Friday, August 31, 2012

Mighty Wind: U.S. Wind Turbine Capacity Now Equals 11 Nuclear Plants

This week, Hurricane Isaac delivered yet another lesson of wind’s wild ways. Properly employed, however, wind is a powerful aide. The American Wind Energy Association said this month that U.S. wind turbines can produce 50 gigawatts of electricity, the same amount as 11 nuclear power plants or 44 coal-fired plants. Wind energy now powers the equivalent of nearly 13 million American homes. States like South Dakota and Iowa get 20 percent of their electricity from wind. GE workers have designed and built many of the wind mills rising from fields, farms and seas in the U.S. and abroad.

Starting a decade ago, GE injected its nascent wind business with a heavy dose of engineering and manufacturing know-how, materials science, and advanced technologies from GE Global Research.

There are now 18,000 high-tech GE wind turbines installed around the world, generating 60 million megawatt-hours of renewable electricity every year, enough to power the equivalent of New York City. The wind energy unit has generated $30 billion in revenues. “The wind business might be one of the best investments we’ve made and Global Research has the technology and to keep it strong,” says Mark Vachon, GE’s vice president forecomagination.

GE has many kinds of wind turbines in its portfolio, both on-shore and off-shore, some standing 40 stories tall. The company has spent $2 billion on wind innovation over the last decade. Last year, GE received 184 clean energy patents, the most among corporations in the United States. The wind business received the vast majority, 152 patents in total.

The benefits of wind power are obvious. Consider that just one coal plant emits roughly 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. The offset CO2 emissions from U.S. wind is equivalent to taking 14 million gasoline-powered cars off the roads. More


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

DON'T WORRY, DRIVE ON: Fossil Fools & Fracking Lies

In recent months we've seen a spate of assertions that peak oil is a worry of the past thanks to so-called "new technologies" that can tap massive amounts of previously inaccessible stores of "unconventional" oil. "Don't worry, drive on," we're told.

We can fall for the oil industry hype and keep ourselves chained to a resource that's depleting and comes with ever increasing economic and environmental costs, or we can recognize that the days of cheap and abundant oil (not to mention coal and natural gas) are over.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media and politicians on both sides of the aisle are parroting the hype, claiming — in Obama's case — that unconventional oil can play a key role in an "all of the above" energy strategy and — in Romney's — that increased production of tight oil and tar sands can make North America energy independent by the end of his second term.


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Salt-and-water battery could help plug renewables gap

Australian researchers have developed a sodium-ion-based battery which, they say, has the potential to solve one of sustainable energy’s greatest challenges – storing energy cheaply ‘offline’ after it has been generated.

Dr Manickam Minakshi and Dr Danielle Meyrick from Western Australia’s Murdoch University point out that, while the efficiency of wind and solar technologies has improved rapidly, the problem of storage has yet to be solved.

‘The central obstacle facing sustainable energy is unreliability. Wind turbines don’t turn on a still day. Solar doesn’t work at night and can be hampered in the day by cloud, dust or snow coverage,’ Dr Minakshi said.

‘To provide power at non-generation times, excess energy needs to be stored in batteries, but storage technologies now being considered, such as molten salt or molten sulfur, work at high temperatures, making them expensive and impractical.

‘Our water-based sodium-ion battery has shown excellent potential for affordable, low-temperature storage.’

Dr Minakshi said he was drawn to sodium because its chemical properties were similar to lithium, the element that powers most portable electronic devices. While lithium ion batteries are common in today’s consumer electronics, they require inbuilt safety mechanisms that can affect efficiency; as well, lithium batteries tend to fail after a few years.

The Murdoch University researchers say the main challenge they faced in developing a sodium-ion battery was finding cathode and anode materials capable of accommodating sodium’s ionic size – which is 2.5 times larger than that of lithium.

‘Ions travel out of the cathode and into the anode to form a current. As an imperfect analogy, you can think of [electrodes] as mesh filters that ions pass through. We had to find materials with larger gaps in their mesh,’ Dr Minakshi said.

