Unlike Diamonds, Fossil Fuels Are Not Forever

what happens when fossil fuels run outPlymouth Rock Energy has released an interesting graphic with the theme, “unlike diamonds, fossil fuels are not forever”. The infographic describes the acceleration of fossil fuels consumption and its ultimate depletion as a viable energy resource. It further states the potentially catastrophic outcomes for contemporary society while, at the same time, offers optimism for charting a new energy conservation course.

What is interesting about Plymouth Rock Energy, is that the company was founded nearly 60 years ago to supply electricity from coal and natural gas. Yet the company’s infographic cites peak fossil fuel production sometime between 2010 and 2020. The company cites experts who suggest that the world will see soaring gas prices due to shortages, a decline in global development and environmental destruction if business continues without chaBuilding a Better Roadnge.

The graphic provides some “better way” solutions including energy conservation through the development of alternative fuel sources and the reduction of carbon dioxide pollution curbing what they term “man-made global warming”.

Plymouth Rock Energy says they believe that utilizing sustainable resources such as natural gas, hydropower, wind, and solar energy production can provide long term solutions. Adding to energy conservation efforts are the use of ethanol fuel blends, readily available natural gas deposits, electricity, and hydrogen fuel cells.

Voith Hydro Completes Fish Friendly Facility

Voith Hydro has completed its PPL Generation expansion project of the Holtwood Hydroelectric facility on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. The company supplied the turbines, VOITH HYDRO KAPLAN TURBINEgenerators, and automation components for the project, which more than doubled the century-old plant’s electricity generating capacity. The $440 million expansion will provide power to approximately 100,000 households, and has been noted for its environmental enhancements, including improving both upstream and downstream fish passage.

“Holtwood is a terrific example of how hydropower development can not only provide jobs and clean energy, but improve the environment and surrounding habitats at locks and dams that have existed for decades,” said Voith Hydro President and CEO Kevin Frank. “We are proud to have provided the fish-friendly turbines, generators, and automation equipment for this historic expansion of an iconic hydroelectric facility.”

Victor Lopiano, senior vice president of Fossil & Hydro Generation for PPL, noted, “This project, one of the largest expansions of its kind in the U.S., represents a major investment in clean, reliable, renewable energy. This project highlights the potential to upgrade existing hydroelectric facilities and expand capacity without the need to build new dams.”

The new hydro powerhouse was built on the site of a previously retired coal-fired power plant. In addition to the increased capacity, PPL worked with local, state, and federal stakeholders to improve migratory fish passage, including numerous enhancements to the facility’s fish lift system. The state-of-the-art Kaplan turbines that Voith supplied for Holtwood will enhance downstream fish passage as well.

“From the electricity users who will benefit from an increase in clean energy, to the workers who built the powerhouse and the turbines, to the surrounding environment and habitats, the benefits of expanding facilities like Holtwood are immense,” Frank added. “Voith looks forward to its continued leadership in hydropower innovation.”

Ohioans Support Clean Energy

Ohio is voting “yes” for clean energy according to a new poll conducted by Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future. The survey found that Ohioans support the Ohio Jobs Initiative, the Ohio Clean Energy Initiative by a margin of 35 percent (64 percent likely to vote in favor versus 29 percent unlikely). The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), who found during the survey that 55 percent of respondents were not aware of the Jobs Initiative. The proposed policy needs 385,247 signatures by July 4, 2014 to be on the November 2014 ballot to enable Ohioans to vote on the bill.

According to Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future, who backs the initiative, the Jobs Initiative enacts an amendment that would provide $1.3 billion a year for 10 years from state general obligation bond funding in a comprehensive array of areas, including clean energy YES FOR OHIO'S ENERGY FUTURE CLEAN ENERGYindustries and energy-related public infrastructure projects in the areas of solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, smart grid, along with other technologies. Funding includes research and development, academic and educational development as well as vocational training support.

