EGEB: Wind bests coal in Texas for first time, solar refinery creates carbon-neutral fuel, and more

In today’s EGEB:

  • Wind power has passed coal in electricity generation so far this year in Texas.
  • A newly demonstrated technology can make carbon-neutral fuels from a rooftop solar refinery.
  • Renewables + nuclear made up more than 50% of UK electricity last year.
  • One of the oldest utilities in the US vows to go carbon-free by 2050.

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

Through 2019 so far, wind power has generated more electricity in Texas than coal, a first. The revelation comes from data released by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in a recent energy report.

While Texas is the largest state consumer of coal, natural gas and renewables have taken chunks out of coal’s market share.

Solar is only at 1% electricity generation in Texas, but that should be changing, as well. As Daniel Cohan, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Rice University, told NPR Austin:

“For several years in a row now, we’ve had almost a doubling of the amount of solar farms in Texas. And it looks like we’re set to have a few more doublings ahead. So, Texas is really becoming one of the growth areas for solar after a very slow start.”

Summer months are often the biggest months for coal use in Texas, as many of its plants operate as peaker plants, so by the end of the year, coal could still beat wind…at least in 2019.

Solar Fuel

Swiss researchers have introduced a solar “mini-refinery” that can create carbon-neutral fuels out of sunlight and air with high temperatures, IEEE Spectrum reports. These fuels include kerosene, petrol, methanol — so make those solar kerosene, solar petrol, and solar methanol:

The entire process chain is thermochemical, and concentrated solar energy can provide the required process heat. Only a small amount of electricity is needed to operate the pumps.

At the moment, solar kerosene would cost double the amount of fossil-derived kerosene, but those costs would decrease over time. Specifically, this sort of fuel is seen as a possible option for long-distance flights.

ETH Zurich released a video about the tech:

Renewables + Nuclear

In the UK, renewables and nuclear power supplied more than half of the electricity for the first time ever in 2018, The Guardian reports.

Official data shows that not only did coal decline in the UK from 2017 to 2018, but there was also a decline in the use of gas and nuclear, a rarity.

It’s another strong sign for renewable progress in the UK, which this year became the first major economy to set a net zero emissions target. But there’s still a ways to go for the UK to hit its 2020 target of renewables taking up 20% of the total energy mix.

PSEG Carbon-Free

New Jersey-based energy company PSEG announced its intention to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It aims to cut power fleet carbon emissions by 80 percent, from 2005 levels, by 2046. The company broke down a path to reach its goals:

  • PSEG Power will retire or sell all remaining interests in coal-fired power plants, and has no plans to build or acquire new fossil-fueled generation;
  • PSEG will continue to advocate for the preservation of PSEG’s Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants – the source of more than 90 percent of New Jersey’s zero-carbon electricity; and
  • PSEG will continue to explore opportunities in solar, offshore wind and emerging technologies, and continue to advocate for energy efficiency, which is the most valuable action we can undertake for our customers and for the environment.

You’ll note that PSEG plans on hanging onto nuclear plants. But it also doesn’t plan on building any new natural gas plants. And it’s saying goodbye to coal for good.

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