Booming Investment In Renewables Is Set To Continue In 2023 And Beyond

At-a-Glance

Climate tech has come to the fore like never before with its potential to be a safe haven investment in a macroeconomic environment of uncertainty. For more, read Booming Investment In Renewables Is Set To Continue In 2023 And Beyond.

Key Takeaways

  • Clean energy investment significantly accelerated and is expected to surpass $1.4 trillion in 2022, says the World Economic Forum
  • Three-quarters of overall growth in energy investment is attributable to clean energy, which has been growing at an average annual rate of 12% since 2020.
  • Governments across Europe are doing their part to assist in the energy transition in a meaningful way, with the EU accelerating the speed at which permits are given to renewable energy projects.
  • Germany approved plans for each state to allocate a minimum amount of land for onshore wind farms and EU energy ministers backed laws with targets to get 40% of energy from renewable sources by 2030.
  • Deloitte’s Renewable Energy Outlook for 2023 report forecasts that the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) extension of tax credits for renewable energy projects will lead to up to 550 gigawatts of additional clean energy by the end of the 2020s.
  • Private investment in renewables in the U.S. reached a record high of $10 billion in 2022, investment levels that Deloitte forecasts are expected to continue into 2023 as investors are attracted by transparent and predictable returns on mature technologies that are backed by the IRA’s 10-year tax credits.

Path to 100% Perspective

Recent investments in clean energy make it abundantly clear that the renewable revolution is here. Increasing and being consistent in these investments is necessary to realize a 100% renewable energy future. As energy leaders take stock post-COVID and restructure their models, now is a key moment to set clear frameworks for achieving net zero. For most, it’s not about starting from scratch, but understanding where and how to invest to drive future resilience.

Two Partnerships Expand Access To Clean Energy & Transport In The Eastern US

At-a-Glance

A couple of energy projects in the Eastern United States are helping to increase access to clean energy and clean transport, while helping to level the playing field in other ways too. For more, read Two Partnerships Expand Access To Clean Energy & Transport In The Eastern US.

Key Takeaways

  • New York-based Autel Energy is partnering with Legacy Clean Energy (LCE), a minority-owned business in Charlotte, North Carolina, to offer electric vehicle charging solutions for corporations and marginalized communities across the country.
  • In Pennsylvania, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and Lightsource bp have joined forces with a 25-megawatt solar project now in operation. With the addition of this second solar farm to SEPTA’s statewide portfolio, both companies boast 42 megawatts – rough electricity to fulfill 20% of SEPTA’s total demand.
  • By partnering with Lightsource bp, SEPTA’s Elk Hill Solar 1 project has enabled Pennsylvania to reduce its carbon footprint by 28,000 metric tons of CO2 each year.
  • The solar farm not only contributes to achieving Pennsylvania’s clean energy goals but also increases energy security and diversifies their portfolio. 

Path to 100% Perspective

Engaging private industry in the path to 100% is critical to develop the solutions and innovations needed for decarbonization. These examples show what’s possible when private companies and utilities partner to expand both capacity and access to clean energy. Partnerships like these are needed to accelerate the transition to net zero, meet decarbonization goals, and limit the impacts of climate change.

Generating Change: Wartsila’s Evolution

At-a-Glance

Finnish company Wartsila evolved from humble beginnings as a sawmill into a global marine and energy powerhouse that is today a model of customer value creation, decarbonization, and growth amid uncertainty. Driving that triumph over its 188-year history is a consistent spirit of innovation and flexibility. For more, read Generating Change: Wartsila’s Evolution.

