NewEnergyNews More: October 2014

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, October 29, 2014

    WIND TIPPING KANSAS ELECTION

    How Cheap Wind Energy Threatens To Upend The Kansas Governor’s Race And Upset The Koch Brothers

    Ari Phillips, October 27, 2014 (ThinkProgress)

    “Kansas Governor Sam Brownback once supported wind energy, but that was before petrochemical billionaires and Kansas natives Charles and David Koch became his largest campaign donors. Now, Brownback and the Kochs find themselves enmeshed in a highly competitive governor’s race, one that has become a referendum on the much-heralded notion that scaling back government and slashing taxes for the wealthy will lead to economic growth…A key aspect of this debate hinges on the role of renewable energy in the state and the future of the Kansas’ Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a law requiring a certain portion of a state’s energy mix come from renewable sources…

    “The Koch brothers have devoted a significant amount of time and money into repealing the standard and as of late, Brownback has wavered in his support. His Democratic opponent, Paul Davis said the RPS repeal is being championed by a very narrow group of far right special interests with heavy investments in the oil industry…despite the fact that the policy remains incredibly popular among everyday Kansans and public and private sector leaders who understand the importance of diversifying the state’s energy portfolio…Koch Industries is not supporting Brownback’s re-election campaign because the RPS repeal effort was unsuccessful. This would follow the pattern of the Kochs lashing out at even very conservative state legislators who didn’t support the repeal…91 percent of Kansas voters are strongly supportive of using renewable energy, with 88 percent responding that they believe boosting renewable energy will lead to new investments in Kansas and help grow the state’s economy…” click here for more

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    YOUNG VOTERS BRING NEW ENERGY

    UT Energy Poll Shows Generation Gap on Vital Energy Issues

    October 28, 2014 (University of Texas at Austin)

    “…[M]arkedly different perspectives on energy issues based on the age of voters…[could impact] the outcome of next week’s elections…The latest [University of Texas] Energy Poll, conducted Sept. 4-16, shows contrasting views and preferences among consumers in numerous areas, including energy policy, preferred sources of energy and financial support from the federal government… Nearly half of the 2,105 U.S. residents surveyed (46 percent) say candidates’ views on energy issues will greatly influence their choices at the ballot box…[and a] much higher percentage of older respondents (87 percent) indicate they are likely to vote in the Nov. 4 election, compared with 68 percent of those age 35 or under…

    “Fifty-six percent of younger consumers say they are willing to pay much higher prices to protect the environment, compared with only 20 percent of respondents age 65 and older…Support for renewable sources of energy is considerably stronger among younger consumers, with nearly 2 out of 3 (65 percent) favoring an expansion of financial incentives…62 percent of younger respondents favor requiring utilities to obtain a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, versus 48 percent of older voters…Younger consumers also strongly support subsidies for renewable energy, with 72 percent saying they back federal government support, compared with 58 percent among Americans age 65 and older…” click here for more

    GREEN BUILDINGS BOOMING

    Driven by Higher Rents and Values, Green Buildings Market Grows to $260 Billion; 325 million m2 of new green buildings floor space was built in 2013 as internal rates of return reached a steady 5% or more…

    October 29, 2014 (Lux Research)

    “Construction of green buildings rose to 325 million m2 of new floor space in 2013, representing a $260 billion market…driven by economic benefits rather than environmental motivations…In the United States, for example, green buildings command an estimated 20% of new construction [according to Cash Is King: Assessing the Financial Performance of Green Buildings from Lux Research]…[B]uildings with LEED Gold certification outperform their baseline peers…Incentives like Germany's subsidized interest rates for energy-efficient homes, or government cash rebates in India, can lead to an IRR of 5% to 6% over 15 years…[B]uilding energy efficiency codes such as ASHAE 90.1, IECC and ECBC India can create a much larger market opportunity [than green building standards like LEED]. In Germany, Lux Research estimates that new floor space compliant with the EnEv 2009 code was 50 million m2, or about 36% of overall new construction, in 2013…” click here for more

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

    WIND BOOMS AS ‘MOST AFFORDABLE ENERGY OPTION’

    Record low costs drive opportunities in U.S. wind energy; Industry sees 4x growth by 2030, with critical tax policy up for renewal

    October 20, 2014 (American Wind Energy Association)

    "Driven by record low costs and high demand from power purchasers, the U.S. wind industry was at its busiest ever in the third quarter while completing the record number of wind projects that were under construction at the start of the quarter…19 wind projects have been completed in America this year, with as much wind generating capacity as in all of 2013, according to Third Quarter results…The American Wind Energy Association expects a strong finish to the year…stepped-up installations in 2015…[and] is optimistic that Congress will [extend the renewable energy Production Tax Credit after the November election]…[R]ecent Department of Energy (DOE) data showing the cost of U.S. wind power down by more than half over five years…The DOE report also shows fix-priced wind energy is the most affordable energy option available, particularly after expected increases and volatility in the price of other energy sources are taken into account. Moreover, zero emission wind energy is ideally suited to help utilities comply with the pending EPA Clean Power Plan that will regulate emissions of carbon dioxide from existing power plants…” click here for more

    OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIG SOLAR

    A tough road ahead for concentrated solar power

    Sammy Roth, October 25, 2014 (The Desert Sun)

    “…Unlike traditional solar photovoltaic panels — which convert sunlight directly into electricity — concentrated solar technology uses sunlight to heat water or another liquid, ultimately creating steam that can be used to turn turbines and generate electricity…Concentrated solar power is much more expensive than solar panels and wind turbines, but advocates say it has a major advantage over those technologies, particularly in California: the ability to store energy. As the state races to adopt renewable energy, one of its biggest challenges will be intermittency — the fact that most solar and wind plants only produce power when the sun is shining, or when the wind is blowing…Concentrated solar with storage could fill the gaps in intermittent renewable generation, limiting the need for carbon-emitting natural gas plants. But despite concentrated solar power's benefits, it has been hobbled by financial and environmental challenges…

