The science of new and old energy, part 3: renewables
This is the third part of a three-part series discussing energy in North America. Click here to read the remaining articles in this series:
- The science of new and old energy, part 1: fossil fuels
- The science of new and old energy, part 2: nuclear power
Renewable energy sources are largely derived from solar energy either directly or indirectly. The most promising, thus far, include solar photovoltaic systems, wind power and hydroelectricity; however, new technologies such as hydrogen and fuel cells show tremendous promise as well.
The North American Energy Infrastructure Act brought about an integrated power grid that enables the U.S. and Canada to share energy resources. Many of the projects underway take advantage of renewable energy technologies.
The Soule River Hydroelectric Project, located in Alaska, will provide hydroelectric power to British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Montana-Alberta Tie Limited will generate power from wind farms.
The most highly developed solar energy technologies consist primarily of solar collectors and photovoltaic systems used to convert light to DC power. Photovoltaic systems include small, thin panels of semiconductors called solar or PV cells.
A chemical reaction takes place in the solar cells upon exposure to sunlight that generates electrons to produce current. The solar cells are installed on large panels, some of which are designed to track the sunlight throughout the day.
Other components of the PV system include one or more batteries, a charge regulator and a inverter that converts DC current to AC current. Solar PV has become a rapidly growing industry as the cost effectiveness has improved: It offers a clean, inexhaustible source of energy.
RELATED TOPIC: Top 10 U.S. commercial solar contractors
Although at present the technology is insufficient to meet the demand for energy, many utilities, organizations and residences use solar PV systems to supplement present energy sources and help reduce costs.
As of 2013, there were 46,000 operating wind turbines in the United States. Wind energy provides 4.1 percent of the energy produced in the nation. Wind turbines are equipped with blades that are rotated as the wind blows.
A shaft that connects from the blades to a generator revolves as the blades turn to produce electricity. The primary objection to the technology stems from the fact that they require a large space to generate a significant amount of power.
RELATED TOPIC: Top 10 Offshore Wind Farms in the World
Canada is the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world: Its 450 hydroelectric stations produce 62 percent of its energy.
In addition, there are presently 1,756 hydroelectric power facilities in the United States.
- Hydroelectric power facilities are typically constructed on large rivers that have a significant drop in elevation.
- The dam retains large volumes of water in a reservoir.
- Gravity forces water through an intake near the bottom of the dam wall.
- A turbine propeller is turned by the force of the water.
- A shaft connects the propeller to a generator which converts the mechanical energy to electrical power.
RELATED TOPIC: Top 5 sub-sectors in the Canadian energy market: Oil
The various methodologies employed in energy production in North American necessitate the assimilation of a wide range of resources: At present, the vast majority of energy sources rely on a generator to convert various forms of energy into electricity.
A generator produces electricity by moving wire or a disc, usually made of copper, between magnetic poles. The power distribution system requires large numbers of power cables, transformers and circuit breakers; therefore, it too demands a substantial amount of resources.
Each of these systems requires maintenance and periodic replacement of parts that must be calculated into the economic viability.
The North American energy infrastructure encompasses an immense range of materials and technologies and will continue to expand in the coming years.
Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage
Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050.
How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.
Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:
- The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
- Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
- Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities
Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.
There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.
Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.
Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.
Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.
It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.