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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.]

IRENA, IEA study concludes meeting 2˚C scenario possible with net positive economics

March 20, 2017

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by 70% by 2050 and completely phased-out by 2060 with a net positive economic outlook, according to new findings released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Perspectives for the Energy Transition: Investment Needs for a Low-Carbon Energy Transition—a joint study by IRENA and the IEA—launched on the occasion of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, presents the case that increased deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency in G20 countries and globally can achieve the emissions reductions needed to keep global temperature rise to no more than two-degrees Celsius, avoiding the most severe impacts of climate change.

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Scientists suggest quantum control of atoms may make fusion energy production more efficient

March 03, 2017

Scientists at Rice University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Chile are proposing that quantum-controlled motion of nuclei, starting from the nanometer-size ground state of a molecule, can potentially overcome some of the difficulties of thermonuclear fusion by compression of a fuel pellet or in a bulk plasma.

Their report on quantum-controlled fusion suggests that rather than heating atoms to temperatures found inside the sun or smashing them in a collider, it might be possible to nudge them close enough to fuse by using shaped laser pulses: ultrashort, tuned bursts of coherent light.

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voestalpine, Siemens & VERBUND building one of the world’s largest electrolysis plants for H2 production; EU-funded H2FUTURE

February 08, 2017

The European Commission has awarded the H2FUTURE project consortium—comprising voestalpine, Siemens, VERBUND and Austrian Power Grid (APG) as well as the research-partners K1-MET and ECN—the contract for the construction of one of the world’s largest PEM electrolysis plants for producing green hydrogen.

The project partners will work and research cooperatively on implementing an innovative hydrogen demonstration plant at the voestalpine site in Linz. The green hydrogen generated there will be fed directly into the internal gas network, allowing the testing of the use of hydrogen in various process stages of steel production.

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Siemens reports successful full load tests of additively manufactured CM247 gas turbine blades

February 07, 2017

Siemens has achieved a breakthrough by finishing its first full load engine tests for gas turbine blades completely produced using Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology. The company successfully validated multiple AM printed turbine blades with a conventional blade design at full engine conditions—the components were tested at 13,000 revolutions per minute and temperatures beyond 1,250 degrees Celsius.

Furthermore, Siemens tested a new blade design with a completely revised and improved internal cooling geometry manufactured using the AM technology. The project team used blades manufactured at its 3D printing facility at Materials Solutions, in Worcester, UK. Siemens acquired a majority stake (85%) in Materials Solutions in August 2016. (The remaining 15% is held by the founder, Carl Brancher.)

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BP Energy Outlook: 30% growth in global demand to 2035; fuel demand continues to rise, even with EVs & fuel efficiency

January 25, 2017

The 2017 edition of the BP Energy Outlook, published today, forecasts that global demand for energy will increase by around 30% between 2015 and 2035, an average growth of 1.3% per year. However, this growth in energy demand is significantly lower than the 3.4% per year rise expected in global GDP, reflecting improved energy efficiency driven by technology improvements and environmental concerns. The Outlook looks at long-term energy trends and develops projections for world energy markets over the next two decades.

While non-fossil fuels are expected to account for half of the growth in energy supplies over the next 20 years, the Outlook projects that oil and gas, together with coal, will remain the main source of energy powering the world economy, accounting for more than 75% of total energy supply in 2035, compared with 86% in 2015.

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TU Bergakademie Freiberg launches OTTO-R project with VW Group, Shell, OMV as partners; P2X for green gasoline

January 24, 2017

Researchers at the Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg, with partners from the automotive industry (Audi, VW) and the petroleum industry (Shell, OMV) have launched the €1.46-million OTTO-R project for the production of gasoline from “green” methanol produced from CO2, water and renewable electricity.

The new OTTO-R synthesis process is based on the Syngas-To-Fuel-Process (STF) developed by Chemieanlagenbau Chemnitz GmbH (CAC) at the Institute for Energy Process Engineering and Chemical Engineering (IEC). STF first converts natural gas-based synthesis gas to methanol in an isothermal reactor; the methanol is then transformed into high-octane gasoline via the intermediate methanol. Residual methanol and light hydrocarbons are separated downstream and recycled into the process.

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13 global companies launch Hydrogen Council in Davos; promoting hydrogen to help meet climate goals

January 17, 2017

Thirteen leading energy, transport and industry companies have launched a global initiative in Davos to voice a united vision and long-term ambition for hydrogen to foster the energy transition.

