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[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.]

NREL reveals thermoelectric potential for tailored semiconducting carbon nanotubes

April 05, 2016

A finely tuned carbon nanotube thin film has the potential to act as a thermoelectric power generator that captures and uses waste heat, according to researchers at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The research could help guide the manufacture of thermoelectric devices based on either single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) films or composites containing these nanotubes. Because more than half of the energy consumed worldwide is rejected primarily as waste heat, the idea of thermoelectric power generation is emerging as an important part of renewable energy and energy-efficiency portfolios.

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Researchers develop all-weather solar cell that generates power from rain as well as from sun

April 03, 2016

While many technical advances have made solar cells more efficient and affordable, a disadvantage remains in the fact that solar cells produce no power when it’s raining. Now, however, researchers from the Ocean University of China (Qingdao) and Yunnan Normal University (Kunming, China) have developed an all-weather solar cell that is triggered by both sunlight and raindrops by combining an electron-enriched graphene electrode with a dye-sensitized solar cell.

The new solar cell can be excited by incident light on sunny days and raindrops on rainy days, yielding an optimal solar-to-electric conversion efficiency of 6.53% under AM 1.5 irradiation and current over microamps as well as a voltage of hundreds of microvolts by simulated raindrops. Their work is published as a “Very Important Paper” in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

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DOE selects 33 clean energy businesses for nearly $6.7M in support under Small Business Vouchers pilot

March 11, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) selected 33 small businesses to work directly with DOE national labs to accelerate the commercialization of new clean energy technologies.

The department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is investing nearly $6.7 million under Round 1 of the new Small Business Vouchers (SBV) pilot. For Round 1, the small businesses and laboratories will collaborate on advancing a number of clean energy technologies, including water, wind, bioenergy, solar, buildings, vehicles, fuel cells, geothermal technologies, and advanced manufacturing. The selected small businesses will work with scientists at nine department laboratories: Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL); Sandia National Laboratories (SNL); Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL); Idaho National Laboratory (INL); Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL); Argonne National Laboratory (ANL); and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

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Argonne LCA study finds many alternative fuels consume more water than petroleum and natural gas fuels

March 09, 2016

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have analyzed the water consumption for transportation fuels in the United States using an extended lifecycle system boundary that includes the water embedded in intermediate processing steps.

In a paper published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, they compared the water consumed per unit energy and per km traveled in light-duty vehicles. They found that many alternative fuels consume larger quantities of water on a per km basis than traditional petroleum and natural gas pathways. The authors concluded that it will be important to consider the implications of transportation and energy policy changes on water resources in the future.

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Rice study finds using natural gas for electricity and heating, not transportation, more effective in reducing GHGs

Rice University researchers have determined a more effective way to use natural gas to reduce climate-warming emissions would be in the replacement of existing coal-fired power plants and fuel-oil furnaces rather than burning it in cars and buses.

The Rice study by environmental engineer Daniel Cohan and alumnus Shayak Sengupta compared the net greenhouse gas-emission savings that could be realized by replacing other fuels in vehicles, furnaces and power plants. They found that gas-fired power plants achieved the greatest reduction—more than 50%—in net emissions when replacing old coal-fired power plants. The use of compressed natural gas in vehicles yielded the least benefit, essentially matching the emissions of modern gasoline or diesel engines.

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Singapore considers Model S EV a high carbon emission vehicle based on fuel consumption and upstream power generation

Channel NewsAsia recently reported on the case of a Tesla Model S owner in Singapore who, rather than receiving the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) rebate he expected of S$15,000 (US$10,841) was hit with a CEVS surcharge of S$15,000 for having high carbon emissions.

Under Singapore’s revised Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS), all new cars and imported used cars registered from 1 July 2015 with low carbon emissions of less than or equal to 135g CO2/km qualify for rebates of between S$5,000 (US$3,614) and S$30,000 (US$21,681), which are offset against the vehicle’s Additional Registration Fee (ARF). Cars with high carbon emissions equal to or more than 186g CO2/km incur a registration surcharge of between S$5,000 and S$30,000.

