The world’s first self-driving ship will sail next year. A Norwegian container ship, the Yara Birkeland, will be the world’s first electric, autonomous, zero-emissions ship. With a capacity of up to 150 shipping containers, the battery-powered ship is expected to mark the beginning of a transformation of the global shipping industry. The ship is small compared to modern standards with the largest container ships carrying 19,000 containers while an average-size ship holds 3,500. Like self-driving cars, it will be equipped with a GPS and various types of sensors, including lidar, radar, and cameras.. The ship will be able to steer itself through the sea, avoid other ships, and independently dock itself.  While the ship will cost three times to build compared to a similarly-sized conventional ship,  the savings will come from its operation costs since it won’t need traditional diesel fuel or human labour (wages and benefits). By 2020, it will be operating fully on its own, under supervision from shore. The ship will sail between three ports in southern Norway, delivering fertilizer. The planned route is 37 nautical miles and the ship will stay within 12 nautical miles of the coast.

In the UK, Swedish furniture maker IKEA says it will be selling retail battery storage power packs. IKEA is the first mass retailer to sell battery packs in its stores. The storage packs are made by Solarcentury, the UK’s largest solar company. The 3.3 kilowatt-hour battery packs will begin retailing for 3,000 pounds ($3,913). (For comparison, Tesla’s Powerwall is 14 kWh and runs 5,000 pounds.) The battery packs would be used to store solar energy from residential dwellings. IKEA is planning to sell the batteries and solar panels together. The company claims that customers are missing out on potential 60% savings on their electric bills by installing only solar panels. Tesla and IKEA are both expected to benefit from the UK government’s recent 246 million pound investment in battery technology research.

India is generating about 66 megawatts of electricity from municipal solid waste everyday and is aiming to increase this figure 10 fold. The south Asian country has five operating waste-to-energy projects in Solapur, Jabalpur and New Delhi which together process 4,516 tonne of waste per day. 48 more projects are underway that would generate 412 MW of electricity once completed.

REN21 has released its 2017 Renewables Global Status Report. From it we learn that PV solar added more generating capacity last year than any other energy source. Worldwide, about 73 gigawatts (GW) of new solar PV capacity was installed in 2016. Wind came in second (55 GW), with coal third (52 GW), followed by natural gas (37 GW) and hydro (28 GW). Solar and wind accounted for almost half of all new electricity generation last year. Together they account for about 5.5% of total worldwide generating capacity. Hydro is still important in developing countries that still have rivers to dam.

Transportation and stationary applications will soon become the largest energy storage markets, according to Lux Research. Transportation applications are already the largest source of energy storage demand. By 2025 the energy storage market will top $100 billion with applications in transportation alone reaching $69 billion. Transformations in the electricity grid mean that stationary storage has the highest growth rates and will reach $19 billion in 2025. The applications that will drive the highest revenues are those using the largest packs: electric buses and passenger EVs. Passenger EVs make up the biggest opportunity, worth $32 billion in 2025 — or 46% of the market for energy storage in transportation. Lux sees stationary energy storage reaching 34 gigawatt-hours and $19 billion in 2025, driven by the emerging long-duration storage market. The need for long-duration storage in uses like peak power shifting by electric utilities or renewables integration will expand significantly, with China and India driving the most growth.

Germany’s TerraE-Holding GmbH has organized 17 major companies and research institutions into a consortium to plan the building of large-scale lithium ion battery cell manufacturing in Germany. The goal is to gradually reach the production of 34 gigawatt-hours per year by 2028. TerraE will build and operate the factories, where lithium-ion cell customers can have products produced to their specifications. Potential customers include companies in the industrial sectors (forklifts, landscaping equipment, cordless tools) and energy storage and electromobility sectors (city buses, passenger cars, trucks).

Germany’s auto industry is fighting hard to save the future of diesel-powered vehicles by offering the German government a quick fix that will cut NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions from more than five million vehicles. The automakers fear that German cities like Stuttgart are about to ban diesel as a health hazard. Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen Group and Opel have reportedly approached the German government with a software upgrade that is said to reduce smog-inducing NOx emissions by 25% to 35%. The software would update both Euro5 and early-Euro6 vehicles. Diesel sales are down about 13% in Germany.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne said that Chrysler is moving toward electrification of all of its vehicles, starting with Maserati in 2019. He indicated that more than half of his company’s cars and pick-up trucks would be electrified (with either mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid or battery-electric) by 2022.

The Central America country of Costa Rica has its first hydrogen fuel cell bus. The bus has seating capacity for 35 passengers and an approximate range of 338 kilometers on 38 kilograms of compressed hydrogen. It is the first of its kind in Central America. This is the beginning of a program in Costa Rica to produce its own hydrogen and convert its transportation system to this fuel and thus free its dependence on imported oil.  Other vehicles, including  trucks, marine, trains, forklifts, service and private vehicles, and aircraft are being considered for conversion to hydrogen.

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