Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Traditional Energy Resources’ Category

Colorado: A Leader in Cleantech

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Good stuff. Thanks Eric.

Renewable Energy World

 

 

 

Move Over Silicon Valley: Cleantech Companies Are Finding Their Home on the Range

Eric Drummond, Partner, Husch Blackwell LLP

February 11, 2014

Most people in the cleantech community recognize that Santa Clara Valley is a unique and beautiful place with world-class universities, piles of venture capital and an entrepreneurial history second to none, but recent trends indicate that cleantech companies are beginning to consider a new home base on Colorado’s Front Range.

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So, what makes Colorado’s Front Range so unique and attractive? Many say that it’s a combination of a highly skilled workforce, and nationally competitive federal research centers and research universities, like the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab. Located 20 minutes west of Denver, NREL is the only federal research lab specifically dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. In addition, it employs more than 1600 full-time employees and works with nearly 750 visiting researchers, interns and contractors from across the globe.

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Another Colorado asset is the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, a 501c3 non-profit corporation formed to accelerate the success of high-impact scientific and technology start-up companies. Most agree that it is essential for cutting-edge technology companies to have the right kind of business support to commercialize their technology and take that technology to scale, and that’s where the Innosphere comes in. The Innosphere is a unique institution that provides entrepreneurial start-up companies with resources such as specialized test and demonstration facilities at NREL, the Colorado State University Powerhouse and in a 30,000-square-foot LEED Platinum certified building with state-of-the-art wet lab  facilities, assistance with raising capital, access and connections with academic and leading government institutions, a network of experienced advisors, and professional and business development networking opportunities.

Read the entire article here.

Microgrids and Utilities: Will they innovate?

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Will microgrids play a major part in the future of energy, as this article contends? If so, will utilities innovate to take advantage of the flexibilty and other advantages microgrids offer?

Many pieces will need to fall in to place, and there will need to be a microgrids starting point.

Digital Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Feb. 14, 2014

The emergence of Microgrids for power generation could threaten the dominance of the age-old power distribution system in the U.S. Microgrids have evolved from simple power backup systems to small smart grids. The swift and cost effective installation of Micro grids could help distribute electricity among the masses. These rooftop solar systems meet the energy needs of the customers. In addition, the customers are allowed to sell excess power back to the utilities.

A report from American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that utilities need to spend $763 billion by 2040 to properly modernize and harden the existing grids against natural disasters. We believe that rather than going for a very costly maintenance, it will be economical to develop these Microgrids, which could lend support to the existing system.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1738880#ixzz2tpsdqryO

 

Read the entire article here.

Some Pros and Cons of Microgrids

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It’s a little surprising to me that the state of Connecticut is investing in microgrids, though I am happy to see it! I just heard that we lose 1% of GDP annually due to power outages, and not just major outages like those in Connecticut after Hurricane Sandy or in New Orleans after Katrina. Little bumps in power that happen day-to-day, even in grids as robust as in the urban U.S., are very costly to manufacturing, data centers, and other businesses.

Microgrids are able to stand alone in supplying power to a community, business or university campus, military base, island, hospital, etc. Often they are still tied into the grid, but want the back up supply in the case of a power interruption, whether momentary or lasting several days.

The most interest right now comes from islands that would like to add renewables to their grids, saving money over costly diesel generation, while also decreasing air pollution and GHG emissions. The US military is another early adopter, both at domestic bases so that they can operate in the case of an attack or a natural disaster, and at bases abroad where bringing in fuel costs money as well as way too many American lives. Convoys carrying fuel, food, and other supplies are common targets for attack.

The four main advantages for microgrids that I see, is that when they are designed and located properly, they are more reliable, less expensive, cleaner, and more receptive to innovation than current, traditional electricity grids, whether large or small.

A huge challenge for integrating newer energy resources is that our current grid infrastructure is so big that we simply cannot change it, both due to technical difficulties and because of the cost of changing out such large systems. In addition to being smaller, microgrids are designed to integrate multiple sources of energy. With the number of emerging technologies in energy today, this adaptability is yet another huge benefit of microgrids.

Forbes

 

 

 

 

 

David Ferris, Contributor

7/31/2013 @ 8:30AM |3,734 views

Microgrids: Very Expensive, Seriously Necessary

The state of Connecticut announced last week that it would build nine “microgrids” to deliver more reliable power, including at the police station in Bridgeport, the naval submarine base in Groton, the St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, and the campus of Wesleyan University. The cost to taxpayers: $18 million.

Some readers might say: $18 million? For, what, some backup generators? And what is a microgrid anyway?

