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AFC Energy Expands Strategic Technology Collaboration with De Nora

AFC Energy Plc (AFC), the industrial fuel cell power company, is pleased to announce with immediate effect the new phase of the Company’s partnership with Industrie De Nora S.p.A. (“De Nora”).

Highlights

  • AFC Energy and De Nora expand Joint Development Agreement (“JDA”) collaboration into Phase 2 following successful Phase 1 completion
  • As part of Phase 2, AFC Energy and De Nora expect to finalise the design of a commercial fuel cell electrode and stack during the current year for commercial application which is capable of mass automated production with warranted performance metrics 

  • AFC Energy and De Nora expect to commence dialogue on terms for a long-term electrode supply agreement building on De Nora’s proven and qualified know how in the automation of manufacturing processes 

  • Demonstration of the new upscaled and enhanced fuel cell system is planned at AFC Energy’s Stade industrial scale fuel cell plant in Germany in the second half of 2017 
The JDA executed between AFC Energy and De Nora in August 2016 was undertaken with the principle aim of targeting technological advancements to AFC Energy’s fuel cell system and to further accelerate commercialisation of AFC Energy’s technology platform. 


The intense first phase work programme agreed between the two companies in August 2016 has now been successfully completed. The joint decision to proceed into Phase 2 of the JDA is based upon demonstrable evidence compiled by the companies across three discreet fields: 


  1. Joint technology development which empirically showed significant enhancement in longevity and efficiency of the fuel cell system without the loss of power output; 

  2. Identification of achievable cost targets for the commercial fuel cell product, in the near term, capable of deployment in key target markets; and 

  3. A fast growing pipeline of opportunities addressable by the enhanced fuel cell system supporting the objective market size assessment for AFC Energy’s fuel cell product.

afc logoThe parties agreed on 19 April 2017 to commence the next phase of the JDA and to commit further resources and funding in support of the synchronized efforts of both companies to further improve the overall performance and economics delivered by the AFC Energy fuel cell system. Stage 2 of the JDA will now focus on the integration of the best performing electrodes from Phase 1 within the enhanced fuel cell stack to derive a frozen baseline technology platform capable of warranted mass production which in turn will be validated at AFC Energy’s industrial facility in Stade, Germany in the second half of 2017. The validation will include the metrics associated with power output, longevity, efficiency and availability.

De Nora’s track record in industrial electro-chemistry application, capacity for manufacture and the commitment to deliver warranted electrodes in terms of performance parameters and target cost places AFC Energy’s fuel cell systems at a distinct advantage with its commercial project partners, providing targeted industries with the necessary confidence to proceed in adopting the technology.

The partnership with De Nora will allow AFC Energy to set its cost structure (modelled to result in a cost per kWh competitive amongst several of today’s conventional and renewable energy generation technologies) by leveraging De Nora’s manufacturing, supply chains and procurement strength.

Luca Buonerba, De Nora’s Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer said, “AFC Energy is the market leader in alkaline fuel cells. The synergies between our two organisations are clear as it is evident in the market growth and demand for fuel cells. We are pleased to move to the next phase of the JDA. This provides De Nora market access to a technology complementary to our own and aligns strategically the two organisations.”

Adam Bond, AFC’s Chief Executive Officer, AFC Energy said, “I am delighted to announce the continuation and indeed expansion of our strategic collaboration with De Nora. We have been most impressed at the quality and capability of De Nora since first meeting the organisation in 2016 and since then, our two organisations have worked tirelessly in progressing the Company’s fuel cell platform. De Nora’s manufacturing know how, scale up capability and ability to warrant electrode performance further validates AFC Energy’s product offering and potential global reach.”

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Work starts on ETI backed innovative Waste Gasification Commercial Demonstration Plant in the West Midlands

Work has started to build an innovative waste gasification plant in the West Midlands known as the SynTech Energy Centre, creating around 100 construction jobs and 25 new permanent jobs once operational.

The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is investing £5m into the new centre built on the site of a former steel fabrication and waste recycling facility in Portway Road, Wednesbury matching a £5m investment from Denver-based SynTech Bioenergy LLC. 

