Future Benefits

COVID-19: The Wake-Up Call The Energy Sector Needed

By: Jemma Green
View the original article here

Perhaps Henry David Thoreau was onto something when he set out solo for a cabin in the woods with the aim of becoming completely self-sustainable – for one, he wouldn’t really need to stress about a contagious pandemic. 

Thoreau’s experience would later shape the 19th century literary classic Walden; or, Life in the Woods, detailing how he was able to rely solely on himself, including growing his own food and sourcing firewood for heat and light at night. 

Whether he knew it or not Thoreau was excelling at social distancing and we could all take a leaf out of his book. 

Because, while most of us have got the idea of self-isolation down pat, I bet few are likely to pass the self-sufficiency test.

You only have to look at recent purchasing trends to see some of the panic stemming from a lack of self-sufficiency to see this ‘test’ in action. 

First it was the toilet paper and tinned food, before spreading to plants, with a nursery’s months-worth of vegetables and seedlings stock sold over one weekend. 

Next up: renewable energy infrastructure, as demonstrated by one solar retailer experiencing a 41 percent jump in PV sales and a 400 percent increase in battery enquiries over the past two weeks. 

But where were these eco warriors, cultivating their own veggie patches and living ‘off-grid’ before the apocalyptic hysteria hit? 

If history is any proof, crises are often the perfect kindling for igniting change, especially when standards of living are threatened. 

And the COVID-19 crisis has certainly given the energy world a wake-up call when it comes to sustainability.  

Mother nature gets a well deserved break 

Amid coronavirus-induced lockdowns, shutdowns and working from home, air pollution has significantly dropped worldwide.

In New York, carbon monoxide levels, largely produced from cars, have fallen by nearly 50 percent compared with the same time last year. 

Greenhouse gas emissions in China have also plummeted with NASA releasing images where you can see the country’s reduction in nitrogen dioxide from space. 

Nitrogen dioxide emissions over China – Copyright NASA Earth Observatory by Joshua Stevens, using modified Copernicus Sentinel 5P data processed by the European Space Agency  – NASA

According to one analysis, the slowdown of economic activity in China led to an estimated 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions in just four weeks. 

The restriction on air travel, or any travel at all, has also clearly played a role in reducing pollutants.

And whether you choose to believe the stories of wildlife returning to cities, like dolphins and swans returning to Venice canals, coronavirus has certainly given mother nature a well-deserved moment of respite. 

However, this has been at the expense of economic development, of jobs and livelihoods – and it’s certainly not going to be long-term. 

Air pollutants will likely jump once day-to-day normalities resume. 

However, if we’re smart about it, we can use this period to re-evaluate our energy systems to help flatten the emissions curve and keep our air clean.

Energy systems under pressure 

Aside from the closure of factories and reduction in fuel-consuming transport, we can’t forget that data centers and server-farms are also huge energy-intensive industries. 

Collectively, these spaces represent approximately two percent of the United State’s total electricity use. 

In the UK, there’s been reports of home-working intensifying pressure on the electricity network, instead of being in the office where lighting, heating and cooling are shared. 

Now everyone’s either working from home, or just at home, internet use and streaming is peaking. 

A study by SaveOnEnergy estimated energy generated from the 80 million views on Netflix’s NFLX thriller Birdbox was equal to the equivalent of driving more than 146 million miles and emitting just over 66 million kilograms of CO2 – what it takes to drive from London to Istanbul and back 38,879 times. 

Beyond the environmental impact, coronavirus has brought more attention to the question of whether our current energy systems and frameworks can actually keep up with increasing demand pressures.  

Several country-appointed energy councils have met to discuss electricity demand pressures related to COVID-19, with renewable energy a popular topic. 

In a meeting between Australia’s federal, state and territory energy ministers, the transition towards a genuine two-sided market was emphasized – where consumers become prosumers by contributing excess rooftop solar and battery electricity to the grid.

This would play a large role in forming a ‘day-ahead’ market, to “address concerns that managing challenges like system strength is becoming increasingly difficult with only a real-time market”. 

On top of this, the Australian Government’s Economic Response to the Coronavirus actually includes tax deduction incentives for commercial and industrial solar PV, in a bid to help alleviate financial pressure through reduced electricity bills. 

Digital transformation is underway across the energy sector, with significant advancements in renewable energy technologies and the ways in which energy is distributed. 

For any real change to occur, you need people to switch perspectives.

Powering new mindsets

Tough times spark innovation. Now is as good a time as any to test new energy systems and processes, and it starts with a shift in thinking. 

Energy networks, retailers and operators have delivered services in much the same way for a century – driven by fossil-fuels. 

New technology is making it easier, more effective and affordable to use renewable energy, and the costs associated with installing those technologies, such as solar and batteries are decreasing.

And most industry players recognise the need to change and evolve in order to remain relevant, or are at least are starting to, with a little nudge from COVID-19. 

Self-generating renewable energy infrastructure gives people the power to become self-sufficient for their electricity needs, with some even going ‘off-grid’ altogether. 

National Energy Market retailer Powerclub is one company already trialling new technology to help alleviate demand pressure on the grid via a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) in South Australia and is currently calling for more households to join. 

