Updated: 3/25/2007; 11:20:28 PM.

Future energy
Renewables, fuel cells, hydrogen, and efficiency


daily link  Sunday, March 25, 2007


Bruce Sterling update:  Now calling his concept "cybergreens":  "They're all about creating irresistible consumer demand for cool objects that will yield a global atmosphere upgrade. It's the Net vs. the 20th-century fossil order in a fight that the cybergreens are winning. Why? Because they're not about spiritual potential, human decency, small is beautiful, peace, justice or anything else unattainable. The cybergreens are about stuff people want, such as health, sex, glamour, hot products, awesome bandwidth, tech innovation and tons of money.

We're gonna glam, spend and consume our way into planetary survival. My own favorite sci-fi planetary-saving scheme for naming, numbering and linking to the Internet every piece of junk we create so that it can be corralled and briskly recycled, creating a cradle-to-cradle postindustrial order and averting planetary doom, may sound pretty shocking and alien. But I wrote that book while in residency at a famous design school. I received an honorary doctorate there and the book was published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It gets great reviews, designers love it. It's not even science fiction -- it's a cybergreen manifesto.

In 1998, I had it figured that the dot-com boom would become a dot-green boom. It took a while for others to get it. Some still don't. They think I'm joking. They are still used to thinking of greenness as being "counter" and "alternative" -- they don't understand that 21st-century green is and must be about everything -- the works. Sustainability is comprehensive. That which is not sustainable doesn't go on. Glamorous green."
  11:15:08 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, March 21, 2007


RPS outside the US:   "- China will increase its use of renewables as part of a national plan to combat climate change, says the country’s environment minister Xie Zhenhua. .. he says the Chinese government will announce a national plan with concrete targets to improve energy efficiency by 20% by 2010 and to increase the proportion of renewables to 10%.

- Taiwan Power will spend NT$3.6 billion to install solar panels .. Taiwan imports 98% of its energy and the government wants renewables to generate 12% by 2025. .. The government owns 97% of Taipower, which generates three-quarters of the island’s electricity.

- The World Wind Energy Agency has welcomed the decision by the European Union to increase the continent’s share of renewables to 20% by 2020."
  7:58:26 AM  permalink  

Texas Bid Could be First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm:  "Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, announced that the state has signed an agreement to allow an offshore wind-energy project in the United States to be built off Galveston Island. .. [Work begins immediately on] towers [to] gather data to determine exactly where the 150 MW wind energy development will be built on an 11,355-acre lease about seven miles off the coast of Galveston Island. ..

there is only one entity in Texas for an offshore wind developer to deal with -- the Texas General Land Office, according to the developers.  Also, development within the 10.36 miles offers proximity to the state's electrical grid to carry wind-generated power to customers.  Coastal winds also tend to rise during the day when the state's electrical generating capacity faces peak demand, therefore generating power when it's most needed. Plus, the gentle slope of the Texas Gulf Coast makes the development of an offshore wind farm easy. ..

Once the research is complete, the second phase of the lease -- the construction phase -- will begin. Construction is expected to cost as much as $300 million and could take as long as five years. W.E.S.T. plans to build a field of about 50 wind turbines to produce an expected 150 MW. The hub of each turbine will rise 260 feet above sea level. The turbine blades will be up to 55 yards long .. "  Production is expected to last 30 years.
  7:56:15 AM  permalink  

South Africa: Cape green power plans:  "Eskom, local authorities and the private sector are set to launch renewable energy projects that will add at least 350 megawatts of electricity to the national energy grid. The Western Cape uses around 4 000MW of electricity daily, while the entire country uses around 34 000MW, which can go up to 40 000MW at peak demand [somewhat less than California].  In the recent past there have been regular power outages as Eskom battles to meet the growing demand for electricity.

The planned renewable energy projects include two 100MW wind farms on the West Coast, a 100MW solar thermal plant in the Northern Cape and a 50MW solar thermal plant on the West Coast. .. The department is keen to launch projects that will ensure that 15 percent of the region's electricity needs will be met by clean and renewable sources by 2015."

Meanwhile the giant projects being coming online today are not so green; coal dwarfs them all:  "The two Western Cape liquid-fuel open-cycle gas turbine stations would collectively add another 1050 megaWatts of power to the national grid.  Ingula Power Station .. will be a pump-storage hydro-electric scheme, with a generating capacity of 1330 mW. .. The 4200 mW coal-fired power station in Lephalele would be named Medupi, meaning "the name that soaks parched land"."
  7:41:23 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, March 18, 2007


SolarMission Solar Tower Video:  "SolarMission Technologies and its Australian subsidiary, EnviroMission Limited produced this 5 minute video about its early pilot plant in Spain. It is an older video (2000) but gives a basic understanding of the solar tower concept."  Very effective story.
  4:57:54 PM  permalink  

About Parabolic Trough Solar:   Solid review of the field, from Sept 2005.
  4:41:18 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, March 16, 2007


General Motors battery development:  Details with simple slides about GM's PHEV battery efforts.
  10:25:46 PM  permalink  

Start-Up Fervor Shifts to Energy in Silicon Valley:  Yet more coverage of the boomlet that started in 2001.  "Out of the ashes of the Internet bust, many technology veterans have regrouped and found a new mission in alternative energy: developing wind power, solar panels, ethanol plants and hydrogen-powered cars.  It is no secret that venture capitalists have begun pouring billions into energy-related start-ups with names like SunPower, Nanosolar and Lilliputian Systems.  But that interest is now spilling over to many others in Silicon Valley — lawyers, accountants, recruiters and publicists, all developing energy-oriented practices to cater to the cause. ..

