Renewables

Floating solar power: new frontier for green-leaning water utilities

18 Aug 2017   Solar

Lakes and ponds used by water utilities have long been viewed with a single purpose: holding water. Now a handful of pioneering water utilities are looking at their aquatic real estate with a new purpose in mind: solar energy generation. Large-scale floating solar projects have been installed in Japan and China, as well as on ponds at California wineries. But solar energy has remained primarily a terrestrial endeavor because, in most cases, it is simpler and cheaper to mount photovoltaic (solar) panels on land. That is beginning to change. The floats and other mounting components unique […]

EPA erred in denying renewable fuel hardship exemption: courts

16 Aug 2017   Biofuels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency used too strict of a test when it wrongfully denied Sinclair Oil’s request for an exemption from the country’s biofuel regulations, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Tuesday. The ruling could potentially broaden the rules governing such exemptions, forcing the EPA to grant more in future years under the controversial Renewable Fuel Standard program. The EPA denied Sinclair’s request for an exemption from a U.S. policy that requires refiners to blend biofuels like ethanol into their fuel pool or buy credits from those who do. The EPA ruled Sinclair did not qualify for an exemption under the policy’s hardship waiver for small refiners as the company’s two Wyoming plants were profitable and would not be forced to close if they participated in the program. But the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled on Tuesday the threat of […]

Shell’s strategic move into electricity

Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to sell electricity direct to industrial customers is an intelligent and creative one. The shift is strategic and demonstrates that oil and gas majors are capable of adapting to a new world as the transition to a lower carbon economy develops. For those already in the business of providing electricity it represents a dangerous competitive threat. For the other oil majors it poses a direct challenge on whether they are really thinking about the future sufficiently strategically. The move starts small with a business in the UK that will start trading early next year. Shell will supply the business operations as a first step and it will then expand. But Britain is not the limit — Shell recently announced its intention of making similar sales in the US. Historically, oil and gas companies have considered a move into electricity as a step too far, with the sector seen as oversupplied and highly politicised because of sensitivity to consumer price rises. I went through three reviews during my time in the industry, each of which concluded that the electricity business was best left to someone else. What has changed? I think there are three strands of logic behind the strategy. First, the state of the energy market. The price of gas in particular has fallen across the world over the last three years to the point where the International Energy Agency describes the current situation as a “glut”. Meanwhile, Shell has been developing an extensive range of gas assets, with more to come. In what has become a buyer’s market it is logical to get closer to the customer — establishing long-term deals that can soak up the supply.

Inside the Fall, and Rebirth, of a Bill Gates–Backed Battery Startup

11 Aug 2017   Energy Storage

Aquion Energy’s abrupt bankruptcy filing in March left industry observers wondering what went so wrong, so quickly at the promising grid-battery startup. But now that the company has emerged from Chapter 11, founder Jay Whitacre is finally free to discuss what happened behind the scenes, and what comes next. In an exclusive interview with MIT Technology Review , Whitacre said the rebooted Aquion is a very different company, and one better positioned to succeed in the brutal storage business (see “ Why Bad Things Happen to Clean-Energy Startups ”). In a bankruptcy auction last month, the company was acquired by “ a majority-American joint venture ” that is closely affiliated with China Titans Energy Technology Group, a publicly traded investment holding company focused on grid technology. The new parent company brings along financial heft, manufacturing expertise, and direct connections to big energy operations in China, addressing crucial challenges Aquion […]

Tech Guru Unveils New Battery To Challenge Lithium-Ion

The rise of electric vehicles and the quest to find solutions to energy storage for the renewables industry have created a breeding ground for tech experts to develop battery technologies. Last week, Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy and the company he currently backs, Ionic Materials, unveiled a solid-state alkaline battery design that they claim would be cheaper and safer than the lithium-ion battery. “What people didn’t really realize is that alkaline batteries could be made rechargeable,” Joy told Bloomberg in a phone interview last week. “I think people had given up,” Joy noted. The three main possible applications of the new alkaline battery technology would be consumer electronics, electric cars, and energy storage for the power grid, according to the developers. However, also according to Joy, the company just has the material, and the technology is not ready to go commercial right away. The rechargeable alkaline battery technology could […]

Energy Suppliers Find Fresh Lift From Offshore Wind

7 Aug 2017   Wind

For more than three decades, Gulf Island Fabrication Inc. has built foundations to anchor offshore-oil platforms to the ocean floor. Now, as lower oil prices take a bite out of that business, it is trying to turn that expertise into an edge in a new business: offshore wind. The Houston-based company—which recently built the foundations for the first U.S. offshore wind farm, near Rhode Island—is one of many oil-and-gas industry…

