Archive | Renewable energy

California energy agencies: Water cutbacks threaten the grid

California supply and demand, 7/5/14. Orange is available resources, dark blue is current demand. Right now things are fine. In the peak of summer demand can be 75 GW, and that when it could get dicey this year. Credit: caiso.com

California supply and demand, 7/5/14.  Right now things are fine. In the peak of summer, demand can be 75000 MW, and that’s when it could get dicey this year. Credit: caiso.com

The California drought threatens energy supplies with a triple whammy; less natural-gas generation, less hydropower, increased chances of wildfires on transmission lines. In an unprecedented move, the big three energy regulators in California have told the Water Resources Control Board that their planned water rationing threatens electricity generation.

Water cutbacks to gas-fired steam plants puts 1.1 GW of generation at risk during the summer when it is needed the most, said the California Energy Commission, the Public Utilities Commission and California ISO. Also, hydropower generation could drop by as much as 1.6 GW during the hot season. Further, the continuing extreme drought heightens the possibility of wildfires in remote areas where major transmission lines are.

The shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station complicates things further as its steady baseline of 2 GW of power is no longer available. California does have substantial amount of solar and wind energy now. However, it can’t possibly fill the gap especially since, by definition, renewable energy is generated intermittently.

Bloomberg

The agencies recommended “a mechanism allowing for swift response in the event of an actual or threatened emergency to California’s electricity grid or supplies,”

CalWatchdog

This summer California is caught on the horns of a dilemma of drought and energy. If it curtails water deliveries to agricultural users with junior water rights, as planned, this will conserve water needed for carryover into 2015. But doing so may also result in threatening the reliability of the electric grid for the summer of 2014.

California decision-makers may be facing the quandary of holding water for fish this year, for farmers next year — or releasing it this summer for steam power plants to keep alive grandmothers on respirators and dialysis machines.

Posted in Renewable energy, Water

US solar seriously threatened by trade war, rates, ITC extension

Credit: freedigitalphotos.net user:dan

Credit: freedigitalphotos.net user:dan

The US solar industry faces three major challenges, any one of which would be problematic.

  • The US is imposing tariffs on Chinese PV panels, forcing prices here at home up. This trade war is pointless, as most trader wars usually are. Higher prices will definitely slow the growth of solar.
  • Utilities are fighting distributed solar and will be fought at the local level at public rate hearings. They can impose new fees for home solar and in general make it difficult for rooftop solar to be economical.
  • The Investment Tax Credit has helped. However, it needs to be extended to at least 2018. Virtually all other forms of energy get subsidies and tax breaks. renewables should too.

The solution is for all solar companies to join together/ They can’t fight these problems on their own.

These three issues — the trade war, utility rate design and the extension of the ITC — impact every solar firm in the country and every firm in their supply chain,” he said, urging those solar companies who haven’t joined SEIA to do so in order to help win these battles.

“These issues cannot be dealt with successfully by individual companies.”

Posted in Renewable energy

Market share of hybrid cars falls, market share is tiny

hybrid-car-market-share

Even with increasing numbers of hybrid models on the market, 47 in the US, market share for hybrids is falling and is now at a minuscule 3%. It may be that hybrids won’t ever be more than niche vehicles.

I am the original owner of a 2001 Toyota Prius. It’s been a great car and I’ll drive it until the wheels fall off. The electric motor battery needed replacement at 105,000 miles and was just out of warranty so it cost $2,700. Other than that, there’s been nothing but routine maintenance.

Technological improvements in gas, diesel, plug-in hybrids, and EVs have eroded the MGP advantage of hybrids, which probably accounts for the decline in sales. Everyone else has caught up with hybrids. 45 MPG isn’t that big a deal now.

Hybrid cars have always been seen as “transitional” vehicles, and I’m certainly not ready to say the market has already moved past them. But now that there are more options in the diesel, EV, and compact market that appeal to MPG fanatics, the glossy sheen of hybrid cars may be finally wearing off.

