Europe Faces Bleak Winter Energy Crisis Years in the Making

 
Europe is preparing for an extreme winter as an energy emergency that has been a very long time in the making leaves the landmass depending on the ideas of the weather.Faced with flooding gas and power costs, nations from the U.K. to Germany should rely on gentle temperatures to traverse the warming season. Europe is shy of gas and coal and if the breeze doesn’t blow, the most dire outcome imaginable could work out: far and wide power outages that power organizations and plants to shut.

The extraordinary energy crunch has been fermenting for quite a long time, with Europe developing progressively reliant upon discontinuous wellsprings of energy like breeze and sun based while interests in petroleum products declined. Natural strategy has likewise pushed a few nations to close their coal and atomic armadas, decreasing the quantity of force establishes that could fill in as back-up in the midst of shortages.

“It could get very ugly unless we act quickly to try to fill every inch of storage,” said Marco Alvera, CEO of Italian energy framework organization Snam SpA. “You can survive a week without electricity, but you can’t survive without gas.”

Energy request is ascending from the U.S. to Europe and Asia as economies recuperate from the worldwide pandemic, boosting modern movement and powering worries about swelling. Costs are so high in Europe that two significant compost makers reported they were closing plants or shortening creation in the region.

And it’s not simply organizations. Governments are additionally worried about the hit to families previously battling with greater expenses of everything from food to move. As force and gas costs break records for a long time, Spain, Italy, Greece and France are largely stepping in to shield shoppers from inflation.

“It will be expensive for consumers, it will be expensive for big energy users,” Dermot Nolan, a previous CEO of U.K. energy controller Of gem, said in a Bloomberg TV meet. “Electricity and gas prices are going to be higher at home than everybody would want and they are going to be higher than they have been for about 12 years.”

Europe’s gas costs have dramatically multiplied for the current year as top provider Russia has been checking the extra conveyances the landmass needs to top off its exhausted stockpiling locales following a virus winter last year. It’s been difficult to get hold of elective supplies, with North Sea fields going through weighty support after pandemic-instigated postponements, and Asia gathering up cargoes of condensed gaseous petrol to fulfill rising need there.

Higher gas costs helped the expense of creating power as renewables wavered. Low wind speeds constrained European utilities to consume costly coal, draining stores of the dirtiest of petroleum products. Energy strategy additionally assumed a part, with the expense of contaminating in the European Union flooding over 80% this year.

“Gas supply is short, coal supply is short and renewables aren’t going great, so we are now in this crazy situation,” said Dale Hazelton, head of warm coal at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “Coal companies just don’t have supply available, they can’t get the equipment, the manufacturers are backed up and they don’t really want to invest.”

European gas inventories are at their most minimal level in over 10 years for this season. Gazprom PJSC’s CEO Alexey Miller said Europe will enter the colder time of year in with regards to a month without completely renewing its support reserves. The Russian gas monster has been pushing to begin its questionable Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Europe now needs great climate. While forecasters say temperatures are probably not going to plunge beneath typical one month from now, assumptions can generally change. Comparable climate gauges didn’t appear last year, bringing about an unpleasant temperatures that sent LNG costs in Asia to a record in January.

“It may happen again,” said Ogan Kose, an overseeing chief at Accenture. “If we end up having a very cold winter in Asia as well as in Europe, then we may end up seeing a ridiculous spike in gas prices.”

In 2018, a profound freeze that became known as the Beast from the East shocked energy brokers. This year there’s additionally a possibility that a La Nina climate example would grow once more. While the wonder can carry warm climate to Europe, it will in general send temperatures diving in Asia.

The U.S. Environment Prediction Center said there’s a 66% possibility that a La Nina example will return some time from November to January. That could fuel the battle for LNG cargoes, as purchasers from Japan to India start alarm purchasing because of fears of rivalry with Europe.

“Unfortunately, the way the weather works, when it’s cold, it is cold: it’s cold for the U.S., it’s cold for Europe and then it gets cold for Asia,” said Snam’s Alvera, who is wagering on hydrogen as the future for efficient power energy markets.

Europe should diminish request if the colder time of year is cold, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said, anticipating the district will confront power outages. There are as of now indications of stress, with CF Industries Holdings Inc. closing two compost plants in the U.K. furthermore, Yara International ASA will have diminished its smelling salts creation limit by 40% by next week.

Shutdowns additionally hazard hitting the food store network, which utilizes a side-effect of compost creation in everything from meat handling to brew. The sugar and starch businesses are likewise influenced, with France’s Tereos SCA and Roquette Freres SA cautioning of higher energy costs.

And it doesn’t stop there. Europe top copper maker Aurubis AG said greater costs will keep on getting edges through the remainder of the year. Indeed, even synthetic compounds goliath BASF SE, which delivers the greater part of its force, said it has been not able to completely turn the effect of record-breaking power prices.

Supplies are probably not going to improve altogether any time soon. Russia is confronting its very own energy smash and Gazprom is guiding its extra creation to homegrown inventories. Costs could remain high regardless of whether Europe winds up with a gentle winter, said Fabian Ronningen, an expert at energy specialist Rystad Energy AS.

“With natural gas prices already hitting record highs in Europe ahead of rising winter demand, prices could move even higher in the coming months,” said Stacey Morris, overseer of exploration at file supplier Alerian in Dallas. “There is a potential it can get worse.”

Source: Europe Faces Bleak Winter Energy Crisis Years in the Making – Bloomberg

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Solar Power Is Dirt-Cheap and About to Get Even More Powerful

After focusing for decades on cutting costs, the solar industry is shifting attention to making new advances in technology. The solar industry has spent decades slashing the cost of generating electricity direct from the sun. Now it’s focusing on making panels even more powerful.

With savings in equipment manufacturing hitting a plateau, and more recently pressured by rising prices of raw materials, producers are stepping up work on advances in technology — building better components and employing increasingly sophisticated designs to generate more electricity from the same-sized solar farms.

“The first 20 years in the 21st century saw huge reductions in module prices, but the speed of the reduction started to level off noticeably in the past two years,” said Xiaojing Sun, global solar research leader at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “Fortunately, new technologies will create further cost-of-electricity reductions.”

A push for more powerful solar equipment underscores how further cost reductions remain essential to advance the shift away from fossil fuels. While grid-sized solar farms are now typically cheaper than even the most advanced coal or gas-fired plants, additional savings will be required to pair clean energy sources with the expensive storage technology that’s needed for around-the-clock carbon-free power.

Bigger factories, the use of automation and more efficient production methods have delivered economies of scale, lower labor costs and less material waste for the solar sector. The average cost of a solar panel dropped by 90% from 2010 to 2020.

Boosting power generation per panel means developers can deliver the same amount of electricity from a smaller-sized operation. That’s potentially crucial as costs of land, construction, engineering and other equipment haven’t fallen in the same way as panel prices.

It can even make sense to pay a premium for more advanced technology. “We’re seeing people willing to pay a higher price for a higher wattage module that lets them produce more power and make more money off their land,” said Jenny Chase, lead solar researcher at BloombergNEF.

Higher-powered systems are already arriving. Through much of the past decade, most solar panels produced a maximum of about 400 watts of electricity. In early 2020, companies began selling 500-watt panels, and in June, China-based Risen Energy Co. introduced a 700-watt model.

Here are some of the ways that solar companies are super-charging panels:

While many current developments involve tweaks to existing technologies, perovskite promises a genuine breakthrough. Thinner and more transparent than polysilicon, the material that’s traditionally used, perovskite could eventually be layered on top of existing solar panels to boost efficiency, or be integrated with glass to make building windows that also generate power.

“We will be able to take solar power to the next level,” said Kim Dohyung, principal researcher on a perovskite project team at Korea Electric Power Corp., one of several companies experimenting with the material. “Ultimately, this new technology will enable us to make a huge contribution in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

Adoption of perovskite has previously been challenged by costs and technical issues that prevented commercial-scale production. There are now signs that’s changing: Wuxi UtmoLight Technology Co. in May announced plans to start a pilot line by October with mass production beginning in 2023.

