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Germany generated that much renewable energy, they actually paid people to use it!

17 May

What a time to be alive – on Sunday 8th May 2016, Germany produced an incredible amount of renewable energy. For a few hours, the European nation went full ‘green’. Its power grid had surplus, and for a few hours residents actually earned money from using electricity, rather than paying for it. We were just as shocked as you!

The weather was so sunny and windy that at about 1pm in the day, the wind, hydro, solar and biomass plants in Germany generated 87% (55GW) of the entire amount of power (63GW) being consumed in the country. It’s an astonishing achievement and one that unfortunately the industry just was not expecting.

In 2015, Germany’s renewable energy mix was at 33% but Germany managed to use the sun, wind and rain to provide 87 per cent of an entire country’s energy requirements which is an incredible achievement. Usually, renewables just top up the main supply. Gas plants were actually shut down due to the green surge, but nuclear and coal plants couldn’t suspend activity fast enough. It meant the grid was overrun with power.

So Germany’s target of becoming 100% renewable by 2050 (which Denmark is currently hitting) seems not as ambitious as once thought. Germany will of course need to keep some of its nuclear and coal plants running due to the unpredictability of its renewable energy sources as they are dependent on the weather. In July last year, Denmark’s wind power was generating 140% of its demand, meaning energy could be sent over to Germany, Norway and Sweden.

At the moment there is a north/south split in the country, as wind turbines are located mostly in the north of Germany and solar power plants in the south. The authorities are also wanting to phase out nuclear power by 2022. With the country making exciting gains towards its goal, experts believe Germany to be a good role model for other developed countries.

It has been argued that the grid needs to become more flexible in order for the transition to renewable energy to be successful. Presently, renewable energy plants generating a lot of energy on sunny and blustery days have to push it into the grid, resulting in inefficiency and these negative prices. But with developed grid management and power storage technology, sudden spikes could be handled better and utilised in a more effective way.

Las Vegas To Go Green With Solar-Kinetic Street Lights

10 Mar

Las Vegas are making waves in the renewable energy market as they plan to install the world’s first solar-kinetic street lights at Boulder Plaza in the city of Las Vegas. Around the world today, there are more than 300 million street lights, many of which are powered by electricity generated from high carbon sources such as coal. Now, Las Vegas isn’t new to the renewable energy game, they recently installed a massive new solar plant in the Nevada desert. The Crescent Dunes concentrated solar power project is providing power to Sin City around the clock.

Around 40% of the energy used is wasted through poor lighting efficiency; contributing to another environmental problem, light pollution. Now, light pollution is not something to be ignored, it can lead to a change in the migration and reproductive activities of some animals and boost air pollution through light’s interaction with certain chemicals. Light doesn’t respect boundaries, it can spread for miles from the source and blurs the distinction between town and country. Light spilling up into the night sky is also a waste of energy and money. In the UK local authorities were estimated to spend £616 million on street lighting in 2013-14, and the lights can account for between 15-30% of a council’s carbon emissions. Efficient solar powered lighting can provide a solution to some of these issues.

EnGoPlanet is set to install the solar-kinetic lights at Boulder Plaza, which it claims will be the first ever installation in the world of the technology. They are powered by combining energy harvested from pedestrian’s footsteps and the sun. In short, when a pedestrian steps on a kinetic tile situated near the base of the light, energy is created that then charges a battery. 180 watts or 360 watts of high-efficiency solar cells are placed on top of each LED street light, along with motion sensors that allow for light on demand.

The product does more than just provide light. As Petar Microvic (CEO of EnGoPlanet) went on to say, “If you look at traditional street light poles, you will see that they are useless. They simply hold the lighting,” He added, ” With our solution, we’ve changed that by incorporating useful features into the pole and transforming it into a free service spot where people can rest, charge their portable devices, or connect to WiFi.”

The lights will also have smart sensors that observe air quality and traffic as well as video surveillance. The LED lights can change colours for special occasions and there is a wireless charging and WiFi hot spot for smart devices, along with two USB ports.

