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California’s battle to cut emissions with biofuels burns in new truck engines

California’s battle to cut emissions with biofuels burns in new truck engines


Renewable diesel is touted as a cleaner-burning fuel, but a recent study has shown the fuel falls short on one measure of reducing pollution from new truck engines – giving pause to California regulators who support increased production.


The state, the largest vehicle market in the country, has aggressively moved to curtail fossil fuel emissions from all vehicles while also encouraging production of renewable diesel – seen as key for reducing emissions in hard-to-electrify sources like trucking.

The efforts are part of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), a rule designed to decrease the carbon intensity of the state’s transportation fuel.

Renewable diesel lowers greenhouse gas emissions compared with petroleum-based diesel. The fuel has also been promoted as a way to cut emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), a harmful pollutant that contributes to ozone deterioration and causes respiratory problems.

However, engines made more recently emit more NOx when running on renewable diesel, especially when blended with 35% biodiesel or more, compared with conventional diesel, according to a study released by California Air Resources Board (CARB) in November.

Trucks arrive to pick up containers at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

That could affect the way regulators revise the LCFS, which spurred investment in renewable diesel, made from fats and vegetable oils.

State regulators are considering changes to the LCFS that align with a 2022 goal to bring various California regions into compliance with national air quality standards. The study means regulators could have to consider whether renewable diesel increases emissions in areas with worse air quality.

CARB said it has “identified several questions about the study results” that require further evaluation, and will be accepting public comment on the study until the end of January.

Regulators did not respond to a request for comment.

Heavy-duty vehicles are one of the largest contributors to NOx emissions – a precursor of ozone and particulate matter formation. Improved emissions control technology has helped NOx emissions fall by 60% between 1990 and 2019 nationwide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A fuel nozzle from a bio diesel fuel pump is seen in this photo illustration taken at a filling station in San Diego, California January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Companies and regulators had previously purported that renewable diesel reduced NOx emissions by 10%, citing the results of earlier studies that examined the fuel’s performance in older engines.

But trucks with newer engines that ran renewable diesel did not meaningfully lower NOx emissions, according to the study. While these new technology diesel engines, or ‘NTDE’ engines, are present in only 43% of the state’s commercial vehicle registrations, they account for more than 75% of the miles traveled among the state’s heavy-duty fleet.

“CARB threw caution to the wind and opened the door to renewable diesel’s unlimited use without having properly studied NOx emissions impact in NTDEs,” said Pat McDuff, chief executive officer at Glendale-based California Fueling, in a public comment submitted in January.


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HYUNDAI TO OFFER HYDROGEN FUEL CELL VERSIONS OF ALL COMMERCIAL VEHICLES BY 2028


Hyundai Motor Group said on Tuesday it plans to offer hydrogen fuel cell versions for all its commercial vehicles by 2028 and will cut the price of fuel cell vehicles to battery electric levels two years later.

MAERSK CEO SAYS CONSTRUCTION OF FOSSIL FUELED SHIPS SHOULD BE BANNED


Maersk CEO Soren Skou says the International Maritime Organization should take a tip from the European auto industry by banning the construction of fossil fueled ships.


He urged California regulators to reverse regulatory changes that prohibit his company from selling fuel additives meant to decrease NOx emissions in biodiesel.

The state is trying to bring 19 regions into compliance with air quality standards enacted in 2015. In two regions – the south coast and the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin – CARB has targeted lowering NOx emissions as one way of improving air quality. In 2020 regulators adopted a new regulation to reduce NOx emissions 90% by 2027.

Renewable diesel generally cuts greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, said Tristan Brown, associate professor of energy resource economics at SUNY and advisor on New York’s Climate Action Council.

Brown noted most biodiesel blending in the United States is 20% or less. “The real question is what amount of NOx is emitted by NTDE engines at volumes of 10% and 20% biodiesel blend levels, and that is not reported by the study,” Brown said.

Source:

Laura Sanicola via Reuters



Batteries get hyped, but pumped hydro provides the vast majority of long-term energy storage essential for renewable power – here’s how it works

Batteries get hyped, but pumped hydro provides the vast majority of long-term energy storage essential for renewable power – here’s how it works


To cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half within a decade, the Biden administration’s goal, the U.S. is going to need a lot more solar and wind power generation, and lots of cheap energy storage.


Wind and solar power vary over the course of a day, so energy storage is essential to provide a continuous flow of electricity. But today’s batteries are typically quite small and store enough energy for only a few hours of electricity. To rely more on wind and solar power, the U.S. will need more overnight and longer-term storage as well.

While battery innovations get a lot of attention, there’s a simple, proven long-term storage technique that’s been used in the U.S. since the 1920s.

