Renewable Energy - a roundup of global headlines as we move to a greener future

As society moves slowly but surely towards a greener future, it’s easy to get preoccupied with the regular news headlines suggesting that we’re not on track to achieve various net zero targets. Despite this, there are almost an endless number of smaller scale achievements that reflect the tremendous global commitment.

Global Increases in Renewable Power Capacity

Year over year, there has been large amounts of investment by governments but also extensively by the private sector. A consequence of this has been a year-on-year increase in the amount of renewable capacity that has been created. In 2014 there was an addition of 135GW globally, by 2020 this had increased to 280GW of new capacity created. While these figures can be hard to quantify – it’s worth noting that the renewable energy capacity for the whole of the UK was at 45GW at the end of 2018.

How much is 1 gigawatt?

  • 3 million horse power

 

  • 3,125,000 solar PV panels

 

  • Roughly 2x the output of a coal power plant

 

Sunset over some solar panels

Growing Crops Under Solar PV Panels - Agrivoltaics

A global movement called agrivoltaics has been gaining increased uptake recently and refers to using viable farmland as an additional space to install solar PV. Not only does this additional electricity generation help to run the farming equipment and therefore cut costs, but it also gives farmers an additional source of income. Agrivoltaics or solar sharing as it’s sometimes called is most beneficial in countries with limited space such as Japan. There simply isn’t sufficient area to create solar farms of the necessary size to cut their foreign energy imports. To make their land use more efficient, there are more examples of ingenuity like this cropping up around the world.

 

For other regions with a more hostile climate, this can have an additional benefit in that it offers some shelter from the sun whilst simultaneously making farmers a little less dependent on their crop yields for a source of income. To learn more about this agrivoltaics story then click here.

China makes huge steps towards a renewables-focused future

With the world’s largest population, the policies and decisions of China often have a disproportionate effect globally. For this reason, it’s of even more impact that China has seen huge investment in renewables recently. In 2021, 134 GW of additional renewable energy capacity was created – more than 75% of the total global installations last year.

 

With this addition, 44.8% of China’s total power generation capacity is renewable, which reflects a huge development compared to an extremely coal-focused energy industry of the 90s.

Solar Water Purifier

According to the World Health Organization, over 2 billion people live in water-stressed countries, with 26% of the world’s global population without access to a safely managed drinking-water service (meaning that it’s not on-site and free from contamination). Yet developments in solar PV technology are providing potential for improvement for access to this necessity. Developed by MIT researchers in collaboration with China, a solar powered desalination system has been created that is able to provide seven litres of drinkable water, per hour, per square metre of panels.

 

The environmental conditions in areas with water shortages are likely to have the side-effect of being close to optimal for solar PV. With daily sunlight and a constant 12-13 hours of sunlight year-round, equatorial countries would benefit massively from the roll-out of technology like this. This has been tested in Kiunga, Kenya where a solar PV system removes the salt from seawater in order to provide 75,000 litres of drinkable water daily – sustaining more than 28,000 people with water for washing, drinking and daily requirements. To learn more about Kiunga, Kenya, read this article here.

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