green energy

A wind farm in the Netherlands (Credit: Flickr @ Floris Oosterveld http://www.flickr.com/photos/floris-oosterveld/)

Study: Netherlands May Become ‘Electrically Unstable’

In the coming years, the Netherlands will have to work hard on Smart Grids, intelligent local networks with new storage capacity for green electricity. It will thus be possible to counter the impending instability caused by the increasing power surges of electricity from wind turbines and solar cells. Large numbers of locally installed batteries should accommodate the increasing fluctuations in the electricity grid that are inherent to sun and wind energy. If not, the Netherlands will be confronted with the major problems that are currently visible in Germany.

The four percent growth in renewable energy in the Netherlands, rising to 16% in 2023, as laid down in the recent Energy Agreement, makes the issue even more pressing. This is evident from the doctoral research by Stefan Nykamp at the University of Twente. The Smart Grids research topic is a spearhead within the University of Twente's Green Energy Initiative.

Looming blackouts, the shutting down of wind generators or dumping of (almost) free green electricity in neighbouring countries because of the threat that the network will become overloaded. These are the current problems in Germany, which already generates a quarter of its energy from renewable sources. According to PhD student Stefan Nykamp, the Netherlands must learn from this and invest heavily in a stable network for a future with the generation of at least four times as much green electricity. Nykamp's detailed case studies in Germany show that local storage in batteries is the best solution for this. The unattractive alternative involves extending the current network with an enormous number of new thick cables; an expensive investment of many billions that determines the situation for decades to come and requires old coal plants to remain on stand-by (contrary to the Energy Agreement). Local storage in batteries is a much more flexible system that prevents dangerous and costly instability on the network and permits the reduction of old plants.

Problems with green electricity
The German problems with energy from the sun and wind are numerous. First of all, there is a threat that the German power grid will become overloaded if there is (too) much solar energy and if the winds are (too) strong. Germany regularly 'dumps' excess green power in neighbouring countries such as Netherlands, far below the market rate or even for 'free': a market disruptive phenomenon. Moreover, this is no longer a solution because the neighbouring countries themselves will also generate more green power. In addition, energy is regularly wasted due to the shutting down of wind generators to prevent the grid from overloading. As a country generates more electricity from sun and wind, there is an increased risk of 'blackouts': residential districts and industrial areas without power, with disastrous (financial) consequences. Germany already had a number of 'near-blackouts' this year and will also have to do something in the coming years now the country is heading towards 80% renewable energy by 2050 with all the additional fluctuations on the grid that this entails. "The Netherlands can and must learn from this", says Nykamp who works at the largest German network operator Westnetz (RWE).

The best solution: smart grids
According to the research at the University of Twente, local storage of electrical energy is the inescapable solution. On windy and sunny days, the energy surplus can be stored temporarily in batteries near the wind generators and solar cells. The energy can then be consumed during the nights or following days (or be supplied to the main network) when it is cloudy and the wind has died down.

The alternative would be an updated infrastructure with many thousands of extra kilometres of (thick) cables to the highest voltage level in order to prevent overloading. According to Nykamp, some 380,000 kilometres of new cable networks (the distance from the Earth to the Moon) would be required in Germany alone in order to export the surplus green electricity to major centres or the neighbouring countries. Cost: EUR 27 billion. In the Netherlands too, a multi-billion euro investment in cables would be much more expensive than the construction of additional energy storage in smart grids. On the basis of his detailed case studies, Nykamp expects that the tipping point at which the smart grids are the most cost-effective solution will certainly also be reached in the Netherlands.

Moreover, with the 'infrastructure with new cables only' alternative, the existing generation capacity has to be kept in reserve. However, if you cannot reduce the number of gas and coal plants, but have to maintain them at minimum in standby mode, this also involves extra high costs. Nykamp: "I am convinced that storage in smart grids is the best solution for Germany and the Netherlands. But if we don't invest in good time, we will be in real trouble."

More information

Stefan Nykamp, from the EWI faculty, will defend his PhD at the University of Twente on 18 October. The occasion will be linked to the symposium on 'The Future of the Energy Supply’ (1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.). This is open to everyone. A digital version of his PhD thesis Integrating Renewables in Distribution Grids

Storage, regulation and the interaction of different stakeholders in future grids is available upon request. His thesis supervisors are Prof. dr. Johann Hurink and Prof. dr. ir. Gerard Smit.

