities required before the start of construction (e.g., additional permitting, financing, and interconnection and power purchase agreement negotiations) typically took longer than obtaining the license.

    • The number of hydropower projects in the FERC or Lease of Power Privilege development pipeline is 331, amounting to a capacity of 4.37 GW. Of that capacity, 407 MW are currently under construction, and an additional 315 MW have received authorization by FERC or the Bureau of Reclamation. More than 60% of proposed capacity in the FERC pipeline corresponds to developers holding (or having solicited) preliminary permits—which grant the developer exclusive rights to study and file a license application at a specific site during a three-year period. The attrition rate between the preliminary permit and license application stages has traditionally been high.

    • Regardless of modality (NPD, conduit, or NSD), the median project size in the development pipeline is small (<=10 MW). NSD is the least common category and is highly concentrated in the Northwest. Of NSD projects, 66% are in a single state: Alaska. NPD projects dominate the pipeline, accounting for 233 projects and 58% of capacity.

    • New NPD and conduit projects will typically have to operate within parameters that do not harm the originally intended function of the dam or conduit. Consequently, these projects will normally have limited flexibility in their mode of operation but also might have limited additional environmental impact because of their use of existing infrastructure.

    Section 3—Hydropower Performance Metrics

    • Generation from the hydropower fleet has averaged 288 terawatt-hours from 2011 to 2013, accounting for 7.1% of U.S. electricity generation during that period. Even though the total generation changes significantly from year to year based on water availability, its geographical and seasonal distribution is relatively stable.

    • The capacity factor for the entire fleet was 39% in 2013, 40% in 2012, and 46% in 2011. Capacity factors vary from year to year because of hydrologic conditions, water demands for competing uses, environmental and regulatory restrictions, and factors such as plant outages that affect available capacity.

    • There is also significant plant-to-plant variability in capacity factor. In 2012, one quarter of active projects had capacity factors below 30% while projects in the top quartile had capacity factors above 55%. The two most common operational modes for facilities in the top quartile were run-of-river and conduit.

    • For a representative set of plants installed before 1970, a long-term decreasing trend in capacity factor is visible. Likely contributors to this trend include equipment aging—combined with different funding availability for refurbishments and upgrades—operational changes from environmental regulations, climate change, and realignments of the relative priority given to different water uses in multipurpose projects.

    • For the set of turbine-generator units that report performance data to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation during the 2000–2013 period, there is a visible decreasing trend in availability factor. The trend is most pronounced for smaller (<=10 MW) units and suggests a trade-off between planned and forced outages. However, availability factor changes by season and has been on average 5 to 10 percentage points larger in the summer—when electricity demands are generally the greatest—compared with fall.

    • The operational mode of the hydropower fleet displays a broad spectrum of flexibilities. For the portion of the fleet for which operational mode information was available, more than 39 GW have operational modes with high flexibility potential. That portion of the fleet will be the most valuable for following the shape of the daily load curves primarily influenced by demand fluctuations and variable renewable generation.

    Section 4—Pumped Storage Hydropower

    • PSH plants account for the bulk of utility-scale electrical energy storage in the United States (and worldwide). With their ability to provide a wide range of ancillary services, PSH plants play an important role in ensuring grid reliability. In the United States, many new PSH projects are under consideration but—in contrast with other countries—none is currently under construction.

    • PSH plants can consist of only reversible turbine-generator units (dedicated PSH plants) or a combination of conventional and reversible turbine-generator units (hybrid PSH plants). Median size, ownership, and patterns of operation are significantly different for the two kinds of plants.

    • The PSH fleet comprises 42 plants with a capacity of 21.6 GW. The Southeast has the most PSH capacity (9.06 GW). Three-quarters of the installed capacity is located at very large (>500 MW) plants indicating that economies of scale have proved to be very strong for this type of project.

    • The majority of PSH construction took place between 1960 and 1990. PSH complemented nuclear and thermal base load plants that provided cheap power for pumping and that were not well suited to follow demand peaks. Since 1995, except for a 40-MW plant that went into service on 2011 (Olivenhain Hodges, located in California), all additional PSH capacity has come from modernization and upgrades to the existing fleet.

    • Given current electricity prices in many areas of the United States, analyses have shown that the old model of peak, off-peak energy arbitrage might no longer be sufficient to justify additional PSH development. A new wave of interest in PSH development has been spurred by (1) regulatory changes in electricity markets, allowing the participation of storage in ancillary service and capacity markets; and (2) policies, mostly at the state level, requiring increased penetration of renewable generation. Due to its flexibility, PSH is capable of providing a range of ancillary services to support the integration of variable renewables into the grid.

    • There are 51 PSH projects in the FERC development pipeline with a capacity of 39 GW. However, the developers had pursued a license application for only three of these projects as of the end of 2014. The rest have been issued (or are waiting for) preliminary permits to conduct feasibility studies. Most of the projects are pursued by private developers.

    • In 2014, FERC authorized the first original license for PSH in more than 15 years (Eagle Mountain) and a second PSH facility (Iowa Hill) as part of the relicensing of an existing hydropower project—the Upper American River Project in California. Eagle Mountain and Iowa Hill differ substantially in configuration (closed-loop versus open-loop), size (1,300 versus 400 MW), and ownership (private versus public). They are both in California, an attractive market because of the high wind and solar penetration and a state renewable portfolio standard with a target of 33% by 2020.

    • The key performance metric for PSH is its availability factor. For units reporting performance data to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the availability factor has decreased slightly over the 2000–2014 period. The effect of seasonality is more acute and noticeable than for hydropower plants. On average, availability factors stayed above 90% every summer but fell as low as 75% in some fall and spring seasons. Section 5—Trends in U.S. Hydropower Supply Chain

    • Since 1996, Voith has led the United States in terms of market share of installed turbine capacity. Of the 9,455 MW capacity installed identified—either at new facilities or as upgrades/retrofits—from 1996 to 2011, Voith manufactured 5,389 MW, including 2,683 MW for 62 turbine replacements/upgrades at federal facilities. Alstom held the second largest share of the United States market with 1,991 MW.

    • At least 172 companies, spread across 35 states, have manufacturing facilities in the United States to produce one or more of six major hydropower components (turbines, generators, transformers, penstocks, gates, and valves). The facilities typically are located close to substantial installed hydropower capacity and/or access to waterways to facilitate shipping of their end products.

    • Turbines are the only hydropower plant component for which trade data—excluding turbinegenerator sets—are publicly available. Most of the U.S. hydraulic turbine trade involves turbine parts.

    • The direction and magnitude of U.S. hydraulic turbine trade with various countries has changed during the last 15 years. More than 50% of the value of U.S. hydraulic turbine trade during the last three years has corresponded to imports and exports within North America—a significantly larger percentage than in the late 1990s. From 1996 to 2014, China and other Asian countries have gone from net importers of U.S. manufactured turbines to net exporters of turbines—and turbine parts—to the United States. Section 6—Policy and Market Drivers

    • Broadly supported federal regulatory reforms have altered the permitting and licensing process for some (typically smaller) projects. Federal legislation passed unanimously in 2013 aims to lower the cost and time necessary for small NPDs and conduits to obtain federal permits. FERC is also investigating the potential for a two-year licensing process for NPDs.

    • Access to incentives has supported nearly all recent capacity additions and new projects. Although public and private owners have access to different funding and incentive resources, both have been able to leverage incentives provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to support project development efforts. This substantially benefitted project economics. The1603 grant program supported more than $1.6 billion of hydropower development activity by private owners, and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds and Build America Bonds supported billions more by public power entities. In addition, several states have provided financing for smaller projects.

    • Hydropower is treated very differently across state-level renewable portfolio standards, which have been major drivers of growth in other renewables. Each of the 29 states that include hydropower as a primary-tier renewable defines hydropower eligibility in a unique way. Common restrictions on eligibility are inconsistent and include project size, type, age, and a variety of implicit and explicit environmental sustainability criteria. The way in which hydropower is classified as “renewable” for purposes of renewable portfolio standard compliance or future carbon policies could weigh heavily on project development prospects.


