Saturday, January 30, 2010

An Environmentalist's NY State Energy Plan

Introduction
The 2009 NY State Energy Plan (NYSEP) was completed at the end of 2009, following an extensive period of citizen feedback and comments. The 2009 NYSEP is an update of the Pataki era plan that was produced earlier in the decade, and the new one is intended to guide and provide information to NY's state governmental agencies (such as the SUNY system), local governments (counties, cities, towns, etc) as well as companies, non-profits and all of its citizens and residents for the 2010 to 2028 time period. It also is an attempt to incorporate recent changes in technology, global climate knowledge and energy economics - such as more emphasis on the undesirable consequences of Global Warming. As can be seen, there are several hundred pages of reading material (but it's also got lots of graphs and tables, so it's not that much reading...). And like many such efforts, this was put together by committee, and it reflects compromises between opposing viewpoints on several items, as well as compromises between politics and science and the economics of cheap energy versus pollution and "robbing from the future". It even mentions the concept of Peak Oil, though it really never delves into what this will mean for NY over the next ~ 20 years - but most such documents never even mention Peak Oil, so that is an improvement....

Anyway, environmentalists also do not hold a unified view of this document, other than it has some good items, as well as significant room for improvement. And besides, the qualification to be an environmentalist is pretty simple (no need for college degrees, professional licenses, etc)... all you need to do is say that you are one, and presto, you are one. Of course, whether others will perceive you as an environmentalist.... that could be a different matter.

Also, no proposed renewable energy experiments for any NY municipality such as that on the Danish vacation island of Samso (the island is attempting to be 100% renewable energy powered) were proposed in the NYSEP...

The Plan
At present, NY's energy is largely pollution based, mostly imported fossil fuels from outside of the state (and also outside of the country, especially for petroleum). Due to the large flow of water through the Great Lakes, NY has two very decent sized hydroelectric projects (Niagara Falls and St Lawrence River) which provide on average about 2.2 GW (capacity is near 3.5 GW, however) of some of the lowest cost electricity in the U.S. (about 0.25 c/kw-hr production costs); these facilities are owned by the people of NY State via the New York Power Authority (NYPA). As such, NY has a higher percentage of pollution free electricity in its supply than most states in the U.S. We also have one of the lowest per capita CO2 pollution levels in the U.S. (NY's is 14.7 tons CO2/yr according to the NYSEP; the national per capita average is near 20 tons CO2/yr), mostly due to the rapid transit system in NY City (MTA) region - an average of 7.1 million passenger rides/day on (mostly) electric trains and diesel powered buses. If one assumes 2 rides per person per day (to and from), that's roughly 3.6 million people who avoid having to drive a car, which is SUCH a 21st century idea...; the 3.6 million riders is more people than exist in over 20 states of the US. Those 3.6 million riders per day are about 19% of the state's population, and probably about 25% of the driving age population of NY State. On an electricity only basis, NY's CO2 pollution rate is about 3.2 tons/person per year.

However, from an environmentalist's point of view, we still are plagued by 6 nukes, and far too much fossil fuel usage to produce electricity and heat. We also are extensively sub-urbanized, which translates into a civilization based on gasoline consuming automobiles, and a goods transportation system largely centered around diesel fuel consuming trucks (and also freight for bulk transport (such as coal) trains; the former electric freight rail lines were dismantled in the 1950's).

The NYSEP actually anticipates very little direct spending of taxpayer money (maybe Federal government, but as long as it is not state tax monies...). One "indirect expenditure" is via the Systems Benefit Charge (SBC, a 0.5562 cents/kw-hr add-on to the electricity bills of NY residents) of NYSERDA, which is a levy on electrical transmission in NY paid by customers of this electricity on a amount consumed basis. Much of this funds (or is supposed to, but it can't be spent if the renewable electricity it is supposed to pay for is not made) the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program that provides extra revenue to some renewable energy generators in NY and a few turbines in New Jersey; so far, the RPS is only achieving about 50% of its stated goals for renewable electricity production for the target stated for 2009. Much of that is because of the collapse in the prices of electricity in NY that happened in 2008-2009 (and still happening), which the RPS cannot sufficiently overcome. The plan also anticipates considerable improvements in energy efficiency - electrically speaking, between 2.5 to 2.8 GW on an average continuous basis (15% of the 16.5 GW total average load) will be avoided, and a similar drop is supposed to happen with natural gas consumption. However, if more electricity (renewable sourced, hopefully) is used to replace some of the natural gas consumption (residential and commercial heat, for example) and gasoline/diesel (for cars, trucks and trains), then electricity consumption is likely to either remain stable or actually increase; so much for that plan on decreasing electricity consumption. There is up to $1 billion in various funds/in kind services allocated/estimated for these efficiency improvements, but there is an inherent contradiction between the effect of lowering demand (resulting in dropping electricity prices) and motivating the public to invest in energy efficiencies (energy consumption costs too much, and justifies these efficiency investments) as well as new renewable energy production (which is more expensive than most old polluting electricity sources, especially coal based). The estimated drop in electricity price will come exclusively through drops in the prices paid to generators (T&D prices will probably rise); this will remove much of the incentive to install new renewable energy generation systems. After all, a drop in usage by 2 to 5% dropped generated prices by more than 50% statewide - what would a drop in usage by 15% do to prices paid to generators? Much of the price reduction would occur via the Merit Order Effect (MOE) - where the most expensive marginal producers (oil and possibly natural gas single cycle) of peak electricity would be replaced, possibly with some wind, some energy efficiency, and possibly by population decline and even more de-industrialization.

The energy efficiency goals are most definitely a good thing, but their unintended consequence is the suppression of electricity prices from the current depressed levels. A decreased consumption of natural gas and electricity is anticipated to occur via both increased efficiency in and the continued destruction of NY's industrial sector. The "industrial annihilation" will result in significant loss of income to NY State, destruction of middle class living standards and cast into doubt the ability of much of NY's population to make investments in housing energy improvements; it also shows that there is little anticipated effect of "Green Jobs"/"Green Manufacturing", much of which is, ironically, energy intensive (photovoltaic panels, steel recycling, wind turbine manufacture are examples of this). Oh well, supposedly you can't win them all... There is also the conundrum of "Jevon's Paradox", which is an empirical observation that more efficient use of energy often leads to MORE energy usage UNLESS there is a steep increase in the price of that energy.

Another bone of contention concerns the future prices of renewable energy. The NYSEP assumes that future prices of electricity derived from mostly wind will be less expensive in the future than at present. The same hunch is assumed for photovoltaic systems. Unfortunately, there is no recent evidence to back up these claims - wind turbine prices have actually increased in recent years faster than any increase in productivity (more energy from the same wind speeds) from the turbines. The one possible source of lowering installation costs has NOTHING to do with either improved technology, manufacturing or installation labor and equipment - and that is FINANCING. Getting lower interest rates on loans that are amortized over longer time periods would have a significant positive impact, as would lower equity costs (profit rates demanded by owners). Since photovoltaic (PV) capital intensity is actually much higher than for wind turbines (that is, the capital investment divided by the actual electrical output), the financing and equity costs for PV are even more important than for wind turbines. At current prices of near $70 million per average delivered MW (about $7 million per MWp (peak capacity)), PV could cost over $1 trillion to power up NY (PV only basis). The way to lower debt and equity costs is to lower the financial risk associated with variable electricity pricing, but that was barely addressed (such as via Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) or via Feed-In Laws). In this case, gambling on future prices dumps a lot of extra "present and future costs" onto consumers, and it trashes the economic prospects of many (for 2009, all) NY renewable energy projects. Furthermore, unless Feed-In Law mechanisms are employed, all PV applications need extensive subsidies, since the electricity production costs from PV (before subsidies) of 50 to 80 cents/kw-hr cannot come to anywhere near to the current NYISO rates (2 to 6 c/kw-hr in Western NY). Since those subsidies have to come from somewhere, in times of tight budgets, PV viability becomes very questionable. Feed-In Laws are not subsidies, so the governmental (= taxes) monies to pay out subsidies are not required when this approach is chosen.

The practice of tying renewable energy prices to fossil fuel prices is not seriously questioned. And since fossil fuel prices end up setting renewable prices, the big question becomes what these future prices might be over the next 20 years. At present, this is impossible to predict at present, so the usual tactic is to extrapolate from past experience. Unfortunately, if something new comes to dominate the NY energy markets (such as Peak Oil and related Peak Natural Gas), this renders the NYSEP (which essentially are US Energy Information Agency (EIA)/International Energy Agency (IEA) and CERA (Cambridge Energy Research Associates) based estimates) as rather meager in terms of usefulness. For example, from the St Louis branch of the Federal Reserve comes this graph of Henry Hub Prices, a less jagged version of this one. This is not a smooth curve, and in the last 4 years there are four significant price spikes - Dec 2000 (Enron crime wave), Feb 2003, June 2005 to Jan 2006 (several epic GOMEX (Gulf of Mexico) hurricanes) and Jan-Jun of 2008. There is also a very distinct trend from Jan of 2000 ($2/MBtu) through 2008 (average of $8/MBtu), followed by a collapse to $3.50/MBtu in 2009, and a recovery to $5.50/MBtu in early 2010.

