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The Race for Solar

Alexandria Enters PV Solar Project with a Catholic School in Egypt

June 14th 2013

Solar Building

Once the most powerful seat of learning in Egypt, Alexandria has some catching up to do when it comes to renewable energy. Which may be why the governor has entered into an agreement with a Catholic technical institute to bolster photovoltaic education and installations.

Alexandria governor Muhammad Abbas told Daily News Egypt that the city’s partnership with the Don Bosco Institute, an Italian group with Catholic roots, is one of the country’s most important projects.

The idea to install a photovoltaic array on Don Bosco’s roof to provide energy for its own street lighting first arose in 2009, when Egypt imported its first solar cell from Germany, according to DNE. A group of German, Polish and Italians decided to build the country’s first inverter in order to enable the conversion of DC to AC and 10 power distribution points were installed.

While one rooftop array is hardly going to ease the country’s incredible energy deficit, Don Bosco has worked with both the Egyptian Government and the European Union to officially recognize a practical educational system that it has devised. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

UPS Service Market Sees First Quarter Growth in 2013

June 13th 2013

computer keyboard woman hands

Market growth for service on uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) in the first quarter of 2013 has increased by five percent from the same period last year, according to a report from IMS Research, now part of IHS. UPS service revenues can be viewed in terms of concurrent vs. non-concurrent sales. Concurrent services refer to those that accompany the purchase of a new UPS unit, including installation, commissioning, site assessments and factory warranty extensions. “Some of the slow growth in the UPS service market can be understood by looking at concurrent services,” said Liz Cruz, senior analyst, data center and critical infrastructure, at IHS. “In the IHS quarterly tracker on the UPS hardware market, 2012 was found to be flat to slightly down compared to 2011; this would have a negative effect on the concurrent services that would normally accompany a sale of UPS. However, concurrent services are estimated to account for less than 20 percent of all service revenues, so there is definitely more to the story.” Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Kuwait Launches First Solar Project

June 12th 2013

Rub al Khali Saudi Empty Quarter

Kuwait invited bids on Wednesday to build a solar farm to produce 70 megawatts of electricity by 2016, the first phase of a plan to generate 2,000 megawatts from renewables in 2030, the project supervisor said. Thirty-seven consortia out of 107 prequalified to bid, said Salem al-Hajraf, head of energy research at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research. The second and third phases will produce 930 MW and 1,000 MW, respectively, when the project is completed in 2030, he said.

Fifty megawatts will be produced from solar thermal sources and 10 each from photovoltaic and wind sources. The pioneer project will be built on a 100-square-kilometre (39-square-mile) area in Shagaya, a desert zone 100 km (62 miles) west of Kuwait City, near the borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Pakistanis Hope For Brighter Future Amid Energy Crisis

June 11th 2013


Muhammad Abid, a tailor in Islamabad, is among the tens of millions of Pakistanis who propelled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to power in early May on the promise he would show them the light.

Ending a severe energy crisis that often restricts citizens to only four hours of electricity a day was a key campaign pledge made by Sharif and many other members of the newly elected parliament.

Electricity shortages cost the Pakistani economy more than $13 billion a year, according to a recent survey, which says the lack of power slows economic growth by 1.5 percent annually. The coming heat of summer brings more demand for energy, resulting in more engineered blackouts, or "load shedding," to relieve pressure on power grids, and voters are anxious to see a solution. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Chinese Antidumping Duties Look Likely to Drive up Solar Polysilicon Devices Pricing

June 10th 2013

Solar Array

China’s moves to slap antidumping tariffs on imported solar polysilicon from key countries will enerate a surge in pricing for this key raw material in June and July 2013.

Information and analytics provider IHS predicts that the likely imposition of the import duties will cause global solar polysilicon pricing to rise to $19.50 per kilogram in June and July 2013, up from $16.50 in May 2013 according to the IHS Polysilicon Price Tracker.

The situation represents a major turnaround for a polysilicon market that has seen average pricing decline for seven of the last 10 months, as presented in the attached figure.

However, the increase will amount to only 18 percent, falling short of the 30 percent indicator that would represent a major market correction. Prices also would remain below the key $20-per-kilogram mark. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

New Battery Fuel Gauge and Charger Chipsets Squeeze More Life out of Li-Ion Batteries

June 10th 2013


Texas Instruments Incorporated has introduced two Power Management chipsets with TI’s patented new MaxLife fast-charge technology, which allows consumers to charge single-cell Li-Ion batteries faster and experience longer battery life.

