Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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Silicon, Solar Power & Manufacturing: China Continues to Play by Its Own Rules, Threatening All Comers

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 07:59 AM PST

Graphic courtesy Washington Post

Much has been talked and written about competition when it comes to manufacturing and international trade in solar photovoltaic (PV) products and technology in the wake of CASM’s filing of dumping and countervailing duty petitions with the Dept. of Commerce and International Trade Commission. Talking about the competitiveness, or lack thereof, of manufacturing solar PV in the US isn’t anywhere near central to the real issue, however. This becomes apparent when examining the vastly different, fundamental nature and structure of the Chinese and US economies.

Talking about relative competitiveness of manufacturing in China versus the US is valid enough in theory, but, in fact, the US and China are playing completely different ball games, or more accurately, playing the same ball game according to wildly different rules. Nowhere can this fundamental clash of economic systems and government policies be seen more clearly than perhaps in the solar PV industry policies and goals set out in China’s latest, recently announced Five-Year Plan.

China’s 12th Five-Year Plan: A Clear, Present Threat to Foreign Competitors

As part of China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced the admirable and welcome goal of reducing the cost of solar power to 0.8 yuan (12 US cents) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) by 2015 and 0.6 yuan (9 cents) by 2020.

The 12th Five-Year Plan also calls for Chinese manufacturers to significantly increase production of solar PV panels in order to reach 5 gigawatts (5 GW) by 2015, while polysilicon producers will increase their annual production capacity to 50,000 tons.

These market directives come in the wake of solar PV panel prices crashing in the past two years. Leading solar PV companies around the world are posting losses, while less-well-established businesses are going bankrupt. Uncalled for and unsustainable growth in solar PV panel and polysilicon production by Chinese producers have been the main culprits.

Ironically, the extraordinary drop in solar PV and polysilicon prices largely prompted by increasing Chinese production is leading governments in the countries that have led growth in solar power to cut back and reduce, if not eliminate or shelve, subsidies and other incentives — killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, so to speak.

Flaunting International Trade Rules

Is China’s latest Five-Year Plan the response of an open market-driven economy driven by supply and demand? Clearly not. It’s the response of a centralized command-and-control economic system that is fundamentally the polar opposite of those in the US and other major market-driven economies around the world. To pretend otherwise risks future economic growth and well-being of citizens in the US, EU and all other Chinese trade partners.

Regardless of market supply and demand conditions, the Chinese government is intent on continual expansion of “private sector” solar power companies across the supply chain. Could the following ever occur in the US, EU or other countries based on a private sector, market-driven economy?

“The government will also help companies in the solar sector increase annual sales. It aims to have at least one company reaching 100 billion yuan in sales by 2015, and between three and five companies reaching 50 billion yuan by the same date,” according to People’s Daily Online’s report.

Not only that, but despite announced plans to aggressively ramp up domestic solar PV installations, well over 90% of China’s solar PV cells and panels are exported. Hence, the solar power goals laid out in China’s latest Five-Year Plan only raise the stakes and increase the pressure on competitors in other WTO member countries.

Subsidizing industries to increase exports to the detriment and harm of industry and businesses in other WTO member countries is specifically prohibited according to WTO rules. So is dumping of products at costs below domestic production. Seeking to enforce these international trade rules to assure something like a level playing field is what CASM’s trade petitions are all about.

Thus far, China’s industrial development and trade policies have focused on knocking out foreign competition in silicon solar PV. The latest Five-Year Plan expands that and puts thin-film solar PV manufacturers under threat. “The plan will bring opportunities for thin-film PV panels,” People’s Daily quoted a unnamed source at Hanergy Holdings Group Co Ltd, a producer of thin-film PV panels.

No related posts.


Clean Links (More News on Solar Energy, Wind Energy, Clean Transportation, & Energy Efficiency)

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 07:24 AM PST

 
Some more top cleantech news from the past day or so.

