Monday, January 25, 2010

Energy Solution Gains More Credibility

The proposed energy solution discussed in my January 13, 2010 blog is gaining more credibility. Witness the course Progress Energy (formed in 2000 by Carolina Power & Light and Florida Progress) is taking. Late last year, the company announced it would close 11 coal-fired plants by 2017, representing 30% of its coal-powered electrical generation in North Carolina. The company also announced plans to spend $900 million to build a natural gas-fueled generation facility rather than spend $330 million cleaning up emissions from a 397 MW coal generating plant. In the next two years, Progress Energy is also looking to spend somewhere in the range of $1.4 - 2.1 billion for initial work to build two nuclear generating units in North Carolina and another two in Florida, enabling it to shut down even more coal-fired units. The company is clearly focusing now on shifting to nuclear and natural gas-fired plants.
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AEP, one of the largest electric utilities in the country which generates about 75% of its electricity from coal, is also making changes to reduce its dependency on coal. AEP owns 5,000 MW of coal plants that are 40 years old and older, plants that would be too costly to retrofit to meet carbon capture requirements. By approximately 2013, AEP expects to add 4,790 MW of natural gas generation and 2,200 MW of wind capacity. AEP management has indicated that they will not propose another coal-fired plant until a commercially viable answer exists for carbon capturing and storage.
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In the near-term, the energy solution staring us in the face to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is moving heavily into natural gas for power generation, while at the same time aggressively promoting energy conservation and efficiency and the use of renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar. In this same period to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our dependency on foreign oil, motor vehicles need to become much more energy efficient and a significant shift to alternative vehicle power systems such as hybrid electric or natural gas must take place. It all seems so obvious!

6 comments:

jpolich said...

Tony - i believe that what you suggest is technically viable, but so is an even better alternate - no nuclear, no gas - just new wind, new solar.

We have the technology now to move completely away from fossil fuels(with their carbon and health issues), and nuclear (with its legacy and safety issues), into 100% renewable power. The cost to the American economy and to the American consumer is truly miniscule, especially compared to the benefits.

Less health issues, less using up of scarce natural resources, less being dependent on foreign governments that may not like us, less sending US money offshore.

How can 100% renewables NOT be, by far, the best option. All we need is the Will .....

Ryan said...

Utilities have traditionally built generating capacity to serve peak load. An aggressive program to move load off peak and into the valleys will make significant reductions in the amount of generating capacity required...thus fewer power plants. The capital costs of demand response are also significantly lower than generation.

Tony said...

With respect to peaking units, the concept is to have the peaking units, which are fired by natural gas, operate at much higher capacity (than the average 25% today), and, at the same time, reduce by equivalent capacity the capacity of the coal-fired generators. Hence, there should be no net reduction overall in generating capacity, only the replacement of coal with natural gas.

Tony said...

With respect to moving completely away from fossil fuels today, I am not aware of any study by anyone who believes this is possible today or ever. There are a large number of limitations to going 100%solar and wind. Let's not forget there are many environmentalists already fighting aggressively against the siting of wind farms located either on land or off-shore. Then there is the capability of solar and wind technology and the issues of storage and transmission lines (which also have to be sited and which environmentalists will fight). The best guess today is that eventually (in the next 20 years)we may be able to satisfy as much as 20% of our energy demands with solar and wind. Notwithstanding, it would be difficult to disagree with your message that we should aggressively pursue solar and wind energy.

aveelfcat said...

Anyone who is concerned with siting issues should note that the alternative to having solar and wind offshore or onshore is to keep having fossil and nuclear mines, drills, and plant in those very same areas. There are already murmurings that the tribes which are opposing Cape Wind are getting so much more recognition for their complaints than the Western nations ever have with regard to fuel mineral extraction safety.

No doubt it will take some time and effort to go off fossils completely. For one thing, so far I have not heard of many cases of renewable generation equipment being produced using only renewable power.

Diana said...

Tony:

I agree with your Blog. Our company, Green Team Coalition, is working very very hard to complete energy and waste stream audits as well as submitting action plans and implementing the changes. We recently completed an energy study for a global beverage company in one bottling plant and identified 22 energy/cost saving projects with a total projected savings of $970,000 per year. Eight of the projects required no cap ex and the remaining 16 projects were under a 12 month ROI. We have to prove a business case for the changes until legislation forces more stringent changes. In the mean time, we try to design in alternative energy products when we can.

The government is busy implementing technical energy auditing (TEA's) on Federal, State and local facilities through stimulus money. They are doing it for two reasons, I suspect. One is they know what is coming from a legislation standpoint, secondly, they know that energy costs will rise when the economy recovers.