Councils Try Crowdfunding for Renewable Energy Projects

council chamber

Local councils are turning to wider communities to fund new renewable projects. The idea is like crowd funding; the community can use a platform called Abundance to donate as little or as much as they can towards a project in their area that could benefit the entire community.  

Swindon Council is the first to use Abundance, which allows people to buy debentures (similar to bonds) and they get a return on their investment on a regular basis. This kind of platform allows these projects to go ahead more easily and means that the local people benefit from not only their investment, but the clean energy produced. 

Swindon council have encouraged crowd funding in the area and have managed to build 2 new solar farms with the help of investors and have themselves donated money towards the projects. These solar farms now generate enough energy for around 1,200 homes, and residents benefit from the reduced carbon emissions, cleaner energy and those that invested, benefit from the returns. 

Other councils are now interested in following in Swindon Councils’ footsteps. Councils are keen to get these projects moving and it has become obvious that the public are supporting of the renewable sector and tackling climate change. Why not get them involved in the process and give them the opportunity to invest?  

Councils are up against yet more cuts to funding which have been happening since 2010. This leaves not only the vulnerable and local services at risk, but also the funding for renewable projects. This makes crowdfunding in this way, even more important for the future of these projects and the overall cutting of carbon emission in local communities. But other services remain at risk from the cuts. It is suggested that one in seven elderly people live with inadequate care or support. 

 And crowdfunding is not only being used in renewables but also to revamp tired and rundown areas. Brighton was one of those councils that have launched a crowdfunding campaign after losing out on government funding. Many other councils are doing the same and using their initiative when it comes to restoring the beauty of their towns and community. This approach uses the power of the people coming together to make their communities better for everyone.  

Bruce Davis, founder and Managing Director of Abundance Investment, approached 

“a number of councils about expanding the role of crowdfunding to a range of social infrastructure projects which would allow the community to invest directly in their local quality of life, economy and environment”. 

Wales 100% Renewable Energy Target

Wales coast Image

Wales is hoping to meet 100% of its energy needs by 2035 by using renewables. A new plan has been made by experts which sets out the need for Wales to allocate more money to renewables.  

Research has been done over 3 years to come up with this new, promising plan for Wales. It outlines the need for more money as well as support for new technology and the upgrading of homes and businesses. It is estimated that 870,000 homes in Wales need better insulation as well as other energy saving measures to ensure energy demand is lower. It would also mean renewables would be more effective in meeting the energy needs of the country. 

It is hoped that by 2030 in Wales, 70% of energy demand will come from renewable sources, but one of the biggest challenges that remains is heating. The current heating demand is high, and it is hoped that the new plans to insulate homes along with other options such as heat pumps, could fill the gap. It is possible that up to 170,000 heat pumps would be needed across Wales, along with biomass plants to supply the heat needed. 

All welsh people have been urged to play their part and think about how to lead greener lives. Ysgol y Bedol School in Garnant, Carmarthenshire, have done just that. The school has chosen to install solar panels, over 200 in fact, on their roof. The solar panels have saved the school thousands on their energy bills as well as helping the children to learn more about renewables, something the teachers have now incorporated into lessons. The company responsible for installing the panels, Egni, now has big plans for other buildings and businesses. Director Dan McCallum said: 

 ”everyone recognises about climate change and we’ve got to do something – we can’t get bogged down in bureaucracy and reasons why we can’t”. 

Wales has a strong determination to reach these targets and the plans set out are promising for the future of renewables in the country. Their plan outlines the use of tidal power to boost the energy supply when other sources such as wind and sun are low. During the winter months especially, this will give the backup needed to ensure energy demand is met. Not only will the plans boost green energy production, but they will also boost jobs. It is expected to create around 20,000 full time jobs for the country. 

It seems Wales is one country to watch in the future! 

Which Renewable Energy is Best for the UK?

