Quantcast
Renewable Energy

Meet the World's First Island Powered by an Off-Grid Renewable Energy System

A tiny, scenic island lying off Scotland's west coast is truly a model for sustainable, off-grid living. With no mainland electricity connection, the Isle of Eigg gets its electricity from the water, the wind and the sun.

Keep reading... Show less

Seaweed Could Revolutionize How We Power Our Devices

The answer to powering our devices might have been hiding in our sushi all along. An international team of researchers has used seaweed to create a material that can enhance the performance of superconductors, lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Inspired by Nature: Scientists Find Groundbreaking Solution for Solar Storage

One of the most common pitfalls of solar energy is storing it. On sunny days there is typically an excess of energy, which is lost if not captured. But, fortunately many battery storage options are now available, including this groundbreaking new electrode prototype from the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, which could store energy at a much higher capacity, about 3000 percent more than existing technology.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo credit: Lyon Group

World's Biggest Solar + Battery Farm Coming to Australia

A massive solar and battery farm is being built in South Australia's Riverland region.

If everything goes to plan, the plant will be running by the end of 2017 and will be the largest such system in the world, Brisbane-based renewable energy developer and investor Lyon Group announced.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Photo credit: RAG-AG

Germany Converts Coal Mine Into Giant Battery Storage for Surplus Solar and Wind Power

Germany is embarking on an innovative project to turn a hard coal mine into a giant battery that can store surplus solar and wind energy and release it when supplies are lean.

Keep reading... Show less
A rendering of the completed Sparks, Nevada Tesla Gigafactory which will be topped by rooftop solar panels. Photo: Tesla

3 More Gigafactories Coming Soon to 'Change the Way the World Uses Energy'

At the grand opening of Tesla's enormous Gigafactory in July, CEO Elon Musk said he wants to build Gigafactories on several continents. He told BBC he wanted a factory "in Europe, in India, in China ... ultimately, wherever there is a huge amount of demand for the end product."

Well, it looks like Musk's factory-building plans are well underway.

The company said in its fourth-quarter investor letter on Wednesday that it is considering building up to five Gigafactories.

The letter states:

"Installation of Model 3 manufacturing equipment is underway in Fremont and at Gigafactory 1, where in January, we began production of battery cells for energy storage products, which have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3. Later this year, we expect to finalize locations for Gigafactories 3, 4 and possibly 5 (Gigafactory 2 is the Tesla solar plant in New York)."

Tesla officially flicked on Gigafactory 1's switch in January. The factory produces lithium-ion battery cells for Tesla's suite of battery storage products, the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2, as well as the company's mass-market electric car, the Model 3.

Gigafactory 1 is currently being built in phases so that the company and its partners can manufacture products while the building continues to expand. Construction is expected for completion by 2018, at which point the plant could claim the title of world's largest building by footprint.

The facility will also be astoundingly clean and energy efficient, as it will be powered 100 percent by renewables such as solar, wind, geothermal and will feature energy-storage technology.

The company also plans for the building to achieve net zero energy. Tesla co-founder and chief technical officer JB Straubel once explained why Tesla wanted Gigafactory operations to be completely carbon neutral:

"The Gigafactory is maybe the best example we can talk about with this. You know, from the get-go, from the first concept of this factory, we wanted to make it a net-zero facility. So, you know, the most visible thing we are doing is covering the entire site with solar power. The whole roof of the Gigafactory was designed from the beginning with solar in mind. We kept all of the mechanical equipment off the roof. We didn't put extra, sorta, penetrations through the roof that we didn't need to and it's a very, very clean surface that we can completely cover in solar. But that's not enough solar, though. So we have also gone to the surrounding hillsides that we can't use for other functions and we're adding solar to those."

According to Straubel, the Gigafactory isn't even hooked up to any natural gas pipelines:

"The other interesting thing is we wanted to manage the emissions from the Gigafactory. Solar power can do some of that, but we took kind of a radical move in the beginning and said we are not going to burn any fossil fuels in the factory. You know, zero emissions. We are going to build a zero-emissions factory—just like the car. So, instead of kind of fighting this battle in hindsight, we just said we are not even going to have a natural gas pipeline coming to the factory, so we didn't even build it. And it kind of forced the issue. When you don't have natural gas, you know, none of the engineers can say, 'Oh, but it will be more efficient, let me use just a little bit.' Sorry, we don't even have it."

