Start up hopes to get 1.2 billion people out of energy poverty

Posted on December 12th, 2016 in solar by Spencer R.



 Out of ideas for stocking fillers? A Swedish tech start up has a suggestion: why not give those in need the gift of electricity?

TRINE, which connects investors with solar power entrepreneurs in East Africa via its website, has launched a Christmas present campaign.
A voucher from TRINE can be invested in a solar power project in Africa, with an expected return of around 6% for the recipient.
The investments start at $26.5 (€25) and the sky is the limit. So far, the company has raised $354,000 (€333,000) towards seven projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
But it's not just gift vouchers. Launched in February 2016, the platform is open to large and small investors alike.
Co-founder and CEO Sam Manaberi says the idea stems from his own experience of a lack of opportunity for Europeans to invest sustainably.

A demand for funds

The aim is to open up business opportunities by connecting people with disposable income to African entrepreneurs, called "solar partners", who supply solar power kits to people who live in rural, off-grid areas.
"Currently in Africa, there are great entrepreneurs, a huge demand and proven technology to deliver these sorts of projects, but commercial finance is in short supply," Manaberi says.
Investors can expect a return on their investment once the entrepreneurs begin their repayment, which can take between six months and two years, according to the company.
TRINE makes no bones about being a for-profit venture, and the company motto is enshrined the name which meant triple, threefold or trinity, in Middle English.
"It reflects and symbolizes our triple bottom line thinking, where our impact is threefold -- people, planet, profit," Manaberi says.
Different from charitable giving, this approach will benefit all three sides, says Manaberi, formerly Director at Bosch Solar Energy North America. "The model is dependent on this mutual relationship and can be extremely effective when everyone pulls in the right direction."

1.2 billion without electricity

The company wants the investments to help local economies become more self-sustainable and also provide a solution to the 1.2 billion people worldwide who lack access to electricity, 95% of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing countries in Asia.
"It all comes down to sustainable development across all levels and the end goal of achieving universal access to energy," Manaberi says.
The model could mean good business for TRINE too, as they lend the money to the entrepreneurs with interest.
"The solar partners pay a 5% arranger fee for the successful funding of their project, and between 10-16% interest rate on a declining balance of the loan."
The design and price of the solar kits varies according to the solar partners and the project. The end user typically pays a monthly fee for the kit via a smartphone payment.
Powered by either a micro-grid or a small individual solar panel placed on the roof, the system is used for lighting and powering appliances, cell phones and TVs.
The company hopes the kits will replace kerosene lamps, which may cause fires and health risks such as burns and poisoning from fuel ingestion.
TRINE has attracted attention from the likes of the WWF Climate Solver and COP 22, in Marrakech in November, where they were invited to give a talk about the venture.

The risk with investing

However, investing is rarely free of risk, and TRINE is no exception.
With all projects still being implemented, the solar partners are yet to begin making repayments, though they are due to start trickling in within the the next few months, according to the company.
Some projects are supported by investment protection from UK Aid, such as one in Tanzania, run by Solaris Tanzania, formerly Eternum Energy, which raised $53,000 (€50,000).
With 27 employees with 650 customers currently using their solar kits, and current investment is estimated to add another 2,000 customers. "As a small company, we found it difficult to get commercial credit from banks," says Eternum CEO and co-founder Siten Mandalia.
"So what TRINE has done is create this platform which connects investors who want to get into this industry and provide that capital gap that is missing for start ups like us."
Through Mandalia's company, Tanzanians can buy a 20 watt system for $1.80 per week over three years.
TRINE's solar partners are not the only ones selling solar power kits for monthly repayments in countries like Kenya and Tanzania. Among larger players are M-KOPA Solar, who launched a solar-powered TV earlier this year.

The rise of crowdfunding

TRINE has global ambitions, but for now, the platform is open to people in countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), with more projects across Africa in the pipeline.
Globally, interest in crowd-investment is growing fast. The market generated an estimated $2.1 billion globally for start ups in 2015, with the World Bank predicting it will skyrocket in developing countries over the next 10 years.
Manaberi thinks crowdfunding ventures like TRINE are particularly well-suited for Africa. "Our model enables people to make a real impact, no matter who they are or what they do."


SoCalGas And University Test Novel Renewable Energy Storage Process

Posted on December 8th, 2016 in solar by Spencer R.



Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has announced the power-to-gas (P2G) hydrogen pipeline injection program it funds at the University of California Irvine has successfully demonstrated the use of excess renewable electricity that would otherwise go to waste.

