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  • richardmitnick 12:26 pm on August 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy, MITEI   

    From MITEI at MIT: “Microbial engineering technique could reduce contamination in biofermentation plants” 

    MIT News
    MIT News
    MIT Widget


    August 4, 2016
    Helen Knight

    Approach could lower cost and eliminate need for antibiotics during biofuel production.

    The ability to ferment low-cost feedstocks under nonsterile conditions may enable new classes of biochemicals and biofuels, such as microbial oil produced by the yeast Yarrowia lipolytica (shown here, oil in lipid bodies is stained green and cells walls stained blue). Photo: Novogy, Inc.

    The cost and environmental impact of producing liquid biofuels and biochemicals as alternatives to petroleum-based products could be significantly reduced, thanks to a new metabolic engineering technique.

    Liquid biofuels are increasingly used around the world, either as a direct “drop-in” replacement for gasoline, or as an additive that helps reduce carbon emissions.

    The fuels and chemicals are often produced using microbes to convert sugars from corn, sugar cane, or cellulosic plant mass into products such as ethanol and other chemicals, by fermentation. However, this process can be expensive, and developers have struggled to cost-effectively ramp up production of advanced biofuels to large-scale manufacturing levels.

    One particular problem facing producers is the contamination of fermentation vessels with other, unwanted microbes. These invaders can outcompete the producer microbes for nutrients, reducing yield and productivity.

    Ethanol is known to be toxic to most microorganisms other than the yeast used to produce it,Saccharomyces cerevisiae, naturally preventing contamination of the fermentation process. However, this is not the case for the more advanced biofuels and biochemicals under development.

    To kill off invading microbes, companies must instead use either steam sterilization, which requires fermentation vessels to be built from expensive stainless steels, or costly antibiotics. Exposing large numbers of bacteria to these drugs encourages the appearance of tolerant bacterial strains, which can contribute to the growing global problem of antibiotic resistance.

    Now, in a paper published today in the journal Science, researchers at MIT and the Cambridge startup Novogy describe a new technique that gives producer microbes the upper hand against unwanted invaders, eliminating the need for such expensive and potentially harmful sterilization methods.

    The researchers engineered microbes, such as Escherichia coli, with the ability to extract nitrogen and phosphorous — two vital nutrients needed for growth — from unconventional sources that could be added to the fermentation vessels, according to Gregory Stephanopoulos, the Willard Henry Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at MIT, and Joe Shaw, senior director of research and development at Novogy, who led the research.

    What’s more, because the engineered strains only possess this advantage when they are fed these unconventional chemicals, the chances of them escaping and growing in an uncontrolled manner outside of the plant in a natural environment are extremely low.

    “We created microbes that can utilize some xenobiotic compounds that contain nitrogen, such as melamine,” Stephanopoulos says. Melamine is a xenobiotic, or artificial, chemical that contains 67 percent nitrogen by weight.

    Conventional biofermentation refineries typically use ammonium to supply microbes with a source of nitrogen. But contaminating organisms, such as Lactobacilli, can also extract nitrogen from ammonium, allowing them to grow and compete with the producer microorganisms.

    In contrast, these organisms do not have the genetic pathways needed to utilize melamine as a nitrogen source, says Stephanopoulos.

    “They need that special pathway to be able to utilize melamine, and if they don’t have it they cannot incorporate nitrogen, so they cannot grow,” he says.

    The researchers engineered E. coli with a synthetic six-step pathway that allows it to express enzymes needed to convert melamine to ammonia and carbon dioxide, in a strategy they have dubbed ROBUST (Robust Operation By Utilization of Substrate Technology).

    When they experimented with a mixed culture of the engineered E. coli strain and a naturally occurring strain, they found the engineered type rapidly outcompeted the control, when fed on melamine.

    They then investigated engineering the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to express a gene that allowed it to convert the nitrile-containing chemical cyanamide into urea, from which it could obtain nitrogen.

    The engineered strain was then able to grow with cyanamide as its only nitrogen source.

    Finally, the researchers engineered both S. cerevisiae and the yeast Yarrowia lipolytica to use potassium phosphite as a source of phosphorous.

    Like the engineered E. coli strain, both the engineered yeasts were able to outcompete naturally occurring strains when fed on these chemicals.

    “So by engineering the strains to make them capable of utilizing these unconventional sources of phosphorous and nitrogen, we give them an advantage that allows them to outcompete any other microbes that may invade the fermenter without sterilization,” Stephanopoulos says.

    The microbes were tested successfully on a variety of biomass feedstocks, including corn mash, cellulosic hydrolysate, and sugar cane, where they demonstrated no loss of productivity when compared to naturally occurring strains.

