[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
IRENA report finds renewable power costs at parity or below fossil fuels in many parts of world
January 17, 2015
The cost of generating power from renewable energy sources has reached parity or dropped below the cost of fossil fuels for many technologies in many parts of the world, according to a new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
The report, “Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014”, concludes that biomass, hydropower, geothermal and onshore wind are all competitive with or cheaper than coal, oil and gas-fired power stations, even without financial support and despite falling oil prices. Solar photovoltaic (PV) is leading the cost decline, with solar PV module costs falling 75% since the end of 2009 and the cost of electricity from utility-scale solar PV falling 50% since 2010.
California makes first investments in $100M energy research & development program; also biogas and H2
December 11, 2014
The California Energy Commission approved its first $10 million to fund Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) research and development (R&D) projects during its monthly business meeting today. The Commission also approved grants for the operation of a hydrogen fueling station, biofuel production, geothermal exploration and rooftop solar for schools.
EPIC is a multi-year, research investment program focused on electricity-related innovations, finding new energy solutions and bringing clean energy ideas to the marketplace. The program’s 2012-2014 plan calls for investing $330 million between 2014 and 2015 in innovative technologies that provide benefits to electric ratepayers served by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. The seven awards approved will fund applied R&D projects that will develop utility-scale renewable energy generation technologies.
Major power and gas company E.ON splitting in two; focusing on renewables, spinning off conventional power generation
December 01, 2014
Düsseldorf, Germany-base E.ON, one of the world’s largest investor-owned power and gas companies, is adopting a new strategic direction under which is will split itself in two. E.ON itself will focus on renewables, distribution networks, and customer solutions. The existing conventional generation, global energy trading, and exploration and production businesses will be combined in a new, independent company (“New Company”), a majority of which will be spun off to E.ON SE shareholders. In 2015, E.ON will take necessary preparatory steps for the New Company’s public listing.
E.ON SE will have three core businesses: renewables, distribution networks, and customer solutions. About 40,000 employees will be assigned to the distinctly focused company. In its new setup, E.ON will take new approaches to further developing each of its three core businesses. For this purpose E.ON will increase its investments already for the next year by about €0.5 billion (US$0.62 billion) compared to the previously planned 2015 capex of €4.3 billion (US$5.4 billion).
Audi in new e-fuels project: synthetic diesel from water, air-captured CO2 and green electricity; “Blue Crude”
November 14, 2014
Audi is active in the development of CO2-neutral, synthetic fuels; the company already has projects underway with Joule in the US for the development and testing of synthetic ethanol and synthetic diesel (earlier post); has an e-gas project underway in Werlte, Germany (earlier post); and has a new partnership with Global Bioenergies on bio-isooctane (bio-gasoline) (earlier post).
Audi’s latest e-fuels project is participation in a a pilot plant project in Dresden that produces diesel fuel from water, CO2 and green electricity. Audi and project partners including Climeworks and sunfire (earlier post) opened the plant today. The project combines two innovative technologies in this project, which is funded in part by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research and was preceded by a two-year research and preparation phase: direct capture of CO2 from ambient air and a power‑to‑liquid process for the production of synthetic fuel. Audi is the exclusive partner in the automotive industry.
Toshiba to partner with Kawasaki City on 5-year demo of independent energy supply system utilizing solar power and hydrogen
Toshiba Corporation and Kawasaki City will conduct a cooperative demonstration experiment of an independent energy supply system utilizing solar power and hydrogen. This system will be set up in the Kawasaki Marien public facility and Higashi-Ogishima-Naka Park in the Kawasaki Port area. The demonstration will run from April 2015 (the beginning of fiscal 2015) until the end of fiscal 2020 (March 2021).
The independent energy supply system combines a 25 kW photovoltaic facility; a storage battery; hydrogen-producing water electrolysis equipment; hydrogen (275 Nm3) and water tanks; and fuel cells. Electricity generated from the photovoltaic installations will be used to electrolyze water and produce hydrogen, which will then be stored in hydrogen tank and used in the fuel cells to provide electricity and hot water (60ℓ/h). Hydrogen electrical power storage capacity is 350 kWh. (Hydrogen storage capacity increases by about a maximum of 20%, depending on the weather.)
