Friday, July 31, 2009

The Politics of Energy #8 – Mixed Metaphor - Do Not Confuse Energy Efficiencies with Carbon Emissions

The Efficiencies of Energy Consumption (photo: RLW)

GDP/Energy Ratio Rational

by Richard Wottrich

The previously featured GDP/Energy ratio is not intended to measure carbon emissions for preciously the purpose of separating them from the political argument on global warming. Since humans must produce to survive and to produce, energy must be used, the rational way to approach energy consumption is on efficiencies.

The reason to separate the two concepts is that carbon emissions are being blamed on developed countries without regard to energy efficiencies. This is misleading, just as a Per Capita/Energy ratio is misleading in that it favors nations with huge populations. We are all on the same globe. At the end of the day national boundaries matter not at all regarding energy usage - efficiencies matter.

As a separate issue the mix of energy consumed is of concern to the extent that it contributes to global warming. The cost of energy is market driven and always will be. Governments will try to distort markets to achieve political ends, hence the debate about what countries are at "fault" for carbon emissions.

But the real argument is how long will it take for market forces to drive carbon emissions out of the energy sector. Any rational overview concludes that carbon-based energy sources will peak by at least 2050 and become marginalized by the end of the century.

Therefore real market forces will gradually favor alternative energy sources as traditional energy sources become “rare” and their costs increase. Attempts to artificially distort markets with deficit spending or currency reserves just postpone the real day of reckoning for oil and gas, because they "steer" money to back energy sources that may not be sustainable or technically feasible on the scales required.

It is possible that we are nearing that tipping point for certain alternative energy sources, as recent massive investments by the Chinese government in solar and wind power demonstrate. It remains to be seen however if those investments will produce reliable, sustainable, and efficient contributions to their national energy grid.

The most effective goal should be to achieve the best energy efficiencies we can while market forces sort out the winners in energy sources.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

U.S. Alternative Energy Investments

Rise In U.S. 2Q Cleantech Investment Bodes Well For 3Q

By Mara Lemos-Stein
After an anemic first quarter, venture capital investments in clean technology rose 73% in the second quarter to a total of $572.1 million, suggesting there is momentum for an industry expected to gain steam from government stimulus funding.

The number of deals in the quarter doubled from the first quarter to 48, according to data from Dow Jones VentureSource, which like VentureWire and The Wall Street Journal is owned by Dow Jones & Co. The latest figures are still below the $1.41 billion spread across 57 deals in last year’s second quarter.

During the second quarter, the largest amount of investors’ money - at $157 million - went into energy and electricity generation, which includes solar, geothermal, wind and hydro power, compared with $56 million in the first quarter.

The lion’s share of the total investment in renewable power generation, or $148.2 million, went into solar deals. One of the largest deals in solar during the second quarter was a $25 million Series A round by Mountain View, Calif.-based Skyline Solar Inc., led by New Enterprise Associates.

Behind generation, the largest flow of money went into energy efficiency, pulling in $151.5 million from venture capitalists to fund companies in power and efficiency management services, smart-grid technology, and other energy efficiency technologies. In the first quarter, VC investments in this sector totaled $56.5 million. One of the largest deals here was the $30 million Series C round led by VantagePoint Venture Partners raised by Boulder, Colo.-based Tendril Networks Inc., a developer of software and hardware technology that enables communication between utilities and their customers.

Complete article: The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Politics of Energy #7 - Picking the Winners In Alternative Energy

Energy Secretary Stephen Chu (center) - UPS

Editor’s Note
A massive centralized government picks which major industries will survive and which will be forced out, or forced to merge with the winners – we must be China. Right? Wrong. (RLW)

Energy Secretary, Congress Collide Over Hydrogen Car Funds

WASHINGTON -- Energy Secretary Steven Chu wants to kill research and development on cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells, but a spending bill approved by the House this month and another scheduled for a Senate vote this week would restore funding for the program.

Mr. Chu has said that hydrogen fuel cells are an impractical technology for vehicles, partly because they would require the creation of a network of hydrogen fueling stations. (Editor's Note: We have over 5 million gas stations in the U.S.)

Energy Secretary Steven Chu's efforts to overhaul federal energy research are encountering resistance in Congress, where lawmakers are moving to give him money for projects that he doesn't support while withholding funds for others he says are critical. Energy reporter Stephen Power explains.

A Nobel-Prize winning physicist and former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which conducts federal energy research, Mr. Chu argues that improved internal-combustion engines and plug-in electric vehicles are more realistic technologies for cutting oil consumption over the next 20 to 30 years.

Former President George W. Bush championed the development of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, saying they could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The federal government has spent roughly $1.5 billion since 2001 on hydrogen fuel-cell research. (Editor's Note: Ah! Now we understand.)

Balance of article: The Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Near Perfect Solar Efficiency

Siemens Sweden produces steam turbines for solar thermal power plants

By Xuefei Chen, People's Daily Online, Stockholm

Siemens Sweden produces steam turbines for solar thermal power plants which generate power without emission of carbon dioxide. The factory is located in Finspång in Norrköping, an hour by train from Stockholm. The factory began to manufacture steam turbines since 1913.

Now the company can produce turbines to use nearly 100% solar energy to produce electricity.

Lars-Göran Sjöberg, chief of the Steam Turbine's Division of Siemens Turbomachinery told us about the history of solar energy usage."The first solar energy collector was developed by a Philadelphia inventor, Frank Shuman and was established in Egypt in 1912. The collectors were installed in a small community 25 kilometer south of Cairo. The 70 meter long sun power collectors were used to produce steam which drove the large water pump. Together they produced an equivalent of 55 horsepower and was capable to deliver 23 cubic meter water per minute for irrigation of the dry land."

