Tom Randall for Bloomberg: Oil prices have fallen by more than half since July. Just five years ago, such a plunge in fossil fuels would have put the renewable-energy industry on bankruptcy watch. Today: Meh. Here are seven reasons why humanity’s transition to cleaner energy won’t be sidetracked by cheap oil. 1. The Sun Doesn't Compete With Oil Oil is for cars; renewables are for electricity. The two don’t really compete. Oil is just too expensive to power the grid, even with prices well below $50 a barrel. Instead, solar competes with coal, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear power. Solar, the newest to the mix, makes up less than 1 percent of the electricity market today but will be the world’s biggest single source by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency. Demand is so strong that the biggest limit to installations this year may be the availability of panels. Cont'd...
Boston Globe: Are falling energy prices and the collapse of the Cape Wind project undermining other offshore wind projects? A federal government auction of four leases to build wind farms off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard drew little interest, selling for a fraction of what previous auctions raised recently. Just two of 12 qualified bidders participated in the auction Thursday by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to sell wind development rights for a 1,161-square-mile swath of ocean about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Two of the four leases did not receive any bids. One of the winning bidders, the renewable energy company RES Americas, paid $281,285 to lease 187,523 acres, while the second, New Jersey-based MW Offshore LLC, paid $166,886 for 166,886 acres. That works out to just $1.50 and $1 per acre, respectively, for each lease. In contrast, Deepwater Wind New England LLC paid about $23 an acre in 2013 with its winning bid of $3.8 million for a nearby stretch of ocean closer to Rhode Island. The federal ocean energy bureau has also sold offshore leases off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. Despite the poor showing, officials noted the new leases would nearly double the amount of acreage the bureau has leased for offshore wind power through competitive sales.
From The Economic Times: Big-ticket announcements involving American loans for renewable energy projects, green bonds, venture capital and pension funds are on the cards after US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to collaborate in the area of clean energy and combat climate change. Officials at the renewable energy ministry said deals would be negotiated at a high-profile event next month, when Modi will kick off a gathering of industry leaders, bankers, investors and central bank officials from the US, India, Europe and other regions. A team of senior US officials and executives from funding agencies, ministries and companies will interact with Indian officials from the finance ministry, Reserve Bank of India and other agencies to help India meet its ambitious target of adding 1 lakh megawatt of clean energy, which is 40% of the country's total generation capacity now, at a cost of Rs 6 lakh crore.
NY Times: For more than a year now, an enormous solar thermal power plant has been humming along in the Arizona desert, sending out power as needed, even well after sunset. The plant, called Solana, was developed by the Spanish energy and technology company Abengoa and has succeeded in meeting an elusive solar goal — producing electricity when the sun is not shining — and displacing fossil-fuel-based power in the grid. “With the sun going down at 6 or 7 o’clock at night, all the other forms of solar production are essentially going to zero,” said Brad Albert, general manager for resource management at Arizona Public Service, the state’s main utility, “while Solana is still producing at full power capability. It just adds a whole lot of value to us because our customer demand is so high even after the sun goes down.” Indeed, Abengoa opened another mammoth plant on Friday in the Mojave Desert in California that uses the same approach. But despite the technology’s success, Abengoa and other developers say they do not have plans at the moment to build more such plants in the United States. And that is largely because of uncertainty surrounding an important tax credit worth 30 percent of a project’s cost. Although the subsidy, known as the Investment Tax Credit, is to remain in place until the end of 2016, when it will drop to 10 percent, that does not give developers enough time to get through the long process of securing land, permits, financing and power-purchase agreements, executives and analysts say.
America's wind installations grew six-fold in 2014, making the United States the world's second-largest wind market behind China, according to new figures out today from research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance. US installations reached 4.7GW, thanks to the extension of the Production Tax Credit in January 2013. The extension allowed projects to qualify by starting construction before the deadline. While the US returned to growth, China continued its pattern of record-setting installations up 38% from 2013. In 2014, China installed 20.7GW – over four times more than the US – and more than 40% of all new capacity worldwide. For perspective, China has been the world's largest wind market for six years, since overtaking the US. China now has 96GW of grid-connected wind energy capacity, or more capacity than the entire power fleet of the United Kingdom. Wind energy is the country's third-largest power source behind coal and hydropower, and ahead of nuclear. China's banner year was the result of a policy-driven rush to build, as onshore tariffs are expected to lower this year. The top five Chinese turbine manufacturers Goldwind, Guodian United Power, Envision, Ming Yang, and Sewind led the market with a combined 12.4GW, or 60% of total installed capacity.
