Nuclear Certainty

Renewable energy contains uncertainties that nuclear power does not deal with.  Renewable technologies like solar and wind power rely on the dynamic patterns of weather.  While forecasts can be accurate, there is no guarantee that the sun will shine or the wind will blow at the exact rate needed to produce expected electricity quantities. Companies like Solyndra can become bankrupt despite hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.  The annual rate of return is simply not at the same level of other energy sources. Nuclear power plants require billions of dollars of initial building costs, yet produce a reliable, consistent output of energy which pays back the cost fairly quickly.  Nuclear power plants have proven to be profitable as well as reliable operating at about 90% capacity while renewable energy is more volatile in that regard, operating at as low as 15% capacity. Nuclear plants also fit into the current, centralized framework of our transmission infrastructure while renewables require a more decentralized grid system. Given all these factors as well as the need to keep nuclear power plants secure to avoid disastrous radiation exposure, they have received financial benefits greater than renewables. Investors need to feel confident with the least amount of rate of return risk, and as of now nuclear power is able to provide that more than renewable energy.

An advantageous niche opportunity in the world of renewable energies would be to expand distributed generation techniques. Instead of having huge, centralized solar power plants, more individual, off the grid solar or wind projects could be undertaken. This includes rooftop solar panels or windmills on homes or even businesses. The potential to reduce the cost of electricity over a period of time after an initial investment is an attractive concept especially for those who do not plan to move or become displaced in the near future.

Sources:

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/422295/is-renewable-energy-a-good-investment/

http://alternativeenergy.procon.org/view.timeline.php?timelineID=000015

Lesson 2 – Searcing for a Niche

Why are renewable energy projects failing to receive the same degree of support from the financial community and the government that nuclear does?

  • There are many reasons as to why renewable energy projects fail to see the same support from the financial community and the government like nuclear does but we are seeing a change as we speak. For one, Nuclear has been around for a lot longer than the renewable energy sector and with all things the unknown causes fear. Nuclear has a stable financial background, and understanding of what is needed and what it takes, whereas renewable energy is in a massive growing period thus many people do not want to be the example or the test of what goes right and what goes wrong. There is more policies talk regarding renewable energy and the more talk there is, the less political boundaries their will be. We are starting to  see bigger companies take on renewable energy like Google and when they see the amount of potential profit there is the other big business companies will follow. Where the money flows, so will big business.

 

What niche opportunities do you see for entrepreneurs in the global development of renewable energy sources?

  • Energy efficiency was not well known 10 years ago to the general public. There were your usual “tree huggers” that were labeled too extreme when it came to supporting a renewable energy lifestyle. Now more than ever energy is a big topic wit almost anyone you talk too. The news outlets and popular culture have now taken the subject of conserving our resources to the masses and being energy efficient is now considered the norm.  A niche I could see is particularly with the solar industry.  Just 5 years ago placing solar on one house would cost upwards of 50,000 whereas now days the same system can go up for less than half that. The problem is all the red tape and paperwork the solar consumer has to do to get the solar up and running. I feel there needs to be companies that can cut through the red tape and streamline solar at a time efficient and money efficient way. I feel solar is going to be the next energy gold rush and were at the tipping point.

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Rock, Paper, Scissors, Fission

Renewable energy projects rarely receive financial support on par with nuclear due to the former’s limited profit potential.  Nuclear energy, regardless of its associated connotation, is a constantly available source that relies on neither sunlight, wind, nor replenishable fuel supply to generate electricity.  Outside of venture capital firms, capital investments are made based on the profit that can be reaped.  Nuclear energy is cheaper to produce per kilowatt hour than any other source sans perhaps hydroelectricity; therefore, a dollar invested has the potential do become much more.  Government grants often go to the candidate with the greatest bang for the buck potential to please voters, or at least to the candidate with the most persuasive lobbyists to this end.  With our economy and society so heavily reliant on affordable and reliable energy, these decisions will always be based on dollars and cents.

Entrepreneurs in the renewable energy sector should not be without hope.  In my opinion, there is substantial opportunity for investment in research and development.  Technology breakthroughs will require patents, and those patents will then be licensed to manufacturing firms for development.  Royalties from these licenses could be very lucrative for a venture capital firm looking to assist the renewable sector.  Now is the time for ground floor investment opportunities in these technologies

A Niche in Wind

In response to the question:  Why are renewable energy projects failing to receive the same degree of support from the financial community and the government that nuclear does?

While nuclear may receive more monetary support than renewables, I think it’s important to note that the only new nuclear projects in the works right now for large-scale electricity generation in the U.S. involve new nuclear reactors at existing power plants.  Ground has not been broken on a new plant in the U.S. since 1974.(3)  I think there are a few reasons renewable energy projects receive less governmental support than nuclear energy projects.  First, I don’t think nuclear energy is a viable option without large subsidies.  According to an article I read by the Union of Concerned Scientists, even after being over 50 years old the technology only continues to grow more expensive.  According to them, the “subsidies often have exceeded the average market price of the power produced.”(1)  That said, the enormous costs to create a nuclear reactor alone make them extraordinarily expensive to subsidize.  The 2 new reactors currently being built at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia are expected to cost $14 billion.(4)  Outside those reasons, I see the current nuclear energy generation industry as a relic awaiting its demise.  There are new technologies out there that may breathe life into nuclear, such as reactors harnessing thorium as a fuel, but I think the prohibitive up-front investment will keep construction of the standard plants from springing up in the U.S.  When looking at the numbers at what energy will cost to generate by 2019, it’s easy to see that renewables are quickly gaining ground on fossil fuels and nuclear in terms of economic feasibility.(2)

This chart is based on an analysis released by the U.S. Department of Energy in April projecting the total “levelized” cost of producing electricity based on the type of power generation.The analysis is for new power facilities going online in 2019. The analysis takes into account the estimated average cost of building and operating the plant, well as the cost of fuel and transmission expenses. The complete analysis can be found at http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm”(2)

 

In regards to the question:  What niche opportunities do you see for entrepreneurs in the global development of renewable energy sources?

