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  • richardmitnick 9:08 am on January 3, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Integrating Input to Forge Ahead in Geothermal Research", , , , Energy,   

    From Eos: “Integrating Input to Forge Ahead in Geothermal Research” 

    From AGU
    Eos news bloc

    From Eos

    Robert Rozansky
    Alexis McKittrick

    A road map for a major geothermal energy development initiative determines proposed priorities and goals by integrating input from stakeholders, data, and technological assessments.

    The road map for one U.S. geothermal energy initiative provides a methodology for integrating stakeholder input and priorities with information from research and technical sources to provide a set of common research priorities. Credit: iStock.com/DrAfter123

    Scientific communities often struggle to find consensus on how to achieve the next big leap in technology, methods, or understanding in their fields. Geothermal energy development is no exception. Here we describe a methodological approach to combining qualitative input from the geothermal research community with technical information and data. The result of this approach is a road map to overcoming barriers facing this important field of research.

    Geothermal energy accounts for merely 0.4% of U.S. electricity production today, but the country has vast, untapped geothermal energy resources—if only we can access them. The U.S. Geological Survey has found that unconventional geothermal sources could produce as much as 500 gigawatts of electricity—roughly half of U.S. electric power generating capacity. These sources have sufficient heat but insufficient fluid permeability to enable extraction of this heat [U.S. Geological Survey, 2008]. One approach to tapping these resources is to construct enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), in which techniques such as fluid injection are used to increase the permeability of the subsurface to make a reservoir suitable for heat exchange and extraction (Figure 1).

    Fig. 1. A geothermal power plant produces electricity from water that has been injected (blue pipe at center) into a subsurface reservoir, heated, and then pumped back to the surface (red pipes). Enhanced geothermal systems use techniques such as fluid injection to enhance the permeability of underground reservoirs that might otherwise not be accessible for geothermal heat extraction. Credit: U.S. Department of Energy.

    The United States and other countries have conducted experimental EGS projects since the 1970s. However, engineering a successful heat exchange reservoir in the high temperatures and pressures characteristic of EGS sites remains a significant technical challenge, one that must be overcome to enable commercial viability [Ziagos et al., 2013].

    Because of the great potential of this technology, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is driving an ambitious initiative called the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) to accelerate research and development in EGS. The FORGE initiative will provide $140 million in funding over the next 5 years (subject to congressional appropriation) for cutting-edge research, drilling, and technology testing at a field laboratory and experimental EGS site in Milford, Utah, operated by the University of Utah [U.S. Department of Energy, 2018].

    Assessing Challenges of Enhanced Geothermal Systems

    DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) asked the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) to develop a methodology for collecting input from the EGS community to produce a FORGE road map with strategic guidance for the managers and operators of the site. STPI is a federally funded research and development center established by Congress and operated by the nonprofit Institute for Defense Analyses, which provides analyses of scientific issues important to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and to other federal agencies.

    EGS faces numerous technical challenges. These include developing drilling equipment that can withstand the heat, pressure, and geology of the EGS environment; improving the ability to isolate specific targets in the subsurface for stimulation (called zonal isolation); and learning to better mitigate the risk of induced seismicity during operations. The EGS community has a variety of ideas for how FORGE can address these challenges and for the balance needed between conducting research that is novel, though potentially risky, and efforts that will maintain a functioning site for continued use.

    The time frame for FORGE is also relatively short, about 5 years, especially given the substantial effort required simply to drill and establish an EGS reservoir. In light of this, STPI designed and conducted a process to capture the community’s ideas for how FORGE can advance EGS, process this information methodically and impartially, and distill it into a document that is reflective of the community’s input and useful for planning research at FORGE.

    STPI’s process was designed specifically for the FORGE road map, but the general approach described here, or specific elements of it, could prove valuable for other efforts seeking to leverage collective community feedback to move a research field forward. Using this approach, a community struggling to make progress can prioritize research and technology needs without focusing on the individual approaches of different researchers or organizations.

    A Road Map for Geothermal Research

    The FORGE road map, published in February 2019, is intended to offer input from the EGS research community to help the managers of FORGE craft funding opportunities, operate the site in Utah, and work toward achieving DOE’s mission for FORGE: a set of rigorous and reproducible EGS technical solutions and a pathway to successful commercial EGS development.

    The document outlines discrete research activities—and highlights the most critical of these activities—that the EGS research community proposed for FORGE to address technical challenges. The road map also categorizes all research activities into three overarching areas of focus: stimulation planning and design, fracture control, and reservoir management.

    Engaging the Community

    In developing the road map, STPI, in coordination with DOE, first determined categories of information that could serve as building blocks for the road map. They did this by analyzing U.S. and foreign EGS road maps and vision studies from the past 2 decades. These categories included the major technical challenges facing EGS, such as developing optimal subsurface fracture networks, and the specific areas of research that could be investigated at FORGE to address those challenges, such as testing different zonal isolation methods.

    Higher-level questions included determining how progress or success could be recognized in these research areas and what accomplishments could serve as milestones for the FORGE project. Examples of potential milestones include drilling a well to a predetermined depth and measuring subsurface properties to a target resolution.

    STPI then conducted semistructured interviews with 24 stakeholders from DOE, national laboratories, industry, and academia to validate and expand the initially identified technical challenges, understand the barriers that researchers were facing when trying to address these challenges, and discuss technology that could overcome these barriers.

    STPI summarized the results of these interviews, including technical challenges and potential research activities for FORGE, in an informal memorandum. This memorandum served as a preliminary, skeletal draft of the road map, and it provided the starting point for discussion in a community workshop.

    In August 2018, STPI hosted a FORGE Roadmap Development Workshop at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. Nearly 30 EGS subject matter experts from across academia, national laboratories, industry, and government attended and provided input. In a series of breakout sessions, attendees reviewed the technical challenges and research activities identified in STPI’s interviews, generated a list of technical milestones for FORGE’s 5 years of operation, discussed the dependencies among the research activities and milestones on the FORGE timeline, and produced qualitative and quantitative criteria to measure progress in each of the research activities.

    The steps in this process—a literature review, interviews with subject matter experts, and a stakeholder workshop—represent a progression of inputs that helped elucidate EGS community perspectives on current challenges to commercial EGS development and research activities that would help FORGE solve those challenges.

    After this information had been collected, STPI worked with DOE on the technical content of the road map in preparation for its publication last February. STPI and DOE consolidated, structured, and prioritized this content to provide the greatest utility to the FORGE managers and operators.

    The Way Ahead

    Clean, geothermal energy has the potential to make up a much larger share of the U.S. energy portfolio than it does at present, but to get there, the field of EGS will have to make substantial progress. The FORGE road map is designed to help the FORGE initiative move toward this goal as effectively as possible, especially given the variety of viewpoints on what research is most important with the limited funding and time available.

    The fundamental difficulties faced by the EGS community in charting a path forward are hardly unique, and so the successful process used in developing this road map could be applicable to other research communities. Collaborative processes such as the one described here look beyond literature reviews and individual research projects, and they build on themselves as they progress. Such processes can incorporate diverging viewpoints to bring out the common challenges and potential solutions that might help a research community gain consensus on how to move forward. Although a community may not agree on the exact path to success, having a common end point and a set of research priorities can help everyone forge ahead.


    U.S. Department of Energy (2018), Department of Energy selects University of Utah site for $140 million geothermal research and development, https://www.energy.gov/articles/department-energy-selects-university-utah-site-140-million-geothermal-research-and.

