A hybrid solar / geothermal power plant  

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David Roberts at Vox points to this video on Enel Green Power's Stillwater hybrid geothermal and solar thermal and solar PV power plant in Nevada.

Redflow launches home solar storage battery to take on Tesla Powerwall  

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The ABC has a report on Australian flow battery company Redflow and their new ZCell home energy storage device.

The 10 kWh device is being touted as a competitor to the Tesla Powerwall, with one benefit highlighted being the ability to easily recycle the materials used, quoting company chairman Simon Hackett - "The active parts are plastic, aluminium and steel, the fluid electrolyte can be removed and cleaned and put in the next battery so the whole thing is very recyclable".

Redflow announced pricing details and specifications on Wednesday - the ZCell will be installed for between $A17,500 and $A19,500 a system.

Protean begins deployment of 30 wave energy devices  

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ReNew Economy has a report on WA company Protean Wave Energy starting phase 2 of their commercialisation process by commencing installation of up to 30 of its wave energy converters at the Port of Bunbury in the state's south west.

The wave energy converters measure about 1 metre across by 1.5 metres high when stacked, with a peak capacity rating of1.5kW.

Browse Floating LNG Project Shelved  

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The SMH reports that Woodside's Browse project has shelved plans to build a floating LNG plant to exploit the field offshore from Western Australia.

The article notes that the Abadi project in Indonesia has also given up on floating LNG technology for now.

Woodside's reasoning seems to have been based more on the sliding price for LNG and a lack of buyers willing to make long term commitments rather than any perceived problems with the technology.

The article also noted that other FLNG projects are proceeding, such as ENI's Coral venture in Mozambique and Golar LNG's projects in west Africa for Ophir Energy and Perenco.

Shell's Prelude FLNG project in northern Australia is still going ahead as well.

Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment, 2016  

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ReNew Economy has a summary of the 2016 report (PDF) on Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment from the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) - Wind and solar standouts in stellar year for renewables.

In 2015, for the first time ever renewable power sources accounted for more than half of the new energy generation capacity installed (without including big hydro) – beating out coal and gas-fired generation.

Opec has failed to stop US shale revolution admits energy watchdog  

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I'm always a little dubious about Ambrose Evans-Pritchard but over the years he has done a great job of covering the topic of oil production and energy geopolitics (albeit with his own political slant).

One of his recent columns in the UK Daily Telegraph has a look at comments from the IEA's Neil Atkinson on the state of the US shale oil industry and then does a roundup of global changes in oil supply and demand - Opec has failed to stop US shale revolution admits energy watchdog.

One key participant in the US shale oil boom was Chesapeake's Aubury McClendon, who recently perished in a car accident shortly after being indicted for various financial crimes.

Elsewhere in the oil patch, Amy Myers Jaffe of the Houston Chronicle's "FuelFix" site has an article on oil geopolitics and efforts to curb supply increases by various OPEC and non-OPEC countries - Commentary: In geopolitical conflict and oil Round 1 all parties score point. One interesting snippet was the claim that US shale oil producers have managed to cut break-even costs by 30-40% over the past year and have increased reserves.

Kinetic Sculptures by Anthony Howe  

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I quite like these kinetic art objects from Anthony Howe. I'm not sure if they generate power as well but they'd be a great garden feature if they did.

New Frontiers In Wind Turbine Size  

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Motherboard has an article on "Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotors" - enormous wind turbines being proposed that would be capable of generating 25 times the power of a contemporary conventional wind turbine - The World's Largest Wind Turbines Will Be Taller Than the Empire State Building.

The article claims each blade would span over 200 metres (far surpassing the largest blades currently in use - around 90 metres). The design would require towers to be half a kilometre tall.

Heating, fresh water and electricity from seawater and sunlight  

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While Port Augusta waits to see if any solar thermal power plants will be constructed in the town, one project which has gone ahead is a smaller solar tower providing electricity, heat and desalinated water to a tomato farm.

The company behind the project is Aalborg CSP. The project consists of a tower with a 234-tonne central boiler and 23,000 mirrors.

