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.


Google Says It Will Run Entirely on Renewable Energy in 2017

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



Last year, Google consumed as much energy as the city of San Francisco. Next year, it said, all of that energy will come from wind farms and solar panels.

The online giant said on Tuesday that all of its data centers around the world will be entirely powered with renewable energy sources sometime next year.

This is not to say that Google computers will consume nothing but wind and solar power. Like almost any company, Google gets power from a power company, which operates an energy grid typically supplied by a number of sources, including hydroelectric dams, natural gas, coal and wind power.

What Google has done over the last decade, with relatively little fanfare, is participate in a number of large-scale deals with renewable producers, typically guaranteeing to buy the energy they produce with their wind turbines and solar cells. With those guarantees, wind companies can obtain bank financing to build more turbines.

The power created by the renewables is plugged into the utility grid, so that Google’s usage presents no net consumption of fossil fuels and the pool of electricity gets a relatively larger share of renewable sources.

“We are the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world,” said Joe Kava, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure. “It’s good for the economy, good for business and good for our shareholders.”

Unlike carbon-based power, Mr. Kava said, wind supply prices do not fluctuate, enabling Google to plan better. In addition, the more renewable energy it buys, the cheaper those sources get. In some places, like Chile, Google said, renewables have at times become cheaper than fossil fuels.

Whether Google is the largest buyer of renewables would be difficult to verify, as many industries do not release data on how much energy they consume. There is no doubt, however, that Google’s large computer complexes, along with similar global operations by Amazon and Microsoft, are among the world’s fastest-growing new consumers of electricity.

Google hopes that success in working with large wind farms, like the 50,000-acre facility in Minco, Okla., which supplies Google’s large data center in Pryor, Okla., will spur development of the industry. NextEra Energy, which owns the wind farm, has about 115 wind farms in the United States and Canada.

About 25 percent of United States electricity goes to businesses, and companies like Google are now about 2 percentage points of that. Dominion Virginia Power, located in a state with perhaps the world’s largest concentration of data centers, last year had a demand increase from those customers of 9 percent, while overall demand was nearly flat, according to Dominion.

Google operates eight different businesses, including internet search engines, YouTube and Gmail, each of which has over 1 billion customers. They run on a global network of 13 large-scale data centers, each one a complex of many buildings containing hundreds of thousands of computers.

The 5.7 terawatt-hours of electricity Google consumed in 2015 “is equal to the output of two 500 megawatt coal plants,” said Jonathan Koomey, a lecturer in the school of earth, energy and environmental sciences at Stanford. That is enough for two 140,000-person towns. “For one company to be doing this is a very big deal. It means other companies of a similar scale will feel pressure to move.”

It moves the needle on costs to have a big consumer, Mr. Koomey added, since a larger market tends to allow for economies of scale and more innovation. “Every time you double production, you reduce the cost of solar by about 20 percent. Wind goes down 10 to 12 percent,” he said.

Facebook has entered into similar deals with wind producers. Last week, Amazon reiterated its long-term commitment to power its machines entirely with renewable energy, though for 2016 it expects to be above about 40 percent of its goal. It has announced five more solar projects.

Microsoft says it has been 100 percent carbon neutral since 2014, but much of this comes from the purchase of carbon offsets, which are investments in things like tree planting or renewables projects meant to compensate for the fossil fuels a company consumes. The company hopes to have half of its electric power supplied from wind, solar and hydroelectric sources by 2018. Its data centers currently use about 3.3 million megawatt-hours of power a year.

Google has long championed uses of alternative energy. In 2007, it patented an idea for a floating data center that would be powered by waves. It was never built. Less fanciful, but so far equally fruitless, have been schemes to source lots of geothermal power, or capture the high-velocity winds of the stratosphere with large kites. It also takes pride in the energy efficiency of its data centers.

Critics note that while Google might be adding wind and solar to the world’s power grid, overall it is still dependent on fossil fuels, since sun and wind power are intermittent, while demand for things like YouTube cat videos is continual.

