Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the month “April, 2017”

Smurfit Kappa – Radical Recycling in the Paper Industry

Paper-mill Smurfit-Kappa in Roermond, the Netherlands, wants to replace the role of natural gas with “green heat”. The paper industry is doing fine, not because of digitization of society (“paperless office”), but because retail is going online and now everything needs to be packaged, in carton, which is good news for Smurfit Kappa.

Every day no less than 110 trucks arrive at the mill to dump their load of used paper for recycling into “mother roles” of 18,000 kilo each, a process that takes 8 days. Usually paper that lands in the trash can is converted into new paper in a matter of 6 weeks.

For the production process you need a lot of warm water to produce “paper soup”. The company is thinking of pumping up hot water from a depth of no less than 7 km. Alternatively, the company is investigating the possibilities of producing paper without so much hot water. Paper recycling still requires 10% new wood, for quality reasons, acquired from Scandinavia and France.

[] – Smurfit Kappa Group
[] – Papierfabriek zoekt groene warmte

Canada’s New Shipping Shortcut

90 Professoren Willen Groene Draai Geven aan Kabinets-formatie


90 hoogleraren van 16 nederlandse universiteiten hebben een brief geschreven naar de formateur met het verzoek om in het aanstaande regeringsakkoord opgenomen te krijgen dat Nederland koploper moet moet worden in de worsteling voor een groene economie, ipv Europese hekkesluiter te blijven.


…de vijf overgebleven kolencentrales in Nederland uiterlijk in 2020 sluiten. Verder vragen ze om snelle invoering van een kilometerheffing in het verkeer. Ze bepleiten een CO2-belasting voor de Nederlandse industrie, los van het gebrekkig werkende Europese systeem van CO2-beprijzing. Ze willen hoge fiscale heffingen op milieubelastende en energie-intensieve productie en consumptie. En ze vragen om een investeringsfonds voor duurzame innovaties.

[] – Hoogleraren: zet alles op alles voor een groene economie

Asparagus Robot

The video claims this is the world’s first automatic asparagus harvesting robot, developed in Heeze, the Netherlands. It takes 60-75 pair of hands to harvest a field of 40 Hectare. The machine is projected to harvest 1 ha in 1 hour.

In the Netherlands the work is often done by Poles or Romanians. This practice could soon be history. Perhaps the future unemployed from Eastern-Europe use their knowledge to begin asparagus farming at home.

[] – Aspergerobot stuurt steker straks naar huis

“Chrissie” can do 1 ha in 8 hours:

Asparagus harvesting the old way:

Hydrogen – Fuelling our Future?

Can hydrogen be the successor of petrol and natural gas after all?

[] – Hydrogen

Cost Hydrogen From Renewable Energy

Cost of H2 production via electrolysis of water as a function of electricity cost

In a not too distant past the “hydrogen economy” was thought to be the follow up of the fossil fuel economy. The idea was to use hydrogen as the central storage medium.

Fuel Energy density [kWh/kg]
Hydrogen (H2) 39
Methane/natural gas 15
Diesel 13
Petrol 13
Jet fuel/kerosine 13
Ethanol 7
Ammonia (NH3) 6
Wood 5

[] – Hydrogen economy

Enthusiasm for that concept has come down considerably since, mostly because of fundamentally low conversion efficiency (50-80%) and storage problems. But that doesn’t mean that hydrogen couldn’t play a role in a renewable energy future. This IEA article makes the case that renewable hydrogen production for NH3 (Ammonia), to be used as fertilizer in agriculture, could become viable in the near future, circumventing at least the hydrogen storage problem (boiling point −252.879 °C (−423.182 °F, 20.271 K)), by converting it immediately into Ammonia (boiling point −33.34 °C (−28.01 °F; 239.81 K)).

Indeed, producing hydrogen via renewable energy is not a new idea. Until the 1960s, hydrogen from hydropower-based electrolysis in Norway was used to make ammonia – a key ingredient for agricultural fertilizers. But with increasingly lower renewable costs, renewables-based hydrogen production could once again be competitive with SMR (steam methane reforming)…
But under the right conditions, producing industrial hydrogen in this fashion could have massive consequences for the sustainability of one industry in particular – agriculture. About half of industrial hydrogen is used in ammonia production. Ammonia production alone is responsible for about 360 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, or about 1% of the world’s total emissions. By 2050, we expect that the consumption of ammonia will increase by around 60%.

