Energy and Global Warming News for June 16: Europe’s wind power is booming; A place where peak power may disappear

Europe’s wind power is booming

The European Union will continue its 2009 record-breaking pace this year for adding wind power, reports the European Wind Energy Association.

The industry group expects EU countries will install 10 gigawatts of new wind power capacity, the same as 2009’s record, bringing the total to 85 GW by year’s end.

“What is encouraging is that, unlike in 2009, the 2010 results consist of orders placed after the start of the financial crisis,” Christian Kjaer, the group’s CEO, said Monday in a statement. “Wind energy will be competing for the top spot with new gas power plants.”

Europe’s new gas plants produced twice as much power as its new wind turbines four years ago, but the gap narrowed sharply in 2007 and by 2008, wind had overtaken gas, reports The New York Times, citing data from the trade group. In 2009, 7 gigawatts of new gas power was installed, compared with 10 GW for wind.

A Place Where Peak Power May Disappear

Peak power in Finland doesn’t occur in the afternoon. It actually happens early in the morning.

That’s because many homes are equipped with electric heating systems, and consumers turn them on to keep warm in the early morning hours, according to Vesa Koivisto, the business development manager at Fortum, a large power producer and electrical distributor in the Nordic region. Power prices can swing from zero Euro cents per kilowatt hour to 1.40 Euros ($1.72) per kilowatt hour. An average home consumes about 9,000 kilowatt hours a year, he added.

“We don’t have the 5 o’clock tea-time peak,” he said during a meeting in Helsinki. “If you don’t have district heating, chances are you are heating with electric.”

The situation, though, may start to change in a few years under an ambitious program to combine time of use pricing with a regional buying pool. By 2013, all homes in Finland will be equipped with smart meters, and consumers will be able to buy power at time-of-use rates set by market on an hourly basis. Finland has had time-of-use pricing programs since the 1950s, but they have largely revolved around estimating power pricing: consumers can sign up for weekend/weekday or night/day pricing programs, but the programs aren’t tied to real-time pricing. (Side note: consumers in the Nordic region get two power bills. The first comes from their power retailer for power consumed. The second comes from the distributor. The retail bill is generally higher, but the two are close, according to Koivisto.)

Local Power: Tapping Distributed Energy in 21st-Century Cities

Residents of Hammarby Sj¶stad, a district on the south side of Stockholm, Sweden, don’t let their waste go to waste. Every building in the district boasts an array of pneumatic tubes, like larger versions of the ones that whooshed checks from cars to bank tellers back in the day. One tube carries combustible waste to a plant where it is burned to make heat and electricity. Another zips food waste and other biomatter away to be composted and made into fertilizer. Yet another takes recyclables to a sorting facility.

Meanwhile, wastewater is taken to a treatment plant, from whence it emerges as biosolids for more compost, biogas for heat and transportation fuel, and pure water to cool a power plant, which also runs biofuels grown with the biosolids. Looking at a chart of all this is enough to induce dizziness. “In terms of what you can do at the local level for energy efficiency and renewable energy, it’s incredible. It’s just amazing,” says Joan Fitzgerald, author of Emerald Cities (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Silent Power’s Neighborhood Solar Batteries

Solar panels make electricity when the sun shines, but the suburbs start using the most power when the mases come home from work (ie. night falls). How can utilities shift that solar energy from day to dusk, when it’s most needed?

This week, Sacramento’s utility SMUD turned to startup Silent Power for help. The Baxter, Minn.-based startup was named as a partner, along with GridPoint, SunPower and lithium-ion battery maker Saft, in a project funded with a $5.9 million Department of Energy smart grid stimulus grant. In its first utility pilot project, Silent Power’s “OnDemand” system will hook up about 15 houses in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova with inverters that connect rooftop solar panels with batteries, controlling the flow of power between them and the grid at large, CEO Todd Headlee told us in an interview.

Spain Aims to Boost Renewable-Energy Production 67% by 2020

Spain’s government aims to increase renewable-energy production by about 67 percent during the decade, even as it reduces subsidies for clean power, according to a draft proposal.

