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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

China Will Soon Surpass South Korea, Russia, and Japan in Nuclear Generating Capacity

graph of nuclear generating capacity for top 6 countries, as explained in the article text


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Atomic Energy Agency, World Nuclear Association

Nuclear power currently makes up slightly more than 2% of China's total power generation. However, the Chinese government has a stated goal to provide at least 15% of overall energy consumption by 2020 (increasing to 20% by 2030) from non-fossil fuel sources, including nuclear, hydroelectricity and other renewable sources. To help achieve this target, China plans to increase nuclear capacity to 58 gigawatts (GW) and to have 30 GW of capacity under construction by 2020.
China has rapidly expanded its nuclear capacity in the past several years, which likely will increase nuclear generation in the next few years. China's net installed nuclear capacity is 23 GW, after the country added 10 reactors totaling more than 10 GW since the beginning of 2013. By the end of 2015, China is expected to surpass South Korea and Russia in nuclear generating capacity, placing it behind only the United States, France, and Japan. China is also constructing an additional 23 GW of nuclear capacity that is slated to become operational by 2020. Operation of these units will make China the leading nuclear generator in Asia. Several more facilities are in various stages of planning.
All of China's nuclear plants are located along the east coast and southern parts of the country, near most of the country's power demand. Following Japan's coastal Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, China has increasingly considered construction of inland reactors.
China plans to take an ownership role throughout the entire nuclear supply chain. China intends to build strategic and commercial uranium stockpiles through overseas purchases and continue to develop domestic production in Inner Mongolia (north Central China) and Xinjiang (northwest China). China is developing nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, which are expected to come online by 2017, according to the World Nuclear Association. China currently imports all of its reactor technology, but the country is in the process of designing its own large pressurized water reactors, the CAP1400, through a technology transfer with U.S.-based Westinghouse. Also, as part of its nuclear expansion program, China signed agreements with several countries (Romania, Argentina, Turkey, and South Africa) in 2014 to finance the construction of nuclear reactors and export its own nuclear technology.  (DOE-EIA)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Southern California Edison Should Reopen San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

Norris McDonald at San Onofre in 2005
I first toured San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in 2005.  I was very impressed with the staff, the physical plant and the view at SONGS.  I have toured 12 nuclear plants all over the United States, in France and China.  I was fascinated that the non-nuclear generating part of the plant did not have a building around it.  The view of the Pacific Ocean also made this a uniquely beautiful environment for the operation of this emission free facility.  I was extremely disappointed when Southern California Edison (SCE) decided to close the facility and began the decommissioning process.

Without going through all of the legal, economic, technical and mechanical controversies that led to the closure, let me just say that the $4.7 billion approved to support decommissioning should be reprogrammed to reopening and operating the plant.  I suspect that for this amount of money, SCE could buy 2 brand new steam generators and handle the other expenses related to restarting the plant. I understand that SCE looked at the numbers and if they had to carry employees and other expenses while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) took the time to see if the plant could operate safely at a reduced capacity, that they would lose money hand over fist.  Thus the closure decision.  But California desperately needs this 2,000 megawatts (MW) of emission free electricity.

Although SCE believes that the SONGS Settlement approved by the CPUC was fair and reasonable, there is now significant controversy around this Settlement.  Some of the controversy:

":...An Edison executive met secretly in Warsaw, Poland, with former California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey (former SCE CEO) two years ago to sketch out a framework for resolving the San Onofre case. Peevey stepped down in December amid dual state and federal corruption investigations.  State agents executed a search warrant at Peevey’s La Canada Flintridge home [in January], seizing computers, bank records, handwritten notes and other materials."

I have no idea how the Peevey investigation(s) will turn out.  I do know that it casts a shadow on the Settlement.  Lawmakers are calling for reopening the Settlement.  The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the California State Association of Electrical Workers, who originally signed off on the Settlement, are now calling for revisiting the agreement.  I am sure they would agree with me about reopening the plant.

SCE's fight with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries over the steam generator problems will probably go on for years and make a lot of lawyers very rich.  The investigation and subsequent  legal issues related to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUS) and SCE have placed a huge dark cloud over the Settlement Agreement.