Meeting in Davos for the first time on Tuesday, the Hydrogen Council currently comprises 13 CEOs and Chairpersons from various industries and energy companies committed to help achieve the ambitious goal of reaching the 2 ˚C target as agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The international companies currently involved are: Air Liquide, Alstom, Anglo American, BMW GROUP, Daimler, ENGIE, Honda, Hyundai, Kawasaki, Royal Dutch Shell, The Linde Group, Total and Toyota. The Council is led by two Co-Chairs from different geographies and sectors, currently represented by Air Liquide and Toyota. The members of the Hydrogen Council collectively represent total revenues of €1.07 trillion and 1.72 million employees around the world.

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NuScale Power submits industry-first certification application for small modular reactor to NRC

January 13, 2017

NuScale Power formally announced the submittal of a Design Certification Application (DCA) for their innovative small modular reactor (SMR) design (earlier post) to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for their review and approval. This is the first SMR DCA to be submitted to the NRC and marks a significant milestone for NuScale and the power generation industry.

NuScale’s application consisted of nearly 12,000 pages of technical information. The NRC is expected to take the next two months to determine if any additional information is required prior to commencing their review. Thereafter, the NRC has targeted completing the certification process within 40 months.

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ARPA-E awards $35M to 16 REFUEL projects for energy-dense carbon-neutral liquid fuels; leveraging ammonia

December 17, 2016

The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has selected 16 projects for a combined $35 million in funding under the new program “Renewable Energy to Fuels Through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL)”. (Earlier post.) The 16 REFUEL projects seek to develop scalable technologies for converting water and molecules from the air into energy-dense, carbon-neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs) using electrical energy from renewable sources. REFUEL projects will convert low-cost renewable energy into a transportable chemical fuel and use these fuels for transportation applications, while reducing production costs and environmental impact.

Most of the selected REFUEL projects target the production of ammonia or its conversion to hydrogen or electricity, due ammonia’s attractiveness as a hydrogen and energy carrier. State-of-the-art industrial ammonia production using the Haber-Bosch process requires a hydrogen source (usually natural gas), remains highly capital and energy intensive, and is only economical at a large scale. Many projects seek to overcome these limitations to enable economically competitive, distributed production of this prototypical CNLF.

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JISEA: nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems can reduce GHG from industry, produce fuels and support the power system

December 09, 2016

Nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems (N-R HESs) can enable low-carbon, on-demand electricity while providing reduced-emission thermal energy for industrial processes. N-R HES systems are managed by a single entity that link a nuclear reactor that generates heat, a thermal power cycle for heat-to-electricity conversion, at least one renewable energy source, and an industrial process that uses thermal and/or electrical energy.

However, the economic feasibility of these systems may depend on future natural gas prices, electricity market structures, and clean energy incentives. A series of new reports from the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) examines various hybrid system configurations to provide a basis to identify opportunities for clean energy use and examine the most economically viable configurations.

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Harvard study finds human health risks from Canadian hydroelectric projects

November 10, 2016

In a new study, Harvard University researchers found more than 90% of potential new Canadian hydroelectric projects are likely to increase concentrations of the neurotoxin methylmercury (MeHg) in food webs near indigenous communities. The research is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The research forecasts potential human health impacts of hydroelectric projects and identifies areas where mitigation efforts, such as removing the top layer of soil before flooding, would be most helpful. The works uses factors such as soil carbon and reservoir design to forecast methylmercury increases for 22 hydroelectric reservoirs under consideration or construction in Canada.

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UC Irvine study concludes intelligent PEV charging can minimize scale of stationary energy storage needed to meet renewable targets

October 24, 2016

A new study by a team at the University of California Irvine highlights the importance of intelligent plug-in vehicle (PEV) charging for minimizing the scale of infrastructure required to meet renewable utilization targets.

In the study, published in the Journal of Power Sources, the UC Irvine team examined how the intelligence of plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) integration impacted the required capacity of energy storage systems to meet renewable utilization targets for a large-scale energy system, using California as an example for meeting a 50% and 80% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in 2030 and 2050.

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DOE awarding $3.0M cost-share contract to FuelCell Energy for solid oxide electrolyzer; converting excess electricity to H2

October 23, 2016

FuelCell Energy, Inc. is developing a solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) system to convert excess electricity during periods of low power demand into hydrogen efficiently. The US Department of Energy (DOE) is supporting this development with a $3.0 million cost-share contract to advance SOEC system design that will be added to the Advanced Technology backlog for the fourth quarter of 2016.

