Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the category “energy”

Energy Rules the World

Fascinating video of the 10 companies with the greatest revenues world-wide between 1996-2020. The list is dominated by oil, car and grid companies. This should give an idea of the monumental task ahead of us in creating a 100% renewable energy base, but also of the enormous economic opportunities for those, who make the right choices at the right time.

[] – Energy policy of the European Union

“Life punishes those who come too late”, Mikhail Gorbachev, 1989

Het Paradijs op Aarde begint in Nederland

Dutch language video

Film about the renewable energy transition in the Netherlands, titled: “Paradise on Earth begins in the Netherlands”.

Dutch society is incredibly upbeat about the possibilities that the energy transition will bring for the Netherlands and Europe. Possibilities in science, technology, engineering, employment, business, climate, international standing. As if a new Dutch Golden Age is around the corner.

These expectations are correct.

[] – Dutch Golden Age

Photonics – The Promise of Low Energy IT

Test setup componenten glasvezelnetwerken bij Effect Photonics, samenwerking met TU Eindhoven


What is photonics? To cut a few bends: it is electronics, where electrons are replaced by photons. Think microchips where data is transferred through light, rather than electrons. The promise of photonics is that the same amount of data processing can be done much faster (x1000) and with far less energy (x1000).

Data processing has long stopped being small-beer in terms of energy use. Bitcoin transactions alone, for instance, account for 0.55% of global electricity production, that’s the electricity consumption of Malaysia or Sweden. The internet world-wide consumes ca. 5% of all electricity produced.

A new Dutch photonics center PITC (Photonic Integration Technology Center) was inaugurated today on the premises of the University of Eindhoven. The new institute aims at linking new technological developments to concrete and scalable products, in cooperation with the TU Twente, TNO and PhotonDelta. The annual photonic chips market is estimated to be more than 500 billion euro in 2025. Eindhoven is excellently placed to become the world’s #1 photonics address, as it already is with silicon microchip technology. Everybody has heard of Intel, Apple, Samsung, TSMC, Huawei, but very few have heard of ASML, the world’s near monopolist in producing machines to produce microchips. To make a comparison, the companies mentioned are the bakers, where ASML produces the ovens:

This pattern could repeat itself with photonics.

(Yours faithfully is a product of this Eindhoven TUE – physics – Philips – ASML ecosystem, from father to son).

[] – Eindhoven mikt op miljarden met nieuw fotonicacentrum
[] – Netherlands tames the light in photonic chips
[] – Photonics
[] – What Is Photonics?
[] – Innovation Center will accelerate the application of photonics
[] – Accelerating integrated photonics solutions
[] – Institute for Photonic Integration
[] – Photonic Integration Technology Center (PITC)
[] – Programmable photonic chip lights up quantum computing
[] – Quantum computing
[] – Eindhoven-based photonics company
[] – Eindhoven-based photonics company
[] – Photonics (European Commission)
[] – Photonics, the world of superlatives, is Made In Brabant

Read more…

New EU Energy Labelling System

The EU has designed a new energy labelling system that will come into effect by March 1, 2021. The new system has a seven-grade scale, ranging from A to G and sets the bar higher than the previous, confusing one. The new label contains more information, including a QR-code that can be scanned with a smartphone, leading to even more on-line information.

Initially, the label will only apply to limited categories like fridges, dishwashers, displays and lighting. Other categories will follow later.

[] – In focus: A new generation of EU energy labels
[] – A+++ ist bald passé

Winter Messes with Texan Energy Grids

Parts of the US and particularly Texas fell victim to a severe winter ice storm, leading to a mismatch between limited supply and huge demand, causing major disruptions in heat and electricity supply and blackouts for at least 9 million people in North-America, of which over 5 million in the US and 4.5 million in Texas alone.

Focus of attention gets grid-operator ERCOT, that lost 34 GW power. Most power loss comes from failing gas, coal and nuclear power stations, although many right-wing renewable energy skeptics blamed wind power and “frozen rotor blades” in particular for the winter calamity. To make matters worse, the Texan grid is not connected to the US national grid, so neighboring states couldn’t help.

[source] Viral Image Claiming to Show a Helicopter De-Icing Texas Wind Turbines Is From Winter 2014 in Sweden

For the real reasons, see the Time article, linked to below.

[] – Here’s What’s Really Causing Texas’ Widespread and Deadly Blackouts
[] – February 13–17, 2021 North American winter storm
[] – Winter Storm Forces Blackouts Across Texas

86% Germans Still Support Renewable Energy Transition

Nevertheless, the NIMBY problem is real.
Solution: concentrate on roof solar and offshore rather than onshore wind.
More Draconian measures: no wind turbine in your municipality? Fine, sit in the dark then.

