Renewables, fuel cells, hydrogen, and efficiency
Monday, September 26, 2005
A Sunshine Deal: Sep 2005: Southern California Edison (SCE), with 13 million customers, has just announced a deal with Phoenix-based Stirling Energy Systems that could result in a huge solar farm. .. SCE has agreed to purchase upwards of 500 megawatts of electricity from Stirling Energy Systems -- enough to provide all the energy needs to 278,000 homes -- or more than all other U.S. solar projects combined. While neither company has disclosed the financial details, SCE said the system will not require state subsidies.
The effort will begin with a pilot project: a proof-of-concept facility with 40 solar dishes producing one megawatt of energy. The test will take place over the next 18 months, and, if successful, Stirling Energy Systems will construct a 20,000-dish array over four years, covering 4,500 acres -- more than four times the size of the National Mall in DC -- in the desert northwest of Los Angeles. "From our perspective, Stirling has established the viability of this at a laboratory level," says SCE spokesperson Gil Alexander. "This could be a turnaround point for solar."
Stirling's dish technology, which was first developed by McDonnell-Douglas in the mid-1980s, makes use of a heat-driven engine, rather than photovoltaic panels. The company's deal with SCE marks its first utility-scaled energy application. In the Stirling solar system, each dish is a round, mirrored surface measuring 37 feet in diameter that reflects and focuses light into the receiving end of a Stirling engine. .. "Our systems have peak efficiency of 29.4 percent -- that's the record for converting solar to grid-quality energy," says Stirling CEO Bruce Osborn. " 10:44:49 AM
Extensive energy plan for California:
"The new plan is projected to save 1,500 megawatts of electricity statewide by 2008 -- the same amount that three new power plants would produce. In terms of global warming emissions, the California Public Utilities Commission estimates the reductions are equivalent to removing 650,000 cars a year from California highways.
[It will] offer significantly more rebates every year to customers who purchase energy-efficient appliances such as air conditioners, furnaces and clothes washers. It also would pay for utilities to conduct voluntary energy audits at tens of thousands of businesses, schools, hospitals, homes and other buildings. Under the plan, the PUC would require the state's major investor-owned utilities, such as Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, to spend $2 billion between 2006 and 2008 to expand their energy efficiency programs. Those investments are expected to produce $5.4 billion in energy savings for ratepayers. ..
By 2008, the state's four major utilities would spend $777 million a year on energy efficiency programs -- a 62 percent increase from the $479 million they will spend in 2005. Under rules the state adopted in 1982, PG&E and other regulated utilities do not earn more profits when customers use more energy. They are guaranteed a set profit each year, and given incentives when consumers reduce energy. As a result of that program and others like it, California's per capita energy use already is the lowest in the United States -- 40 percent less than the U.S. average. ..
The funding for the new PUC program will come from three sources. First is a 1 percent increase in electricity and natural gas bills by 2008, which amounts to an increase of $1.61 a month for the average PG&E household bill of $122.23. Second is the ``public goods charge,'' an existing fee for energy conservation programs of 1 percent that has been on California utility bills for about a decade. Finally, the bulk of the funding -- nearly two-thirds -- will come from money the utilities would have spent buying electricity and natural gas." Passage confirmed at Red Herring. 10:36:13 AM
US Battery Research: Too Little, Too Late?: "The power gap between current needs and what batteries can deliver for electronics today reflects a decision made years ago to all but abandon basic battery research in favor of more flashy fuel-cell technology, says Donald Sadoway, a battery expert and professor of materials engineering at MIT .. "Fuel cells grabbed the money," but basic battery research was ignored for years before that as well, says Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose. As a result, today's batteries remain relatively inefficient...
Interview with Sadoway: "I think that lithium ion can be pushed a little bit harder with electrode materials -- for the cathode in particular. There may be untapped capacity in certain materials that could dramatically improve the amount of energy storage in the battery by improving the cathode. I have cells operating at about 300 watts per kilogram, which is double what lithium ion is doing today. I think there's plenty of room at the top here ..
[The next big leap?] Solid-state batteries. We think the next improvement will come from eliminating any liquid from the battery. We think that there are opportunities for looking at multilayer thin-film laminate with no liquid, a polymer as the electrolyte separator. You're looking at something that's similar to a potato chip bag, a polymer web coated with a different layer of chemistry. We can make that by the square mile -- it's not difficult to do. We're talking about a doubling or tripling of the capacity of today's batteries, as opposed to a 20% or 30% improvement. [And it's safer.] A lot of the problems in advanced lithium ion batteries derive from the fact that you have an organic liquid. Lithium ion is not water-based. It's an organic liquid like an alcohol. It's flammable. If it gets hot, the pressure increases, and you'll break the case. It could catch fire. If we go with a polymer electrolyte, you don't have any liquid; it's inert when it comes to heat, plus you can shape it." 9:47:53 AM