Solar

planetsolar solar boat

1. We’ve written about the large solar boat known as Planetsolar many times in the past. Our good old friend Tim Hurst of Live Oak Media delved into the boats features in good depth in a recent post worth sharing, though, and also jumped into the idea of power the grid with the boat’s excess solar power when docked.

2. Michael Kuhn, President and CEO of ImagineSolar, spoke at a Solar Austin's press conference recently about how Austin’s solar industry is already employing over 615 direct full-time solar jobs and 1,180 to 2,190 jobs indirectly.

3. Abound Solar announced yesterday that it will stop producing its first-generation thin-film cadmium telluride photovoltaic modules “in order to accelerate the manufacturing process and equipment changes needed for the production launch of its next generation high-efficiency module.” Going on: “The suspension of first generation module production will result in the temporary reduction of approximately 180 permanent jobs from its Colorado facilities. Once manufacturing equipment has been modified and performance tested, Abound Solar expects to resume mass production with a 12.5-13 percent efficiency module by the end of 2012.” Abound Solar faces steep competition in this arena from the likes of First Solar and GE, which also produce CdTe PV modules (aka panels).

4. Intersolar North America, a large solar industry exhibition and conference, has announced that its “most prestigious innovation prize, the Intersolar AWARD, will now feature a new category that will recognize landmark solar projects within North America.” I’m curious to see who wins the first award. “Applications for the 2012 Intersolar AWARD are open now until March 30, and exhibitors of Intersolar North America 2012, Intersolar Europe 2012, Intersolar China 2011 and Intersolar India 2011 are invited to apply.”

 

Wind

1. Sauer Energy, a creator of home vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) systems that we’ve written about a number of times, announced yesterday that “it was awarded the most coveted and prestigious “Project of the Year” award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Buenaventura Section, at the 2012 National Engineers Week Awards Banquet held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.” Impressive. “This award goes to the company that has demonstrated technological achievement in engineering innovation development and promise,” the company notes.

 

Transportation

1. Russia's YoMobile, known for its CNG-electric hybrids, is apparently now working on a larger, "crossover" vehicle (i.e. SUV). Video here (more details and history in the link above):

2. LNG Viking cruise ships are, reportedly, cutting their global warming emissions 30% (hence the image above).

3. National Grid, a utility in the northeastern United States, has just installed 30 new electric vehicle charging stations at several locations in Massachusetts. “The stations are a part of Coulomb’s ChargePoint® Network, the largest network of independently owned charging stations in the world.”

Other

1. A new "Thinking Cities" documentary from Ericsson was released this month that discusses the future roles of smart cities, sustainability, social media networks, and information/communication intelligence.

2. P&F USA announced yesterday that it won the 2012 ENERGY STAR Most Efficient Designation for some of its Philips LED televisions (26PFL4907, 26PFL4507, 32PFL4907 and 32PFL4507). In other words, if you want a green, energy-efficient television, check out the models above. Suggested prices and availability of these TVs are as follows:

26PFL4507 $299.99 February
26PFL4907 $349.99 April
32PFL4507 $379.99 March
32PFL4907 $429.99 April

Related posts:

  1. Clean Links (Solar, Wind, Wave, Clean Transportation, Energy Efficiency, Clean Energy Policy, & Cleantech Innovation Link Party)
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World’s Oldest Nuclear Power Plant Shuts Down Today

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 06:40 AM PST

 
Today, in the UK, the world’s oldest nuclear power plant shut down. Actually, it did so just a few hours ago.

"An impression of the cooling towers of the proposed new nuclear build at oldbury. Impression made with the help of a photograph of cooling towers by Christopher Peterson, www.christopherpeterson.com."

The British nuclear power plant, which had been running for 44 years, shut down at about 11:00 GMT (or 6:00 am EST) today. The area may not be without nuclear power for too long, though. Another nuclear power plant is planned for a site nearby — it is supposed to go up by 2025.

Do the residents care? Well, it seems they don’t have much choice in the matter.

