Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Stacked Agriculture In Singapore

Youtube text: With land prices at a premium in Singapore, vertical farms with rotating vertical racks present a sustainable solution while cutting down pollution.

Global Natural Gas Reserves

The global natural gas market, conventional and shale, from an Indian perspective. Due to developments in the US, namely recent US unconventional oil and gas finds as well as a government reaching concensus about dramatically improved fuel efficiency of cars, fuel hope that India could benefit from US gas exports as well as reduced US demand for oil from the Middle East, leaving more for India, hopefully at lower prices. Whatever may be true of this, we were at least as interested in the map depicting the global natural gas reserves.


Zero Emission Renault

Renault markets its new electric car as one with zero emissons, conveniently ignoring that electricity does not grow on trees, but instead comes from the grid that is largely powered by fossil fuels… with lots of emissions. Yeah, yeah, we know… in time electricity will come from renewables like wind and solar, but that is not now. And a lot of water has to pass under the bridge before we can power cars with electricity from renewables, if ever. Consider: iPad – 3 Watt, fridge – 50 Watt, light bulb – 45 Wat, television – 100 Watt, car – 45,000 Watt. Now what do you prefer, 15,000 hours using an iPad, 1000 hours of late nigh reading or 1 hour driving? See?

Wilpoldsried Makes Millions From Renewables

Wildpoldsried, Überblick[source]
Wilpoldsried, Bavaria in Germany has 2600 inhabitants and makes 4 million euro per year (1500 euro per person) from clean energy. The village produces 320% more energy than it can consume and there is not even that much wind in Bavaria. The decision for change was taken in 1997 and in 14 years time the achievements are:

  • 9 buildings with solar panels
  • 3 small hydro power stations
  • 4 biogas installations (5 soon)
  • 7 windturbines (9 soon)
  • 190 households have solar installations on the roof

    Wilpoldsried is a perfect example of how energy problems should be tackled. We are no fans of Karl Marx here and we would have preferred if he had become a rabbi, like his father, nevertheless to paraphrase him: mayors of the world, unite!. The blueprint for the future of your village can be found in Wilpoldsried. All you need to do is find a plan, consensus between the inhabitants and a financier. Meanwhile prices for solar have come down considerably, so there is no reason why it should take 14 years for your village to achieve 320% overproduction, let alone 100% coverage. If you can get the finance, do it, as it will pay for itself.

    [] – 8 pictures

    Zoom in from space to see the solar panels on the roofs.

    Read more…

  • 2012 Record 8.5 GW Utility Scale Solar Installation

    Table shows top 20 of largest EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractors, mainly European and American, 7 of them German.


    Gas Monopoly

    German spoken Arte documentary. Woher nehmen wir das Gas, das wir so dringend benötigen und von dem wir geradezu abhängig sind? Um eine Antwort zu finden, hat sich der Journalist Martin Leidenfrost aufgemacht, die neuralgischen Punkte des internationalen Gasgeschäfts genauer zu untersuchen. Seine Recherchen haben ergeben, dass Gas nicht nur ein Geschäft ist, es ist auch Politik, Intrige, Emotion. Überall auf der Welt sind Menschen abhängig vom Gas, aber dennoch ist es kaum Thema, weder in den Medien noch in den Alltagsdiskussionen der Menschen. Über Erdöl weiß jeder Bescheid und jeder diskutiert darüber: Entweder über den steigende Benzinpreis oder über die Produktpalette, die aus Erdöl hergestellt wird oder in der es enthalten ist. Außerdem wird viel über Öl fördernde Länder und deren Möglichkeiten, durch Verknappung wirtschaftlichen und politischen Druck auszuüben, gesprochen. Und auch über Katastrophen für die Meere und ihre Bewohner, wenn mal wieder ein Öltanker havariert, oder über die Endlichkeit des Brennstoffs, wird viel berichtet. Aber ließe sich nicht vieles von dem entsprechend über Gas diskutieren? Woher kommt dieser Rohstoff, der wie das Öl ein fossiler ist? Wer fördert das Gas, und wer macht damit Geschäfte? In seinem Dokumentarfilm “Gas Monopoly” geht der österreichische Journalist Martin Leidenfrost genau diesen Fragen nach. Er begibt sich auf eine Reise zu den Schlüsselstellen des internationalen Gasgeschäfts. Und stößt dabei auf Intrigen, Machtspiele und äußerst schmutzige Deals.


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    The Twin Sides of the Fossil Fuel Coin

    Published 30 nov 2012. Award winning conservation biologist and professor emeritus Guy MacPherson visits GCC and delivers his presentation “The Twin Sides of the Fossil-Fuel Coin: Developing Durable Living Arrangements in Light of Climate Change and Energy Decline.” rec. 11/28/12

    Lithium in Bolivia

    Lithium ist Heutzutage das neue Gold. Dieser Stoff ist der Schlüsselrohstoff für die nächsten Jahrzehnte. Lithium-Ionen-Akkus sind unverzichtbar für Autobatterien, Handys und Laptops. In dieser Dokumentation über die Lithium Gewinnung in Bolivien geht um den größten Salzsee der Welt. Dort vermuten Geologen die größten Lithium Vorkommen der Erde. Lithium ist das leichteste Metall der Welt und in Zukunft bald der Wichtigste Rohstoff. Denn ohne ihn könnte man keine rentablen Batterien und Akkus bauen. Mehr als die Hälfte der Vorräte lagern im Salar de Uyuni, dem größten Salzsee der Welt. Doch um das Lithium abzubauen ist ein Verdampfungskegel nötig, welcher über mehrere Jahre entwickelt wurde. Die Bolivianer wollen den Stoff selbst abbauen, da sie damit ein Milliardengeschäft machen würden – doch internationale Konzerne und deren Lobbyisten versuchen dies zu verhindern und es beginnt ein harter, aber unfairer Kampf zwischen den beiden Parteien.


    3SAT documentary in German.

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    LightSail Energy

    Video upload: December 22, 2012. LightSail makes what sounds like the world’s least sexy product: a new kind of air compressor. But compressed air could be the key to storing electricity on the very large scale required by utilities. And that, as it turns out, would be a key advance in creating a new energy system based on intermittent sources like wind and solar… Previous compressed air systems lost the vast majority of power that you could put into them. But LightSail says their system can return 70 percent of the power that’s put into it back to the grid. That’d be as effective as the current best solution (literally pumping water up a hill, then releasing it back through turbines) but with less restrictions. The key to their technology is the simple addition of a fine mist of water during the compressor’s operation; the key to their business is proving that their technology works the way they say it does.

    [] – How to Do Energy Storage on a Massive Scale (July 11, 2012)

    [] – Lightsail-1
    [] – Danielle Fong

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    Iceland Pushes Geothermal Energy Use In Japan

    A Japanese macaque swims in a geothermal hot spring in the mountains of Japan. ow ironic that Stefan Larus Stefansson, Ambassador of Iceland to Japan, needs to tell the Japanese how big their potential for geothermal energy actually is, using his own country as an illustration. Interesting detail: most of the geothermal turbines operational in Iceland were made in Japan. 66% of the energy in Iceland comes from geothermal sources. Japan in contrast, despite having the world’s third-largest potential for geothermal energy, built its last geothermal energy plant in 1999, and all research funding from the government ceased in 2003, when the japanese government decided to put most of its cards on nuclear energy. Effectively Japan could replace 25 nuclear power stations with geothermal energy. 92 percent of houses in Iceland are heated by geothermal hot water, and heating prices are the lowest in Northern Europe.


    Estimated US Energy Use 2011

    Instructive graph showing which energy sources are used and for which purpose. Note that most energy is used in transport and that more than 50% of the energy is wasted.

    Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (October 2012)


    A Few 2012 Energy Stats


  • An iPhone costs 41 cent per year on electricity (see graph and article)
  • In 2017 the US will be the world’s largest oil producer (we are not so sure)
  • Even Americans these days see fuel efficiency as the most important criterium for a new car. Average mileage up 23% since 2004. Should be 35.5 mpg 2016, a figure the EU is at now, heading for 48.6 mpg by 2015.
  • 1 in 3 US households have a smart meter (36 million)


  • Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant

    Youtube text: A unique thermosolar power station in southern Spain can shrug off cloudy days: energy stored when the sun shines lets it produce electricity even during the night. The Gemasolar station, up and running since last May, stands out in the plains of Andalusia.

    Tower 140 m high, power 19.9 MW, uses molten salt as heat transfer and storage medium. 2650 heliostats, each 120 m2. Gemasolar is the first commercial solar plant with central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology. Due to its storage system it allows to produce electricity for 15 hours without sunlight (at night or on cloudy days).


    Spanish First Utility-Scale Solar Parks Without Subsidies


    Spain is probably set to have Europe’s first utility- scale solar parks without subsidies“, according to Jenny Chase, the Zurich-based head of solar energy analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Main reason: Solar-cell prices came down 67% during the past two years, not in the least due to Chinese overproduction. Spain has been winding down subsidies on solar. Currently there are application for plants with 150 megawatts to 500 megawatts in capacity and all would be larger than any in Europe. Developers: local companies Solaria and Gestamp Renewables, as well as Germany’s Gehrlicher Solar AG, S.A.G. Solarstrom AG and Wuerth Solar GmbH & Co. Installed solar capacity to date: Germany 30 GW, Italy 15 GW, Spain 5 GW and the US 4 GW.


    Nabucco Status Update

    Now that construction of the Southstream pipeline has started, what is the status of Nabucco? Nabucco is a planned pipeline between the Caspian and Austria and is preferred by the US, for geopolitical reasons, namely to decrease Europe’s dependence on Russia concerning carbon fuels. But there are so many problems that it is unclear if will ever come off the ground. To start with it does not make sense to build a pipeline if there is no gas to transport. The main candidate supplier would be Iraq with potential additional supplies from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Egypt. But Iraq is not very stable.

    [] – Even US magazine Forbes admits: “The Failure of Nabucco and the Future of Russian Energy.” (Feb 7, 2012).


    [] – And German weekly der Spiegel, a Washington subservient with little affinity for Russia admits: “Europe’s Failed Natural Gas Strategy”. Translation: US preferred Nabucco is going nowhere, where the Russians are building pipeline after pipeline. Shortly after completion of the second Northstream pipeline, Gazprom wants to build a third and fourth, directly connecting Russia with Germany, circumventing Poland, Belorussia and the Ukraine (May 18, 2012).

    [] – Reinhard Mitschek, CEO of Nabucco Gas Pipeline International: “Nabucco Will Be Profitable”. Despite the departure of RWE from Nabucco, Mitschek is confident that the Nabucco pipeline will be able to transmit up to 23 billion m3/year. The volume of gas production in Azerbaijan will increase to 20 bcm/a by 2015 and up to 40-50 bcm/a by 2025. Furthermore Mitschek does not doubt that the Shah Deniz consortium will decide on Nabucco in June 2013.(Dec 13, 2012).

    [] – Bulgaria Gives Nod to Nabucco’s EIA. The Bulgarian government has given the nod to the Nabucco consortium’s Environmental Impact Assessment for the portion of the pipeline in that country (Dec 21, 2012).

    [] – Meanwhile Nabucco itself seems to have given up the idea to build a pipeline from the Caspian to Europe and now proposes merely a pipeline from the Turkish-Bulgarian border into Europe (“Nabucco-West”). This pipeline should be connected to the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), a project that is still in the planning stages.

    [] – Shah Deniz II to acquire stake in Nabucco West gas pipeline. New reports indicate that Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II gas group could agree to take over a 50% stake in the Nabucco pipeline consortium in early 2013. Such a move would boost the EU-backed gas pipeline’s prospects in a competition between projects that aim to flow Azeri gas into Europe. (Dec 21, 2012)

    Capacity natural gas pipelines into Europe:
    Nordstream55 bcm/a (operational)
    Trans-Siberian Pipeline32 bcm/a (operational)
    Yamal33 bcm/a (operational)
    Southstream63 bcm/a (under construction)
    2nd Nordstream55 bcm/a ? (planned)
    Nabucco10 bcm/a (planned) []

    In other words, even if Nabucco is completed it will transport only a small amount of natural gas into Europe compared to the potential of 238 bcm/a from Russia. In geopolitical terms Nabucco is a non-issue.

    [] – Russia in the European energy sector.

    Nate Hagens – The End of Growth

    Nate Hagens, former President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers turned global resource depletion Nostradamus, discusses the prospects for growth.

    German Solar Already Covering 50% Power Demand

    Compare this graph with a post from May this year to see that Germany is making progress with breakneck-speed. And clearly, if a country can cover 50% of its electricity needs from solar during peak hours, it also can cover 100%, provided sufficient storage facilities are available. The big difference between Germany and the US probably largely has to do with cost.


    Here is an article with a lot of solar data, like cost.

    South Stream Pipeline Construction Has Started

    On December 7, 2012 Russian president Wladimir Putin attended a ceremony to mark the start of the building of the Southstream natural gas pipeline from Russia to Europe. Expected start of production in 2015. Destination countries: Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy.

    [] – Capacity 63 billion m3 per year, more than 20 times the amount of natural gas delivered by Russia to Bulgaria in 2011.

    [] – Gazprom and Bulgaria sign final investment decision on South Stream on November 15, 2012.


    Read more…

    Fuel Cost As Percentage Of GDP

    The spike around 1980 was brought down again with nuclear energy and oil discoveries in the North Sea and Mexico. Now it is rising again, as a consequence of peak conventional oil. It remains to be seen if the shale oil/gas development can change much.

    phase shift[source]
    Aucott uses the phase shift ice –> water –> vapor as a model to understand what is happening in the world of oil prices. From the graph it becomes apparent that something happened in 2005, namely the vanishing of oil price elasticity and abrupt increase of oil prices. Aucott suggests that we are witnessing a phase shift in the economic system. It is time that economists, who know all about water, should start to interest themselves in vapor.


    Cleaner Natural Gas Fracking Method Unveiled

    A drilling project is planned whereby the fracking will take place with a thick propane gel instead of water/sand/chemicals to reduce pollution (LPG fracking). The gel returns to the surface as vapor and is recovered. Chemicals contained in the gel do not return to the surface. Additionally there is talk of “spectacular rise in well production”. Reports from the Cardium formation, which is west of Edmonton, displayed that LPG fracking results are “two to three times better” at increasing the flow of oil and gas in comparison to traditional methods.


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