The bq27530 and bq27531 fuel gauge circuits, coupled with TI’s bq2416x and bq2419x chargers, optimize battery performance using the highest possible charge rates with minimal battery degradation.

Mobile phone users are frustrated when their batteries’ charge doesn’t last as long after months of daily charging and discharging. TI’s MaxLife technology applies an innovative degradation modeling system to minimize charge time while extending battery service life – as much as 30 percent according to lab tests. Based on TI’s Impedance Track battery capacity measurement technology, the MaxLife algorithm accurately predicts and avoids charge conditions that could degrade the battery. Read more ..

The Race for Renewable Energy

Desperate for Energy, Egypt to Reward Hotels that Go Green

June 9th 2013

Solar Panels

The National Bank of Egypt has announced that it will give low interest loans to hotels throughout southern Sinai and Red Sea provinces that are commited to switching to renewable energy, according to local press. The move comes in advance of crippling energy shortages during the hottest time of the year.

When temperatures rise from May to October, so too does energy consumption as Egyptian residents fire up their air conditioners.

But Egypt is already running at a chronic energy deficit and consumption spikes cause widespread cuts – at great cost to the local economy.

Particularly hard hit is the tourism industry, which is so crucial to the country’s bottom line. In order to secure tourism against energy shortages, the bank has entered into an agreement with the Solar Energy Development Association (SEDA) to empower hotels to switch to renewable energy. Read more ..

The Race for Nuclear

Nuclear Site Closes After Leak

June 8th 2013

Nuclear Reactors

Owners of a troubled Southern California nuclear site are blaming uncertainty from regulators for their decision to permanently retire the plant.
The Friday shuttering of the San Onofre nuclear station, out of commission since January 2012 because of a leak found inside a steam generator, brings an end to a battle over nuclear safety that has roiled regulators and legislators for over a year.

In October, the utility that owns the plant, Southern California Edison, began asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to allow it to restart one of its units. The agency has been reviewing the request ever since.

The uncertainty about whether the NRC would allow the station to resume operations, and the potential that it could take regulators another year to make a final determination, led Southern California Edison to close the plant on Friday. Read more ..

The Race for LED

OLEDs Hardly Have a Chance Against LED Lighting

June 7th 2013

LED bulb

Market research and consulting company IDTechEx has gotten granular on the market chances for OLED (organic light-emitting diode) lighting, given the strong competition through conventional LEDs. The finding is that OLED is facing an uphill battle against conventional LEDs. Nevertheless, for the years ahead OLEDs will experience a stunning market growth - in specific, well defined niches.

OLED is likely to struggle to define and communicate its unique selling points and may remain an over-priced and under-performing option compared to LED lighting, conclude IDTechEx experts Norman Bardsley and Khasa Ghaffarzadeh. That is, unless Apple-like design innovation occurs. In other words: In standard applications, OLEDs won't be competitive against LEDs, but in areas where chic design features are the decisive factor, they have a good chance to prevail. This could be the case in the hospitality, retail (the fancy part) and architectural sectors. Read more ..

The Race for Biofuel

NREL Teams with Navy, Private Industry to Make Jet Fuel from Switchgrass

June 6th 2013


The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is partnering with Cobalt Technologies, U.S. Navy, and Show Me Energy Cooperative to demonstrate that jet fuel can be made economically and in large quantities from a renewable biomass feedstock such as switch grass.

"This can be an important step in the efforts to continue to displace petroleum by using biomass resources," NREL Manager for Bioprocess Integration R&D Dan Schell said. "We're converting biomass into sugars for subsequent conversion to butanol and then to JP5 jet fuel."

It's one of four biorefinery projects funded recently by the Energy Department as part of the Administration's efforts to support renewable biofuels as a domestic alternative to power military and civilian aircraft and vehicles Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Carmakers Jointly Launch Software Platform for Europe-wide E-car Charging

June 4th 2013

Better Place

A joint venture of carmakers and energy provides has launched a software platform that enables e-car charging station operators across Europe to exchange billing information. Thus, they offer a charging infrastructure mechanism similar to roaming in the telecommunications segment. And users of electric vehicles can travel without worrying about finding a charging station.

