EIA Annual Energy Outlook: Renewable Energy Growth Blows EIA Forecasts Out of the Water, Again  

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DeSmogBlog has a (slightly old now) post on the US Energy Information Agency's long standing habit of underestimating growth in renewable energy - Renewable Energy Growth Blows EIA Forecasts Out of the Water, Again.

Another year, another U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) assessment report that makes the agency's own forecasters look foolish.

In the latest Electric Power Monthly report, which covers all twelve months of 2015, the EIA revealed that renewable energy sources accounted for nearly 13.5-percent of the nation’s utility-scale electrical output. This is up by more than 2-percent over 2014. But get this: less than three months earlier, in the “Short-Term Energy Outlook,” the agency predicted “total renewables used in the electric power sector to decrease by 1.8% in 2015.”

The EIA’s record for long-term forecasts is no better. In fact, it’s consistently worse. ...

“Just a few years ago EIA had forecast that renewables might provide 15% of the nation's electricity by 2035,” said Bossong. “It now appears that goal could be reached within the next two years and quite possibly sooner!”

This isn’t the rare instance of the EIA getting something wrong. Rather, it’s something of an annual tradition. Consider these examples, taken at random (and culled from links I’ve bookmarked over the past few years under the tag, “EIA wrong”):

“In 2009, the federal government’s Energy Information Administration made a forecast for the next two decades: U.S. wind power would grow modestly, reaching 44 gigawatts of generating capacity in 2030, while solar power would remain scarce, inching up to 12 GW. Just six years later, U.S. wind capacity is already up to 66 GW, and solar has shot up to 21 GW. There's now enough installed wind and solar to power 25 million American homes— more than three times what the EIA expected before President Obama took office.” Michael Grunwald in Politico

“In 2005, EIA forecast that U.S. solar power capacity would hit about 1.2 GW in 2013. Where are we right now [in 2013]? According to Greentech Media, the U.S. is closing in (if it already hasn’t passed) the 10 GW mark in solar PV capacity right about now, and that’s not even counting solar thermal power generating capacity (according to this article, you can add another 1 GW or so of U.S. solar thermal power capacity). In sum, EIA forecast 1.2 GW of U.S. solar power capacity in 2013; the actual figure is around 11 GW – nearly 10 times higher than EIA forecast!” Former EIA employee Lowell Feld, in 2013.

“The report this year [2015] predicts that by 2040, the U. S. will have added only 48 gigawatts of solar generating capacity. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) expects that the industry will add half of that by the end of 2016. “ Samantha Page in ThinkProgress

In an update on June 2015, the EIA projected that the cheapest solar deployed in 2020 would cost $89 / mwh, after subsidies. That’s 8.9 cents / kwh to most of us. (This assumes that the solar Investment Tax Credit is not extended.)…How has that forecast worked out? Well, in Austin, Greentech Media reports that there are 1.2GW of bids for solar plants at less than $40/mwh, or 4c/kwh. And there are bids on the table for buildouts after the ITC goes away at similar prices. Ramez Naam

Scottish Tidal Power Technology Escapes To China  

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The Guardian has an article on no-defunct Scottish tidal power company Pelamis - Mysterious factory break-in raises suspicions about Chinese visit.

It was an unusual burglary, in which four or five laptops were stolen from a Scottish renewable energy manufacturer in the dead of a March night in 2011. So innovative was the company that it had been been visited by a 60-strong delegation led by China’s then vice-premier only two months before.

Nothing else was taken from the company and the crime, while irritating, went unsolved and forgotten – until a few years later pictures began emerging that showed a remarkably similar project manufactured in the world’s most populous country.

Australian Oil and gas tax may raise no extra revenue for decades  

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The Age has an article comparing the income generated from natural gas exports by new global production leader Australia over the previous incumbent, Qatar - Turnbull government called on to explain where Australia's offshore gas wealth is going.

By 2021 Australia will eclipse the Persian Gulf state of Qatar to become the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas. In that year, when both countries are forecast to pump and ship roughly 100 billion cubic metres of LNG each, Qatar's government will receive $26.6 billion in royalties from the multinational companies exploiting its offshore gasfields. According to Treasury estimates, Australia will receive just $800 million for the same volume of gas leaving its shores.

RIP Bill Mollison  

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The Guardian reports that permaculture pioneer Bill Mollison has passed away - Bill Mollison obituary.