It is no coincidence that Connecticut is pushing the envelope of power innovation. Last October, Hurricane Sandy knocked power out to 625,000 homes and businesses, revealing how inadequate the the power system is in the face of superstorms.  “Today marks another step forward for how we handle extreme weather,” said Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.

Read the entire article here.

Amory Lovins’ Three Energy Trends to Watch

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Energy efficiency tops Lovins’ list of energy trends to watch, particularly automobile efficiency, which is excellent news. Efficiency is sometimes overlooked because it’s not as sexy as new energy technologies, but in my mind it’s the most important aspect of our energy future. Saving energy means saving money, which should make it an easy sell, as well as resources. Even if we increase renewable energy, those technologies still require resources in one form or another, so decreasing energy use is a more effective way to ensure the availability of essential resources for future generations.

His claim that the steepest increases in efficiency will be in automobiles is especially encouraging due to the resulting decrease in imported petroleum. There is often an odd connection made between renewables such as wind and solar, or even domestic natural gas, and decreased petroleum imports, but this is a fallacy. We use petroleum for less than 1% of our electricity generation (Yergin, 2012). The only ways to decrease petroleum imports are to decrease vehicle miles driven, increase vehicle efficiency, or power automobiles with something other than petroleum, a trend that is increasing, but so far still negligible.

His third point, on increasing distributed energy, is also important, and one I’ve written about before on this site. Moving away from large, centralized power plants to smaller units in neighborhoods, at large office parks, and other locations, provides two big benefits, among others. First, it can greatly increase efficiency as electricity travels far shorter distances, spending less time in transmission lines, meaning more of it arrives where it’s used, as opposed to dissipating in those lines. Smaller plants can also adapt much more quickly to changing energy technologies. Centralized plants that are 50 years old are difficult to modify, and too expensive to scrap to accommodate more renewables or different electricity feedstocks.

Amory-4

 

Though Lovins’ hardline conservationist stance is sometimes controversial, from his “Soft Energy Paths” in 1976, through his work with Rocky Mountain Institute, right up to today and this recent article, he’s been an important voice in the energy conversation.

 

Amory’s Angle: Three Major Energy Trends to Watch

By Amory B. Lovins

Popular media and political chatter are abuzz with a cacophony of energy news and opinion. Amid the chaos, some orderly strands can be discerned. Here are three themes that merit attention:

EFFICIENCY IS ACCELERATING

Government forecasts predict U.S. energy intensity (primary energy used per dollar of real GDP) will continue to decline roughly two percent annually through 2040, but that the drop will be steepest in automobiles.

Read the entire article here.

New Study Finds that Fracking is Safe

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I agree wholeheartedly that it is entirely possible to conduct fracking safely, but also think the scientist from Duke makes a very important point:

‘This is good news,” said Duke University scientist Rob Jackson, who was not involved with the study. He called it a “useful and important approach” to monitoring fracking, but cautioned that the single study doesn’t prove that fracking can’t pollute, since geology and industry practices vary widely in Pennsylvania and across the nation.’

There’s no doubt that hydraulic fracturing can be and generally is done without harming water supplies. The problem is that, as we continue to demand the lowest possible prices for electricity, there is considerable incentive for some, less scrupulous companies to cut corners in their safety and compliance efforts. I am not a proponent of larger government that stifles the free market, but believe there is a place for simple, transparent regulation that ensures future generations have clean water, air, and other natural resources. Citizens must also remain vigilant to keep companies honest, and an effective media is also essential to provide accurate, objective information to keep everyone honest.

Study finds fracking chemicals didn’t pollute water: AP

July 19, 2013, 5:41 AM

A Consol Energy Horizontal Gas Drilling Rig explores the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, Pa. in April 2012

A Consol Energy Horizontal Gas Drilling Rig explores the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, Pa. in April 2012.

 

PITTSBURGH A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.

After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.

Read the entire article here.

Fracking in Colorado

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Ugh, this is such a tough issue.

On one hand, there are substantial benefits from the oil and gas brought out by this process, as well as the jobs and revenues that come with them. On the other, we need the long term vision that will protect human and environmental health and the discipline to ensure both of them.

Particularly in places like Weld County, which is Colorado’s biggest agricultural producer and home to many proposed and existing fracking sites, we see the tangible positives and negatives of fracking, and are hearing from citizens who fall on both the pro- and anti-fracking sides of the debate. In agricultural communities the health of soil and water is important not just for the immediate implications to human health, but also for the long term implications for the health and safety of the food we grow, and the livelihoods of the people who depend on selling that food.

