Tag Archives: solar

South Africa – Energising Alternatives

In an attempt to reduce the negative environmental externalities related to heavy-coal-fired electricity generation, South Africa is stepping up efforts to increase the role renewable energy plays in its progressively overstretched electricity sector, pushing ahead with a series of programmes aimed at harvesting the nation’s infinite alternate resources.

The government has moved to bring the agencies charged with promoting this new sustainable energy use under one roof, launching the South African national energy development institute (SANEDI) on July 19. The new organisation, which will power the research and development of indigenous green-energy innovations in partnership with science councils, universities and private industry, combines two previous bodies, the National Energy Efficiency Agency and the South African National Energy Institute.

The country is already adapting to reinforce the contribution of renewables to its energy sector. The Department of Energy (DoE) is in the final stages of sealing up to 28 renewable energy proposals that were first accepted back in December 2011, with the signing of implementation, connection and power purchase agreements for a raft of projects set for August.

The initial projects – the first part of the department’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPPP) – is comprised of 18 solar photovoltaic projects with a total capacity of 631.53 MW; two concentrated solar power projects, with 150 MW of combined capacity; and eight onshore wind developments, representing 633.9 MW.

An addition round of 19 projects were assessed in May and a call for the third series of proposals will be issued in the near term, part of the government’s programme to be creating at least 3725 MW of renewable energy and have the tools installed by 2016, with the first projected forecast to come online by 2014.

While the government is keen to promote renewable energy, the delays in its first round of REIPPP projects do highlight difficulties, including financial backing for less-conventional and smaller-scale developments.  Investors may take a renewed outlook on later generations of renewable power generation depending on how successful these initial round of REIPPP projects can prove to be.

However, while SANEDI and schemes such as REIPPP represent the government’s commitment to green energy, the country is keen to maintain as diversified a portfolio as possible, not only to avoid repeats of the load=shedding issues it faced in 2008 but also to reduce exposure to potential swings in commodity prices.

This is most evident in the government’s continued efforts to expand nuclear power generation in the country. Dipuo Peters, the minister of energy, used the introduction  of the new SANEDI agency to underscore the government’s commitment to nuclear energy, as well as with the more traditional use of coal as an energy source.

“We need to use and will continue using nuclear energy for feeding, healing, energy and water provision,” Peters said.

South Africa has plans to construct nuclear power stations with a combined capacity of 9.6 GW by 2030, with at least six such plants being considered along with the sole station already in operation, with their output dwarfing that of the proposed alternative energy programme. Firms from Russia, China and South Korea are among the contenders for the lucrative contracts that will stem from South Africa’s atomic energy programme, with Russian state-owned nuclear energy group Rosatom opening a local office in mid-July to promote its interests.

Coal currently dominates South Africa’s energy mix accounting for 73.4% of primary energy and 90% of electricity in 2010, whilst diversification is a primary, the carbon-based fuel will likely maintain it’s primary position for decades to come. The DoE estimate that coal will continue to be used for the next 100 years, with the minister saying it was indispensable, “as long as we want to keep the lights on”.

South Africa’s push for the promotion of renewable energy is attracting interest from abroad as Chinese firm Powerway Renewable Energy announced it would be investing $1.2m to build several factories and produce mounting and tracking systems for solar photovoltaic plans in July.

Benson Wu, the CEO of Powerway, said the investment aimed to take advantage of the anticipated growth in solar energy in the South African market, with his firm foreseeing the need to supply mounting structures for over 500 MW of solar farms annually.

If the government can sustain the private sectors thirst for alternative energy projects and lure financers in to back such schemes more developments will get up and running in the years to come. However, the challenge will ensure the survival of the project through to its formative and stages and the ability to expand into businesses that generate profits, as well as power.

 

Fuel cells and hydrogen energy systems- viable option for greener future.

The Uk’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change will be funding five major government-backed research and development projects intended to bring hydrogen and fuel cell technologies into everyday use. These projects will demonstrate how these technologies can be integrated into other areas of energy and transport (e.g. the generation of renewable energy, a refuelling infrastructure) to develop whole systems and how effectively they can work together.

The projects will be selected through a competitive process, and led by Air Products PLC, BOC Ltd, ITM Power, Rutland Management LTD and SSE plc with the following structure: -

- An end-to-end, integrated, green hydrogen production, distribution and retailing system (the first of its kind in the UK) which will be centred around a fully publicly accessible, state-of-the-art 200 bar renewable H2 refuelling station network across london. (Air Products PLC- expertise in atmospheric gases, process & specialty gases, performance materials, and equipment & services).

-The delivery of solar energy generated hydrogen for Swindon’s existing public access via an electrolyser, and its use in materials handling vehicles and light vans at Honda’s manufacturing plant (BOC ltd- versed in thousands of different gases and mixtures, as well as related equipment and services).

-The integration of an electrolyser based refueller with renewable energy which will allow zero carbon hydrogen to be produced for use as a transport fuel for a number of vehicles (ITM Power- design and manufacture of hydrogen energy systems for energy storage and clean fuel production).

