NewEnergyNews More: June 2011

NewEnergyNews More

Every day is Earthday.

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

email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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Your intrepid reporter

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  • Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    GOOGLE ON WHY NEW ENERGY

    Google: Clean-energy innovation pays off
    Martin LaMonica, June 28, 2011 (CNET)

    "Google's philanthropy Google.org…released an analysis on the impact of clean-energy innovation that is at once optimistic and sobering…The Internet company has made it a corporate goal to be carbon neutral and promote green technologies, putting some of its employees on the forefront of thinking on how to speed clean-energy technology development.

    "…[I]ts study found that technology breakthroughs, coupled with policies to encourage clean energy, will have a positive economic and environmental impact, more so than policies alone. It also found speed is a key lever in delivering benefits…A
    mere five-year delay (2010-2015) in accelerating technology innovation [could lead] to $2.3 trillion to $3.2 trillion in unrealized GDP, an aggregate 1.2-1.4 million net unrealized jobs, and 8-28 more gigatons of potential GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 2050…"


    click to enlarge

    "The analysis, based on economic models from consulting company McKinsey, highlights the potential of clean-energy technologies to affect multiple societal problems…[B]reakthrough innovations in clean energy [could add] $155 billion per year in GDP, creating 1.1 million net jobs, while reducing household energy costs by $942 per year, oil consumption by 1.1 billion barrels per year, and carbon emissions 13% by 2030…"

    "…
    [The Impact of Clean Energy Innovation; Examining the Impact of Clean Energy Innovation on the United States Energy System and Economy] delves into specific areas--electric vehicles, power from renewable sources, grid storage, and natural gas--to estimate when cleaner alternatives to oil and coal can compete based on price alone. For example, it projects that a breakthrough in electric-vehicle battery cost by 2018 would make the total cost of ownership for EVs with a 125-mile range lower than gasoline cars."

    click to enlarge

    "But the study's authors, by their own admission, make some optimistic assumptions regarding new technology adoption. They assume that the infrastructure for charging electric vehicles will follow consumer demand and that transmission lines for large-scale renewable-energy projects will be built, though that is a challenging siting and regulatory issue…[T]he study underscores the role technology can play…[but also] shows policies are critically…For example, better EV batteries can create a tipping point that will drive mass adoption, but cheap natural gas could stall EV adoption…

    "On the power generation side, fully amortized coal plants are very tough to compete with on the cost per kilowatt-hour alone, it noted. The study projects that even with technical breakthroughs, renewable-power generation would not compete with the marginal cost of coal until after 2030…"

    SOLAR LOOKS ABROAD

    Deadlines may shelve renewable energy projects
    Karoun Demerjian, June 25, 2011 (Las Vegas Sun)

    "The Energy Department has been teaming up with Nevada lawmakers on an almost monthly basis to announce loan guarantees for renewable energy projects across the Silver State, each of which is expected to create a few hundred jobs…[but] that soon could come to an end… because the program is approaching its expiration date, and it isn’t clear if there’s a politically palatable way to extend it.

    "…[S]ince the $30 billion in loan guarantees created by Section 1705 of the stimulus became available…[developers knew] they’d have to break ground on or before Sept. 30 to keep the funding…The program was supposed to boost a fledgling industry, and buoy private investor confidence…[until markets took over but]…Recovery has been slower than anticipated, especially in terms of liquidity in the financial markets…[Without] these programs, or their equivalent, around for the next few years…[developers say they will] have to go elsewhere…"


    click to enlarge

    "The problem with setting [solar] developers to the open market is one of price comparison. Wind energy and geothermal…can compete with more conventional forms of power generation, such as coal-fired plants and natural gas…But solar’s not quite there…Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said that he believes the price of solar will be competitive with carbon sources of energy in the next 10 years…[D]evelopers plan to be players in the open market much sooner. But they point out that it’s not a fair fight right now.

    "…Oil and gas tax benefits…[and] government support for those industries has been renewed ...[New Energy] incentives are just in place to allow these new technologies and new industries to compete effectively… against incumbents…[New Energy]-focused research and development tax credits — known as Section 1603 credits, which fall off the table in December…[are] equally necessary to shore up…"


    click to enlarge

    "…[But] budget negotiations imploded this week, after Republican participants House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, withdrew…Cantor and Kyl said they could see no way forward…Stimulus programs are not popular fare among Republicans…[while] Democrats point out that the job losses would have been far worse without the stimulus program…President Barack Obama requested about $200 million to back up to $2 billion in Section 1705 loan guarantees in the budget he submitted to Congress…[T]hat’s a steep drop from the $2.5 billion that was slated to $30 billion in loans two years ago…[T]here will be a lot less to go around…

    "…[D]evelopers don’t care where their government assistance comes from, just so long as it comes — if they’re to deliver these projects…[Without the assistance, developers say,] '… we’ll take our business internationally.'"

    IT’S WATER OR ENERGY UNLESS IT’S WIND OR PV

    Water shortages threaten renewable energy production, experts warn; Thinktank says technologies reliant on water could be hampered by droughts – and production is faltering already
    Suzanne Goldenberg, 27 June 2011 (UK Guardian)

    "The development of new renewable energy technologies and other expanding sources of energy such as shale gas will be limited by the availability of water in some regions of the world, according to [The Water-Energy Nexus; Adding water to the energy agenda from World Policy Institute]…

    "The study shows the reliance on large amounts of water to create biofuels and run solar thermal energy and hydraulic fracturing – a technique for extracting gas from unconventional geological formations underground – means droughts could hamper their deployment…"


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    "The study, estimating the water consumption of conventional and renewable energy, found even so-called clean energy solutions use vast amounts of water…Hydroelectricity far outstrips other forms of energy in its use of water, requiring 4,500 gallons to produce a single megawatt hour of electricity – or about the amount needed to run a flat-screen TV for a year. Geothermal energy uses 1,400 gallons per MW/h.

    "Corn-based ethanol uses a lot of water to irrigate crops, as do nuclear plants which rely on water for cooling systems. Even some renewable energy sources – such as solar farms – are water hogs because they rely on water for cooling…Solar thermal farms use five times as much water as nuclear power plants…In contrast, photovoltaic solar cells, which convert energy from the sun into electricity, [and wind turbines, which convert the mechanical energy of wind into electricity,] use minimal amounts of water."