“Currently, street lights in the world release more than 100 million tons of CO2 per year. Our generation has the moral responsibility to transform our energy system. EnGoPlanet’s Street Light will revolutionise the way we illuminate streets. It will reduce CO2 emission, lower maintenance bills and with many new features, it will make cities smarter,” Petar Mirovic said in a statement.

Solar lighting isn’t just green – it can save money. EnGoPlanet mentions the example of Odessa College in Odessa, Texas, which installed solar lights and saved around 20 percent of the cost of a conventional system due to the avoidance of wiring and trenching works. The College is now saving more than £5600 per year.

Solar Kinetic Light

India Plans To Rent Rooftops In A Bid To Install More Solar Panels

17 Feb

When it comes to solar power, India is in one of the most perfect locations for the technology due to its extraordinary sun coverage and the high levels of unmet demand for electricity. There are very few countries in the world where solar power has a greater potential than India. With a huge landmass and an average of 300 sunny days a year, India theoretically provides five trillion kilowatt-hours of clean and renewable solar power available every year across its length and breadth, enough to electrify the nation dozens of times over. At times throughout the warmest months of the year major cities for example Delhi suffer from regular power outages due to the increasing demand for power.

To capitalise on the opportunity Indian electricity companies are advising potential customers to rent out their rooftops in a bid to host solar panels. Such a push could see a huge expansion for the country’s solar power capabilities.

The main targets are large industrial and commercial energy consumers. Not only do these companies that host the panels end up with a significant discount on their power bill, but the developers also save money on the most expensive aspect of solar development, which is the cost of purchasing large amounts of land to host their renewable energy projects.

Government buildings such as hospitals, schools and office buildings are potential targets for hosting the technology. Other potential landmarks include industrial complexes, commercial buildings and malls are the target for these operators who would set up solar rooftops for free and sell you power at rates that are cheaper than the local utilities.

“Around 240 sq mt of rooftop space is good enough for setting up a rooftop solar power plant that can viably sell power to the building and earn some decent profits,” said Sunil Jain, chief executive of Hero Future Energies. “In fact, some five-six companies including Hero Future Energy have already entered the fray and are on the lookout for large rooftop space in industrial complexes, commercial buildings, malls and gated communities,” he said.

Although a positive plan, a major disadvantage of the idea is that the cost of generating power differs in different places due to difference of the sunlight’s intensity. For example, the sun is the strongest in Rajasthan and the intensity reduces as it moves towards east. Another issue is with the rental model itself as there is no set of standard model agreements, and therefore the power companies don’t yet have a way to make the contracts legally binding. It means that while customers may rent out their roofs for lengthy periods of time, up to 25 years, they might be able to unexpectedly back out of an agreement questioning its reliability.




The UK Is To House The Largest Wind Farm The World Has Ever Seen

8 Feb

Danish firm Dong Energy have just announced plans to build the largest wind farm known to man, and it will be located off the north-east coast of the UK in the North Sea. The project is called ‘The Hornsea Project’ and will generate an estimated 1.2GW of power once switched online. In recent years, wind power has taken second position to solar technology in its contribution to the world’s energy supply, but the industry is to be given a huge and exciting boost.

The turbines will be taller than the iconic Gherkin building in London at 190 metres (623 feet) tall. This is arguably the highest on the market and will potentially provide enough power for a million homes. It will be the first offshore wind farm to exceed 1 gigawatts in capacity and will be capable of producing 1.2 GW of power at its upper limit. The development will consist of 7MW wind turbines.

This is not the first time Dong Energy have invested into wind power in the UK, around £6 billion so far, and this new project will be their biggest investment to date. The project is anticipated to make some ripples in the UK economy, with an estimated 2,000 jobs needed for the construction of the facility, and another 300 positions that will be needed to actually operate it when complete. It should even help the UK meet its new climate commitments under the recent Paris accords. It will cover 160 square miles, and be home to 174 wind turbines spanning an area five times the size of Hull.

“It is ground-breaking and innovative, powering more homes than any offshore wind farm currently in operation,” said Dong Energy UK country chairman, Brent Cheshire. “To have the world’s biggest ever offshore wind farm located off the Yorkshire coast is hugely significant, and highlights the vital role offshore wind will play in the UK’s need for new low-carbon energy.”

