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China Paves Way to Allow Clean Energy Purchase from Nearby Distributed Sources

Corporations keen to source clean energy understand the advantages of distributed generation. Apple, a leader in corporate renewable energy purchase, wrote in its Environmental Responsibility Report that “Apple’s renewable energy approach goes a step further to make sure we ‘deposit’ on the same grid as the energy we are ‘withdrawing.’” This preference is because distributed generation (DG) faces less power loss during transmission, no curtailment risks, and corporates can contribute to local economies and communities.

But China’s not-so-liberal power market has so far prevented a consumer from buying electricity from nearby distributed generators. Electricity from a rooftop solar project, for example, can either be used by the building directly beneath, or be sold back to the grid – and dispatched just like electrons from any other source.

This past month, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) finally made a big step to break that restriction, by introducing a draft policy on “distributed power trading pilots.” In the draft, distributed energy projects can sell power to nearby consumers, and the grid company will charge a “transmission fee” when delivering power. Some preliminary details below:

  • For the first batch of pilots, power retail would only be allowed in very small areas. Power sellers and buyers should be in the same 35kV power supply network – which is normally a district in cities like Shanghai – or the same 110kV network when it is the lowest voltage network, such as in industrial parks.

  • Distributed power generators can sell power in three ways: 1) They can trade directly with an end consumer within an 110kV network; 2) They can also delegate the grid company to sell power; 3) Or they can choose not to participate in the retail market and have the grid company purchase all of its electricity. For a buyer, this means it can purchase power from a DG source directly or from the grid for DG electricity.

  • The government will acknowledge clean energy purchased through this mechanism when measuring a company’s clean energy and energy saving efforts. For carbon credits, the buyer and seller can settle attribution among themselves directly.

  • The policy is subject to distributed power projects with installed capacity below 20MW. City- and province-level grid companies will set up trading platforms.

Testing the water cautiously, the government will announce the first batch of pilots by May 31st, and trading is to start on July 1st. At the end of 2017, it will decide whether and how to expand the pilot area.

We expect power retail pilots to be set up in limited areas at first – an easy starting point would be in industrial parks where power networks are more independent. Even with the small scale, this is an encouraging sign that Beijing is opening up power retail specifically for the distributed market. Furthermore, NEA specifically mentioned that the retail policy will not affect the current subsidy scheme for distributed renewables.

For corporations, this policy means that in the near future, more clean energy sourcing options will be available. Corporates will be able to support distributed projects that will create environmental and economic value locally.

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Battery Storage Powers Los Angeles’ clean energy transformation

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Los Angeles, a city used to suffocate from smog more than China today, is making its way to a clean energy transformation.

Decades ago, blue sky #nofilter was not an everyday blessing in the United States, not to mention in Los Angeles. The city started to suffer from smog attacks since more than half a century ago, and has been known for its polluted air, together with its balmy weather and glamorous lifestyle.The whole city used to be shrouded in a veil of thick brown and grey smog.

Blue sky #nofilter was not an everyday blessing for LA.

The battle against air pollution went on for 50+ years. Having set up air quality control board, emission limits , regulations on clean gasoline and clean energy, Los Angeles finally managed to bring a blue sky back to its residents. However, its electricity still largely remains to be sourced from natural gas, a fossil fuel. Traditionally, every summer afternoon, engineers will turn on what they call a ¨peaker¨, a natural gas powered station in the Long Beach. The peaker ensures that people could enjoy air conditioners, TVs, and other appliances when they get home right after work.

In October 2015, the peaker burst out a disastrous accident, known as the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, which  put tremendous  pressure over the electricity grid, exposing the whole city to unexpected power outages at any moment. The local government asked Southern California Edison, the grid company, to find a energy solution so such leak won’t happen again.

The Aliso Canyon Gas Leak exposed the whole city to unexpected power outages.

Among a variety of offers by utilities from natural gas power plants, energy efficiency to renewable energy, the local government decided to walk away from fossil fuel. Instead, it picked AES Corp, an renewable energy company, to design and build a massive grid storage battery in the upcoming five years to counter summer peak moments. It will be one of the world’s largest storage lithium batteries, capable of holding and delivering over 100 megawatts of power an hour for four hours.

