New Hydropower Laws Could Add 60 GW Of Clean Energy To US Grid

by Silvio Marcacci — Special to JBS News

The one thing everyone working on energy issues in America can agree upon is non-existent energy policy action at the national level. But late last week President Obama signed two bipartisan bills that could create a major boost for US renewables generation from an unlikely source – small hydropower.

It’s kind of amazing they havn’t gotten much attention, since they’re the first real energy legislation to pass Congress since 2009.

These two bills, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act and Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act, will streamline the regulatory process required to add new hydropower generation to existing dams or to upgrade existing hydro generation resources, and could unlock the untapped potential of thousands of miles of waterways and could create 1.2 million green jobs, while adding 60 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable electricity to the grid.

Hydropower’s Huge Potential

Hydropower may seem to be the under-appreciated stepchild of American electricity generation, but it generates 7% of America’s total electricity, and represents a whopping 56% of all renewables – more than all other clean energy sources combined.

Even though hydropower represents reliable baseload generation capacity that can balance out other renewables, it doesn’t create the same kind of excitement as solar or wind – perhaps because the potential for hydropower seems tapped out.
But a 2012 report from the Department of Energy underscored why overlooking hydropower’s potential was a mistake. 80,000 dams are in service across the US, but only 3% have installed generators. DOE’s report found America could create more than 12 GW of new generation capacity by installing turbines on 54,000 sites where they don’t currently exist and upgrading older generation technology with more efficient turbines.

Opening The Floodgates

Part of the reason American hasn’t added much new hydropower generation is because of red tape, with even the smallest proposals taking years to receive approval. But that’s just the problem these two bills will help solve.

“These bills are an excellent step to unlocking the tens of thousands of megawatts of untapped hydropower capacity that can provide millions of Americans greater access to affordable, reliable electricity,” said Linda Church Ciocci of the National Hydropower Association.

The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency bill modifies existing laws to streamline small hydro projects and add generation to existing dams and closed-loop energy storage through several steps:

  • Increasing the small hydro exemption to 10 megawatts (MW), up from 5 MW
  • Removing conduit projects under 5 MW from FERC jurisdiction
  • Increasing the conduit exemption to 40 MW for all projects
  • Giving FERC the ability to extend preliminary permits
  • Requiring FERC to explore a 2-year licensing process for non-powered dams and closed-loop pump storage
Pumped hydro energy storage
Pumped hydro energy storage image via Shutterstock

In addition, the Small Conduit Hydropower Development bill authorizes the Interior Department to contract out small hydropower development at Bureau of Reclamation facilities across the US, helping add capacity at government property and irrigation canals.

“By cutting unnecessary Washington red tape, this law gives hydropower developers the certainty they need to move forward with new projects on over 40,000 miles of federal canals throughout the West,” said US Senator John Barrasso (R-WY).

Bipartisan Energy Policy: A Novel Idea

Hydropower facility modernization efforts have been underway across the country for several years, but they were covered by DOE stimulus funds, and with finite funding comes finite projects.

But now that federal policymakers have finally worked together in a bipartisan way to identify and knock down barriers to private investment, American could be flowing toward a hydro-powered future. Just imagine the potential if Congress could agree on any other clean energy issues.

About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.
This article, New Hydropower Laws Could Add 60 GW Of Clean Energy To US Grid, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

Global Wind Power Industry adds 241 Gigawatts by 2017

Wind farm in Sweden
Lillgrund Wind Farm in the Sound between Copenhagen and Malmö. Image courtesy: Mariusz Paździora

With the addition of 44.9 gigawatts in new installations in 2012, world wind power capacity grew to approximately 285.7 GW, an increase of 18.6 percent in the total wind power installation base. Average annual growth over the past 5 years has been 17.8 percent, achieved during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, even with traditionally large markets for wind power in economic recession in both North America and Europe.

Image courtesy of: Delphi234
Global growth of wind power. Image courtesy of: Delphi234

According to a recent report from Navigant Research, however, market growth will fluctuate over the next several years: 241.6 GW will be added between 2012 and 2017, at an average growth rate of 5.1 percent annually, the study concludes.

“The wind power industry continues to demonstrate its ability to rapidly evolve in order to meet new demands in markets that face a variety of challenges,” says Feng Zhao, managing consultant with Navigant Research. “Wind turbine vendors are designing specialized machines for maximum energy production in low wind speed areas and for operation in high altitudes, in cold climates, and offshore. Nevertheless, a slowdown in wind turbine sales is anticipated, with a decrease of more than 10 percent in 2013 compared to 2012.”

That decrease will be reflected in the U.S. market during 2013, as a result of 2012’s last‐minute one year extension of the federal production tax credit (PTC). The U.S. market will likely face additional political uncertainty when the PTC expires again later this year. Established European wind power markets, such as Spain and Italy, are expected to decline in coming years, while China, the world’s largest wind market, will remain in a state of transition from a period of breakneck growth to one of more stable development.

The report, “International Wind Energy Development: World Market Update 2012”, is the 18th edition of this comprehensive, annual wind energy market report. The report examines the state of the wind power industry today and provides forecasts for the market through 2017. Including more than 80 tables, charts, and graphs, the report highlights a number of trends for the industry through 2022, including the relative rankings of top countries for wind power installations; rankings of the top ten wind turbine suppliers; the evolution of wind power market structures; and the penetration of wind power in the world’s overall electricity supply.

An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.

Source: Business Wire

Royal Dutch Shell Report Spells Big Changes for Energy

by John Brian Shannon

Royal Dutch Shell has published a startling report in which it lays out it’s future view and it has detailed huge global implications for citizens, governments and the energy industry.

Shell’s New Lense Scenarios (policy paper) paints a picture of a new order among the different kinds of energy and how energy use will change between now and 2100.

Two different scenarios are discussed and named. The two, named ‘Mountains’ and ‘Oceans’ take different views of the many factors likely to affect the industry over the next 87 years,  but there is more consensus than disagreement between the two views.

The boom in natural gas figures prominently in both scenarios with natural gas dramatically ramping-up to become the number one kind of energy in the world by 2030.

“In 2030, natural gas becomes the largest global primary energy source, ending a 70-year reign for oil.” — NLS report

Due to enhanced Carbon Capture and Storage, clean combustion technology and the use of CO2 gas for industrial processes by 2100, Shell sees global emissions of carbon dioxide dropping by 2100, to nearly zero.

A quote from the report’s main authour Jeremy Bentham, speaks volumes about the anticipated level of demand for natural gas; “The underlying pent-up demand for gas is very strong…we see it being sucked up, every molecule.”

By 2060, the report has PV solar power moving into number one position to provide at least 38 percent of global energy supply — well up from today’s distant ranking of 13th place. See; Shell Sees Solar As The Biggest Energy Source After Exiting It in 2009.

Due to enhanced Carbon Capture and Storage, clean combustion technology and the use of CO2 gas for industrial processes by 2100, Shell sees “global emissions of carbon dioxide dropping to near zero by 2100”.

By 2100, energy from oil will account for only 10 percent of worldwide energy use and natural gas will account for just 7.5 percent of the global total, Shell said.

What might lie ahead 50 years from now… or even in 2100? We consider two possible scenarios of the future, taking a number of pressing global trends and issues and using them as “lenses” through which to view the world.

The scenarios provide a detailed analysis of current trends and their likely trajectory into the future. They dive into the implications for the pace of global economic development, the types of energy we use to power our lives and the growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

The scenarios also highlight areas of public policy likely to have the greatest influence on the development of cleaner fuels, improvements in energy efficiency and on moderating greenhouse gas emissions.

Mountains

The first scenario, labelled “mountains”, sees a strong role for government and the introduction of firm and far-reaching policy measures. These help to develop more compact cities and transform the global transport network. New policies unlock plentiful natural gas resources – making it the largest global energy source by the 2030s – and accelerate carbon capture and storage technology, supporting a cleaner energy system.

