Future energy
Renewables, fuel cells, hydrogen, and efficiency

Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Monday, August 30, 2004


Technology already exists to stabilize global warming: Article published in Science identifies portfolio of options to cut emissions now.  They refer to a stabilization triangle composed of emission reduction wedges:  "Keeping emissions flat for 50 years will require trimming projected carbon output by roughly 7 billion tons per year by 2054, keeping a total of ~175 billion tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere [graphed as a triangle]. We refer to this carbon savings as the "stabilization triangle."

To keep pace with global energy needs at the same time, the world must find energy technologies that emit little to no carbon, plus develop the capacity for carbon storage. Many strategies available today can be scaled up to reduce emissions by at least 1 billion tons of carbon per year by 2054. We call this reduction a "wedge" of the triangle. By embarking on several of these wedge strategies now, the world can take a big bite out of the carbon problem instead of passing the whole job on to future generations. "

  4:28:43 PM  permalink  

Geothermal cooling for Toronto: "One of the world’s largest green heat systems has been commissioned in Canada’s largest city.  Enwave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling system can provide cooling for 130 office towers in the downtown core. The system pumps water of 4°C temperature from a depth of 83 m below Lake Ontario, which is used to chill Enwave's cooling plant before it is distributed to customers for air conditioning.

The earth energy system is used in cooling mode only, after which it is distributed for potable water consumption throughout the city. The project produces enough air conditioning for 20 million square feet of office space, and initial customers include the Air Canada Centre, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Royal Bank Plaza, TD Centre and Steam Whistle Brewing. .. Compared with traditional space cooling, the system reduces electricity use by 75% and will eliminate 40,000 tonnes of CO2, equal to taking 8,000 cars off of the streets. It also frees 59 MW from the Ontario electrical grid."  4:15:19 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, August 27, 2004


GM Hybrid buses for Yosemite Park: "Yosemite National Park [is] investing in transit buses powered by GM's hybrid technology, which offers up to 60% greater fuel economy and 90% cleaner emissions. The General Services Administration (GSA) has awarded a contract for 18 new 40-foot diesel-electric hybrid buses, which are scheduled to go in service in May 2005. Gillig Corp., of Hayward, Calif., manufactures the buses.

GM-hybrid-equipped buses are currently in revenue service in Philadelphia and Seattle, which will have more than 230 hybrid buses in service by the end of 2004, representing the largest hybrid bus order in history. In addition, the hybrid buses are in "preview programs" in over a dozen major North American cities, including Minneapolis, Portland and Houston. ..

"Several types of alternative fuel buses were seriously considered," commented Yosemite National Park Superintendent Mike Tollefson. "The decision to pursue diesel electric hybrids was based on a significant improvement in fuel economy, dramatically reduced emissions, and noticeably quieter operations. .."

"General Motors' hybrid strategy focuses on applying fuel-saving hybrid technology where it makes the most sense, on vehicles like transit buses, full-size pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles," said Tom Stephens, group vice president of GM Powertrain. "For example, replacing the 13,000 buses operating in the nine largest transit markets in the United States with our hybrid technology would result in annual savings of almost 40 million gallons of fuel, equivalent to nearly half a million small hybrid passenger vehicles." "  10:04:27 PM  permalink  

Futuristic factories make mesh: "Industrial motors (not including facility heating and ventilating) consumed 679 billion kilowatt hours in the United States in 2003. That's 63 percent of all electricity used in industry and 23 percent of all electricity sold in the United States last year, according to the Energy Department. .. DOE figures a wireless sensor network could increase a motor's efficiency by 10 to 20 percent, which corresponds to a total U.S. energy savings of 120 trillion BTUs (35.1 billion kW-hr) per year..

Sensicast has devised a suite of control programs that have frequency "agility" — that is, they seek out the clear frequencies and attempt to evenly spread out the simultaneous communications going on among the nodes on the mesh.  ..

Each wireless sensor will operate for years on a single battery charge, but for the future, GE is working on new technology that could harvest the vibrational energy of the motor itself to power the transceivers. Rensselaer, for its part, will be developing a physics-based model that will enable turnkey analysis and lifetime predictions from the sensor outputs of a motor. "

  7:59:29 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Fortune Magazine Backs Renewable Energy: "The cost of the plan is modest, about $7 billion to $9 billion per year, much of which can be offset by eliminating current subsidies and giveaways.  "Will it be enough to kick our longtime oil addiction?," asks [editor] Varchaver. "Of course not. Even a far more radical plan is not going to solve this problem in ten years. Progress will be incremental and will take decades. But with the hole we have to climb out of getting deeper every day we wait, this plan at least promises what we need right now--a good start."

Fortune's plan consists of four approaches:

1. Improving fuel economy. Hybrids... [and] drop the exemption that allows SUVs to be considered light trucks instead of passenger vehicles.

2. More spending on alternative fuels. Fortune estimates that a $3.5-billion-a-year investment in two key areas.. [hydrogen fuel cells, and] biomass fuel called cellulosic ethanol, which can be blended into gasoline with minimal modifications to current engines and gas stations.

3. Redoubled commitment to efficiency. ..

4. Getting serious about solar and wind. ..

For Fortune's plan to work, the government will have to do its part; when it comes to transformation on this scale, Washington needs to jump-start the process. Still, In Fortune's plan, government intervention would be modest.. "That 20 percent [cut] might sound like a modest figure," concludes Varchaver. "But that percentage turns out to be more than the portion of our imports that come from the Persian Gulf. If we do nothing, you can be sure Americans will pay more than just the price at the pump."  9:54:26 PM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, August 14, 2004


Tidal Flow To Power New York City: Excellent summary of tidal flow power from Roland Piquepaille.  The lead story is about a NY installation:  "Verdant Power, an energy company based in Arlington, Virginia, plans to plunge six electricity turbines into the East River. If the $4.5-million project is successful, the generators will form the first farm of tide-powered turbines in the world. The plan is to attach the machines, which look like small wind turbines, to concrete piles hammered into the bedrock nine metres below the river's surface. As the tide surges in and out, the heads pivot to face the current and the blades spin."  11:44:59 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Selsam Wind Energy: A New Type of Wind Turbine: Interesting multi-rotor design from a California inventor, using advanced carbon materials to utilize lower-speed wind resources.  Meanwhile, the State of California is offerering funds for development of lower-speed wind:  "Though California is recognized as the industry leader for total installed wind capacity at over 1,800 MW, the state ranks only 17th in terms of available high wind resource areas -- of class 5 and above .. Upon reviewing the most recent high-resolution resource maps for the state, it is evident that there are significantly more low wind speed resource areas (Class 3 to 4 at 10 m) than high wind resource areas."  11:17:27 AM  permalink  

Identifying Environmentally Preferable uses for Biomass Resources: A study of North American biomass resources and their comparative effects on greenhouse emissions.  Recommendations:

  1. If biomass is specifically grown to produce energy, avoid using low-yielding energy crops. Wheat, canola, or corn should not be used as energy crops, as they require considerable energy inputs in the form of fertilizer etc., take up prime farmland, and deliver small yields per hectare. Switchgrass or wood from short-rotation forestry (e.g., poplar or willow) should be used to produce energy.
  2. Use biomass waste and energy crops where they displace fuels with high carbon
    content. Combined heat and power, or the production of either biofuels or hydrogen are preferred over electricity-only options, since electricity production will usually replace relatively efficient natural gas burning.
  3. Landfilling and incineration are the best options to minimize GHG emissions from municipal solid waste. While landfilling with efficient gas collection is slightly preferred over incineration.  Composting is not recommended due to the considerable methane emissions from pockets of anaerobic activity.
  4. Do not produce biodiesel from virgin vegetable oils. Available land can be used more efficiently by growing other crops for energy purposes. However, waste oil and fat should be used to make either biodiesel, or a diesel additive.
  5. If the ultimate goal is to displace a maximum quantity of fossil fuels, combined heat and power systems are the preferable biomass use option. 
  10:34:10 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, August 09, 2004


Scientists formulate intelligent glass that blocks heat not light: "Reporting in the Journal of Materials Chemistry, researchers reveal they have developed an intelligent window coating that ..reflects the sun's heat ..

While conventional tints block both heat and light the coating, which is made from a derivative of vanadium dioxide, allows visible wavelengths of light through at all times but reflects infrared light when temperature rise over 29 degrees Celsius. Wavelengths of light in this region of the spectrum cause heating so blocking infrared reduces unwanted rays from the sun.  The coating's ability to switch between absorbing and reflecting light means occupants benefit from the sun's heat in cooler conditions but when temperatures soar room heating is reduced by up to 50 per cent. ..

