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Well, what do you know? I look around, and see a story saying Solar power gains momentum after long struggle in Texas. And not in "Grist" or "Solar Energy News!" or any such ... but in the Dallas Morning News Business section from Wed, 4 June 2014.

According to the story,

Recurrent announced plans last month to build a 150-megawatt solar farm in West Texas after signing a 20-year power purchase deal with Austin Energy. That comes just months after First Solar, one of the world’s largest solar companies, began construction on a 22-megawatt farm near Fort Stockton with plans of eventually expanding to 150 megawatts.
...
And an even more dramatic acceleration could be ahead. Solar developers have been flooding the state’s grid operators with applications for more solar farms, close to 2,000 megawatts worth, said Warren Lasher, director of system planning for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. “It’s hard to say how much will actually get built,” he said. “It’s been this way for more than a year. But it’s a significant increase from before.”
Join me for utility scale solar PV, utility scale solar thermal, onshore wind, offshore wind, and grid integration ...  below the fold.

The Texas Tipping Point for Utility Scale Solar Photovoltaic

Part of this is driven by municipal (not state) pro-sustainable energy policy ... but not all of it:

Driving the recent interest are environmental mandates from Austin’s and San Antonio’s city-owned utilities to vastly expand how much electricity they get from solar in the decade ahead. At the same time the cost of solar has come down dramatically over the last two years — Harris estimated between 60 and 70 percent.

Recurrent is reportedly selling power at the rate of around 5 cents per kilowatt hour, roughly 25 percent above the current wholesale rate in Texas.

But considering the 20-year contract and that power prices are prone to rise in the decades ahead, solar seems close to winning contracts on pricing alone.

“On the surface it looks like a very attractive deal,” John Fainter, president of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas, said of the Recurrent contract. “With all this coal being retired, you’re probably going to replace it with gas [plants]. And that will probably move the price of gas up and the price of power here. … If the price of the equipment keeps coming down, solar is going to be more and more attractive.”

We are, in other words, very close to utility scale solar photovoltaic facilities being at wholesale market rates. And wholesale market rates during the day, when the sun is shining, are strongly determined by natural gas prices, since natural gas power plants are the "swing producers" during peak demand period, coming online when the wholesale price is high enough to cover the cost of the fuel, and going offline when the wholesale price drops below the amount require to cover the cost of the fuel.

This 25% premium is substantially lower than it was even this time last year. Part of that is the falling cost of photovoltaic solar panels. But another part is the recent upwsing in in the price of natural gas.

Part of the fracking boom has involved producers chasing production of "wet" fracking gas fields that produce the natural gas liquids (NGL) which are more lucrative than methane production. This has allowed production to continue even as the prices for methane itself drops below the level that would drive more drilling on its own.

And when you are bumping along with part of your production below the sustainable price for free-standing production, there is often a lot more room for the price to go up than for the price to go down. Which we got a taste of over this winter with the extended polar vortex parked over the eastern US for extended periods, driving up demand for natural gas, and with it the spot price for natural gas.

Add on top of that warnings that Natural Gas Production Growth Is Slowing (HiddenValueInvestor at financial investment news and analysis site Seeking Alpha ~ free member login required to read full article), as consumption increases and natural gas storage has dropped, it would not be surprising to see natural gas prices rise even further over time. The argument in that analysis is that widespread expectations of production growth do not line up with what we know about declines in existing natural gas fields. Nor does it line up with rates of investment in facilities to get natural gas from new producing fields to market ~ indicating that the production expectations of the producers themselves do not add up to as much natural gas as the expectations of outside observers.

Now, low natural gas prices are a big part of what has been driving coal fired power plants into closure. But a big part of the cost of coal-fired power is the cost of the power plant. A price that is just enough to keep a coal plant in operation is, therefore, well below the price required to get a new coal fired power plant built.

And that 25% premium over wholesale prices for solar photovoltaic in Texas paints a picture where price spikes for natural gas drive a substantial amount of investment in new solar photovoltaic production.

Indeed, its not even necessary to bridge the entire 25% to drive substantial new investment. Without a fuel cost to cover, electrical utilities can contract long term contracts with utility scale solar power producers which reduce their exposure to natural gas price spikes. So part of the gap in price is covered the insurance value of the long term stable wholesale price from a given solar farm.

Indeed, if we consider the environmental costs of burning natural gas, then combined with the self-insurance effect of stable long term contracts its likely that utility scale solar photovoltaic in Texas is in reality effectively cheaper than natural gas power today ... with the 25% market premium a measure of the fiction that we can use the atmosphere as a CO2 and fugitive methane emissions dump "for free" just because we decide to not charge the real costs of those emissions.

Of course, not everywhere in Texas adheres to support for this fiction, which is the cause of the municipal renewable energy standards which are driving some of this investment. But there is substantial faith in Texas in the value of keeping on lying to natural gas consumers about the real cost of their natural gas so long as they can get away with it.

So if utility scale solar photovoltaic is approaching the tipping point for Texas ... well, that's worth paying attention to.

 
Solar and Wind: Renewable Energy Transmission Is Cheaper For  Portfolio

Now, the whole point about the cost of solar farms in Texas is the cost of optioning land from West Texas ranchers. Not a lot of Texans live in West Texas, which is why that land is inexpensive to option. But since not a lot of Texans live in West Texas, you have to get the power to where they do.

Except, while there is a solar energy boom coming, there is a Windpower boom already here in West Texas. West Texas already has substantial windpower capacity. Back in the summer of 2011, when Texas was for the third time in that year setting a new record in electrical power consumption of 68 GW, 2 GW (~3%) of that was being supplied by wind ... and with an afternoon / early evening summer peak, that was during a time of day that windpower production is lower than at night.

Indeed, this last March, windpower generation exceeded 10 GW, at times providing 1/3 of Texas's consumption of electricity. Part of that increase came from the addition of a transmission line project to connect West Texas and Panhandle windpower to consumers in East and Central Texas.

Which gives us part of the natural complementarity between solar photovoltaic and onshore wind. As reported in the article in the Dallas Morning News that launched this week's Sunday Train, the transmission capacity being put in place to allow West Texas windpower to get to market can also be used by West Texas utility scale solar power, because the greatest generation of windpower is in the evening ... after the sun has gone down.

Now, there is quite often a bit of a gap in there, since the peak demand period extends past sunset, and in summer the same daytime heat that drives Air Conditioning demand is also a large part of the lower average amount of onshore windpower.

But there are two notable renewable energy sources for filling in that gap. The first is solar power that keeps producing electricity after the sun has gone down. As highlighted in a recent Dept. of Energy report, 2014: The Year of Concentrating Solar Power (pdf), and reported SolarServer:

... 87% of the volume of funds loaned under the [DOE's Loan Guarantee] program went to power generation projects, including these five [Concentrated Solar Thermal] plants and large solar photovoltaic (PV) projects. These projects all had power purchase agreements as a prerequisite, making them highly secure investments.
...
Two of the five plants employ thermal energy storage, which allows them to produce power on demand when the sun is not shining. This includes the 100 MW Crescent Dunes CSP project in the state of Nevada, which combines solar power tower technology with thermal energy storage.

Of the five projects, three – the Solana, Genesis and Ivanpah projects – are operational, and the remaining two – Crescent Dunes and Mojave – are scheduled to come online in 2014. All are located in deserts in the states of California, Nevada and Arizona.

And as solar photovoltaic technology is improving, so is CSP (concentrated thermal solar power), with the Australian CSIRO achieving a research milestone this past week in my old stomping grounds of Newcastle, NSW (and home to one of the largest coal export ports in the world) that:
In what it is claiming as a world record and breakthrough for solar thermal energy, researchers at Australia's CSIRO have used solar energy to generate "supercritical" steam at its solar thermal test plant in Newcastle, Australia. ...

"It's like breaking the sound barrier; this step change proves solar has the potential to compete with the peak performance capabilities of fossil fuel sources," Dr Wonhas said. "Instead of relying on burning fossil fuels to produce supercritical steam, this breakthrough demonstrates that the power plants of the future could instead be using the free, zero emission energy of the sun to achieve the same result."

Super-critical steam is steam produced by boiling water under a combination of pressure and temperature so that it produces steam directly, without the "bubbling" of the water which reduces the efficiency of the steam generation process. This super-critical steam was produced at the same temperature as current CSP plants, but with higher pressure.

While this is at the "research" phase of research and development, if the technology can be developed and delivered in the field, it would increase the efficiency of CSP plants and so reduce the cost of their power. And the ability of CSP plants to store heat and produce power after the sun has gone down means that their power is most valuable precisely when there is spare transmission capacity to connect West Texas and the Pandhandle to the large urban centers in the Eastern and Central parts of the state.

The other complement to onshore wind and solar photovoltaic is offshore wind. In the wind speed map, that band of light pink offshore of Galveston is average wind speed of 17.8 to 18.9mph. The bright pink in sections off of the southern half of the Texas coast is 17.9 to 19.0 mph. And that splotch of darker purple-pink offshore of Corpus Christie through to Harlingen is 19.0mph to 20.1 mph.

Now, there is some even higher wind speed areas in West Texas and the western Panhandle ... and some higher wind speed areas in some other coastal areas in the US. But what I am focusing on here is offshore wind as a complement for solar and onshore wind. And to get an idea of how effective a complement it can be, consider the following average output estimate for off the shore of Long Island, New York. This chart, below right, is based on measured wind speeds during 16 days of peak demand in the summer. The vertical axis measure "capacity factor", which is the fraction of maximum possible capacity available at the different times of day. And because of the fact that land and water warms and then cools at different rates, offshore wind has its own distinctive power generating profile on hot summer days.

So, blue is the load and black is the offshore wind. For a Texas application, you can ignore the green line, which are New York State capacity factors for summertime onshore wind. Focus on the shape of the offshore wind, and consider the challenge of the gap between solar PV dropping generation rapidly as dusk falls. At the exact same time that solar PV production will be dropping off ... offshore wind production is likely to be picking up.

Now, this is not a complete sustainable energy portfolio by any means, but you can see that by combining two different types of solar and two different types of wind, it is possible to narrow the gap between the average profile of energy demand and the average profile of grid scale sustainable energy production.

 
Wait, Am I Missing Anything?

Wait a minute ... am I missing something here? Well, yes I am. The leading edge of the solar fight, where utility companies are not signing long term contracts to insure against natural gas price spikes but are facing the scary move into an entirely new approach to being an electrical utility ... is in rooftop solar.

And that is the biggest political fight of them all, which the Sunday Train will be picking up in another week or two.

 
Conclusions and Conversations

I guess this is yet another Sunday Train in which I've brought the topic right up to what some people would think of as the beginning. However, its important to get a feel for sustainable power generation on the wholesale side of the market before launching into the various opportunities and challenges presented by sustainable power generation, and sustainable demand management, on the retail side of the grid.

And in any event, the Sunday Train does not end at the end of the essay. Rather, the end of the essay is just the beginning of the conversation.

As always, any topic in sustainable transport is on-topic in the Sunday Train. So feel free to talk about CO2 emissions reduction, energy independence, suburban retrofit and reversing the cancer of sprawl over our diverse ecosystems, or the latest iPhone or Android app to map you bike ride. Whatever.

On this particular topic, what is your vision of an ideal sustainable, renewable energy portfolio?

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 01:04 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thank you! important to note that (29+ / 0-)

    It is the cities that retained municipal power companies rather than privatizing them that are leading this effort.  They are responsible to the people, not to quarterly share prices.

    We kidnap. We torture. It's our policy. Embrace it or end it!

    by Mosquito Pilot on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 04:18:59 AM PDT

    •  Yes it is ... (10+ / 0-)

      ... with the corporate utilities we have the catch-22 that we may need government action to line up the full economic benefit and full economic cost of their actions with the bottom line that they report to their shareholders quarterly ...

      ... and as corporations in a "Citizens Utd." Age, they invest resources in trying to buy permission from the Congress and state legislatures to keep doing wrong what they are doing wrong.

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 09:18:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  cities should look at "nationalizing" (3+ / 0-)

        the power companies.

        at least the grid part.

        Let the private sector manage the customers,
        but the natural monopoly of the grid should be
        sold on a capacity basis, with the grid having
        an obligation to meet capacity for residents but no requirement for trans-shipping energy.

        •  The retail grid, definitely ... (3+ / 0-)

          ... hidden behind utility company arguments about charging a price to owners of grid-connected rooftop solar panels for the use of the grid is the knowledge that they can play games over the true cost of that grid usage.

          Up to a certain solar penetration, aside from the cost of the retail grid itself, net metering is a case of not being allowed to charge for power you didn't actually sell into the grid ... because the way that retail AC distribution works physically so long as there is a net draw at the substation is transmitting power from net producing houses to net consuming houses. The net consuming houses get charged at the meter for the power they consume, whether the incremental power was provided over the substation or from a neighbor's house.

          Public ownership between the substation and the home would allow for a fair distribution of crediting for net production and fair allocation of payments for net consumption, since you'd have one public operator standing between the consuming households, the collection of power producers who can offer power to the grid to make it available at the substation and the collection of net producers who are feeding power over the retail grid to their neigbours.

          All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

          by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 11:49:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am building a new house (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            maybeeso in michigan

            in Floresville, TX, a town about 25 miles southeast of San Antonio.  I spoke with a representative of Floresville Power & Light, the electricity provider for the area, who told me they do not currently have a buy back program for excessive energy generated by residential customers, nor do they plan on offering one in the foreseeable future.

            I've been planning on building an energy efficient home powered, as much as possible, by a residential solar installation.  Now I'm bummed.  I'm going to have to consult a solar company to find out if there's any way to store excess energy for later use.

            "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke

            by SueDe on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 12:53:17 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The is the point of ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... net metering laws in states that have it ... in those states, they have to give you a rebate on power you put back into the grid.

              Next best is buying it back at wholesale rates. Part of the gap between the wholesale rates and the household rate is the cost of the transmission to the substation, which the household solar simply is not using.

              The next step down is a performance rebate of a certain amount per KW capacity installed. You give them the surplus power "for free" but at least they give you some money for having the panels hooked up to the grid.

              Worst is not paying for it at all ... just charging the household using that power for it, as if it was power they themselves produced. Most other lined of work, selling something to a customer when you didn't actually produce would get you in trouble.

              AFIAU, there is no net metering law in Texas, and such a weak Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard that the utilities don't have to work very hard to meet it, so they don't even have an incentive to pay wholesale rates.

