A Blackout, Big Oil, and Wind Energy

During the first quarter of 2017, workers installed a wind turbine somewhere in the US every 2.4 hours. Wind provided 5.6% of all the electricity produced in the US in 2016. That’s more than double the amount of wind power in 2010. The whole world is seeing similar growth.  The wind industry isn’t without controversy. Critics blame it for the scope of a blackout in Australia. On the other hand, international oil companies have begun to build off-shore wind farms.

Critics’ case against wind energy

According to its critics, wind power is unreliable. The wind doesn’t blow all the time. It doesn’t blow on any predictable pattern. Wind turbines require some minimum wind speed for them to work at all. And if the wind is too strong, they can’t operate safely and must shut down.

Wind can cross one or the other of these thresholds multiple times a day. They operate at full capacity for only a few hours a year. So the theoretical capacity of a wind farm greatly exceeds its actual output.

The times turbines can generate electricity do not coincide with rising and falling demand for electricity. This variability creates problems for stabilizing the grid. Critics further claim that the wind industry can’t operate without massive government subsidies.

Wind power and South Australia blackout of 2016?

South Australia depends on wind energy for about 40% of its electricity. It suffered seven tornados on September 28, 2016. Two of them, with winds almost as fast as Hurricane Katrina, destroyed twenty towers that held three different transmission lines. Nine wind farms shut down.  Within minutes, the entire state suffered a massive blackout.

What contributed the most to the blackout? South Australia’s high dependence on wind power? The weather? Or something else?

Renewable energy skeptics quickly claimed the blackout justified their position. The wind farms simply failed to provide enough electricity in the emergency. Wind and solar energy, they say, are inherently unreliable. South Australia’s heavy reliance demonstrates an irresponsible policy based on ideology more than technological reality.

Certainly, the weather would have caused a disturbance in electrical service no matter what source of electricity. People near the downed transmission lines could not have avoided loss of power. But prompt action by grid operators makes it possible to bypass problem areas and limit the extent of the outage.

On closer examination, however, the correct answer to the multiple-choice question above is C: something else.

Wind turbines have “low voltage ride through” settings to keep operating for brief periods when voltage dips below the threshold at which they can operate correctly. If low-voltage conditions occur too frequently, the turbines have a protection mechanism that turns them off.

  • Ten wind farms experienced between three and six low-voltage events within two minutes. But the turbines were operating on factory settings. No one performed any testing to determine good settings under local conditions.
  • The agency that regulates the Australian electricity market knew nothing about the protection feature. It blamed the wind farms, but surely someone on staff should have been familiar with the default operation of the turbines. After all, the agency approved purchase and installation of the turbines. It had all the documentation.
  • Two gas generating plants that should have supplied backup power failed to come online.

The weather caused a problem that became a crisis not because of technical limitations of renewable energy, but because of too many different organizations’ incompetence.

If the wind is too strong, wind turbines can’t operate safely and must shut down.

One homeowner in South Australia didn’t suffer from the outage. He didn’t even know about the blackout till he saw it on the news. He had to test the accuracy of the news reports by opening his oven and noting that the light didn’t come on.

It turns out he had installed solar panels just a few weeks earlier. And since power outages in his part of South Australia occur almost every month, he decided to install a Tesla Powerwall as well.

He can’t use it to power his entire house, but it takes care of the lights and the television. It stores enough electricity for 10 hours of off-grid power.

Big oil and wind power

International oil companies have not joined the chorus of wind-industry skeptics. Several of them, including Royal Dutch Shell, have begun to invest heavily in off-shore wind farms. Especially in the North Sea. Oil production there has steadily declined for about 15 years.

Exploring for new oil fields has become too risky and expensive. These oil companies have decided that investing in wind energy helps their cash flow and makes it more predictable.

Oil companies have more expertise in working on offshore platforms than do companies that specialize in wind energy. Instead of building a foundation for turbines on the ocean floor, at least one oil company has begun to explore how to mount them on floating platforms.

