5 green energy milestones reached in 2017
Posted by Sam Tonge on 28 December 2017 at 9:30 am
As this year draws to a close, we can safely say that it’s been a year of highs and lows in terms of our steps towards shaping a clean energy future. It goes without saying that using our resources sustainably and reducing our carbon footprint are ever more pressing issues. However it seems that 2017 has also seen some significant progress which indicates how we could rise to the challenge.
To end on a positive note this year, we look at some of the key successes in the world of clean energy across the world in 2017 and reflect on why they matter. Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list of achievements so feel free to share with us noteworthy achievements you may know of that have happened this year.
Despite lower wind speeds and less rainfall than the previous year, between January - March 2017, renewable energy contributed a record breaking 26% of the total electricity generated in the UK. Onshore wind accounted for the biggest increase from 6.4 TWh to 7.7 TWh with bioenergy, offshore wind, hydro and solar photovoltaic technologies coming in shortly behind.
Shortly after, May 2017 saw the biggest and most powerful wind turbines in the world begin generating electricity off the coast of Liverpool. Ørsted, from Denmark installed 32 turbines in Liverpool Bay, each standing at an impressive 195m tall.
To top this, in July the UK saw the development of its first ever floating wind farm off the north-east coast of Scotland. The Hywind Project will cost £200 million and involves five 6MW turbines that will be located 20-30m off the coast.
In the tradition of meteorological escapism, let’s take ourselves back to 25th March when temperatures were rising and you were dusting the cobwebs off the barbeque. That weekend marked a key milestone for electricity demand and solar PV generation in the UK, described by Duncun Burt (from the National Grid) as “turning the hard and fast rules of the past upside down”. The whole weekend was an outstanding result for solar energy, with Sunday and Monday also seeing 15% of electricity being generated through PV.
On 26th May 2017, solar power continued to break records in the UK by providing nearly a quarter of the country’s electricity needs, thanks to clear skies and relatively low summer demand. Solar PV panels on rooftops and in fields across the country were generating 8.7GW (24.3% of demand) at 1pm, exceeding the previous peak of 8.48GW earlier in the month.
These achievements show that the solar sector has enormous potential to capture our demand for energy, however, its fate will most likely rest on political will to feed our growing appetite for renewables.
During August 2017, the Pentland Firth Tidal Project in Scotland broke the world record for monthly electricity production by tidal power. Known also as the MeyGen project, the marine power generators ‘Atlantis’ produced more than 700MWh of electricity in August, the most that tidal power has ever produced in one month, producing enough to power 2000 Scottish homes.
The MeyGen marine project is still only in its initial phases, but the project’s great potential is already shown by these broken records. However this is not the first record set by tidal power in Scotland. In 2016, Nova Innovation’s tidal project in Bluemull Sound (north of Shetland), was the first tidal energy project in the world to export electricity to the national grid.
Tidal power is one of the most predictable and least obtrusive forms of renewable energy generation, so could it potentially make a greater contribution to our clean energy production in the future?
Electric vehicle technology
The future looks bright for electric cars, with 2017 witnessing backing of the technology from governments, industries and notable figures. As you will know, both the UK and French Governments have committed to phasing out petrol and diesel cars by 2040 whilst expressing support for vehicle to grid (V2G) technology using innovative methods of domestic battery storage. It’s worth noting that such ambitions are long-term and will of course require significant investment in our energy infrastructure. It's also important to think about where the electricity used to power such vehicles will derive from in the first place.
However, the shift towards greener forms of travel has been backed by key industry players including Nissan and Volvo as well as receiving political support, meaning that the adoption of electric vehicle technology seems to be not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’.
And last but not least… people power
The results of the largest ever survey undertaken to gauge attitudes towards sustainable energy was published in November 2017. The international survey known as the Green Energy Barometer (comisionned by Ørsted) shows that an average of 8 in 10 people believes the world should be run entirely on renewable energy.
The findings give us a strong reason to be positive, with an average of 82% believing ‘it is important to create a world fully powered by renewable energy’, regardless of age, education level or political ideology. What we found particularly striking about these findings was the motivations not being purely of an environmental nature, but also drawing on social and economic concerns. For example, patriotism and national pride, improved health and wellbeing, a boost to economic prospects and growth in jobs were stated as strong reasons for participant’s supporting a transition to green energy.
International public support of greener forms of energy is fundamental to legitimising the expansion of renewable power generation, and should act as a catalyst to governments and industry leaders to deliver our next energy transition.
It’s worth noting that our blog can't possibly cover everything that’s happened during 2017, so this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the developments we’ve seen this year.
What do you think 2018 will bring? Leave us your predictions in the comments section below.
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Solar power breaks UK records thanks to sunny weather (The Guardian, 26 May 2017)
About the author:
Sam has contributed to our blog since 2016 and previously worked for the National Energy Foundation.
He became interested in green energy after completing a degree in Geography (BSc) at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Sam is passionate about renewable energy and is committed to spreading the word about the role it plays in delivering environmental sustainability.
If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.
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