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2015-05-18

Another neverending story: Does Fossil Fuel Divestment Make Sense?
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  reprint (by W. Scharnhorst) Divestment of stocks in fossil fuel companies may seem like a good idea if the goal is to put financial pressure on conventional energy companies and thereby leave an opening for cleaner alternative fuels in the fight against climate change. The question is whether the strategy works. Certainly any company, whose core business is making money, is likely to take notice of any activity that affects its revenues. Yet many argue that a drop in investment in an energy company may not be the best way to get its attention, especially at a time when alternative energies are scarce and fossil fuels remain the dominant source of power. In other words, how many people today can afford to junk their gasoline-powered cars and invest in more expensive electric models? That’s exactly the point made by London Mayor Boris Johnson, a member of Britain’s Conservative Party who also harbors libertarian, if not liberal, political views. The London Assembly had called on him to divest City Hall’s pension fund from fossil fuels.
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Johnson responded on May 12 that Britain needs to press on with domestic oil exploration and production, including the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to keep the kingdom more energy independent and less reliant on gas from Russia and the Middle East. To divest from fossil fuels, he said, would be to face a “sudden cliff edge.” Johnson isn’t alone in preferring a slower approach to a change in investments. The same day Johnson rejected the London Assembly’s proposal, the court of Scotland’s Edinburgh University decided unanimously that it wouldn’t make a complete and immediate divestment in stocks its owns in fossil fuel companies. “Our commitment is to engage before divestment,” said the school’s senior vice principal, Professor Charlie Jeffrey, “but the expectation is that we will bring about change by engagement.” In other words, rather than divesting across the board, the university’s investment in each company would be evaluated on its specific merits. Jeffrey said the school would divest from companies that produce oil sands, such as those in western Canada, or mine for coal, but only if these companies don’t also have stakes in low-carbon energy sources and when alternative forms of power aren’t available. Some representatives of environmental groups expressed disappointment, either through statements in response to Johnson’s refusal to divest, or with Edinburgh University students lying down on the steps of the building where Jeffrey set out the school’s decision. And their reaction may be understandable.

After all, the divestment tactics have a proven track record from the second half of the 20th century, when an increasing number of individuals, then companies, then governments divested their stakes in South African companies to bring economic pressure on Pretoria to end its apartheid policy. And it worked. But some economists note that the climate change challenge that the world faces today isn’t the same as apartheid. For one thing, unless a 21st century world wants to revert to the candles of the 19th century, it will need some sort of modern alternative to oil, gas and coal. More important is the understanding that investment is “proportional ownership” of a company, Timothy Devinney, the University Leadership Chair & Professor at University of Leeds, writes on The Conversation, an Australian website featuring academic articles. “Legally, any individual holding a specific ownership share can bring issues to the company and has proportional rights to vote on all motions put to the ownership either by the board or shareholders,” Devinney writes. Continue... // empowered by scharnhorst-csa.blogspot.com).