Going forward, I will be trying to convince SCE, the regulatory agencies and other stakeholders. to reopen this plant.  And to reopen it with all deliberate speed.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Fossil Fuels Have Made Up 80% of U.S. Fuel Mix Since 1900

graph of share of energy consumption in the United States, as explained in the article text


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

While the energy history of the United States is one of significant change, three fossil fuel sources—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—have made up at least 80% of total U.S. energy consumption for more than 100 years. Recent increases in the domestic production of petroleum liquids and natural gas prompted shifts between the uses of fossil fuels (largely from coal-fired to natural gas-fired power generation), but the predominance of these three energy sources is likely to continue into the future.
For the first several decades of American history, families used wood (a renewable energy source) as a primary source of energy. Coal became dominant in the late 19th century before being overtaken by petroleum products in the middle of the 20th century, a time when natural gas usage also rose quickly. Since the mid-20th century, use of coal increased again (mainly as a primary energy source for electric power generation), and a new form of energy—nuclear electric power—emerged. After a pause in the 1970s, the use of petroleum and natural gas resumed growth. Petroleum consumption decreased in recent years, but natural gas has continued to provide a greater share of U.S. energy consumption. In the late 1980s, renewable energy consumption (other than wood and hydroelectric) began to appear, increasing significantly in the mid-2000s. In 2014, the renewable share of energy consumption in the United States was the highest (nearly 10%) since the 1930s, when wood represented a larger share of consumption. Renewable energy is a small but growing piece of the U.S. energy mix. The greatest growth in renewables today is in solar and wind power, which along with geothermal and biomass, are included in other renewables.
graph of energy consumption in the United States, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

The Brattle Group Report Shows Benefits of Nuclear Power

new report from The Brattle Group demonstrates the significant contributions that America's existing nuclear fleet makes to the country's economy. According to the analysis, nuclear energy plants – which provide 1/5 of the US' electricity and almost 2/3 of its carbon-free electricity – also add an impressive $60 billion to the country’s GDP each year.
According to Nuclear Matters Co-Chair former Senator Evan Bayh, “The significance of nuclear energy in a carbon-constrained context is often underestimated. And the data from the Brattle report shows just how important these plants are to the functioning of our economy. It is our hope that releasing this report will bring to light the need to properly value these plants in order to preserve their indisputable benefits.” 
Nuclear Matters also believes these findings underscore the need to address the underlying challenges associated with existing plants’ premature closures.
The study also finds that nuclear energy plants support 475,000 high-paying jobs and contribute 10 billion in federal taxes each year. What's more, these efficient nuclear energy plants save consumers an average of 6% on their electricity bills.
Brattle’s report also demonstrates how these plants help protect the environment. Nuclear energy plants together avoid over 1/2 billion tons of carbon emissions each year, valued at $25 billion. These findings are especially important as our country looks to mitigate the harmful impacts of climate change.
To learn more about the report, visit NuclearMatters.com/ValueOfNuclear,

Thursday, July 02, 2015

DOE Issues $1.8 Bilion Loan Gurantee to Vogtle Nuclear Plant

To further support the construction of two advanced nuclear reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, the Department of Energy announced today it will issue $1.8 billion in loan guarantees to three subsidiaries of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG Power). This is the last of three conditional commitments that were first announced by the Administration in 2010, which, when combined with the previously issued $6.5 billion in loan guarantees to Georgia Power Company (GPC) and Oglethorpe Power Corporation (OPC), allow the project to be fully financed. 
The Vogtle project is the first new nuclear power plant to be licensed and begin construction in the U.S. in more than three decades.  The two new 1,100 megawatt Westinghouse AP1000® nuclear reactors at Vogtle represent the first U.S. deployment of this innovative technology and once they come on line, the new nuclear reactors are expected to provide enough reliable electricity to power nearly 1.5 million American homes and avoid nearly 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
The two new nuclear reactors at Vogtle will supplement the two existing reactor units at the facility. According to industry projections, the project will create approximately 4,600 onsite construction jobs and approximately 750 permanent jobs once the units begin operation.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized the Department to issue loan guarantees for projects that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases and employ new or significantly improved technologies. To further help accelerate the deployment of advanced nuclear energy in the U.S., the Department also has $12.5 billion in loan guarantee authority available to support eligible innovative nuclear energy projects through the Advanced Nuclear Energy Projects Solicitation.
Currently, the Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) supports a large, diverse portfolio of more than $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and commitments, supporting more than 30 closed and committed projects. This portfolio is helping to advance the nation’s all-of-the-above energy strategy through projects including the first nuclear power plant to begin construction in the U.S. in the last three decades, one of the world’s largest wind farms, several of the world’s largest solar generation and thermal energy storage systems, and more than a dozen new or retooled auto manufacturing plants across the country.  (DOE)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Supreme Court Blocks Air Pollution Rules for Power Plants

