Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Research offers new hope for gender equity in Green STEM fields – In a study of nine million degree recipients in the United States between 2009 and 2014, Dafna Gelbgiser and Kyle Albert, M.A. ’11, Ph.D. ’16, found that the student population of green fields of study is systematically more gender-equal than other fields of study, both in STEM and non-STEM disciplines. – In my sales meeting though, its still all men. Time may fix that as experts rise through the ranks in this young field.

Middle East’s renewable energy boom to require $200bn investment – 67 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy projects are currently at the design and study stage within the region – These countries have the money to pay for it, the sunlight to make the investment sound, and the driver – saving oil to sell globally – to really do it.

Africa unplugged: Small-scale solar power is surging ahead – Off-grid solar…is now thought to be providing power to perhaps 600,000 households in Africa. Industry executives reckon that over the next year the number of home-power systems on African roofs will grow by 60-100%. M-Kopa, the market leader, has installed 400,000 systems and, at its current rate of growth, may add another 200,000 to that number over the next year. Smaller rivals such as Off Grid Electric, Bboxx and Azuri Technologies may well double their client base over the same period. – These are millions of people who will first learn to manage their electricity usage by getting just a touch of what a western lifestyle uses. They will buy efficient hardware to maximize and not waste a drip. Overtime, they’ll expand adding more panels and more household hardware. Infrastructure won’t get built here – and just like cell phones leapfrogged poles – so will off-grid solar

Evaluating the Changing Causes of Photovoltaics Cost Reduction – We estimate that changes to efficiency contributed 27% to the cost reduction from 1980-2012, non-silicon materials costs 20%, wafer area 19%, plant size 14%, silicon usage 11%, yield 9%, and silicon price 7%. – While there will probably be no more financial gains from yield – we’re near 100% these days – plant size is just starting to hit 1GW, non-silicon materials are evolving (less silver), silicon usage is going to shrink (25% less projected by 2030), silicon price…well…who knows what that will do, and – of course – efficiency is going to expand greatly – 37-50% increase by 2025. Note, this research ended in 2012 – and prices have fallen precipitously since then.

German Utility EWE Plans a Flow Battery Big Enough to Power Berlin for an Hour – The planned project, which Oldenburg-based EWE Gasspeicher is billing as the world’s largest battery, will involve filling two salt caverns, each of around 100,000 cubic meters in volume, with brine to create a redox flow battery that has capacity of up to 120 megawatts and 700 megawatt-hours. EWE Gasspeicher currently uses caverns for natural-gas storage and is looking to bring the novel redox flow technology, called brine4power or b4p, to market by 2023. This project is in the earliest phases of development – and flow batteries, so far, aren’t yet a real player in the market…but flow batteries are becoming real and the idea of using caverns is not unique. We’ll see.

Coal power plant lays off dozens, shuts down year-round operations – The Texas Municipal Power Agency is moving to seasonal operations, meaning it will only run during the hot summer months, June through September. Both TMPA and Bryan Texas Utilities officials say, it’s not economical to keep the plant running year round. With the recent falling price tag of natural gas, and the advent of more efficient alternative energy sources, they say coal power is just too expensive. This is important to highlight not because we’re going to burn less coal, but because coal isn’t economical in a state like Texas whose environmental regulations are nil. You can’t blame the EPA for this – its pure economics.

Are Four Wind-Turbine Failures in Five Weeks Too Many for NextEra Energy? –  Of the turbines’ combined 30,000 blades, there are only five or six blade failures a year, so two in a month is out of the ordinary, Garner notes, however – “There is nothing to indicate there are more than would be expected for the volume of turbines we have in operation,” Garner says. – The header picture came from this same site – same photographer – but a different article. Thought it was interesting to learn about failures from a group with such a large portfolio – you get to see reality vs the headlines that grab attention. While reading about this story, also found Wind turbine common failures and solutions” to browse this weekend. Exhilarating. 🙂

A Realizable Renewable Energy Future (1999 research) – A square ~161 km (~100 miles) on a side would, during 1 year, produce the energy equivalent to that used annually in the entire United States.Elon‘s 100 Mile Square of solar panels has been around for almost 20 years now. Interesting data points from research – 10% efficiency of solar panels. Today’s average commodity solar panel is about 16% efficiency, 60% greater than in the article. Solar panels pretty soon (middle 2020s?) will be pushing 20-24% for the commodity product. Greater than 100-140% more efficiency than the paper. That square gets smaller every day.

When we’re talking green bonds, investment grade spending (not research), it isn’t just building electricity, but also limiting pollution in the first place and upgrading structures.

Combined PPM considers CO2, Nitrous Oxide (N20), and Methane (CH4). 400PPM is a quaint dream.

Header photo by Jeff Schrier/The Saginaw News via AP. I decided to show the image because I thought it looked more like a wilted flower than an industrial accident. No injuries.

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