Posted by Big Gav
The best phrase of the day is from Rob at CleanTechVC in his look at the demand response technology sector - "Negawatts On Demand".
Perhaps the hottest market few have heard of right now is Demand Response, which we've discussed -- often -- here (but which I find more often than not is still unfamiliar to anyone who isn't a big cleantech geek like yours truly)... Negawatts-on-demand is proving to be an important new tool for generation- and transmission-constrained utilities.
The recent successful IPOs of Comverge and EnerNOC have raised the profile of the sector a bit, and brought in a significant amount of capital available for potential acquisitions. What is less well-known, furthermore, is that two additional factors are poised to drive a wave of consolidation in the still-emerging industry:
1. While a couple of the DR companies have gotten all of the attention lately, the DR capacity aggregator segment (the companies like Comverge and EnerNOC that are contracting with utilities to provide the negawatts-on-demand) is actually a pretty crowded space, with a lot of other companies (some quite large and established with good existing utility relationships) angling to get in on the action as well.
2. While there has been a bit of a "land rush" among DR capacity aggregators lately, their actual technical ability to automate the delivery of capacity on demand has fallen behind a bit -- when the utilities call for the negawatts to be provided later this summer, there will be a lot of frantic phone calls and text messages flying around, in a very manual attempt to get each building's facility managers to go turn down thermostats or turn on backup diesel generators. ...
The WSJ Energy Roundup has a post on the Dean of Columbia Business School recommending a carbon tax (video at the link). Someone from the Bush administration who understands economics - amazing.
At yesterday’s Deals & Deal Makers Conference in New York, Glenn Hubbard, the Columbia Business School Dean and former Bush administration economic adviser, argued in favor of a carbon tax. “I believe that technology is the vital solution to fixing the problems of climtae change,” he told the Journal’s David Wessel in the video embedded at left.
“But businesspeople don’t innovate because it feels good; they innovate because there’s a return to that innovation. If you want a return to that innovation, you will have to price it – you will need to put a price on carbon, which means having, either through a cap-and-trade system or an explicit tax, some incentive to innovate carbon-saving technology.”
In the video, Hubbard also says he thinks it’s “quite likely” that a cap-and-trade scheme and/or a carbon tax will be implemented soon.
Energy Roundup also has a post on western oil companies leaving Venezuela - "Hugo to Exxon, Conoco: Don’t Let the Door Hit You…".
Raul Gallegos reports from Caracas, Venezuela, that Hugo Chavez is hardly crying himself to sleep at night over Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips leaving the country:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appeared Thursday to shrug off a decision by two U.S. oil companies to leave multi-billion dollar oil projects in the Andean country, saying they’re welcome to go. “Two days ago two U.S. companies left; they didn’t want to accept our laws. Well, if they don’t want to accept that this is a sovereign country, they can leave, the door is open, they left,” Chavez said in a televised speech during his visit to Russia.
The president’s words mark the first time he has referred to the heavy crude projects in the Orinoco river belt, since Petroleos de Venezuela, PdVSA, signed new deals with partners Tuesday. Oil majors Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips chose to bow out of their investments, a decision many saw as an indication they were dissatisfied with a reduced stake written into the new deals.
Early this year Chavez launched a nationalization campaign that included giving PdVSA majority stakes in four heavy-oil upgrading projects in the Orinoco area. Other foreign partners, namely Chevron, Statoil, Total Oil and BP, accepted the new terms as minority partners with the state in control. The leftist leader, who has cemented ties with countries such as Russia, Iran and Cuba, pointed out that Venezuela’s allies would be more than willing to do business with the oil-rich nation.
After Gutenberg has a post reporting that growth of renewable energy in Spain is led by wind.
27% of Spain’s total electricity supply comes from wind power. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate balked at setting a Renewable Portfolio Standards at 15%.
Jeremy Elton Jacquot1, writing for Treehugger from Los Angeles, makes note of the rapid rise in popularity of wind power in Spain, so much so, that Spain has become the world’s second largest producer of wind energy. Germany is the country where the largest amount of wind energy is produced. In a short time, Spain has surpassed countries, such as Denmark, which obtains 20% of the country’s electric power from wind.
