16 Sep

50% Reduction In Cost Of Renewable Energy Since 2008

It has fallen 50% in four years. I really push people to encourage the impact of 1/2 costs by 2016:

“Renewable energy becoming more cost-competitive with fossil fuels isn’t news – as technology improves and more clean power generation comes online, electricity without emissions gets cheaper. But one new analysis reveals just how shockingly cheap it’s gotten.

The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from wind and solar sources in America has fallen by more than 50% over the past four years, according to Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis 7.0, recently released by global financial advisor and asset manager firm Lazard Freres & Co.”

(Via Peak Energy: 50% Reduction In Cost Of Renewable Energy Since 2008.)

Keep in mind, renewables are very close to parity levels. Part of the reason people are noticing that feed in tariffs and subsidies to renewables cost a lot is because as they get close to parity, it becomes wildly profitable to build, invest, and start getting into the game of switching over and more people are doing it. Suddenly what’s been a bone tossed to hippie constituents that was a small line item explodes. Right now renewables don’t cost 2X standard fuel, they’re more like 30-50%, with the two big hurdles being storage and upfront capital needed (a cheap motor, and then you can make payments on gas in installments by paying as you go, wind or solar needs the big up front cost).

So, what happens in 2-3 years as it becomes seriously obviously cheaper? To the point where even dinosaur politicians who wave anti-green credentials as quick identity politics are suddenly finding themselves on the losing side of a very rapidly changing landscape?

A whole lot of interesting churn…

09 Apr

Today I went on a trip to the Blue Creek Wind Farm

pic via Blue Creek Wind Farm/Iberdrola

One of my oldest writing buddies, Charlie Finlay, works for Ohio State University, and alerted me to a media event OSU was holding to talk about its partnership with the Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert County, which was installed and run by a Spanish Wind Power corporation, Iberdrola, with local headquarters in the US.

I’d seen the wind farm before on interstate 30 on my way to Indiana a few times. It’s truly an amazing mega project, because as you drive past for a few miles, you start seeing 328 foot tall wind turbines dotting the farm landscape. And there’re are more in the horizon. And the longer you drive, the longer you realize that there are just hundreds of them.

It’s quite an effect to realize that there are wind turbines as far as the eye can see.

152 of these things sit across 20,000 or so acres of farmland.

I’ve gotten close to some of the behemoths, so I didn’t hop on a bus for a close-up look at them (plus I doubt they’d show me the parts I was really interested in). But I did snag a few interesting facts from the tour.

The turbines can drive up to 304 megawatts in total in perfect conditions, today when we got there they were pumping 50 megawatts into the grid, and with wind picking up the engineers reported they expected 100 shortly.

The company spent $2 million a year on leases, that’s money that went to local farmers. At $2.7 million taxes they claim to be the largest tax payer in the county.

Anti-wind activists claimed the noise from 152 turbines would be unbearable. When I visited the first time there was a steady distant whoosh, but nothing as loud as a highway or a train. Both of which there are plenty of in the region.

A local farmer who spoke to us said that the highway had torn up more land, caused more grief, and was consistently louder than any of the turbines, though they’d been worried at first.

The OSU reps had an interesting story. They agreed to buy 50 megawatts of wind from the project in order to commit to an agreement by a number of universities to get carbon neutral by 2050. They anticipated the wind power purchase to cover 25% of their needs, but be more expensive than coal (brown) power. They decided that this would be an investment in their future, and go ahead anyway.

But when all was said and done, the power ended up costing them the same (and as a result of rebalancing their power portfolio, somehow even ended up costing them less, I wasn’t sure about the details of that), so they were very happy about it.

The lifespan of the turbines was 25 years, the towers they’re built on, 50. The next generation of turbines can provide 3 and 4 megawatts, potentially doubling the power output of the wind farm.

Ohio, with it’s predictable wind patterns and large flat landscapes, seems well suited to this, and they’re talking about building more of these in the area (Findlay is where they’re eyeing).

A couple of things I wanted to interrogate them on where, what, if any, subsidies they had and what that added to the per megawatt cost. I also was curious to see if they had any charts indicating the slope of coal-cost parity, as they seem to beating it in some cases. And I wanted to ask a bit more about night vs daytime, and how steady their output of power was.

But mostly, since there’s a massive wind farm now operational just down the road from me, one of the biggest in the US, I want to know how I can buy my home power from them. Something I’ll be investigating over the next weeks.

03 Apr

Bladeless Windmill: EWICON

“The technology, developed by the Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science faculty at Delft, uses the movement of electrically charged water droplets to generate power.”

(Via Invention of the Day: A Bladeless Windmill – Henry Grabar – The Atlantic Cities.)

Here’s the video:

What’s nifty about this is the lack of moving parts.

None of the websites I searching when looking up EWICON had any additional info about how much energy the device gives off for the expense and size. Sure, the lack of moving parts saves money, but how much does it cost to drizzle water? What sets up the initial charge? How much did it cost to make even the test version?

Doing some quick digging I found an abstract by the EWICON inventors. I didn’t want to spend $13 on it, but I’m shocked that not a single blog, or newspaper, or media site, reporting on the EWICON device, looked at the abstract and then dug deeper to see what the costs were. The abstract points out that EWICON is about 7% efficient at capturing energy, compared to 45% of a conventional turbine.

That means, if I read that correctly, the EWICON is getting about 15-16% of what a traditional turbine could.

So, yeah, no moving parts, but that’s hardly earth-shattering.

Even if a nascent technology, and even if this is something we want to research (the abstract notes it could get to 25-30% efficiency, making it worth it), it would be nice to see some more figures.