• FuelCell Energy receives $30 million for a Post Combustion Era Solution for Cleaner Coal

    January 13 2009 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Environment

    Stationary Fuel Cell

    FueCellMarkets is reporting on a $30 million Phase II contract to expand testing of Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) coal syngas power generation.  This type of stationary fuel cell converts coal derived gas via electrochemical processes to produce electricity and heat.  The result of this scalable non-combustion method is higher efficiency and signficantly lower carbon emissions.

    Advancing Global Carbon Solutions
    Coal
    is not going away anytime soon.  In fact, its global market share is growing as the primary source of energy for electricity generation.

    Cheaper solar and wind does not, by default, mean less coal in a world economy expected to double energy production in the decades ahead. Coal is already embedded into global power grids, and it is not going to disappear overnight.

    If we expect to address carbon emissions, we have to do more than develop alternatives.  We need scalable carbon solutions that move us beyond the age of combustion conversion and harmful release of emissions.

    While coal will never be 'clean', there are cleaner ways of converting it that result in significantly less carbon emissions.  We have written extensively about algae, but fuel cells offer another path forward.

    Fuel Cells, Coal Gas, & a Post Combustion Era of Energy Conversion

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  • Does the road to Electric Vehicles pass through China? EV Startup outsources production

    January 13 2009 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Transportation

    China

    EV startup Miles Automotive has announced plans to outsource manufacturing of its California-bound electric vehicles to a China-based assembly factory.

    Auto analysts continue to speculate about plans by Detroit-based companies to partner with Asian manufacturers.  And yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported on BYD's plans to produce EVs for global markets based on a lower barrier to manufacturing.

    More than ever before, the road to electric vehicles powered by batteries, fuel cells and capacitors seems destined to pass through Asia.

    And it is time to challenge common assumptions about EVs?

    Will EVs be a Domestic or Global Industry?
    It is commonly assumed that electric vehicles would bring non-OPEC countries more 'independence'.  Instead it seems clear that the age of EVs will pull them further into the global economy of 'interdependence'.  Electric vehicles propulsion systems and storage systems (batteries, fuel cells and capacitors) are likely to emerge from a global value chain that spans from Asia to Europe to Americas. 

    Will Early Adopter Markets Emerge from within Europe/California or Asia?

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  • Stanford launches $100 million global energy institute, as California expands cleantech focus

    January 13 2009 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    Stanford Energy PanelStanford University has raised $100 million to support the creation of the Precourt Insitute for Energy.

    The Institute will focus on global energy and climate issues by expanding the number of faculty and graduate research positions across the entire spectrum of energy science and engineering from photovoltaics to carbon sequestration. 

    The center is the result of a team of funders led by energy Executive Jay Precourt, who donated $50 million, and a $40 million gift from Thomas Steyer and Kat Taylor who supported the creation of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy.

    Stanford intends to expand global partnerships but it is clearly a big win for the State of California as it attempts to build a 'cleantech' hub of talent, IP, and companies involved in the 21st century energy systems.

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  • Sentilla raises $7.5 million for 'smart' software-sensor solutions to energy management

    January 13 2009 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    energy managmenet

    2009 might turn out to be a great year to be a startup involved in 'smart' energy solutions that tap the power of software, sensors, microcontrollers and storage systems.

    Energy bloggers are all talking about 2009 as the 'Year of the Smart Grid', and energy analysts expect to see major public-private investments over the next two years in efficiency and energy management.

    We have written about visions of a 'smart' planet being promoted by companies like IBM, Honeywell and Johnson Controls.  But now we have the first major '09 investment in start up Sentilla, which has raised $7.5 million to deliver solutions for commercial and industrial facilities. 

    It might be premature to call Sentilla a 'smart energy' startup since its vision is much broader than electricity.  It's future growth is based on a vision of an 'embedded object' world often described as 'Pervasive' or 'Ubiquitious' computing. In this future every object has built in awareness, intelligence and networked capabilities (e.g. Zigbee).  Sentilla's offerings span energy managment, safety and security, and logistics/asset managment. But in 2009, selling themselves as a 'smart energy' company might be the best route!

    Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com

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  • Wall Street Journal confirms our Case for Electric Cars: A Lower Barrier to Manufacturing

    January 12 2009 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Transportation

    BYD

    The Wall Street Journal has finally reported on the real driver of change around the electrification of the world's auto fleet: Manufacturing.

    Reframing the Problem
    Our insights into the crossroads of energy and the future of the auto industry have reflected a very unique tone when compared to all major media outlets and bloggers.

    We have been alone in pushing a few disruptive ideas about the future of energy and the auto industry:

    Kill the Combustion Engine
    While others focused on the problem of oil, we said it was the manufacturing legacy of the combustion engine. We have argued that it's how you build the car, not fuel it that matters most.

    Skateboard chassis is Platform of the Future

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  • MIT researchers advance carbon nanotube films used in 'super' batteries and capacitors

    January 12 2009 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    MIT Carbon NanotubesMIT Technology Review is reporting on a breakthrough in manufacturing thin, dense films of carbon nanotubes that could improve electrodes used in 'super' batteries and capacitors used in portable devices, 'smart grids' and electric vehicles.

    Energy Storage: Batteries, Fuel cells & Capacitors Batteries and fuel cells convert chemical energy into electricity in a controlled circuit.  Capacitors hold electrons as a physical 'charge' and are used in applications that require rapid discharge of energy. All of these energy storage devices are going to evolve in the coming Era of Nanoscale Engineering.

