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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.

InfoGraphic_Final_PDF_sm_Page_2

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

Next Silicon War: how governments affect business practices

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solar panelsThis is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17@gmail.com.

Thanks in large part to the support the Chinese government has offered to manufacturing, cheap solar panels flooded the global market causing a great deal of damage to renewable energy businesses. The damage was fueled by subsidies from the Chinese government that allowed manufacturers to sell solar panels for less than actual cost, thus allowing these manufacturers to dominate the market and put many foreign developers out of business. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

22 November, 2013 at 4:00 am

Dishing up some solar energy alchemy

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solar-dishWhen it comes to renewable energy and efficiency, a double-dip in the dish is a great deal.

The latest in solar dish technology that does what solar installations do—converts sunlight into power—but with an added twist: it generates clean water.

The efficiency of the typical solar installation ranges from 10 to 20 percent, with the rest waste heat. Swiss researchers associated with IBM have developed the High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal system (HCPVT), which uses that waste solar heat to generate fresh water.

It’s reminiscent of the ancient craft of turning lead into gold. But it’s not alchemy, it’s real. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

29 May, 2013 at 5:00 am

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