May 8, 2017
Fusion: Tokamak reactor turned on in UK, but do we want fusion power?
May 8, 2017
In April, Tokamak Energy in Oxfordshire, UK, fired up its fusion reactor for the first time. According to a report in Word Nuclear News, “The reactor aims to produce a record-breaking plasma temperature of 100 million degrees for a privately-funded venture. This is seven times hotter than the centre of the Sun and the temperature necessary for controlled fusion.”
The next steps are “to complete the commissioning and installation of the full set of magnetic coils which are crucial to reaching the temperatures required for fusion. This will allow the ST40 to produce a plasma temperature of 15 million degrees – as hot as the centre of the Sun – in the autumn of this year.”
The company says it aims to deliver the first power to the grid in 2025 and to be able to produce commercially by 2030.
Not everyone is convinced, however, that fusion energy is such a blessing. In the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Dr Daniel Jassby, a former principal research physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, last month published a detailed critique of fusion power.
“As we move closer to our goal [of producing fusion energy]”, writes Jassby, “it is time to ask: Is fusion really a ‘perfect’ energy source? After having worked on nuclear fusion experiments for 25 years at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, I began to look at the fusion enterprise more dispassionately in my retirement. I concluded that a fusion reactor would be far from perfect, and in some ways close to the opposite.”
He notes that “unlike what happens in solar fusion—which uses ordinary hydrogen—Earth-bound fusion reactors that burn neutron-rich isotopes have byproducts that are anything but harmless: Energetic neutron streams comprise 80 percent of the fusion energy output of deuterium-tritium reactions and 35 percent of deuterium-deuterium reactions.
Now, an energy source consisting of 80 percent energetic neutron streams may be the perfect neutron source, but it’s truly bizarre that it would ever be hailed as the ideal electrical energy source. In fact, these neutron streams lead directly to four regrettable problems with nuclear energy: radiation damage to structures; radioactive waste; the need for biological shielding; and the potential for the production of weapons-grade plutonium 239—thus adding to the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, not lessening it, as fusion proponents would have it.”
“In addition, if fusion reactors are indeed feasible—as assumed here—they would share some of the other serious problems that plague fission reactors, including tritium release, daunting coolant demands, and high operating costs. There will also be additional drawbacks that are unique to fusion devices: the use of fuel (tritium) that is not found in nature and must be replenished by the reactor itself; and unavoidable on-site power drains that drastically reduce the electric power available for sale.”
In short, as the production of fusion energy increasingly becomes feasible, the debate will shift to its merits. Jassby’s arguments will need to be addressed by the industry.
Grid integration: Tennet first TSO to jump on blockchain
May 8, 2017
The Dutch transmission system operator (TSO) Tennet, which also owns part of the electricity grid in Germany, is looking for a new way to help integrate renewables into the grid: blockchain technology. The company has launched two pilot projects aimed at developing the first blockchain distributed database for managing the German and Dutch grids. Tennet, which collaborates in the projects with IBM, Dutch renewable energy company Vandebron and German storage provider Sonnen, claims to be the first TSO to use blockchain technology for managing the grid.
“Because renewable electricity generation accounts for a growing share in the overall power supply, the electricity grid is becoming more volatile”, Tennet notes in a press release. “In the coming years there will be times when conventional energy sources will not be able to fully meet the demand for electricity. To address this, Tennet is working to find new ways of maintaining the security of supply. As part of a broader Digital Transformation Programme, Tennet is exploring the use of a permissioned blockchain network that uses Hyperledger Fabric to integrate flexible capacity supplied by electric cars and household batteries into the electrical grid.”
In the first pilot project, Vandebron “will work with customers who own an electric vehicle to make the capacity of their car batteries available to help Tennet balance the grid. Vandebron will provide this service to its customers without compromising the availability of their car battery. The blockchain enables each car to participate by recording their availability and their action in response to signals from Tennet.”
