Scientists want to use mountains like batteries to store energy – ‘MGES’


 

Researchers propose a gravity-based system for long-term energy storage.

 

  • A new paper outlines using the the Mountain Gravity Energy Storage (or MGES) for long-term energy storage.
  • This approach can be particularly useful in remote, rural and island areas.
  • Gravity and hydropower can make this method a successful storage solution. 

Can we use mountains as gigantic batteries for long-term energy storage? Such is the premise of new research published in the journal Energy.

The particular focus of the study by Julian Hunt of IIASA (Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) and his colleagues is how to store energy in locations that have less energy demand and variable weather conditions that affect renewable energy sources.

The team looked at places like small islands and remote places that would need less than 20 megawatts of capacity for energy storage and proposed a way to use mountains to accomplish the task.

Hunt and his team want to use a system dubbed Mountain Gravity Energy Storage (or MGES). MGES employes cranes positioned on the edge of a steep mountain to move sand (or gravel) from a storage site at the bottom to a storage site at the top.

Like in a ski-lift, a motor/generator would transport the storage vessels, storing potential energy. Electricity is generated when the sand is lowered back from the upper site. 

 

How much energy is created? The system takes advantage of gravity, with the energy output being proportional to the sand’s mass, gravity and the height of the mountain. Some energy would be lost due in the loading and unloading process.

Hydropower can also be employed from any kind of mountainous water source, like river streams. When it’s available, water would be used to fill storage containers instead of sand or gravel, generating electricity in that fashion.

Utilizing the mountain, hydropower can be invoked from any height of the system, making it more flexible than usual hydropower, explains the press release from IIASA.

There are specific advantages to using sand, however, as Hunt explained:

“One of the benefits of this system is that sand is cheap and, unlike water, it does not evaporate – so you never lose potential energy and it can be reused innumerable times,” said Hunt. “This makes it particularly interesting for dry regions.”

Energy From Mountains | Renewable Energy Solutions

Where would be the ideal places to install such a system? The researchers are thinking of locations with high mountains, like the Himalayas, Alps, and Rocky Mountains or islands like Hawaii, Cape Verde, Madeira, and the Pacific Islands that have mountainous terrains.

The scientists use the Molokai Island in Hawaii as an example in their paper, outlining how all of the island’s energy needs can be met with wind, solar, batteries and their MGES setup.

The MGES system.

“It is important to note that the MGES technology does not replace any current energy storage options but rather opens up new ways of storing energy and harnessing untapped hydropower potential in regions with high mountains,” Hunt noted.

Check out the new study “Mountain Gravity Energy Storage: A new solution for closing the gap between existing short- and long-term storage technologies”.

MIT – New ‘battery’ aims to spark a carbon capture revolution


Smoke and steam billows from Belchatow Power Station, Europe’s largest coal-fired power plant near Belchatow, Poland on November 28, 2018. Inventors claim a new carbon capture “battery” could be retrofitted for industrial plants but also for mobile sources of CO2 emissions like cars and airplanes. Photo by REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Renewable energy alone is not enough to turn the tide of the climate crisis. Despite the rapid expansion of wind, solar and other clean energy technologies, human behavior and consumption are flooding our skies with too much carbon, and simply supplanting fossil fuels won’t stop global warming.

To make some realistic attempt at preventing a grim future, humans need to be able to physically remove carbon from the air. 

That’s why carbon capture technology is slowly being integrated into energy and industrial facilities across the globe. Typically set up to collect carbon from an exhaust stream, this technology sops up greenhouse gases before they spread into Earth’s airways.

But those industrial practices work because these factories produce gas pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane at high concentrations. Carbon capture can’t draw CO2 from regular open air, where the concentration of this prominent pollutant is too diffuse. 

Moreover, the energy sector’s transition toward decarbonization is moving too slowly. It will take years — likely decades — before the world’s hundreds of CO2-emitting industrial plants adopt capture technology.

Humans have pumped about 2,000 gigatonnes — billions of metric tons — of carbon dioxide into the air since industrialization, and there will be more. 

But what if you could have a personal-sized carbon capture machine on your car, commercial airplane or solar-powered home?

Chemical engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a new device that can remove carbon dioxide from the air at any concentration.

Published in October in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the project is the latest bid to directly capture CO2 emissions and keep them from accelerating and worsening future climate disasters. 

Think of the invention as a quasi-battery, in terms of its shape, its construction and how it works to collect carbon dioxide. You pump electricity into the battery, and while the device stores this charge, a chemical reaction occurs that absorbs CO2 from the surrounding atmosphere — a process known as direct air capture. The CO2 can be extracted by discharging the battery, releasing the gas, so the CO2 then can be pumped into the ground. The researchers describe this back-and-forth as electroswing adsorption.

I realized there was a gap in the spectrum of solutions,” said Sahag Voskian, who co-led the project with fellow MIT chemical engineer T. Alan Hatton. “Many current systems, for instance, are very bulky and can only be used for large-scale power plants or industrial applications.”

Relative to current technology, this electroswing adsorber could be retrofitted onto smaller, mobile sources of emissions like autos and planes, the study states.

Voskian also pictures the battery being scaled to plug into power plants powered by renewables, such as wind farms and solar fields, which are known to create more energy than they can store. Rather than lose this power, these renewable plants could set up a side hustle where their excess energy is used to capture carbon. 

“That’s one of the nice aspects of this technology — is that direct linkage with renewables,” said Jennifer Wilcox, a chemical engineer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who was not involved in the study. 

The advantage of an electricity-based system for carbon capture is that it scales linearly. If you need 10 times more capacity, you simply build 10 times more of these “electroswing batteries” and stack them, Voskian said. 

He estimates that if you cover a football field with these devices in stacks that are tens of feet high, they could remove about 200,000 to 400,000 metric tons of CO2 a year. Build another 100,000 of these fields, and they could bring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere back to preindustrial levels within 40 years. 

One hundred thousand installations sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that these devices can be built to any size and run off the excess electricity created by renewables like wind and solar, which at the moment cannot be easily stored. Imagine turning the more than 2 million U.S. homes with rooftop solar into mini-carbon capture plants. 

On paper, this invention sounds like a game changer. But it has a number of feasibility hurdles to surmount before it leaves the laboratory. 

How electroswing battery works

The idea of using electricity to trigger a chemical reaction — electrochemistry — as a means for capturing carbon dioxide isn’t new. It has been around for nearly 25 years, in fact. 

But Voskian and Hatton have now added two special materials into the equation: quinone and carbon nanotubes. 

A carbon nanotube is a human-made atom-sized cylinder — a sheet of carbon molecules spread into a single layer and wrapped up like a tube. Aside from being more than 100 times stronger than stainless steel or titanium, carbon nanotubes are excellent conductors of electricity, making them sturdy building blocks for electrified equipment. 

Much like a regular battery, Voskian and Hatton’s device has a positive electrode and a negative electrode — “plus” and “minus” sides. But the minus side — the negative electrode — is infused with quinone, a chemical that, after being electrically charged, reacts and sticks to CO2.

“You can think of it like the charge and discharge of a battery,” Voskian said. “When you charge the battery, you have carbon capture. When you discharge it, you release the carbon that you captured.” 

Their approach is unique because all the energy required for their direct air capture comes from electricity. The three major startups in this emerging space — Climeworks, Global Thermostat and Carbon Engineering — rely on a mixture of electric and thermal (heat) energy, Wilcox said, with thermal energy being the dominant factor. 

For power plants and industrial facilities, that excess heat — or waste heat, a byproduct of their everyday work, isn’t a perfect fit for carbon capture. Waste heat isn’t very consistent. Imagine standing next to a fire — its warmth changes as the flames flit about.

This heat can come from carbon-friendly options — such as a hydrothermal plant — but some current startups are preparing their capture systems to run on thermal energy from fossil-fuel burning facilities. So they may capture 1.5 tons of CO2, but they also generate about a half ton in the process

In Voskian’s operation, “We don’t have any of that. We have full control over the energetics of our process,” he said.

Will it work?