Oceans

The second scenario, which we call “oceans”, describes a more prosperous and volatile world. Energy demand surges, due to strong economic growth. Power is more widely distributed and governments take longer to agree major decisions. Market forces rather than policies shape the energy system: oil and coal remain part of the energy mix but renewable energy also grows. By the 2060s solar becomes the world’s largest energy source. – Shell

Download New Lens Scenarios PDF (PDF, 9 MB) – opens in new window

After selling off it’s global solar holdings in 2009, except for those located in Japan, Shell, having taken a long, studious look into the future, has since embraced PV solar as never before and is presently buying back it’s own shares at a brisk pace.

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Royal Dutch Shell Drops Two ‘Bombs’ in One Week

Royal Dutch Shell Drops Two ‘Bombs’ in One Week | 01/03/13
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

First came the announcement this week by Shell senior executives that oil extraction in the Arctic would be postponed for the second year in a row, and second is yesterday’s announcement foreshadowing the company’s plan for the future, Shell Sees Solar As The Biggest Energy Source After Exiting It in 2009.

The New Lens Scenarios Europe Shell report depicts two different energy policy scenarios, predicts that “photovoltaic panels will be the main power source by 2060 or 2070”  (depending on which scenario) and “lower costs and state support will boost solar to about 600 gigawatts in 2035” – worldwide totals.

What might lie ahead 50 years from now… or even in 2100? We consider two possible scenarios of the future, taking a number of pressing global trends and issues and using them as “lenses” through which to view the world.

The scenarios provide a detailed analysis of current trends and their likely trajectory into the future. They dive into the implications for the pace of global economic development, the types of energy we use to power our lives and the growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

The scenarios also highlight areas of public policy likely to have the greatest influence on the development of cleaner fuels, improvements in energy efficiency and on moderating greenhouse gas emissions.

Mountains

The first scenario, labelled “mountains”, sees a strong role for government and the introduction of firm and far-reaching policy measures. These help to develop more compact cities and transform the global transport network. New policies unlock plentiful natural gas resources – making it the largest global energy source by the 2030s – and accelerate carbon capture and storage technology, supporting a cleaner energy system.

Oceans

The second scenario, which we call “oceans”, describes a more prosperous and volatile world. Energy demand surges, due to strong economic growth. Power is more widely distributed and governments take longer to agree major decisions. Market forces rather than policies shape the energy system: oil and coal remain part of the energy mix but renewable energy also grows. By the 2060s solar becomes the world’s largest energy source. – Shell

According to information compiled from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the International Energy Agency, solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity has grown to about 102 gigawatts worldwide in 2012 – which is up from 1 gigawatt globally in 2000.

Since year 2000, an average of 10 gigawatts of PV solar, per year, has been very unevenly added to the world’s electrical grids, but if PV solar installations were to grow at the same rate as the 2000-2012 timeframe, just 450 gigawatts of PV solar would be installed by 2035 — not the 600 gigawatts predicted by the report. The growth rate for PV solar has been astonishing for a new kind of energy for utility companies — and additionally so, considering it is battling with the big boys of the energy world, oil & gas, coal and nuclear. Regardless of past challenges, strong growth in PV solar is forecast until 2100.

All of this means that PV solar is set to grow dramatically between now and 2035, let alone by 2070.

Peter Endig/dpa via AP Images
Shell Solar GmbH 2004 | World’s then-largest solar power plant in Espenhain, Germany | Image credit courtesy: Peter Endig/dpa via AP Images

The report has PV solar power moving to number one position to provide at least 38% of worldwide energy supply (well up from today’s ranking of 13th place) to become the predominant kind of energy by 2100.

By 2100, energy from oil will account for only 10% of worldwide energy use and natural gas will account for just 7.5% of the worldwide total, Shell said.

Due to enhanced Carbon Capture and Storage, clean combustion technology and the use of CO2 gas for industrial processes by 2100, Shell sees “global emissions of carbon dioxide dropping to near zero by 2100”.

As all of the above plays out, natural gas demand is expected to surpass the historic demands seen for any other kind of fuel and the quote from the report’s main authour Jeremy Bentham, speaks volumes about the anticipated level of demand for the gas.