What may be worse is the price needed to justify investments in new gas wells - now around $9/MBtu, according to Credit Suisse, a major financier of these:

or a more colorful version:

A large part of the cost and price increases needed to get new Ngas is the drive to extract "tight shale gas" via hydrofracturing (fracking) - for example, in the Barnett, Haynesville and Marcellus regions. It turns out that this is expensive, and such gas wells often deplete at 60% to 80% per year - they have to be "re-fracked" every 6 months or so. This is the classic "running faster to stay in place" situation so aptly described in Lewis Carol's "Alice in Wonderland" - most of the large, easy to extract gas fields are wearing down/drained, and to maintain a constant production, larger numbers of wells to get at Ngas stashed in smaller fields of harder to get gas have to be attempted. In the Barnett fields, less than 31% of the 12,000 wells drilled were profitable at $8/MBtu and ~ 15% would be profitable at $6/MBtu (which is still higher than the current Henry Hub price...). Thus, at current prices, almost all Ngas wells would be unprofitable. This situation is usually dealt with by selling the gas to the futures market, and/or hedging the gas price with speculators. Unfortunately, that will not work so well after more than 18 months of depressed Ngas prices...

In other words, Ngas prices are apt to be a lot higher as time rolls along, because banks will not continue to loan money to "Exploration & Production" (E&P) companies that lose money. Prices must eventually be greater than the sum of production costs and expected/required profits, otherwise, further private investments will not occur for such Ngas exploration. In addition, E&P fracking efforts in NY State are likely to be costlier than in Texas and Louisiana, since the oil and gas/drilling/refining business is much smaller in NY than in those two states, and spills/water and air pollution are less likely to be tolerated. Thus, fracking Ngas from the Marcellus and Utica shale may provide some of NY's Ngas, but this will be among the most expensive Ngas (and hence set the marginal Ngas prices) in this region, even though initial results from Marcellus wells tend to produce greater quantities of Ngas per well than in the Barnett and Haynesville region (but at least their Ngas is not contaminated with measurable quantities of radon, which is the case in some Marcellus wells). In addition, efforts to source electricity in NY on Marcellus Ngas are extremely flawed, as are efforts to replace coal sourced electricity; the two major flaws being the CO2 pollution from Ngas combustion and the highly variable and intrinsically unknowable future Ngas pricing over a 20 year period. However, Ngas is always associated with money; gas tends to flow to money, after all. The Marcellus "play" may even be used to supply Ontario. See here for some gas shale maps of the U.S.

As for future Ngas pricing in NY State, this is the model (pricing and supply estimates from NYSEP) used:

This future price scenario is hopelessly out of date, and unrealistically stable. The apparent gradual price increase would be very tolerable; however, price spikes are very destabilizing, economically speaking and especially with respect to E&P. The downturn from a price spike (price plunge) means that drilling and development only take place approximately half of the time (the upwards trending price periods), resulting in a decreased overall pace of E&P efforts, and less Ngas produced over time. One of the questions asked in the NYSEP is whether the Indian Point complex (~ 2 x 1 GW nukes located 20 miles north of NYC) could be replaced with natural gas sourced combined cycle facilities (in other words, massive point source electric generators/Ngas consumers). This question was asked with respect to pipeline capacity, not whether the Ngas would be present at affordable prices. And not whether the Indian Point twin nukes could be replaced with renewable (they could) electricity - for example, with some combination of onshore wind, offshore wind and tidal (Long Island Sound) and pumped hydro storage/new transmission lines to the Indian Point site (they exist from Indian Point to NYC).

As for oil, NY is "outta luck". However, gasoline and diesel can be readily manufactured from natural gas; one such approach is Mobil Oil's MTG process. In the NYSEP, there is no serious thought given to NY production of oil from either natural gas or from coal. Nor is there much discussion given to converting biomass to hydrocarbons (such as via the Exxon-Mobil MTG process after converting biomass to methanol). In effect, the only alternative to petroleum usage is to not use oil products; in NY this means electric powered transportation with some supplemental biofuels, or no transportation at all. Of course, more mass transit would be very capital intensive, but apparently no significant NY taxpayer funds will be used to invest in either more NYC mass transit lines/facilities, or for the Albany-Buffalo high speed rail line, or even an expansion of light rail in Buffalo... There is also a bit of discussion on battery powered cars, but by and large, NY has to depend on the ever shrinking kindness of strangers (strange countries and strange states) for the right to buy crude oil/refined oil from others. When oil price spikes slam the state and especially the state economy...oh well...it will be grin and bear it time once again.

Renewables in a Significant Manner:
In the NYSEP, a slight of hand is used for non-polluting electricity production (either 25% or 45% renewable by either 2010 (not met) or 2015 (not there yet)), and this revolves around hydroelectricity. For example, in 2008 (via the NYISO 2009 Goldbook), average hydroelectricity output was 2.946 GW (25,874 GW-hr/yr) - most of this came from the Niagara Falls (1559 MW average output) and FDR/St Lawrence River dam (796 MW); but 592 MW came from numerous smaller (at least 60) facilities. The hydro output of NY added up to 18% of NY's 16.46 GW average generation. To get to a 25% level at constant consumption, an additional 1.169 GW of renewable is needed. Subtracting the 146 MW of wind generated in 2008, the 341 MW of "other" (wood, landfill gas, trash, etc) means that "only" 682 MW (average delivered basis) is needed. This translates into 2273 MW of new wind turbine capacity (at a 30% net output). Since the end of 2008, an additional 751 MW of wind was put on-line (mostly installed by the end of 2008/commissioned in 2009) worth about another 225 MW on a delivered basis, so in theory "only" 1522 MW of wind capacity (457 MW on an average delivered basis) would be needed to meet the 25% standard.

In the NYSEP, mention is made of how apparently painless this extra 7% renewable electricity (as non-hydro renewables) will be attained. In the renewables section, an average extra cost of ~ 0.6 c/kw-hr is expected (via the SBC charge of 0.55 c/kw-hr). Much of the extra cost of the renewables (mostly wind turbines) will mitigated by the Merit Order Effect, where oil and natural gas will be displaced by wind. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, no pain, no gain. Eventually, if electricity consumption is held constant and more renewables are added into to the NY electricity supply mix, something has to close down. From an environmental aspect, closure of old nukes or coal burners would be preferred, but any shut downs will probably be on the basis of cost of production/required operating prices. Thus, either kerosene or methane fired combined systems would be mothballed as more wind is added, initially, and then natural gas baseload plants will be displaced once the more expensive smaller gas consuming plants are displaced.

Upping the renewable electrical energy requirement to 45% (and assuming essentially no reduction in electricity usage) would mean that another 2.46 GW (delivered basis) of new renewables is installed, also requiring the shutdown of 2.46 GW of polluting electricity. The 2.46 GW of renewables, if as land based wind turbines, would probably be around 8200 MW of wind turbine capacity, worth a tidy $16.4 billion investment. And again, with the steady state assumption for electricity consumption, this implies shuttering 2.46 GW of polluting power (for example, the Indian Point twins (nukes) plus the Ginna nuke near Rochester, which is 40 years young), or else all of NY's coal burners with the exception of the Kodak Park co-gen complex (~ 200 MW and 3.4 million lbs/hr of steam for process heating). Obviously, mothballing these cash cow-mode power plants such as the 3 nukes, or else essentially all of the coal burners in NY State (14.7% of 16.5 GW is 2.46 GW....) would eliminate a lot of "cash-cow profits" and make some very wealthy people and/or corporations very angry, as their plans for NY State do not involve much in the way of investing IN New York State, but instead, of extracting profits FROM New York State. And by replacing 2.46 GW of POTENTIALLY super-low cost power (remember, in the NYISO system, the price paid for electricity has no direct relationship to the cost to manufacture most of that electricity; the price received is what can be obtained in each NYISO zone via the hourly bidding, and the highest price of the selected set of bids for that particular time interval). If some of this low cost electricity was part of NY's "bilateral electricity contracts" (essentially fixed price for a set quantity and over a set period of time), the replacement of this polluting power with renewables will raise NY State electricity prices. However, if the power replaced was part of the spot market mix, most renewables (especially wind) will have little little impact on the NYISO bid prices, at least, until wind gets to be a major player in NY's electricity mix.

Another major problem not even addressed in the NYSEP was how to replace the Ngas used for residential and commercial heating. Most houses in NY are heated with Ngas, with the assumption made that no shortages are likely to occur with Ngas for residential and commercial heating. However, producing increasing amounts of electricity with Ngas increases Ngas consumption, and thus it increases the North American continental demand for Ngas, pushing up prices and increasing the continental (esp U.S. and Canadian) Ngas depletion rates. Of course, this also forces more efforts towards expensive Ngas, such as tight gas shale production.
The longer term replacement of Ngas with renewable electricity (as resistance heat and/or as the energy source for heat pump compressors), and the increasing usage of passive solar heating and active solar thermal heating (especially for hot water) would have the beneficial effect of decreasing the demand for Ngas. And decreasing the demand for Ngas in NY State should get far more emphasis, if only for the economic aspect (Ngas is also a greenhouse gas pollution source via the CO2 made during combustion). Sending money out of state to pay for imports of Ngas no longer makes sense when Ngas costs rise steeply, as this is the equivalent of burning up NY income and wealth in a giant bonfire. Ngas costs are no longer insignificant (about 1.2 trillion cubic feet per year (tcfy), worth $12 billion/yr at $10/MBtu). Should Ngas prices spike in the near future, the result would be a "de-facto" tax on large numbers of NY residential and commercial Ngas customers, but where once again none of this "tax" (extra monies spent on Ngas procurement) would go to the government, and very little would stay within NY State.

