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Sustainable Energy Infrastructure

Clean Energy Transition – GREEN Infrastructure


Updating Infrastructure for Developing Renewable Energy in Cities

People-centered smart cities are cropping up worldwide. They only account for 2% of the world’s landmass but are home to most of its population, energy use, and economic activity. 

Cities are adopting modern clean energy technologies to become smarter, and one crucial aspect is renewable energy. Renewables can empower smart cities and help them reach goals they set for themselves. Citizens and the city benefit (as well as the planet’s climate and environment) from using green energy, such as wind and solar, as well as from the multitude of recent sustainable technology innovations currently available.

It’s no secret that relying on fossil fuels is unsustainable — that’s why almost 200 of the world’s countries have joined the Paris Accord intending to limit global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). 

Here’s how infrastructure will play a crucial role in developing renewable energy in cities, and hopefully in securing the planet’s future –


U.S. Government Aid in the Shift to Renewable Energy

As cities become larger and smarter, the amount of energy they use increases. As a result, governments are stepping in to provide incentives and funding to municipalities looking to shift to renewable energy. Cities are making a shift to all forms of clean energy technology in multiple economic sectors – energy, buildings, transportation, water, etc… – all types of infrastructure.

For example, President Biden’s sustainable infrastructure and social spending plan – the Build Back Better (BBB) plan – originally included $174 billion in spending to focus on the electric vehicle (EV) market, yet another clean energy sector experiencing rapid growth. [The bill actually passed by Congress in 2021 contained a small portion of this funding – see below].

The BBB plan also originally included tax credits to consumers for purchases of EVs, investment in electric school buses, investment in EV charging infrastructure, investment to retool factories and boost the domestic supply of EVs, and more… Additionally, the original BBB plan proposed $100 billion to modernize the country’s electric grid and modernize energy infrastructure across the country.

If the U.S. signs even a scaled-down version of the BBB into law, it would be considered one of the largest federal efforts to curb GHGs. 

However, the BBB plan is ambitious and represents challenging legislation to advance. A small slice of the BBB (roughly 15-20% of the original BBB plan) passed through Congress and was signed by President Biden (in November 2021). This legislation – the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) does include funding for modern infrastructure needs. Although at a much lower funding level than the original BBB proposed, the IIJA invests $550 billion in new spending over five years to bolster the nation’s infrastructure, public mass transit, broadband, water, energy, environmental concerns, EV charging infrastructure, and electric & low-emission school buses.

The IIJA also includes investments in the modernization of U.S. energy grids, clean energy technologies, clean energy infrastructure, and hundreds of billions in additional investments in sustainability this decade. See this link for a full list of IIJA’s investment priorities in transportation infrastructure, water infrastructure, broadband, energy, and environmental concerns). 


Cities worldwide do have some government support in their transition to renewable energy in some cases. In fact, globally, more than 1 billion people live in areas with renewable energy targets or policies. However, there also needs to be more private investment to help build sustainable infrastructure. 


How Cities Can Assess Energy Demand

Cities must first address their current energy usage before implementing renewable power to improve their infrastructure. 

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has many online tools that local and state governments can leverage to better understand their energy consumption. For example, cities can access data that breaks down power usage by:

  • GHGs
  • Electricity and natural gas consumption/expenditures
  • Residential and commercial building stock
  • Fuel consumption, vehicle miles traveled, and registration by fuel type
  • Renewable energy procurement options

The data plays a significant role in helping cities determine their energy usage and shows what areas of consumption need to be reduced. This will lead to government agencies making more strategic decisions regarding renewable implementation. 

Once cities understand their energy usage and the benefits of renewables, they can then focus on planning implementation to make infrastructure more efficient, sustainable, and reliable. 


Updating Crucial Infrastructure Components

What are the crucial components of infrastructure that need to be updated to achieve higher levels of sustainability? Not all of the priority investments of the IIJA are in clean energy infrastructure – for example, large investments in the IIJA are dedicated to repairing roads and bridges (conventional infrastructure). However, the IIJA also invests $7.5 billion for EV charging infrastructure, $2.5 billion for electric school buses, and $2.5 billion for low-emission school buses.

Here is a brief list of just a few vital infrastructure items (some of which are investments in the IIJA law, some of which are in the original BBB plan, as well as a couple of novel ideas for sustainable investment) –

Electric Grid

In the next few years, cities will have to update the power grid to prepare for a net-zero future. Strengthening and modernizing the electric grid means cities will face fewer disruptions. Increasing resiliency has to be a top priority for cities across the country. 

Here are some of the ways the electric grid can improve over time and with proper funding:

  • Employing microgrids to strengthen resilience
  • Recording demand response from grid customers
  • Enacting smart metering
  • Updating grid hardware
  • Using grid energy storage devices

Water Systems

Water and power are intimately connected, but what role does water play in power generation? It generates energy because it’s used by thermoelectric power plants and refining and processing fossil fuels. Plants and refineries use large quantities of water to operate. For this reason, and for the benefit of public health, sustainable purification systems can help lessen these large water footprints.

Cities will have to invest in efficient water infrastructure to reach sustainability initiatives throughout all socioeconomic sectors, so that all of society benefits.

