2024-02-22. The Paradox Holding Back the Clean Energy Revolution. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/22/opinion/vegas-sphere-energy-efficiency.html] By Ed Conway, The New York Times guest essay. Excerpt: In the 1990s, when multicolor LED lights were invented by Japanese scientists after decades of research, the hope was that they would help to avert climate catastrophe by greatly reducing the amount of electricity we use. It seemed perfectly intuitive. After all, LED lights use 90 percent less energy and last around 18 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Yet the amount of electricity we consume for light globally is roughly the same today as it was in 2010. That’s partly because of population and economic growth in the developing world. But another big reason is …Instead of merely replacing our existing bulbs with LED alternatives, we have come up with ever more extravagant uses for these ever-cheaper lights, …. As technology has advanced, we’ve only grown more wasteful. …There’s an economic term for this: the Jevons Paradox, named for the 19th-century English economist William Stanley Jevons, who noticed that as steam engines became ever more efficient, Britain’s appetite for coal increased rather than decreased….
2024-02-17. In Wyoming, Sheep May Safely Graze Under Solar Panels in One of the State’s First “Agrivoltaic” Projects. [https://insideclimatenews.org/news/17022024/in-wyoming-sheep-may-safely-graze-under-solar-panels-in-one-of-the-states-first-agrivoltaic-projects/] By Jake Bolster, Inside Climate News. Excerpt: The elevated photovoltaic panels can actually improve grazing conditions, a novelty that could help make solar projects more land-efficient and accepted in the ranching-heavy state. Converse County is one of the most welcoming areas in Wyoming when it comes to clean energy. For roughly every 20 residents, there is one wind turbine, the highest ratio in the state. At a recent County Commissioners meeting, it took another step in diversifying its energy infrastructure, signaling its intent to issue its first solar farm permit to BrightNight. The global energy company has proposed to build more than 1 million solar panels, a battery storage facility and a few miles of above-ground transmission lines on a 4,738 acres of private land run by the Tillard ranching family near Glenrock. The Dutchman Project, as it is called, is notable neither for its generation nor its storage capacity but for the creatures moseying beneath its panels. The base of each sun-tracking panel will be several feet off the ground, allowing enough room for the Tillard’s sheep to continue grazing. In a state whose ranching industry predates its inclusion in the union, pairing solar generation with livestock grazing or other agricultural practices, a technique called “agrivoltaics,” could forge an unlikely alliance between two industries—one ancient; the other, high tech— that typically compete for resources….
2024-02-11. The Planet Needs Solar Power. Can We Build It Without Harming Nature? [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/02/11/climate/climate-change-wildlife-solar.html] By Catrin Einhorn, The New York Times. Excerpt: For pronghorn, those antelope-like creatures of the American West, this grassland north of Flagstaff is prime habitat. …But for a nation racing to adopt renewable energy, the land is prime for something else: solar panels. …Animals need humans to solve climate change. …The good news for wildlife is that there are ways for solar developers to make installations less harmful and even beneficial for many species, like fences that let some animals pass, wildlife corridors, native plants that nurture pollinators, and more. …“We’re faced with two truths: We have a climate change crisis, but we also have a biodiversity crisis,” said Meaghan Gade, a program manager at the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies….
2024-02-08. Gusher of gas deep in mine stokes interest in natural hydrogen. [https://www.science.org/content/article/gusher-gas-deep-mine-stokes-interest-natural-hydrogen] By ERIC HAND, Science. Excerpt: Researchers have discovered a massive spring of hydrogen, bubbling out of a deep mine in Albania. Although it may not be economical to exploit, the surprisingly high flow of the gas is likely to raise interest in the emerging field of natural hydrogen, the overlooked idea that Earth itself could be a source of the clean-burning fuel….
2024-02-05. An electrifying new ironmaking method could slash carbon emissions. [https://www.science.org/content/article/electrifying-new-ironmaking-method-could-slash-carbon-emissions] By ROBERT F. SERVICE, Science. Excerpt: Making iron, the main ingredient of steel, takes a toll on Earth’s delicate atmosphere, producing 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Now, a team of chemists has come up with a way to make the business much more eco-friendly. By using electricity to convert iron ore and salt water into metallic iron and other industrially useful chemicals, researchers report today in Joule that their approach is cost effective, works well with electricity provided by wind and solar farms, and could even be carbon negative, consuming more carbon dioxide (CO2) than it produces. …The world mines 2.5 billion tons of iron every year, and reducing it to iron emits as much CO2 as the tailpipes of all passenger vehicles combined. So, scientists are looking for economically viable ways to produce metallic iron that don’t generate greenhouse gases. …If it all works out, ironmaking could someday put a little less burden on the climate….
2024-01-25. Water Batteries. [https://www.science.org/content/article/how-giant-water-batteries-could-make-green-power-reliable] By ROBERT KUNZIG, Science. Excerpt: The machines that turn Tennessee’s Raccoon Mountain into one of the world’s largest energy storage devices—in effect, a battery that can power a medium-size city—are hidden in a cathedral-size cavern deep inside the mountain. But what enables the mountain to store all that energy is plain in an aerial photo. The summit plateau is occupied by a large lake that hangs high above the Tennessee River…. At night, when demand for electricity is low but TVA’s nuclear reactors are still humming, TVA banks the excess, storing it as gravitational potential energy in the summit lake. The pumps draw water from the Tennessee and shoot it straight up the 10-meter-wide shaft at a rate that would fill an Olympic pool in less than 6 seconds. During the day, when demand for electricity peaks, water drains back down the shaft and spins the turbines, generating 1700 megawatts of electricity—the output of a large power plant, enough to power 1 million homes. The lake stores enough water and thus enough energy to do that for 20 hours. Pumped storage hydropower, as this technology is called, is not new. Some 40 U.S. plants and hundreds around the world are in operation. …Pumped storage, however, has already arrived; it supplies more than 90% of existing grid storage. China, the world leader in renewable energy, also leads in pumped storage, with 66 new plants under construction, according to Global Energy Monitor. …In the Alps, where pumped storage was invented in the late 19th century, Switzerland opened a plant in 2022 called Nant de Drance that can deliver 900 megawatts for as long as 20 hours….