The gas leak was a blessing in disguise.

Five years from now, the customary afternoon peak will still be there, but the need for more fossil fuel will be gone. The “peaker” will be replaced by a battery that will use the area’s morning solar power and evening wind power to charge up. These batteries spare away people’s worries on unexpected power outage, and aid California in its pursuit of aggressive carbon reduction goals of reducing 80% by 2050.

The “peaker” will be replaced by a battery that will use the area’s solar and wind power.

Never before had an energy storage device won a competition against a conventional power plant. This five year plan for battery storage  will rid Los Angeles of its infamous reputation as the ¨smog city¨.

Apart from the five-year contract with AES Corp, Los Angeles has also picked Tesla for a  public energy storage plan in this September. Tesla is to manufacture, transport and install a 20 MW/80 MWh powerpack system within 3 months. When fully charged, this system will hold enough energy to power more than 2,500 households for a day or charge 1,000 Tesla vehicles. The system will charge using electricity from the grid during off-peak hours and then deliver electricity during peak hours to help maintain the reliable operation of Southern California Edison’s electrical infrastructure which feeds more than 15 million residents.

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Never before had an energy storage device won a competition against a conventional power plant.

Clean energy’s victory in California is not won by any single clean energy company; this is a broader win of the whole industry. Atlas Gas Ltd., a Canadian clean energy company, also won a 20 MW contract with Los Angeles. In August 2016, San Diego also signed a contract with AES Corp to build a 37.5 MW  battery storage facility.

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The decreasing cost of battery storage is smoothing out solar and wind power’s generation curve and making clean energy a reliable part of the base load in any grid system anywhere. Just like what Elon Musk said, battery storage  will take solar to the next level.

We are excited to see Los Angeles achieving its clean energy transformation and leaving its smoggy days behind. It is an inspiration and model for Chinese cities to better use clean energy to return blue sky to our people.

 

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The Summer of 2030: Please Don’t Be This Hot. Please.

Why is it so hot this summer?

The temperature can’t stop rising every summer!

The highest average temperature ever recorded, 40°C!

Climate change should not just concern heads of states; it concerns every single one of us.

This week in Hangzhou, China and the U.S. have both ratified Paris Climate Agreement ahead of the G20.  In December 2015, 195 countries reached the agreement to put the world on track to limit global warming to well below 2°C by 2030. In other words, 42°C is the temperature threshold that we have pledged to stay away from in the next 15 years. If we continue with the status quo, we are on our way to a 2030 summer with a high of over 43.5°C.   

How did the global temperature get here? A viral GIF from climate scientist Ed Hawkins illustrates the global temperatures from 1850 to 2016 and explains everything.

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July is the hottest month of the year. Another NASA illustration  shows exactly how hot this summer has been. Global warming seems to have gone out control, with temperature increasing almost by 2 degrees.  

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Source: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=88607

NASA also says that earth has never concentrated so much CO2 in the past 8000 years! ¨It is a serious matter for the entire global community including the guy on the street,¨ says Hoesung Lee, head of UN´s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

However, if everything were business as usual, what would happen?

According to Mckinsey, annual GHG emissions in China would rise to 22.9 gigatons by 2030, from 6.8 gigatons in 2005. In this scenario, increased oil demand would require imports of about one billion tons a year. Coal demand would more than triple, demanding annual imports of 3.7 billion to 4.2 billion tons. Under that scenario, we would be suffering a 2030 summer with the highest temperature hitting 42°C-43°C!   

How can we reduce carbon emissions and put climate change under control? We believe rooftop solar is one of the most important solutions. This idea also strikes a chord with the leaders of United Arab Emirates (UAE), whose economy large relies on oil export. They announced that, by 2030, all rooftops in Dubai will be covered by solar panels

If China follows suit, how impactful it will be in terms of carbon emission?  

Let´s do the calculations. According to Energy Efficiency Policies on Future Cities in China, by 2030 the total area of building construction will reach 65 billion square meters.

