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Benton D Struckcheon

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Member since: Fri Jan 18, 2013, 09:06 PM
Number of posts: 2,347

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A List of the Latest Developments in Renewable Energy Technologies

The below is meant as a counter to the doomsday stuff.

1 - First, to set the plate, a link to a thread I put up a couple of months ago re the death spiral the utilities were going to find themselves in: The Death Spiral of the Utilities Starts in Hawaii.
The point here is that solar doesn't have to compete with coal or nat gas on a cost parity basis: it only has to be cheaper than the most expensive power on offer on the hottest days of summer to make sense for most customers, be they residential, commercial or industrial. As more people install it to lower their bills on those days, this lowers the cost of solar, which then makes it more competitive to a wider group of customers, and so on. Meantime, the utilities find themselves on the wrong end of this.

2. There have been lots of confirmations of the above coming out since that thread. One more I just saw: Solar PV residential installations exceeded commercial installations for the first time in the US.

3. The Army contracted for 90 MW of solar from Georgia Power, part of a general military push towards renewables. This is very important, as the DOD's budget for energy is 20 billion dollars which, the article points out "makes it the single largest consumer of energy in the world".

4. So much for market news showing how quickly adoption of renewable energy is growing. Now on to some technological advancements that are being worked on. The first is perovskite solar cells, which scientists are excited about because they think they can get them up to the point where they can make major efficiency gains while providing a cheaper material to make solar cells with.

5. In wind, the bigger the swept area of the blades, the more powerful you can make the turbine. Vestas is delivering one with blades that are 24 stories tall.

6. Another interesting development is in software, of all things, which is being used in eastern Colorado to radically minimize the amount of backup power needed for wind, thereby making it both more efficient and cheaper.

7. In Germany, a company called Statkraft is doing something similar via software that combines a multiplicity of renewable installations into a single "virtual power plant".

8. Wind turbines mostly use gears to actually turn the turbines so that they can be made smaller. But for offshore, direct drive is being used in many cases because it eliminates gears as a point of failure, theoretically making the turbines more reliable, which is important when you have turbines located far from land.

9. Finally, in storage I'm sure most of you have heard of the battery being developed in Japan for electric vehicles which charges faster and can hold more of a charge in a smaller space. While this battery is being touted for cars, the usefulness of a faster charging battery that can hold more power would be popular in every application where batteries are used, from cell phones to laptops right up to cars and storage for intermittent renewable energy installations. Given that incentive, I have no doubt someone is going to find a breakthrough that will be very quickly adopted across the board, regardless of if this one pans out.

With so much being worked on from so many different angles, and so many different kinds of users adopting renewable technologies at a rapid pace, the chances of meeting the IPCC's goal for renewable energy are, I think, being seriously underestimated. We're at the cusp of a massive transformation in how energy is created.
Posted by Benton D Struckcheon | Thu May 29, 2014, 03:03 PM (0 replies)

Death of the Utilities, Part Three: Barclay's Downgrades Entire Electric Utility Sector...

...on Competition from Solar + Storage

Barclays this week downgrades the entire electric sector of the U.S. high-grade corporate bond market to underweight, saying it sees long-term challenges to electric utilities from solar energy, and that the electric sector of the bond market isn’t pricing in these challenges right now. It’s a noteworthy downgrade since electric utilities which make up nearly 7.5% of Barclays’ U.S. Corporate Index by market value. From Barclays credit strategy team:

...we believe that a confluence of declining cost trends in distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation and residential-scale power storage is likely to disrupt the status quo. Based on our analysis, the cost of solar + storage for residential consumers of electricity is already competitive with the price of utility grid power in Hawaii. Of the other major markets, California could follow in 2017, New York and Arizona in 2018, and many other states soon after.
In the 100+ year history of the electric utility industry, there has never before been a truly cost-competitive substitute available for grid power. We believe that solar + storage could reconfigure the organization and regulation of the electric power business over the coming decade. We see near-term risks to credit from regulators and utilities falling behind the solar + storage adoption curve and long-term risks from a comprehensive re-imagining of the role utilities play in providing electric power.

Link: http://blogs.barrons.com/incomeinvesting/2014/05/23/barclays-downgrades-electric-utility-bonds-sees-viable-solar-competition/
Posted by Benton D Struckcheon | Mon May 26, 2014, 01:50 PM (0 replies)

Death of the Utilities, Part Two - PwC Report on Australia

Electricity utilities, it says, are about to face their “Kodak moment” and the key is the emergence of rooftop solar, and its ability provide a cheap source of electricity, as well other “enabling” technologies such as storage and smart software.
This, says Mark Coughlin, the power utilities leader for PwC, will fundamentally change the nature of the relationship between utility and the consumer. It will effectively shift the power from the utility to the customer, be they households or businesses, and will challenge the very “right to survive” of the traditional utility.
Generators will struggle because of the combined impact of falling demand, and rival energy sources, such as rooftop solar. In Europe, nearly $500 billion has been wiped from the value of utility assets – primarily generators – as a result of the impact of new technologies.
PwC says Australian generators are facing the same headwinds – as can be indicated already by the lack of profits, the write-downs, and the closures and the reassignments in the coal and gas industry. This underpins the reasons for the incumbent industry to try and have mechanisms such as the renewable energy target stopped in their tracks.
“Contracting for long-term demand will become increasingly difficult as time passes given viable alternative sources of supply will almost certainly become available within 10 years,” PwC writes.