the Valley has always run in cycles. It is a kind of renewable gold rush, a wealth- and technology-creating principle that is always looking for something around which to organize."
  10:16:13 PM  permalink  

Transmission Access For Renewable Energy:  Important regulatory innovations go national.  " The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) adopted a new regulation on February 15th that aims to allow greater access to transmission lines for power generators of all types, including renewable energy projects. The new rule exempts intermittent power generators, such as wind power plants, from excessive "imbalance" charges when the amount of energy they deliver is different than the amount of energy they are scheduled to deliver. To help accommodate less-predictable forms of renewable power generation, the rule creates a "conditional firm" service to deliver power from a generator to a customer, allowing the power supplier to provide firm service for most, but not all, hours in the requested time period.  A key aspect of the new rule is that it eliminates the broad discretion that transmission providers currently possess in calculating the unused, available capacity on their transmission lines. ..

The California ISO has also asked FERC to approve an innovative financing vehicle for new transmission lines, allowing utilities to invest in a transmission line and then having renewable generators pay for the line as they use it."
  3:27:12 PM  permalink  

Fats Into Jet Fuel:  "New biofuels technology developed by North Carolina State University engineers has the potential to turn virtually any fat source – vegetable oils, oils from animal fat and even oils from algae – into fuel to power jet airplanes. .. [It] can also be used to make additives for cold-weather biodiesel fuels and holds the potential to fuel automobiles that currently run on gasoline. ..

“We can take virtually any lipid-based feedstock, or raw material with a fat source – including what is perceived as low-quality feedstock like cooking grease – and turn it into virtually any fuel,” [professor] Roberts says. “Using low-quality feedstock is typically 30 percent less costly than using corn or canola oils to make fuel. And we’re not competing directly with the food supply, like ethanol-based fuels that are made from corn.”  .. Converting feedstock into fuel produces a low-value commodity – glycerol – as a by-product. Rather than discarding glycerol as waste like most biodiesel plants do, the NC State engineers’ process burns glycerol cleanly and efficiently to provide some of the process’ requisite high temperatures. ..

The physical and chemical properties of traditional biodiesel fuels – their combustion characteristics and viscosity, for example – don’t match the stringent requirements of jet fuel....

First, the engineers use high temperatures and high water pressure to strip off the so-called free fatty acids from the accumulated feedstock of oils and fats, or triglycerides. Next, the engineers place the free fatty acids in a reactor to perform the decarboxylation step; that is, carbon dioxide is taken off the free fatty acids. Depending on the feedstock used, the scientists are left with alkanes, or straight-chain hydrocarbons of either 15 or 17 carbon atoms.  “After these first two steps, which are always the same no matter which fuel you want, we can make any fuel we want to make,” Roberts says. “In the last two steps, we can change the recipe based on the fuel output desired.”

In the last two steps, the engineers break up the straight chains into molecules with branches, making them more compact and changing their chemical and physical characteristics. Jet fuel and biodiesel fuel require a mixture of molecules with between 10 and 14 carbon atoms, while gasoline requires only eight carbon atoms, so the engineers can control the process to elicit exactly the type of fuel they desire.

“We produce one-and-a-half billion gallons of animal fats annually, which is about half of the amount of vegetable oil produced yearly,” Roberts said. “Animal fats are harder to work with, but cheaper. Last year, for the first time ever, fuel costs in the aviation industry exceeded labor costs. We think the aviation industry is keen on finding alternatives to petroleum-based jet fuel.”"
  3:23:15 PM  permalink  

Self-Assembling Batteries:  "Researchers at MIT have designed a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that assembles itself out of microscopic materials. This could lead to ultrasmall power sources for sensors and micromachines the size of the head of a pin. It could also make it possible to pack battery materials in unused space inside electronic devices."  Earlier related story:  Batteries That Assemble Themselves: "Biology may be the key to producing light-weight, inexpensive, and high-performance batteries that could transform military uniforms into power sources and, eventually, improve electric and hybrid vehicles. Angela Belcher, an MIT professor of biological engineering and materials science, and two colleagues, materials science professor Yet-Ming Chiang and chemical engineering professor Paula Hammond, have engineered viruses to assemble battery components that can store three times as much energy as traditional materials by packing highly ordered materials into a very small space."  3:08:44 PM  permalink  

Researchers convert heat to electricity using organic molecules:  "Arun Majumdar, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering was principal investigator of the study..  [His team] successfully generated electricity from heat by trapping organic molecules between metal nanoparticles, an achievement that could pave the way toward the development of a new source for energy."  While it's a long way from marketable form, it would have implications for energy, nanomaterials, and sensors (which need small amounts of energy to function).
  3:03:52 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Global Clean Energy Market Report:  From Clean Edge and Nth Power.  "Global clean-energy markets are poised to quadruple in the next decade, growing from $55.4 billion in revenues in 2006 to more than $226.5 billion by 2016."  Charts and summary report online, with numerous references.  Highlights:
  • "the global biofuels market was slightly larger than both solar and wind, reaching $20.5 billion in 2006 and projected to grow to more than $80 billion by 2016. Clean Edge projects solar photovoltaics (modules, system components, and installations) will grow from a $15.6 billion market in 2006 to $69.3 billion by 2016; wind power installations will expand from $17.9 billion in 2006 to $60.8 billion in 2016; and the markets for fuel cells and distributed hydrogen will grow from $1.4 billion in 2006 to $15.6 billion over the next decade."
  • "VC investments in energy-tech start- ups rose 262 percent to $2.4 billion in 2006. These investments, primarily in transportation and fuels, distributed energy, energy intelligence, and power reliability, eclipsed the previous high- water mark set in 2000 for energy-tech investing by more than $1 billion. The figures represent 9.4 percent of total US venture capital investments in 2006. "
  • 5 trends are highlighted:
    • Carbon Finally Has a Price…and a Market
    • Biorefineries Begin to Close the Loop
    • Advanced Battery Makers Take Charge
    • Wal-Mart Becomes a Clean-Energy Market Maker
    • Utilities Get Enlightened
  • Energy intelligence -- using IT for efficiency -- is a category that Nth Power has targeted for some time.  They report increases in investments from $192m in 2004 to $272m in 2005 to $476 in 2006 (of which $178m was for broadband over power investments).