(Novel sustainable energy infrastructure ideas for -) Highways

State and local highway departments have many responsibilities, from plowing roads during snowstorms to taking on major repairs or replacement projects. A significant amount of electricity is needed to power them efficiently. Think about the roadway signs, lights, rest stops, and maintenance buildings. All these factors increase energy consumption. 

Some state departments of transportation (DOTs) have implemented solar in highway rights-of-way (ROW) to offset electricity costs and consumption. Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration has supported the move for state agencies to adopt renewable energy to power highways. Improving roadways will be crucial when developing renewable energy in cities.


Moving Toward a Sustainable Future

Cities must carefully plan the implementation of renewable energy sources to be more sustainable. The most important factor to consider is updating infrastructure. 

Cities, states, and federal government agencies must work together to update the various aspects of infrastructure that will make cities more sustainable. It will certainly be interesting to see how municipalities use their resources to transition to renewables to sustain current and future demands.



Article by Jane Marsh

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co



 

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Renewable Energy Jobs are UP, and RE cost is down

The Shining Future of the GREEN Economy


Employment in the clean energy sector features, first and foremost, jobs in energy efficiency (of the over 3 million U.S. clean energy jobs total). These include jobs in companies that feature EnergyStar products, as well as jobs in producing energy efficient technologies such as LED and CFL lighting and manufacturing electric vehicles (EVs). Jobs in smart grid, maintaining smart meters, clean energy storage, renewable energy, and in sustainable mass transit, are also included in the over 3 million clean energy jobs in the United States figure (cited below).

With regard to sustainable transportation, jobs in EV, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicle production, in addition to jobs in sustainable mass transit, and in biofuel production, are also included in the U.S. clean energy jobs figures below. Clean energy jobs are also jobs in solar, wind, and other jobs in renewable energy (RE) production, managing RE, and distribution of RE.

California, Washington, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Washington DC have all committed to the goal of 100% renewable energy (100RE). A few other states plan to follow suit, and 26 states have passed Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (which includes RE, nuclear, and potentially highly efficient fossil fuel production with carbon capture).


Renewable Energy JOBS are UP

The wind/ solar/ clean energy industries provide Americans with over 3 MILLION jobs. So, purely from a standpoint of looking at renewable energy vs. fossil fuels from how the United States’ economy is grown by focusing more on a certain type of energy; especially regarding employment opportunities, renewable energy is quite a bit better than fossil fuels.

For example, coal provides Americans with less than 80,000 jobs; but only about half that number of jobs in the United States are in actual coal mining, the rest of the jobs in U.S. coal are in associated jobs. Jobs in transporting the coal and maintaining the coal mines, or in maintaining coal-fired power plants, could be transitioned to clean energy jobs.


It should be emphasized that there are more jobs in renewable energy than fossil fuels, but renewable energy is also more cost-efficient than fossil fuels, even in the Midwest United States.


The following is a snippet from E2.org on the clean energy job market in the U.S.-

“At the start of 2020, clean energy employment increased for the fifth straight year since this annual report was first released—growing beyond 3.3 million workers nationwide.

While California remained the nation’s undisputed leader in clean energy jobs, states as diverse in size and structure as Texas and Massachusetts also are in the top ten for clean energy jobs. Florida, North Carolina and Georgia continued to lead the South, while Michigan, Illinois and Ohio led the Midwest. On a per capita basis of statewide total employment, the Northeast claimed the top five spots with Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Delaware employing the largest share of clean energy jobs per capita in the country.”  FROM –  e2.org/reports/clean-jobs-america


Quote on how clean energy jobs pay more on average than the median wage for other job sectors in the U.S.-

“Overall, median wages in clean energy are significantly higher than median wages in sectors such as retail, services, recreation and accommodations, especially when it comes to entry-level wages.”   FROM –  solarpowerworldonline.com/clean-energy-job-wages-higher-than-national-median-report-finds


Clean Energy JOBS

Clean energy jobs continue to provide the most job opportunity; even in the middle of the country; the Plains states, the Midwest, and the Southern states.

Overall, when you add the rest of the clean energy jobs to jobs directly in renewable energy, there are over 3 million jobs in clean energy in the United States. This figure includes energy efficiency-related jobs, clean energy storage jobs, and clean transportation jobs. Employment that is directly in renewable energy in the U.S. features jobs in solar and wind; although jobs in hydroelectricity, biomass, and geothermal energy are also included.

Wind turbine technician is the single fastest-growing job in the United States. “Wind [and solar] farms—and the new jobs that come with them—have swept across the Midwest [and Southwest U.S.], where coal and traditional manufacturing gigs have vanished.” Quote from – motherjones.com/wind-iowa-energy-coal

Solar energy also has impressive employment growth statistics, with about 1 in 50 new jobs created in the United States coming from the solar industry. The fastest-growing job in solar is solar panel installer. Sustainability professionals, sustainable builders, and clean car engineers are also among the fastest-growing jobs in clean energy, and the United States as a whole.


 Clean Energy Jobs in the United States via Cleantechnica

To see recent clean jobs statistics, please see: eesi.org/files/FactSheet_Climate_Jobs


Green JOBS = Fast-Growing JOBS

There are 3 times more jobs in the clean energy sector than in fossil fuels. There are over 2 million Americans who have energy efficiency jobs; energy efficiency is the fastest-growing employment opportunity sector of the U.S. economy. The majority of jobs in energy efficiency are in construction and manufacturing, although many jobs in the energy efficiency sector are in Energy Star, smart grid, and energy storage. 1 in every 6 American construction jobs is in energy efficiency. The future of employment in the energy sector is in clean energy, energy efficiency, and renewable energy, not in fossil fuels.

This article in Mother Jones sums it up perfectly: 

Wind [and solar] farms—and the new jobs that come with them—have swept across the Midwest [and Southwest U.S.], where coal and traditional manufacturing gigs have vanished

In the “wind belt” between Texas and North Dakota, the price of wind energy is finally equal to and in some cases cheaper than that of fossil fuels. Thanks to investments in transmission lines, better computer controls, and more efficient turbines, the cost to US consumers fell two-thirds in just six years, according to the American Wind Energy Association.  

Still, not all windy states have a turbine-friendly climate. In Wyoming, for example, coal-loving legislators passed a tax on wind energy in 2010 and are also considering penalizing utilities for including renewables in their portfolios.  

The next few years will see a showdown between “rural Republicans who really want to get the economic boost [wind & solar, other renewables] offers to their district, versus Republican ideologues who don’t like renewables because they like fossil fuels”—and whose campaign contributions depend on protecting them.  

So farmers—and voters —will have to fight for wind [and other renewables] which, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency,  offer the greatest potential for growth in US renewable power generation. 

(Article by Maddie Oatman – Maddie Oatman is a story editor at Mother Jones. Read more of her stories here.)



The global growth in the employment market in renewable energy, especially solar, but also wind, biomass/ biofuel, and hydro, is impressive, as depicted in this chart-


Global job creation in renewable energy by RE source via IRENA (statistics published 2018)

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy sector is adding over 1/2 million jobs annually worldwide, for a growth rate of over 5%, far eclipsing the potential for growth and employment potential in fossil fuels.


Renewable energy sources vs. fossil fuels

Forbes says that by switching from coal to renewable energy, the United States’ economy will save billions of dollars, in part by taking advantage of the lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of renewable energy sources vs. fossil fuels; and by avoiding the cost of negative externalities of fossil fuels (the cost of damage to public health and damage to the environment of fossil fuels).

The cost savings to the United States economy by transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy include, most significantly, reducing the cost of mitigation and adaptation to anthropogenic climate change by investing in sustainable technologies such as renewable energy and energy efficiency vs. fossil fuels. 

The renewable energy industry employs over 500,000 people in the United States. The coal industry is responsible for under 120,000 jobs in the U.S. (see: nytimes.com/interactive/climate/todays-energy-jobs-are-in-solar-not-coal). There is already billions of dollars invested in installed renewable energy capacity in the United States, including over $12 billion of private investment in 2018 US wind energy alone.

Individual states that are leaders in solar & hydroelectricity include coastal and southwest states, especially west and northeast coastal states for hydroelectricity, and southwest states for solar.  Wind energy production is dominated by states in the Plains and Midwest.


EIA expects wind’s share of electricity generation to increase.

[Please note that states like California create a lot of solar energy, but even more hydroelectricity. Hydroelectricity is produced in higher quantities as far as overall energy production in California (over 20% of the state’s energy is from hydroelectric sources), and that makes hydroelectricity the dominant form of renewable energy in the state. However, California produces a substantial amount of solar energy (over 11% statewide). California, Washington, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Washington DC have all committed to the goal of 100% renewable energy. A few other states plan to follow suit.]



For a set of policies focused on increasing the momentum of clean job growth in the United States, please see GCT’s Guide to Green Energy Public Policies



Renewable Energy costs are down

For your reference, here is Lazard‘s 2020 levelized cost of energy (LCOE) chart>> On the 2020 LCOE chart, it’s renewable energy sources (especially onshore wind farms and utility-scale solar) with the best overall price of all energy sources; and wind energy and utility-scale PV are now priced lower than coal; onshore wind and utility-scale PV are now even cheaper than gas combined cycle (when the full LCOE is taken into account)>>> 

Lazard‘s 2020 levelized cost of energy (LCOE)


Cost of renewable energy vs. fossil fuels

The cost of producing energy with renewable energy vs. fossil fuels is dramatically lower when just the cost of producing electricity (marginal cost) is considered. When the costs of the negative externalities (negative externalities of fossil fuels– damage/ cost to the environment and public health, climate change) associated with fossil fuel production are added in with the LCOE*, the relative cost of renewable energy sources vs. the cost of fossil fuels is lower still.

The negative externalities associated with coal are particularly dire; not only black lung in coal miners, also a general public health hazard in fine particulates, and other toxins, emitted into the air during the energy production process with coal. Those public health issues are in addition to coal’s significant contribution to anthropogenic climate change, and other forms of air, land, and water pollution associated with coal.

Overall, the lowest cost of energy production is onshore wind (which also has minimal negative externalities), followed by utility-scale solar, and natural gas (which carries the cost of negative externalities). Producing energy from coal is no longer cheaper than renewables or gas, and is damaging to public health and the environment.