In December, Tesla and Panasonic launched operations at its Buffalo, New York plant, now dubbed Gigafactory 2. The factory manufactures high-efficiency photovoltaic cells and modules for solar panels and solar glass tiles for Tesla's highly anticipated solar roof.

Tesla's factories are all part of the company's mission to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.

In last year's climate change documentary Before The Flood, Musk takes Leonardo DiCaprio on a tour of Tesla's massive Gigafactory in Nevada. During their chat, the Tesla CEO tells the actor and famed environmentalist that it would only take 100 Gigafactories to transition "the whole world" to sustainable energy.

With at least five Gigafactories in the books, looks like Musk's plans are slowly becoming reality. For what it's worth, even DiCaprio said building one-hundred Gigafactories "sounds manageable."

Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Winds of change … a storage system for energy generated by renewables is closer to being realized. Photo credit: Sheila Sund / Flickr

Harvard Is One Step Closer to Developing Cheap, Long-Lasting Battery Storage

By Kieran Cooke

It is the holy grail of the renewable energy sector—a cheap and efficient battery system that can store energy generated by renewables such as wind and solar.

These days there are few who doubt the potential of renewables, except those diehards on the extreme of the fossil fuel industry.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)—the main body monitoring developments in the global energy sector—renewables are surging ahead.

Investment in Renewables

In 2015, investments in oil and gas—fossil fuels that, along with coal, are the main drivers of global warming—declined by 25 percent, while energy produced from renewables rose by 30 percent.

Renewables are becoming increasingly competitive with fossil fuels in many sectors: According to the IEA, in the five years to the end of 2015 the price of solar energy dropped by 80 percent and wind power by a third.

Fast-developing countries—China and India, in particular—are investing millions of dollars in the renewable sector.

The big problem with renewables development has been storage. In order to operate a commercially viable power plant, a reliable flow of fuel is needed. In the case of oil, coal or gas this is relatively straightforward as supplies can quickly be replenished.

In the case of nuclear, as long as there is a readily available supply of uranium isotopes, power can continue to be generated.

Solar and wind power supply is far more varied—dependent on sunshine and wind speeds—and cannot be stored or used in the same way as so-called conventional fuels.

For years, scientists have struggled to develop storage systems capable of handling the peaks and troughs of renewable power so that an even supply can be guaranteed.

Researchers at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University in the U.S. said in an article published in ACS Energy Letters that they have now developed a long-lasting flow battery capable of storing renewable power that­ could operate for up to 10 years, with minimum maintenance required.

A flow battery is a cross between a conventional battery and a fuel cell. Flow batteries store energy in liquid solutions in external tanks and are regarded as one of the primary ways of storing renewable energy. The bigger the tanks, the more energy can be stored.

But flow batteries are costly. Most use expensive polymers that can cope with the potent chemicals inside the battery.

Battery Capacity

The battery's components and materials, such as membranes and electrolytes, have to be frequently replaced in order to retain capacity.

The Harvard team modified molecules used in the electrolyte solutions to make them soluble in water and so vastly increase the battery's ability to retain power.

"Because we were able to dissolve the electrolytes in neutral water, this is a long-lasting battery that you could put in your basement," said Roy Gordon, a professor of chemistry and materials science and a leading member of the research team.

"If it spilled on the floor, it wouldn't eat the concrete and, since the medium is non-corrosive, you can use cheaper materials to build components of the batteries, like the tanks and pumps," Gordon added.

Reducing the cost of the battery is vital. The U.S. Department of Energy said that in order to make stored energy from wind and solar competitive with fossil fuels, a battery needs to be able to store energy for less than $100 per kilowatt hour.

"If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you can change the world," said Michael Aziz, another lead researcher in the battery project and a professor of materials and energy technologies at Harvard.

