Archive for the ‘electricity’ Category

Judge ends Arizona coal-mine owners’ attempt to compel power customer to stay

April 4th, 2019
Judge ends Arizona coal-mine owners’ attempt to compel power customer to stay


A federal judge in Arizona dismissed a lawsuit that sought to force the state's major water supplier to continue buying power from the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), a 2.25 gigawatt (GW) coal-fired power plant in Arizona.

NGS is the largest coal plant west of the Mississippi River. But in 2017, its owners decided they would close the plant by the end of 2019, as profits steadily eroded.

The Central Arizona Project (CAP), which buys millions of megawatt-hours of power a year from NGS to operate pumps that irrigate and hydrate higher-elevation portions of Arizona, said it would buy power elsewhere after NGS closed. CAP has maintained for several years (PDF) that coal-fired power from NGS has been more expensive than natural gas and renewable power on the wider market.

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Posted in coal, electricity, Energy, Navajo Generating Station, Policy | Comments (0)

Kintetsu Railway in Japan installs 42 Tesla Powerpacks as backup electricity

March 27th, 2019

On Wednesday, Tesla announced that it had installed a bank of 42 Powerpacks at a train station in Osaka to service the Kintetsu Railway during the summer or in the event of an emergency.

The electric railway encompasses 311 miles of track powered by overhead lines and third rails. In its "disaster preparedness" capacity, the Tesla batteries will provide emergency backup power in the event of a blackout, providing a short burst of electricity to move any trains that might be stalled in tunnels or under bridges to safety.

The system is small—it has a little more than 7 megawatt-hours (MWh) of capacity and delivers 4.2 megawatts (MW) of power at one time. That's enough to power stranded trains on Kintetsu's track for just under a half an hour in an emergency.

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Posted in battery, cars, electricity, Energy, science, Transportation | Comments (0)

74% of US coal plants threatened by renewables, but emissions continue to rise

March 26th, 2019
Wind turbines near a coal plant.

Enlarge / Wind turbines spin as steam rises from the cooling towers of the Jäenschwalde coal-fired power plant. (credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report on Monday saying that in 2018, "global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 percent to 33 Gigatonnes." That's the most growth in emissions that the world has seen since 2013.

Coal use contributed to a third of the total increase, mostly from new coal-fired power plants in China and India. This is worrisome because new coal plants have a lifespan of roughly 50 years. But the consequences of climate change are already upon us, and coal's hefty emissions profile compared to other energy sources means that, globally, carbon mitigation is going to be a lot more difficult to tackle than it may look from here in the US.

Even in the US, carbon emissions grew by 3.1 percent in 2018, according to the IEA. (This closely tracks estimates by the Rhodium Group, which released a preliminary report in January saying that US carbon emissions increased by 3.4 percent in 2018.)

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Posted in coal, electricity, Energy, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Without federal help, local governments are trying to save coal

March 12th, 2019
Coal truck at a mine.

Enlarge / A truck loaded with coal is viewed at the Eagle Butte Coal Mine, which is operated by Alpha Coal, on Monday May 08, 2017 in Gillette, Wyoming. (credit: Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As the Trump administration's attempts to save coal have stalled, a record number of coal plants were shut down or scheduled for shut down in 2018.

The federal government has floated extra compensation for coal and nuclear plants, it has tried to use federal wartime powers to mandate that coal plants stay open, and it has rolled back the Clean Power Plan in the hopes that fewer regulations would help coal power plants stay solvent. Still, though, coal plants close and threaten to close largely because coal is more expensive than natural gas and renewable energy, and it's more cost-effective for utilities and energy companies to retire old plants than to refurbish them.

The federal government is still working to boost coal. In yesterday's budget proposal, the Trump administration proposed extensive cuts to a variety of renewable and efficiency programs run by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, but it said it wanted to increase the Bureau of Land Management's coal management program funding by $7.89 million. In addition, the Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development saw a proposed increase in funds by $60 million.

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Posted in Arizona, coal, electricity, Energy, Policy, science, Wyoming | Comments (0)

Arizona utility reveals battery deals that give California a run for its money

February 24th, 2019
Transmission lines.

Enlarge / A switch yard that receives electricity from photovoltaic solar panels in Yuma County, Arizona. (credit: Joshua Lott/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Last week, Arizona Public Service (APS) announced that it would procure 850 megawatts (MW) of battery storage by 2025. APS, which is the largest utility in the southwestern state, also said it would add at least 100 MW of solar power to its grid by 2025.

According to Utility Dive, 450 MW of that battery storage will be deployed by 2021, with a total of 1200 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy. The additional 400 MW will be built before 2025, but the duration of those batteries is not yet confirmed. APS's statement notes that the new battery capacity will be built at existing solar plants.

The announcement is one of the largest made by a utility for battery storage. In July of last year, California's PG&E signed similarly large deals with Tesla, Vistra/Dynegy, and Hummingbird Energy Storage. Invenergy and AES will work with APS to provide the batteries in Arizona.

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Posted in Arizona, battery, California, electricity, Energy, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Shell buys Sonnen, Tesla’s competitor in the home battery business

February 15th, 2019
A worker assembling a Sonnen battery.