    FOSSIL SUBSIDIES AND THE DAMAGE DONE Global energy subsidies fuel climate change, says IMF study

    Shawn Donnan, May 18, 2015 (Financial Times)

    “Governments around the world will subsidise the cost of oil, gas and coal to the tune of $5.3tn this year, fuelling pollution and climate change as they misallocate the equivalent of what is spent globally on public health…It amounts to a clarion call for higher taxes on energy and therefore higher energy prices for consumers at a time when much of the global economy remains in a fragile recovery…The $5.3tn ‘true cost’ of government energy subsidies that the IMF team arrived at is equivalent to 6.5 per cent of global economic output. It is also more than twice the $1.9tn cost calculated by IMF researchers just two years ago. At the time the fund itself called that estimate ‘staggering’…More than half the total for 2015, or $2.7tn, came from an estimate of the cost of “local pollution”, while a further $1.3tn was attributed to the price of global warming…” click here for more

    NO CAROLINA’S FIGHT FOR NEW ENERGY Push To Change NC Solar Energy Law Raises Concerns

    Keri Brown, May 18, 2015 (88.5 – WFDD)

    “North Carolina lawmakers are considering a series of solar energy bills. They include extending tax credits for solar energy installations and setting up a loan fund to help businesses and homeowners pay for solar projects…Environmental groups say they’re concerned over proposed legislation that could repeal the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard…At issue is a requirement that the state's utilities generate a portion of their power from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and livestock waste methane. Current state law says they must account for 12.5 percent of total retail sales by 2021…[Fossil-fuel backed groups like] Americans For Prosperity support repealing the state’s renewable portfolio standard. They say millions of North Carolina residents are forced to pay higher energy bills under the legislation…” click here for more

    GE COMPUTERIZES WIND GE Uses Cloud Computing to Boost Wind-Energy Output 20%

    James Passeri, May 19, 2015 (The Street)

    “…[General Electric] is introducing a wind-farm system that boosts production as much as 20% by linking turbines with software that not only gathers and analyzes industrial data but improves its analytical capability over time by learning from a machine's performance… The new product is one piece of CEO Jeffrey Immelt's plan to boost sales from GE's sprawling industrial divisions as he sells off most of the lucrative finance business to focus on the company's manufacturing roots…[With the new wind-farm platform] operators can adjust the machines in real time to achieve the best results. Cost savings from the technology, if applied to all wind turbines, would add $50 billion in value to the global wind industry, by adding $100 million in value to every 100 mega-watt farm, the company estimated…” click here for more

    Monday, May 18, 2015


    The Future of Solar Energy

    Schmalensee, et. al., May 2015 (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

    Executive Summary

    Solar electricity generation is one of very few low-carbon energy technologies with the potential to grow to very large scale. As a consequence, massive expansion of global solar generating capacity to multi-terawatt scale is very likely an essential component of a workable strategy to mitigate climate change risk. Recent years have seen rapid growth in installed solar generating capacity, great improvements in technology, price, and performance, and the development of creative business models that have spurred investment in residential solar systems. Nonetheless, further advances are needed to enable a dramatic increase in the solar contribution at socially acceptable costs. Achieving this role for solar energy will ultimately require that solar technologies become cost-competitive with fossil generation, appropriately penalized for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, with — most likely — substantially reduced subsidies.

    This study examines the current state of U.S. solar electricity generation, the several technological approaches that have been and could be followed to convert sunlight to electricity, and the market and policy environments the solar industry has faced. Our objective is to assess solar energy’s current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in U.S. government policies that could more effi ciently and effectively support the industry’s robust, long-term growth. We focus in particular on three preeminent challenges for solar generation: reducing the cost of installed solar capacity, ensuring the availability of technologies that can support expansion to very large scale at low cost, and easing the integration of solar generation into existing electric systems. Progress on these fronts will contribute to greenhouse-gas reduction efforts, not only in the United States but also in other nations with developed electric systems. It will also help bring light and power to the more than one billion people worldwide who now live without access to electricity.

    This study considers grid-connected electricity generation by photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar (or solar thermal) power (CSP) systems. These two technologies differ in important ways. A CSP plant is a single largescale installation, typically with a generating capacity of 100 megawatts (MW) or more, that can be designed to store thermal energy and use it to generate power in hours with little or no sunshine. PV systems, by contrast, can be installed at many scales — from utility plants with capacity in excess of 1 MW to residential rooftop installations with capacities under 10 kilowatts (kW) — and their output responds rapidly to changes in solar radiation. In addition, PV can use all incident solar radiation while CSP uses only direct irradiance and is therefore more sensitive to the scattering effects of clouds, haze, and dust.

