Experts have described the scheme as a wake-up call to the rest of the world.
Spain has announced ambitious plans to switch the country entirely over to renewable electricity by 2050. The Spanish government also want to see greenhouse emissions slashed down by 90% compared to 1990 levels, in a plan that goes above and beyond the requirements set out by the EU. By 2030, the nation hopes to be running on at least 35% green electricity.
The government have committed to installing at least 3,000MW of wind and solar every year, for the next 10 years. The so-called “sun tax” that has hampered solar power in the past has been scrapped, and money has been set aside to re-skill workers in the fossil fuel industry.
Spain is “deadly serious” about climate change
Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation and one of the key figures in drafting the Paris accord, called the plans “groundbreaking” and “inspirational”.
“By planning on going carbon neutral, Spain shows that the battle against climate change is deadly serious, that they are ready to step up and plan to reap the rewards of decarbonisation,” she said.
James Watson, CEO of trade association SolarPower Europe, said: “It is exciting to see Spain setting the pace in its commitment to a 100 per cent renewable powered future… Spain’s energy ambition is a wake-up call to all the other states across the world, as it demonstrates what we know – it is possible to power large economies by renewables in the very near future.”
Back in the UK, the government are aiming to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050.
The United Kingdom has his a historic wind energy milestone, reaching a total installed capacity of 20 gigawatts. The opening of the Walney Extension off the coast of Cumbria earlier this month tipped the total over the 20 GW mark.
Wind power is the biggest source of renewable energy in the UK, with the total capacity now standing at 20,128 MW – or just over 2 GW
The country’s first commercial onshore windfarm went operational in 1991 in Delabole, Cornwall
The first commercial offshore windfarm started generating in 2000, off the coast of Blyth in Northumberland
Total capacity was just 1GW in 2005 and 5GW in 2010, before rapidly expanding to 10GW in 2013
According to the trade body RenewableUK, wind power has enough capacity to meet the needs of 14 million homes.
Commenting on the announcement, RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck said:
“It took 19 years to install the first 5GW of wind energy in the UK and we’ve now installed the same amount in under two years. That phenomenal growth shows just how quickly the UK is moving to a smart, low carbon power system and wind energy is at the heart of that.”
“Over half of the UK’s wind energy capacity is onshore, which is the cheapest option for new power. However, Government policy preventing onshore wind from competing for new power contracts means that consumers will miss out on low-cost power that will keep bills down.”
“It was the opening of the world’s largest offshore wind farm that has took us over the 20GW mark. We’re confident that offshore wind alone can reach at least 30GW by 2030 to become the backbone of a clean, reliable and affordable energy system.”
The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) was officially opened this week by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The 11 turbine system was developed by the Swedish company Vattenfall, and is said to be the most powerful in the world.
Scotland is already home to several onshore and offshore windfarms, and despite its relatively small size the country is a world leader when it comes to renewable energy.
The new development has a total generating capacity of 93.2 MW – enough to supply around 70% of the domestic energy demand in nearby Aberdeen, or the equivalent of 80,000 homes.
The project was briefly in the international spotlight back in 2015 when Donald Trump, then a US presidential candidate, attempted to block planning permission for the site claiming it would spoil the view from his Aberdeenshire golf course.
Nicola Sturgeon was joined by over 100 business leaders and dignitaries for the opening ceremony, held on board a NorthLink Ferry in the North Sea.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I am proud that as part of this groundbreaking project, the world’s most powerful offshore wind turbines are now up and running in Scotland.”
“The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre will maintain Scotland’s reputation for innovation in low-carbon and renewable energy development and deployment.”
“A single rotation of one of these 8.8mw turbines will generate enough energy to power a home for 24 hours, which truly shows the potential of this technology to strengthen Scotland’s renewable energy-generating capacity in the future.”
The site began producing power in July, ahead of the official opening in September.
The groundbreaking design can capture wind energy from any direction – including vertically. The creators of the O-Wind hope that the compact design will be effective in urban areas where traditional turbines can’t be used.
Conventional wind turbines can only really capture wind coming from a single direction. Due to this and their large size, they are better suited to wide open spaces where winds are predictable.