Beginning in January 2014, the Ohio Energy Initiative Commission (OEIC) will begin accepting a limited number of early project proposals as part of the Fast Start Program; however, funding is limited to one quarter of the annual budget. Early project proposals may be placed on a prioritized list for funding, which is contingent on passage of the Initiative. Eligible categories of applicants include individuals, companies, non-profits, municipalities, and state agencies.

Project proposals for funding will be reviewed by independent reviewers at the OEIC through a simple open, transparent, and publicly-published process that evaluates the technical, economic, financial and environmental merits of each proposal.

Yes for Ohio’s Clean Energy future says the Ohio Clean Energy Initiative mirrors the enormously successful bi-partisan jobs initiative, Ohio Third Frontier, which began in 2002 under Republican Governor Bob Taft and continued under Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. The program is credited with producing 55,000 jobs at an average salary of $65,000 per year and at an overall Return on Investment of 9:1.

DOE Announces $150M in Clean Energy Tax Credits

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $150 million in clean energy tax credits to build U.S. capabilities in clean energy manufacturing. The credits will go towards investments in domestic manufacturing equipment by 12 businesses. Through the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit program (48C Program), DOE says these awards will help create thousands of jobs across the country and increase U.S. competitiveness in the global clean energy market.

DOE Energy Secretary Ernest MonizU.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz announced the 48C Program awards during the Energy Department’s American Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Summit, jointly sponsored by the Council on Competitiveness. As part of the Department’s broader Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, this summit brings together industry, government, academia and the Department’s national laboratories to address national challenges in manufacturing and energy.

“Cost-effective, efficient manufacturing plays a critical role in continuing U.S. leadership in clean energy innovation, and the tax credits announced today will help reduce carbon pollution from our vehicles and buildings; create new jobs and supply more clean energy projects in the United States and abroad with equipment made in America,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The Departments of Energy and the Treasury worked in partnership to develop, launch, and award the funds for this program. The Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit authorized Treasury to provide developers with an investment tax credit of 30 percent for the manufacture of particular types of energy equipment. Funded at $2.3 billion, the tax credit was made available to 183 domestic clean energy manufacturing facilities during Phase I of the program. Today’s awards, or Phase II, were launched to utilize $150 million in tax credits that were not used by the previous awardees and support projects that must be placed in service by 2017.

Today’s awards include domestic manufacturing of a wide range of renewable energy and energy efficiency products – from hydropower and wind energy to smart grid technologies to fuel efficient vehicles – and will support thousands of new manufacturing jobs in nine states and dozens of supply chains throughout the United States.

Hydro-PV Hybrid Project in China Connects to Grid

What is believed to be the world’s largest hydro and PV hybrid project has been connected to the grid and is now supplying power from the Longyangxia Dam in Qinghai Province, China. Yingli Green Energy Holding Company, who supplied 15 MW YGE series photovoltaic (PV) modules for the project congratulated the project team for its successful efforts.

Longyangxia DamWith a total capacity of 320 MW, the project began construction in March 2013 and started grid connection and commissioning last week. During its 25 years lifetime, the hyrdo-solar project is expected to deliver 498 million kWh of electricity per year to the grid.

“We feel delighted about the successful grid connection of world’s largest hydro and PV hybrid project,” said Liansheng Miao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Yingli Green Energy. “In addition to this hydro and PV hybrid project, the company has also been acting proactively in integrating PV with architecture, agricultural, and other fields. For example, the Power Valley International Hotel – world’s first five star hotel with BIPV application applied our curtain wall Series PV modules, integrating solar power generation into the overall design and making the building more environmental friendly.”

Miao added, “The Company also focuses on the innovative applications of PV modules with traditional agriculture, promoting the development of eco-agriculture. Besides, we installed more than 20 MW PV modules on our factories, parking lots, and other facilities, which will provide approximate 23 million kWh solar electricity per year for the company’s production and operation. This will help the company to reduce CO2 emission and increase renewable energy consumption.”

