Georgetown Goes All In on Renewable Energy

Great news for the state of Texas, pushing forward in renewables and becoming a leader in the industry. I’m interested to see how other cities follow their example.

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ROB BENNETT/NYT

Workers from SunEdison, a large solar installer, putting a solar system on the roof of a Kohl’s store in Hillsborough, N.J., on Thursday, June 19, 2008. Georgetown is planning to become the first city in Texas powered entirely by renewable energy in a deal with solar developer SunEdison. (Rob Bennett/The New York Times)

Georgetown says it plans to be the first city in Texas entirely powered by renewable energy. The city’s electrical utility is planning to announce Wednesday that it is signing a deal with solar developer SunEdison for 150 megawatts of solar power beginning in 2016. Combined with a 2014 deal with wind developer EDF, the city of 54,000 north of Austin says it now has enough renewable power under contract to cover its customers’ entire electricity needs. As wind and solar farms proliferate around the United States, communities have slowly begun to commit to all-renewable power deals in what have been billed as a response to residents’ concern over the impact of carbon emissions on global warming. On its website, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists 12 municipalities that have made commitments to 100 percent renewable power. Some, like Burlington, Vt., have already achieved the goal. Others have a longer-term view. San Diego is not planning on reaching 100 percent until 2035. “We have not found another municipal utility in the state or in the South doing this,” Georgetown spokesman Keith Hutchinson said. In Texas, most cities do not have their own utilities, leaving residents to buy their electricity from any number of retailers, including those that promise 100 percent renewable energy. Besides Georgetown, exceptions include Austin, Garland and San Antonio. Georgetown officials said the switch to renewables was more about cost than the environment. The deal with SunEdison delivers electricity at a lower rate than the city now pays, meaning no rate increase. And the contract runs through 2041, offering protection against spikes in electricity prices. “When Georgetown Utility Systems opted to seek new sources of power in 2012, we were charged with a mission to secure the most cost-effective energy that balanced risk and reward,” interim city manager Jim Briggs said in a prepared statement. In Georgetown, the cost of 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity runs $114 a month. That is $5 less than the average Texas customer pays, according to federal data. EDF’s 194-megawatt Spinning Spur 3 wind farm is already under construction 50 miles west of Amarillo. It is scheduled to begin delivering electricity to Georgetown next year. SunEdison said it expects to begin construction soon on a series of solar farms in West Texas that will connect to the grid in 2016.
Follow James Osborne on Twitter at @osborneja.

Two Ways PG&E Community Solar Gardens Enable 100 Percent Solar for All

Texas To Become US Clean Energy Leader

February 16th, 2015 by

The US state of Texas already has a booming wind industry to its credit alongside its historic attachment to oil and natural gas, and a new initiative is set to bust the field wide open along with other clean energy sectors. Texas has just been tapped to be one of four founding states in the Energy Department’s new Clean Energy Incubator Network, which is aimed at getting cutting edge cleantech off the drawing board and into the marketplace as quickly as possible.

To give you a taste of what’s to come we’re going to look at a wind turbine company that’s already in the Texas hopper, but first let’s take a look at the forces behind the Clean Energy Incubator Network.

NREL Clean Energy Incubator Network

The Clean Energy Incubator Network

The Clean Energy Incubator Network (CEIN) is funded through the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in partnership with the utility industry’s Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

We’ve covered the lab many times — it’s one of the pivotal forces in cutting edge solar technology, for example — but not so much EPRI. That’s our bad, since EPRI membership represents a huge chunk of the electricity generated in the US, and the organization has been all over clean energy.

Here’s just a sampling: back in 2010, EPRI launched a partnership with the Solar Technology Acceleration Center, in 2013 it got involved in a new ocean power initiative, and earlier this year it was recruited into a major solar resiliency initiative spearheaded by the City University of New York.

