Google X will soon be testing a 84-foot version of their Makani airborne wind turbine. It flies at 1,500 feet altitude, where wind speeds are much faster, and is tethered to the ground. Wind at altitude is also considerably more variable than on the ground, especially where the test will be, and Google says they want a few crashes so they can determine just how far the devices can be pushed. Each one can generate a not insubstantial 600kW.
The energy kite simulates the tip of a wind turbine blade, which is the part of a turbine that makes most of the energy. The kite is launched from the ground station by the rotors, which act like propellers on a helicopter. Once in the air, the kite generates power by flying in large circles where the wind is strong and consistent. Air moving across rotors mounted on the kite forces them to rotate, driving a generator to produce electricity, which travels down the tether to the grid.
Electricity is expensive in Philippines, compounded by growing shortages. The government has responded by leasing more power, paying big customers to generate their own power (probably by diesel), yet these seem stopgap measures. With so many islands, distributed energy via rooftop solar could help substantially.
The power profile of the three major island groups is quite different. Visayas and Mindanao get half their power from renewable sources, geothermal and hydro respectively, while Luzon relies heavily on coal. Yet new growth for all three will mainly be coal. (Big hydro is controversial, some think big dams are so damaging they shouldn’t be classified as renewable. Yet, the power does indeed come from a non-carbon source.)
The three main island regions of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao each have distinct generation profiles. In the northern part of the country, Luzon’s capacity is mainly powered by fossil fuels, with anticipated capacity additions of more than 500 MW, most of which will be coal-fired. Visayas, in central Philippines, currently relies heavily on its geothermal resources, but has plans to add 300 MW of coal capacity by 2017. In the south, Mindanao relies heavily on its hydropower resources, with plans for both additional hydropower capacity and additional coal-fired generation to increase system reliability.
Their Secretary of Energy says rooftop solar actually cheaper than coal.
“As a simple example, the cost of electricity from a coal plant can run up to P5.50 per kilowatt hour, plus P6.50 for distribution and transmission, which amounts to P12.00. If you install solar panels on your rooftop, you will only spend P9.00 per kilowatt hour for generation and no cost for distribution or transmission. This already saves you up to P3 per kilowatt hour.”
Let’s hope Philippines makes a big push towards rooftop solar.
Renewable energy, especially solar and wind, gets lots of attention, yet it still a tiny part of total power generation worldwide.
Large-scale solar PV grew a startling 40% in 2014, from 21.7 to 35.9 GW, an increase of 14.2 GW in just one year. The US has the most capacity at 9.3 GW, followed by China at 8.5. While this is certainly impressive growth, solar PV is still, globally speaking, a minor player.
In 2012, worldwide installed electricity was 5549 GW, the last year the US Energy Information Agency has data for. Thus, 35 GW is 0.06 of that total, less than 1%. The real percentage would be even smaller than that, since installed electrical has increased since 2012.
The World Coal Association, certainly not an unbiased source, says 41% of world power is generated from coal with the US at 45%.
California is a leader is renewable energy. This image, which is updated daily (PDF), shows how renewables in California are still a relatively small part of the mix. Renewable energy spikes during the day due to solar, then quickly drops off. ‘Imports’ is power coming in from other states. ‘Thermal’ is power from something being burned, specifically coal and natural gas. So, at the daylight peak, renewable energy in California is about 22% of total energy generated. This is impressive (and growing). However most other states (and countries) lag way behind this. this.
About 6% of San Diego CA power comes from rooftop solar. Even this relatively small amount of solar power creates serious problems on the grid. Once solar hits 15%, the problems get more pronounced. This is not just blather from utilities resisting change. When it gets dark, utilities have to ramp up other types of power quickly, something which not trivial. The Duck Curve for California for 2015 is moderate, as shown in the image. As more rooftop solar is installed, the curve becomes more pronounced.
More solar is produced during the day when people aren’t home. This production vanishes when they come home, as night falls, precisely when more power is needed. Also, the glut of production during the day can cause prices to be actually less than zero as well as creating grid problems, since the grid must always be in perfect balance between supply and demand.
As in most locales, solar output in California peaks in the naturally sunny middle of the day. But lots of people are at work and there isn’t much demand on the system. SDG&E’s system peaks closer in the evening, when people get home from work and the sun goes down. The drop in solar production almost perfectly coincides with the utility’s daily ramp up to peak demand.
