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  • richardmitnick 1:40 pm on August 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Energy, , , World's Biggest Solar Thermal Power Plant Just Got Approved in Australia   

    From Science Alert: “World’s Biggest Solar Thermal Power Plant Just Got Approved in Australia” 

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    16 AUG 2017
    DAVID NIELD

    1
    Crescent Dunes near Las Vegas, the blueprint for the new plant. Credit: Solar Reserve.

    The onward march of renewables continues: an Australian state government has greenlit the biggest solar thermal power plant of its kind in the world, a 150-megawatt structure set to be built in Port Augusta in South Australia.

    As well as providing around 650 construction jobs for local workers, the plant will provide all the electricity needs for the state government, with some to spare – and it should help to make solar energy even more affordable in the future.

    Work on the AU$650 million (US$510 million) plant is getting underway next year and is slated to be completed in 2020, adding to Australia’s growing list of impressive renewable energy projects that already cover solar and tidal.

    “The significance of solar thermal generation lies in its ability to provide energy virtually on demand through the use of thermal energy storage to store heat for running the power turbines,” says sustainable energy engineering professor Wasim Saman, from the University of South Australia.

    “This is a substantially more economical way of storing energy than using batteries.”

    Solar photovoltaic plants convert sunlight directly into electricity, so they need batteries to store excess power for when the Sun isn’t shining; solar thermal plants, meanwhile, use mirrors to concentrate the sunlight into a heating system.

    A variety of heating systems are in use, but In this case, molten salt will be heated up – a more economical storage option than batteries – which is then used to boil water, spin a steam turbine, and generate electricity when required.

    The developers of the Port Augusta plant say it can continue to generate power at full load for up to 8 hours after the Sun’s gone down.

    The Crescent Dunes plant in Nevada will act as the blueprint for the one in Port Augusta, as it was built by the same contractor, Solar Reserve. That site has a 110-megawatt capacity.

    Renewable energy sources now account for more than 40 percent of the electricity generated in South Australia, and as solar becomes a more stable and reliable provider of energy, that in turn pushes prices lower.

    Importantly, the cost of the new plant is well below the estimated cost of a new coal-fired power station, giving the government another reason to back renewables. The cost-per-megawatt of the new plant works out about the same as wind power and solar photovoltaic plants.

    But engineering researcher Fellow Matthew Stocks, from the Australian National University, says we still have “lots to learn” about how solar thermal technologies can fit into an electric grid system.

    “One of the big challenges for solar thermal as a storage tool is that it can only store heat,” says Stocks. “If there is an excess of electricity in the system because the wind is blowing strong, it cannot efficiently use it to store electrical power to shift the energy to times of shortage, unlike batteries and pumped hydro.”

    Authorities say 50 full-time workers will be required to operate the plant, using similar skills to those needed to run a coal or gas station. That will encourage workers laid off after the region’s coal-fired power station was closed down last year.

    Solar thermal has been backed to the tune of AU$110m ($86m) of equity provided by the federal government.

    And as renewables become more and more important to our power grids, expect to see this huge solar thermal plant eventually get eclipsed by a bigger one.

    “This is first large scale application of solar thermal generation in Australia which has been operating successfully in Europe, USA and Africa,” says Saman.

    “While this technology is perhaps a decade behind solar PV generation, many future world energy forecasts include a considerable proportion of this technology in tomorrow’s energy mix.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:32 am on August 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A copper catalyst that converts carbon dioxide into ethanol, , , , Energy, How do you make ethanol without growing corn?,   

    From Stanford: “How do you make ethanol without growing corn?” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    June 20, 2017 [Delayed waiting for a link to the science paper.]
    Mark Shwartz

    1
    SLAC scientist Christopher Hahn sees his reflection in a copper catalyst that converts carbon dioxide into ethanol. | Image credit: Mark Shwartz.

    Most cars and trucks in the United States run on a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel made primarily from fermented corn. But producing the 14 billion gallons of ethanol consumed annually by American drivers requires millions of acres of farmland.

