Friday, May 15, 2020

Wind Power: Subsidy after Subsidy As the Infant Never Grows Up

A group of bipartisan senators on Thursday asked the Department of Treasury to extend safe harbor deadlines to ensure renewable energy developers are able to secure the tax credits they need to finance their projects.

In order to qualify for the production tax credit (PTC) or the investment tax credit (ITC), project developers have to meet certain construction deadlines, but many in the industry are seeing lengthy project delays as a result of supply chain disruptions, workforce shortages and other COVID-19-related setbacks.

Renewables advocates have been asking Congress to extend these provisions for weeks, citing the loss of potentially billions of dollars in investments if these projects are not able to proceed.
A letter from six Green New Deal-light senators to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin states in part:

… we urge you to extend the continuity safe harbor, provided under existing Treasury Department guidance, for both the production tax credit (PTC) and energy investment tax credit (ITC), from four years to five years for projects that started construction in 2016 or 2017. This modest adjustment to the PTC and ITC guidance would help preserve tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investments and provide some certainty in these challenging times.

… the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted supply chains, construction operations, and permitting timelines, delaying projects otherwise on track to be in operation by the end of 2020. While existing IRS guidance provides certain exceptions for specified setbacks in construction, these exceptions do not anticipate nor fully capture the wideranging interruptions now faced by developers.

Providing a temporary extension of the continuity safe harbor of five years, in lieu of the current four, would address the unforeseen interruptions developers are experiencing due to COVID-19 and provide the certainty businesses need to move forward with existing projects.

Such would qualify as the 13th federal subsidy extension for wind power, dating back to 1992. Yet back in 1986, amid California’s wind subsidies, a representative of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) stated: “The U.S. wind industry has … demonstrated reliability and performance levels that make them very competitive.” Which brings to mind what Milton and Rose Friedman stated in 1997:

The infant industry argument is a smoke screen. The so-called infants never grow up.

The uneconomic remains so because of basic energy physics in light of consumer preference. And in this case, the uneconomic is also cronyism unbound.

It is time for a flight to quality; to dense, reliable energies.


Fusion Energy Gets Ready to Shine—Finally

UNTIL 1920, HUMANS had no real sense of how the sun and stars create their vast amounts of energy. Then, in October of that year, Arthur Stanley Eddington, an English astrophysicist, penned an essay elegantly titled “ The Internal Constitution of the Stars.” “A star is drawing on some vast reservoir of energy by means unknown,” he wrote. “This reservoir can scarcely be other than the sub-atomic energy which, it is known, exists abundantly in all matter; we sometimes dream that man will one day learn how to release it and use it for his service.”

From that moment, scientists began the quest to harness unlimited, carbon-free power on earth. They've built more than 200 reactors that have tried to slam hydrogen atoms together and release fusion energy. It's a dream perennially called delusional, impossible, and “always 20 years away.” In 1985, recognizing that no country had the will to solve the world's most complicated puzzle alone, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev called for an international effort to give it a go.

In 1988, engineers began designing the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, now just ITER. Along the way, 35 nations have split the $23.7 billion price tag to construct its 10 million parts. Now, surrounded by vineyards in France's Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, the 25,000-ton machine is set to be flipped on in 2025.

The isotopes butting heads will be deuterium and tritium. To get the atoms whipping around the inner chamber of the Russian-nesting-doll-like machine, a magnet will drive 15 million amperes of electricity through them. They'll also be zapped by 24 microwave generators and three semitruck-sized particle guns, until they reach 270 million degrees F and, avec optimisme, crash into each other, releasing heaps of energy. There's no guarantee ITER will achieve fusion by 2035, as scheduled. But Edward Morse, who teaches nuclear engineering at UC Berkeley, says it's the “only viable” hope we have to secure the energy we'll need over the next millennia: “It's Rosemary's baby. We have to pray for Rosemary's baby.” And if it fails? As Eddington wrote, if man “is not yet destined to reach the sun and solve for all time the riddle of its constitution, yet he may hope to learn from his journey some hints to build a better machine.”


