Tag Archives: coal

Friday Linkage 9/15/2017

The aspens are turning yellow in Colorado and the tulip trees in my backyard are doing the same.  The temps may still be in the 80s during the day, but fall is almost here.  That means on of these weekend nights will be spent waxing skis and checking over the gear.  It is time to start watching Open Snow’s reports and praying for powder.

On to the links…

As Hurricanes and Wildfires Rage, US Climate Politics Enters the Realm of Farce—It is my hope that we look back on the last fifteen or so years of American politics as an embarrassing interlude before sanity regained its footing.

Why Environmentalists Can’t Afford to Wait Until 2018—Too many times I have heard that a forthcoming election was the moment when the coalition of various environmental groups finally got their act together and drove votes to the polls.  Maybe the combination of the worst president in American history, successive natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, and a joke of Congress actually means it will happen.

The World’s Future Energy System: Cleaner, More Efficient and Less Demand—Despite how messed up things seem to be there is actual hope in the air.

Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags—Trump loves a win even if it is for something he purports to not like and set up by a man he openly loathes.  When are we going to be done with this flaccid cantaloupe and get back to some real leadership?

New Research Shows Solar Energy May Have Been Undervalued—You have to love simulations that do not include the fastest growing slice of the energy production market.  There are a lot of roofs in my neighborhood that do not have solar PV panels on them yet that are better candidates than my roof, which produces more than 100% of my household electrical needs.

Colorado Utility says Odds it will Build a Major New Coal Plant are now ‘Remote’—The key line in this article is when the representative for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association said that some of the costs for the coal plant expansion were unrecoverable.  That means the finance people in the room said that a portion of the project would be a loss no matter what.

Offshore Wind Power is Cheaper than New Nuclear Power in the UK—Coal is dead.  Nuclear is non-competitive on a cost basis.  The future is clean and renewable.

DONG Energy To Build World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm—Hornsea Project Two 1,386 MW of offshore wind power is a lot of wind.  Like one quarter of the state of Iowa’s installed wind power in one installation.  Together with Hornsea Project One the combined wind installations represent more than 2,500 MW of clean power.

GE Renewable Energy Unveils Largest Onshore Wind Turbine—Imagine replacing existing GE 1.5MW turbines, which dominated the U.S. market for many years, one for one with 4.8MW turbines from the same company.

MIT Researchers Propose an Ancient Technology to Store Clean Energy—Thermal energy storage is an already developed and vetted technology that could help us in shifting the demand curve to match the production curve of renewables.

How Does Thermal Energy Storage Reach Scale?—It can reach scale by being mandated.  If you want to build a large building in a hot climate like southern California or Arizona you should be required to use a thermal energy storage system to help regulate the peaks and valleys of energy demand and production.  If you are a grocery store or warehouse with huge refrigerator systems you should be required to install these systems.

If Power Start-Up Drift can make it in New York, it may be Lights Out for Traditional Utilities—Utilities are one of the last great true monopolies left in the United States.  Heck, you can get out from under the thumb of the cable company now by cutting the cord but you cannot pick your power company.

Vivint Solar & ChargePoint Announce Fully Integrated Solar Residential Energy Management Solution—The future will be a place where the solar panels on your house, the battery in your garage, and your EV are all integrated into a single system to maximize performance and stabilize the larger energy grid.  Tesla is trying to get to that point with a closed system of Tesla products.  This partnership may be more effective because it can be open source to a degree.

Wyoming ‘Ag-Gag’ Law Suffers Appeals Court Blow—Ag gag laws have flown under the radar in the age of Trump but there is legal wrangling going on that will decide the fate of such restrictions on the First Amendment.  How anyone can interpret these laws as having anything other than a cooling effect on free speech is beyond me.  The other irony is the same people pushing these laws trumpet anything done by James O’Keefe.

The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial—We are all just living a premium mediocre life now.

Minnesota Named the Happiest State, while Red Ones Roil in Angst—Is anyone really surprised by this?  I am just amazed that people in red states just keep electing the same people while their quality of life sucks and accept that the answer is someone else is to blame for the problem.

Health at a Planetary Scale—Getting people to even say public health is hard.  Republicans automatically think it means socialism because the word public is akin to saying Lord Voldemort.  The rest of the world generally does not know what it means and those that do are prone to wonky discussions about outcomes, policy, and efficacy.

As Bees Die-Off, Coffee Production could Plummet more than Previously Thought—Well, piss in my shoe.