Construction of world’s second largest hydropower station begins

3 Aug 2017   China, Hydro

A ceremony is held at the construction site of Baihetan project, which is located downstream of the Jinsha River, the upper section of the Yangtze, in Ningnan county of southwest China’s Sichuan Province and Qiaojia county of neighboring Yunnan Province, on Aug. 3, 2017. Building work on what will be the world’s second largest hydropower station started Thursday. (Xinhua/Sun Ronggang) Aerial photo taken on July 27, 2017 shows the construction site of Baihetan project, which is located downstream of the Jinsha River, […]

The Race For Floating Wind Farms Has Begun

3 Aug 2017   Wind

For the last six years Statoil has been testing game-changing offshore wind technology. The result: a floating wind turbine has been pulled from Norway to Scotland where the world’s first floating wind farm will be installed. The £190m Hywind project will ultimately see five 6 MW floating turbines in depths of up to 120m in an area close to 4km close to Peterhead. Each tower is taller than Big Ben, at 175m and the blades themselves are almost the wingspan of an Airbus at 75m long. At the bottom of each turbine is a 78m deep tube which is filled with iron ore. Average wind speeds here reach 10m per second and it’s expected it’ll provide enough power for around 20,000 homes. Hywind is building on a demo project that was run off the island of Karmøy. The turbines are being dragged from this site by remote-controlled submarines. What’s […]

Army Research Lab discovers aluminum nanomaterial rapidly splits water on contact

3 Aug 2017   Renewables

Researchers at the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) have discovered that a nano-galvanic aluminum-based powder of their design splits water on contact, producing hydrogen and oxygen. Scientists have known for a long time that hydrogen can be produced by adding a catalyst—such as sodium or potassium hydroxide or an acid—to aluminum. However, these methods take time, elevated temperature, and added electricity. The ARL powder does not need a catalyst; it is also very fast. “ We have calculated that one kilogram of aluminum powder can produce 220 kW of energy in just three minutes. That’s a lot of power to run any electrical equipment. These rates are the fastest known without using catalysts such as an acid, base or elevated temperatures ,” said Dr. Anit Giri, a physicist with the lab’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate. That metric doubles if you consider the amount of heat energy produced by […]

Alphabet Sees Power in Molten Salt, a New Moonshot

2 Aug 2017   Renewables

Google parent Alphabet Inc. is pitching an idea to store power from renewable energy in tanks of molten salt and cold liquid, an example of the tech giant trying to marry its far-reaching ambitions with business demand. Alphabet’s research lab, dubbed X, said Monday that it has developed plans to store electricity generated from solar panels or wind turbines as thermal energy in hot salt and cold liquids, such as antifreeze. The lab…

Did Google Just Tackle The Biggest Problem In Energy?

2 Aug 2017   Renewables

Any news about energy storage advancement is bound to make a splash. After all, storage is the main stumbling block for renewable energy—data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance reveals that over the first six months of 2017, California lost more than 300,000 MW of solar and wind power because there was no storage capacity. China is losing about 17 percent of its renewable power because it can’t store all of it either. On top of that, Bloomberg notes, utilities are shunning renewable energy because of the intermittent nature of solar and wind power generation. Energy storage is essential for the viability of renewables, leaving pioneers in the industry desperately searching for the only path toward increasing the presence of renewables in the energy market: finding suitable storage solutions. And to that end, there has been a string of new projects in the energy storage department. Last month, Tesla said […]

Analysis: German wind, solar capacity hits 95 GW with 3.8 GW added in H1

2 Aug 2017   Germany, Wind

Germany’s wind and solar portfolio now stands at 95 GW after 3.8 GW of new capacity was brought online in the first six months of 2017, an S&P Global Platts analysis of the latest data shows. Onshore wind adds 2.3 GW, offshore up 0.6 GW to 52.7 GW total Solar adds 0.9 GW in H1 to 42 GW total Monthly additions average above 0.6 GW over past 24 months Onshore wind registered the biggest gains with almost 2.3 GW added as already approved projects were rushed to benefit from last-minute set feed-in-tariffs before the new auction rules are set to slow down growth from 2019 onwards, the BWE wind lobby group said in its half-yearly update. Video: EU carbon prices rally to four-month high By end-June, onshore wind capacity was 48.024 GW, it added with grid-connected offshore wind capacity at 4.749 GW, it said. Article continues below… Digital Commodities […]

Tesla Batteries May Back Up Wind Farm Off Massachusetts Coast

1 Aug 2017   Wind

Deepwater Wind LLC is proposing to pair Tesla Inc. batteries with massive offshore wind turbines as part of a bid to supply the state of Massachusetts with clean energy generated at sea.  The 144-megawatt development would stockpile electricity produced late at night, then deliver it when the grid needs it most, Deepwater Chief Executive Officer Jeff Grybowski said in an interview Monday.  Deepwater submitted its bid last week in response to a request from National Grid Plc, Unitil Corp. and Eversource Energy for about 9.45 million megawatt-hours of annual clean energy supply. The contracts — open to hydro-electric, solar and other forms of clean energy — require the majority of power to be delivered during late winter afternoons and evenings.  “Those hours are very valuable to the grid,” said Grybowski, who plans to use a 40-megawatt storage system. “The battery will ensure that we can do that.”  Massachusetts will award the contracts in December and is expected to make the bids public this week, Grybowski said. Deepwater, which built the first U.S. wind farm off Rhode Island, also plans to compete later this year for contracts limited exclusively to offshore wind developers to comply with a Massachusetts law to aggressively develop the nascent industry in the U.S.