Solar panels typically get their power from the side that faces the sun, but can also make use of the small amount of light that reflects back off the ground. Bi-facial panels started to gain in popularity in 2019, with producers seeking to capture the extra increments of electricity by replacing opaque backing material with specialist glass. They were also temporarily boosted by a since-closed loophole in U.S. law that exempted them from tariffs on Chinese products.

The trend caught solar glass suppliers off-guard and briefly caused prices for the material to soar. Late last year, China loosened regulations around glass manufacturing capacity, and that should prepare the ground for more widespread adoption of the two-sided solar technology.

Another change that can deliver an increase in power is shifting from positively charged silicon material for solar panels to negatively charged, or n-type, products.

N-type material is made by doping polysilicon with a small amount of an element with an extra electron like phosphorous. It’s more expensive, but can be as much as 3.5% more powerful than the material that currently dominates. The products are expected to begin taking market share in 2024 and be the dominant material by 2028, according to PV-Tech.

In the solar supply chain, ultra-refined polysilicon is shaped into rectangular ingots, which are in turn sliced into ultra-thin squares known as wafers. Those wafers are wired into cells and pieced together to form solar panels.

For most of the 2010s, the standard solar wafer was a 156-millimeter (6.14 inches) square of polysilicon, about the size of the front of a CD case. Now, companies are making the squares bigger to boost efficiency and reduce manufacturing costs. Producers are pushing 182- and 210-millimeter wafers, and the larger sizes will grow from about 19% of the market share this year to more than half by 2023, according to Wood Mackenzie’s Sun.

The factories that wire wafers into cells — which convert electrons excited by photons of light into electricity — are adding new capacity for designs like heterojunction or tunnel‐oxide passivated contact cells. While more expensive to make, those structures allow the electrons to keep bouncing around for longer, increasing the amount of power they generate.

— With assistance by Heesu Lee

By:

Source: Solar Power Is Dirt-Cheap and About to Get Even More Powerful – Bloomberg

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Critics:

Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and solar tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.

Photovoltaics were initially solely used as a source of electricity for small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to remote homes powered by an off-grid rooftop PV system. Commercial concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s.

As the cost of solar electricity has fallen, the number of grid-connected solar PV systems has grown into the millions and gigawatt-scale photovoltaic power stations are being built. Solar PV is rapidly becoming an inexpensive, low-carbon technology to harness renewable energy from the Sun. The current largest photovoltaic power station in the world is the Pavagada Solar Park, Karnataka, India with a generation capacity of 2050 MW.

The International Energy Agency projected in 2014 that under its “high renewables” scenario, by 2050, solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar power would contribute about 16 and 11 percent, respectively, of worldwide electricity consumption, and solar would be the world’s largest source of electricity. Most solar installations would be in China and India.[3] In 2019, solar power generated 2.7% of the world’s electricity, growing over 24% from the previous year. As of October 2020, the unsubsidised levelised cost of electricity for utility-scale solar power is around $36/MWh.

One issue that has often raised concerns is the use of cadmium (Cd), a toxic heavy metal that has the tendency to accumulate in ecological food chains. It is used as semiconductor component in CdTe solar cells and as a buffer layer for certain CIGS cells in the form of cadmium sulfide. The amount of cadmium used in thin-film solar cells is relatively small (5–10 g/m2) and with proper recycling and emission control techniques in place the cadmium emissions from module production can be almost zero.

Current PV technologies lead to cadmium emissions of 0.3–0.9 microgram/kWh over the whole life-cycle.[136] Most of these emissions arise through the use of coal power for the manufacturing of the modules, and coal and lignite combustion leads to much higher emissions of cadmium. Life-cycle cadmium emissions from coal is 3.1 microgram/kWh, lignite 6.2, and natural gas 0.2 microgram/kWh.

References

 

 

 

How To Keep Your Plants Alive When You’re on Vacation

If you have a home full of plants, it can be hard to have friends reliably take care of them while you’re gone. Plus, what if no one is available to come by every day to give your plants the specific care they need? Here are a few hacks that will keep your plants happy and healthy while you take time away.

How to water your plants while you’re on vacation

The biggest concern people have when leaving their plants alone is regular watering; and if you have a huge family of varying plants, they’ll need to be cared for differently. Thankfully, you can outfit different watering systems for your plants’ needs.

Use a wine bottle to water your plants

For larger plants that require regular watering, the wine bottle option is a great choice. Grab an empty twist-off wine bottle, then poke a hole in the metal cap and fill the bottle with water. Screw the (now pierced) cap back on top. Turn the wine bottle cap-side down into your potted plant and position it deep enough that the bottle will stand up on its own. The water will slowly release over time, feeding your plant while you’re away.

Put plants in a bathtub or kiddie pool as a water reservoir

If you have several tropical plants and perhaps not enough wine bottles, you can give your plants the hydration they need in the bathtub. Garden writer Barbara Pleasant told House Beautiful the best way to care for multiple indoor plants while on vacation is to fill your bathtub with one to two inches of water. Remove any saucers from the bottom of the plants’ pots and place each plant in the tub together. The plants will soak up the water through the drainage hole, drinking as needed while you’re away. The same process works using a kiddie pool for your outdoor plants.

Group plants together by type

Rearrange your plants by type before you head out on your trip. Succulents and cacti should be together with other plants that won’t need any attention while you are gone. Water those before you leave, and they’ll be all set. Keep the more tropical plants together so they can feed off of each other’s moisture and warmth.

How to regulate your plants airflow when you’re gone

The next concern for your plants is oxygen and airflow. (I am not one to leave my windows open when I know I’ll be away for an extended period of time.) There are ways to give your plant the humid or dry environment they need when you can’t regulate the temperature day by day.

Make a temporary greenhouse

Put a plastic container over small plants that love humidity. The plastic container will create a mini greenhouse, allowing the cycle of water and humidity to be maintained while you’re gone. This also works with a plastic bag as a small terrarium.

Move plants away from windows until you get back

Grouping your plants together is the easiest way you can control the airflow and temperature for your plants while you’re gone. The tropical plants go in your tub, and the succulents drying out in a corner as they like. But you’ll want to make sure all plants are away from any variables that could change the temperature at a moment’s notice. Keep plants away from air vents, sunny windows, and heaters. Without you there to move them around, these things could dry out your more sensitive plants faster than you think.

Adjust the heat or AC before you leave plants alone

This step might boost your utility bill for the time you’re gone, not to mention it’s not the most environmentally friendly, but if needed, your plants will thank you for spending a little extra cash on them by adjusting your heat or AC to control the temperature while you’re gone. This could mean coming home to a higher electric bill, but your plants have a better chance of being alive when you get back home.

By: Aisha Jordan

Source: How to Keep Your Plants Alive When You’re on Vacation

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7 Types of Renewable Energy: The Future of Energy

Renewable Energy Types | The future of eco-friendlier energy

What Is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is energy that has been derived from earth’s natural resources that are not finite or exhaustible, such as wind and sunlight. Renewable energy is an alternative to the traditional energy that relies on fossil fuels, and it tends to be much  less harmful to the environment.

7 Types of Renewable Energy

Solar

Solar energy is derived by capturing radiant energy from sunlight and converting it into heat, electricity, or hot water. Photovoltaic (PV) systems can convert direct sunlight into electricity through the use of solar cells.

Benefits

One of the benefits of solar energy is that sunlight is functionally endless. With the technology to harvest it, there is a limitless supply of solar energy, meaning it could render fossil fuels obsolete. Relying on solar energy rather than fossil fuels also helps us improve public health and environmental conditions. In the long term, solar energy could also eliminate energy costs, and in the short term, reduce your energy bills. Many federal local, state, and federal governments also incentivize the investment in solar energy by providing rebates or tax credits.

Current Limitations

Although solar energy will save you money in the long run, it tends to be a significant upfront cost and is an unrealistic expenses for most households. For personal homes, homeowners also need to have the ample sunlight and space to arrange their solar panels, which limits who can realistically adopt this technology at the individual level.

Wind

Wind farms capture the energy of wind flow by using turbines and converting it into electricity. There are several forms of systems used to convert wind energy and each vary. Commercial grade wind-powered generating systems can power many different organizations, while single-wind turbines are used to help supplement pre-existing energy organizations. Another form is utility-scale wind farms, which are purchased by contract or wholesale. Technically, wind energy is a form of solar energy. The phenomenon we call “wind” is caused by the differences in temperature in the atmosphere combined with the rotation of Earth and the geography of the planet.

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Benefits

Wind energy is a clean energy source, which means that it doesn’t pollute the air like other forms of energy. Wind energy doesn’t produce carbon dioxide, or release any harmful products that can cause environmental degradation or negatively affect human health like smog, acid rain, or other heat-trapping gases.[2] Investment in wind energy technology can also open up new avenues for jobs and job training, as the turbines on farms need to be serviced and maintained to keep running.

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Current Limitations

Since wind farms tend to be built in rural or remote areas, they are usually far from bustling cities where the electricity is needed most. Wind energy must be transported via transition lines, leading to higher costs. Although wind turbines produce very little pollution, some cities oppose them since they dominate skylines and generate noise. Wind turbines also threaten local wildlife like birds, which are sometimes killed by striking the arms of the turbine while flying.

Hydroelectric

Dams are what people most associate when it comes to hydroelectric power. Water flows through the dam’s turbines to produce electricity, known as pumped-storage hydropower. Run-of-river hydropower uses a channel to funnel water through rather than powering it through a dam.

Benefits

Hydroelectric power is very versatile and can be generated using both large scale projects, like the Hoover Dam, and small scale projects like underwater turbines and lower dams on small rivers and streams. Hydroelectric power does not generate pollution, and therefore is a much more environmentally-friendly energy option for our environment.

Current Limitations

Most U.S. hydroelectricity facilities use more energy than they are able to produce for consumption. The storage systems may need to use fossil fuel to pump water.[3]  Although hydroelectric power does not pollute the air, it disrupts waterways and negatively affects the animals that live in them, changing water levels, currents, and migration paths for many fish and other freshwater ecosystems.

Geothermal

Geothermal heat is heat that is trapped beneath the earth’s crust from the formation of the Earth 4.5 billion years ago and from radioactive decay. Sometimes large amounts of this heat escapes naturally, but all at once, resulting in familiar occurrences, such as volcanic eruptions and geysers. This heat can be captured and used to produce geothermal energy by using steam that comes from the heated water pumping below the surface, which then rises to the top and can be used to operate a turbine.

Benefits

Geothermal energy is not as common as other types of renewable energy sources, but it has a significant potential for energy supply. Since it can be built underground, it leaves very little footprint on land. Geothermal energy is naturally replenished and therefore does not run a risk of depleting (on a human timescale).

Current Limitations

Cost plays a major factor when it comes to disadvantages of geothermal energy. Not only is it costly to build the infrastructure, but another major concern is its vulnerability to earthquakes in certain regions of the world.

Ocean

The ocean can produce two types of energy: thermal and mechanical. Ocean thermal energy relies on warm water surface temperatures to generate energy through a variety of different systems. Ocean mechanical energy uses the ebbs and flows of the tides to generate energy, which is created by the earth’s rotation and gravity from the moon.

Benefits

Unlike other forms of renewable energy, wave energy is predictable and it’s easy to estimate the amount of energy that will be produced. Instead of relying on varying factors, such as sun and wind, wave energy is much more consistent. This type of renewable energy is also abundant, the most populated cities tend to be near oceans and harbors, making it easier to harness this energy for the local population. The potential of wave energy is an astounding as yet untapped energy resource with an estimated ability to produce 2640 TWh/yr. Just 1 TWh/yr of energy can power around 93,850 average U.S. homes with power annually, or about twice than the number of homes that currently exist in the U.S. at present.[4]

Current Limitations

Those who live near the ocean definitely benefit from wave energy, but those who live in landlocked states won’t have ready access to this energy. Another disadvantage to ocean energy is that it can disturb the ocean’s many delicate ecosystems. Although it is a very clean source of energy, large machinery needs to be built nearby to help capture this form energy, which can cause disruptions to the ocean floor and the sea life that habitats it. Another factor to consider is weather, when rough weather occurs it changes the consistency of the waves, thus producing lower energy output when compared to normal waves without stormy weather.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen needs to be combined with other elements, such as oxygen to make water as it does not occur naturally as a gas on its own. When hydrogen is separated from another element it can be used for both fuel and electricity.

Benefits

Hydrogen can be used as a clean burning fuel, which leads to less pollution and a cleaner environment. It can also be used for fuel cells which are similar to batteries and can be used for powering an electric motor.

Current Limitations

Since hydrogen needs energy to be produced, it is inefficient when it comes to preventing pollution.

Biomass

Bioenergy is a renewable energy derived from biomass. Biomass is organic matter that comes from recently living plants and organisms. Using wood in your fireplace is an example of biomass that most people are familiar with.

There are various methods used to generate energy through the use of biomass. This can be done by burning biomass, or harnessing methane gas which is produced by the natural decomposition of organic materials in ponds or even landfills.

Benefits

The use of biomass in energy production creates carbon dioxide that is put into the air, but the regeneration of plants consumes the same amount of carbon dioxide, which is said to create a balanced atmosphere. Biomass can be used in a number of different ways in our daily lives, not only for personal use, but businesses as well. In 2017, energy from biomass made up about 5% of the total energy used in the U.S. This energy came from wood, biofuels like ethanol, and  energy generated from methane captured from landfills or by burning municipal waste. (5)

Current Limitations

Although new plants need carbon dioxide to grow, plants take time to grow. We also don’t yet have widespread technology that can use biomass in lieu of fossil fuels.

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Renewable Energy: What Can You Do?

As a consumer you have several opportunities to make an impact on improving the environment through the choice of a greener energy solution. If you’re a homeowner, you have the option of installing solar panels in your home. Solar panels not only reduce your energy costs, but help improve your standard of living with a safer, more eco-friendlier energy choice that doesn’t depend on resources that harm the environment. There are also alternatives for a greener way of life offered by your electric companies. Just Energy allows consumers to choose green energy options that help you reduce your footprint with energy offsets. Add JustGreen to your electricity or natural gas plan to lower your impact today!

By

Electricity, Energy Resources, Renewable Energy

Source: http://www.justenergy.com

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Sources:

  1. Energy.gov, Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy, Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy
  2. Energy.gov, Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy, Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy
  3. U.S. Energy Information Administration, What is U.S. Electricity Generation by Energy Source?, Retrieved From: https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3 
  4. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Ocean Wave Energy, Retrieved From: https://www.boem.gov/Ocean-Wave-Energy/
  5. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Biomass Explained, Retrieved From: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=biomass_home

 

 

How Will Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Power Our Future?

Pumped storage hydropower has proven to be an ideal solution to the growing list of challenges faced by grid operators.

As the transition to a clean energy future rapidly unfolds, this flexible technology will become even more important for a reliable, affordable and low carbon grid, write IHA analysts Nicholas Troja and Samuel Law.

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. That old adage, Murphy’s law, must seem appropriate for many power grid operators in 2020.

This year has tested the safe running and reliability of grids around the world like few others. Often termed ‘the biggest machine ever built,’ managing a power system, involving the coordination of complex and instantaneous interactions, is a formidable task at the best of times.

With the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on top of extreme weather events, greater penetrations of variable renewables and increasingly aged thermal assets, the task has only become more demanding in many markets.

These challenges have brought into sharp focus the growing need for energy storage, such as that offered by pumped storage hydropower.

Recent events highlight the need for pumped storage

Covid-19 continues to have an extraordinary impact on electricity markets. During the height of worldwide lockdowns, with large sections of the economy shutdown or greatly impaired, electricity demand declined by up to 30 per cent in some countries across Europe and in India.

As Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) stated, the demand drop “fast forwarded some power systems 10 years into the future” regarding integrating higher percentages of variable renewable energy (VRE) which receive priority dispatch to the grid. Managing periods of such low demand can create “significant operational risks” for grid operators. In some markets, this has led to curtailing, or shutting down, wind and solar facilities to stabilise the grid.

