New Weapon Emerges in Fight Against Fossil Fuel Dominance and Escalating Climate Change: A Wind Turbine That Achieves Grid Parity While Eliminating Intermittency

Last year, Republicans fought tooth and nail to block and delay the only federal funding program for wind energy — the Production Tax Credit. Their energy brinksmanship and political hostage taking forced a delay of a critical renewable energy investment decision until the last minute even as US wind capacity surged to 60 gigawatts and is attributed to increasing US economic growth by .25% in the 4th quarter while adding over 80,000 new jobs. This cynical political action, on the part of republicans and other opponents to renewable energy, resulted in an unconscionable stalling of new installations in early 2013 even as extreme weather and climate change continued to batter countries around the globe.

By comparison, US fossil fuel companies still enjoyed billions of dollars in subsidy, tax incentive, land use donations, and direct investment support from the federal government, risk free. To this point, it is worth considering the following info-graphic provided by the Environmental Law Institute:

energy subsidies -- black, not green

They were the true beneficiaries of a government funded welfare system for energy sources, that year after year, continue to worsen our weather and climate — resulting in escalating physical and financial harm in the US and around the globe.

But even as new wind installations lag due to a toxic brew of investment uncertainty conjured up by republicans, new alternative energy technology continues to undercut prospects for long-term fossil fuel market dominance. In particular, a new wind turbine, this one produced by GE, breaks a number of key market barriers to wind energy adoption in both the US and around the world.

GE achieves grid parity and energy storage with new turbine.

GE achieves grid parity and energy storage with new turbine.

The systems, pictured above, include GE’s 1.6-100 and 1.7-100 wind turbines.

These turbines include two revolutionary advancements that put it toe-to-toe with traditional fossil fuel and nuclear generation sources in both capability and cost. First, the new turbines achieve a staggering 20-24% efficiency gain. This puts prices for these turbines at less than coal for new generation construction.

Other alternative energy systems have recently made similar gains, with solar and wind plants increasingly available that provide energy at, near, or lower than the cost of new coal. But the crowning blow of this new system to fossil fuel dominance lies not just in its staggering efficiency gains. The system also includes distributed storage.

Each turbine is equipped with a battery system that stores excess energy generated during times when the wind is blowing. This new capacity levelizes transmission to the grid during times of high energy production. It also enables the wind turbine to store the excess energy for later use. As a result, the capacity factor of an individual turbine jumps from around 30% to 54%. It also allows wind producers with the new turbine to directly compete with fossil fuel based energy sources in the highly lucrative frequency regulation business.

Fossil fuel cheerleaders have often derided the intermittency and lack of storage potential in renewable energy sources, claiming this was an impenetrable barrier to broader adoption. Now, these new turbines render that argument mostly moot. Higher net capacity factor for advanced wind and lower costs than traditional fuels results in an increasingly serious market challenge to dirty energy sources. Now, if we can just get a few friends in the US government to provide the funding these systems merit, then we might begin to make some serious gains in both net carbon emissions and a more permanent US energy independence.

As noted above, republicans are doing their best to block such critical advancements. And, it seems, they and their fossil fuel allies are seriously threatened by continuously advancing renewable energy technology. As of June, republicans and their oil company backers pushed to de-fund the US ARPA-E renewable energy research program providing critical funding for advancements such as the one produced by GE. Apparently, republicans are bound and determined to prove their theory of dysfunctional government by creating the level of dysfunction they so often criticize while at the same time support fuels that ruin humanity’s future prospects.


Next Generation Wind Turbines are Cheap, Reliable and Brilliant

Virtually all Federal Incentive for Wind Energy Comes From a Single Program

Republicans in the House of Representatives have pushed to increase US coal burning, approve the Tar Sands Keyston XL Pipeline, remove energy efficiency standards, and to slash US government (ARPA -E) R&D funding for new renewable energy technology by 80 percent. Fully 55% of all Republicans in the US Congress deny that human caused warming even exists.

The Price of Fossil Fuel Subsidies

What do India, Spain, Italy, Hawaii and Arizona Have in Common? Solar Grid Parity.



Solar energy is quietly starting to eat the lunch of fossil fuels. Across the world, solar energy prices are now becoming competitive with often cheaper coal and natural gas.

The first locations to reach grid parity are mostly sunny locations closer to the equator. India’s national solar program, according to a Deutsche Bank report, is now able to sell solar produced power for 12 cents per kilowatt — roughly equal to power provided by national coal plants. Deutsche bank also noted that solar developers were producing competitive, unsubsidized projects in southern Italy.

In Spain, CoEnergy, a solar power developer, has produced a project that profitably sells solar energy for 10 Eurocents per kilowatt hour. Conventional energy systems in the same region produce energy for 15-17 cents per kilowatt hour. In this case, CoEnergy outcompetes fossil fuels by 5-7 cents per kilowatt hour without any support via feed in tariffs (FITS).

Solar Power Cheaper Than Coal, Oil

In the US, Hawaii, which relies on costly oil for 80% of its electricity generation reached solar grid parity last year. Residents seeking to save money by installing solar panels, unfortunately, have run into a regulatory backlash imposed by utilities seeking to limit the number of solar installation. Nonetheless, legislators lifted the solar energy cap from 15% of all power generated to 25% and are under pressure to lift the cap still further. Arizona also saw a leap toward grid parity earlier this year. There, First Solar is currently installing a massive 50 MW solar power plant that will sell its energy for 5.8 cents per kilowatt hour undercutting local coal power by 5-8 cents. In total, more than 100 million US power customers are expected to see solar energy reach grid parity over the coming decade.

Even northern, cloudy Germany is pushing the grid parity envelope as it is estimated that solar power will be cheaper than standard power for a majority of German customers by 2014.

These developments, including a surge in solar energy development in China and the UK spurred Deutsche Bank to predict that 30 gigawatts of solar energy will be installed worldwide in 2013 and that installations will continue to grow by 20% year-on-year for at least the next three years. Futhermore, falling solar panel prices, increases in panel efficiency and lower installation costs are predicted to make solar energy less expensive than gas and coal by 2020. In fact, most major manufacturers see individual panel costs falling to 42-52 cents per watt by 2015 with efficiencies ramping higher and installation costs rapidly falling through 2020.

Such reductions will result in far less reliance on subsidy support by solar industry in the coming years and will, likely, make the 500+ billion dollar per year subsidy support received by fossil fuels more and more difficult to justify.


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