U.S. wind power momentum up 40 percent from last year

29 Jul 2017   Wind

About half of the population in the state of Kansas could now be drawing energy from wind power as the U.S. sector gains momentum, an industry report showed. A quarterly report from the American Wind Energy Association found the sector is gaining traction. Compared with last year, there were 40 percent more wind energy projects under construction or advancing through the development stage during the second quarter. Nation-wide, more than two dozen wind projects, representing a combined 3,841 megawatts, started construction or advanced toward construction during the second quarter. With 178 MW of new wind power capacity coming online in the second quarter, Kansas became the […]

Trump May Have to Boost Biofuel After Court Deals Blow to Oil

29 Jul 2017   Biofuels

The Trump administration may have to reconsider its proposal from earlier this month to curb biofuel use after a U.S. appeals court in Washington ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have the authority to cut quotas while citing inadequate domestic supply. Issued Friday, the unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel comes amid conflicting legal challenges to actions taken by the EPA. Some factions claim the agency set renewable fuel requirements too high, while others said they’re too low. Shares of ethanol producers rose on the news while refinery stocks declined.  U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote that EPA isn’t allowed “to consider the volume of renewable fuel that is available to ultimate consumers or the demand-side constraints that affect the consumption of renewable fuel by consumers.”

Shale-rich Oklahoma to host mega-wind farm

28 Jul 2017   Wind

 Once operational, the Wind Catcher wind farm in Oklahoma will be the second largest in the world and largest in the United States, the companies involved said. The renewable energy division of General Electric and Invenergy, the largest independent renewable energy company in North America, announced construction is under way for the Wind Catcher wind farm in the Oklahoma panhandle. At its peak, the facility will generate about 2,000 megawatts of power from 800 wind turbines from GE. If all the regional regulators coordinate, and the necessary utility infrastructure is in place, Wind Cathcer could help meet the power demands of more than 1 million customers. “Wind Catcher shows American leadership in […]

Trump Is Reneging on His Promise to the Midwest, Biofuel Industry Says

27 Jul 2017   Biofuels

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump spent a lot of time currying the favor of the ethanol industry, barnstorming its rural Midwest base and repeatedly expressing his support for biofuels made from corn and soybeans. He was rewarded in November: Of the 184 counties with an ethanol plant in the U.S., 95 percent voted for Trump, according to data compiled by the Renewable Fuels Association . An error has occurred You have 1 free Businessweek article left. Register for more. Register or Sign In Already a subscriber? Link your Bloomberg Terminal account or your Businessweek subscription account to access all articles. As president, Trump has continued to pledge that he’ll protect the Renewable Fuel Standard, the 2005 law that requires U.S. oil refineries to blend increasing amounts of ethanol and biodiesel into the nation’s fuel supply. In its 12-year history, the RFS has gained critics on both sides of […]

Researchers Have Been Underestimating the Cost of Wind and Solar

26 Jul 2017   Solar, Wind

How should electricity from wind turbines and solar panels be evaluated? Should it be evaluated as if these devices are stand-alone devices? Or do these devices provide electricity that is of such low quality, because of its intermittency and other factors, that we should recognize the need for supporting services associated with actually putting the electricity on the grid? This question comes up in many types of evaluations, including Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI), Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), and Energy Payback Period (EPP). I recently gave a talk called The Problem of Properly Evaluating Intermittent Renewable Resources (PDF) at a BioPhysical Economics Conference in Montana. As many of you know, this is the group that is concerned about Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROI). As you might guess, my conclusion is that the current methodology is quite misleading. Wind and solar are not […]

Richard Heinberg: Controversy Explodes over Renewable Energy

22 Jul 2017   Renewables

A heated debate in the pages of one of the country’s most renowned scientific journals has gained national attention. The debate is over whether a combination of wind, solar, and hydroelectricity could fully power the U.S. But both sides of the debate are completely missing half of the equation. In a series of papers published over the last few years, Mark Jacobson of Stanford University (along with co-authors) has offered a series of transition plans for achieving a 100 percent wind-solar-hydro energy economy. These include comprehensive blueprints for the United States, for each individual state, and for the world as a whole. His message is clear: such a transition is not only possible, it’s affordable—cheaper, in fact, than maintaining the current fossil fueled system. There is no technical or economic barrier to an all-renewable future—only a political one, resulting from the enormous influence of fossil fuel companies on Congress […]