Key Takeaways

  • Since 2010, Wartsila has been focusing on becoming a world leader in balancing and power optimization to help customers achieve decarbonization and transition toward a 100% renewable energy future.
  • In May 2020, Wartsila began work developing a combustion process in its engines to achieve 100% hydrogen fuel combustion. The company expects to launch a power plant design for hydrogen blends in 2022, followed by a concept for pure hydrogen in 2025.
  • In March 2022, Wartsila began operating two Wartsila 34SG engines, a combined output of 11.6 MW, that can run on 3% hydrogen and natural gas blend at Keppel Offshore Marine’s “Floating Living Lab” in Singapore.
  • In addition to hydrogen, other potential renewable fuels are being studied for future applications. In 2022, Wartsila released its Wartsila 32 Methanol engine to the market and it expects to have engine concepts ready for operating with pure ammonia fuel in 2023.

Path to 100% Perspective

Modern and flexible engine power plants are an ideal solution for balancing power, due to their flexibility in fuels and operation profiles. This is needed as batteries alone cannot fulfill the balancing need for fluctuating renewable power sources. Flexible capacity must be ready to start quickly at any time and capable of ramping up and down an unlimited number of times a day. Current Wartsila engine power plants can connect to the grid in 30 seconds and reach full load in just two minutes. In addition, current Wartsila gas engineer power plants can use up to 25 vol% hydrogen blends in natural gas and there is ongoing development for pure hydrogen and other P2X fuels, such as ammonia, methane, and methanol. As part of the strong green hydrogen boom, Wartsila is planning several hydrogen projects with partners and customers ranging from utilizing hydrogen blends in existing assets to a P2X2P plant in collaboration with partners.

DOE awards $100 million for innovative floating wind, pumped storage and other emerging clean energy tech

At-a-Glance

Eight companies working on technological advancements in clean energy have been awarded millions in federal funding to help scale up production on innovations that would streamline sectors such as offshore wind and pumped storage. For more, read DOE awards $100 million for innovative floating wind, pumped storage and other emerging clean energy tech.

Key Takeaways

  • Recipients of funding from the Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential (SCALEUP) are described as “disruptive new technologies” that will be transformational for the industry. The funds will “catalyze” commercialization of the technologies so they can be “broadly deployed.”
  • DOE cited Kent Houston Offshore Engineering’s two floating offshore wind turbine technologies as “disruptive,” noting that the company’s focus on designing more efficient turbines and lowering fabrication costs will lead to floating wind farms producing cheaper electricity while reaching profitability.
  • Quidnet Energy will use DOE funding to scale up its geomechanical pumped storage technology into a system that can be used commercially. Its technology uses subsurface rock layers to avoid some of the limits and expense of traditional pumped storage.
  • The first utility to make use of Quidnet Energy’s technology will be CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipal utility and the largest one in the U.S.

Path to 100% Perspective

Investments in clean energy technology, like DOE’s SCALEUP funding, are important for bringing innovative decarbonization technologies to scale. A variety of technologies will have a role to play along the Path to 100%, including wind and pumped storage. The missing piece of the puzzle is viable long-term storage technologies which will be needed to provide megawatts of capacity and megawatt hours of energy during long duration seasonal conditions or unexpected renewable droughts. Power-to-X technology is a promising solution, using renewable energy sources like wind and solar to produce green hydrogen and other sustainable fuels that can be used for affordable long-term storage. We look forward to seeing how these eight companies will “disrupt” clean energy tech with their innovations.

California’s Solar Problem Could Be Solved by Floating Wind Farms

At-a-Glance: 

In its quest to decarbonize its energy, California is heading offshore. Besides being green, tapping the winds over the Pacific Ocean offers an additional benefit: Good timing. For more read California’s Solar Problem Could Be Solved by Floating Wind Farms.

Key Takeaways:

  • While current solar capacity in California provides a deluge of power supply in the middle of the day, the peak demand for power is in the evening, when solar isn’t as reliable. This is especially troubling during extreme weather conditions.
  • Wind turbines off the coast capture steadier ocean winds than those on land, sometimes 50% more, and it usually peaks at night, making it a useful complement to solar power during the day and reducing the need to turn to gas-fired plants and battery storage
  • Matching supply more precisely with demand is an essential, but often overlooked, element of the energy transition. Traditional power supply relies on having dispatchable generators, usually burning fossil fuels, on call to match fluctuating demand. 

Path to 100% Perspective

California can reach its goal of serving 100% of retail load with renewable energy. However, this cannot be achieved with its current portfolio of resources. The rolling blackouts in summer 2020 show that California needs additional resources to supplement the tools already in place. More specifically, California needs new resources that complement the wind, solar, and hydro needed for a shift to a 100% renewable electricity system. Slow ramping, long start, baseload resources must be replaced by faster, more flexible resources that are capable of running on sustainable fuels. Sustainable fuels produced by excess wind and solar energy, plus storage resources, can enable California to cleanly and reliably shift energy from low-net loads to high-net loads.

US Renewable Power Set to Get More Than 20% Boost From New Climate Law

At-a-Glance: 

Accelerated by the Inflation Reduction Act, solar capacity will more than triple from 2021 to 2030 and battery storage will jump exponentially, predicts BNEF. For more, read US Renewable Power Set to Get More Than 20% Boost From New Climate Law.

Key Takeaways:

  • Enough solar power plants will be built from this year through 2030 to generate 364 gigawatts of electricity, BNEF estimates. That’s more than three times the capacity of all US solar plants in operation last year.
  • A gigawatt is roughly the output of a commercial nuclear reactor and, depending on the region, can power 750,000 homes. 
  • BNEF predicts147 gigawatts of new wind installations, many of them in coastal waters along New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and toward the end of the decade, California. 
  • The IRA also includes a new tax credit for large energy storage systems — typically, big packs of lithium-ion batteries — plugged into the power grid. BNEF forecasts 107 gigawatts of storage installations through 2030, up from just 5.7 gigawatts in use this year.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The passage of the IRA means there has never been a better time to make a long-term investment in U.S. decarbonization goals, but just investing in renewables is not enough. Solar and wind are variable, and will need a reliable backup to maintain the grid. As renewables become the new baseload, the need for flexible power generation and reliable storage solutions will be more important than ever.

In its Front-Loading Net Zero report released in 2020, Wärtsilä Energy outlined the benefits of investing now in predictable, low maintenance, renewable energy and storage technology.

“Flexibility creates the conditions where renewable energy is the most profitable way to power our grids: ensuring back-up power is available when there’s insufficient wind or solar,” according to the report. “Investing in renewable baseload is now viewed as buying ‘unlimited’ power up-front, as opposed to betting against fluctuating oil prices and narrowing environmental regulation.”

 

US wind, solar tripled over the past decade: analysis

At-a-Glance: 

The United States generated three times as much renewable electricity from the sun and wind last year in comparison to 2012, a new analysis has found. Seven states alone now produce enough electricity from these sources, as well as geothermal energy, to cover half of their consumption, according to an online energy dashboard. Read more in US wind, solar tripled over the past decade: analysis.

Key Takeaways:

  • Just five years earlier, none of the states mentioned— South Dakota, Iowa, North Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and New Mexico — had achieved this level of renewable energy progress.
  • Among the dashboard’s key findings was evidence that the U.S. produced enough wind energy to power 35 million typical homes in 2021 — or 2.7 times as much wind energy as in 2012. 
  • The U.S. also generated enough solar energy that year to power 15 million homes — or 15 times as much solar energy as in 2012, according to the dashboard. 
  • The dashboard found that the country now has nearly 4.7 gigawatts of battery storage, or 32 times as much as in 2012. This helps support the use of more renewable energy and keep the lights on during extreme weather events. 
  • California, Texas and Florida exhibited the most growth in solar power and battery storage from 2012 to 2021, while Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa ranked highest for wind power growth.

Path to 100% Perspective

The rise in renewables is a key step in the Path to 100%, and the numbers should continue to grow as the Inflation Reduction Act makes now a perfect time to invest in clean energy technology.

As mentioned in the article, the key to integrating renewable energy into the system is backup power– both thermal and storage. That’s because solar and wind are variable– you can’t always count on them to produce power at peak demand times.

Throwing Shade Is Solar Energy’s New Superpower

At-a-Glance: 

In America, solar power could be a new cash crop for farmers as the new innovation known as agrivoltaics grows. It is the process of farmers leasing land to solar farms and incorporating the panels as they plant crops or raise livestock. Read more in: Throwing Shade Is Solar Energy’s New Superpower.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Inflation Reduction Act includes billions of dollars in renewable energy funds that will accelerate the adoption of solar and other renewables. This will hasten the creation of large utility-scale arrays on existing cropland, perfect for its light winds, moderate temperatures and low humidity.
  • Farmers can lease their land for hundreds of dollars an acre, a much easier income than labor-intensive traditional farming. They can plant crops that thrive in shade or cool their cows under solar panels to double their income stream.
  • Critics worry that solar farms are unattractive and could change the character of rural communities, and that the panels could block access to the soil.
  • Despite positive advantages, agrivoltaics, at least on a large scale, remains a subject of research more than a method of doing business. It costs more to place solar panels high enough off the ground to allow for planting and livestock to fit underneath.

Path to 100% Perspective

In order to decarbonize, we must increase the usage of renewable energy sources like solar. Agrivoltaics could provide one solution to add more utility-size solar panels in more parts of the United States. More research is needed to determine how best to achieve this goal, but the premise is promising and if achieved, could hasten the Path to 100%.

 

Photo by Micha Sager on Unsplash

A “Supercharge” Of Renewable Energy Development Is Taking Place Around Us

At-a-Glance: 

Incentives in The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will lower the cost of renewable energy in the U.S. dramatically over the next decade, according to analysis from the ICF Climate Center, a global consulting firm. They’ve deduced that the new US climate law will make clean energy projects easier to finance across the country, quickening the pace of the US energy transition.  For more read: A “Supercharge” Of Renewable Energy Development Is Taking Place Around Us.

Key Takeaways:

  • All of the technologies the authors of this report analyzed —  whether mature wind and solar or emerging battery, hydrogen, and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) — would see double digit percentage declines. 
  • The IRA’s broad definition of energy storage for the ITC should help emerging alternatives to lithium ion batteries come to market, increasing the diversity of energy storage options, 
  • Hydrogen could see the biggest cost decline — a huge reduction anywhere from 52% to 67% — of any technology. Green hydrogen facilities that take advantage of the climate law’s tax credits could become cost-competitive with new natural-gas-powered facilities by 2030.
  • The authors assume within their projections that policymakers will address some sticky obstacles confronting clean energy projects, including “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) reactions and interconnection problems.

Path to 100% Perspective

A 100% renewable energy future in the United States is possible by 2050 if everyone works together, and the IRA definitely sets the stage for an influx of development. While increasing renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, the U.S. must also determine a plan to realistically phase out fossil fuel plants. Renewable sources can be intermittent, so battery technology will need to improve. Investing in technology like Wartsila’s flexible power plants, which can run on sustainable fuels like hydrogen, will also provide the dispatchability needed to ensure reliable power.

Historic $7B federal funding opportunity to jump-start America’s clean hydrogen economy

At-a-Glance: 

The U.S. Department of Energy is accepting applications for the $7 billion program to create regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) across the country. The H2Hubs will be a central driver in helping communities across the country benefit from clean energy investments, good-paying jobs, and improved energy security. For more read: DOE Opens Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding Opportunity for Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs and Releases Draft of DOE National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hydrogen is a versatile fuel that can be produced from clean, diverse, and domestic energy resources, including wind, solar, and nuclear energy, or by using methane while capturing resulting carbon to reduce emissions.
  • DOE also released a draft of the National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap, which provides an overview of the potential for hydrogen production, transport, storage, and use in the United States and outlines how clean hydrogen can contribute to national decarbonization and economic development goals. 
  • For this initial funding opportunity launch, DOE is aiming to select six to ten hubs for a combined total of up to $7 billion in federal funding. 

