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: Why News Reports Miss The Climate Change Story
  • Weekend Video: Climate Change In Two Minutes, Version 2
  • Weekend Video: How To Make Doubt

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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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  • Friday, March 06, 2015


    Researchers Link Syrian Conflict to a Drought Made Worse by Climate Change

    Henry Fountain, March 2, 2015 (NY Times)

    “Drawing one of the strongest links yet between global warming and human conflict, researchers said…an extreme drought in Syria between 2006 and 2009 was most likely due to climate change, and that the drought was a factor in the violent uprising that began there in 2011…The drought was the worst in the country in modern times, and in [Climate change in the Fertile Crescent], the scientists laid the blame for it on a century-long trend toward warmer and drier conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean, rather than on natural climate variability…[It] appeared to be due to two factors: a weakening of winds that bring moisture-laden air from the Mediterranean and hotter temperatures that cause more evaporation…

    "...[Researchers] found that while Syria and the rest of the region known as the Fertile Crescent were normally subject to periodic dry periods, ‘a drought this severe was two to three times more likely’ because of the increasing aridity in the region…What began as civil war has since escalated into a multifaceted conflict, with at least 200,000 deaths. The United Nations estimates that half of the country’s 22 million people have been affected, with more than six million having been internally displaced…” click here for more


    Solar could be cheaper than coal and gas by 2025, study says

    24 February 2015 (EurActiv)

    “Solar power will be cheaper than coal or gas by 2025 in sunnier regions of the EU, according to [Current and Future Cost of Photovoltaics] by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems…But high-risk premiums or bad regulation can increase the costs of plants by half…The cost of producing solar power in central and southern Europe will have dropped to between €0.04 and €0.06 per kilowatt hour by 2025, the study [using conservative assumptions] found…[It] revealed that cost would plummet to between two to four cents by 2050…

    "Currently, large solar plants in Germany currently deliver power for less than nine cents. According to the study, electricity from new coal and gas-fired plants costs between five and ten cents per kilowatt hour. Nuclear plants charge 11 cents…Solar photovoltaic energy has only been granted a very limited role in the EU, due to its high cost when compare to other low-carbon sources…[but] the study showed that solar panels could compete with coal and gas, which are seen as cheaper…That meant that solar could play an important and financially viable role in reducing the EU’s energy dependence and in hitting its climate and energy targets…” click here for more


    Wind turbines take to the skies to seek out more power

    Richard Anderson, 4 March 2015 (BBC News)

    “…[A] new wave of turbine technologies is looking to end the debate [about wind energy efficiency] once and for all, by making wind power cheaper, more flexible and, in many cases, less intrusive on pristine countryside…Some won't make it to market, but those that do could revolutionise wind power…Prof Yuji Ohya from Japan's Kyushu University is leading a team designing a conical structure placed round the turbine blades to generate low pressure and accelerate wind speed…[SheerWind’s Dr Daryoush Allaei and his team are] designing…[the Invelox system, which] captures wind at speeds as low as 2kph, funnels it to increase speed before passing it through a small turbine. Not only is the design able to capture winds at low speed… [T]he company claims the cost of electricity generated by Invelox is almost three times less…

    "Research by the Politecnico di Torino…found that wind speeds at 800m are more than twice those at 10m, with power 10 times greater…[Germany's EnerKite] has designed a 100KW [carbon fibre wing kite that] produces the same amount of electricity as a 200KW-300KW turbine, which means cheaper power…[T]he notoriously secretive Google X’s Makani is tesing] a tethered, carbon fibre glider flying in circles at an altitude of up to 350m, carrying up to 8 small turbines…[W]ith such an array of new technologies, the case against harnessing the wind's power appears to be weakening by the day.” click here for more


    How Geothermal Could Cleanly Power the Planet: Indonesia's Tale; The Earth's heat offers a clean and steady source of electricity, though it doesn't come cheap.

    Wendy Koch, March 3, 20015 (National Geographic)

    “…[The Indonesian] archipelago nation has the world's largest known geothermal reserves, and it desperately needs clean energy. Now the fourth most populous country, it's developing so rapidly that a quarter of its people still live in homes without electricity…[It] relies on coal-fired power plants for nearly half its electricity and plans to expand that usage…[Geothermal] could help tame global warming by producing copious amounts of renewable energy. The United Nations estimates global reserves at about 200 gigawatts—double the total capacity of all U.S. nuclear power plants. Yet despite decades of effort, only 6.5 percent of that potential has been tapped…Indonesia's story explains why…

    "...[Indonesia’s 17,000 islands have] dozens of active volcanoes—more than any other country…Power plants can extract steam from [deep underground reservoirs of hot water] and use it to turn turbines that generate electricity…Indonesia currently produces the third largest amount of geothermal power, after the U.S. and the Philippines. Still, it's tapping less than 5 percent of its potential 29-gigawatt capacity…[A]iming to triple geothermal output from 1.4 to 4.9 gigawatts by 2019 and to hit 10 gigawatts by 2025, [Indonesia] is trying to fast-track projects…Last year it amended a law to stop defining geothermal development as ‘mining’ and thus allow work in protected forests, where many resources are located. The revision also shifts project approval from local to federal officials…[But investors] remain wary…” click here for more