Generation capacity will climb to 70 gigawatts by 2020 from 42 gigawatts this year, according to projections in the plan to be presented this month to the European Commission. A gigawatt can power about a million washing machines.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is counting on investors to continue building new solar and wind-power installations even as he plans to reduce subsidies for the generators, which currently can earn as much as about 10 times more for their power than utilities that burn fossil fuels.

Lake Michigan climate change studied

A robotic submarine is being deployed in Lake Michigan, along with other specialized tools, to determine how young fish might cope with future climate change.

Purdue University scientists say they are correlating larval fish growth with various factors, including water temperatures near the lakeshore, where wind patterns might be altered by climate change and threaten fish populations.

“These larval fish are very vulnerable because they are not fully developed and cannot swim well, so they are really at the mercy of their environment,” said Assistant Professor Tomas Hook, who is leading the research. “Growth rates during the larval stage in part determine how well young fish survive to become adults. Rapid growth allows young fish to swim faster and, thereby, avoid predators, consume more food, and actively select warmer, more favorable waters. Otherwise, they can quickly starve to death.”

Previous studies suggest climate change might alter wind patterns on the Great Lakes and scientists say lake winds are important because they cause “upwelling events” that ferry cold water and nutrients from lower depths up to the near-shore zone.

Climate Change Increases Hazard Risk in Alpine Regions, Study Shows

Climate change could cause increasing and unpredictable hazard risks in mountainous regions, according to a new study from the University of Exeter and Austrian researchers. The study analyzes the effects of two extreme weather events — the 2003 heatwave and the 2005 flood — on the Eastern European Alps. It demonstrates what impact events like these, predicted to become more frequent under a changing climate, could have on alpine regions and what implications these changes might have for local communities.

The mean summer temperatures during the 2003 heat wave in a large area of the European Alps exceeded the 1961-1990 mean by 3-5ËšC. This triggered a record Alpine glacier loss that was three times above the 1980-2000 average. Furthermore, melting permafrost caused increased rock-fall activity.

Aluminum Plays Key Role in World’s First Hybrid Solar Energy Plant

A global aluminum company called Norsk Hydro is supporting green jobs in the U.S. through its Extrusion Americas unit, which operates 12 aluminum extrusion facilities in the U.S.  Two of the company’s southeastern U.S. facilities will supply aluminum frames and other parts for a new hybrid concentrating solar facility for Florida Power & Light.  Apparently the first power plant of its kind, the 500 acre solar thermal array will connect with an existing natural gas-powered plant, replacing the fossil fuel energy with solar energy during daylight hours.

In addition to growing the U.S. green jobs sector, Hydro executive Matt Dionne points out that regional sourcing was an important factor in securing the contract because it cut energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions related to shipping, and it enabled the utility company to demonstrate its commitment to local economic growth.  The financial advantages of just-in-time delivery to the construction site also played a big role. As more utilities join the vanguard of sustainable energy investment, those benefits provide a stark contrast to the economic and environmental havoc wreaked by the world’s latest fossil fuel disaster.

21 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for June 16: Europe’s wind power is booming; A place where peak power may disappear

  1. catman306 says:

    The Hybrid Solar Plant is a wonderful idea. Solar during the day and gas fired steam at night. I would add wood fired steam to the mix. But the wood that was burned would be limited to the sort of wood that winds up in the landfill: pallets, crates, storm downed limbs and trees and dead trees. No living trees would be cut for this carbon-neutral alternate generation system. Burn gas when there’s no waste wood available.

  2. prokaryote says:

    ” One tube carries combustible waste to a plant where it is burned to make heat and electricity. Another zips food waste and other biomatter away to be composted and made into fertilizer. Yet another takes recyclables to a sorting facility.

    Meanwhile, wastewater is taken to a treatment plant, from whence it emerges as biosolids for more compost, biogas for heat and transportation fuel, and pure water to cool a power plant, which also runs biofuels grown with the biosolids. Looking at a chart of all this is enough to induce dizziness. “In terms of what you can do at the local level for energy efficiency and renewable energy, it’s incredible. ”

    This efficiency can be adopted worldwide.

  3. mike roddy says:

    I’d be interested in learning how much wind in Europe costs, expressed as busbar $kwh. You here rumors here that it’s already competitive with gas, but it would be nice to see detailed and transparent data, with and without subsidies.

    CP interns? This could be a productive research project.

  4. max says:

    Just to add emphasis to mike’s comment above, that would be really interesting to see CP.

  5. prokaryote says:

    Wind energy industry foresees 250,000 new jobs in Europe by 2020

    The belief that the European wind energy industry can make a serious contribution to green growth was backed by politicians of the left and right and trade unionists at a high-level meeting held in Brussels.

    By the end of 2009, the wind energy sector employed 192,000 people in Europe. In addition, European companies employ tens of thousands of people outside of Europe.

    “The European Wind Energy Association expects strong growth in wind energy employment in Europe over the coming years to 280,000 by 2015 and 450,000 by 2020. That’s on average, 450 new European wind energy jobs per week over the next decade” said Christian Kjaer, Chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association.

    Three key areas – offshore wind, electricity grids, and the training and education of more engineers and technical staff – were identified as critical to creating those new jobs.

    The coming years will see the development of a new offshore wind industry. Existing and planned European offshore wind projects would, if implemented, supply 10% of Europe’s electricity. Employment in offshore is expected to exceed onshore by 2025, and by 2030, over 60% of the total employment in wind energy is expected to be in offshore wind energy.

  6. prokaryote says:

    The cost of electricity powered by fossil fuels is made up of four parts – fuel costs, CO2 costs, operation and maintenance costs and capital costs (including planning and site work). For wind energy, only two of these – operation and maintenance and capital costs – apply. In 2008, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its World Energy Outlook with predictions on the future costs of coal, gas and wind power in 2015 and 2030. The Agency expects new wind power capacity to be cheaper than coal and gas! The IEA assumed that a CO2 price of $30 per tonne of CO2 adds $30 to every MWh of electricity powered by coal, and $15 to every MWh of electricity powered by gas. By 2015, coal will cost €82/MWh, gas will cost €101/MWh and wind power will cost less than both at €75/MWh.

    Because the fuel for wind power production does not have a cost, the overall cost of wind power can be predicted with great certainty, unlike the fluctuations in the price of oil, gas and coal. Wind energy is indigenous and unlimited; the more wind power Europe produces, the less reliant it is on fossil fuels at unpredictable prices. In contrast, the increase in the price of a barrel of oil over the past few years from $20 to $80 has added $45 billion to the EU’s annual gas import bill.

    There are other costs not necessarily reflected in the price of electricity: the environmental, health and security costs. All conventional energy sources have far higher ‘external’ costs than wind.

    most EU member states electricity utilities now buy electricity generated from renewable sources produced by individuals and companies. Prices paid for ‘self-produced’ electricity is called a feed-in tariff. Prices are in euros per kilowatt-hour (€/kWh).
    ‘0.29-0.46’ is a price range from 0.29 €/kWh to 0.46 €/kWh, depending on the amount produced.

  7. prokaryote says:

    Copenhagen Adopts a Mandatory Green Roof Policy

    As part of its overall strategy to become a carbon neutral city by 2025, Copenhagen has become the first Scandanavian city to adopt a policy that requires green roofs for all new buildings with roof slopes of less than 30 degrees. Copenhagen presently has 20,000 square meters (over 215,000 square feet) of flat roofs. It is hoped that as much as 5,000 square meters of new development each year will be covered with vegetation.

  8. Andy Velwest says:

    @prokaryote, thanks for the good info and links. The “feed in tariffs” represent the price paid for these sources, correct? What subsidies are in place that affect these prices? Do you have comparable figures for gas produced electricity? (and of course what subsidies are in place for gas).

  9. mike roddy says:

    Thanks, prokaryote. I’d also be interested in learning about not only subsidies but also financing costs. I assume they’re lower for gas than for wind, which could also change in the future.

    I haven’t seen studies with this level of detail, but they would be valuable.

  10. prokaryote says:

    What subsidies are in place for gas?

    Obama budget seeks to end oil, gas subsidies

    The Obama administration on Monday asked Congress for a second time to end some $36.5 billion in subsidies for oil and gas companies, saying it would help fight global warming.

    It also said ending the subsidies would not have much of a financial impact on energy companies, as $36.5 billion represents about 1 percent of expected domestic oil and gas revenues over the coming decade.

    Research and development for solar energy was given $302 million, up 22 percent; wind energy received $123 million, a 53 percent increase, and geothermal energy was given $55 million, up 25 percent.

