The President Describes The Republican Climate Dodge
President Obama explains why the Republicans’ “I’m not a scientist” dodge for dealing with climate change doesn’t work. From CleanEnergySACE via YouTube
Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...
WEEKEND VIDEOS, January 24-25:
President Obama explains why the Republicans’ “I’m not a scientist” dodge for dealing with climate change doesn’t work. From CleanEnergySACE via YouTube
Calling out the world’s wealthiest. From Comedy Central
Climate change inaction pushes 'doomsday clock' closest to midnight since 1984; Symbolic clock is now at three minutes to apocalypse, the darkest hour for humanity since the cold war
Suzanne Goldenberg, 22 January 2015 (UK Guardian)
“The symbolic doomsday clock moved to three minutes before midnight… because of the gathering dangers of climate change and nuclear proliferation, signalling the gravest threat to humanity since the throes of the cold war…It was the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1984, when arms-control negotiations stalled and virtually all channels of communication between the US and the former Soviet Union closed down…The move came as scientists sounded a warning about climate change for the second time in three years…2014 was the hottest year in 130 years of systematic record keeping. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000…But the scientists suggested that the greater danger lay in the failure of leaders to recognise and act on climate change…The greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change have risen more since 2000 than in the three previous decades combined…[Yet, negotiators have] steadily lowered their ambitions for a global climate deal…In 1991, when the threat of nuclear annihilation receded with the end of the cold war, the clock stood at 17 minutes to midnight…” click here for more
Solar Panels Floating on Water Will Power Japan's Homes; More solar power plants are being built on water, but is this such a good idea?
Bryan Lufkin, January 16, 2015 (National Geographic)
"…[F]loating solar structures have been announced in, among other countries, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Italy…The biggest floating plant, in terms of output, will soon be placed atop the reservoir of Japan'sYamakura Dam in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo. When completed in March 2016, it will cover 180,000 square meters, hold 50,000 photovoltaic solar panels, and power nearly 5,000 households…The Yamakura Dam project is a collaboration byKyocera (a Kyoto-headquartered electronics manufacturer), Ciel et Terre (a French company that designs, finances, and operates photovoltaic installations), and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation…Placing the panels on a lake or reservoir frees up surrounding land for agricultural use, conservation, or other development…[but] floating solar energy plants present relatively new difficulties. For one thing, everything needs to be waterproofed, including the panels and wiring…[There must be] adherence to regulations on water quality…[Testing is necessary to] make sure the platforms could withstand the whims of Mother Nature [like typhoons, earthquakes, landslides, and tidal waves…Many nations [with limited available land] could benefit from floating solar power. And Japan is their poster child…” click here for more
Germany more than doubled its offshore wind power capacity in 2014
January 19, 2015 (ZME Science)
“In 2014, Germany installed 543 offshore wind turbines, reaching a capacity of 2.35 gigawatts (GW), getting closer to their plans of having 6.5 GW of wind energy infrastructure installed and connected by 2020…[Germany’s] renewable energy sector has grown from 6.4% in 2000 to just over 30% in 2014. For the first time, non-hydro renewables (wind, solar and biogas) accounted for a larger portion of net electricity production than brown coal. While peak-generation from combined wind and solar reached a new all-time high of 74% in April 2014, wind power saw its best day ever on December 12, 2014, generating 562 GWh. Germany is already being called ‘the world’s first major renewable energy economy’…Wind is a major player in the increasing renewables…The offshore energy sector has more than doubled in 2014 alone,..Unlike onshore farms, offshore parks face no limit on turbine size, while steady sea winds allow them to turn about 42 percent of the time, about double the “load factor” onshore…” click here for more
China Nears Publication of Plan to Guide Geothermal Developments
Jannuary 21, 2015 (Bloomberg News)
“China could be nearing publication of a plan to guide the development of geothermal energy resources over [the years 2016 to 2020 as soon as July] as it plunges ahead with efforts to get more of its energy from renewable sources…according to Liu Jinxia, head of the geothermal research institute at Sinopec Star Petroleum, which acts as a government think tank and is authorized to research geothermal energy…The National Energy Administration and the Ministry of Land and Resources are currently reviewing the geothermal development plans from dozens of local governments…A detailed plan would map out China’s geothermal resources and outline how companies and governments could commercialize the energy source…China has one-sixth of the world’s geothermal resources, according to Sinopec Star Petroleum. Even so, the country had just 28 megawatts of geothermal generating capacity at the end of 2014, or 20 times less than neighboring Japan…The government’s current plan is for geothermal energy by 2020 to replace 50 million metric tons of coal a year and account for about 1.3 percent of China’s energy mix…” click here for more