Balance of article: People's Daily Online (China)

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Fickle Wind

Energy Storage is a Key Issue for Wind Power

Ebb and flow of wind power stress NW power grid

Yakima Herald-Republic
YAKIMA, Wash. —

In the space of one hour last month, electricity generated at wind farms in the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge shot up by 1,000 megawatts - enough to power some 680,000 homes. Less than an hour later, it plummeted almost as much.

Sitting in front of 10 computer screens in a fifth-floor room of the federal Bonneville Power Administration headquarters in Portland, Kim Randolph had to react quickly.

Working from a keyboard, she diverted millions of gallons of water away from massive turbines spinning in Columbia River dams and sent it around the dams.

The 17-year veteran power operations specialist remembers how fast she needed to work as a wind storm caused generation to peak and fall three times over eight hours.
"You have to get it in hand and get it in hand very quickly," she said.

Getting it in hand is a balancing act. It means balancing the power generated by 31 dams, a nuclear power plant and now wind farms in order to send a stable flow of power into the BPA's 15,238-mile grid across the Pacific Northwest.

It also means balancing the grid's needs against those of fish and commercial river traffic on the Columbia River.

Getting power from wind, which can vary greatly, is complicating that balancing act.
In coping with the variations, the BPA has at times adjusted flows through dams at rates that exceeded guidelines established to protect fish.

"It is stressful. You have the threat of fish issues on one hand you are trying to prevent, and at the same time you're trying to meet load," she said.

The events of June 4 and 5 highlight the challenge facing the agency, utilities and wind generators across the region as wind farms sprout at a dizzying pace, much faster than anyone had anticipated.

Balance of article: The Seattle Times

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sustainable Agriculture? - Bali Rice Paddies

Tirta Gorge, Bali

The fertile volcanic soil of much of the Indonesian archipelago-- and particularly the islands of Java and Bali-- has made rice a central dietary staple. Steep terrain on Bali resulted in intricate cooperation systems, locally called subak, to manage water storage and drainage for rice terraces.

Growing rice has an adverse environmental impact because of the large quantities of methane gas it generates. World methane production due to paddy fields has been estimated to be in the range of 50 to 100 million tonnes per annum. This level of greenhouse gas generation is a large component of the global warming threat produced from an expanding human population. However, recent studies have shown that methane can be significantly reduced while also boosting crop yield by draining the paddies allowing the soil to aerate, which interrupts methane production.

Source: Wikipedia

Italy's birds-of-prey being lost to wind farms

As an aside, studies of California wind farms indicate that thousands of raptors a year are being killed by the huge, slowly turning blades. RLW

Cathy Taibbi - Wildlife Conservation Examiner

In Italy, sprawling prop-style wind turbine ‘farms’ are sprouting up in ever-increasing numbers and, as they do, the death toll soars for thousands upon thousands of birds of prey.
As concern about climate change and sustainable, eco-friendly alternative energy grows, it‘s surprising that an industry with so much potential – the wind industry – is under fire from environmental groups worldwide.

”Wind farm building continues unchecked and within a few years we will witness the almost total disappearance from the Apennine mountains and from Sicily of the Golden Eagle, the Bonelli`s Eagle, the Griffon Vulture, the Red Kite and many others,” farmers' organization Coldiretti and national environmental organizations said in a recent report in Life In

The biggest problem is the design of the turbines, which use huge spinning blades that eagles, kites and bats can’t focus on or navigate through. With so many of these towers in existence, many right in the flyways of threatened species, the result is a massacre. Even a glancing blow will decapitate a vulture, sever the wings from kites, or shear eagles in half.
The body count is alarming.

“Coldiretti warned that wind farms have increased by 35% in the last year, with more than 3,600 towers transforming around 10,000 km of land into a ``desert`` as long as a motorway.

Balance of article:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Politics of Energy #6 - The Ant & the Elephant

Paraguay Pushes ‘Imperialist’ Brazil on Hydro Power

By Joshua Goodman

South America’s Itaipu dam, built three decades ago in what Brazil and Paraguay heralded as a triumph of cross-border cooperation, is now the object of a sharpening feud between the two countries over which is benefiting the most.

Brazil gets 20 percent of its electricity from the dam straddling the Parana River, paying its neighbor about $120 million a year. Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has vowed to recover “sovereignty” of the world’s most productive hydro dam, and is seeking more money from Brazil. State-controlled utility Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA and Brazilian consumers may get stuck with the bill.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will try to break a stalemate in negotiations when the two leaders meet July 25 in Asuncion. Lula wants Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop, to give up his demand to reopen the dam’s treaty, Brazilian Energy Minister Edison Lobao said in May. The nationalist pitchforks may be ready, as they were during Lula’s last visit in 2007, when Paraguay’s biggest newspaper called Brazil an “imperialist nation and exploiter” on its front-page.

“We don’t want to be a Brazilian protectorate,” Jorge Lara Castro, deputy foreign minister and future ambassador to Brazil, said in an interview in Asuncion. “This isn’t demagoguery. At stake is the viability of a poor country.”

Ant and Elephant

Itaipu’s 1973 treaty, written by the dictators then in power in both countries, reflects the “realpolitik of an ant staring up at an elephant,” Lara Castro said. Each country is entitled to half of the dam’s output, which last year reached a world hydroelectric record of 95 million megawatt hours.

That’s given Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, access to a lot of cheap power. Paraguay, whose $12 billion rural-based economy is 1/100th the size of Brazil’s, can use only about 5 percent of the dam’s output. Banned from selling elsewhere, it must cede its unused share to Rio de Janeiro-based Eletrobras, Latin America’s largest utility, for about $3 per megawatt hour.

Lugo, whose election last year ended 61 years of one-party rule, is pushing for the right to sell directly to Brazilian distributors, or to Chile and Argentina, both of which recently faced energy shortages. A “fair price” and “energy sovereignty” is his mantra.

