Making the switch: should the oil industry be moving into offshore wind?

Offshore Technology:  The oil & gas and renewables industries are often described as a dichotomy, the old way versus the new, the dirty versus the clean. In reality, from a technical and engineering standpoint, there are many areas of overlap, particularly in countries such as the UK, where a majority of renewable and non-renewable assets are located offshore.

Building an oil rig in the North Sea is not all that different to setting up a wind farm. Both jobs require the ability to negotiate choppy waters and bad weather (often using remotely operated vehicles), and the technology to drill or pile foundations into the seabed. Communications and cabling infrastructure present a big challenge in both instances, as do the logistics of transporting and arranging huge components such as derricks and blades.  Cont'd...

Two for the Price of One: Russian Scientists Build Solar+Wind Power Generator

Sputnik News:  A team of enterprising Russian scientists managed to develop a unique power generator that uses both solar and wind energy at the same time to produce electricity.
There have been numerous attempts before to produce a combo solar+wind power generator, but so far none have met success. Solar panels tend to wear out rather quickly due to the powerful air currents generated by wind turbines, which drastically limits the system’s efficiency. But now, the combined efforts of the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, the Moscow Power Engineering Institute and a Zelenograd-based solar panel manufacturer have finally borne fruit.  Cont'd...

Arab gulf firms set their sights on the region's growing appetite for solar power

Tom DiChristopher for CNBC:  Some of the world's top oil exporters want to be major players in solar power, too.

Middle East and North African countries, blessed by ample sunlight and open space, are increasingly adopting solar power. But it's not European, Chinese or American companies taking the lead on some of the region's largest solar parks. It's local firms that are relatively new to renewable energy.

Analysts say meeting solar demand at home is just the start. Some of these companies could become global competitors in the fast-growing market for large solar power plants.  Cont'd...

Solar panel researchers investigate powering trains by bypassing grid

Michael Holder for BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network:  Imperial College London has partnered with the climate change charity 10:10 to investigate the use of track-side solar panels to power trains, the two organisations announced yesterday.

The renewable traction power project will see university researchers look at connecting solar panels directly to the lines that provide power to trains, a move that would bypass the electricity grid in order to more efficiently manage power demand from trains.

According to the university, the research team will be the first in the world to test the “completely unique” idea, which it said would have a “wide impact with commercial applications on electrified rail networks all over the world”.  Cont'd...

Solar Could Beat Coal to Become the Cheapest Power on Earth

Jessica Shankleman  and Chris Martin for Bloomberg:  Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.

In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.

Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  Cont'd...

China to plow $361 billion into renewable fuel by 2020

Reuters:  China will plow 2.5 trillion yuan ($361 billion) into renewable power generation by 2020, the country's energy agency said on Thursday, as the world's largest energy market continues to shift away from dirty coal power towards cleaner fuels.

The investment will create over 13 million jobs in the sector, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said in a blueprint document that lays out its plan to develop the nation's energy sector during the five-year 2016 to 2020 period.

The NEA said installed renewable power capacity including wind, hydro, solar and nuclear power will contribute to about half of new electricity generation by 2020.

The agency did not disclose more details on where the funds, which equate to about $72 billion each year, would be spent.

Still, the investment reflects Beijing's continued focus on curbing the use of fossil fuels, which have fostered the country's economic growth over the past decade, as it ramps up its war on pollution.  Cont'd...

Giant Wind Turbines Now At Eight Megawatts, And Getting Larger

Peter Kelly-Detwiler for Forbes:  News arrived in late December from the waters off the United Kingdom that the first of MHI Vestas (a joint venture between Vests and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) 8.0 megawatt (MW) turbines is now delivering commercial power to Dong Energy’s Burbo Bank Extension. The entire 258 MW project – to be completed in Q1 of 2017 - will need only 32 such turbines. This is a significant milestone, as wind turbines have become increasingly more powerful over a relatively short timeframe. This 8 MW machine is currently the largest commercial turbine in the world. Less than ten years ago, at the original Burbo Bank project, a 3.6 MW turbine was inaugurated, the largest in the industry at the time.  Cont'd...

Swiss Firm to Use Solar Power for Space Tourism

Financial Tribune:  SolarStratos, a Swiss startup, has unveiled an airplane that uses solar power to lift people to the edge of space and return them gently to earth.

The company revealed its “solar plane”, a 28 foot-long aircraft that will be the first manned aircraft entirely powered by solar energy to rise above the stratosphere and bring passengers close to the stars. The solar power airplane has a wingspan of 81.3 feet and weighs 992 pounds.

It will take two hours to ascend to the edge of space some 15 miles above the earth. SolarStratos will stay there for 15 minutes before beginning a three-hour descent back to earth.  Cont'd...

World's first solar panel road opens in Normandy village

Kim Willsher for The Guardian:  France has opened what it claims to be the world’s first solar panel road, in a Normandy village.