The market for energy storage is significant for high efficiency and flexible long duration storage that is affordable for rate payers. The energy storage market is expanding as utilities adjust to manage increased levels of intermittent renewable power generation supplying the electric grid. Annual global energy storage deployments are projected to increase to approximately 7 to 9 gigawatts by 2020 with continued increases thereafter. The SOEC solution being supported with this DOE funding meets these needs for both utility-scale applications as well as on-site opportunities.

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DOE awarding up to $80M for supercritical CO2 pilot plant

October 18, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding up to $80 million for a six-year project to design, build, and operate a 10-MWe (megawatts electrical) supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) pilot plant test facility in San Antonio, TX. The project will be managed by a team led by the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), and General Electric Global Research (GE-GR).

The new facility will support the future commercialization of sCO2 Brayton cycle energy conversion systems by testing and demonstrating the potential energy efficiency and cost benefits of this technology. Today the average efficiency of the US fleet of steam Rankine cycle power plants is in the lower 30% range. This new facility has the potential to demonstrate greater than 50% cycle efficiency. If successfully developed, the supercritical CO2 power cycles could provide significant efficiency gains in geothermal, coal, nuclear, and solar thermal power production.

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EEA: large-scale roll-out of EVs will help EU shift to green transport, but may challenge power grid

September 27, 2016

A large scale roll-out of electric cars on European roads would result in significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower levels of certain air pollutants, according to a new European Environment Agency (EEA) assessment. However, widespread use of such vehicles would pose challenges for Europe’s power grid in meeting increased electricity demand.

The EEA briefing Electric vehicles and the energy sector — impacts on Europe’s future emissions looks at the impact of different scenarios that take into account the increased use of electric cars and their effect on the European Union’s (EU) energy system, and on emissions of greenhouse gases and selected air pollutants.

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Technical brief: transportation overtaking electricity generation as the largest source of US CO2 emissions

September 19, 2016

A technical brief by Dr. John DeCicco at the University of Michigan Energy Institute shows that transportation is overtaking electricity generation as the largest source of US CO2.

The average rate at which CO2 is emitted from vehicle tailpipes and other mobile sources has exceeded the rate of CO2 emissions from electric power plants over seven of the past eight months. Although efficiency gains are limiting transportation emissions growth, the gains are not enough to reduce the sector’s CO2 emissions in the face of increased travel and shipping, DeCicco writes. CO2 emissions from the transportation sector increased at an average rate of 1.8% per year over the past four years.

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Lux: Total is leading example of oil supermajor expanding into solar plus storage and distributed generation

August 09, 2016

France-based Total is the first oil supermajor aggressively to enter new areas of business including solar plus storage and distributed generation, notes Lux Research in a new report: “Superpower Darwinism: What Big Oil Can and Cannot Do About Total’s Billion-Dollar Battery Move.”

Even though viable battery companies have become harder and more expensive to buy since Total’s $1-billion acquisition of Saft (earlier post), the oil supermajors—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total—have cash piles ranging from $5 billion to $30 billion each, despite shrinking profits since 2012 and uncertainty about timing of the eventual recovery of oil prices.

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Surprise Natural Gas Drawdown Signals Higher Prices Ahead

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The US electric power sector burned through a record amount of natural gas in recent weeks, a sign of the shifting power generation mix and also a signal that natural gas supplies could get tighter than many analysts had previously expected.

The EIA reported a surprise drawdown in natural gas inventories for the week ending on August 3. The reduction of 6 billion cubic feet (Bcf) was the first summertime drawdown since 2006. Natural gas spot prices shot up following the data release on August 4, although they fell back again shortly after.

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PSA evaluating Aquarius Engines’ free-piston linear generator for range-extender

July 21, 2016

PSA Groupe is evaluating a free-piston engine linear-generator under development by Israel-based start-up Aquarius Engines for use as a range-extender in its electric vehicles. According to a report from Reuters, PSA Research and Development Director Gilles Le Borgne said that while the company is evaluating the technology, “Nothing has been decided yet.” According to Aquarius, several prototype vehicles using its free-piston generator will be road-tested by 2017.

A number of groups have recently or are currently investigating the use of free piston engine power generation applications with a focus on automotive, including academic work at West Virginia University (WVU), Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), and Shanghai Jiaotong University. (Earlier post.)