Path to 100% Perspective

Renewable fuels, like hydrogen, will play a significant role in transitioning to a 100% renewable energy power system, especially as the market for these fuels continues to grow in the transportation and industrial sectors. Hydrogen-based sustainable fuels can be stored in large quantities and for extended periods at power plants for long periods of use, enabling clean capacity to be cost effectively scaled up according to the needs of grids.

 

 

How Clean Energy Kept California’s Lights On During A Historically Extreme Heat Wave

At-a-Glance: 

A two-week heat wave in California put the electric grid to an extreme test, but despite record demand the power stayed on, largely due to the fact that the state has gone all-in on clean energy technology like wind, solar, battery storage, and demand response. For more read: How Clean Energy Kept California’s Lights On During A Historically Extreme Heat Wave.

Key Takeaways:

  • Batteries played a critical role in keeping the grid running, and without them we would have experienced rolling blackouts. California has more than 3.2 GW of batteries supporting the grid, up from just 250 megawatts in 2020. These batteries typically provide four hours of energy, so that’s 150 times more energy from just two years ago. 
  • Customers also played a part, drastically reducing power usage after text alerts asked them to conserve power. This did help, but can’t be relied upon in every situation.
  • Renewable energy sources helped, too, but did need battery backup. Solar provided a consistent source of power during the day, but dropped off in the evening, when the demand increased. Wind did pick up in the evening. 
  • The state is racing to install more solar, wind, batteries, as well as transmission to connect all these new resources to the grid.

Path to 100% Perspective

It’s encouraging to hear that 10 states have already set decarbonization goals, but it isn’t enough. The Path to 100% will take support from everyone– from government and business leaders to private citizens. While the path isn’t the same everywhere, it includes some common steps, like increasing the use of renewables while incorporating storage and flexible power plants that can provide a source of energy backup when renewables like wind and solar are not enough. Without a plan to ensure firm, reliable power at all times, support of the energy transition could decrease.

 

 

NREL Study Identifies Opportunities & Challenges Of Achieving The U.S. Transformational Goal Of 100% Clean Electricity By 2035

At-a-Glance: 

A new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examines the types of clean energy technologies and the scale and pace of deployment needed to achieve 100% clean electricity, or a net-zero power grid, in the United States by 2035.

Key Takeaways:

  • Overall, NREL finds multiple pathways to 100% clean electricity by 2035 that would produce significant benefits, but the exact technology mix and costs will be determined by research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and infrastructure investment decisions over the next decade.
  • To achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035, new clean energy technologies will have to be deployed at an unprecedented scale. Modeling shows that wind and solar would need to supply 60% to 80% of generation. Getting there would require an additional 40–90 gigawatts of solar on the grid per year and 70–150 gigawatts of wind per year by the end of this decade – more than four times the current annual deployment levels for each technology.
  • Seasonal storage, like clean hydrogen-fueled combustion turbines, is important when clean electricity makes up about 80%–95% of generation. Achieving the needed amount of storage requires substantial development of infrastructure, including fuel storage, transportation and pipeline networks, and additional generation capacity needed to produce clean fuels.
  • Overall, NREL finds in all modeled scenarios that the health and climate benefits associated with fewer emissions exceed the power system costs to get to 100% clean electricity.

Path to 100% Perspective

Achieving ambitious decarbonization goals will require a reduction of reliance on fossil fuels and an increase in renewable energy. What will be critical to the transformation is a reliable source of energy when sources like wind or solar are not producing enough. The most economical long-duration storage is formed with green hydrogen-based sustainable fuels, such as hydrogen, ammonia, carbon neutral methanol and methane. These fuels can be used to generate electricity in flexible power plants. Such flexible power plants provide carbon neutral firm, dispatchable capacity to the grid at any time.

Sustainable fuels can be produced using a process called Power-to-Gas (PtG), which uses surplus solar and wind energy to produce renewable fuels, like synthetic methane and hydrogen. Hydrogen as a fuel is carbon-free and synthetic methane produced using carbon recycled from the air, is a carbon-neutral fuel.