After testing various metals and phosphates, Dr Minakshi’s team eventually found success with manganese dioxide as the cathode and a novel olivine sodium phosphate as the anode. The result is a safe, cost-effective battery with high energy density. More


Monday, August 27, 2012

Saudi Arabia - America’s Real Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

As oil prices ticked above $115 per barrel last week, a White House leak revealed that President Barack Obama may dip into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the United States' 695 million barrel stockpile of emergency fuel supplies.

The leak might have been a signal that Washington wants Gulf countries to take action to lower oil prices. It might also have been an attempt to wring the risk premium out of current prices by reassuring the market that America won't let a potential war with Iran shut off the spigot. The one thing we can say for sure is that the announcement highlights two interrelated problems with U.S. energy policy: that every president since Ronald Reagan has used Saudi Arabia as his de facto SPR and that there exist no clear standards for when to dip onto the actual SPR. Both problems have the potential to bite us -- badly.

Over the years, the United States has been surprisingly reluctant to release SPR during times of crisis, preferring instead to let Saudi Arabia handle the problem by simply increasing its production. For decades, in fact, U.S. presidents have been able to count on the Middle Eastern petro giant to pre-release oil in anticipation of times of war. For example, Riyadh flooded the market ahead of the first Gulf War and, though many do not remember, it also put extra oil on the market ahead of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Saudi Arabia even increased its oil production after the 9/11 attacks, which badly strained U.S.-Saudi relations. Likewise, this spring, when the Obama administration was debating whether or not to release the SPR ahead of the tightening of sanctions against Iran, Saudi Arabia helpfully boosted its production above 10 million barrels per day, causing oil prices to fall more than $10 a barrel and eliminating the need for the White House to make a firm decision.

But relying on Saudi Arabia, while politically convenient, is not without risks. The most obvious is that the Saudis have come under increased pressure -- both internal and external -- as a result of their longstanding oil-for-security alliance with Washington. Iran has warned its fellow Gulf producer not to make up the slack resulting from American and European sanctions, threatening direct retaliation if it does. Saudi Arabia isn't taking any chances. In recent months, it has arrested prominent Shiite dissidents -- always suspected of possible ties to Iran --and doubled the number of Saudi National Guard forces in the Eastern Province, home to the vast majority its 2 million-plus Shiite citizens as well as the close to 90 percent of its oil production.

America's ability to fall back on the Saudis is further imperiled by the inherent instability of the kingdom's political and economic system, and is the elephant in the desert that no one talks about.

Oil markets might have taken solace in Saudi preparedness until rumors surfaced of an assassination attempt aimed at the kingdom's intelligence chief, a move purported to be a revenge killing by Iranfor similar assassinations of senior military leaders in Syria. The rumors proved to be false, but like much of the region's murky political intrigue, it moved markets and served as a reminder that a tit-for-tat game of high level assassinations is not out of the realm of possibility. The oil implications of this unpredictability are clear: It will be hard to keep global oil markets calm in the coming weeks and months. Deaths of rulers can change dynamics overnight virtually anywhere in the region, and Israel's defense policy remains an ever-present black swan. Saudi Arabia's own rumoredpursuit of new nuclear-style ballistic missiles from China adds an additional layer of uncertainty about a nuclear arms race in the region.

America's ability to fall back on the Saudis is further imperiled by the inherent instability of the kingdom's political and economic system. Saudi Arabia is going to need more and more oil revenue just to keep its population from growing restive. Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment predicts that Saudi Arabia will be forced to run budget deficits from 2014 onwards, even at a break-even price forecast of $90.70 per barrel in 2015. Other forecasts are even bleaker in the medium term, estimating the breakeven price at $110 a barrel in 2015. Either way, the kingdom's thirst for cash is likely to mean that U.S. and Saudi interests diverge. The oil-for-security deal between the two countries has destabilized the kingdom in the past by igniting support for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and it could be used again by agents of internal opposition groups. Moreover, the recent pro-democracy upheavals in Egypt, Syria, and above all Bahrain are bound to influence U.S.-Saudi relations over time in ways that are hard to predict. More


Energy expert says world's oil production has peaked

Every year in August there is a weeklong event, the Oil & Gas Conference. It’s in Denver and draws an international audience. By most accounts EnerCom is the best on the schedule.

