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Neil Energy

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  • Avoiding Wind Power Stocks: Geographic Diversity Debunked [View article]
    Just a few weeks ago:

    "GE announced nearly $1.2 billion in orders for 19 ecomagination-qualified natural gas turbines from its new FlexEfficiency* 60 Portfolio. The portfolio of power generation products enables more renewables to be integrated into the grid..."

    "The FlexEfficiency 60 Combined Cycle Power Plant... is an ideal partner for renewables. When the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, the turbines can be fired up in a matter of minutes to bring reliable and uninterrupted power to the grid."

    http://invent.ge/T51LVq
    Oct 20, 2012. 11:51 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Avoiding Wind Power Stocks: Geographic Diversity Debunked [View article]
    Thank you crescentrv for the excellent article! It's nice to hear from someone in the business, with contacts in the business, on the real challenges and solutions. I find it very interesting to hear what the grid operator in Denmark (with the highest integration in the world) has to say.

    For anybody that has not read Chris Varone's article, I highly recommend it!

    http://bit.ly/RbYeGS
    Oct 19, 2012. 10:16 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Avoiding Wind Power Stocks: Geographic Diversity Debunked [View article]
    Many grids face already face huge differences between their nighttime demand and daytime demand, and manage it quite effectively by scheduling generation resources throughout the day or year. ERCOT (Texas) faces low demand of 23 GW in the fall/spring and high demand of 68 GW on the hottest summer day. There are 75 GW of generation assets available, and obviously most of them need to be locked and loaded for the hottest summer days. And they can schedule their maintenance tasks for fall and spring.

    The following article debunks the hype and panic surrounding wind intermittentcy very eloquently, with real costs, real data, and real people, like Mr. Peter Jørgensen, Vice President of International Relations at Energinet, Denmark’s grid operator. If you want a better understanding of these issues, check out this article:

    http://bit.ly/RbYeGS
    Oct 19, 2012. 09:09 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Avoiding Wind Power Stocks: Geographic Diversity Debunked [View article]
    DRich: I'm not disputing that wind power presents some serious integration challenges. It most surely does! And the owners of fossil-fuel powered generators get seriously pissed because they have to pay for their fuel!

    I'm emphasizing that grid operators are getting very good at integrating wind power and they are getting better all the time with more sensors in the field to report the real-time conditions of equipment and transmission lines, better weather forecasting, better real-time wind data to fine-tune the forecasts, etc. etc.

    In the first link you provided, ERCOT emphasized that the new wind power records are due in part to improved technology. From the press release:

    “March is typically a high wind month for ERCOT, but these new records are also due in part to a new transmission analysis tool we started using this week that allows us to move more wind energy from the west zone,” said Kent Saathoff, director of grid operations and system planning.

    “The transient security assessment tool improves the accuracy of our transmission limits by improving our ability to establish the limits with the most current conditions available,” Saathoff said.

    ERCOT began using the new tool March 6 to calculate day-ahead and real-time west to north stability limits.

    “In the past, we’ve had some slack built into some of our transmission limits because these limits had to be set well in advance,” Saathoff said. “The new tool runs an analysis on real-time conditions every 30 minutes so it gives us a more fine-tuned analysis.”

    While not mentioned in the press release above, almost two years ago ERCOT moved from a zonal system to a nodal system, which increased the granularity of regions of the Texas grid by something like 10x or more. Furthermore, they changed from something like a one-hour to a 15 minute period for the monitoring and control of the grid. This gave them much better data and control and allows them to schedule generation, reduce congestion and route power more efficiently.

    What I'm saying is this: Wind power certainly presents problems, but creative solutions have already allowed various grids in the U.S. and Europe to accommodate up to and even over 20% of TOTAL ANNUAL electricity production. And for the average for the whole year to be 20%, that means wind is regularly providing much more than 20% and clearly they are successful at these levels.

    Especially in the U.S., where natural gas plants are replacing coal plants that are being retired, we'll be in an even better position to integrate more wind, since natural gas plants can more easily be ramped up and down. General Electric has even introduced new natural-gas fired electrical turbines that can tolerate much faster ramp rates by using special materials that can tolerate the temperature changes better than previous generators.

