Electric cars, LED lighting, reusable bags; many a green innovation has gone mainstream in recent years – and now energy storage is joining the list.
With new tech start-ups entering the scene this year to produce storage batteries, costs for storing energy are set to fall, making 2016 the year of battery storage around the world.
Why the focus on storage? More companies are turning to wind and solar energy but weather patterns are far from consistent. By storing the energy produced in batteries, it can be released for use when it is needed, and not only throughout the day, but from season to season as well.
Energy storage has already taken off in some markets around the world, driven by renewable energy generation, but has largely been overlooked so far in Britain, mainly because of the high cost of implementing storage technologies.
In some markets, such as the US, Germany, and Japan, energy storage is being used commercially. In the US, about 13 per cent of electricity comes from renewable sources and in Germany it equates to around 30 per cent of electricity consumed. And the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) pumped $700 million into energy storage for Japan in 2015.
Investing now to build energy storage systems that take advantage of local, renewable resources could ultimately save companies money by paving the way to energy independence. “It’s a huge advantage to keep energy locally and bring it back locally when you need it, without having to transport it across the country,” says Franz Jenowein, Sustainability Consulting Director at JLL.
The cost of energy storage needs to come down for the commercial real estate industry to embrace it. “Although there’s excitement around the numbers, it might take up to 10 years for companies to get their return on investment,” says Jenowein.
Knowledge of a new technology is one thing; actually using it is quite another. The photovoltaic (PV) effect, responsible for converting light into energy, for example, isn’t new: a 19-year-old French physicist discovered it in 1839.
“Solar PV panels were first used by space satellites in the late 1950s. And battery storage technology has come a long way, but it’s only really come onto the radar with Tesla,” says Jenowein who noted that the premium, electric vehicle automaker used a “very clever communications strategy to make something as geeky as a battery attractive.”
Introducing super batteries
Batteries, pumped-storage systems, ice storage, and heat thermal storage make up some of the more common energy storage technologies for use during peak demand to bring grid usage down and to compensate for peak electricity tariffs. But super batteries, the same types that power electric vehicles, are the current focus of tech companies ever since Tesla introduced the Powerwall energy storage system for homes in May 2015.
Energy stored in batteries provides a promising way to store renewable energy for buildings, too. They can power lights, computers, heating and cooling equipment during peak times, can take over during power outages, and they provide an alternative to fossil fuel powered back-up generators.
Storage battery systems have two functions. “The beauty is that you not only generate energy, but you also have an energy holding technology. Batteries can be connected to the power grid, potentially playing a key role in the emerging smart grids,” says Jenowein. Once you put energy storage systems in buildings and connect to the grid, they become part of this new energy ecosystem.
Getting into the act
More UK tech start-ups are getting into the act by developing their own storage batteries, which they can sell to commercial building owners, in a sort of “storage war” competition, with companies such as Powervault, Moixa Technology, and redT.
Powervault, for example, plans to “take on Tesla” by providing home energy storage systems for British homeowners. Moixa’s system is for residential and commercial uses, and redT’s is for industrial and utility-scale usage.
Although this technology is still prohibitively expensive for widespread use, as production increases and more companies get into the game, prices will go down. “Costs are expected to fall 40 percent over the next five years,” according to JLL’s 2016 Sustainability Trends report.
Jenowein paints a picture of the environment in the UK today: a recognition by building managers of higher electricity rates during day peak times and a willingness to do something about it, and the technology solutions of the batteries. He says that lots of components need to come together for energy storage to become more prevalent, such as regulatory elements, subsidies and incentives, and software to integrate the technologies.
“The challenge is to make it all work together,” says Jenowein. His prediction: energy storage for use in commercial office buildings will be more commonplace, but probably not before 2025 or 2030.
The operator of South Australia’s vast network says it has no concern about the growing penetration of renewable energy on its grid, and is in fact encouraging remote towns to look at high penetration renewable micro-grids to reduce costs.
South Australia is likely to source more than 50 per cent of its electricity needs from fluctuating, but highly predictable, wind and solar power this year, and the penetration will continue to grow.
Last week the Australian Energy Market Operator issued a report on the growing penetration of renewables, and the imminent departure of the last coal generator, but found no threat to energy security.