“Some local residents who have lived in this quaint village for decades say they had no choice when the plant was first built in the 1960s and have little prospect of preventing a new station now, given that the Oldbury site has already been shortlisted for new nuclear plants by the government,” Reuters reports.

“A joint venture of two German utilities, E.ON and RWE, plans to build a new Oldbury nuclear plant more than six times the capacity of the current station by 2025, relying on a strong government drive in favour of nuclear power to help reduce carbon emissions.”

Residents are particularly opposed to the cooling towers that would be included in the proposed pressurized water reactors (PWR) the power plant is supposed to use, which would likely spoil the resident’s view of the surrounding landscape. But Horizon, the German joint venture behind the power plant, brushes the concern aside, noting that they’d just be about 15 meters (49 feet) higher than the existing reactor buildings. Oh, that’s all? (Sarcasm)

Photographer Christopher Peterson has created a couple of impressions of what the power plant would look like with the four cooling towers, above and below.

oldbury nuclear power plant

"An impression of the cooling towers of the proposed new nuclear build at oldbury. Impression made with the help of a photograph of cooling towers by Christopher Peterson, www.christopherpeterson.com. Edited with the gimp on opensuse linux (all open source software)."

“The project is early in the planning stages, and Horizon is still far away from applying for necessary planning and environmental permits from UK agencies and the local government, which will give Olbury-on-Severn residents a say,” Reuters reports.

Related posts:

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Envia EV Battery — Potential Breakthrough

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 06:21 AM PST

 
I almost wrote on Envia’s new EV battery, which may be a breakthrough in the industry, a few times in the past few days. Eventually, I decided to include mention of it in our “clean links” roundup yesterday. After Chris DeMorro of sister site Gas2 covered it in a bit more depth and I got a nudge from one of our loyal readers to feature it on CleanTechnica, I’ve decided to give it a bit more sunlight.

envia ev battery breakthrough

Basically, let’s just run down a few key points about EV batteries, the EV industry, and then Envia’s new product.

Electric vehicles are already highly viable, cost-effective automobile options that can save you a good chunk of money in the long term, especially if you combine yours with home solar power (something we’ve written about several times). The range provided by EVs today is really more than adequate for most drivers most of the time,.. but some still cling to the idea that they need a car with longer range.

However, electric vehicles could become a lot more attractive to a lot of people if they cost even a bit less to purchase and if they had a longer range. The cost and the range are both directly tied to the batteries.

Envia has stepped up to the task of improving both of these things! At least, it says it has — and I’m sure there are a lot of people, like me, looking forward to seeing it prove that it has. Specifically, “California-based Envia is claiming that their unique lithium-ion battery technology results in a three-fold increase in energy density, while cutting the cost of batteries in half,” as Chris writes.

This could cut battery cost in half, leaving the option for car companies to boost the range of their EVs significantly and/or cut their price tags (batteries are a significant portion of the cars’ costs).

Furthermore, the company says this is just a concept or an experiment, but a working product that could be on the market within 18 months. Let’s hope it will be.

It’s also worth noting, I think, that “Envia's research was funded by the venture-capital arm of General Motors, GM Ventures, which may mean that GM would get first dibs on this ‘breakthrough’ technology.”

Chris has a nice final comment that basically matches exactly with my take on this news:

“I'm usually skeptical about such ‘breakthrough’ claims, but I figure with all the money going into battery research, somebody is going to ‘crack the code’ of battery technology, as it were. Might that somebody be Envia?”

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AEI Economist Fumbles Big Time on Cost of Renewables

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 05:56 AM PST

 
This post was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.

Did you know that the landing on the moon was staged? Or that swallowing seeds will cause fruit to grow in your stomach? Or that the cost of solar power has gone up 63% since 2001?

If you are tied to reality, you'd know that all three of these statements are utterly false. And while most people know that the moon landing was real and that seeds don't grow in your stomach, the last falsity is an easy one to slip by people who don't follow energy — which is almost everyone.

