Waiting for Boba Fett to show up.

PV Magazine:

Dutch architectural firm MVRDV has designed and deployed a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) system on a building owned by Taiwan’s state-owned power utility Taipower.

“We cladded the entire façade with photovoltaics, maximising the energy gains to make it not only self-sustainable, for its own usage, but also allowing the building to become a tool of energy production, exporting electricity to the rest of the grid,” said MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas.

The Sun Rock building is located at the Changhua Coastal Industrial Park, near Taichung, and its primary purpose is for the storage and maintenance of sustainable energy equipment. “The site for Taipower’s new facility receives a significant amount of solar exposure throughout the year, and so the rounded shape of Sun Rock is designed to maximise how much of that sunlight can be harnessed for energy,” MVRDV said in a statement.

The BIPV system was built with a series of pleats that support photovoltaic panels and the modules mixed in with windows, where required, on their upper surface.

“The angle of these pleats is adjusted on all parts of the façade to maximise the energy-generating potential of the solar panels,” MVRDV explained. “As a result of these measures, the building can support at least 4,000 square meters of PV panels that would generate almost 1 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy per year.”

Indicating perhaps that as long as incentives are this perverse, Texas power problems may be resist definitive solutions.

Bloomberg:

Kinder Morgan Inc. posted a record annual profit after revenue was inflated by the deadly winter storm that paralyzed Texas almost a year ago, sending natural gas prices soaring. 

The second-largest U.S. pipeline operator by market value reported adjusted earnings of $3 billion for last year, up from $2 billion in 2020, the company said in a statement Wednesday. Its fourth-quarter profit of $609 million beat the $569.7 million average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Kinder Morgan, which moves about 40% of U.S. natural gas through more than 70,000 miles of pipelines, was one of the biggest winnersfrom the freeze offs that disrupted gas deliveries in Texas during a deep freeze last winter, pushing prices for the fuel available in storage to unprecedented levels. In contrast, power producers and utilities across the state incurred billions of dollars in losses amid ballooning costs.

Shares of Kinder Morgan have risen 9.9% this year, underperforming the S&P 500 Energy Index’s 16% gain. 

Kinder Morgan’s net income may reach $1.09 per share this year, up from 78 cents in 2021, following the $1.2 billion acquisition of Stagecoach Gas Services LLC and the completion of projects, the company said last month. The company plans to spend $1.3 billion in projects and as much as $750 million in opportunities including share buybacks.  

Washington Post:

After last year’s deadly storm left millions of Texans freezing in the dark for days, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, made improvements to its power grid. Now, the council said, 321 out of 324 electric generation units and transmission facilities have fully passed inspection to meet new regulations.

“The Texas electric grid is more prepared for winter operations than ever before,” interim ERCOT chief executive Brad Jones said in a statement.

But Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin, cautioned that although the electrical grid is better equipped for winter storms, the natural gas side of Texas’s energy system was not upgraded and could freeze in extreme conditions — which could strain the whole system. Companies that operate the natural gas systems that froze last February, cutting off supply to power plants, do not face the same regulations as those that provide power to homes and businesses.

“It’s like fixing your car, but the tank is empty,” Webber said.

Already below-normal temperatures caused some natural gas production equipment to freeze two weeks ago in the Permian Basin region of West Texas, where Bloomberg reported gas production plunged to its lowest levels since last year’s historic freeze.

On Wednesday, pipeline operator Kinder Morgan warned customers that“potential exists for supply shortfalls due to freeze‐offs” ahead of this upcoming cold onslaught.

However, this freeze, when temperatures may plunge to the teens in some areas near the southern border, will not be a repeat of last year’s winter weather, unusual for its extensive damage and duration.

“I’m not really too panicky,” Webber said. “But I will be curious to see how the gas systems perform. That’s the weak link in the system, and all eyes should be on that.”

The current storm is not at the scale of the Valentine’s Day freeze of last year, but it may provide a test of the upgrades that have been made to the Texas (ERCOT) grid since then.
Hardware is easy – other things take more time.