The "Integrated Energy System" will be the first large-scale CSP-based technology in the world to provide multiple energy streams – heating, fresh water and electricity – for horticultural activities.

Deepwater Horizon - The Movie  

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Due out in September apparently.

Dyson developing an electric car ?  

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The Guardian is speculating that Dyson may soon begin manufacturing electric cars - Dyson developing an electric car, according to government documents.

This follows significant investment in battery technology companies in recent years.

Message To Australia: 'Hands Off Timor's Oil'  

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It seems there is a social media campaign to try to pressure Australia into negotiating a fairer agreement with East Timor over oil and gas rights in the Timor sea - Message To Australia: 'Hands Off Timor's Oil'.

I'm sure the government will eventually agree to such a thing once there are no significant fields left in the area.

#handsofftimorsoil #medianlinenow

A photo posted by 👑KingKayden👑 (@cillizzle) on

Feeling the Bern ?  

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Bernie Sanders is still beating Hillary Clinton in terms of fundraising though he is struggling to win many primaries lately, with a "disappointing" loss in Ohio recently.

There has been a lot of speculation lately that Bernie will prove to be a much more effective candidate against Donald Trump than Hillary, with some articles noting that once early voters are taken out of the equation Bernie has tended to win primaries once the voters know who he is.

There has also been some interesting speculation about vote fraud and suppression, following similar patterns in the 2004 presidential election.

Bike use vs Car use in London  

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Shetland Tidal Array exports power to grid for first time  

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The Shetland Tidal Array, one of the world’s first tidal arrays has commenced power generation.

The tidal power plant consists of three 100 kW turbines, with more planned in following phases.

Port Augusta Pushing For Solar Thermal Power To Replace Coal  

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Port Augusta's ageing coal mines and coal fired power plants have been destined for closure for some time, with the clock finally winding down on them and the remaining Northern Power plant scheduled to close down in May.

There have been various proposals to build alternative solar power based generation facilities in the region as a replacement, leveraging some of the existing infrastructure, however most of these have been abandoned.

Now that new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has decided to keep the Clean Energy Finance Corporation alive (dumping plans by his incompetent predecessor to shut it down), a new push has begun to build a solar thermal power plant in the Port Augusta area.

The latest plan is for US company SolarReserve to build a 110MW solar tower plant, similar to the Crescent Dunes facility in Nevada.

Floating Solar Power Plants  

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The BBC has a pair of reports on floating solar power plants being built on top of dams in the UK - a practical way of building large scale renewable energy plants close to urban areas - Floating solar farm installation starts in Greater Manchester and Europe's largest floating solar farm to open.

This idea also helps reduce evaporation from the dam - and where the dam is also used for hydro-electric power, has a ready made, intermittently used grid connection available too.

An example of this is being put into practice in Brazil - Cleantechnica has a report on one 10MW project (out of a total of 350MW of floating solar plants planned for the country) - Brazil Pairs Hydro & Floating Solar.

Brazil isn't the only country in the Americas building floating solar plants - the concept has spread to the united States as well - Partners Start Building 3.2 MW Floating Solar Project In N.J..

The country which has taken the greatest interest in floating solar plants is Japan (unsurprising given the huge build out of solar in the country since the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the lack of empty land for large scale solar power plants). The world's largest example is under construction by Kyocera in Chiba prefecture - Japan begins work on 'world's largest' floating solar farm.

Why Tesla Wants to Sell a Battery for Your Home  

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The Tesla Powerwall was the big energy storage news item of last year (though it didn't meet with universal acclaim).

Technology Review had a good summary at the time of what Tesla was looking to achieve - Why Tesla Wants to Sell a Battery for Your Home.

Tesla is launching the home battery business partly because it’s already making vehicle batteries—and as a result it can benefit from the economies of scale that come from making both. Another reason is that the market for storage is expected to grow in concert with the use of solar power. Tesla needs both electric vehicles and solar power to boom if it hopes to fulfill the projected output from a vast $5 billion battery “gigafactory” it’s building in Nevada.