In fact, the installed cost of solar has come down nearly 40% since 2001.

That ridiculous statement about solar comes from Dr. Ben Zycher, an economist with the Pacific Research Institute and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, who has a new book out about renewable electricity technologies. Last week, AEI held an event for Dr. Zycher to talk about his book, in which he claims to be conducting a "fresh analysis" and a "reality check" on clean energy.

It seems Dr. Zycher needs a reality check — some of his math mistakes have introduced errors that are off by a factor of 100!  Below is a response to some of his claims.

According to the authoritative "Tracking the Sun IV" report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the installed cost of solar has come down about 40% since 2001, from $10 a watt to $6.2 per watt. And with a scale-up in manufacturing, the market price of modules has come down an astonishing pace, with prices declining from $7 a watt in the mid-80′s to under $1 a watt today. Some analysts predict that we'll see solar module prices at 70 cents a watt this year.

solar price decline

Zycher also claims that "wind energy costs have been steadily rising even though the capacity to generate electricity has expanded." He points to Department of Energy data showing an increase in turbine prices from 2001 to 2009.

It is true that the price of wind power increased slightly since 2001 due to a rapid scaling of global capacity, a shortage of product, and a huge jump in the cost of raw materials. (Steel doubled in price and copper quadrupled in price in the past decade.)  But this is after a stunning drop in costs over the previous two decades:

 

Moreover, the DOE data shown below clearly shows that turbine prices and project costs are back on a downward trend:

And with the size and performance of wind farms improving substantially, the levelized cost of wind electricity continues to fall and nip at the heels of historically-low natural gas prices.

"The PPAs [power contracts] that people are pricing today in the best wind markets around the country…in the three cents per kilowatt-hour range. Wind is now back in a very competitively advantageous position," Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Analyst Ryan Wiser said recently.

History has shown that every doubling of wind capacity has resulted in a 14% reduction in the cost of wind electricity, according to energy analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Based upon the consistent drops in the cost of windBNEF analysts say they "expect wind to become fully competitive with energy produced from combined-cycle gas turbines by 2016 in most regions offering fair wind conditions."

Zycher also tries to claim that conventional fossil energy technologies don't have an artificial advantage over new, emerging technologies.

By comparing current government subsidies per megawatt-hour of electricity from less-mature renewables to electricity produced from mature fossil energies with high penetrations, he finds that renewables receive hundreds of times more subsidies per unit of energy.

Of course, taking a one-year snapshot of every single expenditure during the height of stimulus spending doesn't tell us much about the imbedded impact of historical energy subsidies that allowed carbon-based fuels to scale up. Zycher refers to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration prepared for members of Congress, who requested the 2010 snapshot data in order to make a case against clean energy.

But when the EIA issued the report, the agency admitted up front that the methodology (again,requested by wind opponent Senator Lamar Alexander) was skewed against renewable energy:

"Focusing on a single year's data does not capture the imbedded effects of subsidies that may have occurred over many years across all energy fuels and technologies."

So what if we actually compared subsidies to various energy technologies based upon historical data? A report from the venture capital firm DBL Investors did just that, and found that federal investments in oil and gas were "five times greater than the federal commitment to renewables during the first 15 years of each subsidies' life, and it was more than 10 times greater for nuclear."

 

Those aren't the only tricks Zycher plays with the cost structure of renewables. He also claims that the cost of back-up power adds $368 per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. That's more than 36 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Say what? That would make renewables like wind and solar so ridiculously cost-prohibitive, no one would invest in them. Well, Zychner seems to have made a math error that inflated his estimates by a factor of 100, according to an analysis of his data from the American Wind Energy Association:

In his calculations, Mr. Zycher claims that backup capacity is needed for 3-4.5% of the nameplate capacity of wind energy added to the grid, based on analysis done by the California grid operator. In addition, the DOE tables cited by Mr. Zycher indicate the cost of that backup natural gas capacity would be $648-984 per kilowatt of gas capacity.

