MarketResearchFuture says the global energy storage market is about to grow 20% annually between now and 2023. Energy storage ranges from small to very large systems. It is segmented into mechanical energy storage, electro-chemical energy storage, thermal storage, and chemical storage. Energy storage systems have become important for storing renewable energy in recent years because of the ability to store solar and wind energy in various forms and supply electricity when end users need it. Energy storage provides the option to source electricity as and when required without requiring conventional energy sources. This flexibility enables optimal use of large generation and grid assets. Energy storage also acts as a source of power for remote and off grid areas where hundreds of millions of people live.

A decade of political dithering has left resource-rich Australia with the highest electricity prices in the world. Just in the past year manufacturers and consumers have seen a doubling of their electricity rates and some parts of the country have faced serious blackouts. As the country closed its coal mines, natural gas was supposed to fill in to produce electricity. But rising exports of the fuel to higher-paying overseas buyers created a domestic shortage. Now the federal government is threatening natural gas producers with export restrictions unless they plug the shortfall. The government is also trying to convince electric power utilities to patch up old and dilapidated coal-fired generators to keep the electric supply going. But it is difficult to find banks willing to finance the refurbishment and the owners want to shut the coal plants and replace them with more modern technologies such as renewable energy, natural gas and energy storage. Now some of the largest businesses in the country are suggesting they would move elsewhere or shut down some operations if the there is no energy certainty. And renewable energy is not solving the problems. South Australia is the state with the most wind power but has the world’s most expensive electricity and had several blackouts last year, some affecting the entire state for weeks.

“It is not a bit of a mess, it is a major mess…We have every energy resource you could want — whether its old school or new school — here in Australia. Yet, we have the most expensive power in the world.” – Sanjeev Gupta, British owner of Liberty House Group whose steel operations went without power last July for an extended period during a blackout in South Australia

Tony Wood, energy program director at the Grattan Institute, said: “I think we will see some energy intensive manufacturing close down.”

BYD, the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles, opened its expanded battery-electric bus manufacturing facility in Lancaster, California—North America’s largest. BYD will use the facility to build up to 1,500 battery-electric buses annually.  BYD is currently producing 300 electric buses based on current customer orders and has options for more than 300 additional purchases. The plant also produces battery-electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks, including delivery, drayage, refuse, and yard trucks.

Chinese Internet company Baidu is partnering with Chinese automaker BAIC to start mass production of level 3 autonomous vehicles in 2019, followed by level 4 vehicles around 2021. The immediate goal is 1 million cars produced next year that will encompass connectivity features and voice assistant as the partnership moves toward higher levels of autonomous vehicles.  Here is the difference between level 3 and level 4:

  • Level 3 (”eyes off”): The driver can safely turn their attention away from the driving tasks, e.g. the driver can text or watch a movie. The vehicle will handle situations that call for an immediate response, like emergency braking. The driver must still be prepared to intervene within some limited time, specified by the manufacturer, when called upon by the vehicle to do so. In 2017 the Audi A8 Luxury Sedan was the first commercial car to claim to be able to do level 3 self driving. The car has a so called Traffic Jam Pilot. When activated by the human driver the car takes full control of all aspects of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 60 kilometers per hour. The function only works on highways with a physical barrier separating oncoming traffic.
  • Level 4 (”mind off”): Like level 3, but no driver attention is ever required for safety, i.e. the driver may safely go to sleep or leave the driver’s seat. Self driving is supported only in limited areas or under special circumstances, like traffic jams. Outside of these areas or circumstances, the vehicle must be able to safely abort the trip, i.e. park the car, if the driver does not retake control.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has contracted to purchase 300 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses.  LA Metro will buy 65 of the 60-foot heavy-duty transit buses now with an option to purchase an additional 235 buses. Earlier this year LA Metro committed to an all-electric bus fleet by 2030.

A 15 megawatt anaerobic digestion facility has opened in Aylesbury, England with the capacity to generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 12,000 households. The waste-to-energy plant can convert in excess of 100,000 tons of waste into heat, power and bio-methane for export to the UK national grid as well as bio-fertilizer. The waste comes from dairy manure, food and cooking oil from the retail and food service sectors.

A recent study from Michigan Technological University found that bio-methane produced from all available food waste and dairy manure in the US annually would offset about 0.74% of annual natural gas demand.

Research and Markets reports the global waste to biodiesel market is expected to reach almost $1 billion by 2025. Municipal waste is the main input and gasification is the fastest growing technology to convert waste into biodiesel. Europe is the leading continent in adopting this technology where that market is forecast to grow 10% annually. Stringent environmental regulations in the automobile sector has been a major factor driving the growth of the waste to biodiesel market.

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