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    "Meanwhile, the US drought is forcing energy companies to scale back plans for deploying new techniques in hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for oil and gas extraction. Not long ago, energy companies were hoping to increase production in Texas by 50% over the next five years…Unlike in Pennsylvania, where the chemicals used in natural gas drilling have contaminated drinking supplies, the problems in Texas are a matter of water quantity, not water quality…

    "It takes up to 13m gallons of water to open up a single well in the Eagle Ford shale region in south Texas, where water is in perennially short supply. Such demands are going to block development of areas in south and west Texas, which are suffering water shortages…"

    DOE BACKS HUGE ROOFTOP SUN BUILD

    DOE Issues Conditional Loan Guarantee For 733 MW Rooftop Project
    23 June 2011 (Solar Industry)

    "The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has offered a conditional commitment for a loan guarantee supporting a 733 MW distributed solar rooftop project…NRG Energy, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Prologis…[are] the major stakeholders involved…

    "The project, whose total cost is estimated at $2.6 billion, is being financed entirely by the private sector over the next four years…The project will be completed in phases…[For] the first phase, 15 MW of solar capacity is immediately ready for construction and installation in Southern California, where the power generated will be sold to a local utility under long-term power purchase agreements that have been approved and executed."


    Growth has been big and steady (click to enlarge)

    "NRG Energy has committed to be the lead investor for the first phase of the project over the next 18 months. In addition to funding the first phase of the project, the company has a right of first offer for the remainder (up to the program total of 733 MW) and will provide development resources and project expertise for the installations.

    "Bank of America Merrill Lynch will be the sole financial and structuring adviser and sole lender on this transaction, which is being executed under the DOE’s Financial Institutions Partnership Program (FIPP). Through FIPP, the DOE will guarantee 80% of the $1.4 billion debt financing for this transaction."


    Growth will be bigger and steadier (click to enlarge)

    "Prologis will provide site access to rooftops and will also act as developer, construction manager and program sponsor, in addition to making an equity investment."

    [Tom Doyle, President, NRG Solar:] “NRG believes rooftop solar is a smart choice for industrial, commercial and residential property owners in markets around the country, and this program provides the commercial scale…[It] will nearly double the amount of grid-connected solar online in the United States…"

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    REPUB ENERGY LAW = LAWSUITS

    Republicans' renewables bills may increase litigation: Obama officials
    Nick Juliano, 23 June 2011 (Platts)

    "A suite of legislation to streamline environmental reviews for renewable energy projects being pushed by US House of Representatives Republicans could lead to increased litigation and additional project delays, members of the Obama administration warned…

    "The bills would limit environmental reviews of wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and marine renewable projects required under the National Environmental Policy Act, and they would impose tight deadlines for public input and decisions from federal agencies…Representative Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, pointed to examples of projects that have been slowed by environmental reviews, such as the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts…"


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    "While Republican sponsors touted the bills as intended to reduce lawsuits and speed projects to approval, administration officials and Democratic committee members said they would have the opposite effect…[Because H.R. 2170…would block federal agencies and the public from being able to propose alternative project considerations during NEPA analysis. Projects could only be approved as they were proposed, or denied…[This could force agencies] to select the no-action alternative…

    "Administration witnesses and Democrats on the subcommittee also said that environmental groups, local governments or other stakeholders who would be shut out of the NEPA process would be more likely to go to court to challenge projects."


    click to enlarge

    "Two other bills, H.R. 2171 and H.R. 2172, aim to exclude from NEPA review certain testing procedures for geothermal and wind energy projects on public lands…[Experts say] federal agencies already have discretion to issue categorical exclusions for those types of projects, and often issue such exemptions when those projects do not threaten sensitive environments or cultural sites…Removing that discretion by applying across-the-board exclusions [cause lead to] unanticipated resource damage…[or] litigation…[as well as] further complications and delays [of renewable energy development]…

    "A fourth bill, H.R. 2713, would streamline permitting for meteorological testing for offshore wind facilities by requiring Interior to establish a testing permit that included a 30-day decision deadline, and exclude the testing from NEPA review…[but] may create an extra layer of bureaucracy…"

    INVESTORS BET ON U.S. WIND

    A mighty wind?
    Ronan Farren, June 24, 2011 (Irish Times)

    "Despite stiff competition from natural gas prices, wind energy is still attracting new investors…Just as internet protocol (IP) took over from traditional twisted copper to become the basis of our current phone, cellular and internet communications, US wind is having the same struggle to break through…[but] it’s a battle it is winning…

    "…With mandated renewable power standards in 30 states (plus another eight with non-binding targets), federal tax credits/subsidies driven by the Obama administration, the backing of Wall Street, increasing Chinese investment, and a full-on PR campaign, American wind is challenging the entrenched oil and gas vested interests."


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    "Wind’s big problem today is natural gas pricing. Unlike in the EU, which offers legislation-backed national renewable energy fixed feed-in tariffs (FIT), individual state and utility prices are based on the lowest fuel cost available. That gives the power to natural gas, currently near all-time lows…[Surprisingly,] natural gas pricing has effectively decoupled from oil pricing…due to the abundance of shale gas [reserves]…While not being environmentally friendly in relation to its extraction, it is considered economical.

    "As a result, the US wind market, though subsidised, has become less profitable and more risky. Success requires strong industry knowledge, in terms of understanding turbine technology, optimising site selection, and knowing which utilities are issuing power purchase agreements (PPAs) in states that have the grid transmission lines to deliver the energy to population centres."


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    "…[P]roduction tax credits (PTCs) that benefit profitable tax equity investors…constitute a key area…Gas prices aside, the largest immediate storm on the horizon is the periodic cancellation of tax credits that allow developers to get an immediate refund worth at least 30 per cent of the capital cost of wind farms. These are likely to be ended after 2012, particularly under a Republican-led Congress. Developers who start construction of their projects by the end of this year have the option of receiving the cash value of their tax credits from the US Treasury within 90 days of completion…[Extension] of the tax credits past 2012…[faces] strong headwinds due to the pressure on Congress to reduce massive federal budget deficits.

    "This is not stopping already ensconced top tier developers who are doubling down and cherry picking key strategic projects to green-light [including those in and near California, whose Govenor just] signed into law the most aggressive renewable target in the country…Another 21,000MW of new renewable capacity is needed…"

    COSTLY SILVER, COSTLY SUN

    Silver Surge Makes ‘Headwind’ for Solar/Fossil Fuel Rivalry
    Ehren Goosens, June 23, 2011 (Bloomberg News)

    "Soaring silver prices are hampering the solar industry’s ability to compete with fossil fuels…Panel makers consume about 11 percent of the world’s supply of silver, the material in solar cells that conducts electricity. The metal has appreciated 74 percent to $35.30 a troy ounce on average so far this year from $20.24 last year.

