Eco Periodicals Nov 23, 2010 Posts
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Content below is from the site's 2010 archived pages providing a glimpse of the type of articles the site offered its readership.
Plans Laid for Russia’s First Solar Plant
Russian state-controlled nanotechnology corporation Rusnano and Renova Group, a conglomerate with vast interests in gas, oil and aluminum, have announced plans to build Russia’s first solar power plant.
The 50-50 joint venture will construct the $93 million, 12.3-megawatt facility in the Black Sea town of Kislovodsk. It is expected to be completed by 2012. The two companies are also investing in a new solar cell production company expected to reach full capacity in the last quarter of next year.
Renova became involved in the solar industry through its purchase of a 44% controlling stake in Swiss technology company Oerlikon, which makes thin-film solar panels. Although solar cell production only makes up 13% of Oerlikon’s sales (it produces everything from textiles to coatings used in Formula One race cars), its solar segment outperforms all others and has the highest growth potential.
The world’s largest gas producer, and a major producer and exporter of oil and coal, Russia is slowly accepting the reality of climate change and reluctantly moving toward embracing energy alternatives. And while no one is predicting conventional resource-rich Russia will not become a clean-energy hotbed in the foreseeable future, the solar power station could prove to be a stepping stone toward future projects.
Renewable energy currently makes up just 1% of Russia’s energy production, but the government plans to increase that amount to 4.5% by 2020. Some estimates suggest that the country could meet as much as 30% of its energy needs through renewables.
Fossil Fuel Factual Fallacies: New York Times Called Out by Renowned Geoscientist
Rarely is the public treated to such inaccurate, misleading and unhelpful journalism as in “There Will Be Fuel” by New York Times correspondent, Clifford Krauss (New York Times, November 17, 2010), even in this era of political spin and smoke and mirrors surrounding energy.
Let’s begin with the article’s concluding comment:
“When you add it up,” Mr. Morse noted, “you get something that very closely approximates energy independence.”
The facts of the matter are that no nation on earth is more dependent on imported oil than the U.S. Although consumption has declined somewhat, due to the Great Recession, imports accounted for more than 61 percent of U.S. oil consumption in 2009. Net 2009 U.S. imports of 11.5 million barrels per day exceeded China’s TOTAL OIL CONSUMPTION of 8.6 million barrels per day by 33 percent. Americans, with a population of 310 million, consumed 18.7 million barrels per day in 2009 compared to China, a country with 1.32 billion people, which consumed a mere 8.6 million barrels per day. This works out to 22 barrels of oil consumption per American in 2009 compared to 2.4 barrels per person in China.
Although American oil production increased slightly in 2009 from a recent low in 2008, it is down 36 percent from its all time peak in 1970. Meanwhile oil imports are up by 358 percent since 1965. The vaunted 100,000 barrel per day growth in shale oil production by 2013 in Krauss’ article, if it occurs, would amount to half a percent of current U.S. consumption.
The search for subsalt oil in deepwater locations in the Atlantic, deepwater exploration in the Gulf, and Arctic exploration, represent the last frontiers, as less hostile locales have already been thoroughly explored and exploited. Enough growth in deep water production in the Gulf of Mexico to offset declines in the onshore U.S. fields remains to be seen, given the fallout from BP’s Macondo blowout. The Santos Basin fields in the Atlantic off of Brazil may contain 40 billion barrels, and the mean estimate in the recent circum-Arctic study by the USGS was 90 billion barrels. Added together these equal perhaps four years of world consumption at current rates of 31 billion barrels per year – the catch being that this oil, if it exists, will take decades to produce.
Groups other than the uber-optimists at CERA cited in the article have expressed concern about deepwater production by non-OPEC countries, which constitutes much of the future potential for new production, and about the implications of peak oil production globally. There are many other credible recent reports on the implications of peak oil, which the author of this article willfully chose to ignore.
Notwithstanding the IEA’s recent projection of increases in world oil production to 99 million barrels per day by 2035, this represents a stunning decline in IEA estimates of future oil production, which as recently as 2005 were at 118 million barrels per day by 2030. A closer look at how the recent IEA oil production estimates are to be achieved reveals that all growth in its forecasts will be due to unconventional oil (including biofuels) and natural gas liquids, and that conventional crude production will remain on a plateau below 2006 production levels through 2035 (a highly optimistic assumption in my view).