It’s called pumped hydro energy storage. It involves pumping water uphill from one reservoir to another at a higher elevation for storage, then, when power is needed, releasing the water to flow downhill through turbines, generating electricity on its way to the lower reservoir.

Illustration of two open- and closed-loop hydro storage systems. Closed-loop systems use two reservoirs rather than running water.
Two types of pumped-storage hydropower; one doesn’t require a river. NREL

Pumped hydro storage is often overlooked in the U.S. because of concern about hydropower’s impact on rivers. But what many people don’t realize is that most of the best hydro storage sites aren’t on rivers at all.

We created a world atlas of potential sites for closed-looped pumped hydro – systems that don’t include a river – and found 35,000 paired sites in the U.S. with good potential. While many of these sites, which we located by satellite, are in rugged terrain and may be unsuitable for geological, hydrological, economic, environmental or social reasons, we estimate that only a few hundred sites are needed to support a 100% renewable U.S. electricity system.

Why wind and solar need long-term storage

To function properly, power grids must be able to match the incoming electricity supply to electricity demand in real time or they risk shortages or overloads.

There are several techniques that grid managers can use to keep that balance with variable sources like wind and solar. These include sharing power across large regions via interstate high-voltage transmission lines, managing demand – and using energy storage.

Aerial view of a pumped hydro project's two reservoirs and solar array on a dry landscape
The Kidston pumped hydro project in Australia uses an old gold mine for reservoirs. Genex Power

Batteries deployed in homes, power stations and electric vehicles are preferred for energy storage times up to a few hours. They’re adept at managing the rise of solar power midday when the sun is overhead and releasing it when power demand peaks in the evenings.

Pumped hydro, on the other hand, allows for larger and longer storage than batteries, and that is essential in a wind- and solar-dominated electricity system. It is also cheaper for overnight and longer-term storage.

Off-river pumped hydro energy storage

In 2021, the U.S. had 43 operating pumped hydro plants with a total generating capacity of about 22 gigawatts and an energy storage capacity of 553 gigawatt-hours. They make up 93% of utility-scale storage in the country. Globally, pumped hydro’s share of energy storage is even higher – about 99% of energy storage volume.

Pump hydro projects can be controversialparticularly when they involve dams on rivers that flood land to create new reservoirs and can affect ecosystems.

Creating closed-loop systems that use pairs of existing lakes or reservoirs instead of rivers would avoid the need for new dams. A project planned in Bell County, Kentucky, for example, uses an old coal strip mine. Little additional land is needed except for transmission lines.

Satellite image showing potential pairings of reservoirs in a mountain area.
Examples from the atlas of off-river reservoirs with the potential to be paired for pumped hydro near Castle Rock, Colorado. Andrew BlakersCC BY

An off-river pumped hydro system comprises a pair of reservoirs spaced several miles apart with an altitude difference of 200-800 meters (about 650-2,600 feet) and connected with pipes or tunnels. The reservoirs can be new or use old mining sites or existing lakes or reservoirs.

On sunny or windy days, water is pumped to the upper reservoir. At night, the water flows back down through the turbines to recover the stored energy.

A pair of 250-acre reservoirs with an altitude difference of 600 meters (1,969 feet) and 20-meter depth (65 feet) can store 24 gigawatt-hours of energy, meaning the system could supply 1 gigawatt of power for 24 hours, enough for a city of a million people.

The water can cycle between upper and lower reservoirs for a hundred years or more. Evaporation suppressors – small objects floating on the water to trap humid air – can help reduce water evaporation. In all, the amount of water needed to support a 100% renewable electricity system is about 3 liters per person per day, equivalent to 20 seconds of a morning shower. This is one-tenth of the water evaporated per person per day in the cooling systems of U.S. fossil fuel power stations.


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ALASKA MAN BUILDS 300KW HYDROELECTRIC PLANT IN HIS BACK YARD


An Anchorage hydrologist recently flipped the switch on a state-of-the-art hydroelectric system that he built on his mountainous property near Ram Valley, above Eagle River.

THIS DAM SIMPLE TRICK IS A BIG GREEN ENERGY WIN


Only a small fraction of dams actually produce electricity. Transforming them into hydropower plants might stop new ones from being built.


Storage to support 100% renewables

Little pumped storage has been built in the U.S. in recent years because there hasn’t been much need, but that’s changing.

In 2020, about three-quarters of all new power capacity built was either solar photovoltaics or wind power. Their costs have been falling, making them cheaper to build in many areas than fossil fuels.

Australia is installing solar and wind three times faster per capita than the U.S. and is already facing the need for mass storage. It has two systems under construction that are designed to have more energy storage than all the utility batteries in the world put together; another dozen are under serious consideration. None involve new dams on rivers. The annual operating cost is low, and the working fluid is water rather than battery chemicals.

