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The award-winning Phase Change Matters blog tracks the latest news and research on phase change materials and thermal energy storage. E-mail tips and comments to Ben Welter, communications director at Entropy Solutions. Follow the blog on Twitter at @PureTemp. Subscribe to the weekly PCM newsletter. Or join the discussion on LinkedIn.




IRENA introduces 'world's largest collection' of renewable energy standards, patents

Ben Welter - Monday, July 06, 2015

The International Renewable Energy Agency has launched what it calls "the world’s largest collection of global renewable energy standards and patents."

The International Standards and Patents in Renewable Energy platform, also known as INSPIRE, allows users to search and analyze 400 international standards and more than 2 million patents for renewable energy technology.

IRENA collaborated with the European Patent Office and the International Electrotechnical Commission to develop the platform.

“The INSPIRE platform provides a strategic window into the innovation and growth taking place in the renewable energy sector,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin. “It consolidates vast collections of renewable energy patents and standards, which can foster collaboration between innovators, spur improvement through product comparison and help identify partners by matching domestic energy needs to innovative energy solutions.”

IRENA app helps identify potential locations for wind, solar, hydro and geothermal projects

Ben Welter - Thursday, June 18, 2015

The International Renewable Energy Agency's Web-based Global Atlas, a research tool that helps identify potential locations for wind, solar, hydro and geothermal projects, is now available as an app for mobile devices. The Global Atlas Pocket combines a thousand datasets, including 3Tier solar and wind data and GOCE gravity disturbance maps's Vince Font reports:

"Upon launch, the app pulls up a satellite view world map. Navigating to specific points on the globe can be accomplished manually via pinch and zoom or by typing the name of a location in the search box. Users can also launch their mobile device’s GPS to zero in on their current position.

"Once a geographical location has been selected, users can access a series of maps that produce visual overlays of existing renewable energy resources. Information returned includes such data as annual solar exposure and crop sustainability indexes based on average yearly rainfall. Personalized search and sharing capabilities are also included with the app, allowing a user to forward information via email and social media."

Global Atlas Pocket is a free download for iOS, Android, Blackberry 10 and Windows Phone devices. It's a great fit for tablets such as the iPad Air 2, but difficult to use on devices with smaller screens. And it consistently crashed on my Nexus 5 smartphone.

Super smart grid could handle massive expansion of renewables, professor says

Ben Welter - Thursday, June 18, 2015

Prof. Sean Meyn, University of FloridaThe sun shines until clouds move in or night falls. The wind blows until it doesn't. How can utilities working to harness these sources of renewable energy account for their variability? 

The obvious answer is batteries. In a piece posted on, Sean Meyn, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of Florida, offers another approach: 

"California plans to spend billions of dollars for batteries to even out the flow of power from solar and wind, much the way shock absorbers smooth out bumps on the road. But do they need to? Not at all!

"In my research, I’ve found that we can accommodate a grid powered 50% by renewable energy without the use of batteries.

"Systems flexible enough to accommodate the ups and downs of solar and wind production can be made by adjusting the power at millions of homes and businesses on a minute-by-minute or even second-by-second basis. This approach requires no new hardware, some control software and a bit of consumer engagement."

Researchers outline ambitious plan to run U.S. economy entirely on renewable energy

Ben Welter - Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Would it be possible to run the U.S. economy entirely on renewable energy by 2050? A team of researchers led by Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford says yes, and lays out an ambitious and detailed state-by-state plan.'s David Roberts explains:

"The core of the plan is to electrify everything, including sectors that currently run partially or entirely on liquid fossil fuels. That means shifting transportation, heating/cooling, and industry to run on electric power.

"Electrifying everything produces an enormous drop in projected demand, since the energy-to-work conversion of electric motors is much more efficient than combustion motors, which lose a ton of energy to heat. So the amount of energy necessary to meet projected demand drops by a third just from the conversion."

The study, published in Energy & Environmental Science, also sees a role for thermal energy storage, including ice, water and phase change materials, and time-of-use electricity rates that encourage off-peak energy consumption.

Modernization of system in Italy earns Global District Energy Climate Award

Ben Welter - Friday, May 01, 2015

The modernization of the district heating system in Lodi, Italy, was among the projects honored at the annual Global District Energy Climate Awards in Estonia this week. Improvements to the 11-year-old system include the addition of thermal energy storage tanks designed to store up to 10 MWh, with a peak charge/discharge of 5 MW.

Also honored were:

• A CHP system based on renewable biomass in Braunschweig, Germany. The new Hungerkamp system replaces 34 oil- and coal-fired boilers and is projected to eliminate 8,000 tons of CO₂ a year. 

• A combined heating and cooling system in Helsinki, Finland. An overall 80 percent energy saving is projected for the system, which relies on seawater for both heating and cooling.

• A deep geothermal system in Kirchweidach, Germany. The system supplies residents with renewable heat and electricity and heats a 30-acre greenhouse that grows peppers and tomatoes that would otherwise be imported.

CALMAC's take on behind-the-meter energy storage

Ben Welter - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thermal energy storage pioneer CALMAC examines the state of behind-the-meter TES and sees a future teeming with possibilities:

"Intermittency issues inherent to renewable energy generation mean that continued growth in distributed and behind-the-meter storage creates new opportunities for energy storage applications in zero energy buildings. Likewise, the rise of the green building movement has clued more contractors, engineers and architects into the cost-saving advantages of incorporating solar and energy storage for behind-the-meter generation."