The VPP enables Powerclub households with batteries to sell their stored, excess solar back to the grid during peak demand periods and price hikes, via peer-to-peer energy trading technology. 

There is a huge benefit to the broader community in that the VPP gives those who may not be able to afford solar panels, or those who are renting, the opportunity to access clean energy. 

As great as it is to think of only the environmental benefit that comes with using clean energy, a monetary incentive certainly makes the proposition more appealing. 

Not only does a VPP provide renewable energy infrastructure owners with a passive income, it can also provide an incentive for others to install solar panels – knowing they’ll be able to pay back their investment faster. 

Pair a VPP with home grown vegetables and you’re a little closer to achieving Thoreau’s vision for self-sufficiency. 

Where to from here? 

At the end of the day, it shouldn’t take a pandemic for people to reconsider their impact on the environment – but it has. 

We’re now being given a chance to press reset on many areas of our lives and reconsider what it takes and what choices to make in order to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Energy regulators are on the right track with numerous initiatives and policy changes currently underway.

But you could make a change right now – how we return to normal life post COVID-19 could lay the foundations for a cleaner and more resilient energy future.

Why does that matter? Well, as Thoreau said; “What is the use of a house if you don’t have a decent planet to put it on?”

What Our Internal Data Shows About Coronavirus Impacts

By The Enel X Energy Intelligence Team, Strategy
View the original article here.

As America enters its second month of widespread lockdowns, the effects of these measures are becoming clearer, especially in electricity demand. Data from the largest United States regional transmission operators (RTOs) show grid-wide declines in electricity usage.

However, because this data includes commercial, industrial and residential end users, the true impacts to specific sectors of the economy are largely hidden—increases in residential energy demand partially or entirely offset significant declines seen in commercial demand. Below, Enel X provides an inside look at our internal data to show how the effects of coronavirus are being felt across individual sectors.

The Broader Picture: Energy Demand Is Down

Grid-wide RTO data shows that energy demand is broadly down for the entirety of 2020. In the first two months of 2020, a mild winter led to lower-than-average consumption due to a decline in heating demand. Then, in mid-March, coronavirus shutdowns led to further drops in demand.

Every year will include variations due to temperature fluctuations, but this sustained and ongoing drop has some analysts worried about long-term effects on consumers. A decline of this magnitude, as James Newcomb of the Rocky Mountain Institute told Utility Dive, could severely affect revenue for utilities. To recoup their losses, utilities may have to increase customer rates.

The drop since mid-March is even more noteworthy when controlling for factors like temperature—The New York Times highlighted work by Steve Cicala, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, who has demonstrated that changes in electricity demand closely tracked changes in GDP during the 2008 financial crisis. Currently, Cicala’s adjusted numbers find electricity demand down about 8% from expectations as of April 6th.

Enel X Internal Data: A Drop in Demand Across Sectors, With Notable Exceptions

Grid-wide data does not tell the story of specific industries, though, and the aggregate numbers include residential data. Internal data from our commercial and industrial customers – who represent approximately 2% of demand across USA and Canada—tells a more detailed story. Most commercial and industrial sectors have seen far more significant declines in consumption than the grid-wide data suggests.

The industries at the bottom of the chart are those with the most drastic reductions, and they are largely unsurprising—media and entertainment is considered inessential, flights are restricted, and schools are closed.

Increases show that some businesses – or even entire industries – are now ramping up their efforts and being called upon to work harder than ever.  Manufacturing has seen a moderate decline in average demand, but our numbers show the sector has seen an uptick in peak demand. 

In part, this may be because many individual manufacturers are operating at a higher level than ever before. One customer we spoke to – a manufacturer of household foods – explained just how much has changed this past month. As a result of quarantine orders and increases in grocery demand, they said, their products have been flying off of shelves. Their order volume has gone up significantly as a result, and that’s led to much higher production levels—what is normally a 24/5 plant has become 24/7, and the plant itself is expanding. 

“Even as demand returns to normal,” the customer told us, “our plant will have to work at higher than normal production levels likely until at least the end of the year.”

What Lies Ahead

Professor Cicala notes that the United States’ electricity trend has tracked Europe with a lag, indicating a further drop may be coming. The grid-wide data shows there is room to fall—ERCOT (Texas), for instance, only implemented state-wide lockdowns on April 2.

If widespread shutdowns and work-from-home measures remain in place when warm summer months arrive, consumption could vary greatly from normal patterns. Commercial buildings often have more efficient cooling systems than personal homes, and offices generally have fewer cubic feet per person than a home does.

While it’s too soon to tell what long-term implications the virus will have on the energy sector, the impact has already been felt in the way homes and businesses are using electricity.

All the things carmakers say they’ll accomplish with their future electric vehicles between now and 2030

By Tim Levin
View the original article here.

2020 Nissan Leaf SV Plus 
  • Last year saw numerous developments in the electric-vehicle space, from manufacturers like Tesla, Ford, and Porsche. 
  • In addition to the developments, carmakers made claims about how fast they’ll be introducing new electric and hybrid vehicles over the next few years — partially in response to tightening efficiency and emissions standards. 
  • Some manufacturers have revised their earlier estimates and are planning to reach electrification targets sooner than expected. 