Looking at the illustration above, and taking into consideration the speed at which the segment is growing, I think there are huge opportunities for entrepreneurs in wind energy.  While the initial investment in constructing industrial wind-farms would be huge, I think there are certainly a lot of opportunities in either servicing the industrial side or simply serving the consumer side.  Small wind turbines can be installed in many states with significant rebates or tax incentives, but there has been a huge drop-off in recent years in the purchases of new small wind turbines.(6,7)  So in this case I would focus on starting a business servicing the expanding commercial wind power generation industry.  One of the challenges facing the industry right now is the absence of transmission lines.  Many wind farms are located in areas that are far from load centers, so new lines need to be constructed over long stretches to carry the new energy as it’s brought online.(7)  Just to paint a picture of how big an opportunity this is, the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) project in Texas led to the installation of over 4200 circuit miles of new transmission lines at a cost of $6.8 billion.(7)  This is just one of many projects in planning.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2013 Wind Technologies Market Report, the addition of these new transmission lines could open the development of wind power in even more areas, allowing wind energy to grow even further.

 Edit:  Clarified vague “nuclear energy projects” comment to refocus discussion on large-scale electrical generation projects that use nuclear energy.

Sources:

1.  http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/nuclear-power-subsidies-report-0504.html

2.  Julie Mack, “With renewable energy growing and coal shrinking, what’s the future of nuclear plants like Palisades?”  mlive.com.  (08/28/2014)

3.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_the_United_States

4.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogtle_Electric_Generating_Plant

5.  http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/current-and-future-generation/thorium/

6.  http://energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-program

7.  U.S. Department of Energy, “2013 Wind Technologies Report.”  U.S. D.O.E. (08/2014)

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/08/f18/2013%20Wind%20Technologies%20Market%20Report_1.pdf

 

Renewable Energy Niche Opportunities

One of the reasons renewable energy projects do not appear to be getting the same degree of support (financially) as more well-established forms of energy is that we do not have the infrastructure or the storage ability required to allow renewable energy to take over the bulk of total energy demand.  The transmission grid needs a large expansion and upgrade before we are able to move energy from where it is being generated to where it is needed (Harris, 2013).  More importantly, there is no storage ability with current technology.  Without storage ability, renewable energy cannot be developed beyond the point where such energy’s total share of the market hits its capacity level (Jenkins, 2014).  It is a great deal easier to cycle a nuclear plant during non-peak times than it is to stop a hydro-electric dam during fish migration.  Private equity does back a great many projects in the renewable energy market but a significant return on investment is not yet available because of the enormous amount of money required for research, development and infrastructure.  At this time, non-renewable energy is still less expensive and more lucrative.  Until that shifts, the nuclear and non-renewable energy market will continue to receive more support.

There are a number of niche opportunities in the renewable energy market that come to mind, especially in light of the estimated $100 trillion dollars that will be spent to build the system.  First, because the market is in its relative infancy, we are still developing local, regional, national, and global regulations that will govern this industry.  A company that is well versed on all of the regulations and issues will be of tremendous benefit to government agencies and private industry alike. Another possibility for a niche opportunity is that of recycling.  This may take the form of battery recycling or PV panel recycling.  As we become more reliant on renewable energy, it is important to understand that some of the components that will be used and, ultimately, wear out are going to require special handling and proper disposal.  Of course, it goes without saying that storage development is also another critical niche opportunity as is energy management, including software applications and distribution.

References

Harris, R. (2013, December 02). Slashing fossil fuel consumption comes with a price. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2013/12/02/248230187/slashing-fossil-fuel-consumption-comes-with-a-price

Jenkins, J. (2014, April 15). Can nuclear power and renewable energy learn to get along? The Energy Collective. Retrieved from Jenkins, J. (2014, April 15). Can nuclear power and renewable energy learn to get along? Retrieved from The Energy Collective website: http://theenergycollective.com/jessejenkins/368706/can-nuclear-power-and-renewable-energy-learn-get-along

 

Renewables vs. Nuclear

There are many reasons why renewable energy technologies do not receive as much financing and government support as nuclear energy. A major shortcoming of most renewable energy technologies is intermittency and a dependence upon the weather. Solar and wind projects develop models that predict how much energy they will produce over their useful life, but these models are based on weather forecasts and historical data that may not always be reliable. There are also often more energy-producing components in a typical renewable energy installation, like many solar panels or wind turbines, and if one or more of these components is not producing as it should, it can have a significant impact on the overall energy produced. This variability makes renewable energy a less appealing prospect for financing, which relies on the energy produced to repay the loan. Nuclear energy facilities are large, centralized producers that experience far less unanticipated variability in energy output. Nuclear facilities also have a longer operating history with more favourable performance than most renewable energy technologies, which makes the technology more mature and a safer investment.