    "Prices for solar cells have dropped about 27 percent this year and would be even lower if each panel didn’t require about 20 grams of silver…[It is slowing the delivery of] solar power at prices that are competitive with traditional energy…"


    click thru for the interactive chart

    "Prices for photovoltaic solar panels were $1.49 a watt in June, compared with about $1.80 in January…as manufacturers especially in China raised production and incentives were trimmed in Europe…The price of the silver paste…[for solar cell circuits] more than tripled in the past year…[adding] 3 cents to 4 cents a watt, or 2 percent, to the [one company’s] cost…[G]ross margins narrowed to about 15 percent in the first quarter from 17 percent in the prior quarter as the price of cells fell faster than the cost of production…"

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    "A typical solar cell uses 0.10 grams of silver for each watt of generating capacity. That amounts to about 20 grams in a 200-watt panel, adding $23.52 to the cost of each panel…The cost for metal in each panel totals about 11 cents a watt, up from 5 cents a year ago…[It is accounting] for around half of cell makers’ processing costs…[and at this year’s high] will account for 13 percent to 15 percent of the cost of producing each panel…

    "Solar companies and their suppliers are looking for ways to reduce the amount of silver used in cells [like using] thinner wiring…[They are upping their R&D on silver]…High silver prices may provide a competitive advantage to companies that make thin-film solar products… made with cadmium-telluride rather than the polysilicon…[They] do not use any silver…"

    THE EV’S WORTHWHILE COST

    Electric car bill an investment in the future
    Editorial, June 28, 2011 (Knoxville News Sentinel)

    "The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are slowly merging onto the nation's roadways, but electric vehicles need a boost to get up to economic speed.

    "U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is sponsoring a bi-partisan [$2.9 billion] bill that would establish an electric vehicle development program within the U.S. Department of Energy, require utilities to plan infrastructure for the vehicles' widespread use and start a research-and-development fund for the industry…[T]his bill would represent a wise investment in the future of electric vehicles and in…[the] growing green economy…[C]o-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., [it] would accelerate the development of electric vehicles and supporting infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bolster national security by helping to reduce dependency on foreign oil…"


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    "Under the bill, DOE would develop a national deployment plan and give technical assistance to the states with an emphasis on helping public-private partnerships, establish grant programs and support workforce training. The bill also would begin a transition of the federal government vehicle fleet to electric vehicles. Incentives for consumers and research-and-development funding also are included. The largest chunk of the funding - $2 billion - would go to communities to speed up the deployment of electric vehicles."

    "Electric cars won't replace gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles overnight, but the transition needs to begin. The environmental benefits of no-emission vehicles should be obvious. There are economic benefits, too…Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who leads the Pew clean-energy economy initiative…noted that despite doubling private investment in clean energy since 2009, the United States has fallen behind China and
    Germany. Jobs, Granholm said, follow investment."


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    "In addition to protecting the environment and creating jobs, the development of electric vehicles should be a national security priority…[T]he deployment of 700,000 plug-in electric vehicles would save about 10 million barrels of oil per year…Reducing our dependency on foreign oil - and the unreliable or hostile regimes that control its flow - would redefine our national interests. The oil-rich states of the Middle East would gradually lose their leverage…

    "Promoting and subsidizing the development of electric vehicles is in the best interest of our nation, and the Alexander-Merkley bill offers a comprehensive approach to aiding a fledgling industry segment until it can compete on its own in the marketplace."

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    THE GRID IS READY NOW FOR NEW ENERGY

    Wind energy integration: Some fundamental facts
    Tom Gray, June 23, 2011 (Into The Wind)

    "...[American Wind Energy Association] Manager of Transmission Policy Michael Goggin [posted a comment on an article by Stephen Lacey about innovative ways utility system operators are working to integrate wind, a variable source of electricity generation, with other parts of their systems. Goggin reminded readers] of some basic facts [about wind integration including]…

    "…[1] There has always been a large amount of variability and uncertainty on the power system (chiefly from electric demand changing and from conventional power plants experiencing unexpected 'forced outages,' taking 1000+ MW offline instantaneously…"


    click to enlarge

    "…[2] Adding even a large amount of wind or solar energy to the grid typically only adds a small incremental amount to overall power system variability, as most of the variability introduced by wind or solar is cancelled out by opposite changes in other sources of variability, and…

    "…[3] Grid operators have a number of tools to deal with variability and uncertainty on the power system today, and those tools can be readily used to deal with the incremental variability and uncertainty that comes from adding large amounts of wind or solar to the grid."


    click to enlarge

    "…[N]ew technologies like demand response are being developed to provide grid operators with even more tools to manage all types of variability on the power system…[but already] large amounts of wind and solar are being efficiently and reliably integrated onto the grid today. More than 15% of the electricity comes from wind in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark; in the U.S., 8% of electricity on the main Texas grid and more than 15% of the electricity produced in Iowa last year came from wind energy.

    "…[G]rid operators only need to balance the aggregate supply and demand for electricity on the grid. A common misconception is that the variability of each individual resource on the grid needs to be managed…[D]edicated storage or a dedicated 'backup' power plant…or combining several resources to create a virtual power plant or a microgrid [is good but over] 100 years ago we built a power grid that combines all sources of variability on the grid so that I can turn my air conditioner on and off without having a dedicated battery or other backup system attached to my house, just as a large coal or nuclear plant can be built without building dedicated backup to step in when that plant experiences an unexpected outage; trying to dis-aggregate the grid would be a step backwards…"

    AIN’T NO SUN PANELS ON THE WHITE HOUSE

    Solar Remains Missing From White House Rooftop As Deadline Arrives
    Jessica Lillian, 21 June 2011 (Solar Industry)

    "…Last October, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu and Council of Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley…[said] a PV array and a solar water heating system would be installed on the roof of the White House. A competitive procurement process to select the projects' installers was set…The self-imposed deadline for completion…was the end of this spring [which was June 21]…

    "…[T]he DOE's [June 20] blog post…
    An Update on White House Solar Panels and Our Solar Program, focused on the broader solar-focused projects that the department is currently undertaking…[and said the demonstration solar project] at the White House is just ‘one component of the Energy Department's larger, ambitious SunShot Initiative to reduce the total installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75 percent before the end of the decade…’"

    Artist's concept of what it could look like (click to enlarge)

    [Ramamoorthy Ramesh, Director, SunShot Initiative and Solar Energy Technologies Program:] "The Energy Department remains on the path to complete the White House solar demonstration project, in keeping with our commitment, and we look forward to sharing more information - including additional details on the timing of this project - after the competitive procurement process is completed…"

    "Ramesh also highlighted the DOE's Rooftop Solar Challenge, which is designed to streamline solar project installations' administrative processes, and SunShot Incubator, which aims to scale up innovative manufacturing technologies."

    click thru to petition the White House to act

    "Although some solar sector professionals have derided efforts to see solar on the White House as a distracting publicity stunt, others [such as 350.org] insist that the completion of the promised project would send a demonstrative global signal about the administration's commitment to the deployment of renewable energy."

    [Rhone Resch, president/CEO, Solar Energy Industries Association:] "Putting solar on the roof of the nation's most important home is a powerful symbol calling on all Americans to rethink how we create energy…"

    N.C.’S NEW ENERGY BUSINESS BOOM

    NC 'clean energy' firms jump to 1,800 in less than a year
    Rick Smith, June 22, 2011 (WRAL-TV)

    "Passage of the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) law in 2007 by the North Carolina General Assembly and incentives from the federal government are helping create a growing ‘clean industry’ in the state…North Carolina is now home to 1,792 companies focused on renewable energy, and the state is the site for 1,829 renewable energy systems, according to [2011 North Carolina Clean Energy Data Book from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association]…

    "The number of companies jumped from 1,100 last fall to nearly 1,800…And these numbers [from the group’s first effort to catalog the state’s clean energy projects] could be low…[T]he Association has reported that the clean energy sector employs 12,000 people in 2010, up from 10,000 in 2009. A report on 2011 employment will be issued in November.


    click to enlarge

    "The existing renewable energy projects have the potential to generate more than 2,809 megawatts of power. That’s enough for 561,000 homes, based on 1 megawatt per 200 households…More projects are in the works…The data, which is broken down in the report for each of the state’s seven economic development zones, is conservative, according to Julie Robinson, a spokeswoman for the group…

    "By category, the state has…[1] 33 biomass projects with a generating capacity of 551 megawatts…[2] 836 geothermal projects [megawatts not available]…[3] 67 hydroelectric projects with a generating capacity of nearly 1,900 megawatts…[4] 829 solar projects with just over 59 megawatts of generating capacity…[5] 64 wind energy projects with 300 megawatts of potential capacity…"


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    "Some companies, governments and other institutions are also moving to embrace so-called ‘LEED’ standards (leadership in energy and environmental design) for energy efficiency buildings…770 LEED buildings covering just over 77 million square feet have been constructed…Another 770 Energy Star-rated buildings also have been built. They cover nearly 52.8 million square feet.

    "The group calculated as well just how many homes and manufactured homes have the potential to be upgraded for energy efficiency. Nearly 1.2 million homes built before 1970 could be upgraded. The state has nearly 598,000 manufactured homes…"

    NAT’L ENERGY POLICY NEEDED – GAO

    House Bill Would Cut Clean Energy and Efficiency Programs by 40 Percent; Appropriations bill puts renewable energy and efficiency funding about $1 billion below current levels, roughly equaling dollars doled out in 2005
    Elizabeth McGowan, June 21, 2011 (SolveClimate News via Reuters)

    "…In the midst of this season's budget travails, the Government Accountability Office has issued [Climate Change: Improvements Needed to Clarify National Priorities and Better Align Them with Federal Funding Decisions] recommending what likely seems obvious to even casual observers of congressional politics — the need to replace a piecemeal approach to climate and energy with a national plan…[T]he GAO spells out a two-step solution that is probably easier written on paper than actually accomplished.

    "First, federal authorities need to set clear strategic climate change priorities that identify specific roles and responsibilities of key federal entities involved in the enterprise."


    click to enlarge

    "Second, those same authorities have to assess how effective they are now at not only defining and reporting federal climate change funding but also lining up that funding with agreed-upon priorities. Those practices will have to be polished so Congress and the public can fully grasp how the government spends money designated for climate change."

    click to enlarge

    "The trick is that before embarking on step one, entities that fall under the executive branch such as the Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, the Office and Management and Budget, and Office of Science and Technology Policy have to consult with Congress and collaborate with relevant federal agencies and interagency coordinating bodies.

    "And that looks to be a daunting challenge if those tasked with GAO's recommendations refer to the baffling maze of a chart…[in the report showing the] federal climate change program as complex and crosscutting…"

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    NEW QUESTIONS ABOUT NAT GAS BOOM

    Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush
    Ian Urbina (w/Robbie Brown), June 25, 2011 (NY Times)

    "Natural gas companies have been placing enormous bets on the wells they are drilling, saying they will deliver big profits and provide a vast new source of energy for the United States…But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells.

    "…[E]nergy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves…in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles…"


    (from the NY Times - click to enlarge)

    "Company data for more than 10,000 wells in three major shale gas formations raise further questions about the industry’s prospects. There is undoubtedly a vast amount of gas in the formations. The question remains how affordably it can be extracted…[T]here are some very active wells…[but] often surrounded by vast zones of less-productive wells that in some cases cost more to drill and operate than the gas they produce is worth… Also, the amount of gas produced by many of the successful wells is falling much faster than initially predicted…making it more difficult for them to turn a profit over the long run…

    "…[I]f natural gas ultimately proves more expensive to extract from the ground than has been predicted, landowners, investors and lenders could see their investments falter, while consumers will pay a price in higher electricity and home heating bills…There are implications for the environment, too…If shale gas wells fade faster than expected, energy companies will have to drill more wells or hydrofrack them more often, resulting in more toxic waste…"


    (from the NY Times - click to enlarge)

    "Although energy companies routinely project that shale gas wells will produce gas at a reasonable rate for anywhere from 20 to 65 years, these companies have been making such predictions based on limited data and a certain amount of guesswork, since shale drilling is a relatively new practice…Gas production data reviewed by The Times suggest that many wells in shale gas fields do not level off the way many companies predict but instead decline steadily…"

    [E-mail from official, Schlumberger oil and gas services:] “All about making money…[Well’s performance looks] like crap…but operator will flip it based on ‘potential’ and make some money on it…Always a greater sucker…”

    HOUSE BILL DISSES NEW ENERGY

    House Bill Would Cut Clean Energy and Efficiency Programs by 40 Percent; Appropriations bill puts renewable energy and efficiency funding about $1 billion below current levels, roughly equaling dollars doled out in 2005
    Elizabeth McGowan, June 21, 2011 (SolveClimate News via Reuters)

    "Even though Republicans have vowed an 'all-of-the-above' approach to America's energy future, Democrats are accusing them of clinging to a narrow, antiquated, hydrocarbon-heavy past…[in] the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition…2012 energy and water appropriations bill…[T]hey claim [it] shortchanges President Obama's efforts at innovation and competition in favor of an addiction to oil, coal and natural gas…

    "Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona was the sole Republican who joined 19 Democrats in opposing the bill that passed on a 26-20 vote. The full House will be considering the measure, one of a dozen sweeping federal spending bills, after Independence Day…[T]his version of the bill snips $1.9 billion [ – 40 percent of current funding – ] from the White House request for investments in energy efficiency research, renewables such as solar, wind and geothermal, fuel-conserving vehicles, weatherization, biomass and other programs…[Energy insiders] doubt the Senate will approve such draconian paring of clean energy enterprise…"


    click to enlarge

    "Overall, this appropriations legislation is designed to provide annual funding for the various agencies and programs under the Department of Energy, including the National Nuclear Security Administration, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and various regional water and power authorities…Coalition members are most alarmed that the GOP engineered a bill…slashes close to $500 million from DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)…

    "…[T]he White House 2012 budget request for EERE programs is the largest ever. It rings in at a total of $3.2 billion, which is bordering on 11 percent of the total DOE budget. That's significant because it's a jump of $983 million — or 44 percent — above 2010 appropriations…[T]he legislation increases funding for DOE's Fossil Energy Office by $32 million while decreasing designated dollars for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) by $80 million…"


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    "Obama had asked that the chronically underfunded ARPA-E receive about $650 million next year. The GOP House bill would jeopardize the relatively new initiative designed to fund early-stage innovation projects that are deemed riskiest and most transformative…Savings for the president's budget figure of $520 million would have come from peeling away money for fossil energy research and development, as well as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve…

    "The last actual appropriation for ARPA-E was $389 million for fiscal year 2009. DARPA, the military program Chu is mimicking…allows an idea to morph into a prototype that is deployed throughout branches of the military before spilling over into the civilian marketplace…"

    BPA BUILDING WIRES

    Transmission Overhaul: BPA's Upgrades To Allow 1.9 GW Of Wind
    22 June 2011 (Renew Grid)

    "The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has proposed two transmission-line upgrades in Washington and Montana that, with four new high-voltage lines already under construction or consideration, would deliver an additional 3.2 GW of electricity, including 1.9 GW of wind power…The two new projects are the result of BPA's Network Open Season, a process designed to better gauge demand for new transmission..

    "The first project - the Northern Intertie Reinforcements - would combine substation, line and other equipment upgrades to increase capacity on BPA's interconnection with Canada. This effort includes a proposed transmission project involving Puget Sound Energy."



    Get it done! From BonnevillePower via YouTube

    "The second project - the Colstrip Upgrade Project - would combine system upgrades in order to increase transmission capacity in eastern Washington and Montana. According to BPA, this project will allow wind resources from Montana [which are strong when Washington winds are slow] to be delivered into the Northwest grid. This project needs to be coordinated with a project planned by NorthWestern Energy to upgrade the Colstrip Transmission System further into Montana...

    "BPA will now complete preliminary engineering and an environmental review of the projects, which could take one to two years. After these processes are completed, BPA will decide whether to proceed…"

    GEOTHERMAL BEATS W.VA’S COAL

    Bonanza: Heat from below
    Editorial, June 25, 2011 (Gazette-Mail)

    "A couple of years ago, West Virginia University scientist Brian Anderson received a $1.2 million federal stimulus grant for three years of research into how to exploit a potential gold mine -- geothermal energy seething at 350 degrees F. deep under north-central West Virginia, beneath his feet in Morgantown. Additional researchers from three other U.S. universities joined to study the Appalachian 'hot spot.'"

    [Anderson, Geothermal in Coal Country, July-August issue of Sierra magazine:] "…[A West Virginia] hot spot 2.4 miles under the Appalachian foothills could [help power the state for millennia and] deliver 18,900 megawatts of energy -- more than what West Virginia coal generates."

    click to enlarge

    "…[It] may not be quite hot enough, at such extreme depth, to drive electricity plants directly, but it could heat hundreds of buildings in winter -- even using steam pipe networks to warm entire cities -- or dry timber industry sawdust and waste for conversion into synthetic gas for power plants or liquid fuel for vehicles…[If the] northern West Virginia [resource] can be tapped…[it will] create jobs and boost the state's economy."

    click to enlarge

    "Geothermal heat rises from Earth's molten core and from radioactive decay of underground minerals -- and even from solar energy absorbed by the planet's surface. It's easy to harness this power where tectonic faults let the fiery force rise in geysers, hot springs and the like. Elsewhere, expensive deep wells must be drilled -- down-shafts to send water into the hot zones, and up-shafts to bring raging steam to the surface. It costs millions, but the result is free, nonpolluting power.

    "Around the world, 24 nations generate more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity from geothermal power, and much more energy is tapped for community heating and industrial use…Last year, researchers at Southern Methodist University studied temperature readings from 1,400 West Virginia wells and discovered the [state’s] underlying hot spot…"

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    FEDS BACK SOLAR POWER PLANTS

    Department of Energy Offers $2 Billion in Conditional Loan Guarantee Commitments for Two California Concentrating Solar Power Plants; Projects Will Create Nearly 1,800 Jobs, Expand CSP Deployment, and Drive Down Cost of Solar Installations
    June 14, 2011 (U.S. Department of Energy)

    "…[The U.S. Department of Energy made] conditional commitments to provide loan guarantees to support two concentrating solar power (CSP) projects - the Mojave Solar Project (MSP) in San Bernardino County, California, and the Genesis Solar Project, located on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Riverside County, California…[A] conditional commitment for a $1.2 billion loan guarantee [will] support the Mojave Solar Project and a conditional commitment for up to a $681.6 million loan guarantee [will] support the Genesis Solar Project…

    "…At 250 megawatts (MW) each, the projects' combined capacity will double the nation's currently installed CSP capacity and displace a total of 40 percent of the output from a typical 500MW coal-fired plant. Abengoa Solar Inc., the Mojave Solar project sponsor, estimates that project will create more than 830 construction jobs and 70 operating jobs. NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, the Genesis Solar project sponsor, estimates that project will create approximately 800 construction jobs and 47 operating jobs…"


    Schematic of the technologies backed by DOE (click to enlarge)

    "The 250MW Mojave Solar Project will be the first U.S. utility-scale deployment of Abengoa's latest Solar Collector Assembly (SCA), a significant improvement over the prior generation of parabolic trough technology installed in the United States in the 1980s and 90s…[It uses] a lighter, stronger frame designed to hold parabolic mirrors that are easier and less expensive to build and install. The Assembly was originally developed in connection with a DOE award provided by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy…[Its 30% more efficient] heat collection element…[and] advanced mirror technology…permit the collection of the same amount of solar energy from a smaller solar field…[It] will operate without fossil fuel back-up systems…

    "The Mojave Solar Project will avoid over 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually and is anticipated to generate enough electricity to power over 53,000 homes. Power from MSP will be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric Company. An estimated eighty percent of total costs, including both capital equipment and labor, are expected to be sourced in the U.S. as MSP will purchase all of the receiver tubes from a facility in New Mexico, the parabolic trough mirrors from a new facility in Arizona and other key equipment from different suppliers in several states across the country."


