Record amount of renewable energy capacity added in 2016 | DW.COM

Global renewable energy capacity jumped eight percent last year despite a 23 percent drop in investment. Falling renewable energy prices are driving a build-up of capacity.

The world added a record amount of renewable energy in 2016 despite a sharp drop in investment, the UN said Thursday, largely due to falling costs of clean energy.

New renewable energy, excluding large hydro projects, added 138.5 gigawatts of power in 2016, up eight percent from the previous year. The new capacity came despite investment falling to $241.6 billion (227 billion euro), 23 percent lower than the previous year and the lowest since 2013.

….Not all the drop in investment was due to reduced costs, with China, Japan and some emerging markets cutting renewable investments. China’s investment in renewables dropped 32 percent to $78.3 billion, the first time in a decade it bucked a rising trend. Japan’s investment tumbled 56 percent.

What is encouraging is the 29% reduction in cost per KWh of renewable energy.

Levelized Cost
A 2014 study by Lazard, an international financial advisory and asset management firm, shows onshore wind has the lowest average levelized cost at $59 per megawatt-hour, and utility-scale photovoltaic plants weren’t far behind at $79. By comparison, the lowest cost conventional technologies were gas combined cycle technologies, averaging $74 per megawatt-hour, and coal plants, averaging $109. These numbers are the average of low- and high-end estimates….

Levelized Energy Costs

Wind and solar costs falling
The levelized cost of some wind and solar technologies has plummeted in recent years. The graphic below shows that the average cost of onshore wind has fallen from $135 per megawatt-hour in 2009 to $59 in 2014. That’s a 56 percent drop in five years. The cost of utility-scale photovoltaic technology has plunged from $359 per megawatt-hour in 2009 to $79 in 2014, a 78 percent decline. [source: Energy Innovation]

Lazard: Solar & Wind Energy Costs

The cost of large-scale solar continues to fall rapidly. In August 2016, Chile announced a new record low contract price to provide solar power for $29.10 per megawatt-hour (MWh). In September 2016, Abu Dhabi announced a new record breaking bid price, promising to provide solar power for $24.2 per megawatt-hour (MWh). [source: Wikipedia]

Wind prices are also falling. In 2016 the Norwegian Wind Energy Association (NORWEA) estimated the LCoE of a typical Norwegian wind farm at 44 €/MWh, assuming a weighted average cost of capital of 8% and an annual 3,500 full load hours, i.e. a capacity factor of 40%. NORWEA went on to estimate the LCoE of the 1 GW Fosen Vind onshore wind farm which is expected to be operational by 2020 to be as low as 35 €/MWh to 40 €/MWh. Offshore wind prices are also falling. In November 2016, Vattenfall won a tender to develop the Kriegers Flak windpark in the Baltic Sea for 49,9 €/MWh. [source: Wikipedia]

The IEA says “The share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption climbed to 18.3%, continuing the slight acceleration of trends evident since 2010. However, progress is nowhere near fast enough to double its share to 36% in 2030. As highlighted in IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2016, the challenge is to increase reliance on renewable energy in the heat and transport sectors, which account for the bulk of global energy consumption.”

Source: UN: Record amount of renewable energy capacity added in 2016 | News | DW.COM | 07.04.2017

The Catch-22 of energy storage | On Line Opinion

John Morgan questions whether wind and solar are viable energy sources when one considers energy returned on energy invested (EROEI).

There is a minimum EROEI, greater than 1, that is required for an energy source to be able to run society. An energy system must produce a surplus large enough to sustain things like food production, hospitals, and universities to train the engineers to build the plant, transport, construction, and all the elements of the civilization in which it is embedded. For countries like the US and Germany, Weißbach et al. estimate this minimum viable EROEI to be about 7……

The fossil fuel power sources we’re most accustomed to have a high EROEI of about 30, well above the minimum requirement. Wind power at 16, and concentrating solar power (CSP, or solar thermal power) at 19, are lower, but the energy surplus is still sufficient, in principle, to sustain a developed industrial society. Biomass, and solar photovoltaic (at least in Germany), however, cannot. With an EROEI of only 3.9 and 3.5 respectively, these power sources cannot support with their energy alone both their own fabrication and the societal services we use energy for in a first world country.

EROEI with and without storage

Energy Returned on Invested, from Weißbach et al.,1 with and without energy storage (buffering). CCGT is closed-cycle gas turbine. PWR is a Pressurized Water (conventional nuclear) Reactor. Energy sources must exceed the “economic threshold”, of about 7, to yield the surplus energy required to support an OECD level society.

These EROEI values are for energy directly delivered (the “unbuffered” values in the figure). But things change if we need to store energy. If we were to store energy in, say, batteries, we must invest energy in mining the materials and manufacturing those batteries. So a larger energy investment is required, and the EROEI consequently drops…[to the buffered level].

Read more at The Catch-22 of energy storage – On Line Opinion – 10/3/2015.