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Friday Linkage 9/1/2017

As we witness the damage in Houston and the surrounding area as a result of Hurricane Harvey our thoughts will turn to the recovery.  Knowing Texas this will be a great time to be a rich developer and a bad time to be anyone else.  My guess is that whole communities will get bulldozed to make way for developments that no one really asked for and lead to a wholesale change of what is a very diverse city.

Plus, our flaccid cantaloupe of a leader actually praised the size of the crowd which was comprised of refugees from the storm.

On to the links…

Pay Heed to What Nature Is Telling Us—Right wingers and Republicans in general are too concerned with staying in power by satiating a rabid base that thinks climate change is some socialist conspiracy designed to rip their guns and freedom away to actually do something constructive.  It is incumbent on the rest of us—as in the majority of Americans—to drive our nation forward in a positive direction.

The Death of US Coal, In Charts—The data does not lie and hucksters like Jim Justice know this to be true.  No one is adding new coal fired generation capacity and most utilities are removing such capacity.  It’s called a death spiral.

The (Only) Culprit Of Coal’s Demise—[http://oilprice.com/Energy/Coal/The-Only-Culprit-Of-Coals-Demise.html]  Cheap natural gas is the first order effect on coal.  It is the primary driver for the decline in coal use, but other secondary factors have played an increasingly important role.  Call it piling on if you will.

Xcel Energy Plans to Retire Two Coal-Fired Plants in Pueblo, Increase Renewables—If only Colorado Springs could finally close the awful Drake power plant in the middle of town.

Coal in Decline: An Energy Industry on Life Support—It’s not just true in the U.S. but in Australia as well.  What the Australian case shows is that as these plants age retirement will become a more attractive financial option given the state of electricity markets.

Australia Generates Enough Renewable Energy to Power 70% of Homes—Maybe this is why coal is in such trouble in Australia.  The next step is to figure out a grid level storage system to take excess supply and apply it to peak demand periods.

Wind Power Costs Could See Another 50% Reduction by 2030—How is that for a gut punch to coal and natural gas?

Wind Power Costs Could Drop 50%. Solar PV Could Provide up to 50% of Global Power. Damn.—Believe it.

America’s First U.S.-Built Offshore Wind Installation Vessel—By 2018 the U.S. will have a mobile work platform designed for installing offshore wind turbines.  This is how we put the knowledge paid for by the offshore drilling industry to good use.

Shuttle Fleet At Zion National Park Adds Proterra E2 Electric Bus—Heavy use commercial and fleet vehicles like garbage trucks and busses should be the first focus of the electrification drive because these diesel monsters put on huge miles per year and spew a lot of bad stuff into the air.  Plus, with fuel costs being such a large component of the cost of ownership the operators are keen to save money.  Additionally, electric drivetrains are simpler to maintain.

Class 7 All-Electric Truck From Cummins Revealed—No one is saying that the first heavy duty tractor trailers to get electrified need to be able to drive across Nebraska on I-80 in one charge.  There is a large market of shorter haul trucks—think the multi-modal system out of the port in Los Angeles—that could go electric first.

China’s Crazy Plan to Keep Sand From Swallowing the World—If there is one place where people do not sit around endlessly discussing an idea to determine if it is too crazy to succeed it has to be China.  Generally this leads to bad air and questionable development, but in this case the outcome is decidedly greener.

How We Stayed Cool in the Summer Heat Without AC—Man are we over air conditioned.

Friday Linkage 8/25/2017

You can be sure that wind power is a big deal in your state when the image of a wind turbine is placed on the state’s license plate:

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On to the links…

What Exxon Mobil Didn’t Say About Climate Change—It appears that Exxon Mobil conducted a campaign of deliberate disinformation with regard to climate change.  This was an act that was counter to even their own internal scientists and experts.  If true, and the evidence appears to show just such veracity, it represents one of the most egregious acts of corporate malfeasance in the modern era.

How 139 Countries Could be Powered by 100 Percent Wind, Water, and Solar Energy by 2050—This is the blueprint for the future:

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Fines for Illegal Pollution Plummet under Trump—It’s not just a matter of changing laws, but also of enforcing existing laws.  Trump and his cronies are likely to just let things slide for their friends who like to pollute and sicken Americans.

Trump Thinks Clean Coal is When Workers Mine Coal and then Actually ‘Clean It’—There has never been a person occupying the big chair in the White House with such an absolute disregard for actual knowledge.  Trump seems to be going out of his way to act like a biggest doofus in Washington D.C., which is an accompolishment in a town shared by Louis Gohmert and Steve King.