    Thursday, March 05, 2015


    EPA chief: ‘Climate change is not a religion’

    Ben Wolfgang, March 4, 2015 (Washington Times)

    “President Obama is guided solely by science when it comes to fighting global warming, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy told a Senate panel…rejecting claims the administration is doing the bidding of left-wing environmental groups and urging Congress to approve a 6 percent budget increase to help fund the agency’s ambitious climate change agenda…In heated exchanges with Republicans on the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee — who have helped lead the charge against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies — Ms. McCarthy defended her agency’s request for a $8.6 billion discretionary budget for fiscal year 2016. Some of the funding increase, laid out in the president’s broader budget proposal, would be dedicated to the White House’s [highly controversial] Clean Power Plan…The Clean Power Plan aims to reduce carbon pollution from power plants by at least 30 percent over the next 15 years…Republicans say the EPA has not offered firm proof of exactly what impact the plan…[and the benefits] may not be worth the cost…” click here for more


    Heat-gathering concept tire charges electric cars on the go At the Geneva auto show, Goodyear shows off an intriguing concept tire that would feed an electric car's batteries while rolling down the road.

    Amanda Kooser, March 4, 2015 (CNET)

    “…A Goodyear [BH03] concept tire approaches [electric-car-range anxiety] with a way to charge an electric car while it's rolling down the road…[I]t takes the heat generated while driving and transforms it into electrical energy that could be used to recharge a car's batteries…Details on the tire, which is constructed with a layer of thermo-piezoelectric material, are a bit vague…The BH03 tire is also designed with ultra-black textured patches meant to absorb both light and heat. Sunlight warms up the tires on a parked electric car, adding to the heat that can be transformed into electric energy…These tires may not reach the market anytime soon, but they do give us a fascinating glimpse at the future of high-tech tires.” click here for more


    merica Is Getting Its First Offshore Wind Farm

    Jamie Condliffe, March 3, 2015 (Gizmodo)

    “…Deepwater Wind has announced that it's secured full funding to build America's first offshore wind farm…The project will see five 6 megawatt offshore wind turbines built just off the coast of [Rhode Island’s Block Island]. Producing 30 megawatts of energy total, undersea power cables will route the resulting electricity to…[Block Island and the] mainland where some of it will be injected into the grid…[It could save locals] as much as 40 percent on their energy bills, because they currently rely on diesel generators for electricity…Offshore wind farms do away with many of the concerns [about noise and aesthetics that some] have about onshore wind power…Offshore installations also typically produce more energy, because wind speeds are typically higher out at sea…[Building and maintaining them is more expensive but Deepwater Wind] secured a total of $290 million to fund the new project. It will join similar farms that have been built extensively across Europe, particularly around the UK and Denmark…If all goes to plan, the farm will begin to supply energy by the end of 2016.’ click here for more


    ChargePoint Announces the Nation’s Top 10 Cities for Electric Vehicles; Los Angeles Surges Past Austin, While Recent EV Growth in Atlanta and Denver Propel Them to Top-City Status in Annual Ranking March 2, 2015 (ChargePoint) “…[ChargePoint] released a list of the top 10 friendliest metropolitan areas for EV drivers…Equating for population differences, ChargePoint scored the cities based on the number of EVs on the road and the number of charging stations available on the ChargePoint network as of December 31, 2014…Although Los Angeles leads the nation in terms of registered EVs (nearly 57,000), the San Francisco Bay Area takes top billing after accounting for population differences (more than 48,000 EVs). Austin fell to the number-six ranking after having held the number-four spot on the 2013 list; Washington, DC and Boston, MA fell from the ninth and tenth spots, respectively, while EV infrastructure growth and registrations propelled Atlanta and Denver into the top 10…” click here for more

    Wednesday, March 04, 2015


    A whole new kind of renewables business: Inside the SunEdison-First Wind deal; The world’s biggest clean energy developer will offer 24-7 clean energy to utilities

    Herman K. Trabish, November 23, 2014 (Utility Dive)

    SunEdison’s $2.4 billion buy of First Wind is far more than the merging of a solar company and a wind company into the world’s biggest renewable energy developer.

    It is the beginning of a whole new way for the power system and utilities to think about renewable energy.

    “We should sell a renewable product, 8000 hours per year, 24 hours per day, that combines hydro and wind and solar and whatever,” said First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor. “That would create real breakthroughs on displacing gas and coal and hitting those big market share numbers.”

    International powerhouse solar developer SunEdison and its YieldCo TerraForm Power acquired First Wind in a complex 3-way deal that raises their combined 2015 development expectation to between 1.6 gigawatts and 2.3 gigawatts and their combined international project pipeline to 8 gigawatts.