In a related point, the problem of how to get most of NY's residential housing and commercial customers to use solar hot water heating as a significant supplement to Ngas sourced water heating still has not been addressed by either state of federal governments. This can reduce residential demand for Nga by about 10% (see this item). Unfortunately, most incentives are based on tax credits, which are only useful for those who pay income taxes (for example, more than $4000/yr of income taxes, requiring taxable incomes of over $64,000/yr (NY State Tax) for state based credits, or a Federal income of more than $50,000/yr for a married/filing jointly arrangement). Such incentives cleave off more than half of the population (NY median family income was near $56,000/yr in 2008). National trends show that median real incomes has dropped by 4% over the last decade, mostly in the last two years. In addition, the economic incentive to invest in a solar hot water heating system (cost $3500 to ~ $9500/house) is destroyed by cheap Ngas prices, but increased by higher Ngas prices. Maybe NY State needs to raise Ngas sales taxes, and use the proceeds for Ngas demand reduction, like solar hot water heaters. A great source of information on these can be found at Earthkindsolar.

Liquid Fuels
NY spends and sends away a lot of money for liquid fuels (5.8 billion gal/yr (bgy) gasoline, about 2.8 billion gal/yr of diesel, and probably a billion gal/yr of kerosene (jet fuel)). At a wholesale level, this is over $20 billion/yr exported out of state, almost all for transportation. While not all of this could be made in NY via biofuels, a considerable portion could, but only if fuel prices justified this investment. While it is likely that gasoline, kerosene and diesel prices will rise significantly in the near future, (due to price spikes from Peak Export Oil), just how soon that would be is unknown and presently only a guess.

For example, assume that some combination of increased fuel mileage (U.S. average is near 23 mpg) and less vehicle miles traveled (ride-sharing, more walking, biking, mass transit) is used in NY, cutting the amount of gasoline burned in NY State to 2.9 bgy. Assume further that over half of the jet fuel usage is replaced via electric passenger rail, and that over half of the diesel used is replaced with more train traffic for freight (9 times as efficient as with trucks) and electric freight. When fuel prices double to near $6/gallon, NY'ers would still only be faced with money exports of fuel costing about $20 billion/yr. At such prices, most of this fuel could be grown in NY. For example, at 450 gallons of EtOH/acre per year from corn, "only" 10,000 square miles (22% of NY State land area) could supply 2.9 bgy. At 350 gal/acre per year of EtOH from cellulose, "only" 29% of NY land area would be needed. Using wood gasification, yields of ~ 427 gallons/acre of diesel-like fuels (4 m^3/hectare) can be obtained by processing the biomass derived syn-gas. There are a huge number of studies, and many recent examples of this approach. One commercial example is Enerkem, which uses a synthesis gas (from wood) to ethanol/methanol mix. Their plant recently opened in Westbury, Ontario, and the stated yield is about 95 gallons/ton of wood. At a yield of 5 tons of wood/yr per acre, this is about 475 gallons of fuel/acre per year. Many combinations of biodiesel (methyl and ethyl esters of fatty acids), synthesis gas derived gasoline and diesel (for example, Fischer-Tropsch processes like the "back half" of the Sasol system), bio-syngas sourced methanol/ethanol/higher alcohols like butanols, fermentation sourced methane and ethanol, etc are possible. Using this much biomass would also be a tremendous stimulant to rural NY State, and more or less end the dominance (or dependence) of rural NY on the dairy industry (and also economic dependence on the prisons in rural areas used for urban convicts), which would be a good thing. Renewable electricity can also be used to make fules such as ethanol, methanol, methane and ammonia by converting water to hydrogen and oxygen, and using that hydrogen to reduce eiethr nitrogen (to make ammonia) or carbon based fuels. Ammonia can also be used to stimulate plant growth and or to be the feedstock for protein production in crops like corn, sugar beets, and wheat; the sugars, starch and or cellulose parts of such plants can then be converted into fuels. Ammonia also increases yields for oil seeds such as canola; by-product protein can be used as people or animal food, while the oils can be used to make biodiesel.

Note: The 5 ton/acre/year estimate is about 11.5 metric tons/hectare - see this reference for an estimate of woody biomass yields in New England.

Enormous efforts have been expended on trying to make biofuels cost competitive with crude oil derived products to date. Unfortunately, crude oil is still priced far below its true value (the work that can be done with $3 of gasoline, for example), and most crude oil actually has a production cost near $20/barrel (bbl), even though the selling price in bulk is now near $80/bbl. Crude oil tends to be a "hunter-gatherer" booty; the actual manufacture of renewable (or mostly renewable) liquid fuels tends to involve significant capital, and lots of labor (but that is a good thing given the ~20% real unemployment rate in NY State (U6 value) these days). The sum of the capital, labor and whatever energy (some fraction of the biomass feedstock, or of renewable electricity) is a cost of biofuel production, and these costs are between $2.50 to $10/gallon of gasoline equivalent (a big range). At current crude oil prices, biofuels tend to be too expensive to readily compete with crude oil - especially when major external costs of crude oil (such as military protection costs over $240 BILLION/yr) are never added into the cost of the imported oil part of the U.S. oil mix (more than 60% imported). Given that oil imports are roughly 12 mbd (4.4 billion bbls/yr), that is a $55/bbl subsidy. Another item to consider is the cost associated with the export of $350 billion/yr in return for oil, and especially the opportunity cost of this (that is, what $350 billion/yr could be invested in/spent on instead of importing all that oil). The U.S. needs to export more than $1 billion/day on a net basis just to "break even".

As long as renewable fuels are priced by fossil fuels (especially oil and oil products), renewables are extremely risky. Should the OPEC cartel view them as a trheat, renewables could be easily driven out of business if "the crude oil taps" were opened for a small interval of time (6 months to a year), driving down oil prices as the means to do this. The combination of renewables, conservation, fuel efficiency could act to buffer the drastic effects of price shocks on NY, but if renewable fule prices are hitched to non-renewable prices, then there is little, if any buffering effect. Renewable also suppress the price of crude oil to some extent by lowering the demand for crude oil. In the U.S., with ethanol production now at ~ 750,000 bbls/day (equivalent to about 0.5 mbd of gasoline, or about 1 mbd of crude oil to make that gasoline), removal of EtOH from the market would cause all oil prices to rise by about $20/bbl by raising demand for exportable crude oil on the world market by ~ 2.3%. This is because world oil prices are really set by the volume of oil exported (about 43 mbd) and purchased by importing countries, such as the U.S., China and India. If another 1 mbd of crude oil was needed and yet not able to be supplied, prices would need to rise to extinguish the demand for this 1 mbd from somewhere else in the world. The rise of oil prices by $20/bbl would apply to all U.S. oil (domestic and imported), costing consumers close to $131 billion, and requiring the additional export of nearly $88 billion. The current ethanol subsidies of $6 billion/yr seem to pale in comparison to that hit to the wallet.

NY State could potentially benefit significantly by raising prices on crude oil based products via increased sales taxes. This would not only raise tax income for the state, but it would also lower the demand for gasoline, kerosene and diesel, and change consumer behavior by driving less, selecting alternatives to driving gasoline power cars more often, buying more fuel efficient cars and by chosing to live closer to where the consumers usually drive to (such as work). By not taxing biofuels, local manufacturers would become more able to compete with/supply larger amounts of fuels, and would become less dependent on government subsidies. As they supply larger and larger portions of the liquid fuels market, more imported oil could be displaced, and more importantly, more money in NY could be recycled from fuel consumers to farmers and manufacturers. In addition, this trend would provide greater buffer to the inevitable oil price spikes (occurring when oil supply comes close to matching oil demand, resulting in skyrocketing price increases as well as "demand destruction"). To avoid drastic price shocks and also to instill the right "price signals" to consumers, such oil sales taxes need to be imposed steadily (for example, 1 c/gallon per month) and for a long time (for the next 5 to 10 years, for example). This steadily increasing oil price due to taxes, as well as due to Peak Oil, would allow for profitable development of renewable fules. While the level of oil consumption made possible by biofuels would never reach 2010 levels, this would allow for some sufficient level of biofuels to be made. The higher price of oil would also allow for the profitable development of electric cars and electric mass transit. Approximately 80% of current car uses are for less than 20 miles, after all; these are readily feasible with electric cars.

Unfortunately, this course of action is heresy at the current time. It is heretical for political reasosn as well as cultural ones (we are a gasoline-diesel-car-truck based society at present), and since the full onset of Peak Oil with huge price increases above today's levels has not quite arrived, the urgency for this has not yet arrived. But, since NY possesses no usable quantities of crude oil, and the initial effects of Peak Oil (especially Peak Export Oil) are being experienced, and NY state is less than broke (due partly to a Oil price spike induced recession in 2007-2008) with little likelihood that things will change in the next decade, this course of action needs to be discussed, as well as why this is heretical. Attempts to use non-existent government funds to pay for biofuels whose manufacturing cost is still greater than present oil prices is also a non-solution. So is steadily going further into the economic hole by just ignoring the current near future for petroleum supplies and especially oil that the U.S. can purchase from abroad.

Renewable Electricity
As stated earlier, NY currently generates about 3 GW of its 16.5 GW average electricity load via hydroelectricity. The use of run-of-river (especially in the Niagara River and St Lawrence River) and more small hydro dams may be able to raise this by another 1 GW. That would leave a gap of 12.5 GW to be filled by other renewables. Of that, the tidal energy potential of Long Island Sound has been estimated to be 2 GW. By installing a large array of tidal turbines, the remaining demand would be near 10.5 GW.

While biomass could be used as a substitute for coal, a higher value added usage would be as a liquid fuel for auto, trucking, construction, emergency and portable stored power as well as agriculture. Thus, only 0.5 GW of a combination of biogas and biomass thermal (for co-gen) should be utilized.

