Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

100 MW of Renewables Could be Added in Portland

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 12:09 PM PDT

Portland’s utility, the Portland General Electric Company, is requesting proposals for the development of 100 MW of renewable energy. It will consider projects from hydroelectric, solar, biogas, geothermal, and wind energy.

: TomMcCallWaterfrontPark.jpg

Smaller projects must be at least 10 MW. They will also accept proposals for one very large project. The extra power created by the renewable energy developments is expected to be operational between 2013 and 2017.

“This RFP will be an important step in meeting the state's renewable power goals, and together with our separate RFP for baseload and capacity resources will help solidify our ability to continue providing reliable,  affordable power to our customers for years to come,” said Jim Lobdell, PGE's vice president.

About 11% of the utility’s energy currently comes from renewables. It us required by 2015 to hit 15%, and 25% by 2025. If it expands by 100 MW by 2017, it will have far more than the entire state of Georgia has currently.

Oregon has, at minimum, 3,000 solar and wind power jobs, according to a report by a 2011 Portland Development Commission report. This number does not factor in associated business.

Portland is known for being one of the greenest cities in the US, and Oregon one of the greenest states.

Image Credit: Cacophony, Wiki Commons

Liquid Air Energy Storage System Could Compete with Batteries

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 12:04 PM PDT

According to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, an energy storage system that cools air until it becomes liquid could compete with batteries. The liquid is then stored inside a vacuum flask to keep it in a cold, liquid state until it is needed. Air is a mixture of multiple gases, and most of the liquid is nitrogen.

This wasn’t invented by the IMechE, but the institute was pleased with it. It was invented by Peter Dearman, a garage inventor in Hertfordshire, to power vehicles.

12,000 BTU refrigeration compressor surrounded by stainless steel tubing.

The air has to be kept cold using the insulated flask because it will warm and vaporize easily at room temperature, causing the pressure inside its storage container to increase.

When energy is needed to back up a wind farm, for example, the liquid air is warmed and allowed to exit the flask as it vaporizes, and this causes it to vaporize faster than usual. It vaporizes extremely fast and the resulting pressure and flow rate is so high that it can turn an electricity generating turbine.


Potential Benefits of Liquid Air Energy Storage

  1. It can be built to last 20 years, which is more than twice as long as average battery technology. The equipment utilized, including the cryogenic refrigerator, storage tank (vacuum flask), turbine, and plumbing are all capable of lasting 20 years (easily) if built well. Manufacturers have far less control of battery lifespan, but a refrigerator can be built to last 5 years, or 30 if they wanted it to.
  2. It can be very efficient — the liquid air can be warmed using waste heat radiated from electricity generators, or even from the condenser of the same refrigerator that cooled the air (this is a tremendous amount of heat, by the way). Engineers said that it can be up to 70% efficient.
  3. When provided with enough heat, it can discharge its energy extremely fast, and this can be slowed down easily by reducing the amount of heat supplied to it without expensive power electronics.

“I get half a dozen people a week trying to persuade me they have a brilliant invention,” head of energy Tim Fox told BBC News. It seems this one might actually be such an invention.

Summary: The electricity generated by wind farms at times when it isn’t needed powers the system, which cools and stores air. Then, when electricity demand spikes at a time when wind speeds are too low, the system releases the air from the tank through a turbine that generates electricity and augments overall electricity production so that electricity demand can be met.

Cryogenic refers to a temperature below -150  °C.

Source: BBC
Photo Credit: Kompulsa

Energy Efficiency Infographic — Save Money, Save the World

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 09:59 AM PDT

Quickie - Energy Efficiency Infographic

This is why you should care about energy efficiency: a lot of us look at our utility bills every month with a sense of trepidation (or I do, anyway), but the price we pay for having all the resources we want piped right through our walls is, well, literally the price we pay. There’s also the small matter of the dwindling finite resources that will run out one day and trigger the zombie apocalypse. Okay, maybe not the zombie apocalypse, but the dominant social structures could very well implode.

That having been said, an excellent way to stave off social implosion is to use less. Less of everything. The majority of energy usage occurs in residential homes, which means that even little things like LED light bulbs can make a big difference if enough people are on board.

Here’s a neat little infographic summarizing national levels of energy efficiency and CO2 emissions, along with a list of ways to make your home more energy efficient (click on the image or on the link above to see a larger version):

Source: eLocal

Fox News Likes Low-Cost Electric Vehicle Technology

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 09:43 AM PDT

Not that they’re going soft on us, but Fox recently featured an article on low-cost electric vehicle technology, and it’s just the kind of news we like to see here at CleanTechnica: good news about emerging clean technology that could break through the affordability barrier.

The article profiled a company called Simbol Materials, which is working on a low-cost lithium production process that could cut the retail price of electric vehicles down to the bone. But that’s not even the part that caught our attention….

Fox News runs positive story on low cost electric vehicles

We Built This!

The article provides a good rundown of Simbol’s low-cost process for extracting lithium from saltwater, which could then be used to lower the cost of batteries for electric vehicles.

But here’s what caught our eye: beyond giving Simbol credit for starting up a promising cleantech project, the article also takes care to credit the taxpayer-funded facilities where the process was developed, right up front in the second paragraph:

“The salt water extraction process was originally conceived at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) with funds from a state grant, while Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago adapted it to be used with geothermal fluids.”

Coming from the same news company that pushed the “you didn’t build that” meme against President Obama all summer, that’s a pretty striking display of “fair and balanced” reporting on the relationship between public support and private initiative in modern democratic governance.

Fox News has also been credited with leading the hysteria-tinged conservative pushback against electric vehicles, but the article doesn’t touch on that angle. It simply makes a clear, concise case for how the Simbol project would lead directly to cheaper EVs like GM’s Chevy Volt and Ford Focus Electric.

From the Laboratory to Low-Cost Electric Vehicles

LLNL and Argonne are both part of the Department of Energy’s extensive research network, which works hand in glove with the private sector to spin off new technologies into commercial production, otherwise known as technology transfer.

Back in 2009, LLNL won three prestigious awards for technology transfer from the Federal Laboratory Consortium, and one of them involved the new low-cost lithium extraction process that Simbol will put into play.

According to LLNL, the process was initially developed in aid of the geothermal industry. The aim was to find an efficient way to remove silica from geothermal brines, which otherwise clogs pipes, filters, and other equipment at geothermal plants.

The process achieves a sustainability twofer by enabling geothermal plants to run more efficiently while transforming a waste disposal problem (spent brine) into valuable products, including lithium, manganese, zinc, silica, and tungsten.


Fair and Balanced Reporting on Clean Technology

The article hits numerous positive notes on the new process, concluding that “if producers like Simbol are successful, the price of EVs could drop dramatically.”

However, the article does make clear that’s a pretty big “if.” Simbol’s proposed lithium extraction plant is for a geothermal operation at the Salton Sea, which has a particularly high concentration of minerals. It’s not clear that the process would be cost-effective at other locations.

Fair enough. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve probably noticed that our writers routinely issue the same type of caveats.

Meanwhile, it’s worth nothing that, from laboratory to commercialization, the whole project fits neatly into President Obama’s strategy for boosting domestic lithium production and reducing the reliance of important domestic industries on imported minerals, including the defense sector, as well as the cleantech sector.

Image (cropped): Electric vehicle by Parker Michael Knight (Some rights reserved)

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Suntech and EDP Renovaveis Sign 39 Megawatt Sales Agreement

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 09:08 AM PDT

The world’s largest producer of solar panels, Suntech Power Holdings, has signed a contract with EDP Renovaveis to supply 39 megawatts of polycrystalline solar panels for new projects under construction in Romania.

The Romanian solar projects will be connected late this year and early into 2013.

“We are pleased to cooperate with one of the most prominent players in the Spanish and Portuguese energy market, and a leader in the renewable energy sector. EDP shares our vision to drive the adoption of renewable energy through the provision of high-quality, affordable solar products,” said Vedat Gurgeli, Managing Director of Suntech Europe.

“It’s exciting and motivating to see companies like EDP Renovaveis focused on growing their portfolio of solar installations around the world. Suntech is proud to be selected for these first major solar projects in Romania,” said Alejandro Moreno, Suntech’s Country Head for Spain and Portugal.

Source: Suntech

EV Charging Stations to Grow to 11 Million by 2020, Pike Research Forecasts

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 04:41 AM PDT

Market research forecasts are almost never correct, but decent ones do give a good sense for how things are likely to change in various industries. I’ve found that Pike Research does a pretty good job of conducting cleantech market research reports. Its latest is on the growth of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations around the world.

Of course, the first generation of modern, mass-market electric vehicles (if you don’t count the aborted generation from a couple decades ago) just started rolling off the assembly lines in the past few years. In the past year or so, there has been a big increase in the number of companies working on or even already selling electric vehicles. And most projections indicate that we are just getting started.

My bet is that EVs will boom substantially in the coming decade. With that growth, of course, comes growth in related components… such as EV charging stations.

Pike Research projects that electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) will increase from under 200,000 in 2012 to almost 2.4 million in 2020 — big jump.

Furthermore: “By 2020, the study concludes, 11.4 million EV charging stations will be in operation worldwide.”

A mix of government incentives and procurement, entrepreneurial development and cost reductions, and increasing consumer demand will be the driving (no pun intended) force behind this EV charging station growth.

Here’s more from Pike Research, which gives you a sense for some of the assumptions included in the forecast: “A key factor in the split between residential and commercial EVSE sales, Jerram adds, is the percentage of PEV owners who have access to home charging. The report forecasts that the market for commercial charging equipment will grow at a faster rate than that for residential charging equipment. According to the report, 2013 will be a critical year since the PEV market will be transitioning from early adopters in regions such as North America, where consumers are more likely to have a secured parking spot in which to install a charger, to a broader base of consumers living in multi-family dwellings, leading to greater growth in the sales of commercial EVSE than in residential units.”

The report, if you want to read more, is titled “Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment.”

And here are a few more details about the report if you want to read more here before clicking over: “Including market analysis and forecasts for residential, workplace, public, and private EVSE, the report covers the development of fast charging over the past year and forecasts direct-current charging sales. It also forecasts the growth of wireless charging equipment, set to become commercially available in the 2013–2015 timeframe. EVSE forecasts cover the major regions of the world and include breakouts for key adopter countries including the United States, Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, China, Korea, and Israel. The report also includes profiles of more than 40 industry players, including EVSE manufacturers and service providers, their suppliers, vehicle OEMs, and utilities. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Pike Research website.”

What do you think? 11 million EV charging stations by 2020? More? Fewer?

Images #1 & #2: Ecotality EV charging stations | Image #3: Plugless Power wireless charging station | Image #4: PlugShare EV charging network image

Reposted from Electric Love!

Feed-In Tariff System vs. Quota System — Feed-In Tariffs Cost Consumers Less

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 04:30 AM PDT

The quota model for renewable energy does not work as well as feed-in tariff models. In a report recently published by Germany’s Agentur für Erneuerbare Energien (Renewable Energy Agency), the feed-in tariff system was shown to deliver a lower cost to consumers than quota systems.

feed-in tariff vs quota system

The European Union’s Non-Unified Stance

The majority of the EU’s member states use some sort of feed-in tariff system, in which investments are made into renewable energy according to the cost of producing the energy. As time goes on, often the investments are reduced to encourage lower production costs over time. The remainder use a quota system, known in the United States as Renewable Portfolio Standards or Renewable Energy Standards.

Among those member states using  quota system, the prices end users pay for wind energy is consistently and considerably higher than the prices paid in member states with feed-in tariffs. This runs counter to the idea that quota systems are supposed to reward cheap tech and deliver the lowest-cost electricity possible to consumers.


Less Wind, Lower Prices…?

Germany is a model of the feed-in tariff system, having embraced wind energy to the tune of 29,000 MW. A large portion of its wind capacity is located in less than ideal locations — mainly, in mid-Germany. And yet, according to the Renewable Energy Agency, Germans pay €0.089/kWh for wind energy.

Compare the United Kingdom, which has much greater wind-producing potential but also a quota system. At first — and second, and third — glance, it would seem that it would be easier to produce electricity via wind and therefore lower production costs, leading to lower prices. That would be wrong. Consumers there pay €0.108/kWh.

While the issue is more complex than simply a question of investment vs. quotas, it seems reasonable to assume that the current quota system, at least, is not functioning as it should. Or that feed-in tariffs are just that much better. Questions or comments? Tell me I’m right or wrong and why? Sound off in the comments below!

Source: Renewable Energy World
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Green Energy Ohio Tour 2012: Horticulture Business Relies on Solar, Wind Energy for Year-Round Food Production

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 04:10 AM PDT

Ohio horticulturalist and renewable energy advocate Barry Adler is harnessing solar and wind energy to provide all the heat and electricity he needs to provide a steady supply of herbs, greens, and other vegetables to local restaurants and shops. RainFresh Harvests, near Plain City, Ohio, is one of 170 businesses, homes, schools, parks, and other properties on 2012′s Green Energy Ohio Tour, Columbus Dispatch reports.

The solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and small wind turbine Adler has installed provide enough clean, green renewable heat and power year-round to meet the needs of RainFresh Harvest’s two greenhouses and other buildings. Being off-grid, its sustainable horticulture operations had a stable power supply even when powerful storms cut grid power supplies in the area this summer.

Green Energy Ohio Tour Showcases State’s Robust, Vital Green Energy Sector

Adler has invested some $40,000 to install Rainfresh Harvest’s renewable power and heating systems. Doing so has enabled him to combine "the two things he loves into one business: horticulture and renewable energy," Columbus Dispatch’s Mark Williams reported. "It's a good feeling to know I'm not polluting in the process of using energy," Adler was quoted as saying. "I wanted to create a model to be as sustainable as possible and have the least impact on natural resources."

More than 170 open-house sites in more than 100 communities in 49 counties were visited during this year’s Green Energy Ohio Tour, which ended October 7. Highlighting the robust vitality and tremendous diversity of the fast-growing US green energy sector, participating were 200 businesses, 50 green energy system installers, 69 manufacturers, 35 local businesses, and 45 businesses which opened their doors to the public, according to a Green Energy Ohio (GEO) press release.

Open for public viewing during this year’s Green Energy Ohio, the green and clean energy technologies on offer included energy efficiency gadgets, products and systems, LEED buildings, Energy Star appliances, electric vehicles (EVs), passive solar homes, solar thermal systems, solar PV systems, wind energy systems, geothermal ground source heat pumps, and biomass production technology.

"The GEO Tour Week shows the solar, wind, biomass and energy efficiency systems at work every day to provide a cleaner environment and new green jobs," GEO Executive Director Bill Spratley said. “We invite Ohioans to visit these green energy sites to see how they can begin adopting sustainable energy for their home, business and community."

On the other side of the globe, Aurora Algae is taking a very different tack in developing new sustainable food and agriculture technology, methods, and techniques. Building on research and development begun at the University of California, Berkeley in 2006, the company is preparing to expand its algae biomass production system in Western Australia to commercial scale.

Cleantech Leaders: 10 Influential Women in Cleantech

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 04:00 AM PDT

Someone from Technica Communications recently passed along this post below. These are some really great women making huge differences in the world we live in through their efforts to advance clean energy and other cleantech. Check out the list (full repost from Technica Communications):

It's easy to forget sometimes that most governments are designed to move slowly and methodically, as to help maintain an equilibrium in society.  However, in the face of increasing signs of climate change, this slow pace can be thoroughly frustrating.  Whether your government's reactions to global warming have made you wallow or feel uncharacteristically violent, often focusing on the good that is going on can help ease the tensions of what you think "should" be happening.  In this edition we'll focus on women in the government positions who are working tirelessly to protect our planet. You may find it feels good to know there are some knowledgeable people on Earth's side.

 1. Connie Hedegaard Brings the World Together    
EU Commissioner for Climate Action
Follow @CHedegaardEU

As a Danish politician, it fell into the lap of Connie Hedegaard to host the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009.   As former Danish Minister of Climate and Energy she stood as on one of the most qualified citizens for the task.  This particular UN conference led to ideas known as the Copenhagen Accord for countries to recognize climate to be a top issue in the world today.  Unfortunately, this conference did not lead to a legally binding treaty.  Presently, due to the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference, there is a treaty where countries are responsible to lower their carbon emissions.  Connie took up new position at the European Commission on 10 February 2010, and just in April 2012 signed a treaty with India about renewable energies.  Hedegarrd frequently publishes articles pushing the importance of climate change in the 21st century:

"A child born today is one out of seven billion, and during his lifetime, he will see the world's population grow with another 3 billion. More people will enter the global middle class, not least in Brazil. This is good news. But by the time this child, born today, will turn 18 in 2030, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more water. Every day, 24,000 football fields of forests are being trapped or burned. In 20 years from now, our water supply will satisfy only 60% of world demand. These are the kind of challenges we are facing today, Hedegarrd."

2. Dianne Dillon-Ridgely's Millennium Development Goals
Non-Executive Director at 
Interface, Inc.
Board of Directors at Interface, Inc.

Thirty years working on environment and sustainability has led Ridgely to a lot of different delegations, conferences and positions. Notably she was the only person to serve as a US delegate for Earth Summit in Rio, UNGASS- '97 and WSSD in South Africa. She worked as council on Sustainable Development for former President Clinton, and worked on President Obama's campaign for 18 months. Ms. Dillon-Ridgley declared that the most important thing to note is that we have spent the last 35 years politicizing the environment. What we should have been doing was environmentalizing politics. Environmental issues need to be a primary focus in policy decisions, she said. Instead of arguing with climate change skeptics, people need to take action, Ms. Dillon-Ridgley urged. Action!

3. Frances Beinecke the Defender of National Resource
President, National Resources Defense Council
Follow @fbeinecke

Beinecke is president of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) where she started as an intern, and later became president in 2006 after leaving NRDC for a few years to spend time with her three young daughters. Driven by her desire to help protect the North Eastern forests and wild Western landscapes Beinecke decided to study environmentalism.. But when the oil crises came to light in the 1970's, Frances shifted her focus to protecting marine life.

Recently she and NRDC gave congress a 'D', she explained in her blog, "Congress, in particular, has abdicated its responsibility. The commissioners gave it a grade of D because it has failed to pass a single law to improve safety and environmental protection in the wake of the BP Gulf disaster. Congress must act to make drilling safer and help restore the Gulf of Mexico."

4. Gina McCarthy, People Hugger
Assistant Administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

At the US EPA, Gina is a leading advocate for win-win strategies to confront climate change and strengthen the green economy.  At the EPA she helps the country take steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions and protect public health by reducing air pollution.

Writing on her activism in the air pollution sector she said, ""I'm not a tree hugger; I'm a people hugger, concerned with people's need for clean air and water."

Gina emphasizes that environmentally friendly does not necessarily mean limiting growth in the economy. In her 25-year career she worked to develop and support environmental strategies to make the economy thrive, while conforming to climate change simultaneously. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation's first market-based greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system, is a good example of her work in this arena.

5. Jane Pagel Sharing Water as a Resource for People and Businesses
President and CEO of Ontario Clean Water Agency

In addition to captaining an agency of 700 at the OCWA Jane Pagealso serves on the board of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, is a longstanding member of the Prime Minister's Advisory Council on Science and Technology and was recently appointed to the Board of Directors for WaterTAP, the Water Technology Acceleration Project, established under the Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act.

The aim of OCWA in particular is to provide business and government on the best research and data in the water sector as possible. Recently she spoke about global water issues involving the competition between business and urban populations to water access. In her speak Where? explored how governments can help eliminate this competition through technology, infrastructure and information based solutions.

6. Nanci Klein
Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Development (OED)
 City of San Jose

Nancy Klein's job is to lead San Jose towards economic growth in private and commercial endeavors in such a way that San Jose approaches its green goals with fiscal responsibility. All of this must be done while making sure that the city acts responsibly in its role of environmental stewardship. Home of Silicon Valley entrepreneurialism San Jose has big green dreams of transforming itself to a place where Clean Technology thrives, while simultaneously creating economic growth. Klein makes sure that the budgets fit these big dreams.

7. Rachel Shimshak Leading the Northwest in Renewables
Director for the Renewable Northwest Project

Shimshak's mantra is "Planning is good, doing is better." Her work as the Director of the Renewable Northwest Project (RNP) demonstrates her capability of getting green projects going. RNP objectives are to get good projects in the ground, promote policies that support renewable and grow the green retail market. Under the leadership of Shimshak, one of the most notable achievements of RNP is their assistance in the Northwest to create over 1,500 MW of wind, geothermal and solar projects. Nearly 900 MW of additional renewable energy projects are currently under construction, including the region's first geothermal power plant.

In a DoE Wind Power Advocate interview she said if she could change one policy by decree she would do something about carbon. "I think the polluting industries have gotten away far too long without internalizing that cost." The good news she says is that "utilities around the region have active requests for proposals for 1500 megawatts of renewables right now. Our current challenge is to get them [utilities] to follow through. We need reasonable transmission products and policies from them in order to accelerate renewables in the Northwest."

8. Sarah Potts' Focus on LA's Green Management
City Director, Los Angeles, Clinton Climate Initiative

As the City Director the Los Angeles C40 Climate Leadership Group Sarah Potts focuses on business, politics and environmentalism of the city. C40 is a network of large and engaged cities from around the world committed to implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally that will help address climate change globally. Recently she has supported a street light project which will reduce C02 emissions by over 40,500 tons and save the city $10 million a year. Demonstrating that going green and city budgets do not always have to be at odds. In addition, Ms. Potts recently worked with the City of Los Angeles to design and launch the Los Angeles Commercial Building Performance Partnership — an ARRA funded initiative offering commercial building owners energy audits and innovative financing options, including PACE.

9. Sarah Wright the Public's Environmental Crusader
Founder and Executive Director of Utah Clean Energy

Wright is the founder and director of Utah Clean Energy (UTC), a non-profit public interest organization that works to build a clean energy economy. Sarah also serves on the Utah Governor's Energy Advisory Council and the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change. In 2009 she won the Women of Wind Energy Rising Star award for her accomplishments in promoting wind, renewable energy and efficiency within the state of Utah.

Explaining the change that government must make Wright said, "We need a vision that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels. But that's also public policy, and that comes down to political will. It's the governor and the Legislature saying, 'We want to widen our narrow focus on fossil fuels. We want to diversify." At Utah Clean Energy Wright reaches out to citizens and business to become proactive in pressuring their government towards green economies.

10. Vicky Sharpe Incorporating Green Technology and Government Initiatives
President and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada

As founding CEO, Dr. Vicky Sharpe has increased the investment pool of Sustainable Development Technology Canada from $100M to over $1 billion. She's also mobilized private sector capital resulting in $1.5 billion of cleantech projects currently under SDTC management.

"I'm driven by the fact we have a very precious gift of this Earth, and we are in the process of destroying it," Sharpe said. She goes on to discuss that it's unfortunate that sustainability will become an everyday dinner table conversation, because of dire circumstances that we have created."

With over 25 years of experience in the energy industry, she has successfully integrated sustainable development into business practices. As President of GRI Canada and Astral Group, she demonstrated leadership and vision in the use of innovative technologies across Canada's primary economic sectors. As Vice President of Ontario Hydro International Sharpe created new global revenue streams for environmental and energy utilization practices.

German Study: Not Much Power Storage or Coal Power Needed for 40% Renewable Power Supply

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 03:25 AM PDT

There isn’t much of a need for power storage in Germany even if it increases the share of its electricity that is generated by renewable sources by around 50%, according to a new study by the German engineering association VDE.

Importantly, the study has shown that “baseload power – coal and nuclear – will have to go as the country switches to renewables.”


German engineering association VDE finds that the need for storage will be modest [up] to a 40% share of renewable power, at which point the need will increase. But the chart [above] also shows that German engineers believe that nuclear (red), brown coal (brown), and hard coal (black) are incompatible with renewable power. German engineers expect their country to mainly switch to cogeneration (fired with both biomass and fossil fuels) along with gas turbines running on natural gas and power-to-gas, a way of storing excess power seasonally.

There have been doubts expressed in the international media that Germany may not be able to switch over directly from nuclear to renewables without first relying on ramped-up coal use during the transition. But that concern isn’t a common one within Germany. As the new study shows, renewables completely ‘obliterate’ the need for baseload power.

The study’s main question was: How will intermittent wind and solar power affect the grid? And how much electricity will need to be stored?

“In five scenarios, the VDE finds that dispatchable power generators will mainly have to be flexible, but also that this requirement can be met in all of the scenarios. And up to a 40% share of renewables, the cost of power storage (or otherwise lost excess power production) remains moderate, only raising the cost of power by 10% in the worst case,” Craig Morris of Renewables International writes.

The study’s findings aren’t really a surprise. Renewables International had already found based on its calculations that Germany won’t need to make any real changes to its grid and won’t need very much power storage if it meets the targets that it currently has set for wind and solar. And we’ve reported on the lack of need for storage up to a high renewables penetration rate several times, as well.

If the targets are met, Germany will get around 40% of its electricity from renewables. As a comparison, it got around 25% of their electricity from renewable sources during the first half of 2012. So far, the effect has mostly been to offset power from natural gas, but it’s been increasingly “cutting into the baseload.” Denmark, which is already sourcing over 40% of its power from renewable sources, hasn’t had to create any major power storage infrastructure so far.

“To move beyond 40% to 80% renewable power (the target for around 2050), Germany could need as much as 14 GW of short-term and 18 GW of seasonal power storage to meet its peak power demand of around 80 GW in the moderate scenario. At that point, power prices would be roughly 10% greater than in 2011, but reaching 100% renewable power will be quite expensive indeed. The German engineers estimate that the final 20% will triple the need for power storage, raising prices once again by around 19%.”

As the chart above shows, not only will nuclear disappear (as national policy is to phase it out), but coal power use will fall off, nearly disappearing by the time the country sources 80% of its electricity from renewable sources.

“The country’s phaseout of coal power is based not on an official policy, but rather on a general understanding among experts in the power sector that the switch to renewables will gradually obliterate the need for baseload power.”

Source: Renewables International
Image Credit: VDE | Caption: Renewables International

Terra Firma Planning a Renewable Energy Fund of $5 Billion

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 01:00 AM PDT

The private-equity firm Terra Firma is planning to create a multi-billion-dollar fund to invest in renewable energy. Teaming up with a Chinese bank, the investment shows that it thinks renewable energy isn’t going anywhere and is only going to grow in the coming years.


Together, the companies are expecting to start “raising between $3 and $5 billion in the next few months, with China Development Bank to put an as-yet-undefined amount into the fund, a person familiar with the situation said.”

This new move is giving Terra Firma the opportunity to repair its somewhat tarnished reputation after losing EMI to Citigroup last year. It may be able to do so by refocusing on important core investments in areas like energy and infrastructure.

There are three large renewable energy companies that are already owned by Terra Firma, so this move isn’t out of nowhere. The company Infinis that harvests landfill gas, the U.S. wind farm group EverPower, and Italy’s leading solar power generator Rete Rinnovabile have been under Terra Frima’s ownership and have been performing well, and the company has already done many successful deals in the utilities industry.

Creating this new fund clearly shows that Terra Firma has confidence in the continued growth of renewable energies even after some governments have chosen to reduce their subsidies in the wake of the ongoing financial crisis.

“Such cuts have not much dented the investment picture overall and global spending on renewable energy reached $257 billion in 2011, according to a report according from the United Nations Environment Programme and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, nearly the total in 2007.”

There has been a growing number of large private equity firms investing in renewable energy deals; including the firms KKR and Blackstone, along with mid-sized rivals HgCapital and Bridgepoint.

China Development Bank is planning to market the new fund to investors in China, and Terra Firma will pursue investment in the United States and Europe amongst “traditional private equity investors and infrastructure fund investors,” Reuters reports.

“Terra Firma, whose last investment was the 825 million pounds ($1.3 billion) purchase of care homes operator Four Seasons in April, put plans to launch a buyout fund on ice earlier this year after scant interest from its private equity investors.”

Source: Reuters
Image Credits: Solar and Infinis via Wikimedia Commons

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