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Anyone who thinks rapid global decarbonization is out of reach should take a look at the floating wind turbine sector. Floating wind seemingly popped up out of nowhere in just the past couple of years, and it has already hooked up with the splashy new green hydrogen trend. Too bad those pesky cryptocurrency speculators are sucking up all the clean kilowatts, but that’s another new trend and a whole ‘nother can of worms.

Floating Wind & Green Hydrogen To The Rescue

For those of you new to the topic, putting a wind turbine on a platform that floats is a technologically difficult exercise, but the payoff is huge in terms of rapid decarbonization. Floating platforms can be tethered to the seabed in deeper waters and/or farther from shore, which takes advantage of prime wind speeds while minimizing opposition from coastal communities.

The green hydrogen angle comes in for squeezing the most available juice possible from wind turbines. Hydrogen is a zero emission fuel that can be combusted to run turbines, or deployed in a fuel cell to generate electricity. At the present time, though, almost all of the global hydrogen supply comes from natural gas. That’s going to change because low-cost renewable energy has upended the economics of hydrogen production, making it financially feasible to “split” hydrogen gas from water with an electrical current.

Since hydrogen acts as a transportable energy storage medium, water-splitting provides a way to salvage excess energy from wind turbines or solar panels. The case for wind turbines is especially strong because winds generally pick up at night, when electricity demand goes down.

Other sustainable hydrogen pathways include biogas, industrial waste gas, wastewater, and waste plastics, but water-splitting seems to be attracting the most attention these days.

Pie In The Sky? No, Wind Turbines That Float

Into this picture steps a venture called Cerulean Winds, which has come up with a financing formula for scaling the floating wind-plus-hydrogen connection to the national level.

The idea would have seemed far fetched just a few years ago, but both the floating wind industry and the green hydrogen industry are rapidly maturing.

“Cerulean utilises a tuned infrastructure project finance (IPF) construct with integrated delivery and finance that is proven for the offshore floating environment,” Cerulean explains. “At its core is the comprehensive understanding of risk for floating infrastructure and the most appropriate allocation of these risks across our partner and stakeholder ecosystem,” the company states.

Cerulean’s “Blueprint” model is aimed at cutting the timeline between applying for a license and producing clean kilowatts. According to the company, its Blueprint platform also provides for more flexibility than the conventional centralized power plant structure, which is a key point in the distributed energy landscape of today. Energy storage and cross-border trading are also in the mix.

Serial Oil & Gas Developers Turn To Green Hydrogen

The new Cerulean proposal is billed as the “UK’s largest offshore decarbonisation development.” At a cost of £10 billion, it would sport at least 200 wind turbines floating wind turbines with integrated green hydrogen systems, in two North Sea areas, West of Shetland and Central North Sea.

Before you get too excited, one leading aim of the project is to provide clean electricity to existing offshore facilities, namely, offshore oil and gas drilling sites. Cerulean projects that 3 gigawatts in hourly capacity will go to the oil and gas industry. Still, that leaves 1.5 gigawatts per hour in capacity for green hydrogen production systems to be located on shore.

If the offshore oil and gas angle sounds rather unappealing, it is. However, the reality is that switching millions of automobiles, buildings, and other systems over to clean power is a time consuming process. A movement is already afoot to replace diesel and gas generators on offshore drilling platforms with clean power. The Cerulean proposal is part of that trend, ramped up with the green hydrogen angle.

Cerulean has just submitted a seabed lease request to Marine Scotland, so if anything happens out there in the North Sea it could be a long way off. However, Cerulean has already set the contractor and financial wheels in motion, and in that regard the project does demonstrate that the oil and gas industry could pivot rapidly into low carbon mode, if it chose to do that.

“Cerulean Winds is led by serial entrepreneurs Dan Jackson and Mark Dixon, who have more than 25 years’ experience working together on large-scale offshore infrastructure developments in the oil and gas industry,” the company explains. “They believe the risk of not moving quickly on basin wide decarbonisation would wholly undermine the objectives set out in the recent North Sea Transition Deal.”

To sweeten the pot, Cerulean anticipates undercutting the cost of conventional gas turbine power for offshore platforms. According to the company, oil and gas operators would not incur any up-front costs from the switchover.

Floating Wind, Green Hydrogen, & Green Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

To make the case for speeding up the lease approval process, Jackson and Dixon are appealing to the potential for the wind-plus-hydrogen project to create thousands of new green jobs. Ideally the fossil energy jobs will phase out over time, but in the meanwhile Cerulean aims to show that the floating wind plus green hydrogen combo can maintain employment in the fossil sector while adding new green jobs to the economy, at scale. According to the company’s analysis, over the next five years the project will help preserve 160,000 oil and gas jobs while adding 200,000 new green jobs.

More Bad News For ExxonMobil

“The development of green hydrogen at scale and £1 billion hydrogen export potential” is another key pot-sweetener offered by Cerulean, and that should really give gas stakeholders the heebie-jeebies.