    On the strength of the deal, TerraForm increased its expected 2015 per share dividend 44% from $0.90 to $1.30 per share. The YieldCo investment vehicle, which just added 32% in value through its July IPO, will now have First Wind’s 521 megawatts of operating projects’ expected cash returns of $72.5 million to disperse as dividends.

    Why do the deal?

    First Wind’s driver in the deal was that its two long-time private equity backers were maxed out, Gaynor said, while its management foresees “a phenomenal amount of growth ahead of us in both wind and solar.”

    On the SunEdison side, its leaders saw the potential of 1 gigawatt to 2 gigawatts of wind development but wanted a partner that knew the space, CEO Ahmad Chatila said. The new company’s 2013 to 2020 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in solar is projected at 17% and its wind business CAGR for the same period is projected at 11%.

    Gaynor will run SunEdison’s U.S. wind and utility-scale solar businesses and lead wind development internationally, he explained. Because the deal combines SunEdison’s in-country knowledge and First Wind’s domain knowledge, “the First Wind team can now start to think about life beyond the U.S. borders, where there is a lot going on.”

    The new partners share a commitment to the build-and-hold business model that, according to SunEdison, provides three times the value proposition of the build-and-sell model. Project ownership also adds an operations and maintenance opportunity that both Chatila and Gaynor expect to expand.

    The hedge value of international expansion is a big part of why the SunEdison leadership expects to “blow past” U.S. policy obstacles. With new divisiveness in Congress emerging, there are serious uncertainties about U.S. wind's federal production tax credit and the revision of U.S. solar's federal investment tax credit.

    The YieldCo

    The YieldCo offers still another revenue path because new assets will attract investment that can be re-circulated into further project development.

    “The deal is incredibly complicated but Sun Edison couldn’t have done this without it,” Gaynor said. “The YieldCo is a source of capital that is incredibly important in making it work.”

    The YieldCo is an asset class that is growing because people like the relatively low risk nature of solar and wind and, with the more mature MLP market at $300 billion or more, there is a lot of room for YieldCo growth with the same kind of investors, Gaynor said. “That makes wind and solar more competitive because it brings the cost of energy down,” he explained, “and a low cost of capital is an absolute key success factor in bidding on renewables projects.”

    A new kind of renewables

    But Gaynor’s long term vision is of a new kind of renewables offering. “We need to transition, as an asset class, to selling the renewable product 24 hours a day,” he said. “Instead of a 20-year PPA [power purchase agreement] for wind only or solar only, what the utility should really want is an around the clock solution.”

    First Wind has been talking to utilities in the northeast, including Connecticut Power & Light and National Grid in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, about what it calls a "clean firm" product. “It merges Canadian hydro resources, either from Newfoundland-Labrador or Quebec-Ontario, and New England wind into one transmission asset delivered to urban centers,” Gaynor explained. “That brings the delivered cost of energy way down. That’s where the magic happens.”

    The generation source would be up to the power producer. “The utility sees one product, 1,000 megawatts of clean energy per hour,” he said. “One hour it could be from 1,000 megawatts of wind. The next hour it could be half hydroand half wind.”

    By eliminating fuel prices and suppressing natural gas price volatility, First Wind calculates that a 1,000 megawatt PPA would save Massachusetts ratepayers an annual $1 billion of the $6 billion they spend every year for electricity. “When you can go to a politician or state utility commissioner and offer a big renewable project that could save consumers a billion dollars per year, they stop and listen.”

    Though the PPA structure and transmission agreements have not been worked out in detail, “utilities like the concept,” Gaynor said. “Between now and the end of this decade, those types of opportunities will be real.”


    HOW WIND IS GOOD FOR FARMERS Wind Turbines Have Positive Effect on Crops

    March 3, 2015 (WHO-TV)

    “Nearly $10 billion has been invested into Iowa wind energy facilities and farms…[and that will double by 2020 because 75% of the state is good for development and] turbines could also be good for Iowa farmers…[T]urbines stir the air, so the crop, the corn canopy itself is drawing down the carbon dioxide level in that part of the atmosphere…[T] he extra turbulence brings down this higher CO2 air from above, promoting more photosynthesis within the crop…[Turbines also] increase nighttime temperatures, decrease daytime temperatures, and enhance evaporation…[A] negative includes increased respiration, but…the positive effects outweigh negatives…The turbines [also] provide the same lease amount every year…[and] some stable income…” click here for more

    HOW SOLAR SAVES MONEY Solar Energy Helping With High Electric Bills?

