Middle-Class Families Are Set To Receive Solar Panels With No Upfront Costs In The U.S.

Posted on January 21st, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.




The U.S. is the best country in the world if you want to go solar – but only if you’re rich enough. Due to the steep upfront costs of around $32,000 in cash, only those upper-income families can afford to install solar arrays. A novel initiative is, however, looking to change that. This new project hopes to help middle class communities see the sun in a different light.

Using money raised by U.S. government incentives and private investors to help fight global warming, the Alternative Energy Solar Project goal is to get solar panels on the roofs of those who cannot afford them. According to recent news, the plan is to use the rebates set aside for solar and the money raised by companies who want to lower the per ton of carbon dioxide emitted.

The cost for the installation to the families: nothing. The homeowner gets solar panels on their roof and a new reduced electric rate from the power produced by the solar panels. Alternative Energy Solar Project predicts that it could save individual families up to $2,400 a year, which they hope could then be spent on other essential bills.

Alternative Energy Solar Project has been made promotional manager over the Solar Affordable Verified Establishment  (S.A.V.E.) project, one of the country’s first dedicated solar repayment system for middle class families. The goal is to install solar arrays to over 32,000 homes by the end of next year. One of the benefits to this reduced electric rate program is the homeowner isn’t responsible for the installation costs, maintenance costs, or upkeep costs as they are not the owners of the panels. Additionally, if you are interested in owning the panels, there are programs where the homeowner can purchase the panels with no money out of pocket and own them outright.

The United States government has talked about how they can contribute through raising money to be able to provide more rebates. In the attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and move toward installing solar arrays. In total, the solar program has totted up to an impressive movement.

By ploughing at least 30% of the money from government incentives and using private investors to back the solar installation, the project aims to kill two birds with one stone – saving Middle-Class families money, while also making big fossil fuel polluting companies help to cut energy emissions in the country even further.

Anyone who is currently living in a neighborhood in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Utah and is classed as middle-class is qualified to apply to get the arrays installed. More states are being added monthly so apply to see if your state has joined the program. The sun sets on the initiative as the year ends in 2017, so if you’re living in one of these states, you might want to jump on board soon.

Alternative Energy Solar Project invites everyone to find out if they qualify by signing up for a free visit. To increase the ease of finding out if you’re in the middle-class and qualified they specifically created a new website solarvisit.com. They hope that the funding put towards this new site will be well spent, if they can get interested homeowners reaching out to them, they estimate that they’ll be able hit their goal of 320,000 homes by the end of the year 2017.


Solar Grows To 2 GW In The Garden State

Posted on January 20th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



 The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has announced that New Jersey’s solar industry has hit a significant milestone by surpassing 2 GW of installed solar energy capacity.

As detailed in the newly released New Jersey Solar Installation Report, New Jersey reached over 2 GW of solar capacity installed statewide through nearly 66,000 solar projects as of Dec. 31, 2016. In a press release, the BPU says 2016’s installed capacity of 353 MW ranks as New Jersey’s second-highest year, behind only that of 2012, which had 417 MW of installed capacity.

Notably, the New Jersey report shows that of the approximate 66,000 solar installations across the Garden State, the vast majority of them, totaling more than 1.5 GW, are behind the meter; meanwhile, only about 150 projects, totaling less than 480 MW, are not. The BPU says there are over 60,000 residential, 3,800 commercial, 550 school, and 280 government projects constructed in places such as rooftops, carports, landfills and brownfields. The report also shows that, as of Dec. 31, 2016, New Jersey has a solar project pipeline totaling over 440 MW of proposed capacity.

The BPU, whose commissioners are appointed by the governor, notes that 94% of all installed solar capacity in New Jersey has been installed during the Christie administration. Since Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., took office in January 2010, growth in the development of solar capacity in New Jersey has skyrocketed by almost 1.88 GW, a rate of growth of approximately 1,477% over just seven years, the agency says.

In July 2012, Christie enacted bipartisan legislation that coupled acceleration of the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for solar energy with a reduction of the solar alternate compliance payment levels, according to the BPU. The agency says the Solar Act has and will continue to help New Jersey’s solar industry meet an important goal of Christie’s 2011 Energy Master Plan, strengthening the state’s solar market and securing the state’s place as a national leader in renewable energy. The agency says New Jersey is on target to exceed its 22.5% RPS by 2021, as outlined in the 2011 Energy Master Plan.

Although New Jersey’s solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) program has had its challenges, the BPU says the state’s SREC market is robust and mature, thus enabling a variety of ownership models and types of contracts that make project financing possible for solar developers.

The BPU also rightfully points out that the 2 GW solar milestone is an achievement previously reached by only a handful of  much larger states; according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s latest market report, California, North Carolina and Arizona were the only three states to have over 2 GW of cumulative solar capacity by the end of the third quarter of 2016. (The organization has not released its fourth-quarter figures yet.)

“We are proud that the Christie Administration’s commitment to renewable solar energy has led to the achievement of surpassing the 2 GW milestone,” says Richard S. Mroz, president of the BPU, in the press release. He later adds, “We are ensuring a future where distributed solar energy generation remains an important part of New Jersey’s energy future.”

In addition to the environmental benefits offered by renewable generation, the BPU says, solar connected to the distribution system provides benefits such as generating electricity where it’s needed and consumed; lowering capacity and congestion prices for delivery of electricity for all ratepayers; and lowering energy cost for residents, businesses, towns and school districts that have solar arrays.


Solar Energy Entrepreneurs In India Are Finding Faster, Cleaner and Economical Route to Power

Posted on January 20th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



Access to power in India is not a given. Mera Gao Power (MGP), however, is able to offer customers two solar powered lamps and a mobile phone charger for less than a dollar per week, powered by renewable energy sources as opposed to kerosene. 

“People are concerned not about the emissions from a coal power plant but the emissions from kerosene lanterns in their homes. What really helps them is that the lights we provide are brighter, they can charge their phones in their homes, and save money,” says Nikhil Jaisinghani, who co-founded of Mera Gao Power (MGP) with Brian Shaad in 2010.

Jaisinghani is among the generation of solar energy entrepreneurs is finding faster, cleaner and more economical route to universal access to power. The idea behind such enterprises is to create a business model that will help millions in India to leapfrog the coal-dependent grid straight to renewable energy sources.


As the third-largest emitter of greenhouses gases and its economic progress intertwined with the energy sector, increasing renewable energy is vital to India’s sustainable growth story. Simultaneously, lighting up homes of over 300 million people living in total blackout is important as well.

To this end, India has invested more than $14 billion in generating 40 gigawatts of clean energy, and aims to exceed the renewable energy targets, set in Paris in 2015, by nearly three years ahead of schedule. It plans to have 57 % of its total electricity capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. The Paris climate accord target was 40% by 2030.

Winner of Solar For All 2016, a contest for innovative community solar electrification solutions organized by a German foundation, MGP has been providing night-time lighting to over 150,000 people in 1,500 off-the-grid villages in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. MGP’s single micro-grid, costing nearly $900, serves 30 households. This social enterprise is funded by USAID and French electric utility Engie.

While MGP brings light into people’s lives, Prema Gopalan and Ajaita Shah are training women to be clean energy leaders.

Working in remote villages in the states of Maharashtra and Bihar, Gopalan, co-founder of social enterprise Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), through wPOWER project has built a rural distribution network of 1,100 women entrepreneurs, called sakhis (Hindi for “girlfriends”).

SSP, winner of the UN Climate Award 2016, has teamed these women up with local manufacturers of solar lanterns and smokeless cookstoves. In turn, these women support rural communities to adopt clean energy products and services. “Our Sakhis have reached over 1 million people in Maharashtra and Bihar, They are not only ‘last mile’ distributors but also future leaders of clean energy,” says Gopalan. 
To facilitate peer learning and knowledge exchange, SSP has leveraged the women network to create a clean energy hub in Latur, Maharashtra.

Similarly, in sun-drenched Rajasthan, Shah, through her solar firm Frontier Markets (FM), tackles the everyday struggle of unreliable electricity and hazardous cooking practices of rural households. She trains locals to sell and service affordable solar energy products, turning the poorest of the poor into clean energy entrepreneurs. 
“Our target is to reach more than 400 million households,” says Shah. “Since 2011, FM has sold over 100,000 zero-carbon lighting units, created 500 retail points and 200 women entrepreneurs. 

