10 Incredible Facts about Wind Energy That Will Blow You Away

At-a-Glance: 

Wind is an abundant natural resource on Earth that occurs as a result of the sun unevenly heating the surface of the planet. As hot air rises, cooler air moves in to fill the void. Wind has long served as a power source to humans, from powering ships across the sea to farmers relying on windmills to grind their grains and pump water. Today, we use wind turbines – both onshore and offshore – to generate electricity. To learn more, read 10 Incredible Facts about Wind Energy That Will Blow You Away

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Wind turbines are huge– an average turbine blade is about 200 ft long while turbine towers reach up to 295 ft tall on average, and they will likely get even bigger to produce more renewable power.
  • Offshore wind could potentially generate 18 times the current global electricity demand. They can generate more electricity with fewer turbines and it frees up land for other purposes without impacting human or terrestrial wildlife activity.
  • Despite being the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, China is also the world leader when it comes to wind energy, producing more than a third of global wind power generation and capacity. Its Gansu Wind Farm will eventually include 7,000 turbines producing 20GW of power.
  • In the U.S., the first commercial-scale wind farms have been approved off the Massachusetts coastline. Another will be built in the Pacific Ocean lining the coast of California with a long-term plan in place to construct wind farms along nearly the entire US coastline.

Path to 100% Perspective:

To reach clean energy goals, renewable sources like solar and wind will need to provide the basis of all power generation in the future. However, both are dependent on environmental factors that could make them less reliable. Backup capabilities must be in place to succeed, like both short and long term battery storage. In addition, flexible power plants, capable of ramping up when needed, will need to be installed. Eventually, those plants will run on sustainable fuels that can be generated by excess solar and wind energy.

 

With Coal On The Way Out, Policymakers Have Their Eye On Natural Gas

At-a-Glance: 

President Biden aims to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035 and to be net-zero by 2050. His administration considers clean energy to be any facility that produces no CO2 or that can capture carbon and bury it, which keeps natural gas in the fold. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that natural gas comprises 40% of the electric generation portfolio while coal is at 19% and falling. Natural gas has been replacing coal because it releases about half the emissions when it is burned in a power plant. For more, read With Coal On The Way Out, Policymakers Have Their Eye On Natural Gas

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Over the last 10 years, the cost of wind energy has fallen by 70% while the price of utility-scale solar power has dropped by 80%. He says that 80% of the country’s coal plants are 30 years or older and they are unable to compete.
  • Net-zero does not mean the elimination of fossil fuels. It means off-setting those emissions with measures like using underground pipelines to transport CO2 that has to be stored.
  • Most experts say that the United States can get 70% of the way to its net-zero goals by 2035. The technologies to do so now exist. But the real challenge is to get the rest of the way. 
  • The American Gas Association says natural gas delivers three times more energy on the coldest days of the year than does the electric system on the hottest days. 
  • Natural gas can be used to firm-up wind and solar when the weather is not favorable for producing power.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Based on the competitive prices of renewables in the US we have seen this renewable transition taking place, regardless of political wills. As we transition to carbon neutrality, natural gas may be required to fill the gap until it can be replaced by more sustainable fuels, such as synthetic methane or green hydrogen. The storage of those fuels, along with improved battery storage in the future, will provide a cleaner alternative over the long term.

 

100% Renewable Energy In Puerto Rico — How To Get There

At-a-Glance: 

DOE publicly launched the Puerto Rico Grid Resilience and Transition to 100% Renewable Energy (PR100) study in February. After back-to-back natural disasters that destroyed around 80% of the island’s power distribution and transmission infrastructure, the U.S. and Puerto Rico will work together to rebuild a resilient, reliable, and robust energy system that will not be dependent on imported fossil fuel. Instead, it will focus on renewable energy with the island’s own excellent supply of sun, wind, water, and other renewable resources. To learn more read: 100% Renewable Energy In Puerto Rico — How To Get There.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Improving resilience of energy infrastructure in the face of extreme weather is a high priority for stakeholders.
  • PR100 has set these milestones: 40% renewable energy by 2025, 60%  renewable energy by 2040, and 100% renewable energy by 2050.
  • The PR100 study is working off a similar analysis for Los Angeles in the LA100 study, which generated custom scenarios for the city to achieve its own 2045 clean energy goals.
  • The study’s clean energy scenarios will use curated models of Puerto Rico to simulate how such an energy transition could play out. The models are assembled and simulated with a software suite that, when brought together, can forecast energy system evolution into the far future. 
  • In a preliminary study, analysts found that distributed solar photovoltaics (PV) installed on all residential rooftops in Puerto Rico would generate 20 gigawatts of power, far exceeding the current capacity.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Jussi Heikkinen, a member of the Path to 100% Community of Experts, outlined Puerto Rico’s optimal path to decarbonization in a study last year. The key in the path is to make the system is flexible enough to enable the addition of large amounts of variable renewables. In the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, you must ensure the system has constantly adequate firm power capacity. Without it, the country could experience blackouts or shortages. Before retiring all legacy thermal power plants. new flexible gas power plants need to be added. They will be able to operate as needed to provide a backup for variable solar and wind generation. They can also later be converted to run on sustainable fuels.

 

Want To Hit Net-Zero Goals? Increase Public Investment In Viable Technologies

At-a-Glance: 

The goal to reach net zero by 2050 will not only entail cutting carbon levels, but electrifying the entire economy. Decarbonization technologies have not quite reached the necessary scale – and the pathway will require coordination across federal and state governments to solve innovation, regulation, and market issues. Renewable energy inevitably serves as a significant benefactor, but therefore onsite generation and advanced energy storage must be expanded. To learn more read, Want To Hit Net-Zero Goals? Increase Public investment in Viable Technologies.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Electricity now makes up 20% of all end-use energy consumption in this country. By 2050, however, that could rise to 60%.
  • The grid has to be able to handle the increased traffic and the influx of intermittent energy sources that depend on the weather. 
    • California plans to get to 60% renewables by 2030 and to 100% by 2045. The state’s independent system operator has called distributed energy resources “absolutely critical” — a way to alleviate strain on the primary grid while using clean energy and ensuring reliability. 
  • The International Renewable Energy Association estimates that hydrogen could make up 12% of global energy use by 2050. 
    • The association predicts that the mid-2030s will be the turning point — the time when green hydrogen will be competitive with “grey hydrogen” produced from fossil fuels.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The Path to 100% requires addressing economic, scientific and political challenges within the energy market. The United State’s decarbonization goals require an innovative energy transition in order to enter 2050 carbon-free. Solely boosting renewables is not enough – there must be a decrease in reliance on traditional gas and coal-fired plants, and gravitate towards flexible power systems that serve the dynamic needs of the communities consumption rhythm. 

 

The 3 Biggest Future Trends (And Challenges) In The Energy Sector

At-a-Glance: 

The traditional ways of generating energy were designed for a world of the past, aptly deemed, “fossil fuels.” Transforming the energy sector is a crucial challenge as our reliance on fossil fuels has reigned far too long. Traditional energy companies can be slow to change – probably because they face some unique complications, such as health and safety risks, and the huge amount of capital invested in existing energy assets. But change they must, if they want to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive sector. The following article proposes three future trends, and challenges in the energy sector within the quest to phase out the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. To learn more read, The 3 Biggest Future Trends (And Challenges) In The Energy Sector

Key Takeaways

Trend #1: Decarbonization

  • The world must transition towards a clean, carbon-free world, largely by increasing our use of renewables and increasing premiums on the use of fossil fuels.
  • In the US, fossil fuels are responsible for 60.3% of electricity generation. For electricity to become emissions-free, we must move further towards renewable energy solutions such as wind, solar, and biofuels. 

 

Trend #2: Decentralization

  • This trend is all about transitioning away from our current system of highly centralized energy grids run by monopolistic energy providers, towards distributed energy production systems.
  • Thanks to a combination of renewable energy and localized “microgrids,” consumers can generate their own electricity for their own needs.

 

Trend #3: Digitization

  • This trend is all about the use of digital machines, devices, and technology to optimize energy production, infrastructure, and use. 
  • An increasing variety of zero-carbon energy sources will mean our energy networks become more complex. Decentralized grids will need intelligent solutions to monitor and manage fluctuating demand. Digital tools will help overcome  these challenges and realize much-needed changes in the energy sector.

