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The UK’s power sector can bring natural gas generation down to just 1% of electricity by 2030, which would avoid £93 billion ($99.6 billion) in gas costs in the same period, according to new modeling from London-based independent energy think tank Ember.

UK wholesale gas prices have skyrocketed in the last year, making the generation of electricity from natural gas extremely expensive compared to wind and solar power.

At the end of August, Ember reports, it cost over four times more to produce electricity from a combined-cycle gas plant in the UK (£420/MWh) compared to the same period last year (£100/MWh). The last offshore wind auction had an average price of just £48/MWh – that’s nine times cheaper than the current cost of running gas-fired power stations.

The UK currently generates around 40% of electricity from natural gas. In October 2021, the British government said it would decarbonize its electricity system by 2035, but Ember’s newly released model shows it’s possible to move away from gas even faster.

By 2030, the UK could generate 99% of electricity from clean domestic sources, even in adverse weather conditions. Wind and solar would provide 70% of electricity in this scenario.

There are currently 6.4 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar projects under construction in the UK. When those projects are completed, they’ll save the UK £15.7 billion in additional avoided natural gas costs between now and 2030. 

So far this year, the UK has brought 2.3 GW of offshore wind online. That’s more than the country added in the last two years combined. 

Over the next four years, the UK has sufficient wind and solar capacity planned and under way to put it on track for a 2030 clean power target, if all these projects are approved and constructed.

To phase out gas by 2030, Ember’s model shows that the UK will need to add 90 GW of wind and solar capacity, alongside investment into the transmission grid. In March, Electrek reported that the total pipeline of UK offshore wind projects alone had reached 86 gigawatts.

On Friday, the British government significantly announced that it will relax onshore wind planning rules that have been in place since 2015 in order to allow onshore wind power to be more easily deployed.

Phil MacDonald, Ember’s chief operating officer, said:

To see that gas is a dead end, just look at the spiraling energy bills of the last year. Right now the UK is highly exposed to the punishing costs and geopolitical risks that come with depending on gas for heating and electricity. But with abundant and cheap offshore wind resources, the UK doesn’t have to be stuck with gas.

The UK has an opportunity to bring down bills and spur economic growth by focusing on its world-leading clean power sector. The quicker this happens, the quicker the UK can get to safe, stable, and affordable power for good.

Prime Minister Liz Truss also disappointingly lifted a moratorium on fracking in England, and she also approved a new oil and gas licensing round in the North Sea. Fracking involves drilling into the earth and injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into shale rock to open existing fissures and release gas and oil. Fracking causes earth tremors.

Ami McCarthy, a political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, told the Guardian:

Motorways, power stations, and airports – love them or hate them, they are nationally important infrastructure. A hole in a muddy field which may produce a very small amount of expensive gas, but probably won’t, is not nationally important infrastructure.

Read more: British government invests £32M in floating offshore wind to cut natural gas dependency

Photo: “Early Morning Cornwall” by Tony Armstrong-Sly is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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Norway just greenlit this vertical-axis floating wind turbine

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Norway just greenlit this vertical-axis floating wind turbine

Swedish wind turbine maker SeaTwirl got the go-ahead to test its 1 megawatt (MW) S2X vertical-axis floating offshore prototype in Norway.

Vertical-axis floating wind turbine pilot

In March 2022, Norway’s Ministry of Energy gave approval to SeaTwirl and Norwegian offshore wind test center Marine Energy Test Centre to pilot the vertical-axis floating wind prototype for five years at a former fish farm in Boknafjorden, northeast of Lauplandsholmenoff, 700 meters (2,297 feet) from the coast.

But four groups – the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association, the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, and two campaign groups – appealed against SeaTwirl’s permit, and so the project was put on ice.

Yesterday, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate rejected the appeal, so SeaTwirl’s S2X pilot can now proceed, and no further appeals will be considered.

CEO Peter Laurits said:

Our main focus is the commercialization of large turbines, SX, in floating wind farms. The outcome provides freedom to choose and plan the installation of S2x in the way that best supports that goal.

How S2X works

SeaTwirl says that “multiple S2xs can be placed in a dense pattern for increased output.” The company’s reasoning for building vertical (instead of horizontal) axis floating turbines is this:

The simplicity of the design and low center of gravity are the big advantages. All moving parts and electrical systems are easily accessible [and] close to the water’s surface, lowering maintenance costs.

The S2X prototype is 55 meters (180 feet) above sea level, and it’s around 80 meters (262 feet) below sea level. The turbine diameter is 50 meters (164 feet). Its rotor blade height is around 40 meters (131 feet). Its optimal operating depth is 100 meters (328 feet) and deeper.