    The paper provides a novel approach to allow companies to select for their productive microbes and select against contaminants, according to Jeff Lievense, a senior engineering fellow at the San Diego-based biotechnology company Genomatica who was not involved in the research.

    “In theory you could operate a fermentation plant with much less expensive equipment and lower associated operating costs,” Lievense says. “I would say you could cut the capital and capital-related costs [of fermentation] in half, and for very large-volume chemicals, that kind of saving is very significant,” he says.

    The ROBUST strategy is now ready for industrial evaluation, Shaw says. The technique was developed with Novogy researchers, who have tested the engineered strains at laboratory scale and trials with 1,000-liter fermentation vessels, and with Felix Lam of the MIT Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, who led the cellulosic hydrosylate testing.

    Novogy now hopes to use the technology in its own advanced biofuel and biochemical production, and is also interested in licensing it for use by other manufacturers, Shaw says.

    See the full article here .

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

  • richardmitnick 3:29 pm on February 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy, , Wind power in China   

    From SA: “China Blows Past the U.S. in Wind Power” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    February 2, 2016
    Daniel Cusick

    Wind farm in Xinjiang, China
    Wind farm in Xinjiang, China

    China solidified its standing as the world’s wind energy behemoth in 2015, adding almost as much wind power capacity in one year as the total installed capacity of the three largest U.S. wind-producing states: Texas, Iowa and California.

    New data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance show China installed just under 29 gigawatts of new wind energy capacity in 2015, surpassing its previous record of roughly 21 GW set in 2014. The country also accounted for more than 46 percent of all wind power installed globally for the year, eclipsing the next largest market, the United States, which added 8.6 GW (ClimateWire, Jan. 28).

    Amy Grace, head of wind insight at BNEF, said the Chinese growth figure was the biggest surprise of 2015 and roughly 4 GW higher than analysts predicted. After China and the United States, the world’s largest markets for new wind power in 2015 were Germany, India and Brazil, with gross installs of 3.7, 2.6 and 2.6 GW, respectively.

    Grace noted in an email that Chinese developers “got very excited about qualifying projects” before the government implemented a second round of reductions to its feed-in tariff program for onshore wind farms. The reforms, initiated in early 2015, reduced payments to turbine owners by roughly 3 cents per kilowatt-hour across the country’s primary wind-energy-producing regions in the north and west of the country.

    But a rush to collect cash wasn’t the only driving factor behind China’s wind energy boom, according to other experts who track the country’s energy indicators. Nor does a boom in Chinese turbine installations necessarily translate into a proportionate gain in electricity flowing to China’s grid.

    Joanna Lewis, an associate professor of science, technology and international affairs at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, said China’s wind power sector has also been aided by a steep decline in manufacturing and installation costs, as well as the establishment of a robust domestic supply chain, led by the nation’s industry leader, Goldwind.

    “The feed-in tariff is still important as a driver,” Lewis said, “but there are other government policies and incentives that are continuing to drive the rapid pace” of wind power development in China. They include the central government’s commitment to replace heavily polluting coal-fired power plants, which are blamed for wrenching air conditions in China’s cities, with non-emitting resources such as wind, solar and hydropower.

    As part of that commitment, the government has pledged to produce 15 percent of all electricity by 2020 using renewable resources, including 250 GW of wind power expected to come online by the end of the decade.

    “This is partly about reducing carbon emissions, but it’s also an air quality issue that has become very, very urgent,” said Kate Gordon, vice chairwoman for climate and sustainable urbanization at the Paulson Institute, the China-focused environmental policy think tank led by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

    Gordon and Lewis also stressed that China’s clean energy story is only partly about capacity additions. The country still has considerable work ahead to effectively integrate renewable energy resources into the national grid. Among the hurdles are basic grid connectivity, but also the need for more effective management of the country’s power supply so that renewable energy resources are optimized.

    While investment in China’s power grid has risen substantially, the country still has some of the world’s highest curtailment rates for renewable energy, meaning thousands of turbines are taken offline, even under optimum wind conditions, because grid operators lack the knowledge and skills to integrate the clean energy with other sources, including baseload power from coal plants.

    Because of those limitations, Lewis said the United States remains a world leader in wind energy because capacity factors and utilization rates are much higher on average for U.S. wind turbines than for Chinese turbines.

    But China’s turbine technology is improving quickly, and it is closing the gap in the wind industry supply chain against other global brands.

