Tag Archives: MidAmerican Energy

Friday Linkage 11/17/2017

It somehow ended up being more than halfway through November before I even realized that the time had passed.  Maybe I was spending too much time looking at opening dates for ski hills and poring over the long range snow forecasts.

On to the links…

100% Global Renewable Electricity No Longer Flight Of Fancy, More Cost-Effective Than Current System—The economics have turned.  Now all that remains to construct an energy system for the future is to amass the political will.  Obviously that is something that is easier said than done.

Richest 1% Now Owns Half the World’s Wealth—Well, that is depressing.  If you want to understand why politicians could care less about your desires as a voter or those of your community it is encapsulated in this statistic.  You do not grease the wheels of power because you do not have nearly the money that the 1% possesses.

One of the World’s Largest Mining Companies is Ditching Coal—These mines will probably be sold and will probably still be operational for a time.  The key fact to remember is that a giant, international company has decided that coal mines have no future and may become stranded assets sometime in the near future.

Subsidizing Coal, Nuclear Could Drive Customers Off-Grid—From the pages of the book of unintended consequences comes this little gem.  By making grid power more expensive in order to subsidize dying power regimes the genius of Rick Perry’s Department of Energy could hasten the death spiral of the centralized grid.

New Study Shows What Would Happen If the US Went Vegan—It’s just a model, but it is interesting to see what the ramifications would be of such a conversion.  I tend to think the more sustainable model would be a pseudo-vegetarian model with a focus on improved rangeland management, elimination of high fructose corn syrup production, and an emphasis on reduced food waste.

MidAmerican will Spend $1 billion ‘Repowering’ Oldest Wind Turbines—This seems like an amazing opportunity to take wind turbines that are already sited and have the infrastructure in place in an effort to get more power generated.  How many fifteen to twenty year old wind farms are out there that could use a “repowering?”

Tesla Powers Up Nantucket With Grid Storage Installation—Tesla may be a Ponzi scheme masquerading as a next-generation solutions type of company but damn if these guys aren’t out there pushing boundaries.  These are not PowerPoint presentations.  These are on the ground solutions that are operational.

California may Use 50 Percent Renewable Electricity by 2020, a Decade Ahead of Schedule—I am really amazed by this development.

4 Ways Cities can Become Climate Heroes—Cities and other municipalities can become the agents of change in the era when leadership at the state and federal level is in the hands of climate deniers more inclined to line the pockets of coal barons and oil companies than worry about the health and safety of millions of people.

Denver Votes to Require Environment-Friendly ‘Green’ Roofs—Amidst all of the election analysis there was no coverage of this little gem unless you were reading the Denver Post or other regional newspapers.  Now, “green roof” can mean plants but it can also mean solar energy.  Given 300 days of sunshine per year why isn’t every roof on the Front Range a green roof?

One Bitcoin Transaction Takes More Energy than a Household uses in a Week—We tend to think of virtual anything as “free.”  However, all of those cat videos, Jerry of the Day posts, and Bitcoins add up to some serious computer time that uses a lot of electricity.

Millennials Lose Taste for Dining Out, Get Blamed for Puzzling Restaurant Trend—We can blame millennials for a lot of things.  Especially avocado toast and everything else they feel compelled to put avocados on.  Avocados are not that great, so stop putting that vegetable snot in my sushi.  However, can we lay the blame for this trend on crap chain restaurants.  Does anyone really need to go to the Olive Garden or Chili’s?

Vail postpones Opening Day due to lack of snow—Well, fuck.  Even the 1% who frequent this mountain are going to be impacted by climate change.  It’s not too late to join Protect Our Winters kids.

Behold the Wonders of Rep. Louie Gohmert’s Conspiracy Chart—Louie Gohmert is one of the biggest no talent ass clowns in the history of American politics.  This is peak Louie Gohmert:

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Did he just sit back listening to Alex Jones on an endless loop and create a flowchart based on that stream of consciousness verbal vomit?  This is what passes for representation in America in 2017.