Onshore Wind

Renewable energy means an energy that has been made using a natural resource which does not run out and does not produce greenhouse gases, such as wind, sun and water. Recently there have been discussions about which form of renewable is the cheaper way to make green energy. 

Caroline Lucas has stated that onshore wind is the cheapest way to generate energy. Looking at the figures, it would seem there are number to back up her claim. Onshore wind costs £63 a megawatt hour compared to other resources, such as offshore wind which costs £106 per mwh, and solar listed at £66 per mwh. Onshore wind it is currently the cheapest renewable source listed.

Scottish Power also made their own claims after research into onshore wind power. They claim it is also the cheapest form of electricity generation available. And renewable green energy in the UK has risen year on year. It was at 24.5% in 2016 rising to 29,3% by 2017. 

Onshore wind capacity has grown, but recently the growth has been hampered due to onshore wind projects being banned from receiving government money. It is thought that the government is trying to stop the development of onshore wind due to complaints from local people believing onshore wind farms are unsightly. However, recent studies have shown that attitudes may be changing, and onshore wind has gained more support. 

The government has since backed offshore wind power which has increasingly come down in price thanks to a government scheme which allows companies to bid for government money for the projects and receive a minimum price for power generated and sold. With offshore wind prioritised, we saw only 1 onshore wind farm built in 2017.  

Onshore wind brings many benefits to communities – cheap energy prices, jobs and community ownership schemes. It seems such a shame that the government are not behind onshore wind. A BEIS spokesperson said:  

 “The Government does not believe that new large-scale onshore wind power is right for England, but it could be right for other areas, where local public support exists.” 

The government has been heavily criticized for cutting out the cheapest, and one of the most effective sources of clean energy the UK has to offer, with a poll in 2018 showing that two thirds of people do not support the government policies relating to new onshore projects. Surely the government needs onshore wind to meet its climate change targets? 

The future for onshore wind is uncertain. Projects may go ahead in remote locations but generally it seems more expensive options will be favoured in the UK. 

New Biofuel in Aviation

Refueling Airplane

Climate change is being tackled in different ways all over the world, transport being one of the major hurdles to overcome when it comes to greenhouse gasses. Now experts are looking to the skies to tackle climate change and have come up with a solution to the problem of planes releasing toxic chemicals into the air.  Planes in Europe, it is hoped, could run on a mix of vegetable oil and animal fat mixed with kerosene.  

The planes will start to run off the new fuel which has been tested in aircrafts since 2011. The test results were good: Matti Lievonon, the CEO of Neste commented: “It worked amazingly well.” The new fuel doesn’t make a difference to the performance of the plane and it is said that passengers should not notice the difference when the fuel is used, in fact if anything, it has been proven that the planes performance is improved slightly. 

The company leading the success of this new bio-fuel is Neste, a Finnish company specialising in the aviation industry. Their fuel is not only suitable for planes but could also be used in cars. They claim the fuel emits 40% less harmful matter, 10% less nitrous oxide, and there are 90% less carbon emissions. Geneva airport was to start fuelling planes with this new eco fuel in 2018. Whether it is rolled out across the world remains to be seen, as it is still more expensive than oil-based fuel.  

Sweden has plans to not only introduce the use of this new mix, but also to enforce the use of it. The ex-leader of Sweden green party is due to release a report to the government highlighting ways to encourage the use of bio-fuels in aviation in the future. If after an investigation by the government, the new bill is passed, planes in Sweden would need to use biofuel from 2021 starting at the lower percentage of 1%, which would then be raised from 1% to 30% by 2035. These bio fuels will again be a mix of vegetable oil, animal fat and typical aviation fuel. 

It could affect the price of flights if airlines start to use biofuels. In Europe, it is estimated that the price should only be increased by 2 euros per flight, however looking further into the future, that price could rise by 2035. However, the benefits for climate change and the difference it could make to the figures, could make the rise in price worth it. If this fuel could be used in cars too, then it could make a huge difference to the amount of harmful pollutants produced in the travel industry every year. It is more likely though, that cars will turn increasingly to electricity in the future. Lorries, buses and planes are likely to benefit the most as they account for more of the co2 emissions. 