The ABC also has a good explainer from earlier this year on the economics of the Powerwall in Australia - Explained: The Tesla Powerwall and what it means for Australia's energy market (drawing from this analysis by Choice - Powerwall payback).

Tesla is apparently looking to launch a new version of the Powerwall mid-year - in the meantime RenewEconomy reports that they have stopped selling the 10kwh model of the original version - Tesla quietly removes 10kWh Powerwall back-up battery storage option.

The primary use case for home storage is daily cycling, also known as peak shaving, which can be applied a few different ways. The primary reason for the product existing is to store up solar energy made from customer panels during the day, which can then be used at night. In markets with net metering, there is no financial incentive for doing this. In markets with no net metering regulation, Powerwalls — and residential battery storage in general — could be game changers.

GreenTech Media has a report on Tesla's efforts to drive storage costs lower as the Gigafactory nears completion - How Soon Can Tesla Get Battery Cell Costs Below $100 per Kilowatt-Hour?

Ben Kallo at equity analyst firm RW Baird believes that Tesla's current battery costs are ~$150 to ~$200 per kilowatt-hour, well below the industry average pack costs of ~$350 per kilowatt-hour. ... Kallo suggests that the Chevy Bolt's battery costs "are significantly higher" than those of Tesla. Kallo suggests that Tesla "could reach its <$100 per kilowatt-hour target in the intermediate term as Gigafactory production ramps." ... GM sees its battery cell cost hitting $100 per kilowatt-hour in 2022. (GM is quoting cell cost, while Kallo is talking about battery packs. A complete battery pack "typically adds 20 percent above the cost of cells," according to David Snydacker, a battery expert at Dosima Research.)

Nevada's new solar farm that generates power 24/7 with molten salt  

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Digital Trends has an article on Solar Reserve's Crescent Dunes solar thermal power -project in Nevada - Take a peek inside Nevada's new solar farm that generates power 24/7 with molten salt.

The Rise Of Electric Vehicles  

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Mother Jones has a look at research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) into the future of electric vehicles - The Bright Future Ahead for Electric Vehicles, in 4 Charts.

Last month, Elon Musk predicted that the electric vehicle industry will "definitely suffer" from low oil prices—a barrel of crude is about $33 today, down from more than $100 a year ago. Why invest in an electric car when gas is so cheap? And sure enough, sales of gas-guzzling SUVs jumped 10 percent in 2015, while electric vehicle sales dipped 4 percent.

But don't expect that trend to last, even if oil prices stay relatively low. A new market forecast from Bloomberg New Energy Finance paints a rosy picture for the future of electric vehicles, rising from about 1 percent of global annual vehicle sales today to 35 percent by 2040—about 41 million cars.

Wired has a report on the same topic, noting "by 2022, the unsubsidized total cost of ownership of battery electric vehicles will fall below that of an internal combustion engine vehicle" - The Electric Car Revolution Is Now Scheduled for 2022.

Fortune notes there has been a steady shift of focus towards EVs at GM in recent years, claiming "Half of the 8,600 designers and engineers who work on the products and controls that make GM cars and trucks move—literally—are involved with alternative and electric propulsion systems" - GM's Electric Car Ambitions Are Reshaping the Company.

Bloomberg has an article on BMW's refocus on EVs as well, noting the BMW iNext is a "self-driving, electric car to supplant the 7-Series sedan as its flagship model in the coming years, responding to the challenges posed by the likes of Apple and Uber Technologies" - BMW Counters Apple Threat With Self-Driving, Electric Car Push.

Tesla is still leading the way when it comes to EV sales. The NY Post reports that Tesla is rolling out a network of 105 charging stations in New York city - claiming "this means there could soon be three times as many electric-car charging stations in Manhattan as gas stations" - .

Peak Oil Returns: Why Demand Will Likely Peak By 2030  

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Think Progress has a post on the "peak oil demand" theory that seems to have come into vogue to replace traditional peak oil theory based on supply depletion - Peak Oil Returns: Why Demand Will Likely Peak By 2030.