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SA Power Networks chief executive Ron Stobbe told analysts: ”We don’t see any major implications at all for our networks. We can manage generation from any source.”
Indeed, SAPN is looking to rapidly increase the share of renewable energy in parts of its grid, to increase reliability and reduce costs – both for itself and its consumers.
It says it is talking with a number of remote towns on the feasibility of high penetration renewable energy micro-grids, that might focus on wind and /or solar power, plus diesel back-up or battery storage.
SAPN says this will be a cheaper option for the network than upgrading its extended grid, and also in making repairs to lines damaged by storms and fires. And it will increase safety.
Networks in Western Australia and Queensland are also looking at high renewable penetration micro-grids for the same reasons. A recent analysis suggested using solar and storage could cost just one-tenth of the price of other proposed methods to protect against fire risk.
SAPN is also looking to trial “mid-scale” network storage to improve reliability, allow for higher renewables penetration and defer network upgrades. Ergon in Queensland says a similar strategy is cutting network costs by one third.
SAPN says it is also conducting residential battery storage trials with multiple vendors, to ascertain the value to consumers and to networks by deferring upgrades, and is creating an innovation centre to look at such technologies.
Construction work has begun on Europe’s largest floating solar farm at the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir near London as part of Thames Water’s plans to source a third of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
More than 23,000 panels will be floated on the reservoir, providing enough electricity each year to power the equivalent of around 1,800 homes. Due for completion at the end of March, the finished array will cover around a 10th of the reservoir’s surface – the same area as eight Wembley-sized football pitches.
The renewable electricity produced by the 6.3MW array will power a nearby water treatment centre, Thames Water said.
“Becoming a more sustainable business is integral to our long term strategy and this innovative new project brings us one step closer to achieving our goal – this is the right thing for our customers, the right thing for our stakeholders and most importantly the right thing for the environment,” energy manager Angus Berry said in a statement.
Solar energy company Lightsource is managing the installation, which will require more than 61,000 floats and 177 anchors to keep the array above water.
Lightsource chief executive Nick Boyle said that as more industries look to decarbonise, the solar industry will need to develop new skills to ensure projects deliver maximum efficiency.
“There is a great need from energy intensive industries to reduce their carbon footprint, as well as the amount they are spending on electricity and solar can be the perfect solution,” he said in a statement. “We’re therefore constantly evolving new skill sets to ensure that all of our projects deliver maximum energy generation over the lifetime of the installation.”
Floating solar farms are considered an efficient way to maximise renewable energy generation in areas where land is scarce, by using the normally redundant surface area on reservoirs and lakes.
The largest floating solar array is currently under construction on a reservoir in Japan. Once completed, it will provide enough clean electricity to power nearly 5,000 households.
Advocates of the approach argue it can also reduce evaporation from reservoirs, while the cooling effect of the water is said to help improve output from solar PV cells.
Wish you could have the warmth of a candle, and the brightness of an LED? Meet the Lumir C, a brilliant LED lamp that’s powered by the heat of a tiny tealight candle. Launched (and successfully funded) on Kickstarter, the Lumir C offers an eco-friendly alternative to lighting that’s not only beautiful, but also has off-grid applications and is more reliable than solar.
Lumir C creator Jehwan Park was inspired to create the candle-powered LED lamp after a trip he took to India in 2014. While there, he witnessed firsthand the “seriousness of blackouts” and was shocked to learn that as many as 1.3 billion people around the world still lack access to reliable electricity. Many households in developing countries still work by candlelight at night; however, the flames are often not bright enough to see properly. Thus, Park and his design team created a solution to light up an entire room with just one candle.
Park’s first product is the Lumir C, a lighthouse-shaped lamp that generates electric light from the heat of a candle flame. When placed on top of a candle, the lamp’s large heatsink draws the flame’s thermal energy and, thanks to the Seebeck effect, turns the temperature difference between the hot and cold air into thermoelectricity that powers the LED at the top of the lamp, which glows 15 to 60 times brighter than candlelight. For a special touch, the design team recommends using a scented candle.
The candle-powered Lumir C lamp is still available on Kickstarter, which has already surpassed its $50,000 funding goal, and can be purchased for the early-bird price of $59. The Lumir C team also created a low-cost option, the Lumir K, which uses the same technology as Lumir C but will not be sold for profit and was created to help developing countries such as the Philippines.
