And just like that, May has come and gone! In this month’s newsletter, we look at renewable energy innovations and advancements, as well as the impact that the global pandemic has had on the energy industry.
Moving towards 100% renewable power in Hawaii1
The US island state of Hawaii has committed to generating 100 per cent of its power using renewable energy by 2045, demonstrating to other US states and island communities across the world, that sustainable energy can be a reality. UN News travelled to Hawaii with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to talk to a power company executive and a sheep farmer to find out how they are contributing to that goal.
On Kauai, one of seven inhabited islands in the northwest of the Hawaiian archipelago, energy generation is not just an aspiration but also a necessity. The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), a non-profit organization runs this plant, and its 77,000 solar panels generate at least 10 per cent of the islands power, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Energy costs in Hawaii, one of the world’s remotest island communities, have typically always been high, as fossil fuels have to be imported to fire the power plants.
“Right now, during the sunniest time of the day, we are probably meeting 100 per cent of Kauai’s daytime energy needs,” said David Bissell, the Chief Executive Officer of KIUC, “and now we are able to store any excess in batteries.”
KIUC unveiled the “world’s first utility-scale solar plus battery storage generation facility” in March 2017. The battery allows the cooperative to store power during the day and dispatch it over a four-hour period during the evening peak demand.
How renewable energy could emerge on top2
Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, renewable energy was growing steadily — but still not fast enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s carbon reduction goals, let alone to make the further strides needed to keep climate change from spiraling out of control.
Now, the virus-induced economic shock is likely to slow the expansion of wind, solar, and other clean power sources, at least temporarily, experts say. But while lockdowns, social distancing requirements, and financial uncertainties have put some new projects on ice, the underlying strengths of renewables remain strong, and analysts expect their economic advantage over volatile fossil fuels will only increase in the long term.
Trucks become solar parks on wheels3
According to various statistics, an average truck emits around 130 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometer. However, this value could be substantially reduced by equipping these vehicles with solar panels. About 6,000 kilograms of CO2 and €2,500 in fuel costs could be saved per year by installing solar panels on the roofs of trucks or trailers. Dutch start-up IM Efficiency, manufacturer of SolarOnTop, is already working on the final practical test.
Long-distance tests conducted so far have shown that up to 5.5 % of fuel costs can be saved. By using solar panels that are only a few millimeters thick. Which means that they’re quite insignificant in terms of weight. In addition, maintenance costs are also lower because SolarOnTop reduces wear and tear, according to the manufacturer.
Scientists study the impact of renewable energy on the economies of countries4
Researchers at SUSU School of Economics and Management have analyzed the use of renewable energy sources for the economies of G7 countries. The study revealed the relationship between the economic development of regions with a large share of the energy industry in the economic sector and the environmental situation in these countries. The study finds positive impacts of the use of renewable resources in the energy industry on the environmental situation. The results of the study were published in Science of the Total Environment.
The study proved that renewable energy sources and energy prices contribute to improving the environmental situation, while increasing trade volume contributes to a strong increase in CO2 emissions, worsening the environmental situation.
P.E.I. government exploring how communities can generate their own electricity5
The P.E.I. government is taking steps to review energy legislation and explore new options when it comes to generating power across Island communities. Energy Minister Steven Myers said one of those options will be identifying ways for Island communities to generate their own energy. He said the move would provide energy independence, create jobs and economic development, and save the communities on their energy bills.
“We have communities that are looking to generate their own electricity for their own needs,” said Myers, adding the province will not dictate what energy sources communities can invest in. “This is kind of a model that we had suggested that would be in place that would allow people in their own community to produce a revenue stream for themselves that they could then turn into projects like rinks, or parks, or tennis courts or whatever it is that community thinks is the most important thing for the survival and the future of their community,” said Myers.
Used EV batteries for large scale solar energy storage6
Used electric vehicle (EV) batteries can be repurposed to store electricity generated by large scale solar plants, according to an MIT study. The U.S.-based researchers claimed even devices which have declined to 80% of their original capacity could offer a better investment prospect for solar-plus-storage projects in California than purpose-built, utility scale batteries, not least because such ‘second life’ EV batteries could cost as little as 60% of their purchase price.
MIT research co-author Ian Mathews conceded technical hurdles remained to the deployment of used EV batteries on a large scale, such as aggregating batteries from different manufacturers and screening which devices could be reused. However, Mathews insisted used EV batteries still offered a persuasive enough business case to justify the cost of recovering them, screening performance and redeploying them.
Electric oil tankers: A slick use of renewable energy?7
A group of seven Japanese companies formed the eConsortium to promote electric ships. The consortium’s first project? An electric oil tanker.
Expected to be the world’s first zero-emission tanker, it will be powered by “large-capacity lithium ion batteries” and launch in March 2022, according to Green Car Congress. Consortium member Asahi Tanker reportedly plans to build at least two of the vessels, based on a design jointly developed by the member companies. The design calls for a 3.5-megawatt-hour battery pack. That’s the equivalent of 35 of the 100-kilowatt-hour packs used in the Tesla Model S and Model X.
Regardless of the cargo, shipping is a major source of carbon emissions. A 2009 report found that one oceangoing cargo ship polluted the air as much as 50 million cars.
Most efforts to reduce carbon emissions on the high seas have focused on smaller vessels, mostly carrying passengers instead of cargo, however.
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1Cassidy, Kevin. (May 10, 2020). Moving towards 100$ renewable power in Hawaii (with a little hep from sheep). Retrieved from the UN News: https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/05/1063332
2Gardiner, Beth. (May 12, 2020). How renewable energy could emerge on top after the pandemic. Retrieved from Yale Environment 360: https://e360.yale.edu/features/how-renewable-energy-could-emerge-on-top-after-the-pandemic
3Wiesmayer, Petra. (May 13, 2020). Trucks become solar parks on wheels thanks to IM Efficiency. Retrieved from Innovation Origins: https://innovationorigins.com/trucks-become-solar-parks-on-wheels-thanks-to-im-efficiency/
4South Ural State University. (May 15, 2020). Scientists study the impact of renewable energy on the economies of countries. Retrieved from: https://phys.org/news/2020-05-scientists-impact-renewable-energy-economies.html
5Thibodeau, Wayne. (May 25, 2020). P.E.I. government exploring ways for communities to generate their own electricity. Retrieved from CBC News: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-energy-electricity-wind-solar-biomass-politics-1.5581161
6Bellini, Emiliano. (May 25, 2020). Used EV batteries for large scale solar energy storage. Retrieved from PV Magazine: https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/05/25/used-ev-batteries-for-large-scale-solar-energy-storage/
7Edelstein, Stephen. (May 25, 2020). Electric oil tankers: A slick use of renewable energy? Retrieved from Green Car Reports: https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1128265_electric-oil-tankers-a-slick-use-of-renewable-energy