The O-Wind by contrast is a mere 25cm wide and can capture wind energy in all 3 dimensions, allowing it to take advantage of the abundant winds found in cities. No matter which direction the wind approaches from, the ball will always rotate the same way, driving a generator and producing electricity.
O-Wind was developed by Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani, who are both MSc students at Lancaster University. They believe that the concept is at least five years away from commercial production, but it could revolutionise the energy industry once it gets there. The design is a National Winner of the prestigious James Dyson Award.
Inspiration from NASA
Long before the O-Wind came to be, the team behind it were interested in using wind-driven balls to explore Mars. A prototype model was able to harness unpredictable winds and use the energy to travel forwards in a straight line. In a test it managed to travel 7km across the Atacama Desert in South America.
It soon became clear that the technology could have multiple uses, and the potential for generating clean energy was explored.
Lancaster University are busy testing, optimising and refining the O-Wind to maximise its efficiency. They hope that the technology could be used to power apartments, motorhomes, boats and other stand-alone structures. They are also exploring the possibility of using the O-Wind to capture wave & tidal energy.
The technology giant has pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by 75% and move over to 100% renewable power by the end of the 2020.
Around two billion people are thought to log in to Facebook every day, along with its family of popular apps & products – including WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and Oculus.
What many people don’t realise is that behind the scenes there is a huge hidden world of servers and data centres powering these apps. Every time you upload a photo, stream a video or ‘like’ a post, that information has to be stored somewhere – and all of those servers and all that infrastructure require a colossal amount of electricity to keep running around the clock.
In 2017 Facebook consumed just under 1,500 gigawatt hours of electricity – more than some small countries! As well as powering its servers, data centres eat up a lot of energy just to keep cool. And that’s before you factor in the cost of powering offices & other facilities.
Renewable energy targets
The company announced earlier this week that they would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 75% and power their global operations with 100% renewable energy by the end of 2020. They plan to use a variety of methods to achieve this goal, such as renewable energy tariffs and direct power purchase agreements with generators. Most of the renewable electricity will come from wind and solar.
At present Facebook runs on 51% clean energy, achieving a goal they set for themselves back in 2015. In 2009 they switched from renting server space from other companies and began designing their own.
In 2017 construction work started on a 248-acre solar farm that, when viewed from above, looked like a pair of giant cartoon pandas. Now, the Chinese government are on a mission to build 99 more ‘panda power plants’ around the world – investing billions of pounds in the process.
The idea came from a Hong Kong teenager named Ada Li Yan-tung, who wanted to increase interest in renewable energy. Instead of simply lining solar panels up in neat rows, she suggested arranging them more creatively to form artwork that could be seen from the sky. An artist’s impression of her original panda concept is shown below:
A year later, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and development company Panda Green Energy Group picked up the idea and agreed to make it a reality. The first operating solar plant recently opened in the Shanxi province of China. The 50 megawatt plant resembles two baby pandas.
The developers plan to add a second phase to the project, adding two more pandas to complete a ‘panda family’. Once complete, the solar farm will have a capacity of 100 megawatts. According to the developers, it will generate 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours over 25 years, powering more than 10,000 households per year.
Panda Green Energy Group have an ambitious goal to build 99 more solar farms like this one, stretching across what China calls the “Belt and Road Initiative” – an infrastructure project spanning 60 countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
China is the world’s largest producer and installer of photovoltaic solar panels, and has the highest installed solar capacity in the world at over 130 gigawatts.
A tidal energy turbine off the coast of Orkney is generating more power than the rest of Scotland’s wave & tidal sector combined!
The Scotrenewables SR2000 was installed in 2017 in the sea near the small island of Eday. Its 2MW turbine has so far produced around three gigawatt-hours of electricity. It has produced more power in a 12 month period than every other wave & tidal project in Scotland put together.
Andrew Scott, CEO of Scotrenewables Tidal Power, described it as a “phenomenal result”.
Unlike older tidal power plants – which look a little like wind turbines attached to the seabed – the SR2000 floats on the surface like a boat, with turbines hanging underneath it. This makes it easier to repair & maintain, as the parts are more easily accessible.
Mr Scott said: “We’ve taken a very novel approach and we believe we’ve got a very disruptive technology in that space.”
The Orkney islands are home to just over 20,000 people, and the SR2000 can provide around 7% of their electricity needs on a typical day – but has been known to provide over a quarter of demand on a good day.
The owners of the project say the technology is still in its infancy, but estimate that one day projects like this could supply up to 20% of the UK’s power needs.
Renewable energy leader
Scotland is one of the biggest users of renewable energy in Europe. New figures have placed them fourth in the EU, with 54% of its electricity coming from renewable sources.
Thousands of churches around the UK have agreed to switch to 100% renewable electricity in an effort to fight climate change.
The Church of England have lead the effort, with thousands of Catholic, Baptist, Methodist and other places of worship making the switch. Fifteen of the country’s most famous Anglican cathedrals are also on board – including Liverpool, Coventry, Salisbury, Southwark, St Albans and York Minster.
With such a large network of buildings taking part, it has been estimated that the move will divert £5 million away from fossil fuel companies to clean energy providers.
‘One of the great moral challenges of our time’
Church leaders have described climate change as “one of the great moral challenges of our time”, with the Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam – the church’s lead bishop on the environment – calling it “an enormous injustice” which “hurts the poor first and worst”.
Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury and the chair of Christian Aid, said the Church of England will be selling all of its shares in fossil fuel companies who are not on track to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement.
“Churches are part of a global network and so are often very aware of the plight of our brothers and sisters suffering from droughts, floods and extreme weather around the world,” he said.
He urged the government to set a target to cut UK emissions to zero by 2050 to ensure Britain “remains a green and pleasant land at home and a climate leader abroad”.
The island nation of Samoa plans to run on 100% renewable energy by 2025, and the electric car giant Tesla are helping them achieve that goal.
The small country, home to around 200,000 people, previously relied on expensive imported diesel for most of their electricity – in 2012 alone they had to import 95 million litres of the stuff. But cost isn’t the only issue – island nations like Samoa are also at particular risk from the effects of climate change.
In recent years Samoa has invested heavily in renewable energy, with five large solar power plants, a wind farm and hydro-electricity plants. But this presented the country with a new challenge – effectively storing and re-distributing all that energy. That’s where Tesla came in, who have installed 2 of its Powerpack storage systems providing 13.6 MWh of storage. More importantly, they have implemented grid controller software that can react to a spike in demand in a fraction of a second.
“If a big cloud comes over the island and the solar drops very quickly, we can control the battery to make up the difference so we don’t have to start a generator immediately, and we don’t have to keep a generator running even when it might not be needed,” explains JB Straubel, chief technical officer at Tesla.
The software does a job that would be near-impossible for a human. “You have to respond in fractions of a second and you have to be kind of watching a lot of different data sources at the same time and then responding quickly… so it’s sort of the perfect application for a computer to do exactly that.”
Since the system was installed earlier this summer power outages have become a thing of the past, and although diesel generators are still needed, usage is way down.
Tesla hope that the technology can be used in other parts of the world as renewable energy use increases.
“We’re going to see a lot more of the problems Samoa was struggling with coming up because they were getting to such high renewable percentages,” says Straubel. “So it’s really an indicator of the future. These are the types of problems and systems that we will definitely see in more parts of the world and in bigger and bigger grids.”
Of all the electricity used in the first quarter of 2018, over 30% came from renewable sources – according to new figures from the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) released last week.
Renewables were up by 3.1% compared to the same period last year, despite the higher demand for energy caused by the ‘beast from the east’ cold snap. Stronger winds and greater installed capacity (41.9GW at the end of 2018) are both thought to be the main factors behind the record-breaking stats.
30.1% of all electricity used came from renewable sources during January to March 2018
The figure was 27% during the same period last year
Wind generation was up by one third compared to last year
Wind accounted for almost one fifth of total generation, at 19.11%
For comparison, gas power was 39.9%, nuclear was 17.9% and coal was 9.4%
Emma Pinchbeck, executive director at RenewableUK, welcomed the positive news but warned that much more needed to be done:
“The landmark report from the government’s official advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, warns that we need to do more to reach our clean energy targets, and it recommends deploying more onshore wind because it’s the cheapest source of energy… We hope Ministers will listen to their own experts and take swift action to lift the block on future onshore projects.”
Here comments refer to the government’s cuts to onshore wind funding in recent years.