California cranked out so much solar power this spring that wholesale electricity ran negative$

❝ The extraordinary success of solar power in some pockets of the world that combine sunshine with high investment in the technology mean that governments and energy companies are having radically to rethink the way they manage—and charge for—electricity.

California is one such a place.

❝ On March 11, it passed a milestone on the route to powering the whole state sustainably. For the first time, more than half the power needs of the entire state came from solar power for a few hours that day…

The power came from utility-scale solar photovoltaic farms, solar thermal plants, and the panels installed on private homes. Based on the data it collects, the EIA estimated that in each hour of peak times, that total capacity produced 4 million kWh of electricity on March 11…

❝ The spikes also have a big effect on wholesale energy prices, which dipped to zero or even to negative territory this spring during certain hours in California…That’s in sharp contrast to the same hours (8am to 2pm) in the month of March between 2013 and 2015, when average hourly wholesale prices ranged from $14-45 MWh.

Negative prices usually happen because there’s a glut of renewable energy, but non-renewable generators are also producing. They don’t shut them off completely because of the high costs of restarting.

California now accounts for a sizable chunk of the US market, having the highest energy demand of any state after Texas. It also has almost half of all the solar power in the US.

❝ This doesn’t mean, however, that Californians are paying nothing for their power because wholesale prices don’t translate directly into retail prices, which are based on averages, not single days. But it will mean energy companies start to rethink how they deliver and charge for electricity as the mix of renewables increases.

Unless, of course, you’re a public utility, fossil fuel producer or dimwit politician who hopes and prays that renewable power sources just disappear.

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The West’s coal giant is going away


Click to enlargeAlex/Creative Commons

❝ The smokestacks of the Navajo Generation Station rise 775 feet from the sere landscape of the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, just three miles away from the serpentine, stagnant blue wound in sandstone known as Lake Powell. Red rock cliffs and the dark and heavy hump of Navajo Mountain loom in the background. Since construction began in 1969, the coal plant and its associated mine on Black Mesa have provided millions of dollars to the Navajo and Hopi tribes and hundreds of jobs to local communities, as well as electricity to keep the lights on and air conditioners humming in the metastasizing cities of Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Yet they’ve also stood as symbols of the exploitation of Native Americans, of the destruction of the land, and of the sullying of the air, all to provide cheap power to the Southwest.

But coal power is no longer the best energy bargain. And…the plant’s four private utility owners, led by the Salt River Project, voted to shut down the plant at the end of 2019, some 25 years ahead of schedule. When the giant turbines come to a halt and the towers topple in the coming years, the plant will become a new symbol, this one of a transforming energy economy and an evolving electrical grid that is slowly rendering these soot-stained, mechanical megaliths obsolete.

❝ Salt River Project officials have been very clear…They note that it’s now cheaper for them to buy power for their 1 million customers from other sources than it is to generate power at Navajo, thanks mostly to low natural gas prices. A November 2016 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the Central Arizona Project pays about 15 percent more for electricity from the power plant — of which it is part owner — than it would if it bought power wholesale from the Mead trading hub located near Las Vegas.

❝ None of this will change even if President Donald Trump rolls back the Clean Power Plan or other regulations put in place by the Obama administration. In fact, if a drill-heavy energy policy is put into place, it will increase natural gas supplies, thus increasing the spread between natural gas and coal.

It’s a sign of the times. We will continues to see pimps like Trump – owned body and soul by the US Chamber of Commerce – run their collective mouths, beat the drums of war and obedience, demand resurrection of backwards methods that will only serve to further slow our national economy.

Science and technology will continue to forge ahead.

Here’s why Trump can’t save jobs in the coal industry?


Completed in 1974, Monroe Power Plant will be the last one standing in 2030

❝ All year, Donald Trump has been promising to rescue the US coal industry by repealing various Obama-era pollution rules and ending the “war on coal.” And all year, analysts have pointed out that he probably can’t stop the collapse of the coal industry — since coal’s woes go far beyond the Environmental Protection Agency.

But if you want a perfect example of why Trump will struggle to bring back coal, just look at Michigan.