A 1km (0.6-mile) route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche covered with 2,800 sq m of electricity-generating panels, was inaugurated on Thursday by the ecology minister, Ségolène Royal.

It cost €5m (£4.2m) to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during a two-year test period to establish if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village of 3,400 residents.

In 2014, a solar-powered cycle path opened in Krommenie in the Netherlands and, despite teething problems, has generated 3,000kWh of energy – enough to power an average family home for a year. The cost of building the cycle path, however, could have paid for 520,000kWh.  Cont'd...

U.S. wind power enjoys a rebirth as solar's obstacles mount

Nichola Groom for Reuters:  A year after Congress extended generous tax credits for renewable energy projects, the U.S. wind industry is thriving.

Solar power companies, meanwhile, are hunkering down for a rough 2017.

The tax credit renewal has boosted the long-term outlooks for both industries. But in the short term, the subsidies are far more attractive for wind power, which has spurred utilities to launch wind projects while they scale back or delay solar installations.

Advances in wind turbine technology are also opening up new locations for development and driving a wave of spending to upgrade existing projects.

In the last few weeks, power companies with large renewable holdings - including Southern Co, NextEra Energy Inc and Xcel Energy Inc - have announced plans to invest billions of dollars in wind.

"We're making a pivot now away from solar," Southern Chief Executive Tom Fanning told a meeting with Wall Street analysts in October.  Cont'd...

The Solar Industry Has Paid Off Its Carbon Debts

Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic:  Think of all the energy that goes into making a single solar panel. Quartz and copper must be mined. The raw materials must be converted into wafers, then encased in protective material. And after panels leave the factory, they must be shipped all over the world.

Now imagine these consequences spread over four decades—the environmental cost of the solar industry. Given all the research, development, and production time that goes into making any one panel, a skeptical solar-buyer might wonder: Has the solar industry on the whole really saved any energy at all?  To that concern, a new analysis answers: Yes.

The solar industry probably paid off its long-term energy and climate “debts” in 2011, a study published this week in Nature Communications finds.  Cont'd...

Nearly half of residential distributed solar power is owned by private companies

Lucas Mearian for ComputerWorld:  About 44% of all solar power that's installed on residential rooftops, known as distributed solar capacity, is owned by private businesses, such as SolarCity or Vivint Solar, according to new government data.

Distributed solar capacity in the U.S., which includes all solar power capacity other than utility-scale installations 1 megawatts (MW) or larger,  increased to 12.3 gigawatts (GW) as of September, according to new figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In comparison, a cumulative 11.6GW had been installed in the U.S. by the end of 2015.  Cont'd...

Glow-in-the-dark dye could fuel liquid-based batteries

Charlotte Hsu for University of Buffalo:  BUFFALO, N.Y. — Could a glow-in-the-dark dye be the next advancement in energy storage technology?  Scientists at the University at Buffalo think so.

They have identified a fluorescent dye called BODIPY as an ideal material for stockpiling energy in rechargeable, liquid-based batteries that could one day power cars and homes.  BODIPY — short for boron-dipyrromethene — shines brightly in the dark under a black light.

But the traits that facilitate energy storage are less visible. According to new research, the dye has unusual chemical properties that enable it to excel at two key tasks: storing electrons and participating in electron transfer. Batteries must perform these functions to save and deliver energy, and BODIPY is very good at them.  In experiments, a BODIPY-based test battery operated efficiently and with longevity, running well after researchers drained and recharged it 100 times.  Cont'd...

DOE energy innovation hub backs two key future battery technologies

Nick Flaherty for EE Times:  After four years of evaluation, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (Chicago, IL) is backing two key technologies for the future of battery systems.

The Center was set up four years ago with a five year remit to explore new battery technology for transportation and the electricity grid that, when scaled to commercial production, are capable of delivering five times the energy density at one-fifth the cost of commercial batteries available in 2011.

The Center has investigated 1,500 compounds for electrodes and 21,000 organic molecules relevant for liquid electrolytes as well as filing 52 invention disclosures and 27 patent applications, says director George Crabtree. Five techno-economic models created by JCESR for designing virtual batteries on the computer are being used to evaluate the best pathways for beyond-lithium-ion systems to reach 400 watt hours per kilogram (400 Wh/kg) and $100 per kilowatt hour ($100/kWh).  Cont'd...

The World's Largest Solar Plant Is Now Online in India

Avery Thompson for Popular Mechanics:  The world's largest solar power plant has just been completed in Kamuthi, in Tamil Nadu, India. The new plant adds 648 MW to the country's generating capacity.

The Kamuthi Solar Power Project takes the title of world's largest solar plant from the Topaz Solar Farm in California, which was completed two years ago and has a capacity of 550 MW.

The Kamuthi Solar Power Project was built in only 8 months, and cost $679 million to complete. It contains 2.5 million individual solar panels, covers an area of almost 4 square miles, and is expected to power 150,000 homes.  Cont'd...

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