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A special issue of Forest Products Journal considers 15 processes where woody biomass was turned into liquid fuel. (Credit: Flickr @ Danielle Scott http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielle_scott/)

Two Biofuel Production Processes Offer Significant Emission Reduction

Two processes that turn woody biomass into transportation fuels have the potential to exceed current Environmental Protection Agency requirements for renewable fuels, according to research published in the Forest Products Journal and currently featured on its publications page.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for emissions from wood based

transportation fuels requires a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared

to using fossil fuels. The standards don’t just concern greenhouse gases generated when biofuel is burned to run vehicles or provide energy: What’s required is life-cycle analysis, a tally of emissions all along the growing, collecting, producing and shipping chain.

The special Forest Products Journal issue does just that for energy produced in various ways from woody biomass. For instance, two processes for making ethanol reviewed in the issue – one a gasification process using trees thinned from forests and the other a fermentation process using plantation-grown willows – reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent or better compared with gasoline.  In contrast, producing and using corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions 24 percent compared to gasoline, according Argonne National Laboratory research published in 2011.

Log ends include one with green arrows going round and round signifying the sustainable potential of biofuels

Forest Products Journal

A special issue of Forest Products Journal considers 15 processes where woody biomass was turned into liquid fuel, burned directly to create heat, steam or electricity, or processed into pellets for burning

For the publication, researchers from the 17 research institutions that make up the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials determined the life-cycle emissions of 15 processes where woody biomass was turned into liquid fuel, burned directly to create heat, steam or electricity, or processed into pellets for burning.

The common advantage of these processes over fossil fuels is that trees growing in replanted forests reabsorb the carbon dioxide emitted when woody biomass burns as fuel in cars or other uses, said Elaine Oneil, a University of Washington research scientist in ecological and forest sciences and director of the consortium. While fossil fuels cause a one-way flow of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere when they burn, forests that are harvested for wood products or fuels and regrown represent a two-way flow, into and back out of the atmosphere.

The processes reviewed have the added advantage of using woody debris not only as a component of fuels but to produce energy needed for manufacturing the biofuel. The fermentation process to produce ethanol, for example, ends up with leftover organic matter that can be burned to produce electricity. Only one-third of the electricity generated by the leftovers is needed to make the ethanol, so two-thirds can go to the power grid for other uses, offsetting the need to burn fossil fuels to produce electricity.

This is among the reasons that ethanol from plantation-grown feedstock using the fermentation process approaches being carbon neutral, that is, during its life cycle as much carbon is removed as is added to the atmosphere, according to Rick Gustafson, UW professor of environmental and forest sciences and a co-author in the special issue.

The researchers looking at the fermentation process also took into account such things as water consumption. They found that the process – which among other things needs water to support the enzymes – uses about 70 percent more water per unit of energy produced than gasoline. A biofuel industry using woody material will be a lot less water intense than today’s pulp and paper industry – still, water use should be taken into account when moving from pilot biofuel production to full-scale commercialization, Gustafson said.

“The value of life-cycle analysis is that it gives you information such as the amount of energy you get in relation to how much you put in, how emissions are affected and the impacts to resources such as land and water,” Oneil said.

In the U.S. last year, some 15 facilities produced about 20,000 gallons of fuels using cellulosic biomass such as wood waste and sugarcane bagasse, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration website. The administration estimates this output could grow to more than 5 million gallons in 2013, as operations ramp up at several plants.

Logo for CORRIMIn the special issue, the biofuels analyzed came only from forest residues, forest thinnings, wood bits left after manufacturing such things as hardwood flooring or fast-growing plantation trees like willow. That’s because, from a greenhouse emissions perspective, it makes no sense to produce biofuels using trees that can be made into long-lived building materials and furniture, said Bruce Lippke, UW professor emeritus of environmental and forest sciences, who oversaw the contents of the special issue.

“Substituting wood for non-wood building materials such as steel and concrete, can displace far more carbon emissions than using such wood for biofuels,” Lippke said. “It’s another example of how life-cycle analysis helps us judge how to use resources wisely.”

The modeling and simulations used for life-cycle analysis in the special Forest Products Journal issue can be used to evaluate other woody materials and biofuel processes in use now or in the future, with the models being refined as more data is collected. The data also will be submitted to the U.S. Life Cycle Inventory Database of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which has data available for everyone to use on hundreds of products.

###

For more information:
Oneil, 206-543-6859, eoneil@uw.edu
Lippke, 206-543-8684,blippke@uw.edu
Gustafson, 206-543-2790, pulp@u.washington.edu

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Eurostat: in 2011 Renewable Energy Share in the EU Went Up to 13%

STAT/13/65

26 April 2013

Renewable energy
Share of renewable energy up to 13% of energy consumption in the EU27 in 2011

In 2011, energy from renewable sources1 was estimated to have contributed 13.0% of gross final energy consumption in the EU27, compared with 7.9% in 2004 and 12.1% in 2010. The share of renewables in gross final energy consumption is one of the headline indicators of the Europe 2020 strategy2. The target for the EU27 to be reached by 2020 is a share of 20% renewable energy use in gross final energy consumption. The national targets3 take into account the Member States' different starting points, renewable energy potential and economic performance.