  • ETI will invest £5m in the project with a matching investment from Denver-based SynTech Bioenergy LLC
  • The Plant will deliver a Waste Gasification system capable of high efficiencies and a potential future to deliver chemicals or fuels such as green aviation fuel.
  • Up to around 100 construction jobs and 25 permanent operations jobs will be created

eti logoThe Project is being led by SynTech Bioenergy UK based in Aldridge in the West Midlands, Mace are the project managers and engineering, procurement and construction is being led by Otto Simon Ltd from Cheadle in Cheshire. 

The gasification technology is being provided by US company Frontline Bioenergy, in whom SynTech US is a major stakeholder and will be built in the UK.

The 1.5MWe facility, which will produce enough electrical power to supply 2,500 homes, will use advanced gasification to produce power at high efficiency and high reliability from sorted and processed municipal waste.

The project will convert about 40 tonnes a day of post recycling, refuse derived fuel (RDF) produced locally into a clean syngas.  The syngas will then be converted into power using a modified high- efficiency gas engine, and waste heat generated from the engine will be made available to heat a local swimming pool.

The plant is more compact than many other energy from waste designs and could be suitable for providing heat and power to factories, hospitals as well as being suitable to integrate with heat networks in towns and cities.

It will also incorporate a unique test facility which will allow the testing of new engines, turbines and upgrading processes which produce products from waste derived clean syngas including a proprietary methanol production process which boosts product yield significantly over rival technologies.

ETI Bioenergy Project Manager Paul Winstanley said:

“This project is about more than just generating clean electricity, although that is an important first step.

“The SynTech Energy Centre will produce a clean, consistent high quality syngas from waste in the form of refuse derived fuel (RDF). Producing a clean high quality syngas opens up a huge variety of new opportunities in addition to making clean electricity including the generation of hydrogen, jet fuel and even plastics from wastes.

“The UK paid to export 3 million tonnes of RDF to Europe in 2016. This export market is still rising and nearly 16 million tonnes of waste is landfilled of which half could be used as fuel. This technology could be used to convert waste into clean, reliable and economic heat, power, chemicals and fuels on a smaller scale where it could be used by factories, car plants, hospitals and data centres economically.”

Kamal Kalsi, SynTech Bioenergy UK’s Chief Technology Officer said:

“The work in Phase 1 of the project  has permitted us to carry out a significant level of risk assessment and mitigation work to ensure that we can deliver not only a technology that works reliably on a wide range of waste sources but does so in a cost-effective manner. Our process differs in many key aspects to all others in the marketplace and we believe that this provides us with key advantages that allow us to meet our technical and commercial objectives.

“We look forward to being a key part of bringing advanced thermal conversion into a new era of high efficiency, end-product flexibility and most importantly demonstrating the technology to make it more attractive to future investors”

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Halving global carbon emissions by 2040 is within our reach

Halving global carbon emissions by 2040 is within our reach,  but governments, investors and businesses must act now  to accelerate energy transitions

Leading industries, investors and climate advocates set out achievable pathways to limit global warming to well below 2˚C while stimulating economic development and social progress. 

2017 05 08 091324Governments, investors and businesses must seize the opportunity to halve global carbon emissions by 2040 while ensuring economic development and energy access for all, but they must act now to accelerate clean electrification, decarbonization beyond power and energy productivity improvement, says the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC). The ETC has just launched its “Better energy, Greater prosperity” report which argues that it is technically and economically feasible to grow economies and provide affordable, reliable, clean energy for all while meeting the Paris objective of limiting global warming to well below 2°C.  

Key conclusions of the report include:

  • Falling costs of renewables and batteries make cost-effective, clean electricity unstoppable and essential to the transition to a low-carbon, energy-abundant world.
  • There is still untapped potential to improve energy productivity – i.e. the energyintensity of GDP. Growth of 3% per annum could be achieved with the right policies effectively implemented.
  • Rapid progress is now required on other technologies, including bioenergy, hydrogen and all forms of carbon capture and sequestration, to drive complete decarbonization. But even with large scale CCS deployment, which is currently not on track, fossil fuels use must fall 30% by 2040, with rapid decline of unabated coal.

“We are ambitious but realistic. Despite the scale of the challenges facing us, we firmly believe the required transition is technically and economically achievable if immediate action is taken,” says Adair Turner, Chair of the ETC. To put the world on a well below 2˚C pathway, we must decarbonize power generation and extend electrification to a wider set of activities in the transport and buildings sectors. Clean electrification alone could deliver half of the carbon emissions reductions required to reach 20 gigatonnes (Gt) of emissions by 2040. But we must also decarbonize all the activities which cannot be cost-effectively electrified – such as aviation, shipping, and heavy industries like steel, cement or chemicals – and achieve a revolution in energy productivity. On both of these dimensions, progress is far too slow. To accelerate improvement requires stronger public policies and large-scale public and private investment, urges the ETC. The transition to low-carbon energy systems would deliver important social benefits – with for instance dramatically improved air quality leading to longer and healthier lives – and economic opportunities related to the development of technologies and innovative business models, says the report. “This is not just another plan; it’s a better plan. We show how the world can remove barriers to transform challenges into opportunities, not only in advanced economies, but also in emerging countries,” says Ajay Mathur, co-Chair of the ETC. 

The report reflects a unique collaboration between the diverse members of the ETC, which brings together fossil fuels, power and industrial companies, alongside investors, environmental NGOs and researchers, from both developing and developed countries. These diverse allies are agreed not only on the importance of cutting global carbon emissions to meet the Paris objectives, but also on how that transition can be achieved while fostering social and economic progress. 
 
Pathways to low-carbon energy systems

The report describes how to cut annual carbon emissions from 36 Gt today to 20 Gt by 2040 (compared to 47 Gt expected by 2040 in a business as usual scenario), and set the stage for the further emissions reductions that will be required in the second half of the century, while ensuring universal access to 80-100 GJ of affordable, reliable and sustainable energy per capita per annum. This can be achieved through four interdependent pathways, says the ETC. 
 
1. Clean electrification - By 2040, half of emissions reductions compared to a business as usual scenario could come from the combination of the decarbonization of power generation and the electrification of a wider set of activities in the transport and buildings sectors. Provided appropriate policies are put in place, it will be possible within 15 years to build power systems that rely on variable renewables for 80/90% of power supply and that can deliver electricity at an all-in cost (including back-up and flexibility needs) of less than $70 per MWh, which is likely to be competitive with fossil fuels based power generation. This reflects the dramatic reductions in the cost of renewables and batteries now being achieved and most likely to continue. Clean electricity should then be used in an increasing range of economic activities, with growing potential to substitute clean electricity for fossil fuels in light vehicle transport and heating. 
 
2. Decarbonization of “hard-to-electrify” sectors – In addition, we will need to cut carbon emissions from activities that cannot be electrified cost-effectively in transport, industry and buildings. This will become increasingly important as the potential for additional clean electrification is exhausted. But the technologies to do that – including bioenergy, waste heat, hydrogen, and the multiple forms of carbon capture and sequestration – are not yet achieving the cost reductions and scale deployment seen in renewables and batteries. Governments and companies need to make significant R&D and initial deployment investments to ensure that these technologies become cost effective. 
 
3. A revolution in the pace of energy productivity improvement - Energy productivity improvement could deliver a third of required emissions reductions by 2040, but this would demand greatly accelerated energy efficiency progress across the buildings, transport and industry sectors, as well as structural changes in the economy to deliver more economic growth with less energy-intensive goods and services. 
 
4. Optimization of remaining fossil fuels use - These transitions would result in a 30% decrease in fossil fuels use by 2040, but fossil fuels would still represent up to 50% of final energy demand. Meeting climate objectives therefore also requires a ramp-up in all forms of carbon capture and sequestration (conversion into products, underground storage, natural carbon sinks). In this context, fossil fuels use should be concentrated in highest value applications, which implies a rapid decrease in unabated coal consumption, a peak of oil in the 2020s and a continued role for gas provided methane leakages are reduced significantly. 
 