Bill Mollison, who has died aged 88, was one of the co-creators of permaculture, an agricultural system that works with, rather than against, nature, on the basis that the natural world holds the key to stable and productive systems. Having developed the concept, he then travelled from his native Tasmania for 30 years to embed his approach worldwide. His ideas have spread widely – permaculture is practised in more than 140 countries and by more than 3 million people – even though in the 1970s the idea was considered, in Mollison’s words, “the highest form of sedition”.

Much of what he espoused was based on his great respect for the wisdom of subsistence farmers around the world, who have long used sustainable methods to grow their crops. In agricultural terms, this means planting diverse sets of crops, using perennial species to form productive stable systems, and ensuring the conditions for soils to be regenerated.

Other characteristics that he observed in the Tasmanian wilderness informed permaculture, for instance that the interfaces between different habitats are the most productive and that elements such as plants and animals need to be placed together so they are mutually beneficial – as once when he pointed out: “You don’t have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency!”

Mollison pointed to further beneficial ecological consequences: “The only safe energy systems are those derived from biological systems. A New Guinea gardener can walk through the gates of his garden taking one unit of energy and hand out 70. A modern farmer who drives a tractor through the gate takes 1,000 units of energy in and gives one back. Who is the most sophisticated agriculturalist?”

New record low cost for solar power  

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Inhabitat has a post on falling solar power prices - The cost of solar power has fallen 25% in just five months

In just five months, the cost of solar plummeted an incredible 25 percent as demonstrated by two recent construction bids for solar projects in China and Abu Dhabi. On August 11 a bid of $0.46/W was put forward to build 500 megawatts of solar power in China and on September 19 a record low bid of $0.023/kWh was submitted for 1.2 gigawatts of solar power in Abu Dhabi.

Tesla Expands California Manufacturing Facility  

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The San Jose Mercury news has an article on expansion plans for Tesla's car making factory - Tesla eyes big Fremont expansion, 3,100 jobs could be created.

Tesla Motors has proposed construction of 4.6 million square feet of new space next to its electric vehicle factory in Fremont, a move that could create 3,100 new jobs and would nearly double the size of its existing auto plant.

China's growing oil stockpile  

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The Washington Post has an article on China's strategic oil reserve - China may be stockpiling more oil than anyone realized.

One of the mysteries of the oil market is the question of how much crude oil China has squirreled away in commercial and strategic stockpiles.

Now a satellite-imaging firm called Orbital Insight claims to have an answer. It says Chinese inventories in May stood at 600 million barrels, substantially more than commonly thought and nearly as much as the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Chinese storage capacity, which includes working inventory, is four times widely used estimates, Orbital Insight says, adding that the firm has not only counted storage tanks but has also used imaging techniques to figure out how much oil is in the tanks.

The issue could influence expectations in oil markets. If China has built larger reserves than previously estimated, that means much of what looked like oil demand over the past couple of years was not a result of higher consumption but of strategic planning.

Aliens helping to bring free energy to earth ?  

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One interesting snippet that emerged from the "Podesta emails" on Wikileaks was this weird email from one time Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell in which he mentions aliens "helping us" bring "zero point energy" to earth.

While it's entirely possibly he could just be a nut spamming someone of political influence it does make you wonder...

Remember, our nonviolent ETI from the contiguous universe are helping us bring zero point energy to Earth.

While I'm a big fan of both Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, I think that leaks of information are (unfortunately) going to become increasingly politicised in future, with the validity of the information coming into question.

Bruce Schneier recently had a post on "Organizational Doxing and Disinformation" he he talked about the problem of the leaker (or supplier of information to the leaker) throwing in a few choice items that aren't real.

Forging thousands -- or more -- documents is difficult to pull off, but slipping a single forgery in an actual cache is much easier. The attack could be something subtle. Maybe a country that anonymously publishes another country's diplomatic cables wants to influence yet a third country, so adds some particularly egregious conversations about that third country. Or the next hacker who steals and publishes email from climate change researchers invents a bunch of over-the-top messages to make his political point even stronger. Or it could be personal: someone dumping email from thousands of users making changes in those by a friend, relative, or lover.

Imagine trying to explain to the press, eager to publish the worst of the details in the documents, that everything is accurate except this particular email. Or that particular memo. That the salary document is correct except that one entry. Or that the secret customer list posted up on WikiLeaks is correct except that there's one inaccurate addition. It would be impossible. Who would believe you? No one. And you couldn't prove it.

Cheapest Solar on Record Offered as Abu Dhabi Expands Renewables  

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Bloomberg reports that a new record low price for large scale solar power of US2.42 cents per kilowatt-hour has been set in Abu Dhabi - Cheapest Solar on Record Offered as Abu Dhabi Expands Renewables.

The bid marks another record for solar technology prices, which have fallen almost 70 percent in the past five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Competition among Chinese solar manufacturers including Jinko has brought down the cost of delivering panels while more investors have become comfortable with backing the technology, reducing borrowing costs.

Ready Player One  

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1980's nostalgia seems to be getting popular lately, with TV series like Stranger Things strip mining 80's pop culture references.

I recently read a book that manages to combine vast amounts of 1980's movie, book and video game references with some good old fashioned circa 2005 peak oil doomerism - Ernest Cline's book Ready Player One.

The book is set in 2044, and envisions a world that would make James Howard Kunstler shed (some) tears of Joy. Resource limits have hit hard and the US population has converged from the suburbs and rural areas into multi-storey trailer parks on the edges of the big cities where they eke out a meagre existance.

The population has largely decided to follow the Japanese example and have retreated into a global virtual reality game known as OASIS.

I enjoyed it - but I'd concede that I'm in the sweet spot as far as potential audience goes, having been a teenager in the 80s.

How the London Array blows away the competition in green energy  

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The Guardian has a look at the world's largest offshore wind farm - How the London Array blows away the competition in green energy

At the widest point of the Greater Thames estuary, 12 miles north of the Kent coast and 12 miles south of Essex, lies the London Array – the largest operational offshore wind farm in the world. Completed in 2013, after 10 years of planning and construction, it covers an area of 40 square miles – roughly the same size of Bristol – and comprises 175 individual turbines laid out in neat rows like an enormous nursery flower bed.

August 2016 Is the 11th Temperature Record-Breaking Month in a Row  

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SLate notes that for the 11th month in a row, August was the warmest month on record globally - March … I Mean April … I Mean May … I Mean June … I Mean July... I Mean August 2016 Is the Sixth … I Mean Seventh … I Mean Eighth … I Mean Ninth … I Mean 10th … I Mean 11th Temperature Record-Breaking Month in a Row.

According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, August 2016 was the hottest August on record, going back 136 years. It was a staggering 0.98° C above average across the planet.* The previous August record, from 2014, was 0.82° above average; the new record beats it by well over a tenth of a degree.

The 'Tesla of buses' just made a big move to eliminate diesel buses forever  

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Business Insider has a look at electric bus manufacturer Proterra - The 'Tesla of buses' just made a big move to eliminate diesel buses forever

Proterra’s Catalyst E2 is 40-foot long bus with a range of 350 miles under typical test track conditions. That’s a big deal, considering Tesla only recently announced a battery upgrade for its Model S and Model X Ludicrous options that can achieve 315 miles of range — making it the first electric car on the market to exceed 300 miles of range.

What Hubbert And Pickens Got Right About Oil, And What's Next  

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Forbes has an interview with peak oiler Bruce Pile - What Hubbert And Pickens Got Right About Oil, And What's Next.

Kam: So that was Hubbert’s prediction for the US. What about his prediction for a global peak?

Pile: As Hubbert’s projection for a global peak approached in the early 2000s (he had calculated around 2000), slightly fewer considered him a lunatic because his US prediction had been so accurate. His global peak prediction was refined mathematically by Ken Deffeyes, a Shell associate of Hubbert’s, as being 2005. And he was right.

We’ve been on an undulating plateau since that peak of about 74 mb/d and are now down to about 70 mb/d depending on whose numbers you go by and what they have added to straight conventional. Deffeyes pegged it in his 2005 book “Beyond Oil” and in his 2001 book “Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage.”

Kam: So why do we constantly hear that peak oil was baloney?

Pile: This chart explains it.

Here we see just what is propping us up from the disasters of peak oil. The two big props are the pale green one and especially the pink one – that is fracked gas liquids (NGL, actually from natural gas production) and shale oil (unconventional crude).

This difference in conventional crude and total liquids is behind all the arguing. “Peak total liquids” has not happened yet, and with shale, may not happen for a long time.

Peak conventional crude did happen, and it happened exactly as Hubbert and Pickens said. Without the pink prop, we would be back on Hubbert’s curve, and Pickens estimates something like $175 oil. And without the natural gas shale fracking giving us the green prop, total “oil” price would go even higher.

World first for Shetlands in tidal power breakthrough  

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The Guardian has a report on the first fully operational array of tidal power turbines in Scotland's Bluemull Sound - World first for Shetlands in tidal power breakthrough

Nova Innovation said it had deployed the world’s first fully operational array of tidal power turbines in the Bluemull Sound between the islands of Unst and Yell in the north of Shetland, where the North Sea meets the Atlantic. It switched on the second of five 100kW turbines due to be installed in the sound this month, sending electricity on a commercial basis into Shetland’s local grid.

Existing tidal schemes use single power plants or installations rather than a chain of separate turbines. A French company, OpenHydro, says it too is very close to linking two tidal machines, off Brittany, to build a more powerful 1MW array.

US solar PV prices hit “all-time low”, at rooftop and utility-scale  

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ReNew Economy has a look at the ever decreasing price of solar power - US solar PV prices hit “all-time low”, at rooftop and utility-scale.

Solar PV prices hit a new “all-time low” in the US in 2015, a new report has revealed, with some residential systems installed for as little as $3.30/W, and the cheapest utility-scale PV coming in below $1.60/W, while four out of five regions had PPA prices of less that $50/MWh.

RNE also notes that solar PV prices have hit a record low in Chile - Solar PV strikes new record low in Chile.

The solar PV cost reduction spiral reached its lowest point yet at an auction in Chile last week where Spanish developer Solarpack Tecnologica won contracts to sell power from a solar plant high in the Andes for $29.10/MWh. The 120MW plant to be built in Chile’s sunny Atacama desert surpassed the previous record-low for solar PV brokered in Dubai in May, and was priced at almost half the cost of coal power in the same event.

World’s largest solar power plant planned for Chernobyl nuclear wasteland  

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Electrek has a post on a plan to build a solar power plant at Chernobyl - World’s largest solar power plant planned for Chernobyl nuclear wasteland.

The proposed 1GW solar plant, if built today, would be the world’s largest. There are several plans for 1GW solar plants in development (Egypt, India, UAE, China, etc) – but none of them have been completed yet. One financial benefit of the site is that transmission lines for Chernobyl’s 4GW nuclear reactor are still in place.

Doubling the battery power of consumer electronics using lithium metal batteries  

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MIT News has a report on "new lithium metal batteries could make smartphones, drones, and electric cars last twice as long" - Doubling battery power of consumer electronics.

Founded in 2012 by MIT alumnus and former postdoc Qichao Hu ’07, SolidEnergy Systems has developed an “anode-free” lithium metal battery with several material advances that make it twice as energy-dense, yet just as safe and long-lasting as the lithium ion batteries used in smartphones, electric cars, wearables, drones, and other devices.

“With two-times the energy density, we can make a battery half the size, but that still lasts the same amount of time, as a lithium ion battery. Or we can make a battery the same size as a lithium ion battery, but now it will last twice as long,” says Hu, who co-invented the battery at MIT and is now CEO of SolidEnergy.

The battery essentially swaps out a common battery anode material, graphite, for very thin, high-energy lithium-metal foil, which can hold more ions — and, therefore, provide more energy capacity. Chemical modifications to the electrolyte also make the typically short-lived and volatile lithium metal batteries rechargeable and safer to use. Moreover, the batteries are made using existing lithium ion manufacturing equipment, which makes them scalable.

July is World’s Hottest Month on Record  

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Climate Central has a report on the latest global temperature records - Scorching July is World’s Hottest Month on Record.

By NASA’s reckoning, July 2016 was 1.27˚F (0.84˚C) hotter than the 1951-1980 average. It was 0.2˚F (0.11˚C) above July 2015, the next warmest July in records that go back to 1880. The record July heat also means this was the hottest month the planet has seen over the course of NASA's records. That's because July is also generally the hottest month of the year due the fact that it's summer in the northern hemisphere where there's more land.

Schmidt said he expects July will be the last record hot month of this year as the residual heat from an exceptionally strong El Niño dies away. Though El Niño itself was declared over in June, global temperatures tend to lag by about two to three months.

While El Niño provided a boost to global temperatures this year, the bulk of the heat is what has been trapped by accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

ANU team cracks solar thermal efficiency of 97% – a world record  

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ReNew Economy has an article on a new efficiency record for solar thermal power - ANU team cracks solar thermal efficiency of 97% – a world record

The ANU team, whose CST technology harnesses the power of the sun using a 500 square meter solar concentrator dish, made the breakthrough by redesigning the system’s receiver in a way that halved its convection losses and boosted its conversion of sunlight into steam from 93 per cent to 97 per cent.

According to the ANU’s Dr John Pye, the new design could result in a 10 per cent reduction in the cost of solar thermal electricity. “Ultimately the work in this project is all about reducing the cost of concentrating solar thermal energy,” he said. “Our aim is to get costs down to 12 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, so that this technology will be competitive.


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