The San Diego utility says solar rooftop users only pay about half of what their solar costs the company. This is probably at least partly true, made worse by a convoluted state-mandated rate structure. Time-of-use rates probably make more sense. Users would pay more for power on a baking hot summer afternoon than on a moderate Spring night. The ability to store power for a few hours would help enormously, however doing so is expensive. Other solutions though, are available now.
Avery imagines a world where your house pre-cools during the off-peak, where your electric water heater delivers demand response during the peak, and your electric vehicle charges based on price signals.
“All these things today are reality. They can happen right now,” he said.
Lucid Energy installs turbines inside major water mains. The flow of water turns the turbines, creating electricity. Unlike other forms of renewable energy, this is not dependent on the weather, only on downhill water flow, making it excellent for heavy industry, server farms, and more. The video highlights the deep relationship between water and power. It takes electricity to move water and it takes often takes large amounts of water to create energy. Using these turbines on major water pipelines would get the amount of outside energy needed to move the water. Big power plants and industrial areas that use large amounts of water can also use it to cut their power bill. The water pressure is there inside the pipes. Lucid Energy turns it into electricity.
Driven by the demand for reliable, cost-effective electricity, water- and energy-intensive industries, municipalities and agricultural irrigation districts worldwide can deploy our in-pipe hydropower system to generate millions of megawatt hours of renewable electricity from the water already flowing through their pipelines – without interrupting flow.
LucidPipe systems can be deployed 3-4 turbine diameters apart, so up to four LucidPipe units can be installed in a standard 40-foot section of pipe. One mile of 42” diameter pipeline could produce as much as 3 megawatts or more of electricity
A proposed power plant in Israel will generate power continually by using solar thermal to power turbines, storing excess heat for future use, and burning garbage that would be otherwise be landfilled. Most solar thermal plants focus the sun’s heat to a central tower to run the turbines. This innovative design by Brenmiller Energy stores the heat from each reflector apparently as steam in underground pipes, releasing it as needed. Backup power will be created by using biomass as fuel, allowing 24/7 energy production from renewable energy.
“Solar power stations integrating storage and backed up by biomass are the best solution for producing electricity in Israel,” said Brenmiller Energy CEO Avi Brenmiller. “Biomass alone cannot meet electricity demand but combining it with solar energy and storage represents the cheapest and cleanest alternative. This combination is a solution for the high costs of burying garbage borne by the local authorities.”
Tesla, perhaps to distract from lackluster car sales, just announced plans for battery packs powered by solar panels for residential homes. This is not a new idea. Off-grid homes as well as grid-connected homes with solar panels already have batteries to store energy. So really, why is this news, except that Tesla announced it with great fanfare and says the batteries will look elegant. The amount of hype emanating from Tesla has always made me a bit suspicious.
Working with SolarCity (of which Musk is Chairman) to power the batteries with solar energy just makes the whole endeavor sound like a fantastically Earth-friendly project.
Um, no. Batteries by definition are not earth-friendly at all. They require mining, often in impoverished areas where workers are exploited, use noxious chemicals, and are difficult to dispose of. So don’t go hugging trees quite yet because of the not really green at all Tesla home battery. Is it better than powering your home with coal power? Absolutely. But it’s not green. Batteries probably never can be.
Another problem is the utilities, some of whom are dinosaurs that don’t want to lose revenue because people install solar.
Unregulated batteries to power homes attached to solar panels that keep the battery charged mean some annoyed executives at utilities, especially if the battery’s storage is large enough that it wouldn’t even need much in the way of the electric grid to supplement the solar panels. Not that you’ll ever hear it spelled out so bluntly. Tesla has said that utilities are partners, not enemies, but arguably that just depends on where you look.
Smart utilities, like Green Mountain Energy in Vermont, are leading the move towards home solar. And yes, home batteries do need some regulation. For example, they must never ever send power grid into the grid during a blackout to prevent electric shock to linemen fixing, say, downed power lines, who aren’t expecting power to be coming upstream to them.
Stored power from home solar is a great idea. Let’s hope it becomes ubiquitous soon. For that to happen, the grid will need to be rejiggered to handle distributed energy flowing from many places to many places rather than the centralized system we have now.
A few well-placed attacks could paralyze the existing US electrical grid, says former FERC Commissioner Jon Wellinghof. The best way to defend against such attacks, he says, is with distributed generation, not bigger walls and increased security. This is precisely where renewable energy, especially rooftop solar, can help.
Wellinghoff believes the true answer to grid security is to fundamentally realign the system from one that relies on a few nodes (probably less than a dozen), which are all critical for the grid to operate, to a national system of ‘distributed grids’; hundreds of smaller ones, which of course could be attacked individually through conventional or nuclear or cyber means, but none of which could topple the entire system if it went down.
Wellinghof focuses on substations as being particularly vulnerable, and they are. However, another area of concern is ginormous transmission towers sited in remote areas, as often happens in the American West. Presumably taking down a couple of those towers would create chaos. However, those towers generally come from huge power plants so again, distributed energy lessens the threat because power can be generated everywhere.
Distributed generation is about moving power generation to within the load centers as opposed to power sources being remotely located from the load centers. This breaks up the centralized node architecture currently in place and disperses the generation across the grid forming micro and sub-regional grids. So if there is an attack on a node it won’t take down that whole area of the grid because there would be those sub-regional and micro-grids that could island themselves within those areas.
If everyone had solar panels on their respective roofs then we could adequately disperse power generation in such a way that it makes nodes practically irrelevant. It is easy to hack into a node and cause it to malfunction but it is basically impossible to hack 10 million solar power systems.
EU installed offshore wind 2014. The US still has none.
The usual motley assortment of rich NIMBYs, traditional energy companies, and regulatory hurdles have mostly managed to stop offshore wind farms here in the US. Considering all the bleating from DC and Important People about how we need to go renewable energy, I’d say it was ridiculous we still have no offshore wind. Other countries are racing ahead of us on this. We talk a good game yet do little.
A recent auction of parcels off Martha’s Vineyard went for a paltry $2 an acre Some parcels had no bids at all. In previous auctions, parcels went for $100 an acre. On this the ruling class stands united. Both the Kennedy’s and Bill Koch have spent millions to defeat offshore wind in that area.
After nearly 15 years of planning, two utilities dropped their power purchase agreement (PPA) contracts with the project, citing missed finance and construction deadlines. Just last week, the Boston Globe reported that Cape Wind dropped contracts that were meant to provide assembly areas for workers and turbine components. Cape Wind officials say that these missed deadlines stem from years of heavy legal burdens brought on by protest groups, particularly the Alliance for Nantucket Sound, which is supported by the vocal Bill Koch [and the Kennedys.]
Offshore wind turbines can be much bigger than on land, and thus generate more power. Plus., they are actually easier to install because there are no worries about trucking immense turbine blades to remote locations. You might think it would be a good thing to have locally-generated power. But swarms of NIMBYs fight offshore wind relentlessly elsewhere too. A New Jersey project is now uncertain, to to regulatory fights. A Delaware wind farm is on hold. It is possible a Rhode Island project may actually start this summer. Let’s hope so.
The image (PDF) show offshore wind development in the EU. It makes us look pathetic, doesn’t it?
McCarty Family Farms in Kansas extracts substantial amount of water from processing cow milk, which is purified then used a drinking water for the cows and for irrigation. They now support more cows and processing while using less water. They also condense milk being shipped to Texas, which hugely reduces trucking costs.
The four dairies combined produces nearly 640,000 pounds of raw milk daily, which then flows into an advanced evaporative condensing milk processing plant located at the Rexford site. That plant reclaims and reuses roughly 50,000-60,000 gallons of freshwater daily—which over the course of a year can approach 20 million gallons, or about 61 acre-feet. This process separates the cream from the milk, and then the cream is pasteurized, stored, and shipped to a Daisy brand sour cream facility in Texas. The skim milk is condensed through evaporation, pasteurized, and shipped to a Dannon yogurt facility in Dallas, Texas. In the evaporative condensing milk processing plant, the water is either (1) filtered and purified and reused in the plant, (2) diverted to the dairy as drinking water for cows, or (3) dumped to lagoons where it is used as irrigation water for crops. The irrigation water can provide nearly 2 inches of irrigation on 1,200 acres.
Not only does reclaiming the water decrease their dependence on groundwater, it also reduces the number of trucks needed to ship their products to Texas. Their style of reclaiming the water and condensing the milk reduces their freight by an astonishing 75 percent. Lowering the number of trucks taking the 670-mile trip to Texas results in substantial diesel savings—while also reducing the McCarty Family Farm’s fossil fuel reliance and greenhouse gas emissions.