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UK Solar firms breakthrough could have the most efficient panels by next year

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New solar power technology has been developed that could be used on rooftops in the UK by next summer. The technology makes use of a crystal that was first discovered over 200 years ago which is now used to make the most of the suns power.

Oxford PV hope that by the end of the year they will be able to make the most of the recent breakthrough and be manufacturing the most efficient solar panels to then be ready to start supplying to the public next week.

The Oxford based firm have claimed that the new solar panels will be able to generate a third more electricity than the traditional silicon based panels. The new technology works by applying a thin layer of perovskite (a crystal material) over the panels to harness more of the power from the sun.

This change in solar design is the first major breakthrough in solar generation since the technology was first emerging back in the 1950s. It is hoped that the new technology will play a large part in tackling climate change.

By coating a traditional solar panel with perovskite, it is able to have an increased power output as the crystal material can absorb a larger section of the solar spectrum.

Using silicon generally means that around 22 per cent of the available energy from the suns rays can be converted into electricity however using perovskite on a similar panel means that a record 27.3 per cent of the available energy can be harnessed.

The panels coated in Perovskite will look different to traditional solar panels as well. Where normal solar panels have a tinted blue shade to them, the new Oxford PV panels will appear black and therefore will look better on rooftops on buildings.

The crystal was first discovered in the Ural mountains by a Russian mineralogist in 1839 however it is only in the last decade where scientists have been in a race to use the material to increase the efficiency of solar panels at decreased costs.

The crystal material has the potential to be a true change for the solar power industry as it has remained relatively similar since it first emerged 70 years ago.

It is thought that the silicon technology is as efficient as it can be as it is now at the point where any upgrades costs lots more money. Perovskite however offers a large increase in efficiency whilst limiting the costs.

Coal fired power station reignited for first time in 55 days in the UK

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The National Grid has had to turn on a coal fired power station in the UK for the first time in 55 days as the electricity output in the UK slumped during the recent record breaking heatwave. The reduced wind and higher temperatures meant both wind power and gas fired power plants struggled.

The impressive coal free streak came to an end as National Grid had to fire up the coal fired power plant Ratcliffe-on-Soar located in Nottinghamshire. The site in Nottingham was called upon before the predicted peak in electricity demand that came.

Supplies of electricity in the UK became closer than expected as the temperatures soared as gas fired power stations struggled to produce electricity at their maximum capacities because of the increased temperatures across the country. Whilst this was happening, wind power also slumped as the wind speeds across England dropped noticeably as well.

Adding to this, a selection of power stations in the UK were also not able to generate power on Wednesday of last week due to planned maintenance work that takes place over summertime. However, even the available gas power plants were not able to generate as much electricity as normal due to the increased temperatures.

Gas fired power plants struggle to generate as much electricity when the temperatures rise. As gas plants require a steady flow of air through its compressor, when the temperatures increase more energy is required to compress the hotter more humid air. This then makes the power plant less efficient than when it has colder less humid air flowing through the compressor.

In the first quarter of this year, wind farms produced 30 per cent of all the electricity generate in the UK, however during the heatwave last week on Wednesday afternoon wind power only generated 4 per cent of the total.

The hottest August day was recorded in 17 years last week as temperatures rose above 36 degrees Celsius whilst the sweltering temperatures set a record for the longest continuous run of high temperature days in central London in nearly 60 years.

The Ratcliffe power plant in Nottinghamshire is one of the few remining coal fired power plants as Britain plans to phase out all usage of coal power by 2025.

The National Grid tweeted that even though the coal free run came to an end, it contributed to the 3300 hours without coal which is more than 60 per cent of the year so far.

House bricks have the potential to turn into batteries researchers have found

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Researchers have had a breakthrough where an everyday house brick can be turned into a battery and store electricity.

The technology makes use of the fact that bricks are porous and have tiny airholes inside of them. The pores in the bricks can be filled with very small nanofibers of plastic that can conduct electricity and store charge. The first bricks that have been developed are able to store enough electricity to power small lights, however if the capacity can be improved then they have the potential to become a cheaper alternative to lithium ion batteries that are in use at the moment.

Technically speaking, the power bricks are supercapacitors instead of batteries as the electricity is stored as a static charge in solids instead of produced from chemical reactions in batteries. The main benefit of supercapacitors is that they are able to charge and discharge much faster than batteries do, however, at this moment they are limited due to the small fraction of electricity that can be stored in them.

