Japanese Towns Bank on Renewable Energy

By MAYUMI NEGISHI for the WallStreet Journal:  Japanese cities are entering the renewable-energy business, the latest phase in a shake-up of the nation’s power sector in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

So far, about 14 cities have formed companies to generate clean energy from local resources and sell it to area businesses and homes. With full deregulation of the nation’s electricity markets set to begin next year, the government aims to have 1,000 such city-operated companies up and running by 2021 in a direct challenge to regional power monopolies.

The move is part of Japan’s strategy for creating energy self-sufficiency, while helping revitalize communities with infrastructure investment.  Cont'd...

Spending and Tax Deal Brings ITC and PTC Extensions

Sahir Surmeli for National Law Review:  Early Wednesday morning Congressional leaders reached agreement on a year-end spending and massive tax deal that would prevent a government shutdown and extend a series of tax breaks that benefit businesses and individuals. The agreement has major implications for the future of the energy industry and is being hailed by many as a dramatic victory for those in the renewable energy community. 

The Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which was slated to drop to 10 percent from 30 percent for solar systems on commercial properties after 2016, would now remain at 30 percent for projects that start construction by December 31, 2019. Projects that start construction in 2020 would qualify for a 26 percent credit and that level would drop to 22 percent for facilities started in 2021. From 2022 on it would remain at 10 percent.  Cont'd...

Could this be the future of biofuels?

Anmar Frangoul for CNBC:  A common sight in the British countryside, bracken -- a type of fern -- is now being hailed as the next big source of biofuel. 

Based in the south west of England, Brackenburn produces "brackettes" – biomass pellets made from bracken that they shred and compress into briquettes which produce much more heat when burnt than oak.

"In our estimation there's 2.5 million acres of bracken in the UK… it's a huge area," Barry Smith, Brackenburn's marketing and sales director, told CNBC in a phone interview.

"Left unchecked, bracken encroaches by three percent a year… at the end of the day there's no use for it whatsoever," Smith added. "It's a nuisance and to call it a crop is kind of giving it a status it doesn't deserve."  Cont'd...

Energy Storage in Underwater Balloons

Tom Lombardo for Enegineering.com:  Grid-level energy storage takes many forms, including flow batteries, Li-ion batteries, pumped hydro, compressed air in underground caverns, and even flywheels. Toronto’s Hydrostor just added another tool to the arsenal: underwater compressed air energy storage (UCAES). Hydrostor recently activated a pilot UCAES plant - the first of its kind - that will provide grid-level storage for the city of Toronto. In addition to supplying the city with cost-effective energy storage, the system will allow engineers to study its behavior and optimize the design. Can UCAES become a viable energy storage technology?
The idea has been around for many years: when supply exceeds demand, use the excess energy to run an air compressor and store the air in an underwater balloon. When power is needed, open a valve and let the compressed air run a turbine to generate electricity. The principle is simple, but the economic feasibility has yet to be demonstrated. Hydrostor hopes that their facility becomes the proving ground.  Cont'd...
 

36 countries launch world alliance for geothermal energy

Thirty-six countries gave the official start Monday to an initiative to promote geothermal energy in developing economies as a cleaner alternative to oil, gas and coal.

The Global Geothermal Alliance, launched on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Le Bourget, aims at a sixfold increase in geothermal electricity production and a tripling of geothermal-derived heating by 2030.

At present, geothermal is growing modestly, at three to four percent per year, providing 12 gigawatts of electricity annually.

But this is just a fraction of its overall potential of 100 gigawatts, according to the industry. Only 24 out of 90 countries with geothermal potential actually use the resource.

The alliance said its members will seek to overcome "political uncertainty" about geothermal and strengthen the industry's skills base.

The Global Geothermal Alliance initiative was sketched out in September 2014 at a summit organised by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Members include countries on thermal "hotspots" in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, ranging from Kenya and Tanzania to Malaysia, the Philippines and Guatemala.  Cont'd...

Tidal power: An inside look at how it works

From EnergyDigital:  Tidal power, a sister resource to wind, takes advantage of the predictability of the ocean tides to generate electricity, either via estuary barges or directly from the currents themselves via tidal streams. According to the Ocean Energy Council, the ideal area to net the most potential power is an area with a tidal range of at least seven meters. Energy can be generated via floating devices that drive hydraulic pumps, oscillating water columns within cylindrical shafts to create air movement, or hydropower turbines.

