Apple will use Tesla’s ‘megapack’ batteries at its California solar farm

Apple announced Wednesday that it’s building a big battery storage project at a Northern California solar farm it spearhead in 2015. But what the company didn’t share is that the battery packs will come from Tesla, The Verge has learned.

The newly-announced setup, which will store up to 240 megawatt-hours of energy, was approved by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors in 2020, according to documents submitted last year. It will consist of 85 Tesla lithium-ion “megapacks” and be used to help power the company’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino. Monterey County’s planning chief confirmed that Apple will use the Tesla batteries in an email to The Verge. Apple declined to comment. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Tesla first announced the megapack battery system back in 2019. The 60MW storage setup Apple will be using is not Tesla’s biggest, though. The company has built bigger overall battery storage solutions in Australia and south of Houston, Texas of around 100MW in size. Still, Apple touted it as “one of the largest battery projects in the country” in a press release, saying the battery system could power more than 7,000 homes for a whole day. The Tesla batteries will make it possible for Apple to store energy generated by its 130-megawatt solar array at the farm, which is called California Flats.

“The challenge with clean energy — solar and wind — is that it’s by definition intermittent,” Apple VP Lisa Jackson told Reuters on Wednesday. “If we can do it, and we can show that it works for us, it takes away the concerns about intermittency and it helps the grid in terms of stabilization. It’s something that can be imitated or built upon by other companies.”

While Apple uses lithium-ion batteries in many of its products, it’s not known to be working on any grid-scale projects. The company is reportedly developing a lithium iron phosphate battery for its electric car project, though.

Apple and Tesla don’t have much overlapping history, though each company is notorious for poaching talent from the other. Tesla CEO Elon Musk also said in December that he tried to pitch the idea of Apple buying his company back in 2018, but that Apple CEO Tim Cook “refused” to take the meeting.

Tesla is best known for its electric cars, but it’s spent years trying to build up an energy storage business to compliment the solar products it acquired when it bought Solar City. It has gotten increasingly involved in large-scale energy storage projects like Apple’s over the years in addition to its home battery business.

While it’s still modest compared to the billions of dollars generated by Tesla’s car business, the energy storage division’s products has already netted at least one other strange bedfellow customer: in 2019, Volkswagen announced it was using Tesla batteries at some of its Electrify America charging stations.

If Electric Vehicles Take Over, These Energy Stocks Will Be Big Winners

Electric-vehicle (EV) stocks have been on fire over the past year as investors bet that the industry will continue to grow. And as EV sales grow, there could be a number of industries and companies that benefit. 

As we scoured the market for opportunities adjacent to EV production, Xcel Energy (NASDAQ:XEL), Lithium Americas (NYSE:LAC), and QuantumScape (NYSE:QS) jumped out to our Foolish contributors as big opportunities. 

Electric vehicle fleet all being charged.

Image source: Getty Images.

The utility play

Travis Hoium (Xcel Energy): If electric vehicles continue to grow and eventually take over the vehicle market, it’ll mean a significant rise in electricity consumption. A report prepared for the Department of Energy in 2019 estimated that by the end of the decade, an incremental 14 gigawatts or more of power generation will be needed to keep up with the growth of EVs by 2030. That would nearly double the amount of incremental electricity-generating capacity added each year and may lead to growth in electricity consumption, which has stagnated for more than a decade. 

Stagnant demand is having an impact on utility revenue growth. Over the last decade, Xcel’s revenue has grown just over 1% compounded annually, so this isn’t exactly a growth stock. But the growth rate could change if electric vehicles take over transportation. 

XEL Revenue (TTM) Chart

XEL Revenue (TTM) data by YCharts.

EVs alone could boost every utility’s growth, and Xcel Energy would be no different. And with shares trading at 22 times earnings and the dividend yielding 2.8%, this stock could be a long-term winner if Xcel’s growth rate improves because of electric vehicles. 

Speculating on batteries

Howard Smith (Lithium Americas): Investors can bet on the emergence of electric vehicles in a number of ways. There’s much uncertainty, including developing technologies, competition, and theorizing on market adoption. One approach for investors is to create a basket of holdings with a range of risk-and-reward potential.

EV battery-technology investments lie at the high-risk end of the spectrum. But as part of a basket approach, assuming lithium-ion batteries remain a prominent choice for EV makers, lithium suppliers themselves should be part of the equation. Lithium Americas doesn’t even have an operating mine as of yet, but it’s in the construction and approval stages on two projects, including one on U.S. soil. 

Lithium Americas  retention pond with mountains in background

Lithium Americas retention pond. Image source: Lithium Americas.

Lithium Americas’ two mining projects include one under construction in Argentina expected to start up in mid-2022 and the Thacker Pass project in Nevada. Thacker Pass is particularly notable due to its location, as leaders seek to secure domestic supplies of materials needed for electric vehicles.

The company believes its Thacker Pass project remains on track to begin operations in late 2022. In its fourth-quarter 2020 earnings release earlier this month, the company said, “All remaining state permits and water right transfers required to commence construction are expected later this year.”

The Thacker Pass project is currently 100% owned by Lithium Americas, but the company could bring in partners or investors. But after a recent capital raise, Lithium Americas had $518 million in cash as of Feb. 28, 2021. Most of that is available for the Thacker Pass project, as its Argentina mine project has already spent about 70% of the required capital. 

An investment in Lithium Americas is very much speculation at this point, and an investment could be a total loss. Besides the company-specific risks, there will also be competitive domestic lithium mining operations in the U.S. But if electric vehicles do take over, and lithium-ion batteries remain the technology of choice, getting in early could also pay off nicely. 

Disrupting the disruptor

Jason Hall (QuantumScape): I think it’s more of a “when” than an “if” electric vehicles come to dominate, though it’s likely to take years for that to happen because of the high costs and limited supply of batteries. This is a problem that QuantumScape is working to remedy, and with a technology that could lead it to be the biggest disruptor the auto business has seen since Tesla.

The catch? In order to do so, the company has to deliver on a technology that nobody else — so far — has been able to deliver at the cost and scale it will take to supply the auto industry. 

Without getting bogged down in the details, solid-state batteries are lighter, more reliable, and much faster to recharge than the liquid or gel batteries we are more familiar with such as lithium-ion. The catch? QuantumScape is still years away from delivering a commercially viable product and has yet to prove it can deliver on its promises at scale. So this is far from a sure thing.

But investors including Tesla co-founder JB Straubel, who led battery cell design at the company, and Volkswagen, which invested $300 million in the company before it went public, have put their money behind the company’s efforts. It’s likely to be several more years before we know if it can do it, but if QuantumScape can crack the solid-state code, its technology would be a massive competitive advantage, making it potentially the most important — and most profitable — automotive supplier in the world. 

The risk is big. If they can’t pull it off, investors will lose a lot of money. Take that risk into consideration just as much as the upside potential. 

Riding the EV tailwind

If electric-vehicle sales continue to grow, we’ll likely see an increase in electricity consumption, lithium consumption, and a need for better batteries. That’s why these three stocks could all beat the market long term and why they’re our top picks today. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

Biden’s Clean Energy Revolution Could Send These Stocks Soaring

There’s no denying that last year was an incredible year for electric vehicle stocks.

Elon Musk briefly took the crown of the richest man in the world thanks to Tesla’s shocking 750% climb…

While a Chinese competitor, Nio Inc., rose by a remarkable 1295% over the same amount of time.

While those who didn’t buy in on these two giants while they were cheap may feel that they’ve missed the rally…that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The story is much larger, and there are other EV and EV-related stocks that continue to have tons of room to run.

There are even stocks that are flying completely under Wall Street’s radar–and they could even see gains that exceed those of Tesla or Nio.

Nothing screams the “next Tesla” like Fisker (NYSE:FSR), an EV maker that is betting on futuristic and fully recyclable materials, headed up by a legend in automotive design …

Or even a tech company creating its own green ecosystem like Facedrive (TSXV:FD; OTC:FDVRF), a leading Canadian startup that’s got several EV verticals, including its recent acquisition of Steer– a Washington, DC-based EV subscription company that is looking to upend the auto industry by completely transforming the notion of car ownership as we know it.

It would also be a good idea to keep a close eye on infrastructure plays like Blink Charging (NASDAQ:BLNK), a new leader in EV charging equipment that’s got very long legs.

Anything EV Is Golden Right Now

Yes, EVs are golden ….

Biden’s victory, a global clean energy push and the ongoing pandemic are the main drivers behind a $40-trillion energy transition of which electrified transportation will be the lion share.

Yes, Tesla will continue to surprise the markets, and for short-sellers who lost $40 billion betting against the EV behemoth, it’s time to look for a new gig.

Fisker, for example is much like a Tesla type EV maker: It’s working on fresh EV concepts, and has a legend behind the wheel in the form of Henrik Fisker. And don’t be fooled, it’s not just another EV SUV–it’s a vehicle constructed with recyclable parts, something that pleases activist investors and huge institutional funds that are looking for the next epic investment that could mimic Tesla.

Fisker isn’t going to start producing its famed Ocean SUV until 2023, with significant revenues coming in from advance orders not expected until late 2021. This may be a reason for Wall Street’s elite not to go long on Fisker, but may just be the perfect opportunity for investors to get in on the ground floor of what could become the next big EV producer.

Next to Fisker, there’s Facedrive – one of the front-runners of Canada’s ‘Silicon Valley’—and another EV related success. We like the flagship carbon-offset ride-sharing and food delivery side their business, but we’re extremely excited about their recent acquisition of Steer.

Why?

Because this isn’t just the start of the golden age of EVs … it’s the start of a completely different lifestyle.

Facedrive’s (TSXV:FD; OTC:FDVRF) added Steer to their growing list of acquisitions in September 2020, and we expect the news flow to increase over the next few months as two of the most innovative EV-linked tech companies combine their forces to upend car ownership in North America.

Steer isn’t anything like your average car rental company (Hello Hertz). It offers consumers their own private EV showroom (virtual, of course), sporting on-demand EV delivery for consumers, offering a flexible alternative to car ownership.

Steer users are able to drive the newest and hottest EVs on the market. The platform offers something for all budgets and tastes. Forget about the extra insurance – it’s all included in the price. No maintenance. No hassle whatsoever. It’s simply the most revolutionary app in on-demand EVs so far.

Facedrive stock has pulled back over the last few days after going on a bit of a tear. There appears to be support at this level and this could be a good entry point for new investors.

Exelon (NYSE:EXC), a $40B market cap energy giant is a strategic partner in Steer.

And with everyone switching to EVs … the next stock to watch is Blink Charging. This innovative company could turn out to be one of clearest emerging beneficiaries from the EV boom.

The incoming Biden administration is looking to invest $2 trillion into renewables infrastructure, and nothing speaks to EV infrastructure right now like superchargers do.

Blink operates, provides and owns EV charging equipment and networked EV charging services in the United States. The company has been one of the first in its field, and that’s why its share price has exploded 2,500% in 2020, and if you think the rally can’t go any further … consider the string of deals that the company has recently closed.

Each one of these innovative tech companies are set to ride the Tesla wave in a time where EVs are set to transform the world.

Fisker (NYSE:FSR) is a promising up-and-coming American electric vehicle company that looks to go head to head with some of the biggest names in the industry. While it hasn’t seen quite the attention other electric vehicle stocks have seen, it is an important company to watch. It’s unique in the industry because it boasts the most sustainable vehicle on the road: It’s not just electric… it’s also is made with some recycled materials. That’s a huge plus considering how much investors are focusing on sustainability these days.

While Fisker has underperformed on the market compared to NIO, Tesla, Xpeng or Li, it’s still trading on massive volume and it’s not seeing much major movement in either direction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Especially with how crazy the markets are these days. Clearly, it’s group of savvy investors are still waiting to see how the company will hold up over time. And given the current climate, it is an outlier in the market because of its stability. This is definitely a company to buy and hold for the long term, and that’s largely due to its innovative approach to the industry.

The four-year old California based EV provider is already turning heads thanks to its innovative battery tech, and it’s already securing some major deals. In fact, just recently, Fisker signed a deal with Viggo, a European ride-hailing service to add hundreds of vehicles to its fleet. Moves like this will be key in its future success, and investors

Electra Meccanica Vehicles Corp (NASDAQ:SOLO) is another up-and-coming electric vehicle producer to watch. It’s turning heads on the street and on Wall Street with its sleek and unique single-seat electric vehicles. The Canadian company’s electric car carries a lower, and more appealing price point for consumers that do not need all the bells and whistles that come with luxury brands like Tesla and NIO or even conventional Detroit classics like GM and Ford. It’s also on the cusp of an emerging market. In fact, demand for single-seat electric vehicles are projected to grow significantly in the coming years, and SOLO is one of the few companies in this market, representing a great opportunity for investors looking for an easy-entry EV stock with a lot of potential upside.

Electric Meccanica isn’t focused solely on the single-seat niche, however. It’s also planning to roll out an electric sports car for two, the Tofino, and another electric two-seater boasting an old-school design that will appeal to a wide range of consumers. From classic car lovers to EV fanatics, it’s latest fleet will definitely generate some headlines and water cooler conversations. Given that the stock is only trading at $8 at the moment, there is a lot of room to grow. And early investors in Electra Meccanica could stand to see some substantial returns.

Though electric vehicle companies are getting most of the attention, autonomous vehicles should not be ignored. Robot cars will not only reduce emissions, but completely change the idea of car ownership as we know it. And Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is, without a doubt, a leader in this burgeoning industry.

Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet, has had cars driving themselves across the United States for several years. In fact, in Arizona alone, Alphabet’s self-driving cars have logged over 6.1 million miles. To put that in perspective, that means that Alphabet’s autonomous cars have driven the distance between New York City and San Francisco over 2100 times. Or, as the company explains, “over 500 years of driving for the average licensed US driver.” Even more impressive, however, the vehicles were only involved in 47 “contact events”, and the vast-majority of the collisions were the result of human error and none resulted in any sort of severe injury for anyone involved.

