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Game-changing Clean Energy Breakthroughs

Kim Brebach - Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Game-changing Clean Energy Projects

Innovators in renewable energy are setting a furious pace, and leaving governments eating their dust. Scientists and businessmen are forging ahead while politicians squabble. In this post, we explore 8 projects from Down Under and the world that show how quickly the cleantech vision has become reality. In some cases, these breakthroughs are breathing life into baskets cases of former technologies. Win-win. 

1. Chernobyl 

Image source: ShareAmercia

The nuclear power plant's fourth reactor saw a catastrophic meltdown in 1986. As a result, the site cannot be used for farming or human habitation for some 24,000 years. Now a consortium that includes Ukrainian and German energy companies has come up with a use for the abandoned area: they’ve built a solar farm right next to the old plant, on concrete slabs. The Ukrainian government supports the project, as it lessens the country’s dependence on Russian gas. More HERE

2. Rust Belt USA

Donald Trump promised to bring jobs back to the east-coast rustbelt, but has done no such thing. He took the USA out of the Paris Climate agreement instead. The irony is that clean energy is generating some of the jobs that were lost when Bethlehem steel closed its doors. Baltimore-based US Wind, Inc. is developing ‘what will ultimately be the first utility-scale offshore wind energy project in the U.S.,’ according to windpowerengineering.com.

The project will construct 32 wind turbines 17 miles from the Ocean City shoreline, will generate 250MW of energy, and create over 7,000 jobs during the development, construction and operating phases. As this video shows, the locals are delighted with the prospect of jobs; the only obstacle is Ocean City’s council which is worried about the impact the line of distant windmills might have on its main industry: tourism.

3. Hywind

Hywind is the world's first commercial floating offshore wind farm, located 15 miles off the coast of Scotland. Hywind isn’t anchored to the seafloor, but is held in place by buoys and anchors. The six-turbine, 30MW installation has been sending electricity to the grid for a year now, working at a 65% capacity factor. This factor measures actual output, which is very different from theoretical maximum output.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), onshore wind installations in the US had an average capacity factor of about 36.7 percent in 2017.Solar fares even worse with an average capacity factor of 27 percent in 2017. Hyydropower does better with an average capacity factor of 45.2 %. More HERE.

Floating wind farms can be deployed in waters of any depth, which makes more space available. There’s just one catch: these gigantic turbines look like something out of Star Wars. Check this short BBC video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vy1ajBe8mY

4. Floating Solar

The Chinese city of Huainan sits on about a fifth of China’s coal reserves. Now they’ve built a floating solar farm on top of a former coal mine, which was flooded and became a lake. The World Economic Forum talks about a ‘pleasing symbolism’.

The China Daily reports that the farm started generating electricity earlier this year. 120,000 photovoltaic panels on floats cover around 86 hectares of water surface, and generate 40MW of power, enough electricity for 15,000 homes.

Over 1,000 reinforced concrete piles support the farm, which is claimed to have a life of 25 years. The on-water structure, which is patrolled by drones, is expensive to build and maintain but doesn’t occupy precious land area.

5. Flying Wind Turbines

Image Source: Altaeros

Researchers at MIT came up with the idea of a Buoyant Airborne Turbine, a floating generator that sits inside a helium dirigible. Their spin-off company, Altaeros, has received financial support from SoftBank and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and has demonstrated several prototypes that can reach altitudes of up to 600m, sending electricity down a tether to the grid or to storage.

Smaller versions of this concept are ideal for deployment in remote rural areas where no electricity is available, to power small machinery such as pumps or irrigation systems. They’re also easily deployed in areas where a natural disaster has damaged the electricity grid. More Here.

6. A Breath of Fresh Air

Zinc-Air batteries are not a new concept but have taken years to perfect. The latest versions use zinc and air with real-time monitoring supplied by the cloud. Zinc-Air battery pioneer NantEnergy has just announced that its 2019 model has driven the cost of energy developed by the battery down to $100 per kilowatt hour. That’s a game-changer according to Sean Petersen from the World Bank.

By comparison, the cost of energy from lithium-ion batteries ranges from $200 to $300 per kilowatt hour. In addition to the obvious economic benefits, Zinc-Air batteries are also safer to use since they do without lithium or cobalt. As a result, there's no risk of overheating and fire, and no need for cooling systems. This is vital because the target market for Air-Zinc batteries is the developing world, in areas where power grids don’t exist.

Air-zinc battery clusters can also serve as back-up during power failures: Duke Energy in North Carolina used the NantEnergy system to provide power to residents for three days while Hurricane Florence was devastating the coast line.

The system works roughly like this: Electricity is generated from sources such as solar panels, and converted to zinc storage via an electrochemical reaction. In the discharge cycle, the process is more or less reversed.

According to NantEnergy, these batteries have been successfully deployed in nine countries with more than 3,000 systems supporting 110 villages and 1,000 installations across cell tower sites. The company says that these installations have eliminated 1 million lead acid batteries and the use of 4 million litres of diesel for generators.

NantEnergy’s CTO Ramkumar Krishnan says: ‘The combination of the technology, using intelligent software and the cloud, and nature, using solar, oxygen and zinc, have made this a truly scalable energy solution for the world.’

Image Source: Chemical & Engineering News

7. South Australia – Battery Battleground

So says Fortune. The giant 129MW Tesla battery known as the ‘Horndale Reserve’ has already proved itself, saving South Australia $30 million on grid maintenance in the first 6 months of operation. Now a ‘British industrialist has stepped in with plans for a 140-megawatt-hour beast,’ Fortune reports.

British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta bought the Arrium steelworks in Whyalla in August 2017, and then bought 51% of Ross Garnaut’s Zen Energy, which he has renamed Simec Zen Energy. Simec Zen plans to do a lot more than build a giant battery. It has also released details of its Cultana Solar Farm project which

  • Will deploy 780,000 solar panels spread across 11ha
  • Will generate 600 GW hours of electricity per year, enough to power 100,000 homes
  • Will offset close to half a million tons of carbon dioxide each year. 

The giant battery and Cultana Solar Farm are part of Sanjeev Gupta’s GREENSTEEL and GREENALUMINIUM strategies. ABC News reports that the final configuration will include an additional ‘200MW of solar, a 100MWh battery storage facility at Port Augusta, and 120MW/600MWh pumped hydro storage in a disused mining pit in the Middleback Ranges.’

Gupta told the ABC: ‘We have a strong conviction that traditional carbon‐intensive generation sources do not have a long‐term future as the predominant source of power in Australia and globally. We see Australia – with its incomparable energy resources – as the natural home for expansion of energy-intensive industry, with renewables to play an integral role.’

8. South Australia – a Future for Cars?

Sanjeev Gupta also wants to build an electric car, and recently approached Holden / GM about leasing part of it Elizabeth plant. Holden told him to go away in so many words, which prompted then Premier Jay Weatherill to remind the company of the billions of government dollars it had received over many decades. He added: ‘For them to say we are not going to sell our plant and equipment to someone who might set up as a competitor to us is a very destructive and inappropriate response.’

Sanjeev Gupta’s interest in building electric cars is disarmingly simple. He says: ‘it is worth remembering that all cars will need steel, aluminium and composite materials whichever the engine or driver, so the focus of clean growth must capture this.’

Gupta acknowledges that the biggest challenge for the Whyalla plant is finding markets for the steel it makes. His target is the export market, which is highly competitive. That’s why reducing the cost of power is crucial.

Image Source: InDaily.com.au

Unlike our governments, Sanjeev Gupta has real vision. That’s most likely why Prince Charles has appointed him an official ambassador for the Industrial Cadets programme designed to nurture manufacturing skills in Britain. ‘Gupta is doing so much to apply real imagination, innovative thinking and sustainable rejuvenation to our nation’s heavy industries,’ the Prince of Wales said, ‘and I’m thrilled that he has so enthusiastically become involved with Industrial Cadets as well.’

Kim Brebach
Content Chief

I've always loved people and words. As long as I can remember, I've been a story-teller and the team here says I'm pretty good at it. That's probably why I head up the Content Team: I create the arc of the story and others add their magic. 

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We’re engineers not marketers, so it was fascinating to see Technoledge turn our spec sheets into an eye-catching website and collateral that actually say what we do. The website’s also attracted more leads in its first 5 weeks live than the old website did in 2 years.
Aaron Maher
Managing Director, Procept


Meet more clients



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