renewable energy

Utility-scale Solar development faces new challenges in NC

Economical, structural, and of course ideological:

That means that Duke is now paying Strata only wholesale electricity rates – without the subsidy – for power generated by six Strata solar farms that went online this year. “There is zero rate impact for rate payers,” O’Hara said. “And Duke is locking in a price for 15 years.”

As global solar prices went into a free fall and panel efficiency improved, solar farms became cost-competitive with coal-burning power plants and combined-cycle natural gas plants, two of the cheapest sources for generating electricity. The cost inversion, from priciest to cheapest, hasn’t won over all critics of renewables, but it has shifted their focus to new concerns: that solar panels may be toxic, and that solar farms conflict with agriculture.

That's typical of the anti-renewable, climate-change-denying crowd: When your main argument fizzles, you have to scramble to create a new (misleading) approach. But in their zest to find such, they also reveal their hypocrisy. Environmentalists have been pushing for decades for public officials to recognize the added costs associated with fossil fuel use, from ecological to human health issues, but that has fallen on deaf ears. And now that their "It's too costly!" argument no longer works, they want to create dangers from clean power production? Oh, hell no. As to the economics: Those of us who understood the true goals of Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards knew (or hoped) that prices would fall, and with that decline would come a decline in the demand from investors, who would see their profit margins shrink. This wasn't merely part of the plan, it was the plan. And it's working better than we'd imagined. That being said, it appears Duke Energy is doing what all monopolies do, leverage their competition out of the market:

The battle to continue NC's renewable energy success

Progress is a four-letter word to some people:

It’s hard to see what’s not to like about North Carolina’s growing renewable energy industry. It’s clean. It creates jobs. It puts idle farm land to profitable use. It’s part of what must be an urgent, global response to climate change.

Yet there are some in the General Assembly determined to halt and even reverse the state’s booming solar power industry and to lower its prospects as a leader in wind power.

Some ideological positions are simply too absurd to understand. Even in the absence of the millions spent by the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel astroturfers, there will always be a handful of science-fearing individuals tilting at windmills. The industry propaganda just fuels their delusions, and makes it much more likely they'll be able to do actual damage instead of just fuming about it.

Legislative alert: The attack on Solar farms continues

If this bill becomes law, you won't see any more renewable projects being built:

§ 143‑215.127. Setback and landscape buffer requirements.

(a) Setback requirements. – A wind or renewable energy facility shall be sited no nearer than one and one‑half miles from the property line of any adjacent parcels. The one and one‑half mile setback requirement shall not apply to adjacent parcels having common ownership with the facility or the parcel where the facility is situated.

(c) Landscape buffer requirements for solar farms. – A solar farm shall maintain a landscape buffer by installing native landscaping, including trees and shrubs, in a perimeter surrounding the solar farm and any equipment related to that solar farm. The landscape buffer shall provide the greatest degree of screening feasible and shall minimize visual contact with the solar farm for any adjacent parcels. For the purposes of this subsection, a "solar farm" means an array of multiple solar collectors that transmit solar energy and where the collection of solar energy is the primary land use for the parcel on which it is situated.

Bolding mine. It would need to be researched by active Solar farm developers in our state, but I doubt more than one or two projects to date would have met that 1 1/2 mile setback requirement. That alone is a lethal blow to the industry, which is obviously the goal of this bill. When they decided to amend the Statute that had previously dealt only with wind turbines, they tripled the setback distance from 1/2 mile to 1 1/2 miles. That's more than ten times the distance the state is requiring fracking wells to be setback from homes and surface water (creeks, lakes, rivers). Kill this bill, before it kills NC's Solar farm industry.

Civitas teams with fossil fuel industry to obstruct NC wind farm

Once a puppet, always a puppet:

In this project – the first utility-scale wind farm in North Carolina and one of the first in the southeastern United States – the libertarian-leaning Civitas Institute has found perhaps the only industry that it thinks needs more regulation.

Civitas is backing a Perquimans County couple who has filed suit against the state Department of Environmental Quality, raising doubts about the farm’s impact on property values, the risk it might pose to creatures of the air and the noise it might produce. The call for more regulatory review is a way for Civitas to try to raise objections to the farm, even though it, and perhaps other farms, might prove a tremendous economic resource for a part of the state that needs one.