Saudi Arabia Launches Tender For Wind Plant

18 Jul 2017   Saudi Arabia, Wind

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Ministry has invited bids for a 400-MW wind power plant to be built in northwestern Saudi Arabia. According to the press release, the Dumat Al Jandal wind power plant will be the first utility-scale wind project in the Kingdom. The plant’s construction is part of a large-scale program to shift away from the Kingdom’s heavy reliance on oil and gas, stipulated in the Vision 2030 initiative. The shift from fossil fuels to renewables will cost some US$50 billion, to be distributed over the next decade. Plans are to have a tenth of the Kingdom’s power generated by renewable energy sources by 2023. This means 9.5 GW of installed capacity needs to be built by that year. Interested companies will have until August 10 to present their qualifications to the ministry. On August 29, the ministry will start the process for request for proposals, which will continue […]

More EU praise for progress on renewable energy

18 Jul 2017   Portugal, Renewables

Renewable energy gives Portugal, which imports all of its oil and gas, a way to gain a degree of independence over its economy, a European energy official said. Vice President for Energy Union Maros Sefcovic met Monday with Portuguese leaders to discuss clean energy and national energy plans. Largely isolated from European energy networks, the EU leader said renewable energy was helping Portugal gain economic leverage. “I congratulate Portugal for becoming one of the EU’s frontrunners in its usage of renewable energy,” he said in a statement . “This is also helping it to decrease its dependency on energy imports from abroad.” In April, German energy company E.ON said it made an investment commitment with Ampyx […]

Is Solar Reliable When Grids Are Stressed?

14 Jul 2017   Prices, Solar

If you want more solar BTUs for your buck, track the sun. This generally means the array is on the ground since very few homes are set up for rooftop tracking. Some commercial buildings are suitable, but once you get up in the air, even one story, the wind load becomes a factor, and engineering an array (and the building itself) to stand up to the wind will probably be a money loser. There is another way to get more output from the same amount of space and that is by concentrating the light. PV panels are ‘one-sun’ arrays: what you see is what you get. Concentrators (many suns) come in a few different shapes and sizes, and they can magnify what the sun has on offer by a factor of several thousand. It is not that difficult to build a dish (it looks like a big DirecTV saucer, […]

Algeria seen as African leader for renewable energy

11 Jul 2017   Algeria, Renewables

General Electric highlights Algeria’s renewable energy potential during low-carbon conference for African economies. File photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI July 10 (UPI) — Algeria is ahead of the curve when it comes to renewable energy potential in Africa and General Electric aims to ride that momentum, a regional manager said. GE sponsored a conference on renewable energy in the African sector, highlighting Algeria’s lead in wind and solar power developments. By 2030, the government aims to install about 22,000 megawatts of renewable power, which would be about eight times the level of natural gas consumption by today’s standards. Touffik Fredj, the regional chairman and CEO for GE, said that, for its size, Algeria has a great capacity for wind energy. “The country is heavily involved in energy transition and the integration of renewable energies,” he said in a statement . “We look forward to seeing this transition happen and thereby […]

Electric Alice

11 Jul 2017   Israel, Renewables

Eviation’s Orca surveillance drone at 2017 Paris Air Show Israeli startup Eviation plans to build an all-electric short-haul 9-pax airliner capable of flights up to 600 miles and have it flying by 2020. Interview with co-founder and CEO Omer Bar-Yohay A decade ago, talk of electric airplanes was more fantasy than fact. Sleek sailplanes might sport a small motor and battery for extend their time in the air, but beyond that, the concept just wasn’t practical at a commercial level. Then Solar Impulse circled the planet on solar-power alone. Industrial titans like Siemens and Airbus took serious interest in the idea. A handful of startups like Aero Electric Aircraft Corporation jumped into the electric trainer plane market. Most recently, a trio of firms have gotten funding to build pure electric and hybrid-electric commercial aircraft, including a three year-old startup in Israel called Eviation . What began as a drone […]

China wraps up combustible ice mining trial, setting world records

China on Sunday completed a 60-day trial of mining gas hydrates, commonly known as combustible ice, in the South China Sea, marking breakthroughs in human’s search for alternative clean energy sources. Started from May 10, the mining operation in waters near the Pearl River estuary has beaten previous expectations and set world records in both the length and total amount of extraction, according to the China Geological Survey Bureau. The trial exploration produced over 300,000 cubic meters of gas – mainly methane, with an average daily extraction of more than 5,000 cubic meters of high purity gas, and a highest daily output of 35,000 cubic meters, said the bureau. Meanwhile, 6.47 million sets of experimental data were recorded. China declared its first success in collecting samples of combustible ice in the South China Sea on May 18, which usually exists in seabed or tundra […]