The electric-vehicle market made big gains in 2019, across multiple car manufacturers — and the industry has even bigger plans for the years to come. 

Rivian, for example, closed out the year with an extra $1.3 billion in investments. Tesla turned a profit, debuted the Cybertruck, delivered the first Model 3s built in its Shanghai plant, and announced a boosted range on its Model S and Model X. On the luxury end of the spectrum, the Audi E-Tron went up for sale, Porsche started production on the Taycan performance car, and Lamborghini announced its first hybrid supercar.

While plenty of tangible EV-related developments happened in 2019, it was also a year of promises made. As of late last year, auto manufacturers had pledged to spend a total of $225 billion developing new EVs in the near future, via The Wall Street Journal. 

Increasingly restrictive emissions and fuel-efficiency regulations around the globe — but not so much in the US — are compelling carmakers to roll out vehicles more able to fit within those restrictions. Accordingly, in recent years, manufacturers have advertised a whirlwind of plans and timelines for bringing more EVs to market. 

Scroll down to read more about what automakers see in their EV future. 

Toyota

The Lexus UX 300e. 
Toyota

Toyota — whose cars currently make up more than 80% of the global hybrid vehicle market, according to Reuters — announced plans to generate half of its sales from electrified vehicles by 2025, five years earlier than it previously estimated. Despite having its own battery-making operation already, Toyota will partner with Chinese battery manufacturers to meet demand. 

Volkswagen Group

Volkswagen’s all-electric ID.3. 
Volkswagen

Last year, Volkswagen said it will spend more than $30 billion developing EVs by 2023. The manufacturer also aims for EVs to make up 40% of its global fleet by 2030. Not to mention, Volkswagen plans to reach its target of 1 million electric cars produced by the end of 2023, two years ahead of its prior predictions.

General Motors

The design for Cadillac’s first fully electric vehicle. 
GM

In 2019, General Motors said Cadillac will be its lead brand when it comes to electric vehicles. Cadillac’s president said the majority of the brand’s models would be electric by 2030, and left open the possibility that the lineup would go entirely electric by then. He also confirmed that Cadillac would roll out a large Escalade-like electric SUV, which it expects to begin manufacturing in late 2023.

Ford

The Ford Mustang Mach-E. 
Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Last year, Ford unveiled the Mustang Mach-E, an electric crossover that gets its name from the company’s iconic sports car. But that wasn’t the only EV Ford had plans for. In 2018, Ford’s CEO said an increased investment in electric-car initiatives would result in a 2022 model lineup that includes 40 electric and electrified vehicles. 

In 2019, Ford Europe said it will offer an electrified option for all of its future nameplates and announced at the Detroit Auto Show that a fully electric F-150 would launch in the coming years. The Blue Oval also showed off a lineup of 17 hybrids and EVs — both family haulers and commercial vehicles — it plans to bring to the European market by 2024.

Volvo

The Volvo XC40 Recharge. 
Volvo

Last year, Volvo released its first electric vehicle, the XC40 Recharge, which it expects will go on sale in the US in the fourth quarter of 2020. The brand also doubled down on its pledge to generate 50% of its global sales from EVs by 2025 and promised that, by the same year, it will reduce the total carbon footprint of each vehicle manufactured by 40%.

Plus, Volvo said it will release a new EV every year for the next five years. This is all part of the Swedish company’s plan to become fully climate neutral by 2040.

Honda

The Honda E. Honda

Honda revealed its Honda E city car in 2019, and also said every model it sells in Europe will be at least partially electrified by 2022. That’s a big jump from Honda’s earlier projections of a full lineup of electrified cars by 2025. The fully electric Honda E and hybrid Jazz, known as the Fit to US consumers, will jumpstart the initiative.

BMW Group

The Mini Cooper SE. 
MINI

In 2017, BMW Group projected that electrified vehicles — a term that doesn’t necessarily equate to fully electric vehicles — would account for 15% to 25% of its sales by 2025.

In working toward that projection, BMW Group unveiled the electric Mini Cooper SE last year, targeting it toward “urban mobility.” In June, the Bavarian brand said it will offer 25 electrified vehicles by 2023, two years earlier than it had initially planned. One of those new models — an electric version of the 1 Series hatchback — may arrive as early as 2021.

BMW also projects a twofold increase in electrified vehicle sales by 2021, as compared with 2019, and a 30% growth in those sales year over year through 2025. 

Nissan

The Nissan Ariya Concept. 
Nissan

Nissan launched the Leaf Plus with a longer range last year, and plans to introduce eight new electric cars by 2022.

At last year’s Tokyo Motor Show, the brand unveiled the concept version of its new Ariya EV, and Car and Driver reported late last year that a production version could make it to the US by 2021. Nissan claims the high-performance crossover will travel 300 miles on a single charge and go from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

The Jeep Renegade plug-in hybrid. 
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

In 2018, Fiat Chrysler announced it would invest $10.5 billion in electrification through 2022. By that year, FCA plans to offer at least 12 hybrid and all-electric powertrain options and launch more than 30 electrified nameplates. As part of that effort, the company announced a $4.5 billion investment in new and existing plants last year that would allow it to produce at least four plug-in hybrid Jeep models.

