Posted on February 15th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.
Pueblo, Colorado and Moab, Utah, this week became the 22nd and 23rd cities in the U.S. to commit to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. The Pueblo City Council approved Monday a measure committing to power the community entirely with renewable sources of energy like wind and solar by 2035. The vote was immediately followed on Tuesday by the Moab City Council approving a resolution committing Moab to 100 percent renewable energy by 2032.
"No matter who is in the White House, cities and towns across the country will continue leading the transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. "Pueblo and Moab join a growing movement of communities which are charting a course away from dirty fuels."
Cities like Pueblo and Moab have long suffered the consequences of dirty energy and utility reliance on fossil fuels. Pueblo, for example, has a sizable low-income population that has been suffering from the high cost of electricity due to the local utilities' decision to build new gas infrastructure and saddle the cost with ratepayers. More than 7,000 people in Pueblo have had their electricity shut off due to the high cost of electricity.
In Utah, Canyonlands National Park has been marred by haze pollution from two neighboring coal plants, which threatens the local Moab tourism industry—the economic lifeblood of the community. With this week's announcements, both communities are poised to confront these threats by transitioning away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.
"The climate crisis is a global challenge, but many of our strongest leaders are at the local level," Ken Berlin, CEO of The Climate Reality Project, said. "We have a lot of hard work ahead, but it is encouraging to see more and more communities, businesses and universities understand that renewable energy is not only the right moral choice, but also the right economic choice."
Posted on February 14th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.
Harnessing this cheap form of power would be a huge advance. Minneapolis-based TerraCOH intends to fire up a small-scale commercial version of its power system this year.
MINNEAPOLIS — TerraCOH's vision is grand. The fledgling firm would use carbon dioxide emissions — a nemesis to the planet — to power a geothermal energy system, which would in turn produce low-cost, clean electricity.
And TerraCOH's patented geothermal technology could serve as a big underground battery, effectively storing renewable — but intermittent — wind and solar energy.
Now, the Minneapolis-based company just needs money to turn its plans — about eight years in the making — into reality.
The good news: TerraCOH believes it will fire up a small-scale commercial version of its power system this year. "We are ready to build the power plant," said Jimmy Randolph, TerraCOH's chief technical officer. "And we're trying to raise the money to do that," chimed in Chief Executive John Griffin.
TerraCOH, which has its roots at the University of Minnesota, so far has been financed with more than $5 million in grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. Last year, the company began soliciting private investors to commercialize its ideas, with Griffin leading the way.
Griffin is a mechanical engineer with an MBA from the University of Minnesota who has worked with technology companies large and small over the past 30 years. Randolph graduated summa cum laude in physics and math from St. Olaf College, and then got a Ph.D. in geophysics in 2011 from Minnesota, where he's currently a senior research associate.
Randolph's adviser at Minnesota was Martin Saar, a professor of earth sciences. The pair, along with Thomas Kuehn, a mechanical engineering professor, invented a renewable energy technology called CO2 Plume Geothermal. The university holds the patent and would split royalties with the three researchers if the technology becomes a hit.
TerraCOH has also worked on its technology with researchers at Ohio State University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
Geothermal is the cheapest form of energy, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, but it's not widely deployed. Traditional geothermal energy projects must be near places where the earth is hot relatively close to the surface. These hot spots, though, are limited geographically.
The deeper you go, the hotter the earth gets. So, Randolph and his co-inventors developed a method to tap geothermal heat that is 1 to 3 miles below the earth's surface. This deep heat resource is much more widespread, but mining it in a cost effective manner is difficult.
TerraCOH's technology uses "supercritical" CO2 to efficiently unlock that thermal energy. Supercritical is a chemical state somewhere between a gas and a liquid. It's dense and has a lower viscosity than water, so it flows easy. Oil companies use compressed CO2 to scour the last bits of petroleum from conventional wells.
In TerraCOH's system, supercritical CO2 heats up as it's pumped lower into the earth and is stored in porous sedimentary rock. The hot CO2 can then be drawn back up to the earth's surface — without costly pumping — where it spins a turbine to create electricity. It's an energy loop, basically.
The equipment needed for this process has become viable over the past year, Griffin said. TerraCOH needs to raise $2 million to build two small power plants with 100 to 200 kilowatts of generating capacity. By contrast, a good-size wind farm can pump out 200 megawatts.
TerraCOH is eyeing existing oil and gas fields for its early projects, since they've already been drilled.
The company is planning a small power plant at a conventional oil well in northwest North Dakota that will produce electricity for that site. For this project, TerraCOH will harness the geothermal energy provided by oil and gases coming up the well, heating CO2 in an above-ground tank, which will then power a turbine.