Taking those numbers at face value, multiplying 4.5% by the $984/kw backup cost indicates that the cost of backup capacity would add a mere $44.28 to the cost of each installed kilowatt of wind energy, adding just over 2% to the cost of wind energy, not the 250% that he claims. Thus, Mr. Zycher's assumed cost for backup is wrong by a factor of at least 100. Even if drastically higher assumptions are used for the quantity of backup capacity needed and for the capital and operating cost of those reserves, the added cost for wind energy is still far less than a tenth of what Mr. Zycher claims it is.

And last year, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory modeled a 30% wind and 5% solar penetration on the Western grid, finding that a combination of high renewables, low gas prices and a carbon tax could displace coal generation and maintain grid stability. Assuming a price on carbon, wind and solar could add $46 per MWh in value to the Western grid. The chart below illustrates declining grid operating costs with higher penetrations of renewables:

Lastly, Zycher uses his dubious tools of analysis to make that case that renewable electricity will harm the economy because "decades of data show that higher electricity consumption correlates strongly with GDP growth and higher employment."

Yes, electricity consumption in the U.S. has closely followed GDP on the national level. And assuming you believe Zycher's astronomically gross inflation of the cost of renewable electricity, that might be a notable argument.

But here's an important thing to keep in mind. Electricity consumption and GDP don't have to correlate. Take California — a leader in renewable energy and efficiency — which has seen twice the growth in GDP per kilowatt-hour of electricity than the rest of the county. Because of real-time pricing, conservation and efficiency — all necessary compliments to renewables — the state has seen economic productivity increase 50% per unit of electricity, while the rest of the country only increased 15%:

Zycher's "fresh look" at the "myths" of renewable electricity is nothing more than a re-hash of the same tired arguments against clean energy. When you look at the data and historic experience in the U.S., renewable electricity technologies are clearly coming down in cost, creating new economic opportunities, and not dramatically increasing grid operation costs.

Then again, this is coming from an economist who, in response to a question about whether we are properly internalizing the environmental and health cost to poor communities located near dirty coal plants, explained that "we don't have time to get into the issue of whether or not we need to lament the fact that there are poor people in the world."

Watch the clip from last week's forum:

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Wind Energy Output Hit Record High in Spain (Kept Electricity Prices Lower than Neighbors’)

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 05:38 AM PST

 
In the month of February, wind energy supplied Spain with a record 21.7% of its electricity needs, 4.890 GWh of electricity. This helped keep the country’s price of electricity lower and was a huge benefit for the country’s economy (see more details at the end of this post).

spain wind energy

As noted by wind energy company Gamesa, the electricity produced by wind power in Spain would have been enough to power the entire country of Portugal, its neighbor to the West.

And, actually, production in the first half of February was much higher than in the second. Wind accounted for a very significant 28.9% of average electricity demand in the first half of February.

“What’s more, wind energy enabled Spain to avoid around 260 million euros in income transfers abroad by reducing the bill for importing fossil fuels and by preventing CO2emissions,” Gamesa wrote. ”Wind energy prevented emissions totalling 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 in February, the equivalent of planting 900,000 trees.”

Of course, the large amount of wind power, which reduces the price of electricity, kept Spain’s electricity bills much lower than those of its European counterparts in the midst of some very cold February weather.

“While in the first two weeks of the month the average Spanish electricity market price stood at €51/MWh, in France it was more than double at €105/MWh.”

Red Eléctrica de España (REE) reports that this record output from wind power made it the third largest contributor to the country’s electricity production in February, only behind coal and nuclear power.