2024-01-23. To Slash Carbon Emissions, Colleges Are Digging Really Deep. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/23/climate/geoexchange-climate-colleges-heat.html] By Cara Buckley, The New York Times. Excerpt: …Princeton University … is using the earth beneath its campus to create a new system that will keep buildings at comfortable temperatures without burning fossil fuels. The multimillion dollar project, using a process known as geoexchange, marks a significant shift in how Princeton gets its energy, and is key to the university’s plan to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by 2046. …the more than 2,000 boreholes planned for the campus will be undetectable, despite performing an impressive sleight of hand. During hot months, heat drawn from Princeton’s buildings will be stored in thick pipes deep underground until winter, when heat will be drawn back up again. The change is significant. Since its founding in 1746, Princeton has heated its buildings by burning carbon-based fuels, in the form of firewood, then coal, then fuel oil, then natural gas. …Among the colleges where geoexchange or geothermal systems are being tested, installed or are in use: Smith, Oberlin, Dartmouth, Mount Holyoke and William & Mary. Cornell University has dug a two-mile test geothermal borehole at its Ithaca campus, and is using geoexchange at one of its buildings on Roosevelt Island in New York City’s East River. Brown University drilled test boreholes to gauge heat conductivity this past fall, and Columbia University secured a special state mining permit to drill an 800-foot test bore on its New York City campus….
2024-01-22. Is NASA too down on space-based solar power?. [https://www.science.org/content/article/nasa-too-down-space-based-solar-power] By DANIEL CLERY, Science. Excerpt: This month, NASA cast a shadow on one of the most visionary prospects for freeing the world from fossil fuels: collecting solar energy in space and beaming it to Earth. An agency report found the scheme is feasible by 2050 but would cost between 12 and 80 times as much as ground-based renewable energy sources. Undaunted, many government agencies and companies are pushing ahead with demonstration plans. Some researchers say NASA’s analysis is too pessimistic….
2024-01-19. New type of water splitter could make green hydrogen cheaper. [https://www.science.org/content/article/new-type-water-splitter-could-make-green-hydrogen-cheaper] By ROBERT F. SERVICE, Science. Excerpt: To wean itself off fossil fuels, the world needs cheaper ways to produce green hydrogen—a clean-burning fuel made by using renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Now researchers report a way to avoid the need for a costly membrane at the heart of the water-splitting devices, and to instead produce hydrogen and oxygen in completely separate chambers. As a lab-based proof of concept, the new setup—reported this month in Nature Materials—is a long way from working at an industrial scale. But if successful, it could help heavy industries such as steelmaking and fertilizer production reduce their dependence on oil, coal, and natural gas. …Any successes in eliminating electrolyzer membranes could be a boon to efforts to decarbonize parts of industry most dependent on fossil fuels, he says. “I can not overstate how big of an advantage that is.”….
2024-01-11. Take a Look at the First Major Offshore Wind Farm to Power U.S. Homes. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/01/11/nyregion/ny-wind-farm-south-fork.html] By Patrick McGeehan, The New York Times. Excerpt: More than 30 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, the first colossal steel turbines have started spinning at South Fork Wind, turning offshore breezes into electricity that lights homes on Long Island. The rest of the wind farm’s 12 towering turbines are set to be assembled and connected to New York’s power grid early this year. The arrival of this moment in the nation’s transition to renewable energy may seem sudden. But it has come after more than 20 years of contentious debates over its cost, appearance and effect on wildlife….
2024-01-03. Human activity is powering ‘a new industrial revolution’ at sea, say experts. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/jan/03/human-activity-is-powering-a-new-industrial-revolution-at-sea-say-experts] By Karen McVeigh, The Guardian. Excerpt: Researchers using AI and satellite imagery find 75% of industrial fishing is not being publicly tracked, while wind turbines now outnumber oil platforms.
2023-12-14. Solar-powered clothes, for the heat and cold. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adl5650] By XINGYI HUANG AND PENGLI LI, Science. Excerpt: Clothing plays an indispensable role in maintaining the human body temperature within a comfort range in our daily life, especially when facing sudden temperature changes or in harsh environments (1). …Wang et al. (3) report a full-day, self-powered, and bidirectional thermoregulatory clothing that can quickly respond to fluctuating temperature. …Wang et al. …designed and fabricated a wearable thermal-management system by combining an organic photovoltaic unit and an electrocaloric unit into a single device with the required flexibility. The device also achieved bidirectional thermal management, providing 10.1 K of cooling to the skin during hot days but also keeping the human body 3.2 K warmer than bare skin in the dark or at night by using additional energy collected by the organic photovoltaic unit….
2023-12-11. Cheap electricity could recycle animal waste, recover valuable chemicals. [https://www.science.org/content/article/cheap-electricity-could-recycle-animal-waste-recover-valuable-chemicals] By ROBERT F. SERVICE, Science. Excerpt: Every year the world’s livestock farms generate more than 3 billion tons of animal waste, equivalent to more than 9000 Empire State Buildings. All that manure pollutes bodies of water and releases noxious fumes and greenhouse gases. But a new recycling technique could reduce those burdens while turning a profit. Researchers have shown that they can use electricity to break down organic nutrients in animal waste, all while recovering valuable chemicals. Initial projections—reported this month in Nature Sustainability—suggest that in most cases the value of these chemicals would be higher than the costs of the technique, making it profitable for farmers to pursue it. …renewable power is expected to lower electricity costs in some rural areas to about $0.03 per kWh by 2030. …Given how efficient the overall process is, she says, the electrochemical treatment could capture nearly 70% of the ammonia in manure and reduce farm emissions of the compound by a similar amount….
