This Week in Cleantech is a new, weekly podcast covering the most impactful stories in cleantech and climate in 15 minutes or less. Produced by Renewable Energy World and Tigercomm, This Week in Cleantech will air every Friday in the Factor This! podcast feed wherever you get your podcasts.
This Week in Cleantech – July 28, 2023
Lots of US clean energy manufacturing plans have been announced since the Inflation Reduction Act came out with a production tax credit, but that buildout will face major challenges, particularly from the supply chain.
The IRA gives US manufacturers an “uncannily equal” subsidy to the cost of Chinese products, but the limited availability of cheaper materials from Southeast Asia will pressure American companies, some to the point their plants won’t get built.
Although it was drafted and passed exclusively by Democrats in Washington, the fate of the Inflation Reduction Act will hinge in large part on the decisions of state and local Republican officials.
The legislation is projected to reduce carbon emissions by about 780 million tons per year by 2030. But that number could fall by as much as 260 million tons per year, or roughly 30%, if the pace of solar and wind deployment slows amid local opposition.
Ohio officials have rejected more than 400 proposed renewable projects, more than any other state, according to the Renewable Rejection Database. Since 2021, developers have either withdrawn or seen rejected more than 1.2 gigawatts of solar projects in Ohio, enough to power roughly 120,000 homes. That is roughly one-seventh of the entire planned increase in solar production in the state between 2023 and 2028.
Electricity demand for air conditioning is expected to triple in the next few decades—an increase of about 4,000 terawatt-hours between 2016 and 2050 (roughly the same electricity demand as the entire US electrical grid in 2022).
Some companies are looking to entirely new AC systems that use materials called desiccants, which cool more efficiently (moisture-sucking) reducing stress on the grid.
Systems that tackle dehumidification and cooling separately could keep building temperatures comfortable with less energy and allow for more flexibility in different environments.
One key reason desicants aren’t widely used for cooling is they need to be “recharged” – think wringing out a sponge. The regeneration system can run in the evening or overnight, when there’s less stress on the grid and electricity prices are lower,
Two startups that are working on incorporating desiccants into air conditioning are Blue Frontier and Zephyr.
Blue Frontier uses a heat pump to regenerate its desiccant.
Zephyr’s device uses 45% less electricity than other top-tier air conditioners today.
A World Resources Institute report shows a key problem with either using bioenergy crops (eg ethanol) as fuel or using wood in construction to decarbonize: there isn’t enough land.
Both of these products use a lot of space which could be turned back to CO2-sequestering nature OR used to grow commodity crops, lessening pressure for less-developed countries to cut down forests that are critical for climate and biodiversity.
“A single corn plant, converted into ethanol fuel, may be carbon neutral if the CO2 emissions produced when it’s burned in a car engine are equal to what the plant consumed while growing. But if using that corn for ethanol means cutting down a forest somewhere else in the world to make space for food crops, the net climate effect is likely negative.”
Rivian is anchoring a planned 800 MW solar plant that developer BrightNight is building at a former coal mine in Kentucky.
The anticipated $1 billion project would be the state’s largest renewable energy project by capacity and one of the biggest to be built at a former coal mine.
Rivian has committed to buy 100 MW from the Starfire Mine solar project, nearly half the project’s initial Phase 1 generating capacity of 210 MW.
Environmental nonprofit The Nature Conservancy is buying another 2.5 MW.
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This Week in Cleantech is hosted by Renewable Energy World senior content director John Engel and Tigercomm president Mike Casey. The show is produced by Brian Mendes with research support from Alex Petersen and Clare Quirin.