Voskian and Hatton, who have launched a startup called Verdox, write in their study that operating electroswing carbon capture would cost between $50 to $100 per metric ton of CO2.

“If it’s true, that’s a great breakthrough,” said Richard Newell, president and CEO of Resources for the Future, a nonprofit research organization that develops energy and environmental policy on carbon capture. But, he cautioned, “the distance between showing something in the laboratory and then demonstrating it at a commercial scale is very big.” 

NCM 811 Almost Account For A Fifth Of EV Li-Ion Deployment In China


China is well advanced in switching to the NCM 811 type of lithium-ion cathode for EV batteries. 

The new NCM 811 lithium-ion battery chemistry takes the Chinese passenger xEV (BEV, PHEV, HEV) market like a storm.

According to Adamas Intelligence, In September, NCM 811 was responsible for 18% of passenger xEV battery deployment (by capacity).

The NCM 811 is a low cobalt-content cathode (nickel:cobalt:manganese at a ratio of 8:1:1).

The expansion is tremendous compared to 1% in January, 4% in June and 13% in August.

NCM 811 cells combines high-energy density with affordability (lower content of expensive cobalt), which probably is enough for most manufacturers to make the switch from NCM 523 and LFP (often bypassing NCM 622).

“In China, for the second month in a row, NCM 811 was second-only to NCM 523 by capacity deployed, while the once-popular NCM 622 now finds itself in fifth spot with a mere 5% of the market.

In the pursuit of lower costs and higher energy density, a growing number of automakers in China have seemingly opted to bypass NCM 622, shifting instead straight from LFP or NCM 523 cathode chemistries into high-nickel NCM 811.

Since January 2019, the market share of NCM 811 in China’s passenger EV market has rapidly increased from less than 1% to 18% and shows little signs of slowing its ingress. Outside of China, however, automakers have been slow to adopt NCM 811 to-date but we expect to see the chemistry make inroads in Europe and North America by as early as next year.”

NCM 811 share globally is also growing and in September it was at 7%.

The other leading low cobalt chemistry is Tesla/Panasonic’s NCA.

Source: Adamas Intelligence

Answer to Renewable Power’s Top Problem Emerges in the ‘Australian Outback’


From Bloomberg Energy

The answer to the renewable energy industry’s biggest challenge is emerging in the Australian outback.

Early next year, one of the first power projects that combine solar and wind generation with battery storage is planning to start up in northern Queensland state.

The Kennedy Energy Park, just outside the sleepy town of Hughendon, will combine 43 megawatts of wind and 20 megawatts of solar with a 2-megawatt Tesla Inc. lithium-ion battery.

Hybrid projects like Kennedy aim to tackle a problem faced by climate change challengers, and grid planners, across the globe: how to firm-up intermittent renewable power so that the lights stay on when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

A glimpse of the future is underway in far North Queensland

It could also be a precursor of what’s to come in the next decade. Plunging green technology costs are opening up markets and suppliers are seeking new avenues to combat falling margins.

Australia, India, and the U.S. already have a combined pipeline of more than 4,000 megawatts of hybrid, or co-located projects, according to BloombergNEF analysis.

Kennedy Energy Park’s location is one of the best on the planet for pairing a strong and consistent solar resource with a highly complementary wind profile, said Roger Price, chief executive officer of Windlab Ltd., the company leading the development, along with Eurus Energy Holdings.

“When you start to combine wind and solar in an intelligent, optimized way, then you can provide much greater penetration of renewables into the grid,” Price said in a phone interview, adding that the facility expected to start up in two or three months.

Price said combining wind and solar allowed the project to save on connection costs to the network, while enhancing grid utilization because the wind generally blew at night when solar wasn’t available. In addition, Kennedy has potential to supply more power to the grid than its 50 megawatt transmission line can handle, so the battery will allow that excess power to be stored.

A range of co-located projects have followed in Kennedy’s wake, with 690 megawatts worth of capacity commissioned across the country, BNEF said in a report last month. In January, a joint-venture between Lacour Energy and a unit of Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. won approval for the A$250 million ($170 million) Kondinin complex in Western Australia, which will combine battery storage with 120 megawatts of wind power and 50 megawatts of solar.

French company Neoen SA has even bigger ambitions: It’s Goyder South project in South Australia, which is scheduled to begin construction in 2021, is on a scale not yet seen for a renewables project in Australia. It includes 1,200 megawatts of wind power and 600 megawatts of solar backed by 900 megawatts of battery storage.

It’s not only Australia that is developing the concept. In the U.S., NextEra Energy Inc. is working on two projects that combine the three technologies, while Vattenfall AB is working on a “triple-scoop” project in the Netherlands believed to be the first of its kind in Europe.

India is also keen on the idea, with the government putting policies in place to encourage co-located projects in a number of states, according to BNEF.

“Whenever we are kicking off a photovoltaic or an onshore wind project in the future, we will always consider whether we should do it as co-located,” Alfred Hoffman, a vice president at Vattenfall’s wind unit, said at a BNEF summit last month in London.

There are various constraints to developing such integrated projects. In Europe, for instance, most large-scale wind and solar is procured through auctions, which aren’t currently designed for co-located projects, according to Cecilia L’Ecluse, a solar analyst at BNEF in London.

There can also be permitting issues, such as Germany’s ban on using farmland for solar, while in the U.S., developers may not be facing the same grid access challenges, so the savings incentive might not be as strong, she said.

Windlab’s Price acknowledged that combining technologies would only work in certain locations and, in a modern well-connected grid, wind and solar don’t necessarily need to be on the same site to deliver combined benefits.

The Kennedy project has seen the start of commercial operation delayed into 2020 due to hold ups in getting the necessary approval to connect to the grid.

It could be in developing countries where the concept could make the biggest difference, said Price, who’s also working on an 80 megawatt multi-technology project in Kenya. It’s also a particularly pressing problem in countries like Australia, where a number of aging coal-fired power stations are scheduled to retire over the next decade, leaving renewables to fill the gap.

“In the future, we won’t have these big fossil-fuel plants to keep the grid stable. That’s an additional task that renewables will have to take on,” said Bo Svoldgaard, senior vice president of innovation and concepts at Vestas Wind Systems A/S, which partnered Windlab on the Kennedy project and supplied the turbines. “The fossil fuel plants will disappear. Maybe not tomorrow, or in two years time, but they will disappear.”

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Flow Batteries Struggle in 2019 as Lithium-Ion Marches On h


Save for a few rare announcements, the promising technology class has gone quiet.

October’s SoftBank-led investment in iron flow battery startup ESSrepresented an unusual event in 2019: a piece of good news for the flow battery sector. The $30 million cash injection was a rare sign that there may still be life in an energy storage technology class that had almost faded from view in recent months.

Leading players such as Sumitomo Electric and Dalian Rongke Power, the latter of which once boasted the world’s largest vanadium flow battery project, have gone silent. EnSync Energy Systems pivoted away from flow batteries last year and folded in March.

CellCube Energy Storage Systems has also run into problems this year. In October it advised shareholders that “each division is suffering from a lack of working capital” and added that management was “reviewing strategic alternatives focused on maximizing shareholder value.”

Go Big: This factory produces vanadium redox-flow batteries destined for the world’s largest battery site: a 200-megawatt, 800-megawatt-hour storage station in China’s Liaoning province.

Even those companies still touting contract wins in 2019 have hardly set the world on fire. RedT Energy installed Australia’s largest commercial energy storage system, a 1-megawatt-hour system at Monash University, but more recently announced a merger with Avalon following reported losses.

Meanwhile, UniEnergy Technology’s sole deal-related press release this year was to celebrate the commissioning of a 7.5-kilowatt, 30-kilowatt-hour flow battery in Brussels.

Despite this, a smattering of players, including Avalon, Lockheed Martin and U.S. Vanadium, remain bullish. And Dan Finn-Foley, head of energy storage at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, cautions against writing the sector off just yet.

“We haven’t seen much activity from the flow battery space in terms of deployments or major announcements,” he acknowledged, “but there are key steps happening behind the scenes.”