Repeating a previous announcement, Jacquot elaborates on the spectacular growth and development of the country’s renewable energy industry. As Treehugger previously had observed, as of March 20, wind provided a whopping 27% of Spain’s total electricity supply. Such “a historic high [was] reached by pumping energy from 72% of its total installed wind capacity.”This is in great part due to the big investments made by Spanish energy companies and the government’s early adoption of favorable tariff incentives that provide a guarantee to producers that all their energy will be purchased. “Spain has created a cluster of knowledge in clean energy that sets it apart from most other countries,” said Miguel Salis, a private equity manager. “This has enabled Spanish groups to invest successfully in other markets where there is huge potential for growth.”
The poster congratulated firms that made crucial, early investments in core technologies. The payoff, in some cases, has meant becoming world leaders with some of the largest global market shares in their respective industries, e.g.:
1. Gamesa, a manufacturer and installer of wind turbines,
2. Iberdrola, a power group,
3. Acciona Energia, a wind park developer.
The CEO of EWEA (European Wind Energy Association) forecasts continued strong growth in global wind energy market, i.e., an estimated 151,000 MW of wind power will be added worldwide by 2014.As Europe’s second most mountainous region (after Switzerland) and one of its least densely-populated states, Spain was the ideal location to mass-produce and install wind turbines and photovoltaic panels without causing too much public outcry. It all just comes to show what can be accomplished with the right government policies and a business climate willing to embrace change and risk.
With such progress, the European Union is well on its way to meeting the goals of a large-scale program to establish a sustainable and affordable energy supply throughout Europe.
Grist notes that California is no longer leading the pack on wind energy in "The Long and Windy Road".
Last year, California suffered the ultimate indignity in its quest to be the "greenest state." It was passed by red Texas -- the oil heartland -- for the title of state with the most wind-power generating capacity.
The numbers get even more depressing. Last year, California's wind capacity grew at a slower rate than any of the other top 10 wind-producing states. Texas's wind production grew at a 39 percent clip and (What's the Matter With) Kansas' grew by 38 percent; California managed relatively meager 10 percent growth. That still leaves the Golden State as the No. 2 wind producer in the country, but it is clearly in a slump.
Why has California blown its lead (so to speak)? The state was an early champion of wind farms. During the 1980s, when Texans thought only of oil and gas drilling, California started putting in windmills. By 1985, turbines had sprouted in three key areas: Altamont, east of San Francisco; Tehachapi, near Bakersfield; and San Gorgonio, in the far south. The energy crisis of the 1970s, plus regulatory initiatives in California, had galvanized action.
Ironically, California's early pioneering is part of its trouble. Regulations, well-developed through the years, make it hard for developments to get off the ground. Hal Romanowitz of Oak Creek Energy Systems, a Mojave-based wind developer focused on Tehachapi, describes California as "probably the most difficult state in the country to build in." Nancy Rader of the California Wind Energy Association notes that land is quite expensive in California -- and that while Texas provides property-tax exemptions to people with windmills on their land, California does not.
A big barrier is birds. Whereas Texan officials publicly scoff at avian travails, California developers have been cowed by lawsuits over bird deaths. The technology of 20 years ago -- using small blades that rotated very quickly -- did indeed spell the end for many birds. This January, Alameda County settled a lawsuit with Golden Gate Audubon Society and others concerning bird deaths at Altamont Pass. The wind industry is supposed to cut the number of raptor deaths there in half by the end of 2009. (Golden Gate says that up to 4,700 birds die each year in the Altamont windmills.) Development at Altamont remains basically frozen because of bird issues, though a few hundred megawatts have gone up in nearby Solano County, near the Sacramento River delta -- including several 3-MW turbines that are the largest wind structures in the country.
The wind industry says that technology has improved: turbines nowadays have longer blades, which rotate more slowly than the old types while generating more energy. That is supposedly good news for birds. Also, the California Energy Commission is soon to come out with new (voluntary) guidelines for reducing impacts on birds and bats from wind turbines, which may help clarify matters for wind developers.
