2017 starts with new record for geothermal energy production in Tuscany, Italy

Posted on January 5th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



As reported by Enel Green Power, geothermal energy production in Tuscany, Italy has reached yet another record in the past year of 2016.

With 34 geothermal power plants in operation in the region in 2016, production increased by 51 GWh to 5,871 GWh of produced electricity by geothermal power plants in the region.

This new record was made possible by optimizing technological innovation and excellence of the plants whose plant efficiency was greater than 98% and availability of mine shafts operated by Enel Green Power with a view to a careful geothermal cultivation environment and the balance of the geothermal loop.

In the more than 100 years of geothermal power production in the region, the level production has never been as high and highlights the sustainability of the resources. When managed well through the reinjection of water output and technological innovation, there has been growth in terms of availability and performance by keeping a balance with the environment and proving that geothermal energy is completely renewable.

At Larderello in Tuscany, Enel Green Power operates the oldest geothermal complex in the world and has the know-how of geothermal energy that exports all over the planet.

Of 34 geothermal power plants (for a total of 37 production units) of Enel Green Power, 16 are in the province of Pisa; 9 are in Siena (total of 10 units),  as well as 9 plants in the province of Grosseto (total of 11 units). At the provincial level, the province of Pisa stands at a geothermal production of 2,976 GWh, the highest figure of the three Tuscan provinces.

The territory of Siena has had a production of 1,492 GWh and Grosseto of 1,403 GWh . The nearly 6 billion KWh produced in Tuscany are the average annual consumption of more than two million households and provide useful heat to warm over 10 thousand residential customers as well as companies of geothermal areas , about 30 Ha hectares of greenhouses, dairies and a major agricultural sector, gastronomic and tourism.

In terms of organization, power plants are grouped in so-called “Geothermal Areas” (each of which includes plants from different provinces) of Larderello, Radicondoli, Lake Boracifero and Piancastagnaio / Amiata: the areas of Larderello and Lake showed a production respectively 1,822 and 1,851 GWh, the area of Radicondoli of 1,217 GWh and the plants of Piancastagnaio, Santa Fiora and Ardicosso combined 981 GWh.

“Geothermal has showing record production figures year after year – said Massimo Montemaggi , Head of Geothermal at Enel Green Power – confirming that it is an ancient resource but able to constantly renew itself and contributing to the development of renewable energy in Tuscany and Italy.  Our business, highlights the excellence for the technologies used, the environment and the frontiers of innovation on energy, electricity and heat. The record this year confirms that we are on track, thanks to our know-how and cooperation with regional and local institutions, entrepreneurs and trade associations with the aim of continuing to be an international leader, increase further local development and consolidate the Tuscan geothermal district in Italy and in the world “.


There's an unlikely pioneer of renewable energy in the US

Posted on January 5th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Las Vegas may not be the first city you think of when you think of sustainability, but maybe it should be. When SunPower recently turned on the Boulder 1 solar project, the City of Las Vegas' government became the first in the country to be entirely powered by renewable energy. 

This follows Las Vegas' leadership in water conservation, cutting consumption by 23% between 2005 and 2015. As cities across the country look for ways to cut costs and use resources more sustainably, maybe Las Vegas should be where they look to find a success story.

The abundance of renewable energy in Nevada

The same sun that makes the desert in Southern Nevada so punishingly hot is also a resource that makes renewable energy cheap. Solar energy in the state is among the cheapest in the country, and at 4.6 cents per kWh for energy from the Boulder 1 project it's competitive with fossil fuel. When the city threatened to leave Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary NV Energy, the utility agreed to buy more solar for the city's buildings to use, which now accounts for 100% of total energy consumed by the city.

But building renewable energy plants is only part of the story. The city has reduced electricity consumption by 30% through a combination of efficiency programs and on-site solar. Between efficiency and renewables, the City of Las Vegas says it's going to save $5 million annually, no small amount for a mid-size U.S. city. 

It's worth noting that energy isn't the only place Las Vegas has improved its sustainability. The city has put a lot of effort into reducing water consumption, treating much of the water that's dumped down the drain and returning it to Lake Mead. But water conservation is more of a necessity than anything in the middle of the desert. 

Las Vegas and the war with NV Energy

The City of Las Vegas threatening to leave NV Energy for cleaner sources of energy isn't entirely unique in Nevada. MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts paid a combined $103 million earlier this year to leave NV Energy and begin buying their electricity elsewhere. MGM Resorts has a massive solar array at Mandalay Bay and will consider buying energy from solar developers in the future. Wynn has been quiet about its plans.

On top of the city and casino defections, voters passed a constitutional amendment that stripped NV Energy of its monopoly. The ballot initiative read like this:

Shall Article 1 of the Nevada Constitution be amended to require the Legislature to provide by law for the establishment of an open, competitive retail electric energy market that prohibits the granting of monopolies and exclusive franchises for the generation of electricity?

Voters passed the amendment with nearly three quarters of the vote. It'll take time to break up the energy monopoly, but energy choice is taking a big step forward in Nevada. 

Sustainability is now in Las Vegas' culture

Maybe it's the desert location that makes Nevada so conscious about the sustainability of its city, and maybe it's the abundant resources that have made a move to renewables so attractive. Whatever it is, Las Vegas has become an example for other cities around the country. And sustainability isn't just good for the environment, it's good for the bottom line as well.