  11. prokaryote says:

    Ending fuel subsidies to help fight global warming

    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on 9 June that an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels would both aid the fight against global warming and help cut budget deficits. “Ending fossil fuel subsidies could cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent from the levels they would otherwise reach in 2050 under ‘business as usual,’” the OECD said in a statement, citing a new analysis it conducted using data from the International Energy Agency (IEA). In addition, the step makes “economic sense as governments strive to cut budget deficits in the wake of the financial and economic crisis,” it said.
    The IEA has estimated that subsidies to support fossil fuel consumption in emerging and developing countries totaled $557 billion in 2008. These subsidies take the form of preferential tax treatment for oil and gas production, special loan guarantees and tax exemptions for fuel use in some sectors.

    Estimates on fuel subsidies in developed countries are harder to obtain because they are often transferred in indirect ways, the OECD said. “Many governments are giving subsidies to fossil fuel production and consumption that encourage greenhouse gas emissions, at the same time as they are spending on projects to promote clean energy,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said. “This is a wasteful use of scarce budget resources.”
    Leaders from the Group of 20 agreed during their September 2009 meeting in Pittsburgh to phase out “over the medium term” inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.–help-fight-global-warming/101360.php

  12. prokaryote says:

    Senate Proposal to End $35 Billion in Oil & Gas Tax Breaks

    Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I) has proposed a measure to repeal more than US$35 billion in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.

    Sanders’ plan would invest $10 billion of the savings in the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program and the remaining $25 billion toward reducing the federal deficit.

    Sanders, who chairs the Senate EPW’s subcommittee on Green Jobs and the New Economy, said that, “If there is anything we should be learning from the Gulf disaster, it is that it is time to move aggressively away from polluting and unsafe fossil fuels, which are getting more and more difficult to produce as we move further and further offshore to drill for them.”

    The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently reported that global annual subsidies to fossil fuel industries total about US$557 billion – a number that exceeds previous estimates by 75 percent. According to the IEA, phasing out these subsidies by 2020 could reduce global energy consumption by 850 million tons equivalent of oil – or the combined current consumption of Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

  13. prokaryote says:

    Wind-energy companies losing to cheap natural gas, lack of subsidies

  14. Ziyu says:

    NPR said that the Senate just shot down Bernie Sanders proposal 31-65. I’d like a list of all the Senators who voted against the amendment. That way I know to vote against them.

  15. David B. Benson says:

    Two power bills? Hafta pay both?

  16. paulm says:

    This is quite significant change….

    More Americans going by foot and pedal: report

  17. Bob Wallace says:

    Folks interested in the cost and financing of wind farms, especially in Europe, might want to read some of the posts written by “Jerome a Paris”.

    Jerome is involved with financing wind farms in Europe and writes good articles on Daily Kos and The Oil Drum (and other places). He did a good piece recently on DK titled “Wind’s latest problem: it … makes power too cheap”. Here’s a little take-out…

    “The key thing here is that we are beginning to unveil what I’ve labeled the dirty secret of wind: utilities don’t like wind not because it’s not competitive, but because it brings prices down for their existing assets, thus lowering their revenues and their profits.”…-makes-power-too-cheap

  18. prokaryote says:

    Central Fla. To Lead Nation In Electric Vehicle Effort

  19. fj2 says:

    For whatever it’s worth, this comes from Popular Science

    “Gallery: Nine of the World’s Most Promising Carbon-Neutral Communities”

  20. prokaryote says:

    A new documentary purporting to expose the hazards of onshore natural gas drilling illustrates its point with startling images of people setting fire to water flowing from faucets in their homes.

    “GasLand,” which premiers on cable’s HBO on June 21, fuels the debate over shale gas and the extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves blasting millions of gallons of water, sand and diluted chemicals into shale rock, breaking it apart to free the gas.

    It comes at a time of heightened environmental awareness and scrutiny of the energy industry due to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Advocates promote shale gas as an abundant and relatively clean source of energy within the United States but critics including “GasLand” director Josh Fox assert there are environmental and health risks.

  21. prokaryote says:

    Experts Warn Climate Change Is Beginning to Disrupt Agriculture
    With the added environmental stresses of climate change, prices of staple crops could double