Looking at you, ExxonMobil. In terms of making global decarbonization happen, the company has lagged far behind Shell, BP, and other legacy fossil energy companies. Instead of pumping more money into proven clean tech fields like wind and solar, ExxonMobil banked on algae biofuel while doubling down on shale gas in recent years, apparently with the idea that it could continue making fossil energy relevant by comparing gas emissions to coal emissions.

The idea of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” has fallen flat for a number of reasons, including evidence that the recent spike in natural gas emissions may have offset any gains from pushing coal out of the power generation picture.

Now that hydrogen fuel cell demand is up, ExxonMobil and other natural gas stakeholders are been banking on increased demand for hydrogen to fuel the global economy’s thirst for natural gas. However, schemes like the Cerulean floating wind proposal are quickly shutting that window.

Gas stakeholders could try leaning on the exploding cryptocurrency market to pitch their wares. Speculative crypto mining is an energy intensive process that could help prop up both gas and coal producers for years to come.

To be clear, not all cryptocurrency is speculative. The firm Power Ledger, for example, is deploying a crypto-plus-blockchain model that helps electricity users share excess clean kilowatts.

It’s the speculative crypto market that has become a huge public relations problem for industries looking to decarbonize. Banking, real estate, auto sales and other high-dollar sectors have been getting cryptocurrency-curious, but energy consumption by crypto mining systems has become a public relations ball-and-chain.

As leading global corporations move into the supply chain phase of decarbonization, crypto miners are vulnerable. Switching to renewable energy is one solution, but in the context of the urgent need for climate action, any sector that adds to the global energy demand load will have to make the case that it is not simply playing carbon whack-a-mole with clean energy resources.

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Image: Floating wind turbines via US Department of Energy (credit: Josh Bauer, NREL).

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The largest landfill solar project in North America is now complete




The largest landfill solar project in North America is now complete

The largest landfill solar project in North America, a 25.6 megawatt (MW) solar farm in Mount Olive, New Jersey, is online – which means yet another dumpsite has been turned into a revenue-generating, clean energy asset.

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The Combe Fill North Landfill site is a brownfield site that operated from 1966 to 1978 – and it now hosts 56,000 solar panels. It contains domestic and industrial waste and dry sewage sludge.

CEP Renewables and CS Energy developed the project, Terrasmart provided its rack systems, and Lindsay Precast supplied steel skids.

NJR Clean Energy Ventures will own and operate the solar farm under a long-term agreement. NJR Clean Energy Ventures is a subsidiary of utility New Jersey Resources. CEP Renewables owns the land for this project, and the company is leasing it to NJR Clean Energy Ventures.

It is expected to provide more than 4,000 households with clean energy.

The Mount Olive solar project has enabled the township to recoup nearly $2.3 million in past taxes from the former landfill site. 

Chris Ichter, executive vice president at CEP Renewables, said:

There are over 10,000 closed landfills in the United States, yet only a small fraction of these parcels have been redeveloped. Transitioning more of these landfill sites into solar projects will create more local tax revenue, jobs, cleaner air, and affordable energy for residents throughout the country.

According to the EPA, there has been an 80% increase in the number of landfill solar projects in the United States over the last five years. 

Read more: How ‘unusable’ capped landfill can gain a second life as a solar farm

Photo: CEP Renewables

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Los Angeles bans new oil wells, will shut old ones down by 2042




Los Angeles bans new oil wells, will shut old ones down by 2042

The Los Angeles City Council has voted 12-0 to ban new oil wells within the city, and to phase out all current oil wells within 20 years or less.

Los Angeles may not be famous nationally for oil, as that industry is typically associated with other states, and California is thought to be an environmental leader. While the state does push forward environmental policy, there is actually a long history of oil production in Southern California, with the state at one point making up 38% of the entire US national supply of oil largely due to production from these fields in LA.

But California’s oil industry has been in decline from its early dominance. As the state moves away from fossil fuels (and other states don’t), tens of thousands of wells have gone idle statewide and the companies operating them often do not have the money to close them down properly, leaving to a potential multibillion-dollar problem for the state going forward.

The oil fields in LA are often situated directly in dense areas of the city, with consequent health effects on the populations which live nearest to them. And importantly, these areas of the city tend to have higher concentrations of black and brown residents, meaning the negative health effects of oil drilling are felt in a racially disproportionate manner.

Beyond the global climate and air pollution effects of burning oil, oil drilling has negative local effects on human health. It causes cancer, liver damage, immunodeficiency, neurological problems, respiratory issues, birth defects, and the list goes on.

LA county’s oil wells have been called the largest system of urban oil production in the country due to their proximity to dense housing. Currently, there are 26 oil and gas fields and 5,000 wells in the city, not all of which are active, and two drill sites on city-owned properties. The highest concentration of them are in the Harbor region, near the port of Long Beach.

The push to ban these wells was largely led by local political groups Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, and Communities for a Better Environment. They have been working for decades to stop oil drilling in the city.

Los Angeles city’s new move not only bans new oil wells, but also directs all oil companies operating in the city to plan to shut down in a maximum of 20 years. Beyond that, the city will conduct their own studies to determine whether individual companies operating in the city can recoup their investments in less than 20 years. If they can, they may be forced to shut down even sooner.