[*Examples of levelized costs of energy include: up-front capital costs/ costs of initial investment (which are much higher for renewable energy than fossil fuel energy), the marginal cost of the fuel source (which is much higher for fossil fuels, and almost nothing for free, abundant sources of renewable energy like solar and wind energy, and very low cost for hydro, geothermal, and biomass), cost of maintenance for the power plant/ energy farm/ dam, etc…, cost of transporting the fuel (again, zero for most renewable energy), costs associated with transmitting/ distributing the energy, insurance costs for the energy-producing facility, etc…]

“Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competitiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the per-MWh cost (in discounted real dollars) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. 4 Key inputs to calculating LCOE include capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant.” – quote from the EIA.

 

In this chart, you can clearly see how much more expensive nuclear and coal are projected to remain in comparison to renewables-


Projected LCOE of US energy sources via Energy Innovation (statistics published 2018)


For the initial capital costs, nuclear is the most expensive form of energy. The “good” thing about nuclear energy production is that there are low marginal costs, and there are little to no negative externalities with regard to the actual energy production, i.e. little to no GHG emissions. 

With nuclear, it’s necessary to find secure locations to safely store the radioactive waste. Nuclear power plants must evolve to the point where there’s no chance for another Fukushima-type catastrophe.  However, future planned 4th generation nuclear power plants will be safe, autonomous, more sustainable than current nuclear plants, and more cost-efficient.

For the future the first half of this century, nuclear energy is going to remain an unlikely ally to clean energy in the fight against anthropogenic climate change. Coal is out for the reasons stated above; coal is no longer a viable, cost-efficient energy fuel source. Petroleum is mostly used to fuel vehicles around the world (although hopefully, the world population will continue to move toward electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and hybrid cars). It’s safe to assume diesel generators will still be used to produce energy, largely for third world countries, island nations, remote locations, and energy backup.

Renewable energy and natural gas are the future of energy production, as seen in this recent study by the University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute. Overall, renewable energy (and natural gas) are both cheaper sources of fuel for energy production AND better, larger sources of employment; thus, renewable energy is better for the environment AND the economy.



For more information on these, and similar topics, please see: 

greencitytimes.com/coal-vs-natural-gas


greencitytimes.com/what-makes-a-city-sustainable  


greencitytimes.com/economic-growth-vs-the-environment


greencitytimes.com/nuclear-one-necessary-energy-supply-to-fight-climate-change



 

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Kamuthi Solar Project; and the largest solar PV farms in India, China, and other countries

What are the World’s Largest Solar Projects?


Featuring over 2.5 million individual solar PV modules, and on 2,500 acres, in the town of Kamuthi in the Ramanathapuram district; the Kamuthi Solar Power Project supplies energy to ~300,000 homes. The Kamuthi Solar Power Project is a 648 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) farm in Tamil Nadu, India. However, as you will see in this article, there are actually a few larger solar projects in India, China, and elsewhere worldwide.


Kamuthi Solar Project

A lone solar worker strides along PV panels of Kamuthi Solar Power Project>>>


Crown Jewel of Tamil Nadu

Kamuthi cost US $710 million, and became operational in 2016. As a result, India became the #3 country in the world for operational utility-scale solar PV parks, behind only China and the United States. To reach the third spot, India had to leapfrog the United Kingdom, and this solar farm gave them just enough edge.

Tamil Nadu, home to the Kamuthi Solar Plant, is a relatively large state in India at the South-east tip of India, and the capital is Chennai. Known as the most urbanized state in India, Tamil Nadu is industrialized and produces a significant quantity of manufacturing. However, the Kamuthi Solar Plant remains the crown jewel of Tamil Nadu.


Adani ventures into solar energy with Kamuthi

Kamuthi was built and funded by Adani power, a company that was founded in 1996 as an energy trading company; and since became India’s largest private energy company. In 2011, Adani became the largest private thermal power generating company in India.

Adani took their first step into power generation with a massive coal power project in Mundra (built in 4+ stages between 2009-2012). This huge solar energy plant – Kamuthi – was Adani’s first venture into massive solar projects; and as Adani begins to look beyond coal, into sustainable energy, so too does the whole country of India seek a greener energy future.


How Long Did it Take to Build Kamuthi?

The Kamuthi Solar Power Project is a massive structure, however, it was built in only eight months. This feat was accomplished through the dedication of 8,500 team members, who worked 24 hours a day to complete the project. Perhaps as a result of the quick and efficient build, this project cost significantly less than the Topaz Solar Plant, an only slightly smaller sized plant than Kamuthi, but still a relatively large solar plant, in the Mojave desert.


Who Had the World’s Largest Solar Farm Prior to Kamuthi?

The record for the world’s largest individual solar PV farm prior to Kamuthi belonged to the Topaz Solar Plant in California, which has a total capacity of 550 megawatts, took 2 years to build, and cost $2.5 billion. The Kamuthi plant, by comparison, has a capacity of 648 megawatts. Kamuthi took ~1/3 less time to develop than Topaz, at ~1/3 the price. However, both of these solar plants have since been surpassed by subsequent developments of even larger solar PV parks; in India, China, and other parts of the world.

