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:
- 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.
- 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.
Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis
Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.
Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long will my retirement savings last?”
Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.
Tip #1: Focus & Determination
Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.
Tip #2: Minimize Spending
One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!
Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal
You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.
Investing in Clean Energy
One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.
With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.
The Future of Green Biz
As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.
Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.
In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!
What Should We Make of The Clean Growth Strategy?
It was hardly surprising the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was much anticipated by industry and environmentalists. After all, its publication was pushed back a couple of times. But with the document now in the public domain, and the Government having run a consultation on its content, what ultimately should we make of what’s perhaps one of the most important publications to come out of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the past 12 months?
The starting point, inevitably, is to decide what the document is and isn’t. It is, certainly, a lengthy and considered direction-setter – not just for the Government, but for business and industry, and indeed for consumers. While much of the content was favourably received in terms of highlighting ways to ensure clean growth, critics – not unjustifiably – suggested it was long on pages but short on detailed and finite policy commitments, accompanied by clear timeframes for action.
A Strategy, Instead of a Plan
But should we really be surprised? The answer, in all honesty, is probably not really. BEIS ministers had made no secret of the fact they would be publishing a ‘strategy’ as opposed to a ‘plan,’ and that gave every indication the CGS would set a direction of travel and be largely aspirational. The Government had consulted on its content, and will likely respond to the consultation during the course of 2018. And that’s when we might see more defined policy commitments and timeframes from action.
The second criticism one might level at the CGS is that indicated the use of ‘flexibilities’ to achieve targets set in the carbon budgets – essentially using past results to offset more recent failings to keep pace with emissions targets. Claire Perry has since appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee and insisted she would be personally disappointed if the UK used flexibilities to fill the shortfall in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but this is difficult ground for the Government. The Committee on Climate Change was critical of the proposed use of efficiencies, which would somewhat undermine ministers’ good intentions and commitment to clean growth – particularly set against November’s Budget, in which the Chancellor maintained the current carbon price floor (potentially giving a reprieve to coal) and introduced tax changes favourable to North Sea oil producers.
A 12 Month Green Energy Initiative with Real Teeth
But, there is much to appreciate and commend about the CGS. It fits into a 12-month narrative for BEIS ministers, in which they have clearly shown a commitment to clean growth, improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions. Those 12 months have seen the launch of the Industrial Strategy – firstly in Green Paper form, which led to the launch of the Faraday Challenge, and then a White Paper in which clean growth was considered a ‘grand challenge’ for government. Throughout these publications – and indeed again with the CGS – the Government has shown itself to be an advocate of smart systems and demand response, including the development of battery technology.
Electrical Storage Development at Center of Broader Green Energy Push
While the Faraday Challenge is primarily focused on the development of batteries to support the proliferation of electric vehicles (which will support cuts to carbon emissions), it will also drive down technology costs, supporting the deployment of small and utility-scale storage that will fully harness the capability of renewables. Solar and wind made record contributions to UK electricity generation in 2017, and the development of storage capacity will help both reduce consumer costs and support decarbonisation.
The other thing the CGS showed us it that the Government is happy to be a disrupter in the energy market. The headline from the publication was the plans for legislation to empower Ofgem to cap the costs of Standard Variable Tariffs. This had been an aspiration of ministers for months, and there’s little doubt that driving down costs for consumers will be a trend within BEIS policy throughout 2018.
But the Government also seems happy to support disruption in the renewables market, as evidenced by the commitment (in the CGS) to more than half a billion pounds of investment in Pot 2 of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) – where the focus will be on emerging rather than established technologies.
This inevitably prompted ire from some within the industry, particularly proponents of solar, which is making an increasing contribution to the UK’s energy mix. But, again, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Since the subsidy cuts of 2015, ministers have given no indication or cause to think there will be public money afforded to solar development. Including solar within the CfD auction would have been a seismic shift in policy. And while ministers’ insistence in subsidy-free solar as the way forward has been shown to be based on a single project, we should expect that as costs continue to be driven down and solar makes record contributions to electricity generation, investment will follow – and there will ultimately be more subsidy-free solar farms, albeit perhaps not in 2018.
Meanwhile, by promoting emerging technologies like remote island wind, the Government appears to be favouring diversification and that it has a range of resources available to meet consumer demand. Perhaps more prescient than the decision to exclude established renewables from the CfD auction is the subsequent confirmation in the budget that Pot 2 of CfDs will be the last commitment of public money to renewable energy before 2025.
In short, we should view the CGS as a step in the right direction, albeit one the Government should be elaborating on in its consultation response. Its publication, coupled with the advancement this year of the Industrial Strategy indicates ministers are committed to the clean growth agenda. The question is now how the aspirations set out in the CGS – including the development of demand response capacity for the grid, and improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential premises – will be realised.
It’s a step in the right direction. But, inevitably, there’s much more work to do.
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