2023-12-08. People Just Ran Entirely on Renewable Energy for 149 Hours. [https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/green-tech/a45900085/portugal-renewable-energy/] By DARREN ORF, Popular Mechanics. Excerpt: For 149 consecutive hours in November, Portugal provided a stunning example of what that could look like, as it used a mix of solar, wind, and hydropower to provide more clean energy than the entire country needed. …Producing 1,102 GWh (according to the national grid operator Redes Energéticas Nacionais) for both industrial and residential use, the country’s renewable energy sources—a mix of wind, solar, and hydropower—provided 262 GWh more than was needed. …This exceeds the country’s previous record—it ran for 131 hours on renewable energy back in 2019—and for 95 hours during this recent test, Portugal even exported its excess clean energy to Spain. Although the country’s gas plants were on standby, Portugal’s renewable infrastructure proved to be more than up for the task. …Portugal’s 149 hours of renewable bliss is a hopeful vision of the future for a fossil fuel-weary present. Humans can adapt to the climate challenges that face us—we just have to do it one renewable megawatt at a time….
2023-11-01. Offshore Wind Firm Cancels N.J. Projects, as Industry’s Prospects Dim. [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/01/business/energy-environment/offshore-wind-farm-new-jersey.html] By Stanley Reed and Tracey Tully, The New York Times. Excerpt: Plans to build two wind farms off the coast of New Jersey were scrapped, the company behind them said on Wednesday, a blow to the state’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the latest shakeout in the U.S. wind industry. …Offshore wind and other parts of the renewable industry have hit some snags in Europe, especially in Britain. But Mr. Nipper said the problems were more acute in the United States because early contracts lacked protection from inflation and developers incurred high costs because of delays in approvals during the Trump administration. …In its announcement, Orsted said it would move forward with a $4 billion project called Revolution Wind intended to supply power to consumers in Rhode Island. And other developers have projects under construction, like Vineyard Wind, which will eventually have 62 turbines in the waters off Martha’s Vineyard, Mass….
2023-10-27. Critical Minerals for a Carbon-Neutral Future. [https://eos.org/features/critical-minerals-for-a-carbon-neutral-future] By Douglas C. Kreiner, Jane Hammarstrom and Warren Day, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Imagine driving an electric car past a solar farm …below a ridge of wind turbines. Or …changing a thermostat to cool or heat your home, …not …increasing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Transitioning to carbon-neutral economies and lifestyles will require substantial sources of mineral commodities …including the cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese, germanium, gallium, indium, and graphite needed for EV batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and energy storage…. In some cases, supplier countries have histories of poor environmental, social, or governance practices…. In 2019, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in partnership with the Association of American State Geologists and other federal, state, and private-sector organizations, initiated the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI) to provide the high-quality data needed for evaluation of critical minerals. …In its first few years, the effort has already helped scientists better grasp the country’s critical minerals landscape….
2023-10-24. Clean Energy, Cherished Waters and a Sacred California Rock Caught in the Middle. [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/24/travel/chumash-marine-sanctuary-morro-bay-california.html] By Lauren Sloss, The New York Times. Excerpt: The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary could create a new model for Native collaborative management of public lands. But the sanctuary faces headwinds with a last-minute boundary change to accommodate a wind farm….
2023-10-19. This Number Helps Explain Why Rooftop Solar Is Becoming More Attractive in Many States. [https://insideclimatenews.org/news/19102023/inside-clean-energy-15-cent-rule-residential-solar-adoption-electricity-rates/] By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News. Excerpt: About 5 percent of U.S. households have rooftop solar, a share that may seem like a lot, but it looks low compared to places like Germany (about 20 percent) and Australia (about 30 percent). One of the big reasons that the United States lags some of those other countries is that electricity is unusually cheap here, so it makes less sense on a financial basis for someone to buy rooftop solar. But this is changing. Utilities across the country have been raising their electricity rates by leaps and bounds…. This is fueling demand for rooftop solar, the technology that many utilities view as competition. At what point is a customer’s electricity rate high enough to justify rooftop solar on a financial basis? …let’s simplify things and I’ll throw out a number: 15 cents. This rate, 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, translates to a monthly bill of about $130 for a household with average electricity consumption. People in the solar business and energy analysts sometimes talk about 15 cents per kilowatt hour as the approximate point at which things change. In states with rates above that level, companies that sell rooftop solar can more easily demonstrate the potential for financial savings to customers….
2023-10-13. U.S. hands out $7 billion for hydrogen hubs. [https://www.science.org/content/article/u-s-hands-out-7-billion-hydrogen-hubs] By KATHERINE BOURZAC, Science. Excerpt: President Joe Biden’s administration today announced $7 billion in funding for seven regional “hubs” to produce hydrogen, which produces water as exhaust when combusted. If made cleanly, hydrogen could help fight global warming by replacing fossil fuels in the fertilizer and steel industries, and in tricky-to-electrify vehicles such as long-haul trucks. …Hydrogen has had a “chicken and egg” problem, says Keith Wipke, program manager for fuel cell vehicles at DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “Nobody will start large-scale production until there are customers,” he says. And customers are reluctant to switch to hydrogen without a steady and cheap supply of the gas. “It’s the same story as we’ve seen with solar and wind. The more you build, the cheaper it becomes,” says Anne-Sophie Corbeau, a researcher at the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy….