Is it possible that the world is actually going to follow the path of the “Transport Transformation Scenario” and peak in oil demand by 2030 or so? At this point I think is not only possible, but likely.

It is increasingly clear that technology will be here to make that possible — indeed, the technology is almost here now (see this recent post, “Tesla And GM Announce Affordable, Long-Range Electric Cars”). Same with the renewables needed to power electric cars carbon-free (see “Why The Renewables Revolution Is Now Unstoppable“).

The core issue now is whether the nations of the world will embrace the policies needed to accelerate those technologies into the marketplace fast enough to cause demand to actually peak in one to two decades globally — much as oil demand in the industrialized countries appears to have peaked a decade ago.

Is Donald Trump a Democratic secret agent ?  

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I quite enjoyed this BBC piece from late last year on the origins of Donald trump's campaign for the Republican nomination - Is Donald Trump a Democratic secret agent?.

"If Donald Trump were a Democratic mole placed in the Republican Party to disrupt things, how would his behaviour be any different?" asked conservative political commentator George Will in July. "I don't think it would be."

Just over a week later Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida called Mr Trump "a phantom candidate recruited by the left to create this entire political circus." And he laid out what is the foundation of the Trump conspiracy theories. "Mr Trump has a close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton," he said. "They were at his last wedding. He has contributed to the Clintons' foundation. He has contributed to Mrs Clinton's Senate campaigns. All of this is very suspicious."

Of course Mr Trump has also contributed to plenty of Republicans. He likes to boast that he has "bought" politicians of all stripes. And Mr Trump's wedding was a coveted invitation for all of New York City's elite, of which the Clintons were definitely part.

Also suspicious - for those predisposed to suspicion, at least - is a "mystery" phone call between Mr Trump and Bill Clinton in May, less than a month before the real-estate tycoon tossed his hat into the presidential ring.

Kevin at Cryptogon seems to think Trump's purpose is to elect Hillary as well - what choice to voters have when they are faced with an establishment favourite and a populist conman from the 1% ? Bernie Sanders has an uphill battle to take the Democratic nomination but at least he offers an alternative to the status quo that seems to have so many Americans angry - At Secretive Meeting, Tech CEOs and Top Republicans Plot to Stop Trump.

I’m trying to understand this Trump situation and the hysterical freakout that’s ensuing in elite and media circles.

Trump could have been vote-frauded into oblivion by now.

Why hasn’t that happened?

My best guess is that the primary purpose of the Donald Trump candidacy—whether he knows it or not—is to escort Hillary to the White House by simply drawing attention away from the Clintons’ life of crime.

What Happened to Peak Oil ?  

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Greentech Media has a long look at the state of the peak oil debate - What Happened to Peak Oil?

The peak oil debate has taken an interesting turn. It seems now that we may hit peak demand before we hit peak oil (in terms of physical production limits). By "peak demand," I mean the globe may see a permanent decline in oil demand before we hit long-term physical production limits. If this is the case, the cornucopians will have been proven right -- not the peak oilers. Time will tell.

Why would we see a decline in demand any time soon, with the developing world population and consumption still growing strongly? As I’ve described in previous columns, exponential growth in electric vehicles and steadily declining costs may well lead to a relatively rapid transformation in how we move people and goods in the coming two to three decades.

We can’t at this point make any firm predictions about sales of EVs even in the next few years. But we are seeing a classic learning curve with EV technologies that suggests a coming boom in EV sales. The real game-changers will be the pending crop of 200+ mile range EVs, including Tesla’s planned Model 3, the Chevy Bolt, the new and improved Nissan Leaf, VW’s planned 300+ mile range car, and probably many other manufacturers already plotting developments in this space. Once these cars are available and affordable, we may well see the exponential growth curve turn sharply upward. Globally, we’re seeing a very robust sales growth trend continuing.

