International Renewable Energy

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For members of this forum that live outside of the United States: have you seen a boom in Renewable Energy? Do you know of universities that specialize in Renewable Energy, are there companies on the cutting edge of this field?
 

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Thank you so much! What is your interest in renewable energy?
 
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That is a remarkably interesting personal question for me. I have been working as a scientist in renewable energy systems for the last seven years. But I quit the field this summer. Since I now focus on my new job and learning the language of the country I moved to I am not sure if I would still call the things I was working on an interest. They are much too complicated to casually deal with as a hobby (... and the main guy who was working on these questions quit the field :P). As a casual observer the development I am interested in most is the question of synthetic fuels vs. energy efficiency. This may need a bit of explanation.

The state of the art in future energy system design is renewable energy systems including heating/cooling and traffic. Still, the main competitive energy generation options are water power (for which most potentials are already tapped out), wind power and photovoltaics. They all generate electricity. There are different options how to use electricity for heating and traffic, and the related term is "sector coupling". As a semi-random read you could look at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2018/626091/IPOL_STU(2018)626091_EN.pdf . In any case, synthetic fuels (gases or liquids) need to be generated to some extent. The energy efficiency of creating synthetic fuels from electric power is very low. But they are the only known option to store the really large amounts of energy which are needed when your power generation depends on the weather (and possibly for ships and planes).

Now here comes the thing that I wonder about: Most future energy scenarios proposed (and at this point I should constraint that to: for Europe) involve massive changes in energy system and infratructure to create the most effective system (involving e.g. electric overhead trucks: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/07/tech/e-highway-a5/index.html ). Some of them, like new wind turbines, have problems with local public acceptance (wind turbines, new power lines), which has a huge influence in democratic countries. On the other hand, you already have some fuel-based assets for the long-term energy storage. I wonder about the lazy route: We screw efficiency, let equatorial countries generate synthetic fuels from cheap solar power and leave everything else pretty much as it is (i.e. mostly fuel-based energy supply). Is that what will actually happen?
 
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ZapperZ
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Thank you so much! What is your interest in renewable energy?
How is this a "career guidance" topic?

Zz.
 
  • #6
DEvens
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"Renewable" is a slippery term. It's subject to massive political manipulation. For some people, it means wind and solar. Some include hydro such as waterfalls and tide. Some include biomass, plant-based ethanol, and burning waste from sawmills. There are niche and local things like geothermal heat.

Some include anything "low carbon" and so include nuclear. When we finally get fusion on line, probably some will include that.

It is somewhat disagreeable being at the mercy of political structures and systems, rather than being able to demonstrate a good engineering and costs based model. People rarely say anything useful or rational about things like subsidies, for example. The lead position these days often involves some variant of "How dare you!" or "Won't somebody think of the children!"

I live in Ontario. Recently (June last year) the provincial government changed from Liberal to PC.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontario_Liberal_Party
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Conservative_Party_of_Ontario
As a result, our Premier now has a frown-on for wind and solar. So they are cancelling contracts for wind and solar, paying off the penalty clauses in the contracts. Wind construction in the province is halting. It is hard for me not to feel some schadenfreude. In the early 1990s, nuclear went through much the same thing. The NDP came to power on Sept. 6, 1990, the day I started in the nuclear industry.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontario_New_Democratic_Party
They proceeded to cancel all development efforts on the new design for CANDU. And basically, the industry has not recovered. So I have spent my entire professional career in a "sunset" industry. Sigh.
 
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"Renewable" is a slippery term. It's subject to massive political manipulation. For some people, it means wind and solar. Some include hydro such as waterfalls and tide. Some include biomass, plant-based ethanol, and burning waste from sawmills. There are niche and local things like geothermal heat.

Some include anything "low carbon" and so include nuclear. When we finally get fusion on line, probably some will include that.

It is somewhat disagreeable being at the mercy of political structures and systems, rather than being able to demonstrate a good engineering and costs based model. People rarely say anything useful or rational about things like subsidies, for example. The lead position these days often involves some variant of "How dare you!" or "Won't somebody think of the children!"

I live in Ontario. Recently (June last year) the provincial government changed from Liberal to PC.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontario_Liberal_Party
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Conservative_Party_of_Ontario
As a result, our Premier now has a frown-on for wind and solar. So they are cancelling contracts for wind and solar, paying off the penalty clauses in the contracts. Wind construction in the province is halting. It is hard for me not to feel some schadenfreude. In the early 1990s, nuclear went through much the same thing. The NDP came to power on Sept. 6, 1990, the day I started in the nuclear industry.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontario_New_Democratic_Party
They proceeded to cancel all development efforts on the new design for CANDU. And basically, the industry has not recovered. So I have spent my entire professional career in a "sunset" industry. Sigh.
Do you have other options in the Nuclear Industry? Do you think your work experience will gain you anything in searching for positions outside the nuclear power industry?
 
  • #8
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That is a remarkably interesting personal question for me. I have been working as a scientist in renewable energy systems for the last seven years. But I quit the field this summer. Since I now focus on my new job and learning the language of the country I moved to I am not sure if I would still call the things I was working on an interest. They are much too complicated to casually deal with as a hobby (... and the main guy who was working on these questions quit the field :P). As a casual observer the development I am interested in most is the question of synthetic fuels vs. energy efficiency. This may need a bit of explanation.

The state of the art in future energy system design is renewable energy systems including heating/cooling and traffic. Still, the main competitive energy generation options are water power (for which most potentials are already tapped out), wind power and photovoltaics. They all generate electricity. There are different options how to use electricity for heating and traffic, and the related term is "sector coupling". As a semi-random read you could look at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2018/626091/IPOL_STU(2018)626091_EN.pdf . In any case, synthetic fuels (gases or liquids) need to be generated to some extent. The energy efficiency of creating synthetic fuels from electric power is very low. But they are the only known option to store the really large amounts of energy which are needed when your power generation depends on the weather (and possibly for ships and planes).

Now here comes the thing that I wonder about: Most future energy scenarios proposed (and at this point I should constraint that to: for Europe) involve massive changes in energy system and infratructure to create the most effective system (involving e.g. electric overhead trucks: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/07/tech/e-highway-a5/index.html ). Some of them, like new wind turbines, have problems with local public acceptance (wind turbines, new power lines), which has a huge influence in democratic countries. On the other hand, you already have some fuel-based assets for the long-term energy storage. I wonder about the lazy route: We screw efficiency, let equatorial countries generate synthetic fuels from cheap solar power and leave everything else pretty much as it is (i.e. mostly fuel-based energy supply). Is that what will actually happen?
Is your focus on synthetic fuels for transportation purposes, or just storage? What is the advantage of synthetic fuels for energy storage over physical potential energy such as a weight on a hill? (Other than space)
 
  • #9
anorlunda
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What is the advantage of synthetic fuels for energy storage
You can put the fuels in a fuel tank on a vehicle. High j/kg, high j/m^3.
 
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