Path to 100% Perspective:

No power system can achieve 100% renewable electricity just by adding more renewable generation. It also needs to slash fossil-fueled generation. That means reducing the reliance on traditional gas – and coal-fired power plants. The challenge is these traditional plants are inflexible. The solution is to retire inflexible coal and gas plants and replace them with a new generation of flexible generation plants that stop and start in minutes, only burn fuel when the grid signals the need, and can convert to run on renewable fuels such as power-to-gas fuels become more plentiful and affordable.

Hydrogen – 10 Predictions for 2022

At-a-Glance: 

Hydrogen topped several of 2021’s headlines within the energy transition narrative. Due to the Chinese, U.S., and European automotive markets – the demand for clean hydrogen is anticipated to quadruple electrolyzer sales. A flurry of hydrogen companies are expected to go public this year, followed by a massive influx of nations releasing their own national hydrogen strategies. To learn more read, “Hydrogen – 10 Predictions for 2022.”

Key Takeaways

According to Bloomberg, these are the top ten hydrogen predictions in 2022:

#1: Electrolyzer sales will quadruple, with China being the largest market. 

#2: The U.S. will see many hydrogen project announcements, but action will lag

#3: New subsidies will spur a boom in the European hydrogen market

#4: A flurry of hydrogen companies will go public in 2022

#5: Hydrogen strategies will be adopted by 22 countries in 2022

#6: Net zero will drive hydrogen demand more than carbon pricing

#7: Heavy industry will dominate clean hydrogen demand

#8: Green ammonia announcements will rise

#9: Policy will keep blue hydrogen on life support

#10: Alkaline electrolyzers will increase their market share over other technologies

Path to 100% Perspective:

Rapidly maturing energy storage technologies, together with sector coupling, are for the first time paving a route towards zero-emission electricity generation. The missing piece of the puzzle is viable long-term storage which will be needed to provide megawatts of capacity and megawatt hours of energy during long duration seasonal conditions or unexpected renewable droughts. 2021’s energy transition narrative often claimed hydrogen as the answer. 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.

2022 will show whether or not hydrogen continues to be promoted as a “silver bullet” for everything, or if there is more clarity regarding the most sensible and feasible use cases. A lack of focus and prioritization around hydrogen will simply delay decarbonisation and waste scarce resources.

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Four Western states joining forces to create hydrogen hubs

At-a-Glance: 

Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado are banding together to develop new ways to make hydrogen more available as fuel for vehicles. The four states signed an agreement to create a regional clean hydrogen hub, and their governor’s announced that each state will compete for a portion of the $8 billion in the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to go towards the development of at least four hubs. To learn more read, “Four Western states joining forces to create hydrogen hubs.”

 

Key Takeaways:

  • According to the agreement, the Western Inter-State Hydrogen Hub will have facilities in all four states and additional interested states can be added to the MOU in order to help create the hubs.  
  • Some of the goals of the endeavor include bolstering economic development and using the llatest science, research, and technology for cost-effective generation, transportation and use of clean hydrogen.
  • Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the plant and some in the auto and truck industry view it as the “fuel of the future.” 

Path to 100% Perspective:

The four states that are collaborating to promote hydrogen as a clean energy resource are a clear example of the power of collaboration in driving renewable energy goals. This agreement between the states will boost economic development by using the latest science to generate and transport hydrogen.

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.

 

Wärtsilä opens Expertise Centre to serve North American energy customers with remote support

At-a-Glance: 

Wärtsilä’s new Houston Expertise Centre allows technicians to remotely manage and monitor power plants and storage systems. Artificial intelligence and advanced diagnostics will not only watch for problems, but will also look for ways to improve efficiency that will reduce costs and emissions. The Centre will allow the plants to run more optimally so they will emit less carbon. For more read Wärtsilä opens Expertise Centre to serve North American energy customers with remote support

Key Takeaways

  • Wärtsilä customers can receive 24/7 support, along with unmatched guidance, real-time data analytics, and quick response to plant issues.
  • The Expertise Centre will act as a central operational hub by integrating all available data sources and is compliant with essential requirements in the U.S. such as the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) protocols.
  • If there’s an issue, technicians can start troubleshooting and working on the problem immediately, hopefully avoiding long and costly shutdowns.
  • There are six other Expertise Centres around the world, maintaining performance of the power plant over its lifecycle and emphasizing power availability, reliability, fuel consumption and emissions.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Companies like Wärtsilä are critical to the Path to 100%. Ambitious decarbonization goals can only be achieved by investments in new technologies and equipment that make power plants more efficient, flexible, and environmentally-friendly. Wärtsilä has set a goal of 2030 to be carbon neutral in its own operations and to provide a product portfolio which will be ready for zero carbon fuels. These are the examples that will encourage other businesses and industries to embark on their own decarbonization journeys.