The Supreme Court has blocked Obama administration rules designed to sharply limit the hazardous air pollutants that spew from the nation's power plants. The justices by a 5-4 vote agreed with the coal industry and Republican-led states that said the forced cutbacks were too costly and could lead to power outages. Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking for the majority, said it was not reasonable for the Environmental Protection Agency to proceed with the new rules without weighing their cost, estimated to be about $9.6 billion a year. "It will be up to the agency to decide — as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation — how to account for cost," Scalia said.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. agreed. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissenting opinion for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

The decision is a win for Michigan and several other Republican-led states that joined the power industry in challenging the rules.

The so-called "Mercury and Air Toxins" rule has been 25 years in the making. Congress in 1990 strengthened the Clean Air Act and told the EPA to identify the major sources for more than 180 hazardous air pollutants, including mercury and arsenic. And once the agency decided coal and oil-fired power plants were a major source of these pollutants, the EPA was told to adopt regulations that were "appropriate and necessary" to limit these emissions.

Mercury is highly toxic in the air and the water, and it builds up through the food chain. It is particularly dangerous for a pregnant woman and her developing baby. Other toxic pollutants are believed to trigger asthma attacks. But the rules took far longer than lawmakers had anticipated.

The Clinton administration completed the study and prepared the rules, but  the George W. Bush administration put forward an alternative rule that was not adopted by Congress. Under President Obama, the EPA issued proposed regulations in 2012 that were to take full effect this summer. Lawyers for the coal and electric power industries went to court, alleging the costs of the new rule would vastly outweigh the benefits. They said the rules would cost $9.5 billion a year, while the benefit of removing mercury from the air would be only $5 million a year.

The EPA called this a false comparison. The agency said the rules would save 11,000 lives per year. And if all the impact of all the hazardous pollutants were considered, the EPA said the cleaner air would yield public health benefits of more than $37 billion a year.

Last year, a U.S. appeals court here upheld the regulations as justified under the law. But to the surprise of environmentalists, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the legal challenge brought by the affected industries and by Michigan and a coalition of states that rely on coal-fired power plants. The case of Michigan vs. EPA posed a major test of whether the conservative-leaning high court would uphold the far-reaching regulations of a liberal administration.

An even bigger legal fight lies ahead on whether Obama and the EPA can impose climate-change regulations that would force a 30% reduction in carbon pollution by 2030.  (L.A. Times, 6/29/2015)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

California Increases Lawn Replacement Budget By $350 Million


The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California on Tuesday voted to increase funding for its turf-removal program, as more and more residents and businesses swap water-guzzling lawns for more drought-tolerant landscaping. The MWD will boost its turf-replacement budget by $350 million for one year, but will also change certain terms and conditions of the extremely popular program. The district voted to cap the total reimbursement for residential customers at $6,000, paying $2 per square foot of lawn removed.


So far, the MWD has received more than $330 million in applications for rebates. Application submissions increased dramatically after Governor Jerry Brown ordered a 25% reduction in urban water use last month.

Southland water importer OKs $350-million boost in lawn-removal rebates

During the summer months, outdoor water use traditionally accounts for 50% to 80% of residential consumption. The MWD estimates that removing one square foot of grass can save 42 gallons of water a year.

The MWD is a consortium of 26 cities and water districts that provides drinking water to nearly 19 million people in parts of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. Not all members are thrilled by the turf-replacement program and believe that the program is not sustainable. Some members believe the state cannot buy its way out of the drought by removing turf,   (L.A. Times, 5/27/2015)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pipeline Oil Spill in Santa Barbara, California

A citizen first reported the leak around noon at Refugio State Beach in California's Santa Barbara County and the Coast Guard had stopped it by 3 P.M.—but an estimated 21,000 gallons of crude oil still spilled onto the shore and into the Pacific Ocean, creating a four-mile-long sheen. The area is home to an array of species, such as sea lions and seabirds, as well as migrating whales.

