The World Saw a Record 9.6% Growth In Renewables In 2022

By the end of 2022, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 3,372 gigawatts (GW), growing the stock of renewable power by 295 GW or 9.6%, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewables produced an overwhelming 83% of all power capacity added last year. Electrek reports: Renewable Capacity Statistics 2023, released today by IRENA, shows that renewable energy continues to grow at record levels despite global uncertainties, confirming the downward trend of fossil fuels. While many countries increased their renewable capacity in 2022, the significant growth of renewables is concentrated in Asia, the US, and Europe. IRENA reports that almost half of all new capacity in 2022 was added in Asia, resulting in a total of 1.63 terawatts (TW) of renewable capacity by 2022. China was the largest contributor, adding 141 GW to Asia’s new capacity.

Renewables in Europe and North America grew by 57.3 GW and 29.1 GW, respectively. Africa saw an increase of 2.7 GW, slightly above 2021. Oceania continued its double-digit growth with an expansion of 5.2 GW, and South America had a capacity expansion of 18.2 GW. The Middle East recorded its highest increase in renewables on record, with 3.2 GW of new capacity added in 2022, an increase of 12.8%. Although hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total renewable generation capacity with 1,250 GW, solar and wind continued to dominate new generating capacity. Together, both technologies contributed 90% to the share of all new renewable capacity in 2022. Solar led with a 22% (191 GW) increase, followed by wind, which increased its generating capacity by 9% (75 GW).

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PC Maker Acer Is Building a Fancy Electric Bike With Built-In AI

Computer component maker Acer built a lightweight electric bike called the Acer ebii. Electrek reports: This lightweight 35 lb. (16 kg) e-bike features a number of gadgets and gizmos we have yet to spot in the industry, such as built-in AI designed to predictively control the transmission and make use of collision detection sensors for a safer ride. There’s also proximity unlocking feature that the company says “automatically locks your bike when you leave and unlocks it again when you’re nearby.” My Gogoro electric scooter has a similar function, though that’s a highway-capable vehicle.

Tracking capabilities are built into the ebii to help keep tabs on it 24/7. If the bike is ever stolen, it can be locked remotely and tracked using its built-in GPS locator. But don’t think that you won’t find typical bike parts here either, as the Acer ebii still features high-end components like a belt drive instead of a chain drive, 160mm hydraulic disc brakes, and 360-degree LED lighting. Airless tires are designed to remove the chance of flats, and a lefty-style fork does double duty as a conversation piece and a fancy weight saver.

There’s also a 460 Wh electric bicycle battery that is said to offer a range of up to 68 miles (110 km) per charge. A top speed of 15 mph (25 km/h) and a 250W rear hub motor look to keep the bike within European and Asian power and speed limits. There’s no hand throttle, which means riders will have to rely on pedal assist that is activated when the rider spins the pedals. It appears that there’s some confusion about the 2.5-hour charger included with the bike, as some in the industry seem to think it can be used to charge phones and batteries as well. In fact, it’s actually the e-bike’s removable battery itself that can function as a portable power station to charge up your mobile devices. Pricing and availability are not yet available. But there is a launch video to build up excitement.

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400,000 Gallons of Radioactive Water Leaked from a Nuclear Plant in Minnesota

“Minnesota regulators said Thursday they’re monitoring the cleanup of a leak of 400,000 gallons of radioactive water from Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear power plant,” reports the Associated Press, “and the company said there’s no danger to the public.”

“Xcel Energy took swift action to contain the leak to the plant site, which poses no health and safety risk to the local community or the environment,” the Minneapolis-based utility said in a statement. While Xcel reported the leak of water containing tritium to state and federal authorities in late November, the spill had not been made public before Thursday.

State officials said they waited to get more information before going public with it…. “Now that we have all the information about where the leak occurred, how much was released into groundwater, and that contaminated groundwater had moved beyond the original location, we are sharing this information,” said Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesman Michael Rafferty, adding the water remains contained on Xcel’s property and poses no immediate public health risk.

The company said it notified the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state on Nov. 22, the day after it confirmed the leak, which came from a pipe between two buildings. Since then, it has been pumping groundwater, storing and processing the contaminated water, which contains tritium levels below federal thresholds. “Ongoing monitoring from over two dozen on-site monitoring wells confirms that the leaked water is fully contained on-site and has not been detected beyond the facility or in any local drinking water,” the Xcel Energy statement said.

When asked why Xcel Energy didn’t notify the public earlier, the company said: “We understand the importance of quickly informing the communities we serve if a situation poses an immediate threat to health and safety. In this case, there was no such threat.”

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Can This Company Use Earth’s Heat to Suck Carbon from the Sky?