-The demonstration of a viable solar-hydrogen energy system, with benefits shared by multiple end users of a business park in Surrey, through the necessary provision of green electricity and heat (Rutland Management LTD- expertise in facility management)

-The demonstration of a whole renewable hydrogen system by connecting a 1MWe electrolyser to the grid, in conjunction with an Aberdeenshire windfarm. This will explore grid impacts, and the energy storage potential of hydrogen generation, and provide the green hydrogen produced to power of fleet of fuel cell buses (SSE plc- UK’s best overall energy provider for eight consecutive years)

These projects will accelerate the process towards the commercialisation of fuel cells and hydrogen energy systems.

Only in Japan, vehicle-to-grid integration

A few weeks ago, lots of Americans were left without power for days after a violent storm moved from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic. In Japan, this blackout wouldn’t have happened since they created a new technology that allows you to power your home by using your car.

This technology is an all electric Leaf that can integrate into your home’s energy supply. So simply put, your car can power your home and your home can power your car. This sound very futuristic and it must be said that this can’t be bought anywhere else but in Ginza, a shopping district in the heart of Tokyo. Customers looking to buy a car can buy this Leaf with Nissan dealers.

Ken Screbnik, Vice President for strategic planning and business development for Nissan, said that depending on the size of your home, the power from your car can be used to power your home for about two days. So things can keep running when there’s a power disruption.

In terms of energy management, this Leaf to Home system is a game changer and it’s also an industry first. All customers need to do is buy this Leaf and they become their own energy supplier. They even can get paid to store energy.

An EV power station unit, similar in size to an external air conditioning unit, allows the power to move through the house and be stored in the Leaf’s battery so it can be sent in to the home. It charges your car in four hours and sells for about £2.440. When users generate their own electricity from wind or solar stations, they can store the excess power in the car’s battery. So it reduces the owner’s bills.

After last year’s tsunami and earthquake-triggered nuclear disaster, Japan started to create a vision for smarter energy systems, and this vehicle-to-grid system is part of this vision. After the devastation last year, there was no way to get gas to gas stations and the view on electric vehicles totally changed. They were still able to work and they realized how comfortable the backup energy storage system is. Screbnik said that they were able to work with the government to provide subsides and shape a business out of these tragic events.

Since the disasters, the Japanese Government want to make sure that there is a stable power supply at any time. That’s a reason why they are so interested in the Smart City concept, promising cleaner energy integration, the ability for cities to maintain their own energy supply and so on. About 50 Smart City projects are already proposed in Japan.

Kashiwa-no-ha, one of the Smart cities just outside of Tokyo, began construction smart grids before the disasters last year and they should be finished in 2014. The 26.000 people that will be living in the city by then will have access to smart grid features like the ability to monitor and control their own energy supply with mobile application. Ai Kanda, Communications Officer for Kashiwa-no-ha said that they are offering one of the most innovative smart grid projects in the world. Citizens will be able to conserve 40 percent of energy.

America is also up to date when it comes to Smart Cities, they rank amongst the top investors of smart grid investments worldwide. The Departments of Energy (DOE) already invested about 3.4 billion dollars in about 100 smart grid projects throughout the nation. Some leading cities are San Diego, Boulder, Colo and Westerville Ohio.

But they are lagging behind when it comes to vehicle-to-grid integration. Jim Northrup, Vice President for power and energy at SAIC, said that the U.S. will start with more fleet-sized vehicles and predicts that within the next five years, America will see commercial vehicle-to-grid integration. But it will take about 10 years for residential vehicle-to-grid integration.

SAIC and the Department of Defense are working together to launch one of the first vehicle-to-grid pilot projects in the US at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. The project is called the Aloha Microgrid Project and it’s part of the Defense Department’s larger efforts to move to electric cars.

Renewable energy wasted because of inefficient current converters

The Department of Energy and Climate Change showed some figures that describe the UK produced 26,000 GWh of electricity in 2010 through renewable energy sources. These sources include wind, biomass, solar and wave generation.

But figures of IQE and XP Power, two British technology companies, show that a lot of this renewable energy produced in the UK is wasted because of inefficient current converters. About 7,600 gigawatt hours of electricity is wasted when converting AC/DC power to the direct current that’s required for electronic devices. The figures show that this is almost a third of the produced ‘renewable’ electricity from all sources in the UK.

In April, David Cameron, Prime Minister, told a group of 23 international energy ministers that the government wants to commit to a ‘green future’ for Britain. This means that they don’t want to rely on fossil fuels. They also want to shut down all but one nuclear power plants by 2023 in the UK and a third of the coal generation fleet must be closed by 2015 because of new EU carbon restrictions.

By 2020, the UK should generate 15 per cent of its energy consumption from renewable energy sources. That’s one of the targets described in the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive set. But Drew Nelson, chief executive of IQE, the compound semiconductor maker, said that the government needs to concentrate its energy policies more on power conservation and less on the costly new electricity generation projects.

He said that the UK’s lack of energy efficiency has a massive impact of the national power strategy. The new forms of energy generation are so expensive but a lot of the energy goes to waste. So it’s better to focus on energy efficiency and power conservation.

So IQE is going to take advantage of the push towards energy efficiency. They have ultra-thin epitaxy wafers that are used in the manufacture of semiconductors, present in power converters and low-energy light-emitting diodes. LEDs use 85 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs because they produce almost no heat.

And beside the loss of energy because of inefficient converters, 17,000 GWh of power was also wasted in 2009 in the EU because of electrical devices left on standby. That’s the same as 6.8m tones of carbon dioxide. And it’s forecasted that this will grow to 31,000 GWh by 2020.