Category Archives: climate

Decarbonize!

Milan skies after fires in the alps, 2018

Friday for Future is running and I feel the need of making sure (firstly to myself) that the process that will bring us totally away from fossil fuel consumption is possible, maybe long, but possible.

Decarbonization (this is the name given to the biggest revamping project in the world) is possible; will require money and time; will require the mutual work of Politics, Science and Industry toward the goals of :

  • producing electricity totally from renewable sources, decentralize prodution
  • reducing the energy consumption in all areas were this is possible
  • decentralize smart grid and electricity storage development
  • substitute direct fossil fuel consumption with renewable alternatives
  • stop deforestation process
  • substitute fossil fuel derived products with fossil derived recycled ones (or carbon free ones if possible)
  • 100 % recycle, waste to energy for the non recyclable

Ambitious plan ? I think this is the biggest revamping project you can immagine and it is already running but I think that the message we all sent last last friday is that we need to ‘deliver’ sooner ūüôā

Producing electricity totaly from renewable sources

48 % of CO2 is emitted producing heat or electricity. Many countries are already active in the area of producing electricity from renewables, take Germany for example. 7 year ago (just after fukushima) Germany started phase out of nuclear power by incrementing the share of energy produced by renewables. Some data :

source

In 1 year Germany increased production from wind energ for example by 20 GWh. Continue this for 10 years and your reach more than half the whole country energy requirements. In fact Germany has also started a plan for removing coal in energy production.

In the first 6 months of 2019 Germany has produced more energy from renewables than from fossile/nuclear : here for some references.

Energy efficency

Again from Germany, a national plan to increase the efficency of systems in all areas which is estimating to produce a saving of 12 to 20% over 2020. Reducing the current energy footprint is fundamental for allowing new segments of activities to start using clean energy (think at electrical traction in automotive which is going to increase national demand)

Decentralize smart grid and electricity storage development

The example here comes form Australia were private energy company GreenSync is stimulating customers to setup local electricity storage to be used when there is shortage of power on the grid. Customers are being paid for the storage. For reason not known to me the biggest development in decentralized grid and storage is taking place in Australia and Japan.

Substitute direct fossil fuel consumption with renewable alternatives, limit impatc of direct CO2 emission

This is probably the biggest task in the project because it is spread over a tens of different segments which need to be revamped to achieve the goal :

Road Transportation : around 15% of total CO2 emissions. Redesigning this segment is going to be one of most serious tasks : cars and trucks make up 1/3 of the co2 emissions in countries like US and it is mostly a consumer segment. Battery powered electric cars, pickups and trucks seems to be the directions with Tesla, the real game changer, paving the road. All automotive industry is trying to catchup. 44 Billion investments announces by Volkswagen group over the next 5 years.

Agricolture : How much CO2 is produced by agricolture is the most controversial issue with estimates ranging from 13% of total CO2 emissions to 18% on fao docs, up to 51% including the effect of not having forests where we make food for cows, pigs and chicken. These comes mainly from Cattle belching (CH4) and the addition of natural or synthetic fertilizers and wastes to soils. Here the only possible change is reducing the use of fertilizers and reduce cattle breeding by eating less meat. Read Jonathan Safran Foer book if you want to dig into this more.

Maritime Transportation : 5% of total CO2 emissions, The world’s merchant fleet consists of around 100,000 ships and these are estimated to consume 250 million tonnes of bunker fuel annually. Just one Capesize Bulk Carrier or Bulker can use 40 metric tonnes or fuel or more a day leading  to an annual fuel consumption of approximately 10,400 tonnes. This results in the emission of around 32,988 tonnes of CO2 and 959 tonnes of SOx or more. This is just from one ship. Still no real prototypes afaik in this area but good project and potential around with project like Acquarius.

Air Transportation : 2% to 3.5% of total CO2 emissions . Various activities undergoing reduction of carbon footprint in aviation.