In terms of government policy, renewable energy installations are often more expensive per unit of energy produced than nuclear facilities, and require larger land areas than nuclear. There is also a political component to the support of nuclear energy over renewables – many of the owners and developers of nuclear facilities are wealthy energy companies and utilities, which can provide more campaign donation contributions than more grassroots-oriented renewable energy companies.

Globally, there are a great deal of opportunities to apply renewable technologies in less developed areas where there is limited access to a national electric grid. The distributed nature of renewable technologies like solar power, geothermal, and biodigestor systems are ideally suited to rural villages in places like India and Africa. Island nations can also make great use of renewable technologies because their imported fuels costs are so expensive, that renewable technologies become cost competitive much more easily.

 

Kaitlyn Tully-Renewable Projects

Renewable energy projects are failing to receive the same degree of support because it takes longer to receive the benefits of the projects and make up the initial cost. Nuclear is expensive to construct but still cheaper than the other options and the payback time is pretty quick. Renewable energy projects like solar and wind come at a higher cost and take up more land than nuclear compared to the energy they produce. If a financial institution decides to invest in power, they want to get their initial investment as quick as possible and nuclear offers that.

One opportunity I see is developing buildings using renewable energy in other countries. It is much easier to build a building from the ground up using PVs than to reconstruct a previous building to add on the PVs. Developing countries offer this opportunity to build from the ground up. Once they have been established and proven to lower energy costs and operate off the grid, then others will want to copy that idea. Another perk of building using renewable sources in developing countries is an opportunity to create jobs. Locals can be taught and then help build solar operating buildings, creating more opportunities of employment. Especially places like Africa, where there is an ample amount of sunlight and the need to reliable buildings, renewable energy projects would flourish here!

David Westsmith – Lesson 2 – Renewable Support and Finding the Niche

Why less support for renewable’s when compared to nuclear.

There exists real competition for example in the solar panel market.  Solyndra went bankrupt because it seriously underestimated the foreign, specifically the Chinese, solar panel market.  Why should the government subsidize renewable energy projects when the history is still so very young and can likely be underbid by foreign suppliers?  Additionally nuclear power can achieve output that renewables cannot achieve.  “The cost of building and operating the Finnish nuclear plant over the next 20 years will be $15 billion. Over that time period, the plant will generate 225 terawatt-hours (twh) of electricity at a cost of 7 cents per kilowatt hour.”(1)  There simply is a larger return with nuclear at this time.

 

Niche business opportunities in the global development.

I discovered this amazing article from MIT regarding the recycling of automobile batteries and the production of Perovskite based photovoltaic cells.  The typical process used to obtain Perovskite uses lead from raw ores which can produce toxic residues and therefore is considered a drawback.  However, the power conversion efficiency of Perovskite cells is running 19% which is on par with silicon based cells.  Thus began a search for “cleaner”, methods to obtain the lead.  Old, used automobile batteries fit the bill perfectly.

With newer ion based batteries coming into mainstream use, there will be a surplus of lead cell batteries that would be destined for landfills.  This is a win-win because it adds significant value to a retired, soon to be obsolete toxic material.  Lead based batteries will be recycled into another form of energy that can be sustained for years.  I see this as an excellent opportunity to evolve a form of moderately efficient energy storage into an energy producer whilst keep a very toxic substance out of landfills.

 

 

Works Cited

(1)Nicks, Denver. “Nuclear vs Solar Q&A with Dr. Corradini of the American Nuclear Society.” Power Engineering. Pennwell Power Sites, 12 July 2014. Web. 9 Sept. 2014. <http://www.power-eng.com/blogs/energy-matters/2013/05/nuclear_versus_solar.html>.

Chandler, David. “Recycling Old Batteries into Solar Cells.” MIT News. MIT News Office, 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 9 Sept. 2014. <http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/recycling-batteries-into-solar-cells-0818>.

 

Searching for the Entrepreneurial Niche – Michael Pittman

I can call on my past careers to point to a couple of potential reasons that renewable energy does not receive the same support from government and finance that nuclear does. I spent my early career in telecommunications and the last couple of years before coming back to school in banking. In the end, it all comes down to managing risk. Nuclear runs the risk of cost overruns and has extremely high fixed costs, however upon completion, offers an extremely reliable and inexpensive method of generation. When compared to newer renewable energy sources, nuclear offers a much better chance of return on investment both in private financing and in government guarantees. It was stated in the lesson video that the companies constructing pay for the risk that is associated with their construction projects. They pay for the risk in the form of increased interest rates. These increased rates make lending for these projects extremely profitable for both private and government lending. The relatively low risk as compared to renewable energy sources make it a much more calculated gamble and much better investment long term. When I worked in banking, some of our most profitable customers were those that possessed credit scores low enough to require higher rates but scores that were high enough to get through underwriting. I am sure the funding for nuclear and lack of funding for renewable is very similar to this.

