Year in review: Top energy stories of 2015
The sun is a gargantuan, constant, free source of clean energy and in the era of climate disruption caused by greenhouse gas emissions, the sun’s energy promise is glowingly exciting. The sheer amount of energy available from the sun presents the unique challenge of how and where to store it all. Current solar panel technology has serious shortcomings, which has had a “chilling effect” on the industry; something we can’t afford. According to The Guardian, John J. Licata, chief energy strategist at Blue Phoenix, the developing technology of 3D printing may change this.
3D printing, sometimes known as additive manufacturing (AM) is the process by which an automated printer follows a digital design to create a tangible, three-dimensional (3D) object by repeatedly laying deposits of materials like glass, silicon, plastic, resin or ceramic on top of each other until completion. The fact that AM works off of a digital design instead of an assembly line—like traditional manufacturing—represents tremendous savings in shipping because the product, in this case 3D solar panels, can be created anywhere there is a 3D printer. Read more
If there was ever any question that the United States is seriously ramping up its interests in the renewable energy market, that questioning can be put to rest. This week the U.S. Department of the Navy forged a partnership with Western Area Power Administration and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power to start work on a new expansion to Sempra’s Mesquite solar farm. While the amount invested in the project has not been disclosed, it has been confirmed as the largest purchase of renewable energy ever made by a U.S. federal entity to date.
• Related: [INFOGRAPHIC] Solar energy facts
Established with its first build-out in 2012, Sempra’s Mesquite solar farm lies roughly 60 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona. Huffington Post reports that the facility, which “requires no water to operate and reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” has the capacity to generate as much as 700 megawatts—enough energy to power up to 260,000 homes. Read more
Clean energy company SunEdison Inc. is stirring the solar industry with its recent purchase of Vivint Solar Inc. for US$2.2 billion.
As reported by our sister publication Business Review USA, the deal is the latest move by SunEdison to aggressively expand across the clean energy industry. Vivint Solar is one of the largest U.S. companies that installs solar panels on household rooftops, and news of the deal sent Vivint Solar’s stock up over 40 percent on Monday, July 20, according to Fortune. SunEdison shares were up 2.9 percent at US$32.48, after touching a near-seven-year high of US$33.44, on the New York Stock Exchange, according to Reuters. Read more
Australia’s largest single rooftop solar system has just been installed on the shopping-centre Stockland Shellharbour, which has already generated over 400,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy and is on pace to hit its annual target of 1.74 kWh.
As our sister site Business Review Australia reported, Stockland Shellharbour in New South Wales is made up of 3,991 Photo-Voltaic (PV) panels across a rooftop that’s 7,658 square metres — nearly the same size of a football field. The system generates 4,789 kWh on average daily, which is enough to power 280 homes and provide 28 per cent of the centre’s daily base building requirements. Read more
In today’s age of smartphones and tablets, monitoring your energy usage and carbon footprint is easier than ever. From tracking energy consumption and efficiency to discovering new ways of saving on your electricity bill, new apps aimed at energy efficiency continue to make living a greener lifestyle easier.
We examine six innovative apps that have the power to help you stop wasting energy and start tracking your personal impact on the environment, including possibly making some money in the process. Read more
When thinking of ways to improve efficiency and the environmental footprint of your business, chances are that the first topics to spring to mind involve divisions like production or distribution. But energy consumption is a comprehensive concern and there is room for improvement in every division.
Green Computing is the idea that a company’s IT department can be just as efficient, sustainable and environmentally conscious as any other part of operations. It’s an idea that can save your business money and improve its standing with the community. Building a truly green business takes time, but no matter what industry you’re in and where you’re starting out, all it takes is a little planning and strategy to get the ball rolling today. Read more
The benefits and risks of nuclear power generation and usage are an ongoing topic of discussion – and often disagreement – with radioactive waste continuing to occupy one of the top spots on the “risk” list.
And while it goes without saying that this form of power has always brought with it a certain amount of concern – previous power plant accidents and the threat of nuclear war are enough to scare any human being – the issue of radioactive waste may stand-out even more to industry leaders than the memory of Hiroshima. So just how risky is this top-of-mind risk? Read more
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