Weekly Renewable Energy & Technology News Brief – November 22nd 2013 scire quod sciendum –“Knowledge which is worth having”.
WHAT MADE THE NEWS THIS WEEK – NOVEMBER 22nd 2013
Well there has been a heap of news on the Renewable Energy front this past week, so we will try to cover the main points here.
We particularly like the new little “Hydrobee” that produces electricity from any flowing water into a coke-can sized unit which incorporates a hydro charging unit, two rechargeable batteries and a USB power dock. Great for charging personal devices like mobile phones, anywhere, anytime. Currently seeking cloudfunding on Kickstarter in order to go commercial, so head on over there if this tickles your fancy. It did ours.
Also, Sun Edison is producing a solar powered electric pump which can revolutionise irrigated farming, particularly in places like India, Asia and Africa. The unit is cheaper and more efficient than petrol or diesel powered alternatives and there are, would you believe, 45 million electric farming pumps in the world that can be replaced by this new technology. There are over 10,000 of the new solar pumps operating in India already, and Sun Edison is scaling up for a multi billion dollar market around the world. Cheaper to run, more efficient and zero pollution. You’ve won me.
Of particular interest is that renewable energy sources (water, wind, biomass, geothermal and solar) contributed 99% of ALL new electricity generation in the US in October 2013. Renewable energy now accounts for 16% of all electricity generation in the US and is growing rapidly, though still a long way behind some European countries like France and Germany.
The biggest paradigm shift in the application of renewable energy technology is the announcement by Ford and GM that they will market Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles within the next 10 years or so. This is a good start, but US car makers are way behind BMW, Honda, Hyundai and others who already have Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles in production or being launched at this year’s major motor shows. So there seems to be a major shift towards Fuel Cell Vehicles as opposed to Plug Ins, but Tesla and the like can rest easy for a while as the “chicken and egg” problem of funding and building major national hydrogen filling networks still remains. The few companies that tried it thus far mainly went bust, as they were too far ahead of actual demand. They built it, but nobody came.
Plug In Electric Vehicles continue to gain massive popularity around the world, with Renault and Fiat joining Tesla with successful models that they just can’t build fast enough to satisfy demand. BMW and others are also entering the fray, so this segment will keep growing rapidly for the foreseeable future. The long term battle between PIEV’s like the Tesla and the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric cars is a bit like the old video format battle between Beta and VHS (remember them?). Either one format will dominate eventually – or you may end up with a hybrid between the two. You can be sure that convenience, price and ease of use will be the final arbiters of this question in the longer term.
Another emerging trend is that many companies are showing governments the way and committing to going to 100% renewable energy just as soon as possible. IKEA, Google and Apple are a few of the companies leading the way and many others are following suit. Commercial size solar installations on the roofs of buildings and factories is making this possible, amongst other initiatives, like buying only green power.
The charge into Solar is gathering pace in the US, with numerous companies like Solar City (Elon Musk) developing lease-to-buy plans to fund mass consumer distribution, where solar has been slower to take off in the US than in other parts of the world. This is mainly due to the US having comparatively lower electricity prices than most of the world, so the economic imperative to push consumers towards solar in the US has just not been there. When you are paying only $0.08 per kwh you are not rushing out to buy solar.
However, in places like Australia, where electricity costs from $0.21 – $0.40 per kwh you can see why the state of Queensland in Australia now has more installed solar power generation capacity than around 22 countries. With low installation costs the payback period for the average household in Queensland is only around 3-4 years, with a feed-in tariff back to the grid of $0.08 per kwh.
The advances in renewable energy technology noted this week are too numerous too list, but most involve improvements to components or processes to improve efficiency and power output from batteries, fuel cells, solar PV cells and panels, wind turbines and even improving mileage from petrol driven vehicles. Most of these new technologies are at the laboratory or testing stages and whilst good in theory, many of these bright ideas may not make it through to commercialization.
Well that just about wraps it up for another week. All the entries from our Energy Blog this week are available on our Blog page under “Sitemap”.