An anonymous reader shares this report from the Washington Post:

Sucking carbon dioxide out of the sky — or “direct air capture,” as it is known by experts and scientists — is a bit like a time machine for climate change. It removes CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it deep underground, almost exactly the reverse of what humanity has been doing for centuries by burning fossil fuels. Its promise? That it can help run back the clock, undoing some of what we have done to the atmosphere and helping to return the planet to a cooler state.

The problem with direct air capture, however, has been that it takes energy — a lot of energy…. But if the energy powering that comes from fossil fuels, direct air capture starts to look less like a time machine than an accelerator: a way to emit even more CO2. Now, however, a company is working to combine direct air capture with a relatively untapped source of energy: Heat from Earth’s crust. Fervo Energy, a geothermal company headquartered in Houston, announced on Thursday that it will design and engineer the first purpose-built geothermal and direct air capture plant. With the help of a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the company hopes to have a pilot facility online in 3 to 5 years.

If it works, it will be a way to produce carbon-free electricity, while reducing CO2 in the atmosphere at the same time. In short, a win-win for the climate. “You have to have your energy from a carbon-free source” for direct air capture to make sense, said Timothy Latimer, the CEO of Fervo Energy. “Geothermal is a great match….” Geothermal wells don’t, of course, get anywhere close to Earth’s core, but a geothermal well drilled just 1 to 2 miles into hot rocks below the surface can reach temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees. Water is pumped into the well, heated and returned to the surface, where it can be converted into steam and electricity. Even after generating electricity, most geothermal plants have a lot of waste heat — often clocking in around 212 degrees. And conveniently, that happens to be the exact temperature needed to pull carbon dioxide out of an air filter and bury it underground.
The article notes a study which found that if air capture were combined with all the geothermal plants currently in America, the country “could suck up around 12.8 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.”

And “Unlike wind and solar, a geothermal plant can be on all of the time, producing electricity even when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.”

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Electric Vehicles Could Match Gas-Powered Cars on Price This Year

This year in America some electric cars could become “as cheap as or cheaper than cars with internal combustion engines,” reports the New York Times, citing figures from the International Council on Clean Transportation, a research and advocacy group.
Prices are likely to continue trending lower as Tesla, General Motors, Ford Motor and their battery suppliers ramp up new factories, reaping the cost savings that come from mass production. New electric vehicles from companies like Volkswagen, Nissan and Hyundai will add to competitive pressure…. Falling prices for materials like lithium and cobalt have also helped. The price of lithium used in batteries has fallen 20% from its peak in November, though the metal still costs more than twice as much as it did at the end of 2021. Cobalt has fallen by more than half since May, in part because carmakers are selling some models that do not require it, reducing demand. New lithium mines are beginning to produce ore, which could keep a lid on prices…

As electric-vehicle sales soar — rising 66% in the United States last year to 810,000, according to Kelley Blue Book — automakers are getting better at making them…. Auto executives say that they are finding it is easier and cheaper to design and build new electric models than gasoline-powered ones. The battery cells made by Ultium, for example, are part of a collection of components that can be mixed and matched in many types of vehicles. Carmakers have long used the same platforms in multiple models, but the strategy works even better with electric vehicles because the cars have far fewer parts than internal combustion vehicles. The Ultium platform cuts the time needed to develop a new vehicle by almost two years, Dan Nicholson, vice president of electrification at GM, said at a Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago conference in January. As a result, GM will be able to introduce three Chevrolet electric vehicles this year: the Equinox, a Silverado pickup truck and a Blazer SUV. “That’s how we get the economies of scale,” Nicholson said.

The article cite’s legislation passed last year subsidizing battery manufacturers, which “could cut the cost of making electric vehicles by as much as $9,000,” as well as the legislation’s tax credits for cars priced below $55,000.
But besides making it cheaper to purchase an electric car, “the car will need less maintenance,” the article points out, “and the electricity to power it will cost less than the gasoline used by its combustion engine equivalent.”
Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader 140Mandak262Jamuna for sharing the article.

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US-Based EV Battery Recycling Company Predicts Material For 1M EVs a Year

Last year Redwood Materials announced a new program recycling EV batteries (including partnerships with Ford and Volvo). Now Politico reports that America’s Department of Energy tentatively awarded them a $2 billion loan, “which the company says will allow it to produce enough battery materials to enable the production of more than a million electric vehicles a year.”

The Nevada-based company said it plans to ultimately ramp up to producing 100 gigawatt-hours annually of ultra-thin battery-grade materials from both new and recycled sources in the United States for the first time.” Redwood founder CEO JB Straubel, who previously worked at Tesla, said at an event announcing the loan that he had a “front row seat” while at the Elon Musk-helmed electric vehicle maker to “some of the bigger challenges the the entire industry would face as it scales,” particularly around the battery materials supply chain. “It was somewhat clear even way back then, eight years ago, that this would be a really big bottleneck for the entire industry as it scaled,” Straubel said….