    U.S. Geological Survey (2008), Assessment of moderate- and high-temperature geothermal resources of the United States, U.S. Geol. Surv. Fact Sheet, 2008-3082, 4 pp., https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2008/3082/.

    Ziagos, J., et al. (2013), A technology roadmap for strategic development of enhanced geothermal systems, in Proceedings of the 38th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, pp. 11–13, Stanford Univ., Stanford, Calif., https://pangea.stanford.edu/ERE/pdf/IGAstandard/SGW/2013/Ziagos.pdf.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 1:26 pm on December 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Understanding the impact of deep-sea mining", , Energy, , ,   

    From MIT News: “Understanding the impact of deep-sea mining” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    December 5, 2019
    Mary Beth Gallagher | Department of Mechanical Engineering

    Mining materials from the sea floor could help secure a low-carbon future, but researchers are racing to understand the environmental effects.

    Professor Thomas Peacock (left) with graduate students Rohit Balasaheb Supekar (center) and Carlos Munoz Royo (right) aboard the RV Sally Ride. Image: John Freidah

    While aboard the research vessel Sally Ride off the coast of San Diego, Peacock, Alford and a multistakeholder team of researchers deployed a discharge hose and studied sediment plumes to assess the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining.
    Image: John Freidah

    Polymetallic nodules containing minerals essential to energy storage lie at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. In deep-sea mining, a collector vehicle is sent to pick up these nodules from the deep seabed. The vehicle creates a sediment cloud known as a ‘collector plume,’ seen here in the foreground, that is then carried away by ocean currents. Image courtesy of the DeepCCZ expedition.

    Resting atop Thomas Peacock’s desk is an ordinary-looking brown rock. Roughly the size of a potato, it has been at the center of decades of debate. Known as a polymetallic nodule, it spent 10 million years sitting on the deep seabed, 15,000 feet below sea level. The nodule contains nickel, cobalt, copper, and manganese — four minerals that are essential in energy storage.

    “As society moves toward driving more electric vehicles and utilizing renewable energy, there will be an increased demand for these minerals, to manufacture the batteries necessary to decarbonize the economy,” says Peacock, a professor of mechanical engineering and the director of MIT’s Environmental Dynamics Lab (END Lab). He is part of an international team of researchers that has been trying to gain a better understanding the environmental impact of collecting polymetallic nodules, a process known as deep-sea mining.

    The minerals found in the nodules, particularly cobalt and nickel, are key components of lithium-ion batteries. Currently, lithium-ion batteries offer the best energy density of any commercially available battery. This high energy density makes them ideal for use in everything from cellphones to electric vehicles, which require large amounts of energy within a compact space.

    “Those two elements are expected to see a tremendous growth in demand due to energy storage,” says Richard Roth, director of MIT’s Materials Systems Laboratory.

    While researchers are exploring alternative battery technologies such as sodium-ion batteries and flow batteries that utilize electrochemical cells, these technologies are far from commercialization.

    “Few people expect any of these lithium-ion alternatives to be available in the next decade,” explains Roth. “Waiting for unknown future battery chemistries and technologies could significantly delay widespread adoption of electric vehicles.”

    Vast amounts of specialty nickel will be also needed to build larger-scale batteries that will be required as societies look to shift from an electric grid powered by fossil fuels to one powered by renewable resources like solar, wind, wave, and thermal.

    “The collection of nodules from the seabed is being considered as a new means for getting these materials, but before doing so it is imperative to fully understand the environmental impact of mining resources from the deep ocean and compare it to the environmental impact of mining resources on land,” explains Peacock.

    After receiving seed funding from MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI), Peacock was able to apply his expertise in fluid dynamics to study how deep-sea mining could affect surrounding ecosystems.

    Meeting the demand for energy storage

    Currently, nickel and cobalt are extracted through land-based mining operations. Much of this mining occurs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which produces 60 percent of the world’s cobalt. These land-based mines often impact surrounding environments through the destruction of habitats, erosion, and soil and water contamination. There are also concerns that land-based mining, especially in politically unstable countries, might not be able to supply enough of these materials as the demand for batteries rises.

    The swath of ocean located between Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States — also known as the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone — is estimated to possess six times more cobalt and three times more nickel than all known land-based stores, as well as vast deposits of manganese and a substantial amount of copper.

    While the seabed is abundant with these materials, little is known about the short- and long-term environmental effects of mining 15,000 feet below sea level. Peacock and his collaborator Professor Matthew Alford from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of California at San Diego are leading the quest to understand how the sediment plumes generated by the collection of nodules from the seabed will be carried by water currents.

    “The key question is, if we decide to make a plume at site A, how far does it spread before eventually raining down on the sea floor?” explains Alford. “That ability to map the geography of the impact of sea floor mining is a crucial unknown right now.”

    The research Peacock and Alford are conducting will help inform stakeholders about the potential environmental effects of deep-sea mining. One pressing matter is that draft exploitation regulations for deep-sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction are currently being negotiated by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an independent organization established by the United Nations that regulates all mining activities on the sea floor. Peacock and Alford’s research will help guide the development of environmental standards and guidelines to be issued under those regulations.

    “We have a unique opportunity to help regulators and other concerned parties to assess draft regulations using our data and modeling, before operations start and we regret the impact of our activity,” says Carlos Munoz Royo, a PhD student in MIT’s END Lab.

    Tracking plumes in the water

    In deep-sea mining, a collector vehicle would be deployed from a ship. The collector vehicle then travels 15,000 feet down to the seabed, where it vacuums up the top four inches of the seabed. This process creates a plume known as a collector plume.

    “As the collector moves across the seabed floor, it stirs up sediment and creates a sediment cloud, or plume, that’s carried away and distributed by ocean currents,” explains Peacock.

    The collector vehicle picks up the nodules, which are pumped through a pipe back to the ship. On the ship, usable nodules are separated from unwanted sediment. That sediment is piped back into the ocean, creating a second plume, known as a discharge plume.

    Peacock collaborated with Pierre Lermusiaux, professor of mechanical engineering and of ocean science and engineering, and Glenn Flierl, professor of Earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, to create mathematical models that predict how these two plumes travel through the water.

    To test these models, Peacock set out to track actual plumes created by mining the floor of the Pacific Ocean. With funding from MIT ESI, he embarked on the first-ever field study of such plumes. He was joined by Alford and Eric Adams, senior research engineer at MIT, as well as other researchers and engineers from MIT, Scripps, and the United States Geological Survey.

    With funding from the UC Ship Funds Program, the team conducted experiments in consultation with the ISA during a weeklong expedition in the Pacific Ocean aboard the U.S. Navy R/V Sally Ride in March 2018. The researchers mixed sediment with a tracer dye that they were able to track using sensors on the ship developed by Alford’s Multiscale Ocean Dynamics group. In doing so, they created a map of the plumes’ journeys.

    The field experiments demonstrated that the models Peacock and Lermusiaux developed can be used to predict how plumes will travel through the water — and could help give a clearer picture of how surrounding biology might be affected.

    Impact on deep-sea organisms

    Life on the ocean floor moves at a glacial pace. Sediment accumulates at a rate of 1 millimeter every millennium. With such a slow rate of growth, areas disturbed by deep-sea mining would be unlikely to recover on a reasonable timescale.

    “The concern is that if there is a biological community specific to the area, it might be irretrievably impacted by mining,” explains Peacock.