Balance of article:

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Politics of Energy #5 - CHILE: Geothermal Debate Simmers in El Tatio

ENERGY-CHILE: Geothermal Debate Simmers in El Tatio
Daniela Estrada - IPS/IFEJ

SANTIAGO, Jul 23 (IPS) - El Tatio geyser field, a tourist destination in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta, is at the heart of a controversy over a geothermal energy project being developed four kilometres away. The entire area is claimed by Atacama indigenous communities, who now stand divided."

For us, the geysers are the fountain of life," Julio Ramos, president of the Council of Lickan Antay-Atacameño Peoples, an umbrella group of 25 communities, told this reporter.

El Tatio is the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the world, with more than 100 springs erupting at an altitude of more than 4,000 metres in the Andes Mountains.

Chile is rich in geothermal energy due to its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Geothermal heat is used to produce some 9,000 megawatts worldwide, with the United States, the Philippines and Mexico leading the way. Various measurements indicate Chile's potential geothermal energy production at 3,000 megawatts.

El Tatio, located in the community of Calama and owned by the Ministry of National Assets, was declared an area of touristic interest in 2002. But because the territory is claimed by the indigenous communities, in 2006, its administration was handed over to two native villages: Toconce and Caspana.

"What they have told us is that they are carrying out the perforations following all imposed restrictions, and that there has not been - as the scientific analyses anticipated - any negative impact on the geysers or water availability," Tokman said in an interview for this article.

However, the indigenous groups opposed to the project, backed by environmental organisations, local authorities and tourism operators, are convinced that sooner or later the energy project will pollute surface and underground water sources, threatening the geysers and harming vegetation and animals.

*This story is part of a series of features on sustainable development by Inter Press Service (IPS) and the International Federation of Environmental Journalists (IFEJ), for the Alliance of Communicators for Sustainable Development.

Inter Press Service News Agency

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Global and China Wind Power Industry Report, 2008-2009

The world´s windpower installed capacity accumulated to 120,798MW in 2008, among which, the newly-added installed capacity was 27,051MW, a 36.2% Year on year rise (up 5.9 points against 2007). By region, the newly-added wind power installed capacity clusters are&in Europe, North America and Asia, and it was 8,884 MW in North America, accounting for 33% of global total.

Except Taiwan, China increased over 5,130 newly-added windpower generating sets in 2008, about 6,246MW installed capacity. China’s wind power generator manufacturers were mainly divided into domestic companies (including joint ventures) and foreign-funded companies. Sinovel enjoyed the largest market share, accounting for 22.5% in the total newly-added installed capacity, and 29.7% in the total installed capacity of domestic companies and joint ventures.

The double-fed wind turbine generator enjoyed a larger proportion in China’s wind power installed capacity in 2008, represented by Sinovel, Gamesa, and Vestas. Impacted by short supply of components, direct-driven wind turbine generator had a smaller market share, represented by Goldwind. As the output capacity of direct-driven wind turbine generators is rolled out, it is believed that direct-driven wind turbine generator will co-exist with double-fed wind turbine generator in China in next five years.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

China Offers Big Solar Subsidy, Shares Up

China has launched an unprecedented and long-awaited plan to offer subsidies for utility-scale solar power projects, sparking a rally in shares of Chinese solar panel makers on Tuesday.

Shares of top Chinese panel maker Suntech Power Holdings soared 10 percent, Yingli Green Energy Holding climbed 14 percent, Trina Solar rose 10 percent and JA Solar Holdings was trading 7 percent higher.

Beijing's bid to boost the solar energy sector could draw more than $10 billion in private funding for projects and put China on track to become a leading market for solar equipment in the next three years.

As the world's top greenhouse gas polluter, China is trying to catch up in a global race to find alternatives to fossil fuels, blamed for carbon emissions affecting the planet's climate.

Expectations of such a move by China have underpinned a rally in Chinese solar stocks for much of this year.

Several analysts warned on Tuesday, however, that the subsidy program, although positive, would not lead to a near-term pickup in solar panel demand. The solar industry has suffered this year from a lack of available financing for renewable energy projects due to the financial crisis.

"The China news, in our view, is providing good PR for China-based companies," FBR Capital Markets analyst Mehdi Hosseini wrote in a note to clients. "Yet, in our opinion, it may be insufficient to offset the expected shortfall in 2009 earnings expectations. We simply do not believe that the full extent of disappointing results is baked into stock prices."


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Politics of Energy #4 - GDP/Energy Ratio

Carbon Emissions Do Not Exist In a Vacuum
President Obama’s Carbon Cap-and-Trade Bill passed by the House in June contains a flaw fatal to the concept. Carbon emissions do not exist in a vacuum. They represent a people’s efforts to survive, thrive and prosper. Hence energy consumption is only relevant when compared to a country’s GDP. In other words, the more efficient a country is in using energy to produce GDP, the less it should be penalized.

The Top-10 GDPs in the world in 2008 (including the EU as a complete unit) accounted for roughly $50 trillion in GDP, an astounding 90% of the world’s production. None of the OPEC and related oil-producing nations are on the list. Commodity sales do not create large GDPs – productive peoples do.

For example the US uses roughly 25% of the world’s energy, but contributes 29% of total GDP – a very efficient GDP/Energy Ratio of 1:.86. China by contrast just passed the US as the biggest pollution emitter in the world, but contributes just 8.8% of total world GDP, a GDP/Energy ration of 1:5.6 – so clearly China has a far worse GDP/Energy ratio than the US, as one might expect in a newly industrialized country.

China and India argue that their energy consumption is only relevant on a per capita basis. This is an obvious political argument, as their populations are the two largest in the world. To prove the point, neither country would advertise their food production on a per capita basis, as that would be politically embarrassing. The relevant ratio is GDP/Energy.

Introducing a Carbon Cap-and-Trade Tax on US businesses will clearly make the United States less competitive with less efficient countries like China and India. That will cause our 1:.86 GDP/Energy ratio to decrease, the opposite of what we would like to happen, because energy costs are always reduced by scale – less GDP – less scale. The Tax is wrong-headed and counterproductive. The true cost of energy, as always, will drive efficiencies and innovation.

