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  • richardmitnick 5:48 am on August 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, , Scotland just generated more power than it needs from wind turbines alone, Wind power   

    From Science Alert: “Scotland just generated more power than it needs from wind turbines alone” 


    Science Alert

    12 AUG 2016

    Master Wen/Unsplash


    Last Sunday, Scotland achieved something great – for the first time on record, wind power alone generated 106 percent of Scotland’s electricity needs in a single day.

    Environmental group WWF Scotland has just confirmed that on 7 August 2016, wind turbines in Scotland pumped 39,545 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity into the National Grid, while the nation’s homes, businesses, and industry needed just 37,202 MWh.

    “While it’s not impossible that this has happened in the past, it’s certainly the first time since we began monitoring the data in 2015 that we’ve had all the relevant information to be able to confirm it,” WWF Scotland director Lang Banks told the Associated Press.

    “However, on the path to a fully renewable future, this certainly marks a significant milestone.”

    Before we get into the details, there are a couple of caveats that we should get out there first.

    To say this was a particularly windy day is an understatement. It was chaos. Wind speeds reached an incredible 185 km/h (115mph) in some parts of the country, forcing bridges to close, trains to be delayed, and ferries cancelled.

    Power was cut in parts of Dundee, Scotland’s fourth biggest city, and a 17,000 tonne oil rig was ripped from its tug and floated to shore.

    It was also a Sunday, which means businesses and industry facilities would have required a whole lot less energy than they would on a weekday, so just bear that in mind.

    But the fact that the country was able to achieve this feat at all goes to show that renewables are more viable than ever as a replacement for fossil fuel.

    Despite having the largest oil reserves in the European Union – accounting for nearly 60 percent of total EU reserves – Scotland has been going all in on renewables over the past few years.

    Back in April, it announced that it had generated 57.7 percent of its electricity consumption from renewable sources in 2015, which put it squarely at the halfway mark of powering itself on 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

    It’s also planning on building the world’s largest floating wind farm off the coast of Peterhead – a town at the easternmost point on mainland Scotland. If they get this thing off the ground (so to speak), it could be supplying power to nearly 20,000 homes by the end of 2017.

    “Scotland’s abundant energy resources play a vital role in delivering security of electricity supply across the UK. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting onshore wind, which is one of our most cost-effective low-carbon energy technologies,” a government spokesperson told the AP.

    With the cost of wind energy now on par with natural gas, Germany achieving 95 percent of its daily energy needs via renewables recently, and Portugal clocking four straight days powered entirely by renewable energy, the future of energy is here.

    I, for one, welcome our new turbine overlords.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:07 am on August 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, ,   

    From U Wisconsin: “Tiny high-performance solar cells turn power generation sideways” 

    U Wisconsin

    University of Wisconsin

    August 3, 2016
    Sam Million-Weaver

    Hongrui Jiang inspects the alignment of a light source to illuminate new-generation lateral solar cells. The solar cells developed by Jiang’s group harvest almost three times more electricity from incoming light as compared to existing technologies. Photo: Stephanie Precourt

    University of Wisconsin—Madison engineers have created high-performance, micro-scale solar cells that outshine comparable devices in key performance measures. The miniature solar panels could power myriad personal devices — wearable medical sensors, smartwatches, even autofocusing contact lenses.

    Large, rooftop photovoltaic arrays generate electricity from charges moving vertically. The new, small cells, described today (Aug. 3, 2016) in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies, capture current from charges moving side-to-side, or laterally. And they generate significantly more energy than other sideways solar systems.

    New-generation lateral solar cells promise to be the next big thing for compact devices because arranging electrodes horizontally allows engineers to sidestep a traditional solar cell fabrication process: the arduous task of perfectly aligning multiple layers of the cell’s material atop one another.

    “From a fabrication point of view, it is always going to be easier to make side-by-side structures,” says Hongrui Jiang, a UW–Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering and corresponding author on the paper. “Top-down structures need to be made in multiple steps and then aligned, which is very challenging at small scales.”

    Lateral solar cells also offer engineers greater flexibility in materials selection.

    Top-down photovoltaic cells are made up of two electrodes surrounding a semiconducting material like slices of bread around the meat in a sandwich. When light hits the top slice, charge travels through the filling to the bottom layer and creates electric current.

    In the top-down arrangement, one layer needs to do two jobs: It must let in light and transmit charge. Therefore, the material for one electrode in a typical solar cell must be not only highly transparent, but also electrically conductive. And very few substances perform both tasks well.

    Instead of building its solar cell sandwich one layer at a time, Jiang’s group created a densely packed, side-by-side array of miniature electrodes on top of transparent glass. The resulting structure — akin to an entire loaf of bread’s worth of solar-cell sandwiches standing up sideways on a clear plate — separates light-harvesting and charge-conducting functions between the two components.

    Generally, synthesizing such sideways sandwiches is no simple matter. Other approaches that rely on complicated internal nanowires or expensive materials called perovskites fall short on multiple measures of solar cell quality.

    “We easily beat all of the other lateral structures,” says Jiang.