SeaTwirl isn’t the only company testing vertical-axis wind turbines off the Norwegian coast – earlier this month, aluminum and energy giant Hydro and floating wind specialist World Wide Wind announced that they’re going to test a vertical-axis wind turbine made out of aluminum.

Read more: These companies will build a floating wind turbine out of aluminum


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Audi hints at luxury electric 4×4 to compete with Mercedes Benz and Land Rover

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Audi hints at luxury electric 4x4 to compete with Mercedes Benz and Land Rover

The luxury electric 4×4 you’ve been waiting for is set to emerge in 2027, and no, it’s not the Mercedes Benz G-Class or Land Rover Defender. It’s a new secret project from Audi.

A luxury electric Audi 4×4 coming in 2027

In a first from Audi, the German automaker is showing interest in the luxury 4×4 segment. The secret new electric SUV will feature a top-notch interior with the ability to perform its best on and off the road.

Audi unveiled its new activesphere concept Thursday, a four-door crossover coupe that doubles as a truck. The concept combines a luxury SUV, sports car, and off-roading pickup into one versatile EV.

Although this is a separate concept from the planned electric Audi 4×4, the off-road EV gives us an impression of where the automaker is headed.

In an interview with Autocar, Audi’s head of design, Marc Lichte, hinted at the idea of a new 4×4, saying:

I think there is space [for a rugged SUV in Audi’s lineup]. There is potential because there are only two premium players, and I think there is space for a third one.

Lichte didn’t give up details other than mentioning it will ride on one of Volkswagen’s platforms other than the Audi-Porshce co-developed PPE platform like the activesphere concept.

Since Volkswagen’s next-gen SSP platform designed for all segments has been delayed until at least 2028, there’s a good chance Audi’s new 4×4 will share technology with VW’s recently revived Scout off-road brand of vehicles.

electric-Audi-4x4-2
Audi activesphere concept, a separate project from the 4×4 (source: Audi)

Following Volkswagen’s announcement last year that it would revive the Scout brand for an all-electric lineup and bring rugged SUVs to the United States, reports surfaced VW was considering Canadian parts manufacturer Magna (which also builds the Mercedes Benz G-Class) to help build the vehicles.

The initial plans called for Audi to build Scout models in a new US facility but were later scrapped. According to Autocar, the two brands may still benefit from each other.

Audi is already working with Magna to develop electric vehicle batteries for the Scout brand. With VW reportedly leaning toward having the part supplier build 100,000 Scout EVs, there could be room for an additional 50,000 electric Audi 4×4 models to be built alongside.

Audi is already familiar with electric off-road technology with its beastly RS Q e-tron rally car (and Quattro four-wheel drive tech) and is well known for its premium luxury interior. It seems like a match made in heaven to me.

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VW will install up to 25,000 EV chargers globally in 2023

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VW will install up to 25,000 EV chargers globally in 2023

The Volkswagen Group announced today that it will install up to 25,000 EV chargers globally along with its partners this year.

How many VW EV chargers are coming

At the end of 2022, Volkswagen Group had installed more than one-third of the 45,000 EV chargers that it intends to install by 2025 – that’s around 15,000 EV chargers with a charging capacity of up to 350 kW.

Geographically, the total of 45,000 will break down to 10,000 EV charging stations in North America, 18,000 in Europe, and 17,000 in China.

VW is planning for around 10,000 of its EV chargers – what it calls “high-power charging points,” in corporate speak – to be online in Europe, and up to 25,000 in total globally by the end of 2023.

Who’s installing them and where

Electrify America (EA) is in charge of VW Group’s electric infrastructure in the US. EA’s website says it currently has 3,551 fast and Level 2 EV chargers online and that 90 are “coming soon.” So it’s going to take quite an effort for VW and EA to reach its North American goal of 10,000.

In Europe, IONITY, a joint venture between Audi, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, and Porsche are doing the EV charger installations.

The VW Group launched Ewiva with the Enel X Way in Italy last year to install EV chargers, and it’s going to install around 8,000 of those 10,000 European chargers with BP and Iberdrola. The latter will focus on the main traffic arteries in Spain.

In China, the EV charger installation work is being performed by the joint venture CAMS.

Electrek’s Take

OK, I admit it: I’ve got skin in the game here. My 2023 VW ID.4 comes with three years of free Electrify America charging. But I’ve got just one EA fast charger near me, in New Hampshire, and really annoyingly, there are ZERO EA chargers in the state of Vermont.

If you think about it, 25,000 EV charger installations globally in what is now just 11 months is a monumental effort. If they reach their target of 40,000 by the end of this year, they’d only need to install another 5,000 to reach their 2025 target. Hopefully they’ll bump up that 45k number.

Read more: Here’s how many EV chargers the US has – and how many it needs

Photo: Electrify America

Click here to find a local dealer that may have the VW ID.4 EV in stock.


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