US Senate refuses to accept humanity's role in global climate change, again; Senators accept global warming is not a hoax but fail to recognise human activity is to blame, nearly 27 years after scientists laid out man’s role
Suzanne Goldenberg, 22 January 2015 (UK Guardian)
“It is nearly 27 years now since a Nasa scientist testified before the US Senate that the agency was 99% certain that rising global temperatures were caused by the burning of fossil fuels…And the Senate still has not got it…The Senate voted virtually unanimously that climate change is occurring and not, as some Republicans have said, a hoax – but it defeated two measures attributing its causes to human activity…Only one Senator, Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, voted against a resolution declaring climate change was real and not – as his fellow Republican, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma once famous declared – a hoax. That measure passed 98 to one…But the Senate voted down two measures that attributed climate change to human activity – and that is far more important…Unless Senators are prepared to acknowledge the causes of climate change, it is likely they will remain unable and unwilling to do anything about it…Democrats had planned the symbolic, “sense of the Senate” votes as a way of exposing the Republicans’ increasingly embarrassing climate change denial. Further climate votes will come up…” click here for more
Google’s new wind turbine; Makani, a 600kW wind turbine based on the concept of kiteboarding, is currently under development at Google's R&D lab, Google X.
January 21, 2015 (Today’s Energy Solutions)
“Google X's Makani X is working to…[develop] energy kites, a new type of wind turbine that uses lightweight electronics, advanced materials, and smart software to generate more energy with less materials – all at lower cost…While wind turbines have reduced wind energy costs, they don’t make economic sense in [some] places…[It] is made possible by recent technological innovations. Computers have become smaller and more powerful, while carbon fiber has become stronger, lighter, and less expensive. These breakthroughs replace tons of steel and concrete with lightweight electronics, advanced materials, and smart software…By using a strong flexible tether, energy kites can reach higher altitudes (80m to 350m) and eliminate 90% of the materials of conventional wind turbines, resulting in lower costs. Because they are more aerodynamic and can access stronger winds in more locations, each individual energy kite can generate 50% more energy…The Makani energy kite system consists of four parts: the energy kite, the tether, the ground station, and the computer system…” click here for more
Why cheap gas can’t kill the electric car
Levi M. Tillemann, January 16, 2015 (Washington Post)
“From 2010 to 2014, U.S. electric car sales surged from almost nothing to about 120,000 per year. But the haters and doubters persist…[and now gasoline] prices have plummeted…[to near] $2 per gallon nationally…[A] key selling point for electric vehicles — low fuel costs — is gone [but EVs are not in trouble because] today’s electric car boom isn’t really about oil prices at all; it’s about clean air. Under the leadership of California, a group of environmentally progressive states (Oregon, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut) has created market-based mandates that set a floor under the electric-vehicle market…The goal is to have 3.3 million of them on their roads by 2025. Thanks to clever policy design, the survival of electric cars doesn’t depend on the vagaries of the global oil market…For more than a century, electric cars have repeatedly lost out to oil…[But California’s electric-car program isn’t tied to oil prices...Implementing the mandate was a long, iterative process…But California kept going. Because the state was America’s largest auto market, it was too big for carmakers to abandon…Today America is the world’s largest market for electric cars, and about 90 percent of them are sold in states following California’s program…The electric-car effort is just the kind of strategic planning that will be needed to transition away from fossil fuels, avoid the next oil shock and drive America toward a clean-energy economy…” click here for more
Enhancing microbial pathways for biofuel production
January 21, 2015 (Phys Org)
“Researchers from the DOE JGI and the Joint Bioenergy Institute identified genes in an E. coli microbial metabolism pathway that could improve the production of terpenes…Terpenes are high-energy compounds produced in microbes and plants that could be used for producing biofuels. Enhancing terpene yields could lead to commercial-scale production of these biofuels…Terpenes are hydrocarbons in plants such as conifers that act as a self-defense mechanism against pests, among other functions. Bioenergy researchers [from from U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and the Joint Bioenergy Institute] see terpenes as high-energy metabolites that could be used for producing biofuels from plant feedstocks…[T] he biochemical pathway [of terpene production] in eucalyptus leaves [could help] develop a sustainable alternative to jet fuel…” click here for more
Is South Carolina solar about to explode?; A comprehensive solar law due by March 2015 could make the state ready for a solar boom.
