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Posts tagged “hydropower”

By Geoffrey Styles on Feb 12, 2014 with 14 responses

Can Solar Fill the Hydropower Gap During California’s Drought?

Solar Is Growing, But Hydro Remains Much Bigger

A tweet this morning sent me on a fact-checking expedition into state-level  electricity statistics. The subject was a San Jose Mercury article with the unwieldy title, “Drought threatens California’s hydroelectricity supply, but solar makes up the gap.” The article’s quote from the head of the California Energy Commission implied that solar power additions were sufficient to make up for any shortfall in hydro, historically one of the state’s biggest energy sources.

My gut reaction was to be skeptical: Solar has been growing rapidly, especially in California, but even with nearly 3,000 MW of photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal generation in place, it’s still well short of the scale of California’s 10,000 MW of hydropower dams, especially when you consider that the latter aren’t constrained to operate only in daylight hours. However, I also know better than to respond to a claim like this without checking the data on how much energy these installations actually deliver.

The Comparison Has Shifted In the Last Year

My first look at the Energy Information Administration’s annual generation data seemed to confirm my suspicions. In 2012 California’s hydropower facilities produced 26.8 million megawatt-hours (MWh), while grid-connected solar generated just 1.4 million MWh. However, when I looked at more recent monthly data, the mismatch was much smaller, due to solar’s strong growth in the Golden State. For example, in October 2013 California solar power generated 435 MWh, or nearly 24% of hydro’s 1.8 million MWh.


By Geoffrey Styles on Jan 31, 2014 with 2 responses

“All of the Above” vs. “Best of the Above”

Energy’s Brief Appearance in the State of the Union Address

Energy issues received scant mention in Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, consisting mainly of a victory lap for the President’s “all of the above” formulation and a somewhat contradictory promise to place even more federal lands off-limits to drilling. While browsing through reactions from various energy leaders and environmental groups I was intrigued by one critique of Mr. Obama’s approach from an environmental NGO, arguing that he should instead be placing the country’s bets on “best of the above” energy. They weren’t the only ones to object to the current approach.

It’s clear from their statement that Earthjustice has definite ideas about what’s best and what isn’t, but their comment merits further discussion. After all, who could argue against supporting the best energy sources? And isn’t all of the above just a sop to the status quo, in which a diverse array of energy sources dominated by fossil fuels provides the energy for the rest of the economy?

Obama and “All of the Above”

As President Obama noted Tuesday, his reference to an “‘all of the above’ energy strategy”–a debatable characterization in itself–referred to a key phrase in his 2012 address to Congress. It’s worth recalling the context, in an election year in which the Republican nominee was certain to focus on conventional energy when it was delivering US production growth in both oil and natural gas that couldn’t have been imagined just a few years earlier.


By Robert Rapier on Jul 19, 2013 with 9 responses

Hydropower and Geothermal Status Update 2013

This is the 2nd installment in a series that looks at the recently released 2013 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. The previous post – Renewable Energy Status Update 2013 – focused mainly on wind and solar power. This post delves into hydropower and geothermal power. Some of the BP data is supplemented by REN21′s recently-released 2013 Renewables Global Status Report (GSR). (Disclosure: I have been a reviewer for the GSR for the past three years).


Hydropower accounts for more electricity production than solar PV, wind, and geothermal combined. In 2012, hydropower accounted for 16% of the world’s electricity production. However, hydropower gets far less press because it is a mature technology with a much lower annual growth rate than most renewables. While solar PV increased capacity by an average of 60% per year over the past 5 years, new hydropower capacity increased at a much more modest annual rate of 3.3%.

Hydropower Graph for ETI


By Geoffrey Styles on May 28, 2013 with 1 response

‘All of the Above’ Energy Policy Must Be Weighted by Common Sense

An Oft-Used Energy Slogan

Last week, Real Clear Politics and API hosted an energy summit in Washington, DC entitled, “Fueling America’s Future”. It was intended to provide a quick overview of most of the key technologies and issues associated with an all-of-the-above energy strategy for the United States. Going through the highlights of the webcast gives me an opportunity to introduce my point of view to a new audience at Energy Trends Insider. I’d sum that up as “All of the Above”, with asterisks for the proportions and situations that make sense.

This slogan, at least in the manner in which it has been espoused by politicians in both parties, has attracted fair criticism for being overly bland and safe. I suspect that critique reflects a general sense that our energy mix has always been composed of all of the above, or all of the technologies that were sufficiently proven and economic to contribute at scale at any point in time. However, as both our technology options and choice criteria expand, our understanding of the evolving energy mix is hampered by metrics and assumptions that are overdue to be revisited.


By Russ Finley on Jun 27, 2012 with 9 responses

Hydropower: Dammed If You Do

No, that is not a picture of cooling ponds inside a nuclear reactor. Those are dust covers on the turbines at the Grand Coulee dam. According to the photographer, you have to pass through a metal detector to get this far into the power plant. Come to think of it, the nuclear power industry could probably improve their public image with similar tourist photo ops of their spent fuel cooling ponds.

There’s an article over on Mongabay about a protest of the  Belo Monte Dam project in Brazil:

 Belo Monte will flood more than 40,000 hectares of rainforest and displace tens of thousands of people. The project will impede the flow of the Xingu, which is one of the Amazon’s mightiest tributaries, disrupting fish migrations and potentially affecting nutrient flows in a section of the basin.


By Robert Rapier on Jul 14, 2011 with 113 responses

Renewables 2011 Global Status Report Released

The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century has just released their annual Renewables 2011 Global Status Report. I was one of the reviewers of the draft report, and therefore got to read and comment on it prior to publication. The report provides a comprehensive overview of global renewable energy sectors, breaking different categories down by total installed capacity and capacity added in 2010. It also ranks the global leaders for many categories. Renewable energy grew strongly in 2010, as the total global investment in renewable energy reached $211 billion, up 32% from the $160 billion invested in 2009. Globally, the capacity of various renewable energy categories at the end of 2010 was: Solar PV – 40 GW Wind… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 6, 2011 with 24 responses

Chinese Energy Policies Harming Neighbors

The following guest post is from ——————————– China’s omnivorous energy requirements have been attracting increasing attention as of late, as Beijing attempts to secure any and all sources of power for its growing industrial base. Nowhere is this more noticeable than Beijing’s policies in the South China Sea, where Chinese assertions of sovereignty are unsettling the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, all of whom have counter claims on the various shoals and islets. China’s landward neighbors are also feeling the hot breath of Beijing’s mandarins, however, most notably its economic rival India, with whom China fought a brief war in 1962 in the Himalayas over a disputed frontier, where the alpine conflict, according to China’s official military… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jun 23, 2011 with 42 responses

Highlights of BP’s 2011 Statistical Review of World Energy

Global Energy Growth BP recently released their highly respected annual Statistical Review of World Energy for 2011. Most of the news stories on the report have focused on the exceptionally strong growth in global energy consumption. While that is without a doubt a major story that I will discuss here, I also want to highlight some lesser known facts from the report. Crude Oil The report notes that overall energy consumption growth was 5.6%, the highest rate since 1973. Oil prices averaged the second highest level on record, and therefore oil showed the slowest growth rate at 3.1%, to reach a new record level of 87.4 million b/d. (I am on record as stating that I think global oil production… Continue»