With respect to shale gas production in the U.S., which the author hypes along with LNG, U.S. gas production in 2009 was still four percent below the 1973 gas production peak. The U.S. is still a net gas importer via pipeline from Canada and via LNG from many countries. Despite the hype of people like Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of shale gas producer Chesapeake, who was recently featured on 60 Minutes, and who testified before Congress that U.S. gas production could increase by 50 percent or more in the next decade, the realities of shale gas make this unlikely. Shale gas wells have very high decline rates, between 65 and 85 percent in the first year, are high tech and hence expensive, utilize large amounts of water, and have environmental costs that are now becoming evident. The EPA has begun an extensive investigation of the environmental issues surrounding “fracking,” upon which shale gas production depends.
In summary, oil and gas are finite resources that are being consumed at unprecedented and growing rates. Despite what Krauss’ article says, the U.S. is the worst offender and is highly vulnerable to future energy price and supply shocks. The growth trajectory of the already high consumption levels in the industrialized world and the rapid growth in consumption in the developing world is patently unsustainable. Articles such as this falsely promote complacency and thus are an extreme disservice to understanding the energy sustainability dilemma facing the World. The premise of this article that the U.S. is approaching “energy independence” could not be further from the truth.
SNL Energy Analysis: Wind Industry Q3′10 Update
Commercial wind development has dropped sharply so far in 2010, according to SNL Energy data and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Data from AWEA showed wind installations in the third quarter dropping to their lowest level of any quarter since early 2007. AWEA attributed this to continued weak demand in U.S. power markets, as well as continued lack of certainty surrounding U.S. energy policy.
According to project data from SNL Energy, 2,180 MW of wind capacity came online in the first three quarters of 2010, representing a roughly 64% drop from the 6,125 MW placed online in the first three quarters of 2009. A total of 1,308 turbines were placed in service through nine months of 2010, compared with 3,393 turbines in the 2009 period. The average size of turbines coming online dropped from 1.81 MW in the first nine months of 2009 to 1.67 MW over the same period in 2010.
Overall, 20 states had at least 1 MW of wind capacity come online in the first three quarters of 2010, compared to 24 states for this period in 2009.
Illinois led all states for wind capacity brought online at 716 MW and 427 turbines, representing a 256% increase from the 201 MW installed in the first nine months of 2009. Illinois was one of only three states to see a jump in 2010 installations over 2009 levels. The 716 MW came from three projects, the largest of which was the 300-MW Streator Cayuga Ridge South wind farm.
Oregon took the second spot among states for wind capacity coming online in the first three quarters of 2010, with 337 MW and 186 turbines, down from 638 MW seen for the same quarters of 2009, when Oregon also took the second spot.
Among the top 10 states for wind installed in the first three quarters of 2010, Texas saw the largest drop. Wind capacity brought online in Texas dropped 84%, from 1,880 MW during the period in 2009 to just 305 MW during the nine months ended Sept. 30. Texas had just three projects brought online during the year, the largest being the 202-MW Penascal II Wind. The project, owned by Iberdrola Renovables, was brought online in February and uses 84 2.4-MW Mitsubishi turbines.
Forty wind plants had come online in 2010 through the third quarter, with the largest being the 300-MW Streator Cayuga Ridge South project. The project uses 150 Gamesa 2-MW wind turbines, and the Tennessee Valley Authority has a power purchase agreement for the full capacity of the plant through 2030.
NextEra Energy Inc.’s 218-MW DeKalb Wind Energy Center in Illinois was the second-largest project brought online during the first nine months of 2010. The project uses 145 1.5-MW GE wind turbines. Illinois Municipal Electric Agency has agreed to purchase 70 MW of the plant’s output through 2030. American Electric Power Co. Inc. subsidiary Kentucky Power Co. filed in 2009 for Kentucky regulators’ permission to purchase a 100-MW share of DeKalb’s output.
To see a spreadsheet that pulls a current list of all plant generation developments, .
There are only two operating wind farms in the U.S with at least 500 MW online, the 736-MW Horse Hollow and the 663-MW Capricorn Ridge Wind farms, both owned by NextEra. However, nine wind projects were announced with plans for at least 500 MW of new capacity through the end of September.
