Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy such as methane gas or transportation fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Rotting garbage, and agricultural and human waste, all release methane gas – also called landfill gas or biogas. Crops, such as corn and sugarcane, can be fermented to produce the transportation fuel, ethanol. Biodiesel, another transportation fuel, can be produced from left-over food products such as vegetable oils and animal fats.[69] Also, biomass to liquids (BTLs) and cellulosic ethanol are still under research.[70][71] There is a great deal of research involving algal fuel or algae-derived biomass due to the fact that it's a non-food resource and can be produced at rates 5 to 10 times those of other types of land-based agriculture, such as corn and soy. Once harvested, it can be fermented to produce biofuels such as ethanol, butanol, and methane, as well as biodiesel and hydrogen. The biomass used for electricity generation varies by region. Forest by-products, such as wood residues, are common in the United States. Agricultural waste is common in Mauritius (sugar cane residue) and Southeast Asia (rice husks). Animal husbandry residues, such as poultry litter, are common in the United Kingdom.[72]
The Vestas V164 has a rated capacity of 8 MW,[79] later upgraded to 9.5 MW.[80][81] The wind turbine has an overall height of 220 m (722 ft), a diameter of 164 m (538 ft), is for offshore use, and is the world's largest-capacity wind turbine since its introduction in 2014. The conventional drive train consist of a main gearbox and a medium speed PM generator. Prototype installed in 2014 at the National Test Center Denmark nearby Østerild. Series production began end of 2015.
As the primary source of biofuel in North America, many organizations are conducting research in the area of ethanol production. On the Federal level, the USDA conducts a large amount of research regarding ethanol production in the United States. Much of this research is targeted towards the effect of ethanol production on domestic food markets.[105] The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has conducted various ethanol research projects, mainly in the area of cellulosic ethanol.[106] Cellulosic ethanol has many benefits over traditional corn based-ethanol. It does not take away or directly conflict with the food supply because it is produced from wood, grasses, or non-edible parts of plants.[107] Moreover, some studies have shown cellulosic ethanol to be more cost effective and economically sustainable than corn-based ethanol.[108] Even if we used all the corn crop that we have in the United States and converted it into ethanol it would only produce enough fuel to serve 13 percent of the United States total gasoline consumption.[109] Sandia National Laboratories conducts in-house cellulosic ethanol research[110] and is also a member of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a research institute founded by the United States Department of Energy with the goal of developing cellulosic biofuels.[111]
The locations with highest annual solar irradiance lie in the arid tropics and subtropics. Deserts lying in low latitudes usually have few clouds, and can receive sunshine for more than ten hours a day.[86][87] These hot deserts form the Global Sun Belt circling the world. This belt consists of extensive swathes of land in Northern Africa, Southern Africa, Southwest Asia, Middle East, and Australia, as well as the much smaller deserts of North and South America.[88] Africa's eastern Sahara Desert, also known as the Libyan Desert, has been observed to be the sunniest place on Earth according to NASA.[89][90]
In stand alone PV systems batteries are traditionally used to store excess electricity. With grid-connected photovoltaic power system, excess electricity can be sent to the electrical grid. Net metering and feed-in tariff programs give these systems a credit for the electricity they produce. This credit offsets electricity provided from the grid when the system cannot meet demand, effectively trading with the grid instead of storing excess electricity. Credits are normally rolled over from month to month and any remaining surplus settled annually.[111] When wind and solar are a small fraction of the grid power, other generation techniques can adjust their output appropriately, but as these forms of variable power grow, additional balance on the grid is needed. As prices are rapidly declining, PV systems increasingly use rechargeable batteries to store a surplus to be later used at night. Batteries used for grid-storage stabilize the electrical grid by leveling out peak loads usually for several minutes, and in rare cases for hours. In the future, less expensive batteries could play an important role on the electrical grid, as they can charge during periods when generation exceeds demand and feed their stored energy into the grid when demand is higher than generation.
Several groups in various sectors are conducting research on Jatropha curcas, a poisonous shrub-like tree that produces seeds considered by many to be a viable source of biofuels feedstock oil.[117] Much of this research focuses on improving the overall per acre oil yield of Jatropha through advancements in genetics, soil science, and horticultural practices. SG Biofuels, a San Diego-based Jatropha developer, has used molecular breeding and biotechnology to produce elite hybrid seeds of Jatropha that show significant yield improvements over first generation varieties.[118] The Center for Sustainable Energy Farming (CfSEF) is a Los Angeles-based non-profit research organization dedicated to Jatropha research in the areas of plant science, agronomy, and horticulture. Successful exploration of these disciplines is projected to increase Jatropha farm production yields by 200-300% in the next ten years.[119]
The conversion of the rotational mechanical power generated by the rotor blades (known as the prime mover) into useful electrical power for use in domestic power and lighting applications or to charge batteries can be accomplished by any one of the following major types of rotational electrical machines commonly used in a wind power generating systems:
The energy payback time (EPBT) of a power generating system is the time required to generate as much energy as is consumed during production and lifetime operation of the system. Due to improving production technologies the payback time has been decreasing constantly since the introduction of PV systems in the energy market.[128] In 2000 the energy payback time of PV systems was estimated as 8 to 11 years[129] and in 2006 this was estimated to be 1.5 to 3.5 years for crystalline silicon PV systems[121] and 1–1.5 years for thin film technologies (S. Europe).[121] These figures fell to 0.75–3.5 years in 2013, with an average of about 2 years for crystalline silicon PV and CIS systems.[130]
The expansion is thanks largely to innovation on the policy front, which has opened up opportunities in regulated electricity markets. The number of corporate renewable energy deals signed under utility green tariff programs continues to grow, representing around 25 percent of corporate renewables procurement so far this year. At the same time, utilities are incorporating corporate renewables into their long-term planning — and thinking about solutions beyond green tariffs to better meet the needs of existing corporate customers and smaller loads.
A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell (PV), is a device that converts light into electric current using the photovoltaic effect. The first solar cell was constructed by Charles Fritts in the 1880s.[5] The German industrialist Ernst Werner von Siemens was among those who recognized the importance of this discovery.[6] In 1931, the German engineer Bruno Lange developed a photo cell using silver selenide in place of copper oxide,[7] although the prototype selenium cells converted less than 1% of incident light into electricity. Following the work of Russell Ohl in the 1940s, researchers Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin created the silicon solar cell in 1954.[8] These early solar cells cost 286 USD/watt and reached efficiencies of 4.5–6%.[9]