Kenyan Government Solves Energy Issues with Largest Wind Power Project in Africa

by Jessie Capper

Unreliable, inefficient, and expensive electricity is a continuous issue in third-world countries, especially Kenya. Kenya’s energy consumption increased by 9% between 2010 and 2011, and demand is expected to grow a further 12% by 2030 (Court Jan 29, 2015). This expanding demand for energy has presented numerous obstacles for the Kenyan government and Kenyan power companies. Many Kenyan communities face costly energy bills and recurring interruptions in power supplies; these widespread interruptions affected 75% of the country in 2014. In January 2015 alone, the Kenyan Power Company—the country’s main electricity transmission company—recorded roughly 9 energy interruptions for every 1,000 customer at the household level. As a result, the Kenya government is trying to reduce its dependence on hydropower—which provides 65% of the country’s electricity—due to Kenya’s unreliable rainfall patterns. As these trends persist, electricity and power companies, along with Kenyan government officials, are developing a reliable, cost-effective, and renewable energy source for Kenyan communities (Court Jan 29, 2015).

The country has commenced one of its most ambitious wind energy projects that is predicted to add 5,000 MW of power to the Kenyan energy grid. The 300MW Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is set to produce 20% of the country’s current electricity generating capacity once completed in 2016. The main goals of the Wind Power Project are to provide reliable, low-cost wind power to the national grid. It includes 365 wind turbines, each with a 52-meter blade span, and a capacity of 850 kW (Lake Turkana Wind Power).

Unfortunately, plans for past power plants to improve Kenya’s energy supply have failed due to a lack of bids from construction companies. The development of the Dongo Kundu and Liquid Natural Gas facility—which was set to generate 5,000MW of electricity—was halted due to its expensive construction cost of $1.44 billion (IPP Journal Sept 8, 2014). Although the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is promising for the country’s energy supply, it is also a costly project amounting to $694 million—establishing the largest private investment in Kenyan history. However, the procurement process for the Lake Turkana Wind Project has already proven to be much more successful than the Dongo Kundu and Liquid Natural Gas project. An international collaboration among lenders and producers—including the African Development Bank and the British company Aldwych International and Standard Bank—have worked together to pay for and install the 365 wind turbines. Once developed and in operation, the ambitious Lake Turkana Wind Power Project will be the largest wind farm on the African continent and a hopefully replicable solution for other countries to follow.

Court, Alex. “Will Africa’s biggest wind power project transform Kenya’s growth?” CNN. January 29, 2015. Accessed February 18, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/29/business/ltwp-kenya-windpower/

Lake Turkana Wind Power (http://www.ltwp.co.ke/the-project/overview)

“Kenya to re-tender 700 MW LNG facility.” IPPJournal. September 8, 2014. Accessed February 18, 2015. http://ippjournal.com/2014/09/kenya-to-re-tender-700-mw-lng-facility/

 

 

 

Wind and Solar GHG Emissions Vary Substantially, but are Lower than Coal or Gas in all Cases

by Tim Storer

            Renewable energy sources, such as wind power generation, are often touted as preferable alternatives to fossil fuels because they produce electricity in an “emissions-free” manner. In actuality, some emissions are created during the production, distribution, and disposal of these technologies, making them not a truly “emissions-free” means of energy production. In order to determine the real relative advantages of various energy sources (in respect to carbon emissions), the full life cycle must be considered. Daniel Nugent and Benjamin Sovacool conducted a literature review of 153 lifecycle studies examining total carbon emissions associated with energy from wind and solar plants and determined estimates of industry averages. Of the 41 studies deemed “best,” an average of 34.1 g CO2/kWh was seen for wind energy and 49.9 g CO2/kWh for solar. Among these cases, substantial variability was observed, with wind emissions varying between 0.4–364.8 g CO2/kWh and solar emitting 1–218 g CO2/kWh. Continue reading

Hamburg is an Industrial City Reborn with a Renewable Energy Economy

by Liza Farr

Increasing regulation of fossil fuels and pollution, and the shift of jobs from industrial to tech has left many industrial cities with struggling economies. In Germany, the industrial city of Hamburg has fought this trend and is now known as the center of renewable energy for the nation. This past October, HusumWind, one of the world’s largest wind power conferences, was held in Hamburg (Hales, Oct 9 2014). There are already 5,000 wind industry employers in the city, and that number is expected to double with the expansion of offshore wind facilities (Hales, Oct 9 2014). Nearly all the leading international wind companies have offices in the region (Hales, Oct 9, 2014). Twenty five thousand people are already working in renewable energy in Hamburg, and experts predict this number will grow by 40% by 2015 (Renewable Energy Hamburg, October 2012). Nineteen hundred and eighty green tech companies with 33,400 employees are based in the city (Hales Oct 9, 2012). The city is the central planning location for solar farms in Germany and across the world, and the most important development and management location for wind power in Germany (Renewable Energy Hamburg, October 2012). Continue reading

Accuracy of Models for Wind and Tidal Turbines

by Cassandra Burgess

Computation Fluid Dynamic models are used to investigate the influence of rotating wind and tidal energy generator turbines on the surrounding environments. Johnson et al. (2014), compared current analytical and numerical models and experimental findings to a new computational fluid dynamic (CFD) model, and found that the CFD model agreed well with a simple conservation of momentum model, but did not closely match the experimental and numerical findings on reactions to the spinning turbines. This result was especially pronounced far from the turbine. The numerical and experimental findings predict much more turbulence downstream from a turbine, and larger changes in velocity. Continue reading

Norway’s Path to Zero Emissions: Large Scale Hydrogen Production from Off-Grid Renewable Sources

by Tim Storer

Norway currently generates over 95% of its power from hydroelectric dams, making it one of the most climate friendly energy systems on the planet. In efforts to bring Norway carbon neutral by 2050, the government aims to eliminate emissions from the transportation sector. Konrad Meier of the Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences examines the possibility of using a hypothetical 100 megawatt offshore wind farm to generate hydrogen fuel via electrolysis. Because water hydrolysis uses only electricity and water, it offers an emissions-free means to generate hydrogen as long as the electricity is generated from a renewable source, such as wind power. This could achieve Norwegian political goals of carbon neutrality by providing the hydrogen necessary to transform their transportation sector. Unlike other proposed wind-to-hydrogen technologies, Meier examines an off-grid operation, rather than producing hydrogen at the fuel refill site. The analysis was conducted under three scenarios, and the hydrogen from this proposed operation is profitable in the energy market under only the “best case” scenario.

This is a clever use of wind power for several reasons. First, if this operation were integrated into the power grid, wind variability would become an issue. Keeping the production off-grid avoids costs of transmission infrastructure and variable supply. Second, the variability also makes exporting excess power to the E.U. infeasible. The remaining 5% of domestic power is more likely to come from untapped hydroelectric resources, so wind has no use in Norway either. Using wind power for hydrogen synthesis circumvents these issues that have previously prevented wind production from being a viable energy source in Norway.

To examine costs, Meier used a location proximal to an operational German wind farm, Alpha-ventus, and incorporated its data. He uses 2010 data as his “worst case” scenario, which is a very conservative baseline considering how much lower the power output had been in previous years and how the proposed system would not be subject to transmission losses. The “best case” scenario was calculated simply by the predicted estimates. Given the likely increases in electrolysis efficiency in upcoming years, this scenario also yields conservative estimates of overall output costs. Meier discusses four types of electrolysis, but focuses on proton exchange membrane electrolysis cell (PEMEC) and solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) that require water as the only input material. Unfortunately, research on the efficiency of PEMEC and SOEC is unable to offer precise estimates, and herein lies a major source of ambiguity in the study.

Because there is currently no market for hydrogen transportation fuel, this study is limited by the assumption of a future in which infrastructure has been implemented to support a hydrogen market. Unfortunately, given how variable the results are (dependent on optimistic/pessimistic assumptions), it is unclear whether such an investment is worthwhile at all. However, in as much as the best and worst case scenarios were estimated in a very conservative way, it is possible that such an operation could be an economic way to transform the transportation sector. Further research is needed on the efficiency of the PEMEC and SOEC processes to indicate whether the proposed wind farm is an economically viable solution to attaining a carbon neutral transportation sector.

Konrad Meier, 2014. Hydrogen production with sea water electrolysis using Norwegian offshore wind energy potentials. International Journal of Energy and Environmental Engineering Vol. 5: 1–12. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40095-014-0104-6/fulltext.html#CR1

 

 

Just Released! “Energy, Biology, Climate Change”

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Our newest book just Released! “Energy, Biology, Climate Change” and available at Amazon.com for $19.95.

The focus of this book is the interactions between energy, ecology, and climate change, as well as a few of the responses of humanity to these interactions. It is not a textbook, but a series of chapters discussing subtopics in which the authors were interested and wished to write about. The basic material is cutting-edge science; technical journal articles published within the last year, selected for their relevance and interest. Each author selected eight or so technical papers representing his or her view of the most interesting current research in the field, and wrote summaries of them in a journalistic style that is free of scientific jargon and understandable by lay readers. This is the sort of science writing that you might encounter in the New York Times, but concentrated in a way intended to give as broad an overview of the chapter topics as possible. None of this research will appear in textbooks for a few years, so there are not many ways that readers without access to a university library can get access to this information.

This book is intended be browsed—choose a chapter topic you like and read the individual sections in any order; each is intended to be largely stand-alone. Reading all of them will give you considerable insight into what climate scientists concerned with energy, ecology, and human effects are up to, and the challenges they face in understanding one of the most disruptive—if not very rapid—event in human history; anthropogenic climate change. The Table of Contents follows: Continue reading

The Benefits of Offshore Wind Energy

by Alex Elder

In the past decade, the use of wind energy has increased dramatically. Wind farms that provide energy for millions of homes have popped up all over the country. However, the current energy market still relies heavily on the production of oil and gas resources as a main source of energy. The two biggest downsides of fossil fuel dependency are the lack of renewability and the environmental and economic consequences. For these reasons, renewable energy sources like wind power have become more appealing in recent years as the negative impacts of using fossil fuels become more salient and serious. In particular, offshore oil rigs are one of the most controversial sources of fossil fuel because they are notoriously dangerous for those working on them and result in frequent oil spills and fires which negatively impact the ocean through pollution. Continue reading

Potential $8-Billion Green Energy Initiative for Los Angeles

by Alexander Flores

As of September 2014, an $8-billion dollar green energy project has been proposed to link one of the nation’s largest wind farms to one of the world’s biggest energy storage facilities. This first initiative of its kind in the United States was strung together by four companies: Duke-American Transmission Co., Dresser-Rand, Magnum Energy, and Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, in hopes to provide large quantities of clean electricity to the Los Angeles area by 2023. This project in particular would involve the construction of one of the largest wind farms in Wyoming and one of the largest energy storage facilities in Utah with a 525-mile electric transmission line connecting the two sites. Continue reading

A Convenient Partnership Between Carbon Capture and Wind Energy

by Tim Storer

Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) technologies help to reduce emissions from fossil fuel energy operations, such as coal fired power plants. While these technologies have the benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making the operations more climate friendly, they are costly for extraction companies. Wind power has the benefit of low emissions, but is dependent on weather and fails to provide a stable energy supply. This paper identifies a way to reduce the cost of CCS, which involves partnering with wind powered energy. Bandyopadhyay and Patiño-Escheverri (2014) find that this partnership can make CCS vastly cheaper for the producers and the partnership would also create additional incentives for developing renewable energy sources in the form of wind power. Through the partnership, power providers will have the flexibility to direct power to multiple uses depending on price fluctuations, thus minimizing profit loss from incorporating CCS. Continue reading

Beefing up a Wind Turbine with Compressed Air

by Emil Morhardt

If your wind turbine isn’t going fast enough to meet the demands of the grid, blow on it a little harder: that’s the general idea suggested by Sun et al. (2014) [Shouldn’t somebody named Sun be studying solar rather than wind power?] The concept is a little like a hybrid electric vehicle; if the internal combustion engine isn’t going fast enough, give it a little boost from the electric motor connected to it. Except in this case, it’s that if the wind turbine isn’t going fast enough, goose it with a little compressed air. You might be envisioning a compressed air nozzle pointed at the turbine blades, but there’s a better way: use a motor driven by compressed air to speed up the turbine. One novel aspect to this study is that the device envisioned as a compressed-air motor is something called a scroll expander, or scroll-type air motor, a new type of pneumatic drive, but that doesn’t seem to be central to the idea—any suitable air-driven motor should work. The main point is to have it integrated with the wind turbine so that when needed, it can help out in the short term. Continue reading