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CMU study finds that coal retirement is needed for EVs to reduce air pollution

February 12, 2016

Electric vehicles charged in coal-heavy regions can create more human health and environmental damages from life cycle air emissions than gasoline vehicles, according to a new consequential life cycle analysis by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University. However, the anticipated—albeit now possibly delayed, per the recent Supreme Court decision—retirement of coal-fired power plants will make electric vehicles more competitive on an air emissions basis, the researchers found.

Among the findings of the study, published as an open-access paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters, was that battery electric vehicles with large battery capacity can produce two to three times as much air emissions damage as gasoline hybrid electric vehicles, depending on charge timing.

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New German ecoPtG project seeks to make power-to-gas commercially viable with help of automotive technology

February 04, 2016

In collaboration with engineering partner IAV, the Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg (Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg, ZSW); the Reiner Lemoine Institut (RLI); and Wasserelektrolyse Hydrotechnik (HT) are researching cost-effective methods of producing hydrogen with the help of automotive technology. In the ecoPtG project, the researchers and engineers are developing an alkaline water electrolyzer with an output of 100 kW. They aim to demonstrate that CO2-neutral hydrogen can be produced in a cost-effective manner and intend to facilitate the storage of electricity.

Electricity is increasingly being generated from fluctuating renewable sources. Solar and wind energy generation depends on the weather and is subject to significant fluctuations. At times, renewable energy production thus temporarily exceeds regional demand. Hydrogen produced according to the power-to-gas method can play a role in resolving this challenge and decarbonizing the transport sector. By converting electricity to gas, solar and wind power become storable. If required, hydrogen can be reconverted or used as environmentally compatible fuel for fuel cell vehicles.

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Purdue, EPFL team propose Hydricity concept for integrated co-production of H2 and electricity from solar thermal energy

December 16, 2015

Researchers from Purdue University and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland are proposing a new integrated process involving the co-production of hydrogen and electricity from solar thermal energy—a concept they label “hydricity”. They describe their proposal in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The hydricity process entails integrating solar water power (SWP) cycle and solar thermal hydrogen production technologies and a turbine-based hydrogen power cycle with suitable improvements of each for compatibility and beneficial interaction.

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Study finds EV deployment in China to increase Environmental Justice challenge there

November 16, 2015

A new study by a team from the University of Tennessee, Tsinghua University and the University of Minnesota has found that the wide-scale deployment of electric vehicles in China can increase the Environmental Justice (EJ) challenge in that country.

According to their findings, published in a paper in the ACS journalEnvironmental Science & Technology, most (∼77%, range: 41–96%) emission inhalation attributable to urban EVs use—i.e., from the shifting of transportation’s air pollution from urban tailpipes to rural power plants—is distributed to predominately rural communities the incomes of which are on average lower than the cities in which the EVs are used.

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California Hydrogen Business Council says a robust P2G RD&D program should be a priority for the state

October 14, 2015

The case for using Power-to-Gas solutions to store renewable energy is compelling for a number of important use cases, according to a new white paper released by the California Hydrogen Business Council (CHBC). The paper, —“Power-To-Gas: The Case For Hydrogen”—outlines the feasibility and economics of renewable energy storage solutions using P2G. Among the paper’s conclusions is that a robust P2G RD&D program should be a priority for the state of California. Currently, P2G is being deployed in Europe and Canada but is only at the early demonstration phase in California.

P2G systems use electrolysis powered by renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen—i.e., P2G converts electrical energy to chemical energy in the form of hydrogen. The hydrogen can then be transported through the natural gas grid via blending or further conversion to methane, transported by other means such as trucks, or used directly at the point of production. (Posts.)

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Toyota to unveil new fuel cell vehicle concept; focus on distributed generation as well as transportation

October 08, 2015

With its fuel cell Mirai already on sale, Toyota Motor is continuing to push the fuel cell envelope with the introduction of a new fuel cell concept at the upcoming Tokyo Moto Show at the end of this month. The new Toyota FCV Plus is a fuel cell concept that embodies Toyota’s vision of a hydrogen-based society. Toyota is also introducing the all-new Prius and the Toyota C-HR Concept, a compact hybrid crossover.

Toyota envisages a sustainable society in which hydrogen energy is in widespread use—a society it says is embodied by the new FCV Plus concept vehicle, which functions as a distributed power generation system as well as a vehicle.