Herman K. Trabish, November 18, 2014 (Utility Dive)
South Carolina’s solar advocates, utilities, electric cooperatives, and regulators are doing something almost no other state has done: Getting ready for high solar penetration before it hits.
Many think the preparation will lead to something unprecedented: Booming solar growth without bitter utilities.
“In other states there has been a lot of adoption, and then they discovered they had policies that were causing big fights,” explained Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina Government Relations Vice President John Frick. "As use increases, rate structure issues get bigger and technical issues come quickly, like a tipping point, at higher penetrations. Our idea was to get ahead of mass adoption so it would not be necessary to correct messy policy later.”
South Carolina’s electric rates have long been among the lowest in the country. But two of its three leading utilities—South Carolina Electric and Gas, a subsidiary of SCANA Corporation, and the publicly-owned Santee Cooper—partnered on two new units for the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.
Seven rate increases to pay for construction costs followed. And in-service dates, once thought to be 2016 or 2017, are now expected to be nearer 2019 or 2020. Meanwhile, the installed cost of solar dropped 19% in 2013 and is expected to drop another 14% in 2014.
Act 236: The law to change it all for solar
To study the emerging solar opportunity, a South Carolina General Assembly-created oversight group organized a coalition of environmentalists, solar advocates, and utilities and electric cooperatives into an Energy Advisory Council. Act 236 was formulated out of its report.
Passed unanimously, Act 236 promises major changes for South Carolina solar, Frick said.
First, it requires regulators to approve a Value of Solar (VOS) methodology. “We wanted a methodology or equation with some durability that utilities could use in developing rate structures,” Frick explained. “The methodology was to value what DERs [distributed energy resources] are worth to the system.”
A second provision establishes the legality of third party ownership (TPO) of rooftop solar. South Carolina is one of the first states in the Deep South to allow solar leasing. With TPO financing, large funds own solar and lease it to homeowners on whose roofs it is built. The funds take all ownership responsibilities and the homeowners get discounted utility bills with little to no upfront costs. TPO has driven solar booms in every state where it is used.
A third provision of Act 236 requires that SCE&G and Duke Energy Carolinas commit to getting 2% of their 5-year rolling peak load average from renewables by the end of 2020.
Half of that has to be DERs. “Even the utility-scale generation cannot be over 10 megawatts,” Frick said, “so the utility cannot just build a 100 megawatt project and be done.”
The Act also expands restrictions on the cap and commercial system size of covered installations under whatever net metering-type rate structure emerges from the VOS proceeding, said South Carolina Coastal Conservation LeagueEnergy and Climate Director Hamilton Davis
“We had a 0.2% cap on the total capacity of any utility’s peak capacity that could be net metered," Davis told Utility Dive. "The legislation increased that to 2%. And the commercial system size was capped at 100 kilowatts. That was moved up to 1 megawatt.”
Finally, the act requires regulators “to harmonize rate structures with the new environment of increasing levels of DER,” Frick said. “The current rate structure is a remnant of an old system. The big question is how to structure rates in a world of people putting energy back into the system and using less from the system.”
Utilities weigh in
One South Carolina utility executive believes Act 236 can work and be fair.
“The way I read the legislation is ‘Let’s figure out the new net metering equation and not have one customer subsidizing another. But, since we need to encourage early adoption of DERs, we will limit what we are asking of consumers,’” explained CEO Robert Hochstetler of Central Electric Power Cooperative, which distributes about a third of South Carolina’s generation through the state’s 20 electric cooperatives.