The pipeline, owned by Plains All American, is capable of transporting 150,000 barrels of crude every day, from a facility owned by Exxon Mobil.  
Santa Barbara's beaches were fouled with crude oil in 1969 during what was the third-largest oil spill in United States waters. (NRDC)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

California Gasoline Prices Higher Than Rest of Country


graph of retail prices, regular gasoline, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update

Supply disruptions in the tightly balanced and relatively isolated California gasoline market have increased wholesale and retail gasoline prices over the past several weeks. This comes after markets had adjusted to compensate for lost production following the February explosion and fire at ExxonMobil's refinery in Torrance, California. Average retail prices for regular gasoline in California as a whole, and in Los Angeles specifically, have increased by 57¢ per gallon (¢/gal), and 63¢/gal, respectively, in the past three weeks, while U.S. average retail gasoline prices have increased by 20¢/gal.
The costs of adjusting supply sources, along with planned and unplanned refinery outages and delayed resupply, have contributed to the gasoline price increases. The spot price in Los Angeles for CARBOB (California Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending) gasoline was $2.76/gal on April 29, a premium of 75¢/gal to the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending (RBOB) front month futures contract, a standard pricing basis for gasoline. CARBOB and RBOB are different formulations of the petroleum-based component of gasoline, into which ethanol is blended to form finished gasoline.
graph of gasoline spot and futures prices, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Bloomberg
Note: L.A. denotes Los Angeles; CARBOB denotes California Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending; Nymex denotes New York Mercantile Exchange; RBOB denotes Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending.

The West Coast (defined as Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) 5) is relatively isolated from other U.S. markets and located far from other sources of supply, making the region dependent on in-region production to meet demand. Additionally, California's more-restrictive gasoline specifications can limit the availability of supply from other markets. When a supply disruption occurs on the West Coast, the region can be resupplied in four ways: in-region inventories, intra-PADD marine movements from other West Coast refineries, PADD-to-PADD marine movements, and imports.
In-region inventories. West Coast inventories of gasoline typically fall in the months of February, March, and April. However, inventories fell by 4.2 million barrels in the six weeks following the Torrance refinery outage (February 20-March 27), a decline of 2.2 million barrels more than the five-year average decline for the same period. As the region's supply patterns adjusted, PADD 5 gasoline inventories stabilized, and they are currently 27.6 million barrels, 0.8 million barrels above the same time last year.
Intra-PADD marine movements. Mainland PADD 5 lacks pipeline infrastructure to move supplies between the in-region refining centers (Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles). As a result, supplies must move via coastwise-compliant marine vessels. However, recent planned and unplanned refinery outages on the West Coast have limited the availability of gasoline supplies to be shipped to Southern California. PADD 5 gross refinery inputs fell to 2.3 million barrels per day (b/d) for the week ending April 24, the lowest since April 2013, and remained near 2.3 million b/d for the week ending May 1, compared to 2.5 million b/d last year, contributing to higher gasoline prices.
PADD-to-PADD marine movements. Gasoline supplies may also move from PADD to PADD, using coastwise-compliant vessels. Historically, there have been marine movements of gasoline from the Gulf Coast (PADD 3) to the West Coast (PADD 5), although infrequently and in small quantities. The last shipments of gasoline from the Gulf Coast to the West Coast occurred in June 2013, totaling 53,000 barrels.
Imports. Companies have also increased West Coast imports. However, because Asia is the closest global source of additional California-specification gasoline, it takes several weeks for resupply to reach the West Coast. PADD 5 imported an average of 19,000 barrels per day (b/d) of motor gasoline in 2014, but approximately five weeks after the Torrance refinery disruption, PADD 5 imports of motor gasoline had increased to 143,000 b/d for the week ending March 27. PADD 5 has since continued to import motor gasoline above normal levels, with a four-week average of 49,000 b/d for the week ending May 1 helping to keep inventory levels stable. With imports accounting for a greater share of supply, recent disruptions and delays in shipments have contributed to wholesale and retail gasoline price increases.  (DOE-EIA)

DOE Approves LNG Export From Corpus Christi, Texas

The Energy Department announced today that it has issued a final authorization for the Corpus Christi Liquefaction Project (Corpus Christi) to export domestically produced liquefied natural gas (LNG) to countries that do not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States. The Corpus Christi Liquefaction Project in Corpus Christi, Texas is authorized to export LNG up to the equivalent of 2.1 billion standard cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas for a period of 20 years.
The development of U.S. natural gas resources is having a transformative impact on the U.S. energy landscape, helping to improve our energy security while spurring economic development and job creation around the country.  This increase in domestic natural gas production is expected to continue, with the Energy Information Administration forecasting a record average production rate of 72.4 Bcf/d in 2015.

Federal law generally requires approval of natural gas exports to countries that have an FTA with the United States. For countries that do not have an FTA with the United States, the Natural Gas Act directs the Department of Energy to grant export authorizations unless the Department finds that the proposed exports “will not be consistent with the public interest.”
The Energy Department conducted an extensive, careful review of the Corpus Christi application.  Among other factors, the Department considered the economic, energy security, and environmental impacts and determined that exports at a rate of up to 2.1 Bcf/d for a period of 20 years was not inconsistent with the public interest.
The full final authorization for Corpus Christi can be found HERE.

The Path Forward on LNG Export Applications
The Energy Department will continue to act on applications to export LNG from the lower 48 states after completion of the review required by the National Environmental Policy Act, and when DOE has sufficient information on which to base a public interest determination. During this time, the Department will continue to monitor any market developments and assess their impact in subsequent public interest determinations as further information becomes available.  (DOE-EIA)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Obama To Renew Nuclear Power Plant Cooperation Agreement With China

President Obama has notified Congress that he intends to renew a nuclear cooperation agreement with China. The deal would allow Beijing to buy more U.S.-designed reactors and pursue a facility or the technology to reprocess plutonium from spent fuel. China would also be able to buy reactor coolant technology that experts say could be adapted to make its submarines quieter and harder to detect.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to hear from five Obama officials in a closed-door meeting today to weigh the commercial, political and security implications of extending the accord. The private session will permit discussion of a classified addendum from the director of national intelligence analyzing China’s nuclear export control system and what Obama’s notification called its “interactions with other countries of proliferation concern.”


The new agreement should clear the way for U.S. companies to sell dozens of nuclear reactors to China, the biggest nuclear power market in the world.
Yet the new version of the nuclear accord — known as a 123 agreement under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 — would give China leeway to buy U.S. nuclear energy technology at a sensitive moment: The Obama administration has been trying to rally support among lawmakers and the public for a deal that would restrict Iran’s nuclear program — a deal negotiated with China’s support.
Congress can vote to block the agreement, but if it takes no action during a review period, the agreement goes into effect.  If Congress rejects the deal, “that would allow another country with lower levels of proliferation controls to step in and fill that void,
Although the current nuclear agreement with China does not expire until the end of the year, the administration had to give Congress notice with 90 legislative days left on the clock. Obama also hopes to seal a global climate deal in December featuring China — less than three weeks before the current nuclear accord expires.
The United States has bilateral 123 agreements with 22 countries, plus Taiwan, for the peaceful use of nuclear power. Some countries that do not have such agreements, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Malaysia, have expressed interest in clearing obstacles to building nuclear reactors.
China and the United States reached a nuclear cooperation pact in 1985, before China agreed to safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency. IAEA safeguards went into force in 1989, but Congress imposed new restrictions after the Chinese government’s June 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square. The 123 agreement finally went into effect in March 1998; President Bill Clinton waived the 1989 sanctions after China pledged to end assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear cooperation with Iran.
In December 2006, Westinghouse Electric — majority-owned by Toshiba — signed an agreement to sell its AP1000 reactors to China. Four are under construction, six more are planned, and the company hopes to sell 30 others, according to an April report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
Reprocessing plutonium
China has a pilot plant engaged in reprocessing in Jiu Quan, a remote desert town in Gansu province. Satellite photos show that it is next to a former military reprocessing plant. There is not even any fencing between the sites.  (Wash Post, 5/10/2015)

Friday, May 08, 2015

DOE Authorizes Dominion Cove Point LNG To Export Liquefied Natural Gas

The Energy Department announced today that it has issued a final authorization for Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP to export domestically produced liquefied natural gas (LNG) to countries that do not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States. The Cove Point LNG Terminal in Calvert County, Maryland is authorized to export LNG up to the equivalent of 0.77 billion standard cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas for a period of 20 years.
The development of U.S. natural gas resources is having a transformative impact on the U.S. energy landscape, helping to improve our energy security while spurring economic development and job creation around the country.  This increase in domestic natural gas production is expected to continue, with the Energy Information Administration forecasting a record average production rate of 72.4 Bcf/d in 2015.
Federal law generally requires approval of natural gas exports to countries that have an FTA with the United States. For countries that do not have an FTA with the United States, the Natural Gas Act directs the Department of Energy to grant export authorizations unless the Department finds that the proposed exports “will not be consistent with the public interest.”
The Energy Department conducted an extensive, careful review of the Dominion Cove Point LNG applications.  Among other factors, the Department considered the economic, energy security, and environmental impacts and determined that exports at a rate of up to 0.77 Bcf/d for a period of 20 years was not inconsistent with the public interest.
The full final authorization for Dominion Cove Point can be found HERE.
The Path Forward on LNG Export Applications
The Energy Department will continue to act on applications to export LNG from the lower 48 states after completion of the review required by the National Environmental Policy Act, and when DOE has sufficient information on which to base a public interest determination. During this time, the Department will continue to monitor any market developments and assess their impact in subsequent public interest determinations as further information becomes available.  (DOE-EIA)

