- Desertec (HUGE Solar & Clean Energy Project) Moving Forward
- Think New Clean Energy Costs too Much? Oil Cost $500 a Barrel at Startup
- Floating Marine Solar-Wave Power System Generates Electricity from the Sun and Waves
- 3 Good Ways to Go Solar Today
- Belgium Joins the Ranks of the Nuclear-Free
Posted: 01 Nov 2011 04:22 PM PDT
If you haven’t heard of Desertec yet, it’s about time you did. Desertec is a half-a-trillion-dollar renewable energy project (yes, I said trillion) planned for Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. We’ve written about it several times over the years. If built, it is projected to produce 15-20% of Europe’s electricity by 2050, as well as providing the Middle East and North African (MENA) region with a good deal of its electricity.
While many have been skeptical of this giant renewable energy project, it’s got the backing of over a dozen major companies and institutions (including: Munich Re, Enel, Abengoa Solar, Deutsche Bank, RWE, Saint-Gobain, E.ON, HSH Nordbank, ABB, Siemens, Flagsol, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, PWC, Flabeg, Jungmut Communication, Skies & Meadows, Nissen Consulting, EBL, Heidelberg Innovation, Nur Energie, M & W Group, MGM Consulting Partners, Red Electrica, and the Desertec Foundation) and it has been moving forward steadily. Now, it’s been announced that construction of its first power plant — a 500-megawatt, €2-billion ($2.8-billion) concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in Morocco — is going to start in 2012.
The first phase of the 500-megawatt project is a 150-megawatt, 12-square-kilometer solar facility that will cost about €600 million ($822 million) and will take 2-4 years to complete.
Those behind the Desertec Industrial Initiative (its full name) point out that deserts receive enough solar energy in 6 hours to power the world for a year. Seriously. Nothing compares to the potential of solar energy, as I’ve pointed out a few times before. And, of course, much of that potential is in sunny deserts.
Image via DESERTEC
Posted: 01 Nov 2011 03:31 PM PDT
It should be obvious that it costs more to develop ANY new energy sources, than to keep using the energy sources supplied by capital investments in energy infrastructure that has been already paid off, long ago.
We are only hearing one side of this story, as conservatives bemoan the “cost” of investing in new sources of energy like solar and wind, as if dirty energy didn’t cost anything to start up too.
But a contemporary account of startup costs in the the 19th century oil business is revelatory.
Derrick's Handbook (1898) reported that Drake had no trouble selling all the oil his well could produce at $20 a barrel in 1859. With the 24-fold increase in consumer prices since 1859 this translates into a bit under $500 a barrel in 2010 dollars.
Just as solar prices dropped by more than 70% in just the last few years, driven down partly by the demand created by the one-time Recovery Act investment by the Obama administration – and because the rest of the world (unhampered by Koch-funded plutocracy) has gotten serious about preventing climate change, and implemented much more sustained renewable energy policies – as more oil came on the market, the price of the new found "rock oil" from more wells dropped by about half, and then continued to drop as the industry established itself over the next fifty years.
“As other wells brought more of the product to the market, the price quickly fell, averaging $9.31/barrel for 1860. In 2010 prices, that corresponds to $232 a barrel, still far above anything seen subsequently. Even ignoring the initial half-century of the industry, the price of oil in real terms continued to drop from 1900 to 1970″.
When we discovered the apparent energy miracle of oil, we had no idea about what its true costs would be, in long-term climate catastrophe. There was no cheaper alternative at the time. There was no entrenched energy sector to compete with, no lobbyists and media moguls to represent their interests. So, in the 19th century, market forces alone, with no competition, were able to drive down the costs of oil.
But market forces alone won’t make us switch to renewable energy.
That is because, with oil (and coal) cheap and available and the infrastructure like refineries, drilling machinery and pipelines (and railroads and power stations) already paid for, and half the population lulled into complacency about climate change and peak oil – and a now entrenched oil and coal sector – there is no natural push to switch to renewable energy.
But we have inadvertently have gotten ourselves into a Faustian bargain – long term climate catastrophe that will impact our species caused by the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuels. So, now, we need to artificially create a market force to drive down the costs of starting over, with renewable sources, that won’t impact our ability to continue our civilization. This is why the Obama administration backed VC loans to thousands of renewable energy companies around the country with loan guarantees – including Solyndra.
This lack of market forces is why we need energy policy that drives demand for renewable energy, such as the Section 1705 loan guarantees backing private investment in renewable energy, that the Republican House conspired to let expire at the end of September – by trumping up a supposed scandal because just one of those loans (Solyndra was only 1.4% of them) guaranteed went bad.
Posted: 01 Nov 2011 12:13 PM PDT
London-based designer Phil Pauley has devised a unique, innovative way of harnessing the energy of the sun and ocean waves. His scalable hybrid marine solar PV cell – wave power (MSC) system generates electricity from wave motion as well as direct and refracted sunlight.
Founder of “design and innovation agency PAULEY,” Pauley developed the solar-wave plant in response to “the global need for large-scale renewable energy capture. It has huge implications for offshore energy generation and local marine conservation,” he states on his website.
Pauley’s marine solar cells are relatively cheap to manufacture and deploy, and they generate as much as 20% more electricity the same solar cells installed on land by capturing and converting sunlight reflected from the ocean surface. Wave motion is converted into electricity through natural buoyancy displacement.
In Pauley’s system design, interconnected rings of hundreds of the hybrid solar-wave power units float on the ocean surface and are tethered to mid-water or ocean floor mooring where they can function as off-shore energy batteries or power plants.
Pauley says the MSCs can be manufactured cheaply from recycled materials. They can be placed most anywhere offshore. Installing and maintaining these marine solar-wave arrays or farms would also generate good ‘green’ jobs, he adds.
Posted: 01 Nov 2011 12:12 PM PDT
I just wrote a post for sister site sustainablog on ways to go solar. I realized after doing so that we haven’t written such a story in quite awhile here on CleanTechnica. I know we’ve gotten a lot of new readers in recent months, so thought I’d just repost that. The gist of it all is this: right now is a great time to go solar, and there currently are a number of options for doing so. Anyway, here’s the post:
Posted: 01 Nov 2011 11:59 AM PDT
Belgian politics have been a little complicated for the past year, or perhaps "nonexistent" is the better word. The political parties are divided and consensus has yet to be reached. However, that hasn't stopped the country from taking steps to phase out its nuclear energy.
You might be surprised to find out, though, that the removal of nuclear power in Belgium isn't a response to the 2011 disaster in Japan – it's enforcement of a law passed in 2003. The government in place at the time had decided to shut down its reactors between 2015 and 2025, provided that its power supply wouldn't be interrupted. This scheduled phasing out of nuclear is comparable to the German timeline for the same procedure.
When the Belgian government essentially fell apart in June 2010, the phase-out of nuclear power wasn't enough of a priority to keep anyone's attention and the project was largely ignored. However, current negotiations – headed by the Social Democrats – have led to an agreement that nuclear power has to go.
Whether or not the Belgians actually get rid of nuclear power depends on that initial caveat – that there's enough installed power capacity from other sources to ensure a steady power supply. The greenest way to keep the electrons flowing is, of course, renewable energy – solar, wind, and water. Belgium's current state of instability can perhaps be seen as an opportunity to foster green energy and maybe even a little cooperation in the process.
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