Posted in Energy conservation, Renewable energy

If fuel cell vehicles aren’t green, neither are plug-in hybrids

fuel cell

Fuel cell vehicles are powered by hydrogen. Hydrogen comes almost entirely from natural gas fracking. Plus, FCVs wear out far faster than internal combustion vehicles. Elon Mush could have invested in FCV, didn’t, and says “fuel cell is so bullshit, it’s a load of rubbish.” However, any criticism of fuel cell vehicles using hydrocarbons indirectly for energy must also apply to battery electric vehicles. After all, a plug-in hybrid in the US is almost certainly using power generated by using natural gas or coal.

“Hydrogen is a fossil fuel. 95% of US production is from natural gas, most of the remainder from the gasification of coal, and it will not change for the better.”

“Hydrogen is locked by the force of economics to natural gas and natural gas is increasingly locked by the same force to the practice of on-shore hydraulic fracturing of shales. Hydrogen is the Hydro in fossil HydroCarbons and hence hydrogen cannot be extracted from the ground without simultaneously extracting and disposing of carbon as CO2.”

As for creating hydrogen via renewable energy:

Creating hydrogen via electricity is extremely inefficient and doesn’t compare with today’s batteries.

Well, as mentioned, those batteries are probably by dirty energy too.

FCVs do output water only and have no other emissions. However “Imagine all the cars in your city emitting water vapor, and consider what that might do to your local climate.”

Posted in Renewable energy

Solar freakin’ roadways would be hugely expensive and won’t work

even-cooler

There are so many things wrong with solar freakin’ roadways; like cost, practicality, and durability, it’s difficult to know where to start. Here’s are some of the major points. Watch the video for more.

Price is a huge issue. Glass panels themselves are expensive. On top of that must be added the price of embedded processors and electronics in the panel, the ginormous cost of connecting the panels to the grid along the roadways, the steep cost of burying power and data lines, and of course, actually building the roads. New electrical infrastructure would need to be build alongside solar panel roads so the power could be sent elsewhere. This inevitably means new, big transmission lines everywhere.

Solar roadways must provide traction, just like regular roads. Will wet or icy glass road panels provide proper traction for braking and turning? Want to bet your life on that during an ice storm when the semi in front of you starts fish-tailing? The raised parts of the glass panels will wear down after prolonged usage, making the surface slippery indeed. Dirt and gravel is stronger and more abrasive than glass and will accelerate the process. Glass will become opaque, cutting down on efficiency of power creation.

Solar roadways cannot melt snow off them in winter during storms because the roads will be covered with snow and thus no power would be created. Plus, melting ice takes large amounts of energy. Snow plows are much more efficient. But would snow plows even be able to be used on solar roadways without damaging the glass due to scraping? I doubt it.

Tiles will inevitably come loose. Water will seep into the road, causing erosion. Asphalt doesn’t have this problem, and is 99% recycled now.

Driving a little bitty tractor on the glass panels as a demo is not sufficient. Try it with hundreds of loaded semis each day for several months, then see what the road looks like.

The Indegogo video shows the inventors shoveling waste colored glass into a wheelbarrow as an example of recycling. However, colored glass is not what is needed for solar panels. The glass needs to be clear. Further, they clearly do not have the facilities needed to turn waste glass into roadway tiles at any kind of scale.

Colored LEDs will be almost impossible to see during bright sunlight. Light pollution at night from thousands of roads with sparkly lights will be severe. Would you want to live on a street that had ever-changing lights all night long? Didn’t think so. And why do roads need lights on them anyway?

Parking lots with solar panels as the pavement seem to be a swell idea until your realize that cars will be parked on top of the panels during the day, thus cutting way down of power generation.

Solar roadways are a wonderful idea. However, they are completely impractical.

Posted in News, Renewable energy, Solar power

S&P quantifies climate change risk for nations

climate-change-vulnerability

Credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s rates nations vulnerability to climate change based on population living below 16 feet elevation, how climate change will affect their agriculture, and whether the country is preparing. This is not a theoretical exercise. Sooner or later these findings will impact bond ratings. Countries at higher risk will pay more interest on their bonds, insurance comapnies will pay more in claims, and utilities will be negatively impacted.