Using Seeder´s solar calculator, we can know that every 1000 square meters of rooftop, when equipped with solar PV, would generate 107350kWh of electricity , and reduce 75 tons of carbon emissions. So if every building is covered with rooftop solar, carbon emissions would be reduced by 4.87 gigatons, more than half of China’s GHG emission levels in 2005.

Of course, this scenario of 100% solar rooftop is hard to achieve in reality. But this calculation proves the true potential of rooftop solar. Seeder’s mission and vision are exactly in this direction. We believe in a sustainable future that is driven by solar, with less extreme climate and more blue skies.

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Solar is so popular right now, we’re facing a shortage of panels!

SunTech solar panel maker from china

© SunTech

From glut to shortage for first time since 2006

It’s worth repeating again and again: The price per watt of solar power is going through the floor while worldwide installed capacity is going through the roof (up 53x in the past 9 years!). This is great for the environment, because for each solar panel that goes up, demand for electricity from dirty sources goes down, causing a great virtuous cycle of demand destruction. But there are limits to how fast an industry can grow, and we’re apparently starting to hit those limits, at least temporarily, and production will need to further increase to keep up.

Demand is expected to go up 29% this year, so it’s not surprising that supply has a hard time keeping up. That’s exactly why Elon Musk and SolarCity say that we will need many solar gigafactories.

The last time supply was tight, in 2006, the solar industry installed about 1.5 gigawatts that year. Contrast with today: The industry expects to install as much as 52 gigawatts this year and 61 gigawatts in 2015. That’s about as much as is actually being produced by viable factories.

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Renewable Energy Policy Network/Screen capture

Back in 2011, I wrote something called The Solar Industry is Like a Yo-Yo to explain the boom-bust cycle facing solar panel makers:

“For about as long as it has existed, the solar power industry has been going from boom to bust, and vice versa. It is growing fast, and has been for years, but forget about a smooth upward curve: Up close, the trajectory looks like the Alps.”

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Renewable Energy Policy Network/Screen capture

Busts might be bad for individual companies, but they aren’t necessarily bad for solar power itself, as we’ve seen in the past few years. A glut of panels meant that prices fell and a lot more solar power was installed than if prices had been high.

Now that demand has grown to match, and maybe now exceed, supply, the opposite will happen. Solar prices will go up, or at least not fall as fast, and more solar panel makers will make money. This will attract competition and new investments in additional capacity until supply once again overtakes demand and prices fall because of the glut…

Wash, rinse, repeat.

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© BNEF

Originally published on Bloomberg.

Renewable energy can be beautiful

That’s the hopeful slogan of the Land Art Generator Initiative, or LAGI, which works to bring together the worlds of installation art and renewable energy infrastructure.

The general idea is, if we’re going to harvest renewable energy with machines and structures, they may as well be beautiful machines and structures. LAGI works with artists and municipalities worldwide to create permanent works of art that also distribute clean energy into the local electrical grid.

Drifting Skyscraper Converts Air Pollution Into Green Energy

Since 2010, LAGI has hosted an bi-annual design competition, inviting artists and engineers to submit proposals for a particular city or area. Previous competitions have been held in New York City and the United Arab Emirates.

LAGI held this year’s competition in Copenhagen, Denmark, in partnership with the IT University of Copenhagen and several other local partners. Interdisciplinary teams from around the world submitted ideas for public art installations designed to also provide utility-scale clean energy the the Copenhagen electrical grid.

Among this year’s submissions is the innovative and rather lovely Oscillating Platforms project, pictured above, from artist Felix Cheong. Winners will be announced on October 3, 2014.

Digital ‘Head Dome’ Immerses You In Art

Cheong’s proposal calls for a series of floating platforms anchored in such a way that they harness both wind and tidal power. Submerged columns capture the energy of changing water levels to move pressurized air through turbines, which in turn generate electricity. The platforms’ above-water sails, meanwhile, capture wind power. Even the movement of people walking on the platforms is turned into electrical energy.

Check out the LAGI website for more concepts and images. Or you can track down the bookRegenerative Infrastructures, which details LAGI’s ongoing project — transforming New York City’s Freshkills Park into a radical urban design experiment of installation art and renewable energy. So cool.

via Inhabitat