UPI: New Zealand Marks End to Coal Power

Coal-fired power is coming to an end in New Zealand as the country focuses on taking the global pole position in renewables, the energy minister said.

"Historically coal has played an important role in ensuring the security of New Zealand's electricity supply, particularly in dry years where our hydro-lake levels are low," New Zealand Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges said in a statement. "But significant market investment in other forms of renewable energy in recent years, particularly in geothermal, means that a coal backstop is becoming less of a requirement."

Utility Genesis Energy said Thursday it's on pace to shut down its last two coal-fired power plants by December 2018, effectively marking the end of coal power in New Zealand.

Scimplified: 'Yolks' and 'Shells' Improve Rechargeable Batteries

One big problem faced by electrodes in rechargeable batteries, as they go through repeated cycles of charging and discharging, is that they must expand and shrink during each cycle -- sometimes doubling in volume, and then shrinking back. This can lead to repeated shedding and reformation of their “skin” layer that consumes lithium irreversibly, degrading the battery’s performance over time.

Now a team of researchers at MIT and Tsinghua University in China has found a novel way around that problem: creating an electrode made of nanoparticles with a solid shell, and a “yolk” inside that can change size again and again without affecting the shell. The innovation could drastically improve cycle life, the team says, and provide a dramatic boost in the battery’s capacity and power.

Utility Dive: The Other Death Spiral Utilities Are Beginning to Deal With

The central lesson for utilities in the talk of a death spiral is if they don’t give their customers what they want, they go elsewhere.

To date, that talk is mostly about rooftop solar taking their revenues, but some utilities have begun to notice some of their biggest key accounts looking for greener pastures. Well, greener energy.

“This is a new environment. You don’t just build it and shove it in the rate base. There is a more open dialogue. Renewable energy is at the center of that,” explained Altenex Managing Director Duncan McIntyre.

Reuters: New Tidal Energy System Could Help Power U.K., Say Developers

Harnessing tidal power around the U.K.'s coast has so far been limited by the cost of the large dams and barrages required and unpredictable results.

A British company, in conjunction with Oxford University researchers, believes it has devised a way to overcome this obstacle by creating a new type of horizontal-axis turbine that can be used underwater at depths of up to 30 meters, at an economical cost.

Conventional propeller-type turbines are like underwater wind turbines and the number of suitable sites for them are vastly reduced by the size of their large blades, limiting their use to waters at least 30 meters deep. The THAWT (Transverse Horizontal Axis Water Turbine) technology, by contrast, is designed for deployment in shallower, lower velocity, tidal waters.

TechCrunch: Solar Power Startup Bright Raises $4 Million to Distribute Energy in the Developing World

Bright, a solar panel installation and distribution startup, pulled in $4 million in seed money to build out its solar software and financing team.

The startup launched out of the last batch of Y Combinator and began building in Mexico last year. Energy is expensive and often complicated in the country, costing upwards of $4,000 MXD ($250 USD) in hot summer months in some cases, according to the Mexican Federal Electric Commission.

The Mexican government has a program to subsidize energy costs for the poorest citizens, but it doesn’t cover everyone. This is where Bright founder Jonah Greenberger sees potential. The 28-year-old founder and former Chevron exec likens government subsidies to letting the DMV control energy.