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Member since: 2002
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Wind a Winner in Developing Nations


Researchers at a Swiss science and technology university testing out which is the most cost-effective renewable energy source in developing countries have made a surprising discovery.

The team calculated the cost of generating a tenth of the electricity demand for each of six countries using either wind turbines or photovoltaic cells. The countries were: Brazil, Egypt, India, Kenya, Nicaragua and Thailand.

Although the six countries selected in the research by ETH Zurich were all in hot climates, researchers found that wind rather than solar power represented the best value for money.

In Kenya and Nicaragua, the results were even more counterintuitive. In both those countries they found that because of the current high oil price, producing electricity with wind power was cheaper in real terms than the present energy model, which relies mainly on electricity generated from fossil fuels.


Renewables Driving Electricity Prices below $0 Some Afternoons & Cutting into Baseload Power Plants


Renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind have been outstripping the electricity supply of traditional baseload (coal, nuclear, and some natural gas) power plants during daytime, especially afternoons, in some renewable-leading countries of late. One reason for this is: electricity demand tends to increase during the sunniest (the hottest) hours, and solar power plants generate more electricity when it is sunnier, which is right on cue.

Not perfectly, but solar power production tends to follow electricity demand. This is especially true in the warmer temperatures, since air conditioners (which consume a lot of electricity) are turned up to compensate for the hot afternoon weather.

Importantly, as solar power plants outstrip the power production of baseload power plants, electricity is sold for a lower price than baseload power on the spot market. On April 1 of this year, not even that hot of a day, the price of electricity on the European Electricity Index (ELIX) actually dropped to -0.01.

<more - and a table of data too>

NZ Windfarms triples third-quarter revenue


BUSINESSDESK: NZ Windfarms third-quarter revenue tripled, reflecting the completion of its 97-turbine Te Rere Hau wind farm and higher electricity prices offset by lower electricity output caused by a wind speed drop.

Revenue from electricity sales jumped to $2.5 million in the three months ended March 31, from $749,000 in the same quarter last year, the company said.

The wind farm, located near Palmerston North, was completed in July last year.

Its performance “is strongly influenced by wind conditions and electricity prices which are both subject to natural variability and are beyond NZ Windfarm's control”, it said.


The end of the line for Minnesota's coal plants?


Sherburne County Generating Station, better known as Sherco, is a power-producing workhorse.

But even good workhorses head to the glue factory eventually.

The 2,400 megawatt coal-fired plant in Becker, 45 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, has generated the bulk of Xcel Energy's electricity for Minnesota for more than three decades.

In the next year, Xcel will have to decide what to do about Sherco as it takes what regional vice president Laura McCarten calls "a deep dive analysis" of its power needs. As part of the analysis required of all regulated utilities by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Minneapolis-based Xcel will look at all its alternatives for the next 20 years, making decisions on which plants it will upgrade and keep and which it may retire or replace in the coming years.


Rising electricity prices have little to do with renewable energy (Ontario)


While spring in Ontario has yet to bring much rain, there’s been no shortage of mudslinging over rising electricity prices. But there’s more to it than critics of renewable energy would you have you believe: new data helps to clarify how prices are linked more to nuclear power than clean energy programs.

To start with, electricity prices are going to go up no matter what source of energy we choose to use. Half of the provincial electricity system’s generating capacity — including almost every nuclear reactor — needs to be replaced or rebuilt within the next 10 years and you simply cannot build power plants in 2012 at 1980s prices.

While it’s the only province so far to be phasing out coal, price increases are by no means exclusive to Ontario. In coal-powered Alberta, energy prices are forecast to rise by 50 per cent between 2010 and 2016. Between 2002 and 2010, rates in Nova Scotia rose by 37 per cent. In Saskatchewan they rose by 36 per cent. And B.C. Hydro forecasts a rate increase of 32 per cent between 2011 and 2014.

What seems to be unique to Ontario is the fear that renewable energy is the sole cause of the increase. Although Ontario’s ambitious clean energy development targets are being met by establishing contracts with renewable energy generators in the form of feed-in tariffs (FIT), the province has similar long-term contracts with both nuclear- and gas-powered plants.


Lake's freezing and thawing shows warming trend


NEWCOMB, N.Y. — Wolf Lake in the Adirondack High Peaks region is considered a "heritage lake," one of the most pristine freshwater bodies in the northeastern United States.

