Innovation in Renewable Energy

In their annual open Gates Foundation letter Bill and Melinda Gates revealed their plans to inspire innovation in new technologies for tackling climate change, energy policy, and gender inequality.

Bill’s portion of the letter, which is addressed directly to teenagers he argues there should be a world-wide policy to deliver clean energy to the 1.3 billion people across the globe who do not have access to power.

He also states that the energy generation should be low carbon to tackle the risks presented by climate change. “If we really want to help the world’s poorest families, we need to find a way to get them cheap, clean energy,” he writes. “Cheap because everyone must be able to afford it. Clean because it must not emit any carbon dioxide – which is driving climate change.”

He follows that by maintaining that the ultimate goal would be to produce energy with zero carbon emissions. Can’t we just aim to cut carbon emissions in half?’ I asked many scientists, but they all agreed that wouldn’t be enough. The problem is that CO2 lingers in the atmosphere for decades. Even if we halted carbon emissions tomorrow, the temperature would still rise because of the carbon that’s already been released. No, we need to get all the way down to zero.

“New green technologies are allowing the world to produce more carbon-free energy from solar and wind power,” he writes. “Maybe you live near a wind farm or have seen solar panels near your school. It’s great that these are getting cheaper and more people are using them. We should use more of them where it makes sense, like in places where it’s especially sunny or windy. And by installing special new power lines we could make even more use of solar and wind power.

“We need more powerful, more economical solutions. In short we need an energy miracle. When I say “miracle,” I don’t mean something that’s impossible. I’ve seen miracles happen before; the personal computer, the internet, the polio vaccine. None of them happened by chance. They are the result of research and development and the human capacity to innovate.”

Citing combination of private sector research and development, such as his recently launched Energy Breakthrough Coalition, government action, and individual endeavour Gates argues that the right combination can deliver a new generation of clean energy technologies.

“We need a massive amount of research into thousands of new ideas-even ones that might sound a little crazy-if we want to get to zero emissions by the end of this century,” he said. “New ways to make solar and wind power available to everyone around the clock could be one solution. Some of the crazier inventions I’m excited about are a possible way to use solar energy to produce fuel, much like plants use sunlight to make food for themselves, and batteries the size of swimming pools with huge storage capacity.

“Many of these ideas won’t work, but that’s okay. Each dead end will teach us something useful and keep us moving forward. As Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Gates also urged young people to engage with the energy challenge. “You may be wondering what you can do to help,” he wrote. “First, it’s important for everyone to get educated about this energy challenge. Many young people are already actively involved in climate and energy issues and I’m sure they could use more help. Your generation is one of the most globally minded in history, adept at looking at our world’s problems beyond national borders. This will be a valuable asset as we work on global solutions in the decades ahead.

“Second, if you’re someone with some crazy-sounding ideas to solve our energy challenge, the world needs you. Study extra hard in your math and sciences. You might just have the answer.”

In a separate interview with Bloomberg promoting the letter he provided more detail on how a global clean energy R&D push could be orchestrated and offered an insight into why he is so confident a breakthrough will materialise.

“What we need to get that probability up to be very high is to take 12 or so paths to get there,” he told the news agency. “Like carbon capture and sequestration is a path. Nuclear fission is a path. Nuclear fusion is a path. Solar fuels are a path. For every one of those paths, you need about five very diverse groups of scientists who think the other four groups are wrong and crazy.”

At the end of the interview he confirmed that the Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working on new investment models that could offer more “patient capital” than that by traditional venture capital funds potentially leading to greater investment in the long term.

In related news the UK Chancellor George Osbourne’s autumn statement pledge of £500 million of funds to be allocated for green innovation could launch the UK as a world-leader in energy generation, if the money is spent in key areas such as wave and tidal energy, low-carbon heat and energy storage according to Scottish Renewables.

Hannah Smith policy officer at Scottish Renewables  said “Our renewable energy industry has come a long way since the first hydropower and wind projects of the 19th Century, due in no small part to the impressive list of technical and engineering innovations coming out of the UK.

“We welcome the Chancellor’s recent commitment to continue this by doubling Decc’s innovation programme budget. We believe developing an Energy Innovation Strategy to guide this investment would get the most out of every pound spent.

“Government is in a unique position to mobilise a variety of resources and agencies, creating the right landscape for innovation to occur. This would lay the foundations for British businesses developing innovative products and services to flourish.

Scottish Renewables, which is also calling for half of all energy used in Scotland to come from renewables by 2030, published this new report to examine the future of Britain’s energy system across electricity, heat and transport.

