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The Race for EVs

Electric Cars Roll onto Israeli Streets This Summer

May 2nd 2011

Transportation Topics - Better Place electric car

Better Place will begin selling electric cars in Israel this summer according to an April 26 report in Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot. The electric car infrastructure company founded by Shai Agassi, has reportedly closed its visitor's center near Tel Aviv and will convert it into a sales center. The first electric car to be sold to Israeli customers by Better Place is the Renault Fluence ZE. It will be followed by the Renault Zoe.

Israel is the first country in the world to install the cutting edge electric car network and will act as a pilot for a worldwide electric car grid. The Dor Alon gas station chain earlier signed an agreement to install battery replacement points for the electric vehicles at all of its gas stations. A sales center at Glilot Junction will be the company's flagship store, and will be built in a huge warehouse that was used previously to store fuel. Read more ..

Race for Solar

Highly-Efficient Nanotech Flat Panels Can Generate Solar-Thermal

May 2nd 2011

Energy Topics - Solar panels

High-performance nanotech materials arrayed on a flat panel platform demonstrated seven to eight times higher efficiency than previous solar thermoelectric generators, opening up solar-thermal electric power conversion to a broad range of residential and industrial uses, a team of researchers from Boston College and MIT report in the journal Nature Materials.

Two technologies have dominated efforts to harness the power of the sun's energy. Photovoltaics convert sunlight into electric current, while solar-thermal power generation uses sunlight to heat water and produce thermal energy. Photovoltaic cells have been deployed widely as flat panels, while solar-thermal power generation employs sunlight-absorbing surfaces feasible in residential and large-scale industrial settings. Read more ..

The Race for Pressure Energy

Micro Energy Harvester Generates Electricity from Vibrations

May 2nd 2011

Computer Topics - Piezo electric gizmo

Electrical engineers at the University of Michigan have built a device that can harness energy from vibrations and convert it to electricity with five to 10 times greater efficiency and power than other devices in its class. And it's smaller than a penny.

"In a tiny amount of space, we've been able to make a device that generates more power for a given input than anything else out there on the market," said Khalil Najafi, one of the system's developers and chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Ann Arbor-based institution.

This new vibration energy harvester is specifically designed to turn the cyclic motions of factory machines into energy to power wireless sensor networks. These sensor networks monitor machines' performance and let operators know about any malfunctions. Read more ..

The Race for Biomass

Unlikely Polluters: “Green” Energy Not Always So Clean

May 2nd 2011

Energy / Environment - Detroit Trash-to-Power Plant

Just 12 miles apart in the belly of California, a pair of 12.5 megawatt power plants fouled the air with a toxic brew of pollutants — nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and particulate matter. They released thick plumes and visible dust. They failed to install proper monitoring equipment, and failed to file reports on their emissions.

Another instance of coal plants polluting the environment?

Not quite. These are biomass power plants, part of the so-called green wave of the future.

Pitched as a smarter, environmentally-friendly way to produce power, the electricity generating stations are spreading nationwide, spurred by hundreds of millions in stimulus dollars and big muscle support from members of Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Generating electricity by burning trees, construction debris, poultry litter, and agricultural mass has become a key element in a larger push to develop sources of alternative energy, and popular because it’s been around for decades and is reliable. Read more ..

China on Edge

The New Silk Road: China’s Energy Strategy in the Greater Middle East

May 2nd 2011

China Topics - China's Energy Silk Road
Credit: IEA & National Pipeline Research Society of Japan

Over the past decade, China has increased its energy foothold in the Greater Middle East, encompassing the mainly Islamic countries of Central Asia, the Caucasus, Southwest Asia, and parts of the Balkans and North Africa. Much of this activity has been rooted in China’s tendency to view energy security in geopolitical and strategic terms rather than purely economic terms. In particular, Beijing has been concerned about countering Western energy initiatives in the region. As one Chinese scholar argued, projects such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline—the first regional pipeline directly supported and controlled by Western countries—imply American motives of containing Russia and China. Read more ..

BP After the Spill

BP’s Iris Cross Has Starred in Two Disaster PR Campaigns

April 27th 2011

Energy / Environment - Iris Cross, BP PR

Last fall, Iris Cross beamed into millions of homes, the friendly BP worker hailing from New Orleans who assured TV viewers that the oil giant wouldn’t stop cleaning up the worst oil spill in U.S. history “until we make this right.”