But as if birds were not enough, there is the military. Turbines are commonly a few hundred feet high, not only making them a potential hazard for pilots in low-fly zones, but raising concerns about radar interference. Travis Air Force Base in Solano County recently held up a wind project at the last minute over radar issues. In Kern County, which includes Tehachapi, parts of the area were "out of play" for a few years, says Rader, because the military effectively barred anything above 200 feet. And in San Bernardino, there is "a huge amount of good wind land that is just not going to be useable because of military considerations," says Romanowitz.
But the real bottleneck may be lack of transmission capacity -- in particular in Tehachapi, home to the largest undeveloped, onshore wind resource in the state. "Basically since 1986 there has been no additional transmission capacity" in Tehachapi, with the exception of a private transmission line built some 15 years ago, says Romanowitz.
The good news is that California may be poised for a comeback. The state is certainly at the forefront of pushing renewable energy; 20 percent of California's retail electricity is supposed to come from renewables by 2010.
Transmission shortages will soon ease, wind advocates hope. "California is now on a roll to do significant new transmission, significant new generation," says Romanowitz. His company is committed to the Tehachapi region, where a project to build more than 4,000 MW of additional transmission capacity is in the works.
The Energy Blog has a post on a 1.2 MW Tidal Energy Turbine Ready for Installation in Northern Island. It will be interesting to see just how much energy Britain is getting from tidal energy and offshore wind power in a decade from now - I'd be betting on a pretty big percentage - and that means no new nuclear and less Russian gas.
According to a June 6, 2007 press release by Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT), the installation of its 1.2 MW SeaGen commercial tidal energy system will commence during the week of August 20th in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough. SeaGen will be the world’s largest tidal current device and will generate clean and sustainable electricity for approximately 1000 homes. Being a full size prototype, no scale up will be required for future commercial installations.
SeaGen consists of twin axial flow rotors, each of 16m diameter driving a generator via a gearbox much like a hydro-electric turbine or a wind turbine. The twin power units of each system are mounted on wing-like extensions either side of a tubular steel monopile 3m in diameter which is set into a hole drilled into the seabed. SeaGen will generate electricity from the flow in both directions. ...
The SeaGen demonstrator has been developed on the basis of SeaFlow, a 300kW experimental test system installed in 2003 off the north Devon coast. It has taken the subsequent four years for Marine Current Turbines to design and build SeaGen and secure the necessary environmental and planning consents. ...
The basic requirements for cost-effective power generation from tidal streams using MCT's technology are a mean spring peak velocity exceeding about 2.25 to 2.5m/s (4.5 to 5 knots) with a depth of water of 20 to 30m - the red spots on the map show some of the locations meeting these criteria around the UK and northern France.
The Energy Blog also ponders the question "Can U.S. Adopt Europe's Fuel-Efficient Cars?".
The Wall Street Journal had an article in the July 26 issue that poses this problem. It may be worth your read to ponder this question. A few brief excerpts:... car makers in the foreseeable future will likely have to build fleets that average about 35 miles per gallon. But what kinds of cars and trucks will gasoline-guzzling Americans drive to achieve that average?
The answer would seem to lie in Europe, where fuel prices are roughly double U.S. ... more than half of the vehicles ... diesel-powered engines. ... Vehicles in Europe ... average of 35 mpg. ... cars in Europe are more expensive, pound for pound, and typically far less powerful than the vehicles Americans have come to expect.
These statements seem to be the main concerns that Americans may have to face up to, but what are the answers. The WSJ offers a few. ...
The Asia Times has an article on the growth of renewable energy in India - "Earth, wind, solar fire fuel India future".
There has been significant corporate movement to tap the alternative/renewable-energy situation in India.
Last week, a report released by the United Nations Environment Program said global investment in renewable energy, especially solar, wind and biofuel, rose from US$80 billion in 2005 to $100 billion last year, with an especially high rate of growth in developing countries such as India, China and Brazil. Renewable- energy investments in developing countries accounted for 21% of the total.
