The Intermittency of Wind and Solar: Is It Only Intermittently a Problem?

After having been in denial for some time, the oil firms are now at wit’s end, it seems. For years, they denied that any warming was underway at all. Then when some of them finally admitted it, they said, inaccurately, that scientists were still “unsure” of the cause. Now, perhaps, some of them are becoming too subtle for their own good, or even too clever by half. At times, what some of the oil firms are saying of late, particularly about the “intermittency of renewables,” may even be a little above the public’s head. The “perils of intermittency” may only be a viable argument for a “niche market” of global citizens who are somewhat informed about energy issues, yet not fully apprised. This is a good sign, it seems to me. The oil firms are apparently running out of ideas to try to convince us to move slowly on climate change, even before they run out of conventional oil and natural gas.

With the price of wind power falling more and more, and the price of solar PV falling sharply and enticingly, what other arguments will the big oil firms still have left to try to slow the transition to renewables when even the cost of natural gas may soon be unable to compete with the cost of wind in the Midwest or solar PV in the Southwest? The “risk of intermittency” may be one of the only “reasonable” arguments that Shell or Conoco will still be able to make. And yet, who will even care? Soon, the US energy market, with its focus on price points, may simply say to the oil giants, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about the ‘risk.’ ”

Written by Victor Provenzano. To read the full article, click here.

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German Green Energy Bluster Running Out Of Wind

Although blades on the 150-meter wind turbines at the new German offshore Riffgat power plant nine miles off the North Sea island of Bokum are finally turning, there is one big problem. They are doing so only because they are being powered by onshore fossil-fueled generators to prevent the rotors from corroding in salty air. And why might that be? Well although they otherwise function perfectly, the underfinanced grid operator hasn’t yet connected a power line because of problems attracting investor financing. Prospective investors attribute their reluctance to a lack of market confidence.

While half a dozen wind farms are still being built in the North Sea, there are no follow-up contracts. As Ronney Meyer, managing director of Windenergie Agentur (EWE) based in the northern port city of Bremerhaven said, “The market has collapsed.” EWE developer Riffgat reportedly doesn’t plan to invest in any more offshore turbines.

There is little mystery regarding a clear lack of clamor for wind in the energy marketplace. Namely, taxpayers and ratepayers are recognizing that the subsidy-dependent and performance-costly industry makes no economic sense.

Written by Larry Bell. To read the full article, click here.

Hydropower: the unsung hero of renewable energy

Hydropower accounts for more electricity production than solar, wind, and geothermal combined, but gets far less press because it is a mature technology with a much lower annual growth rate than most renewables. Still, hydropower will likely continue its leading role as the world’s most important producer of renewable electricity until well into the next decade.

This is the 2nd installment in a series that looks at the recently released 2013 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. The previous post – Renewable Energy Status Update 2013 – focused mainly on wind and solar power. This post delves into hydropower and geothermal power. Some of the BP data is supplemented by REN21′s recently-released 2013 Renewables Global Status Report (GSR). (Disclosure: I have been a reviewer for the GSR for the past three years).

Hydropower

Hydropower accounts for more electricity production than solar PV, wind, and geothermal combined. In 2012, hydropower accounted for 16% of the world’s electricity production. However, hydropower gets far less press because it is a mature technology with a much lower annual growth rate than most renewables. While solar PV increased capacity by an average of 60% per year over the past 5 years, new hydropower capacity increased at a much more modest annual rate of 3.3%.

Written by Robert Rapier. To read the full article, click here.

The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

Many people still think that it will not be long before renewable energy such as solar and wind becomes outright cheaper than fossil fuels, thereby leading to a rapid expansion of the thin orange slither in the graph below. This is an ideologically very attractive notion, but, as discussed in this article, it is questionable whether this is in fact physically possible.

So, what does renewable energy have to accomplish before it can compete with fossil fuels in an open market? Well, in short, we will have to overcome the diffuse and intermittent nature of renewable energy more efficiently than we can overcome the declining reserve qualities and unrefined nature of fossil fuels.

In other words, renewables need to overcome the following two challenges in order to displace fossil fuels in a fair market:

Solar panels and wind turbines need to become cheaper than raw fossil fuels. This is the challenge posed by the diffuse nature of renewables.
Storage solutions need to become cheaper than fossil fuel refineries (e.g. power plants). This is the challenge posed by the intermittent nature of renewables.

Written by Schalk Cloete. To read the full article, click here.

BP Calls Off Sale of US Wind Business

New Hampshire, USA — Four months after announcing it would put its U.S. wind business on the auction block, BP reportedly is calling off the prospective sale, saying that it has determined that the timing isn’t right — though the fate of that business remains undetermined.

After receiving an undisclosed number of bids, “the company has determined that now is not the right time to sell the business,” said Matt Hartwig, a spokesperson for BP America and its Alternative Energy business, in an e-mail exchange. He wouldn’t address details of the sale process, its participants, or the bids that BP received, which he characterized as “commercially sensitive.”

BP’s wind businesses here in the U.S. encompasses 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity spread across 16 farms in operation across nine states (Texas, Indiana, Colorado, Kansas, California, South Dakota, Idaho, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania), with another ~2 GW of projects in development “nearly shovel-ready,” according to the company.

Written by James Montgomery. To read the full article, click here.

Solar Power to the People

At 9 o’clock Friday morning, some 20,000 people will start arriving at a vast field in Custer, Wis., to talk about wind power. No joke. Get this: Thousands of souls have been coming here every summer for 23 years to talk — really talk — about wind power.

Here is the Energy Fair, a three-day convergence of homesteaders, hippies, ecotopians and more than a few end-times enthusiasts, staged by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. Beyond the lecture titled “MacGyver Windmills” (that is, devices fabricated from junk), a $15 day pass gets you admission to 200 other workshops. Would you like to learn about home algae cultivation and humane rabbit husbandry (for meat and wool)? How about advanced photovoltaic systems and D.I.Y. biodiesel?

Written by MICHAEL TORTORELLO. To read the full article, click here