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The Race for Natural Gas

Israel's Zero Gas Game

August 8th 2013

When natural gas was first discovered off of Israel’s coast, analysts and pundits, myself included, identified the finds as a “geopolitical game changer.” Some even went as far as to refer to Israel as an emerging energy superpower – a Qatar in the making.  The country’s vibrant society was euphoric and consumed with speculation about how the windfall of natural gas revenues would be used and how natural gas exports to Asia, Europe and even to neighboring Turkey and Jordan might improve Israel’s strategic posture. Such discussions were not meritless. The natural gas discoveries, nearly 900 billion cubic meters, were among the world’s recent largest, and the involvement of a competent Houston-based company, Noble Energy, in the recovery process instilled confidence in the prospects of turning Israel into a non-trivial part of the global natural gas landscape. After six decades of total dependency on foreign sources of energy Israel was suddenly not only on the cusp of an era of energy self-sufficiency but also well on its way to becoming a net energy exporter and the proud owner of natural gas revenues and a  derived $100 billion sovereign wealth fund. This vision is drifting further away by the day. Israel has made all the right moves to squander its gas bonanza and scare off foreign investors to a point that the celebrated gas discoveries might turn into a huge missed opportunity.  Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Fracking a Threat to the Saudis

August 7th 2013

Saudi Oil

A Saudi prince has warned that his oil-reliant nation is under threat because of fracking technology being developed elsewhere around the world. Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said the Gulf Arab kingdom needed to reduce its reliance on crude oil and diversify its revenues. His warning comes as rising shale energy supplies in the United States cut global demand for Saudi oil.

In an open letter to his country's oil minister Ali al Naimi and other government heads, published on Sunday via his Twitter account, Prince Alwaleed said demand for oil from Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) member states was "in continuous decline". Read more ..

The Race for Solar

UAE & Saudi Seek Whopping $1 Billion for Solar

August 6th 2013

solar power plant

Two of the top four oil-producing OPEC members, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have joined forces in a push to secure $1 billion in funding for Middle East solar-power, Bloomberg reports.

The joint goal to build solar energy plants with a combined generation of 1,000 MW capacity should result in power for up to 200,000 homes, writes Bloomberg.

This project is not related to either the UAE’s other solar energy developments, including the impressive Shams 1 CSP plant, or Saudi’s ambitious intention to spend up to $100 billion to lift itself out of the ranks as one of the less solarized Middle Eastern nations. Instead, the Kingdom and Emirate are seeking grants and loans to help finance the project, which will bring solar power as far afield as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. And it can’t happen a second too soon. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Cobalt Replacements Make Solar Cells More Sustainable

August 5th 2013

Test Tubes

Researchers at the University of Basel have replaced the rare element iodine in copper-based dye-sensitized solar cells by the more abundant element cobalt to take a step forward in the development of environmentally friendly energy production.

Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) transform light to electricity. The cells consist of a Semiconductor on which a dye is anchored. The colored complex absorbs light and through an electron transfer process produces electrical current. Electrolytes act as electron transport agents inside the DSCs.

Usually, iodine and iodide serve as an electrolyte. Chemists at the University of Basel have now been able to successfully replace the usual iodine-based electron transport system in copper-based DSCs by a cobalt compound. Tests showed no loss in performance. Read more ..

The Race for Personal Transit

Toyota Tests Winglet E-Scooter

August 1st 2013


The Segway PT, a scooter with two side-by-side wheels, has gained significant awareness. Now it looks like it gets competition from the Far East: Toyota is testing a very similar electric vehicle.

In an extensive field trial in the Tsukuba Mobility Robot Experimental Zone, Toyota currently tests prototypes of its "Winglet" scooter. Employees of Japan's National Institute for Applied Labour sciences and Technologies as well as local administration staff utilize the Winglet for their daily way to work. They explore how the two-wheeled battery-operated scooter harmonizes with pedestrians and other traffic participants. Besides on safety, the tester take a close look on comfort and functionality with respect to the demand for sustainable mobility.

Announced for the first time already in August 2008 the Winglet is designed as a safe and simple transport means. It is driven by a locally emission-free electric motor; the driver stands on a footboard. Read more ..

The Automotive Edge

Ladies and Gentlemen, Stop Your Engines: Americans are Driving Less

July 31st 2013

Traffic Jam

Miles driven by U.S. motorists in light-duty vehicles are down about 5 percent since its peak in 2006, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Following up his recent research that showed that the number of registered vehicles reached a maximum five years ago, Michael Sivak of the U-M Transportation Research Institute analyzed recent trends in distances driven by cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and vans in the U.S. from 1984 to 2011. He also examined rates per person, per licensed driver , per household and per registered vehicle.

Sivak found that Americans drove 2.647 trillion miles in 2011 (the latest year available), down from a high of 2.773 trillion miles in 2006. In 1984, the distance driven by light vehicles stood at 1.559 trillion miles.

His study also showed that the distance-driven rates per person, per licensed driver and per household have all dropped 9 percent since 2004, while the rate per registered vehicle is down 5 percent during that time. Read more ..

The Race for Geothermal

Kenya's Geothermal Industry Grows

July 30th 2013

Nesjavellr Geothermal Power plant

With Kenya's proximity to the Great Rift, once a hotbed of volcanic activity, the country is the biggest producer of geothermal energy on the continent. Currently 13 percent of the national grid is powered by this renewable energy, but untapped geothermal fields have the potential to cover all of Kenya's power needs, and then some.

Near the Kenyan town of Naivasha, Isaac Kirimi treks up a steaming hillside. Kirimi is a drilling superintendent with KenGen, Kenya’s leading power company.

“This is like a live volcano! You can easily convince someone you’re in hell,” he said. The rocks underfoot are still soft. He looks for a small bushy plant known as geothermal grass, which thrives in high ground temperatures.

“It is normally used by scientists to give them an indication of where there is potential for geothermal resources,” said Kirimi. "A scientist is like a wild person. You are imagining things and now trying to transfer that imagination. And try to convince someone to invest in that is not very easy." Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Obama Rebuked for Keystone Claims

July 29th 2013

Keystone Pipeline

President Obama’s dismissal of the job benefits from the Keystone XL pipeline drew a furious rebuke on Monday from supporters of the project who accused him of ignoring his own State Department.

Republican lawmakers and industry groups said the president is making baseless claims about the proposed pipeline that have already been disproven by members of the administration.

“A president disparaging private-sector jobs while backstage at a jobs rally is beyond belief. The president’s own State Department reported that Keystone would support upwards of 40,000 jobs. In this economy, any source of private job creation should be welcomed with open arms,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in a statement.

The pipeline’s boosters challenged Obama’s remark that Keystone would create only 2,000 construction jobs, pointing him to State’s finding in a draft review that the project would actually generate 42,100 direct and indirect jobs during the initial two-year assembly phase. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Energy

Battle Brews Over Obama Renewable Energy Plan

July 28th 2013

Obama Electric Car

America’s deserts are stark, quiet places, where isolation and the elements have long kept development at bay. To outsiders, these arid expanses may not seem like prized land.

But they are poised to play a key role — and perhaps, to serve as a battleground — in President Obama's plan to double U.S. electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal sources by 2020. To help ramp up that amount of clean energy, the White House has urged approval of an additional 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands.

Estimates vary on exactly how many households would be served by the expansion, but the Obama administration says the 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine wind farms and 11 geothermal plants it has approved on federal lands so far will provide enough juice to power 4.4 million homes. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Cyprus Oil Spill Threatens Pristine Coastline

July 28th 2013

Gulf oil spill

Better call out that airborne Mediterranean pollution surveillance crew Tafline just wrote about! Last Tuesday, an oil tanker delivering fuel to a power plant in the Turkish Cypriot-controlled north of Cyprus spilled approximately 40 tons of oil into the Mediterranean Sea.

In a separate report, officials estimated more than 100 tons of oil were spilled near pristine coastline, threatening wildlife and tourism facilities. There has been no explanation for the conflicting fuel estimates.

A spill barrier has been established but officials, anticipating additional leakage, are seeking to extend it, Turkish Cypriot Environment Minister Mehmet Harmanci told Reuters in a telephone interview.  He described the risk as “ongoing”. According to Harmanci, power plant owner Aksa Enerji pins the spill on a pressure problem or an improper connection in the pumping process. Human error has not been ruled out. Local authorities were struggling to contain the slick which extends for 4.5 miles along the Karpasia peninsula. Clean-up materials, including oil-absorbing solvents, were ordered from Turkey but, as of this writing, delivery has been delayed.  Read more ..