During such periods, pumped storage hydropower, with its ability to both store and generate large quantities of energy over long periods, was the first port of call for those grid operators lucky enough to have such stations on hand. In Britain, its four pumped storage stations were hailed by the Financial Times newspaper as the “first line of defence in the battle to keep Britain’s lights on”. Able to increase system demand by pumping water back up to their upper reservoir, pumped storage is a more cost-effective way of managing the grid than paying operators to curtail variable supply.

In August, the U.S. state of California experienced rolling blackouts for the first time since 2001 due to a combination of record heatwaves driving up demand, faltering gas-fired stations and a lack of dispatchable generation. As Stephen Berberich, President of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) said, “we thought there would be adequate power to supply the demand…we were wrong” and the costs to the Californian economy will be significant.

These managed blackouts provide yet another wake-up call for policymakers on the need to appropriately plan for a zero-emissions future. With limited balancing resources such as pumped storage, California’s grid did not have the flexibility to shift sufficient generating capacity to the evenings when the sun had set yet the demand remained high.

Given California’s aim of reaching 100 per cent clean electricity by 2045, mainly from wind and solar power which currently accounts for 20 per cent of generation, significant investment in flexible, low carbon balancing resources will be required.

In response, California is betting big on batteries for short-duration storage, from sub-seconds to up to four hours, to manage intraday variations in net load. However, with those high levels of VRE on the grid, long-duration storage, which can discharge for 10 hours or more at rated power, will be needed to accommodate the seasonal patterns of VREs. It will do so by shifting generation over days, weeks and months of supply and demand imbalance. This is a story that rings true for many countries across the world with ambitious climate targets.

Achieving California’s clean energy target is made even harder by the government’s decision to classify conventional hydropower stations greater than 30 MW as a non-renewable resource under its Renewables Portfolio Standard. This arbitrary classification is at odds with international consensus and penalises the state’s oldest source of affordable, flexible and low-carbon electricity.

Figure 1: Illustration of a closed-loop (off-river) pumped storage station and how it can be used support VRE.

Capabilities of pumped storage

With a total installed capacity of nearly 160 GW, pumped storage currently accounts for over 94 per cent of both storage capacity and stored energy in grid scale applications globally. This has earned pumped storage its name as the world’s “water battery”. It is a mature and reliable technology capable of storing energy for daily or weekly cycles and up to months, as well as seasonal applications, depending on project scale and configurations.

Pumped storage operates by storing electricity in the form of gravitational potential energy through pumping water from a lower to an upper reservoir (see figure 1). The result of this simple solution is a very high round-trip efficiency of 80 per cent, which compares favourably to other storage technologies.

Pumped storage tends to have high energy-to-power ratios and is well suited to provide long discharge durations at very low energy storage costs. Across different timescales, pumped storage can serve multiple functions (see figure 2). For example, at shorter discharge durations, it is suitable for ancillary services such as frequency balancing and back-up reserve.

With four to eight hours of discharge, it can provide daily shifting for day-night energy arbitrage. For longer durations over 10 hours, it can accommodate multi-day supply profile changes, reduce energy curtailment, replace peak generation capacity and provide transmission benefits.

Figure 2: The plot above visualises (logarithmic scale used) the estimated discharge durations relative to installed capacity and energy storage capacity for some 250 pumped storage stations currently in operation, based on information from IHA’s Pumped Storage Tracking Tool. The vast majority of pumped storage stations have a discharge duration longer than 6 hours, and some are capable of seasonal storage.

The majority of today’s pumped storage stations were built some forty years ago. Yet, they are still providing vital services to our power systems today. With occasional refurbishment, these long-term assets can last for many decades to come.

Despite being a mature technology, the resurgence of interest in pumped storage has brought forth numerous new R&D initiatives. One prominent example is the European Commission’s four-year XFLEX HYDRO project, which aims to develop new technological solutions to enhance hydropower’s flexibility. Latest innovations, such as variable speed turbines and smart digital operating systems, will be tested on a range of pumped storage demonstration sites.

While often thought of as geographically constrained, recent studies have identified vast technical potential for pumped storage development worldwide. Research by the Australian National University highlighted over 600,000 potential sites for low-impact off-river pumped storage development, including locations in California. There is also growing interest in retrofitting pumped storage at disused mines, underground caverns, non-powered dams and reservoir hydropower stations.                              

Seeking a path toward a clean, affordable and secure transition

California is a pioneer in the energy transition. Though many opponents of wind and solar have unfortunately used the blackouts as an example of why their rapid roll-out is a threat to a secure, reliable grid. As noted earlier, the blackouts were not due to too much VRE capacity being on the grid, but a lack of integrated planning to support an evolving electricity mix with sufficient dispatchable generation and storage.

The IEA recently stated that, dispatchable pumped storage, along with conventional hydropower, is the often overlooked workhorse of flexibility. However, its development, like many energy storage technologies, is currently being hampered by the lack of appropriate regulatory frameworks and market signals to reward its contribution to the grid. Outside China, year-on-year installed capacity growth has been anaemic at just 1.5 per cent since 2014 (see figure 3).

Figure 3: Global pumped storage installed capacity by region. Note that 2019 recorded the lowest growth in pumped storage capacity for over a decade, with only 304 MW added. Source: IHA’s database.

Given the technology’s long lead times, investment decisions are needed urgently to ensure that pumped storage, in conjunction with other low-carbon flexibility options, are available to grid operators without needing to rely on carbon-intensive gas-fired generation as a backup. This is especially important as VRE penetration reaches increasingly high levels not yet experienced on a regular basis.

IHA is continuing to work across the hydropower sector and is seeking to learn lessons from other sectors to support the development and deployment of pumped storage. Together with national authorities and multilateral development banks, we are developing a new global initiative to shape and enhance the role of the technology in future power systems.

Further information

Join our Hydropower Pro online community or sign-up to our email newsletter via our website homepage for latest developments.

To learn more about IHA and our work on pumped storage, please visit: www.hydropower.org/pumped-storage

To contact the authors please email nicholas.troja@hydropower.org and samuel.law@hydropower.org

Nick Troja is a Senior Hydropower Sector Analyst. His work focuses on building and sharing knowledge on global hydropower, including identifying trends in project financing, policies and market dynamics.

Before joining IHA, Nick worked for the UK’s steel industry focusing on the EU Emissions Trading System and the impact of other EU level climate change and energy policies on the sector. Prior to this he worked for the UK’s department of energy and climate change, covering a wide range of policy areas and as an adviser to the shadow minister for emissions trading and climate change in Canberra. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international business and master’s degree in public policy.  

Samuel Law is Hydropower Sector Analyst. His work focuses on building and sharing knowledge on sustainable hydropower development, working on topics such as clean energy systems, green financing mechanisms and regional hydropower development.

Samuel holds a master’s degree in environmental technology from Imperial College London and has a technical background in environmental engineering. Prior to joining IHA, he completed an internship with the United Nations in Bangkok. At the UN, he conducted research on Sustainable Development Goals, integrated resource management and collaborative governance, as well as supported project implementation and organised international conferences. He also has experience as a business intelligence analyst in London, where he conducted research on market dynamics and investment trends across industries.

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Australian Renewable Energy Agency

Like the hydroelectric power stations that have powered Tasmania for a century, a new generation of pumped hydro plants will play an important role in Australia’s future energy mix. With the Australian Energy Market Operator forecasting that 15 GW of large-scale storage will be needed by the early 2040s, pumped hydro is expected to operate alongside large-scale batteries and other energy storage technologies. Learn more about pumped hydro here – https://arena.gov.au/blog/how-could-p

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Advances In Solar Power Exploration Into Technology

Solar power is in a constant state of innovation in 2019, with new advances in solar panel technology announced constantly. In the past year alone, there have been milestones in solar efficiency, solar energy storage, wearable solar tech, and solar design tech. Read on to get the complete update on all the breakthroughs you should know about in the world of new solar panel technology. The cost of solar is dropping across the nation. See prices in your area and get free solar quotes on the EnergySage Marketplace.