    According to Cindy Van Dover, professor of biological oceanography at Duke University, in addition to organisms that live in or around the nodules, other organisms elsewhere in the water column could be affected as the plumes travel.

    “There could be clogging of filter feeding structures of, for example, gelatinous organisms in the water column, and burial of organisms on the sediment,” she explains. “There could also be some metals that get into the water column, so there are concerns about toxicology.”

    Peacock’s research on plumes could help biologists like Van Dover assess collateral damage from deep-sea mining operations in surrounding ecosystems.

    Drafting regulations for mining the sea

    Through connections with MIT’s Policy Lab, the Institute is one of only two research universities with observer status at the ISA.

    “The plume research is very important, and MIT is helping with the experimentation and developing plume models, which is vital to inform the current work of the International Seabed Authority and its stakeholder base,” explains Chris Brown, a consultant at the ISA. Brown was one of dozens of experts who convened on MIT’s campus last fall at a workshop discussing the risks of deep-sea mining.

    To date, the field research Peacock and Alford conducted is the only ocean dataset on midwater plumes that exists to help guide decision-making. The next step in understanding how plumes move through the water will be to track plumes generated by a prototype collector vehicle. Peacock and his team in the END Lab are preparing to participate in a major field study using a prototype vehicle in 2020.

    Thanks to recent funding provided by the 11th Hour Project, Peacock and Lermusiaux hope to develop models that give increasingly accurate predictions about how deep-sea mining plumes will travel through the ocean. They will continue to interact with academic colleagues, international agencies, NGOs, and contractors to develop a clearer picture of deep-sea mining’s environmental impact.

    “It’s important to have input from all stakeholders early in the conversation to help make informed decisions, so we can fully understand the environmental impact of mining resources from the ocean and compare it to the environmental impact of mining resources on land,” says Peacock.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:39 am on November 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy, NREL-National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Paul Veers, Wind Farms   

    From National Renewable Energy Laboratory: “Wind Pioneer Paul Veers” 


    From National Renewable Energy Laboratory

    Nov. 6, 2019
    Ernie Tucker

    From Farm to Wind Farms, He’s Aloft as New Senior Research Fellow.

    Paul Veers (right) at NREL’s Flatirons Campus with Eric Lantz, Katherine Dykes, and Tyler Stehly, who together developed WISDEM, the wind-plant integrated system design and engineering model. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

    Tending cows on a Wisconsin dairy farm taught Paul Veers the value of hard work—and also that he didn’t want to be a farmer.

    “The routine starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m., seven days a week,” said the newly appointed research fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

    As Veers was finishing his bachelor’s degree, his father offered him a chance to take over the 160-acre farm, saying he’d keep the 35 cows around until his son decided. “I thought about it for a millisecond,” Veers laughed. “I said, ‘Go ahead and sell the herd. I’m going elsewhere.’”

    After studying engineering mechanics at the University of Wisconsin (a degree that, he says, “allows me to not do anything practical whatsoever—it’s really fundamental, the mechanics of engineering”), he earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University.

    In 1980, a rural connection helped launch his career in science and wind energy research when Veers interviewed for his first job in operations at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. He met with “an old Tennessee farmer” who was impressed with Veers’ background. “He knew that on a farm, when the machinery breaks, the farmer had to get out there and fix it. There’s nothing else you can do.”

    Yet Veers’ experience was different.

    “My family wasn’t very mechanical,” Veers admitted. “I got the job under false pretenses” because his family relied on a friend who had a garage who could fix machines much more quickly.

    Nonetheless, Veers joined Sandia’s applied mechanics department, which consulted on projects across the laboratory. While he worked on a large assortment of technologies that included nuclear reactors, he also encountered wind turbines.

    His future career took off. “Wind energy was hands down the most interesting,” he said. “The field was wide open.”

    Back in the early 1980s, the question was: Why are these machines breaking, and how do we figure out how to build them so they don’t break? “No one really knew how to do that,” Veers said. “That’s what drew me in.”

    The Turbulent World of Wind

    Heading into the field of wind energy for a career wasn’t exactly a safe choice at the time. Veers recalled that, early on at Sandia, he was introduced to a senior staffer in nuclear weapons research at a cocktail party. “He asked me what I was focused on, and I said wind energy,” Veers said. The would-be mentor paused a moment, then said, “Oh, that is truly, truly trivial. You ought to find something worthwhile. That is never going to turn into anything.”

    Doubters did not deflect him. Veers persevered in the wild days of wind, when researchers did “dangerous stuff” with these balky new machines. And when federal funding became iffy for renewable energy development, he stayed put even as managers suggested staffers look elsewhere for secure jobs.

    “I wasn’t bright enough to realize this could be a problem,” he said. Still, he was not convinced that wind energy was the solution.

    “I really did not know if wind would become a major player,” Veers said. “I did not have a passion. Originally, I thought wind energy was an amazingly interesting problem to solve.”

    Gradually, his viewpoint shifted. “The more I learned, the more I thought this could work,” he said. “This could make a difference.”

    At that time, the general vision was that someday wind power might provide 5% of U.S. electricity. “Wouldn’t that be a wonderful success?” he recalled thinking. Now, it’s surpassed that figure and keeps climbing.

    “Our sense is we’re going to hit 10% easily,” Veers said. “The goal is 50%. We now have the vision, if we keep pushing the frontiers with the technology, that it is going to increase to 20% or 30% globally.”

    For Veers, it is “amazingly satisfying to see that this work we’re doing is paying off.”

    NREL Associate Laboratory Director for Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences Johney Green welcomes Paul Veers as a new NREL research fellow. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL.

    Early Contacts with NREL

    While based at Sandia, Veers had frequent contacts with NREL. “I worked with NREL from day one,” he said.

    Early on, he established himself as an expert in vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) and wind inflow analytical modeling tools. Sandia operated one of the largest research VAWTs in the world, and Veers was one of the lead research engineers in that program.

    Brian Smith, partnership manager for the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) at NREL, recalls meeting Veers in the 1980s. “Unfortunately, VAWTs never reached the commercial promised land,” Smith said. “And Paul, always taking the long view, adeptly switched to horizontal axis wind turbines without a hitch in his recognized expertise.”

    Still, Veers did make a trip up to NREL’s Flatirons Campus to check on the one vertical axis wind turbine located there.

    Also while at Sandia, he investigated wind turbine fatigue because he realized the assumptions regarding turbulence were inadequate. As a result, Veers developed one of the first analytical tools that modeled upwind flow characteristics. He also contributed to wind turbine system design tools that predict aerodynamic and structural dynamic performance.

    The system to simulate turbulence can be applied to wind turbine computational models, an approach often referred to as the “Veers Method.” Variations of it are still in use today.

    Aside from his technical talents, colleagues and peers value Veers’ communication skills.

    “Paul has the uncanny ability to understand the physics of wind energy across many scientific disciplines and communicate the complexities to non-experts in writing and in words,” Smith said. “This skill set is truly unique in the world and extremely valuable.”

    Take his explanation of a wind turbine for example: “It is a big piece of machinery that takes energy in one form and makes electricity.”

    For a variety of reasons, Veers impressed many at NREL early on. NREL Fellow Bob Thresher met Veers at a wind turbine dynamics workshop in 1984. “Even then, as a young researcher working at Sandia, he stood out as a clear and careful thinker with great ideas to drive wind energy research forward,” Thresher said.