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Intelligent Energy announces US$1.8B deal for ~27K telecom towers in India; fuel cell power for ~70%; landmark in fuel cell deployment

October 04, 2015

UK-based fuel cell developer Intelligent Energy will purchase contracts from GTL Limited to supply energy-management services across more than 27,400 telecom towers in India—about 6.4% of the country’s total. Essential Energy, a subsidiary of Intelligent Energy in India, will assume the power management for the towers—a figure equivalent to 50% of the UK’s telecom towers and 13% of the US’. Essential Energy intends to transition around 70% of the managed telecom towers from diesel power to hydrogen fuel cells throughout their contracts’ tenure.

The transaction delivers contracted revenues of approximately £1.2 billion (US$1.8 billion) over ten years—a major development for Intelligent Energy and the industry, said Henri Winand, CEO of Intelligent Energy Holdings. The landmark deal also represents a major milestone in hydrogen fuel cell deployment.

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Toyota and public and private partners in Japan to trial renewable CO2-free hydrogen supply chain

September 08, 2015

Major corporate and public sector partners in Japan are launching an effort to test a full carbon-neutral hydrogen supply chain powered by renewable wind energy. The trials are planned to take place near the cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki in the Keihin coastal region.

On the public sector side, the project is being implemented by the Kanagawa Prefectural Government, Yokohama City, and Kawasaki City. The four private sector participants are Iwatani Corporation, Toshiba Corporation, Toyota Motor Corporation, and Toyota Turbine and Systems Inc. In addition, the project will be supported by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment.

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DOE awards ~$25M to 8 projects for CO2 capture and compression; $15M for novel Direct Fuel Cell system

September 02, 2015

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected eight projects to receive almost $25 million in funding to construct small- and large-scale pilots for reducing the cost of CO2 capture and compression through DOE’s Carbon Capture Program. More than half of the funding ($15 million) will go to FuelCell Energy for a pilot scale project using one of the company’s Direct Fuel Cells for carbon capture and compression.

The DOE’s Carbon Capture Program consists of two core research technology areas, post-combustion capture and pre-combustion capture, and also supports related CO2 compression efforts. Current research and development efforts are advancing technologies that could provide step-change reductions in both cost and energy penalty compared to currently available technologies.

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Joint IEA-NEA report details plunge in costs of renewable electricity; nuclear competitive with other baseload power sources

August 31, 2015

Iea3
2010 and 2015 LCOE ranges for solar and wind technologies. Source: IEA/NEA. Click to enlarge.

The cost of producing electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar has been falling for several years. A new report, a joint project by the International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency, provides in detail the contrasting costs for different power generation technologies around the world and shows that renewable sources can produce electricity at close to or even below the cost of new fossil fuel-based power stations, depending upon conditions such as resources and appropriate market and regulatory frameworks.

The report, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2015 Edition, also shows that new nuclear power plants generate electricity more cheaply than other established “baseload” sources—mainly coal- and gas-fired power plants—over the full lifetime of facilities when financing costs are relatively low.

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MIT team proposes ARC fusion reactor: affordable, robust, compact

August 10, 2015

Advances in magnet technology have enabled researchers at MIT to propose a new design for a practical compact tokamak fusion reactor that might be realized in as little as a decade: the ARC (affordable, robust, compact) reactor. The stronger magnetic field makes it possible to produce the required magnetic confinement of the superhot plasma—the working material of a fusion reaction—but in a much smaller device than those previously envisioned.

The reduction in size, in turn, makes the whole system less expensive and faster to build, and also allows for some ingenious new features in the power plant design. The proposed tokamak (donut-shaped) reactor is designed to have 500 MW fusion power at 3.3 m major radius and is described in a paper in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design.

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EPA releases final Clean Power Plan; 32% reduction in CO2 from power plants by 2030

August 03, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the final Clean Power Plan (CPP). The rules establish the first national standards to limit CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants, with a target of a 32% reduction against a 2005 baseline by 2030. The 32% reduction target is 9% more aggressive than in the draft proposal of the CPP released in 2014. (Earlier post.)

The 2030 target is in alignment with the Administration’s earlier economy-wide emissions targets, including the goal of reducing emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Under the Clean Power Plan, by 2030, renewables will account for 28% of national capacity, up from 22% in the proposed rule.

