This Week in Green Tech: Wind, Solar, Fuel Cell EV, STEM Competition, and Online Energy Education
Tom Lombardo posted on May 05, 2020 |
Wind and solar give fossil fuels a run for their money, a fuel-cell-powered bus and more.

This week, we find out how wind and solar are giving fossil fuels a run for their money, fuel cells are an option for electric vehicles (EVs), students win a math competition by developing EV charging solutions, and a university offers online continuing education courses in energy, sustainability and smart cities.

Offshore Wind

A study by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimated that in the next decade, offshore wind in the United States could see a capacity of 20 gigawatts—maybe even 30, with a more aggressive approach. The study concluded that in the best-case scenario, 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power could create up to 83,000 jobs and $25 billion in annual revenue. The researchers used the rise of the land-based wind industry—which grew by a factor of 40 in less than two decades—as a model, noting that the demand for wind turbines spawned more than 500 manufacturing facilities, which are now spread across 42 states and employ over 25,000 people. While offshore wind power uses many of the same parts as inland sites, there are noteworthy differences, leaving plenty of room for burgeoning U.S. industries.

Got an hour to spare? The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released this overview of floating offshore wind:

Floating offshore wind overview. (Video courtesy of the NREL.)

Energy Market

NextEra Energy released its first-quarter report for 2020, showing a continued commitment to clean energy. The company has more than 5,000 MW of wind, solar and grid-level storage projects under construction, all of which are expected to go online by the end of the year, despite complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. NextEra Energy plans to invest upwards of $1 billion on energy storage projects in 2021, which the company believes is the largest single-year investment in storage by any company.

A technician services a wind turbine. (Image courtesy of NextEra Energy.)
A technician services a wind turbine. (Image courtesy of NextEra Energy.)

BloombergNEF released a research report showing that in the most populated areas of the world, solar and onshore wind are the least expensive new-build sources of electricity. In much of Europe and Asia, battery storage delivers more cost-effective peak power than peaker plants powered by imported natural gas. A breakdown of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for new electricity generation by country is shown in the following image:

Least expensive source of new bulk electricity generation by country. (Image courtesy of BloombergNEF.)
Least expensive source of new bulk electricity generation by country. (Image courtesy of BloombergNEF.)

Electric Vehicles

Ballard Power Systems announced that it will provide 20 of its 70 kW FCmove-HD fuel cells to power a fleet of Solaris Urbino 12 hydrogen buses in the Netherlands. Fuel cell EVs offer higher ranges than battery EVs, but hydrogen is difficult to acquire and there’s currently no infrastructure to deliver hydrogen to refueling stations, which is not an issue for fleet vehicles. Fuel cells are also less efficient than batteries, although they are more efficient than internal combustion engines (ICEs).

The Urbino 12 hydrogen fuel cell EV. (Image courtesy of Solaris.)
The Urbino 12 hydrogen fuel cell EV. (Image courtesy of Solaris.)

The Urbino 12 has a range of 350 km (220 mi) and its hydrogen tank can be refilled in just a few minutes. As with ICE vehicles, the waste heat produced by the Urbino 12’s fuel cells will be used to heat the vehicle’s passenger compartment.

Energy Education

A team of students from Pine View School in Osprey, Fla., took home $20,000 in scholarships from the annual MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3C). This year’s challenge asked teams to create mathematical models related to the trucking industry’s switch from diesel to electric vehicles. Specifically, the models had to predict what percentage of semis would be electric over the next two decades and determine the best approach to distributing charging stations to accommodate the industry’s needs. The winning team predicted that electric semis would comprise one-fourth of the trucking fleet by 2025, with the portion growing to nearly 98 percent by 2040. The students then calculated the optimal distribution of charging stations along various routes and suggested routes that should be prioritized based on economic and environmental factors. 

M3C teams engage in virtual presentations to deliver their solutions. (Image courtesy of M3C.)
M3C teams engage in virtual presentations to deliver their solutions. (Image courtesy of M3C.)

Binghamton University is offering several online courses on energy, sustainability and smart cities. The courses are self-paced, fully automated, and open to the general public. The Universe of Energy course provides an overview of energy resources from the industrial revolution to modern times, discussing fossil fuels, nuclear energy, renewable sources, and energy consumption trends, as well as addressing the social, political and economic implications of energy. The Sustainability course covers the rationale for the sustainability movement, climate change, agriculture, water, and energy. Aspiring city planners may be interested in the Smart Cities course, which discusses electronic data collection and the sensors used to guide the design of modern cities that are cost-effective, functional and sustainable. All courses are taught by John Fillo, professor (emeritus) of mechanical engineering at Binghamton University.

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