The Pacific Northwest coast of the United States is an excellent location for tidal power, given its broad range of tide movement. According to Renewable Northwest, some areas of potential development include:

• Makah Bay, Washington (by AquaEnergy Group)

• Newport, Oregon (by Oregon State University / Oregon Department of Energy)

• Tacoma Narrows (by Tacoma Power)

• Puget Sound (by Snohomish County Public Utility District)

The following sites are under development in Wales due to their wide tidal height variation and economically receptive marketplace:

• Swansea Bay (by Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay)

• St. Asaph (by North Wales Tidal Energy & Costal Protection)

As a whole, the UK has the potential for over 11,000 MW, a staggering amount given the relatively small landmass of the country. This makes it the single largest source of hydrokinetic power in Europe, enough theoretically support 10 percent of the world’s energy consumption.  Cont'd...

Why Solar Power Could Hit a Ceiling

There could be a limit on how much solar power can grow. That’s because the more solar power we add to the grid, the less valuable it becomes. It’s a simple supply-and-demand story: solar reaches peak generation during sunny afternoons, but there’s a limited demand for such additional power during those times. As a result, solar begins to compete with itself, driving down the price that utilities are willing to pay generators.

Solar power accounts for less than 1 percent of the world’s electricity generation today, but as more is added to the energy mix, the economics become increasingly unfavorable. Shayle Kann, head of GTM Research, and Varun Sivaram, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, cite recent studies of the grids in Texas and Germany that suggest the value of solar will be cut in half by the time it makes up 15 percent of the energy mix. A study of California’s grid concluded that if solar power were to reach 50 percent of the grid, it would be only a quarter as valuable as it was before any solar had been added. Kann and Sivaram combined the data from those studies to make the comparison below.  Cont'd...

70% of Mongolian nomads now have solar power

by MIHAI ANDREI for ZME Science:  In many the vast steppes of Mongolia, some things have remained unchanged for centuries. But some things have changed, and big time: according to a new report, almost 3 out of 4 Mongolian nomads are now using solar power.

Even if your lifestyle is pretty much Medieval, you can still benefit from advanced technology – that’s the reasoning behind a new government initiative that encourages nomads to use solar power. Mongolia is a geographically large but sparsely populated country. Covering over 600,000 square miles, it only has a population of 3 million people. About 1.2 million of Mongolia’s citizens live in the urban capital of Ulaanbaatar, while the remaining population is widely dispersed throughout the country with a large number residing in rural areas. In total, about a quarter of the population consists of nomadic herders.

The per capita income in Mongolia at the start of the millennium was about US$470 per year, with income amongst herders even lower.  Cont'd...

Mercedes Is Proposing A Novel Solution To Meet Energy Storage Demand

By Michael McDonald for OilPrice.com:  Ever since Tesla announced its PowerWall battery project earlier this year, interest in stationary storage and battery technology in general has been explosive. Now, Mercedes Benz has put together an interesting project built around recycled batteries that might help drive even more interest in grid scale utility storage and help to blend the consumer and commercial markets for batteries.

Under Mercedes’ new project, a consortium of companies is going to create the world’s largest grid storage facility using used batteries in Lunen, Germany. The project will have the capacity to store 13 megawatts of power (enough to meet the demand of 130,000 homes) based on reusing automotive batteries. The basic premise is that when the battery from an electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid vehicle is no longer reliable enough to start a car, it still has up to 80% of its original storage capacity remaining. As a result, a large series of these batteries can be connected to store energy from renewable sources like solar and wind power.  Cont'd...

Toronto Hydro to test world's first underwater energy storage system

Dario Balca , CTV Toronto:  Toronto Hydro has announced it will launch the world’s first-ever underwater energy storage system in Lake Ontario.

The utility has partnered with Hydrostor Inc., a company that specializes in innovative energy storage systems, for a two-year-pilot project intended to create a backup for the city’s electricity grid big enough to power approximately 350 homes.

"We're very excited to see this new technology in action,” said Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines. “Toronto Hydro has been very busy exploring new ways to power our grid, and I think this is the most creative project we've been involved in so far. Supporting innovative solutions for Toronto's power needs will continue to be a focus for our organization."