I can draw on my telecommunications experience to identify a good niche and opportunity to take advantage of when it comes to renewable energy. This will probably sound terrible but some of the best opportunities will come from taking advantage of others failures. Any time there is a new industry with the opportunity for gigantic paydays, you will see a flood of new entries into the market. Unfortunately, a very high percentage of these new companies will fail. This is where the opportunity lies for the opportunistic entrepreneur who also possesses the access to a little financial capital. When I was in telecom, I worked for a CEO who told us that he would never spend a ton of money to build a network, he would let competitors build it, go bankrupt from the expenditure and he could then buy it for pennies on the dollar. While I was there, we were able to purchase a company that had over the previous 5 years invested over half a billion dollars in their network for under 70 million due to a huge downturn in their stock. We were able to take advantage of their misfortune to purchase an already built network for less than 20 percent of what it would have cost to build it. This same principal could and most likely will be employed within the renewable energy industry. Why spend 100 million dollars to build a wind farm when you can let someone else spend the money, go bankrupt and then you can purchase the facility in a liquidation for 10 million? Why spend 10 million for R&D into new solar technology when you can buy the patents for 1 million when the company goes under?

Lesson 2: Searching for the Niche

Renewable energy projects are failing to receive the same degree of support from the financial community and the government that nuclear energy does because nuclear is a highly effective and long-standing opponent in the energy making game. There are nuclear plants all around the world, and they are all producing massive amounts of energy for their customers. Nuclear plants and companies provide thousands of jobs worldwide, and have the reputation to go with this. At one time many people were afraid of nuclear power plants, but after much information and scientific studies were completed, people’s fears were eased on the harm that a nuclear plant can do on a daily basis. It is a very rare thing for something like Chernobyl to occur, and people have become complacent in seeing the tall stacks in the sky and not being afraid for their health. Governments also have large amounts invested into nuclear plants and promoting them, as they are the best, and most practiced form of renewable energy available that works effectively at this time.

The niche opportunities that I see for entrepreneurs in the global development of renewable energy sources are on the customer end and promotion of renewable energy. There is already vast technologies in the world today for wind power, hydroelectric, solar, geothermal, and nuclear, etc. There are existing companies that produce energy from these renewable resources and do so effectively. Of course improvements to the technologies being used would be an idea for an entrepreneur to pursue, but this would involve the need for expertise in those areas. For the average person without a degree in engineering, science, physics, etc., there are many opportunities to interact with people to help offer and promote renewable energy sources. This could be done in the form of consulting, promoting, or offering tours and information about the options available to people of renewable energy sources.

Casara– L2 Renewables

  • Why are renewable energy projects failing to receive the same degree of support from the financial community and the government that nuclear does?

Nuclear energy is a proven source of great amounts of constant profitable energy albeit at times unstable as shown by the disasters in Fukushima, Three Mile Island and to a lesser extent Chernobyl. Wind turbines and solar energy technologies while renewable are less efficient and provide an uneven inconsistent source of energy although steps in the right direction have been made. Although it is hard to come to this realization nuclear energy benefited from war as much of the ground level research was funded by the military in the Manhattan project therefore nuclear energy has a large lead in the amount of fundamental knowledge available.

The reality according to Dawn Stover in her article “Nuclear vs. Renewables: Divided they fall” is that both contribute a very small amount to the national energy pool at about 8% each and are dwarfed by fossil fuels at 81% her argument is that perhaps instead of competing the against one another Nuclear and renewable advocates should lean on one another for support. Nuclear energy while not renewable is a clean energy in the sense that it produces little to no carbon dioxide gas although the question is what to do with the byproduct.

 

  • What niche opportunities do you see for entrepreneurs in the global development of renewable energy sources?

 

The most immediate niche market available is solar energy as the most impoverished areas of need are also usually the hottest and sunniest places on the planet. As solar panels becoming cheaper to manufacture individual units can be sold to entire village either through humanitarian aid or to local governments. Meanwhile in the European Union large scale government initiatives require certain level of renewable energy usage causing national governments to offer tax rebates and other purchase programs for solar panels.

Another option is small biogas generators that can be sold to farms or small villages that rely on work animals and other livestock. In the end the market globally is going to have to focus on locally produced power for either individual use or small communities.

Mark Moore Renewable Future L2

Nuclear energy has been an attractive source since first developed in the late 1940’s. Continuous research and development has streamlined nuclear power fostering it’s capacity factor to approximately 90%, whereas the capacity factor for wind is 34%, solar photovoltaic 25%, and hydroelectric is 54% (EIA, 2013). The fact that nuclear is identified as a dispatchable technology, possesses a much higher capacity, and can reliably meet demand and base load capacity supplies makes it more attractive than renewables. Nuclear is perceived as being a much cleaner energy source than fossil fuels, and nuclear already supplies close to 20% of the energy in the U.S. Nuclear power plants are expensive to build but relatively cheap to run. In many places, nuclear energy is competitive with fossil fuels as a means of electricity generation (World Nuclear Association, 2014). Fossil fuels are still leading the energy sector and the government has tried to incentivize renewables, but politicians and lobbyists ultimately control policy on energy, which in turn affects investment. Investment in renewable energies is staying strong and if investors such as Warren Buffett keep investing in renewables the future looks bright. Warren Buffett briefly lost track of how many billions of dollars his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is spending to build wind and solar power in the U.S. That didn’t stop him from vowing to double the outlay (Buhayar & Polson, June 2014). I believe renewable energy financing will eventually surpass that of nuclear. Granted nuclear is a ‘clean’ energy source, there are far more safety risks and hazards than that of renewable. I believe worldwide renewable energy investment will grow larger as climate change becomes more and more obvious to the non-believers.