This year 121 companies were scheduled to make presentations. If I were allowed to hear only one presentation, and attend one breakout session, I’d choose Core Labs — hands down.

“The maximum yearly oil production of the planet is taking place now!” That came from the CEO of a Netherlands-based company that has 70 offices in 50 countries worldwide. Their business is analyzing drilling results for all major companies and hundreds of smaller firms in the global energy-finding industry.

The company, Core Labs (NYSE: CLB $121), has a unique view of the big picture that few, if any, others could envision. As a byproduct of their normal business activities, CLB accumulates data about the current status of all major oil and gas basins on the planet. Annual revenues are $1 billion.

While an exploration company is drilling, CLB evaluates the rock samples and evaluates the potential of finding oil and gas below. After an oil or gas field is producing, CLB helps the well operators to extract the maximum amount of hydrocarbons from the reservoir. Information that extensive about all the major energy basins in 50 countries is a unique collection of data.

Never very bashful in the breakout session, CEO Dave Demshur readily offered his thoughts about the big energy picture. When queried about predictions of increased oil availability he took the under in most cases. Basically he looks for flat, or lower, future oil generation from Mexico, Iraq, Iran, North Sea, Russia, and the shocker Saudi Arabia. More


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Making clean energy pay off by storing it as squeezed air

A stumbling block to increasing our reliance on electricity from cleaner energy sources such as solar panels and wind farms has always been figuring out how to efficiently store the energy for use when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Danielle Fong could make clean energy significantly more practical on a large scale by introducing a novel way to use tanks of compressed air for energy storage. “It could radically reorient the economics of renewable energy,” she says.

Danielle Fong
The idea of using compressed air to store energy is not new. Electricity from solar panels or wind turbines can turn a motor that’s used to compress the air in a large tank, and the air pressure can then be converted into power to drive a generator when the power is needed. The problem is that during compression the air reaches temperatures of almost 1,000 °C. That means energy is lost in the form of heat, and storage in conventional steel vessels becomes impractical.

Fong stumbled on a possible solution while skimming through a nearly century-old book: water spray is great at cooling air. She asked, why not spray water into the air while compressing it, so that the air stays cool? To make the process practical, she developed a technique for separating the heated water from the compressed air and diverting the water into a tank, so the heat can be recaptured to minimize energy loss. The process is about as efficient as the best batteries: for every 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity that goes into the system, seven kilowatt-hours can be used when needed.

Fong founded a company called LightSail Energy in Berkeley, California, to develop the technology. Initially, she planned to produce compressed-air-powered scooters. But backer Vinod Khosla of the venture capital firm Khosla Ventures convinced her to go after the much bigger market of electricity for the power grid.

Batteries are the current state of the art in storing excess wind and solar energy, but Fong says the LightSail system will cost less to purchase and will last for a decade or more. Over the long term, she says, the system could cost as little as one-tenth as much to own and operate as batteries do. A single system, which is about the size of a shipping container plus a car-size unit, will store the energy generated by a one-megawatt wind turbine running for three hours. More


Peak cheap oil is an incontrovertible fact

If the looming global oil crunch has been postponed for another decade or two as widely alleged, this is far from obvious in today’s commodity markets.

Brent crude jumped to $115 a barrel last week. Petrol costs in Germany and across much of Europe are now at record levels in local currencies.

Diesel is above the political pain threshold of $4 a gallon in the US, hence reports circulating last week that the International Energy Agency (IEA) is preparing to release strategic reserves.

Barclays Capital expects a “monster” effect this quarter as the crude market tightens by 2.4m barrels a day (bpd), with little extra supply in sight.

Goldman Sachs said the industry is chronically incapable of meeting global needs. “It is only a matter of time before inventories and OPEC spare capacity become effectively exhausted, requiring higher oil prices to restrain demand,” said its oil guru David Greely.

This is a remarkable state of affairs given the world economy is close to a double-dip slump right now, the latest relapse in our contained global depression.