The pressure on all industries to meet targets and tackle climate change is growing. Aviation is no different, so by 2020 it is likely that bio-fuel could play a role in reducing its carbon footprint. 

Ikea’s Village Vision of the Future

IKEA

Ikea has released a new idea for a futuristic looking village which could help homes in the future to make the most of renewable energy. The prototype shows a village made from wood using a microgrid system to join the houses together to enable the sharing of excess power. The theory is that all the houses in the village will be connected to each other to enable them to sell any excess energy they produce to others within the village.  

The village has been given the name SolarVille and gives us an insight into eco villages of the future. The main principle of the village is to lower energy consumption and generate power via solar panels, and the blockchain technology enables the village to have a system of buying and selling the excess. 

Ikea has its own climate change goals, reducing its carbon footprint in all its stores, its aim being to reduce emissions from its stores by 80% by 2030. Along with planning to only use recycled materials and use only renewables, Ikea’s climate positive goals are just part of their future plans for a greener future. 

Blockchain has been said to be a ‘digital leader’ in future renewable technology, it still needs some work to ensure its reliability. The main purpose of blockchain is to create an audit trail for transactions. It uses online currency such as bitcoin to keep a record of transactions made in digital information. Ikea and other businesses plan to, or already use this technology. Blockchain, in the case of Ikea’s Solar Ville will make the selling of excess power between homes quick and easy and will keep a digital record of every transaction.  

Anders Nottveit said:

 “Our design approach was to turn a very complicated, technical project into something familiar, approachable and playful,”  

The wooden model is a working model that shows how the wooden houses would work in harmony with each other, producing and sharing the electricity made. The model has small led lights installed to signify the power being traded within the community as it would be using blockchain. The main way of power production would be from solar panels but the whole village’s philosophy would be to lower and decarbonise energy consumption. 

“SolarVille shows that when working in tandem, technologies such as solar panels, micro-grids and blockchain open new opportunities: off-grid systems allowing people to leapfrog traditional grid electricity”

Said Space10 (Ikea’s research lab).

Trump takes an Axe to US Renewable Energy Support

Whitehouse

Donald Trump is famous for his controversial attitude and decisions, and this one is no different. He recently announced he would slash the budget for renewables by a huge 70%. The US Energy Department, which usually has a budget of $2.3 billion for their research, will now have $700m in Trump’s new fiscal 2020 budget request.

This isn’t the first time Trump has tried to halt these kinds of projects responsible for new technologies in renewables. He has, however, been stopped in his tracks before, with congress shunning his proposed cuts. Trump seems to favour the research and development of nuclear and fossil technology instead! You could be forgiven for thinking he is not behind tackling climate change at all! 

Thankfully Trump doesn’t get the final say and it is unlikely congress will agree with the cuts to funding and other incentives for renewables. However, the constant attack on the development of renewables from Trump is worrying; 

The budget proposal as currently written “is not good for renewable energy and other programs that target climate change,” said Raj Prabhu

Unfortunately, Trump’s loyalties lie with coal and other fossil fuels, believing these polluting power sources can make a comeback, along with the jobs they create. However, most of America would disagree with him, throwing in the towel on fossil fuels in favour of solar and wind in a lot of states. Ironically, renewables employ more Americans than coal by around 3 times as much, so Trump’s idea that coal supplies more work is highly untrue. 

It does seem extremely strange that Trump is trying to pull the rug from under renewables in the U.S. The industry provides many jobs for the country, it seems he must have his own agenda for trying to destroy the future of renewables! 

The Chinese Solar Space Race!

earth from space

China has announced its ambitious future plans to send solar to outer space. This would be the first time that anything like this has been attempted. The country is hoping to put its plans into action by 2050.  