    Finally, wind power does not require massive storage to be successfully integrated into the grid. Storage would help, but is not necessary when transmission is several times cheaper. It's much cheaper to move electrons on a wire to somewhere else than to store them.

    Just because wind is intermittent doesn't mean it's not valuable. It reduces the use of fuel and water and reduces pollution. As the article below indicates, it costs approximately 0.5 cents per kWh to integrate.

    http://bit.ly/RbYeGS

    Technically, integrating wind into the grid is NOT the problem. The real discussion should be around price comparisons with coal and gas, including environmental impacts, incentives to keep fossil-fuel generators engaged when they don't get to run as often, and how policy decisions affect things like coal jobs vs. wind jobs, rural development, natural gas resource availability for transportation uses or for export to lower our deficit.
    Oct 19, 2012. 08:43 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Avoiding Wind Power Stocks: Geographic Diversity Debunked [View article]
    Great article on dealing with the intermittentcy of wind power:

    http://bit.ly/RbYeGS
    Oct 18, 2012. 11:11 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Avoiding Wind Power Stocks: Geographic Diversity Debunked [View article]
    Here's a recent blog post on AWEA's web site about dealing with intermittent wind.

    http://bit.ly/T40P8e

    Some interesting statistics:
    "... the supposed 10% limit has already been broken by utility operators in Iowa and South Dakota, where last year wind energy provided around 20% of electricity, and utility operators in Germany, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, which last year had wind levels of 11%, 18%, 18%, 19%, and 29% respectively. And the fact that wind energy regularly provides more than 50% of the electricity for Xcel Energy’s utility system in Colorado, and over 90% of the electricity on Portugal’s electricity system."

    In my own state of Texas, wind power accounted for 8.5% of all the electricity consumed in 2011. This year, wind farms are being built at a breakneck pace to meet the December 2012 in-service deadline to quality for the PTC. I suspect we'll close in on 10% or more for 2013. ERCOT (Electrical Reliability Council of Texas) is having no problem integrating the wind power onto the grid, where at times, wind provides 25% of the total consumption.

    It's true that the traditional generators are not happy with being undercut by a source with zero fuel cost, but the pollution is going down and the costs are going down for the consumer, while the profits for the generators are down enough that ERCOT is looking at ways to incentivize the build-out of more fossil-fueled generation. It's all good to make these adjustments, because we need a robust hybrid solution of various types of generation for the huge variation in load here in Texas. We go from a low of 23 GW of demand in the winter to a high of 65 GW in the summer on a hot day. So we need a lot of generators that sit idle in the winter and at night.
    Oct 18, 2012. 10:51 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Wind Power Investors Should Also Be Transmission Investors [View article]
    Here's a recent blog post on AWEA's web site about dealing with intermittent wind.

    http://bit.ly/T40P8e

    Some interesting statistics:
    "... the supposed 10% limit has already been broken by utility operators in Iowa and South Dakota, where last year wind energy provided around 20% of electricity, and utility operators in Germany, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, which last year had wind levels of 11%, 18%, 18%, 19%, and 29% respectively. And the fact that wind energy regularly provides more than 50% of the electricity for Xcel Energy’s utility system in Colorado, and over 90% of the electricity on Portugal’s electricity system."

    In my own state of Texas, wind power accounted for 8.3% of all the electricity consumed in 2011. This year, wind farms are being built at a breakneck pace to meet the December 2012 in-service deadline to quality for the PTC. I suspect we'll close in on 10% or more for 2013. ERCOT (Electrical Reliability Council of Texas) is having no problem integrating the wind power onto the grid.

    True, the traditional generators are not happy with being undercut, but the pollution is going down and the costs are going down for the consumer, while the profits for the generators are down enough that ERCOT is looking at ways to incentivize the build-out of more fossil-fueled generation. It's all good to make these adjustments, because we need a robust hybrid solution of various types of generation for the huge variation in load here in Texas. We go from 20 GW in the winter to 68 GW in the summer of demand. So we need a lot of generators that sit idle in the winter and at night.
    Oct 18, 2012. 10:38 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Electric Vehicles Are Still Not Ready For Prime Time [View article]
    Thanks George for sharing your experience with the Leaf. I appreciate all the details. As usual, it's all the little details about a car that makes or breaks the experience. Like you, I get a thrill out of regenerative braking in my Prius, even though it's not capturing much energy.