FCA began making good on that promise when it displayed plug-in hybrid versions of the Compass, Renegade, and Wrangler at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. 

Daimler

The Mercedes-Benz EQC. 
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

In 2017, Daimler, the parent company to Mercedes-Benz, unveiled plans to plunge more than $11 billion into developing its EQ series of electric cars, with the aim of introducing more than 10 EVs by 2022. The company also plans to offer at least one electric option in every Mercedes-Benz model series. Last year, Daimler confirmed that an all-electric G-Wagen is in the works. 

The United States is headed for a battery breakthrough

By Tim Sylvia
View the original article here.

A new report by the Energy Information Administration projects U.S. installed battery storage capacity will reach 2.5 GW by 2023. Florida and New York are set to pave the way as massive projects in each state will account for almost half the coming capacity.

Storage is ready to take off in a big way. Image: Tesla

Storage is ready to take off in a big way. Image: Tesla

Symbiosis is one of life’s most beautiful phenomena. Certain things just work perfectly together and the energy revolution is no different, as renewable energy resources and battery storage go together like peas in a pod.

However, the United States has an operating battery storage capacity of only 899 MW to date. And while that figure is expected to reach 1 GW this year that would still only represent 1/67th of the nation’s cumulative solar generation capacity, and an even smaller percentage of the overall renewables capacity.

That could all be about to change dramatically though, as the U.S. Energy Information Administration(EIA) has released a report predicting battery storage capacity will almost treble by 2023, to 2.5 GW.

Past, current and predicted U.S. battery storage capacity levels. Image: EIA

Past, current and predicted U.S. battery storage capacity levels. Image: EIA

 

The projections were made based on proposed utility scale battery storage projects scheduled for initial commercial operation within five years. The EIA tracks data with its Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory survey, which updates the status of projects scheduled to come online within 12 months.

As drastic as a prediction of 2.5 GW appears, there is a precedent. Between late 2014 and March, installed battery storage capacity rose more than four times over, from 214 to 889 MW.

A look at the states that brought the U.S. to its current storage reality offers surprising results. Leading the way was California, unsurprisingly. However, of the six states known to pv magazine to have energy storage mandates, California is the only one in the top 10 for installed capacity. The others: Arizona, Nevada, New York, Massachusetts and Oregon; each have less than 50 MW of installed battery storage capacity.

The top 10 states in terms of current installed battery storage capacity. Image: EIA

The top 10 states in terms of current installed battery storage capacity. Image: EIA

Texas, Illinois and Hawaii are relatively unsurprising storage pioneers as all three states have strong solar industries and Hawaii especially has been pushing battery storage deployment. Right away, however, the names that stand out on the list are West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. None of those is known as a solar pioneer; they have just under 650 MW of generation capacity installed between them. Special recognition goes to West Virginia on that score, with its 8.5 MW.

So what’s with all the storage? Independent of renewables West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio – plus New Jersey, the seventh state on the list – are all members of the PJM Interconnection. PJM was the first large market for battery storage, and uses the technology for frequency regulation.

That list is likely to look different by 2023, however. Of the 1,623 MW expected to come online by 2024, 725 MW will come courtesy of two projects – both in states outside the current top 10.

Two mammoth projects

The first of those is Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) planned battery system for its Manatee Solar Energy Center in Parrish. The battery is set to clock in at 409 MW, which would make it the largest solar powered battery system in the world.

In that project’s shadow, but nevertheless considerable is the Helix Ravenswood facility, planned in Queens, New York. Almost more impressive than the project’s anticipated 316 MW of capacity is the idea of having a storage project of such magnitude in NYC.

FPL’s Manatee battery is anticipated to begin commercial operation in 2021, as is the first stage of Helix Ravenswood. That initial phase in New York will represent 129 MW of capacity, with the remaining 187 MW following via a 98 MW second phase and 89 MW final stage. The anticipated commercial operation dates of those expansions have not yet been announced.

We have seen the future and there are batteries, lots of them, demonstrating symbiosis extends beyond the natural world.

Solar Energy Isn’t Just for Electricity

It can also provide carbon-free heat for a wide variety of industrial processes

By Steven Moss
View the original article here.

Part of the Miraah soler thermal project in Oman. Credit: GlassPoint Solar

Part of the Miraah soler thermal project in Oman. Credit: GlassPoint Solar

The industrial processes that underpin our global economy—manufacturing, fuel and chemical production, mining—are enormously complex and diverse. But they share one key input: they, as well as many others, require heat, and lots of it, which takes staggering amounts of fuel to produce. Heat and steam generation is critical to the global economy, but it’s also an overlooked and growing source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The good news is that innovative solar technologies can produce steam at industrial scale—reducing emissions and, increasingly, cutting costs. And given the current climate outlook, it’s urgent that industry adopt these new technologies.

