The city of New York’s Christmas holiday-light energy use has declined by about one-third from 2010, largely due to the switch to LEDs (light-emitting diodes). This year, holiday lighting in the US city will add about 750 megawatts of load, down from about 1,150 MW in 2010. Investment Bank Goldman Sachs calls LEDs one of the fastest technology shifts in human history. By 2020, LEDs will make up 69% of global lighting sales and close to 100% by 2025, up from nearly nothing in 2010. Goldman Sachs estimates that lighting output per unit of electricity could double in the coming decade, which will make the technology an increasingly attractive option in renewable-powered, off-grid applications. The ability to network and control LEDs, as well as layer on other sensoring, means that LEDs are poised to become the backbone for everything from a smarter home to smarter cities.
Engineers in South Korea have pushed the boundaries of nuclear fusion by setting a new world record for maintaining plasma in a magnetic field. (Plasma is one of the four states of matter – the others being liquid, gas and solid; plasma is found in stars and lightning.) Nuclear fusion in the Sun generates limitless clean energy from the fusion of hydrogen atoms under high heat and pressure to produce helium. South Korea’s National Fusion Research Institute used a tokamak to maintain superheated hydrogen gas in a magnetic field for 70 seconds – a fundamental step of the fusion process. The South Korean fusion reactor generates temperatures of 300 million degrees Celsius, the temperatures associated with the interior of stars. The test proves that the burning of star-like fuel can be achieved and contained using our current technology. Groups around the world are looking to push the energy producing capacity of the technology even further, with the ITER reactor currently under construction in France. It will be the largest Tokamak-style nuclear reactor ever built. The goal for future reactions is to carry out sustained fusion reactions for up to 10 minutes, laying the groundwork for a fully functioning commericial fusion reactor that can generate limitless amounts of electricity by mid-century.
Scientists and engineers have succeeded in drilling a borehole into a volcano in the southwest of Iceland with the aim of using the intense heat as an energy source. The volcano is said to be ‘safe’, having last erupted some 700 years ago. The goal of the project is to draw steam upward from the deep well to the surface. This will, in theory, provide an important and readily usable source of energy to generate electricity. The steam from the volcano will be captured using established geothermal technology methods which turn steam into electricity. The completion of the drilling is expected before the end this month. Once complete, the boring will have reached five kilometers deep. Here the temperatures within the volcano are expected to exceed 500 degrees Celsius (around 932 degrees Fahrenheit).
The first offshore wind farm in the US has started operating, providing electricity to the northeast coast of the country. The Block Island Wind Farm is located off the cost of Rhode Island and is a 30 megawatt, five turbine installation. A submarine transmission cable system carries the electricity from the wind farm to the mainland grid.
Research firm Global Market Insights says the size of the global offshore wind energy market is anticipated to exceed US$130 billion by 2023. Europe is expected to dominate the growth of this industry because of new government energy policies. The European Union is expected to set an electricity generation target of 12% from wind sources. Europe is expected to install 40 gigawatts of wind energy generation systems over the next 7 years.
In its 2017 Outlook for Energy report Exxon Mobil Corp. estimates that demand for transportation energy will grow 25% by 2040. Global population growth of nearly 2 billion, a doubling of worldwide economic output, and rapid expansion of the middle class in emerging economies are all expected to contribute to this energy demand growth. By that date the company expects crude oil to make up the largest portion of the total global energy mix, at 32%, or roughly in line with its current share. Crude oil demand will be driven primarily by the total number of trucks, cars and SUVs in the world, which is expected to grow from one billion today to 1.8 billion in 2040. India and China will comprise 45% of global energy demand growth by 2040. When it comes to generating electricity, natural gas will increase to 26% from 23% today while coal will plummet from 39% today to 28% in 2040. Wind and solar will more than double from 5% of the electricity market today to 13%. There is broad energy industry consensus that fossil fuels, in one form or another, will continue to dominate the global energy mix for decades to come.
Exxon-Mobile predicts that internal combustion engine vehicles will increase their energy efficiency from 30 miles per gallon today to 50 MPG by 2040.
Germany’s Transport Ministry will invest 250 million euros (US$265 million) by 2019 in making hydrogen-fuelled cars suitable for mass production. Some of the money will be used for research and development and some will be used to develop infrastructure such as fueling stations. Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said: “With electromobility and automated and connected driving, the biggest mobility revolution since the invention of the car is ahead of us.”
Market research company Global Market Insights predicts the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market will reach US$18 billion by 2023. Fuel cell vehicle sales are anticipated to reach 1.2 million units by that time. Growth will largely be due to increasing concerns about air pollution and world governments supporting clean transportation more aggressively. In addition to heavy road vehicles such as trucks and buses, fuel cell technology has the ability to power airport tugs, forklifts, heavy duty vehicles and passenger vehicles.
A hydrogen taxi service has started operating in the coastal city of Ulsan, South Korea. Ten Hyundai ix35 vehicles are being managed by the city’s environmental office and Hyundai. Hyundai is expected to expand the reach of this taxi service in the near future, bringing more fuel cell vehicles to cities in South Korea.
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