But the long-term goal is to place TerraCOH Plume Geothermal systems near coal-fired or gas-fired power plants, directly capturing CO2 emissions, pumping them into the ground for eventual use in bigger CO2 fired-power plants. These plants would initially generate up to 15 megawatts, but could eventually be up to 300 megawatts.
Another goal is to use the geothermal system as a "battery" for solar and wind power. The drawback to renewables is that they are intermittent, only producing when the weather is sunny or windy. Currently, chemical batteries are too expensive to store large amounts of renewable energy.
But excess wind and solar power could be transmitted to a TerraCOH plant, powering pumps that would inject CO2 into the earth, from where it could eventually be turned back into electricity when needed. Plume Geothermal "is not intermittent," Randolph said. "It's 24/7. You can run it on demand."
Posted on February 10th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.
Iran’s Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said earlier this week that the Finance Ministry had approved foreign investments in the country’s renewable energy industry worth $3 billion.
“Iran intends to launch a large-scale project to construct renewable energy power plants over the sixth Five-Year Development Plan to generate five thousand megawatts [5 GW] of energy in the country,” explained Hamid Chitchian.
Speaking at the inauguration of a second 7 megawatt (MW) solar plant at the Shahid Mofatteh Power Plant in Hamedan on Saturday, Minister Chitchian added that so far foreign developers had applied to develop up to 1.5 gigawatts (GW) worth of of renewable energy in the country. Minister Chitchian also announced three more 7 MW of solar at Hamedan.
“But today, two 7-megawatt power plants have been launched in Hamedan and the construction of three more have been started,” Chitchian said.
Iran has set itself a target of increasing its renewable energy capacity to 7.5 GW by 2030. Some reports appear to be suggesting that the new announcement of $3 billion in investments is worth 5 GW, however the reports from the Islamic Republic News Agency only says the investments are worth 1.5 GW.
Posted on February 9th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.
A battery made with urea, commonly found in fertilizers and mammal urine, could provide a low-cost way of storing energy produced through solar power or other forms of renewable energy for consumption during off hours.
Developed by Stanford chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell, the battery is nonflammable and contains electrodes made from abundant aluminum and graphite. Its electrolyte’s main ingredient, urea, is already industrially produced by the ton for plant fertilizers.
“So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance,” said Dai. “Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?”
In 2015, Dai’s lab was the first to make a rechargeable aluminum battery. This system charged in less than a minute and lasted thousands of charge-discharge cycles. The lab collaborated with Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to power a motorbike with this older version, earning Dai’s group and ITRI a 2016 R&D 100 Award. However, that version of the battery had one major drawback: it involved an expensive electrolyte.
The newest version includes a urea-based electrolyte and is about 100 times cheaper than the 2015 model, with higher efficiency and a charging time of 45 minutes. It’s the first time urea has been used in a battery. According to Dai, the cost difference between the two batteries is “like night and day.” The team recently reported its work in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Renewable energy storage
Unlike energy derived from fossil fuels, solar energy can essentially be harnessed only when the sun is shining. A solar panel pumps energy into the electrical grid during daylight hours. If that energy isn’t consumed right away, it is lost as heat. As the demand for renewable technologies grows, so does the need for cheap, efficient batteries to store the energy for release at night. Today’s batteries, like lithium-ion or lead acid batteries, are costly and have limited lifespans.
Dai and Angell’s battery could provide a solution to the grid’s storage problem.
“It’s cheap. It’s efficient. Grid storage is the main goal,” Angell said.
According to Angell, grid storage is also the most realistic goal, because of the battery’s low cost, high efficiency and long cycle life. One kind of efficiency, called Coulombic efficiency, is a measurement of how much charge exits the battery per unit of charge that it takes in during charging. The Coulombic efficiency for this battery is high – 99.7 percent.
Though also efficient, lithium-ion batteries commonly found in small electronics and other devices can be flammable. By contrast, Dai’s urea battery is not flammable and therefore less risky.
“I would feel safe if my backup battery in my house is made of urea with little chance of causing fire,” Dai said.
The group has licensed the battery patents to AB Systems, founded by Dai. A commercial version of the battery is currently in development.
To meet the demands of grid storage, a commercial battery will need to last at least ten years. By investigating the chemical processes inside the battery, Angell hopes to extend its lifetime. The outlook is promising. In the lab, these urea-based aluminum ion batteries can go through about 1,500 charge cycles with a 45-minute charging time.
According to Dai, there is plenty of demand for a grid-suitable battery; he receives numerous emails from firms or individuals interested in developing aluminum batteries. And with the battery now in development, its success rests on the interest of companies and consumers.
“With this battery, the dream is for solar energy to be stored in every building and every home,” Dai said. “Maybe it will change everyday life. We don’t know.”
Posted on February 9th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.
Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday millions of jobs could be created in the United States if President Donald Trump embraced renewable energy sources such as geothermal, solar and wind power.
