Will Offshore Wind Blow Through Texas?

By Vernon Trollinger, January 16, 2017, Green

Welcome to Exploring Renewable Energy Technology from Bounce Energy! Because the ERCOT portion of Texas can be thought of as a “walled garden,” renewable energy sources in Texas now make up a significant portion of the energy supply mix. It’s also a dynamic technology with new innovations, discoveries, and issues arising every week. Each month, we will examine the latest news in the industry to better understand what (if any) changes might come to the Texas energy supply.

Feeling the Breeze from the Wind Industry in the Lone Star State

Will Offshore Wind Blow Through Texas? | Bounce Energy Blog

In December 2016, the Block Island Wind Farm began producing power off the coast of Rhode Island. Small by utility company standards, the five-turbine 30-megawatt (MW) project is the very first offshore wind farm in the United States. Deepwater Wind, who owns the projects, has plans for two other larger offshore projects more off the coast of Long Island, NY.

What does this have to do with Texas?

Will Offshore Wind Blow Through Texas? | Bounce Energy Blog

Simply put – the potential for 10 to 200+ gigawatts of wind generation capacity. ERCOT uses up to about 70 GW of electricity to power Texas during the summer peaks. Unfortunately, efforts to build offshore Texas wind farms have been idle since 2014. Past problems facing Texas offshore wind include the sheer expense, especially with threat of hurricanes.

Offshore wind turbine foundations closest to shore are those sunk directly into the bedrock. Further out, the foundations become more bigger and more complex. Turbines need to be stand nearly 200 feet tall to harvest offshore winds, and those bases must be more robust, and in some cases, they need to reach 150 feet below surface to endure the actions of waves and tides.

But wind energy is now a more competitive investment, and offshore wind projects are big business with plenty of big players ready to get their feet wet. In Europe, the oil and natural gas giant, Royal Dutch Shell, recently announced it was going to help build the world’s largest offshore wind project, the Borssele wind project in the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands.

Ironically, this is exactly where offshore wind generation in Texas could benefit from the expertise of folks already looking for more work —the offshore Gulf oil rig building companies.

Cheap Solar May Depend on Scientists Finding the Right Stuff

Will Offshore Wind Blow Through Texas? | Bounce Energy Blog

In terms of solar energy generation, Texas has ranked third nationally behind following Utah and California. But with already 589 MW of solar installed, Texas is looking to installing nearly 5 GW by 2020. The biggest obstacle is cost. One way of reducing that cost is to find something cheaper than silicon crystal to make panels. That’s been a vexing challenge because there’s a material that’s tantalizingly close to being perfect.

Calcium titanium oxide – also know as “Perovskite” – is highly efficient at converting sun light to electricity — up to 26% efficiency. For comparison, the internal combustion engine in your car has an energy conversion rate around 25%). It can even be made transparent for use of windows.

Will Offshore Wind Blow Through Texas? | Bounce Energy Blog

The problem with the stuff is… well, there are problems with the stuff. Perovskites are a type of crystalline material that can be formed using a wide variety of different chemical combinations. Specifically, methylammonium lead iodide perovskite (MAPbI3) has been the most widely studied and shows much promise at becoming highly efficient. However, it has a very short life span when used “in the wild.” Perovskite crystals are very reactive and delicate to handle being out in the weather for much time. Moisture, heat, and ambient oxygen all cause these crystals to break down.

This past December, two studies revealed some important findings:

  1. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands found that a coating of aluminum oxide only a few nanometers thick not only protected the Perovskite solar cell from failure due to humidity and extended their lifespan, but also boosted the power yield from 15% to 18%. At the end of two months of exposure to humid atmosphere conditions, untreated cells were down to just 12% of their original yield while the treated cells were still putting out 60-70%.
  2. At the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) researchers examined the Perovskite solar cell degradation process itself. They discovered that, even if the cells are kept at ideal conditions and safe from humidity, oxygen, and heat, the MAPbI3 version destroys itself as it gradually degrades to lead iodide (PbI2). Little by little, MAPbI3 releases iodide gas. The more iodide gas the Perovskite releases, the faster it degrades. In time, no matter how well protected, the Perovskite degrades to uselessness.

As a result, iodide-based perovskites will either need tinkering to be made stable or replaced with something more promising. The technology is there, but efforts will still need to be made to make it more sustainable and durable for public consumption.

What would you like to see us discuss in future installments of Exploring Renewable Energy Technology? Please share with us in the comments!

Be Sociable, Share!

About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

Tags: , , , , , , ,