“The Act limits the monthly burden on IOU ratepayers to $1 for residential consumers, $10 for commercial consumers, and $100 for industrial consumers,” Hochstetler said. “Coops are only required to report potential impacts of the Act to the commission. But we will need to do something similar because things go wrong in the coop world when they aren't relatively similar for the people we serve and other consumers.”
“One thing we have to be very careful of is cross-subsidization,” said York Electric Cooperative CEO Paul Basha, who is not sure about the new law. “We want to offer solar but we cannot subsidize it because the vast majority of our members do not want solar and the last thing we want to do is put charges on their bill to subsidize somebody else.”
The value of solar methodology and the solar 'land grab'
The VOS methodology debate will determine whether there is a cross subsidy. It will also inform future rate structures and the new net metering provision. It is ongoing. Participants, including many who helped write Act 236, will soon know if they can sustain the collaborative spirit that produced the law. If a completed VOS methodology appears unlikely to be achieved by the March 31, 2015, deadline, a contested regulatory proceeding will be necessary. Testimony and filings will begin December 11.
“Net metering is a tough issue,” Hochstetler said. “This proceeding will determine what should be included in costs and benefits. They have to be quantifiable and measurable. Defining those terms for use in formal proceedings is intended to give regulators and stakeholders less to argue about.”
York Electric owns an 8-kilowatt system for its offices and serves surburban Charlotte, where interest is higher in solar than in rural parts of the state. But Basha has seen little interest in offers to provide members with preferred vendors, new system quality assurance, or system maintenance. There has been some interest in community solar.
“Some folks say solar will bust open when the details of Act 236 are worked out,” he said. “But some say it will be a lot more subdued. I don’t know. We are going to sit back.”
Hochstetler, on the other hand, is concerned for his members because representatives of solar companies are aggressively pursuing landowners.
They represent “big reputable companies that want to build massive utility-scale projects and smaller companies planning 1-megawatt and 2-megawatt installations,” he said.
“It feels like a land-grab. Farmers are finding flyers on their cars when they come out of church that say, ‘if you have 200 acres near a power line, call me.’”
Their land could be valuable, Hochstetler tells members, but they better check the company making the offer and get legal advice.
“We definitely have uncertainty right now and essentially everything is at a standstill,” Davis said. “But there are expectations about the utility programs offering better incentives and better investment opportunities. I think we will have a lot of activity in solar once this Act is implemented next year.”
NEW ENERGY, OIL TO RECONCILE? The End of the Partisan Divide Over Climate Change
Tom Zeller, Jr., January 18, 2015 (Forbes)
“… From the stock markets and Wall Street to the boardrooms of Big Oil — and even the living rooms of Republican voters — the era of reflexive skepticism and denial of basic climate science appears to be coming to a close…That won’t likely mean an end to partisan bickering…[But amid the American Petroleum Institute annual State of American Energy Report’s] bullish assessment of the nation’s ongoing boom in shale oil and gas, the leading fossil fuel trade group clearly and unequivocally acknowledged the threat of global warming, and highlighted — at some length — the steady rise of solar power as an encouraging sign…The report goes on to note that the solar power sector has shaved installation costs and enjoyed over 40 percent growth over the last year…[It also] savages the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, arguing that it will kill the coal industry and cause significant harm to the nation’s economy…[Yet the] nation’s largest and most powerful oil lobby [stated] in no uncertain terms that climate change is real, that it’s a threat to American prosperity, and that clean energy technologies promise a solution…” click here for more
SOLAR APPLAUDS OBAMA SOTU SUPPORT President Praises Solar Progress in State of the Union Speech
January 20, 2015 (Solar Energy Industries Association)
Citing its continued growth, President Obama once again has singled out solar energy in his annual State of the Union (SOTU) speech. Afterward, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President/CEO Rhone Resch applauded President Obama for making the development of solar energy a top priority when he first took office six years ago and for never abandoning his beliefs in its importance. Resch added that there is an estimated 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity nationwide and another 20 GW in the pipeline over the next two years, benefitting both the economy and the endangered environment. There are also, he said, 173,000 Americans currently working in the U.S. solar industry. Growth, Resch pointed out, has been driven by effective and forward-looking public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS). click here for more
WIND PRAISES OBAMA SOTU, CALLS FOR PTC EXTENSION President Obama’s State of the Union: U.S. leads world in wind energy production
January 20, 2015 (American Wind Energy Association)
President Obama highlighted U.S. wind energy as an American success story, noting that the U.S. produces more wind energy than any other country in the world, a dominance due to U.S. wind turbines’ being nearly twice as productive as those in China and Germany…Iowa is helping the nation achieve this global leadership position by leading the U.S. in the percentage of electricity the state generates from wind power…and wind is one of the few things newly elected Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and President Obama agree on…Late last year, the key federal incentive for wind investment, the Production Tax Credit (PTC), was extended for only two weeks before expiring again on December 31. Wind’s costs have dropped more than 50 percent over the past five years, thanks to the productivity and innovation driven by performance-based incentives like the renewable energy PTC. Uncertainty about it is harmful for business, and puts 50,000 U.S. wind industry jobs, with 500 manufacturing facilities in 43 states and an annual average investment of over $17 billion, at risk, especially because wind will be key in states’ compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) first-ever proposed rule to reduce carbon pollution at existing power plants. click here for more
Big storage procurements leave more questions than answers; If storage is such a good idea, why is SoCal Edison buying so much natural gas?
