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.

Advertisements

The industry can no longer simply focus on the benefits of shale gas

George Mitchell, the pioneer of extracting shale gas economically, who died on July 26th, rarely talked to the press. In May 2012 The Economist conducted a written interview with him:

Fracking is an old technique, as is horizontal drilling. Geologists had long been aware of the huge reserves of shale gas. What made you decide that you could use the former to tap the latter? Had others before you tried and failed to make fracking and horizontal drilling economically viable?

Big oil companies knew the upside potential of shale gas, and many were working to economically extract the gas from the shale without much success. Many people were trying to make fracking work better, but they weren’t able to get the cells to give up the gas.

We knew there was gas in some of these shale fields. We would measure the volume of gas in the reservoir and it was very high methane (25-40% methane). You could get to the methane, but you couldn’t get it to leave the cells until you fractured it, and that was the major breakthrough.

Written by S.W. To read the full article, click here.

Tilting towards windmills

THE 1996 Olympics in Atlanta did not all go IBM’s way. For all its technical prowess, the computer giant managed to bungle the reporting of some competition results. On the plus side, it was at the Games that IBM first deployed Deep Thunder, a novel computer model which warned the organisers when and where to expect inclement weather—and correctly predicted that a thunderstorm forecast by other meteorologists would not affect the closing ceremony. Deep Thunder has since gone through countless iterations, or which the latest, called the Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecaster (HyREF) IBM unveiled on August 12th.

As its name suggests, HyREF is meant to make it easier to incorporate wind energy into the grid. Owing to Aeolian vagaries, it is hard for operators of wind farms to forecast output accurately—or indeed to work out where best to erect turbines in the first place. The ability to predict where wind will blow and how hard is therefore crucial if wind power is to live up to its boosters’ hopes.

IBM’s system increases this all-important predictability using a handful of sophisticated technologies. Clever sensors mounted on individual turbines gauge wind speed, temperature and direction. Their readings are combined with data from traditional measurement towers equipped with meteorological instruments, as well as past-weather data. Indeed, Brad Gammons, who runs IBM’s energy and utilities arm, says that most of the progress since Deep Thunder has taken place over the last two years, mainly thanks to the rapidly growing availability of information, both real-time and historical. In particular, Mr Gammons says, this is true for China, the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitter, but also its biggest investor in renewable energy.

Written by H.G. 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.

Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up

Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest and northernmost island, is known for its beautiful wild nature, delicious seafood, and fresh produce. Now another specialty is taking root: Large-scale megasolar power plants that take advantage of the island’s unique geography.

A new renewable energy incentive program has Japan on track to become the world’s leading market for solar energy, leaping past China and Germany, with Hokkaido at the forefront of the sun power rush. In a densely populated nation hungry for alternative energy, Hokkaido is an obvious choice to host projects, because of the availability of relatively large patches of inexpensive land. Unused industrial park areas, idle land inside a motor race circuit, a former horse ranch—all are being converted to solar farms. (See related, “Pictures: A New Hub for Solar Tech Blooms in Japan.”)

But there’s a problem with this boom in Japan’s north. Although one-quarter of the largest solar projects approved under Japan’s new renewables policy are located in Hokkaido, the island accounts for less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity demand. Experts say Japan will need to act quickly to make sure the power generated in Hokkaido flows to where it is needed. And that means modernizing a grid that currently doesn’t have capacity for all the projects proposed, installing a giant battery—planned to be the world’s largest—to store power when the sun isn’t shining, and ensuring connections so power can flow across the island nation.

Written by Yvonne Chang. To read the full article, click here.

White House solar panels being installed this week

After nearly three years, the White House began installing solar panels on the First Family’s residence this week, a White House official confirmed Thursday.

The Obama administration had pledged in October 2010 to put solar panels on the White House as a sign of the president’s commitment to renewable energy.

The White House official, who asked not to be identified because the installation is in process, wrote in an e-mail the project is “a part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building.”

At the time of the 2010 announcement, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu and White House Council on Environmental Quality chair Nancy Sutley said the administration would conduct a competitive bidding process to buy between 20 and 50 solar panels. The officials did not identify the supplier or cost of the project, but wrote the White House “has begun installing American-made solar panels” and the initiative, “which will help demonstrate that historic buildings can incorporate solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades, is estimated to pay for itself in energy savings over the next eight years.”

Written by  Juliet Eilperin. To read the full article, click here.