Germany has continued to be the most aggressive adopter of renewable energy among large industrial nations. The country has the goal of shifting to 100% renewables by 2050. Its continuing embracing of solar and wind generation resources over the past decade has resulted in renewables supplying a third of the country’s power on average.
Energy storage is hot topic because more and more electricity is being generated from renewable sources like solar power and wind power that can’t operate all the time because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. So we need ways to store surplus energy when it is produced and be able to use it later when it is needed.
Renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are getting cheaper all the time and are, in many places, competing head to head on price with traditional fossil fuel generation. The ultimate goal is to replace polluting energy sources entirely, but even under the most optimistic scenarios, fossil fuel plants aren’t just going to disappear very quickly.
The Caribbean island nation of Grenada has installed a wind and solar powered off-grid streetlight. An Irish company called airsynergy has developed the underlying technology which it calls a Remote Power Unit or RPU.
We recently highlighted how safe drinking water is in short supply. According to research published in the journal Science Advances, at least two thirds of the global population – more than four billion people – live with severe water scarcity for at least one month every year. And 500 million people around the world face water scarcity all year.
The Interior Department has recently defined a “Wind Energy Area”, consisting of about 81,000 acres, located 11 miles south of Long Island. The designation is a first step to opening up the acreage for large-scale, competitive wind energy leasing through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The biggest Internet companies have been embracing renewable energy for years now. The company that bought the largest amount of clean energy last year was Google, which has three times the renewable capacity of the next biggest user. Other familiar names in the top ten companies in total wind and solar capacity include Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple. These companies have been ahead of the pack in looking for sustainable ways to meet their substantial energy needs.
While 195 countries reached agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in December, the city of San Diego made a major commitment of its own. Whereas the Paris climate accord is non-binding, San Diego has gone much further.
There is much talk these days about energy storage. As more and more wind and solar power enters the electrical grid, there is an increasing need to be able to store excess energy and have it available when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. Much of the talk centers around battery technology, and having storage batteries distributed throughout the grid is the most versatile and widely applicable way to provide storage.
When it comes to carbon dioxide, three countries are responsible for half of the world’s emissions into the atmosphere: China, the US, and India. On a per capita basis, we are far worse than China, but its population is so huge that that it produces twice as much CO2 as the United States and nearly one-third of the world’s emissions.
The global community is increasingly making commitments to reduce the amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. More and more carbon-free renewable energy sources are being used all the time. But despite the tremendous growth in solar and wind power, fossil fuels still provide about 80% of the world’s energy. Coal still provides about 40% of worldwide electricity. Realistically, these numbers can only go down at a relatively gradual pace.
Around the world, cities are trying to combat climate change by shifting their energy needs away from coal, oil and natural gas. Some, like Reykjavik and Zurich, use no fossil fuels to produce power at all; others are still planning cutbacks.
Colleges and universities are bustling with activity. Among the conversations on campus: the call from students to sell endowment investments in the fossil fuel industry. Stanford has eliminated its coal investments, and a small number of other universities have divested to varying degrees.
More and more cities, states and even entire countries are setting goals to use 100% renewable energy. For the most part, these goals relate to electrical power, which is the energy need most attainable via renewable sources. But ultimately, we would like to cover all of our energy needs – electrical power, heating and cooling, and transportation – using sustainable renewable resources.
Towns and cities are increasingly aware of the value of gaining control over their energy supply in order to make sure it is clean, efficient, reliable and secure. The central concept of what may become a local power revolution is the microgrid.