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2015-05-14

Upside down Sustainable Energy or Why Fracking May Support Renewables
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  reprint (by W. Scharnhorst) Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is shunned by the environmentalists that laud renewable energy sources. However, by not supporting both initiatives, they may be working at cross purposes. Natural gas, booming largely because of fracking, complements renewable energies on the grid. The two seemingly opposite technologies are, for the moment, inextricably linked. Renewable energies like solar and wind produce most of their output at times of the day when not that many people need it. Peak demand for electricity is usually in the morning and evening. Solar production is highest during the middle of the day and afternoon, and wind reaches its highest production at night. Because there is no large-scale economical way to store that energy and reconcile the misaligned supply and demand, most of our peak demand must still rely on non-renewable fuel sources.
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Electricity outputs from burning different fossil fuels also have different characteristics. Output from coal-fired plants is particularly inefficient to ramp up and down to meet changes in demand. However, natural gas-fired plants can quickly meet those hourly variations. Some natural gas can even ramp up or down at a moment’s notice to meet minute-to-minute fluctuations During most of the year in Northern states, energy consumption peaks first in the morning as we all take showers and get ready for the day, then levels out during the midday. It peaks again more dramatically in the evening hours as we flip on computers, televisions, ovens, microwaves and water-heaters. Demand finally drops down to base load, or minimum demand, at night. Some states use Demand Response programs to smooth out demand by making electricity cheaper on off-peak hours, thereby disincentivizing peak use. However, even the best program can’t eliminate all variability in power demand. Base load in most parts of the United States is still provided by coal plants or nuclear plants. Because both are slow and inefficient to ramp up — though very efficient once at full capacity — they have contractual minimum run times that can last several days. In contrast, large, efficient combined-cycle natural gas plants, which can often be ramped up in half an hour, are used to accommodate these relatively predictable hourly changes. More renewables, however, lowers the predictability of the total energy supply. The wholesale price of electricity is measured by marginal cost, with the cheapest going on line first. Because renewables are essentially free to switch on, they’re the lowest part of the order, or supply stack, and are automatically connected to the grid. The minute-to-minute variations in solar and wind output from cloud cover or interrupted winds adds another layer of variability to the inescapable daily variation in renewable output. That variation within daily variability is met by either gas- or oil- fired peaking units, named for their ability to meet fluctuations in peak demand quickly. While gas-fired peaking units are less efficient than their large combined-cycle counterparts, most of them are capable of ramping up to full output within just a few minutes to offset either an unexpected or expected fall in renewable production. Large natural gas combined-cycle units are ostensibly cleaner than coal plants and the same is true of gas-fired peaking units versus their oil counterparts. When all options were available, hydroelectricity is actually the perfect way of compensating for variation in renewable production. Hydro power ramps up nearly instantaneously, emits few greenhouse gases, if any, and has almost no marginal cost, which determines electric wholesale prices. However, it is limited both to specific locations and in total quantity. Only 6 percent of American electricity is generated by hydropower, and most of it is consumed within state lines. Continue... // empowered by scharnhorst-csa.blogspot.com).

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2015-05-13

The Red Line: The Potential Impact on Asia Gas Markets of Russia’s Eastern Gas Strategy








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  reprint Russia possesses the potential to produce significant gas from its Eastern Regions, with total proved reserves  in  East  Siberia  and  the  Far  East  of  Russia  standing  at  5  trillion  cubic  metres  (Tcm)  while prospective  resources  could  be  as  large  as  65Tcm. This  would  appear  to  give  Russia  a  huge opportunity for export sales into the Asia Pacific region, which contains the world’s largest LNG importing  nations  and  two  of  the  world’s  fastest  growing  gas  markets  in  China  and  India  (also importers  of  LNG). It  is  surprising,  therefore,  that  despite  the  obvious  commercial  logic  of  linking enormous gas resources to expanding consumption centres, to date Russia’s only significant exports in  the  region  are  from  the  Sakhalin  2  project,  which  currently  sells  10.8mt  (14.6  Bcm)  of  LNG  per annum  into  the  neighbouring  Asian  markets. However,  it  is  possible  this  situation  could  change significantly over the next five to ten years as Russia attempts to re-focus its Asian efforts with plans for potential sales of piped gas and LNG.

A number of key uncertainties remain, though: will Russia finally sign a gas export contract with China; will Gazprom as a result remain the dominant player, or will its domestic competitors Rosneft and Novatek take on a more prominent role?
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If the latter is the case, will Russia’s eastern strategy be driven by LNG alone, implying much lower volumes of exports into Asia; and finally, is it possible that Russia may miss this opportunity altogether, either as a result of  political  delay  or  failure  to  price  gas  competitively  from  these  new  projects?  We  briefly  discuss these issues below and assess the potential consequences for the Asian gas market. Continue... // empowered by scharnhorst-csa.blogspot.com).

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2015-05-12

Clearner Production?
Japan Anticipates Clean Energy Will Edge Out Nuclear Power by 2030








