Category: Business

Groundbreaking for Colorado’s largest solar farm


Same old stodgy photo opportunity — progressive results

Renewable Energy Systems Americas will construct Colorado’s largest solar farm, one that backers say will produce electricity more cheaply than natural gas-powered sources.

Broomfield-based RES expects to employ 300 to 400 workers to build the Comanche Solar project, which broke ground…7 miles south of Pueblo…

SunEdison, the world’s largest developer of renewable energy projects, raised $253 million for the project and will run the solar farm with four employees once it is operating.

The farm’s 500,000 panels will stretch across about 1,000 acres, with a capacity of 156 megawatts that will generate enough power to supply 31,000 homes, said Paul Gaynor, an executive VP with SunEdison…

Several factors contribute to lowering the project’s price tag and making it cost competitive with natural gas generation, Gaynor said. Those include economies of scale, existing roads in the area, and “plug-and-play” access to transmission lines serving a nearby power plant.

Public Service Company of Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, has signed a 25-year purchase agreement with SunEdison…

Gaynor said SunEdison has additional wind and solar projects that it can bring forward when utilities in the state want to purchase more power generation.

Smart people in educated states keep on making smart long-range choices. Even while the most reactionary politicians on the planet keep on trying to turn energy-production back to the Dark Ages of King Coal.

Investors prefer “Drill, baby, drill!” — even over profits


Click to enlarge

Investors sent a surprising message to U.S. shale producers as crude fell almost 20 percent in August: keep calm and drill on.

While most oil stocks have fallen sharply this month, the least affected by the slump share one thing in common: they don’t plan to slow down, even though a glut of supply is forcing prices down. Cimarex Energy Co. jumped more than 8 percent in two days after executives said Aug. 5 that their rig count would more than double next year. Pioneer Natural Resources Co. rallied for three days when it disclosed a similar increase.

Shareholders continue to favor growth over returns, helping explain why companies that form the engine of U.S. oil — the frackers behind the boom — aren’t slowing down enough to rebalance the market. U.S. production has remained high, frustrating OPEC’s strategy of maintaining market share and enlarging a glut that has pushed oil below $40 a barrel.

Output from 58 shale producers rose 19 percent in the past year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Despite cutting spending by $21.7 billion, the group pumped 4 percent more in the second quarter than in the last three months of 2014…

Growth has been a key pillar of the revolution that helped transform the U.S. into the world’s largest producer of oil and gas. Frenzied drilling often distinguished the new technology’s winners, while profits or free cash flow were less important.

Even amid the worst price crash in a generation, that continues to be true for some companies. Pioneer is expected to spend $735 million more this year than it generates in cash. Cimarex, which lost almost $1 billion from January to June, has fallen just 6.4 percent so far in 2015 even as U.S. crude declined by more than a quarter.

Gee. If drillers run out of storage facilities for their overproduction – I can suggest a few dry reservoirs formerly used for water in the Southwest.

Shameless plug – sort of – for a resort in our neck of the prairie


Wendi Gelfound

Opening on Aug. 17, Sunrise Springs Integrative Wellness Resort, a 52-room spa resort in Santa Fe, focuses on “nature bathing,” the opportunity to dwell in nature as a stress reducer and energy booster.Daily activities include yoga, meditation, Native American rituals, therapeutic gardening and animal interactions such as chicken therapy, which is presented as a soothing activity that involves stroking a bird’s feathers.

An on-site greenhouse and kitchen garden will serve as showcases for gardening lessons and food sources for the restaurant. Guests are encouraged to unplug from their digital devices. They can seek health consultations with staff doctors and specialists in both Eastern and Western medicine.

“At Sunrise Springs, we encourage our guests to unplug, tune-in and actively engage in their lives,” said David Hans, a psychologist and the resort’s executive director, in a news release. Rates start at $675 per person per day, single occupancy, with a two-night minimum stay, including meals and activities.

Sunrise Springs has been one or another kind of destination for the decades I’ve lived in New Mexico. My wife and I had some delightful meals there in previous incarnations.

We feel no urgency to visit a wellness resort. If anything, we kind of count Lot 4, here, as achieving most of the same functions – though I haven’t done any “nature bathing” or poultry petting since I spent summers on my grandparents’ farm when I was a kid.

State and country trade maps


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International trade is a big part of America’s economy, and a factor in each of the fifty state economies that constitute it.

The Census Bureau publishes annual figures on each state’s international trade. In addition to the top 25 goods imported and exported by each state, the Bureau reports the 25 countries each state imports the most from and exports the most to. We took a look at the biggest trade partners by dollar value of goods imported and exported for each state in 2014.

Here’s the country that each state imports the most from. Canada and China loom large.

NSS.

EPA proposing rules to curb methane emissions from oil and gas producers

Methane-burn
Click to enlargeRichard Hamilton Smith

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose regulations aimed at cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by up to 45 percent over the next decade from 2012 levels…

The regulations on methane are one part of the Obama administration’s strategy to curb greenhouse gases and combat climate change and come just two weeks after the president unveiled a sweeping rule to slash carbon emissions from the country’s power plants.

The proposal that will be unveiled on Tuesday aims to reduce oil and gas industry methane emissions by up to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025, a goal it first announced in January, one source said.

The rules are intended to put the United States on course to meet its pledge to the United Nations climate change talks to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025…

The U.S. boom in natural gas and oil production has raised concerns about leaks and venting of methane throughout the production process – from wells to transmission. So far, programs aimed at preventing those leaks have been voluntary.

Methane is the main component of natural gas, but when it is released into the atmosphere, it becomes a potent greenhouse gas…

Industry groups have said blah, blah, blah and requiring companies to buy that extra equipment is costly blah, blah, blah, blah

…Advocates for stricter methane rules have said capturing methane is mutually beneficial for oil and gas companies, and would save them money in the long run.

Detecting those leaks and capturing the methane with technology that is currently on the market can save companies money and help them produce oil and gas more efficiently, they say.

Honestly, the oil and gas industry is so accustomed to passing along the slightest cost to consumers you’d think they wouldn’t utter a peep over a regulation like this. Especially, since they’d be recapturing product they can sell along.

Expenses really aren’t anything special to this crew. I always recall taking a phone call from a driller in the Persian Gulf, BITD. He needed a couple hundred dollars worth of repair parts for a pile driver. Now.

He’d already ordered the parts over the phone from the warehouse of the firm I worked for and just wanted me to handle our portion of expedited delivery. I personally walked to the warehouse – put the two boxes of parts on a hand truck and wheeled them back to the front door of our office where a taxi was waiting.

I rode with them to the New Orleans International Airport where a chartered jet freighter was waiting with the door open. I set the two boxes of parts inside. The jet took off for DuBai.

Nothing else on board but those two boxes of parts.

Ohio voters get to decide on marijuana legalization in November

Ohio citizens will vote on whether to legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana use in November, a decision that could concentrate the state’s legal marijuana business to 10 growers.

Ohio’s secretary of state Jon Husted said…that a measure to legalize marijuana had collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot in the state’s 3 November election.

The measure includes a provision that would allow only 10 growers to grow and sell pot commercially.

Critics, including the state legislature, say this could create a monopoly. The legislature added a measure, called Issue 2, to the ballot that would block monopolies from operating in Ohio.

According to Husted, if both measures are approved, the one introduced by the legislature would take precedence.

Pro-legalization group ResponsibleOhio executive director Ian James celebrated the news in a statement.

“Drug dealers don’t care about doing what’s best for our state and its citizens,” James said. “By reforming marijuana laws in November, we’ll provide compassionate care to sick Ohioans, bring money back to our local communities and establish a new industry with limitless economic development opportunities.”

Hope they can make it – or try again in 2016 if this try fails. Presidential elections turn out the most significant cross-section of voters – which would give a progressive move like decriminalizing weed a better chance.

Off-peak elections like the coming turn out the higher proportion of folks afraid of change as a general rule. We’ll see. Good luck, Ohio.

Price of wind energy in United States drops to an all-time low

old and new on the farm
Click to enlargePhoto by DoriL

Wind energy pricing is at an all-time low, according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory…The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged under 2.5¢/kWh for projects negotiating contracts in 2014, spurring demand for wind energy.

“Wind energy prices–particularly in the central United States–have hit new lows, with utilities selecting wind as the low cost option,” Berkeley Lab Senior Scientist Ryan Wiser said. “Moreover, enabled by technology advancements, wind projects are economically viable in a growing number of locations throughout the U.S.”

Wind is a credible source of new electricity generation in the United States. Wind power capacity additions in the United States rebounded in 2014, with $8.3 billion invested in 4.9 gigawatts of new capacity additions. Wind power has comprised 33% of all new U.S. electric capacity additions since 2007. Wind power currently meets almost 5% of the nation’s electricity demand, and represents more than 12% of total electricity generation in nine states, and more than 20% in three states…

Low wind turbine pricing continues to push down installed project costs. Wind turbine prices have fallen 20% to 40% from their highs back in 2008, and these declines are pushing project-level costs down…

The manufacturing supply chain continued to adjust to swings in domestic demand for wind equipment. Wind sector employment increased from 50,500 in 2013 to 73,000 in 2014. Moreover, the profitability of turbine suppliers has generally rebounded over the last two years…Exports of wind-powered generating sets from the United States rose from $16 million in 2007 to $488 million in 2014…

Despite the significant growth in the domestic supply chain over the last decade, however, far more domestic manufacturing facilities closed in 2014 than opened. With an uncertain domestic market after 2016, some manufacturers have been hesitant to commit additional long-term resources to the U.S. market.

Despite growth in manufacturing, lower costs for consumers – despite extended growth in domestic consumption and exports – everyone has to sit on their hands and wait to see if the know-nothings in the Republican Party can turn out sufficient numbers of the stupid vote to turn our power generation back to coal and the Koch Brothers Brigade.

The age-old questions remain: will what remains of the American middle class figure out how to vote for their own economic best interest, better health for their children and grandchildren – or will the plutocrats prevail and buy another election?

The ethics of modern web ad-blocking

More than fifteen years ago, in response to decreasing ad rates and banner blindness, web advertisers and publishers adopted pop-up ads.

People hated pop-up ads. We tolerated in-page banners as an acceptable cost of browsing free websites, but pop-ups were over the line: they were too annoying and intrusive. Many website publishers claimed helplessness in serving them — the ads came from somewhere else that they had little control over, they said. They really needed the money from pop-ups to stay afloat, they said.

The future didn’t work out well for pop-ups. Pop-up-blocking software boomed, and within a few years, every modern web browser blocked almost all pop-ups by default.

A line had been crossed, and people fought back.

People often argue that running ad-blocking software is violating an implied contract between the reader and the publisher: the publisher offers the page content to the reader for free, in exchange for the reader seeing the publisher’s ads. And that’s a nice, simple theory…

By that implied-contract theory, readers should not only permit their browsers to load the ads, but they should actually read each one, giving themselves a chance to develop an interest for the advertised product or service and maybe even click on it and make a purchase. That’s also a nice theory, but of course, it’s ridiculous to expect anyone to actually do that.

Ads have always been a hopeful gamble, not required consumption. Before the web, people changed channels or got up during TV commercials, or skipped right over ads in newspapers and magazines. Pragmatic advertisers and publishers know that their job is to try to show you an ad and hope you see and care about it. They know that the vast majority of people won’t, and the ads are priced accordingly. The burden is on the advertisers and publishers to create ads that you’ll care about and present them in a way that you’ll tolerate.

And the invention of time-shifting DVRs also made skipping or slipping over adverts possible. A delight.

Web ads are dramatically different from prior ad media, though — rather than just being printed on paper or inserted into a broadcast, web ads are software. They run arbitrary code on your computer, which can (and usually does) collect and send data about you and your behavior back to the advertisers and publishers…

All of that tracking and data collection is done without your knowledge, and — critically — without your consent…There’s no opportunity for disclosure, negotiation, or reconsideration. By following any link, you unwittingly opt into whatever the target site, and any number of embedded scripts from other sites and tracking networks, wants to collect, track, analyze, and sell about you.

RTFA. More detail and analysis is in there…including Marco’s preferences and choices for auxiliary software to inhibit the ad beasties from populating your life.

Poisonally, I almost walked away from WordPress when the decision was made to go with automatic video commercials for advertising on wordpress.com blogs. It drove me nuts just trying to edit and formulate my posts. I finally had to load ad blocking software to retain what little sanity I have.

I think this will be the latest straw that breaks the back of IP providers. This choice of instant-on blather. I’ve seen the wee compensation I receive from adverts on my blog diminish by over half since self-starting videos appeared. Which means our readers are as offended by obnoxious as I am. Money is not why I blog – still, I may choose to go elsewhere if there is an elsewhere without this crap.

Thanks, Om