Coal Plants Might Be Even More Toxic Than We Thought—As if you needed another reason to push for clean power.  When coal plants are literally producing a new chemical compound that is making people sick you have to wonder about the sanity of anyone who would fight to the death to keep burning coal.

In Solar Scuffle, Big Utilities Meet Their Match—Surprise, surprise…people want their solar power and they want it now.

This Is The Future Of Electricity Pricing—As we build out renewable energy we need to create incentives and systems to match that supply with relevant demand.

Global Solar Capacity Set to Surpass Nuclear for the First Time—We came for nuclear and we are coming for coal.  Solar power is the real deal.

India Added More Renewable Energy Than Thermal Power 4 Consecutive Quarters—Renewable energy has conquered the “India price” and it is showing.

Muscatine, Iowa Looks to Turn Food Waste into Fuel—What would it take to site these types of facilities in towns across the country?  Food and yard waste could be collected and turned into energy.  Seems like a winning deal to me.

Can We Feed The World With Farmed Fish?—Just because we might be able to do so does not mean that we should.  It’s one thing when we are raising native catfish in freshwater ponds in Alabama.  It’s quite another thing when we are raising non-native Atlantic salmon near Seattle.

Growing Concern: Organic Farms Need a New Generation to Keep Them Alive—Maybe millennials will give up living in Brooklyn, Austin, and Portland for a life in the country all “Green Acres” style.  Nah, farming is actual work.  So much better to be a YouTube celebrity or Instagram influencer.

Organic Farmers Sprouting up Across Iowa—Maybe the problem is more of a California thing as it seems like Iowa has people willing to take on the organic farming challenge.  Granted, the odds someone in Iowa knows an actual farmer are probably higher than in California so the career choice is not so alien.

California has a Climate Problem, and Its Name is Cars—It’s not just a problem in California, but for the nation as a whole.  If we cannot or will not address the impact of our transportation choices it may not matter what else we do.

Why We Should be More Materialistic—Materialism is different than consumerism, but I am guessing that the subtlety will be lost on most people.

Goodwill is ‘Overrun’ with Stuff Millennials and Gen Xers Refuse to Take from their Parents—I have cleaned out two houses and one condo for relatives who have passed away.  I do not know why these relatives were saving all of this stuff, but a lot of it just ended up getting tossed.  Some stuff got sold, some stuff got taken, some stuff got donated, but most of it went to the dump.

Rich Kids’ Grades are Rising Faster, and Intelligence Probably Isn’t the Reason Why—This pisses me off more than you would guess.  I have spent a lifetime—okay, 39 years—hearing about the meritocracy of higher education.  Guess what?  The game is rigged in favor of the rich.  Always has been.

We Conservatives Champion Local Power. So We Must Respect the Rights of “Blue” Cities.—Right wingers love local control and states’ rights as long as it is in their interest.  Just like they are all about religious freedom as long as it is Christianity.

Demand Destruction from Home

Demand destruction is what coal mining companies, utilities, and anyone who benefits from a centrally controlled power grid dreads.  Why?  Demand destruction represents an existential threat to the entire business model of these entities.

Consider the state of Iowa’s electricity generation mix and my recently installed solar photovoltaic system.  Iowa’s electricity generation mix breaks down like this for April of 2017:

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In Iowa non-hydroelectric renewables usually equals wind given the relatively low penetration of solar photovoltaic generation.  Another caveat is that the wind tends to blow strongly in the spring and demand for electricity has not spiked with the onset of the summer air conditioning season.

Now consider the impact of a solar photovoltaic system, mine or someone else’s.  When that demand leaves the grid, so to speak, what generation sources do you think will be curtailed?  In order I think it would be coal, nuclear, natural gas, and finally wind.  Why?  Wind turbines do not have a recurring fuel cost, so the cost to retire them does not include a perpetuity of fuel cost baked in which can be a significant driver for an asset with a long life.

In other terms, do you keep generating power by paying to burn a fuel or just harvest the wind for free?  In business school the number one lesson I learned in marketing was to not compete with free.  You will lose every time.

So, as demand disappears from the grid as a result of distributed residential solar the traditional fossil fuel sources are forced to compete with installed and cheap wind power for a dwindling number of customers.  I exaggerate to some degree to get the point across, but in Iowa this may not be such a moot point given the plans for wind power development in the next three years.