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DOE to award up to $80M to two advanced nuclear reactor projects

August 01, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) issued a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001313) to support the research, development, and demonstration of advanced nuclear reactor concepts. The announcement represents an early step in increasing investment in nuclear advanced reactor technologies, the DOE said.

DOE will partner with industry to fund up to two awards of approximately $6.0 million each in FY 2015. The Energy Department will invest up to $3.6 million in each project, with a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) providing up to an additional $2.4 million. Recipients will be required to invest $1.5 million as part of the cost share. The funding opportunity allows for multiple-year funding for up to two awards with a total of $40 million in DOE cost share per award.

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DOE selects 7 gasification projects for funding; focus on reducing cost of coal conversion

July 15, 2015

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected seven projects to receive funding through NETL’s Gasification System Program. This program supports a wide range of research and development activities aimed at improving fuel and product versatility, efficiency, and economics of gasification processes.

The projects conducted through this program are geared toward reducing the cost of coal conversion and mitigating the environmental impacts of fossil-fueled power generation. The funded research projects fall under two subtopic areas: development of gasification technologies applicable to in situ bio-gasification of coal to methane; and the development of low cost advanced air separation technologies that can produce oxygen for use in coal gasification processes.

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DOE selects 16 research projects for more than $19M in funding to advance Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology

July 14, 2015

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected 16 solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology research projects for a total of more than $19 million ($19,358,915) in funding.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, NETL issued two funding opportunities announcements (FOAs) to support programs that enable the development and deployment of this energy technology. The projects selected under the two FOAs will receive funding through NETL’s Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Program. The FOAs were awarded with two primary objectives: to design, construct, and field-test a SOFC prototype system; and to support innovations that improve the reliability, robustness, and endurance of SOFC cell and stack technology.

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Tire-integrated triboelectric generator harvests electricity from rolling tire friction; est. up to +10% fuel econ

June 30, 2015

A group of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers and a collaborator from China have developed a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) that harvests energy from a car’s rolling tire friction. An innovative method of reusing energy, the nanogenerator ultimately could provide automobile manufacturers a new way to squeeze greater efficiency out of their vehicles.

The TENG is a novel energy harvesting device to convert mechanical energy into electricity based on the universally known triboelectric principle—i.e., the generation of an electric charge resulting from the contact or rubbing together of two dissimilar objects. Specifically, the nanogenerator relies on the triboelectric effect to harness energy from the changing electric potential between the pavement and a vehicle’s wheels.

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ARPA-E awards $55M to 18 projects in two new programs: TERRA for transportation energy and GENSETS for distributed generation

June 19, 2015

The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced $55 million in funding for 18 innovative projects as part of ARPA-E’s two newest programs: Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) and GENerators for Small Electrical and Thermal Systems (GENSETS).

The six TERRA projects will receive a total of $30 million to accelerate energy crop development for the production of renewable transportation fuels from biomass and the 12 GENSETS projects are aimed at developing generator technologies that will improve efficiencies in residential Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generation.

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Canada targets cutting GHGs 30% below 2005 levels by 2030; new regulations for oil and gas, power, petrochemicals

May 15, 2015

Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced that Canada plans to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Canada formally submitted its target, referred to as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Canada will continue to take cooperative action with its continental trading partners, particularly the United States, in integrated sectors of the economy, including energy and transportation.

Minister Aglukkaq also announced the Government’s intention to develop new regulatory measures under its sector-by-sector approach that would build on actions already taken on two of Canada’s largest sector sources of GHG emissions: transportation and electricity. The new regulations include:

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ARPA-E awarding $60M to 23 projects; dry cooling and fusion power

The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will award $60 million in funding to 23 new projects aimed at creating highly efficient and scalable dry-cooling technologies for thermoelectric power plants and developing prototype technologies to explore new pathways for fusion power.

The projects are funded through ARPA-E’s two newest programs, Advanced Research In Dry cooling (ARID) and Accelerating Low-cost Plasma Heating and Assembly (ALPHA), which both seek to develop low-cost technology solutions. These projects have been selected for negotiation of awards; final award amounts may vary.

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