Redwood plans to manufacture battery anodes, containing copper and graphite, and cathodes, containing all the critical metals in a battery — like lithium, nickel, and cobalt — amounting to nearly 80 percent of the materials cost of a lithium-ion battery.

A Detroit newspaper reports Ford will also announce plans Monday to help build a $2.5 billion electric-vehicle battery plant in Michigan.

In fact, this year in America some electric cars could become “as cheap as or cheaper than cars with internal combustion engines,” reports the New York Times — specifically because of “increased competition, government incentives and falling prices for lithium and other battery materials.”

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EV Batteries Getting Second Life On California Power Grid

Hundreds of used electric vehicle battery packs are enjoying a second life at a California facility connected to the state’s power grid, according to a company pioneering technology it says will dramatically lower the cost of storing carbon-free energy. Reuters reports: B2U Storage Solutions, a Los Angeles-based startup, said it has 25 megawatt-hours of storage capacity made up of 1,300 former EV batteries tied to a solar energy facility in Lancaster, California. The project is believed to be the first of its kind selling power into a wholesale market and earned $1 million last year, according to Chief Executive Freeman Hall. B2U’s technology allows the EV battery packs to be bundled together without having to be taken apart first. Founded in 2019, the company is backed by Japanese trading company Marubeni Corp.

By extending the batteries’ lives, project developers can save both resources and costs. Hall estimates that a system like B2U’s could lower grid-scale battery capital costs by about 40%. “Second life and re-use helps the overall lifecycle be more energy efficient, given all the efforts that go into making that battery,” Hall said in an interview. “So you’re getting maximum value out of it.” Batteries are worked hard during their years powering vehicles, and over time their range deteriorates. But they still hold value as stationary storage, which has gentler demands, Hall said. The batteries in the B2U system are up to 8-years old and once powered vehicles built by Honda and Nissan.

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Power Grid Worries Force Amazon To Run Oregon Datacenters Using Fuel Cells

Unable to get the power it needs to feed its growing datacenter footprint, Amazon plans to transition some of its Oregon datacenters over to natural gas fuel cells. The Register reports: First reported by local media, Amazon’s initial plan would involve installing just shy of 75 megawatts of fuel cell capacity across three datacenters with the option to expand that to four additional sites in the future. Fuel cells extract electricity from a fuel like natural gas or hydrogen without the need for combustion. With hydrogen, the only byproducts of this reaction are electricity and water vapor, but with natural gas, CO2 — a potent greenhouse gas — is still produced.

For Amazon, these natural gas fuel cells will be used as the primary energy supply, delivering 24.3 megawatts of power to each of the three datacenter sites. “We are investing in fuel cells as a way to power a small number of our operations in Oregon,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Register in an email. “We continually innovate to minimize our impact on our neighbors, local resources, and the environment and this technology provides a pathway for less carbon intensive solutions in the region.”

Continuing to use fossil fuels to power its datacenters is at odds with Amazon’s stated sustainability goals — which include transitioning facilities to 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. However, sources familiar with the matter tell The Register that Amazon’s decision to use natural gas fuel cells was made in part due to challenges associated with power transmission infrastructure in the region. Oregon Live notes that the e-tail giant has had problems with landowners, who have objected to having high-voltage transmission lines cross their properties. Fuel cells provide Amazon a way to circumvent these headaches by generating the power onsite. However, regulators are concerned that the decision could actually increase Amazon’s carbon footprint in the region as the power supplied by local utilities includes a mix of hydroelectric power. In documents filed with the state, it’s estimated the fuel cells would generate 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

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First Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Certified For Use In US

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has certified the design for what will be the United States’ first small modular nuclear reactor. The Associated Press reports: The rule that certifies the design was published Thursday in the Federal Register. It means that companies seeking to build and operate a nuclear power plant can pick the design for a 50-megawatt, advanced light-water small modular nuclear reactor by Oregon-based NuScale Power and apply to the NRC for a license. It’s the final determination that the design is acceptable for use, so it can’t be legally challenged during the licensing process when someone applies to build and operate a nuclear power plant, NRC spokesperson Scott Burnell said Friday. The rule becomes effective in late February.

The U.S. Energy Department said the newly approved design “equips the nation with a new clean power source to help drive down” planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. It’s the seventh nuclear reactor design cleared for use in the United States. The rest are for traditional, large, light-water reactors. Diane Hughes, NuScale’s vice president of marketing and communications, said the design certification is a historic step forward toward a clean energy future and makes the company’s VOYGR power plant a near-term deployable solution for customers. The first small modular reactor design application package included over 2 million pages of supporting materials, Hughes added. “NuScale has also applied to the NRC for approval of a larger design, at 77 megawatts per module, and the agency is checking the application for completeness before starting a full review,” adds the report.

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