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Posts Tagged ‘alternative energy

Things in the wind

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Recent news on the environmental front is full of wind chimes.

Did you know, for example, that Mars Inc. is making M&Ms with wind power? In fact Mars has engaged two popular spokespersons from its M&M entourage, ‘Red’ and ‘Yellow,’ Red, the self-proclaimed leader and Yellow, his faithful sidekick, have become the latest advocates for renewable wind-powered energy, tackling climate change in the launch of M&M’s Fans of Wind energy crusade.

“We want to make sure that everyone understands that climate change is a real issue,” said Berta De Pablos-Barbier, president of Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S., in a recent interview for TheStreet. “A wind turbine spinning for one second produces the energy equivalent to what’s needed to make eight packs of M&M’S,” she said. Here’s her video.

The Fans of Wind campaign is part of Mars’ Sustainable in a Generation Plan that includes $1 billion investment over the next few years to tackle climate change and the scarcity of resources.

Microsoft has signed a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for 100% of the electricity from GE’s new 37-megawatt Tullahennel wind farm in County Kerry, Ireland. Microsoft said the deal will help support an expansion of its cloud computing services offerings in the country.
 As part of the deal, Microsoft also signed an agreement with the Dublin-based energy trading company ElectroRoute to provide energy trading services to Microsoft.

In addition to producing energy, the project will produce valuable data on energy storage. Each turbine will have an integrated battery; Microsoft and GE will test how these batteries can be used to capture and store excess energy, and then provide it back to the grid as needed. “This provides more predictable power to an increasingly green Irish grid, by smoothing out peaks and valleys in wind production. This will better enable intermittent clean power sources like wind energy to be added to the Irish grid,” Microsoft said. This will be the first deployment of integration into wind turbines to store energy in Europe.

Then, according to a Washington Post article last month, “there’s enough wind energy over the oceans to power human civilization, scientists say.”

The article cites National Academy of Sciences findings that there is so much wind energy potential over oceans that it could theoretically be used to generate “civilization scale power” — “assuming, that is, that we are willing to cover enormous stretches of the sea with turbines, and can come up with ways to install and maintain them in often extreme ocean environments. ”

That sounds very theoretical, expensive and probably extremely unlikely, but it’s nice to know the potential is there if we need it — and we probably will someday.

We might as well try and catch the wind.

Image: Turbine B W by richardghawley via Flickr CC

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It’s not nice to ignore Mother Nature

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A new book by Geoffrey Heal, professor at Columbia Business School, makes a trenchant point that’s ignored by those currently in power: our prosperity depends on protecting the planet.

Heal did a Q&A interview about his book, Endangered Economies, in the current issue of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ magazine Catalyst. (Heal is also UCS board member and an expert on economics and the environment.)

“The natural world provides everything we depend on,” Heal says. “We get our food from the natural world, we get our drinking water and our oxygen from the natural world, and we evolved as part of it. We simply can’t live without it. Plants create food, and they need pollination from insects and they need rain and they need soil. We can’t synthesize these things. So we really are totally dependent on the natural world in the end. Read the rest of this entry »

Bionic leaf beats photosynthesis, creates liquid fuel

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bionic-leaf_orig_1 (1)Now this from Harvard University researchers: “bionic leaf 2.0,” which turns sunlight into liquid fuel, introduced in the academic journal Science earlier this month.

In what is called an artificial version of photosynthesis in plants, the study says the “bionic leaf 2.0” “aims to make use of solar panels for splitting molecules of water into oxygen and hydrogen. On separation of the water compounds, hydrogen is moved into a chamber for consumption by bacteria. A specialized metal catalyst and carbon dioxide in the chamber then helps generate a liquid fuel.”

Daniel Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, and Pamela Silver, the Elliott T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, have developed a system that uses solar energy to split water molecules and hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels. What’s cool about this is that using sunlight to convert it into liquid fuels would reduce the vast areas of land usually used for producing plants that generate biofuels. According to a study by the University of Virginia, about 4 per cent of the world’s farmland is currently under crops for fuel rather than crops for food.

The paper, whose lead authors also include postdoctoral fellow Chong Liu and graduate student Brendan Colón, is described in a June 3 paper published in Science.

“This is a true artificial photosynthesis system,” Nocera said in a Harvard Gazette article. “Before, people were using artificial photosynthesis for water-splitting, but this is a true A-to-Z system, and we’ve gone well over the efficiency of photosynthesis in nature.” While the study shows the system can be used to generate usable fuels, its potential doesn’t end there, said Silver, who is also a founding core member of the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

“The beauty of biology is it’s the world’s greatest chemist — biology can do chemistry we can’t do easily,” she said. “In principle, we have a platform that can make any downstream carbon-based molecule. So this has the potential to be incredibly versatile.”

The new system builds on previous work by Nocera, Silver, and others, which — though it was capable of using solar energy to make isopropanol — faced a number of challenges. Chief among those, Nocera said, was the fact that the catalyst used to produce hydrogen — a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy — also created reactive oxygen species, molecules that attacked and destroyed the bacteria’s DNA. To avoid that, researchers were forced to run the system at abnormally high voltages, resulting in reduced efficiency.

“For this paper, we designed a new cobalt-phosphorous alloy catalyst, which we showed does not make reactive oxygen species,” Nocera said. “That allowed us to lower the voltage, and that led to a dramatic increase in efficiency.” Read the rest of this entry »

Infographic: biomass feedstock and the supply chain

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Genera recently published an infographic overview of different biomass feedstocks and guidelines for choosing the best solution for every biomass project. The infographic highlights key supply chain elements and explores which biomass crops are best suited for an application.

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While not comprehensive to all feedstocks, the document gives customers, stakeholders, and policy makers a better understanding of the unique dynamics associated with biomass feedstocks.

Genera says choosing the right feedstock or feedstock portfolio is critical to the success of any project. “In many cases, raw feedstock is 50 percent or more of the total cost of producing renewable biofuels and biochemical. Optimizing a project’s feedstock portfolio has a significant impact on profitability.”

 

 

Written by William DiBenedetto

9 March, 2015 at 6:00 am

Utilities’ use of renewable energy rising

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ceres picThe “new reality” facing electricity consumers and their utility companies is that renewable energy is meeting an increasingly larger share of U.S. energy needs, according to a report from Ceres and Clean Edge.

That translates into more and better choices and a clean energy future.

“Renewables—including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, waste heat and small-scale hydroelectric—accounted for a whopping 49 percent of new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2012, with new wind development outpacing even natural gas,” writes Jon Wellinghoff, partner at Stoel Rives LLP and former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the report.

Benchmarking Utility Clean Energy Deployment: 2014, is the first annual report from Ceres in partnership with Clean Edge on this subject. It ranks the nation’s 32 largest electric utilities and their local subsidiaries on their renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

12 August, 2014 at 6:00 am

Seattle firm plans Pacific Coast’s first offshore wind farm

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Windfloat-large_03The nation’s first offshore wind farm on the Pacific Coast cleared a crucial federal hurdle when Seattle’s Principle Power received approval to move forward on a commercial lease for the proposed $200 million, 30 Mw project.

Principle Power received the go-ahead last month from a Department of the Interior agency to lease 15 square miles of federal waters 18 miles from Coos Bay, Oregon. If the lease request gets final approval, the WindFloat Pacific project would anchor the first offshore turbines in federal waters on the West Coast. It also would be the first in the nation to use triangular floating platforms instead of single piles driven into the ocean floor. Read the rest of this entry »

Solar heat

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solar energy_Mike RaySolar is very hot at the moment. A list of cleantech stock picks for 2014 has First Solar (a solar manufacturer) and SolarCity (a solar installer) at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, and further down the list are a solar holding company, Renewable Energy Trade Board, and a solar equipment company, Meyer Burger.

There are many reports, including one on another site that I write for on occasion TriplePundit, that the solar market is heading for a “second gold rush” this year; there’s little to dispute the fact that solar is definitely an in thing, especially for investors. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

13 February, 2014 at 4:00 am

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