Tuesday, June 30, 2009

China to build world's largest solar power base

China's 10 US-listed solar power manufacturers could face new challenges as new international players enter the market, said Todd G. Glass, energy specialist with the law firm, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

China's first demonstration project integrating wind power, photovoltaic power and power storage was recently established in Zhangbei, northern China's Hebei province with a planned total investment of over 8 billion yuan. Upon completion, it will become the world's largest solar power base and experimental center for the complementary generation of wind and photovoltaic power. It will also be China's first test base for the centralized output of wind power over 1 gigawatt. The project will have an installed capacity to generate 300 megawatts of wind power, 100 megawatts of solar power and 75 megawatts of chemical energy storage.

By People's Daily Online

The Politics of Energy #1 - Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

By Richard L. Wottrich
Managing Director, International, Dresner Partners
Partner, Global Teaming Committee, IMAP
This article will appear in the Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology (JCPT), August 2009 issue

As an international investment banker with Dresner Partners, I am very interested in the politics of governments and how they affect the flow of business transactions globally. In multiple trips to China, India, Turkey and other Emerging Economies I have observed first hand the accelerating energy appetite of these high-growth economic engines. As the global energy industry comes under ever increasing political scrutiny, and as governments worldwide begin to favor and fund alternative energy technologies, these politics become ever more important.

Historical Nationalization of Oil & Gas Reserves
Global trends in the nationalization of oil and gas reserves are well understood with the historical formation of national oil companies such as Petróleos de Mexicanos (PEMEX), Saudi Aramco, Petróleos de Venezuela, PetroChina and Russia's Gazprom. While many private citizens in most countries usually assume that the major oil companies control their product, in fact nearly 80% of the world’s oil reserves are held by national oil companies with no private equity, and there are 13 state-owned oil companies with more reserves than ExxonMobil, the largest public multinational oil company.

The politics of nationalized oil usually revolve around jingoistic themes that a country’s oil is being ‘taken” by foreign oil giants. But in reality the economics of nationalized oil most always revolve around a few elites gaining extraordinary wealth at the expense of their country’s citizens. The history of oil-dependent countries has produced what Stanford University professor Terry Lynn Karl has called “the paradox of plenty.”

Relatively speaking, oil creates few jobs and it distorts and destroys jobs in other economic sectors. The export of oil distorts an economy for example by increasing a country’s exchange rate. “Oil rents drive out any other productive activity,” said Karl. “Why would you bother to produce your own food if you could buy it? Why would you bother to develop any kind of export industry if oil makes your money worth more and that hurts all your other exports?” Norway is the exception that proves the rule, with a national oil sovereign fund worth 2.28 trillion kroner ($357 billion) for just 4.8 million citizens.

As and when the world’s economy begins to recover from the present deep recession, global demand for oil will resume its steady growth. Based on what is known about the world's petroleum reserves, nearly all of future increases will have to come from countries that have national oil company monopolies. These governments are in many cases politically unreliable excepting in their desire to keep the price of a barrel of oil high.

Insufficient Global Supply to Meet Demand
Energy efficiencies, conservation, alternative energy and giant new oil and natural gas fields in areas where private companies can explore will not be enough to meet the rising demands of our growing global economy. Even if these sources could meet the demand in Developed Economies, they fail when we factor in demand from China and India. Tata Motors in India for example is manufacturing the first sub-$2,500 car in history with its new Nano and over 200,000 Indian citizens have already paid deposits to receive one. Meanwhile China is expected to account for one-third of the increase in oil demand in the next two decades with auto ownership growing to at least 150 million by 2030. Finally, two-thirds of the world's known oil and gas reserves are in countries that either limit access or close their reserves to foreign companies. Something has to give.

Projected $35 Trillion in Government Public Works Spending
The politics of energy are changing. As the cost of oil resumes its increase from roughly $70 per barrel to $100 and higher, the hurdle rate for investments in a variety of alternative energy sectors will be reached. Until then the politics of recent government stimulus spending globally in this recession are providing tax subsidies in myriad forms to influence immediate development. “A wave of government bailouts around the world and a sharp deterioration in existing infrastructure could lead to as much as $35 trillion in public works spending over the next 20 years, according to a new study by CIBC World Markets.” We estimate that nearly 20% of these funds will influence the development of alternative energy. This by definition is politically “hot” money that attracts projects good and bad.

Nationalization of Alternative Energy Systems
We predict that the same nationalization trends that overtook the oil and gas sectors in the last 50 years will eventually migrate into the establishment of heavily subsidized alternative energy industries as well. The sheer scale of alternative energy demand will favor large multinationals. Once such energy sources are integrated into national “smart” energy grids they present very attractive taxation opportunities for governments. This will satisfy governments for a time, until alternative energy profit curves begin to match oil and gas. At that point governments will be tempted to intervene and nationalize or heavily regulate alternative energy assets. The rationalization for this political intervention will be simplicity itself; the recovery of years of tax subsidies spent in developing each alternative energy sector in question.