❝ Last weekend, the CEO of Michigan’s largest electric utility reiterated that his company is still planning to retire eight of its nine remaining coal plants by 2030 — whether or not Trump tries to repeal President Obama’s climate policies…

Gerry Anderson’s reasoning was simple. Coal is no longer the economic choice for generating electricity, due to relentless competition from cheaper (and cleaner) natural gas and wind power. In Michigan, a new coal plant costs $133 per megawatt hour. A natural gas plant costs half that. Even wind contracts now cost about $74.52 per megawatt hour, after federal tax credits. “I don’t know anybody in the country who would build another coal plant,” Anderson said.

❝ What’s more, Anderson added, surveys show that most of Michigan’s consumers want to add more renewables “if it can be done at reasonable cost.”

❝ It’s not just Michigan. This dynamic is playing out all over the country, as coal plant after coal plant succumbs to competition from cheap natural gas and wind. Over at Politico, Michael Grunwald estimates that US power plants are now on track to emit 27 percent less carbon dioxide in 2016 than they did in 2005.

What’s remarkable is that this is all happening before Obama’s Clean Power Plan even takes effect. That rule, which is still tied up in court, aimed for a 30 percent cut below 2005 levels by 2030. We’re almost there already. So it’s clear that scrapping the CPP, as Trump has pledged, won’t help coal power make a huge comeback.

Not that reason, efficiency and cost mean much to Republicans and other Trump Chumps. The vicarious thrill of turning back regulations designed to make life healthier for most folks is almost as visceral a pleasure as, say, machine-gunning a basket of kittens.

Moored at sea, generating electricity off the island of Texel


Click to enlargeDamen

Taking just six months from the drawing board to realisation, the BlueTEC Texel tidal energy platform was installed in the summer of 2015 and is operating off the island of Texel in the Netherlands. The prototype is producing electricity from the tides into the local grid.

BlueTEC Modular was designed by Damen to be transported and installed all over in the world to provide clean energy in remote areas and small islands, replacing diesel generators.

Just before the end of 2015, the platform was fitted with a more powerful Tocardo T2 turbine and, in early 2016, the platform was commissioned with a larger T2 tidal turbine. Currently the platform generates clean electricity from the tides in the Wadden Sea of The Netherlands.

Six months start-to-finish. Replacing a diesel-powered generator. How long do you think this would take to design, approve through local, state and federal government, construct and put in place — here in the GOUSA?

Uh-huh.

Sounds like Norway may end gas-powered car sales by 2025

An all-electric future may be closer than you think — at least if you live in Norway. The country’s four leading political parties have reportedly agreed to a plan to stop selling gasoline-powered cars by 2025…

The details are in some dispute: The two left-leaning parties confirmed the report, but the two right-leaning parties denied it…

Norway was the first European country to get Tesla charging stations, and in April 2015, the country reached its target of registering 50,000 electric cars by 2018, beating its deadline by two years. About one in four cars sold there is electric.

Norway is also one of the world’s top oil exporters, pulling in billions from the production and sale of oil and gas. However, the Norway’s gargantuan sovereign wealth fund has been divesting from fossil-fuel companies over the past few years.

The role model for commodities-exporting nations with brains. Use the profits from geologically-limited resources to build an infrastructure no longer dependent upon those materials, eh?

Looks like a trend to me — louder than the whining from public utility companies

net metering
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Furthermore:

A charitable fund of the Rockefeller family – who are sitting on a multibillion-dollar oil fortune – has said it will withdraw all its investments from fossil fuel companies.

The Rockefeller Family Fund, a charity set up in 1967 by descendants of John D Rockefeller, said on Wednesday that it would divest from all fossil fuel holdings “as quickly as possible”.

The fund, which was founded by Martha, John, Laurance, Nelson and David Rockefeller, singled out ExxonMobil for particular attention describing the world’s largest oil company as “morally reprehensible”.

Most productive size for wind turbines may be gigantic!


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Efforts to increase wind power mean that turbine blades are getting bigger and bigger. But a new design in the works takes the idea to levels most people can barely imagine: Blades up to 656.2 feet long — more than two football fields.

Today’s longest blades are 262.5 feet. The blades at Imperial County’s Ocotillo wind farm, which sends electricity to San Diego, are 173.9 feet long.

