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.

California’s energy transition to require 53GW of solar PV, US$30bn+ for grid upgrades by 2045, says CAISO

At-a-Glance: 

California’s energy transition requires 53GW of solar PV by 2045, with the state’s transmission system requiring a $30.5 billion investment in addition to a major increase in energy storage to accommodate the additional power. A draft version of California ISO’s (CAISO) 20-Year Transmission Outlook report provides a roadmap for the next twenty years, as well as a draft 2021-2022 Transmission Plan covering the next 10 years. To learn more, read, “California’s energy transition to require 53GW of solar PV, US$30bn+ for grid upgrades by 2045, says CAISO.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • The report outlined that by 2045, the state would require 53GW of utility-scale solar, 37GW of battery energy storage systems, 4GW of long-duration storage and more than 2GW of geothermal, alongside 24GW of wind power reserves, all of which need to be connected to the grid.
  • Transmission needs will range from high-voltage lines that traverse significant distances to access out-of-state resources with lead times for such upgrades ranging from eight to 10 years being reasonable or optimistic.
  • The CAISO report forecast that the state’s peak load in 2040 would be 82.3GW, up from an estimated 64.1GW in 2030. 
    • CAISO would need to accommodate 73.9GW of this through its network.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The CAISO proposal reveals a sensitivity to seeking geographic diversification through transmission – a critical component to catering to each region’s renewable energy threshold. It falls on the shoulders 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. 

The electric grid is expected to be tripled in the coming years – developing the supportive infrastructure to offer a reliable, carbon-free and flexible power system requires proactive solutions to answer the call. Addressing grid capacity will be essential to realizing a 100% zero emission electricity system by 2050, and solar, wind, hydro and nuclear will all play a role in the future grid. The Path to 100% will require leveraging the appropriate technologies and renewable fuels to equip the energy transition. 

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

Chevron to Buy Biofuel-Maker Renewable Energy Group for $3.1 Billion

At-a-Glance: 

Chevron Corp. purchased Renewable Energy Group for $3.1 billion, giving a significant boost to Chevron’s push into renewable fuels. Demand is expected to grow in the coming years as businesses and governments move away from oil and gas to cut carbon emissions. Chevron, like the rest of the fossil fuel industry, is under pressure from investors to help scale up technologies to advance a low-carbon economy as well as reduce its own carbon footprint. For more read Chevron to Buy Biofuel-Maker Renewable Energy Group for $3.1 Billion

Key Takeaways

  • Renewable is one of North America’s largest producers of biodiesel, and they also make renewable diesel. The fuels are seen as critical in decarbonizing heavy-duty transportation that cannot be electrified as easily as passenger vehicles, such as airplanes.
  • Renewable diesel is almost chemically identical to traditional petroleum and therefore easy for fossil-fuel companies to adopt. 
  • As more big oil refiners — motivated by federal and state subsidies — gear up to make the climate-friendly fuel, the cost of vegetable oil, discarded animal fats and other feedstocks used to make it has soared.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Decarbonizing the transportation sector will be a key step in realizing a 100% renewable energy future. Investments in renewable fuels like biodiesel, both in policies and infrastructure, will accelerate the timeline for commercial viability. It is also encouraging to see that oil companies have seen the critical need to pivot to remain viable and develop their own decarbonization strategies. Investments and leadership from large traditional oil companies will continue to encourage the transition and development of future fuels.

Photo by Luis Ramirez on Unsplash

Solar – 10 Predictions for 2022

At-a-Glance: 

BloombergNEF, a strategic researcher that looks at ways power, transport, industry, buildings and agriculture sectors can adapt to the energy transition, makes ten predictions for solar energy for 2022. The list focuses on the rapid growth of solar across the world as prices fall and the need for storage solutions increase. For more read Solar – 10 Predictions for 2022