“In my mind it’s a P.R. gimmick,” said Chris Warren, vice president of communications at the Institute for Energy Research, a think tank in Washington supported largely by donations from individuals and companies in the fossil fuel industry. “If they think they can actually support themselves with wind and solar panels, they should connect them directly to their data centers.”

Next year’s goal will be 95 percent accomplished with wind turbines around the world, Mr. Kava said, and Google’s support for the industry could keep prices dropping, particularly relative to things like coal. “We’re technology-agnostic, but we’re not price-agnostic,” he said.


How geothermal technology helps meeting high lithium demand

Posted on December 1st, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



Mineral extraction continues to make headlines in connection with geothermal energy projects world wide.

In an article by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office, an overview is given on the efforts “for mineral recovery research and development program to identify methods of recovering lithium and rare earth elements found in geothermal fluids. This year the effort expanded to include evaluation of comparable methods in other industries and the potential to translate successful methodologies for use in geothermal mineral recovery.

Lithium and rare earth elements typically maintain high commodity value and are used in a range of specialized industrial and technological applications. They furthermore represent a new revenue stream for geothermal operators – by validating methods for recovering and purifying critical materials, the economic and production benefits of geothermal energy projects can be improved, making them more cost-competitive at a wider range of locations.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently selected SRI International for extended research funding via the Energy Department’s Funding Opportunity Announcement: “Improving the Cost-Effectiveness and Operational Flexibility of Geothermal Energy Production.”

Over the next two years SRI will continue geothermal mineral recovery research – initiated two years ago via the Energy Department’s Geothermal Technologies Office – focusing on advances in lithium recovery from geothermal brines using ion-imprinted polymers. Lithium is among a class of elements that plays a vital role in many clean energy technologies, including solar, wind, electric vehicles and energy-efficient lighting.

SRI’s original efforts centered on extracting lithium and manganese from potential geothermal sources.  Going forward, their research efforts will focus on lithium recovery from the geothermal fluids extracted in California’s Salton Sea region. Under the DOE award, tests showed that lithium separation via ion-imprinted polymers is highly effective – in one process, more than 90% of retrievable lithium was separated from a test brine.

Continued refinement of sorbent capacity and selectivity is, however, required to produce an effective production-caliber brine separation system, which is where the CEC’s research funding comes into play.  To support this goal, SRI’s immediate technical objective is to further advance the performance and efficiency of ion-imprinted polymers to achieve optimal lithium separation rates exceeding 95%.

EERE accelerates development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Visit the Geothermal Technologies Office to learn more about funding opportunities and efforts to develop innovative technologies capable of locating, accessing, and developing geothermal resources.”


Miners go green in hunt for cost efficiencies, using renewable energy sources in far-flung locations

Posted on November 28th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



Mining companies are digging into renewable energy as a way to reduce costs and offset the impact of volatile conventional fuel prices as the world shifts to a low-carbon economy.

Industry executives gathered last week at the Energy and Mines World Congress in Toronto focused on how innovation in energy – which can comprise as much as one-quarter of operating expenses in remote locations – can make mines more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable.

“I think we will be surprised at the speed at which mining companies will start to adopt these things,” said Adriaan Davidse, mining innovation leader at Deloitte.

Amid rapid improvements in renewable technologies, wind and solar prices have fallen dramatically in recent years and are expected to keep dropping. In many parts of the world —especially in remote locations – the alternative energy solutions are becoming cheaper than conventional sources.

Meanwhile, a dearth of new mine opportunities is driving companies into more far-flung locations that are not connected to the electricity grid — resulting in dependency on diesel — an unreliable, costly and carbon-intensive source of energy.

Some miners also see renewables as a way to maximize their social licence to operate by selling the benefits of renewables to surrounding communities: the switch can help end community-reliance on diesel generators for decades after the mine’s life ends.

About US$6 trillion of investment capital is expected to be deployed into renewable energy by 2035 – more than three times the amount in conventional energy infrastructure, according to an Ernst & Young report.