I’ve said on this site before that it is the job of government to internalize the externalities, to create a regulatory framework that ensures industry activities do not have negative impacts on the communities where they operate. This framework must include proactive measures motivating companies to guard against problems, as well as reactive measures that force organizations to pay those external costs of clean up and damages if there are  problems.

The important issue raised in the article below is that companies have worked to avoid making the payments even when they are found to be at fault, causing local citizens to question the statewide framework and seek to implement policies on local levels.

The upsides are that Colorado citizens are learning the details of these issues, making our voices heard from different perspectives, and forcing government and corporations to listen and take action. Keep at it, y’all.

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

Denver metro cities digging in before oil and gas drills do

COMMERCE CITY — Even in this bastion of industry that hosts a refinery, residents are imploring their elected leaders to protect them from oil and gas drilling planned within city limits.

“This is where we live, where we made our investments of our lives. It’s not about money,” Kristi Douglas said Thursday during a working-group forum, the latest of dozens of city and county meetings in Front Range communities.

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Colorado’s State Land Board hit the brakes on a controversial metro-Denver drilling project after learning that ConocoPhillips is embroiled in a lawsuit for failing to pay the state $152 million for cleanup of leaky underground gas tanks.

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“The state has the experience and the infrastructure to effectively and responsibly regulate oil and gas development,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said. “A healthy industry is important to our state’s economy, and a mosaic of regulatory approaches across cities and counties is not conducive to clear and predictable rules that mark efficient and effective government.”

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But the board delayed a decision after it learned another state agency is suing Conoco in a dispute over past cleanups of contamination at 354 sites of leaking underground gas tanks.
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“We need to get the state General Assembly involved. We need to get some things, like setbacks, addressed,” Benson said. “Yes, we welcome industry here. But you’ve got to protect the health and safety of your people.”
Read the complete article here.

Efficiency, Innovation, Natural Gas are Keys to Energy Security

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Former Presidents Bush and Clinton are walking a fine line, balancing between taking advantage of the cost effective resources we have now, such as oil and gas, and the need to protect our energy security and natural environment for generations to come.

Two former presidents share many energy views

By JENNIFER A. DLOUHY and TOM FOWLER
HOUSTON CHRONICLE

March 12, 2011, 2:28AM

Oil will be essential for fueling the U.S. for decades to come, but low-emission natural gas and improved efficiency will bridge the transition to cleaner alternative fuels, business leaders, two former presidents and energy analysts said Friday.

Former President George W. Bush told a packed ballroom of energy executives at the CERAWeek conference that while the U.S. has a vision of new technologies to power our homes and propel our cars, the nation needs to be prosperous to afford them. And that prosperity, Bush said, is tied to oil and natural gas.

Although they have been political adversaries, Bush and former President Bill Clinton agreed that the U.S. should do more to harness the promise of natural gas, which produces fewer emissions than coal and oil.

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But he cautioned that the nation needs to make sure that the hydraulic fracturing process, used to unlock vast stores of gas in shale formations, doesn’t contaminate drinking water supplies or create an accident that shuts down the industry the way last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill stopped most offshore drilling.

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‘We’ve got to take action’

Big energy consumers said they are scrambling to offset spikes in crude prices and eke out more per barrel by boosting efficiency.

Read the entire article here.

Obama Pursues a Moderate, Pragmatic Approach During Energy Woes

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Of course times are tough. I tend to drive my car until the gas light comes on so I have to fill up less often, but then kick myself for driving so much as I watch the cost climb past $40 a tank. These are minor pains compared to the ones some folks are feeling, but even this light irritation is enough to make me want a fast change to whatever it is we’re doing, or not doing, in terms of making energy more affordable.

Patience is key. Jumping in to more drilling without taking the time to make sure it’s safe and efficient could cause as many problems, and increase total costs, as much as launching scads of new and often inefficient wind or solar projects.

Energy is expensive. Our government has helped it to be artificially cheap since early in the last century. This has lead to great advantages in our country, such as the great access most people in the U.S. have to everyday conveniences such as lights, heat, cars, buses, and airplanes. In most countries these aren’t nearly as accessible to people on, say, the bottom half of the socio-economic strata.

As Obama weathers the criticism from the right that we need to expand our use of fossil fuels, and from the left that more needs to be done to move us to alternative forms of energy, I hope that he and Secretary Chu continue their pragmatic approach, leaving the door open to more fossil fuels so long as they are safe, while also encouraging innovation and investment in alternatives.