FM also trains women to sell solar solutions to other women. “The initiative aims to give them the opportunity to be clean energy leaders, and earn extra money for their families,” adds Shah.

By 2035, oil company BP estimates that India’s energy demand will grow 121%. In such a scenario, it is important for India not just to hit its renewable energy target, but to integrate efficiency and maximize benefits. Filling this gap is Siddharth Malik of Megawatt Solutions (MS), and the firm provides concentrated solar-thermal (CST) solutions to manufacturing companies in and around Delhi.

His experience in Con Edison in New York and energy project finance in the U.S., he says, made him realize the “huge energy gap” between the goals set for carbon emission reduction and how energy is consumed in India. CST technology, Malik claims, can reduce up to 50% fossil fuel consumed in industrial heating, and allow conventional solar systems to generate up to 30% higher output by use of solar tracker systems.


Florida Power & Light opens three new solar energy centers

Posted on January 19th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



Florida Power & Light Co. plans to build on the successful completion of its latest solar energy centers with even more solar in 2017.

FPL officially connected three new 74.5 MW universal solar power plants to the energy grid that serves its customers on Dec. 31, 2016. In 2017, FPL plans to build four more universal solar power plants and also install several solar power systems in local communities.

The newly completed solar plants — the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center and the FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center — were all built on time, under budget and cost-effectively, meaning there will be no net cost to customers after savings from fuel and other generation-related expenses.

FPL has been working for many years to be prepared to add substantial solar capacity affordably for its customers, developing plans and securing sites for cost-effective installations.

In 2017, FPL plans to build four more 74.5 MW solar energy centers across the state, including sites in Alachua, Putnam and DeSoto counties that have received local approvals. Construction is expected to begin as early as the first quarter of 2017. Additional large-scale solar facilities are also in development and may be announced in the coming months.

"Clean energy helps drive economic growth in our state," said Brian Bergen, vice president of economic development for the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce. "FPL's solar energy center will provide a boost to our local economy and the solar power it generates will be a draw for companies that value clean affordable energy."

FPL's solar expansion plays a role in its strategy of making smart investments that generate affordable clean energy for customers. The company's approach to clean, fuel-efficient generation, which includes phasing out coal-fired and oil-burning power plants, has saved FPL customers more than $8 billion in fuel costs and prevented 95 million tons of carbon emissions since 2001.


Geothermal energy from old mines could heat Llynfi Valley homes

Posted on January 19th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Llynfi Valley residents are being invited to find out more about an exciting project which is investigating whether heat could be taken from underground mine water to provide energy for nearly 1,000 homes.

The plan is being developed by Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC), and two public exhibitions will be held next month.

Former mine workings in the valley may potentially offer a geo-thermal source of energy as they have filled up with water which has an average temperature of around 10 to 14 degrees Celsius.

The idea is to pump the water from the old disused mine workings and transport it through a network of pipes to residents’ properties in Caerau where the heat will be extracted and passed through a heat pump, which will then provide heat for the property using its existing radiator system. The mine water would not, at any point, enter the homes of residents.

The following public exhibitions have been arranged, and local people are invited to drop in at any time to find out more:


Monday, February 13: Noddfa Chapel Community Centre, Caerau Road, Maesteg, (CF34 0PG), 3pm–8pm; Wednesday, February 15: Caerau Development Trust, Woodland Terrace, Maesteg (CF34 0SR), 11am–4pm.

Coun Ceri Reeves, the council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “I am pleased to see that this innovative project is progressing and that Caerau residents will soon be able to learn more about this exciting cutting edge opportunity to develop alternative heat.

“The council has commissioned a detailed ground condition survey to ascertain whether the water held in the mine workings under Caerau provides a natural heat source which could provide safe, continuous, and cost effective heat for a large number of local homes.

“I am watching the development of this renewable energy project with great interest as its potential to make a positive impact in the Llynfi Valley is huge.”

In March 2016, BCBC was one of 24 local authorities – and the only one in Wales – to share a grant of £1.5m from the Department of Energy and Climate Change for the development of new low carbon heat networks.

Heat networks are believed to have the potential to supply heat for between 14 per cent and 43 per cent of UK buildings by 2050. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has been providing grant funding and expert guidance to support 190 heat network projects since 2013.

Coun Reeves added: “We’re proud to be among those testing the large scale viability of using these low carbon heat sources and developing a model that could be rolled out in the rest of the UK.”

As well as being invited to attend the public exhibitions, Caerau residents can also express an interest in helping to develop the project by getting involved with important research activities such as testing new technologies in their homes, and taking part in detailed energy assessments.

If you would be interested in getting involved, contact BCBC’s Sustainable Development Team on 01656 643133 and ask to speak to Ceri Williams or Michael Jenkins.

Residents who take part will be offered financial reimbursement for their time and to cover any increased fuel costs. Anyone who lives in a rented property will need permission from their landlord.



Masdar Acquires 25% Stake In Hywind Floating Offshore Wind Farm From Statoil

Posted on January 19th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



 Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil has agreed to divest 25% of its stake in the Hywind Scotland floating offshore wind pilot to Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, Masdar.

The announcement was made at an official ceremony during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2017, with Statoil agreeing to divest 25% of its stake in the 30-megawatt pilot project to Masdar. The Hywind Scotland pilot project will nevertheless be the world’s largest floating wind farm when it is completed late this year. The Scottish Government approved plans by Statoil to develop the project back in late 2015.

The project is expected to be able to produce power for approximately 20,000 households.

“The Hywind Scotland pilot park has the potential to open attractive new markets for renewable energy production worldwide,” said Irene Rummelhoff, Statoil’s executive vice president for New Energy Solutions. “With Masdar onboard as a strong strategic partner we are teaming up with a company with high ambitions within renewable energy. We believe Masdar can be a strong partner also in future Hywind projects and we hope that our collaboration will result in future value creation opportunities for both parties.”

“Masdar is excited to join the team developing the world’s first floating wind farm, and to build on our partnership with Statoil,” said Chief Executive Officer at Masdar, Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi. “Hywind Scotland represents the next stage in the evolution of the offshore wind industry, combining the project management experience and technical expertise of one of the world’s largest offshore energy players – and our own capabilities in renewable energy development acquired over the last decade in the UK and international markets.

“We see tremendous potential in the commercial application of floating offshore wind technologies.”

The Hywind pilot is expected to cover approximately 4 square kilometers, about 25 kilometers off the coast of Peterhead in Scotland, in water depths of 95 to 120 meters. Floating offshore wind has the potential to generate affordable offshore wind energy while meeting specific requirements — generating in attractive offshore wind conditions in water depths beyond the reach of traditional offshore wind projects, and ensuring that offshore wind sites aren’t seen from shore.

“We expect floating offshore wind farms to benefit from the general cost development within the offshore wind segment,” Rummelhoff continued. “The objective of the Hywind Scotland pilot park is to demonstrate cost efficient and low risk solutions for future commercial scale floating wind farms. This will further increase the global market potential for offshore wind energy, contributing to realising Statoil’s ambition of profitable growth in renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions.”


Poland turns to geothermal solution for air quality

Posted on January 19th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



The Polish government is to use geothermal energy to try and clean up its air quality problem.

Both Warsaw and the EU are to help fund a $2.4bn programme to tackle the problem and $120m is to be designated towards geothermal energy projects.

Dr Kazimierz Kujda, CEO of the National Fund said, “Improving air quality is, has been and will be one of the priorities of the National Fund, but achieving this requires above all coordinated action at the local government level.”

The prerequisite for financing individual projects is documented ability to receive thermal energy (including the ability to connect the source to the existing district heating network). This offer does not apply to recreational use of geothermal waters or spas.



Why more and more countries are taking an interest in geothermal energy

Posted on January 17th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



At 2:46 pm local time on Friday, March 11, 2011, Japan was rocked by the largest earthquake ever to strike its shores. The 9.1-magnitude quake triggered a devastating tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people. It also took out the backup emergency generators that cooled the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex, causing a series of catastrophic meltdowns.

But amid the chaos, the Yanaizu-Nishiyama geothermal power plant in Fukushima prefecture didn’t miss a beat. Along with two more of the nine geothermal power plants in the region, the 65-megawatt facility continued to generate power, even as many other power plants around them failed because of damaged equipment and transmission lines.

“This is big news for many geothermal people around the world,” says Kasumi Yasukawa, principal research manager at the Institute for Geo-Resources and Environment in Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

In a country as seismically active as Japan, it was a clear signal that geothermal energy was worth investing in.


Geothermal electricity generation might not have the high-tech flashiness of solar, or the romance of wind and wave, but it’s the solid, steady workhorse of the renewable energy race. The never-flagging heat lurking at various depths below the Earth’s surface is tapped to produce steam that is used to drive turbines and generate electricity. This heat can also be used more directly to warm spaces or swimming pools, but sustainable electricity generation is the goal that most have in their sights.

“If you want to know what you could run an industrial society off of, it would be hydro and as much geothermal as you could find,” says Susan Krumdieck, who heads the Advanced Energy and Material Systems Lab at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

Star on the rise

Wind and solar energy have many excellent qualities, but reliability isn’t necessarily one of them. When the wind drops off, or the sun sets, something else has to step in. And increasingly, nations are turning to geothermal to deliver that stability.

The use of geothermal electricity varies enormously around the world. In 2015, 24 countries had a total of around 13.3 gigawatts of geothermal power capacity. The United States is the single biggest, with just over 3,500 megawatts of capacity — although this only contributes around 0.3 percent of the nation’s electricity capacity — followed by the Philippines, Indonesia and Mexico in the 1,000 to 2,000 MW range.


Geothermal energy’s star seems to be on the rise. The Japanese government has committed to tripling its geothermal electricity capacity, from around 540 MW in 2011 to 1,500 MW, by 2030. El Salvador is aiming to source 40 percent of its electricity from geothermal by 2019 — up from around 25 percent — and in Kenya, geothermal energy has now taken over hydro as the top supplier of electricity, providing 51 percent of the nation’s electricity.

But these countries, and others such as Iceland and New Zealand, have one big advantage: Their volcanic geology and seismic activity means the heat is relatively close to the surface and often in close contact with water, and therefore much easier to tap. But not all countries are so lucky, and this is where enhanced geothermal electricity comes into play.

Enhanced geothermal

Geothermal electricity generation needs three things to be viable: heat, fluid, and a substrate permeable enough to allow movement of fluid through it and up to the surface, where the steam is used to turn power-producing turbines. In the case of conventional geothermal energy — sometimes called hydrothermal energy — all three of these elements naturally occur together.

However this is the exception rather the rule. For the majority of countries, the heat is there, but the fluid, and in some cases the permeability, is not.

Enhanced geothermal involves drilling wells into the hot rock, and forcing fluid — water or brine — into the hot rock through fractures or permeable areas. The heated water is then extracted via another well and put to work generating electricity.

“The hydrothermal systems that have been developed to date are by and large low-hanging fruit,” says Robert Podgorney, director of the Snake River Plain Geothermal Consortiumand Idaho National Lab FORGE — Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy — Initiative. “But the elephant in the room is the enhanced geothermal; the source base dwarfs all of production to date.” For example, a 2008 report by the US Geological Survey estimated there are more than 500,000 MW of untapped enhanced geothermal energy in the western United States alone, an order of magnitude greater than available conventional geothermal resources. FORGE is the US government’s up to US$31 million push to shift enhanced geothermal electricity generation up a gear.

“We’re looking for case number one at a really commercial scale, and when I say commercial scale, each well has to be making at least 5 megawatts and preferably more,” Podgorney says.

But getting to this point will require advances in drilling technologies, energy conversion, understanding the heat resource and substrate, and identifying resources most likely to deliver electricity bang for drilling buck. Enhanced geothermal also has issues with regional seismic disturbances, subsidence, and the extraction of potentially toxic mineral-laden fluid that can clog power plant machinery with mineral deposits.

For example, in 2009 the ancient Swiss city of Basel was hit by a series of small earthquakes that were blamed on an inadequately researched enhanced geothermal power plant initiative. The project was soon abandoned, and its geologist stood trial accused of property damage, although he was later acquitted. Podgorney says seismic disturbance can be a concern, particularly with enhanced geothermal where fluid is being forced into the substrate. “One of the areas that we work on here in the Idaho National Lab is ways to optimize the reservoir creation while trying to minimize any potential impacts.”