These figures4 are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, and highlight the development of renewable energy sources in energy consumption in the EU27 and the Member States.

Highest share of renewables in Sweden, Latvia, Finland and Austria

Between 2010 and 2011, almost all Member States increased their share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption. The highest shares of renewable energy in final energy consumption in 2011 were found in Sweden (46.8% of renewable energy sources in total consumption), Latvia (33.1%), Finland (31.8%) and Austria (30.9%), and the lowest in Malta (0.4%), Luxembourg (2.9%), the United Kingdom (3.8%), Belgium (4.1%) and the Netherlands (4.3%). In 2011, Estonia was the first Member State to exceed its Europe 2020 target.

Since 20045, the share of renewable energy in final energy consumption grew in all Member States. The largest increases during this period were recorded in Sweden (from 38.3% in 2004 to 46.8% in 2011), Denmark (from 14.9% to 23.1%), Austria (from 22.8% to 30.9%), Germany (from 4.8% to 12.3%) and Estonia (from 18.4% to 25.9%).

Issued by: Eurostat Press Office

Julia URHAUSEN

Tel: +352-4301-33 444

eurostat-pressoffice@ec.europa.eu

For further information:

Marek ŠTURC

Tel: +352-4301-33 474

marek.sturc@ec.europa.eu

Eurostat News Releases on the internet: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/

Share of energy from renewable sources
(in % of gross final energy consumption)

2004

2006

2008

2010

2011

2020 target6

EU27

7.9

8.5

9.6

12.1

13.0

20

Belgium*

1.9

2.6

3.0

4.0

4.1

13

Bulgaria

9.2

9.3

9.5

13.4

13.8

16

Czech Republic

5.9

6.4

7.2

8.4

9.4

13

Denmark

14.9

16.4

18.6

22.0

23.1

30

Germany

4.8

5.5

7.3

10.7

12.3

18

Estonia

18.4

16.1

18.9

24.6

25.9

25

Ireland

2.4

3.1

3.6

5.6

6.7

16

Greece

7.1

7.2

8.0

9.2

11.6

18

Spain

8.1

9.0

10.1

13.8

15.1

20

France

9.1

9.1

9.9

11.4

11.5

23

Italy

4.9

5.4

6.3

9.8

11.5

17

Cyprus

2.7

2.8

3.7

4.6

5.4

13

Latvia

32.8

31.1

29.8

32.5

33.1

40

Lithuania

17.2

16.6

16.9

19.8

20.3

23

0.9

1.5

1.8

2.9

2.9

11

4.4

5.0

5.6

7.6

8.1

13

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.2

0.4

10

1.8

2.2

2.7

3.3

4.3

14

22.8

24.4

26.9

30.4

30.9

34

7.0

6.9

7.2

9.3

10.4

15

19.3

20.6

22.3

22.7

24.9

31

17.0

17.1

20.1

22.9

21.4

24

16.1

15.5

14.6

19.6

18.8

25

6.7

6.5

7.5

8.5

9.7

14

29.0

29.8

30.5

31.0

31.8

38

38.3

41.7

43.9

47.9

46.8

49

1.1

1.4

1.9

3.3

3.8

15

58.6

60.6

61.7

61.4

64.7

67.5

15.2

13.8

12.2

14.6

15.7

20

* Eurostat estimates

  • Renewable energy sources cover solar thermal and photovoltaic energy, hydro (including tide, wave and ocean energy), wind, geothermal energy and biomass (including biological waste and liquid biofuels). The contribution of renewable energy from heat pumps is also covered for the Member States for which this information was available. The renewable energy delivered to final consumers (industry, transport, households, services including public services, agriculture, forestry and fisheries) is the numerator of the Europe 2020 target. The denominator, the gross final energy consumption of all energy sources, covers total energy delivered for energy purposes to final consumers as well as the transmission and distribution losses for electricity and heat.

  • For more information on the Europe 2020 strategy visit: http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/index_en.htm

  • For more information on the targets for renewable energy visit: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/renewables/index_en.htm

  • For additional Eurostat data on energy visit: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/energy/introduction

  • 2004 is the first year for which the share can be calculated on a harmonized basis.

  • Progress towards the 2020 targets is measured against the indicative trajectory defined in Annex I of Directive 2009/28/EC: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=Oj:L:2009:140:0016:0062:en:PDF. Each Member State shall ensure that the 2011-2012 average of its share of renewable energy is above its indicative trajectory for 2011-2012. In 20 Member States the shares of energy from renewable sources in 2011 were above these trajectories.