Researchers advancing flow battery technology are either partnering with companies with large balance sheets or securing insurance to back up their claims of long system lifetimes and low degradation, he said.

“The next steps will be continued pilot programs and strategic targeting of favorable market niches, all critical stepping stones toward true commercialization,” Finn-Foley said.

Image: Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries 

Flow battery vendors could benefit from state-level 100 percent clean or renewable energy policies in the U.S., Finn-Foley noted, since it is remains unclear whether lithium-ion batteries alone can meet storage needs beyond durations of approximately eight hours.

Flow batteries are seen as ideal for large-scale, long-duration storage because they can store large amounts of energy using scalable tanks of relatively cheap electrolyte. The problem is that nobody seems to need this long-duration capacity just yet.

Finn-Foley said the biggest unknowns for the flow battery sector “are the timing of when these long-duration needs will emerge and how low vendors will be able to drive costs by then with few other opportunities to scale.”

This is emerging as a significant issue in 2019. While flow battery technology is waiting for prime time, its main competitor, lithium-ion, is already racing ahead on scale and cost-competitiveness thanks to the growth of the electric vehicle industry.

In March, QY Research Group predicted the global redox flow battery market would be worth $370 million by 2025, based on a roughly 14 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018.

For comparison, a May study by Prescient & Strategic Intelligence estimated the lithium-ion market would be worth close to $107 billionby 2024, with a CAGR of almost 22 percent.

Even ignoring the fact that the lithium-ion industry is on a quest to use lower-cost materials, it is hard to see how flow batteries will be able to compete on price against such a thoroughly commoditized rival.

The state of play was perhaps best summed up by Rebecca Kujawa, chief financial officer and executive vice president of finance at NextEra Energy, during an earnings call in October.

Asked by Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates, whether NextEra had found any storage technologies other than lithium-ion that are worth commercializing, she said: “We always remain technology-agnostic.”

But she added: “What we continue to see, and what we are currently signing contracts for with our customers, is predominantly lithium-ion. Those producing lithium-ion batteries are investing in manufacturing scale, which is producing significant cost improvements.”

Kujawa concluded: “In the middle part of the next decade, you’re talking about a $5 to $7 per megawatt-hour added to get to a nearly firm wind or solar resource, and that’s a pretty attractive price.

Image: 100% Renewable Energy

To beat that, you’d have to see a pretty big step change in where some of these other technologies are.”

A new method of extracting hydrogen from water more efficiently to capture renewable energy


Crystal structure and {MoTe}6 polyhedra showing the building blocks of each polymorph. a monoclinic 1T′-MoTe2 phase and b hexagonal 2H-MoTe2 phase. Credit: Nature Communications 10.1038/s41467-019-12831-0

A new method of extracting hydrogen from water more efficiently could help underpin the capture of renewable energy in the form of sustainable fuel, scientists say.

In a new paper, published today in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from universities in the UK, Portugal, Germany and Hungary describe how pulsing through a layered catalyst has allowed them to almost double the amount of  produced per millivolt of electricity used during the process.

Electrolysis, a process which is likely familiar to anyone who studied chemistry at , uses electric current to split the bonds between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms of water, releasing hydrogen and oxygen gas.

If the electric current for the process of electrolysis is generated through renewable means such as wind or , the entire process releases no additional carbon into the atmosphere, making no contributions to climate change. Hydrogen gas can then be used as a zero-emission fuel source in some forms of transport such as buses and cars or for heating homes.

The team’s research focused on finding a more efficient way to produce hydrogen through the electrocatalytic water splitting reaction. They discovered that electrodes covered with a molybedenum telluride catalyst showed an increase in the amount of hydrogen gas produced during the electrolysis when a specific pattern of high-current pulses was applied.

By optimising the pulses of current through the acidic electrolyte, they could reduce the amount of energy needed to make a given amount of hydrogen by nearly 50%.

Dr. Alexey Ganin, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry, directed the research team. Dr. Ganin said: “Currently the UK meets about a third of its energy production needs through renewable sources, and in Scotland that figure is about 80%.