Herman K. Trabish, November 13, 2014 (Utility Dive)
November has been energy storage's month, with big purchase announcements captivating the energy industry and its media. Utility Dive was not alone in past weeks expressing excitement and optimism that two big buys out of California and Texas could mean that storage is ready for the big leagues.
But might it be too soon to celebrate?
Oncor’s proposed $5.2 million battery purchase for the Texas grid is greatheadline fodder, but it is far from a done deal and could require storage costing $350 per kilowatt-hour.
Southern California Edison's (SCE) purchase of five times the storage it was obligated to acquire was similarly eye-catching, but looking deeper into the same procurement tranche raises questions about price and storage's ability to assist in decarbonizing the energy system.
And while California's IOUs—SCE and PG&E principally—are bullish on solar, the same certainly cannot be said for the state's municipally-owned utilities.
“It is good news that Edison bought more storage than they were required to,” said Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT) Executive Director V. John White. “Storage has great value to the power system, especially when it is deployed with other things. But why are they buying so much combined cycle natural gas capacity?”
The SCE Local Capacity Requirements (LCR) buy of 1,892 megawatts was to replace generation from the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and planned closures of once-through-cooling natural gas plants required by water conservation measures.
What Southern California Edison bought
Through a competitive bidding process, SCE acquired 130 megawatts of energy efficiency, 75 megawatts of demand response, 44 megawatts of customer-sited renewables, 261 megawatts of energy storage, 1,284 megawatts of combined cycle natural gas capacity, and 98 megwatts of peaking natural gas capacity. The energy storage purchase represents five times more storage capacity than SCE was obligated to purchase under California law.
“This is a historic event in the history of the grid. We have definitely reached a turning point, or a no-turning back point!” celebrated California Energy Storage Alliance co-founder Janice Lin. “AB 2514 and the subsequent Petermen decision to require California’s IOUs to procure energy storage required stakeholders—the utilities commission, utilities, industry—to focus on how it can be used on the grid. And guess what? They are.”
Though not a big chunk of California’s electric power system demand, which can be over 50 gigawatts, the 1.325 gigawatts of energy storage by 2020 mandate is big for the storage industry, Lin said. "It is enough to have utilities learn by doing.”
“We need to try some things out and see how they work and recalibrate,” White agreed. “We need to show regulators and grid operators that preferred resources—renewables, efficiency, demand response, storage—may be pretty and green but they are also smart and capable of supplying a large fraction of the reliability services the system needs.”
But, White added, “we have heard from the CPUC and CAISO and the utilities that we don’t need base load. Yet SCE is buying combined cycle natural gas capacity, the very thing they said they don’t need. It seems odd.”
“Because they typically have 20 year to 25 year contracts with a utility, new gas plants create long-term commitments to fossil fuels that interfere with California's ability to rapidly decarbonize its energy system,” Sierra Club Environmental Attorney Matt Vespa noted.
