• China breaks ground on largest coal cluster plant project in its history, equal in size to Three Gorges Dam

    December 17 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Environment

    Mongolian Coal Field

    Everybody wants the world economy to move beyond coal, yet there are some brutal realities that are hard to avoid.

    Coal, as an energy resource, is not going away.

    In fact coal use is rising worldwide as demand for electricity increases!

    No where on Earth is this more a reality of tomorrow than China.

    What happened?
    The People's Daily is reporting that on December 15th, construction began on the largest scale coal-electricity project cluster in China's energy construction history.

    China has started simultaneous construction on eight coal power and chemical plants, and five mines to keep the plants operational.

    China's Industrial Planning NDB site estimates that all the 8 power plants in it will form a thermal power generation base with a capacity up to 20,000 MW.  (Compared to the Three Gorges Damn capacity is 22,500 MW)

    Do they have enough supply?   MiningNews reports that the Ningxia region has a proven coal reserves of 31 billion tonnes and potential reserve of 202.9 billion tonnes.   

    Why is this important to the future of energy?

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  • Dow Corning adds fuel to growing solar industry, invests $3 billion in polysilicon materials

    December 17 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    Polysilicon from Dow

    The Solar industry is growing up and going global.  Now materials giant Dow Corning is investing $3 billion into basic materials for traditional photovoltaics and thin film solar.

    The Chemistry side of Solar
    The full potential of solar energy depends on our ability to make big advances in materials science. 

    How quickly solar can grow depends on our ability to design nanoscale structures that maximize the conversion of photons into electricity, photons into heat, or photons into hydrogen.  And how many utilities and consumers take the leap!

    So when we see 'Big Chemistry' companies get involved in the solar industry materials market, that should be a signal of growth (and growth pains) ahead!

    Dow goes Green by Being Black
    Dow Corning Corporation has announced several billion dollars of investment to provide critical materials to the fast-growing solar technology industry for both glass based solar and carbon based thin film.

    Dow Corning and its Hemlock Semiconductor joint venture will begin manufacturing high purity monosilane, a key specialty gas used to manufacture thin-film solar cells and liquid crystal displays (LCDs).  Combined with the new $1.2 billion build up at a Clarksville, Tennesee facility and the $1 billion expanded monosilane plant in Hemlock, Michigan operations may add up to 34,000 metric tons of polysilicon capacity for the fast-growing solar industry. Construction of both the Michigan expansion and the new Tennessee site will begin immediately.

    What to watch: Oversupply of Polysilicon

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  • The Top 10 Energy Stories of 2008

    December 16 2008 / by joelg
    Category: Energy

    Top 10 Energy Stories of Year 2008 By Joel Greenberg and the Staff of The Energy Roadmap

    2008 was a big year in energy and one that we could very well look back upon as the platform to the not so distant future of energy.  Much has happened.  To help you make sense of it all, we here at The Energy Roadmap have sifted through our bookmarks, Google Notebooks, back of the napkin lists, Twitter searches, interview transcripts, and RSS feeds to come up with the top 10 energy stories that will have an impact on our culture, society, and lives.


    Top Energy Stories of 2008

    #1  Story of the Year:
    Electrification of the Passenger Car

    #2   The Year of Scientific Breakthroughs

    #3   The Obama Election

    #4   From $147 to $50: The Price of Oil

    #5   The Dying Gasp of Corn Ethanol

    #6   The Clean Coal Lobby Breaks Through the Clutter...and Gets a Response

    #7   Geeks Go Green

    #8   The Rise of Local Initiatives

    #9   Infrastructure Gains Attention

    #10 Emerging Energy Missionaries & Visionaries


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  • French oil giant Total takes $45 million equity in Thin Film Solar startup Konarka

    December 16 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    Konarka Power Plastic

    The thin film solar industry is going global.  In the past few months we have seen manufacturing agreements that have connected companies based in the US, Italy, Japan, Korea, China and Turkey. And now we have the first major equity stake from a global energy giant Total.

    Konarka partners with French oil giant
    Konarka has just announced on Monday that it received $45 million in equity financing from the U.S. division of French oil and gas giant Total.  The arrangement also includes R&D agreements with Total’s chemical subsidiaries (Atotech, Bostik, Hutchinson, Sartomer) to further development of the startup’s thin-film, organic solar cell technology

    With this stake, Total will become the leading shareholder with a 20% equity stake. This is its  first major equity stake in a thin film maker, and will expand Total's current silicon-based solar portfolio with Photovoltech and Tenesol.