More fence sitting, I know, but I believe this middle path is the best one.*

Obama Faces Bipartisan Criticism on Energy Policies

By Jim Angle

Published March 05, 2011

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are questioning the Obama administration's energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy. (AP)

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are questioning the Obama administration’s energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy. (AP)

With energy prices rising in part because of turmoil in the Middle East, lawmakers from both parties are questioning the Obama administration’s energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy.

“I don’t think the president’s position on oil and gas is as strong as it should be,” said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, where the oil industry plays a large role in the local economy. “Oil and gas is an important industry in the United States today and it will be in the next decades.”

Many in the administration emphasize alternative forms of energy and some, including the president, have openly talked of the need for higher prices on oil and coal to make alternatives such as wind and solar more price-competitive.

Read the entire article here.

* I hope my post is fair and balanced. Not like the Fox version, but truly fair and truly balanced.

Petroleum’s Centrality, Volatility, Damage World Economies

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Processes such as innovation and competition are vital to enhancing world economies, but both of these are stifled in the world of petroleum. Either a place has oil, or it doesn’t, so there’s little place for either one.

True, there can be innovation in terms of the technology used to extract oil from hard to reach places such as the tar sands of Alberta or the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. But this is nothing like the innovation that is taking place in the competition to produce technologies that provide domestic, renewable, cost effective energy.

The article below highlights the pitfalls of our economies’ current dependence on an energy resource that is so subject to the swings we saw in 2008, when oil went from over $140 per barrel in August to only $40 in December. Petroleum’s centrality, its concentration in few places, such as North Africa and the Middle East, are further problems that should continue motivating us to find ways to reduce this reliance on a non-renewable resource.

Oil and the economy

The 2011 oil shock

More of a threat to the world economy than investors seem to think

Mar 3rd 2011 | From The Economist print edition

THE price of oil has had an unnerving ability to blow up the world economy, and the Middle East has often provided the spark. The Arab oil embargo of 1973, the Iranian revolution in 1978-79 and Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 are all painful reminders of how the region’s combustible mix of geopolitics and geology can wreak havoc. With protests cascading across Arabia, is the world in for another oil shock?

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Even without a disruption to supply, prices are under pressure from a second source: the gradual dwindling of spare capacity. With the world economy growing strongly, oil demand is far outpacing increases in readily available supply. So any jitters from the Middle East will accelerate and exaggerate a price rise that was already on the way.

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By contrast, the biggest risk in the emerging world is inaction. Dearer oil will stoke inflation, especially through higher food prices—and food still accounts for a large part of people’s spending in countries like China, Brazil and India. True, central banks have been raising interest rates, but they have tended to be tardy. Monetary conditions are still too loose, and inflation expectations have risen.

Read the entire article here.

A Gradual Shift to Renewable Energy is the Best Path

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Lomborg is hitting the nail on the head in this article, as is Gürcan Gülen, the very intelligent researcher with a hilarious name.

Most renewable energy technologies are more expensive and less efficient than traditional fossil fuels. Attempting to roll out vast amounts of solar and wind power before they are competitive will increase costs to users, which will hurt our economy.

In the final paragraph he also makes a point that should have come much earlier: the best way to increase jobs and make these renewable technologies competitive is to invest in research and development.

Clean, domestic, renewable energy is the goal towards which we should strive, but jumping in with both feet before that technology is ready would be foolish. Those early adopters are helping to make these resources and technologies for affordable for all, so they should be applauded. But they are the people and the firms such as Google that can afford to make these investments even if they are not entirely economically efficient. Forcing everyday people across the country in to those forms of energy will cost taxpayer dollars and will increase utility bills. These are not good for America.

Patience and prudence are essential as we strive towards this important goal.

Green Smoke Screen

Supporters of “green energy” like to say it will create more jobs. They’re wrong.

By Bjørn LomborgPosted Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011, at 6:46 AM ET

Phil Tussing installing  Phil Tussing installs photovoltaic solar panels. Click image to epxand.Political rhetoric has shifted away from the need to respond to the “generational challenge” of climate change. Investment in alternative energy technologies like solar and wind is no longer peddled on environmental grounds. Instead, we are being told of the purported economic payoffs—above all, the promise of so-called “green jobs.” Unfortunately, that does not measure up to economic reality.

The Copenhagen Consensus Center asked Gürcan Gülen, a senior energy economist at the Bureau for Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, to assess the state of the science in defining, measuring, and predicting the creation of green jobs. Gülen concluded that job creation “cannot be defended as another benefit” of well-meaning green policies. In fact, the number of jobs that these policies create is likely to be offset—or worse—by the number of jobs that they destroy.

Read the entire article here.