    Existing top-of the-line lateral new-generation solar cells convert merely 1.8 percent of incoming light into useful electricity. Jiang’s group nearly tripled that measure, achieving up to 5.2 percent efficiency.

    “In other structures, a lot of volume goes wasted because there are no electrodes or the electrodes are mismatched,” says Jiang. “The technology we developed allows us to make very compact lateral structures that take advantage of the full volume.”

    Packing so many electrodes into such a small volume boosted the devices’ “fill factors,” a metric related to the maximum attainable power, voltage and current. The structures realized fill factors up to 0.6 — more than twice the demonstrated maximum for other lateral new-generation solar cells.

    Jiang and colleagues are working to make their solar cells even smaller and more efficient by exploring materials that further optimize transparency and conductivity. Ultimately they plan to develop a small-scale, flexible solar cell that could provide power to an electrically tunable contact lens.

    Other authors on the paper included Xi Zhang, Yinggang Huang, Hao Bian, Hewei Liu, and Xuezhen Huang. The National Institutes of Health provided funding for the research.

    See the full article here .

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    In achievement and prestige, the University of Wisconsin–Madison has long been recognized as one of America’s great universities. A public, land-grant institution, UW–Madison offers a complete spectrum of liberal arts studies, professional programs and student activities. Spanning 936 acres along the southern shore of Lake Mendota, the campus is located in the city of Madison.

  • richardmitnick 7:34 am on June 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, ,   

    From CSIRO: “Watt-ever floats your boat: solar on water” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    22nd June 2016
    Natalie Kikken

    Is it a pool? Is it a raft? No, it’s float-ovoltaics! Credit: Photo courtesy of Lightsource

    Close your eyes and ponder what a commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) farm looks like. Do you envisage arid desert plains glistening with thousands of solar PV panels under abundant sunshine?

    You’re probably not alone thinking such sunny thoughts. But believe it or not, the ideal temperature conditions and landscape for solar PV panels to work most efficiently doesn’t always have to be hot and sunny weather. The amount of energy produced is often influenced by the material of the panels themselves, and recent research has unveiled that sometimes thousands of solar panels floating on water is the best way to increase energy output.

    Floating a bright idea

    We all know PV panels look great on rooftops, but where else can they be installed to maximise the amount of energy being produced and to utilise space? All PV panels become slightly less efficient as their temperature rises, so cooling them can lead to better energy production, especially in warm climates. This is where the idea of building solar PV farms on or near water starts to look more attractive.

    Solar ideas coming up from Down Under

    As is often the case, an Australian company led the way, with one of our former scientists, Phil Connor, designing the first ever floating solar PV system around a decade ago for the Australian company Sunengy Pty Ltd. We tested the first prototype of that system, which is now on the way to becoming commercialised in India.

    Australian company Sunengy’s world-first large floating solar photovoltaic array, and the first installed on a hydro-electric dam. No image credit.

    Thinking outside the solar box

    Scientists across the globe are investigating how to most efficiently build solar PV systems on water to ensure you can power-up using the sun, and enable some industries to generate enough power for their operational requirements. These floating solar farms utilise space that would otherwise go wasted and can also help reduce evaporation. Placing the collectors in a hydro dam, as Sunengy has done, gives free access to the large transmission line, allowing considerably better economy from the PV installation.

    Australia first large floating solar plant was built in Jamestown, South Australia in April 2015, generating up to 45 percent more energy per panel than a rooftop solar system. The city of Lismore announced a call for tenders this year to build the first ever community funded floating solar farm.

    Europe’s largest floating solar power farm was unveiled in London, UK. Built by Thames Water, the farm consists of 23,000 solar panels and will produce enough power to operate the utility’s local water treatment plants including enough clean drinking water for nearly 10,000 people. More construction for bigger and better floating solar farms are already underway.

    Catching the solar floating wave

    So what does this mean for Australia’s energy future, and our landscape? Will we be seeing a sea of solar farms pop up along our Aussie waterways, dams and coastlines?

    One of our solar research gurus, Dr Greg Wilson, thinks floating solar farms could be the way of the future for semi-arid regions of Australia, in particular farmland and waterways for irrigation.

    “Floating solar PV panels reduce evaporation so there is significant potential to create better and more efficient energy systems when used near open irrigation systems or for water treatment plants or large drinking water catchment areas,” said Dr Wilson.

    “Water quality is maintained by circulation of the main body of water so the energy required for this can be offset by the energy produced by the solar panels. It can be far more energy efficient and cost effective to have reduced evaporation than purely generating electrical energy,” he adds.

    Sunengy’s vision is to incorporate hundreds of megawatts of floating solar on the surface of each of our hydroelectric dams to create the lowest cost addition to our renewable energy supplies.

    Looking at the Australian and international examples of floating solar farms that have emerged over the last 12 months, it’s certainly an area for growth.

    We aren’t walking on water just yet but we are leaders in the solar energy space with two active solar research fields including photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal power. We also recently challenged the status quo for energy innovation by holding our first ever Solar Hackathon.