    According to BNEF, Beijing-based Goldwind dominated the Chinese domestic market in 2015, accounting for 7.7 GW of China’s new capacity, followed by rival Guodian United Power Technology Co. Ltd. with 2.9 GW, and Envision Energy and Ming Yang Wind Power Group Ltd., each with 2.7 GW of new capacity.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:54 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy,   

    From SA: “A Turning Point in Combating Climate Change May Be Here” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    December 14, 2015
    Shannon Hall

    Investigations against oil and coal companies raise optimism for a cleaner future

    Darryl Peroni ©iStock.com

    The world is shifting. At least that’s what Bill McKibben, a leading environmental activist, tweeted on November 6. He was referring to the recent wave of push-back against fossil fuel companies. On November 5 New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation against ExxonMobil for potentially lying to the public and investors about the risks of climate change. The next day, the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Canadian tar sands to refineries near Houston, was rejected by Pres. Barack Obama and effectively killed. Then only two days later, Peabody Energy announced that a two-year investigation by Schneiderman had come to a close, forcing the company to disclose any financial risks it faces from future government policies and regulations related to climate change.

    It is tempting to take the rush of recent events optimistically, especially if you have been waiting to see more concerted action against human causes of climate change. In addition to McKibben, several activists, scientists and environmental lawyers agree the world is shifting from one doused in denial to one that might take big steps in the right direction. Such news, however, begs the question: What’s behind this change of heart? “The science is strong and getting stronger,” says Richard Alley, a geoscientist at The Pennsylvania State University. “And despite great efforts by clever people over decades, no one has succeeded in finding any real problems with the science or in generating any serious competing ideas.” But what’s more likely to change public opinion, many climate scientists point out, is the extreme weather prevalent today. Whether it is California’s record-breaking drought or the fact that 2015, like the year before it, will set yet another first for the hottest year on record, people are now seeing the impacts that likely arise from climate change in their own backyards. It is no longer a threat relegated to the future and faraway places.

    Not only is the public beginning to accept climate change as a real danger, they’re realizing that fighting it is a viable option. Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann points to “the remarkable growth of renewable energy” as adding to the sense that public perception is at a tipping point. Cleaner energy sources are surging so much that 2014 marked the first time in 40 years that global carbon dioxide emissions stalled, and even dropped during a time of economic growth. With the tie between economic growth and lower carbon emissions severed, the public has begun to see renewable energy as a viable alternative. Indeed, a recent Pew Research Center survey showed a clear global consensus on a need to tackle climate change. Across all 40 nations polled, roughly 78 percent of residents supported the idea that their countries should limit greenhouse gas emissions.

    The perceived turning point from climate denialism to action does not appear to be a scientist’s pipe dream, either. Lawyers who work at the forefront of climate policy agree that strong science and the ability to tackle climate change are changing people’s minds. But several legal turns have also taken place. “I actually think there is a trend in public conversations and even in private conversations toward thinking about liability for major energy companies for climate harm in a way we haven’t seen in many years,” says Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. And proving companies libel might just be the next step toward a renewable future.

    Horowitz says a legal angle into challenging big, man-made sources of carbon emissions began in court cases in the mid-2000s, particularly three lawsuits that were brought against fossil fuel companies under the federal common law of nuisance. Villagers in the Alaska coastal town Kivalina filed suit against several oil and gas companies in an attempt to be compensated for their relocation costs after flooding caused by the changing Arctic climate destroyed their homes. Residents along the Gulf of Mexico coast sued dozens of the nation’s largest carbon polluters when they suffered losses from Hurricane Katrina. And several states brought a lawsuit against some of the nation’s largest electricity generators to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

    All three cases failed after they reached the U.S. Supreme Court but they laid the groundwork for the legal thinking that Horowitz says is resurging now. Several changes have taken place in the years since. A crucial event occurred in 2013 when researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute calculated that only 90 companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil and BP, were largely responsible for the climate crisis. “So relatively few companies really are proportionally responsible for a pretty large share of the climate change problem in a way that allows lawyers and others to start thinking about causality in a legal sense,” Horowitz says.

    Fuel was added to the fire earlier this year when an InsideClimate News investigation revealed that Exxon was aware of climate change as early as 1977 (before the oil giant merged with Mobil). The news group claimed that despite the information, the company spent decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change, arguing the science was still highly uncertain. It even promoted climate misinformation—in 1989 the company helped create the Global Climate Coalition to question the scientific basis of climate change concerns and dissuade the U.S. from signing the Kyoto Protocol to control greenhouse gas emissions. Had Exxon been immediately transparent about its own research, the world might have begun developing clean energy decades earlier. As such, many experts have likened these actions to the deceit spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking.