Friday, May 01, 2015

Tesla Home & Industrial Battery Packs

Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk has unveiled home and industrial battery packs--power wall” batteries--ranging from a $3,000 7 kilowatt-hour wall-mounted unit to a $3,500 10 kwh unit.
The batteries cost far less than the going rate for large-scale batteries and can be easier to install. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla will begin delivering units by the summer from its California car factory, and later shift production to a $5 billion battery plant under construction near Reno, Nevada.
Tesla also will sell massive battery blocks for industrial users.



Tesla’s first battery customers include Green Mountain Power Corp., Vermont’s largest utility. It plans to buy Tesla packs and sell them to customers that already have solar power. Another customer is TreeHouse Inc., an Austin-based home improvement store concentrating on ecologically friendly goods. The store will sell the battery packs along with its own solar installation options.

Utilities such as Duke Energy Corp. and Edison International have installed large battery systems next to wind farms. The batteries store electricity that the wind turbines generate at night and release the power to the grid in the late afternoon and early evening when electricity demand spikes.

Other companies, such as Stem Inc. and Green Charge Networks are installing batteries for large retailers and hotels, to help the companies limit their power usage and cut their utility bills.

Government subsidies can reduce the cost of installing the batteries. In California, state rebates cover up to 60% of the price of the battery. Nationwide, batteries that are connected to solar panels are eligible for federal tax credits equal to 30% of the price of the battery. California’s subsidies and a mandate requiring utilities to use batteries or other devices to store power have put that state at the center of the stationary energy-storage market.

Hawaii, Texas and some eastern states also are using batteries to store electricity from solar panels and wind farms, and to keep the flow of electricity on transmission lines moving smoothly. Tesla batteries initially will use cells made by Panasonic Corp., the supplier of batteries in its Model S electric sedan. When production shifts to Reno, costs will drop by 30%, it estimates.

The new battery models include large, standing industrial-level batteries intended for use by utilities sold in units of 100 kilowatt-hours, which cost $250 per kilowatt-hour. The company already has a customer with plans to install 250 megawatt-hours-worth of such batteries.

Its home model, called “power wall,” comes in sleek black and white models and will be aimed at people who want to more efficiently use power from solar panels or go entirely off the electrical grid. The larger home model can store enough electricity to power a home for 10 hours. The Power Wall batteries will be installed through certified third parties, including SolarCity Corp., where Mr. Musk is chairman.

There are two key details here that are worth considering — the cost of the battery itself, and what it would actually mean to have 10 kilowatt-hours of backup power or power storage in your home. When it comes to price, these numbers are hardly cheap, but they’re also lower than some analysts were suggesting — figures like $13,000 were common in press coverage prior to Tesla’s announcement.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average annual kilowatt-hour use for a U.S. utility customer (in the year 2013) is 10,908, or 909 kilowatt-hours per month. Divide that by 30 and per day, an average U.S. customer uses about 30 kilowatt-hours. So the battery could cover roughly a third of this. one idea behind pairing a home battery with solar panels is to store solar energy harnessed during the day and then deploy it in the evening, overnight, and the next morning. While the battery might not cover all energy uses during these times, it could reduce how much power needs to be purchased from a traditional utility and drawn from the grid.  (WSJ, 5/1/2015, Wash Post, 6/1/2015)

EARTH DAY Trek Across America 2015

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

Just before Earth Day, I made the announcement below on Facebook:
"I will be driving across America starting on Earth Day. I have never driven across this incredible country even though I have flown over it many times. This Earth Day trek is to gain a greater appreciation for this great land we live in. I want to see it. I want to see it up close and personal. It will be a 6-day drive: Washington, DC to Los Angeles, California. Wish me luck. I am hoping my 20 year old Toyota Camry will make the trip successfully. I will share video and photos with you. Stay tuned."
It was a great trip and I am ready to do it again.  I took the southern route.  I will take the northern route next time.



Not a good start. Before I could get on the the highway, steam started coming from under my hood. Just a ruptured radiator hose. At Precision Tune Auto. Should be repaired within 30 minutes. Maybe I can get to Roanoke before dark. My target was Knoxville. Maybe I should wait until tomorrow to leave.