    How do you talk about the Future of Energy?
    The MIT breakthrough demonstrates the enormous potential of nanoscale design of material components that facilitate energy reactions. It would be a mistake to merely extrapolate our current energy technologies forward based on the disruptive nature of nanoscale energy systems.

    The MIT breakthrough highlights two fundamental areas to focus our conversation:

    New Properties at Nanoscale Carbon
    The electrical and chemical properties of carbon (and other molecules) change when you shift design from the 'microscale' (millionth of meter) to the 'nanoscale' (billionth of a meter).  In recent years, researchers have demonstrated an incredible capacity for carbon nanotubes to capture photons, store electricity and hold hydrogen. Likewise, the performance of metals (e.g. platinum, zinc, nickel) changes dramatically at the nanoscale.

    Higher Surface Area at the Nanoscale

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  • Gaming Our Way to Efficiency

    January 09 2009 / by joelg
    Category: Energy

    By Joel Greenberg

    Byron Reeves is a man with a vision:  using video games to teach and to help mold behavior. When we get a smart grid and smart devices that track and report on their energy consumption, we'll have the data we need to understand our energy usage in the home.  But will we really take advantage of that information?


    Energy Efficiency Game

    "Games have the potential change behavior," says Reeves a professor at Stanford University and co-founder of Stanford's MediaX; he conducts research on the emotional and social effects of immersive environments including complex online games . "I became interested in building a game platform that could change behavior around energy usage," he says.  To that end, he's been showing a vision video he created with Millions of Us in which he brings to life a game where homeowners compete with each other to see who can become the most energy efficient.

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  • Luca Technologies raises $76 million for microbes that 'eat' coal, 'breathe out' natural gas

    January 08 2009 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    Luca TechnologiesMIT Technology Review is reporting on a $76 million funding round by Luca Technologies to expand its 'geobioreactor' process that 'uses coal-digesting microorganisms to convert coal into methane.'

    The catch? 

    It happens while the coal is inside the Earth!

    The bioenergy reactions occurs inside the planet, and the natural gas is pumped out using conventional techniques.  The methane can then be used for electric power generation plant or as a feedstock for materials. 

    Microbes & 'Geobioreactors'
    We have written dozens of articles on bioenergy solutions that use algae and bacteria to 'eat' carbon to produce usuable forms of liquid or gas fuels.  It remains a very promising strategy for carbon utilization and energy production.  But this is a very different strategy that attempts to change the notion of coal as a resource while it remains locked inside the Earth.

    Historically humans have used coal as a resource for combustion based power generation in power plants.  This is a low cost source of energy, but results in the release of enormous amounts of greenhouse gases.

    Luca Technologies's vision is powerful and the end result is a fuel (methane/natural gas) that has a much higher hydrogen to carbon ratio, which means significantly less carbon emissions.

    Related posts on the future of bioenergy on The Energy Roadmap.com

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  • Breakthrough in high surface area MOFs that absorb hydrogen and carbon, Tell Barack Obama

    January 08 2009 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    MOFsOmarYaghi

    What if Barack Obama said in his first State of the Union address: 'America must invest in high surface area materials...' ?

    Most people would be puzzled.  Some minds would probably close down after hearing something slightly intimidating and 'scientific'. 

    Why surface area?  Why not say 'invest in better batteries, cleaning up fossil fuels, solar and hydrogen'? 

    Energy is about Interactions
    Surface area enables better interactions between light, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, metals, and bio enzymes. (At least, that's the short answer.)

    The real road to a 'New Energy Economy' is paved at the nanoscale of material science. 

    What types of applications can we expect?

    1) High surface area materials - Trap Molecules & Light
    Imagine being able to 'trap' harmful molecules that are byproducts of coal or oil.
    Or solar cells that hold photons longer to produce more energy!

    2) Solid state storage of energy - High Density Packets
    Imagine billions of people buying high density 'packets' of energy at retail stores. We 'refill' instead of 'plugging into' wall sockets.  Or electric vehicles that can be refilled by swapping out 'bricks' of energy in the form of solid Hydrogen.

    The Evolution of MOFs
    Chemical Engineering & News is reporting on progress in a very promising class of high surface area materials that can absorb hydrogen and carbon: Metal Organic Frameworks or MOFs.

    MOFs are highly ordered interconnected 'lego' like structures that have open pores that can selectively absorb molecules. It is a 'sponge' with the highest surface area of all known materials- estimated at several football fields per gram.

    The problem? Clogged pores.

    Now, a team led by UCLA's Professor Omar M. Yaghi, who synthesized MOFs in mid 1990s at Michigan, has developed a technique using supercritical fluids that essentially clean out the material leading to a vast network of open holes.

    What to do next?  Somebody tell Barack Obama to make Molecular Surface Area a National Priority

    Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com

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  • A123 seeks funding for Michigan battery plant, but should the US 'leapfrog' into fuel cells & capacitors?

    January 08 2009 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    A123The US continues to play catch up to Asia in manufacturing advanced energy storage solutions used in electric vehicles and 'smart grids'.  But a more organized US energy storage industry is starting to emerge.

    Last month a group of battery makers formed a coalition to seek federal support.  A week later a group of fuel cell makers petitioned Congress for its share of cleantech funding.

    Now lithium-ion battery start up A123 Systems has submitted an application to qualify for $1.84 billion in direct loans to support the construction of new world-class battery plant in Michigan.  At full operation, A123 expects the combined plants would occupy as much as 7 million square feet and create over 14,000 jobs to supply battery systems for five million hybrid vehicles or half a million plug-in electric vehicles per year by 2013.

    Should the US leapfrog batteries into fuel cells and capacitors? (Continue)

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