Traditional wind energy firms have been operating turbines in the North Sea for years, but the oil companies have begun to outbid them. Their off-shore expertise has helped them drive down their costs.

So far, American oil companies have shown less interest in wind farms. If they decide they’re in the oil business, they will eventually lose market share to renewable energy companies. If they decide they’re in the energy business, they’ll have to start investing in renewable energy. And if any decide to invest heavily in solar power besides or instead of wind, they will still be following the lead of Total, a French oil company.

For that matter, the coal business is dying. Perhaps some of them will have enough sense to invest in renewables to improve their cash flow.

5 Actionable Tips to Use More Renewable Energy

The world doesn’t seem to stop when it comes to consuming energy. As each country experience growth and development as a society, their needs for power increases to keep up with the pace of their expansion. The process is a natural one.  It’s even socially encouraged, but that doesn’t change the fact that it takes a toll on our planet. More of the world resources are exploited and processed to become fuel.

While denied by many of these industries for a long time, the ugly side of energy consumption has been exposed for the whole world to see. It has increased the awareness about the need to embrace alternative energy and waste solutions that are renewable and cleaner to avoid contamination and slow down the degradation of our many natural ecosystems.

Many of the initiatives to use clean energies are embraced in multiple countries. Some of them are backed by governments and private industries looking to preserve our planet and fix some of the damage caused by our constant demands of resources. Many people believe that individual efforts don’t count. The fact is that every single bit of help they can get adds up a lot. Here are five actionable tips you can follow to make proper use of renewable energy on your premises:

1. Embrace Solar-Powered Technologies

If you haven’t realized it yet the sun is one of the most powerful energy sources in the world and no one can charge to use it. This is why many developers focused on creating technology that makes the best use of the power delivered by the light and radiation offered by the main star in our solar system.

Nowadays, you can get solar-powered vehicles, and solar panels to distribute energy at your home. Such technologies can be a bit expensive but is durable as nothing else in the market, plus it is a one-time investment at best!

2. Crowdfund Clean Energy Projects

Many communities are willing to go green and use clean energy sources when they are presented the right project. Most of the times the neighbors’ just need to see a well-laid plan explaining why using renewable energy sources will be more affordable for them in the long run.

A solar-powered community project in Laos

The environmental angle can also be helpful, especially for those homeowners that live close to natural reservoirs and wish to keep the value of their properties by safekeeping the environment.

3. Support the Society of Concerned Scientist

This is an amazing initiative to get businesses and the world to become more educated and use more renewable energy.  I am not affiliated with the society at all, but it may be one of the most actionable ways to help the environment because they have built up a lot of support and assets.

Check out what they are doing here.

4. Use Water-processing Technology

Many households and modern housing projects can make use of this technology to recycle the water sources they use and avoid the unnecessary waste of such vital liquid.

The basic principles of this initiative require investment in processing plants and large tanks that can either be installed on the foundations of your home or at the side of it. Your house will always have clean running water, and you won’t take much from the natural sources near your place.

5. Wind Power for Home or Business

Many locations around the world are using wind-powered turbines to generate electricity, and it has become a business opportunity for many entrepreneurs around the world. The plants are easy to install, and the energy is very cheap to produce.

Wind-powered energy has generated an excess of power in certain locations such as China, Germany, Australia and some regions on the USA with these plants selling they’re overproduced to regular energy plants. The power provided by these alternatives is cleaner than most and very easy on a family budget.

Improve Your Garden With Solar Lighting

When it comes to your home, it is natural that you want it to look great. However, it is not just the interior of your property you need to focus on but also the exterior. If you love to spend time in your garden, there are various ways in which you can make it look better. One of these is to use the right lighting and for many people, this means investing in solar lights for the garden.

bees-garden

Choosing solar lights offers a range of benefits including making a big difference to the overall appearance of your garden by using these lights. There are many different designs and types of solar lights, which means you can find the perfect ones for your garden. In this article, we will look at some of the key benefits of using solar lights for your garden.

