Wall Street Journal:

Vistra Corp. owns 36 natural-gas power plants, one of America’s largest fleets. It doesn’t plan to buy or build any more.

Instead, Vistra intends to invest more than $1 billion in solar farms and battery storage units in Texas and California as it tries to transform its business to survive in an electricity industry being reshaped by new technology.

“I’m hellbent on not becoming the next Blockbuster Video, ” said Vistra Chief Executive Curt Morgan. “I’m not going to sit back and watch this legacy business dwindle and not participate.”

A decade ago, natural gas displaced coal as America’s top electric-power source, as fracking unlocked cheap quantities of the fuel. Now, in quick succession, natural gas finds itself threatened with the same kind of disruption, only this time from cost-effective batteries charged with wind and solar energy.

Natural-gas-fired electricity represented 38% of U.S. generation in 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA, and it supplies round-the-clock electricity as well as bursts during peak demand. Wind and solar generators have gained substantial market share, and as battery costs fall, batteries paired with that green power are beginning to step into those roles by storing inexpensive green energy and discharging it after the sun falls or the wind dies.

Battery storage remains less than 1% of America’s electricity market and so far draws power principally from solar generators, whose output is fairly predictable and easier to augment with storage. But the combination of batteries and renewable energy is threatening to upend billions of dollars in natural-gas investments, raising concerns about whether power plants built in the past 10 years—financed with the expectation that they would run for decades—will become “stranded assets,” facilities that retire before they pay for themselves.

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A BLT battery. First comes the bread — the lithium metal anode — followed by lettuce — a coating of graphite. Next, a layer of tomatoes — the first electrolyte — and a layer of bacon — the second electrolyte. Finish it off with another layer of tomatoes and the last piece of bread — the cathode. Credit: Lisa Burrows/Harvard SEAS

Think of a battery sandwich.
A Bamwich? Hold the Mayo.

Harvard Gazette:

Long-lasting, quick-charging batteries are essential to the expansion of the electric vehicle market, but today’s lithium-ion batteries fall short of what’s needed — they’re too heavy, too expensive and take too long to charge.

For decades, researchers have tried to harness the potential of solid-state, lithium-metal batteries, which hold substantially more energy in the same volume and charge in a fraction of the time compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries.

“A lithium-metal battery is considered the holy grail for battery chemistry because of its high capacity and energy density,” said Xin Li, associate professor of materials science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). “But the stability of these batteries has always been poor.”

Now, Li and his team have designed a stable, lithium-metal, solid-state battery that can be charged and discharged at least 10,000 times — far more cycles than have been previously demonstrated — at a high current density. The researchers paired the new design with a commercial high energy density cathode material.

This battery technology could increase the lifetime of electric vehicles to that of the gasoline cars — 10 to 15 years — without the need to replace the battery. With its high current density, the battery could pave the way for electric vehicles that can fully charge within 10 to 20 minutes.

The research is published in Nature.

“Our research shows that the solid-state battery could be fundamentally different from the commercial liquid electrolyte lithium-ion battery,” said Li. “By studying their fundamental thermodynamics, we can unlock superior performance and harness their abundant opportunities.”

The big challenge with lithium-metal batteries has always been chemistry. Lithium batteries move lithium ions from the cathode to the anode during charging. When the anode is made of lithium metal, needle-like structures called dendrites form on the surface. These structures grow like roots into the electrolyte and pierce the barrier separating the anode and cathode, causing the battery to short or even catch fire.

To overcome this challenge, Li and his team designed a multilayer battery that sandwiches different materials of varying stabilities between the anode and cathode. This multilayer, multimaterial battery prevents the penetration of lithium dendrites not by stopping them altogether but rather by controlling and containing them.

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Rep Andrew Clyde (R -Ga) helps colleagues barricade a door against capitol rioters on January 6

Following reports and video of Rep Andrew Clyde’s remarks about the Capitol riots of January 6, Tom Williams, Photog for Roll Call, tweeted this:

So, doing a little checking, I googled Rep. Clyde’s position on climate change. You’ll be shocked at what I found.

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Wind Power Monthly:

Vestas and a team of epoxy producers and academic institutions have developed a new technological solution to recycle thermoset composites, the material used to make wind turbine blades.

The partners – also including epoxy producer Olin, the Danish Technological Institute and Aarhus University –  aim to present a fully scoped solution to commercialise the technology within three years.

Today, between 85% and 90% of a wind turbine’s total mass can be recycled, with blades accounting for much of the deficit.

The partners describe their solution as “the final technological step towards a fully recyclable wind value chain”.

The group – known as Cetec (Circular Economy for Thermosets Epoxy Composites) – has developed a two-step process for blade recycling.

First, thermoset composites are disassembled into fibre and epoxy.

Second, through a new process based on chemical reactions, the epoxy is further broken up into base components with qualities similar to the original materials. These materials can then be reintroduced into the manufacturing of new turbine blades.

Simon Frølich, team manager at the Danish Technological Institute, explained: “The key characteristic of composite materials is their unique combination of low weight and high strength.This is governed by the strong bonding of two different materials – fibre and epoxy. 

“The dilemma is that this strong bond is also the feature that renders these materials difficult to recycle. Therefore, the development of Cetec’s novel technology, enabling disassembly of the composite at end-of-life, is a gamechanger that will allow us to capture the value represented by each material stream in a new circular value chain.”

Several industry-academia groups are researching blade recycling for the wind industry, but no other team has publicly announced a solution.

