June 30, 2011
Panasonic develops thermoelectric tubes for compact geothermal electricity generation and waste heat recovery
Panasonic has developed novel thermoelectric tubes designed for fluid heat sources such as hot water and steam. The tubular shape enables direct and efficient heat transfer without additional heat exchangers, yielding high density of generated power. Panasonic says that its thermoelectric tube is suited for capturing unused or wasted heat from hot springs and factories.
|Panasonic’s thermoelectric conversion tube. Click to enlarge.|
Conventional thermoelectric generators can be complicated in structure and restricted in planar shape, making them difficult to scale-up and implement. Panasonic addressed these issues by using a phenomenon called the transverse thermoelectric effect, which takes place in tilted multilayer made of thermally-resistive thermoelectric materials and thermally-conductive metals. This effect makes it possible to control heat flow and electric current independently in materials, enabling a simple structure without complicated electric junctions and planar substrates.
The thermoelectric tube is constructed by stacking conical rings of bismuth telluride as thermoelectric material and nickel as metal. Panasonic has developed processing technologies in fabricating conical rings of brittle thermoelectric materials and bonding rings with minimum parasitic electric and thermal losses.
The performance of power generation is strongly dependent on many parameters such as size of the tube and amount of heat source. Panasonic says it has developed the simulation technology to optimize the design of the thermoelectric tube in order to maximize the output electric power in accordance with surrounding conditions.
A 10 cm-long fabricated thermoelectric tube using technologies introduced above can generate 1.3 W of electricity by running hot water of 90 °C inside, and cold water of 10 °C outside the tube. The power density corresponds to as high as 10 kW with 1 m3 of volume. Development on system design, optimization in manufacturing and feasibility study are now under way or planned, with a view to realizing compact, efficient, and economical generators fueled by geothermal energy and waste heat in factories.
Panasonic holds 29 domestic patents and 12 overseas patents, including pending applications, on this technology.
This development was partially presented at the Electronic Materials Conference held in Santa Barbara, California on 22 June 2011.
Land Rover pricing the Range Rover Evoque starting at $43,995; most fuel efficient model to date
Land Rover is pricing the new 2012 Range Rover Evoque starting at $43,995 for the five-door, and $44,995 for the coupe. Both prices include Destination and Delivery.
The Range Rover Evoque is the brand’s most fuel-efficient model to date, and achieves an estimated 28 mpg US EPA highway and 19 mpg US EPA city. This fuel economy is the result of new efficiency technologies, lightweight materials, and environmentally conscious design.
Weight saving was a primary objective in the development of the Range Rover Evoque, and engineers have applied a range of advanced lightweight materials to make this the lightest Range Rover model ever, with the five-door starting at 3,680 lbs (1,680 kg). Weight-saving technologies can be found throughout the bodyshell and chassis of the Range Rover Evoque, including a steel body structure with more than 18% Boron/high strength steels in key load-bearing areas.
Additional features include polymer and composite front fenders and tailgate, an aluminum hood, roof panels, front lower control arms and front/rear suspension knuckles, and a magnesium cross car beam.
The Range Rover Evoque also focuses on the use of more sustainable materials. Each vehicle uses approximately 35 lbs (16 kg) of recycled plastic material. Parts with recycled content include: headliner, center console, wheel arch liners, air cleaner, cooling fan and shroud, air ducting, side under trays, parcel shelf, engine cover and subwoofer box.
In addition, the metal interior trim on the center console and dashboard is produced from recycled aluminum. The trim fabric used on the headlining and pillars is produced from recycled polyester.
This vehicle will be sold in 160 countries worldwide with North American deliveries beginning in Fall 2011.
Re-powered ultra-low emission locomotive features idling-stop function; reduction in NOx and PM of 80%
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled upstate New York’s first ultra-low emission locomotive at a railroad yard in Selkirk, NY. The cleaner energy locomotive was made possible by an EPA award of more than $1 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to the New York State Department of Transportation.
New York State DOT and CSX Transportation used the funding to replace the old conventional engine on the locomotive with three smaller, cleaner engines. The new engines will reduce emissions of NOx and particulate matter from the locomotive by 80% using technologies that monitor engine idling and switch to “sleep” mode after a period of inactivity.
