- Wholesale Price of Electricity Drops to $0.00 in Texas, Due to Wind Energy
- Stronger Man-made Muscles
- Big Wind Farms Cost More Than Small Ones
- Energy Efficiency of 50 U.S. States Ranked
- Largest U.S. Solar/Wind Hybrid Project Proposed for Antelope Valley
- Living Off The Grid With Solar Power Can Be Simple, Fun, & Challenging
- U.S. Going Wrong Way on Energy, Americans Say
- New Wind Energy Record Set in Texas
- Texas: Solar Energy Hitting State in 1 Month = All Energy Texas Oil & Gas Industry Has EVER Produced
Posted: 20 Oct 2011 03:20 PM PDT
“For several 15-minute intravals [last Friday] morning, wholesale electricity cost nothing,” Elizabeth Souder of dallasnews.com reported last Friday. Interesting, eh? If you’re a regular CleanTechnica reader (or if you read the headline…), I think you can guess why. Yes, wind power being cheap as heck, the wind blowing strong at night, and less electricity demand is the mixture that caused this to happen.
As I’ve said many times on here, Wind.Is.Cheap. Additionally, as I covered earlier this year, wind power is making electricity cheaper. Remember this graphic from an Exxon energy report projecting that wind would be the cheapest source of electricity in 2025? (I actually think the report was way off when it comes to solar, and wind is, actually, already the cheapest electricity option in many places, but the point is that even Exxon recognizes wind power is cheap.)
More from Souder, explaining how cheap wind power can drive the wholesale price of electricity down to $0.00 (and occasionally does in Texas):
Now, combine some solar power (which matches wind well since it is most available during the day), potentially some geothermal or hydro (maybe even small hydro), some other clean energy options, some energy storage, and a grid that can more easily shift electricity around, and I think you got quite a clean and cheap power supply. (Some have shown how it could even be 100% clean by 2030.)
Also, I think it’s worth point something out here. Wind and solar are “hard” to integrate into our current electricity grid because our electricity grid is based around power plants that are hard to turn on (or, take a long time to do so). I think anyone with the able to think can identify that taking a long time to turn on is not a plus. (How would you like it if your car took half an hour or so to turn on?) While solar and wind energy are “intermittent,” with a good mixture of energy sources, an easy-to-manage grid, and some energy storage, the sources with the very clear handicap are the ones with this long start-up problem.
Image Source: European Tribune
Posted: 20 Oct 2011 02:44 PM PDT
Science fiction has suggested artificial limbs stronger than biological counterparts. We are beginning to see this reality in present day research. “Carbon-nanotube-based muscles that are 100 times stronger than natural muscle” have already been produced by the research of Ray Baughman, director of the Nanotech Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas. Now, he has produced a yarn from carbon nanotubes that can twist 1000 times more than other materials. It is this twisting motion that opens new possibilities and gives the material a potential as strong as a commercial electric motor.
What can they do?
Small-sized nanotech muscles may be useful in some of the tiniest applications, where electrical energy is turned into mechanical energy. Normally, we think of artificial muscles like electrical devices that produce the linear motion solenoids and actuators. These new materials have a much wider operating range than devices we now use. Some of them use fuel rather than electricity as an energy supply. Some are as light as air.
Artificial muscles are also potentially useful in devices that mimic nature; robotics (such as vehicles that stay aloft by flapping wings) and as potential replacements for damaged human muscles like the heart. Due to their wide temperature range, space and exploration also include possible applications. This is “game changing” potential.
How do they do it?
Electricity and an electrolyte were used for this effect to take place on the carbon nanotubes:
Issues and comments:
“This is a fascinating new way to provide torsion,” says Baughman. What remains to be disclosed is the relative energy cost and efficiency of this material/device. This would give us a benchmark for comparison with present technology, and allow us to evaluate utility and future improvement.
Primary source: MIT Technology Review
Photo Credit: NASA
Posted: 20 Oct 2011 01:51 PM PDT
It seems obvious: every extra turbine in a wind farm comes at a lower incremental cost, making the biggest wind power projects the most cost effective.
If you bet $20 on that proposition, you just lost $20.
Instead, data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2009 Wind Technologies Market Report by Ryan Wiser and Mark Bolinger (a must-read) blows a hole in the conventional wisdom that bigger is better. The report shows that wind projects between 5 and 20 megawatts have the lowest installed cost per Watt of any size wind project.
There are a few plausible explanations. For one, the economies of scale for ever-larger wind projects are limited. At some point, the marginal cost of an additional turbine is much like the previous one. The 500th wind turbine is likely the same price to install as the 499th.
Furthermore, there may be disproportionate costs for larger wind projects. For example, projects over 20 megawatts must by processed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a more onerous step than smaller projects being handled at the state level. Additionally, projects of inordinate size may require special financing that only a few large firms can handle, adding a price premium. Finally, large projects may only be possible with the addition of new transmission line capacity, both a costly and time-consuming process.
Whatever the reason, the conventional wisdom of “bigger is better” does not hold with wind power in the United States. And with the cost advantage of modest-sized wind power projects, it may open up opportunities for local ownership like the seven-turbine South Dakota Wind Partners, project with its 600 South Dakotan owners. The prospect isn’t just good for the cost of wind power, but for clean energy and the economy. Not only do locally owned projects like Wind Partners bring more public support for wind, they also garner significantly greater local economic benefits.
In wind power, the best policy is to “go local.”
Posted: 20 Oct 2011 01:41 PM PDT
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its annual energy efficiency scorecard today. The scorecard ranks the energy-efficiency of all 50 U.S. states. Top states have advanced energy-efficiency policies and programs that help lower customers’ energy use and boost the state economy.
This year, there’s a new state at #1 and there have been a number of shifts in the ranking.
The top 10 states are:
And the 10 states “most in need of improvement” (starting from the one most in need):
Most improved states:
Other than the rankings, the following are some of the energy efficiency scorecard’s key findings:
What exactly does the scorecard evaluate? The evaluation is focused on 6 topics:
There’s a chapter of the report dedicated to each of those topics.
“States can earn up to 50 possible points in these six policy areas combined, with the maximum possible points in each area weighted by the magnitude of its potential energy savings impact,” ACEEE reports.
Posted: 20 Oct 2011 01:12 PM PDT
California's Antelope Valley is a 3,700 acre site, home to burrowing owls, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, and deer. It boasts a bright and colorful poppy preserve, and the natural views help make it a popular horseback riding and hiking spot. It also sees strong winds and a lot of sun, which makes it ideal for America's biggest wind-solar hybrid farm yet. As Element Power's Wildflower Renewable Energy Farm Project manager Nat Parker says, "The trees grow sideways and the sun burns bright."
The ambitious project, citing 100 megawatts of solar and 150 megawatts of wind, is slated to cover just 22% of the land on-site in two separate locations – 840 acres in total. The northern site is to hold all of the solar panels, as leveling the southern site's topography to accommodate the arrays would be both difficult and disruptive to the local ecology. 33 3-megawatt wind turbines would join the solar panels in the north, while the southern farm would hold just 17.
What About the Wildlife?
Element Power's formal proposal also includes 347 acres of conservation area, adjoining the existing protected areas, and includes football-field-wide wildlife migration corridors. A total of 1,000 acres in the southern site will be left undeveloped so as to preserve wildlife habitats.
Parker's team studied the area closely for a year before finalizing the proposal. "We know from having been out on the site," the former Sierra Club Regional Manager explained, "that it is good burrowing owl habitat [and] that it has elevation features that make it an avian species foraging area — and we also know that people like to ride horses into the area." Element Power is committed to protecting that land for those uses in perpetuity. "…The southern energy farm has greater wildlife movement because it sits very close to the Portal Ridge area just south of our project," he added, explaining why the company would not undertake the earthwork necessary to build more solar there.
Also included in the proposal was a new network of trails for both hiking and horseback riding – visitors will still have gorgeous scenic views of the valley itself and its famous poppy reserve.
Local Support and Opposition
The project is not without some opposition, although polls commissioned by Element Power indicated majority support in the region for development of renewable energy. While communities closer to the immediate vicinity of the project were less positive, Parker feels that "these are projects that will have huge economic and jobs benefits for the entire Antelope Valley" and points out that even in the closest small community, strong opposition was only 27%.
Element Power's report on estimated economic benefits is currently in development and will be available in two weeks.
Any thoughts on putting solar panels in wind farms in Antelope Valley – or anywhere else? Let us know what you think, in the comments, below.
Source: Green Tech Media
Posted: 20 Oct 2011 09:50 AM PDT
My wife were desperate to get out of the city. It was 2007, we were having an extremely stressful year with work. I owned a small construction company that was just about to give me a heart attack. She had a job she hated so much she would cry on the way to work sometimes. On top of all that, we lived in a duplex with noisy neighbors. And don't even get me started on the constant, traffic, sirens, and aircraft noise of living in the city.
That's when we decided: LETS GET OUT OF HERE – FOR GOOD! So we started looking for homes in the mountains. And, as luck would have it, we found our dream home after just one day of looking. Incredible views, astoundingly quiet, on a beautiful lake and surrounded by Aspen-draped mountains, we thought we had died and gone to heaven. There was just one thing: there was no grid power in this part of the world.
The home was powered with a solar power system and a backup generator. Heat would have to come from a wood-burning stove. It wasn't exactly roughing it, but it was a drastic lifestyle change. And so, in the dead of winter, we moved our lives to the peace and quiet of Colorado Rockies. No more walking to sushi on Friday night. No more rowdy concerts and raucous cab rides on Saturday night. We still do those things every once in a while but we don't miss them as much as we thought we would. And we also don't have to deal with car break-ins, dirty air, bad water, rude drivers, and traffic jams.
Living off the grid meant we had to make other adjustments too. The only lights on in the house at night are ones we are actively using. We started listening to our iPods with headphones instead of throwing on the stereo and cranking the music. Laundry waits until a sunny day. Everything is on a power strip and gets turned off at the end of the evening. We don't own a toaster, microwave, clothes iron, or hair dryer.
We've become acutely aware of the patterns of the sun and weather. We open the blinds wide to let the sun pour in and heat the house in the winter. In the warm summer evenings we close them and crack windows strategically to allow the mountains breezes to cool the house. We've installed a wind generator and tuned into the patterns of our breezes too. Winter mornings might mean shoveling both the driveway and solar panels clear of snow.
Don't misunderstand, we don't live like hermits. We have a large flat screen TV, three computers, plenty of lighting, and tons of entertainment devices. We just use them strategically to conserve power, always keeping in mind that the sun is our friend. Up here we find that we need those things less anyway, with all the hiking, skiing, biking, and boating there is to do here.
We've learned a lot about solar, living away from civilization, but mostly about ourselves here. And I can honestly say this is happiest I've ever been.
Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar expert from Colorado. You can visit his Solar Power site for more information.
Posted: 20 Oct 2011 06:17 AM PDT
If you’re a firm believer in the U.S. being a democracy, one of the most perplexing issues for you might be the fact that:
but U.S. politicians (mostly, but not entirely, on one side of the aisle) strongly support subsidies to the fossil fuel industry but not to the clean energy industry.
The fact of the matter is, though, politicians respond to money more than to voters, and they (especially those on one side of the aisle) receive a lot more money from the rich fossil fuel industry than the nascent clean energy industry. Do U.S. citizens notice and care?
A poll released yesterday by by The University of Texas at Austin found:
You can add me to the majority on those issues.
Energy efficiency has improved considerably in the U.S. That is in no small part to individuals (of all political stripes) greening their homes (and reaping the financial and feel-good rewards). But to address the larger issues, we need politicians to care more about these issues, as well.
We have decent energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy rebates available. But we need a national renewable energy standard (RES); a price on greenhouse gas pollution; a more accurate price on the cost of oil; more investment in the development and deployment of cheap EVs, solar, and wind; and a true energy plan.
“This survey shows that the public craves leadership on energy issues,” Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin, said.
More on the poll:
When it came to expressing satisfaction with a range of different individuals, businesses, institutions, and organizations, Congress was dead last (8% satisfied, 71% dissatisfied). I wonder why. Republicans have only filibustered or completely shot down (in the House) every attempt to transition us to a clean energy economy sooner rather than too late.
Posted: 20 Oct 2011 05:31 AM PDT
Wind turbines in Texas, in the service territory of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) — which is the main Texas electric grid — set a new electricity output record on October 7, it was reported this week.
The record? 15.2% of ERCOT’s electricity demand was supplied by wind on the afternoon of the 7th — 7,400 megawatts (MW).
“This new record set by wind on the main Texas grid is good news for consumers,” Michael Goggin, the America Wind Energy Association’s (or AWEA’s) Manager of Transmission Policy, said.”Wind generation offsets the use of expensive fossil fuels, is pollution-free, and uses virtually no water, unlike other sources of electricity.”
Wind’s tremendous water advantages (especially important with record-breaking heat and droughts hitting Texas and the Southwest, and stronger droughts projected in the coming decades, one of the long-predicted effects of global warming), is something we’ve covered a few times on CleanTechnica.
Wind energy being the cheapest option for new electricity in most regions of the world is another.
Clearly, this is not just us clean-energy lovers noticing these advantages, but the conservative state of Texas is, as well. ERCOT reports that wind energy “represents nearly 58 percent of all new generation seen in planning stages over the next few years” in Texas. Wow.
More from AWEA’s Goggin:
I imagine it won’t be too long before we see this record broken again.
No related posts.
Posted: 20 Oct 2011 05:00 AM PDT
This is a fact the president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Rhone Resch, said at the 2011 Solar Power International conference this year. In Rhone’s own words:
Rhone then went on to highlight how New Jersey and California have grown their solar markets so fast, as well as a handful of specific solar projects and programs.
In addition, Rhone had numerous national solar energy stats worth sharing.
While we have covered solar power’s potential, its recent growth, and its projected growth a few times lately already, and have covered almost all of the stats below at one time or another, here’s a quick and concise summary of the stats and points Rhone highlighted this week:
Impressive stats. Impressive industry. Impressive potential (if we implement the right policies, we will easily live in a solar-powered country).
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