As massive offshore wind power projects begin to blanket a country’s coastal waters, it is not difficult to imagine that country invoking its 200-mile marine boundaries and nationalizing wind farms. Control over wave and tidal power are easy concepts once wind power is acquired. As large scale solar power “farms” are aggregated into ownership by one large multinational or another, it is equally plausible that the government will step in as the sovereign owner of the “air rights” that facilitate access to light. In short there is no reason not to suppose that governments will ultimately follow the same path they have historically followed with oil and gas. Investors in alternative energy would be wise to take this into account.

If this sounds alarmist, one might consider H.R. 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (known as “cap and trade”) passed 219-212 by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 26th. This 1,300 page bill (plus a 300 page amendment) is perhaps the most pervasive energy taxation vehicle in the history of America. It’s premise is to slow global warming, but a close read of even a few pages describes mechanism after mechanism for existing units of government to control and tax energy at every level. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Great innovations should not be forced on a slender majority."

The Future of Energy
The vast global infrastructure of oil and gas will continue to supply the majority of world energy needs in the near term. However the voracious tax appetites of governments will route deficit spending into alternative energy systems as revenues generated by traditional energy sources inevitably decline as oil and gas reserves are depleted. The rules of supply and demand will ultimately trump political market distortions, albeit at great cost to consumers the world over.

Richard L. Wottrich

Monday, June 29, 2009

Short on Water? We'll Always Have Enceladus

Plumes of water ice emerge from deep within Saturn's moon Enceladus. These ices refresh Saturn's E ring. Scientists have found salts in the E ring that speak to the interaction of water and rock under the moon's icy surface. (NASA)

Cassini spacecraft finds evidence for liquid water on Enceladus
By Pete Spotts

In the hunt for potential habitats for life beyond Earth, Saturn’s moon Enceladus is looking better and better.

The latest boost to the moon’s profile appears not at the moon itself, but in Saturn’s outermost ring, the E ring. Enceladus shepherds the ring, which it formed and renews by spewing ice grains into space via the plumes venting from its South Pole region.

This week, scientists reported that they’ve detected the chemical equivalent of table salt and baking soda in some of the E ring’s grains.

The only way those compounds could form, researchers say, is through the interaction of liquid water and rock. And the only spot in the neighborhood where those kinds of reactions could take place is Enceladus, with its rocky core, and at least early in its history, an ocean beneath its icy crust.

The results appear in the current issue of the journal Nature.

Balance of article: The Christian Science Monitor

Jatropha - Biofuel Flavor of the Month

Source: TopRank E.S. Agriculture Co. Ltd.

Jatropha becomes big biofuel buzzword
Airlines have tested it, BP interested; but others aren't so sure

Associated Press Writer

FORT MYERS, Fla. - What some see as the biofuel of the future starts out as short, thick stems with a few leaves sticking out at sharp angles. But in just a few years, they will be tall, leafy trees with bright green spherical pods spilling their seeds all over the ground.

The jatropha tree doesn't have the name recognition or lobbying clout of corn-based ethanol, but the energy industry is increasingly spending development dollars and examining it as a potentially better biofuel source: It is easier to grow than corn, untied to the food market and free from any carbon dioxide or sulfur emissions.

Biodiesel from jatropha has powered test flights on Air New Zealand and Continental Airlines. It has prompted oil giant BP PLC to partner on jatropha projects in India and Africa.

Balance of article: MSNBC


The key matrix issue with any Biofuel is its "water footprint." Rice University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Pedro Alvarez said, "To make one kilogram of bread, let's say, you need 1,000 liters of water and to make one kilogram of meat you need 10,000 liters of water. The point here is that water is going to be a severe limiting factor - not only to economic development, but just to feed a growing population."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Most Efficient Energy System on Earth is a Plant, Synthesizing Calories From Sunlight

"The whole of nature is a conjugation of the verb to eat, in the active and passive." William Ralph Inge

WFP, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation And Howard G. Buffett Foundation Join Forces

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation today unveiled a groundbreaking initiative to help poor farmers across the developing world significantly increase their incomes.

The new initiative, Purchase for Progress (P4P), is expected to help hundreds of thousands of small farmers access reliable markets so they can sell their surplus crops at competitive prices, bolstering fragile local economies.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and the government of Belgium have committed US$76 million to this effort to transform the way WFP purchases food in developing countries, with a special focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America. The initiative was announced during the United Nations General Assembly, where progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and the global food crisis are high on the agenda of world leaders.

"The world's poor are reeling under the impact of high food and fuel prices, and buying food assistance from developing world farmers is the right solution at the right time," said Josette Sheeran, WFP executive director. "Purchase for Progress is win-win-we help our beneficiaries who have little or no food and we help local farmers who have little or no access to markets where they can sell their crops."