Depending upon how you measure it Iowa has more than 6,900 megawatts of wind power providing anywhere from 35% to 40% of the state’s electricity.  This is great news in and of itself, but the state’s two major utilities—MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy—have announced investments for an additional 3,000 megawatts or more by 2020.  Just with these additions—barring any additional activity by other energy players—would bring Iowa nearly 10,000 megawatts of wind power and give the state the capacity to produce more than 50% of its electricity from the wind.  This is without a significant portion of the state’s electricity demand being displaced by distributed residential solar or energy efficiency.

As you can see from the chart that when the wind blows heavily, which it tends to do in the spring, wind is already the largest source of electricity generation in the state.  That trend was true for February, March, and April of 2017. This is only going to grow in the future.

Our homes can be the drivers of change for a cleaner and greener world.

Friday Linkage 7/28/2017

I have been a little lax on posting some things lately and I have no excuse other than work, children, life in general…you get the idea.  My hope is to have an update on my upcoming solar photovoltaic system soon and some thoughts on other ways to really embrace a lower carbon life here in middle America.

On to the links…

Vail Resorts Promises to Eliminate Emissions, Waste and Offset Forest Impact by 2030—Welcome to the party Vail Resorts.

Trump Nominates Sam Clovis, a Dude Who Is Not a Scientist, to Be Department of Agriculture’s Top Scientist—This is what happens when you elect people who profess to hate government and expertise in general to run the government.  You get people who are unqualified for the job screwing up and then claiming afterwards, “I told you government does not work.  See?”

The Quieter Monument Battles to Watch—Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke’s assault on our national monuments is, to put it mildly, monumentally unpopular.  Remember, this is a man who can lose the popular vote  by nearly three million votes and claim with a straight face that he had the most lopsided electoral victory in history.  Nothing is beyond the pale for these people.

As Outdoor Retailer Show Packs up for Colorado, Industry Flexes Political Muscle in U.S. Land Fight—The people who love the outdoors are being heard.  The companies who make money off the people who love the outdoors are making their voices heard.  This is no small change and it represents a viable path forward to protect our access to public lands.

Are Renewables Set to Displace Natural Gas?—Europe and the U.S. are very different places, so extrapolating upon trends from on to the other is dangerous.  However, I wonder what will happen if natural gas experiences price spikes like it has in the past.  Will renewables rush to fill the void left by coal as the second choice when natural gas gets pricey?

Seven Charts Show Why the IEA Thinks Coal Investment Has Already Peaked—Coal is in all kinds of death spirals right now.  The decline in investment is a long term impediment to their being any revival in coal’s fortunes.

“Clean Coal” Is A Political Myth, Says Coal Company Owner—Robert Murray is the gift that keeps on giving.  After John Oliver went after him using public statements and other records that were readily available he just keeps on opening his mouth.  Gotta’ love a rich man with no filter…oh wait, that is the clown we have in the White House.

Peeling Back the Red Tape to Go Solar—The run around and red tape dance has been the most frustrating part of getting my solar photovoltaic system installed on my roof.  Yet, I still have more hoops to jump through once the system is actually installed.  None of it is value added and all of it costs either money or time.  Ugh.

Straus Family Creamery Powered by Cow Gas—Why don’t we have a government program to install one of these systems at every dairy farm or other large livestock operation in the United States?

This Beautiful but Toxic Weed Could Make you go Blind—Giant hogweed is no joke.  I have friends with the burn scars from the sap to prove it.

Minimalism Is Just Another Boring Product Wealthy People Can Buy—I have always found it ironic that people buy books or attend seminars about minimalism.  Shouldn’t the idea be somewhat self-apparent with a little reflection?

Debunking What the Health, the Buzzy New Documentary that Wants You to be Vegan—Veganism has become the new snake oil for a lot of people.  It will not cure all that ails us and to pretend otherwise is to traffic in the same dreck that has gotten us into this mess.

Beer Sales are Down…Especially Among the Millennials—Millennials are trying to wreck everything.

A Cut Above: Two Axe-Throwing Venues Carve Out a Niche in Denver—Axe throwing venue?  Peak hipster?

Friday Linkage 7/14/2017

The only thing saving our democracy right now is the pure incompetence of everyone surrounding the president.  If the people in the White House were even decent at doing their job we would be in a world of hurt.  However, given that the governing style flows from the “leadership” style of one Donald J. Trump there is a stunning lack of effectiveness.

