Locavolts Unite: Volume I: Fun Facts on Wind Power, Manufacturer Energy Costs, Nuclear Power and Drones
The traditional argument has always been the being green is great, but it costs more. That basic assumption is being turned on its head these days on a variety of fronts.
Here’s just one example. The much ballyhooed federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s "Clean Power Plan” has been assailed by the fossil fuel industry – especially coal – as a disaster for the economy. Consumers would bear the brunt of this transition to cleaner power sources, and our fragile economic recovery would also be jeopardized.
Yet a recent study shows that the cost of natural gas – which currently supplies roughly 58% of California’s electricity supply – would go down, not up, if wind power is substituted for traditional polluting fuels. In fact, the benefit could add up to $20 billion nationwide every year.
While the Clean Power Plan will have its greatest impact on wholesale power markets, another counter intuitive finding can be found in a recent survey conducted by Black & Veatch. Despite the story line about how the entry of companies such as Tesla into the battery supplier for your home market, most utilities in the U.S. see opportunity in trends toward greater reliance upon small distributed energy sources, In fact, 74% of U.S. utilities see energy storage technologies such as lithium ion batteries as a new business opportunity, according to this survey published in August, 2015.
They say there is always two sides to every story. Here’s a prime example. Next 10 boldly proclaims in a recent study that California is second to only Connecticut in offering affordable energy services to its manufacturing sector if measured on the basis of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) generated per dollars spent on electricity. In response, the California Manufacturers and Technologies Association pointed out that California’s high power prices have changed the composition of its manufacturing sector. Here are two dramatic examples cited by CTMA: between 2008 and 1997, oil and natural gas production dropped from 15% to 5% of the total manufacturing base, while electric and electronic manufacturers jumped from 7% to 30% of the value of manufactured goods. (Of course, one could argue this shift was good for the environment, but that’s a whole other story.)
Speaking of environmental impacts of power generation, there was actually some good news in Japan in regards to nuclear power. Residents of Naraha are being allowed to return to their homes. Located within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant - which had a major meltdown in 2011 – this is the first community allowed to return to normal life. Some may trumpet this development to show that damage for nuclear contamination is not forever. Others, including skeptics such as I, wonder how long it will take for the entire region to be declared “safe.”
And finally, here’s an interesting tidbit from a recent Navigant Research report: drones – also known “unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)” – are now being used to inspect wind turbine blades. As wind turbines increase in size, the ability to inspect blades for flaws and wear-and-tear is becoming increasingly difficult. Over the next 10 years, Asia Pacific will emerge as the leading market for drones in the wind industry, with cumulative revenues reaching $6 billion by 2024.