As renewable energy matures into an ever more popular and cost-effective source of electricity, we’re getting used to seeing some historic achievements from nations that have ramped up their clean energy infrastructure – and the latest glory goes to Portugal.
Recent figures show that the country ran on renewable energy alone for four days straight this month, completing an extraordinary 107-hour run between Saturday morning, May 7, and early Wednesday evening, May 11. During this record-setting window, Portugal ran on solar, wind, and hydro electricity entirely, without needing to fall back on power sourced from its coal and natural gas plants.
The numbers, released by Portugal’s ZERO System Sustainable Land Association in collaboration with the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association (APREN), indicate that the nation has come a long way in terms of embracing clean energy in recent decades, and could stand to even improve its environmental credentials in the near future.
As the solar market expands, word of mouth will spread, and it will become easier to find new customers without the need to hire as many people in sales. Solar power, in essence, is contagious. And that makes the industry more productive.
Stanford University scientists have invented a low-cost water splitter that uses a single catalyst to produce both hydrogen and oxygen gas 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The device, described in a study published June 23 in Nature Communications, could provide a renewable source of clean-burning hydrogen fuel for transportation and industry.
“We have developed a low-voltage, single-catalyst water splitter that continuously generates hydrogen and oxygen for more than 200 hours, an exciting world-record performance,” said study co-author Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and of photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
Solar power is making huge strides as a reliable, renewable energy source, but there’s still a lot of untapped potential in terms of the efficiency of photovoltaic cells and what happens at night and during inclement weather. Now a solution has been put forward in the form of producing energy from raindrops.
Key to the new process is graphene: a ‘wonder’ material we’ve heard plenty about before. Because raindrops are not made up of pure water, and contain various salts that split up into positive and negative ions, a team from the Ocean University of China in Qingdao thinks we can harness power via a simple chemical reaction. Specifically, they want to use graphene sheets to separate the positively charged ions in rain (including sodium, calcium, and ammonium) and in turn generate electricity.
Early tests, using slightly salty water to simulate rain, have been promising: the researchers were able to generate hundreds of microvolts and achieve a respectable 6.53 percent solar-to-electric conversion efficiency from their customised solar panel.
Small, vertical axis wind turbines are the right size for residential and urban areas, but so far, they have lived in the shadows of their larger, horizontal axis counterparts. The power output is significantly lower (although a study has suggested that for the space they take up, they’re more efficient) and the noise they produce is louder than most homeowners can deal with.
Algae-based biorefineries are among some of the most sought-after alternative energy sources, requiring only nutrients, water, sunlight and CO2 to run. The biorefinery aims to provide cleaner energy in the form of biodiesel, methane or ethanol, although refinery configurations are too costly in both money and energy to present a current alternative.
However, a research team from the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás, Mexico, led by Eusiel Rubio-Castro, has developed a method to determine the optimal design of an algae-based biorefinery using flue gases taken from other industrial facilities as raw materials.
Using flue gases as a source of CO2 reduces costs associated with the algae-growing stage, the most expensive step, and many other costs by as much as 90%. Additionally, opting for recycled water whenever possible reduces the requirement for fresh water by 83%. Regardless, the team stated that costs remain too high to present a credible alternative energy source, but continue to urge the development of algae-based biorefineries as ‘a necessary expense’ in the global effort to reducing carbon emissions.
The EU created 23.4% of its electricity from renewable energy sources in 2012, with a total electrical output estimated at 763.5 TW. This represents an important increase from 2011, when these energy sources brought “only” 20.4 % of total electricity.
Austria and Sweden pave the way in what is possible for renewable energy with 68.3 and 67.1 % of their total electricity coming from renewables in 2012, respectively. The remaining 25 EU countries are following suit. Nine countries generated 20-50% of their electricity through renewables, including: Latvia (43.4%), Denmark (41.7%), Portugal (35.6%), Finland (32.5%), Spain (31.7%), Slovenia (29.5%), Italy (26.6%), Romania (25.2%) and Germany (24%).
In terms of the chosen technology, the statistics, taken from Euro Observer, have shown that hydropower represents 43.9 % of the total renewable energy produced in 2012. Wind follows with 26.6%, biomass (19.5%), and solar energy (9.2%). Geothermal and ocean energies make up the remaining 0.8 %. The renewable energy industry in the EU has employed more than 1.22 million people in 2012.
These figures show that the EU 27 are well on their way to achieving the 2020 goal of “20 % of renewable energy in the total energy consumption.”
The world’s biggest solar thermal plant is being opened in the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate next month, and it’s expected to bring renewable energy to 1 million locals for 20 hours a day.
Built on the vast desert plains of the Sahara, the plant will have unfettered access to sunlight during the day, and the resulting heat will be used to melt large amounts of salt. This mechanism will allow the system to retain heat energy to power a steam turbine at night, giving the locals access to almost-round-the-clock renewable energy.
ALEC Influence Could Dismantle Ohio's Clean Energy Policies
Ever heard of ALEC?
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) connects fossil fuel interests to legislators. And they are behind a coordinated effort to dismantle clean energy laws across the country. Ohio’s clean energy policies are currently at risk.
But you might not know it…
Even though the legislators pushing the anti-clean energy bill are deep in ALEC’s pocket.
Of the 21 Senators who voted “yes,” 15 are members of ALEC. None of the Senators who voted “no” have ties to ALEC.
We hear an awful lot of bad news regarding climate change and governments’ latent reaction to this ongoing global issue. However, one expert, Professor Catherine Mitchell from the University of Exeter, now reckons that there has been a global shift in attitude, policy, flexibility, efficiency, investment and efforts towards renewable energy sources such as wind, ocean, and solar, while there has been a decline in fossil fuel investment. In fact, she argues that renewable energy investment has, for the first time, outstripped investment in “dirty fuels”. This is due to a number of reasons, mainly evidence informed policy on the importance of adaption and mitigation to climate change on regional, national and global levels. It is also becoming clearer that renewable energy system costs are lowering as social preference increases, all while improving energy security and greatly helping to meet carbon reduction targets. While Professor Mitchell is careful to stress that climate change is an ongoing, complex issue with firm action required behind policy, there seems to be cause for optimism. As the momentum for favouring renewable energy systems over older, conventional systems becomes the norm, is there hope that the world is finally acting on a problem recognised decades ago?
The Latin name for the hemp plant is cannabis. Hemp is the English word for this useful plant that made ancient history. Hemp seeds provided high-protein porridge and often saved populations from famine. Oil pressed from hemp seeds provides fuel, lighting oil, paint base and cooking oil. Hemp meal (what remains after pressing the oil)…
By 2020, there will be enough renewable energy to supply CHN, IND, and BRA combined.
Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted that by 2020, 26% of the world’s energy will come from renewable sources (solar, wind, hydro). The agency adds that the amount will be higher than the combined energy demands of country’s like China, India, and Brazil. The prediction was based on the assumption that in the next five years, 700 gigawatts will be added to the world’s current renewable energy capacity.