    The key word, “deceit,” has opened up a new legal pathway to investigate these companies—New York State’s 1921 Martin Act. Because of the state’s rich history of publicly traded financial markets, the law confers on its attorney general broad powers to investigate financial fraud. “There’s no law quite like the Martin Act,” says Patrick Parenteau, former director of Vermont Law School’s Environmental Law Center and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, “[It’s] the strongest law in the country.”

    Although the law is nearly a century old, it has never been used in the fight against climate change. Using it against ExxonMobil will not be based on claims of injuries wrought by global warming (like the cases in the mid-2000s) but rather on failure to disclose information that investors need to know. If more companies have to accurately disclose any risks to their bottom line, like Peabody Energy now has to do, they might no longer stand on firm financial ground. They may lose investors and customers, helping shift investment from fossil fuel companies and toward those promoting clean energy. “It’s kind of a back door to influencing the behavior of some of the largest oil and gas companies for the sake of climate change,” Horowitz says.

    And it is likely that the investigation will spur legal inquiries into other oil companies. ExxonMobil is not the only oil and gas company whose public stance on climate change did not match what we—and almost certainly they—knew about the risks of global warming at the time, Horowitz says. She and Parenteau agree that other companies likely listened to Exxon’s experts and did some of their own research as well. If other investigations can prove that these companies also deceived the public, they too could lose investors. “It wouldn’t surprise me,” Horowitz says, “if this is the beginning of a storm.”

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  • richardmitnick 8:56 am on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Energy,   

    From PNNL via DOE Pulse: Humble bacterium could advance hydrogen as renewable fuel 

    DOE Pulse

    PNNL Lab

    December 14, 2015
    Greg Koller, 509.372.4864,

    A research team at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has discovered that a common type of cyanobacterium, or blue-green algae, produces hydrogen, via photosynthesis, in two ways. The finding could lead to new approaches for hydrogen production as a renewable energy resource.

    Cyanothece 51142, shown here in a bioreactor, has demonstrated that it is a workhorse for natural hydrogen production. No image credit

    The PNNL team published the information, which pertains to a cyanobacterium known as Cyanothece 51142, in the Scientific Reports journal. Researchers know that 51142 makes hydrogen by drawing upon sugars that it has stored during growth. In this study, the PNNL team found something new—that the organism also draws on a second source of energy, using sunlight and water directly to make the chemical element.

    In its experiment, the team set up Cyanothece 51142 in a bioreactor, limited the supply of nitrogen (which influences hydrogen production), and kept lights on for several weeks. The researchers used an array of high-tech equipment to yield sophisticated minute-by-minute profiles of the organism as it converted light energy to hydrogen. Further, the team “interrogated” the organism’s genes and proteins as they changed while the reactions occurred.

    Scientists found that in addition to drawing upon its previously stored energy, the organism captures light and uses that energy to split water to create hydrogen in real time. As one component of the organism is creating energy by collecting light energy, another part is using that energy simultaneously to create hydrogen.

    The discovery is another step toward advancing hydrogen as a clean energy source. “This organism can make lots of hydrogen, very fast; it’s a viable catalyst for hydrogen production,” says Hans Bernstein, a Linus Pauling distinguished postdoctoral fellow at PNNL. “The enzyme that makes the hydrogen needs a huge amount of energy. The real question is, what funds the energy budget for this important enzyme and then, how can we design and control it to create renewable fuels and to advance biotechnology?”

    The research was supported by the DOE Office of Science (Biological and Environmental Research) and PNNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, which funds the Linus Pauling Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.

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  • richardmitnick 9:09 am on December 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy, Morocco,   

    From phys.org: “Vast desert sun farm to help light up Morocco” 


    December 13, 2015
    Jalal Al Makhfi

    Solar mirrors at the Noor 1 Concentrated Solar Power plant, outside the central Moroccan town of Ouarzazate. No image credits.

    On the edge of the Sahara desert, engineers make final checks to a sea of metal mirrors turned towards the sun, preparing for the launch of Morocco’s first solar power plant.

    The ambitious project is part of the North African country’s goal of boosting its clean energy output with what it says will eventually be the world’s largest solar power production facility.

    Morocco has scarce oil and gas reserves, and is the biggest importer of energy in the Middle East and North Africa.

    The plant is part of a vision to move beyond this heavy dependency and raise renewable energy production to 42 percent of its total power needs by 2020.

    About 20 kilometres (12 miles) outside Ouarzazate, half a million U-shaped mirrors—called “parabolic troughs”—stretch out in 800 rows, slowly following the sun as it moves across the sky.

    Spread over an area equivalent to more than 600 football pitches, they store thermal energy from the sun’s rays and use it to activate steam turbines that produce electricity.

