UK and China Announce Deal to Work on the ‘Next Generation’ of Renewable Energy Tech

By: Anmar Frangoul

Matt Cardy | Getty Images

U.K. and Chinese researchers will work together on five projects to develop the “next generation” of offshore renewable energy (ORE) technologies.

In an announcement on Thursday, the U.K.’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) said that the three-year projects would use environmental science, engineering and technology to tackle “key challenges affecting the development of ORE systems, such as offshore wind, wave and tide facilities.”

The projects – which have been funded as part of the Joint U.K.-China Offshore Renewable Energy program – would also look to maximise the environmental and socio-economic benefits of ORE systems.

In addition the NERC said that the projects would, among other things, demonstrate the potential of ORE technologies to provide island and coastal communities with a stable power supply.

The projects are supported with nearly £4 million ($5.26 million) in funding from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council and the NERC. The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is also providing support.

“The U.K. is a world leader in offshore wind, which helps us meet our climate commitments while we grow the economy and create jobs,” Richard Harrington, the U.K.’s minister for energy and industry, said in a statement.

“This £4 million investment will support collaborative research into the next generation of offshore technologies with one of our largest global trading partners, unlocking further opportunities for projects across the UK and the rest of the world,” Harrington added.

The NSFC’s president, Yang Wei, said that further advancing China’s renewable energy sector was a crucial part of its 13th five-year plan and would help to “drive future economic growth and advance the cause of low-carbon development.”



An Entirely Renewable Energy Future is Possible, A New Study Says

Written by: Adam Wernick

Solar panels sit in the Mojave Desert. Credit: Courtesy of the US Department of the Interior

A new study finds that countries around the world could shift their economies entirely to renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydroelectric, by the year 2050.

The researchers map out the blend of energy sources that each of 139 countries would need to completely switch their energy to electric power. The report was first published in the journal Joule.

“The idea here is to electrify all energy sectors — transportation, heating, cooling, industry, agriculture, forestry, and fishing — and provide that electricity with 100 percent wind, water and solar power,” says Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford and one of the authors of the report.

“We want [to see] 80 percent of it by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. … It is a challenge, but it’s very important to do,” he insists.

Some countries will have a more difficult time than others, but Jacobson says for the bigger countries the transition should be easier than he thought.

Big countries have plenty of solar and wind resources, and just by electrifying they will reduce power demand because they eliminate the need to mine, transport, or refine fossil fuels. Thirteen percent of all energy worldwide is used for just this purpose.

An additional 23 percent reduction in power demand can happen because electricity is more efficient than combustion, Jacobson says. An electric car, for example, uses 80 percent to 86 percent of its electricity to move the car, with the rest being waste heat. Only 17% to 20% of the energy in a gasoline car goes to moving it; the rest is waste.

Thirteen percent plus 23 percent equals a 36 percent power-demand reduction, and Jacobson believes another 7 percent will occur due to end-use energy efficiency. So, compared to what 2050 would look like without changing to renewables, nations can reduce their power demand by almost 43 percent, just through electrification.

In the US, the power source blend will be mostly solar and wind, with about 4 percent hydroelectric, Jacobson believes. For wind, about two-thirds will be onshore and one-third offshore. Solar will be divided into rooftop solar, photovoltaics and centralized “concentrated solar power” plants, coupled with storage. In most cases, the electrical grid will need to be expanded, not necessarily changed, Jacobson notes. Specifically, we will need more long-distance, high-voltage direct current transmission and more storage.

A common question Jacobson hears is, “Since the US has so much open space, why not create giant, concentrated solar arrays in the desert and enormous wind farms in the Midwest and create a centralized power system?”

“It’s always a trade-off between transmission and storage,” Jacobson says. “We have great resources in the Great Plains [for wind] and in the southwest US for solar, but you have to transmit it to the coasts or to other places in the south. … Sometimes storage might be less expensive locally.”

Since the Midwest is considered the “Saudi Arabia of wind,” in some cases it might be cheaper to transmit power to the East Coast rather than use offshore wind. On the other hand, offshore wind costs are coming down so rapidly that it could end up being cheaper. Floating offshore wind farms, which are becoming more feasible, could also be a game-changer, Jacobson says.

On the local scale, there are already things people can do in their own home to help the transition to clean power, like replacing gas stoves with induction cook-top stoves that are extremely efficient, Jacobson says.

“There are heat pump air heaters, water heaters, air conditioners and refrigerators, which use about one-fourth the energy of old electric resistance heaters,” he explains. “They’re very efficient and they just run on electricity. Most people don’t need gas in their own homes anymore because of the efficiency of the electricity.”

Add in electric cars, solar panels and batteries that can be stored in the home and people won’t even need grid electricity most of the time — and prices for all of these things are coming down rapidly.

Industry will find the process somewhat more difficult, Jacobson says, especially for the high-temperature industrial processes that currently use fossil fuels. But, again, electric machines exist that can replace the old ones, he says.

“The benefits of all this is we eliminate four to seven million premature deaths from air pollution each year that are caused by combustion, primarily from fossil fuels and biofuels. We eliminate global warming. Even if you don’t believe in it, it’s there and we would eliminate it,” Jacobson says. “We stabilize energy prices [and] we have less terrorism risk because we have more decentralized power.”

This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI’s Science Friday with Ira Flatow.



Clear, Liquid Coating Turns Windows Into Solar Panels

SolarWindow Technologies says it can harvest energy from sunlight by applying a transparent film to glass or plastic.

By: Glenn McDonald

SolarWindows Technologies

A Maryland company has been moving slowly and steadily for 20 years toward a very ambitious goal —  turning windows into transparent solar panels that harvest energy from the sunlight that passes through.

SolarWindow Technologies is among the many energy companies looking for ways to harvest solar power on a large scale. But SolarWindow’s proposition is to turn windows into solar panels by way of a thin transparent coating applied to standard glass and plastic windowpanes.

The coating might not generate much power when slapped on your living room window, but SolarWindow is aiming higher — quite literally. The company hopes to eventually deploy the technology onto office buildings and skyscrapers, generating energy from the acres of glass soaking up the sun.

The technology behind SolarWindow is proprietary, but it goes something like this: SolarWindow has developed a liquid “organic photovoltaic solar array” (OPV) made from a mixture of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, that can be applied to transparent surfaces.

The liquid coating produces ultra small solar cells formed in groups, or arrays. Sunlight passing through these arrays generates an electrical charge. That electrical charge is then harvested by a grid of very fine wires, each thinner than a human hair, running through each pane of glass. The wires shuttle the power to a larger output wire, which is then jacked into any existing power system, as with traditional solar panels.

To generate maximum power, the transparent coating is applied multiple times to the glass or plastic surface. The coating and the grid can be applied at ambient temperature and pressure, which makes large-scale manufacturing easier.

“Conventional solar panels are inherently opaque and thus impossible to see through,” said SolarWindow CEO John Conklin. “You’re not going to build windows from those panels. SolarWindow is being developed to maintain the architectural beauty and transparency of a window while generating electricity.”

SolarWindows Technologies

According to the company website, the SolarWindow system can outperform a traditional solar by as much as 50 times when installed on a 50-story building, largely because of the greater surface area covered by windows. By comparison, typical rooftop solar panels occupy a far smaller footprint.

Despite nearly 20 years in operation, the company’s product has yet to hit the market. But it has posted research on the amount of energy the system could potentially produce, if deployed on a wide scale in major cities.

To that end, SolarWindow announced this week that it has partnered with California-based Triview Glass Industries, which manufacturers specialty glass panels for architectural firms and commercial developers. It’s an important first step for finally getting the technology out of the labs and into the sun, Conklin said.

“We believe that our agreement with Triview establishes a very important strategic relationship that is a prerequisite to reaching our goal of commercial production of our products,” Conklin said.

SolarWindow isn’t the only company pursuing see-through solar panel technology. The California-based startup Ubiquitous Energy is working on a similar system that harvests light invisible to the human eye – infrared and ultraviolet – while letting visible wavelengths pass through. Last year, Elon Musk unveiled his SolarCity solution, which includes options for solar rooftop cells made from tempered glass.

Conklin said that the company intends to work with glass manufacturers to find the most efficient method for integrating SolarWindow technology into new windows in both residential and commercial buildings. The company is also working on a method for applying its solar film to existing structures.

“We hope to be able to retrofit existing glass structures as we work on new construction projects,” he said.



Solar Power Deal Will Lower Social Tenants’ Energy Bills

Solar panels are to be installed in 800,000 low-income homes across England and Wales over the next five years, as part of a new government scheme.

The Dutch firm, Maas Capital, is investing £160m in the project.

The panels, which will be free to tenants, are expected to cut hundreds of pounds from energy bills, according to the UK firm Solarplicity.

The first people to benefit from the scheme include residents of a sheltered retirement home in Ealing, west London.

Speaking at the site, International Trade minister Greg Hands said: “This initial £160m capital expenditure programme will deliver massive benefits to some of the UK’s poorest households.

“As well as creating 1,000 jobs and delivering cheaper energy bills for up to 800,000 homes, it shows yet another vote of confidence in the UK as a place to invest and do business.”

The firm providing the panels, Solarplicity, will work with more than 40 social landlords, including local authorities across England and Wales.

It will profit from the payments received under the feed-in tariff scheme and payments for energy from social housing customers.

The feed-in tariff scheme offers guaranteed cash payments to households that produce their own electricity using renewable technologies.

It changed in February, adopting different rules and lower tariff rates.

Military veterans targeted

Mr Hands also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Solarplicity will target military veterans when it recruits staff to install the panels.

“Armed forces veterans are very good at doing this, actually,” he said. “They understand how to put the panels on efficiently and well.”

Tenants in the North West will be the biggest beneficiaries, with more than 290,000 homes receiving solar panels in towns and cities such as Oldham and Bradford.

The North East and Midlands will also see a significant number of homes benefit.

Tenants will not pay anything towards the installation of the panels and their energy bills will be reduced by an average of £240 per year, according to the Department for International Trade.

Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, welcomed the scheme, but said its own programme of installing solar panels had been curtailed after the government reduced the feed-in tariffs that offered a return on electricity generated from small-scale energy schemes.

“The business case didn’t quite add-up when the government made changes to subsidies and feed-in tariffs for sustainable energy,” he said.

“We’re grateful that private investors are coming here and investing in Ealing and benefitting our residents but the government still needs to do more to move people to sustainable energy and solar power particularly.”

The chief executive of Solarplicity, David Elbourne, said the price of solar panels had fallen enough so that government subsidies were no longer essential.

“In the past, the feed-in tariff meant that people who could afford to have solar, benefitted from solar. But now people who can’t afford to have solar [can]- we’ll put it on the roof for free – and they will get a reduced energy bill.”

David Hunter, director of market studies at energy management firm Schneider Electric gave the scheme a cautious welcome.

“Obviously any kind of investment in the transition to low carbon energy supply can be a positive thing and with any of these developments it’s always best to consider whether it’s best value for money.

“But certainly the idea of upgrading our social housing stock to make it more energy efficient and lower carbon is a worthwhile aim,” he said.

Maas Capital is the equity investment arm of ABN AMRO, which specialises in shipping, oil and gas, and renewable energy. ABN AMRO is 75% owned by the Dutch government.



Top reveal: Green Home Tips: Make Your Home Eco-Friendly

In a world where climate change is real and mostly man-made, it’s important to take care of the environment as much as possible. Even the slightest action that you’re doing could have devastating effects on the climate. It’s been reported that safe and drinkable water will run out in less than 100 years. This is a startling piece of information, but it’s something we can work on together! However, it’s only one of the things needed in order to make the world a better and healthier place. Here are some tips on how to make your home eco-friendly!

Grow a bamboo plant

Bamboo is an amazing plant that everyone should have in their homes! It’s the world’s fastest growing plants which mean it’s more environmentally friendly than other trees and plants. If you want to have hardwood flooring that doesn’t damage the environment, choose bamboo. Also, keeping a bamboo plant in your home is healthy, and people will love how your home looks with it. A stylish yet effective plant that you should get and grow!

Replace bulbs with LED

Incandescent light bulbs are so last century! Why not trade your incandescent light bulbs for LED light bulbs? They’re much more environmentally friendly than incandescent ones and last longer. Your electricity bill will also be lower. Personally, I have LEDs in my home, and I don’t even need to turn off the light – it can stay on for extended periods of time without wasting too much electricity. However, if you really want to make an influence and save around 400 pounds of emissions from greenhouse gases, replace all of your incandescent bulbs with LED ones.


Recycling is something we hear about every day. Our parents are telling us to recycle, our friends are telling us to recycle; everyone is telling us to recycle, and they’re not wrong! Recycling plays a major part in making the Earth greener and better. You can recycle literally everything, from plastics to glass and even furniture. Make a pick and make the world a better place!

Replace paper towels

Paper towels can be found in 99.9% of the homes in the United States. But did you ever think of how many trees this kills, just for the sake of not having to wash your cloth towels? Home improvement is all about making your home a better place. Paper towels, in general, are helpful, quite a lot if I might add, but they aren’t necessary. Once you use up all your current paper towels, purchase a couple of cloth towels or start using the ones you have.

Create a compost heap

Even if you don’t have a garden, composting your trash is great for the environment and it makes your home environmentally conscious. However, having a garden gains you the advantage when it comes to creating a compost heap as it can be used to fertilize the garden and the surrounding area. Whatever the case may be, definitely do your best to create a compost heap if you want your home to be more eco-friendly!

About the Author:

Alyssa is blogger and writer at and she has a passion for writing articles on health care, cooking, home improvement, etc. Being a mom & consumer advocate she has years of experience testing equipment and recipes.