Both the Kamuthi and Topaz solar farms have been eclipsed in size by even bigger solar parks, again mostly in India (although some of the largest solar PV parks are elsewhere in the world; most substantially in China). China, the US, and India, stand as world leaders in the production of large solar farms, but other countries also have significant large solar projects.

Even larger than Kamuthi, is the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China, at 850 MW, which went operational in February 2017. And bigger still, is the 1GW Yanchi Ningxia solar park located in Ningxia, China, The 1 GW Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park in the south Indian province of Andhra Pradesh became fully operational in July 2017.

Bhadla Solar Park

The Noor solar plant in Abu Dhabi has a capacity of over 1 GW and was fully functional as of June 2019. Tengger Desert Solar Park takes up over 10,000 acres in China’s northwestern Ningxia province and has a total capacity of 1,547 MW. India has a couple of solar PV parks that have around 2 GW of capacity: Bhadla Solar Park and Pavagada Solar Park. Read more about the>>> the 2 GW Pavagada Solar Park in Karnataka’s Tumakuru district.

The following list has some of the largest PV parks in the world [note: this list was generated before solar parks like Noor, Bhadla, and Pavagada, were completed]:
  • Tengger Desert Solar Park, China – 1,547MW
  • Sweihan Photovoltaic Independent Power Project, UAE – 1,177MW
  • Yanchi Ningxia Solar Park, China – 1,000MW
  • Datong Solar Power Top Runner Base, China – 1,070MW
  • Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park, India – 1,000MW
  • Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, China – 850MW
  • Enel Villanueva PV Plant, Mexico – 828MW
  • Kamuthi Solar Power Station, India – 648MW
  • Solar Star Projects, US – 579MW
  • Topaz Solar Farm / Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, US – 550MW                  FROM:  power-technology.com/features/the-worlds-biggest-solar-power-plants

How Green is India?

India was the first country worldwide to set up an official government department of non-traditional energy resources, India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. India has been working towards more sustainable energy sources since the 1980s.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, whose mission statement is to “increase the share of clean power, increase the availability of energy and improve its access, improve energy affordability, and maximize energy equity”, plans for India to generate 40% of the country’s electricity from renewable resources by 2030. Renewable energy currently accounts for over 1/3 of electrical generation in India, and well over 1/3 of energy production capacity in the country. India has a goal of powering over 60 million Indian homes with solar energy by 2022.


What Plans Does India Have for More Solar Plants?

India will soon have developed the world’s newest, largest solar power parks with other ultra-high capacity solar power parks – Pavagada and Bhadla Solar Parks. India is developing approximately 25 more large solar parks, with capacities around, or over, 1 GW; and now even two 2+GW solar parks (the Bhadla Solar Park, and the Pavagada Solar Park). India is also focusing on bringing clean electricity to remote villages and is taking on many other environmental sustainability initiatives.

India, along with China, is continuing to work on environmental sustainability measures like solar farms and other renewable energy projects as part of the transition these countries are in the process of making; from coal-based energy generation to supply a large share of these countries’ electricity needs, to renewable energy like solar power. Newly developed large solar farms in India, and throughout Asia and the Middle East, will have a substantial, positive impact on the environmental health of the planet.



Please also see:

The 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Plant, and Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System



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Renewable Energy – Breakthroughs in Wind Energy

Latest trends in global wind turbine technology


Onshore Wind Farms – Cheap and Clean Energy |

Onshore wind farms now provide the least expensive form of energy, renewable or non-renewable, once the wind farm is fully constructed and operational. Among energy sources used to power a municipal grid, wind farms also have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), and the lowest carbon footprint, of ANY energy source (given the complete lifecycle of the energy source).


Recent breakthroughs in wind turbines

Investment of research & development in wind turbines has recently made wind turbines more efficient, helped to drive down costs due to technological advancements of new wind turbines, and helped to put wind energy on a stronger footing to out-compete coal and natural gas. Breakthroughs in wind technology include the production of increasingly larger wind turbines.

Turbines are increasingly made from stronger, lighter composite materials such as carbon fiber or composite materials. New wind turbines are being produced with an increased use of strong, light, corrosion-resistant composite materials for wind turbine blade, tower, and foundation structure construction.

Recent developments in wind turbines include such technological advancements as lasers pinpointing the direction of the wind. Lasers are used so that turbine blades can optimize their productive capacity by automatically adjusting their position. Here’s a brief summary of recent wind turbine optimizations:

As towers get taller, turbine blades get longer, which helps catch more wind. By turning to lighter, stronger materials, such as carbon fiber or advanced fabrics (the same composite materials used for next-generation aircraft), turbines can spin and generate power at lower speeds.

Today’s turbines have sensors and precision controllers, which constantly tweak the blade position to optimize the use of the wind energy and provide information to wind farm operators. The orientation of each turbine blade is continuously adjusted as well. Intelligent controllers expose more of the blade to capture the most wind…

Improvements in weather forecasting are also increasing the output from wind farms. Accurate wind forecasts can increase the power dispatch…by having a better grip on the wind’s intermittent nature.”   FROM –  windenergy.org.nz/improvements-in-technology


Modern Wind Turbines – Bigger and Better

Advancements in blade design of new wind turbine blades optimize performance by maximizing energy production capacity, optimizing the flow of wind turbine blades, and decreasing drag. Many new wind turbines on the global market are also manufactured with an increased length of wind turbine blades.