However, in the current low conventional fuel price environment, many companies are missing the opportunity to invest in technology that will insulate them from future price hikes, Davidse said.

“Mining companies position themselves typically as waiting for technologies to be mature before they adopt them, but in this case the ability to integrate renewables depends on your ability to be adaptable,” he said.

Though commodity down cycles are nothing new, miners are also grappling with longer-term structural changes such as increasing pressure to adopt sustainable practices and carbon-pricing systems, he added.

“Renewables have a very significant role to play in addressing many of these issues –including support to the communities and the reduction of emissions,” he said.

Some of the world’s biggest miners, including Barrick Gold and Gold Fields, are early adopters, experimenting in locations where renewable power makes the most sense, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, where both communities and miners are all too familiar with rolling blackouts.

Miners have already realized energy savings of between 10 and 40 per cent from investing in renewables, innovative energy technologies and automating certain processes to reduce power use, according to Deloitte.

While much of the work so far has been done in southern climates where solar energy is abundant, miners are also experimenting with wind solutions in northern climates where solar is too unreliable.

Rio Tinto aims to generate 10 per cent of its energy demand at the Diavik diamond mine in the Northwest Territories from a nearby wind farm, while Glencore Xstrata is partnering with Tugliq Power to have wind power meet half of its energy needs at the Raglan Mine.

Third-party partners, such as Tugliq, are making it easier for mining companies by stepping in to fund, develop and operate the systems in exchange for a long-term pricing commitment.

Stephen Letwin, CEO of Iamgold Corp., which is using solar power as part of the energy mix at the Rosebel gold mine in Suriname, believes the biggest barrier to higher adoption of renewables is the high capital costs –which is what makes having a partner so attractive.

At Iamgold’s remote Essakane gold project in Burkina Faso, the company is in the midst of completing a partnership deal to have 10 per cent of power supply come from solar.

“Think of it as a toll road – what it’s like is a highway that you get to use without having to put up the huge amount of capital but over time you pay a toll for using the road and the people who put up the money get a return,” Letwin said.

The shift toward renewables is a way to hedge against both rising fuel costs and carbon emissions.


‘Africa is tired of being in the dark’: bank chief on plans to boost energy

Posted on November 17th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



“We lose 5% of our potential GDP every year, and African industries cannot be competitive without access to electricity,” says Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank. “I believe that’s why we can’t break away from reliance on exporting our raw materials – new industries will only go to where there’s power.”

He is speaking on the sidelines of the COP22 climate change conference in Marrakech, which ends on Friday.

Adesina and colleagues from the bank have been using the conference to highlight its new initiatives on energy, including the New Deal on Energy for Africa, which will see $12bn (£9.7bn) invested in the sector over the next five years. “Africa is tired of being in the dark,” he says.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has also created the role of vice-president on power, and been a major player in setting up the African Renewable Energy Initiative, which aims to generate 10GW of power from renewable sources by 2020 and up to 300GW by 2030. “This initiative was the major outcome for Africa of the Paris COP21 meeting last year, where G7 countries contributed $10bn towards it,” says Adesina.

Adesina says he is particularly impressed by the strides Morocco has taken to develop its capacity for solar energy. The AfDB was a major investor in the 160MW Noor solar plant at Ouarzazate, which was opened this year. The complex, which uses giant mirrors to reflect the sun’s heat on to liquid that then turns turbines, is being expanded to produce more than 500MW by 2018. Morocco has also recently signed a deal to build 1720MW in new wind farm capacity.

“Africa should use what it has and not what it doesn’t have. We have limitless sunshine and great potential for wind, hydro and geothermal,” he says. However, he still believes there is a role for non-renewable sources of energy in Africa. “We need a balanced energy mix. Some African countries have gas and coal, which can be used in a clean way, and they should use it.”

Another major challenge is to increase the amount of money spent on climate change adaptation – or helping countries to rebuild systems when they are destroyed by the impacts of climate change. In Africa, for example, governments are coping with floods, extreme temperatures and major droughts in east and southern Africa and the Sahel.

