GE just announced the largest debt financing this year for a thermal power plant in the US. Located in Riverside County, California, the massive 800 MW Sentinel Facility will help facilitate the integration of renewable energy into the power grid. The plan is being funded by a union of mega companies including GE Energy Financial Services, Diamond Generating Corporation and Competitve Power Ventures, and when it is completed it will produce enough power for 239,000 homes.
The thermal plant is part of California’s program to derive 33% of its power from renewable energy by the year 2020. In addition to the CPV Sentinel Facility, Riverside will welcome the Blythe Solar Project, a 968 megawatt solar power plant, driving the state even further toward their goal.
Aside from generating power, the $2 billion project will also give way to 300 construction jobs and 400 employment jobs — expected to inject $55 million into the local economy. Sales tax alone from the project will bring $30 million, and property taxes will provide the county with an additional $6.4 million.
And it ain’t going to buy coal from the Four Corners and PNM.
Oh yeah – that’s more post-construction direct permanent jobs than the whole Keystone XL pipeline.
Denmark, a tiny country on the northern fringe of Europe, is pursuing the world’s most ambitious policy against climate change. It aims to end the burning of fossil fuels in any form by 2050 — not just in electricity production, as some other countries hope to do, but in transportation as well.
Now a question is coming into focus: Can Denmark keep the lights on as it chases that lofty goal?
Anyone at the TIMES realize what a wonderful context requires a question like this?
Lest anyone consider such a sweeping transition to be impossible in principle, the Danes beg to differ. They essentially invented the modern wind-power industry, and have pursued it more avidly than any country. They are above 40 percent renewable power on their electric grid, aiming toward 50 percent by 2020. The political consensus here to keep pushing is all but unanimous.
The trouble, if it can be called that, is that renewable power sources like wind and solar cost nothing to run, once installed. That is potentially a huge benefit in the long run.
But as more of these types of power sources push their way onto the electric grid, they cause power prices to crash at what used to be the most profitable times of day.
That can render conventional power plants, operating on gas or coal or uranium, uneconomical to run. Yet those plants are needed to supply backup power for times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining…
The governments have offered short-term subsidies, knowing that if they force companies to operate these plants at a loss, it will be a matter of time before the companies start going bankrupt.
Throughout Europe, governments have come to the realization that electricity markets are going to have to be redesigned for the new age, but they are not pursuing this task with urgency. A bad redesign could itself throw customers into the dark, after all, as happened in California a decade ago…
Amazing. An adult supposedly knowledgeable about power generation, pricing and, yes, price manipulation – who apparently never heard of Enron. The corrupt company with even more corrupt capitalists at the helm who deliberately induced many of California’s so-called power shortages.
The government is…well aware that it needs to find a way out of this box. Environmental groups, for their part, have tended to sneer at the problems the utilities are having, contending that it is their own fault for not getting on the renewables bandwagon years ago…
So the trick now is to get the market redesign right. A modest version of reform would essentially attach a market value, and thus a price, to standby capacity. But Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the Danish climate minister, told me he was tempted by a more ambitious approach. That would involve real-time pricing of electricity for anyone using it — if the wind is blowing vigorously or the sun is shining brightly, prices would fall off a cliff, but in times of shortage they would rise just as sharply.
As Denmark, like other countries, installs more smart meters and smart appliances able to track those prices with no human intervention, one can imagine a system in which demand would adjust smoothly to the available supply. Most people would not care if their water heater were conspiring with other water heaters to decide when to switch on and off, as long as hot water reliably came out of the tap.
Has Mr. Gillis ever traveled, lived among ordinary folks in Europe? First time I ran into tankless hot water heaters was in Switzerland – in 1971. Prices gave been coming down as efficiencies rose – even for electric models instead of gas-fired. We installed an on-demand electric hot water heater in our home this summer for less than $400 for the unit. Our household electric bill is down 20-30%. Payback in one year.
Yet, even if Denmark can figure out a proper design for the electric market, it has another big task to meet its 2050 goal: squeezing the fossil fuels out of transportation…Mr. Petersen told me he still felt electrification of cars was the way to go, but the cars themselves were not really ready.
“We need longer range and lower prices before this becomes a good option,” he said. “Technology needs to save us here.”
Fortunately, there are more than one or two automobile manufacturers dedicated to resolving that portion of the questions asked. Builders ranging from Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche to Mercedes, Nissan/Renault, target less expensive electric cars with ranges extending 250 to 550 miles decades before the 2050 renewable electrification target date.
At the mid-price point and up for big luxury cars Tesla is already there.
An important footnote BTW. Save the arguments about “manageable” small countries vs what is needed to change over the United States. It can be done one state at a time, one region at a time. Denmark is bigger than a number of states. So is the size of that nation’s population.
