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‘Energetically sustainable’ wind power can provide surplus clean electricity

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Wind farms can provide enough surplus energy to develop energy storage technology capable of stockpiling three days’ worth of uninterrupted power, a new study has found.

Poor energy storage capability is one of the key obstacles to the rise of renewable energy. While wind and solar technologies provide limitless clean energy, they only generate power when the wind blows strong enough or the sun shines bright enough.

Today, the technology used to store surplus energy has relatively low capacity. This means other sources, such as fossil fuels, are still essential to meet energy demand.


In the new study, researchers from Stanford University investigated the “energetic cost” of manufacturing batteries and other storage technologies for the electrical grid.

Both wind turbines and solar photovoltaic (PV) installations now produce more energy than they consume.

The team sought to find out whether these energy sources produce enough energy to fuel their own growth and concurrently develop the necessary energy storage industry. 

“Whenever you build a new technology, you have to invest a large amount of energy up front,” explained Michael Dale, a research associate at Stanford.


Dale and his colleagues found that the wind industry provides such a surplus of power that it can afford storage for three days of uninterrupted power.

“This suggests that the industry could deploy enough storage to cope with three-day lulls in wind, common to many weather systems, and still provide net electricity to society,” Dales said.

However, they also found that the solar industry can afford only about 24 hours of energy storage, as it takes more energy to manufacture solar panels than wind turbines.

“Our analysis shows that today’s wind industry, even with a large amount of grid-scale storage, is energetically sustainable,” Dale added. 

“We found that the solar industry can also achieve sustainable storage capacity by reducing the amount of energy that goes into making solar photovoltaics.”

The researchers say that another advantage of wind over solar power is its return on investment.

“Within a few months, a wind turbine generates enough electricity to pay back all of the energy it took to build it,” study co-author Prof Sally Benson said.

“But some PVs have an energy payback time of almost two years. To sustainably support grid-scale storage will require continued reductions in the amount of fossil fuel used to manufacture photovoltaic cells.”

“People often ask, is storage a good or bad solution for intermittent renewable energy?” Benson added.

“That question turns out to be way too simplistic. It’s neither good nor bad. Although grid-scale storage of wind power might not be cost effective compared to buying power from the grid, it is energetically affordable, even with the wind industry growing at a double-digit pace.”

Further reading:

Tesla shares soar as Morgan Stanley predicts carmaker will ‘disrupt’ energy storage sector

Bill Gates-backed renewables storage battery begins production

Harvard energy storage battery could play ‘huge role’ in renewables transition

Sluggish energy storage developments could cost taxpayer billions

Technology: Let’s make this country the best

Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.


1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.


3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”

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IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.

Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.


Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:

“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.

We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.

There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.


We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”

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