Britain, the eurozone, and parts of Eastern Europe are in outright recession. China has “hard-landed”, the result of a monetary shock and real M1 contraction last winter. The HSBC manufacturing index fell deeper into contraction in July.

The CPB World Trade Monitor in the Netherlands show that global trade volumes have been shrinking for the last five months. Container shipping volumes from Asia to Europe fell 9pc in June. Iron prices have fallen by 30pc since April to $103 a tonne.

So we face a world where Brent crude trades at over $100 even in recession. Fears of an Israeli strike on Iran may have spiked the price a bit, though Intrade’s contract for an attack is well below levels earlier this year. More



Friday, August 24, 2012

Scientists Produce Hydrogen for Fuel Cells Using an Inexpensive Catalyst Under Real-World Conditions

ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2012) — Scientists at the University of Cambridge have produced hydrogen, H2, a renewable energy source, from water using an inexpensive catalyst under industrially relevant conditions (using pH neutral water, surrounded by atmospheric oxygen, O2, and at room temperature).

Inexpensive catalyst
Lead author of the research, Dr Erwin Reisner, an EPSRC research fellow and head of the Christian Doppler Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, said: "A H2 evolution catalyst which is active under elevated O2 levels is crucial if we are to develop an industrial water splitting process -- a chemical reaction that separates the two elements which make up water. A real-world device will be exposed to atmospheric O2 and also produce O2 in situ as a result of water splitting."

Although H2 cannot be used as a 'direct' substitute for gasoline or ethanol, it can be used as a fuel in combination with fuel cells, which are already available in cars and buses. H2 is currently produced from fossil fuels and it produces the greenhouse gas CO2 as a by-product; it is therefore neither renewable nor clean. A green process such as sunlight-driven water splitting is therefore required to produce 'green and sustainable H2'.

One of the many problems that scientists face is finding an efficient and inexpensive catalyst that can function under real-world conditions: in water, under air and at room temperature. Currently, highly efficient catalysts such as the noble metal platinum are too expensive and cheaper alternatives are typically inefficient. Very little progress was made so far with homogeneous catalyst systems that work in water and atmospheric O2.

However, Cambridge researchers found that a simple catalyst containing cobalt, a relatively inexpensive and abundant metal, operates as an active catalyst in pH neutral water and under atmospheric O2.

Dr Reisner said: "Until now, no inexpensive molecular catalyst was known to evolve H2 efficiently in water and under aerobic conditions. However, such conditions are essential for use in developing green hydrogen as a future energy source under industrially relevant conditions.

"Our research has shown that inexpensive materials such as cobalt are suitable to fulfil this challenging requirement. Of course, many hurdles such as the rather poor stability of the catalyst remain to be addressed, but our finding provides a first step to produce 'green hydrogen' under relevant conditions." More


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Public Wave Energy Test Facility Begins Operation in Oregon

ScienceDaily (Aug. 21, 2012) — One of the first public wave energy testing systems in the United States began operation this week off the Oregon coast near Newport, and will allow private industry or academic researchers to test new technology that may help advance this promising form of sustainable energy.

The Ocean Sentinel is a $1.5 million device developed by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, or NNMREC, at Oregon State University. It's a major step forward for the future of wave energy, and should do its first testing within days -- a "WetNZ" device developed by private industry.

The creation of this mobile wave energy test facility has been needed for years, experts say, and it will be used by many companies and academic researchers in the quest to develop wave energy technology, measure and understand the wave resource, and study the energy output and other important issues.

"The Ocean Sentinel will provide a standardized, accurate system to compare various wave energy technologies, including systems that may be better for one type of wave situation or another," said Sean Moran, ocean test facilities manager with NNMREC.

"We have to find out more about which technologies work best, in what conditions, and what environmental impacts there may be," Moran said. "We're not assuming anything. We're first trying to answer the question, 'Is this a good idea or not?' And if some technology doesn't work as well, we want to find that out quickly, and cheaply, and the Ocean Sentinel will help us do that."

Experts say that, unlike some alternative energy forms such as wind energy, it's probable that no one technology will dominate the wave energy field. Some systems may work better in low wave settings, others with a more powerful resource. The Ocean Sentinel will be able to measure wave amplitude, device energy output, ocean currents, wind speeds, extremes of wave height and other data.