The remaining 10 GW could easily be supplied by onshore wind as well as pumped hydroelectric storage (approximately 10 GW of capacity for that, giving ~ 100 GW-hr of buffer). Here is some recent estimates of NY's onshore wind delivered average power output as a function of height and average net outputs (in GW) of 25, 30, 35 and 40% of a "generic" commercial scale wind turbine (similar to the GE 1.5 sl, 1.5 MW by 77 meter rotor). They were obtained from a recent NREL/AWS study:

Net average output, % --> 25 ............ 30 ........... 35 ............ 40
Tower Ht, meters
.................... 80 ............. 15.3 ............ 7.6 ........... 1.6 ........... 0.4
.................... 100 ............. 26.8 ........... 16.4 ........ 6.6 ........... 1.3

The 30% output at 80 meters corresponds to approximately a 6.7 m/s wind speed at hub height. If slightly higher priced electricity (using taller towers at lower wind speed sites) was allowed, all of NY's electricity could be supplied by wind. Furthermore, a new variety of wind turbines typified by oversize blaades to a given generator rating have recently been announced by a few manufacturers (notably Vestas and Siemens); for example, the V-90 x 1.8 MW and the V-100 x 1.8 MW (both Vestas) give higher outputs at lower speeds than models targeted towards higher wind speeds (for example, their V80 (1.8 MW) and V82 (1.65 MW). For example, the V-100 could give a 30% net output from a wind resource averaging 5.8 m/s at 80 meters height. Such turbines give NY even greater capacity. There seems to be a dramatic height effect, too.

Odds are, some combination of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and Long Island (Atlantic side) wind turbines will also be used (with areas of ~ 500, 2500 and 5000 square miles of possible water surface that could be used). At an average delivered output of 6 MW per square mile (40% net output), this would be 3 GW + 15 GW + 30 GW for the Erie, Ontario and Atlantic potential, These would be more expensive than onshore wind, but even 10% this is 4.8 GW. Thus, the combination of on and offshore wind should be easily capable of supplying NY's electricity.

A note on PV
For all of these electricity options, as well as some minor amounts of PV (200 MW on a delivered basis, mostly targeted at shaving down peak summer loads), a pricing system based on cost to produce plus a reasonable profit needs to be adopted. Failing that, renewable electricity will continue to be tied for polluting electricity prices (nukes, coal, Ngas), which means that only a small fraction of the renewable potential is likely to be financeable and installable. Thus, of the combined 74 GW (on a delivered basis, NOT capacity basis), less than 2% might be installed with the current subsidies and quotas. Obviously, that's not much of a plan, or a future, for that matter.

Solar prices can be compared and viewed at the Solarbuzz website. Prices required for a for "cloudy" areas (such as Western NY, which has about a 50% sunny/50% cloudy-raining-snowing arrangement) for a single homeowner to justify a $16,000 investment for a 2 kw system are near 76 c/kw-hr. According to this site, prices have dropped at a rate of 1.57% per year over the last 9 years. Furthermore, the use of the 5%/yr for 20 years interest rate for such investments is highly questionable - rates are typically higher and for shorter periods of time. Given the vast discrepancy between PV and grid pricing, either a Feed-In Law or governmental subsidies are required for PV. And given the dire state of NY government finances (more money out than in, resistance to tax increases on wealthy people via paid for politicians, etc), additional subsidies from NY State are unlikely. Nevertheless, there is a 25% NY State tax credit capped at a $5000 maximum level for PV and solar hot water systems. Significant Federal subsidies do exist, but those also come at a cost. The dominant ones for residential systems is the 30% tax credit (again, taxes need to be paid to collect this one); however, getting a "rebate" of 30% of the cost to install such systems (from $8000/kwp to $5600/kwp) will lessen the pain/financial loss, but not greatly incentivize such arrangements. residential yields of 10% of peak rating in NY seems to be indicated by this NYSERDA study.

DB

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A NY Feed-In Law Petition

Please consider signing the following on-line petition, and passing this along to others on your email list of acquaintances - for NY residents only:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/FIT4NYS/

The goal is to get a renewable energy Feed-In Law passed in NY State. That way we would not be faced with a moribound renewable energy industry in NY State. And events like this could happen in NY State (a $7 billion investment in Ontario renewable energy systems manufacture); this one was ONLY made possible by Ontario's Feed-In Law:

http://www.nawindpower.com/e107_plugins/content/content_lt.php?content.5203

And there is also the 21 GW (= $84 billion) of proposed investment along the South Coast of Ontario also ONLY made possible by the Ontario Green Energy Act (100 projects, Ontario waters only). Or the actual $4.5 billion worth of renewable projects for 2010 in Ontario (land based).

The Feed-In Law will do more to reduce air pollution and Greenhouse gas pollution in the next decade than probably any other item on the agenda in NY State (other than an even more ruinous economic recession/depression (after all, no money income, no money spent for fossil fuels)), despite the best wishes of the people supporting those other worthwhile environmental causes and legislative items. FITs work by employing people to make and install non-polluting electrical generation systems... very timely given Buffalo's real unemployment rate of well over 30%, and probably closing in on 40%. And FITs also work well with other environmental legislation.

There are ~ 19.5 million electricity customers in NY State, and about 13 million in Ontario. Yet Ontario has become the regional leader in renewable energy after only 4 months of "active" Feed-In Law (their Green Energy Act), and about 5 more months of planning. Feed-In Laws (also abbreviated as FIT, or ART laws) are what makes Germany and Spain such world leaders (and allows for ~ 350,000 people to be employed in those two countries in that line of business) in that growing renewable energy industry.

Time for NY to get on board the train, lest we be left behind in the station, wallowing in increasing unemployment and poverty. And time to stop working on drowning NYC and Long Island with all that CO2 pollution resulting from using fossil fuels (mostly natural gas and coal) to make electricity, among other things; that CO2 warms up the surface of the planet, melts icesheets like those on Greenland and that raises ocean levels. The Greenland icesheets alone are worth about 23 feet of ocean level rise.

So if you don't like the idea of converting where most of NY State's population lives (NY City, Long Island, surrounding communities) into fish farms, please sign the petition. After all, those some of those down-staters pay a lot of OUR taxes.

Her's a quick description of FIT laws: http://www.allianceforrenewableenergy.org/endorse-reps.html

Thanks

Dave Bradley

Monday, January 18, 2010

Peak Oil and Wind Energy

Introduction
There is another eye-opening article on The Oil Drum called "Chinese Transportation Growth" that bears careful scrutiny. Especially in light of the recent (well, last 28 years) oil production trends. It turns out that the world oil production rate appears to be "flat-lining". Then consider the recent price trends over the last 22 years. It turns out that raising the price significantly does not do wonders to increase production rates for oil, despite what classical economics teaches. Whatever response time for production rate increases to price increases exists is glacial in comparison to how fast prices move. And the recent price spikes tend to have a boomerang effect; when prices drop suddenly - the price ricochet - drilling activity drops - see here.

The bottom line: in recent times, the production of liquid fuels appears to have peaked. And if the potential supply rate excess relative to the demand rate goes towards zero, prices will skyrocket. Thus, if the demand increases in any one country and prices are to remain fairly constant, then the demand in some other part of the world must decline. It's just simple math.

Adding to this predicament is depletion - about 5%/yr, or about 4 million barrels/day (mbd) on a worldwide scale. It turns out that the new oil coming on stream for 2010 is...estimated to be 4 mbd. Here is the list for those interested. While this is a steady state of sorts, the discovery rate for new finds of oil has to total the yearly consumption (about 30 billion bbls/yr (bby)) for this to be truly steady state. That has not happened for decades; finds have been much less than production for some time. On a worldwide average, there is a 36 year lag between the discovery of a major oil field and the onset of a decline in production from that oil field (peak rate). For those who are math enabled, a great discussion of that is provided by a person who goes by the handle of "WebHubbleTelescope" titled "Finding Needles in a Haystack" - this article also has some nifty graphs of oil discoveries, and you can see that the 30 billion bbls/yr rate has not occurred for a long time. Most of the oil produced in the world comes from major fields (megaprojects) with production rates of more than 50,000 bbls/day - for example, the largest field (Ghawar) in the world (Saudi Arabia) produces about 5 mbd and has done so for decades (7% of world crude oil production).

Discussion
To get an idea of how far and to what extent the US will go for oil (isn't the IraqNam war enough evidence?), consider the Thunder Horse project (located about 150 miles south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico), which just started pumping in the summer of 2008. It produces now more than 250,000 bbls/day or crude oil and 200 million standard cubic feet per day of (mostly) methane. This oil field is located in over a mile of water and more than 4 miles below the ocean floor, with the hydrocarbons at 135 C and under tremendous pressure. The project was years behind schedule, more than 3 times over budget (about $5 billion cost) for a field with a mere 1 billion bbl estimated ultimate recoverable reserve (URR). The oil platform almost got sunk by Hurricane Dennis (100 foot waves), and the many problems with this "bleeding edge" project have been EPIC. Of course, at a paltry $80/bbl, just the oil alone will be worth $80 billion, and during the lifetime that this operates, prices are apt to exceed that level. The Ngas by-product will also fetch at least another $0.5 to 1 billion/yr, while average oil sales at $80/bbl will be about$7.3 billion/yr. This field would supply the US consumption of 18.5 mbd for about 55 days... At the stated production rate, the decline of the production rate will likely happen in 5.5 years (or less if production rate is increased) when about 500 million bbls have been produced (the Hubbert curve Logistic Equation phenomena).