The growth in renewable energy is fuelling new jobs in Asia and Africa. Meet three beneficiaries of the new green economy from Zambia, Pakistan and Kenya.
While the price of oil is plummeting, taking with it a significant number of jobs, the renewable energy job market is booming. It is estimated that it will grow to 24m jobs worldwide by 2030 – up from 9.2m reported in 2014 – according to analysis by the International Renewable Energy Industry (Irena), which predicts that doubling the proportion of renewables in the global energy mix would increase GDP by up to $1.3tn across the world.
The rise and rise of the solar industry has been the largest driver of growth. In 2014, it accounted for more than 2.5m jobs, largely in operations, maintenance and manufacturing – now increasingly dominated by a jobs boom in Asia.
The industry is providing hope and income to workers – present and future – across the global south.
Sheila Mbilishi, ‘solar-preneur’, Zambia
Although employment in renewable energy is comparatively low across Africa, the sunny continent is where the need and potential for employment is perhaps greatest. A fast-growing economy and population is driving demand for energy, but two-thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa still lack access to electricity.
Now the renewables revolution is witnessing the rise of a generation of African “solar-preneurs” who are creating small-scale businesses by taking solar energy – in the form of lights, radios and mobile-phone charging facilities – into local communities.
In western Zambia, Sheila Mbilishi is self-employed and sells solar lights to local residents and businesses. The 67-year-old widow and mother of six buys the lights for $5 from the social enterprise SunnyMoney – part of the UK based charity SolarAid – and sells them on with a 50% profit margin.
“They sell like cupcakes,” says Mbilishi. “There is life in the lights – people got interested in them.” They are popular with pupils who want to study after dark, businesses during electricity blackouts or as a replacement for toxic kerosene lamps in homes.
Since starting the business three years ago, it has provided Mbilishi with a significant source of income, helping her to open a shop and build a two-bedroom flat. “The difference is huge,” she says. “Selling lights has helped me a lot. I have built a house out of the lights. Owning personal ones has helped me too with the current load shedding – electricity is usually off and I am not affected by no light.”
Shehak Sattar, renewable energy student, Moscow
For Shehak Sattar, choosing to study renewable energy was more a social than a personal decision. “I want to practise something different from the mainstream. It is related to the concept of believing in humanity and our survival on earth,” he says.
The 27-year-old Pakistani student is now four months into a masters degree in the science and materials of solar energy at the National University of Science and Technology in Moscow, funded by a scholarship. The course is in its first year and has mostly attracted international students – from Afghanistan and Iran to Nigeria and Namibia.
Before coming to Moscow, Sattar worked for NGOs and other agencies in Pakistan, installing and spreading the transmission of solar energy to remote communities and to slums in Islamabad and Lahore. Larger solar projects are now starting to come online in Pakistan, amid ambitions to construct the world’s largest solar farm.
“There has been a general electricity crisis in Pakistan. People are waiting for alternatives to rescue them from this suffering,” he says.
Once he has completed his course, Sattar wants to work at a university in Pakistan “to convert the attention of students to renewable energy sources” by lecturing and researching methods to make solar energy more efficient.
“We have to fight more,” he says. “We have to fight against the people who will be digging for petroleum in the coming 20 years because it will destroy our ecology’s balance.”
Mohamed Abdikadir, solar panel installer, Dadaab, Kenya
The promise of renewable energy in refugee camps could save humanitarian agencies hundreds of millions of dollars and provide job opportunities for thousands of young refugees.
Mohamed Abdikadir, 21, was born in the refugee camp complex at Dadaab in eastern Kenya, where the average family spends $17.20 per month – 24% of their income – on energy. The complex is home to more than 330,000 refugees.
Like most of his neighbours, Abdikadir’s family came to the camp after fleeing the civil war in Somalia more than two decades ago. Both his parents have since died, leaving Abdikadir to provide for his 10 younger siblings. He is now one of 5,000 young people trained to install solar panels as part of a programme in Kenya and Ethiopia organised by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which has recruited local teachers to deliver it.
“It was hard [to learn] at first but I tried my best and now it is easy,” says Abdikadir. After completing a six-month programme a year ago, he gets up at 5am every day to pray before preparing breakfast and collecting the tools for his job in Dadaab’s dry desert landscape. “There is a lot of sun here.Renewable energy is very good in this environment.”