From TechCrunch: Amazon today announced that it is working with the Pattern Energy Group to construct and operate a 150 megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana. The new wind farm will go online in about a year and the expectation is that it will supply at least 500,000 megawatt hours of wind power annually. That’s enough to power about 46,000 U.S. homes, but the “Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge)” — that’s the full name of what was previously called the “Fowler Ridge IV Wind Project” — will only be used to power Amazon’s AWS data centers. Amazon is not disclosing the financial details of this project, but Pattern Energy notes that this is a 13-year agreement. As Amazon announced last November, its long-term goal is “to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage for the global AWS infrastructure footprint.” That’s a noble goal, but given that there is no date associated with these plans, it’s a bit hard to hold Amazon accountable for it. For now, Amazon offers its users three carbon-neutral regions: US West (Oregon), EU (Frankfurt) and its AWS GovCloud.
Geoffery Styles, The Energy Collective - Intuition suggests that the current sharp correction in oil prices must be bad for the deployment of renewable and other alternative energy technologies. As the Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street column noted Wednesday, EV makers like Tesla face a wall of cheap gasoline. Meanwhile, ethanol producers are squeezed between falling oil and rising corn prices. Yet although individual projects and companies may struggle in a low-oil-price environment, the sector as a whole should benefit from the economic stimulus cheap oil provides. The biggest threat to the kind of large-scale investment in low-carbon energy foreseen by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others is not cheaper oil, but a global recession and/or financial crisis that would also threaten the emerging consensus on a new UN climate deal. We have already seen renewable energy subsidies cut or revoked in Europe as the EU has sought to address unsustainable deficits and shaky member countries on its periphery. Earlier this week the World Bank reduced its forecast of economic growth in 2015 by 0.4% as the so-called BRICs slow and the Eurozone flirts with recession and deflation. The Bank's view apparently factors in the stimulus from global oil prices, without which things would look worse. The US Energy Information Administration's latest short-term forecast cut the expected average price of Brent crude oil for this year to $58 per barrel. That's a drop of $41 compared to the average for 2014, which was already $10/bbl below 2013. Across the 93 million bbl/day of global demand the IEA expects this year, that works out to a $1.4 trillion savings for the countries that are net importers of oil--including the US. This equates to just under 2% of global GDP. Cont'd...
As the wind whipped off the East River Wednesday morning, Sims Municipal Recycling officially launched the city's tallest and only commercial-scale wind turbine, at its recycling center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The 160-foot-tall turbine has the capacity to produce 100 kilowatts, or 4 percent of Sims' power needs. Built by Northern Power Systems, the turbine cost roughly $750,000. Tom Outerbridge, Sims' general manager for recycling, said he hoped the turbine would be the first of many for the city. "On a practical level, it's offsetting our electricity costs," he said during an event to christen the turbine. "For the city, I like to think it's important that it's trying to break new ground and start to carve a path for wind projects to take off." The project took roughly four years to complete, mainly because of permitting. New York State Energy and Research Development kicked in about $130,000 as part of a statewide incentive program.
From ThinkProgress: A new study by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center finds that in all but 4 of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., installing a fully-financed 5 kilowatt solar panel system makes more financial sense than investing in a popular stock market index fund. Further, the same system would beat the costs of buying energy from local utilities in 42 of those 50 cities. “(S)olar is now not just an option for the rich, but a real opportunity for anyone looking to take greater control over their monthly utility bills and make a long-term, relatively low-risk investment,” concludes the study which was done under funding by the U.S. Department of Energy. A key qualifier in this good news study is that the benefits of installing residential solar photovoltaic systems are greatest when homeowners finance the systems (at an assumed annual interest rate of 5 percent) rather than buying them upfront. And the study does not investigate the availability of such loans. The study finds that in upfront purchases of solar, residents in just 14 out of the 50 largest U.S. cities would pay less for electricity than if they buy from their local utility. That upfront investment would be a better investment than the broad stock market index fund in 20 of the 50 cities. Cont'd....
Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal this week to significantly boost the amount of energy California derives from renewable sources could reinvigorate the state's utility-scale solar and wind industries, as well as launch another land rush in the Mojave Desert. In his inaugural address, Brown didn't say how the state's Renewables Portfolio Standard could be raised to 50% by 2030 — the previous benchmark was 33% by 2020 — but his commitment was clear: "This is exciting, it is bold, and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system," the governor said. He also outlined a plan to reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by 50% and double the energy efficiency of new buildings in the state. The reverberation was instantaneous. "Is it significant? Absolutely. Will it stimulate the market? Absolutely," said Jerry R. Bloom of the Los Angeles law firm Winston & Strawn, who guides renewable energy developers through the financing and permitting processes.
