Morocco polishes up its energy sector

Just 200 kilometres away from Marrakech, between the sight of Atlas Mountains and the beginning of Sahara desert, Morocco’s greatest effort to introduce renewable energy takes shape.

The project to construct a thermosolar plant called Noor (“light” in Arabic) in Morocco got selected in 2011 as part of an investment package from Desertec, with the main objective of promoting the development of power plants in places where renewable resources were more abundant, such as North Africa, and then being able to provide energy to Europe through the Strait of Gibraltar.

Noor has been developed in different phases. Stage I started in May 2013, with the installation of half million mirrors covering an area of about 450 hectares and an installed capacity of 160MW. It was finally connected to Morocco’s power grid on 2016, and it’s estimated to deliver throughout the year about 370GW. Following stages of the project are expected to be up and running by 2018, according to the head of the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy, Mustapha Bakkoury. When that happens, the total installed capacity will be of 580MW, enough to power over a million homes.

Interestingly enough, Noor planners have decided to combine different ways of energy storage in the different stages of the project. For instance, in Stage I and II, mirrors concentrate sun’s rays onto synthetic oil that runs through pipes, and through the heating of it a water vapour is created and gets a turbine-powered generator going. Stage III, however, will use the solar power plant system: all the mirrors will reflect the sun onto a receiver on this tower, and the heat from them will be passed and stored into molten salts, which experts affirm is a more efficient way of storing solar energy, reaching up to 8 hours of energy storage.

Water use is another of the issues to face in the implementation of a solar plant in the dessert, and again, planners have given different solutions to the different phases: while Stage I started with a wet cooling system, following stages went for a dry cooling one, in order to save water. However, mirrors still need to be cleaned up regularly in order to maintain an efficiency standard in the energy production, and that’s where the most intense use of water will happen.

Morocco has realized the importance of this strategic sector and is determined to make the best out of this comparative advantage. Until recently, the country imported 97% of its energy needs, something absolutely unreasonable when considering that Morocco has one of the world’s largest potential for solar power production, with up to 3,600 hours of sun in the desert. Now, a new trend of investment in renewable energy is dominant: 34% of the country’s electric power production comes from renewable sources, mainly hydro, wind, and solar. Its plan is continue on this path, estimating a generation of 42% from renewables by 2020, and 52% by 2030.

 

 

The implications of their approach to this opportunity are of great importance, not only for their own economy, but for the African continent as a whole. The fact that the country with the closest links to Europe takes the lead and develops diverse energy strategies, thinking on its own energetic needs but also on the European market, can produce drag effects on many other African countries, that potentially could become exporter of power supplies to Europe, as well as amongst themselves. Countries like Ghana, Rwanda and Congo are already investing in solar power projects. It could be the beginning of the new era of clean energy production in Africa, and Morocco is decided to spearhead the change.

India looking forward to bank on Solar power

In India, Solar power has become the catchword for many states in recent times. Internationally, the price of solar power components has been declining at 15% year over year, and states are leveraging this trend. India’s commitments on increasing its non-fossil fuel component of power generation to 40% by 2030 are substantial. Even though coal usage has been increasing too but India is confident to use more solar power. In Gujrat (one of the states in India) they have been using Solar power a bit for a while. The project was the brainchild of Narendra Modi. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi spurred companies to build more than 900MW of solar plant across the state in just a couple of years. Now, as prime minister, the question is whether he can repeat the feat across India, which receives more sunlight than any other country in the G20. India’s booming cities are another huge challenge, with many struggling with blackouts, particularly when temperatures soar and air conditioning is ramped up. Again, Modi’s 13-year tenure in Gujarat is providing the solar template. In September, it was announced that rooftop solar power projects in the state capital, Gandhinagar, will be replicated in Punjab and Delhi, where a storm at the end of May plunged its fragile grid into rolling blackouts for a week.

Delhi is ever more power-hungry, but with little open land and 300-plus days of sunshine a year, rooftop solar is an attractive solution. India’s pledge document talks about increasing nuclear power from 5 GW to 63 GW by 2032 and doubling wind capacity to 60 GW by 2022. But the most ambitious is the plan to increase solar capacity from 4 GW to 100 GW in the next seven years. With the liability issue bogging down nuclear, much of the heavy lifting may have to be done by solar and, to some extent, wind.

Solar power has become the catchword for many states in recent times. Internationally, the price of solar power components has been declining at 15% year over year, and states are leveraging this trend to get good deals. Recently, Madhya Pradesh was able to beat down the price it will have to pay for power from a solar project to Rs 5.05 a unit.
The pledge document says: “A scheme for development of 25 solar parks, ultra mega solar power projects, canal top solar projects and 1,00,000 solar pumps for farmers is at different stages of implementation.” The 100 GW expansion planned nationwide would need acquisition of nearly 5 lakh acres of land – at least three times the size of Mumbai.

I really hope India start using more non fossil fuels and less charcoal.

Source: The guardian, TOI

Australia: The first country to have Tesla’s power battery

Tesla’s new ‘Powerwall’ battery which can save excess energy which can be used to later on will hit the markets of Australia late this year. It is being launched well before the predictions in early 2016. Even if those who have already installed the solar panels for them it should be a great news.

The standard model being plugged by Tesla — for the average household — is the 7kWh Powerwall. Tesla Energy will also be supplying 10kWh Powerwalls however, along with the commercial and utility scale Powerpack, which groups powerful 100kWh battery blocks for anywhere from 500kWh to upwards of 10MWh.

There are also numerous energy companies who want to distribute the Tesla’s battery in the Australian Market. Similar to the battery in the Model S, the Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, only this one can be mounted on the wall of your house. The biggest markets for battery storage in Australia will be those areas that pay little for the output from solar arrays to the grid. This includes all new installations, and in areas like NSW ( New south wales), where 160,000 households will lose their solar premium tariffs at the end of 2016. Labor of has set a target of Australia generating 50% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030, even if there are yet no details on the implementation of it.

What will be the price and eventual feedback, we are really looking forward to it!

Source: Gizmondo, The Guardian, Renewable energy

Some interesting facts, pros and cons of Solar Energy

In my previous article I wrote about Wind Energy. Today I would like to cite some facts about Solar Energy. Recently I read an article where a Swedish firm seeks to revolutionize solar energy production by creating a new solar electricity generation system that developers claim is the most efficient in the world. It is currently being tested in South Africa’s Kalahari desert. The Stirling engine was developed by Reverend Robert Stirling in Edinburgh in 1816 as an alternative to the steam engine. It uses alternate heating and cooling of an enclosed gas to drive pistons, which turn a flywheel. Because of the material limitations at the time, the advanced stirling engine that Ripasso uses was not commercially developed until 1988, when Swedish defence contractor Kokums started making them for submarines.

Reading this article, I became more curious about Solar energy which lead me to find some facts, pros or cons about it. Let’s have a quick look about it.

1) Sustainable : 73,000 terawatts of solar energy shine down on the Earth’s surface every day, which is 10,000 times the daily global energy use. So imagine so much energy we can tap everyday.
2) Reduced Electricity cost : Well, no need to discuss a lot about it. When the batteries are fully charged, our electricity bill will be less.
3) No Noise: Solar panels don’t create any noise like Wind turbines do.

Cons:
1) Initial investment: Installing solar panels can be quite expensive initially. Even though they don’t need high maintenance, changing the batteries could also add to the cost. A good Solar panel can last upto 2- to 25 years
2) No Sun, no energy : Solar panels can be ‘only’ useful if sunlight is available for most days during the year. If you live in a area where it rains or snows a lot. It might not be a good idea to install it

3) Not completely clean energy : While solar power certainly is less polluting than fossil fuels, some problems do exist. Some manufacturing processes are associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen trifluroide and sulfur hexafluoride has been traced back to the production of solar panels. These are some of the most potent greenhouse gases and have many thousand times the impact on global warming compared to carbon dioxide. Transportation and installation of solar power systems can also indirectly cause pollution ( even though very little)

In the end installing Solar Panels still still have higher advantage.