Solar technology: what’s new in 2019?

There are two main types of solar technology: photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP). Solar PV technology captures sunlight to generate electric power, and CSP harnesses the sun’s heat and uses it to generate thermal energy that powers heaters or turbines. With these two forms of solar energy comes a wide range of opportunities for technical innovation. Here are some of the latest emerging/further developing solar panel technologies for 2019:

Solar skin design

One major barrier for the solar industry is the fact that a high percentage of homeowners consider solar panels to be an unsightly home addition. Luckily, one new venture has a solution. Sistine Solar, a Boston-based design firm, is making major strides with the concept of aesthetic enhancement that allow solar panels to have a customized look. The MIT startup has created a “solar skin” product that makes it possible for solar panels to match the appearance of a roof without interfering with panel efficiency or production.

Solar powered roads

Last summer paved the way for tests of an exciting new PV technology – solar powered roads. The sidewalks along Route 66, America’s historic interstate highway, were chosen as the testing location for solar-powered pavement tech. These roadways are heralded for their ability to generate clean energy, but they also include LED bulbs that can light roads at night and have the thermal heating capacity to melt snow during winter weather. The next stop following sidewalk tests is to install these roadways on designated segments of Route 66.

Wearable solar

Though wearable solar devices are nothing new (solar-powered watches and other gadgets have been on the market for several years), the past few years saw an innovation in solar textiles: tiny solar panels can now be stitched into the fabric of clothing. The wearable solar products of the past, like solar-powered watches, have typically been made with hard plastic material. This new textile concept makes it possible for solar to expand into home products like window curtains and dynamic consumer clean tech like heated car seats. This emerging solar technology is credited to textile designer Marianne Fairbanks and chemist Trisha Andrew.

Solar batteries: innovation in solar storage

The concepts of off-grid solar and solar plus storage have gained popularity in U.S. markets, and solar manufacturers have taken notice. The industry-famous Tesla Powerwall, a rechargeable lithium-ion ion battery product launched in 2015, continues to lead the pack with regard to market share and brand recognition for solar batteries.  Tesla offers two storage products, the Powerwall 2.0 for residential use and the Powerpack for commercial use. Solar storage is still a fairly expensive product in 2019, but a surge in demand from solar shoppers is expected to bring significantly more efficient and affordable batteries to market in 2019.

Solar tracking mounts

As solar starts to reach mainstream status, more and more homeowners are considering solar – even those who have roofs that are less than ideal for panels. Because of this expansion, ground mounted solar is becoming a viable clean energy option, thanks in part to tracking mount technology. Trackers allow solar panels to maximize electricity production by following the sun as it moves across the sky. PV tracking systems tilt and shift the angle of a solar array as the day goes by to best match the location of the sun.

 Though this panel add-on has been available for some time, solar manufacturers are truly embracing the technology. GTM Research recently unveiled a recent report that shows a major upward trend in the popularity of tracking systems. GTM projects a 254 percent year-over-year increase for the PV tracking market this year. The report stated that by 2021, almost half of all ground mount arrays will include solar tracking capability.

Advances in solar panel efficiency

The past few years in the solar industry have been a race to the top in terms of solar cell efficiency, and recent times have been no different. A number of achievements by various panel manufacturers have brought us to higher and higher maximum efficiencies each year. The solar cell types used in mainstream markets could also see major improvements in cost per watt – a metric that compares relative affordability of solar panels. Thanks to Swiss and American researchers, Perovskite solar cells (as compared to the silicon cells that are used predominantly today) have seen some major breakthroughs in the past two years.

The result will be a solar panel that can generate 20+ percent efficiency while still being one of the lowest cost options on the market. Of course, the work doesn’t stop there, as MIT researchers reminded us in May when they announced new technology that could double the efficiency of solar cells overall. The MIT lab team revealed a new tech concept that captures and utilizes the waste heat that is usually emitted by solar panels. This typically released and non-harnessed thermal energy is a setback and opportunity for improvement for solar technology, which means this innovation could help the cost of solar to plummet even further.

Solar thermal fuel (STF)

There is little debate when it comes to solar power’s ultimate drawback as an energy source: storage. While the past decade has seen incredible growth of the PV industry, the path forward for solar involves an affordable storage solution that will make solar a truly sustainable energy source 24 hours a day. Though solar batteries (mentioned above) are a storage option, they are still not economically viable for the mainstream. Luckily, MIT Professor Jeffrey Grossman and his team of researchers have spent much of the past few years developing alternative storage solutions for solar, the best one appears to be solar thermal fuels (STFs).

The technology and process behind STFs is comparable to a typical battery. The STF can harness sunlight energy, store it as a charge and then release it when prompted. The issue with storing solar as heat, according to the team’s findings, is that heat will always dissipate over time, which is why it is crucial that solar storage tech can charge energy rather than capture heat. For Grossman’s team, the latest STF prototype is simply an improvement of a prior design that allowed solar power to be stored as a liquid substance. Recent years saw the invention of a solid state STF application that could be implemented in windows, windshields, car tops, and other surfaces exposed to sunlight.

Solar water purifiers

Stanford University researchers collaborated with the Department of Energy this year to develop a new solar device that can purify water when exposed to sunlight.  The minuscule tablet (roughly half the size of a postage stamp) is not the first solar device to filter water, but it has made major strides in efficiency compared to past inventions. Prior purifier designs needed to harness UV rays and required hours of sun exposure to fully purify water. By contrast, Stanford’s new product can access visible light and only requires a few minutes to produce reliable drinking water. As the technology behind solar purifiers continues to improve, expect these chiclet-sized devices to come to market with hikers and campers in mind as an ideal consumer audience.

What new solar technology means for homeowners

For those considering solar panels systems, this long list of solar panel technology innovations from recent years is nothing but good news. Efficiency upgrades, storage improvements and equipment capabilities all contribute to more efficient power output for solar panels and lower costs for systems. Many of the products mentioned in this article, such as tracking mounts and solar batteries, are available in the EnergySage Solar Marketplace – all you have to do is indicate your preference for particular equipment options when you register your property. To get an instant estimate for your home’s potential solar costs and savings, try our free Solar Calculator.

By: Luke Richardson

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Exploring Nanotechnology & The Future of Renewable Energy

Imagine a future where every home, office or building is painted with solar panels and its bricks operate as batteries thanks to nanotechnology. There’s a lot of promise, but what is nanotechnology? And is it more science fiction than fact?

When you hear the term nanotech, chances are some sci-fi book or movie pops into your head, where they used the term to explain away some technological wonder or advancement. “Don’t worry about that, it’s nanotech!” It’s become a deus ex machina for science fiction writers.

But what we’re starting to see is that nanotechnology is responsible for great advances in physics, biology, chemistry, engineering and material science. It’s responsible for the new age of modern technology that will help civilization reach for the stars and more.

Nanotechnology refers to our ability to study and engineer technologies at a nanoscale, which is the range from 1 to 100 nanometers. That begs the question, “how small is a nanometer?” Well, if I tell you “A nanometer is one billionth of a meter … or one millionth of a millimeter” I don’t think that really clears things up. I don’t know about you, but my brain breaks trying to think about that scale. So, let’s try to put it in perspective: a human hair is around 75,000 nanometers wide – and remember, the range for nanoscale is 1 to 100 nanometers. Still not doing it for you? Let’s flip it around. Imagine a marble measures 1 nanometer. In comparison to that, the Earth would measure about one meter in diameter.1 Let that sink in for a minute… a marble compared to the size of our entire planet … that’s 1 nanometer compared to 1 meter.

Given how mind-boggling these scales are, we definitely have to give credit to the father of nanotechnology, Physicist Richard Feynman. It all started with the American Physical Society meeting held at the California Institute of Technology on December 29, 1959. Feynman gave a talk titled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” where he speculated about being able to construct machines down to the molecular level — and the concept behind nanotechnology was born. It wasn’t until 1974 that the term “nanotechnology” was coined by Professor Norio Taniguchi, while he worked on ultraprecision machining.