New wind turbines also have increased power generating capacity, compared to wind turbines produced last decade. GE recently unveiled a 12 MW offshore wind turbine (now being developed as 12,13, or even 14 MW units)- the Haliade-X. The Haliade-X is being developed for use in new European offshore wind farm projects, and offshore wind farms in the US as well.


How Do New Wind Turbines Address the Intermittency Issue?

Two types of technologies in particular address intermittency of wind; as well as energy storage concerns, factors which have held wind back in the past. Industrial smart systems in new, advanced tech wind farms send data to wind farm operators, allowing operators to predict wind strength, times of stronger wind activity, and wind direction. With these smart systems, turbine operators can program optimal position for turbines based on the forecasted wind speed, time, and direction.

In addition, renewable energy storage technologies store excess electricity when more energy is produced by the wind than what is needed. Energy storage is needed with wind farm in order to feed energy back into the grid when the wind slows down, or the wind stops blowing for a time.


Here is a snippet from Bloomberg Green on the new GE Haliade-X wind turbine, as well as other large wind turbines now in development-

“Since GE debuted its own 12-megawatt Haliade-X turbine in March 2018, the machine has racked up numerous orders, including for the world’s biggest offshore wind farm that will be built off the coast of England [specifically for Dogger Bank C, the 1.2GW third phase of the 3.6GW Dogger Bank Wind Farm), and cut into the business that’s been dominated by Siemens Gamesa and to a lesser extent by MHI Vestas Offshore Wind A/S.

The Siemens Gamesa [14-megawatt] turbine, which the company’s calling SG 14-222 DD, will be ready for a prototype in 2021 and commercially available in 2024. With the new machine cutting off GE’s claim on the world’s biggest windmill, Siemens Gamesa will be well positioned to solidify its position as the market leader.”   FROM –  bloomberg.com/battle-over-world-s-biggest-wind-turbine-is-heating-up



Related wind energy articles>>>

windpowerengineering.com/new-advances-in-wind-turbine-components

bbc.com/is-wind-powers-future-in-deep-water

nesgt.com/what-does-the-future-of-wind-turbine-technology-look-like-for-engineers


Please also see:

Amazon wind farms


London Array – paving the way for efficient offshore wind energy farms


Anholt Offshore Wind Farm — Denmark’s most powerful source of renewable energy


The Block Island Wind Farm – America’s 1st operational offshore wind farm


carbon farming carbon footprint carbon neutral carbon neutrality carbon pricing carbon tax clean energy Clean Power Plan climate change climate solutions cogeneration Conference of the Parties cover crops e-bikes electric vehicles energy energy efficiency energy star Freiburg global warming green building greenhouse gas emissions hydrogen hydrogen fuel cells Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change LEED nationally determined contributions net zero greenhouse gas emissions nuclear energy Paris Climate Accord recycling renewable energy reverse osmosis smart grid smart meter solar sources of renewable energy sustainability sustainable agriculture sustainable mass transit United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change urban planning waste-to-energy waste management zero-waste

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Breakthroughs in Solar Photovoltaic (PV) and Solar Thermal Technology

SHINING Future of Solar


Solar – the most abundant renewable energy on the planet |

Recently there have been dramatic breakthroughs in solar energy that will help advance the mainstream use of photovoltaic (PV) technology. Here is a guide on top solar companies as well as in-depth explanations of various solar projects. This guide offers different recommendations depending on what solar services are needed (comparing cost, customer satisfaction data, and technology).

Recent technological advancements are bringing solar PV down to a more affordable cost. In the case of utility-scale PV (solar farms), solar energy is at an even lower cost: cheaper when compared to fossil fuel energy (given an ideal location for the solar farm).

Breakthroughs in solar are not limited to PV, there are also breakthroughs in solar thermal technologies (CSP towers, solar parabolics, solar water heaters). Solar is the most abundant energy source available on the planet and is steadily dropping in cost while rising in efficiency.

A key development that will enable the widespread use of solar is the production of cells using less expensive, and readily available materials. Silicon has traditionally been the preferred material for PV, however, cadmium telluride, among other PV cell materials, is now also used to produce PV cells as flexible thin-film cells or brittle crystalline structures. These materials are used to produce highly efficient, low-cost cells with far fewer raw materials needed.

Advanced solar PV technology, along with nano PV, is found in utility-scale thin-film solar farms, as well as most modern solar PV farms, rooftop PV, and solar arrays of every size.

Nano solar cell

Nano PV

Nano PV cells result in much more compact, thinner, more efficient solar panels. Nanotechnologies in PV with from 4 to 7 times (or more) the efficiency of standard photovoltaic cells are in the R&D phase today, with limited commercial availability. 

However, there are nano and alternative material PV cells with substantially higher efficiency than the traditional standard in the solar market (double to triple the efficiency of common solar cells that have typically had up to 19% efficiency). 

The solar arrays now being produced could be exponentially improved with the development, refinement, and implementation of nanotechnology. For more information on materials used to make modern solar cells, please see Renewable Energy: Solar.