Despite enormous progress around the world to ramp up renewables and increase energy efficiency, global GHG emissions reached an all-time highin 2018. In a report released in January, the Rhodium Group found that even though renewable energy installations soared and coal plants shut down, carbon emissions in the U.S. rose sharply last year. Emissions from industry shot up 5.7 percent—more than in any other sector, including transportation and power generation. The authors of the Rhodium Group study concluded that despite increased efforts from policymakers and the business to tackle emissions, “the industrial sector is still almost entirely ignored.”

This must change, at the global level. Worldwide industry is responsible for a quarter of total emissions. And while those from transportation and residential segments are trending down, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that industrial emissions will grow some 24 percent by 2050.

As people around the world continue to transition from living off the land to moving to cities and buying and consuming more things, industrial activity will continue to increase—and the need to reduce corresponding emissions will become all the more urgent.

Credit: GlassPoint Solar

Credit: GlassPoint Solar

This brings us back to heat. Industry is the largest consumer of energy, and a surprising 74 percent of industrial energy is in the form of heat, mostly process steam. Solar steam—making the sun’s heat work for industry—is a largely unexplored but promising avenue for reducing emissions.

While photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert sunlight into electricity are more common, thermal solutions are what’s needed to meet industry’s growing demand for heat. In a solar thermal system, mirrors focus sunlight to intensify its heat and produce steam at the high temperatures needed for industry. Another key advantage is the ability to store the heat using simple, proven thermal energy storage in order to deliver steam 24 hours a day, just like a conventional fossil fuel plant. With the right technology, solar thermal can be a reliable, efficient and low-cost energy source for industrial steam generation.

So-called "enclosed trough technology" uses sunshine to produce zero-carbon steam. Credit: GlassPoint Solar.

So-called “enclosed trough technology” uses sunshine to produce zero-carbon steam. Credit: GlassPoint Solar.

For example, renewable process heat provider Sunvapor is partneringwith Horizon Nut to build a 50-kilowatt solar thermal installation at a pistachio processing facility in the Central Valley of California. The companies are working to expand solar steam production for food industry processes, such as pasteurization, drying and roasting.

In Oman and California, GlassPoint Solar is operating and developing some of the world’s largest solar projects for industry. GlassPoint’s greenhouse-enclosed mirrors track the sun throughout the day, focusing heat on pipes containing water. The concentrated sunlight boils the water to generate steam, which is used by Oman’s largest oil producer to extract oil from the ground. The capacity of GlassPoint’s Miraah plant, which can currently deliver 660 metric tons of steam every day, will top 1 gigawatt of solar thermal energy when completed. This same technology is also being deployed in California to reduce emissions from one of the country’s largest and oldest operating oilfields.

Meanwhile, to meet the needs of extremely high-temperature (800-1,000degreesC) industrial processes, the European Union is developing SOLPART, a research project to develop solar thermal energy that can be used to produce cement, lime and gypsum.

While fossil fuels remain the dominant source of heat for industry across all sectors and regions, industry is beginning to explore cleaner alternatives—and in some cases, industry is leveraging solar steam on a significant scale. As technology advances, more and more companies will find that switching to solar steam can simultaneously reduce costs and emissions, improving business operations while shrinking its carbon footprint.

When it comes to mitigating climate change, most attention has been directed to the things we see, buy, or use on a daily basis—the cars we drive, the food we eat, the power plants that keep our lights on. But behind all these activities is process heat, an emissions source that has been largely ignored.

Now we must turn our attention to industry—the sleeping giant of climate action. Process heat is an overlooked opportunity to slash GHG emissions, and solar technologies operating at the scale needed by industry are currently available. It’s time to embrace them and stop industrial heat from heating up our planet.

Solar farms in space could be renewable energy’s next frontier

space-based-solar-array-concept

Space-based solar power is seen as a uniquely reliable source of renewable energy. NASA / Artemis Innovation Management Solutions LLC

China wants to put a solar power station in orbit by 2050 and is building a test facility to find the best way to send power to the ground.

By Denise Chow and Alyssa Newcomb
View the original article here.

As the green enery revolution accelerates, solar farms have become a familiar sight across the nation and around the world. But China is taking solar power to a whole new level. The nation has announced plans to put a solar power station in orbit by 2050, a feat that would make it the first nation to harness the sun’s energy in space and beam it to Earth.

Since the sun always shines in space, space-based solar power is seen as a uniquely reliable source of renewable energy.

“You don’t have to deal with the day and night cycle, and you don’t have to deal with clouds or seasons, so you end up having eight to nine times more power available to you,” said Ali Hajimiri, a professor of electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology and director of the university’s Space Solar Power Project.

Of course, developing the hardware needed to capture and transmit the solar power, and launching the system into space, will be difficult and costly. But China is moving forward: The nation is building a test facility in the southwestern city of Chongqing to determine the best way to transmit solar power from orbit to the ground, the China Daily reported.

REVISITING AN OLD IDEA

The idea of using space-based solar power as a reliable source of renewable energy isn’t new. It emerged in the 1970s, but research stalled largely because the technological demands were

thought to be too complex. But with advances in wireless transmission and improvements in the design and efficiency of photovoltaic cells, that seems to be changing.

“We’re seeing a bit of a resurgence now, and it’s probably because the ability to make this happen is there, thanks to new technologies,” said John Mankins, a physicist who spearheaded NASA efforts in the field in the 1990s before the space agency abandoned the research.

Population growth may be another factor driving the renewed interest in space-based solar power, according to Mankins. With the world population expected to swell to 9 billion by 2050, experts say it could become a key way to meet global energy demands — particularly in Japan, northern Europe and other parts of the world that aren’t especially sunny.

“If you look at the next 50 years, the demand for energy is stupendous,” he said. “If you can harvest sunlight up where the sun is always shining and deliver it with essentially no interruptions to Earth — and you can do all that at an affordable price — you win.”

MAKING IT A REALITY

Details of China’s plans have not been made public, but Mankins says one way to harness solar power in space would be to launch tens of thousands of “solar satellites” that would link up to form an enormous cone-shaped structure that orbits about 22,000 miles above Earth.

The swarming satellites would be covered with the photovoltaic panels needed to convert sunlight into electricity, which would be converted into microwaves and beamed wirelessly to

ground-based receivers — giant wire nets measuring up to four miles across. These could be installed over lakes or across deserts or farmland.

Mankins estimates that such a solar facility could generate a steady flow of 2,000 gigawatts of power. The largest terrestrial solar farms generate only about 1.8 gigawatts.

If that sounds promising, experts caution that there are still plenty of hurdles that must be overcome — including finding a way to reduce the weight of the solar panels.

“State-of-the-art photovoltaics are now maybe 30 percent efficient,” said Terry Gdoutos, a Caltech scientist who works with Hajimiri on the space-based solar research “The biggest challenge is bringing the mass down without sacrificing efficiency.”

For its part, the Caltech team recently built a pair of ultralight photovoltaic tile prototypes and showed that they can collect and wirelessly transmit 10 gigahertz of power. Gdoutos said the prototypes successfully performed all the functions that real solar satellites would need to do in space, and that he and his colleagues are now exploring ways to further reduce the weight of the tiles.

THE ROAD AHEAD

China hasn’t revealed how much it’s spending to develop its solar power stations. Mankins said that even a small-scale test to demonstrate the various technologies would likely cost at least $150 million, adding that the swarming solar satellites he envisions would cost about $10 billion apiece.

Despite its exorbitant price tag, Mankins remains a staunch advocate of space-based solar power.

“Ground-based solar is a wonderful thing, and we’ll always have ground-based solar,” he said. “For a lot of locations, rooftop solar is fabulous, but a lot of the world is not like Arizona. Millions of people live where large, ground-based solar arrays are not economical.”

Mankins hailed recent developments in the field and said he is keen to follow China’s new initiative. “The interest from China has been really striking,” he said. “Fifteen years ago, they were completely nonexistent in this community. Now, they are taking a strong leadership position.”

Eggshells May Power The Renewable Energy Revolution

View the original article here.

Ready for some happy news among all the gloom surrounding government shutdowns, border security, and malfeasance in high places? Here’s something that may put a smile on your face. According to researchers in Western Australia, eggshells may be the key to abundant, inexpensive energy storage.
Eggshell_001

Dr Manickam Minakshi and his colleagues began experimenting with eggshells in 2017 using eggs purchased at the local supermarket. “Eggshells have a high level of calcium carbonate, which can act as a form of replenishing energy,” he tells the Canberra Times.

“What’s interesting is that the egg membrane around the yolk allowed us to cook it at a high temperature, crush it into powder and bake it at 500 degrees Celsius with the chemical still present.The final baking process changes the chemical composition from calcium carbonate to calcium oxide and allows it to become a conduit for electricity.

For Dr Minakshi’s team, this represents a first step towards work on an alternative battery to store energy from renewable energies such as solar panels and wind turbines. “Renewable energy resources are intermittent as they depend on the weather,” he says. “When we have an excess, we need a battery to store it. Ground egg shells serve as the electrode to store this.” Before being heated, the eggshell is a positive electrode but when heated it changes to be a negative electrode, he explains.

Dr Minakshi says he hopes his research will attract the attention of renewable energy companies. Assuming further tests prove the validity of his preliminary results, abundant and affordable materials like eggshells have the potential to provide energy storage from items that would otherwise be little more than bio-waste.

“You can buy them at a 12-pack from Coles for $4 or pick them up from the food court,” he says. “What’s even more important is that you can use the eggshells that are thrown into landfills. This brings in the potential to reduce the amount of bio-waste we produce.”

The research in the laboratory will continue to determine how much electricity the eggshell powder can store and for how long. Minakshi even has plans to test free range eggshells to see if they have better conductive properties, although why that would be is not clear. Perhaps free range chickens have higher levels of self esteem which lead to chemical changes in their eggs.

If anyone can peck out the answers, it is Dr. Manakshi, who may or may not have watched the adventures of Henry Cabot Henhouse III — a/k/a Super Chicken — as a boy. (There is a slight possibility I am not treating this topic with the seriousness is deserves.)

Vertical gardens: Wellness oases in the urban jungle

When there’s only so much real estate available in urban centers for parks, how’s a developer to bring in more green with biophilic design?

