Observing the world of renewable energy and sustainable living

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon

Planned in Wales: 250 MW tidal power station, based on a dam of 10.5 km, surrounding 11 km2 lagoon. The lagoon will generate on both ebb and flow tides using bi-directional turbines, allowing it to produce electricity for 16 hours each day. The lagoon could begin supplying electricity to the National Grid in 2017 and has an expected lifespan of 120 years. Investment volume: £650m (EUR 772m or $1006m). Other locations under consideration: Cardiff, Newport and Bridgewater Bay. The company planning to build tidal lagoon issues a £10m share offer to finance the early planning and research stages.




Flow Batteries

Youtube text: “In this video, Stanford graduate student Wesley Zheng demonstrates the new low-cost, long-lived flow battery he helped create. The researchers created this miniature system using simple glassware. Adding a lithium polysulfide solution to the flask immediately produces electricity that lights an LED. A utility version of the new battery would be scaled up to store many megawatt-hours of energy.



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Support for the Euro from Lithuania

We never heard of Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė before but we already like her. She is committed to bring her country into the euro area by 2015. She correctly denies that there is any euro crisis but instead a debt crisis, self-inflicted by irresponsible behavior of politicians. Hear, hear! Grybauskaitė rejects an opportunistic wait-and-see attitude and wants to join the euro out of principle and solidarity, because Lithuania is a European country. That’s the spirit! The EU is supported by 70% of the Lithuanians, even after the implementation of draconian measures during the past years, that were even more radical than the ones currently underway in southern Europe. Grybauskaitė wholeheartedly supports the austerity policies of Angela Merkel. We wished we had ten more Lithuanias in the EU and one Greece less. Where power hungry politicians with an eye on a career in Brussels try to sell a local southern European debt crisis as a euro crisis, using it as a pretext to further centralize the EU, this woman from Lithuania tells the truth.



Two 11 m2 parabolic mirrors can generate up to 4.5 kw electricity and 11 kw heat.


Concentrated Solar Power Development

IBM Zurich proposes a combined photovoltaic/thermal solution.

Youtube text: Bruno Michel, a research scientist at IBM Research – Zurich, explains his latest invention–a technique for concentrating solar radiation to create a much more effective system for harvesting energy from the sun. His hope is that this technique will prove to be so successful that we’ll be able to use it to replace all fossil fuel and nuclear energy with solar. The work is being done in conjunction with the Egypt Nanotechnology Center:


The World In 2030 According To Bloomberg

PowerPoint Presentation
Bloomberg foresees a sunny future for renewable energy and expects an annual global investment of ca. $630 billion per year for 2030.

PowerPoint Presentation

With current global average electricity consumption of ca. 2300 GW, it becomes immediately clear that if the scenario Bloomberg depicts will be all there is, the world is in for some major trouble.


Global Solar Demand Until 2016

The development of the global demand for solar panels until 2016 according to greentechmedia. The demand dominance will shift from Europe to Asia and although demand growth will decelerate, in 2016 global new installed capacity will exceed 50 GW.


Price Solar Down To 42 Cents/Watt In 2015

50% was the price drop for Chinese manufactured conventional silicon solar panels between 2009-2012. Expect another 30% decrease until 2015.


Global Clean Energy Investment 2012

CleanEnergy2012[click to enlarge]
Pew came with data concerning global clean energy investment in 2012. After eliminating peculiar geographical groupings like “Europe, the Middle East & Africa” or “the Americas” or “Asia and Oceania” we arrive at the following investment ranking in billion $, offset against population size and GDP:

EU $67B 503 $17T
China $66B 1350 $7T
USA $35B 315 $15T

This can be converted into clean energy investment in $/capita:

EU 133
USA 111
China 49

or clean energy investment in % GDP:

China 0.94
EU 0.39
USA 0.23

[pew] – Who’s Winning the CleanEnergy Race?

MIT Breaches The 34% Solar Efficiency Barrier

Some much needed good news from Boston. Killing two birds with one stone, that’s what MIT seems to have achieved by applying a cheap pentacene coating to solar cells. One of the birds killed might be the theoretical Shockley-Queisser efficiency upper limit of 34% assumed to apply to any solar cell, based on the idea that a single photon could merely knock a single electron out of atomic orbit. The people from MIT now have transfered the game of carom billiards to the realm of sub-atomic particles and are able to hit two electrons with a single photon, a real game changer in the world of solar cells.




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Lyken Ocean Dynamic Power

[] – video, short overview
[] – Ocean Dynamic Power, pdf, 24p.


Dynamic Tidal Power

People tend to think that in order to exploit hydropower, water needs to be confined in closed reservoirs, like high in the mountains or hermetically sealed dams in rivers. But according to some, it does not need to be and ‘leaking’ can be tolerated. In many coastal areas in the world oscillating tidal waves runs parallel to the coast. The idea is to build long dams perpendicular to the coast into the sea. These dams could be used to place windturbines on them, exploiting higher than average wind speeds in coastal regions, but the real innovation is to additionally have turbines placed under the water level, exploiting the energy contained in rising tides. China, Korea or the UK could be suitable candidates to try this idea out, where head differences of a few meter can be achieved. A single dam could generate up to an astounding 15 GW in a predictable way. Potential for China: 80-150 GW. Additional economic advantages could be realized by connecting islands or the constructions of safer LNG ports, far from inhabited areas. All necessary technologies do exist, the challenge though is that small scale demonstration projects simply will not work. In other words: kicking this technology off involves high risks. Power generation capacity increases as the square of the dam length increases (both head and volume increase in a more or less linear manner for increased dam length, resulting in a quadratic increase in power generation).


Massive Dutch Wind Power Investment Plans

The Dutch government recently allocated 11 areas for large windparks. In 2020, that is merely seven years from now, 6 GW new wind power capacity needs to be installed. In 2009, 25 GW conventional capacity was installed in total. By 2050 electricity needs to generated renewable for 100%. In European perspective, the Netherlands are still a backwater when it comes to the application of renewable energy, which can be explained by large natural gas reserves, now rapidly depleting, and the presence of Royal Dutch Shell.



Philips CFL Breakthrough – 50% Savings

Philips Electronics developed a new LED CFL tube, called TLED (TL + LED), which consumes less than 50% of the current fluorescent tubes and is the world’s most energy-efficient LED lamp suitable for general lighting applications. The people from Philips achieved 200 lumen/Watt, a world record. Since 20% of electricity consumption is dissipated in lighting, this innovation could lead to reduction of global electricity consumption of 10%. The Dutch multinational company just made the energy transition 10% easier, as far as electricity is concerned. For the US alone replacement of all existing lighting with these TLEDs would reduce power consumption with 100 terrawatt or the equivalent of 50 medium sized power plants. Philips intends to start production in 2015.


The World According To Shell

1. Shell energy supply

4. Shell oceans energy sources

6. Future electric power supply
Electric power supply in 2100.

[Shell – New Lens Scenarios] – Report, 12 MB, pdf

Sobering Thoughts

Let’s do a little calculation concerning the ability of renewable sources of energy to generate and expand itself. A reasonable assumption is an EROEI value for a wind turbine of 20. This means that during the 25-30 years life span, this windturbine can generate 20 times as much energy as it costs to build said winturbine. How much time would it take to satisfy the world’s current energy needs (consumption rather) with wind power, based on a single windturbine, reproducing itself? Assume we are dealing with a windturbine of 5 MW and that the world’s energy consumption is 12,000 MTOE.
Assuming a load factor of 33%, the wind turbine wil generate 24 * 365 * 5,000,000 * 0.33 = 14.5 million kwh or 14,500 megawatt hours per annum.
Converting 12,000 MTOE in kwh:
1 toe = 11.63 megawatt hours
1 mtoe = 11.63 * 1,000,000 megawatt hours
12,000 mtoe = 12,000 * 11.63 * 1,000,000 megawatt hours = 139560000000 megawatt hours
The number of 5 MW windturbines necessary to generate this amount of energy is 139560000000 / 14,500 = 9.6 million
Now let’s calculate how much time it would cost for a single 5 MW windturbine to multiply itself to this number (EROEI 20):
20 – 25 years
400 – 50 years
8,000 – 75 years
160,000 – 100 years
3,200,000 – 125 years
So we need a little more than 125 years.
Fortunately we do not have to start from 1 windturbine, currently 275 GW windpower already is installed or 275,000 MW or 55,000 5 MW turbines. There we go again:
EROEI 20 * 55,000 turbines = 1.1 million – 25 years
9.6 million – ca. 40 years

We can of course add the already installed solar base (with lower EROEI than wind), which brightens the picture a little. Conclusion: if we use all the energy generated by wind turbines to build new wind turbines and nothing else, than it would take us ca. 40 years to accomplish setting up a global windpower energy base that could replace all current sources of energy. But if we consider that according to the Energy Watch Group, global peak energy will arrive by 2018 and gradually decline afterwards, than it becomes immediately clear that there is no energy capacity left for setting up a new energy base and at the same time maintain current energy consumption levels. And the longer we wait with facing some very hard truths, the more devastating the coming crunch (crash?) will be. Although there is no doubt about the long term potential of renewable energy, we are simply too late for a smooth transition. We should have listened and acted upon the findings of the Club of Rome 40 years ago. We did not (sufficiently) and choose to waste the energy capital on unhindered economic expansion, now in a 7+ billion me-too world and 9 billion soon. Timber!!!

Btw: refining the very simple calculation above into a fullfledged computer simulation model could be very usefull as an instrument of substantiating an energy policy.

Global Installed Windpower Update

China now has 75 GW, the US 60 GW, Germany 30 GW, India 18 Gw installed wind power. Denmark generated in 2012 30% of its electricity from wind and 28% in the year before. Only 2% comes from offshore, mostly from Europe. For the first time in 17 years the growth of wind power would be smaller than the year before, mostly because of a slowdown in the US. 425 GW installed wind power expected for 2015. China will reach 140 GW of wind by 2015 and nearly 250 GW by 2020.


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