    These heliostats might not be floating on water, but they can spell our name!

    See the full article here .

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    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 9:46 am on June 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, ,   

    From Science Alert: “This is the end of the fossil fuel age as we know it, says report” 


    Science Alert

    16 JUN 2016

    Richie Chan/Shutterstock.com

    You can’t fight the future.

    Fossil fuels are holding on, but end of their reign is nigh, says a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which predicts that wind and solar will be cheaper than coal and gas generators by 2027, and electric vehicles could make up 25 percent of the global car fleet by 2040.

    The peak year for coal, gas, and oil looks to be 2025, and then it’s all downhill from there. For big oil guys, at least. “You can’t fight the future,” says lead researcher, Seb Henbest. “The economics are increasingly locked in.”

    Released on Monday, Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook report has found that US$11.4 trillion will be invested in new energy sources over the next 25 years, and two thirds of that will go towards renewables, particularly wind and solar.

    Any new coal plants will mostly be cropping up in India and other emerging markets in Asia.

    The report explains:

    “Cheaper coal and cheaper gas will not derail the transformation and decarbonisation of the world’s power systems. By 2040, zero-emission energy sources will make up 60 percent of installed capacity.

    Wind and solar will account for 64 percent of the 8.6TW [1 Terawatt = 1,000 Gigawatts] of new power generating capacity added worldwide over the next 25 years, and for almost 60 percent of the $11.4 trillion invested.”

    The report predicts that coal, gas, and oil will peak by 2025, and will hit its final decline even sooner than that, concluding that, “coal and gas will begin their terminal decline in less than a decade”.

    By 2027, the real tipping point will occur, when fossil fuels will be well and truly on the decline and renewables have been established long enough that they’ll likely be generating energy more cheaply than existing coal, gas, and oil refineries. And there’s nothing quite like a cheaper price to accelerate an industry even further.

    Let’s just take a moment and think about that for a second. For the first time since humanity fell in love with producing crazy amounts of energy to give us such luxuries as cars, electricity, industrial-level food production, and overseas vacations, we’ve figured out how to do it without stomping all over the environment in the process.

    We’re not there yet, but the writing is well and truly on the wall, and that’s a pretty phenomenal achievement by researchers all over the world who have been working their butts off to make renewable technologies viable on a massive scale – even more viable than fossil fuels.

    But here’s the bad news. For as promising as the rise of renewables and the fall of fossil fuels is, Bloomberg’s report says their projections won’t be enough to limit the global warming increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) that was targeted by the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

    “Some US$7.8 trillion will be invested globally in renewables between 2016 and 2040, two-thirds of the investment in all power generating capacity, but it would require trillions more to bring world emissions onto a track compatible with the United Nations 2 degrees Celsius climate target,” says Henbest.

    According to Andrew Freedman at Mashable, to meet what everyone agreed needed to happen at the Paris Conference, an additional US$5.3 trillion in new clean energy investment would need to be invested worldwide in the next 25 years.

    Below are some more insights from the report:

    Coal and gas prices will stay low.
    Wind and solar costs fall sharply.
    An electric car boom is expected, and will likely represent 35 percent of worldwide new light-duty vehicle sales in 2040 – which is 90 times the 2015 figure – and 25 percent of the global car fleet overall.
    Small-scale battery storage will become a US$250 billion market to enable more residential and commercial solar systems.
    India, not China, will be the key to the future global emissions trend, with its electricity demand forecast to grow 3.8 times between 2016 and 2040.
    Renewables will dominate in Europe, and overtake gas in the US.

    You can access the report online here.

    To be clear, these are just very educated predictions based on government and industry spending, so none of this is set in stone. But experts have been predicting the end of the fossil fuel era for years now, and we’re probably going to see it within our lifetime. What an awesome thing to look forward to.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:03 pm on June 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, Hydrogen power, UI, UI scientists using sunlight and water to make clean energy   

    From UI: “UI scientists using sunlight, water to make clean energy” 

    UI bloc

    University of Iowa

    Andrea Zeek

    University of Iowa researchers are working with a California-based startup company to make clean energy from sunlight and any source of water.

    The university recently renewed a one-year research agreement to further develop the technology with HyperSolar, a company that aims to commercialize low-cost renewable hydrogen.

    UI researchers have developed a small solar-powered electrochemical device that can help make energy using sunlight and water. Photo courtesy of Syed Mubeen.

    Hydrogen power is arguably one of the cleanest and greenest energy sources because when it produces energy, the final byproduct is water instead of carbon emissions. Hydrogen power also can be stored in a fuel cell, making it more reliable than traditional solar cells or solar panels, which need regular sunlight to remain “on.”

    HyperSolar’s lead scientist, Syed Mubeen, a chemical engineering professor at the UI, says although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, the amount of pure hydrogen in the Earth’s atmosphere is very low (about 0.00005 percent), so it must be produced artificially.

    Currently, most hydrogen power is made from fossil fuels in a chemical process called steam reforming, which emits carbon dioxide. Even though the end product is hydrogen, its inputs make it much less environmentally friendly and sustainable.

