Analytics and IT Technology Continue Evolution in Utility Market: Highlights from Distributech 2017

Key themes and takeaways from the 2017 Distributech conference

Catch wave power in floating nets

Zhong Lin Wang for Nature:  Nature provides three sources of energy for free: sunlight, air and gravity. Solar and wind power are increasingly exploited, gravity less so. Hydraulic power plants harvest energy from flowing rivers. Tidal energy can be gathered along some inlets and coasts. But few places are suitable for dams or barrages, which can also damage the environment.
By contrast, oceans cover about 70% of Earth’s surface. Wave energy is plentiful day and night, whatever the weather. Capturing it requires little land and raises few safety or security concerns. Yet hardly any of this ‘blue energy’ is being generated. Today’s wave farms produce no more than 1–10 megawatts at any one time, enough to power a town. No commercial wave farms currently exist.  Full article:
 

Stanford engineers create a low-cost battery for storing renewable energy

Jackie Flynn for Stanford News:  A battery made with urea, commonly found in fertilizers and mammal urine, could provide a low-cost way of storing energy produced through solar power or other forms of renewable energy for consumption during off hours.

Developed by Stanford chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell, the battery is nonflammable and contains electrodes made from abundant aluminum and graphite. Its electrolyte’s main ingredient, urea, is already industrially produced by the ton for plant fertilizers.

“So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance,” said Dai. “Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?”  Cont'd...

U.S. Clean Energy Jobs Surpass Fossil Fuel Employment

The recently published Department of Energy 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report shows that clean electricity jobs are no doubt the engine that drives America's electric energy economy, outstripping the number of paychecks provided by the fossil fuel industry by at least five to one.

First Wattway solar road pilot in US pops up in rural Georgia

Lacy Cooke for Inhabitat:  The first Wattway solar road pilot in America has popped up in rural west Georgia. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation, named for sustainable manufacturing pioneer Ray Anderson, is testing renewable technologies along an 18-mile stretch of road, and recently installed 538 square feet of Colas‘ Wattway solar road system near the border between Georgia and Alabama.
Part of Georgia’s Interstate 85 was named for Anderson, but as over five million tons of carbon dioxideare emitted yearly on that road portion alone, Anderson’s family felt placing his name there didn’t honor his legacy, and began to look into renewable technologies to clear the air – so to speak. Thus began The Ray, an 18-mile living laboratory for clean technologies, including not only the solar roads, but also a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station, and WheelRight, a system people can drive over to test their tire pressure, which could lead to improved fuel inefficiency.  Cont'd...

Record-breaking solar panels could slash power costs

Reuters Jim Drury:  Swiss start-up Insolight says its solar panels double the yield achieved by other sun-powered technology. In independent tests the panels reached an efficiency of 36.4 percent. "Traditionally the market sits at around 18 percent and we can double this. Therefore we can double the return on investment for the final client....Our key innovation is that you do not need to rotate the panel in order to follow the sun. We can follow the sun in a flat manner, like any other solar panel, which makes it that our panel can be installed on standard rooftops, with standard mounting technology." Tiny square super cells capture all of the sun's rays, underneath round lenses, using a patented microtracking system.   Watch Video.

Smart Meters and Utilities

Smart meter deployments are the most common smart grid (or smart utility) activity. Utilities are also adding sensors into their networks to better understand operating conditions.

Energy Abounds at Eastman Business Park Battery and Energy Storage Commercialization Center

Developing, scaling and manufacturing new energy storage technologies is a costly and challenging process. That pathway has been made simpler and more straight-forward, thanks to a fast- growing "Energy Sector" located at Kodak's Eastman Business Park, Rochester, NY.

China is now the largest producer of solar power in the world

Lacy Cooke  for Inhabitat:  One way China is working to battle climate change-causing carbon emissions is by developing a vast army of renewable energy projects. Even as the country struggles with pollution, it has made great strides on clean energy. They’re now the largest producer of solar energy by capacity in the world, adding 34.54 gigawatts of the country’s installed capacity of 77.42 gigawatts last year alone.
The country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) announced over the weekend that in 2016, installed photovoltaic capacity in China more than doubled. Their data revealed the jump to 77.42 gigawatts after the country added 34.54 gigawatts. The provinces in which capacity increased most include Shandong, Henan, and Xinjiang, which is also one of the provinces with the largest overall capacity. Gansu, Inner Mongolia, and Qinghai join Xinjiang in that latter category.  Cont'd...
 

Tidal Power Can Make the U.K. a Green Energy Leader

Mark Gilbert for Bloomberg:  The U.K. government is mulling whether to support a 1.3 billion pound  ($1.6 billion) proposal to build a tidal lagoon in South Wales. It should stop dithering and subsidize the project to help meet the country's green energy goals, produce cheaper power, and establish Britain as the world leader in technology that harnesses the power of the tides to generate electricity.

The U.K. lost its energy independence in 2004, and now depends upon imports to meet about half of its energy needs. And while the contribution from renewable energy sources has climbed to a bit less than 10 percent from about 1 percent at the start of the last decade, the U.K. commitment to reduce carbon emissions to 57 percent of their 1990 levels by 2030 means even less electricity needs to come from coal-fired power plants.  Cont'd...

Battling corrosion to keep solar panels humming

Sue Holmes for Phys.org:  People think of corrosion as rust on cars or oxidation that blackens silver, but it also harms critical electronics and connections in solar panels, lowering the amount of electricity produced.

"It's challenging to predict and even more challenging to design ways to reduce it because it's highly dependent on material and environmental conditions," said Eric Schindelholz, a Sandia National Laboratories materials reliability researcher who studies corrosion and how it affects photovoltaic (PV) system performance.

Sandia researchers from different departments collaborate to accelerate corrosion under controlled conditions and use what they learn to help industry develop longer-lasting PV panels and increase reliability. For example, work by Olga Lavrova of Sandia's Photovoltaic and Distributed Systems Integration department demonstrated, for the first time, a link between corrosion and the risk of arc faults in PV systems' electrical connections. Research by Erik Spoerke of Sandia's Electronic, Optical and Nano Materials department focuses on developing new nanocomposite films that could dramatically increase reliability.  Cont'd...

Liquid Air Energy Storage

Ultimately, useable large-scale renewables require useable large-scale storage. Highview has developed Liquid Air Energy Storage as a cost effective solution to high-power, long-duration storage that is geographically locatable to where it is needed, and cost-competitive.

Saudi Arabia Plans the World's Cheapest Power With Solar and Wind

Wael Mahdi for Bloomberg:  Saudi Arabia will award its first tender to build 700 megawatts of solar and wind energy in September, with the cost of power forecast to be the lowest in the world, Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said.

OPEC’s biggest oil producer plans to build 300 megawatts of solar plants in the al-Jouf area in northern Saudi Arabia and 400 megawatts of wind projects in nearby Tabuk, he said. Requests to qualify for bidding will be issued Feb. 20 and bids will be on April 17.

“The terms on renewable contracts will be motivating so that the cost of generating power from these renewable sources will be the lowest in the world,” Al-Falih said Wednesday at a press conference in Riyadh.  Cont'd...

Massive wind turbine takes energy generation record

John Anderson for NewAtlas:  A behemoth V164 offshore wind turbine from Danish company MHI Vestas Offshore Wind has produced almost 216,000 kWh over a 24-hour period during tests at its site near Østerild, Denmark in December. In doing so, the 9 MW prototype – a reworked version of the V164-8.0 MW, which was initially developed in 2012 and launched two years later – takes the energy generation record for a commercially available offshore wind turbine.

Since its launch in 2014, the Usain Bolt of wind turbines is essentially in competition with itself, largely due to its superior size over the competition. The V164 stands at 722 feet (220 m) at full height, with 38-ton blades that are 263 feet (80 m) in length for a total sweep area of 227,377 square feet (21,124 square meters) – larger than the giant London Eye Ferris wheel.  Cont'd...

Transactional Templates for Renewable Energy Contracts

The two new tools, a Request for Proposal (RFP) template and a Term Sheet template, aim to bring standardization to the corporate market for offsite renewables, and to serve as a starting point for companies still learning about the ins-and-outs of the transaction process.

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