Though these tests are very promising for Alphabet’s Waymo, there are still some hurdles to overcome. First and foremost, these lengthy trials took place in Phoenix, a city not exactly known for extreme weather. Second, an issue that may frustrate many drivers, the vehicles operated in a sort of hyper-cautious mode, driving at slower speeds and taking sometimes unnecessary precautions to avoid conflict.

Though Alphabet has received much of the credit for these massive feats, a widely loved and wildly popular chipmaker is actually the driving force in these endeavors. Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) and Waymo teamed up nearly half-a-decade ago, and have worked together to fine tune this futuristic technology together ever since. Through their mutual knowledge of hardware and software, the tech giants have made leaps and bounds towards building the car of the future.

And Intel isn’t one to be pigeonholed into a sole industry, either. In addition to its efforts with Waymo, Intel has also been on the forefront of developing its own artificial intelligence and vision hardware. Back in 2017, it acquired MobileEye, a supplier of camera-based chips and software to the global mobile industry. And now, in a new deal with Luminar, another emerging tech company on the forefront of this movement, Intel is positioning itself as its own giant of this new sector.

LIDAR technology will play a massive role in the future of not only self-driving cars, but also in the advancement of robots, mapping, security and more. The world is ever-changing and these industries will help shape the future as we know it, and Intel is acutely aware of this. While the electric vehicle industry is grabbing headlines today, Intel is already looking to the future. And that bodes well with investors looking to capitalize on these trends.

With Big Tech and upstarts like SOLO and Fisker getting so much attention, some alternative fuel companies are flying under the radar, and that could be beneficial for those who jump on this train early. Take Bloom Energy Corp. (NYSE:BE), for example. Bloom designs, manufactures and sells solid-oxide fuel cell systems. And, yes, there’s been a ton of cash burn up to this point, but it’s heralding massive innovation–and that’s what tech startups are all about. Growth runways, not immediate profit.

That’s why we are willing to throw tons of money at our innovative future. Eventually, the narrative changes and for the successful companies, the cash burn stops and there starts to be payback for investors. Anyone who didn’t get in on time got left in the innovation dust.

That’s what’s already happening with Bloom. Savvy investor patience is paying off. Bloom is now on track to be the first fuel cell maker to become cash-flow positive. And this could all be about to get even bigger. Why? Because this relatively small company is thinking in huge terms: We’re not just talking about fuel cells for construction vehicles or to power remote electricity generation … Bloom is thinking far bigger than that. It’s targeting utility-scale applications of fuel cells and industrial-scale applications, and drawing in some very big names in the process.

GreenPower Motor (TSX:GPV), like SOLO, is an exciting Canadian company with a unique approach to the electric vehicle boom. At the moment, its focus is primarily on the North American market, but its ambitions are much larger. Founded over 10 years ago, GreenPower has been on the frontlines of the electric transportation movement, with a focus on building affordable battery-electric busses and trucks

Over the past year, GreenPower Motor has seen its share price soar from $2.03 to a high of over $30 before stabilizing around $29. That means investors have seen 1300% gains in just a year. And this could be just the beginning of the ambitious EV company’s run.

Like GreenPower, NFI Group (TSX:NFI) is another one of Canada’s premier electric bus producers. And it’s following the same path as its peer. Year to date, NFI has climbed a noteworthy 27%, and it’s just getting started. NFI still offers investors a promising opportunity to capitalize on the electric vehicle boom at a relative discount.

Over the past year, NFI has cleaned up its financials and continued paying a comfy dividend to its investors. This is great because many competitors don’t offer these incentives. Investors can take advantage of the extra income while this industry heads even higher. And once this gem is discovered, it’s likely to head into the stratosphere.

Another way to gain exposure to the electric vehicle industry is through AutoCanada (TSX:ACQ), a company that operates auto-dealerships through Canada. The company carries a wide variety of new and used vehicles and has all types of financial options available to fit the needs of any consumer. While sales have slumped this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AutoCanada will likely see a rebound as both buying power and the demand for electric vehicles increases. As more new exciting EVs hit the market, AutoCanada will surely be able to ride the wave.

Magna International (TSX:MG) is a special stock with a long history of success. It’s a great way to gain exposure to the exploding clean energy and electric vehicle markets without betting big on one of the trendy Reddit stocks that have fallen victim to their own hype. The 63 year old Canadian manufacturing giant provides mobility technology for automakers of all shapes and sizes. From the legacy Detroit giants like GM and Ford to luxury brands like BMW and even Tesla, Magna is a premier distributor to all of them. And it’s easy to understand why. The company has lived up to all expectations and is clearly great at making deals.

Since March of last year, Magna has seen its share price jump from a low of $37 to an all-time high of $98. And with the car industry rebounding in full force, Magna still has a lot of upside potential. Especially if it keeps impressing with its solid financials and deal making abilities.