Oil Addiction

House Dems Push Bill to End Oil and Gas Waste Exemption

July 26th 2013

Hydrolic Fracking pollution

A pair of House Democrats floated legislation Thursday that would end the oil and gas industry’s exemption to a federal waste disposal law, which could have implications for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“Under current federal law, oil and gas companies do not even have to test their waste to see if it is toxic, leaving us with no way of knowing what is being disposed of and how it is being treated. It is time oil and gas companies comply with existing minimum standards and oversight,” Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), a bill co-sponsor, said in a Friday statement.

Opponents of the controversial drilling method want to restrict use of “pools” that hold large amounts of fracking waste that they worry will leak and seep chemicals into the ground. They also have concerns about waste injection wells, in which oil and gas firms pump drilling waste underground for storage. Read more ..

Automotive Edge

Diesel Vehicles Save Owners Thousands, Maybe

July 25th 2013

Ram Chrysler diesel truck

Drivers of diesel-fuelled vehicles can save thousands of dollars in total ownership costs compared to similar gasoline vehicles, according to a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study. "The estimates of savings for three and five years of ownership vary from a low of $67 in three years to a high of $15,619 in five years, but most of the savings are in the $2,000-to-$6,000 range, which also include the extra cost that is usually added to the diesel version of a vehicle," said UMTRI researcher Bruce Belzowski. "Though there are some exceptions, the overall direction of the results supports the idea that diesel vehicles compete well within the U.S. market.

"In particular, the idea that one can get a return on one's initial higher investment in a diesel vehicle within three years is a very positive sign, considering that new vehicle buyers tend to keep their new vehicles for an average of three to five years." Read more ..

The Race for Biofuels

Wood-Boring Gribbles Intrigue Researchers

July 24th 2013

Wood-Boring Gribbles

Tiny wood borers known colloquially as gribbles make their own enzymes and use them to eat through docks in harbor towns, earning enmity from fishermen all around the world.

Now, researchers from the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and elsewhere are exploring whether that curse can be turned into a blessing for the biofuels industry.

The trouble with gribbles — that they can break down biomass into sugars even in harsh environments — might become the great thing about gribbles, as the industry searches for enzymes that can thrive in salt-rich, high-solids settings.

Gribbles (scientific name: Limnoria quadripunctata) are 1 to 3 millimeters long and have an organ called the hepatopancreas that extends almost the entire length of their bodies. This organ is where gribbles make their own enzymes. In other words, they don't rely, as termites, cows, and humans do, on the organisms that find their way into their stomachs to aid in digesting the food they eat.

The gribble enzymes also hold promise of tolerating salts better than other enzymes, likely due to the fact they evolved in a marine environment. These unique properties could teach biomass researchers how to make better enzymes that operate in a high-solids industrial environment, breaking biomass down more effectively into sugars, which can then be converted into ethanol or a renewable fuel to replace gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel. Read more ..

The Race for Coal

Greenpeace Accuses Chinese Coal Company of Draining Water Resources

July 23rd 2013

coal mine

International environmental group Greenpeace is accusing China’s largest state-run coal company of massively exploiting water resources in the country's arid Inner Mongolia region.  In a newly released investigative report, the group says wells have dried up, lakes have shrunk and desert dunes are expanding near the company's plant.

According to Greenpeace, since state-owned Shenhua Group began extracting water for its plant to process coal into liquid fuels, groundwater levels have dropped by nearly 100 meters.

One lake where the plant extracts its water has also shrunk by two-thirds since operations began in 2006.  The group says the plant is not only drying up water resources, but illegally dumping toxic industrial wastewater as well. Local farmers and herders are finding it difficult to maintain their livelihoods, sparking social unrest.  But the company is in the midst of plans to massively expand the project. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Transit