 Achieving accelerated progress

The transition to low-carbon energy systems across the world will require faster improvement than in the past 20 years and faster than the INDCs promise. Each year, energy productivity needs to increase by 3% and the share of energy from zero-carbon sources needs to rise at least one percentage point.  Strong public policies will be essential to achieve this. The ETC believes that these must include meaningful carbon pricing, phase-out of fossil fuels subsidies, R&D and deployment support for low-carbon technologies, robust standards and regulations, appropriate market design, and public investment in transport and urban infrastructure. In addition, the progress implies a major shift in the mix of investments in the energy system: investments in fossil fuels over the next 15 years could be about $3.7 trillion lower than in a business as usual scenario, while investments in low-carbon technologies and more energyefficient equipment and buildings could increase by $6 trillion and $9 trillion respectively. This would mean an extra $300-600 billion in annual investment. This does not pose a major macroeconomic challenge in a world where global savings and investment reach $20 trillion annually. But public policies that reduce risk are needed to reduce the cost of capital for longterm sustainable infrastructure investment and extra support will be required for developing countries with the greatest investment requirements and more limited access to capital.  

The Energy Transitions Commission

The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) brings together a diverse group of individuals from the energy and climate communities: investors, incumbent energy companies, industry disruptors, equipment suppliers, energy-intensive industries, non-profit organizations, advisors, and academics from across the developed and developing world. Our aim is to accelerate change towards low-carbon energy systems that enable robust economic development and limit the rise in global temperature to well below 2˚C. See below the list of ETC Commissioners. The “Better Energy, Greater Prosperity” report was developed by the Commissioners with the support of the ETC Secretariat, provided by SYSTEMIQ and McKinsey & Company. It draws upon a set of analyses carried out by Climate Policy Initiative, Copenhagen Economics and Vivid Economics for the ETC, which are available on the ETC’s website. 

To read the full report, visit the ETC website.

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Electricity Producing Drones

They call it Airborne Wind Energy (AWE). It started with kites flying higher than a conventional wind turbine to create electricity from the familiar figure of eight trajectory where winds are much stronger and more consistent than those tapped by conventional wind turbines on land or even offshore. It then progressed to many variants, the most promising in the near term being helical or circular trajectory using a drone. That gives steady electricity production before retrieval to start again and drones can even launch when there is no ground wind at all. Several companies will first sell AWE over the coming four years despite none having flown a prototype for more than 24 hours as yet: early adopters are tolerant because this may be the start of something big. Businesses want hands on experience of complete systems producing serious power.

Surreal

2015 08 04 074618In the research for the new IDTechEx Research report, Airborne Wind Energy AWE 2017-2027 we discovered a number of surreal aspects of this subject. Five of the developers that impressed us answered that the peer developer they most admired is Google Makani despite it having had little to tell the world over the last two years beyond key people leaving and some patents being registered for use on ships. This project reached a very impressive stage with a finely engineered 600kW prototype. 

Purpose

The purpose of the new report is to assist investors, developers and others in the value chain with independent technology roadmaps and appraisal of the commercial prospects for this technology and what progress most of the leading players have really made and will make in future. We focus primarily on the most promising players: those that are likely to commercialise complete systems within the next ten years at power levels of at least 10 kW. We show that the opportunity splits into two very different requirements then subsets of these. We make no attempt to assess all of the rest of the 100 or so groups and individuals experimenting, many of them being hobbyists and some in an open source community, though we have communicated with some of them.

Our contribution is unusual in being based on conference attendance, market and technical appraisal and interviews by our multi-lingual PhD level analysts across the world who are experts in next generation energy harvesting.  IDTechEx has one of the largest ranges of reports on new energy harvesting technology and markets and it runs some of the largest conferences on next generation energy harvesting such as Energy Harvesting Europe where Prof Zhong Wang, inventor of triboelectric harvesting discusses its use for creating up to 1MW and Electric Vehicles: Everything is Changing which reveals many new energy independent vehicles and scope for AWE on ships. Both conferences take place at the IDTechEx Show! Berlin May 10-11 with nine parallel conferences, 3000 paying delegates and 200 exhibitors. There are masterclasses on energy harvesting and allied materials and systems topics on May 9 and 12.

