The future of energy is being shaped in Asia

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China now accounts for almost three-quarters of global solar panel production.

A Frenchman is credited with being the first to discover the photovoltaic effect that produces electricity from sunlight. The first solar panel was built in the US. But when Abu Dhabi decided to build the world’s largest individual solar power project, they looked east for help.

The country partnered with Chinese and Japanese companies to construct a facility, which opened this year, with a peak capacity of 1.18 gigawatts generated by 3.2 million solar panels. That’s because Asia, more than any other region on the planet, and China, more than any other nation, currently represent the future of solar energy, and are at the heart of the ensuing industrywide transformation from fossil fuels to renewable and nuclear energy.

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The major discoveries that could transform the world in the next decade

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Here’s what scientists are really excited about.

The last decade ushered in some truly revolutionary advances in science, from the discovery of the Higgs boson to the use of CRISPR for Sci-Fi esque gene editing. But what are some of the biggest breakthroughs still to come? Live Science asked several experts in their field what discoveries, techniques and developments they’re most excited to see emerge in the 2020s.

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Gates, Bezos bet on flow battery technology, a potential rival to big bets on lithium-ion

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H/O ESS containers

The U.S. energy storage market is expected to grow by a factor of 12 in the next five years, from 430MW deployed in 2019 to more than 5GW and a value of more than $5 billion by 2024, says Wood Mackenzie Energy Storage Service.

Tesla and GM are making big bets on lithium-ion batteries for energy storage systems and electric vehicles, but billionaire investors and venture capital firms are investing in competing battery technology, such as flow batteries.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the group of private investors led by Bill Gates and fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson and Jack Ma, invested in iron-flow battery maker ESS in November.

ESS, which makes long-duration, iron flow batteries, secured $30 million in a Series C investment round from Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), the group of private investors led by Bill Gates and fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson and Jack Ma, among others.

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5 emerging energy technologies to watch out for in 2020

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2019 was a year of consolidation rather than breakthroughs for clean energy technologies. Will 2020 be different?

This year will likely be remembered as a period of technology consolidation rather than breakthrough innovation in the energy industry. Emerging industries such as offshore wind and lithium-ion battery storage have gone from strength to strength.

Meanwhile, more novel technologies such as energy blockchains and flow batteries have been relatively quiet this year.

In some respects, this is no bad thing. It signals that many low-carbon grid technologies are maturing and achieving the scale needed to compete with fossil-fuel generation. And there is still plenty of scope for innovation in maturing sectors.

In the battery market, for example, “the supply chain is constantly battling disruptions resulting from limited mineral supply,” said Lindsay Gorrill, CEO at the energy storage firm Kore Power.

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Futuristic advancements we can expect within the next decade

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Our society has made incredible advancements in technology, resulting in pivotal discoveries and accomplishments. We are lucky to be living in a time when science and innovation are proceeding at an increasingly rapid pace. The things we see as commonplace today were simply science-fiction just 10-20 years ago. Looking to the next decade, here are some marvelous technological advancements we can expect.

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Scientists develop superfast-charging, high-capacity potassium batteries

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Skoltech researchers in collaboration with scientists from the Institute for Problems of Chemical Physics of RAS and the Ural Federal University have shown that high-capacity, high-power batteries can be made from organic materials without lithium or other rare elements. In addition, they demonstrated the impressive stability of cathode materials and recorded high energy density in fast charge/discharge potassium-based batteries. The results of their studies were published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A, the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters and Chemical Communications.

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used for energy storage, particularly in portable electronics. The demand for batteries is surging due to the rapid advancement of electric vehicles with high requirements for lithium. For example, Volvo intends to increase the share of electric vehicles to 50 percent of its overall sales by 2025, and Daimler announced its plans to give up internal combustion engines altogether, shifting the emphasis to electric vehicles.

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Futuristic advancements we can expect within the next decade

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Our society has made incredible advancements in technology, resulting in pivotal discoveries and accomplishments. We are lucky to be living in a time when science and innovation are proceeding at an increasingly rapid pace. The things we see as commonplace today were simply science-fiction just 10-20 years ago. Looking to the next decade, here are some marvelous technological advancements we can expect.

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Gas plants will get crushed by wind, solar by 2035, study says

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Generators now on drawing boards will be left uneconomical

Natural gas-fired power plants, which have crushed the economics of coal, are on the path to being undercut themselves by renewable power and big batteries, a study found.

By 2035, it will be more expensive to run 90% of gas plants being proposed in the U.S. than it will be to build new wind and solar farms equipped with storage systems, according to the report Monday from the Rocky Mountain Institute. It will happen so quickly that gas plants now on the drawing boards will become uneconomical before their owners finish paying for them, the study said.

The development would be a dramatic reversal of fortune for gas plants, which 20 years ago supplied less than 20% of electricity in the U.S. Today that share has jumped to 35% as hydraulic fracturing has made natural gas cheap and plentiful, forcing scores of coal plants to close nationwide.

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A new floating solar farm shows that renewables can be easy

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The Sekdoorn floating solar farm in the Netherlands is completed after a record six weeks of work. This is the fastest construction speed ever for the German company specialized in the renewables sector BayWa r.e., who worked together with its Dutch partner GroenLeven to build the power plant.

The construction was done in only six weeks and the plant can power 4,000 households.

The solar farm will have a yearly energy yield of 13.330 MWh, saving around 6,500 tons of CO2 emissions a year and powering the equivalent of 4,000 households.

Floating solar power plants are what the name suggests, solar panels mounted on a structure that floats on a body of water. The advantage is that they reduce land requirements because they can be installed in industrial pools, drinking water reservoirs and small lakes.

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Renewables meet 50% of electricity demand on Australia’s power grid for first time

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For a brief moment solar, wind and hydro combined to deliver more than half the power into the National Electricity Market

Australia’s main electricity grid was briefly powered by 50% renewable energy this week in a new milestone that experts say will become increasingly normal.

Data on the sources of power in the National Electricity Market showed that at 11.50am on Wednesday, renewables were providing 50.2% of the power to Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia – the five states served by the market.

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How cheap must batteries get for renewables to compete with fossil fuels?

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Production of lithium batteries for environmentally friendly electric cars future of energy

 While solar and wind power are rapidly becoming cost-competitive with fossil fuels in areas with lots of sun and wind, they still can’t provide the 24/7 power we’ve become used to. At present, that’s not big a problem because the grid still features plenty of fossil fuel plants that can provide constant baseload or ramp up to meet surges in demand.

But there’s broad agreement that we need to dramatically decarbonize our energy supplies if we’re going to avoid irreversible damage to the climate. That will mean getting rid of the bulk of on-demand, carbon-intensive power plants we currently rely on to manage our grid.

Alternatives include expanding transmission infrastructure to shuttle power from areas where the wind is blowing to areas where it isn’t, or managing demand using financial incentive to get people to use less energy during peak hours. But most promising is pairing renewable energy with energy storage to build up reserves for when the sun stops shining.

The approach is less complicated than trying to redesign the grid, say the authors of a new paper in <emJoule, but also makes it possible to shift much more power around than demand management. A key question that hasn’t been comprehensively dealt with, though, is how cheap energy storage needs to get to make this feasible.

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Scientists accidentally discover new, stable form of plutonium

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The team who discovered the stable new form of plutonium, standing with the ROBL spectrometer that confirmed the findK. Kvashnina/ESRF

A team of scientists has discovered a new, stable form of plutonium – and done so by accident. The famously unstable element is tricky to transport, store and dispose of, but the find could lead to new ways to tackle those problems.

Plutonium is famously unstable, which is of course what makes it both an incredibly powerful source of energy and a potentially-devastating environmental disaster. Some isotopes of plutonium can persist for tens of millions of years, which is bad news if it gets into the groundwater.

Given those stakes, it’s important to learn as much as we can about plutonium, to ensure it’s being created, used, transported, stored and disposed of as safely as possible. Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) were doing just that when they accidentally discovered a new, stable form of plutonium.

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