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  reprint Japan anticipates that by 2030 clean energy such as solar and hydro will generate slightly more of the nation’s electricity than nuclear power plants.
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Clean energy sources will supply as much as 24 percent of Japan’s electricity in 15 years, while atomic power will account for as much as 22 percent, according to a draft report from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on what Japan’s electricity mix should look like by 2030. Though the eagerly-awaited report — the result of months of study by a ministry panel debating the electricity mix — continues to see a need for nuclear, the draft proposes a diminished role compared with before the Fukushima disaster of March 2011. Nuclear power accounted for more than a quarter of Japan’s electricity generation before the meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactors. Even the 22 percent level is doubtful for a nation with one of the world’s oldest nuclear fleets and where the majority of the public has opposed atomic generation since Fukushima, environmental group Greenpeace, which campaigns against nuclear power, said in a statement. Nuclear’s role has been the central focus of the panel’s discussions. The 2011 disaster triggered strong opposition to atomic power among the public, while the subsequent spike in electricity prices has seen business groups lobby intensively for the nation’s nuclear reactors to resume operations. Nuclear provided about 29 percent of Japan’s electricity in fiscal 2010, while clean energy sources supplied 9.6 percent with most of that coming from hydro. None of Japan’s commercially operable nuclear reactors are working at the moment. If all 24 nuclear reactors currently under review for a restart by the country’s nuclear watchdog are allowed to switch back on, they would still not be able to generate more than 16 percent of Japan’s power, Greenpeace estimates. At least 10 more reactor units need to resume operations to reach the government’s target for nuclear, the group said. Such a mass-scale restart is unlikely, according to Shaun Burnie, a nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany. “The scale of the challenges facing the nuclear industry are such that generation from reactors is likely to collapse during the coming decade,” Burnie said in the statement. “Many reactors will never restart, and most reactors over the coming years will be too old to operate.” The latest proposal signals less reliance on nuclear than a previous plan released in 2010. Japan had been envisioning nuclear and renewable sources supplying 53 percent and 21 percent of power, respectively, by 2030, under the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan. 
The DPJ’s stance shifted following the Fukushima disaster, with the party eventually calling for all nuclear to be phased out. The DPJ was replaced by a coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party in December 2012. The draft foresees hydro power accounting for as much as 9.2 percent of Japan’s total power generation, with solar at 7 percent, wind at 1.7 percent, biomass coming in at as much as 4.6 percent and geothermal as much as 1.1 perce nt, according to the release. By 2030, gas will supply 27 percent while coal and oil will provide 26 percent and 3 percent, respectively. The release came a day after the trade ministry issued draft estimates of power generation costs. Nuclear is estimated to be the cheapest source, as low as 10.1 yen per kilowatt hour, by 2030. Large-scale solar was estimated to cost 12.7 yen to 15.5 yen, while onshore wind was projected to cost 13.9 yen to 21.9 yen, according to the ministry. Continue... // empowered by scharnhorst-csa.blogspot.com).


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2015-05-10

Renewables - Part II: Wind Power Can Provide Cost-Effective Path to Meeting India’s Renewable Energy Targets








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  reprint New analysis from Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) and the Indian School of Business shows that, with the appropriate policies, the Budget 2015 target of 60 GW of wind power by 2022 can easily be met with minimal government financial support. In the report, Reaching India’s Renewable Energy Targets Cost-Effectively, CPI found that, in absence of any subsidies, wind power is already cheaper than the total cost of power from a new build imported coal plant, at INR 5.87/kWh for electricity from wind power and INR 6.81/kWh for electricity from imported coal. The comparison with imported coal is key because this is the fuel that additional renewable energy will likely replace, rather than domestic coal or natural gas, which are limited in supply. The analysis also finds that wind power will continue to remain competitive beyond 2022. Because the government has a constrained budget, a cost-effective policy path to achieving its renewable energy targets is crucial. These findings suggest that wind power can provide a cost-effective path to meeting targets, and that the government should encourage rapid deployment of wind power through policy measures that address non-cost related barriers to wind power, for example challenges in land acquisition and delays in environmental clearances. CPI also found that, as the costs of installing solar power continue to decrease, solar power will become competitive with power from imported coal by 2019, and will require some government support from 2015 to 2019. In order to achieve the target of 20 GW of solar power by 2022, the total cost of government support would be INR 46.97 billion, or INR 2.71/W, under the current federal policy of accelerated depreciation. However, this government support could be significantly reduced – by 96% – by replacing the current federal policy with reduced cost, extended tenor debt. Under reduced cost, extended tenor debt, the cost of support would fall to INR 1.81 billion, or INR 0.1/W. To accelerate solar power sooner to meet the Budget 2015 goal of 100 GW of solar, revised upwards from 20GW, it would need to provide more financial support. Continue... // empowered by scharnhorst-csa.blogspot.com).