Wealthy countries have committed $100bn towards helping poorer states cope with climate change, but one of the major topics on the agenda in Marrakech has been how that money should be divided between adaptation and mitigation. Until now, only 14% of climate funds have gone to adaptation, and Africa, the continent most deeply affected by climate change, has received only 4% of the total green climate funds.

“We’ve been short-changed by climate change and we should not be short-changed in financing,” says Adesina. “South Africa has spent $700m this year dealing with the impacts of the drought last year; Mozambique $200m; Namibia $13m. These emergency costs are continuously displacing public expenditure which should be going to health, education and infrastructure development, and endangering macro-economic stability. My view is that we need to increase the amount to be spent on adaptation so that we can spend money on development.”

The AfDB is trying to garner support for an African insurance fund. An initiative called the African Risk Capacity Insurance has been launched, but of 32 countries that signed up, only seven have been able to pay the premiums. Adesina says the idea for the insurance fund was welcomed on Wednesday at an African heads of state meeting chaired by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, and that one way in which climate finance can be better targeted to help African countries is for green climate funds such as the GEF (Global Environment Facility) to start paying the premiums for the African countries. He hopes that this could pave the way for action.

“Whenever these drastic climate events like drought, flood or extreme temperature happen, the world has words of comfort for Africa,” says Adesina. “But words of comfort cannot pay the bills and rebuild when problems start.”


America’s First All-Renewable-Energy City

Posted on November 17th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



To understand what makes Burlington unlike almost any other city in America when it comes to the power it consumes, it helps to look inside the train that rolls into town every day. The 24 freight cars that pull up to the city’s power plant aren’t packed with Appalachian coal or Canadian fuel oil but wood. Each day 1,800 tons of pine and timber slash, sustainably harvested within a 60-mile radius and ground into wood chips, is fed into the roaring furnaces of the McNeil Generating Station, pumping out nearly half of the city’s electricity needs.

Much of the rest of what Burlington’s 42,000 citizens need to keep the lights on comes from a combination of hydroelectric power drawn from a plant it built a half mile up the Winooski River, four wind turbines on nearby Georgia Mountain and a massive array of solar panels at the airport. Together these sources helped secure Burlington the distinction of being the country’s first city that draws 100 percent of its power from renewable sources. The net energy costs are cheap enough that the city has not had to raise electric rates for its customers in eight years. And Burlington is not done in its quest for energy conservation. Add in the city’s plan for an expansive bike path, a growing network of electric vehicle charging stations and an ambitious plan to pipe the McNeil station’s waste heat to warm downtown buildings and City Hall’s goal to be a net zero consumer of energy within 10 years starts looking achievable.

The environmental sustainability revolution has spread to other sectors of civic life. Outside the gates, farmers, community gardeners and food-minded social workers tend fields and plots spread out over 300 acres of once-neglected floodplain just two miles from the city’s center. Together the agricultural enterprises in the valley—working land controlled by a non-profit that partners with the city—grow $1.3 million in food each year, much of it sold at a massive, member-owned cooperative supermarket, its own origins traced back to City Hall.

How did this former logging port on the shore of Lake Champlain transform itself over the past 40 years from a torpid manufacturing town in the far corner of a backwater state to a global trendsetter in sustainable development and green power? The answer carries particular resonance at a time when the United States’ commitment to environmental issues and addressing climate change is suddenly less certain than at any time in a decade. Cities like Burlington, the largest city in a state whose tourism and agriculture dependent economy is vulnerable to climate change, have had to craft their own solutions to address global warming and to insulate themselves from the vagaries of global energy markets. In Burlington, however, these solutions were not spearheaded by civic or corporate leaders, as is now often the case when cities tackle urban issues. Instead, Burlington is achieving its energy independence almost entirely through initiatives developed by its municipal government—a government that has been decidedly left-leaning for decades. In fact, one of the people most responsible for setting in motion the chain of policies and programs that now distinguish Burlington was a ground-breaking social democratic mayor with unruly hair, a thick Brooklyn accent and a message that would many years later carry him deep into the 2016 presidential campaign.