The wind farm is to be built 75 miles off the coast of Grimsby, at an estimated cost to energy bill-payers of at least £4.2 billion.

The UK secretary of state for energy and climate change praised the plan, saying, “The UK is the world leader in offshore wind energy and this success story is going from strength to strength. The investment shows that we are open for business and is a vote of confidence in the UK and our plan to tackle the legacy of under investment and build an energy infrastructure fit for the twenty first century.”

First electricity from the project is expected to be generated in 2019 and the wind farm should be fully operational by 2020.

The Benefits of Solar Panels

29 Jan

It has been argued that solar power will help in reducing the effects of global warming. Many theorists argue that global warming will prove a huge threat to the earth’s ecological system in years to come. Global warming threatens the survival of human society and countless species. Luckily, decades (or even centuries) of research have led to efficient solar panel systems that create electricity without producing global warming pollution. Solar power is now very clearly one of the most important solutions to the global warming crisis.

Solar power is a form of renewable energy, so its use reduces the strain on exhaustible materials like coal and oil – materials which are fast running out. More significantly, solar power doesn’t pollute the earth’s atmosphere with harmful emissions in the same way that coal and oil do. Once fitted, solar panels emit no pollution whatsoever, and only the construction and installation process contribute to the Earth’s carbon footprint. Solar panels are, in fact, the most environmentally friendly of all available renewable technologies.

The Benefits

Solar power provides energy security. First and foremost no one can go and buy the sun or turn sunlight into a monopoly. Combined with the simplicity of solar panels, this also provides the notable solar power advantage of energy security.

Carbon footprint advantages. Research shows over the life of a solar installation it produces on average of 20x less CO2 than coal power – at least! Solar panels are carbon negative after three years. As during this time they produce as much energy as was consumed during their manufacturing and installation.

Solar power creates jobs. As a source of energy, solar power is a job-creating powerhouse. Money invested in solar power creates two to three times more jobs than money invested in coal or natural gas. (see table below for example from 2014).

Earn money for the electricity you generate. The Feed-in tariffs in the United Kingdom were announced in October 2008 and took effect from April 2010. It applies to small-scale generation of electricity, paying a fixed sum for eligible technologies. Feed-in tariffs normally cover all of the energy generated, not just what is fed into the grid. You can also sell the electricity you generate but do not use back to the grid.

Solar power is reliable. The rising and setting of the sun is extremely consistent. All across the world, we know exactly when it will rise and set every day of the year. While clouds may be a bit less predictable, we do also have fairly good seasonal and daily projections for the amount of sunlight that will be received in different locations. All in all, this makes solar power an extremely reliable source of energy.

And finally, one of the biggest advantages to the homeowner…
Cut your electricity bills. Sunlight is free, so once you’ve paid for the initial installation your electricity costs will be reduced.


The Use Of Solar Energy Through The Centuries

18 Dec

Did you know that solar energy has been around for centuries but not in the way we know and love today? It has been used in a number of different ways for example during the 7th century B.C people magnified the sun’s rays to create fire!

Let’s rewind to six thousand years ago when Neolithic Chinese villagers had the sole opening of their homes south facing. They did this to catch the rays of the low winter sun to help warm the interior. The overhanging thatched roof kept the high summer sun off the houses throughout the day so those inside would stay cool. Two thousand years later Chinese urban planners would build the main streets of towns to run east to west to allow every house to look to the south to catch the winter sun for supplementary heating. Over the many years Chinese cities followed such planning ideas and still today the Chinese favour a south-facing home.

Allegedly in the 2nd century B.C Archimedes, an Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer from Sicily used the reflective properties of brass to set Roman ships that were attacking Syracuse on fire. Fast forward a century and we saw the Greeks and Romans using ‘burning mirrors’ to light torches for religious purposes.

The Romans also had large windows covered with either transparent stone or clear glass. This was one of the great breakthroughs in building and solar technology. Transparent materials like mica or glass, the Romans discovered, acts as a solar heat trap, admitting sunlight into the desired space and holding in the heat so it accumulates inside. Sun-right laws were passed which made it a civil offence to block ones access to face the south.

In 1767 a Swiss scientist called Horace-Benedict de Saussure created the very first solar cell. He constructed an insulated box with an opening and three layers of glass. It magnified the suns heat to temperatures in excess of 230 degrees Fahrenheit and could be used in a variety of ways. It was known as a ‘Hot Box’ and became the prototype for solar thermal collectors used to heat water and homes.

The first major milestone in the evolution of solar energy took place in 1839 and it was defined as the photovoltaic effect. A young French scientist by the name of Edmund Bacquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect whilst experimenting in his father’s laboratory with an electrolytic cell made up of two metal electrodes placed in an electrolyte.  After exposing it to light, electricity increased.

Fast forward once again to 1905, Albert Einstein published a paper on the photoelectric effect, which Robert Millikan proved with experimental proof in 1916.  This sparked further research into solar energy, and in 1918, Jan Czochralski developed the Czochralski process to grow single crystal silicon, which would later become critical to the PV industry.

Years later in 1921, 16 years after he submitted this paper, Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for the scientific breakthroughs he had discovered.

It was in 1954 that Daryl Chaplin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson propelled the industry into what it is today. They developed the silicon PV cell at Bell labs, which was the first solar cell able to convert enough energy to power everyday electrical equipment.

Blink and it’s soon to be the start of 2016, it may have took a long time to come to fruition but we can’t argue the power of the sun. It’s a very exciting time for solar energy as its seeing positive signs of investment and growth. Key for the future of solar is the development of efficient, cost-effective solar panels, which will see the development of exciting new technology. Watch this space!



The Incredible History of Geothermal Energy

9 Sep

Geothermal energy is energy generated by heat stored beneath the Earth’s surface and is often referred to as ‘Geothermal Power’. At present, geothermal energy provides less than 10% of the world’s energy, which is a shame considering it’s abundance and that it is clean and safe for the surrounding environment. Although, it is a very important energy source in volcanically active places such as New Zealand and Iceland.

Interestingly enough we humans have been utilising geothermal energy in places like North America for more than 10,000 years. Archaeological evidence establishes that the beginning of man’s application of geothermal energy was by the Paleo-American Indians who used thermal springs for cooking. The first people to live in North America came from Asia at least 14,000 years ago. They arrived near the end of the Pleistocene epoch, which is also known as the Ice Age which as you can imagine, geothermal energy would be very useful. Archaeologists believe the first Americans crossed into North America when it was connected to Asia by land. The natural geothermal energy springs performed as a lake of geothermal energy for heat and purifying, using their minerals as a source of therapeutic healing. Native Americans have a history with every major thermal spring in the USA.

The very first geothermal energy facility was built in Italy. The first documented attempt was the use of a natural geyser in the earth’s core to generate electricity with the liquid drawn out. At first, scientists wanted to use volcanic material because they had seen the destruction it caused during eruption. After attempts by several individuals to heat their own homes with heat from earth materials, Prince Piero Ginori Conti built a prototype generator that successfully provided enough wattage to light 4 separate light bulbs. This became the brain child project that began the serious exploration of geothermal energy production as we know it today.

One of the main advantages of using geothermal energy is the lack of pollution. Being a renewable source of energy, geothermal energy has helped in reducing global warming and pollution. Moreover, geothermal systems do not create any pollution as it releases some gases from deep within the earth which are not very harmful to the environment. Also, local governments in various countries are investing hugely in the creation of geothermal energy. This is brilliant as it’s a major player when it comes to the job market.

Although there is a huge problem with geothermal energy as it’s only suitable for regions which have hot rocks below the earth and can produce steam over a long period of time. For this, intensive research is required which is done by the companies before setting up the plant and is very costly. Some of these regions are near hilly areas or high up in mountains.

Technologies are being created that will allow us to examine areas more than ten miles beneath the Earth’s surface for pursuing geothermal energy, which is pretty marvellous if you ask us.


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