In the second project, “Sonnen eServices (the energy group of the Sonnen group), a network of residential solar batteries will be made available to help reduce the imposition of limitations on wind energy at times of insufficient transport capacity. The blockchain presents the operator with a view of the available pool of flexibility, ready to activate at the push of the button, after which the blockchain records batteries’ contribution. This will enable Sonnen and Tennet to support the integration of renewable energy sources into the German electricity supply system.”
The technology will be supplied by IBM Blockchain, built with Hyperledger Fabric, a blockchain framework implementation and one of the Hyperledger projects hosted by The Linux Foundation.
Tennet notes that “Blockchain is suited to connecting multiple parties and large numbers of distributed computed nodes and enabling them to undertake joint action in a scalable, transparent and trusted network. IBM will develop this platform to ensure the verifiability and transparency of the transactions of the small-scale batteries and electric cars. The blockchain will enable optimal distribution across all markets and functions. This way, Tennet will be able to gain insight and have the possibility to activate flexibility in the energy system, while consumers are facilitated in making their flexibility available to the balancing market.”
Solar power: Eon teams up with Google
May 8, 2017
Does it make sense for you to put solar panels on your roof? One way to find out is with a service called Sunroof, developed by Google.
In the US this is already a big success, but Sunroof is now also coming to Europe – to Germany. Google and German utility Eon will jointly offer Project Sunroof to residents in Germany, “the first time the service has been available outside of the United States”, notes the website Cleantechnica.
“Originally conceived and launched back in early-2015 as part of one of Google’s 20% projects — projects Google allows its employees to tackle during 20% of their paid work time — Project Sunroof has since become a highly prized tool for consumers looking for information on whether to install solar energy on their roofs, and how to go about it. Using high-resolution aerial mapping provided by Google Earth, Project Sunroof provides consumers with a way to calculate their own roof’s solar energy potential.”
“Now, with all of the United States covered, Project Sunroof will be available for about 40% of the German population, or around seven million buildings in major German urban areas such as Munich, Berlin, Rhine-Main, and the Ruhr. As Eon explains, ‘homeowners can easily and precisely determine their home’s potential solar capacity and generate plans for installing a solar system. All they need to do is enter their address online’.”
For Eon, there is a great benefit in being able to sell Sunroof. “With Sunroof, we are able to digitize sales of solar systems more intensively and thereby increase the appeal of photovoltaics,” said Karsten Wildberger, COO of Eon. “It clearly demonstrates the potential benefits of digitalization for the ongoing shift in energy production. Along with Sunroof and Eon SolarCloud, we will be developing additional digital products in order to offer our customers the highest degree of independence and security through Eon solar systems.”
EVs: Dutch get largest electric bus fleet in Europe
May 8, 2017
Dutch public transport company Connexxion has placed an order with VDL Bus & Coach for no fewer than 100 Citeas SLFA electric buses. This is the largest order for electric buses in VDL’s history and gives Connexxion and its parent company Transdev the largest electric bus fleet in Europe.
The order includes 18 VDL Futuras FDD2 double-deckers. It is the first time that double-deckers will be used for public transport in the Netherlands. All the buses and coaches will be used in the region of Amsterdam’s busy Schiphol Airport.
VDL is a industrial conglomerate with 15,000 employees based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and specializing in the assembly of cars, buses and coaches. Transdev, a spinoff from Veolia, is a French-based international private public transport operator with operations in 19 countries.
VDL has said it wants to be “the top specialist in the field of e-mobility.”
The 100 electric Citeas will be deployed for the bus lines serving Schiphol and the surrounding area and on bus rapid transit lines within the concession area.
The buses are of the same type as the articulated buses used by Hermes in Eindhoven, reports VDL. With 100 units, however, this will be the largest electric bus fleet in Europe. The buses will have their batteries topped up periodically so they can operate 24 hours per day. There will be places at the depot where they can be charged at night, if desired. Each of the electric buses will be driven over 100,000 km per year, and they will be fitted with the latest battery technology that meets the highest and strictest European requirements.
The Futura double-deckers are destined for rapid transit lines between Haarlem and Amsterdam. The need for transport is so great there that the decision has been taken to use VDL Futura double-deck coaches. With a length of 14.1 metres, there is room for 86 seats.