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...

SolPad Releases Pricing & Pre-Order Info For Mobile Solar + Storage Product

Derek Markham for CleanTechnica:  The Silicon Valley startup SolPad has just announced the specs, pricing, and pre-order date for its all-in-one solar plus storage mobile solution, which could help usher in a new era of entry-level solar.
We first covered the SolPad product back in October of last year, with writer Matthew Klippenstein calling it “a glimpse of the future.” That article raised a lot of questions in the comments section about the details and reliability of such a device. Some of those comments called it vaporware, while others questioned the wisdom of integrating batteries into the body of a solar panel and the legality of simply plugging such a system into the grid without an adequate grid-tie arrangement, and still others asked why it was even needed with the current state of solar technology. Most of which were decent skeptical questions, and all of which are expected on a piece about a forthcoming “breakthrough” solar product. However, it looks like the SolPad Mobile is getting ready to enter the market, as the company has released additional details about how much it will cost and when it will be available, so we’ll soon get an opportunity to see how the product will be received once it is released into the wild, so to speak.  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 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...

Panasonic Commits To Solar Cell Production With Tesla At New York Plant

Alan Ohnsman for Forbes:  Panasonic will make solar cells with Tesla at a factory under construction in Buffalo, New York, broadening a partnership between the electric-car maker and Japanese electronics giant that goes back nearly a decade.

The companies said in a joint statement today that they finalized plans to produce high-efficiency photovoltaic cells at the plant, with initial production scheduled for the second half of 2017. Output of the energy modules, for use in solar panels, Tesla’s planned solar roofs and to charge up Tesla’s Powerwall and Powerpack battery storage units, is to reach 1 gigawatt by 2019, the companies said. Cont'd...

Instead Of Trump's Wall, Let's Build A Border Of Solar Panels

Homero Aridjis & James Ramey for Huffington Post:  President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly called for Mexico to build a wall between our countries. There is indeed a way that Mexico could create a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, one constructed exclusively on the Mexican side, with substantial benefits for both countries and the planet: a solar border.

Sunlight in the northern deserts of Mexico is more intense than in the U.S. Southwest because of the lower latitude and more favorable cloud patterns. And construction and maintenance costs for solar plants in Mexico are substantially lower. Thus, building a long series of such plants all along the Mexican side of the border could power cities on both sides faster and more cheaply than similar arrays built north of the border.  

Solar energy is already being generated at lower prices than those of coal. With solar plants along vast stretches of the almost 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border on the Mexican side, a new high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) grid could be set up to transmit energy efficiently from that long, snaking array to population centers along the border. HVDC power lines lose exponentially less energy over long distances than traditional power lines.  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...

Batteries Need to Get Big-Like, Enormous-for Solar Power to Shine

Vaclav Smil for IEEE Spectrum:  It would be a lot easier to expand our use of solar and wind energy if we had better ways to store the large quantities of electricity we’d need to cover gaps in the flow of that energy.

Even in sunny Los Angeles, a typical house roofed with enough photovoltaic panels to meet its average needs would still face daily shortfalls of up to about 80 percent of the demand in January and daily surpluses of up to 65 percent in May. You can take such a house off the grid only by installing a voluminous and expensive assembly of lithium-ion batteries. But even a small national grid—one handling 10 to 30 gigawatts—could rely entirely on intermittent sources only if it had gigawatt-scale storage capable of working for many hours.

Since 2007, more than half of humanity has lived in urban areas, and by 2050 more than 6.3 billion people will live [PDF] in cities, accounting for two-thirds of the global population, with a rising share in megacities of more than 10 million people.  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...

Science Plant a Wind Tree in your neighborhood to generate energy from low-speed wind

Bruce Brown for Digital Trends:  These trees do more than just add ambiance. Harnessing the wind to generate electrical energy usually brings to mind thoughts of huge land- or ocean-based wind farms consisting of huge towers with two or three blades, each more than 100-feet long, on the top. The size, weight, noise, and vibration of industrial wind turbines restrict their use to large open spaces. Newwind, a French startup, has developed a much smaller, urban-space-friendly “Wind Tree,” reports Electrek.

The Wind Tree, which produces sufficient energy to power small buildings or streetlights, is designed to connect to a nearby energy storage system. The trees are each about 30 feet tall and 26 feet in diameter, and weigh approximately 5,500 pounds. Each tree has 54 Aeroleafs mounted vertically on tree branches. The Aeroleafs are 3.2 feet high and, spinning at optimum speed, are capable of generating 65 watts each. So, a tree with 54 leaves has an energy-generation capacity maximum of 3,510 watts (3.5kW), about the same as a small home solar installation.  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...

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