    “Concentrated solar plants cost much more to build than solar photovoltaic plants, and environmental groups have criticized ‘power tower’ projects…for their potential to kill thousands of birds [if not carefully sited]. Concentrated solar plants can also use hundreds of times more water than solar photovoltaic plants...[But some environmental groups…see a future for concentrated solar — if the wildlife impacts can be reduced…[C]oncentrated solar development has intensified over the past year, with five large-scale projects expected to open by January…Among those projects is Crescent Dunes…[It] will be the country's first solar tower development to feature storage, with a capacity of 110 megawatts and the ability to store more than 10 hours of energy…” click here for more

    GEOTHERMAL COMING BACK

    Geothermal power industry lost steam but may be poised for comeback

    Julie Cart, October 19, 2014 (LA Times)

    “…[Geothermal] industry leaders say the energy harnessed from the Earth is poised for a renaissance, powered by new technology that will boost production, pare costs and expand its reach…Some impetus for the change has come from within. The geothermal industry's not-so-politically-savvy leaders, mostly geologists and mechanical engineers, had since the 1980s been eclipsed by hard-charging solar and wind energy developers who play the lobbying game, and play it well…Geothermal's leaders watched and learned. Their challenge now, they say, is regaining some of the lost political and financial ground…Although geothermal companies are unlikely to be the energy giants that solar and wind producers have become, new technology could enable the industry to grow far beyond the Western states…

    “…[G]eothermal energy accounts for barely 0.4% of the nation's available energy…[T he U.S. Energy Department’s] 2014 research budget for geothermal is $45 million, compared with $257 million for solar…The U.S. Bureau of Land Management estimates the average wind or solar project is greenlighted in 1 1/2 years. Approval for a geothermal project can take as long as seven years…[But] researchers are investigating ways to overcome technological barriers…Geothermal will never be a major energy source, [a 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology] report concluded, but if fully tapped, it could provide as much as 10% of the nation's power…” click here for more

    Monday, October 27, 2014

    NEW ENERGY OVER 40% OF U.S. NEW BUILD IN 2014

    Renewable Energy Provides Over 40% Of New U.S. Generating Capacity In First Three-Quarters Of 2014; New Renewable Capacity Is 35 Times That Of Coal, Oil, And Nuclear Combined

    October 27, 2014 (Sun Day Campaign)

    “…[R]enewable energy sources…account for more than two-fifths (40.61%) of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity put in-service during the first nine months of 2014. Only natural gas provided more new generating capacity...[N]ew capacity in 2014 from the combination of renewable energy sources thus far is almost 35 times that of coal, oil, and nuclear combined (3,598 MW vs. 104 MW)…For the month of September alone, renewables accounted for over two-thirds of the 603 MW of new generating capacity put in-service [367 MW of wind (60.86%) plus 41 MW of solar (6.80%)]…

    "Of the 8,860 MW of new generating capacity from all sources installed since January 1, 2014, 187 "units" of solar accounted for 1,671 MW (18.86%), followed by 28 units of wind 1,614 MW (18.22%), 7 units of hydropower 141 MW (1.59%), 38 units of biomass 140 MW (1.58%), and 5 units of geothermal 32 MW (0.36%)…The balance came from 41 units of natural gas 5,153 MW (58.16%), 1 unit of nuclear 71 MW (0.80%), 11 units of oil 33 MW (0.37%), and 6 units of "other" 7 MW (0.08%). There has been no new coal capacity added thus far in 2014…” click here for more

    EMPLOYEE BENEFITS NOW INCLUDE SOLAR

    Home Solar Power Discounts Are Worker Perk in New Program

    Diane Cardwell, Oct. 22, 2014 (NY Times)

    “…[Employees of Cisco Systems, 3M, Kimberly-Clark and National Geographic] will be able to buy or lease solar systems for their homes at rates substantially lower than the national average…The program, offered through Geostellar, an online marketer of solar systems, will be available to more than 100,000 employees and will include options for their friends and families in the United States and parts of Canada…Conceived at the World Wildlife Fund [WWF], the program, called the Solar Community Initiative, aims to use the bulk buying power of employees to allow for discounts on home systems...

    "The program’s expansion is a reflection of the shrinking gulf between camps that were once considered mutually exclusive: environmental advocacy organizations and mainstream corporate America…The program is consistent with [WWF’s] approach of working closely with corporations, often quietly trying to nudge them toward change from the inside, rather than pushing from the outside through more confrontational tactics…For Geostellar, which built a virtual marketplace from satellite imagery and big data, it offers a new route to attracting customers, which is still one of the more stubbornly high costs of operating a solar business…” click here for more

    WIND BRINGS JOBS TO MICHIGAN

    Michigan's wind energy industry soaring

    Fred Witsil, October 12, 2014 (Detroit Free Press)

    “The shift to renewable energy sources in Michigan — particularly wind — has picked up in the past few years and could get more of a boost as the Obama administration seeks a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030…That could mean more investment and more jobs to add to Michigan's modest energy sector profile of about 83,000 workers. One recent study concluded targeted local investment in wind and other renewable energy could support nearly 21,000 jobs in the state by next year…One reason: [Wind energy generated electricity is] about half as expensive to produce than utility companies initially expected, down to as little as $50 a megawatt hour last year from more than $100 a megawatt hour in 2009…

    "The nonprofit group, Natural Resources Defense Council, says Michigan is home to about 120 companies that supply wind components and employ 4,000…DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, the two companies that serve Michigan's lower peninsula, are building wind turbines…Wind and other renewable sources of power are expected to provide a steadily increasing amount of Michigan's power needs by 2030…” click here for more

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    SAVINGS FOR SCHOOLS FROM GEOTHERMAL HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS

    Using Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems in Schools; Some schools in the United States and Europe have begun to use geothermal energy to cut down on energy consumption and provide an energy-efficient education.

    Sharon Gamson Danks, October 2014 (Mother Earth News)

    “…The temperature of the earth…[at a depth of six feet remains between 45 degrees f and 75 degrees f] throughout the year even when the air temperature experiences wide fluctuations from winter to summer…Geothermal heating and cooling systems are designed to take advantage of this thermal constant by pumping air or water into the ground to be heated or cooled to the earth’s stable temperature…The conditioned air or water may then be used [with little energy expenditure] in radiant heating or cooling systems embedded in the building’s floors, or as part of the building’s HVAC (climate control) systems…[These systems] could save schools a substantial amount of energy [and money and have reasonably short payback periods, generally take up less room in the school than conventional heating and cooling equipment, and run quietly…” click here for more

    BUILDING FOR NEXT-GEN U.S. BIOFUELS

    Production Begins at Second U.S. Cellulosic Biofuel Facility

    Jeremy Martin, October 17, 2014 (National Geographic)

    “…Spanish company Abengoa is bringing another big cellulosic biofuel facility online in Hugoton, a small community in the Southwest [Kansas]…This is the second big plant starting up this year, showing that after some predictable yet highly scrutinized delays, the cellulosic fuel industry is truly beginning to establish itself and making critical contributions to oil savings and climate goals…The Abengoa plant will double the production capacity on line for cellulosic ethanol, and do it without consuming a kernel of corn…Major companies from all over the world have come to the U.S. to invest in cellulosic biofuel…Yet the U.S. is certainly not the only place that cellulosic biofuels are coming on line. There is also a major cellulosic biofuels facility in Italy, and a cellulosic biorefinery just started up in Brazil…The cellulosic plant that opened in Iowa in August is a collaboration of Poet, a major US ethanol company, and Royal-DSM, a company from the Netherlands…Another major player in cellulosic biofuels is Danish firm Novozymes…[Beta Renewables] just started the cellulosic facility in Brazil…The Renewable Fuel Standard, which calls for increasing biofuels production steadily over time, is central to [U.S.] plans…” click here for more

    ENERGY STORAGE MARKET EMERGING

    Energy Storage Tracker 3Q14; Global Energy Storage Installations: Market Share Data, Industry Trends, Market Analysis, and Project Tracking by World Region, Technology, Application, and Market Segment

    3Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “Government funding, subsidies, and regulatory reforms in energy storage and related areas continue to encourage market growth. Lithium ion (Li-ion) technology has emerged as the global leader…[F]lywheels and flow batteries are also making significant headway. North America continues to move the market forward…[Western Europe] is also leading the market with utility-scale advanced battery and power-to-gas installations and announcements…Key vendors in the industry continue to specialize as systems integrators in the supply chain. In some cases, integrators are entering the sector from other industries. This is a critical time …[M]ore systems integrators are needed…[Navigant Research estimates] 362.8 MW of energy storage projects have been announced globally in the 2013-2014 period with an almost equal distribution between North America (103.3 MW), Asia Pacific (100.5 MW), and Western Europe (91.1 MW)…” click here for more

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014

    SOLARCITY TO CROWDFUND WITH $1,000 BONDS

    SolarCity Offers Bonds Online to Ordinary Investors

    Diane Cardwell, October 15, 2014 (NY Times)

    “SolarCity, the country’s leading installer of rooftop solar systems, began selling bonds online to ordinary investors…joining a handful of companies that are using crowdfunding to finance solar development…The company will issue up to $200 million in the bonds, whose maturities range from one to seven years and carry interest rates of 2 percent to 4 percent…The company has moved aggressively to raise money to finance its fast-growing business, including several debt offerings for institutional investors, like one begun last month to raise as much as $575 million. But this new effort is open to any United States citizen, 18 or older, with a domestic bank account who makes a minimum investment of $1,000…Several companies, like Mosiac, are already using crowdfunding to funnel money into solar projects. But those largely pool money from investors to provide loans for small- and medium-scale projects. SolarCity’s platform will instead pay back the bonds it issues with the income from the monthly solar electricity payments made by its customers, which include homeowners, schools, businesses and government organizations…[T]hey hope to appeal to people who want to help finance the growth of clean energy but desire the security of bonds…” click here for more

    NEW JERSEY LOOKS AT OCEAN WIND

    Measure Ratchets Up Targets For Nj’s Offshore-Wind Industry; Backers say bill, which calls for 4,500 megawatts by 2050, isn’t meant for the Christie administration but for one friendlier to renewable subsidies

    Tom Johnson, October 15, 2014

    “…A bill (S-2444) being considered by the [New Jersey] Senate Environment and Energy Committee would require 3,000 megawatts of generation from offshore wind projects by 2030 and 4,500 megawatts by 2050 be delivered to customers. That is far more than the 1,100 megawatts that would be required by 2020, a goal few think will ever be met. In fact, the measure eliminates the 1,100-megawatt target…The proposal is part of a bill that would require 80 percent of New Jersey’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, by 2050. But even its advocates acknowledge the legislation stands little chance of being approved anytime soon, although they hope to lay the groundwork for passage in the next administration…Both the Christie administration and the Legislature once viewed offshore wind as an opportunity to develop a new green industry off the coast, a move that would create thousands of well-paying jobs and provide a needed spur to the state’s economy…[but] rising costs of subsidies to support renewable energy have become an increasing concern…[A]dvocates of the bill say opponents’ arguments about the costs fail to reflect the benefits of moving to cleaner ways of producing electricity in a state long-burdened with air pollution problems that affect public health…” click here for more

    SMART LED LIGHTING MRKT TO DOUBLE

    Residential Energy Efficient Lighting and Lighting Controls; Incandescent, Halogen, Fluorescent, and LED Luminaires and Lamps and Intelligent Controls: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    3Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “The global residential lighting market is on the verge of a major transformation…Extremely energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lamps are being adopted at an astonishing rate while remote control of connected lights is on the cusp of becoming much more commonplace…[and] all-encompassing home energy management (HEM) and home automation…is steadily gathering pace…Increasingly, homeowners are being drawn to the range of new use cases that controllable and networked LEDs bring. The ability of these devices to communicate with other popular connected devices is likely to prove particularly popular…[and bring] about energy savings automatically. According to Navigant Research, global revenue associated with the installation of residential lighting controls is expected to grow from $2.4 billion in 2014 to $4.6 billion in 2023…” click here for more

    Monday, October 20, 2014

    ELEVEN GOOD THINGS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY

    Advantages of Solar Energy

    Zachary Shahan, October 16, 2014 (PlanetSave)

    "…[The disadvantage of solar energy is that] the sun doesn’t shine 24/7…[The advantages of solar energy] everybody should know…Solar energy can (probably) save you money…is better for our health...fights global warming and catastrophic climate change…makes the grid more secure…cuts the need for a lot of transmission…comes at times of very high demand…protects us from fuel price volatility… is renewable…is extremely abundant…is a great job creator…[and] needs very little water…” click here for more

    YAHOO BUYS WIND

    Yahoo Signs Long Term Power Purchase Agreement with OwnEnergy; Tech Leader's Purchase of Wind Energy Will Expand Sustainability Efforts

    Oct. 16, 2014 (PRNewswire)

    “…Yahoo!, Inc. [has entered into a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with OwnEnergy to purchase half the wind power output from the 48 megawatt Alexander Wind Farm in Kansas] which will be used to offset much of Yahoo's energy usage in the Great Plains region…OwnEnergy partners with energy entrepreneurs across the country to develop wind projects. The company's local partners are leading members of wind-rich communities who play an active role in project development and receive a share of project ownership in return…While Yahoo is one of the first tech companies to embrace this model of community-centric partnership, the trend for corporate purchasers to buy wind directly from wind farms is gaining pace…OwnEnergy is the national leader in mid-sized wind energy development [with a pipeline of 25 projects representing 2,000 megawatts in 23 states. It]…enables landowners and communities to build and profit directly from their own local wind farms…” click here for more

    SMART THERMOSTATS’ BILLION DOLLAR FUTURE

    Smart Thermostats; Communicating Thermostats, Smart Thermostats, and Associated Software and Services: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    3Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “The market for communicating and smart thermostats has exploded with activity since 2013…The year 2014 has seen significant business activity in the form of mergers and acquisitions, international expansion, technological growth, and more conclusive evidence of cost-effectiveness…In North America and Europe, interest in smart thermostat technology is growing among utilities and energy retailers, as well as consumers…[S]mall businesses are increasingly adopting solutions originally intended for residences…[to manage] heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. For other regions, the technology remains nascent…According to Navigant Research, global revenue for communicating and smart thermostats and associated software and services is expected to grow from $146.9 million in 2014 to $2.3 billion in 2023…” click here for more

    Wednesday, October 15, 2014

    NEW NUMERS SHOW BIG OCEAN WIND POWER

    Offshore Wind Power Can Save U.S. Billions On Electricity, Recent DOE Study Finds

    Kit Kennedy, Oct. 11, 2014 (Energy Collective)

    “…[I]nstalling 54 gigawatts of offshore wind power off America’s coasts can cut the cost of electricity in the U.S. by an astounding $7.68 billion a year…[according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s] National Offshore Wind Energy Grid Interconnection Study…[T]hat potential is simply waiting to be realized, with about a dozen U.S. projects in some stage of development. The right state and federal policies can help move these projects off of their drawing boards and into the water, the study authors say...

    “There’s more than 134 gigawatts of potential at 209 sites [within 50 miles of U.S. coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and along the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes], the NOWEGIS authors conclude…[But the authors excluded] important habitats and marine sanctuaries… to ensure that one environmental good—pollution-free wind power—doesn’t come at the expense of another—important ocean wildlife and habitat protections…[T]he technology is evolving fast [in Europe and Asia], meaning its becoming more powerful and less expensive simultaneously…Offshore wind power can be an especially important resource for densely populated coastal areas, like the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic, and northern California, where energy prices [and peak demand spikes] are high and land available for generation and transmission is generally limited…” click here for more

    SOLAR TURNS IN A NEW DIRECTION

    How Grid Efficiency Went South

    Matthew L. Wald, Oct. 7, 2014 (NY Times)

    “Almost every rooftop solar panel in the United States faces south, the direction that will catch the maximum energy when the sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest. This was probably a mistake…The panels are pointed that way because under the rules that govern the electric grid, panel owners are paid by the amount of energy they make. But they are not making the most energy at the hours when it is most needed…[T]he rules add cost and reduce environmental effectiveness, critics say, because they are out of step with what the power grid actually needs from intermittent renewables like wind and sun, and from zero-carbon nuclear power…[S]olar and wind will produce a lot of energy, but the power they make often does not match the system’s demand, so the contribution to its power needs may be much smaller…

    “[Coal, natural gas and especially nuclear plants] earn their keep by selling energy around the clock. Put enough wind and solar units on the grid during the hours when they are running and they flood the market and push down the hourly auction price of a megawatt-hour of energy…The problem is especially acute for nuclear reactors because their costs for fuel are roughly the same whether they are running or not…[S]ome have already closed and more are threatened…Even relatively clean natural gas plants are hurt; they are generally on the margin, the first to shut when new solar comes on line…” click here for more

    FUEL CELL MARKETS TO VARY, GROW

    Fuel Cells Annual Report 2014; Stationary, Portable, and Transportation Fuel Cell Sectors: 2013 and 2014 Global Market Developments

    4Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “During 2013 and 2014, [driven by a shift toward distributed generation (DG)] the fuel cell market continued to see the greatest demand from stationary applications, including utility-scale fuel cells, fuel cells for industrial and commercial buildings, and fuel cells for residential power. These markets are still very location-specific. Japan is focusing primarily on residential units, while North America and South Korea have adopted the larger fuel cell systems. Backup power is a market mainly in North America, but also in emerging economies – especially in Southeast Asia…As a result, Navigant Research expects the stationary sector to have the strongest global potential within the fuel cell market in terms of fuel cell systems shipped. The transportation sector has the potential to lead in terms of fuel cell capacity shipped, as fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) are expected to take off in the 2020 timeframe…” click here for more

    Tuesday, October 14, 2014

    THE UTILITY-SOLAR DEBATE OVER WHO PAYS

    Solar firms, power companies battle over 'net metering'

    Javier E. David, Oct. 13, 2014 (CNBC)

    “…[N]et-metering—a process where consumers use renewable energy to generate their own electricity, then cut their bills by sending excess power back to the grid at retail rates…saves consumers money on utility bills, [and] is gaining popularity yet remains the subject of fierce debate. At least 43 states have laws making it easy for residents to save via the sun; still, utilities are pushing back against solar's rapid encroachment on the retail market…The Energy Information Administration notes that retail electricity is up nearly 3 percent per kilowatt hour in 2014 versus a year ago, with costs rising for 20 consecutive months…

    "Power companies acknowledge that rooftop panels are forcing them to modernize the grid and rethink their business models. Additionally, residential units can help reduce strains on power systems during peak times and seasons…[But] net-metering was creating a classic ‘free-rider’ economic conundrum, where non-rooftop clients are ultimately paying more for electricity than net-metering clients. Certain costs, such as infrastructure and grid usage, are not being captured in what net-metering customers are charged…[U]tilities are waging a ground war in multiple states to get governments to reconsider subsidies and pass more costs on to net-metering clients…” click here for more

    TECHNICIANS WANTED – APPLY TO WIND

    Entire class of wind technicians at Oklahoma's Canadian Valley Technology Center receive job offers in one day; Wind industry is looking for workers.

    Jay F. Marks, Oct. 10, 2014 (The Oklahoman)

    “A Texas-based wind developer recently offered jobs to an entire class of wind technicians from Canadian Valley Technology Center in one day…A lot of wind farms are being built in Oklahoma, west Texas and Colorado…The most recent recipients of the wind industry’s growth were students in Canadian Valley’s wind energy technician certification program. Seven were hired by Abilene-based Run Energy, while another opted to take a job in Lawton because of family commitments…[All got job offers of at least $17 per hour, plus benefits and other perks…[like] a daily meal allowance, free lodging and a round-trip plane ticket home…Run Energy likely would have hired 30 or 40 more wind technicians if Canadian Valley had them…Canadian Valley established its wind technician program in October 2010…300 students have completed the program in the past four years. About 90 percent of them were placed in wind industry jobs…[only because some] didn’t want to leave town…One technician typically is responsible for maintaining about 10 wind turbines…” click here for more

    MAKING MULTIFAMILY BLDGS MORE EFFICIENT

    Better information will transform energy use in multifamily buildings

    Lauren Ross, September 30, 2014 (ACEEE)

    “…[Fannie Mae’s just released] Multifamily Energy and Water Market Research Survey provides an insight into multifamily buildings’ annual spending on energy and water as well as other important trends and metrics. The report also responds to the lack of information on energy use in submarkets in the multifamily sector by providing separate breakdowns for affordable and market-rate units, tenant and owner-paid utility bills, and by building size and other important building features…[It] reinforces what many have speculated in recent years – the multifamily sector remains an untapped opportunity for energy efficiency. According to the survey results, the least efficient buildings might be spending upwards of $165,000 more per building in annual energy costs than comparable buildings operating at a much higher efficiency…[T]he survey also serves as the basis for the long-anticipated EPA ENERGY STAR® score for multifamily buildings…[which] is a simple way for multifamily building owners to understand their property’s energy performance…” click here for more

    Monday, October 13, 2014

    NUCLEAR FADING, NEW ENERGY COMING ON

    Wind, Solar Generation Capacity Catching Up with Nuclear Power; New Worldwatch Institute analysis examines global trends in renewable and nuclear power

    September 30, 2014 (Worldwatch Institute)

    "…Nuclear energy’s share of global power production has declined steadily from a peak of 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013. Renewables increased their share from 18.7 percent in 2000 to 22.7 percent in 2012…Following a rapid rise from its beginnings in the mid-1950s, global nuclear power generating capacity peaked at 375.3 gigawatts (GW) in 2010. Capacity has since declined to 371.8 GW in 2013, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Adverse economics, concern about reactor safety and proliferation, and the unresolved question of what to do with nuclear waste have put the brakes on the industry…In stark contrast, wind and solar power generating capacities are now on the same soaring trajectory that nuclear power was on in the 1970s and 1980s…According to estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), nuclear investments averaged US$8 billion per year between 2000 and 2013, compared with $37 billion for solar PV and $43 billion for wind…[N]owhere did nuclear have a major role in power generation investments…” click here for more

    THE ONE BIG ADVANTAGE OF SOLAR

    Why go solar? Homeowners say: 'To save money'

    Jackie DeAngelis, Oct. 10, 2014 (CNBC)

    “Pat Kennell's motivation for installing sun power in his home is typical of the solar industry's new customer: He did it to save money…Kennell isn't alone. The residential solar market is on fire, with homeowners installing solar systems all across the country—sometimes trying to help the environment, other times just looking to save money. And while the trend has sent solar stocks on a tear, it could disrupt some traditional energy companies…U.S. home solar penetration still stands at less than 1 percent, but estimates suggest it could grow to as much as 20 to 30 percent by 2020. In dollar terms, the market is expected to hit $6 billion in just a couple of years…SolarCity, one of the industry leaders with 36 percent market share, says that its crews are working seven days a week to meet demand, and sales representatives have multiple consultations…When it comes to that traditional utility grid, however, the solar companies' gain could be utilities' pain…Investors have long loved solar stocks, the group has been on a tear. SolarCity, for example, has gone on a run of greater than 400 percent over the last five years. But analysts still like solar stocks because there is so much growth potential…The exchange-traded funds are one way to play solar, with the Guggenheim Solar ETF and the Market Vectors Solar Energy ETF…Individual names to watch include SolarCity, First Solar , Suntech, Trina Solar, and NRG Energy.” click here for more

    HALF OF GLOBAL HEAT MAY BE HIDING IN THE OCEANS

    Global warming's effect on oceans is greater than realized, researchers say (+video) Effect of climate change on upper-ocean temperatures has been underestimated by 24 to 58 percent, a study by NASA and Livermore Laboratory concludes.

    Pete Spotts, October 6, 2014 (Christian Science Monitor)

    “…[G]lobal warming's effect on upper ocean temperatures between 1970 and 2004 has been underestimated by 24 to 58 percent, largely the result of sparse long-term measurements in the southern oceans, [according to new research from Lawrence Livermore National] and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory…Getting ocean heating right is important for estimating the amount of sea-level rise caused by the expansion of seawater as it warms and the amount attributed to melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets…Ocean heat storage also influences estimates of how sensitive the climate system is to changes in greenhouse-gas levels, a key piece of the puzzle climate models must have to project possible trajectories for human-triggered climate change…Just as the oceans absorb a significant proportion of the carbon-dioxide humans add to the atmosphere, mainly through burning fossil fuels, the oceans take up about 90 percent of the heat attributed to this build-up of greenhouse gases. Southern-hemisphere oceans represent about 60 percent of the world's oceans…[T]his new study represents ‘the first time that scientists have tried to estimate how much heat we've missed…’” click here for more

    Wednesday, October 8, 2014

    HIGHER ELECTRIC BILLS = MORE POVERTY

    The high cost of rate hikes

    October 7, 2014 (The Post and Courier)

    “…[A] 2.92 percent price hike this month [for South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. customers obligated to pay for the ongoing construction of two nuclear plants to the tune of $9.8 billion] is the seventh [power price] jump since 2009…[P]ower rates have climbed 23.9 percent over the last five years, and…[according to Plenty at Stake: Indicators of American Energy Insecurity by Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, found a] 10 percent increase in household energy costs leads to approximately 840,000 people across the U.S. being pushed into poverty…

    “…[M]illions more people have to spend more than 10 percent of their income on home energy…[and] an increasing number of people have to decide whether to pay their energy bill instead food or medical care…[The Senators] hope that their data about the impact of energy costs on people will promote a discussion about what should be done at the federal level…Affordable energy is a better option than financial assistance, they argue]…Most, but not all, of SCE&G's recent rate hikes have been to cover [nuclear plant construction] costs…But sustainable alternative sources can, and should, be the focus of more efforts…” click here for more

    KANSAS WIND BOOM BUILDING

    Kansas wind energy industry set to take off

    Dan Voorhis, October 6, 2014 (Wichita Eagle)

    “Three-quarters of the way through 2014, Kansas’ wind energy industry is shifting from ice cold to red hot…The state has nearly 3,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity in 25 wind farms, placing it among the top states in the nation…This year started slowly, with months going by with little activity. But at this point, there are four wind farms under construction, with about 475 megawatts of capacity…In the development stage are…[six] wind farm projects [totaling 1,800 megawatts] that may be built in 2015 or 2016…

    “What makes wind power so compelling is that, at the moment, it is close to the lowest-price electricity, and that price can be locked in for 20 years by contract…[which makes it] a way to hedge gas price volatility and the environmental regulation of coal…This year marks a resurgence in wind farm construction. Developers built facilities generating 1,441 megawatts’ worth of energy in Kansas in 2012 but just 250 in 2013 because they raced so hard to get their projects up and going the year before, in case federal incentives were allowed to die…This year, however, developers could take their time because of the way the federal production tax credit law was written…The wind farms generally must be built by 2016 to qualify for the tax credits…” click here for more

    DOOR-TO-DOOR SOLAR

    Knocked Out; How do you sell customers on solar energy? Hawk it door to door.

