For Every $1 The US Put into Adding Renewable Energy Last Year, China Put in $3

Powering up. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

By: Echo Huang

China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is determined to rebalance its energy mix, and incorporate more clean energy. That determination is reflected in the money it put into renewable energy last year, dwarfing spending by the next biggest investor, the US.

Last year nearly half of the world’s new renewable energy investment of $279.8 billion (pdf, p.11) came from China, according to a report published April 5 by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the sustainable energy finance center run by the United Nations Environment Program and the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. China’s investment in renewable energy—excluding large hydro projects—rose 30% compared with 2016, and was more than three times of that of the US, whose investment in the sector dropped 6% from 2016 to $40.5 billion last year.

China first overtook the US in new renewable energy investment in 2009 (p.14), but the gap between the two only amounted to $14 billion at that time.

Together, the “big three” developing economies, China, India, and Brazil, accounted for a record 63% of global investment in renewable energy in 2017, noted the report (p.20). Developing countries first surpassed developed country investment in renewables in 2015, but fell back in 2016.

More than two-thirds of China’s total investment in clean energy went into solar, adding some 53GW of capacity, an amount capable of powering more than 38 million homes. That was followed by wind, on which China spent nearly one-third (p.11) of its investments.

China has been aggressively adopting renewable energy in recent years to deal with its airpocalypse-like pollution. It became the world’s largest solar-energy producer in 2016, boosting its photovoltaic capacity to some 78 GW, in some cases turning defunct coal mines into the world’s largest floating solar farms. Some projects, however, are creating worries over a growing subsidy burden, noted the report.

Overall, renewable energies now make up around 20 percent (link in Chinese) of China’s energy consumption, while coal accounts for over 60 percent.

Still, around 26% of the country’s total electricity production (link in Chinese) came from renewables, which is better than the 12% figure for the world as a whole. “This shows where we are heading, but the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go,” noted Nils Stieglitz, president of the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, in the report.


Lockheed Announces New Battery To Help Utilities Boost Renewable Energy Use

By: Amy Stankiewicz

Lockheed Martin announced plans to launch a new “flow” battery made of inexpensive, nontoxic materials that will help utilities use more renewable energy while saving money, according to a news story in Reuters.

Lockheed Martin will develop a new “flow” battery that will help utilities use more renewable energy while saving money.

“You open up a chance not only to make renewables more marketable and more useful, you might even change the structure of at least a portion of the utility market,” Leo Mackay, a senior vice president for sustainability and ethics at Lockheed, told reporters at the company’s Global Vision Center in Virginia on April 23.

Flow batteries use chemicals dissolved in water and last longer than lithium ion batteries, the Reuters story states. That means they can help utilities meet consumer needs for longer periods during peak demand times such as evenings, when residents use lights, televisions and kitchen appliances.

Frank Armijo, vice president for energy initiatives at Lockheed, said the company is developing a so-called flow battery using proprietary electrolyte chemistry that combines low-cost earth metals with chemicals that are also inexpensive, according to Reuters.

“The challenge with existing flow batteries is that they lean heavily on materials like vanadium and zinc bromide which are extremely expensive and toxic,” Armijo said. “Ours is neither of that.”

Utilities have always relied on large power plants to generate during peak hours. Mackay said flow batteries could eventually help them become less centralized and more site-specific.


A Gift Of Solar Power

By: Nicholas Johansen

Several volunteers spent their Saturday on the roof of the Kelowna Gospel Mission Saturday, helping save the shelter $1,000 per year in expenses.

Crews from Okanagan Solar, along with Highstreet Ventures, spent the day installing a solar panel array on the building, worth about $20,000. The money saved through the free energy from the new system will be spent on providing services to the Mission’s clients.

“Look at the need in town, I mean, just helping to give back to the community,” said Rob Monteith, owner of Okanagan Solar.

Monteith said the idea started last fall, when he was driving some of his suppliers down Leon Street.