PPL Doubles Capacity of Hydroelectric Facility

PPL Holtwood has announced completion of a new, 125-megawatt powerhouse at its Holtwood hydroelectric facility along the Susquehanna River in south-central Pennsylvania. The powerhouse is part of a $440 million expansion project to boost the plant’s generating capacity and improve fish passage over the century-old dam. The integrated improvements to the fish lifts and water flows are expected to better attract fish into the lifts and ease their migration along the Susquehanna River and its tributaries.

The new powerhouse sits adjacent to the century-old powerhouse and more than doubles the plant’s generating capacity from about 108 megawatts to more than 230 megawatts. The additional capacity is enough to power about 100,000 homes.

PPL GENERATION HOLTWOOD PLANT NEW POWERHOUSE“This project, one of the largest expansions of its kind in the U.S., represents a major investment in clean, reliable, renewable energy,” said Victor Lopiano, senior vice president of Fossil & Hydro Generation for PPL. “I thank everyone who was involved in design and construction of the new powerhouse. This project highlights the potential to upgrade existing hydroelectric facilities and expand capacity without the need to build new dams. The new facility’s two 62.5-megawatt turbines are capable of generating more electricity than the 12 existing turbines, combined.”

Lopiano said the hydroelectric expansion further strengthens the diversity of PPL’s competitive generation fleet within the mid-Atlantic. The fleet includes hydroelectric power, nuclear power, natural gas and coal-fired power plants, along with other forms of renewable energy.

U.S. Electricity Mix is Changing

According to the most recent Today in Energy published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the mix of fuels used to generate the electricity in homes, factories and businesses across the U.S. has changed over the past few years. While coal remains in the lead, with all the grassroots efforts around ending coal use and as a result the decommissioning of coal plants across the country, the fossil fuel has lost share to other players including natural gas and non-hydroelectric renewables such as wind and solar.

Regional Electricity Use mapThe report show that the generation mix is not uniform across the country and varies significantly by region (EIA has divided the country into seven regions) depending on available resources and regional market prices. There are several factors that affect fuel mix in any given month including the region’s capacity, the delivered costs of fuels and system constraints.

Natural gas has gained market share from coal in much of the country, find the report, but this is less true in markets closer to the cheaper Powder River Basin coal in the West. Renewable sources are generally growing, especially in Texas and the West. Petroleum-fired electricity generation has been declining for several decades, but it can continue play an important role at rare times when other alternatives are not available.

EIA is planning on publishing a series of articles focused on each region and its electricity generation mix over the coming weeks.

Energy Entrepreneurs Present Ideas in Africa

West African entrepreneurs and companies presented 10 clean energy projects totaling over USD $8Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 9.20.36 AM0 million to invest in Accra during the West Africa Forum for Clean Energy Financing (WAFCEF). The projects ranged from biofuels to solar, to biomass and hydropower. More than 100 financiers, clean energy experts and representatives of financial institutions from Africa and around the world took place in the event.

WAFCEF was the final stage of a business plan competition launched in March 2013 by the Climate Technology Initiative Private Financing Advisory Network (CTI-PFAN) and the Ecowas Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), in partnership with the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) and other regional partners.

According to Joao Duarte Cunha, Coordinator of SEFA, “This initiative united like-minded partners interested in harnessing the entrepreneurial talent of the region to promote economic progress by using West Africa’s vast clean energy resources. WAFCEF really connected all the dots – entrepreneurs, ideas, advisory support and financing – and provided a platform for the often neglected smaller clean energy projects to succeed.”

The contest entailed the presentations of 10 qualified project sponsors who presented their business plans to potential investors and made a pitch for financing. The goal was to identify the most promising business ideas and unlock renewable energy and energy efficiency investment in West Africa. The 10 projects had been selected from over 70 submissions from across the ECOWAS region for their economic viability and environmental benefits. Before being presented at the Forum, each of them had received intensive mentoring from professional consultants.

