Advanced Energy Perspectives

NEWS: Global Advanced Energy Growth; Plus, What to Do with 1,200 Gallons of Spoiled Mayonnaise

Posted by Lexie Briggs

Jun 9, 2017 12:05:52 PM



Advanced energy is a global market worth more than $1.4 trillion. This week we’re reading stories of global expansion, from increasing access and capacity in wind and solar to millions of EVs on the roads, to an AEE member with a solar deal in India. Come with us on a trip around the world this week. If you stick around to the end, you’ll get a great soundtrack to take with you.

According to a new report out this week, the cost of solar and wind generation is undergoing a “spectacular” drop, which is leading to massively increased worldwide deployment. The Guardian reports that this greater “bang-for-buck” led to a 10% increase in worldwide renewable generation deployment, even as investment in renewable energy—ultimately measured in how much the new installations cost—fell by 23%. The study, which compared deployed solar, wind, biomass, and hydropower generation in 2016 to 2015, was compiled by REN21, a network of public and private sector groups covering 155 countries worldwide.

“Over 2016 there has been a dramatic and sustained improvement in the competitiveness of renewable power generation technologies,” said Vivien Foster, global lead for energy economics at the World Bank. “The most spectacular renewable energy prices were revealed through auctions that are gaining in popularity in many countries.” 

In the United States, as Greentech Media also reported earlier this week, utility-scale solar fell below the $1 per watt barrier for the first time. “The solar market clearly remains on a strong upward trajectory,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO in an interview. “Solar is delivering more clean energy, adding jobs 17 times faster than the U.S. economy and creating tens of billions of dollars in investment. With its cost-competitiveness, we know solar will continue to play a growing role in America’s energy portfolio.” 

Meanwhile, the EV market is also heating up. We reported earlier this week that a wider variety of electric vehicles on the market, including the release of the Chevy Bolt, was leading to increased sales of EVs. The next day, The Guardian reported that there are now more than 2 million EVs on the roads worldwide. Demand is highest in the United States, China, and Europe (accounting for more than 90% of EV sales last year), with China and Norway leading the pack on new EV sales. China is the biggest single market for EVs, and EVs account for nearly one third of all new cars sold in Norway. 

Even though 2 million sounds like a big number, it’s only 0.2% of all passenger cars in the world. According to the Los Angeles Almanac, there were more than 6 million autos registered in Los Angeles County alone in 2015. But, as costs continue to come down and EV charging infrastructure continues to expand, we anticipate no shortage of demand for EVs in the future.

AEE members are getting in on this global growth of advanced energy technologies. AEE member NEXTracker has announced that it is working with the flow battery company Avalon Battery and expanding into the Indian solar market, which, according to CEO Dan Shugar, is ready to take off. Greentech Media reports this week that NEXTracker has already sold more than 1 GW of solar trackers to Indian utility-scale power plants, and the company is building local manufacturing capacity, with a steel-tube line in India that will reduce the costs of transporting heavy steel. 

Tracking technology allows solar panels to track the sun as it arcs across the sky, angling them to allow for greater exposure all day. GTM reports that trackers can improve solar output by 20% in Las Vegas and 30% in Chile, and, like this week’s other featured advanced energy technologies, the costs are lower than they’ve ever been and dropping.

Finally, two fun stories caught my eye this week. The first comes from the blog Atlas Obscura, and begins, “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade—everyone knows that. When life gives you 1,250 gallons of ruined mayonnaise, though, the instructions are a little less clear. 

Michigan State University found itself in that situation last December, and what they made was energy. The university fed the spoiled mayonnaise to their anaerobic digester, with 12 volunteers dumping mayonnaise for several hours. “It was a perfect situation to turn what could have been a catastrophe into something positive,” said Sustainability Officer Cole Gude.

And now, something that’s a little more pleasing for all the senses. To commemorate Prince’s birthday, Bloomberg ran a story this week reporting on the late great singer’s advanced energy investment. Prince put money into Powerhouse, an Oakland-based for-profit incubator that has invested in 43 companies, including BrightCurrent and UtilityAPI. So get out your favorite Prince album and celebrate prosperity by partying like it’s 1999.

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