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Power Generation

[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.]

IPCC: GHG emissions accelerating despite mitigation efforts; major institutional and technological change required to keep the heat down

April 13, 2014

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Decomposition of the decadal change in total global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion by four driving factors; population, income (GDP) per capita, energy intensity of GDP and carbon intensity of energy. WG III Summary for Policymakers. Click to enlarge.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sen. Baucus draft for energy tax reform focuses on clean production of electricity and fuels; repeals plug-in vehicle credits

December 19, 2013

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced the latest in a series of discussion drafts to overhaul the US tax code. This new staff discussion draft focuses energy tax policy on stimulating domestic, clean production of electricity and transportation fuels, which account for 68% of energy consumed in the US. It also would repeal a number of current tax incentives, including those for plug-in electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles.

Under current law, there are 42 different energy tax incentives, including more than 12 preferences for fossil fuels; 10 different incentives for renewable fuels and alternative vehicles; and 6 different credits for clean electricity. Of the 42 different energy incentives, 25 are temporary and expire every year or two, and the credits for clean electricity alone have been adjusted 14 times since 1978. If Congress continues to extend current incentives, they will cost nearly $150 billion over 10 years.

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EIA: light duty vehicle energy consumption to drop 25% by 2040; increased oil production, vehicle efficiency reduce US oil and liquid imports

December 16, 2013

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Energy consumption by light-duty vehicles in the United States, AEO2013 and AEO2014, 1995-2040 (quadrillion Btu). LDV energy consumption declines in AEO2014 Reference case from 16.0 quadrillion Btu in 2012 to 12.1 quadrillion Btu in 2040, compared with 13.0 quadrillion Btu in 2040 in the AEO2013 Reference case. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

Reflecting slow growth in travel and accelerated vehicle efficiency improvements, US light-duty vehicle (LDV, cars and light trucks) energy use will decline sharply between 2012 and 2040, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (AEO2014) Reference case released today.

AEO2014 includes a new, detailed demographic profile of driving behavior by age and gender as well as new lower population growth rates based on updated Census projections. As a result, annual increases in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in LDVs average 0.9% from 2012 to 2040, compared to 1.2% per year over the same period in AEO2013. The rising fuel economy of LDVs more than offsets the modest growth in VMT, resulting in a 25% decline in LDV energy consumption decline between 2012 and 2040 in the AEO2014 Reference case.

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ExxonMobil Outlook: 35% growth in energy demand by 2040; hybrids to account for ~50% of new vehicle sales

December 15, 2013

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By 2040, hybrids are expected to account for about 35% of the global light-duty vehicle fleet, up from less than 1% in 2010. Hybrids are expected to account for about half of global new-car sales by 2040. Source: ExxonMobil. Click to enlarge.

Driven by increasing population, urbanization and rising living standards, the world will require some 35% more energy in 2040, according to ExxonMobil’s annual forecast report: Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040. Anticipated population growth will reach nearly 9 billion in 2040 from about 7 billion today, and the global economy is projected to double—at an annual growth rate of nearly 3%—largely in the developing world.

Demand for energy in non-OECD nations will grow by about two-thirds, accounting for essentially all of the increase in global energy use. ExxonMobil projects that meeting future energy demand will be supported by more efficient energy-saving practices and technologies; increased use of less-carbon-intensive fuels such as natural gas, nuclear and renewables; as well as the continued development of technology advances to develop new energy sources. Without the projected gains in efficiency, global energy demand could have risen by more than 100%.

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ARPA-E to award up to $30M for intermediate-temperature fuel cell systems for distributed generation; exploring storage and power-to-fuels

November 25, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) will award up to $30 million to fund a new program focused on the development of transformational electrochemical technologies to enable low-cost distributed power generation. ARPA-E anticipates making approximately 12-18 awards under this FOA, with individual awards varying between $250,000 and $10 million. (DE-FOA-0001026)

ARPA-E’s Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program will develop fuel cell devices that operate in an intermediate temperature range (ITFCs) (200-500 °C) in an attempt to 1) create new pathways to achieve an installed cost to the end-user of less than $1,500/kW at moderate production volumes; and 2) create new fuel cell functionality to increase grid stability and integration of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar.

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Clariant supplying SNG catalyst for methanation unit in Audi’s new “Power-to-Gas” plant

October 21, 2013

Clariant, a global provider of specialty chemicals, has supplied a proprietary CO2-SNG (synthetic natural gas) catalyst for the methanation unit of Audi’s new power-to-gas facility in Werlte, Germany. (Earlier post.)