It remains as it was when European settlers arrived in North America. As part of a private preserve bordering the state-owned 300-square-mile High Peaks Wilderness Area, it has escaped pollution and the ravages of invasive plants and animals. It's one of a dwindling number of lakes with heritage brook trout and calcium-rich soils buffering its water from fish-killing acid rain.

But there's no shelter from climate change, and Wolf Lake's pristine days may be numbered. A new study shows the length of time the lake is covered with ice each winter has declined by three weeks since 1975, indicating a change that may alter the lake's ecology and harm cold-water species such as trout.

"Lake ice is a better indicator of climate than weather stations, which require instruments and people to read them and are thus prone to errors," said ecologist Colin Beier, lead author of the study published online this week by the international journal Climatic Change. "Lake ice doesn't lie. The process of ice formation and lake closure and opening is a straightforward physical process, and people have kept records of it for decades."


Changes in climate will alter Maine, speaker says


FARMINGTON - Maine is going to look a lot different in 100 years if climate changes continue on the same trajectory.

Lake's freezing and thawing shows warming trend
Moose may all but disappear from the forests, replaced by migrations of white-tail deer.

The forests probably will be taken over by trees found today as far south as Maryland, rather than the red spruce that make Maine's woods unique.

Even black-capped chickadees, the state bird, may start to head farther north for cooler climes.


Utilities boost investments in offshore wind power


LONDON (MarketWatch) — Electricity to power European televisions and toasters will increasingly come from energy generated at sea as utility companies shore up offshore wind-energy capacity amid rising fossil-fuel prices and political pressure.

Over the past three years, yearly installed capacity from offshore wind turbines has more than doubled in Europe to 866 megawatts in 2011, exceeding growth rates for its onshore counterpart, according to the European Wind Energy Association, or EWEA.

New onshore installations rose only 10% in the same period. Further, in 2011, new installed capacity at sea accounted for 10% of the total new installations in the European Union, up from 5% in 2008.

“In the North Sea alone we have a potential to economically exploit the offshore resources to cover seven times Europe’s total energy consumption,” said Christian Kjaer, chief executive at European Wind Energy Association. “We wouldn’t have to import fuel if we can tap into that.”


Green Energy Prices Aren't High, Its Detractors Are!


If you live in Ontario, you know there's an all-out assault on renewable energy like windmills and solar power. What you might not know is that despite all the nay-saying, clean energy is actually responsible for emissions going down, not for prices going up.

New numbers released this week show that nuclear, natural gas, and coal are behind almost all of the increase in the bills. In spite of the impressive growth of renewable projects in Ontario, they still contribute just a small piece towards the big picture.

An honest look at energy costs shows that the cost of operating and refurbishing nuclear reactors is by far the biggest expense, along with costs associated with shutting down our dirty coal plants and building brand new natural gas plants. Because of years of neglect, Ontario's energy system simply needed rebuilding. This would have happened with or without renewable energy.

Why the confusion?

You might think the cost of generating electricity in Ontario is reflected in "market rates." In reality, due to the complexity of its energy system, the market rate doesn't come close to covering the cost of generating electricity anymore. To make up the difference, almost all major electricity generators in Ontario also have price contracts with the government. The total cost of these contracts make up what is known as the 'global adjustment'.


California Utilities Balk as Home Solar Producers Near 5 Percent Limit


California solar produced on rooftops is about to breach the next limit of 5 percent of aggregate customer peak demand. The effect could be to sunset the incredible growth of distributed solar rooftop power in the state, as utility payments are ended for future rooftop solar production.

Why is there a limt? Because utilities in California must pay homeowners who generate clean power for the grid. “Net metering” gives solar customers fair credit on their utility bills for the power they generate. There is a five percent cap on the amount of net metering that utilities must make available to customers. That limit was already raised once a couple of years ago, from about half that amount.

The state regulators at the CPUC have proposed closing that loophole and requiring utilities to calculate net metering participation in a way that permits more participation by more customers. Once there is more than five percent provided there’s no guarantee that utilities will continue to credit new solar customers for their contribution to cleaning the grid with their rooftop solar.

Most solar in California – like most urban states – is on grid: that is, the grid is the battery. Everyone who puts solar on their roof contributes to the grid, and is credited for their contribution, and takes from the grid, for example, at night, and is debited for that. It’s like rollover minutes for solar.

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