Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Has Warren Buffett’s solar energy investment focus launched a green power revolution?

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The Berkshire Hathaway CEO is causing a significant disruption in energy investing trends.

Warren Buffett may be known for strategic but traditional investing, but his solar energy investment starting last September is turning trends on their heads.

Stocks in this renewable energy industry were the easy winner among investors in 2019.

Though green power generation hasn’t been an investor’s best friend over the last few decades, Buffett’s Solar energy investment last year is causing the largest “revolution” since the First Industrial Revolution, according to a recent Forbes report. In September 2019, the entire financial world turned its attention toward this massive energy disruption in the form Buffett’s latest deal at the time.

Though it may sound as though Buffett’s choice was made quite out of the blue, but it wasn’t. It aligned well with his steady ongoing investing strategy for which he is known. Stocks in that sector performed exceptionally well last year and had been growing strength over time. Invesco Solar ETF, for instance, saw a 51 percent growth in 2019 alone, becoming the best performing ETF last year. Moreover, many believe this is just a jumping off point.

The tech isn’t necessarily new, but it wasn’t until now that solar energy investment has been taken seriously.

Alternative and renewable power generation has long been seen as a very minor player when compared to fossil fuels. It has been expensive, difficult to scale and required countries around the world to change entire power generation systems. That said, over the last handful of years, the priority for reducing carbon footprints and leaning toward greener options has become a powerful trend.

Though photovoltaic (P.V.) cells aren’t considered to be a new technology, when they were first discovered, they were ahead of their time. It wasn’t until their cost was brought down, their efficiency was increased, and the need for fossil fuel alternatives became a priority that they started implementation on a large scale.

Today, among the top reasons that solar energy investments have taken off is that this power is cheaper than many fossil fuels. Panels are substantially cheaper than they used to be, and their efficiency has taken off. Buffett was paying attention and as the Berkshire Hathaway’s financial strategy has always provided guidance for millions of other investors, the trend is now following.

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US Department of Energy strikes deal involving Nexo FCEV and refueling stations

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The Hyundai hydrogen cell electric vehicles will be a part of an infrastructure expansion effort.

Hyundai has announced a new broadened partnership with the U.S. Department of energy involving research and development as well as five Nexo FCEV and a refuelling station.

Fuel cell electric vehicles face a considerable adoption struggle as refuelling stations are limited.

American consumers typically cannot use hydrogen fuel cell vehicles unless they happen to live in one of the few parts of the U.S. with the right infrastructure they require. As a result, sales in that market are small and there aren’t very many refueling stations to speak of. That said, the U.S. Department of Energy (D.O.E.) sees enough promise in these electric vehicles that don’t need to be plugged in to be recharged that it is investing.

In its new deal with Hyundai, the automaker will provide the department with five of the Nexo FCEV as well as a refuelling station installation in the Washington DC area. This deal will involve an investment from the department into further research into hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The research will focus on both the technology and its applications in transportation.

The five new Nexo FCEV cars will be added to the other one the DOE received from Hyundai last year.

The partnership between Hyundai and the D.O.E. isn’t new. It is only the expansion of the investment and direction that has changed. In truth, that partnership has been in existence since 2004. The department and the automaker have been working on H2 tech since that time. In 2004, Hyundai offered 33 fuel cell electric vehicles for the company’s Controlled Hydrogen Fleet and Infrastructure Demonstration and Validation Project.

The most recent announcement of the D.O.E.’s expanded partnership with Hyundai for this hydrogen powered electric vehicle project was announced on the same day that the Trump administration announced its intentions to slash the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program in its most recent budget. That program provided the loans (and received the repayments) Tesla and Nissan required for the development of the Model S and the Leaf.

The new budget announcements didn’t appear to alter the direction of the partnership between the D.O.E. and Hyundai, including the promise of the Nexo FCEV cars and refuelling station.

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Norwegian company partnership to launch liquid hydrogen fuel cell cruise ship

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In a world’s first, a cruise vessel will be retrofitted for the renewable power source.