There has been pressure from the Governor’s office to make sure SCE does not compromise reliability in this procurement, said a California utility industry veteran who asked not to be named. But the fact that AES Energy Storage won so much of the battery storage and so much of the combined cycle capacity raises questions. “Was there some tie-in bid so they (SCE) got a good price?” the source wondered.
It also raises questions because SCE bought the minimum capacity and maximum amount of natural gas under the LCR parameters, the source added.
“They did the least they had to do, but used the procurement to obtain a big portion of their mandated storage.”
On the other hand, the source said, “Edison embraced the storage mandate early and bought stuff that could make a difference, and they bought enough of it to test at scale.”
The cost of storage and California's public utilities
The estimated $350 per kilowatt-hour price mentioned for the Oncor proposal from a Brattle Group report is very high, the source said. “Batteries are still out of the money. People talk about the prices coming down but they have a long way to go.”
“By 2018 the cheapest commercial-scale storage options will run about $244 per installed kilowatt-hour,” according to a report from Energy Strategies Group. If that projection is realized, it would be significantly lower than the report’s estimated $348 per installed kilowatt-hour for natural gas peaker plants.
That is not the collective conclusion of California’s publicly owned utilities (POUs). While AB 2514 mandated that the state’s IOUs acquire storage, it only required the POUs to assess and report by October 1, 2014. Of 31 reports, 29 rejected storage. Burbank Water and Power found it not fully developed and not cost-effective. Sacramento Municipal Utility District found it “not cost effective at this time.”
On the other hand, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced its own target of 178 megawatts of storage by 2021, Lin said. More importantly, she explained, “the competition is not on price, it is on value.”
Both peaker gas turbines and stored energy provide peaking capacity but storage can be positioned close to load and so delivered more quickly, Lin said. “And when it is not providing capacity, storage could provide frequency regulation, spin, non-spin, and voltage support, and without emitting greenhouse gases. If it is stored renewables generation, there are no emissions at all.”
Capacity, not energy
“We are not selling energy, we are selling capacity,” explained Ice Energy CFO James White, whose unique Ice Bear storage technology was awarded 25.6 megawatts of the SCE procurement. “For the higher penetrations of wind and solar being mandated by renewables and emissions policies, you need storage even if it doesn’t beat the price of gas. The economics are not the driver.”
Renewables and storage can do whatever gas can do and if the economics are competitive, it will make things go faster, White said. “The CPUC order was that technologies should be selected on a price-competitive basis. That SCE took 261 megawatts when its requirement was 50 megawatts shows the storage market is starting to evolve much more quickly than expected. That will push costs down.”
“It will be cheaper,” Lin said. “When you have inventory in the system, all the fixed assets can be run a lot more efficiently. And if you use the stored energy to meet the peak, you don’t have to have so much excess capacity that is not used. That is going to be a huge savings. It will also result in a more reliable grid because when you have a little storage you are less at risk to things going bad.”
BOOMING SOLAR LOOKS BEYOND 2016 U.S. Solar Industry Sees Growth, But Also Some Uncertainty
Jeff Brady, January 19, 2015 (National Public Radio)
“The solar energy business is growing fast, thanks in part to a steep drop in panel prices…[P]rices dropped by more than half since 2010. But the industry's future looks a little hazy. Generous government subsidies expire soon and the price for natural gas — a competitor that's also used to generate electricity — keeps dropping…For now, though, the solar business is booming and the industry is hiring. More than 31,000 solar jobs were added in 2014…Experienced installers can earn a good wage of about $22 per hour…[Though it generates less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity, leaving enormous opportunity for growth, the solar industry already provides] nearly 174,000 solar jobs in the U.S., which is 22 percent more than last year and 86 percent more [2010, according to The Solar Foundation, which predicts solar will]… add another 36,000 jobs this year, but after that is a big question mark…Unless Congress extends [solar’s vital 30 percent federal investment tax credit], it will end in December 2016.” click here for more
AMAZON BUYS BIG WIND How AWS is powering up its wind farm plans for cloud datacenters
Toby Wolpe, January 20, 2015 (ZDNet)
