Renewable Energy: Will Science dictate the path we choose in 2016??
How is Energy and Science paving the way for cleaner renewable energy sources in 2016 and beyond?
The face of energy is changing: traditional fossil fuel sources are giving way to a future reliant on more renewable energy.
But that means that renewable energy must also change -right?
To be viable in the long term, renewable energy sources must be more powerful and cost-effective.
Here are five avenues researchers are exploring in an effort to make that more renewable future a reality.
1. Solar Power:Building better solar solutions
Solar energy has been around for decades, but in recent years it has been receiving more funding and interest than ever. That attention is coming from both the public and private sectors. In September, the U.S. Department of the Navy made its largest renewable investment to date through a solar farm partnership with Sempra and the Western Area Power Administration, while massive private companies across various fields from Apple and Cisco to Kaiser Permanente are investing in solar to the tune of billions.
That increased interest in solar means increased interest in making solar better. The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) launched the SunShot initiative in 2010 with the goal of making solar energy cost-competitive: five years in, the initiative has made significant strides forward and is funding further advancements. In January 2016, the DoE assigned $18 million in funding to six projects across the country developing more scalable and cost-efficient solar energy storage technologies as part of its Grid Modernization Initiative (a sector of the SunShot Initiative).
2. Wind Power: taking wind farms to the next level
Wherever there are wide open spaces, there are opportunities for wind power. It’s a rapidly growing field—wind power provides 4.2 percent of Australia’s overall electricity, and approximately 5 percent of energy needs in both Canada and the United States. But as those numbers aim to increase, engineers are searching for ways to maximize power generation in finite space.
One potential breakthrough is high altitude wind power, harnessing the more forceful winds of the upper atmosphere to generate energy. Startups like Altaeros Energies are experimenting with methods like turbines built into helium-filled industrial blimps, with the claim that these high-altitude methods could generate twice as much power compared to conventional wind turbines.
3. Nuclear Energy: Nuclear is clean, affordbale and secure we hope.
The thought of nuclear energy often gives consumers pause. But in fact, it’s much more common than the average consumer would think. According to the DoE, 20 percent of the country’s power generation in the last two decades has come from a nuclear power source, making it by far the largest current source of non-greenhouse-gas-emitting power generation. The energy community is also working hard on initiatives to expand the capabilities of this alternative energy source while also making it safer and more secure.
As a result of research by Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC), nuclear energy will continue to provide clean, affordable, and secure energy while supporting the administration’s greenhouse gas reduction goals by introducing advanced designs into new energy and industrial markets,” states a recent report from the DoE’s office of nuclear energy. This research includes the development of “next generation” nuclear plants, from safer accident-containing sites to “recycling” reactors that turn previous nuclear waste into new fuel to power the future.
4, Tidal Power: Harnessing tidal for energy
From conventional oil exploration to offshore wind farms, the ocean is home to myriad energy projects. It is also the very source of a progressive generation approach called tidal power. Referred to as a “sister resource” to wind power, tidal power uses floating hydraulic pumps and the perpetual motion of ocean currents to generate energy.
While tidal power has raised some concerns and detractors are still unconvinced of its potential, the method is gaining significant traction as a viable option in coastal regions, especially industrial regions where other forms of energy production are falling out of favor. In these areas, populations are looking to tidal power as a source for both renewable energy and a refreshed job market.
5. Carbon Capture: Capturing Carbon Dioxide - CO2
Environmental issues like climate change have long been linked to an accumulation of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But what if that carbon could be captured and repurposed as something beneficial? Researchers are currently looking into ways to recapture carbon from fossil fuels like coal and reuse the resource as a cost-effective energy source. Unlike some other forms of renewable energy, these researchers recognize that carbon capture may not be the greenest solution immediately—but with time its effects can be unlocked.
"In the short term, in order to develop the technology, we probably will enable more use of hydrocarbons, which makes environmentally conscious people uncomfortable,” Chris Jones, a chemical engineer studying CO2 capture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told David Biello in a report for Yale 360. “But it’s a necessary thing we have to do to get the technology out there and learn how to make it more efficient.
Source: Energy Digital - http://www.energydigital.com
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
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