Recently, British bio-diesel major D1 Oil announced plans to expand operations in India. The company already has agreements with Mohan Breweries and Williamson Magor for jatropha (India's main bio-diesel weed) cultivation and processing. D1 already has 20,000 hectares of jatropha growing in four southern and central Indian states for Mohan Breweries.
The potential of using jatropha for bio-diesel has also attracted Chinese interest in India. A 13-member Chinese delegation was in India recently to explore the possibility of cultivating the weed and exchanging technology.
India's Reliance Industries has already bought large tracts of land in many states for jatropha cultivation, and wind-turbine producer Suzlon Energy Ltd has said it plans to enter the bio-diesel sector in the next four years. Others plunging into the bio-diesel pool include Indian Oil Corp, auto maker Mahindra & Mahindra, which is set to roll out its first biofuel vehicles by the end of the year, and Southern Online Bio Technologies, which has announced plans for a large bio-diesel production unit in Andhra Pradesh in an agreement with Lurgi Lift Sciences of Germany.
However, the enthusiasm for a biofuel future is tempered with not-unfounded fears of jatropha cultivation competing for precious land traditionally devoted to edible agriculture.
CNet has an article on a start up called Stion that has raised funding to develop thin film quantum dot solar cells.
Solar start-up Stion announced Tuesday that it has received $15 million in venture funding in an effort, sources say, to combine nanotechnology with alternative energy.
Formerly called NStructures, Stion plans to make thin-film solar cells that can compare in performance with silicon solar cells but cost less. The big question is what the active material in the solar panels will be that will convert sunlight into electricity. "It is not silicon based. It is not cadmium telluride. It is not CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide)," said Frank Yang, manager of business development. "In due time, we will make it publicly available."
Sources, however, say the company is probably working with quantum dots, tiny particles measuring a few nanometers, or tens of atoms, in diameter. Partly because of their small size, quantum dots can be highly sensitive to physical phenomena and can be used to trap electrons. Since solar panels work by wiggling electrons out of sunlight and transferring them to a wire, quantum dots in theory could work well in solar panels. Quantum dots, however, remain highly experimental.
Howard Lee, Stion's chief technology officer, worked for years as a solar researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and also obtained a number of patents on quantum dots at Ultradot. Stion's CEO is Chet Farris, who once served as president of Shell Solar.
Coming up with a solar material that can be applied to thin foils or sheets of plastic is one of the major goals in the solar industry. Most solar cells on the market today extract electricity from sunlight with silicon and are integrated into glass substrates, which is relatively heavy. First Solar uses a glass substrate too, but the active ingredient in its cells is cadmium telluride, which is currently cheaper. ...
CIGS panels likely won't be as efficient as silicon, but will cost less because CIGS cells can be integrated into inexpensive foils, proponents say. Silicon solar cells on the market today can hit 22 percent efficiency and can go up to 29 percent. CIGS panels have hit 19.5 percent in the lab but will likely hit efficiencies only in the mid- to low-teens when they first hit the market. (Multi-junction solar cells made up of layers of different materials and lenses to concentrate sunlight can boost efficiency rates higher, but also add costs.) ...
John Brown at The Slow Home Report has a list of 10 Steps to a Slow Home (via Energy Bulletin).
1. GO INDEPENDENT
Avoid homes by big developers and large production builders. They are designed for profit not people. Work with independent designers and building contractors instea
2. GO LOCAL
Avoid home finishing products from big box retailers. The standardized solutions they provide cannot fit the unique conditions of your home. Use local retailers, craftspeople, and manufacturers to get a locally appropriate response and support your community.
3. GO GREEN
Stop the conversion of nature into sprawl. Don’t buy in a new suburb. The environmental cost can no longer be justified. Re-invest in existing communities and use sustainable materials and technologies to reduce your environmental footprint.
4. GO NEAR
Reduce your commute. Driving is a waste of time and the new roads and services required to support low density development is a big contributor to climate change. Live close to where you work and play.