Carmakers BMW and Daimler and power utilities EnBW and RWE along with automotive supplier Bosch and technology group Siemens AG formed a joint venture named Hubject GmbH that aims at providing the billing hub for charging data across Europe. This week, the billing hub went operational; it bears the name intercharge. "By launching this eRoaming platform, we provide the solution for an elementary problem of electromobility", said Hubject general manager Andreas Pfeiffer. "Intercharge enables simple charging for all users of electric vehicles everywhere". Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Japan Prepares to Become World's Largest Solar Revenue Market in 2013

June 3rd 2013

Rising Sun Shinto Island

Japan’s solar installations surged by 270 percent (in gigawatts) in the first quarter of 2013, to surpass Germany to become the world’s largest photovoltaics (PV) market in terms of revenue in 2013. Although Japan is forecast to install fewer GW than China (which is forecast to be the largest market in GW installation terms) in 2013, the high prices of PV systems in Japan will drive it to become the world’s largest market in revenue terms.

A total of 1.5 GW worth of PV systems were installed in Japan in the first quarter of 2013, up from 0.4 GW during the same time last year, according to a new report entitled ‘The Photovoltaic Market in Japan’ from information and analytics provider IHS Inc. The growth that started the year is expected to continue throughout 2013 as demand for solar energy is forecast to double, making Japan the world’s largest market for PV installations on a revenue basis for the first time in a decade. Japan's share of global PV system revenue will rise to 24 percent in 2013, up from 14 percent in 2012 and just 9 percent in 2011, as presented in the attached figure. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Petroleum 'Supply Shock' is Poised to Make U.S. a Net Exporter

June 3rd 2013

oil pump

They're calling it a "supply shock" in the world's energy markets. A recent report by the International Energy Agency says oil production in North America will grow so much in the next five years that it will turn the United States into a net oil exporter, transforming the global oil market in the process.

For an insight into what this means, RFE/RL correspondent Heather Maher turned to Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS, a global forecasting company. Yergin's book, “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power” won the Pulitzer Prize and his latest book, “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World,” is about the search for sustainable energy resources.

RFE/RL: What did you think when you heard about the coming oil supply shock?

Daniel Yergin: I think this comes as no surprise. U.S. oil production is up 43 percent since 2008. The increase in U.S. oil production – just the increase – is equal to Nigeria’s entire oil production. So the oil supply situation is being transformed by this revolution in unconventional oil and gas that’s now unfolding in North America. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

New Natural Gas Pipeline Into NYC Is Volatile Issue

June 2nd 2013

Oil Pipes1

New York City is crisscrossed with underground natural gas pipelines, many decades old, supplying cooking and heating gas to homes and businesses. But safety and environmental concerns about a new gas pipeline being built into Manhattan’s west side have given rise to protest, and calls for New York to move more quickly to sustainable forms of energy.

The high-pressure Spectra Energy pipeline, set to begin operating in late fall, travels under parts of New Jersey, Staten Island, and the Hudson River, and enters Manhattan next to a playground and park. "This is an incredibly high-population area and it’s insane what they’re doing," said Kathleen Thomas, one of several hundred protesters who rallied in Manhattan recently to call on President Barack Obama to withhold support for all new fossil-fuel pipelines. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Green Groups confront Obama on Keystone Oil Pipeline

June 1st 2013

Environmental lobbyists are pressing President Obama to turn more western lands into national monuments to prevent oil-and-gas companies from drilling there. The Sierra Club is leading the charge and is sweetening its message with political sugar, saying Obama could thereby help Democrats win House and Senate seats in midterm elections year.

This week it will launch a campaign called “Our Wild America,” which will call for new national monument designations.
“We think there’s real opportunities for them to do additional monument designations by the midterm elections and that it’s a positive political thing for the administration and for senators and congressmen,” Dan Chu, who is leading this program, told The Hill in a recent interview.

Chu pointed to Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who is up for reelection in 2014. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

New NYC Natural Gas Pipeline stirs Interest in Sustainable Energy

June 1st 2013

New York City is crisscrossed with underground natural gas pipelines, many decades old, supplying cooking and heating gas to homes and businesses. But safety and environmental concerns about a new gas pipeline being built into Manhattan’s west side have given rise to protest, and calls for New York to move more quickly to sustainable forms of energy.

