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Serial offenders: Darlington already over budget July 9, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in Uncategorized.
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One of the major problems for AECL and their customers was their complete inability to budget their designs. Every single reactor installed has gone over, and every refurb has too.

And so now it is with no great surprise that we learn that the Darlington refurb hasn’t even started, and it’s already $300 million over budget. Well, at least according to two 3rd party firms contracted to oversee the work, OPG says it’s “only” $235 million.

Seven more years to go…

Hidden in plain sight: EIA highlights massive swing to renewables June 27, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in power grid, solar.
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For many years the gold standard in energy reporting in the US has been the various EIA reports. Over the last five years though, it was clear something was going wrong. Renewables were part of the reports but always listed at high costs and low adoption rates. The numbers weren’t wrong, just outdated, as if you were reading a report from three years ago.

And this month’s report drives that home; the EIA has been predicting slow uptake of various renewables for some time now, and long predicted that it would reach about 13.5% of the electrical mix around 2040. However, the latest report, covering the first third of 2014, shows that renewables covered 14.04% of the electrical mix.



Phinergy’s battery: energy storage, problem solved? June 6, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in Uncategorized.
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Image of the test vehicle, a small electric car


You hear stories of new battery tech all the time, and I’ve generally learned to tune them out.

A company makes grandiose claims long before they’re  bending metal, and then run into some sort of impossible problem and that’s it, they’re done. You know, like EEStor.

So why am I writing about one now? Because this is Alcoa, and they’re on the road.

If this pans out, and that’s always a big if in battery tech, then basically the storage problem is done, for cars. There are several serious limitations, but it does neatly solve the major problem of providing long-distance driving.

But is this for real? Read on! (more…)

Won’t anyone think of the seniors!? April 30, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in power grid, solar.
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Image of people pulling out their hair due to their bills

No trip to Florida this year, dear. Damn those solar panels!

It came as no great surprise to learn that recent anti-solar ads being played in the US were funded by the power companies.

Only slightly more surprising was how the money turned into a TV spot, via the Koch brothers’ “Americans For Prosperity“.

What really interests me about all of this is that I’ve had people quote the argument from this TV spot to me. In spite of the argument being made up, it’s getting repeated, and defended, in that great marketplace of ideas. It’s astonishing to see it regurgitated without giving it a second thought.

So let’s give it a second thought.


Almost 40 GW of PV in 2012 April 8, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in solar.
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Well the numbers are in, and through 2013 just over 39 GW of PV went in around the world. This is the record, as you might imagine. Wind added about the same, for a total of 91 GW of renewables in the year. This compares to 95 GW of all other forms of power combined.

But the really interesting statistic is this: in spite of installing 25% more PV than the year before, the total amount of money spent to do it dropped 23% to $104 billion. That’s because the prices are falling so quickly, faster than you can install it. That $104 billion for 39 GW is $2.66 a Watt; systems today are going in much lower than that.

PV: Aiming for 50GW in 2014? April 7, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in solar.
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Pie chart showing worldwide shipments of solar panels in 2013, dominated by China, Taiwan and Japan.Paula Mints’ superb article on PV shipments in 2013 has numerous tidbits for the interested reader. For myself, it was the predictions at the end that stood out.

Basically, Mints’ demonstrates how worldwide potential to build panels turns into actual panels. In 2013 there was about 41 GW worth of capacity which turned into about 34 GW of panels, a duty cycle of around 83%

If you trace that forward with known capacity expansions coming online in 2014, and combine that with the expected flows (similar to the graph above), that puts us on a trajectory for 49 GW in 2014. As Mints’ points out, however, there are a number of factors that make this unlikely, notably a slowdown in Europe.

That said, looking back over the last couple of years, the pattern is clear. When companies overproduce, fire sales follow, which sell into markets that were otherwise marginal. The market is essentially infinitely flexible, given the right price points. If this pattern continues, some significant fraction of that capacity will be used, and the worst-case outcome is additional price depreciation as the year goes on.

I never thought I’d see panels below $1 retail, but such is commonplace today. With MW-sized orders in the 50 to 60 cent range, one might go so far to predict retail prices down around there by end of year. Combined with the expected rapid decline in inverter prices due to new Chinese entrants this year, it seems we are well on our way to $1/W systems at the residential end of the scale.


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