Researchers across the globe are currently working to increase the amount of energy that can be stored in a supercapacitor and finding a better way to charge batteries faster. Finding solutions to these problems are some of the many hurdles in fighting the battle on the climate crisis. Finding these solutions would mean that any excess renewable energy that is produced can then be stored until it is needed instead of being wasted.

The current bricks that are under research only have a power density of 1% of that of a lithium ion battery. It is believed that this can be increased tenfold by adding materials to the brick such as metal oxides that would allow the brick to store more charge. If this is possible then it will mean that the bricks could actually be used commercially.

If this is possible then it would be a massive breakthrough as it the technology is significantly cheaper than the lithium ion alternatives. It could almost eradicate the need for lithium ion batteries in the future.

Another benefit of supercapacitors is that they can be charged and discharged many times without losing their ability to store electricity. For example, the power bricks can be charged and discharged 10,000 times before there is a noticeable drop in how much electricity they can store.

The charge stored in a single brick is not enough to produce a shock when touched however a wall of bricks would need an insulating cover to protect t it. Scientists have used an epoxy resin to protect the bricks which has proved to be successful. Using this insulator would also allow for the bricks to be used underwater.

Turning the bricks into a supercapacitor has a slight effect on their structural properties however most bricks used in house these days are for decoration purposes.

Lithium ion batteries costs have decreased by 90% in the last 10 years however finding an efficient way of storing electricity is yet to be achieved.

Hydrogen to be stored in French salt caverns

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French gas grid operator Terega and Hydrogene de France have revealed their plans to make use of disused salt caverns to store hydrogen in.

Both of the companies have signed an agreement of understanding that they are to launch the first inital project in the salt caverns near Carresse Cassaber which is situated in the south west area of Nouvelle Aquitaine. The hydro storage plant is estimated to cost €13.5 million and it will have a capacity of 1.5 gigawatt hours.

The hydro plant is the pilot project which has been sized and quickly deployed and the companies said they will conduct an economic feasibility study later in the year. The study will take into consideration the social and economic impacts of the project.

Construction of the hydro plant is set to begin in 2022 with commercial operation taking place in 2024. Reports suggest that salt caverns have previously been used for propane storage by the energy giant Total.

The Julich Institute for Energy and Climate Research conducted a recent study which stated that the salt caverns offer an efficient and flexible option for hydrogen storage. The report concluded that there is the potential to store 84.8 PWh of storage within the salt caverns in Europe.

The majority of salt caverns in Europe are located in the North of the continent with Germany accounting for the largest share of the caverns.

The research states that the locations of the salt caverns near to the coast is beneficial because brine disposal is economical up to 50 km from the sea. The caverns for the pilot hydro project are situated about 48 km from the coast.

Over 1,300 sites across England breach air pollution targets

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According to Friends of the Earth, more than 1,300 locations across England are breaking the nitrogen dioxide air quality targets.

Nitrogen dioxide is linked with a variety of lung and respiratory problems which can especially cause problems for people with asthma. Nitrogen dioxide is mainly emitted by road vehicles.

Friends of the Earch studied the local authority data and have stated that the amount of sites that which broke the nitrogen dioxide target was ‘shocking’. Not only does nitrogen dioxide have negative effects of health but it also contributes to climate change.

It was found that the worst place for nitrogen dioxide levels was in fact not a city but an area of the A35 which passes through Chideock, a small village in West Dorset.

Chideok recorded an annual average of 97.7 micrograms per metre cubed of nitorgen dioxide which is over double the governments annual air quality objective of 40.

Whilst emissions from road vehicles are the major threat to air pollution, industrial and domestic producers also contribute to the problem.

Road vehicles do not just add nitrogen dioxide to the atmosphere, but they also contribute carbon monoxide and particulate matter. These both cause further health problems and add to climate change.

Friends of the Earth did note that there had been a small improvement in air pollution numbers since their last study when nearly 1,600 sites were breaking the nitrogen dioxide targets.

Simon Bowens from Friends of the Earth also commented that the government needs to ‘end its damaging fixation’ with wanting to build more roads.

The data was collected by using the most up to date Air Quality Annual Status Reports which are submitted to government.

The reports are made up of data from the previous year which means that more often than not the most up to date data would be from 2018.

UK Wind Power could soon start paying back Government subsidies

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The most recent wave of offshore wind projects will most likely operate with negative subsidies, according to a recent report from Imperial College London.

It is though that UK offshore wind farms will be the first in the world which will be able to pay for the power that they produce due to a staggering development in the technologies used, especially considering how expensive the technology used to be in the not too distant past.

The combination of the drop in price for offshore wind power along with the small rise in the wholesale power prices means that the new wind farms may operate with a negative subsidy.