The high-pressure Spectra Energy pipeline, set to begin operating in late fall, travels under parts of New Jersey, Staten Island, and the Hudson River, and enters Manhattan next to a playground and park. "This is an incredibly high-population area and it’s insane what they’re doing," said Kathleen Thomas, one of several hundred protesters who rallied in Manhattan recently to call on President Barack Obama to withhold support for all new fossil-fuel pipelines.

Thomas noted that the Spectra pipeline is similar in design and pressure to one that exploded in 2010, destroying a neighborhood in San Bruno, California. Eight people were killed and more than sixty injured in the disaster, which left a crater several stories deep and 122 meters wide. Thomas’s group, United for Action, and other opponents fear that a similar accident, or terrorist attack, could kill hundreds. Among the entities that have filed suit to stop the pipeline is Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River, where the pipeline travels under schools, hospitals and chemical plants. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Keystone Builder 'Extremely Confident' Obama Will Approve it

May 31st 2013

Keystone Pipeline

The chief executive for Keystone XL oil sands pipeline builder TransCanada Corp. says he is “extremely confident” the White House will approve the project. TransCanada Corp. CEO Russ Girling said he hopes the State Department will complete its environmental review of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline by mid-summer. Foggy Bottom would then need to make a determination of national interest for the project, which Girling said he hopes would take no longer than 90 days.

“I have never been involved in a process that has lasted this long. We're not reinventing the wheel here,” he said, according to excerpts of an interview with Bloomberg Government’s Capitol Gains that will air Sunday. “I remain extremely confident that we'll get the green light to build this pipeline." Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Senior GOP Lawmaker Revives Offshore Drilling Bill

May 30th 2013

Gulf oil spill

A senior House Republican floated legislation Thursday to extend offshore drilling to Atlantic and Pacific coastal regions President Obama excluded from his five-year oil and gas leasing plan. The bill from House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) is similar to the one that passed the House last year, largely with Republican votes.

“The Obama Administration has said ‘no’ to new energy and ‘no’ to new jobs, but House Republicans are once again saying ‘yes.’ This legislation is a pro-energy, pro-jobs plan that will strengthen our economy and increase our energy security by responsibly and safely harnessing our vast offshore energy resources,” Hastings said in a Thursday statement. The Natural Resources subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a June 6 hearing on the bill, the committee announced. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Alcohol-Based Fuel Cells to Extend Range of E-Cars

May 29th 2013

Plug-in Vehicle

With a novel energy storage technique, researchers of the Berlin Technical University will improve the driving range of electrically driven cars: They use ethanol - but instead of filling it into the tank, they plan to build an ethanol-based fuel cell.

Fuel cells are not new as an energy source in the automotive industry. Actually, several carmakers including Daimler and Opel (General Motors) are in the prototype phase for a potential roll-out of serial-built fuel-cell powered e-cars later in this decade. Their common denominator is a hydrogen fuel cell whose electric power could directly drive an electric car.

The approach of the Berlin research group headed by professor Peter Strasser is different. While it basically is possible to build fuel cells based on alcohol instead of hydrogen, alcohol-based fuel cells feature a significantly lower energy density than their hydrogen counterparts. Nevertheless, alcohol fuel cells could offer significant benefits over hydrogen cells. The reason is that storing the very energy-rich hydrogen in high-pressure tanks as well as the process of refuelling requires strict safety measures. Since this tank frequently takes place under the passenger compartment, fuel cell vehicles face safety concerns in the public. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

A Level Road for CNG Vehicles Could Energize Americans' Vacation Drives

May 28th 2013

Click to select Image

Every Memorial Day, as sure as barbeques and baseball games, Americans can count on the familiar tradition of watching gasoline prices rise. The Energy Information Agency summer cost forecast estimates that gasoline prices this summer will average $3.63 per gallon. While this price is down from last summer’s average of $3.69 per gallon, it still burdens the average driver.

AAA predicted that Memorial Day weekend average gasoline prices will top the 2012 $3.64 level and even the 2011 $3.79 price. This follows AAA’s April survey showing that two-thirds of Americans say gasoline prices strain their budgets at $3.64, and half of Americans say gasoline is too high at $3.40.

In Europe, government policies support high gasoline and diesel prices to encourage fuel economy and reduce petroleum demand. Here’s the good news: America has a better option. We have an abundant, accessible resource of clean natural gas that can drive us where we need to go at nearly half the cost of gasoline. Read more ..

The Race for BioFuel

Nation Equipped to Grow Serious Amounts of Pond Scum

May 27th 2013

Pond Scum

A new analysis shows that the nation's land and water resources could likely support the growth of enough algae to produce up to 25 billion gallons of algae-based fuel a year in the United States, one-twelfth of the country's yearly needs.

The findings come from an in-depth look at the water resources that would be needed to grow significant amounts of algae in large, specially built shallow ponds. "While there are many details still to be worked out, we don't see water issues as a deal breaker for the development of an algae biofuels industry in many areas of the country," said first author Erik Venteris.

For the best places to produce algae for fuel, think hot, humid and wet. Especially promising are the Gulf Coast and the Southeastern seaboard. "The Gulf Coast offers a good combination of warm temperatures, low evaporation, access to an abundance of water, and plenty of fuel-processing facilities," said hydrologist Mark Wigmosta, the leader of the team that did the analysis. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Better Place Files for Bankruptcy

May 26th 2013

Project Better Place

Shai Agassi's vision that led to the founding of Better Place is the right one for today and was right five years ago. There is a real need to find an alternative to the internal combustion engine used in the world's vehicles. The contemporary car, despite all the technological developments of the past century, is still anti-environment, burns non-renewable fuels, pollutes the atmosphere, and harms our health.

Nobody has any doubt that sooner or later fuel reserves will be used up. While the global recession keeps the price of oil at a reasonable level, if the rapid rise of living standards of a billion people in the developing world continues as it has done over the past decade, the demand for gasoline will soar as will prices. We must not forget that a few years ago oil prices reached $150 per barrel and $200 per barrel is inevitable. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Two DOE Electric Car Loans, Two Different Paths

May 25th 2013

Fisker EV

They are two cutting-edge electric car makers, headquartered in California and backed by powerhouses of politics and money. In 2009, each secured half-billion dollar loan commitments from President Obama’s Department of Energy to help transform their clean-energy cars from drawing boards to showrooms. But this week, the fortunes of Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive took sharply divergent turns. On Wednesday, the Energy Department announced that Tesla repaid the balance of its $465 million government loan nine years early. Fisker, meantime, has ceased making cars as it weighs potential bankruptcy, confronts a $171 million loan balance with DOE and, last month, faced questions from the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. Read more ..

Ecology on Edge

New Standards Approved for Extractive Industries

May 24th 2013

coal mine

New performance standards have been announced (5/23) for oil, gas and mining companies, requiring them to be much more transparent in their business dealings.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative approved the new performance standards at a meeting in Sydney, Australia. Created in 2003, the initiative includes government, business and civil society representatives.

Among those supporting the tougher standards is Alexandra Gilles, head of governance at the Revenue Watch Institute, which monitors extraction industries.

She said, “Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, or EITI, is a voluntary standard of disclosure in the oil, mining and gas sectors. The countries sign-up to the EITI and in doing so agree to release certain kinds of information about their extractive sectors.” Up until now, the initiative simply required the release of revenue data. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Lithium-Ion Batteries Withstand 10,000 Charging Cycles

May 23rd 2013


Scientists from the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden Wuerttemberg (ZSW) have developed lithium-ion-batteries that could offer new perspectives for electromobility: After more than 10.000 charging cycles, the batteries still had more than 85 percent of its initial capacity.

According to the ZSW, the cycle stability demonstrated in the current project represents a top value within the international competition. Also with regard to the energy density the batteries from Ulm are competitive, the institute said. The technology developed by the ZSW scientists establishes a basis for the production of ouch cells as well as large prismatic cells which could be used as energy storage in electric vehicles and for solar power, believes Dr. Margret Wohlfahrt-Mehrens, head of the section Materials Research for Recharcheable Batteries at ZSW Ulm. "After 10.000 complete charging cycles at a speed of one cycle per hour, our lithium-ion batteries still feature more than 85 percent of its capacity. This also offers a good perspective for the calendric life expectancy." Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Solar Industry Capital Spending Hits Seven-Year Low in 2013 But Upturn is On the Cards

May 22nd 2013

Solar Panels

Although global capital spending during 2013 in the photovoltaics supply chain is expected to fall to its lowest level since 2006 market analyst IHS predicts the downturn in investment has hit bottom and that purchases of equipment may soon rebound.

Capital spending among PV companies is set to drop to $2.3 billion in 2013, down 36 percent from $3.6 billion in 2012, according to the PV Manufacturing & Capital Spending Tool released by IHS.

The anticipated fall will represent the lowest level of spending since $2.4 billion in 2006. The fall also marks the second year of decline after the market peaked in 2011, as spending plunged by 75 percent in 2012. However, capital expenditures are expected to rebound in 2014, rising 30 percent to $3.0 billion.

“Companies across all nodes of the PV business have been lowering utilization rates and letting manufacturing lines go idle for the past year and a half,” said Jon-Frederick Campos, solar analyst at IHS. “PV firms have been doing this in an effort to counter overcapacity and mitigate declines in average selling prices (ASP). This phenomenon resulted in a major plunge in spending on new manufacturing equipment in 2012 and so far in 2013.  But with prices stabilizing and manufacturing on the rise in some segments of the PV market, signs are appearing that that the drop in capital spending may be coming to an end.” Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Solar PV Wafer Production to Grow 19 Percent in 2013

May 20th 2013

Sunrise or Sunset

Solar photovoltaic wafer production is forecast to grow 19 percent in 2013, passing 30 GW and recovering to the 2011 level, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly.  The market fell 15 percent in 2012.

Industry utilization is expected to remain below 60 percent, and while prices have stopped falling, no significant increases are expected, so profitability for wafer makers will remain challenging.

Multicrystalline silicon (multi c-Si) technology is forecast to continue its dominance of the wafer market in the short to mid-term. However, the higher efficiency solar cells that can be produced using monocrystalline silicon (mono c-Si) wafers continue to be in demand for applications where space is restricted. The higher efficiencies enable pricing at a premium over standard multi c-Si modules. In particular, rapid growth in the Japanese market is creating demand for premium efficiency modules that use mono c-Si wafers. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

DOE Gives Green Light to Controversial Natural Gas Project

May 19th 2013

LNG Tanker

The Energy Department (DOE) on Friday approved a controversial application allowing liquefied natural-gas exports to nations that lack a free-trade agreement with the United States.

The department gave the green light to Freeport LNG Expansion and FLNG Liquefaction’s proposal to send 1.4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas overseas from a terminal on Quintana Island, Texas, for 25 years.

The DOE said that project opponents “have not demonstrated that the requested authorization would be inconsistent with the public interest,” which is the standard proposals for exports to nations lacking a free-trade pact with the U.S. must satisfy.

The project is the second to get DOE approval to send natural gas to non-free trade nations. The developers will now take their plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The decision comes less than 24 hours after the Senate confirmed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, whose position on exporting natural gas had been somewhat ambiguous. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Solar Panels as Inexpensive as Paint?

May 15th 2013

the sun

Most Americans want the U.S. to place more emphasis on developing solar power, recent polls suggest. A major impediment, however, is the cost to manufacture, install and maintain solar panels. Simply put, most people and businesses cannot afford to place them on their rooftops.

Fortunately, that is changing because researchers such as Qiaoqiang Gan, University at Buffalo assistant professor of electrical engineering, are helping develop a new generation of photovoltaic cells that produce more power and cost less to manufacture than what’s available today.

One of the more promising efforts, which Gan is working on, involves the use of plasmonic-enhanced organic photovoltaic materials. These devices don’t match traditional solar cells in terms of energy production but they are less expensive and - because they are made (or processed) in liquid form - can be applied to a greater variety of surfaces. Gan detailed the progress of plasmonic-enhanced organic photovoltaic materials in Journal Advanced Materials. The paper, which included an image of a plasmonic-enhanced organic photovoltaic device on the journal’s front page, Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Turkey, ExxonMobil Strike Iraqi Oil Deal

May 14th 2013

Arab Oil Derick

Turkey has reportedly struck a deal to explore for oil in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region in a move that’s likely to rile the United States and Iraq. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Tuesday that its state-owned oil firm will work with U.S. giant ExxonMobil Corp. to develop oil in the Kurdish-run area, according to media reports. Erdogan said Turkey would pursue separate arrangements with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The news could make for a tense meeting between Erdogan and President Obama, who are scheduled to meet this week in Washington, D.C. U.S. officials have opposed a Turkish-KRG oil agreement, fearing it would undermine Iraq’s central government. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says that the KRG does not have authority to cement such deals without a green light from Baghdad, though the KRG disputes that. Read more ..

The Race for Wind Power

Turkey’s Largest Wind Plant to Power 170,000 Homes

May 13th 2013

Wind farm Caen

Turkey’s largest wind power plant has broken ground and is expected to generate enough clean energy to electrify up to 170,000 homes. Until now the country’s renewable energy program has lagged behind Europe and some Middle Eastern countries, with far too much emphasis placed on hydroelectricity and nuclear.

But now the government is pushing to harness its ubiquitous wind resource and the 143 MW wind farm in Balıkesir is just the start. Last week energy Minister Taner Yıldız announced the country’s intention to generate a total of 20,000 MW of wind energy by 2023.

The €153 million Bares plant is owned by Enerjisa, a joint venture between Turkey’s Sabancı Holding and Germany’s E.ON, and €135 million was funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), according to Hurriyet Daily. Read more ..

The Race for Bio Fuels

Sustainable Auto Art Fuels Success with Waste Vegetable Oil

May 11th 2013

sustainable art car

Michigan State University graduate student Ryan Groendyk has been driving around town in his restored 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220D with a license plate that reads WVO – short for waste vegetable oil – counting the hours until he receives his master’s degree in fine arts. The 40-year-old car sports a red exterior delicately pinstriped by Groendyk in a never-ending worm-like pattern. It’s the centerpiece of Groendyk’s master’s degree thesis project, “Living Off the Fat of the Land,” which was recently on display at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum for the Master’s of Fine Arts exhibition.

Groendyk’s “art car” is the first graduate project to stem from MSU’s Form from Thought Laboratory, an interdisciplinary research and studio environment in the Department of Art, Art History and Design. The car runs mostly off WVO, and it’s amazing how three letters can foster such intense conversation, admiration and sometimes contention, Groendyk said. Read more ..

The Race for Wind

Wind Power Firms Push to Extend Tax Credit

May 10th 2013

Wind farm Caen

Kansas cattleman Pete Ferrell almost lost his ranch in the recent drought that ravaged much of the United States, but he credits a series of 100-meter tall wind turbines situated on his property for saving his business. “In my case, it doubled my income stream, and it helped me essentially weather the storm," Ferrell said. "It was essential in my ability to maintain my livelihood.”

Wind farms like Ferrell’s are now a common sight throughout the United States. This alternative energy source helps power America while providing an alternative source of income for landowners.

“The wind blows, even during a drought, and it may be our best drought-resistant crop we have, and a lot of farmers and ranchers are really waking up to that fact,” Ferrell said. But while farmers are waking up to that fact, so are U.S. lawmakers, who scrutinize programs like the Federal Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit when attempting to end tax breaks to close budget deficits. Read more ..

The Race for Hydropower

Work Begins on Controversial Cambodian Dam

May 9th 2013


As work begins on Cambodia’s biggest dam, those advocating against its construction have warned that the region’s rush for hydropower will have a disastrous effect on millions of people who rely on the Mekong River to survive.

Last month, workers began preparing an area in northeastern Cambodia for a huge hydropower project, the 400-megawatt Lower Se San 2 Dam. The $800 million dam on the Se San River, a major tributary of the Mekong, will take the Cambodian, Chinese and Vietnamese companies behind it five years to build.

Opponents say the dam’s real cost will be paid by the millions of people who rely on fish for the bulk of their protein intake. Cambodians eat more freshwater fish than any other nationality, says Eric Baran, the senior research scientist with WorldFish, an independent group that studies food security. “So people have become very reliant on this source of animal protein," he explained. "And, fish is also by far the first source of animal protein.” Read more ..

The Race for Solar

NREL Quantifies Significant Value in Concentrating Solar Power

transformer farm

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have quantified the significant value that concentrating solar power (CSP) plants can add to an electric grid.

The NREL researchers evaluated the operational impacts of CSP systems with thermal energy storage within the California electric grid managed by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). NREL used a commercial production cost model called PLEXOS to help plan system expansion, to evaluate aspects of system reliability, and to estimate fuel cost, emissions, and other operational factors within the CAISO system. The analysis is detailed in a recent publication, Analysis of Concentrating Solar Power with Thermal Energy Storage in a California 33 percent Renewable Scenario. Read more ..

The race for batteries

Enstorage Pioneers 50kW Hydrogen Bromine Storage in Israel

May 7th 2013

Electric Energy

Energy storage company Enstorage Inc. connected a 50 kW Hydrogen Bromine flow battery to the grid at their test site in southern Israel. This began the world’s first large-scale deployment of this promising new energy grid technology. The battery is said to be capable of storing up to 100kWh and can be recharged more than 10,000 times.

One long-standing problem with energy grids is that there are hourly, daily and seasonal variations in electrical demand. For example, electrical demand can double over the course of an August day in Jordan and the average daily load can vary by more than 25% between March and August.

The generation output of promising alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric and tidal power also fluctuates. Matching this variable supply with variable demand is a huge challenge for electricity producers. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

South Sudan Set to Resume Oil Exports

May 6th 2013

Oil Barrels 400px

South Sudan says it has resumed one-third of its oil production, which it shut down last year, and will export its first cargo next month. Oil Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau pushed a button Sunday to resume production at the new nation’s main oil field in Upper Nile state.

“This is really a great day for the people of South Sudan.  The official resumption of production in Paloch oil field, and we will be pushing the oil from South Sudan to the pipeline in South Sudan within two weeks, we are expecting it,” Dau said.

Black smoke billowed into the bright sky, signaling the restart of pumps that have lain dormant since January 2012, when a dispute with Sudan over transit fees led the South to halt production.  Weeks of border fighting followed, threatening to bring the two sides back to all-out war. But a deal was reached in March for South Sudan to pay around $10 per barrel to export via the north.  South Sudan resumed production last month in neighboring Unity state with just 8,000 barrels per day production. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Cost for Universal Access to Energy

May 4th 2013

solar cooker

Universal access to modern energy could be achieved with an investment of between 65 and 86 billion US dollars a year up until 2030, new research has shown.

The proposed investments are higher than previous estimates but equate to just 3-4 per cent of current investments in the global energy system. The findings also include, for the first time, the policy costs for worldwide access to clean-combusting cooking fuels and stoves by 2030.

Access to electricity and clean-combusting cooking fuels and stoves could combat the estimated four million deaths a year from household air pollution caused by traditional cooking practices.

In their study, the researchers calculate that improved access to modern cooking fuels could avert between 0.6 and 1.8 million premature deaths in 2030 and enhance wellbeing substantially.

The international group of researchers estimate that an additional generation capacity of between 21 gigawatts and 28 gigawatts would be required to provide a modest amount of electricity to all rural households. This is less than the annual additions to generation capacity being made by China alone. They estimate this will cost around 180 to 250 billion dollars over the next 20 years with dedicated policies and measures also needed. Read more ..

The Race for Alt-Fuels

Superpower “Laxative Nut” Tree Could Solve Egypt’s Fuel Crisis

May 3rd 2013


In Egypt, people often have to line up for hours to fill their cars and trucks with diesel fuel – particularly during summer months when it comes at a premium.

Concerned to ease these shortages, as well as pollution and climate change, Egyptian agricultural engineer Wadad Khaireddine is pushing to grow a desert full of “Laxative Nut” trees.  More commonly known as the Jatropha, this wonder tree has multiple benefits: it fights desertification, requires very little water, and – most importantly – can be used to provide biofuel.

Speaking with Al-Shorfa, Khaireddine said that the Jatropha tree is a wild plant native to South America that belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family. The tree has yellow flowers that first turn into seeds and then a fruit that resembles olives. Seeds inside the fruit are comprised of up to 45 percent oil that can be used as biodiesel. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

House to Probe Geopolitics of Natural Gas Exports

April 30th 2013

LNG Tanker

The impact of natural gas exports on everything from foreign relations to jobs will get a look in the House during a May 7 hearing. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold the 10 a.m. hearing, committee spokeswoman Charlotte Baker stated. Witnesses for the hearing have not yet been finalized, she said.

The hearing will sharpen the focus on the geopolitical effects of expanding natural gas exports. The Energy Department (DOE) is weighing a number of applications to export natural gas to nations that lack a free-trade agreement with the United States. Such deals receive more scrutiny than others, as federal law says they must be in the national interest.

Many of the nations that would benefit geopolitically from importing U.S. natural gas don't have a free trade arrangement. Backers of natural gas exports say sending the energy source to those countries — largely European or Asian ones — would weaken the hold Russia has on markets in the Eastern Hemisphere, among other things. Read more ..

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