Electric Bike Revenue To Rise to Nearly $11 Billion by 2020

July 23rd 2013

Click to select Image

Worldwide revenue from e-bicycles will grow from $8.4 billion in 2013 to $10.8bn in 2020 according to a recent 'Electric Bicycles' report released by Navigant Research. The market research analyst says that although electric bicycles (e-bicycles) are still a nascent market in North America, they have been embraced in many Asia Pacific countries as well as some countries in Europe.  As the use of bicycles, scooters, and other forms of two-wheeled transport as commuting vehicles rises in large cities around the world, e-bicycles are expected to expand their reach steadily.  
“Growing urbanization is contributing to traffic snarls on city streets in many countries, and pushing people toward other options,” says Dave Hurst, principal research analyst with Navigant Research.  “The aging global population is seen by many as one driver of e-bicycles’ popularity, but the fact is that more young people are choosing them as well.” Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Qoros Electric Vehicle: China and Israel Partner with USA

July 20th 2013

Plug-in Vehicle

After losing the Better Place electric vehicle company, Israel Corporation moved forward with a different holding in the same industry. Qoros Auto Company Ltd., a 50:50 joint venture between Israel Corp and China’s Chery Automobile Co. Ltd., has agreed to purchase EV and hybrid parts from American Axle Manufacturing Inc. (AAM).

Qoros is a relatively new brand. Although the company formed as Chery Quantum Automotive Corporation (CQAC) in December, 2007, they made their first public appearance as Qoros just a few months ago at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

Globes reports that Qoros will install AAM’s hybrid and electric driveline systems on the 2015 model of their Qoros 3 sedan, which is destined for both the Chinese and European automotive markets. It will be manufactured in Changshu, where a production plant is currently being built (sustainably, supposedly.) Read more ..

Oil Addiction

The Lac-Mégantic Oil Spill and the Future of American Energy

July 19th 2013

train on fire

The train derailment and explosion near Lac-Mégantic, Quebec earlier this month heightened debate over how we move oil across North America. Supporters of pipelines, including the Keystone XL project, are calling the efficacy of railroads into question, while rail advocates are highlighting their safety record and the need to keep up with the output from the Bakken oil deposits in North Dakota and elsewhere.

This conversation, however, misses a bigger reality: Our metropolitan economies are addicted to energy, meaning we will need to bear the direct and indirect costs of feeding that addiction.

Even as we rely less on coal and use more alternative energy sources, petroleum and natural gas are still the primary fix for our energy habit. Together, they accounted for nearly 64 percent of America’s primary energy consumption in 2012, far eclipsing other sources. For better or worse, they are the essential ingredients powering our industries and moving our workers. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Extremely Fast Ion Conductors: Another step Towards Better Batteries

July 18th 2013


Though they started their research on future battery materials only past April, they already have achieved potentially seminal results: A research team at the Technical University of Graz (Austria) succeeded in providing fundamental data on the nuclear dynamics of a specific ion conductor that could greatly improve the characteristics of lithium-ion batteries.

Not only the development electromobility but also the design of more powerful smartphones and portable computers pose high challenges to battery systems: Engineers and not least customers expect the energy storage to offer increased capacity and safety as well as better longevity. Towards this end, solid-state lithium batteries are among the white hopes of battery research. In comparison to conventional lithium-ion batteries with liquid electrolytes, solid-state batteries feature superior characteristics with respect to safety, service life and thermal stability. For this reason, scientists from disciplines such as solid-state chemistry, physics and materials sciences are searching feverishly for solid-state ion conductors suitable for use in such batteries. Read more ..

The Race for Geothermal

Advanced Condenser Boosts Geothermal Power Plant Output

July 16th 2013


Geothermal resources—the steam and water that lie below the earth’s surface—have the potential to supply vast amounts of clean energy. But continuing to produce geothermal power efficiently and inexpensively can require innovative adjustments to the technology used to process it.

Located in the Mayacamas Mountains of northern California, The Geysers is the world’s largest geothermal complex. Encompassing 45 square miles along the Sonoma and Lake County border, the complex harnesses natural steam reservoirs to create clean renewable energy that accounts for one-fifth of the green power produced in California.

In the late 1990s, the pressure of geothermal steam at The Geysers was falling, reducing the output of its power plants. NREL teamed with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) under a cooperative research and development agreement to create a solution for boosting production efficiency at the complex. Read more ..

The Race for EV's

'Kaptain Sunshine' Swoops in to Save Israel's Electric Cars

July 15th 2013

Plug-in Vehicle

When “Kaptain Sunshine” Yosef Abramowitz — former journalist turned activist, turned solar-energy pioneer kibbutznik, turned “car salesman” as he puts it jokingly — is now steering bankrupt Better Place electric car charging network out of debt.