Key Benefits of Solar Lighting in Gardens

There are multiple benefits you can look forward to when you choose solar lighting for your garden rather than other types of lighting. One of the key benefits is financial, as you can expect far lower bills from your energy company if the lights you use are solar powered according to an expert from Provision Power & Gas. The great thing about this is that you can enjoy having a garden that looks beautiful and lights up as it gets darker, yet you won’t have to worry about your energy bill rising.

Another great thing about choosing solar lights is that you can do your part for the environment. When you turn to solar lighting, you can draw on the energy from the sun to light up your garden and make it look more attractive. We all need to do our part when it comes to the planet and by conserving energy by using natural sources, you won’t have to worry about wasting energy and paying higher bills as a result. Everyone wants their garden to look nice so they can enjoy pleasant surroundings when outdoors, and this is a great way to make your garden look magical.

Of course, one of the key reasons people choose solar lights is so they can boost the aesthetic appeal of their garden. With so many different lights to choose from, you can select the perfect ones for your garden. This includes everything from outdoor fairy lights through to ground lights, hanging solar lanterns, and much more. The right lights will help to add not only light to your garden but also color and stunning beauty.

Transforming Your Outdoor Areas

By investing in solar lighting, you can help to transform your outdoor areas and enjoy having a wonderful place to relax. You can use solar lighting both at the front and back of your home so you can help to improve the appearance of all of your outdoor areas. The simplicity of these lights makes them even more appealing, as you simply need to position them in the right place where they can get plenty of sun during the day.

Renewable Energy Production in Australia: The Plan to Reduce Coal Use

Recently there has been a lot of talk in how a country can improve their ecological footstep. One way of doing so is definitely changing the way the respective country produces its energy. Australia has recently been headlining the news in regard to the renewable energy situation. Australia’s energy production is looking towards a new future with a specific aim on solar and wind power.

If Australia plans on keeping its water resource at a steady level, it has got to go from its use of coal to renewable sources. Thanks to its abundance in both solar and wind energy, Australia has quite the advantage when it comes to green energy production possibilities.

Unfortunately though due to their geographic position, the water supply is limited for the country. So much so, that the coal industry was taking a toll on the water supply due to the large quantities of water needed when producing energy from coal. As a result, moving over to wind and solar energy fueled productions is a viable option seeing how both respective energy productions do not require water.

The news that Australia was listed as a “water-stressed company” was released by the World Resource Institute; a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. Moreover, on this past May 13th The Sydney Morning Herald also wrote that 73% of Australia’s electricity needs were met by the use of coal. In respect to these findings and Australia’s continuous growth, it is imperative that new resources are used for energy production.

Australia has been making headlines in renewable energy sector.

Fortunately, Australia’s geography is a big resource as well when it comes to studying the possibilities of implementing the new energy productions. It was in fact calculated that the dimensions of the solar power farm needed to meet the country’s demands would result in occupying only 0.1% of Australia’s total land mass; I think we can all agree on the fact that that land could be spared for a solar farm.

And on that note, the government is taking the matter seriously, and has called upon everybody to try and better the situation. The incentives call upon small businesses and households as well by reminding them that there are the possibilities of installing their own solar panels, heat pumps, solar water heaters, and more.

Thanks to the various incentives, the Green Energy Council has stated that there is a lot of activity in the sector, including at least 58 different projects focused on implementing the renewable energy sources. As a consequence of these projects, the council has also stated that there would be an income of $10 billion in investments, 6,141 new jobs, and 5,482 megawatts of renewable energy capacity. Definitely great numbers to look forward to!