Conventional geothermal is not without its environmental problems: New Zealand has experienced subsidence around several of its geothermal fields, which has been partly blamed on unconstrained extraction of the hot fluid without reinjection. Plans for these areas now emphasize reinjection to limit further losses.

But the biggest challenge for enhanced geothermal is the fact that getting to this hot rock requires drilling many kilometers below the surface, injecting fluid and extracting it once it’s hot, none of which is cheap.

Indeed, cost has proven Australia’s undoing. While the ancient continent’s volcanic resources are long dormant, there are vast reserves of hot dry rock. But a AU$144 million project drilling for enhanced geothermal energy resources in the Cooper Basin did not find a resource worth developing under existing economic conditions. The Australian government’s renewable energy agency has now taken a step back and directed its funding to a project to map structural permeability and identify areas where fluid has the best chance of traveling efficiently through the hot rock.

Improving efficiency

The US-based geothermal company AltaRock Energy is focusing considerable attention on energy conversion efficiency. By making a number of tweaks to its own geothermal power plant, AltaRock has increased the efficiency with which it converts heat to electricity and increased output from 25 MW to 30.

“If you can make the conversion process from heat to electricity 20 percent more efficient, you need 20 percent fewer wells, and the wells are the expensive part,” says Susan Petty, AltaRock’s president and CTO.

AltaRock is also improving the efficiency of its wells — managing the injection and flow of fluid so they target the hottest parts of the geothermal field. And Petty sees potential in improving the design of the giant turbines whose steam-powered spin drives electricity production, using modern, digitally controlled techniques to craft much more efficient turbines.

Meanwhile, back in Japan, some people are turning geothermal into personal gain. The expansion of geothermal electricity generation faces resistance from some owners of Japan’s many traditional hot springs, or onsen — an integral part of Japanese culture — who are afraid the development will compromise their springs in some way. But others have begun investing in their own very small-scale geothermal power plants, suggesting that geothermal has already gone a long way to winning them over after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Yasukawa says the 2011 earthquake and tsunami showed just how valuable geothermal electricity can be.

“We don’t need to wait for the big catastrophic earthquake — we have lots of small earthquake or landslides or something that interrupts the power lines in these areas,” Yasukawa says. “If you have a geothermal power plant in your village you can get power, so I think that is a very strong support of geothermal.”


Military Urges Renewed Commitment to Renewable Energy

Posted on January 17th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



 On January 12, 2017, Noblis, in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts, released a report on energy assurance on U.S. military bases. Cost-effective and reliable energy is crucial to the success of U.S. military missions, and the Department of Defense’s (DoD) fixed military installations account for 1 percent of the total electrical energy consumed by the United States, costing almost $4 billion. The military has long relied on the commercial grid, with standalone generators during peak use, but these sources are vulnerable to disruption due to aging infrastructure, severe weather, and both physical attacks and cyberattacks. Instead, the report proposes shifting to a strategy of large-scale microgrids. It conducts a cost comparison, addresses implementation issues, and analyzes the efficiency and security of microgrids, concluding that they would be superior to the military’s current system for supplying energy.

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently held a panel discussion, which supplements the report’s findings, focused on the intersection of national security, energy, and climate change. Three military secretaries examined past successes, and Dr. Jeff Marqusee, the Chief Scientist of Noblis and author of the report, discussed how the military could enhance its energy security going forward. The panelists argued that investment in renewable energy should continue to be a priority for the U.S. military because its goal is increasing mission assurance. The testimony was followed by a roundtable discussion and Q&A session.