She became the very public face of BP, a soothing contrast to former CEO Tony Heyward, whose PR gaffes cemented public opinion against the oil company.

This is not the first time Cross sought to soothe public anger from a BP disaster. One of her efforts in 2006 so angered a judge that BP was accused of jury tampering and threatened with fines and contempt charges. Read more ..

The Race for Hydrogen

Cheaper Hydrogen Fuel Cells are Coming

April 25th 2011

Energy / Environment - Honda Clarity Fueling

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have developed a way to avoid the use of expensive platinum in hydrogen fuel cells, the environmentally friendly devices that might replace current power sources in everything from personal data devices to automobiles.

In a paper prepared by Los Alamos researchers Gang Wu, Christina Johnston, and Piotr Zelenay, joined by researcher Karren More of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, describe the use of a platinum-free catalyst in the cathode of a hydrogen fuel cell. Eliminating platinum—a precious metal more expensive than gold—would solve a significant economic challenge that has thwarted widespread use of large-scale hydrogen fuel cell systems. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Fact-Checking Washington's Rhetoric on Energy and Drilling for Oil

April 25th 2011

Energy Topics - Oil Barrels 400px

With gas prices rising, the rhetoric in Washington about drilling is becoming increasingly intense.

On one side of the battle, is President Obama. He recently outlined a proposal to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil by one-third by 2025, while continuing to drill responsibly, beefing up fuel-economy standards and promoting electric vehicles.

On the other side of the battle are Republicans and many drill-state Democrats. While they agree with Obama’s policy agenda broadly, they say the administration is not moving quickly enough to expand domestic oil and natural gas production. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

In Philadelphia, Plea for Safer Alternative at Refinery

April 25th 2011

Energy / Environment - Sunoco plant, Phila

Sunoco asserts that there is no “off-site impact” from clouds of toxic acid—to a skeptical audience.

The general manager of the Sunoco oil refinery in Philadelphia defended his company’s decision to keep using an extremely toxic, cloud-forming acid, saying on April 21 that in 40 years “there has not been a single, documented incident of off-site impact or injury to a member of the public.”

Testifying at a legislative hearing on risks posed to workers and neighborhoods by hydrofluoric acid, or HF, the manager, Mike Bukowski, did not find a sympathetic audience, even after explaining that Sunoco had spent $125 million to switch to a modified form of the acid, less likely than standard HF to travel long distances if discharged during an accident. Read more ..

Race for Bio-Fuel

Sugarcane Cools the Climate and Reduces Carbon Dioxide Emissions

April 25th 2011

Energy / Environment - Sugar Cane

Brazilians are world leaders in using biofuels for gasoline. About a quarter of their automobile fuel consumption comes from sugarcane, which significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions that otherwise would be emitted from using gasoline. Now scientists from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology have found that sugarcane has a double benefit. Expansion of the crop in areas previously occupied by other Brazilian crops cools the local climate. It does so by reflecting sunlight back into space and by lowering the temperature of the surrounding air as the plants "exhale" cooler water. The research team, led by Carnegie's Scott Loarie, is the first to quantify the direct effects on the climate from sugarcane expansion in areas of existing crop and pastureland of the cerrado, in central Brazil. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Newt Gingrich Faces Questions about Consulting Job and Support for Biofuels

April 25th 2011

Politics - Newt Gingrich 4_2011
Newt Gingrich

“I am not a lobbyist for ethanol,” Newt Gingrich declared in a mid-winter spat with the editors of The Wall Street Journal over his support for government subsidies for alternative fuel.

But Gingrich was a hired consultant to a major ethanol lobbying group—at more than $300,000 a year.

According to IRS records, the ethanol group Growth Energy paid Gingrich’s consulting firm $312,500 in 2009.The former House Speaker was the organization’s top-paid consultant, according to the records. His pay was one of the group’s largest single expenditures, as it took in and spent about $11 million to promote ethanol and to lobby for federal incentives for its use.

In a Growth Energy publication, Gingrich was listed as a consultant who offered advice on “strategy and communication issues” and who “will speak positively on ethanol related topics to media.” Read more ..

Race for Solar

Organic Photovoltaics face Stiff Headwinds

April 20th 2011

Energy Topics - Photovoltaic cells

Organic photovoltaics won't compete with conventional solar technologies, limiting its market potential due to comparatively poor conversion efficiencies and short lifetimes.