Shifting electricity to renewable energy and then electrifying vehicles and heating can eliminate most human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. has vast potential for off-river pumped hydro storage to help this happen, and it will need it as wind and solar power expand.

Source:

Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu & Matthew Stocks at The Conversation



For BP, car chargers to overtake pumps in profitability race

For BP, car chargers to overtake pumps in profitability race


BP says its fast electric vehicle chargers are on the cusp of becoming more profitable than filling up a petrol car.


The milestone will mark a significant moment for BP which wants to shift away from oil and expand operations in power markets and around electric vehicles (EV).

EV charging has for years been a loss-making business as a whole for BP and rivals as they invest heavily in its expansion. The division is not expected to turn profitable before 2025 but on a margin basis, BP’s fast battery charging points, which can replenish a battery within minutes, are nearing levels they see from filling up with petrol.

“If I think about a tank of fuel versus a fast charge, we are nearing a place where the business fundamentals on the fast charge are better than they are on the fuel,” BP’s head of customers and products Emma Delaney told Reuters.

Strong and rising demand for rapid battery chargers in Britain and Europe, has already brought profit margins close to those for traditional petrol filling, she said.

Delaney did not disclose profit and loss for EV charging or when overall profit from the business could eclipse traditional fuel. In 2020 BP reported a gross margins for retail fuel sales of $3.5 billion. Its customers and products division made $2.6 billion in net profit in the first nine months of 2021, around 17% of the company’s total profit.

The company also said that electricity sales for EV charging grew 45% in the third quarter of 2021 from the previous quarter.

According to consultancy Thunder Said Energy, the traditional fuel retail margin at petrol stations is about 17 cents per gallon, roughly 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

London-based BP plans to grow its EV charging business in the coming years to 70,000 charging points by 2030 from 11,000 now.

Like rivals including Royal Dutch Shell, BP’s retail business, which includes fuel sales and convenience stores, is highly profitable and central in its energy transition strategy.

“Overall, we see a huge opportunity in fast charging for consumers and businesses, as well as fleet services more generally – that’s where we see the growth, and where we see the margins,” Delaney said.

Shell aims to have 500,000 charging points globally by 2025. On Thursday it opened its first ultra-fast EV charging station in London, which can charge 80% of a car battery in 10 minutes.


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TAIWAN SOON TO HAVE MORE GOGORO ELECTRIC SCOOTER BATTERY SWAP STATIONS THAN GAS STATIONS


Electric scooter manufacturer Gogoro is famous for its battery-swapping network of GoStations that extensively covers its native Taiwan. The system has become so popular that it will soon eclipse the number of gas stations on the island nation.

ENGLAND WILL BE FIRST COUNTRY TO REQUIRE NEW HOMES TO INCLUDE EV CHARGERS


The British government has introduced legislation that will require all newly built homes and offices to feature electric vehicle chargers in England.


While rivals like Shell are investing in a range of charging technologies including tens of thousands of slower, low voltage, on-street charging points in Britain and elsewhere, BP is focusing on fast and ultra-fast charging technology.

“We’ve made a choice to really go after high speed, on the go charging – rather than slow lamppost charging for example,” Delaney said.

Fast charging, defined as more than 50 kilowatt, and super-fast charging at more than 150 kilowatt, are however expensive to install as they require large investment in heavy-duty power infrastructure.

“Historically, many operators have struggled to make money out of EV charging, that’s been like the worst kept secret in the industry,” said Adrian Del Maestro, director at PwC Strategy&.

The drive to expand EV charging points also aims at keeping a strong stream of customers at BP’s petrol stations and their adjacent convenience stores.

“There has been a land grab by charge point operators, including the oil majors, to buy real estate and build infrastructure, with a view to generating growth revenues in the future,” Del Maestro said.

Source:

Ron Bousso via Reuters



What Are Solar Trees, and Could They Replace Solar Panels?

What Are Solar Trees, and Could They Replace Solar Panels?


At first glance, solar trees might seem impractical — more art than function when compared to the best solar panels. But solar trees offer a few surprising benefits over their ground-mounted counterparts


Did you know that the shape of airplane wings were designed to mimic the sloped wing tips of eagles? That the ridges on whales’ fins that create an aerodynamic flow in water inspired the shape of the modern wind turbine? That termites drilling holes in their mounds to cool down in the desert summers influenced a method for designing more energy-efficient buildings?

Biomimicry has long been one of my favorite growing areas of science and sustainability — emulating models, systems or elements of nature to solve complex human problems. After all, mother nature has been around a lot longer than humans; she has a lot to teach us. So, as a specialist focused on solar energy, I’ve often wondered what nature can teach us about how to capture our power from the sun. Enter solar trees. 

What Are Solar Trees? 

A solar tree is a device resembling a tree in shape, but with photovoltaic (PV) panels in place of its crown. The “leaves” of the tree capture solar energy and convert it to electricity, with branches funneling that electricity down through a trunk and into a central battery within. In essence, they provide the same benefits as solar panels, but they use only a fraction of the surface area necessary for an array of solar panels.       

Solar trees are not a new invention, but they’re enjoying a rising popularity. Most of our readers may recognize the most iconic solar trees in Singapore’s stunning Gardens By the Bay, as seen in productions like Crazy Rich Asians and The Bachelor.

As they exist today, more solar trees raise public awareness around sustainability than are used to generate residential or commercial power. What’s more, the trees are still perceived as “futuristic,” but it might be time we start shifting our mindset about these inventions by incorporating them into our vision of what sustainability looks like in practice. Here’s why:

Benefits of Solar Trees

At first glance, solar trees might seem impractical — more art than function when compared to the best solar panels. But solar trees offer a few surprising benefits over their ground-mounted counterparts, including:

  • Solar trees preserve land: Since solar trees are vertically integrated, they require significantly less land than solar farms. The same logic would apply to a high-rise being able to fit more residents than a one-story house. Plus, because of their greater heights, the panels may receive more sunlight than a ground-mounted or roof-mounted arrangement would.
  • They can provide habitat for rare flora and fauna: Solar trees like those in Singapore’s Gardens By the Bay are large enough to host tropical flowers, vines and plants on its trunk and branches. These valuable habitats provide homes for plants and animals, protecting biodiversity in urban areas. 
  • Solar trees require little maintenance: Besides cleaning debris off the solar panels every now and then, solar trees are standalone electrical units requiring little to no maintenance.
  • The trees cool heat islands: By creating shade in urban environments, solar trees reduce the amount of thermal energy that is reflected off of urban surfaces like asphalt, concrete and brick. This can combat the most deadly effects of climate change within cities.
  • They increase awareness of clean energy: The striking structures are immediate attention-getters, conveying a message of creativity, resourcefulness, humility and the need to incorporate sustainability into everyday life. We see similar art installations at work across the world, such as the Terra pavilion in Dubai.

Solar Trees Vs. Solar Panels

We mentioned that solar trees serve essentially the same purpose as solar panels but require a much smaller footprint to do so. But are there any other significant differences outside the trees’ widespread adoption? Let’s dig in.

Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency is a measure of how much energy is produced relative to the amount of sunlight that strikes the panels. So, to compare a standard solar array and solar trees in terms of efficiency, we’d need to know the specs of the solar cells used within the tree. 

However, when it comes to space efficiency, trees take the crown. This solar tree in West Bengal, India produces enough energy to power five homes in the U.S. Solar trees in Lynn Haven, Florida are capable of powering six to seven homes. Instead of using an entire roof to produce this electricity, the trees do so using only a few square feet of ground space. 

Cost

Since solar trees are still rare in the U.S., the average installation cost is high. According to top solar tree company Spotlight Solar advertises total pricing to be $40,000 to $80,000. Based on current average solar costs, you could buy a 15-kW to 30-kW solar panel system (for context, the average home needs a system between 5 kW and 10 kW). 

Of course, the complexity and size of the solar tree will influence the final price. Until solar trees reach the commercial mainstream, demand will limit their widespread availability. 

Storage and Distribution

Solar trees are used to produce electricity that will be used onsite. Storing and distributing the energy generated by the trees (like solar farms and power plants do) would require larger solar batteries and complex systems of transmission.

Utility

While solar panels are used primarily on rooftops or mounted on the ground, solar trees offer a different type of utility. In addition to energy, they provide shade and whimsy while taking up minimal surface area. A creative mind could find endless uses for these trees: shade for city sidewalks, parking lots, playgrounds, backyards and more. This brings us to…


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THESE WINDOWS ARE SEE-THROUGH SOLAR PANELS


What if solar panels weren’t just on the roof?

HUGE SUPPLY OF WATER IS SAVED FROM EVAPORATION WHEN SOLAR PANELS ARE BUILT OVER CANALS


In an interview, famed astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson explained that we already have flying cars, in a way, because tunnels and overpasses allow cars to access the third dimension. By that logic, India has invented ‘flying solar panels,’ which are being suspended above irrigation canals to cut down on the evaporation of precious water droplets by providing shade from the sun’s evaporating heat.


The Future of Solar Trees

The metallic, modern look of solar trees might turn off the average reader, but keep in mind that as the technology improves, investment flows and demand increases, they’ll become much more similar in appearance to real trees or other plants. This modern mimicry will allow us to blend the trees into our forests, yards, coastlines, parks and cities. 