The vote was opposed by the California Independent Petroleum Association, which represents independent oil and gas producers in California and threatened to explore legal avenues to block the move. They incorrectly claimed that oil production does not have detrimental health effects, even though it does.

They also suggested that this would result in increased imports of oil into Los Angeles and therefore more associated pollution from oil tankers in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Finally, they pointed to a 2020 study by a consulting group which claimed that the oil industry is responsible for $250 million in tax revenue for the city. This number represents about 2% of LA’s budget, or about as much as the city spends annually on public parks.

Electrek’s Take

Well, this is just great news that we hope to see in more places as soon as possible. And on the same day as the first ban on natural gas by a county on the US East Coast. Let’s hope this momentum goes somewhere.

I’ve seen and driven past these oil fields many times, and they sure do contribute to a sense of blight in the city. In fact, when I went up to test drive the electric Arcimoto FUV at a nice urban park, we didn’t realize this park was right next to a massive oil field. Which led to an ironic juxtaposition in the background of one of our rolling shots:

But that’s just aesthetics. The real issue here is the health of the residents. And while it will take a while for that to turn around, the earlier we start the better.

In particular, the fact that the city will conduct independent studies to determine how long it will take companies to recoup investments is hilarious to me. I love the idea that the city will shut down wells as soon as they become profitable.

Of course, I’d rather they shut them down immediately and let the oil companies lose money, as they deserve to for harming people and lying for so long, but at least it’s one step better than letting them continue to profit for decades.

The oil companies’ objections to this are also ridiculous, as most oil industry statements are. First they start with a lie stating that oil drilling doesn’t harm human health, as we’re used to hearing from them.

But then they turn around and claim that shutting down oil production will actually be bad for the environment, because then Los Angeles will have to import more oil from dirty polluting oil tankers. So… you’re saying oil is the problem then? Well, good point! Maybe we should shut it down then! Thank you California Independent Petroleum Association, good suggestion!

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The US just made a big decision about Chinese solar – here’s what it means




The US just made a big decision about Chinese solar – here's what it means

The US Department of Commerce (DOC) has determined that four out of eight Chinese solar companies that it’s been investigating are “attempting to bypass US duties by doing minor processing in one of the Southeast Asian countries before shipping to the United States.” Here’s what it means for the US solar industry.

The DOC found that the four Chinese companies that attempted to circumvent US duties by processing in Southeast Asia are:

  • BYD Hong Kong, in Cambodia
  • Canadian Solar, in Thailand
  • Trina, in Thailand
  • Vina Solar, in Vietnam

The DOC findings are preliminary, and the agency will conduct in-person audits in the coming months. The DOC also noted that a ban is not going to be implemented on products from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam:

Companies in these countries will be permitted to certify that they are not circumventing the [antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) orders], in which case the circumvention findings will not apply. 

The DOC also notes:

Further, some companies in Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam did not respond to Commerce’s request for information in this investigation, and consistent with longstanding practice, will be found to be circumventing.

As Electrek reported in mid-May, the DOC launched an investigation of whether Southeast Asian solar cell manufacturers are using parts made in China that would normally be subject to a tariff.

That investigation destabilized the US solar industry, which relies on solar module imports to meet growing demand. The majority of the US solar industry then asserted that the DOC investigation would harm the US solar industry and wanted the investigation dismissed.

On June 6, President Joe Biden waived tariffs for 24 months on solar panels made in Southeast Asia in response to the investigation. He also invoked the Defense Production Act to spur on US solar panel and other clean energy manufacturing. That way, domestic production could be sped up without interfering in the DOC investigation.

The DOC today asserted that Biden’s presidential proclamation provides US solar importers with “sufficient time to adjust supply chains and ensure that sourcing isn’t occurring from companies found to be violating US law.”

But Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), didn’t see it that way. She said in a statement:

The only good news here is that Commerce didn’t target all imports from the subject countries. Nonetheless, this decision will strand billions of dollars’ worth of American clean energy investments and result in the significant loss of good-paying, American, clean energy jobs. While President Biden was wise to provide a two-year window before the tariff implementation, that window is quickly closing, and two years is simply not enough time to establish manufacturing supply chains that will meet US solar demand.

This is a mistake we will have to deal with for the next several years.

George Hershman, CEO of SOLV Energy, the US’s largest utility-scale solar installer, also wasn’t pleased about the DOC’s announcement. He said in an emailed statement:

After years of supply chain challenges and trade disruptions, I remain concerned that the Commerce Department chose a path that could jeopardize the solar industry’s ability to hire more workers and construct the clean energy projects needed to meet our country’s climate goals.

The upside is that Commerce took a nuanced approach to exempt a number of manufacturers rather than issuing a blanket ban of all products from the targeted countries. While it’s positive that companies will be able to access some of the crucial materials we need to deploy clean energy, it’s still true that this ruling will further constrict a challenged supply chain and undercut our ability to fulfill the promise of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Photo: Tom Fisk on

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