Bloomberg:

Vistra Corp. said two units of Energy Transfer LP are threatening to cut off natural gas supplies to power generation facilities it owns in Texas because of a payment dispute over last year’s catastrophic winter storm. 

Vistra subsidiaries including Luminant Energy asked Texas oil and gas regulators to prevent Energy Transfer from terminating gas service to Luminant’s power plants, which serve about 400,000 Texas homes, according to a complaint filed with the Texas Railroad Commission on Wednesday. 

The “threat to terminate service in the middle of winter is illegal and grossly irresponsible and should be prohibited by this commission,” Vistra said in the complaint. 

Energy Transfer said by email that it “will continue to sell them gas pursuant to the same process, terms and conditions that have been in place since Dec. 1, 2021.”

The two units, Energy Transfer Fuel and Oasis Pipeline, are threatening to cease gas service by Jan. 24 because Vistra won’t pay $21.6 million in fees stemming from the February winter storm, when freezing temperatures knocked off gas supplies, contributing to widespread blackouts. The dispute comes as Texas is bracing for a new round of cold and sleet that will test the state’s power grid over the next several days.

Vistra alleges in the filing that the fee is illegal and stems from the power generator securing and delivering gas into the pipeline operators’ systems during the storm.

From the complaint:

Respondents threaten to terminate natural gas service to Luminant’s electric generation facilities as of January 24, 2022. These plants provide up to approximately 2,000 MWs of electricity, serving approximately 400,000 Texas homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. Respondents’ threat to terminate service in the middle of winter is illegal and grossly irresponsible and should be prohibited by this Commission.

First alerted last night by Michael Webber at University of Texas.

UPDATE: below

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My friend Susan Joy Hassol was interviewed by BBC on the fine art of climate Communication. It’s not as simple as we’d like to believe.

Twitter’s cut and paste links are kind of clunky, but I think readers can find their way thru this.

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At the beginning of the year, I made a folder for my next Yale Climate Connections video, and just titled it “2021WTF” – because the last 8 months or so of climate extremes have left a lot of folks speechless, and not a little bit worried.

Since then I’ve bagged about 7 or 8 hours of interviews, with scientists, and also local weather casters, who are often doing some of the most relevant analysis of climate change as the majority of people experience it – not as graphs or computer models, but in specific events in particular places, that are often beyond the scale of living memory.
Not sure exactly what I’ll end up with, but there will be a lot of gems coming out of this, like the one above – John’s discussion of the increased pressure on Florida and Coastal homeowners, as well as anyone across the US who lives near a flood plain, squeezed between increasingly doubtful real estate prices and rising insurance costs.

Above, in his State of the State address, last week, Indiana Governor, Republican Eric Holcomb highlighted some ambitious solar energy development in his state.

The Fossil fuel industry’s usual suspects continue to mount pushback against clean energy development, and sometimes they succeed in blocking this or that project – but clean energy continues to make inroads because as more and more communities host wind turbines, and increasingly solar development, and big fossil’s misinformation is shown to be just that, the good word is getting. out.

Kankakee Valley Post News:

PULASKI COUNTY — Doral Renewables LC held a groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of a massive solar project in Starke and Pulaski counties.

Gov. Eric Holcomb was on hand for the ceremony, which was held at the Melody Drive-in in Knox. The drive-in is located adjacent to ground to be used for the project.

When complete, the project will cover 13,000 acres of land in Starke and Pulaski counties and will become the largest solar farm in the US. The first phase, known as Mammoth Solar 1, is expected to be completed by the summer of 2023.

Mammoth Solar will be able to produce 1.3 gigawatts of clean energy once operational. It will bring 500 construction jobs and an investment of $475 million.

All three phases of the project will represent a $1.5 billion investment in Indiana when complete. Ohio-based AEP Energy has already inked power purchase agreements for the first and second phases of the project.

Doral Renewables is based in Israel. Also on hand for last week’s groundbreaking were Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, Yinam Cohen, and Israeli Ambassador to the United State, Gilad Erdan.

CleanTechnica:

Many US states have grabbed the renewable energy ball and run with it, politics or no politics. Clean power became a dirty word in some circles during the Obama administration, but that didn’t stop “red” states like Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma from surging to the top of the wind power list.

Similarly, Texas, Florida and Georgia have nailed their spots among the top 10 states for solar power. However, the US south is still peppered with states that have yet to ramp up their PV profiles, including Louisiana, Alabama, and Kentucky.

According to the latest rankings from the Solar Energy Industries Association, Louisiana is stuck in the doldrums. The Pelican State drifted down to #38 for installed solar capacity in 2021 after pulling off a #30 slot in 2020. The same goes for Kentucky, which bounced down from #45 in 2020 to #47 this year.

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Just heard this morning about this innovative multi-use development in Pennsylvania, making use of a former brownfield site to produce both energy and recreation opportunities.

Mountain Ridge ATV park has a network of off-road trails set amongst wind turbines, and overlooking the the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania. Per the website, “..soon to be the largest ATV and Motocross park on the east coast!”

Fatih Birol is Executive Director of the International Energy Agency. The crunch he is talking about here is the one I saw coming and described in the Yale Climate Connections video above.

Fatih Birol in LinkedIn:

Today, Europe finds itself at the heart of an international energy storm driven by turmoil in natural gas markets. Understanding the causes of this crisis – which is having serious repercussions for governments, businesses and households – and drawing the right lessons from it is essential for the transition to more sustainable, secure and affordable energy supplies in the future.

In recent weeks and months, natural gas and electricity prices have spiked to record highs – most notably in Europe and some major Asian markets – causing potentially significant economic impacts. These include multiple negative effects on power companies, other businesses and industrial sectors, and consumers – in some cases, resulting in government interventions to limit the damage. These effects are likely to have a lasting impact beyond the market tensions we are seeing this winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The increases in energy prices have also contributed to broader price inflation that is affecting many economies worldwide.

Unfortunately, we are once again seeing claims that volatility in gas and electricity markets is the result of the clean energy transition. These assertions are misleading to say the least. This is not a renewables or a clean energy crisis; this is a natural gas market crisis. It is important to work from a sound evidence base on the causes of the current market turbulence. As we showed in our recent World Energy Outlook 2021, well managed clean energy transitions can help reduce energy market volatility and its impacts on businesses and consumers. The underlying causes of today’s crisis lie elsewhere.

At the IEA, we focus on what the data tells us. When we do so, we see that a range of issues affecting the natural gas sector – including last year’s exceptionally rapid global economic rebound, outages and maintenance of key gas infrastructure, and a lack of sufficient supply from Russia – are driving broader energy market turbulence in Europe.

While liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments are providing some additional supply to European gas markets, their timeliness is limited by longer transportation times than for pipelines. Underground storage remains the principal source of short-term flexibility for gas markets in Europe. However, lower than average inventory levels (around 50% full as of early January, compared with an average of nearly 70% over the past decade) create further security of supply concerns, especially in the event of late winter cold spells. This is why uncertainty over prices and supply remains high in early January, with most of the heating season still to come.

We see strong elements of ‘artificial tightness’ in European gas markets, which appears to be due to the behaviour of Russia’s state-controlled gas supplier. Unlike other pipeline suppliers – such as Algeria, Azerbaijan and Norway – Russia has reduced its exports to Europe by 25% in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020 – and by 22% compared with its 2019 levels. And this is despite the exceptionally high market prices for natural gas that we have seen in recent months.

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This BBC piece is one of the most moving studies of climate impacts and responses that I’ve seen in a long time. It focuses on Kuwait, but the message works anywhere. It’s getting bad, fast.

Bloomberg:

Global warming is smashing temperature records all over the world, but Kuwait — one of the hottest countries on the planet — is fast becoming unlivable. In 2016, thermometers hit 54 degrees Celsius (129 Fahrenheit), the highest reading on Earth in the last 76 years. Last year, for the first time, they breached 50°C in June, weeks ahead of usual peak weather. Parts of Kuwait could get as much as 4.5°C hotter from 2071 to 2100 compared with the historical average, according to the Environment Public Authority, making large areas of the country uninhabitable.

