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U.S. to Launch Tres Amigas Renewable Energy Hub

The Tres Amigas (meaning “three friends” in Spanish) Superstation has been called the world’s first high-capacity “Renewable Energy Hub.”

This new system is designed to connect the three major electricity grids in the United States, allowing for easier integration of renewable energy such as wind and solar into the grid. A smart electricity grid is needed to allow power from clean wind and solar resources to reach far-flung parts of the country with large power demands.

The Tres Amigas Superstation will be constructed in Clovis, New Mexico, a location with many unique and strategic advantages. Clovis, located in New Mexico and close to the border of Texas, is located near current and planned transmission lines for America’s three power grids (Eastern Interconnection, Western Interconnection and Texas Interconnection).  Tres Amigas, LLC has already been granted the right to lease 14,400 acres (22.5 square miles) of land in Clovis by the New Mexico State Land Office for this system.

Bringing the Tres Amigas Superstation to fruition will likely require a minimum expenditure of $1.5 billion, not to mention significant transmission and distribution technology know-how. Work on the Superstation will demand advanced networking and communications input to coordinate many complex interactions, including multiple power sources, markets and prices.

Chief Operating Officer David Stidham says many of the technology innovations needed to complete this ambitious grid project did not exist a few short years ago.  For example, the Superstation will feature cutting-edge Voltage Source Converters, or VSCs, that can efficiently connect two or more asynchronous grids by converting alternating current (AC) power from one network into direct current (DC) power and then back into AC power that’s fed into another grid.  The Superstation will utilize powerful software to manage the massive amounts of data.

The Tres Amigas project has succeeded in bringing global trading, IT and infrastructure services company Mitsui on board. Mitsui will invest $12 million into Tres Amigas and contribute its expertise in smart-grid IT, renewable energy development and management, and carbon dioxide emissions mitigation strategies.

“Apart from the purely electrical engineering aspects of the project, the commercial operation of the Superstation requires intensive use of information systems and technology, as well as management of large-scale infrastructure,” said Phillip Harris, president, CEO and chairman of Tres Amigas. “Mitsui’s worldwide experience in these areas will be invaluable.”

Construction of the first phase of Tres Amigas is scheduled to start this year, with early commercial operations expected to begin in 2015.

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United States & Europe Vulnerable to High Oil Prices

“Given the limited reserves of oil in the Member States, the EU is a net importer of crude oil,” reports the European Commission.  Given the high energy dependency amongst many  EU member nations, higher oil prices may be a serious drag on peripheral economies.

The graphic below better illustrates the troubling extent of this issue:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also cited rising oil prices as a key point of economic concern for the United States in recent remarks in New York.

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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Oil

 

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Rising Sea Levels Threaten US Coastal Cities

Coastal metropolitan areas face significant dangers from the “invisible tsunami” of rising sea levels. Nearly 5 million people who live along the Eastern and Western coasts could be affected.  With time, the problem is becoming more severe.

According to recent reports from the non-profit group Climate Central and others published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, rising sea levels can result in more severe and frequent flooding, as well as damaging storm surges.  Weather and climate experts warn that the risk of “once-a-century” flooding has doubled as a result of this increase.

“Sea level rise is like an invisible tsunami, building force while we do almost nothing,” remarked Ben Strauss, expert on ecology and evolutionary biology and COO of Climate Central.  “We have a closing window of time to prevent the worst by preparing for higher seas.”

Scientists say that the effects of global warming are contributing to sea level rise.  Accelerated melting of glaciers and ice sheets causes the expansion of the earth’s ocean waters.  Since 1880, world sea levels have risen by 8 inches.  By the end of this century, forecasts for sea level rise range from 2 to 7 feet, with the majority predicting a rise of 3 to 4 feet taking into consideration a projected 2 to 3 degree F rise in global temperature.

Furthermore, the effects of global warming may increase the likelihood of what is called a “once-in-a-century” flood for low-lying coastal areas.  By 2030, two-thirds of the 55 coastal locations surveyed by Climate Central will face a 55% increased risk.  For the majority, risks of these dangerous flood occurrences may triple.

Watch our video on Water Risks & Opportunities

Severe floods, rising seas and storm surges can result in tremendous damage.  South Florida alone has an estimated $30 billion worth of at-risk property.  Municipal regions in Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia also face vulnerabilities.  According to Climate Central’s research, more than 50% of the population in 285 coastal cities and towns live below the 4-foot mark, placing them at risk of injury or death during a storm surge or flooding event.

Read the full article here…

 

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State of the Union Address – Renewed Focus on Energy

Investing in clean energy, expanding energy efficiency programs and harnessing America’s vast natural gas resources received considerable emphasis in President Obama’s State of the Union Address.  Below are key excerpts from his speech:

Natural Gas

“…nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.”