    I've been delighted by the Prius' ability to run the A/C for 5-10 minutes with the engine off. Being in Texas, I can't tell you how many times I've used that feature, while waiting in the car, or when getting gas and the passengers in the car can stay comfortable while I pump the gas.

    When it's really cold outside (and your Leaf is still plugged into the wall), that's an awesome feature to be able to heat up the vehicle before even stepping into the garage! And no fumes!

    My current theory on plug-ins (and pure EVs like yours) is that if you _really_ utilize the battery's capacity, log serious miles, live in a perfect climate (where the battery doesn't get too hot or too cold), and get your electricity cheap, then it might work out. For most plug-in and EV owners, the economics probably don't work out, but for people like you, logging 24,000 miles per year, it probably makes sense. Especially when you factor in the intangibles and if reduced maintenance really pans out. Is that fair?


    Thanks again,
    Neil
    Oct 16, 2012. 11:56 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Storage: Q4 2012 Winners And Losers [View article]
    Just for the record, even though I am heavily invested in Maxwell, and hope they do well in the automotive section, I think a single PbC battery with the proper battery management system may likely be more cost effective than an ultracap/battery combo, also with a BMS.

    I can only hope the current dual battery system (PbC and lead-acid) is a temporary solution as it seems the PbC (with BMS) should be capable of starting the engine as well. I assume the dual battery system is needed for other reasons, like the ease of going down to the local auto parts store and getting a replacement battery.
    Oct 13, 2012. 02:06 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Storage: Q4 2012 Winners And Losers [View article]
    Here's an interesting paragraph from the above patent:

    [0094] According to the various exemplary embodiments, a combined battery and ultracapacitor system is provided for use in a wide variety of vehicle applications to provide a number of advantages. The parallel configuration of the ultracapacitors provides the necessary short duration and high capacity discharge necessary to meet the cold cranking current requirements of the vehicle. Also, the system permits the use of various battery technologies for storing and supplying the electricity needed for other electrical loads of the vehicle and stabilizing the electrical system voltage level during engine starts, which reduces the weight and size constraints imposed by many conventional vehicle battery and electrical systems. Further, the system permits utilizing the high power charge rate of the ultracapacitors to restore the energy during braking or stopping (e.g. regenerative braking). Additionally, as noted above, the battery and ultracapacitors may contain suitable management systems to monitor the parameters including temperature, current, and voltage to prevent them from deep-charging and discharging. Accordingly, all such variations are intended to be within the scope of this disclosure.

    Read more: http://bit.ly/QarCes
    Oct 13, 2012. 02:00 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Storage: Q4 2012 Winners And Losers [View article]
    Guys, much of the discussion on this article (and others) has focused on the relative difficulty (or ease) of maintaining the proper voltage level for the electrical system of the vehicle. Some argue that the PbC's voltage falls off quickly as it discharges. Others argue that the PbC will be operated in a state of charge that keeps it at a convenient 12 volts (or so). Others have commented on the simplicity or expense of voltage regulation circuits and DC-DC converters. A key point was made regarding "drop-in" replacements for lead-acid batteries without the need for a battery management system to overcome the capacitor behavior (dropping of voltage as it discharges) of the PbC or ultracaps for that matter.

    JCI filed a patent number 20120237799 on Sept. 20, 2012 regarding a "battery" which is a combination of a chemical battery and ultracapacitors in a battery form factor, with the ultracaps and control/regulation circuitry inside the case for drop-in replacements.

    Here's the Abstract:
    A battery system includes an enclosure conforming to a standard form factor, such as a group specified by the Battery Council International. A battery and at least one ultracapacitor are disposed in the enclosure and interconnected to provide electrical energy at battery terminals. Control and/or regulation circuitry may also be provided in the enclosure and interconnected with the battery and ultracapacitor. The battery system may be designed to retrofit existing batteries, such as in vehicular and other applications. The use of a standard form factor allows for little or no alteration of the physical and electrical systems into which the battery system is placed.