OPVs will almost certainly materialize over the next decade, driven by unique form factors and the potential for lower costs, according to a report from Lux Research, which projects a market that reaches $159 million in 2020. OPV modules use carbon-containing polymers or molecules to convert light to electricity. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Hidden Magnetic Effect could Yield Optical Battery Design

April 20th 2011

Energy Topics - Light magnet

A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells. The researchers found a way to make an "optical battery," according to Stephen Rand, a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics. In the process, they overturned a century-old tenet of physics. "You could stare at the equations of motion all day and you will not see this possibility. We've all been taught that this doesn't happen," said Rand. "It's a very odd interaction. That's why it's been overlooked for more than 100 years."

Light has electric and magnetic components. Until now, scientists thought the effects of the magnetic field were so weak that they could be ignored. What Rand and his colleagues found is that at the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material that does not conduct electricity, the light field can generate magnetic effects that are 100 million times stronger than previously expected. Under these circumstances, the magnetic effects develop strength equivalent to a strong electric effect. Read more ..

Race for Solar

Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Stimulating Solar Markets in Europe

April 18th 2011

Energy Topics - Solar panels

“Reaction to the Fukushima nuclear crisis has been swift in Germany and Italy,” commented Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst for photovoltaic systems at IHS iSuppli. “Germany responded quickly by shutting down seven of its oldest reactors, potentially boosting the prospects for renewable energy in the country. Meanwhile, Italy indicated it might upgrade the role of solar within the country and accept higher volumes of sun-powered energy.”

IHS noted that, by the third quarter of 2011, it will be clearer whether the German government is likely to proceed with a rapid exit from nuclear power. In that case, renewable energy is expected to be promoted more strongly. Wind dominates current public discussions, but solar energy possibly could benefit as well. One possible course of action that could benefit the solar industry would boost the annual photovoltaic (PV) installation forecast. Read more ..

The Race for CNG

Study Shows Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas Yields as Much Global Warming as Coal

April 18th 2011

Energy Topics - Hydrolic Fracking pollution
Containment pond for hydraulic fracking liquids

Cornell University professors will soon publish research that concludes natural gas produced with a drilling method called “hydraulic fracturing” contributes to global warming as much as coal, or even more. The conclusion is explosive because natural gas enjoys broad political support – including White House backing – due to its domestic abundance and lower carbon dioxide emissions when burned than other fossil fuels. Cornell Prof. Robert Howarth, however, argues that development of gas from shale rock formations produced through hydraulic fracturing – dubbed “fracking” – brings far more methane emissions than conventional gas production. Read more ..

Edge on Energy

Serious Environmental Concerns Voiced on State Department Report on Keystone Pipeline project

April 18th 2011

Energy Topics - Keystone Kapers Pipeline

Environmental groups blasted an updated environmental analysis released on April 15 by the State Department of a proposed oil pipeline project that would stretch from Alberta, Canada to Texas.

The updated review offered largely the same conclusions as a draft environmental impact statement issued by the State Department in April of last year. The draft review found that the project, known as Keystone XL, “would result in limited adverse environmental impacts during both construction and operation.”

The Keystone XL project, proposed by TransCanada, would transport Canadian oil sands from Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf coast. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Scientists develop Golden Window Electrodes for Organic Solar Cells

April 11th 2011

Science - Warwick golden electrode

Researchers at the University of Warwick have developed a gold plated window as the transparent electrode for organic solar cells. The electrodes have the potential to be relatively cheap since the thickness of gold used is only 8 billionths of a meter. The ultra-low thickness means that even at the current high gold price the cost of the gold needed to fabricate one square metre of this electrode is only around $10.

Organic solar cells have long relied on Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) coated glass as the transparent electrode, although this is largely due to the absence of a suitable alternative. ITO is a complex, unstable material with a high surface roughness and tendency to crack upon bending if supported on a plastic substrate. The short supply of indium is making it relatively expensive to use. Read more ..

Edge on Computing

Hewlett-Packard Upgrades Data Center with 10K Energy Sensors

April 11th 2011

Computer Topics - Data center computer corridor

Hewlett-Packard has officially opened a new data center on March 30 that will both help run its internal business and act as a lab to research techniques to reduce consumption of energy in data centers. To that end, the building has been outfitted with nearly 10,000 networked sensors. The 50,000 square-foot facility in Fort Collins, Colorado, will house about 10,000 HP x86 and Itanium servers, consolidating work from several prior centers. It is a medium-sized facility, one of six HP uses for its internal applications, some of which are as large as 200,000 square feet. Read more ..