[] – Producing industrial hydrogen from renewable energy
[] – Energy density
[] – The hydrogen economy, Jeremy Rifkin (2003)

Four Phases in Variable Renewable Energy Integration

Four phases in variable renewable energy (VRE) technologies integration.

IEA article addresses the issue of renewable energy variability and how to deal with it and identifies four phases, hand in hand with the level of renewable energy penetration in a society.

  1. No impact. You can add new renewable energy capacity without having to worry about variability at all
  2. Focus shifts to managing first instances of grid congestion and to incorporate forecasts of VRE generation in the scheduling and dispatch of other generators.
  3. In the last two phases, wind and solar start to affect the overall grid and other generators. As the share of VRE grows, the challenges that power systems face will relate both to system flexibility – relating to supply and demand in the face of higher uncertainty and variability – and system stability – the ability of the of power systems to withstand disturbances on a very short time scale.

[] – Getting wind and sun onto the grid

30,000 Solar Panels Will be Installed Every Hour Globally Over the Next 5 Years

International Energy Agency, October last year:

The International Energy Agency said today that it was significantly increasing its five-year growth forecast for renewables thanks to strong policy support in key countries and sharp cost reductions. Renewables have surpassed coal last year to become the largest source of installed power capacity in the world.

The latest edition of the IEA’s Medium-Term Renewable Market Report now sees renewables growing 13% more between 2015 and 2021 than it did in last year’s forecast, due mostly to stronger policy backing in the United States, China, India and Mexico. Over the forecast period, costs are expected to drop by a quarter in solar PV and 15 percent for onshore wind.

Last year marked a turning point for renewables. Led by wind and solar, renewables represented more than half the new power capacity around the world, reaching a record 153 Gigawatt (GW), 15% more than the previous year. Most of these gains were driven by record-level wind additions of 66 GW and solar PV additions of 49 GW…

Over the next five years, renewables will remain the fastest-growing source of electricity generation, with their share growing to 28% in 2021 from 23% in 2015.

[] – IEA raises 5-year renewable forecast as 2015 marks record year

Mitsubishu Hydraulic Driven 7MW Offshore Wind Turbine

Hydraulics topic starts at [0:25].

Youtube text: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries worked with Artemis Intelligent Power to build this prototype 7MW offshore wind-turbine which is now on test at Hunterston in Scotland. The video shows the rotor blades being made and the building and testing of the wind turbine’s Digital Displacement® hydraulic transmission at Yokohama.

Youtube text: Construction of the largest wind turbine in diameter in the world at 167m. The sea angel was designed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Construction was in December 2014. Working with SSE, MHI Vestas, Artemis Intelligent Power, Innovate UK, and Department for Business Innovation and Skills to complete.

The Sea Angel Turbine is 7MW output and located within 1 mile of Hunterston Nuclear Power Station in Renfrewshire, West Scotland.

[] – Mitsubishi 7MW Sea Angel Floating Turbine
[] – Hello SeaAngel: Hydraulic drive train could provide 7 MW offshore turbine
[] – Hydraulic Wind Turbines?

P.S. in this design the generator is still located in the nacelle.

Hydraulic Windpark North Sea?


In conventional wind turbines heavy generators are located at the top of a wind turbine, requiring heavy towers. As a rule of thumb: 1000 kilo less generator weight implies 1900 kg less tower weight. The Mexican researcher Antonio Jarquin Laguna wrote a simulation-based Phd thesis at the Delft university in the Netherlands to investigate if it was possible to substantially reduce nacelle weight. He explored the idea to skip the generator-at-the-top completely and replace it with a much lighter pump (ca. 50% less weight). Several wind turbines could contribute to hydraulic pressure, to be converted at a central location with a few large Pelton turbines. The gain would be lighter wind turbines.

[] – Onderzoek naar ‘hydraulisch’ windpark op zee door TU Delft
[] – Noordzeemolens als waterkrachtcentrale
[] – Centralized electricity generation in offshore wind farms using hydraulic networks
[] – Goodbye gearbox, hello hydraulics (US design 2012)
[] – Hydraulic Wind Turbines?
[] – Hydraulic drive system
[] – Hydraulic machinery
[] – Hydraulic motor
[] – Mass, Bernoulli and Energy Equations (pdf)

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