Enlarge / An employee working for the manufacturer of solar batteries, Sonnen GmbH, in the Bavarian village Wildpoldsried, southern Germany, is pictured on July 5, 2016. (credit: CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

On Friday, oil major Royal Dutch Shell and German energy storage company Sonnen announced that Shell would acquire Sonnen for an undisclosed amount.

Sonnen has been one of the top competitors with Tesla's Powerwall in the US home battery market. The company built its base in Germany, attaching batteries for self-consumption to homes with solar panels. Sonnen now claims 400,000 batteries installed in households in Germany, the US, and Australia.

The company's assets include proprietary software that optimizes a home's battery use in combination with solar power.

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Posted in battery, Biz & IT, electricity, Energy, science, Sonnen, stationary storage, Tesla | Comments (0)

TVA board votes to close coal plants despite Trump tweet

February 14th, 2019
Paradise coal plant.

Enlarge / A coal train passes beside two cooling towers during unloading operations at the Tennessee Valley Authority Paradise Fossil Plant in Paradise, Kentucky, on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. (credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Thursday, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a federally owned utility that operates in Tennessee and Kentucky, voted 5 to 2 to close two coal-fired power-generating units by 2023, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The decision includes closing the last coal-fired unit at the Paradise Fossil Plant by 2020, as well as closing the coal-fired Bull Run Steam Plant by 2023. On Thursday morning, the TVA tweeted: "The TVA Board votes to retire Paradise Unit 3 and Bull Run within the next few years. Their decision was made after extensive reviews and public comments and will ensure continued reliable power at the lowest cost feasible. We will work with impacted employees and communities."

The TVA announced back in August that it would review the viability of the two generators. According to the Times Free Press, the TVA's Chief Financial Officer John Thomas estimated that "the retirement of the two plants will save TVA $320 million, because the plants are the least efficient of TVA's coal plants and are not needed to meet TVA's power needs."

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Posted in coal, electricity, Energy, Policy, science | Comments (0)

As the US nuclear fleet ages, one lab group hopes to give it a second wind

January 14th, 2019
A pair of nuclear towers against a blue sky.

Enlarge / The Watts Bar nuclear power plant in Tennessee. (credit: Tennessee Valley Authority / Flickr)

Nuclear power provides roughly 20 percent of the United States' electricity and about half of its low-carbon electricity. Whether you think nuclear power is a good or a bad thing, the fact is that the existing nuclear power fleet contributes a significant amount of energy to the US grid, and all that capacity is rapidly approaching its sunset years.

Most nuclear power plants were built in the 1970s and '80s and were planned around a 40-year lifespan. Only one new nuclear reactor has been put into commission since the '90s. This presents a problem: the US is facing a fast-approaching loss of a significant source of zero-carbon electricity, which it can either replace with intermittent renewables or fossil fuels. The first option may require expensive storage to smooth out the times when wind or sun are not available, and the second is undesirable given the nature of climate change.

One group at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is trying to help utilities and energy companies extend the lives of their aging reactors. The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (or CASL, for short) has been building and refining a reactor modeling program called VERA (an acronym for Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications), which offers high-resolution computer modeling of nuclear reactor equipment.

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Posted in electricity, Energy, Nuclear, Policy, regulation, science | Comments (0)

Natural gas is now getting in the way; US carbon emissions increase by 3.4%

January 8th, 2019
PINEDALE, WY - MAY 3: A natural gas facility stands on the Pinedale Anticline, on May 3, 2018 in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

Enlarge / PINEDALE, WY - MAY 3: A natural gas facility stands on the Pinedale Anticline, on May 3, 2018 in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

"The US was already off track in meeting its Paris Agreement targets. The gap is even wider headed into 2019."

That's the dire news from Rhodium Group, a research firm that released preliminary estimates of US carbon emissions in 2018. Though the Trump administration said it would exit the Paris Agreement in 2017, the US is still bound by the agreement to submit progress reports until 2020. But the administration has justified regulatory rollbacks since then, claiming that regulation from the US government is unnecessary because emissions were trending downward anyway.

But it appears that emissions have increased 3.4 percent in 2018 across the US economy, the second-largest annual increase in 20 years, according to Rhodium Group's preliminary data. (2010, when the US started recovering from the recession, was the largest annual increase in the last two decades.)

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Posted in carbon emissions, electricity, Energy, Policy, power sector, science, Transportation | Comments (0)

Residential batteries may save households money, but rarely reduce emissions

December 28th, 2018

Another year, another reason to take the promises of residential home batteries with a grain of salt.

This month, a group of researchers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) published a paper in Environmental Science and Technology reporting that there are very few cases in which operating a residential home battery reduces overall emissions—assuming that households are economically rational and trying to minimize costs.

Of course, if the battery is only discharged during periods of peak emissions and only charged when fossil fuel use is low, then a household might reduce emissions. But across 16 representative regions, operating a battery this way ended up being costly.

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Posted in batteries, cost, Economics, electricity, Energy, science | Comments (0)