    Hydrogen also can be made using electrolysis, which requires electricity and highly purified water to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Although this is a sustainable process (assuming the electricity is produced from a renewable energy source), the cost of materials associated with the system are expensive—a major barrier to the affordable production of renewable hydrogen.

    “Developing clean energy systems is a goal worldwide,” Mubeen says. “Currently, we understand how clean energy systems such as solar cells, wind turbines, et cetera, work at a high level of sophistication. The real challenge going forward is to develop inexpensive clean energy systems that can be cost competitive to fossil fuel systems and be adopted globally and not just in the developed countries.”

    With HyperSolar, Mubeen and his team at the UI’s Optical Science and Technology Center are developing a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to manufacture hydrogen by drawing inspiration from plants. So far, the researchers have created a small solar-powered electrochemical device that can be placed in any type of water, including seawater and wastewater. When sunlight shines through the water and hits the solar device, the photon energy in sunlight takes the water (a lower energy state) and converts it to hydrogen (a higher energy state), where it can be stored like a battery. The energy is harvested when the hydrogen is converted back into its lower energy state: water. This is similar to what plants do using photosynthesis, during which plants use photons from the sun to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates—some of which are stored in fruits and roots for later use.

    Mubeen says his team is currently working to lower costs even further and to make their process more robust so it can be produced on a mass scale. That way, it eventually could be used as renewable electricity or to power hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

    “Although H2 can be used in many forms, the immediate possibility of this renewable H2 would be for use in fuel cells to generate electricity or react with CO2 to form liquid fuels like methanol for the transportation sector,” he says. “If one could develop these systems at costs competitive to fossil fuel systems, then it would be a home run.”

    See the full article here .

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    UI campus

    UI is a flagship public research university in Iowa City, Iowa. Founded in 1847, Iowa is the oldest university in the state. The University of Iowa is organized into eleven colleges offering more than 200 areas of study and seven professional degrees.

    The Iowa campus spans 1,700 acres centered along the banks of the Iowa River and includes the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, named one of “America’s Best Hospitals” for the 25th year in a row. The university was the original developer of the Master of Fine Arts degree[8] and it operates the world-renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Iowa has very high research activity, and is a member of several research coalitions, including the prestigious Association of American Universities, the Universities Research Association, and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.

    The University of Iowa was founded on February 25, 1847, just 59 days after Iowa was admitted to the Union. The Constitution of the State of Iowa refers to a State University to be established in Iowa City “without branches at any other place.” The legal name of the university is the State University of Iowa, but the Board of Regents approved using the “University of Iowa” for everyday usage in October 1964.

    The first faculty offered instruction at the university beginning in March 1855 to students in the Old Mechanics Building, located where Seashore Hall is now. In September 1855, there were 124 students, of whom forty-one were women. The 1856–57 catalogue listed nine departments offering ancient languages, modern languages, intellectual philosophy, moral philosophy, history, natural history, mathematics, natural philosophy, and chemistry.

  • richardmitnick 8:11 am on June 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, Nuclear power,   

    From SA: “The Nuclear Option Could Be Best Bet to Combat Climate Change” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    June 3, 2016
    Umair Irfan, ClimateWire

    The 1.2-gigawatt Callaway Energy Center is Missouri’s third-largest power producer, and its cooling tower is the second-tallest structure in the state. Credit: Photo by Umair Irfan

    The 31-year-old Callaway Energy Center is doing some heavy lifting.

    Missouri’s lone nuclear power plant produces 11.7 percent of the state’s electricity from one reactor cranking out 1.2 gigawatts, making it the third-largest electricity producer in the state. Its 553-foot-tall, cloud-spewing cooling tower is the second-tallest structure in Missouri behind the St. Louis Arch, two hours’ drive east.

    Operated by Ameren Missouri, Callaway’s Westinghouse four-loop pressurized water reactor provides electricity to 1.2 million customers. The $3 billion facility puts more than 800 employees and contractors to work.

    In the humming reactor control simulation room, with tan walls filled with dials, knobs, switches, lights and monitors, Barry Cox, senior director of nuclear operations at Callaway, explains that engineers train to make the plant withstand earthquakes, tornadoes and human error. But most of the indicator lights are off and the room is quiet, save the sounds of ventilation.

    “This is what it’s like in the plant at night, 2 o’clock in the morning,” he says.

    Engineers are working to keep up the steady, if boring, plant operations, especially since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended Callaway’s license last year to run until 2044.

    “We are a baseload plant,” Cox says. “About 3,565 megawatts thermal and about 1,283 MW electric go out onto the grid. So it’s about 30 percent efficiency from what I have to produce inside the core from a heat point of view to what I get out on the electric grid, and that’s typical for all steam-producing plants.”

    But Callaway really flexes its muscles when it comes to zero-carbon-emissions energy in a coal-heavy portfolio. Missouri gets 82 percent of its electricity from coal, and the recently bankrupt Peabody Energy Corp., the nation’s largest coal company, is based in St. Louis.

