Sailing 100% renewable

You might have read an old post on electric boats and sea energy harvesting before. I described then, electrifying boat transport as one of the ways to make islands 100% renewable.

Electric sailboats have a lot of sense, and are becoming more and more popular. It’s a fantastic sensation to sail, without the sound of a motor, and for many of us, turning the diesel engine on is to be avoided as much as possible. Moreover, even when the engine is only used for a little time, we strongly feel the pollution.

Precisely because for a sailboat the engine is not used that much, having electric propulsion and battery storage is very reasonable. It can be charged at the normal port outlet, regenerating while sailing, or with a small wind generator and solar panels. Compared to the need of refueling at a port gas-station, the convenience is increased greatly, and also the cost to the owner.

Maintenance of an electric motor is simpler because of less moving parts, the size of the motor is reduced, and the battery can be placed as ballast, incorporated in the hull. Sailboats already have batteries and often the motors have to run just to charge them. By increasing the size of the batteries and having renewable charging (solar/wind), this is automatically taken care of.

Besides, the performance is increased, having more torque at lower rpm, and electric motors are more efficient that the internal combustion counterparts.

Finally, regarding the noise, see this video comparing the diesel engines to electric. Together with the smoke/pollution, this is the most dramatic difference.

In summary, it will amaze me if in 5 or ten years all 95% of all new sailboats are electric. And I hope to sail on one of those soon.

20160730 Sunset desde barco

Sunset near Cala D’Or in Mallorca

If Energythaca were an island, sailing there would be on a sailboat. That was the image on my first post on the blog.

I guess it is an appropriate post arriving from vacations…

“Baseload” is an obsolete pre-energy-transition concept?

“Baseload” is so much twentieth century… It is a concept widely used when demand was not flexible. When there was an uncontrollable consumption and industries were not adapting their production to availability of abundant energy. When the goal was to have nuclear and other conventional power plants running 24/7.

In the twenty-first century, the demand curve is not going to be flat, but is going to be variable and smartly adapted to supply of renewable energy.


The “base load” game. Image from Maria Yan (Yanovski-55776) on

Let’s look at the energy demand to challenge this concept…

Sigue leyendo

Upcycling sun-tennas

The following picture was taken in Casablanca from the Kenzi Tower one month ago. It isn’t the best example, though, for example, in Cairo, it strikes more to the eye.

What do you see?…

Antenas techo

Actually, there are approximately 200 TV antennas on the roof-tops. Let’s zoom in a bit:

Antennas 25 In this portion, corresponding to one building alone, you have around 25 units.

With the advent of cable television, wireless video streaming and other technology, these antennas could soon become stranded assets in many countries. Imagine how many could be left useless and need recycling. While thinking about asset utilization and the sharing economy, I couldn’t help but think:

What can they be used for instead?… Sigue leyendo

If nuclear was cheaper…

If nuclear power was cheaper,

we could obviate the fact that it leads to a centralized power generation model instead of a more valuable democratized power generation.

If nuclear power was cheaper,

we could neglect the fact that it leads to an unflexible power generation model instead of a flexible, adaptive and future-proof system.

If nuclear power was cheaper,

we could try to neglect the risks that this source of energy entails.

If nuclear power was cheaper now,

we could try to neglect the fact that it takes very long to build and that cost overruns and delays are very common (just read about the Olkiluoto story).

If nuclear power was cheaper now,

we could try to neglect the fact that the energy situation changes faster every day so it would no longer be cheap compared to other sources when it sells it’s first kWh after a decade (if you are lucky) of construction…

nuclear-power-plant-1314782 stop

No need to ban them, really. (Image by Nathaniel Dodson on

However… Sigue leyendo

Capacity first?

…then Reliability, then Efficiency?

Developing an electrical network is a question of priorities. As is developing anything I guess… Which priorities do you think are most important?

You probably agree that the first step in building an electrical system is bringing access to electricity to most of the population, right?

Capacity to efficiency

This might seem solved, but in reality, access to electricity is still far from being universal. Still 1,2 billion people don’t have access to electricity. It’s in fact part of sustainable development goal 7, and, actually, the road to SDG7 is the road to Energythaca.

While building additional lines and power generation units to solve access to electricity, the values of reliability and efficiency are normally not on the top of mind for system planning. What if access to electricity is provided by renewable microgrids, would values like reliability and energy efficiency be achieved at the same time? Sigue leyendo

The last oil price peak?

This is my own prediction; the future of oil price will reach again a peak price* around 2020, but after that it will never again.

Why will that happen?


Image from Dominik Gwarek on freeimages


The following trends will shape the transition away from the oil-dependant economy and the effects will have to be fully present short after 2020 (as I posted before, we are crossing the chasm):

  1. The global climate policy. Following the Paris agreement, it is not an option not to change, reduce emisions and therefore cut down oil consumption. In order to avoid worse effects of climate change the change is needed, very soon. A good sign is we have already seen 2 consecutive years of decoupling, economic growth without increase in emmissions (and that has happened without bold international action). The suggested carbon tax would be the strongest of levers.
  2. The renewable dominance of electric power. The transition is already visible. No other power source can be installed as fast and with similar scalability, prices also start to make it almost a no-brainer (an example?: the latest PPA in Morocco for wind). And in fact no other power source is being installed as much, so we will have superavits of renewable.
  3. The electrification of transport. Maybe one of the most necessary steps in the transition and that is taking already too long to trigger. An indispensable step to decarbonize the economy, that should be mandatory. However, it will only take place when the simple economy for the majority makes it a no-brainer. This is, when electric mobility (or other alternatives) is clearly less expensive than owning an internal combustion vehicle for the average person. There was a recent article in Bloomberg on the subject.

Not only do I predict it, but I also have bet on the next peak by investing in an oil price ETF (I bought at 10,69$, so it wasn’t the lowest, it has been even -20%). Still, with the new peak it should be at least possible to triple the investment. I promise to write on the result of this (hopefully good) bet in the blog!

(*In constant currency, it is understood.)

Publication: Superconducting Fault Current Limiter

Recently we got published an article on short circuit current limiting on Elevier’s Electric Power Systems Research, were I’m a co-author;

Cover image Electric Power Systems Research

“Performance analysis of a Superconducting Fault Current Limiter in a power distribution substation”, Volume 136, July 2016, Pages 89–99

Antonio Colmenar-Santos, , J.M. Pecharromán-Lázaro, Carlos de Palacio Rodríguez, Eduardo Collado-Fernández

The results of the research and pilot project for this technology are promising. The short circuit current limiting with a superconducting system (SFCL-Superconducting Fault Current Limiter) is an example of FACTS (Flexible AC Transmission System) for the Smart Grid. It allows a real-time response, that is an automatic reaction, reducing short circuit currents, thus avoiding damage to equipment. This enables a more meshed operation while the energy losses are kept low.

The paper presents the operational benefits and performance of an installed system in a distribution network. These benefits are translated into economic terms, with the goal of setting a target price for economic feasibility of such systems. While the difference between the economic target of 100 k€ and the cost of the real project is tenfold, it remains a trigger for market adoption. Moreover, it is likely that economies of scale and technology improvements drive the implementation cost down in the coming years.

The consequence of widespread use of SFCL would be more reliable and resilient distribution networks. We will see more of this coming, in the near future.

The complete article is available for some days on the link: