The UN Food and Agriculture Organization claims that global warming is having negative impacts on world food production, and since 2016 is widely expected to be the hottest year yet we would expect to see at least some evidence of this in 2016 crop yields. This week’s Blowout therefore takes pleasure in featuring the world’s bumper 2016 wheat harvest, which was largely a result of “benign weather” in most of the major wheat-producing countries:
Financial Times: Wheat price falls to lowest level in a decade
The price of wheat has crashed to the lowest level in a decade as huge harvests pile up in big growers from Russia to the US, cutting the cost of staple foods around the world. Extensive planting and benign weather have forced analysts to repeatedly raise crop outlooks.
The International Grains Council last week increased its global wheat production forecast to a record 743m tonnes, up 1 per cent from last year. The recent US winter wheat harvest was 45m tonnes, up 21 per cent from 2015, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Merchants who have run out of room in silos are piling wheat outdoors. Storage concerns are also growing in Russia, which is this year set to become the largest wheat exporter after hauling in more than 70m tonnes. In Canada, the government anticipates the second-largest wheat crop in 25 years, of 30.5m tonnes. Australia’s imminent wheat harvest is forecast at 26.5m tonnes, the most in five years. The only big producer to see a large shortfall this year is France, where heavy rains damaged the crop. Abdolreza Abbassian, grains economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, said: “A lot of countries this year will get lots of wheat regardless of what is happening in France or a few other places where the situation has been difficult.”
Elsewhere: OPEC output falls sharply in August; Apache Corporation makes billion barrel find; Caspian Sea set to add 200,000 bpd; Hurricane Energy finds more oil West of Shetland; US rigs up 7; Rosatom to build 16 nukes in Saudi; Iran begins work on second nuke; UK government may take a stake in Hinkley and renegotiate deal; Corbyn to ban fracking; coal prices surge; global coal consumption rising; 100% renewables in Costa Rica; one new turbine a day in Scotland; US may outlaw biomass in power sector; renewable heat strategy failing in UK; Spain replaces old solar modules; global warming causes profanity.
Wall Street Journal: OPEC Output Drops Sharply in August as Freeze Talk Heats Up
OPEC crude-oil output fell to a three-month low in August, new preliminary data show, lending fuel to a drive by Saudi Arabia and its allies to persuade Iran to join a petroleum production freeze this month. The new data show that total production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries fell by about 200,000 barrels a day to 33 million barrels a day in August, its lowest level since May. The 14-nation cartel’s production was led downward by output declines in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. Some OPEC officials are arguing that the data show countries are easing off record production levels and are ready to cooperate in a production freeze that could be orchestrated later this month at a conference in Algeria. Meanwhile, the OPEC officials say, the new data show that Iran’s production is stalling out at 3.6 million barrels a day, roughly the same level in August as in May. Iran has refused to join a freeze, saying it wants to go to above 4 million barrels a day from less than 3 million a day during sanctions, but a group of OPEC members say the new data confirm that it has already hit its output ceiling, “These numbers show Iran has little room left to increase its production,” said an OPEC delegate from a Persian Gulf country that isn’t Iran or Iraq.
Apache Corporation, the sixth-largest independent oil and gas producer in the United States, announced this week that it has found a new gargantuan reserve of oil and natural gas in West Texas that could be one of the largest energy finds in the last decade. At the low end, the new “Alpine High” field could contain two billion barrels of oil plus massive natural gas reserves. More importantly, especially to OPEC members gearing up to find ways to raise prices, the company’s estimated profit margin is 30 percent after taking in account all expected development costs, even with crude selling at below $50 a barrel. The profit potential for natural gas is nearly off the charts. So abundant is that energy source from the new field that the company’s breakeven point is just 10 cents per million British thermal units (BTUs) while the market price for natural gas closed Tuesday at $2.72. The discovery is going to turn OPEC’s plans to cap production in order to drive prices higher upside down. One unnamed OPEC official told the Wall Street Journal that all of this has caught the cartel by surprise: “[The U.S. shale industry has] surprised us, and can surprise us again.”
Oil and Gas 360: Two Caspian Sea Projects Could Add 200 MBOPD by Year-End
Oil prices have improved this week in part thanks to renewed talks amongst Saudi Arabia and Russia to stabilize global oil prices. In a joint statement Monday, the energy ministries of both countries agreed to work together to “mitigate excessive volatility” in oil prices. Given the glut that has persisted since late 2014, many thought this could indicate another attempt at a production freeze, but even as talks of stabilizing price take place, two new Caspian Sea projects could add 200 MBOPD to an already oversupplied market by the end of the year, reports Reuters. The Caspian Sea region, which includes Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran, is one of the oldest oil-producing areas in the world. The EIA estimated there were 48 billion barrels of oil and 292 Tcf of natural gas in 2P reserves in 2012, the most recent estimate from the agency, primarily in the northern part of the sea. The USGS estimates another 20 billion barrels of oil and 243 Tcf of gas is yet undiscovered, much of it in the South Caspian Basin, where territorial disputes have hindered exploration. The two projects, the Kashagan field in Kazakhstan’s sector and Lukoil’s (ticker: LKOH) Filanovsky field in the Russian sector are both expected to come online in October, according to documents obtained by Reuters. Output for Kashagan will initially be 75 MBOPD before rising to between 150 MBOPD and 180 MBOPD by the end of the year.
Herald Scotland: Shetland well success sends shares in oil and gas firm soaring
Shares in Hurricane Energy have surged 55 per cent after the company announced drilling results which highlighted the commercial potential of a giant find West of Shetland. Surrey-based Hurricane said the appraisal well drilled on the Lancaster find indicated that it could contain significantly more than the initial estimate of 200 million barrels oil. The well flowed flowed 11,000 barrels oil daily from a 620 metre column boosting hopes the find could generate the kind of returns that would justify making the huge investment required to bring it onstream. The results could generate excitement in Scotland amid hopes there could be lots to go for off Shetland. The area is relatively underexplored compared with parts of the North Sea closer to the UK mainland. Hurricane has focused attention on a basement of granite deep beneath the seabed which it reckons is a significant untapped resource. The rock lies below the sandstone reservoirs that have formed the basis for the majority of North Sea exploration. Hurricane expects to be able to produce from such basement reservoirs by tapping into natural fractures in the rock through which oil could flow.
Business Insider: US oil-rig count climbs by 7
The US oil-rig count climbed for a second-straight week, by seven to 414, according to driller Baker Hughes. The gas-rig count increased by four to 92. With miscellaneous rigs unchanged at two, the total rig count rose by 11 to 508. Last week, the oil-rig count resumed its climb after a one-week pause. The number of active rigs totaled 407, with one rig brought online. This tally has gained in 10 out of the last 11 weeks. In a note on Friday, Morgan Stanley analysts wrote that the recent gain in the US oil-rig count is one reason why they are losing conviction in their call for a re-balancing of the market by mid-2017. A re-balancing would bring supply, which is in excess right now, more in line with demand, which has room to increase. “The US continues to surprise, and the market seems to be underestimating the impact of some rigs that have already been added,” Adam Longson and his team wrote. After the rig-count data release, crude oil prices remained weak alongside stocks and bonds. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 3% to as low as $46.19 per barrel.
When Bernie Sanders donned the Democratic mantle last year, he performed so well in the primaries that he got to change the Democratic Party Platform on many things. But his fervent anti-fracking and anti-nuclear stands have killed the Democratic Party’s rational all-of-the-above energy strategy. All-of-the-above is the only way to quickly decrease coal, reduce emissions, maintain reliability and retain a diverse energy mix in time to avert the worst of climate change. Instead, the Democratic Platform is now basically renewables, efficiency and storage, a mix shown not to be able to fully power America until after it’s too late. It also appears to criminalize climate denying (page 29). But the Republican Party Platform is downright regressive. While mentioning an all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Platform declares complete opposition to government regulation on energy matters and completely disregards climate change. The Platform directs Congress to give away federally-owned lands to the states who then can sell them to private concerns and open public lands to unfettered drilling, mining and logging, although in a responsible manner. The Republican Platform pledges to “do away with” EPA’s Clean Power Plan. It seeks to resurrect the Keystone XL pipeline, undermine the Endangered Species Act, disallow the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and gives that job to Congress, forbid a carbon tax, kill all federal transit programs, and even repeal the Clean Water Act.
Oil Price: Why Is Big Oil Backing Clinton Over Trump?
“Given Trump’s full-throated defense of domestic oil and gas production, one might think that CEOs in the oil and gas sector would be far more supportive of his campaign than they have been up to this point,” Jerry Taylor, president of libertarian think-tank Niskanen Center, says in an interview with Forbes. However, Big Oil is reluctant to donate to the campaign because it considers Trump unfit to run the country and because his hostility to free oil trade potentially hurts company interests in the global oil and gas markets, Taylor notes. The latter is likely of greater concern than the former, and this breakaway mentality has been the cause for many individuals to align themselves with Trump. It’s precisely this unknown element of Trump’s personality—his unpredictable and unconventional nature—that is supremely unsettling to major industry players. Case in point—Trump’s flip-flopping remarks on fracking have unnerved the shale industry, even if Trump’s potential energy secretary appointee was said to be Continental Resources chief executive Harold Hamm. Clinton, on the other hand, is being harshly criticized for supporting fracking abroad, but being much more reserved when it comes to projects at home. So Big Oil is shunning Trump and putting a bit of money on Clinton, and energy groups are still uncertain how the Democrat candidate — if elected — would handle fracking at home, renewables subsidies, or new oil and gas exploration permits. Big Oil will likely be a loser with either candidate—it’s just a matter of degrees at this point.
Los Angeles Times: Threat of energy shortage due to Aliso Canyon fades
State energy agencies say conservation and other strategies should help Southern California avoid energy shortages during the winter amid low supplies at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage plant. That forecast stands in sharp contrast to the fears raised in the spring about possible rolling blackouts for as many as 14 days this summer and the potential for pilot lights to go cold in the winter without Aliso Canyon. “So far — knock on wood — we’ve gotten through,” said Robert Weisenmiller, chairman of the California Energy commission. Still he warned: “We’re not out of the woodwork yet.” If typical weather patterns hold this winter in Southern California, there is no threat to energy supply from Nov. 1 through March 31, according to a 61-page report released late Monday by the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Independent System Operator and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. But widespread cold and dry weather could require Southern California Gas Co., which owns and operates Aliso Canyon, to increase natural gas withdrawals from some of its other storage facilities. More severe cold weather could require reductions in natural gas supply to electric generators or even consumers.
The Aliso Canyon leak put California in a tough spot when it was discovered in October that the Sempra-owned facility was at less than one-fifth of its capacity. The state took steps to ensure it had significant power supplies, pushing utilities to quickly embrace storage and bolster demand response programs while leaning heavily on renewables. New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the plan was largely a success. According to data from the California ISO, “the addition of new generating capacity has also contributed to the change in generation mix,” EIA said. CAISO indicated that non-hydro renewables, mainly solar and wind, made up 26% of capacity in June 2016. Utility-scale solar has shown the most growth in the grid operator’s territory, increasing by 1.4 GW, or 27%, between June 2015 and June 2016. “This increase in utility-scale solar capacity has reduced the need for summer thermal generation in CAISO, especially during the daylight hours,” EIA said. The state has also added a “significant amount” of distributed solar PV capacity, with EIA’s latest analysis showing how distributed solar PV increased from 2.8 GW in June 2015 to 3.8 GW in June 2016.
Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Cooperation has announced that it is ready to build 16 nuclear power units in Saudi Arabia in a $100 billion deal. Yury Ushakov, aide to the President of the Russian Federation outlined the company’s plans for the Gulf kingdom to journalists at a briefing, a statement said. The announcement comes a year after Russia and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to work together on “peaceful” nuclear energy projects. Ushakov said: ” Our company, which has the most advanced technologies, is ready to join the project on construction of 16 nuclear power reactors in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The project is provided until 2030, its cost is $100 billion,” In May, the First deputy CEO of Rosatom, Kirill Komarov, said that the nuclear programme of Saudi Arabia is very ambitious and envisages the construction of 16 nuclear power units in the country. Rosatom brings together over 360 nuclear companies and research and development institutions that operate in the civilian and defence sectors and the world’s only nuclear icebreaker fleet. The company currently holds projects for the construction of 30 nuclear power plants, from which 21 are abroad in such countries as India, China, Turkey, Vietnam, Finland and Hungary.
Wall Street Journal: Iran Begins Construction on Second Nuclear Power Plant
Iran began building its second nuclear power plant with Russian help on Saturday, the first such project since last year’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers. The project in the southern port city of Bushehr will eventually include two power plants expected to go online in 10 years. Construction on the second plant is set to begin in 2018. The entire project will cost more than $8.5 billion, with each plant producing 1,057 megawatts of electricity. “Construction of the power plant is a symbol of Iran enjoying the results of the nuclear deal,” Senior Vice-President Ishaq Jahangiri said at a ceremony marking the start of the project. “We will continue working with Russia as a strategic partner and friend,” he added. Iran’s sole operational nuclear reactor, also built in Bushehr with Russian assistance, produces 1,000 megawatts. It went online in 2011, and the two countries have agreed to cooperate on future projects. Iran has a current capacity of 75,000 megawatts, nearly 90% coming from fossil fuels. It hopes to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear power in the next 15 years.
Breitbart: May To Review Hinkley Security Risks
Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she wanted her security advisers to review a delayed nuclear power investment from China – a source of diplomatic tension – as she arrived in the country to attend a G20 summit. May upset Chinese officials in July by delaying a $24 billion project that would see French firm EDF build Britain’s first new nuclear power plant in decades with the help of $8 billion from China. Speaking during her first visit to China, May was asked whether she would ask the National Security Council, a team of ministers supported by intelligence officers, to look at the potential security implications of the Hinkley deal. “I will be doing exactly as you’ve said,” May replied, saying it would be part of her decision-making process. The comment marked the first official acknowledgement that national security was a factor in her decision. The initial delay caught investors by surprise and has cast doubt over whether May, who took office in July following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, will continue to court China as a major source of infrastructure investment. “This is the way I operate,” May earlier told reporters en route to the summit, which will include a one-to-one with Chinese President Xi Jinping.“I look at the evidence, …take the advice and consider that and come to my decision.” A final decision is expected later this month.
The team of officials accompanying new British Prime Minister Theresa May to the G20 summit have been warned to take steps to protect themselves from alluring Chinese spies offering sex during their stay in Hangzhou, the Telegraph reports. Apparently, British security agents haven’t just been reading too many James Bond novels; this kind of thing has happened before and they are taking care that it won’t happen again by issuing officials with temporary mobile phones and email addresses (and not condoms, we presume). The scandalous incident occurred during former prime minister Gordon Brown’s visit to China in 2008. According to Brown’s special advisor Damien McBride, the British officials were “accosted on one side by a beautiful posse of Chinese girls and on the other side by an equivalent group of Russian blondes.” Before they knew what was going on, one of the officials was lured away to his hotel room, where he was drugged and robbed of his Blackberry and “half the contents of his briefcase.” This time, the British officials have also been warned about newer age tools of espionage. A Whitehall source told the Telegraph that the hotel rooms in Hangzhou are likely to have been bugged. Amid all this intrigue, May is expected to have her first one-on-one meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping today to discuss the Chinese-backed nuclear power plant project at Hinkley Point, which has been stalled by the new British government over security concerns. China has said that May’s decision to delay the project threatens the brief “golden age” of UK-China relations
This is Money: Hinkley: new deal looms over the cost of electricity
The Government could renegotiate the controversial electricity price deal for the proposed new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset if it takes a stake in the project, say experts. Reports this weekend suggest it is preparing to step in with a £6 billion payment to support the scheme, replacing a contentious investment in the plan by a Chinese nuclear group. A £6 billion taxpayer investment could also prompt a renegotiation of the hotly disputed price. A senior energy industry source said: ‘£6 billion is loose change to the Government, it would cut the capital expenditure by a third and it’s less of a risk for EDF. ‘That should bring the strike price down, which would be good news for consumers.’
A Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn would ban fracking, ditch all coal-fired power stations and massively increase renewable energy, his leadership campaign has announced. In the clearest signal yet that the party intends to embrace an ambitious environmental agenda and break its traditional strong links to mining and fossil fuel extraction, he pledged to phase out all coal power stations by the “early 2020s” and invest heavily in energy-saving to avoid building many new power stations. Corbyn’s environment and energy manifesto, launched on Wednesday in Nottingham, states that the controversial technique for extracting shale gas “is not compatible with climate change prevention”. He said in Nottingham: “Research shows that as much as 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned if the world is to keep global temperature rises to 2C [above pre-industrial levels]”. “When Labour gets back into power, Britain will lead the world in action on climate change. We will act to protect the future of our planet, with social justice at the heart of our environment policies, and take our fair share of action to meet the Paris climate agreement – starting by getting on track with our climate change act goals.“We want Britain to be the world’s leading producer of renewables technology. To achieve this we will accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, and drive the expansion of the green industries and jobs of the future.”
While not rising at quite the dizzying pace of the coking variety, thermal coal has added 37% in value this year with the benchmark Australian export price recently coming within shouting distance of $70 a tonne. A new report by Wood Mackenzie assessing the impact of climate change on the global trade in coal used in electricity generation paints a very different picture however. The study follows the US and China formally ratifying the COP21 Paris climate agreement last weekend at the G20 summit in China. Wood Mackenzie forecasts a 40% fall in trade in thermal coal if the temperature of the world rises by only 2 degrees Celsius from an estimated 900 million tonnes for 2016 to 527 million tonnes by 2035. Prakash Sharma, research director of global coal markets for Wood Mackenzie, says: “Putting things into context for thermal coal trade, Wood Mackenzie’s proprietary modelling suggests seaborne import demand to shrink by 40% by 2035. Asia, Europe and the Americas will import 433, 80 and 15 million tonnes, respectively, in 2035 from 673, 170 and 39 million, respectively, estimated for 2016.” Sharma says although the impact on prices is hard to predict in a carbon-constrained world, “they will undoubtedly will be lower”. Wood Mackenzie’s modelling suggests prices would likely fall significantly and stay below $50 per tonne (FOB Newcastle in real terms) post-2020.
Global coal production and consumption—driven mainly by China—rose sharply during the past decade, more than offsetting significant cuts in the U.S. The trend underscores the significance of the Sept. 3 agreement between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping that both countries will abide by the Paris Agreement on climate change. Between 2005 and 2015, coal consumption in the U.S. fell by 178.2 million tons of oil equivalent —a 31 percent drop, according to the 2016 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. But those cuts were more than offset by China’s increased consumption of 602.2 million tons of coal during the same period—a 45.7 percent hike. Many climate change skeptics, such as Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), have questioned whether China will really decrease its coal consumption, and whether U.S. coal production and consumption cuts will make a difference globally, considering spiking coal use overseas. China now accounts for more than half of global coal consumption. Propelled largely by Chinese growth, the top 20 coal-using nations burned 23 percent more coal in 2015 than they did in 2005. India’s consumption grew by 195.9 million tons, or 92.7 percent, during the 2005–2015 period. Indonesia’s use rose by 55.9 million tons, a 229.1 percent increase.
South China Morning Post: Australia set to triple solar power capacity
The Australian government will help fund a dozen large-scale solar projects worth A$1 billion (US$770 million), as it looks to boost the use of clean power in a coal-rich country, which is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters per head. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) said on Thursday the projects would triple Australia’s large-scale solar capacity to 720 megawatts, and deliver a 10th of the new capacity needed to meet its 2020 renewable energy target. The government will provide A$92 million for 12 projects, which includes three proposals from private French firm Neoen SA, and one each from Thailand’s Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding and Infigen Energy. Australia wants to double its large-scale renewable energy generation to 33,000 gigawatt hours by 2020, which means by then solar, wind and hydroelectricity would have to make up nearly a quarter of the country’s power generation. The government’s tenders to back solar projects have helped build momentum in the industry and forced companies to become more competitive, which will help push the sector closer to being commercially viable, Arena CEO Ivor Frischknecht said. “We aren’t quite there yet, but the commercial viability of large-scale solar in Australia is tantalisingly close and the question is now ‘how soon’ rather than ‘if’ or ‘how long’,” he said in a speech, announcing the winning bids. As evidence of the improving competitiveness, Arena said early large-scale solar plants needed A$1.60 per watt in government funding, but funding for the 12 new projects has dropped to just 19 cents per watt in just three years.
Researchers have created an interactive web tool to estimate the amount of energy that could be generated by wind or solar farms at any location. The tool, called Renewables.ninja, aims to make the task of predicting renewable output easier for both academics and industry. The creators, from Imperial College London and ETH Zürich, have already used it to estimate current Europe-wide solar and wind output, and companies such as the German electrical supplier RWE are using it to test their own models of output.To test the model, Dr Iain Staffell, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial, and Dr Stefan Pfenninger, who is now at ETH Zürich, have used Renewables.ninja to estimate the productivity of all wind farms planned or under construction in Europe for the next 20 years. They found that wind farms in Europe current have an average ‘capacity factor’ of around 24 per cent, which means they produce around a quarter of the energy that they could if the wind blew solidly all day every day. The study found that because new farms are being built using taller turbines placed further out to sea, where wind speeds are higher, the average capacity factor for Europe should rise by nearly a third to around 31 percent. This would allow three times as much energy to be produced by wind power in Europe compared to today, not only because there are more farms, but because those farms can take advantage of better wind conditions.
Costa Rica is pulling off a feat most countries just daydream about: For two straight months, the Central American country hasn’t burned any fossil fuels to generate electricity. That’s right: 100 percent renewable power. This isn’t a blip, either. For 300 total days last year and 150 days so far this year, Costa Rica’s electricity has come entirely from renewable sources, mostly hydropower and geothermal. Heavy rains have helped four big hydroelectric dams run above their usual capacity, letting the country turn off its diesel generators. Now, there’s a huge, huge caveat here: Costa Rica hasn’t eschewed all fossil fuels entirely. The country still has more than 1 million cars running on old-fashioned gasoline, which is why imported oil still supplies over half its total energy needs. The country also has cement plants that burn coal. What Costa Rica’s doing is nevertheless impressive — and a reflection of how serious the tiny Central American country is about going green.
The South Australian Government says it will launch a tender to buy 75 per cent of its long-term electricity needs in an effort to increase competition. SA has been hit hard by spiralling electricity costs over recent years and the Government wants to introduce a new competitor to the market. Premier Jay Weatherill said current rules allowed private electricity companies to drive “prices higher by withholding supply. A small number of energy suppliers in South Australia have too much power,” he said. “If we increase competition, we will put the power back into the hands of consumers.” Mr Weatherill said the tender was a “medium-term” response to the need to drive down prices. In addition to the tender process, the Government will commit $24 million toward a program incentivising local gas producers to extract more gas and supply it to the local market. The Australian Energy Market Operator reported last month that price volatility in July was caused by a record cold, high gas prices resulting from constrained supply from the east coast, and a planned upgrade of the interconnector to Victoria.
Australian Financial Review: Australia’s largest battery storage project given green light
Australia’s largest battery storage project will be built in South Australia next year in a bid to help overcome intermittency problems that have plagued traditional wind and solar projects in the state. The Lyon Group’s $400 million Kingfisher project near Roxby Downs will include a 100-megawatt solar power plant and a 100-megawatt battery storage unit – the size of a football field – which they claim will be able to store enough electricity to deal with a future breakdown in the Heywood interconnector between South Australia and Victoria. Lyon Solar partner David Green said proposals for a new interconnector between NSW and SA – which could take between five to seven years to build – will take too long and will not help the renewable energy-rich state deal with its power problems now. He said the Kingfisher project had increased its battery storage capacity from 20 megawatts to 100 megawatts to specifically deal with the issues confronting the electricity network in SA including high prices and intermittent supply. “Clearly there is the need to improve the interconnector capacity in South Australia and that’s something that governments are focused on, but it’s a medium to long-term solution,” Mr Green told The Australian Financial Review.”In the short term, there has to be other solutions or you can’t address the day-to-day issues. Renewables on their own can’t provide frequency, that’s why we are focused on batteries that can.”