    “Over the years, Paul has tirelessly worked across the national laboratory complex, contributing to the advancement of wind energy science and technology development,” he added.

    Thresher describes Veers as an enthusiastic collaborative partner in the creation of the North American Wind Energy Academy. Veers skillfully brought university researchers together with national laboratory and industry researchers to address the longer-term research issues facing wind energy today.

    Veers made it a point to reach out. “I was trying to make the other labs successful,” he said. “Unless we do that together, we’re not going to have a mission that’s fruitful.”

    With his ability to network, as well as his connections to NREL, it was only a matter of time before he headed north to Colorado.

    Paul Veers holds a photo of his four daughters—who provide one reason that he’ll continue to explore wind power and keep his job, he joked. Photo by Ernie Tucker, NREL.

    An Innate Affinity for NREL

    When NREL’s chief engineer position opened up in 2010, Veers jumped at the chance. United with old friends such as Thresher and Smith, as well as Sue Hock and Mike Robinson, Veers was set to join an established group. In his view, a major draw was, and is, NREL’s close-knit wind energy workforce.

    “We all have to work together to make something that’s useful,” he said. “That’s often why this group is like a family. The teamwork that goes on here is really exceptional.”

    Veers tackles leadership roles. He represents NREL on DOE’s Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) Executive Management Committee. And for 12 years he was chief editor for Wind Energy, an international journal for progress and applications in wind power.

    Recently, he was the lead author of a Science article analyzing three challenges to wind energy potential. It followed NREL convening more than 70 wind experts representing 15 countries in 2017 to discuss a future electricity system where wind could serve the global demand for clean energy.

    “People think that because wind turbines have worked for decades there’s no room for improvement. And yet, there’s so much more to be done,” Veers said. “We distilled all the information into three big things connected to wind energy: the atmosphere, the machine, and the grid and [wind farm] plant.”

    The possible upside of such innovation is clear.

    “Addressing these challenges by taking an interdisciplinary wind energy science and engineering approach will lead to solutions that advance the state of the art in wind plant energy output,” said article co-author and NREL Associate Laboratory Director for Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences Johney Green.

    For Veers, the challenge is real. It keeps him showing up for work—although he also jokes that the fact that he and his wife Karen have four daughters born over a span of five years is also an incentive to keep his job.

    Veers remains modest about his achievements. “I have many faults. I’m not very outgoing, and sometimes not very articulate,” he said. His colleagues back him up. Smith joked that Veers had an unbroken record of beginning presentations with a joke—that falls flat.

    Whatever his attributes, Veers believes the key to success is the team. “It is an attitude that attracted me to NREL and this wind group in the first place,” he said. “That attitude is where the mission is much more important than personal glory or success.”

    For Veers, choosing wind farms over dairy farms provided the best harvest of his talents.

    See the full article here.


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    The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), located in Golden, Colorado, specializes in renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is a government-owned, contractor-operated facility, and is funded through the United States Department of Energy. This arrangement allows a private entity to operate the lab on behalf of the federal government. NREL receives funding from Congress to be applied toward research and development projects. NREL also performs research on photovoltaics (PV) under the National Center for Photovoltaics. NREL has a number of PV research capabilities including research and development, testing, and deployment. NREL’s campus houses several facilities dedicated to PV research.

    NREL’s areas of research and development are renewable electricity, energy productivity, energy storage, systems integration, and sustainable transportation.

  • richardmitnick 9:58 am on November 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New technique lets researchers map strain in next-gen solar cells", A new type of electron backscatter diffraction, , , Energy, , FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in the Netherlands, Lead halide perovskites, ,   

    From University of Washington: “New technique lets researchers map strain in next-gen solar cells” 

    U Washington

    From University of Washington

    October 31, 2019
    James Urton


    People can be good at hiding strain, and we’re not alone. Solar cells have the same talent. For a solar cell, physical strain within its microscopic crystalline structure can interrupt its core function — converting sunlight into electricity — by essentially “losing” energy as heat. For an emerging type of solar cell, known as lead halide perovskites, reducing and taming this loss is key to improving efficiency and putting the perovskites on par with today’s silicon solar cells.

    In order to understand where strain builds up within a solar cell and triggers the energy loss, scientists must visualize the underlying grain structure of perovskite crystals within the solar cell. But the best approach involves bombarding the solar cell with high-energy electrons, which essentially burns the solar cell and renders it useless.

    Researchers from the University of Washington and the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in the Netherlands have developed a way to illuminate strain in lead halide perovskite solar cells without harming them. Their approach, published online Sept. 10 in Joule, succeeded in imaging the grain structure of a perovskite solar cell, showing that misorientation between microscopic perovskite crystals is the primary contributor to the buildup of strain within the solar cell. Crystal misorientation creates small-scale defects in the grain structure, which interrupt the transport of electrons within the solar cell and lead to heat loss through a process known as non-radiative recombination.

    Image of a perovskite solar cell, obtained by the team’s improved method for electron imaging, showing individual grain structure.Jariwala et al., Joule, 2019

    “By combining our optical imaging with the new electron detector developed at FOM, we can actually see how the individual crystals are oriented and put together within a perovskite solar cell,” said senior author David Ginger, a UW professor of chemistry and chief scientist at the UW-based Clean Energy Institute. “We can show that strain builds up due to the grain orientation, which is information researchers can use to improve perovskite synthesis and manufacturing processes to realize better solar cells with minimal strain — and therefore minimal heat loss due to non-radiative recombination.”

    Lead halide perovskites are cheap, printable crystalline compounds that show promise as low-cost, adaptable and efficient alternatives to the silicon or gallium arsenide solar cells that are widely used today. But even the best perovskite solar cells lose some electricity as heat at microscopic locations scattered across the cell, which dampens the efficiency.

    Scientists have long used fluorescence microscopy to identify the locations on perovskite solar cells’ surface that reduce efficiency. But to identify the locations of defects causing the heat loss, researchers need to image the true grain structure of the film, according to first author Sarthak Jariwala, a UW doctoral student in materials science and engineering and a Clean Energy Institute Graduate Fellow.

    “Historically, imaging the solar cell’s underlying true grain structure has not been possible to do without damaging the solar cell,” said Jariwala.

    Typical approaches to view the internal structure utilize a form of electron microscopy called electron backscatter diffraction, which would normally burn the solar cell. But scientists at the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics, led by co-authors Erik Garnett and Bruno Ehrler, developed an improved detector that can capture electron backscatter diffraction images at lower exposure times, preserving the solar cell structure.

    The images of perovskite solar cells from Ginger’s lab reveal a grain structure that resembles a dry lakebed, with “cracks” representing the boundaries among thousands of individual perovskite grains. Using this imaging data, the researchers could for the first time map the 3D orientation of crystals within a functioning perovskite solar cell. They could also determine where misalignment among crystals created strain.

    The thin lines show the grain structure of a perovskite solar cell obtained using a new type of electron backscatter diffraction. Researchers can use a different technique to map sites of high energy loss (dark purple) and low energy loss (yellow).Jariwala et al., Joule, 2019

    When the researchers overlaid images of the perovskite’s grain structure with centers of non-radiative recombination, which Jariwala imaged using fluorescence microscopy, they discovered that non-radiative recombination could also occur away from visible boundaries.

    “We think that strain locally deforms the perovskite structure and causes defects,” said Ginger. “These defects can then disrupt the transport of electrical current within the solar cell, causing non-radiative recombination — even elsewhere on the surface.”