In drastic move, China’s top hydropower plants slash capacity

10 Jul 2017   China, Hydro

The Three Gorges and Gezhouba, two of China’s top hydropower plants, have closed capacity by as much as two-thirds, state media said on Tuesday, as torrential rains across the south triggered drastic steps to ease pressure on the Yangtze River. Days of heavy rainfall have pushed water levels in more than 60 rivers in southern China above warning levels. Floods have damaged crops, forced hundreds of thousands from their homes and killed at least 33, while the north has wilted in a heat wave and drought-like conditions. The Three Gorges dam is the world’s biggest power station by far, with an installed generation capacity of 22,500 megawatts (MW), equivalent to about 20 coal-fired stations. The two power stations in Hubei province have stopped 26 generators, due to flood pressure in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, Asia’s longest river, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said, citing […]

Plans for U.S. Wind Farms Run Into Headwinds

10 Jul 2017   USA, Wind

After two decades spinning power from the gusts that sweep Europe’s North Sea, the offshore wind industry is finally turning to the U.S. A big hurdle: getting its giant turbines to American waters. No one in the U.S. currently makes turbine towers sizable enough for use in deep waters—one of the many challenges impeding the buildup of offshore wind on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The first offshore wind installation…

EPA Proposes Cut in Biofuel Requirements

7 Jul 2017   Biofuels

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a reduction in the amount of biofuels required to be added to gasoline, Reuters reports , in what could be a first step towards a wider reform of the authority’s biofuel rules. Currently, the Renewable Fuel Standard, which was introduced back in 2005, requires that gasoline in the U.S. must be blended with biofuels. The amount of biofuels was planned to gradually increase on an annual basis, to reach 36 billion gallons in output in 2022. As Reuters notes, however, the EPA’s proposal will actually lower the requirements for “renewable fuels” 2018. The EPA’s head Scott Pruitt announced the authority will be revising all future biofuel production and use targets, which naturally draw praise from the oil industry, but reining hellfire down from irate corn farmers as corn-based ethanol is the dominant biofuel of its type in the U.S. Environmentalists seem to have […]

Norway’s Largest Wind Farm To Power Google Data Centers

7 Jul 2017   Wind

A new wind farm in Norway will begin providing electricity to tech giant Google by early September, according to an announcement from holding company Alphabet on Wednesday. The 50-turbine Tellenes wind farm will produce 160 MW of power – making it the biggest facility of its kind in Norway, and Google’s largest in Europe. “We’ll purchase power as soon as the wind farm becomes fully operational, which we expect will take place in early September 2017,” a Google spokesman told Reuters . Last year, Google contractually agreed to buy 100 percent of Tellenes’ output to partially power its data centers in Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Ireland. Zephyr, the company constructing the wind farm, said the facility should be operational next week. From then until early September, the farm’s energy will go to the Nord Pool power exchange. “Google will not immediately get the supply. It has an exclusive […]

As Oil and Gas Faces a ‘Last Cycle,’ a Generational Divide Emerges Over Its Future

The oil and gas industry is facing its “last cycle,” according to consultancy Ernst & Young. What does that mean? It’s a “time when energy abundance, driven by technology, creates a permanent oversupply that not only keeps prices low but also allows consumers to make new choices about their energy usage.” In this new world, consumer perceptions are critical, writes E&Y in a new report . While most Americans still see fossil fuels playing an important role for decades to come, only about one in three trust the fossil industry — and the younger the generation, the higher the distrust of the industry. Those are some of the top-level findings laid out in the report, the first in a series to explore U.S. consumer attitudes toward the oil and gas industries. It’s based on polling of consumers of all ages, as well as oil and gas executives, starting in […]

This Supermajor Is Leading The Charge On Renewables

4 Jul 2017   France, Renewables

France-based Total S.A. is one of the elite seven “supermajor” oil companies in the world. When people talk about “Big Oil,” Total is exactly the kind of corporation they’re talking about. They have an aggressive vertical strategy, with businesses in every part of the fossil fuel world, from crude oil and natural gas exploration and production all the way down to the marketing of petroleum products. One would think that the company’s primary goal would be to do everything they can to continue the reign of oil in perpetuity, and yet, on Total’s website, the casual visitor can find this statement: “For Total, contributing to the development of renewable energies is as much a strategic choice as an industrial responsibility. We are doing our part to diversify the global energy mix by investing in renewables, with a strategic focus on solar energy and bioenergies.” Total is leading what looks […]

The Song of ‘Fire Ice’: China Claims Revolution in Energy Extraction

As China celebrates its success in extracting natural gas from ‘fire ice’, it’s still unclear whether Beijing has made a significant technological achievement and revolutionized the energy industry. Seeking Energy Security, China, Japan Race to Tap ‘Fire Ice’ Earlier China proudly announced that the country for the first time managed to successfully extract natural gas from methane hydrate deposits located in South China Sea near the delta of the Zhujiang river, and that the amount of extracted natural gas has exceeded all expectations.But while Beijing hailed this accomplishment as a historic breakthrough that ushers a new era in the energy industry, many prominent analysts around the globe regarded the celebration as premature. Igor Yushkov, lead analyst at the National Energy Security Fund, told Sputnik that China’s achievement can be compared to the new technologies developed in the US which made the shale gas extraction economically viable. “And here’s the […]

Is This Exxon’s Secret Weapon Against Electric Cars?