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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 4/28/2017

Did you see the details of Donald Trump’s tax “reform” plan?  Okay, details were sparse because it read like an objectivist’s children’s book on tax reform.  Taxes…bad!  Corporations…good!  If you want to know how this story plays out look at Kansas.  Maybe that is not the comparison that Trump and the Hucksters would like you to make, but it is the most apt corollary.

On to the links…

Is Wind Power Saving Rural Iowa or Wrecking It?—Most people I know who live in rural Iowa are wind power proponents.  Lease payments have allowed people to continue to maintain farms in lean years when crop prices fall.  However, there are those who consider the turbines a blight.  I think that the important question to ask is what these communities would look like without wind power.  There was nothing else that was going to fill the economic void.

Windblown: MidAmerican Zeroes in on 100% Renewable Energy—Iowa, as a whole, may get nearly 37% of its electricity from the wind but utility MidAmerican, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, is closing in on getting 100% of its juice from the wind.  That seems like something worth celebrating.

Going Green Shouldn’t be this Hard—No one is saying we need to whole hog embrace a hair shirt lifestyle cold turkey.  Incremental improvement across a broad swath of areas is the key to lasting and meaningful change.

How Republicans Came to Embrace Anti-Environmentalism—I think it all comes down to cash.  People like the Kochs, flush with fossil fuel cash, were willing to lavish it on politicians who defended their oily interests.

Outdoor Recreation Industry, Seeing Role to Protect Public Lands, Boasts $887 Billion Impact—There is a downside to exploiting public lands for mineral gain.  The opportunity cost is a loss of sustainable recreation dollars.

Can We Fight Climate Change with Trees and Grass?—We are going to need all the tools we can get in the coming decades.

New Orleans — “Biking Boomtown” — Doubled Rate Of Bicycle Commuters In 10 Years—New Orleans does not leap to the front of mind when thinking about bicycling hot spots.  However, mild winters and a flat topography do make for a favorable location.  Why can’t more communities put some effort into bicycling as transportation like New Orleans?

Dodging Rubble is One Thing — in Mosul, Cyclists Contend with Mortars and Gunfire Too—If you complain about the problems on your commute just think about living in Mosul, Iraq.  First world problems, man.

Milkweed by the Masses: Nebraska Eyes New Habitat Goal for Monarchs, Other Pollinators—Iowa has seen great success with introducing pollinator friendly milkweed patches and it now looks like Nebraska, normally a fairly reactionary environmental state, is getting in on the action.

Does Saturated Fat Clog Your Arteries? Controversial Paper Says ‘No’—No one is saying binge on bacon, but maybe we can finally retire the old Ancel Keys’ wisdom about fats being the root cause of our dietary ills.

Friday Linkage 9/4/2015

Damn, I looked up and it was September. Without cable and no more HDTV football season will not be the same. Listening to games on the radio, however, gives me the opportunity to spend some time in the shop working on a handful of projects that have languished most of the summer.

On to the links…

MidAmerican Energy Announces New Wind Farms—By the end of 2015, MidAmerican will get 42 percent of its power from wind versus 36 percent from coal. That is an impressive renewable energy footprint that is only going to get bigger with the construction of these recently announced projects.

Simple Solar From Cedar Falls Utilities — Crowdfunded Community Solar—Iowa has a long way to go with regard to climate change mitigation, but there are a lot of good things happening on the ground. Cedar Falls, famous for its public internet company, is also getting into the community solar game.

Xcel Energy Taking Heat for Slow Rollout of Solar Garden Program in Minnesota—Meanwhile, Xcel in Minnesota seems to be doing everything to kill the community solar project with a thousand cuts.

Solar Power on at Large and Small Scale—Ahhh, infographics. How I have missed thee:

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Solar Energy Means Jobs, Savings, and a Low-Cost Future—Solar is good. ‘Nuff said:

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Hawaii’s Going 100 Percent Renewable, And It’s Not Using Natural Gas As A ‘Transition’—Hawaii is going to try and make the leap to all renewables without taking the baby step of using natural gas as a bridge fuel. I wish them the best of luck because the islands can be a laboratory for the rest of the United States.

