Tag Archives: renewable energy

Two Chinese companies are planning to build a giant solar plant in Chernobyl

23 Nov

Two Chinese solar companies have plans to build a huge solar farm in one of the scariest places on earth, the Chernobyl exclusion zone. On the 26th April 1986, one of four nuclear reactors at the Chernobyl power station exploded. As a result, the disaster released at least 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Much of the fallout was deposited close to Chernobyl, in parts of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. More than 350,000 people resettled away from these areas, but about 5.5 million remain. Scandinavia was badly affected and there are still areas of the UK where farms face post-Chernobyl controls.

After the nuclear plant’s meltdown, Soviet officials set up a restricted area around the site called the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Even though it’s been 30 years since the accident, this restricted area is still exceptionally large. A 1,000 square mile exclusion zone of forests and marshland surrounds the former Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine and has been largely off-limits since the 1986 disaster. However the site is an excellent choice for the location of a large solar farm. Not only is the land cheap and unused, but there is already substantial electrical infrastructure in place left over from the nuclear plant.

Shu Hua, the chairman of GCL System Integration Technology said “There will be remarkable social benefits and economic ones as we try to renovate the once damaged area with green and renewable energy,” Making the best of a bad situation could prove motivating to others as the global community begins the hard work of implementing the Paris Agreement.

Ukraine has been trying to find an investor to build a large solar farm in the exclusion zone for several months and now the two companies, GCL System Integration Technology (GCL-SI) and state-owned China National Complete Engineering Corp (CCEC), announced their plans to start building a 1-gigawatt solar power plant in an unspecified region of the Exclusion Zone. Comments made by a GCL-SI manager suggested that the plant would be built in an area where the radiation is under control. The site itself has already gone through several rounds of inspections by the company’s technicians. GCL will build and install the solar components, while CCEC will manage and supervise the entire project. Neither company disclosed where exactly the solar farm would be built, or how much the project will cost.

Prior to the Chernobyl project, the Chinese have successfully reformatted contaminated land into renewable energy generators and therefore are the perfect candidate for the construction. Radiation levels around the remains of damaged reactor building still remain dangerously high and are likely to remain so for thousands of years. In the 30 years since the meltdown, scientists have already seen some evidence of the radiation causing harm to local animals.

To discourage urban expansion from absorbing more farmland, China has implemented policies that encourage solar and wind power plants on damaged land. China is currently the world’s top solar power generator with 43 gigawatts of generating capacity expected by the end of the year,

Though they have become the number one manufacturer in solar power, China has been encouraged to slash their carbon footprint since they reportedly derive 66% of their energy from coal use, according to the Energy Information Administration. The nation has since announced plans to eliminate all CO2 emissions by 2030 by expanding their international solar power presence and tripling their generated wind power.

Image result for Chernobyl

Solar Joins 1,000 Year Old Gargoyles On Cathedral Roof

3 Nov

A cathedral in Gloucester is having a huge upgrade by installing solar panels to help cut its energy bills by up to 25 percent. Despite its 1,000 years of history, the cathedral was keen to embrace modern technology and is having 150 panels fitted on its roof.

The cathedral is based in southwest England and was built around the year 678 and is coronation site for King Henry III, the burial site of King Edward II and famously had a featuring role in three Harry Potter movies!

Mypower are in charge of the installation and say the cathedral will be the oldest in the UK and maybe even the world to have a “commercial size solar panel system on the roof.”

The great advantage of installing solar panels on cathedrals is that they are really tall. And the fact that they are surrounded by ornate buttresses and gargoyles and other fancy architecture means that the solar panels will mostly be hidden from the ground, meaning the cathedral gets to cut its energy costs by a quarter without really sacrificing its historic, architectural integrity. The panels will generate 25,000 kilowatts of energy a year, enough to power seven semi-detached homes for a year or make an impressive 250,000 cups of tea!

Mypower, the installation contractor on the project and the firms’ managing Partner Ben Harrison said they’ve had to work around twists and spots where the roof has sagged over time. He said they’ve worked closely with the cathedral’s structural engineers and architect to guarantee the work is completed properly. “At times it’s been extremely tight in terms of manoeuvrability around parts of the site, particularly when the work required us to work just inches away from centuries-old gargoyles, but we put strategies and measures in place to protect the building from any damage.”

A further advantage of building on cathedrals and older churches are that they were usually built pointing directly from east to west, leaving a huge area of south-facing roof that’s ideally situated for maximum solar gain.

The Church of England is running a Shrinking the Footprint campaign, and the solar array will help Gloucester Cathedral work towards the campaign’s goal of slashing carbon emissions “by 80 percent by 2050.” Given that the Church of England has declared climate change “a great demon”, and has even stripped itself from the dirtiest fossil fuels, I suspect we will see many more churches going solar as the costs come down.

Once finished, the 1,000 year old building will become the oldest cathedral in the UK, and possibly the world, to claim a commercial-sized solar panel PV system. The installation forms a key part of the £6 million Project Pilgrim scheme to make the cathedral sustainable for future generations.

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.

Could Wave Power Satisfy our Energy Needs?