2023-10-04. Why China’s clean energy tech will determine our climate future. [https://www.newscientist.com/article/2395586-why-chinas-clean-energy-tech-will-determine-our-climate-future/] By James Dinneen, New Scientist. Excerpt: As the world’s biggest carbon emitter and the largest producer of clean energy tech, China is crucial to our climate future, …. In 2023, which will be a record year for global development of renewable energy, more than half of all new wind and solar capacity is set to be installed in China. It is also adding more new nuclear power and hydropower than anywhere else, and in August overtook Europe as the largest builder of offshore wind. In June, two years ahead of schedule, fossil fuels made up less than half of China’s electricity generating capacity, though coal remains a big and growing part of its energy mix. …China boasts record adoption of electric vehicles too, with these making up more than a fifth of all new vehicles sold in China in 2022, as well as the world’s largest high-speed train system. …All of this gives observers confidence that China will, at the very least, be able to meet its near-term target of reaching peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 or earlier. …One report from Norwegian research firm Rystad Energy has even projected that China’s emissions from burning fossil fuels could peak as soon as this year, and fall 10 per cent by 2030. …China now makes at least 80 per cent of the world’s solar panels….
2023-09-28. Low-Tech, Energy-Free Tool Collects and Cleans Fog Water. [https://eos.org/articles/low-tech-energy-free-tool-collects-and-cleans-fog-water] By Kimberly M. S. Cartier, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Communities in some regions of the world lack easy access to clean fresh water, some due to their remote locations, some to insufficient or damaged infrastructure, and others to changing climate conditions. People in these regions often rely on alternate methods of gathering fresh water, such as harvesting rain, dew, vapor, and fog—but that water can be polluted and dangerous to use. Now, an innovative update to a tried-and-true method of harvesting fog water can purify it, too. Researchers developed and tested how well a polymer-based coating on a metal mesh collected water that had been contaminated with organic pollutants. They found that not only did the coated mesh outperform existing fog harvesters, but also the coating purified the water by 91%, producing nearly pure water without requiring any power…. See also NPR article Harvesting water from fog and air in Kenya with jerrycans and newfangled machines.
2023-09-28. Chemical cages could store hydrogen, expand use of clean-burning fuel. [https://www.science.org/content/article/chemical-cages-could-store-hydrogen-expand-use-clean-burning-fuel] By ROBERT F. SERVICE, Science. Excerpt: Cheap molecular “sponges” made with aluminum can be low-pressure gas tanks. Hydrogen seems like the perfect fuel. By weight it packs more punch than any other fuel. It can be made from water, meaning supply is almost limitless, in principle. And when burned or run through a fuel cell, it generates energy without any carbon pollution. But hydrogen takes up enormous volume, making it impractical to store. Compressing it helps, but is expensive and essentially turns hydrogen storage tanks into high-pressure explosives. Now, a molecular sponge made of organic compounds and cheap aluminum promises a practical solution, holding significant amounts of hydrogen at low pressures. Described in a paper accepted last week at the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), it is the latest in a series of promising metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), and it suggests that the materials could be close to a mass market application, serving as fuel depots for backup power sources at industrial operations….
2023-09-07. U.S. bets it can drill for climate-friendly hydrogen—just like oil. [https://www.science.org/content/article/u-s-bets-it-can-drill-climate-friendly-hydrogen-just-oil] By ERIC HAND, Science. Excerpt: …Today, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the high-risk, high-reward arm of the Department of Energy (DOE), announced it would fund $20 million in grants to advance technologies for extracting clean-burning hydrogen from deep rocks. …some researchers have concluded that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Earth harbors vast deposits of the gas that could be tapped like oil—and that reserves could be stimulated by pumping water and catalysts into the crust. …Most hydrogen today is manufactured by combining steam and methane in factories that emit carbon dioxide (CO2) and add to global warming. Governments are supporting efforts to make hydrogen cleanly, either by capturing the emitted CO2 and storing it underground (blue hydrogen) or by using renewable electricity to split water and harvesting the resulting hydrogen (green hydrogen). …For decades, few geologists believed Earth held significant hydrogen deposits, because the gas is so readily eaten up by microbes or chemically altered into other forms. But prospectors are now fanning out across the globe, spurred by the discovery of a massive hydrogen field underneath a village in Mali and records suggesting puzzling surges of nearly pure hydrogen in old boreholes. Whereas oil and gas companies tend to tap relatively youthful basins of sedimentary rock, hydrogen hunters are probing the crystalline, ancient hearts of continents for the iron-rich rocks thought to fuel hydrogen production. …The grant program will not support the hunt for existing deposits, because that is better left to USGS and industry, says ARPA-E Program Director Doug Wicks. Instead, it will focus on ways to artificially stimulate one of the main hydrogen producing reactions, called serpentinization, which occurs when water encounters iron-rich rocks at high temperatures and pressures. The reactions transform minerals such as olivine into serpentine, releasing hydrogen in the process….
2023-08-12. The Clean Energy Future Is Arriving Faster Than You Think. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/08/12/climate/clean-energy-us-fossil-fuels.html] By David Gelles, Brad Plumer, Jim Tankersley, Jack Ewing, The New York Times. Excerpt: The United States is pivoting away from fossil fuels and toward wind, solar and other renewable energy, even in areas dominated by the oil and gas industries. …renewables are now expected to overtake coal by 2025 as the world’s largest source of electricity. …China, which already leads the world in the sheer amount of electricity produced by wind and solar power, is expected to double its capacity by 2025, five years ahead of schedule. In Britain, roughly one-third of electricity is generated by wind, solar and hydropower. And in the United States, 23 percent of electricity is expected to come from renewable sources this year, up 10 percentage points from a decade ago….