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2015-05-09

_moneytalks VI: Non-renewables not considered important?
Why is there still an investment?








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reprint Investors who have dumped holdings in fossil fuel companies have outperformed those that remain invested in coal, oil and gas over the past five years according to analysis by the world’s leading stock market index company, MSCI, which runs global indices used by more than 6,000 pension and hedge funds, found that investors who divested from fossil fuel companies would have earned an average return of 13% a year since 2010, compared to the 11.8%-a-year return earned by conventional investors.
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The figures indicate that if a major charitable institution or foundation with £100m in funds had divested from fossil fuels in November 2010 they would be around £7m better off today than if they had maintained their holdings in coal, oil and gas companies. In total, a portfolio of shares with fossil fuel companies included has grown in value by 62.2% since 2010, but this compares to the 69.9% growth of a fund without fossil fuel investments. The data will challenge the widespread belief among asset managers that divestment hurts the financial performance of investment funds. One reason why funds without fossil fuel companies have outperformed is that the precipitous fall in the oil price that began in June last year has driven down the share price of companies such as BP and Shell. But the MSCI data reveals that its ‘All Companies ex Fossil Fuels Index’ outperformed throughout 2012 and 2013, before the fall in the oil price. Matt Davis, director of Share Action, a charity campaigning for responsible investment, said: “The conventional wisdom amongst financial experts is that ‘you have to have fossil fuels in your portfolio in order to get good returns’, but these figures call that into question. “Not everyone wants to divest because some believe that engagement with fossil fuel companies is the best way to get them to change their ways, and we do believe the two approaches can exist side-by-side.

But whereas the industry belief seems to be that there is little demand for fossil-free savings products, these figures do give added weight to our ‘I want to break fossil free’ campaign, which says that regular savers should be offered low-cost ways to save fossil free, if they choose to.” MSCI launched the index late last year amid growing pressure from both climate-focused campaign groups such as 350.org and demands from major charitable groups and foundations with large endowments for investment funds that are free of fossil fuel companies. It analysed the 9,500 biggest stock market-quoted companies around the world, worth $37.5tn in total, and tracked their performance over the last five years. It found that eliminating fossil fuel companies reduced the ‘investable universe’ by 7%, to $34.9tn, but improved returns for investors. However, it added that before the financial crisis struck in 2007, investors who included fossil fuel companies in their portfolios would have outperformed those that excluded them. Before 2007, most resources companies enjoyed a long boom in sales and profits, driven by ravenous demand from China’s industrialisation. The indices run by MSCI, similar to those such as the FTSE 100 in the UK, are hugely influential among institutional investors. Around $7.5tn in funds globally are benchmarked against MSCI world indices, and apart from the Ex-Fossil Fuel Index, the company (which originated from Wall Street investment bank Morgan Stanley) has also launched “low carbon” indices that eliminate 70%-90% of major carbon emitters. It is understood that several major foundations and charitable institutions are in negotiation to switch their benchmark from the standard MSCI World Index to the ex-fossil fuel or low-carbon world indices, with announcements expected later this year. By switching benchmarks, institutions effectively divest from fossil fuels. The indices will also provide a stepping stone for pension funds to offer individual members a route to personally divest from fossil fuels. In Britain, major institutions that look after billions in pension savings from small investors have also begun assessing the long-term financial risk that coal, oil and gas companies will become ‘stranded assets’ worth much less than their book value today. Continue... // empowered by scharnhorst-csa.blogspot.com).


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2015-05-05

Renewables - Part I: Is Solar Energy Ready To Compete With Oil And Other Fossil Fuels?
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reprint The solar energy industry may prove to be a dark horse in the race to provide global energy security. The world has renewed its interest in solar energy investment as it searches for a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to conventional fossil fuels. Countries like China, Germany, the UK, the US, Japan and Canada have already made significant investments in solar power. Who are the other players who are investing big in solar energy? With its own set of limitations such as high installation costs and high plug-in time, are consumers across the world ready to choose solar energy to power their daily lives? Or, are the conventional energy sources still the best bet? The best part about solar energy is that it is abundant and freely available, at least in most parts of the world. However, the high upfront costs of a photo voltaic panel remain a concern for many. Things are changing fast, however, and according to data from SEIA, the cost of an average PV system in the US is declining each year at a rate of 11%. In fact, the average price of a PV panel has dropped by 63% since the third quarter of 2010. In a surprising development, even the gulf region has now recognized the changing nature of global energy dynamics and the growing demand for sustainable energy. According to a report for the national bank of Abu Dhabi by the University of Cambridge and PWC: “As Government and utilities are driven to bring new generation capacity on stream, this new reality (Solar energy) presents a significant opportunity to make savings, reduce fuel cost risks, achieve climate ambitions and, at the same time, keep more oil and gas available for export.