Westport Fuel Systems (TSX:WPRT) is another great way to gain exposure on the booming green energy and electric vehicle industries. Like Magna, Westport produces auto parts that will be necessary in the transition away from oil-based products. With over 50 years of experience in developing and deploying alternative fuel systems, Westport has the drive and innovative edge to make waves in the market. The company’s biggest innovation, however, has been in its natural gas products. And while natural gas vehicles don’t quite get the attention of electric vehicles, they’re still going to play a viable role in the world’s energy transition. There are already over 22 million natgas vehicles on the road, and that market is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years.

The market is already looking towards stocks like Westport. In fact, since January of this year alone, Westport has seen its share price surge drastically, rising from $6 to its current price of $14.37. And if its multi-year chart says anything, this stock has a lot of momentum to continue climbing even higher.

By. Chloe Mole

**IMPORTANT! BY READING OUR CONTENT YOU EXPLICITLY AGREE TO THE FOLLOWING. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY**

Forward-Looking Statements

This publication contains forward-looking information which is subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or results to differ from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Forward looking statements in this publication include that the demand for ride sharing services will grow; that Steer can help change car ownership in favor of subscription services; that new tech deals will be signed by Facedrive and deals signed already will increase company revenues; that Facedrive will be able to expand to the US and globally; that Facedrive will be able to fund its capital requirements in the near term and long term; and that Facedrive will be able to carry out its business plans. These forward-looking statements are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking information. Risks that could change or prevent these statements from coming to fruition include that riders are not as attracted to EV rides as expected; that competitors may offer better or cheaper alternatives to the Facedrive businesses; changing governmental laws and policies; the company’s ability to obtain and retain necessary licensing in each geographical area in which it operates; the success of the company’s expansion activities and whether markets justify additional expansion; the ability of the company to attract drivers who have electric vehicles and hybrid cars; and that the products co-branded by Facedrive may not be as merchantable as expected. The forward-looking information contained herein is given as of the date hereof and we assume no responsibility to update or revise such information to reflect new events or circumstances, except as required by law.

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Rolls-Royce tests 100% sustainable aviation fuel in small jet engine

As part of its goal to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, Rolls-Royce has begun testing the viability of using 100-percent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in small commercial business jets. The ground tests used the new Pearl 700 business jet engine in Dahlewitz, Germany, where the Rolls-Royce BR700 family of turbofan engines is manufactured, and follows on previous tests in the larger Trent 1000 engine in Derby, UK.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel is a name the aerospace industry prefers to biofuel because some biofuels are often relatively primitive or, like palm oil, cause too much environmental damage. Instead, SAFs are produced from a variety of sustainable sources, including municipal solid wastes; cellulose waste from the forestry industry; used cooking oil; energy crops, including comelina, jatropha, halophytes, and algae; and non-biological fuels like waste gases from steel works.

SAFs are attractive to the aerospace industry because they can address the problem of reducing carbon dioxide emissions immediately. Such fuels can be “dropped in” by simply being added to conventional fuels without the need for extensive changes to existing infrastructure.

The test involved a fuel blend that had no conventional jet fuel in it

The test involved a fuel blend that had no conventional jet fuel in it

Rolls-Royce

The Rolls-Royce tests used an SAF produced by World Energy in Paramount, California, for Shell Aviation. According to Rolls-Royce, the new fuel has the potential to reduce life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions by over 75 percent, and potentially even more with later refinements.

Currently, the civil air authorities only allow blends of up to 50 percent SAFs to be used with conventional kerosene-based jet fuels so the present tests are intended to show that a 100-percent SAF can be used in conventional jet engines as a drop-in option.

“Sustainable aviation fuels have the potential to significantly reduce the carbon emissions of our engines and combining this potential with the extraordinary performance of our Pearl engine family brings us another important step closer to enabling our customers to achieve net zero carbon emissions,” says Dr. Joerg Au, Chief Engineer – Business Aviation and Engineering Director Rolls-Royce Deutschland.”

Source: Rolls-Royce

US consumes more green energy than coal for first time since 1885 – Electrek

In 2019, US annual energy consumption from green energy sources exceeded coal consumption for the first time in 134 years, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Energy Review.

Green energy’s new US record

How was this major milestone achieved? Simply put, coal is declining and wind and solar are growing. Coal consumption in the US decreased by nearly 15% in 2019, and total renewable energy consumption grew by 1%, compared with the previous year.

The EIA explains:

In 2019, US coal consumption decreased for the sixth consecutive year to 11.3 quadrillion Btu, the lowest level since 1964. Electricity generation from coal has declined significantly over the past decade and, in 2019, fell to its lowest level in 42 years. Natural gas consumption in the electric power sector has significantly increased in recent years and has displaced much of the electricity generation from retired coal plants.

Total renewable energy consumption in the United States grew for the fourth year in a row to a record-high 11.5 quadrillion Btu in 2019… In 2019, electricity generation from wind surpassed hydro for the first time and is now the most-used source of renewable energy for electricity generation in the United States on an annual basis.

Wood was the main source of US energy until the mid-1800s. Then the first hydropower plants began to produce electricity in the 1880s. The US used coal in the early 19th century to fuel steam-powered boats and trains and manufacture steel. It was later used to generate electricity in the 1880s, and 90% of its consumption is now used primarily to generate electricity. 

Renewable energy is more broadly consumed by every sector in the United States. About 56% of commercially delivered US renewable energy is used in the electric power sector, mostly from wind and hydroelectric power, but different types are also consumed in the industrial (22%), transportation (12%), residential (7%), and commercial (2%) sectors.

Electrek’s Take

Well, this is a nice New Year’s Eve reminder from the EIA, which originally posted this announcement in May. It’s nice to reflect on something positive from the past year.

Keep in mind that these are the EIA’s statistics from 2019, so 2020, as weird as it was as a whole due to the pandemic and the turbulent US election, is going to have even better green energy versus coal/fossil fuel statistics due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

But the US has got to get that natural gas consumption down, as no matter how hard gas companies try to sell it as clean, it’s not.

Once the Biden administration takes its collective seat and gets to work on its climate change plan, we are optimistic that future EIA reports are going to look even greener when it comes to renewables.

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[embedded content]

It’s time to start wasting solar energy

Solar is so cheap, we need to build far, far more than we need.
That was the surprising conclusion Marc Perez, a doctoral student in engineering at Columbia University, arrived at in 2014. Perez was trying to design the world’s cheapest electricity grid. By using a decade of satellite data to …

Back to the future: Swedish firm bets on wind-powered ships

A futuristic throwback – a huge, wind-driven cargo ship – could help end the fossil fuel era and curb climate change, its designers say

By Alister Doyle

OSLO, Dec 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Two centuries after the first coal-powered steamships crossed the Atlantic Ocean, a Swedish company is designing a futuristic throwback: a huge, wind-driven cargo ship that could help end the fossil fuel era and limit climate change.

Shipping accounted for 2.9% of man-made greenhouse gas in 2018, and the industry’s share of planet-heating emissions has been rising in recent years, according to the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization.

One solution may be to turn the clock back to pre-industrial times and again hoist sails to carry cargo around the world.

Sweden’s Wallenius Marine AB, which designs and builds ships, is currently testing a sleek white model of an “Oceanbird” automobile carrier in a bay in the Baltic Sea.

Per Tunell, Wallenius’ chief operating officer, said results from the seven-metre model were encouraging and that he was “very confident” the full-scale Oceanbird will be ready to order by the end of next year.

The sail-driven ship could be in service in 2024 on Atlantic routes, he said.

The Oceanbird will be 200 metres long with capacity to carry 7,000 cars. It may be the tallest sailing ship ever built, equipped with wing sails reaching 105 metres above the water.

The sails, however, look little like traditional billowing fabric sails, instead more closely resembling aircraft wings rising vertically from the deck.

The vessel will have engines as a backup, but aims to save 90% of carbon emissions compared to a conventional ship run on polluting bunker fuel.

It will take Oceanbird about 12 days to cross the Atlantic, compared to eight for a fuel-powered ship.

The design “could also be applied as a cruise vessel, a bulk carrier, a tanker,” Tunell said. “One of the key conditions is that it shall be commercially feasible.”

Oceanbird would probably cost a bit more than a conventional car carrier, he said, declining to estimate the exact price.

But operating costs would be lower, especially if governments trying to curb climate-changing emissions impose a price on carbon emissions from using fuel.

The Oceanbird is not the only emerging contender in the low-carbon shipping race.

Neoline in France is seeking orders for a smaller, 136-metre vessel, also suitable for transporting cars or farm machinery.

Like Oceanbird, it reckons its carrier could cut emissions by 90%.

HIGH TECH, LOW EMISSIONS

Such cargo ships would mark a maritime revolution. Until now most companies trying to cut emissions have viewed sails as an add-on to curb fuel consumption, not as the main source of propulsion.

But new technologies, such as wing sails and tougher, lighter materials inspired by racing yachts in the America’s Cup, may enable a fuller shift to wind.

More reliable long-term weather forecasts also allow better route planning to avoid storms or doldrums.

“It makes sense to use this historic wind power, but also new technology,” said Jean Zanuttini, chief executive officer of Neoline.

He said negotiations were underway on possible contracts and shipyard deals, with the first “Neoliner” vessel likely to be in service by July 2023, at a cost of about 45 to 50 million euros ($54-60 million).

Partners in designing and using the ship include carmaker Renault, he said.

A “NO BRAINER”

Among early ocean-going steamships, the SS Savannah took 29 days to cross the Atlantic from the U.S. state of Georgia to Liverpool in England in 1819. Paddle wheels on its sides to supplement sails were its main power source.