    Realizing Solar Energy’s

    Technical Potential

    Photovoltaic Modules The cost of installed PV is conventionally divided into two parts: the cost of the solar module and so-called balance-of-system (BOS) costs, which include costs for inverters, racking and installation hardware, design and installation labor, and marketing, as well as various regulatory and fi nancing costs. PV technology choices infl uence both module and BOS costs. After decades of development, supported by substantial federal research and development (R&D) investments, today’s leading solar PV technology, wafer-based crystalline silicon (c-Si), is technologically mature and large-scale c-Si module manufacturing capacity is in place. For these reasons, c-Si systems likely will dominate the solar energy market for the next few decades and perhaps beyond. Moreover, if the industry can substantially reduce its reliance on silver for electrical contacts, material inputs for c-Si PV generation are available in suffi cient quantity to support expansion to terawatt scale.

    However, current c-Si technologies also have inherent technical limitations — most importantly, their high processing complexity and low intrinsic light absorption (which requires a thick silicon wafer). The resulting rigidity and weight of glass-enclosed c-Si modules contribute to BOS cost. Firms that manufacture c-Si modules and their component cells and input materials have the means and the incentive to pursue remaining opportunities to make this technology more competitive through improvements in effi ciency and reductions in manufacturing cost and materials use. Thus there is not a good case for government support of R&D on current c-Si technology.

    The limitations of c-Si have led to research into thin-fi lm PV alternatives. Commercial thin-fi lm PV technologies, primarily cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) solar cells, constitute roughly 10% of the U.S. PV market today and are already cost-competitive with silicon. Unfortunately, some commercial thin-fi lm technologies are based on scarce elements, which makes it unlikely that they will be able to achieve terawatt-scale deployment at reasonable cost. The abundance of tellurium in Earth’s crust, for example, is estimated to be only one-quarter that of gold.

    A number of emerging thin-fi lm technologies that are in the research stage today use novel material systems and device structures and have the potential to provide superior performance with lower manufacturing complexity and module cost. Several of these technologies use Earth-abundant materials (even silicon in some cases). Other properties of some new thin-fi lm technologies, such as low weight and compatibility with installation in fl exible formats, offer promise for enabling reductions in BOS costs along with lower module costs.

    Though these emerging technologies are not nearly competitive with c-Si today, they have the potential to signifi cantly reduce the cost of PV-generated electricity in the future. And while the private sector is likely to view R&D investments in these technologies as risky, the payoff could be enormous. Therefore, to increase the contribution of solar energy to long-term climate change mitigation, we strongly recommend that a large fraction of federal resources available for solar research and development focus on environmentally benign, emerging thin-fi lm technologies that are based on Earth-abundant materials. The recent shift of federal dollars for solar R&D away from fundamental research of this sort to focus on near-term cost reductions in c-Si technology should be reversed.

    Concentrated Solar Power

    CSP systems could be deployed on a large scale without encountering bottlenecks in materials supply. Also, the ability to include thermal energy storage in these systems means that CSP can be a source of dispatchable electricity. The best prospects for improving CSP economics are likely found in higher operating temperatures and more effi cient solar energy collection. Therefore R&D and demonstration expenditures on CSP technology should focus on advances in system design, including singlefocus systems such as solar towers, and in the underlying materials science, that would allow for higher-temperature operations, and on the development of improved systems for collecting and receiving solar energy.

    Historically, U.S. federal government support for CSP technology has included loan guarantees for commercial-scale installations. CSP plants only make economic sense at large scale and, given the technical and fi nancial risks, investors in these large installations are naturally conservative in their selection of system designs and component technologies. Missing in federal efforts to promote CSP technology has been support for pilot-scale plants, like those common in the chemical industry, that are small enough to allow for affordable higher-risk experimentation, but large enough to shed light on problems likely to be encountered at commercial scale. Therefore we recommend that the U.S. Department of Energy establish a program to support pilot-scale CSP systems in order to accelerate progress toward new CSP system designs and materials.