    While Ginger’s team has previously developed methods to “heal” some of these defects that serve as centers of non-radiative recombination in perovskite solar cells, ideally researchers would like to develop perovskite synthesis methods that would reduce or eliminate non-radiative recombination altogether.

    “Now we can explore strategies like controlling grain size and orientation spread during the perovskite synthesis process,” said Ginger. “Those might be routes to reduce misorientation and strain — and prevent defects from forming in the first place.”

    Co-authors on the paper are Hongyu Sun, Gede Adhyaksa, Adries Lof and Loreta Muscarella with the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. National Science Foundation, the UW Clean Energy Institute, TKI Urban Energy, the European Research Council and the Dutch Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .


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    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

  • richardmitnick 11:52 am on November 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stanford study casts doubt on carbon capture", , , Energy, Focusing on renewables,   

    From Stanford University: “Stanford study casts doubt on carbon capture” 

    Stanford University Name
    From Stanford University

    October 25, 2019
    Taylor Kubota

    Current approaches to carbon capture can increase air pollution and are not efficient at reducing carbon in the atmosphere, according to research from Mark Z. Jacobson.

    Research by Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering, suggests that carbon capture technologies are inefficient and increase air pollution. Given this analysis, he argues that the best solution is to instead focus on renewable options, such as wind or solar, replacing fossil fuels. (Image credit: Getty Images)

    One proposed method for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere – and reducing the risk of climate change – is to capture carbon from the air or prevent it from getting there in the first place. However, research from Mark Z. Jacobson at Stanford University, published in Energy and Environmental Science, suggests that carbon capture technologies can cause more harm than good.

    “All sorts of scenarios have been developed under the assumption that carbon capture actually reduces substantial amounts of carbon. However, this research finds that it reduces only a small fraction of carbon emissions, and it usually increases air pollution,” said Jacobson, who is a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Even if you have 100 percent capture from the capture equipment, it is still worse, from a social cost perspective, than replacing a coal or gas plant with a wind farm because carbon capture never reduces air pollution and always has a capture equipment cost. Wind replacing fossil fuels always reduces air pollution and never has a capture equipment cost.”

    Jacobson, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, examined public data from a coal with carbon capture electric power plant and a plant that removes carbon from the air directly. In both cases, electricity to run the carbon capture came from natural gas. He calculated the net CO2 reduction and total cost of the carbon capture process in each case, accounting for the electricity needed to run the carbon capture equipment, the combustion and upstream emissions resulting from that electricity, and, in the case of the coal plant, its upstream emissions. (Upstream emissions are emissions, including from leaks and combustion, from mining and transporting a fuel such as coal or natural gas.)

    Common estimates of carbon capture technologies – which only look at the carbon captured from energy production at a fossil fuel plant itself and not upstream emissions – say carbon capture can remediate 85-90 percent of carbon emissions. Once Jacobson calculated all the emissions associated with these plants that could contribute to global warming, he converted them to the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide in order to compare his data with the standard estimate. He found that in both cases the equipment captured the equivalent of only 10-11 percent of the emissions they produced, averaged over 20 years.

    This research also looked at the social cost of carbon capture – including air pollution, potential health problems, economic costs and overall contributions to climate change – and concluded that those are always similar to or higher than operating a fossil fuel plant without carbon capture and higher than not capturing carbon from the air at all. Even when the capture equipment is powered by renewable electricity, Jacobson concluded that it is always better to use the renewable electricity instead to replace coal or natural gas electricity or to do nothing, from a social cost perspective.

    Given this analysis, Jacobson argued that the best solution is to instead focus on renewable options, such as wind or solar, replacing fossil fuels.

    Efficiency and upstream emissions

    This research is based on data from two real carbon capture plants, which both run on natural gas. The first is a coal plant with carbon capture equipment. The second plant is not attached to any energy-producing counterpart. Instead, it pulls existing carbon dioxide from the air using a chemical process.

    Jacobson examined several scenarios to determine the actual and possible efficiencies of these two kinds of plants, including what would happen if the carbon capture technologies were run with renewable electricity rather than natural gas, and if the same amount of renewable electricity required to run the equipment were instead used to replace coal plant electricity.

    While the standard estimate for the efficiency of carbon capture technologies is 85-90 percent, neither of these plants met that expectation. Even without accounting for upstream emissions, the equipment associated with the coal plant was only 55.4 percent efficient over 6 months, on average. With the upstream emissions included, Jacobson found that, on average over 20 years, the equipment captured only 10-11 percent of the total carbon dioxide equivalent emissions that it and the coal plant contributed. The air capture plant was also only 10-11 percent efficient, on average over 20 years, once Jacobson took into consideration its upstream emissions and the uncaptured and upstream emissions that came from operating the plant on natural gas.

    Due to the high energy needs of carbon capture equipment, Jacobson concluded that the social cost of coal with carbon capture powered by natural gas was about 24 percent higher, over 20 years, than the coal without carbon capture. If the natural gas at that same plant were replaced with wind power, the social cost would still exceed that of doing nothing. Only when wind replaced coal itself did social costs decrease.

    For both types of plants this suggests that, even if carbon capture equipment is able to capture 100 percent of the carbon it is designed to offset, the cost of manufacturing and running the equipment plus the cost of the air pollution it continues to allow or increases makes it less efficient than using those same resources to create renewable energy plants replacing coal or gas directly.

    “Not only does carbon capture hardly work at existing plants, but there’s no way it can actually improve to be better than replacing coal or gas with wind or solar directly,” said Jacobson. “The latter will always be better, no matter what, in terms of the social cost. You can’t just ignore health costs or climate costs.”

    This study did not consider what happens to carbon dioxide after it is captured but Jacobson suggests that most applications today, which are for industrial use, result in additional leakage of carbon dioxide back into the air.

    Focusing on renewables

    People propose that carbon capture could be useful in the future, even after we have stopped burning fossil fuels, to lower atmospheric carbon levels. Even assuming these technologies run on renewables, Jacobson maintains that the smarter investment is in options that are currently disconnected from the fossil fuel industry, such as reforestation – a natural version of air capture – and other forms of climate change solutions focused on eliminating other sources of emissions and pollution. These include reducing biomass burning, and reducing halogen, nitrous oxide and methane emissions.

    “There is a lot of reliance on carbon capture in theoretical modeling, and by focusing on that as even a possibility, that diverts resources away from real solutions,” said Jacobson. “It gives people hope that you can keep fossil fuel power plants alive. It delays action. In fact, carbon capture and direct air capture are always opportunity costs.”

    See the full article here .

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    Stanford University campus. No image credit

    Stanford University

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 9:10 am on October 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "‘Artificial leaf’ successfully produces clean gas ", , , , , Energy, ,   

    From University of Cambridge: “‘Artificial leaf’ successfully produces clean gas “ 

    U Cambridge bloc

    From University of Cambridge

    21 Oct 2019
    Sarah Collins

    Artificial leaf. Credit: Virgil Andrei

    A widely-used gas that is currently produced from fossil fuels can instead be made by an ‘artificial leaf’ that uses only sunlight, carbon dioxide and water, and which could eventually be used to develop a sustainable liquid fuel alternative to petrol.

    The carbon-neutral device sets a new benchmark in the field of solar fuels, after researchers at the University of Cambridge demonstrated that it can directly produce the gas – called syngas – in a sustainable and simple way.

