Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year End Review: Renewable Energy Achievements

In 2014 there were a number of uplifting stories in the field of renewable energy. From increased use to novel innovations. Here are some highlights from 2014 in the areas of solar, wind and ocean based power systems.

Solar Power

In addition to robust solar demand, 2014 saw a number of stellar solar stories. In February Ivanpah, the world’s largest concentrating solar plant, officially opened. It generates enough electricity to power nearly 100,000 homes. In the UK coal mines were re-purposed into solar farms. In 2014 research came to light that showed how solar power plants can save huge amounts of water compared to nuclear, coal and gas power plants.

In 2014 the world's first solar road opened in the Netherlands. This experimental 230-foot stretch of road is designed for bicycles and its solar cells generate the power equivalent to the requirements of about three Dutch homes. If all goes well the project will be expanded in 2016. Although not without detractors, this is the first in what may become a widely used concept. A US based solar roadways concept managed to raise several million dollars in 2014.

In June a new solar powered car broke several records. The car goes by the name of Sunswift eVe, it traveled both far and fast by going nearly 500 miles on a single charge and breaking a record for solar powered electric vehicles by going 87 mph. The solar car was designed by students at the University of New South Wales, they are now working on a street-legal version.

Solar power is also becoming more efficient. Researchers from the University of New South Wales achieved record solar efficiency in December when they converted more than 40 percent of the sun's light into electricity using concentrated solar voltaic technology. This new technology may also be cheaper than some other highly efficient record breaking technologies. The lightweight solar cloth that can be stretched across parking lots or buildings. It won the Solar U.K. Industry Awards’ Building-Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) Solar Innovation of the Year in 2014.

Researchers at MIT have taken solar efficiency to a whole new level with a material that allegedly converts 85 percent of solar energy into steam. Known as a solar sponge, this porous material is currently undergoing trials to see if it is able to be produced commercially. If so it could be a groundbreaking source of potable water in impoverished areas.

Wind Power

The German state of Schleswig-Holstein got almost all of its electricity from renewable sources in 2014. Much of this power was generated by wind turbines.

At the start of 2014 Denmark inaugurated the world’s largest and most powerful wind turbine. The turbine, which is located at the Danish National Test Centre for Large Wind Turbines in Østerild, is 720 feet tall with 260-foot blades. The turbine can generate enough electricity to power 7,500 average European households.

In August, wind power set a new record in the UK by providing 17 percent of the national demand. Two months later Scotland produced enough wind electricity to power all the homes in the country with some left over for export. This supports the idea that the Scotland will succeed in providing all of its electricity needs from renewables by 2020.

Tidal Power

In August 2014 Scotland also announced that it had finalized plans to build the world’s largest tidal array in the Pentland Firth in northern Scotland. Once the MeyGen tidal array is completed, it is expected to be able to provide enough electricity to power 175,000 homes, it will also create up to 100 jobs.

Also in August, a UK based 156-ton tidal power generator opened in Wales. With nine more planned if the test goes well. This could produce enough electricity to power about 10,000 UK homes.

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2014 US State Energy Legislation Review
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