DOE fuel cell market report shows continued growth, with sales surpassing $1.3B worldwide in 2013
November 12, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) released the 2013 edition of its annual Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report, detailing trends in the fuel cell and hydrogen technologies market. More than 35,000 fuel cell systems were shipped in 2013, an increase of more than 26% over 2012 and 400% more than 2008. In 2013, worldwide fuel cell industry sales surpassed $1 billion for the first time, reaching $1.3 billion.
Although early markets such as stationary power and material handling account for the bulk of sales, DOE noted that the fuel cell industry made “tremendous progress” in the light-duty transportation sector in 2013. Achievements include the launch of H2USA (earlier post), a public private partnership focusing on overcoming the barriers to hydrogen infrastructure. The UK launched a similar initiative called UK H2Mobility (earlier post). Hyundai began leasing its first series production fuel cell electric vehicle at select dealerships in Southern California. (Earlier post.)
US and China jointly announce GHG reduction targets; US to cut net GHG 26-28% by 2025, China to peak CO2 by ~2030
The US and China jointly announced greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets. US President Barack Obama said the US will cut net greenhouse gas emissions in the US by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. At the same time, President Xi Jinping of China announced targets to peak that country’s CO2 emissions around 2030, with the intention to try to peak early, and to increase the non-fossil fuel share of all energy to around 20% by 2030. Together, the US and China account for more than one third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The new US goal will double the pace of GHG reduction from 1.2% per year on average during the 2005-2020 period to 2.3-2.8% per year on average between 2020 and 2025. The Administration said that the ambitious target is grounded in analysis of cost-effective carbon pollution reductions achievable under existing law and will keep the United States on a trajectory to achieve deep economy-wide reductions on the order of 80% by 2050.
GMZ Energy develops new thermoelectric material with lower raw material costs, higher power output; Hafnium-free p-type half-Heusler
October 21, 2014
Researchers at GMZ Energy, a provider of nano-structured thermoelectric generation (TEG) power solutions for mobile and stationary waste-heat recovery (earlier post), with their colleagues at the University of Houston and Bosch, have developed a new Hafnium-free p-type half-Heusler material which offers substantially lower raw material cost than conventional half-Heusler materials. The material also features enhanced performance and mechanical strength due to GMZ’s patented nanostructuring process.
As presented in a paper published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the new material improves thermoelectric power output compared to a conventional Hafnium-based product. Further, by replacing the costly Hafnium element with GMZ’s proprietary formulation, the overall cost-per-watt of the TEG is lowered. Cost reduction is beneficial for vehicle and industrial waste heat recovery applications, the developers noted in their paper.
Month-long study finds heat released by Rossi E-Cat and isotope changes in fuel suggest low-temp nuclear reaction taking place
October 09, 2014
Researchers from Uppsala University, KTH and the University of Bologna have reported that during a 32-day test, an “E-Cat” reactor developed by Andrea Rossi (earlier post) released an abundance of heat that cannot be explained by chemical reactions alone. They further reported that isotope changes in the analyzed fuel (lithium and nickel) indicate that nuclear reactions might have occurred at low temperatures.
Testing by the same group of researchers of the Rossi device in 2013 resulted in computed volumetric and gravimetric energy densities far above those of any known chemical source. (Earlier post.) Those results prompted this current follow-on study.
ARPA-E to award $60M to 2 programs: enhancing biomass yield and dry-cooling for thermoelectric power
October 02, 2014
|ARPA-E’s vision of advanced phenotyping to enhance biomass yield. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will award up to $60 million to two new programs ($30 million each). The Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) program (DE-FOA-0001211) seeks to accelerate biomass yield gains (especially energy sorghum) through automated, predictive and systems-level approaches to biofuel crop breeding. The Advanced Research In Dry cooling (ARID) program (DE-FOA-0001197) aims to develop low-cost, highly efficient and scalable dry-cooling technologies for thermoelectric power plants.
TERRA. ARPA-E posited that there is an urgent need to accelerate energy crop development for the production of renewable transportation fuels from biomass. While recent advances in technology has enabled the extraction of massive volumes of genetic, physiological, and environmental data from certain crops, the data still cannot be processed into the knowledge needed to predict crop performance in the field. This knowledge is required to improve the breeding development pipeline for energy crops.