Some more fun facts on wind energy industry in Spain:

  • It provides Spaniards with ~30,000 jobs.
  • It “exports technology valued at more than 2 billion euros annually and eliminates the need for importing 2 billion euros’ worth of fossil fuels, helping to offset Spain’s current account deficit.” (Hear people tell you Spain is in financial trouble because of its clean energy investments? Correct them by explaining that clean energy helps to keep them from being in an even tighter situation.)
  • The big one (especially for discussion the matter mentioned above): “for every euro wind energy receives in government incentives, the industry returns three euros to the larger economy.

Connect with me on Google+Twitter, or the little-known social networking site referred to as ‘Facebook‘.

Source: Gamesa | Spain wind farm courtesy of shutterstock

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Lowest Ever Bid in Indian Solar Market

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 05:19 AM PST

 
solar power india

I received a news release from Bridge to India, a solar market analysis and consulting firm, the other day that reports a “lowest ever bid in the Indian solar market.” The bid was for 25 MW worth of solar projects in Odisha, India and the record bid was for “INR7 per kWh as a levelized tariff for a period of 25 years.” Here are some more details from Bridge to India:

In December of 2011, the Odisha Renewable Energy Development Agency (OREDA) had released an invitation for Request for Selection (RfS) for 25MW worth of solar projects in the state. The last date for submitting the bids was February 7th 2012. BRIDGE TO INDIA, a solar market consulting firm based out of New Delhi, India, has reported that the results of the reverse bidding process have now been finalized. BRIDGE TO INDIA sources reveal that the winning bid is a record INR7 per kWh as a levelized tariff for a period of 25 years. The highest bid was placed at Rs. 8.98/KWh.

The winning bid was submitted by Alex Green Energy and it has been allotted the entire spectrum of 25MW as was revealed by a senior official at OREDA. BRIDGE TO INDIA further reports that OREDA is planning to offer another RfS in the month of March.

The deadline for reporting of project finance, for the 25MW project, is said to be 210 days from the date of signing of PPA. The commissioning deadline is 18 months from the date of signing of PPA or 20 months from the date of issue of Letter of Intent (LoI) whichever is earlier. It is envisaged that the state-level agencies like OREDA, IDCO, GRIDCO etc. will provide necessary support to facilitate the development of the projects as per the existing industrial policy of the state. This may include facilitation in providing access to project sites, land acquisition for the project and connectivity to the substation of the distribution company or any other transmission utility at the voltage level of 33 kV or above.

BRIDGE TO INDIA believes that from a short-term perspective, the low tariffs strain developer returns. Also, they could jeopardize project performances as developers might look to reduce costs by cutting corners in project execution. However, in the medium to long-term, these lower tariffs will make solar competitive in the commercial and captive consumption space. This will create a market for solar, independent of government subsidies, rapidly expanding the opportunity for solar players in India.

India solar power project via Bridge to India

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Former Microsoft Exec. Nathan Myhrvold & Climate Scientist Ken Caldeira on Our Clean Energy (& Not Natural Gas) Needs

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 05:01 AM PST

 
Below is another great post by David Roberts of Grist that I thought I should share in full here on CleanTechnica. It’s about a wonderful study on the energy transition we need in order to really protect ourselves from the catastrophic effects of considerable global warming. Note that the study authors, a former Microsoft executive and a top climate scientist, emphasize going all-in on truly clean energy and bypassing this natural gas craze some are enthusiastic about. Here’s the full piece (enjoy!):

by David Roberts

Several years ago, Nathan Myhrvold — former Microsoft exec, kajillionaire, inventor, founder of Intellectual Ventures, author of the world's most high-tech cookbook, and all-around polymath genius type — was quoted in the book SuperFreakonomics saying dismissive things about climate activists. He was worried they might get "a real head of steam" behind their "immediate and precipitous anti-carbon initiatives." (In retrospect, he needn't have worried.) Instead, Myhrvold said, we should be … researching geoengineering.

He took some heat for it at the time and the experience apparently convinced him that he needs to get a better handle on things climate- and energy-related. For a guy like Myhrvold, that doesn't just mean reading Wikipedia articles. Instead, he built a specialized set of models to capture the global temperature effects of transitions to low-carbon energy of varying speeds, using varying technologies. You know, like people do.

Flash forward a few years: Myhrvold is out with a paper on his results, co-authored with respected climate scientist Ken Caldeira, published in Environmental Research Letters.

The results are … grim.

Myhrvold and Caldeira ask the right question: What effect will deployment of clean energy have on global temperature? They take for granted that economic growth will continue as it has in the past (no small assumption, granted) and thus that 10-30 terawatts of carbon-neutral power will be needed by 2050 to meet global energy needs while limiting atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 450 ppm. (Always worth noting: 450 ppm would, according to the latest science, itself be quite dangerous.)

In their results, Myhrvold and Caldeira highlight a few poorly appreciated but crucial features of energy transitions. The first is that they take quite a while to have an appreciable effect on CO2 concentrations. The world's oceans have considerable "thermal inertia" — it takes them a long time to absorb heat and a long time to release it. Even after CO2 concentrations start falling, it will take the oceans a while to stop releasing the excess heat they've already absorbed. Also, the building of a clean-energy infrastructure itself involves enormous expenditures of energy and thus CO2 emissions. For a given power source, the emissions released during its construction put it into "carbon debt" and it takes a while of generating carbon-free energy for it to work itself to the break-even point. Only then does it begin producing net reductions in CO2. Combine thermal inertia and carbon debt and you get a fairly long time lag between the energy transition and its carbon effects.

The second is that so much CO2 accumulation is already "baked in" that temperature will continue to rise for a while even in the context of rapid emission reductions. We've already gotten drunk on fossil fuels; there's no way to avoid the hangover.

The consequences of this time lag are twofold. First, substantially affecting global temperature in the first half of the century is all but impossible; even to secure temperature reductions in the second half of the century, a rapid transition to clean energy needs to begin immediately. Second,lower-carbon energy — like, say, natural gas — just won't do it. If we transitioned to something with half of coal's emissions, it would take more than a century to produce even a 25 percent decline in CO2 relative to the status quo baseline. By then we'd be cooked.

In summary, Myhrvold and Caldeira have shown in pretty stark terms that, if we're not willing to substantially reduce population growth or economic growth, we're going to need an absolutely gargantuan amount of zero-carbon energy, without delay. They conclude:

Despite the lengthy time lags involved, delaying rollouts of low-carbon-emission energy technologies risks even greater environmental harm in the second half of this century and beyond. This underscores the urgency in developing realistic plans for the rapid deployment of the lowest-GHG-emission electricity generation technologies. Technologies that offer only modest reductions in emissions, such as natural gas and — if the highest estimates from the life-cycle analyses are correct — carbon capture and storage, cannot yield substantial temperature reductions this century. Achieving substantial reductions in temperatures relative to the coal-based system will take the better part of a century, and will depend on rapid and massive deployment of some mix of conservation, wind, solar, and nuclear, and possibly carbon capture and storage.[my emphasis]

In other words, the hippies are right: We're going to need "immediate and precipitous anti-carbon initiatives."

——

Here's Caldeira discussing the paper:

——

For more on this theme, see:

David Roberts is a staff writer for Grist. You can follow his Twitter feed at twitter.com/drgrist.

Nathan Myhrvold photo via Sifu Renka.

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GE & JP Morgan Invest $225 Million in 662.5-MW Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 02:33 PM PST

 
GE Energy Financial Services and JP Morgan announced yesterday that they are jointly investing $225 million into the 662.5-megawatt Capricorn Ridge wind farm in West Texas that is mostly owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources.

capricorn ridge wind farm texas ge

Here are some more details on the behemoth of a wind farm:

  • in operation since 2007
  • can generate enough electricity for up to 220,000 homes
  • can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 952,000 metric tons per year (equal to taking ~186,000 cars off the road)
  • includes 342 1.5-megawatt GE Energy wind turbines and 65 2.3-megawatt wind turbines from Siemens
  • located in Sterling and Coke counties, in West Texas, in one of Texas' Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ)

"This investment demonstrates our ability to provide both the capital and equipment for critical energy infrastructure projects in support of GE's broader ecomagination strategy," said Kevin Walsh, managing director and leader of power and renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services.