    Materials Science solutions for Distributed Solar Power

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  • Energy Story of 2008: #1 Electrification of the Passenger Car

    December 15 2008 / by joelg
    Category: Energy

    By the fall of 2008, every major automanufacturer from GM to Nissan to Tata--and a few startups such as Tesla and Aptera--had announced production model plans for all manner of electric vehicles, from all electrc vehicles, to plug-in hybrid electrics, to fuel cell vehicles, with deliveries to consumers starting in 2010.  2008 could well be known as the nail in the coffin for the bulky combustion engine which has plagued the auto industry with its manufacturing and design liabilities, and association with volatile oil markets.

    How quickly might the world re-tool the global auto industry to build new vehicle chassis based on electric motors and advanced energy storage systems?

    Every Auto Manufacturer has Announced Electric Vehicles

    Continue Reading other Top Energy Stories from 2008

    #2   The Year of Scientific Breakthroughs


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  • Shocking interview with IEA Chief Economist, Peak Oil Production Plateau possible by 2020

    December 15 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    Fatih Birol

    In 1972 a team of futurists published the book Limits to Growth which explored long-term forecast models based on rapidly expanding global economic and population growth against finite natural resources. 

    While most people assumed that growth could continue unabated, Limits to Growth offered a shocking alternative scenario - overshoot and collapse. Their future? The modern industrial economy would expand beyond the legacy resource capacity of the planet as supplies plateaued and depleted faster than expected.  The 'Overshoot and Collapse' future scenario was mostly ridiculed by mainstraem economists and political leaders.

    Now the world's leading oil forecasting agency is hinting that this future is closer than expected with regard to our conventional oil supplies.  They are calling for an 'energy revolution'.

    A Video Interview for the Ages
    The UK's Guardian's George Monbiot has posted this fantastic, hard edged video interview with the International Energy Agency Chief Economist Dr Fatih Birol. (Link to video)

    For those who have followed the 'peak oil' conversation evolve, this is the most shocking admission on record from a leading global oil analyst.  Birol acknowledges that the major differences between the IEA's World Energy Outlook report from 2007 were based on the 'wrong assumptions' of oil field decline rates.   He admits that, until 2008, no organization has ever done a comprehensive global oil field decline rate survey.  

    Monbiot's annoynance with the IEA's failure to back their forecasts with actual data is priceless, and scary given the implications of IEA's role in providing governments with accurate oil forecasts. In 2007 the IEA said the decline rate asumption was 3%, now in 2008 they say data support 6-7%.  At that rate, the world's conventional oil production plateau could happen between 2020-2030.

    Birol says that the current path is "not (economically) sustainable" and the IEA is now calling for 'an energy revolution'. We think this should certainly start with global leaders pushing to Kill the Combustion Engine and taking away the liquid fuel fed energy device that makes us so dependent on oil.

    What to watch:
    Peak Oil is about to go Mainstream
    The broad implications of peak production in conventional oil resources?


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  • Duke Energy pushes for rooftop solar distributed power program

    December 15 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    solar rooftop

    Electricity powers the future.  And changing how electricity is produced, distributed and stored is arguably the greatest challenge for governments and business in the years ahead.

    What needs to change?

    1) The regulatory frameworks that shape the business models of public/private utlities

    2) Addressing the physical decline (and disruption vulnerability) of aging and 'one-way' flow national electricity grids.

    3) Advancing science and technologies that can enable new forms of grid management (e.g. software and sensors), energy storage (batteries, hydrogen and capacitors), and distributed power generation (solar, fuel cells).

    These are big tasks, with no quick fixes.  But now we have one of the biggest utilities in the United States, opening up a small door of opportunity for distributed power generation. It is not game-changing, but noteworthy!

    What happened?
    'Big Grid' embracing Distributed Power Generation
    Utility giant Duke Energy has asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission(NCUC) to support a solar distributed generation program.   Duke plans to install electricity-generating photovoltaic solar panels across several hundred North Carolina homes, schools, office buildings, shopping malls, warehouses and large manufacturing facilities – both on roofs and on the ground.