“We call it the extreme scale,” Eric Loth, a University of Virginia professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said of the planned mega-blades. “There’s nothing like it.”

Loth is one of the leaders of a team, which includes four universities and two national laboratories, that has three years to build and test a scaled prototype in the hopes of making the blade a reality.

The early design would place two — rather than three — blades onto a tower. But to construct something of that size, the tower is estimated to rise 1,574 feet, nearly one-third of a mile.

To put that in perspective, that’s more than 100 feet higher than the Empire State Building.

The diameter of such a facility would be at least 1,312.3 feet, nearly a quarter of a mile…

The super-sized blades would generate up to 50 megawatts of electricity, 25 times more than today’s typical turbine…

The blades would look much different look from today’s wind turbines.

They wouldn’t face the wind but would go downwind, aligning the blades to flow with the wind instead of fighting it.

And instead of a single stiff blade, each blade would be broken into segments, allowing it to be more easily fabricated.

In addition, the concept would allow the blades to “morph” — spread out when the wind is blowing lightly to capture as much power as possible…

Conversely, when winds blow with hurricane force the blades would contract, almost like a claw.

If the technology works, Loth wants to avoid putting the big-blade facilities on land. Instead they would be put offshore — some 20 to 25 miles from the coast.

“I really want to focus on going far enough offshore that we’re away from the migratory patterns of the birds,” Loth said.

Wind power and solar pass and repass each other as the affordability of renewable energy becomes more and more efficient, the economies of scale kick in. In truth, we’re already at the point where the only questions remaining concern politicians and NIMBYs. Science and engineering are simpler to deal with than re-election campaigns and curb value.

Lots of new electricity capacity came online in January — all wind and solar


Shutterstock

The US brought in service 613 MW of new power generation capacity in January, with wind and solar parks accounting for 100% of that, shows the latest report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

More specifically, five wind parks with a combined capacity of 468 MW and six solar farms of 145 MW in total have become operational for the month. This compares to 742 MW of new wind and 212 MW of new solar capacity recorded in January 2015. Back then, the US also put online 121 MW of natural gas-fired power plants.

The two largest wind parks that went live in January are MidAmerican Energy Co’s 153.4-MW Adams farm in Iowa and the 150-MW Amazon wind farm expansion in Indiana…

The US now has roughly 14,500 MW of operational solar and 74,460 MW of operational wind power capacity. Natural gas remains the top source of electricity with 500,730 MW operational, accounting for 42.83% of all US power capacity.

The Koch Bros continue to weep into their snifters of Napoleon brandy. The Tea Party idjits who pimp for them continue to cry into their lite beer.

Solar energy ready to be US leading new power source

New statistics just released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggest that in the coming year, the booming solar sector will add more new electricity-generating capacity than any other — including natural gas and wind.

EIA reports that planned installations for 2016 include 9.5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar — followed by 8 gigawatts (or 8 billion watts) of natural gas and 6.8 gigawatts of wind. This suggests solar could truly blow out the competition, because the EIA numbers are only for large or utility-scale solar arrays or farms and do not include fast-growing rooftop solar, which will also surely add several additional gigawatts of capacity in 2016.

In other words, U.S. solar seems poised for not just a record year but perhaps a blowout year. Last year, in contrast, solar set a new record with 7.3 gigawatts of total new photovoltaic capacity across residential, commercial, and utility scale installations.

“If actual additions ultimately reflect these plans, 2016 will be the first year in which utility-scale solar additions exceed additions from any other single energy source,” says EIA…

In the grand scheme, the tax credits for solar, as well as an extension of the production tax credit for wind, could serve as a kind of “bridge” into an era in which the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is operating — or at least, so the current administration hopes. Granted, that depends on whether that plan survives its current legal challenges.

The article has a lot of blather about taxes and tax credits as subsidies. The reality is that no significant change or addition to electric power generation in most countries depends to some extent on subsidies. What upsets conservatives – especially Republicans – is that fossil-brained old coal money is losing out – and even worse, private solar, home-based solar, gives support directly to comsumers instead of corporate moneybags.

A mortal sin in the minds of 19th Century ideologues.