A group of Norwegian companies are working together in order to retrofit a cruise ship in order to power it using a 3.2 MW liquid hydrogen fuel cell with battery storage.

The goal is to finish the retrofitting and have this vessel sailing Norway’s fjords by 2023.

As cruise companies receive a growing amount of flack for their fossil fuel consumption, this has become yet another industry seeking to use zero-emissions energy. In this liquid hydrogen fuel cell project, the technology will be combined with battery storage to improve decarbonization.

Norwegian Electrical Systems (N.E.S.), system integrator based in Bergen, plans to integrate a 3.2 MW hydrogen fuel cell into a large cruise vessel currently in the design phase by Havyard Design on behalf of shipowner Havila. This would represent the largest form of this renewable energy technology ever to be installed on a major cruise ship. It would replace compressed gas, a more commonplace version of the fuel. The plan is also to install batteries for further energy storage in order to ensure that powering the vessel will be completely emissions-free.

NES says this liquid hydrogen fuel cell first will represent an important green shipping “milestone”.

“The ability to move to a 3.2MW fuel cell that enables the vessel to sail zero-emission for long distances along the coast will be a milestone within green shipping,” said N.E.S. senior vice president of sales, Stein Ruben Larsen. He went on to point out that when tourists cruise along Norway’s coastline, they will be able to view and travel through the “unique ad beautiful world heritage fjords where vessels powered by any form of hydrocarbon that produces CO2.” He also underscored that emissions such as exhaust will be banned there as of 2026.

Norway’s electrical grid is primarily powered by clean hydropower combined with some onshore wind farms. That said, cruise ships and commercial vessels continue to rely primarily on fossil fuels. These continue to spread pollution along shorelines and among coastal communities while contributing significantly to CO2 emissions. Adoption of new efforts such as liquid hydrogen fuel cell and battery technology on those vessels will mean the only emission generated is water.

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European offshore wind farms broke records in 2019

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The United Kingdom comprised nearly half the new capacity last year.

As technology continues to develop, European offshore wind farms are growing in both size and capacity, to the point that they broke previous records in 2019.

Both the size of the turbines themselves and the offshore facilities are continuing to increase.

According to European Wind Energy Association (WindEurope), in 2019, countries in the E.U. installed a record amount of offshore wind farms capacity. In fact, they added slightly more than 3.6 gigawatts (GW). This represented a substantial increase over the 2.6 GW installed in 2018. It brought the overall European nation capacity from that renewable energy source up to 22 GW.

WindEurope data also showed that the United Kingdom held nearly half of last year’s new capacity. In second place was Germany, then Denmark and Belgium. In 2019, there were a number of fresh investment decisions in four major offshore operations. WindEurope pointed to that new investment as responsible for an additional 1.4 GW of capacity. It represented an investment of about $6.6 billion (€6 billion).

The average size of offshore wind farms last year was about 600 megawatts (MW).

Last year’s average installation size was about double the average size recorded in 2010. Both the turbines themselves and the overall projects are getting larger. Moreover, the output generated by the individual turbines has grown considerably as new technology continues developing. Last year’s average 7.8 MW size was a full 1 MW larger than the average only one year before.

Technology developments continue to push turbines to become larger. At the close of last year, Dutch utility Eneco began buying power from a GE Renewable Energy prototype, the Haliade-X 12 MW wind turbine. That turbine’s scale is enormous, with a 12 MW capacity. Its blade length is 107 meters (over 350 feet) and it stands at 260 meters (over 850 feet) in height. GE Renewable Energy refers to it as the “world’s most powerful offshore wind turbine.”

The release of the new data from European offshore wind farms arrives just as the Global Wind Energy Council (G.W.E.C.) said that North, South and Central America and the Caribbean installed a combined 13.4 GW of this renewable energy capacitylast year. That was a 12 percent increase over the year before.

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4 Tips for Maximizing Your Solar Panels’ Output during the Summer Season

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With global energy consumption steadily increasing year after year, it’s our responsibility to look for green energy solutions to help fulfill this rising demand.

