Sustainable and renewable energy sources continue to get more cost effective when compared to fossil fuel based energy. This is fantastic since the economics of scale are really kicking into effect around solar and wind technology. Thanks to better and more production wind turbines have become more effective and energy grids have gotten more capable of incorporating the inconsistent energy production.
Improvements in wind turbine design have not only helped to increase the maximum power they can produce (or their generating capacity), but also their capacity factor, a measure of how often they actually produce energy. The average capacity factor of projects installed in 2014 and 2015 was over 40 percent — meaning they produced 40 percent of the maximum possible energy they could produce if it were very windy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
As the exceptionally low price of U.S. wind energy drives further wind farm installations, it will be interesting to see how U.S. grid operators manage the challenge of integrating wind energy with the rest of the grid. So far, at least, they’ve been successful. But policymakers and regulators should be cognizant of the need for new transmission capacity and other grid upgrades to integrate wind as more turbines are installed in more places. Identifying the lowest cost investments to integrate the most renewable energy is not a simple task — but it will become increasingly vital as renewables throw off the “alternative energy” label and become a major contributor to the U.S. electricity supply.
It’s no secret that carbon trade, carbon caps, and various other policy tools improve economies and diminish negative environmental impacts caused by economic activity. Yet, the myth that having a sustainable economy isn’t possible with a growing economy.
Environmentalists have been arguing for better policy and enforcement for decades, and now global investors are also arguing for the same thing. Hopefully with this announcement and others from the recent UN Summit on Climate Change we will see good movement on improving our economy and planet.
“The international investor community has today made it clear that the status quo on climate policy is not acceptable,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. “Investors are taking action on climate change, from direct investment in renewables to company engagement and reducing exposure to carbon risk.”
“But to invest in low carbon energy at the scale we need requires stronger policies.”
The world’s total renewable energy capacity grew at its fastest pace ever in 2013, but global investment in renewable energy still only amounted to $254 billion in 2013. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that global investment in renewables much reach $1 trillion every year from now until 2050 if the global temperatures are to be kept from rising more than 2°C — the threshold beyond which scientists think climate change will get truly catastrophic. But the IEA anticipates global investment will instead plateau around $230 billion annually through 2020. Bloomberg New Energy Finance thinks two-thirds of the $7.7 trillion the world will likely invest in power plants between now and 2030 could go to renewables — but that still falls well short of the mark.
A Cambridge, Ontario metal fabrication company, VeriForm, has become an ecological leader in a field notorious for neglecting the effects of their business and product on the environment. A capital investment of $78000 has allowed VeriForm to implement many small changes (i.e. a centralized programmable thermostat, high-efficiency lighting systems, etc.) which saves the company $120000 annually!
The eco-changes shrank VeriForm’s greenhouse gas emissions to 126 tonnes in 2009, down from 234 tonnes in 2006. That figure is even more impressive given that in 2009 the company’s sales were 28 per cent higher and the plant’s physical size was 145 per cent larger than in 2006.
The inspiration for going green was altruistic. “We were just trying to reduce our carbon footprint,” Mr. Rak says. But the financial rewards quickly became evident “once we started doing spreadsheets and payback analysis,” the 46-year-old says.
This is great proof that, contrary to popular belief, going green doesn’t mean losing money – VeriForm has shown that making smart upgrades that benefit the planet can also benefit profits.
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.
Repairs and rebuilding has been going on in Haiti after the powerful earthquake hit the country about two weeks ago. They aid teams have run into a problem around energy – there’s not enough diesel. Things that rely on solar power are still working – bizarrely the traffic lights are on such thing. The good news that comes from all of this is the revived interest in renewable power for disaster recovery.
We can all benefit from this research into renewable energy sources for disaster recovery.
Solar setups are quick to install, mobile, and relatively inexpensive compared to the price of rebuilding a damaged electricity grid. They can also be incredibly robust. Alan Doyle, a science editor at MSNBC, recently wrote that a single solar water purification system, recovered from the rubble by the Red Cross, is now purifying 30,000 gallons (over 110,000 liters) of water a day.
Sol Inc, a US-based solar street lighting company, has sent a first shipment of lights for roadways, food distribution, and triage sites. This may sound mundane, until you imagine trying to perform street-side surgery or find family members in the dark. The LED lights can also withstand hurricane force winds – no small thing in a country that has also recently been hit by tropical cyclones. Sol Inc has promised to match donations for people wanting to contribute to the program.
Communications are another crucial need being met by solar. China’s ZTE corporation has donated 1,500 solar cellphones and 300 digital trunking base stations. The same technology was used in China when an earthquake hit the Sichuan Province in May of 2008. A similar project is being set up by a group from Holland.
Renewable energy in Haiti is not a new. Walt Ratterman, CEO of non-profit SunEnergy Power International was working on the electrification of Haitian hospitals at the time of the quake. He is currently still missing.