I believe there are several niche opportunities for entrepreneurs in the renewable energy sector. One such niche is battery storage. Battery storage would benefit both residential and commercial energy consumers. Commercial consumers would have back up energy for peak hour use or for emergency need. Residential would have back up power for non-windy or cloudy days for example. There is a huge market for renewable energy and especially battery storage in developing nations where infrastructure is lacking. Speaking of infrastructure, there is a need for efficient transmission lines, smart grid technology, and construction in developing nations, as well as in the U.S. I believe in the next couple years policy and financing for renewable energy will come together and substantial growth will take place.

References:

Buhayar, N. & Polson, J. (June 10, 2014). Buffett To Double Down on Renewable Energy
Investments. Retrieved September 4, 2014, from
http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2014/06/buffet-to-double-down-on-renewable-energy-investments

Energy Information Administration. (January 28, 2013). Levelized Cost of New Generation
Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2013. Retrieved September 4, 2014, from
http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/electricity_generation.cfm

World Nuclear Association. (June, 2014). The Economics of Nuclear Power. Retrieved from
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Economic-Aspects/Economics-of-Nuclear-
Power.

Lesson 2: Searching for a Niche – Wells

Why are renewable energy projects failing to receive the same degree of support from the financial community and the government that nuclear does?
Renewable projects fail to recieve the same degree of support from the financial community and the government than Nuclear for multiple reasons. Much like fossil energy, nuclear energy is an established sector in energy production by companies who hold polical relationships with policy makers who allot funds, tax breaks, and other allowances. Companies with financial support from the federal and/or state government are considered more credible and attractive to other non government finance providers which allow them to grow their projects/businesses overall. Renewable energy projects get less financing because they aren’t being done by the large companies like Shell, BP, and Exxon who have political relationships allowing them to monoplize the energy production industry in general.

What niche opportunities do you see for entrepreneurs in the global development of renewable energy sources?
In recent years the growth in public awareness of energy efficiency through use of renewable resources will definitely open an array of entrepreneurial developments worldwide. As mentioned in my previous post, I could see the expansion of solar panels across the US and a growth in that arena if a company finds a method to create and sell these panels at a lower expense to the customer. People want solar panels so the demand is there, but creating a panel that is affordable to the masses is yet to be done and that could be a dramatic game changer in the electrical home heating/lighting sector.

This article from the National Academy of Engineering sites some of the obstacles in regard: http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/cms/8996/9082.aspx

 

Searching for the Entrepreneurial Niche – Cynthia Walters

Nuclear energy has been around for many years and is therefore typically less risky of an investment due to the knowledge and reliability that it presents. Nuclear energy is also easier to manage and supply to consumers than most renewable sources of energy. Storage of the energy also presents a problem from renewable energy sources and this leads to difficulty in gathering support. The amount of energy that is produced through a nuclear source is more stable and does not rely on wind or sun; it is not intermittent like renewable sources. It is understood, solid, known, and reliable – all of these things lead to a stronger interest in supporting nuclear projects as opposed to renewable energy projects.

I think the greatest niche opportunities lie in renewable energy storage. We are in dire need of efficient ways to store energy created wind and solar in order to transfer it to the homes and businesses that could use it. If we had better technology for storing this renewable energy, there would be more support financially and overall in utilizing and expanding generation projects from renewable sources. The trick is to not only discover a reliable method for energy storage, but also to make it affordable and accessible.

Stallard-Searching for the Niche

The Energy Information Administration forecasts a 28 percent increase in our nation’s power demand through 2040 (Perry, 2014). The Obama Administration’s goal is to generate 80 percent of our nation’s energy needs through clean energy sources by 2035. Nuclear energy, natural gas, wind, solar and clean coal are part of the Administration’s plan to move our country to a cleaner energy future. I’ll admit, I spent a lot of time on this assignment (way more than the 10 hour allotment for the week) because I know very little about energy subsidies and I have a curiosity that is hard to manage at times. I was questioning whether or not it was true that greater attention and support from investors and the government was being paid to nuclear than renewable energy production. Then I ran across an article that referenced a comprehensive study from the venture capital firm DBL Investors that found that the “federal commitment to [oil and gas] was five times greater than the federal commitment to renewables during the first 15 years of each subsidy’s life, and it was more than 10 times greater for nuclear.”(ACORE, 2014) Even though that was in the past, I think there are valid reasons for why that was — and perhaps still should be — the case. First, our nation’s system for delivering electricity to the end user is, for the most part, reliant on central-station generation concept, which combines constant or base load generation with generation designed for periods of high consumer demand. Both are critical in maintaining a safe, reliable electric system that meets the demand electric consumers place on it every hour of every day. Once developed, base load resources such as coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear are generally the most economical plants to operate. They have very little variability in output, unlike other renewable energy generation that is dependent on the wind or sun. Currently, nuclear represents 12 percent of the country’s generating capacity and operates at around 90 percent capacity. In comparison, wind generation represents 4 percent of the country’s generating capacity and the capacity value — how much of the wind plant’s capacity can be counted on for meeting electric demand — is only 15 to 20 percent of the nameplate rating (AWEA, 2013). Second, nuclear plants have higher fixed costs and require more lead time for development, so the amount of investment from private industry or the government is higher than what is required for renewable projects. For example, the only nuclear project currently under development is a $14 billion project of which $8 billion has been funded by the federal government through loan guarantees. Finally, many of our nation’s nuclear facilities are located near major urban areas, so it seems reasonable that our government support projects designed to upgrade these older facilities to allow them to continue to provide a reliable supply of energy for the future. Nuclear currently supplies 20 percent of the energy in the United States and 64 percent of all zero-carbon emissions sources (Perry, 2014), making it already an important part of the base load and clean energy resource mix. Given nuclear energy’s current role in our nation’s energy mix, the demonstrated efficiency and reliability factors of the resource and the goals of the Obama Administration, it seems government and investors should lend more support to nuclear in the future.