    King Mohamed VI launched construction of the plant, called Noor 1, in 2013, at a cost of 600 million euros ($660 million) and involving roughly 1,000 workers.

    Its start of operations by the end of this month was set to coincide with the conclusion of high-stakes COP21 global climate talks in Paris.

    “Construction work has finished,” said Obaid Amran, a board member of Morocco’s solar power agency.

    “We are testing components of the production units with a view to connecting them to the national grid at the end of the year.”

    Morocco is boosting its clean energy output with what it says will eventually be the world’s largest solar power production facility.

    The project’s next phases—Noor 2 and Noor 3—are to follow in 2016 and 2017, and a call for tenders is open for Noor 4.

    A million homes

    Once all phases are complete, Noor will be “the largest solar power production facility in the world”, its developers say, covering an area of 30 square kilometres (11.6 square miles).

    It will generate 580 megawatts and provide electricity to a million homes.

    The solar power project will also help reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

    The energy ministry estimates that its first solar power plant will allow the country to reduce CO2 emissions by 240,000 tonnes per year initially, and by 522,000 tonnes with the second two phases.

    That is equivalent to nearly one percent of Morocco’s CO2 emissions of around 56.5 million tonnes in 2011, according to World Bank figures.

    The so-called “greenhouse effect” is a natural phenomenon—an invisible blanket of gases including small amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2)—that has made Earth warm enough for humans to survive on it comfortably.

    King Mohamed VI launched construction of the solar plant, called Noor 1, in 2013, at a cost of 600 million euros ($660 million) and involving roughly 1,000 workers.

    But human activities such as burning coal and oil inject additional CO2 into the atmosphere, leading to global warming.

    Humanity’s annual output of greenhouse gases is higher than ever, totalling just under 53 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2014, according to the UN.

    Morocco, to host next year’s COP22, aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030 as it develops renewable energy production.

    “We have a project to introduce 6,000 megawatts to the existing electricity production nationwide,” Energy Minister Abdelkader Amara said recently.

    “Two thousand megawatts will come from solar energy and 2,000 megawatts from wind and hydroelectric power.”

    Morocco started producing electricity at Africa’s largest wind farm in its southwestern coastal region of Tarfaya last year.

    “Things have been going well so far,” the minister said. “We’re likely to go beyond 2,000 megawatts by 2020 in the area of wind power.”

    But Rabat has not abandoned fossil fuels altogether—last December, Amara announced a multi-billion-dollar project to step up Morocco’s search for natural gas to produce electricity.

    See the full article here .

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    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 9:34 am on December 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy   

    From DLR: “Economical, efficient, sustainable – thermochemical storage ‘reloaded’ “ 

    DLR Bloc

    German Aerospace Center

    07 December 2015


    Dorothee Bürkle
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Tel.: +49 2203 601-3492
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249

    Dr.-Ing. Marc Linder
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics
    Tel.: +49 711 6862-8034
    Fax: +49 711 6862-632




    Energy researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have put into service an innovative thermal storage system that uses lime as the storage medium. The lime storage system is a further development of an initial prototype and can store energy more economically and efficiently. Thermochemical storage systems have the potential to save a considerable amount of energy, especially in industrial processes and households.

    Storage system increases heating sector efficiency

    While the electricity sector has already moved strongly towards a sustainable supply, the energy transition is moving very slowly in the heating sector, which accounts for more than half of the overall demand for energy. Storage systems offer great potential for using energy more efficiently, particularly in the industrial sector, thereby reducing consumption of fossil fuels. Using lime as a storage medium, the DLR researchers have developed a concept usable in processes with high temperatures.

    When heated, the storage medium (slaked lime) begins an endothermic reaction that starts at approximately 450 degrees Celsius and creates calcium oxide. Roughly 20 percent of the input is stored in the form of sensible energy and the rest as chemical energy. Depending on the insulation, the sensible energy can slowly be lost over a prolonged period of time, but the chemical energy is storable for an unlimited amount of time and is released only when needed. For this purpose, steam is fed in to cause a strongly exothermic reaction that releases the heat again.

    Lime is an ideal medium for long-term storage

    As this chemical reaction allows indefinite storage of much of the heat, the system is particularly suited to prolonged storage periods. The researchers also opted for lime as the storage medium because it is a very affordable material. In conjunction with the very high energy density brought about by the chemical reaction, it will be possible to create economical heat storage systems in the future.

    Marc Linder, Research Area Manager for Thermochemical Systems at the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics in Stuttgart, said: “Storing heat thermochemically with lime is an interesting alternative to the more developed technologies in the fields of power plant technology and process heat. In addition to these fields of application, we see potential for lime storage in the seasonal storage of energy, for example, so as to support the supply of heat to households.”

