Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Trump’s lawyers sue Greenpeace over Dakota Pipeline, making jaw-dropping accusations – First: Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), has sued Greenpeace and other environmental groups in a $300 million racketeering case, accusing them of inciting terrorism, fraud and defamation and violating state and federal RICO laws. But even better than that: The Dallas-based firm made other outrageous claims against the groups, including funding terrorism and “using donations to fund a lucrative drug trafficking scheme inside the camps. If I were a lawyer hoping to be seen as sane – I’d lay off the drug trafficking conspiracies.

11-MW dual-rotor turbine to begin life as a 5-MW working prototype – The design uses two rotors on the same shaft rotating in the same direction. A right-angle drive in the nacelle turns a drive shaft to transmit power down tower to 11 MW of generators mounted at the base of the turbine. The arrangement opens up the possibility to create more power, takes weight off the tower, and provides for easier maintenance. Innovation. Good luck to these folks.

Why solar keeps being underestimated – The IEA, a key reference for all modellers, predicted growth rates of 16-32% per year between 1998 and 2010. In fact, real growth ranged from 20-72%, with the annual average at 38%. The article doesn’t really get into the ‘why’ too deeply except for one paragraph: Consumers proved willing to pay a premium for green technology on their own rooftops, while ambitious policy instruments like Germany’s Feed-in-Tariff and California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard pushed renewables much faster than anticipated. Germany and California, at the behest of their voters who were willing to invest for the long game versus buying simply the cheapest source today, drove the world. And then the learning curve started moving – solar module costs decreased by around 23% with each doubling in installed capacity. It takes a little bit of help from you and I, then the manufacturing might of our species kicks in.

Rate hikes ahead: Duke Energy seeks 8.5 percent, Tampa Electric a more modest 1 percent bump – The $128.54 per 1,000 kilowatt hours bill includes an additional: $7.14 for this year’s underestimated fuel costs; $1.43 for purchased power recovery costs; 7 cents for environmental recovery costs; $2.50 for costs related to the abandoned plan to build a new nuclear power plant in Levy County, $1.52 for a previously completed power-increasing project on the now-shuttered Crystal River nuclear power plant, and 11 cents for energy efficiency programs recovery costs. Before someone tries to put the blame on renewable energy or efficiency – per the above breakdown, 0.14% of the increase is related to green. That’s not 1% – that’s 1/10th of 1%. If you’ve already got solar power installed – rate increases do not apply to you.

WA mulls three gigawatt-scale PV plants to export solar to Asia – Imagine you happen to own a huge desert island with some of the best solar light on the planet but a relatively small population…what might you do with that electricity? The report, the findings of a pre-feasibility study conducted for the Pilbara Development Commission, suggests a commercial case for the project could be established within five to 10 years, including a $9.5 billion, 1500km subsea cable from the Dampier Peninsula to east Java and three 1GW solar farms. That sounds amazing to me – and if we start building subsea cables specifically to move solar electricity, then we’ll build more.

Swiss researchers team with NREL to break 35% cell efficiency – Most important information from the article: These cells are far from being financially viable – NREL estimates a cost per watt of $4.85 for the GaInP cell, and $7.15 for the GaAs cell, based on 30% efficiency. The scientists estimate, however, that by adjusting to 35% efficiency and incorporating savings from economies of scale that could be achieved through ramping up production, the cost per watt could quickly be reduced to below $1/W. “Such a precipitous price drop is not unprecedented,” notes NREL. “For instance, the cost of Chinese made PV modules fell from $4.50/W in 2006 to $1/W in 2011.” These cells are still expensive – real expensive. And their price, even in expensive electricity rooftop areas, isn’t near financially viable. However, two things give me a slight touch of hope – the first cell is estimated priced at $4.85/W while solar in 2006 was $4.50/W. People were installing solar power at $4.50/W for panels. Might there be an ever so slight market somewhere on the globe for this product that could lead to the first factory? And secondly – NREL sees a pathway with further optimization and scaling for these cells to reach $1/W. There is plenty marketplace for $1/W solar cells at 30-35%.

New Fraud Allegations Emerge at Troubled ‘Clean Coal’ Project As Southern Co. Records Multi-Billion Loss – Mississippi state regulators accuses Southern of misrepresenting Kemper’s prospects right from the outset, before construction even began. Those claims center on Southern’s projections for what it would cost to operate and maintain the plant once it was up and running, which the filing asserts were so low they were “indefensible”. “By hiding the true O& M costs for so long, apparently since 2012 and likely longer, Fanning basically ensured shareholders would be forced to absorb $6 billion in losses,” Wingo told DeSmog. ‘Clean’ coal, as of today, is fraud. Nothing else.

When alien explorers find our planet, they’ll wonder if we saw it coming. They’ll ask if our species had any warnings. For no rational, intelligent animal would ignore a global attack against it when the models to predict it seem so simple.

Header image is of dual axis wind turbine designed by Airgenesis, with this image grabbed from this data sheet.

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