2023-07-12. The Energy Transition Is Underway. Fossil Fuel Workers Could Be Left Behind. [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/12/us/politics/coal-gas-workers-transition.html] By Madeleine Ngo, The New York Times. Excerpt: …The United States is undergoing a rapid shift away from fossil fuels as new battery factories, wind and solar projects, and other clean energy investments crop up across the country. An expansive climate law that Democrats passed last year could be even more effective than Biden administration officials had estimated at reducing fossil fuel emissions. While the transition is projected to create hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs, it could be devastating for many workers and counties that have relied on coal, oil and gas for their economic stability. Estimates of the potential job losses in the coming years vary, but roughly 900,000 workers were directly employed by fossil fuel industries in 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. …Beyond construction, wind and solar farms typically require few workers to operate, and new clean energy jobs might not necessarily offer comparable wages or align with the skills of laid-off workers. …U.S. coal-fired generation capacity is projected to decline sharply to about 50 percent of current levels by 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration. About 41,000 workers remain in the coal mining industry, down from about 177,000 in the mid-1980s….
2023-07-06. Hand-held water harvester powered by sunlight could combat water scarcity. [https://data.berkeley.edu/news/hand-held-water-harvester-powered-sunlight-could-combat-water-scarcity] By Rachel Leven, UC Berkeley College of Computing, Data Science, and Society. Excerpt: UC Berkeley researchers have designed an extreme-weather proven, hand-held device that can extract and convert water molecules from the air into drinkable water using only ambient sunlight as its energy source, a study published in Nature Water today shows. This atmospheric water harvester used an ultra-porous material known as a metal-organic framework (MOF) to extract water repeatedly in the hottest and driest place in North America, Death Valley National Park. These tests showed the device could provide clean water anywhere, addressing an urgent problem, as climate change exacerbates drought conditions “Almost one-third of the world’s population lives in water-stressed regions. The UN projects in the year 2050 that almost 5 billion people on our planet will experience some kind of water stress for a significant part of the year,” said Omar Yaghi, the Berkeley chemistry professor who invented MOFs and is leading this study. “This is quite relevant to harnessing a new source for water.” …It is also extremely efficient at harvesting water, releasing as drinking water 85 to 90 percent of the water it captures as atmospheric vapor. It harvested up to 285 grams of water per kilogram of metal-organic framework in a day, the equivalent of a cup of water….
2023-06-28. A Giant Wind Farm Is Taking Root Off Massachusetts. [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/27/business/energy-environment/marthas-vineyard-wind-farm-massachusetts.html] By Stanley Reed and Ivan Penn, The New York Times. Excerpt: “This has been really hard,” said Rachel Pachter, the chief development officer of Vineyard Offshore, the American arm of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, a Danish renewable energy developer that is a co-owner of the wind farm. To bring a big energy project to this point near population centers requires clearing countless regulatory hurdles and heading off potential opposition and litigation. …Ms. Pachter, though, has helped orchestrate a campaign of community outreach, job creation and funding that has finally led to a point where, in industry parlance, steel is going into the water. …62 turbines, each up to 850 feet high (taller than any building in Boston) with blades about 350 feet long, will be planted on a sweep of seabed 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard….
2023-06-24. Energy Change Sweeps the North Sea. [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/24/business/energy-environment/north-sea-green-energy-wind.html] By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: The North Sea has long been host to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and hundreds of rigs for producing oil and natural gas. Now, if European leaders have their way, this shallow and often turbulent stretch of water will, in the coming years, see what could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars worth of investment aimed at reducing carbon emissions and further shrinking imports of fossil fuels from Russia. …in Ostend, a Belgian port, in April, the leaders of nine European governments pledged to work together to roughly quadruple the already substantial amount of offshore wind generation capacity in the North Sea and nearby waters by 2030 and to increase it by about tenfold by 2050….
2023-06-22. Solar sprawl is tearing up the Mojave Desert. Is there a better way? [https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2023-06-27/solar-panels-could-save-california-but-they-hurt-the-desert] By Sammy Roth, LA Times. Excerpt: High above the Las Vegas Strip, solar panels blanketed the roof of Mandalay Bay Convention Center — 26,000 of them, rippling across an area larger than 20 football fields. …“This is really an ideal location,” said Michael Gulich, vice president of sustainability at MGM Resorts International. …There’s enormous opportunity to lower household utility bills and cut climate pollution — without damaging wildlife habitat or disrupting treasured landscapes. The same goes for the rest of Las Vegas and its sprawling suburbs. But that hasn’t stopped corporations from making plans to carpet the desert surrounding Las Vegas with dozens of giant solar fields — some of them designed to supply power to California. The Biden administration has fueled that growth, taking steps to encourage solar and wind energy development across vast stretches of public lands in Nevada and other Western states. Those energy generators could imperil rare plants and slow-footed tortoises already threatened by rising temperatures. …The key questions are: How many big solar farms are needed, and where should they be built? Can they be engineered to coexist with animals and plants?….
2023-06-08. UC Berkeley Goes All-Electric As Part of Ambitious Clean Energy Campus Plan. [https://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/2023-spring-summer/berkeley-goes-all-electric-as-part-of-ambitious-clean-energy-campus-plan/] By Pat Joseph, California Magazine. Excerpt: Goodbye 36-year-old gas turbine, hello electric thermal plant. …In 2028, as part of Berkeley’s ambitious Clean Energy Campus plan, the 36-year-old gas-fired cogeneration plant will be replaced with a new electrified heating and cooling plant, to be located at North Field, the extramural playing field just north of Hearst Gym, and a utility-fed electrical system. The current power plant provides about 90 percent of the electricity and 100 percent of the steam needs of campus. When it was first brought online in 1987, the cogen plant was state of the art, efficiently producing both electricity and steam, the latter used for heating and lab processes. But now, says Kira Stoll, chief sustainability and carbon solutions officer, it’s time to move on to a better, cleaner source of power—one that doesn’t emit 135,000 metric tons of CO2 annually. “One really critical piece of this is the heightened awareness that we need to act on the climate and create solutions,” Stoll said. “If we’re investing in infrastructure that’s going to be around for 50 or more years, we really don’t want to invest in last-century technology. We really need to invest in the future.” Indeed, if all goes according to plan, Berkeley will become the first University of California campus to achieve zero-carbon energy goals….
