Apr
7
2018

China Becomes a ‘Driving Power’ for Solar Energy with $86.5 Billion Invested Last Year

By: Anmar Frangoul

Guo Chen | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

The world has invested $2.9 trillion in green energy sources since 2004, according to new research, with China leading the way in recent years with its push towards solar power.

The “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018” report was published Thursday by UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Center, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It also found that 98 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity was installed in 2017.

What’s more, solar power attracted $160.8 billion of investment, more than any other technology. China, where a staggering 53 GW was added and $86.5 billion invested, was described as a “driving power” behind the increase in solar.

“The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift,” Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, said in a statement.

“Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs,” he added. “Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.”

The report found that China invested the largest amount of money in renewables last year, at $126.6 billion. This represents a 31 percent increase compared to 2016. Around the world, 157 GW of renewable power was commissioned last year.

“The world added more solar capacity than coal, gas, and nuclear plants combined,” Nils Stieglitz, president of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, said. “This shows where we are heading, although the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go.”

While China led the way, other countries saw a drop in renewables investment. In the U.S., investment fell by 6 percent to $40.5 billion, while Europe saw its investments come in at $40.9 billion, a 36 percent reduction.

Courtesy: https://www.cnbc.com/

Apr
5
2018

Renewable Energy is Making San Francisco Cannabis Grows Super-Green

By: Carolyne Zinko

 

Sense, a cannabis manufacturer in San Francisco, uses renewable energy in its greenhouses for environmental reasons. | Courtesy Sense

As cannabis enters mainstream commerce, shoppers expect higher standards for eco-friendliness.

Rising to the occasion, Sense, an indoor cannabis grower located in SoMa, has announced that it has switched to 100 percent renewable energy. Sense is using the city’s Public Utilities Commission program CleanPowerSF.

Sustainability is important to company founder Steve Griffith, who said 100 percent renewable power is slightly more expensive, but not prohibitively costly. Sense’s cultivator, Rob King, was also looking for community support.

“I wanted to counter any argument against indoor grows — the argument is they use a ton of energy for flower production, which is true,” King said of the company’s 2,000 square-foot-operation. “With the PUC program allowing us to purchase 100 percent renewable energy, we’re able to support those goals of the city.”

Over in Denver, Colorado, indoor cannabis farms now use four percent of all energy the city consumes. Similar programs in Denver incentivize efficiency. By contrast, black market growers are known for stealing power from the grid.

Some 80,000 residential and commercial customers — including LinkedIn and Salesforce (excluding the new Salesforce tower) — participate in the CleanPowerSF program, said Tyler Gamble, deputy communications director for the SFPUC.

Under the partnership between the SFPUC and Pacific Gas & Electric, customers are getting solar, wind or other renewable energy that is purchased by the PUC and put on the grid in place of other energy already there. The renewable energy is still distributed and transmitted by PG&E.

In addition to building philanthropy and volunteerism into their operations, sustainable practices are important for cannabis enterprises — from using solar panels and LED lighting to buying renewable energy, and deploying biologically sensitive pesticides. The practices help them put on a good face to the community, and but can be strategically important as well.

Others in the same game include San Francisco dispensary SPARC, which purchases renewable energy from PG&E and plans to switch its greenhouses to lower-power LED lighting, according to Erich Pearson, the chief executive of SPARC.

Switching lighting is not an easy proposition, said Aaron Flynn, co-founder of GoldSealSF, another cannabis company with San Francisco greenhouses. It has plans to switch to the CleanPowerSF renewable energy program.  Although GoldSealSF currently uses the industry standard lighting — high pressure sodium lighting — it’s researching and testing cultivation with LED lights.

LED lights can be four to seven times more expensive upfront, Flynn said. And crops can suffer as farmers adapt to using the new, lower-power, low-heat light source.

Growers are looking at LED lighting, because PG&E will finance up to $100,000 of LEDs, interest-free, for five years. LED lights can use up 30 percent less energy than sodium lights. They also generate less heat, which means less air-conditioning costs.

On the downside, plants grow differently under LEDs, which are not as warm. LED crops can  produce lower yields and require a different feeding system.

