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Technology is Enabling Us to Realize Energy Security

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Without technology where would we be? When we look at energy generation, the vast technological advancements over the last fifty years have radically helped to tackle climate change and improve energy security — two of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. It is advancement in technology that has given renewable energy the opportunity to challenge traditional methods of energy generation in the energy mix.

Looking at wind power in particular, the stronger performance and increased production of wind turbines are the result of technological innovation, materials science and operational improvements. Fighting to make the world a cleaner and more sustainable environment to live in, wind turbine and component manufacturers have been diligently working to develop longer, lighter blades, using sophisticated technology to achieve increased power generation, whilst driving down costs.

Today, wind turbines are immense machines that integrate aerodynamics, structural dynamics and hundreds of often tiny components to connect it all to the grid. As wind turbine manufacturers continue to battle against rising costs, implementing improvements to reliability and efficiency can boost output, reducing the cost per megawatt-hour (MWh), to the point where onshore wind energy in some markets is down to below $50/MWh.

Pitch motors, which change the angle of the rotor blades to better catch the wind and optimize power output, have a huge part to play in the this battle. The very nature of a wind turbine means that it is constantly exposed to high stresses caused by wind. This means that the pitch system is also one of the most critical safety subsystems of the wind turbine, as it protects the turbine in extreme weather conditions and is the “central brain” to optimize energy output. In fact, due to advancements in rotor diameter, today, a pitch motor’s power output has increased 125 percent compared to what was designed 10 years ago.

The evolving wind industry landscape raises new requirements for pitch motors. Here, I’d like to share some thoughts as to what tomorrow’s pitch motors must be like to continue to compete against traditional energy sources:

  1. Highly durable

The industry is moving at an unprecedented pace. Due to the capabilities of new technologies, what was once achievable in years can now happen in mere months, and the trend within the industry to build bigger turbines that enable power production at lower levels of cost of energy is expected to continue at an even faster pace. Emerging technologies are allowing this trend to thrive.

What’s driving this trend is the growing size of the blades. In fact, the average blade length has now reached almost 60 meters. Given the remote locations of many wind farms, high quality and reliability of equipment are key priorities for the industry to reduce operations costs. It’s, therefore, important that pitch motors have the necessary power to move the massive blades, reliably.

With this in mind, DC wind pitch motors from GE’s Power Conversion business have been built for resilience and durability in situations with extreme temperatures, high vibration and high humidity. The powerful motors are robustly constructed, with minimal maintenance required over long intervals. This is critical when you consider their remote locations and the fact that global maintenance expenditure on wind turbines is expected rise from$9.25 billion in 2014 to $17 billion in 2020, driven by a growing number of installations as well as aging turbines.

Consultancy firm EY predicted installed offshore wind capacity would triple in Europe by 2024. As this market is set to thrive, changes in design and hostile environments are creating new challenges for wind turbine producers and operators, both in terms of aerodynamics and durability. GE will soon be offering pitch motors that are set for the offshore industry to help support anticipated large-scale offshore wind turbine deployment.

  1. Created by the right partner

Due to the growing size and scope of wind turbines, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are increasingly looking to work with a partner that can provide multiple components as well as meet their servicing needs. This drives efficiencies and reduces risk — a single supplier simplifies the communication interface — can help better integrate systems and troubleshoot issues more easily.

GE Power Conversion has manufacturing footprints globally: Europe, China, Brazil and Mexico, to name just a few. Through the GE Store, GE’s strength in the wind industry goes far and wide, from high performance drive trains to pitch motors and control systems, for example. This means more streamlined support and maintenance as well as a simpler deployment of the finished product on-site, making it a strategic partner of choice for wind operators globally.

It’s safe to say that the adoption of renewable energies across the globe scale has been nothing short of remarkable over the past decade. Safe in the knowledge that wind is never going to run out, this technology is rapidly developing in practically every part of the world. In fact, the wind industry’s development in the past few years has created jobs, spurred economic activity and helped to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions — helping us to realize energy security.

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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