One of the largest projects announced was the 600-MW Cimarron Bend Wind in Kansas, owned by TradeWind Energy LLC. The project is estimated by SNL Energy to cost $1.3 billion and is the second-largest project planned in Kansas. Cimarron Bend also represents the largest planned wind farm for TradeWind, which currently has no wind plants in operation.
Another 600-MW project was announced during the period when Duke Energy Corp. announced plans for the Las Palmas Windpower Project in Cameron County, Texas. The project is the largest of eight wind projects currently planned by Duke.
Riverstone Holdings LLC’s Ocotillo Express Wind in Imperial County, Calif., was the third-largest wind plant announced in the first three quarters of 2010 with a combined nameplate capacity of 552 MW spread out over two phases.
The 500-MW Lake Michigan Offshore (Aegir II) project made the list of the top 10 wind plants by capacity announced during the first nine months of 2010 and is one of only three offshore wind projects announced so far in 2010. The $2 billion project is jointly owned by Havgul Clean Energy AS and Scandia Wind Offshore. Those companies also plan to develop an additional 250-MW of offshore wind in Michigan through the Lake Michigan Offshore Wind (Aegir I) project.
The first three quarters of 2010 brought a steady amount of wind capacity placed under construction, driven by the Dec. 31 deadline for plants to commence construction to qualify for the U.S. Treasury cash grant program. More than 4,000 MW of wind capacity was been placed under construction in the first three quarters of the year, according to SNL Energy data.
The largest wind project with capacity placed under construction during the period is the Lower Snake River (Garfield) project, with 343 MW, under construction by the end of September. The project is one of two in the works for owner Puget Sound Energy Inc., which already has almost 430 MW of wind currently operating. The plant will use 149 2.3-MW Siemens SWT turbines, carry an estimated price tag of $850 million and come online in mid-2012. An additional 557-MW are planned at the plant but not yet under construction.
The 290-MW Shepherds Flat Central project in Oregon, ultimately owned by Caithness Energy LLC, was the second-largest project with capacity placed under construction during the first nine months of the year. The plant will use 116 of the larger GE Energy 2.5-MW turbines. The project is one of three Caithness has in development in Oregon.
Wind turbine manufacturer financial profiles
General Electric Co., well known for its 1.5-MW turbine model, is a dominant player in the U.S. market. In 2009, GE ranked first in AWEA’s turbine installation rankings, and it continues to perform well in 2010. For the nine-month period ended Sept. 30, GE remained the top manufacturer by U.S. installations with 755 turbines installed, down from 2009’s nine-month period, when GE had 1,556 turbines installed.
GE’s energy infrastructure segment, less oil and gas, revenues in the first three quarters of the 2010 fiscal year fell by 10% compared to 2009 nine-month figures, falling from $24.45 billion to $22.04 billion. GE noted decreased sales of wind equipment in its energy infrastructure segment in the nine months ended Sept. 30. Energy infrastructure profits, less oil and gas, increased in the 2010 period by 6% over the 2009 period, to $4.39 billion from $4.15 billion.
Siemens AG U.S. wind turbine installations dropped off significantly in the 2010 nine-month period compared to the 2009 period, falling from 241, totaling 554 MW, to 76, totaling 175 MW. Despite low installations in the U.S., Siemens has maintained its renewable division order intake, at $5.73 billion for the 2010 nine-month period, on par the with 2009 period order figures of $5.71 billion. The renewable division of the company’s energy segment reported increases to both revenues and profits from the 2009 to 2010 nine-month periods.
Expecting strong demand from European clients in 2010 and 2011, Vestas Wind Systems A/S had increased its wind turbine manufacturing capacity. However, as the European market fell short of its expectations, Vestas cut 3,000 jobs, mostly in Europe, to adjust the balance. Vestas had only two turbines installed in the U.S. in the first nine months of 2010, compared to the 2009 period, when 409 Vestas turbines were installed. Turbine shipments into the global market were down 43% in the first nine months of 2010, falling to 1,180 actual turbine shipments. Revenue fell 19%, to $4.58 billion, and earnings fell into the negative for the first nine months of 2010. Despite a lower performance in the first three quarters, the company has said it remains optimistic about the future. Orders have increased 175% from the 2009 nine-month period, growing from $2.87 billion a year earlier to $7.89 billion as of Sept. 30.
India-based wind turbine manufacturer Suzlon Energy Ltd. continues to be an up-and-coming player in the global market. Suzlon has most of its manufacturing capacity in China and India, which enables the firm to reap the benefits of lower production costs. The first nine months of 2010 proved to be a slower period in terms of installing Suzlon turbines in the U.S., with 64, totaling 132 MW, installed, compared to the corresponding period in 2009, when 189 Suzlon turbines, totaling 397 MW, were installed.
Suzlon total revenues fell 29%, from $3.8 billion in the first nine months of 2009 to $2.7 billion for the 2010 period. On a segment level, the wind turbine generator business holds the most weight, accounting for 98% of the revenue stream for the 2010 nine-month period.
Mitsubishi heavy Industries
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. experienced a decrease in U.S. turbine installations in the 2010 nine-month period, with 147 actual turbine installations totaling 265 MW, compared to 231 installation totaling 554 MW in the same period of 2009. MHI’s power systems segment performed well in the 2010 period, with increases in operating income, sales and orders. Operating income increased 72%, while sales were up slightly. Orders increased 43%, from $6.28 billion for the first nine months of 2009 to $9 billion for the same period of 2010.
Energy Storage Crucial Step for Renewable Electricity
U.S. policymakers must focus more closely on developing new energy storage technologies as they consider a national renewable electricity standard, according to one of the principal recommendations in a newly released report, Integrating Renewable Electricity on the Grid, by the American Physical Society’s Panel on Public Affairs (POPA).
The report notes that as renewable generation grows it will ultimately overwhelm the ability of conventional resources to compensate renewable variability, and require the capture of electricity generated by wind, solar and other renewables for later use. Transmission level energy storage options include pumped hydroelectric, compressed air electric storage, and flywheels. Distribution level options include: conventional batteries, electrochemical flow batteries, and superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES). Batteries also might be integrated with individual or small clusters of wind turbines and solar panels in generation farms to mitigate fluctuations and power quality issues.
According to APS, cnergy storage for grid applications presently lacks sufficient regulatory history. Energy storage on a utility-scale basis is very uncommon and, except for pumped hydroelectric storage, is relegated to pilot projects or site-specific projects. Some states such as New York categorize storage as “generation,” and hence forbid transmission utilities from owning it. In addition, utilities do not know how investment in energy storage technologies will be treated, how costs will be recovered, or whether energy storage technologies will be allowed in a particular regulatory environment.
Another challenge facing the grid involves the long-distance transmission of renewable electricity from places that receive a lot of wind and sun to those that do not. “We need to move faster to have storage ready to accommodate, for example, 20 percent of renewable electricity on the grid by 2020,” said George Crabtree, co-chairman of the POPA study panel and a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. “And, by devoting the necessary resources to the problem, I am confident that we can solve it.”
The report addresses variability and transmission issues by urging the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to increase research on materials to develop energy storage devices and by encouraging the DOE to focus on long-distance superconducting direct current cables to bring renewable electricity to load centers, lessening the chance that power will be disrupted. The report also calls for examining renewable electricity in light of a unified grid instead of one that is fragmented and improving the accuracy of weather forecasts to allow for better integration of renewable electricity on the grid.
The APS report says the DoE should develop an overall strategy for energy storage in grid-level applications that provides guidance to regulators to recognize the value that energy storage brings to both transmission and generation services on the grid. The DoE should also conduct a review of the technological potential for a range of battery chemistries, including those it supported during the 1980s and 1990s, with a view toward possible applications to grid energy and storage. Another recommendation is that the DoE should increase its research and development in basic electrochemistry to identify materials and electrochemical mechanisms that have the highest potential use in grid-level energy storage devices.
The American Physical Society is the leading physics organization, representing 48,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and internationally. APS has offices in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, DC.
Inflatable wind turbine among winners of GE ecomagination Challenge
General Electric has unveiled the five innovation award winners of its $200 million (€147 million) open innovation challenge, the “GE ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid.” The Challenge, launched in July, is part of GE’s ecomagination commitment to accelerate development of the next generation power grid and global energy transformation through open collaboration..
The five innovation award winners submitted ideas that could contribute to creating a smarter, cleaner, more efficient electric grid and represent the entrepreneurial spirit of the Challenge, They were selected by an independent panel of judges including challenge advisor, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, GE executives and leading academics and technologists.
The winning ideas are a lightweight inflatable wind turbine (WinFlex); a technology that instantly de-ices wind turbine blades so they never slow or shut down (IceCode); an intelligent water meter that can generate its own power (Capstone Metering); a cyber-secure network infrastructure that allows two-way communications grid monitoring and substation automation from wind and solar farms (ElectricRoute); and a technology solves short-circuiting and outages from overloaded electric grids by enabling precise control over their flow and power (GridON).
The Challenge generated nearly 4,000 ideas and facilitated robust conversations across the open innovation platform between 70,000 entrepreneurs in more than 150 countries over a 10-week period. GE partnered with four leading venture capital firms, Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer and RockPort Capital, to conceive and implement the Challenge, calling for innovation ideas in three categories: Renewables, Grid and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings.
“We launched the Challenge to encourage new thinking and spur innovation at every level of development,” said Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, GE. “The first step toward modernizing our grid is to uncover ideas and transform them into game-changing technologies and the Challenge has demonstrated that many great ideas exist out there. The smart thinking and compelling business cases presented make these innovation award winning ideas examples of pioneering entrepreneurship.”
The five innovation Challenge award winners will each receive $100,000 (€74 million) to develop their ideas, and include WinFlex which produces rotors for wind turbines from light, flexible and inexpensive cloth sheets made out of composite materials. This flexible rotor design reduces installation costs by at least fifty percent and shortens the return on investment to three-four years, without subsidies.
“Our grids today are where the Internet was a generation ago, with their full interactive potential still largely untapped. Just as we did with the Internet, we can make them smarter and more efficient, using the power of collaboration, open access and a hugely expanded range of entrepreneurs. The Challenge was designed to accelerate this, and show that good ideas can come from anywhere. And the number and breadth of ideas we received was indeed inspiring,” said Anderson of Wired magazine.
Feed-in tariff workshop grapples with African realities
Last week, more than 120 energy regulators, utilities and policy-makers from 14 African countries took part in a Johannesburg workshop on designing and implementing stable, long-term renewable energy support schemes such as feed-in tariffs in an African setting.
Feed-in tariffs (FiTs) are already used to promote RE in more than 30 countries globally, and South Africa has also recently introduced a FiT scheme. However, structuring renewable energy support schemes is a complex undertaking, particularly in Africa.
It means first having an energy planning framework containing a renewable energy obligation for utilities. Then in technical terms, it means integrating regulations on priority grid access, making long-term purchase contracts, and setting prices to both encourage renewable energy technologies, and to gradually decline towards grid parity over time. And in low- and medium-income countries, there remains the overriding question of how to finance renewable energy subsidies generally.
Participants came to last week’s event in Johannesburg (South Africa) fully briefed on the renewable energy data, policies, regulations and financial mechanisms in their respective countries. At the workshop, facilitated group discussions then helped participants focus on practical issues such as how to the technologies relevant to a particular country or region, set prices or tariffs in a way to support a country’s goals, and the types of institutions needed to manage all types of renewable energy financial support mechanisms.
“These facilitated working groups ensure that regulators and policy-makers go home with a clear to-do list in taking feed-in tariffs forward in their own countries,” said Mr Kevin Nassiep, CEO of the South African National Energy Research Institute.
Meanwhile, Mr Thembani Bukula, Head of Electricity Regulation, South African National Energy Regulator (NERSA), added that “Knowledge-sharing for regulators is a critical element for ensuring that feed-in tariffs are structured in a way that fits the African context”.
The FiT workshop was organised by the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP): a non-profit organization that funds clean energy projects in developing countries and emerging markets. Its sub-network The Sustainable Energy Regulation Network (SERN) facilitates exchange of experience and knowledge between regulators and government officials on promoting sustainable energy, coordinated by researchers at Warwick University in the UK.
“The workshop will have a very wide ripple effect in getting feed-in tariffs off the ground throughout Africa, and we’re happy to have this event as a strong lead-in to our own 7th RERA Annual Conference,” said Elijah C. Sichone, Executive Secretary, Regional Electricity Regulators Association of Southern Africa.