Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Shell Gives Green Light for Green 200 MW Hydrogen Plant

Artist impression Shell 200 MW electrolyser at the Tweede Maasvlakte, near Rotterdam.

It’s official, Shell is going to build a 200 MW electrolyser on the 2nd Maasvlakte near Rotterdam, that is new land, already conquered from the North Sea. Other big companies have announced they will do the same at the same location: BP, Uniper en Air Liquide.

Shell had earlier experience, gained from a 1 MW installation on their refinery in Wesseling, Germany, but this one is going to break all records. Expected completion date 2025. Supplier: Thyssenkrupp. Price tag: 1 billion euro. Input: offshore windpark Hollandse Kust Noord. The output will be used to replace “gray hydrogen” in the Shell Rotterdam refinery. The next project is already planned for, will be built in Eemshaven and will be 20 times as large as the one in Rotterdam.

Overivew of the Dutch hydrogen backbone by 2030, most retrofitted from existing natural gas pipelines.

The path has now been cleared to realize several GW of green hydrogen capacity during the remainder of this decade. The hydrogen economy has started in earnest in the Netherlands.

[] – Shell bouwt groene waterstoffabriek in Rotterdam

Towards the End of Open Air Farming?

The current drought in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, followed by drastic measures to reduce water consumption, underline that open air farming could slowly become a thing of the past. The production of 1 kg tomatoes in open air farming requires 200 liter water. In a closed-system hydroponics greenhouse, that consumption is reduced to 12 liters. At this low level, even desalinated seawater can be considered as a source, as this project in Australia has proven. An additional advantage is that production can take place all year around.

[] – Drought emergency declared in northern Italy
[deepresource] – Growing Crops in the Australian Desert with Seawater

Seasonal Storage of Heat in Sand

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The world’s first fully working “sand battery”, which can store green power for months at a time, has been installed by Finnish researchers. The developers said this could solve the problem of year-round supply, a major issue for green energy. Using low-grade sand, the device is charged up with heat made from cheap electricity from solar or wind. The sand stores the heat at around 500C, which can then warm homes in winter when energy is more expensive.

Is This Solid State Battery Breakthrough Too Late?

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Solid state batteries have been hyped for years as a silver bullet for making EVs mainstream, improving consumer electronics, and … well … everything. It’s 2022 and they still aren’t here in any meaningful way, but there have been interesting advancements that are worth exploring. However, with several other battery technologies popping up offering similar or better energy density, lifespan, safety, and costs, (all of which are solid state batteries’ big sales pitch) is solid state still the future of energy storage tech? Let’s see if we can come to a decision on this.

26 Ton DAF e-Truck Overcomes High Alpine Road

DAF CF Electric drives from Salzburg to Kärnten, via the Großglockner-Hochalpenstraß detour. Max. 12% slope, 3550 m altitude, 326 HP, energy consumption increases from 1.77 kWh/km to 2.7 kWh/km high in the mountains, but on the way down, a lot of electricity is recuperated. Conclusion of the trip: no problems driving a heavy e-truck through the mountains.

[] – Elektrischer 26-Tonnen-Lkw überwindet Hochalpenstraße

The entire Alpine mountain pass in Austria.

San Francisco 1906 – Amsterdam 2018

When cars went slower than modern day bikes.
Cars and cities, a match made in hell.

Bye-bye Silicon Solar Cell?

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Perovskite structures have the potential to revolutionise the solar PV industry, but they are notorious for breaking down very rapidly in real-world use. Now a research team from Princeton University has developed a process for overcoming that problem, making perovskite a real competitor to existing silicon PV technology.

[] – Accelerated aging of all-inorganic, interface-stabilized perovskite solar cells
[] – Once seen as fleeting, a new solar tech proves its lasting power

New Pumped Hydro Projects Coming Online

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Changlongshan hydropower station, the largest pumped storage power station in eastern China, has been put into full operation on June 30. It has six 350,000 kW pumped-storage units with a total capacity of 2.1 million kW. It will add an average of 2.435 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to the grid each year during peak hours. Changlongshan hydropower station is the highest-rated head pumping storage power station in China. The rated speed of units 5 and 6 is 600 RPM, the highest pumped storage unit in the world at this capacity level.

[] – List of pumped-storage hydroelectric power stations
[] – Capacity of pumped storage hydropower worldwide in 2021, by leading country

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The amount of electricity that can be stored thanks to the new pumped-storage and turbine power station in Nant de Drance, canton Valais, could charge more than 400,000 electric car batteries. Its director explains the role of this “water battery” for electricity supply and grid stabilisation in Switzerland and Europe.

“The electric storage capacity of the reservoir surpasses that of 400,000 electric car batteries,” explains Alain Sauthier, engineer and director of the Nant de Drance pumped-storage hydroelectric plant, pointing towards the Vieux Emosson reservoir. This artificial lake was built in 1955 in the municipality of Finhaut, high in the Alps of the Swiss canton of Valais.

Between 2012 and 2016, the height of the Vieux Emosson dam was raised by some 20 metres to increase the reservoir’s capacity and thus store more energy, the plant’s director details.

“In the future, it will be increasingly necessary to store large amounts of electricity, as renewable sources gradually replace nuclear and fossil energy.” However, as he points out, solar and wind power are volatile sources that do not necessarily generate electricity when it is needed. This is why systems such as this one are so important, to be able to store energy and keep the grid stable. (

Oceans of Energy – North Sea Offshore Solar

The Dutch company “Oceans of Energy” has installed 50 kW worth of solar modules 15 km out of the coast of The Hague, and so far they have weathered 140 kmh storms and 10 meter waves.

Oceans of Energy has raised its ambition level and wants to roll out in 3 phases: 1, 10 and 100 MW resp. The big selling point of this technology is that no valuable and very scarce Dutch land resources need to be occupied with solar panels. The Dutch part of the North Sea has an area of 57,800 km. With an annual solar radiation of ca. 1000 kWh/m2 and a solar panel efficiency of 20%, this area would in theory be sufficient to generate an annual 11,560 TWh. Note that Dutch annual electricity consumption is 120 TWh or merely 1% of the total Dutch North Sea solar potential. And then there is that 85 GW of wind potential.

Who needs Saudi-Arabia if you have the Netherlands?

All-in-all, more than sufficient to power the entire EU. Not going to happen, of course. Cheaper energy in the form of hydrogen from for instance, Africa, will limit the economic energy harvesting potential of the North Sea. But to bridge a few decades of energy starvation due to geopolitical factors, like the Ukraine war? Who knows?

[] – Dutch floating solar unit weathers through major North Sea storms intact
[] – Oceans of Energy plans twentyfold scale-up of floating solar plant in North Sea
[] – Oceans of Energy’s floating solar system weathers through all North Sea storms
[] – Floating solar

Comeback European Solar Module Manufacturing

In an age of declining globalism and fracturing supply lines, it is of the utmost importance that Europe is able to produce essential goods itself and is not dependent on relations with far-away suppliers. The most basic industries are food and energy. Everything else is secondary.

Europe has proven that it can successfully cooperate and set up potent industries and conglomerates, like ESA and Airbus and has a streamlined, highly efficient agricultural sector that is self-sufficient and net-exporter. Europa also dominates in wind turbine manufacturing and offshore installation.

Now it is important that Europa does something similar in solar module manufacturing. PV-solar is complementary to wind electricity generation, reducing the need to store energy.

[] – Putting Europe back in the lead in solar panel production
[] – Europe had just 650 MW of solar cell manufacturing capacity at the end of 2020

[] – European Solar Initiative

The European Solar Initiative aims to re-develop 20-GW manufacturing capacity of solar PV technologies in Europe by 2025. The European Solar Initiative was launched in February 2021 by SolarPower Europe and EIT InnoEnergy and is formally endorsed by the European Commission. The initiative aims to scale up solar PV manufacturing capacity in Europe to 20GW by 2025, unlocking €40bn of GDP annually and creating 400,000 new direct and indirect jobs across the PV value chain.

Two examples of European solar module manufacturers are Swiss Meyer-Burger and Dutch Solarge.

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