Assistant Secretary of the Army Katherine Hammack discussed the Army’s Net Zero programs initiative, the goal of which is to maintain bases with net zero energy, water, and waste. This requires that bases produce as much as they consume, so consumption must also be reduced. The Net Zero programs strategy is based on enhancing readiness and resilience to weather emergencies or attacks. Addressing concerns that the Trump administration may reduce renewable energy initiatives in the federal government, Secretary Hammack stated that she does not believe the program will be scaled back, because it is objectively cost-effective, and it would be counterintuitive to require the Army to switch to a less cost-effective and less resilient system.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Dennis McGinn argued that the military needs to focus on regional resiliency, because if the lights stay on in the region, they will stay on in the base. To accomplish grid stability, the Navy works closely with private-sector utility partners. If a private company wants to build an element of the energy grid or a “peaker plant” on a marine installation, the Navy allows the company to use the land and this, in turn, improves regional and base resiliency. Secretary McGinn stressed the strong business case for energy stability and efficiency, since energy security and resiliency is directly related to the success and safety of our troops.

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Miranda Ballentine discussed three recent global trends that leave the U.S. energy supply uniquely vulnerable. First, the United States systematically and intentionally outsources power generation. Second, U.S. military missions have become more and more dependent on the steady flow of electrons, which are as essential as jet fuel to planes. Third, Mother Nature is no longer our only adversary; the United States has many adversaries around the world looking at our power grids for kinetic and cyberattacks.

These trends signal a need to change the military’s approach to energy security. Secretary Ballentine suggested that the military needs renewable energy that does not rely on a supply chain, because terrorists cannot cut off sun, wind, or geothermal energy if it is right underneath the base. There is also the need to improve next-generation storage technology, so bases can function without immediate sun and wind. She also pointed out that many nations are transitioning to host nation power grids, and away from diesel generators, because they believe host nation power grids are less expensive and more reliable.

Chief Scientist of Noblis Dr. Jeff Marqusee advocated for a shift from the current dependency on the commercial grid to microgrids. There has been an increase in grid outages due to weather events, physical attacks, and cyberattacks, but microgrids are a networked approach that provides an added layer of resiliency, increased business performance, and efficiency. Microgrids also provide a huge cost savings over the current system, because we do not account for all of the costs of our current paradigm, creating strong inertia. Dr. Marqusee believes that DoD should buy microgrid services from a third party, because that allows it to tap into third-party financing. His report finds that with a switch to microgrids, DoD’s buildings could become a quarter more efficient.

Finally, each panelist was asked to provide a piece of advice for the incoming Trump administration. Secretaries Hammack and McGinn urged the new administration to focus on the “why,” which is mission effectiveness and resiliency, and to examine the strong business case that underlies sustainable energy. Secretary Ballentine and Dr. Marqusee focused on the “people power” in the DoD, the extensive expertise of career employees, and the need to trust the employees, because all share a common goal of supporting the mission.


Renewable Energy First, Renewable Electronics Follow

Posted on January 17th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Much of the focus regarding the fight for environmentally friendly technology revolves around renewable energy, forgetting that there are also other facets of modern industries that cause harm. Electronics are prime examples since components, wires, and hardware is still contributing to the deteriorating state of the earth. Scientists recently found a type of microbe with significant potential in conducting electricity, which could potentially become the future’s source of wires.

Electrically conductive wires, whether they are based on copper or optic fibers, are necessary to transport and store energy produced by one source from another. According to a new report by University of Massachusetts Amherst microbiologists, this conductivity could potentially come from microbes that belong to the Geobacter species, Phys.org reports.

One of the microbiologists behind the report is Derek Lovley, and according to him, the use of microbial nanowires has the potential to become even better conductors of electricity than those made by humans. For one thing, the process to actually getting them is a lot cleaner.

"Microbial nanowires are a revolutionary electronic material with substantial advantages over man-made materials,” Lovley said. “Chemically synthesizing nanowires in the lab requires toxic chemicals, high temperatures and/or expensive metals. The energy requirements are enormous. By contrast, natural microbial nanowires can be mass-produced at room temperature from inexpensive renewable feedstocks in bioreactors with much lower energy inputs. And the final product is free of toxic components."

This led Lovley and his team to conclude that microbial nanowires have the potential to become the source for developing materials for electronic devices such as sensors, computer chips, and eventually, perhaps even vehicles. The diversity of the applications that can come from the discovery were outlined in the paper that the team published.

In the paper, the microbiologists suggest that the sustainable nature of producing these electrically conductive nanowires makes them perfect for replacing current versions that are causing harm to the planet. Doing so might even lead to a change in perspective when it comes to creating sustainable and non-toxic substitutes for other materials.