Energy in the News: Friday, February 2

Friday, February 02, 2018

New vice president for research looks to find opportunities for growth

The Battalion, feat. Mark Barteau

Mark Barteau, professor of chemical engineering from the University of Michigan, will find a home in Aggieland this semester, beginning his new roles as professor and vice president for research at Texas A&M in mid-February.

Barteau grew up in St. Louis and attended Washington University in St. Louis for his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. He then went on to get his master’s and Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Stanford, followed by his post-doc in Munich, Germany in a technical university.

He then joined the faculty in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware in 1982 and held a number of positions there before he went to the University of Michigan in 2012 to be the director of the energy institute and a faculty member in chemical engineering.

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Author explores 'shades of gray' in divisive fracking debate

E&E Energywire, feat. Daniel Raimi

Daniel Raimi was nowhere near oil and gas country when hydraulic fracturing first piqued his interest.

It was 2011, and he was a graduate student in North Carolina, helping regulators assess the state's natural gas potential. The fracking boom had taken hold in other parts of the country, and the Tar Heel State didn't want to miss out.

It turned out North Carolina didn't have much natural gas to speak of, but Raimi was hooked on the topic. He found himself frequently fielding questions from friends and family members seeking to understand the basics of fracking and the broader shale gas boom: Does fracking contaminate water? Will fracking make me sick? Is fracking good or bad for climate change?

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Ohio State associate professor among scientists pushing back against EPA ban

The Columbus Dispatch, feat. Joe Arvai

Scientists filed a second lawsuit last week challenging federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s new policy for science advisers serving the agency.

In October, Pruitt introduced a ban on recipients of EPA research grants serving as independent advisers to the agency.

He argued the directive would improve the “independence, diversity and breadth of participation” across 23 agency committees that provide technical advice on subjects such as pesticides, pollution, environmental justice, the Great Lakes, children’s health and hazardous waste.

Scientists, public-health organizations and environmentalists are carrying out a legal counterattack, criticizing the change as a de facto ban of academic researchers and an aggressive push toward an industry-friendly EPA.

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U-M becomes first test bed for on-demand transportation system

Michigan Engineer News Center, feat. Pascal Van Hentenryck

A first-of-its-kind on-demand transportation system is being piloted at U-M as the RITMO Transit urban mobility system begins a limited test deployment on North Campus. RITMO, which stands for Reinventing Public Urban Transportation and Mobility, aims to mash up aspects of Uber-style ride sharing and fixed-route buses to form a more convenient, more efficient and less costly transportation system. This pilot is being conducted by Michigan Engineering; U-M Logistics, Transportation and Parking; and U-M Information Technology Services in partnership with Ford Motor Company.

About 100 test riders are using  a custom-built smartphone app to hail free rides between pre-set stops in an area bordered by Plymouth Road, Fuller Road and Green Road. Riders are shuttled by professional drivers in a six-vehicle fleet of shared Ford Transit shuttle vans. The test is being conducted Monday through Friday from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

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America’s coastlines are turning into ‘dead zones’

The Daily Beast, feat. Don Scavia

When it rains in the Midwest, runoff from fertilizers laced with nitrogen and phosphorus leak into streams and creeks, many of them eventually dumping into the Mississippi River. The chemicals float hundreds of miles south into the Gulf of Mexico, then out to sea where they begin to spur algae and microbe growth.

As the algae decomposes, oxygen disappears. The water starts to suffocate. They become low-oxygen areas, often called “dead zones.”

Dead zones have increased more than 10-fold since 1950, according to a paper published in January by an international group of scientists for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Last year, the Gulf of Mexico dead zone was the largest ever measured—about the size of New Jersey. As global temperatures continue to rise, dead zones in the world’s oceans, as well as in major U.S. waterways like the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, are only expected to grow.

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Does energy storage make the electric grid cleaner

The Conversation

Carbon-free energy: Is the answer blowing in the wind? Perhaps, but the wind doesn’t always blow, nor does the sun always shine. The energy generated by wind and solar power is intermittent, meaning that the generated electricity goes up and down according to the weather.

But the output from the electricity grid must be controllable to match the second-by-second changing demand from consumers. So the intermittency of wind and solar power is an operational challenge for the electricity system.

Energy storage is a widely acknowledged solution to the problem of intermittent renewables. The idea is that storage charges up when the wind is blowing, or the sun is shining, then discharges later when the energy is needed. Storage for the grid can be a chemical battery like those we use in electronic devices, but it can also take the form of pumping water up a hill to a reservoir and generating electricity when letting it flow back down, or storing and discharging compressed air in an underground cavern.

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Upper Peninsula groups see a bigger role for solar, efficiency

Midwest Energy News

Clean energy advocates in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are regrouping and still see a role for renewables and efficiency despite having their arguments dismissed last year with the approval of two new natural gas plants in the region.

A mix of renewables, energy efficiency and demand response could have been a hedge against fluctuations in natural gas prices, clean energy groups argued, but in October the Michigan Public Service Commission concluded a pair of gas units near Marquette was the most reliable and cost-effective way to replace the aging, coal-fired Presque Isle plant. The gas units will total 183 megawatts and come online in 2019.

With the immediate need for new generation off the table, the financial case for adding utility-scale renewable energy in the region becomes more challenging.

But there’s still a path, some say.

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Predictions 2018: Energy storage growth shows no sign of slowing down

Utility Dive

Energy storage will reap the benefits of a foundation laid in 2017 — when regulated utilities took the helm of massive storage projects.

The resource's market growth is expected to continue well into this year, analysts say, as states begin compelling utilities to include it in their long-term planning processes.

Notable examples include New Mexico and Oregon, whose regulators carved out a place for storage in the states' Renewable Portfolio Standard. Another more recent example is the debate in California over the proposed Puente Power Plant, a natural gas facility.

Stakeholders have pressed California regulators to consider cleaner sources of energy as an alternative to the plant. In the end, the developer NRG Energy suspended its application, while the utility Southern California Edison said it would consider storage as one of the resources.

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Lab probes Americans' love-hate relationship with wind

E&E Greenwire

A new national lab study is upending common assumptions about U.S. wind power, including that "not in my backyard" fights drive opposition and that people living closest to turbines don't like them.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released preliminary results last week of the first national survey of residents living within 5 miles or less of utility-scale wind. The three-year analysis documents factors driving small pockets of wind opposition that often counter conventional wisdom.

Despite public discussions about NIMBY fights, things such as the way turbines blend with the landscape, property values and auditory perceptions seem to be greater factors in whether turbines are perceived negatively, according to LBNL.

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Forecast shows how Trump tariffs will hurt solar growth, state by state

Greentech Media

A new analysis reveals how the Trump administration's recently imposed solar tariffs could hinder installations at the state level.

The tariffs are predicted to reduce the projected pipeline of new solar construction in the U.S. by 7.6 gigawatts over the next five years, according to GTM Research. Some states will get hit harder than others.

As the country’s largest solar market, California stands to lose the most from the 30 percent tariff, with an expected 1,079-megawatt decline in new solar capacity between 2018 and 2022. California is trailed by Texas and Florida, which are expected to lose 674 megawatts and 513 megawatts, respectively.

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10 trends that will shape the global solar market in 2018

Greentech Media

It's going to be a big year for solar around the world.

The global solar market grew by 26 percent last year, with 99 gigawatts of grid-connected PV capacity installed. According to GTM Research’s new Global Solar Data Hub, 2018 will be the first-ever triple-digit year for the global solar market, with an anticipated 106 gigawatts of PV coming online.

Amid all of that growth, several notable shifts are expected to take place. The solar analysts at GTM Research have highlighted 10 trends that will shape the solar market in 2018.

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Is offshore wind ‘picking up steam’ on Lake Erie?

Science Friday

It’s been eight years since a public–private partnership—the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo)—was formed in northern Ohio to attract an offshore wind energy developer to the North American Great Lakes. In some ways, 2009 and the following couple of years formed a pinnacle of excitement around offshore wind in the Great Lakes.

In Michigan, the governor-appointed Great Lakes Wind Council drafted model legislation for permitting, leasing and siting potential projects that was intended to be shared with other Great Lakes states. Illinois lawmakers established a similar council to study offshore wind potential. Canada was brought into the fold through the Great Lakes Commission—a compact between the U.S. and Canada established in 1955—and signed agreements with developers to pursue projects in Lake Ontario. New York, too, issued a request for proposals in late 2009 hoping to develop at least 120 megawatts of wind generation capacity within seven years in lakes Erie or Ontario.

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More premature nuclear unit retirements loom


Two more U.S. nuclear power plants are facing early retirement, joining a string of generators whose fate was determined by market conditions, political pressure, or financial stresses assailing the sector. Several others may be poised to join them.

The 647-MW Duane Arnold nuclear plant in Palo, Iowa, will likely close in 2025 after a current contract with the facility’s primary customer expires, said NextEra Energy Resources’ chief financial officer, John Ketchum, in a fourth-quarter earnings call on January 26.

“Without a contract extension, we will likely close the facility at the end of 2025 despite being licensed to operate until 2034,” Ketchum said. “As a result, during the fourth quarter, Duane Arnold’s book value and asset retirement obligation were reviewed, and an after-tax impairment of $258 million was recorded that reflects our belief it is unlikely the project will operate after 2025.” Ketchum added, however, that NextEra will continue to pursue a contract extension.

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IEEFA report: U.S. coal market erosion continues

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis

The U.S. coal industry continued to shrink in 2017, and its trend toward long-term structural decline is all but sure to persist, concludes a study published today by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

The report—“U.S. Coal: More Market Erosion Is on the Way”—details how competition from cheap natural gas, the growing uptake of solar- and wind-powered generation, and little growth in electricity demand have combined to shrink the market for coal.

“In electricity generation—the key market for coal—the industry is increasingly uncompetitive and is losing market share,” said David Schlissel, lead author on the report and IEEFA’s director of resource planning analysis. “Further declines in coal’s energy generation market share can be expected through 2018 and beyond.”

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Trump touts 'beautiful, clean coal' and fails to link disasters to climate change

Huffington Post

In his first State of the Union address, President Donald Trump nodded to the catastrophic storms and wildfires that killed more than 300 Americans and caused a record $306 billion in damages.  

Yet he made no mention of the planetary warming ― 2017 was the second-hottest year on record ― that worsened the disasters, instead bolstering his administration’s aggressive fossil fuel push.

“We endured floods and fires and storms,” Trump said. “But through it all, we have seen the beauty of America’s soul, and the steel in America’s spine.”

The White House made slashing environmental regulations a cornerstone of its agenda over the past year, going as far as to purge government websites of climate data and remove issues like sea-level rise from the administration’s list of security threats. The deregulatory assault came as Trump aggressively aimed to increase fossil fuel production and use.

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