This initiative was made possible by support from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Oregon Department of Energy, and the Oregon Wave Energy Trust. More


Monday, August 20, 2012

The Future of Free Energy is here

The Future of Free Energy is here now! The end of oil, coal and nuclear pollution! - YouTube.flv

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The compressed air powered AirPod

The Tata AirPod is a city car running on compressed air (as well as a battery-powered electric motor). The ease of converting air into an energy source using simple compressors means charging stations can be placed anywhere, and they require no provisioning — no trucks delivering gas, ethanol, or hydrogen — and they produce no emissions, just discharge of the air.

The AirPod can run 125mi (200k) at a top speed between 28 to 43mph (45 to 70kph). The car is intended for a single rider, and has a small cargo area in the back.

An amazing affordable auto that runs on air! AIRPod is the culmination of MDI studies on pollution and urban mobility. This concept will be the first to leave the production line in spring 2009. MDI will respond to an invitation to tender of the city of Paris, "Autolib'", and is already the subject of applications for various municipalities. With small size, a tiny price, zero pollution, fun and futuristic design, AIRPod mark a turning point in the range of urban vehicles while renewing the idea of the automobile and transportation. You can drive with a joystick, it only costs one euro per 200 km and leaves no one indifferent in crept in traffic. It is a real breath of fresh air in our cities and the prelude to travel without pollution. Its small size make it easy to park, keeping still a large internal volume. AIRPod help us to forget the price of petrol. AIRPod is part of the MDI production licence of "less than 500kg vehicles", and is manufactured in the same factories as OneFlowAir, following the original production concept proposed by MDI. AIRPod The standard version is designed for the transport of persons. It has four seats (3 adults and one child) and has space for luggage. It is dedicated to multiple uses as in the private and public sectors. Airports, train stations and municipalities also need a cheap, non-polluting car with high mobility. This wehicle is changing our urban life in the city center in freeing ourselves of the prohibitive cost of petrol

How Much Energy Does Excessive Nighttime Lighting Waste?

Americans do squander a lot of electricity keeping things lit up at night while most of us sleep. This light blocks our view of the night sky and stars, creates glare hazards on roads, messes with our circadian sleep-wake rhythms, interrupts the patterns of nocturnal wildlife, and is by and large annoying. It also takes a financial toll: The federally funded National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) reports that poorly-aimed, unshielded outdoor lights waste $2 billion (17 kilowatt-hours) of energy in the U.S. each year.

NOAO has monitored outdoor lighting levels across the U.S. and beyond for the past six years through its GLOBE at Night program whereby citizen-scientists track nearby outdoor lighting levels over a two-week period beginning in late March and submit their observations to NOAO electronically. A simple star map provided by NOAO is all that participants need to track their slice of sky. “All it takes is a few minutes for a family to measure their night sky brightness by noting how many stars are missing from an easy-to-find constellation like Leo (in the northern hemisphere) or Crux (in the southern hemisphere),” says GLOBE at Night project director Connie Walker. “This tells us how much light is directed upwards into the sky.”

Over the last six annual campaigns, participants from 100-plus countries have contributed almost 70,000 measurements, giving project organizers a detailed picture of light pollution globally. Unfortunately, analysis of the data shows that participants have seen brighter skies and fewer stars over time, meaning that light pollution is a growing problem. The free and publicly-accessible data gathered by the project is not only useful for educational purposes but can also help inform planners and policymakers on decisions about increasing public safety, reducing energy consumption and even identifying parks and green spaces that can serve as “sky oases” where city dwellers can appreciate the night sky from a safe, dark place. More


As Smart Electric Grid Evolves, Engineers Show How to Include Solar Technologies

ScienceDaily (Aug. 17, 2012) — An economically feasible way to store solar energy in existing residential power networks is the subject of an award winning paper written by two Virginia Tech electrical engineers and presented at an international conference.