According to the utility, P2G is a technique for converting surplus clean energy from solar panels or wind farms into hydrogen, which can be blended with natural gas and utilized in everything from home appliances to power plants. The renewable fuel can also be converted to methane for use in a natural gas pipeline and storage system or used in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The features of hydrogen can especially enable long-term storage of large amounts of carbon-free power – which is a significant advantage over lithium ion batteries, the utility claims.

“This research lays the groundwork for leveraging the natural gas infrastructure already in place for the storage and transmission of renewable energy,” says Jeff Reed, director of business strategy and advanced technology at the SoCalGas. “As more wind and solar production is deployed, energy storage will be a critical component for grid reliability.”

“One of the big challenges we’ve faced in adding wind and solar to the grid is what to do with the excess electricity,” says Jack Brouwer, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and civil and environmental engineering at UCI and associate director of its Advanced Power & Energy Program (APEP). “We’ve shown you need not halt renewable power generation when demand is low. Instead, the excess electricity can be used to make hydrogen that can be easily integrated into existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure.”

The pilot project began last summer with funding from SoCalGas and the participation of Proton OnSite, provider of an electrolyzer that produces hydrogen from electricity and water. APEP engineers worked with UCI facilities management technicians to install the new equipment adjacent to the campus’s power plant. Since then, the process has been closely monitored by researchers trying to determine whether P2G is feasible on statewide or regional power grids. Such systems are currently in place in Germany and Canada.

The central component of the process is the electrolyzer, which takes in water and uses excess renewable electricity to power an electrochemical reaction that splits it into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the atmosphere, and the hydrogen is compressed and sent about 60 feet through a pencil-thin, stainless steel tube to an injection point in UCI’s natural gas pipeline. There the hydrogen is mixed with natural gas and, shortly thereafter, burned in the gas turbine power plant to generate electricity and heat for the campus.

Hydrogen produced from electricity and water can also be converted into methane and injected into a natural gas pipeline system. The natural gas system includes transmission and distribution pipeline networks and existing underground storage facilities that can store enormous amounts of renewable methane or hydrogen energy for use at a later time. In the SoCalGas service territory alone, more than 12 TWh of electric equivalent storage can be accommodated.

“Our initial testing indicates smooth operation for this first successful U.S. proof of concept,” says Brouwer. “Storage of the hydrogen in existing natural gas infrastructure could become the most important technology for enabling a 100 percent renewable future.”



Apple Partners with Goldwind to bring renewable energy to Chinese suppliers

Posted on December 8th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



Looking to be a little more earth-friendly, Apple has created a number of initiatives to ensure that it’s running on renewable energy as much as possible. The latest of these efforts? The tech giant has entered into a joint venture with Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology — better known simply as Goldwind — a maker of wind turbines, with the goal of bringing more renewable energy to Apple’s Chinese suppliers.

As part of the deal, Apple will get a 30 percent stake in four project firms from Beijing Tianrun New Energy Investment, a subsidiary of Goldwind, according to a Hong Kong stock exchange filing seen by the South China Morning Post.


It’s not yet known exactly which Apple suppliers will benefit from the new deal, but it’s likely Apple will eventually try to transition all of them over to renewable energy. Lens Technology, which is a supplier for Apple, recently said that it would completely power its glass production using renewable sources by the end of 2018, partly using wind farms, which makes it highly likely that at least some of the turbines will supply wind energy for Lens Technology.


Apple has been making quite the effort to move to renewable energy of late. In 2015, the company announced that 93 percent of its energy came from renewable sources, most of which are solar powered. In fact, Apple is currently building solar farms that will generate around 200 megawatts, and is working directly with suppliers to install a whopping 4 gigawatts of renewable energy around the world. Apple’s data centers around the world also run on 100 percent renewable energy. And 99 percent of the paper Apple uses is either recycled or from sustainable forests.



Chilean Copper Firms Look at Reworking Contracts to Tap Renewable Energy

Posted on December 7th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



Mining companies in Chile, by far the world's largest copper producer, are examining their energy contracts to see whether they can renegotiate terms to incorporate now-cheaper renewable power, company sources say.

The mines, long reliant on coal and gas to power everything from milling to drilling, are inviting a broad range of wind and solar producers to major energy tenders for the first time.

The shift away from dirty energy in some ways reflects the unique situation of Chile, which has virtually no local gas or coal reserves, but a long, arid coastline amenable to wind and solar power.

