Archive for January, 2013

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (1/31/13)

Posted By Lowell F. on January 31st, 2013

Here are five recommended reads for today (1/31/13).

  1. Bloomberg reports, “Saudi Arabia completed its biggest ground-mounted photovoltaic plant as the world’s largest crude oil exporter seeks to generate a third of its electricity with energy from the sun by 2032.”
  2. According to the American Wind Energy Association, “The U.S. wind energy industry had its strongest year ever in 2012, the American Wind Energy Association announced today, installing a record 13,124 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity, leveraging $25 billion in private investment,and achieving over 60,000 MW of cumulative wind capacity.”
  3. The New York Times reports, “with antipathy for renewable energy subsidies running high among many Republicans, the industries are bringing a new plea to Washington: allow wind and solar companies to qualify for some of the tax advantages that are used by the oil, gas and real estate industries to raise money from investors.”
  4. ClimateProgress explains “How Electricity, Water And Food Could Be Produced In Desert Areas With Minimal Ecological Footprint
  5. The Hill reports, “Solar and wind energy trade groups have quit the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over its bid to scuttle state-based green electricity mandates, according to a published report.”
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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (1/30/13)

Posted By Lowell F. on January 30th, 2013

Here are five recommended reads for today (1/30/13).

  1. Bloomberg reports, “China plans to increase its goal for solar-power installations in 2015 by 67 percent to reduce reliance on fossil fuels blamed for greenhouse gases and as smog in Beijing reached record hazardous levels this month.”
  2. Joe Romm of ClimateProgress believes that yesterday’s confirmation of “climate hawk” Sen. John Kerry as Secretary of State “is a turning point in the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.”
  3. Greentechmedia reports on the “rapid rise of UK offshore wind,” noting that “the UK has the potential to deploy eighteen gigawatts of offshore wind by 2020 and 40 gigawatts by 2030.”
  4. At the NRDC blog, Josh Mogerman argues that “Floating Tar Sands on the Great Lakes Seems Like a Bad Idea.”
  5. Bloomberg reports, “Spain’s monthly wind-power output exceeded 6 terawatt-hours for the first time this month, enough to light most households, the nation’s wind lobby group said.”
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Wind Power Replaces Proposed Petroleum Coke Plant in Texas; We Celebrate, The Daily Caller Complains

Posted By Lowell F. on January 30th, 2013

For most Americans, the concept of clean, renewable wind power replacing dirty, non-renewable fossil fuel would be great news.  But not for the anti-clean-energy, pro-fossil-fuel website, the Daily Caller. Here’s the Daily Caller’s “call” on the story.

The energy company Duke Energy, which has close ties to President Barack Obama’s administration and is involved with the pro-Obama political operation Organizing for Action, completed two new expansive wind power projects this month in the same region near Corpus Cristi, Texas where a major job-creating coal power project was recently disbanded.

Chase Power announced January 23 that it has canceled construction of its $3 billion Las Brisas coal power plant, which was supposed to be part of the larger Las Brisas Energy Center in the Inner Harbor of Corpus Cristi. The Las Brisas Energy Center, including the coal plant, was projected to create 3,900 new jobs in Texas before its termination.

Chase Power CEO Dave Freysinger blamed the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency for the project’s cancellation.

First, a quick correction for the Daily Caller: this plant was to be run on petroleum coke, a byproduct of the crude oil refining process, not on coal as their article incorrectly claims. True, petroleum coke and coal are both fossil fuels, but they’re not the same thing at all. Details – and facts – matter.

As to the thrust of the Daily Caller’s argument: maybe we’re missing something, but we’re not seeing the problem here.  In sum: a planned fossil-fuel-fired power plant is canceled, a wind project opens in its place. Why did this happen in the case of Las Brisas? Simple: the petroleum coke plant was “done in by more competitive natural gas and wind alternatives.”

It’s called capitalism, which we presume the Daily Caller celebrates. And as the Daily Caller presumably knows, an integral part of capitalism is a concept known as “creative destruction.” Something new and better – wind power, for instance – comes along; something old and antiquated and/or uneconomical – in this case, petroleum coke – is deep sixed. It’s the American Way, pretty much. And, come to think of it, we might have a bit more creative destruction in our economy if we got rid of all the taxpayer-funded corporate welfare checks going to the fossil fuel industries. It seems to us like this is something the self-professed, pro-free-markets Daily Caller should be advocating for, not decrying.

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Thirsty Mexico City Sends a Message: “America is poisoning wells it might need in the future”

Posted By Lowell F. on January 29th, 2013

As this article clearly demonstrates, the idea that some water supplies are simply too deep to ever be of any use to humans, so there’s no harm in contaminating it – with fracking fluids or whatever – turns out to be highly dubious at best.

Mexico City plans to draw drinking water from a mile-deep aquifer, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The Mexican effort challenges a key tenet of U.S. clean water policy: that water far underground can be intentionally polluted because it will never be used.

U.S. environmental regulators have long assumed that reservoirs located thousands of feet underground will be too expensive to tap. So even as population increases, temperatures rise, and traditional water supplies dry up, American scientists and policy-makers often exempt these deep aquifers from clean water protections and allow energy and mining companies to inject pollutants directly into them.


If Mexico City’s search for water seems extreme, it is not unusual. In aquifers Denver relies on, drinking water levels have dropped more than 300 feet. Texas rationed some water use last summer in the midst of a record-breaking drought. And Nevada — realizing that the water levels in one of the nation’s largest reservoirs may soon drop below the intake pipes — is building a drain hole to sap every last drop from the bottom.

Water is limited, so they are really hustling to find other types of water,” said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “It’s kind of a grim future, there’s no two ways about it.”

In a parched world, Mexico City is sending a message: Deep, unknown potential sources of drinking water matter, and the U.S. pollutes them at its peril.

To put it another way, the question is whether it makes any sense to throw away drinking water supplies, ones that we will almost certainly need in the not-too-distant future, indefinitely?  And even it were worth doing this, which it clearly isn’t, would it make sense simply to push off the day when we transition fully away from fossil fuels and to an economy run on clean, safe, renewable energy? We think not, on both counts.

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Crowdfunding Solar: Access to Populist Capital

Posted By admin on January 29th, 2013

by Brian Willis

Crowdfunding is populism’s answer to the bank, and it’s being applied to solar. This once novel concept – a collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations – has evolved into a force and molded itself into an exciting company called Solar Mosaic.

Todd Woody’s recent Forbes’ piece, “Solar Crowdfunding Startup Lets Ordinary Investors Own A Piece of the Sun,” reported the two-year-old, Oakland, California-based company already won approval in California and New York to allow individuals to invest directly through its website. This gives ordinary people, with ordinary money, the opportunity to put their personal capital toward solar projects that draw reasonable returns over time. To be fair, they are not exactly investments, but loans that pay their interest through the sale of electricity from solar.

Mosaic’s business model provides die-hard renewable energy advocates, conservationists and corporate responsibility advocates with something that is hard to find elsewhere: a competitive, environmentally conscious investment. Mosaic’s return rates are excellent for those of us schooled in stocks, bonds, REIT and other medium to long-term investment vehicles. You can’t find returns of 4.5% to 6.5% in a CD, online savings account or U.S. savings bond.

With Mosaic, the customer’s money is going directly to the purchase and maintenance of a solar farm that will produce electricity for 20 plus years. There are no price swings, mechanical breakdowns or new hires that will disrupt the farms conversion of light into electricity, and the power purchase agreement with the local utility has its returns locked in from day one. Photovoltaic solar’s greatest virtue from a developer’s standpoint is its simplicity: “Set it and forget it.” This, along with Woody’s research showing that some projects allow investments as low as $25, has the potential of making solar an “everyman” technology.

Why is this important?

If Mosaic is successful at raising enough capital to build solar farms across the United States, and if it proves profitable, then the model can spread and become commonplace over time. As reputations are established and trust is earned through consistently predictable returns, coupled with solid customer service, companies using the model can then be used for many other things – from balancing retirement and education portfolios to alternative investment options for Colleges and Universities seeking to divesting their endowments of companies proliferating climate change.

The recognition of renewable energy as more than a social or environmentalist cause will have a drastic impact on its access to capital and corporate talent. Mosaic’s model is an important step toward the goal of everyone having the opportunity to invest in sustainable energy directly, which encourages an environment of carbon transparency. At some point, perhaps in the near future, it will inspire people to ask their financial advisors, “what gives me the highest return and where does that return come from,” instead of the simplistic, “what gives me the highest return?”

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