Fine graining even further, one should discount energy consumption by the percentage of goods exported minus the energy cost of shipping them. This is because those goods are sent to countries that do not use energy to produce them; effectively representing an energy credit. The United States is a major exporting country. In 2007 the US exported approximately 11.7% of its GDP. Its true GDP/Energy ratio (adjusted for the energy cost of shipping) would be a net adjustment of about 10%, or a GDP/Energy ratio of 1:.75, a very efficient usage of energy indeed. This credit would clearly improve the GDP/Energy ratios of Germany, China and India for example, as they are major exporters.

We are all on this globe together. Measuring energy consumption in a vacuum is misleading. We must produce to survive, hence our efficiencies of production are the key - the GDP/Energy ratios of each country being the most convenient measure.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Politics of Energy #3 - India

Your agenda may not be their agenda... (photo: Associated Press)

Internal Global Warming politics do not necessarily translate into international cooperation. Emerging economies have dramatically different opinions regarding how to solve these issues. And no matter how “politically correct” our leaders may think they are domestically, it cuts little ice in India or China. RLW

India Rejects U.S. Proposal of Carbon Limits
Clinton Expresses Hope for Common Ground on Climate Change Despite Disagreement on Capping Greenhouse Gases

NEW DELHI -- India dismissed suggestions that it accept binding limits on carbon emissions, with a top official Sunday delivering a strong rebuke to overtures from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the two countries to work together to combat climate change.

Indian Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, in white, greets Hillary Clinton as she arrives at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi on Sunday. During her first visit to India as Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton is focusing on climate change—where India rejected suggestions of emissions limits—as well as nuclear power, defense deals and counterterrorism.

The rejection of the U.S. proposal was made in the middle of Mrs. Clinton's first visit to India as secretary of state and came just as the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is gearing up to push for a new global pact on climate change.

"There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told Mrs. Clinton and her delegation.

"And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours," he said, according to a written account of Mr. Ramesh's remarks to Mrs. Clinton in their meeting. Mr. Ramesh handed out copies of the account to reporters at a news conference afterward with Mrs. Clinton standing nearby.

Balnace of article: The Wall Street Journal

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Politics of Energy #2 - China

China, Ethiopia sign 1.9 bln euro hydro power deal

What do you do with $2 Trillion in foreign currency reserves? You buy influence and access to resources the world over. China is filling the void left by Western deficit-laden countries. RLW

ADDIS ABABA, July 15 (Reuters) - Ethiopia has signed a 1.9 billion euro ($2.67 billion) deal with China to construct two hydroelectric dams with a capacity of more than 2,000 megawatts, its national electricity company said on Wednesday.

The agreement between Sino Hydro Corporation Limited and the Ethiopian Electric Power Authority (EEPA) brings the number of hydropower dams under construction in Ethiopia to seven with an aggregate total capacity of over 5,000 MW.

Eighty five percent of the project will be financed through preferential buyers' credit and concessionary loans from China with the balance covered by Ethiopia, said Mihret Debebe, EEPA's general manager.

Mihret said the pact that was signed on Tuesday was for the construction of Gibe IV and Halele Werabesa dams, expected to produce 2,150 MW when completed in five years.

Gibe IV is a continuation of three other hydro dams on the 325-mile (523 km) Omo river. Officials estimate that the hydropower potential of the nation -- blessed with cascading rivers flowing through rugged mountains -- is around 45,000 MW.

Ethiopia plans to export excess electric power to Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya, officials said. (Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse; Writing by Jack Kimball; Editing by Anthony Barker) (Reuters)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Follow the Money Winds

Forbidden City Guardian Lions, Beijing, China (photo: RLW)

Think all those Green jobs our political elitists are promising will be in your town, county, city or state? Think again. Follow the Money Winds.

This week China announced that its foreign-exchange reserves have surged past the $2 Trillion mark in the 2nd Quarter for the first time. This is the largest amassing of currency reserves in the history of mankind. China is also building the six largest wind power farms in history, along with myriad other Green power initiatives. Coincidence?

Meanwhile China lifted its U.S. Treasuries holdings to $801.5 Billion, making China the owner of more than 20% of our foreign held debt. Our U.S. deficit is over $1 Trillion, and China will soon hold over $1 trillion of our debt. Who will call the shots moving forward?

China can and will manufacture the “stuff” required for Green power in-country, for half the price, while protecting its domestic Green industries from competition. That means one of two things. Either those green jobs you are looking for will be in China, or they will be deficit-funded by our government at twice the price and we'll pay China interest for the privilege.

Richard Wottrich

American Car Culture Alive and Well In India

Tata Motors will ultimately manufacture 300,000 Nanos per year by early 2011. Nano will become the most successful microcar in the world. The Nano will begin selling in Europe in 2012. The Nano is a key national symbol for the developing middle class of India. RLW

India customs officer receives first Tata Nano

Erika Kinetz / Associated Press

Mumbai, India -- The much-anticipated Tata Nano car hit India's streets Friday night. Tata designed the ultra-cheap Nano, which retails for as little as 100,000 rupees ($2,050) plus tax and transport fees, to bring car ownership within reach of India's motorcycle-riding masses.
Tata Motors officials have said the first 100,000 Nanos will be delivered by the end of 2010. Another 55,021 customers have agreed to wait until 2011 to get their cars.

Tata Motors Chairman Ratan Tata handed over the keys to a silver Tata Nano LX to Ashok Raghunath Vichare, 59, a Mumbai customs officer chosen by lottery to receive the first ultra-cheap car. It's the family's first automobile.