By Kim Pexton
View the original article here.

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Experts in the emerging field of biophilic design are finding that that people need regular contact with nature to be happy and whole. For those who live and work in cities, the concrete, glass towers, smog, and noise can drastically and negatively affect wellbeing. Urban areas are projected to house 60 percent of people globally by 2030, and one in three people will live in cities with at least a half million inhabitants.

So here’s the question and our opportunity: When there’s only so much real estate available in urban centers for parks, how’s a developer to bring in more green with biophilic design?

BUILD UP. MARRY BUILDINGS AND NATURE WITH VERTICAL GARDENS

Building designers are responding to the biophilic design call to action by creating vertical gardens. Also called living walls or green walls, vertical gardens are self-contained gardens installed on the sides of buildings to provide expanses of greenery in urban areas. Vertical gardens can be attached to virtually any vertical structure, and they can be used as free-standing space dividers, providing beauty, sound-proofing, and security. Plants can also be used to reduce noise along roads and highways. Living green walls block high-frequency sounds while the supporting structure can help diminish low frequency noise.

HERE ARE A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE EXAMPLES:

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Oasis Hotel, Singapore

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Santalaia, a multifamily residential building in Bogota, Colombia.

VERTICAL GARDENS ARE GOOD FOR THE COMMUNITY’S HEALTH

Prospective tenants – be they multifamily or commercial – love vertical gardens, which makes them a win/win for developers and building users.

Vertical gardens provide refreshing visual breaks from concentrations of concrete and steel, and their benefits go far deeper. Vertical gardens have a profound impact on air quality, especially in mitigating humidity and controlling dust indoors and outdoors. Green walls absorb noise pollution and create micro-climates that build heat efficiency. They have the added benefit of creating urban ecosystems that attract insects and birds, positively affecting biodiversity. In some cases, vertical gardens contribute to a larger ecosystem. In fact, vertical gardens take on more of a regenerative design philosophy from a C02 design standpoint. Plants are natural filters – taking carbon dioxide from the air and replacing it with much needed oxygen. They also help to filter pollutants from the air, literally helping urban dwellers breathe easier.

According to Hanging Gardens, a New Zealand vertical garden designer, the Auckland Council estimated the social cost from air pollution in the city to be $1.07 billion. Further, studies show that in city streets bounded by buildings, careful placement of plants reduced concentrations of nitrogen dioxide by up to 40 percent and of microscopic particulate matter by up to 60 percent. These statistics can be powerfully persuasive during design review meetings and entitlements processes.

Then there are the psychological benefits. The cumulative body of evidence from more than a decade of research on the people-nature relationship proves that contact with vegetation is highly beneficial to human health and well being. Whether contact with vegetation is active (gardening) or passive (viewing vegetation through a window), results show a consistent pattern of positive effects including:

  • Psychological and physiological stress reduction
  • More positive moods
  • Increased ability to re-focus attention
  • Mental restoration and reduced mental fatigue
  • Improved performance on cognitive tasks
  • Reduced pain perceptions and faster recovery in healthcare settings

Vertical gardens bring operational benefits too. One of the biggest benefits of vertical gardens is their ability to manage water. Vertical gardens make the need for watering very efficient, as the process is managed using a drip irrigation or hydroponic system. Waste water is collected at the bottom of the garden and either drained away or reused.

While vertical gardens have undeniable benefits for developers and building users, they can be challenging to design and maintain if they are not planned and installed properly. It’s critical to bring together the right system, plants, design, and maintenance strategy so that the green wall can serve the project in the long-term. The planning and investment will be worth it.

This concept for the Mumbai Tower by Odell Architects takes the vertical garden a step further by incorporating a vertical farm.

This concept for the Mumbai Tower by Odell Architects takes the vertical garden a step further by incorporating a vertical farm.

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

The company confirms hybrid systems are a growing focus area.

By Jason Deign
View the original article here.

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

Siemens Gamesa, the leading turbine manufacturer, is looking to go beyond wind — into hybrid systems with solar and storage.

The company’s chief technology officer, Antonio de la Torre Quiralte, told GTM that Siemens Gamesa remains committed to the wind market. However, it is increasingly interested in other technologies to reduce renewable energy intermittency.

“Following the merger about one year ago, we realized that our two former companies were quite interested in resolving the renewable problem, which is discontinuity,” he said.

“As part of our business strategy, there is a clear mandate from our CEO and our board that we will resolve, with a huge investment in new technologies, solutions for the market that will allow, quite soon, stable renewable procurement of energy.”

The development of systems that can provide baseload or near-baseload capacity could involve the hybridization of potentially complementary generation technologies such as wind and solar. But storage is a big part of the equation.

“It definitely is in our roadmap,” de la Torre said.

De la Torre said the manufacturer is focused on solutions rather than products, integrating energy storage with renewable plants at the project level.

He also said Siemens Gamesa is looking beyond today’s existing utility-scale battery storage capacities, which typically run to tens of megawatt hours, to gigawatt-hour levels of storage.