But it is also a response to technology-driven declines in worldwide renewables prices, which at times are allowing clean-energy generators to undercut fossil fuel providers even in countries like Chile with no significant subsidies.

Companies like Spain's Acciona Energia and Ireland's Mainstream are set to benefit from the change. The moves could also imply major cost savings for Chile's copper industry, which spends around 20 percent of overhead on energy, according to Chile's mining industry body.

Traditional firms diversifying

Traditional power companies, however, such as Colbun, AES Corp.'s Latin American arm AES Gener, and Engie Energia Chile risk losing out, and are diversifying into renewables to remain competitive.

Until 2014, nearly all of the nation's public and private energy contracts went to gas, diesel, hydroelectric and coal generators.

Wind and solar firms slowly began submitting competitive bids for power contracts. By August of this year, they had scooped up around half of tendered energy in a massive, 12.3 terawatt government auction to supply Chile's public grid beginning in 2021.

The renewables firms undercut bids by traditional producers by more than 70 percent in some cases in that auction, catching the attention of Chile's mining companies — which consume about a third of the country's energy, but only get 8 percent from wind and solar.

"Industrial customers are reviewing their contracts, they are anticipating tenders, they are trying to seize the moment and take advantage of this buyer's market," said Juan Francisco MacKenna, one of Chile's leading energy project and regulation lawyers.

No limits

Some mines are paying well over $100 per megawatt-hour on their most expensive contracts, while wind producers have offered 24-hour power for prices as low as $38 on Chile's public grid.

State-owned copper giant Codelco, hit by slumping copper prices, is re-examining terms with energy providers as part of a wider contract review, Alvaro Aliaga, vice president of its northern division, told Reuters last month.

Others, including Antofagasta, are also looking to revise their energy contracts, some of which expire as late as the 2030s, said four sources familiar with the energy contracting strategy of Chile's largest mining companies.

Antofagasta declined to comment, but a document released by the company Monday noted that low prices at the public power auction implied energy cost savings.

Some contracts are more flexible than others, the four sources said, but the goal would be to make pre-expiration changes to cheaper renewables or pressure traditional suppliers to lower their prices.

The mining companies would most likely take advantage of scheduled renegotiation periods where they exist, they said.

Still, some energy negotiation professionals said arbitration procedures were a possibility for particularly rigid and long-term agreements. Upcoming energy auctions for new supply contracts, meanwhile, are expected to feature many more renewables players than in the past.

For instance, the Collahuasi copper mine, a joint venture of Anglo American and Glencore, recently launched a tender for a 1.2 terawatt energy auction.

Solar-friendly bloc

Among those invited to bid, according to company and legal sources, are Spain's SolarPack, Mainstream and other foreign renewable providers, as well as traditional incumbents. The auction offers a novel solar-friendly daytime bloc, in which companies bid to provide energy only during daylight hours, one source with knowledge of the auction said.

Antofagasta will most likely launch an energy supply tender for a planned expansion of its Centinela mine next year, while Codelco will run one for a possible expansion at its Radomiro Tomic mine, two of the sources familiar with the energy contracting strategy of the companies said.

Traditional energy companies, in response, are moving toward renewables in an attempt to maintain their market share.

Engie Chile, majority owned by French natural gas and electricity supplier Engie, said in August that it would build 400 megawatts of solar capacity in Chile, and AES Gener CEO Javier Giorgio told Reuters the company was looking at incorporating renewables into coming mining bids.

"The company is going to pass from being strong in conventional energy to one that has a much more balanced mix between conventional and renewable energies," Giorgio said. "From our point of view, we're not willing to limit ourselves."
























Pertamina exploring development of tourism at geothermal sites

Posted on December 7th, 2016 in hydro by Spencer R.



A lot of most geothermal spots in the world are taboo for development of power project, while in many spots of the world geothermal development actually can create opportunities to develop tourism.

In Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a good example … while nobody knows that it was created by an accident at the nearby geothermal power plant. But an actual geothermal power plant in the country has also become a tourist destination in itself.

So it is not surprising that Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE) in Indonesia is looking into utilising its geothermal activities beyond steam and power generation.

Local news now report, that Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry is coordinating with Pertamina to support the development of geothermal tourism in the operational areas of geothermal energy production.

An MoU was signed between the Ministry and PGE at a recent national tourism coordination meeting in Jakarta and there are big hopes that geothermal sites in the county could not only generate electricity but also become tourist destinations.