Substitute fossil fuel derived products with fossil derived recycled ones (or carbon free ones if possible)

This is probably the biggest task in the project because it is spread over a tens of different segments which need to be revamped to achieve the goal :

  • Plastics
  • Lubricants
  • Process Chemicals
  • Carpeting
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Rubber Goods
  • Adhesives
  • Cosmetics
  • Footwear
  • Paints
  • Detergents
  • Inks
  • Sealants
  • Fragrances
  • Solvents
  • Caulking
  • Compounds
  • Fertilizers
  • Fibers
  • Tires

This point will require a complete structured analysis by its own. International energy agency dedicates a complete section on petrochemicals. They are not easy to replace : recycle will be the solution while Science and Industry find better substitutes.

I’ll stop here at least for now : the message I’m trying to share is that the matter is highly complex and cannot be simplified by just switching off air conditioning or doing these kind of things.

ALL activities have to be done at the same time (thanks Greta for having said this) and Politics IS the driver for all of them.

When all 450.000 Tesla model 3 will hit the road …

In a 2 or 3 years all 450.000 model 3 tesla (and probably more) will hit the road and start making an average of 16.550 miles per year. Considering :

this will translate in around 2.5 Tera Wh/year more consumption on the electric grid. Let’s say that in 5 years 10% of all new cars sold are electric. We’ll have an extra 10 TWh per year to reach 1% of all electric consumption in US (in 5 years) and this will just be around 1% of the total number of cars on roads in US. So 1% of electric fleet equals 1% increase over total electricity consumption.

Forecasting increase in electricity needs by introducing electric traction in automobile

A growth in electric vehicles on European¬†roads will¬†need a corresponding ¬†growth¬†in electricity production to serve charging of these cars, both in peak production power and in total annual power. Let’s take italy for example which currently has a total year consumption of around 300 TWh (terna). Considering :

This accounts for 2250 KWh/year for each electric car. Considering 2 milion new cars per year and a 0.5 % of electric cars sold (10000) this means an additional 22 GWh/year to be produced to allow charging them.
So your electric car will consume like a small household (depending on your mileage) and personal/distributed production of electricity (domestic + accumulation) will be necessary.

If you want to really dig deeper : here.

Adda river hydro power plants

During one of my MTB rides at the Cancano lakes

I stumbled into this beatifull dam which is part of the A2A Hydro power of Valtellina : 8 hydro power plants from cancano lakes down to Stazzona near Tirano using water coming from the Adda river and from other 4 different basins :

  • San Giacomo : 10MW
  • Braulio : 19 MW
  • Premadio : 226 MW
  • Grosio : 428 MW
  • Grosotto/Boscaccia : 13 MW
  • Lovero 49 MW
  • Stazzona : 30 MW

Adda river continues is ride down to Po river and in the mean time produces some other Hydro power in 4 hydro power plants that have been sold to EDF :

  • Bertini¬†: 12,5MW
  • Taccani¬†: 11 MW
  • Semenza¬†: 7¬†MW
  • Esterle : 32 MW

and then into some other small powerplants :

  • Rusca : 7 MW
  • Italgen Vaprio : 21 MW
  • Crespi (Adda Energia) : No data
  • Adda S.Anna : No data
  • Fara : 1 MW
  • Muzza : 2,5 MW
  • Maleo : 4,5 MW
  • Pizzighettone : 3 MW

A total of around 900 MW of clean, renewable, hydroelectric power!

 

Technology how it should be

This weekend I had a chance to visit Esterle Hydroelectric power plant, one of the power plants I pass by riding near the Adda river with my MTB. This plant was finished in 1914 to make electricity for Milano cable cars. Francis turbines, Brown-Boveri Alternators for a total of 30 MW unattended production. Yes unattended because nobody works at the plant anymore : everyting is controlled by Sondrio control room. Plant needed a major maintenance in the 90s for replacing the turbines and after that nothing else, all regulations are done from remote.


This is 1914 technology and it is still working today after more than 100 years (100 years I repeat this ..), a gold mine for the owners (www.edison.it) which are selling to EDF (the national french electricity provider).

The location is beautifull (could be used for Steampunk happenings) and the building is in ‘eclettico lombardo’ style.