Let's start with the good news today (the for-now-largest offshore wind power project is online) and move on to the more troubling (another study casts serious doubt on the benefits of natural gas as a bridge fuel as more renewable energy gets built). Here we go.
367 MW Offshore Wind Farm Is Britain's & (For Now) World's Largest
The Walney offshore wind farm, 14km off the coast of Walney Island in northwest England, has opened. At 367 MW for the moment it is the largest offshore wind power project in the world (there are larger projects in various stages of development), supplying enough electricity to power 320,000 households. More on the financial details of the project and criticism of the costs of offshore wind power in general at Reuters.
Most of the time when you see a solar power project of this size it's not solar photovoltaics. PV Magazine reports that Parabel AG has announced that it has begun preliminary work on a 100 MW solar PV project in the Brandenburg region of Germany. Expected to be completed in 2013, the project will occupy parts of a former military training facility, and will be made up of "several spatially separate solar construction sites within an approximately 430 hectare planning area." In other words several smaller projects are being linked together under one heading.
Best to Build New Wind Farms Farther From Neighbors
Renewable Energy World has an interesting piece on wind power historian Robert Righter, who urges new wind power development to be built farther away from human development. REW sums up Righter's views:
As a hearty advocate of wind energy and continued rapid growth of the industry, Righter may surprise some with his strong call for more sensitivity to quality of life concerns of rural residents. He spends three chapters [of his new book] addressing the increasing problems caused by wind farm noise in rural communities, chides developers for not building farther from unwilling neighbors, and says that new development should be focused on the remote high plains, rather than more densely populated rural landscapes in the upper midwest and northeast. Righter seems to be especially sensitive to the fact that today's turbines are mechanical intrusions on pastoral landscapes, a far cry from the windmills of earlier generations.
After The Natural Gas Rush, What?
A very good counterpoint from The Oil Drum to all the natural gas ra-ra-ra messaging coming out of the Obama administration, not to mention the natural gas industry and high profile business publications betting on natural gas for now, the future and forever. A bit of it:
For several years, we have been asked to believe that less is more, that more oil and gas can be produced from shale than was produced from better reservoirs over the past century. We have been told more recently that the U.S. has enough natural gas to last for 100 years. We have been presented with an improbable business model that has no barriers to entry except access to capital, that provides a source of cheap and abundant gas, and that somehow also allows for great profit. Despite three decades of experience with tight sandstone and coal-bed methane production that yielded low-margin returns and less supply than originally advertised, we are expected to believe that poorer-quality shale reservoirs will somehow provide superior returns and make the U.S. energy independent. Shale gas advocates point to the large volumes of produced gas and the participation of major oil companies in the plays as indications of success. But advocates rarely address details about profitability and they never mention failed wells. Shale gas plays are an important and permanent part of our energy future. We need the gas because there are fewer remaining plays in the U.S. that have the potential to meet demand. A careful review of the facts, however, casts doubt on the extent to which shale plays can meet supply expectations except at much higher prices.
High Methane Emission Over Gas Field May Offset Natural Gas' Climate Benefits
Another study casts serious doubt on benefits of natural in lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Think Progress is highlight the fact that an air sampling done by NOAA over Colorado shows that methane leakage from natural gas field near Denver are double industry industry claims (4% measure versus 2% claim).
Joe Romm then connects the dots with a 2011 study on the efficacy of using natural gas to lower greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production. The study was done by National Center for Atmospheric Research and concludes:
Unless leakage rates for new methane can be kept below 2%, substituting gas for coal is not an effective means for reducing the magnitude of future climate change.