GMZ Energy announces new, high-power thermoelectric module: TG16-1.0
October 01, 2014
|TG16. Click to enlarge.|
GMZ Energy, a developer of high temperature thermoelectric generation (TEG) solutions, has introduced the TG16-1.0, a new thermoelectric module capable of producing twice the power of the company’s first product, the TG8-1.0. By doubling the power density, GMZ’s new module substantially increases performance while maintaining a minimal footprint.
GMZ has been using TG8 modules in developing vehicular thermoelectric generators for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (1 kW TEG) as well as to design and to integrate a light-duty vehicle TEG into a Honda Accord as part of a DOE-funded project. (Earlier post.)
ORNL study finds best current use of natural gas for cars is efficient production of electricity for EVs
September 24, 2014
|Top: Components of well-to-wheels pathway. Middle: WTW efficiency for CNGVs. Bottom: WTW efficiency for EVs. Curran et al. Click to enlarge.|
A well-to-wheels analysis of the use of natural gas for passenger vehicles by a team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has found that, with a high PTW (pump-to-wheels) efficiency and the potential for high electrical generation efficiency with NGCC (natural gas combined cycle) turbines, natural gas currently is best used in an efficient stationary power application for charging EVs.
However, they also noted, high PTW efficiencies and the moderate fuel economies of current compressed natural gas vehicles (CNGVs) make them a viable option as well. If CNG were to be eventually used in hybrids, the advantage of the electric generation/EV option shrinks. Their open access paper is published in the journal Energy.
Sandia team reports significant output from MagLIF fusion technique
September 23, 2014
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories’ Z pulsed-power accelerator have produced a significant output of fusion neutrons, using a method fully functioning for only little more than a year. The experimental work is described in a paper to be published 24 September in Physical Review Letters online. A companion theoretical paper helps explain why the experimental method worked. The combined work demonstrates the viability of the novel approach.
Sandia senior manager Dan Sinars expects the MagLIF (Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion) technique will be a key piece of Sandia’s submission for a July 2015 National Nuclear Security Administration review of the national Inertial Confinement Fusion Program.
Rusatom Overseas and CNNC New Energy to partner on floating nuclear power plants
August 03, 2014
Rusatom Overseas, a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM, and CNNC New Energy (China) signed a Memorandum of Intent to cooperate in the development of floating nuclear power plants. The next step in the implementation of the project will be establishment of a joint Chinese-Russian working group. Rusatom is currently building its first floating nuclear plant, the Akademik Lomonosov; the second of the vessel’s two reactors was installed in February.
The Chinese delegation came to St. Petersburg and Moscow on 24-29 July. The delegation visited the Floating NPP Training Center and the Baltic Shipyard and met with the members of the team for the reference floating NPP construction project, and examined the floating power generating unit currently under construction.
DOE to award $9M to promote consensus on future fossil energy technologies
July 20, 2014
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy will award $9 million over five years to organizations to assist it in building domestic and international consensus on future fossil energy technologies (DE-FOA-0001111). The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) anticipates two awards being made: the first for $7 million in the area of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and fossil-fuel-based Clean Energy Systems (CES); the second for $2 million in the area of international oil and natural gas.
One of the key missions of the Office of Fossil Energy is to “ensure the nation can continue to rely on traditional resources for clean, secure and affordable energy while enhancing environmental protection.” In pursuit of this, the Office provides outreach and education to many stakeholders, including the general public, in order to allow them to make educated choices about energy.
ARPA-E awards $33M to 13 intermediate-temp fuel cell projects; converting gaseous hydrocarbons to liquid fuels
June 19, 2014
The US Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) is awarding $33 million to 13 new projects aimed at developing transformational fuel cell technologies for low-cost distributed power generation. The projects, which are funded through ARPA-E’s new Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program, are focused on improving grid stability, balancing intermittent renewable technologies, and reducing CO2 emissions using electrochemical distributed power generation systems.