The lead analyst on the new AWE report grew a large high tech. manufacturing business from near start-up to sale for $500 million: he has a measured view of time and investment needed. IDTechEx puts AWE in better context, providing many new technical and applicational ideas to increase the chances of success. The report is constantly updated with appraisal of important news and new interviews coming in.

After a slow start, AWE could be a business of tens of billions of dollars twenty years but mainly not by direct competition with conventional wind turbines. Other opportunities are much larger and do not involve the risky tactic of merely selling on price of electricity. Benchmarking and assessment reveals that software and services will be a significant percentage. There are several dilemmas being tackled on the way to this becoming a genuine business over the coming decade. Here are just a few examples.

The lightning dilemma

Anything at those heights attracts lightning. A regular aircraft is usually a Faraday cage and it and its contents will usually be unharmed by a strike. With AWE, one respondent told us the tether will be destroyed not the craft. One said that this is a reason for making the craft capable of flying free of the tether and landing safely – not flying off into the local town. One said the highly insulating tether guarantees no strike. Wet in a storm? No.  Several respondents said they will rely on grounding the system based on lightning forecasts but these are unreliable so, to be on the safe side, utilisation may be more affected than is currently envisaged. The lightning dilemma may reduce the addressable market but it does not make AWE a bad idea.

The illumination dilemma

AWE will rarely be viable at the heights of conventional wind turbines and this poses the dilemma of visibility. When up at the optimal 400-1000 meters they are virtually invisible in the increasingly favorite form of aerofoils including aircraft with lifters but although that is portrayed as an advantage it is only true in no fly zones created legally or by remoteness. Otherwise they need identification lights. At night time, particularly with crosswind ones, they will draw a large lit pattern in the sky – visual pollution.

There is a dilemma as to how to do that illumination. Our interviews revealed cases of making a non-conductive tether conductive with a low power cable for lighting etc., alternatively creating the electricity in situ with a microturbine or planning tracking illumination beams from the ground. We think making electricity in the aircraft by electrodynamic, photovoltaic and/or triboelectric harvesting is particularly attractive but if the tether itself must be illuminated, that is more of a problem. Perhaps the self-powered aircraft lighting could shine down on the tether to some extent and it could be luminescent.

The idea may be wrong that AWE can go in protected areas of outstanding natural beauty because they are not ugly like conventional turbines.  Zooming bright lights across the sky can also be seen as ugly in a national park. However, the illumination dilemma restricts the addressable market: it does not make AWE a bad idea. 

Killing birds and bats

There is no statistically meaningful evidence and it will not be forthcoming for at least ten years but AWE probably kills fewer flying creatures than conventional wind turbines. This will be because even tethered aircraft going fastest over the largest volume of air do so primarily above where most creatures fly. AWE systems fly slower that the tip of a conventional wind turbine blade and that helps too. One interviewee even described a kite system being considered for studying flight of eagles near conventional wind turbines. Anyway, even conventional wind turbines kill less than one percent of killed flying wildlife, the big problem being such things as cats and windows. Killing birds and bats will have negligible effect on AWE addressable markets unless the media create a false outrage.

Derisked technology

AWE technology leverages existing technology for other things, greatly reducing risk. The drone, autonomy system and ground generator with energy storage leverage electric vehicle and aerospace technology. The tether and, if used, the kite leverage existing sailing and kite flying technology. This gives hidden economy of scale and proven technology. To that extent investment in AWES is much lower risk than is commonly realised. The far bigger risk is underfunding creating a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure. The typical teams of under ten people and under $2 million funding will not create enduring business of $100 million any time soon. Fortunately the many energy giants investing at the million dollar level are well able to multiply that by one hundred. The time to do that is now but as yet, no one comes close to the Google Makani funding.  