    Versatile use thanks to temperature control

    To store process heat, a reactor is used for heating and burning in a special heat exchanger in the plant. For this purpose, the researchers are now using a stainless steel tube through which the lime flows in the more advanced storage system. This enables the burning of any desired amount of lime in the plant. The resupply comes from silos installed at the beginning and end of the cycle. An additional advantage of chemical storage, which is now being examined at the plant, lies in the regulation of the temperature inside the storage system. With the new system it is possible to inject steam at differing high pressures into the burnt lime. If the steam pressure is increased, the reaction occurs at a higher temperature. If the pressure is decreased, the reaction temperature goes down.

    “The challenge with the new lime storage facility is to optimise the interaction of continuous motion of the storage medium together with the supply of heat and the control of the steam,” says Matthias Schmidt, Project Manager at DLR’s Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics.

    See the full article here .

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    DLR Center

    DLR is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for the nation’s largest project management agency.

    DLR has approximately 8000 employees at 16 locations in Germany: Cologne (headquarters), Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Goettingen, Hamburg, Juelich, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stade, Stuttgart, Trauen, and Weilheim. DLR also has offices in Brussels, Paris, Tokyo and Washington D.C.

  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on December 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy, ,   

    From The Conversation: “How a global solar alliance can help developing countries” 

    The Conversation

    December 4, 2015
    Xavier Lemaire

    The International Solar Alliance announced by India at the Paris climate conference invites together 120 countries to support the expansion of solar technologies in the developing world.

    The cost of solar cells has decreased spectacularly over the past four decades, and the trend seems likely to continue. Solar energy has moved from a niche market for providing power in remote places (at the very beginning in 1958 to space satellites) to a mainstream technology which feeds into the national grid.

    Most richer countries have been supporting solar power for some time and the rest of the world is now catching up, turning to solar not only for energy access in remote areas but to power cities. Emerging countries such as China, India, Brazil, Thailand, South Africa, Morocco or Egypt are investing in large solar plants with ambitious targets. In developing countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal or Ghana, solar farms or the large roll-out of solar home systems are a solution to unreliable and insufficient electricity supplies.

    Most developing countries benefit from high solar radiation. Source: SolarGIS © 2015 GeoModel Solar

    Large solar farms can be built in just a few months – compared to several years for a coal plant and even longer for a nuclear plant – without generating massive environmental and health damages. Modular decentralised generation with solar is a way to increase access to energy while still remaining on top of rapidly increasing appetites for electricity.

    Culture of innovation

    This alliance could boost the solar market in the Global South by accelerating the circulation of knowledge, facilitating technology transfer and securing investments. Such a partnership would aim to create a common culture among people working in solar energy. Permanent innovation is the key to success in a field where technologies evolve fast and where norms and standards are not yet established. So an alliance could help countries exchange policy ideas while benchmarking performance against each other.

    The decrease of the price of solar cells: a long term trend. Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance & pv.energytrend.com Author provided

    Indeed in developing countries, where regulations and regimes tend to be less stable, investments suffer from a perceived risk. Given that the initial construction of solar plants makes up most of their cost (sunlight, after all, is free so ongoing expenses are minimal), the business model requires them to run for a long period. High risk means higher costs of financing the initial investment. Countries with well-designed regulatory frameworks and policies can reduce risk and attract investors.

    Not California or Spain – this is Egypt. Green Prophet, CC BY

    The alliance could also support a network of universities and local research centres in each country to capitalise on local experience and build knowledge. Research and development can then more easily target the specific needs of developing countries.
    … and the real politics of renewables

    The intensification of globalisation and competition between technology firms and utilities is sparking a revolution in the electricity sector which could result in a new world of energy providers. A number of countries are keen to position themselves as leaders.

    For the moment, both China and India want massive investments in solar only on top of further investments in new coal and gas plants. They need to make their growth less carbon intensive – but do not yet consider solar power as a complete substitute for fossil fuels.

    But renewables accounted for nearly half of all new power generation capacity across the world last year. As the cost of solar power is falling to the same level as traditional energy supplies all over the world, some players in the electricity sector are – willingly or not – shifting away from fossil fuels. The decarbonisation of the electricity sector may be not just an empty political pledge, but an economic necessity.

    See the full article here .

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    The Conversation US launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
    Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.
    Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.