    Daniel Gross, October 7, 2014 (Slate)

    “…In 2011, Vivint, an alarm company based in Utah, decided to get into the solar business. It deployed a mobile [door to door] sales force [working on commission], attracted a big investment from the private equity giant Blackstone Group in 2012, and quickly built its subsidiary, Vivint Solar, into the second-largest panel installer in the country, behind Elon Musk’s SolarCity...[An initial public offering] raised $330 million and valued Vivint Solar at $1.3 billion…Vivint’s rapid success—it has convinced nearly 22,000 homeowners to go solar—highlights a recurring theme… >p> “…[W]hat’s really helping America catch up to the rest of the world in renewable energy and reducing emissions is innovation in business models, marketing, finance, and selling. The greatest advances happen when good, old-fashioned, earnest American hucksterism meets the massive consuming force of the American people…For years, the high upfront cost of solar systems acted as a barrier to adoption. In response, SolarCity pioneered the solar lease…Vivint Solar relies on a simpler model: a power purchase agreement…Each summer, Vivint dispatches a few thousand college students, mostly from universities in Utah, to sell alarm systems door to door, on commission, in every state; the Vivint Solar subsidiary taps into the same labor force. Many of the [college student salespeople on summer vacation] already have experience as Mormon missionaries…” click here for more

    Tuesday, October 7, 2014

    MONEY FLOWING BACK TO NEW ENERGY’

    Global Clean Energy Investment Sustains Its Recovery; Figures for the third quarter show another year-on-year rise, with a solar boom in China the biggest single contributor

    October 2, 2014 (Bloomberg New Energy Finance)

    “World clean energy investment in the first three quarters of this year was 16% ahead of the same period of 2013, at $175.1bn…making it almost certain that 2014 will produce a bounce-back in dollars invested after two years of decline…[C]lean energy investment in the July-to-September quarter was $55bn, up 12% from the $48.9bn achieved in Q3 2013. The third quarter is generally weaker than the second quarter, as it was this year, with the Q3 total 16% down on a strong $65.2bn in Q2 2014…The highlight of the third quarter was a leap in Chinese solar investment to a new record of $12.2bn, up from $7.5bn in Q3 2013 and $8bn in Q2 2014. China is building a large number of utility-scale photovoltaic projects linked to its main transmission grid…[China solar installations are forecast to be] 13-14GW in 2014, nearly a third of the world total…[Japan invested] 8.6bn, up 17% from the same quarter in 2013, with solar again the dominant renewable energy source…The Q3 2014 figures showed global asset finance for clean energy projects such as wind farms, solar parks and geothermal plants reaching $33.3bn, up slightly from $32.8bn in the third quarter of last year…” click here for more

    THE ENORMOUS POTENTIAL OF U.S. OCEAN WIND

    DOE: 54-GWs of Untapped Offshore Wind Power

    Andrew Burger, October 6, 2014 (TriplePundit)

    “At least 54-gigawatts (GW) of U.S. offshore wind energy generation capacity could be deployed by 2030…5 GW of offshore wind power could be online within a decade…[B]oth alternating current and direct current methods show promise in transporting offshore electricity to the land power grid…Deploying 54-GW of offshore wind generation capacity would cut annual national electricity production costs by some $7.68 billion – that’s about $41 per megawatt-hour of offshore wind energy added to the grid. The cost reductions help justify the high initial capital outlay required…Though the technological and engineering aspects of deploying offshore wind generation assets are well understood, significant challenges remain, [according to the National Offshore Wind Energy Grid Interconnection Study (NOWEGIS) from the Department of Energy]…Actually taking advantage of all that clean, renewable power potential depends on a host of political and economic factors, including [state policies, federal permitting processes, and advances in offshore wind energy technology]…” click here for more

    PROTOTYPE FLOW BATTERY FOR WIND

    Areva plans flow battery wind energy storage; Areva has again teamed up with Schneider Electric to develop a new storage system to allow the greater integration of renewable energy onto the grid.

    Patrick Smith, 3 October 2014 (Windpower Monthly)

    “Areva will lead the project, manufacturing and installing the battery, with Schneider manufacturing and installing the power conversion system…based on an existing design by Israeli company EnStorage for a 50kW flow battery prototype. This will be optimised by Areva to create a 150kW demonstration system…Flow batteries use two liquid electrolytes rather than solid-state electrodes. The liquids are contained in separated tanks and flow through a cell stack, allowing the ions and electrons to move through a porous membrane in order to discharge and recharge the battery…” click here for more

    Monday, October 6, 2014

    NEW ENERGY BECOMING PRICE COMPETITIVE

    Solar, wind cost-competitive for peak energy, study finds; Consultant questions subsidies for residential solar when costs are dropping

    Sept. 29, 2014 (Canadian Broadcasting Company News)

    “Solar and wind power are increasingly cost-competitive with conventional forms of electrical power, including coal and nuclear, even without subsidies…The cost for utilities to generate energy from photovoltaic technologies has fallen by nearly 20 per cent in the past year, and nearly 80 per cent in the last five years…China's entry into the solar panel business has helped push down the cost of solar technologies…As a source of peak energy — that is, power at times when there is the greatest demand on the electrical grid — photovoltaics are more flexible and cost-competitive than conventional technologies, [according to Lazard’s Levelized Cost Of Energy Analysis 8.0

    “…[L]and-based wind power has dropped in price — as much as 60 per cent in the last five years, though off-shore power remains expensive…Without subsidies residential-scale solar photovoltaic solar panels remain considerably more expensive than utility-scale solar…[and] large-scale conventional generation projects continue to face a number of challenges, including high upfront capital costs, especially for nuclear…[though it] is still more manageable and cost-competitive for base-load generation…[Natural gas generation] will be a transition source, between coal or nuclear and renewables, as gas prices are low…” click here for more

    THE FIRST “SOLAR BATTERY”

    Batteries Included: A Solar Cell that Stores its Own Power; World’s first “solar battery” runs on light and air