Later the SS Royal William crossed the Atlantic from Pictou in Canada to London in 1833, relying almost entirely on steam power from coal.

Many shipping companies trying to cut emissions are seeking a boost from sails, kites or Flettner rotors – tall spinning tubes that help push a ship forward in much the same way as wings on a plane provide lift.

Helsinki-based Norsepower, which has installed such rotors on cargo ships and cruise ships, says they can typically cut fuel use by 5% to 20%.

Diane Gilpin, head of the Smart Green Shipping Alliance in Britain, said wind-powered ships were alluring on the drawing board and sails were a “no brainer” for fighting climate change.

Nearly a decade ago, she led a company that designed a “100%renewable-powered cargo ship” with sails and an engine using biogas from municipal waste. Tests of a model were successful, but it has not been built.

“The biggest challenge is getting market uptake. Everybody loves the pictures, everybody loves the story. But nobody puts the money into it,” she said.

Still, the International Maritime Organization has said it wants to cut climate-changing emissions from shipping by half by 2050, from 2008 levels, she said.

That means that any ships ordered today, with an expected lifetime of 30 years, will have to be far less polluting.

With more than half of the journey costs for a ship coming from fuel, Gilpin said governments could spur a green shift by imposing a carbon emissions price of perhaps $50 a tonne on shipping.

Among the drawbacks for wind-powered vessels are that ports operate on strict deadlines, meaning an unexpected extra day at sea can mean missing a slot for unloading cargo in port and long, costly delays.

Both Oceanbird and Neoliner plan to use engines, powered by fossil fuels or biofuels, to stick to schedules if the winds they depend on calm en route. But Tunell said the engines and fuel tanks would be smaller than on a comparable vessel.

“Most of the other companies are focused on wind assistance. We are focusing on wind power. This is a sailing vessel,” Tunell said. Jakob Kuttenkeuler, a professor at the Swedish KTH Centre of Naval Architecture who is running tests for Oceanbird, said one research puzzle is what wind changes will be like as sails reach new highs above the sea surface.

Oceanbird’s wing sails, likely to be built from aluminium, steel and composite materials, will rise from a deck 35 metres above the water, reaching 105 metres (345 feet) above sea level.

Most mariners have learned how to manage winds closer to the water line, where waves causes air turbulence.

“Not too many people have utilised this part of the atmosphere in the open ocean. Planes go higher and ships go lower,” he said.

Read more:

Zero carbon at sea? Rotterdam port eyes a greener future

Shipping industry proposes $5 billion research fund to help cut emissions

Sustainable transport

(Reporting by Alister Doyle ; editing by Laurie Goering : (Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

1 Renewable Energy Stock to Buy and 1 to Avoid

The rising use of renewable sources of energy is an indisputable trend here to stay. But the performance of renewable energy companies has generally been erratic so far, giving investors a tough time in selecting the right stock for them. Two emerging players in the renewables space — though with different offerings — are Renewable Energy Group (NASDAQ:REGI) and Clean Energy Fuels (NASDAQ:CLNE). While one of the two looks like a buy, it’s best to avoid the other one for now. Let’s see why.

Operations

While both Renewable Energy Group and Clean Energy Fuels are renewable energy companies, their operations differ significantly. Renewable Energy Group is a top producer and distributor of biofuels, primarily biodiesel and renewable diesel. The company carries out all the operations from acquiring feedstock to constructing and operating biorefineries and distributing fuel through terminals. Renewable Energy Group owns 13 biorefineries — 11 in the U.S. and two in Germany. The company has diesel production capacity of 505 million gallons per year.

Dice with the words SELL and BUY with chart in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

In comparison, Clean Energy Fuels primarily sells renewable natural gas, which is derived from organic waste. The company doesn’t produce renewable gas itself, but rather purchases it from third parties. It then sells it, in compressed and liquefied forms, through customers’ as well as its own fueling stations. Clean Energy Fuels owns two liquefaction plants. 

Performance

Renewable Energy Group’s performance so far is impressive. Since 2010, the company’s annual sales grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30%. In the first nine months of 2020, Renewable Energy Group’s performance was resilient, despite the effects of the pandemic. For the nine months, even though the company’s sales dipped by nearly 2%, its EBITDA grew by nearly 3%. In comparison, Clean Energy Fuels continues to struggle to grow its revenue.

REGI Revenue (Annual) Chart

REGI Revenue (Annual) data by YCharts

Renewable Energy Group has also been able to translate its sales growth into bottom line growth. Over five years, its profit margins averaged nearly 4%. By comparison, Clean Energy Fuels has largely been generating losses.

