October 27 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2009 Rating: 6 Hot
After airing a special on the future of electric cars CBS 60 Minutes had energy pundits glued to the screen again with Charlie Rose leading an interview with Billionaire Texan T Boone Pickens. Pickens has generated international media attention with his ‘Pickens Plan’ to rearrange the US energy mix emphasizing natural gas and wind in a complicated scheme to wean the US off ‘foreign oil’. What is not entirely clear is how the utilities will respond to the challenges of wind power (without effective storage to manage intermittent power generation), and how Pickens expects free market driven companies to avoid buying ‘foreign’ natural gas if prices are lower than US domestic supplies.
Could China help the world move beyond the combustion engine
CBS Video on Future of Electric Car
Detroit to World-Nobody Killed the Electric Car
GM picks Korean battery company for Volt
Warren Buffet invests in Chinese battery maker
Could China launch age of electric vehicles?
India’s Tata to produce electric cars for Europeans
November 24 2008 / by joelg
Category: Energy Year: 2008 Rating: 6 Hot
By Joel Greenberg
Gas prices have dropped to under $2/gal at some gas stations around the country. “It feels like the 1970’s, with people waiting in line for gas,” one observer says as she waited to fill up at almost half the price of what she was paying earlier in the year. But unlike the ‘70’s (or two months ago) there now seems to be plenty of supply.
So why are prices so low, almost two months after gas shortages in places like Atlanta, due primarily to Hurricane Ike? (Click here to read a twitter history of Atlantans and their search for gas.)
The simplest answer appears to be the low demand as a result of the slow down in the economy worldwide, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.
As Amory Lovins points out, we can lower our demand faster than Saudi Arabia can lower their production, although his idea is to lower demand with more efficient vehicles, not via a global economic slowdown.
Why is this important to the Future of Energy?
November 04 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: Beyond Rating: 4 Hot
A research group led by Montana State University Professor Gary Strobel has found a fungus (Gliocladium roseum) inside a Patagonia rainforest that produces hydrocarbon chains similar to diesel fuel or “myco-diesel”.
Why is this important?
Our world is powered by capturing the energy released from carbon-hydrogen chains from wood, coal, oil and natural gas. This chemical energy was formed by ancient biological processes via plants, algae and bacteria. But what if fungi could do the same thing?
If we expect to move beyond an extraction economy that taps ancient bio energy via coal and petroleum, we need to find substitute sources of energy producing systems. Rather than look at energy conversion via plants (e.g. corn), researchers are looking at more ancient forms of life to find the most efficient metabolic systems involved in energy conversion.
We have featured stories on the push towards cellulosic ethanol and algae biofuel startups, and now we can add fungus to that list of potential bio energy substitutes to traditional hydrocarbons.
When can I put myco-diesel in my vehicle?
There is still a very long way to go before we can develop energy roadmaps and forecasts for fungi derived fuels. For now, smart money is on cellulosic and algae derived biofuels. This is an important discovery, but we have no applied evidence that it could easily scale to produce large amounts of usable forms of liquid fuels at a low cost. But this is an important first step and a significant discovery around the fundamentals of bioenergy!
October 29 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2013 Rating: 2
Which companies might shape the future of energy? How about alternative energy start ups that look to the past on ways to ‘grow energy’ using carbon as a feedstock.
The World’s Energy Resources are based on Biology
Our modern world is powered by the energy released from breaking chemical bonds of carbon and hydrogen that were assembled by ancient plants and microbes. Today we blow up coal inside large power plants to produce electricity, and combust oil inside vehicles. Coal is ancient plant material, oil is ancient microbes that lived in shallow oceans.
Rather than extract these ancient forms of bioenergy, it is possible to ‘grow’ energy above ground by tapping the power of algae and bacteria that use sunlight to bind carbon (from air/coal plants) with hydrogen from water.
Leading Algae startups ride beginning wave of hype cycle
In recent months the idea of plant-based biofuels (corn, soy) has been overshadowed by something more promising- algae. Algae ‘eat’ carbon to produce liquid biofuels that have the same complex carbon-hydrogen chains found inside the Earth. They can do so quickly and in enormous volumes (30-50x more than plant based per acre/hectare) We must now overcome the technical challenges of scaling up algae production facilities to make these biofuels and biomaterial feedstocks cost competitive with traditional hydrocarbons.
We are now starting to see more extensive media coverage as investors and governments pour hundreds of millions of dollars into algae biofuel startups.
Here is the most comprehensive list of algae biofuel companies on the web:
Algaecake Technologies Corp
Aquatic Energy (Lake Charles, LA)
Aurora BioFuels, Inc Northern California
AquaFlow (New Zealand) open pond, wild algae
BioAlgene LLC, WA)
Bionavitas, Inc. Bringing Photons to (Redmond, WA)
Bio Fuels Solution (Spain)
Blue Marble Energy (Seattle, WA)
Bodega Algae, LLC, proprietary lighting technology for photobioreactors
November 11 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2013 Rating: 2
Another algae biofuels company has raised money to build a next generation biofuel plant that consumes carbon and creates usuable biofuels.
Colorado-based Solix Biofuels announced that it has raised $10.5 million in its first round of outside funding, and has reached an agreement with investors for an additional commitment of $5
million, to be used to build an algae biofuel facility near Durango, Colorado.
The biofuel plant will be located on a ten-acre site on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in Southwest Colorado. It will be built in two phases, with the first to be completed in 12 to 18 months and consisting of four acres of photo-bioreactors for growing algae, and one acre for a lab facility. Upon completion of the first phase, Solix will build an additional five-acre expansion that will allow the pilot facility to produce at commercial scale.
Why is this important to the future of energy?
Tapping the power of biology to ‘eat’ carbon and produce commercial grade fuels could emerge as a game changing platform for carbon emissions and energy production in the next decade. But first, algae startups like Solix must demonstrate scalable bioreactor plants and work out the kinks associated with algae fuel production (e.g. lighting, nutrients, impurities, growth rates).
What to watch for?
There are a number of leading indicators to monitor: capital investments, performance claims of specific algae species, and further advances in the physical engineering systems related to high volume algae production.
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