CEIN pulls these two clean energy powerhouses together with academic and research institutes to help energy entrepreneurs get their projects off the ground. Here’s the pitch fromthe CEIN blog:

If you are an energy entrepreneur, this network is designed to provide you with a collection of the top resources you need to launch your company or commercialize your technology, including information about leading incubators, funding opportunities, testing facilities, mentors, and more…

…Distributed generation, automation, sensors, micro grids, electric cars, and storage are just some of the areas experiencing dramatic change, and this will surely only accelerate as tipping points are reached across clean energy technologies.

The four founding states are Illinois (headed up by Clean Energy Trust), Michigan (NextEnergy), California (LA Cleantech Incubator, and Texas (Austin Technology Incubator).

The Austin Technology Incubator is headquartered at the University of Texas in Austin, and if you noodle around on their website you’ll find some cool cutting edge clean energy companies that have already come under the Incubator’s wing.

Leaping Over Clean Energy Hurdles

That’s where we found the aforementioned wind turbine company, Wetzel Engineering (aka Wetzel Blade).

The company caught our eye because it has come up with an ingenious  solution to a problem that has bedeviled the wind industry, which is how to get those massive turbine blades out of the blade factory and over to their new homes.

Transporting turbine blades and other large components is a huge issue for the wind industry because it often involves special permits, escorts, alternate routes, and even infrastructure adjustment. The costs pile up, along with the delays, eating into profitability and cost-effectiveness.

Wetzel’s solution sounds simple enough, though the devil is in the details: a modular turbine blade.

We saw the modular solution at play for wind turbine towers last year, the idea being to break the tower down into parts that could be transported along standard routes, with no special permits or adjustments required.

As reported by our friends over at Wind Power Engineering last fall, the Wetzel design consists of seven modular pieces that can be transported for less than a standard blade.

The pieces are designed to be assembled on site without specialized requirements, further keeping costs under control. The firm expects that the seven-piece blade will also cost less to manufacture, and it anticipates improvements in quality over conventional blades, too.

This is the kind of manufacturing and transportation breakthrough that is required if the wind industry is to continue scaling up into taller towers and longer blades, so we’ll keep an eye on that.

We’ll also be keeping a close eye on the CEIN website (here’s that link again). There’s not a whole lot to it right now, but plans are in the works to include funding opportunities, resources for laboratories and events, and an “evaluation toolkit” that will tailor resources to start-ups based on how ready they are for commercialization.

As for EPRI, the organization will work in concert with the website to stage in-person and web-based events geared toward sharing best practices.

The first event was held just last week at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, so stay tuned for lots more on new developments in Texas and elsewhere.

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Image credit (screenshot): Wetzel Engineering

My thoughts:

2/17/2015:

Having lived in TX for 3 years I definitely saw how it would be a powerhouse for solar energy,  I didn’t realize it was also a top contender in the wind industry as well. Upon further research I found the following statistics for Texas. (source:http://awea.files.cms-plus.com/FileDownloads/pdfs/texas.pdf)

Wind Projects

  •  Installed wind capacity: 14,098 MW
  • State rank for installed wind capacity: 1st
  • Number of wind turbines: 8,591
  • State rank for number of wind turbines: 2nd
  • Wind projects online: 127
  • Wind capacity under construction: 7,595 MW

Current Wind Generation

In 2013, wind energy provided 8.30% of all in-state electricity production.

  • Equivalent number of homes powered by wind: 3,315,000

Wind Generation Potential

  • Wind power is capable of meeting more than eighteen times the state’s current electricity needs
  • Land based wind potential at 80 meters (m) hub height: 1,901,530 MW (source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

Environmental Benefits

  • Generating wind power creates no emissions and uses virtually no water.
  • Annual state water consumption savings: 7,825,000,000 gallons
  • Equivalent number of water bottles saved: 83,467,000,000
  •  Annual state carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions avoided: 21,290,000 metric tons
  • Equivalent number of cars taken off the road: 3,754,850

In addition I discovered that most wind farms are installed in Northwest Texas and on the Gulf shore. The northern part of Texas definitely is subject to tornado like conditions versus the southwestern portion I lived in. I find it strange that no wind farms are currently installed along the Galveston shore, Could it be due to the oil and gas industry being largely populated in this area? i’d have to research and update this at a later date.