Tackling China’s Smog Problem with Renewable Energy

smog-chinaChina is currently facing serious environmental problems, with potentially few solutions. Currently, this is mostly taking the form of serious smog issues plaguing North China, with more than 24 cities on red alert. However, with airports being shut down due to lacking visibility and the economy of China being heavily disrupted, action needs to be taken to solve this serious smog problem.

While limited action has been taken, perhaps renewable energy is the key to cutting down China’s smog.

How Bad Is the Problem?

The smog problem in China has become increasing worse from 2015 to 2017, with more than 90 micrograms of pollution per meter squared. These levels of air pollution are similar to the levels recorded previous to 2014, when the Chinese premier declared a war on pollution due to the health dangers posed by rising air pollution levels.

However, since 2015, levels of air pollution have risen once again. This pollution has had hard hitting effects on urban areas, especially the Chinese capital Beijing, and has caused widespread disruption to the lives of Chinese citizens and economy of the country.

The air pollution leads to the cities becoming hotter than ever. Urban Heat Island effect, which refers to buildings absorbing the sun’s heat well, is exacerbated by the smog. In fact, a car in the heat can reach temperatures of 114 degrees Fahrenheit after just 20 minutes, making travelling on hot days nearly unbearable for any living creature. In order to decrease the heated condition of China, it is essential to decrease the amount of smog covering the cities.

What Has the Chinese Government Done?

The Chinese government has taken limited action in an attempt to minimize the air pollution being created in the country. This includes the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Plan, which acknowledged the danger posed by air pollution levels and aimed to reduce coal usage in urban areas like Beijing.

However, this is not representative of the main action the government has taken. Primarily, the Chinese government has focused on individual areas and attempting to reduce local pollution levels through efficient coal burning and banning the burning of waste materials, especially on farms. These solutions, while effective on a short-term basis, are not all that is needed, though.

Investment in renewables can reduce China's dependence on coal for power generation

Investment in renewables can reduce China’s dependence on coal for power generation

China needs to reduce its overall usage of coal produced energy, which currently stands at 64 percent of total energy consumption. While this has already been happening in China, the further introduction of renewable energy could be of great help to China’s pollution levels.

How Could Renewable Energy Help?

Many people believe renewable energy to be a small affair, something undertaken by the Western world in a vain attempt to reduce our collective guilt concerning climate change and wastage levels. This is simply not the case. Renewable energy is a $120 billion industry that receives investment and application across the world. This includes solar energy, waste-to-energy technology, wind energy, hydroelectric energy and many more attempts to reduce overall energy usage.

Through investment in renewable energy, China could reduce its dependence on coal and increase the efficiency of its energy production and economy. Smog is directly created by China’s use of coal for its energy production, and by investing in other renewable means, China can simultaneously improve its health situation.

In fact, the obviously positive nature of investment in renewable energy can be clearly seen through the Chinese government’s already existing plans to further incorporate it into the economy. In the five-year plan announced in 2016, the Chinese government explicitly stated it would decrease air pollution levels through investment in wind, solar and biomass energy production technologies.

While the plans additionally included investment in making the coal industry more efficient and reducing emissions on an industrial and commercial level, clearly renewable energy is believed to be a valid alternative energy source.

Overall, it is clear that renewable energy can certainly help with China’s serious smog problem. Whether this should be in tangent with further investment in the coal industry or necessitate the end of widespread coal usage in China is still a question for debate.

About the Author

Emily Folk is freelance writer and blogger on topics of renewable energy and conservation. To get her latest posts, check out her blog Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter.

Renewable Energy and its Applications

renewables-applicationsRenewable energy. Clean energy. Green energy. Sustainable energy. Alternative Energy. Renewal Energy. No matter what you call it, energy such as wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric is having an impact on your life and could have an even bigger impact in the future. Renewable energy, in the most basic terms, is precisely what it sounds like. It’s power that comes from sources that regenerate, unlike fossil fuels, which only exist in a limited amount.