Balance of article: Medical News Today
"All life on earth can be viewed as a competition among species for the solar energy captured by green plants and stored in the form of complex carbon molecules. A food chain is a sytem for passing those calories on to species that lack's the plant's unique ability to synthesize them from sunlight."
The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan

Can a Leopard Change Its Spots?

Masdar Clean Energy Deveopment
Abu Dhabi Offers $500M To Lure Clean Energy HQ

By Oliver Klaus



DUBAI (Zawya Dow Jones)--Oil-rich Abu Dhabi is betting that $500 million worth of funding will persuade the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, to locate its headquarters in one of the Mideast's largest oil producers.

The emirate is competing with Germany's former capital Bonn and Austrian capital Vienna to host IRENA, an organization formed earlier this year to become a key driver promoting the use of renewable energy worldwide.

"We will support IRENA with a total $136 million over the next six years, that's $22 million annually," Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co., or Masdar, told Zawya Dow Jones in an interview. Al Jaber is spearheading Abu Dhabi's bid to sweet talk IRENA.

But the U.A.E.'s green credentials are questionable. Residents of the desert state are among the world's most environmentally unfriendly, consuming more natural resources than anyone else on the planet, according to the World Wildlife Fund Living Planet report 2008.

Balance of article: The Wall Street Journal

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tata's Nano - Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

Tata Motors select first 1,00,000(1) Nano owners

Tata Motors has announced that they have selected the 1 lakh applicants who are going to get their Nano cars in the coming months. Tata aims to start delivering Nano cars from next month.
Tata accepted bookings for their Nano between April 9 and April 25. The company picked the winners from around 2 lakh applicants. Tata Nano is currently the cheapest car on sale in the world. It costs just around Rs. 1.25 lakhs ($2,600, 1,580 GBP) for the base model. The company has two other variants of Nano on sale. Most of the customers reportedly booked one of these two higher end versions.
Source: Automotive News


The United States invented the car culture. Now India and China are fast tracking the same mentality. The Nano is the world's cheapest car, bringing ownership within reach of perhaps 100 million Indians.

The Developed World has car owership of 437.3 per 1,000 people. If this ratio were to be achieved in India and China that would be another 1 billion cars on earth and it would take 3 million miles of new highway just to park them bumper to bumper!

Richard Wottrich

(1) A lakh (Hindi: लाख) (also written lac) is a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand (100,000; 10 5).

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Electric Wave

Catching a Wave, Powering an Electrical Grid?
Electrical engineer Annette von Jouanne is pioneering an ingenious way to generate clean, renewable electricity from the sea

By Elizabeth Rusch
Smithsonian magazine, July 2009

She was in the water when the epiphany struck. Of course, Annette von Jouanne was always in the water, swimming in lakes and pools as she was growing up around Seattle, and swimming distance freestyle competitively in high-school and college meets. There's even an exercise pool in her basement, where she and her husband (a former Olympic swimmer for Portugal) and their three kids have spent a great deal of time...swimming.

But in December 1995 she was bodysurfing in Hawaii over the holidays. She'd just begun working as an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Oregon State University. She was 26 years old and eager to make a difference—to find or improve upon a useful source of energy, preferably one that wasn't scarce or fleeting or unpredictable or dirty. The sun was going down. The wind was dying. She was bobbing in the swells.

"As the sun set, it hit me: I could ride waves all day and all night, all year long," says von Jouanne. "Wave power is always there. It never stops. I began thinking that there's got to be a way to harness all the energy of an ocean swell, in a practical and efficient way, in a responsible way."

Today, von Jouanne is one of the driving forces in the fast-growing field of wave energy—as well as its leading proponent. She will explain to anyone who will listen that unlike wind and solar power, wave energy is always available. Even when the ocean seems calm, swells are moving water up and down sufficiently to generate electricity. And an apparatus to generate kilowatts of power from a wave can be much smaller than what's needed to harness kilowatts from wind or sunshine because water is dense and the energy it imparts is concentrated.

By Elizabeth Rusch, Smithsonian, July 2009

Biofuels: The New Alchemy

PRECISION GROWTH: Algenol biologist Jesse Phillips-Kress tests an algae strain from the company's sun-absorbing bioreactors
Photograph for TIME by Andrew Kaufman
Paul Woods didn't blindfold me as we drove through the overgrown plantations outside West Palm Beach, Fla., but he looked as if he was considering it. Woods is the brash 46-year-old CEO of biofuels start-up Algenol — and he takes his company's secrecy seriously. Aside from officials from the U.S. Department of Energy, I was the first outsider ever to visit Algenol's modest testing facility. We turned off a country road opposite a llama ranch, and stopped at an unmarked circle of trailers in the middle of a clearing in the palm trees. There, sitting on a section of concrete half the size of a basketball court, was what Woods has been hiding from the world: several rows of long white tubs fitted with plastic windows that let in sunlight, each filled with a liquid the dark green of moss. The mixture was water and algae — microscopic plantlike organisms that feed off sunlight and carbon dioxide. With the proprietary algae happily multiplying, Woods explained that he and his partners intend to produce a biofuel greener and cheaper than oil or corn-fed ethanol: "We want to do 20 billion gallons eventually, and we will compete on price. We're a year away from sales."
Additionl Players:
Praj (India)
Balance of article: Time/CNN