“Indonesia, with its volcanoes and the geothermal areas, can potentially be a tourist attraction. However, the geothermal resources are only known as a source of green energy here, where it actually has a direct use in the tourism sector,” President Director of PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy Irfan Zainuddin said.

Irfan said several countries have adopted the utilization of geothermal operation area into tourist attractions, namely Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, and a number of European countries.

The PGE has started a geothermal tourism trial project in a village in Kamojang, West Java. Similar program will also be applied to other PGE operational areas, such as in Lahendong, North Sulawesi; and in Ulubelu, Lampung.

He surely hopes the MoU would support the development of geothermal tourism in various regions in Indonesia.

PGE has 12 geothermal operational areas with a total capacity of 532 MW which is produced from four areas in Kamojang (West Java), Ulubelu (Lampung), Lahendong (North Sulawesi), and Sibayak (North Sumatera).


Wind energy ready to boost Ohio’s economy

Posted on December 7th, 2016 in wind by Spencer R.



Ohio has some of the country’s best wind resources, but right now the state it letting them lie dormant. That’s unfortunate because, if allowed to proceed, wind power growth in the Buckeye State is ready to create well-paying jobs while attracting millions of dollars into Ohio’s economy.

How did we get here?

In 2014, Ohio’s legislators temporarily froze the state’s renewable energy standard. That paused a policy with a strong track record of success across the U.S., where similar laws have created jobs, lowered energy bills and benefitted the environment.

Equally as disruptive, Ohio enacted the most stringent siting laws in the country, which essentially act as a wind moratorium. There was no public debate on this regulation.

Until these obstacles are fixed, Ohio will likely continue to see projects built in neighboring states, rather than within its borders.

However, a variety of supporters want to see the state’s clean energy policies repaired. Gov. John Kasich supports restarting Ohio’s RPS, while a dozen state chambers of commerce and economic development corporations signed a letter to the governor and legislature calling for an end to the freeze and prohibitive setbacks. They stated:

As chamber and economic development leaders, we have seen clean energy projects deliver significant economic benefits that are good for our businesses, schools, communities, and the economy of this great state.

To enable Ohio to take full advantage of this fast-growing sector that has already delivered more than $1.4 billion worth of investments, 9,000 jobs, and $4.6 million in payments to landowners and local governments, we believe there is a need for a clear and consistent roadmap on this issue.

That is why we encourage you to (1) reinstate the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) and oppose any attempt to continue a “freeze” on these programs and (2) restore wind siting regulations that will allow companies to continue to develop wind projects that will benefit our local communities.

Let’s work together to help the Buckeye state continue to lead in attracting local investment and growing local employment—and not surrender that role to neighboring states.

Ohio’s citizens only stand to gain if the state resumes the path to a clean, affordable future powered by renewable energy.


How Simple Hydrogen Could Solve Renewable Energy's Biggest Problem

Posted on December 7th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



 One of the biggest problems with renewable energy is the way supply and demand can fluctuate wildly. If the wind stops blowing or the sun goes down, renewable energy generation will grind to a halt even if people still need that electricity. Conversely, if electricity demand is low then all the energy produced by solar or wind is wasted.

The ideal solution would involve some way of storing excess electricity when it's not needed to use when production is low, but most solutions are too expensive or difficult to implement. One promising solution is hydrogen storage, and the University of California, Irvine just launched the first such project in the United States, paving the way for other universities or municipalities to do the same.

The project involves a technique called electrolysis, which uses electricity (in this case, electricity generated by the excess wind or solar power) to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen can be released into the atmosphere or used for other purposes, while the hydrogen is stored. The hydrogen can be compressed and injected into existing natural gas pipelines, where it is burned to generate electricity or heat. In this way, hydrogen acts as an efficient means of storing excess electricity generated by renewable sources.

The advantages of this system are that it uses existing infrastructure, so no new pipelines need to be installed. The process can also be easily scaled to meet changing needs.

The biggest downside of this technology is that injecting hydrogen into gas pipelines requires years of evaluation and testing, which limits the usefulness. Careful study is required for each individual implementation to ensure that the hydrogen can be injected safely.


With each successful hydrogen project, our knowledge of this technology increases and implementation becomes easier. Hopefully, the UCI project allows other areas of the country to start building their own hydrogen systems soon.



How plants manage excess solar energy

Posted on December 6th, 2016 in solar by Spencer R.



