Published 25 March 2013 – Energy transitions: a future without fossil energies is desirable, and it is eventually inevitable, but the road from today’s overwhelmingly fossil-fueled civilization to a new global energy system based on efficient conversions of renewable flows will be neither fast nor cheap. Distinguished Professor and author Vaclav Smil explores technological transitions of past, present and future that are critical for understanding how to shift to a low carbon future.
Vaclav Smil presents as part of WGSI’s Energy 2030 Summit (June 5-9, 2011).
Youtube text: Shamengo pioneer Pierre Calleja has invented something truly remarkable–an algae lamp that absorbs CO2 in the air–at the rate of 1 ton PER YEAR, or what a tree absorbs over its entire lifetime! While development is still needed to make a cost-effective product, the microalgae streetlamp has the potential to provide significantly cleaner air in urban areas and revolutionize the cityscape.
Bloomberg no longer believes in a euro breakup, if it ever did. The euro gained in comparison to currencies of six top rated nations and “the bonds of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy — the region’s most indebted-economies– have been the best performers among sovereign debt in that period“. The euro has appreciated 7.1% over the last six months. The currencies of top AAA rated countries like Canada, Australia and Singapore have fallen against the euro by 9.6 % in the past six months.
Youtube text: More than half of the primary energy consumption is for the generation of heat. Thermal energy storage is of key importance for energy reduction technologies and for increasing the share of renewables in the thermal energy consumption.
In many application areas, like for instance in solar thermal systems for the existing building stock, the volume available for large capacity heat stores is limited. Systems with high renewable yield are only possible when compact heat storage technologies are developed. These storage technologies typically are several times more compact than a thermal storage using water.
An overview will be given of three classes of compact thermal energy storage: phase change material, sorption and thermochemical storage. The principles of the technologies will be explained, examples of their applications will be given and the research and development challenges described that are needed for their respective routes to the markets.
Youtube text: Several European countries have policies to encourage the development of renewable energy sources. This is identified in, for example, the European green paper Energy strategy for a sustainable, competitive and secure energy supply (March 2006).
In the transition towards a European sustainable energy system for the future and to reduce the dependency of imported primary energy sources such as oil and gas, the development of offshore wind power is an essential element. EWEA assumes that almost 120,000 MW offshore wind power will be realised in the next two decades, amounting to 10% of the installed generating capacity. Apart from offshore wind energy, other offshore renewable energy sources such as wave energy, tidal energy and some experimental technologies of offshore energy have been considered.
Recent blackouts within Europe have shown that there is a need for increased European co-ordination regarding the transmission of electricity including aspects related to interconnections. In the EU technology platform Smart Grids, attention is paid to the networks of the future to ensure that they can accommodate and facilitate large amounts of renewable energy, both distributed and concentrated.
Following the European Smart Grids line of thinking, Airtricity has proposed a European offshore super grid (HVDC based on Voltage Source Converter technology), combining the grid integration of offshore wind farms with an interconnection grid between countries at sea. One could extend the role of this grid and connect all “ocean power” to it. The supergrid could then be part of the European backbone to connect and transmit bulk renewable power from remote generation sites, even as far as North Africa (Desertec).
The goal of this webinar is to discuss “Ocean Grids”, grids at sea, at a conceptual level. The idea behind Ocean Grids is to provide an offshore backbone for the mainland transmission networks on one hand, and connection points for offshore wind power stations on the other hand. This will include offshore wind energy and other potential energy sources at sea.
Many people associate having a solar installation on your own roof the work of hobbyists and are not to keen to climb on the roof themselves. And then there is the high cost, in the thousands of $, of such an installation. Fortunately this is not necessary, as a phone call to a specialized company will suffice to have all the work done for you, as well as monthly payments that could equal the savings on monthly payments to the utility company.
Sunrun, a company specialized in third-party solar leasing, announced that in 2012 $938 million worth of solar installations were leased in this way in California. This was a record and equal to all the previous five years combined. 75% of all Californian solar installations are financed this way. Californian state incentives no doubt had a hand in this development.
Youtube text: Welcome to NREL! The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency. NREL’s work focuses on advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies from concept to the commercial marketplace through industry partnerships.
Here is a selection of the videos from the NREL youtube channel.
Let’s do another simple calculation of what it would take to set up an alternative energy base. From Wikipedia we learn that the US produced 88.6 million ton of steel in 2012. We saw earlier that a 5 MW windturbine needs 700 ton of steel in total, price ca. $700/ton. Three days ago we blogged that in order to replace 40% of the US current electricity production by wind, as well as power an EV for every car currently driving on US roads, it would require some 250,000 3 MW wind turbines. Or 150,000 5 MW wind turbines. The rest of the electricity could be generated by 40% solar and 20% hydro. These 150,000 turbines would require 105 million ton of steel, or a little more than one year US steel production. If we assume ASPO to be correct in stating that between now and 2040 global oil production will be reduced by 50%, than it is not difficult to conclude that a transition avoiding collapse is not a priori impossible.
Now here is a unmistakingly clear trend: the world adopts wind energy at an exponential rate, with now 282 GW installed. That’s the equivalent of 282 conventional 1 GW carbon fuel powered power plants.
Youtube text: Nate holds a Masters Degree in Finance from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. Previously Nate was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers.
Youtube text: Osmotic Power – The energy is based on the natural phenomenon osmosis, defined as being the transport of water through a semi-permeable membrane. This is how plants can absorb moisture through their leaves — and retain it. When fresh water meets salt water, for instance where a river runs into the sea, enormous amounts of energy are released. This energy can be utilized for the generation of power through osmosis. At the osmotic power plant, fresh water and salt water are guided into separate chambers, divided by an artificial membrane. The salt molecules in the sea water pulls the freshwater through the membrane, increasing the pressure on the sea water side. The pressure equals a 120 metre water column, or a significant waterfall, and be utilized in a power generating turbine.
Statkraft prototype Tofte/Norway
A 10 kW prototype was realized in 2008. A commercial scale implementation is expected to become operational in 2015. This is expensive technology.
[wikipedia.org] – Prototype Tofte/Hurum, Norway (10 kW)
Cleantechnica published a few calculations to get an idea about the landuse if it was decided to use wind as energy source for these scenarios:
– Use wind energy to fuel all US cars, realizing the same mileage as before
– Use wind energy to generate 40% of US electricity (plus 40% solar/20% hydro)
First scenario, average number of miles per car in the US 13,476 (2010). An EV uses 0.3 Wh per mile, resulting in 4,043 kWh/year or 11 kWh per day. Number of cars in the US 254 million (2007). If all these cars were replaced with EVs, this would amount to 2,798 GWh/day. This could be produced using 92,973 3MW wind turbines. Assuming a typical 0.25 acres per turbine, the total landuse would amount to 23,243 acres, that is twice the size of Manhattan.
Second scenario, total US electricity consumption 4,143 TWh (2010). This would require 150,166 3MW turbines or land use of 2.5 Manhattan islands or 0.0015% of the US.
Remark: the visual impact would be far larger, see picture.