In today’s EGEB:

  • The US exports “freedom gas.”
  • Australia is placing its bets on a hydropower plant turned into pumped hydro storage.
  • Washington solar workers are waiting on a Trump deal with China to save their jobs.
  • Hungary wants to build a green-powered town from scratch.

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

Press releases from the Department of Energy don’t usually garner much attention, but an announcement about the exportation of natural gas has gotten a lot of talk for describing said gas as…”freedom gas.” US Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes said in the statement,

“Increasing export capacity from the Freeport LNG project is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America’s allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy. Further, more exports of U.S. LNG to the world means more U.S. jobs and more domestic economic growth and cleaner air here at home and around the globe.”

Another official referred to “molecules of U.S. freedom” later in the same release. It’s incredibly stupid, corny — and wrong! — and it brings to mind “Freedom Fries” days of yore, but personally, that’s as far as I’d like to go with it. If you’d like to expound any further, feel free.

‘Water Battery’

Australia’s newly-elected government is looking to turn the state-owned Snowy Hydro plant into a “water battery” to aid the country’s transition to a renewable energy-based grid, the Financial Times reports.

The $3.5 billion project is seen by some as too risky and expensive, and some experts see lithium-ion batteries as a better option. But Snowy Hydro chief executive Paul Broad told the Times,

“We are betting the whole company on it. You can’t have renewables without reliable storage and the best form of storage is water.”

Pumped hydro is certainly nothing new, but it’s being seen as a modern solution for Australia, as the country uses on-demand energy to bridge the gap during intermittent periods for wind and solar energy. New plans for the plant call for an added 2 GW of generation, “and quadruple the amount of electricity storage,” which would make it one of the world’s largest pumped storage facilities.

While some would prefer a new coal plant for stability, that idea is believed to be too risky in Australia’s political climate — even after the results of the recent election — and so “Snowy 2.0” has taken center stage.

Solar Hope

REC Silicon, a solar factory in Washington state, has seen its workforce drop from 550 employees in 2013 to a current count of 150. And those 150 may all lose their jobs by the end of June without a new Trump trade deal with China, as the Los Angeles Times reports.

Solar workers are used to dealing with trade wars, which picked up during the Obama era. China has surged far ahead in worldwide solar production, which has occurred for a variety of reasons, including a willingness by China to make cheaper solar, and China companies manufacturing in other nations to get around the US tariffs.

But a 57% Chinese tariff that still remains has REC Silicon in a tough spot. While the Trump administration instituted its own 30% tariff on imported solar panels in January 2018, it hasn’t pressured China into shifting its views during trade talks as of yet — though it did cause around 20,000 lost jobs in the US solar sector.

Honestly, it’s hard to take a look at anything here as a win for the US, but the solar industry in general is still experiencing a rebound this year.

Green From Nothing

Hungary plans on creating a complete green-powered town on a “barren strip of Danube flood plain,” Bloomberg reports.

The 1 billion-euro ($1.1 billion) Hegyeshalom-Bezenye plan should include housing for thousands and all the typical amenities of a normal town. It will be a carbon-neutral town from the start, relying mainly on solar and biogas power. A greenhouse project is expected to create up to 5,000 permanent jobs.

Hungary sees this as a possible model for other countries and communities. We’re hoping for the best — at the very least, it’s a fascinating grand experiment.

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