January 07 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2010 Rating: 2
Most startup energy companies don't expect major media attention when they announce their second commercial deal.
Unless of course, your technology is reported to generate energy beyond the scientific paradigms of combustion and nuclear reactions.
This is why Blacklight Power has little trouble attracting press and controversy from paradigm bound scientists.
Earlier this Fall we reported on the indepdent verification of the company's novel method of capturing energy released when powder containing hydrogen atoms reacts with a catalyst to drop its energy state into hydrinos. Then in December Blacklight announced its first commercial agreement.
Now the company has Customer No. 2: Farmers' Electric Cooperative, Inc. of New Mexico for a 250 MW power system which could in theory power 250,000 homes.
Related Blacklight posts on The Energy Roadmap.com
Is Asia's expanding middle class closer to reaching a tipping point where modern notions of 'environmentalism' become a key component to improving quality of life factors? Maybe!
The Korean government is pushing forward on a massive 'Green' New Deal style investment package could create more than 900,000 jobs.
The $38 billion investment plan includes: waste to energy power plants, support for 'Green Homes', transportation infrastructure for rail and bicycles, cleaning up polluted river systems, and investments in energy storage technologies used for electric vehicles.
Real story = Values Shift up Maslow's Hierarchy
The long view implications of this story go far beyond any actual investments that may or may not turn Korea's attention towards 'cleantech' industries. These projects might already have been planned long before the recent global economic slowdown. And $38 billion is not a lot of money for a 'New Deal'.
The real story is the media spin on 'green' and underlying values statement that shows widespread support within Korea for cleantech and eco-friendly ventures. The ripple effect of modern notions of environmentalism (able to address impacts of large scale industrialism, not traditional forms of agricultural living) could begin to challenge the notion of 'growth at any cost' that dominates economic policies around the world in all nations, but especially in emerging economies.
Values are very important when it comes to 'cleantech' policies, and there is no evidence that 'environmentalism' as it is viewed in American and European life is a current global phenomenon. There are still several billion people in the world who see 'quality of life' factors as related to jobs, education, home ownership and upward mobility, not planetary health.
What is driving this value's shift? Economic Growth, not Traditionalism
December 29 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: Beyond Rating: 3
"Whether you think you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right." - Henry Ford
The worst thing we can do when thinking about the future of energy is to look at possible solutions and simply extrapolate today's technologies and scientific assumptions forward about what 'is' or 'isn't possible'.
There is still a lot we do not know about the basics of energy systems dealing with photons, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, enzymes and metals. Our current first phase efforts to design nanoscale materials used in energy production, conversion and storage are certain to yield systems that will change how we live in the world in the decades ahead.
Remember, only a century ago, coal and wood were king, magical 'electric' light intimidated the general public, only a few could see the potential of oil, rockets and nuclear science were beyond our imagination, and the vision of a tens of millions of 'horseless carriages' reshaping the urban landscape was a ridiculous proposition.
So what seemingly novel ideas could shape the next century?
List of 10+ Novel Energy Stories from 2008:
December 27 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2009 Rating: 1
How do you build an 'sustainable' economy for 9 billion people?
Reinvent how we make, recycle and re-use metals, wood, glass, plastic and biomaterials that go into everyday products.
Who can enable the 'new energy economy'? Our bet is on the Scientist, not the Consumer.
While some get excited over 'green products' like solar powered backpacks, better lightbulbs and organic cotton yoga mats, most notions of 'eco-friendly' products fall drastically short of what will be needed to meet the demands of adding another 3 billion people to the planet by 2050.
We need to reinvent the whole concept of 'Industrialism' to create new methods for producing materials using less energy and 'resources' in fundamentally new ways.
List of 2008 Stories in Energy Materials Science
December 16 2008 / by joelg
Category: Environment Year: 2008 Rating: 2
By Joel Greenberg
In the blur of announcements from solar companies, oil company TV commercials, and news pundits, science sometimes get lost in the conversation. But it's science that will bring us to a workable energy future and this year has seen some significant breakthroughs. MIT's Daniel Nocera announced the development of a low cost catalyst that helps in the electrolysis of water into oxygen & hydrogen. The development of Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) for solid hydrogen storage continued to evolve; Nanotechnology continues to bring promising experimental results across many energy related fields including, catalysts for fuel cells; conversion of waste heat into electricity; a new theory explaining molecular movement in polymers; and more.
Which of these scientific breakthroughs might change the commercial viability of cleaner hydrocarbons, bioenergy, renewables and advanced energy storage systems?
Continue Reading other Top 10 Energy Stories from 2008
By Ami Sampat
Continental Airlines and Boeing are preparing for the first flight of a plane run partially on next generation biofuels, which will leave on January 7 from Houston, Texas. Continental and Boeing's joint venture will be the first American plane to use jatropha as a biofuel. This biofuels milestone follows Virgin Atlantic's earlier test run, using coconut oil and babassu oil.
Why is this important?
Biofuels would not only help reduce the airline industry's carbon emissions but it could also be a more stable source of fuel.
The January 7th flight is going to be fueled by a 50/50 blend of traditional jet fuel and biofuels derived from algae and jatropha fuel. Jatropha is a shrub (non-food crop) grown on marginal lands. Its oil-rich seeds can be used to make biofuels. The first commercial scale Jatropha operations are now being tested in India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and West Africa.
Provided the test run goes well next month, this could open doors for the airline business and biofuel producers looking to capture a part of the aviation biofuel market.
December 09 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2020 Rating: 3 Hot
While solar power is often described as the world's great untapped clean source of energy, ocean power deserves as much attention. In fact, it deserves a lot of attention given the expectation that the world will double energy consumption in the decades ahead. And the reality that most of the world's population lives close to an ocean.
Futures oriented energy engineers dream of capturing the steady kinetic and thermal of energy. Unlike solar and wind, ocean energy provides near 24/7 potential utilization.
A Low Mainteance Linear Generator?
Now a Swiss team from Upsalla University has developed and tested a novel system. For nearly three years, a wave power plant has stood on the bottom of the ocean a couple of kilometers off the west coast of Sweden, near Lysekil. Rafael Waters, from the Uppsala University Division of Electricity, designed and built the facility as part of his doctoral project.
The team's 'linear generator' generates electricity with the slow up and down movements of the waves. An ordinary generator transforms rotation energy to electricity, and it needs to turn at about 1500 rpm to be efficient. (Images)
“This means that a wave energy station with an ordinary generator needs energy transmission systems such as gearboxes or hydraulic systems and other complicated details that wear out and require much more maintenance than a linear generator,” says Rafael Waters. “Our generator has functioned without any trouble every time we started it up over the years, even though it has received no maintenance and has sometimes stood still for months.”
Future plans for the wave power array
December 05 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2010 Rating: 2
Let the battle over 'Clean Coal' begin.
Call it 'clean coal' or 'cleaner coal' -- the idea is still the same. Stop carbon from binding with oxygen (CO2) and floating up into the atmosphere.
How do you do it?
1) Think like an engineer
Sequester the carbon by pumping it underground
2) Design new plants
Capture energy via 'gasification' (instead of combustion)
3) Think like a biologist
Retrofit coal plants with bioreactors that pull emissions into tanks of carbon-fixing algae and bacteria that bind carbon with hydrogen to form useful forms of energy (hydrocarbon chains biofuels)
Of the three carbon strategies, bioenergy (algae/bacteria) has the most potential as a 'game-changing' solution. But it is also the hardest to talk about since systems are not tested commercially.
The Battle Ahead
We should not kid ourselves about the dynamics of this coal conversation. It is likely to get ugly as industry and activists try to demonize each other and paint their own version of 'reality'. There are no simple, short term quick fixes. What could happen depends on how the fight evolves around the focus of:
- emotions vs science
- coal energy inside the United States vs China
- present day challenges or exploring and enabling future solutions
- engineeing solutions, or biosolutions
- compromise, regulatory frameworks, or lawsuits
The Players- Industry, Activitists, and Entrepreneurs
On November 20th California took a major step towards building out the state’s “green” infrastructure to support the electrification of the auto fleet towards vehicles powered by batteries, fuel cells and capacitors. State and local leaders gathered in San Francisco to announce a new public partnership with ‘mobility operator’ Better Place.
Better Place has big plans for California and has estimated that the network investment in the Bay Area alone will total $1 billion when the system is fully deployed.
We have featured several stories on Better Place and CEO Shai Agassi [Video Interview] to highlight the company’s vision for changing the business model for how cars are fueled. Better Place is moving quickly and has already negotiated infrastructure projects within Israel, Denmark, Australia, and Hawaii. Adding California to their list could be the tipping point. Not just for Better Place, but for how we think about fueling our vehicles with batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.
The simplest translation of Shai Agassi’s disruptive vision?
To expand adoption of electric vehicles we must lower barriers for consumers and rethink our notions of infrastructure in a way that goes beyond the model of paying at the corner gas station pump.
Consumers should buy the car, but not the energy storage device (battery, fuel cell or capacitor). Remove the cost and risk of owning energy storage systems that might be improved in the next six months or a year. Instead consumers would subscribe to an energy infrastructure provider who offers a ‘pay per mile’ (e.g. mobile phone minutes) plan.
