Thoughts on global energy development trends

Thoughts on global energy development trends


You know the saying, ‘3 steps forward, 2 steps back’? Maybe that’s what the entire world energy scene is all about…. As more people come to the table at an accelerated pace.

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We have 3-4 billion in a rush to get energy (China, Africa, India, SE Asia & less so South America), while a billion or so already have it (USA, Canada, a decent part of Europe, South Korea, select Middle Eastern countries, and up until the Tsunami, Japan). The latter fell into the trap of needing to refurbish legacy plants (coal & nuclear) while bringing on national gas (NG) and renewable energy (RE). While the former are building whatever they can, maybe at a 10 to 1 ratio (fossils/nuclear/large hydro to REs).

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Natural Gas Realities – Now

Natural Gas Realities – Now


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There is currently much “buzz” about methane releases from Natural Gas Exploration & Production (NG E&P), especially with regards to the buzzword friendly “Fracking” dominating all discussions. The NG industry is clearly “green washing” the public through slick advertisements, as it knocks off its primary competitor Coal, and has already surpassed Nuclear for electrical output in the US.

Historical generation of electricity in the USA, 1949 to 2011.  Source U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) via Wikipedia
Historical generation of electricity in the USA, 1949 to 2011. Source U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) via Wikipedia

The fact of the matter is, there are currently NG “Peaker” plants associated with almost all existing Coal and Nuclear plants, often on the same properties, owned and operated by the same generation company. This is really no different than many of our most famous hydroelectric dams being built with coal plants just out of view of the sweeping and magnificent concrete arches. Glen Canyon Dam, on the mighty Colorado River, and the 2,225 MW Navajo Generation Plant were paired in construction under the CRSP (Colorado River Storage Project) to mitigate water storage requirement priority over hydroelectric generation.

My use of the word “competitor”, when we discuss Natural Gas in contrast to Nuclear or Coal, becomes very much a gray area once we dig into the numbers of overall electrical production. But back to the topic of methane releases.

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Wind pulling a fast one on us?

Wind pulling a fast one on us?


I recently responded to a post on LinkedIn in the “Energy Innovation by Statoil” group about wind turbines being “unappealing” visually within the discussion brought about by a completely wide-open question “How do you feel about wind farms?”

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Obviously, that is a subjective question, setting the stage for far ranging arguments lacking substantiated reasoning.  This being akin to the common misunderstanding of billowing exhaust plumes at power plants thought to be laden with green house gases, pollution and toxic chemicals.  The reality being, most of the visible “offenses” are waste heat removal through water evaporation cooling, not the invisible fossil fuel combustion effluent as commonly believed.

It was also stated, wind farms can be the cause of drought, which initially caught me off guard as I have lived and breathed water issues the past 20 years and it is a major determinant in my self assessed classification as “A Westerner”. Water is in our blood, both figuratively and literally. A transplant, to the western US, can be easily identified based on their lack of understanding and comprehension of where their water comes from and exactly how precious it is to maintaining our lifestyles. “Water Wars” are not just some future post apocalyptic scenario, they have been fought for over a century here in the United States.

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Participate in My European Energy Adventure, August 6 to November 4th


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I will be traveling around Europe for 3 months starting August 6th. So it is not all “fun and games”, I plan to dedicate substantial time to a personal project focused on energy supply and need, Europe as a case study.

It centers around a theory linking the successes [and shortcomings] in the transition towards more balanced energy portfolios; including renewable sources, as fueled by a home grown cultural “energy awareness”.

This may seem a “no-brainer” to Europeans experiencing it, however it is a significant departure from the realities present in the US and struggling to be realized around the globe.

Feeding the demands of growing cities, this transmission line could be supplying electricity from a PV farm, wind turbines a 100 miles away, or the NG peaker 5 miles away.  One can never tell.
Feeding the demands of growing cities, this transmission line could be supplying electricity from a PV farm, wind turbines a 100 miles away, or the NG peaker 5 miles away. One can never tell.

I also see commonalities in regional scarcities experienced historically throughout the EU, as significant limitations & realities to developing/under developed nations worldwide.

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Validation of Thoughts on European vs US Models


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It is nice to see a little validation in what I feel I am battling.

Taking Climate Policy Inspiration from the Danish by Adam Tiffen

A nice highlight of some of the key differences between the US model and that of the Danes, although this could be said of the European models in general.

How long until we recognize a focus on communal efforts for collective gains as opposed to idolizing individual achievements results in better overall outcome?

What I have seen working with global leaders in their industries here in the US is more consistent with the European business and social cultures, a drive for efficiency and a greater prioritization on accountability.

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Ending Energy Ignorance – Part III


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Now that we are here, what do we know?

“Solar”, regardless the generally considered meaning of it, as PV, also includes Wind, Ocean Currents, Hydroelectric and Solar Thermal, to name the primary forms we can harness to supply our needs.

Solar Thermal also has two distinct forms; one for the heating of water for residential and commercial needs, relatively common throughout much of the world and an idea that died during the 80s here in the U.S.; and another, super heating a fluid medium to spin a turbine producing electricity, the giant often circular plants full of mirrors and a central tower, made notable in Spain, Australia & the Mojave Desert of California.

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