What will the end of oil dependence mean for geopolitics?

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Solar power is one form of renewable energy that is replacing fossil fuels

If you want to understand the revolution taking place in renewable energy, come to a power station called Gemasolar in southern Spain.

Here, in the dusty plains of Andalusia, they have worked out how to generate solar power 24 hours a day.

Yes, you can read that sentence again. At Gemasolar they create electricity even when the Sun is not shining.

They have rigged up more than 2,500 huge mirrors on hydraulic mounts that follow the Sun’s passage through the sky.

The mirrors – each about the size of half a tennis court – reflect the Sun’s rays to one central point, the top of a 140m (459ft) tower, where molten salt is heated to almost 600C. This liquid salt is carried down the tower to where it heats the steam that powers a turbine.

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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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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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California Has Approved First Molten Salt Solar Power Plant

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Molten salt technology was demonstrated at the Solar Two project

One of the biggest problems with solar energy is that the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day. This means that unless users are only planning on using electricity when the sun is shining, some form of energy storage system is required. Since storing excess electricity in rechargeable batteries isn’t really practical for large-scale solar power plants, another storage system is needed. U.S. utility-scale solar project developer SolarReserve has now received approval for the first solar power plant in California that uses molten salt technology to store the sun’s thermal energy as heat so it can generate electricity when needed, at any time of the day or night.

 

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