Locomotive engines have traditionally been significant contributors to air pollution. EPA has set new standards that will cut fine particle pollution from these and other heavy duty engines by 90% and smog-forming nitrogen oxides by 80%. EPA estimates that the health benefits of this rule outweigh the costs by 15 to 1. Locomotive engines being produced today must meet new emission requirements set by EPA.
However, because locomotive engines are very durable and are often in service for many decades, older engines continue to emit large amounts of NOx and particulate matter. Projects to replace these older polluting engines with cleaner ones are a key part of EPA’s national strategy to cut diesel pollution. The total project cost was $1,450,000. EPA provided about $1 million of the funding, with the remainder being provided by CSX, the owner of the locomotive.
Johnson Controls endowing University of Wisconsin System for energy storage research
Johnson Controls, Inc. is endowing a professorship, research labs and graduate studies in energy storage at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Between our scientists and the talented UW students, we expect groundbreaking projects to develop. This is a historic, collaborative step that will unify the state’s two research universities to form critical advancement in the area of energy storage devices and batteries.—Alex Molinaroli, president for Power Solutions at Johnson Controls
The Johnson Controls Endowed Professorship in Energy Storage Research will add an expert in technology education to the UW-Madison and UW- Milwaukee Colleges of Engineering and Applied Science. The person who holds this endowed chair will be responsible for maintaining cutting-edge laboratories and supervising graduate students in research at both the Madison and Milwaukee campuses. The position is expected to be filled this summer.
Part of the funding will support the creation of The Johnson Controls Energy Storage Research Lab at UW-Madison. The lab will be housed in the new Wisconsin Energy Institute under construction on the UW-Madison campus.
Beginning with the 2011-2012 academic year, the Johnson Controls Graduate Research Fellows fund is also being established at the UW Foundation to support advanced student research projects.
Blue Marble Biomaterials launches first zero-waste chemical biorefinery
|A general diagram of Blue Marble’s manufacturing system. A photobioreactor and algae perform the “water recycling”; the pelletized solid waste material will be used in the gasifier. Source: Blue Marble. Click to enlarge.|
Blue Marble Biomaterials, a wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Marble Energy Corp., has launched the first zero-waste chemical biorefinery in the US in Missoula, Montana. Blue Marble Energy uses novel bacterial consortia to produce specialty biochemicals from the anaerobic fermentation of a range of biomass feedstocks. (Earlier post.) The facility will produce 72 tons of fine chemicals a year and only purified water and pellet fuel for wood-boilers as its waste.
The company is implementing novel recycling systems to eliminate waste and reduce cost: a photo-bioreactor containing algae purifies wastewater and waste gas from the fermentation system and their solid waste is dried and pelletized for use in wood-burning furnaces and stoves. The company has future plans to power its facilities using its own waste gas and pelletized solid waste in already on-site gasifiers.
Blue Marble Energy’s proprietary AGATE (Acid, Gas and Ammonia Targeted Extraction) system uses different bacterial consortia (“cassettes”) in an anaerobic fermentation process to produce carboxylic acids, esters, mercaptains / thiols, and terpenes. The system is feedstock flexible; for the Missoula plant, Blue Marble is using waste coffee grounds and spent grain from a major brewer, said Kelly Ogilvie, Blue Marble’s CEO.
(Blue Marble uses a supercritical fluid extraction process to remove the remaining lipids from the coffee grounds.)
The feedstock flexibility can manifest as price stability for Blue Marble’s chemical customers, Ogilvie noted. For example, the company has a stable price on the spent grain from the brewer; a waste product which otherwise would end up in landfills (i.e., the amounts above that which could economically be used for cattle feed, the other major disposal pathway for spent grain).
