Big Oil Invests In Geothermal Energy Breakthrough

geothermal energy

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When you are seeking long lasting always available renewable energy the most logical is barely mentioned compared to the huge attention paid to the unreliable intermittent renewables that have short lives.  This is irrational but that is the esence of  the proposals for the future of energy production.  Solar at best provides power only for a few hours a day and can be offline due to clouds or snow for days.  Solar power production is half as much peak power in winter with far shorter useful power delivery time as well.  Geothermal heat lasts forever and the equipment lasts far longer than solar panels or wind turbines.  The article below talks of some breakthroughs in Geothermal that may make it less expensive and easier to adopt more widely.  It may seem ridiculous if you are concerned about climate to invest in a big oil company but their investment in this new technology may be a great thing.  Believe it or not but the current administration’s attack on the domestic oil industry may really benefit international oil companies as well due to falling production in America leading to no surplus and higher prices.  We need to make improving geothermal and being willing to pay a little extra to have reliable power that works in all weather conditions.  Geothermal installations can provide both electricity and heat which would have been welcome in Texas during the winter storm.  We must get real about energy and not fall for the marketing pitch of the solar industry that its power is anything but what it is intermittent and unreliable needing full backup from natural gas power plants.

 

“BP and Chevron, this Tuesday, announced plans to invest heavily in geothermal energy through a new innovative start up. The new technology introduced by Canadian startup Eavor, pronounced “ever”, provides a clean energy source directly from the earth’s heat. BP and Chevron have made a $40 million investment in Calgary-based Eavor, bucking the trend by developing a largely overlooked energy source. Funding goes mainly towards the research and development of geothermal power. 

 

Senior vice president of zero carbon energy at BP, Felipe Arbelaez, states “Technology such as Eavor’s has the potential to deliver geothermal power and heat and help unlock a low carbon future.”. Further explaining, “Eavor has developed a new type of geothermal technology that, in very simple terms, creates an underground “radiator.””. The new technology, named ‘loop’, provides a closed-loop network of pipes which is installed between 3 to 4 km underground, linked to an aboveground facility. Liquid is able to travel in the pipes from the facility, through the hot underground environment, then back to surface level where it is converted into electricity. The flow of this liquid can be controlled to manage output. 

Unlike batteries, solar or wind power, this geothermal technology allows for a constant flow of power that does not rely on challenges such as weather conditions. Further, the technology can fit into existing energy production areas such as underneath solar farms, to combat space constraints. Until now, geothermal energy had accounted for less than 0.3 percent of the world’s energy due to its high-risk nature. However, the risks taken to invest in the geothermal power technologies of the 1980s and 90s are no longer an issue when using Eavor’s closed-loop structure.Eavor’s system is ground-breaking as is significantly cheaper and more environmentally friendly than traditional geothermal technology. It does not rely on fracking methods to put the system in place and does need specific underground hot water sources to tap into geothermal energy.

Related: Oil Prices Soar As U.S. Oil Production Plunges 30%

In addition, the geothermal technology releases zero carbon emissions, offering oil and gas companies a means to fulfil the increasingly common aim of net-carbon-zero within the next one to three decades. This represents BP’s first investment into geothermal power, and Chevron’s return to the market, having sold its geothermal assets in 2016. It is the first investment by oil majors into Eavor’s system, which previously only accepted angel and venture capital investment. 

The new geothermal technology could be the Zero-Emitting Load-Following Resource (ZELFR) the oil and gas industry has been waiting for. Thanks to its low-cost installation, constant energy supply and minimal space requirements, it could prove to be the green energy that governments and regulators have been calling for. As well as providing constant energy, the most promising part of this system is that the underground heat providing geothermal energy will not run out, making it a safer bet than the finite resources we currently use. Despite being largely overlooked until now, the new technology could harness the power of this untapped resource. “

By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com

Getting Real about solar

Solar power 2orking

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Today is a partly cloudy day which happens nearly a third of days in Dallas Texas where I am writing this.  Solar output on a day like today will be a small fraction of rated panel output.  This would mean that if the percentage of solar exceeds the reserve capacity of turbine generators then there would be blackouts either grid wide or rolling as Grid operators prefer.  That is unless there was battery capacity equal to many times actual electrical demand as battery systems are typically rated for a four hour power delivery time so six times more batteries will be needed to provide one cloudy days power needs.  There would also be a need for six times more solar arrays to charge the batteries.  And that is for just one cloudy day.  Here is a graph of actual solar radiation that FOI Group Llc measured as part  of its research to develop its solar energy patent.

Note this graph is solar radiation not actual electrical power output which would be fraction of these numbers.  But not thatsolar panels are rated at 1000 watts per square meter and on this graph the peak power reached for only minutes was 600.  Look how steep the curves are and how we had two days in a row of minimal power output.  This would mean that we need a huge number of extra panels to charge all the extra batteries.  So friends if we don’t have natural gas backup we just don’t have 24/7 power except at extreme cost of perhaps 30 times more expense than a typical solar farm that claims to produce a given amount of power.  The good news is that natural gas is abundant and emits the lowest carbon emissions by far.  Enemies of natural gas use love to talk about leaking methane but the truth is that most methane emissions come from oil wells which also produce some methane often in quantities too small to connect to a pipeline.  The Methane is dissolved in the oil and like a soft drink some of it is released in the oil storage tank.  There are abundant methane or natural gas consuming bacteria that live all over the world consuming methane which is released in abundance by Termites, ruminant animals and natural seeps into the air and ocean.  The huge releases of natural gas from the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico years ago were consumed in the ocean by these bacteria and didn’t reach the surface to go into the air.  Now if we are concerned about methane emissions and desire to lower atmospheric levels we could breed these methane eaters and distribute them around oil wells, cattle feedyards and ranchers etc to try and boost their numbers which naturally adjust to the food supply. Artic tundra melting is a major source of methane emissions but much of it gets consumed quickly by the bacteria.  The microscopic world is largely unknown as it is so massive that it represents the bulk of weight of living things and is so numerous and hard to identify that much of it is unknown.

