Renewable Energy Keeps Growing While Oil Companies Shrink

Solar panels on grass

Without a doubt all business have been negatively impacted by the pandemic with some being hit more than others. The dirty and climate-destroying fossil fuel industry has really been hit hard (unfortunately it’s the workers who have been hurt by this and not the lying executives) and the industry isn’t even benefiting from reduced gas prices at the pump. On the other hand renewable energy companies are doing fine with only a slow down and not an industry-stopping problem. Renewable energy growth is expected this year with more utilities investing in renewable instead of fossil fuel because renewable are still cheaper than carbon-intensive alternatives.

Even the decline in electricity use in recent weeks as businesses halted operations could help renewables, according to analysts at Raymond James & Associates. That’s because utilities, as revenue suffers, will try to get more electricity from wind and solar farms, which cost little to operate, and less from power plants fueled by fossil fuels.

“Renewables are on a growth trajectory today that I think isn’t going to be set back long term,” said Dan Reicher, the founding executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University and an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration. “This will be a bump in the road.”

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Ships Enhanced by Wind Power Improve Shipping

wind enhanced ship

Sails on ships aren’t anything new. Heck, we’ve been following this “new” technology on cargo ships since 2005. It’s time for our almost annual check-in on how modern ships are using an old tech solution to improve their efficiency. Here’s some additional context for you:

It’s been neat seeing this develop over the last 15 years! The hybrid model is working out well and more companies are embracing it.

At the most recognisable end of the wind-assist spectrum are innovations in soft sail systems. The increasing sophistication of automation and route optimisation systems have revived interest in seafaring’s original power source, and there are now a growing number of examples of larger vessels using smart soft sails alongside auxiliary propulsion systems. In one notable development, French naval architect VPLP recently unveiled a design for a 121 metre long roll-on/roll-off (RORO) vessel that will be used to transport components of the Ariane 6 rocket from Europe to Guiana. The ship’s main propulsion system (a dual fuel LNG MDO engine) will be assisted by four Oceanwings; fully automated wing-sails which are each supported by a 30m high mast and measuring a total of 363 square meters.

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Solar and Wind Outgrow Subsidies

solar
Renewable energy systems used to need subsidies to be competitive with the even more subsidized fossil fuel energy systems. Today, despite the fact that globally USD$5.2 trillion was spent on fossil fuel subsidies in one year, non-subsidized solar and wind are cheaper than fossil fuels. This is really impressive given the relatively small size of renewables being used over the last decade. With more solar and wind installations being built the economics of renewable energy is only getting better.

Perhaps nowhere is the push toward subsidy-free clean energy clearer than on arid expanses of Southern Europe. About 750 megawatts of subsidy-free clean-energy projects are expected to connect to the grid in 2019 alone, across Spain, Italy, Portugal and elsewhere — enough to power about 333,000 households, according to Pietro Radoia, an analyst at BNEF.

“The cheapest way of producing electricity in Spain is the sun,” Jose Dominguez Abascal, the nation’s secretary of state for energy, said last year.

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Wind Power is Now Cheaper than Gas

wind turbine

Renewable energy just kept getting cheaper and cheaper despite ongoing subsides for the oil and gas industries. This is really good to see as people who only care about short term economic energy decisions will have to start to advocate for renewable energy. The decrease in cost for renewable wind power can be attributed to bigger blades and better energy grid management. This means that not only is wind power cheaper, the better grid management can lead to other renewable sources getting cheaper too.

In the US, the prices for wind power had risen up until 2009, when power purchase agreements for wind-generated electricity peaked at about $70 per MegaWatt-hour. Since then, there’s been a very steady decline, and 2018 saw the national average fall below $20/MW-hr for the first time. Again, there’s regional variation with the Great Plains seeing the lowest prices, in some cases reaching the mid-teens.

That puts wind in an incredibly competitive position. The report uses an estimate of future natural gas prices that show an extremely gradual rise of about $10/MW-hr out to 2050. But natural gas—on its own, without considering the cost of a plant to burn it for electricity—is already over $20/MW-hr. That means wind sited in the center of the US is already cheaper than fueling a natural gas plant, and wind sited elsewhere is roughly equal.

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Floating Wind Farm in Scotland is a Success

ocean shore

Oil and gas companies have seen the writing on the wall about the future of energy: it’s all about renewables. The Norwegian state-owned company Statoil installed a massive wind farm off the coast of Scotland and it’s a roaring success. The wind turbines float in the water and are operating more efficiently than their land-based counterparts. What’s more is that they survived hurricane force winds.

Hywind in particular was built much like a floating offshore oil drilling rig, with the platform anchored down to the seabed using suction anchors. These eliminate the need to construct expensive fixed structures under water and allow Statoil and others to site the turbines farther out to sea in deeper waters. Hywind specifically is 15.5 miles out from Aberdeenshire, Scotland. At maximum capacity, it can power 20,000 homes.

Despite its “floating” moniker, Hywind is well-equipped to withstand violent storms without capsizing. The system performed as expected during the extreme storms that hit it over the winter. In October, the proximity of Hurricane Ophelia exposed Hywind to wind speeds of 125km/h (80mph), and, later in December, another storm delivered “gusts in excess of 160km/h (100mph) and waves in excess of 8.2m (27ft).”

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