Category Archives: Wind

U.S. electric power source projections: solar still most by 2023

According to FERC’s own figures from 2012 and 2016, my solar projections from 2013 (and former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff’s) were pretty good, and more U.S. electricity will still come from solar power by 2023. LAKE Solar Table 2017 Since coal and nuclear are already crashing, and natural gas isn’t increasing even as fast as formerly projected, solar could win even faster.

I constructed table below from the 2012 and 2016 summaries of total U.S. electric power generation from all sources, by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Look at the 2012 column: only coal and natural gas generated more than 25% of total U.S. electricity.

But in 2016 it’s only natural gas, because coal’s growth rate actually turned negative: utilities are shutting down coal plants, not building them. Back in 2013 I did not predict that to happen so quickly.

Now look at the growth rates, both my 2013 projections (see also the graph on the right) and my corrected 2017 projections. Only wind (and waste heat) is higher than 5%, plus solar alone at more than 50% new installed capacity per year. According to FERC’s 2016 figures (the “actual:” numbers in the 2016 columns), my 2013 solar projection was a little high by deployed utility-scale solar power, but was actually low as a proportion in 2016, because coal and nuclear are already crashing. Sure, one new nuclear power plant opened in 2016, but more than one closed.

And remember, utility-scale solar power, which is all FERC records in its Energy Infrastructure Updates, isn’t the whole story. FERC recorded 7.748 GW of new solar power in 2016, but SEIA added in rooftop and community solar power for a total of 14.6 GW of new solar power in 2016.

You don’t see rooftop coal, or nuclear, or natural gas. You don’t any of those installed in 9-month or less timeframes, as for solar power: they all require multi-year permitting processes because they’re so environmentally destructive. So it’s very unlikely there are any significant additions to coal, nuclear, or natural gas U.S. energy generation beyond what FERC reported.

Solar power has what we could call the personal computer or mobile phone advantage: anybody can own one. Practically by definition, you’ll never see that advantage for utility-scale power generation.

Looking that the 2021 and 2023 projections in the table, of course they’re naive projections, simply taking the old 2013 rate and the new 2017 corrected rate and projecting them forward. The 2013 rate I made by comparing FERC’s 2012 total figures to previous years. The 2017 rate I made by comparing FERC’s 2016 total figures to its 2012 total figures.

By 2021 coal won’t even account for 25% of U.S. electricity generation, and it didn’t even in FERC’s actual 2016 figures. In 2021 natural gas will account for a higher proportion because of coal’s capitulation, even though it’s actually growing slower than my 2013 projection.

Also in 2021, solar and wind will both be greater than 10% of U.S. generation, although wind will not yet reach that by the corrected projection. Since in 2016 according to SEIA solar actually beat wind for new installed capacity, I wonder if wind is already having trouble competing with solar power.

In 2023, by either my old or new projections, solar power will generate more U.S. electricity than anything else. Wind doesn’t grow nearly as fast by the corrected 2017 factor. Maybe 2016 was a glitch for wind, or maybe there’s something deeper going on.

For how naive these projections are, look at the Total row. U.S. electricty demand is unlikely to increase by 20% by 2021 (only four years from now) and it’s even less likely to increase by 52% by 2023 (only seven years from now). What that actually probably means is that coal and nuclear will crash faster and natural gas will follow them down, leaving solar and wind power as the main sources of U.S. electricity.

These projections and this table are just to illustrate some basic points. Other people are doing much more sophisticated projections, such as Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and his research team, which graphically show fossil fuels and nuclear crashing while solar and wind win.

Goldman Sachs already called this a year ago, and many other big financial institutions predicted even earlier that solar and wind will win. This economic sea change is driven by solar prices dropping faster than Moore’s Law, which is accelerated by economies of scale as solar deployment increases. Economics are driving politics. Even Georgia in 2015 revised its antique law so third party power-purchase-agreements are now possible, and Georgia has become the fastest-growing U.S. solar market.