This leads to the operators of the windfarms effectively having to pay the Government to generate power. This makes the UK the first country likely to pass the negative subsidy threshold, ahead of the rest of Europe.

Britain passing the negative subsidy threshold shows how much the costs of offshore wind power have decreased in recent years. It was only a few years ago when wind farm operators had to make deals with the government so that they would be paid well to produce renewable power. However, now the tables have turned and the UK government will be able to retrieve some of the money it has paid out in subsidies to the windfarm operators.

Offshore wind farm developers have agreements to sell their power at a certain price at government auctions in exchange for a stable return. In the deal, if the wholesale cost of electricity drops below the strike price then the Government will pay the difference to the operators. However, if the wholesale prices are higher can the cost of electricity then the wind farm operators must pay the difference.

The offshore wind auction that took place last year took the offshore price of wind power down to £40 per megawatt hour. The analysis that was completed by Imperial College London suggests that it is probable that the wholesale prices of power will rise above this price during the life cycle of the project. Therefore wind farm operators will then have to pay the Government the change in the £40 and the wholesale price. These savings could then be passed to UK homes.

It is hoped that there will be a rapid expansion of offshore windpower now due to its reduced expenses. This will especially help with meeting the UK’s climate change targets.

Floating Solar Energy to make waves across Asia Pacific

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The use of floating solar power plants in the Asia Pacific region is estimated to increase the electricity output for the area by around 900 per cent.

A recent report from the Institue for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has suggested that the countries in the Asia Pacific region are leading the way in using floating solar plants.

The report states that the floating solar plants have proven that they can withstand strong winds, large waves and typhoons leading to manufactures now testing the prjects on a larger scale.

The first floating solar power plant was installed in Japan thirteen years ago however China currently leads the way with the largest installed floating solar capacity.

At the end of 2018, China and Japan had a combined floating solar power installed capacity of 1.3 gigawatts where as Vietnam currently has 47 megawatts of total installed capacity.

The report from the Institue for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis also added that the largest power generation firm in India, the National Thermal Power Corporation, has a 200 megawatt cpacity floating solar power project that is currently under development across four different locations.

A group of countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have signed contracts for new prjects which includes 145 megawatts in Indonesia, 54 megawatts in Singapore, 330 megawatts in Vietnam, 80 megawatts in Thailand, 150 megawatts in Malaysia and 145 megawatts in Indonesia.

Southeast Asia also benefits from competitively priced electrcity generation due to the technology specific auctions of power.

The finance Analyst from the Institue for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Sara Jane Ahmed stated that their research shows that ASEAN countries are building more floating solar power plants over a variety of bodies of water ranging from dams to the sea.

It was also found that solar farms are most efficiently used when they are installed close to hydropower facilities as they are able to connect to already existing

Carbon Emissions from the UK’s Electricity Grid could be negatuve by 2033

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A recent report from the national grid suggests that the carbon emissions from the United Kindom’s electricity system could turn negative in thirteen years time.

If carbon capture technology is used alongside the expanding renewable energy industry then it provides an opportunity for the UK to reach its climate change targets and potentially become carbon negative by 2023.

Earlier this week, the National Grid stated that the plan for a carbon negative grid included the use of 30 million electric vehicles in use and 8 million heat pumps installed in UK households to replace gas boilers.

The most progressive vision for Britain to become emission negative meant that the climate change targets set out for 2050 cound instead be net by 2033. The main way this would be achieved would be through using a combination of new carbon capture technologies and bioenergy sources.

The head of strategy at National Grid ESO, Mark Herring, has said that only one out of the four most realistic path ways to a net zero economy by 2050 included not relying heavily on low carbon electricity.

It is expected that there will be a large boom in renewable energy projects from now until 2050. With an estimated of at least 1.4 gigawatts of new solar power and 3 gigawatts of new wind power expected every year alongside a widespread introduction of electric vehicles which are hoped to act as smart chargining batteries which will aid balancing the grid.

Herring stated, ‘Across all scenarios, we see growth in renewable energy generation, including significant expansion in installed offshore wind capacity. There is widespread uptake in domestic electric vehicles, and growth and investment in hydrogen and carbon capture technologies too’.

Herring went on to add that even though it is proven that net zero emissions is possible there are still many hurdles in the way before it is achieved.

The report from the National Grid also warned that Britain may not meet its legally bound climate target to achieve net zero emisisons by 2050 unless swift action is taken by the government. This would mean the government needs to introduce key energy policies which will promote the use of carbon capture technologies and increase the use of renewable energy further.

