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Archive for the 'Fossil Power' Category

Coal Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

A colleague forwarded an interesting Washington Post article and pro-coal propaganda site to us yesterday. Given that the coal industry (mining, transportation, and generation) represent an enormous slice of our economy and are being directly targeted with new coal plant construction being delayed or canceled, it’s not surprising that the industry is starting to fight back. Their use of statistics (accurate, but slanted) is effective. For instance, the “Facts Map” shows about California that 1.1% of California’s electricity comes from coal and that California has the 8th highest electricity prices in the US. Ohio by contrast, gets 87.2% of its power from coal and has the 23rd lowest electricity prices.

Map of Coal Facts

It’s worth visiting the America’s Power propaganda site simply to see the messaging. It’s true that 50% of our power comes from coal and we will be the first to support coal generation when it has the emissions of a geothermal plant. Until that time, we shouldn’t invest in more coal plants, we should invest in cleaner generation technology and retire (or retrofit existing plants) for substantially lower emissions.


Instructive Chart

Chart of fuel sources, costs, and output.

If ever you wanted to understand why the industry continues to develop coal plants, even though the negative impact is clear for all to understand, look at the chart above. You’ll notice that coal produces the most energy per unit, at a low cost per unit, and is relatively cheap from a capital cost perspective to build. With clean coal restrictions, the capital cost increases pretty radically (about 3x) but the energy output per unit and fuel cost still remain attractive.

A wind row ought to be added to this chart, but the standard unit was a little tricky to calculate. If anyone has good ideas about how to represent that aspect, please leave a comment.

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The Oil Endgame

This TED Talk by Amory Lovins filmed in 2005 is well worth the investment of 20 minutes. He has posted his book, The Oil Endgame, on a website with a free download. Check it out.

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Another Conservation Game

This time, from Chevron. In July we wrote about My Abodo, a consumer-focused exercise that enabled one to make choices about how they live then to see the impact of those changes on the environment around them. In retrospect, it was a very cool exercise and you can still see our little MeV home we created – optimized for lowest level of impact.

Today, Chevron has gotten into the act with, more a Sim City approach to the same problem where you, the Mayor and CFO make decisions about energy supply then watch the impacts on economics, environment, and security through a few simulation phases over time. A screen shot of MeV City is located below the jump.

It’s great to see Chevron get engaged in this area, their bread is obviously still buttered by fossil fuels, but in the last few months they seem to be getting on the green bandwagon. Would it surprise you to learn that Chevron is the world’s largest geothermal electricity provider? Interesting, I’d think that geothermal power would be an option on their game. Oh well…

MeV City from Chevron Energy Simulator

Tip of the hat: Didn’t You Hear?

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Caithness exits renewable energy business

As referenced earlier today, ArcLight Capital and Caithness Energy LLC have entered into a deal where ArcLight will take an interest in 824MW of power generation in geothermal, solar thermal, and wind projects.

Upon reviewing the remaining Caithness Energy LLC portfolio the company is left with one undisclosed hydro power project and the remainder of its portfolio is now fossil fuel based with the largest component being natural gas (one diesel and one coal project exist as well.)

With the transfer of the geothermal, solar thermal, and wind assets and their operation to ArcLight, Caithness has effectively exited the renewable energy business after 25 years. Once operating agreements with eneXco and Seapower West lapse in the wind projects, it is likely ArcLight will take over operation of those projects as well.

With renewable energy’s move toward the mainstream, it’s interesting that Caithness would take this opportunity to exit. Perhaps it is because of the current hot market the management team looked for a high dollar value exit, on asset value alone, this is a billion dollar deal. Does the Caithness management team believe that the sector valuation has peaked?

The flip side of that is ArcLight’s asset acquisition positions them to enter the renewable power business in a big way. The Caithness assets join CPV Wind Ventures in the portfolio. ArcLight has vast experience in the power industry and has extensive interest in coal and gas fired power plants, along with transmission and pipeline operations.

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