12 Apr

The UK is a great location for wave power and it is often argued that marine energy converters could offer a more consistent source of energy in comparison to alternative clean energy sources. Researchers at the College of Engineering at the Oregon State University have recently established a new analysis that suggests wave power could also prove to be a cheaper alternative to its renewable energy equivalents. The new analysis has suggested that large-scale wave power arrays could balance out supply and demand by not putting a substantial amount of pressure on the grid.

What do we already know about wave energy? An advantage to wave energy is that it will never run out. There will always be waves crashing upon the shores of nations, near the populated coastal regions. The waves flow back from the shore, but they always return. Unlike fossil fuels, creating power from waves creates no harmful by-products such as gas, waste, and pollution. The energy from waves can be taken directly into electricity-producing machinery and used to power generators and power plants nearby. In today’s energy-powered world, we know a source of clean energy is hard to come by.

Waves are hardly interrupted and are almost always in motion. This makes generating electricity from wave energy a reasonable reliable energy source (at least when you compare them to solar and wind). Beneficially, the energy density is typically around 30-40 kW for every meter (2.2 feet) of wave along the shore. As we go further into the ocean 100kW for every meter is not uncommon. A wave farm that is occupying less than a half square mile of an ocean could generate more than 30 MW of power, the equivalent of 20,000 British homes.

Let’s take a look at the other advantages of wave power:

Pro’s

  • Low Operating Costs – Once installed there are few ongoing operating costs or labour costs, unless there is a device breakdown.
  • No material resources are used or changed in the production of wave power, making it a truly renewable power form.
  • Most wave power devices are installed mostly or fully submerged in water. By installing the devices far enough from shore there is minimal “damage of water views” that has been associated with offshore wind turbines.
  • It offers shoreline protection, as capturing the kinetic energy of the tide will lead to less power crashing into the shore, which should help prevent damage to the shoreline.
  • Most wave power devices operate at optimal efficiency levels regardless of the direction of the waves.

Similar to most good things, wave power does come with a number of disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage to getting your energy from the waves is location. Only power plants and towns near the ocean will benefit directly from it. Because of its source, wave energy is not a viable power source for everyone. Landlocked nations and cities far from the sea have to find alternate sources of power, so wave energy is not the clean energy solution for everyone. Other disadvantages include:

Con’s

  • The high cost of device and associated power products could lengthen the payback period and be cost prohibitive based on the characteristics and size of each project.
  • Sea life could be harmed or have habitats disrupted or displaced. The machines disturb the seafloor, changing the habitat of near-shore creatures (like crabs and starfish) and create noise that disturbs the sea life around them.
  • Strong ocean storms and salt water corrosion can damage the devices, which could increase the cost of construction to increase durability and/or cause frequent breakdowns. This especially holds true with the increased complexity of the devices.
  • Aesthetically unpleasing, the overtopping devices could produce a loud, constant noise. This noise is unlikely going to be significantly louder than the waves would make on their own.
  • The performance of wave power drops significantly during rough weather. They must withstand rough weather.

Installers should consider the pros and cons of this energy source and consider who and what they may be disturbing. Who knows what the future holds for wave power!

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

Could fungi found in the guts of cows and elephants power the future?

23 Feb

According to a group of researchers at the Agricultural Centre of Sustainable Energy Systems (ACSES) at the Harper Adams University in Shropshire, a cow’s digestive system could revolutionise renewable energy. The group believe that the answer to effective biomass conversion lives within the stomachs of cows, sheep and elephants. The group believe that if they could imitate their digestive systems, then they could create a streamlined, cost effective biomass generator. Have we had the answer all along?

Leader of the Agricultural Centre of Sustainable Energy Systems, Professor Theodorou, is amongst the group of scientists researching the potential benefits of the ‘gut fungi’ inside the stomachs of herbivores including elephants and cows. He said: “Renewable technologies are looking to use renewable plant biomass resources for chemical and fuel production, making us less reliant on fossil fuel.” He also went on to say:

“The objective of our work was to find an alternative, more straight-forward platform, mimicking the conversion of plant biomass to useful products in nature.

“In our work so far, we have identified hundreds of enzymes from the gut fungi, which have commercial biotechnology potential. It is because these fungi are able to survive in such a highly-competitive microbial ecosystem, where a myriad of protagonists seek to degrade plant biomass, that we believe they are so effective at their job.” Currently, commercial biomass facilities use genetically-modified enzymes from aerobic fungi such as Trichoderma and Aspergillus. They can digest plant biomass which, following fermentation of the released sugars, produces products such as bio-ethanol. This procedure however requires chemical pre-treatments to remove lignin from plants. The good news is that anaerobic fungi are found in the digestive tract of wild and domesticated herbivores, from elephants to cattle.

“We have so far shown that some of these enzymes are substantially better than the current solution at converting plant biomass to sugars. We need to invest more resources to study this group of relatively unknown microorganisms. They may hold the key to the renewable technology of effective biomass conversion. Their full potential must be explored and exploited.”

Currently, a genetically-modified solution is being used in the biomass process. The downside to the current method is the cost due to needing an expensive pre-treatment so that the plant biomass can be successfully digested. This is then followed by the fermentation of released sugars by yeast to produce products such as bio-ethanol.

Researchers have previously claimed that using cow manure could provide up to 3% of America’s electricity needs, while simultaneously slashing greenhouse gas emissions. Other success stories closer to home include the case were more than 430 households in Northern Ireland were provided with heat and electricity by the poo from 600 cows.

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.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: