Moored at sea, generating electricity off the island of Texel

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Taking just six months from the drawing board to realisation, the BlueTEC Texel tidal energy platform was installed in the summer of 2015 and is operating off the island of Texel in the Netherlands. The prototype is producing electricity from the tides into the local grid.

BlueTEC Modular was designed by Damen to be transported and installed all over in the world to provide clean energy in remote areas and small islands, replacing diesel generators.

Just before the end of 2015, the platform was fitted with a more powerful Tocardo T2 turbine and, in early 2016, the platform was commissioned with a larger T2 tidal turbine. Currently the platform generates clean electricity from the tides in the Wadden Sea of The Netherlands.

Six months start-to-finish. Replacing a diesel-powered generator. How long do you think this would take to design, approve through local, state and federal government, construct and put in place — here in the GOUSA?


Sounds like Norway may end gas-powered car sales by 2025

An all-electric future may be closer than you think — at least if you live in Norway. The country’s four leading political parties have reportedly agreed to a plan to stop selling gasoline-powered cars by 2025…

The details are in some dispute: The two left-leaning parties confirmed the report, but the two right-leaning parties denied it…

Norway was the first European country to get Tesla charging stations, and in April 2015, the country reached its target of registering 50,000 electric cars by 2018, beating its deadline by two years. About one in four cars sold there is electric.

Norway is also one of the world’s top oil exporters, pulling in billions from the production and sale of oil and gas. However, the Norway’s gargantuan sovereign wealth fund has been divesting from fossil-fuel companies over the past few years.

The role model for commodities-exporting nations with brains. Use the profits from geologically-limited resources to build an infrastructure no longer dependent upon those materials, eh?

Looks like a trend to me — louder than the whining from public utility companies

net metering
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A charitable fund of the Rockefeller family – who are sitting on a multibillion-dollar oil fortune – has said it will withdraw all its investments from fossil fuel companies.

The Rockefeller Family Fund, a charity set up in 1967 by descendants of John D Rockefeller, said on Wednesday that it would divest from all fossil fuel holdings “as quickly as possible”.

The fund, which was founded by Martha, John, Laurance, Nelson and David Rockefeller, singled out ExxonMobil for particular attention describing the world’s largest oil company as “morally reprehensible”.

Most productive size for wind turbines may be gigantic!

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Efforts to increase wind power mean that turbine blades are getting bigger and bigger. But a new design in the works takes the idea to levels most people can barely imagine: Blades up to 656.2 feet long — more than two football fields.

Today’s longest blades are 262.5 feet. The blades at Imperial County’s Ocotillo wind farm, which sends electricity to San Diego, are 173.9 feet long.

“We call it the extreme scale,” Eric Loth, a University of Virginia professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said of the planned mega-blades. “There’s nothing like it.”

Loth is one of the leaders of a team, which includes four universities and two national laboratories, that has three years to build and test a scaled prototype in the hopes of making the blade a reality.

The early design would place two — rather than three — blades onto a tower. But to construct something of that size, the tower is estimated to rise 1,574 feet, nearly one-third of a mile.

To put that in perspective, that’s more than 100 feet higher than the Empire State Building.

The diameter of such a facility would be at least 1,312.3 feet, nearly a quarter of a mile…

The super-sized blades would generate up to 50 megawatts of electricity, 25 times more than today’s typical turbine…

The blades would look much different look from today’s wind turbines.

They wouldn’t face the wind but would go downwind, aligning the blades to flow with the wind instead of fighting it.

And instead of a single stiff blade, each blade would be broken into segments, allowing it to be more easily fabricated.

In addition, the concept would allow the blades to “morph” — spread out when the wind is blowing lightly to capture as much power as possible…

Conversely, when winds blow with hurricane force the blades would contract, almost like a claw.

If the technology works, Loth wants to avoid putting the big-blade facilities on land. Instead they would be put offshore — some 20 to 25 miles from the coast.

“I really want to focus on going far enough offshore that we’re away from the migratory patterns of the birds,” Loth said.

Wind power and solar pass and repass each other as the affordability of renewable energy becomes more and more efficient, the economies of scale kick in. In truth, we’re already at the point where the only questions remaining concern politicians and NIMBYs. Science and engineering are simpler to deal with than re-election campaigns and curb value.

Lots of new electricity capacity came online in January — all wind and solar


The US brought in service 613 MW of new power generation capacity in January, with wind and solar parks accounting for 100% of that, shows the latest report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

More specifically, five wind parks with a combined capacity of 468 MW and six solar farms of 145 MW in total have become operational for the month. This compares to 742 MW of new wind and 212 MW of new solar capacity recorded in January 2015. Back then, the US also put online 121 MW of natural gas-fired power plants.

The two largest wind parks that went live in January are MidAmerican Energy Co’s 153.4-MW Adams farm in Iowa and the 150-MW Amazon wind farm expansion in Indiana…

The US now has roughly 14,500 MW of operational solar and 74,460 MW of operational wind power capacity. Natural gas remains the top source of electricity with 500,730 MW operational, accounting for 42.83% of all US power capacity.

The Koch Bros continue to weep into their snifters of Napoleon brandy. The Tea Party idjits who pimp for them continue to cry into their lite beer.

Solar energy ready to be US leading new power source

New statistics just released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggest that in the coming year, the booming solar sector will add more new electricity-generating capacity than any other — including natural gas and wind.

EIA reports that planned installations for 2016 include 9.5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar — followed by 8 gigawatts (or 8 billion watts) of natural gas and 6.8 gigawatts of wind. This suggests solar could truly blow out the competition, because the EIA numbers are only for large or utility-scale solar arrays or farms and do not include fast-growing rooftop solar, which will also surely add several additional gigawatts of capacity in 2016.

In other words, U.S. solar seems poised for not just a record year but perhaps a blowout year. Last year, in contrast, solar set a new record with 7.3 gigawatts of total new photovoltaic capacity across residential, commercial, and utility scale installations.

“If actual additions ultimately reflect these plans, 2016 will be the first year in which utility-scale solar additions exceed additions from any other single energy source,” says EIA…

In the grand scheme, the tax credits for solar, as well as an extension of the production tax credit for wind, could serve as a kind of “bridge” into an era in which the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is operating — or at least, so the current administration hopes. Granted, that depends on whether that plan survives its current legal challenges.

The article has a lot of blather about taxes and tax credits as subsidies. The reality is that no significant change or addition to electric power generation in most countries depends to some extent on subsidies. What upsets conservatives – especially Republicans – is that fossil-brained old coal money is losing out – and even worse, private solar, home-based solar, gives support directly to comsumers instead of corporate moneybags.

A mortal sin in the minds of 19th Century ideologues.

Line freeways with wind turbines: [1] highways are ugly and [2] no one lives there anyway

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Britain’s motorways should be lined with wind turbines because they are already unattractive and very few people live alongside them, according to Baroness Brown, the UK’s green energy ambassador.

Wind farms built along the 2,300-mile motorway network would generate less local opposition than those constructed in unspoiled rural areas, predicted Baroness Brown, an independent peer in the House of Lords.

“You don’t really want to live beside a motorway – it’s not good for you and it’s noisy. I do a lot of driving up the east side of the country and I wonder why we don’t line the sides of our motorways with wind turbines…

“We haven’t got infinite space and you have got to be sensitive about where you put these things. But motorways seem like an ideal location…”

Seems like a good idea here in the US, as well. Think they’d spoil the view driving through Secaucus on the New Jersey Turnpike?

The cost of onshore wind power has plummeted in recent years and is now the cheapest of all electricity sources. But the Government has made it difficult for new onshore windfarms to be built despite them offering the best way to meet ambitious climate targets in an affordable way.

Many stretches of motorway are not windy enough to power turbines, experts warn. But other parts of the motorway network provide plenty of scope for wind farms, they say, such as the 152-turbine Clyde array on either side of the M74 near the Lanarkshire village of Abington and the 11-turbine Swinford complex by the M1 in Leicestershire. The turbines on windfarms such as these have to be set back from the motorway so they don’t fall on to it if they keel over.

Hopefully, the Brits – and other folks – are capable of erecting wind turbines that don’t fall over onto freeways. Unlike our out-of-repair bridges.

Squirrels are winning the cyberwar

On January 2nd, the power went out on the Lloyd Expressway, near Evansville, Indiana. The outage lasted 45 minutes, with a transformer damaged and stop lights turned off. The culprit? A squirrel.

The attack is just one of the latest tracked by the semi-satirical Cyber Squirrel 1 map. “This map”, according to its About section, “lists all unclassified Cyber Squirrel Operations that have been released to the public that we have been able to confirm. There are many more executed ops than displayed on this map however, those ops remain classified.” Based on data from a Twitter account dating back to at least March 2014, the map has been around since at least September 2015. It tracks power outages caused by squirrels, birds, raccoons, snakes, rats, beavers, and monkeys, as well as nations like China, Russia, and the United States. If there is a cyber war happening, it’s one fought between humanity and nature, not nations against each other.