Photo: Wärtsilä

Big-box stores could power half of energy needs with solar, report says

At-a-Glance: 

America’s big-box retail and grocery stores could fulfill half of their own electricity needs and generate enough clean electricity to power more than 7.9 million U.S. homes if they covered their roofs with solar panels, a new report from the Environment America Research and Policy Center has found. To learn more read: Big-box stores could power half of energy needs with solar, report says

Key Takeaways

  • It would not only boost the country’s solar energy output, it would also cut greenhouse emissions in an amount equivalent to eliminating 11.3 million cars from the road.
  • The nation’s big-box stores would collectively be able to generate 84.4 terawatt hours of solar energy, with the most potential capacity — enough to power 870,000 homes — situated in California, followed by Florida, Texas, Ohio and Illinois, the authors found. 
  • The authors calculated that Walmart’s roofs could power the equivalent of 842,700 households, while Target could power 259,900 households, Home Depot 256,600, Lowe’s 223,700 and Kroger 192,500.
  • The report recommended several public policy changes — including expanded federal clean energy tax credits, state and local tax incentives for solar, the ability to sell excess energy back to the grid, streamlined permitting and the encouragement of community solar programs. 

Path to 100% Perspective:

A commitment by the large retail chains and grocery stores to invest more in solar energy would show their commitment to a clean energy future and encourage other companies to do the same. Converting to more renewable energy now, like solar and wind, should be viewed as an investment in the future

Decarbonising electricity generation does not need to be expensive, and could even be cheaper in the long run. Wind and solar prices have declined over the past years, and they have become competitive in many parts of the world. This decline is expected to continue, which can even lead to lower electricity prices during the path to a 100% carbon neutral system.

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

 

How far have we really gotten with alternative energy?

At-a-Glance: 

Electricity generation from coal, oil and natural gas represented 60% of all power generated world-wide this year, down from 67% in 2010, according to data and consulting firm IHS Markit. That is likely to drop to 42% to 48% by 2030, depending on how aggressively countries move toward renewables. Each of the alternative fuels has its own potential, and its own obstacles. Here’s a closer look at current status and outlook for five types of carbon-free energy that could play a bigger role in the future. To learn more, read “How Far Have We Really Gotten With Alternative Energy?” Reading this article may require a subscription from the media outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Energy Department says the U.S. now gets just 3% of its power from solar sources. 
    • Globally, just 4% percent of power generation this year is from solar, up from 1.4% five years ago, according to IHS Markit. 
    • Global installations will likely increase 20% this year to 175 gigawatts, according to IHS Markit. 
    • That’s about enough to power roughly 35 million U.S. households for a year.
  • About 10% of global commercial electricity production came from nuclear power in 2020, well below the high point in the mid-1990s of 17.5%, according to the latest World Nuclear Industry Status Report.
  • Wind provides about 7% of the world’s electricity, a share projected to at least double by 2030, according to IHS Markit. 
    • Installations last year reached a record 93 gigawatts, up 53% from 2019, according to the Global Wind Energy Council industry group.
  • Geothermal plants provide less than 1% of the world’s electricity, but drilling has been on the rise for the past six years. 
    • An estimated 180 wells are being drilled each year for power generation, and that number is expected to rise to 500 by 2025.
  • The International Energy Agency says hydrogen currently supplies less than 1% of the world’s energy, and adds that only 1% of that amount is low-carbon, or green, hydrogen. 
    • The Hydrogen Council trade group forecasts that hydrogen could supply 20% of the world’s energy by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Natural gas is a necessary factor in the transition towards cutting carbon emissions. Yet to achieve a net-zero goal, it is crucial for coal and oil fired plants to diminish entirely if we have any chance of reaching the proposed targets. Natural gas can be used to reduce carbon emission and aid in the transition to implementing alternative fuels once available, and economically priced. The urgency of the climate crisis demands that the power sector pioneers the rapid decarbonization of economies worldwide. The technology needed to reach net zero already exists, however, planning and investment are needed to accelerate the energy transition. Critically, it’s not just economics that’s driving the energy transition. Today’s global targets for 2030 are nowhere near enough to meet the Paris targets, as the United Nations (UN) has made clear. Globally, emissions must be cut in half over the next decade. It is the job of every power company to now put strategies and capital in place to navigate to net zero and to embed flexibility at the heart of grids to unlock 100% renewable energy systems. To achieve this, utilities must commit to front-loading their efforts and investment strategies. 