SME Funds‘ Bioethanol Scale-Up Project from Nigeria was picked as the winner of the WAFCEF 2013 business plan competition. The $28 million Investment in the first round will go towards scaling up their renewable ethanol cooking gel production and clean cookstove manufacturing. Already over 1 million liters of cooking gel has been produced locally using 2G Cellulosic Bio-Ethanol technology from wastes such as water hyacinth and sawdust from Lagos saw mills. SMEFunds has already recruited over 15,000 Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 9.19.04 AMentrepreneurs through its Carbon Credit Network and helped them start green businesses that sell the cooking gel and stoves across Nigeria and West Africa.

“People are hungry for good alternatives to kerosene and other unsafe, dirty cooking fuels,” said SMEFunds Co-founder and CEO Femi Oye. “We started with the simple belief that cooking shouldn’t kill. Why should our women cook with tears?”

SMEFunds plans to reach over 10 million households across West Africa with clean cooking and renewable energy technologies.

Report: Renewable Energy Gains Market Share

Renewable energy sources, particularly solar, wind, and biofuels, continue to make gains when it comes to the share of energy produced and used in this country. According to SUN DAY Campaign, a non-profit research and educational organization, the latest numbers from U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows through the first half of this year, renewable energy made up 10 percent of U.S. energy consumption, 12 percent of domestic production and 14 percent of net electrical generation.

eiaCompared to the same time frame in 2012, overall renewable energy production, including conventional hydropower, was 2.00% higher while production from non-hydro renewables grew by 4.13%. Specifically, solar grew by 32.46% in 2013, wind by 20.14%, geothermal by 0.89%, and biomass by 0.42%. Hydropower slipped by 2.59% and biofuels by 5.92%.

Among the renewable energy sources, hydropower’s share during the first half of 2013 was 30.18%, biomass 25.26%, biofuels 20.18%, wind 18.80%, solar 3.19%, and geothermal 2.39%.

Production from all renewable energy sources, including conventional hydropower, is about 60% higher in 2013 than it was in 2003 while production from non-hydro renewable energy sources has more than doubled.

Over the past decade, domestic energy production from wind has increased by a factor of nearly 16 while output from both biofuels and solar is now about five times higher than in 2003. Geothermal has also grown – by about 30% – while biomass and hydropower have remained largely unchanged.

Domestic renewable energy production is outpacing both fossil fuels (11 percent) and nuclear (about 1 percent). Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, says renewables are the real growth industries in the energy market over the past decade.

“If recent trends continue, they will eventually eclipse both fossil fuels and nuclear power.”

Renewables Top 14% of Electrical Generation

According to the latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) “Electric Power Monthly” renewable energy sources provided 14.20 percent of the country’s net electric generation during the first half of the year (through June 30, 2013). During the same period in 2012, renewables accounted for 13.57 percent of net electrical generation.

iStock_000019619550XSmallIn addition, the report found that non-hydro renewables have more than tripled their output during the past decade. They now account for almost the same share of electrical generation (6.71%) as does conventional hydropower (7.49%). Ten years ago (i.e., calendar year 2003), non-hydro renewables provided only 2.05% of net U.S. electrical generation.

Comparing the first six months of 2013 to the same period in 2012, solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) combined have grown 94.4 percent while wind increased 20.1 percent and geothermal grew by 1.0 percent. Biomass declined by 0.5 percent while hydropower dropped by 2.6 percent. Among the non-hydro renewabes, wind is in the lead, accounting for 4.67 percent of net electrical generation, followed by biomass (1.42%), geothermal (0.43%), and solar (0.19%).

The balance of the nation’s electrical generation mix for the first half of 2013 consisted of coal (39.00% – up by 10.3%), natural gas and other gas (26.46% – down by 13.6%), nuclear power (19.48% – up by 0.2%), and petroleum liquids + coke (0.66% – up by 15.6%). The balance (0.21%) was from other sources and pumped hydro storage.