Key Takeaways

  • The article predicts 2022 will be the first year in which more than 200GW of solar will be installed.
  • Strong demand for polysilicon materials drove prices up because production could not keep up in 2021. With new capacity ramping up in 2022, there should be an adequate supply that should trigger lower prices. In addition, new technologies joining the mix should help solar manufacturing to grow.
  • Installed utility-scale solar-and-storage will double, with the largest markets in China and the U.S. Residential solar-and-storage will be on the political and investment agenda with greater urgency than in previous years, as it is starting to be a significant sector.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The growth of solar energy and the anticipated lower costs is a huge step on the Path to 100%, but that alone will not be enough. Solar, along with wind, is variable and can’t be relied on to provide enough power around the clock. At night, for instance, solar would not generate power in real time. So the key is finding economical and efficient storage solutions as a backup when needed. One realistic option is power-to-gas (PtG), which could convert access wind and solar power to sustainable fuels, like hydrogen, and store it until needed to power future flexible power plants. 

Wärtsilä to optimize and decarbonise gold mine power station in Suriname, South America

At-a-Glance: 

Wärtsilä has contracted with a gold mining company in Suriname to build a 7.8 MW energy storage system to help the company achieve its climate targets and decarbonizations goals. This is the first utility-scale energy storage system to be built in Suriname and Wärtsilä’s first energy storage project in the country. To learn more read: Wärtsilä to optimise and decarbonise gold mine power station in Suriname, South America

Key Takeaways

  • The integrated energy storage system will improve efficiency at the gold mine’s power station by reducing the need for emergency back-up spinning reserve, therefore lowering fuel consumption. 
  • The project is estimated to reduce the mine’s emissions by 5,600 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. This optimized energy system will extend to improvements across the lifetime of the engines and reduce operation and maintenance costs.
  • The GEMS Digital Energy Platform, Wärtsilä’s advanced energy management system, will control and optimize energy storage and evaluate opportunities to integrate renewable energy assets at the facility to further decarbonise mining operations, further reduce operations costs and provide clean electricity to surrounding communities.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Energy storage simply means capturing produced energy and saving it for later. It is becoming more and more important as we turn to more renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, because they cannot produce a continuous supply of energy around the clock. Being able to store that energy is a key element to reliable, 100% renewable power in the future.

By installing this technology now, the mining company will see improved reliability, efficiency and sustainability. The company is also future-proofing its investments in a changing energy market.

 

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.

 

Why North America And Europe Need To Hit Net Zero Well Before 2050

At-a-Glance: 

The UK minister in charge of the COP26 warned that the progress made in Glasgow is in danger of withering on the vine if action is not forthcoming. To reach net zero requires much more aggressive decarbonization, and the understanding that the ability to reach net zero varies from country to country. The energy transition research team at DNV proposed an Energy Transition Outlook – an independent view of where the energy transition is headed by taking into consideration economic, technological and policy developments. To learn more, read, “Why North America And Europe Need To Hit Net Zero Well Before 2050.”

Key Takeaways

  • The proposed pathway suggests that Europe and North America must hit net zero by 2042 and then become carbon negative thereafter. 
  • Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 does not require the complete phasing out of fossil fuels
    • Currently the energy system is split 80:20 in favor of fossil fuels, but the cheapening of renewable power is causing a revolution in the energy mix and they forecast that fossil and non-fossil sources will most likely share the mix by midcentury.
  • The proposal suggests that carbon capture and storage is an important feature of the pathway to net zero. 
  • Critics of carbon capture and storage say it unnecessarily extends the lifetime and influence of fossil fuels, but their proposal argues it has an essential role to play in the transition to net zero. 
    • Hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives offer a green alternative to many of the hard-to-abate sectors and whilst producing (green) hydrogen from renewables is likely to become the dominant method.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The strategies set in motion during COP26 must be put into play based on the variables of each specific nation and region while also remaining thoroughly rooted in science, data and engineering. 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 reliance on traditional gas- and coal-fired plants, whether they’re used for baseload or to back up variable renewable generation. And that can be harder than originally anticipated. 

The role of natural gas in power generation is increasing as it is being more widely utilized to run power plants that are integrated with intermittent wind and solar systems. As the share of wind and solar capacity increases and the net load to thermal plants decreases, gas power plants can also provide peaking to system balancing. Renewable natural gas can be leveraged as a fuel source to replace fossil-fuel based natural gas, thus moving the world one step closer to decarbonization and a 100% renewable energy future.