Batteries will remain the company’s technology of choice for standalone hybrid and off-grid systems, which demand storage capacities of between 500 kilowatt-hours and 50 megawatt-hours for onshore wind and PV plant balancing.

But Siemens Gamesa is also investigating a thermal storage system called the Future Energy Solution, which could boast much higher capacities. A demonstration plant currently under construction in Hamburg will be able to deliver 1.5 megawatts of power for 24 hours.

Siemens Gamesa hopes to use this kind of technology for round-the-clock renewable energy generation. “We have to integrate several renewable sources,” said de la Torre. “Currently we are investigating all relevant sorts of storage.”

Recently, for example, Siemens Gamesa started testing a 120-kilowatt, 400-kilowatt-hour redox flow battery at its La Plana test center near Zaragoza in Spain.

The test center had previously been used by Gamesa to put together a hybrid system combining traditional gensets with wind, solar and storage in 2016. Customer interest in hybrid systems with storage has grown in the last six to nine months, de la Torre said.

One example is the Bulgana Green Power Hub project owned by Neoen in Australia, where Siemens Gamesa will be acting as an engineering, procurement and construction contractor, and will be integrating a 194-megawatt wind farm with 34 megawatt-hours of Tesla storage.

Hong Zhang Durandal, a business analyst with MAKE Consulting, said Siemens Gamesa’s growing interest in hybrid systems reflects a wider trend within the wind industry. OEMs are not interested in having storage as a product, he said, but see value in adding other technologies to wind farms, for example to help avoid curtailment or smooth out imbalances.

It also makes sense for Siemens Gamesa to explore thermal or redox flow technologies for bulk, long-duration storage, he said. “For lithium-ion, getting to gigawatt-hours is just cost-ineffective,” he said. “It’s too large a system to justify the cost of the batteries.”

In a recent question-and-answer session published by Wood Mackenzie, Durandal said wind-plus-storage could offer new opportunities for energy production in the U.S.

“Wind farms paired with energy storage can shift energy from periods of low prices to take advantage of spikes and shift energy in bulk when it is most needed,” he said.

Pairing wind with energy storage also helps with ramp-rate control, can avoid curtailment and could open the door for project owners to compete for ancillary services revenues.

“We are seeing increased interest by wind turbine OEMs across the globe in exploring and developing utility-scale wind-plus-storage systems,” Durandal said. “Not only can the development of such systems strengthen the portfolio of the OEMs in key markets, [but] hybrid systems can also play a significant role in the deployment of more wind energy in the future.”

EMERALD SKYLINE TO DEVELOP SOLAR FARM IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA WITH RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FACILITY TO PURSUE ELECTRICAL STORAGE TECHNOLOGY.

“Solar generation and electricity storage technology are rapidly evolving sustainable energy alternatives. The combination of solar power generation and electricity storage is being utilized in projects around the world”

 May 1, 2018 from Emerald Skyline Corporation

BOCA RATON, FL, May 1, 2018 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today, Emerald Skyline announced that it will develop land located in southern Arizona for the purpose of solar generation and electricity storage technology research. The project, Emerald City Solar, recognizes that both solar generation and electricity storage technologies are rapidly evolving and will continue to become more cost effective. The southern Arizona project will include research and development facilities to continue to evaluate new technologies as they emerge. It is expected that the total generation of the solar farm will continue to increase along with the value per kilowatt hour of the electricity generated as new technologies are deployed. Emerald Skyline believes the future of renewable energy is in the storage technology and will be exploring novel ways of delivering and storing energy. They have assembled a world-class team to conduct research and development to drive innovation and advanced sustainable technologies to manage surplus renewable power for use on demand and supply of power.

SOLAR FARM

The site of the solar farm development enjoys the best solar profile in the United States and is near major urban centers including San Diego, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. The electricity generated could be sold to the local electric power utility company at prevailing Power Purchase Agreement rates of about .07 per kilowatt hour (KwH). However, through the use of proven electric storage technology, the value of the electricity could be significantly increased through the selling into the power grid during peak demand periods at much higher spot market prices. Selling power in this manner is called Regulation Services.

ELECTRICITY STORAGE

Deployment of electricity storage is increasing at explosive rates and has been described by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) as a game changer in the industry. Several new companies can provide large battery-based storage units and have the operating systems required to interact with the electricity grid. Through storing electricity and injecting the stored power into the grid during peak demand periods the cost of peaking power can be greatly reduced. By selling power into the grid during peak demand at much higher prices the value of the solar power farm can be greatly enhanced.

“As a sustainability and resiliency consulting and LEED project management firm, this partnership enables us to collaborate with a host of industry partners to not only produce energy but also to test and demonstrate the benefits of solar energy storage technologies. When electricity storage is not available, excess solar electricity is wasted. When storage is installed, the excess energy can be saved and subsequently used to reduce the use of a fossil fuel,” reports Abraham Wien, LEED AP O+M, Director of Architecture & Environmental Design for Emerald Skyline.

To find out more information about Emerald City Solar or electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar and the current development in electrical energy storage technologies for a greener tomorrow, please contact Abraham Wien at aw@emeraldskyline.com or call us 305.424.8704.