Current advanced fuel cell research generally focuses on technologies that either operate at high temperatures for grid-scale applications or at low temperatures for vehicle technologies. ARPA-E’s new REBELS projects focus on low-cost Intermediate-Temperature Fuel Cells (ITFCs) emphasizing three technical approaches: the production of efficient, reliable ITFCs; the integration of ITFCs and electricity storage at the device level; and the use of ITFCs to convert methane or other gaseous hydrocarbons into liquid fuels using excess energy.
DOE releases report on water-energy nexus
The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a new report that frames an integrated challenge and opportunity space around the water-energy nexus for DOE and its partners and lays the foundation for future efforts.
Present day water and energy systems are tightly intertwined. Water is used in all phases of energy production and electricity generation. Energy is required to extract, convey, and deliver water of appropriate quality for diverse human uses. Recent developments have focused national attention on these connections.
EPA proposes rule for nationwide 30% cut in GHG from existing power plants by 2030 relative to 2005
June 02, 2014
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the already widely-discussed (albeit without much detail) “Clean Power Plan” proposal, which mandates a national average 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants from 2005 levels by 2030. Power plants accounted for 32% (2,064 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent) of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2012, according to the EPA.
Specifically, the EPA is proposing state-specific rate-based goals for carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, as well as emission guidelines for states to use in developing plans to attain the state-specific goals. Each state’s goal is different, because each state has a unique mix of emissions and power sources to plug in to each part of the formula. The Clean Power Plan broadly proposes:
GM reduced energy intensity and carbon intensity per vehicle in 2013
May 20, 2014
In 2013, GM reduced the energy-intensity per vehicle manufactured 3.5% from 2012, down to an average 2.22 MW/vehicle from 2.30 MW, according to the company’s just released 2013 sustainability report. GM has set a target of 1.97 MW/vehicle for 2020, a reduction of 20% from the 2010 baseline of 2.47 MW.
The carbon intensity (CI) per vehicle dropped to 0.87 tonnes CO2e/vehicle in 2013, down 1.1% from 0.88 tonnes in 2012. The 2020 target is 0.74 tonnes CO2e, down 20% from the 2010 baseline of 0.93 tonnes. (CI includes all manufacturing and non-manufacturing CO2e emissions reported in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Scope 1 & 2 categories (earlier post), normalized by vehicle production. These data include data from some GM JVs.)
UC Riverside opening Sustainable Integrated Grid Initiative; integration of solar energy, battery storage and electric and hybrid vehicles
May 15, 2014
|Schematic of the “New Grid Testbed” components, including renewable energy generation, energy storage, smart distribution and electric transportation Click to enlarge.|
The University of California, Riverside is opening its Sustainable Integrated Grid Initiative to research the integration of: intermittent renewable energy, such as photovoltaic solar panels; energy storage, such as batteries; and all types of electric and hybrid electric vehicles. It is the largest renewable energy project of its kind in California.
The first two years of operation is supported by a $2-million contract from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, awarded in January 2012. Construction of the initial testbed platform was also supported by an additional $10 million in contributions from UC Riverside and private partners. The testbed, which is located at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), includes:
Toyota Central R&D developing free-piston engine linear generator; envisioning multi-FPEG units for electric drive vehicles
April 22, 2014
|Toyota’s FPEG features a hollow step-shaped piston, combustion chamber and gas spring chamber. Click to enlarge.|
A team at Toyota Central R&D Labs Inc. is developing a prototype 10 kW Free Piston Engine Linear Generator (FPEG) featuring a thin and compact build, high efficiency and high fuel flexibility. Toyota envisions that a pair of such units (20 kW) would enable B/C-segment electric drive vehicles to cruise at 120 km/h (75 mph). The team presented two papers on the state of their work at the recent SAE 2014 World Congress in Detroit.
The FPEG consists of a two-stroke combustion chamber, a linear generator and a gas spring chamber. The piston is moved by the combustion gas, while magnets attached to the piston move within a linear coil, thereby converting kinetic energy to electrical energy. The main structural feature of the Toyota FPEG is a hollow circular step-shaped piston, which Toyota calls “W-shape”. The smaller-diameter side of the piston constitutes a combustion chamber, and the larger-diameter side constitutes a gas spring chamber.