We need to rapidly phase out coal use to reduce carbon emissions right away and it is okay to build more solar as long as we have natural gas powerplants to back it up on those cloudy days and winter.  It is more efficient to heat our houses and our hot water with natural gas than electricity due to all the losses in power generation and electric lines.  Cooking with gas is far better as the natural gas flame gets hotter than an electric stove which makes for better cooking.  Lets Get Real about energy. The renewable solution that makes sense is biogas which is renewable natural gas from organic waste of all types.  But we can make the world carbon negative while we still use fossil fuels thru remineralization and improved agricultural and marine processes.  The job is a lot easier with a fast phaseout of coal in favor of reliable fast acting natural gas powerplants.  Join us to promote a sensible better way to resolve the climate crisis!!!!!  That is affordable.

Sunny Days – why solar energy isn’t the key

Solar powered

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Solar energy promoters talk about how cheap solar has gotten but use the deceiving peak solar output at Midday to make that claim.  What isn’t said is how many days don’t have peak sun or much sun hitting the ground at all.  This website provides information for Texas Cities sunshine:

https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Texas/annual-days-of-sunshine.php

You hear people talking about battery storage but what they don’t mention is how short term that battery storage is and how incredibly greater the number of batteries and extra solar panels to charge them would have to be to give power on even one cloudy day.  What the solar promoters don’t want to show you is how the solar radiation power curves really look.  Here are actual measurements taken on a minute by minute basis outside of Dallas Texas right before Christmas.

Look how sharply the power rises in the morning and quickly falls in the afternoon.  Only one “sunny” day that week and three near zero power days along with 3 days that were partly cloudy with big drops in power output that would mean brownouts or rolling blackouts if solar were a primary power source.

Already solar promoters are proposing a massive number of solar farms that they make money building and selling off to green investors.  Support the GET REAL Alliance to promote our realistic look at renewable energy and climate issues.  Time is short as the solar lobby is pushing for mandating solar by Government legislation and our power reliability may  be a thing of the past if we don’t speak up for more reliable renewable power along with expanded use of natural gas powerplants to backup solar and wind power.  As you can see from the graph we really need a Megawatt of natural gas powerplant for each Megawatt of solar to have reliable power but currently the economics of building natural gas powerplants are hindered by grid politics and in many places actual bans on new plants.

Real Solar Output History

Solar output history

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The solar industry loves to talk about nameplate power output based on a benchmark solar radiation of 1000 watts per square meter.  Yet the industry is promoting solar farms in areas that will not see anywhere near that level of solar radiation. Years back, FOI Group LLC of Dallas, Texas worked on a solar energy patent that offered a way to have more reliable power. Part of the project included measuring solar radiation minute by minute in the Dallas area for over a year.

Here is a week’s worth of data from late December:

Solar input data from 2006

Note that peak output was over 600 watts for a very short time on one day but very low on three days.  Even the best day is marred by many wild dips in solar output shown by the many vertical lines on the graph.  There is only one unblemished day in this week.  Intermittent clouds only affect a small area at a time. If solar farms or arrays were widely dispersed, the short-term fluctuations would cancel out as a cloud would only pass over one solar array at a time in an area of many.  Unfortunately, solar farms tend to be large and concentrated. In such a layout, an intermittent cloud can cause loss of power to a large percentage of total solar output in the area.  Notice on the graph that there is no power most of the time, and power output is only at a peak for a short time. Much is made of the lower prices for solar based on peak output. Yet the ideal conditions for peak output are fleeting.  The data from this winter week shows only a small fraction of peak total output with three days of almost no output.  Counting on a solar energy system as a primary source without backup would mean large power blackouts.

Here is a summer week:

Solar input data from 2007

There is clearly a much higher peak output than the winter week, but the wild fluctuations in power would be a disaster as a major or sole energy supplier for a home.  The swings would be even wider farther north or in higher rainfall areas.  FOI Group LLC’s solar thermal power system would have been equipped to deal with the wide swings, but it is difficult to size a mirror array to produce high temperatures that are needed with such wide variance.  The patent can be seen at www.fullofideas.com,  but material limitations made FOI discontinue development in conjunction with these discouraging graphs.  

It is hoped that these graphs, which are not specially selected for bad results but are representative, will make it clear that we need backup power with equal capabilities to the installed solar power.  Ideally, the backup power system would consist of natural gas power plants on standby to quickly step in when needed, along with flywheel storage to fill the short term disruptions that would make a computer crash if solar power alone were a big part of the power supply of the electric grid.  

Proponents of batteries vastly underestimate the amount of batteries and charging solar arrays needed to provide continuous power.  To meet a megawatt of load full-time would take an extra 3 megawatts of actual solar power output at the average solar radiation over a six hour period. This is a multiple of the nameplate power output that is used for cost calculations.  And this only provides power for nighttime needs.  One would need four more megawatts of solar panels to charge the batteries to provide power for a cloudy day.  The costs would be large even if there were enough raw materials to make all those batteries.  

So while the nameplate power output of a solar panel results in a competitive cost with a natural gas powerplant, the actual produced power is up to three times more expensive in winter at peak times and sharply higher over the course of a day.  Adding full-time battery backup drives the cost through the roof.

It is time to Get Real about solar energy before we mandate its use by law.  See www.getrealalliance/book .org for how to order the thorough book on climate and renewable energy.