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Author Topic: Green Energy  (Read 24788 times)
« on: November 13, 2009, 01:04:33 PM »

I am starting this thread since we wandered a bit on the;topic=1454.0;num_replies=151 Pathological Science thread- about global warming research.

I am responding to:

"China roughly 1 billion people is installing coal plants  and doubling their capacity.  USA about 400 million people is installing solar plants and doubling their capacity at the same rate.  Look at the proportionality- the energy needs of the 400 million will be met by the solar capacity way before the same will happen with 1 billion.  Therefore there is no way that the "industrial wealthy west" will ever be able to balance off the developing countries."

The conclusion is true and exemptions make no sense, we will never 'balance off' their CO2 increases no matter our effort.  I didn't follow you on the part before that regarding solar.  I assume you are being illustrative,  but we now get roughly 0% (with rounding) of our total energy from solar.  After we double that, solar production will grow to roughly 0% of total energy requirements.

If manufacturing is made to be even more prohibitive in the west, it will continue to shift to where the restrictions don't exist.

We can dabble in solar at 15 times the cost of current electricity, we can dabble with wind at 5 times the cost of unsubsidized electricity and we can pursue other hobbyist sources.  But we still will need the energy to drive the economy unless we just accept economic failure as is the policy of the current leftist machine.

Ethanol steals farm land from our food supply.  Natural gas at the electric plant level is a complete waste because it can be piped to location eliminating the transmission loss.  Both still involve carbon release.  Also gas taken for electricity drives up the cost to heat homes and makes it less available for a transportation substitute.

New carbon-free power in any real quantity will come from nuclear, and there is about a 10 year delay to get a new plant producing.  Or it will come from some other method not yet invented, but it is more likely to get invented after we quit subsidizing known failures and crippling our economy. (MHO)

From my local power company website:

NV Energy Solar Facilities
Powerlight Corporation

A 3.066 megawatt plant located in Las Vegas, NV, owned and operated by the Powerlight Corporation.
Clark PhotoVoltaic Station

The Clark PV Station (owned by NV Energy) consists of three dual-axis high concentrating photovoltaic tracking arrays that will produce 180,000 kilowatt hours of power that will be fed directly into the local electrical grid.  This is enough energy to power approximately 12 medium-sized homes in southern Nevada.
Nellis Solar Photovoltaic
The Nellis Air Force Base Solar Power System is the largest solar photovoltaic installation in North America, located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. A joint project of NV Energy, the U.S. Air Force, MMA Renewable Ventures and SunPower Corporation, the 14 megawatt Nellis solar energy system generates more than 30 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean electricity annually and supplies 25 percent of the total power used at the base.
Nevada Solar One

A 64-megawatt plant located in the Eldorado Valley near Boulder City, NV, owned by Acciona Solar Power, a majority-owned subsidiary of Acciona Energy.

NV Energy Geothermal Projects
Brady Geothermal

A 21.5-megawatt plant in Fernley, NV, owned by Ormat Nevada Inc. and operated by Bradys Power Partners.
Beowawe Power

A 15-megawatt plant located in Beowawe, NV, owned by Beowawe Power LLC and operated by Caithness Operating Company LLC.
Yankee Caithness Joint Venture

A 12.5-megawatt plant located in Steamboat, NV, owned by Ormat Nevada Inc. and operated by Steamboat Hills LLC.
Steamboat I

A 5-megawatt plant located south of Reno, NV, owned by Steamboat Geothermal LLC and operated by Ormat Nevada Inc.
Galena 3

A 20-megawatt plant located south of Reno, owned by Ormat Nevada Inc. and operated by ORNI 14 LLC.
Soda Lake II

A 11.39-megawatt plant located in Fallon, NV, owned by AMOR IX, and operated by Constellation Operating Services Inc.
Soda Lake I

A 2.7-megawatt plant located in Fallon, NV, owned by AMOR IX, and operated by Constellation Operating Services.
Homestretch II

A 0.69-megawatt plant located in Yerington, owned by Wabuska Geothermal Power Plant and operated by Homestretch Energy LLC.
Galena 2

A 10-megawatt plant located in Churchill County, owned by Ormat Inc. and operated by Steamboat Hills LLC.
Steamboat II

A 12-megawatt plant located south of Reno, NV, owned and operated by Ormat Nevada Inc.
Desert Peak Geothermal, Project No. 2

A 13.7-megawatt plant located in Fernley, NV, owned by Ormat Nevada Inc. and operated by ORNI 3 LLC.
Homestretch I

A 0.73-megawatt-plant located in Yerington, owned by Wabuska Geothermal Plant and operated by Homestretch Energy LLC.
Steamboat III

A 12-megawatt plant located south of Reno, NV, owned and operated by Ormat Nevada Inc.
Steamboat I A

A 1-megawatt plant located south of Reno, NV, owned by Steamboat Geothermal LLC and operated by Ormat Nevada Inc.

A 2.6-megawatt plant located in Empire, NV, owned by Empire Farms and operated by Empire Geothermal Power LLC.
Richard Burdette (formerly Galena I)

A 20-megawatt plant located in Steamboat, NV, owned by Ormat Nevada Inc. and operated by ORNI 7 LLC.

 Also Check out wikipedia- There is a lot going on out there.

 I am NOT ready to buy into nuclear power, a single accident causes way too much damage and will cause effects that last too long.  I guarantee that big business and government will make the usual cozy arrangements and have the same end effect as Chernobyl and TMI.

Yes the % of the pie that green energy has is small, but it is growing.  Coal fired was small at one point too.
Power User
Posts: 42526

« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2009, 03:35:42 PM »

Good post, but I think we already have a suitable thread of some sort.  Please search under "Energy" and see what comes up.
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2009, 04:25:23 PM »

Okay, here are the other thread I turned up:

I will post on:

for anyone who wants to follow,  this will now be ignored except for the green energy search I did try, and got nothing for a result.
Power User
Posts: 42526

« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2009, 04:39:06 PM »

That is the thread I had in mind.  Thank you.  This thread is now locked.
Power User
Posts: 42526

« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2010, 12:10:29 PM »

Europe Finds Clean Energy in Trash, but U.S. Lags

HORSHOLM, Denmark — The lawyers and engineers who dwell in an elegant
enclave here are at peace with the hulking neighbor just over the back
fence: a vast energy plant that burns thousands of tons of household garbage
and industrial waste, round the clock.

A plant in Horsholm, Denmark, uses new technology to convert trash into
energy more cleanly.

The Vestforbraending plant in Copenhagen, the largest of the 29
waste-to-energy plants in Denmark. Their use has reduced the country's
energy costs.

Far cleaner than conventional incinerators, this new type of plant converts
local trash into heat and electricity. Dozens of filters catch pollutants,
from mercury to dioxin, that would have emerged from its smokestack only a
decade ago.

In that time, such plants have become both the mainstay of garbage disposal
and a crucial fuel source across Denmark, from wealthy exurbs like Horsholm
to Copenhagen’s downtown area. Their use has not only reduced the country’s
energy costs and reliance on oil and gas, but also benefited the
environment, diminishing the use of landfills and cutting carbon dioxide
emissions. The plants run so cleanly that many times more dioxin is now
released from home fireplaces and backyard barbecues than from incineration.

With all these innovations, Denmark now regards garbage as a clean
alternative fuel rather than a smelly, unsightly problem. And the
incinerators, known as waste-to-energy plants, have acquired considerable
cachet as communities like Horsholm vie to have them built.

Denmark now has 29 such plants, serving 98 municipalities in a country of
5.5 million people, and 10 more are planned or under construction. Across
Europe, there are about 400 plants, with Denmark, Germany and the
Netherlands leading the pack in expanding them and building new ones.

By contrast, no new waste-to-energy plants are being planned or built in the
United States, the Environmental Protection Agency says — even though the
federal government and 24 states now classify waste that is burned this way
for energy as a renewable fuel, in many cases eligible for subsidies. There
are only 87 trash-burning power plants in the United States, a country of
more than 300 million people, and almost all were built at least 15 years

Instead, distant landfills remain the end point for most of the nation’s
trash. New York City alone sends 10,500 tons of residential waste each day
to landfills in places like Ohio and South Carolina.

“Europe has gotten out ahead with this newest technology,” said Ian A.
Bowles, a former Clinton administration official who is now the
Massachusetts state secretary of energy.

Still, Mr. Bowles said that as America’s current landfills topped out and
pressure to reduce heat-trapping gases grew, Massachusetts and some other
states were “actively considering” new waste-to-energy proposals; several
existing plants are being expanded. He said he expected resistance all the
same in a place where even a wind turbine sets off protests.

Why Americans Are Reluctant

Matt Hale, director of the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery of
the United States Environmental Protection Agency, said the reasons that
waste-to-energy plants had not caught on nationally were the relative
abundance of cheap landfills in a large country, opposition from state
officials who feared the plants could undercut recycling programs and a
“negative public perception.” In the United States, individual states and
municipalities generally decide what method to use to get rid of their

Still, a 2009 study by the E.P.A. and North Carolina State University
scientists came down strongly in favor of waste-to-energy plants over
landfills as the most environmentally friendly destination for urban waste
that cannot be recycled. Embracing the technology would not only reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution, but also yield copious
electricity, it said.

Yet powerful environmental groups have fought the concept passionately.
“Incinerators are really the devil,” said Laura Haight, a senior
environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Investing in garbage as a green resource is simply perverse when governments
should be mandating recycling, she said. “Once you build a waste-to-energy
plant, you then have to feed it. Our priority is pushing for zero waste.”

The group has vigorously opposed building a plant in New York City.

Even Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has championed green initiatives and
ranked Copenhagen’s waste-fueled heating on his list of environmental “best
practices,” has shied away from proposing to get one built.

“It is not currently being pursued — not because of the technology, which
has advanced, but because of the issue in selecting sites to build
incinerators,” said Jason Post, the mayor’s deputy press secretary on
environmental issues. “It’s a Nimby issue. It would take years of hearings
and reviews.”

Nickolas J. Themelis, a professor of engineering at Columbia University and
a waste-to-energy proponent, said America’s resistance to constructing the
new plants was economically and environmentally “irresponsible.”


“It’s so irrational; I’ve almost given up with New York,” he said. “It’s
like you’re in a village of Hottentots who look up and see an airplane —
when everybody else is using airplanes — and they say, ‘No, we won’t do it,
it’s too scary.’ ”

Acceptance in Denmark
Attitudes could hardly be more different in Denmark, where plants are placed
in the communities they serve, no matter how affluent, so that the heat of
burning garbage can be efficiently piped into homes.

Planners take pains to separate residential traffic from trucks delivering
garbage, and some of the newest plants are encased in elaborate outer shells
that resemble sculptures.

“New buyers are usually O.K. with the plant,” said Hans Rast, president of
the homeowners’ association in Horsholm, who cut a distinguished figure in
corduroy slacks and a V-neck sweater as he poured coffee in a living room of
white couches and Oriental rugs.

“What they like is that they look out and see the forest,” he said. (The
living rooms in this enclave of town houses face fields and trees, while the
plant is roughly some 400 yards over a back fence that borders the homes’
carports). The lower heating costs don’t hurt, either. Eighty percent of
Horsholm’s heat and 20 percent of its electricity come from burning trash.

Many countries that are expanding waste-to-energy capacity, like Denmark and
Germany, typically also have the highest recycling rates; only the material
that cannot be recycled is burned.

Waste-to-energy plants do involve large upfront expenditures, and tight
credit can be a big deterrent. Harrisburg, Pa., has been flirting with
bankruptcy because of a $300 million loan it took to reopen and refit an old
public incinerator with the new technology.

But hauling trash is expensive, too. New York City paid $307 million last
year to export more than four million tons of waste, mostly to landfills in
distant states, Mr. Post said. Although the city is trying to move more of
its trash by train or barge, much of it travels by truck, with heavy fuel

In 2009, a small portion of the city’s trash was processed at two
1990-vintage waste-to-energy plants in Newark and Hempstead, N.Y., owned by
a private company, Covanta. The city pays $65 a ton for the service — the
cheapest available way for New York City to get rid of its trash. Sending
garbage to landfills is more expensive: the city’s costliest current method
is to haul waste by rail to a landfill in Virginia.

While new, state-of-the-art landfills do collect the methane that emanates
from rotting garbage to make electricity, they churn out roughly twice as
much climate-warming gas as waste-to-energy plants do for the units of power
they produce, the 2009 E.P.A. study found. Methane, the primary warming gas
emitted by landfills, is about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the
gas released by burning garbage.

The study also concluded that waste-to-energy plants produced lower levels
of pollutants than the best landfills did, but nine times the energy.
Although new landfills are lined to prevent leaks of toxic substances and
often capture methane, the process is highly inefficient, it noted.

Laws Spur New Technology

In Europe, environmental laws have hastened the development of
waste-to-energy programs. The European Union severely restricts the creation
of new landfill sites, and its nations already have binding commitments to
reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 2012 under the international pact
known as the Kyoto Protocol, which was never ratified by the United States.

Garbage cannot easily be placed out of sight, out of mind in Europe’s
smaller, densely populated countries, as it so often is in the United
States. Many of the 87 waste-to-energy plants in the United States are in
densely populated areas like Long Island and Cape Cod.

While these plants are generally two decades old, many have been
progressively retrofitted with new pollution filters, though few produce
both heat and power like the newest Danish versions.

In Horsholm only 4 percent of waste now goes to landfills, and 1 percent
(chemicals, paints and some electronic equipment) is consigned to “special
disposal” in places like secure storage vaults in an abandoned salt mine in
Germany. Sixty-one percent of the town’s waste is recycled and 34 percent is
incinerated at waste-to-energy plants.


Page 3 of 3)

From a pollution perspective, today’s energy-generating incinerators have
little in common with the smoke-belching models of the past. They have
arrays of newly developed filters and scrubbers to capture the offending
chemicals — hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, dioxins,
furans and heavy metals — as well as small particulates.

Emissions from the plants in all categories have been reduced to just 10 to
20 percent of levels allowed under the European Union’s strict environmental
standards for air and water discharges.
At the end of the incineration process, the extracted acids, heavy metals
and gypsum are sold for use in manufacturing or construction. Small amounts
of highly concentrated toxic substances, forming a paste, are shipped to one
of two warehouses for highly hazardous materials, in the Norwegian fjords
and in a used salt mine in Germany.

“The hazardous elements are concentrated and handled with care rather than
dispersed as they would be in a landfill,” said Ivar Green-Paulsen, general
manager of the Vestforbraending plant in Copenhagen, the country’s largest.

In Denmark, local governments run trash collection as well as the
incinerators and recycling centers, and laws and financial incentives ensure
that recyclable materials are not burned. (In the United States most
waste-to-energy plants are private ventures.) Communities may drop
recyclable waste at recycling centers free of charge, but must pay to have
garbage incinerated.

At Vestforbraending, trucks stop on scales for weighing and payment before
dumping their contents. The trash is randomly searched for recyclable
material, with heavy fines for offenders.

The homeowners’ association in Horsholm has raised what its president, Mr.
Rast, called “minor issues” with the plant, like a bright light on the
chimney that shone into some bedrooms, and occasional truck noise. But
mostly, he said, it is a respected silent neighbor, producing no noticeable

The plant, owned by five adjacent communities, has even proved popular in a
conservative region with Denmark’s highest per-capita income. Morten
Slotved, 40, Horsholm’s mayor, is trying to expand it. “Constituents like it
because it decreases heating costs and raises home values,” he said with a
smile. “I’d like another furnace.”
Power User
Posts: 42526

« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2010, 09:01:45 AM »

Whoops!  I see I have confused matters by posting on a thread which I have locked.  embarassed

As noted a couple of posts above, the threads to use are
Power User
Posts: 42526

« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2010, 07:16:24 AM »

Solar-Panel Maker to Close a Factory and Delay ExpansionBy TODD WOODY
Published: November 3, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO — Solyndra, a Silicon Valley solar-panel maker that won half a billion dollars in federal aid to build a state-of-the-art robotic factory, plans to announce on Wednesday that it will shut down an older plant and lay off workers.

Solyndra opened Fab 2, a $733 million factory to make its high-tech solar panels. It plans to close an older facility, shown here.

The cost-cutting move, which will reduce the company’s previously announced production capacity, is a sign of the notable shift in the prospects for cutting-edge American solar companies, which now face intense price competition from Chinese manufacturers that use more established photovoltaic technologies.

Just seven weeks ago, Solyndra opened Fab 2, a $733 million factory in Fremont, Calif., to make its high-tech solar panels. The new plant was supposed to be the first phase of a rapid expansion of the company.

Instead, Solyndra has decided to shutter the old plant and postpone plans to expand Fab 2, which was built with a $535 million federal loan guarantee.

“Fab 2 is much more efficient and cost-effective than our existing facility,” Brian Harrison, Solyndra’s chief executive, said in an interview. “We’re adjusting our plans to be more in line with where the market is and where our business is at the moment.”

When Solyndra filed for an initial public stock offering in December, it estimated it would have a total production capacity of 610 megawatts by 2013 if its two plants were fully built out. The company now expects it have capacity of 285 to 300 megawatts by 2013.

Solyndra abandoned plans for the stock offering in June, citing market conditions.

The company is the most prominent of a wave of Silicon Valley solar start-ups that hoped to transform the economics of the industry. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Energy Secretary Steven Chu helped break ground on Fab 2 last year, and President Obama made an appearance at the unfinished factory in May to extol Solyndra’s innovative technology.

Mr. Harrison noted that the market had undergone a significant shift since Solyndra filed for the stock offering, with solar module prices plummeting as low-cost Chinese manufacturers like Suntech and Yingli ramped up production.

That has put pressure on companies like Solyndra, which makes advanced thin-film solar modules that are less efficient than conventional photovoltaic modules but had been cheaper to install until prices began to fall sharply last year.

Solyndra said it would lay off around 40 employees and not renew contracts for about 150 temporary workers as a result of the consolidation. The closing of the old factory, called Fab 1, will save the company more than $60 million in capital expenditures, executives said.

Mr. Harrison, who became Solyndra’s chief executive in July, said that despite the cutbacks, the company’s production of solar panels for commercial rooftops would double in 2011 from the previous year. He said Solyndra continued to receive large orders from customers.

Depending on how the market evolves, Solyndra could reopen Fab 1 or expand its new factory, Mr. Harrison said.

Power User
Posts: 42526

« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2010, 10:56:01 AM »
Power User
Posts: 42526

« Reply #8 on: December 25, 2010, 12:55:40 PM »

KIPTUSURI, Kenya — For Sara Ruto, the desperate yearning for electricity began last year with the purchase of her first cellphone, a lifeline for receiving small money transfers, contacting relatives in the city or checking chicken prices at the nearest market.

Beyond Fossil Fuels

Charging the phone was no simple matter in this farming village far from Kenya’s electric grid.

Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There, she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it behind for three full days before returning.

That wearying routine ended in February when the family sold some animals to buy a small Chinese-made solar power system for about $80. Now balanced precariously atop their tin roof, a lone solar panel provides enough electricity to charge the phone and run four bright overhead lights with switches.