    The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that Missouri ranks 13th in total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power provide the state with just 2.2 percent of its electricity. That means 83 percent of Missouri’s carbon-free energy comes from Callaway.

    Many analysts are now calling not just to preserve existing nuclear power plants, but to invest in new designs to help fight climate change. “A new round of innovation for nuclear reactors would be quite important,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz last month.

    Across the United States, nuclear provides 20 percent of all electricity and more than 60 percent of greenhouse gas-free electricity. But some plants have already shut down ahead of schedule, and others may do so, as well, not because of environmental opposition but because of market forces.

    “In the United States today, we have some older plants shutting down,” Moniz said. “The pattern is obvious: It’s principally plants in competitive markets faced with very low natural gas prices.”

    A clear role in the Clean Power Plan

    Nuclear energy’s clean bona fides may be its saving grace in a wobbling global energy market that is trying to balance climate change ambitions, skittish economies and low prices for oil and natural gas. Many countries are wrestling with the nuclear option as stalwarts like France tap the brakes, Japan uneasily presses on and China drops a cinder block on the gas pedal.

    Some nuclear advocates argue that in the climate fight, nuclear energy deserves many of the same considerations as wind, solar and other renewable energy. Callaway and 98 reactors like it in the United States are facing an identity crisis over whether they count as clean. In a country about to go on a strict carbon diet, the nuclear energy industry wants to make sure it’s still on the menu.

    However, sticker shock and staunch public opposition continue to haunt the nuclear industry, and other nations are watching the sector closely to see whether they should make billion-dollar investments in reactors to fight climate change and grow their economies.

    “Nuclear is without a question the most important environmental technology in the 21st century,” said Michael Shellenberger, an advocate for nuclear power and president of Environmental Progress.

    He said nuclear is the highest rung on the energy ladder that civilizations climb as they move to denser fuels from biomass, to coal, to oil, to gas and finally to uranium. “From an energy and environmental and development perspective, I want everybody to go up the hierarchy of energy,” Shellenberger said.

    Under U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions in the power sector, new nuclear power plants and reactors upgraded to produce more power count toward states’ carbon goals.

    “The language in that rule is very explicit about the role that nuclear can and should play in mitigating against climate change going forward,” said John Keeley, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute. “We’re really, really excited about that.”

    The Clean Power Plan requires Missouri to lower its emissions by 36.7 percent by 2030. The state was one of 27 that filed lawsuits against the rule, and pending legislation may block funding for compliance plans (ClimateWire, April 28).

    A reactor that doesn’t need ‘babysitting’?

    According to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the state spent $6.7 billion on electricity generation in 2010. The weighted average price of electricity across economic sectors in Missouri ranked the state 34th in the country.

    Keeping the nuclear option open would take a massive bite out of carbon pollution, and a growing cohort of environmental activists is pushing to make this happen. Unlike wind and solar power, nuclear can run at full blast almost all the time while emitting zero carbon dioxide.

    The nuclear industry would also like recognition for existing nuclear power plants as a bulwark against climate change, arguing that states should count nuclear energy toward their renewable portfolio standards and afford them the same tax incentives and subsidies as renewables.

    Momentum is building for nuclear energy in some parts of the world, with China leading the charge. The country has 32 nuclear reactors online, 22 under construction and more in the planning stages, putting it on a trajectory to hit 150 GW of nuclear power generation by 2030.

    In 2012, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the first new reactors in the United States in 30 years. Among students in the country, nuclear engineering is becoming a more popular major (ClimateWire, Dec. 15, 2014).

    The renewed interest in nuclear energy has led to startup companies developing “fourth-generation” reactor designs that are walkaway safe, meaning that if left unattended, they safely coast to a halt.

    “All three generations of nuclear technology that are out there today require babysitting,” said Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates during a panel last month in Washington, D.C. “The nuclear industry has never designed an inherently safe product.”

    Gates is the largest investor in TerraPower, a nuclear energy firm that’s developing a reactor that runs on depleted uranium, a waste product of the enrichment process used to make fuel for conventional reactors, yielding a fiftyfold gain in fuel efficiency.

    He acknowledged, however, that it may take a long time for new reactors to gain enough traction to start making a dent in global greenhouse gas emissions. “We’re moving faster than anybody ever has in that space, but that’s about a 30-year period, assuming things go really well,” Gates said.

    Nuclear advocates eye many power sources

    Other companies, like NuScale Power, are developing small modular reactors. Rather than building one-of-a-kind, billion-dollar, gigawatt-scale plants, NuScale is proposing a reactor with a smaller output fabricated on an assembly line and dropped in place. The smaller scale means lower upfront costs, and mass production would lead to economies of scale.

    “To me, what may end up being the most important thing is if this is an attractive technology, the capital requirements and financial structures are so different that it opens up the geography” to other markets that don’t have billions to spend, Moniz said. “This year, we expect that NuScale will be submitting a design certification application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It’s for a roughly 50-MW reactor.”

    However, existing reactors are tacking into the wind, in terms of economics and politics. Vermont independent Sen. and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has laid out a plan to decommission every reactor in the United States.

    Nuclear supporters warn that letting aging reactors wither would harm the fight against climate change as coal- and natural-gas-fired generators ramp up to fill the gaping void. The 2012 shutdown of the 2 GW San Onofre nuclear plant in California raised generation costs by $350 million the following year, and carbon dioxide emissions in the state increased by 9 million metric tons, the equivalent of putting 2 million more cars on the road.

    Mark Jacobson, an energy researcher at Stanford University who found that it’s feasible for much of the world to run on wind, water and sunlight, acknowledged that nuclear energy has some carbon benefits but said it has an insurmountable drawback of opportunity costs, namely the billions of dollars needed upfront and the decades it takes to plan and build reactors.

    “If you’re looking at just one technology in isolation, maybe you don’t care about that opportunity cost,” he said. “But when you’re comparing the two technologies, that becomes relevant. If you have $1 to spend, would you rather spend that on nuclear or wind?”

    But the nuclear industry isn’t arguing to be the only option on the table, saying instead that it wants to be an appetizing entree in a buffet of energy options to fight climate change.

    “You don’t want to go all in on any one technology,” said NEI’s Keeley. “And NEI is pretty clear about that, too. We see a role for renewables. We see a role for natural gas. We see a role for nuclear.”

    See the full article here .

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    Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 160 years.

  • richardmitnick 10:51 am on May 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, Electricity from seawater,   

    From phys.org: “Electricity from seawater: New method efficiently produces hydrogen peroxide for fuel cells” 


    May 20, 2016
    Lisa Zyga

    Credit: Mr. William Folsom, NOAA, NMFS

    Scientists have used sunlight to turn seawater (H2O) into hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which can then be used in fuel cells to generate electricity. It is the first photocatalytic method of H2O2 production that achieves a high enough efficiency so that the H2O2 can be used in a fuel cell.

    The researchers, led by Shunichi Fukuzumi at Osaka University, have published a paper* on the new method of the photocatalytic production of hydrogen peroxide in a recent issue of Nature Communications.

    “The most earth-abundant resource, seawater, is utilized to produce a solar fuel that is H2O2,” Fukuzumi told Phys.org.

    The biggest advantage of using liquid H2O2 instead of gaseous hydrogen (H2), as most fuel cells today use, is that the liquid form is much easier to store at high densities. Typically, H2 gas must be either highly compressed, or in certain cases, cooled to its liquid state at cryogenic temperatures. In contrast, liquid H2O2 can be stored and transported at high densities much more easily and safely.

    The problem is that that, until now, there has been no efficient photocatalytic method of producing liquid H2O2. (There are ways to produce H2O2 that don’t use sunlight, but they require so much energy that they are not practical for use in a method whose goal is to produce energy.)

    In the new study, the researchers developed a new photoelectrochemical cell, which is basically a solar cell that produces H2O2. When sunlight illuminates the photocatalyst, the photocatalyst absorbs photons and uses the energy to initiate chemical reactions (seawater oxidation and the reduction of O2) in a way that ultimately produces H2O2.

    After illuminating the cell for 24 hours, the concentration of H2O2 in the seawater reached about 48 mM, which greatly exceeds previous reported values of about 2 mM in pure water. Investigating the reason for this big difference, the researchers found that the negatively charged chlorine in seawater is mainly responsible for enhancing the photocatalytic activity and yielding the higher concentration.

    Overall, the system has a total solar-to-electricity efficiency of 0.28%. (The photocatalytic production of H2O2 from seawater has an efficiency of 0.55%, and the fuel cell has an efficiency of 50%.)

    Although the total efficiency compares favorably to that of some other solar-to-electricity sources, such as switchgrass (0.2%), it is still much lower than the efficiency of conventional solar cells. The researchers expect that the efficiency can be improved in the future by using better materials in the photoelectrochemical cell, and they also plan to find methods to reduce the cost of production.

    “In the future, we plan to work on developing a method for the low-cost, large-scale production of H2O2 from seawater,” Fukuzumi said. “This may replace the current high-cost production of H2O2 from H2 (from mainly natural gas) and O2.”

    Science paper:
    Seawater usable for production and consumption of hydrogen peroxide as a solar fuel

    See the full article here .

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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

  • richardmitnick 11:31 am on April 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy,   

    From Notre Dame: “Wind energy and plasma research” 

    Notre Dame bloc

    Notre Dame University

    April 19, 2016
    Brandi Klingerman

    As the world looks for new ways to diversify its energy supply and find renewable resources to power the earth’s growing energy consumption needs, new research from the University of Notre Dame has identified a potential way to make an existing renewable resource – wind energy – more efficient in power production.

    Notre Dame White Field

    Thomas Corke, the Clark Chair Professor in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and founding director of the Notre Dame Institute for Flow Physics and Control (FlowPAC), along with a team of collaborative researchers, developed a new plasma actuator that can be used to make a more capable design for wind turbine airflow and control than previous systems. When applied to wind turbines, this actuator could increase the amount of energy that can be produced by up to 10 percent and significantly reduce the wind loads on the rotor blades, improving their longevity.

    The University of Notre Dame has recently licensed the plasma actuators, along with a set of improvements in flow control, as part of a patent portfolio. The portfolio includes active devices that reduce turbulent air and improve a turbine’s ability to capture energy from wind.

    The active devices utilize the actuator to affect wind as it moves over a wind turbine’s blade, thus modifying airflow to obtain flow improvement. The effect is a “virtual shaping” of the rotor blade. The advancement is cost-effective, as Aquanis, LLC – the company who has acquired the patent – predicts that the technology can be easily incorporated in new blade design and potentially adapted to existing turbines and that use of the device can pay for itself in less than two years.

    University of Notre Dame faculty who contributed to the development of these licensed technologies include Eric Jumper, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering as well as the director of the Aero-Optics group; Robert Nelson, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering; and Flint Thomas, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering. Other contributing researchers include Carl Enloe and Thomas McLaughlin from the United States Air Force, as well as Alan Cain and Mehul Patel with the Innovative Technologies Applications Company.

    When speaking about his team’s work, Corke said, “I, along with an impressive group of Notre Dame engineers and other researchers, conducted research analyzing wind turbines and how deficiencies – in terms of potential generated power – could be resolved,” said Corke, “The patent portfolio is a package of inventions that were developed to overcome these shortcomings in several ways and improve our ability to harness wind energy.”

    “At FlowPAC, we try to enhance and develop the performance of various technologies,” said Corke. “So whether we are working with an aircraft in relation to drag, jet engines in relation to stall, or wind turbines in relation to energy extraction, we work together to identify the limitations and how we can improve them through flow control.”

    The flow control patent portfolio that was licensed by Tech Transfer at the University of Notre Dame was ceremonially signed over to Aquanis, LLC on April 12, 2016. Neal Fine, the Chief Executive Officer of Aquanis, joined Corke at the signing. To learn more about the flow control research conducted at Notre Dame, click here.

    See the full article here .

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    Notre Dame Campus

    The University of Notre Dame du Lac (or simply Notre Dame /ˌnoʊtərˈdeɪm/ NOH-tər-DAYM) is a Catholic research university located near South Bend, Indiana, in the United States. In French, Notre Dame du Lac means “Our Lady of the Lake” and refers to the university’s patron saint, the Virgin Mary.

    The school was founded by Father Edward Sorin, CSC, who was also its first president. Today, many Holy Cross priests continue to work for the university, including as its president. It was established as an all-male institution on November 26, 1842, on land donated by the Bishop of Vincennes. The university first enrolled women undergraduates in 1972. As of 2013 about 48 percent of the student body was female.[6] Notre Dame’s Catholic character is reflected in its explicit commitment to the Catholic faith, numerous ministries funded by the school, and the architecture around campus. The university is consistently ranked one of the top universities in the United States and as a major global university.

    The university today is organized into five colleges and one professional school, and its graduate program has 15 master’s and 26 doctoral degree programs.[7][8] Over 80% of the university’s 8,000 undergraduates live on campus in one of 29 single-sex residence halls, each of which fields teams for more than a dozen intramural sports, and the university counts approximately 120,000 alumni.[9]

    The university is globally recognized for its Notre Dame School of Architecture, a faculty that teaches (pre-modernist) traditional and classical architecture and urban planning (e.g. following the principles of New Urbanism and New Classical Architecture).[10] It also awards the renowned annual Driehaus Architecture Prize.

  • richardmitnick 9:30 am on April 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy,   

    From Science Alert: “Meet Triton: a device that could supply a third of America’s power” 


    Science Alert

    15 APR 2016

    It’s basically a wave harvester.


    Humanity is obsessed with the sea. Maybe it’s because it’s an environment that we’re simply not meant to survive in, like space. Or, maybe it’s because we feel small when we look at it from the coastline. But the one undeniable thing about the ocean is that it’s powerful – much more powerful than any one person.

    That all sounds pretty poetic, but humanity might soon benefit from the vast power of the ocean by harnessing it with a new device called the Triton, and with over 332,519,000 cubic miles (that’s 1,385,999,652.41 cubic kilometres) of ocean water, you can bet there’s a lot of energy moving around out there in the form of waves.

    To harness all that potential energy, researchers from Oscilla Power – a US-based renewable energy company – came up with a device that contains a series of generators and floats on top of the ocean’s surface. The whole thing is kept in place by underwater cables.

    “As waves interact with the device, there is an alternating magnetic polarity created in the metal that is used to generate electricity,” reports Meagan Parrish for ChemInfo.

    The team explains that the Triton will not use any moving parts to collect energy, which makes it perfect for ocean use where waves will undoubtedly knock it all over the place.

    In fact, the researchers are counting on it moving, because that’s basically how it generates power. As they put it, energy is captured “by the use of flexible tethers, themselves enabled by an asymmetric heave plate, Triton uniquely captures energy from heave, pitch, sway and roll motions”.