Life on earth largely depends on the conversion of light energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis by plants. However, absorption of excess sunlight can damage the complex machinery responsible for this process. Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, have discovered how Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a mobile single-cell alga, activates the protection of its photosynthetic machinery. Their study, published in the journal PNAS, indicates that the receptors (UVR8) that detect ultraviolet rays induce the activation of a safety valve that allows dissipation of excess energy as heat. A second protective role is thus attributed to these receptors, whose ability to induce the production of an anti-UV 'sunscreen' had already been shown by the Geneva team.

The energy of the sun is converted by plants into  through photosynthesis in order to produce sugars to feed themselves. The first step of this process, which takes place in cell compartments called chloroplasts, is the capture of photons of light by chlorophyll. Although light is essential for plants, sun in excess can damage their photosynthetic machinery, thereby affecting their growth and productivity. To protect themselves, plants activate a protection mechanism when light is too intense, which involves a series of proteins capable of converting the surplus of  into heat to be harmlessly dissipated.

Producing proteins that divert energy

"UV-B ultraviolet light is likely to cause the most damage to the photosynthetic machinery, and we wanted to know whether it is involved in activating protection mechanisms and, if so, how", say Michel Goldschmidt-Clermont and Roman Ulm, professors at the Department of Botany and Plant Biology of the UNIGE Faculty of Science. This work, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Universities of Grenoble and of California, was carried out in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a single-cell mobile alga used as a model organism.

The team of Roman Ulm had discovered in 2011 the existence of a UV-B receptor, called UVR8, whose activation allows plants to protect themselves against these UV and to develop their own molecular 'sunscreen". The researchers demonstrate now that this receptor activates a second . "When UVR8 perceives UV-B rays, it triggers a signal that induces, at the level of the cell nucleus, the production of proteins that will then be imported into the chloroplasts. Once integrated into the , they will help to divert , which will be dissipated as heat through molecular vibrations", explains Guillaume Allorent, first author of the article.

In terrestrial plants, the perception of UV-B by the UVR8 receptor is also important for the protection of the , but the underlying mechanism has not yet been elucidated. "It is crucial for agricultural productivity and the biotechnological exploitation of photosynthetic processes to better understand the mechanisms leading to photoprotection under sunlight and its UV-B rays", says Michel Goldschmidt-Clermont. A project the Genevan team intends to pursue.



Enel unveils geo hydro hybrid

Posted on December 6th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



Enel has started operating a power plant in Utah that combines hydro and geothermal technologies.

The company has added a so-called fully submersible downhole generator to a geothermal injection well at its 25MW Cove Fort geothermal plant, open since 2013.

It’s the first commercial facility to combine binary cycle geothermal power with hydro technology, Enel said.

The technology captures the energy of the water flowing back into the earth to generate additional electricity while improving the control of the flow of brine back into the ground.

It increased the plant’s output by 1008MWh between July and September, offsetting energy consumption by 8.8%.

Enel operates another hybrid plant in the US that combines geothermal and solar power.

"The operation of this technology, a world’s first, is a major milestone for the geothermal industry and a reinforcement of our commitment to innovation and energy efficiency," Enel Global Renewable Energies head Francesco Venturini said.



War remnants cleared for German wind farm

Posted on December 6th, 2016 in wind by Spencer R.



 The installation of the foundations for a wind farm in the Baltic Sea can begin now that the area is clear of the remnants of war, a German company said.

German energy company E.ON and Norwegian oil and gas firm Statoil are planning the construction of the Arkona wind farm in the German waters of the Baltic Sea. After four months, the companies said the area was cleared of explosive ordnance left over from the major wars of the 20th century.

"The construction site ... is now completely free of remains from the time of the Cold War as well as World Wars I and II," the German company said. "The installation of the foundations for the Arkona offshore wind farm in the German Baltic Sea can be securely started in 2017 as planned."

Hundreds of thousands of mines and other munitions were strewn along the sea bed in what is one of the most densely mined waters in the world. The consortium behind the twin Nord Stream natural gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea to the German coast cleared the area of the remnants of war two years before construction began.

E.ON plans to invest at least $1.3 billion in developing the Arkona wind energy project and is the first company of its kind tapped to operate wind farms in the German waters of both the North and Baltic seas.

For Statoil, the company last year set a path toward investing in up to $200 million in renewable energy by buying into startups targeting opportunities in wind power, energy storage, smart grids and other energy-related technology.

The offshore Arkona project will be situated more than 20 miles off the German coast and generate enough power at peak capacity to meet the energy needs of 400,000 average households. Once completed, the wind farm will save more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, every year.