    Abengoa's trough technology (click to enlarge)

    "The 250MW Genesis Solar Project will feature proven and scalable parabolic trough solar thermal technology that has been used commercially for more than two decades. The project is expected to avoid over 320,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and produce enough electricity to power over 48,000 homes. Power from the project will be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The lender-applicant, Credit Suisse AG submitted the application under the Financial Institution Partnership Program (FIPP).

    "The Department of Energy's… loan guarantee programs support the deployment of commercial [and innovative] technologies…[and] the development of advanced vehicle technologies…[T]otaling over $32 billion to support 32 clean energy projects…[the] 17 generation projects will produce over 27 million megawatt-hours annually, or enough to power over two million homes…[It provided] over $10 billion in loan guarantees to solar generation projects…[including] four of the world's largest solar projects, [as well as] two geothermal projects, the world's largest wind farm and the nation's first new nuclear power plant in three decades…"

    WIND SLOWS TEXAS WIND BUILDING

    Strong winds slow construction on wind farm
    Kevin Welch, June 20, 2011 (Amarillo Globe-News)

    "The very resource wind farm developers want to harness is keeping construction workers up in the middle of the night."

    Ken Donathan, construction project manager for the Golden Spread Panhandle Wind Ranch, Cielo Wind Services:] "We're not hanging any steel right now. The wind's too strong…If you want to come out at 1 in the morning, then we will be. It hasn't been good for building, but if you had one built ..."

    Not the best work to be doing in high winds (click to enlarge)

    "The crews working for Wanzek Construction out of South Dakota are on duty from 1 a.m. to 7 p.m. in two shifts. They have erected at least 11 of the 26-story towers built to hold turbines with blades that would reach from one end zone of a football field to the other. Ultimately, there will be 34 turbines with towers 262 feet tall [with a 78.2 megawatt capacity, enough to serve more than 27,000 homes], but construction above ground level is off and on depending on the wind."

    [Anthony Perez, wind ranch project manager, Golden Spread Electric Cooperative:] "Twenty-two mph is our cutoff…And if you have gusts, there's some variations, but it's the crane operators' call."

    There is plenty of work on the ground, too. (click to enlarge)

    "For every day in the month of May and the first 13 days of June, the maximum sustained wind speed measured at the National Weather Service Amarillo office ranged between 22 and 43 mph, except on two days when it was 16 mph…Once the turbines are operational, high winds will be more of a blessing than a problem because they can operate in winds even stronger than those of the past month and a half before reaching the point [52 mph] when they must be taken out of service…

    "Work for the approximately 120 crew members…continues while they're grounded. They attach blades to rotors, maintain roads, move cranes, work on wiring in towers and unload turbine parts from trucks…[P]arts for one full turbine [arrive] every day...There's actually more work to do on the ground…[and] about 75 to 80 percent of the work on the project in general is complete…"

    NAT GAS WRITES THE RULES

    You Can’t Make This Stuff Up…
    June 19, 2011 (Natural Gas Watch)

    "…[A] couple of stories…from completely different sources…[precipitated] a jaw-dropping sense of astonishment…"

    [From New Rules Coming for Pipeline Control Rooms in Occupational Health & Safety:] “The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recently announced that a new regulation to improve the management of pipeline control rooms will go into effect more than a year earlier than originally planned. The final rule will include procedures to improve training, mitigate fatigue, and clearly define roles and responsibilities for employees in control rooms for DOT-regulated pipelines… U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood...[said the] new regulations will help pipeline operators make critical decisions that could stop a pipeline rupture or leak before it causes harm to people or the environment…"

    The U.S. natural gas pipeline system (click to enlarge)

    "The very next day…there was a story about] a detailed investigation by Hearst Newspapers…"

    [From Pipeline Operators Influence Safety Studies of Regulator in the Albany (NY) Times Union:] “The studies launched by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration helped mold national and state safety rules and inspection procedures for 2.3 million miles of pipelines that carry natural gas and hazardous liquids, some underneath neighborhoods…The Hearst investigation revealed that two-thirds of the 174 safety studies of land-based pipelines…in the last decade were largely funded by pipeline operators or organizations they control. That’s because the agency has required that in most cases, at least half the funding for its pipeline safety research come from outside sources — a policy that the Obama administration is now promising to change…More than half the studies — 89 in total — received funding from five industry trade organizations that conduct research, including three with lobbying arms.”

    This is what happens when pipelines aren't safe - and there's one under every neighborhood(click to enlarge)

    "The Hearst story goes on to give a devastating account of how natural gas trade industry groups edited pipeline safety study reports to downplay the need for additional regulation and, in some instances, seemingly configured study groups to reach a pre-ordained conclusion that would not reflect unfavorably on the natural gas industry.

    "From the Hearst report, one can’t help but think that the natural gas industry — reeling from a series of deadly, high-profile pipeline explosions around the country — had a hand in writing the regulation that LaHood so proudly unveiled..."

    BREAKTHROUGH WAFER MAKER FUNDED

    1366 Offered $150 Million Conditional Commitment for DOE Loan Guarantee
    June 17, 2011 (1366 Technologies)

    "…[T]he U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has offered a conditional commitment to [1366 Technologies] for a $150 million loan guarantee. 1366 will use the DOE funds to scale its Direct Wafer manufacturing capabilities in Massachusetts and build a second U.S. manufacturing facility that will produce the basic building block of solar cells – silicon wafers – at a fraction of today’s cost."