    The Path To Cost Competitiveness

    PV Deployment

    As of the end of 2014, PV systems accounted for over 90% of installed U.S. solar capacity, with about half of this capacity in utility-scale plants and the balance spread between residential and commercial installations. The industry has changed rapidly. In the past half-dozen years, U.S. PV capacity has expanded from less than 1,000 MW to more than 18,000 MW. Recent growth has been aided in part by a 50%–70% drop in reported PV prices (without federal subsidies) per installed peak watt. (The peak watt rating of a PV module or system refl ects its output under standard test conditions of irradiance and temperature.) Almost all of this improvement has refl ected falling prices for modules and inverters. In addition, the market structure for solar energy is changing, particularly at the residential level, with the evolution of new business models, the introduction of new fi nancing mechanisms, and impending reductions in federal subsidies.

    Currently, the estimated installed cost per peak watt for a residential PV system is approximately 80% greater than that for a utility-scale plant, with costs for a typical commercial-scale installation falling somewhere in between. Module costs do not differ signifi cantly across sectors, so the major driver of cost differences in different market segments is in the BOS component, which accounts for 65% of estimated costs for utility-scale PV systems, but 85% of installed cost for residential units. Experience in Germany suggests that several components of BOS cost, such as the cost of customer acquisition and installation labor, should come down as the market matures. Costs associated with permitting, interconnection, and inspection (PII) may be more diffi cult to control: across the United States, thousands of municipal and state authorities and 3,200 organizations that distribute electricity to retail customers are involved in setting and enforcing PII requirements. A national or regional effort to establish common rules and procedures for permitting, interconnection, and inspection could help lower the PII component of installed system cost, particularly in the residential sector and perhaps in commercial installations as well.

    In the past few years, the nature of the residential solar business in the United States has changed appreciably. A third-party ownership model, which is currently allowed in half the states, is displacing direct sales of residential PV systems by enabling homeowners to avoid up-front capital costs. The development of the third-party ownership model has been a boon to residential PV development in the United States, and residential solar would expand more rapidly if third-party ownership were allowed in more states.

    Today the estimated cost for a utility-scale PV installation closely matches the average reported price per peak watt, indicating active competition in the utility segment of the PV market. However, a large difference exists between contemporary reported prices and estimated costs for residential PV systems, indicating that competition is less intense in this market segment.

    Two influences on PV pricing are peculiar to the U.S. residential market and to the thirdparty ownership model. One is the effect of current federal tax subsidies for solar generation: a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) and accelera ted depreciation for solar assets under the Modifi ed Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS). Third-party owners of PV systems generally need to operate on a large scale to realize the value of these provisions, which creates a barrier to entry. In addition, because there is generally little price competition between third-party installers, PV developers often are not competing with one another to gain residential customers, but with the rates charged by the local electric distribution company.

    Some of the largest third-party solar providers operate as vertically integrated businesses, and their systems are not bought and sold in “arm’s-length” transactions. Instead, for purposes of calculating federal subsidies they typically can choose to estimate their units’ fair market value based on the total income these units will yield. In a less than fully competitive market, this estimation approach can result in fair market values that exceed system costs and thus lead to higher federal subsidies than under a direct sale model. Where competition is not intense, subsidies are not necessarily passed on to the residential customer.

    Over time, more intense competition in the residential PV market (as a natural consequence of market growth and the entry of additional suppliers) should direct more of the available subsidy to the residential customer by driving down both power purchase rates under third-party contracts and prices in direct sales. And these pressures will also intensify industry efforts to reduce the BOS component of installation cost.

    Even with greater competition, however, an inherent ineffi ciency in the current, investmentbased federal subsidy system will remain. Because residential solar has a higher investment cost per peak watt, and because the magnitude of the federal subsidy is based on a provider-generated calculation of fair market value, residential solar receives far higher subsidies per watt of deployed capacity than utility-scale solar. Moreover, because third-party contracts are infl uenced by local utility rates, which vary considerably across the country, the per-watt subsidy for identical residential or commercial installations can differ substantially from region to region.

    Solar Economics…Residential Solar…Integration Into Existing Electric Systems…Distributed Solar…Wholesale Markets…Deployment of Current Technology…

    A Closing Thought

    In the face of the global warming challenge, solar energy holds massive potential for meeting humanity’s energy needs over the long term while cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Solar energy has recently become a rapidly growing source of electricity worldwide, its advancement aided by federal, state, and local policies in the United States as well as by government support in Europe, China, and elsewhere. As a result the solar industry has become global in important respects.