  • richardmitnick 9:39 am on November 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy   

    From Duke: “Low-Energy, High-Impact Physics” 

    Duke Bloc
    Duke Crest

    Duke University

    Nov 2, 2015
    Mary-Russell Roberson

    Triangle Universities Nuclear Lab Celebrates 50 Years

    In this undated photo, (L-R) Russell Roberson, Ed Bilpuch, (both of whom directed TUNL at one time) and Al Lovette worked in the underground room where the massive Van De Graaff accelerator is operated.

    The identity of this region of North Carolina as a “Research Triangle” was still more of a concept than a reality in 1965 when the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission gave the three universities $2.5 million to build a cutting-edge laboratory to explore the Nuclear Age.

    Borrowing some of its identity from the newly minted Research Triangle Park just a few miles away on Highway 54, the launch of the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory was front page news throughout the region.

    Duke professor Henry Newson had succeeded — on his third try — in securing funding for a 15-MeV tandem Van de Graaff accelerator and a 15-MeV cyclotron. His creative twist was the idea of using the cyclotron to inject a particle beam into the Van de Graaff to cost-effectively double the beam energy. Scientists at TUNL called the combination the cyclo-graaff.

    The other magic of the third funding attempt was the idea to include UNC and NC State in the proposal, said Eugen Merzbacher, a professor emeritus at UNC who died in 2013. “Henry had this brilliant idea to combine the three universities.”

    Merzbacher helped write the successful proposal, as did Worth Seagondollar, who was chair of the physics department at N.C. State. Each university would supply faculty members and graduate students to conduct research using the equipment.

    Fifty years later, the agreement stands.

    The cyclotron is gone and the lab has had to change its goals with the times, but it still brings more than $7 million of research funding into the Triangle each year. It outlived the AEC, which became the Department of Energy. DOE’s Office of Nuclear Physics is still the major funder, but there is support from other agencies as well, including the National Nuclear Security Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office of the Department of Homeland Security.

    The TUNL lab has produced 286 Ph.D.s from all three schools, some of whom are returning the weekend of Nov. 6-8 to celebrate and get caught up.

    download the mp4 video here.

    Construction of the cyclo-graaff lab, located behind the Duke physics building on West Campus, was partly supported by a grant from the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology.

    Russell Roberson, professor emeritus and a former TUNL director, arrived at Duke in 1963. At the time, the Duke Physics department had two small Van de Graaff accelerators — one rated at an energy of 4 MeV and another rated at 3 MeV — but Newson wanted a bigger accelerator for bigger experiments.

    “Because of his work on the Manhattan Project, Newson understood how many people could effectively use a big facility like the tandem Van de Graaff,” Roberson said. “He knew Duke couldn’t provide that many people. But by dividing it up among the three universities, we were able to establish a very significant faculty presence with a large number of graduate students and make it one of the top accelerator and nuclear facilities in the country.”

    Jim Koster (NCSU), Scott Wilburn and Paul Huffman in the Tandem Van De Graaf control room, circa early 1990s.

    Originally, the focus of TUNL was nuclear structure. Newson, who directed the lab from 1968 until his death in 1978, used a high-resolution neutron beam to study the atomic nucleus. Later, Duke professor Edward Bilpuch modified the equipment to produce a proton beam, which he and colleagues used in a series of well-known experiments to study isobaric analogue states of the nucleus with ultrafine energy resolution.

    Parts of the massive Van de Graaff that arrived in 1966 are still being used by TUNL physicists, but over the years, the lab has broadened its focus, said current director, Duke professor Calvin Howell, who did his graduate work as a Duke student at TUNL in the 1980s.

    The lab’s evolution often followed the interests and technical innovations of faculty members. For example, when UNC professor Tom Clegg built a polarized ion beam at TUNL in 1986, other faculty members and students caught his enthusiasm and used it for their own experiments.

    Driven by a free electron laser housed in a separate building behind the original TUNL, that polarized beam is now known as the HIGS (high intensity gamma-ray source), and it’s the world’s most intense polarized gamma-ray beam.

    download the mp4 video here.

    “That’s been the history of TUNL—new people come in with new ideas and new technology and techniques, and they don’t just hoard those things for themselves,” Howell said. “The collaboration and the synergy between faculty members works beautifully. We don’t have institutional boundaries.”

    Today, TUNL physicists are pushing scientific frontiers in several areas, including studying strong interaction physics to better understand the structure of nuclei and nucleons (protons and neutrons); modeling nuclear reactions in stars; and delving into the fundamental nature of neutrinosto discover whether these chargeless particles serve as their own anti-particles and how they may have played a role in the processes that generated the visible matter in the universe.

    But TUNL leaders all agree that one of the lab’s most important contributions has been educating the next generation of scientists. (Learn more about Duke’s TUNL alumni.)

