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Thu May 29, 2014, 03:03 PM

A List of the Latest Developments in Renewable Energy Technologies

The below is meant as a counter to the doomsday stuff.

1 - First, to set the plate, a link to a thread I put up a couple of months ago re the death spiral the utilities were going to find themselves in: The Death Spiral of the Utilities Starts in Hawaii.
The point here is that solar doesn't have to compete with coal or nat gas on a cost parity basis: it only has to be cheaper than the most expensive power on offer on the hottest days of summer to make sense for most customers, be they residential, commercial or industrial. As more people install it to lower their bills on those days, this lowers the cost of solar, which then makes it more competitive to a wider group of customers, and so on. Meantime, the utilities find themselves on the wrong end of this.

2. There have been lots of confirmations of the above coming out since that thread. One more I just saw: Solar PV residential installations exceeded commercial installations for the first time in the US.

3. The Army contracted for 90 MW of solar from Georgia Power, part of a general military push towards renewables. This is very important, as the DOD's budget for energy is 20 billion dollars which, the article points out "makes it the single largest consumer of energy in the world".

4. So much for market news showing how quickly adoption of renewable energy is growing. Now on to some technological advancements that are being worked on. The first is perovskite solar cells, which scientists are excited about because they think they can get them up to the point where they can make major efficiency gains while providing a cheaper material to make solar cells with.

5. In wind, the bigger the swept area of the blades, the more powerful you can make the turbine. Vestas is delivering one with blades that are 24 stories tall.

6. Another interesting development is in software, of all things, which is being used in eastern Colorado to radically minimize the amount of backup power needed for wind, thereby making it both more efficient and cheaper.

7. In Germany, a company called Statkraft is doing something similar via software that combines a multiplicity of renewable installations into a single "virtual power plant".

8. Wind turbines mostly use gears to actually turn the turbines so that they can be made smaller. But for offshore, direct drive is being used in many cases because it eliminates gears as a point of failure, theoretically making the turbines more reliable, which is important when you have turbines located far from land.

9. Finally, in storage I'm sure most of you have heard of the battery being developed in Japan for electric vehicles which charges faster and can hold more of a charge in a smaller space. While this battery is being touted for cars, the usefulness of a faster charging battery that can hold more power would be popular in every application where batteries are used, from cell phones to laptops right up to cars and storage for intermittent renewable energy installations. Given that incentive, I have no doubt someone is going to find a breakthrough that will be very quickly adopted across the board, regardless of if this one pans out.

With so much being worked on from so many different angles, and so many different kinds of users adopting renewable technologies at a rapid pace, the chances of meeting the IPCC's goal for renewable energy are, I think, being seriously underestimated. We're at the cusp of a massive transformation in how energy is created.

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