Energy Storage – Novel Technologies

Energy Storage – Novel Technologies.jpgBattery storage technology has long been considered too costly at present to be a viable storage technology. However, recently costs for batteries have declined and are projected to fall. Vanadium Redox flow cells have been successfully used in Japan and the US for wind energy storage due to their high efficiency.

If the use of electric cars becomes more widespread, electric car batteries could be used for storage of electricity generated from wind power. At night vehicles could be connected to the grid and at times of peak demand vehicle owners could be paid for discharging their batteries.

Presently the deployment of electric vehicle charging and ‘pure’ battery technology is still in the early stages and would need significant investments in an exchange information system integrated into the grid. Large scale deployment of electric vehicles and willing participants in the scheme would be needed. It is highly unlikely that this would occur in the mid-term, if at all.

Also, hydrogen storage is in the development stages and is technically viable. Excess wind energy is used to generate hydrogen via electrolysis. Then at peak times hydrogen could be converted into electricity using a fuel cell or combustion turbine.

Magnets can also be used to store electric flow. To date, this technology has only been used for short-term storage. The two most widely developed technologies are Super capacitors and Super Conducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES).

One of the most interesting storage options is the use of residential water heaters. Using a smart device fitted to the water meter, the heater will switch on or off depending upon electricity load in the grid system. The stored hot water could be used at peak times to reduce overall peak load.

 

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What happened to Hydrogen Technology

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Hailed as the future of clean energy, hydrogen was, at the turn of the century, the fuel that was going to power us forward. Fast forward to the present day and there are more electric vehicles than hydrogen powered cars on the roads, and the big news stories on renewable energy mostly have to do with solar and wind energy. What happened?

As with most new technology, hydrogen fuel cell technology was an expensive endeavour. Promising as an alternative fuel, there were just so many technical limitations that had to be overcome for its widespread adoption into common use technology. When it comes to vehicles, there is still potential for hydrogen, and we are seeing initiatives to build out and support a network of refuelling stations which would allow for a gradual transition to hydrogen fuels.

Instead, electric cars, and hefty government incentives for the same, have come along and allowed this technology to grow. Its adaptability into our daily routine was as easy as running an extension cord to your car every night, and though range can be an issue, you don’t have to worry about finding a specialist fuelling station as long as there’s an electricity source nearby.

Range, however, does still limit many electric vehicles and there is a push for a more elaborate recharging infrastructure. Despite the hype surrounding battery-electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are still set to be one of the most important automotive key trends in the years to come.

Battery technology has severe limitations in terms of its durability (typical batteries will not perform well the older they get) as well as for many convenience of a quick charge (again without impacting the battery’s overall life). Continued investment in hydrogen infrastructure could see refuelling stations with turnaround times of minutes as opposed to hours (for electric charging) and could replace gasoline.

While much focus is on cars, road transport accounts for much of the world’s trade and battery-electric trucks are not yet the solution. With a focus on range and power, hydrogen fuel-cell technology may be able to fill this void and spill over to the consumer automotive sectors as a result.

UK to Join the Geothermal Energy Sector

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Let’s start this article by examining exactly what is geothermal energy. Essentially, geothermal energy comes from the heat that the earth naturally produces. It is a clean and sustainable form of energy and is extracted from shallow ground all the way down to the point where magma is formed.

The temperature in shallow ground remains consistently between 10-16 degrees Celsius. This heat can be extracted using geothermal heat pumps and used to heat and cool buildings. Technologies are fast developing to maximise what we can do with geothermal heat.

In the UK, the country’s first geothermal electricity plant has just sprung into action. It is located in the United Downs Industrial Estate in Cornwall, in the south of the country and is expected to provide sufficient energy to power 3,000 homes according to Geothermal Engineering Ltd.

Geothermal has received accolades by those in the know, including the US Department of Energy, which claimed that geothermal power is a vital and clean energy resource. It went on to sing its praises further by explaining that one of the key elements that makes this energy source so promising is its ability to supply power 24/7 without emitting any greenhouse gases.

Currently, geothermal energy is responsible for a mere 0.4% of the energy mix in the United States. However, with more and more research being undertaken in this area, there is little doubt that the US and other countries will try to increase this percentage in the coming years. The UK has already taken its first step to introducing geothermal energy.

Down in Cornwall, there are plans for two geothermal wells, which will be drilled into granite rock. The deeper of the two will plunge a staggering 4.5km below the surface of the earth.  Water will be extracted from the deeper well and will emerge at a temperature of approximately 190 degrees Celsius. This water will then be fed through a heat exchanger when it reaches the surface in order to extract the heat from the water. Then, it will be sent back into the ground where it will heat back up again. This will work in a continuous cycle and the heat that is extracted will be converted into electricity and transmitted to the National Grid.

The managing director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd has high hopes for the geothermal sector in the UK. He explains that the geothermal resources in the country remain largely untapped and that they have the potential to provide up to 20% of the country’s electricity and heat energy in a sustainable and reliable way.

As coal plants are rapidly closing, more energy is needed from somewhere and geothermal seems as good a source as any from which to extract it.

The geothermal plant in Cornwall has received around £18 million in funding from a range of sources, including over £10 million from the European Regional Development Fund. Other sponsors include the British Geological Survey, GeoScience Ltd and the University of Plymouth Sustainable Earth Institute.

 

There is no doubt that the earth has to reform its energy consumption habits and it needs to do so fast. Tapping into yet another clean and sustainable energy resource is excellent news for anyone concerned with the future of our planet as it takes us one step closer to an emissions free future.

Bigger Means Better for Wind Power

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There are big things going on in the world of wind power – quite literally. Wind turbine manufacturers are quickly understanding that when it comes to wind turbines, bigger is always better. But, what about the turbine needs to be bigger?

 

There are two ways to make a wind turbine bigger in a way that will increase the amount of wind power it can generate. The first is to give it bigger blades. When the blades cover a larger area, the capacity of the turbine is increased. Option number two is to make the turbines taller. This puts the blades higher up in the atmosphere where the wind is steady and more reliable. This will mean that the blades are turning more often.

 

Unfortunately, making wind turbines more efficient is not quite as simple as making everything bigger. When turbines are made bigger, they also need to be made more resilient, without being heavier and less effective. The stress a strong wind can place on a wind turbine can be extreme. There are also a number of non-technical problems that need to be considered, such as loss of view, the effect on big birds, transportation and maintenance issues etc.

 

Wind power is increasingly moving out to sea. Here, very few limitations exist. The land is barely in sight so views and shadows become unimportant. In a way, the sky is the limit so is it up to the engineers to see how big they can make these energy generating machines.

 

It is little surprise that energy companies are trying to capitalise on the idea that bigger is better when it comes to generating wind power. This year, GE Renewable Energy announced their investment of a staggering $400 million into a new mega turbine called the Haliade-X. This turbine is expected to be the biggest and most powerful in the world and should be ready for installation in 2021.

 

To give you some perspective on this new monster turbine, currently, the average height for a wind turbine in the USA is between 142 and 152 metres. The Haliade-X is going to be around 260 metres. On top of that the rotor diameter of the turbine is going to be roughly double the size of the average. This is good news as the greater the diameter of the rotor, the more wind it can harvest. Even the blades are going to be record-breaking, measuring in at about 100 metres in length (that’s around the same length as a football field).

 

If all goes well, this is a trend we should see continuing in the long term. The Haliade-X is more than just a vanity project. Bigger turbines means a steadier and more reliable harvest of energy, which means easier integration into the grid.

 

So, what does this mean for the future of wind power? ONe of the main problems with wind power is that it is not reliable. It is often subsidised with the use of natural gas plants or other sources of energy. When we have giant wind turbines that produce a steady flow of reliable energy we are going to be able to reduce our dependence on other energy sources. In the near future, wind power could crush all of its competitors as turbines keep getting bigger and bigger.

 

7 Simple Things You Can Do For the Environment

 

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It came out recently in a UN report that the world has a mere 12 years to change its behaviour and prevent an irreversible climate change catastrophe. While the announcement caused a lot of stir in the media, it is going to need to do more than that if we want our children to enjoy the earth like we have. We are going to have to seriously reconfigure the way we treat the planet if we want it to have a future. So, starting from right now, what can you do to make a difference to the environment?

 

Stop Using Plastic

 

Take your own bags to the supermarket and kick up a fuss when they put a plastic straw in your drink. Reducing our plastic usage will help clear the seas of debris and give the creatures that live within them a new lease on life. It also reduces emissions from the plants that make plastic products.

 

Switch Your Lights Off

 

In fact, switch everything off if you’re not using it. Leaving things idling on standby uses up unnecessary energy and this is a destructive habit of ours we need to combat. The demand for energy is growing and this means more digging and more pollution. Anything you can do to lower that demand is invaluable.

 

Start a Compost Heap

 

If you have a garden, start throwing all of your leftover food into a compost heap. This will reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill and return the food to its natural state. If you don’t have a garden, you can use a small tub with a lid to create one in your kitchen or utility room. When it gets full, empty it into your green bin.

 

Switch Your Bulbs for Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs

 

If you are going to leave your lights on all the time, make sure you are using the most energy efficient bulbs you can. Compact fluorescent light bulbs using a fraction of the energy normal bulbs use and they last roughly eight times as long – saving you both energy and money!

 

Avoid Solo Car Travel

 

If you can cycle or take public transport instead of driving yourself to work, do it. It might be a little less convenient but it will go a long way to saving the planet if everyone adopts this behaviour. If there is no public transport available, try carpooling with people you know who live nearby and are going the same way as you.

 

Buy Low Sulphate Washing Products

 

Sulphates are commonly found in washing powder and washing up liquids. When they are released into the water they stimulate the growth of algae, which in turn harms fish and pollutes their environment. This is a really simple action but it makes a big difference.

 

Only Wash Your Clothes When You Have a Full Load

 

Try to fill up your washing machine before your switch it on. This way, you will be saving water and energy – both of which we are in desperate need to reduce our usage. If you live with other people, see if they want to wash their clothes with yours so you can fill up the washing machine quicker.

What will Britain’s carbon reduction plans look like post-Brexit?

 

 

As all eyes turn to Britain in the final months before it leaves the EU, the question on many people’s lips is: “what is Britain going to do to keep its emissions under control?” Until now, the EU has been the driving force behind many of the nation’s carbon reduction policies, but once the UK has left the union, it is unclear how the country will move forward in this department.

Currently, the plan is to implement a green watchdog that will hold the government to account for its environmental policies and ensure ministers stick to their promises. Theresa May said this would be a world leading, independent, statutory body that would be similar in its powers to the European commission. The only problem is that the UK government seems to be deliberately weakening its powers before it has even got off the ground. Already, ministers have excluded climate change from the remit of the watchdog’s powers despite it being one of the most pressing issues in this area.

Elsewhere within Whitehall, Alistair Darling and Michael Howard are backing a cross-party campaign that will see a carbon tax implemented for any companies selling fossil fuels in Britain. This heightened tax should act as a deterrent to selling fossil fuels and will steadily increase in the hopes of phasing out the polluting energy source as much as possible over the coming years. This, they believe, will ensure the government sticks to its commitment to continue cutting carbon emissions post-Brexit.

At the moment, Britain is part of the European Union’s emissions trading system (ETS). After it leaves the union, the nation will need to decide whether it will keep close links with the system or build its own. If Britain manages to negotiate a soft Brexit then there is a possibility of staying in the ETS until the next trading period ends, in 2030. This option is preferable for many big businesses and climate change activists. Unfortunately, to date negotiations have not looked promising and the chances of a soft Brexit seem to be dwindling. However, if Britain does build its own system for monitoring emissions it will need to build one that satisfies the needs of the three devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

If the UK leaves the EU and does not have a sensible ETS replacement, it could have severe consequences for the health of the planet and could bring about the collapse of the EU’s primary carbon-cutting tool. It could allow the UK to have free reign over its emissions policies and potentially prevent British factories, airlines, and power generators from having to pay for their emissions. This would essentially undo a lot of the good work that the EU has been working towards.

A carbon tax seems simple in the first instance but it is far more complex than just laying down a blanket tax on companies. Is it limited to power generators or will it affect all areas of industry? These are important questions to be decided. The tax would also have to satisfy the devolved governments mentioned above, which could be quite the bureaucratic extravaganza.

Overall, the future of the UK is unclear and that is causing huge amounts of panic and confusion for relevant stakeholders. The country has until March to sort itself out, let’s see how it does.

There is a Lot to Gain From Energy Efficiency

There-is-a-Lot-to-Gain-From-Energy-Efficiency.jpgThe global population is expanding and with it grows our demand for energy. Unfortunately, there is very little we can do to stop this increase in demand. However, what we can do is curb it by finding ways to use our energy more efficiently. Energy efficiency is a hot topic at the moment, not just because of the positive impact it has on the environment, but also because of its cost-saving and job-creating potential. Both individually and as a nation we are able to save serious amounts of money simply by improving our energy efficiency.

 

But, why else is energy efficiency so important? There is very little capacity to produce energy. In fact, Belgium is facing the threat of a serious power shortage over the month of November as six of its nuclear reactors will be offline for maintenance. The energy minister is scrambling for alternative energy sources but is unable to reassure the nation that they will be able to access all the power they need during that month. With this looming in the near future, it is in the best interest of every Belgian resident to be as efficient with their energy as possible so there will be enough to go around.

 

Belgium is not the only country that is facing the possibility of serious power outages. Many countries are facing energy shortfalls as they simply do not have the capacity to meet demand. While energy rationing might not seem ideal, nor even necessary in a developed country such as Belgium, it is strongly recommended and could even become crucial very soon. In order to ration energy consumption, better energy management systems need to be put into place. Replacing regular bulbs with LED lights for example, or purchasing energy efficient electrical appliances can all have an impact on how much energy is left to go around.

 

Over in Central Alberta, Canada, the province has already upped the tempo when it comes to working on energy efficiency. Red Deer, a town in Central Alberta, has seen enormous progress in this area, with hundreds of residents opting in to the No-Charge Energy Savings Program. This enabled households to upgrade with more energy efficient products such as smart thermostats and low-power light bulbs. Furthermore, individuals took it upon themselves to insulate their homes better, replace windows, and install tankless water heaters, all in a bid to make their homes as efficient as possible with the energy it consumes. In turn, the boost in the use of renewable energy has created 2,300 new jobs for the people of Alberta.

 

The social, economic, and environmental benefits of a high level of energy efficiency are crystal clear. The challenge is persuading people to change their way of living to become more energy efficient. It is neither easy nor cheap to install solar panels on your home or to replace your electronics. However, these small things are investments in the future of both yourself as an individual and of your country as a whole.