  2:52:46 PM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, March 10, 2007


Altairnano power play:  I wonder if this battery is for real.  "Altairnano - a relatively small public company [claims to produce] a battery that could power an electric vehicle hundreds of miles, charge in 10 minutes, and have a service life of 20 years or more.. The secret, according to Gotcher, is nanotechnology, and Altairnano's selection of nano-structured lithium titanate as a framework for its battery, branded NanoSafe™. Because the storage compartments are so small, the battery can store a lot of lithium ions. And the titanate material used in the nanostructures enhances battery cycle life, and gives it an extraordinary service life, he said., [claiming] more than 20,000 cycles with little performance degradation, .. Altairnano says its batteries have been tested under extreme conditions, including an operating temperature range of -50 to plus 71 degrees Celsius.  ..

The battery pack can be charged at low voltage over long times, or charged at higher voltages quicker, Gotcher said. In a 10 minute or less charge, at least 480 volts at several hundred amps will be required, transferring 210 kW/h of energy to the battery pack. .. How would service stations of the future store the mammoth amounts of electricity required by electric vehicles? Altairnano's Gotcher says the company "hasn't really said a lot about that yet, but you'll see us come forward with information in the second quarter."

Related news:  Power company AES made a $3 million "strategic investment" buying 1.5% of Altairnano's stock.  ZAP is building a Tesla-like roadster with its batteries.  So is Phoenix Motorcars, which has contracted to deliver 200 utility trucks with these batteries to PG&E in June 2007:  "Phoenix’s SUT can travel at freeway-speeds while carrying five passengers and a full payload, the company claimed. The SUT has a driving range of over 100 miles, can be recharged in less than 10 minutes and has a battery pack with a lifespan of more than 12 years."

  12:03:14 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Adam Smith turns green:  Nice short statement that many friends of mine could make.  "We investors and entrepreneurs in the cleantech world have a guilty conscience. People often ask us, “Are you motivated by the money or by the mission?” It’s become unfashionable and a little shameful to say you’re driven by anything but profit, but I’m not afraid to say I’m a clean energy investor because of my values. ..

I looked at the energy marketplace and what was happening with new technologies .. It felt like the revolutionary zeal that I and other entrepreneurs had for the internet in the early days. And when we were asked, “are you in this to make money or change the world?” Of course we wanted to change the world! Making money was just validation that it worked. Virtually every early internet entrepreneur I knew recognized the opportunity to change the world for the better by growing the Net. It wasn’t until many years later that the hordes of profit-only entrepreneurs came to the scene. Indeed, if you want a sign of over-investment in cleantech, look for an invasion of founders and CEOs who are in it only for the money."
  12:29:32 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, March 05, 2007


Oil Innovations Pump New Life Into Old Wells:  Update on technologies for recovering the 2/3 of oil that conventional drilling leaves in the ground.  A theme covered in depth in the January 2001 Atlantic.   Bottom lines for me is that I don't believe we're close to peak oil as long as oil prices rise to pay for technology; and that $50 per barrel can fund a lot of secondary recovery technology to keep oil flowing.  Oil use should be cut for environmental and security reasons; economics and resource availability reasons will not help.

  11:30:26 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, February 22, 2007


Australia wants (incandescent) lights out by 2010:  "Australia looks set to become the first country to phase out incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, as part of its drive to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.  The Australian federal environment minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said Tuesday that he would work with the states to get rid of incandescent bulbs by 2009 or 2010. .. "Electric lighting is a vital part of our lives; globally it generates emissions equal to 70 percent of those from all the world's passenger vehicles." ..

Australia already has minimum energy performance standards that apply to electrical appliances, and a similar system will be applied to light bulbs.  The standards would ultimately make it impossible to sell incandescent bulbs. Turnbull said the government would consider some exceptions to the restrictions for special applications like medical lighting and oven lights. Australia has used similar means to phase out water-thirsty lavatory cisterns and high-pressure shower heads.

Australia would be the first country to implement such a plan. The initiative appears likely to move ahead with little political conflict.  Environmental groups are also pleased, particularly as the center-right government of John Howard was, until recently, unwilling to accept climate change as a reality."
  12:48:36 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, February 12, 2007


EPEAT: "EPEAT is a system to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT also provides a clear and consistent set of performance criteria for the design of products.. On January 24, President Bush signed Executive Order 13423 that mandates federal agencies to buy EPEAT registered products."  8:49:16 AM  permalink  

Energy Subsidy list:  "There are thousands of government policies in place around the world that act counter to stated objectives with regard to energy security, diversification, and environmental protection.  This ten distortionary energy subsidies discussed below represent policies that, if corrected, would materially realign price signals to more effectively achieve energy market end goals. "
  8:43:42 AM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, January 27, 2007


Battery investor roundup:  "A123 Systems Inc., a Watertown, Mass.-based battery maker today raised $40 million in Series D funding [making] it the sector’s best-capitalized company, having raised a total of around $102 million since being founded in 2001. General Electric Commercial Finance led the round, with other return backers ... The only new investor was Duracell maker Procter & Gamble...

A123 Systems makes lithium-ion batteries.. A123 products are non-combustible and “do not release oxygen if exposed to high temperature or in the event of battery failure or mechanical abuse.” .. Its initial contract was for a line of Black & Decker power tools, but more recently signed a deal to help develop battery packs for General Motors’ upcoming line of plug-in hybrid vehicles (most current hybrids use nickel-metal hydride)... [US] Army venture arm OnPoint is [an investor] so that soldiers can carry lighter battery packs that won’t catch fire if pierced by shrapnel.

A quick search of the Thomson VentureXpert database shows that ten lithium-ion battery companies have raised VC funding in the past two years. The second-largest raiser after A123 is Golden, Colo.–based Infinite Power Corp., which scored around $35 million in Series A funding from firms like Applied Ventures, Core Capital Partners, D.E. Shaw, Polaris Venture Partners, In-Q-Tel and Springworks. Next up was Boston-Power, which raised nearly $25 million (at a $60m post-money valuation) from firms like Gabriel Venture Partners, Granite Global Ventures and Venrock Associates."  12:45:32 AM  permalink  

LEED certified mass-produced home:  Nice photos and videos of Living Homes' modern, sustainable, factory built design.
  12:25:50 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, January 26, 2007


Wireless Telemetry Growing to $25.3bn by 2009, as Enterprise Wakes up to Real-Time Efficiency Savings:  "wireless telemetry (or AMR – Automated Meter Reading) will [grow] - according to industry analysts Juniper Research - with revenues rising from $11.6bn in 2006 to $25.3bn by 2009.  According to Juniper, the substantial rise in revenues - expected to quadruple by 2011 to $40.8bn - will contrast with limited growth in telematics from $6.4bn to $11bn in the same period – owing to current widespread usage in many commercial vehicles due to legislation. Other outlets including security and surveillance, highway and public transport signs, and health care will show encouraging signs rising from a cumulative low of $2bn in 2006 to over $9bn by 2009."
  11:59:01 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Ford launches plug-in hybrid with hydrogen fuel cell:  Jan 2007:  "Ford launched a hydrogen-fuelled, battery-powered plug-in powertrain concept in the new Airstream concept vehicle this week at the North American International Auto Show. The system, trademarked HySeries Drive, is powered by a 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack at all times and has a range of 25 miles on a full electric power. Once the battery pack is depleted by about 40%, the hydrogen-powered fuel cell begins generating electricity to recharge the batteries, increasing range by another 280 miles, for a total driving range of more than 300 miles. ..The HySeries powertrain reduces the size, weight, cost and complexity of a conventional fuel cell system by more than 50%, and also promises to more than double the lifetime of the fuel-cell stack...

"You could take out the fuel cell and replace it with a hydrogen or diesel internal combustion engine," [the chief engineer] explained. "And instead of a six- or eight-cylinder engine, I could use a considerably smaller three- or two-cylinder engine as an auxiliary power unit to recharge the battery pack.""
  8:51:58 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, January 08, 2007


GM's Volt: GM introduces a concept car with hybrid drive and a 40-mile battery. Plans to introduce by 2010.
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daily link  Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Wal-Mart promotes CFLs:  More info about WalMart and compact fluorescent lightbulbs. An example of how irrational consumer choice is, by seeing how easily it's manipulated by merchandising; and how both environmental and economic results are far from optimal in a "free" market.  "Wal-Mart sold only 40 million [CF bulbs] in 2005, compared with about 350 million incandescent bulbs..

At the same time that it pressured suppliers, Wal-Mart began testing ways to better market the bulbs. In the past, Wal-Mart had sold them on the bottom shelf of the lighting aisle, so that shoppers had to bend down. In tests that started in February, it gave the lights prime real estate at eye level. Sales soared.

To show customers how versatile the bulbs could be, Wal-Mart began displaying them inside the lamps and hanging fans for sale in its stores. Sales nudged up further.

To explain the benefits of the energy-efficient bulbs, the retailer placed an education display case at the end of the aisle, where it occupied four feet of valuable selling space — an extravagance at Wal-Mart. Sales climbed even higher.

In August 2006, the chain sold 3.94 million, nearly twice the 1.65 million it sold in August 2005.."  They need to double again to hit 100m in a year.
  11:58:00 PM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, December 28, 2006


Wal-Mart Pledges to Sell 100 Million Compact Fluorescents in '07:  "Nov. 30, 2006 - Wal-Mart has announced an ambitious campaign to sell 100 million compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations by the end of 2007.  .. [WalMart's] Ruben added. "Over the life of those bulbs, $3 billion can be saved in electrical costs and 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases can be prevented from entering our atmosphere. This change is comparable to taking 700,000 cars off the road, or powering 450,000 single-family homes"
  12:13:34 AM  permalink  

Joel Makower commercializes greenbiz.com:  The green info market matures.  "I've just launched a for-profit media company, Greener World Media, which has taken over publishing of GreenBiz.com, et al, from their nonprofit home, the esteemed National Environmental Education & Training Foundation, where the sites had lived happily for the past five years.

