Where the jobs are declining (fossil fuels) and increasing (renewables). Also, new solar farm with nearly 300 Tesla Powerpack batteries powers Kauai at night

 Tesla unveiled a new 13MW solar farm on the Hawaiian island of Kauai Wednesday, bringing the state closer to its ambitious goal of sourcing 100 percent renewables by 2045.  The farm includes nearly 300 Tesla Powerpack batteries, which provide 52 MWh of capacity and will allow the farm to sell stored power during the evening. The company estimated that the farm will offset 1.6 million gallons of fossil fuel usage per year in the state, which relies heavily on oil-fired power plants and has some of the highest electric rates in the country.

According to The Verge:

It’s the first major solar-plus-storage project for Tesla since its $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity last year, and Tesla said in a statement that it “will work with energy providers around the world seeking to overcome barriers in the way of building a sustainable, renewable energy grid of their own.”

Stationary storage is “something I think will probably be as big as the car business long term,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during a tour of the Gigafactory last year. “And will actually have a growth rate probably several times that of what the car business is per year. The growth in stationary storage is really under appreciated. That’s a super-exponential growth rate.”

Sounds like California needs some of those batteries?

California Generates Enough Solar Power to Meet Half Its Energy Needs, 8 Mar 2017 , By Jeremy Deaton

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) took a shot at Sec. of Energy Rick Perry, former Republican governor of Texas. Remarking on Perry’s view of Texas as an energy powerhouse, Brown said, “We’ve got more sun than you’ve got oil.”

Recent data shows California coming through. The state briefly generated enough solar power to meet nearly half of the state’s electricity needs, according to data from the largest grid operator in the state, California ISO.

Around midday on March 3, demand reached around 29 Gigawatts (GW), while solar was providing nearly 14 GW of generation—some 9 GW from utility-scale arrays and another 5 GW or so from rooftops and parking lot canopies around the state.

California’s renewable energy output, midday on March 3.California ISORenewables are having a big moment. Solar is getting cheaper and cheaper, spurring Californians to set up photovoltaic panels on homes, businesses and empty lots across the state.

“It’s remarkable that over a third of the solar power generated in California comes from smaller rooftop systems, meaning hundreds of thousands of homeowners are reaping the economic value generated from harnessing the sun rather than the state’s big utility companies,” said Amit Ronen, director of the GW Solar Institute.

To be fair, the numbers from California ISO are a little squishy. First, California ISO may be the biggest grid operator in California, but it is not the only grid operator. Its numbers do not account for power demand or solar generation in Los Angeles or Sacramento, for instance.

Second, there is no real-time data on California’s rooftop solar generation. We know that California has about 5 GW of installed rooftop solar capacity, meaning that if every rooftop solar panel in the state pointed directly at the sun on a cloudless day, they would generate more than 5 GW. Under real-life conditions, they generate slightly less.

But while these numbers are a rough approximation, they illustrate the incredible growth of renewable energy. They also highlight the central challenge of integrating solar into the power grid.

California’s net power demand, midday on March 3.California ISOSee the dotted blue line in the graph above? That represents estimated demand. The saddleback-shaped dip in the line is the handiwork of rooftop solar panels, which generate power locally, suppressing demand. After the sun sets, around 6 p.m., demand shoots up again.

But solar power isn’t just coming from rooftops. It’s also being generated by large-scale arrays operated by utilities. Subtract the electricity generated by utility-scale renewable energy and you get the net power demand, represented by the green line. The green line shows how much energy conventional power plants need to generate to keep the lights on in California. That enormous dip and the subsequent spike, form what energy geeks call the duck curve.

“We still need to make significant investments in energy storage technologies that will allow us to bank solar energy when it’s being made so that it can be used whenever we need it, even at night,” Ronen said.

The state is aiming to generate 50 percent of its power from renewables by 2030. As part of that effort, legislators are looking for ways to better integrate solar energy into the power grid—to drive down costs, improve performance and flatten ducks, wherever they may quack. So, in September, California passed four bills to expand the use of energy storage.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once described the states as laboratories of democracy. They are also laboratories for energy innovation. As the federal government lurches backwards on renewable energy and climate, California and other progressive states are pushing ahead, providing a model for the rest of country.

Should Texas, for example, want to take advantage of its abundant sunshine, California can show the Lone Star state how to do it.

Meanwhile, those Texas jobs may not be coming back, even with expanding interest from the oil majors in shale in the state.

Since the oil price collapsed, some 440,000 oil industry jobs worldwide have been lost. Of those, the oil industry consultants, Graves, estimates that 40 percent have been in the U.S.; 28 percent in the UK and 10 percent in Canada. Some 100,000 oil jobs were lost in the capital of the oil industry itself, Texas.

According to Bloomberg, somewhere between one-third to one-half of those jobs may never come back. No matter how many alternative facts Trump tries to spin.

For example, some of the world’s largest oil services companies—Schlumberger, Haliburton and Baker Hughes—spent more than $3 billion laying workers off in just two years. As OilPrice.com noted “now with prices and business on the mend, none of the services firms seem eager to repeat their mistakes by taking on too many people.”

Furthermore, costs have plummeted as the industry has found ways to produce more oil for less. The downturn has forced the industry to look at ways of cutting costs and chief amongst those are labor costs as computerization, automatic and even artificial intelligence takes over manual work. Oilprice.com quotes UBS which estimates that “the U.S. oil industry will only need about half as many workers to suck the same amount of oil out of the ground post-2017 versus pre-2015.”

In the Permian Basin, three years ago the industry needed $60 a barrel to break even, now it is $35, well below the current price of about $53. Pioneer Natural Resources, operating in West Texas has added 240 new wells, without one taking on one single new worker.

Even Oilprice.com, which labels itself as the number one website for oil and energy news, admits the “forgotten truth that lies at the heart of the natural resources curse—while oil, natural gas and other resources offer enormous opportunities for wealth and a lot of output for an economy, they actually create relatively few jobs.”

A very few of the Big Oil barons may get rich, but the industry itself does not generate many jobs, contrary to anything Trump wants you to believe.

And now the New York Times has explored the theme of evaporating oil and gas jobs in the increasing age of automation:

As in other industries, automation is creating a new demand for high-tech workers—sometimes hundreds of miles away in a control center—but their numbers don’t offset the ranks of field hands no longer required to sling chains and lift iron.”

The paper interviews one such worker Eustasio Velazquez who has worked in the industry for more than 10 years, but has recently been laid off again. “I don’t see a future. Pretty soon every rig will have one worker and a robot,” he said.

Michael Dynan, vice president for portfolio and strategic development at Schramm, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of drilling rigs, told the New York Times: “People have left the industry and they are not coming back. If it’s a repetitive task, it can be automated and I don’t need someone to do that. I can get a computer to do that.”

The first, published in the New York Times, shows how oil production is making a comeback in West Texas, but many of its jobs are not. Like manufacturing before it, the oil industry is undergoing a period of rapid automation. Tasks that once required an actual worker are now being performed by software and machines.

“I don’t see a future,” one worker, whose job laying cables was eliminated by wireless technology, told the Times. “Pretty soon every rig will have one worker and a robot.”

Automation is just the latest threat to labor in an industry where hiring has long been subject to the boom and bust cycle of commodity prices. Roughly 30 percent of oil workers nationwide lost their jobs when crude prices tanked in 2014, according to the Times. Falling prices forced oil firms to cut costs, replacing workers with labor-saving technology. Up to half of those jobs will not come back even as oil prices rebound, according to the paper.

The second story, from the Guardian, tells of ranchers making big money off of royalty payments from Texas wind power. A single turbine can produce between $10,000 and $20,000 a year for landowners.

“I never thought that wind would pay more than oil,” one landowner told the paper amid the thrum, thrum, thrum of rotating blades. “That noise they make—it’s kind of like a cash register.”

And it’s not just landowners making money. In Nolan Country, the tax base jumped from $400 million a year to $3 billion, largely as a result of wind power, according to the Guardian.

Because clean-power prices are generally set by decades-long contracts, renewables tend to produce a predictable flow of cash to public coffers. The oil industry, on the other hand, slashed the taxes it paid to state and local governments across Texas in 2016 by 40 percent from 2014—another drawback to an industry dependent on volatile commodity pricing. When oil is cheap, tax revenue dries up.While wind turbines provide a steady stream of income to local governments, the industry is not immune to automation. But, unlike oil, wind companies are adding jobs right and left. Last year, the number of wind jobs grew by 32 percent nationwide, according to the Energy Department. According to the Department of Labor, wind technician is the fastest growing occupation in the country.

Fossil fuel jobs may be well paid, but they are volatile and they are in decline. The growth is in renewable power.

Meanwhile, Tesla is building out gigafactories, with plans for 5 in the works.  By Lorraine Chow at EcoWatch 

At the grand opening of Tesla’s enormous Gigafactory in July, CEO Elon Musk said he wants to build Gigafactories on several continents. He told BBC he wanted a factory “in Europe, in India, in China … ultimately, wherever there is a huge amount of demand for the end product.”

Well, it looks like Musk’s factory-building plans are well underway.