LAKE Solar Table 2017

Data from: FERC Office of Energy Projects
Energy Infrastructure Update For December 2012
Energy Infrastructure Update For December 2016
Total Installed Operating Generating Capacity
Projections by: Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE)
2012 2016 2021 2023
Power Source Projected Rates Installed GW 2012
(% of Total)
Projected GW 2016
(% of Total)
Projected %increase to 2016 Projected GW 2021
(% of Total)
Projected %increase to 2021 Projected GW 2023
(% of Total)
Projected %increase to 2023
Coal 2013: 1.3% 2017: -3.6% 337.71
(29.17%)
355.62
(26.93%)
actual: 291.79 (24.65%)
105%
actual:
86.4%
379.34
(19.95%)
corr.: 242.79 (17.13%)
112%
corr.:
71.9%
389.27
(15.13%)
corr.: 225.63 (12.74%)
115%
corr.:
66.8%
Natural Gas 2013: 1.8% 2017: 1.0% 491.82
(42.48%)
528.20
(39.99%)
actual: 511.74 (43.23%)
107%
actual:
104%
577.48
(30.37%)
corr.: 537.90 (37.95%)
117%
corr.:
109%
598.46
(23.26%)
corr.: 548.71 (30.98%)
121%
corr.:
111%
Nuclear 2013: 1.0% 2017: -0.1% 107.01
(9.24%)
111.36
(8.43%)
actual: 106.58 (9.00%)
104%
actual:
99.6%
117.04
(6.16%)
corr.: 106.05 (7.48%)
109%
corr.:
99.1%
119.39
(4.64%)
corr.: 105.84 (5.98%)
111%
corr.:
98.9%
Oil 2013: 1.0% 2017: 1.9% 41.32
(3.57%)
43.00
(3.26%)
actual: 44.85 (3.79%)
104%
actual:
108%
45.19
(2.38%)
corr.: 48.95 (3.45%)
109%
corr.:
118%
46.10
(1.79%)
corr.: 50.82 (2.87%)
111%
corr.:
123%
Water 2013: 1.0% 2017: 0.5% 98.12
(8.47%)
102.10
(7.73%)
actual: 100.59 (8.50%)
104%
actual:
102%
107.31
(5.64%)
corr.: 102.62 (7.24%)
109%
corr.:
104%
109.47
(4.25%)
corr.: 103.65 (5.85%)
111%
corr.:
105%
Wind 2013: 22.8% 2017: 9.2% 57.53
(4.97%)
130.82
(9.91%)
actual: 81.87 (6.92%)
227%
actual:
142%
365.33
(19.21%)
corr.: 127.03 (8.96%)
635%
corr.:
220%
550.90
(21.41%)
corr.: 151.48 (8.55%)
957%
corr.:
263%
Biomass 2013: 3.7% 2017: 2.6% 15.00
(1.30%)
17.35
(1.31%)
actual: 16.78 (1.42%)
115%
actual:
111%
20.80
(1.09%)
corr.: 18.90 (1.33%)
138%
corr.:
125%
22.37
(0.87%)
corr.: 19.89 (1.12%)
149%
corr.:
132%
Geo- thermal Steam 2013: 4.2% 2017: 1.5% 3.70
(0.32%)
4.36
(0.33%)
actual: 3.93 (0.33%)
117%
actual:
106%
5.36
(0.28%)
corr.: 4.23 (0.30%)
144%
corr.:
114%
5.82
(0.23%)
corr.: 4.36 (0.25%)
157%
corr.:
117%
Solar 2013: 60.9% 2017: 57.0% 3.90
(0.34%)
26.14
(1.98%)
actual: 23.70 (2.00%)
670%
actual:
607%
281.88
(14.82%)
corr.: 226.03 (15.95%)
7227%
corr.:
5795%
729.76
(28.36%)
corr.: 557.14 (31.46%)
18711%
corr.:
14285%
Waste Heat 2013: 0.4% 2017: 14.4% 0.69
(0.06%)
0.70
(0.05%)
actual: 1.18 (0.10%)
101%
actual:
171%
0.72
(0.04%)
corr.: 2.32 (0.16%)
103%
corr.:
335%
0.72
(0.03%)
corr.: 3.03 (0.17%)
104%
corr.:
439%
Other 2013: 0.0% 2017: -8.5% 1.04
(0.09%)
1.04
(0.08%)
actual: 0.73 (0.06%)
100%
actual:
70.2%
1.04
(0.05%)
corr.: 0.47 (0.03%)
100%
corr.:
45.0%
1.04
(0.04%)
corr.: 0.39 (0.02%)
100%
corr.:
37.6%
Total 2013: 0.0% 2017: 0.5% 1157.86
(100.00%)
1320.69
(100.00%)
actual: 1183.74 (100.00%)
114%
actual:
102%
1901.49
(100.00%)
corr.: 1417.29 (100.00%)
164%
corr.:
122%
2573.3
(100.00%)
corr.: 1770.94 (100.00%)
222%
corr.:
152%
corr.: LAKE 2013 projection corrected by LAKE in 2017 according to growth rate from 2012 to 2016.
Factor colors: red: < 0%; orange: < 2%; blue: > 5%; green: > 50%. Proportion background colors: darkyellow > 10%; yellow > 25%.

2012 FERC Source: Data derived from Ventyx Global LLC, Velocity Suite.

2016 FERC Sources: Data derived from Velocity Suite, ABB Inc. and The C Three Group LLC which include plants with nameplate capacity of 1 MW or greater. The data may be subject to update.

* “Other” includes purchased steam, tires, and miscellaneous technology such as batteries, fuel cells, energy storage, and fly wheel.

Waste Heat

What is the mysterious Waste Heat that FERC does not define in either of the source reports? EPA defines it like this:

Waste heat to power (WHP) is the process of capturing heat discarded by an existing industrial process and using that heat to generate power (see Figure 1). Energy-intensive industrial processes—such as those occurring at refineries, steel mills, glass furnaces, and cement kilns—all release hot exhaust gases and waste streams that can be harnessed with well-established technologies to generate electricity (see Appendix). The recovery of industrial waste heat for power is a largely untapped type of combined heat and power (CHP), which is the use of a single fuel source to generate both thermal energy (heating or cooling) and electricity.

So waste heat is efficiency measures for existing thermal industrial processes. Thus it is unlikely ever to account for a significant proportion of electricty generation.

Putting it another way, waste heat is greenwashing obsolete power generation. Case in point: Status of Waste Heat to Power Projects on Natural Gas Pipelines, November 2009, prepared for Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA). Sorry, fracked methane purveyors, waste heat won’t save you.

Solar power will soon account for the largest proportion of U.S. electricity generation.

And that’s just the start. We know how to get to 100% sun, wind, and water power for the U.S. by 2050, for everything, including heating, cooling, and transportation. Solar power will win like the Internet did.

Let the sun rise!

-jsq

Investigative reporting costs money, for open records requests, copying, web hosting, gasoline, and cameras, and with sufficient funds we can pay students to do further research. You can donate to LAKE today!

New solar up 95% in 2016, more installed than gas or wind

Solar passed both wind and natural gas in 2016 for most new U.S. electricity installed in a year. Yet Bloomberg still doesn’t quite get it: solar is growing exponentially, and is still on track to produce more U.S. electricity total than any other power source by 2023.

Chris Martin, Bloomberg Markets, 15 February 2017, U.S. Solar Surged 95% to Become Largest Source of New Energy,

  • Solar installations surpassed gas and wind for first time
  • Record 14.6 gigawatts of solar panels added in 2016, SEIA says

Solar developers installed a record 14.6 gigawatts in the U.S. last year, almost double the total from 2015 and enough to make photovoltaic panels the largest source of new electric capacity for the first time.

Continue reading

Southern Company buying half of SONAT from KMI

SO is buying 50% of SONAT from KMI, as multiple people have pointed out, including someone from Southern Company. SO: SONAT in the Southeast Unfortunately SO is not just investing in existing pipelines: this purchase is about “specific growth opportunities”, and yes, it’s tied to SO’s recent purchase of AGL. Southern Company needs to stop plugging dying 20th century fossil fuels and get on with what it’s already started with solar power (and offshore wind).

Southern Company PR 10 July 2016, Southern Company, Kinder Morgan enter Southern Natural Gas pipeline strategic venture, Continue reading

Sen. John Barrasso predicted China emissions wrong

See the power behind FERC get it very wrong. About China emissions, about energy and economy, about solar power, and all in one speech.

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), YouTube, 3 December 2009 (posted 15 Dec 2009), U.S. Senator John Barrasso speaks at ALEC in December 2009 in DC. Part 3,

Just look at China, Continue reading

Halliburton says fossil fuels unsustainable, lays off a third worldwide, including management

You know things are bad for fossil fuels when the biggest profiteer of them all takes an axe to itself. The fewer fossil fuel boondoggles (including more pipeline projects going belly-up), the faster investment will keep moving to renewable sun, wind, and water power, for profits, and we get clean air and water and less global warming.

“Tyler Durden”, Zerohedge, 22 April 2016, Halliburton Fires One Third Of Global Staff: “What We Are Experiencing Today Is Unsustainable”,

In a brutally frank and painfully honest first quarter operational update, Halliburton president Jeff Miller poured freezing cold water all over the “oil is stabilizing, and everything is going to be awesome” narrative. After explaining that the firm has laid off one-third of its global employees, and pointing to the collapse in sequential revenues across every business unit, Miller exclaimed: “What we are experiencing today is far beyond headwinds; it is
unsustainable.”