Why a for-profit? In 1998-99, when the idea for GreenBiz.com was germinating, there was no business model for giving away information on the Internet. That clearly didn't stop a lot of people, but it stopped me. So, I created "the resource center on business, the environment, and the bottom line," as we dubbed ourselves, as a not-for-profit resource, relying on grants, sponsorships, and the kindness of strangers.

That model worked for a while, but it wasn't sustainable. (There's precious little philanthropic money available, at least in the green world, for a nonprofit organization whose prime mission is to serve the needs of business.) And things have changed: There is a business model now for online information services, based on advertising, sponsorship, and other revenue sources. And the world of green and sustainable business has exploded, with plenty of new products, services, and company initiatives to be promoted."  This is good news.  In my 2001-2 Stanford Digital Vision fellowship, I concluded that information sources for sustainable energy were needed, and were on their way thanks to tech advances in blogging and the natural growth of the community.  In the last 2 years, I've trimmed my own blogging in the topic area as others have other voices and services have grown. Now it seems to be completely mainstream.
  12:07:01 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Wal-Mart's Solar Energy Vision:  Joel Mackower reports on Wal-Mart's "recently issued RFP, or request for proposal, to install solar energy systems on its stores in five states -- the largest procurement of solar ever proposed. Bids are due on January 5 .. Wal-Mart intends to notify the winner of the contract on February 28. ..

The confidential RFP document is part of the company's stated commitment "to reduce our overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent over the next eight years" and to "design a store that will use 30% less energy and produce 30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than our 2005 design within the next 3 years," according to the RFP. ..

Wal-Mart says it will begin installing solar on its stores in five U.S. states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New Jersey. The company anticipates that "that only a portion of the stores in each state will be physically and economically suitable for solar installations," according to the RFP. It calls for bids for projects to be carried out during 2007, but is asking bidders for "expansion or build-out plans, including projected prices and costs, over the next five years." ..

What's the impact of all this? Wal-Mart doesn't mention a specific purchase size, but my sources tell me that the company could put solar on as many as 340 stores in the next few years. Assuming that each store utilized about 300 kilowatts of solar panels (it could be as much as 500 kilowatts), we're talking roughly 100 megawatts of solar. To put that into perspective, the solar system currently being installed at Google headquarters in California -- the largest single corporate solar installation in history -- is 1.6 MW, about 1/60th the size.  Of course, it's unclear whether Wal-Mart will install solar in all of those locations. The company could look at the bidders' numbers and decide to install solar at only a handful of stores -- or none at all.

Assuming it moves forward with even a portion of its plans, Wal-Mart's move is significant, and historic. While a growing number of companies are staking their claim at being "carbon neutral" by purchasing power from developers of far-off wind farms or other large-scale installations, or have installed (often with much fanfare) solar panels on a single showcase facility, no one has yet made a long-term commitment to "alternative sources of energy at competitive prices and in a form that is replicable among multiple sites and multiple building formats," as Wal-Mart puts it."  11:41:31 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, December 26, 2006


SoCal Edison to build massive wind farm: US wind projects scale up. "Southern California Edison on Thursday announced a deal with an Australian firm to build the largest wind energy facility ever built by a U.S. utility.  "This is triple anything that's ever been done. It's enormous," said Stuart Hemphill, director of renewable and alternative power for the Rosemead-based utility that supplies power to much of the Coachella Valley.  The 20-year contract, to purchase power from a 50-square-mile wind farm slated for the Tehachapi area about 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is with Allco Infrastructure of Sydney.  .. The deal with Allco, Hemphill said, allows SoCal Edison to begin to take advantage of the Tehachapi area's 4,500 megawatt wind energy potential."  Nearby areas (e.g., Palm Springs) have additional GW of capacity. 

More details:  "All of California's wind farms together produce 2,300 megawatts of power; the Edison deal by itself would boost that number by 65%.  The 1,500 megawatts in the new contract are enough to power nearly 1 million typical homes in Edison's 50,000-square-mile service territory.  The Edison project would produce more than twice the electricity of the biggest U.S. wind farm, near Abilene, Texas. ..

In California, all utilities are pushing to meet a goal of generating 20% of the state's power needs from renewable sources by 2010.  The looming deadline has triggered a flurry of new contracts by the energy companies lining up so-called green power.  Although the deal announced Thursday would double Edison's wind energy production, the utility said it would still struggle to meet the 2010 target.

Company executives said the first batch of power from the project was expected to come online in 2010, but additional supply would have to be phased in over several years.  The timeline — and the fate of the entire project — depends on whether and when the utilities can build a transmission line to carry the new wind power from the turbines to the state's power grid .. Edison and other utilities are working with state regulators on plans to construct the necessary transmission line. But the price tag is $1.8 billion, and the approval process for such projects can be contentious and lengthy."   I wonder what the rollout of big wind would look like with national government backing, like the Tennessee Valley Authority or Bonneville Power Administration had in past years.  This area has 4500 MW capacity, and it's news to grow to half that. 
  12:37:55 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Low temp geothermal: "PureCycle® geothermal power plant at Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska was selected as Project of the Year in the renewable/sustainable energy category by Power Engineering magazine.  .. The Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska has the first geothermal power plant in the state. It also is the site of the lowest temperature geothermal resource (165°F) ever used for commercial power generation in the world. The resort’s UTC Power PureCycle® geothermal system was commissioned in August and provides power for the resort’s on-site electrical needs. All 44 buildings at the resort – including a greenhouse, hotel, cabins and ice museum – are linked by a geothermal district heating system.More info:  "Although output from the installation is considered small for a base load power plant, the Chena plant represents a huge leap forward for moderate geothermal development and greatly expands the number of geothermal resources that can be economically developed. Prior to the operation of the power plant at Chena, the lowest temperature geothermal resource ever developed for commercial power generation was 208 F."  9:29:11 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Carbon Neutral: Raising the Ante on Eco-Tourism: Another case where an initially obscure policy-wonk idea has rapidly gone mainstream. And the baggage tag is a nice touch... "Buzzword of the Year: carbon neutral. .. The term will be added to the New Oxford American Dictionary in 2007 ..

