Category Archives: Flidar Tijl en Bram

General consensus on the Blog

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for their cooperation and astute discussions.

Secondly I think it was very interesting to see the different opinions. As we are all engineers, I’d like to think we are all informed to a certain degree and found it hopeful that we all had the same consensus about renewable energy.

The general consensus (In my opinion)

Renewable energy is needed, and a big part of the future. Investing and researching new ways and more effective ways to harvest energy in a clean way will be a big part of the future (economicly, environmentally, socially, …). 100% renewable energy might not be for tomorrow, but steadily going away from fossil fuels was agreed by everyone I think. I also found it interesting that some of the issues in our blog, were recognisable in the ‘Solar Boiler’ blog. Such as equity, administrative delays, politics and of course we also saw that the financial crisis has a nasty habit on causing problems everywhere.

As for nuclear energy, there were some mixed opinions on whether or not to abandon it and go 100% renewable, or invest in cleaner and SAFER ways to use nuclear energy.

Thirdly I hope we can look back in 5-10 years to this blog and think about the progress that has been made. The pauverty that has been resolved, the Perpetuum Mobile that has been discovered, Robots that clean our houses and bake pancakes and Microchips that save our lives.

For the Solar Boiler team, good luck in South-America, and hopefully you can help a lot of people there! I think that you guys are doing a good thing,  at no personal benefit to yourselves.

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Renewable energy progress report, Europe

Two weeks ago, the european commission discussed the progress of renewable energy in Europe and posted a report on the progress and the future estimates to reach the 2020 targets .

 com_2013_0175_res_en

The report shows us the problems that lay ahead. I’ll be talking mainly about the 2nd point: PROGRESS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT. The graphs mentioned will be found there. (The rest is very interesting as well, and could be some nice bedside lecture ;-))

The first graph shows a serious growth during 2005 to 2010. It shows we are on the right track according to the target. But after this, the amount of renewable energy pretty much remained the same. This already shows a problem.

A new analysis was made to simulate the progress untill 2020, which shows us pretty depressive numbers. By 2020, the amount of renewable energy would be only 75-80% of what was planned. The following graphs show us the planned amount of renewable energy versus the estimated amounts. These graphs are divided into Wind Energy (on/offshore), biomass energy, biofuel energy and PV energy. According to these estimated numbers, none of the above will reach the planned values with their current plans. With the biggest failure being seen in offshore wind energy.

The results show us that their will be even more effort and budget needed than initially planned. The last 7 years were used to achieve the first 20% (as planned), which means that there will a much steeper growth needed in the future.

These depressive estimates are partly caused by policy changes which scare of investors, regulatory risk, adminastrative burdens and delays, slow infrastructure, delays in connection, grid operational rules and ofcourse the economic crisis.

As we are still on track on the moment all these estimates can still be changed, with more effort, bigger investments, etc. Probable also less stupid investments, like the 450€ subsidies Belgium gave in the beginning (which will cost a fortune, which otherwise could have been invested more wisely).

I didn’t know that the forecasts where this bad, and hopefully Europe will raise the alarm.

Smart grids

In my last post I briefly touched the subject of smart grids, in this post I will go deeper into this subject and I will try to explain what it actually is and it’s functionalities.

Let me start by giving you wikipedia’s definition of what a smart grid actually is.  A smart grid is an electrical grid that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviors of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.  So from this definition you can see that a smart grid is designed to better match the question and demand for electricity to prevent the electrical grid to be overloaded

So you might ask why there is a need for this to be implemented. I would ask you to imagine the following situation where everybody comes home at about 5 o’clock and plugs in their electric car.  As you can see this would put an immense stress on the grid.  But it is not only in consumption of energy that possible problems can rise.  Suppose that everybody in a city or a district has a house equipped with solar pannels and that on a sunny day the electrical generation is higher than the electrical consumption in this district.  This excess of electricity will be pumped into the grid.  From situations like these I hope you can see that in the future company’s, consumers and producers will have to adjust their consumption and generation to each others needs and demands.

The term “smart grid” is actually a bit misleading because it is not the grid that will be controlled, it are the appliances that are plugged into the grid that will be controlled.

So now we have a basic understanding of what a smart grid is, what will be the functionalities of such a grid?