Florida Public Service Commission OKs FPL’s Plan To Purchase & Shut Down 250 MW Coal Plant, As Means Of Getting Out Of Costly PPA—This is how you know coal is troubled. It is easier for a power company to buy and shut down a plant as a means of avoiding contractual power purchase obligations than to go ahead with the contract.

Digging into Big Coal’s Climate Connections—The great thing about bankruptcy of a public company in the U.S. is the enormous amount of information that becomes public as a result. Alpha Natural Resource’s bankruptcy is pulling the curtain back on climate shenanigans.

Unicornomics—If you want to understand right wing thinking in the 21st century you need to understand that it is based on the belief that reality and facts are secondary to dogma. I want a unicorn farm, but that does not mean I am going to get a unicorn farm.

Farmed Fish could bring Us Cheaper Food, but is it Ethical?—Aquaculture is the future of the fish on our tables because we have trashed and overfished the oceans. There are a lot of problems with aquaculture, but we can try to work through those for a better system.

9 of 10 Seabirds Have Glow Sticks, Lighters, Toy Cars, Other Plastics in their Guts—We have trashed the planet, the animals are paying the price, and we have to figure out a way to start cleaning up after ourselves.

Climate Change Means One World’s Death and Another’s Birth—The world is going to change. It might change at a pace that is understandable on the human being’s lifespan. This is unprecedented.

The True Story of Kudzu, the Vine That Never Truly Ate the South—This story kind of bummed me out because kudzu was the plant from a horror movie in my youth. It was the cautionary tale that every biology teacher used to illustrate the folly of trying to mess with nature.

Friday Linkage 5/8/2015

I know that the people in California do not want to hear this, but eastern Iowa is a little sick of rain right now. It has stormed almost every day for the past week and the ground is the consistency of a soaked sponge. The forecast, unfortunately, calls for another week of similar showers and it means that most outdoor projects are going to get delayed another week. Ugh.

On to the links…

Why the Koch Brothers’ War against Clean Energy is Still Failing—You would think for a couple of supposedly astute business people—who got a nice helping hand by inheriting some level of wealth from their parents—the Koch brothers do not seem to get a good return on their investment in trying to fight progress. Of course, trying to fight progress is never a good idea in the long term because reactionary elements tend to die out leaving you alone as a flag bearer of outdated ideas.

MidAmerican Energy Plans $900 Million Wind Expansion in Iowa—That is almost a billion dollars and the news kind of flew under the radar. Including this investment MidAmerican Energy will have nearly 4,000 megawatts of wind power in Iowa with a total investment of almost $7 billion dollars. When the projects are completed the utility may be able to serve 57 percent of its total retail load with wind.

100% Renewable Electricity Goal Passed By Hawaiian Legislature—Hawaii should be 100% renewable considering the prices ratepayers are paying, the danger of bringing in fuel on tankers, and the state’s abundant renewable resource potential. Maybe politicians have finally listened.

95% Renewable Power-Mix Cheaper Than Nuclear And Gas—In a nutshell, at current costs with a decent share of renewables deployed the cost to deploy a nearly 100% renewable grid will cost nothing more to the consumer. The clean power revolution is already at the tipping point. We just need to apply some more pressure and leverage.

The New Normal? Renewables, Efficiency, And “Too Much Electricity”—Overgen might be something we need to get used to in the future and it speaks to the need for energy storage. Widely deployed energy storage, be it in the form of EVs or wall mounted batteries, can serve to level out the disparity between generation and demand of electricity.

Refrigeration Battery is a Cool Idea for Saving Energy at the Supermarket—I remember these ice systems being the rage a few years ago and I remember seeing one in action at New Belgium Brewery’s facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. Now, as time of day pricing becomes more prevalent these systems may start to proliferate.

Western Towns Hard-Hit by Climate Change Unite, Target Coal for Funds—There is a movement afoot at the grass roots level to adapt to the threat of climate change. National politicians will not see it because they are beholden to small number of primary voters and big ticket donors, but when reliably conservative western towns start making a ruckus they will have lost the war.

Hundreds of Lapsed Permits Found on Forest Service Land—Basically, private companies are not paying for what they are taking from the public trust. Criminals.

Bill Would Roll Back Public Lands Protections In The Name Of National Security—When will the insanity of the border protection industrial complex stop? Building more walls and radio towers and roads will not stop people trying to flee truly horrible situations in their own countries. Maybe if we put some of those resources into trying to make these countries better places there would not be such an exodus. Just saying.

Central Valley’s Growing Concern: Crops Raised with Oil Field Water—Would you like some heavy metals and other chemicals with your salad mix? Didn’t think so.

EPA Faces Struggle to Regulate Formaldehyde—Can’t we all just agree that formaldehyde is nasty stuff. People who lived in FEMA trailers know this. People who bought cheap laminate flooring from China at Lumber Liquidators know this. And kids in biology class know this.

The World’s First Self-Driving Semi-Truck Hits the Road—Imagine the increased efficiency of trucks that could drive at non-peak hours in a very consistent manner safely. Awesome. It would also be awesome if this technology were in consumer cars and I could just zone out during the stretch of interstate from North Platte, Nebraska until Denver. I-76 must die.

UPS to Experiment with Renewable Biogas in 400 Vehicles—Some places call it “poo” gas, but biogas derived from rotting organic material can be a drop in replacement from gas from fossil fuel sources. You can actually tap the landfill. How cool is that?

Big Wind Announcement

Yesterday, the state of Iowa and MidAmerican Energy announced plans to invest almost $2 billion—yes, billion with a b—in wind power.

The investment represents 1,050 megawatts of generating capacity across 656 wind turbines.  This will be a 50% increase in the number of wind turbines that the company has deployed in the state of Iowa.

Furthermore, it will represent a nearly 20% increase in the rated generating capacity of wind power in the state.  At the end of 2012, according to the Iowa Wind Energy Association, the state had 5,137 megawatts of installed generating capacity.  In practice, this has worked out to about 25% of the state’s total power need.  With the new investment by MidAmerican, the share of wind power will grow to approximately 30% of the state’s total power need.  Hell yeah!

If my simple “back of a napkin” math is correct, the state of Iowa would need approximately 20,000 megawatts of wind power to be completely renewable.  With one quarter of that already deployed and MidAmerican’s plans in the pipe, the state would need to deploy approximately 14,000 megawatts of wind power to reach a goal of “100% wind powered.”  At approximately $2 billion per 1,000 megawatts—using the recently announced plans by MidAmerican—it would require an investment of $28 billion dollars.  While that sounds like a lot of money—and it is—think of what it represents: an entire U.S. state would be powered by the wind.  Ecotopia here I come!

But wait, according to the American Wind Energy Association fact sheet for the state of Iowa there were over 10,000 megawatts of projects “in cue” at the end of the third quarter of 2012.  I do not know what “in cue” really means, but totaling up installed capacity with that under construction and “in cue” gets to a total of more than 15,000 megawatts of installed capacity in the future.  This would represent approximately 75% of the state’s total power need.

I recognize that there is a heavy element of boosterism in these fact sheets and announcements, but nothing seems out of the realm of the possible.  This is an industry that is using mature technology and exploiting an existing industrial base to deploy a product into a market with a stable demand.

Beyond the direct economic impact of siting turbines, many of the components for wind turbines are built in the state of Iowa.  If MidAmerican’s trends hold true the turbines are likely to come from either GE or Siemens.  Both of these companies have tower manufacturing in state and Siemens has a plant that produces blades in state.  I look forward to seeing these components rolling down I-80 on flatbeds!

The surprising thing from the announcement yesterday was that the deployment of wind power will actually stabilize long term rates for MidAmerican customers.  Generally, these statements have spoken about the green aspects of deploying wind power and not the ability of renewables to create a more resilient future.  So, wind power creates a more stable future and is cost competitive with traditional fossil fuel sources?  Can I find a few more billion?

Most of the news that we read about the environment seems pretty negative lately, but this is good news.