This is why many people have turned to solar power as a way to supplement our growing energy needs. And there’s no better time to get into the solar energy groove than the summer season.

Summer is the best time to invest in a photovoltaic energy system due to the increased number of daylight hours. Regardless of this, you might not realize that you aren’t maximizing your energy output despite the optimal sunlight your panels are receiving. Here are several best practices on how to optimize your solar panels’ energy output this summer.

Solar Panel Placement and Orientation

Placing your solar panels on top of your roof and calling it a day just isn’t enough, especially if you want to get the most out of them. Careful consideration must be placed on solar power installation as well as its orientation based on your location. As a rule of thumb, the default orientation should always be perpendicular to the sun’s rays, and this depends whether you live in the northern or southern hemisphere of the globe. For Australians, who live in the southern hemisphere, the orientation of your photovoltaic panels should be tilted north to get the most out of them.

Clean Your Solar Panels Regularly

Neglecting to clean your photovoltaic panel can cause a buildup of dust and dirt to accumulate over time. This can cause sunlight to become diffused across the surface of the panel and reduce its efficiency in storing solar energy. It’s important that you make a habit of cleaning your solar panel from time to time to avoid this.

Installing Solar Panel Concentrators

If you want to maximize the efficiency of your solar panel output, then you might want to consider using a solar concentrator. A solar concentrator is essentially a lens or a mirror that focuses any light and makes it fall across a smaller area on your photovoltaic panel. Using concentrators can improve the total output of your solar panel by around 50%. Instead of investing in additional solar panels, solar concentrators can be a cost-effective method of getting more out of your current setup. Take note, however, that the additional solar radiation can cause your panel to overheat and lose efficiency, so you need to regulate your use of the solar concentrator to avoid this from happening.

Keep an Eye on the Temperature of Your Solar Panels

As mentioned above  overheating your solar panels can actually cause a loss of solar power output. As temperature increases, there is a marked decrease in the panels’ efficiency. Therefore, it’s important to take steps to prevent too much temperature from building up and affecting your photovoltaic panels. For instance, make sure that there’s a sufficient enough gap in between the panel and the roof to allow air to move freely and disperse any heat.

Now more than ever, it’s important to invest in greener forms of energy. Solar power is a great way to move in this direction, but it’s our responsibility to ensure that we make the most out of it. We hope that these tips can help guide you accordingly in terms of maximizing your use of solar energy.

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Bill Gates’ hydrogen fuel powered superyacht had a $644 million price tag

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The Microsoft co-founder and second richest man in the world’s commission is a world first.

Billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has become the first person in the world to commission a hydrogen fuel powered superyacht.

The purchase of the renewable energy craft came with a price tag of $664 million.

The hydrogen fuel powered superyacht model is called Aqua and was designed by Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design and by Lateral Naval Architects. The original design and construction of the boat was first unveiled last year at the Monaco Yacht Show.

Though it shares many features in common with other luxury liners, this particular yacht boasts a unique eco-friendly fuel cell structure. It is powered by two 1MW motors, each of which are fuelled by supercooled hydrogen tanks. It uses Proton Exchange Membrane (P.E.M.) fuel cells to generate electrical energy using extremely low temperature liquefied hydrogen stored within vacuum isolated tanks. A Forbes article on the vehicle reported that the only emissions resulting from this type of alternative fuel are in the form of water.

The hydrogen fuel powered superyacht can reach a top speed of 17 knots (19.6 MPH).

It can go as fast as 17 knots and has a 3,750 nautical mile range. It should also be pointed out that the vessel is also equipped with a backup diesel engine, according to an Engadget report.

This massive luxury vessel is 370 feet tall, with five decks, a crew of 31 people and comfortable room for up to 14 guests. It features a spectrum of amenities and features, including everything from a cascading pool on its rear deck, a fitness center, a yoga studio, massage parlor, and a beauty room.

Though the commission has reportedly been made, Gates won’t be taking his first sail on the vessel until 2024, when it is expected to be ready.

Gates’ purchase may come with a hefty price tag, but it aligns well with the values of the world’s second wealthiest man, and with Microsoft’s own policies as well. At the start of this year, the technology giant announced its intentions to operate carbon negative within a decade.

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India solar power generation sees 27 percent growth rate in 2019

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When compared to 2018, the country’s photovoltaic parks substantially increased power output.

Photovoltaic (P.V.) India solar power parks saw a 27 percent year over year increase on their power output in 2019.

This represents a meaningful growth in renewable energy production by the country’s installations.

Last year, the India solar power parks produced a combined 46,033 MWh. This, according to data released by the Central Electricity Authority (C.E.A.).

That said, despite this substantial growth rate, the 27 percent rise in this form of renewable energy generation wasn’t celebrated by everyone. It was notably lower than had been hoped for and was substantially lower than the 69 percent growth rate measured in 2018.

The reduction was, in part, the outcome of an overall weak third quarter. The weather at that time of the year was difficult for P.V. parks and the monsoons also contributed to reduced power demand as well as a capacity addition reduction within that sector.

The installation of new India solar power projects has been hampered in certain parts of the country.

A number of P.V. solar developers have faced considerable installation challenges in various parts of the country. They face a range of different types of hindrances, curtailment issues, for example. States that have been among the most difficult for developers have included Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka.

During the 2019 fourth quarter on its own, the country’s solar energy generation totalled about 11,750 MWh. That represented about 19 percent more than the power generation totals from the same quarter in 2018. That said, it was a notable 2 percent growth rate increase experienced over the 2019 third quarter in which the challenging weather and monsoons occurred.

Mercom Capital’s India Solar Project Tracker data showed that photovoltaic solar parks generated 9.6 percent of the country’s total installed power generation capacity. That figure is nearly 35.6 GW of P.V. parks which flowed into the grid by the close of last year.

India solar power will require improved success by developers in challenging areas in order to increase growth rates in 2020. Better weather in the third quarter will also help to bolster those figures.

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How will Brexit impact UK renewable energy?

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Now that the United Kingdom has left the European Union, some are asking about the effect on green energy.

Brexit will have an impact on virtually every industry in the United Kingdom, but UK renewable energy may feel the effects more than other markets.

Many components of the United Kingdom’s move away from fossil fuels are reliant on the EU.

UK renewable energy relies on the E.U. in many ways. This is particularly true of wind farms in the country as they lean on European expertise and materials to remain operational, according to the new joint briefing report from the WindEurope and RenewableUK industry groups.

The document was published under the title: “Brexit and wind energy: the current state of play”. It underscored the risk of possible European material and service tariffs that could be imposed unless a strategically designed trade deal allows this industry to sidestep them. Moreover, it also stated that without the EU’s freedom of movement protections, European engineers may longer be able to work within the United Kingdom.

The potential for tariffs and a shortage of expertise could threaten the UK renewable energy industry.

That said, the industry groups also released a statement in which they agreed that “We don’t anticipate new tariff barriers if a deal can be reached.” However, they added: “However, even allowing for a starting point of convergence, 11 months is an extremely tight deadline for agreement.” The statement went on to state that it was “far from certain” that a deal could be reached by the close of this year.

When the United Kingdom withdrew form the European Union at the end of January, it separated itself from its largest trading partner, which includes 27 countries. A transitional period is currently in place in which the free movements of people, funds, goods and services between the United Kingdom and EU countries will be maintained. However, after December, those permissions will cease. As of yet, a replacement deal has yet to exist.

At the moment, the UK renewable energy industry is considered to be a world leader. The UK generated almost half its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources, including renewables as well as nuclear power. However, experts and industry bodies are now concerned that unless a favorable deal is reached, the United Kingdom could rapidly fall behind in this industry.

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Low temperature geothermal and hydrothermal research gets $18.8 million in DOE funding

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The US Department of Energy recently announced the investment into subsurface renewable energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy (D.O.E.) has announced it will be giving up to $18.8 million in funds for hydrothermal and low temperature geothermal research.

The funding announcement applies to six projects that are targeting two primary research areas.

