Archive | Renewable energy

Ginormous wind power / compressed air energy storage in Utah, Wyoming

wind-caes

An ambitious plan to build a 2 GW wind farm in Wyoming and store excess power using compressed air in underground caverns in Utah. When energy is needed, the compressed air is released to power turbines. Most of the power would go to California when extra energy is needed. No fossil fuels will be used to generate energy. Compressed air energy storage is currently being used successfully in Alabama and Germany. It’s a proven technology that needs certain types of caverns to store the air in.

As the Casper Star Tribune points out, the entire system—this so-called “Hoover Dam of the 21st century,” with a total price tag pushing $8 billion—could someday power as many as 1.2 million California homes and it could be operational as early as 2023.

Posted in Renewable energy

Hawaii grid can’t handle the demand for solar, slowing installations

HECO

There is a huge demand for rooftop solar in Hawaii. However, the grid is barely able to handle the current amount of solar power. The utility has cut way back on new permits and the solar industry is losing workers. The problem, of course, is that solar is variable. When the sun shines, thousands of rooftop systems produce power, and some of it goes back into the grid.

HECO says it is not deliberately trying to hurt the solar industry. Rather, the utility is seeing a growing number of circuits exceeding 100 percent of minimum daytime load during the daytime in residential areas. On the Big Island, HECO says that 10 percent of circuits had reached unstable levels as of February of this year.

“This is a difficult technical issue, and we’re not aware of another utility in the world that has addressed it. There’s no model for us to follow, no resource for us to tap into. We’re really creating new frontiers on this,” said Jay Ignacio, president of the HECO subsidiary HELCO.

Reform is coming, forced on HECO by impatient politicians and homeowners who accuse the utility of being deliberately lethargic. Circuits will be beefed up. Customers will get full net metering rates. However they will pay monthly fees for grid costs.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

US Navy outmaneuvers Congress foes, continues commercial scale biofuel

navy

Sen. John McCain and other troglodytes in Congress tried to block the Navy from developing sources for biofuel. Happily, the Navy won and will be developing three biorefineries producing 100 million gallons a year of military grade biofuel. These include biofuel from waste chicken fat, municipal solid waste. and forestry leftovers.

The Navy is committed to greatly reducing reliance of fossil fuels and completely accepts that climate change is happening.

The Secretary of the Navy issued several energy goals to increase warfighting capability, both strategically and tactically. From a strategic perspective, the objective is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Tactically, the objective is to use energy sources available on location and increase energy efficiency to reduce the vulnerability that is often associated with long fuel supply transport lines and increase operational capability.

Energy efficiency increases mission effectiveness. Efficiency improvements minimize operational risks, while saving time, money and lives.

Energy security is critical to mission success. Energy security safeguards our energy infrastructure and shields the Navy from a volatile energy supply.

Sustainable efforts protect mission capabilities. Investment in environmentally responsible technologies afloat and ashore reduces green house gas emissions and lessens dependence on fossil fuels.

Posted in Renewable energy

German town produces 500% of its energy from renewables, sells excess to grid

Wagegg_2
A small German village, Wildpoldsried, has invested heavily in renewable energy for 17 years and now produces far more than it uses, selling the rest for a profit. This is a genuinely inspiring example of what a united community can do.

The entire list of Wildpoldsreid’s projects is pretty remarkable: in addition to the five biogas plants, 4,983 kWp of photovoltaics, 11 wind turbines and the hydropower system, the town is also home to several municipal and residential biomass heating systems and 2,100 m² of solar thermal systems. Five private residences are heated by geothermal systems and passivhaus techniques have been used in some new construction. One is also likely to see a fair number of electric cars dotting about.

Posted in Renewable energy

Burlington VT now gets 100% of power from renewable energy, sort of

Winooski-One

Burlington, a town of 42,000 in Vermont, recently bought the Winooski One 7.4 MW hydro plant and now claims to be 100% renewable. Well, maybe. While I applaud them for moving towards renewables, their logic is claiming to be 100% renewable is overblown and misleading.

Over time Burlington will indeed produce more renewable energy than it uses. It sells the excess into the market. Plus, it sells renewable energy credits to southern New England utilities, and buys back cheaper credits. So, somehow, to some, this means the city is 100% renewable even though it sometimes buys fossil fuel energy. Bzzt. Sorry, that does not compute.

Sandy Levine, of the Vermont office of the Conservation Law Foundation, commended Vermont utilities for seeking renewable sources of power but questioned the credit trading.

“They are selling the renewable energy credits to customers in other states. Those customers have the renewable and clean energy benefits of that power,” Levine said. “Simply using accounting measures to make claims about clean energy doesn’t get us there.”

Posted in Renewable energy

Bill Gates says poor countries can’t afford renewable energy

poverty-fossil-fuels

Those living in poverty need cheap energy to help them get a better life. Lectures by wealthy countries saying poor countries need renewable energy now to cut carbopn emissions is unrealistic and will keep them in poverty. Instead, such countries need cheap, clean fossil fuels. So says Bill Gates, whose foundation has serious influence and clout.

Even as we push to get serious about confronting climate change, we should not try to solve the problem on the backs of the poor. For one thing, poor countries represent a small part of the carbon-emissions problem. And they desperately need cheap sources of energy now to fuel the economic growth that lifts families out of poverty. They can’t afford today’s expensive clean energy solutions, and we can’t expect them wait for the technology to get cheaper.

Gates features a video from the highly controversial Bjorn Lomborg, saying “I certainly don’t agree with Bjorn (or the Copenhagen Consensus) on everything, but I always find him worth listening to. He’s not an ideologue. He’s a data-driven guy who cares about using scarce resources in the smartest possible way.

Greentechmedia explains why they think Gates is wrong.

Posted in Renewable energy

Ivanpah planning multiple ways to stop frying birds

Credit: ivanpahsolar.com/

Credit: ivanpahsolar.com

Reflected heat from mirrors at the Ivanpah solar thermal plant in California near Primm NV has been killing large numbers of birds. To their credit, site operator BrightSource Energy is creating bird deterrent systems. These include anti-perching devices, sonic deterrents, anti-bird LEDS,  and waste and water containment so birds don’t gather.

As to the efforts currently underway, the waste and water containment is actively being done daily and the heliostat repositioning is complete. The sonic deterrent has been purchased and is in the process of being tested on site. The lighting on the towers are now being turned off at night and bids to replace the current ground level lighting with LED were returned this week and will be purchased and installed.

They also plan to donate $1.8 million to cat trap, neuter, and release organizations as cats kill birds too. Current efforts include a “25 million for our desert tortoise program, and in developing a high quality, scientifically valid, and robust avian plan.”

I don’t quite get the advantage of solar thermal, which reflects heat to a central tower to power turbines, over solar photovoltaic. PV is not nearly as destructive to wildlife and birds and uses practically no water, an important issue in baking deserts. Another problem with Ivanpah is airline pilots report the glare can be blinding.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

California could be 100% renewable energy by 2050, say researchers

solar_power_tower

A combination of renewable energy from wind, water, and sunlight could power California completely by 2050, say perky researchers from Stanford. In my view they’re a bit too perky as well as overly We Know What Is Best For You.

First off, all those pesky gas and diesel vehicles would need to be completely replaced by electric, they say. No word on how electric semis would be able to haul multi-ton loads up the steep Grapevine outside of Los Angeles. No electric truck to my knowledge has the needed torque and power to do this. Maybe they will one day. But they don’t now.

Then there’s this.

[Wind, water, and sunlight] sources selected “ranked the highest among several proposed energy options for addressing pollution, public health, global warming, and energy security.”

Um, shouldn’t cost be a criteria too? Also, grid technology neccessary to support 100% renewables doesn’t exist yet. Perhaps it will soon. However, making projections based on technology that doesn’t exist yet seems a bit specious.

They claim going to 100% renewables would pay for itself.

“The California air-pollution health plus global climate cost benefits from eliminating California emissions could equal the $1.1 trillion installation cost of 603 GW of new power needed for a 100% all-purpose WWS system within ~7 (4–14) years.”

“Global climate cost benefits”, whatever that might be, do not pay for the project or decrease costs eleswhere and should not be included in cost calculations.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power, Wind turbines

Self-cooling PV cells use layer of silica glass

self-cooling-solar-cells

Stanford researchers have developed a way to keep solar photovoltaic cells cooler, even in baking temperatures. If the cells get too hot, efficiency drops as does the lifetime of the cells. Adding pyramid-shaped layer of silica glass allows the cells to cool on their own, avoiding the need for water or wind for cooling.

“The goal was to lower the operating temperature of the solar cell while maintaining its solar absorption,” Fan said. “We were quite pleased to see that while the flat layer of silica provided some passive cooling, the patterned layer of silica considerably outperforms the 5 mm-thick uniform silica design and has nearly identical performance as the ideal scheme.”

Thus, efficiency and cell lifetimes both increase, hugely improving productivity.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

Ivanpah Solar Thermal Plant in Mojave Desert

Ivanpah

Ivanpah

The ginormous Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California near Primm NV reflects baking heat from the sun to a central tower where electricity is generated from steam turbines. Some solar thermal plants store excess heat in molten salt to be used later to generate power. Ivanpah doesn’t do this. It doest recycle 100% of the steam, keeping water usage at a minimum. However, the concentrated heat does kill birds and the glare can be an aviation hazard. No source of electricity creation is completely benign. That’s just the way it is.

ivanpah-info

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

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