As he put it: “nanotechnology mainly consists of the processing of separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or one molecule.” We had the concept, then the term, but it wasn’t until 1981 that this theory became a reality with the development of a scanning tunneling microscope that helped scientist actually see atoms individually. Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer developed the microscope at IBM Zurich Research Laboratories in Switzerland and were later awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1986. That major achievement was followed by the Atomic Force Microscope in 1985, which had the distinct advantage of imaging on almost all surfaces, including biological samples, glass, composites, and ceramics. This would prove to be a major turning point.

With the advent of nanotechnology, scientists were now able to manipulate individual atoms. And that takes us into the realm of quantum mechanics, which is the science behind how matter behaves in atomic and subatomic scale. Thankfully, that’s out of scope for this video since that breaks my brain even more, but basically materials at this scale tend to behave differently and exhibit distinctive chemical and physical properties. Scientists were keen to learn and exploit this attribute to craft materials at nanoscale.

Since 1981, we’ve come forward leaps and bounds in the field of Nanotech. There’s so much that I could cover, but in the interest of time, I’ve picked two categories of examples that are helping to make what seemed like science fiction into science fact for our future. But I’d love to hear in the comments if there are any topics or examples you’d like to see covered in a future video.

Solar

The first category is one that I talk about a lot: solar. Nanotechnology is leading the charge for solar energy. Most silicon based solar panels, which accounts for about 95% of commercial solar, utilize nanoscale processes for manufacturing. Some are multi-junction solar cells, which layer different solar technologies to broaden the wavelengths of light that are captured and converted into energy. This layer cake of solar cell technologies are measured in nanometers. Thinner than a width of a human hair. But it’s the next generation of solar cells that are being researched now that could takes things to a whole new level.

Solar-Collecting Paint is an exciting future possibility.

Imagine the paint on your house or a building acting as a solar panel? Or how about your car? Chemistry professor Richard L. Brutchey from University of Southern California and researcher David H. Webber successfully developed solar collecting paint by using solar-collecting nanocrystals. At only 4 nanometers in size, nanocrystals can float in a liquid solution. You could potentially fit 250 billion nanocrystals on the head of a pin, they’re THAT small. Brutchey and Webber were able to find an organic molecule that would keep the nanocrystals conductive without sticking to each other.

So why isn’t this available in the market yet? Well those nanocrystals were built with cadmium, which is a toxic metal. Researchers have been busy trying to find alternative materials and there are some really promising leads.

Quantum dot solar cells

Quantum dot solar cells are one area to look at. Quantum dots are semiconducting particles that behave differently due to their size and the effects of quantum mechanics, like I mentioned earlier. They have energy similarities to atoms, which is why they’re sometimes referred to as “artificial atoms.” In June 2020 researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory were able to create cadmium-free Quantum Dot solar cells. Their zinc-doped variant has a high defect tolerance and is toxic-element-free.

This year researchers at the University of Queensland were even able to break a new world efficiency record of 16.6% for a quantum dot solar cell made from a halide Perovskite. That’s a 25% improvement in relative efficiency compared to the last record holder from 2017, so there’s fast progress being made. But the big challenge is around commercialization of the breakthrough, so the university is working on a large scale printing process in addition to continuing to improve the efficiency.

Perovskite solar paint

In 2014, researchers at the University of Sheffield were able to develop a spray on solar cell using Perovskite which is a class of man-made compounds that share the same crystalline structure as the calcium titanium oxide mineral with the same name.2,3 It happens to be one of the most promising solar technologies in recent years because it has a broad absorption spectrum. It consists of a 300 nanometer thin film with a crystal structure that aids solar absorption and can operate efficiently during cloudy days as well. Scientific Director at Saule Technologies, Dr. Konrad Wojciechowski, says that this could be printed using an inkjet printer.4

Swedish firm Skanska tested it on a building in 2019 and is expected to start producing it in 2021 with the expected cost to be $58 per meter and an efficiency around 10%.

The reason why all of these examples are so exciting is that a paintable solar cell opens up the floodgates for where you can apply solar power. Painting the walls of a building, not just the roof, or as I mentioned earlier, your car. It should also help to reduce the costs of manufacturing solar technologies, which will make it more accessible. It’s potentially a huge win/win.

Energy Storage

The second category I wanted to look at for this video is nanotechnology being applied to energy storage. In a previous video I’ve walked through graphene and carbon nanotubes and how they’re impacting energy storage today. Specifically, in my supercapacitor video I talked about how companies like NAWA Technologies and Skeleton are building out graphene-based supercapacitors today. Skeleton’s products can be found helping to power major tram-systems in big European hubs like Warsaw and Mannheim.5

As a quick refresher, batteries and supercapacitors share some similarities in how they work. In a battery there’s a positive and negative side, which are called the cathode and anode. Those two sides are submerged in a liquid electrolyte and are separated by a micro perforated separator, which only allows ions to pass through. When the battery charges and discharges, the ions flow back and forth between the cathode and anode. But capacitors are different, they don’t rely on chemical play in order to function. Instead, they store potential energy electrostatically. Capacitors use a dielectric, or insulator, between their plates to separate the collection of positive and negative charges building on each plate. It’s this separation that allows the device to store energy and quickly release it6. It’s basically capturing static electricity.

In one recent advancement in batteries from July 2020, scientists from Clemson Nanomaterials Institute were able to achieve high rate capability, fast diffusion, high capacity, and a long cycle life thanks to sandwiching silicone nanoparticles with carbon nanotubes called bucky papers.7 The cycle life for lithium batteries with silicon based anodes is less than 100, but thanks to the new sandwiched silicon electrode structure they were able achieve 500 cycles and deliver three times more capacity than graphite. Silicone happens to have ten times higher capacity than graphite, but it expands by about 300 percent in volume as it absorbs ions. The end result is an anode that breaks apart. This nanostructure counters this factor and would help us replace graphite with silicone, so that our batteries can become safer and lighter.

But I’ve saved the craziest research I’ve seen in a while for last… Nanotechnology could potentially turn bricks into batteries. …well, more like supercapacitors, but that doesn’t have the same alliteration. Washington University’s Institute of Materials Science & Engineering took work from their microsupercapacitor research using Fe2O3 (iron oxide – or rust) as a conducting polymer, also known as rust-assisted vapor-phase polymerization. Rolls right off the tongue. I’m not going to get bogged down into the technical details, partially because of my broken brain, but what sets this process apart is that the nanostructures formed by this process are self-assembled. Other processes like this might take several steps and treatments, which makes this process unique.

So I can hear you asking how does this possibility relate to bricks? That red pigment in your classic brick is … you probably guessed it … Fe2O3 (iron oxide – or rust). By applying their polymer process to a standard red brick, you end up with a capacitor.8 Julio D’Arcy, assistant professor of chemistry, who worked on this research, described it:

“In this work, we have developed a coating of the conducting polymer PEDOT, which is comprised of nanofibers that penetrate the inner porous network of a brick; a polymer coating remains trapped in a brick and serves as an ion sponge that stores and conducts electricity.” -Julio D’Arcy, Assistant Professor9

This process leaves a blue PEDOT coating on one side of the brick, so that could be easily hidden on one side of the brick wall. They estimate that it would take about 50 bricks to power an emergency lighting system for 5 hours, so this clearly isn’t going to power your entire house. But then again, a building is made up of thousands of bricks, so there’s a potential for a building’s brick walls to act as a massive supercapacitor to absorb solar panel overproduction, or to cover peak energy use to smooth out demand, and pair with battery storage in a hybrid setup.

We’re already seeing some of nanotechnologies benefits in the world around us today, but the research and advancements we’re seeing in the lab, like these, are what to look forward to for the future. Nanotech may have been an overused and blanket term that’s lost a little bit of it’s meaning to most of us, but there’s real progress being made.