“Experts predict that we’ll soon reach a point where we’ll be producing more renewable electricity than our consumption demands. However, as it currently stands the excess of generated energy must be used as it’s produced or else it goes to waste. It’s vital that we develop a robust suite of methods to store the  for later use.

“Batteries are one way to do that, but hydrogen is a very promising alternative. Our research provides an important new insight into producing hydrogen from electrolysis more effectively and more economically, and we’re keen to pursue this promising avenue of investigation.”

Since the level of catalytic enhancement is controlled by electric currents, recent advances in machine learning could be used to fine-tune the right sequence of applied currents to achieve the maximum output.

The next stage for the team is the development of an artificial intelligence protocol to replace human input in the search for the most effective electronic structures use in similar catalytic processes.

The paper, titled “The rapid electrochemical activation of MoTe2 for the hydrogen evolution reaction,” is published in Nature Communications

More information: The rapid electrochemical activation of MoTe2 for the hydrogen evolution reaction, Nature Communicationsdoi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12831-0 , www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12831-0

Journal information: Nature Communications

Provided by University of Glasgow

Australia wants to build a giant underground ‘battery’ to help power the nation – ‘Hydro Down Under’


The power down under. Image: REUTERS/Action Images

Governments around the world are looking to boost renewable energy capacity as they race to cut their reliance on fossil fuels. But one of the big questions they face is how to keep the lights on when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

Australia’s answer is to build a giant underground hydropower plant beneath a national park.

The $3.1 billion Snowy 2.0 project – so called because it’s located in the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales – will use water flowing between two reservoirs to generate 10% of the nation’s energy needs at peak times and when renewables are offline.

Image: Snowy Hydro

Water will stream through 27 kilometres of tunnels from the Tantangara Dam to the Talbingo Reservoir 700 metres below, while passing through a power plant 1 kilometre beneath the surface. The turbines will be reversible so they can pump the water back uphill when demand is low, using wind energy.

Known as a pumped hydro scheme, the project is designed to work like a giant battery – storing water energy that can be released as electricity to the grid with a notice of just 90 seconds. It’s hoped the plant will provide energy storage of 175 hours, enough to power 3 million homes for a week.

“Snowy 2.0 will provide the storage and on-demand generation needed to balance the growth of wind and solar power and the retirement of Australia’s ageing fleet of thermal power stations,” says Snowy Hydro Chief Executive Paul Broad. “In short, it will keep our energy system secure and keep the lights on.”

The first power produced from Snowy 2.0 is expected to flow into the national grid in late 2024.

Image: Snowy Hydro

A sensitive issue

The project is controversial, not least because of its planned location – the Kosciuszko National Park. Named after the nation’s highest mainland peak, the 2,228 metre Mount Kosciuszko, the park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Critics question the reliability of the project’s cost estimates and its ability to fulfil its claimed potential output. They say it is unlikely to be finished on time and ask if the money would be better spent on conventional battery storage.

Environmental groups say the project will create 9 million cubic metres of tunnelling waste, and claim that dumping it in an ecologically sensitive landscape would be “environmental vandalism”.

Snowy Hydro, the company behind the project, refutes these claims and says it will deliver on time and to budget. It says any environmental impact will be limited to just 100 hectares of the 674,000 hectare park – and the project is expected to create 5,000 new jobs.

Hydro upgrade

Snowy Hydro 2.0 builds on the original Snowy Hydro project, which marks its 70th anniversary this year. It grew out of a scheme to alleviate the effects of droughts in the continent’s interior by storing water from the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Snowy and Tumut rivers.

Work began on the first Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme in 1949. The $564 million project was completed in 1974 and includes seven power stations, 16 major dams, 145 kilometres of interconnected tunnels and 80 kilometres of aqueducts.

The government says the new project is essential to Australia’s transition to renewable energy sources. Currently, almost two-thirds of the country’s electricity is generated by coal-fired plants. Together I coal and gas account for 85% of the nation’s power generation. 

The government has set a target of increasing the contribution of renewables to 23.5% by the end of next year.

