The Race for Hi-Speed Rail
|Ronald D. Utt||September 7th 2011|
With Congress eliminating spending for the President’s faltering high-speed rail (HSR) program and making cuts in Amtrak’s soaring subsidies, the Obama Administration appears to be shifting its reliance on funding for its ambitious passenger rail programs to a little-known federal loan program lodged in the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT): the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Act (RRIF).
This provision allows up $35 billion in federal loans and loan guarantees for rail projects at the discretion of the President. Because nearly all passenger rail systems in the world lose money, these loans are unlikely to be paid back, and taxpayers will be on the hook for multi-billion-dollar losses.
President Obama used the 2009 stimulus to create and fund an HSR program. An initial $8 billion was provided by the stimulus, and an additional $1 billion per year was to be provided through annual appropriations bills for the five following years. On top of this, the President’s highway reauthorization plan of February 2011 proposed adding an additional $50 billion to the rail program between 2012 and 2018. Read more ..
The Race for Nuclear
|Corbin Hiar||August 30th 2011|
|Irene Makes Landfall in NY (credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)|
As Hurricane Irene bore down on the East Coast, the nuclear industry assured the public that the storm wouldn’t damage the dozens of reactors in its path. The industry’s watchdogs also expressed less concern about the hurricane’s potential impact on nuclear reactors than about the vulnerability of the exposed connections between them and the rest of the world.
One concern surrounds the electric grid—the lines that transmit power to cities and homes. Another concern is the reliability of electricity that supplies the reactors themselves, and ensures safe operation of the plant. (For other more likely nightmare scenarios, see reports of the risks of earthquakes and fires.) Read more ..
Energy vs Environment
|Chris Hamby||August 30th 2011|
|North Anna Power Station|
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said two reactors were taken offline near Lake Anna in central Virginia, near the epicenter of Tuesday’s earthquake, which shook buildings up and down the east coast. Other plants, including some in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, declared “unusual events” requiring further scrutiny.
The NRC, in an April inspection meant to identify potential risks from an earthquake at the North Anna Power Station, noted earthquake “vulnerabilities” found there. Specifically, the NRC report notes that portions of water and gaseous suppression systems and hose stations “are not seismically designed.”
The report noted that “potential leakage can occur through penetrations following seismic event.” Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|David Shamah||August 26th 2011|
Batteries are everywhere - not just in iPods and smart phones. They power billions of devices, but they are expensive and aren't always easy to change. Israeli startup Sol Chip has a cure for the battery blues - an eco-friendly renewable battery power technology that integrates photovoltaic energy sources (PV) with low-power electronic devices (VLSI).
For a good example of Sol Chip's breakthrough, check out today's large dairy farms. Low-power radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are used to keep track of the herd's location, milk production and registration details while protecting the cows against disease and theft. When the tags eventually run out of power, replacing their batteries isn't practical since the tags have to remain sealed against humidity and rain. So farmers end up having to attach a new tag at great trouble and expense. Read more ..
After the BP Spill
|Andrew Restuccia||August 25th 2011|
One year after launching a program to compensate the victims of the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, administrator Kenneth Feinberg said Tuesday the process has “largely succeeded,” while acknowledging some initial missteps.
President Obama tapped Feinberg last year to head up the claims process. Feinberg established the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) with the aim of doling out the $20 billion BP set aside to compensate victims of the spill and clean up the region.
“I think overall we’ve largely succeeded in getting money out to eligible claimants,” Feinberg said.
Feinberg has come under fire from Gulf Coast lawmakers and others, who argue that he has not moved quickly enough to compensate the victims of the spill. At the same time, BP has argued that the GCCF’s claims formula is overly generous. Read more ..
The Race for EVs
|Julien Happich||August 25th 2011|
Ford and SunPower Corp have teamed up to offer customers a rooftop solar system that will provide enough clean, renewable energy to offset the electricity used to charge the vehicle. “Under the ‘Drive Green for Life' program, Focus Electric owners can reduce their total cost of ownership by generating enough energy from their high efficiency SunPower rooftop solar system to offset the electricity required to charge the vehicle at night,” said Mike Tinskey , Ford director of Global Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure. “It's an eco-friendly solution that perfectly complements our plug-in products and other green initiatives.” Read more ..
The Race for Nuclear
|Andrew Restuccia ||August 25th 2011|
Virginia's largest earthquake in more than a century shook the East Coast on August 23 and is likely to revive a long-standing debate about the safety of the country's nuclear power plants.
The 5.8 magnitude earthquake caused the shutdown of two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Va. The plant, which is located less than 20 miles from the epicenter of the quake, lost offsite power and was running its cooling systems on diesel generators on August 23. Dominion said it was able to restore offsite power to the reactors late evening August 23.
While there were no reports of damage at the North Anna reactors and plant operator Dominion said the cooling systems were working properly, nuclear opponents quickly pounced on the incident August 23.
They say the incident shows that U.S. nuclear reactors are vulnerable to major natural disasters and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should move quickly to implement a series of sweeping regulatory changes recommended by a federal task force last month. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Julien Happich ||August 23rd 2011|
|Yang Yang holds plastic solar cells|
In the world of solar energy, organic photovoltaic solar cells have a wide range of potential applications, but they are still considered an upstart. While these carbon-based cells, which use organic polymers or small molecules as semiconductors, are much thinner and less expensive to produce than conventional solar cells made with inorganic silicon wafers, they still lag behind in their ability to efficiently convert sunlight into electricity.
Now, UCLA researchers and their colleagues from China and Japan have shown that by incorporating gold nanoparticles into these organic photovoltaics — taking advantage of the plasmonic effect, by which metal helps to enhance the absorption of sunlight — they can significantly improve the cells' power conversion. Read more ..
The Race for Photo-Electric
|Julien Happich ||August 22nd 2011|
A new photovoltaic energy-conversion system developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can be powered solely by heat, generating electricity with no sunlight at all. While the principle involved is not new, a novel way of engineering the surface of a material to convert heat into precisely tuned wavelengths of light — selected to match the wavelengths that photovoltaic cells can best convert to electricity — makes the new system much more efficient than previous versions.
The key to this fine-tuned light emission lies in a material with billions of nanoscale pits etched on its surface. When the material absorbs heat, whether from the sun, a hydrocarbon fuel, a decaying radioisotope or any other source, the pitted surface radiates energy primarily at these carefully chosen wavelengths. Read more ..
The Nano Edge
|Julien Happich||August 22nd 2011|
Today's conventional inorganic electronic devices are brittle, and while they have a certain flexibility achieved using ultrathin layers of inorganic materials, these devices are either flexible, meaning they can be bent, or they are stretchable, containing a discrete LED chip interconnected with stretchable electrodes.
But they lack "intrinsic stretchabilty," in which every part of the device is stretchable. Now, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have demonstrated for the first time an intrinsically stretchable polymer light-emitting device.
They developed a simple process to fabricate the transparent devices using single-walled carbon nanotube polymer composite electrodes. The interpenetrating networks of nanotubes and the polymer matrix in the surface layer of the composites lead to low sheet resistance, high transparency, high compliance and low surface roughness. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Alexandra Duszak||August 11th 2011|
Two presidential administrations have tried to lower the carbon footprint left by hundreds of thousands of computers used by the federal government. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both issued executive orders requiring agencies to adopt “green IT” practices—such as reducing the number of printouts and curbing energy consumption by relying on central servers rather than desktops.
Yet nobody, not even officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has a mission of safeguarding the environment, can tell exactly how well the government is doing—the result of a failure to set up reliable ways of measuring the impact of the initiatives, the Government Accountability Office has found . Read more ..
|Wes Hickman||August 10th 2011|
Peak petroleum—the point at which the maximum rate of global oil extraction is reached, after which the rate of production begins to decline—is a hot topic in scientific and energy circles. When will it occur? What will the impact be? While geologists and economists debate the specifics, American University School of Communication professor Matthew Nisbet believes peak petroleum and the associated risks to public health may provide an opportunity to bring conservatives and liberals together in the move toward alternative forms of energy.
“Somewhat surprisingly, conservatives are more likely to associate a major spike in oil prices with a strong threat to public health,” said Nisbet—an expert in the field of climate and energy communication. “This could present a gateway to engagement with conservatives on energy policy.” Read more ..
