Submitted by New Energy News Blog

Point of view. It has everything to do with belief.

Can’t believe something as complicated as a human eye could accidentally evolve? The only logical conclusion is that there must have been a designer.

Start learning about the amazing range of variations there are on the eye in nature and suddenly it seems possible the human eye is just one of many tried out by the incomprehensibly long-unfolding and almost unquantifiably multivarious forces of evolution.

Here’s a simpler – but no less controversial – one:

Spend a lifetime working in the petroleum industry, studying the incredibly huge numbers describing fossil fuels the nation and the world require daily, and its inconceivable the trivial amounts of solar energy and wind energy being turned into electricity in 2005 could, in the foreseeable future, be as important a power source as fossil fuels.

Fast forward just 2 or 3 years and learn wind energy is the 2nd biggest source of new power generation in the U.S., solar energy is the fastest growing source of power generation in the U.S. and New Energy is predicted to surpass natural gas to become the world’s 2nd biggest source of power generation by the middle of the coming decade.

Suddenly, it’s easier to imagine a central role for New Energy in this century’s power mix.

That’s what’s happening in Houston, Texas, ground zero for the U.S. petroleum business. Case in point: Dynegy, a fully-paid-up member of the Houston Old-Boys club, is going to see just how economic it would be to combine a solar power plant with a natural gas power plant.

Why not? Solar power plants do exactly the same thing natural gas power plants do: Boil water to create steam to drive a turbine that generates electricity. The sun is most powerful just when a natural gas power plant’s load demand is peaking.

The synergy is ideal. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will partner with Dynegy on the study. They will examine the impact on Dynegy’s 578-megawatt natural gas plant in Kingman, Ariz., of adding a 100-megawatt solar power plant.

It will be interesting what this shift in point of view ends up doing to Dynegy’s belief system.

Other factors in Dynegy’s curiosity about New Energy:

(1) More than half the U.S. states now have Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) requiring utilities to obtain a specific portion of their power from New Energy sources by a date certain. And the incoming Obama generation wants a national RES of 10% by 2012 and 25% by 2025. Utilites are going to need New Energy sources. Providing energy is Dynegy’s business.

(2) A system putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) is coming. When it does, a hybrid gas/solar system will be cheaper than a 100% gas system.

(3) The Sierra Club is daily making it more and more well-known that Dynegy is a coal-burning spewer. Rate payers and the public, well-aware of melting ice caps and rampant hurricanes and wildfires, are beginning to wonder why Dynegy isn’t cleaning up its act. Realistically, Dynegy only has 2 options: Move on New Energy and Energy Efficiency or go the way of the dinosaurs.

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Dynegy putting solar to the test
Tom Fowler, November 13, 2008 (Houston Chronicle)

Dynegy (Christi Dunn, spokeswoman); Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) (Bryan Hannegan, vice president of environment and generation); the Sierra Club; Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E); CPS Energy

Dynegy and EPRI will test the economic feasibility of a hybrid natural gas and solar power plant.

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– Conservative estimates, the kind Dynegy would read, put U.S. solar energy capacity at 3-to-6% of installed electricity generation by 2020.
– A number of utility-scale solar power plants are in the planning and permitting stages. Examples: PG&E has power purchase agreements for 800 megawatts in Northern California and SDG&E is developing twice that in Southern California. CPS Energy is looking at multiple proposals for a 100 megawatt solar power plant.
– Wind power often drops off in the afternoon when it is hottest and electricity demand peaks whereas solar power plant generation is at its height.
– Over the last 2 years, the Sierra Club has been assaulting Dynegy for its plans to build a number of coal-fired plants.

– The study will be at the Dynegy plant in Kingman, Ariz.
– Dynegy is based in Houston.
– 27 states have RESs.
– CPS Energy is based in San Antonio.
– Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric are in California.

– The EPRI/Dynegy study does not involve a solar installation but a feasibility study.
– The study will evaluate the potential of large arrays of mirrors to direct solar energy to heat water into steam and compare the process to the one in which natural gas is burned to create steam to drive turbines and generate electricity.
– The Dynegy study will evaluate the use of a 100-megawatt solar power plant at its 578-megawatt Kingman natural gas plant.
– In the present Dynegy paradigm, solar technology is not considered cost-competitive with fossil fuel and nuclear sources of electricity generation. That is true of most photovoltaic (PV) technology, which turns sunlight directly into electricity at a cost of ~ 20 cents/kilowatt-hour (kw-h).
– Without considering the damage it does to human life or the atmosphere, coal costs ~ 5 cents/kw-h.
– The cost of solar power plant technology – which is not PV but concentrating solar power – is much more nearly competitive with coal and cheaper when the harm done by coal is considered.
– Dynegy has more than 18,000 megawatts of power generation in 13 states.

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– Bryan Hannegan, vice president of environment and generation, EPRI: “These ‘hybrid power plants’ will combine the low-cost reliability of existing fossil power plants with the environmental benefit of renewables and help companies meet federal and state mandates to reduce their emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases with renewable energy…”
– Christi Dunn, spokeswoman, Dynegy: “We believe that solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technology is coming of age, and that our plants in California and Arizona may be ripe for solar add-ons…”

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