Apart from residential applications, here are a few of our favorite ideas for the uses of solar trees:

  • Shade along highways or agricultural areas
  • Artistic installations in public parks, outdoor malls and gardens
  • Energy sources for carports and parking lots

Solar trees may still be a few years from the mainstream, but relative to other solar panel alternatives like solar roads, they offer a lot more practical value. The efficiency and versatility of the trees make them ideal for cities and densely populated areas, making us think they will be commonplace sooner than you might expect. 

Looking to “Plant” a Solar Tree?

The options are still somewhat limited, but there are a number of organizations that can install solar trees throughout the U.S. We’d recommend starting with these companies:

Smartflower

Smartflower offers stunning designs of solar devices in the shapes of trees and sunflowers, with solar petals tracking, opening and closing with the sun for optimal energy conversion. We’re talking about premiere trees here. Each tree has an output of 2.5 kW at peak power, which is about half the power production of a small home rooftop solar system. 

Smartflower solar flower on lawn with two people and dog playing Frisbee
Courtesy Smartflower

Spotlight Solar

North Carolina-based Spotlight Solar produces models of several different types of solar trees. With flexible configurations, accessory options, efficient panels and quick assembly, Spotlight Solar’s trees serve as great options for public parks, carports and walkways.

Spotlight Solar solar tree models diagram
Courtesy Spotlight Solar

Beam Global

Founded in 2006, Beam Global (formerly Envision Solar) produces patented infrastructure products for the electrification of transportation. The San Diego-based company offers solar trees and solar carports as electric vehicle charging stations.

Beam solar trees shading parking spots
Courtesy Beam

Source:

Karsten Neumeister at EcoWatch



These windows are see-through solar panels

These windows are see-through solar panels


What if solar panels weren’t just on the roof?


In a recently built office building in Boulder, Colorado, there are solar panels on the roof. But the building also has one of the world’s first installations of solar-window technology—transparent panels that look like ordinary windows, but also invisibly generate energy.

“When you think about the commercial market, you can imagine big skyscrapers becoming vertical solar farms,” says Susan Stone, CEO of Ubiquitous Energy, the startup developing the technology, which is based on work that began at MIT. “You make that glass surface, which isn’t traditionally available for electricity generation.” Solar windows can also be used to replace ordinary windows in homes.

Boulder Commons, Colorado [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

The technology works by capturing only part of the solar spectrum. “We actually let the visible light that our eyes can see pass right through our material,” says Miles Barr, cofounder and chief technology officer. “And that makes it look invisible to us.” Because typical solar panels absorb the full spectrum—making them appear black—the solar windows capture about a third less energy. But since they can be used in areas where regular solar panels can’t, they can help add to the supply of renewable energy.

Boulder Commons, Colorado [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

The windows, with two panes of glass that are sealed together, have wires that can be connected either directly to something next to the window—such as a light or electronic blinds—or connected to a battery in the building or back into the electric grid.

Boulder Commons, Colorado [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

The startup has spent several years developing the materials, including semiconductors that can selectively capture infrared and ultraviolet light, and ensuring that the product matches the performance and quality of nonsolar windows. Right now, at its pilot production facility in Redwood City, California, the company is making small window panels that have been installed in a handful of pilot locations, including the office building in Colorado. But it’s also preparing for larger-scale manufacturing, and developing processes to make the windows that can run on current window-manufacturing lines. “We’re bringing a disruptive product to market,” says Stone. “And we’re intentionally doing that without disrupting the supply chain.”


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TRANSPARENT SOLAR PANELS LOOK TO REVOLUTIONISE FARMING


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SOLAR FARMS ARE NOW STARTING TO REPLACE GOLF COURSES


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Michigan State University [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

Andersen Corporation, the international window manufacturer, is one of the startup’s investors and participating in a recent $3o million Series B funding round. “Anderson led the industry in transitioning to insulated-glass units and pioneered the use of low-E coatings, all of which improved dramatically the energy performance of our windows, and both have now become an industry standard,” says Karl Halling, treasurer of Andersen Corp. “Andersen really sees this investment in this technology as a continuation of that legacy.”

As manufacturing scales up, Ubiquitous Energy expects the windows to be around 30% more expensive than conventional windows. But if the windows can replace standard glass, the impact could be significant. The company has estimated that there are 20 billion square feet of glass installed around the world annually, and if all of it was producing power, it would result in a 10% decrease in global emissions. “When you think about the impact that this can have,” says Stone, “it’s huge.”

Source:

Adele Peters at Fast Company



Taiwan soon to have more Gogoro electric scooter battery swap stations than gas stations

Taiwan soon to have more Gogoro electric scooter battery swap stations than gas stations


Electric scooter manufacturer Gogoro is famous for its battery-swapping network of GoStations that extensively covers its native Taiwan. The system has become so popular that it will soon eclipse the number of gas stations on the island nation.


Gogoro’s battery swap stations look something like a bright green and white vending machine.

Users of Gogoro’s batteries (which include scooters of many different brands thanks to its partnerships), simply roll up to a station and swap out their depleted battery for a freshly charged unit. A subscription service makes it a quick and easy process that takes just a few seconds.

At the end of 2021, Gogoro counted a total of 2,215 GoStations nationwide, according to the Taipei Times. The number of gas stations stood barely higher at 2,487.

At Gogoro’s current rate of expansion, 2022 very well may be the year that the number of GoStations surpasses the number of gas stations.

While that may be just an interesting factoid for Taiwan, it paints an important picture of what’s to come for much of Asia and the rest of the world.

Gogoro has aggressively expanded into major two-wheeler countries in the past year, where motorcycles and scooters make up a majority of the vehicles on the road in many cities.

Replacing those loud, polluting gas-powered vehicles with silent and emission-free electric scooters and motorcycles will make a large impact on these cities, measurable in both the decibel and air particulate levels.

This past April, Gogoro announced that it was entering the Indian market and partnering with Hero Motorcorp, the world’s largest motorcycle builder.

Gogoro followed up shortly afterwards with another announcement that it would enter the Chinese market thanks to a new three-way partnership with two-wheeler leaders Yadea and DCJ.

Barely another month went by before Gogoro announced yet another partnership, this time with massive manufacturer Foxconn to produce its electric scooters and swappable batteries.

The rapid expansion continued as Gogoro then announced a partnership with Gojek in November that would see expansion into the large Indonesian market.

Even as Gogoro expands across the Asian continent, its position in the local Taiwanese market grows stronger.

According to a Gogoro representative, 28% of all two-wheeled vehicles sold in Taipei last month were Gogoro-powered, with December marking Gogoro’s largest sales month ever.

The news comes as Gogoro prepares to go public on the Nasdaq via a SPAC deal that will see it listed under the ticker GGR.

When announced last year, the deal was expected to be finalized sometime this quarter.

Gogoro is just one company among dozens that are spreading electric scooters and motorcycles around the world.

But Gogoro’s innovative approach to its GoStations and the company’s rapid expansion has put it in a league of its own.

Seriously, just look at a graph of its domestic e-scooter sales compared to competitors.


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FORD JOLTS AUTO INDUSTRY WITH $11.4 BILLION INVESTMENT IN NEW ELECTRIC VEHICLE, BATTERY PLANTS


“We’re on the cusp of a revolution,” Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford tells NBC Nightly News.


Now with so many companies jumping aboard the Gogoro train and putting the iconic green and black batteries in their own scooters, Gogoro is becoming something of a de facto standard in swappable batteries for light electric vehicles. Gogoro isn’t the only swappable battery game in town, but it is by far the largest. And perhaps a de facto standard is exactly what is needed to further accelerate the adoption of swappable battery technology for light EVs.

I just hope we get to see some light electric cars with a half dozen Gogoro batteries in back. Now that would make my day!

Source:

Micah Toll at ElecTrek



Bill Gates-backed fund aims to invest $15bn in clean tech

Bill Gates-backed fund aims to invest $15bn in clean tech


Breakthrough Energy Catalyst to leverage private-public capital to subsidise new markets for green technologies


Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, a private-public fund backed by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, is reportedly planning to invest up to $15 billion in clean tech projects across the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union.

BEC, a fund that sits within the wider Breakthrough Energy Group that was founded by Gates in 2015, has raised over $1.5 billion from businesses and charitable organizations so far. But Jonah Goldman, BEC managing director, told the Financial Times that the fund ultimately plans to invest 10 times that amount, or $15 billion. BEC did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

In order to deploy $15 billion, Goldman told the FT that the fund plans to use innovative financial structures and partnership agreements. “We are last-mile financing and so, we will be the most risky capital in there,” Goldman said. “We’re really trying to demonstrate which of the technological pathways are going to be most effective.”


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Sometimes the smallest innovations can have the biggest impacts on the world’s efforts to stop global climate change.

BILL GATES AND WARREN BUFFETT TO BUILD NEW KIND OF NUCLEAR REACTOR IN WYOMING


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On its website, Breakthrough Energy describes BEC as a “program to demonstrate how we can finance, produce and buy the new solutions that will underpin a low carbon economy.” BEC will initially focus on direct air capture, green hydrogen, long-duration energy storage, and sustainable aviation fuel. The fund, which plans to invest in large projects that would not otherwise be financially viable, will make philanthropic donations, sub-market equity investments and product offtake agreements, according to the FT.

BEC announced in September that it had secured investments from Microsoft, BlackRockGeneral MotorsAmerican Airlines, Boston Consulting Group, Bank of America and ArcelorMittal. It has also received support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the executive arm of the EU, the European Commission.

Source:

Sam Shead at CNBC



Scotland missed 100% clean electricity consumption in 2020 by only 1.4%

Scotland missed 100% clean electricity consumption in 2020 by only 1.4%


In 2011, Scotland set a target of reaching 100% clean electricity consumption in 2020. And last year, the country almost reached its target – 98.6% of gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources, according to the Scottish government’s December energy statement.


Scotland, which is working to achieve net zero by 2045 – a legally binding target – has one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world.

The BBC notes:

In 2019, Scotland met 90.1% of its equivalent electricity consumption from renewables, according to Scottish government figures.

The 100% target was set in 2011, when renewable technologies generated just 37% of national demand.

Here are Scotland’s energy targets, and what the country has achieved to date:

Energy targetsLatestTarget
Overall renewable energy target: total Scottish energy consumption from renewables25.4% in 202050% by 2030
Renewable electricity target: gross electricity consumption from renewables98.6% in 2020100% by 2020
Renewable heat target: non-electrical heat demand from renewables6.3% in 202011% by 2020
Energy consumption target: Reduction in total energy consumption from 2005-07Down 14.4% in 202012% by 2020
Energy productivity target: percentage change in gross value added achieved from the input of 1 gigawatt hour of energy from 2015Down 5.9% in 2020Up 30% in 2030
Source: Scottish government

61.8% of all electricity generated in Scotland in 2020 was from clean energy sources. There was a 1.9 TWh increase in clean electricity generated in 2020 compared to 2019, mainly from wind and hydro.


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Cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport Michael Matheson said:

Scotland is leading the way internationally with our commitment to be net zero by 2045. This statement shows we are continuing to make good progress with the equivalent of 98.6% of gross electricity consumption being from renewable sources in 2020, which is up from 89.8% in 2019.

Whilst we do have many challenges ahead of us if we are going to meet our ambitious targets, we have laid the groundwork in 2021 for Scotland to take important leaps forward towards net zero.

Source:

Michelle Lewis at Electrek



Solar Farms Could Boost Bumblebee Populations, Study Says

Solar Farms Could Boost Bumblebee Populations, Study Says


A new study finds that installing solar farms could become a two birds, one stone situation, as these areas can also double as thriving pollinator habitats if land owners allow meadows to grow around the solar panels.


The study, from researchers at Lancaster University in the UK that will be presented today at an Ecology Across Borders conference, shows that installing solar farms could be greatly beneficial to nature.

“Our findings provide the first quantitative evidence that solar parks could be used as a conservation tool to support and boost pollinator populations. If they are managed in a way that provides resources, solar parks could become [a] valuable bumble bee habitat,” said Hollie Blaydes, associate lecturer and doctorate student at the university. “In the UK, pollinator habitat has been established on some solar parks, but there is currently little understanding of the effectiveness of these interventions. Our findings provide solar park owners and managers with evidence to suggest that providing floral and nesting resources for bumble bees could be effective.”

While there’s no doubt that solar farms are helpful in generating clean energy, some critics say that these projects require extensive amounts of land that should instead be left untouched. Blaydes notes that solar parks disturb only about 5% of the ground, and these areas can also create new habitats for vulnerable pollinators, whose numbers are dwindling.


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SOLAR FARMS ARE NOW STARTING TO REPLACE GOLF COURSES


Golf courses could be turned into something much more useful and eco-friendly — and some places are doing just that


The researchers note that there are benefits for land owners who want to install solar parks, too. These lands could become meadows, rather than turf, cutting down land management costs for maintaining grass and other interventions. Meadows could also support four times more bumblebees compared to land covered in turf grass.

Another interesting point of the study is that these solar farms could further support bee density up to 1 kilometer outside of the solar farms, and the pollinators could then tend to nearby agricultural crops as well.

The UK already has about 14,000 hectares of solar farms, which have gained both praise and grievances. But Lancaster University researchers continue to dispel concerns.

Another 2021 university study, in collaboration with Ludong University in China and University of California Davis in the U.S., found that solar farms produce “cool islands,” reducing temperatures by about 2.3°C (36.14°F) 100 meters around the solar farm. Cooling effects on a lesser scale extend up to 700 meters around the solar farm.Alona Armstrong, senior lecturer of energy and environmental sciences at Lancaster University and co-author of the cool islands study, said, “This heightens the importance of understanding the implications of renewable energy technologies on the hosting landscape — we need to ensure that the energy transition does not cause undue damage to ecological systems and ideally has net positive consequences on the places where we build them.”

Source:

Paige Bennett at EcoWatch



Solar farms are now starting to replace golf courses

Solar farms are now starting to replace golf courses


Golf courses could be turned into something much more useful and eco-friendly — and some places are doing just that


Few things scream ‘privilege’ the way playing golf does. Golfing has become a symbol of sorts, reserved only for those rich enough to afford it. The courses themselves have become a symbol: lavish, well-maintained, and large areas where people go about hitting the balls.

But the courses also pose a number of environmental problems. Despite being “green”, they don’t typically contribute to biodiversity, and often actually pose serious problems for local biodiversity, as they’re covered in short grass and frequented by humans. To make matters even worse, golf courses consume a lot of water. In the US alone, golf courses require over 2 billion gallons of water (7.5 billion liters) per day, averaging about 130,000 gallons (492,000 liters per day). However, some see an opportunity here — an opportunity to turn golf courses from an environmental problem into an environmental asset. How? By filling them with solar panels.

In New York, a 27-acre that started out as a landfill and then became a golf driving range in the 1980s was transformed into a solar farm in 2019.

“This solar farm is what hope and optimism look like for our future,” Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said in a statement. The non-profit had campaigned for the transformation of the golf course. “We know over the next 20 years, the sun will shine, the power will be produced and we will have clean power. We don’t know, and we may not want to know, the cost of fossil fuels.”

The move not only ensured electricity for around 1,000 houses in Long Island but it will also eliminate some of the pesticides and pollutants in the area — pollutants that the golf course used for maintenance. Overall, the move is estimated to generate $800,000 for local authorities.

This type of project is possible because of recent developments in solar panel technology. It seems like almost overnight, solar panels have become incredibly cheap, and it’s not just the panels themselves — a multitude of solar farm components are becoming cheaper, allowing solar energy to compete, even as the fossil fuel industry remains heavily subsidized.

“I think New York is at a critical time in its history. The state has had really ambitious renewable energy goals, and this is clearly a step in the right direction.”

Next Era spokesman Bryan Garner

Next Era itself is not entirely a renewable energy company but drawn in by falling prices, it’s focusing more and more on solar energy.

This is not the only project to turn golf into solar energy, and New York is not the only place where this is happening. Rockwood Golf Course in Independence, Missouri, has also gone through a similar transformation. In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, solar panels were chosen as the “lesser of two evils”, with the alternative being turning the golf course into housing, which would have caused more traffic and more pollution in the area.

“We like the fact that it will be used for solar,” said Chairman Patricia Kerfoot at A meeting ON THE PROJECT. “That is a policy of the town to increase solar as much as possible, that it will keep it open space, which is part of our local comprehensive plan, as much as possible.” 

It’s a perfect fit if you think about it — golf courses cover large areas of open land, which is exactly what solar farms also need. At the same time, the dropping prices of renewable energy make it a more attractive proposition.

These aren’t just isolated examples, a trend seems to be emerging, driven not just by decreasing prices of solar energy, but also by a decrease in the interest in golf. Between 2003 and 2018, golf saw a decline of almost 7 million players, and any hopes of turning the golf industry around were shattered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Halfway through 2021, the National Golf Foundation reported the closure of 60 18-hole courses, several of which have been replaced by solar farms.

But perhaps nowhere in the world is this trend as prevalent as in Japan.

Japan is turning its abandoned golf courses into solar farms

Japan even has a national plan to replace some of its golf courses with large solar plants.

This is remarkable because, despite declining costs of solar energy, Japan’s solar power is still far more expensive than the global average — and even so, the country feels like adding more and more solar farms. Renewable energy initiatives are welcome and heavily subsidized in Japan, particularly as the country is looking for alternatives to nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima plant disaster.

Japan’s golf courses were built during the country’s inflated-asset boom in the 1980s but interest continued declining as years passed. This is where solar energy enters the stage.

Solar energy has become a national priority for Japan, and the country has become a leader in photovoltaics. In addition to being a leading manufacturer of photovoltaics (PV), Japan is also a large installer of domestic PV systems with most of them grid-connected.


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Naturally, the country also set its sights on golf courses, repurposing several of them for solar installations. The most recent of these, a 100 MW solar plant has begun operation in the Kagoshima Prefecture, becoming one of the largest photovoltaic facilities in the area.

In particular, rural golf courses in Japan were deemed as ideal places or new solar installations. A perfect example is up a mountainous road in Kamigori, in the Hyogo prefecture, where a new solar farm is installed in a former golf course link — generating enough power to meet the needs of 29,000 local households.

Another reason why golf courses are so attractive for solar investments is that the ground has already been leveled, and flood-control and landslide prevention measures are already in place. Essentially, golf courses check all the boxes for what you’d want in a solar farm.

All in all, a tide seems to be turning against some golf courses, and towards solar energy. Innovations on the technical side have made solar plants a cheap and competitive source of energy. The price of electricity generated by utility-scale solar photovoltaic systems is continuously decreasing, but solar plants do more than just offer cheap electricity — as the golf course showed, they have emerged as a space for sustainable innovation.

Source:

Mihai Andrei at ZME Science