Race for Alt Energy
|Richard Merritt||August 10th 2011|
While roofs across the world sport photovoltaic solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, a Duke University engineer believes a novel hybrid system can wring even more useful energy out of the sun's rays.
Instead of systems based on standard solar panels, Duke engineer Nico Hotz proposes a hybrid option in which sunlight heats a combination of water and methanol in a maze of glass tubes on a rooftop. After two catalytic reactions, the system produces hydrogen much more efficiently than current technology without significant impurities. The resulting hydrogen can be stored and used on demand in fuel cells.
For his analysis, Hotz compared the hybrid system to three different technologies in terms of their exergetic performance. Exergy is a way of describing how much of a given quantity of energy can theoretically be converted to useful work. Read more ..
The Race for Wind Power
|By Maurice Picow||August 5th 2011|
Inflatable wind turbines are now lighter and cheaper than heavy conventional ones. Following a number of Israeli clean technology companies being winners in the General Electric Company’s Green Innovation Marathon, GE has announced plans to establish a “Green Tech Shop” in Haifa in which a number of renewable energy and other green technology projects will be developed under the giant American electronics company’s sponsorship. One of these green companies, Winflex LTD, is set on proving that harnessing energy from the wind does not have to involve the use of large cumbersome wind turbines, such as the wind turbines now churning away on the Golan Heights.
Winflex wind rotor
What is unique about Winflex’s inflatable wind turbines is that they are made out of “light, flexible and inexpensive cloth sheets made out of composite materials.” The result are light weight portable wind turbines that can be installed virtually anywhere – even on home rooftops – and result in a much shorter return on equipment investment than conventional wind turbines. By reducing costs and erection time of equipment, it reduces need for government subsidies, according to Winflex’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Vladimir Kliatzkin.
Using inflatable, easily installed wind turbines is a novel idea, especially compared to those giant whirling wind turbines are now becoming commonplace in many western European countries, such as Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark, and Holland. Winflex’s designs uses a much lighter rotor around which the turbine blades revolve like sails from a sailing vessel. Read more ..
The Race for Smart Grids
|Berta Duane||August 4th 2011|
Intelligent electricity networks – smart grids – are a key component in the EU energy strategy, but substantial investments are needed to make them a reality. A new study from the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), presents a review of 219 smart grid projects Europe-wide. The vast majority of investments, amounting to about 5.5 billion euros, were made in old Member States ("EU15"), while new Member States ("EU12") tend to lag behind.
By providing a complete catalogue of the projects to date, the report showcases how smart grids can help integrate more renewables, accommodate electric vehicles, give more control to consumers over their energy consumption, avoid blackouts and restore power quickly when outages occur. Read more ..
The Race for Alt Energy
|Julien Happich||August 4th 2011|
In 2011, IDTechEx research finds that the amount of money spent on energy harvesters will be USD0.7Bn, with several hundred developers involved throughout the value chain. Energy harvesting is the process by which ambient energy is captured and converted into electricity for small autonomous devices, such as satellites, laptops and nodes in sensor networks making them self-sufficient. Energy harvesting applications reach from vehicles to the smart grid.
The majority of the value this year is in consumer electronic applications, where energy harvesters have been used for some time. In 2011, 1.6 million energy harvesters will be used in wireless sensors, resulting in $13.75 million being spent on those harvesters. Read more ..
The Race for EVs
|Kevin Merrill||August 4th 2011|
Researchers from the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Co. have assessed the global availability of lithium and compared it to the potential demand from large-scale global use of electric vehicles. The research findings, published in the current issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology, conclude that sufficient resources of lithium exist for the next 90 years to supply a large-scale global fleet of electric vehicles through at least 2100.
The researchers compiled data on 103 deposits containing lithium, with an emphasis on 32 deposits that have a lithium resource of more than 100,000 metric tons each. Lithium is a key ingredient in the development of certain types of batteries, and is a key element of batteries used in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Ronnie Greene and Jeremy Borden||August 2nd 2011|
The White House budget office raised flags about the first energy loan guarantee awarded under the Obama administration, adding another layer of questions to the taxpayer backed financing now at the center of a House investigation.
In 2009, as the Department of Energy pushed to close the $535 million loan guarantee to California solar panel maker Solyndra Inc., the Office of Management and Budget concluded the financing was a greater risk to taxpayers than did DOE. That higher risk rating, in turn, forced the government to set aside more money in case the company defaults on payments.
The Department of Energy pressed ahead, formally approving the deal in September 2009 while portraying the Solyndra loan guarantee as a symbol of President Obama’s quest to spread green energy projects with government backing. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Paul Buckley ||July 27th 2011|
‘Smart’ photovoltaic inverter (PV) shipments are forecast to grow to 27 GW in 2015, accounting for almost 60 percent of the market compared to just 20 percent in 2010 according to the latest report from market analyst, IMS Research. The growth is being driven by utility concerns over grid imbalances, the growing proportion of photovoltaic inverters connected to the grid, as well as the need for energy storage to take advantage of self-consumption tariffs and further incorporate photovoltaic inverters into the ‘smart grid.’
According to the new IMS Research report entitled “The World Market for PV Inverters,” features such as reactive power, smart grid interaction and energy storage are transforming inverters from a simple power conversion unit into an essential component of grid infrastructure and will radically change the PV inverter market over the next five years. Tom Haddon a PV Research Analyst at IMS Research explained: “Utilities, especially in Europe, are increasingly pushing for inverters to assist in grid stabilization and conform to stricter technical requirements.”
Because of this, IMS Research forecasts that smart inverters will account for 80% of the EMEA market in 2015. Haddon commented: “Despite this, most inverter shipments will still not be “fully smart” and will only have reactive power capabilities, rather than full smart grid interaction or energy storage.” Read more ..
Race for Solar
|Paul Buckley ||July 26th 2011|
Professor Eicke Weber, spokesperson for the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance, says that the transition to renewable energy is set to deliver an economic pay off in the years to come and points out that various studies show a shift to alternative energy sources will raise the GNP in the coming decade and create new jobs. “Germany has the chance to take the global lead in the shift of a large-scale economy to renewable energy, with numerous advantages in the further development of these technologies and the corresponding creation of jobs. I cannot imagine a more effective, sustainable economic stimulus program than this process,” asserted Prof. Weber. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Jeremy Borden and Ronnie Greene||July 25th 2011|
|Solyndra plant groundbreaking, 2009 (credit: Solyndra)|
The Obama administration’s budget office dodged a deadline Friday to hand over subpoenaed documents sought as part of a congressional investigation into a politically-connected solar panel manufacturer.
The Office of Budget and Management didn’t send over the requested documents—internal emails, memos and letters from OMB and anything in their possession from other offices—demanded in the subpoena from a House energy subcommittee on July 14 . But OMB promised to make a “substantial” number of internal documents and emails available for committee staff to review, said OMB spokesman Kenneth Baer. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Andrew J. Tabler||July 24th 2011|
Washington Institute for Near East Policy
By targeting Syria's energy sector, the United States can hit President Bashar al-Assad where it really hurts -- his pocketbook.
Four months into Syria's uprising, the violence wracking the country is bad and getting worse. The restive city of Homs witnessed sectarian clashes over the weekend that reportedly left dozens dead, while forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad converged on the eastern town of Abu Kamal. As the Assad regime's iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove approach to the uprising continues to fail, all eyes are focused on the Aug. 1 start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when the minority Alawite regime's killing of predominately Sunni protesters could transform the uprising into a sectarian bloodbath.
This bloodshed, which is tragic in its own right, is also causing the sputtering Syrian economy to grind to a halt. Such a development would be particularly dangerous for Assad, as it could cause the business elite in the commercial hubs of Damascus and Aleppo to finally break ties with the regime and join ranks with the opposition. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Susan Kraemer||July 17th 2011|
|SolarOr BIPV installed; closeup of window panel|
Many governments worldwide now require double pane glass in windows for energy efficiency. In between the panes is usually a gas that helps to cut down on unwanted heat transfer. But what if, sandwiched between the two panes of glass, instead of merely a substance that helped conserve energy, there was also an actual energy generator? That is the ingenious energy innovation supplied by Israel’s SolarOr, which was on display at this month’s Intersolar event at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
Between the two panes, SolarOr inserts tiny faceted solar photovoltaic cells facing the sky at the top of a honeycomb inside the glass. Read more ..
The Grid's Edge
|Julien Happich||July 17th 2011|
|Ultracapacitor and cross-section of flywheel storage unit|
Battery, flywheel, ultracapacitor and fuel cell developers need to act now if they wish to tap the USD 4 billion market for off-grid applications, says Lux Research. Struggling to get their feet in the door of transportation and grid-tied markets, emerging electrical storage developers have begun eying off-grid opportunities as a way to attain scale and lower costs. Read more ..
Clean Air on Edge
The Environmental Protection Agency wants to stop requiring gasoline stations to install costly anti-pollution systems in 2013 because all vehicles made since 2006 are equipped with similar technology. But the switch means nearly one-third of American cars on the road still won’t have the onboard technology, leaving some smog-producing vapors leaking from the gas pump, according to industry experts.
On July 11, the EPA proposed to give states the option of dropping a requirement that gas stations in smoggy cities install vapor recovery systems to prevent vapors from leaking out of gas pumps. The Obama administration has argued these systems are no longer necessary and dropping the requirement could save gas station owners $67 million each year. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Julien Happich||July 15th 2011|
University of Toronto engineering researchers reported in Nature Photonics a new solar cell that may pave the way to inexpensive coatings that efficiently convert the sun's rays to electricity. The researchers, led by Professor Ted Sargent of electrical and computer engineering, report the first efficient tandem solar cell based on colloidal quantum dots (CQD).
"The University of Toronto device is a stack of two light-absorbing layers - one tuned to capture the sun's visible rays, the other engineered to harvest the half of the sun's power that lies in the infrared," said lead co-author Xihua Wang, a post-doctoral fellow. Read more ..
Egypt After Mubarek
|Martin Barillas||July 12th 2011|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
On July 12, for the second time in a week, the crucial gas pipeline leading to Israel and Jordan from Egypt was attacked. Saboteurs blew up the Egyptian gas pipeline distribution station in northern Sinai, sending plumes of smoke and flame hundreds of feet into the air. The explosion was the fourth attack this year on pipelines in Sinai that supply gas to Israel and Jordan. With roiling unrest in its eastern neighbour, Israel's important economic ties to Egypt are deteriorating, said Israeli National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau in a radio interview. "The most important economic connection between Israel and Egypt is eroding," Landau said. "Electricity disruptions are not expected since we have other energy reserves, however it will be more expensive." He added, "The price will increase by about 20 percent due to the use of gasoline and diesel, but my job is to maintain the supply of electricity to the Israeli economy."
Landau continued, "Israel was ready to allow Egypt to deploy more forces in Sinai to secure the pipeline, even at the beginning of the Egyptian uprising, in opposition to the peace agreement," he explained. "But I recommend against interfering since our neighboring country's situation is not simple. Israel needs to rely on herself and the Tamar reserves can supply [gas] needs for the next 25 years." Read more ..
After the BP Spill
|Andrew Restuccia||July 11th 2011|
BP said on July 8 that victims of last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill do not need compensation for future economic losses because the region has made significant progress in its recovery from the disaster.
“The current economic data do not suggest that individual and business claimants face a material risk of future loss caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” BP said in a document filed with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCG) Thursday. The Associated Press first reported on the document earlier the same day.
The GCCF has been charged with doling out as much as $20 billion set aside by BP to compensate victims of the spill. Kenneth Feinberg, a Washington lawyer, is in charge of the massive claims process. Read more ..
Race for Hydrogen
Hydrogen-fueled vehicles and power systems could be feasible in Turkey by 2020, says Mustafa Hatipoğlu, managing director of the UN’s International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technologies in Istanbul. Since it was established in Istanbul eight years ago, the International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technologies (ICHET), a project of the United Nations International Development Organization, has been developing a series of small, experimental hydrogen energy projects. But Turkey is beginning to lay the infrastructure for a much larger hydrogen economy, according to the man at the head of ICHET, Mustafa Hatipoğlu.
In an exclusive interview, Hatipoğlu sat down for an exclusive interview about the future and progress to date of hydrogen energy in Turkey.
The advantages and limitations of hydrogen as an energy carrier are well illustrated by the most significant project ICHET has completed so far, the EkoKaravan. Read more ..
The Race for EVs
|Susan Kraemer||July 5th 2011|
|credit: Better Place|
Denmark is the newest country to get Israeli innovator Shai Agassi’s battery-switching stations. The first of 20 long-planned Better Place battery swap stations slated for installation over the next twelve months was inaugurated June 30, CNet is reporting.
The EV battery switching station was installed in Gladsaxe, a town just outside of Copenhagen. The first battery swap was conducted on a Renault Fluence ZE, which, along with the Nissan Rogue SUV, is one of just two car models designed to accept the robotic battery swap technology designed by Agassi, so far. But that is not slowing Danish enthusiasm for Better Place. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Karin Kloosterman||July 5th 2011|
It’s taken five years to get off the ground, thanks in part to the difficulty of coordinating between no less than 24 ministerial offices, but the first Israeli solar field was finally launched in June 2011 to fanfare, VIP barbecues, music, a religious rapper (who wrote a song for the occasion), and a picturesque setting sun.
Arava Power’s 4.95 megawatt solar field in Kibbutz Ketura marks a milestone for the state of Israel. The Jewish nation has been intent on branding itself as a clean-tech superhero, selling solar innovations like inverters and software abroad, yet not quite able to prove its commitment to renewable energy on its home turf. Read more ..
|Ben Geman and Andrew Restuccia||June 23rd 2011|
The Energy Department has said that it will release 30 million barrels of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, citing supply disruptions threatening the global economy and hailing from the unrest in Libya and other nations.
If all 30 million barrels are sold, it would be the largest sale from the reserve in history.
The release is part of a coordinated effort with other members of the International Energy Agency that will send a total of 60 million barrels of crude oil into world markets over the next 30 days, according to the Energy Department.
The decision comes amid signs that the economic recovery is faltering—which is a political threat to the White House heading into 2012—and concerns that high energy prices are acting as a brake on growth. Read more ..
Edge of Oil Addiction
The Obama administration may be readying for a fight with the energy industry as it prepares to raise royalty charges for oil and gas obtained from public lands—and tighten up practices that have allowed companies to pay less than they should.
Anticipated rollout in 2012 of new regulations to raise royalties could spark a fight with Republicans in an election year, and slightly reduce the spiraling deficit within a decade by adding nearly $1 billion to Interior Department collections.
The Interior Department has a poor track record of collecting royalties. As reported, the oil and gas industry regularly underpays what it owes, with a possible loss to taxpayers in the billions of dollars.
Oil and natural gas extraction from federal lands and waters make up one of the biggest sources of revenue for the government, behind taxes. In fiscal year 2010, Uncle Sam collected about $9.1 billion from oil and gas companies. Read more ..
Race for EVs
|Christoph Hammerschmidt ||June 19th 2011|
The charging interface for electric vehicles has been - and is - a subject to fierce discussion in the industry. AC and DC charging interfaces both have advantages and disadvantages. Now inductive charging is emerging as a surprise alternative.
All charging methods and interfaces for e-cars are characterized by tradeoffs between charging time, weight and installation space. Single-phase AC charging is convenient since it can be used in a private garage overnight. Read more ..
The Race for Thermal Energy
|Bill Cabage||June 15th 2011|
Neutron analysis of the atomic dynamics behind thermal conductivity is helping scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory gain a deeper understanding of how thermoelectric materials work. The analysis could spur the development of a broader range of products with the capability to transform heat to electricity.
Researchers performed experiments at both of ORNL's neutron facilities -- the Spallation Neutron Source and the High Flux Isotope Reactor -- to learn why the material lead telluride, which has a similar molecular structure to common table salt, has very low thermal conductivity, or heat loss -- a property that makes lead telluride a compelling thermoelectric material. Read more ..
Edge on Transportation
|Cheryl Dybas||June 14th 2011|
New research focusing on the Houston, Texas, area suggests that widespread urban development alters weather patterns in a way that can make it easier for pollutants to accumulate during warm summer weather instead of being blown out to sea. The international study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), could have implications for the air quality of fast-growing coastal cities in the United States and other mid-latitude regions overseas.
The reason: the proliferation of strip malls, subdivisions and other paved areas may interfere with breezes needed to clear away smog and other pollution. The researchers combined extensive atmospheric measurements with computer simulations to examine the impact of pavement on breezes in Houston.
They found that, because pavement soaks up heat and keeps land areas relatively warm overnight, the contrast between land and sea temperatures is reduced during the summer. This in turn causes a reduction in nighttime winds that would otherwise blow pollutants out to sea. Read more ..
The Race for More Oil
World Jewish Daily
Tiny Israel, long dependent on outsiders for its energy needs, is poised to become a major exporter of oil. That's according to Lawrence Solomon, writing in the Financial Post.
The new energy order is founded on rock – the shale that traps vast stores of energy in deposits around the world. One of the largest deposits – 250 billion barrels of oil in Israel’s Shfela basin, comparable to Saudi Arabia’s entire reserves of 260 billion barrels of oil – has until now been unexploited, partly because the technology required has been expensive, mostly because the multinational oil companies that have the technology fear offending Muslims.
“None of the major oil companies are willing to do business in Israel because they don’t want to be cut off from the Mideast supply of oil,” explains Howard Jonas, CEO of IDT, the U.S. company that owns the Shfela concession through its subsidiary, Israel Energy Initiatives. Jonas considers the Shfela deposit merely a beginning: “We believe that under Israel is more oil than under Saudi Arabia. There may be as much as half a trillion barrels.” Read more ..
For the first time in its history, the Saudis were unable to get the other members of OPEC to agree to increase production to lower prices on crude.
The meeting reportedly ended in considerable turmoil and acrimony, and Ali al-Naimi, the oil minister for Saudi Arabia was quoted as saying, "We were unable to reach an agreement—this is one of the worst meetings we have ever had."
The Saudis are OPEC's biggest producer, and normally have enough clout to persuade the others to go along with them. But the meeting degenerated into a standoff between the Gulf Arab countries, who had undoubtedly trying to fulfill a request from the White House and Europe to get prices lowered before the oncoming election and anti-U.S. forces in the coalition led by Iran and Venezuela. Read more ..
Edge on Energy
|Andrew Restuccia ||June 8th 2011|
State of Play: Opponents of a controversial proposed oil sands pipeline currently being reviewed by the Obama administration will blast the State Department’s environmental analysis of the project on June 7.
The National Wildlife Federation and the Pipeline Safety Trust plan to argue that the State Department’s environmental analysis of the project — the second such analysis conducted by the administration as part of an extended multi-agency review process — is inadequate because it doesn’t take into account key issues like pipeline safety.
The groups will also criticize the State Department for its review of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project, for not allowing the public more than 45 days to comment on its environmental analysis.
Keystone XL would extend the existing Keystone pipeline, which carries oil sands from Alberta to Oklahoma, to refineries on the Texas coast.
Environmental and public lands groups have mounted an intense opposition campaign against Keystone XL, raising safety concerns and noting that oil sands production results in greater greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil production. Read more ..
The Race for Power
|Rick Merritt||June 5th 2011|
Costs and benefits of building a smart electric grid have more than doubled as the vision of a digital, networked power utility has expanded, according to a new report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Sensor networks are on the rise as one of the big and under-served opportunities in the diverse terrain of the smart grid.
The EPRI report estimated the cost of upgrading the U.S. grid could range from $338 to $476 billion, up from $165 billion in a 2004 forecast. Benefit estimates have also skyrocketed to a range of $1.2 to $2 trillion, up from $660 billion estimated in 2004.
EPRI's previous estimates did not include enabling plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles, renewable energy sources, grid-scale energy storage, distributed generation and demand response applications that let consumers adjust energy use based on changing energy prices. Benefits of a smart grid include reduced carbon emissions, energy savings and reduced blackouts that cost $10 billion per event. Read more ..
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