"We were uniquely suited to invest in this project alongside JP Morgan because of our Texas wind market expertise."

In total, “GE Energy Financial Services has invested in 2,143 megawatts of wind farms in Texas – approximately 20 percent of the installed wind capacity in the state,” the company notes. No small deal.

Of course, as Chris Varrone wrote in an article for CleanTechnica nearly a year ago, “GE wants to sell you everything.” The company is huge and has it’s hands in just about everything, especially in the energy sector. Of course, that doesn’t make its investment in clean energy any less important, but one does wish that it would redirect more of its resources in this direction. This investment just announced yesterday is clearly a decent movement in that direction.

Source: GE | Capricorn Ridge wind turbine via NextEra Energy Resources

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London’s Iconic Red Buses Getting 2 Times More Efficient, but…

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 12:59 PM PST

 
If you’ve ever been to London, its insane number of pretty, red, double-decker buses are probably forever ingrained in your mind, and it’s probably not unusual for you think about them when thinking about the city. Now, the good news is, those pretty red buses are getting twice as fuel-efficient.

Iconic Routemaster Buses

New Red Bus for London Is Super Green

Yesterday, the first such buses started running on route 38, a busy route between Victoria and Hackney (in case you know the city and are curious). The hybrid bus is based off of the design of the historic Routemaster. It is reportedly 15% more efficient that traditional hybrid buses and 40% more efficient than conventional diesel-fueled double deckers.

“In tests at Millbrook Proving Ground, the engineering test vehicle emitted only 640 grams per kilometre (g/km) of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 3.96 g/km of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) – less than half of the CO2 emitted by a current diesel bus (1295g/km) and under half of the NOx emitted by a current diesel bus (9.3g/km),” Transport for London (TfL) notes.

“In testing, fuel economy was also better than twice that of a standard diesel bus at 11.6mpg.”

Rolling Out on London’s Streets

Interestingly, TfL notes that it’s the “first bus to be designed specifically for Capital’s streets in more than 50 years.”

Other than the demo line mentioned above, 7 more buses are set to start running soon. “This first bus will be quickly joined by a further seven prototypes at a rate of one every couple of weeks as they roll off the Wrightbus production line where a team of 25 engineers and a 40-strong production team have built the prototype buses.” By the end of May, these initial 8 should all be running.

“From today Londoners will have the chance to jump aboard this stunning piece of automotive architecture on which every feature is tailored to the London passenger,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said.

“It represents the very best in British design, engineering and manufacture and is a demonstration of what can be done given imagination and determination.”

Suffice it to say, this is the greenest/cleanest such bus around.

Woops.. Price is Not Right

While all of its above good qualities are true, the price for all of that is a bit higher than the price of an average double-decker bus, £1.4 million compared to about £190,000.

“Riding this bus is surely the most expensive bus ticket in history,” Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy wrote in an open letter to Mayor Boris. “With 62 seats at a cost of £1.4m, the cost per seat is £22,580. At £22,695, you can buy a brand new 3 Series BMW.”

Aside from the Labour party, members of the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have also criticized Mayor Boris. Green Party London mayoral candidate Jenny Jones slammed the Mayor for not sticking to his pledge of making all new London buses hybrids from 2012 on. 800 new buses are set to roll out in 2012/13, and only 52 are to be hybrids. Hmm… not good. It looks like Mayor Boris has turned to flash rather than practicality,.. or he and his crew thought these new buses were going to be a whole lot cheaper.

Much more info on the new buses is available on Transport for London’s site.

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Iconic Routemaster Buses via Gene Hunt.

Related posts:

  1. Early Christmas in London: New Fleet of Hybrid Buses Arrives
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