    Pam Frost Gorder, October 3, 2014 (Ohio State University)

    “Is it a solar cell? Or a rechargeable battery?...Actually, the patent-pending device invented at The Ohio State University is both: the world’s first solar battery…a battery and a solar cell [hybrid device]…Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery...Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State, says…their device brings down costs by 25 percent…[and eliminates most of the 20%] loss of electricity that normally occurs when electrons have to travel between a solar cell and an external battery…

    “…[D]uring charging, light hits the mesh solar panel and creates electrons. Inside the battery, electrons are involved in the chemical decomposition of lithium peroxide into lithium ions and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the air, and the lithium ions are stored in the battery as lithium metal after capturing the electrons…When the battery discharges, it chemically consumes oxygen from the air to re-form the lithium peroxide…The mesh belongs to a class of devices called dye-sensitized solar cells…Based on early tests, Wu and his team think that the solar battery’s lifetime will be comparable to rechargeable batteries already on the market…” click here for more

    PERFECTING WIND

    NREL Software Tool a Boon for Wind Industry

    Sept. 29, 2014 (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

    “Wind energy is…close to achieving cost parity with fossil fuels…[The extra efficiency it needs] may be realized with a software tool built by the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)…called Simulator for Wind Farm Applications (SOWFA)…[I]t can calculate how undulating ground, whipping blades, surface temperatures, and other variables alter the air flow and energy production at wind farms…SOWFA's key innovation is that it simulates an extensive range of scales—from regional weather patterns down to the space between turbines and all the way to the movement of electrons. It gives a complete picture of an active plant, showing how controlling each turbine can influence the direction of the wakes, and detecting the effect on downwind turbines. And it helps researchers understand how local atmospheric conditions affect local wind around the wind farm…

    “SOWFA is the first tool that enables developers to improve the performance of not only one wind turbine, but the entire wind farm. And because it is an open-source "community" software platform available for free to academics, investors, wind developers, and manufacturers, users have the support of an online forum where they can discuss problems and solutions with other SOWFA users…” click here for more

    Wednesday, October 1, 2014

    MONEY MOVING TO OCEAN WIND

    Investors warming up to German offshore wind plants

    Christoph Seitz (w/ Keith Weir), Sept. 25, 2014 (Reuters)

    “Germany's offshore wind parks, once seen as only for brave investors because of high costs and operational risks, are attracting fresh money after laws were passed to ensure ambitious renewables targets are met…British investment firm Laidlaw Capital bought its second German offshore wind park project two weeks ago, following a landmark German offshore wind acquisition by Canadian energy group Northland Power…[For the country's ‘Energiewende’, which moves Germany towards alternative energy sources after a decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022…Germany needs at least 20 billion euros ($26 billion) to achieve its aim of expanding offshore wind capacity to more than 10 times its present capacity by 2020…

    “As part of the country's new renewable law, investors can now look forward to guaranteed feed-in tariffs of 19.4 euro cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) over a period of eight years for offshore, better returns than for solar and onshore wind power…Simultaneously, network connections for about 7.7 GW of offshore capacity are to be built by the end of the decade, removing uncertainty over whether there will be sufficient lines to connect parks to the onshore power grid…Costs stand at about 145 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), compared with 81 euros/MWh for onshore wind and 138 euros/MWh for solar…This is expected to drop to 95 euros/MWh by 2025…less than the 100 euro/MWh seen for solar…” click here for more

    GEOTHERMAL ADVANCES

    Geothermal resources used to produce renewable electricity in western states

    Fred Mayes, Sept. 26 2014 (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

    “Geothermal energy…[provided] 0.4% of total U.S. generation in 2013…mostly in California but increasingly in other western states…[Virtually emissions free, dispatchable, baseload] electricity is generated from conventional geothermal resources by tapping underground reservoirs of [steam or] hot water [to generate electricity]…This process requires plants to be able to access high-temperature fluids from deep, naturally permeable rock formations…

    “…[E]nhanced geothermal systems (EGS) are engineered reservoirs created to produce energy from otherwise noneconomic geothermal resources. EGS plants fracture impermeable rock formations to access hot fluids…The high-pressure hydraulic fracturing inherent in many EGS projects has in the past caused seismic events…similar to induced seismicity caused by shale gas production…Such events are rare…[T]he U.S. Department of Energy has developed a protocol to deal with seismicity issues. EGS plants are currently being developed in several countries, and the first commercial-scale plant in the United States, the Desert Peak East pilot project in Nevada, began operating in 2013…There are currently 64 operating conventional geothermal power plants in the United States, accounting for nearly 2,700 megawatts (MW) of total capacity at the end of 2013…EIA projects that geothermal electricity generation could more than quadruple between 2012 and 2040…to over 67,000 GWh…” click here for more

    PEROVSKITE COULD BE SOLAR’S NEW SILICON

    New solar panels from old car batteries

    Sept. 18, 2014 (CNN)

    “Old car batteries are being converted into long-lasting solar panels by researchers at MIT. The new applications are riding the current wave of popularity with perovskite-based solar cells…Original designs for perovskite technologies use lead as part of their overall design. But this use of lead means toxic residues are leftover from its extraction…Angela Belcher and her team at MIT used recycled lead from car batteries as an alternative source of lead and as the perovskite materials are just micrometres thick, the amount of lead needed is minimal. Lead from a single car battery could produce enough solar panels to provide power for 30 households…According to the Battery council international, more than 98% of all battery lead is currently recycled, mainly into new batteries. As cars change and demand declines for new batteries, increasing demand for perovskite panels could provide a new primary outlet and further enhance the green stamp on the technology.” click here for more