2023-06-01. Treasure Hunt. [https://www.science.org/content/article/major-us-geological-survey-aims-uncover-minerals-critical-batteries-microchips] By Paul Voosen, Science. Excerpt: The first U.S. nationwide geological survey in a generation could reveal badly needed supplies of critical minerals. …Few topics draw more bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., than the need for the United States to find reliable sources of “critical minerals,” a collection of 50 mined substances that now come mostly from other countries, including some that are unfriendly or unstable. The list, created by USGS at the direction of Congress, contains not only the 17 rare earth elements produced mostly in China, but also less exotic materials such as zinc, used to produce steel, and cobalt, used in electric car batteries. …The last nationwide survey, a quest for uranium, ended in the 1980s. Ryker says the U.S. is “undermapped” compared with most developed countries, including Australia, Canada, and even Ireland. “We’re at an embarrassing point.” …To start filling in this knowledge void, USGS in 2019 began what it calls the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, or Earth MRI. With a modest $10 million annual budget, the agency began working with state geological surveys. …Then, in 2021, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law directed $320 million into the program—nearly one-third of the entire USGS budget—to be spent over 5 years….
2023-05-28. Wind energy has a massive waste problem. New technologies may be a step closer to solving it. [https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/28/world/wind-turbine-recycling-climate-intl/index.html] By Laura Paddison, CNN. Excerpt: Wind turbines are built to last. Their tall bodies are topped with long fiberglass blades, some more than half a football field in length, made to withstand the harshest, windiest conditions. But this sturdiness brings a big problem: What to do with these blades when they reach the end of their lives. While about 90% of turbines are easily recyclable, their blades are not. They are made from fiberglass bound together with epoxy resin, a material so strong it is incredibly difficult and expensive to break down. Most blades end their lives in landfill or are incinerated. …But in February, Danish wind company Vestas …announced a “breakthrough solution” that would allow wind turbine blades to be recycled without needing to change their design or materials. …the “newly discovered chemical technology” breaks down old blades in a liquid to produce high quality materials, which can eventually be used to make new blades, as well as components in other industries….
2023-05-18. A Symbiosis Between Agriculture and Solar Power. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/a-symbiosis-between-agriculture-and-solar-power] By Aaron Sidder, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Introduced in the 1980s, agrivoltaics, or AV, is the concept of pairing agriculture and solar energy production on the same plot of land. Practitioners grow crops under solar panels and can control the amounts and wavelengths of light that pass through for photosynthesis. Light that is not necessary for photosynthesis can power clean energy production. Meanwhile, as plants photosynthesize, they lose water through transpiration. That water loss cools the air and improves the efficiency of energy generation by the panels. It’s a win-win scenario—at least in theory. …In a previous study, scientists argued that successful AV setups could partition light into wavelengths that are efficient for either energy production or photosynthesis: red for crops and blue for solar panels, for example. …The study also considers how solar panels alter the microclimate and light availability beneath their cells. …The commentary highlights that candidate crops for AV are shade tolerant and have large leaf areas aboveground. Reduced air temperature and higher soil moisture below the photovoltaic system allow plants to allocate more carbon to aboveground biomass, resulting in greater leaf area. This trait is common in shade-tolerant plants and suggests that big leafy crops such as arugula, kale, and tomatoes may be more likely to succeed in an AV setup….
2023-05-13. Danish Wind Pioneer Keeps Battling Climate Change. [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/03/business/energy-environment/denmark-wind-power-stiesdal.html] By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: The contemporary wind power industry, which has spawned hundreds of thousands of spinning rotors generating electricity without putting greenhouse gases into the air, was to a great extent born in a notoriously windy region of Denmark called Jutland. …perhaps no one has had more influence than a Jutlander named Henrik Stiesdal. As a young man of 21, he built a rudimentary machine to generate electricity for his parents’ farm. He was later co-designer of an innovative three-bladed turbine that set the stage for what has become a multibillion-dollar global industry. His inventions have led to about a thousand patents, and Mr. Stiesdal is widely seen as a pioneer in this very Danish field. At age 66, he is not done. After decades working for what became some of the giant companies in wind energy, Mr. Stiesdal is putting his ideas into a start-up that bears his name, pursuing innovative ways to offer clean and affordable energy and tackle climate change. …massive tetrahedral structures, designed by Mr. Stiesdal, that will serve as bases for floating wind turbines …partly submerged, covering an area of roughly two American football fields. …a new design for an electrolyzer — a device that takes water and, from it, derives hydrogen gas, which is drawing increasing attention as a replacement for fossil fuels….
2023-05-02. Is It a Lake, or a Battery? A New Kind of Hydropower Is Spreading Fast. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/05/02/climate/hydroelectric-power-energy.html] By Mira Rojanasakul and Max Bearak, The New York Times. Excerpt: New research released Tuesday by Global Energy Monitor reveals a transformation underway in hydroelectric projects — using the same gravitational qualities of water, but typically without building large, traditional dams like the Hoover in the American West or Three Gorges in China. Instead, a technology called pumped storage is rapidly expanding. These systems involve two reservoirs: one on top of a hill and another at the bottom. When electricity generated from nearby power plants exceeds demand, it’s used to pump water uphill, essentially filling the upper reservoir as a battery. Later, when electricity demand spikes, water is released to the lower reservoir through a turbine, generating power. Pumped storage isn’t a new idea. But it is undergoing a renaissance in countries where wind and solar power are also growing, helping allay concerns about weather-related dips in renewable energy output. …In recent years, China has accounted for about half of global growth in renewable energy. According to official documents, China will roll out more wind and solar capacity each year between now and 2030 than Germany currently has in total. … China has stopped financing coal projects abroad, but at home last year it approved the building of more coal plants than ever before. And it is already by far the world’s biggest user of coal, a particularly dirty fuel. But even as China doubles down on coal, it is reducing the overall proportion of power it derives from it. China now leads the world in wind, solar and hydroelectric power capacity….