The Cetec partners suggest that their solution could also be used in other industries that also rely on thermoset composite in production, such as automotive and aviation.

The project is joint-funded by by public-private investors Innovation Fund Denmark and by each of the participating partners. Vestas would not disclose how much each party was providing in funding.

Allan Korsgaard Poulsen, head of sustainability and advanced materials in Vestas’ innovation and concepts unit, added: “As global commitments to a net-zero future increase, it’s absolutely crucial to ensure the wind industry can scale sustainably, which includes Vestas fulfilling our ambition to produce zero-waste turbines by 2040. 

“Leveraging this new technological breakthrough in chemcycling epoxy resin, the Cetec project will be a significant milestone in Vestas’ journey towards achieving this goal, and in enabling a future where landfill is no longer required in blade decommissioning.”

If you run into a paywall, Reuters has the story below:

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KUT:

In the days following February’s deadly Texas blackouts one thing became clear: A big reason people lost power is because natural gas was not getting to power plants. 

Equipment essential to the production, processing and transport of gas failed in the freeze, leaving power plants starved for fuel and the state starved of power.
But you wouldn’t know it by listening to many state lawmakers. And as the Legislature hits key deadlines to pass out bills, it remains unclear if Texas will ensure gas infrastructure is weatherized to withstand the next big freeze.

“I think it would be kind to say we’re hesitant to do anything about it,” House Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston, told KUT. “We seem to be unwilling.”

Outside of the Legislature, Rosenthal is a mechanical engineer who works in the sub-sea natural gas industry. It’s a background he has used to raise the alarm about the risk posed to the grid by freezing natural gas infrastructure.

Three of the biggest blackouts in Texas history, he points out, happened after equipment used to produce, process and transport gas failed in the cold. That failure stopped gas from getting to power plants.

Despite those facts, the natural gas industry has not only fought state weatherization mandates, but it has also suggested Texas’ infrastructure was not seriously impacted by February’s sub-freezing temperatures.

Instead, in testimony before lawmakers and in industry-sponsored reports, the natural gas lobby has blamed power cuts in the oilfields for the massive drop in gas supply during the freeze. Such power cuts were significant, but much of the state’s natural gas production was shut down before blackouts were enacted, meaning they could not have been the cause.

Oil and gas regulators at the Railroad Commission of Texas, in communication with industry, have also pushed back against weatherization efforts.

“I believe that my industry resolved the problem and didn’t really create it,” Railroad Commission Chair Christi Craddick told lawmakers in hearings after the blackouts.

“That simply is not true,” Rosenthal said, adding that gas infrastructure did freeze. “People that say natural gas can’t freeze apparently don’t understand what happens when it’s got some moisture in it.”

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Kentucky GOP representative Thomas Massie is in the news, but sharp eyed readers of this blog probably remember him from this exchange above with Secretary of State John Kerry, about climate change.

Full CNN report below:

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Raw Story:

On Thursday, WFLX reported that gasoline panic-buyers in Florida have stripped fuel from over a third of gas stations in the Miami metro area.

This is in spite of the fact, according to oil analyst Patrick De Haan, the Miami area is not even serviced by the Colonial Pipeline in the first place.

“Drivers are still dashing to gas stations to fill up their tanks, leading to shortages across the state,” said the report. “According to crowdsourced data from Gas Buddy, 30 percent of gas stations in Florida are without gas, 38 percent of stations in the West Palm Beach area, and 39 percent of gas stations in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area. At the Mobil gas station in Ocean Breeze, employee Hedy Bastedo has had a front-row seat to watch drivers make panic purchases.”

Bloomberg:

Global recessions, wars, and (yes) pandemics have a way of driving down energy demand. Last year, the International Energy Agency said the collapse in global primary energy demand brought on by Covid-19 was the biggest drop since the end of World War II, itself the biggest drop since the influenza pandemic after World War I.

Something was different about this collapse, though, something that is not only unprecedented but until recently impossible in global energy. As the IEA’s latest data shows, renewable energy grew last year, and it was the only energy source that did so as consumption of gas, oil, and coal all declined. Renewables were not just an energy growth sector; they were the only energy growth sector.

Not only did renewable energy grow, it did so in record fashion. The IEA’s latest data confirms something my colleagues and I have been observing since the end of 2020: renewable energy installations not only increased during the pandemic, they exceeded even the most bullish of expectations, with wind installations increasing 90% and solar increasing 23%. The IEA only expects more this year – as it says, “Exceptionally high capacity additions become the ‘new normal’ in 2021 and 2022, with renewables accounting for 90% of new power capacity expansion globally.”​​

That last figure is quite something. Renewable energy has received the majority of all money invested in power generation for years, and it has accounted for the majority of all capacity additions for some time too. But “majority of” and “90% of” are rather different.

I say that because a scale tipped so far in the renewables direction takes more than just electrons with it. It takes capital along, too. Of course it means physical capital, in the form of power generation assets, but it is also means financial capital. And with 90% of all capacity additions coming from renewables, that also means that most of the asset financing in the electricity sector is going to renewable energy, too. Combine the physical and financial capital, and there’s another capital to consider—human capital. Human capital is a virtuous cycle: the more familiar people and institutions become with renewable energy, the more that they are interested in financing more of it, the more expertise they create, and the more opportunities they unlock.

BloombergNEF does not expect power sector emissions to ever recover to their peak in 2018, and another few massive years will only further this trend. With technology, capital, and expertise on the side of renewable power, the only question about the future shape of that curve is how far down it goes, and how fast it gets there.