Japan’s Largest Solar Power Plant: 70MW

Japan is about to build a new solar power plant and it’ll their largest one to date. The country is trying to improve their power grid and make it more sustainable after the nuclear disaster last year. Great to see progress!

The new plant, which will be called the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega-Solar Power Plant, is expected to take up approximately 314 acres, though drawings show most of that space will be over water, either by constructing a floating barge or building up the seabed below. Once completed, the plant is expected to produce 70MW of electricity (enough to power 22,000 homes) which would make it Japan’s largest such facility, and perhaps more tellingly, would amount to 40% of Japan’s total current solar electrical output.

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Over 50% of Germany’s Renewable Energy Production Owned by People

Consumer-ready renewable energy can destabilize the traditional energy utility structure in a similar way to how the internet destabilized a lot of other old school industries. This is a good thing because it makes the production of resources (be it knowledge or energy or physical goods) more democratic and resilient to externalities.

Over in Germany the shift from corporations to people has begun in their energy sector. Over 50% of renewable energy production is coming from farmers and regular citizens and not large corporations!

The thing that got me though, other than the huge lead in solar PV installations Germany has over the US, thanks to good policy, and the fact that so much wind power isn’t owned by utilities, is what slightly over half of renewable energy being owned not by corporations but by actual biological people means—obviously a democratic shift in control of resources and a break from the way electricity and energy has been produced over the past century.

A good thing: Decentralized power generation, more relocalization and reregionalization of economic activity, the world getting smaller while more connected and therefore in a way bigger at the same time… taking a step backwards, and perhaps sideways, while moving forwards.

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USA Can be 100% Powered by Geothermal Energy

Here at Things Are Good we like geothermal energy and countries that use it. The USA could be on the list in the future!

Researchers from SMU that have received funding from Google have released a map that shows the potential of geothermal energy production in the continental United States. The conclusion is that there is more potential energy in geothermal than previous thought and the technology exists today to access it and provide more than enough energy for the nation’s consumption on geothermal alone!

In this newest SMU estimate of resource potential, researchers used additional temperature data and in-depth geological analysis for the resulting heat flow maps to create the updated temperature-at-depth maps from 3.5 kilometers to 9.5 kilometers (11,500 to 31,000 feet).

This update revealed that some conditions in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. are actually hotter than some areas in the western portion of the country, an area long-recognized for heat-producing tectonic activity. In determining the potential for geothermal production, the new SMU study considers the practical considerations of drilling, and limits the analysis to the heat available in the top 6.5 km (21,500 ft.) of crust for predicting megawatts of available power.

This approach incorporates a newly proposed international standard for estimating geothermal resource potential that considers added practical limitations of development, such as the inaccessibility of large urban areas and national parks. Known as the ‘technical potential’ value, it assumes producers tap only 14 percent of the ‘theoretical potential’ of stored geothermal heat in the U.S., using currently available technology.

Read the rest of the article at SMU.

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Solar Power with Salt

Thermal solar power plants uses energy from the sun to heat up water and then run the resulting steam to power turbines. Simple enough, but now Siemens is looking to make that whole process more efficient by using salt.

Solar thermal power plants that produce hotter steam can capture more solar energy. That’s why Siemens is exploring an upgrade for solar thermal technology to push its temperature limit 160 °C higher than current designs. The idea is to expand the use of molten salts, which many plants already use to store extra heat. If the idea proves viable, it will boost the plants’ steam temperature up to 540 °C—the maximum temperature that steam turbines can take.

Siemens’s new solar thermal plant design, like all large solar thermal power plants now operating, captures solar heat via trough-shaped rows of parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight on steel collector tubes. The design’s Achilles’ heel is the synthetic oil that flows through the tubes and conveys captured heat to the plants’ centralized generators: the synthetic oil breaks down above 390 °C, capping the plants’ design temperature.

Startups such as BrightSource, eSolar, and SolarReserve propose to evade synthetic oil’s temperature cap by building so-called power tower plants, which use fields of mirrors to focus sunlight on a central tower. But Siemens hopes to upgrade the trough design, swapping in heat-stable molten salt to collect heat from the troughs. The resulting design should not only be more efficient than today’s existing trough-based plants, but also cheaper to build. “A logical next step is to just replace the oil with salt,” says Peter Mürau, Siemens’s molten salt technology program manager.

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Brewery is Also a Power Plant

Here at Things Are Good we tend to like beer and we’re always happy to see the brewing process become more environmentally friendly. A smart inventor in the USA has found a way to convert a naturally occurring element of the brewing process and converts it into natural gas!

The brewery is Magic Hat and their motto is “Saving the earth, one beer at a time” – I can’t wait to try their beer.

The MIT-trained mechanical engineer has invented a patented device that turns brewery waste into natural gas that’s used to fuel the brewing process.

The anaerobic methane digester, installed last year at Magic Hat Brewing Co. in Vermont, extracts energy from the spent hops, barley and yeast left over from the brewing process — and it processes the plant’s wastewater. That saves the brewer on waste disposal and natural gas purchasing
The 42-foot tall structure, which cost about $4 million to build, sits in the back parking lot of Magic Hat’s brewery, where it came online last summer.

Fitch, 37, is CEO of PurposeEnergy, Inc., of Waltham, Mass., a renewable energy startup company whose lone product is the biphase orbicular bioreactor, which is 50 feet in diameter, holds 490,000 gallons of slurry and produces 200 cubic feet of biogas per minute.

Brewers big and small have wrestled with waste issues since the dawn of beer-making. In recent years, they’ve turned to recycling — both as a cost-saver and for environmental reasons.

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Thanks Greg!

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