    And here's a link:
    http://bit.ly/P0JCNz

    My conclusion: There are lots of options for both lead-carbon batteries and ultracaps, despite their falling voltage as they discharge. Both external battery management systems (that would presumably last the life of the vehicle) and embedded BMSs that are inside the battery itself are feasible. I don't think it is quite the showstopper that people make it out to be. I'm sure that various automakers and automotive suppliers have been working on this for years. DC-DC converters and control circuitry have been around forever. Cost might be an issue, and I would welcome data on just how inexpensive these converters can become.

    I encourage you to read the patent, as it has some nice drawings and descriptions of exactly what a hybrid battery might look like inside.
    http://bit.ly/P0JCNz
    Oct 13, 2012. 01:52 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Electric Vehicles Are Still Not Ready For Prime Time [View article]
    Interesting statistics from Oct 2, 2012 Bloomberg article:
    http://bloom.bg/O6vCA9

    Combined sales of all electric-drive vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-only autos, expanded 135 percent to 42,314 last month, based on data compiled by Bloomberg. Deliveries for the segment were 371,896 through September, up 96 percent from a year ago.

    The above paragraph includes HEVs, PHEVs and BEVs. Earlier in the same article, on *just* BEVs and PHEVs:

    Sales through September of battery-only vehicles and those with both battery packs and a gasoline engine for added range almost tripled to about 31,400 from 11,094 a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Volt, with a record 2,851 sales last month, leads with 16,348 for the year, up fourfold, followed by 7,734 Prius plug-ins and 5,212 Leafs.

    Thoughts: First of all, BEVs and PHEVs accounted for only 16,348 vehicles out of the total so far this year of 371,896. So the market is 95.6% HEVs and only 4.4% BEVs and PHEVs. Sales being up 96% year over year is significant! The announced lineups for 2013 vehicles are impressive, so we should see strong growth again in 2013. Make your own conclusions; I like seeing the hard data.
    Oct 3, 2012. 11:17 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Storage: Q4 2012 Winners And Losers [View article]
    I should add that about 10 years ago, I invested in several companies based on my enthusiasm for their technology. Needless to say, cool technology did not translate to successful products or profits. Several of these companies went bankrupt, and I lost my entire investment. I appreciate your focus on the appropriate use of technology to meet the performance, cost and reliability needs of a specific application, knowing that the end customer will not pay for much more than what specifically meets their needs.

    The reason I keep pondering Maxwell's opportunities in this space are because they have some technological advantages, but I'm not sure they can provide an economic solution unless the use of their ultracaps enables more than just the basic start/stop functionality needed to meet regulatory requirements.

    Your thoughts on those tradeoffs would be very much appreciated.
    Oct 3, 2012. 12:41 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Storage: Q4 2012 Winners And Losers [View article]
    Maxwell has a bit of good news for their ultracaps:

    Lamborghini To Incorporate Maxwell Technologies' Ultracapacitors In Stop-Start Idle-Elimination System For Aventador Sports Car
    http://yhoo.it/SBy9i3

    John: Thank you again for your excellent, though-provoking articles.

    I know the show you just presented at was focused on lead acid batteries (and undoubtedly their cost advantages over NiMH and Li-ion batteries), but did you hear anything new regarding ultracapacitor-based start/stop solutions and their relative merits/demerits? Today's announcement from Maxwell is encouraging, but the fact that their ultracaps are being used in a Lamborghini doesn't exactly inspire confidence that they will be the right solution for a small sedan any time soon... Any recent thoughts on ultracaps for start/stop micro or mild hybrids, etc. would be appreciated.

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and experience with us! I've never before interacted with an author like you that was willing to share rationale/insights/les... learned/investing philosophy/critical thinking before. Your efforts are much appreciated.
    Oct 2, 2012. 10:46 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Electric Vehicles Are Still Not Ready For Prime Time [View article]
    Thanks George for sharing the details of using your Leaf. Based on your high mileage usage pattern, electricity costs, lower maintenance etc., do you think it's going to pay for itself compared to a hybrid (like the Prius) or a high-MPG ICE car?

    I'm mostly interested in your "fuel" savings and whether that will really pay for the extra up-front cost of the vehicle. Finally, how much has your range gone down over your first 25,000 miles? Thanks!
    Sep 30, 2012. 10:50 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
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