    Right now, the Triton is undergoing small-scale trials to ensure that it can handle the large jostling it’s going to receive in the real ocean. Though it’s still very early, reports indicate that if the team is successful in their design, Triton could provide up to a third of America’s power and about 15 percent of global demand.

    Exactly how much power is that, though? The team says each one of their Tritons could produce 600kW of power, while the average household in the US consumes roughly 911kWh (1.26kW) each month. That’s about 500 houses with a single unit, which is way better than an entire wind turbine.

    Now that’s a significant amount of power. The only question is whether or not the device will really pan out the way researchers are envisioning it. Fingers crossed.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 5:48 pm on February 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, ,   

    From UTA: “one-step process to convert carbon dioxide and water directly into renewable liquid hydrocarbon fuels” 

    U Texas Arlington

    University of Texas at Arlington

    February 22, 2016
    Louisa Kellie,
    Office 817‑272‑0864
    cell 817-524-8926

    A team of University of Texas at Arlington chemists and engineers have proven that concentrated light, heat and high pressures can drive the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water directly into useable liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

    This simple and inexpensive new sustainable fuels technology could potentially help limit global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make fuel. The process also reverts oxygen back into the system as a byproduct of the reaction, with a clear positive environmental impact, researchers said.

    “Our process also has an important advantage over battery or gaseous-hydrogen powered vehicle technologies as many of the hydrocarbon products from our reaction are exactly what we use in cars, trucks and planes, so there would be no need to change the current fuel distribution system,“ said Frederick MacDonnell, UTA interim chair of chemistry and biochemistry and co-principal investigator of the project.

    In an article published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled Solar photothermochemical alkane reverse combustion, the researchers demonstrate that the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water into liquid hydrocarbons and oxygen can be achieved in a photothermochemical flow reactor operating at 180 to 200 C and pressures up to 6 atmospheres.

    “We are the first to use both light and heat to synthesize liquid hydrocarbons in a single stage reactor from carbon dioxide and water,” said Brian Dennis, UTA professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and co-principal investigator of the project. “Concentrated light drives the photochemical reaction, which generates high-energy intermediates and heat to drive thermochemical carbon-chain-forming reactions, thus producing hydrocarbons in a single-step process.”

    Duane Dimos, UTA vice president for research commended the researchers on their success.

    “Discovering a one-step process to generate renewable hydrocarbon fuels from carbon dioxide and water is a huge achievement,“ Dimos said. “This work strengthens UTA’s reputation as a leading research institution in the area of Global Environmental Impact, as laid out in our Strategic Plan 2020.”

    The hybrid photochemical and thermochemical catalyst used for the experiment was based on titanium dioxide, a white powder that cannot absorb the entire visible light spectrum.

    “Our next step is to develop a photo-catalyst better matched to the solar spectrum,” MacDonnell said. “Then we could more effectively use the entire spectrum of incident light to work towards the overall goal of a sustainable solar liquid fuel.“

    The authors envision using parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight on the catalyst bed, providing both heat and photo-excitation for the reaction. Excess heat could even be used to drive related operations for a solar fuels facility, including product separations and water purification.

    The research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Robert A. Welch Foundation. Wilaiwan Chanmanee, postdoctoral research associate in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Mohammad Fakrul Islam, graduate research assistant and Ph.D. candidate in the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UTA, also participated in the project.

    MacDonnell and Dennis have received more than $2.6 million in grants and corporate funding for sustainable energy projects over the last four years.

    MacDonnell and Dennis’ investigations also are focused on converting natural gas for use as high-grade diesel and jet fuel. The researchers developed the gas-to-liquid technology in collaboration with an industrial partner in UTA’s Center for Renewable Energy and Science Technology, or CREST, lab, and are now working to commercialize the process.

    MacDonnell also has worked on developing new photocatalysts for hydrogen generation, with the goal of creating an artificial photosynthetic system which uses solar energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen could then be used as a clean fuel.

    MacDonnell joined the College of Science in 1995, following his postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard. He earned his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Northwestern University.

    Dennis joined the College of Engineering in 2004 as an assistant professor. He earned his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering at Pennsylvania State University and completed his postdoctoral work in Environmental Engineering at the University of Tokyo.

    See the full article here .

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    U Texas Arlington Campus

    The University of Texas at Arlington is a growing research powerhouse committed to life-enhancing discovery, innovative instruction, and caring community engagement. An educational leader in the heart of the thriving North Texas region, UT Arlington nurtures minds within an environment that values excellence, ingenuity, and diversity.

    Guided by world-class faculty members, the University’s more than 48,000 students in Texas and around the world represent 120 countries and pursue more than 180 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a broad range of disciplines. UT Arlington is dedicated to producing the lifelong learners and critical thinkers our region and nation demand. More than 60 percent of the University’s 190,000 alumni live in North Texas and contribute to our annual economic impact of $12.8 billion in the region.

    With a growing number of campus residents, UT Arlington has become a first-choice university for students seeking a vibrant college experience. In addition to receiving a first-rate education, our students participate in a robust slate of co-curricular activities that prepare them to become the next generation of leaders.

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