Category Archives: Energy

Energetic 20180118

Plunging solar+storage costs.

The median bid for a wind project was $18.10/MWh; the median for wind+storage was $21, just three dollars higher. The median bid for a solar PV project was $29.50/MWh; the median bid for solar+storage was $36, just seven dollars higher. (Keep in mind what median means: Half the projects bid cheaper than this.)

435 miles per charge?

Double-paned solar windows.

When quantum dots absorb blue and ultraviolet portions of the solar spectrum, the dot then re-emits a photon at a longer wavelength. That is guided to the glass edges of the window where integrated solar cells collect the light and convert it to electricity.

Book Review – Lights Out

Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath
by Ted Koppel, 2015

The first thing that interested me about the electric grid was the question of its resiliency and protecting it from attack. While my academic research has mostly focused on economic questions, the topic of resiliency is still interesting to me. Koppel’s book discusses the possibility of losing control of the electric grid due to a cyberattack and urban areas having to cope with a loss of power for weeks or months.

Generally speaking, the US seems unprepared for a cyberattack. Assuming the government was not protecting a classified plan, they did not have a plan to share with Koppel for how to deal with a prolonged grid outage. It is unlikely that the government will provide food, water, and basic supplies if an outage exceeds a few days. The alarming part is how unprepared for this outcome most city dwellers seem to be.

About half of the book discusses the disaster preparation plans of more prepared people. While this was, by itself, interesting, it was a little far from discussing the resiliency of the grid. I would have preferred this section to be shorter. Few, if any, of the preppers were focused on an extended grid outage.

It is interesting (ironic?) that we are more connected than ever due to the internet, but in the event of an electric outage, we will be less connected than ever. There needs to be operational plans in place for how to handle an extended outage, and these plans should be communicated BEFORE the outage, as there will be little ability to communicate them after the outage. Seems like a good outlet for operations management and risk management.

I listened to this book on tape.

Book Review – Crossing the Energy Divide

Crossing the Energy Divide
by Robert Ayres and Edward Ayres, 2010

This book is really relevant for some of my energy research, which focuses on short- to medium-term energy solutions for a world seeking to transition from a dirty fossil-fuel past to a clean renewable-energy future. I actually use a quote from this book in my talks on combined heat and power (or cogeneration): “If our goal is to reduce carbon emissions on a large scale as quickly as possible, the most effective way is to invest in cogeneration.”

I particularly like the sections on combined heat and power and the water-energy connection. Suggested for individuals concerned with effective energy policy.

Quotes I liked from the book:
1. “If our goal is to reduce carbon emissions on a large scale as quickly as possible, the most effective way is to invest in ‘cogeneration.'” (pg 34)
2. “Recycling waste-energy streams from industrial uses of fossil fuels is still far cheaper than energy from solar-photovoltaic generation or wind turbines, and far cleaner than energy from biomass. The day will come when the renewables will be competitive without subsidies, and civilization will be on safer ground.” (pg 34)
3. “Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to cite current examples of decentralized CHP (DCHP) used for a shopping mall or office park in the United States because DCHP is, for most purposes, illegal in every one of the 50 states. You can generate electricity for your own use or sell it back to your utility monopoly (at a price it decides), but you can’t sell it to your neighbors. It is actually illegal in every state to send electricity through a private wire across a public street.” (pg 37)
4. “Most irrigation is now done by drilling wells. Some aquifers are naturally replenished by rainfall and runoff, but most are not. Well-feeding rotary sprayers now thickly dot the U.S. grain belt west of the Mississippi and east of the Rocky Mountains. From above, the land looks like green polka dots on a brown background. Electric pumps extract the water, mostly from the giant Ogallala Aquifer-a long underground lake of ‘fossil’ water left over from the melting of the last glaciers of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago. The annual runoff from winter snows and summer rains in the Rocky Mountains provides some replenishment, but not nearly enough. The Ogallala is being depleted at an estimated 12 cubic kilometers per year-more than the annual flow of the Colorado River. This rate of depletion cannot continue much longer. In parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, water tables are dropping by as much as 100 feet per year, and much of the Ogallala could run dry in as little as 25 years. As the water level, drops, the energy required for pumping from ever-deeper levels increases. But without irrigation, grain cultivation in the southern Great Plains becomes impossible and the land will revert to native grasses or mesquite. If we don’t undertake water-conservation measures soon, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s could return in spades.” (pg 149)
5. “If we could change the incentive system so that energy companies aren’t selling a tangible commodity, such as oil or gas, but a final service (heating, cooling, or-better still-physical comfort), their behavior would change. Responsible executives would still ask, how can our company operate most profitably? But the answer would change: by producing the most service for the least cost-by using the least possible fuel energy. Instead of the consumer having the difficult job of figuring out how to reduce ownership costs of highly complex products, the people who have expertise in making those products would assume that responsibility. Shifting corporate roles from selling energy-intensive products to selling the services those products provide also shifts the incentives from using more energy to using less.” (pg 159)

Energetic 20171012

The four main trends affecting the electric industry. I would include the decoupling of total electricity demand and utility revenue.

GM to bring 20 all-electric cars to market by 2023. Note that “to market” may indicate different countries. Don’t expect the cars released in China to be the same as those in the US.

Shell Executive Describes Inevitable Transition to Carbon-Free Energy. “Shell’s CEO Ben Van Beurden recently said that with the right mix of policy and innovation, he sees global demand for oil peaking in the early 2030s or sooner — and that his next car will be electric.”

Energetic 20171005

Will it clean the streets as it drives?

Power production costs on a decreasing trend. Cheaper natural gas, more renewables.

For Corporations Acquiring Renewables, It’s Not All About Price. That’s reasonable. This is not: “Energy and utility companies were the least likely industry to say their company would be more assertive in acquiring renewables in the next two years. Only 37.5 percent of those companies said they wanted to become more aggressive in purchasing renewable energy.”

Marginal health costs of microscopic particulate matter may be decreasing in their density in the air. This is opposite of what you probably expect. It means that the greatest health benefits (per person) may be had by decreasing PM2.5 in areas where it is already low. Taking into account the fact that populations are highest in Indian and China, where PM2.5 is high, it may still be most worthwhile to decrease levels there.