With regard to niche opportunities, I believe if society truly has a desire to transition from the traditional central-station concept to more distributed generation, we need to develop large-scale battery storage systems that can effectively manage the intermittent nature of renewable energy generation that relies on weather, wind or sun. Because I work for an electric utility, I think there are also niche opportunities for entrepreneurs who can figure out how to transition our traditional integrated utility structure that was designed around the central-station concept into one that embraces more distributed generation without placing a huge financial burden on electric consumers who foot the bill.

1. American Council on Renewable Energy. Energy Fact Check. 2014. Retrieved from http://www.energyfactcheck.org/slideshow/even-with-massive-subsidies-renewable-energy-technology-cannot-survive-renewables-have-been-getting-subsidies-for-years-now-they-should-be-able-to-stand-on-their-own/

2. American Wind Energy Association. 2013. Retrieved from http://www.awea.org/Issues/Contect.aspx?ItemNumber=5453

3. Perry, Mark. American Enterprise Institute. September 2014. Retrieved from http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/06/alternative-energy-sources-like-wind-and-solar-are-no-substitute-for-low-cost-zero-emissions-nuclear-power/

4.PBS News Hour Video. ENGR312 Lesson 2 Content.

 

 

Lesson 2 – My Niche – Mark Mulhollem

There are a few reasons for why renewable energy sources are not being given the attention they should. For example, wind and solar are very good sources and are very plentiful so why are we not investing in installing more of these systems? The main reason is that they are cyclical. They cannot produce electricity on demand like our present day carbon fuels or nuclear power can. A lot of research is going into nuclear to make it safer and more manageable. China has produced a new generation of nuclear reactors that are smaller and less of a danger. However, what if we had a storage system that could store the power that photovoltaic and wind produced? If that storage system could level out the cycles and give a reliable sources of electricity then we would more likely invest in solar and wind?

This leads me to my niche. I have been in the electrical field sense I was 17 years old and I have seen a lot of new technologies. This is possible to do. A few utility companies have tried to store the electricity by converting it from AC into DC and storing it in batteries. I think there are better ways to capture and store electricity and that is where I would like to start my entrepreneurial niche. I know people think it is a long shot but my response to them is, “only those that attempt the ridicules can achieve the impossible”. If a small lighting bug can produce light I think I have a chance.

Renewables vs Nuclear & A Niche

  • Why are renewable energy projects failing to receive the same degree of support from the financial community and the government that nuclear does?

Despite the obvious fact of the high level of energy production nuclear provides, it does so at a much lower overall cost than renewable energy while maintaining zero emissions. Furthermore, renewable energy has its difficulty integrating into the grid.¹ Nuclear continues to outdo renewable energy given the open debate between pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear parties.

 

 

  • What niche opportunities do you see for entrepreneurs in the global development of renewable energy sources?

There are more niche opportunities regarding global development of renewable energy than most people might understand. Spray on solar cells/panels, small wind turbines, clean tech training, solar air conditioning technology and innovative biopackaging are to name a few but one may stand out the most in my opinion, Green Insurance. This renewable approach offers discounts to policy holders should they rebuild a home using green material in the case it is destroyed by fire or other disaster. It may also provide discounts for purchasing a hybrid car or limits on driving. Putting this idea out to the public would greatly educate society on renewable energy ideas and force people to research them and seek their use to obtain these available discounts. Great idea!

 

 

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2014/03/09/nuclear-energy-rising-at-the-expense-of-renewable-power/
  2. http://thebulletin.org/nuclear-vs-renewables-divided-they-fall
  3. http://www.altprofits.com/ref/ct/nbo/identification_of_niche_opportunities.html

Lesson 2 – Liston Jackson

Nuclear power has more financial and government support because it is a known entity. Nuclear power plants have been operating in the U.S. since 1974. The costs, benefits, and dangers are all well known. This makes it more attractive to investors and policymakers because it offers less risk than renewable energy sources, which remain a fairly new technology. It also provides a more stable base load than renewables. The intermittent nature of wind and solar power makes them highly unreliable. The base load on the grid needs to be maintained even when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. Renewables also tend to be expensive and yield far less power than nuclear. Large scale increases in power from renewable sources would also require very expensive upgrades to the grid. For large countries that want to lower greenhouse gas emissions but also need to generate a lot of electricity, like the U.S. and China, nuclear looks very attractive.

Energy storage can be an important component to counteracting the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources and balancing the grid. There are many forms of energy storage, including flywheels, compressed air energy storage, thermal, pumped hydropower, and the most common, batteries. Entrepreneurs are investing in developing new battery technology that can be more cost effective for use as grid storage. Bill Gates has said he is investing in five different battery startups. Developing more efficient ways to store energy will be essential is solar and wind energy is to continue growing rapidly. 