  1. Nano.gov, “Size of the Nanoscale” ↩︎
  2. Energysage, “Perovskite solar cells: the future of solar?” ↩︎
  3. Wikipedia, “Perovskite solar cell” ↩︎
  4. Energy & Environmental Science, “Towards the commercialization of colloidal quantum dot solar cells: perspectives on device structures and manufacturing” ↩︎
  5. Railway Technology, “Skeleton Technologies to provide ultracapacitor for Warsaw tram system” ↩︎
  6. Green Techee, “How does an ultracap work?” ↩︎
  7. New Atlas, “Silicon ‘sandwiches’ make for lightweight, high-capacity batteries” ↩︎
  8. Nature Communications, 11, “Energy storing bricks for stationary PEDOT supercapacitors” ↩︎
  9. Washington University in St. Louis – The Source, “Storing energy in red bricks” ↩︎

By: https://undecidedmf.com

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Undecided with Matt Ferrell

Exploring Nanotechnology and the Future of Renewable Energy. Imagine a future where every home, office or building is painted with solar panels and its bricks operate as batteries thanks to nanotechnology. There’s a lot of promise, but what is nanotechnology? And is it more science fiction than fact? ▻ Watch Exploring solar panel efficiency breakthroughs – https://youtu.be/2uIOeHCOr-0 ▻ Vice Versa with Matt & Ricky – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbaG… ▻ Follow-up podcast episode: coming soon – http://bit.ly/stilltbdfm ▻ Full script and citations: https://undecidedmf.com/episodes/2020… ——————– ▶ ▶ ▶ ADDITIONAL INFO ◀ ◀ ◀ ▻ Support us on Patreon! https://www.patreon.com/mattferrell ▻ Check out my podcast – Still To Be Determined: http://bit.ly/stilltbdfm ▻ Tesla and smart home gear I really like: https://kit.co/undecidedmf ▻ Undecided Amazon store front: http://bit.ly/UndecidedAmazon ▻ Fun, nerdy t-shirts All shirts sold help to support the channel http://bit.ly/UndecidedShirts ▻ Great Tesla Accessories From Abstract Ocean – 15% Discount – Code: “Undecided” http://bit.ly/UndecidedAO ▻ Jeda Wireless phone charger: http://bit.ly/UndecidedJeda ▻ Get 1,000 miles of free supercharging with a new Tesla or a discount on Tesla Solar/Powerwalls: https://ts.la/matthew84515 PLEASE NOTE: For the Abstract Ocean discount you may have to click on the “cart” button, then “view bag” to enter the coupon code manually. Be sure to enter “undecided” there if you don’t see the discount automatically applied. All Amazon links are part of their affiliate program. Thanks so much for your support! ——————– ▶ ▶ ▶ GET IN TOUCH ◀ ◀ ◀ ▻ Twitter https://twitter.com/mattferrell ▻ Instagram https://www.instagram.com/mattferrell/ ▻ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/undecidedMF/ ▻ Website https://undecidedmf.com ——————– ▻ Audio file(s) provided by Epidemic Sound http://bit.ly/UndecidedEpidemic#nanotechnology#renewableenergy#solarpanels#exploring#undecidedwithmattferrell

5 Factors That Will Enable A Hydrogen Society

In 1792, William Murdoch, an engineer with the company Boulton & Watt, switched on the lights in his home in Cornwall, in southwest England, and made history. He was the first person to use piped ‘coal gas’ for residential lighting. The fuel, also known as ‘town gas,’ consisted of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. 

More than 200 years later, the world is coming full circle: Countries around the globe are putting their legislative weight behind hydrogen as a carbon-free alternative to fossil-fueled energy generation. By mid-2019, more than 50 programs supporting a transition to hydrogen were underway worldwide.

But despite the growing alignment on hydrogen, the speed of this shift will depend on scaling the carbon-free production of hydrogen and making it easily accessible.

The U.S. and European Union (EU) have recently both announced plans that will help build the infrastructure necessary to get countries hydrogen-ready. Alongside this, international partnerships are forming to advance the production of hydrogen.

What else will it take to realize a hydrogen society? Five key developments.

1.     Advanced ‘

A large share of hydrogen is still being produced from fossil fuels. Less than 0.1 percent of global volumes is generated through electrolysis of water. But it’s the only way of making green hydrogen – that is, carbon-free – because it can be powered by electricity from renewables such as wind and solar.

Renewable energy facilitates green hydrogen production.
Renewable energy facilitates green hydrogen production. Shutterstock

Still in its infancy, electrolysis cannot currently produce enough hydrogen at an affordable cost.

Even in the U.K., one of the frontrunners in the hydrogen race, electrolysis projects such as Gigastack and Dolphyn are still at early development stages.

To build a market, power-to-hydrogen facilities need to proliferate, production methods have to mature and costs need to come down.

A move in the right direction is Germany and Morocco’s recent announcement that they will jointly build a 100 MW renewable energy plant that will power a green hydrogen manufacturing site in Morocco.

2.     Enough low-carbon ‘blue’ hydrogen to build demand

With the current global push for hydrogen, industry analyst IHS Markit predicts that green, renewable hydrogen could be cost-competitive by 2030.

It expects costs – which have already fallen by about half since 2015 – to reduce by a further 30 percent by the mid-2020s. This will be due to economies of scale, greater renewable energy volumes to be converted and the falling cost of renewables.

But to get there, legislators face a chicken-and-egg scenario.

To scale the production of green hydrogen, there needs to be sufficient demand for hydrogen in the first place. This means making enough hydrogen available to encourage the energy sector, transportation and industries like steel and cement to move away from fossil fuels.

Blue hydrogen will be critical to build and supply the market until green hydrogen comes of age.

The European Commission (EC) was criticized when it announced in July 2020 that its hydrogen strategy would see a role not only for renewable hydrogen but also for low-carbon blue hydrogen. The latter combines traditional, fossil-fuel production of hydrogen with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to avoid the resulting CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

The EC has highlighted that low-carbon production of blue hydrogen will be critical to build and supply the market until green hydrogen comes of age.

3.        Greater accessibility

As the slow progress of the electric vehicles market has shown, easy access to widely available matching infrastructure – i.e. charging stations – is critical to building demand. That’s why developing the underlying infrastructure for hydrogen will be fundamental to success.

Transport methods for hydrogen include compressed gas storage, which is only suitable for small to medium quantities, and liquefied hydrogen, which is more cost-effective as it allows for larger volumes to be carried. An alternative is converting hydrogen to ammonia, which is a denser gas and enables the shipping of large volumes. Mitsubishi Shipbuilding has already introduced a multi-gas carrier capable of holding both LPG and ammonia.

speeding train
Selling hydrogen at a viable price for heavy transportation must be prioritized. Shutterstock

Pipeline networks are another option. But as Hydrogen Europe reports, as of 2016, only 4,500km of hydrogen pipelines were in place globally, and primarily in the U.S. That said, plans for a European ‘hydrogen backbone’ announced in July 2020 could see a pan-European pipeline network emerge over the next few decades. The goal is for it to cover nearly 23,000km across 10 European countries by 2040.

And while the backbone is key, end-user infrastructure and cost must not be forgotten: building a well-dimensioned network of refueling stations, especially for passenger fuel-cell vehicles, and selling hydrogen at a viable delivered price for heavy transportation need to be prioritized over the next few years.

4.     More applications in heating 

Closing the loop from hydrogen’s original use in the home, the hydrogen transition will also need to tackle home heating. 

Half of the world’s energy consumption goes toward heating, which also contributes 40 percent of CO2 emissions as fossil fuels continue to dominate in this area. While industrial processes account for half the heat produced, another 46 percent is used to heat buildings and water, and a smaller share is used for cooking. 

woman adjusting thermometer
Residential heating can’t continue to rely on fossil fuels. Shutterstock

In Japan, a demonstration plan has been running since 2009 installing hydrogen fuel cells to provide heat and electricity for homes and businesses. The ENE-FARM program is expected to reach 300,000 installed units in 2020.

In Europe, heat and hot water account for 79 percent of household energy use, with the vast majority of European homes relying on natural gas boilers. That presents a significant opportunity for hydrogen as a carbon-free alternative that can use the existing gas grid.

