[번역/요약] 청정 에너지 미래를 향한 세력 다툼

Source: Fisticuffs Over the Route to a Clean-Energy Future, by Eduardo Porter, June 20, 2017, the New York Times

신재생 에너지로만 미국 경제가 돌아갈 수 있을까?

기후 변화를 부인하는 현 행정부와 국회를 생각하면 이는 뜬금 없는 질문일지 모른다. 하지만 미국 상원이나 캘리포니아 의회에서 활동 중인 민주당 정치인들은 미국의 탄소발자국 감축을 위해 신재생 에너지 100%를 구상하고 있다.

이를 뒷받침하는 것은 스탠포드 대학교의 저명한 에너지시스템 전문가 마크 Z. 제이콥슨 등이 2년 전 발표한 유명한 논문이다. 이 논문에 따르면, 21세기 중반까지 풍력과 태양 에너지, 수력만을 이용해서 미국 경제를 운용할 수 있을 것이며, 심지어는 화석 연료에 비해 비용 절감도 가능할 것이라는 것이다.

Continue reading [번역/요약] 청정 에너지 미래를 향한 세력 다툼

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[Summary] Electricity Generation from Renewables in the United States

  • Title: Electricity generation from renewables in the United States: Resource potential, current usage, technical status, challenges, strategies, policies, and future directions 
  • Date: April 2013
  • Author: Atif Osmani, Jun Zhang, Vinay Gonela, Iddrisu Awudu
  • Published: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

Continue reading [Summary] Electricity Generation from Renewables in the United States

A Green Disguise of Biofuels

At a glance, biofuels seem to be a clean energy source with lower GHG emissions and massive potentials across the world. Plus, they are cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Expansion of the use of biofuels has significantly contributed to rural employment and energy security. However, serious criticism about biofuels and other bioenergy has surfaced in the recent years; for example, in 2011, the science committee of the EU’s environment agency gave a warning that there is an “accounting error” regarding bioenergy, and the consequences would be grave for the Earth’s forests and climate[1].

Continue reading A Green Disguise of Biofuels

The Bigger the Better: Germany’s Perspective on Solar Energy Support

Germany is not exactly the sunniest country in the world. The country of gloomy philosophers has “the same solar power potential as dismal Alaska, even worse than rain-soaked Seattle[1].” Nevertheless, Germany has the most surprising records for harnessing solar energy. In June 2014, more than half of Germany’s electricity demand (23.1 gigawatts) came from solar, which was half of the world’s production[2].

All this could happen because Germans really tried hard since decades ago. In 1991, German politicians passed the Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz, or Renewable Energy Sources Act. The solar industry could grow dramatically backed by the legislative support along with considerable efforts in R&D for technology innovation. The costs of solar PV declined as intended, but there have been other costs that mounted. Tax burden, high electricity costs in relation with FITs (Feed-in tariff), and oversupply of solar PV are often cited as the flip side of the country’s solar dominance. In addition, the emergence of new solar powers such as China is threatening German companies; business leaders such as Bosch and Siemens decided to drop solar due to their weaker competitiveness.

Nonetheless, Berlin seems to be calm. According to Ralf Fücks, the president of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, the German Green Party’s political foundation, “the greatest success of the German energy transition was giving a boost to the Chinese solar panel industry,” because it “created the mass market[3].” Indeed, competition heats up in larger markets, thus pulling down the prices; the IRENA found that PV prices have declined 80% since 2008, and the driving factors include economies of scale as well as efficiency improvements[4]. Germany’s efforts persist, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently promised India to provide 2 billion euros to support renewable energy including solar PVs. It seems clear that Germany has a wider perspective in pursuing its renewable goals; the bigger markets in the international level would eventually benefit this not-so-sunny nation.

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2013/10/04/should-other-nations-follow-germanys-lead-on-promoting-solar-power/

[2] http://www.triplepundit.com/2015/08/germany-became-solar-superpower/

[3] Thomas Friedman, May 2015, “Germany, the Green Superpower,” the New York Times

[4] pv-magazine.com

Cathing the Tide: tapping into wave power

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Almost every report on renewable energy mentions wave power along with solar or wind. This is why it is almost surprising to learn how little the sea surfs are actually used for energy generation; while the global wave power potential is estimated at 3 TW[1]—this is huge, given that wind source potential is typically given in GW, and 1 TWh/year of energy can supply about 93,850 homes[2]—, “no commercial-scale wave power operations now exist[3].” In February 2015, the news covered uniquely designed wave power generators activated off the coast of Western Australia[4], which is the world’s very first grid-connected wave power station.

Then, why does this clean energy source with great potential remain so untapped? Just like any other renewables, construction costs matter. But risks are higher considering the extreme condition at sea. Complex technology is needed to harness the awe-inspiring ocean power, from “writhing snake-like attenuators, bobbing buoys, or devices mounted discreetly on the ocean floor[5].” In addition, cost-effective solutions are needed to convert low frequency of incident waves (0.2 Hz) to electricity transmission levels (50-60 Hz). Against this backdrop, there is little incentive for companies to voluntarily make investments in this area. Only recently are big companies like RWE joining hands with renewables engineering firms to exploit tidal and wave power in UK coasts[6]. US defense giant Lockheed Martin also launched the world’s largest wave power project in Australia in 2014.

Policy support is essential in order to bloom these initiatives. In 1970’s, Europe saw wave energy proponents defeated by nuclear advocates in competition for grants[7]. Tapping into wave power requires a more targeted approach; for example, the UK has recently revised its renewable obligation (RO; European counterpart of RPS) to “provide additional incentives for investment in emerging, and thus generally more expensive, renewable technologies, such as wave, tidal, offshore wind and biomass generation[8]”. Such policy change would be of course very challenging, but let’s face it; wave power has too much potential to let it ebb away.

[1] Source: Andrews and Jelley, 2013, Energy Science

[2] Source: boem.gov

[3] Source: Dave Levitan, 4/28/14, Why Wave Power Has Lagged Far Behind as Energy Source, retrieved from

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/why_wave_power_has_lagged_far_behind_as_energy_source/2760/

[4] Source: http://www.sciencealert.com/world-s-first-grid-connected-wave-power-station-switched-on-in-australia

[5] Dave Levitan, 4/28/14, Why Wave Power Has Lagged Far Behind as Energy Source, retrieved from

[6] Source: http://www.marineturbines.com/3/news/article/44/marine_current_turbines_kicks_off_first_tidal_array_for_wales

[7] Source: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/oceanography/wave-energy3.htm

[8] Source: Allan et al., 2011, Levelised costs of Wave and Tidal energy in the UK: Cost competitiveness and the importance of “banded” Renewables Obligation Certificates

[9] Image source: Flickr.com