For wildlife, it almost is. Dead birds appear on rooftops in the brutal summer months, unable to find shade or water. Vets are inundated with stray cats, brought in by people who’ve found them near death from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Even wild foxes are abandoning a desert that no longer blooms after the rains for what small patches of green remain in the city, where they’re treated as pests.

“This is why we are seeing less and less wildlife in Kuwait, it’s because most of them aren’t making it through the seasons,” said Tamara Qabazard, a Kuwaiti zoo and wildlife veterinarian. “Last year, we had three to four days at the end of July that were incredibly humid and very hot, and it was hard to even walk outside your house, and there was no wind. A lot of the animals started having respiratory problems.”

Unlike countries from Bangladesh to Brazil that are struggling to balance environmental challenges with teeming populations and widespread poverty, Kuwait is OPEC’s number 4 oil-exporter. Home to the world’s third-largest sovereign wealth fund and just over 4.5 million people, it’s not a lack of resources that stands in the way of cutting greenhouse gases and adapting to a warmer planet, but rather political inaction.

Even Kuwait’s neighbors, also dependent on crude exports, have pledged to take stronger climate action. Saudi Arabia last year said it would target net-zero emissions by 2060. The United Arab Emirates has set a goal of 2050. Though they remain among the biggest producers of fossil fuels, both say they are working to diversify their economies and investing in renewables and cleaner energy. The next two United Nations climate conferences will take place in Egypt and the UAE, as Middle East governments acknowledge they also stand to lose from rising temperatures and sea levels.

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Costs keep rising at the Vogtle Nuclear project in Georgia. A twin project, VC Sumner, in South Carolina was abandoned a few years ago after a tide of snafus made it unworkable. (above)
While I wish the Vogtle folks success at this point – that carbon free electricity is invaluable – but Georgia consumers might not have been as well served as they might have with other energy choices. At some point, nuclear proponents have to stop blaming hippies or evil regulators for problems that seem all too repetitive from project to project, even country to country

I’ve not participated in any formal anti-nuclear activity since maybe 1980, simply because I see it as a waste of energy, given that the financial community pretty much made a judgement on nuclear by 1977.
I’m certainly open to anyone with a great new design that they can get funded, but we’re in a situation where we really need solutions now, not 20 years from now.

PVMagazine:

Nuclear power delivers almost 20% of all electricity in the United States, and about 50% of all low-emission electricity. Moreover, the U.S. has almost 100 nuclear power units operating more than 90% of the time, providing a steady base of power generation we can depend on.

Moving forward however, it seems nuclear has lost its swagger. Price increases, project delays, and cancellations have caused what may prove to be generational damage to nuclear power’s reputation. pv magazine USA has previously reported on industry pricing models, showing nuclear’s lagging pricing.

Now, Georgia Power’s Vogtle Units 3 & 4 – the nation’s only nuclear generating units currently under construction – have announced further delays and price increases. Conservative cost estimates suggest the two 1.117 GW facilities will require at least $30 billion to complete, including $3 billion in finance costs and $27 billion in construction costs.

Solar+Storage costs

As solar and energy storage professionals, we must be conscious of the limitations of the sun, and the cost of energy storage. As we all know, the sun also sets. And while research suggests we can power 80% of the U.S. with wind, solar, and 12 hours of energy storage, being able to replace a nuclear power plant that runs 24/7/365 in wind, rain, snow, and sleet simply hasn’t been financially viable.

But is it today?

The chart above shows the price of solar panels from 1976 through the end of 2019. Here, we see prices fall by more than 99.8% from over $100 per Watt down to nearly 20¢ per Watt.

Below, we see the price of battery packs starting in 2010 and ending in 2020, per Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Here, we see costs fall from $1,191/kWh to $137/kWh, a price decrease of greater than 88%.

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