Several carbon-offset Web sites, like www.carbonoffsets.org or www.terrapass.com use an online “carbon calculator” to determine the approximate amount of carbon dioxide produced when they travel. Carbon offsets, usually anywhere from $5 to $30, depending on the length of the trip and the form of transportation, can be purchased through a growing number of travel companies. Expedia and Travelocity both rolled out new programs this year that let travelers buy carbon offsets. Travelers who buy offsets through Expedia and its partner TerraPass, a Web-based for-profit company in Menlo Park, Calif., for a medium or long-haul flight get a “Carbon Balanced Flyer” luggage tag. The charge is $5.99 to offset about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide — the amount emitted, per passenger, on a round-trip flight of up to 2,200 miles; $16.99 for a cross-country flight of up to 6,500 miles; and $29.99 for an international flight of up to 13,000 miles."

  8:24:05 PM  permalink  

L.A. Auto Show: CEO promises GM will make plug-in Saturn hybrid:  No specific timetable.  Still, it's encouraging how pluggable hybrids went from a fringe idea as recently as 2003 to GM-scale conventional wisdom in 2006.
  9:41:29 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Biofuels via cellphone:  "More people would be likely to refuel with biodiesel if they knew where to find a filling station .. NearBio delivers a database of more than 1,000 biodiesel sellers to mobile phones via WAP (wireless access protocol) or text messaging. The free applet and service from WHDC of Nevada City, CA, provides driving directions, the phone number and the blends available at the five closest locations.

Since most of the diesel engines in the U.S. are inside of trucks, truck drivers who can factor biodiesel stations into their routes are the most likely beneficiaries of this service. The number of biodiesel stations is increasing rapidly and NearBio says it will add new locations within a day. "

  11:01:21 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Taking the Measure: IT and Energy:  I've heard these numbers verbally before, but not online; I've asked the author for the reseach citation.  "According to researchers at MIT, less than 1 percent of all commercial and industrial companies use advanced technology to measure and manage energy spend. On the other hand, nearly 100 percent of companies use advanced technology to measure and manage telecommunications spend.  Now consider that, according to the MIT researchers, the U.S. spend in electricity is about $270 billion per year while the U.S. spend in telecommunications is about $125 billion per year.

Does your company know down to the fraction of a minute how your telecommunications bill is derived?  Probably, and you can probably produce pages of reports showing spending by person, department and project. .. Can you also break out by building, department, project and individual worker how your electrical bill is derived? Or your heating bill? Or your air-conditioning bill? I doubt it, but that is where your next round of cost savings resides."
  3:21:11 PM  permalink  

Site Controls:  Another network-based energy management company, this one based in Texas. "Site Controls provides on-demand energy and asset management solutions that increase profitability and improve the environment through energy efficiency.  The company’s flagship platform, Site-Command™, was specifically designed to address the unique needs of Retail, Restaurant, and Convenience Store operators who seek to profitably deliver a consistent and compelling customer experience. By providing persistent real-time access, visibility and control over thousands of assets and sites nationwide, Site Controls helps customers create that compelling customer experience while simultaneously reducing emissions, saving money, and improving business efficiency.

Site-Command remotely monitors, logs, and controls HVAC, lighting, outdoor signage, refrigeration, and other major in-store energy consumers, online and in real-time. And, Site-Command features an intuitive, user-friendly, interface, accessible from any web-browser, or web-enabled PDA, minimizing IT overhead and ongoing support. Site-Command will deliver cash on cash payback within 18 to 24 months of install. ROI is further accelerated by utility rebates, which Site Controls manages on your behalf."
  2:43:53 PM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, November 26, 2006


CBC News: The Denial Machine:  Nov 2006 Canadian TV documentary:  "The Denial Machine investigates the roots of the campaign to negate the science and the threat of global warming. It tracks the activities of a group of scientists, some of whom previously consulted for for Big Tobacco, and who are now receiving donations from major coal and oil companies.  The documentary shows how fossil fuel corporations have kept the global warming debate alive long after most scientists believed that global warming was real and had potentially catastrophic consequences. It shows that companies such as Exxon Mobil are working with top public relations firms and using many of the same tactics and personnel as those employed by Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds to dispute the cigarette-cancer link in the 1990s. "
  11:22:06 PM  permalink  

WorldChanging book and book tour:  I've been a fan of the blog for years, and now it's a book, complete with big city book tour.  Bravo!
  11:11:42 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, November 20, 2006


E3 BioFuels: "E3 BioFuels Genesis plant "will begin production in December 2006 at Mead, Nebraska, as the first-ever closed-loop system for distilling commercial quantities of ethanol using methane gas recaptured from cow manure, instead of fossil fuels. This virtually eliminates the need for fossil fuels in the production of ethanol.  [The plant] combines a 25-million-gallon ethanol refinery, beef cattle feedlot, and anaerobic digesters to maximize energy efficiencies unavailable to each component on a stand-alone basis. This system eliminates the potential for manure to pollute watersheds, and it enables the wet distillers grain from ethanol production to be fed on-site to cattle without energy-intensive drying and transportation costs. [CEO] Langley said. "This plant will make ethanol more than twice as energy-efficient as any other method of producing ethanol or gasoline.""  Seems a promising combination of biogas with liquid biofuel production.  A major failing of today's ethanol production is the reliance on natural gas for process heat, so that ethanol produces only 20% less greenhouse gas than gasoline.  By feeding the distillers grain byproducts of ethanol production to cows, and converting the cow dung to gas for process heat, the GHG savings are much higher.  The company plans to build ethanol plants at existing feedlots.  It helps that these commercial feedlots are under pressure to clean up their cow dung processing; that corn is already transported in volume to the feedlot; and that the distillers grain byproducts of ethanol production can be used onsite without transportation.  (See also Verasun's plans to use distillers grain to produce biodiesel, may also improve the GHG balance for ethanol.)
  11:27:46 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, November 06, 2006


For PG&E customers, it pays to virtualize:  A major California utility creates an incentive for saving energy through server consolodation with virtualization.  "They said the company had recently approved a three-year, $950 million plan whereby PG&E will reimburse 50% of the costs of a server consolidation project, including software, hardware and consulting, up to a maximum of $4 million per customer.

"We will calculate the energy consumed by existing servers and subtract the difference in the energy consumed by the new servers," said Randall Cole, senior project manager for PG&E's Customer Energy Efficiency program. "Then we'll pay 8 cents for every kWh saved over the first year of the server virtualization implementation."  Electricity rates for PG&E's non-residential customers currently stand at 12 cents to 15 cents per kWh.  ..

What's in this incentive plan for PG&E? The motives are fairly obvious: "We don't want to build any more power plants," said Bramfitt. At the same time, "regulators have told us loud and clear that we need to meet certain energy efficiency goals," he said. "We want customers to save energy, and we will pay them to do so." ..

"Virtualization isn't mainstream yet, and once it ramps up, I'm not going to incent it anymore," Bramfitt said. "But, in the meantime, I'm going to do whatever I can to light a fire under peoples' butts.""  Nice to see a coincidence between my interests in energy efficiency and my main work in computers.  And I wish I knew more about how the electric utilities are regulated in California, so they make money with this program, compared to other states where they do not.
  10:25:11 PM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, November 04, 2006


Carbonfund.org has a national marketing partner:  Good to see that they are reaching larger audiences through partnerships.  In this case, Working Assets is not only advertising to their membership, but offering a matching grant of approximately 25%.
  11:11:15 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Carbon Emissions Offset Directory:  Useful comparison chart of carbon offset vendors.  Cost ranges from $5/ton from US sellers to $30/ton top price in Europe.  Sources of carbon offsets (Chicago Climate Exchange, green-e, European projects, reforestry, etc.) are listed.
  2:52:22 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, October 25, 2006


California Geothermal Resources 2006:  A report on the potentials and issues surrounding a very large and predictable renewable power supply.  There are many potential geothermal sites in California, but few are being actively explored and only one significantly exploited.  For example, the Salton Sea area alone is estimated to capable of to 820,000 MW-Years of electricity.  Even without exploration, estimates of today's economic capacity stand at around 10 GW of electric supply, with potentials estimated upwards of 40 GW.  But  "we have a built-in feedback loop that effectively stalemates geothermal development:  without leases, industry will not spend the millions of dollars needed to do basic exploration to understand and help characterize the resource better. And, without better resource characterization, the agencies had little incentive to propose or process new leases, which would cost large sums of money and have very uncertain returns. ..

The Nevada approach is something California may wish to consider: establishing a government-industry collaborative effort to define resources sites and accelerate development, setting goals for geothermal development tied to the state’s RPS goals, and recognizing the need to accelerate research and development efforts. ..  [There is a precedent:] less than a year after being initiated by Governor Schwarzenegger, the state’s Biomass Collaborative spearheaded a multi-agency effort to produce a statewide biomass development plan."
  9:37:26 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Algae to convert CO2 to biofuel: Two companies pursue commercialization of algal processing of CO2 emissions. "Fed a generous helping of CO2-laden emissions [from a] power plant's exhaust stack, the algae grow quickly even in the wan rays of a New England sun. The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with 40 percent less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and another bonus: 86 percent less nitrous oxide. [The] algae is harvested daily. From that harvest, a combustible vegetable oil is squeezed out: biodiesel for automobiles. [The] dried remnant can be further reprocessed to create ethanol, also used for transportation. ..

GreenFuel Technologies, in Cambridge, Mass.has garnered $11 million in venture capital funding and is conducting a field trial at a 1,000 megawatt power plant owned by a major southwestern power company. Next year, GreenFuel expects two to seven more such demo projects scaling up to a full production system by 2009. ..

One key is selecting an algae with a high oil density - about 50 percent of its weight. Because this kind of algae also grows so fast, it can produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre. Just 60 gallons are produced from soybeans, which along with corn are the major biodiesel crops today.

[In Dec 2005] Greenshift Corporation, a Mount Arlington, N.J., technology incubator company, licensed CO2-gobbling algae technology that uses a screen-like algal filter. It was developed by David Bayless, a researcher at Ohio University. A prototype is capable of handling 140 cubic meters of flue gas per minute, an amount equal to the exhaust from 50 cars or a 3-megawatt power plant, Greenshift said in a statement"

  9:18:41 AM  permalink  

GE Delivers Prototype Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) to US DOE: "GE today announced it has successfully developed and delivered a 6 kW prototype of a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) system to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).. .. The prototype achieved an efficiency of 49%, which is well above the minimum requirement of 35% set forth in the program. The development of this prototype is part of a 10-year, three-phase program with DOE/NETL ..  This system has the potential to achieve dramatically reduced emissions and close to 50% efficiency from coal. This would far surpass the 35% efficiency that can be achieved in a typical conventional pulverized coal-fired power plant today.

