Energy Watch

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Norwegian hydroelectricity to expand its reach

Hydroelectric plants in Norway could potentially offer up to 20 GW of energy storage for Europe. This would involve using high-voltage direct current interconnectors running under the sea, which would allow the power supply to reach beyond continental Europe.

Norway is home to around half of all hydroelectric water storage reservoirs in Europe, and already has six interconnectors in place, connecting it to countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands.

The hydroelectric plants provide Norway with around 98 per cent of its electricity. Refitting the plants to enable them to supply connections to the rest of Europe may cost upwards of €6 billion, according to Kaspar Vereide, an engineer at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. An electricity link between Norway and the UK, called the NSN link, is already in the planning stages.

Renewable energy found in Russia’s arctic

Two small Russian settlements, Chavenga and Tetrino, now run almost entirely on renewable energy – specifically, wind and solar power – alongside some traditional diesel usage. They are the first settlements in the Murmansk region, along the White Sea, to do so, and Tetrino’s 350 residents now have access to full electricity during all hours. The changes are expected to save the region 231 tonnes of diesel fuel a year.

China leads in renewable energy investment

Despite being the biggest contributor to world pollution, China is also the world’s biggest investor in clean energy, according to an August 2015 report by the International Energy Agency. Investing more than US$80 billion in clean energy in 2014, China has spent more on renewables than Europe and the USA combined. It has become a leader in solar energy, producing more than all other countries combined – and has become the world’s largest market for solar panels. China is also a front-runner in wind energy, producing enough to power more than 110 million Chinese homes. And this is set to increase, with its wind power capacity predicted to treble by 2020, according to research and consulting firm Global Data. Unlike most other countries, the vast majority of China’s turbines are on land, with just four per cent located offshore. Its wind capacity increased 20-fold between 2007 and 2014.

UK looks at using shallow-water tidal generation

New possibilities for the use of tidal energy in the UK could be on the horizon. Underwater propeller-like turbines, used to generate electricity, have previously only been feasible in waters at least 30-metres deep. However, new technology for use in shallower waters is in the works. Transverse Horizontal Axis Water Turbine technology (THAWT) is the brainchild of Oxford University researchers and British company Kepler Energy, which have been working together to devise ways of harnessing tidal energy.

The new turbine design comprises a stronger structure that is more powerful without being larger in size, thereby enabling it to run in shallower depths. Kepler wants to install a tidal ‘energy fence’ in the Bristol Channel using the new technology. The fence will be 1 km long and will cost £143 million. Experts say that if correctly utilised, tidal technology could potentially supply the UK with up to five per cent of its energy needs.

Scientists explore foot traffic and magnetostriction 

New strides have been made in the exploration of unconventional energy sources, such as floors, kites and magnet manipulation. Researchers at IDTechEx say that energy harvested from kite flying, as well as from footfall on floor tiles, is a real possibility. Forms of photovoltaics, used for solar energy conversion, also hold potential for further energy yield, particularly forms that harvest infrared, ultraviolet and other forms of light.

Meanwhile, another form of energy harvesting, called ‘magnetostriction’, may present more possibilities than has previously been thought. Magnetostriction is the process by which magnets move, or ‘hum’, within a transformer – and when the magnets are bent or compressed, electricity can be generated. This has been seen as unreliable in the past, but new magnets that actually expand when magnetised are now paving the way for its utilisation.

Brazil close to completing 80 km of solar streetlights

Solar power corporation Kyocera has announced that its solar-lighting project along the Arco Metropolitano do Rio de Janeiro, a Brazilian highway, is near completion.

More than half of the 145 km highway will be illuminated by 3.2 MV photovoltaic streetlights at night – that’s in excess of 4,300 lights, making this Brazil’s largest solar-powered highway. The lights are expected to provide an estimated 2.8 GW of power per year.  Brazil is a leader in renewable energy utilisation, in that almost 45 per cent of the country’s primary energy needs are met by renewables.

Wind and solar energy stimulate economy

South Africa’s first wind and solar plants have generated so much for the economy that they have more than paid for themselves, according to a recent study by the government-owned Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The CSIR said that renewable energy has saved South Africa ZAR3.6 billion in fuel costs, and has also spared the country 203 hours of ‘unserved energy’, saving it a further ZAR4.6 billion. Customers’ energy supply would have had to have been curtailed during those 203 hours were it not for the renewable energy sources, the CSIR said. The study examined hourly production data for South Africa’s various categories of energy sources.


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