Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

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.

The Next Reserve Currency

Reserve Currency Status[zerohedge]
According to Wikipedia: a reserve currency, or anchor currency, is a currency that is held in significant quantities by many governments and institutions as part of their foreign exchange reserves. Being the owner of a reserve currency means you are a top dog; that you are in the middle of where all the action is. During the past six centuries there have been six countries holding the largest reserve currency. Painting with a broad brush you could allocate a century to each of them:

  • Portugese Century (15th) – The concept of a ‘Portugese Century’ is a bit of a stretch for this tiny melancholic European outpost, but nevertheless it were Portugese dare devils who were the first and only ones during the entire 15th century to explore the planet in grand style, before they were overtaken by Spanish, Dutch and British. The Portugese set the tone for European imperialism for centuries to come.
  • Spanish Century (16th) – Christianity ruled supreme again in Spain, after the last muslims were kicked out, a process known as Reconquista and America was discovered for the Spanish crown, both events in 1492. Gold and silver were transported from the new world to Spain by the boat load, leading to the rise of Spain within the European state system.
  • Dutch Century (17th) – Nothing beats winning a major war before you can even hope to own a reserve currency. In this century the Dutch were the winners, the losers the Spanish. The resulting landmark Peace of West-Phalia meant the consolidation of Protestantism in Europe, with Holland as its supreme bastion, a religion emphasizing the value of labour, economy, money and profit. The Dutch commercial fleet was three times the size compared to all other powers combined. All the foundations of modern economic life: capitalism, corporate structures, central banking, share holders, can be found in the Netherlands first as a fully developed integrated economic system, that would expand globally, perfected by the Americans and hold until today. The Dutch were the ones who kicked in the doors of modernity. The last great achievement of the Dutch was the military conquest of Britain and Northern Ireland by the Dutch army in 1688/1689, the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution‘. But please do us a favour, don’t mention this to the British, they don’t like to hear it. By plundering the vaults of the British treasury, the Dutch were able to hold the rising French power in check. The last European assault against Protestantism by Catholic ruled Britain and France against the Netherlands in 1672 was averted and Britain became a Protestant state. By exporting a winning religeous formulae to a larger country, the Dutch eventually digged their own grave. Holland is to be seen as the blueprint of Anglosphere and the United States in particular; heck, they even wrote the American Declaration of Independence, so Jefferson did not have to do it. The Dutch are pro-American to a fault, because of the religeous/cultural proximity and historic ties, no surprise they were the first to recognise the American Republic. Here are more than 50,000 Dutch assembled in the Amsterdam arena in May 2012, celebrating America. Not even the British would display this orgy of pro-Americanism, let alone the Germans or French. In 177x, the Dutch played a decisive role in bringing about the independent American Republic, together with France, at the cost of Britain. Britain fuming with rage, took revenge in the fourth and last Anglo-Dutch sea war and destroyed Holland as a large European power. But Holland had passed on the baton of its way of life to the United States.
  • French century (18th) – Next there were the French, who rose to continental supremacy, starting with Louis XIV, culminating in the conquest of the entire European continent up until Moscow under Napoleon. It is interesting to note that in this list of six, the French, who detest water, unless there is alcohol in it, were the only landbased power, unlike the Portugese, Spanish, Dutch, English and Americans, who are all seafaring nations (or ‘thalassocratic‘ nations if you have a degree in geopolitics and want to impress your mother and pretend that you understand the Heartland theory of Mackinder). The Anglos, who like to cultivate a certain dedain for these ‘cheese eating surrender monkeys‘, have yet to show for a similar military accomplishment (Subduing Hottentots or bombing women and children from safe three mile altitude or fighting German kids in the 1944 Ardennes does not really count). Just like that if you want to count in the modern world you need to have an ipad, in those days the snobs spoke French, like the upperclasses in the Netherlands or Prussia. The British, who by definition don’t like the strongest state in Europe, be it the Spanish, the Dutch, the French or the Germans (Balance of Power politics), organized a coalition against the French, who literally found their Waterloo in 1815.
  • British Century (19th) – From now on, for two centuries, the reserve currency would speak English. After Napoleon, the British empire was next, greatly stimulated by the invention of the steam engine, leading to vast industries, train networks and increased shipping. London was the true center of the world, much more than New York is today. By 1920 the British had acquired ca. 25% of the planet as a little Lebensraum of their own. But then the British committed suicide by applying their balance of power strategy one time too many and chose to destroy Germany, that had dared to outcompete Britain (and France) on world markets by the turn of the century. The British started to mastermind a coalition with the intent to destroy Germany (‘Germania est delenda‘), a strategy that succeeded initially, culminating in Versailles, the most cruel ‘peace treaty’ ever, but the same conflict was exploited the second time by extra-European powers USA and USSR. Although the British until today think that they won WW2, in reality they lost the largest empire in recorded history and unintentionally created the foundations of European unity, ending five centuries of British balance of power strategy. It is unlikely that we will hear much of Britain ever again as it remains to be seen if London can hold onto Scotland and Wales, or even onto itself as London is no longer majority English. Britain has acted as Europe’s geopolitical cat flap, that can be used by foreign powers to bring continental Europe down. The British are so fond of humor that they have decided to turn their own country into a joke.
  • American Century (20th) – The 20th century should have been the German century, but thanks to the actions of Britain in 1914 and 1939, Europe, that had ruled the planet since 1492, committed geopolitical suicide and the baton was passed to the USA and USSR. The American century was born. Or was it the jewish century, as this jewish author wants to have it? It was the Soviet spy Harry Dexter White, acting on behalf of the US government, who was the architect behind the Bretton Woods arrangement, that explicitly bombarded the US dollar as the reserve currency of the western world, now under leadership of the US. The western world experienced unparalleled economic prosperity, mainly thanks to unlimited supply of cheap fossil fuel. In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and soon afterwards the USSR disintegrated. What followed was the so-called ‘unipolar moment‘, where the real US power brokers behind the scenes, like Krauthammer, Kristol, Perle, Wolfowitz, Ledeen, Libby, the ethnic identity of whom you are not supposed to mention in polite company, were dreaming of a ‘benevolent hegemony‘ of the US. The event of 9/11 provided a pretext for the creation of a terrorism meme, which would be used to invade countries at will; not few suspected that 9/11 was setup for that purpose (‘inside job’). Whatever the truth of that, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan proved to be a disaster for the US, from which it will unlikely recover. Combined with the rapid morphing of the US into a third world country and structural fiscal deficits of 1+ trillion $, it is obvious that the days for the dollar as global reserve currency are numbered and that it can lay itself to rest in the reserve currency mausoleum, next to the pesos, guilder, franc and stirling. Washington wants to rule the world but it can’t. Even Samuel Huntington, the great American prophet of the coming identitarian multipolar world order, had to backtrack from his own theory, as he foresaw that possibly North-America would not fit into his scheme. According to Pat Buchanan, the US might break up before 2025 as a result of ethnic strife, just like everywhere else in the world and we support that view.

    So which currency is going to be the next reserve currency? Who are the candidates?

    Current reserve currency situation:


    Ranking nominal GDP:

    EU $17T
    US $15T
    China $7T
    Japan $5T
    Russia $2T
    India $2T
  • Dollar? All talk about American decline is premature and the dollar will stay in place? Owning a reserve currency means you can, to a certain extent, print money with zero nominal value in exchange for real values, first and foremost oil. But this setup presupposes that there are economic partners willing to accept this money in the first place. As we speak all major ‘partners’ like Russia, China and Brasil (BRICS) and now even Australia, are working towards the goal of eliminating/bypassing this essentially American free lunch.
  • Euro? Come-back of Europe? They ruled the planet for five centuries, even as a divided continent, until assorted inconveniences like Americans and Soviets came along and (temporarily?) interrupted the European party. The Soviets are dead and although the US can wipe out life on the planet 100 times over, the Russians, Chinese, French and British can do it at least one time, which is basically enough, militarily speaking to keep the Americans in check. A cowboy carrying hundred shooters is not necessarily in advantage facing an opponent with only one. Militarily the US are a paper tiger as soon as the famous boots are on the ground, as fiasco’s like Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq have shown. The American is a travelling salesman, not a warrior, or ‘lousy imperialists‘ as Pat Buchanan once put it. Europe already is the largest economic power on the planet, is for the first time united under a single currency and has 500 million Europeans in contrast to 180 million Euro-Americans plus 120 million of non-European origin, many of whom are a burden rather than an asset. Europe’s industry by-and-large outcompeted that of the US (cars, planes, trains, aerospace) and sooner or later this will have repercussions on the political power level. Not that these industries have a lot of future in a resource depleted world, but it does show the strength of the new formation. And then there is the option of a Paris-Berlin-Moscow alliance, the one advocated by French general De Gaulle (‘Europe of the Fatherlands’). Quintessential gas-pipelines to Europe already come from the East, not from the Atlantic, a geopolitical fact of the highest importance.

    The French president Charles de Gaulle in 1962 rejecting supranationalism and Atlanticism in favour of a Europe of the Fatherlands, including Russia after the demise of communism. The time is ripe for that vision to be realized.

  • Renminbi? The what? See, everybody on the planet knows what a dollar or euro is, or even currency number three, the British pound, but China still has a long way to go before at least 5% of the US population can discern this currency from a starlet featuring in American Idols. Would-be Nostradamusses like Jim Rogers already let their kids learn Mandarin (which is not a fruit), because, you see, China is the next big thing, just because these people are foolish enough to fill the shelves at Walmart with pedal bins in exchange for printed green paper.
  • Gold? Libertarians of all nations unite! Oh wait, that’s a ‘collectivist’ thing to do and we are all glad we are not like that. Seriously, gold has won considerable traction world wide since the FED began to print money big time and nobody was fooled by the soothing term ‘quantitative easing’. Yet as a coin gold is useless unless you bring your microscope when you buy a loaf of bread. Demanding that paper currency is backed by gold for 100% will work maybe for a couple of years, but soon another Nixon will come along and start to ease this restriction. In itself ‘fiat currencies’ can and did work, provided you have an independent central bank with the task of keeping inflation low. Best example is the Bundesbank, an institution that worked perfectly for decades. Why? Because the Germans had not set themselves impossible goals and merely concentrated on building cars and left ‘conquering the world’ gladly to the Americans. The Americans in contrast cannot let go of impossible imperial dreams and that’s what’s bringing them and their currency down in the end (‘imperial overstretch‘). They don’t have the money to fund all their imperial projects, so they print, which is noticed by the rest of the world, which votes with its feet, that is away from the dollar.
  • IMF run world currency? Well, as long as the IMF is (correctly) seen as an institution serving western interests, this is not likely to happen.


    First of all, in the rising multipolar world, there will be no second Bretton Woods, where one entity can impose its currency upon another. There will be several competing currencies and the acceptance of a foreign currency will be proportional to the package of products that economy can provide to the potential holder of that currency. You are from Kenia and you want a car? Forget your local currency, make sure you have dollars or euro’s and then you can come back. You are still from Kenia and now want oil from the Gulf to drive in your newly acquired French car? Bring dollars only, courtesy US army, which occupies the Gulf region, providing ‘security’ to that area. Or try the Russians, maybe they accept euro’s. So how is the graph above going to look like in 10, 20, 30 years time? We could be honest and say we don’t know, but that’s not a billable answer. So our guess would be that, ignoring resource depletion and the possibility of war, the green euro area will increase somewhat and that a small band representing Chinese money will appear, both at the cost of the dollar, but that if the international system remains stable, the dollar could hold out quite some time. But that is a big if. The greatest threat to international financial stability comes from Washington itself, in its unwillingness/inability to cut its spending and moderate its ambitions. Washington could reduce its military budget with 50% without compromising its own security, but it won’t. Washington is up to something, prepares to jump and does not mind if the American launchpad for that jump will get under water because of the jump and the rest of the world knows it and starts to react, putting Washington in dangerous isolation.

    But maybe all the talk about the reserve currencies of the past is meaningless for the direct future as the most likely successor for the dollar has not been mentioned in the list above: barter, meaning no currency at all. If everything breaks down and no trust is left, this is going to be the mechanism to keep economic life going, be it on a the back burner. In the thirties the Germans traded locomotives against Argentinian wheat, circumventing financial institutions in Anglosphere, which was not appreciated in London and New York. One thing we do know for certain, namely that the Unipolar Moment of US supremacy is going to be just that: a moment (1991-2003). What is really in store is a chaotic declining world, where modernity is going to be traded in for archaism, where all the peaks will be behind us, except peak hurt:

    1914 – Peak Europe (at the eve of the Great War)
    1969 – Peak USA (moon landing)
    2005 – Peak conventional oil
    2008 – Peak West (Lehman crash)
    2018 – Peak fossil energy

    Read more…

  • 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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