3 Jul 2017   Biofuels

This month, it was ExxonMobil’s turn to report a breakthrough in advanced biofuels. Exxon said that it had found a way to make algae ‘fatter’, and those algae could become part of the (distant) future energy mix, could cut carbon dioxide emissions, and would not compete with food crops like other biofuel sources. Exxon and Synthetic Genomics have been partners since 2009 in researching and developing oil from algae to be used as a renewable, lower-emission alternative to traditional transportation fuels. By using advanced cell engineering technologies at Synthetic Genomics, the joint research team has just modified an algae strain to enhance the algae’s oil content from 20 percent to more than 40 percent, Exxon said. But the U.S. oil supermajor was quick to note that, referring to the fatter-algae strain, “technology is still many years from potentially reaching the commercial market.” If at some point in the future […]

Can ‘Fire Ice’ Replace Shale?

29 Jun 2017   Methane Hydrates

Scientists, researchers, and engineers have known for decades that there is an energy resource trapped inside ice and found under Arctic permafrost or beneath the ocean floor. Once thought to be rare in nature, newer estimates are that methane hydrates —popularly known as flammable ice or fire ice—are abundant in offshore waters of both resource-rich countries like the U.S., and resource-starving big energy importers like Japan. The current state of methane hydrates development around the world is in studies, resource assessment, and production tests. “ The most recent estimates of gas hydrate abundance suggest that they contain perhaps more organic carbon that all the world’s oil, gas, and coal combined,” the U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) says . Despite the fact that estimates suggest that the content of methane is “immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels ,” according to the U.S. […]

Finally, a Biofuel to Get Excited About

24 Jun 2017   Biofuels

Most biofuels news is bad—our current national program incentivizes the production and consumption of corn-based ethanol that somehow manages to increase food prices, increase gas prices, hurt American refineries, and hurt the environment. It’s a boondoggle, plain and simple. But not all biofuels are terrible. You can distill ethanol from cellulosic crops, an option that’s both green and beneficial to farmers. Scientists have also been working hard to figure out how to use algae to create oil, and as the FT reports , a team from ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics just made an algal breakthrough: Scientists at Synthetic Genomics, the biotech company founded by genomics pioneer Craig Venter, used advanced genetic engineering to double the oil content of their algal strain from 20 to 40 per cent, without inhibiting its growth. The findings are published in Nature Biotechnology on Monday. […] Previous attempts to boost the oil concentration in […]

Trump’s ‘Solar Border Wall’ Claim Sends Stocks Soaring

23 Jun 2017   Prices, Solar

BBC . During the rally, he suggested that the idea to install solar panels on the hypothetical wall was originally his, though the green amenity had been included in several companies’ bids to plan and construct the wall. “ We’re thinking of something that’s unique, we’re talking about the southern border. Lots of sun, lots of heat,” Trump said. “ We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall, so it creates energy, and pays for itself. And this way Mexico will have to pay much less money…Pretty good imagination, right? Good? My idea.” The Mexican border wall had been a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign for president last year. The Department of Homeland Security invited construction companies to submit proposals for the wall’s design after the January inauguration. Two hundred companies have responded so far and 20 have been short-listed. Bloomberg reported that stocks of solar panel companies […]

Forget Coal, Solar will Soon be Cheaper than Natural Gas Power

22 Jun 2017   Solar

The staggering drop in the cost of clean energy has already upended the global power market over the past two decades — and that trend will only continue for the next two decades, according to new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). As a result, renewables will capture the lion’s share of the $10.2 trillion the world will invest in new power generation by 2040, BNEF projects in its annual New Energy Outlook 2017 report. CREDIT: BNEF New Energy Outlook 2017 Despite years of plummeting prices for renewables, BNEF projects that over the next two decades, the cost of solar power will still drop another two-thirds, onshore wind costs will be cut nearly in half, and offshore wind costs will drop a stunning 71 percent. Here’s how this will profoundly transform power markets in the years ahead: By 2028, solar will beat existing gas generation. Solar and wind […]

Trump Says ‘Solar Wall’ on Mexican Border Would Pay for Itself

22 Jun 2017   Solar

‘The higher it goes, the more valuable it is,’ president says U.S. ‘spending a lot’ on design and planning of wall, he says U.S. President Donald Trump said he’s proposed building a “solar wall” on the Mexican border that would pay for itself by generating electricity. “We’re thinking of something that’s unique, we’re talking about the southern border. Lots of sun, lots of heat,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall, so it creates energy, and pays for itself. And this way Mexico will have to pay much less money, and that’s good. Is that good?” Donald Trump says “we will build a solar wall” along Mexico border https://t.co/598isRMkuF pic.twitter.com/Fa63a65tBj — Bloomberg (@business) June 22, 2017 Trump ran for the presidency on an oft-repeated promise to construct a wall across the 1,933-mile (3,207 kilometer) Mexican border […]