2023-04-26. New molecular membranes could slash costs for storing green energy. [https://www.science.org/content/article/new-molecular-membranes-could-slash-costs-storing-green-energy] By Robert F. Service, Science. Excerpt: Ability to let certain ions pass with near-zero friction could vastly improve batteries, fuel cells, and other electrochemical devices. New technology promises to dramatically improve the performance of batteries, fuel cells, and the electrolyzers that make green hydrogen and other fuels from electricity. The advance—used in a type of “flow battery” that’s becoming common for storing renewable energy—boosted the speed at which the battery could provide power fivefold. That jump in performance could sharply reduce the cost of storing green energy for use on the grid, making it easier for societies to completely shift from fossil fuels to renewables….
2023-04-14. How electrification became a major tool for fighting climate change. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/04/14/climate/electric-car-heater-everything.html] By Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: The United States still gets most of its energy by setting millions of tiny fires everywhere. Cars, trucks, homes and factories all burn fossil fuels in countless engines, furnaces and boilers, creating pollution that heats the planet. To tackle climate change, those machines will need to stop polluting. And the best way to do that, experts increasingly say, is to replace them with electric versions — cars, heating systems and factories that run on clean sources of electricity like wind, solar or nuclear power. But electrifying almost everything is a formidable task….
2023-04-09. The Real-World Costs of the Digital Race for Bitcoin. [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/09/business/bitcoin-mining-electricity-pollution.html] By Gabriel J.X. Dance, The New York Times. Excerpt: Texas was gasping for electricity. Winter Storm Uri had knocked out power plants across the state, leaving tens of thousands of homes in icy darkness. By the end of Feb. 14, 2021, nearly 40 people had died, some from the freezing cold. Meanwhile, in the husk of a onetime aluminum smelting plant an hour outside of Austin, row upon row of computers were using enough electricity to power about 6,500 homes as they raced to earn Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency. …The New York Times has identified 34 such large-scale operations, known as Bitcoin mines, in the United States, all putting immense pressure on the power grid and most finding novel ways to profit from doing so. Their operations can create costs — including higher electricity bills and enormous carbon pollution — for everyone around them, most of whom have nothing to do with Bitcoin. …Each of the 34 operations The Times identified uses at least 30,000 times as much power as the average U.S. home. Altogether, they consume more than 3,900 megawatts of electricity. That is nearly the same amount of electricity as the three million households that surround them….
2023-03-15. Splitting seawater could provide an endless source of green hydrogen. [https://www.science.org/content/article/splitting-seawater-provide-endless-source-green-hydrogen] By Robert F. Service, Science. Excerpt: …“Green” hydrogen, made by using renewable energy to split water molecules, could power heavy vehicles and decarbonize industries such as steelmaking without spewing a whiff of carbon dioxide. But because the water-splitting machines, or electrolyzers, are designed to work with pure water, scaling up green hydrogen could exacerbate global freshwater shortages. Now, several research teams are reporting advances in producing hydrogen directly from seawater, which could become an inexhaustible source of green hydrogen. …Md Kibria, a materials chemist at the University of Calgary, says for now there’s a cheaper solution: feeding seawater into desalination setups that can remove the salt before the water flows to conventional electrolyzers. …Today, nearly all hydrogen is made by breaking apart methane, burning fossil fuels to generate the needed heat and pressure. Both steps release carbon dioxide. Green hydrogen could replace this dirty hydrogen, but at the moment it costs more than twice as much, roughly $5 per kilogram. That’s partly due to the high cost of electrolyzers, which rely on catalysts made from precious metals. The U.S. Department of Energy recently launched a decadelong effort to improve electrolyzers and bring the cost of green hydrogen down to $1 per kilogram….
2023-03-11. Inside the Global Race to Turn Water Into Fuel. [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/11/climate/green-hydrogen-energy.html] By By Max Bearak, The New York Times. Excerpt: this remote parcel of the Australian Outback for an imminent transformation. A consortium of energy companies led by BP plans to cover an expanse of land eight times as large as New York City with as many as 1,743 wind turbines, each nearly as tall as the Empire State Building, along with 10 million or so solar panels and more than a thousand miles of access roads to connect them all. But none of the 26 gigawatts of energy the site expects to produce, equivalent to a third of what Australia’s grid currently requires, will go toward public use. Instead, it will be used to manufacture a novel kind of industrial fuel: green hydrogen. …the biggest problem that green hydrogen could help solve: vast iron ore mines that are full of machines powered by immense amounts of dirty fossil fuels. Three of the world’s four biggest ore miners operate dozens of mines here….