Drivers could recharge at a local station, or (pay attention!!) pull up to a station to ‘swap out’ an old battery (or solid block of hydrogen, other fuel cartridge) for a new container. It is this ‘swap out’ model that holds the greatest disruptive potential.
How do we do it?
November 17 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2016 Rating: 5 Hot
A group of researchers from Boston College and MIT have created a new catalyst that could reduce the negative environmental impact of hydrocarbon or ‘petrochemical’ derived materials found in everyday products.
[Don’t run away! Big words, but simple concepts!]
The new catalyst is used in a very common and energy intensive process known as olefin metathesis. Just think of olefins as simple carbon and hydrogen packets (image of ethylene) that are used to make more complex chains that form the backbone of materials used in everything from cleaner fuels, soaps, bags, to pharmaceuticals. The process, ‘metathesis’, simply means transforming the order of AB + CD into AD +BC
How does a simple packet of hydrogen and carbon vary so much in
different industry applications? In the most simple terms – the difference between a ‘good’ compound for people and the Earth, from a ‘bad’ compound is the use of additives (other elements) and the shape of the molecule chain (polymers). These variations make materials more or less reactive to things like light, water, and heat. It also makes it more or less soluble, biodegradable or toxic. The goal is to create compounds that break down into non-toxic elements that do not harm ecosystems. The more precise we are in building key polymer materials, the less harmful waste we produce.
Why is this important to the future?
Another step towards ‘greener’ hydrocarbon materials
The BC/MIT catalyst will help to reduce the waste and hazardous by products of this massive industrial chemical reaction as we try to make chemistry more ‘green’ and environmentally friendly.
“In order for chemists to gain access to molecules that can enhance the quality of human life, we need reliable, highly efficient, selective and environmentally friendly chemical reactions,” said Amir Hoveyda, Professor and Chemistry Department chairman at BC. “Discovering catalysts that promote these transformations is one of the great challenges of modern chemistry.”
What to watch- Applied Engineering
November 11 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: Beyond Rating: 2
An Edison Foundation funded report conducted by The Brattle Group has some sobering news that could radically change the tone of infrastructure investment in the incoming Obama Administration, and lead to a boom in energy startups able to deliver lower cost, innovative solutions.
The new report “Transforming America’s Power Industry: The Investment Challenge 2010-2030” [Full Report / Exec Summary] estimates that the U.S. utility industry will have to invest between $1.5 and $2.0 trillion between 2010 and 2030 to maintain current levels of reliable energy service for customers throughout the country.
“This study highlights the investment challenges confronting the power industry in the coming decades,” according to Brattle Group Principal Peter Fox-Penner. “The industry is facing enormous investment needs during a period of modest growth, high costs, and very substantial policy shifts.”
Why is this important to the future of energy?
This investment figure challenges some deeply held assumptions and visions of the future promoted by people on all sides of the political spectrum. Free market advocates will have to confront role of government spending on infrastructure. Unless we completely abandon the centralized power plant to home model that exists today, most of these investments will come from states and the federal government.
But the more emotional conversation deals with the dreams of new sources from solar, wind and ocean power. This report confirms the brutal reality- Renewables alone, cannot scale to meet demand through 2030. While Al Gore’s We Campaign is trying to make a convincing case that we can go ‘all green’ in a decade, the numbers do not add up without a radical social-industrial engineering project with no budget limits.
The most likely near term future through 2030?
All sources of energy used in electric power generation will grow.
What to watch for
These types of reports often grab headlines, but are quickly forgotten by the public. Yet there is evidence to suggest that America is preparing to make significant investments in our energy infrastructure and change its regulatory framework to enable the Utility industry to transform its business and operating models. [Until those regulatory changes are made, the utilities will remain locked in their current business models, and will be unable to introduce innovative and cost saving efforts.]
Here are Seven Ideas to Watch:
Dean Kamen has jolted the world yet again with his latest contraption — A Stirling engine hybrid car.
The Stirling engine, for those in the dark, is an engine which derives its power from an external heat source. The amazing thing about it is that the heat source can be just about anything, even your own body. Kamen’s car, dubbed “REVOLT,” can run on any conventional fuel, from biodiesel to natural gas.
Despite the practicality of such an engine, development of the Stirling engine in the world has been trying at best. Weird to think that an engine, which runs on heat and was invented in 1816, could fall to the side all these years. But we’re starting to see the Stirling engine pop up more and more these days, especially in large solar arrays.
So when are we going to see this in production?