Wind Becomes Largest Source of Energy in Spain

Spain makes use of a plethora of energy sources and they are leaders in Europe when it comes to utilizing solar and wind energy. Energy policy is always under debate in the country and hopefully they will continue their overall trend of helping sustainable energy develop.

Wind accounted for 20.9 percent of the country’s energy last year — more than any other enough to power about 15.5 million households, with nuclear coming in a very close second at 20.8 percent. Wind energy usage was up over 13 percent from the year before, according to the report.

The news is being hailed by environmental advocates as a sign that Spain, and perhaps the rest of the world, is ready for a future based on renewables. But the record comes at the end of a very rocky year for Spain’s renewable energy sector, which was destabilized by subsidy cutbacks and arguments over how much the government should regulate renewable energy companies.

Despite the flaws in Spain’s system, the numbers are promising for green energy fans. The renewable push brought down Spain’s greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent, according to another industry report from Red Electric Espana (REE).

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China’s Wind Turbine Industry Booming

For years China has been trying to improve its sustainable energy production but to do so Chinese companies had to rely on patents and techniques from the rest of the world. Due to an increase in demand (and production knowledge) China is now poised to make the best, most efficient, and easiest to maintain wind turbines.

Already, the amount of wind energy outputted in China puts the rest of the planet to shame.

However, since China’s total generation is more than that of all European Union countries combined, wind’s percentage is large in absolute terms.

Liming Qiao, China director of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), said: “Two per cent sounds small but it’s not when you consider China’s total electricity.

“In fact, last year wind surpassed nuclear to become number three after coal and hydro, and it’s got a lot more potential.”

The sheer scale of the wind market is encouraging mass production which has lowered prices and fostered innovation.

Until recently, Chinese wind manufacturers produced Western-designed turbines under licence. Some acquired a reputation for turning out inferior products.

Now, the wind boom has led to a flurry of new designs. Goldwind, for example, offers a turbine which does not need a gearbox but instead has a “direct drive” system designed to be cheaper to maintain.

Read more at the BBC.

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Carbon-Negative Energy Generation

All Power Labs sells a device that converts biomass into electric energy. Their machine, which is based on technology over 60 years old, can produce insanely cheap energy while making use of plant matter. They have units that produce 10 kW and 20 kW respectively while the wait for approval for a 100 kW version.

The company even built an experimental unit for a car that ran for quite a distance using only walnut shells. This instantly made me think of the modified Delorean in Back to the Future.

All Power Labs makes machines that use an ancient process called gasification to turn out not only carbon-neutral energy, but also a carbon-rich charcoal by-product that just happens to be a fertilizer so efficient that Tom Price, the company’s director of strategic initiatives, calls it “plant crack.”

Gasification, in which dense biomass smoldering — but not combusting — in a low-oxygen environment is converted to hydrogen gas, is nothing new. Price said that ancient cultures used it to enrich their soils, and during World War II, a million vehicles utilized the technology. But after the war, it more or less vanished from the planet, for reasons unknown. Until Mason needed a way to power his flamethrowers, that is.

All Power Labs has taken gasification and combined it with two of the Bay Area’s most valuable commodities — a rich maker culture and cutting-edge programming skills — to produce what are called PowerPallets. Feed a bunch of walnut shells or wood chips into these $27,000 machines and you get fully clean energy at less than 10 cents a kilowatt hour, a fraction of what other green power sources can cost.

Read more at CNET.

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2012 Was a Record Breaking Year for US Wind Industry

2012 was a very successful year for the young wind-power energy industry in the United States. Throughout last year over 6,700 were installed around the country with the industry benefiting overall from new investments into the sector.

Let’s hope this is a sign of the future of what;s to come in sustainable energy in the world’s largest economy!

Overall, America ended the year with 45,100 turbines, producing enough electricity to power around 15.2 million households. Wind power added 42% of all new capacity to the grid last year, beating other sources of energy generation.
Rob Gramlich, AWEA’s Interim CEO said: “We had an incredibly productive year in 2012. It really showed what this industry could do and the impact we can have with a continued national commitment to renewable energy. We’re doing what Americans overwhelmingly say they want: making more clean, renewable energy and creating good jobs in US factories.”

From Energy Live News.

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Nanosolar Takes Solar Power to the Next Level

A relatively new startup called Nanosolar has announced that they have $4 billion in contracts to sell their solar panels that produce $1 per watt. That is a low enough price point to take on those awful fossil fuels.

The key to their success is how they propose electric utilities make use of their technology. You can read all about it in Wired.

Two big announcements marked its coming out party: The company has $4 billion in contracts and can make money selling its products for $1 per watt of a panel’s capacity. That’s cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels in markets across the world.

Specifically, the company’s management thinks it can help utilities avoid the difficulties of getting big coal and nuclear power plants built by offering the option to build small solar farms they can set up close to cities.

“Cost-efficient solar panels such as ours can be deployed in 2- to 20-megawatt municipal solar power plants that feed peak power directly into the local distribution without requiring the expense of transmission and with a plant deployment time as short as six months,” said Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen in an e-mail to Wired.com. “Coal or nuclear can’t do that, can’t do it as cost efficient and can’t do it as rapidly deployable.”

Thin-film solar has been a major focus of U.S. alternative energy research and development efforts since the early 1980s because it was seen as a true “breakthrough” solar technology. Silicon cells are easy to manufacture, dependable and efficient, but some researchers viewed them as inherently limited. As they are currently produced, they require a lot more silicon than thin-film solar cells. They might reach efficiency levels of over 40 percent, but they’d never compete with fossil fuel energy sources, even with carbon taxes.

Thin-film solar was different. On the one hand, it was definitely harder to make efficient cells. However, it allowed researchers to dream of printing semiconducting chemicals onto a metal sheet and having it convert photons into electricity. Thin-film cells seemed like they’d be perfect for the applications researchers imagined like “solar shingles” for building-integrated solar installations.

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