“There happened to be a couple hundred people in the street and I said to (the suppliers), ‘If you guys have any extra materials that you want to donate, this would be a good place to see if we could help them out with some grid-type power,’” Monteith said. “And they all immediately said yes.

“Then I mentioned it to one of my clients, Highstreet, and they said ‘We’ll help do the install.’”

The savings from the free power will have an impact on what the Mission can offer its clients.

“This is a fantastic project, obviously it’s going to save us money throughout the year on our electric bill, plus it’s green energy,” said Randy Benson, executive director of the Gospel Mission.

“Every dollar helps, it’ll go towards our other programs of feeding and sheltering the people that we serve.”

The grid is expected to begin generating power within a week or two.


Tiny Dents In Solar Cells Could Make Them More Efficient Than Ever

By: Luke Dormehl

For their demonstration, the Warwick researchers used conductive tips to force semiconductors into a device called a nano-indenter, which deformed the individual crystals. By making the semiconductors non-symmetrical, they were able to create something called the “bulk photovoltaic effect,” another way to collect charge. Combining these two approaches resulted in improved efficiency of solar cells and the chance to generate more electrical energy from sunlight.

“This flexo-photovoltaic effect is a new effect,” Marin Alexe, a professor in the Department of Physics at Warwick, told Digital Trends. “It shows that by engineering the strain applied, any semiconductor can be transformed in a photovoltaic generator without a need [for] chemical doping or any other processing. We haven’t yet evaluated in detail how effective is this effect. But in principle there is nothing to prevent combining the two effects, the classical harvesting using p-n junctions and the present flexo-PV effect.”

So what’s next for the research? And, more importantly, when will be able to lay our hands on these more efficient solar cells? “Next, we would like to understand the microscopic mechanism of this intriguing bulk photovoltaic effect, which stays as the basis of the flexo-PV effect,” Alexe continued. “Then we will look to quantify the gain and efficiency at both macro and nano-scale.”

Alexe acknowledged that this could be the start of a “long and painful optimization and engineering process.” However, the team has filed a patent application to lay claim to their work. Now they just need to find some industrial partners to further develop their ideas.


Government Initiative Encouraging Consumers To Save Energy

LED light bulbs are expensive, but they might be the best buy over the long run.

A government initiative featuring instant rebates on energy efficient lights and devices is encouraging consumers to save energy.

A selection of products from LED lights to LED switches and smart extension cords are eligible for instant rebates through the Save Energy Deal Days. The promotion, which started on April 6th and runs until May 6th, is an incentive for people to ditch their incandescent and fluorescent lights for more energy efficient alternatives. Unlike previous campaigns, Deal Days does not require customers to print and download coupons – discounts are applied instantly at the register on eligible products.

For home owners like Brian Houle the switch was an easy choice.

“With the cost of hydro these days, it’s important to try and save where you can so we were automatically thinking LED lights,” he said. “We only have three more in the house to switch over.”

And contractors like Paul Gratton of Fresh Reno are also noticing more and more clients asking for energy efficient upgrades.

“Probably in the last two years there has been a definite shift,” he said. “Before that, I think, people were just concerned about what the lights were going to look like and maybe more about the cost. But certainly in the last two years there have been more questions about what is available in LED and can we put LED, how many places can we put LED.”

Though discounts seem small, Gratton said a difference of even one dollar can have a significant impact on the overall cost of a renovation.

“We’ve done basements where there are 45 pot lights, so that could be a massive saving,” he said.

There are more than 1,300 retailers across Ontario participating in Deal Days.

David Clarke, the store manager at the Canadian Tire on Ogilvie Road, said business has been busier than usual over the last two weeks.

“They go through the register and get their rebate and then the sale price on top of that,” he said. “It’s simple.”

The IESO, the Crown Corporation that runs the program, said more than 12 million energy efficient products were purchased during the Fall Deal Days. This new wave campaign will run twice a year, once in the Fall and once in the Spring.