World clean energy investment rebounded strongly in 2014, boosted by demand for large-scale and rooftop solar photovoltaics on the back of its greatly improved competitiveness, and by the financing of a record $19.4bn of offshore wind projects. Authoritative annual data, published today by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, show that global investment in clean energy was $310bn last year. This was up 16% from a revised $268.1bn in 2013, and more than five times the figure of $60.2bn attained a decade earlier, in 2004, albeit still 2% below the all-time record of $317.5bn reached in 2011. The jump in investment in 2014 reflected strong performances in many of the main centres for clean energy deployment, with China up 32% to a record $89.5bn, the US up 8% to $51.8bn (its highest figure since 2012), Japan up 12% to $41.3bn, Canada up 26% at $9bn, Brazil up 88% at $7.9bn, India up 14% to $7.9bn, and South Africa up 5% at $5.5bn. Europe, despite the flurry in offshore wind, was a relative dull spot overall, investment there edging 1% higher to $66bn.
The United Kingdom blew past previous wind power records in 2014 while Germany generated a record amount of electricity from wind in December, setting the stage for 2015 to bring more industry growth across Europe. Exactly how quickly it grows, however, is contingent upon several political and regulatory decisions to come. Using statistics from the U.K.’s National Grid, the trade association RenewableUK found that wind generated enough electricity to power just over 25 percent of U.K. homes in 2014 — a 15 percent increase from 2013. Wind turbines provided 9.3 percent of the U.K’s total electricity supply last year, a 1.5 percent boost from 2013. “It’s great to start 2015 with some good news about the massive quantities of clean electricity we’re now generating from wind,” said RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith. In December, Germany generated more wind power, 8.9 terawatt-hours, than in any previous month. According to the IWR renewable energy research institute, this record will be overtaken in 2015 as more offshore wind farms come online.
ydney-based energy investment group Tag Pacific has today announced it has won a landmark deal to deliver Australia’s largest energy storage system to be operated alongside the University of Queensland-owned Gatton solar power plant in south-east Queensland. The battery storage project, valued at around $2 million, was won by Tag’s wholly owned power business MPower, which is also working with Rio Tinto and First Solar in the remote town of Weipa, Queensland, to build an ARENA-supported 1.7MW solar PV project, which will serve a remote bauxite mining operation and could be expanded to 6.7MW The newly announced energy storage project, will be grid connected; a slightly different tack for MPower, which has tended to specialise in remote, and off-grid solar plus storage hybrid systems.
Some people complain that solar panels and wind turbines are so unattractive, they’d prefer not to see them at all. To them we offer New Wind, alternative energy generators that look like trees. The 36-foot-tall steel structure is perfect for urban environments, where a conventional wind turbine might not fit. Seventy-two artificial leaves that work as micro-turbines adorn the branches and spin silently on a vertical axis. Cables and generators have been integrated into the leaves and branches in a way that puts them out of sight and sound. The beautiful and functional device is the brainchild of French entrepreneur Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, who said the idea for a tree-inspired wind generator came to him one day while sitting in a square, watching the leaves on nearby trees tremble in a breeze. He wondered if energy could be generated in a similar way. Indeed, it can. At the moment, each tree has a power output estimated at 3.1 kW.
2014 brought us plenty of news to be unhappy about. The year had barely begun when a major chemical spill poisoned the water of 300,000 West Virginians, a disaster that left residents worried about the safety of their water for months. Not even a month after the spill, tens of thousands of tons of coal ash spewed into a river in North Carolina, the toxic waste product piling as high as five feet in some places. 2014 saw crippling drought in California, devastating flooding in India, and climatic changes that threw many members of the animal world into disarray. To top it all off, 2014 could very well turn out to be the hottest year on record. But 2014 saw some good news too — and a lot of it was in the form of advancements in renewable energy. Here are eight news stories from 2014 to remind you that, at least for the renewable energy sector, this past year wasn’t so bad. World’s First Solar Road Opens In Netherlands Researchers Reach A Record In Solar Conversion Efficiency Scotland Has An Amazing Month Of Wind Energy Production World’s Largest Solar Plant Comes Online The World’s Largest Tidal Array Gets The Green Light Researchers Continue To Develop New Ways To Use Solar World’s Largest and Most Powerful Wind Turbine Comes Online Solar Car Hits Speed Record, Could Soon Hit The Streets Read More...
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