The funding will come from the D.O.E. Geothermal Technologies Office (G.T.O.). It will fund as many as six projects within the following two research areas:

• Exploration Research Development and Demonstration (RD&D): Hidden Geothermal Systems in the Basin and Range
• Advanced Energy Storage Initiative (A.E.S.I): Bi-directional Energy Storage Using Low Temperature Geothermal Applications.

These areas keep the opportunity open for many topics of exploration in this form of renewable energy. The ultimate goal of the research funding is to find ways to reduce costs and decrease risks associated with finding hidden Basin & Range region geothermal systems. It is also meant to improve Deep Direct-Use (D.D.U.) and Reservoir Thermal Energy Storage (R.T.E.S.) energy system resilience.

Low temperature geothermal has potential for use at hospitals, military installations and other large facilities.

There is considerable opportunity to use this renewable energy, as well as hydrothermal, for large energy end-uses throughout the United States, such as hospital complexes, university campuses, and military installations.

The RD&D research area is the next phase of the G.T.O.’s existing Play Fairways Analysis (P.F.A.) initiative, which was found to be quite successful. Over the last half decade, the P.F.A. technique has evolved from the oil and gas industry and into this alternative energy sphere. P.F.A. is a strategy used to discover hidden hydrothermal systems through the use of basin-wide or regional distribution of currently known geologic factors which play a role in geothermal system occurrence. This method is used because it decreases uncertainty in the costly exploration process, making it more affordable for operators.

The A.E.S.I. topic works alongside the D.O.E. energy storage priority. It extends the G.T.O.’s recent efforts to assess D.D.U. feasibility in various parts of the country. RTES tech aligns with space heating D.D.U. uses. Beyond using hydrothermal and low temperature geothermal as renewable heat sources, R.T.E.S. an D.D.U. can offset heating and cooling demands to help to improve electrical grid reliability.

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Hydrogen investors go all-in with falling H2 costs within their sights

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A global industry body said last month that the cost of the gas could be half as big in a decade.

Shares in certain H2 producers and fuel cell manufacturers have skyrocketed as hydrogen investors scramble to get in on the potential of this alternative energy.

The Hydrogen Council said in January that the cost of H2 production could be 50 percent lower in 2030.

As hopes continue to grow that H2 will replace fossil fuels in everything from transportation vehicles to homes, hydrogen investors are keen to grab hold of this opportunity. Shares in ITM Power, listed on the London exchange, have risen 45 percent since 2007. That firm manufactures electrolysers for hydrogen production. At the same time Powercell, out of Sweden, has seen a 28 percent rise over that same span of time. That said, over the last twelve months, that company’s shares rose by 342 percent.

“After years of false dawns, investors are realising clean hydrogen and fuel cells have an important part to play in the energy transition, particularly heavy duty mobility and heavy industry,” said Liberum analyst, Adam Collins as quoted in a Financial Times report.

Hydrogen investors have had a changing opinion of H2’s potential over the last quarter century.

H2 was already finding itself in the green energy spotlight by the second half of the 1990s. At that time, it was gaining attention as a possible solution to the replacement of fossil fuels. For a short number of years, investments exploded. However, when automakers turned their attention increasingly toward lithium-ion battery technology, the appeal of hydrogen started slipping again. H2 currently holds approximately 2 percent of the world’s primary energy use.

As much as the last twenty-five years have been rocky for hydrogen, the last solid year, however, has been extremely favorable for the alternative energy fuel. Large companies have started making growing investments in hydrogen fuel cell producers as their costs have started falling. In January, Bosch auto parts maker announced its intentions to boost its share in Cerres Power, a solid oxide fuel cell technology developer.

Moreover, China has continued to provide hydrogen fuel cell technology subsidies while simultaneously slashing its lithium-ion battery subsidies. This made the country one of the leading hydrogen investors. That said, many more have seen the potential of H2 as the Hydrogen Council announced that by 2030, the cost of its production would be half of what it is today. This would make the fuel an affordable option for 22 different applications including trains, long-distance coaches, trucks, and other forms of heavy-duty transportation.

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