Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ending the Age of Petroleum will NOT be easy

The biggest problem, of course, is that no one actually has a clear picture of how this will happen.  The "easy" part is the substitution for fixed-site electrical generation.  Actually, not so easy.  We are now seeing a shake-out in the wind industry.
Winds of Change
Big Firms Gain Ground in Ballooning Wind Power Market

By Nils-Viktor Sorge
Europe's wind energy sector is currently experiencing a major transformation. New massive offshore wind parks are soon expected to crop up off Europe's coastline. Big companies like Siemens and General Electrics are increasing their stakes in a market worth billions. But experts warn that a new energy oligopoly may soon emerge.
Vestas is going and Siemens is coming. Danish market leader Vestas announced in April that it would close its wind turbine factory in Britain and relocate it to the United States. The decision sparked strikes and a workers' occupation of the factory plant. Meanwhile, Munich-based Siemens said last week it is on track with its plans to bolster its business in Britain. By 2014, company officials said they planned to create a factory, complete with some 700 jobs. Its total investment will be £80 million (€91 million).
The power shift in the United Kingdom reflects a broader market trend: Small wind power pioneers like Vestas, Enercon or Nordex are fighting to retain their market shares. Meanwhile, bigger companies like Siemens and General Electric are marching ahead. "This tendency will continue," said Holger Fechner, an analyst at NordLB bank. Given the emergence of expanding wind energy projects, companies can take advantage of their size. Bigger firms can react faster to the uptick in demand than their smaller rivals. "The classic wind energy companies are finding it hard to keep up," said Fechner.
Last year, Vestas managed to defend its 12.5 percent share of the global market, but only just. General Electric was nipping at its heels with a market share that was just 0.1 percentage point behind that of the Danish firm. In recent years, Siemens has also established its place among the Top 10 firms. According to a ranking by management consultants BTM, it has a market share of 5.9 percent. "By 2012 we want to be No. 3 worldwide," said Rene Umlauft, head of renewable energies at Siemens.
Changes within the wind energy sector are mostly driven by the expansion of offshore technologies. Just looking at offshore wind park plans for Germany, plants generating 25,000 megawatts are to be built over the next few decades. Assuming constant winds, they could theoretically generate as much electricity as some 20 nuclear or coal power stations. more

The HARD problem will come when we really try to convert a transportation system that is almost totally reliant on petroleum products--a LOT of petroleum products.

The easy-to-remember figure is that USA uses approximately 20.6 million barrels per day.  That's one of those oversized monster tanker trucks pictured on the left here, 10,000 gallons of petroleum products, per SECOND!

If your car were to get 25 mpg, one second of national petroleum consumption would be enough to drive your car around the world 10 times.

And we still don't know if the electric car can be anything but a curiosity.  But to their credit, GM is trying to build something that will work.  The petroleum-powered vehicle fleet has set very high performance standards.  Getting an electric car to perform at even the minimum levels has proved an expensive engineering task.
Review: Chevy's easy-driving Volt could be your only car
By James R. Healey, USA TODAY
•What? Four-seat, four-door, front-wheel-drive compact hatchback sedan powered by an electric motor. On-board gasoline engine turns a generator to provide electricity when the lithium-ion battery pack runs low. Under certain high-speed cruising conditions, some torque from the gas engine is routed to the transmission to help drive the car, but even then the electric motor is providing most of the power.
That occasional use of gas engine to help power the wheels has triggered an argument over whether Volt is really an "electric" car or should be considered a new type of gas-electric hybrid. Chevy calls it an "extended-range electric."
•When? First few in customers' hands in December.
•Where? Built at General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which also builds GM's Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne big sedans. Lithium-ion battery packs assembled at GM plant in Brownstown Township, Mich.
•Why? Need an alternative-power machine to be taken seriously as an eco-conscientious automaker. Green image might not sell many pricey Volts, but might sell more Chevrolets through so-called halo effect. And drastic measures such as electric power needed to meet federal fuel-economy rules that could be up to 62 miles per gallon by 2025.
•How much? $41,000 including shipping, but some buyers will qualify for a federal tax credit up to $7,500 as well as state and local clean-car incentives.
•How powerful? Electric drive motor rated 149 horsepower and 273 pounds-feet of torque. Gas engine used to run a generator is 1.4-liter four-cylinder rated 84 hp.
•How big? Compact, about the same as Chevy Cruze conventional sedan on which Volt is loosely based. Volt is 177.1 inches long, 70.4 in. wide, 56.3 in. tall on a 105.7-in. wheelbase.
Weighs 3,781 lbs. Rated to carry 802 lbs. of people, cargo.
Cargo space behind rear seats: 10.6 cubic feet.
•How thirsty? Depends on how you measure.
Chevy says it'll go 25 to 50 miles on battery-only with a full charge. Our full-charge range: 35 to 37 miles.
The preproduction test vehicles' trip computers typically showed about 80 to 100 miles-per-gallon-equivalent (mpg-e, or 1 to 1.25 gallons per 100 miles) in modest trips of 50 to 100 miles, roughly — long enough to run down the batteries and rely on gas-generated electricity.
Chevy says Volt would get in the "high 30s" if you never plugged it in to recharge and simply let the onboard gas engine and generator supply the juice.
Automakers and federal regulators are hustling to come up with an index that'll let shoppers compare fuel use of a Volt and other electric-based machines with the familiar mpg ratings.
•Overall. If the size suits, what's not to like, except the price? more
And then there are the public-policy concerns.  Here we see a Chinese effort at describing how to level the playing field between fossil fuels and the renewables.

How to wean us from coal and shift to solar 2010-11-01 09:16:09 
BEIJING, Nov. 1 (Xinhuanet) -- The solution to manmade climate change depends on the transition to electricity production that, unlike burning oil, natural gas, and coal, emits little or no carbon dioxide - the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.
Low-carbon electricity can be produced by solar, nuclear, and wind energy, or by coal-burning power plants that capture and store their CO2 emissions.
The policy problem is simple. Coal is a cheaper and more easily used energy source than the alternatives. It is cheap because it is plentiful. It is easier to use than wind or solar power because it can produce electricity around the clock, without reliance on weather conditions.
To save the planet, we need to induce power suppliers to adopt low-carbon energy sources despite coal's lower price and greater ease of use.
The obvious way is to tax coal, or to require power plants to have permits to use coal, and to set the tax or permit price high enough to induce a shift towards the low-carbon alternatives.
Suppose coal produces electricity at a cost of 6 US cents per kilowatt-hour, while solar power costs 16 US cents per kilowatt-hour. The tax on coal-based electricity would have to be 10 US cents per kilowatt-hour.
In that case, consumers would pay 16 US cents per kilowatt-hour for either coal or solar. The utilities would then shift to low-carbon solar power. The switchover, however, would more than double the electricity bill in this example.
Feed-in tariff
Politicians are loath to impose such a tax, fearing a political backlash. For years, this has stymied progress in the United States towards a low-carbon economy. Yet several European countries have successfully introduced the idea of a "feed-in tariff," which provides the core of a politically acceptable long-term solution.
A feed-in tariff subsidizes the low-carbon energy source rather than taxing the high-carbon energy source. In our example, the government would pay a subsidy of 10 US cents per kilowatt-hour to the solar-power plant to make up the difference between the consumer price of 6 US cents and the production cost of 10 US cents. The consumer price remains unchanged, but the government must somehow pay for the subsidy. more

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