"I am very happy, I can't say how happy I am," Vichare's wife, Shaila, told reporters. Tata's plan for the "people's car" was derailed after violent farmer protests forced the company to relocate a planned Nano factory from West Bengal state to Gujarat, delaying production.
The company has scrambled to open the dedicated Gujarat factory, which can make 250,000 Nanos a year, by early 2010. Meanwhile, it can produce 50,000 Nanos annually at an existing car plant in Pantnagar.

The Detroit News

Friday, July 17, 2009

Geo-Nano - New geothermal heat extraction process to deliver clean power generation

PNNL's introduction of a metal-organic heat carrier, or MOHC, in the biphasic fluid may help improve thermodynamic efficiency of the heat recovery process. This image represents the molecular makeup of one of several MOHCs

RICHLAND, Wash. – A new method for capturing significantly more heat from low-temperature geothermal resources holds promise for generating virtually pollution-free electrical energy. Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will determine if their innovative approach can safely and economically extract and convert heat from vast untapped geothermal resources.

The goal is to enable power generation from low-temperature geothermal resources at an economical cost. In addition to being a clean energy source without any greenhouse gas emissions, geothermal is also a steady and dependable source of power.

"By the end of the calendar year, we plan to have a functioning bench-top prototype generating electricity," predicts PNNL Laboratory Fellow Pete McGrail. "If successful, enhanced geothermal systems like this could become an important energy source." A technical and economic analysis conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that enhanced geothermal systems could provide 10 percent of the nation's overall electrical generating capacity by 2050.

Balance of article: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Oil Use Won't Peak Until 2050"

World dependent on fossil fuels for a century

By Christopher Johnson

LONDON (Reuters) - The world will remain heavily dependent on fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal for the rest of this century, despite the best efforts of governments to move towards renewable energy, an energy economist said on Wednesday.

Peter Odell, professor of international energy studies at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, and author of the bestselling "Oil and World Power: Background To the Oil Crisis," said the drive to limit greenhouse gases was likely to be held back by both technology and economics.

Painting a gloomy picture of the short-term outlook for renewables, Odell told Reuters that even with a growing global effort to limit carbon dioxide emissions, the world would still be relying on hydrocarbons by 2100.

"Oil use won't peak until 2050," Odell said in an interview. "It will decline thereafter but even by 2100 oil supplies will be 20 percent higher than they were in 2000."

He said alternative, renewable forms of energy would increase 15-fold over the 21st century to become the biggest single source of energy by the year 2100, but even then alternative energy would still only account for 35-40 percent of the total energy mix.

This would be well short of what environmentalists have said needs to be accomplished in order to avert the worst effects of global warming, which many say is due to the burning of fossil fuels.
"Coal, oil and gas will continue to dominate the energy market throughout the 21st century," he said.

Balance of article: Reuters

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nine Hundred Pound Gorilla Moves on Algae

Exxon makes first big investment in biofuels

By: Associated Press - Texarkana Gazette
Published: 07/15/2009

HOUSTON—Exxon Mobil Corp. said Tuesday it will make its first major investment in greenhouse-gas reducing biofuels in a $600 million partnership with J. Craig Venter, Ph.D's biotech company Synthetic Genomics Inc. to develop transportation fuels from algae.

Despite record-breaking profits in recent years, the oil and gas giant has been criticized by environmental groups, members of Congress and even shareholders for not spending enough to explore alternative energy options.

One of the company’s requirements was finding a biofuel source that could be produced on a large scale. It says photosynthetic algae appears to be a viable, long-term candidate. If the alliance is successful, pumping algae-based gasoline at Exxon service stations is still several years away and will mean additional, multibillion-dollar investments for mass production.

“This is not going to be easy, and there are no guarantees of success,” Emil Jacobs, a vice president at Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering Co., said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But we’re combining Exxon Mobil’s technical and financial strength with a leader in bioscientific genomics.”

Jacobs said the project involves three critical steps: identifying algae strains that can produce suitable types of oil quickly and at low costs, determining the best way to grow the algae and developing systems to harvest enough for commercial purposes.

Besides the potential for large-scale production, algae has other benefits, Jacobs said. It can be grown using land and water unsuitable for other crop and food production; it consumes carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas blamed for climate change; and it can produce an oil with molecular structures similar to the petroleum products—gasoline, diesel, jet fuel—Exxon already makes.

Balance of article: Texarkana Gazette

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mangrove Swamps - Avoiding the Waste of Energy

Alternative Energy is not just about producing energy. It is also about preserving sustainable systems that avoid the wasting of energy required when those systems disappear. Mangrove swamps are an example of natural coastal barriers that protect inhabitable land areas from flood waters. When these natural barriers disappear, the cost of protecting inhabitable areas and thus the extraordinary expenditures of energy associated with those costs go up dramatically. - Richard Wottrich
As Mumbai Spills Over, Floodwater Creeps Closer

MUMBAI, India — As this city prepared recently to inaugurate a shiny new bridge that officials promise will ease Mumbai’s chronic traffic jams, Dilip da Cunha was peering at the underbelly of the city’s waterways and drainage systems.
Taking two visitors on a tour of the busy causeway where the city’s befouled Mithi River meets the Arabian Sea near the new bridge, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, he pointed out a small clump of trees nearby under which several men were defecating.

The trees represented one of the last remaining species of the mangroves that once dominated the ecology of Mumbai, India’s financial capital and its most populous city. Over the decades, most of the wetlands of the Mithi River estuary that were home to such trees have given way to highways, slums, office buildings and apartment towers.

While the mangroves’ retreat has provided valuable acreage for Mumbai’s growth, Mr. da Cunha, who is one half of a husband-and-wife team that recently finished an exhaustive study of the city’s landscape, said their disappearance, along with the degradation of the city’s waterways, has made the city increasingly vulnerable to flooding during the monsoons.