    [Frank van Mierlo, 1366 Technologies:] “With this loan, 1366 will realize its goal to make solar energy as cheap as coal while helping the U.S. to reclaim a key part of the silicon supply chain and restore the nation’s dominance in photovoltaics.”

    click to enlarge

    "The loan will play a critical role in the company’s expansion – creating two facilities and hundreds of jobs. The first commercial facility, located in the company’s home state of Massachusetts, is scheduled to be fully operational by 2013 and will produce 20 megawatts per year of capacity, employ 100 people and further New England’s role as a clean energy center. Construction on a second, larger, 1,000 megawatt facility is scheduled to commence in 2013 and create 300 permanent positions. The location of the second U.S. facility has not been decided.

    "Since its founding in 2008, 1366 Technologies has raised $46 million from equity investors which has helped the company bring its transformative Direct Wafer technology into production. Direct Wafer technology forms a 156mm multi-crystalline wafer directly from molten silicon…[S]tandard wafer manufacturing…involves a multi-step, batch process of ingot casting, blocking, squaring, and sawing that wastes up to 50% of the high-value silicon…"


    click to enlarge

    "…Direct Wafer integrates into the existing silicon photovoltaics’ supply chain, providing cost savings to cell customers without added complexity.

    "In October 2009, 1366 received a $4 million grant from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) to support the development of the Direct Wafer technology…"

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    JERSEY OFFSHORE WIND RUSH

    Demand is strong for N.J. offshore wind farm parcels
    Eliot Caroom, June 11, 2011 (Newark Star-Ledger)

    "Eleven offshore wind companies want to stake a claim — and construct clusters of huge turbines — in federal waters off the coast of New Jersey, according to a document released by federal officials…

    "Authorities sought to gauge interest in a checkerboard of parcels in the sea starting about 8 miles from the Jersey Shore…[I]t is clear that more than a few companies have an eye on the territory…"


    click to enlarge

    "Offshore wind has been a recent focus of attention for both federal authorities and the state, which unveiled guidelines for new financial incentives for wind projects earlier this year. A state law calls for at least 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind capacity — enough to power more than 400,000 households.

    "The stretch of ocean is one of four East Coast areas chosen by the federal government for priority development…The 550-square mile area to be leased by the federal government is divided into more than 70 blocks, and most of the companies expressing interest applied to develop large portions of the area. At least two applied for the whole thing."


    click to enlarge

    "Others had a more narrow scope, including Garden State Offshore Energy, a joint venture between PSEG and Deepwater Wind…Interim research leases were awarded in 2009 to Bluewater Wind, Deepwater Wind and Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey, which is near the end of permitting for a smaller 25-megawatt wind farm a few miles off the coast of Atlantic City.

    "After reviewing the responses…the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement [of the Department of Interior] will decide how to manage the bidding process for leases."

    TEXAS WIND LOOKS TO GULF

    Wind energy company proposes massive leases off South Texas coast
    Mike D. Smith, June 16, 2011 (Corpus Christi Caller Times)

    "…Baryonyx Corporation, Inc., has applied for a permit through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install up to 200 wind turbines each in three areas between Corpus Christi and Brownsville.

    "The company [which has built a wind farm off the coast of the United Kingdom] proposes building a wind farm on more than 26,200 acres off Mustang Island…An alternate, 45,000-acre site was negotiated with the Texas General Land Office in case of any concerns that may arise about Naval Air Station Corpus Christi operations…"


    click to enlarge

    "Baryonyx's senior vice president of offshore wind projects Mark Leyland said [his company is working diligently to ensure the proposed wind farms don't interfere with area military operations]…

    "Leyland said Corpus Christi has the potential for…fabrication and storage needs — and associated jobs — should the project be built…The proposed site is under official review by a U.S. Department of Defense specialist and a report could be released within the next three months…[Naval personnel do not think] Baryonyx's initial plans to set up a few test turbines will strongly impact the stations' missions."


    click to enlarge

    "Wind turbines can cause radar problems such as false returns depending on distance, their positioning and certain weather conditions…[Nearby turbines] have caused radar problems, mostly because they are arranged in different directions and were installed too close together… [The Navy asks deverlopers to work with them early in the planning and] Baryonyx has shown a lot of willingness…

    "Fully developed, Leyland estimated the Texas coastal fields could generate 3 gigawatts of electricity…One gigawatt can power about 250,000 homes…Texas is…the nation's wind energy leader and is actively trying to lease as much of the state's offshore waters for that purpose as possible, Texas General Land Office spokesman Jim Suydam said…[D]oing so creates a revenue stream for public education, similar to oil and gas revenues…[Texas leaves local issues to] companies and local interests [and only requires developers to abide by state and federal laws], Suydam said."

    MAINE SEES OPPORTUNITY OFFSHORE

    Economic development in offshore power touted at closing day of conference
    Matt Wickenheiser, June 16, 2011 (Bangor Daily News)

    "Gov. Paul LePage’s energy czar [Kenneth Fletcher]…said the administration sees economic development potential from the development of offshore energy…The next step, said Fletcher, was for administration officials to have comprehensive talks with researchers and developers working on Maine’s nascent offshore wind sector to fully understand the opportunities and challenges.

    "Development of alternative power shouldn’t come at a cost to ratepayers, Fletcher said, and experts in the field must look at new ways of funding such power. For example, if merchant lines export energy produced in Maine, “tolls” on that energy could be used to offset investment in development…Development of alternative sources of electricity should be viewed as a replacement for oil, Fletcher said. Both supply and costs of oil can be unpredictable, and when they jump, they hurt Mainers both at the gas pumps and in the cost of heating oil. Maine is the most dependent state on heating oil…"


    click to enlarge

    "Habib Dagher, a University of Maine professor and leader in the DeepCwind Consortium, which is developing the offshore wind sector, said that when gas hits $4 a gallon in Maine, it means $5 billion a year leaves the state. The annual state budget is $3 billion…$243 billion was spent last year in the renewables sector…Maine can develop wind farms 20 miles off the coast to produce green power for the East Coast, where more than 55 million people live, he said. Like the export of potatoes, wood products, paper and lobsters, Maine can export power and prosper from the trade…

    "The goal is to bring the cost of offshore wind power to 10 cents per kilowatt hour by 2020, at the grid. That’s the production cost of energy. Currently, power in the state is at roughly 16 cents per kilowatt hour, and half of that is transmission costs, he said…"


    click to enlarge

    "John Ferland, vice president of project development at Ocean Renewable Power Co. LLC, talked about his company’s tidal power technology, which recently finished beta testing in Cobscook Bay…Cianbro Chairman and CEO Peter Vigue said it was reasonable to think of Maine as New England’s future renewable power provider. The state has the people and companies to make it happen, the proximity to the market and the natural resources…