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Korea team investigates characteristics of SI dual-piston free-piston engine linear generator

June 28, 2016

Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER) have developed and are investigating the characteristics of a prototype of a dual-piston spark-ignition (SI) free-piston engine coupled with a linear alternator for electric power generation. Their paper is published in the journal Fuel.

Free piston engines, first introduced in the 1920s, have been attracting renewed attention for their potential for high efficiency and low emissions. Toyota R&D, for example, has been investigating Free Piston Engine Linear Generators (FPEGs) for B/C segment electric vehicles for several years. (Earlier post.)

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IEA: 7% increase in total energy investment could cut premature deaths from air pollution in half by 2040

June 27, 2016

A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that energy policy choices backed by a 7% increase in total energy investment through 2040 could cut premature deaths from air pollution roughly in half by 2040. Under such a scenario, premature deaths from outdoor air pollution would decline by 1.7 million in 2040 compared with the report’s main scenario, and those from household pollution would fall by 1.6 million annually.

The IEA World Energy Outlook (WEO) special report on Energy and Air Pollution highlights the links between energy, air pollution and health. The report, the IEA’s first in-depth analysis of air quality, identifies contributions the energy sector can make to curb poor air quality—the fourth-largest threat to human health, after high blood pressure, poor diets, and smoking.

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Tesla makes ~$2.8B all-stock offer to acquire SolarCity

June 21, 2016

Tesla Motora has made an all-stock offer worth approximately $2.8B to acquire all of the outstanding shares of solar energy provider SolarCity. Subject to completing due diligence, Tesla is proposing an exchange ratio of 0.122x to 0.131x shares of Tesla common stock for each share of SolarCity common stock. This proposal represents a value of $26.50 to $28.50 per share, or a premium of approximately 21% to 30% over the recent closing price of SolarCity’s shares.

Tesla Chairman and CEO Elon Musk is also Chairman of SolarCity; Antonio Gracias, CEO of investor Valor Management Corp., is on both Tesla and SolarCity boards. Musk and Gracias recused themselves from voting on the proposed acquisition at the Tesla Board meeting, and will recuse themselves from the SolarCity Board meeting which will consider the offer.

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PG&E to retire Diablo Canyon nuclear plant by 2025, replace with renewables and energy storage

PG&E announced a Joint Proposal with labor and leading environmental organizations that would increase investment in energy efficiency, renewables and storage beyond current state mandates while phasing out PG&E’s production of nuclear power in California by 2025 with the retirement of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant—California’s last operating nuclear power generation station.

Underpinning the agreement is the recognition that California’s new energy policies will significantly reduce the need for Diablo Canyon’s inflexible baseload electricity output. There are several contributing factors, including the increase of the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50% by 2030; doubling of energy efficiency goals under SB 350; the challenge of managing overgeneration and intermittency conditions under a resource portfolio increasingly influenced by solar and wind production; the growth rate of distributed energy resources; and the potential increases in the departure of PG&E’s retail load customers to Community Choice Aggregation (CCA).

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Opinion: Uranium Prices Set To Double By 2018

June 16, 2016

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

With prices set to double by 2018, we’ve seen the bottom of the uranium market, and the negative sentiment that has followed this resource around despite strong fundamentals, is starting to change.

Billionaire investors sense it, and they’re always the first to anticipate change and take advantage of the rally before it becomes a reality. The turning point is where all the money is made, and there are plenty of indications that the uranium recovery is already underway.

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DOE awarding >$82M to support nuclear energy research and development

June 15, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) ia awarding more than $82 million to 93 projects that will help push innovative nuclear technologies toward commercialization and into the market. These awards provide funding for nuclear energy-related research through the Nuclear Energy University Program, Nuclear Science User Facilities, and Nuclear Energy Enabling Technology programs.

In addition to financial support, a number of recipients will receive technical and regulatory assistance through the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative.

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Toyota R&D continues work on free piston linear generators for EVs; novel resonant pendulum control method

May 06, 2016

In 2014, a team at Toyota Central R&D Labs Inc. published two SAE papers on their work in developing a prototype 10 kW Free Piston Engine Linear Generator (FPEG) for B/C segment electric vehicles. (Earlier post.) The FPEG consists of a two-stroke combustion system, a linear generator, and a gas spring chamber; the unit offers potential for compact build, high efficiency and high fuel flexibility.

Now, the Toyota researchers report on a new FPEG control method to realize stable and flexible piston motion control for efficient electric power generation. They presented their work in a paper at the recent 2016 SAE World Congress.

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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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