Reza Arghandeh of Blacksburg, Va., a doctoral candidate in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech, won the best student paper award at the 20th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering, held in conjunction with the American Society of Mechanical Engineering Power 2012 Conference at Anaheim, Calif.. His advisor is Robert Broadwater, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who specializes in electric power system analysis and design.

In their paper, they acknowledge that solar energy resources are "intermittent, seasonal, and non-dispatchable." However, the current national climate with its deregulation policies, electricity tariffs, control strategies and demand management are "significant tools for flexible and resilient operation of power systems with photovoltaic adoption levels," Arghandeh argued.

"Selling the household generated electricity into the electric energy market and the storage of electricity in storage systems and demand control systems provide a variety of economic opportunities for customers and utility companies to use more renewable resources," he added.

Some residential houses are already doing just this -- selling power back to an electrical distribution industry. But Arghandeh and Broadwater's work provides an optimization algorithm for a Distributed Energy Storage (DES) system on a broad scale. The system they developed presents a fleet of batteries connected to distribution transformers. The storage system can then be used for withholding distributed photovoltaic power before it is bid to market, Arghandeh explained.

"Withholding distributed photovoltaic power, probably gained from rooftop panels, represents a gaming method to realize higher revenues due to the time varying cost of electricity," he said.

Arghandeh is referring to the peak usage of energy systems such as the early evening hours when families return home from school and from work versus the low usage times that occur in the early morning hours when most households are asleep. "The distributed photovoltaic power adoption can be controlled with the help of real-time electricity price and load profile," he confirmed. More


Friday, August 17, 2012

U.S. Reliance on Oil From Saudi Arabia Is Growing Again

HOUSTON — The United States is increasing its dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia, raising its imports from the kingdom by more than 20 percent this year, even as fears of military conflict in the tinderbox Persian Gulf region grow.

The increase in Saudi oil exports to the United States began slowly last summer and has picked up pace this year. Until then, the United States had decreased its dependence on foreign oil and from the Gulf in particular.

This reversal is driven in part by the battle over Iran’s nuclear program. The United States tightened sanctions that hampered Iran’s ability to sell crude, the lifeline of its troubled economy, and Saudi Arabia agreed to increase production to help guarantee that the price did not skyrocket. While prices have remained relatively stable, and Tehran’s treasury has been squeezed, the United States is left increasingly vulnerable to a region in turmoil.

The jump in Saudi oil production has been welcomed by Washington and European governments, but Saudi society faces its own challenges, with the recent deaths of senior members of the royal family and sectarian strife in the eastern part of the country, making the stability of Saudi energy and political policies uncertain.

The United States has had a political alliance with the Saudi leadership that has lasted for decades, one that has become even more pivotal to Washington during the turmoil of the Arab spring and rising hostilities with Iran over that nation’s nuclear program. (Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter regional rivals.)

The development underscores how difficult it is for the United States to lower its dependence on foreign oil — especially the heavy grades of crude that Saudi Arabia exports — even as domestic oil production is soaring. It is a development that has alarmed conservative and liberal foreign policy experts alike, especially with oil prices and Mideast tensions rising in recent weeks.

“At a time when there is a rising chance of either a nuclear Iran or an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, we should be trying to reduce our reliance on oil going through the Strait of Hormuz and not increasing it,” said Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official who worked on Middle East issues in the George W. Bush administration.

Senior Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow neck through which most Gulf oil is shipped, and the Iranian navy has held maneuvers to back up the threats. Most analysts say it is doubtful the Iranians would take such an extreme measure because that would block exports vital to the country’s economy, but the United States Navy has been preparing for such a contingency. More


Monday, August 13, 2012

UCLA's new transparent solar film could be game-changer

One of the holy grails of solar cell technology may have been found, with researchers at UCLA announcing they have created a new organic polymer that produces electricity, is nearly transparent and is more durable and malleable than silicon.

The applications are mind-boggling. Windows that produce electricity. Buildings wrapped in transparent solar cells. Laptops and phones – or even cars or planes – whose outer coverings act as chargers. It might even be sprayed on as a liquid. The promise of cheap and easy-to-apply site-generated solar electricity might now be a lot closer to reality.

Of course, the idea of solar films and solar plastics is not new. The breakthrough to making a transparent film, however, came with isolating only one band of light in the spectrum.

“[A solar film] harvests light and turns it into electricity. In our case, we harvest only the infrared part,” says Professor Yang Yang at UCLA’s California Nanosystems Institute, who has headed up the research on the new photovoltaic polymer. Absorbing only the infrared light, he explains, means the material doesn’t have to be dark or black or blue, like most silicon photovoltaic panels. It can be clear. “We have developed a material that absorbs infrared and is all transparent to the visible light.”

“And then we also invented a new electrode, a metal, that is also transparent. So we created a new solar cell,” Yang adds.

Well, the metal is actually not transparent, Yang points out; it’s just so small that you can’t see it. The new polymer incorporates silver nanowires about 0.1 microns thick, about one-thousandth the width of a human hair, and titanium dioxide nonoparticles as an electrode. When in liquid form, it is as clear as a glass of water, and when applied to a hard, flat surface as a film it is meant to be invisible to the eye.

Thin-film PV currently exists that can be applied to windows, but only on windows that can be tinted. Many buildings use tinted windows as a way to cut down infrared radiation and thus keep out excess heat. Because this new transparent film is meant specifically to absorb in the infrared spectrum, it may be able to cut air conditioning bills and generate electricity at the same time, while leaving windows clear. Technically, however, the entire building could be covered with the thin film and not affect colors.

Isolating the infrared spectrum is currently a less-efficient way to make electricity, and Yang says his group’s technology converts about 6% of the sun’s energy into electricity, as opposed to 11% or 12% from commercial PV. But, he says, that can change. More


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Anomalous Heat Effect

The ages are coming faster all the time. The Stone Age lasted 3.4 million years, while the succeeding bronze and iron ages lasted only 2 or 3,000. In the last few centuries, however, "ages" have been coming at a breakneck pace -- the industrial age, the oil age, the air age, the nuclear age, the information age and others depending on how one likes to count such things. All this is by way of saying that the evidence continues to accumulate that we are getting close to entering a new age marked by the availability of nearly unlimited amounts of cheap, pollution-free energy currently locked within the nucleus of hydrogen atoms.

This age, which for the minute is being euphemistically called the age of the "anomalous heat effect", will undoubtedly be renamed after we all figure out just what we have going. As yet there has been no real "smoking gun" that will convince the most "it's too good to be true" skeptics that mankind is about to enter a new era, -- one that will be easily comparable to the agricultural revolution of 10,000 years ago or the industrial revolution a few centuries back. However there seems to be enough research taking place, accompanied by announcements of progress by reputable and knowledgeable individuals, to suggest we can expect solid proof that mankind is on to something shortly.

Although the detailed physics of this new energy producing phenomenon are as yet a matter of controversy, the general idea seems to be that hydrogen is first loaded into the metal lattice of nickel or palladium; then subjected to an electronic pulse or heat, which squeezes the proton (the hydrogen nucleus) so hard that it absorbs energy and an electron thereby turning itself into a low energy neutron. These neutrons in turn quickly combine into isotopes of hydrogen which then decay into helium giving off prodigious amounts of heat as they lose mass (Remember E=MC2). The amount of heat given off by this reaction is hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of times more than would be produced if an atom of carbon were burned chemically (combustion) to produce heat.

There have been too many developments in this science of late to outline here, but thanks to the Information Age, they are reported, analyzed, sliced and diced in the numerous blogs and websites following the phenomenon. The bottom line is that so many reputable laboratories and scientists are now reporting that the "anomalous heat phenomenon" is for real and so many say they are making progress in engineering useful devices that can produce commercial amounts of heat, that those still skeptical or in denial simply have no idea what is going on out there. Moreover, a number of major corporations and parts of the U.S. and European governments seem to be well aware of the phenomenon and recognize its potential.

Public and media acceptance of "heat-from-hydrogen" still suffers from the premature announcements that were made 23 years ago and that resulted in much of the mainstream media hyping an ill-understood phenomenon that could not be readily reproduced at the time. Parts of this story, however, have been creeping into the fringes of the media of late and it is only a matter of time before realization of what is taking place sets in.