Due to the deadline of its merger agreement with Baker Hughes Halliburtion has delayed its earnings conference call until May 3rd and so gave an operational update. The healdlines were horrific:

Southern Company Annual Meeting @ SO 2016-05-25

Road trip to Callaway Gardens for the annual question time with Tom Fanning, questions provided by environmentalists and Southern Company (SO) stockholders from at least four states.

Energy Mix This figure from page ii of the meeting Notice illustrates both the problem and the solution for Southern Company. Natural gas has replaced coal as SO’s top energy source, and Nuclear is still in there. But renewables are up to 4%. And over on the right of the same page:

  • Growth in Renewables
    Approximately 3,800 megawatts of announced or added renewable capacity since 2012. This includes the development of what is expected to be the largest voluntary solar portfolio in the U.S. (at Georgia Power Company).

Interesting use of “voluntary”, but never mind that. If SO keeps that up, it will Continue reading

Wind and Solar are winning by 2 to 1 over gas and coal

Guess what’s really inevitable, pipeline companies? Solar and wind power.

Utility scare tactics that no coal means pipelines are so much hot air. Scare tactics that no pipelines would mean LNG trains are burnt up by solar power. Stop pipelnes or fracking and stop the other and LNG export along with it. And we’re winning!

Tom Randall, Bloomberg, 6 April 2016, Wind and Solar Are Crushing Fossil Fuels: Record clean energy investment outpaces gas and coal 2 to 1. Continue reading

Southern Co. gets serious about smart grid: buys PowerSecure

While FPL wastes $3 billion on the 20th century Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline, Southern Company (SO) shows it’s serious about distributed energy by buying distributed grid infrastructure company PowerSecure (POWR) for $431 million. That announcement not only bumped POWR stock up by about 75%, the same day (yesterday) smart grid company EnerNOC (ENOC) shares went up 20%. That last could be coincidental, since ENOC announced earnings. But with two smart grid companies going up, the renewable solar and wind energy future is coming closer.

PRNewswire, 24 February 2016, Southern Company to Acquire PowerSecure International, Inc.: Addition of PowerSecure’s proven expertise positions Southern Company to advance distributed infrastructure development, Continue reading

Georgia Power studying wind off Tybee Island, GA

Instead of even considering oil drilling off the Atlantic coast, which is massively opposed by coastal communities, how about get on with offshore wind turbines? They’re no harder to build than deep-sea oil rigs, and if a hurricane blows them over, they don’t leak oil, like BP did into the Gulf, which will never be cleaned up, anymore than the Exxon Valdes disaster in Alaska. Japan is already doing it, in waters with typhoons just as strong as Atlantic hurricanes. Wind is clean, just what we need!

Cory Dickstein, SavannahNow, 20 June 2014, Georgia Power studying possible wind turbines, Georgia’s Coast, or Tybee’s shore, Continue reading

Is Porter Ranch the natural gas industry’s Three Mile Island?

Thirty-six years ago, Three Mile Island turned public opinion against nuclear power. The worst in history, right now still spewing after three months and Los Angeles County and the state of California have declared emergencies at Porter Ranch, is the “natural” gas industry’s Three Mile Island.

Nuclear, too was touted as safe, clean, and infamously “too cheap to meter”. It turned out to be none of those things, and neither is fracked methane. Three Mile Island alone didn’t stop the thousands of nukes President Nixon promised, but it sure helped. The Porter Ranch disaster has already lasted far longer, had worse direct effects, and is in the nation’s second-largest metropolitan area.

Plus TMI was the first U.S. civilian nuclear accident. The “natural” gas industry has leaks, corrosion, fires, explosions, and now earthquakes monthly and sometimes daily. Sure, the shadow of nuclear war hung over the nuclear power industry, but the monthly fireballs from methane explosions hangs over the natural gas industry. The 2010 San Bruno, California explosion is back in the news because, says AP 13 January 2015: PROSECUTORS: PG&E RESISTED RECORD-KEEPING CHANGE AFTER SAN BRUNO BLAST.

It’s time for a complete moratorium on all new natural gas projects, like the moratorium on all new nuclear projects after Three Mile Island. Instead, let’s get on with what we didn’t have back then: solar and wind power already less expensive than any other sources of power, far cleaner and safer, much faster to deploy, using no water, and requiring no eminent domain.

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy famously said: Continue reading