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Point-to-Point Nuclear Power - Less is More

NuScale small “modular” nuclear reactor core

The New Nuclear Revolution

Safe fission power is our future - if regulators allow it.

After the Internet, the next big thing will be cheap and clean energy. Coal, oil and gas pollute and are increasingly expensive: We need alternatives. Because nuclear energy (stored among particles inside atoms) is millions of times more dense than chemical energy (stored among atoms in molecules), nuclear reactors belong high on our long list of energy alternatives.

Nuclear energy is released during fission and fusion. During fission, large elements like uranium are split into smaller elements. During fusion, small elements like hydrogen are combined into larger elements. These two processes have occurred naturally since the beginning of time -- 13.7 billion years. The Earth is warmed naturally by its own nuclear fission reactors within and also by the sun, that big nuclear fusion reactor.

Today, 20% of our electricity is provided by 104 nuclear energy plants in the United States. These are already cheaper and cleaner than burning coal, oil and gas with all their pollutants, especially CO2. But these plants are all run on big old nuclear reactors, which nobody but the utility companies likes very much.

The good news is that the big names in nuclear energy -- like Areva, Hitachi, General Electric and Toshiba -- have recently been joined by a bevy of high-tech start-ups seeking to develop advanced nuclear-reactor designs for both fission and fusion energy production. So far, there are five fission and two fusion start-ups, among them Hyperion, NuScale and Tri Alpha.

Balance of article: The Wall Street Journal

What Price Green Jobs?

Time - Muhammed Muheisen - AP

If U.S. stimulus funding calls for "Buy American" and if in application municipalities demand union labor on stimulus projects, what will our competitive position be with Chinese workers such as the one shown above on a cinder slag heap in China? What price Green Jobs? Will (or has) Asia overtake the Western World in Alternative Energy?

It is a mistake to assume that "green" technology is immune to the same competitive forces driving economies the world over. It does not matter how good a green solution is, if it cannot be competitively implemented it shall wither and die.

Richard Wottrich

Russian Inventor Down Under, Down Under

The "Nautilus" wave power generator is lowered into the Brisbane River at Murarrie ahead of a six-month trial which begins in Moreton Bay next week.
by Daniel Hurst

Brisbane, Australia - A Brisbane inventor is hoping to harness the power of the ocean during a six-month trial of a floating wave generator starting in Moreton Bay next week.

The tests, which involve a 30-metre long plastic prototype capable of generating 300 watts of power each hour, could lead to the development of bigger wave-power stations suited to small coastal communities in the future.

The $200,000 device allows the waves that pass underneath to push air from one chamber into another. The movement of air drives a turbine to generate power.

The "Nautilus" prototype, designed by Brisbane inventor Ivan Voropaev and built with Queensland Government support, was lowered into the Brisbane River at Murarrie this morning.

Balance of article: Brisbane Times

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Cows Aren't the Problem

Belted Galloways, Camden, Maine (photo: RLW)

Burpless cows
Farmers cut cows' emissions by altering diets
By LISA RATHKE, Associated Press

COVENTRY -- Vermont dairy farmers Tim Maikshilo and Kristen Dellert, mindful of shrinking their carbon footprint, have changed their cows' diet to reduce the amount of gas the animals burp -- dairy cows' contribution to global warming.

Coventry Valley Farm is one of 15 Vermont farms working with Stonyfield Farm Inc., whose yogurt is made with their organic milk, to reduce the cows' intestinal methane by feeding them flaxseed, alfalfa, and grasses high in Omega 3 fatty acids. The gas cows belch is the dairy industry's biggest greenhouse gas contributor, research shows, most of it emitted from the front and not the back end of the cow.

"I just figured a cow was a cow and they were going to do whatever they were going to do in terms of cow things for gas," said Dellert. "It was pretty shocking to me that just being organic wasn't enough, actually. I really thought that here we're organic, we're doing what we need to do for the planet, we're doing the stuff for the soil and I really thought that was enough."

She learned it wasn't. The dairy industry contributes about 2 percent to the country's total greenhouse gas production, said Rick Naczi, a vice president at Dairy Management Inc., which funds research and promotes dairy products. Most of it comes from the cow, the rest from growing feed crops for the cattle to processing and transporting the milk.

Balance of article: Brattleboro Reformer

Monday, June 22, 2009

High Altitude Wind Power

A prototype of a high-altitude wind turbine made by Magenn Power.

High-altitude wind machines could power NYC

By Alexis Madrigal

The wind blowing through the streets of Manhattan couldn't power the city, but wind machines placed thousands of feet above the city theoretically could.

The first rigorous, worldwide study of high-altitude wind power estimates that there is enough wind energy at altitudes of about 1,600 to 40,000 feet to meet global electricity demand a hundred times over.

The very best ground-based wind sites have a wind-power density of less than 1 kilowatt per square meter of area swept. Up near the jet stream above New York, the wind power density can reach 16 kilowatts per square meter. The air up there is a vast potential reservoir of energy,if its intermittency can be overcome.

Even better, the best high-altitude wind-power resources match up with highly populated areas including North America's Eastern Seaboard and China's coastline.

"The resource is really, really phenomenal," said Christine Archer of Cal State University-Chico, who co-authored a paper on the work published in the open-access journal Energies."There is a lot of energy up there, but it's not as steady as we thought. It's not going to be the silver bullet that will solve all of our energy problems, but it will have a role."

Blance of Article: Wired

Nanoelectronics - "Skyscraper" Biological Fuel Cells


By Ian Coates

Scientists based at the University of Georgia, US, have grown conjugated polymer brushes directly onto monolayers, producing films with thicknesses less than 42 nanometres. This is a significant breakthrough for nanotechnology as existing techniques for creating electronics on the nanoscale are reaching their limits.

Previous attempts to grow conjugated polymers on monolayers have had limited success. Using a modified Kumada-type catalyst-transfer polycondensation, Jason Locklin and his team grew polyphenylene and polythiophene brushes, from aryl Grignard monomers, on gold monolayers. They analysed the polymer brushes using cyclic voltammetry, polarization modulation-infrared reflection-adsorption spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy. 'This surface-initiated polymerisation technique allows one to create conjugated polymer films in a controlled fashion,' Locklin comments. The technique 'allows for a high density of functional groups to be obtained in a limited area. This has been called the skyscraper approach.'

Balance of article: RSC Publishing

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sahara Desert Could Power the Planet

Example: Massive Solar Trough System, California Mojave & Kramer Junction, USA

Europe looks to Africa for its energy insurance policy

A fraction of the Sahara desert could provide enough solar electricity to power the planet. The problem has always been getting energy to where it's needed. Munich Re, a leading reinsurer, thinks this can now be solved.

It's one of the most ambitious green energy projects to date. It would harness the sun and space of the North African desert to power the kitchen appliances and factories of Europe.

The idea has been around for some time, but the German insurance giant Munich Re brought it one step closer to reality on Tuesday, announcing a meeting on July 13 in Munich to launch the so-called Desertec concept.

Up to 20 major German companies could take part in the project, including Deutsche Bank, the utility companies RWE and E.ON, and the engineering firm Siemens. Other German, Italian and Spanish companies are also on board, and have been invited to next month's meeting along with representative of the German government, the Arab League and the Club of Rome think tank.

Balance of Article: Deutsche Welle

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Geothermal Mineral Springs

The Fallacy Of Green Jobs

Michigan’s bid for green economy faces hurdles

Published: Sat, June 20, 2009 - 3:00 am Last Updated: Sat, June 20, 2009 - 3:07 am

DETROIT Gov. Jennifer Granholm took to a conference stage this past week to sell a national audience on her vision of a green Michigan a state whose natural resources, hungry work force and empty plants can attract alternative energy jobs.

States must resist the "fallacy" that "so-called green jobs created by alternative-energy development will drive the economic recovery," said James Mulva, chairman and chief executive of Houston-based ConocoPhillips Co., one of the nation's largest oil and gas companies.

"In reality, these sources will cost more than fossil fuels; energy prices will rise," he said. "This could actually hurt the economy and cost jobs or make the U.S. less competitive than countries with cheaper energy."

The International Energy Agency predicts that between 2006 and 2030, worldwide energy demand will grow 45 percent and the sources of supply will remain largely as they are now.

Mulva said the nation "must develop a more diverse basket of energy supplies," but replacing fossil fuels would take "unimaginable effort" advancing the necessary technology, skilled labor and capital investment.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What Price Alternative Energy? Look For the Union Label.

BrightSource Energy, which built a solar generating complex in the Negev Desert in Israel, above, has similar plans for California

A Move to Put the Union Label on Solar Power Plants

Published: June 18, 2009

SACRAMENTO — When a company called Ausra filed plans for a big solar power plant in California, it was deluged with demands from a union group that it study the effect on creatures like the short-nosed kangaroo rat and the ferruginous hawk.

By contrast, when a competitor, BrightSource Energy, filed plans for an even bigger solar plant that would affect the imperiled desert tortoise, the same union group, California Unions for Reliable Energy, raised no complaint. Instead, it urged regulators to approve the project as quickly as possible.

One big difference between the projects? Ausra had rejected demands that it use only union workers to build its solar farm, while BrightSource pledged to hire labor-friendly contractors.

Balance of article: The New York Times

Daniel Libeskind’s ‘Sustainable’ Prefab

by Bridgette Meinhold, June 19, 2009

Prefab homes are so cool, that even famous architects like Daniel Libeskind designed one. This latest creation is a step back from his usual large-scale designs, and an attempt to get his foot into the prefab and sustainability design world. The Villa, which is touted as the highest in sustainable and energy efficient design, is an incredibly modern home. Not in the least bit humble, the 3-story home with its shiny zinc facade and impressive angles is a far cry from the traditional boxy prefab we have grown so accustomed to seeing. And while the home claims to be sustainable, everyone seems to be mighty skeptical.

Balance of Article: Inhabitat

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Algae Biofuels

WASHINGTON, PRNewswire/ -- Leaders of the algae biofuel industry met on June 11th on Capitol Hill to brief congressional legislators on sector-wide technology and production advancements allowing for commercially-viable fuels, and advocate for continued federal support to help see the technology to maturity.

Algae-based biofuel has captured widespread interest for its ability to deliver significantly higher yields than plant-based technologies, recycle CO2 directly from industrial sources and not compete with agricultural land or water supply. To better inform legislators in setting a Renewable Fuel Standard, Tax Code and Recovery Act funding inclusive of such promising technologies, executives from leading algae biofuel companies Aurora Biofuels, LiveFuels, and Solix Biofuels - together with representation from the Biotechnology Industry Organization - will gather in Washington D.C. to provide government representatives with contextual information relevant to this rising interest in algae fuel generation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lunar Travel Guide, or "We 've Got To Get Out Of Here"

Artist's concept of LRO in orbit around the moon. Credit: NASA
21st century lunar orbiter a precursor to human missions

When the next generation of lunar astronauts step foot on the Moon in the years ahead, the definitive travel guide compiled by an instrument-laden spacecraft launching this week will detail the best and worst places to go and the risks the crews could face.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is NASA's trailblazer to create detailed maps of the terrain, plot out potential landing sites, identify natural resources that could be exploited and characterize the radiation conditions that astronauts can expect.

Balance of article: Spaceflight Now

U.S. Fast-Tracks Four Utilities to Build Nuclear Plants

Much as the Chinese government "anoints" winners in major industries, forcing consolidations and efficiencies, the U.S. government has "picked" the winners of $18.5 billion in federal financing guarantees for new nuclear plant construction projects. Not mentioned was how to fast track the myriad law suits that will appear to block each of these projects.


Four power companies are expected to split $18.5 billion in federal financing to build the next generation of nuclear reactors -- the biggest step in three decades to revive the U.S. nuclear industry and one that could vault the utilities ahead of some of the sector's strongest players.

UniStar Nuclear Energy, NRG Energy Inc., Scana Corp and Southern Co. are expected to share a set of loan guarantees to be awarded by the Energy Department. The guarantees would enable the companies to start building the reactors as early as 2011, with the plants likely to come online by 2015 or 2016.

Balance of article: WSJ

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Centercut Factoid

The research firm New Energy Finance estimates that venture capital and private equity investments in clean energy will grow at an annual compound rate of 17% through 2013.

Our Federal Government Has Yet To Approve One Wind Power Project on Federal Land, Meanwhile...

Australia Approves 21 New Wind Power Projects


The Australian government has approved 21 new wind power projects in the country, 13 already in operation. Once completed, these wind farms will triple the capacity from 428 megawatts to 1554 megawatts of power within next two years. The green energy produced from these wind farms will save tens of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases. The government is planning to pass renewable energy target legislation, which will include 20% of total electricity to be renewable by 2020.

Balance of article: Energy Business Review

Monday, June 15, 2009

What's in store for power grid storage?

A "megawatt-class" battery attached to American Electric Power's grid in Charleston, W.V. It's used as a buffer, able to generate a few hours of power for an overloaded substation.

These are sodium sulfur batteries from NGK Insulators of Japan. One of its battery purchases--part of a plan to buy 25 megawatts of storage this decade--will be used to store electricity generated by wind turbines next year.

These massive batteries don't come cheap. Installing three of them, capable of discharging 6 megawatts, will cost about $27 million. That's part of the reason that American Electric Power's use of storage on the grid is the exception, rather than the rule.

Photo by American Electric Power, Caption by Martin LaMonica

Source: cnet news

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Centercut Factoid

How many gallons of water does it take to drive a car one mile?

In Nebraska it takes 50 gallons of water to irrigate enough corn to produce enough ethanol to drive an average car one mile. In Iowa, though, it takes only 23 gallons. For Texas sorghum it's 115 gallons.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What If Chip Manufacturers Made Solar Cells?

TSMC, via Bloomberg News

Seeking Growth Market, Chip Maker Eyes Solar Cells

HSINCHU, Taiwan — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, or TSMC, has seen the light and now wants to make some.

The world’s largest for-hire chip maker could soon start manufacturing solar cells and LED lights. The company’s entry into these nascent industries will catch the attention of existing makers, which could find themselves battling one of the most formidable manufacturers on the planet. Taiwan Semiconductor could drive down prices, as it did for computer chips. But the lower prices could also stimulate demand for what are now expensive technologies.

For the company, the move far afield from semiconductors signals a sweeping change and a need to find growth in less-mature markets. “Their foundation that has been so successful over the last couple of decades is starting to slow,” said Michael McConnell, an equities analyst with Pacific Crest Securities. “It’s natural for them to want to branch out.”

Complete article at The New York Times

Flexible Solar Power Shingles Transform Roofs From Wasted Space To Energy Source

flexible solar panels could be placed on rooftops like shingles and could replace today's boxy solar panels that are made with rigid glass or silicon and mounted on thick metal frames. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Vitex Systems, Inc.)

ScienceDaily (08 JUNE 2009) — A transparent thin film barrier used to protect flat panel TVs from moisture could become the basis for flexible solar panels that would be installed on roofs like shingles.

Researchers at PNNL will create these flexible panels by adapting a film encapsulation process currently used to coat flat panel displays that use organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs. The work is made possible by a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement recently penned between Vitex Systems and Battelle, which operates PNNL for the federal government.

Complete article at ScienceDaily

Friday, June 12, 2009

First floating wind turbine buoyed off Norway

A Hywind floating wind turbine being hauled to sea off Norway. (Credit: Siemens)

Earlier this week, Siemens and energy company StatoilHydro installed what they call the first large-scale floating turbine. The installation is off the coast of Norway, and testing is expected to last for two years.

The Hywind turbine will still have a ballast that is tied to the sea floor with cables. Wires will transfer the electricity produced to the mainland grid starting in July. The turbine in Norway will be 7.4 miles offshore where the water is 721 feet deep. It will be utility-size turbine, with a hub height of about 100 feet, capable of generating 2.3 megawatts of electricity.

Source: cnet news

Thursday, June 11, 2009

4C Offshore - New Offshore Wind Map

The Imera Power EuropaGrid Viewer, shown above, provides an overview of the planned Imera Europa Grid Power Grid. EuropaGrid is comprised of submarine power interconnectors between countries, and interconnectors designed for offshore windfarm connection.

4C Offshore is an independent Marine Energy Consultancy specializing in Offshore and Submarine Energy Projects, their Assets, Environment and Location. They provide experienced, intelligent and cost effective expertise in Geosciences and Geospatial analysis.

The new 4C Offshore Wind Map is an interactive web-based resource showing offshore wind power assets in place world wide.

Richard L. Wottrich

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Nuclear power and ‘Promethean Environmentalism’

Put all the energy cards on the table to solve climate change fully

By Barry Brook

The climate changes because it is forced to do so. That may sound a little strange, but “forcing” is a real technical term for any pressure that causes the “average weather” to shift. Positive forcings (e.g. increased solar activity, more greenhouse gases) induce global warming, whereas negative forcings (e.g. more low-level clouds, volcanic dimming) result in cooling. Climate system feedbacks (e.g. melting ice, more water vapour) act to enhance these processes. That’s the way it’s always been, throughout Earth’s long history. When the planet is thrown out of energy balance by a change in forcing, it must respond, by warming or cooling. It can’t be bargained with and it has no room to compromise. It will do what it must do. It’s the laws of physics.

So there’s no point in half-fixing climate change. If this is our strategy, whether implicit or explicit, people may as well enjoy the Platinum Age (as Ross Garnaut calls the last few decades) and be done. Cap-and-trade systems to reduce emissions by some percentage are a good example of a “half-fix” policy. Due to the long lifetime of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere (about 20 per cent of CO2 released today will still be airborne in 1,000 years), it is only the total amount of CO2 released by humanity during the fossil-fuel age that really matters. We must limit total emissions.

In order to stop forcing the climate system towards further warming - to avoid the worst predicted impacts of climate change - we therefore have to stop using coal, oil and gas. We cannot afford to burn all of the available reserves of these, and other carbon sources, such as tar sands and oil shales. (Click below for entire article)

Source: On Line Opinion - Australia's e-Journal of Social and Political Debate

"Grid parity" for Photovoltaic Technology is Imminent

The truth is that most Alternative Energy choices require government subsidies or tax benefits to be commercially viable. Hydropower is the sole exception, as its exclusion from Washington DC discussions regarding incentives for clean energy demonstrates. Now Solar Power is approaching "grid parity" with conventional hydrocarbon energy sources. What does this mean?

Richard L. Wottrich


Michael Freeman, senior originator for Exelon Generation Co., the nation's largest gas and electric utility, tells solar firms to "stop using the phrase 'grid parity'" in their discussions with his company.

"Grid parity, from a market perspective, is a meaningless concept," Freeman said.

Instead, solar is increasingly attractive to Exelon and others as the best option for filling gaps in energy supply during peak demand periods.

Electricity usage tends to spike on the hottest, sunniest, windless days of the year -- perfect operating environments for solar panels. Freeman maintains that solar companies could take advantage of this fact and sell Exelon and other firms "hourly call options" to help utilities meet demand spikes.

Source: The New York Times

Monday, June 08, 2009

Our Illusionary Coal Reserves

Americans have grown up accustomed to the old bromide, "We have a 1,000 years of coal." Well recent studies have drawn a very different conclusion.


Coal provides nearly one-quarter of the total energy consumed in the U.S., and by Mr. Warholic's estimate, the country has enough in the ground to last about 240 years. A belief in this nearly boundless supply has led officials to dub the U.S. the "Saudi Arabia of Coal."

But the estimate, recent findings show, may be wildly overconfident.

New Outlook for Coal Production?


American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity

As coal extraction becomes more difficult and expensive, recent studies are questioning government estimates of the U.S. supply of coal.

While there is almost certainly as much coal in the ground as Mr. Warholic's Energy Information Administration believes, relatively little of it can be profitably extracted. Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey completed an extensive analysis of Wyoming's Gillette coal field, the nation's largest and most productive, and determined that less than 6% of the coal in its biggest beds could be mined profitably, even at prices higher than today's.

"We really can't say we're the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore," says Brenda Pierce, head of the USGS team that conducted the study.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Go to: US Foresees Thinner Cushion of Coal

Saturday, June 06, 2009

U.S. expert questions Tengzhong's plan to buy Hummer

Blog Author Richard Wottrich interviewed by China Daily

by Jing Zhao Cesarone

CHICAGO, June 5 (Xinhua) -- General Motor's Hummer is considered as an exaggerated and extreme example of a disregard for the environment and there are significant brand negatives for the Chinese company Tengzhong to buy it, a U.S. financial expert said Friday.

In an interview with Xinhua, Richard L. Wottrich, managing director of International at Dresner Partners, an investment banking firm based in Chicago, said, "The vehicle is too big, uses too much gas, and is viewed as a toy for the rich. These are rather significant brand negatives for the Chinese company Tengzhong to consider."

Source - China Daily (Xinhua) - http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-06/06/content_11497516.htm

Friday, June 05, 2009

Gene Expression: Origami at the Molecular Level

In an Effort to Make Assembly Lines of the Future, Researchers Fold DNA Into Shapes That Can Copy Themselves
By ROBERT LEE HOTZ, The New York Times

Combining art, chemistry and computer science, bioengineers are taking origami into a new dimension, where creations are a thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair and materials are molecules that not only fold themselves but make endless copies of the result.
View Slideshow - Paul W. K. Rothemund, Nature

Caltech researcher Paul Rothemund and his colleagues made a gallery of attention-getting DNA devices, like this smiley face so small it can only be seen with an electron microscope.
In dozens of laboratories, these researchers are folding DNA into complex shapes, experimenting with molecular origami like apprentices learning to pleat their first paper swans.

Source - WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124413997181485425.html#printMode


The creative question here is, "Can hydrocarbon molecules someday be reworked to burn more efficiently and perhaps even reconstruct toxic effluents that result from the combusion process?"

Richard L. Wottrich

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hara unveils software to help with energy management

At a time when businesses and local governments are trying to reduce their carbon footprints, there are plenty of companies they can hire to measure their greenhouse gas emissions.

Few, however, offer information about carbon, energy, water, waste and other resources, then advise organizations on how to reduce the use of each one and track the results.

So says Hara, a Menlo Park environmental and energy management software company that exits stealth mode today with $6 million in venture financing from Partner John Doerr at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Founded 18 months ago by Amit Chatterjee and Kleiner Perkins Partner Ajit Nazre, the young company is unveiling the second version of its software service that can monitor and manage natural resource consumption and environmental impact.

Source: MercuryNews.com

Commercializing Solar Power with Molten Salt

The problem with Solar Power is no sun - no power. Solar Power coupled with energy storage is the answer. Hamilton Sundstrand and US Renewables plan to commercialize a solar thermal system that uses molten salt for energy storage.

The company announced plans to work with Santa Monica, Calif., private equity firm US Renewables Group to commercialize a concentrated solar power system that uses molten salt for energy storage.