Bioenergy has been suggested as a way to achieve net zero. This is because the emissions which are generated from burning the wood pellets to create electricity is offset by the carbon dioxide which is absorbed by the forests where the trees are growing.

However some critics dispute this idea.

New Acoustic Vent set to make Waves in the Generator Industry

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The AcoustaVent is a highly efficient vent which has been specifically designed so that air can efficiently flow through it whilst the vent itself limits the sound that can pass through it.

The AcoustaVent has a textured matte black fnish and it is manufactured from a premium nylon material. This is a nylon with high degrees of toughness across a range of temperatures. Most importantly, the nylon has good shock resistance capabilities meaning that it can withstand impacts without plastic deformation occurring.

The AcoustaVent has been designed so that air can easily flow through the intakes. The intakes have carefully engineered rounded corners which reduces the turbulence of the intake airflow which will then reduce the resistance to the flow. This increases the efficiency of your system.

The outlet of the vent has been designed so that sound waves are not able to flow directly through the vent. The geometry means sound waves would have to reflect off of different surfaces to pass through the vent. The reflection of the sound waves will help to dissipate their energy and reduce the noise that is heard on the other side of the vent. This makes the vent ideal for applications where reducing the noise from a system is a priority.

Ease of installation is another big advantage of the AcoustaVent. It has 2 clips on either side and 3 clips on the bottom so that it can quickly and easily be installed without the use of any extra tools or equipment. Once the vent has been fitted, it has a snug fit to ensure that it stays in place.

One company that has already started using the AcoustaVent is Welland Power. Welland Power are a UK manufacturer of diesel generators and have started using the AcoustaVent as the air intake on there canopied diesel generator sets.

Charlie Farrow, the Managing Director of Welland Power said ‘The AcoustaVent has an original design which has obviously been manufactured to a high professional standard’.

Mr Farrow went on to praise the efficiency of the AcoustaVent, ‘The AcoustaVent has a very efficient design and the noise reductions compared to our previous air intake system is massively noticeable’.

Covid-19 Lockdown is Beneficial for Indias Renewable Transition

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Renewable power is showing to be resilient against the coronavirus whereas fossil fuel is showing its weaknesses and could see its peak over the next 10 years.

The restrictions to travel that have been imposed in India have meant that the switch to clean renewable energy from polluting fossil fuels is happening at an unexpected rate.

India is currently the second largest consumer of coal in the whole world and with the lockdown that was introduced on 25 March leading to a significant decrease of 30% in electricity demand means that coal power in India has taken the biggest hit.

Back in 2018, the International Energy Agency forecasted that the demand for coal in India would double by the year 2040 which was a huge concern globally as countries aimed to reduce coal usage to meet climate change targets.

However, due to the effects the coronavirus is having, if the correct policies are introduced by the Indian government then the peak of coal usage in India could happen within the next decade.

The director of energy finance studies for the Australia and South Asia region at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis Tim Buckley, has said that he believes India will reach their peak coal consumption over the next ten years.

He went on to say that there is now real potential for India to make swift green transition and surprise other nations around the world by increasing their decarbonisation in a very cost-effective manner.

Before the coronavirus pandemic there was already backing from government in India to increase renewable energy.

Prime minister, Narendra Modi made a pledge at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019 to double the renewable energy power target for India to 450 gigawatts by the end of this decade. Currently India has an installed renewable capacity of 87 gigawatts with the majority of the power coming from solar panels.

The cost for new coal power in India is 4.5 rupees per unit generated whereas the cost of new solar power is only 2.5 rupees per unit of energy generated. Even taking into consideration the expensive batteries needed to store solar power in for when it gets dark, solar energy still comes out cheaper than its fossil fuel counterpart.

Many coal power plants in India have also been facing problems of their own in recent years as cash flow has dried up meaning many are running well under their capacity.

A recent report shows that last year, more than 66 per cent of additional generating capacity which was added to the Indian grid came from renewable sources.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak some analysts had stated that they could see India were on the right path to a green transition and that coal will not be at the forefront of India’s future electricity growth. The recent pandemic has only highlighted this trend and potentially sped up the process of reducing India’s coal usage.

Solar power and wind power are also advantageous over fossil fuels, especially during these current times as once the power plant has been built they are not reliant on supply chains to power them, unlike coal fired power plants that are still reliant on the supply chain for coal so that they can keen generating electricity.

This factor along with renewables being significantly cheaper per unit of energy generated has meant that India’s transition to a green future may happen much quicker than initially anticipated.