The “e-gas plant” was started up in June this year and is part of Audi’s sustainability initiative. The plant, which can convert six megawatts of input power, will utilize renewable electricity for electrolysis, producing oxygen and hydrogen, the latter which could one day power fuel-cell vehicles. Because there is not yet a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, however, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 in a methanation unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas.

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Kawasaki Heavy to build first ocean-going liquid hydrogen tanker with demo in 2017; H2 for transport, industry, power in Japan

September 28, 2013

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KHI’s view of a “CO2-free hydrogen chain”. Source: KHI. Click to enlarge.

The Nikkei reports that Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. (KHI) will build the first ocean-going ships to carry liquefied hydrogen (LH2), with plans for a demonstration test by 2017 in which liquefied hydrogen will be shipped from the state of Victoria in Australia to Japan. The project will cost ¥60 billion (US$610 million), according to the report.

As part of Japan’s WE-NET (World Energy Network) research program of the New Sunshine Project begun in 1993, Kawasaki and its other industrial colleagues in Japan have been considering the large-scale marine transportation of liquid hydrogen for some time (e.g., Abe et al., 1998). KHI has previously discussed the concept of such a hydrogen-carrying vessel as part of its Business Vision 2020.

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EPA recognizes Volkswagen Chattanooga with a Green Power Leadership Award for on-site generation

September 24, 2013

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The 9.5 MW solar park at Chattanooga is owned and operated by Silicon Ranch; VW has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement. Click to enlarge.

Volkswagen Chattanooga has received a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—the only automaker to be so recognized. The annual awards recognize the country’s leading green power users for their commitment and contribution to helping advance the development of the nation’s voluntary green power market.

Volkswagen Chattanooga was one of only four organizations nationwide to receive a Leadership Award in the category of on-site generation of green power. (The others were Apple; the County of Santa Clara, CA; and Kaiser Permanete.) The award recognizes EPA Green Power Partners who distinguish themselves using on-site renewable energy applications, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) or landfill gas. Volkswagen Chattanooga is currently generating more than 13 million kWh of green power annually from its on-site 9.5 MW solar energy system, which is enough green power to meet 12% of the organization’s electricity use. (Earlier post.)

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EPA proposes CO2 emission standards for new fossil fuel-fired power plants

September 20, 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed Clean Air Act standards to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants (electric utility generating units, EGUs). For purposes of this rule, fossil fuel-fired EGUs include utility boilers, IGCC units and certain natural gas-fired stationary combustion turbine EGUs that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts (MW). In addition, EPA said it is working with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others to establish CO2 standards for existing power plants.

The proposed rulemaking establishes separate standards for natural gas and coal plants. The proposed limits for natural gas units are based on the performance of modern natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) units. New large (>850 mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small (≤850mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

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Scuderi Group to build and to install LPG-powered split-cycle generator with compressed air storage capability

September 12, 2013

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Scuderi split-cycle engine in power generator/CAES application. Click to enlarge.

Scuderi Group, Inc., the developer of the Scuderi Split-Cycle Engine for mobile applications (earlier post) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Asociación de Miembros de la Policia de Puerto Rico for the first Scuderi Split-Cycle Engine to be utilized as a stationary liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) generator with compressed air energy storage (CAES) capability.

The signing of the agreement begins the process of building and installing the first LPG-powered Scuderi power generator and energy storage systems. According to the agreement, Scuderi Group will build and install the power generation units at the Association’s San Juan headquarters and adjoining elderly care facility and at other locations around the island include buildings in Trujillo Alto, Ponce, and Maunabo.

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Burns & McDonnell develops bi-directional fast chargers for SPIDERS program

September 01, 2013

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Bi-directional fast charger at Ft. Carson. Click to enlarge.

A team of Burns & McDonnell engineers, along with subcontractor Coritech Services, has developed a system of bidirectional, fast-charging stations for a fleet of plug-in electric vehicles at Fort Carson, Colo. This first-of-its-kind system will push power back to the base microgrid when needed to meet installation demand or improve overall power quality.

On 29 August, the team successfully commissioned five bidirectional chargers and the aggregating control system as part of the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) microgrid project at Fort Carson. (Earlier post.) Commissioning was performed using both Boulder Electric Vehicle and Smith Electric trucks, which are being provided for use on SPIDERS under separate agreements with the US Army’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).