I have a number of colleagues who are aware of this new phenomena and willing to concede that it may be valid, but doubt that it can be developed and engineered into commercial products in time to prevent the disruptions that will accompany the peaking of oil production and other natural resources, and havoc caused by global warming. They indeed have a valid point. In the past, major new technologies such as the automobile, electronics, or the airplane have taken decades to come into sufficiently widespread use to have a real impact on society. More


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Reducing Dependence on Fossil Fuels Essential for Sustainable Progress in Small Island Developing States, Says UN Secretary-General

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) need to free themselves from dependence on fossil fuel imports and transform their energy sectors to encompass modern, efficient, clean and renewable sources of energy, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to an audience of prime ministers, ministers, international experts, civil society leaders and business executives at the Barbados Conference today.

Sustainable development is not possible without sustainable energy, the Secretary-General continued in his message to the conference Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States, convened by the Government of Barbados and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The worlds appetite for energy continues to grow, and the global thermostat continues to rise. My vision is a world with universal energy access; a doubling of the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and a doubling of renewable energy in our mix of fuel sources by 2030.

Small island developing states are highly dependent on imported oil and other fossil fuels for transport and electricity generation, which is a major source of economic volatility.

We know that although many Small Island Developing States are energy deficient in conventional energy, limitless potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency resides in our countries. The fundamental issue thus is how do we, as small island developing states with inherent structural problems and limited resources, convert this renewable energy potential into a tangible product that is accessible, affordable and adaptable, proclaimed Prime Minister, The Honourable Freundel Stuart in addressing delegates at the opening ceremony this morning.

In some small island states, switching to hydro, solar, geothermal or other renewable energy sources can free up to 30 percent of gross domestic product which is otherwise expended on imports of oil and refined petroleum products. The savings can be then invested into jobs in sectors such as clean energy, improved health care and education, stronger safety nets for people whose livelihoods will be affected by the phase out of fossil fuels, adaptation to climate change, and other programmes. More


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Making the Case for Smart Grid to Shave Peak Power

Smart grid technology could shave 15 percent to 20 percent off a utility or region’s peak power demand, according to estimates from the World Energy Council, IBM and others. That adds up to that many fewer fossil-fuel fired power plants a utility or region will have to build over the next few decades or so, which is good for the utility, the customers and the planet.

But how do you measure the value of a power plant never built -- and how do you justify the uncertain returns on the hard costs of deploying the smart grid to make that happen (or, not happen)?

Those are questions that the smart grid industry -- and, importantly, state and federal regulators -- will have to answer if we’re to achieve the peak-shaving potential that the smart grid promises.

“What’s the value of that avoided cost?” John Chevrette, president of management consulting division at big utility technology services firm Black & Veatch, said during a Wednesday press breakfast in San Francisco. “It’s a very debatable point in the industry.”

Chevrette and other Black & Veatch execs were in town to discuss a new report on the global energy outlook and to cover the challenges facing the water and energy industries they serve.

In broad terms, the biggest news in the energy business is the super-cheap price of natural gas, and the expectations of cheap gas for years to come, of course. That’s a challenge to wind and solar power development, but a relief to an industry that can’t build new coal-fired power plants and finds nuclear plants way too expensive and unpopular to build, he noted.

In fact, Black & Veatch predicts that 61,000 megawatts of coal power plants are set to retire between now and 2020, he said. (The U.S. Energy Information Administration says 27 gigawatts, or 27,000 megawatts, will retire over the next five years.) Replacing that will be some solar and wind, but mostly natural gas, Chevrette said, given that nuclear power’s would-be renaissance has stalled amidst economic turmoil and blowback from Japan’s Fukushima disaster -- but there’s still a lot of lost power to make up for.

“The relief valve, in many respects, for these pressures, comes down to the customers,” he said. Pushing energy efficiency, demand response and other programs to get utility customers to use less power will be a critical part of making up for that shortfall.

There’s plenty of real-world evidence of smart grid technologies cutting peak power and improving overall energy efficiency -- and more often as not, it’s been done specifically to avoid building new power plants. More