    Lindsay Ladeluca, March 2, 2015 (WGGB - ABC40)

    “Solar Energy is becoming more of a conversation now that electric bills for many are through the roof…[Thousands are] saving some big bucks and even when the sun goes down you still save by racking up credits with your electric company…[Solar output] powers your house…[The extra goes] to your neighbors and then your meter runs backwards and that’s [grid energy you can use essentially without cost] later in the evening…[The right kind of roof facing in the right direction is necessary.] Ideally your roof faces south with good exposure to the sun. But if your roof isn’t prime for panels, [Massachusetts allows utility customers to] buy a portion of a centrally based community solar project to still gain credits…Phil Dowling, President of Northampton Paint, said his company’s $500 electric bill was reduced] by at least 80%...[For the average residential electricity customer who pays $100 to $200 per month, the] your pay back with be 5-7 years…Massachusetts and the Federal Government have solar loan programs as well…” click here for more

    NOW AND FUTURE ENERGY BATTERY STORAGE Li-ion Dominates the Booming Grid Storage Market with 90% of 2014 Proposals; Molten salt batteries still account for a majority of existing grid storage installations, but Li-ion is rapidly taking over as the market matures…

    March 4, 2015 (Lux Research)

    “…Li-ion accounted for 419 MW and 1,555 MWh of proposed storage systems in 2014. But molten salt batteries – consisting almost entirely of sodium-sulfur (NaS) – account for 23% of all deployed MW and 64% of deployed MWh respectively. Globally, as of January 2015, 1,100 MW and 2,523 MWh of grid storage have been deployed across 605 projects…Japan maintained its lead in installed energy storage capacity with 1,174 MWh. But the United States held global leadership in power and number of projects with 418 MW across 250 projects...Within the Li-ion battery chemistries, lithium iron phosphate (LFP) is the largest cathode deployed by MW [39%] and MWh [38.1%]…followed by nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC), which is rapidly becoming the cathode of choice…Demand management [(376 MW and 1,335 MWh across 236 projects)] and renewable connected systems [(513 MW and 890 MWh across 261 projects)] are driving the primary grid storage applications…driven in the U.S. by time-of-use rates and tiered pricing…” click here for more

    Tuesday, March 03, 2015


    Electric System Reliability and EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Tools and Practices

    Susan Tierney Paul Hibbard Craig Aubuchon, February 2015 (Analysis Group)

    Executive Summary

    Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed its Clean Power Plan last June, many observers have raised concerns that its implementation might jeopardize electric system reliability.

    Such warnings are common whenever there is major change in the industry, and play an important role in focusing the attention of the industry on taking the steps necessary to ensure reliable electric service to Americans. There are, however, many reasons why carbon pollution at existing power plants can be controlled without adversely affecting electric system reliability.

    Given the significant shifts already underway in the electric system, the industry would need to adjust its operational and planning practices to accommodate changes even if EPA had not proposed the Clean Power Plan.

    In the past several years, dramatic increases in domestic energy production (stemming from the shale gas revolution), shifts in fossil fuel prices, retirements of aged infrastructure, implementation of numerous pollution-control measures, and strong growth in energy efficiency and distributed energy resources, have driven important changes in the power sector. As always, grid operators and utilities are already looking at what adjustments to long-standing planning and operational practices may be needed to stay abreast of, understand, and adapt to such changes in the industry.

    The standard reliability practices that the industry and its regulators have used for decades are a strong foundation from which any reliability concerns about the Clean Power Plan will be addressed.

    The electric industry’s many players are keenly organized and strongly oriented toward safe and reliable operations. There are well-established procedures, regulations and enforceable standards in place to ensure reliable operations of the system, day in and day out.

    Among other things, these “business-as-usual” procedures include:

    • Assigning specific roles and responsibilities to different organizations, including regional reliability organizations, grid operators, power plant and transmission owners, regulators, and many others;

    • Planning processes to look ahead at what actions and assets are needed to make sure that the overall system has the capabilities to run smoothly;

    • Maintaining secure communication systems, operating protocols, and realtime monitoring processes to alert participants to any problems as they arise, and initiating corrective actions when needed; and

    • Relying upon systems of reserves, asset redundancies, back-up action plans, and mutual assistance plans that kick in automatically when some part of the system has a problem.

    As proposed by EPA, the Clean Power Plan provides states and power plant owners a wide range of compliance options and operational discretion (including various market-based approaches, other means to allow emissions trading among power plants, and flexibility on deadlines to meet interim targets) that can prevent reliability issues while also reducing carbon pollution and cost.

    EPA’s June 2014 proposal made it clear that the agency will entertain market-based approaches and other means to allow emissions trading within and across state lines. Examples include emissions trading among plants (e.g., within a utility’s fleet inside or across state lines), or within a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) market. In this respect, the Clean Power Plan is fundamentally different from the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) and is well-suited to utilize such flexible and market-based approaches. Experience has shown that such approaches allow for seamless, reliable implementation of emissions-reduction targets. In its final rule, EPA should clarify acceptable or standard market-based mechanisms that could be used to accomplish both cost and reliability goals.

