The battery industry is currently dominated by lithium-ion batteries. We have them in our phones and computers. They power electric cars. And they are increasingly being used to store energy generated by solar panels and other renewable energy sources.
The transition to sustainable energy sources faces many challenges. One important one is to make those sources as reliable as conventional energy systems. For technologies like solar and wind power, which can’t operate around the clock, an enabling element is effective energy storage. Energy storage is critical for both the electricity grid and for transportation.
So far, it has been a big year for the U.S. wind industry, which experienced its fastest first-quarter growth since 2009. In total, about 2,000 megawatts of new capacity was installed, enough to power about 500,000 homes. With this addition, wind now produces 5 1/2% of the country’s electricity.
There is a tendency to think of the changes in the energy industry as a pitched battle between fossil fuel companies and renewable energy. There is some truth to this, but only to a certain extent. The multi-trillion-dollar fossil fuel industry is made up of businesses dedicated to growth and increased profits. And like businesses in other industries when major changes occur, fossil fuel companies may read the tea leaves and change with the times.
The seven northeastern U.S. states that make up the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have all set ambitious emissions reduction goals and renewable energy targets that will be difficult to meet. For example, New York has the goal of getting 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030.
According to a new study by the non-profit group Carbon Brief, carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom are at their lowest levels since the 1920s. Four factors are responsible: a record drop in coal use, the rapid growth of renewable energy, the expansion of energy efficiency programs, and the increased use of natural gas for electricity power plants.
Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are just starting to enter the market but they have a long way to go before they can even catch up with their battery-powered counterparts. Powering cars with hydrogen has the advantage that fueling the vehicle is much like what we are used to: pull up to the pump, fill your tank for a few minutes, and drive off.
Installations of solar power continue to increase rapidly around the world and in no place more than China. By the end of 2016, total solar generating capacity in China reached 77.4 gigawatts, making it the largest producer of solar energy in the world. Globally, there is a total of 228 gigawatts of solar power installed, although that number keeps changing rapidly.
At the end of last year, Southern California Edison turned on the largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in the world in Ontario, California. It is a substation with 80 megawatt-hours of capacity, enough energy to power 2,500 households or charge 1,000 Tesla cars a day.
Microalgae biofuels may provide a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Algae efficiently use CO2 and can produce biomass very quickly. Some species can double their mass in as little as 6 hours. Such single-celled organisms are amenable to high-throughput techniques to evolve new strains, unlike terrestrial biomass sources like corn which can take years to modify.
Regardless of the new administration’s position on climate change, America’s corporations have assumed a leadership role in the country’s ability to meet and beat previous domestic climate pledges.
The Netherlands – the country long associated with picturesque windmills – is now operating 100% of its electric trains with wind energy.
From melting Arctic ice to dying coral reefs to rising sea levels, there was no shortage of grim environmental news in 2016. But the news wasn’t all bad. There were several bright spots for the environment last year as well.
A recent report from the Energy Information Administration notes that for the first time in 40 years, carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation are less than those from transportation. The reason is that power plants nationwide are abandoning the use of coal and turning to cleaner burning natural gas, as well as newer sources such as solar and wind power.
The Board of Trustees of the Long Island Power Authority has voted to approve the nation’s largest offshore wind farm, which is also the first offshore wind farm in New York. The South Fork Wind Farm, located 30 miles southeast of Montauk, New York, will be a 90 megawatt facility that will provide enough electricity to power 50,000 Long Island homes and help meet increasing electricity demand on the South Fork of Long Island.
We recently talked about the increasing efforts by colleges and universities to embrace sustainability with the use of renewable energy sources. Those efforts are increasing in many places.
Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee were trying to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn carbon dioxide into a useful fuel. But the unexpected occurred: they found that the first step in their process actually got the job done all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which is already used to power generators and vehicles.
The great majority of solar cells being manufactured today are based on silicon crystals. That technology has come a long way over time and has gotten cheaper and more plentiful as the industry has grown.
Colleges and universities across the country are increasingly deploying solar arrays and other types of renewable energy. Many have set goals to become carbon neutral.