“There’s nothing magical about Burlington,” says Taylor Ricketts of the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. “We don’t have a gift from nature of ample sun or mighty winds or powerful rivers, so if we can do it, so can others.”


India Will Launch A $2 Billion Renewable Energy Equity Fund

Posted on November 17th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



The Indian government will soon launch an equity fund to push renewable energy investment.

According to media reports, the Indian government is planning to launch an equity fund worth $2 billion to boost renewable energy development. The initial funding of $1 billion will be available starting next financial year, April 2017.

The Clean Energy Equity Fund (CEEF) will see contributions from the central government as well as some state-owned companies. Around $600 million will be contributed from the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, under the Ministry of Finance, with the balance contributed by state-owned companies NTPC Limited, Rural Electrification Corporation and Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA).

These companies, and several others, have already raised several million dollars through green bond issues which might be directed to the CEEF.

The government is expected to tap foreign investors to further increase the size of the fund. Pension and insurance funds will be targeted for this fund expansion.

The Indian government is looking to raise funds from as many sources as possible. It has tapped the green bonds market, international development banks and national banks and financial institutions. India has set a target to have installed renewable energy capacity of 175 GW, including 100 GW solar power and 60 GW wind energy capacity.


Successful demonstration of closed-loop geothermal plant in Kokonoe, Japan

Posted on November 16th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



In a release yesterday by Kyoto University it is reported on successful tests of a demonstration project that utilises geothermal energy for power generation without tapping into water resources fueling local hot springs.

A team of researchers, including Associate Professor Takehiko Yokomine from the Kyoto University Graduate School of Engineering and the Japan New Energy Corporation (J-NEC), were recently successful in carrying out a demonstration of the J-NEC Method New Geothermal Power System, which is the first technology of its kind in the world.

The J-NEC Method New Geothermal Power System was conceived as a method for fundamentally resolving the various obstacles that have plagued geothermal power generation in the past. It represents a new technology born from the concept of “generating electricity by absorbing geothermal heat without using hot spring water”.

The closed cycle system, which injects and circulates water from above ground rather than using hot spring water, solves the problems of scale buildup and the installation of a reinjection well, which have plagued previous methods of generating geothermal energy. Playing a central role in the closed cycle system is a dual-pipe heat exchanger, which is buried 1,450 meters in the ground, into which water from above ground is pressure injected and heated by geothermal heat and then extracted in its liquid form when it has reached a high temperature. Once the liquid is above ground again, it is decompressed and instantly transformed into steam, turning the turbines and generating electricity.

In addition to the existing advantages of geothermal power generation in terms of not emitting COduring power generation and the ability to consistently generate power 24 hours a day, this new system adds elements that are effective for business development. It dramatically shortens development lead time, cuts running costs, and is not subject to the Hot Springs Act. Therefore, it can make a major contribution to the rapid advance of the geothermal power business.

Despite being among the world leaders in terms of geothermal resources, Japan has a limited track record in the geothermal power generation business. Therefore, this project will seek to use the J-NEC Method New Geothermal Power System to revolutionize Japan’s geothermal power industry, playing a part in the country’s renewable energy sector and serving Japan as a base-load power source.



Germany is building the world’s first wind turbines with built-in hydroelectric batteries

Posted on November 15th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



Wind blows. Water falls. But for the first time, one is now powering the other. Engineers in Germany are storing water for hydroelectricity inside wind turbines allowing the towers act like massive batteries once the wind stops blowing. It’s the first major example of the two technologies being physically integrated to supply reliable renewable energy.

The four-turbine project, announced by General Electric this month, stores energy from the spinning blades by pumping water about 100 feet up inside the turbine structure itself. Basins around each base will store another 9 million gallons. When the wind stops, water flows downhill to generate hydroelectric power. A man-made lake in the valley below collects water until turbines pump the water back up again.