“My main motivation was the phone, but this has changed so many other things,” Ms. Ruto said on a recent evening as she relaxed on a bench in the mud-walled shack she shares with her husband and six children.

As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper, more reliable and more efficient, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people who live far from slow-growing electricity grids and fuel pipelines in developing countries. Although dwarfed by the big renewable energy projects that many industrialized countries are embracing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, these tiny systems are playing an epic, transformative role.

Since Ms. Ruto hooked up the system, her teenagers’ grades have improved because they have light for studying. The toddlers no longer risk burns from the smoky kerosene lamp. And each month, she saves $15 in kerosene and battery costs — and the $20 she used to spend on travel.

In fact, neighbors now pay her 20 cents to charge their phones, although that business may soon evaporate: 63 families in Kiptusuri have recently installed their own solar power systems.

“You leapfrog over the need for fixed lines,” said Adam Kendall, head of the sub-Saharan Africa power practice for McKinsey & Company, the global consulting firm. “Renewable energy becomes more and more important in less and less developed markets.”

The United Nations estimates that 1.5 billion people across the globe still live without electricity, including 85 percent of Kenyans, and that three billion still cook and heat with primitive fuels like wood or charcoal.

There is no reliable data on the spread of off-grid renewable energy on a small scale, in part because the projects are often installed by individuals or tiny nongovernmental organizations.

But Dana Younger, senior renewable energy adviser at the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private lending arm, said there was no question that the trend was accelerating. “It’s a phenomenon that’s sweeping the world; a huge number of these systems are being installed,” Mr. Younger said.

With the advent of cheap solar panels and high-efficiency LED lights, which can light a room with just 4 watts of power instead of 60, these small solar systems now deliver useful electricity at a price that even the poor can afford, he noted. “You’re seeing herders in Inner Mongolia with solar cells on top of their yurts,” Mr. Younger said.

In Africa, nascent markets for the systems have sprung up in Ethiopia, Uganda, Malawi and Ghana as well as in Kenya, said Francis Hillman, an energy entrepreneur who recently shifted his Eritrea-based business, Phaesun Asmara, from large solar projects financed by nongovernmental organizations to a greater emphasis on tiny rooftop systems.

In addition to these small solar projects, renewable energy technologies designed for the poor include simple subterranean biogas chambers that make fuel and electricity from the manure of a few cows, and “mini” hydroelectric dams that can harness the power of a local river for an entire village.

Yet while these off-grid systems have proved their worth, the lack of an effective distribution network or a reliable way of financing the start-up costs has prevented them from becoming more widespread.

“The big problem for us now is there is no business model yet,” said John Maina, executive coordinator of Sustainable Community Development Services, or Scode, a nongovernmental organization based in Nakuru, Kenya, that is devoted to bringing power to rural areas.

Just a few years ago, Mr. Maina said, “solar lights” were merely basic lanterns, dim and unreliable.

“Finally, these products exist, people are asking for them and are willing to pay,” he said. “But we can’t get supply.” He said small African organizations like his do not have the purchasing power or connections to place bulk orders themselves from distant manufacturers, forcing them to scramble for items each time a shipment happens to come into the country.


Page 2 of 2)

Part of the problem is that the new systems buck the traditional mold, in which power is generated by a very small number of huge government-owned companies that gradually extend the grid into rural areas. Investors are reluctant to pour money into products that serve a dispersed market of poor rural consumers because they see the risk as too high.

Beyond Fossil Fuels

“There are many small islands of success, but they need to go to scale,” said Minoru Takada, chief of the United Nations Development Program’s sustainable energy program. “Off-grid is the answer for the poor. But people who control funding need to see this as a viable option.”

Even United Nations programs and United States government funds that promote climate-friendly energy in developing countries hew to large projects like giant wind farms or industrial-scale solar plants that feed into the grid. A $300 million solar project is much easier to finance and monitor than 10 million home-scale solar systems in mud huts spread across a continent.

As a result, money does not flow to the poorest areas. Of the $162 billion invested in renewable energy last year, according to the United Nations, experts estimate that $44 billion was spent in China, India and Brazil collectively, and $7.5 billion in the many poorer countries.

Only 6 to 7 percent of solar panels are manufactured to produce electricity that does not feed into the grid; that includes systems like Ms. Ruto’s and solar panels that light American parking lots and football stadiums.

Still, some new models are emerging. Husk Power Systems, a young company supported by a mix of private investment and nonprofit funds, has built 60 village power plants in rural India that make electricity from rice husks for 250 hamlets since 2007.

In Nepal and Indonesia, the United Nations Development Program has helped finance the construction of very small hydroelectric plants that have brought electricity to remote mountain communities. Morocco provides subsidized solar home systems at a cost of $100 each to remote rural areas where expanding the national grid is not cost-effective.

What has most surprised some experts in the field is the recent emergence of a true market in Africa for home-scale renewable energy and for appliances that consume less energy. As the cost of reliable equipment decreases, families have proved ever more willing to buy it by selling a goat or borrowing money from a relative overseas, for example.

The explosion of cellphone use in rural Africa has been an enormous motivating factor. Because rural regions of many African countries lack banks, the cellphone has been embraced as a tool for commercial transactions as well as personal communications, adding an incentive to electrify for the sake of recharging.

M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest mobile phone money transfer service, handles an annual cash flow equivalent to more than 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, most in tiny transactions that rarely exceed $20.

The cheap renewable energy systems also allow the rural poor to save money on candles, charcoal, batteries, wood and kerosene. “So there is an ability to pay and a willingness to pay,” said Mr. Younger of the International Finance Corporation.

In another Kenyan village, Lochorai, Alice Wangui, 45, and Agnes Mwaforo, 35, formerly subsistence farmers, now operate a booming business selling and installing energy-efficient wood-burning cooking stoves made of clay and metal for a cost of $5. Wearing matching bright orange tops and skirts, they walk down rutted dirt paths with cellphones ever at their ears, edging past goats and dogs to visit customers and to calm those on the waiting list.

Hunched over her new stove as she stirred a stew of potatoes and beans, Naomi Muriuki, 58, volunteered that the appliance had more than halved her use of firewood. Wood has become harder to find and expensive to buy as the government tries to limit deforestation, she added.

In Tumsifu, a slightly more prosperous village of dairy farmers, Virginia Wairimu, 35, is benefiting from an underground tank in which the manure from her three cows is converted to biogas, which is then pumped through a rubber tube to a gas burner.

“I can just get up and make breakfast," Ms. Wairimu said. The system was financed with a $400 loan from a demonstration project that has since expired.

In Kiptusuri, the Firefly LED system purchased by Ms. Ruto is this year’s must-have item. The smallest one, which costs $12, consists of a solar panel that can be placed in a window or on a roof and is connected to a desk lamp and a phone charger. Slightly larger units can run radios and black-and-white television sets.

Of course, such systems cannot compare with a grid connection in the industrialized world. A week of rain can mean no lights. And items like refrigerators need more, and more consistent, power than a panel provides.

Still, in Kenya, even grid-based electricity is intermittent and expensive: families must pay more than $350 just to have their homes hooked up.

“With this system, you get a real light for what you spend on kerosene in a few months,” said Mr. Maina, of Sustainable Community Development Services. “When you can light your home and charge your phone, that is very valuable.”
Power User
Posts: 42526

« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2011, 05:50:52 AM »

Bacteria made quick work of the tons of methane that billowed into the Gulf of Mexico along with oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout, clearing the natural gas from the waterway within months of its release, researchers reported Friday.

The federally funded field study, published online in the journal Science, offers peer-reviewed evidence that naturally occurring microbes in the Gulf devoured significant amounts of toxic chemicals in natural gas and oil spewing from the seafloor, which researchers had thought would persist in the region's water chemistry for years.

"Within a matter of months, the bacteria completely removed that methane,"said microbiologist David Valentine at the University of California at Santa Barbara. "The bacteria kicked on more effectively than we expected," he said.

Dr. Valentine was part of a research team that tested samples from more than 200 locations across 38,000 square miles of the Gulf during three research cruises between August and October, after the well was shut down last year.

The fate of the methane is only one aspect of the environmental impact on the Gulf of the massive spill. All told, scientists estimate that 200,000 tons or more of methane bubbled from the damaged BP PLC well—about 20% of the hydrocarbons released during the spill—along with about 4.4 million barrels of petroleum.

Naturally-occurring bacteria made quick work of tons of methane gas released in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, researchers reported Friday. Science columnist Robert Lee Hotz and University of California Santa Barbara microbiologist David Valentine talk with Kelsey Hubbard about the environmental implications and how it may alter our understanding of climate change.
The crude oil settled on the seafloor as sludge within a mile or so of the damaged drill head, floated to the surface, washed ashore or was diluted by chemical dispersants dissolved into the seawater.

In a report last month, federal officials managing the cleanup effort said there was no longer any significant oil from the spill left offshore and no evidence of chemical dispersants in the water that exceeded federal safety standards. Most state and federal fisheries in the Gulf have reopened.

David Rainey, a vice president of science, technology, environment and regulatory affairs for BP's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, which had no role in the new study, called the methane findings "very good news for the Gulf of Mexico."

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The report stirred disbelief among several microbiologists studying the aftermath of the 87-day oil and gas leak. "I think they are jumping to a conclusion," said University of Georgia microbiologist Samantha Joye, who has been analyzing methane from the damaged wellhead independently. "It would take a superhuman microbe to do what they are claiming."

But Robert Haddad, head of the damage-assessment effort at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said, "the data they've collected on the methane plume is consistent with what we've seen."

Early tests conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University around the damaged wellhead showed that little of the methane gas ever reached the surface.

The scientists determined that almost all of it had been trapped in a plume of microscopic oil droplets in a layer of water between 2,600 feet and 3,900 feet deep. The measurements the scientists made in June showed that methane levels in the water were tens of thousands of times higher than normal.

Now it is nowhere to be found.

"We were shocked," said chemical oceanographer John Kessler at Texas A&M, who was the lead author of the Science study. "We thought the methane would be around for years."
By comparing the water samples from their three Gulf cruises, Dr. Kessler and his colleagues found a telltale drop in the amount of oxygen left in the water that appeared to precisely equal the amount needed for microbes to metabolize so much methane.

The bacteria appeared to draw down 100 million tons of oxygen from the water, not enough to cause an oxygen-starved dead zone that would be fatal to other marine life, the researchers said. In addition, genetic tests revealed relatively high levels of microbes known to consume methane.
"This is very compelling evidence that the methane had been consumed," said geo-microbiologist Antje Boetius at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Biology in Bremen, Germany, an expert on methane microbes who wasn't involved in the study.

The new research offered a rare glimpse into the remarkable abilities of an obscure family of microbes that dwell in the depths of the Gulf and along almost every continental margin around the world where subsurface reservoirs of methane can be found.

"They are pretty common and have the capability of responding if there is a methane release," said microbial ecologist Victoria Orphan, an expert on methane-consuming microbes at the California Institute of Technology.

If borne out by additional research, the ability of ocean microbes to absorb such large releases of methane so rapidly also has implications for the study of global warming and the potential for catastrophic climate changes, the researchers said.

Methane is a greenhouse gas 24 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Under some climate-change scenarios, scientists worry that large natural leaks of methane, which is cached in vast reservoirs beneath the seafloor, could reach the surface where the gas could affect temperatures. These microbes could block that.

"They showed that, even when there is a massive release of methane, the ocean can compensate," said federal microbiologist Terry Hazen at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who has long championed the use of methane-oxidizing microbes to biodegrade oil spills.

Write to Robert Lee Hotz at
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« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2011, 11:39:14 AM »

Around the Nation: Stimulus Incinerators
A little known environmental consequence of Barack Obama's failed stimulus scheme is just beginning to attract attention: the construction of waste-to-energy incinerators on Indian reservations using deficit stimulus financing.

Building these facilities on reservations allows Democrats to claim that they're promoting green energy projects. However, as is often the case with stimulus dollars and Democrats, the truth and the project claims are strangers. Placing incinerators on Indian lands merely removes them from the environmental oversight that normally prohibits them from doing just what they're doing. Due to the quantity and hazardous composition of nano-particulate fly ash and chemical vapors emitted by the plants, the EPA would shut them down in a heartbeat if it could get at them. The large emission fallout zone contaminates soil, water and air for miles in every direction. This is what passes as "liberal compassion for native peoples."

The effect on residents of metropolitan areas adjacent to reservation lands where the plants are proposed can be particularly devastating. They find themselves lacking both representation to oppose the facilities as well as the normal environmental protections or legal recourse against the tribes responsible for damaging their health and property values. A good example of such a planned project is by the Oneida tribe in Wisconsin, which will be in close proximity to numerous residential homes, elementary schools, churches and Lambeau Field, the football stadium of the Green Bay Packers.

Given the high failure rate for Obama's "green" stimulus initiatives, the new GOP House majority should follow through on its stated goal to pull back unspent stimulus dollars. Otherwise, they will be forcing taxpayers to pay for being injured in a twisted new form of taxation without representation.

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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2011, 08:02:46 AM »

The United States would derive no meaningful military benefit from increased use of alternative fuels to power its jets, ships and other weapons systems, according to a government-commissioned study by the RAND Corporation scheduled for release Tuesday.

The report also argued that most alternative-fuel technologies were unproven, too expensive or too far from commercial scale to meet the military’s needs over the next decade.
In particular, the report argued that the Defense Department was spending too much time and money exploring experimental biofuels derived from sources like algae or the flowering plant camelina, and that more focus should be placed on energy efficiency as a way of combating greenhouse gas emissions.

The report urged Congress to reconsider the military’s budget for alternative-fuel projects. But if such fuels are to be pursued, the report concluded, the most economic, environmentally sound and near-term candidate would be a liquid fuel produced using a combination of coal and biomass, as well as some method for capturing and storing carbon emissions released during production.

The findings by the nonprofit research group, which grew out of a directive in the 2009 Defense Authorization Act calling for further study of alternative fuels in military vehicles and aircraft, are likely to provoke much debate in Washington.

The Obama administration has directed billions of dollars to support emerging clean-energy technologies even as Congress has been unwilling to pass any sort of climate or renewable energy legislation.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is seeking to improve the military’s efficiency and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels over the coming decade, devoting $300 million in economic stimulus financing and other research money toward those goals.

RAND’s conclusions drew swift criticism from some branches of the military — particularly the Navy, which has been leading the foray into advanced algae-based fuels.

“Unfortunately, we were not engaged by the authors of this report,” said Thomas W. Hicks, deputy assistant secretary of energy for the Navy. “We don’t believe they adequately engaged the market,” he said, adding, “This is not up to RAND’s standards.”

The analysis has also irked environmental groups and biofuels proponents, who argued that RAND had underestimated the commercial viability of algae and overestimated the availability and efficacy of carbon capture and storage technology.

The Air Force is engaged in extensive testing of biofuel blends in its aircraft, and the Navy received 20,000 gallons of algae-based fuel for testing and certification from the California company Solazyme last summer. Solazyme signed a contract with the Defense Department to deliver another 150,000 gallons this year.

Proponents of these endeavors argue that the military, with its substantial buying power, can help spur the expansion of renewable fuel markets into the civilian sphere.

“This would not be the first example of a military-driven research project where the civilian benefit far outweighs the military benefit,” said Paul Winters, a spokesman for the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington. “Witness the Internet,” he said.

Mr. Hicks of the Navy also took issue with the notion that there was no military benefit to the pursuit of oil alternatives.

“We are doing this because there are energy security issues at play,” he said. “Every barrel of oil we can replace with something that’s produced domestically, the better we are as a nation, and the more secure and more independent we are.”

In the report, however, James T. Bartis, a senior policy researcher at RAND and the lead author of the analysis, argued that while the military consumes substantial amounts of liquid fuels — about 340,000 barrels each day — this accounts for less than 2 percent of the nation’s total use, which is estimated to be 19 million barrels a day.

As such, the greenhouse-gas benefits arising from the military’s efforts along these lines are likely to be minuscule. The authors argued that both the Defense Department and Congress should “reconsider whether defense appropriations should continue to support the development of advanced alternative fuel technologies.”

Further, the report said that the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required that any alternative and synthetic fuels bought by federal agencies for “mobility-related use” must have lower greenhouse gas emissions — or at least no greater — than those of conventional fuels.


The full life-cycle emissions of many plant-based fuel alternatives are still not fully understood, Mr. Bartis argued — particularly the degree to which they cause, directly or indirectly, changes in land use around the globe.

Alternative fuels made from plants also compete with food crops for land. Producing just 200,000 barrels of such fuels a day — or about 1 percent of total oil consumption in the United States — would require an area “equal to about 10 percent of the croplands currently under cultivation in the United States,” Mr. Bartis said.
The most promising alternative fuels, according to the report, are those derived from what is known as the Fischer-Tropsch process, a method developed almost a century ago by Germany for turning coal into a liquid fuel. The method is still in limited use in a handful of countries, and it can be used with a variety of feedstocks — coal, natural gas, even biomass.

The conversion process, however, is extremely energy-intensive, and when coal is used, it produces vast amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide — far more than conventional fuels.

But a blend of coal and sustainably produced biomass as feedstocks, combined with carbon-capture technology, could be a viable low-carbon alternative, the report said.

Meanwhile, other advanced fuels like those derived from algae are far from commercially ready, RAND said. “Large investments in research and development will be required before confident estimates can be made regarding production costs and environmental impacts,” the authors said.

RAND’s findings rankled industry and environmental groups.

Brian Siu, a policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he was still analyzing the report, but he called coal-based fuels a nonstarter. “Any liquid coal deployment would increase coal mining beyond today’s levels,” he said. “That would drive more mountaintop removal, groundwater contamination, biodiversity loss and other mining impacts.”

In an e-mail, Mary Rosenthal, the executive director of the Algal Biomass Organization, a trade group, said the report’s characterization of algae as a mere research topic was “both demeaning and patently false.”

“We have more than 100 companies, academic institutions and national laboratories working to develop the algae-to-fuels industry,” she said. “We believe algae commercialization is far closer than RAND suggests.”
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« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2012, 09:45:12 AM »,0,4188597.story
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« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2012, 02:19:40 PM »

Harvard Needs Remedial Energy Math
Wind and solar power cannot possibly meet the world's growing need for more electricity. .
Investing in and using fossil fuels is so wrong it should be seen as the equivalent of support for apartheid. That is the message being promoted by, the organization headed by environmental activist Bill McKibben.

Over the past month or so, Mr. McKibben and a rotating cast of activists have held rallies in 21 U.S. cities encouraging students to campaign for ridding their university endowments of investments in coal, oil and natural gas. The effort is modeled on the 1980s effort to get universities to shed investments in companies that did business in apartheid-era South Africa. A few small schools, including Unity College in Maine and Hampshire College in Massachusetts, have responded to the pressure and agreed to rid their portfolios of fossil-fuel stocks.

One of the slogans used in's divestment campaign is "Do the math." OK. Let's.

Set aside the financial arguments for—or against—investing in companies that produce hydrocarbons. Further, let's not judge the claims made by Mr. McKibben and his allies that a concentration of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere is "the safe limit for humanity."

Let's do the math by considering what will happen if we humans—in the words of the campaign—attempt to "go fossil free" and rely solely on "clean energy." To make the computation simpler still, let's ignore oil altogether, even though that energy source represents about 33% of all global energy use and is indispensable for transportation.

The absurdity of the calls for a "fossil free" future can be illustrated by looking exclusively at the explosive growth in the world's demand for electricity, the commodity that separates rich countries from the poor ones. Since 1985, on a percentage basis, global electricity demand has grown by 121%, which is nearly three times the rate of growth in oil demand. Over the past two and half decades, electricity consumption has increased by an average of 450 terawatt-hours (a terawatt-hour is one trillion watt-hours) per year. That's the equivalent of adding about one Brazil (which used 485 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2010) to the electricity sector every year. The International Energy Agency expects global electricity use to continue growing by about 450 terawatt-hours per year through 2035.

Here's where the math becomes college-freshman obvious: In 2011, the world had 240,000 megawatts of wind-generation capacity. That fleet of turbines produced 437 terawatt-hours of electricity. Therefore, just keeping up with the growth in global electricity demand—while not displacing any of the existing need for coal, oil and natural gas—would require the countries of the world to install about as much wind-generation capacity as now exists, and they'd have to do so every year.

Put another way, just to keep pace with demand growth, the wind industry will need to cover a land area of some 48,000 square miles with wind turbines per year, an area about the size of North Carolina. Even if that much land were available, no humans would want to live on the land because of the irritating noise generated by those turbines.

There are welcome developments in solar energy: Production is growing rapidly and the price of solar cells is falling. Once again, though, simple math exposes the scale problem.

Recall that we need 450 terawatt-hours per year of electricity production to keep pace with incremental demand. Germany has more installed solar-energy capacity than any other country—about 25,000 megawatts. Last year, Germany produced 19 terawatt-hours of electricity from solar. Thus, just to keep pace with the growth in global electricity demand, the world would have to install about 23 times as much solar-energy capacity as now exists in Germany, and it would have to do so year after year.

And we haven't even considered the incurable intermittency of solar and wind, a problem that requires backup capacity from fossil fuels or nuclear power.

Last month, the Harvard College Undergraduate Council held a referendum on fossil fuel divestment. (Harvard's $31 billion endowment is the largest in the country.) With about half of the undergrads voting, 72% voted in favor of divesting. Those students were apparently persuaded by the slick slogans put out by, such as "We > fossil fuels."

Harvard is among America's most prestigious schools. But it is apparent that the students who voted in favor of the divestiture proposal—and presumably to rid the world of fossil fuels—didn't, ahem, do the math.

Mr. Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
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« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2012, 04:21:39 PM »

Silicon Valley's Green Energy Mistake
Political venture capital turns out to be a loser. .
Silicon Valley's investment wizards are fleeing the so-called green economy, and not a moment too soon for American prosperity. As painful as the era of enviro-investing has been for taxpayers and shareholders, there's an emerging silver lining. It's likely that in 2013 fewer people will spend their time trying to turn political projects into companies.

A recent survey from our corporate cousins at Dow Jones VentureSource and the National Venture Capital Association finds that "clean technology" is inspiring pessimism among venture capitalists. Fully 61% expect less clean-tech investment in 2013 compared to 2012. On the flip side, a majority expect more investment next year in business information technology, a traditional U.S. economic strength.

The survey reflects a natural and healthy shift in Silicon Valley. Talent and resources are moving back to the technologies that gave the valley its name—and away from trendy eco-projects that failed.

When Silicon Valley was committed to addressing market needs, it enriched the world with Intel, Apple, Google GOOG -0.88%and Cisco. When venture investors tried to profit from political agendas, they saddled taxpayers with stinkers like Abound Solar, Range Fuels and the infamous Solyndra, which went bust last year after receiving more than half a billion dollars in federal loans.

Success has proven elusive even for the smartest guys in the solar-heated room. Five years after Al Gore joined the prestigious venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins to back environmentally correct companies, the collaboration has yielded few successful exits for Mr. Gore and his partners, along with some spectacular disasters.

This week brought further embarrassment for a Kleiner-backed and taxpayer-subsidized project called Fisker Automotive. In an interview with Delaware's News Journal, the head of the state's economic development office, Alan Levin, discussed the $21.5 million that was provided by the state in return for a Fisker promise to build green cars there. "All we want are the jobs or our money back," Mr. Levin told the newspaper.

Fisker, an electric-car maker, is currently not making any cars due to various design and production problems. Last year the Department of Energy stopped lending money to Fisker after the company missed development deadlines, but federal taxpayers were already on the hook for more than $190 million. Fisker's problems have lately been exacerbated by the October bankruptcy of a key supplier, A123 Systems, AONEQ -4.76%which also received federal loans.

Last week another green company backed by Kleiner, Glori Energy, withdrew its plans for an initial public offering (IPO), blaming poor market conditions. Perhaps Glori will be able to go public next year, and IPOs are a great way for venture investors to cash out of an investment, but Kleiner has enjoyed very few of them in its clean-tech portfolio.

And what appeared to be a true success earlier this year is looking, well, less so. On Wednesday the Journal pronounced Enphase Energy, ENPH +2.56%a Kleiner-backed company that went public in March, the worst IPO of the year. Shareholders who bought at the opening lost about half their money in nine months. The shares of Kleiner-backed Amyris Inc., AMRS -7.20%a biomass company, have lost more than 80% of their value since the firm's 2010 IPO.

VentureSource counts more than 60 companies engaged in "clean tech" that have received investments from Kleiner Perkins. Kleiner calls its environmental investments "greentech" and says that among the green firms receiving Kleiner equity investments, three have been acquired or merged into other companies. The assets of another company were sold. But since Mr. Gore joined up in 2007, Enphase and Amyris are the only two Kleiner green companies to go public, and their performance doesn't leave investors begging for more.

Their rough ride might be among the reasons that another green energy firm, SolarCity, SCTY +1.77%offered shares at its recent public debut about 40% below the expected price. Yuliya Chernova of Dow Jones VentureWire reports that "solar investors lost massive amounts of money over the past two years by betting on manufacturers that overbuilt factories and saw prices for their products fall." She quotes a fund manager who notes that "there aren't a lot of people going to investment committees saying, 'This one is different.'"

Back at Kleiner, the biggest headaches probably don't come from the ones that have gone public, but from the green ventures that haven't yet been sold to other investors. Among the biggest in that category is Fisker. Kleiner and other investors have sunk more than $1 billion into the firm, a huge sum by the standards of venture capital, which has traditionally funded small start-ups.

Like many venture firms, Kleiner doesn't disclose much detail about its investments, and the firm says that information on investment returns is confidential. In a recent interview with the Journal, Kleiner partner John Doerr said that the revenues of companies in Kleiner's green portfolio are rising rapidly. But it's not clear where Kleiner will generate green home runs to offset struggling firms like Fisker.

Mr. Doerr made another claim in his Journal interview: "Our green investing doesn't depend on government policies. It's about basic supply and demand."

If even Al Gore's partner John Doerr is now on record questioning the need for government assistance, we'd say it's well past time for Washington to turn off the subsidy spigot. Many of the potential beneficiaries are already moving on to more worthwhile pursuits.
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« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2013, 10:11:45 AM »
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« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2014, 10:08:38 PM »

The $2.2 Billion Bird-Scorching Solar Project
At California's Ivanpah Plant, Mirrors Produce Heat and Electricity—And Kill Wildlife
By Cassandra Sweet
Feb. 12, 2014 8:17 p.m. ET

Temperatures around the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System's towers can hit 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Zuma Press

A giant solar-power project officially opening this week in the California desert is the first of its kind, and may be among the last, in part because of growing evidence that the technology it uses is killing birds.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is scheduled to speak Thursday at an opening ceremony for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station, which received a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee.

The $2.2 billion solar farm, which spans over five square miles of federal land southwest of Las Vegas, includes three towers as tall as 40-story buildings. Nearly 350,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect sunlight onto boilers atop the towers, creating steam that drives power generators.

The owners of the project— NRG Energy Inc., NRG -0.97% Google Inc. GOOG -0.29% and BrightSource Energy Inc., the company that developed the "tower power" solar technology—call the plant a major feat of engineering that can light up about 140,000 homes a year.

Ivanpah is among the biggest in a spate of power-plant-sized solar projects that have begun operating in the past two years, spurred in part by a hefty investment tax credit that expires at the end of 2016. Most of them are in California, where state law requires utilities to use renewable sources for a third of the electricity they sell by 2020.

Utilities owned by PG&E Corp. and Edison International have agreed to buy electricity generated from the Ivanpah plant under 25-year contracts, according to NRG.

Utility-scale solar plants have come under fire for their costs–Ivanpah costs about four times as much as a conventional natural gas-fired plant but will produce far less electricity—and also for the amount of land they require.

That makes for expensive power. Experts have estimated that electricity from giant solar projects will cost at least twice as much as electricity from conventional sources. But neither the utilities that have contracted to buy the power nor state regulators have disclosed what the price will be, only that it will be passed on to electricity customers.

Mirrors reflect sunlight on to boilers atop the Ivanpah facility's towers to create steam for generating power. The Washington Post/Getty Images

New utility-scale projects began operating at a record rate in the fourth quarter of 2013, adding 1,141 megawatts of capacity, according to research firm SNL Energy. But only a handful of new projects were announced, totaling 13 megawatts.

BrightSource wants to build a second tower-based solar farm in California's Riverside County, east of Palm Springs. But the state Energy Commission in December proposed that the company instead use more conventional technologies, such as solar panels or mirrored troughs.

One reason: the BrightSource system appears to be scorching birds that fly through the intense heat surrounding the towers, which can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The company, which is based in Oakland, Calif., reported finding dozens of dead birds at the Ivanpah plant over the past several months, while workers were testing the plant before it started operating in December. Some of the dead birds appeared to have singed or burned feathers, according to federal biologists and documents filed with the state Energy Commission.
By the Numbers

Facts about the Ivanpah project

    $2.2 BILLION Cost of power plant's construction
    3,500 Acres covered by the plant, about five square miles
    459 FEET Height of each of three towers, which are topped by boilers
    347,000 Number of garage door-size mirrors that are used to reflect sunlight
    140,000 Homes per year for which the plant is expected to generate electricity


Regulators said they anticipated that some birds would be killed once the Ivanpah plant started operating, but that they didn't expect so many to die during the plant's construction and testing. The dead birds included a peregrine falcon, a grebe, two hawks, four nighthawks and a variety of warblers and sparrows. State and federal regulators are overseeing a two-year study of the facility's effects on birds.

"With the data we've gathered, it's far too early in the process to draw any definitive conclusions about long-term impacts on avian or other species," said Jeff Holland, a spokesman for NRG, the project's operator, which is based in Princeton, N.J.

BrightSource has "confidence in the technology and its ability to operate and perform as expected," said Joe Desmond, a spokesman for the company, adding that he thinks it will be able to resolve the problem of bird deaths and build more big plants in California and elsewhere.

The solar-technology company, which remains closely held after canceling a planned public offering in 2012, intends to use its technology in China and other countries, Mr. Desmond said.

The company put plans for a third California solar farm on indefinite hold last year, and it abandoned a proposed fourth project for which it had sought state approval in 2011.

In response to BrightSource's blueprint for its second big solar farm in Riverside County, near Joshua Tree National Park, biologists working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told state regulators that they were concerned that heat produced by the project could kill golden eagles and other protected species.

"We're trying to figure out how big the problem is and what we can do to minimize bird mortalities," said Eric Davis, assistant regional director for migratory birds at the federal agency's Sacramento office. "When you have new technologies, you don't know what the impacts are going to be."

The agency also is investigating the deaths of birds, possibly from colliding with structures, found at two other, unrelated solar farms. One of those projects relies on solar panels and the other one uses mirrored troughs. Biologists think some birds may have mistaken the vast shimmering solar arrays at all three installations for a lake and become trapped on the ground after landing.

Another concern about the second BrightSource project involves the height of the towers, which would be 750 feet tall, roughly the same as a 69-story building. Indian tribes have objected to the project, saying the tall towers and the light emitted from the facility's mirrors would be visually obtrusive.

The Ivanpah plant draws water for the boilers atop its towers, and for washing its many thousands of mirrors, from underground wells at the site. The water will be recycled; an on-site treatment plant will filter out wastewater sludge, which a waste hauler will remove and dispose of, according to the company.

The plant was more expensive to build than a similar-size conventional solar-power plant would be today, particularly as prices for solar panels, a rival technology, have fallen over the past few years. Many of the solar power facilities currently being developed are smaller than the Ivanpah plant, such as rooftop solar panel installations and solar farms built near cities and towns where there is less space available.
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« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2014, 07:57:17 AM »
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