Renewables meet 46.3% of Germany’s 2020 power consumption, up 3.8 pts

Read the full story in Reuters.

Renewable sources met 46.3% of Germany’s power consumption in 2020, 3.8 percentage points more than in 2019, utility industry association BDEW said on Monday, adding that parts of the increase came from a drop in usage in the coronavirus crisis.

Kick the can: Iowa’s bottle bill was falling apart — and then the pandemic made things worse

Read the full story in the Des Moines Register.

Like other grocery chains across the state, Boone-based Fareway has been trying for years to shed the burden of the costly and sometimes difficult-to-manage state-mandated redemption program, which has proved popular with the public and difficult to kill. Another attempt could be made when the Iowa Legislature convenes its 2021 session next month. 

But when the chain chose this summer to defy Iowa’s nearly 42-year-old Beverage Containers Control Law — without penalty, so far — it foisted greater problems on dozens of businesses that, long before the pandemic, were struggling to meet some of the law’s increasingly outdated provisions.

Open-access journal eLife announces ‘preprint first’ publishing model

Read the full story in Nature.

It also plans to make reviews publicly available — for both accepted and rejected manuscripts.

Solar Energy is Hitting a Growth Spurt. So Is The Disinformation Around It.

Read the full story in the Texas Observer.

Anti-renewable energy campaigns are nothing new in the Lone Star State. A new wave of disinformation could spell trouble for the state’s fledgling solar industry.

In the northern Great Plains, a search for ways to protect drinking water from fossil fuel industrial pollution

Read the full story at Ensia.

North Dakota’s water supplies are at risk from contaminants from fracking wastewater, but residents are fighting back.

Moving small crafts and services enterprises towards green mobility practices: The role of change agents

Tom Erik Julsrud, Jon Martin Denstadli (2020). “Moving small crafts and services enterprises towards green mobility practices: The role of change agents.” Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 37, 254-266. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2020.09.003

Abstract: The uptake of electric vans in professional enterprises has been slow, and the interest in electric mobility is low compared to that of private consumers. To understand critical barriers, resistance, motivations and drivers we follow the implementation of e-vans (EVs) in crafts and services enterprises that have tried to replace some or all of their traditional vans with EVs. Based on a social practice approach we show how and why the new technology challenged existing work practices in the enterprises, and took hold in some enterprises while being rejected in others. We recognize the significant role of managers as “agents of practice change” in initiating changes and stabilizing social practice configurations. The findings add to the literature on social practice change and document critical factors for further implementation and use of e-vans in crafts and services enterprises.

Science & Tech Spotlight: Air Quality Sensors

Download the document.

Why This Matters

Air quality sensors are essential to measuring and studying pollutants that can harm public health and the environment. Technological improvements have led to smaller, more affordable sensors as well as satellite-based sensors with new capabilities. However, ensuring the quality and appropriate interpretation of sensor data can be challenging.

The Technology

What is it? Air quality sensors monitor gases, such as ozone, and particulate matter, which can harm human health and the environment. Federal, state, and local agencies jointly manage networks of stationary air quality monitors that make use of sensors. These monitors are expensive and require supporting infrastructure. Officials use the resulting data to decide how to address pollution or for air quality alerts, including alerts during wildfires or on days with unhealthy ozone levels. However, these networks can miss pollution at smaller scales and in rural areas. They generally do not measure air toxics—more localized pollutants that may cause cancer and chronic health effects—such as ethylene oxide and toxic metals. Two advances in sensor technologies may help close these gaps.

First, newer low-cost sensors can now be deployed virtually anywhere, including on fences, cars, drones, and clothing (see fig. 1). Researchers, individuals, community groups, and private companies have started to deploy these more affordable sensors to improve their understanding of a variety of environmental and public health concerns.

Second, federal agencies have for decades operated satellites with sensors that monitor air quality to understand weather patterns and inform research. Recent satellite launches deployed sensors with enhanced air monitoring capabilities, which researchers have begun to use in studies of pollution over large areas.

Figure 1. There are many types of air quality sensors, including government-operated ground-level and satellite-based sensors, as well as low-cost commercially available sensors that can now be used on a variety of platforms, such as bicycles, cars, trucks, and drones.

How does it work? Low-cost sensors use a variety of methods to measure air quality, including lasers to estimate the number and size of particles passing through a chamber and meters to estimate the amount of a gas passing through the sensor. The sensors generally use algorithms to convert raw data into useful measurements (see fig. 2). The algorithms may also adjust for temperature, humidity and other conditions that affect sensor measurements. Higher-quality devices can have other features that improve results, such as controlling the temperature of the air in the sensors to ensure measurements are consistent over time.

Sensors can measure different aspects of air quality depending on how they are deployed. For example, stationary sensors measure pollution in one location, while mobile sensors, such as wearable sensors carried by an individual, reflect exposure at multiple locations.

Satellite-based sensors generally measure energy reflected or emitted from the earth and the atmosphere to identify pollutants between the satellite and the ground. Some sensors observe one location continuously, while others observe different parts of the earth over time.

Multiple sensors can be deployed in a network to track the formation, movement, and variability of pollutants and to improve the reliability of measurements. Combining data from multiple sensors can increase their usefulness, but it also increases the expertise needed to interpret the measurements, especially if data come from different types of sensors.

Figure 2. A low-cost sensor pulls air in to measure pollutants and stores information for further study.