    Rather than running on fossil fuels, the artificial leaf is powered by sunlight, although it still works efficiently on cloudy and overcast days. And unlike the current industrial processes for producing syngas, the leaf does not release any additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The results are reported in the journal Nature Materials.

    Syngas is currently made from a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, and is used to produce a range of commodities, such as fuels, pharmaceuticals, plastics and fertilisers.

    “You may not have heard of syngas itself but every day, you consume products that were created using it. Being able to produce it sustainably would be a critical step in closing the global carbon cycle and establishing a sustainable chemical and fuel industry,” said senior author Professor Erwin Reisner from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry, who has spent seven years working towards this goal.

    The device Reisner and his colleagues produced is inspired by photosynthesis – the natural process by which plants use the energy from sunlight to turn carbon dioxide into food.

    On the artificial leaf, two light absorbers, similar to the molecules in plants that harvest sunlight, are combined with a catalyst made from the naturally abundant element cobalt.

    When the device is immersed in water, one light absorber uses the catalyst to produce oxygen. The other carries out the chemical reaction that reduces carbon dioxide and water into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, forming the syngas mixture.

    As an added bonus, the researchers discovered that their light absorbers work even under the low levels of sunlight on a rainy or overcast day.

    “This means you are not limited to using this technology just in warm countries, or only operating the process during the summer months,” said PhD student Virgil Andrei, first author of the paper. “You could use it from dawn until dusk, anywhere in the world.”

    The research was carried out in the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Sustainable SynGas Chemistry in the University’s Department of Chemistry. It was co-funded by the Austrian government and the Austrian petrochemical company OMV, which is looking for ways to make its business more sustainable.

    “OMV has been an avid supporter of the Christian Doppler Laboratory for the past seven years. The team’s fundamental research to produce syngas as the basis for liquid fuel in a carbon neutral way is ground-breaking,” said Michael-Dieter Ulbrich, Senior Advisor at OMV.

    Other ‘artificial leaf’ devices have also been developed, but these usually only produce hydrogen. The Cambridge researchers say the reason they have been able to make theirs produce syngas sustainably is thanks the combination of materials and catalysts they used.

    These include state-of-the-art perovskite light absorbers, which provide a high photovoltage and electrical current to power the chemical reaction by which carbon dioxide is reduced to carbon monoxide, in comparison to light absorbers made from silicon or dye-sensitised materials. The researchers also used cobalt as their molecular catalyst, instead of platinum or silver. Cobalt is not only lower-cost, but it is better at producing carbon monoxide than other catalysts.

    The team is now looking at ways to use their technology to produce a sustainable liquid fuel alternative to petrol.

    Syngas is already used as a building block in the production of liquid fuels. “What we’d like to do next, instead of first making syngas and then converting it into liquid fuel, is to make the liquid fuel in one step from carbon dioxide and water,” said Reisner, who is also a Fellow of St John’s College.

    Although great advances are being made in generating electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind power and photovoltaics, Reisner says the development of synthetic petrol is vital, as electricity can currently only satisfy about 25% of our total global energy demand. “There is a major demand for liquid fuels to power heavy transport, shipping and aviation sustainably,” he said.

    “We are aiming at sustainably creating products such as ethanol, which can readily be used as a fuel,” said Andrei. “It’s challenging to produce it in one step from sunlight using the carbon dioxide reduction reaction. But we are confident that we are going in the right direction, and that we have the right catalysts, so we believe we will be able to produce a device that can demonstrate this process in the near future.”

    The research was also funded by the Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

    See the full article here .


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    U Cambridge Campus

    The University of Cambridge (abbreviated as Cantab in post-nominal letters) is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university. It grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with townsfolk. The two ancient universities share many common features and are often jointly referred to as “Oxbridge”.

    Cambridge is formed from a variety of institutions which include 31 constituent colleges and over 100 academic departments organised into six schools. The university occupies buildings throughout the town, many of which are of historical importance. The colleges are self-governing institutions founded as integral parts of the university. In the year ended 31 July 2014, the university had a total income of £1.51 billion, of which £371 million was from research grants and contracts. The central university and colleges have a combined endowment of around £4.9 billion, the largest of any university outside the United States. Cambridge is a member of many associations and forms part of the “golden triangle” of leading English universities and Cambridge University Health Partners, an academic health science centre. The university is closely linked with the development of the high-tech business cluster known as “Silicon Fen”.

  • richardmitnick 10:22 am on October 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stanford researchers create new catalyst that can turn carbon dioxide into fuels", , , , , Energy, Imagine grabbing carbon dioxide from car exhaust pipes and other sources and turning this main greenhouse gas into fuels like natural gas or propane., ,   

    From Stanford University: “Stanford researchers create new catalyst that can turn carbon dioxide into fuels” 

    Stanford University Name
    From Stanford University

    October 17, 2019
    Andrew Myers

    Aisulu Aitbekova, left, and Matteo Cargnello in front of the reactor where Aitbekova performed much of the experiments for this project. (Image credit: Mark Golden)

    Imagine grabbing carbon dioxide from car exhaust pipes and other sources and turning this main greenhouse gas into fuels like natural gas or propane: a sustainability dream come true.

    Several recent studies have shown some success in this conversion, but a novel approach from Stanford University engineers yields four times more ethane, propane and butane than existing methods that use similar processes. While not a climate cure-all, the advance could significantly reduce the near-term impact on global warming.

    “One can imagine a carbon-neutral cycle that produces fuel from carbon dioxide and then burns it, creating new carbon dioxide that then gets turned back into fuel,” said Matteo Cargnello, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Stanford who led the research, published in Angewandte Chemie.

    Although the process is still just a lab-based prototype, the researchers expect it could be expanded enough to produce useable amounts of fuel. Much work remains, however, before average consumer will be able to purchase products based on such technologies. Next steps include trying to reduce harmful byproducts from these reactions, such as the toxic pollutant carbon monoxide. The group is also developing ways to make other beneficial products, not just fuels. One such product is olefins, which can be used in a number of industrial applications and are the main ingredients for plastics.

    Two steps in one

    Previous efforts to convert CO2 to fuel involved a two-step process. The first step reduces CO2 to carbon monoxide, then the second combines the CO with hydrogen to make hydrocarbon fuels. The simplest of these fuels is methane, but other fuels that can be produced include ethane, propane and butane. Ethane is a close relative of natural gas and can be used industrially to make ethylene, a precursor of plastics. Propane is commonly used to heat homes and power gas grills. Butane is a common fuel in lighters and camp stoves.

    Cargnello thought completing both steps in a single reaction would be much more efficient, and set about creating a new catalyst that could simultaneously strip an oxygen molecule off of CO2 and combine it with hydrogen. (Catalysts induce chemical reactions without being used up in the reaction themselves.) The team succeeded by combining ruthenium and iron oxide nanoparticles into a catalyst.

    “This nugget of ruthenium sits at the core and is encapsulated in an outer sheath of iron,” said Aisulu Aitbekova, a doctoral candidate in Cargnello’s lab and lead author of the paper. “This structure activates hydrocarbon formation from CO2. It improves the process start to finish.”

    The team did not set out to create this core-shell structure but discovered it through collaboration with Simon Bare, distinguished staff scientist, and others at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. SLAC’s sophisticated X-ray characterization technologies helped the researchers visualize and examine the structure of their new catalyst. Without this collaboration, Cargnello said they would not have discovered the optimal structure.

    “That’s when we began to engineer this material directly in a core-shell configuration. Then we showed that once we do that, hydrocarbon yields improve tremendously,” Cargnello said. “It is something about the structure specifically that helps the reactions along.”

