The top article this week was The Tide Is Turning (And Is It Ever!). In it, George Harvey shares with us the fact that the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last month very quietly reported renewable energy generation installations are expected to outpace traditional fossil fuel-based installations in the next 3 years. That in and of itself is noteworthy and welcome news but to me is not especially surprising. We now know there is no time to waste in a transition to clean technology, and countries like the USA have a very large impact both in actual emissions but also by showing leadership.
So the fact that renewables will outpace fossil fuels is no surprise, it is the projected rate that is somewhat astounding. By its own reports, the FERC expects that clean energy deployment will outpace fossil fuel by a factor of 50!
“In total, the mix of all renewables will add more than 53 gigawatts (GW) of net new generating capacity to the nation’s total by April 2023. That is nearly 50 times the net new capacity (1.1 GW) projected to be added by natural gas, coal, oil, and nuclear power combined.”
Yes, you read that right. 50 times more power generation installations will be deployed compared to fossil fuel installations. When you consider that many of the existing coal plants are being decommissioned faster than expected, the actual amount of energy produced by renewables is likely to increase at an even faster pace. Good news for America and good news for the planet.
Huge Batteries for the UK
England is not resting on its laurels either. The European superpower is building a cryobattery near Manchester. The battery, the first commercial version of its kind, will be double the size of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in Australia. This proves that the UK is serious in its bid to go carbon neutral in the not too distant future. The cryobattery is similar in principle to pumped hydro or stored kinetic energy from bricks. The battery is “charged” when excess energy from solar or wind is used to compress and liquefy air, storing in the liquid state until the energy is needed. The compressed air is then released through turbines that generate electricity which is then dispatched via the electrical grid. Increased energy storage capacity is critical to the transition to clean energy. Solar only generates when there is light (daytime), and wind only when it’s windy (also mostly daytime). By storing the clean energy for use later, grid utilities can begin to completely remove fossil fuel from the energy mix and truly achieve carbon-free energy.
Stronger, Less Polluting
How about a plastic replacement that is clearer and stronger, is made from discarded waste from the food industry, and is completely biodegradable in 6 weeks? MarinaTex is a new bioplastic made from waste from the fish processing industry. The product, developed by Lucy Hughes in her final year of university, won the 2019 International James Dyson Award. The transparent bioplastic film is intended to replace Low-Density Polyethylene in single-use plastic in things like tissue boxes, sandwich bags or bread bags. The product leeches no toxic chemicals as it degrades and may even be eaten, meaning it poses no threat to animals that mistake it for food while it is decomposing. MarinaTex as a commercial product is still in development and will be available to industry in 2021.
Amazon Cleans Up (and gets help)
Some big players have joined Amazon in The Climate Pledge that CEO Jeff Bezos announced last year. Information technology giant Infosys, wireless market share leader Verizon and consumer goods manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB) have joined Amazon in the commitment to eliminate or offset all greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. Critics make a valid argument that the pledge should force companies to actually reduce emissions as opposed to buying offsets to make tangible reductions worldwide. However, spokespeople for the companies agree that while this would be preferable, free-market carbon trading will likely be required in addition to large reductions in actual emissions.
A robust and self-sustaining carbon trading network can only be successful if it is actively used by industry. A group of dedicated brands, all of the companies involved are currently making efforts to reduce emissions, with some exceeding existing targets already. The combination of offsets combined with a transition to zero emissions will allow the participating companies to maintain financial health through the process.
Let’s Use Them, Not Burn Them
Anemokinetics is a new, carbon free form of electricity generation that harnesses energy from trees via the oscillation of branches. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it always exists in some form and may only be converted from one form to another. In the case of anemokinetics, the energy of the wind moving a tree’s branches is converted to electricity by employing the piezoelectric method of generating electricity. A branch movement cycle “generates a charge equal to 3.6 volts with a current of 0.1 amperes and a duration of 200 milliseconds.”
While these numbers by themselves are small, in a network they aggregate to form a significant potential source of electricity, day and night, all year long. Being trees, they can be located anywhere and may make an ideal power source for remote equipment such as weather stations or other environmental monitoring equipment. While this technology is great to be used on trees, the obvious use that isn’t talked about is the use of this technology on humans. What if we had clothing with the same type of generators built in that would charge our phones? or How about some sort of a personal energy storage device that could then be connected to a larger grid? The possibilities are endless and maybe a little frightening.
This week we have seen some really amazing people that are developing new technologies that are already benefitting the planet. From bioplastic made from fish processing waste, to clean energy generated from the movement of trees. Even a new form of energy storage that no longer uses toxic chemicals in order to optimize the grid. The work these people do is really important. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it feels really good to know that so many smart people are working so hard to solve some of the most important problems that face us today. In my opinion, the best part is that they are finding success.
Happy Eco News, July 6, 2020
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