Typically, wind farms don’t store excess energy at all because storage is too expensive to be viable; excess energy harvested goes straight to the grid (driving energy prices into low or even negative territory), or the turbines get shut down. This project creates an affordable way to store excess energy in a natural reservoir, and integrates the source and storage into one system.

The wind farm in Germany’s Swabian-Franconian forest will feature the tallest turbines in the world at 809 feet (246.5 meters). At full capacity, it should produce 13.6 megawatts, along with another 16 megawatts from the hydroelectric plant. The project is being built by German firm Max Boegl Wind AG and GE Renewable Energy. The wind farm should connect to the grid by 2017, and hydropower units will be finished by the end of 2018.

Germany is in the midst of its energiewende, or energy transition, as it attempts to virtually eliminate fossil fuels. The nation has said it aimsto draw 45% of its energy from renewables by 2030 and reach 100% by 2050. Last year, the average renewable mix was 33%, reports Agora Energiewende, a German clean energy think tank.

GE says this wind farm is the first major project that integrates water storage in the turbines themselves, although there are a few examples of combined wind and pumped-water storage in the world. If successful, it should prove to be a template for other projects. Boegl says it plans to add one to two new more wind-hydro projects in Germany annually after 2018, and new sites may be found the around the world as the technology can use either fresh and saltwater.


Asian “super grid” the first step towards a global, interconnected, renewable energy grid

Posted on November 14th, 2016 in environment by Spencer R.



An Asia-based group of entrepreneurs has put forth a vision for a global, interconnected energy grid that connects energy users with renewable generation sources half a world away. Starting with an Asia wide super grid, GEIDCO is aiming for a connected world by 2050.

Clean, renewable energy will soon be cheaper than traditional polluting sources - but there's still a big problem. It tends to get generated in inconvenient places, at inconvenient times that don't necessarily match up with where it's needed.

Part of this problem could be solved with grid-level battery storage – if anyone can come up with a big enough, cheap enough, workable solution for that. But an international group of entrepreneurs is working on an extremely ambitious scheme to link the entire globe together into an interconnected power grid that would let renewable energy be generated and used at any time, from anywhere.

GEIDCO - the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Co-operation Organization is a China-based group that now has agreements with energy companies in China, South Korea, Russia and Japan, as well as utilities, equipment manufacturers and universities from 14 countries.

It's simple enough; whenever there's a big power load somewhere, there's somewhere else in the world where that demand matches up with a generation spike. When it's noon in the Gobi desert, and solar generation is at its peak, it's dinner time in the UK and everyone's boiling kettles.

The first step for GEIDCO is to build a connected Asia Super Grid that could bring the theoretically huge renewable energy generation capabilities of North China's Gobi desert as far east as Japan.

The entire idea is contingent on ultra high voltage power transmission lines, thousands of miles operating at more than 1,000 kilovolts AC/800 kilovolts DC. High voltages reduce losses over long distances, and both Russia and Japan already have hundreds (in Russia's case thousands) of miles of ultra high voltage lines up and running. These pale in comparison to China's infrastructure; since 2009 China has built nearly 10,000 miles of UHV power lines, with about the same again to come online in the next two years.

The larger GEIDCO's interconnected web of renewable energy becomes, the more stable the supply is, because it's less dependent on individual sources, so moving toward a global energy network that shares power from Greenland to South Africa, Australia to Switzerland is the ultimate goal.

Of course, there's a lot of obstacles in the way – from geopolitics, to who's in control of the grid, to grid stability in an interconnected world, to the enormous infrastructure costs involved. But having already begun to face extreme levels of pollution due to its massive 1.35-billion population, China is pushing hard on renewable energy and making huge investments.

And of course, with Brexit and the Trump election in 2016, it seems the political climate may be moving away from globalism and toward national independence, which could put grid-level battery storage higher on the menu than projects like this in some places.

Still, GEIDCO's medium term target is to put intra-continental interconnected grids in place in each continent by 2030 and to have the continents linked up by 2050, all while bringing global clean energy generation capacity up to some 90 percent of the global total energy demand.

That's a heck of a vision, but one that has the potential to make a massive positive impact on the world.