The latest Fostering Effective Energy Transition report from the World Economic Forum ranks Australia 43rd out of 115 countries in terms of the performance of its energy system and its readiness for transition to clean energy.

Getting Real Serious About Renewable Hydrogen In Real (Heartland) America


renewable-hydrogen-from-water

Image: Two membrane-bound protein complexes work together with a synthetic catalyst to produce hydrogen from water by Olivia Johnson and Lisa Utschig via Argonne National Laboratory.

 

File this one under “W” for “When you’ve lost the heartland.” Something called the Midwest Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Coalition has just launched a mission to bring the renewable hydrogen revolution to a cluster of US states which, for reasons unknown, pop up whenever someone mentions America’s heartland, aka Real America. This is a significant development because until now, hydrogen fans have been dancing all around the perimeters of the Midwest without managing to grab a toehold.

Hydrogen is a zero-emission fuel, practically. When used in fuel cells, it produces nothing but purified water. The problem, though, is cleaning up the source of hydrogen. Currently, fossil natural gas is the primary source of hydrogen, which kind of clonks the zero emission thing in the head.

The good news is that renewable hydrogen technology is rapidly improving. One main pathway is to “split” hydrogen from water using an electrical current (aka electrolysis).

Until recent years electrolysis made no sense because coal and gas have dominated the US energy profile. The advent of low cost renewable energy has changed the game entirely.

In somewhat of an ironic twist, renewable energy critics used to complain that wind and solar were unreliable because they were intermittent. Now that very characteristic has created an opportunity for renewable hydrogen production. The basic idea is to use excess renewable energy to produce hydrogen, which then serves as a transportable energy storage medium.

Some US states have been cultivating the so-named “hydrogen economy” over the past several years, and they are already in a good position to transition from fossil-sourced hydrogen to renewables.

Leading the pack is California. The state’s ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicles) standards already call for a portion of renewable hydrogen in the mix. Eight other states — Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont — have adopted the California ZEV model. Additionally, Colorado, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia are following California’s Low Emission Vehicle standards.

So far almost all of this activity is clustered in the coastal and Northeast US states. If all goes according to plan the new MHFCC initiative will bring the hydrogen word to 12 more states smack in the nation’s midsection: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Bam!

US Department Of Energy Hearts Renewable Hydrogen

Spearheading MHFCC is the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, in partnership with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The idea is to use the school’s decades-long foundational hydrogen and fuel cell research to jumpstart an R&D program aimed at improving electrolysis technology.

The new initiative will also leverage the Midwest’s considerable renewable energy resources. As Argonne notes, the 12 Midwest states targeted by MHFCC account for 25% of the US population and consume 30% of all electricity generated in the US.

These 12 states also lay claim to 35% of US wind capacity. So far solar has made a dismal showing in the region, but Argonne points out that major new solar projects are finally in the pipeline.

What’s Driving The Midwest Renewable Energy Train

As previously noted by CleanTechnica, the low cost of renewable energy is finally breaking through political barriers in Nebraska and other Midwest states. Considering the region’s large agricultural sector, of particular interest is the emergence of agrivoltaics, in which raised solar panels share space with grazing lands, pollinator habitats, and certain crops.

Another key factor is the Midwest’s reliance on rural electric cooperatives. RECs are becoming more engaged with renewable energy as the cost benefit comes into sharper focus, partly with an assist from the US Department of Energy.

From Renewable Energy To Renewable Hydrogen

Fans of natural gas still have a lot to cheer about. Electrolysis is not quite ready for commercial prime time, and meanwhile the demand for hydrogen is growing.

However, if all goes according to plan renewables will squeeze natural gas out of they hydrogen market in the Midwest. In announcing the new initiative, Argonne specifically states that “…the Midwestern states have some of the highest levels of renewable energy on their grids, and that “hydrogen can be used as an effective storage medium to increase utilization of these renewable energy resources.”

Sorry – not sorry.

For that matter, Argonne and the University of Illinois’s Grainger College of Engineering have already ramped up their work on electrolysis over the past couple of years.