    Moreover, EPA has stated repeatedly that it will write a final rule that reflects the importance of a reliable grid and provides the appropriate flexibility.1 We support such adjustments in EPA’s final rule as needed to ensure both emissions reductions and electricity reliability.

    Some of the reliability concerns raised by stakeholders about the Clean Power Plan presume inflexible implementation, are based on worst-case scenarios, and assume that policy makers, regulators, and market participants will stand on the sidelines until it is too late to act. There is no historical basis for these assumptions. Reliability issues will be solved by the dynamic interplay of actions by regulators, entities responsible for reliability, and market participants with many solutions proceeding in parallel. Some of the cautionary comments are just that: calls for timely action. Many market participants have offered remedies (including readiness to bring new power plant projects, gas infrastructure, demand-side measures, and other solutions into the electric system where needed).2 Indeed, this dynamic interplay is one reason why a recent survey of over 400 utility executives nationwide found that more than 60 percent felt optimistic about the Clean Power Plan and either supported EPA’s proposed current emissions reduction targets or would make them more stringent.3

    We note many concerns about electric system reliability can be resolved by the addition of new load-following resources, like peaking power plants and demand-side measures, which have relatively short lead times.4 Other concerns are already being addressed by ongoing work to improve market rules, and by infrastructure planning and investment. A recent Department of Energy (DOE) report found that while a low-carbon electric system may significantly increase natural gas demand from the power sector, the projected incremental increase in natural gas pipeline capacity additions is modest (lower than historic pipeline expansion rates), and that the increasingly diverse sources of natural gas supply reduces the need for new pipeline infrastructure.5

    Some other comments raise the reliability card as part of what is – in effect – an attempt to delay or ultimately defeat implementation of the Clean Power Plan. We encourage parties to distinguish between those who identify issues and offer solutions, and those who (incorrectly) suggest that reducing carbon pollution through the Clean Power Plan is inconsistent with electric system reliability.

    In the end, because there are such fundamental shifts already underway in the electric industry, inaction is the real threat to good reliability planning. Again, there are continuously evolving ways to address electric reliability that build off of strong standard operating procedures in the industry.

    There are many capable entities focused on ensuring electric system reliability, and many things that states and others can do to maintain a reliable electric grid.

    First and foremost, states can lean on the comprehensive planning and operational procedures that the industry has for decades successfully relied on to maintain reliability, even in the face of sudden changes in industry structure, markets and policy.

    Second, states should take advantage of the vast array of tools available to them and the flexibility afforded by the Clean Power Plan to ensure compliance is obtained in the most reliable and efficient manner possible. Given the interstate nature of the electric system, we encourage states to rely upon mechanisms that facilitate emission trading between affected power plants in different states. Doing so will increase flexibility of the system, mitigate many electric system reliability concerns, and lower the overall cost of compliance for all.6

    In this report we identify a number of actions that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), grid operators, states, and others should take to support electric system reliability as the electric industry transitions to a lower-carbon future. We summarize our recommendations for these various parties in tables at the end of our report. In the end, the industry, its regulators and the States are responsible for ensuring electric system reliability while reducing carbon emissions from power plants as required by law. These responsibilities are compatible, and need not be in tension as long as all parties act in a timely way and use the many reliability tools at their disposal.

    We observe that, too often, commenters make assertions about reliability challenges that really end up being about cost impacts. Although costs matter in this context, we think it is important to separate reliability considerations from cost issues in order to avoid distracting attention from the actions necessary (and feasible) to keep the lights on. There may be “lower cost” options that reduce emissions some part of the way toward the target reductions, but that fail to meet acceptable reliability standards. We do not view such ‘solutions’ as the lowest cost solution precisely because they fail to account for the cost of unacceptable system outages to electricity consumers.

    Any plan that starts with consumer costs and works backward to reliability and then to emission reduction is one that fails to consider the wide availability of current tools that have served grid operators for more than a decade to meet reliability needs. There is no reason to think that cost and reliability objectives cannot be harmonized within a plan to reduce carbon pollution…


    FIRST U.S. OCEAN WIND COMPLETES FINANCING Deepwater Wind completes financing for Block Island wind farm

    Alex Kuffner, March 2, 2015 (Providence Journal)

    Deepwater Wind has tied up more than $290 million in financing for what looks to be the first U.S. offshore wind farm. The five-turbine 30 MW demonstration project will be built in waters off Rhode Island’s Block Island. Societe Generale of Paris, France, and KeyBank National Association, of Cleveland, Ohio, will provide the funds…[A]ll permits have been secured. Construction is expected to begin in weeks. This news offsets disappointment from the cancellation by Massachusetts utilities of power purchase agreements for the 468 MW Cape Wind project, which had been the U.S. offshore wind industry’s flagship installation. The difference may be that while Cape Wind had to fight 12 years for the right to build in federal waters, the Block Island site was readily approved by the state. Deepwater is funded with $70 million from international investment firm D.E. Shaw and renewables developer SunEdison in addition to the financing from Societe Generale and KeyBank. click here for more