    The plans have been slighly scaled back since the project's first announcement in June 2008, but Duke remains committed. According to a press release, Duke Energy Carolinas would own and operate the equipment, and the power produced by each installation would be used to serve the utility’s customers. So the electricity would not be owned and used by the host sites.

    Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com

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  • Synthetic Biology meet Energy Industry, UCLA researchers modify E coli to produce biofuels

    December 14 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy


    Should our bioenergy solutions be limited to what nature has provided?

    Or if it was possible to improve upon the efficiencies of algae and microbes to 'eat' carbon to produce low cost, clean forms of energy- should we try to improve upon nature at the molecular level?

    Many researchers have already answered - Yes.

    Startups like Amyris, LS9 and Synthetic Genomics are developing commercial products. 

    The good news is that they are making progress. The bad news is that the public is totally unprepared to have a conversation about the idea of 'synthetic biology'.  If leadership does not emerge soon to explain the benefits of bioenergy solutions, confusion and fear could soon outshine the promise of synthetic biology.

    What happened at UCLA?
    Earlier we covered a breakthrough by Craig Venter's team in advancing synthetic biology and genome assembly. Now researchers at UCLA have engineered a synthetic biological pathway inside Ecoli bacteria to produce a next generation biofuel equivalent to gasoline.

    The team led by Professor James Liao inserted genes into the Ecoli, a well studied and commonly modified bacteria, to produce alcohol liquid fuels from sugar rich feedstocks. The butanol grade fuels have the same energy content equivalent, or better, of traditional gasoline.  

    "The ability to make these branched-chain higher alcohols so efficiently is surprising," according to Liao. "Unlike ethanol, organisms are not used to producing these unusual alcohols, and there is no advantage for them to do so.  The fact taht they can be made by E. coli is even more surprising, since E. coli is not a promising host to tolerate alcohol.  These results mean that these unusual alcohols in fact can be manufactured as efficiently as what evolved in nature for ethanol.  Therefore, we now can explore these unusual alcohols as biofuels and are not bound by what nature has given us."

    Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com

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  • Chemists advance new theory to support next generation cleantech materials

    December 13 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy


    The future of energy systems will be shaped by our ability to control light, electrons and molecules.  

    If we expect to transform the world's largest industries then we need fundamental breakthroughs in materials science and engineering. 

    This is not the time for incremental improvements, or resting on strategies of 'consuming' green.  This is the time to turn to science- chemistry, physics, and biology.

    If we expect to use our natural resources more efficienctly, and create low cost solar cells, batteries and fuel cells, then we need to leap foward in our ability to manipulate and assemble chains (polymers) of hydrogen and carbon.

    Now we are a step closer to realizing this new age of advanced materials science that enable leaps in performance and efficiencies.

    What happened?
    A team of Oregon University researchers led by Dr Marina Guenza, using data collected by European materials researchers, has developed a theory that could end the confusion over molecule behavior in the creation of polymer materials.

    The new framework for explaining molecule movement might help lower costs and expand performance of materials used in the fields of engineering, nanotechnology, and renewable energy.

    Why is this important to the future of energy?

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  • Blacklight Power announces first commercial customer for novel Hydrogen (hydrino) energy system

    December 12 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    Blacklight PowerBlacklight Power believes it has developed a ground breaking new form of energy production that cannot be explained by the scientific paradigms of combustion and nuclear reactions.

    Yes, it's controversial! But now they have their first customer!

    Earlier this Fall we reported on the independent verification of BlackLight’s novel method of capturing tremendous amounts of energy released when powder containing hydrogen atoms reacts with a catalyst to drop its energy state into hydrinos[51 MB .wmv Video]

    250 MW Contract 
    Now the company has announced its first commercial license agreement with Estacado Energy Services, Inc. in New Mexico. In a non-exclusive agreement, BLP has licensed Estacado to use the BlackLight Process and certain BLP energy technology for the production of thermal or electric power. Estacado may produce gross thermal power up to a maximum continuous capacity of 250 MW or convert this thermal power to corresponding electricity.

    The energy blogosphere is all over this story.  Comment sections are filled with praise from believers and harsh skepticism from non-believers!  Blacklight challenges the core assumptions of energy physics based on combustion and nuclear science.  And we are very interested in how this conversation evolves!

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