Wind, solar energy have not harmed U.S. power grid: industry study

21 Jun 2017   Solar, Wind

With the Trump administration expected to publish an analysis that could undermine the U.S. wind and solar industries, two renewable energy lobbying groups on Tuesday released their own study saying new energy sources pose no threat to the country’s power grid. Wind and solar advocates have said the government study’s outcome appeared to be pre-determined to favor fossil fuel industries. The new report, commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association and Advanced Energy Economy, says cheap natural gas is behind most of the decline in the numbers of U.S. coal-fired power plants in recent years, not government subsidies that have bolstered the growth of wind and solar power. It also said there is no evidence to show that wind and solar energy are threatening the reliability of the electric grid. The groups commissioned the report shortly after […]

America’s hungriest wind and solar power users: big companies

21 Jun 2017   Solar, Wind

FILE PHOTO: A man views solar panels on a roof at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S., on June 18, 2007. REUTERS/Kimberly White/File Photo Major U.S. corporations such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and General Motors Co have become some of America’s biggest buyers of renewable energy, driving growth in an industry seen as key to helping the United States cut carbon emissions. Last year nearly 40 percent of U.S. wind contracts were signed by corporate power users, along with university and military customers. That’s up from just 5 percent in 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association trade group. These users also accounted for an unprecedented 10% of the market for large-scale solar projects in 2016, figures from research firm GTM Research show. Just two years earlier there were none. The big reason: lower energy bills. GRAPHIC – Big companies are powering the U.S. clean energy push: […]

Switching From Coal To Solar Could Save 50,000 Lives

20 Jun 2017   Coal, Solar

Replacing coal-fired power plants with solar power installations could save as many as 51,999 lives every year, a study from the Michigan Technological University has found. This is the number of people who will in all likelihood not die of things such as asthma and congestive heart failure resulting from harmful emissions from coal-fired plants. Coal currently accounts for 30 percent of the U.S. energy mix, according to the Energy Information Administration. In terms of consumption, however, coal only accounted for 15 percent, almost all of it going into power generation. The fossil fuel is quickly losing share to natural gas, but is still a solid contributor to CO2 and other pollutants emissions – solid enough, according to the study’s authors, Emily Prehoda and Joshua Pierce, to kill more than 50,000 people on an annual basis. Switching from fossil fuels to renewables is at the core of sustainability efforts. […]

ExxonMobil Announces Breakthrough In Renewable Energy

20 Jun 2017   Biofuels

Synthetic Genomics and ExxonMobil’s partnership bore fruit on Monday, said a press release that announced the development of a modified algae strain that could push algae-based energy closer to being a commercially viable alternative energy source. The only way forward for algae-based energy to become commercial is if a high content strain that grows quickly is discovered. SG’s advanced cell engineering technologies has now managed to enhance the algae’s oil content from 20 to 40 percent, according to an official report published in the peer-reviewed Nature Biotechnology journal. The latest discovery moves the green fuel source closer to that mass market utilization. “We remain convinced that synthetic biology holds crucial answers to unlocking the potential of algae as a renewable energy source ,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., Synthetic Genomics co-founder and chairman. “ We look forward to continued work with ExxonMobil so that eventually we will indeed have […]

Fattened, Genetically Engineered Algae Might Fuel the Future

20 Jun 2017   Biofuels

The future of fuel is green, slimy, and reeks of fish. “Fish smell like fish because fish eat algae,” says Imad Ajjawi, a geneticist at the synbio company Synthetic Genomics in La Jolla, CA that grows those smelly photosynthesizers. This algae is also fatty, which probably isn’t a word you’d typically associate with the goopy, mucky organism. But scientists like Ajjawi have spent decades dreaming about algae this fat. Because fat is essentially oil, fatty algae could be the world’s most successful fuel crop. Ajjawi and his colleagues spent nearly a decade tweaking an algae genome so it produces more than twice as much fat than wild versions of the same species, and Monday they described their efforts in an article published in Nature Biotechnology . Algae are similar to plants, in that they need nutrients, carbon dioxide, and sunlight to survive. If you starve them of nutrients—think nitrogen, […]

Solar Power Will Kill Coal Faster Than You Think

17 Jun 2017   Solar

Solar power, once so costly it only made economic sense in spaceships, is becoming cheap enough that it will push coal and even natural-gas plants out of business faster than previously forecast. That’s the conclusion of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlook for how fuel and electricity markets will evolve by 2040. The research group estimated solar already rivals the cost of new coal power plants in Germany and the U.S. and by 2021 will do so in quick-growing markets such as China and India. The scenario suggests green energy is taking root more quickly than most experts anticipate. It would mean that global carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels may decline after 2026, a contrast with the International Energy Agency’s central forecast, which sees emissions rising steadily for decades to come. “Costs of new energy technologies are falling in a way that it’s more a matter of when […]

