Updated: Dec 12, 2020
What does Shell and Singularity University, the community of innovators & futurists, have in common? Both published reports about how to realise the vision of a zero-carbon world by 2050.
Shell’s scenario team gives a comprehensive account of all the technologies and infrastructures that are needed, solar, offshore wind, clean fuels, CCUS, hydrogen as well as community-owned wind turbines or solar panels or decentralized solutions such as mini-grids. Shell pinpoints that "Smart policies should include incentivising early-stage clean technology deployment and an ever-stronger role for carbon pricing mechanisms."
I am going to briefly tackle two early-stage wind turbine concepts -even though floating wind turbine developers will tell me that they're not early-stage any more but very ready and excited to scale up.
The Singular University (SU) reports that even though there’s been tremendous progress with renewable technologies we must be aware that there are still risks involved. Offshore Wind turbines are very controversial in many countries. Floating wind won’t be hampered by the “Not in My Backyard” syndrome but will still be accused of killing birds and of disturbing fishing activities.
Shell’s report says that “Solar energy includes both centralised (e.g. solar farms) as well as decentralised (e.g. residential rooftop) photovoltaics and concentrated solar power (thermal installations).”
Wind energy is mostly centralised today. It has to be close to populated areas since the energy produced can’t be stored. A key issue to be solved for the scale-up of floating wind farms is the connection to the grid. Upcoming technologies will solve these problems sooner than expected. The power generated by floating wind farms will be used to produce ammonia and hydrogen at sea. Promising new types of batteries are being developed such as cellulose-enhanced batteries -cf SU report.
How about decentralising wind energy with a mini wind turbine on every rooftop though?
This is the question solved by Semtive Energy’s Ignacio Juarez. Semtive has developed Nemoi, a vertical axis wind turbine, much less capitalistic, lower-tech, simpler, affordable, more environmentally friendly, easy to adopt by local communities the same way solar is. Vertical axis wind turbines take less space and work with less wind. It retails for $4,695 as mentioned in the SU report and it takes between 2 to 7 years for the homeowners to get their ROI. They can be used as a complement to solar panels as well as standalone.
The first city to use these turbines was Buenos Aires in 2017 to power its charging docks and street lights. The company is developing in South America mainly for the time being.
The first city to host the world’s first floating green hydrogen project is going to be Aberdeen.
The Dolphyn project was announced in February 2020 after the engineering company ERM was awarded £3.2m to develop the project. It will start with a 2MW prototype in 2024, followed by a 10MW unit in 2027. It will reach the commercial stage in 2030 with a capacity of 100MW.
Their ultimate goal is to get to a "400 turbine ‘farm’ (20 x 20 array) with a capacity of 4GW, producing sufficient supply to heat more than 1.5 million UK homes with no carbon emissions."
(Credit: ERM Dolphyn)
So which wind turbines are ultimately going to replace gas to power our homes and our smart cities ?