Friday, November 03, 2017

Price of Ocean Power

"To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim, the rocks,
the motion of the waves, the ships with men in them.
What stranger miracles are there?"             

Walt Whitman

For Ocean Power Technologies (OPTT:  Nasdaq) the sea is more a utility than Whitman’s source of romantic miracles.  The company has developed a wave turbine to capture the energy in ocean waves and turn it into electrical power.   Last month the company was successful in convincing investors of the merits of its ‘ocean utility’ technology, raising $8.2 million through the sale of common stock.
Branded as the ‘PowerBuoy’, Ocean Power’s product line is headed by its PB3 system that has the capacity to generate up to three kilowatts of peak power.  An onboard power storage system has the capacity to store up to 150 kilowatt hours.  The PB3 is intended for users with remote off-shore installations such as ocean observatories, oil and gas wells, or communications systems.  Currently oil and gas companies or scientific groups rely on a mix of power sources to power remotely located systems, such as batteries, gas generators, solar panels, or fuel cells. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Central Player in Wind Power

The Lieutenant Governor of New York, Linda Hochul, has predicted that the state will be a world leader in off-shore wind power  -  a bold assertion for a state that still derives three-quarters of its electric power from fossil fuels.  Natural gas has become the most important fossil fuel source.  Yet in 2016, for the first time, over one million megawatt hours of electricity were sources from solar power and 24% of electricity is generated by renewable sources.  This is remarkable given that just a few years ago even that accomplishment was given very low odds.  There appears to be some reasons for confidence in other renewable power sources.   

Friday, October 27, 2017

Rick Perry's Crusade for Coal

In late September 2017, Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposing a new rule to help ensure resiliency for the nation’s electrical grid.  On the surface this is exactly what voters should expect of energy leadership.  However, nine months into the Trump occupation of the White House, we have learned that it is a good idea to look closely at every proposal for hidden agendas.  Perry is asking FERC to pass a rule that will protect coal-fired and nuclear power plants from independent market forces that now favor lower priced natural gas and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. 
FERC has received an exceptional number of comments on the proposed rule in a very short period of time.  Perry had asked FERC to fast track the rule making process, limiting the amount of time for public comment.  However, comments quickly poured in.  It has made some interesting compatriots of natural gas producers, solar system operators and wind power developers. Their positions have been strongly against Perry’s proposed rule, eclipsing the expected support from the coal industry.
Investors are probably scratching their heads over the entire controversy.  Are investment dollars in jeopardy?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Renewable Fuel Standard: staying 'on the island'

Despite Trump’s vow to roll back all measures endorsed by Obama, his Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is backing off plans to scuttle the U.S. biofuel policy.  The Trump administration had planned to change regulatory standards to reduce the amount of renewable fuel that must be blended with conventional fossil fuel for gasoline and diesel supplies.  In the third week in October 2017, Pruitt sent a letter to Congressional leadership indicating the renewable fuel volume mandates for 2018 would remain unchanged.
Most analysts saw the about face as a win for ethanol and renewable diesel producers such as Green Plains (GPRE:  Nasdaq), FutureFuel (FF:  NYSE) and REX American Resources (REX:  NYSE), leaving oil and gas refiners on the losing end of the decision.  True enough the Renewable Fuel Standards creates demand for renewable fuels by requiring refiners to buy and blend ethanol, renewable diesel or biofuel into their gasoline and diesel products.  In 2017, the EPA mandated the purchase of 312 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel, 2.0 billion gallons of bio-diesel, 4.0 billion gallons of advanced biofuel and 18.8 billion gallons of renewable diesel.