    MISSOURI NET METERING HAS NET POSITIVE BENEFITS Study finds net metering to be a net benefit in Missouri

    Karen Uhlenhuth, February 27, 2015 (Midwest Energy News)

    A cost-benefit study of net energy metering (NEM) in Missouri used values for two costs and two benefits and concluded its “net effect” is positive. The typical solar owner pays only 20% less in fixed grid costs and costs the utility an estimated $187 per interconnection. Solar owners benefit the system through reduced emissions and energy costs. After accounting for a range of utility costs, including administration and the shift of some infrastructure expenses, the Missouri Energy Initiative study of NEM from 2008 to 2013 reached a similar conclusion as studies for Vermont, New York, Texas and Nevada. About 6,000 Missourians use NEM. Most are customers of investor owned utilities Ameren Missouri and Kansas City Power & Light, the state’s dominant electricity providers, which have been in conflict with solar advocates since 2013 over solar rebates. The study did not quantify the net effect of NEM but used previous studies’ data. A 2013 study in Vermont concluded an average rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system provides a $0.043 per KWH cent net benefit. A New York state study found the benefit was between $0.15 and $0.40 per KWH. A 2014 study done for the Nevada Public Utilities Commission concluded that NEM benefits are “likely positive” but “very small.” click here for more

    WALKER WISCONSIN BUDGET CUTS BIOFUELS SUPPORT Scott Walker wants to end funding for renewable energy program

    Thomas Content and Lee Berquist, February 28, 2015 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts $8.1 million in funding over two years for University of Wisconsin faculty at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. The center develops technologies to convert Wisconsin’s plentiful wood chips, corn stalks, and native grasses to biogas and biofuels. The research facility was built in 2009 with a five year, $125 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, which was renewed in 2013. State funds of $104 million and gifts and grants of $50 million contributed. The Walker cut represents matching funds necessary to keep the federal funding. The Governor’s office said the cut, separate from Walker’s proposal to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system over the next two years, is part of his plan to provide UW with block grants and push funding decisions onto university administrators. The failure to provide matching funds to keep the center’s federal funding is expected to compromise the $25 million in federal funding for broader UW energy-development research such as the Wisconsin Energy Institute, which gets 90% of its funding from the bioenergy program. click here for more

    Monday, March 02, 2015


    Deconstructing Solar Photovoltaic Pricing; The Role of Market Structure, Technology, and Policy Kenneth Gillingham, et. al., December 2014 (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Yale, et. al.)


    Solar photovoltaic (PV) system prices in the United States display considerable heterogeneity both across geographic locations and within a given location. Such heterogeneity may arise due to state and federal policies, differences in market structure, and other factors that influence demand and costs. This paper examines the relative importance of such factors on equilibrium solar PV system prices in the United States using a detailed dataset of roughly 100,000 recent residential and small commercial installations. As expected, we find that PV system prices differ based on characteristics of the systems. More interestingly, we find evidence suggesting that search costs and imperfect competition affect solar PV pricing. Installer density substantially lowers prices, while regions with relatively generous financial incentives for solar PV are associated with higher prices.


    Installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have expanded rapidly over the past decade, with continued growth anticipated over the near- and longer-term. Along with this growth has been a substantial decline in PV system prices. Amid this decline, however, there remains considerable heterogeneity in PV system pricing. For example, among residential and small commercial systems installed in the United States in 2013, roughly 20 percent were sold for less than $3.90/Watt (W), while a similar percentage was priced above $5.60/W.

    Researchers from Yale University, University of Wisconsin—Madison, University of Texas—Austin, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory empirically examined observed heterogeneity in PV prices in the United States. The research explored different plausible sources of price variation, including characteristics of the PV systems and household demographics, as well as measures of installer competition, installer experience, demand for PV, and public policy. A rich dataset of nearly 100,000 PV systems over the 2010-2012 timeframe was analyzed, focusing on systems under 10 kW. Because of the study’s scope, the results may not apply to third-party owned (TPO) PV systems.

    The study finds, not surprisingly, that PV prices differ based on system characteristics. More interestingly, there is evidence that search costs, imperfect competition, installer experience, and public policy all affect solar PV pricing. A greater number of installers in the local market and higher levels of installer experience are both found to lower prices, while regions with relatively generous financial incentives for solar PV are associated with higher prices. By exploring how these factors influence PV prices in the United States, the research sheds light on sources of price variability that may be amenable to policy interventions aimed at facilitating cost reductions.

    Methods and Data

    The approach used in this study follows an extensive literature on price dispersion, and estimates the reduced-form relationship between PV prices and a wide variety of supply and demand factors that may impact those prices. The study relied on LBNL’s sizable Tracking the Sun dataset of system-level PV prices. Additional data were compiled from SEIA/GTM, DSIRE, IREC, and the U.S. Census Bureau. Only system-level installation prices between $1.5/W and $20/W were retained, system size was limited to 1 kW to 10 kW, and only PV systems installed between 2010 and 2012 were included. Appraised-value TPO systems were excluded from the analysis, but other TPO systems for which prices reflect transactions between installers and finance providers were retained. The final sample contains 98,586 PV systems across 14 states.

    Results and Conclusions

    The results demonstrate that a wide variety of factors can and do impact PV system pricing. Even after controlling for many plausible price drivers, however, much of the variation in prices remains unexplained. This suggests that highly installation-specific (unobservable) characteristics, such as the suitability of the roof or the willingness of the consumer to search for a lower price, may impact prices.

    Key findings from the study include:

    • PV system characteristics have a strong influence on pricing: larger PV systems, even within the narrow range of 1 kW to 10 kW, are associated with lower prices per W; tracking, thin-film panels, building integrated panels, and batteries all increase prices; and systems installed as part of new home construction or that were self-installed have lower prices.

    • Installer competition and consumer search costs affect pricing; for example, as the density of installers active in a local market increases, PV system pricing declines.

    • Installer experience and economies of scale at the state and especially at the county level are found to reduce prices, consistent with a large literature on learning-by-doing in new technologies.

    • Policy variables influence prices, as regions with a higher “consumer value of solar,” which accounts for utility bill savings and incentives, tend to experience higher prices; these results may stem from a demand shift due to the higher incentives, or alternatively, may be a symptom of imperfect competition whereby installers are able to “value-price” systems based on consumer willingness to pay.

    • Demographic factors influence prices: greater regional household density and household income increase prices, whereas greater levels of education in the region decrease prices.

    • Factors that increase demand for or willingness to pay for PV, including many noted above and also including the aggregate number of PV systems in the local market, are found to increase system prices.

    These results have several implications for policy:

    • First, they provide a broad view of the factors influencing PV pricing. This overview is important given that price reduction is a stated policy objective.

    • Second, several of the results are directly relevant for policymakers since they may involve market failures or other justifications for government intervention. Government efforts to foster a competitive market for PV, e.g., by encouraging entrants and reducing information search costs, have strong potential to bring down prices. Installer experience is also found to reduce prices. This result is important for forecasting future prices for PV systems, and indicates that efforts to increase deployment—whether publicly or privately funded—are likely to reduce costs.

    • Finally, we find evidence of how policy actions, for example changes to the magnitude of financial incentives offered for PV, may directly influence prices. Attention may therefore be required when designing and evaluating deployment policies aimed at achieving cost reductions, given the potential for such policies to elevate prices in the short-term.


    EPA CLIMATE SAFE, WORKABLE – STUDY Energy Study Finds that EPA’s Clean Power Plan Will Not Jeopardize the Reliability of U.S. Power System

    February 19, 2015 (Business Wire)

    “The design and implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which is intended to reduce the U.S. electric system’s CO2 emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, will not jeopardize or compromise the reliability of the U.S. power system, according to [ Electric System Reliability and EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Tools and Practices] by Analysis Group energy experts…[that demonstrates there are a wide variety of existing and modified tools to develop, formalize, and implement State Plans and assuring electric system reliability while taking the actions required under law to reduce CO2 emissions from existing power plants] are compatible…[A] recent survey of more than 400 utility executives nationwide found that more than 60 percent felt optimistic about the Clean Power Plan and felt that EPA should either hold to its current emissions reduction targets or make them more aggressive…” click here for more

    WHY TO LIKE SOLAR 3 Reasons Why Solar Energy Is One of America’s Hottest Industries

    Rakesh Sharma, march 2, 2015 (Business Cheat Sheet)

    “…After years of being eclipsed by other renewable energy sources, solar has become hot…Here are three reasons:…1. Solar offers better returns…A new study by NC clean energy technology center found that installation in solar panel systems beats investment in a stock market investment fund…2. The cost of solar energy has declined…[A] report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that the median cost of residential solar has gone down from approximately $12/watt in 1998 to about $4.70/watt in 2013…[and] solar prices are expected to further decline to between $3.70/watt and $4.24/watt before incentives…3. Solar is good for the economy…[The] Solar Foundation [found] the solar industry added workers almost 20 times faster than the overall U.S. economy…The economics of the solar industry has also changed from one that was small-scale toward corporate industrial behemoths…[Solar City] is valued at $5 billion in the stock market….” click here for more

    CAROLINAS PREPARE FOR OCEAN WIND Offshore wind energy effort advances

    Bruce Smith, March 2, 2015 (AP via Rocky Mountain Telegram)

    “The first leases allowing wind turbines offshore of the Carolinas are expected to be let next year although some people worry the massive turbines could harm the tourism coastal communities depend on…[The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] issued a report that there appears to be no significant environmental impact [from]] offshore wind development…[L]eases could be awarded as early as next year, [but] it probably will be well into the next decade before any turbines are built. Once leases are awarded, there would be additional environmental studies of the specific areas and additional reviews of specific turbine construction plans…Construction of the first [U.S. offshore wind turbines] is expected off New England in the next year or two…There is already a wind energy industry on the Carolinas coast. Fifteen months ago, Clemson University opened a new $110 million energy research center in North Charleston, S.C., that includes the world’s largest wind turbine test rig.” click here for more