    Nevertheless, while costs have declined substantially in recent years and market penetration has grown, major scale-up in the decades ahead will depend on the solar industry’s ability to overcome several major hurdles with respect to cost, the availability of technology and materials to support very large-scale expansion, and successful integration at large scale into existing electric systems. Without government policies to help overcome these challenges, it is likely that solar energy will continue to supply only a small percentage of world electricity needs and that the cost of reducing carbon emissions will be higher than it could be.

    A policy of pricing CO2 emissions will reduce those emissions at least cost. But until Congress is willing to adopt a serious carbon pricing regime, the risks and challenges posed by global climate change, combined with solar energy’s potential to play a major role in managing those risks and challenges, create a powerful rationale for sustaining and refining government efforts to support solar energy technology using the most efficient available policies.


    CALIF’S EMISSIONS CUTS HIT WORLD CHARTS California Green Innovation Index goes global: Golden State ranks top among countries worldwide

    May 18, 2015 (Next 10)

    “In advance of the historic United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris this year, the California Green Innovation Index, for the first time, analyzes and ranks the Golden State’s economic and energy performance in comparison to the world’s 50 largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting nations…[California ranks] among top ten nations worldwide in total renewable energy generation, share of electricity from renewable sources, highest energy productivity and lowest carbon intensity (emissions per GDP)…For every dollar of goods and services, California emits less carbon than any nation except France…[and is] #5 in the world in energy productivity (GDP relative to total energy consumption)…” click here for more

    NEXT WIND The Future of Wind Turbines? No Blades

    Liz Stinson, May 15, 2015 (Wired)

    “…Vortex Bladeless is proposing a radical new way to generate wind energy that will once again upend what you see…Their idea is the Vortex, a bladeless wind turbine that looks like a giant rolled joint shooting into the sky…Instead of capturing energy via the circular motion of a propeller, the Vortex takes advantage of what’s known as vorticity, an aerodynamic effect that produces a pattern of spinning vortices…[that shake structures enough to] cause their eventual collapse…The Vortex’s shape was developed computationally to ensure the spinning wind (vortices) occurs synchronously along the entirety of the mast…At the base of the cone are two rings of repelling magnets…When the cone oscillates one way, the repelling magnets pull it in the other direction…This kinetic energy is then converted into electricity [silently and with no moving parts]…” click here for more

    SOLAR ROAD PRODUCES Solar power road surface actually works; A Dutch solar power-generating road is making more electricity than expected.

    Patrick Nelson, May 18, 2015 (Network World)

    “…[T]hat road surface being tested in the Netherlands that act[s] as a giant solar panel converting solar energy into electricity…actually worked…Six months into the test, the engineers say they've generated 3,000kwH of power from the 70-meter bike path test track. That's enough power to run a one-person household for a year, and more than expected of the project, according to SolaRoad, the company behind the experiment…SolaRoad's road surface acts as a huge photovoltaic panel. Practical applications thought of thus far include street lighting, traffic systems, and electric vehicles…Designers are keen on the idea of developing a system where electricity could be passed onto vehicles as they drive down the road…” click here for more

    Saturday, May 16, 2015

    TED - Humor At The Edge Of Despair

    “Laughing at the unfunniest thing of all.” From TEDx Talks via YouTube

    Just A Drop In The Ocean

    A taste of the problem with oil spills. From Unite For Climate via YouTube

    FLA Leaders Still Drowning In Denial

    The utter absurdity of Florida’s climate change denial policy continues to make the news. From greenmanbucket via YouTube

    Friday, May 15, 2015


    China, India, partner on climate change

    Timothy Cama, May 15, 2015 (The Hill)

    “...[Destroying the claim of deniers that U.S. efforts are fruitless if Asia keeps spewing greenhouse gases, the] leaders of China and India…[announced] a united front in the fight against climate change in a rare joint statement…China, the world’s No. 1 greenhouse gas emitter, and India, the No. 3, said wealthier countries need to help the climate fight by providing the technology, financing and expertise to help developing countries like China and India cut emissions and cope with the effects of global warming…[They pledged to submit their commitments [for greenhouse gas reductions] for the United Nations climate pact summit in Paris before the December meeting…” click here for more


    China's Revolution In Wind Energy

    Niall McCarthy, May 12, 2015 (Forbes)