    “We’ve continued to be one of the more significant laboratories in the country in terms of producing students,” Roberson said. “Many of our graduate students go in industry and the national labs and universities. At one time, there were 35 graduates from TUNL working at Los Alamos National Lab.”

    “The record speaks for itself in the outstanding scientists we have produced at the Ph.D. level,” Howell said. “In the last 15 years, we’ve also put considerable effort into creating opportunities for undergraduates.”

    The NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program supports 10-12 undergraduates from around the country each summer to work and learn at TUNL. The lab also collaborates now with Duke’s high-energy program to allow REU students to spend the summer at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland.

    There are other examples of universities that tried to create shared physics laboratories but were not able to work together as a team to make it happen, according to Steve Shafroth, who came to UNC and TUNL in 1967.

    “TUNL is such a unique thing, with the three universities collaborating like that and staying friends,” Shafroth added with a laugh. “You know, with the basketball rivalry and all so strong.”

    See the full article here .

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    Duke Campus

    Younger than most other prestigious U.S. research universities, Duke University consistently ranks among the very best. Duke’s graduate and professional schools — in business, divinity, engineering, the environment, law, medicine, nursing and public policy — are among the leaders in their fields. Duke’s home campus is situated on nearly 9,000 acres in Durham, N.C, a city of more than 200,000 people. Duke also is active internationally through the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, Duke Kunshan University in China and numerous research and education programs across the globe. More than 75 percent of Duke students pursue service-learning opportunities in Durham and around the world through DukeEngage and other programs that advance the university’s mission of “knowledge in service to society.”

  • richardmitnick 7:36 am on October 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy,   

    From EPFL: “An innovative response to the challenge of storing renewable energy” 

    EPFL bloc

    Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne

    Emmanuel Barraud

    Inside the Container. Alain Herzog/EPFL

    A system for managing and storing energy, developed by EPFL’s Distributed Electrical Systems Laboratory, has been inaugurated on the school’s campus. The system, which received extensive co-financing from the Canton of Vaud, is built around an industrial-capacity battery developed by Vaud-based company Leclanché. It is now connected to the Romande Energie-EPFL solar park and will be used to conduct real-world tests on the behavior of a power grid that is fed electricity from solar panels.

    The experimental storage system was inaugurated today and is now connected to the Romande Energie-EPFL solar park, one of the largest in French-speaking Switzerland. Researchers will use it to study new, industrial-scale solutions for using renewable energies (especially solar energy) and feeding them into the power distribution grid, as part of the ‘EPFL Smart Grid’ project.

    Useful life far above average

    The system, which is the size of a shipping container, is unique for its underlying technology: it is based on high-performance lithium-ion titanate cells manufactured by Vaud-based company Leclanché. The life of these cells is around 15,000 charge-discharge cycles, while 3,000 is more common. In addition, the cells come with ceramic separators, patented by Leclanché, which are meant to maximize safety. It is a fully integrated solution comprising storage and energy-conversion modules as well as software for the battery to communicate with the EPFL engineers.

    Real-world testing

    The system will be used to test the research being carried out by Professor Mario Paolone, the Head of EPFL’s Distributed Electrical Systems Laboratory. It will be able to hold up to 500 kWh, which is the equivalent of the average energy consumed by fifty Swiss households over the course of one day, while managing variations in power as a function of the sunshine. “The ability to connect reliable energy storage solutions to the grid is key for incorporating renewable energy sources in our energy mix,” said Dr. Paolone. “Because of the system’s high capacity, we will be able for the first time to carry out real-world tests on the new control methods offered by the smart grids developed at EPFL.”

    A project co-financed by Canton of Vaud

    This project received extensive financial support from the Canton of Vaud. As part of its “100 million for renewable energies and energy efficiency” program, the Canton allocated some two million francs to Dr. Paolone’s team. These funds are from the R&D component of that program, which, in addition to EPFL, is providing support to the School of Business and Engineering in Yverdon-les-Bains and the University of Lausanne. “This project represents an important milestone in the implementation of our energy policy, one of the objectives of which is to develop renewable energy resources at the local level,” said Jacqueline de Quattro, State Councilor and Head of the Department of Territorial Planning and the Environment.

    The research involving the new system is set to last 23 months and will optimize the functioning of the various components of the new system, its management and its interoperability with an integrated electricity production and distribution network (i.e., a smart grid).

    See the full article here .

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    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university. It receives students, professors and staff from over 120 nationalities. With both a Swiss and international calling, it is therefore guided by a constant wish to open up; its missions of teaching, research and partnership impact various circles: universities and engineering schools, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and gymnasiums, industry and economy, political circles and the general public.

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