    Cargnello thinks the two catalysts act in tag-team fashion to improve the synthesis. He suspects the ruthenium makes hydrogen chemically ready to bond with the carbon from CO2. The hydrogen then spills onto the iron shell, which makes the carbon dioxide more reactive.

    When the group tested their catalyst in the lab, they found that the yield for fuels such as ethane, propane and butane was much higher than their previous catalyst. However, the group still faces a few challenges. They’d like to reduce the use of noble metals such as ruthenium, and optimize the catalyst so that it can selectively make only specific fuels.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stanford University campus. No image credit

    Stanford University

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 10:35 am on August 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , At times renewable energy sources can produce more power than what is needed leaving some solar or wind energy to go to waste., , , Energy, Investing in batteries and other energy storage technologies to capture the excess can be economically viable with proper policy support., ,   

    From University of Michigan: “Investing in energy storage for solar, wind power could greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions” 

    U Michigan bloc

    From University of Michigan

    July 30, 2019
    Jim Erickson

    Written by Wendy Bowyer


    Drive through nearly any corner of America long enough and giant solar farms or rows of wind turbines come into view, all with the goal of increasing the country’s renewable energy use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    But what some may not realize is at times these renewable energy sources can produce more power than what is needed, leaving some solar or wind energy to, in a sense, go to waste. This oversupply condition is a lost opportunity for these clean energy resources to displace pollution from fossil fuel-powered plants.

    But by creating complex models analyzing power systems in California and Texas, University of Michigan scientists show in a study scheduled for online publication July 30 in Nature Communications, that investing in batteries and other energy storage technologies can be economically viable with proper policy support.

    That, in turn, could radically reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases—by up to 90% in one scenario examined by the researchers—and increase the use of solar and wind energy at a time when climate change takes on greater urgency.

    “The cost of energy storage is very important,” said study co-author Maryam Arbabzadeh, a postdoctoral fellow at U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability. “But there are some incentives we could use to make it attractive economically, one being an emissions tax.”

    Arbabzadeh led the research in collaboration with colleagues at Ohio State University and North Carolina State University. Gregory Keoleian, director of U-M’s Center for Sustainable Systems, served as her adviser and one of the co-authors of the study.

    “Electricity generation accounts for 28% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and given the urgency of climate change it is critical to accelerate the deployment of renewable sources such as wind and solar,” said Keoleian, a professor of environment and sustainability and civil and environmental engineering.

    “This research clearly demonstrates how energy storage technologies can play an important role in reducing renewable curtailment and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power plants.”

    Arbabzadeh and her fellow researchers created complex models analyzing nine different energy storage technologies. They looked at the environmental effects of renewable curtailment, which is the amount of renewable energy generated but unable to be delivered to meet demand for a variety of reasons.

    They also modeled what would happen if each state would add up to 20 gigawatts of wind and 40 gigawatts of solar capacity, and how all of this would be impacted economically by a carbon dioxide tax of up to $200 per ton.

    What they found was striking.

    Adding 60 gigawatts of renewable energy to California could achieve a 72% carbon dioxide reduction. Then, by adding some energy storage technologies on top of that in California could allow a 90% carbon dioxide reduction. In Texas, energy storage could allow a 57% emissions reduction.

    But for all of this to happen, utility companies would need a reason to invest in energy storage systems, which require large amounts of capital investment. That is where the use of a carbon tax could be helpful, Arbabzadeh said.

    All nine of the energy storage technologies studied, including high-tech batteries, require a significant capital investment and all had different pros and cons. Also adding to the complexity of the research is the different type of generation mix in Texas and California.

    Texas uses some coal and natural gas-fired units. California uses more inflexible resources, like nuclear, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric energy units, which make its renewable curtailment rates much higher than Texas.

    The work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program and the Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship Program.

    See the full article here .


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    Stem Education Coalition

    U MIchigan Campus

    The University of Michigan (U-M, UM, UMich, or U of M), frequently referred to simply as Michigan, is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. Originally, founded in 1817 in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the Michigan Territory officially became a state, the University of Michigan is the state’s oldest university. The university moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet (781 acres or 3.16 km²), and has two satellite campuses located in Flint and Dearborn. The University was one of the founding members of the Association of American Universities.

    Considered one of the foremost research universities in the United States,[7] the university has very high research activity and its comprehensive graduate program offers doctoral degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as professional degrees in business, medicine, law, pharmacy, nursing, social work and dentistry. Michigan’s body of living alumni (as of 2012) comprises more than 500,000. Besides academic life, Michigan’s athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are collectively known as the Wolverines. They are members of the Big Ten Conference.

  • richardmitnick 10:15 am on May 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "U of T research looks at how to take the ‘petro’ out of the petrochemicals industry", , , , Energy, Phil De Luna, Renewable electrosynthesis,   

    From University of Toronto: “U of T research looks at how to take the ‘petro’ out of the petrochemicals industry” Phil De Luna 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    Phil De Luna is the lead author of an article in Science that analyzes how green electricity and carbon capture could displace fossil fuels in the production of everything from fertilizer to textiles (photo by Tyler Irving)

    April 30, 2019
    Tyler Irving

    Fossil fuels are the backbone of the global petrochemicals industry, which provides the world’s growing population with fuels, plastics, clothing, fertilizers and more. A new research paper, published last week in Science, charts a course for how an alternative technology – renewable electrosynthesis – could usher in a more sustainable chemical industry and ultimately enable us to leave much more oil and gas in the ground.

    Phil De Luna, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, is the paper’s lead author. His research involved designing and testing catalysts for electrosynthesis, and last November he was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list of innovators in the category of Energy. He and his supervisor, Professor Ted Sargent, collaborated on the paper with an international team of researchers from Stanford University and TOTAL American Services, Inc.

    Writer Tyler Irving sat down with De Luna to learn more about how renewable electrosynthesis could take the “petro” out of petrochemicals.

    Can you describe the challenge you’re trying to solve?

    Our society is addicted to fossil fuels – they’re in everything from the plastics in your phone to the synthetic fibres in your clothes. A growing world population and rising standards of living are driving demand higher every year.

    Changing the system requires a massive global transformation. In some areas, we have alternatives – for example, electric vehicles can replace internal combustion engines. Renewable electrosynthesis could do something similar for the petrochemical industry.

    What is renewable electrosynthesis?

    Think about what the petrochemical industry does: It takes heavy, long-chain carbon molecules and uses high heat and pressure to break them down into basic chemical building blocks. Then, those building blocks get reassembled into plastics, fertilizers, fibres, etc.

    Imagine that instead of using fossil fuels, you could use CO2 from the air. And instead of doing the reactions at high temperatures and pressures, you could make the chemical building blocks at room temperature using innovative catalysts and electricity from renewable sources, such as solar or hydro power. That’s renewable electrosynthesis.

    Once we do that initial transformation, the chemical building blocks fit into our existing infrastructure, so there is no change in the quality of the products. If you do it right, the overall process is carbon neutral or even carbon negative if powered completely by renewable energy.

    Plants also take CO2 from the air and make it into materials such as wood, paper and cotton. What is the advantage of electrosynthesis?

    The advantages are speed and throughput. Plants are great at turning CO2 into materials, but they also use their energy for things like metabolism and reproduction, so they aren’t very efficient. It can take 10 to 15 years to grow a tonne of usable wood. Electrosynthesis would be like putting the CO2 capture and conversion power of 50,000 trees into a box the size of a refrigerator.

