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Solar and wind power are outgrowing subsidies

by Mark Chediak and Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg

For years, wind and solar power were derided as boondoggles. They were too expensive, the argument went, to build without government handouts.

Today, renewable energy is so cheap that the handouts they once needed are disappearing.

On sun-drenched fields across Spain and Italy, developers are building solar farms without subsidies or tax-breaks, betting they can profit without them. In China, the government plans to stop financially supporting new wind farms. And in the U.S., developers are signing shorter sales contracts, opting to depend on competitive markets for revenue once the agreements expire.

Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-09-19/solar-and-wind-power-so-cheap-they-re-outgrowing-subsidies

Here’s how local governments are replacing California’s biggest utilities

The Climate Center is cited in the article below. We continue to advocate for Community Choice Energy as a preferred model for many communities because Community Choice agencies’ objectives are aligned with local government climate goals and these agencies do not have any obligation to maximize profits for private shareholders. 


by Sammy Roth, LA Times

Seventy miles north of downtown Los Angeles, where the Mojave Desert gives way to the San Joaquin Valley, three newly built wind turbines stand atop a ridge overlooking State Route 58. Strong gusts emerge from the mountain pass below, making this an especially windy spot in one of the windiest parts of California.

A few new turbines aren’t normally a big deal in the Golden State, which has been building wind farms for decades.

But these particular machines are at the heart of a revolution in California’s energy industry, which for millions of people, homes and businesses could mean an end to buying power from monopoly utilities such as Southern California Edison.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-clean-power-alliance-wind-energy-20181225-story.html

Texas wind turbines went right on turning under Harvey’s impact, as refineries shut down

by Juan Cole, Common Dreams

Extreme weather is in our future. Caribbean hurricanes of the future will be more and more violent and destructive because of manmade global heating. Sea level rise will open the coast to bigger storm surges. The number of coastal floods has already doubled since the 1980s because of people driving their gasoline cars and running their air conditioners off burning lumps of coal. Hotter air over hotter water will have more moisture in it, setting the stage for regular flooding. Hotter water creates more powerful winds within hurricanes.

So the bad news is that a fossil fuel energy system does not deal well with extreme weather.

Even just by Thursday, Harvey had shut down so many oil refineries that it had taken 20% of daily US gasoline production off line. By Friday it was being announced that so many refineries had been damaged that the major pipeline that brings 3 million barrels a day to the east coast, had been shut down. Altogether, 4.4 mn b/d of refinery capacity is off line now. About half a million barrels a day of refining capacity will remain shut down well into next winter.

Reuters quoted a market analyst as saying, “Imports can’t make up for this. . . This is going to be the worst thing the U.S. has seen in decades from an energy standpoint.”

Not only is gasoline going to be more expensive as a result, but the pollution dangers from the damaged refineries are horrific.

But guess what? Texas’s wind turbines weathered Harvey. Some were pushed to the max by its powerful winds, but they just went on making electricity! Turbines shut down if the wind is 55 mph or more, but most wind farms affected by Harvey were able to keep operating. One shut down because the electrical wires were knocked down, not because the turbines stopped working!. On an average day, Texas gets 20% of its electricity from wind. That only fell to 13% the day of Harvey’s landfall.

Harvey also menaced a nuclear reactor, a la Fukushima, but we dodged that bullet this time.

Nuclear reactors no longer make any sense, and they remain dangerous and vulnerable to extreme weather events. Even if wind turbines did get damaged by a storm, they don’t explode or spread around radioactive fallout.

Duke Energy has just abandoned plans for a nuclear reactor and is instead putting $6 bn into solar and wind.

So it turns out that not only would a rapid turn to 100% green energy, as California plans, forestall further global heating, it can help keep us safe during the extreme weather caused by . . . burning fossil fuels in the first place.

The problem of fossil fuels and global heating is only going to get worse. The National Institutes of Health warns,

“The public health impacts of climate change in U.S. Gulf Coast states—Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida—may be especially severe and further exacerbated by a range of threats facing the coastline areas, including severe erosion, subsidence, and—given the amount of energy production infrastructure—the ever-present potential for large-scale industrial accidents. The Gulf Coast population is expected to reach over 74 million by 2030 with a growing number of people living along the coastlines. Populations in the region that are already vulnerable because of economic or other disparities may face additional risks to health . . . The Gulf region is expected to experience increased mean temperatures and longer heat waves while freezing events are expected to decrease. Regional average temperatures across the U.S. Southeast region (which includes Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina as well as the Gulf Coast) are projected to increase between 4 °F to 8 °F (2.2 °C to 4.4 °C) throughout the century. Hurricanes and sea level rise, occurring independently or in combination with hurricane-induced storm surge, are major threats to the Gulf Coast region [11]. Some portions of the Gulf Coast—particularly coastal Louisiana and South Florida—are especially vulnerable to sea level rise due to their low elevation.”

source: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/09/03/texas-wind-turbines-went-right-turning-under-harveys-impact-refineries-shut-down

Community-Scale Wind Power at Hardware Center

If you ever get the chance to drive by the ever-colorful Ace Sebastopol Hardware Center, look up. You can’t see the forty kilowatts of solar panels installed on the roof that power the entire place on sunny days, but you can see the small, community scale wind generator that has been installed. This is a good example of the kind of appropriate community scale wind power installation that local electricity suppliers like Sonoma Clean Power can incentivize. 

“We like to be green and show the community that there are options available for producing your own power,” said Co-Owner and General Manager Mike Bishop.

The WindTronics generator is designed for home and small commercial use and measures just 6 feet in diameter and weighs only 241 pounds. It is rated to produce up to 1500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year depending on the location and height of the installation. That’s enough to power one small electricity-frugal household, so in most cases, this technology would be best to augment other power sources.

Mike Bishop agrees. “It’s a great supplement to our solar power system because it produces power in the evening and cloudy days when the solar system is not producing,” he said. 

“This is a good, low profile design that is quiet and bird-friendly so it’s good for residential and rural use. We just wish the incentives were more stable and predictable.”

On that point, when Sonoma Clean Power is established, it will take up the issue of offering attractive payment agreements for surplus clean power fed into the grid. A win/win prospect – good for the planet, and good for business.

Woody Hastings