Regulate the supply and demand of electricity
This would solve the problem of overproduction in the example of the city/district that is equipped with solar pannels and is producing more than it needs.  In a smart grid buildings would be equipped by smart meters, when the supply of energy is high a signal can be send to this smart meters saying that electricity is cheap.  The smart meters then can start charging electrical cars, doing laundry, … all tasks that have to be done but that can wait for a certain period.  For instance you want your car to be charged before you need it again tomorrow but you don’t really care when it actually charges so it can charge in the middle of the night, in the morning, …. In this way the demand and supply are regulated to be in balance.

Reliablity
A smart grid will use techniques that improve and facilitate fault detection and allow self healing of the grid, so without the intervention of technicians.  This will be acchieved by a multiple route system.  But you can remark that the current grid also uses these multiplpe route system and that certainly is the case. However in the current system an other problem may rises that when one network is overloaded the power shifts to an other network wich causes that to overload that network and can result in a black out.  A technique to prevent this is by load shedding or a voltage reduction.

Flexibility in network topology
The classic electrical grid is designed for a one directional energy flow.  The next-generation transmission and distribution infrastructure will be better able to handle possible bidirection energy flows.

Efficiancy
Numerous contributions to overall improvement of the efficiency of energy infrastructure is anticipated from the deployment of smart grid technology, in particular including demand-side management, for example turning off air conditioners during short-term spikes in electricity price. The overall effect is less redundancy in transmission and distribution lines, and greater utilisation of generators, leading to lower power prices.

These are some of the major advantages that a smart grid brings, but there are also lots of other one’s. For instance you will never again have to wait at home for someone to come and control your meter reading, because your meter communicates this automatically to the energy distributor.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask!

100% Renewable energy is possible, the European Energy (R)Evolution

Hi everybody,

In many of our posts we focused our attention to the Germany and the German energiewende, but off course it is important to also look at the bigger/European picture.  Altough the Germans play a leading role in this process is their effort that helpful for the environment if the rest of us just keep on using coal, nuclear energy and other non renewable energy resources?  What can we expect in the future and is a 100% renewable energy production actually possible and feasible?

While researching for information about this topic I found a study composed by Greenpeace and the EREC (the European Renewable Energy Council) about a sustainable EU energy future.  You can find the study here, link, but seen as it it quite a large document I don’t expect you to read it and will try to explain everything as good as possible in the blog.

The study states that a fundamental shift in the way we generate and consume energy is necessary and must be underway within the next 10 years otherwise we will not be able to avert the effects of climate change.  However experts agree that such a switch must happen in a way that economic growth is maintained.  They think that the transition can happen in such a way that it achieves a lot of different positive outcomes.

To achieve this there are 5 key principles we have to keep in mind:

• Implement renewable solutions, especially through decentralised energy systems and grid expansions.  In stead of producing energy on a central location and transporting it across a whole country, we should evolve to an energy production where power and heat are produced close to the point of final use.  This will lower grid loads and energy losses.  Nevertheless the grid will have to be expanded to cope with energy production from offshore wind farms and concentrated solar power.

• Respect the natural limits of the environment.  This is off course a logic principle, otherwise we wouldn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

• Phase out dirty, unsustainable energy sources.  This is a principle we already discussed and agreed upon in one of the previous blogs where we had the debate about nuclear energy.

• Create greater equity in the use of resources.  Everybody should have access to energy, so that the benefits of energy services are available for everybody, north and south, rich and poor.

• Decouple economic growth from the consumption of fossil fuels.  The experts propose to phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century

With this principles in mind how can we acchieve this goal?  The study proposes a 3 step implementation

Step 1: Energy efficiency and equity

The efficiency in the use of energy must be increased and this in three sectors: industry, transport and domestic/business.  The basic philosophy is intelligent use, not abstinence.  The most important savings would be acchieved by better isolation and building design, super efficient electrical machines and drives, renewable heat production (such as solar collectors) and a reduction in energy consumption by vehicles used for goods and passenger traffic.

Step 2: The renewable energy (r)evolution: decentralised energy and large scale renewables.

Decentralised energy is generated closer to the consumer and uses a local distribution network rather than a high voltage distribution network.  Because electricity generation is closer to consumers, any waste heat from for instance combustion processes can be piped to nearby buildings.  This means that more of the input energy is used, not just a fraction.

Step 3: optimised integration, renewables 24/7

A complete transformation of the energy system will be necessary to accommodate the significantly higher shares of renewable energy.  Nowadays renewable energy is seen as an extra in the energy mix and it has to adapt to the operating conditions of the grid. When this ratio changes and renewable energy becomes more important the grid will have to be adapted to accommodate for this change.  One of the solutions will be the use of smart grids where the grid has to be flexible enough to follow the fluctuations of the variable renewable power, for example by adjusting demand via demand-side management and/or deploying storage systems.