Solar Thermal |

In addition to advancements in traditional photovoltaic technology, there have been exponential advancements in the field of solar thermal energy. Instead of simply converting energy from the sun into electricity as with PV, solar thermal technology uses energy from the sun to heat water, molten salt, or another working fluid. That heated liquid produces steam, which drives a generator to create electricity. Solar thermal represents an advancement in solar energy with 4 to 5 times the power density of PV.

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

CSP

Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems are examples of large-scale solar thermal projects. CSP solar tower generators consist of a central solar energy collector positioned on a tower (solar power tower) and used to concentrate solar energy in order to heat a working fluid. The concentrated solar power is beamed solar power tower from thousands of mirrors (heliostats). Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a good example of a successful large-scale CSP tower operation. Some of the most promising new projects in the world of solar power are in CSP.

solar dish, solar trough, and CSP tower

Solar Parabolics

Another type of solar thermal energy system is a parabolic solar installation. Solar parabolic systems consist of solar dishes and troughs; and are used as grid-scale energy generators, as well as for large-scale energy storage. Additionally, other solar thermal technologies have found great use in the emerging field of thermal energy storage (see Science Direct link). See this link for a detailed description of the various types of solar thermal systems touched on in this article, and more on solar thermal storage using molten salt; as well as more on solar water heating systems – sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/solar-thermal-storage


Solar water heaters

Another commercially successful application of solar power is the solar-powered water heater. Solar-powered water heaters are mandatory in most new residential buildings and homes in the country of Israel, and now, in the state of Hawaii. Some of the other new applications of solar thermal energy include power generation and solar space heating, as well as solar water heating; in industrial buildings, schools, hospitals, and even in remotely situated buildings.


Both types of solar energy (PV and solar thermal) will continue to steadily lessen in cost as technological advancements are made. However, photovoltaic is projected to remain ahead of thermal in terms of cost of production and utilization. Solar thermal does have a couple of advantages that compensate for the higher cost. Solar thermal energy is produced consistently throughout the day, not relying on weather conditions. as the turbine will run on natural gas if there is no sun for an extended period of time. Solar thermal units fit easily with power storage systems and will continue to produce energy at night, using energy harnessed during the day.


Dropping cost of solar

This chart illustrates the future trend of dropping costs for solar, to a level much lower than fossil fuel energy. Solar energy is already cheaper than all fossil fuel energy for utility-scale thin-film solar PV farms in many locations ideal for solar.

 

At the end of 2019, solar produced just over 2% of global electricity. The chart above tells us that after two more doublings, when 2,400 GW of solar are producing roughly 8% of current electricity demand, solar costs (of the most recently built built & operational projects) will have dropped in half from today’s levels. In the sunny parts of the world with low costs of capital, labor, and land, we could routinely be seeing unsubsidized solar in the 1-2 cent range. In California (typical of the green line) we could be seeing unsubsidized solar at 2.5 cents per kwh. In northern Europe, we could be seeing utility scale solar routinely priced at 4-5 US cents per kwh.  FROM  –  rameznaam.com/solars-future-is-insanely-cheap-2020


Related links on solar energy:

understandingnano.com/solarcells

grist.org/solar-power/harnessing-the-suns-energy-for-water-and-space-heating

Here’s a snippet from a BBC article titled A breakthrough approaches for solar power about the rising efficiency of solar cells, and growing use of solar worldwide>>>

“Today’s average commercial solar panel converts 17-19% of the light energy hitting it to electricity. This is up from 12% just 10 years ago. But what if we could boost this to 30%? More efficient solar cells mean we could get much more than today’s 2.4% of global electricity supply from the sun.

Solar is already the world’s fastest growing energy technology. Ten years ago, there were only 20 gigawatts of installed solar capacity globally – one gigawatt being roughly the output of a single large power station. By the end of last year, the world’s installed solar power had jumped to about 600 gigawatts.”   FROM –  bbc.com/May2020

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Microgrids spread across Africa

Microgrids – Energy Solution


Developing Microgrids

Communities see tremendous benefits from microgrids, especially in developing countries and developing economies (e.g. countries in Africa, rural areas of countries – especially those in remote locations). More and more, as African nations push for rural electrification, they look to microgrids as a sustainable solution to the energy poverty problem. Microgrids are increasingly being invested in and developed throughout Africa, especially where utilities can’t reach, and/ or where local governments don’t want to invest in the utility infrastructure needed to deliver energy.

Over half of villages in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity at all, dependent instead on dangerous and costly kerosene and diesel. The Brookings Institute estimates that electricity is not accessible in over 50% of households throughout Africa (only ~43% of African households have electricity).

Much of this problem is focused in poorer African countries. This lack of electricity in rural Africa is because utilities and local governments with control over utilities often don’t even try to invest in the grid infrastructure needed for energy to be available in rural villages.

An energy solution for rural Africa are microgrids (this is also a solution for any remote area in the world – as described in GCT’s main microgrid article). Microgrids can supply renewable energy (RE) + battery energy storage, or generate energy from fossil fuel sources coupled with RE + batteries (known commonly as hybrid microgrid systems).


