2018/09/27: scientists trying to improve the solar cells themselves developed an integrated battery that works in three different ways. It can work like a normal solar cell by converting sunlight to electricity immediately, explains study author Song Jin, a chemist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It can store the solar energy, or it can simply be charged like a normal battery. It's a combination of two existing technologies: solar cells that harvest light, and a so-called flow battery.
The most commonly used batteries, lithium-ion, store energy in solid materials, like various metals. Flow batteries, on the other hand, store energy in external liquid tanks. This means they are very easy to scale for large projects. Scaling up all the components of a lithium-ion battery might throw off the engineering, but for flow batteries, "you just make the tank bigger," says Timothy Cook, a University at Buffalo chemist and flow battery expert not involved in the study. "You really simplify how to make the battery grow in capacity," he adds. "We're not making flow batteries to power a cell phone, we're thinking about buildings or industrial sites.
2018/08/18: Energy Vault’s plant can operate for 30 years with little maintenance and almost no fade in capacity. Its concrete blocks also use waste materials. So Piconi is confident that there’s still a niche that Energy Vault can fill: Places that have abundant access to land and building material, combined with the desire to have storage technologies that last for decades without fading in capacity.
Meanwhile, whether or not Energy Vault succeeds, it does make a strong case for the argument that, while everyone else is out looking for high-tech, futuristic battery innovation, there may be real value in thinking about how to apply low-tech solutions to 21st-century problems. Energy Vault built a functional test plant in just nine months, spending relative pennies. It’s a signal of sorts that some of the answers to our energy-storage problems may still be sitting hidden in plain sight.
2018/09/24: One of the administration’s favorite arguments confuses the largely accurate observation that solar and wind are intermittent sources for energy (as in, the sun doesn’t always shine) with the more dubious logic that renewables are somehow more susceptible to security threats than a physical stockpile of coal.
It’s “a tremendous form of energy in the sense that in a military way — think of it — coal is indestructible,” Trump said at an August fundraiser on Long Island. “You can blow up a pipeline, you can blow up the windmills. You know, the windmills, boom, boom, boom, bing, that’s the end of that one.”
But that’s not what we’ve been seeing after catastrophic hurricanes. After Maria, solar power became a symbol for more reliable power, even if few had access to it. And more recently, Hurricane Florence tested the most solar-powered state after California. In North Carolina 4.6 percent of the state’s electricity comes from the sun. InsideClimate News reports that large solar farms and even rooftop solar (which face more variable conditions and are more susceptible to damage) remained intact following the storm. At the same time, those who live in North Carolina still saw massive power outages — at one point more than 300,000 residents were without power.
The upside of solar is that it easily lends itself to decentralized power and micro-grids that could maintain the power for more people in the wake of a disaster.
2018/09/21: it is impossible to achieve absolute decoupling of resource use from GDP on a global scale, even with rapid efficiency gains and aggressive taxes on resource extraction. This is the conclusion reached by literally every existing study that has been conducted on the matter (you can follow links to the original research here). The reason is simple: the rate of decoupling is outstripped by the normal rate of GDP growth, even in high-efficiency scenarios. To make matters worse, there are physical limits to resource efficiency, and as we approach them the rate of improvement slows down, giving yet more force to the scale effect of GDP growth.
Unlike resource use, GDP can (thankfully) be dramatically decoupled from carbon emissions. But this solves only one dimension of our ecological poly-crisis. Even if we magically switched to a completely clean and renewable energy system tomorrow, we would be no closer to reversing our overshoot of all the other critical planetary boundaries: biodiversity collapse, chemical loading, deforestation, etc.
What are we going to do with all that clean energy? The same things we’re doing with fossil fuels: raze forests, intensify agricultural extraction, produce mountains of stuff, send waste to landfill – and do all of this at an ever-increasing rate, because our economic system is programmed to require endless expansion.
I have never said that poor countries shouldn’t grow – nor has anyone in this field of study (which Noah would know had he read any of the relevant literature). I have simply said that we can’t continue with aggregate global growth. What we need, then, is a fairer distribution of global income, with much more of it going to poor countries (and poor people within rich countries).
Is it politically impossible? Well, it would certainly require a struggle. But it’s far less impossible than Noah’s preferred alternative, namely, to transcend the laws of physics.
the real cause of lower fertility isn’t higher GDP but rather better girls’ education. GDP is a confounding factor.
While poor countries may need some GDP growth, that should never – for any nation, rich or poor – be the objective as such. The objective should be to improve human well-being: better health, better education, better housing, happiness, etc.
there is no evidence that relying on a switch to services, in and of itself, reduces the material throughput of the global economy.
2018/03/08: In northern Nigeria, thanks to the ingenuity, dedication, and hard work of a local entrepreneur, Habiba Ali, a new solar energy initiative is not only providing her community with a sustainable and affordable source of energy, but is also empowering other women through access to income-generation activates.
There is huge energy poverty in our country and over 89 per cent of this poverty lies in rural areas. There is a need to bring innovation in renewable energy and sustainability to bridge the poverty gap. I believe innovation is only as good as the impact that it makes.
This sentiment echoes IRENA’s research, which shows that off-grid renewables offer a cost-effective, environmentally sustainable way to accelerate the pace of electrification. Expanding the range of appliances powered by off-grid renewables can also encourage income generating activities in rural areas.
Through Sosai, Habiba also created Women of the North for Excellence (the MASI), an initiative where women can become entrepreneurs through leadership in commission-based projects.
One project involves renting out solar dryers for drying peppers and other crops, thereby increasing their shelf life. Nigeria accounts for about 50 per cent of Africa’s pepper production and in rural northern Nigeria as much as 40 per cent of a family’s income can come from harvesting peppers.
Women play a major role in agriculture, and the introduction of solar powered technology will go a long way to improving their economic and social status.
2018/09/10: microgrids as the end result the combination of several technological trends, namely, rooftop solar, electric vehicles, heat pumps and batteries for storage. The key is that these technologies are decentralized—they can easily be owned by consumers and cooperatives in local systems.
Currently the way in which we use these technologies is, in his words, “dumb.” We simply attach solar panels, heat pumps, and electric vehicles to the grid for their own separate purposes. This dramatically increases the load on the local grid, requiring costly infrastructure upgrades to sustain the system.
The report simulated what would happen if the Ardehuizen implemented an intelligently managed microgrid with more sophisticated local supply and demand mechanisms.
These would entail a whole suite of interconnected technologies: a community battery storage system, smart meters which actively monitor the entire system, air-to-water heat pumps intelligently managed according to actual demand, local energy trading between the houses so they can exchange surplus, more electric vehicles, the use of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units which generate both heat and electricity using biomass, and the installation of a local district heating network to distribute heat to multiple houses.
this could well represent only the beginning of what is possible. The end-goal of the Metabolic team’s technology research is a concept called “Smarthoods.”
The project aims to design an urban system which integrates decentralised food, water and energy flows in order to create a nearly fully self-sufficient neighbourhood.
It works based on the principle of “circularity”—recycling water, materials, and waste as much as possible within the system.
2018/09/14: If you want to fight climate change, you want Open Hardware
While these ‘‘dominant designs’’ have made clean energy more competitive with fossil fuels in the near term, they pose a significant risk in the long term: ‘‘technological lock-in.’’ Technological lock-in has been documented across a range of industries in the past—especially in legacy sectors with entrenched incumbent firms and regulatory inertia. Once it sets in, new technologies struggle to achieve commercial traction even if they are superior to existing ones. The warning signs of lock-in are clear across all three fields. Private industry is devoting virtually no investment to the development of next-generation technologies, while making massive bets on the rapid deployment and incremental improvement of existing technologies.
If new solar, wind, and storage technologies are ‘‘locked out,’’ global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could fall well short of those needed to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
2013/09/13: The world will have to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half in the next 11 years, and then slash emissions in half again in each subsequent decade just to have a shot at avoiding 2 degrees Celsius of warming.
To do it, we’ll need to double our efforts every decade. In other words, we need more than rapid change; we need exponential change.
The good news: we are already seeing that exponential growth in wind and solar installations.
2018/04/30: key findings:
Renewable energy policies must focus on end-use sectors, not just power generation;
The use of renewables for heating and cooling requires greater policy attention, including dedicated targets, technology mandates, financial incentives, generation-based incentives, and carbon or energy taxes;
Policies in the transport sector require further development, including integrated policies to decarbonise energy carriers and fuels, vehicles and infrastructure;
Measures are needed to support the integration of variable renewable energy, taking into account the specific characteristics of solar and wind power
Achieving the energy transition requires holistic policies that consider factors beyond the energy sector itself.
2018/09/04: While others were addressing the public health issues of the thick air pollution, Peters’ co-worker Andre Nobre from Cleantech Energy Corp., whose field is also solar energy, wondered about what impact such hazes might have on the output of solar panels in the area. The findings show that these effects are indeed substantial. In some cases it can mean the difference between a successful solar power installation and one that ends up failing to meet expected production levels - and possibly operates at a loss.
Floating solar farms have several advantages, not the least of which is they don’t use up valuable land in densely populated areas. China has over 100 cities with populations of more than 1 million. The US, by comparison, has 10.
Floating solar power plantThe panels help to conserve precious freshwater supplies by lowering the amount of evaporation into the surrounding atmosphere. In return, the water keeps ambient temperatures around the solar panels lower, which helps boost their efficiency and limit long-term heat-induced degradation.
The most interesting thing about the floating solar power plant in Huainan, however, is that the lake supporting it was created by rain after the surrounding land collapsed in a process known as subsidence following intensive coal mining operations over a period of years. Anhui province is rich in coal reserves and has been the source of much of the coal used to power the Chinese economy.
The point is not that solar should not be considered, but that it should be considered, warts and all, alongside coal, nuclear and hydro with all their drawbacks. Too often, renewables' drawbacks and deficiencies are glossed over, not the least of these being that are unlikely ever to meet global energy needs
Dutch company claims to have a wind turbine that is 80% more efficient than existent turbines.
Human-caused climate change and air pollution remain major global-scale problems and are both due mostly to fossil fuel burning. Mitigation efforts for both of these problems should be undertaken concurrently in order to maximize effectiveness.
I read lots of articles these days pointing to the rapid expansion of renewable energy as a reason to be hopeful about our unfolding climate crisis. Unfortunately, the climate doesn't care how many solar panels and wind farms we build.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry wants to know if wind and solar are compromising the reliability of the grid and hurting coal power. The answer lies in his home state of Texas.
John Goodenough has defied the American tech industry's prejudice that says old people can't innovate. A man old enough to be Mark Zuckerberg's great-grandfather just unveiled energy storage technology that might save the planet.
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