Hydrogen Technology May Turn Gas Green and Fractivists Red with Rage

A partnership between Penn State EMS Energy Institute researchers and a Pittsburgh-based start-up company may hold the answer to reducing so-called greenhouse gas emissions while also paving the way to disrupt the chemical and material industries. The collaboration has resulted in several research projects that aim to “reinvent” both coal and natural gas as clean, cost-effective sources of fuels and high-performance materials.

The holy grail in energy (at least right now) is hydrogen. Have you noticed all the stories about using hydrogen for energy? Hydrogen this and hydrogen that. Hydrogen will save Mom Earth from toasting to death. Whatever.

When you “burn” hydrogen you get water, not carbon dioxide (the stuff you breathe out with every breath). The issue with hydrogen is getting enough of it. Using traditional methods you either create nasty emissions or it’s too expensive.

Penn State and a company called H Quest are extracting hydrogen from natural gas using microwave plasma technology. It’s completely free of so-called greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, microwave plasma enables smaller, modular chemical conversion plants–cheaper to build and deploy.

A multi-disciplinary collaborative relationship, developed between Penn State EMS Energy Institute researchers and a Pittsburgh-based start-up company, may hold the answer to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions while also paving the way to disrupt the chemical and material industries.

Since 2015, Randy Vander Wal, professor of energy and mineral engineering and materials science and engineering, and affiliate at the EMS Energy Institute, has been collaborating with H Quest Vanguard on a growing number of projects that use the company’s plasma technology to enable potential new, non-emissive uses of coal and natural gas.

“The unique capabilities of Penn State’s Material Characterization Laboratory provide invaluable insights into properties of H Quest’s plasma-produced materials and are crucial to establishing a product fit for commercialization,” said George Skoptsov, H Quest CEO.

The collaboration has resulted in five research projects that aim to reinvent coal and natural gas in the 21st century as clean, cost-effective sources of fuels and high-performance materials.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

While the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history, the current scientific consensus is that the present global warming trend is likely the result of human activity, namely emissions of green house gases due to combustion of fossil fuels.

Switching to cleaner fuels is recognized as a key component in reducing these emissions. Hydrogen, in particular, is a promising energy carrier because burning it produces only water and not carbon dioxide. But hydrogen is very rare in its pure molecular form. It is abundant, however, in the form of water—11% hydrogen by mass—and methane, a principal component of natural gas—25% hydrogen by mass. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, presently 95% of the hydrogen for fuel in the U.S. is extracted from natural gas.

The most widely used industrial process for hydrogen production—steam-methane reforming—heats methane from natural gas using steam to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Unfortunately, this process has a large greenhouse gas emission footprint and consumes large amounts of water.

Thermal methane decomposition heats natural gas to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which cracks the hydrocarbon molecules, extracting hydrogen as gas and leaving the solid carbon behind. Introducing catalysts to this process can reduce the required temperature but introduces the problem of separating the solid carbon from the catalyst surfaces. Overall, due to constraints associated with heating, this process remains a costly, energy-intensive, and greenhouse gas-emissive process.

H Quest’s microwave plasma technology catalyzes reactions in a novel way and allows very rapid—1,000 degrees Fahrenheit per second—heating of gas, which is not possible with conventional heating technologies such as boilers, furnaces, heat exchangers, or inductive heaters.

Because renewable electricity can power microwaves, and methane decomposition does not use oxygen, extracting hydrogen from natural gas using microwave plasma technology can be completely free of green house gas emissions. In addition, microwave plasma technology enables modular, small-scale, low-capital deployment of chemical conversion plants, making the chemical industry more efficient, effective, flexible and competitive.

In a recently awarded University Coalition for Basic and Applied Fossil Energy Research project, sponsored by the DOE, Vander Wal is looking to develop a deeper understanding of how process conditions within H Quest’s reactor define carbon product parameters.