The study says that more than half of global investment in new electricity generation is in renewables. As per this report, around $150 billion was invested globally in solar energy generation in 2014 and solar energy is all set to be at grid parity in 80% of the countries in the next two years. These are big numbers. What we get from this study is that even the gulf region, which is traditionally more inclined towards oil and gas production, is slowly and steadily investing in solar energy. Very few are aware that at the end of 2014, Dubai set a new benchmark by showing the world that photovoltaic technologies can be competitive with oil at $10/ barrel and gas at $5 MMBTU. According to Thomas Kaberger of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, solar energy is all set to replace imported uranium and fossil fuels in Japan as it is set to become profitable by this financial quarter. Japan is among the world’s four largest markets for solar panels. After the Fukushima disaster, the country’s 43 nuclear reactors have been shuttered. Following these crucial developments, Japan has tripled its renewable energy capacity to 25 gigawatts. What is worth noticing here is the fact that solar energy accounts for more than 80% of this capacity. The process of connecting a PV system to the grid can be time consuming, frustrating and expensive. In some locations in the US, homeowners wait for more than six months to complete this process. This is one of the biggest factors that limit the tremendous potential of solar energy. Intermittency is another area that dampens the impact of this renewable as current modern grids can only cope with around 40 % of renewable input before requiring modifications. But the biggest limitation of solar energy is the lack of proper storage technology. Energy storage is a solution that would tackle several issues related to intermittent power generation. As per the report by Cambridge and PWC, Total Energy Ventures (TEC), the venture capital arm of Total invested in the California based company Stem at the start of 2015. This marked TEV’s fifth investment in storage and smart grids. The truth is that energy storage technologies require big purchase opportunities and decisions in order to drive down the cost of batteries; one such decision has been taken by Southern California Edison (SCE). In 2014, SCE awarded a huge energy storage contract of 250 MW, thereby providing a fair chance to different energy storage technologies. As sources from Morgan Stanley put it: “Given the relatively high cost of the power grid, we think that customers in parts of the US and Europe may seek to avoid utility grid fees by going “off-grid” through a combination of solar power and energy storage. We believe there is not sufficient appreciation of the magnitude of energy storage cost reduction that Tesla has already achieved, nor of the further cost reduction magnitude that Tesla might be able to achieve once the company has constructed its “Gigafactory,” targeted for completion later in the decade.” The report states that Tesla’s future batteries could potentially store more than 10 gigawatt hours of energy per year, which is enough to run an average home for 1000 years! Interestingly, according to a report form Rocky Mountain Institute, a combination of photovoltaics and battery storage technology would be able to compete commercially with grid electricity in US within a decade.
Moreover, nearly 600,000 US homes and businesses have already gone solar by the end of 2014. This shows that in spite of its current shortcomings, people have slowly and steadily started turning towards solar power.Although China’s investments are almost ten times that of India’s, with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, India is all set to change the dynamics of solar energy investments in South East Asia. With some bold new initiatives proposed by the new Indian government, many foreign companies are eying India as an attractive solar destination. US based Sun Edison committed to setting up a 15,200 MW plant and First Solar a 5,000 MW plant at a ‘RE-invest program that was inaugurated by Narendra Modi recently. If all goes well, Morgan Stanley and other institutional investors like Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered would soon be investing in the Indian solar space. Continue... // empowered by scharnhorst-csa.blogspot.com).