If we have fixed feedstock [such as the waste spent grain], we have price stability. We can hedge off the future price volatility of petroleum. Price protection is a huge issue right now.—Kelly Ogilvie
The start-up of the Missoula biorefinery comes on the heels of President Obama’s announcement on 24 June to invest $500 million in US-based advanced manufacturing through the Advanced Manufacturing Program (AMP). (Earlier post.) Blue Marble founders, Kelly Ogilvie and James Stephens were members of the council that informed the decision to proceed with the President’s Advanced Manufacturing Program.
One of the purposes of PCAST [President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology] was for us to sit next to Proctor & Gamble. “P&G, you guys are huge, you use biobased stuff, you have scale. Blue Marble, you’re good at technology but not at scale. How do we partner companies like you two for leverage?”
In the aftermath of the recession, all these larger companies were reining in R&D spending. The question is, if we are reining in spending because consumers are, how do we continue to innovate? That comes through partner building, partnering between small companies and big. But how do we create a situation where small companies are not afraid to get in bed with the big guys because they might get crushed?
...This is the biggest game ever. The future biorefineries are going to be replacing that which has no replacement right now: petroleum. Everyone is trying to find these solutions. It’s an uneasy relationship right now between bio-based and petrochemical companies. We don’t operate, or produce at a price that competes with petroleum on a reasonable basis right now. But maybe at scale, they switch out.
At some point, you see industrial players creating new verticals in the market. At some level of scale, we start to be able to talk about competing with petroleum. This is also about keeping jobs in the US. One of the conversations was about how we leverage what the US has in abundance: resources—agricultural residue, forests, biomass from a variety of sectors. The way you keep jobs here is by focusing on monetizing the biomass.
The US is the Saudi Arabia of biomass. If we can figure out how to leverage biomass into products, we’re talking about exporting products and importing money, instead of the other way around. Everybody sees what this can become. AMP is a $500-million baby step towards creating an advanced manufacturing sector in the country.—Kelly Ogilvie
Blue Marble is in several Memoranda of Understanding with clients, including global chemical distributor Sigma-Aldrich, to bring bio-based chemicals to the global market.
New PLUS Performance Package for 2011 Prius
Toyota is offering a new accessory package for the 2011 Prius. First debuted at the 2010 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, the Prius PLUS Performance Package features components of the new PLUS hybrid performance line from Toyota Racing Development (TRD).
Developed to meet the evolving demands of the growing hybrid segment, PLUS adds sporty looks plus performance handling. Toyota says that PLUS is an evolution of hybrid design, where fuel-efficiency co-exists with aggressive styling and performance handling.
The Prius PLUS Performance Package starts with a seven-piece aerodynamic ground effects kit that delivers an aggressive and lower-profile stance. It includes front and rear bumper spoilers, sleek side skirts and a uniquely styled rear diffuser. The custom body kit was aerodynamically designed and engineered to reduce the vehicle’s coefficient of drag, maintaining fuel efficiency.
Complementing the body kit are race-inspired 17-inch forged alloy wheels. The higher strength-to-weight ratio reduces the upsprung weight, assists in keeping the corner weight down and performance up, while maintaining the Prius’ overall light vehicle weight and high fuel efficiency. The wheels are fitted with low profile 215/45R17 tires and have a custom offset, which increases track width yet maintaining Prius’ low rolling resistance.
The performance side of the PLUS package delivers excellent traction and handling without sacrificing fuel efficiency. The track-tuned lowering springs lower the vehicle 1.1 inches in the front and 1.3 inches in the rear. This enhances the vehicle’s on-road performance through quicker turn-in, enhanced steering response and improved cornering ability. A tuned rear sway bar is added to help reduce body lean for flatter cornering and maneuverability. The sway bar is constructed of high carbon spring steel, powder coated to prevent corrosion and road damage.
The new Prius PLUS Performance Package represents the first installment of the new PLUS brand of accessories from Toyota. Available as an add-on option on all Prius models, the PLUS Performance Package adds accessories in a combination at $3,699 for Prius Two, Three, and Four models and $2,999 for the Prius Five. Ordering for the limited production 2011 Prius PLUS Performance Package will begin in July.
US DOE offers conditional loan guarantee commitments to support nearly $4.5B in Loans for 3 California Cd-Te photovoltaic solar power plants
The US Department of Energy (DOE) is offering conditional commitments for loan guarantees of approximately $4.5 billion to support three alternating current Cadmium Telluride (Cd-Te) thin film photovoltaic (PV) solar generation facilities:
DOE is offering a conditional commitment for a loan guarantee to AV Solar Ranch 1, LLC to support the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 project. The 230 megawatt (MW) project will be located in the Antelope Valley area of the Western Mojave Desert, approximately 80 miles north of Los Angeles, California. The project will feature a utility-scale deployment of innovative inverters with voltage regulation and monitoring technologies that are new to the US market.
The inverters enable the project to provide more stable and continuous power, increasing the efficiency and reliability of large-scale solar power plants greater than 100 MW. The facility is expected to generate more than 622,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year, equivalent to powering over 54,000 homes, and will avoid over 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Power from the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 project will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Company.
DOE is offering conditional commitments for partial loan guarantees to Desert Sunlight 250, LLC and Desert Sunlight 300, LLC to support the Desert Sunlight project. The 550 MW project will be located on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in eastern Riverside County, California. The Desert Sunlight project is expected to use 8.8 million Cd-Te thin film solar PV modules, which are commercially proven and have been deployed since 2001. The facility is expected to generate enough electricity to power over 110,000 homes and will avoid over 735,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Project construction will take place in two phases; Phase I will generate 300MW of power, which will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Company, while Phase II will generate 250 MW of power, which will be sold to Southern California Edison. The $1.88 billion in loans that are partially guaranteed by DOE will be funded by a syndicate of institutional investors and commercial banks led by lead lender and lender-applicant, Goldman Sachs Lending Partners LLC, which submitted the project under the Financial Institution Partnership Program (FIPP), and Citibank N.A. as co-lead arranger.
DOE is offering conditional commitments for partial loan guarantees to Topaz Solar Farms, LLC to support the Topaz Solar project. The 550 MW project will be located in eastern San Luis Obispo County, California. The Topaz Solar project will use more than 8.5 million Cd-Te thin film solar PV modules and is anticipated to generate enough electricity to power approximately 110,000 homes and avoid nearly 725,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The project’s power will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Company. The $1.93 billion in loans that are partially guaranteed by DOE will be funded by a syndicate of institutional investors and commercial banks led by lead lender and lender-applicant, The Royal Bank of Scotland plc, who submitted the project under the Financial Institution Partnership Program (FIPP).
First Solar, Inc., with headquarters in Tempe, Arizona, is sponsoring all three projects and will provide Cd-Te thin film solar PV modules for the projects from a new manufacturing plant that has begun construction in Mesa, Arizona, as well as from its recently expanded manufacturing plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, which serves as its primary hub for engineering, research and development.
The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office administers three separate programs: the Title XVII Section 1703 and Section 1705 loan guarantee programs, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. The loan guarantee programs support the deployment of commercial technologies along with innovative technologies that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gas emissions, while the ATVM supports the development of advanced vehicle technologies.
Under all three programs, DOE has issued loans, loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling more than $38 billion to support 40 clean energy projects across the US. The program’s 23 generation projects will produce over 32 million megawatt-hours annually, or enough to power more than 2.5 million homes.
To date, the program has conditionally committed more than $16 billion in loan guarantees to support 15 solar generation projects. DOE has also conditionally committed financing to support numerous other projects, such as four of the world’s largest solar projects, two geothermal projects, the world’s largest wind farm and the nation’s first new nuclear power plant in three decades.
Renault selects DHL for Li-ion battery pack replacement logistics services
Renault has selected DHL as its first logistics provider to manage and distribute replacement Li-ion batteries to the “Expert Z.E.” dealers network for its entire electric vehicle range. DHL has signed a three-year contract to implement a service to coincide with the launch of the first Renault electric vehicles, Fluence Z.E. and Kangoo Z.E.
The Renault sales contract for the electric vehicles is an all-in-one offer including battery replacement after several years of use or in the event of dysfunction—at which point customers visit their dealership to swap the battery.
Renault is the first car manufacture to mass market electric vehicles. In this particular business model, the client will rent the battery reparable in Renault dealerships. Our contract with DHL is one of the key element to ensure that replacement batteries are available for customers—a key quality point that Renault commits to offer to all electric vehicles.—Jacques Daniel, Renault after-sales director
The Renault Z.E. series includes the Kangoo Z.E., Fluence Z.E., Twizy and Zoe models, which will be launched successively between fall 2011 and mid 2012.
The logistics solution will include the storage of batteries in DHL’s facility in Bonneuil near Paris, the transport of batteries to “Expert Z.E” dealers and importers to countries in Europe and Asia including all major Automotive markets such as Germany, France, Spain and the UK, and the return of used batteries to Renault’s Flins repair center.
DHL will control the whole logistics process including order, exception and data management via its specialized Automotive Control Tower in Veghel, Netherlands. With a specific Renault IT solution, DHL will ensure that each individual battery can be tracked throughout the supply chain.
To manage this kind of logistics—these batteries weigh between 112 kg and 335 kg (247–739 lbs) and have non-standard dimensions—DHL staff including drivers have been specially trained on battery handling and trucks are adapted to the load (specific rails and equipment).
As another element of the cooperation, DHL will add eight more vehicles of the type Renault Kangoo Z.E. to its road test in the Rhine-Ruhr area (Germany), trialing the operational suitability of electric vehicles for commercial fleet operations. The road test started in April 2011.
Study finds culture influences response to climate change; consumption and reproduction
How people choose to consume resources and use contraception influences their responses to climate change, according to a new study by a team of psychologists.
Janet K. Swim, Penn State professor of psychology and her colleagues report that growing consumption and growing population are two significant contributors to human impact on the environment. Both substantially increase carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the researchers report in a special issue of American Psychologist that focuses on how psychology contributes to understanding and addressing global climate change.
Engaging in one type of environmentally friendly behavior can predispose one to engage in similar behaviors, inhibit other behaviors, or even increase environmentally harmful behaviors.—Janet Swim
Swim and her colleagues reported that peoples’ perceptions of how their behavior affects the environment influences how they act. If people do not believe that the choices they make will substantially improve the environment, then they are less likely to participate in activities like recycling, turning off lights when leaving a room or car pooling.
Some behaviors offset environmental gains. If a family buys a fuel-efficient vehicle but chooses to drive more miles than they previously did, there is no gain for the environment. Also, while the average US household size is decreasing, Americans are generally choosing to live in larger homes, counteracting the energy savings on heating and cooling that could be made in smaller spaces.
Decisions about environmental consumption and behaviors that use environmental resources are influenced by culture as well as an individual’s abilities and motivations, the researchers noted. Some cultural factors are structural. For example, as people began moving further away from city centers, cars became important for transportation. Other cultural factors, however, influence perceived needs and desires.
The types of cars people drive and how fast people drive influence how much gasoline is consumed. Peoples’ cars and speed are often both influenced by advertising and others’ purchasing and driving behaviors.
People adjust their explanations for behaviors in ways that allow them to maintain their consumer lifestyles. Carpool lanes decrease carbon dioxide emissions and lower costs of commuting. In one study on carpooler explanations for driving choices, the researchers noted that prior to the existence of carpool lanes commuters said carpooling was too expensive. After carpool lanes were available, commuters were surveyed again and reported that flexibility prevented them from carpooling.
Cultural and individual abilities and needs also influence contraceptive use. Population growth in India has in part been attributed to the importance placed on male children, creating a cultural need to have more children in order to increase the number of sons.
Individually people often consider the emotional value of children when determining how many children to have. However, in some circumstances people consider the environmental effects as well. For example, in Nepal if people felt that “environmental destruction had influenced their agricultural productivity [they] were more likely to use contraceptives,” the researchers said.
Also working on this research were Susan Clayton, professor and chair of environmental studies, College of Wooster, and George S. Howard, professor of psychology, University of Notre Dame.
