The solar industry continues to grow rapidly worldwide with an increase of approximately 50% of solar power added to the industry since 2016, partly driven by the surge of solar panel development in China and the USA.
According to the Global Wind Energy Council, approximately 55GW of new wind power capacity was installed globally within 2016. The wind industry continues to grow rapidly with 2017 forecast to be another successful year for the wind industry.
Waste to Energy
Waste-to-energy is one of the most efficient and effective alternative energy options to combat carbon dioxide emissions and reduce reliance on traditional fossil fuels. Waste-to-energy involves the process of creating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the primary treatment of waste.
Biomass is fuel that is developed from organic materials, a renewable and sustainable source of energy used to create electricity or other forms of power. Biomass power is carbon neutral electricity generated from renewable organic waste that would otherwise be dumped in landfills, openly burned, or left as fodder for forest fires.
Geothermal power is power generated by geothermal energy. Technologies in use include dry steam power stations, flash steam power stations and binary cycle power stations. Geothermal electricity generation is currently used in 24 countries, while geothermal heating is in use in 70 countries.
Whether it’s from a small stream or a larger river, small or micro hydroelectricity systems, also called hydropower systems or just hydro systems, can produce enough electricity for lighting and electrical appliances in an average home
Tidal Energy or Tidal Power as it is also called, is another form of hydropower that utilises large amounts of energy within the oceans tides to generate electricity.
A microgrid is a discrete energy system consisting of distributed energy sources and loads capable of operating in parallel with, or independently from, the main power grid.
Solar jobs and the growing global solar industry
The International Energy Agency suggests that within the next 30 years, solar power could account for over 15% of the entire global energy system, with a rapid rise of solar jobs available worldwide. Currently, this figure stands at only 1% and experts believe that achieving this growth will only be possible with policy change and overall government support.
In previous years, many believed industry was not possible of growing without government support in the form of subsidies. However, this belief is been overlooked as new solar generation sites are been created in locations without subsidies and are generating more power than more traditional energy sources. Costs for solar generation and technology are continuing to decrease worldwide, making solar more competitive with fossil fuel resources.
Within the UK, solar power has been developing but at a slower rate than other European countries. However, due to public subsidies and reductions in solar technology, the solar sector is gradually becoming more appealing to the UK. The government's decision to remove a 5MW cap on project sizes eligible for subsidies via feed-in tariff is driving further development within the UK solar industry. Low-cost solar panels developed in China are also continuing to make the PV tech industry even more competitive.
Further advances in new technologies and methods of panel installation, energy storage and grid integration will assist in the UK meeting emission reduction targets and provide a more efficient, lower-cost solar technology for the UK energy industry. These developments are driving the increase in available solar energy jobs worldwide.
The Wind Industry and Growth of Wind Turbine Jobs
Despite global changes including cutting subsidies with onshore wind in the UK and the USA driving for the return of coal, the wind industry is still developing strong. Wind technology has developed further with new cost effective, highly efficient technology being created to continue driving the wind sector further and creating a rapid rise of wind turbine jobs. .
The wind industry is consistently exploring new methods of improving efficiency and reducing cost of wind generation. Investment into optimising turbine designs to improve energy capture is an essential part of developing the wind sector as a key sector in the future of our global energy industry.
Denmark is a leading example of how turbine development has slowly evolved, with political support and extended research , transforming the energy sector within this nation.
The leading wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas has installed prototype demonstrater at the Risø Test Centre in Denmark to test the efficiency of a multi-rotor turbine. This turbine consists of four rotors, instead of one and is attached on two arms which in turn is attached to the same tower. Both arms have the capability to yield wind energy separately.
Vestas Multi Rotor Concept. The wind turbine multi-rotor concept is a production of Vestas Wind Systems A/S, a manufacturer from Denmark. Source: Vestas
The project is relatively new and further tests are required to evaluate the overall technical and financial feasibility but has the potential to provide a more cost efficient turbine design.
Vortex – Bladeless turbines
Vortex technology involves capturing wind power from bladeless, oscillating poles. A relatively simple design, the vortex blade is free of gears or bearings which require intermittent servicing and repair. As wind travels past the poles, the poles being to vibrate and this movement is captured by a generator to create electricity.
Makani – Flying turbines
Flying turbines is a new technology with heavy investment by Google, looking at the potential of harnessing more energy at higher altitudes where winds are more constant and stronger. Using kite technology, the kite travels to higher altitudes and flies in a circular motion capturing the energy via an on board generator.
Altaeros – Flying turbines
Altaeros uses a cost effective design involving an aerial platform with revolutionary flight control system that provides an autonomous system delivering energy and telecommunication services from an altitude of over 600 meters. At such heights, the wind is stronger and more constant, enabling much higher levels of energy generation. Being autonomous, the system requires little, if any monitoring or control. This innovative technology is currently being explored further and could potentially be a valuable source of energy generation for more rural communities.