    A recent discovery by Stanford University scientists could lead to a new, more sustainable way to make ethanol without corn or other crops. This technology has three basic components: water, carbon dioxide and electricity delivered through a copper catalyst. The results are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    “One of our long-range goals is to produce renewable ethanol in a way that doesn’t impact the global food supply,” said study principal investigator Thomas Jaramillo, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Stanford and of photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

    “Copper is one of the few catalysts that can produce ethanol at room temperature,” he said. “You just feed it electricity, water and carbon dioxide, and it makes ethanol. The problem is that it also makes 15 other compounds simultaneously, including lower-value products like methane and carbon monoxide. Separating those products would be an expensive process and require a lot of energy.”

    Scientists would like to design copper catalysts that selectively convert carbon dioxide into higher-value chemicals and fuels, like ethanol and propanol, with few or no byproducts. But first they need a clear understanding of how these catalysts actually work. That’s where the recent findings come in.

    Copper crystals

    For the PNAS study, the Stanford team chose three samples of crystalline copper, known as copper (100), copper (111) and copper (751). Scientists use these numbers to describe the surface geometries of single crystals.

    “Copper (100), (111) and (751) look virtually identical but have major differences in the way their atoms are arranged on the surface,” said Christopher Hahn, an associate staff scientist at SLAC and co-lead lead author of the study. “The essence of our work is to understand how these different facets of copper affect electrocatalytic performance.”

    In previous studies, scientists had created single-crystal copper electrodes just 1-square millimeter in size. For this study, Hahn and his co-workers at SLAC developed a novel way to grow single crystal-like copper on top of large wafers of silicon and sapphire. This approach resulted in films of each form of copper with a 6-square centimeter surface, 600 times bigger than typical single crystals.

    Catalytic performance

    To compare electrocatalytic performance, the researchers placed the three large electrodes in water, exposed them to carbon dioxide gas and applied a potential to generate an electric current.

    The results were clear. When the team applied a specific voltage, the electrodes made of copper (751) were far more selective to liquid products, such as ethanol and propanol, than those made of copper (100) or (111).

    Ultimately, the Stanford team would like to develop a technology capable of selectively producing carbon-neutral fuels and chemicals at an industrial scale.

    “The eye on the prize is to create better catalysts that have game-changing potential by taking carbon dioxide as a feedstock and converting it into much more valuable products using renewable electricity or sunlight directly,” Jaramillo said. “We plan to use this method on nickel and other metals to further understand the chemistry at the surface. We think this study is an important piece of the puzzle and will open up whole new avenues of research for the community.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:55 pm on August 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , California, , Climate policies study shows Inland Empire economic boon, Energy, ,   

    From UC Berkeley: “Climate policies study shows Inland Empire economic boon” 

    UC Berkeley

    UC Berkeley

    August 3, 2017
    Jacqueline Sullivan

    1
    UC Berkeley researchers found that the proliferation of renewable energy plants — like the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm shown above — is responsible for over 90 percent of the direct benefit of California’s climate and clean energy policies in the Inland Empire. (iStock photo).

    According to the first comprehensive study of the economic effects of climate programs in California’s Inland Empire, Riverside and San Bernardino counties experienced a net benefit of $9.1 billion in direct economic activity and 41,000 jobs from 2010 through 2016.

    Researchers at UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education and the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at Berkeley Law report that many of these jobs were created by one-time construction investments associated with building renewable energy power plants. These investments, they say, helped rekindle the construction industry, which experienced major losses during the Great Recession.

    When accounting for the spillover effects, the researchers report in their study commissioned by nonpartisan, nonprofit group Next 10, that state climate policies resulted in a total of $14.2 billion in economic activity and more than 73,000 jobs for the region during the same seven years.

    Study focal points

    2
    Inland Empire residents are at especially high risk for pollution-related health conditions. This hazy view from a Rancho Cucamonga street attests to the region’s smog problem. (Photo by Mikeetc via Creative Commons).

    Because smog in San Bernardino and Riverside counties is consistently among the worst in the state, residents are at especially high risk of pollution-related health conditions.

    “California has many at-risk communities — communities that are vulnerable to climate change, but also vulnerable to the policy solutions designed to slow climate change,” said Betony Jones, lead author of the report and associate director of the Green Economy Program at UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

    In the Inland Empire, per capita income is approximately $23,000, compared to the state average of $30,000, and 17.5 percent of the residents of Riverside and San Bernardino counties live below the poverty line, compared to 14.7 percent of all Californians.

    The Net Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs in the Inland Empire study comes out right after the state’s recent decision to extend California’s cap-and-trade program, and as other states and countries look to California as a model.