What would be the key results?

There is a whole list of expected results given in the study, I will only highlight some of them.

They expect to achieve an energy demand that is 35% lower in 2050 in comparison to today’s energy demand.  This shows the amazing potential for improvement there is in the way we use electricity.

Electricity generation of renewables is aimed to reach 1,480 GW by 2050.

The cost of electricity will be slightly higher but this difference will be less than 0.7 €cents/kWh up to 2020 in comparison to the reference scenario (a scenario that only takes in to account the existing international energy and environmental policies, so this is the scenerio that would happen if we wouldn’t change anything) that they use in the study.  However if you account for the lower CO2 intensity of the electricity production the costs will be 4.8 €cents/kWh below those in the reference version.

CO2 emissions decrease by 95%, in comparison to a 10% decrease in the reference scenario.

I know that this is only a (very) small summary of the study, but the point I want to make with this blog is that renewable energy is more than an extra in our current energy production.  It offers numerous possibility’s and is in fact an evolution that can completely change the way we live and the way we use electricity.

Thank you for reading and if there are things that aren’t clear for you, don’t hesitate to ask!

 

Picture to answer a question posed in the reply’s

Schermafbeelding 2013-04-10 om 13.20.34

Energiewende in person

Just returning from a trip to Berlin, I thought it was interesting to share some of the experience that have to do with the energiewende.

First thing that caught the eye was the enourmous amount of windmills you see when driving from one point to another. This might have been a coincidence. But in just a 4 hour bus drive I think I saw more windmills than I’ve seen in Belgium. Failing to find someone who took a picture of this (I forgot my camera), I searched for a similar picture on the internet.

windmills_germany

For about an hour or so the scenery was nothing but this. I thought it was pretty impressive and showed how it affects daily lives, and everyone is probable aware of the situation.

Second thing were the solar parks, I hadn’t seen any big solar park yet, but in Germany, we drove across 2 quiet large ones in a few hours. Another impressive fact in my opinion.

Third something more subtle, but I thought was very interesting as well, were glued ‘protest’ posters that were encouraging the Energiewende and discouraging nuclear power. I came across a few of these and thought it also showed that the idea of renewable energy is much bigger and wider spread than in Belgium. Where a lot of people know about subsidies you can get for solar panels on your roof, but not much more.

Anyway, this was just a little update and again appologies for the lack of photos which make this less informative. But I’m sure Bram, Wout and Korneel are going to agree that it’s a big difference compared to Belgium.

In Berlin we also went to the ‘Technik Museum’, where we took some photos about the windturbine section. After going through them, and if they seem interesting enough I might write a blog about this as well.

 

Interview with an expert

Hi everybody,

After a fun and interesting week in Berlin we are back and the focus is back on the thesis and the blog. Before we left we interviewed an expert in the field of renewable energy.  We interviewed Geert Palmers, the CEO of our company (3E, www.3E.eu).

The interview is divided into three parts. First we asked some questions about himself to get you some basic information. In the second part we focused our questions onto the company and the vision of the company.  In the final part we asked his opinion on some of the topics we discussed in our blog, like the energiewende and nuclear energy.   The questions are in presented in bold and some personal comments of us are written in Italic. Hope you guys enjoy the interview.

Basic Info

Name: Geert Palmers
Age:
I forgot, but I was born in 1968
College education:
KUL Burgerlijk Electrotechnisch ingenieur 1991,  Foundation Universitaire Luxembourgeouse – Master in Environmental Sciences 1993.

About 3E

What was the vision, the idea you had for 3E when you started the company?

The 3 founders (Luc De Gheselle, Werner Coppye, Geert Palmers) liked to work together when they were at IMEC, and started a series of common projects at the time. A common vision about the energy future was developed, namely that renewable energy has to play a dominant role in any future energy system. After some other professional experiences – 3E was founded to bring projects to reality.

logo

Fun fact: The name 3E refers to the 3 founders and the fact that they are engineers so 3 Engineers.

Is this vision changed over time and what is the current mission of 3E?

No, our vision stayed the same. Of course, our activities have broadened and our presence have.

Here you can see a map which show the projects of 3E or the projects in which 3E collaborates around the globe

3E projects

 

How do you see the future for 3E?

3E will continue to internationalize it’s consultancy activities as well as it’s software services.  In addition the current spin-offs (Xant nv and Flidar nv) of 3E will continue to develop  and there will follow more new spin-off company’s.

