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EGEB: Solar electricity and clean water — from the same device, renewable investments fall, and more

In today’s EGEB:

  • Researchers have invented a device that can produce both electricity and fresh water from solar.
  • Renewable investments drop in the first half of 2019 to the lowest half-year period since 2013.
  • More utility solar plants coming to Florida by next year.

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

A new article published in Nature Communications details a device which can simultaneously produce fresh water and electricity through a photovoltaics-membrane distillation. The researchers say the composite device could reduce investment costs through producing both fresh water and electricity from the same land and same mounting system.

The study details how others have already aimed for simultaneous clean water and electricity from solar, but “in most of these attempts, solar distillation was utilized for clean water production and some side effects of the solar distillation were utilized for electricity generation, which led to low solar-to-electricity energy efficiency (<1.3%).”

In this case, a PV panel is used as both a primary component for electricity generation, and a photothermal component to produce clean water. The study notes:

“….working directly with commercial solar cells makes the PV-MD device close to practical applications. This strategy provides a potential possibility to transform an electricity generation plant from otherwise a water consumer to a fresh water producer.”

It’s clear these researchers believe there’s potential for wide-scale adoption for their potentially game-changing solution. For those who want the deeper technical details, the entirety of the study is currently available online at Nature Communications.

Investment Slide

A new report from BloombergNEF reveals that worldwide investments in clean energy hit the lowest figure for a half-year period since 2013. A massive 39% decrease in China has been singled out as the main reason for the decrease:

…the country shifts this year away from government-set tariffs to auctions for new wind and solar capacity, also depressed the 1H 2019 global investment figure – to $117.6 billion, down 14% compared to the first half of 2018.

BNEF’s Justin Wu said China’s slowdown is real but these figures “probably overstate its severity.” Big deals in offshore wind and solar are anticipated in the second half of the year. China wasn’t the only country who saw a decrease, though:

The “big three” of China, the U.S. and Europe all showed falls, but with the U.S. down a modest 6% at $23.6 billion and Europe down 4% at $22.2 billion compared to 1H 2018, far less than China’s 39% setback.

BNEF identifies some highlights from the past half year as Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Solar Park, and a few large offshore wind arrays near Taiwan — those projects cost $4.2 billion and $5.7 billion respectively.

More Florida Solar

Wednesday’s EGEB detailed how utility companies in Florida are holding back home solar in the state. One of those utilities, Duke Energy, has earned approval from the Florida Public Service Commission for three new solar plants totaling 194 MWac at a cost of $250 million, according to pv magazine.

Two of the projects are scheduled to go online in Decemeber 2019, with the other pegged for March 2020. Renewable progress is good, but an easier path to solar for all would be much better.

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