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.


Six unexpected sources of renewable energy

Posted on December 5th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



When it comes to discussions about renewable energysolar and wind power often take center stage. To a lesser degree, other forms like geothermal energy and hydropower also get some attention. But many people may not be aware that there are many other sources of renewable energy currently in use around the world, all helping to counterbalance the enormous carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Small projects are turning to dirt and microbes, underground stores of liquid magma and even pedestrian footsteps to harvest energy that would otherwise be wasted. While none of these efforts alone can save the planet, the continued research and development to increase their efficacy may eventually help entire communities eschew fossil fuels without sacrificing much-needed electricity for light, safety, warmth and medical care.

Underground Liquid Magma

In Iceland, one of the world's most ambitious (and outlandish) renewable energy projects is now underway. The tiny northern nation is taking geothermal energy to a new level by tapping into liquid magma deep under the Earth's surface, where temperatures can reach 1,000 degrees Celsius. The hot magma is thought to be capable of producing 10 times more electricity than typical geothermal sources, so the cost-benefit is in favor of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project, which will source liquid magma from five kilometers below the surface using an enormous drill nicknamed "Thor."
Wind Energy From Trees
Sourcing wind energy from trees doesn't make much sense at first, until you learn how it works. The secret energy-generating power comes from the way trees sway in high winds. Earlier this year, researchers published the results of a study that showed how the vibrations of tree movement could be successfully converted into useable energy. The proof of concept was demonstrated on tiny tree-like L-shaped steel beams wrapped with polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), a piezoelectric material. Although the amount of electricity produced was small -- around two volts -- the output would be magnified if a life-size piezoelectric array could be built to work with full-grown trees in natural forests.
Bacteria and Dirt Batteries
Taking a cue from energy-producing bacteria, scientists at Harvard University built a battery that's essentially powered by dirt. The creation of the microbial fuel cell (MFC) batteries is an energy storage breakthrough primed to aid residents of countries with absent or unstable power grids, such as regions of Africa where many people still live off the grid. MFC batteries are notoriously low in cost and can be constructed from local resources that look nothing like the batteries in your flashlight or cell phone. Instead, an MFC battery is built inside of a five-gallon bucket, which is filled with saltwater and holds a graphite-cloth anode, a chicken-wire cathode, mud, manure and a layer of sand to act as an ion barrier in the salty electrolyte solution.
Swedish Trash
As the world's human population continues to increase, so too does our waste production, creating a double-edged challenge to urban planners who are looking for renewable energy sources as well as efficient waste management processes. In Sweden, those two efforts are being combined and the nation is already successfully diverting 99 percent of its garbage from landfills and sending much of it to waste-to-energy (WTE) plants that turn it into electricity. Fully half of Sweden's annual 4.4 million tons of household waste goes through the WTE process, which burns waste and harvests energy from the resulting steam. Sweden's processes are so efficient that the nation actually imports 800,000 tons of trash from nearby countries to its 32 WTE plants, keeping even more garbage out of landfills.
Living Bricks
Could your house be an energy-generating machine? These Living Brickstake advantage of the metabolic power of microbes to convert sunlight, wastewater and air into clean energy. Similar to Harvard's microbial fuel cell (MFC) battery made from dirt, these living bricks would put natural processes to work in order to benefit human lives. The early prototypes generate small amounts of electricity, but it's enough to power an LED lamp or another small device. Someday, the inventors hope to develop the technology to a point where entire structures can be built from "bioreactor walls" that could which could theoretically be constructed to emit their own light.
Las Vegas Kinetic Streetlights
Millions of people walk the sidewalks of Las Vegas each year, and now some of those footsteps are generating clean renewable electricity. New York-based EnGoPLANET is harvesting energy typically lost to the ether by installing special streetlights powered by kinetic energy pads embedded in the walkways. These smart street lights are a world's first, proving that even small measures can help combat climate change by reducing dependence on fossil fuel forms of energy. The solar-kinetic streetlights are one element in the broader plan to make Las Vegas a net-zero emissions city powered completely by renewable energy.


UChicago startup turns renewable energy into natural gas

Posted on December 5th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



One of the biggest challenges to wider adoption of wind and solar power is how to store the excess energy they often produce.

 developed at the University of Chicago, and now being commercialized by a University startup, is addressing the intermittent nature of these renewable sources. It uses a selectively evolved, unicellular microorganism that helps convert electricity into  gas. That gas can be stored, transported and used wherever natural gas is used, including for the generation of power on demand.