5. GO SMALL
Avoid the real estate game of bigger is always better. A properly designed smaller home can feel larger AND work better than a poorly designed big one. Spend your money on quality instead of quantity.
6. GO OPEN
Stop living in houses filled with little rooms. They are dark, inefficient, and don’t fit the complexity of our daily lives. Live in a flexible and adaptive open plan living space with great light and a connection to outdoors.
7. GO SIMPLE
Don’t buy a home that has space you won’t use and things you don’t need. Good design can reduce the clutter and confusion in your life. Create a home that fits the way you really want to live.
8. GO MODERN
Avoid fake materials and the re-creation of false historical styles. They are like advertising images and have little real depth. Create a home in which character comes from the quality of space, natural light and the careful use of good, sustainable materials.
9. GO HEALTHY
Avoid living in a public health concern. Houses built with cheap materials off gas noxious chemicals. Suburbs promote obesity because driving is the only option. Use natural, healthy home materials and building techniques. Live where you can walk to shop, school and work.
10. GO FOR IT
Stop procrastinating. The most important, and difficult, step in the slow home process is the first one that you take. Get informed and then get involved with your home. Every change, no matter how small, is important.
Reuters has an article on a report from the Oxford Research Group called "The future of civil nuclear power".
The world must start building nuclear power plants at the unprecedented rate of four a month from now on if nuclear energy is to play a serious part in fighting global warming, a leading think-tank said on Wednesday. Not only is this impossible for logistical reasons, but it has major implications for world security because of nuclear weapons proliferation, the Oxford Research Group said in its report "Too Hot To Handle - The future of civil nuclear power".
The report fired a series of broadsides against the growing momentum for more nuclear-generated electricity to help cut climate-warming carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. "A world-wide nuclear renaissance is beyond the capacity of the nuclear industry to deliver and would stretch to breaking point the capacity of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to monitor and safeguard civil nuclear power," it said. ...
The report said that if it was to play a significant part in curbing carbon emissions, nuclear power would have to provide one-third of electricity by 2075. That, it said, meant building four new nuclear plants a month, every month, globally for the next 70 years. Not only had top civil nuclear power France, which gets 78 percent of its electricity from 59 nuclear reactors, never got remotely near that rate of construction, but the implications for wholesale weapons proliferation were overwhelming, it said. ...
The report said there were 429 reactors in operation, ranging from 103 in the United States to one in Armenia, with 25 more under construction, 76 planned and 162 proposed. It noted not only major nuclear expansion plans in boom economy China -- which is already building two coal-fired plants a week -- but nascent interest across the oil-rich Middle East and the likelihood of demand from across Africa and Asia.
Surging demand would place great strains on supplies of uranium ore -- probably leading to exploitation of poorer grades and therefore more carbon expended on extraction and refining. This would push development of fast breeder reactors which produce more radioactive fuel than they consume, solving the fuel problem but creating a security nightmare, the report said. The report said if the 2075 scenario came about then 4,000 tonnes of plutonium would be being processed into reactor fuel each year -- twenty times the current military stockpile.
Rolling Stone has a look at some global warming denial history in "The Secret Campaign of President Bush's Administration To Deny Global Warming".
Earlier this year, the world's top climate scientists released a definitive report on global warming. It is now "unequivocal," they concluded, that the planet is heating up. Humans are directly responsible for the planetary heat wave, and only by taking immediate action can the world avert a climate catastrophe. Megadroughts, raging wildfires, decimated forests, dengue fever, legions of Katrinas - unless humans act now to curb our climate-warming pollution, warned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "we are in deep trouble."
You would think, in the wake of such stark and conclusive findings, that the White House would at least offer some small gesture to signal its concern about the impending crisis. It's not every day, after all, that the leading scientists from 120 nations come together and agree that the entire planet is about to go to hell. But the Bush administration has never felt bound by the reality-based nature of science - especially when it comes from international experts. So after the report became public in February, Vice President Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to offer his own, competing assessment of global warming.
