Sep 18, 2014

How Data Could Transform the Solar Industry

Green Tech
3 min
As solar becomes more accessible and installations continue to spring up, there is an insane amount of data produced daily—and it’s going...

As solar becomes more accessible and installations continue to spring up, there is an insane amount of data produced daily—and it’s going completely unused.

Writing for GreenTech Media, James Bickford notes the effect collecting and analyzing data is having on other industries.

“Leveraging the vast knowledge hidden within massive data sets is currently transforming entire industries such as retail, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and government operations,” he writes. “In the case of the financial services industry, entirely new business models were born out of utilizing big data, by analyzing data on a minute-by-minute basis and identifying opportunities to capture value almost instantly.”

There’s no reason, according to Bickford, that solar can’t do the same. So, how the industry use data to take itself to the next level?

Bickford says the first step for the solar industry to take is to rethink the way it approaches data.

“The first step is to reframe the way we view our data, moving from conceptualizing it as a cost center to be managed reluctantly to seeing our data streams as assets that can provide additional revenue, for both individual companies and the industry as a whole,” he writes.

This would essentially mean making your data work for you, be it by using it to attract investments or improve efficiencies. Bickford is arguing that data should be more than just numbers, but rather a tool that can help solar businesses run better.

Even the data itself could be monetized and used to foster growth, according to Michael Herzig, president and founder of solar monitoring company Locus Energy.

“We are starting to see an increased focus, not just on wanting analytics, but wanting to pay for analytics—which is an important distinction,” he said. “What’s driving this is that the stakes are high.”

This is especially key for people looking to invest in solar and want to know that they will assuredly see a decent ROI.

“The value of the securitization is a clear driver for paying for the data,” he said. “One of our customers literally guarantees one of its customers millions of dollars per system” based its predicted performance. “If analytics can give them 1 % more accuracy, that’s a lot of money.”

While there are certainly financial benefits to analytics, they are also the driving factor behind grid-scale energy storage. While the technology is still very young, being able to store energy is thought to be the future of where renewable is going, as they allow for load balancing and better energy distribution without stressing the grid. Storage is becoming increasingly paired with ‘traditional’ renewable sources.

“You really have to look at coupling these together,” Ajay Madwesh, vice president of utilities industry business for Space-Time Insight, said.

Essentially, not utilizing the data available from solar systems is essentially ignoring the direction of innovation.

“It is clear solar is growing at a nearly exponential rate, yet the industry as a whole must continue to keep innovating in order to accelerate us to sustained profitable growth,” Bickford writes. “While improving solutions and lowering soft costs are a strong start to this goal, ultimately, it is the vast oceans of information and analysis we can gain from tapping the power of solar data that will take us into a greater solar future.”

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Jul 29, 2021

Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030

Dominic Ellis
4 min
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades says the UK's National Infrastructure Commission

Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission

Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.

The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.

The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture. 

It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.  

The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020. 

Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.

The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.

While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.

Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse. 

"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.

“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets. 

Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.  

Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."

McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:

  • Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
  • Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
  • Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
  • Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
  • The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere

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