From 2000 to 2016, the use of renewables in the United States more than doubled and is expected to continue to grow. In 2016, they made up about 10 percent of total energy consumption and 15 percent of electricity generation. Consumption of renewable energy has grown in large part due to government incentives and requirements for renewable energy and the desire to switch to cleaner fuel in order to protect the environment.

There are a number of different sources of renewable energy in use today. Here are some of the most common ones.

Solar Energy

The U.S. solar industry has grown at an average annual rate of 68 percent over the last decade in the form of rooftop solar panels for individual buildings, solar farms built by utility companies and community solar projects, which produce solar for energy users in a certain area through a collection of solar panels.

In Australia the solar industry is also increasing with a record breaking 3.5 million panels installed last year. Queensland was the leader in solar panels that were installed.

Solar photovoltaic panels capture sunlight and convert it directly into electricity, which can power a small device such as a watch or sent into the grid to be distributed to a utility’s customers.

Wind Energy

People have been using windmills to utilize the wind’s energy for a long time, but today wind turbines are used to capture that energy and turn it into electricity. There are approximately 53,000 wind turbines operating in the United States today.

Wind turbines consist of a large tower, which is often around 100 feet tall, and several blades that use the power of the wind to spin. The blades are connected to a shaft that spins a generator in order to create electricity.

Like solar energy, power generated with wind can either be used for a specific application such as pumping water or powering a farm, or transferred into the electrical grid to meet other energy needs.

Biomass Energy

Biomass is another common form of renewable energy. Biomass is any natural substance such as wood, plant matter, gas from landfills and even municipal solid waste that contains stored energy from the sun.

When those substances are burned, they release that energy, which can be used as heat or fuel. Biomass can also be made into a liquid or gas that can be used as fuel.

Bioliquids, such as ethanol and biodiesel, are frequently used to power vehicles. Around 40 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. today is used for biofuels. Researchers are currently exploring new ways biomass can be used and additional substances that could be used for biomass energy.

Hydro Energy

Hydropower, energy generated with water, is one of the oldest and the most common renewable energy resource in the U.S., making up 6.5 percent of utility-scale electricity generation and 44 percent of generated renewable energy.

When water flows, it produces energy. We capture this energy by allowing moving water in rivers, waterfalls or elsewhere to turn generators that produce electricity. Hydroelectric plants can also be man-made, as is the case with dams. Man-made reservoirs hold water through the use of dams. That water is then released to flow through a turbine and create electricity.

Benefits Galore

The main benefit of renewable energy sources is the fact that they release very little greenhouse gases and so are better for the environment. Because electricity makes up the largest share of our greenhouse gas emissions, changing how we get our energy is crucial in the fight against global warming.

Biofuels are increasingly being used to power vehicles

Biofuels are increasingly being used to power vehicles

Another key advantage is the fact that they are renewable, which means we won’t ever run out of them. This stability could make access to energy more stable in the future. It can also keep energy prices more predictable, because the markets are subject to changes in supply.

Renewable energy is also flexible and can power large areas or single homes. Additionally, renewable energy projects create a number of well-paying jobs and tend to have a significant economic impact.

Key Drawbacks

Just like with fossil fuels, there are some disadvantages as well. Renewable energy plants are subject to fluctuations in wind, sunlight and other natural resources, meaning some days or in some particular months, a facility might produce more electricity than others. Today, in areas where renewables are common, fossil fuels are often used to make up any shortcoming in renewable energy production.

Due to their reliance on natural occurrences, renewables may fare better in some areas than others. An area with lots of direct sun all day long will be more suitable for a solar plant than somewhere that’s often dark and cloudy. Renewable energy farms also often require large areas of land, and while renewable energy tends to be cheap, initial construction and development costs can be quite high.

Despite these disadvantages, renewables are proving an important part of the energy mix of today and of the future, especially in the face of environmental concerns and worry about the availability of fossil fuels. Chances are we won’t see the end of the growing renewable energy industry any time soon.