    Why don’t we do this today?

    It comes down to cost. You need to prove that the cost to make a chemical building block via electrosynthesis is on par with the cost of producing it the conventional way.

    Right now there are some limited applications. For example, most of the hydrogen used to upgrade heavy oil comes from natural gas, but about four per cent is now produced by electrolysis – that is, using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. In the future, we could do something similar for carbon-based building blocks.

    What did your analysis find?

    We determined that there are two main factors: The first is the cost of electricity itself, and the second is the electrical-to-chemical conversion efficiency.

    In order to be competitive with conventional methods, electricity needs to cost less than four cents per kilowatt-hour, and the electrical-to-chemical conversion efficiency needs to be 60 per cent or greater.

    How close are we?

    There are some places in the world where renewable energy from solar can cost as little as two or three cents per kilowatt-hour. Even in a place like Quebec, which has abundant hydro power, there are times of the year where electricity is sold at negative prices, because there is no way to store it. So, from an economic potential perspective, I think we’re getting close in a number of important jurisdictions.

    Designing catalysts that can raise the electrical-to-chemical conversion efficiency is harder, and it’s what I spent my thesis doing. For ethylene, the best I’ve seen is about 35 per cent efficiency, but for some other building blocks, such as carbon monoxide, we’re approaching 50 per cent.

    Of course, all this has been done in labs – it’s a lot harder to scale that up to a plant that can make kilotonnes per day. But I think there are some applications out there that show promise.

    Can you give an example of what renewable electrosynthesis would look like?

    Let’s take ethylene, which is by volume the world’s most-produced petrochemical. You could in theory make ethylene using CO2 from the air – or from an exhaust pipe – using renewable electricity and the right catalyst. You could sell the ethylene to a plastic manufacturer, who would make it into plastic bags or lawn chairs or whatever.

    At the end of its life, you could incinerate this plastic – or any other carbon-intensive form of waste – capture the CO2, and start the process all over again. In other words, you’ve closed the carbon loop and eliminated the need for fossil fuels.

    What do you think the focus of future research should be?

    I’ve actually just taken a position as the program director of the clean energy materials challenge program at the National Research Council of Canada. I am building a $21 million collaborative research program, so this is something I think about a lot.

    We’re currently targeting parts of the existing petrochemical supply chain that could easily be converted to electrosynthesis. There is the example I mentioned above, which is the production of hydrogen for oil and gas upgrading using electrolysis.

    Another good building block to target would be carbon monoxide, which today is primarily produced from burning coal. We know how to make it via electrosynthesis, so if we could get the efficiency up, that would be a drop-in solution.

    How does renewable electrosynthesis fit into the large landscape of strategies to reduce emissions and combat climate change?

    I’ve always said that there’s no silver bullet. Instead, I think what we need is what I call a “silver buckshot” approach. We need recycled building materials, we need more efficient LEDs for lighting, we need better solar cells and better batteries.

    But even if emissions from the electricity grid and the transportation network dropped to zero tomorrow, it wouldn’t do anything to help the petrochemical industry that supplies so many of the products we use every day. If we can start by electrifying portions of the supply chain, that’s the first step to building an alternative system.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

    Our students have the opportunity to learn from and work with preeminent thought leaders through our multidisciplinary network of teaching and research faculty, alumni and partners.

    The ideas, innovations and actions of more than 560,000 graduates continue to have a positive impact on the world.

  • richardmitnick 10:53 am on April 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Record solar hydrogen production with concentrated sunlight", , , , Energy, , LRESE-EPFL’s Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering, The research team installed a 7-meter diameter parabolic mirror that concentrates solar irradiation by a factor of 1000 and drives the device. The first tests are under way.   

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne: “Record solar hydrogen production with concentrated sunlight” 

    EPFL bloc

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    Laure-Anne Pessina

    Saurabh Tembhurne, Sophia Haussener and Fredy Nandjou© Marc Delachaux / 2019 EPFL

    EPFL researchers have created a smart device capable of producing large amounts of clean hydrogen. By concentrating sunlight, their device uses a smaller amount of the rare, costly materials that are required to produce hydrogen, yet it still maintains a high solar-to-fuel efficiency. Their research has been taken to the next scale with a pilot facility installed on the EPFL campus.

    Hydrogen will play a key role in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. It can be sustainably produced by using solar energy to split water molecules. The resulting clean energy can be stored, used to fuel cars or converted into electricity on demand. But making it reliably on a large scale and at an affordable cost is a challenge for researchers. Efficient solar hydrogen production requires rare and expensive materials – for both the solar cells and the catalyst – in order to collect energy and then convert it.

    Scientists at EPFL’s Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering (LRESE) came up with the idea of concentrating solar irradiation to produce a larger amount of hydrogen over a given area at a lower cost. They developed an enhanced photo-electrochemical system that, when used in conjunction with concentrated solar irradiation and smart thermal management, can turn solar power into hydrogen with a 17% conversion rate and unprecedented power and current density. What’s more, their technology is stable and can handle the stochastic dynamics of daily solar irradiation.

    The results of their research have just been published in Nature Energy. “In our device, a thin layer of water runs over a solar cell to cool it. The system temperature remains relatively low, allowing the solar cell to deliver better performance,” says Saurabh Tembhurne, a co-author of the study. “At the same time, the heat extracted by the water is transferred to catalysts, thereby improving the chemical reaction and increasing the hydrogen production rate,” adds Fredy Nandjou, a researcher at the LRESE. Hydrogen production is therefore optimized at each step of the conversion process.

    The scientists used the LRESE’s unique solar simulator to demonstrate the stable performance of their device. The results from the lab-scale demonstrations were so promising that the device has been upscaled and is now being tested outdoors, on EPFL’s Lausanne campus. The research team installed a 7-meter diameter parabolic mirror that concentrates solar irradiation by a factor of 1,000 and drives the device. The first tests are under way.

    Hydrogen stations

    The scientists estimate that their system can run for over 30,000 hours – or nearly four years – without any part replacements, and up to 20 years if some parts are replaced every four years. Their solar concentrator turns and follows the sun across the sky in order to maximize its yield. Sophia Haussener, the head of the LRESE and the project lead, explains: “In sunny weather, our system can generate up to 1 kilogram of hydrogen per day, which is enough fuel for a hydrogen-powered car to travel 100 to 150 kilometers.”

    For distributed, large-scale hydrogen generation, several concentrator systems could be used together to produce hydrogen at chemical plants or for hydrogen stations. Tembhurne and Haussener are planning to take their technology from the lab to industry with a spin-off company called SoHHytec.

    Open source software

    Thanks to an open interface, it will be possible to monitor the instantaneous performance of the system.
    As part of their research, the scientists also performed a technological and economic feasibility study and developed an open-source software program called SPECDO (Solar PhotoElectroChemical Device Optimization, http://specdo.epfl.ch). This program can help engineers design components for low-cost photoelectrochemical systems for producing solar hydrogen. Additionally, they provided a dynamic benchmarking tool called SPECDC (Solar PhotoElectroChemical Device Comparison), for the comparison and assessment of all photoelectrochemical system demonstrations.

    This research is being funded by the NanoTera project SHINE and the SNFS Starting Grant SCOUTS; the scale-up is being funded by SNSF-Bridge, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and EPFL.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    EPFL campus

    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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