In a world of monster energy consumers, there isn't any monster quite as scary as China. Already they've surpassed even the United States as the leading emitter of CO2. And while China is still building more coal-fired power plants in a week than America has built in the last two years, there are some signs that China is actually interested in renewable energy.
The first of those signs is China's commitment to be 20% powered by renewable sources by 2020. The Three Gorges Dam, of course, helps them reach this goal. But it doesn't get them all the way. So should we have any faith? Well, China's goal is already to begin to decrease CO2 emissions by 2050 and a recent report from top Chinese scientists calls for the cap to be reached around 2030. This doesn't sound very impressive, really, but with the way China's carbon footprint has grown in the last ten years, it's downright inspiring to think that it could, someday, start to shrink.
The most encouraging thing, however, is what's actually happening right now. China has just broken ground on a 500 MW wind power project and they plan to be done in 2010. That is a ridiculously quick turnaround for a wind power project of that size, and another 1000 MW is planned as a second stage of the project. If the second stage gets completed, China would have one of the world's largest wind farms on its hands.
Even more exciting is today's news that China will be creating a feed-in tariff for utility-scale solar power. China has huge amounts of prime solar land but, until now, hasn't had any incentives in place. The tariff will decrease the cost of solar power by between 16 and 22 cents per kW/h. This is significantly larger than almost all other government subsidies for solar power and should be enough to make financing solar projects make sense.
Flywheel-based utility power storage is one method for dealing with the variability of power from renewable sources such as wind and solar that may be more variable in their output than engineered power plant systems. Utilities like to provide an even level of power, and problems can occur in the grid when power production and power demand are not coordinated.
Using flywheel systems allows for load balancing - adding power when production levels fall below the demand for power, and then storing excess when the production level exceeds that demand. Otherwise, power utilities need to use other methods, such as gas turbine power plants to adjust the power level.
Beacon Power has installed its second megawatt-sized, flywheel-based energy storage system connected to the grid in New England, and is providing energy storage and load balancing for the New England ISO.
This first made news on EcoGeek a couple of years ago when Beacon first sought approvals for grid connection. Now, they have had one system installed and operating since last fall and have a second system now part of the grid infrastructure. At present, these represent only a tiny fraction of a percent of even just the production capacity of the New England grid. But these systems are proving their functional and economic viability, and more of them will find their way onto the forthcoming smart grid in the coming years.
via: AWEA News
Your first thought at seeing a headline like that would be to assume that there would be some kind of special brake that was being used to slow or stop the blades of the turbine when it sensed a bat getting too close. But that isn't the case. Wind turbine blades have a tremendous amount of momentum, and can't effectively be stopped quickly. But radar nevertheless has the potential to significantly reduce the number bats killed by wind turbines.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland discovered that bats tend to avoid radar installations. Although the exact method is not clear, it is possible that the radar somehow stimulates the bats' ears and creates a perception of unwanted noise.
"This was noticed when radar arrays first started up during World War II," Racey said. "A portion of radar operators said they heard clicks in their ears when they were switched on." Radar signals can lead to small but rapid spikes of heat in the head that generate sound waves, which in turn stimulate the ear. "A bat's hearing is much more sensitive than ours," Racey noted. "It may be so sensitive that even a tiny amount of sound caused by electromagnetic radiation is enough to drive them out of there."
In tests, deploying a small radar unit in an area full of insects (tasty feeding ground for bats) showed a 30-40% decrease in bats in the area, although the insects were still there. The radar did not make the insects leave, but the bats stayed away. This could turn out to be a good deterrent to keep bats safely away from wind turbines, and help make wind power that much better.
Yesterday I alluded to the shortcomings of small wind turbines, and today I read about a device being sold by Honeywell that only reinforces my belief. I can’t really think of anyone who’d benefit from Honeywell’s Home Wind Turbine.
The device itself is a six foot wide turbine which generates 1,580 Kwh per year, according to Honeywell’s promotional video. They went on to claim that it will provide you with 15% of your energy needs, and pay for itself in 12-36 months. In some states.
Let’s examine this, shall we? The 15% comes from the assumption that the average household uses roughly 10-11,000 Kwh of electricity per year, 1,580 Kwh being roughly 15% of that. That’s fine, except I have no doubt that the average suburban household uses more than 10-11,000, and those are the only households that would be interested in purchasing this system anyway.
Especially because it costs $4,500. I don’t understand how they calculate the payback to be so short – the EIA estimates that electricity will cost an average of 12 cents/Kwh in 2010. 1,580 Kwh times 12 cents/Kwh gives you… $189.60 worth of electricity every year, which means you will pay off your system in 23 years. Even if electricity cost a whopping 30 cents/Kwh, it would still take 9 years. Unless my math is wrong, in which case please – correct me.
Parallels are often made between the cleantech industry today and the computer industry of, say, the late 80’s and early 90’s. Perhaps some believe that, just like we used to pay thousands of dollars for computers that are now completely obsolete, people will pay similar prices for wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars at this stage in the game. I say – they won’t. Computers were cool, and they made our lives better and easier. A six foot wind turbine that only produces a trickle of electricity doesn’t affect my life very much, and isn’t all that cool.
Via Gas 2.0
Image Via EarthTronics