"We're going to see a big debate on it going forward," Cheney told ABC News, about "the extent to which it is part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it's caused by man." What we know today, he added, is "not enough to just sort of run out and try to slap together some policy that's going to 'solve' the problem."
Even former White House insiders were shocked by the vice president's see-no-evil performance. "I don't see how he can say that with a straight face anymore," Christine Todd Whitman, who clashed privately with Cheney over climate policy during her tenure as the administration's first chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, tells Rolling Stone. "The consequences of climate change are very real and very negative, but Cheney is not convinced of that. He believes - not quite as much as Senator James Inhofe, that this is a 'hoax' - but that the Earth has been changing since it was formed and to say that climate change is caused by humans is incorrect."
Cheney's statements were the latest move in the Bush administration's ongoing strategy to block federal action on global warming. It is no secret that industry-connected appointees within the White House have worked actively to distort the findings of federal climate scientists, playing down the threat of climate change. But a new investigation by Rolling Stone reveals that those distortions were sanctioned at the highest levels of our government, in a policy formulated by the vice president, implemented by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and enforced by none other than Karl Rove. An examination of thousands of pages of internal documents that the White House has been forced to relinquish under the Freedom of Information Act - as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former administration scientists and climate-policy officials - confirms that the White House has implemented an industry-formulated disinformation campaign designed to actively mislead the American public on global warming and to forestall limits on climate polluters. ...
Dave Roberts at Grist has a gentle meditation on the future role of the coal industry - "Coal is the enemy of the human race: Robert Murray can kiss my ass edition".
Look, the coal industry is still large and very influential. It's going to take some time to transition to clean energy, so its influence will be around for a while. Of course politicians have to go out of their way to assure everyone that coal still has a role to play. Of course "prominent environmentalist" David Hawkins of the NRDC has to rush in and say, "We don't see a conflict between protecting the climate and continuing to use reasonable amounts of coal." Nobody in positions of power can afford to take on Big Coal directly.
But I'm not a politician or a prominent environmentalist, so I don't have to bullshit. The goal is to eliminate the coal industry. Of course the goal is to eliminate the coal industry. Coal is filthy. It destroys ecosystems to dig it up. It kills the people who work around it. Coal plants throw particulates in the air and causes respiratory ailments. They throw mercury in the water and causes birth defects. They throw CO2 into the atmosphere and causes global warming. The coal industry corrupts the political process. It lies to the public about global warming, and mine safety, and coal reserves, and everything else. It leeches money and opportunity out of the states where it is based.
The only reason we think of coal as "cheap" is that we don't tally all those costs in the debit column.
We still use it because of inertia -- we have an enormous infrastructure built up around it; the industry has insinuated itself into our political system; we've never forced the industry to internalize its costs so the market can develop alternatives. We'll be using it one way or another for the foreseeable future. But long-term, 50, 75 years down the road, yeah, eliminating the coal industry is the only sane goal.
Sure, the industry employs lots of people. So did lots of other industries that progress left behind. We'll need to put money into caring for the working people the industry employs, retraining them, finding them new jobs and bolstering the social safety net that protects them from falling between the cracks.
Clean Break - Cleanfield Energy goes commercial with small wind
Reuters - Germany mulling programme to boost energy efficiency
Toronto Star - Landfill sites hide electricity potential
SMH - Clean planes or just hot air ?
SMH - Russia Eyes A Frozen Asset.
SMH Costa Says Tim Flannery Is An Idiot. While Costa is a global warming denier.
The American Prospect - Flirting With Liquid Coal
BBC - UN issues desertification warning
Grist - Planktos president responds to environmentalist critics
Grist - Global weather is bad and likely to get worse
Grist 15 Green Politicians. That photo of Helen Clark must be an artist's impression, but an interesting list nevertheless...
Huffington Post - Blockbuster New Poll: Al Gore Would Win The New Hampshire Primary
Dave Roberts - The stupid! It burns!
The Australian - Agency's Strangeloves altered mind of a girl aged 4. I find this stuff much less alarming when its only covered by tinfoil sites.