January 29, 2022
Weekend Reads: Europe's Natural Gas Contingency Plan; Rooftop Solar Under Threat in Florida
It's the weekend! Kick back and catch up with these must-read articles from around the web.
Backlash Against Renewables Surged In 2021, With 31 Big Wind And 13 Big Solar Projects Vetoed Across US (Forbes) Of the many whoppers that renewable-energy promoters use while advocating for huge increases in the use of wind and solar, the most absurd claim is that building massive amounts of new renewable energy capacity won’t require very much land. Indeed, that assertion is often made by climate activist Bill McKibben. Or consider a report published in 2020 by San Francisco-based Energy Innovation, a “nonpartisan energy and environmental policy firm,” which claimed that all of the wind and solar kit needed to get us to 90 percent zero-carbon electricity would amount to a mere “28,200 square kilometers” (about 10,900 square miles). The report’s authors helpfully point out that that much territory would be “about triple the land currently devoted to golf courses, and equivalent to about half the land owned by the Department of Defense.”
What Happens if Russia Cuts Off Europe’s Natural Gas? (The New York Times) While Russia masses troops and military equipment near its border with Ukraine, parallel tensions have been building in world energy markets. It is not hard to see why. Natural gas flowing through a web of pipelines from Russia heats homes and power factories across much of Europe. Russia is also one of the continent’s key sources of oil. Now Western officials are considering what happens if Moscow issues a doomsday response to the tensions — a cutoff of those gas and oil supplies, in the depths of Europe’s winter. The standoff over Ukraine comes at an inopportune time. World energy prices are already elevated as supplies of oil and natural gas have lagged the recovery of demand from the pandemic. In Europe, record high prices are drawing tankers of natural gas from the United States, Qatar and elsewhere. On Tuesday, White House officials said discussions were underway to get more natural gas to the continent. Whether this will be enough to defuse the risk of an energy cutoff remains to be seen.
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Could Florida turn off the sun? Advocates say a utility-backed bill imperils rooftop solar in the Sunshine State (CNN) Steve Rutherford had a unique mission as a Navy SEAL: Help the military harness the power of the sun. Traces of his work could be seen around Afghanistan starting in 2010. The solar panels he installed turned the desert's relentless rays into energy that kept bases operating even when cut off from diesel lines. When he retired from the military in 2011, Rutherford expected Florida would be a more inviting climate to install solar panels than war-torn Afghanistan. He started Tampa Bay Solar and within a decade, grew it into a 30-person operation with plans to expand. But now, the retired commander told CNN he is fighting for his livelihood.
Wind turbine maker warns of volatile business environment as inflation and supply chain issues bite (CNBC) The wind energy sector faces a rocky road ahead due to a multitude of factors, according to wind turbine manufacturer Vestas. “The global business environment for wind energy remains volatile in the short term and prosperous in the long term,” the Danish firm said Wednesday, before adding it was expecting “the near future and at least 2022 to be heavily impacted by cost inflation.” In addition, “the emergence of an energy crisis caused by geopolitics and fossil fuel volatility has also resulted in dramatic increases in energy prices,” Vestas said. Citing preliminary numbers, Vestas said its revenue in 2021 hit 15.6 billion euros ($17.59 billion), a record high. Its earnings before interest and taxes margin before special items had been expected to come in at 3% against updated guidance of approximately 4%. Initial guidance was 6% to 8%.
Europe Hopes Home-Brewed Gas Can Help Meet Growing Power Needs (Bloomberg) Scientists and investors are turning to a billion-year-old home brew to help meet Europe’s future natural gas needs and provide a way to store and deploy excess energy from solar and wind generation. In the same way brewers use live yeast to turn sugar and starch into beer, European energy companies are relying on single-celled creatures called archaea to ferment carbon dioxide and hydrogen into methane — the main component of natural gas. The idea is to stop planet-warming emissions from escaping into the atmosphere by capturing CO₂ emitted when factories burn fossil fuels and using that to make more fuel.
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