France Phasing out Coal by 2023

Not to be outdone by other nations, France has announced that the country will eliminate use of coal for electricity by 2023. Yesterday we looked at Canada’s plan to phase out coal plants by 2030, which in Canada caused concern. In France, there’s little debate that we need to stop using coal in our power plants.

It’s fantastic to see so many nations stopping their reliance on coal and switching to renewable energy sources!

“We need carbon neutrality by 2050,” the French President continued, promising that coal will no longer form part of France’s energy mix in six to seven years’ time.

France is already a world leader in low-carbon energy. The country has invested heavily in nuclear power over the past few decades and now derives more than 75 per cent of its electricity from nuclear fission. It produces so much nuclear energy, in fact, that it exports much of it to nearby nations, making around £2.5 billion each year.

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Brazil: Wind Power Now Cheaper Than Natural Gas

In Brazil a recent energy auction has shown that wind power is cheaper than natural gas in the country, and also a better investment opportunity. The competitiveness of sustainable energy sources continues to impress everyone (even with the subsidized resource-extraction industries), it’s only a matter of time until other sustainable energy options get this cheap.

They even expect the cost of wind power to decrease in the coming years!

EPE president and chief executive Mauricio Tolmasquim said the auctions show that wind and natural gas are competitive, predicting wind prices will continue to fall in Brazil.

“That wind power plants have been contracted at two digit prices, below 100 reals per MWh, showcases the energy market competition through auctions,” he said. “That wind power could reach these lows versus natural gas was unimaginable until recently.”

The energy auctions for a total of 92 projects were the first in Brazil for 2011, and also featured biomass, hydro-electric and natural gas projects.

Investments amounted to 11.2bn reals in total, for 3,962MW of energy that is slated to start generating in 2014.

Read more at Business Green.

Floating Solar Power Plants

Solar panels have to endure a lot of temperature variations be it from bright sun to cloud to rain so the panels need to be rather durable. Some smart people have figured a way to keep the ambient temperature of the solar array low b placing the panels over water.

The floating solar power units, called Liquid Solar Arrays (LSA), use concentrated photovoltaic technology where a lenses direct the light onto solar cells and move throughout the day to follow the sun.

The company says the advantage to floating a solar power plant is that it erases the need for expensive structures to protect it from inclement weather and high winds — when rough weather comes along, the lenses just submerge. Floating on water, whether it be the ocean, a lake or a tiny pond, also keeps the solar cells cool, which increases their efficiency and lifespan

Read the rest here

Solar Energy to Power Trains

Trains are a great transit solution and are efficient at moving people and goods. Trains are really a green way to travel.

In Belgium, they are taking this green form of travelling and making it even better by powering the trains using solar power.

More than 16,000 solar panels will be installed on the roof of the high-speed rail tunnel stretching just over 2 miles long. The tunnel is primarily used by the high-speed train connecting Amsterdam and Paris via Brussels.

The roof’s total surface area is 50,000 m2, roughly equivalent to 8 football fields. The installation should generate an estimated 3.3 MWh of electricity per year.

The installation commenced this summer on the tunnel’s northern side. Project completion is scheduled for December 2010. The total investment budget is $20.1 million.

Infrabel, the Belgian railway infrastructure manager, will use the green energy in the Antwerp North-South junction (including Antwerp Central Station) and to power both conventional and high-speed trains running on the Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris line. With this project Infrabel has re-emphasized its belief in renewable energy as a viable alternative, and complement, to conventional energy sources.

Read the full press release.

Solar Power is Cheaper than Nuclear

Solar power is a wonderfully sustainable source of energy and its biggest hurdle to wide adoption is cost (and going up against subsidized fossil fuels). Well, now the nuclear crowd can’t claim that solar is too expensive because the fact of the matter is that solar power is cheaper than nuclear!

It’s no secret that the cost of producing photovoltaic cells (PV) has been dropping for years. A PV system today costs just 50 percent of what it did in 1998. Breakthroughs in technology and manufacturing combined with an increase in demand and production have caused the price of solar power to decline steadily. At the same time, estimated costs for building new nuclear power plants have ballooned.

The result of these trends: “In the past year, the lines have crossed in North Carolina,” say study authors John Blackburn and Sam Cunningham. “Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.”

If the data analysis is correct, the pricing would represent the “Historic Crossover” claimed in the study’s title.

Two factors not stressed in the study bolster the case for solar even more:

1) North Carolina is not a “sun-rich” state. The savings found in North Carolina are likely to be even greater for states with more sunshine –Arizona, southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, Nevada and Utah.

2) The data include only PV-generated electricity, without factoring in what is likely the most encouraging development in solar technology: concentrating solar power (CSP). CSP promises utility scale production and solar thermal storage, making electrical generation practical for at least six hours after sunset.

Keep reading.

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