Last week, Abramowitz and his partners –– about 900 Israeli electric vehicle owners and drivers, and investors led by Canadian Henry Shiner –– were given court permission to purchase international IP rights and Israeli assets of the groundbreaking company formerly known as Better Place for about $12 million.

Since the news broke, Abramowitz’s phone has been ringing off the hook, he stated. So far the company – tentatively called Sunrise — has secured 25 percent of its goal of $36 million in investments. He doesn’t sound worried. Drivers banded together to save their much-loved electric cars that are useless for long-range driving without a network of battery-switching stations. Abramowitz wrote an impassioned op-ed in the Jerusalem Post about the demise of Better Place two months ago, and was quickly swept into the effort to keep the electric car dream alive. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

OPEC Sees Oil Demand Decline Again

July 14th 2013

Saudi Oil

Demand for crude oil from OPEC countries is expected to decline again next year, as independent producers, especially the United States, increase their supplies.

Times are gradually changing for OPEC, the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries. Its own surveys show how the global market is shifting as oil production increases.

“They calculate supply from non-OPEC producers and they calculate global demand and as a result they calculate what’s left of the pie for OPEC. The problem is what’s left of the pie is shrinking next year because supply from independent producers – in particular the United States, but not only – is rising faster than demand. So, essentially that leaves less of the market for OPEC next year,” said Richard Swan, editorial director for global oil news at Platts, a leading provider of information on energy, petrochemicals, metals and agriculture. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Man-Made Earthquakes on the Rise

July 13th 2013

Fracking gas well

The number of earthquakes in the central and eastern United States has increased dramatically over the past few years, and scientists think the reason could be due to the disposal of wastewater associated with oil and gas production.

According to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey, there were more than 300 earthquakes above magnitude 3.0 from 2010 to 2012. That’s a five-fold increase from earthquakes observed from 1967 to 2000, when the average number was 21 per year.

In 2011, a 5.6 magnitude quake struck central Oklahoma, injuring several people and damaging over a dozen homes. According to the report, wastewater disposal appears to have been the cause of the temblor. Had an earthquake that size hit a more populated area, there would be the potential for severe damage and possible deaths. Read more ..

After the BP Spill

Deepwater Horizon Spill and Restoration Plans Need to Include Social and Economic Effects

July 13th 2013

Gulf oil spill

While numerous studies are under way to determine the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico, the extent and severity of these impacts and the value of the resulting losses cannot fully be measured without considering the goods and services provided by the Gulf, says a new report from the National Research Council. The congressionally mandated report offers an approach that could establish a more comprehensive understanding of the impacts and help inform options for restoration activities.

Currently, state and federal resource managers tasked with providing timely assessments of the damage use a process called the Natural Resources Damage Assessment, which is authorized under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and measures impacts in ecological terms such as the number of fish killed or acres of wetland destroyed. As a result, restoration activities usually focus on replacing individual resources. But the impacts of environmental damage extend beyond individual resources, the report says. Read more ..

The Race for Geothermal

Geothermal Power Facility Can Induces Earthquakes

July 12th 2013

Click to select Image

An analysis of earthquakes in the area around the Salton Sea Geothermal Field in southern California has found a strong correlation between seismic activity and operations for production of geothermal power, which involve pumping water into and out of an underground reservoir.

"We show that the earthquake rate in the Salton Sea tracks a combination of the volume of fluid removed from the ground for power generation and the volume of wastewater injected," said Emily Brodsky, a geophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author of the study, published online in Science magazine. "The findings show that we might be able to predict the earthquakes generated by human activities. To do this, we need to take a large view of the system and consider both the water coming in and out of the ground," said Brodsky, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UCSC. Read more ..

The Race for EV's

Building a Future with Fuel Cell EVs

July 9th 2013


Efforts currently underway at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are contributing to rapid progress in the research, development and testing of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

Building from more than 10 years of support from the Department's Fuel Cell Technologies Office on these topics, NREL has received four Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles — Advanced (FCHV-adv) on loan from Toyota. These vehicles will help NREL enhance its research capabilities related to hydrogen fueling infrastructure, renewable hydrogen production, and vehicle performance.

Zero-Emission Fuel Cell Vehicles are Rapidly Evolving
The Toyota vehicle represents another step toward the commercialization of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Hydrogen fuel is most often produced using domestic resources and can also be produced using clean renewable energy technologies. When hydrogen is used to power an FCEV, the vehicle has zero tail pipe emissions. Read more ..

The Race to EVs

Building an Electric Vehicle Highway to Energy Security: Tennessee EV Project

July 8th 2013

Plug-in Vehicle

Electric vehicles (EVs)—notwithstanding the high-end success story of Tesla Motors—remain stuck in a classic “chicken and egg” dilemma. Achieving widespread market penetration requires ubiquitous charging stations. But charging station scale-up requires a critical mass of EVs already on the road to justify the investment.

One approach to this problem is what a variety of partners in the state of Tennessee are doing through a $230 million public-private partnership partly funded by a grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) and managed by ECOtality. Together, these actors—working as a charter market for Ecotality’s  EV Project, the largest deployment of EVs and charging infrastructure to date—are forcing the issue and simply blowing through the market challenge by building a ton of charging stations fast. Read more ..

The Race For Wind Power

London Array: Masdar Celebrates World’s Largest Wind Farm Inauguration

July 5th 2013

London Array

The London Array is Masdar’s largest renewable energy project to date, but the government-supported research and development group have no intention of stopping there. With a 20 percent stake in the offshore wind project that will generate enough energy to power half a million UK homes, the group is ready to keep up the momentum.

Construction on the 630MW began in July 2009 with the first onshore substation. The first 147 meter tall turbine designed by Siemens was erected in January, 2012 and now, just over a year later, all 175 of them are fully functional.

Masdar agreed to join Germany’s E.On and Dong from Denmark when Shell pulled out. This is consistent with the firm’s mission to spread renewable energy to all reaches of the globe – including the Seychelles and Mauritania, where Africa’s largest solar PV plant was recently inaugurated. Read more ..

The Race for Biomass

Illinois Biomass Recycling Center Aims to be First of its Kind

July 4th 2013

old town fuel & fiber

A small town in the midwestern state of Illinois is home to a recycling initiative its creators hope will revolutionize biomass waste conversion.  Chip Energy might not have been the first company converting one man’s junk into another man’s treasure, but it believes it's the first to build a recycling facility completely from recycled materials.

Outside rural Goodfield, Illinois is a pile of wood that weighs 4.5 million kilograms. Some people call it garbage, but for Paul Wever, it's something else.

"I look at this as oil barrels stacked one on top of the other.  It’s a pile of energy,” he said. For several years, companies with industrial waste, like wooden crates, have used Wever to cart the materials away. Wever converts the wood into mulch, fuel and other products that he can sell. “My customers presently pay me to take the material and convert it into a value added product. If I’m successful, I’ll end up paying them,” he said. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Negev Energy Wins Bid for Israel’s Largest Concentrating Solar Power Plant

July 3rd 2013


Spain’s super solar giant Abengoa has teamed up with Israel’s Shikun & Binui Renewable Energy (SKBN) to build a concentrating solar power plant in the Negev desert. When the company announced their win of the BOT tender of the Ashalim plant, they also claimed it will be the largest of its kind in the country.

The Negev desert comprises more than half of the entire country, which enjoys an annual solar irradiance of 2,000kWh per square meters.

That’s a lot of sun, and aside from Arava’s solar plants, a BrightSource pilot project, and a few other relatively small installations, this energy has gone largely untapped.

But now the Israeli government is stepping up its solar program with plans to ensure that by 2020, 10 percent of its overall energy mix will come from renewable sources.

Negev Energy, the new partnership between the Spanish and Israeli companies, will build and operate the 110 MW Parabolic Trough plant under a 25 year power purchase agreement. The energy they produce will sell for NIS0.76 per kilowatt hour, or $0.21. Read more ..