Laurens Mets, associate professor of molecular genetics and cell biology, began developing the technology in the late 1990s. From it, the startup Electrochaea was born with support from the University's technology transfer office, which is now part of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

"Direct scaling at this pace and scale is rare in the energy field," Mets said. "But we found this technology to be eminently scalable, so I'm very confident about its commercialization."

Electrochaea was selected for the 2014 Global Cleantech 100—a list of 100 private companies with the greatest potential to solve the clean energy crisis according to the market intelligence firm Cleantech Group. It has experienced a string of successes, including a large-scale demonstration facility that delivers methane to Denmark's pipeline grid and a commercial-scale plant announced in October to be built in Hungary.

"The disruptive energy storage technology developed by Dr. Mets in his lab has been validated by Electrochaea and is now being shown to scale in a commercially meaningful way," said Cristianne Frazier, senior project manager of technology commercialization and licensing at the Polsky Center.

Electricity into methane

At the center of the power-to-gas technology is a strain of methanogenic Archaea—a microorganism that Mets adapted for industrial use.

The process starts with surplus electricity that is coming from a wind farm or solar array, but isn't needed immediately. That power is used to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is combined with waste carbon dioxide from any of a variety of sources, such as a biogas or an industrial process, in a proprietary bioreactor in which the microorganisms efficiently catalyze conversion of the mixture into methane and water.

The resulting methane can be transported in existing pipelines or converted into compressed natural gas or liquid natural gas, making it available to generate electricity. The technology offers a large carrying capacity—more than competing bulk-energy storage systems, such as batteries, pumped hydroelectric and compressed air, according to Mets.

The technology enables increased use of variable electricity sources such as wind and solar by storing excess power, thus smoothing out the variability and making renewables more feasible and economically viable.

The carbon dioxide produced by burning the methane product of the process was waste from its original source and would have been released into the atmosphere in any case. The power-to-gas technology is thus carbon-neutral in its primary impact on the environment. It has the additional important impact of displacing net carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels for energy generation with energy derived from renewable wind and solar sources.

The potential of the patented power-to-gas technology is significant, according to Seth Snyder, leader of the Water-Energy-Sustainability Initiative at the Argonne National Laboratory. "Methane could be the primary source for much of society's energy needs including electricity, heating, industrial processes and transportation," he said. "Therefore a robust way to create clean methane from renewable sources has the potential to transform our energy systems."

Mets continues his research at the University and aims to refine the novel technology. He hopes to adapt it to produce gasoline and jet fuel.

"What's so interesting is that Electrochaea is demonstrating that a very fundamental process in nature can be harnessed and adapted to address an immediate societal challenge," Snyder said. "If done correctly, the benefits could be significant in Europe and Asia."

Company develops technology

The links between the company and the University are numerous. The University recognized the importance of Met's discoveries early on and filed several families of patent applications that would be licensed to Electrochaea and become central to the startup's intellectual property portfolio.

"The technology commercialization and licensing team at the Polsky Center, Electrochaea and Dr. Mets have worked collaboratively on everything from company formation and technology development to Series A financing and patent prosecution, and I believe those relationships have helped foster a successful company," Frazier said.

Created in 2006, Electrochaea first validated the process in its laboratory in St. Louis. It began field testing Mets' power-to-gas technology in 2011. Three years later, Electrochaea started constructing a large-scale demonstration facility at a wastewater treatment plant outside Copenhagen, with the treatment plant providing the waste carbon dioxide used in the conversion process. Based on the success of that project, which is called BioCat and went live in June, Electrochaea is building a 10-megawatt plant in Hungary that will be the world's first commercial-scale power-to-gas plant.

"Electrochaea ramped up very quickly, with several steps, from the one-liter reactor in my lab at the University, through the one-megawatt BioCat project and now the 10-megawatt commercial plant in Hungary. The microbes have proven to be very robust," Mets said.

The Hungarian plant will be built by Electrochaea and Magyar Villamos Muvek, that country's largest energy provider. As with BioCat, the new plant will provide methane directly to the existing system of  pipelines.

Electrochaea plans to build an additional plant in Switzerland and envisions plants with up to 1,000 megawatts of capacity. Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric Company is building a small demonstration plant at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado.