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2016 World Roundup: Cutting-Edge Cleantech Wins From Across the Globe this Year

United States’ First Offshore Wind Farm Installed and Operational

This year, the United States completed its first offshore wind farm off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island. The five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm, completed by Deepwater Wind, became operational in December 2016. It generates enough power to support 90% of the island’s electricity needs, while National Grid’s sea2shore undersea cable enables more power to support energy demand onshore in Rhode Island.

“Deepwater Wind’s five-turbine 30-megawatt wind energy project has been in the works for more than a year. Now a reality, the farm is said to produce enough electricity for the three-mile island to use, as well as provide excess to Rhode Island’s energy needs at large….The wind farm, which cost $300 million to build, also represents a noteworthy reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of about 40,000 tonnes per year.”

In Massachusetts, Governor Baker signed An Act Relative to Energy Diversity over the summer, requiring state utilities to partner with developers to procure 1,600MW of offshore wind power in order to meet long-term energy demand as well as renewable energy capacity and greenhouse gas reduction targets set out by the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. With the completion of the Block Island Wind Farm and supportive policy in Massachusetts and the region, the Northeast appears poised to rapidly develop wind as a reliable, renewable energy resource.


Pakistan Is Planning the World’s Largest Solar Park

Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change announced in November of this year that country’s plan to build the world’s largest solar park, at 1,000 MW. Noting at the COP22 summit in Morocco this year that Pakistan represents less than 1% of global world emissions and yet is among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the Minister emphasized his country’s commitment to combating climate change and keeping global average surface temperature below two degrees Celsius.


India Ahead of Schedule and Exceeding Targets for Renewable Capacity

Last year at the COP21 Paris summit, India set the target to generate 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. This month, the government released a draft 10-year plan outlining strategies to reach 57% electricity generation from renewables by 2027.

How did they do it?

Analysts have identified significant increases in investment in Indian renewable energy projects, primarily from foreign and domestic private sectors, as well a rapidly falling costs of solar panels and project installation. Japan’s Softbank, Taiwan’s Foxconn, and France’s state-owned energy company EDF have all announced investment in Indian renewables projects. Furthermore, the country built and brought online the world’s largest solar plant this year, at 648 MW, at Tamil Nadu.

Reaching these significant milestones at an unprecedented pace has led the government to exclude new coal-fired power plants from future energy infrastructure plans, signaling a potentially irreversible shift towards renewables on the Subcontinent.


Portugal Ran on 100% Renewable Energy for 4 Days Straight in May

In May of this year, Portugal was powered entirely by renewable energy for 107 hours straight. In three years, the country’s percentage of wind power generation alone increased from 7.5% to 22%. Combined with additional renewable generation capacity, the World Economic Forum reported that the country was powered by 48% renewable energy for 12 months.

Portugal’s progress reflects a larger, sustained transition toward renewables across Europe. Particularly since the passage of the Paris Climate Accord last year, european nations are setting target and achieving renewable energy milestones. For example, last year Denmark produced 140% of its electricity demand through wind power, and was able to export excess power to Sweden, Germany, and Norway.


Costa Rica Boasts Largest Operational Microgrid in Central America

Collaboration between Rio Grande Renewables and Demand Energy has produced a solar-plus-storage microgrid to support the power needs of a large medical manufacturing plant, Establishment Labs. The microgrid provides internal services and support to the local utility, through peak demand reduction and back-up production during critical loads.

“‘The system eliminates the stranded costs of traditional diesel generators while offering a healthy return on investment through optimizing renewable solar generation, which drives a reduction in GHG emissions that supports Costa Rica’s goal to be the world’s first carbon-neutral country,’ Shane Johnson, vice president of operations for Demand Energy said.”

The president of Costa Rica attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the inauguration of the project, highlighting the significance of the project within the region’s broader energy landscape, which continues to emphasize intelligent energy management, energy storage, microgrids, and renewables in order to meet both economic development and low-carbon goals.


World’s First Open Microgrid in Belgium Microgrid Pilot Projects Operational

The ‘E-Cloud’ is a combination of pilot projects aiming to optimize ‘open microgrids’ in Belgium’s industrial zones, allowing different companies or entities in the same zone to invest together in renewable energy production and storage, and repartition the produced energy in a way that optimizes interactions with the overall grid and different electricity markets. The project draws on expertise and management from multiple stakeholders, including: N-SIDE, ORES, and RESA, as well as energy suppliers EOLY, Universities ULg and Umons.

Microgrid Media reports that, “The ‘eco-zoning’ will allow different companies in the same commercial park to invest together into distributed energy resources such as solar arrays and energy storage projects. The electricity can then be shared in an optimal way between buildings and the utility grid.”

The project became operational in August of 2016 and will continue for three years before evaluating the program for replication and scale.


Morocco Action on Climate

After hosting the 2016 COP22 summit in Marrakesh, Morocco has committed to producing 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, through a combination of solar, wind, and hydro.

Their strategy for success since 2009 has been three-pronged: (1) creating the legal framework, (2) institutional building around the energy transition, and (3) subsidies reform to create necessary incentives. Specific targets have become steadily more ambitious with successive COP meetings and the success of policy changes.

This year, Cleantechnica reports, “The remodeling of the legal, institutional, and financial framework has noticeably helped achieved impressive results in the diversified portfolio of renewable energy projects taking place in Morocco. A well-known example is Noor Ouarzazate, the first solar mega-project launched by the Moroccan solar energy agency (MASEN), which will reach a total capacity of 580 MW by 2018 and will bring power to 1.1 million people.”

With a proven policy framework since 2009, Morocco is well-positioned to meet its ambitious post-COP22 goals.


First Wind Turbine Delivered and Installed in Saudi Arabia: Aramco/GE Collaboration

The first wind turbine in Saudi Arabia arrived and was installed this year. Saudi Aramco, the state’s national petroleum and natural gas company, announced the delivery and installation of the turbine just last week. The turbine, built by GE, will be commissioned in early 2017 to produce and deliver 2.75 MW of power to support approximately 250 Saudi homes.

An oil rich state with limited energy diversity, Saudi Aramco and GE both pointed to the project as an example of regional commitment to diversify the nation’s energy portfolio.

UK Hits Renewable Energy Milestone this Year – 50% Electricity from Renewables

In the third quarter of 2016, the United Kingdom reached a major milestone when more than 50% of the Kingdom’s electricity was powered by low-carbon sources, including wind, solar, nuclear reactors and wood burning. This is an increase from 43% in 2015, according to official figures.

Tesla is Powering Entire Islands by Building Microgrid Projects Using PowerPack

This year, Tesla has emerged as a major player in the microgrid market. Through a combination of solar arrays built by SolarCity, and energy storage batteries, i.e. PowerPacks, Tesla has managed to power entire islands with renewable energy, displacing dirty diesel-guzzling generators. Projects have been completed in the American Samoa, on an island off the coast of North Carolina, and a remote island in the archipelago of Fiji.