The H21 project is currently testing if the U.K. gas network – converted from hydrogen-heavy ‘town gas’ in the 1970s – could carry hydrogen again.

Meanwhile, manufacturer Worcester Bosch has presented its first hydrogen gas boiler prototype. The prototype is ‘dual fuel,’ so it can run on both hydrogen and natural gas. The manufacturer expects that the familiarity of the concept and associated infrastructure will simplify the transition for consumers.  

5.     Common standards

Thinking back to the era of William Murdoch and those who followed him, standardization has played a significant role in growing the addressable market for gas, as well as for electricity and many other industries, over time. 

We can no longer rely solely on pioneers and inventors. We need collective action between industry and government to build the necessary infrastructure.

Analysts point to a lack of harmonization as a barrier to market entry and, with that, to the expansion of the hydrogen economy. Harmonization and international cooperation, therefore, need to be top of the political agenda.

In its hydrogen strategy, as well as advocating an international harmonization of standards, the European Commission has made a point of highlighting the importance of integrating the EU’s entire energy system, overcoming national and sectoral silos.  

Globally, initiatives such as the Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meetings provide an important platform to align and promote hydrogen internationally.

These initiatives show that we can no longer rely solely on pioneers and inventors like Murdoch. We need to bring together industry leaders, civil society, governments and regulators to build the infrastructure necessary for a global shift to hydrogen − and lower carbon emissions. 

About the author

Andrea Willige has spent many years creating content for the international business and technology press, working on behalf of some of the world’s largest technology companies.

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Top Oil Companies Invested $9 Billion In Clean Energy Deals Since 2016

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Oil companies, particularly those based in Europe, are among the most active investors in clean energy and technologies.  Six of the top companies have invested about $9 billion in the industry since 2016, according to estimates from the research firm Wood Mackenzie.

For some, including BP, Shell, and Total, the investments are part of a broader strategy to be net-zero emissions companies by 2050. Here’s how much the oil majors have each spent on clean energy since 2016.

For more stories like this, sign up here for our weekly energy newsletter, Power Line.

Big Oil is trying to rebrand itself as Big Energy. And now, many of its constituents can point to more evidence that what they offer does, in fact, extend beyond oil and gas.

On Tuesday, BP revealed a new strategy for how it plans to become a net-zero emissions company by 2050, which included near-term targets. The company is planning to shrink oil and gas production by 40% over the next decade while increasing spending on low-carbon energy.

“We’re pivoting from being an international oil company to an integrated energy company,” Bernard Looney, the company’s chief executive, said Tuesday.

Other European majors including Shell and Total have set similar net-zero emissions goals, though they’ve yet to provide many details. US majors Exxon and Chevron, under less pressure from investors and local policies, have laid out less-ambitious plans to limit emissions.

One measure of a company’s commitment to a cleaner future is investment in clean energy. Here’s how the top companies stack up, according to data from the research firm Wood Mackenzie (Wood Mac).

Related: How to start a real estate business by investing of only 500$

Oil majors invested about $9 billion in clean energy deals since 2016

Wood Mac tracks M&A and VC deals in clean energy for the seven so-called oil majors — Shell, Total, BP, Chevron, Exxon, Eni, and Equinor.

Since 2016, the majors spent just over $9 billion on clean energy, Wood Mac said, not including internal R&D. Exxon was not included in the data provided to Business Insider because it has done little M&A in clean energy, Wood Mac said.

That is not a lot of money. Last year alone, Shell had a capital expenditure budget about three times that, while the budgets of BP, Chevron, and Total were about twice as large.

Total and Shell, which are way out in front, have inked big clean-energy deals in the last four years. In 2019, for example, Shell acquired the energy-storage giant Sonnen through its new energies division.

“Shell is really at the forefront of the transition together with Total,” Valentina Kretzschmar, an analyst at Wood Mac, said. “They have invested across the electricity value chain, and they are really focusing on the power sector and the electricity side of the business.”

While falling near the bottom, US giant Chevron is among the most active investors in carbon capture technologies. Based in San Ramon, California, the firm says………

Read more: Business Insider

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How This Billionaire-Backed Crypto Startup Gets Paid To Not Mine Bitcoin

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It’s everyone’s dream to get paid to do nothing. Bitcoin miner Layer1 is turning that dream into reality — having figured out how to make money even when its machines are turned off. 

Layer1 is a cryptocurrency startup backed by the likes of billionaire Peter Thiel. In recent months, out in the hardscrabble land of west Texas, the company has been busy erecting steel boxes (think shipping containers) stuffed chockablock with high-end processors submerged inside cooling baths of mineral oil. Why west Texas? Because thanks to a glut of natural gas and a forest of wind turbines, power there is among the cheapest in the world — which is what you need for crypto.

“Mining Bitcoin is about converting electricity into money,” says Alex Liegl, CEO and co-founder. By this fall Layer1 will have dozens of these boxes churning around the clock to transform 100 megawatts into a stream of Bitcoin. Liegl says their average cost of production is about $1,000 per coin — equating to a 90% profit margin at current BTC price of $9,100.

So it’s odd how excited Liegl is about the prospect of having to shut down his Bitcoin miners this summer.

Already this year west Texas has seen a string of 100-degree days. But the real heat and humidity don’t hit until August, which is when the Texas power grid strains under the load of every air conditioning unit in the state going full blast. During an intense week in 2019, wholesale electricity prices in the grid region managed by the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) soared from about $120 per megawatthour to peak out at $9,000 per mwh. It was only the third time in history that Texas power hit that level. And although the peak pricing only lasted an hour or so, that’s enough to generate big profits. Analyst Hugh Wynne at research outfit SSR figures that Texas power generators make about 15% of annual revenues during the peak 1% of hours (whereas in more temperate California grid generators only get 3% of revs from the top 1%).

Turns out that running a phalanx of Bitcoin miners is a great way to arbitrage those peaks. Layer1 has entered into so-called “demand response” contracts whereby at a minute’s notice they will shut down all their machines and instead allow their 100 mw load to flow onto the grid. “We act as an insurance underwriter for the energy grid,” says Liegl, 27. “If there is an insufficiency of supply we can shut down.” The best part, they get paid whether a grid emergeny occurs or not. Just for their willingness to shut in Bitcoin production, Layer1 collects an annual premium equating to $19 per megawatthour of their expected power demand — or about $17 million. Given Layer1’s roughly $25 per mwh long-term contracted costs, this gets their all-in power price down 75% to less than 1 cent per kwh (just 10% of what residential customers pay).

It may seem like grid operators are paying Layer1 a lot for something that might not even happen, especially with coronavirus reducing electricity demand, but it makes total sense, says Ed Hirs, a lecturer in energy economics at the University of Houston and research fellow at consultancy BDO: “It’s a lot cheaper option than building a whole new power plant or battery system just to keep it on standby.”

And although this may be a new concept for cryptocurrency miners, it’s been done before. Two decades ago industrialist Charles Hurwitz bought up power-hogging aluminum smelters in the Pacific Northwest and made more money reselling electricity than making metal. “It used to be called load management,” says Dan Delurey, a consultant with Wedgemere Group. “In old commercial buildings you might still find telephone wires connected to air conditioning systems so that grid operators could send a signal to shut off.” More recently we’ve seen companies install radio-based devices to control hot water heaters and lighting systems. Indeed, grid management is a hot enough area that in 2017 Italy’s power giant Enel bought Boston-based Enernoc for $250 million and Itron ITRI bought Comverge for $100 million. What’s emerged are entities, like Layer1, that Delurey calls the “prosumer” — producing consumer.

As for Layer1, Liegl says his next step is to vertically integrate into financial products, including Bitcoin derivatives and more. “We are building an in-house energy trading division to leverage this into being a virtual power plant.”

His message to any pikers still trying to mine cryptocurrencies from their bedroom PC or even via cloud services: “I can’t think of something more irrational at this point. It’s like if I wanted to dig a hole in my backyard and try to get oil out of the ground.”

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Tracking energy innovators from Houston, Texas. Forbes reporter since 1999.

 

Source: https://www.forbes.com

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