              All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

              by BruceMcF on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 11:20:43 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Nicely done (6+ / 0-)

    T&R

    "It's the (expletive) 21st century man. Get over it." - David Ortiz

    by grubber on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 05:20:55 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for a great diary. (11+ / 0-)

    And thanks for the teaser about the coming diaries on rooftop solar and the fight for acceptance by the utilities.
    This is the big fight ahead of us on sustainable energy, and it's going on piecemeal all over the country with the various utilities.
    We need a comprehensive, unified strategy to deal with it, which of course begins with information, which is where your diary will play an important role.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 08:31:37 AM PDT

  •  On February 19 our 3.12 kW system started up. (18+ / 0-)

    Since that time we have generated 1800 kW of energy.  So far in June we are on pace to hit 600+ kW for the month.  That means that most likely we will get a check for around $1,200 from Pacific Power in August.  With our last electric bill we had a credit for 69 kWh, power that we generated that was over what we used.  That should be the same for the bill that arrives soon.  I am also saving around $80 a month on the electric bill.  

    My installed price which included all inspections and permits was $16,250.  I am thinking that I might pay this off in 3.5 years.  First there is the 30% tax credit of $4,875, that drops the price down to $11,375.  Next there is $960 of electric bill savings for this year and the $1,200 energy rebate which cover the period from July 1 - June 30.  So that $1,200 is only for about 4.5 months of the year.  That leaves a cost of $9,215.

    I think I might get close to 5,000 kWh from July 1 - June 30 and that will give me a rebate of $2,700, add in the savings of $960 on the electric bill for a total of $3,660 for the next year.  $9,215/$3,660 = 2.52 years.

    Wow if all goes right this will payoff my investment in around 3 years!

  •  Very thorough and informative! (10+ / 0-)

    I have looked at rooftop for a new (to us) house, and apparently the utility won't participate if the angle is more than 1 degree off due south, so our house and roof orientation won't let us qualify.  Yes, of course the panels could be installed at a more advantageous angle, but... the recent state laws passed which allow homeowners to install and forbid HOAs from prohibiting installation, require that the panels are flat to the longitudinal surface of the roof, though they may be angled advantageously in their altitude to optimize exposure and generation.  I'd love to put in panels, but at the cost, I can't foot the entire bill without some incentives and expect to cover costs within 10 to 15 years.

    I'd be interested if you can explore the Texas state laws for homeowner installs, HOA prescriptions and proscriptions, and how that fits into the electric utilities' obligations and options for putting power on their distribution lines and the Texas grid.  Seems the rooftop installations could help fill in a bit of the wind/solar gaps each side of where the respective production lines cross just before and after sunset.  There are a LOT of rooftops out there, here in Texas.

    Looking forward to the next couple of diaries.

    I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 09:20:19 AM PDT

    •  Some HOA's are in court right now over their (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      patbahn, dewtx, Phoenix Woman, cai

      refusal to allow rooftop solar.  I think this will change soon as the cost for solar falls.  

      •  Texas law says HOAs cannot disallow solar (8+ / 0-)

        Texas law says HOAs cannot disallow solar

        Which avoids the question of what kind of dumb-assed twit would ever want to disallow solar panels in their HOA in the first place.

        •  in many instances, the HOA is just other owners, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Yonit, cai, bartcopfan

          and their covenants, conditions and restrictions were written 20 or more years ago, and only really address aesthetics and setbacks, and such.  That's why the recent state laws.

          I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

          by tom 47 on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 11:17:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The same kind of twit that ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cai

          ... would move to disallow solar panels under zoning ordnances, if they could.

          Lots of parts of lots of Texas cities have very little zoning as such, but many of the functions that zoning performs in other places performed by HOA instead ... and often to worse results, because the of more limited opportunities for majority over-turn of idiotic rules.  

          All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

          by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 11:27:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  As The Cost Of Rooftop Solar Declines... (0+ / 0-)

          you will see some conflicts and unintended consequences.

          If you live in a "desert" area, few problems.

          But if you live in the forested areas, conflicts will increase a lot.  Many cities and possibly HOA's strictly regulate removal of trees.  At the present time, solar companies walk the neighborhoods and identify houses that have "unshaded" rooftops that will work well with solar.  

          But if the value to the homeowner increases dramatically, many would choose to cut down trees that are shading their roofs.  This could create conflict with governing bodies that do not want trees cut down. Any trees cut down and not replanted would also have an impact on climate change if this pattern were duplicated millions of times.

          •  Solar prices will continue to trend down (0+ / 0-)

            I d.ont feel that solar PV is even a mature technology yet, but the current price points are attracting capital.

            What really excites me is the potential of thin film to open up the daily solar generating window to 10-13 hours

            .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

            by Roger Fox on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 02:14:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  The other side is ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... pole mounted systems, so they are above the shade of the trees. On the one hand, the maintenance costs are higher, since you need a cherry picker. But on the other hand a lot of the custom fitting for a roof installation would be replaced by a standard rig.

            All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

            by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 04:19:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Along the Gulf Coast... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Calamity Jean

              setting systems above the trees would be unrealistic.  Southern pines are routinely 100' tall.  The poles or towers would require support wires and very few lots have that much space.

              •  Though unlike oak or chestnut, ... (0+ / 0-)

                ... you don't have to get entirely above southern pines to get out of the bulk of their shade, especially in the Gulf coast where the angle of the sun is higher than it is further north. The break-even point where the extra advantage of the height matches the extra cost of the height will surely be below the top of the trees themselves, in particular for pole mount installations place to the north of the residence, which have the residence at least as an offset to the first trees to the south.

                But some people, you just got to keep an eye on them. I heard a story in Newcastle (NSW) of a guy that owned a house near a hilltop with what would have been a Pacific Ocean view except for a stately old Eucalypt blocking the way at the edge of the next property to his east, who was widely suspected of being the fellow that helpfully "watered" the tree in the middle of the night ... with gasoline.

                Except in Eastern Texas that is much less of an issue. Its less common to require people to leave trees untouched in areas where trees that are left untouched die for lack of water.

                All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

                by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 09:50:19 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  Rooftop solar PV mostly serves to ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ybruti, Calamity Jean

      ... accelerate the roll out of PV ... since the sun sets a little bit later in West Texas and the Western Pandhandle than it does in the Dallas / Fort Worth to San Antonio string of cities, and even later than it does in Houston & East Texas ...
      ... (I guess properly speaking Greater Houston neighbors East Texas proper, but I often speak more loosely in three regions of Eastern, Central and Western, with West Texas proper, the Panhandle and the western Rio Grande all "Western") ...
      ... so its more about accelerating the roll out of the total capacity.

      One area where it would be a distinct benefit would if there was a net surplus, since Eastern Texas can export power to the Southeast and import power from Central Texas while Central Texas exports power to Eastern Texas and imports power from Western Texas. Indeed, an Electricity Superhighway from California and Arizona only needs to get power to DFW and from there power can be wheeled using exciting transmission capacity to much of the Southeast ...

      ... and when you are talking about Solar PV being generated in LA and in effect being sold in Atlanta, then you really do have a substantial "bridge" effect because of the sun going down at different times in different places.

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 11:35:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  When I'm vague on when the follow-up to this ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Athenian, Calamity Jean

      ... is going to be, its in part because I'm going to be looking into those issues, and don't know for sure how much time it will take to find answers I am comfortable with rolling out in the Sunday Train.

      But, yeah, I'm definitely going to be digging around on many of those issues.

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 11:36:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's weird. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, OHeyeO
      ...apparently the utility won't participate if the angle is more than 1 degree off due south....
      Why would the utility care what angle your roof is at?  Or are they just looking for an excuse to exclude as many people as possible?  

      "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

      by Calamity Jean on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 10:05:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My hunch the answer to your second question... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, Calamity Jean

        ...is yes.

        There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. - Sun Tzu

        by OHeyeO on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 04:38:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'd guess excuse too. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        If there is some legislative language that allows them to demur for unfavorable locations, and they want to demur, they'd get awfully picky about the location being exactly perfect.

        1 degree off true south is obviously an absurd threshold. Heck, if it was 1 degree off true toward the southwest, it'd actually be better, since it's best power output would be a slight little bit later in the day.

        All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

        by BruceMcF on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 11:12:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Public ownership good, privatization bad (4+ / 0-)

    Very important to point this out.

    I'm all for taking over all utility companies by eminent domain. If they whine, pay 'em a dime for their troubles.

    •  Which is why municipalities are looking... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cai

      ...at the Solar Roadways concept.

      Visit http://theuptake.org/ for Minnesota news as it happens.

      by Phoenix Woman on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 10:41:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In the real world they are both actual ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yonit

      ... institutions, and there can be downsides to public ownership and upsides to private ownership ...

      ... but the public operations that are better as private operations are normally not the ones that there is a privatization push for ... the privatization push most normally comes in those areas where either public ownership or tight public regulation is essential to protect the public from being ripped off ... which is why the "deregulation" talking point so often goes hand in glove with a privatization push.

      In that case, "deregulation" normally means, "C'mon, if we have to operate the activity to avoid doing serious harm, its going to take a substantial bite out of our profitability!"

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 11:54:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Good privatization" ? Example please (0+ / 0-)

        .

        •  I'd say the privatization of Volkswagon ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... went fairly well.

          All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

          by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 09:33:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

            •  You'll recall I said ... (0+ / 0-)

              "the public operations that are better as private operations are normally not the ones that there is a privatization push for ... the privatization push most normally comes in those areas where either public ownership or tight public regulation is essential to protect the public from being ripped off"

              There's a selection bias ... the least problematic privatizations are often not as appealing as the most problematic ones, which are lucrative because they are ripping people off.

              I reckon that most people would be aware of Volkswagon as a company ... JR East, JR Central and JR West are all clearly doing a better job as private operators than they were under government ownership, but they're Japanese companies, so likely less familiar with the ordinary passerby.

              All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

              by BruceMcF on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 11:08:40 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  it's enraging right wingers. (5+ / 0-)

    which is something interesting to watch.

    they sign up for wind power because it's cheaper then coal
    but then they scream "This is because Obama is
    interfering with the market".

    •  Everything is about Obama interfering with ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      patbahn, Calamity Jean

      ... the market, since that's the message that sells among the people that they have mobilized via astroturf organizations.

      A problem (for them ~ not a problem for me!) is that when you focus popular mobilization through astroturf groups on reactionary populism, then there is a risk of the reactionary populists being susceptible to actual populist messages, like "don't let the power company screw you out of the right to generate power on your roof".

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 11:25:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Do-it-yourself as a solar solution (7+ / 0-)

    I think one important way of moving the debate for panels is going to be DIY.  Solar panels have cratered in price -- $15 a watt a decade ago, they're now hitting 70 cents a watt, which on its own blows the utility companies out of the water.  The problem is that at this price, professional installation at this point is three times the cost of the panels -- and at that price rooftop solar still can't compete.  That's now the main barrier to making it economic.  In the end, rooftop solar won't become the obviously cheapest option unless people either a) learn to do the installations themselves, perhaps through people helping each other, cooperating with each other and so on, or b) the panels are marketed in kit form in such a away as to make self-installation easy.  I think both options should be pursued.

    My former boss installed two arrays himself, one in the late 1990s, one more than twice the size and less than a fifth of the cost about two years ago.  For him, with his skills, it was compelling; for the rest of us, the focus for nonprofits, for helping each other out, for government subsidies, for training people on handiwork, now needs to be on the installing, not the increasingly commodified and dirt-cheap panels.

    •  And there are tremendous opportunities ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... here for a group established along Habitat for Humanity lines to act as a catalyst for change.

      And many of the same provisions that make it possible for the rooftop solar leasing companies to operate effectively for middle-class homeowners would also enable volunteer organizations performing rooftop installations for lower income households to leverage their resources and get a larger number of installations performed on the same financial resource base.

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 11:21:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the good news, Bruce. eom (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, BruceMcF

    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

    by Calamity Jean on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 11:37:33 AM PDT

  •  In 1997 as I finished my MSc in hydrology... (4+ / 0-)

    ...I clicked pretty well with a prof on my committee who was a solar-energy expert.

    He offered me to do my PhD with him: to explore using solar for cracking coal into the relatively cleaner natural gas, for use as input for natural-gas plants.

    I did have a class during that MSc program, that showed the CO2 Keeling Curve, and the Kyoto Protocol was signed around that time. But still, even in Env-Sci departments there was still not nearly enough focus on global warming.

    Cannot say I was aware enough either. However, the project didn't sound sexy enough. Being used only to "crack" coal, sounded like a humiliation for solar (even though I still accepted the conventional wisdom at the time, that solar can never be more than a fringe player). And I wasn't into learning organic chemistry, I'm really a numbers guy.

    Things have changed quite a bit for the better since then; that prof himself is involved in far more ambitious and CO2-beneficial solar research projects nowadays.

    And thanks for the great news that now solar can be used to get directly to steam, without fossil fuels in the middle!

    •  Kind of a technology for a more ... (3+ / 0-)

      ... optimistic time ... if we had reversed course in 2000, we would have increased the time horizon for longer term consumption of some lower emitting fossil fuels. But a decade hitting the pedal and increasing our speed heading toward the cliff has taken "get more energy from each ton of fossil fuel CO2 emitted" off the set of long term options and put it onto the short term emergency measures while our long term has to focus on going entirely carbon-neutral.

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 09:49:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As to load-balancing: battery storage in EVs is... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, PlinytheWelder, cai, Yonit, Woody

    ...another great way for matching renewable production with household peak demand.

    The tech is already there, known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G). The two-way flow of energy between grid and EVs, can help store excess electricity in EVs parked either at home or at work in midday, for release during the evening peak of 6-9 PM.

    Then, those EVs who need it, can recharge back during the low-demand late night hours.

    The numbers can be quite impressive. Future EVs might easily have 20KWh of available V2G to give in the evening. That's 10KW over 2 hours, of course.

    Multiply by 100k vehicles in a given generation region, and you have 1GW of load-balancing at your disposal, essentially free except for the infrastructure setup and overhead losses.

    •  Yes ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean, Assaf

      ... once you have enough load balancing to meet grid stability requirements with a given portfolio, then you are free to add and swap elements of the portfolio for better performance, greater efficiency, greater robustness, fewer environmental trade-offs and etc.

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 04:22:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was shocked. (6+ / 0-)

    I drove through Texas on my way from Arizona to Michigan. I did not see any wind turbines in Arizona or New Mexico but in Texas, bless their hearts, there were a lot of them. Keep 'em spinning, Texas.

    Obi Ben Ghazi to House Republicans: "Use the Farce."

    by edg on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 01:41:59 PM PDT

  •  Closed loop hydro storage in closed mines (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, maybeeso in michigan

    HVDC to move power where its needed.

    Nice dairy, TnR.

    .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 02:11:45 PM PDT

    •  Yes, modular pumped hydro ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roger Fox, maybeeso in michigan

      ... needs the height between the top and bottom reservoir, the water doesn't much care if the top reservoir is next to a ridgeline and the bottom reservoir in the valley below or the top reservoir is on a flat plan and the bottom reservoir at the bottom of a closed mine.

      The generation / pump storage takes place at the bottom reservoir, so the first probably has lower maintenance costs for that gear, but on the other hand the water line is not exposed to weather.

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 09:44:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for the good news on CSP (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, bartcopfan, 350Energy

    out of Australia -- I hadn't heard that. CSP is a great answer to the "the wind doesn't always blow, the sun doesn't always shine" naysayers.  As are good long-distance transmission lines.

    One thing I read awhile ago, I'm not sure where -- ClimateProgress? -- is that it's actually cheapest to "overbuild" renewable capacity in order to meet energy demands.  In other words, if an area needs X amount of megawatts, and you build exactly X amount of megawatts of renewable capacity, there will indeed be dips below demand.  But if instead you install MORE than X megawatts worth of renewables, this can keep up with demand and provide cheaper energy systems.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 02:57:57 PM PDT

    •  Not always cheapest ... (3+ / 0-)

      ... because there's a trade-off that gets worse the more you rely on it ...

      ... but, yes, overbuilding can provide a substantial benefit.

      Consider a wind farm that is overbuilt by 20%. That means that it hits 100% of its target capacity factor (say, capacity of transmission line) at 83% capacity of the wind turbines themselves. That's up at a level that is not that commonly achieved. So its delivering "100% power" substantially more hours in the year.

      Now, zoom in on the most reliable part of the windpower, the part that is available 80% of the time or more. Say that is 20% of capacity.

      Say that its a 200MW windfarm. 20% of capacity is 40MW. Backing that up to firm supply requires an on-demand back up that can also deliver 40MW. The difference is that the windpower is providing something like 90% of that firm energy supply and the back-up something like 10%, so the firm power is:

      40MW continuously, for 350GWhours per year, 315GW hours from windpower, 35 GWhours from the back up power source.

      Now, over-install your transmission capacity by 20%. You don't need as much wind to hit 20% of your transmission capacity, so say that is 84% of the time. Now the firmed 40MW is being provided by wind 92% of the time and by the back-up 8% of the time, and its 322GWhours from wind and 280GWhours from the back up supply.

      So even if your back up energy supply is coming from something that has a limited sustainable budget, like biogas, or a mix that has one part that has a fairly large supply but day in advance start up notice, like biocoal thermal, and another part that has quick start-up but a limited supply, like stored ammonia or methane gas made from surplus might-time windpower ... so long as the back-up capacity is there, the overbuilding economizes on how many hours of the year you have to have the back-up capacity generating power.

      To firm that, you need a on-demand back up supply with 20

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 04:42:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Maybe California's San Joaquin valley can move (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, maybeeso in michigan

    from ultimately unsustainable alfalfa and almond farming (it's basically a desert) to solar farms.

  •  I have a friend who lives in far Northern MN (3+ / 0-)

    who has a high tech recording studio and living space completely off the grid. He has a wind generator, a small photovoltaic collector and a battery bank. He also has a propane powered generator for backup that he has rarely had to use.

    I realize that this lifestyle isn't for everyone, but doing this on every house in the US locally using micro-grids that feed into the main grid, the savings would be huge. That is why the so-called "Public Utilities" are fighting it tooth and nail.

    •  Yeah ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maybeeso in michigan

      ... even on a local level, different renewable electrical sources can complement each other, so there is an advantage to collecting a set of neighborhoods into a locally owned micro-grid with connections to both the main grid and some alternative power supply.

      HVDC Light with its multi-tap abilities, ability to be used either overhead or buried, and ability to connect to different AC grids that are not in sync with each other could well be a part of that system ... you could have a an HVDC Light line connecting an on-demand storage refilled when renewable power is in surplus, and on the other end a collection of 5-10 micro-grids that are the heaviest power users in a city, connected together by a secondary sub-transmission AC line, in addition to their connection to the main grid.

      And then you can have another four or five taps off of the HVDC line, so you could have 5-10 neighborhood micro-grids string together by a sub-transmission line, drawing power off one of those taps.

      During regular periods, you use the on-demand storage as a normal grid resource, filling it when renewable power pushes the wholesale price down, drawing on it when peak demand pushes the wholesale price up, and the HVDC Light line is tapping directly into surpluses generated on the microgrid when a given microgrid is a net producer and so is not drawing from the main grid.

      When the main grid is down, the secondary power distribution runs the other way, becoming your emergency power supply, allowing every customer to have a ration of power to keep refrigerators running, lights on, etc. And of course, allowing any surplus microgrids to feed power into consuming microgrids, to economize on the common stored power supply.

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 09:40:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm curious if anyone has any info about solar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    misterwade, BruceMcF

    installation in the Paris area of Texas.
    I'm currently living in Wa. State but my sister lives (alone with her little dog) in a house about ten miles north of Paris. She has only SS for an income and I'm wondering if there is some help available for her to get solar panels.She also is not able to install anything like that by herself and probably could only be ground support for anyone doing the work, like making them food and/or handing up tools.
    There is nothing she can check out for herself so that's why I'm asking,as far as the internet goes she doesn't even have dial up service and doesn't have a car to go to town (she pays a neighbor to take her to get food twice a month) to use a library computer.