The upcoming Energy Harvesting Europe and Electric Vehicles: Everything is Changing conferences in Berlin, 10-11 May, will provide a complete overview of energy harvesting and electric vehicle technologies, revealing the latest advances. The conferences are co-located alongside a series of synergistic events on wearable, sensors, energy storage, 3D printing, graphene & 2D materials, Internet of Things and printed electronics as part of the IDTechEx Show! (www.IDTechEx.com/europe).

On September 26-29 IDTechEx will also be hosting the world’s first conference on Energy Independent Vehicles (EIV) for land, water and air at the Technical University of Delft, Netherlands. EIVs are propelled entirely by electricity produced on-board from ambient energy. Many exist today and investment is already at the billions of dollars level. Find out more at www.IDTechEx.com/delft17.

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Solar power charging ahead

In 2009, the UK government released a national renewable energy action plan, which focussed on decreasing emissions and the use of non-renewable gases and fuels. The renewable energy directive states that, by 2020, the UK should aim to achieve 15 per cent of its energy consumption from renewable sources. Since the 2009 directive, we have seen a significant increase in the use of solar panels in both domestic and industrial applications. Here Clive Jones, managing director of thermal fluid and heat transfer specialist Global Heat Transfer discusses how the rise in solar applications is changing the energy market, and what countries are leading the way.

According to recent reports, Germany is leading the way when it comes to solar energy use. Not only has Germany installed thousands of solar panels already, it also plans switch entirely to renewable energy by 2050.

In less developed parts of the world, solar energy is also proving extremely popular. Take Tanzania for example. Although only 40 per cent of the population of Tanzania have access to grid electricity, the country has recently launched its 'one million solar homes' initiative to provide the sun's power to one million properties by 2017.

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Methods of production

One system for large-scale solar thermal power generation is parabolic trough technology. Thermal fluids play a vital role in this process and maintenance is paramount to ensure efficient and safe generation of energy. Parabolic trough power plants use curved, mirrored troughs to reflect direct sunlight onto a central glass pipe containing fluid - called the receiver, absorber or collector.

Thermal heat transfer fluid then passes through the receiver and becomes incredibly hot. It is then used to heat water to boiling point and the steam drives a turbine generator, converting mechanical energy to electrical energy. The process converts about a third of the heat energy into electricity.

With parabolic solar thermal generation, fluids have to work for prolonged periods at up to 400 degrees Celsius. This is because at high temperatures, thermal energy can be converted to electricity more efficiently. Synthetic oils are typically used in these applications because they suffer degradation at a slower rate to that of natural oils, although some applications use mineral-based oils, such as Omnipure.

Changing market

The efficiencies of the solar cells in producing electricity have increased from one to two per cent at the time of discovery to up to 15 per cent on average today. In 2015, a team from the Stanford School of Engineering invented a transparent coating that cools solar cells, boosting efficiency. The hotter solar cells become, the less efficient they are. Now, users can lay the coating over solar panels and increase their efficiency.

In the lab, scientists have developed solar panels that are 40 per cent more efficient, but manufacturers are yet to discover a way to turn these into economically viable products. High efficiency does not necessarily mean better, it just means panels take up less space. Unless there is an unusually small space available, efficiency should not be a critical concern.

For years, scientists have been trying to find a way of storing the energy generated through solar panels for times when the panels are unable to function, such as cloudy days or at night. However, it wasn't until recent years that scientists realised the importance of molten salts in the storage of solar energy.

As well as in heat transfer applications, molten salt can be used as a thermal energy storage medium. Molten salts have the property to absorb and store heat energy, which is then released into water tanks to be transferred when needed.

As the availability of fossil fuels decreases more and more, it's likely that the renewable energy target for 2020 will increase. Getting ahead of the game now will prepare the industry for future cut-backs and energy price increases.

About Global Heat Transfer: Global Heat Transfer is a thermal fluid specialist, providing heat transfer engineering assistance and thermal fluid supplies. Services offered include sampling and analysis, 24 hour delivery of premium quality thermal fluids, system drain down / cleaning / waste management, planned maintenance programs and a broad portfolio of affiliated system design and installation services. It is part of the Global Group of companies.