    "Back in 2010, China became the world’s largest wind energy producer and the boom is continuing unabated, fueled by government support and ambitious renewable energy targets. Data from the China Wind Energy Association (CWEA) revealed that wind energy surpassed nuclear for the very first time in 2012 to become the country’s third largest source of electricity, after coal and hydro-electric power...According to a forecast from Statista, the future still remains lucrative for Chinese wind turbine manufacturing with operating revenue expected to reach $2.1 billion by 2020..." click here for more


    Most efficient solar energy dish in the world uses engine developed in 1816

    Matthew Humphries, May 13, 2015 (Geek)

    "Swedish company Ripasso Energy has created a new, state-of-the-art solar energy dish, which it believes is the most efficient in the world. One of the key elements of Ripasso’s system is an engine originally thought up nearly 200 years ago in 1816...Ripasso’s CSP system works by combining a parabolic mirror with a Stirling engine...[Photovoltaic panels] typically convert 23% of the sun’s energy to electricity, however, making that usable on the grid means efficiency drops to just 15%. The Ripasso CSP system converts 34% of the sun’s energy to grid-ready electricity..." click here for more


    Ocean energy: EU leads in technology development and deployment


    "New technologies in the last decade have shown slow but steady progress of ocean and sea energy power: about 30 tidal and 45 wave energy companies are currently at an advanced stage of technological development worldwide, many of them nearing pre-commercial array demonstration and others deploying full-scale prototypes in real-sea environment, according to a new JRC ocean energy status report. The EU is at the forefront..." click here for more

    Thursday, May 14, 2015


    Climate Denialists In Congress Acting As NASA's Kryptonite

    Adam Frank, May 12 2015 (NPR)

    “…[The mention of NASA creates thoughts of astronauts, moon landings, space telescopes, Mars probes and other] superhero stuff in the eyes of most people…If you are intent on convincing people there is no climate change, then the last thing you want is NASA — with all its heroism and accuracy — telling folks climate change is real. So, faced with this dilemma, climate denialist's have come up with a clever solution: Get NASA out of climate change science…[That is why] the House Science, Space and Technology Committee recently approved a bill that would cut at least $300 million from NASA's earth-science budget…” click here for more


    How Grassroots Efforts Are Making Solar Energy Affordable

    Amy Zimmer, May 13, 2015 (DNAinfo New York)

    “…Here Comes Solar, a new community initiative from the nonprofit Solar One…helps home owners get projects done at a discount by essentially turning small jobs into bigger ones…The organization works with clusters of property owners, doing free site assessments to see if solar projects are viable for them. Once it has a critical mass of three to 10 committed homeowners in a geographic area, it bundles their projects together and solicits bids from pre-vetted solar installers…[It] is one of several efforts supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) looking to harness grassroots interest in sustainable energy…” click here for more


    ITC Energizes Thumb Loop Transmission Line - capable of delivering 5,000 MW of low-cost wind energy across Michigan

    May 13, 2015 (PRNewswire via MarketWatch)

    “…[The ITC Transmission Thumb Loop high-voltage transmission project is complete and energized]…ITC invested an estimated $510 million to build the 345,000 volt (345 kV) [5,000 MW] line, which serves as the backbone of a system designed to meet the identified maximum wind energy potential of Michigan's Thumb region…Governor Rick Snyder said the Thumb Loop has allowed the state to expand its agricultural processing abilities and add low-cost renewable energy to its grid]…During the construction phase of the Thumb Loop, ITC estimates the project had a direct impact of $366 million to the Michigan economy…” click here for more


    Electric Vehicle Geographic Forecasts; Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales Forecasts for North America by State/Province, Metropolitan Area, City, and Selected Utility Service Territory

    2Q 2015 (Navigant Research)

    “…North America is the strongest market for light duty (LD) plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), with more than 133,000 sold in 2014…[T]he United States is expected to have] annual PEV sales in 2024 exceeding 860,000 in the conservative scenario and 1.2 million in the aggressive. Annual sales in Canada, which is about 1 year behind the United States in terms of vehicle availability, are expected to reach over 74,000 PEVs in the conservative scenario and over 91,000 in the aggressive by 2024…PEV sales are concentrated in California, where the vehicles already account for over 3% of the state’s total LD vehicle market. State incentives…will likely continue to push PEV penetrations in the state to between 15% and 22% by 2024. Other ZEV Program participating states are expected to see similar growth…” click here for more