The battery gap

I explained to a friend this week my concept of “battery gap”.

He thinks batteries will not “be enough”, are “too far away” and “too expensive” for grid energy storage… Well, we’ve heard that old story before.

We heard that old belief that solar energy would never be competitive or only represent a small portion of energy generation, right? Or the one that grids had an inherent limit for absorbing renewable power (yes, some people once said it was 15%) Or that to reach a high degree of renewable penetration, the land use would not leave space to grow food… And such.

Well, the DOE has published an update on the accelerated escalation of LEDs, wind, solar, EVs and batteries. The graphs and the facts are impressive.

The difference in price for renewable energy Vs conventional grows quickly. So there is growing “space” to pay for energy storage. We could represent as follows: Sigue leyendo

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How to crowdfund unsubsidized solar

This solar power plant is an important milestone in Spain!

Since April this year, the new 2 MW crowdfunded solar park in Spain from Som Energía has been producing power. It is unique because it has no subsidies and because the energy is sold to the retail cooperative, so the price is supplied at cost* to the investors.

Image Share by Som Energía from Alcolea plan

Image Shared by Som Energía from Alcolea plan

I’m proud of having participated in this project. It’s sustainable, doesn’t need subsidies and also a good investment. The funding will be returned with no interest, but the benefit is through the reduced energy costs in the retail monthly invoice.

Living in a flat with little space for solar panels, I find it very difficult and inefficient to install one or a couple of self-consumption solar panels. So this is a natural option, to team-up with other people to own together renewable power generation. And it avoids facing the so-called tax on the sun (discussed some time ago here).

Of course there are other investment options like Yieldcos (I have shares from Saeta Yield myself). Or simply buying 100% renewable electricity from the retailer. But helping build this small project with a cooperative feels closer to owning the plant. And power generation not only owned by big corporations is also positive, as has been the case in Germany. We can say it’s a good example of the sharing economy, too…

What other options do you see to participate as an individual in the energy transition?

*Actual calculation is 36 €/MWh, which means 6 €/MWh below the market before taxes and network charges.

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.

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

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

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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 freeimages.com)

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