About the Author

Emily Folk is a freelance writer and blogger on topics of renewable energy and conservation. To get her latest posts, check out her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter.

Unending Benefits of Solar Street Lights

solar-steer-lightsSolar power is getting increasing popularity as a dependable source for street lighting all over the world. Some of the benefits associated with solar street lights include reduced dependence on conventional energy, conservation of energy and less reliance on the national grid. In countries experiencing abundance of sunlight, solar lights are the best option to illuminate the streets, garden, parks and other public spaces.

Nowadays, solar street lights are powered by PV panels, in-built battery, LED lights and smart sensors, all integrated into a single compact unit. Solar LED street lights have emerged as a cost-effective and environment-friendly to light up roads and public spaces. LED lights are widely acknowledged for energy conservation, are long-lasting and good-looking, and are maintenance-free. These characteristics make LED-base solar street lights well-suited for commercial as well as domestic lighting applications.

Key Features

A modern solar street light has embedded solar panel, inbuilt lithium-ion batteries, battery management system, night and motion sensors as well as automatic controls. The fully automatic device comes with LEDs, inbuilt and replaceable Lithium-ion battery and passive infrared (PIR) sensors. A typical solar street light is weather-proof and water-resistant, has low insect attraction rate and low glare and has a longer life.

The embedded solar panel converts solar power into electrical energy which is stored in the inbuilt battery, and used for dusk-to-dawn lighting operations. The main innovation of modern solar street lights is the battery management system which is facilitated by the presence of night and motion sensors. During the first 5 hours of night, the system works at average lumens brightness. Subsequently, the intensity of the light reduces till dawn or until PIR sensor is activated by human movement. When people are within a certain radius away from the light, it automatically turns to its full brightness. This smart feature makes solar street lights device a perfect combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Solar powered lights by Deelat Industrial has been tried and successfully tested in a wide variety of domestic and commercial applications. The device is well-suited for lighting up streets, courtyards, gardens, parks, compounds, boundary walls, car parks etc. in an eco-friendly and cost-effective manner.

Unending Benefits

Due to off-grid nature of solar street lights, solar street lights incur minimal operational costs. Such lights are wireless in nature and are independent of the utility company. Compared to conventional street lights, solar street lights require almost zero maintenance. Due to the absence of external wires, these lights do not pose any threat of accidents like electrocution, strangulation and overheating. Infact, solar lights illuminate the streets throughout the night irrespective of power cuts and grid failures.

Solar-powered lights are a perfect eco-friendly green lighting solution

Solar-powered lights are a perfect eco-friendly green lighting solution

Solar street lights are a delight for environmentalists around the world as it can provide significant lowering of carbon footprint of individuals, homes and businesses. In other words, solar-powered lights are a perfect green lighting solution. In terms of cost, solar street lights are a better investment than conventional street lights if the capital as well as O&M costs are considered.

Biomass Market in Japan: Perspectives

Biomass-Power-Plant-JapanBiomass is being increasingly used in power plants in Japan as a source of fuel, particularly after the tragic accident at Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011.  Palm kernel shell (PKS) has emerged as a favorite choice of biomass-based power plants in the country. Most of these biomass power plants use PKS as their energy source, and only a few operate with wood pellets. Interestingly, most of the biomass power plants in Japan have been built after 2015.

Palm Kernel Shells

Palm Kernel Shell is generating very good traction as a renewable energy resource and biomass commodity in Japan. This is because PKS is the cheapest biomass fuel and is available in large quantities across Southeast Asia. PKS, a biomass waste generated by palm oil mills, can be found in plentiful quantities in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

PKS must meet the specifications before being exported to Japan. Some key specifications for PKS exports are: moisture content, calorific value and impurities or contaminants (foreign materials). All three variables must meet a certain level to achieve export quality. Japanese markets or their consumers generally require contaminants from 0.5 to 2%, while European 2% – 3%. Japan usually buys with a volume of 10,000 tonnes per shipment, so PKS suppliers must prepare a sufficient stockpile of the PKS. The location of PKS stockpile that is closest to the seaport is the ideal condition to facilitate transportation of shipment.

