Levels of nitrogen oxides in the air are still falling across the US, but satellite measurements show the reduction has slowed down unexpectedly since 2011… Read the rest
An earthquake that struck South Korea in 2017 was caused by a geothermal energy project that injected water underground – and risk assessments missed it… Read the rest
The internal watchdog at the Department of Energy released an audit report (PDF) this month detailing profligate spending, approved by the Office of Fossil Energy, on a clean coal initiative that was supposed to result in a 400MW carbon capture-enabled plant.
The Office of Fossil Energy had partnered with a private company called Summit Texas Clean Energy LLC (owned by the Seattle-based Summit Power) to complete the project. Fossil Energy committed to funding $450 million of the $1.8 billion project, which would have been built outside of Odessa, Texas. Summit claimed that its plant would have captured 90 percent of the carbon it created.
Instead, Fossil Energy broke off the partnership in June 2016 when the same DOE internal watchdog (known… Read the rest
2017 was undoubtedly a challenging year for nuclear power in the US. But last week, two of the major players in 2017’s nuclear power drama may have found a path forward, subject to regulator approval.
Westinghouse, the nuclear reactor company owned by Toshiba that went bankrupt in early 2017, may have found a buyer in a Canadian company called Brookfield Business Partners. Similarly Scana, the energy company that owned 55 percent of the VC Summer nuclear buildout in South Carolina, may also be bought up by Virginia-based Dominion Energy.
The drama started early last year, when Westinghouse announced its bankruptcy in March. Westinghouse had been contracted to build four… Read the rest
In the year 2000, the entire world had roughly four Gigawatts of solar power capacity installed, and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere fast. In 2002, the International Energy Agency forecast suggested that, by 2020, global solar capacity would still be hovering at around 10GW, and still barely register on the global energy markets.
How things change. Over the 15 years that followed, solar energy capacity expanded by 5,700 percent, reaching 227GW. The International Energy Agency revised its solar estimates upwards three times over that span, but its most recent estimate—over 400GW of installed capacity by 2020—is already falling behind the curve of solar’s growth. In 2015, the most recent year that numbers are available, 57GW worth of solar… Read the rest
A new study tracking global investment in renewable energy found that investors spent less money in 2016 to add more renewable energy capacity than in any previous year. In total, investors only spent about $241.6 billion in renewable energy investments in 2016, down 23 percent from 2015.
But they got a lot of bang for their buck. According to the collaborative report from the UN, the Frankfurt School, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, investments in “wind, solar, biomass, and waste-to-energy, geothermal, small hydro, and marine sources [like wave and tidal energy]” resulted in the addition of 138.5 GW of energy capacity in 2016. That represents a nine percent increase year-over-year from the 127.5 gigawatts added in 2015.
The difference in… Read the rest
A company called UniEnergy Technologies (UET) has installed a new large flow battery on the grid in Snohomish County in Washington state. The 2MW, 8MWh battery system may seem like a small installation compared to recent projects in Southern California and Hawaii, but it’s quite a step for the nascent flow battery industry. In fact, this installation is currently the largest capacity containerized flow battery system in the world. It’s housed in 20 connected shipping containers and will be used by the Snohomish Public Utility District (otherwise known as SnoPUD), which has also invested in lithium-ion battery installations.
Flow batteries are less common than their lithium-ion brethren. But as grid-scale batteries go, they offer some interesting advantages to lithium-ion that could really pay… Read the rest
Renewable energy has achieved a major milestone: in many cases, it’s the cheapest source of electrons you can put on the grid. But the intermittency that comes with renewable energy also poses challenges for the grid, as it has to be able to respond to sudden changes in supply. That creates an economic challenge as well, as we may need to provide incentives for other sources of electricity (including storage) to make up for the sudden changes. These costs are the subject of a new paper that finds that in Germany, costs won’t be all that bad.
On the most basic level, the variable output of renewables means that existing fossil fuel plants may need to be switched on and… Read the rest
On Friday, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that US energy production in 2016 fell by 4 percent, with fossil fuel production contributing to most of that decline.
The numbers are not terribly surprising. Global carbon emissions have been stalled for years even as economic activity has increased (although that doesn’t mean we’re not still emitting massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere). We’ve also seen big shifts in the market for fossil fuels—cheap natural gas is beating coal dramatically and renewables like wind and solar are starting to be cheap enough to compete with more traditional energy sources. And the EIA found recently that energy intensity, which is defined as units of energy per unit of GDP, has fallen by a third in… Read the rest
On Wednesday, Westinghouse Electric Company, a subsidiary of Japanese company Toshiba, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company claimed in a court filing that it was losing money on construction projects in South Carolina and Georgia, although it maintained that nuclear fuel and plant servicing operations remained “very profitable.”
The construction cost overruns fall on nuclear power plants that would have contained Generation III+ AP1000 reactors, which Westinghouse designed with “passive safety features,” like using gravity and convective cooling, to make them simpler, easier to maintain, and more resistant to earthquakes, plane crashes, or electrical blackouts. According to The New York Times, the two projects are nearly three years overdue and have cost somewhere between $1 billion and $1.3 billion more… Read the rest