Swim, Janet K.; Clayton, Susan; Howard, George S.(2011) Human behavioral contributions to climate change: Psychological and contextual drivers. American Psychologist, Vol 66(4), May-Jun 2011, 251-264. doi: 10.1037/a0023472
US EPA proposes to approve California’s PM2.5 air quality plans for South Coast, San Joaquin Valley; push toward zero emissions transportation systems
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to approve California’s air quality plans (the State Implementation Plans, SIP) for fine particles (PM2.5) in the South Coast (SC) and San Joaquin Valley (SJV). These plans will reduce pollution to the level required by the health-based 1997 PM2.5 standard (NAAQS) by 2015.
EPA is, however, proposing to disapprove the plans’ contingency measures because they do not provide sufficient emissions reductions. EPA says it is continuing to work with California to address these issues.
We are approving California’s air plans for fine particles, but our work is far from done. EPA will continue to hold the State accountable for bringing air quality up to national standards. Clean air is a critical human health issue in California. In large part, the solution will be found in moving quickly towards zero emission transportation systems.—Jared Blumenfeld, EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest
Over the past 10 years, at the worst monitors, PM2.5 has improved by 14% in the San Joaquin Valley and by 43% in the South Coast. However, these areas continue to be two of the most polluted air basins in the nation. PM2.5 is made up of small particles in the air that can penetrate deep into the lungs and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease, particularly in children and the elderly.
Reducing exposure helps reduce asthma, cardiovascular disease, emergency room visits, cancer and premature death. According to a 2010 California Air Resources Board (ARB) study, PM2.5 exposure leads to 9,200 premature deaths annually in CA.
Diesel mobile sources such as trucks, construction equipment and marine vessels are the largest source of PM2.5 in California. Trucks and buses account for about 40% of diesel emissions from all mobile sources. With its adverse meteorology and substantial pollution from trucks that carry produce and international imports to the rest of the nation, California faces a daunting task in reducing pollution, EPA notes.
In November 2010, EPA proposed to disapprove the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley PM2.5 air quality plans because they relied heavily on emissions reductions from several State diesel and marine vessel rules that had not been finalized or submitted to the EPA for review.
Now, the ARB is finalizing these precedent-setting rules, including the In-Use Diesel Truck and Bus rules; the Drayage Truck Rules; and the Ocean Going Vessels Clean Fuels rule. California is the only state in the nation to aggressively target diesel emissions from existing diesel engines. These truck and bus rules will impact almost a million vehicles that operate in California and will prevent an estimated 3,500 deaths annually.
The ARB has also revised the plans that were originally submitted to EPA to more accurately reflect emissions both now and into the future. For example, ARB performed field work to more accurately characterize the age of trucks and truck travel patterns in California, and collected data that showed they had overestimated usage and emissions from construction equipment. ARB also revised future emission forecasts to account for the economic recession and adjusted future growth based on economic forecasts by UCLA and the University of the Pacific.
As a result of these changes, future emissions are forecasted to be lower and fewer emissions reductions are needed for attainment. For the SJV, the effect of these changes is that about 18% fewer reductions are needed because of better estimates of activity and emissions from trucks and construction equipment and about 5% fewer reductions are needed due to the recession.
For the SC, about 5% fewer reductions are needed due to better estimates of activity and emissions from trucks and construction equipment and about 5% fewer reductions are needed due to the recession.
Also, dozens of state and local measures have been improved to further reduce fine particle pollution from specific industries and activities. For example, San Joaquin recently required air pollution control equipment for commercial charbroiling restaurants and prohibited burning of prunings from various agricultural crops at all times. South Coast cut allowable sulfur emissions from hundreds of industrial boilers in its landmark RECLAIM program, and strictly limited the amount of solvents allowed in commercial cleaning products. Many of these rules are the most stringent in the nation.
While these plans mark a milestone, and the State is currently working on air quality plans for the more stringent 2006 PM2.5 standard, ultimately Californians will need to move to newer technologies to reduce emissions, EPA said. The State and local districts have launched a number of grant and incentive programs to demonstrate and deploy near zero emitting technologies.
The proposed actions will be published in the Federal Register and will include a 30-day public comment period from the date of publication. EPA invites the public to submit comments on the proposals and to resubmit comments on the November 2010 proposals.