Carter, a Democrat who was the first U.S. president to install solar panels at the White House, said he hoped the Republican Trump would give it "deep consideration."
"Sometimes there's a philosophical objection to this by some — I'll say right-wing Republicans — but he has a high priority of job creation," Carter said in an interview with The Associated Press. "If they just remember the tremendous potential of creating millions of jobs in America just from renewable energy sources, that would be a very good counter-argument to those who oppose the concept of global warming being caused by human activity."
Trump has sent mixed signals on whether he will try to slow Earth's warming temperatures and rising sea levels. During the transition, Trump met with prominent climate activists Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, but he has also appointed oil industry champions who want to reverse President Barack Obama's efforts to rein in emissions.
The vast majority of peer-reviewed studies and climate scientists agree the planet is warming, mostly due to man-made sources. Under Obama, the U.S. dramatically ramped up production of renewable energy from sources such as solar, in part through Energy Department grants.
Carter, a former peanut farmer from southwest Georgia, on Wednesday celebrated the installation of solar panels on 10 acres of farmland he owns in Plains, where he and former first lady Rosalynn Carter grew up and still have a home.
Carter, who is 92, leased the land to Atlanta-based SolAmerica Energy, which owns, operates, and sells power generated from solar cells. The company estimates the project will provide more than half of the power needed in the town of 755 people.
"It shows what a small town can do, what one farmer can do," said Carter. "It's also a very good source of income for farmers who can get as much as $500 per acre per year by allocating some of their land to solar panels."
Posted on February 9th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.
Clean energy grew at a record pace as the United States added 22GW of capacity — the equivalent of 11 Hoover Dams — to the grid from renewable sources last year, significantly trumping new fossil fuel additions, according to a new report.
The report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) cites the declining cost of wind and solar power, largely due to advances in technology, as prime reasons for the rapid adoption of renewables. The cost of building large utility-scale solar photovoltaic power plants for example has been fallen by 50% in just five years.
Renewable energy companies have also benefited from the quick decline in coal power that has resulted from a combination of factors including stiff competition from cheap natural gas and environmental regulation. Coal-fired power plants now provide only 30% of the country's electricity compared with nearly half of the supply in 2008.
"The contributions of sustainable energy to the country’s economic competitiveness are direct, dramatic and dynamic,” says Lisa Jacobson,
president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, a non-profit that promotes market solutions to environmental issues, in a press release.
Cheap natural gas prices and increased use of low-cost renewables has ultimately benefited consumers, according to the report. Electricity costs have fallen more than 2% in real terms between 2015 and 2016 and American consumers spent less than 4% of their household spending on energy for the first time ever.
Climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions declined to their lowest level in a quarter century even as the economy continued to grow, according to the report. The finding is the latest evidence answering the question policymakers long-debated about whether economic growth can be decoupled from carbon dioxide emissions.
Posted on February 7th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.
Lord’s cricket ground – otherwise known as England’s Home of Cricket – has become the first cricket ground in the country to run on 100% renewable energy.
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which owns and maintains the ground in London’s Marylebone, said it signed up to EDF’s renewables tariff after new figures compiled by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) revealed the extent to which extreme weather had impacted the sport.
The statistics stated that extreme weather in December 2015 caused more than £3.5 million worth of damage to 57 cricket clubs in the UK, while significant rainfall had continued to plague both the professional and recreational cricket calendars.
The ECB handed out more than £1 million in emergency funding in 2016 and has earmarked a further £1.6 million for this year and Derek Brewer, chief executive and secretary at MCC, said the figures “illustrate the effect” changing weather patterns can have on sport.
"It is important that all organisations embrace sustainability and I’m very pleased that Lord’s has become the first cricket ground in the country to run on 100% renewable energy,” Brewer added.
Lord’s is also edging closer to completing its redevelopment of the Warner Stand, which the club said would become “symbolic” of its new sustainability drive.
Solar PV panels have been incorporated into the stand’s roof design and a water collection and recycling system has also been incorporated.
MCC’s broader sustainability programme has so far resulted in a 7% reduction in overall energy usage compared to 2010 levels.
While not usually a primary thought for professional sports clubs, a large number have embraced greater sustainability and energy efficiency in recent months.
Last summer Bristol City incorporated a rooftop solar installation in its own stadium redevelopment, while Arsenal Football Club signed a deal with new energy supplier Octopus Energy to sign up to its renewables tariff, which is sourced predominantly from the group’s extensive UK solar assets.
But last month it was revealed that Chelsea had failed to meet a 30% energy efficiency targetwith its plans to redevelop its Stamford Bridge home, and would instead be forced to financially support other sustainability drives in the local area.
Posted on February 6th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.
As the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons battle it out on the field this Sunday, renewable energy will power Super Bowl LI.