Hywind – Floating turbines
Hywind is the first complete and operational floating wind turbine in the world. Hywind consists of a floating structure with a steel cylinder that drops to over 100 meters below the sea. One of the largest oil and gas companies, Statoil, who are a major investor in Hywind are in plans to build the first floating wind farm off the Scottish coast.
Deepwind – Floating turbines
Deepwind is another floating turbine concept which consists of a long tube with a rotor attached to the top and a generator connected at the bottom. Whilst the design looks relatively simple, this technology is rather complicated and further research is required before it could be developed on a larger scale. If these barriers can be overcome, deepwind technology has the potential to provide wind power generation further out at sea and yield the benefits of stronger and more constant wind supplies.
Waste to Energy Industry
Waste-to-energy or Energy From Waste involves the process of creating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the primary treatment of waste.
Energy from waste (EfW) technologies include:
The process of combustion where excess waste is burnt at a temperature of 850°C and the energy recovered is utilized as electricity and/or heat.
The method of Gasification and pyrolysis, which involves heating the fuel under conditions with little or no oxygen to produce a product called syngas.
Anerobic Digestion which convertsorganic waste/food waste into methane-rich biogas that can then generate electricity and heat through combustion.
Benefits of Waste to Energy Technology:
It allows nations to reduce its reliance on importing energy
Waste to Energy assists in the challenge to reduce carbon emissions by providing a cleaner and efficient method of energy generation.
Provides a managed and controlled output of electrical energy generation i.e. ‘baseload’ power
Environmentally and sustainable technology that reduces emissions and reuses residual waste material
The Biomass Industry Explained
Biomass is plant or animal material used for energy production (electricity or heat), or in various industrial processes as raw material for a range of products. It can be purposely grown energy crops, wood or forest residues, waste from food crops, horticulture (yard waste), food processing (corn cobs), animal farming (manure, rich in nitrogen and phosphorus), or human waste from sewage plants. Burning plant-derived biomass releases CO2, but it has still been classified as a renewable energy source in the EU and UN legal frameworks because photosynthesis cycles the CO2 back into new crops. In some cases, this recycling of CO2 from plants to atmosphere and back into plants can even be CO2 negative, as a relatively large portion of the CO2 is moved to the soil during each cycle.
Challenges facing the Biomass Industry
The existing challenges of biomass supply chain related to different feedstock can be broadly classified into operational, economic, social and policy and regulatory challenges.
Feedstock unavailability: Inefficient resource management and the government non-intervention approach are the key factor hindering the expansion of the biomass industry.
Regional and seasonal availability of biomass and storage problem: The seasonal variation results in the fuel price. As the energy density of biomass is low, acquisition of land for harvesting and storage is difficult.
Pressure on transport section: Because of biomass moisture, transporting wet biomass from the plantation to the production site becomes energetically unfavorable and costly with increasing distance.
Inefficiency of conversion facility, core technology and equipment shortage: Technical barriers were resulted from the lack of standards on bioenergy systems and equipment, especially where the energy sources are so diverse. Appropriate pretreatment required to prevent biodegradation and loss of heating value, not only increases the production cost but also in equipment’s investment.
Immature industry chain: It is virtually impossible to get long term contracts for consistent feedstock supply in reasonable price. The low ability to gain profits is also a reason that many upstream firms lack driving forces in the technology reform.
Feedstock acquisition cost: The biomass resources are scattered and in order to reduce the cost of transportation, biomass projects are eager to occupy land close to the source, leading to centralization of biomass projects.
Limiting financing channels and high investment and capital cost: Because of decentralized capital, poor profitability, frequent fluctuations of international crude oil prices and high market risk, seldom investors took an initiative part in the biomass power generation industry.The biomass power generation is subjected to constraints of excessive investment and high operating costs. Biomass pre-treatment technologies have extra costs, which scattered farmers and small scale fuel companies may not be able to afford.
Conflicting decision: Decision making on selection of supplier, location, routes & technologies is crucial and needs proper communication. By strengthening leadership and implementing the responsibilities, the stakeholders should be made fully aware of the economic, environmental and social wealth of resource utilization.
Land use issues: Land use issues leads to the loss of ecosystems preservation and the homes of indigenous people.
Impact on the environment: The biomass plantation depletes nutrients from soil, promote aesthetic degradation and increase the loss of biodiversity. Other social impacts will result from installation of energy farms within rural areas like increased need of services, increased traffic, etc. The potential negative social impacts appear strong enough to ignore the benefit of new and permanent employment generation.
Geothermal Energy Industry
With an installed global power capacity of 12.6 GW and growing, the future for geothermal energy expansion is looking positive. The industry has seen a surge of new geothermal jobs available worldwide.
Geothermal energy is likely to continue developing, with signs of rapid industry growth in particular geothermal rich nations such as Indonesia, Philippines, and Kenya. There are also many other countries that remain untapped and have huge potential to diversify their energy generation methods by utilizing geothermal energy resources. Chile for example has enormous geothermal resources and is being supported by investment banks to ensure geothermal is a significant market within the renewable energy industry in Chile.
Hydro Energy Industry
The largest hydropower project in the world is located at the Three Gorges Dam in China. The hydropower plant captures over 80 terawatts per hour annually, and with other hydropower projects makes China the largest producer of hydropower worldwide. The government of China intend to increase hydro energy output in a target to reduce reliance on carbon emitting energy sources.
China is one of several countries to utilise natural landscape and topopgraphy to generate a clean source of power. Hydropower projects have increase over the recent years and despite having initial impacts during construction phase, hydro is viewed as an essential alternative to fossil fuels.
Norway is Europe’s largest producer of oil and gas but it also receives over 90% of its energy requirements from hydro energy. Brazil, Canada and Venezuela all receive at least half of energy needs from Hydropower.
Benefits of Hydropower Energy
-Fuelled by water, hydropower is a clean fuel source, free of fossil fuels
-Hydro power is a domestic source, providing a region with the capability of being energy independent and less reliant on other international energy sources.
-The hydro cycle is essentially driven by the sun’s energy, making the process a reliable and more affordable renewable source of power generation.
-Hydro power sites can be adapted to create recreational sites such as reservoirs for swimming, fishing and other activities.
-Most hydro sites have the capability of turning from zero to full output very quickly, providing an essential method of backup energy in case of service disruption to the grid.
Future of the Hydropower Industry
Whilst there are notable downsides to hydropower, it remains a viable alternative to reliance on burning fossil fuels. The potential damage of climate change is significantly higher that the localised impacts of hydropower development.
As governments continue to devleop policies to tackle climate change, hydropower, along with other renewable energy sources will become more popular. Further development and research may also improve the many downsides created when constructing a hydropower plant. Innovation in technology should also improve the reliability and cost of future hydro projects. For example, fish friendly dams are now being implemented to reduce impact on local fisheries.
Hydropower generates one of the most viable methods of renewable energy. With further advances in design and development, hydro could be developed more sustainably and become a significant part of any country’s energy supply mix.
Wave and Tidal Energy Jobs
The potential energy that could be generated from wave and tidal energy worldwide is massive. Predictions suggest that around 1 Terrawatt of stored energy could be utilised within our oceans.
Many countries are beginning to develop tidal and wave energy schemes, with the UK and France leading the way within Europe. There are a number of tidal projects developing in the UK included the proposed Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. This location contains one of the highest tidal ranges in the world and once it is in production would be capable of generating enough energy to power over 150,000 homes.
With advancements in new technology, a range of new tidal energy options are being created worldwide.
The International Energy Agency have forecasted that wave and tidal power will expand to a capacity of over 330 GW by 2050. In contrast, capacity of the established wind industry achieved this capacity rate a few years ago. Wave and tidal energy does have one major advantage over the more developed solar and wind sectors:- Energy flows with tidal energy are very predictable.
Benefits of Wave and Tidal Power
Wave and tidal power is still in early stages of research and development but experts suggest that the industry is developing more advanced technology for the progression of this industry.
Its Renewable – Wave and tidal energy is a renewable resource that will not be depleted.
Environmentally Friendly – In comparison to fossil fuels, generating energy from tidal movements and waves creates no harmful emissions or pollutants. Energy from waves and the tide can be directly fed into electrical equipment to power generators, creating a clean energy source.
Abundance – Opportunities to develop wave and tidal energy projects is huge, with many cities in close proximity to the ocean having the ability to harness the power of the waves and tide.
Variety – Wave and tidal energy can be collected in a range of ways, from installed power sites with hydro turbines to vessels contains structures laid into the seabed to collect wave energy.
The Rise of Micro Grids
Micro grids are essentially smaller scale versions of our traditional power system, consisting of power generation, distribution and typical control technology. However, through closer proximity between and generation and consumption, micro grids can operate at higher efficiency levels and reduce transmission. With further capabilities of being integrated with renewable energy sources, micro grids are becoming a more sustainable and popular option to electrify communities, particularly in rural areas where energy availability is scarce.
Micro grids have the ability to operate independently from larger grid facilities and manage overall generation and power capacity without affecting the integrity of the larger grid. Furthermore, micro grids have the capability to feed power back to the grid during times of grid failure and potential power disruptions.
BENEFITS OF MICRO GRIDS
Provide a reliable, efficient power source, enabling energy security for both grid operators and end users
Improve the integration and distribution process with renewable energy sources
Efficient and cost effective operation
Capability of integrating with smart grid technology
Ability to control power quality within local environment
Reduce carbon emissions by focusing on integrating renewable energy sources and maximizing local energy generation
Increase participation of the community/end-user