The company said in its fourth-quarter investor letter on Wednesday that it is considering building up to five Gigafactories.

The letter states:

“Installation of Model 3 manufacturing equipment is underway in Fremont and at Gigafactory 1, where in January, we began production of battery cells for energy storage products, which have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3. Later this year, we expect to finalize locations for Gigafactories 3, 4 and possibly 5 (Gigafactory 2 is the Tesla solar plant in New York).”

Tesla officially flicked on Gigafactory 1’s switch in January. The factory produces lithium-ion battery cells for Tesla’s suite of battery storage products, the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2, as well as the company’s mass-market electric car, the Model 3.

Gigafactory 1 is currently being built in phases so that the company and its partners can manufacture products while the building continues to expand. Construction is expected for completion by 2018, at which point the plant could claim the title of world’s largest building by footprint.

The facility will also be astoundingly clean and energy efficient, as it will be powered 100 percent by renewables such as solar, wind, geothermal and will feature energy-storage technology.

The company also plans for the building to achieve net zero energy. Tesla co-founder and chief technical officer JB Straubel once explained why Tesla wanted Gigafactory operations to be completely carbon neutral:

“The Gigafactory is maybe the best example we can talk about with this. You know, from the get-go, from the first concept of this factory, we wanted to make it a net-zero facility. So, you know, the most visible thing we are doing is covering the entire site with solar power. The whole roof of the Gigafactory was designed from the beginning with solar in mind. We kept all of the mechanical equipment off the roof. We didn’t put extra, sorta, penetrations through the roof that we didn’t need to and it’s a very, very clean surface that we can completely cover in solar. But that’s not enough solar, though. So we have also gone to the surrounding hillsides that we can’t use for other functions and we’re adding solar to those.”

According to Straubel, the Gigafactory isn’t even hooked up to any natural gas pipelines:

“The other interesting thing is we wanted to manage the emissions from the Gigafactory. Solar power can do some of that, but we took kind of a radical move in the beginning and said we are not going to burn any fossil fuels in the factory. You know, zero emissions. We are going to build a zero-emissions factory—just like the car. So, instead of kind of fighting this battle in hindsight, we just said we are not even going to have a natural gas pipeline coming to the factory, so we didn’t even build it. And it kind of forced the issue. When you don’t have natural gas, you know, none of the engineers can say, ‘Oh, but it will be more efficient, let me use just a little bit.’ Sorry, we don’t even have it.”

In December, Tesla and Panasonic launched operations at its Buffalo, New York plant, now dubbed Gigafactory 2. The factory manufactures high-efficiency photovoltaic cells and modules for solar panels and solar glass tiles for Tesla’s highly anticipated solar roof.

Tesla’s factories are all part of the company’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

In last year’s climate change documentary Before The Flood, Musk takes Leonardo DiCaprio on a tour of Tesla’s massive Gigafactory in Nevada. During their chat, the Tesla CEO tells the actor and famed environmentalist that it would only take 100 Gigafactories to transition “the whole world” to sustainable energy.

With at least five Gigafactories in the books, looks like Musk’s plans are slowly becoming reality. For what it’s worth, even DiCaprio said building one-hundred Gigafactories “sounds manageable.”

Before any alternative facts, let’s look at the actual facts.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), coal production in the US totaled 739 million short tons (MMst) in 2016, an 18% decline from 2015 and the lowest production level since 1978 (Figs below).

Since nearly all coal produced in the US is used to generate electricity – exports are not significant – the drop in coal production more or less ends up as a drop in coal-fired electricity generation.

If natural gas prices rise in 2017-18, as some predict, one might experience a small rebound in coal consumption, but don’t expect any miracles, nor will they be permanent.eee

Moving to China, the world’s biggest coal consumer – accounting for roughly half of global usage – coal production fell 9% in 2016, as reported by the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics. Apparently this is not an aberration.

It is the third consecutive annual drop as China is shifting away from over-dependence on coal and gradually moving towards more renewables and nuclear.

China is cracking down on inefficient, polluting and often illegal coal mining. More than 315 Mt of coal production capacity was cut in 2016 with another 250 Mt expected in 2017.

Another hopeful sign – for those concerned about climate change – is that National Energy Administration (NEA), China’s energy regulator, has ordered 11 provinces to stop more than 100 coalfired power projects with a cumulated capacity of more than 100 GW, to curb pollution.

In November 2016, China announced that it was delaying or eliminating at least 150 GW of coal-fired power projects by 2020 while capping the country’s coal-fired capacity at 1,100 GW from around 970 GW in 2015. Simultaneously, the country is aiming to add roughly 130 GW of solar and wind capacity by 2020.