Because SOFCs provide a continuous flow of power, operate at high temperatures and have multi-fuel capabilities, they can greatly enhance energy efficiency in power generation. And since fuel cells are a virtually combustion- and NOx-free power source, they also can vastly improve environmental performance."  Many SOFC's can process a mix of coal and biomass.  They may also produce a purified CO2 stream that is much cheaper to sequester than that produced by combustion.  SRI has a similar approach with its direct carbon fuel cell (DCFC) technology (with MP3 radio interview).
  8:35:35 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Foresight for UK venture capital investment funding for sustainability:  "Foresight Sustainable Development [fund] is aimed at very High Net Worth investors and their advisers looking to invest in excess of £100,000 in unquoted growth situations in sustainable markets. This will be structured as a Limited Partnership to avoid the constraints of a VCT. It will exploit opportunities in renewable energy, energy efficiency, the recycling of materials and energy security. It will invest across project finance, new technologies and service businesses. 

Matt Taylor, partner at Foresight, explains:  “In the clean fuels arena, many investors seem to be driving up the valuations of “blue sky” technologies. Our approach is different: we are concentrating on infrastructure projects and the exploitation of proven technologies. Sustainable development is an investment cycle for the long-term and we will invest only when the balance of risk and reward is right. This is going to be a small, tightly-focussed fund which should be fully invested over 12-18 months.”  It launches in early October 06.
  12:26:07 AM  permalink  

Floating Wind Turbines the Wave of the Future?
  "Among three designs for floating giant wind turbines in the deep ocean, MIT research is focusing on the tension leg platform (center), a system that oil companies use for deep-water rigs. .. According to their analyses, the floater-mounted turbines could work in water depths ranging from 30 to 200 meters. In the Northeast, for example, they could be 50 to 150 kilometers from shore. And the turbine atop each platform could be big -- an economic advantage in the wind-farm business. The MIT-NREL design assumes a 5-megawatt (MW) experimental turbine now being developed by industry. (Onshore units are 1.5 MW, conventional offshore units, 3.6 MW.) ..

Sclavounos estimates that building and installing his floating support system should cost a third as much as constructing the type of truss tower now planned for deep-water installations. Because of the strong offshore winds, the floating turbines should produce up to twice as much electricity per year (per installed megawatt) as wind turbines now in operation. And since the wind turbines are not permanently attached to the ocean floor, they are a movable asset."
  12:18:35 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, September 15, 2006


Lithium buckyballs to store hydrogen?:  Roland Piquepaille provides a perfect example of how nanoscale technology differs develops, going from a realworld problem through computer models to reality.  "The clusters they've designed -- by using computer modeling -- are composed of 12 lithium atoms and 60 carbon atoms, are very stable and can store up to 120 hydrogen atoms in molecular form. .. But why did the researchers choose to study this particular kind of material to store hydrogen?

There are two classes of materials: one where large amounts of hydrogen can be stored, but it is difficult for hydrogen to desorb (e.g., CH4), and the other where hydrogen can desorb easily, but not much of it can be stored (e.g., carbon nanotubes). An ideal storage system would be one where hydrogen binds molecularly but with a binding energy that is intermediate between the physisorbed and chemisorbed state. We show that coating of C60 fullerenes with suitable metal atoms may lead to the synthesis of novel hydrogen storage materials. In particular, we show that the unusual ability of Li12C60 to bind 60 hydrogen molecules stems from the unique chemistry at the nanoscale."

It's still a long way from this technology to the pollution-free fuel cell in your car; but model-driven nanotech gives us tools to systematically aproach our targets for technological development.
  11:44:05 PM  permalink  

Wind Blade Technology: I started looking into sustainable energy in 2001, and found an active community that was open to sharing its findings and that was starting to use the internet to communicate. As I learned about RSS and weblogs, I thought that this area, like many in the IT world, would see weblogs grow, and with them a spontaneous division of labor to speed the spread of new developments would emerge. Blogs from universities, corporations, development institutions, non-profits, and from motivated independents would identify and highlight findings that mattered in specialized areas, and others who would otherwise search original sources would save time and effort by reading their blogs.

In the last 12 months, that dynamic has taken hold in sustainable energy. Starting in 2001, I kept a blog collecting important results I discovered in emerging energy technologies and developing country energy options, but now I find others are keeping close track and I can just follow their investigations. They include venture capitalists, investment companies, and independent engineers.

The Wind Blade blog (above) from six employees of Owens-Corning is an advanced example. They work in different countries, but all concentrate on the materials from which the blades of wind turbines are built. They write: "We accept the value of renewable wind energy as a given and we are committed to helping it become more cost competitive and widely used." They work in a specialized but critical technology. Why? Well, the output of a wind turbine is proportional to the area swept by its blades, which is the square of the length, so even small increases in blade length matter. Longer blades need materials that are strong, light, and rigid enough to turn in moderate winds while flexible enough to bend rather than break in strong winds. New materials for blades continue to make wind power more economically compelling every year.

It will be interesting to see if these bloggers find an audience among other engineers, and if they retain their corporate backing.
  11:21:18 PM  permalink  

 
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