The Race for Smart Grid

Sandia Cooler Blows Traditional CPU Coolers Away

July 2nd 2013


Every year, the information technology sector spends almost $7 billion on electricity costs, and much of that money goes to cooling computer processing units (CPUs) in data centers. At the Energy Department’s Sandia National Laboratories, researchers have developed an innovative new air-cooling technology -- the Sandia Cooler -- that improves the way heat is transferred in computers and microelectronics, significantly reducing the energy needed to cool CPUs in data centers. If the technology can be successfully scaled up and applied to other applications like heating, ventilation and air conditioning, researchers say the Sandia Cooler has the potential to decrease overall electrical power consumption in the U.S. by more than 7 percent. To understand the technological advances in the Sandia Cooler, it helps to understand traditional CPU coolers. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

House Votes to Expand Offshore Oil-and-Gas Leases

June 28th 2013

Gulf oil spill

The House voted Friday to require the Obama administration to develop a new five-year plan allowing offshore oil-and-gas leases in coastal waters with the most promise for energy development.

Members passed the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act in a 235-186 vote that saw 16 Democrats join Republicans. The bill is similar to GOP legislation passed by the House last year, and responds to a five-year oil and gas lease sales plan that Republicans say shuts out potentially productive areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coastline. In Thursday debate, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said the president had a chance to expand lease sales, but instead put forward a restrictive plan that will hurt U.S. energy development. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Nabucco Pipeline Suffers Setback As Rival Expected To Get Azeri Gas

June 27th 2013

Oil Pipes1

Ten years ago, hopes were high there would be a major pipeline connecting Europe directly to the gas fields of the Caspian Basin and the Middle East.

The pipeline, called Nabucco, was to run from Austria to Eastern Turkey, where it would receive gas via feeder pipelines from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, and from Iran, Iraq, and Egypt.

But over the years, the grand ambitions of the Nabucco project have increasingly come to look more like a dream than any imminent reality.

The original scope of the project was cut back dramatically in May 2012 when the consortium backed away from plans to build the Turkey segment of the pipeline and to focus only on the European part. Similarly, the Nabucco consortium began to talk in terms of a pipeline with an initial capacity of just 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year rather than its originally planned 30 bcm. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Printing Microbatteries Could Unravel New Applications in Medicine

June 25th 2013


A team based at Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has demonstrated how 3D printing can now be used to print lithium-ion microbatteries the size of a grain of sand, which could be small enough to fit in tiny devices for medical or communications applications.

To make the microbatteries, the researchers printed precisely interlaced stacks of tiny battery electrodes, each less than the width of a human hair.

In recent years engineers have invented many miniaturized devices, including medical implants, flying insect-like robots, and tiny cameras and microphones that fit on a pair of glasses. But often the batteries that power them are as large or larger than the devices themselves, which defeats the purpose of building small. To get around this problem, manufacturers have traditionally deposited thin films of solid materials to build the electrodes. However, due to their ultra-thin design, these solid-state micro-batteries do not pack sufficient energy to power tomorrow's miniaturized devices. Read more ..

The Race for Biofuel

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Ethanol Fuel Case

June 24th 2013

E85 Pump

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a case that charged federal regulators allowed a mid-level ethanol fuel blend onto the market without proper testing.

The move preserves a space at the gas pump for E15 fuel, a mix comprised of 15 percent ethanol — compared with the standard 10 percent — and 85 percent petroleum by leaving intact a 2009 Environmental Protection Agency ruling that E15 is safe to use in cars made in 2001 or later.

The biofuel industry praised the decision, characterizing it as the nail in the coffin for attacks against E15 by the oil industry and food groups. “I am pleased that today’s Supreme Court action ends a long and drawn out petroleum industry effort to derail the commercialization of E15. The uncertainty created by this lawsuit has chilled commercial activity that would provide American consumers more affordable choices at the pump,” Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen said in a statement. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

31.1 Percent Efficiency for III-V Solar Cell

June 24th 2013

Sunrise or Sunset

The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Lab has announced a world record of 31.1 percent conversion efficiency for a two-junction solar cell under one sun of illumination.

NREL Scientist Myles Steiner announced the new record June 19 at the 39th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference in Tampa, Fla. The previous record of 30.8 percent efficiency was held by Alta Devices.

The tandem cell was made of a gallium indium phosphide cell atop a gallium arsenide cell, has an area of about 0.25 square centimeters and was measured under the AM1.5 global spectrum at 1,000 W/m2. It was grown inverted, similar to the NREL-developed inverted metamorphic multi-junction (IMM) solar cell – and flipped during processing. The cell was covered on the front with a bilayer anti-reflection coating, and on the back with a highly reflective gold contact layer.