Squirrel power outages

This is hardly the first attempt to use squirrels as a metaphor for exaggerated fears about cyber war. Before he was comparing the risk to planes from drones relative to turtles, Eli Dourado, an economist and technologist at the libertarian Mercatus Center, made a similar point about squirrels and power outages.

Like the Cyber Squirrel map, the argument reveals itself merely by the data points selected. Natural causes get in the way of technology a lot. Even successful cyber attacks, like the one that took out power in part of Ukraine last month, can so far only replicate damage that animals might do anyway.

OTOH, squirrels can be as territorial – and stupid about being territorial – as any Congressional chickenhawk.

Solar electricity from discarded car batteries

MIT researchers have developed a simple procedure for making a promising type of solar cell using lead recovered from discarded lead-acid car batteries — a practice that could benefit both the environment and human health. As new lead-free car batteries come into use, old batteries would be sent to the solar industry rather than to landfills. And if production of this new, high-efficiency, low-cost solar cell takes off — as many experts think it will — manufacturers’ increased demand for lead could be met without additional lead mining and smelting.

Laboratory experiments confirm that solar cells made with recycled lead work just as well as those made with high-purity, commercially available starting materials. Battery recycling could thus support production of these novel solar cells while researchers work to replace the lead with a more benign but equally effective material.

Much attention in the solar community is now focused on an emerging class of crystalline photovoltaic materials called perovskites. The reasons are clear: The starting ingredients are abundant and easily processed at low temperatures, and the fabricated solar cells can be thin, lightweight, and flexible — ideal for applying to windows, building facades, and more. And they promise to be highly efficient.

Unlike most advanced solar technologies, perovskites are rapidly fulfilling that promise. “When perovskite-based solar cells first came out, they were a few percent efficient,” says Angela Belcher…Professor in biological engineering and materials science and engineering at MIT. “Then they were 6 percent efficient, then 15 percent, and then 20 percent. It was really fun to watch the efficiencies skyrocket over the course of a couple years.” Perovskite solar cells demonstrated in research labs may soon be as efficient as today’s commercial silicon-based solar cells, which have achieved current efficiencies only after many decades of intensive research and development.

Research groups are now working to scale up their laboratory prototypes and to make them less susceptible to degradation when exposed to moisture. But one concern persists: The most efficient perovskite solar cells all contain lead…

Recognizing the promise of this technology and the difficulty of replacing the lead in it, in 2013 the MIT researchers proposed an alternative. “We thought, what if we got our lead from another source?” Belcher recalls. One possibility would be discarded lead-acid car batteries. Today, old car batteries are recycled, with most of the lead used to produce new batteries. But battery technology is changing rapidly, and the future will likely bring new, more efficient options. At that point, the 250 million lead-acid batteries in U.S. cars today will become waste — and that could cause environmental problems.

According to Belcher, recovering lead from a lead-acid battery and turning it into a perovskite solar cell involves “a very, very simple procedure”…The simple procedure for recovering and processing the lead and making a solar cell could easily be scaled up and commercialized. But Belcher and Paula Hammond knew that solar cell manufacturers would have a question: Is there any penalty for using recycled materials instead of high-quality lead iodide purchased from a chemical company?

To answer that question, the researchers decided to make some solar cells using recycled materials and some using commercially available materials and then compare the performance of the two versions. They don’t claim to be experts at making perovskite solar cells optimized for maximum efficiency. But if the cells they made using the two starting materials performed equally well, then “people who are skilled in fine-tuning these solar cells to get 20 percent efficiencies would be able to use our material and get the same efficiencies,” Belcher reasoned.

The researchers began by evaluating the light-harvesting capability of the perovskite thin films made from car batteries and from high-purity commercial lead iodide. In a variety of tests, the films displayed the same nanocrystalline structure and identical light-absorption capability. Indeed, the films’ ability to absorb light at different wavelengths was the same.

They then tested solar cells they had fabricated from the two types of perovskite and found that their photovoltaic performance was similar…

Based on their results, Belcher and Hammond concluded that recycled lead could be integrated into any type of process that researchers are using to fabricate perovskite-based solar cells — and indeed to make other types of lead-containing solar cells, light-emitting diodes, piezoelectric devices, and more.

Long term, the approach continues be to find an effective, nontoxic replacement for the lead. Belcher and Hammond continue those studies. Meanwhile, their work has the potential of aiding in recycling toxic materials. RTFA for technical detail.