And so, to keep the oil coming, more oil must be found. Since the "easy pickings" in the USA have already been picked rather clean, smaller and smaller patches of oil in more and more extreme conditions must be tapped. Since the oil fields are smaller, more of them must be found to keep production at a steady state, let alone increase. This oil will be much more costly to develop, and much higher priced. In fact, it tends to set the marginal price for oil, and oil will be sold at this price even though the cost of production from older, established fields (such as from Ghawar) is much lower ($5 to$10/bbl). For most of the oil produced these days, the cost of production has very little to do with the price at which it is sold. It's all about the price that can be obtained for it.

And when push comes to shove, people will pay a lot for oil. Try going without it in just a rudimentary form - avoid the use of a car in the winter for a week or so. Oil has become indispensable to the modern sub-urban way of life, to the way in which goods are transported from one place to another, from how we grow most of our food (and life without food just is not life...) to how we project military force... needed to protect oil fields, of course. And much of the world also wants to imitate America in its oil based lifestyle. But there is a problem or two with
that idea.... too many people chasing too little oil. And the CO2 pollution problem (CO2 is the unwanted by product of petroleum and methane combustion) has also become a worldwide problem due to the shear volume of it. There is about 0.45 tons of CO2 made per bbl of oil that is burned for energy. The roughly 30 bilion bbls/yr used works out to 13.6 gigatons (trillions of tons) of Greenhouse Warming Gas dumped into the air annually. No wonder the oceans (the major planetary sink for excess CO2) can't keep up with absorbing all that CO2.... But, although the Greenhouse Warming effect is a long term, serious problem, odds are, it is of secondary importance for the next couple of decades to the U.S. The devastating effects of Peak Oil on oil-dependent societies could very well bring those nations unable to provide their own petroleum to their knees, economically speaking. In the US, 45% of our CO2 pollution comes from burning oil (coal is 35% natural gas (Ngas) is about the remaining 20%. But, without affordably priced oil (which means oil provided in the right quantities to keep the price from going ballistic), we won't have a functioning economy.

So, to be able to deal with the Global Warming problem, we have to first deal with Peak Oil. If we don't deal with Peak Oil in a satisfactory manner, we will not be able to afford the investments needed to deal with global warming (such as making electricity without burning coal and natural gas). Peak Oil (as in peaking production rates unable to equal the demand for oil) will result in significantly higher oil prices over time, getting increasingly expensive, as people outbid each other for the right to use oil (a process called demand destruction). Very subtle changes in the supply and/or demand can have drastic effects on price. In 2007-2008 period, oil went from $55/bbl to over $147/bbl when demand almost reached the supply capacity of the world. This helped set off a severe recession, since more money had to be spent on fossil fuel energy and that meant less was available for everything else. The recession lowered demand by about 4 mbd worldwide, and the result collapsed oil prices, which rapidly fell to $35/bbl. At this low price (and with related collapses in natural gas prices), drilling dropped by 50% in the US. The "supply destruction" and some "Saudi discipline" (restraining of production) has brought up the price to the present neighborhood of $80/bbl, and it now appears that supply is once again not going to be able to keep up with demand. Part of this is due to the plateauing of the US economy ("bottoming out"), but another factor is the surging demand in both India and most especially China.

Which gets back to that exponential increase in automobiles in China. A 30%/yr increase in car sales (last year was 13.5 million cars sold in China) means a doubling of the car sales rate every 3 years. A similar expansion of road construction is occurring - road building and autos are a way to employ lots of people (China has 1.3 billion of them) as well as stimulate an economy, and in particular, a manufacturing based economy (the US did that earlier - much of the economic growth in the WW2 to 1970's was based on such a model). After all, cars with no roads means an inability to drive much. So, those car sales and roads built almost guarantee a future demand for gasoline - at 40 mpg, and 4000 miles/yr (pretty modest), that is 100 gallons per car per year, or about 2.5 bbls gasoline per car per year. At best, 2 bbls of crude can yield 1 bbl of gasoline, so these new cars put onto Chinese roads are in effect a demand for about 5 bbl crude oil per car per year. Thus, in 2009, a new demand for about 67.5 million bbls/yr ("only" about 0.18 mbd) was created by sales of 13.5 million cars. But next year, that would be another 18 million cars, and a new 0.24 mbd (total increase in 2 years of 0.42 mbd) of oil demand. In year 3, another ~ 25 million new cars would be added and another 0.34 mbd of new oil demand added (= 0.76 mbd new oil demand). By year 4 (45 million new cars, 0.6 mbd demand just from them, total new demand = 1.36 mbd new oil.....), well, you can see the picture. Add that to declining discoveries, declining new production coming online and the price of $80/bbl will not be able to hold. India (only 1.1 billion people) also has similar dreams.

In fact, much of the breakdown at the Copenhagen Climate talks (COP-15) were centered on China and India wanting to develop economically via automobiles. That means almost guaranteed increases in oil demands from countries which have meager and depleting oil reserves, which means they need to buy it from Russia (in oil production rate decline), Africa (for China, Sudan, thus funding genocide in Darfur) and of course, the Middle East. So far, Iraq is the only country with significant reserves that are not being tapped significantly; even Saudi Arabia will be hard-pressed to increase capacity above decline rates. Furthermore both China and India have pursued mercantilistic economies, driving established manufacturing out of business in the U.S. (among other places) via cheap labor and government funding even in money losing operations, just for the foreign currency. So they have huge currency reserves, while in the U.S., we have DEBT (domestic and balance of trade). Much of that U.S. trade imbalance is crude oil related (10 mbd at $80/bbl is about $300 BILLION per year. While we no longer have real money to import oil, China and India do have money (our money via Walmarts). Oh well, it's not as if we were not warned by union leaders in the U.S. such as Leo Girard (Steelworkers).

Here is the basic proposition: we are close to (may have passed it, are at it, or will soon be at it) the point where oil production cannot be maintained at current rates. With the exception of Iraq, almost all major oil production fields are either past peak production (for example, Burgan in Kuwait and Cantarell in Mexico) or nearing it. Any increase in consumption rate will not likely be matched by an increase in production rate. Adding to this problem is the "Export Land Model" scenario. This states that for exporting countries that subsidize domestic production (for example, Mexico, Venezuela and Iran), oil exports tend to decline at a much faster rate than does the drop in overall production rates. This has tremendous importance for oil importing countries such as the U.S., because the decline in oil available for purchase on the world market will start dropping fast once production no longer increases at a rate to match the increases in domestic consumption of oil producing nations. The decline rate in the amount of oil available for export (= for import) can be dramatic - much faster than the decline in overall oil production. And the world oil price tends to be set by the oil available for export, not the total volume of oil that is produced worldwide.

At present, any country that does not produce enough domestic oil but which seeks to increase consumption of oil results in either of two things. As long as those increases are matched by decreases in consumption somewhere else (thus keeping a slight excess supply of oil available for export), oil prices will not increase much. However, if other countries do not reduce their consumption, then there will be a supply crunch when there is insufficient oil available for export, leading to staggering price rises as the process of demand destruction takes place. And keep in mind that like the game of musical chairs, even with a constant world production rate, the oil available for export is ALREADY DECLINING. See here and http://www.energybulletin.net/node/38948. Among the top 5 exporters (SA, Russia, Iran, UAE, Norway), exports are expected to decline about 6.2%/year (in 2006, their 24 mbd accounted for about half of all exports). Thus, there seems to be no likelihood of increase world net exports, and the likelihood is for continuing decline - for 2009, net exports of ~ 43.5 mbd are down 2% from the 2005 all time record of 44.1 mbd. In other words, 0.6 mbd less oil was available for export in 2009. If this total is added to China's increase in automobile related consumption, 0.8 mbd was available for the rest of the world versus 2008.

Since the USA is way less than broke both domestically and especially with regards to a balance of payments basis, we cannot outbid China for oil. They have the money and we don't, and both they and India can outbid the U.S. for oil, and apparently are doing so. Our only choice is to import less, and that means consume less. We cannot produce our way out of this mess, oil wise. In theory, we could use more and more Ngas for transportation either directly or by converting this to gasoline (several established processes for doing this), but this will only staunch the bleeding a bit, so to speak. It will also cause significant spiking in the price of Ngas due to the increase in the demand for Ngas (to convert it into gasoline and diesel), and this would bring on price equivalency between Ngas and oil (e.g. the thermal price ($/MBtu) for oil and Ngas would be similar; right now Ngas retails in bulk for ~ $5.70/MBtu, while fuel oil in bulk is near $2/gallon ($13.50/MBtu). We have to consume less oil, and in a rapid manner. We can't rearrange Ngas to serve as a petroleum substitute, as we presently import 15% of our Ngas supply, too. We will be lucky to remain self-sufficient in Ngas, and we also have to wean ourselves off of the use of Ngas as a source for electricity, and then as a source for residential and commercial heat. Installing infrastructure/investment that uses more Ngas to make more of our electricity just guarantees a future increased demand for Ngas - not good (unless you are in the Ngas sale business), seeing as that supply will be increasingly expensive, and depleting. Installing infrastructure/investments to convert Ngas into petroleum also perpetuates this system, also guaranteeing future Ngas demand/higher prices/faster depletion.

But how do we cut out oil and Ngas use in the U.S.A., now that we have based our society on these wonderfully useful (but without an infinite supply of them) fuels?