“At some point there were many species of mangroves here, and they must have made this a fantastic wetland,” he said. “We have reduced these mangroves to almost a single species that have survived with the bad waters, the sewage that is around.”
Blance of article: The New York Times

China Leans Protectionist Over Its Alternative Energy Industry

The Daliang Wind Station located outside of Anxi in Gansu Province. China is now building six wind farms with a capacity of 10,000 to 20,000 megawatts apiece.
Published: July 13, 2009

BEIJING — When the United States’ top energy and commerce officials arrive in China on Tuesday, they will land in the middle of a building storm over China’s protectionist tactics to become the world’s leader in renewable energy.
Calling renewable energy a strategic industry, China is trying hard to make sure that its companies dominate globally. Just as Japan and South Korea made it hard for Detroit automakers to compete in those countries — giving their own automakers time to amass economies of scale in sheltered domestic markets — China is shielding its clean energy sector while it grows to a point where it can take on the world.
Balance of article: The New York Times

Monday, July 13, 2009

Desertec Industrial Initiative "Heat's Up"

European companies are meeting in the German city of Munich on Monday to sign a memorandum of intent over plans to harness solar power to feed Western energy needs.

The Desertec Industrial Initiative consortium (composed of 12 major companies), which includes leading German companies such as energy giants RWE and E.ON, electro-engineering group Siemens, and major insurer Munich Re, is planning to turn the Saharan sun into European electricity.

"Of course it is still a long way off, but the enormous interest in the scheme shows we are on the right path," a spokesman for Munich Re said.

A study suggests that with the use of thermal power plants and high voltage direct current transmission lines, Desertec's pioneering foray into the desert could meet 15 percent of Europe's electricity needs by the year 2020.

Gerhard Knies, Chairman of the Desertec supervisory board says the desert is an obvious source of clean power.

"Within six hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes within a year," he said adding that the "time appears right for a truly comprehensive manoeuvre to combat climate change."

Balance of article:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just Because It's Green Doesn't Make It Profitable

Black Clouds Over Wind Power, Denmark (photo: RLW)

Wind power stalls
A number of factors have combined to make wind farms less attractive.

Ayear ago the Oracle of Oil, T. Boone Pickens, reinvented himself as the Wizard of Wind, launching a $58-million ad campaign to boost alternative energy and vowing to spend $10 billion to build the world's largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle. It was a startling move from a staunch conservative who had made a fortune in the Texas oil fields, raising hopes that both ends of the political spectrum were coming around to the same point of view about weaning the country from its reliance on oil.
And then, last week, the Pickens plan foundered. Pickens announced that he was scrapping the wind farm. It's too late to take back the $2 billion worth of wind turbines he has already ordered, so instead he has decided to place them in smaller projects around the country.
Balance of article: Los Angeles Times

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Geothermal - When is Enough Enough?

Iceland’s Svartsengi geothermal plant, which abuts the Blue Lagoon spa.
Iceland Debates the Limits of Geothermal
The tiny nation of Iceland is often cited as a model for the world in its use of renewable energy. Virtually all of its electricity comes from dams or geothermal power plants. Drive around the countryside, as I did last month, and you will see billows of steam coming from some hillsides, a sure sign of a geothermal operation with the occasional hot springs attached.

Some Icelanders are questioning just how long the renewable power can last. At the core of the debate are the country’s efforts to build up a power-intensive aluminum industry — itself an effort to diversify the economy away from fishing. Already some 80 percent of Iceland’s electricity goes to heavy industry, mainly the country’s three big aluminum plants, according to Iceland’s new environment minister, Svandís Svavarsdóttir.

Work has begun on a new aluminum plant near the airport, though it appears to be proceeding only slowly. Arni Finnsson, the head of Iceland’s Nature Conservation Association, argues that the plant would be such an energy hog that it would “virtually wipe out all geothermal electricity in southwest Iceland.”
Balance of article: The New York Times

Need Solar Power 24/7? Try Space-Based

Will the stars align for space-based solar power?

The high cost of putting hardware into orbit would seem to rule out space-based solar power on financial grounds, but several companies are betting that technology has changed the equation. Here's how such systems would work.
Although the US has plenty of terrain that's well placed for producing solar power, the intermittent nature of that power and the distances of these sites from major population centers on the east coast puts severe constraints on what we can do with it. Space-based solar power, which can gather energy around the clock and transmit it to most of the populated areas of the planet, provides a way around these limits, one that was already being contemplated before the energy shocks of the 1970s.

Unfortunately, the prohibitive launch costs and challenges of sending the energy back to earth have left matters at the contemplation stage, but with the current focus on renewable energy, several companies are now betting that we'll see hardware in space well before the next decade is over.
Balance of article: ars technica

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Gotta Love the Hype!

Solar Sensations: A 'Car' That Will Change the Way You Think About Getting Around

Phones, Planes, Cars and More Harness Energy From the Sun

Imagine a world without steering wheels. Well it's not here yet, but the ATNMBL is on its way.

Photo: Solar Sensations: Solar Technologies
(Courtesy Orange/Samsung/MIT SENSEable City Lab/Solar Impulse)

This futuristic electric car sports rooftopsolar panels that support the four motors underneath. But the ATNMBL isn't just "green;" it's intelligent. ATNMBL, which is still in development, will rely on GPS and sophisticated sensor systems to navigate infrastructure that is already in place.

The only problem is speed: normal drivers will dread getting stuck behind one of these. Because ATNMBL is being developed for simple travel, it won't travel very fast. As the vehicle's Web site says, "It's time to look at performance in a new way."

Aside from the advanced driving capabilities, the project will also sport a flat panel console, using mobile communication technology. The display will not only help navigate through traffic, but will also let passengers surf the Internet from the road.

Balance of article: ABC News

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bollywood Actress Shilpa Shetty gets eco-friendly by supporting solar-power lamps

ML-1 Mini Lantern
The Freeplay Energy ML-1 Mini Lantern is a compact, dependable lantern ideal for most portable illumination requirements. It has no bulbs to burn out, nor disposable batteries to replace, and you can power it yourself when needed.

Shilpa Shetty is doing her bit to fight global warming. She has joined hands with Freeplay Energy India, a company that produces hand crank lanterns that generate electricity without using fuel. The actress' foundation will distribute these solar power- generated lamps for free to villages in India.

No fuels needed

Shilpa, who is currently in London, says, "The company has a patent technology called Crank. You don't need any kerosene or electricity or natural resources to light up these lamps. One just needs to wind up the crank system manually for one minute and you get 15 minutes of bright light. It's great for villages with no light. This way, we can save on pollution from burning fuels."
Who needs a source with a story this big? Richard Wottrich

Monday, July 06, 2009

New generation biofuels seen in 2010 at earliest

Biomass Sources Available in the US

HAMBURG (Reuters) - The first biofuels produced using new generations of biomass raw materials could be available in commercial volumes from 2010 at the earliest, German junior Environment Michael Mueller said on Monday.

But the exact time scale was still unclear, Mueller said at the European Biomass Conference in Hamburg.

Germany is among the first European countries building test plants to produce commercial volumes of second generation biofuels from a wide range of biomass materials ranging from wood chips and other forest products to straw, hay, vegetable waste and low grade crops.
The first generation biofuels made from food crops such as grain, rapeseed oil and palm oil are used to produce biofuels to reduce use of fossil fuels and combat global warming. Commercial production dates for second generation fuels have been repeatedly postponed in Germany as new technology is developed. A production start as early as 2007 was hoped in the past.

"We do not believe this will take place before 2010," Mueller told a news conference at the start of the congress. "This was one reason why we cut our blending levels."

On June 18, Germany's parliament approved government proposals to cut the compulsory level of biofuels to be blended into fossil fuels this year to 5.25 percent from the 6.25 percent originally intended.

Balance of article: Reuters

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Cadillac Thorium Fuel Powered (Concept Car)

Thorium is a radioactive element that, if processed properly, might be used as nuclear fuel, so this is a nuclear-powered car if you will. The idea from designer Loren Kulesus is that this car could be used for 100 years without (engine) maintenance and refueling.

Source: Ubergizmo

Liquid Fluoride Thorium (LFT) "Generation IV" Nuclear Reacters are the next great hope in nuclear power.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Algae Jet Fuel - Happy 4th of July!

AP Photo - In this Thursday, June 11, 2009 photo, sunlight from a solar collector on the roof of Utah State University's Energy Laboratory in Logan, Utah, is sent through fiber optics to stimulate the growth of algae. Earlier this year, USU was among several institutions to receive grant money from the U.S. Department of Defense to research ways to convert algae into biofuels for military jets. Utah State is examining about 300 algae species, including some from the Great Salt Lake in search of one that grows fast and produces plenty of fatty oils. (AP Photo/Colin Braley)

By MIKE STARK - Associated Press Writer
Somewhere among the beakers and the bubbling green-tinged tanks in this Utah State University lab, Jeff Muhs is searching for champion pond scum for Uncle Sam.

If he and others like him around the country are successful, algae-based biofuel could one day power one of the world's biggest gas guzzlers: the U.S. military.

Heady stuff for a simple sun-sucking organism. But algae's ability to grow fast and churn out fatty oils makes it an alluring prospect for a military looking to lessen its dependence on foreign oil.

"It inherently makes sense to start there," said Muhs, who runs Utah State's energy lab.

Work at the lab is part of a Pentagon project aimed at fast-tracking research to eventually produce algae-based biofuel that costs less than $3 per gallon, can be produced at a rate of 50 million gallons per year and meets strict military standards.

"We believe it's possible. We wouldn't invest in it if we didn't," said Jan Walker, a spokeswoman for the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, the Defense Department's main research arm.

Balance of article:

Friday, July 03, 2009

China Turns to the Silk Road

A series of projects is under construction to the southeast of Dunhuang, including one of six immense wind power projects now being built around China. Here, a worker measures the interior of a tower that will support a wind turbine.
Green Power Takes Root in the Chinese Desert
Published: July 2, 2009
“The problem is we have so many stupid enterprises,” said Li Junfeng, who is the deputy director general for energy research at China’s top economic planning agency and the secretary general of the government-run Renewable Energy Industries Association.
DUNHUANG, China — As the United States takes its first steps toward mandating that power companies generate more electricity from renewable sources, China already has a similar requirement and is investing billions to remake itself into a green energy superpower.
Through a combination of carrots and sticks, Beijing is starting to change how this country generates energy. Although coal remains the biggest energy source and is almost certain to stay that way, the rise of renewable energy, especially wind power, is helping to slow China’s steep growth in emissions of global warming gases.

While the House of Representatives approved a requirement last week that American utilities generate more of their power from renewable sources of energy, and the Senate will consider similar proposals over the summer, China imposed such a requirement almost two years ago.
This year China is on track to pass the United States as the world’s largest market for wind turbines — after doubling wind power capacity in each of the last four years. State-owned power companies are competing to see which can build solar plants fastest, though these projects are much smaller than the wind projects. And other green energy projects, like burning farm waste to generate electricity, are sprouting up.

This oasis town deep in the Gobi Desert along the famed Silk Road and the surrounding wilderness of beige sand dunes and vast gravel wastelands has become a center of China’s drive to lead the world in wind and solar energy.

A series of projects is under construction on the nearly lifeless plateau to the southeast of Dunhuang, including one of six immense wind power projects now being built around China, each with the capacity of more than 16 large coal-fired power plants.

Each of the six projects “totally dwarfs anything else, anywhere else in the world,” said Steve Sawyer, the secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council, an industry group in Brussels.
Some top Chinese regulators even worry that Beijing’s mandates are pushing companies too far too fast. The companies may be deliberately underbidding for the right to build new projects and then planning to go back to the government later and demand compensation once the projects lose money.
Balance of Article: The New York Times

University of Iowa "Fueling" Its Oats

U of I power plant operations manager Brad Swearingen pours oat hulls acquired from Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids. Behind him is the boiler that burns the hulls, along with coal.

Washington, D.C. - Ethanol and wind turbines aren't the only ways Iowans are reducing the use of fossil fuels. Oat hulls are another. Several times every day, oat hulls from a Quaker Oats cereal plant in Cedar Rapids are dumped at the University of Iowa's power plant, where they are burned to generate electricity and produce steam for heat. Using the cereal byproduct means the power plant can burn 25 percent less coal. That lowers the plant's greenhouse gas emissions and earns credits that could someday be a source of revenue for the university. The oat hulls have another benefit: They cost half as much as coal.


Quaker Oats' oat hulls were cheap and relatively easy to use, but there aren't nearly enough to go around. Utilities would need access to large sources of crop residue, grasses or wood, and no one has figured out how to economically harvest, transport and store large amounts of biomass, or plant cellulose.

"The key in all of it is supply, supply, supply," said Brian Crowe of the Iowa Office of Energy Independence.- Electric utilities will most likely have to compete for biomass with ethanol producers, who are hurrying to commercialize methods of turning the plant material economically into ethanol. There already is a guaranteed market for that fuel. Refiners are required to mix as much as 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels a year by 2022.

Balance of article:

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Huge Increases Due in Chinese Nuclear Power & Wind Power

Chinese construction workers build Fangjiashan Nuclear Power Plant, the expansion project of Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant Phase One in Haiyan county, Jiaxing city, east Chinas Zhejiang province. Photo by Imaginechina: AP

Beijing, July 2 (ANI): China is planning for an installed nuclear power capacity of 86 gigawatts (gW) by 2020, up nearly 10-fold from the 9 gW capacity it had by the end of last year, said two people familiar with the matter. The revised target for nuclear power is part of the government’s efforts to increase the share of alternative energy in the predominantly coal-based energy mix.

The goal, which is part of an alternative energy development roadmap covering 2009-20, seeks to have at least 12 gW of installed nuclear power capacity by 2011, the sources said. The plan “will call for the government to accelerate nuclear power development in coastal provinces and autonomous regions, namely Liaoning, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangxi, Jiangsu, Shandong and Hainan,” the sources said.

In order to achieve the goal, the government will also set up a “reasonable number of nuclear power plants in inland provinces in Jiangxi, Anhui, Hunan and Hubei”, they said.
The target, which the people said had still not been finalized, was substantially bigger than earlier goals.

China, the world’s second-largest power market, now has 11 working nuclear reactors, producing 9.1 gW as of the end of last year. China is now adding more than 24 reactors, which includes five plants scheduled to start construction this year.

Wind Power

According to the draft alternative energy development stimulus plan, the government is also planning to have 150 gW of installed wind power capacity by 2020, of which 30 gW will come from offshore wind farms, the people said. Installed wind power capacity should reach 35 gW by the end of 2011, of which 5 gW will come from offshore wind farms, the China Daily says of the draft plan. China, which is now the fourth largest wind power producer in the world, had 12.17 gW in installed capacity as of the end of last year. It plans to build seven huge wind farms with a minimum capacity of 10 gW each by 2020, Shi Pengfei, vice-president of Chinese Wind Energy Association, said earlier this week.

Source: Thaindian News

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


The Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies (RUSNANO) was established by the Federal Law in 2007. The corporation was charged with stimulating development, creating and strengthening infrastructure and realizing projects in nanotechnology and the nanoindustry. To accomplish this task, RUSNANO co-invests in nanotechnology projects that have high potential for commercial or social benefit. Early-stage investment by RUSNANO lowers the risk of its investment partners from the private sector.

RUSNANO participates in building nanotechnology infrastructure, which includes nanotechnology centers of excellence, business incubators and early stage investment funds.

RUSNANO selects promising spheres for investment based on long-term forecast developed by leading Russian and world experts. The corporation is open to international cooperation, which can be realized in many different forms, including joint ventures, interchange of data, infrastructural and educational projects. To assist the advancement of the Russian nanotechnology industry into global markets, RUSNANO organizes the annual Nanotechnology International Forum in Russia. The corporation's budget is $5 billion. Its chief executive is Anatoly Chubais.
On April 18, 2007, President Vladimir Putin took part in a nanotechnology conference hosted by the institute and announced that "nanotechnology is an activity for which this government will not spare money." He elaborated on this matter in his annual address to the Parliament of Russia on April 26, declaring that the state is going to allocate more than US$ 5 bn by this year end to the Russian Nanotechnology Corporation and urging to pass necessary legislation as soon as possible.
R.L. Wottrich Note - Current Rusnano funding stands at $10 billion.

President Obama Wants One

The AirPod from MDI
THE President of the United States wants one, 56 countries are ready to build them, it has no steering wheel, no gearstick and runs purely on AIR. This is the funky new AirPod urban car which is taking the world by storm — and is now about to hit the UK.

It’s the brainchild of a firm called MDI of Luxembourg and France and has taken 14 YEARS to develop. The AirPod is powered by a small compressed air engine and two alternators and is the only vehicle in the world that can boast:

OVER 60 miles of travel for under £1 FOUR-seater car and yet half the size of a normal hatchback ZERO pollution, zero maintenance, and TIGHTER turning circle than length of vehicle.

I’ve just become the first UK motoring journalist to drive an AirPod at the MDI’s HQ in Nice.
It’s actually smaller than a Smart Fortwo yet is spacious inside — and is operated just by a joystick.

To refill the 175-litre compressed air carbon fibre bottle takes 1.2 minutes - and that will run the AirPod for 65 miles.

And best of all it is priced at just £3,000.
Balance of article: The Sun, subsidiary of News Corporation