[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.]
Joint IEA-NEA report details plunge in costs of renewable electricity; nuclear competitive with other baseload power sources
August 31, 2015
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Global investment in renewable power reached $270.2B in 2014, ~17% up from 2013; biofuel investment fell 8% to 10-year low
April 06, 2015
Global investment in renewable power and fuels (excluding large hydro-electric projects) was $270.2 billion in 2014, nearly 17% higher than the previous year, according to the latest edition of an annual report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Division of Technology, Industry and Economic (DTIE) in cooperation with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and produced in collaboration with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
This marked the first annual increase in dollar commitments to renewables—excluding large hydro—for three years, and brought the total up to just 3% below the all-time record of $278.8 billion set in 2011. The increase reflected several influences, according to the report, including a boom in solar installations in China and Japan—totalling $74.9 billion between those two countries—and a record $18.6 billion of final investment decisions on offshore wind projects in Europe.
U Toronto LCA suggests that with CNG as primary vehicle energy source, EVs best targeted at non-attainment areas
April 01, 2015
A team at the University of Toronto has examined the life cycle air emissions (climate change and human health) impact benefits and life cycle ownership costs of compressed natural gas (CNG) use directly in conventional vehicles (CV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), and natural gas-derived electricity (NG-e) use in plug-in battery electric vehicles (BEV), using a gasoline-fueled conventional vehicle as a reference.
Among their findings, published in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, are that policies should for the foreseeable future focus on the niche adoption of plug-in vehicles in non-attainment regions, as CNG vehicles are likely more cost-effective at providing overall life cycle air emissions impact benefits.
ORNL and Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics in CRADA for development of fluoride salt-cooled high-temp reactors
March 19, 2015
Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) are engaged in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) focused on accelerating scientific understanding and technical development of salt-cooled reactors, specifically fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors (FHRs). The project will draw on ORNL’s expertise in fuels, materials, instrumentation and controls, design concepts, and modeling and simulation for advanced reactors, as well as the lab’s experience in the design, construction and operation of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, the only molten salt reactor ever built. (Design began in 1960, construction started early in 1962. The 7.4 MWth test reactor operated successfully from 1965 to 1969.)
Representatives from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) are meeting at ORNL this week; SINAP staff members will describe their plans for building the first salt-cooled test reactor, and the two sides will begin planning the next steps in the shared research project.
New diamine-appended MOFs can capture CO2 for half or less of the energy cost of current materials
March 12, 2015
UC Berkeley chemists have developed a new material that can efficiently capture CO2 and then release it at lower temperatures than current carbon-capture materials, potentially cutting by half or more the energy currently consumed in the process.
The material, a metal-organic framework (MOF) modified with nitrogen compounds called diamines, can be tuned to remove carbon dioxide from the room-temperature air of a submarine, for example, or the 100-degree (Fahrenheit) flue gases from a power plant. A paper elucidating the mechanism of what the researchers are calling “phase-change” adsorbents is published in the journal Nature.
NEESC releases 2015 hydrogen & fuel cell development plans for eight Northeastern states; power generation and transportation
February 20, 2015
The Northeast Electrochemical Energy Storage Cluster (NEESC), administered by Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc. (CCAT), released the 2015 Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Development Plans for each of the eight states in the Northeast US. The state-specific plans focus on hydrogen and fuel cell applications that are both technically and economically viable, and recommend specific goals for stationary and transportation hydrogen fuel cell deployment to meet economic, environmental, and energy needs.
Cumulative goals for the Northeast states include approximately 1,300 megawatts of installed stationary fuel cell capacity; 10,800 fuel cell electric vehicles; 640 fuel cell powered buses; and 110 hydrogen refueling stations to support the fuel cell electric vehicles and buses.
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.