Benefits of RE in Microgrids

Of the multiple fuel types run in various types of microgrids, RE-based microgrids are more cost effective and safer compared to diesel generators, kerosene, and biomass – power sources that are widely used for electricity/ light/heat/ power in Africa today. Kerosene often uses up to 20% of an average African’s income, can cause fires, and unhealthy air quality. Burning various sources of organic matter (wood, waste, other biomass…) for everyday household needs also results in unhealthy air quality and leads to serious health problems. Kerosene is especially toxic – causing health problems, burning people, giving off poor light, and can be up to 3-4 times as expensive as electrical light.

In terms of generating electricity it must be noted that, although not emissions-free like RE sources, natural gas is less much polluting than diesel. Natural gas still creates polluting emissions, as the only way to avoid emissions in an energy fuel source is to use RE. Fossil fuel based generators, kerosene lamps, the burning of wood and other organic matter to heat homes and to cook – results in environmental and health problems. RE avoids these problems.

By using RE in microgrids, as well as other distributed RE such as solar PV + LED/ USB charging kits – all polluting GHG emissions and particulates are avoided – resulting in a clean, healthy environment while generating affordable energy.

A medium-sized solar power system with battery storage can be easily used by over 50 households, or even an entire village, in many rural regions in Africa. The power can be used for lighting, cell phone charging, cooking, etc… And the power is affordable, efficient, reliable, environmentally-friendly, and has no public health problems like kerosene.


Investing in Microgrids

This brief snippet describes the growth of microgrids and distributed RE in Africa, and the role financing systems like PAYGo plays in the expansion of African microgrids

“Rapidly falling prices of renewable energy equipment and the development of new business models, such as pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) companies that utilize mobile money systems available in many African countries, have recently begun to usher in a new era of energy access via the off-grid solar lighting market. This could be an important stepping-stone to a more robust electricity infrastructure provided by microgrids. Off-grid devices – such as small solar-powered lanterns and self-contained solar home systems – provide enough electricity for minimal amenities such as lighting, cell phone charging and small appliances. The PAYGo business model has been a huge factor in the growth of this market because it allows people to pay for service when they can, in the same way that they have always bought most products.

Lighting Africa reports that as of 2017, “the global off-grid solar sector is providing improved electricity access to an estimated 73 million households.” According to the Lighting Africa report, the transition from kerosene and/or other conventional fuels to off-grid solar devices has saved people at least USD $5.2 billion during this time period, and significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Microgrid developers are often asked why they would want to compete with the fast-growing off-grid lighting sector. The answer is that the two technologies aren’t competing but are in fact complementary. Off-grid solar electricity has immediate appeal to householders because of its relative simplicity.

But, it cannot be scaled up to adequately power commercial businesses, health clinics, schools and other resources required for rural economic development. For that transition to occur, it’s necessary to take the next step up the energy ladder to microgrids, which can handle more robust electricity generation. Solar lighting is a worthy first step, but it’s likely that its users are going to discover – and want – the other amenities that electricity can bring.”   FROM –    microgridnews.com/improving-energy-access-in-rural-africa-depends-on-renewable-energy-microgrids

In addition to PAYGO, microgrids can be financed by public investment or private organizations; and avoid infrastructure costs that country-wide or regional grids represent. Microgrids represent both a worthy investment in communities, and a wonderful means of helping those communities access a safer, cleaner, more sustainable way of life


Summation of the Need for Microgrids in Rural Africa

Microgrids are important for remote communities in Africa. Electrification of rural villages has been made possible through them. Power needed for water pumping, and purification, is done with the help of various microgrids in Africa and other parts of the world. Mobile communication has a wider reach in the continent through telecom towers that are powered with microgrids.

Microgrids are cheaper than building power lines into forests and mountains, especially in the most remote locations in Africa. Poor communities in other third world countries will also benefit from having microgrids installed, especially when the utility grids don’t want to build long power lines to connect them to the grid.

Many microgrids, at least those based on RE and battery storage, don’t emit GHGs. There are no issues with pollution, environmental hazards, or health hazards, with RE microgrid technologies.

Many African rural communities have already built microgrids as their primary energy source. Every time a new installation is made, the skill base of the locals is developed. Rural village community infrastructure is improved as well (water systems, cell phone charging systems, telecom systems, and, of course, electricity systems).

However, despite the recent momentum of microgrids, one of the reasons there are not enough microgrids in Africa is because of the prohibitive cost and lack of reasonable financing for microgrid technologies. Policy is needed to ensure that they are more affordable to the poor, remote villages in the continent.

“The use of microgrids in rural electrification projects based on renewable energy sources are mostly associated with bringing basic services to communities. Microgrids are however also increasingly being used to power small businesses in rural areas. The development and availability of RE and microgrid technology makes the viability of a system that not only provides domestic electricity but reliable and sustainable power for small industry and businesses much more achievable than in the past. There are numerous initiatives aimed at providing access to energy in Africa…”   FROM  –  energy4impact.org/productive-use-energy-african-micro-grids


Other articles on microgrids in Africa:

The Microgrid Knowledge Africa Channel

The Borgen Project: African Miccrogrids


Please also see:

Microgrids: Powering the Future