REGI Profit Margin Chart

REGI Profit Margin data by YCharts

Indeed, earnings of both companies may be significantly affected by changes in governmental policies and incentives. As an example, the constrained growth in renewable volume obligations for refineries during the years 2017 to 2019 affected Renewable Energy Group’s earnings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuels Standards require refineries to blend a minimum percentage of renewables-based fuels to their petroleum-based volumes, or purchase credits — called renewable identification numbers or RINs — in lieu of blending. Some small refineries may be exempted from this requirement. Any changes in this policy affect the demand and pricing for RINs, thereby affecting the profitability of bio and renewable diesel producers, including Renewable Energy Group.

Growth prospects

Renewable Energy Group stands to benefit from several current and potential governmental incentives. The BTC, or Biodiesel Tax Credit, which provides a tax credit to bio-diesel blenders, has been retroactively reinstated and will be effective through 2022. Other incentives, including the RFS, the Renewable Energy Directive II, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard or LCFS, and other state incentives all bode well for Renewable Energy Group’s growth.

Renewable Energy Group’s strategy of increasing renewable diesel production is smart considering its premium pricing compared to biodiesel. Renewable diesel can be blended more easily with petroleum-based diesel, and it generates more RINs on a per-gallon basis. Moreover, Renewable Energy Group is also focusing on expanding its distribution capabilities. This will not only help it diversify its earnings, but also help it to improve margins.

Clean Energy Fuels should also benefit from the push for renewables. However, the growth of electric vehicles is expected to limit the use of renewable natural gas as a vehicle fuel. Notably, its prospects remain bright in the heavy vehicles segment, due to limited breakthrough of electric technology in that segment so far. However, Clean Energy Fuels has until now been unable to deliver on its top and bottom lines. I would rather avoid this stock till it progresses on these fronts.

Race to zero: This graphic shows the rapidly falling cost of renewables

  • The cost of renewable energy continues to fall. In most cases, it’s now cheaper to use renewables than fossil fuels.
  • $23 billion could be wiped off global bills if we switched from costly coal to renewables.
  • Power industry experts say the switch to renewables is now unstoppable.

Renewable energy is not only cheaper than fossil fuels, but it’s undercutting them without subsidy – and is now the default choice for new electricity generation.

Renewables already account for almost 30% of global electricity output, according to the International Energy Agency. The IEA says the pandemic has slowed the roll-out of renewables and has called on governments to accelerate the transition to green energy after COVID-19.

Although all forms of renewable energy have become more competitive, the price of onshore wind and solar photovoltaic-generated power have both fallen below five US cents per kilowatt hour for the first time, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says. Solar photovolaics has tumbled from nearly 8 times that figure just 10 years ago, while onshore wind has fallen steadily from nearly 9 cents per kilowatt hour in 2010.

Fossil fuel-fired power generation is estimated to cost between 5 and 18 cents per kilowatt hour, according to IRENA.

Reducing the world’s energy bills

In April 2019, the United States generated more electricity from renewables than from coal for the first time. In the same month, the UK went for 18 days without using any coal to generate electricity.

IRENA says $23 billion could be wiped off the world’s energy bills if the costliest 500 gigawatts of coal-generating plant was replaced by solar and wind power. While switching generation from fossil fuels to renewables would reduce global CO2 emissions by 5%, it says.

Reasons to use coal to generate electricity are evaporating as renewables provide power more cheaply in the majority of cases, says IRENA. Over half of new renewable installations delivered generating costs that were lower than the cheapest comparable new coal-fired plant.

The renewable energy revolution

“We seem to be approaching a world in which 50% of electricity will be from renewable energy,” says Simon Weiher, Product Portfolio Manager of Hitachi ABB Power Grids, in a YouTube video. “Renewable generation seems unstoppable.”

He says there are three factors that mean renewables will continue to grow: public environmental concerns; falling renewable energy costs; and the fact the technologies are now available to make the renewable energy revolution happen.

Moving to clean energy is key to combating climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated.

Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Plus, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018 energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials Platform is working on initiatives including, Systemic Efficiency, Innovation and Clean Energy and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Additionally, the Mission Possible Platform (MPP) is working to assemble public and private partners to further the industry transition to set heavy industry and mobility sectors on the pathway towards net-zero emissions. MPP is an initiative created by the World Economic Forum and the Energy Transitions Commission.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

“If there is one constant in today’s grid landscape, it is the clear expansion of renewable power. And based on the three strong and stable drivers, this isn’t going to change any time soon,” he adds.

Race to zero

On World Environment Day this year, the United Nations launched the Race to Zero, a global campaign to mobilize leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions and investors for a zero-carbon recovery and to accelerate action to reduce harmful climate-change emissions.

The World Economic Forum is hosting the Race to Zero Dialogues from 10 to 12 November, which will bring together business and public sector leaders to discuss ways of making a zero-carbon future a reality.

The event will debate how best to decarbonize industries including transport and fashion, as well as focus on protecting the oceans from the effects of climate change.

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