Space is the perfect environment to harness the full potential of the sun’s power. As the sun is always shining in space, it is the most reliable place for solar. This will be an expensive mission for china to complete as just getting the technology into space is no mean feat and could be expensive to develop. 

This kind of plan has been explored before. In the 1970’s it was thought that using space for power could be a reliable renewable energy source but unfortunately the technology was not advanced enough to pass the research stage. Recently solar technology has moved forward and significant advancements have been made in both power transmissions and the PV cells themselves.  

Space based solar could be the future for countries that don’t have the benefit of regular sunshine, and with the need for renewables ever growing along with the population and demand for power in general, this could be the answer to the growing demand for clean power. 

It is not clear how China plan to carry out their future plans, but one theory is that they could launch a few solar satellites that could then join up in space to create one large cone shaped satellite covered in solar panels. The solar panels will collect the energy from the sun and via microwaves, send it back to the ground to be used. The receivers on the ground will be in the form of giant nets that could be placed in remote places such as lakes and farmland. The estimated amount of power from these space solar farms would be around 2,000gw, which is phenomenally more power than that of the largest solar farm. 

Of course, it is not as simple as just sending the panels off to space. Many things need to be tested and researched including the problem of the weight of the solar panels whilst maintaining their efficiency. They have recently tested new photovoltaic cells that are much lighter than average, and while they have proved to be effective in collecting and transmitting the solar power, they still need to reduce the weight if they are to be used in space. 

It is unknown how much the project will cost over all. John Mankins a physicist said he expects the figure to be around $150million. Mankins supports the space project saying: 

“Ground-based solar is a wonderful thing, and we’ll always have ground-based solar,” he said. “For a lot of locations, rooftop solar is fabulous, but a lot of the world is not like Arizona. Millions of people live where large, ground-based solar arrays are not economical.” 

Renewable Energy to Supply The World by 2040

floating solar PV

The renewables industry is growing year on year and at a rate that has never been seen before. It has now been said that by 2040, renewables will be the main supply of power to the world!

It has been estimated that up to 30% of power will come from clean sources such as wind, solar, and hydro along with other sources. Currently, the 10% supplied by renewables, is set to dramatically rise. The speed at which the industry has grown far exceeds that of any other historical changes. This growth is thanks to the need for cleaner power due to government and environmental targets. The costs of wind and solar have also fallen thanks to new technologies and are now much more affordable to produce than they once were.

One of the main renewables used is wind; offshore and onshore wind is used all over the world. In the UK, offshore wind farms are extremely effective, and the use of offshore wind is set to increase by 2030. Currently offshore wind provides around 7% of UK power which is expected to rise to up to 30% in the coming years.

Although the use of renewables is set to rise, so is the demand for energy. As demand rises so will the demand for oil and gas. While the ultimate plan is to retie the use of fossil fuels for good, that doesn’t look likely any time soon. BP say they expect the demand to rise by 2040 from 100million barrels a day to 130million barrels a day and carbon emissions are expected to grow as well – as much as 10%!

There is positive change happening too, however.  Coal will be phased out in favour of renewables by 2040, taking over as the leader for energy production. It is hoped that the introduction of more electric vehicles will lower emissions in the transport sector which is where a lot of the worlds emissions come from.

The government has backed a new deal which will boost the development of renewables, pledging subsidies to new projects such as offshore wind, floating solar and bigger wind turbines. Renewables will continue to drive forward and replace fossil fuels, but it will be no easy task. Energy minister, Claire Perry, is positive about the future of renewables. She said:

“This new sector deal will drive a surge in the clean, green offshore wind revolution that is powering homes and businesses across the UK, bringing investment into coastal communities and ensuring we maintain our position as global leaders in this growing sector,”

There are many other ways the world could cut the use of gas and oil. No longer using single use plastics could cut the demand for oil and gas significantly, as could the use of electric cars. It is estimated that the use of electric cars alone could cut oil consumption by 3.5million barrels a day. The switch to EVS is a slow process and technology still has a long way to go with price and battery life still being in need of work.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK said:

“Renewable power now presents the best opportunity for cheaper, cleaner and faster decarbonisation. Wind and solar must be tripled between now and 2030, with offshore wind the future backbone of the UK’s energy system.”

More Green Jobs and Offshore Wind Deals for the UK

Offshore Wind

The offshore wind industry in the UK is a leader globally in the renewables industry. The government has recently backed a new deal that will ensure that offshore wind in the UK stays the front runner in the market. Due to our geography and large amount of coastline, our island currently has the largest offshore wind capacity in Europe.

£250million has been promised to companies in the UK that are producing new technologies, such as floating wind turbines and robotics. The deal is important for the industry to remain in the lead when it comes to wind power. It will also allow advancements in technology and cut the costs of mass producing them.

The deal will allow the sector to grow and surpass the electricity produced from fossil fuels for the first time in the UK. Not only will technology grow but also job opportunities within the industry with job numbers potentially tripling by 2030, especially in coastal areas. These jobs are attractive to the younger generation with many young people becoming increasingly interested in playing a part in the future of green power and the rapid increase in the numbers of apprenticeship roles. Both the construction and the renewable energy sectors are hoping to encourage more women into these green job roles to create more diversity.

Claire Perry said:

“Ambitious plans to increase the proportion of women working in the offshore wind sector and triple the number of highly skilled jobs are set to be announced”

The future of nuclear and coal is under threat with coal plants shutting down and plans for new nuclear plants not going ahead due to construction budget issues and exorbitantly high running costs. There will be a growing gap in the market for more energy that is primed for renewables. It is hoped that wind power can be tripled but 30gw by 2030 will not be enough to meet the energy need gap. Wind power will need to be vastly increased to meet the energy needs left by the lack of nuclear power and storage may well play a growing part in this.

The funding for wind projects and the use of British parts and labour will ensure that as more countries invest in similar projects, the UK is still the leader when it comes to wind power.

Benj Sykes of Danish company Orstead commented:

 “The cost reduction over the last few years has been eye-watering but it’s absolutely not over. We will continue to see bigger turbines, smarter electrical systems, more reliable equipment. The fact that the Government is saying that it wants to build out to 30GW gives investors confidence to build their capabilities in the UK,”

SunPower Breaks the 400w Barrier

SunPower_PV

A new generation solar panel has officially been launched, the panel made by SunPower is called A-series. The solar panel is available in the united states and is capable of 400-415 watts. In Europe the maxeon 3 is available at 400watts.

Image courtesy of SunPower

It is claimed by sun-power to be the first solar panel to offer such a high wattage and can deliver 60 percent more energy than other panels. Less of these panels are needed to produce the same amount of energy as other solar panels, meaning they are more efficient, and less roof space is used.

SunPower as well as claiming they are the first to offer 400 watts also say their panels are hard wearing and stand up to the elements well, meaning less damage to the panels which usually result in maintenance or new panels being required.

Maxeon solar cells have been painstakingly perfected and tested to create these super cells that offer more power and more reliability. Savings from using these new cells will far exceed those of the average solar panel, most only offer 300watt at best. Another feature of the new systems is the new micro inverter, they claim this is 60 percent lighter than their previous inverters

We have been seeing the future of solar evolving over the last few years and this is another step forward for the technology. New materials have been used to create these highly efficient solar cells and offers a more advanced technology that absorbs more sunlight than ever before. And with the weather ever changing and becoming more extreme their durability is important.

SunPower are understandable proud of their creation saying:

“SunPower is introducing the world’s first 400-watt residential solar panels as most in the industry are just crossing the 300-watt threshold for home solar”  –
Jeff Waters, CEO of the SunPower Technologies