TREK ACROSS AMERICA: Day 1. Riding through Appalachian Mountains. Beautiful. Stop every 2 hours. Near Roanoke. Car running well. Cruise works. Never used on this car.



TREK ACROSS AMERICA: Day 2. In Nashville. Tornado watch. Staying with old friend afternoon & evening. Wait out bad weather. Amazing the number of trees mangled and killed by the winter ice storm between Knoxville and Nashville.




TREK ACROSS AMERICA: Day 3: Leaving Nashville. Great day at my old friend's compound yesterday. Grand Ole Opry behind me. Just pulled off the highway for the selfie. Batman building is the most famous building downtown. Looks like Batman's helmet with two pointy spikes. On to Memphis.




Trek Across America: Day 4. Crossing Arkansas. Hope to cross Oklahoma today. At Waffle House right. I love a Waffle House breakfast. Thank you all for your well wishes. Great trip so far.






Trek Across America: Day 5. Leaving Oklahoma this morning and heading into Texas. Had a little shaking in the front of the car at the end of the day yesterday. Hope the old girl was just getting tired. Supposed to rain this morning and I am kind of waiting to see. I hate driving in the rain.


Coal Plant in Arizona
Wind Turbines in Arizone

TREK ACROSS AMERICA: Day 6. Leaving the Sunset Motel on famous Route 66. How many of you remember that show? Just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. Arizona is next.



TREK ACROSS AMERICA: Day 7. I am about 6 hours from Los Angeles. I have 2,200 miles behind me. And to think I never liked driving over 3 hours. I am actually posting this the night before because I intend to get up early and get started. They are talking about high temperatures tomorrow and I want to beat those temps. My girl can't take the heat.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Floating LNG Meets Rising Natural Gas Demands

graph of total global LNG regasification capacity, as explained in the article text
Source: EIA, based on World LNG Report, 2014 Edition, reproduced with permission from the International Gas Union, and The LNG Industry annual reports, 2006-13, reproduced with permission from the International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers.

Floating regasification is a flexible, cost-effective way to receive and process shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Floating regasification is increasingly being used to meet natural gas demand in smaller markets, or as a temporary solution until onshore regasification facilities are built. Of four countries planning to begin importing LNG in 2015, three of them—Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt—have chosen to do so using floating regasification rather than building full-scale onshore regasification facilities.


Floating regasification involves the use of a specialized vessel called a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU), which is capable of transporting, storing, and regasifying LNG onboard. Floating regasification also requires either an offshore terminal, which typically includes a buoy and connecting undersea pipelines to transport regasified LNG to shore, or an onshore dockside receiving terminal. An FSRU can be purpose-built or be converted from a conventional LNG vessel.
Floating regasification offers a flexible, cost-effective solution for smaller or seasonal markets, and can be developed in less time than an onshore facility of comparable size. It can also serve as a temporary solution while permanent onshore facilities are constructed, and an FSRU can be redeployed elsewhere once construction is completed. There are currently 16 FSRUs functioning as both transportation and regasification vessels and 5 permanently moored regasification units that have been converted into FSRUs from conventional LNG vessels.
graph of floating LNG regasification capacity by region, as explained in the article text
Source: EIA, based on World LNG Report, 2014 Edition, reproduced with permission from the International Gas Union.

