Energy capacity and energy parity

According to the ear-pleasing Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014 report by IRENA, there’re plentiful reasons why anyone in the right mind would be rooting for renewable energy in coming years. Data has irrevocably shown that even without financial aid or incentives, renewables are successful in playing catch-up with costs of traditional fossil fuels. Take some time to chew on these figures:

  • In many countries, including Europe, onshore wind power is one of the most competitive sources of new electricity capacity available. Individual wind projects are consistently delivering electricity for USD 0.05 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) without financial support, compared to a range of USD 0.045 to 0.14/kWh for fossil-fuel power plants
  • The average cost of wind energy ranges from USD 0.06/kWh in China and Asia to USD 0.09/kWh in Africa. North America also has competitive wind projects, with an average cost of USD 0.07/kWh
  • Solar PV module prices have dropped 75% since 2009 and continue to decrease.
  • When damage to human health from fossil fuels in power generation is considered in economic terms, along with the cost of CO2 emissions, the price of fossil fuel-fired power generation rises to between USD 0.07 and 0.19/kWh.

IRENA has also brilliantly came up with a very insightful and easy-to-use online tool displaying statistics and data visualisation on renewable energy usage and ranking by region and countries. Stats junkies can start squealing now. Of note-worthiness are sections on country rankings of installed RE capacity (China of whopping twice the amount of USA) and RE tech employment by country (Why’re UK and US so low on their employment numbers?).

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Fun Facts

1. What’s the difference between Solar PV versus Concentrating Solar PV (CSP)?

Answer: CSP refers to solar thermal energy through the use of mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight on a small area.

2. What’s LCOE?

Answer: Levelised cost of electricity, a ratio of lifetime costs to lifetime electricity generation.

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DNV GL’s Wind-Powered Water Injection Tech

On 10 November, DNV GL gathered in Norway for a launch meeting on their industry project, wind-powered water injection system. In this fairly cosy setting, the industry leaders and experts came together to explore possibilities of expanding this line of business as future development of combining the technologies of water injection and wind energy (in particular, offshore wind). The ultimate goal is ironically, to lower the cost and raise efficiency of extracting oil reserves near the shore. I’m unsure what the environmental offsets to such a technology is. This is clearly a hybrid of both clean technology and traditional one, with the latter being the main driver (and the former as a tool to support this).

DNV GL suggest new EOR concept: wind powered water injection

The main challenge the project seeks is: how to lift the oil off the ground with reduced CO2 emissions and lower cost. I watched the video from DNV GL’s website and learned quite a fair bit about the wind technology portion. Here are some of my takeaways:

Wind is the largest energy source in energy storage capacity. Then, 30% is PV (Solar) and 5% is coal. In China, it is targeted to increase to 200 Gigawatt by 2020. The technology now is gearing towards floating wind turbines. However, the dominating one is still onshore wind which stands about 85% now. Offshore taking about 10-15% of the pie.

Offshore wind turbines can generate about 3 times the energy of onshore ones. The benefits of offshore ones are that bigger components can be used. There are 3 types of offshore turbines: 3 MW, 3.6MW and 5MW with tripods.

The focus is increasingly on floating offshore turbines as opposed to fixed offshore ones. Floating offshore turbines are made of stronger materials and can go deeper into the waters, allowing for bigger blades, higher capacities. Prototypes of floating offshore turbines are already installed in various countries like Norway (forefront), Scotland, Spain France and Portugal. USA and Japan as well. Japan is slightly special due to Fukushima incident and loss of major nuclear plant. 7MW turbines were since installed there.

It was difficult to perform a cost analysis on this new technology. Questions were mostly centered on how much cost savings it can achieve. There are also other things to consider such as regulatory requirements and commercial frameworks (buying equipment vs renting), system reliability and uptime.