“It’s not until the third or fourth week of the flower (phase) that you see the issue — there’s no bud swell,” Flynn said. “That’s when the plants take the infrared light and take heat. That’s when they swell and get big and hard and chunky. It’s hard to accomplish that with LEDs.”

Different lights also affect the terpenes (floral aromas) and cannabinoids in the plants, and affect the potency and smell as well, Flynn said.

“With LEDs, it’s like starting fresh,” Flynn said. “There’s still a big learning curve and the quality hasn’t come to represent what you can get from high pressure sodium lights.

Dispensaries, too, are working to be environmentally friendly.

At the Magnolia dispensary near the port of Oakland, the retail building is on solar power, according to Magnolia director Debby Goldsberry. The dispensary packages its cannabis in glass jars, rather than plastic, and has a cannabis compost program for cannabis waste, along with a goal of ensuring its waste stream is 100 percent green trash.

At Sense, in SoMA, green operations extend beyond energy consumption, to the use of pesticide-free starter plants, as well non-synthetic pesticides, and beneficial insects that eat pests.

“A lot of our products are sold in the Bay Area,” said King, the cultivator, “and the Bay Area has been a leader in the sustainability space. It’s just natural for us to do that within our industry here at Sense.”

Courtesy: http://www.greenstate.com

Apr
3
2018

Scotland Produces Record Amount of Energy From Renewables

Green schemes generate two-thirds of electricity as Nation beats rest of UK with 68.1 per cent of energy needs met without fossil fuels

By: Jane Dalton

Wind turbines near Stirling Castle: Scotland is creeping closer to being self-sufficient in energy Reuters

Scotland has become a world leader in sourcing its electricity from renewables, after a record year in 2017 for creating eco-friendly energy, figures show.

The nation got more than two-thirds – 68.1 per cent – of its electricity from green schemes last year – an increase of 26 per cent on the year before.

The figure was a rise of 14.1 percentage points from the 54 per cent reached in 2016.

Scottish government officials said it was 45 percentage points higher than the equivalent figure for the rest of the UK.

Wind generation increased by 34 per cent and hydro by 9 per cent last year.

Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “These figures show that Scotland’s renewable energy sector is stronger than ever.” Scotland has a number of projects still to be constructed, he added.

It is believed the new statistics make Scotland one of the world’s top countries for providing its own electricity by sources avoiding fossil fuels, which accelerate climate change when burnt.

There is a difference between the amount of renewable electricity a country generates and the percentage of renewables it consumes, because many governments export and import energy.

Although few detailed comparisons by countries worldwide for home-generated and consumed eco-fuels last year have been released, in 2016, for example, US renewable electricity was 15.6 per cent of the country’s total electricity generation, according to the US Department of Energy.

Figures from the European Environment Agency last year show that in 2016 Iceland and Norway were far outstripping other EU countries in their share of renewable energy in gross energy consumption, at more than 68 per cent. The UK and Ireland were ranked in the bottom seven EU countries, with less than 9 per cent.

The European Union as a whole has set itself the target of producing 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, says that Sweden had by far the highest share in 2016, with more than half (53.8 per cent) of its energy consumed coming from renewable sources.

It was ahead of Finland (on 38.7 per cent), Latvia (37.2 per cent), Austria (33.5 per cent) and Denmark (32.2 per cent). At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest proportions of renewables were registered in Luxembourg (5.4 per cent), Malta and the Netherlands (both 6.0 per cent).

Worldwide, the REN21 Renewables 2017 report said: “By the end of 2016, the top countries for total installed renewable electric capacity continued to be China, the United States, Brazil, Germany and Canada.”

According to Australian energy company Click Energy, Iceland generates the most clean electricity per person on earth, with almost all of its energy coming from renewable sources that make the most of its unique landscape. “It now derives all of its energy for electricity and home heating from geothermal and hydroelectric power plants,” Click said.

Sweden is second, aiming to become 100 per cent renewable.

China had the world’s highest overall consumption of renewable energy in 2016 – equal to 86.1m metric tonnes of oil – according to statistics portal Statista.