“This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy. A strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs. We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.”

“The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy.”

Clean Energy

“Our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled, and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.”

“I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough”

“The Department of Defense…the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history -– with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.”

Energy Efficiency

“The easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here’s a proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, more jobs for construction workers who need them.”

Read the full transcript of the speech here

 

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Sinopec & Total to Invest $4.5 Billion in U.S. Natural Gas

Booming natural gas resources in the United States have attracted significant investment from major foreign energy players in Asia and Europe.

China’s China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) and France’s energy giant Total SA recently announced new investments totaling $4.5 billion to take advantage of as of yet undeveloped shale rock formations in Alabama, Mississippi, Colorado, Ohio and the Michigan Basin.

In its first entrance into the U.S. natural gas industry, Sinopec will partner with Devon Energy Corporation in  a $2.2 billion joint venture to develop five fields.

Total cemented a $2.3 billion agreement with Chesapeake Energy Corporation to develop the Utica gas field in Ohio, which studies indicate is rich in liquids such as butane, propane and ethane as well as natural gas.

At under $3 per million BTUs, U.S. natural gas prices are at their lowest in over two years.  As a result, shale formations with high concentration of liquids, such as the Utica field, are attractive to investors because prices of extracted liquids are linked with crude oil, rather than natural gas.

Additional interest in U.S. natural gas has been seen from Norway’s Statoil ASA and India’s Reliance Industries Ltd., indicating that global energy conglomerates are seeking to add “unconventional” fossil fuel resources to their portfolios and are willing to spend big money to do so.

The explosive growth in North American natural gas resources is one of today’s key energy trends.  For more information, click here to read more of our posts on natural gas.

Read the full article here…

 

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Google, TransCanada & Warren Buffett: New Investors in Solar Power

Solar power installations in the United States have reached record highs this year.  As we reported previously, third quarter photovoltaic installations rose by 40%, bringing total installed capacity above 1GW for the first time in U.S. history.

As the year draws to a close, the North American sector is attracting notable new investments from high profile corporate and individual investors such as Google, TransCanada and Warren Buffett.

Google, in conjunction with private equity firm KKR & Co, is buying four solar power plants in California from solar developer Recurrent Energy (owned by Sharp Corp).  Together, these plants have a total capacity of 88MW.  Google’s latest purchase brings its total investment in solar to over $915 million.

Making its first investment in solar, TransCanada – in the news recently surrounding its Keystone XL pipeline to connect Canada’s Alberta tar sands region with refineries in the Gulf – will pay $470 million to Canadian Solar to develop nine plants across Ontario, Canada.  Canadian Solar will take advantage of Ontario’s generous feed-in-tariff program to incentivize the generation of electricity from renewable sources.

Last but certainly not least, we come to Warren Buffett.  The “Oracle of Omaha” has invested heavily into solar via MidAmerican Energy’s (a holding company of Berkshire Hathaway) plan to buy First Solar’s $2 billion Topaz solar photovoltaic plant in Southern California.

The plant is currently under construction, but upon completion by early 2015, will have the capacity to generate enough energy to meet the demands of approximately 160,000 homes.

“MidAmerican is the No. 1 owner of wind-powered energy generation among US rate-regulated utilities,” remarked Greg Abel, the Chairman, President & CEO.  “Adding solar energy to our generation portfolio is a strategic move to invest in yet another renewable energy source.”

Abel continued, “This project also demonstrates that solar energy is a commercially viable technology without the support of governmental loan guarantees and reflects the type of solar and other renewable generation that MidAmerican will continue to seek to add to its unregulated portfolio.”

Read about Google and TransCanada here

Read more about Warren Buffett and MidAmerican’s purchase here

Learn more about investing in solar and renewable energy

 
 

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PV Installations Rise 40% in United States

Third quarter photovoltaic (PV) installations in the United States increased 40%, says a report released recently by the trade group Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and research firm GTM Research.

Q3 2011 installations were 449.2MW, up from 324.3MW during the same quarter last year.  Including these Q3 additions, over 1GW of solar energy capacity was installed this year in the United States – the first time that pinnacle level has been reached.

With a strong Q4 predicted as well, SEIA estimates this year’s PV installations will total 1.7GW, representing an annual growth rate of 89% over the last year.

This sharp increase in installations has been fueled by free-falling prices of solar panel components.  Over the past year, a global supply glut has led to a near 40% drop in prices.

This trend has taken a toll on solar manufacturers, but at the same time has propelled increased installations.  Projects that did not make economic sense at previous price points are now easier to justify.  In addition, federal subsidies and state incentive programs have helped make solar energy cheaper for residential, commercial and municipal consumers.

Looking ahead to 2012, SEIA is expecting another year of growth for the U.S. PV market.

Read more here…

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Clean Energy, Policy, Solar

 

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