“Every year for the past decade, non-hydro renewables have increased both their net electrical output as well as their percentage share of the nation’s electricity mix,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Moreover, the annual rate of growth for solar and wind continues in the double digits, setting new records each year.”

Obama Signs Legislation to Expand Hydropower

relaunch_dam Photo Voith HydroPresident Obama has signed into law the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act. The hydropower legislation is designed to expand hydropower production in the U.S. by improving and streamlining the licensing process.

“President Obama’s signature on hydropower legislation is terrific news for expanding renewable energy and creating jobs across the country,” said Voith Hydro President and CEO Kevin Frank in response to the signing. “There’s no better indication that hydropower is at the center of the national policy debate than the widespread and bipartisan support these bills received in both the House and Senate. We wouldn’t have gotten to this point without the outstanding leadership of Chairman Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Murkowski (R-AK) in the Senate and Representatives McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) in the House.”

The Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act will improve the permitting process for small and conduit hydropower projects on Bureau of Reclamation facilities. The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act will:

  • Increase the small hydro exemption to 10 MW (currently at 5MW);
  • Remove conduit projects under 5 MW from FERC jurisdiction and increase the conduit exemption to 40 MW for all projects;
  • Provide FERC the ability to extend preliminary permits; and
  • Require FERC to examine a 2-year licensing process for non-powered dams and closed loop pump storage.

The bill signing comes on the heels of last month’s HydroVision International, where more than 3,000 people associated with the global hydropower industry gathered in Denver, Colorado and discussed challenges and opportunities for hydropower around the world.

“The passage of this legislation is a first but very important step in getting more clean, renewable, and job-creating hydropower to homes and businesses across the U.S.,” Frank continued. “We thank President Obama for his support for America’s largest renewable resource.”

Wind & Solar to Growth Significantly

According to a recent report by Worldwatch Institute, global use of solar and wind energy continued to grow significantly in 2012. Solar power consumption increased by 58 percent, to 93 terrawatt-hours (TWh), and the use of wind power increased by 18 percent, Ringgenbach-Solar-Farm-Rigeenbach-Germanyto 521 TWh. Although hydropower remains the world’s leading renewable energy, solar and wind continue to dominate investment in new renewable capacity and are quickly becoming the highest-profile renewable energy sources.

The report found that global solar and wind energy capacities continued to grow even though new investments in these energy sources declined during 2012. Global investment in solar energy in 2012 was $140.4 billion, an 11 percent decline from 2011, and wind investment was down 10 percent, to $80.3 billion. But due to lower costs for both technologies, total installed capacities grew sharply.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity grew by 41 percent in 2012, reaching 100 gigawatts (GW). Over the past five years alone, installed PV capacity grew by 900 percent from 10 GW in 2007. The countries with the most installed PV capacity today are Germany (32.4 GW), Italy (16.4 GW), the United States (7.2 GW), and China (7.0 GW).

Europe remains dominant in solar, accounting for 76 percent of global solar power use in 2012. Germany alone accounted for 30 percent of the world’s solar power consumption, and Italy added the third most capacity of any country in 2012 (3.4 GW). Spain added the most concentrating solar thermal power capacity (950 MW) in 2012 as well. However, Italy reached the subsidy cap for its feed-in tariff (FIT) program in June 2013 while Spain recently made a retroactive change in its FIT policies, meaning growth in solar energy will likely slow in these countries in the near future. Continue reading

Obama Launches Power for Africa Initiative

President Obama made his first official trip to Africa last week and while there announced his Power Africa initiative, an effort to bring reliable, safe and affordable energy to the country. One Sunrise, Florida-based company has already been working to provide Africans innovative energy solutions: SKYei – formerly SKY Energy International.