Costa Rica ran almost entirely on renewable energy in 2016

Posted on January 4th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Costa Rica ended 2016 on a particularly green note.

 The Central American nation ran entirely on renewable energy for more than 250 days last year, the country's power operator announced. 

Renewables supplied about 98.1 percent of Costa Rica's electricity for the year, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) said in mid-December. Fossil fuels provided the remaining 1.9 percent.

 The country of 4.9 million people gets most of its electricity from large hydropower facilities, which are fed by multiple rivers and heavy seasonal rains.

Geothermal plants and wind turbines are also prominent sources of power, while biomass and solar power provide a tiny but growing share of electricity. 

 A few diesel-burning power plants round out the electricity mix, but Costa Rica has barely used them in the last two years.

The country enjoyed a 110-day stretch of carbon-free electricity from June 17 through Oct. 6, when the power company briefly turned on its fossil fuel plants. After that blip, Costa Rica resumed its run of consecutive, fossil fuel-free days, a spokesman for ICE told Mashable on Dec. 13.

In 2015, Costa Rica used 98.9 percent renewable energy, slightly more than 2016's expected total.

 Compared to larger, more industrialized countries, Costa Rica seems like a verdant gem amid a pile of black coal rocks.

But Costa Rica's smaller economy and natural resources give it an advantage over an energy-hungry powerhouse like the United States.

Costa Rica's population, for instance, is roughly 65 times smaller than the U.S.'s. It also generates about 373 times less electricity than the United States does, according to national energy data from both countries.

Given its huge energy appetite, the U.S. faces a bigger challenge in greening the electric grid.

Nearly 15 percent of the U.S. electricity supply for January-October 2016 came from hydropower, wind, solar and other renewable sources, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported on Dec. 23.

 Coal and natural gas together accounted for nearly two-thirds of U.S. electricity generation over that period. Nuclear power provided the remaining 19 percent.

For Costa Rica, the clean energy success story is likely to continue into 2017.

ICE's president Carlos Manuel Obregón said the power company expects renewable power generation to stay "stable" this year, thanks in part to the nation's four new wind farms and favorable hydro-meteorological conditions, which are projected near the nation's hydropower plants.


Renewable energy could generate up to 500,000 jobs in Morocco by 2040

Posted on January 3rd, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Investments in renewables are starting to pay off in Morocco. A new report published by the Mediterranean Forum of Institute of Economic Sciences (Femise) claims that the renewable energy sector could create between 270,000 and 500,000 jobs in two decades.

Morocco has been one of the most ardent supporters of renewable energy. The country recently switched on the Noor solar plant. The complex alone carries a 160 megawatt capacity, with plans to expand it to 350 megawatts. After the entire plant is completed and switched on, it will provide electricity for 38% of the country. This initiative is expected to greatly help the country’s developing economy – not only by generating cheaper and more efficient energy but also by creating jobs. First released at the COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, the Femise report highlights the opportunities brought by renewables: “Despite the difficulties of some countries, the prospects for the Mediterranean region are not unfavorable, particularly for the ER sector. FEMISE researchers estimate that about 270,000 to 500,000 jobs could be created in Morocco by 2040, in the field of renewable energies.”

The report focuses on the challenges Mediterranean countries will face, especially in a changing climate. Water scarcity is expected to become more and more common, and this scarcity will exert great economic pressure. For Morocco, a country of 33 million people, these extra jobs could prove extremely helpful. Through the ambitious Desertec Industrial Initiative, Morocco hopes to establish itself as one of the main energy suppliers in the area. Being the only African country with a power cable link to Europe, Morocco expects to generate massive revenue from exporting energy across the Mediterranean sea.

With the recent announcement that solar energy is cheaper than fossil fuel energy, it’s becoming clearer each year that renewables offer great prospects for the economy. Hopefully, other countries will follow these trends and take advantage of these opportunities, instead of continuing to finance coal and other fossil fuels.


Solar Energy is Making Useless Land Useful Again

Posted on January 3rd, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Solar panels installed on two closed landfills are powering equipment needed to ensure gases and toxins are not polluting the air and water.

The panels were installed last year at the Washington Co. landfill in Lake Elmo and the Lindenfelser landfill in St. Michael.

The panels produce up to 80-percent of the power needed at the Washington Co. landfill and all of the energy plus some at Lindenfelser.

“The excess energy we sell back to the grid,” Walker Smith with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said.

The MPCA applied for the solar use through the Minnesota Department of Commerce and used land sales to pay for $320,000 in panels.

Walker says the grids should pay for themselves in 10-15 years while the landfills are unlikely to ever be developed or sold.

“There's really not much else we can do with the land out here just because of the equipment that's on it,” Walker said.

The Washingotn Co. landfill operated in the 1970’s. The state took control of it in the 1990’s as part of the Closed Landfill Program, which allowed the state to pay for environmental protection systems that protect the air and water in the area.

The state currently operates 40 closed landfills, 23 of which require the energy powered pollution collection systems.

The MPCA hopes to expand the solar initiative to at least two more closed landfill sites in the coming years.



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."
























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.



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.



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.