Energy vs Environment

Ecuador Leaves Oil Riches in Ground to Save Ecosystem

April 11th 2011

Latin American Topics - Ecuador pipeline

Ecuador’s decision to forego potentially lucrative oil drilling in the Amazon forest in order to protect a biologically rich and fragile ecosystem is the focus of two documentaries at the Washington Environmental Film Festival.

The decision represents a huge sacrifice for a small South American country which earns half its export revenues from oil.

In 2007, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa boldly halted operations at one of the country’s most promising wells. That amounts to 25 percent of Ecuador’s known oil reserves, which works out to about 846 million barrels of crude. The oil sits below Yasuni National Park, one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Israeli Batteries Will Charge Up Mia Electric Vehicles in Europe

April 11th 2011

Energy Topics - Israeli battery vehicle MIA

In a $250 million deal, Israel's Evida will supply the batteries, cooling systems and software tools to run Mia Electric's vehicles in Europe. Batteries for Mia Electric's vehicles will be supplied by Israeli company Evida. Racing from one business meeting to the next, Asher Bennett, the 42-year-old founder of Israeli electric battery maker Evida, couldn't elaborate on how he came up with the invention in such a short time. But the former military submarine man did say that his company has been in stealth mode for the last two years.

Under the media's radar until now, Evida has just signed a $250 million contract with the French-German automaker Mia Electric to manufacture its batteries. Funded with about $2 million from the Israeli venture capital firm Terra Venture Partners, and backed by private investment, Evida has been contracted to provide 50,000 8-kilowatt/hour battery packs for three of Mia's newest electric models, through to the year 2016. Read more ..

Japan after the Quake

Fukushima Plant to Release Contaminated Water into Ocean

April 4th 2011

Japan - Fukushima Worker

Tokyo's main electric power company has begun a planned release of thousands of tons of water from a damaged nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

The water, which is about 100 times more radioactive than Japan's legal limit, is collected in several areas inside the reactor buildings. But the water being released is less radioactive than the water that has already leaked from the nuclear plant into the ocean.

Plant operators want to expel the water to aid clean up at the facility and to provide storage space for water with much higher radioactivity. Read more ..

After the BP Spill

Interior Says No Deal Yet With BP

April 4th 2011

Energy / Environment - BP Execs Testify

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Monday said the Interior Department has not come to an agreement with BP to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The Financial Times reported this weekend that BP “has struck a deal” with the Interior Department to resume drilling at as many as 10 wells that were shuttered in the aftermath of last year’s Gulf oil spill. Salazar, in a conference call with reporters Monday, blasted what he called a “misconception that has gotten out there from a media outlet.” Read more ..

The Race for Nuclear

From Chernobyl to Fukushima: Nuclear Safety is Still in Doubt

April 4th 2011

Japan - fukushima reactor smoke
Fukushima nuclear plant

Soldiers long ago shot the dogs and cats. Today, the only sound on Lenin Avenue is a chill wind blowing dead leaves. In the summer, thick vegetation obscures six-story apartment blocks, once homes for the city’s 50,000 residents. Once a model Soviet community built for Chernobyl’s nuclear power station, Pripyat now looks like a post apocalypse film set.

Tourists, some wearing face masks, pick their way carefully through dimly lit corridors, boots crunching on broken glass. They walk down debris strewn sidewalks, keeping an eye out for missing manhole covers. Side streets have narrowed into tunnels as bushes and trees have grown unchecked for a quarter century. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Bedouin Women Lighting Up the Desert as Barefoot Solar Engineers

April 4th 2011

Arab Topics - Bedouin women lighting up

For many living in the harsh and desolate deserts of south Jordan, life without electricity is the norm. Either the infrastructure which provides electricity doesn’t reach them or they simply don’t have the money to afford it. However, all that looks set to change as two women bring to light the advantages of solar energy.

Two Jordanian Bedouin women have recently returned from a six-month course at a unique college in India where they were trained as solar engineers. The two women, who are illiterate and have never been employed, were carefully selected by the elders in the village to attend the course at Barefoot College in India which helps poor rural communities become more sustainable. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Researchers Devise Exceptionally Efficient OLED for Televisions, Cell Phones, and Computers

March 30th 2011

Energy Topics - OLED matrix

University of Michigan engineering researchers have designed an exceptionally efficient fluorescent blue OLED, or organic light emitting diode.

OLEDs are the next generation display technology. They are already used in televisions, cell phones and computers, and they are candidates for a vast array of light sources from advertising billboards to indoor and outdoor illumination. Fluorescent OLEDs are typically less efficient at emitting light per unit area than their phosphorescent counterparts.

That may be changing, according to new findings by professor John Kieffer and graduate student Changgua Zhen of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. They released findings in the journal Advanced Functional Materials that shattered previous records. Traditionally, the ceiling for the efficiency of fluorescent OLEDs was believed to be 5 percent. Now, Kieffer and his collaborators have produced fluorescent OLEDs with close to 10 percent efficiency. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Better Place Chosen for Hawaiian Stimulus Funds

March 28th 2011

Energy Topics - A better place Hawaii
Better Place in Hawaii

Hawaii has just invested $2.6 million in stimulus funds in a public private partnership in electric vehicle infrastructure planned since 2008 to help jump start the adoption of electric vehicles. Better Place, with $854,000, and Aerovironment with $820,000 were the leaders among six road-ready electric vehicle innovators to receive a share of the funding.

Before electric cars are widely adopted, some way of charging them on the go is needed. Better Place will use its $854,000 to help support the introduction of EVs to a rental car fleet with the installation of the charging stations that will be needed to do just that. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Fuel

Indian Electricity Initiative Shines New Light on Farm Garbage

March 28th 2011

Energy / Environment - India's Garbage is Power
India's Garbage Points to New Power Source

Some of India's most remote farming villages are beginning to see sundown in a new light, now that they are able to convert an abundant crop into electricity.

Remote regions are prime examples of what people describe as old India - parts of the country off the grid, literally, from new India and its high-tech urban centers.

Tamkuha, in the Indian state of Bihar, does not receive electricity from the country's main distribution network. It gets by on traditional farming - and for decades, as the sun went down, villagers turned to the dim light of candles or kerosene lamps.

But these days, thanks to an ambitious renewable energy project, life in Tamkuha no longer grinds to a halt around 6:00 p.m.  By the glow of florescent bulbs, residents have been able to extend their hours of productivity late into the night. A woman says she used to work as a tailor only during the day. Sewing was nearly impossible with a kerosene lamp. Now, she says she can work in her shop until very late at night. Read more ..

The Cost of Oil

Clean-up of Amazon Jungle Awaits Ecuador following $9 Billion Judgment Against Chevron

March 28th 2011

Latin American Topics - Amazonian kid and toxic waste

Since initiated in 1993, the environmental class action lawsuit brought against Texaco’s alleged pollution of Ecuador’s Amazon region has been fought before various courts and judges, always under the shadow of dubious impartiality. After the case had already filed, Chevron bought Texaco in 2001 and assumed its liabilities, including Texaco’s defendant status. On February 14, 2011, after 18 years of intense legal battle, Ecuadorian provincial Judge Nicolás Zambrano ruled against Chevron and ordered the successor corporation to pay more than $9 billion in compensation for decades of petro-contamination of virgin Amazon jungle. Read more ..

The Race for Wind

Wind and Solar can Reliably Supply 25 percent of Oahu's Electricity

March 21st 2011

Energy Topics - Oahu Wind
Kahuku Wind Project

When combined with on-Oahu wind farms and solar energy, the Interisland Wind project planned to bring 400 megawatts (MW) of wind power from Molokai and Lanai to Oahu could reliably supply more than 25 percent of Oahu's projected electricity demand, according to the Oahu Wind Integration Study (OWIS).

For the purposes of the research project, the OWIS released today studied the impact on the Oahu grid of a total of 500 MW of wind energy and a nominal 100 MW of solar power, though a good deal more utility-scale and customer-sited solar power is expected on Oahu. Read more ..

The Race for More Oil

Obama Administration Approves Third Drilling Permit for Gulf of Mexico

March 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - Offshore Oil Rig

The Interior Department announced on March 18 it has approved a third permit for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for the type of project that was subject to a months-long moratorium in response to the BP oil spill.

The pace of deepwater permitting since the formal ban was lifted in October has been the stuff of intense political controversy, with Republicans and some Democrats alleging the Obama administration is dragging its feet on Gulf development. 

Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement approved the permit for ATP Oil & Gas Corp. to resume a project about 90 miles south of Venice, Louisiana, that was halted by the ban imposed after BP’s Macondo well blew out in April 2010. Read more ..