    "…[T]he state can become a leader in making the technology for the industry, Vigue said…As the scale of turbines increases over the next decade, new materials and technology will be needed for blades, superstructure and other parts, he said. They can be developed and tested at UMaine labs…Maine’s expertise in manufacturing, advanced materials and other areas can attract companies here to make equipment for the wind sector…"

    DEAL MOVES LAKES ERIE WIND AHEAD

    Lake Erie wind project embraces regionalism with revenue sharing agreement
    Alison Meaney, June 2, 2011 (Cleveland Sun News)

    "Lake Erie’s offshore wind project took a giant leap toward regionalism…with an agreement to share revenue associated with submerged land leases across four counties…The initial five to seven turbines…are slated for construction in Cuyahoga County waters in 2013…[but] the revenue-sharing agreement sets a precedent for the project as it grows. According to Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo, the goal is to erect about 250 turbines…

    "Initially, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will receive half of the revenue from the leases for the underwater transmission lines, and the other half will be split across the four counties…"


    click to enlarge

    "The five-year contract establishes that the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority would receive 40 percent of the revenue, or about $11,000, while Lorain, Lake and Ashtabula counties would receive 20 percent each, or about $5,500…"

    click to enlarge

    "Kalo estimates the first phase of the project would employ 600-800 people, but that it could ultimately employ up to 10,000-12,000 workers. [This suggests students in Lorain County Community College’s wind turbine technology program will have fantastic job security.]

    "He described a race to install offshore wind turbines in the Great Lakes with competitors including Illinois, Michigan and New York…[The state that gets started first will have the best chance to grow] a local manufacturing industry creating everything from turbines, to boats to transport the equipment, in addition to gaining the research and design positions demanded by the expanding project…"

    PRICE WAR – NAT GAS V. NEW ENERGY

    Analysis: Gas is killing green energy in price war
    Gerard Wynn (w/Nina Chestney, Vera Eckert, Barbara Lewis, Karolin Schaps, Muriel Boselli, Christoph Steitz, Nichola Groom, Alister Doyle, Eileen O'Grady and Leonora Walet), June 16, 2011 (Reuters)

    "A widening shale gas revolution is killing the economics of renewable energy, even as falling costs allow wind and solar to overtake fossil fuels in niche areas, say energy executives and analysts.

    "Solar panel prices are down about 10 percent this year, but chasing a moving target as discovery of cheap shale gas spreads beyond the United States…Even big renewables investors, such as French energy company Total, see solar as a tiny part of the picture decades out, compared with gas. Total paid $1.4 billion for a majority stake in U.S.-based SunPower Corp…"


    click to enlarge

    "The trouble is that a new "golden age of gas," as the International Energy Agency dubbed it, has created massive over-capacity in a key rival fuel for power generation…Building new gas plants was half the price of new nuclear, and much cheaper than wind and solar, said John Rowe, chairman of U.S. power company Exelon Corp. Shale gas has especially suppressed prices in the United States…Energy ripples from a Japan quake, where some countries are now rolling back nuclear plans after the Fukushima crisis, would favor coal and gas as much as renewables, said International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol…

    "Offshore wind may be in the same cost range as gas by 2015, said Joergen Kildahl, a board member at Germany's E.ON group, one of the world's biggest utilities…But that did not include the cost of building back-up for the intermittent power source…"


    click to enlarge

    "After steep price falls solar power is now close to being economic without subsidies -- called grid parity -- but only…sunny places with high power prices and fewer alternatives…Falls in solar panel prices may flatten by 2013-2014…[and studies suggest there will be] widespread grid parity with retail power prices by 2015…Industry module prices had fallen by about 10 percent in the first half this year and would fall a further 4-5 percent in the summer…[And analysts] and renewable energy supporters often point to hidden costs in the case of fossil fuels and nuclear.

    "Fossil fuels, for example, produce carbon emissions whose damaging impact on the world's climate is not priced outside Europe. Rare accidents and waste disposal may not be fully costed in the case of nuclear power. Question marks have been raised over the impact of shale gas on water quality…"

    TREND – NAT GAS + NEW ENERGY

    Natural gas, renewables the long-term trend: GE
    Nina Chestney (w/Gerard Wynn and Jane Baird), June 10, 2011 (Reuters)

    "A move to natural gas and renewable energy will be a global long-term trend, even though technology such as wind power is currently more costly than fossil fuels and nuclear, a General Electric executive said…GE is well placed to estimate relative costs as one of the world's biggest suppliers of all major power technologies."

    [Paul Browning, vice president of thermal products, GE power and water division:] "GE believes we are seeing a megatrend in natural gas and renewables. These two trends will be long-standing ones, which we will be investing in…In the future, we will need a bit of everything, but gas is certainly going to be an advantaged fuel because unconventional (shale) gas is changing the dynamics."

    from AWEA - click to enlarge

    "The International Energy Agency said this week that rising gas supplies from unconventional sources could encourage demand to rise to levels exceeding coal by 2030. However, coal is the cheapest form of power generation of all, a fact borne out by energy statistics from oil major BP, which show that world coal consumption last year reached a new record, with 50 percent more burned than in 2000…[S]oaring coal demand…pushed up Chinese CO2 emissions by more than 10 percent last year…

    "While the cost of wind power is falling, making it a long-term prospect for investing, it still lags gas, coal and nuclear power, Browning said…The cost of generating electricity includes the up-front capital cost of building a power plant plus ongoing fuel costs. Those costs can be combined in a term called the levelized cost…The levelized cost of onshore wind was around 9-10 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour (KWh)…about double the cost of the cheapest form of coal-fired power generation at 5 cents, and also above 6 cents for U.S. natural gas and 7-8 cents for nuclear…He saw the levelized cost of solar PV at about 15 cents."


    Artist's concept of GE's combined nat gas-solar-wind energy complex (click to enlarge)

    "GE wants to drive down the costs of technologies such as solar thermal and integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal technology, but natural gas will be in abundant supply for at least the next 25 years, making it the cheapest energy source…Turkish private equity firm MetCap Energy Investments said it would use GE technology to build a $500 million power plant in Turkey that will use both gas and renewable energy…The plant will integrate a gas turbine, a steam turbine, 22 MW of GE wind turbines and 50 MW of solar thermal technology…

    "GE is also aiming to drive down the cost of IGCC technology, which burns coal after turning it into gas, improving power conversion efficiency and thereby reducing carbon dioxide emissions…IGCC levelized costs are currently around 15 cents/KWh, but GE hopes to lower the cost to 8-9 cents, partly through a joint venture with China's Shenhua Group Corporation to develop the technology."