Battery Storage Needed to Expand Renewable Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy is exploring energy storage strategies to accelerate the use of wind and solar power
My thoughts:
2/13/2015
There are two types of batteries discussed in this article: aluminum-air and flow batteries. Aluminum air batteries produce electricity from the reaction of O2 in the air with aluminum, they also have the highest density of all batteries. The issue with these are that they are non-rechargeable once the aluminum anode is consumed with the O2 in the air at its water immersed cathode, it forms aluminum oxide. At this point producing electricity is no longer possible. This battery can be mechanically recharged by replacing the aluminum anodes and recycling they old hydrated aluminum oxide. uses for these batteries are mainly with electric vehicles. since it gives 8x the range vs a lithium ion battery
The other type of battery is a flow battery. This battery recharges by two chemical components such as hydrogen-lithium bromate, hydrogen-lithium chlorate, or iron-tin are dissolved in liquids inside of a system which is separated by a membrane. In comparison to the aluminum-air battery the flow battery has the advantage of instantly being recharged. (http://energystorage.org/energy-storage/storage-technology-comparisons/flow-batteries). The downfall with the flow battery is needed materials like energy-dense electrolytes and ion exchange membranes are expensive.
Last year I read an article regarding molten air batteries, which seem to have the advantage of a higher density vs. lithium ion, cost effectiveness and rechargability, which is the best of both the aluminum ion and the flow batteries. (http://nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=131828&org=NSF) Could this option be a more viable option than the aluminum air batteries?

Researchers design bionic leaf capable of converting sunlight into liquid fuel

Artificial leaf created waves in the world of biology and renewable energy the moment it was announced by Daniel Nocera back in 2011 and his latest research involves utilising hydrogen from this artificial leaf, carbon dioxide from another source and feeding it to bacterium Ralstonia eutropha to create liquid fuel.

via Researchers design bionic leaf capable of converting sunlight into liquid fuel.

My Thoughts:

2/11/2015 I found this article interesting because, it focuses on capturing the energy from sunlight and turning it into a use-able fuel using plants as the common material. The goal is to take solar photons and efficiently convert into fuel from carbon dioxide and water using an artificial photosynthesis system, similar to the natural photosynthesis green plants have produced for millions of years. Artificial photosynthesis offers a non carbon producing option that will not contribute to global warming issue we have as a result of oil and coal. Unfortunately one of the drawbacks is that the artificial leaf makes hydrogen and the current infrastructure of the United States is not in place to use this excess hydrogen. There is a possibility of it being used on hydrogen ran vehicles but these vehicles are not widely used. Could there be a possibility of setting up an artificial leaf system near or at gas stations and have the excess hydrogen provided at an extremely discounted rate versus fuel? Maybe this could increase the production of hydrogen fueled vehicles? But how would the energy captured be stored when sunlight is not available? Could it be stored as hydrogen, and then when in use combining it with carbon dioxide to produce the alcohol fuel?

There are so many challenges that need to be thoroughly researched before the artificial leaf is implemented but should be a direction that researchers keep moving towards. I will continue to stay up to date on developments and update my post.

Hello world!

I decided to start this blog as a way to begin my research into the energy industry. My plan is to do some research and post an  update everyday along with my thoughts. As this is a new area for me, items that are posted may not will not be expert knowledge, but viewpoints and thoughts on a subject from an amateur standpoint. If you happen to have stumbled on this site and can offer viewpoints, ideas, references, or corrections feel free to let me know, whatever helps me become more knowledgeable is appreciated. Happy reading!