"Another consideration, is the colour of the coating. At present it's yellow/green, which really isn't attractive for windows. So we're now looking into colour suppression as a way round this." "

Besides space heating and cooling, I wonder if it would help for photovoltaic concentrating solar collectors, which use Fresnel lenses, mirror systems, or mirror troughs, to reduce the heat stress on the PV components.

  11:57:21 PM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, August 08, 2004


GreenFuel Technologies Corporation:  2004 spinoff from a space technology company, attempting conversion of emissions to usable biomass (i.e. algae) in novel bioreactors:  "Depending on customer specifications, GreenFuel will reduce up to 90% of NOx and 40% of CO2, generating biomass, emissions reduction credits, and public goodwill, for far less than the price of current Selective Catalytic Reduction systems or CO2 sequestration methods, and with no toxic byproducts."  Innovations are outlined.  Field test is underway on MIT's cogen power plant.

  11:02:26 PM  permalink  

Intelligent Energy Demonstrates Fuel Cell for Rural Electrification in Latin America: "Intelligent Energy Inc. says it has completed trials of its ethanol-based fuel cell technology system, showing that sufficient electricity can be generated for a rural home from equipment little larger than a shoebox, using fuel derived from sugar cane. ..

Intelligent Energy is engaged in a partner program in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico which is focused on providing rural and urban electricity solutions.  Dr. Eduardo Torres Serra of CEPEL, Brazil's premier energy research laboratory, which is currently engaged in research aimed at rural and peri-urban electrification, witnessed the operation of Intelligent Energy's fully integrated ethanol-in to electricity-out system. He commented: "The Intelligent Energy system is at the cutting edge of technology, it is very compact and extremely impressive."

Making the announcement today, Intelligent Energy's Chairman, former Chairman of Shell, Sir John Jennings, said: "This successful demonstration is an important part of our expanding strategy to accelerate market acceptance of fuel cell technology as an alternative power source. " The company has interesting people from the conventional energy business, and materials that emphasize developing countries.  They appear to proceed by acquisition of companies with promising technology, from fuel source to power output.

  10:47:40 PM  permalink  

CO2 bioreactors:  Mix power plant CO2 with water and feed it to algae.  "As the carbon dioxide exhaust moves toward the smokestacks, it would pass through tubes of running water, creating bicarbonates that would bubble in the water like soda pop. The water then flows through a bioreactor that contains a series of screens on which algae grow.  "The algae basically drink the bicarbonates," says David Bayless, who also serves as associate director of the [Ohio U]'s Ohio Coal Research Center. "They get carbon through this system much quicker than trying to get it out of the air." .. He estimates that an average-size plant using this technology could process 20 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions and produce 200,000 tons or more of algae per year for a secondary market."  News story online.  Most info dates from 2001, including a technical paper.

  10:22:20 PM  permalink  

Jatropha plant yields biodiesel: "DaimlerChrysler is launching a new public-private joint enterprise in India for the production of environment-friendly biodiesel that can be used to power Mercedes vehicles. .. The project is setting out to test the production of biodiesel from Jatropha plants on eroded ground and its preparation for subsequent use in internal combustion engines.

With the establishment of this plantation, wind erosion will be alleviated and the roots of the plants will help reduce water erosion. The biscuits created as a byproduct of the oil extraction make an excellent organic fertilizer that helps improve the quality of the soil. It is envisaged that the plantations will later be operated by the municipal authorities.

Jatropha biodiesel is characterized by particularly favorable ignition performance. It also contains no sulfur and is thus a clean, low-emission fuel. .. Jatropha grows wild in many areas of India and even thrives on infertile soil. A good crop can be obtained with little effort. " 

The Austrian Biofuels Institute provided a note on a field test of the fuel in 2004, with some into on its development since 1996.

  9:54:27 PM  permalink  

New Transmission Line for CA Wind: "A new transmission project designed to carry wind energy from California's Tehachapi and Antelope Valley area to customers throughout California met with swift approval from the California Independent System Operator Board of Governors. The new line is needed to carry power from an expansion of wind turbine generators planned for the area.   The Tehachapi range already is home to more than 600 MW of wind generation, making it California's largest concentration of wind turbines. As much as 1,100 MW worth of new wind projects are planned for the region.. California utilities [must] meet the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires 20 percent of the energy the Investor-Owned Utilities deliver to their customers to come from renewable resources by the year 2017. .. The 25-mile Antelope-Pardee line will cost about $94 million to build. It could be energized as early as December 2006. "

  8:34:23 PM  permalink  

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