Before he started the programme, Abdikadir earned money by selling water but he could only make enough to provide one meal a day for his family. Now, with the extra income from solar installations – $10 on an average day – his siblings are eating three meals daily, have new clothing and are able to attend a fee-paying school.
“I am the breadwinner of the family,” he says. “[The programme] has really helped me. Before I was idle. It helps with my daily bread, my daily income.”
Abdikadir now wants to expand his education to incorporate other forms of renewable energy. Meanwhile, the NRC recently announced plans to deliver a similar programme on a larger scale for Syrians at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.
Bayside Mall in Tableview, Cape Town, scooped the award for the Large Building Retrofit Category, raising the bar for energy efficiency at shopping centres in the Mother City and across the country.
Bayside Mall’s energy efficiency interventions include upgrades to LED lighting and improvements in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. The projects have yielded consistent monthly energy savings averaging at 11% so far, with the hot summer months expected to bump savings up to 17%.
Norbert Sasse, CEO of Growthpoint Properties, comments: “Winning this award is an exciting achievement. It shows we are on the right track to achieve our own green goals, and we also hope it serves to inspire others to do the same, going beyond what’s required to ensure we are resource-efficient and preserve our environment as best we can.”
Growthpoint is South Africa’s largest REIT and a JSE ALSI Top 40 Index company. It is a Platinum Founding Member of the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), a JSE Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Index company and a Dow Jones Sustainability Index company. It owns and manages a diversified portfolio of 471 properties in South Africa, 53 properties in Australia through its investment in GOZ and a 50% interest in the properties at V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Growthpoint’s consolidated property assets are valued at over R100 billion.
Stephan le Roux, Growthpoint’s Divisional Director for Retail, says: “Our sustainability projects that produce solar energy, harvest rainwater, and convert waste into energy all make Bayside Mall more self-sufficient by generating its own energy and reducing its waste to landfill.”
Bayside Mall’s flagship project was a 500 kWp pilot rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, with 2,108 panels covering 3,300sqm. It supplies 5% of the electricity needs in this shopping centre, which spans over 45,000sqm of retail space and welcomes in excess of 7.5 million shoppers each year.
“The annual average daily energy production of these panels is 2,100 kWh, which equates to the average daily use of 150 households in Cape Town. The installation of the PV panels has also resulted in carbon emission reductions equivalent to 767 tonnes of CO2,” says le Roux.
The mall has also invested in a rainwater harvesting and reuse intervention. This involves the extraction, detaining, storage and utilisation of storm water runoff from the shopping centre’s hard surfaces and rooftop.
“Harvested storm water is screened free of litter, debris and silt before it enters the main storm water holding tanks. Storm water is pumped to elevated tanks at Bayside Mall’s back of house area. These tanks have the capacity to hold a total volume of 60 kL, with clean storm water pumped to two tanks, positioned above the public toilet blocks and used to fill the toilet cisterns,” le Roux explains. Storm water is further used for irrigating the mall’s landscaping.
All this results in a 93% water saving in landscaping and public toilet usage.
The mall’s waste-to-energy intervention involves the anaerobic digestion of organic waste that are generated in the shopping mall each day. A waste-to-energy electricity generation plant has been constructed and will introduce a further 250 to 330 kWh per day in the near future. This will be fed back into the mall and be used for power in its common areas.
Not only is Bayside Mall saving energy, but it is also encouraging others to do the same.
It has put in place ongoing behavioural and awareness programmes that target its staff, retailers and shoppers.
“Bayside Mall has moved beyond basic lighting retrofits and peak demand reductions, pioneering efforts that have set us apart as an exemplary custodian of all our energy resources,” says le Roux.
South African women should be fighting for a 100% renewable energy future for our country. A completely renewable energy future will be good for everyone, but it could be particularly good for women.
At the recent South African International Renewable Energy Conference in Cape Town, it was striking that one of the side-events with the most women in attendance was focused on rural electrification. Clearly the need for rural electrification is particularly urgently felt by women.
Global warming is perhaps the ultimate expression of patriarchy. It is one inevitable outcome of a global power structure that has long held men, mostly white wealthy and middle-class men, as the thinking subject while everyone else became, with nature, an exploitable object.
