Our pathetically slow shift to clean energy, in five charts

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We’d better pick up the pace in the 2020s.

By most measures that matter, clean energy had a stellar decade.

The cost of large wind and solar farms dropped by 70% and nearly 90%, respectively. Meanwhile, renewable-power plants around the world are producing four times more electricity than they did 10 years ago.

Similarly, electric vehicles were barely a blip at the outset of the 2010s. But automakers were on track to sell 1.8 million EVs this year, as range increased, prices fell, and companies introduced a variety of models.

But the swift growth in these small sectors still hasn’t added up to major changes in the massive global energy system, or reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. So far, cleaner technologies have mostly met rising energy demands, not cut deeply into existing fossil-fuel infrastructure, as the charts that follow make clear.

That’s a problem. Cutting emissions rapidly enough to combat the increasing threats of climate change will require complete overhauls of our power plants, factories, and vehicle fleets, all within a few decades.

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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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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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IKEA will produce more energy than it consumes by 2020

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It hopes to be ‘climate positive’ by 2030.

Many companies are pouring money into renewable energy, but how many can say they’re producing more than they need? IKEA thinks it will, at least. Its holding company Ingka revealed that IKEA will generate more renewable energy before the end of 2019 than the energy its stores use. The firm only expected to draw even by 2020. The furniture chain added that it had invested about $2.8 billion in solar and wind energy over the past decade, and told Reuters that it intended to continue funding that renewable tech, including two stakes in American solar farms this week.

The retailer expects to offer home solar panels in stores across all its markets in 2025. Ultimately, it plans to be climate-positive (reducing more emissions than it puts out) by 2030.

IKEA’s timing isn’t a coincidence. Like Google, Amazon and other companies, it’s using both the Global Climate Strike and the UN’s Climate Action Summit to build goodwill and avoid controversy. This isn’t a selfless act. With that said, the move could illustrate the next step for companies hoping to burnish their ecological credentials. Instead of merely striving for neutrality, more companies might try to counter the effects of climate change. There’s no guarantee they’ll act in a timely fashion, but it might be more a question of “when” than “if.”

Via Engadget.com

 

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How hackers invented kiteboarding

 

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An unusual design process combining recklessness, imagination, and computers created one of the fastest-growing sports in history.

The promise of kiteboarding is that a wind strong enough to draw small whitecaps from the water can take you on a magic-carpet ride. But the same wind can be dangerously uncontrollable.Photograph from Alamy

Just as he was graduating from high school, in 1990, Chris Moore had a fanciful idea. He had noticed increasing numbers of so-called sport kites arcing through the skies above his home town of Lenexa, Kansas, outside Kansas City, Missouri. A traditional kite is tethered to its operator by a single line, and is more or less impossible to maneuver. But a sport kite—a needle-nosed, fighter-jet-like wing of nylon or polyester—has two lines, which an operator can use to induce acrobatic turns. Moore was skilled with a yo-yo and had watched riders do tricks on their bikes. He watched the sport kites soar, reverse, and double back, and wondered if the kite could become the next bicycle—a vehicle for art, competition, or some combination of the two.

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Generator that creates electricity from gravity could revolutionize renewable energy

A Dutch inventor has successfully created a contraption that generates electricity from gravity – and it could revolutionize the future of renewable energy.

Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars, from Universe Architecture, has developed a method to generate free energy in a sustainable way at home. The patent-pending technique, whereby energy is released by perpetually unbalancing a weight, offers an alternative to solar and wind technology.

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Using molten salt to store electricity isn’t just for solar thermal plants

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Startup follows on a number of innovative ideas to make renewable energy more flexible.

How can we make wind a more versatile energy source? By adding storage.

An energy storage startup that found its footing at Alphabet’s X “moonshot” division announced last week that it will receive $26 million in funding from a group of investors led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund that counts Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg as investors and whose chairman is Bill Gates. The startup, called Malta, uses separate vats of molten salt and antifreeze-like liquid to store electricity as thermal energy and dispatch it to the grid when it’s needed.

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Utilities have a problem: the public wants 100% renewable energy, and quick

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The industry is groping for ways to talk the public down.

Renewable energy is hot. It has incredible momentum, not only in terms of deployment and costs but in terms of public opinion and cultural cachet. To put it simply: Everyone loves renewable energy. It’s cleaner, it’s high-tech, it’s new jobs, it’s the future.

And so more and more big energy customers are demanding the full meal deal: 100 percent renewable energy.

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Wind-powered Water Seer pulls 11 gallons of clean drinking water from thin air

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A new device that relies on simple condensation to collect clean water from the atmosphere promises to provide up to 11 gallons of safe drinking water without an external power source, greenhouse gas emissions, or adverse environmental impacts. What’s more, the innovative Water Seer collection device could potentially run forever, gifting generations of people with access to ‘liquid gold’ in areas of the world where a harsh climate or lack of infrastructure make access to clean drinking water a major problem. Water Seer is powered by a simple wind turbine, and the device could easily be the first step toward a sustainable, enduring solution to water shortages around the world.

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Introducing the World’s First Large-Scale Tidal Power Farm

 Scotland unveiled the first turbine for the MeyGen tidal stream project, the world’s first large-scale tidal energy farm. The project will initially install four turbines, but will eventually have 269 turbines, enough to power 175,000 homes.

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A cost-effective battery that stores surplus wind and solar power a step closer to reality

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A home battery that is cheap, durable, safe and as big as you like that could store solar or wind power is closer to reality. Harvard University researchers report that they have tested a “flow battery” that uses cheap and abundant chemical elements, can be operated with plastic components, will not catch fire and can operate at 99 percent efficiency.

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