“Amazon Web Services says a new [150MW] Indiana wind farm [being built by the Pattern Energy Group] could be helping power its datacenters by as early as January 2016…The power-purchase agreement with Pattern Energy will help increase the renewable energy [wind, hydro and solar] used to run AWS' US [datacenter] infrastructure…In November 2014, AWS set out plans to use only renewable energy for its global infrastructure. To date, the company has three carbon-neutral regions: the US GovCloud; US West in Oregon; and EU in Frankfurt am Main…AWS [also] has sites in Australia, Brazil, China, Ireland, Japan, and Singapore…[with a worldwide customer base] of more than a million organizations, which buy its cloud-based compute, storage, database, analytics, application, and deployment services…” click here for more
HOW HOME GEOTHERMAL WORKS Geothermal energy – does it make sense? Sounds like a good topic for Science Café
David Brooks, January 19, 2015 (The Telegraph)
“…[G]eothermal energy in New Hampshire, more accurately described as ground-source heat pumps…has been around for decades but has gained more prominence as part of the alternative-energy mix…At its simplest, geothermal pumps water underground, where temperature remains around 50 degrees, then brings it back above ground at that temperature and uses it to cool or heat buildings…Heat, of course, naturally moves from warm to cold. A heat pump uses a relatively small amount of energy to reverse the process, pulling heat out of a low-temperature area and moving it into a higher temperature area – from a ‘heat source,’ like the ground, into a ‘heat sink,’ like your home…The system involves a fluid with a very low boiling point, on the verge of being a gas at room temperature. The head pump shifts this substance back and forth between the liquid and gas states with compression, which makes it release or absorb large amounts of energy, due to the physics of phase change. That energy is how cold water can heat a house…” click here for more
How America ranks first in wind energy—even with less capacity than China; U.S. wind’s smaller fleet generates over 20% more electricity than Chinese wind
Herman K. Trabish, November 13, 2014 (Utility Dive)
Advanced technology, skilled developers, built-out infrastructure, and the effectiveness of federal policy have brought the U.S. wind industry back to world leadership.
China’s installed wind capacity passed that of the U.S. in late 2010 and is now 50% bigger. But a Chinese wind turbine on the barren, wind-savaged plains of Inner Mongolia without grid connection asks the same question as a tree falling unheard in a forest: What does it produce? The smaller fleet of U.S. turbines are producing over 20% more electricity than China's.
“In the U.S., every step in development is driven by one thing: long term electricity production delivered to the customer,” explained EDF Renewable Energy Board Vice-Chair Dr. James Walker, author of a new statistical profile of world wind.
No production, no payment
Walker pointed to two “no production, no payment” key drivers:
Long term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with utilities and, increasingly, with private companies like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, that pay only for kilowatt-hours delivered.
The performance-based federal production tax credit (PTC) that pays project owners $0.023 per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of their installations’ output.
“What gets rewarded gets done,” Walker said. “China’s incentives reward construction and installation, not production.” In the U.S., he said, “competition improves the breed. Over 30 companies have an investment of between $900 million and $1 billion." Because of the structure of production-based utility-originated PPAs and the politically embattled PTC, he emphasized, "they are highly motivated to make their assets productive, day in and day out.”
Transmission and technology
Both China and the U.S. have rich wind resources remote from population centers.
China’s developers initially went to its remote regions to build. Some parts of Inner Mongolia, Hebei, and Gansu provinces have so much wind the
Chinese call them “wind camps.” But a lack of transmission to energy-hungry cities like Beijing and Shanghai has led to 20% curtailment rates, making the projects financial losers.
When developers moved to provinces with lower wind speeds where transmission is available, they needed newer turbine technologies not yet perfected by Chinese manufacturers at scale.
Meanwhile, all across the Midwestern plains from Texas to the Dakotas, U.S. and Western European companies like GE and Siemens are building taller turbines with longer blades and smarter, more efficient electronics. The new technology can turn winds previously considered too weak to generate useful amounts of power into economic harvests.
U.S. wind delivers
The U.S. wind industry delivered nearly 168 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013. China delivered 136 billion kilowatt-hours and third-place Germany delivered 53 billion kilowatt-hours, reported American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Data and Analysis Manager Emily Williams, citing Walker’s data taken from publicly available International Energy Agency, Global Wind Energy Council, DOE Energy Information Agency and AWEA reports.