There are certain things you’d expect to hinder solar panels’ ability to generate electricity, such as cloudy days. But for serial technology entrepreneur Bill Gross, wind is the main adversary. Motors allow ground-mounted solar panels to track the sun, and now Gross’ California-based start-up, Edisun Microgrids, has developed technology to allow panels installed on rooftops to do the same. The result: a 30 percent boost in rooftop electricity production, the company claims. If so, that could be a game changer, accelerating the switch to renewable energy from fossil fuels. Gross expects the technology to make waves on commercial rooftops, where the solar potential of billions of square feet of space remains largely untapped. “In the U.S. alone, there’s roughly 50 billion square feet of flat, commercial rooftop space, and solar panels are on only 2 percent of those rooftops,” Gross said. “We see our system being suitable and economically profitable in the current energy market on about 37 percent of those roofs.” PV Booster’s chief innovation is a patented front-mounted pivot point, which allows each panel to tilt front to back and rotate side to side while keeping a low profile—something other tracking systems haven’t been able to do. Each panel is outfitted with a low-voltage motor and microprocessors programmed to track the sun, keeping the panels flat during high winds and inclement weather.
Greentechmedia: Scotland Is Constructing One New Wind Turbine Every Day
The number of wind turbines in Scotland has been growing by at least one a day for the last four years. There are now a total of 3,400 onshore turbines, up from just 1,657 in 2012. That is an increase of 1,743 — an average of more than one new turbine every day. And an additional 1,547 have planning approval, many of them now under construction. The figures were released by the Scottish government as it emerged that energy companies were paid almost £5.5 million to switch off their turbines in Scotland for one day this summer.
Sometime before the end of the year, the U.S. Senate may vote to force the EPA to count industrial biomass operations as, by definition, carbon-neutral: that is, the government would be forced to conclude that an industrial-sized wood-fired power plant is just like a solar panel or a wind turbine, a way to generate electricity without contributing to climate change. The trouble with the theory is, it turns out to be wrong, at least relative to the crisis we face. If you burn a tree, you put a lot of carbon into the atmosphere right away, trapping heat at precisely the moment that we desperately need to be cooling the earth. A slowly growing new tree won’t suck it all back up until after we’ve broken the back of the climate. And it turns out that wood is remarkably inefficient, even compared to coal: It’s a serious pulse of carbon you’re pushing into the air. Once a proposed solution like this is shown to be unworkable, conscientious people stop backing it. The “forest products industry,” though, is not backing down, and for that it’s culpable. The industry sees a big opening. It’s already sending processed wood pellets by the shipload to western Europe, and if it can force the EPA to ignore the carbon pollution from wood-burning power plants, the business will really boom in this country as well. One result will be the deforestation of many of the nation’s wooded regions. Another will be the elevation of our planet’s temperature.Which we simply can’t afford. This parade of false solutions has to come to an end now. It’s time to get down to the real work. We need to stop pretending there’s some easy way out of our fix and instead install the solar panels and put up the windmills. Trees will help the process immeasurably — but only if they’re allowed to grow in peace, pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it safely away.
The Climate Change Act was passed without competent analysis of its likely impact on global emissions, the practicality of its implementation or the possible consequences to the UK’s economy and energy security. Those with relevant expertise were never consulted by politicians over the practicality of achieving CO2 emissions reductions by a huge expansion of renewables. Competent examination of OFGEM and the late DECC’s scenarios for replacing natural gas as the main domestic fuel and electrifying most of road transport would have dismissed them out of hand. The insecurity now facing electricity supplies is the result of the failure to consider the economic impact of subsidising wind power. Wind generators have a guaranteed return in the form of ROC or FiT subsidies and zero marginal cost. This means that they can undercut any conventional generator when the wind is blowing. Coal and gas generation is thus unprofitable and new capacity is not a sensible investment. We are now faced with either power cuts or large consumer price increases resulting from subsidies which will now have to be paid to build or retain conventional generation capacity which will sit idle for much of the time. Enthusiasts claim that the solution to the problem of obtaining energy security from intermittent wind and solar power is storage. However there is no way in which the storage required can be provided using any known technology. Currently the most cost-effective way of storing electricity in significant quantities is by pumped hydro schemes such as Cruachan. Unfortunately Britain’s four such facilities provide only 45 minutes’ supply at average demand.
Norwegian state-owned utility Statkraft is getting ready to sell its interest in certain UK offshore wind assets surpassing 5.5 GW of combined capacity, with oil and gas major Statoil ASA (NYSE:STO) being the first contender for one of them. Having announced in December 2015 that it plans to end new investments in offshore wind, Statkraft is now evaluating a sale of its stakes in the operational 317-MW Sheringham Shoal, the 402-MW Dudgeon project and the 4.8-GW Dogger Bank offshore wind development. “We’re currently re-evaluating all of our existing offshore wind assets, with the exception of Triton Knoll, where we remain committed to working with innogy to develop the project towards an investment decision before bringing in new owners,” said Steinar Bysveen, Statkraft’s executive vice president. In order to shed its interest in Sheringham Shoal, currently standing at 40%, Statkraft first needs to transfer its operatorship of the wind park. It plans to leave this role to Statoil and the two companies have already signed a letter of intent (LoI) for the purpose. They have agreed for the handover to take place in January 2017, subject to certain approvals. Bysveen commented that it makes sense for Statoil to take over the operatorship of Sheringham Shoal, located off the coast of Norfolk, as it is also set to run the neighbouring Dudgeon offshore wind farm. Any transaction will also be subject to government clearance.
A report by the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee said the UK would fail to reach legally binding targets of providing 15% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, because of “underperformance” in heat and transport. It criticised the handling of the renewable heat incentive (RHI) subsidy scheme, which is facing an overall spending cap of £430m in 2015-16 – rising to £1.15bn in 2020-21 under proposals put forward earlier this year. Nearly 93% of installations under the non-domestic RHI scheme are biomass boilers. The committee said there was a “strong case” for biomass support levels to be retained at their current levels. It added: “If the Government confirms the proposed changes for biomass in the RHI, it must consider what support needs to be given to the supply chain for it to adapt at sufficient speed.”Biomethane gas to grid subsidies under RHI have also been cut back over recent years. The report said: “Above all, biomethane is crucial to meeting the 2020 target and must remain a funding priority. The Government should revise its RHI reforms to reflect these priorities, especially in protecting biomethane support.” The report follows an inquiry that heard evidence from a wide range of industry experts, including the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association.
Spanish electrical engineering company Ingeteam SA today said it has completed a revamp of a 1-MW photovoltaic (PV) system in Spain. Commissioned in 1994, the Toledo PV plant was the first of this size to be built in Europe, according to the announcement. It is located in the municipality of La Puebla de Montalban in Toledo and is managed by Gas Natural Fenosa Renovables. A study in August 2015 showed that the plant’s effective power output had dropped by 37% so Ingeteam was contracted to restore it to the original values. The work lasted two months and saw Ingeteam, the current operator and maintainer of the plant, dismount the old PV panels and replace them with new 260-W Jinko Smart nodules. With the upgrade, the system output will be increased by up to 20% in unfavourable conditions, the company said. The old panels will be treated as electronic waste. Following the revamp, the 1-MWp plant can produce up to 1,400 MWh per year
EPA recently issued fact sheets detailing climate change impacts for each state and U.S. territory. In doing so, EPA confirmed some very basic, general findings about climate change impacts overall:
1. Every state will become warmer.
2. The impacts of climate change are likely to be very different from state to state.
3. Increased rainfall intensity will cause more flooding in some states, while increasingly severe droughts may threaten water supplies in other states.
4. Farms and forests will be less productive in some states, but warmer temperatures may extend growing seasons in others.
The fact sheets are short two page documents focused on differing issues for each state including, for example, climate change impacts related to ecosystems; air pollution and human health; the Great Lakes; agriculture; the Illinois, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers; coastal flooding; heavy precipitation/flooding; sea level rise; and winter recreation. While the new information supplements the existing climate change data available online from EPA, the information in many of the fact sheets appears dated, very general in nature, and perhaps geared to the general public. Existing climate change data associated with impacts by region and by sector is more detailed and may be more useful overall.
It’s easy to imagine that warmer weather might make people happier. After all, summer brings beaches and bikes, and hiking and barbecues. That may not be the case, according to a 2014 paper that analyzed a billion Twitter posts and scored them across a happiness index. Above 70 degrees Fahrenheit or so, the mood of Twitter users changed, evidenced in part by an uptick in profanity. The difference in user happiness scores during 60F to 70F weather and 80F to 90F weather was similar to the difference in people’s moods on Sundays vs. Mondays.