Flidar is the spin-off we are currently working for and Xant has developed a an innovative and certified concept for medium scale wind turbines.

FLiDAR_small_web            XANT

The future of renewable energy

What is your opinion on nuclear energy and do you think the world actually needs nuclear energy?

 It is evident that a energy system can be conceived without nuclear power.

In some countries with high energy intensity, low renewable energy resources, and high share of nuclear power (such as Belgium), the transition will require time and significant power import from neighbouring countries

The nuclear “renaissance” in Europe has resulted in only two partially built nuclear reactors in Finland (Olkiluoto) and in France (Flamanville). Both reactors are several years behind schedule and billions of Euros over budget. New nuclear power is more expensive than most types of renewable energy.

What do you think of the German energiewende? The German initiative to close all nuclear plants by 2022 and thus more relying on renewable energy sources.

Germany has developed a very well prepared plan, and it is feasible. It might take more time, and even if only 80% of the plan would be realised, it will put Germany again in an exemplary and leading international position. This decision of the largest EU economy is a major breakthrough for renewable energy.

Note that Angela Merkel is a physicist which was in favour of nuclear power, even after Chernobyl. She changed her position completely after Fukushima – which happened in a technologically very advanced country.

Do you believe Belgium should follow the German example?

Belgium should build a similar plan, and try to get a broad support for this in society. This would avoid policy changes every election for a theme which needs decades of stable investments in line with the vision.

Belgium can get to a high penetration of renewable energy, but to my opinion it is more affordable and better for public acceptance to have a significant part of its consumption imported from neighbouring countries (e.g. offshore wind from NL, UK,..).

What do you see as promising evolutions in the world of renewable energy?

Continued decrease of prices of solar PV power, new generation of offshore wind turbines (current offshore wind turbines are the onshore versions, but just a bit ‘marinised’), Demand side management, Storage getting more attention and private investments, Internationalisation of the markets and the technology progress speeding it up and making progress more stable (not dependent anymore of a few voluntaristic countries).


To end this blogpost I would very much like to thank mr. Palmers for his time to do this interview with us and I hope you guys enjoyed reading it.  If you have any questions or remarks don’t hesitate to post them in the comments.

China, pollutant or innovator?

Hi everybody,

In this posts I would like to take a look at China and see what their opinion is on renewable energy.

China is as we know, seen as most of us have been there, a massive country with lots of extremes and contrasts.  I did some research and found the following results that I would like to share with you.

To begin I have found a graph that shows the amount of energy each an average citizen uses

Schermafbeelding 2013-03-21 om 20.39.08

Note that the graph only shows the average until 2010

As we look at this graph we can see that the average energy use per person is way below what a typical American uses or us Belgians.  Of course it is true that with the rising prosperity the average energy use will continue to rise.  You can see that China is on a rising curve whilst Belgium and the US have a more constant curve.

As we look at the next graph we see the amount of gigawatts China and other country’s produce

Schermafbeelding 2013-03-21 om 20.45.09

Pease note that the graph uses data from 2011 and very important that hydropower is NOT included in this graph.

When we add hydropower to this equation China produces total of  282 GW of renewable energy.

In 2011 China was also the biggest investor in green energy and this for the third year in a row.

Schermafbeelding 2013-03-21 om 20.53.20

This graph shows the amount invested as a percentage of the gross national product.

So when we look at these statistics you should conclude that China is doing a pretty good job right?

However, China is also the largest consumer of coal in the world.  They are generating 68,7% of their electricity from coal ( in comparison the USA generates 49% of it’s electricity from coal).  As we all know coal is a very pollutant energy resource, so China is as well the leader in renewable energy as in polluting energy.

As a conclusion I like to state that I really hope that China continues to invest on renewable energy and keeps on searching for options to eliminate as much as possible the use of coal, but we have to be realistic and look at ourselves too.  You cannot blame them for growing and achieving a higher standard of living. I think it’s time for every country  to take it’s responsibility and to keep on investing in renewable energy for a better future!

World Future Energy Summit

Last week I read an article about a new solar-energy central in Abu Dhabi. I found this interesting, because normally when you think of these places, you think about oil, and oil sheiks etc.

So after searching the web regarding Abu Dhabi and renewable energy, I stumbled upon the website of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES). According to their website: “The WFES Exhibition is an international business platform that connects project owners and solution providers to investors and buyers from the public and private sector.”