This should not be surprising.  Governing is hard work.  Crafting legislation is jokingly referred to as sausage making, but it is an apt metaphor for something that can take unappetizing laws and make the palatable for enough members of Congress to actually vote in the affirmative.  Trump and his coterie are under the impression that legislation flows from the pen of the executive branch while everyone else is just a cadet branch of government.

Maybe is someone could explain how modern government works on Fox & Friends so that our dear leader might get the message in a format more to his liking.

On to the links…

Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks are Hitting Major Roadblocks—See what I mean about competence.  His administration believes that government is just like one of his golf courses or buildings.  If the dear leader does not like something they can just change it.  Yeah, sorry about that guys but there are rules for a reason.

The End Goal of Trump’s War on Science—Trump and people like Trump, e.g. the Republican Party writ large, do not like science because science tells them no.  No, the Earth is not a few thousand years old.  No, it’s not fluctuations in the sun’s output that is changing our planet’s climate.  These people are acting like nothing short of toddlers plugging their ears and screaming “Not gonna’ listen to you!”

EPA Chief wants Scientists to Debate Climate on TV—Ok, may I suggest that he invite Michael Mann, James Hansen, and Paul Hawken to debate his hacks.

Rick Perry Tries to Make the Economic Case for Coal, Screws up the Economics Part—The best part is that Rick Perry is basically admitting the market for coal is thin and getting thinner.  The hope is that by putting a cheap fuel on the market that someone will choose to consume it.  That’s less a free market and more of a planned economy move folks.

Utilities Fighting against Rooftop Solar are Only Hastening their Own Doom—It is permanent demand destruction coupled with a death spiral. The utilities are trying to fight a battle where people have the option to flip them the bird and say, “Screw you guys, I am going it alone.”

Nearly 1/4 Of All Australian Homes Now Have Solar—I am just in awe of some of these numbers for rooftop solar penetration:

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Depending upon what numbers you believe Australia now gets ~3% of its power from these arrays, which seems small given the penetration rate.  More research to be done.

It’s Not Easy, But Aspen Moves Toward 100 Percent Renewable Energy—It’s not easy, as the headline says, but it is possible.

It’s Time To Move On From Notion Of Baseload Power, Says New South Wales Coalition—Renewable energy was able to fill the gap left by the departure of traditional fossil fuel generation options during a wicked heat wave.  This is almost the definition of baseload power.

Solar + Battery Storage Will Power Coal Mine Museum In Victoria—Why don’t we just leave coal in a museum where it belongs?

Do Electric Cars Squander their Juice?—The answer is yes, but not really given the impact to the overall system’s level of electrical power.  It’s like worry about the paint color of a room in a house when there are structural deficiencies.  Yeah, it’s a part of the decision making process but it is not what really swings the deal.

New Plan could Double $2.5 Billion Energy Efficiency Success in Illinois—Efficiency is the vegetables of the modern environmental movement.  It’s the good for you thing that makes everything better and easier but no one really wants to talk about it because you sound like a schoolmarm.

These Coloradans say Earth is Flat. And Gravity’s a Hoax. Now, They’re being Persecuted.—I just sat there kind of dumbfounded when I read the headline and the subsequent article.  Gravity is a hoax?  WTF?  This is the natural conclusion of allowing people to let faith guide beliefs despite actual scientific and empirical evidence.

The Uninhabitable Earth—This is just some scary stuff.

Friday Linkage 6/30/2017

This is going to be a little light since I am in Colorado prepping for my first 14er.

On to the links…

Rick Perry Loses his Cool When Confronted by Sen. Franken on Climate Science—Who would have guessed that when Al Franken won his election years ago that he would turn into one of the most reasoned and well informed voices in the entire Senate?

New Database Shows Trump is Filling the Government with Fossil Fuel Lobbyists—Drain the swamp?  Trump just covered the swamp in oil and coal ash before pouring it back out onto America

World’s Largest Coal Company Will Shut 37 Coal Mines That Are Not Economically Viable—Coal is not economically viable.  This is the fundamental problem with El Trumpo and his allies arguments about saving coal.  Progress killed the economic argument for coal in the U.S., India, and other countries.

First-of-Its-Kind Clean Coal Plant May Not Burn Coal at All—There is no such thing as clean coal.  Less dirty at the point of combustion perhaps, but considering the impact of the entire process—mining, waste disposal, etc.—there is no way that coal could ever be considered clean.

Mayors Could Shift Nearly 42 Percent Of U.S. Electricity To Renewables By 2035—Cities, where most of our economic activity happens, will be the locus of change when it comes to climate change.