    Saturday, February 28, 2015

    Why News Reports Miss The Climate Change Story

    Maybe he should check in with NewEnergyNews and Utility Dive. From RealTime via YouTube

    Climate Change In Two Minutes, Version 2

    Here's a new version of what to say about climate change when there is very little time to explain. From greenman3610 via YouTube

    How To Make Doubt

    A terrific new entry from Peter Sinclair’s This Is Not Cool series that documents the strategies used to undermine the increasingly irrefutable science of climate change. From YaleClimateForum via YouTube

    Friday, February 27, 2015


    …Shareholders ask the five largest US oil companies – Valero, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum, Phillips 66 and Chevron – to disclose the risks their operations and facilities face from rising sea levels and storm surges

    Siri Srinivas, 26 February 2015 (UK Guardian)

    “…[The five largest US oil companies were asked to disclose risks to their facilities from climate change impacts like from storms and flooding in letters from investors Calvert Investments, Pax World Management, Walden Asset Management and others and nonprofit advocates Ceres and the Union of Concerned Scientists after Stormy Seas, Rising Risks What Investors Should Know About Climate Change Impacts at Oil Refineries from] the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that coastal refineries owned by each of the companies – Valero, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum and Phillips 66 – are in danger of potentially costly disruptions due to rising sea levels and storms…Valero’s Meraux refinery in Louisiana faces the starkest physical risk…With forecasts that sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico could rise 3-4 ft (about 1 meter) by the end of the century, parts of the refinery are likely to be inundated by 2050…[It] suffered $330m in damages due to hurricane Katrina...Companies had little to say in response to the report…Of course, it’s difficult to discuss protecting assets from climate change without talking about climate change. And even though public rhetoric has changed, oil companies have funded climate-change denial for decades…” click here for more


    UGE's Vertical Axis Wind Turbines now provide green power for the Eiffel Tower

    Charly Cameron, February 25, 2015 (Inhabitat)

    “…[The Eiffel Tower’s new, sustainable facelift includes two of Urban Green Energy’s (UGE) vertical axis wind turbines. Installed 400ft up, within the tower’s iconic framework, the turbines are now providing 10,000kWh of green electricity each year…enough electricity to power all commercial operations on the first floor…[T]he iconic landmark now [also] features LED lighting, along with 10 m² of roof-mounted solar panels atop its visitors’ center…[The]two UGE VisionAIR5 vertical axis turbines are] uniquely suited to their unusual new home…above the Eiffel Tower’s second floor, some 400 ft up. The height enables optimum performance for the turbines, which can harvest wind from any direction, and the near silence of the mechanisms ensure they don’t distract from visitor experience. Additionally, the turbines were given a custom paint job so as to blend in with the tower’s frame…” click here for more


    Indian Railways Plans 1,000 Megawatts of Solar Energy Projects

    Ganesh Nagarajan, February 26, 2015 (Bloomberg News)

    “…[The Indian Railways network] plans 1,000 megawatts of solar-power projects in the next five years…Developers can use the railway land and buildings to set up solar panels…Prime Minister Narendra Modi is asking state-run companies to start investing in clean energy as the world’s second-most populous nation targets 100 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2022. India’s armed forces will set up 300 megawatts of photovoltaics by 2019…Indian Railways will use solar power to light up stations and office buildings…[It will solicit] bids from generators and power exchanges, resulting in savings of 30 billion rupees ($485 million). Funds will be available for the solar project…” click here for more


    Kenya’s Geothermal Investments Contribute to Green Energy Growth, Competitiveness and Shared Prosperity

    February 23, 2015 (The World Bank)

    “Kenya is investing in 280 megawatts of geothermal energy as part of its accelerated green energy growth program…The new geothermal power lowers electricity bills by over 30%, reducing the cost of doing business…The World Bank Group and other development partners are making a significant contribution to increasing electricity access to Kenyans, raising prospects for growth and shared prosperity…Kenya’s rapid investment in geothermal power in recent years is increasingly paying dividends…[Geothermal power] is generated from natural steam from the earth..[It is renewable but, unlike hydro, it] is not affected by vagaries of weather…Geothermal’s contribution to the national energy mix increased to 51% [in February, up from 13% in 2010], following the commissioning of two new plants with a combined capacity of 280 megawatts: Olkaria 1 and Olkaria 4 in the Rift Valley…Supported by the World Bank Group, Olkaria is one of the largest single geothermal investment projects in the world and geothermal is now the [country’s] largest source of electricity…[Kenya plans] to increase geothermal capacity by another 460 megawatts by 2018…” click here for more