The report highlights six key priority areas for the £500 million innovation funding: –

Wave and tidal energy – at which the UK already leads the world, Scottish Renewables says, with facilities like the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney providing cutting-edge test opportunities.

Storage technologies – which can enable increased renewables capacity (by storing electricity at times of low demand) and provide a multitude of services to the management of our electricity system, as well as empowering communities and consumers.

Floating offshore wind – which could open huge areas of the world’s deepest oceans to green energy generation. The UK is eyeing a global lead already, and funds invested on innovation could cement that advantage.

Low-carbon heat – which accounts for 46 per cent of UK energy demand, but of which only 4.9 per cent was renewable in 2014. Decarbonising the sector will mean fully developing new technologies, supporting their large-scale deployment and integrating them into our wider energy system, according to Scottish Renewables.

Systems integration – thinking about our heat, transport and electricity sectors as one system will allow us to be ‘smarter’ in the way we use power and drive efficiencies, increase security and reduce costs.

Flexible networks – could, according to the Committee on Climate Change, help save consumers up to £3.5 billion per year. Securing the technology to deliver what the CCC call “a more flexible power system” will require a range of technologies such as Active Network Management, demand-side response, storage and increased interconnection, all of which are yet to be fully developed.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd last month pledged to “light the fire” of energy innovation in 2016, by ramping up investment in research, development and demonstration (RD&D).

“We don’t have all the answers for decarbonisation,” Rudd said at an event in London. “We must develop technologies that are both green and cheap. Costs of clean energy and clean transport must continue to fall.

“The UK has strong capabilities in R&D and we have been responsible for some amazing steps forward, but we need to do better and we need to be smarter. We need to breathe new life into the research, development, demonstration and deployment cycle.”

Innovation is crucial in creating a clean secure energy future and we are heartened by the stance taken by Bill Gates. A true innovator when he speaks entire generations listen. His focus on renewable energy will hopefully inspire many of today’s up and coming innovators to concentrate on this.

Renewable energy generation has come a long way with technology becoming more advanced and less expensive but with grid and location restrictions hampering further expansion new innovations are needed in order to continue growth and in turn reduce our carbon emissions.

If we are to reduce our carbon emissions to zero then our future energy security depends on new innovative technologies and the more the better. The Gates Foundation Breakthrough Energy Coalition and the UK government’s £500m green innovation pledge will go some way in helping to achieve this.

 

 

 

 

Doing well, could do better

January was another great month for renewable energy in Scotland with wind power generating 48% of the country’s entire energy needs for the month. Also there were 22 days when wind generated enough electricity to power every residential home in the country.

Data on generated renewable power supplied by Weather Energy was analysed by WWF Scotland who found that wind turbines provided 1,125,544 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity to the national grid in January. This amount of electricity generated covered 48% of the country’s total consumption including residential, business, and industry for the entire month.

Speaking of these findings Karen Robinson of WeatherEnergy said: “2016 has begun very much like 2015 ended, with wind power helping to supply large amounts of electricity to Scotland’s homes and businesses.

“All this renewable output is helping to avoid carbon emissions, something more important than ever as we begin to see the damaging impacts of climate change.”

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “2015 proved to be a big year for renewables, and the latest data makes clear that 2016 is already off to a flying start, with wind power alone meeting nearly half of Scotland’s total electricity needs during January.

“There is little doubt that 2016 will be another record year for renewables however what happens in the longer term will be down to our political leaders.”

Last month Scottish Renewables launched their manifesto in which that stated it is possible to reach 50% of all our energy needs (including heat and transport) from renewable sources. Wind power, being the most advance and one of the least expensive should play a major role in this but can only be achieved with government assistance.

An excellent model for this is Denmark which recently announced that wind power generated 42% of its electricity for the entire year 2015, the highest figure ever recorded worldwide.

Lars Christian Lilleholt, the country’s minister for energy, utilities and climate, called the record significant and said: “Hopefully, Denmark can serve as an example to other countries that it is possible to have both ambitious green policies with a high proportion of wind energy and other renewables in the energy supply, and still have a high security of supply and competitive prices on electricity.”

Although the record breaking achievement benefitted from a windy 2015 there was two large offshore wind farms at Anholt and Horns Rev 2 which were both out of action for the entire year which combined could have provided a further 1.5%.