"It becomes cost effective to put batteries in so many places—this research puts us one step closer to reaching that target," said Aziz.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

Renewable Energy

Tesla Unveils World's Largest Battery Storage Plant to Reduce Reliance on Fossil Fuels

In an effort to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, Tesla and Southern California Edison have unveiled a massive battery storage facility at the utility's Mira Loma substation in Ontario, California.

The project—which is being described as the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world—consists of 396 stacks of Tesla Powerpack units spread across 1.5 acres. The batteries can store up to 80 megawatt hours, or enough energy to power 15,000 homes for four hours.

"This project is part of our vision at Southern California Edison to take advantage of the wind and the sun, and operate a flexible grid that delivers clean energy to power our homes, our businesses and our vehicles," Kevin Payne, CEO of Southern California Edison, said at a ribbon-cutting event Monday.

"Standing here today among these Tesla Powerpacks is a great reminder of how fast technology is changing the electric power industry and the opportunities that will come with it."

Mira Loma Battery Storage Project ribbon cutting. From L-R, State Sen. Henry Stern , CPUC President Michael Picker, Tom Doughty of CAISO, SCE CEO Kevin Payne and JB Straubel, Tesla chief technical officer. Southern California Edison

While the project officially switched online on Monday it began operating in December.

"We are very excited to bring this site online," said Tesla's chief technical officer JB Straubel. "Storage is quite a new thing … and this is a different breed of battery. This is the tip of the iceberg of how much storage we'll see on the grid."

The batteries charge up when there is more renewable energy than demand, ultimately allowing customers to use clean energy during peak hours.

As the New York Times explained, California has a need for batteries to store surplus renewable energy:

"California is on track to have an overabundance of energy during the day, when its many solar panels are producing energy, but that supply drops sharply as the sun sets, precisely when demand rises, with residents heading home to use appliances and, increasingly, to charge cars.

"The state's aging nuclear plants have been closed or are being phased out, putting even more pressure on utilities to find other ways to feed the grid. Storage is a natural solution, utility executives say, helping to smooth variations in the power flow from rooftop customers and when solar falls off and conventional plants have not yet filled the gap."

Tesla CEO Elon Musk was not at the ribbon-cutting ceremony but he retweeted a company tweet in support of the project. In the clip below, Tesla touts that its new facility, which only took 94 days to install, reduces the reliance on gas speaker plants, prevents electricity shortages, provides energy secure and reduces greenhouse gases:

Tesla and Southern California Edison agreed on the project in September following orders from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The regulators sought to expedite the use of energy storage connected to the grid to mitigate the disastrous Aliso Canyon natural gas leak, which thrust an estimated 96,000 metric tons of potent methane into the atmosphere for four months beginning in October 2015. The leak also forced thousands of residents in the nearby Porter Ranch community from their homes.

"This was unprecedented fast action on the part of the CPUC," said Michael Picker, the commission's president. "And we are once again stunned by the battery industry to meet our needs. This is another example of progress."

It is unclear how much the Tesla-Edison installation cost, as lithium batteries can be pricey. However, as Fortune pointed out, "until recently, battery storage has been a far more expensive means of meeting demand surges than natural gas 'peaker' plants. However a rapid fall in lithium ion battery prices over the past two years—driven by the proliferation of electric cars—has made the technology far more viable."

Tesla and Southern California Edison are not the only energy storage facilities being rolled out. According to the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Gas & Electric and AES Energy Storage as well as Greensmith Energy Partners and AltaGas are installing other large battery installations.

"In all, the projects are adding 77.5 megawatts of energy storage to the state's electricity grid," the Los Angeles Times reported.

California is vigorously pursuing clean energy projects to combat climate change. The state has a target of producing 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 and aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

"Energy storage projects like this one play a role in California's clean energy future," Payne said. "They are also part of our mission to safely deliver reliable, affordable and clean energy to our customers."

Tesla has plans to revolutionize the energy grid. One reason it combined with sister company SolarCity was to create a one-stop shop for electric vehicles, rooftop solar and energy storage.

Musk said in a May 2015 interview that he wants to "fundamentally change the way the world uses energy" and "the goal is complete transformation of the entire energy infrastructure of the world."

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox