Greenergy Efficient

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Green is Cheap, Green is Efficient

Co-Authored By: Jose Luis Esparza with Paul Hullar       

INTRODUCTION

Renewable and Alternative Fuels are continuing to grow with increasing popularity. This is driven by two primary factors. The first is the rising price of traditional grid electricity. The second is the advances in technology, which both reduces the cost of the greener technologies, while increasing their efficiencies. When combined, these two factors have created a marketplace where Renewable fuels can now compete with the traditional fossil fuels. Over the last decade, the strong trend towards greener technologies was driven by a desire to reduce the source’s carbon footprint. Today, while this continues to be a driver, the desire to reduce cost has become an equal driver. Renewable and Alternative Fuels can now offer very favorable returns, often with 3-4 years for a full return on investment. The execution of a solid Energy Conservation Program is crucial prior to investment in Renewable technologies. With this approach, the energy requirements are greatly reduced, which in turn reduces the amount of capital required for the Renewable technology.

CURRENT TRENDS

Photovoltaic (PV) Solar remains one of the most important Renewable technologies available today, with panel efficiencies far greater than those available just a few years ago. The integration of new electronics and two-plane tracking of the sun with GPS has further increased the power output of PV Solar. Additionally, the international production of solar panels has reduced the end-user cost through healthy competition, while many states and countries continue to offer attractive rebates, incentives, and tax credits for both residential and commercial installations.

Wind power has secured a new place in the market as a complimentary or hybridized solution with PV Solar. Whereas PV Solar produces all of its power during the daylight hours, wind power often peaks during the night hours. The result of combining the two is a flatter power profile than either technology could offer independently.

Hydro power has been around long before PV Solar and continues to be a mainstay of Renewable technology. Further, it continues to offer a green source of energy storage, where an elevated reservoir is used to store potential energy for reuse at a later time when the additional power is required.

And finally, Geothermal HVAC has become very popular recently with new construction of homes and commercial buildings. This technology consists of a series of underground pipes or ducts, which utilize the stable temperatures that exist just a few meters below the surface of the ground. During the warm summer months, the cooler underground temperature pre-cools the intake air to the building, reducing the A/C load. In the colder winter months, the underground temperatures pre-heat the intake air to reduce the load on the heaters.

EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES

Waste Gasification is for sure one of the emerging technologies with the greatest potential, both in developed and also in developing countries. This technology uses MSW (municipal solid waste), which is basically trash, as a feedstock and converts it into a useful output like syngas, biodiesel or electricity. It can significantly contribute to the solution of the trash problem, which is a common denominator in many, if not all countries. It can generate electricity, which is required by everybody, at a competitive price. In addition, it helps reduce CO2 emissions, an added and expected value for many companies and governments in these days.

Waste gasification is different from incineration. There are several different technologies (steam drum reformation, liquid metal bath, plasma torch, to name a few) and most have in common the capability to convert waste into a synthesis gas (syngas) using high temperatures without the presence of oxygen. This avoids combustion and therefore avoids harmful emissions. These waste gasification technologies have been in development during the last several years and are now ready for commercial expansion. This will definitively be one of the key technologies of the future.

CSP (concentrated solar power) is another emerging technology, which will have a significant impact due its higher efficiency vs solar photovoltaic. The technology uses different types of mirrors to magnify the solar heat. It then heats a fluid within a pipeline to convert it into steam. This steam can be used directly to supplement a boiler, or can be used in a turbine to produce electricity.

CSP has also become more efficient, lower cost and more scalable. This provides a lot of flexibility to utilize the technology in small, medium or big plants. It can be used to produce electricity at utility scale.

Geothermal Powerhas been around for more than 50 years. It requires the plant to be located in an area where the geothermal resources are close to the surface. It uses the hot water and/or steam to generate electricity. The main technologies are dry steam, flash and binary. Geothermal power is base load (constant) and it produces no emissions.

Geothermal current capacity is around 12,000 MW globally. The reason why we considered it to be an emerging technology is because it is getting more efficient, with new and efficient techniques to explore and drill. Also with more efficient generators, which can produce electricity with water temperatures as low as 96 C. Finally, it is expected to grow from 13,000 MW of capacity to 200,000 MW by 2050.

Energy Storage. One of the key problems of several renewable energy technologies is that they are not constant. The best examples are solar PV and wind. Therefore, storing energy in a practical and cost effective way, which is not available now, will be necessary and very valuable. Finally, a few emerging technologies are achieving its purpose, providing reliable and cost effective energy storage. Some of the most effective and efficient technologies to storing energy are: salt and compresses air.

Some CSP plants store energy in the form of heat, which can last several hours after the sun has set. This provides more hours of energy production and therefore a higher payback for these projects.

Some new devices can store compressed air when electricity is cheap (e.g. at night) and then release the compressed air generating electricity when the electricity is more expensive (e.g. at peak hours or during the day).

[Paul Hullar is the Founder and CEO of  Brightwave Energy. Paul Hullar served as an executive with Procter & Gamble for 25 Years prior to founding Brightwave Energy. After leading manufacturing organizations in Green Bay (WI), Cape Girardeau (MO), Mehoopany (PA), and Oxnard (CA), Paul developed and led their Energy Conservation Program, which spanned across their 134 world-wide facilities.. Through a Program of Conservation and Alternative & Advanced Fuel strategies, Paul led the program that reduced their energy consumption by 26% in less than 4 years, generating over $230 Million USD in savings. The Alternative & Advanced Fuel Strategies were developed to drive a 70% reduction in their Carbon Footprint. Paul has created Energy Management Plans in manufacturing operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, Poland, and England, and has a strong relationship with the US Department of Energy.]