Another 13,600 megawatts of new U.S. capacity are under construction and expected to go online by the end of 2015, Williams added. “Those under-construction turbines have really high potential capacity factors, from the high 40% range to above 50%.”
“The Chinese will say frankly they have the quantity right but still need to get the quality right,” Walker said. With an overall average capacity factor of more than 30%, compared to Chinese and German average capacity factors of 15% to 16%, the U.S. wind fleet essentially gets twice the mileage of its closest competitors, Walker said.
Both China and the U.S. are in the process of building new high capacity transmission dedicated to renewables. Because of the fewer regulatory impediments, China's new transmission will likely be in service sooner. In addition, higher-efficiency turbines using U.S. and European technology innovations will inevitably be coming out of Chinese factories at scale. These things could shift the numbers balance in the foreseeable future.
“The U.S. wind industry’s strength,” Walker said, is that “at every step of the way, from resource assessments and turbine manufacturing to the financing, building, and interconnecting of projects, performance-based contracts and incentives are winning the race to the top.”
WISC FIGHT FOR NET METERING In Wisconsin, solar ‘new math’ could equal big impacts
Kari Lydersen, January 16, 2015 Midwest Energy News
After granting crucial rate design changes to We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) and Madison Gas & Electric, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) is expected to hear a final challenge which could determine the pace of residential solar growth in the state for the foreseeable future. The expected challenge will ask the PSC to reconsider its decisions to allow We Energies and utilities to “true up” net metered customers’ bill credits monthly instead of annually. Wth a monthly true-up, the bulk of excess credits accumulated in the spring and fall, when electricity use is lower, are lost. Annual true-ups preserve the credits. A separate challenge is in the works to the PSC’s decision to allow Alliant Energy/Wisconsin Power and Light to remunerate net metered customers at the avoided cost rate of $0.03 per KWh to $0.04 per kWh instead of the retail rate $0.11 per KWhto $0.14 per kWh. click here for more
CALIF COMMUNITY SOLAR LAW STIRS CONTROVERSY New policy to help renters, apartment dwellers go solar
Sammy Roth, January 14, 2015 The Desert Sun
The California Public Utilities Commission issued a decision approving a community solar program late in 2014 and is expected to finalize details late in January. Community solar plans allow utility customers to buy portions of solar arrays, by the kilowatt or by the module, get credit on their bills for the electricity produced. Community solar is aimed at utility customers who are not homeowners or don’t have solar-suitable rooftops or good credit scores. With an estimated 75% of all rooftops unsuitable and the millions of renters and low income utility customers, the potential market in California is estimated at tens of millions. The CPUC-approved plan will allow utilities to charge community solar participants fees for grid use and maintenance that aren’t paid by rooftop solar customers. Solar advocates claim the fees fail to accurately balance the costs and benefits of distributed solar to the grid. There are only an estimated 55 to 60 community solar projects in the U.S., with Colorado and Massachusetts leading the market. The U.S. market potential for community solar has been estimated as high as 7 times that of rooftop solar.click here for more
TENN CLEARS LINE TO DELIVER OKLA WIND $2B wind power project gets state approval
Michael Sheffield, January 13, 2015 (Memphis Business Journal)
The Tennessee Regulatory Authority has approved a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to Plains & Eastern Clean Line LLC, a subsidiary of Clean Line Energy Partners, clearing an obstacle for the delivery of Oklahoma wind to Memphis. The certificate allows Plains & Eastern Clean Line to operate as a transmission only public utility in the state, making it easier to route the planned $2 billion, 700-mile, high voltage direct current (HVDC) line from the Oklahoma Panhandle to utilities and markets throughout the Southeast. DOE issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line in December 2014. Following a public comment period, it will issue a Final EIS later this year. That is expected to clear the way for the 2 year to 3 year construction period to begin so that the project can go into service by 2019. “You can’t get enough clean energy from distributed resources,” former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) chairman and staunch distributed energy resources (DERs) advocate Jon Wellinghoff recently told this reporter. “We need these clean remote resources and transmission lines to get them to the load.” click here for more
The never-ending fight may come to a climax when the Senate debate ends. From Comedy Central
What is bad and good in movies about climate change. From YaleClimateForum
The fourth and final entry in the series. From U.S. Department of Energy via YouTube