The use of floating regasification has grown rapidly in recent years, particularly in emerging markets facing short-term supply shortages. Floating regasification was first deployed in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in 2005 and, since its deployment, it has been used in nine other countries: Argentina, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Lithuania, and the United Arab Emirates. Floating regasification capacity totaled 7.8 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) at the end of 2014, representing 8% of the global installed regasification capacity, according to data from the International Gas Union. The three floating terminals that are scheduled to come online in 2015 will add 1.4 Bcf/d of new capacity.
Pakistan received its first LNG import cargo on March 27, 2015 after completing the development of receiving infrastructure for an offshore regasification terminal (0.3 Bcf/d capacity) located near Port Qasim, Karachi, which will be served by an FSRU.
Egypt, a traditional natural gas exporter, has formerly supplied natural gas to international buyers by both pipeline and through two LNG export terminals. Faced with domestic supply shortages because of rapid growth in natural gas consumption for power generation, Egypt suspended exports and scheduled all natural gas production for domestic consumption. Egypt began building infrastructure for an offshore regasification terminal in 2012, and recently contracted an FSRU. The terminal (0.5 Bcf/d capacity) received its first LNG cargo in early April.
Jordan lacks domestic energy reserves and has struggled to meet rapidly growing domestic natural gas demand after Egypt suspended pipeline exports to the country. Floating regasification became the only short-term option for natural gas supply, and Jordan has made significant progress in building regasification infrastructure since 2013. Jordan has secured an FSRU vessel that will be located offshore Aqaba, in the Red Sea, and the regasification terminal (0.5 Bcf/d capacity) is scheduled to come online in May 2015.
Uruguay is building infrastructure for an offshore regasification terminal (0.4 Bcf/d capacity) located near Montevideo to supply its domestic market and to potentially provide natural gas for export by pipeline to Argentina. Originally planned to come online in mid-2015, the regasification terminal has been delayed until 2016.
Four more floating regasification terminals totaling 1.3 Bcf/d are currently being developed in India, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and the Philippines, with expected online dates in 2016-17. Floating regasification is likely to remain a preferred technology option for emerging markets because of its flexible deployment capabilities, smaller capacities, quick start-up, and relatively low costs compared with those of onshore terminals. (DOE-EIA)

Monday, April 20, 2015

EARTH DAY, Nuclear Power & America

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

Earth Day is middle aged now.  Forty-five years old and counting.  We have organized and participated in numerous Earth Day activities for the past three decades.  From river and creek clean ups to National Mall activities to local events, Earth Day has been quite a tradition for us.  Yet, when it comes to the environmental community's most important issue(s), climate change and global warming, we believe nuclear power should be a central component in reducing emissions into the atmosphere.

FiereceEnergy published my views for Earth Day:

It's a little-known fact -- especially among the environmentalist community -- that America's nuclear plants are the workhorses of our clean air energy production. Each year, these plants produce 63 percent of all the carbon-free energy generated in the U.S. These plants helped us avoid 589 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2013. To put that in perspective, that equals the amount of carbon emissions emitted by 113 million passenger cars annually. Plus, nuclear energy's life-cycle emissions -- including any emissions from mining, fuel production, plant construction, operation, and decommissioning -- are among the lowest of all electricity sources. (More)

We simply cannot win our fight to mitigate global warming and climate change without utilizing nuclear power. 

Now for additional news.  I begin a cross country trek starting on Earth Day (April 22) across the Unites States of America.  I have never driven across this great land of ours, even though I have flown across it many times.  I want to see this great country.  So I will be driving from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, California.  I anticipate that it will take 5 to 6 days to complete this trip.  I am driving my 20 year old Toyota Camry.  It still gets pretty good mileage.  I will chronicle the trip on my Facebook page.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

EPA Publishes 20th Annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its 20th Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks today, showing a two percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 from 2012 levels, but a nine percent drop in emissions since 2005.
EPA
Total U.S. greenhouse emissions were 6,673 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013. By sector, power plants were the largest source of emissions, accounting for 31 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. The transportation sector was the second largest source, at 27 percentIndustry and manufacturing were the third largest source, at 21 percent. The increase in total national greenhouse gas emissions between 2012 and 2013 was due to increased energy consumption across all sectors in the U.S. economy and greater use of coal for electricity generation. 
This year, EPA is publishing key data in a new, online Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data Explorer tool, which allows users to view, graph and download data by sector, year and greenhouse gas. EPA will be holding an informational webinar on April 22 at 1 p.m. EST to demonstrate the Data Explorer tool and its features, and provide a tutorial on common searches.
Greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change, which threatens the health and well-being of Americans and future generations through decreased air quality; extremes in heat and other weather events; increased incidence of food-, water-, and insect-borne diseases; and other impacts. Comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions data are an essential tool to help understand the primary sources of emissions and identify cost-effective opportunities to reduce them.
Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is taking steps to address carbon pollution from the power and transportation sectors, and to improve energy efficiency in homes, businesses and factories.  Current greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks and EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan will eliminate billions of tons of greenhouse gas pollution, save lives through air quality benefits and save Americans money at the pump. 
The agency prepares the inventory annually in collaboration with other federal agencies and submits the report to the Secretariat of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change every year on April 15The inventory presents historical emissions since 1990 and covers seven key greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluorideIn addition to tracking U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the inventory also calculates carbon dioxide that is removed from the atmosphere through the uptake of carbon in forests and other vegetation. EPA has been publishing the inventory since 1994, but tracks back to 1990.