How mature is it? Sensors originally developed for specific applications, such as monitoring air inside a building, are now smaller and more affordable. As a result, they can now be used in many ways to close gaps in monitoring and research. For example, local governments can use them to monitor multiple sources of air pollution affecting a community, and scientists can use wearable sensors to study the exposure of research volunteers.

However, low-cost sensors have limitations. They operate with fewer quality assurance measures than government-operated sensors and vary in the quality of data they produce. It is not yet clear how newer sensors should be deployed to provide the most benefit or how the data should be interpreted. Some low-cost sensors carry out calculations using artificial intelligence algorithms that the designers cannot always explain, making it difficult to interpret varying sensor performance. Further, they typically measure common pollutants, such as ozone and particulate matter. There are hundreds of air toxics for which additional monitoring using sensors could be beneficial. However, there may be technical or other challenges that make it impractical to do so.

Older satellite-based sensors typically provided infrequent and less detailed data. But newer sensors offer better data for monitoring air quality, which could help with monitoring rural areas and pollution transport, among other benefits. However, satellite-based sensor data can be difficult to interpret, especially for pollution at ground level. In addition, deployed satellite-based sensor technologies currently only measure a few pollutants, including particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide.

Opportunities

  • Improved research on health effects. The ability to track personal exposure and highly localized pollution could improve assessments of public health risks.
  • Expanded monitoring. More dense and widespread monitoring could help identify pollution sources and hot spots, in both urban and rural areas.
  • Enhanced air quality management. Combined measurements from stationary, mobile, and satellite-based sensors can help officials understand and mitigate major pollution issues, such as ground-level ozone and wildfire smoke.
  • Community engagement. Lower cost sensors open up new possibilities for community engagement and citizen science, which is when the public conducts or participates in the scientific process, such as by making observations, collecting and sharing data, and conducting experiments.

Challenges

  • Performance. Low-cost sensors have highly variable performance that is not well understood, and their algorithms may not be transparent. Low-cost sensors operated by different users or across different locations may have inconsistent measurements.
  • Interpretation. Expertise may be needed to interpret sensor data. For example, sensors produce data in real time that may be difficult to interpret without health standards for short-term exposures.
  • Data management. Expanded monitoring will create large amounts of data with inconsistent formatting, which will have to be stored and managed.
  • Alignment with needs. Few of the current low-cost and satellite-based sensors measure air toxics. In addition, low-income communities, which studies show are disproportionally harmed by air pollution, may still face challenges deploying low-cost sensors.

Policy Context and Questions

  • How can policymakers leverage new opportunities for widespread monitoring, such as citizen science, while also promoting appropriate use and interpretation of data?
  • How can data from a variety of sensors be integrated to better understand air quality issues, such as environmental justice concerns, wildfires, and persistent ozone problems?
  • How can research and development efforts be aligned to produce sensors to monitor key pollutants that are not widely monitored, such as certain air toxics?

Does the changing policy landscape pit efficiency against renewables?

Read the full post from the New Buildings Institute.

With cities and states pursing renewable portfolio standards and national calls to decarbonize the grid by 2035, does efficiency still matter with a clean grid? The first answer: yes, energy efficiency benefits are, as they have been for decades, delivering lower energy costs to homeowners and businesses and creating opportunities for utilities to avoid expensive development in new generation resources. Put simply, when buildings demand less energy, utilities can build smaller capacity renewable energy plants, reducing capital costs, and keeping customer energy prices affordable. The second answer: it depends. Jurisdictions and utilities need to evaluate the opportunities that fit within their climate action plan goals and understand their capacity to make change.

UK’s first electric-only car charging station opens for business

Read the full story at The Verge.

The UK’s first all-electric car charging station opened today near Braintree in Essex, marking a milestone in the country’s transition away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles. The station is operated by Gridserve, and is the first of more than 100 locations it plans to build over the next five years…

The station’s chargers draw power from renewable sources, including solar panels installed on the station’s canopies, and the company’s network of hybrid solar farms. There’s also a 6MWh battery onsite to help balance the supply of power during peak times. According to Gridserve, “on windy winter nights the battery can store enough energy to drive 24,000 miles in electric vehicles the following day.”

Remanufacturing end‐of‐life silicon photovoltaics: Feasibility and viability analysis

Deng, R, Chang, N, Lunardi, MM, et al. (2020). “Remanufacturing end‐of‐life silicon photovoltaics: Feasibility and viability analysis.” Progress in Photovoltaics: Research Applications 1– 15. https://doi.org/10.1002/pip.3376.

Abstract: With the rapid deployment of silicon solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies around the world, the volume of end‐of‐life (EoL) PV modules will increase exponentially in the next decade. Different EoL management strategies are being explored in the industrial and academic fields, such as recycling, remanufacturing and reusing. In this study, we used a Monte Carlo uncertainty model to identify the potential economic benefits of closed‐loop recycling of EoL PV modules when recycled silicon is integrated into different stages of the PV supply chain. Circular use of high‐purity silicon and intact silicon wafers from EoL PV modules can be economically feasible in reducing 20% of the manufacturing cost of the second‐life modules, even with some efficiency reductions. Even though the price of new PV modules is decreasing rapidly (making PV modules less attractive from a recycling perspective), circular use of material from EoL modules in second‐life production was found to have promising long‐term environmental and economic benefits. The cost–efficiency trade‐off is shown to provide cost targets for new PV recycling technologies.