On the 2nd of September, the whole country operated without any central power stations being switched on at all. On another windy day in July Denmark produced so much electricity that it was able to meet all its electricity needs and export another 40% of its power abroad. The surplus wind energy is mostly sold to consumers in Norway, Sweden and Germany,

As Denmark continues to push forward with its renewable plans and is already reaping the benefits from long term strategic planning Scotland currently lies in an energy limbo. Renewables and wind in particular are doing well but with a more supportive government delivering considered policies we could surpass Denmark and create a surplus of clean renewable energy to the rest of Europe. We do after all have much more wind than them.

 

Constructing the future

Last year Perth and Kinross council launched a new programme of upgrades and improvements to their schools in an effort to modernise them and create “high-quality learning and teaching environment for pupils and staff.”

As part of this project the schools are to be fitted with biomass boilers which providing all the establishments heating and hot water needs.

Last week the first of the upgraded schools, Crieff Primary, was officially opened by Councillor Ian Miller, leader of Perth & Kinross council by the unveiling of a plaque.

“The enhanced facilities for learning and teaching in the new Crieff Primary School will make a real difference to the school community, who I am sure will greatly benefit from the new and improved range of provision,” Mr Miller stated.

“The new primary school and nursery is complemented by a range of associated resources. In addition, biomass boilers are providing the heating and hot water therefore reducing the carbon footprint of the new school.”

In total £60 million has been set aside for this project and the school is the first building to be completed, coming in on time and under budget.

The project is being delivered in partnership with East Central Hub as a design and build contract. The design work was carried out by Holmes Miller Architects and BAM Construction undertook the building works.

The school which handles both primary and nursery aged children also now has a new gymnasium, sports pitches and playground.

Councillor Bob Band, convener of the council’s lifelong learning committee, who also attended the ceremony, said: “The new Crieff Primary School and nursery provides a high-quality teaching environment in which local children can advance their learning.

“This project forms part of Perth and Kinross Council’s capital programme of school upgrades and improvements aimed at enhancing learning and teaching environments across the area.

“I am pleased to say that this goal has certainly been achieved in Crieff by the provision of these excellent new facilities.”

In related news a former paper mill in Glenrothes is set to become Scotland largest and most energy efficient data centre.

Work has already begun at the Tullis Russell paper mill which closed last year with contractors demolishing parts of the site in preparation for the state of the art development.

During the full construction phase it is expected that more than 300 construction workers will be employed at the site which has been named Queensway Park and when completed up to 50 full time jobs will be available at the data centre campus.

Glenrothes and Central Fife MP Peter Grant said: “The closure of Tullis Russell was a huge blow for the local area.

“The Scottish Government investment through the Fife Task Force has helped to mitigate the effects of this and it is good news for Glenrothes that the site will once again be providing jobs for local workers.

“Fife has a strong reputation for renewable and sustainable energy including the offshore wind turbine in Methil and the biomass plant in Glenrothes, which will connect to the new Queensway Park campus.”

The development will be the first facility of its kind to use 100% renewable energy for all its power needs. It will do this by connecting to the UK’s largest biomass plant, the Markinch CHP Plant also in Glenrothes.

The campus will also contain numerous high speed digital connections extending to over 7,500km across the entire UK with additional international connection points.

The project is a joint venture between County Properties Group, an Edinburgh based developers and the AOC Group. Etix Everywhere, internationally reknowned data centre operatives are expected to run the facility as well as provide technical support.

Fife Council’s depute leader Lesley Laird: “We are delighted that Fife is set to be the home of Scotland’s largest and most energy efficient data centre campus.

“Fife is at the forefront of renewable energy and innovation, and this most recent development reinforces our position.

“This investment in the Glenrothes area is a positive boost for local jobs and good news for people across Fife.”

Queensway Park director Alan O’Connor added: “This is one of the largest and most challenging projects we have been involved in and is the culmination of four years carefully planning every aspect of design and resilience.”

The first phase of development will be ready for occupation in the summer of 2017 with the second and third phases coming online soon after.

Our energy future is not just dependent on clean reliable and renewable energy sources. How that energy is used is just as important. Projects like the Perth and Kinross schools modernisation and the Glenrothes data centre are leading the way in new energy efficient methods of construction and energy usage.

They may be initially expensive however these costs are countered by the savings made in their energy production and usage methods.

With the advent of electric cars and more electrical goods being used in both residential and industrial markets the demand for energy will continue to increase. In order to help cope with this demand all of our new builds, both residential and industrial should be fitted with renewable features and linked directly to renewable sources.