Much-Watched Reciprocating Engine Hydrogen Pilot Kicks Off at Michigan Power Plant

At-a-Glance: 

A landmark project to test fuel blends of up to 25% volume of hydrogen mixed with natural gas in reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICEs) has launched at WEC Energy Group’s 56-MW A.J. Mihm power plant in Michigan. If successful, the pilot—one of the first of its kind in the U.S.—could provide key insight into how hydrogen combustion at RICE units could be replicated across the U.S. You can read more here: Much-Watched Reciprocating Engine Hydrogen Pilot Kicks Off at Michigan Power Plant.

Key Takeaways:

  • A consortium comprising Finnish technology giant Wärtsilä, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and Burns & McDonnell on May 30 unveiled a contract with Milwaukee-based WEC Energy’s subsidiary Upper Michigan Energy Resources for the fuel testing pilot.
  • One of the plant’s three18.8-MW Wärtsilä W18V50SG natural gas-fired engines wil be used in the testing and will continue to supply power to the grid as the hydrogen share in its fuel mix is gradually increased to a maximum of 25% by volume.
  • Wärtsilä has researched hydrogen as a fuel for 20 years as part of its strategy to “future-proof its engine technology in line with the global trend towards decarbonization of the energy and marine markets.”
  • The project could help establish RICEs as a future-proof technology, allowing for the flexibility needed to incorporate more renewable energy sources onto the grid. Its ability to provide incremental electricity quickly—starting up even when the grid has no power—and operating at partial loads, give it a key advantage over more traditional power plants.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Both flexibility and reliability will be crucial as we transition to a clean energy future. Just adding wind and solar generated power will not be enough. Those renewable sources, while powerful and cost-efficient, are also dependent on the weather conditions. RICE, along with adequate storage solutions, appears to offer the ideal solution to ensure stability to the grid. 

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Hydrogen Risks Being The Great Missed Opportunity Of The Energy Transition

At-a-Glance: 

Hydrogen is required to decarbonizing industries that cannot be easily electrified, like deep sea shipping, aviation, and high heat industrial processes. Yet, Forbes’ recent forecast Hydrogen Future to 2050 finds that hydrogen uptake will be far too slow. To meet the Paris Agreement goals, by 2050 hydrogen should meet approximately 15% of energy demand, but our findings show it will reach just 0.5% by 2030 and 5% by mid-century. Read more: Hydrogen Risks Being The Great Missed Opportunity Of The Energy Transition.  

Key Takeaways:

  • Even if hydrogen production is forecast to fall short of what it needs to be, huge investment opportunities exist. 
  • Electricity-based green hydrogen – produced by splitting hydrogen from water using electrolyzers – will be the dominant form of production by the middle of the century, accounting for 72% of output.
  • Hydrogen will be transported by pipelines up to medium distances within and between countries, but almost never between continents. Ammonia – a derivative of hydrogen – is safer and more convenient to transport and is more suitable for long distance seaborne trade. 
  • Cost considerations will lead to more than 50% of hydrogen pipelines globally being repurposed from natural gas pipelines, rising to as high as 80% in some regions
  • Hydrogen derivatives like ammonia, methanol and e-kerosene will play a key role in decarbonizing the heavy transport sectors (aviation, maritime, and parts of trucking). We do not foresee hydrogen uptake in passenger vehicles, and only limited uptake in power generation. 

Path to 100% Perspective:

Hydrogen is the biggest buzz word these days when it comes to decarbonization, and for good reason. It’s carbon-free, can easily be created from and used to store renewable energy sources, and can be used in gas turbines to increase power system flexibility and reduce carbon emissions. Wartsila is currently participating in hydrogen fuel testing at a power plant in Michigan.

While it’s likely that hydrogen and its derivatives will likely be one of the sustainable fuels of the future, it is not certain. The key for power producers is to invest in flexibility now with engines capable of running on natural gas/hydrogen blends that can be easily converted to operate on whatever fuel becomes the most available in the future.

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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.

Photo by Eelco Böhtlingk on Unsplash

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. 

 

Photo by Nuno Marques on Unsplash