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MIT study says combustion emissions cause ~200,000 premature deaths/year in US; vehicles and power generation top sources

August 29, 2013

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Annual average concentrations of fine particulates from US sources of combustion emissions from (a) electric power generation; (b) industry; (c) commercial and residential sources; (d) road transportation; (e) marine transportation; (f) rail transportation; (g) sum of all combustion sources; (h) all sources. Source: MIT. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment have concluded that ground-level PM2.5 emissions from combustion sources such as industrial smokestacks, vehicle tailpipes, marine and rail operations, and commercial and residential heating throughout the United States cause about 200,000 (90% CI: 90,000–362,000) premature deaths each year, with another 10,000 (90% CI: −1,000 to 21,000) deaths due to changes in ozone concentrations.

Emissions from road transportation are the most significant contributor, causing ∼53,000 (90% CI: 24,000–95,000) PM2.5-related premature deaths and ∼5,000 (90% CI: −900 to 11,000) ozone-related early deaths per year. Power generation follows closely, causing ∼52,000 (90% CI: 23,000–94,000) PM2.5-related and ∼2,000 (90% CI: −300 to 4,000) ozone-related premature mortalities per year. Industrial emissions contribute to ∼41,000 (90% CI: 18,000–74,000) early deaths from PM2.5 and ∼2000 (90% CI: 0–4,000) early deaths from ozone, according to the study.

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NREL study suggests cost gap for Western renewables could narrow by 2025

August 26, 2013

A new Energy Department study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) indicates that by 2025 wind and solar power electricity generation could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies, if new renewable energy development occurs in the most productive locations. The cost of generation includes any needed transmission and integration costs.

The benchmark for the study is based on the projected future cost of a new combined-cycle natural gas turbine (CCGT) built in the destination market, with natural gas in 2025 at a nominal price of between $7.50/mmBtu and $8.43/mmBtu. According to the analysis, by 2025 geothermal generation could on average be 12% to 35% higher than CCCGT baseline; solar 1-19% higher; and wind at parity up to 13% higher.

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Rechargeable membrane-less hydrogen bromine flow battery shows high power density

August 16, 2013

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Schematic of reactant flow within the HBLFB. During discharge, liquid bromine is reduced to hydrobromic acid along the lower solid graphite electrode, and hydrogen is oxidized at the upper porous electrode. Credit: Braff et al. Click to enlarge.

MIT researchers have engineered a new rechargeable, membrane-less hydrogen bromine laminar flow battery with high power density. The membrane-less design enables power densities of 0.795 W cm−2 at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, with a round-trip voltage efficiency of 92% at 25% of peak power.

That is about three times as much power per square centimeter as other membrane-less system—a power density that is an order of magnitude higher than that of many lithium-ion batteries and other commercial and experimental energy-storage systems. A paper on the work is published in Nature Communications.

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Exploring the adoption of EVs in the US, Europe and China; charging scenarios and infrastructure

August 06, 2013

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Aspirational targets among seven countries participating in the Electric Vehicle Initiative would see growth from just under 2 million EV and PHEVs to just under 20 million by 2020. Source: “Electric Vehicle Grid Integration”. Click to enlarge.

A recently published paper by M.J. Bradley & Associates, commissioned by the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) and the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), examines key drivers of EV adoption in the US, Europe and China, with an emphasis on vehicle charging scenarios and infrastructure.

This report examines hurdles to EV adoption in these regions, and identifies critical success factors that should guide policymakers in the transportation and electric sectors. Accelerating the pace of EV market growth requires a coordinated evolution in both sectors, the report argues, from the power plant to the charging station to the vehicle. Supportive policies should work to ensure that EV owners are able to capture the full economic value of their decision to fuel switch from electricity to gasoline, including any benefits to the grid operator, and any emission reduction benefits, in addition to realizing the savings from replacing gasoline or diesel fuel with electricity.

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EPoSil: electroactive polymers for generating electricity from wave power

July 30, 2013

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The EPoSil concept uses dielectric elastomer transducers to generate electrical energy from wave motion. Source: Bosch. Click to enlarge.

A German consortium involving four companies and and two universities is developing dielectric elastomers (electroactive polymers) for the conversion of mechanical energy—in this case wave power—into electrical power.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting the project known as EPoSil (electroactive polymers based on silicon for power generation) until January 2015 with funding of nearly €2 million (US$2.7 million). This grant is part of the “smart materials for innovative products” program.

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Lifecycle analysis of energy use and pollution from gasoline, CNG and electric vehicles in 6 southwestern states highlights variability of benefits

July 29, 2013

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Comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles in 2020, EVs by state power mix. Percentages are relative to gasoline baseline. Click to enlarge.

A report for policymakers issued by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) has found that in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, electric vehicles offer the cleanest ride, while in New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming that’s not necessarily the case. SWEEP promotes greater energy efficiency in a six-state region that includes Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

The report, “Transportation Fuels for the Southwest”, compared the well-to-wheels energy use and air pollution emitted by vehicles fueled by gasoline, compressed natural gas and electricity in order to determine which fuel is cleanest in each of the six southwestern states.

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Researchers propose harvesting CO2 mixing energy to generate electricity

July 23, 2013

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Principle of the energy harvesting method: dissolved CO2 dissociates in protons and bicarbonate ions, which diffuse into different electrodes due to the ion-selectivity of the membranes placed in front. The resulting membrane potential leads to the spontaneous generation of current. Credit: ACS, Hamelers et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in The Netherlands are proposing a new method for harvesting electricity from CO2 emissions. In a paper in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) newly launched journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, they describe an approach to harvesting the mixing energy from combining the CO2 in combustion gases with air in contact with an aqueous electrolyte.

Mixing the CO2 with air represents a source of energy with a total annual worldwide capacity of 1570 TWh, the researchers calculated—about 400 times the annual output of the Hoover Dam (approx. 4.2 GWh). To harvest the mixing energy from CO2 containing gas emissions, they propose using pairs of porous electrodes, one selective for anions and the other selective to cations.

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New $30M ARPA-E program to develop new solar conversion and storage technologies; targeting higher solar penetration in mix

July 17, 2013

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Schematic comparing the cost and dispatchability of PV to CSP with thermal storage. The “PV+Storage” box includes the high cost of electrical storage for PV. The FOCUS Program target zone for electricity generation is indicated. Source: ARPA-E. Click to enlarge.

ARPA-E is making $30 million available to fund a new program entitled “Full-Spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight (FOCUS),” which is aimed at advancing new technologies beyond current photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies to exploit the full solar spectrum and reduce the cost of solar energy when the sun is not shining.

The primary goal of this funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0000949) is to provide disruptive new solar conversion and storage technology options to enable a much higher penetration of solar energy generation into the US energy mix.

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Navigant forecasts US military spending on non-tactical alt drive vehicles to more than double to $926M by 2020 from 2013; 11.4% CAGR

July 05, 2013

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Non-tactical vehicle spending by alternative drive type, US Department of Defense: 2013-2020. Source: Navigant Research. Click to enlarge.

In a new report, Navigant Research forecasts that US military spending on alternative drive vehicles (ADVs—including hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), and ethanol-powered vehicles—for the non-tactical fleet will increase from more than $435 million in 2013 to $926 million by 2020, a CAGR of 11.4%. A majority of the growth will be made through spending on HEVs and PEVs, Navigant projects.

Navigant forecasts that annual fuel consumption in the non-tactical fleet will decrease by a 2.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) almost from more than 81 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs) in 2013 to just fewer than 70 million GGEs in 2020 due in part to increased use of alternative fuel vehicles.

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DOE releases draft of $8B loan guarantee solicitation for advanced fossil energy projects

July 03, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a draft for comment of an $8-billion loan guarantee solicitation for innovative and advanced fossil energy projects and facilities that substantially reduce greenhouse gas and other air pollution. The program is part of President Obama’s climate action plan. (Earlier post.)

The Advanced Fossil Energy Projects solicitation, authorized by Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 through Section 1703 of the Loan Guarantee Program, will be open for comments from industry, stakeholders, and the public until early September.

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Audi opens power-to-gas facility in Werlte/Emsland; e-gas from water, green electricity and CO2

June 25, 2013

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Audi’s e-gas plant. Click to enlarge.

Audi has opened its e-gas plant in Werlte, making it the first automobile manufacturer to develop a chain of sustainable energy carriers. (Earlier post.)

The Audi e-gas plant, which can convert 6MW of input power, utilizes renewable electricity for electrolysis to produce oxygen and hydrogen. Because there is not yet a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 in a methanation unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas. The e-gas is virtually identical to fossil natural gas and will be distributed via an existing infrastructure—the German natural gas network—to the CNG filling stations beginning in Germany in fall 2013.

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New inexpensive catalyst for conversion of CO2 to CO could help with storage of renewable energy

June 23, 2013

Researchers at the University of Delaware have developed an inexpensive bismuth−carbon monoxide evolving catalyst (Bi-CMEC) that can be used in conjunction with ionic liquids to convert CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO) using electricity. CO can then be reacted with H2O via the water−gas shift to generate H2, and this CO/H2 mixture (syngas) can be used to generate synthetic petroleum and liquid fuels using Fischer−Tropsch methods.

The combination, suggests the team in paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, could integrate into energy storage and distribution networks to provide a means for renewable energy storage.

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Siemens presents three-point plan for implementing cost-efficient energy transition in Germany

June 15, 2013

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Siemens suggests abandoning a fixed target for renewable energies and concentrating on the CO2 reduction goal. Relying on a higher share of efficient, low-emission combined cycle power plants and wind energy could save €150 billion (US$200 billion) by 2030 while attaining the same CO2 targets, Siemens says. Source: Siemens. Click to enlarge.

Germany has embarked on a large-scale Energiewende (energy transition)—a policy-driven shift away from nuclear and fossil energy to a renewable energy economy. Following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the Federal government oversaw the immediate closure of eight nuclear plants, with the rest of the stations to be shut down by 2022. The government also is maintaining its target of cutting GHG emissions by 40% by 2020 (compared with 1990 levels) and by 80% by 2050.

However, the financial cost of the shift is causing concern. In May, the International Energy Agency released a review of German energy policies that commended the country for its commitment to developing a low-carbon energy system over the long term, but emphasized that further policy measures are necessary if the Energiewende is to maintain a balance between sustainability, affordability and competitiveness. “The fact that German electricity prices are among the highest in Europe, despite relatively low wholesale prices, must serve as a warning signal,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as she presented the report, Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Germany 2013 Review.

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“Project Volt Gas Volt” proposes long-term financing plan to support widespread implementation of power-to-gas systems

June 02, 2013

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Project Volt Gas Volt is based on a long-term financing plan and the use of existing technologies for the large-scale conversion of surplus renewable electricity to methane, with subsequent reuse. Diagram: Isabelle Plat. Click to enlarge.

Corinne Lepage, Member of the European Parliament (and former French Minister of the Environment) and Professor Robert Bell, Brooklyn University, City University of New York, are proposing Project Volt Gas Volt (VGV) as a technology pathway for using renewable energy to “keep the lights on” on the broadest scale without disruption, together with a long-term financing proposal for the project. Although they are targeting an initial implementation France, they see it as broadly applicable.

Project VGV uses surplus electricity generated by renewable and nuclear sources to produce hydrogen via electrolysis. The hydrogen is combined with CO2 to produce methane, which is pumped into and stored in the existing natural gas grid and used like natural gas for use in power generation, transportation, or other thermal and industrial uses. The concept is the same embodied in Audi’s e-gas project (earlier post), to which the VGV proposal makes continued reference.

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EPA proposes adding renewable diesel and naphtha from landfill biogas and butanol pathways to RFS

May 21, 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rulemaking for modifications to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) program. The proposal also includes various changes to the E15 misfueling mitigation regulations (E15 MMR), ultra low sulfur diesel survey requirements as well as other technical amendments.

The proposed rules include various changes related to biogas, including changes related to the revised compressed natural gas (CNG)/liquefied natural gas (LNG) pathway and amendments to various associated registration, recordkeeping, and reporting provisions. It also adds new pathways for renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable electricity (used in electric vehicles) produced from landfill biogas.

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New lithium polysulfide flow battery for large-scale energy storage

April 25, 2013

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Stanford / SLAC’s new lithium-polysulfide flow battery design compared to conventional “redox” flow batteries. The new flow battery uses only one tank and pump and uses a simple coating instead of an expensive membrane to separate the anode and cathode. (Credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC). Click to enlarge.

Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have designed a new lithium/polysulfide (Li/PS) semi-liquid (flow) battery for large-scale energy storage, with lithium polysulfide (Li2S8) in ether solvent as a catholyte and metallic lithium as an anode.

Unlike previous work on Li/S batteries with discharge products such as solid state Li2S2 and Li2S, the catholyte is designed to cycle only in the range between sulfur and Li2S4. Consequently, the team points out in a paper describing there work published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, all detrimental effects due to the formation and volume expansion of solid Li2S2/Li2S are avoided.

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German researchers improve catalyst for steam reforming of methanol with salt coating; enabler for renewable energy storage systems

April 19, 2013

Researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany) report in the journal Angewandte Chemie their development of an enhanced platinum catalyst for the steam reforming of methanol to release hydrogen.

A central problem of renewable energy technology lies in the great variation of energy generated (i.e., intermittency). One proposed solution is methanol-based hydrogen storage. In this scenario, excess renewable electricity can be used to electrolyze water to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen, in turn, is then reacted with carbon dioxide to make methanol and water, thus allowing it to be stored as a liquid. The hydrogen can be released from the methanol at a later time to power a fuel cell.

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