Climate change caused by carbon emissions will hit rural African women first and hardest. For reasons of culture or where men are migrant workers, African women currently bear primary responsibility for food production, and sourcing fuel and water – all of which are threatened by climate change. For this reason, building a renewable energy economy that helps to avert climate change as far as possible is incredibly important.
But even if climate change were not a problem, renewable energy would still be transformative for women’s development.
In the !Kheis municipal area of the Northern Cape, for example, where 70% of people are poor and unemployed, basic solar home power systems have been rolled out. They include three interior lights, an outside security light (a vital contribution to women’s safety), and a radio and cellphone charger. The systems can be upgraded. One woman for every 50 households has been trained to maintain the systems and collect data on how they are used, building community and employment.
Off-grid systems are sometimes considered to be a second-best option—but their users often do not agree. These systems are cheaper to run, and when load shedding hits the wealthier members of the community, the poor are unaffected: “During load shedding, the have-nots have, and the haves have not.”
These systems offer the chance for precise scalability, matching to people’s actual needs, and for real participation and community economic development.
“If you have no lights, you cannot clean at night, so this changes women’s lives totally. It is a totally different community, it gives them back their dignity,” says Teresa Scheepers, the regional municipal manager.
As another conference participant observed, “I have not seen a technology that has such a developmental impact as renewable energy technology.” This is in part because the economic empowerment of women has a multiplier effect, improving health and family outcomes, and laying the foundations for deeper participation in the formal economy.
But it is not just in marginalised rural communities that renewable energy technology offers new opportunities for women. The structure of our current economy—indeed, our society—is deeply linked to the energy sources on which it is dependent.
Fossil fuel companies do not just pollute air and water without penalty, imposing the costs of their dirty business models on the most vulnerable. They also pollute our politics. Countries that are dominated by extractive industries are notoriously more corrupt than those that are not—the so-called “resource curse”. It stands to reason then, that if we wish to reduce corruption—such as ANC kickbacks from companies – we should also reduce our dependence on fossil fuels as far as possible. Since women are more vulnerable to the effects of corruption than men (according to a 2008 report by Unifem), this reduction in corruption will bring substantial benefits for women.
As Michael Liebreich of Bloomberg New Energy Finance observes, “Clean energy is inherently more local, more distributed, more accountable … the revolution afoot in energy, driven by new technologies and distributed generation, can and should mean a democratisation of social as well as electrical power.” That means that renewable energy development can support African communities and community values, as communities that are embedded in the natural world and do not hold themselves above it, in ways that the technocratic, ruthless capitalism of extractive fossil-fuel energy does not. To put it another way, renewable energy brings us back in touch with the rhythms and cycles and limitations of nature.
Following the #FeesMustFall student protests, South Africans have been asking themselves how the government will fund new commitments to higher education. One possibility is the savings on fossil-fuel imports that could be made if we strengthened our commitment to renewable energy for 100% renewable energy supply by 2050. This would save us an additional R30 billion each year in reduced fossil-fuel imports, according to an analysis by the New Climate Institute. It would also prevent an additional 1 200 deaths due to air pollution; and create an additional 25 000 jobs.
The global energy sector is notoriously male-dominated. Though the emerging renewable energy sector remains notably male-dominated, in many instances it is more open to gender-inclusive practices. In countries like Germany and the UK, women are more visible as industry leaders in the renewables sector than they are in old energy, particularly in Germany’s multitude of community energy companies. Bloomberg New Energy Finance actively seeks to grow the participation of women in the sector.
If women are to benefit from a 100% renewable energy target for South Africa, we must ensure this goal is adopted. We must stand up for renewable energy, whether in business or politics or as consumers. We should lobby those institutions that are intended to represent women, such as the gender commission, to add their voices to this call. We should call on women in politics to stand up for a more democratic and humane national energy policy that will truly benefit women—and everyone else too.
Last year was a breakthrough year for solar in the Middle East with over 30 solar projects awarded – a ten-fold increase on 2013, according to The Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA). MESIA also predicts that in 2015, more than 1,500MW worth of solar projects will be tendered to meet the rising electricity demands set by the region’s population, which is estimated to continue growing by approximately 1.9 percent year-on-year. Accelerating the growth of solar is the continued development of innovative technologies and services that are further driving down the cost of solar systems, offering the rapidly growing regions of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) a valuable and economically viable energy alternative to conventional fossil fuels.
Solar Gains Ground
Over the last decade the MENA region has really started to harness the abundant natural energy resource which it possesses – the sun. The popularity of solar energy across MENA is largely driven from the UAE. Dubai has awarded a 200 MW Solar PV power plant, introduced solar powered ‘palm trees’ as well as the Dubai Rooftop Solar program, and has increased its target threefold, upping solar’s target contribution to the energy mix from 5 percent to 15 percent, which means it will have 3,000 MW of solar power by 2030.
Meanwhile, last year Jordan awarded 12 solar projects, the most in any country in the region in 2014. Although it traditionally relies on fossil fuel imports to meet around 95 percent of its energy demand, the recent social unrest in the region has highlighted the risks with being over-reliant on a single energy source. To address this, last year, Jordan’s energy minister announced that several renewable energy projects with a total capacity of 1,800 MW will be connected to its national power grid by the end of 2018.
Morocco has the most ambitious clean energy target in the MENA region and is on track to have 42 percent of its installed energy capacity dedicated to renewable sources by 2020. Of that, 2,000 MW will come from solar. Furthermore, the Moroccan Institute for Research on Solar Energy and New Energy (IRESEN) last year financed six R&D solar thermal and CSP projects to drive technological advancements in the country. Last but by no means least, Egypt has also set its sights on solar, with a target of 2.3 GW of solar by 2017.
The Solar Opportunities and Challenges in MENA
This continued drive towards solar, following the reduction in the cost of solar systems, has resulted in it being competitive with the wholesale price of electricity in many regions. The Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) recently secured a 25-year electricity tariff of roughly $0.06 per kilowatt hour for a 200MW solar PV power plant. This ground-breaking cost reduction has led solar to become one of the most competitive energy sources in the region and the IEA estimates that solar will become the cheapest form of electricity between 2025 and 2030. The implementation of solar projects throughout the region is also helping to reduce carbon emissions, which, have grown so rapidly in the last decade that the average person in MENA is set to emit more emissions than the average person globally by the end of this year.
However, there are three key challenges which further technology innovations can help overcome:
1. Extreme environment
Temperatures of up to 53 degrees Celsius pose a number of technical challenges for solar power which could put a cap in growth if not addressed. And, as solar farms are usually located in remote areas of desert, with no shade or protection from the sun, with high levels of heat, dust and humidity, equipment must be designed to deal with these conditions for a sustained period of time. Liquid cooling of inverters can ensure they can withstand the heat and extreme conditions necessary. Additionally, IP65 rated equipment provides a completely sealed enclosure with no additional housing and air-conditioning required. These innovations enable the equipment to last under extreme conditions and make them perfect for hot, arid desert regions enabling a stable power delivery for an optimal financial performance.
2. Stabilizing solar on the grid
While solar is playing an increasing role in power supply, it cannot be relied upon completely due to its intermittent nature. Energy Storage solutions are still very expensive to resolve this issue. Batteries have become the holy grail not only for the solar power industry but for many other industries as well.
Further innovations around solar including Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) for example, can play a key role alongside more traditional methods such as oil and gas, in stabilizing the grid. By concentrating the heat of the sun into a far smaller focal point, such as a boiler, this heat can be stored for later. With heat building up throughout the day, this provides an ideal energy source for when the sun is no longer shining, with the boiler driving a steam turbine to produce electricity onto the grid once PV output significantly reduces. Having reliable CSP systems which can be monitored remotely, while ensuring high reliability in harsh environmental conditions, is critical to the further growth of solar and in providing greater grid stability.
3. Further reducing the cost of solar power in the region
Throughout much of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), electricity and water prices are highly subsidized by governments. Abu Dhabi alone spent Dh17.5 billion last year on subsidizing the cost of electricity and water. In Saudi Arabia, the government is burning nearly 900,000 barrels of oil a month in the summer of 2014 to meet high demand of electricity, which is then sold at a fraction of the cost. Now that oil revenue has dropped with the fall in oil prices, these subsidies are making a dent in government budgets. Dubai was the first to adopt cost-reflective pricing policies, and others will follow. This will push up the price of electricity and make solar, which is not subsidized, more attractive.
Despite solar power becoming competitive with the wholesale price of electricity in many regions across MENA, additional cost reductions are needed to make solar electricity fully competitive against conventional power sources in the long term. The opportunity of improving PV system costs via voltage increases on the DC side has already been successfully applied worldwide with the move from 600 VDC to 1,000 VDC large scale PV systems. Today, new developments at GE has created a shift towards 1,500 VDC architecture and this is widely seen as the next natural step in the evolution of utility scale PV power plants, further tapping into the cost reduction opportunity. By increasing the voltage level, the inverter power station’s power rating increases proportionally and thus decreases system losses and balance of plant costs. In addition, GE’s LV5 inverters have the latest software controls ensuring optimized power harvesting and a smooth integration of power produced into the grid.
While many countries are recognizing the economic viability of solar, resolving technological issues is key to unlocking the role of solar in the global energy mix and driving it to parity with traditional energy sources.
Pretoria – South Africa saved R4 billion ($310 million) in fuel and by avoiding blackouts in the first half of 2015 due to renewable-energy projects, according to a study by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
From January to June, 800 megawatts of wind and 1 gigawatt of solar photovoltaic power-generation saved about 3.6 billion rand in diesel and coal-fuel costs, according to the Pretoria- based center.
During 15 days in the period, renewables either prevented or limited rolling blackouts, the study showed.
South Africa’s state-owned power company Eskom Holdings has imposed rolling blackouts almost every other day this year as it struggles to meet demand. The government’s five-round program of clean-energy tenders has awarded more than 5 000 megawatts of projects since 2011.
With renewable power saving about 200 hours of unserved energy and fuel, it generated as much as R4 billion more in financial benefits than it cost, according to the study.
The financial benefit in 2014 was R800 million after costs, the CSIR said in an earlier study. The weighted average tariffs paid for new wind and photovoltaic projects have decreased.
The CSIR has developed a methodology “to determine whether at any given hour of the year, renewables have replaced coal or diesel generators or whether they have even prevented so-called ‘unserved energy’,” Tobias Bischof-Niemz, who heads up its energy center, said in a statement.
If your fantasy is to live totally off-the-grid anywhere around the world, that dream just got one step closer to reality. Nice Architects just unveiled the first photos of their incredible egg-shaped Ecocapsule home – and the tiny solar and wind-powered dwelling will be available for sale later this year. Nice Architects has already completed a prototype, and they plan to ship the first units as soon as Spring 2016 – check out the first photos of this low-energy sanctuary after the break, and picture yourself living the dream.
Like the Swiss Army Knife of tiny homes, the Ecocapsule packs everything you need into one very efficient, compact design. Replete with rather luxurious amenities, including a double bed, kitchenette, storage space, and bathroom with a shower and a toilet that collects bio waste, the Ecocapsule can used as a tiny home just for you, a pop-up hotel, a humanitarian refuge, or even an electric car charging station. Its 9744Wh battery is powered by a 750W silent wind turbine and 600W solar outputs that enable it to operate completely off-grid. A dual-power system offers an additional source of electricity during periods without sufficient sunlight or wind. The structure’s rounded shape also helps to easily collect rain water, which is then purified with a built-in filtration system
The amazing micro-dwelling is perfect for nature lovers, scientists, photographers, rangers and anyone who wants to stay off-grid for long stretches of time. The architects also recommend it as an urban dwelling for singles in high-rent areas such as Silicon Valley or NYC. The little “egg” home measures just 4.5 meters (14.6 feet) in length, 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) in width, and 2.5 meters in height (8.2 feet), with a reasonable living space around eight square meters (86 square feet). When you’re ready to move on to your next destination, the capsule fits snugly into a standard transportation container.
Nice Architects plans to announce pricing for the Ecocapsule egg home at the end of 2015 – just in time for pre-orders. They’ve focused on reducing the size and weight of the pod so that it can be easily transported – approximate shipping costs range from 1500 Euros from Slovakia to Melbourne, to 2200 Euros from Slovakia to New York. Nice Architects plans to launch one version of the Ecocapsule initially, and they plan to offer additional customizations after the first units are sold