The important bit is that the citizens and politicians are also smarter, sensible and willing to change. That’s the significant comparison.
Some critics of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new requirements for power plants argue that forcing emissions reduction will curtail economic growth. But the recent experience of states that already cap carbon emissions reveals that emissions and economic growth are no longer tightly tied together.
One of the ways that states will be able to meet the new E.P.A. standards is by joining a Northeastern cap-and-trade program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which first put in a carbon cap in 2009. In a cap-and-trade system, the government places a ceiling on total carbon emissions and issues permits for those emissions, which companies can buy and sell from one another.
The nine states already in the program — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — have substantially reduced their carbon emissions in recent years. At the same time, those states have had stronger economic growth than the rest of the country.
These nine states had large emissions drops even before the program began in 2009, in part because the recession and warmer winters lowered the demand for power. The states also began switching to natural gas power, retiring coal units, and adding wind and solar energy generation. As the economy recovered, participation in the program spurred the states to find ways to meet the increasing demand for power without driving up emissions.
Since 2009, the nine states have cut their emissions by 18 percent, while their economies grew by 9.2 percent. By comparison, emissions in the other 41 states fell by 4 percent, while their economies grew by 8.8 percent…
Joining the Northeast cap-and-trade program, or another similar program in California that began in 2013, is one of many ways states can reach the new goals the E.P.A. has set. Other options include taking a series of individual steps — such as upgrading older power plants and expanding nuclear, wind and solar power generation — without a statewide cap. The states themselves will decide exactly how they will meet the goals set for them.
Of course, though economists uniformly fart in the general direction of Reaganomics, though honest historians catalogue the revisionist lies of Republicans who claim every financial success – the ideologues of climate denial are so tightly beholden to the fossil fuel economy they will simply hire more Madison Avenue flacks and continue their stroll down memory lane. Hoping for a burning Bush or some other miracle.
Squirreled away beneath a recent Telegraph report on the subtleties of badger-culling in the UK was this intriguing morsel of wind energy news, which would seem to challenge the idea that intermittent energy sources such as wind play havoc with grid management. For the 23,700 gigawatt-hours of electrical energy generated by wind in the UK between April 2011 and September 2012, only 22 GWh of electrical energy from fossil fuels “was needed to fill the gaps when the wind didn’t blow,” it reports. Gizmag contacted the UK National Grid to find out the details.
The Telegraph’s figures come from National Grid Head of Energy Strategy and Policy, Richard Smith, speaking at the Hay Festival between May 23 and Jun 2. Gizmag has learned that he was drawing from a National Grid document sent to the Scottish Parliament in response to its own report of Nov 23 2012, entitled Report on the achievability of the Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets.
…The report shows the energy provided by the National Grid’s Short Term Operating Reserve, and how much of that was due to wind energy output being lower than forecast. Of the 246 GWh provided by the Reserve for the same period, 22 GWh are thought to be due to the wind not blowing as forecast.
In other words, for every 1,000 GWh of wind energy generated in that 18-month period, less than 1 GWh was required to meet shortfalls due to the wind not blowing as expected. “As expected” may be the crucial words missing from the Telegraph’s summary. What about the energy required when the wind isn’t blowing, when you know it isn’t going to blow, you may well ask? But, similar to the classic falling tree scenario, is a GWh of energy truly “lost” if you weren’t expecting to generate it in the first place? At the very least, the National Grid’s figures would seem to challenge the notion that wind energy throws the grid into significant disarray…
Nice to see that someone’s done a study that answers one of the perpetual whines from folks still afraid that alternative energy systems are the product of the AntiChrist.
I can’t comprehend someone who worries about running out of wind in Scotland. :)
American leadership skills in Iraq
Wind energy expert Paul Gipe reported this week that – for the amount spent on the Iraq war – the U.S. could be generating 40%-60% of its electricity with renewable energy…
The war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion through fiscal year 2013, according to Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. That’s trillion, with a “t”. Including future costs for veteran’s care, and so on, raises the cost to $2.2 trillion.
Because the war was financed with debt, we should also include a charge for interest on the debt. The Iraq war’s share of cumulative interest on the US debt through 2053 will raise the total cost of the war to $3.9 trillion…
…If we want to develop an integrated system that will replace the mix of fossil fuels and nuclear power we use today, we will need a mix of renewable resources as well. Ideally, we would develop our wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass resources simultaneously. However, it is wind and solar that will provide the bulk of new generating capacity. So I’ve simplified this analysis by only considering a mix of wind and solar…
Based on a conservative estimate, the US could have built between a quarter-million to nearly a half-million megawatts of wind energy, and 300,000 to 600,000 megawatts of solar capacity.
