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Midwest wind energy to get projected lift from climate change, study says

Mother Nature will be delivering a future gift of 2 percent more wind energy in the Midwest if regional climate models are correct, according to research from Wake Forest University.

In a study recently published online by the journal Renewable Energy, Robert Erhardt, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, and 2015 Wake Forest graduate Dana Johnson, used data to project impacts of climate change on wind energy density in the United States. They compared data from current (1968-2000) and future (2038-2070) time periods.

"Climate change is causing an overall warming trend but different parts of the globe warm at different rates and this is changing the wind," said Erhardt, an environmental statistician. "Some would interpret this as good news about climate change, but I disagree with that. I wouldn't call it good news. I would just call it a projected consequence of climate change." Read more

Minnesota aims to predict ‘social costs’ of energy 300 years from now

The Minnesota Department of Commerce and Pollution Control Agency failed last year on the goal of establishing climate-change damages for carbon dioxide and three related greenhouse gas emissions.

Now, state officials and environmentalists want Minnesota to adopt the controversial Interagency Working Group statistical model used by the Environmental Protection Agency to estimate so-called climate change damages per metric ton of emissions — through the year 2300. Read more

EIA: Gas generation jumps on low prices, filling gap for retiring coal

•Summer generation jumped almost 2%, Argus reported, as inexpensive gas-fired generation filled the gap left behind by retiring coal facilities.
•The U.S. Energy Information Administration last week released data showing almost 9,800 MW of conventional steam coal-fired generating capacity was retired during the first half of this year.
•Despite the summertime boost in generation, EIA said residential retail sales were 1.7% lower in the first half of the year largely because of a mild winter and spring Read more

Minneapolis offers financing for energy efficiency projects

The city of Minneapolis is offering financing for residents interested in making their homes more energy efficient.

Low-income residents can get a free Home Energy Squad visit, which includes things like checking for air leaks, installing programmable thermostats and weather-stripping and changing out light bulbs. Read more

Work needed to secure power grid, experts tell House committee

More should be done to address vulnerabilities in the nation’s power grid and reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic outage, a panel of academic and industry experts told members of Congress at a hearing Thursday.

The power grid faces threats ranging from natural hazards like solar flares and ice storms, to the risk of potential physical or cyber-attacks, the witnesses told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s oversight and energy subcommittees at the hearing.

“Because the power system is spread out across the landscape, it’s inherently vulnerable to both natural and intentional physical damage,” said M. Granger Morgan, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Physical vulnerabilities include the lack of protection around high-voltage power transformers, Morgan said. The critical equipment is often left in plain sight behind chain-link fencing, open to acts of sabotage like the attack on Pacific Gas & Electric's Metcalf substation in northern California in 2013, when unidentified shooters fired more than 100 rounds of ammunition at the facility. Read more

Natural gas use features two seasonal peaks per year

Use of natural gas has two seasonal peaks, with consumption patterns predominantly driven by weather. The largest peak occurs during the winter, when cold weather increases the demand for natural gas space heating in the residential and commercial sectors. A second, smaller peak occurs in the summer when air conditioning use increases demand for electric power, an increasing portion of which is provided by natural gas-fired generators.

The electric power sector is the largest consumer of natural gas, having surpassed the industrial sector in 2009. Consumption of natural gas in the power sector peaks in the summer when demand for electricity is highest. A smaller peak occurs during the winter, while the spring and fall seasons have the lowest consumption of natural gas for electric power. Read more

Minnesota Power will build Northland's first community solar garden in Duluth

Minnesota Power will build the Northland’s first community solar garden next year, allowing customers to buy into the benefits of solar energy without erecting solar panels on their homes or businesses.

The utility announced Thursday it will build a 40-kilowatt solar array in Duluth at Arrowhead Road and Rice Lake Road near its Herbert Service Station that will be generating electricity sometime in 2016. Read more

Solar panels just broke another record in the U.S.

The market to install solar panels on the roofs of homes in the U.S. set another record in the second quarter of this year, indicating a shift in the U.S. solar panel industry towards home owners and consumers.

According to a new report from research firm GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industry Association trade group, the recent record beat out the amount of solar panels installed on home roofs in the first quarter of this year, which itself was a record at the time. Read more

Could Fuel Cells Solve the Emissions Problem for Coal Plants?

With a little extra engineering work, some researchers believe fuel cells could become one of the most affordable ways for coal plants to keep their doors open as pollution regulations tighten.

The Department of Energy selected FuelCell Energy Inc. (FCE) last week as one of eight funding recipients to pilot low-cost carbon dioxide capture and compression technologies. The $23.7 million project (with $15 million coming from the DOE and $8.7 million from FCE) will see a 2-megawatt fuel cell deployed at a coal-fired power plant designed to capture about 60 tons of CO2 per day, while simultaneously producing about 40,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day. Read more

Electric generator capacity factors vary widely across the world

The technologies used to generate electricity are similar across regions of the world, but the pattern of use for those generating technologies can be significantly different. Analysis of electric generating plant utilization (measured by annual capacity factors, or the ratio of generation to capacity) over a five-year period shows a wide range of variability among fuel types and across world regions. Read more