“The underlying pent-up demand for gas is very strong…we see it being sucked up, every molecule.”– Jeremy Bentham

The overall demand for energy will double in the next 50 years due to population growth and increases in living standards, and natural gas will eventually enjoy the highest level of fuel demand in history. But by 2100, the world will mainly run on PV solar, while other kinds of energy will contribute small percentages to the overall global energy mix.

It now appears that Shell would rather ‘switch than fight’ the move to PV solar. It is likely to be the first of many such switches in the global energy industry.

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Excerpts from the Center for American Progress Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

by John Brian Shannon

“Developing just 54 gigawatts of offshore wind in Atlantic waters would generate $200 billion in economic activity and create 43,000 permanent, well-paid technical jobs, in addition to displacing the annual output of 52 coal-fired power plants.” — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

I have selected excerpts from this report, which you can read below. I suggest you read or download the entire report in PDF form, click here:

Excerpts from the Southeast: Energy efficiency and smart grid

The Southeast, a region historically dependent on fossil fuels, has become a leader in the emerging field of smart-grid technology—which is at the center of the impending wholesale modernization of our electric infrastructure. An enhanced commitment to regional smart-grid innovation, manufacturing, and deployment, coupled with a robust plan to address the region’s traditional energy efficiency shortfall, point to an economic and environmental boon. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

• The Southeast boasts more firms across the high-tech smart-grid value chain than any other region. Continuing to lead this transition offers the opportunity to create jobs across a range of skill-levels and fields; to diversify existing companies and to build new ones; to improve quality of life by connecting home, utility, renewable, and vehicle technology; and to reap the environmental and cost-saving benefits of using our resources more efficiently. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

• At the same time, addressing the region’s serious shortfall in implementing conventional energy efficiency policies provides a tremendous and complementary economic and environmental opportunity. A study by Georgia Tech and Duke University showed the potential to cut energy use across the region by 16 percent in 2030. This would result in annual consumer savings of $71 billion and lead to the creation of 520,000 jobs by 2030. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

Excerpts from the Midwest: Advanced Vehicles

The auto industry revival that is taking place in the Midwest is proof that states and the nation prosper when we make energy choices that take the American people, our economy, and our outdoor heritage forward together. Having recovered from near bankruptcy less than three years ago, the auto industry is now profitable, sales are rebounding, and fuel-economy projections have exceeded expectations. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

In addition to revitalizing American manufacturing, the deep oil savings from vehicles being built now under strong new fuel-economy standards will mean net savings to consumers of more than $54 billion a year in 2030 and will add 570,000 jobs to the economy. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

Excerpts from Mountain West: Wind and solar development and distribution

The Mountain West is experiencing firsthand the economic and environmental benefits of transitioning to low-carbon energy sources. Continuing this shift will be critical—the West is already experiencing serious damage from climate change and would face an even grimmer future if the nation turns its back on clean renewable energy in favor of a continued reliance on dirty fuels. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

• The West boasts nearly unlimited renewable energy resources—particularly wind, solar, and geothermal—that promise a brighter economic future than is possible with fossil fuels. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified 11,788 megawatts of nonhydro renewable energy projects either under construction or in advanced development in the region. Using the Electric Power Research Institute’s estimates of jobs per megawatt, these projects represent 71,872 jobs. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

Excerpt from the Pacific Coast: Solar power innovation and installation

The Pacific Coast and the adjoining western states are referred to as the “sun belt” for a reason. Capitalizing on that abundant solar resource is paying huge dividends for the region—providing jobs, spurring new industries, and spawning new innovative technologies. Abundant resources and aggressive renewable energy standards, including incentives for both utility-scale and small-scale rooftop solar, position the region to build on its current status as a national leader in solar energy installation and generation. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

• The solar industry in California has experienced significant growth over the past 15 years. Since 1995 the number of solar businesses grew by 171 percent, and total employment jumped by 166 percent. As a point of comparison, the total number of California businesses has grown by 70 percent, and employment has increased by 12 percent. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

To read or download the entire report in PDF form, click here.