Seeing that countrys like Abu Dhabi invest in renewables just shows the importance and the economical factor it can play in the next decades.

–> The Website <–

Another article about WFES shows how they are the world leading country on renewables research. But due to the neglectible prizes of oil their carbon footpint is super high. So where they flourish in research, they fail miserably in actually using it. The article has lots more interesting facts.

Advantages and disadvantages of biofuels

Biofuel is fuel derived from organic matter in a short period of time, and differs from fossil fuels which need thousands or millions of years to be created.

There are 2 main sorts of biofuel, bio-ethanol and biodiesel. Bio-ethanol is widely used in USA and Brazil and is mostly used as an gasoline additive. Normal cars can use 10-15% of bio-ethanol in their gasoline, without needing an adjustment. Driving on pure bio-ethanol is only possible, when adjustments to the car have been made. Bio-diesel is the most common biofuel in Europe, and can be used as a diesel additive

Their are still debates in what the advantages and disadvantages of these biofuels offer.

The advantages

  • Cost: The potential to cost less than fossil fuels (Will increase in importance as price for fossil fuels will rise when the amount available lowers).
  • Lower carbon emissions: When biofuels are being burned, they produce less carbon output and fewer toxins.
  • Renewability and availability: Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels won’t take long to be able ‘harvest’. And are renewable due to their short time needed to grow.
  • Economic stimulation and security: Where fossil fuels often travel thousands of miles, biofuels can be gathered locally offering jobs for hundreds and thousands of people.

The disadvantages

  • Lower output: Biofuels offer a lower energy output than fossil fuels, therefor need a larger amount for the same energy.
  • Production Carbon Emissions: Where the burning of biofuels create less carbon output and toxins the production is a different thing. Due to nitrate fertilizers and machinery necessary to cultivate the plants several studies have shown that they sometimes create equally or even more greenhouse gasses than the fossil fuels.
  • Food prices and shortages (Mostly for bio-ethanol): Food prices may rise and shortages accur due to the growing demand for biofuels.
  • Water use: Massive quantities of water are used for the cultivation of these plants.

 

Looking at these advantages and disadvantages I’m not yet entirely convinced. It has a promising future and needs a lot of adjusments to create a revolition in the energy sector. In the european union there are a lot of countries that import biomass to create biodiesel, which brings along pollution etc. In low population density it has a lot of potential as there is a lot of land that can be used and can be locally harvested.

As a reaction to jef’s response on a previous article :

After researching these (dis-)advantages I think the USA and brazil certainly have to continue researching biofuels, but I now see why these biofuels aren’t added to the renewable sector in the charts. They are renewable, but not that environmentally friendly. I think it will have a big impact in the future but only if they find better ways to produce them.

 

Sources: http://greenliving.lovetoknow.com/ , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofuel

 

Intermezzo: Belgian windfarms and the construction of one

Hi everybody,

Today I would like to deviate a little from the current debate about nuclear energy and die energiewende, while searching deredactie.be I found a short clip in wich they explain (briefly) how an offshore windfarm is build.

http://www.deredactie.be/permalink/1.1006120

Seen as the clip has aired in april 2011, I did a bit of research to find out more about the progression of the project.

The project is situated on the Thorntonbank in the north sea. The Thorntonbank is a sandbank in front of the Belgian and the Dutch coast and is 25 meters higher than the surrounding seabed and about 20 km long.

Thorntonbank

The project started in 2002 and is/was divided into three parts

img_planning_b

As you can see on the scheme the project is nearing its end, on the website of C-Power I found that they are expecting that the final phase will go into operation in september 2013.

The goals for the different phases are listed below

img_installatieschema

On this map you can spot the layout of the windfarm (the color of the windmill matches with the colors of the phases given in the scheme above)

img_installatieschema-clean_klein

The annual generation of the windfarm is about 1000GWh, this should be enough energy for the annual consumption of 600 000 people.

Seen as the first clip doesn’t really go into details, the following video is interesting to watch.  It provides more details about the different steps in the construction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XqLOYeXhjDg

The phase 2 windmills on the pillars that where seen in the first and second movie clip.

Phase II windturbines

The windmills of the first phase where not fitted on this type of pillars

fto_presentation01

And it is certainly good to know that this not the only company interested in Belgian offshore energy production but that there are a lot of other company’s also active in the North sea.  The Belwind windfarm is already operating since 2010 and has an output of 550GWh.

windmills and concessieaanvragen

Thank you for reading and let me know what you think about these Belgian projects!

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