Ethiopia4The company has recently completely a U.S. $5 million solar panel manufacturing facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At full manufacturing capacity, the assembly plant, a collaboration with a local government-owned company, will ramp up to three shifts turning out panels capable of generating 20 megawatts annually. SKYei is also developing hydropower and is in the early stages of a U.S. $300 million project in Tanzania. The project is expected to provide a significant source of electricity for the region.

Doing business in Africa is challenging, but doable, according to SKYei CEO Roland “Mack” McLean, because all equipment, materials and supplies must also be shipped to the remote regions. “Simply put, Africa is a long way away and it’s just not easy to get there,” he said, noting it can take as long as 51 hours and up to five flights to reach the remote regions where SKYei is working. “That said, the payoff, in terms of ROI [return on investment] for investors, is great and the impact we can have on the lives of the communities where we’re working is even greater.”

Aaron McLean in TanzaniaAaron McLean, SKYei Director of Business Development, is currently on the ground in Tanzania. “Diligence and organization of human resources, both in-country and out, are essential,” he said. “The ability to provide power to regions in dire need far outweighs the challenges we face.”

In addition to a team of engineers and technicians, SKYei also employs a Director of Corporate Giving, Dr. Jerry Huson, to ensure that local residents benefit most from the development, a cornerstone of SKYei’s business philosophy. In addition, the company plans to develop potable water resources for locals living near the Tanzania project.

Hydropower May Cause Unintended Consequences

Findings from scientists from Oregon State University (OSU) conclude that small hydropower projects, supported by various nations and also the Kyoto Protocol to reduce GHG emissions, may cause unintended and potentially significant losses of habitat and River with Nornal Flow Photo-OSUbiodiversity. The findings were reported in the journal Water Resources Research, in work supported by the National Science Foundation.

An underlying assumption that small hydropower systems pose fewer ecological concerns than large dams is not universally valid, scientists said in the report. A five-year study, one of the first of its type, concluded that for certain environmental impacts the cumulative damage caused by small dams is worse than their larger counterparts.

The conclusions were based on studies of the Nu River system in China but the researchers say they are relevant to national energy policies in many nations or regions  including India, Turkey, Latin America, that seek to expand hydroelectric power generation. Hydropower is generally favored over coal in many developing areas because it uses a renewable resource and does not contribute to global warming. Also, the social and environmental problems caused by large dam projects have resulted in a recent trend toward increased construction of small dams.

“The Kyoto Protocol, under Clean Development Mechanism, is funding the construction of some of these small hydroelectric projects, with the goal of creating renewable energy that’s not based on fossil fuels,” said Desiree Tullos, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering.

“The energy may be renewable, but this research raises serious questions about whether or not the overall process is sustainable,” Tullos said. Continue reading

Renewable Energy Roadmap for Central America

According to a new report, The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America,  authored by the Worldwatch Institute, Central America is far from harvesting its enormous renewable energy resources to their fullest potential. The region is a worldwide leader in hydropower and geothermal and is developing wind energy, yet has room to expand.

Renewable Energy in Central America“Central America is at a crossroads,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at Worldwatch and co-author of the study. “As the economies of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama expand, regional use of fossil fuels is growing quickly while the use of traditional fuel wood, primarily for cooking, remains unsustainably high.”

Ochs continued, “These developments come with significant health, societal and economic costs, including rising greenhouse gas emissions and worsening air and water pollution. Central America has the potential to meet 100 percent of its electricity needs with sustainable renewable energy, but the proper policies and measures need to be put in place now.”

The report assesses the status of renewable energy technologies in Central America and analyzes the conditions for their advancement in the future. It identifies important knowledge and information gaps, evaluates key finance and policy barriers, and makes suggestions for how to overcome both. The study serves as a “roadmap of a roadmap,” scoping the improvements needed to facilitate the transition to a sustainable energy system and establishing the necessary methodology and groundwork for comprehensive regional and national energy strategies.

The reports focuses on four “high-impact” areas for transitioning Central America’s energy systems: Continue reading