 

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Rich in renewable energy, Chile seeks to become global hydrogen powerhouse

At-a-Glance:

As a net importer of fuels, Chile has not been a significant player in global energy markets. But the sun-drenched, wind-rich South American country aims to become a titan in the burgeoning green hydrogen economy, setting a goal to become one of the world’s top three exporters by 2040. The hydrogen economy is still taking shape, and the world is waiting for the costs of the technology to fall. Multinational companies are taking up the offer, looking to use Chile’s rich renewable energy resources to make breakthroughs in green hydrogen and take advantage of potential government subsidies. To learn more, read, “Rich in renewable energy, Chile seeks to become global hydrogen powerhouse.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Chilean President Sebastian Piñera’s outgoing administration launched its National Green Hydrogen Strategy in November 2020.
    • The goal is to have 5 GW of electrolysis capacity under development by 2025 and to create the cheapest green hydrogen on the planet by 2030.
  • Mining companies in the region are looking to hydrogen to slash operational costs by eliminating the expensive importation of diesel fuel.
    • They also believe green hydrogen can be used for electricity at mining sites alongside cheap renewable energy resources.
  • Beyond mining, companies are using Chile as a testing ground to create both ammonia and synthetic fuels from green hydrogen.
  • Roughly half of Chile’s installed power generation capacity for 2021 was sourced with renewable energy resources, making the production of green hydrogen easier.
  • Operators of coal-fired plants in the country, including international firms AES Corp., Enel SpA and Engie SA, have announced plans in 2021 to shut down such facilities and increase investments in renewables.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Chile has one of the most ambitious decarbonization plans in the world, targeting carbon neutral electricity in 2050. This South American country is already at a 70% renewable energy share with some of the world´s best wind and solar resources available. It is possible to retire coal in Chile before 2030 and to reach a 100% carbon neutral power system before 2050. Although competitive renewable energy and battery storage are available, the missing piece of the puzzle is long-term energy storage, which has the role of ensuring proper system function and reliability even during longer usual weather patterns such as drought, extreme heat or cold waves, cloud cover and rain, low wind periods as well as low solar seasons such as winter. Utilizing the Power-to-Fuel-to-Power as the long term energy storage can save Chile an estimated 17 billion dollars or 26% in investments and enables lower generation costs with better system reliability.

 

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Linde says it will triple the amount of clean hydrogen production by 2028

At-a-Glance:

Linde will invest more than $1 billion in decarbonization initiatives and triple the amount of clean hydrogen production by 2028, according to the industrial gas giant’s 2020 Sustainable Development Report. The report highlights how Linde is investing across the hydrogen value chain to accelerate the clean energy transition. To learn more, read, “Linde says it will triple the amount of clean hydrogen production by 2028.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Linde says it will pursue competitive low-carbon sources of hydrogen, including energy-efficient steam methane reformers (SMRs) with carbon dioxide capture, electrolysis with renewable power and piloting new low-carbon technologies.
  • The firm says it has the largest liquid hydrogen production capacity and distribution system in the world today and it also operates the first commercial high-purity hydrogen storage cavern.
  • Linde also has around 200 hydrogen stations and 80 hydrogen electrolysis plants worldwide.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

Future 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. Future fuels, such as synthetic methane and hydrogen can replace carbon emitting fossil fuels. These fuels produced by renewable energy can also be stored indefinitely and used on demand for long periods of time (weeks) to produce power and provide balancing services to the grid.

Future fuels enable a renewable energy power system.

 

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