Last fall the school described progress on a new metal-based catalyst for electrolysis. Another big breakthrough came from Argonne last winter, when the lab announced a bio-based alternative.

Also of interest is the Midwest’s relatively high nuclear energy profile. If a market for renewable hydrogen develops, nuclear power plants could continue pumping out zero emission electricity during off-peak hours and store it in the form of hydrogen.

That’s unlikely to motivate the construction of new nuclear power plants, but the use of excess nuclear energy for electrolysis could enable the region’s current fleet to operate more economically for a longer period of time (and that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms).

Interesting! CleanTechnica is reaching out to the University of Illinois to see what else is cooking in the Midwest renewable hydrogen field, so stay tuned for more on that.

The CEO Who Wants Italy to Love Hydrogen Power


A hydrogen fuel tank. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

  • Snam chief says company to inject more hydrogen into system
  • Market could be worth $2.5 trillion if industry embraces gasThe

THE CEO Who Wants Italy to Love Hydrogen Power

— Read on www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2019-10-10/hydrogen-could-feed-25-of-italy-s-energy-by-2050-snam-says

EIA projects nearly 50% increase in world energy usage by 2050, led by growth in Asia


 

global primary energy consumption by region

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2019 Reference case

 

In the International Energy Outlook 2019 (IEO2019) Reference case, released at 9:00 a.m. today, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that world energy consumption will grow by nearly 50% between 2018 and 2050. Most of this growth comes from countries that are not in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and this growth is focused in regions where strong economic growth is driving demand, particularly in Asia.

EIA’s IEO2019 assesses long-term world energy markets for 16 regions of the world, divided according to OECD and non-OECD membership. Projections for the United States in IEO2019 are consistent with those released in the Annual Energy Outlook 2019.

global energy consumption by sector

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2019 Reference case

The industrial sector, which includes refining, mining, manufacturing, agriculture, and construction, accounts for the largest share of energy consumption of any end-use sector—more than half of end-use energy consumption throughout the projection period. World industrial sector energy use increases by more than 30% between 2018 and 2050 as consumption of goods increases. By 2050, global industrial energy consumption reaches about 315 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu).

Transportation energy consumption increases by nearly 40% between 2018 and 2050. This increase is largely driven by non-OECD countries, where transportation energy consumption increases nearly 80% between 2018 and 2050. Energy consumption for both personal travel and freight movement grows in these countries much more rapidly than in many OECD countries.

Energy consumed in the buildings sector, which includes residential and commercial structures, increases by 65% between 2018 and 2050, from 91 quadrillion to 139 quadrillion Btu. Rising income, urbanization, and increased access to electricity lead to rising demand for energy.

global net electricity generation

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2019 Reference case

The growth in end-use consumption results in electricity generation increasing 79% between 2018 and 2050. Electricity use grows in the residential sector as rising population and standards of living in non-OECD countries increase the demand for appliances and personal equipment. Electricity use also increases in the transportation sector as plug-in electric vehicles enter the fleet and electricity use for rail expands.

global primary energy consumption by energy source

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2019 Reference case

With the rapid growth of electricity generation, renewables—including solar, wind, and hydroelectric power—are the fastest-growing energy source between 2018 and 2050, surpassing petroleum and other liquids to become the most used energy source in the Reference case. Worldwide renewable energy consumption increases by 3.1% per year between 2018 and 2050, compared with 0.6% annual growth in petroleum and other liquids, 0.4% growth in coal, and 1.1% annual growth in natural gas consumption.

Global natural gas consumption increases more than 40% between 2018 and 2050, and total consumption reaches nearly 200 quadrillion Btu by 2050. In addition to the natural gas used in electricity generation, natural gas consumption increases in the industrial sector. Chemical and primary metals manufacturing, as well as oil and natural gas extraction, account for most of the growing industrial demand.

Global liquid fuels consumption increases more than 20% between 2018 and 2050, and total consumption reaches more than 240 quadrillion Btu in 2050. Demand in OECD countries remains relatively stable during the projection period, but non-OECD demand increases by about 45%.

Principal contributor: Ari Kahan

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