Turbine Power, that's one way to do it. The US and Canada have wind resources in vast excess of current electricity supply. We also have significant tidal resources (Oregon/Washington/Alaska, NE USA, Bay of Fundy, British Columbia, the Maritimes (of Canada), etc). And then there is run-of-river hydroelectricity (alternative to dams, and without the negative ecological impact of dams). Tidal turbines have varying but highly predictable outputs, whereas wind is unpredictable on a short term basis at any given site/quite predictable on an annual basis. Stringing together large numbers of wind turbine arrays that are dispersed over 160,000 square mile (400 miles x 400 miles) areas produces a very stable hourly/daily/weekly output, but this does not deal with peak electrical usage in a satisfactory manner. Run-of-river (ROR) systems have seasonal and sometimes significant annual variability. However, all of these problems can be dealt with using existing technologies, though improvements such as "smart grids" also would be helpful.

Above all, an increase in the one proven and extremely low cost/dependable method of storing electrical energy is required for this renewable energy (Green Jobs/Green Energy) approach - pumped hydroelectric (PH). Currently the US only has ~ 18 GW of PH capacity, though we have tremendous potential for it. PH can even be used with seawater - obviously a tailor made solution for California. We will begin to need at least 10 times our current PH capacity when we start to exceed 20% of our electricity from wind turbines and go towards 100% renewables.

Two other approaches could be used to store electrical and/or heat energy. One is via biomass - fast growing cellulose, in effect. This can be either burned as is or converted to syngas (a mix of H2, CO, CO2 and water), processed and then stored as either methane (Ngas) or as liquid fuels. In addition, electricity can be used to convert water to H2 and O2; the O2 can be used to convert cellulose to syn-gas, while the H2 can be used to reduce either N2 to ammonia (both a fertilizer or a fuel, analogous to LPG) or CO2 to a variety of fuels - methanol, ethanol, methane, gasoline, diesel, acetic acid (makes esters with glycerol) and other materials. H2 can also be used to convert syngas mixes into materials such as alcohols and hydrocarbons. These all work as stored energy sources, or else replace materials presently made with petroleum or Ngas. When liquid or gas fuels are burned, both heat and electricity, or just heat can be obtained. But in any case, the result is renewable electricity converted into stored fuels.

Obviously, replacing existing fossil and nuclear (i.s polluting electricity) with renewable electricity is fairly straightforward (see U.S. Energy Flow Diagram). In the US, replacing the Ngas used to make electricity would avoid the use of about 15 bcfd, or about 25% of the Ngas consumed in the U.S. Since imports are currently about 15% of the supply (~ 9 bcfd of the total of ~ 63 bcfd used), this would free up the US from LNG imports and also Canadian imports (about $20 billion per year is presently spent of methane imports). This would also keep Ngas prices from rising, and slow down the depletion of US Ngas reserves. Ngas supplies about 90 GW of US electricity; replacing it with wind would entail installing about 270 GW (about 9 times our current installed wind capacity). Replacing the coal and nuke derived electricity (~ 340 GW) would require installation of about 1000 GW of wind capacity.

Another rarely thought of use for renewable electricity is in residential and commercial heating. Much of this is currently done with Ngas (about 28 bcfd on average). In terms of electricity, about 300 GW of newly installed delivered electricity (current national usage averages about 420 GW) would be needed to provid the heat using only resistive heating. If all of this could be done using groundwater based or air based heat pumps (unlikely), the electrical usage would drop to around 60 GW (a good argument for heat pumps where possible).

Replacing the Ngas used for electricity and heat could probably be done with an additional 200 GW of delivered electricity. This would need about 500 GW of offshore based wind turbines, or 600 GW of land nbased wind turbines. This would have an impressive effect on Ngas consumption and supply requirements - down to about 20 bcfd from 63 bcfd.

Probably that hardest energy sector to replace is oil used for transportation - 8.8 mbd of gasoline, about 4 mbd of diesel, and about 1.2 mbd of aviation (mostly jet) fuel. Probably the best way to lower the current consumption rates is with increases in fuel efficiency, less mileage traveled, substitution of SOME petroleum with renewable fuels (ethanol, biodiesel, other fuels) and lastly some use of electricity for transportation energy.

At present, US car gasoline mileage is about 22 mpg - while Europe's is near 42 mpg. Achieving the European standard (and they now have a higher standard of living than we do) would cut gasoline usage by about 4.4 mbd. Next, some combination of driving fewer miles (somewhere near 50% less miles driven), using mass transportation more (especially electric mass transit), moving closer to work, using motorcycles instead of cars, biking, walking, and using partly electrified (Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles - PEHV) or just all electric cars should then be able to lower gasoline (or EtOH/gasoline) usage another 50%, to near 2.2 mbd. After all, ethanol is now made at rates of about 0.65 mbd (equal to about 0.45 mbd of gasoline) in the US. At the rate of 1.8 mbd of gasoline, about 3.6 mbd of crude oil is needed - and presently, US crude oil production is about 5.5 mbd. There is also significant amounts of "lease condensates/natural gas liquids" - about 0.8 mbd co-produced from natural gas wells, and which contain a lot of gasoline components. Thus, US usable crude oil production averages around 6 mbd for liquid fuels.

Another way to reduce petroleum usage is to shift long haul trucking over to trains (see Alan Drake's excellent electric freight plan for how this could work). In general, trains are 9 times as efficient at hauling freight as are trucks, and freight rail can be easily electrified, in a way that would further strength the grid and renewable energy. Electrification of 36,000 miles of main railroad lines (they haul about 80% of rail freight traffic) could avoid using most of the 260,000 bbls/day of diesel now used by trains, and also replace up to 1 mbd of the 2.5 mbd used in trucks. And if less and less coal is mined/burned for electricity, more of the freight lines could be opened by to haul truck trailers via rail "piggy-back" (coal is one of the major items hauled by rail).

Finally, the passenger rail system (city-to-city, or mass transit in metro areas) needs a drastic upgrade. This could significantly lower both gasoline usage by cars, but also jet fuel usage, especially for "short haul" trios of ~ 500 miles or less. Trains are a 21st century mode of transit, whereas cars and jets are, in general, a 20th century approach. Trains are amazingly frugal energy users (especially electrified passenger rail) compared to airplanes and individual cars.

Conclusion
Of course, a massive Keynesian stimulus (not the wimpy stuff tried to date (as of January, 2010) by the Obama Administration) could do wonders for passenger rail construction/light rail in metro areas. So would supplying the renewable energy systems to replace polluting electrical generation, polluting heat production (especially residential and commercial) and some of our transportation needs. However, most of the oil usage minimization would come by just being more efficient - or to put it another way, less wasteful - (less driving, higher gasoline mileage, less long haul trucking, less airplane usage when trains could do as well) and... smarter. At minimum, eliminating oil imports would save about $300 billion/yr or more in money exports - and by doing that, the US balance of payments might actually go positive, but there would be significant economic benefits because that money would remain circulating within the country; exporting it is like imposing a $300 billion/yr tax on the people. Furthermore, that $300 billion/yr is likely to grow to more than $1 trillion/yr when Ngas is also included once oil and Ngas prices spike again, and again in the near future.


By eliminating most petroleum usage, the investments needed for rail and renewable energy investments can be obtained. After all, $300 billion to $1 trillion/yr is a bit more than chump change. And this plan proposed in this article would also eliminate well over 50% of the US CO2 pollution (most oil and Ngas, which constitute 65% of US Co2 pollution) without significantly impacting electricity costs to consumers (they probably will rise IN EITHER CASE), as long as Feed-In Law arrangements are employed. As renewable electricity is made available, it could also replace the dirt cheap coal burning units, further eliminating CO2 significant single point pollution sources. Once the pricey fossil fuel usages that can be replaced by renewable electricity are taken care of, the replacement of coal can begin in a serious manner, once oil and Ngas prices are no longer bleeding the country to death, economically speaking. Yes, looks like oil and natural gas have now become lampreys on our society. That puts a different spin on those Exxon-Mobil and "Clean Natural Gas" advertisements, right?

DB

Sunday, January 10, 2010

More on 2009 and Wind Energy

Introduction
In most science fiction novels about the near term future (and which seem to mostly be very dystopian, too), the idea that a lot of our energy would be obtained with wind turbines is...hardly contemplated. Maybe it's solar thermal, PV, nuclear fusion, more fission.... just not wind turbines. Oh well, they got cell phones and the internet, and the current way we are trending in wars, satellites, and especially powerful computers, but I guess you can't win them all.

As of the end of last year, there was about 121 GW of wind turbine capacity installed throughout the world, though mostly in a few countries - USA, Germany, China, India and collectively, Europe. About 27.2 GW of new capacity was installed in 2008. The official numbers are not out yet for 2009, but it appears that about 30 GW was installed for last year, raising the total to near 150 GW, in spite of the dreadful "Great Recession" (any relation to The Grim Reaper?). By the end of 2010, world capacity could be near 200 GW. This is far ahead of estimates from the International Energy Agency, but that is good, right? After all, with an average worldwide growth rate of 25%/yr, the installed capacity would double every 3 years. Thus, by the end of 2019, we should have about 12.2 times the existing wind capacity ( A(2009) = 150 GW starting in Jan, 2010; A(2019) = A(2009) * Exp[0.25*10] ) the current installed capacity for wind turbines, or about 1827 GW, delivering about 550 GW on a continuous basis (current capacity of US and Canada combined) assuming the net output efficiency of the turbines averages 30%. That's also good, right?

Discussion
It appears that China installed more capacity in 2009 than any other country (est of about 10 GW). China appears to be doing what the U.S. SHOULD be doing - doubling capacity each year. In 2008, there was ~ 8.5 GW installed in the US - and for 2009, about 7 GW - the decline was due to "The Great Recession". At this pace the Chinese government will put in 20 GW of wind in 2010. This is not done for environmental reasons or for any "love the world reasons" - this is strictly in the self interest of the leaders of the government of China. Wind (in their case, mostly from Mongolia) is less expensive than nukes, natural gas and in some cases, coal. Plus, being the hard-core mercentilist, monopoly-capitalist-communist hybrid that they are, they are thinking about dominating the wind turbine market, or at least doing for wind turbines in the US what they did for shoes....

China has certain long term energy troubles. First, it will soon experience what is known as "peak Coal", where the rate of domestic coal production cannot keep up with domestic demand. For some background, check out here, here and there (URR = Un-Recovered Reserves). China uses over 2 billion tons/yr (twice that of the U.S.), most of which goes for electricity production, followed by heating, steel and ammonia/urea production (largely used internally for their rice and wheat crops). Most of the electricity manufacture in China is done in highly polluting units - little or no sulfur dioxide/NOx scrubbing, and the same for particulate control, so it is inherently cheap, especially when the external costs of coal burning are completely not counted. Due to China's rapid expansion in coal usage, depletion is an ongoing worry. China is now a net coal importer, versus being a modest coal exporter five years ago. This trend will accelerate as production declines from existing mines whilst demand keeps on rising. It has attempted to diversify its fossil fuel sources with massive oil stockpiles, pipelines for oil from Siberia, and natural gas from Turkmenistan via Kazakhstan, but these premium fossil fules also command premium prices. If coal production has already peaked....this would imply that domestic coal production would soon start declining, and that ever larger quantities of imported material (Australia, South Africa and USA) will be needed. And if there is a large drive to produce oil from coal, this will significantly increase coal demand even more...further accelerating the process.

Europe's coal production peaked in 1988, and has been declining at a 3%/yr rate, which means that it is now about 50% of what it was in 1988. Furthermore, the quality of the coal being consumed is also lower grade (more lignite and high sulfur coal). There have even been significant downgrades in the US coal URR estimates of late (which is different than the amount of coal in the ground, as not all of that is economically recoverable). This will mean that future coal costs could well replicate recent oil prices - higher demand can't be met by a falling supply, and so prices end up spiking until more expensive mines are brought on line to balance out supply and demand, and some of that demand is squashed out via the higher prices. However, unlike oil, where there is effectively no competition, there can be competition in electricity supply - in the U.S. and Canada, from wind turbines. Approximately 1 MW-hr of electricity made from coal also makes about 1 ton of CO2 pollutant when Appalachian/Illinois coal is burned. Thus, 1 MW of delivered wind turbine electricity displaces on average about 8766 tons/yr of CO2 pollutant, and 1 GW delivered prevents 8.766 megatons/yr of CO2 pollution. 550 GW delivered would avoid 4.8 gigatons/yr of CO2 pollution...cool.

Now, some would say it would be easier and cheaper (= more profitable for a select few) to replace coal usage with methane (natural gas). After all, in the production of 1 MW-hr of electricity only 832 lbs of CO2 pollutant are made in a methane burning combined cycle facility operating at a 50% efficiency. However, gas prices are extremely volatile, and slight upturns in demand (such as converting methane to gasoline, or methane to electricity) can have dramatic effects on the price of gas. Like coal, methane is best left in the ground. Plus, the estimated price needed to justfy the investment in the US is averaging $8.50/MBtu; add in delivery, and it would be close to $10/MBtu. Electricity made for such gas would need to be about 8.3 c/kw-hr to break even, though that price would fluctuate significantly due to the instability of Ngas pricing.

Every year the US Energy Information Agency produces summaries of the US energy sources and estimates future demands, supplies and prices. A preview of the latest AEO2010 report (powerpoint presentation) is now available.

And of course, with all depletable, underground sources of fossil fuels we humans have another problem - that of accurately forecasting the rate at which these can be extracted at (often) unpredictable prices at various locations, especially on decade long and generation long time periods, and that of estimation of how much is actually present to begin with. In many cases, information on the URRs is quite sketchy (especially for coal and also oil and gas reserves in the Middle East). Furthermore, what about the demand profile - does it steeply increase or remain constant or decrease? That demand profile seems to be a function of the price of those fuels, too; increase the prices (taxes, CO2 pollution fees, etc) and the demand drops as other, less grotesque ways of making energy evolve, or people learn to do without and/or get more efficient with.And what about the price for these fuels - if they get too pricey, many people won't be able to afford them, and hence demand will drop. In the essay "Making Society Forecast-Proof", a powerful argument for renewable energy (which is forecastable) is made.

While the U.S. has now entered a slow growth phase with respect to wind turbines, that need not be the case. There is a huge wind resource flowing across most of the US and Canada, enough to supply the current demand for electricity several times over. On a combined basis, a good estimate would be at least 90 times the current electricity demand could be supplied by the winds flowing across the US and Canada. And that does not even count the offshore potential.... Odds are, that would take a lot of employment to manufacture and install the necessary wind turbines as well as the pumped hydroelectric energy storage facilities needed for a country that has a very high percentage of it's electricity provided by wind turbines. What a perfect lead-in to a story about an American Hero few have heard about - Harry Hopkins, who created 4 million jobs over the winter of 1933-1934, much to the horror of Republicans of that time. One result was a landslide victory for the Democrats in the 1934 congressional elections. Coincidence...not; instead, a direct result. It would be nice if someone in the Obama Administration had the stones to do such a thing with regards to wind turbines. But, no such luck so far. And the same goes for New York State government. Bummer.

Maybe here is an explanation for this lackluster performance on renewable energy/Global Warming/Peak Oil: http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/23240.

Lastly, there is some good news on the offshore wind front. Installed capacity is now more than 2 GW, with almost 3.5 GW under construction, and about 45 GW on tap by 2020. And a newly formatted website to keep track of it, including actual energy output of some units. So far Horns Rev 1 seems to be the winner with regards to net output efficiency - a bit over 47%. Some of the newly announced wind farms are above the 1 GW rating. See http://home.wxs.nl/~windsh/offshore.html.

As the Great Sage and Cable TV genius/philosopher Larry The Cable Guy says all so frequently:

"Git 'R done".

Sometimes it's just that simple. But to accomplish that, there has to be a will to do it, not just a mushy wish, where coal use and natural gas use to make electricity is preferred to wind turbines because wind energy is one or two or a few cents/kw-hr cheaper on a short term basis that fails to incorporate the external costs of the use of those obsolete fossil fuels. Hopefully, times will change that somewhat deranged view, and the U.S. will once again grow a pair.

DB

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009 Wind Energy Summary

Introduction
2009 was a very turbulent year, where much of the industrialized world woke up with a wretched hangover from the speculation party that lingered on until Lehman Brothers bit the big one in the Fall of 2008. GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, and GE almost went down, too. Trillions were spent and lent by the U.S. Government and it's offshoot, the Federal Reserve, bailing out major banks and investors. The Great Recession caused the unemployment of more than 7 million people in the US alone (over 20 million in China, supposedly). Energy consumption actually dropped for oil and electricity...almost unheard of events. Prices of these inelastic goods dropped drastically with the 5 to 15% drop in consumption.

The wind industry was caught up in this malestrom. It is extremely capital intensive, and when finances seized up, so did a lot of wind turbine developments. Especially those projects and finance packages predicated on tax credits and deductions (no taxable income, no tax credits, and no deductions can be used) as well as on a rising bulk price of electricity. In countries where fixed electricity prices for renewable energy (Feed-In laws and/or Power Purchase Agreements), there was less impact. Towards the end of 2009, some semblance of normalcy returned, and in the US, part of this credit goes to the somewhat wimpy (but better than nothing!!) stimulus efforts of the Obama Administration. However, this was also a worldwide story. Anyway, here is one happy ending story in one of the windiest places in the Western Hemisphere - Aruba (an island in the Carribean just north of Venezuela). The Vestas V90 x 3 MW fast wind speed units will have an output of close to 55% of their rated capacity - that's one winy place.

Discussion
When the Lehman Bros demise happened, about $2 billion in short term loans ("the paper market") taken out by Lehman Bros become frozen in bankruptcy, and could not be repaid on time. As a result, the entire Paper Market siezed up, and the $1 trillion+ per day short term loan business shut down with astonishing speed, and short term rates skyrocketed. While the $2 billion worth of loans were eventually paid back, the Paper Market freak-out cascaded to Hedge Funds, other investors, investment banks, "regular banks", bond funds and bond brokers, and then to AIG, the insurance company megalith. It turns out that one of the more profitable ventures for AIG in 2000 to 2008 was to issue insurance (Credit Default Swaps) on bonds that were composed of mass quantities of real estate loans (Collateralized Debt Obligations). The AIG insurance was needed if those bundled bonds stopped paying the required bond payments. Well, many of the house loans in those bundled bonds went bust as those homeowners lured in by initial low interest loans got nailed by combinations of unemployment and the higher variable rate parts of those loans. When they couldn't make their payments (many of which doubled), the value of those bonds dropped from face value to just a small fraction of those initial values. The value of the homeowners houses also had dropped, so selling those houses was also not an option, assuming that was even possible. Of course, the probability of such events happening on a mass scale was supposed to be essentially zilch (a "Black Swan" event). And many took out insurance on the insurance for those bonds. Oops...

Many of those bundled bonds were put together by major investment banks, such as UBS, Credit Suisse, Citibank, Bank of America, Deutche Bank and of course, Goldman Sachs. And many (especially Goldman) took bets out on those CDO's that they had formed and then sold to companies like AIG - they bet that those CDO's would drop in value (called "shorting"), often with AIG, no less. When those house loan defaults started looking more like a tidal wave, AIG's lucrative bond insurance division and those high yielding CDO's (15% to 20% interest rates on house loans are high yielding, after all, and that is what many of the variable rate house loans/home improvement loans turned into) turned into a dreadful black hole of a money pit. In the end, the US Goverment bailed out the banks who had sold those CDO's, bought CDS's, and made bets on the value of those bonds by loaning AIG eventually $180 BILLION.

This turned into what John Maynard Keynes saw in the 1930's - a collapse in demand. With people stretched thin for money to begin with, the giant surge in oil prices from $55/bbl to $147/bbl in less than a year (mid-2007 to 2008) was the proverbial sack of cement that broke the camel's back. The price surge also was seen for related natural gas and coal prices. Consumers had to cut back on spending (most had seen their real income drop during the 2000 to 2008 time period), and then this led to a massive collapse in demand, as well as drops in wealth (for example, house values, property values, commodity prices, stocks). The philosophy of the neo-cons/neo-liberals and right wingers/Republicans - tax cuts for the wealthy, hands off of regulation on financial machinations,etc - lay in a smoldering ruin, along with the future of capital intensive businesses in the U.S. Investment dropped in the 'real economy". Etc....

2008 was a great year for the wind industry, both in the world and in the U.S., where ~ 8500 MW of capacity was installed vs. ~5200 MW in 2007 and ~2500 MW in 2006. But, without customers for the electricity (who could pay the prices needed) and the ability to get financing, the decent advance of the wind industry slowed to an estimated ~ 7000 MW in 2009. Much of the slowdown happened when international financiers re-evaluated the business risk assessment for U.S. projects, especially due to the need to use the Production Tax Credit and the MACRS rapid depreciation (worth 50% more than the PTC, on average). Projects that could get by on 70% loan/30% equity now had to be done with 60% equity and 40% loan, and at higher interest rates. Meanwhile, in places like Germany, farmers can still get loans for commercial scale wind turbines with 5% down payments and lower interest rates ..... those darn Feed-In laws....

Worldwide, several developers folded - especially Babcock & Brown (the Bluewater Wind offshore wind development division was eventually bought by NRG, a spin-off of Xcel (a Minnesota based electric monopoly); NRG owns the Huntley and Dunkirk coal burners in Western NY) - victims of the credit crunch. One trend was increasing ownership of large projects - especially offshore projects - by major utilities, such as Iberdola (Spanish), E.On and RWE (German), Vattenfall (Sweden), DONG (Danish), or in some case by fossil fuel companies (TransAlta's takeover of Canadian Hydro Developers). These big companies have significant capital or access to capital, and are able to finance significant wind turbine investments. After all, who else has a spare $200 million available for long term steady investments like 100 MW wind farms?

Anyway, it's like Jefferson Airplane said on the "After Bathing at Baxter's" album - No man is an island - he's a peninsula. It's a very interconnected world.....


Once again, the old adage that it's easier to build something than to get permission (or financing) to start building seems to reign supreme. This point was rammed home with a vengeance at the recent Copenhagen Climate talks (COP-15). On display was one of the largest wind turbine blades in the world (made by a Danish company - LM Glasfiber) used in the Alpha Ventus offshore wind farm - the blade was for an RE Power 5 MW wind turbine. Also on display was varying amounts of international intrigue (China and India were sandbagging CO2 limitation talks while successfully pinning the blame on the U.S.), opportunism (Europe wants to sell renewable energy equipment to the 3rd and 4th world, who could trade CO2 pollution rights for renewable energy systems), cowardice (many in the US Govt do not want coal, oil and gas prices raised by CO2 pollution fees), environmental activism - here's a piece by James Hansen as published in The Nation - and lots of street theater as well as media whoring/manipulation of the media/manipulation by the media. What a multi-dimensional circus...but also on display, what an immense project - make energy without CO2 pollution, on a large scale, and quit making energy that gives rise to CO2 pollution. Somehow, through the noise and chaos, some people did get one of the message - you can make a lot of electricity without CO2 pollution and generate a lot of jobs in the process if a lot of wind turbines get installed. The European Wind Energy Association has some nifty downloadable reports on that, too.

Some Tech Talk
In 2009, the offshore wind business went commercial in Europe, especially with the German waters opened up via a need Feed-in Tariff (13.5 Eurocents/kw-hr) rate for offshore. Manufacturers and construction/engineering concerns are now happy campers and busy. There are three 5 MW manufacturers (RE Power, Areva, Bard), one 3.6 MW manufacturer (Siemens, with a 107 and 120 meter rotor lengths), and with Vestas and Siemens making intermediate scale (3MW, 2.3 MW, 2 MW) units. The new Vestas V120 x 3 MW unit is actually designed for moderate scale offshore winds. Meanwhile, Enercon still makes the biggest wind turbine in the world (6 and 7 MW), but this is mostly slated for land (using a 135 meter tall reinforced concrete tower). They also can adapt their 82 meter rotor unit (E-82) from the normal 2 MW to a fast wind 3 MW (used for the first wind farm in very windy British Columbia at Bear Mountain).

The rise of the > 2 MW wind turbine was quite evident in 2008 (Nordex installed it's 1000th 2.5 MW unit in early 2008). As was the development of wind turbines designed for lower wind speeds - such as the Nordex N100 (2.5 MW), Fuhrlaender FL-2500 (100 meter rotor, 2.5 MW), Siemens 101.2 m x 2.3 MW unit, WinWinD 3 MW x 100 meter, Vestas V90 (1.8 MW, 90 meter rotor), V-100 (100 meter rotor, 95 meter tower, 1.8 MW) and GE's new 2.5 MW unit (to be used on a huge wind farm in Oregon) - also with a 100 m rotor diameter. The troubled Clipper Wind was partly bought by United Technologies in late 2009, injecting some much needed capital. There were 460 of the 2.5 MW Clipper turbines operating in the US as of July 2009.

On the international front, Europe continues with a steady 8.5 GW/yr of onshore installations. South Africa is expected to show a significant rise in installations following the approval of a feed-in Law this spring. Both China and India are considering Feed-in Laws. China is almost doubling wind turbine installations every year, though there are significant quality issues with the turbines made by Chinese companies (usually government/military owned). China is also beginning to market it's turbines for export. China now has the 3rd largest wind turbine capacity in the world, and will likely have the largest at the end of 2010, or in 2011, based on the hibernating state of affairs in the US.

In Mexico, the huge wind canyon in Oaxaca is being developed, as is the mountain range in Costa Rica (as windy as Aruba, or maybe more so). Australia may soon have a Feed-In Law which would overcome the tilt towards ever more coal and gas derived electricity (Australia has lots of natural gas and cheap coal), which gives the country a horrible CO2 per capita emissions rate. In nearby New Zealand, almost 500 MW has been installed and several thousand MW are "on deck". NZ is one of the windier places on earth, and a country already experiencing "peak hydrocarbons" - their gas wells have mostly been tapped out) it may well be one of the first countries in the world to be essentially all renewable with respect to electricity via wind, pumped hydro and hydro (Iceland is the only one to date via its hydroelectricity). Canada had one of its better years in terms of installed capacity (now 3256 MW), with another 4500 MW under construction, but that will change rapidly due to 3 factors. One is the offshore project in British Columbia (750 MW, Nai Kan), another is due to the huge PPA's set up in Quebec (1000 MW mostly complete, 2500 MW underway) and the most important factor is the Ontario Feed-In Law. Ontario will develop significant onshore resources, but there are 100 offshore (Great Lakes) proposed projects - the first one mostly likely being 710 MW in Lake Ontario (Trillium). In one of the more welcome developments, the jobs aspect of Offshore wind is being stressed by companies such as trillium, plus every Great lakes state/province.

As for NY, several projects essentially constructed in 2008 were commissioned in 2009. There were no new projects started, and until electricity prices recover to less than depression era pricing, none will be started in 2010. In the January 2009 issue of North American Windpower, the New York Projects/scene was extensively discussed. NYPA plans to issue an RFP winner for 500 MW worth of Great Lakes projects in June of 2010, though these efforts will be dwarfed by those in Ontario. But, NY joins Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin in offshore wind project proposals.

For an excellent overview of October 2009 wind turbine electricity costs, check out this report from "The Information Bridge" - http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy10osti/46671.pdf

In other less notable developments, the avian issue and wind turbines seems to be less of an issue to wind turbine opponents (but bats and the ESA are afflicting Invenergy in Indiana). Instead, the much more nebulous issues of sound and view are becoming more prominent. AWEA and CANWEA recently commissioned and published a report on wind turbines and sound. Titled "Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects". The 82 page report (which is an excellent examination of sound and wind turbines) demolishes the so-called "wind turbine syndrome" concept that low frequency "infrasound" from wind turbines is event detectable by people, let alone. As for the view....rich people never seem to cease and desist on this topic. After opponents of the project (financed by several billionaires whose money is derived by air pollution) losing every legal argument, the Cape Wind project in Massachussetts is finally able to proceed with negotiation of a PPA with National Grid (they are also the Massachussetts electricity monopoly). A similar situation is occurring in Pentwater, Michigan (a tiny enclave of the affluent on the Lake Michigan coast, just south of Ludington). It seems the $3+ million per house crowd does not want their view of Lake Michigan obstructed in the slightest (2.17 degrees vertical, 0.08 degrees horizontal (tower part) per turbine) by a $4 billion dollar offshore wind farm that could use the 8.5 to 9 m/s hub height wind speeds and the Ludington Pumped Hydro electrical energy storage system. The expected 400 to 450 MW average output could easily replace one or several polluting coal burning generator stations in that part of Michigan. So, who owns those photons conveying the image of a wind turbine, anyway?

NO MAN IS AN ISLAND ..... he's a peninsula.

DB

ShareThis

 
Web Analytics