    If anyone has suggestions I can follow up on it would be appreciated.

    without the ants the rainforest dies

    by aliasalias on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 08:49:32 PM PDT

    •  I hope somebody answers ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aliasalias, Calamity Jean

      ... since it would be helpful for the Sunday Train on rooftop solar in Texas coming down the track sometime this month or next.

      According to the Solar Power Rocks info page on Texas, Texas allows leasing.

      Under the lease arrangement, your electric bill goes down based on the power you are getting from the sun instead of the power company. You also pay a monthly lease payment for the power you use, but the total is (supposedly ~ I am going to be verifying this information) less than the original power bill. There is no up-front cost.

      But there has to be a company involved in the business in that area, since they own the panels and you are leasing the panels to be installed on your roof and provide you power. Plus the tax incentives and any rebates go to the leasing company.

      There is no statewide performance subsidy for solar, but some Texas utilities offer them, so its important to know what her power company.

      All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 09:28:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  thnx for that info, I should've mentioned that her (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF

        electricity is from a Co-op, maybe that info is helpful in finding some solution.

        without the ants the rainforest dies

        by aliasalias on Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 09:50:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Paris' Electricity Coop is Lamar (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BruceMcF, aliasalias

          But their website doesn't list any incentives and there's nothing on this list either.

          "It's the (expletive) 21st century man. Get over it." - David Ortiz

          by grubber on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 12:06:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  thnx I used to live there so I didn't really (0+ / 0-)

            expect much and that is why I posted here to see if any alternatives were available.
            Btw the reason I took so long to make this comment is because my computer has been shutting down on me the last few days at intermittent times, then for the rest of that day, but I'll keep looking back to see if any response happens.

            without the ants the rainforest dies

            by aliasalias on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 10:49:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  For people who are curious, SolarRocks ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              aliasalias

              ... (and, again, they seem to be selling solar services or installation, so I would caution against committing to anything on their word alone) ...

              ... gives the list as (Company - rebate - cap):

              AEP SWEPCO – $1,750/kw – $17,500
              AEP Texas Central – $1,750/kw – $17,500
              AEP Texas North – $1,750/kw – $17,500
              Austin Energy – $2,500/kw – $15,000
              Bryan Texas Utilities – $2,000/kw – 80% of costs up to $6,000
              Coserv – $2,000/kw – $5,000
              CPS Energy – $2,000/kw – $25,000
              El Paso Electric Company – $2,000/kw – $20,000
              Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative – $2,500/kw – $10,000
              Texas New Mexico Power Company – $1,750/kw – $17,500

              There was also:
              Oncor Electric Delivery – $2,000/kw – $20,000
              ... but it was a trial that is now closed.

              All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

              by BruceMcF on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 01:03:37 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  thanks for that, I'll continue to search for more (0+ / 0-)

                possibilities for my sister online because as I mentioned before she doesn't even have dial up service and when I was living there with it I thought it was useless.
                With dial up service there(this was almost 10 years ago so it's possibly better) I had to be very sure before I clicked any link that it was what I really wanted, no surfin' because when I hit the link it was waiting time. Time to go to the kitchen and brew some tea and check back every now and then to see if it was finished.
                Forget the internet I asked my daughter in Canada to please send me pictures of my newborn grandson by snail mail, and she did. (I didn't have a printer anyway)

                To make a long story short, I obviously have to do the searching and even that has been sketchy lately with my computer problems but I want to thank you for the info your diaries always have and I'll continue to read them (when possible).

                without the ants the rainforest dies

                by aliasalias on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 01:43:30 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  There's only so fast that dial up internet can ... (0+ / 0-)

                  ... go ...
                  But the maximum dial up can go in the US is 56kbit/s, since when it hits the switch it goes digital inside a 64kbit/s connection.

                  When I first pined for a modem for my C64 in the early 80's, 2.4kbit/s to bulletin boards was considered pretty fast, and 4.8kbit/s considered deluxe top end.

                  By the time I got dial up internet in the 90's, first I had 9.6kbit/s, then 14.4kbit/s, then 28.8kbit/s (that was in Oz), and wanted 56kbit/s though I couldn't afford it.

                  Back then I had the text-based Lynx browser on my home computer so that when my main browser was waiting, I could open up Lynx and keep browsing at reasonable speeds. I reckon if I was living out in dial-up internet country, I'd hunt that program up again, since if anything the assumption that everyone has at least DSL Broadband means that sites nowadays seem to load a bucketload of garbage when you first open them.

                  All the world's a stage, the theater is on fire, and the lead actors are telling the audience that the smoke is a trick, they should stay seated an enjoy the show.

                  by BruceMcF on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 12:24:37 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks Bruce (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    Thanks Bruce

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