Interestingly, the US, Canada, and Europe are among the least affected areas. India and Indonesia are among the most severely threatened.

Posted in Renewable energy

Grease rustlers. Hippies wanting free biofuel or organized crime?

grease

Restaurant grease is highly prized, because it can be used to create biofuel. Businesses that used to charge to pick up grease sometimes now pay for it instead – if it’s still there and hasn’t been stolen by grease rustlers, that is.

“You can pull in and drive off in five minutes. It can be $500 a night, $2,500 a week,” said Carrillo-Miranda, 37, a beefy man in a black T-shirt and jean shorts. “Even if your truck gets impounded, that’s $500. You’re still ahead $2,000 for the week.”

Interestingly, many legit grease haulers say they got started by stealing grease. There is a technology war going on too. Storage barrels are getting harder to break into, locks are stronger, and video cameras can record thefts.

Posted in Renewable energy

Floating solar power on wastewater treatment plant has big advantages

floating-solar-power

A wastewater treatment plant in Australia will use floating solar photovoltaic panels to decrease evaporation and to increase energy. The water cools the panels, allowing them to last longer and work at greater efficiency. The panels will cover 90% of the water surface, cutting down on evaporation. Wow. A double win. Let’s hope this technology spreads to water treatment panels everywhere and maybe even to reservoirs.

The solar panels are supported by buoyant polyethelene pipe and steel pontoons and construction is not all that different from rooftop solar.

 

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

Solar panels in space could beam power back to earth via microwave

llustration: John MacNeill

llustration: John MacNeill

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency proposes installing ginormous solar panels in space then beaming the power down to us by microwave. If this proves to be feasible, then energy shortages could disappear.

JAXA’s technology road map calls for work to begin on a 100-kW SPS demonstration around 2020. Engineers would verify all the basic technologies required for a commercial space-based solar power system during this stage. Constructing and orbiting a 2-megawatt and then a 200-MW plant, the next likely steps, would require an international consortium, like the ones that fund the world’s giant particle physics experiments. Under such a scenario, a global organization could begin the construction of a 1-GW commercial SPS in the 2030s. It would be difficult and expensive, but the payoff would be immense, and not just in economic terms. Throughout human history, the introduction of each new energy source—beginning with firewood, and moving on through coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power—has caused a revolution in our way of living.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

Solar Wind Energy Tower may be built near Mexico border. I’m skeptical

solar-wind

The Solar Wind Energy Tower, promoters say, can produce power 24/7 in hot dry areas using recycled water. Pumps spray water at the top of a ginormous 1,200 foot diameter, 2,250 ft tall tower. Hot, dry air evaporates the water. The air inside the tower becomes cooler and heavier than outside air, creating wind speeds up to 50 mph, which then powers multiple turbines. San Luis, Arizona has just approved construction of a $1.5 billion structure.

Can this be built? Will the company find financing and pass regulatory and NIMBY hurdles? We shall see. Those commenting in an article by The Atlantic are openly skeptical, especially since the technology has not been proven at scale. And, um, what happens when birds get sucked into the turbines?

So, in this tower the moist air is heavier than the dry air? When did they learn to do that? Moist air used to be less dense where the airplanes fly.

I find it hard to believe people are falling for this.

“When water vapor content increases in the moist air the amount of Oxygen and Nitrogen decreases per unit volume and the density decreases because the mass is decreasing.”

The farce is strong with this one

From the company:

Solar Wind Energy’s Tower is unique in that it does not have any operational limitations in terms of time. It’s capable of operating around the clock, 24 hours per day, and seven days per week. Whereas there are operational limitations with solar collectors that work only when the sun shines, and with wind turbines that work only when the wind blows.

It also has the ability to be operated with virtually no carbon footprint, fuel consumption, or waste production. It generates clean, cost effective and efficient electrical power without damaging effects.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power, Wind turbines

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