[] – Rückhalt für Erneuerbare Energien bleibt hoch

EnerTwin – Micro Turbine Technology

Micro Turbine Technology (MTT), based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, has worked on a “power station for private homes”, called the EnerTwin, since 2003 and for a couple of years has been successfully selling their multi-patented product, not least in the US.

Their selling item: producing electricity as a by-product of heat-generation. The EnerTwin is a gas-turbine, that apart from natural gas, can be fueled by hydrogen or biogas as well. The company claims that an energy saving cost of up to 25% per year can be realized:

With the EnerTwin, electricity can be generated locally at a cost of €0.06/kWh, rather than the grid price of €0.22-0.30/kWh in several North-West European countries.

MTT is looking for a partner in the US to handle growing US demand for the product.

[] – MTT company site
[] – Parallel company site
[] – Willy Ahout and his Enertwin

Gravity Light

With gravity and light weights, a pendulum clock can be powered for days. Likewise, a led-light for 20 minutes and 12 kg weight. Works everywhere, anytime.

Past & Future of Dutch Energy Production

Dutch revenue from “homegrown” natural gas peaked in 2013 with more than 15 billion euro.

Dutch sources of wealth are many:

  • Being the gatekeeper of a continental European hinterland of 440 million, where much of the bulk goods need to pass Rotterdam Harbor, providing numerous economic opportunities to add value, like in huge refineries.
  • Being a flat country, Dutch agriculture with endless greenhouses, providing fresh food 12 months per year, with potent customers like Germany, France and Britain nearby, making the tiny Netherlands the 2nd agricultural exporter in the world after the US.
  • Prominent large corporations with global reach, like Philips Electronics, Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever, the new rising star ASML semiconductors, KLM, AKZO-Nobel, ING, RABO-bank, Heineken, AEGON, the list goes on.

Another large source of income however is drying up though: natural gas. Once owners of the 9th natural gas field in the world in the sixties, meanwhile only 20% of that supply is left. Exploitation has almost halted due to soil subsistence. But there is good hope that income from offshore wind from the Dutch part of the North Sea can replace the income from natural gas. No wonder that the Dutch government is eager to play a prominent role in the emerging hydrogen economy in Europe.

The Dutch part of the North Sea (57,000 km2) is 1.5 times larger than the Netherlands itself. Note the circles, indicating the projected artificial energy islands, that will be used for the conversion of wind electricity to hydrogen, using the existing fossil fuel pipeline system on the bottom of the North Sea for transport to shore.

How large is the renewable energy potential of the North Sea? Huge. The Dutch ambition is to install up to 75 GW of offshore wind power before 2050.

The Dutch part of the Doggerbank alone has 24 GW potential

But that’s the ambition. What is the potential? The nearly finished Borssele 1.5 GW offshore wind park has a size of 344 km2. Scale that up to 57,000 km2 to arrive at 249 GW. Include a capacity factor of 65% and the remaining figure is 161 GW. That would be equal to half of the current average electricity consumption of the entire EU! Over a year that would amount to 471741 GWh. If we (rather arbitrarily) would set an electricity price of 10 cent/kWh, the corresponding annual turnover would be 47 billion euro or 3 times the maximum amount from natural gas in 2013.

In other words, offshore wind electricity and green hydrogen promises to be big business for the Netherlands. Natural gas won’t be missed.

[] – Aardgasbaten op laagste niveau in ruim 40 jaar
[] – The Netherlands’ Long-Term Offshore Wind R&D Agenda

Lazard – Renewable Energy Cheapest by Far

Click to enlarge

This does NOT include renewable electricity storage cost.

[] – Levelized Cost of Energy and Levelized Cost of Storage – 2020
[] – Wind & Solar Are Cheaper Than Everything, Lazard Reports

UK-Gov Cost Estimates Energy in 2025

The three bars per energy type indicate the expected cost by the UK government for 2025, in resp. 2013, 2016 and 2020. Spectacular decline in expected cost for renewables solar and wind. It should be realized though that for a serious comparison, the cost for storage needs to be included for intermittent energy sources solar and wind.

[] – Wind and solar are 30-50% cheaper than thought, admits UK government

TU Eindhoven Gets Institute for Renewable Energy Systems

The TU Eindhoven intends invests to invest ten million euros over 5 years in a new energy institute on its own campus, to be spend on 4 new professors and 11 lecturers and associate professors. Name: “Eindhoven Institute for Renewable Energy Systems” (EIRES). Goal: developing “smart, smaller devices and systems for the conversion and storage of energy” and do so in cooperation with local manufacturing industry (like VDL) in the so-called Brainport Eindhoven. EIRES will focus on several main areas, like metal fuels and local hydrogen production from (renewable) electricity.

[] – EIRES
[] – TU/e steekt 10 miljoen in nieuw energie-instituut
[] – 10 million Euros for TU Institute that devises smart energy storage solutions

Studio Energie

Nederlandstalige energie podcast.

[] – Studio Energie

9 andere nederlandstalige energie podcasts:

[] – Niet schreeuwen, luisteren: 9 podcasts over de energietransitie

Klimaat- en Energieverkenning 2019

Deze eerste Klimaat- en Energieverkenning (KEV) geeft de politiek, beleidsmakers en andere geïnteresseerden twee hoofdboodschappen.

De eerste is dat er nog veel moet gebeuren om het kabinetsdoel van 49 procent reductie van broeikasgasemissies in 2030 te halen. In 2018 had Nederland een reductie van iets minder dan 15 procent ten opzichte van 1990. In ruim 10 jaar moet er dus nog meer dan twee keer zoveel worden bereikt als in de afgelopen kleine 30 jaar. Deze KEV laat zien op welke reductie Nederland in 2030 naar verwachting uitkomt met het beleid tot 1 mei 2019.

De tweede hoofdboodschap is dat het daadwerkelijk uitvoeren van beleid in de praktijk moeilijk is; de 2020-doelen voor broeikasgasreductie, besparing en hernieuwbare energie
worden daardoor naar verwachting niet of waarschijnlijk niet gehaald.

[] – Klimaat- en Energieverkenning 2019 (pdf, p242)

Read more…

Annual Dutch National Energy Bill

The Netherlands has committed itself to be fossil-fuel-free by 2050. In that perspective it is interesting to know how much the Netherlands pays for fossil fuel. The estimate below is a very rough estimate:

20 billion €

GDP Netherlands: €902B (nominal), €936B (PPP)

This is the amount of fossil fuel that needs to be replaced by renewable energy and does not include (international) aviation or shipping.

After 2050 this bill will be 0 and be replaced by capital amortization and maintenance cost.

[] – Wat betaalt de BV Nederland nu jaarlijks voor energie?
[] – All 39 Dutch Electricity Companies in 2020
[] – Martien Visser
[] – Economy of the Netherlands

Renewable Glass Production

Conventional float glass production

To dwell upon our previous post a little… is it possible to create glass with renewable energy sources?

[] – Float glass (Pilkington process)

Float glass uses common glass-making raw materials, typically consisting of sand, soda ash (sodium carbonate), dolomite, limestone, and salt cake (sodium sulfate) etc. … The raw materials are mixed in a batch process, then fed together with suitable cullet (waste glass), in a controlled ratio, into a furnace where it is heated to approximately 1500 °C. Common float glass furnaces are 9 m wide, 45 m long, and contain more than 1200 tons of glass. Once molten, the temperature of the glass is stabilised to approximately 1200 °C to ensure a homogeneous specific gravity.

The molten glass is fed into a “tin bath”, a bath of molten tin (about 3–4 m wide, 50 m long, 6 cm deep), from a delivery canal and is poured into the tin bath by a ceramic lip known as the spout lip. The amount of glass allowed to pour onto the molten tin is controlled by a gate called a tweel.

Tin is suitable for the float glass process because it has a high specific gravity, is cohesive, and is immiscible with molten glass. Tin, however, oxidises in a natural atmosphere to form tin dioxide (SnO2). Known in the production process as dross, the tin dioxide adheres to the glass. To prevent oxidation, the tin bath is provided with a positive pressure protective atmosphere of nitrogen and hydrogen.

The glass flows onto the tin surface forming a floating ribbon with perfectly smooth surfaces on both sides and of even thickness. As the glass flows along the tin bath, the temperature is gradually reduced from 1100 °C until at approximately 600 °C the sheet can be lifted from the tin onto rollers. The glass ribbon is pulled off the bath by rollers at a controlled speed. Variation in the flow speed and roller speed enables glass sheets of varying thickness to be formed. Top rollers positioned above the molten tin may be used to control both the thickness and the width of the glass ribbon.

Once off the bath, the glass sheet passes through a lehr kiln for approximately 100 m, where it is cooled gradually so that it anneals without strain and does not crack from the temperature change. On exiting the “cold end” of the kiln, the glass is cut by machines.

– Embodied energy float glass: 15.9 MJ/kg or 4.4 kWh/kg
– Standard glass used in horticulture: 4 mm, unhardened
– 1 m2 glass of 4 mm thick weighs 10.0 kg
– Embodied energy (EE) of 1 m2 glass of 4 mm think is 44 kWh
– EE energy greenhouse glass Sundrop Farm: 200,000 m2 x 44 kWh = 8,800 MWh
– 1 liter of petrol = 10 kWh, 1 m3 petrol = 10 MWh.
– Glass production Sundrop Farm greenhouse = 880 m3 petrol
– Take a factor of 1.5 to account for oblique roof: 1,320 m3 petrol

Do we need fossil fuel for the production of glass? No:

[] – Are Electric Furnaces the Future of Glass Manufacturing?

In most places, it is still environmentally cleaner to burn fossil fuels in a furnace than to use them to generate electricity for electric melting. However, as renewables increase their contribution to electricity production, this situation will change. It also appears that improvements in energy efficiency of fossil fuel combustion technologies have leveled off. As emissions legislation kicks in and consumers increasingly demand materials and technologies that are environmentally friendly, there may be well a swing in glass manufacture from gas to electric energy. The other advantages of electric melting, such as better thermal efficiency and energy consumption, will also count in its favor.

[] – The future for the glass industry is “all-electric”

The burning of fossil fuel as an energy source in the glass melting process results in unavoidable carbon emissions, and improvements to traditional technology have reached their efficiency limits. Moving to electrical heating methods has many benefits including improved energy efficiency, more flexible control and less combustion related emissions. The aim of this paper is to stimulate glass manufacturers into rethinking their existing melting technology and considering “all-electric” melting in the near future.

How much time does it take for a 6 MW offshore wind turbine to generate the energy equivalent of 1,320 m3 petrol or 11,000 barrel of oil? Said wind turbine produces the equivalent of 32,285 barrel/year. So the answer to the question is:

4 months

[] – Glass Production
[] – Embodied Energy Coefficients

Researchers Produce (a Little) Electricity out of Thin Air


The system is quite straightforward and consists of a thin film of protein nanowire just seven micrometers (sometimes known as a microns) thick which is positioned between two electrodes and exposed to the air. For reference, a human hair is roughly 75 microns across, depending on the person.

This nanowire film absorbs water vapor present in the atmosphere, thus creating a small electrical charge through the diffusion of protons in the material.

“I found that exposure to atmospheric humidity was essential and that protein nanowires adsorbed water, producing a voltage gradient across the device,” Yao said.

Similar experiments have been conducted previously using nano materials like graphene, but they only produced intermittent, short bursts of electricity, rather than a “continuous voltage output” like the Air Gen system.

Air-Gen reportedly produces a sustained voltage of 0.5 volts at 17 micro amperes per square centimeter; in other words, you’d need multiple Air-Gen devices linked together to charge your smartphone, so don’t throw out those solar panels just yet.

0.5 Volt and 17 micro ampere per centimeter, that would be 0.35 Watt/m2 or 0.5 Watt for a surface like that of 300 Watt standard panels.
Indeed, don’t throw away your solar panels. Useless.


[] – Power generation from ambient humidity using protein nanowires
[] – Geobacter
[] – Researchers produce electricity out of thin air
[] – UMass Amherst Generates Electricity ‘Out of Thin Air’
[] – Forscher erzeugen Strom aus Luftfeuchtigkeit

Energy Cost Webserver

Online LowTech Magazine has a privately-owned dedicated web server to run their sustainable magazine, powered by a 50 Watt solar panel and 0.17 kWh battery.

During the period under study (351 days), the solar powered website received 865,000 unique visitors. Including all energy losses in the solar set-up, electricity use is then 0.021 watt-hour per unique visitor. One kWh solar electricity can serve almost 50,000 unique visitors. This is all renewable energy and as such there are no direct associated carbon emissions.

If there is not enough sunshine, the site is offline. Yet the site was available for 98.2% of the time, with a downtime of only 152 hours over almost a year.

[] – How Sustainable is a Solar Powered Website?

Power Mix India

[] – Share of Fossil Fuel In Indian Power Mix Drops For 14th Consecutive Quarter

Germany: Spectacular Growth With Less Energy and Emissions

Germany 1990-2017:

+50% economic growth
-9% primary energy consumption
-28% less emissions

[] – Germany’s energy consumption and power mix in charts

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