Start the conversation
Marina and I made it out of Fort Lauderdale on one of the last flights before Irma hit South Florida. We will be flying back this weekend to assess the damage.
Our sincere condolences to anyone else who was affected.
Initially, our plan was to drive up to our place outside Pittsburgh. But after seeing the initial parking lot forming on I-95 moving north and the lack of gasoline, we hastily reconsidered.
It also brought to mind how essential energy is to modern life.
Some of the unimaginable pain, grief, and loss from natural disasters like Irma – still unfolding as a tropical storm in the Southeast United States as I write this – or the tragedy of Harvey in Texas, comes from the damage to infrastructure.
Our deepest sympathies go out to all those affected by these catastrophes.
With power lines down, transformers and generating stations busted, refineries damaged, and transport systems closed, not much else can happen – whether in terms of recovery or reconstruction.
This means, in the longer term, the issue of better integration and redundancy in our power technologies is crucial.
And that's why one particular technology being shown in Las Vegas today drew my attention.
It deals with a vexing problem that has taken up much of my time over the past decade.
It's a true game-changer…
The Energy Balance Is Crucial to Recovery
The loss of power across Texas, Florida, and elsewhere once again has me rethinking one of the main focuses of my thinking over the past several years – the energy balance.
The concern, as always, is how to better use the power sources we have and make the broader system more integrated.
Obviously, the increasing reliance on renewables like solar and wind are of no help during a hurricane.
After all, the sun tends not to shine during a storm, and while the wind does blow, the velocities are so high turbines must be switched off to avoid damage.
Rather, it's the ability to ramp up power as quickly as possible after the storm passes that's the focus of attention. We're talking recovery here.
And that's why the Solar Power International (SPI) 2017 conference in Las Vegas is drawing my attention.
Among the myriad of new products and approaches being demonstrated in the Vegas conference, one has really drawn my curiosity.
As with many breakthroughs over the years, this one results from "innovation" rather than "invention"…
China's New Inverter Is an Energy Game-Changer
"Invention" is coming up with something entirely new and is very rare. "Innovation" is taking what exists and using it in a new way or gradually improving it.
A Chinese company called Sungrow has unveiled what amounts to a new generation of inverter technology at SPI in Vegas. The company is well-sized, having a more than $3.1 billion market cap (20 billion Chinese renminbi), yet trades only on the Shenzhen exchange. That makes it virtually unreachable for most American individual investors.
But the technology Sungrow has developed may well filter into more mainstream investment targets in the West.
Here's why that matters…
Inversion has become the "holy grail" in solar technology. It addresses a problem I have wrestled with for some time: solar (and wind) power is initially harvested as direct current (DC) and must be converted into alternating current (AC) to move on the power grid.
"Inversion" is the name for this conversion that makes solar and wind power usable on the AC-only power grid.
Unfortunately, early inverters would sacrifice at least 50% of the power in the transition from DC to AC.
Later developments improved that somewhat, but the inversion problem remains the single-biggest drawback to solar and wind power efficiency.
Even with the drag from inversion, solar has nonetheless achieved grid parity with more traditional fuels for many parts of the United States and abroad.
Solar is now the fastest-growing energy source worldwide and is almost certain to increase its overall share in the developing energy balance among separate energy sources.
A provisional survey I completed over a year ago indicated that a rise in inversion efficiency of only 3% to 5% from current levels would be enough to allow a new major global wave in usage.
My sources now say that Sungrow's "innovation" improvements will double that rise over the next few years.
This is the oft-heard, but rarely seen, game-changer in practice.
It's not the result of some unexpected silver bullet. Rather, this results from time-tested incremental advances in technology.
How You Could Profit
About the Author
Dr. Kent Moors is an internationally recognized expert in oil and natural gas policy, risk assessment, and emerging market economic development. He serves as an advisor to many U.S. governors and foreign governments. Kent details his latest global travels in his free Oil & Energy Investor e-letter. He makes specific investment recommendations in his newsletter, the Energy Advantage. For more active investors, he issues shorter-term trades in his Energy Inner Circle.