NRG Energy Inc. and subsidiary Reliant, a retail electricity provider in Texas, have teamed up with the National Football League (NFL) to provide 100% Green-e certified renewable energy to NRG Stadium, site of Super Bowl LI, and the George R. Brown Convention Center, location of the NFL Experience and other NFL celebrations in Houston.
“Reducing the environmental impact of our events is something we have worked toward for more than 20 years,” says Jack Groh, director of the NFL Environmental Program. “Using clean energy at our largest events, we can minimize the climate impact of our activities. This is something that’s good for business and good for our fans and the communities where we live.”
“As the official electricity company of NRG Stadium, we are proud to support the NFL and Houston by powering the largest U.S. sporting event with renewable energy certificates together with the on-site efficiency and renewable energy solutions,” adds Bruno Sarda, NRG’s vice president of sustainability. “At NRG, we want fans to benefit from sustainable solutions, and together with the NFL, we can demonstrate that even a huge event like the Super Bowl can significantly reduce its energy usage.”
For a period leading up to, during and following the Big Game, for every megawatt-hour of electricity used to power these events, NRG and Reliant will purchase and retire one renewable energy certificate (REC) on behalf of Super Bowl LI. The RECs account for the electricity used at NRG Stadium and the George R. Brown Convention Center, supporting renewable energy and the over 100,000 fans visiting Houston to celebrate the Super Bowl.
Green-e Energy, a program of the Center for Resource Solutions, is a third-party certification program that guarantees RECs are generated from new renewable facilities and marketed with transparency and accuracy. A REC represents the environmental attributes of power produced from renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind farms.
Posted on February 6th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.
As reported from Honduras this week, the construction for the Platanares geothermal power plant in Honduras has reached an advanced stage.
This was announced by the advisor to the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP ), Solomon Ordonez, and as reported by Honduran newspaper La Tribuna.
The Platanares geothermal power plant will be the country’s first geothermal plant and is expected to start operation in 2017. The $200 million geothermal project, funded by Honduran and foreign investment, is lcoated in the municipality of La Union, department of Copán, in western Honduras.
Ormat Technology confirmed last year having started the construction of the geothermal project, as we reported. The BOT (build, own and transfer) conract was signed in 2013 between Ormat and Electricidad de Cortes (Elcosa), a privately-owned Honduras energy company.
The 15 year contract will go into effect from the date of commencement of commercial operation. In December 2015, Ormat concluded the drilling activity, and the evidence supporting the project’s decision.
The energy generated by Platanares will be marketed under the 30-year energy purchase agreements signed with the national electricity company of Honduras, the National Electric Energy Company (ENEE).
The Platanares geothermal project is regulated by the Law for the Promotion of the Generation of Electric Power by Renewable Resources, which was enacted in 2007, according to which it can benefit from a tax exemption during the first 10 years of operation.
The company expects to reach commercial operation by the end of 2017 and generate annual revenues of approximately $ 33 million.
Geothermal development in Latin American and the Caribbean will be discussed extensively at the Geothermal Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean (GeoLAC) in Mexico City, Mexico April 25-26, 2017. ThinkGeoEnergy and PiensaGeotermia will report from the conference.
Posted on February 3rd, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.
Drill, baby, drill. But in this case, not for oil — rather, the nation of Iceland is digging a giant hole into a volcano in the name of renewable energy. By boring the world’s deepest geothermal hole in the Reykjanes peninsula (it goes down 3.1 miles), scientists say they’ll be able to take advantage of the extreme pressure and heat to tap into an impressive 30 to 50 megawatts of electricity from a single geothermal well.
Iceland is already one of the world’s greatest users and suppliers of geothermal energy, producing around 26 percent of its electricity from geothermal sources. However, most of the country’s wells pale in comparison to this latest gargantuan effort. While a typical geothermal well extends just 1.5 miles into the ground, this new one is twice as deep, and as a result could yield up to 10 times more power.
By the time the drilling team gets to around 3 miles beneath Earth’s crust, scientists expect to find a mixture of molten rock and water, but given the huge amount of heat and pressure present, the water will become what is called “supercritical steam.” Neither a liquid nor a gas, this supercritical steam contains far more potential energy than either of those states of matter, and scientists say it holds the key to more electricity.
“We hope that this will open new doors for the geothermal industry globally to step into an era of more production,” said Asgeir Margeirsson, CEO of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), the collaboration among scientists, industry, and the Icelandic government responsible for the Reykjanes project.
He added, “If this works, in the future we would need to drill fewer wells to produce the same amount of energy, meaning we would touch less surface, which means less environmental impact and hopefully lower costs.”
This is not the first time such an ambitious project has been attempted. Six years ago, a similar effort was taken, but it ended disastrously when the drilling team ran into hot magma at 1.3 miles beneath the surface, destroying the entire drill string. But already, the current team has gone further without significant incident (knock on wood).