Don't make the mistake of assuming the faux-Libertarians who work for Art Pope really care about "prosperity" reaching more people, even those who desperately need it. That's just a slogan. In addition to Civitas' attorney, there's another guy on the legal team, and he's the climate-change-denying lawyer who went after the UVA professor's e-mails in an attempt to ruin him:

Pope's Civitas actively obstructing Amazon wind farm

Using the very same tactics they complain about:

The decision by Judge Lassiter of the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings to keep the case alive means it will head for a contested case hearing, which is the OAH equivalent of a trial, said Elliot Engstrom, a lawyer for the conservative Civitas Institute, which is representing the Perquimans couple.

Iberdrola has said it needs to complete the project next year to qualify for a federal tax credit that will reduce the cost of the project by 30 percent. The credit expires at the end of 2016.

Hypocrisy, you have a whole new standard to meet. For years, the folks at JLF and Civitas have complained how over-regulation by government has delayed industrial construction and land development, costing money and souring economic growth in our state. And that's exactly what they're engaging in with this wind project. Their goal isn't to expose a danger and "make sure it's done right," and it isn't really an effort to have an authority stop the project, either. They just want to delay it long enough for the Federal credits to sunset so the project will die on its own. There are many colorful ways to describe the character of someone who would deploy these tactics, but I'll just leave it at "beneath contempt" for now.

A must-read explanation of "distributed" power systems

The way of the future:

A distributed system, increasingly powered by renewable sources that are often at the site of the business or home. Efficient sensor-enabled appliances, controlled by communication technologies, would be linked to a grid coordinating a complex network of energy producers and users. In this scenario, the end user is increasingly in control of their own energy supply and demand. As networks of these new energy consumers grow, they will link together in micro-grids that allow autonomy from centralized providers.

I sort of jumped into the middle of the discussion with that quote, so you should go read the whole thing. We've already developed parts of this (new) approach with the proliferation of Solar farms, but many more need to be built, with an eye towards local needs. That includes smaller systems that provide power for 1-3 homes. And yes, that last part about "autonomy" will definitely be opposed by Duke Energy and their cohorts, but their business model is going to change, whether they like it or not. Another *huge* advantage of distributing energy generation is to curtail "lost" power. I don't have the stats in front of me, but even the newest long-distance transmission lines lose (waste) somewhere north of 17% of generated power before it can be used. That's right, one sixth of the toxins and carbon we're pumping into the air return *zero* benefits in power. If left to their own devices, Duke Energy will continue their "macro" approach to energy supply, so this battle is going to be a tough one. But it must be fought.

Wind farm sprouting near Elizabeth City

And it's going to be a big one:

The $600 million project by Spanish developer Iberdrola Renewables LLC will put 102 turbines on 22,000 acres near the coastal community of Elizabeth City, with plans to add about 50 more. Once up and running, it could generate about 204 megawatts, or enough electricity to power about 60,000 homes.

Florida, Alabama and Georgia have signed contracts to start importing wind power from other regions to help with fuel price volatility. Wind farms have been proposed in Kentucky, Virginia, Alabama and other areas, the industry group said. Still, without state renewable energy mandates like North Carolina's, the growth could be slow going, experts said.

Which is something dinosaurs in the General Assembly like Rucho and Hager just can't seem to grasp: The REPS isn't a "burden" on the people of North Carolina, it's a catalyst for economic growth and a magnet for energy entrepreneurs. And every time they try to attack it, they show just how poor their reasoning skills are.

Business Likes Renewable Energy

We have already heard that Apple, Facebook, Google and the American Biogas Council have advised NCGA NOT to do away with North Carolina's renewable energy requirements. The Republican majority in the House insisted on passing such legislation anyway.

Now, Triangle Business Journal is reporting, four more companies have added their names to this request:

Offshore wind vs offshore drilling: No contest

Just a few stats for your next argument with the "Drill, baby, drill!" idiots:

In the next 20 years, offshore wind could create about 91,000 more jobs than offshore drilling (about double the job creation potential of offshore oil and gas). A modest and gradual development of offshore wind on the East Coast over the next 20 years could generate enough energy to power over 115 million households.

Based on government estimates, if all of the economically recoverable offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf were extracted and used, oil demand would only be met for less than five months and gas demand would only be met for less than 10 months, at current consumption rates.

As I've mentioned before, NC has an even better geo- and topographical characteristic than other Atlantic Coast states for deployment of wind energy. Both the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds are huge areas, and most of those square miles are not navigable by any craft larger than a ski boat due to shallows. And the wind out there is nearly constant and strong. I didn't even know you could get "windburn" until I took the Swan Quarter to Ocracoke ferry. And yes, it hurts. ;) A few more observations:

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