The system works by taking electrical energy and converting it into compressed air so that it can be stored under water in large, balloon-like structures.

The storage facility will be located three kilometres off the southern tip of the Toronto Island and 55 metres under water.

When the city’s electricity grid needs power, crews will open a valve that lets the pressurized air out. The air is then converted back into electricity and fed into the grid.  Cont'd...

Innovative energy storage project to be unveiled by Ryerson, eCamion

GREG KEENAN - The Globe and Mail:  Ryerson University in Toronto and a high-tech startup company called eCamion Inc. will unveil a pilot project Wednesday that allows energy to be stored in a unit that sits on hydro poles.

An eCamion storage unit combined with a smart controller developed by Ryerson researchers and students will enable utilities such as Toronto Hydro to store power, integrate more renewable power and improve the reliability of the system, the company and Ryerson say.

The unit uses lithium-ion batteries that charge during off-peak hours of hydro usage and discharge during peak hours.

One of the benefits if the storage devices win widespread adoption is better availability of power for recharging electric vehicles, said Hari Subramanian, eCamion’s chief executive officer.

“These are the enabling technologies you need for electric vehicles to really have an uptake,” Mr. Subramanian said.

In many areas, the current hydro infrastructure could not handle the demand if several electric vehicles in a small section of a city were being recharged at the same time, he said.

The storage device allows utilities to “flex their grid” to meet varying demands at various times, he said.  Cont'd...

Will Solar Energy Plummet if the Investment Tax Credit Fades Away?

Wall Street Journal:  Many supporters say the abrupt end date of the 30% credit represents a “cliff” for the industry. Without the current incentive, they argue, installation of solar-power systems will plummet, and thousands of jobs in the industry will be lost as a result.

Others, however, argue that the cliff isn’t as steep as it appears, and that solar will continue to grow even without the 30% credit—albeit not as quickly as before.

Amit Ronen, director of the GW Solar Institute and a professor at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy at George Washington University, argues that the end of the 30% credit will send solar off a cliff. John Farrell, director of the Democratic Energy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, says the impact of the tax credit is overstated and the solar market will continue to rise.  Full Article:

Large solar projects can be done responsibly

BY SHANNON EDDY, Special to The Bee: As the seventh-largest economy in the world and a clean-energy leader, California plays a key role in shaping the global response to climate change. The benefits of our leadership will be on the world stage later this month during the international climate talks in Paris.

Over several decades, California has successfully advanced the development of renewable energy resources. As a result, the state boasts the highest concentration of solar projects in the nation, including several of the world’s largest. Large-scale solar power plants are enabling California to meet the goals of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and generating 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Eleakis & Elder Photography

As with any fast-growing, successful industry, it’s essential to ask questions about unintended consequences. We agree it is important to evaluate how the environmental benefits of large-scale solar – carbon reduction, reduced water use and improved local air quality – compare to any negative consequences for people and the environment.  Cont'd...

Honoring Our Veterans through Jobs in Solar Energy

From the Department of Energy - On Veterans Day, we honor the more than 21 million living American veterans. Here at the Department of Energy, we are honored to have the opportunity to express our gratitude to veterans of previous wars, welcome home those who have recently served, and thank the future veterans who still stand sentry for our nation.

The Department of Energy is working hard to open doors to career opportunities for veterans in the dynamic solar industry, which now employs more than 174,000 people -- more than auto and light truck manufacturing -- and has been adding jobs 20 times faster than the wider economy. Already, we are proud that veterans make up more than 10 percent of the solar industry workforce.  Cont'd...

Say Goodbye to Solar Power Subsidies

Mark Chediak & Chris Martin for Bloomberg Businessweek:  In 2016 the U.S. will learn if renewable energy can survive without government support. The most significant tax credit for solar power will expire at the end of 2016, and the biggest one for wind already has. These federal subsidies have provided wind and solar developers with as much as $24 billion from 2008 to 2014, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That’s led to a 12-fold increase in installed capacity over the past decade, helping lower costs at least 10 percent each year.

Combined, wind and solar still generate less than 5 percent of electricity in the U.S. The subsidy cuts come as both industries face stiffer competition from ultracheap coal and natural gas. An NYSE Bloomberg global index of solar stocks, including those of big developers SunEdison and First Solar, has fallen about 35 percent since June. A comparable wind index is down 20 percent.  Cont'd...

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