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2015-04-30

Storage/Transmission Networks - Part I: Challenges for Europes Energy Future
Storage May Become an Important Part of Europe’s Plan to Integrate Regional
Grids - a status note -








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reprint European energy storage developers have until the end of this month to submit proposals for projects in a new 10-year transmission system operators plan. But the minimum requirements imposed by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) mean that only a small number of projects might be eligible.
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ENTSO-E, which represents 41 system operators in Europe, announced the search for energy storage plants at the end of last month as part of a 10-year network development plan. The plan, updated every two years, acts as the basis for a list of so-called "projects of common interest" to better integrate the grid across the European Union. To be eligible for inclusion, a project has to be at least partially located in one of the 34 countries represented within ENTSO-E, and needs to have a minimum 225-megawatt installed capacity and generation capability of 250 gigawatt-hours per year. Bloomberg New Energy Finance associate Logan Goldie-Scot said the project parameters were likely to favor large-scale technologies such as compressed air energy storage (CAES).
“The requirements for the bid seem to limit the potential technologies involved, since battery technologies have yet to be deployed at that scale,” he said. “This suggests the bid is targeted at CAES projects, which have struggled in recent years to be developed." Goldie-Scot continued: “Also, the projects of common interest require the project to benefit two countries, and most storage projects are very focused on specific regions, rather than cross-border.” In ENTSO-E’s last 10-year network plan, issued in 2014, energy storage was included alongside transmission plans for the first time. With 22 transmission and smart grid proposals, 11 storage projects totaling almost 5.7 gigawatts were admitted for assessment. Of these, nine were related to pumped hydro storage, with the largest being the Tarnita-Lapustesti project currently courting Chinese investors in Romania. There was also a 268-megawatt CAES project by Gaelectric in Larne, Northern Ireland, and a 225-megawatt lithium-ion battery storage facility proposed by Tisza Power of Hungary. ENTSO-E reported that the battery storage plant and a 313-megawatt pumped hydro proposal in Austria both failed to qualify as projects of common interest. Conversely, there were four projects whose promoters did not submit information to ENTSO-E. Three of these were for pumped hydro projects, while the fourth was for a battery storage system in central south Italy. Continue... // empowered by scharnhorst-csa.blogspot.com).


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2015-04-27

Steps ahead: Liquid Batteries for Solar and Wind Power
a status report








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reprint In an industrial park on the outskirts of Pullman, Wash., 10 white storage trailers sit side by side, neatly arranged in two rows. These are no ordinary storage units. Arranged on racks inside are the guts of a large rechargeable battery, the kind of device that can store and release utility-scale amounts of electricity. But this is no ordinary storage battery, either. In contrast with the typical lead-acid batteries used to start car engines or the lithium-ion cells that power electric vehicles — both of which are largely solid — this battery is mostly liquid. The chemicals that react to produce electricity are dissolved in water and circulated into and out of the heart of each cell, where the reaction occurs. For that reason, it is called a flow battery, and the one in Pullman, a demonstration project that will be tested over the next year and a half, is one of the largest in the world. It can store about 3.2 megawatt-hours of energy and discharge a megawatt of power for over three to four hours — enough to keep 500 average homes going for an afternoon. Flow batteries are not new (and they are similar, in some ways, to fuel cells), but they have never really caught on. They were invented in France in the 19th century and studied by NASA in the 1970s as potential power sources in space or on the moon.

Now, flow batteries are being viewed as a possible way to help the electrical grid handle greater amounts of renewable energy, and they are being developed further by companies like UniEnergy Technologies, the maker of the Pullman battery, and academic and government researchers. Because solar panels and wind turbines produce varying amounts of electricity during the day, utilities and system operators must work harder to integrate the renewable sources into the grid. Batteries are one way to do this, by storing excess electricity from solar panels during the middle of the day, for example, and releasing it in the evening. Such batteries are being used mostly for purposes other than integrating renewables into the grid — for example, by providing short infusions of electricity to keep the grid stable. Only 60 megawatts of storage were in use in the United States last year. But storage is expected to grow rapidly as prices of batteries and related control equipment fall. Other battery technologies — notably lithium ion, by virtue of its widespread use by Tesla Motors and other electric-car makers — have a head start in the market. Experts say, however, that flow batteries have some advantages that make them well suited to grid storage. “I see flow batteries as being increasingly important,” said Imre Gyuk, who manages an Energy Department program to help develop technologies for utility-scale electricity storage. Lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries pack more power for their size, which makes them especially useful for tasks like turning over a gasoline engine or getting an electric car moving from a full stop. And watt per watt they are smaller than flow batteries, which have tanks for the liquid chemicals and equipment to pump them into the cells. But on the grid, batteries do not need to supply a lot of power at once; instead, they need to provide energy steadily over time. And compact size is not as important. “A smaller footprint is not as useful in a stationary battery,” Dr. Gyuk said. Because the electricity-producing reactions take place in the liquids, increasing the size of the tanks allows flow batteries to store larger amounts of electricity. While there are practical and economic limits to their capacity, flow batteries are seen as having potential for situations where a battery system has to discharge a large amount of electricity for more than a few hours. Read the entire reprint ... // empowered by scharnhorst-csa.blogspot.com).