For comparison, today there are only 60,000 MW of wind in the US, and a paltry 7,000 MW of solar.
If we had invested the $2.2 trillion in wind and solar, the US would be generating 21% of its electricity with renewable energy. If we had invested the $3.9 trillion that the war in Iraq will ultimately cost, we would generate nearly 40% of our electricity with new renewables. Combined with the 10% of supply from existing hydroelectricity, the US could have surpassed 50% of total renewables in supply…
…Unlike the war in Iraq, which is an expense, the development of renewable energy instead of war would have been an investment in infrastructure at home that would have paid dividends to American citizens for decades to come…
Moreover, given that war is very harmful for the economy, the costs of the Iraq war including the drag on the economy raises the price tag well above $6 trillion. So 100% of renewable energy funding may be realistic.
It is ironic, indeed, that the Iraq war was largely about oil. When we choose subsidies for conventional energy sources – war or otherwise – we sell our future down the river.
Unfortunately, selling our future down the river doesn’t bother the bottomfeeders in Congress or the White House a whole boatload of heartache. While I differentiate between Republicans and Democrats on many social issues, when the question is one of war – especially one which profits truly “important” corporations – our elected officials fall over one another in the rush to Armageddon.
We debate the differences between “stupid” and just plain “ignorant” a lot on the Web. Fact remains that the average American – for whichever excuse – rarely has the backbone or independence to challenge war cries from on high. While reticence may appear after a few thousands kinfolk are sentenced to death along with tens of thousands crippled for life, it takes a mighty heap of dead bodies to get my fellow Americans to reconsider the glory of war deemed crucial by priests, pundits and politicians.
This counterpoint of the common good versus dedication to death and destruction is only an exercise in semantics and logic until and unless the voters of nation declare truth and progress more important than, say, parades for mission accomplished.
A device thought to be the largest tidal energy turbine to be built in the world has been described by its developer as “simple and robust”.
Atlantis Resources unveiled its AK-1000 at Invergordon ahead of it being towed on a barge to a European Marine Energy Centre test site off Eday, Orkney…The device has two sets of blades to harness ebb and flood tides.
Mr Cornelius told BBC Scotland that the focus of the marine industry at the moment was making the Pentland Firth a huge success in terms of generating electricity from renewable energy devices…
“It is one of the harshest environments on the planet…In order to get a robust turbine we have had to make what we call ultimately the dumbest, simple but most robust turbine you could possibly put in such a harsh environment.”
The AK-1000’s two sets of blades have also been designed to move slowly underwater and Atlantis said they would not pose a threat to sea life…
Atlantis, which has bases in London and Singapore, has been leading a plan to use tidal energy to power a computer data centre in the far north of Scotland…
The computer data centre would provide services for a number of companies and be powered by tidal energy rather than depend on electricity supplied to the National Grid.
I guess this puts the Brits+Singaporeans – and anyone else putting such projects into play – years ahead of that great industrial and engineering giant, the United States.
Between Republicans who prefer to spend taxpayer dollars on their favorite war contractors and Democrats who are happy enough maintaining bureaucratic sinecures, the United States should regain a leadership position in the global economy – never.
In a groundbreaking decision that some say will usher in a new era of clean energy, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today he had approved the nation’s first offshore wind farm, the controversial Cape Wind project off of Cape Cod.
“This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast,” Salazar said at a joint State House news conference with Governor Deval Patrick. The decision comes after nine years of battles over the proposal.
The decision had been delayed for almost a year because of two Wampanoag Native American tribes’ complaints that the 130 turbines, which would stand more than 400 feet above the ocean surface, would disturb spiritual sun greetings and possibly ancestral artifacts and burial grounds on the seabed. The ocean floor was once exposed land before the sea level rose thousands of years ago…
“I am convinced there is a path we can take forward that both honors our responsibility to protect historical and cultural resources and at the same time meets the need to repower our economy with clean energy produced from wind power,” he said…
George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, hailed the decision, saying it was “a critical step toward ending our reliance on foreign oil and achieving energy independence. “
“Those who continue to resist and litigate are simply on the wrong side of history,” he said.
I have a personal past that shares in this decision. I grew up with subsistence fishing on the New England coast.
I understand those who assign primacy to viewscape, nature. But, New England tradition included folks who were daring enough to sail halfway round the world in search of new economies. That tradition accepted the inclusion of new ideas into the commercial and social life of old communities – from steam power to the abolition of slavery.
Those who see only mutually exclusive conflicts in renewable energy and their view of the horizon, those who believe their religion trumps the needs of the greater modern society – are stuck in the wrong century.