Courtesy: https://www.independent.co.uk/

Apr
1
2018

For MIT Students Installing Solar Panels, It’s a Way to Give Back

By: Steve Scauzillo

Students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology work with nonprofit Grid Alternatives to install solar panels on the roof of an elderly person’s home in Pasadena, Calif. on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Correspondent photo by Trevor Stamp)

PASADENA — Meital Hoffman squinted from the searing sunlight, then moved quickly into the shade. As one of 12 engineering students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she’s spending spring break soaking up the sun but in a totally different way than most of her college classmates.

The MIT students were helping install a solar power system on the roof of a small, Spanish-style home in Northwest Pasadena on Wed., March 28. Once completed, the system will free up the homeowner — who is on a fixed income — from at least 90 percent of her electric bill.  It will also produce clean energy without burning fossil fuels, thereby reducing smog emissions as well as greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

“Most of my friends are in Miami right now,” said Hoffman, 20, wearing jeans, work shoes, a T-shirt and a hard hat. “I wanted to do something productive, kind of giving back.”

Capturing Sunlight

She and others from the prestigious school in Cambridge, Mass., joined Grid Alternatives’ week-long Solar Spring Break program for some hands-on learning in sunny Los Angeles. On Tuesday they helped position rails on the southeast portion of the house’s roof. The next day, the students hoisted onto the roof 11 solar panels, which were then fastened onto the roof at a 10-degree tilt for maximum capture of Southern California’s 5.6 peak hours of daily sunlight.

The system will produce 2.7 kilowatts of electricity, which gets fed into the house’s electrical control panel. The homeowner’s $200 to $300 bills every two months will be reduced to less than $30, said Danny Hom, development and communications coordinator for Grid Alternatives, the largest nonprofit solar installer in the United States with projects in Orange, San Diego, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The group, born in Northern California but with its largest office in downtown Los Angeles, drafted 200 students from 19 schools who are trading beaches for rooftops this spring.

“This is very different for me. It takes me out of the academia bubble,” said Hoffman.  She’s studying electrical engineering and computer science during a break under a shade canopy on the lawn of the Pasadena home.

“I have lab classes but it is still in a lab. It’s not like we get to talk to homeowners and see the impact these technologies are making,” said Hoffman on the difference between classroom and hands-on learning. “It’s an incredible experience to get on a roof, lay the solar panels and really use my hands.”

Magnolia Chinn, 18, a Freshman at Massachusetts Institute of Technology looks over a solar panel that she and other students installed along with nonprofit Grid Alternatives on the roof of an elderly person’s home in Pasadena, Calif. on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Correspondent photo by Trevor Stamp)

Tai Williams, a freshman from Ann Arbor, Mich. studying biological engineering, said volunteering during spring break is a way of thanking his parents and teachers, including math tutors from a joint city/University of Michigan program that taught him when he was a fifth grader.

“I thought this was a good way to spend my time and help people out,” Williams said.

Solar for All

Homeowner Deborah Ducre was born in the house built by her grandfather in 1928. She’s 82 years young.

While standing on the porch, she spoke to the students about her own volunteer efforts. She was baking a cake to deliver to the musicians at the Lighthouse Cafe, a jazz club in Hermosa Beach. Ducre worked in public relations for such Motown groups as The Temptations, Supremes and later with Earth, Wind and Fire and still associates with folks in the music business.

After talking to friends in Altadena who installed solar, she applied for solar on her home.

“I live on Social Security and it is going to save money on my utilities. My utilities are very, very high so I need to save money,” Ducre said.

Through a partnership with the city of Pasadena and Grid Alternatives, Ducre’s house was chosen for a free solar system worth about $25,000. Her home near the 210 Freeway marks the first one chosen for the spring break program in Pasadena, Hom said. This part of the Crown City is classified as low-income, also known as environmentally disadvantaged.

“It is easy for a person in Beverly Hills to afford solar energy. But here, closer to the freeways, not so much,” Hom said. “We think solar should be accessible.”

Nick Gomez, a solar installer with the nonprofit who lives in Pasadena, just finished adding 1,000 solar panels to a multi-unit housing project in Santa Ana. He spent five years at Solar City, the largest solar installer, but finds working for the Grid Alternatives “more rewarding.”

Hom said through the group’s job-training program, 87 individuals were placed in jobs in the booming solar industry in California. Mixing trainees, including those formerly incarcerated, with installers and student volunteers helps promote social and environmental justice, as well as solar energy.

“I have plenty of time in my life to go chill on a beach,” Hoffman said.

Courtesy: https://www.pasadenastarnews.com/

Mar
30
2018

Renewables + Hydrogen = Industry Reimagined

By: Phil O’Neil

Hydrogen has been closely associated with key aspects of the new energy transition for many years. Its properties as a storage medium and energy carrier make it a key point in any serious discussion about energy storage, and its consequent role in increasing renewable penetration in energy generation, transmission and distribution. Hydrogen fuel cells are also high on the agenda for expanding the number of light electric vehicles on the road.

However, what we are discussing here, and the area that is starting to attract attention from governments and municipalities looking to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions, is green hydrogen. This is defined as hydrogen that is produced from renewable electricity by electrolysing water, or from fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). It produces relatively pure hydrogen, with the added benefit of oxygen as a by-product.

Energy Efficiency

The idea of green hydrogen has been around for some time. But it comes with a number of inherent challenges, the most obvious of which is that it is not hugely energy efficient. The input energy required to power the electrolysis and produce end product is much greater than the energy output that can be liberated from it.

For example, our high-level analysis of the hydrogen supply chain and the export of renewable energy to South East Asian countries for use as transport fuel shows that, when hydrogen is converted to ammonia to make it possible to transport safely, only 30 per cent of the renewable electricity originally used to power the electrolysis actually ends up moving vehicles. Seventy per cent is lost in the various conversion processes.

However, this might be a case of allowing the search for a perfect solution to obscure the value of a merely good one. A key reason those South East Asian countries might consider green hydrogen in the first place is that many are relatively short of indigenous energy supply. For countries like Japan and South Korea, for example, with their energy-hungry economies that rely heavily on energy imports, green hydrogen could provide a low-carbon alternative to coal, natural gas and oil.

In the transport sector, hydrogen would be displacing comparatively expensive liquid fuels with relatively low thermal efficiency. And although this green hydrogen route is less efficient and more expensive than using electric batteries directly, it could provide the additional travel range that batteries are yet to achieve. That enables renewable-powered electric buses, trucks, ships and trains to transport passengers and goods over the long distances needed to make them a truly viable option. And of course there’s the added bonus of reduced air and noise pollution levels.

And in theory at least, hydrogen is transportable over long distances via shipping and could evolve into a liquid global market; the alternative being a commitment to import electricity via transmission lines to neighbouring countries.

To illustrate the point, South Korea has recently announced its commitment to convert 26,000 buses using hydrogen fuel cells instead of natural gas. South Korea has negligible renewable energy generation resources, and what it has is largely in the form of offshore wind – always more expensive than onshore. So it is in discussion with the Governments of other countries to provide green hydrogen.

Renewables Costs

However, to meet this kind of demand, South Australia would need to build approximately 17 electrolysing facilities; and to power these facilities it would need to develop around 8,700 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy projects. This is where we hit the next challenge around green hydrogen: the overall price. To date, renewable energy has not been available at a price to make this kind of installation commercially viable.

This is where we see the impact of the downward trajectory of renewable electricity prices, notably solar and onshore wind. The price used for renewable electricity in current modelling and projections is $60 per MW per hour (MWh). Technological advances have dramatically improved conversion efficiency of solar panels, as well as wind-farm capacity factors, and the price could conceivably fall to $30 or even $20 per MWh, particularly in areas with high levels of renewable energy resources.

Solar power auctions in Denmark, Egypt, India, and the United Arab Emirates last year were all priced below both fossil-fuel and nuclear alternatives, and in its latest round Mexico established the lowest price yet for solar power. For a plant producing 8,000MW or more that’s a transformative difference that makes green hydrogen competitive with, or even cheaper than, gas-powered sources of energy.

By the same token, Continue Reading »