Edge of Economic Recovery

Energy Department Stimulus funds Produce Questionable Results

March 21st 2011

Economy - Green Jobs

The Department of Energy has struggled to show how its $41.7 billion in stimulus funding created jobs, reduced environmental risks or improved nuclear waste cleanup.

Program funds went to energy efficiency, home weatherization, nuclear waste cleanup, and a loan guarantee program to promote renewable energy technology.

The loan guarantee program for renewable energy provided $6 billion in credits to eligible companies, but due to concerns with the administration of the program, Congress has reduced those funds by almost $4 billion. DOE only obligated 17 percent of the remaining $2.5 billion in the fund and will lose about $2 billion if it does not make final decisions on loan guarantees soon.  Borrowers must begin construction on their projects by Sept. 30.

“Measuring the impact of Recovery Act funding has been a challenge for DOE. It has had particular difficulty providing an accurate assessment of the act’s impact on jobs, environmental risk reduction, and the life-cycle costs of its cleanup program,” the General Accounting Office report said. Read more ..

Edge on Nano-Technology

New 3-D Nanostructure Battery Cathodes Mean Faster Charging

March 21st 2011

Energy Topics - Battery

The batteries in Illinois professor Paul Braun's lab look like any others, but they pack a surprise inside.

Braun's group developed a three-dimensional nanostructure for battery cathodes that allows for dramatically faster charging and discharging without sacrificing energy storage capacity. The researchers' findings will be published in the March 20 advance online edition of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Aside from quick-charge consumer electronics, batteries that can store a lot of energy, release it fast and recharge quickly are desirable for electric vehicles, medical devices, lasers and military applications.

"This system that we have gives you capacitor-like power with battery-like energy," said Braun, a professor of materials science and engineering. "Most capacitors store very little energy. They can release it very fast, but they can't hold much. Most batteries store a reasonably large amount of energy, but they can't provide or receive energy rapidly. This does both." Read more ..

The Race for Electric

Israeli-Funded EVida Gets 50,000 Battery Order from Mia Electric

March 14th 2011

Energy / Environment - Mia Electric Car
Israel's New Power Plant Powering Electric Cars

Lithium-iron-phosphate batteries being built in Israel by the two year-old battery start-up EVida will power small but practical and freeway-capable electric cars built in China by the French-German EV manufacturer Mia Electric for sale in Europe, a competitive market for electric vehicles.

The order represents a triumph for Terra Venture Partners, one of Israel’s leading cleantech funds, that had invested half of EVida’s start-up money from private investors – $1 million – in the start-up. Read more ..

Race for Batteries

Making Batteries Affordable is Key to Harnessing Wind and Solar Power

March 14th 2011

Energy Topics - Wind turbines in cloudy sky

Future batteries used by the energy grid to store power from the wind and sun must be reliable, durable and safe, but affordability is really the key to widespread deployment, according to a new report. The report is one of the most comprehensive reviews of electrochemical energy storage to date.

In the report, researchers from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory say that successful electrochemical energy storage, or EES, systems will need to evolve — in some cases, considerably — if they are going to compete financially with the cost of natural gas production.  And besides technical improvements, the systems will need to be built to last, using materials that are safe and durable so that batteries could operate more than 15 years and require very little maintenance over their lifetime.

The report provides a comprehensive review of four stationary storage systems — ones considered the most promising candidates for EES: vanadium redox flow, sodium-beta alumina membrane, lithium-ion and lead-carbon batteries. In their study, the PNNL researchers note the potential of each technology but, more importantly, explain what advances must occur with each if they're ultimately to be deployed. Read more ..

After the BP Spill

New Study Reveals Aerosol Plumes Downwind of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

March 14th 2011

Energy / Environment - oil platform fire

Scientists from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science were part of a national research team to find two plumes of oil-based pollutants downwind of the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill. A study prepared by the research team offers new insight into the mechanism by which the crude oil traveled from the sea surface to the atmosphere.

According to a news release, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-led research team collected data of atmosphere gas and aerosol concentrations during two flights, on June 8 and June 10, aboard a specially equipped NOAA WP-3 Orion aircraft. “By having such a well-defined source of the evaporating oil we were able to investigate how aerosols form in the atmosphere,” said UM Rosenstiel School Professor of Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry Elliot Atlas, a co-author of the study. Atlas regularly uses similar techniques to study aerosol formation and air pollution downwind of major U.S. cities, such as Boston and Los Angeles. Read more ..

Edge on the Environment

Coal Ash Plans Raise Fears in Missouri Community

March 7th 2011

Energy / Environment - Kingston Plant Spill
Typical Coal Ash spill

Coal consumption is increasing in many parts of the world, driven by skyrocketing energy demands in rapidly developing countries like China. But with coal comes pollution: from climate-changing carbon dioxide to coal ash,  the powdery toxic waste left over from burning coal to produce electricity.

In the United States, coal-fired power plants produce more than 130 million tons of coal waste each year. The debate over how to dispose of it is playing out in the small town of Labadie, Missouri where the controversy is pitting local residents against the Midwestern utility company, Ameren. Read more ..

The Race for Thermal

Novel Gas Turbine Promises Greater Thermal-to-Electric Efficiency

March 7th 2011

Science - Sandia gas turbine

Sandia National Laboratories researchers in New Mexico are moving into the demonstration phase of a novel gas turbine system for power generation, with the promise that thermal-to-electric conversion efficiency will be increased to as much as 50 percent—an improvement of 50 percent for nuclear power stations equipped with steam turbines, or a 40 percent improvement for simple gas turbines. The system is also very compact, meaning that capital costs would be relatively low.

Research focuses on supercritical carbon dioxide (S-CO2) Brayton-cycle turbines, which typically would be used for bulk thermal and nuclear generation of electricity, including next-generation power reactors. The goal is eventually to replace steam-driven Rankine cycle turbines, which have lower efficiency, are corrosive at high temperature and occupy 30 times as much space because of the need for very large turbines and condensers to dispose of excess steam. The Brayton cycle could yield 20 megawatts of electricity from a package with a volume as small as four cubic meters. Read more ..

No Plan for Oil Interruption

Libyan Turmoil, $100-a-Barrel Oil Power Republican Drilling Push on Capitol Hill

February 28th 2011

Energy / Environment - Offshore Oil Rig

The Libyan uprising and triple-digit oil prices are reinvigorating GOP-led attacks on White House offshore drilling policies—a collision that will burst into public view next week on Capitol Hill.

Republicans will press Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on offshore drilling restrictions when he appears before two committees to defend the Interior Department’s fiscal year 2012 budget plan.

It will be Salazar’s first Capitol Hill appearance since uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East began, sending oil prices to their highest levels in more than two years. Read more ..

No Plan for Oil Interruption

Oil Prices Surge as Libyan Revolt Rages

February 28th 2011

Energy Topics - Oil Barrels 400px

Global stocks dipped again on February 23 as oil prices soared to new highs on fears that the revolt in Libya could spread.  International oil companies, such as BP and Shell, have already cut production or evacuated staff in the troubled African country. Analysts say the impact of such unrest upon the world economy will be far-reaching, whether or not dictator Muammar Gaddafi's regime survives.

Grainy YouTube video shows no letup in the popular but deadly uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. The dictator has resorted to rambling speeches to exhort fellow Libyans to "bring your sons home" even while he has ordered snipers to fire on demonstrators as well as aerial bombardment. Critics vow to continue their protests despite Gadhafi. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Fuel

Over-Fertilization is Bad for the Environment and Bad for Biofuel

February 28th 2011

Energy / Environment - Biofuel field

A study conducted by Rice University researchers shows how farmers can save money on fertilizer while they improve their production of feedstock for ethanol and alleviate damage to the environment.

The research has implications for an industry that has grown dramatically in recent years to satisfy America's need for energy while trying to cut the nation's reliance on fossil fuels.

The Houston TX team led by postdoctoral researcher Morgan Gallagher as part of her dissertation at Rice discovered that corn grain, one source of ethanol, and the stalks and leaves, the source of cellulosic ethanol, respond differently to nitrogen fertilization.

The researchers found that liberal use of nitrogen fertilizer to maximize grain yields from corn crops results in only marginally more usable cellulose from leaves and stems. And when the grain is used for food and the cellulose is processed for biofuel, pumping up the rate of nitrogen fertilization actually makes it more difficult to extract ethanol from corn leaves and stems.

This happens, they discovered, because surplus nitrogen fertilizer speeds up the biochemical pathway that produces lignin, a molecule that must be removed before cellulosic ethanol can be produced from corn stems and leaves. Read more ..

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