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2015-04-26

Bigger, better, faster, more - II.
A matter of scale: the cultural and environmental impact of big solar








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reprint Eighty miles east of Palm Springs, California, eight million solar panels lean toward the sky, their deep blue shine a modern oasis interrupting the brown dust of the Mojave Desert. Known as Desert Sunlight, the solar power plant is the first of its kind and promises to provide 550 megawatts (MW) of clean energy powering over 150,000 homes in California (a few percent of the state's total power consumption). Such large amounts of power from one, 3000-acre solar installation have been unheard of until now, hinting at a revolution in large-scale renewable energy generation that could compete with fossil-fuel-based power plants. Not so fast, say Native American tribes and environmentalists, who protest these solar plants due to their impact on sacred heritage lands and native species. The ongoing debate shines an important light on the fact that renewables introduce unique environmental and cultural impacts. These issues may rest in a blind spot for policymakers trying to reduce fossil fuel emissions at all costs or private companies taking advantage of renewable energy mandates and subsidies to cultivate successful business ventures.

A beneficial political climate and plummeting costs of solar panels has made the Desert Sunlight plant possible. California has set strict mandates to produce a third of their energy from renewables by 2020, opening a market for such a large-scale project. To construct such a power plant with a million individual panels, each solar cell must be extremely cheap. First Solar, the private company behind the project, decided to use cadmium telluride cells, which require significantly less material and cost less compared to traditional silicon cells (with a slight sacrifice in efficiency), allowing them to manufacture the millions of panels necessary to reach MW levels of power generation. The Mojave Desert is the perfect location to try such a novel way of generating renewable power on a large scale. The sun shines at least 300 days each year, annual rainfall reaches only several inches, and the desert is close enough to larger cities to easily connect to the electrical grid, all factors which are crucial to ensure reliable power generation to pay for the large capital costs of such a power plant. The success of an ambitious project like Desert Sunlight has not gone unnoticed as at least 10 other large-scale plants are planned for the same region, which means the Mojave Desert may soon be swarming with construction sites. All of the above sounds great from an economic and clean energy perspective. Unfortunately, that's only part of the story. The Mojave Desert does not reside in a vacuum waiting for power plants to be built. Quite the opposite, as several Native American tribes have lived in the region for generations alongside a diverse desert ecosystem. The Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi, and Navajo make up the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) that live on a reservation along the Colorado River just east of Desert Sunlight. Companies that want to follow the example set by First Solar must obtain land grants from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to allow private construction on the federal lands surrounding the reservation. However, much of this region contains sacred lands, buried artifacts, and relics important to these Native American tribes. To try to prevent the destruction and desecration and of artifacts and lands, CRIT has filed a lawsuit against the federal government to try to delay the issue of land grants given to private companies by the BLM. The US government has been careful to try to recover and relocate artificats important to the tribes, however the lawsuit claims that the tribes "experience significant spiritual harm when such resources are dug up, relocated or damaged"2. In addition, archaeological surveys often miss artifact locations, leading to their destruction when the ground is dug up in preparation for new plant construction. In their defense, the BLM claims they have met with CRIT representatives and other tribes to ensure respectful treatment of the sacred lands; however, the tribes claim that BLM has not gone far enough to respect their spiritual heritage. Discussions appear to be at an impasse, and plans for new solar plant construction appear to be moving forward despite the lawsuit. . Read the entire reprint ... // empowered by scharnhorst-csa.blogspot.com).


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