Lesson 2: Bethany Steiner

Renewable energy projects are failing to receive the same degree of support as nuclear from the financial community and the government. One of the reasons why this is true is because nuclear power plants give off little or no greenhouse gas. In fact, the growth of nuclear power plants could quickly slow climate change. Additionally, nuclear power plants seem to be the best option to combat climate change. Wind turbines can only work in areas where there is an excess of wind. Solar power can only be produced during the day and if weather is permitting. Geothermal energy can ruin the earth’s landscape and sites could be hard to find. While biomass is a renewable energy, it still releases carbon dioxide and other toxins. Hydropower and tidal power can produce emissions and hurt the ecosystems in the water. Additionally, hydropower and tidal power are dependent on a certain location. Therefore, nuclear energy seems to be the best option to finance- especially if it could slow climate change!

Entrepreneurs in the global development of renewable energy sources could find many opportunities in the solar and wind power industries. During the spring semester, I learned about the solar farm in California and became fascinated by it. I believe solar and wind farms are great ideas and there should be more of them so the technology can evolve to be better.

Lesson 2: Energy Cost Reduction Consulting

Nuclear power plants are considered attractive to financial supporters and the government because of their baseload functionality. Perhaps even more notably they do not emit any of the six common air pollutants (ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, or lead) nor do they emit any greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, or fluorinated gases). The latter fact has increased backing from non-traditional supporters of nuclear power – environmentalists. In comparing the advantages of nuclear energy vs. renewable energy one characteristic is glaringly prominent – nuclear power’s energy density is tremendously higher. Energy density, as defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “the amount of energy (as in a beam of radiation) per unit volume.” To explain this, nuclear energy uses less mass of fuel to produce more energy. Another distinct quality that makes nuclear power advantageous is its reliability compared to renewable energy sources. Weather has a great impact on the efficiency of renewables, whereas nuclear energy is sustained at full capacity regardless of the weather. Wind power and solar power have gained support over the last few years; however they take up massive areas of land for the solar arrays and wind turbines. Biofuels also take up land which might otherwise be used to sustain the food supply. Nuclear plants require less land and therefore minimize the displacement of habitats surrounding them. Nuclear power does have its disadvantages – risk of accidents and radioactive waste. However when proper training and implementation of proven safety protocols are established the risk of accidents is significantly reduced. For example, “the U.S. Navy has accumulated over 5,400 “reactor years” of accident-free experience, and operates more than 80 nuclear-powered ships.” http://www.navy.mil/navydata/testimony/safety/bowman031029.txt  The disposal of radioactive waste seems to a major point of contention between those for and against nuclear power.

Cost reductions dominate the discussion and mission of businesses worldwide. Increasingly businesses are turning to bean-counters to provide ideas for saving money. More often than not labor costs headline the list of means to reduce operating costs. More and more traditional jobs are being out-sourced to lessen the costs of payroll – saving money by not paying benefits or payroll taxes. This deters opening a position within companies for sustainability managers. One role of a sustainability manager is to implement policies for reducing energy costs. This opens up the opportunity to provide energy cost reduction consultation to businesses. Determining the energy demand to sustain operations and offering suggestions to meet those demands with “green energy” and “green building” techniques can create a long term savings for companies. This service will increase in demand as the world transitions away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Laura Hammonds: Lesson Two

Nuclear energy receives more funding from government and financial institutions because it is less risky than investing in renewable energy sources.  When governments and financial institutions give loans they must consider the risk of failure and rate of success.  Nuclear energy has already shown success at generating electricity in a highly efficient manner and it has proven it can do so with very few greenhouse gas emissions.  While the industry can be prone to devastating accidents it is still considered a safe and reliable manner to produce electricity.  In the short term it’s simpler to over look safety concerns and turn to nuclear as the clean energy supplier that is in such great demand.  Renewable energy won’t stand a chance of competing until a reliable and fast method is developed.

Solar and wind power are both a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop.  The two largest hurdles towards their development are their reliance on weather and poor storage capacity.  The development of more efficient capture devices placed in strategic areas, such as the great plains for wind power and the deserts of the southwest for solar, and greater capacity storage devices could revolutionize both industries.

Raxter – Solar at Night?

The renewable energy projects are failing to receive the same degree of support from the financial community and the government that nuclear does because they do not offer the same type of energy production. What I mean by this is that Biomass (although renewable) requires burning products that can impact the air quality, Geothermal is more readily available in seismically active areas (i.e. not easily accessible everywhere), Wind only works in areas with prevailing wind (and even then is subject to the weather), and Solar only works during the daytime (and times of non-inclement weather). Whereas, Nuclear can offer a long term, continuous, semi-clean, low cost solution in any area that it is built. That all being said, I believe that the only way we can obtain and maintain our clean-energy independence is to adopt all forms of renewable technologies.

To focus on two of the main renewable energy projects, I think the largest issue with mass adoption of Wind and Solar has to do with the periods of weather (including nights) than hinder production. With that said, I personally see a need for someone to develop a large scale energy storage device that could capture excess energy produced and help spread out the energy distribution to offer continuous energy production regardless of the time of day or weather. This would help make Wind and Solar a well-rounded solution, thus improving their image as a reliable form of energy production.

Lesson 2: Searching For Niche- Loyd

The technological advancements in renewable energies have made alternate energy solutions more feasible and affordable than ever before; nonetheless, there still remains to be one obstacle hindering the expansion which is the amount of support from the government and financial institutions. Nuclear energy, on the hand, has been considerably backed from political and financial institutions despite the potential environmental damages and accidents. There seems to be strong evidence why nuclear energy is well supported by the financial community and the government compared to the potentials that remain in the renewable industry. First and foremost, nuclear energy is highly efficient by producing large amounts of energy over a short time period with a small amount of uranium. Renewable energy, on the other hand, must harvest the energy over extended periods of time to meet small energy demands. Next, nuclear energy is very dependable for there are no interruptions in the power supply as with other renewable resources such as solar or wind. It is also becoming more reputable due to the stringent environmental regulations and technological advances. Furthermore, nuclear plants appear to favor clean energy policies as they produce little to no greenhouse gases. Consequently, politicians and financial organizations can invest securely in nuclear energy. In my opinion, renewable energy projects are failing to receive the same degree of support because they are rather high risk ventures. Indeed, nuclear energy has proven to have catastrophic failures; however, it is an established technology that is proven to be financially successful. The politicians get commended by carrying out the “clean energy” policies, while the financial institutions that invested in an established industry count their rates of return. Overall, it seems that nuclear energy has a higher success rate than most renewable energy projects at the present time. The technology and power can be continuously relied upon and the financial investments are proven to be cost-effective compared to some renewable energy projects.  From an economic standpoint, it does not surprise me that the government and the financial community wants more bang for their buck.

The niche opportunities that I see for global development of renewable resources include expanding renewable energy education, solar energy, and biofuels in developing countries. The report on renewable energy in Mali was very inspirational, for I can access potential weaknesses and recognize how the public’s commitment reflects the success of operations. The public’s response to renewable energy was surprising for the lack of information lead them to mistrust and reject sustainable development. I also had the opportunity to see how renewable resources effect the local economy in a positive and negative perspective. The people need alternate income opportunities prior to making the transition to renewable resources in order to reduce poverty. Perhaps, educating the residents about renewable energies and creating renewable jobs would be an alternative. Unmistakably, the people will not support an industry that will replace his/her job (such as the firewood or kerosene business).  Generally, there is a great deal of factors that must be overcame; however, there remains a strong incentive to invest sustainable in developing countries.

http://www.ctenergy.org/pdf/NUC3.pdf

http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Project-and-Operations/RE%20Mali%20exec%20summary%20final.pdf

http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Advantages_NuclearEnergy.php

 

 

 

Marielle Martin – Lesson 2

The government and financial communities have a number of reasons for supporting nuclear energy over renewable energy right now. At the present, there is a sense of urgency in the United States decisions regarding what energy technologies to support. Fossil fuels are still supplying the bulk of all energy in the United States, as well as the emissions. This is a problem that the government is likely hoping to solve quickly and efficiently, which is where nuclear power comes in. Nuclear sources already supply around 20% of the United States energy with only 100 operating reactors (NEI 2014). A high energy capacity factor, at around 90%, also makes nuclear energy more enticing (NEI 2014). The United States has existing infrastructure for nuclear energy delivery, experience with this proven technology, and the ability to deliver a large demand load at high capacity with nuclear energy. Financially, these three factors make it a less risky investment. Essentially, nuclear power funding promises bigger results in the short term than renewable sources can. Renewable energy, unlike nuclear, comes from a diverse mix of sources, making funding it more complicated. Renewable energy sources have much lower energy capacities as well, wind for example, being around 45% (OpenEI). Renewable power is also distributed differently than nuclear is. Individuals and businesses purchasing renewables, like solar, are able to generate the energy for themselves, while nuclear power maintains reliance on a centralized source. This notion has implications on taxes and the economy, so it’s likely that the government and financial investors would be in support of the nuclear industry’s reliability for revenue flow and tax dollars. Overall, there are a few big issues that raise questions about the safety of nuclear power, but the government is highly susceptible to short-term tunnel vision. I believe that the support of nuclear over solar power ultimately comes down to pressure to quickly transition away from carbon intensive fossil fuels, nuclear energy’s proven applicability against the questions of viability for renewables, and a need to ‘do less and get more’ (in terms of capacity factor differences between renewables and nuclear power).

Nuclear Energy Institute. 2014. “US Nuclear Power Plants.” Accessed September 3, 2014. http://www.nei.org/Knowledge-Center/Nuclear-Statistics/US-Nuclear-Power-Plants.

OpenEI. “Transparent Cost Database – Capacity Factor.” Accessed September 3, 2014. http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/.

‘Renewable energy sources’ houses a number of technologies under its name. No matter what technologies win favor with consumers and businesses, there will need to be a way to make the energy sources optimally functional. Not everyone is interested in living ‘off the grid’ the way that I am, so I see opportunities in global renewable development in the accessibility of the renewable energy. Many entrepreneurial opportunities exist within achieving accessibility, including grid construction, energy transport efficiency, energy storage on the grid, and energy dispersal (smart grid technology). These opportunities exist primarily in the construction, engineering, and information technology industries. Not only do these opportunities exist, but they are safe. Building pipelines to transport polluting materials from one corner of the planet to another is highly controversial, dangerous, and would be expensive if an accident occurred. However, a grid carrying electricity from much more localized areas than pipelines are used for wouldn’t ruffle as many feathers. It won’t be enough to have the renewable technology, we will need a way to use it effectively.