PKS has emerged as an attractive biomass commodity in Japan

PKS has emerged as an attractive biomass commodity in Japan

Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are mostly produced in from wood waste such as sawdust, wood shaving, plywood waste, forestry residues and related materials. The development potential for quantity enlargement is also possible with energy plantations. Technically the properties of wood pellets are not much different from the PKS.

Wood pellet price is more expensive than PKS. Wood pellet production process is more complex than PKS, so wood pellet is categorized as finished product. The quality of wood pellet is generally viewed from its density, calorific value and ash content. Indonesia wood pellet export is not as big as PKS, it is also because of the limited producers of wood pellet itself. Japan buys wood pellets from Indonesia mostly for testing on their biomass power plants. Shipping or export by container is still common in wood pellet sector because the volume is still small. Currently, the world’s leading producer of wood pellets come from North America and Scandinavia. Even for Indonesia itself wood pellet is a new thing, so its production capacity is also not big.

Future Perspectives

For a short-term solution, exporting PKS is a profitable business.  Wood pellets with raw materials from energy plantations by planting the legume types such as calliandra are medium-term solutions to meet biomass fuel needs in Japan.  Torrefaction followed by densification can be a long-term orientation. Torrified pellet is superior to wood pellet because it can save transportation and facilitate handling, are hydrophobic and has higher calorific value.

 

Miscanthus: Reducing the Establishment Costs

Miscanthus-Elephant-GrassMiscanthus has been lauded as a dynamic high potential biomass crop for some time now due to its high yields, low input requirements and perennial nature. Miscanthus is commonly used as a biomass fuel to produce heat and electricity through combustion, but studies have found that miscanthus can produce similar biogas yields to maize when harvested at certain times of the year.  Miscanthus is a C4 grass closely related to maize and sugarcane, it can grow to heights of three metres in a single growing season.

High Establishment Costs

However, high establishment costs have impeded the popularity of the crop. High establishment costs of miscanthus are as a result of the sterile nature of the crop, which means that miscanthus cannot be propagated from seed and instead must be propagated from vegetative material. The vegetative material commonly used is taken from the root structure known as rhizomes; rhizome harvesting is a laborious process and when combined with low multiplication rates, results in a high cost for miscanthus rhizomes. The current figure based on Irish figures is €1,900 ha for rhizomes.

Promising Breakthrough

Research conducted in Teagasc Oak Park Carlow Ireland, suggests that there may be a cost effective of method of propagating miscanthus by using the stem as the vegetative material rather than having to dig up expensive rhizomes. The system has been proven in a field setting over two growing seasons and plants have been shown to be perennial.

A prototype planter suitable for commercial up scaling has been developed to sow stem segments of miscanthus. Initial costs are predicted at €130 ha for plant material. The image below shows the initial stem that was planted in a field setting and the shoots, roots, and rhizome developed by the stem at the end of the first growing season.

miscanthus-stem

Feedstock for AD Plants

Switching from maize to miscanthus as a feedstock for anaerobic digestion plants would increase profitability and boost the GHG abatement credentials of the systems. Miscanthus is a perennial crop which would provide a harvest every year once established for 20 years in a row without having to be replanted compared to maize which is replanted every year. This would provide an obvious economic saving as well as allowing carbon sequestration in the undisturbed soil.

There would be further GHG savings from the reduced diesel consumption required for the single planting as opposed to carrying out heavy seedbed cultivation each year for maize. Miscanthus harvested as an AD feedstock would also alleviate soil compaction problems associated with maize production through an earlier harvest in more favourable conditions.

Future Perspectives

Miscanthus is a nutrient efficient crop due to nutrient cycling. With the onset of senescence nutrients in the stem are transferred back to the rhizome and over-wintered for the following year’s growth. However the optimum date to harvest biomass to produce biogas is before senescence. This would mean that a significant proportion of the plants nutrient stores would be removed which would need to be replaced. Fertiliser in the form of digestate generated from a biogas plant could be land spread to bridge nutrient deficiencies. However additional more readily available chemical N fertiliser may have to be applied.

Some work at Oak Park on September harvested miscanthus crops has seen significant responses from a range of N application rates. With dwindling subsidies to support anaerobic digestion finding a low cost perennial high yielding feedstock could be key to ensuring economic viability.

Renewable Energy Industry in Africa: What Are the Opportunities For Foreign Consultants?

Currently, more than 600 million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa, out of a total population of 900 million, do not have access to electricity. Even those with some kind of electrical connection suffer from unreliable supply, lack of sufficient power on the grid, high energy prices, or a combination of these, meaning they lack full access to power.

 

However, the solution is in sight, and it is green. It could be that the majority of the “dark continent” will skip fossil fuel- based energy entirely, and skip straight to renewable energy solutions, from those living in refugee camps, to the cities. The renewable energy industry in Africa represents great opportunities for many, not only the local populations who will benefit from a stable electricity supply, but also local workers and international consultants whose expertise are greatly needed. Not to mention of course the benefits for the environment.

If you are a foreign consultant looking to work in the renewable energy industry in Africa, here is what you should know.

Opportunities in Renewable Energy Industry in Africa

The renewable energy industry is booming in many African countries, most notably Nigeria. Here, it is hoped that biomass will help to bridge the gap between the current electricity capacity of 12,522MW and demand of 98,000MW. This dramatic shortfall, despite Nigeria being an OPEC nation and the world’s 13th largest producer of oil, certainly shows the need for renewable energy solutions. Currently, only 1% of Nigeria’s electricity is powered by renewable energy with a small percentage of this being biomass. However, the country’s rich resources in biomass fuels such as agricultural residues and municipal solid waste means that biomass could represent the solution to the country’s energy crisis.

Across the continent, many countries are already implementing small-scale solar, wind and geothermal technology, particularly to provide energy to remote and under-serviced populations. The World Bank is committed to promoting sustainable energy solutions in developing nations, particularly in Africa. From 2014 to 2018, the World Bank funded $11.5 billion worth of renewable energy projects in developing countries. This continues to be a funding priority for the developing world’s largest financier.

Funding from the World Bank and others has led to a variety of renewable energy projects across Africa, which is only set to increase in future years. These projects have an intense need for foreign consultants, due to the demand for expertise outstripping local availability in many cases.

Guide For Working in African Renewable Energy Industry

Working in the renewable sector in Africa offers the opportunity not only to be part of an exciting, booming industry, but also one which has the potential to make a difference to the lives of millions of people. Working in the sector, and in Africa in general, does come with its own unique challenges, however, so it is important to be prepared.

1. Research Local Laws and Regulations

Firstly, it is important to be prepared that working in a new country will mean that many things will be unfamiliar. One of the key differences will be when it comes to laws and regulations. The company or organisation you are working with should be able to advise you on these matters, but it is also a good idea to do your own research ahead of time to get an idea of local regulations, and how these will impact on your work.

2. Be Open to Local Customs

A big part of working in another country is adjusting to the local customs. Understanding local culture and traditions will not only help you feel more comfortable, but it will also make you more effective in your work. After you arrive in the field, make it one of your key priorities to absorb as much as you can of the local culture.

Additionally, you should be prepared that infrastructure and logistics may be very different from what you are accustomed to: this can impact on everything from internet connection and availability of supplies to transit times.

3. Make Sure Your Training is Upto Date

Availability of training while on site may be limited, so it is important to make sure your qualifications are up to date and that you have skilled up with all relevant training before you leave home. Consult with a UK-based company such as We Do Training to see what courses are on offer, and what may be helpful for you while in the field.