Vital to this effort are the capabilities of the Material Characterization Laboratory, which has a wide variety of characterization techniques in the areas of microscopy, spectroscopy, surface analysis, and thermo-physical techniques that will help shed light on why different materials show different properties and behaviors.

The project, titled “Optimization of Microwave-Driven, Plasma-Assisted Conversion of Methane to Hydrogen and Graphene,” aims to identify reactor design and process conditions for hydrogen production with the capability to tune carbon product characteristics and evaluate methane conversion, product yields, and selectivity.

The goal is to develop relations between the carbon product form, characteristics, and process parameters. Such relationships will allow selective production of specific carbon forms and the ability to tailor their physical-chemical properties. The researchers hope this will lead to next-generation hydrogen technologies that could enable using stranded domestic energy resources, such as stranded natural gas reserves, while also diversifying hydrogen feedstocks.

If successful, it could also reduce the costs associated with large-scale hydrogen energy products; create market demand, technologies, and infrastructure to enable hydrogen energy deployment; and use domestic natural gas for manufacturing energy and synthetic carbon products.

“Microwave processing of natural gas represents decarbonization of a fossil fuel while paving the path toward the hydrogen economy,” Vander Wal said.

It would also create a pathway to cleaner, lower-cost carbon products. Graphene, for example, is a material that is stronger than steel and more conductive than copper.

“Graphene, as an additive to concrete, can increase strength and durability, contributing to infrastructure improvement while sequestering at large scale carbon/graphene production,” Vander Wal said.

Penn State EMS Energy Institute researchers and H Quest are also partnering through a National Science Foundation Small Business Technology Transfer Program award to test the company’s material in these roles. They also are investigating applications of microwave plasma to convert coal into carbon products through an award from the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The breadth of the plasma-derived products is immense, from activated carbon to 3-D-printable plastics to industrial carbon electrodes for steel and aluminum smelting, the possibilities are immeasurable, Skoptsov said.

“Coal has been foundational for modern industrial organic chemistry,” he added. “So many synthetic products—from aspirin to nylon—have been produced from coal, before it became synonymous with electricity generation in the era of cheap oil in the 1950s. This research will unlock the true value of our fossil resources as the source of high-performance materials but will do so in a more sustainable and cost-effective way than has ever been possible.”

So we can “decarbonize” fossil fuels. Turn them clean and green, right? Here’s the thing: Even if you could wave a magic environmental wand over natural gas (or coal) and make it 100% clean and green, irrational fossil fuel haters are still gonna hate. They will refuse to accept the technology simply because it’s called “fossil fuel.” That’s the reality.

Perpetually angry fractivists just have to hate and will turn red with rage if gas is made even greener, says Jim. Is he correct? Probably so.

We applaud these researchers for their efforts, but we predict ultimately this technology will go nowhere because of the prevailing, demented thinking on the part of those who call themselves environmentalists


It’s All Over For Europe’s Green Deal As Angela Merkel’s MEPs Say ‘It’s No Longer Viable’

Opposition to the EU’s Green Deal promoted by EU Commission leader Ursula von der Leyen is growing among Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU MEPs in the European Parliament.

Markus Pieper is the leader of Germany’s Christian Democratic CDU/CSU parliamentary party in the European Parliament
The leader of the Parliamentary Party Markus Pieper told news magazine FOCUS:

The Green Deal was a gigantic challenge for an economy in top shape. After the corona bloodletting, it is simply not financially viable.”

Pieper suggests, among other things, to expand trading in CO2 to electric cars and building renovations instead of fixed CO2 quotas. “Then the market regulates the progress in climate protection according to supply and demand via a price mechanism,” Pieper told FOCUS.

Pieper also called for energy policy to be the “core concern of EU foreign policy” in order to import more electricity from renewable energy from Africa and the Middle East. The Federal Government also warned that the current carbon price of ten euros per tonne of CO2 should be maintained and the decision by the Federal Council on a higher carbon price should be rejected.



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