    Cap-and-trade

    After accounting for compliance spending and investment of cap-and-trade revenue, researchers found cap and trade had net economic impacts of $25.7 million in San Bernardino and Riverside counties in the first four years of the program, from 2013 to 2016.

    That includes $900,000 in increased tax revenue and net employment growth of 154 jobs through the Inland Empire economy. When funds that have been appropriated but have not yet been spent are included, projected net economic benefits reach nearly $123 million, with 945 jobs created and $5.5 million in tax revenue.

    Proliferation of renewables

    The researchers found that the proliferation of renewable energy plants is responsible for over 90 percent of the direct benefit of California’s climate and clean energy policies in the Inland Empire. As of October 2016, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties were home to more than 17 percent of the state’s renewable generation capacity, according the California Energy Commission.

    3
    Researchers found that altogether, renewables like the solar panels pictured above, contributed more than 60,000 net jobs to the regional economy over seven years. (iStock photo)

    “Even after accounting for construction that would have taken place in a business-as-usual scenario, new renewable power plants created the largest number of jobs in the region over the seven-year period, generating 29,000 high-skilled, high-quality construction jobs,” said Jones.

    The authors compared the jobs created in the generation of renewable electricity with those that would have been created by maintaining natural gas electricity generation. “While renewables create fewer direct jobs, the multiplier effects are greater in the Inland Empire economy,” Jones said. “Altogether, renewable generation contributed over 60,000 net jobs to the regional economy over seven years.”

    Rooftop solar, energy efficiency programs

    The report looks at the costs and benefits of the California Solar Initiative, the federal renewables Investment Tax Credit, and investor-owned utility energy efficiency programs, which provide direct incentives for solar installation and energy efficiency retrofits at homes, businesses and institutions. These programs provided about $1.1 billion in subsidies for distributed solar and $612 million for efficiency in the Inland Empire between 2010 and 2016.

    While researchers calculated benefits for these two programs separately, they identified the costs of these programs to electricity ratepayers together. When the benefits are weighed against these costs, the total net impact of both programs resulted in the creation of more than 12,000 jobs and $1.68 billion across the economy over the seven years studied.

    The report’s authors suggest that officials and/or policymakers:

    Develop a comprehensive program for transportation, the greatest challenge facing in California’s climate goals;
    Expand energy efficiency programs to reduce energy use in the existing building and housing stock while reducing energy costs and creating jobs and economic activity;
    Ensure that the Inland Empire receives appropriate statewide spending based on its economic and environmental needs;
    Develop transition programs for workers and communities affected by the decline of the Inland Empire’s greenhouse gas-emitting industries.

    “California continues to demonstrate leadership on climate and clean energy, and results like these show that California’s models can be exported,” said Ethan Elkind, climate director at the UC Berkeley Center for Law, Energy and the Environment.

    Noel Perry, founder of Next 10, said the report gives policymakers and stakeholders the concrete data needed to weigh policy options and investments in the Inland Empire and beyond.

    See the full article here .

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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

    1

    August 4, 2016
    Helen Knight

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

    2
    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
    louisa.kellie@uta.edu

    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.

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  • 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

    1
    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.”

    See the full article here .

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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 BLOC
    PNNL Lab

    December 14, 2015
    Greg Koller, 509.372.4864,
    greg.koller@pnnl.gov

    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.

    1
    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.

    See the full article here .

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    Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is one of the United States Department of Energy National Laboratories, managed by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The main campus of the laboratory is in Richland, Washington.

    PNNL scientists conduct basic and applied research and development to strengthen U.S. scientific foundations for fundamental research and innovation; prevent and counter acts of terrorism through applied research in information analysis, cyber security, and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction; increase the U.S. energy capacity and reduce dependence on imported oil; and reduce the effects of human activity on the environment. PNNL has been operated by Battelle Memorial Institute since 1965.

    DOE Pulse highlights work being done at the Department of Energy’s national laboratories. DOE’s laboratories house world-class facilities where more than 30,000 scientists and engineers perform cutting-edge research spanning DOE’s science, energy, National security and environmental quality missions. DOE Pulse is distributed twice each month.

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

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

    physdotorg
    phys.org

    December 13, 2015
    Jalal Al Makhfi

    1
    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.”

    2
    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.

    4
    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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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

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

     
  • richardmitnick 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

    Contacts

    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

    1

    2

    3

    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.

     
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