More here: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/consumers-big-winners-solarstorage-revolution-93458
Posted by Benton D Struckcheon | Wed May 14, 2014, 02:02 PM (0 replies)

After the Russian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire

"This idea that the end of the Soviet Union means the end of history is fatuous. Now that they don't have the Soviets to hate, they can go back to hating each other."

- Ed Hart, a commentator on the old FNN network, predecessor to CNBC (from memory, wording may not be exact)

I can't speak for anyone else, but for myself and I'm sure for Europeans who know their history, the thing about Putin's revanchist actions is that they open a can of worms that could blow Europe sky-high. I don't like the EU's penchant for austerity, but the EU is meant to get Europe beyond constantly obsessing over its many and complicated ethnic rivalries and concentrate on prosperity for the entire continent. The implementation may be flawed but the mission is a good one.
So anyway, the thing is there are a lot of old empires that would like to see themselves resurrected. The biggest one, one that dominated central Europe until WWI, was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Probably the biggest issue facing Versailles was what to do about all of the varied nationalities that empire ruled over. Lots and lots of people of course wound up with various parts living as minorities under somebody else.
Among the most scattered was, naturally, the Hungarian nation. Guess what? Hungary's neo-Nazis, the Jobbiks, are looking favorably at what Putin is doing with Ukraine and deciding they'd like a piece of that. The Hungarian gov't, which is right-wing and feeling the pressure from Jobbik, has strengthened its ties to Russia and is also making very friendly noises re what Putin is doing in Ukraine.
So below, an article that details this particular ethnic bomb waiting to explode, this time right smack in the EU. This is what Putin is unleashing, the potential for vast rivers of blood all over Europe. Anyone who still thinks after reading this that Putin is some sort of leftist hero or that what he is doing in Ukraine shouldn't be opposed as vigorously as possible is, frankly, nuts:

Kárpátalja: Europe’s Next Crimea?
Posted by Benton D Struckcheon | Mon May 12, 2014, 11:47 AM (12 replies)

Time to start counting the ways Putin screwed his people over

1. Capital flight has hit 220 billion dollars, according to the head of the ECB. You know, because of those ineffective sanctions.

2. In absolute desperation to get his comical Eurasian Economic Union off the ground Putin gave in and gave Belarus what it wanted in terms of oil shipments and the amount they would have to pay in duties for that oil: zip.

Russia agreed to ship, duty-free, 23 million tonnes (169 million barrels) of oil this year to Belarus as a part of a customs union agreement. In turn, Belarus exports oil products, the duty on which it pays to Russia. Annual revenue from the duty is around 100 billion roubles ($2.9 billion).
Moscow and Minsk were long at odds over duties and the amount of oil Russia provides to Belarus. Moscow last month agreed to raise volumes by 10 percent from a previous 21 million tonnes - exactly what Minsk was asking for.
"We resolved for 10 years the issue of oil and gas deliveries at volumes we would like - 23 million tonnes is enough for us to load our refineries," Lukashenko said.
He added that around $1.5 billion in oil product duties would stay in Belarus next year.

3. They may have to close that gas pipeline deal with China on not terribly favorable terms:

“This time, Russia really may close the China gas supply deal considering that it’ll be more flexible on the price,” Ildar Davletshin, an oil and gas analyst at Renaissance Capital, said by phone from Moscow.

4. Finland and Sweden are suddenly best buddies:

Finland and Sweden are looking into pooling their defense resources as the crisis in Ukraine shifts the Nordic states’ military-policy focus to protecting their home turf from participating in international peacekeeping.
“We have a neighbor who has demonstrated a couple of times in the past six years that military power and the threat of using it are simply instruments in the political toolbox,” Charly Salonius-Pasternak, security policy researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, said by phone yesterday. “For a small nation, this is a terrifying idea.”

Strategic Blow

Popular opposition to joining NATO has centered on the belief that Russia is becoming slowly more democratic and that economic ties will keep conflicts from escalating, Salonius-Pasternak said. That argument has now “received a strategic blow.”

5. Last and by far most dangerous to the Russian economy in the long run - although beneficial to the rest of us and the planet, G-7 Efforts Towards Renewables are About to Get Pushed Up on the Priority List.

Renewable energy will be central to enhancing energy security, said the G7 energy ministers in a meeting to discuss the implications of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Energy ministers from the world’s seven largest economies confirmed that strong climate change policies would support their energy security agendas during a two day meeting in Rome, as fears rise over the potential fallout from the territorial dispute in Ukraine.
“We recognise that our goals on energy security and climate security are strongly linked,” said Ed Davey, UK minister for energy and climate change, following the meeting.
“Investing in homegrown clean energy and energy efficiency across our economies is fundamental to greater energy security, just as it is to fighting climate change.”

So, to sum up, money is fleeing Russia, they had to pay up just to get Belarus to join their new economic union, the pipeline deal with China will probably go through with worse terms for Russia than it would have before Ukraine, their neighbors are allying with each other and, in the case of those who belong to NATO, strengthening their military ties, thereby surrounding Russia with nations that are now on the alert against it, and their long-term economic prospects, already bad, have gotten even worse.
This doesn't count all the various cooperation deals, military and civilian, with Russia that have been suspended or canceled because of what they did re Ukraine.
All that because he didn't like the new government in Ukraine. That's the price of going to war instead of going through diplomacy.
Posted by Benton D Struckcheon | Sat May 10, 2014, 10:49 AM (1 replies)
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