IPCC: GHG emissions accelerating despite mitigation efforts; major institutional and technological change required to keep the heat down
April 13, 2014
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a policymaker’s summary of Working Group III’s (WG III) latest report showing that despite a growing number of climate change mitigation policies, annual anthropogenic GHG emissions grew on average by 1.0 giga tonne carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2eq) (2.2%) per year from 2000 to 2010 compared to 0.4 GtCO2eq (1.3%) per year from 1970 to 2000. Total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010 and reached 49 (±4.5) GtCO2eq/yr in 2010. The global economic crisis 2007/2008 only temporarily reduced emissions.
The increase in anthropogenic emissions comes directly from energy supply (47%); industry (30%); transport (11%); and buildings (3%) sectors, the WG reported with medium confidence. Globally, economic and population growth continue to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
Sandia Labs project team building fuel cell cold ironing system for deployment at Port of Honolulu in 2015
February 25, 2014
A Sandia National Laboratories project team, including a number of industry partners, is designing and building a cold-ironing fuel cell system that will be deployed in the Port of Honolulu in 2015. The work comes on the heels of last year’s study and analysis that confirmed the viability of hydrogen fuel cells to provide auxiliary power to docked or anchored ships. (Earlier post.)
Hydrogen researchers at Sandia National Laboratories joined with several partners in the follow-up project, which will result in a portable, self-contained hydrogen fuel cell unit that can float on a barge, sit on a dock or be transported to wherever it’s needed to provide electrical power. The unit will fit inside a 20-foot shipping container and will consist of four 30-kilowatt fuel cells, a hydrogen storage system and power conversion equipment.
M5BAT 5MW storage system integrates multiple battery technologies
February 24, 2014
The E.ON Energy Research Center at RWTH Aachen University, E.ON electric utility company, battery manufacturers Exide and beta-motion and inverter manufacturer SMA Solar Technology AG (SMA) have joined forces to build the first multi-technology, modular large-scale 5MW battery storage system.
The unique feature of the M5BAT (Modular Multimegawatt, Multitechnology Medium-Voltage Battery Storage System) storage system lies in its modular design, which combines different battery technologies for optimal use. It consists of lithium-ion batteries to meet short-term demand; high-temperature batteries to supply power for several hours; and lead-acid batteries when the average discharge time is one hour or less.
Sumitomo installs first large-scale power system using used EV batteries
February 08, 2014
Sumitomo Corporation has developed and installed the first large-scale power storage system which utilizes used batteries collected from electric vehicles. This commercial scale storage system, built on Yume-shima Island, Osaka, will begin operating in February 2014.
Sumitomo Corporation created the joint venture company, 4R Energy Corporation, in collaboration with Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. in September 2010, to address the secondary use of EV lithium-ion batteries. (Earlier post.) The used EV batteries that will be recycled into this large-scale storage system have been recovered and have gone through thorough inspection and maintenance at 4R, to confirm safety and performance. This prototype system (600kW/400kWh) consists of sixteen used EV batteries.
ARPA-E awarding $30M to 12 hybrid solar projects; conversion and storage
February 07, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) is awarding $30 million in funding to 12 projects through its Full-Spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight (FOCUS) program, which is aimed at developing new hybrid solar energy converters and hybrid energy storage systems that can deliver low-cost, high-efficiency solar energy on demand. (Earlier post.)
Under the FOCUS program, projects will develop advanced solar converters that turn sunlight into electricity for immediate use, while also producing heat that can be stored at low cost for later use as well as innovative storage systems that accept both heat and electricity from variable solar sources.
CMU researchers find controlled charging of PHEVs can cut cost of integration into electricity system by 54-73%; higher benefits with wind power
January 24, 2014
In a new study published in the journal Applied Energy, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers found that controlled charging of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) reduces the costs of integrating the vehicles into an electricity system by 54–73% depending on the scenario.
More specifically, controlled charging can cut the cost of integrating PHEVs approximately in half. The magnitude of these savings is ~5% to 15% higher in a system with 20% wind penetration compared to a system with no wind power, and the savings are 50–60% higher in a system that requires capacity expansion.