Independently of EVs, we’re also seeing many other technologies leading to lighter and more efficient cars. Some kind of fuel economy standard is in place now for 80 percent of the world’s passenger vehicles sold in 2013, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Masdar's zero-carbon dream could become world’s first green ghost town  

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The Guardian has an update on the Masdar experiment in the gulf state of Abu Dhabi - Masdar's zero-carbon dream could become world’s first green ghost town.

the rationale for Masdar City – demonstrating a model of green living – has been abandoned. “The original aim was to be net zero, yes, but that was when we were looking at the city in isolation,” Wan said. He maintained it was important to look at Masdar City within the context of the other renewable energy holdings of the parent company. Among Mubadala’s other holdings, Masdar Clean Energy is developing the Shams solar farm. “Masdar as a family company is supply[ing] much, much more clean energy than what is being consumed in the city, for sure,” Wan said. ...

With the downward pressure from oil prices, the UAE has stepped up its efforts to wean itself off oil, lifting fossil fuel subsidies and billing Emiratis – not just expatriates – for water and electricity.

But delivering on the original dream of Masdar has been elusive. Crews broke ground in 2008, but plans withered in the global economic recession which soon followed when investors put their green dreams on hold. “A lot of the people who were considering investing in Masdar City decided to take a breather,” Wan said.

Meanwhile, the jet-set transport system was overtaken by technological developments in the auto sector. The expensive purpose-built system no longer made sense in an era when zero-emission electric cars were widely available. “Five years ago it’s true that we did not perceive the speed with which the electric vehicle would be developed,” Wan said.

The National reports that the Shams 1 solar thermal power plant recently celebrated its third anniversary, however at this point CSP still isn't cost competitive with solar PV - Abu Dhabi weighs more cost-effective solar technologies.

CSP was anticipated to take the region by storm when Shams 1 was being developed, with projects also cropping up in Morocco. As a result, Shams was expected to have two additional projects added. Mr Al Obaidli said the land was originally reserved for three CSP plants, but times have changed and more cost-­competitive options are now availab .

Although he declined to give exact figures, Mr Al Obaidli said that the Shams 1 costs more than the average price of CSP. According to Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), production costs for the technology range between 20 and 25 US cents per kilowatt-hour.

But Mr Al Obaidli pointed to the fact that Shams was one of the first CSP projects in the region. “It’s not at today’s electricity prices because when we built Shams, there was only one supplier in the world for mirrors. Now there are at least seven bankable mirror suppliers in the market." In comparison, Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which uses PV technology, was awarded at a tender of 5.84 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Cleantechnica reports that the Shams 1 plant has been generating more power than expected so far - Solar Power Plant In Oil-Rich Abu Dhabi Beats Expectations — Again.

Shams 1 is a 100 megawatt facility with 258,048 mirrors arranged in parabolic troughs covering 2.5 square kilometers. It’s the only plant of its kind in the world completely surrounded by a solid wall - and that’s a critical difference between Shams 1 and other concentrating solar power (CSP) plants. As explained by Al Obaidli, the wall provides a significant measure of protection from desert wind and sandstorms. Storm-grade winds can take out large sections of equipment in a conventional CSP plant, but according to Al Obaidli, one of the strongest storms in recent memory passed through last year and it only damaged 20 out of the 258,048 mirrors.

The parabolic troughs themselves also include design features that prevent wind damage. On just a few minutes’ notice they can be rotated into a “safety” position, and then locked in place.

The Peak Oil Myth and the Rise of the Electric Car  

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Bloomberg has a report on the rise of the electric car and the coming decline in demand for oil - The Peak Oil Myth and the Rise of the Electric Car.

There are more than one billion cars on the road worldwide today, and only one tenth of one percent of them have a plug. OPEC contends that even in the year 2040, EVs will make up just one percent. But don't be so sure. By 2020, some electric cars and SUVs will be faster, safer, cheaper, and more convenient than their gasoline counterparts. What if people just stop buying oil?

February spike in global temperatures stuns scientists  

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The SMH has an article on record global temperatures in February, now 1.35 degrees up over earlier decades - 'True shocker': February spike in global temperatures stuns scientists.

According to NASA analysis, average temperatures last month were 1.35 degrees above the norm for the 1951-1980 period. They smashed the previous biggest departure from the average - set only in the previous month - by 0.21 degrees.

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