Solar And Wind Revolution Happening Much Faster Than Expected

16 Jun 2017   Solar, Wind

The clean energy revolution is unfolding even faster than previously thought, which will have massive ramifications not just for the solar and wind industry, but also for the fading fortunes of old King Coal. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) published its “ New Energy Outlook ” (NEO), with renewable energy forecasts through 2040. BNEF says that the costs of wind and solar are falling rapidly, and the transition to cleaner energy will be more significant than expected. “ This year’s report suggests that the greening of the world’s electricity system is unstoppable, thanks to rapidly falling costs for solar and wind power, and a growing role for batteries, including those in electric vehicles, in balancing supply and demand, ” said Seb Henbest, BNEF’s lead author of the NEO 2017. Solar is already cost-competitive with coal and natural gas in parts of Europe and the U.S., and solar will become […]

U.S. solar power gaining momentum

9 Jun 2017   Solar

Solar power in the United States is gaining momentum that’s independent of partisan issues in Washington, the head of an industry trade group said. A report published Thursday by the Solar Energy Industries Association found first-quarter 2017 marked the sixth quarter in a row with more than 2 gigawatts of solar power installed. The price point, meanwhile, is becoming competitive, with utility-scale installations falling below $1 per watt for the first time. Abigail Ross Hopper, the trade group’s CEO and former director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told UPI the sector has established a sustainable trajectory that’s independent of the levers of power in Washington. “This quarter shows us […]

World’s energy system not on track to meet climate goals: IEA

6 Jun 2017   IEA, Renewables

Barely one tenth of renewable energy technology is ready to meet long-term climate change targets as governments have failed to adequately support large-scale deployment, a report by the International Energy Agency showed on Tuesday. Under a global climate pact, called the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 countries agreed last year to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century and to limit a global average rise in temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Energy technology innovation can help achieve a cleaner energy system but strong policy signals are needed, the report said. Only three out of 26 assessed technologies – electric vehicles, energy storage and mature variable renewables (solar PV and onshore wind) – are on track to meet climate targets, according to the IEA. “Transformation toward a clean energy system is not in line with stated international policy goals. Many technology areas suffer from a lack […]

Is New York The Next Energy Tech Hotspot?

30 May 2017   Renewables

New York is turning into a center of attraction for innovative energy technology companies thanks to its US$5-billion plan to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, a double increase on the current portion of renewable power. The change, writes Leslie Kaufman from Inside Climate News, requires a transformation of the New York grid, to incorporate more renewable power generation capacity and to diversify into more distributed energy storage systems. This, in its turn, needs new tech in order to happen. Energy storage is a hot topic across America. The race for ever more efficient and reliable systems is on, and there are billions of dollars at stake: if the future of energy is renewable, then the basis for this future will be precisely these storage systems, as they turn renewables from intermittent but unreliable sources of energy in the long run to a truly sustainable […]

Russia Seeking Bids For Colossal Green Energy Auction

30 May 2017   Renewables, Russia

Russia issued government tenders on Monday for contracts to build 1.9 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by utilizing foreign direct investment to create thousands of jobs for the country’s citizens, who are facing a multi-year recession. “Russia has had a long history of leadership in the energy sector and now has the opportunity to extend that leadership into renewable energy,” Adnan Amin, of the International Renewable Energy Agency, told Bloomberg. Developing green energy “can significantly contribute to the country’s economic objectives such as economic growth and employment,” he added. Strict local-content rules passed in 2012 and 2014 for parts used in renewable energy initiatives have stifled the sector’s growth in recent years. The proportion of Russian-made parts necessary for any wind turbine or solar panel plant to function in the country stands at 40 percent in 2017. In the coming years, that percentage will become more stringent. The new […]

Utility-scale solar has grown rapidly over the past five years

5 May 2017   Solar

Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory Republished May 4, 2017, 4:30 p.m. to clarify that utility-scale solar plants make up 2% of electricity generating capacity, not 2% of utility-scale electricity generation. Utility-scale solar installations—including both photovoltaic (PV) and thermal technologies—grew at an average rate of 72% per year between 2010 and 2016, faster than any other generating technologies. Utility-scale solar (plants with a capacity of at least one megawatt) now makes up about 2% of all utility-scale electric generating capacity and 0.9% of utility-scale generation. The first utility-scale solar plants were installed in the mid-1980s, but more than half of the currently operating utility-scale solar capacity came online in the past two years. As of December 2016, more than 21.5 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar generating capacity was in operation across the United States, with more than 7.6 GW of that capacity coming online in […]