Corporations Take the Lead in US Wind Power

by Woodson Powell

According to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Q4 2015 market report, about 75% of the megawatts contracted through power purchase agreements (PPAs) during the fourth quarter were non-utility buyers (companies, city governments, universities) [http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2016_02_22_us_wind_power_demand_corporations_take_the_lead]. That spike in corporate contracts is not simply reflective of a shift in contracting, but also of the growth in the wind power industry. The AWEA’s report notes that the United States wind industry installed 8,598 megawatts in 2015, 77% more than 2014 [http://awea.files.cms-plus.com/FileDownloads/pdfs/4Q2015%20AWEA%20Market%20Report%20Public%20Version.pdf]. Historically, utility-scale wind power was mostly purchased in the form of large wind farms, because it was an efficient way for states to meet their renewable portfolio standards. Nowadays, corporate purchasers are entering the market, because wind power has good value, not just because of government mandates. Continue reading

Renewable Energy in India

 

by Aurora Silva

India’s government has a bold goal for deploying renewable energy: 175 gigawatts of electricity-generating capacity by 2022, including 100 gigawatts of solar power. The country has a history of promoting renewable energy and a rapidly growing portfolio of solar and wind projects, but meeting the solar target alone will require a growth rate equivalent to doubling India’s installed solar capacity every 18 months. It will also require a clear understanding of the three factors that drive energy demand in India (access, security, and efficiency); new federal and state policies and incentives; innovative financing for capital investments estimated at $100 billion or more; and additional funding for manufacturing, training, and job creation. Project developers will have to grapple with the cost and availability of land, grid connections, and backup power. To meet the electricity needs of the poor and encourage rural entrepreneurship, India’s energy policies should aim for a mix of grid— connected and decentralized renewable energy sources. Continue reading

The Significance of the Paris Agreement in Climate Change Policy

by Katy Schaefer

One of the most hotly contested subjects in America over the past ten years has been the issue of climate change. Is it real, how will it affect the citizens of America and the world, what can we do to lessen if not reverse the impacts of global warming? Until recently, it seemed like we might never reach an answer. You might recall the infamous, failed meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 which was called to address a possible worldwide plan to attack this issue. However, this year, there is better news. Continue reading

Thailand Has the Necessary Wind Conditions to Reach Renewable Energy Goals

by Tim Storer

Many developing economies are undergoing an energy transformation, and in the face of global warming, there has been a push towards investment in renewable sources, such as wind power. Chingulpitak and Wongwises (2014) review the current status of wind energy development in Thailand. The Thai government has stated goals of increasing its use of renewable fuels to 25% by 2021, and wind energy is a large component of this transformation. In 2012, only 111.7 MW of wind power was generated, but the Thai government aims to increase production to 1800 MW in this timeframe. In addition to its own worth, Thailand’s energy transformation can provide insight into the challenges of other developing nations around the globe. Continue reading

How Far Have We Come?

by Ali Siddiqui

An article by Chris Mooney for The Washington Post attempts to determine whether the United States of America really is changing the way it uses energy. The conclusion of the article was that America has changed. Mooney gains most of his evidence for America’s change from the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook prepared by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and published by the Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Continue reading

Energy Kites: An Airborne Wind Turbine

by Alex Elder

Makani Power, acquired by Google X in 2013, is seeking to improve the modern wind turbine design in order to make wind power more efficient, cheaper, and less intrusive. Makani has developed an innovative new system of utilizing wind as a source of energy by using an “energy kite.” These kites are actually carbon fiber gliders which fly in circles while remaining tethered to the ground. This design allows the energy kites to reach higher altitudes than traditional wind turbines while significantly reducing the cost of materials for construction. Due to their lightweight design, the kites are more aerodynamic, and thus more energy efficient, than ground-based wind turbines. Because higher altitudes allow access to stronger and more consistent wind speeds, the kites can generate about 50% more energy than traditional wind energy technology. Continue reading

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

Norway Plans Deep Sea Cables to Germany, England

by Trevor Smith

Norway is in the process of finalizing plans to build massive submarine power cables to link its power grid to England’s and Germany’s grids. The move is being praised as a win for clean energy, as the cable will allow for exporting excess hydroelectric energy from Norway to England and Germany. The cable to Germany is set to be completed by 2018, while the cable to England will be finished by 2020 (Reuters 2015). Continue reading

Of the many Energy Storage Systems, Integrated Hydrogen-Oxygen Storage Stands Out

by Tim Storer

Wind power comes with the disadvantage of intermittent gaps in energy production and instances of excess supply. This variability puts strain on the electric grid and is the primary barrier to large-scale wind power integration. In order to combat this issue, various forms of energy storage have been considered to bridge the gap between supply and demand of wind power. Gao et al. 2014 conduct a brief literature review on all existing energy storage systems (ESS) for wind power. Each method comes with drawbacks associated with scale, cost, or safety, but hydrogen-oxygen storage was seen here as the best future option. By improving storage technologies, wind energy will become more viable in the market and help to reduce the share of energy coming from fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. In addition to the literature review, this study examined a possible hydrogen-oxygen ESS in Jiangsu Province, China and saw that such an operation could be profitable in the current market.

While there are some operational forms of ESS, there is a variety of issues preventing ESS –and subsequently, wind power– from becoming widespread energy sources. For example, battery power is too costly and difficult to build at a large scale, systems that involve pumping water upward for energy storage have geographical limitations, and magnetic energy storage has low storage time. In the case of hydrogen generation from electrolysis, the costs are simply too high to be competitive in the energy market with capital costs of 1000-2500$/kW (when they need to be near 400 $/kW).

Hydrogen-oxygen combined storage consists of electrolyzers that break water down into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen and oxygen are combusted to form super-heated steam that powers turbines. The system is closed, and uses water as a recycled fuel. Gao and colleagues examined three variants of hydrogen-oxygen ESS: simple integrated ESS, integrated ESS with a feed water heater, and an integrated ESS with both a feed water heater and a steam reheater. In simple terms, these systems each contain an additional measure to capture heat from the steam turbines and use that heat elsewhere in the process, thus improving efficiency. All of these integrated systems contain a complex web of mechanisms that can be adjusted alongside price fluctuations in the power market to minimize costs. The former two had roughly equivalent efficiencies of 49%, but the latter system had efficiency of up to 54.6%, thus demonstrating the benefits of feed water heaters and steam reheaters.

While the 54.6% efficiency of the fully integrated system is marginally below that of some other ESS technologies, hydrogen-oxygen systems come with certain advantages. They can be implemented on a large scale, are fully eco-friendly, not limited by geographical and material restraints, and can be adjusted rapidly based on demand changes. The system was analyzed under two extreme scenarios: an “intermittent operation mode” simulating an extremely variable wind supply, and “continuous operation mode” simulating a perfectly steady supply. Because of how effectively the system dealt with times of low wind, it was actually more profitable under the intermittent scenario with annual income of $13 million per year. Real wind conditions lie somewhere between these extremes, and efficiencies of approximately 50% and prices of 0.03–0.05$/kWh were estimated.

Dan Gao, Dongfang Jiang, Pei Liu, Zheng Li, Sangao Hu, Hong Xu, 2014. An integrated energy storage system based on hydrogen storage: Process configuration and case studies with wind power. Energy, Vol. 66: 332–341.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544214001170