The work was done at NREL as part of DOE's Foundation Program to Advance Cell Efficiency (F-PACE), a project of the Department's SunShot Initiative that aims to lower the cost of solar energy to a point at which it is competitive with other sources including fossil fuels. Read more ..

The Coal Problem

New Scrutiny of 'Longwall' Mining Finds Damage in Pennsylvania Streams

June 23rd 2013

Coal Train

The brutally efficient coal-extraction method known as “longwall mining” has permanently damaged a half dozen streams in Pennsylvania, state regulators have found — a finding that could trigger deeper waves for such operations in the state.

In December, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, sent a little-noticed letter relaying its unusual decision to the coal company that has tried to repair one such stream for five years, Consol Energy. Regulators determined the unnamed tributary, UT-32596, “has not been restored to conditions that existed prior to undermining.” They called further remediation attempts “futile,” and demanded the company compensate “for the loss of Commonwealth resources.”

The same day, the DEP sent another notice to Consol conveying a similar conclusion about five other streams “not recovered from the effects of underground mining.” The agency said it “now requires Consol to perform compensatory mitigation or enhancement measures.” Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Greek Cyprus Signs Energy Deal With Israel in Defiance of Turkey

June 22nd 2013

Gas Well Israel

The Greek Cypriot cabinet defied Turkey earlier this week, approving plans to sign a deal with a US-Israeli partnership to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the island to exploit untapped energy riches, AFP reported Friday.

Turkey has objected to the plan, saying the resources should be divided between two sides of the separated island.

“The cabinet has approved the decision to sign the memorandum of understanding between Cyprus and companies Noble Energy International (US), Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration Limited Partnership for liquefaction terminal for natural gas,” said government spokesman Victor Papadopoulos on June 19. The broke Mediterranean island is hoping the untapped offshore energy resources can infuse its faltering economy. It hopes to commercially export its gas by 2020. Read more ..

The Race for a Smart Grid

New Research Center to Boost Clean Energy Technologies on a Smarter Grid

June 21st 2013

transformer farm

The Energy Department and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) today announced the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in Golden, Colorado, as the latest Energy Department user facility and the only one in the nation focused on utility-scale clean energy grid integration. The facility's first industry partner – Colorado-based Advanced Energy Industries – has already signed on to start work at ESIF, developing lower cost, better performing solar power inverters.

"Our National Laboratories are a national treasure that help America's entrepreneurs and innovators to accelerate the development of new technologies," said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "This new facility will allow for an even stronger partnership with manufacturers, utilities and researchers to help integrate more clean, renewable energy into a smarter, more reliable and more resilient power grid." Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Companies Try Natural Gas to Fuel Vehicles

June 18th 2013

Autogas refueling

While many Americans want to reduce both pollution and energy costs, the nation's automobile-based transportation system undermines these goals by being largely dependent on petroleum.

But in the western state of Oklahoma, Ethel Clayton drives a truck that can run on much cheaper and cleaner compressed natural gas (CNG).

"Not just because you save a whole lot of money, but it is also good for the environment and it also keeps your engine in better condition," Clayton said.

Thanks to support from local natural gas producing companies, there are plenty of CNG filling sites around Oklahoma, and Clayton says online guides also show places to refuel when traveling out of state. "They will actually route your destination where there will be CNG filling stations," she said. "So it is getting better."

The dramatic increase in U.S. natural gas production has made the fuel cheaper and driven projects that would use this resource to replace far dirtier fossil fuels. Companies are experimenting with various ways to use natural gas as a transportation fuel. Read more ..

The Edge of Climate Change

Cut Energy Subsidies and Reduce Global CO2 by 13 Percent

June 15th 2013

Hurricane Sandy Lashes Ocean City

Climate change is one of the most urgent issues of our time, yet most countries in the Middle East and North Africa continue to subsidize energy derived from fossil fuels. Seeking solutions, The Guardian launched a three part Global Public Leaders Series and sent us this recent lecture by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Deputy managing director Nemat Shafik warns that subsidies underpin both climate change and public debt.

Nemat Shafik’s presentation in Washington D.C. gave an illuminating look at how energy subsidies are linked to both climate change and public debt. Shafik estimates that cutting subsidies could reduce global carbon emissions by as much as 4.5 billion tons or 13 percent of the current output. Read more ..

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