2023-03-08. In Zimbabwe, drought is driving a hydropower crisis—and a search for alternatives. [https://www.science.org/content/article/zimbabwe-drought-driving-hydropower-crisis-and-search-alternatives] By Andrew Mambondyani, Science. Excerpt: …a prolonged drought has plunged Zimbabwe into a severe energy crisis. Water levels behind Zimbabwe’s main hydropower dam, which produces nearly 70% of the nation’s electricity, have dropped too low to reliably generate power, forcing utility managers to impose rolling blackouts that last for up to 20 hours per day. …The crisis, researchers say, has highlighted the growing threat that an increasingly dry and erratic climate poses to African nations that rely on hydropower. In Zimbabwe, it is prompting the government and researchers to step up the search for more dependable energy supplies for the nation’s 16 million people. …by 2030 “new hydropower dams will no longer be an attractive option across most of Africa.” …the nation’s government is moving to expand coal-fired power plants. But it is also examining sources of energy that won’t add to greenhouse gas emissions, including solar power and biogas made by fermenting organic wastes. “The costs of these technologies have been rapidly dropping; hence they have become more attractive investment options,” Sterl says. …researchers concluded that biogas has the potential to play a bigger role in Zimbabwe’s energy mix. A second recent study, from a team based at Shanghai University, notes that Zimbabwe, which receives some 3000 hours of sunlight per year, also has yet to fully tap the potential of solar power. By building solar panel arrays that are linked to battery storage systems, power producers could reduce their reliance on imported electricity and ensure more reliable power supplies, they reported in the Journal of Renewable Energy and Environmentin August 2022….
2023-02-27. As Oil Companies Stay Lean, Workers Move to Renewable Energy. [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/27/business/energy-environment/oil-gas-renewable-energy-jobs.html] By Clifford Krauss, The New York Times. Excerpt: …Oil and gas companies laid off roughly 160,000 workers in 2020, and they maintained tight budgets and hired cautiously over the last two years. But many renewable businesses expanded rapidly after the early shock of the pandemic faded, snapping up geologists, engineers and other workers from the likes of Exxon and Chevron. …Executives and workers in energy hubs in Houston, Dallas and other places say steady streams of people are moving from fossil fuel to renewable energy jobs….
2023-02-16. How a Record-Breaking Copper Catalyst Converts CO2 Into Liquid Fuels. [https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2023/02/16/copper-catalyst-converts-co2-into-liquid-fuels/] By Theresa Duque, Berkeley Lab. Excerpt: …new insights could help advance the next generation of solar fuels. …a research team led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has gained new insight by capturing real-time movies of copper nanoparticles (copper particles engineered at the scale of a billionth of a meter) as they convert CO2 and water into renewable fuels and chemicals: ethylene, ethanol, and propanol, among others. The work was reported in the journal Nature last week. …Peidong Yang, a senior faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences and Chemical Sciences Divisions who led the study …is also a professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering at UC Berkeley. “Knowing how copper is such an excellent electrocatalyst brings us steps closer to turning CO2 into new, renewable solar fuels through artificial photosynthesis.”…
2023-02-16. Hidden Hydrogen. [https://www.science.org/content/article/hidden-hydrogen-earth-may-hold-vast-stores-renewable-carbon-free-fuel] By Eric Hand. Excerpt: IN THE SHADE of a mango tree, Mamadou Ngulo Konaré recounted the legendary event of his childhood. In 1987, well diggers had come to his village of Bourakébougou, Mali, to drill for water, but had given up on one dry borehole at a depth of 108 meters. “Meanwhile, wind was coming out of the hole,” Konaré told Denis Brière, a petrophysicist and vice president at Chapman Petroleum Engineering, in 2012. When one driller peered into the hole while smoking a cigarette, the wind exploded in his face. …The color of the fire in daytime was like blue sparkling water and did not have black smoke pollution. The color of the fire at night was like shining gold, and all over the fields we could see each other in the light. …It took the crew weeks to snuff out the fire and cap the well. …In 2012, …Chapman Petroleum …discovered that the gas was 98% hydrogen. That was extraordinary: Hydrogen almost never turns up in oil operations, and it wasn’t thought to exist within the Earth much at all. …Contrary to conventional wisdom, large stores of natural hydrogen may exist all over the world, like oil and gas—but not in the same places. These researchers say water-rock reactions deep within the Earth continuously generate hydrogen, which percolates up through the crust and sometimes accumulates in underground traps. There might be enough natural hydrogen to meet burgeoning global demand for thousands of years, according to a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) model that was presented in October 2022 at a meeting of the Geological Society of America….
2023-01-23. ‘No miracles needed’: Prof Mark Jacobson on how wind, sun and water can power the world. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/23/no-miracles-needed-prof-mark-jacobson-on-how-wind-sun-and-water-can-power-the-world] By Damian Carrington, The Guardian. Excerpt: Wind, water and solar can provide plentiful and cheap power, he argues, ending the carbon emissions driving the climate crisis, slashing deadly air pollution and ensuring energy security. Carbon capture and storage, biofuels, new nuclear and other technologies are expensive wastes of time, he argues. …We have wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, electric cars. We have batteries, heat pumps, energy efficiency. We have 95% of the technologies right now that we need to solve the problem.” The missing 5% is for long-distance aircraft and ships, he says, for which hydrogen-powered fuel cells can be developed….
2023-01-04. Sun-powered water splitter produces unprecedented levels of green energy. [https://www.science.org/content/article/sun-powered-water-splitter-produces-unprecedented-levels-green-energy] By Robert F. Service, Science. Excerpt: …The latest iteration of their device uses not only the visible and ultraviolet photons able to split water, but also the less energetic infrared photons. The combined changes enabled the scientists to convert 9.2% of the Sun’s energy into hydrogen fuel, roughly three times more than previous photocatalytic setups, they report today in Nature. …In addition, …the new setup also works well, though somewhat less efficiently, with seawater, a cheap and inexhaustible resource. Being able to convert seawater cheaply into carbon-free fuel would truly be the ultimate in green energy.
2022-12-30. The U.S. Will Need Thousands of Wind Farms. Will Small Towns Go Along? [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/30/climate/wind-farm-renewable-energy-fight.html] By David Gelles, The New York Times. Excerpt: …In the fight against global warming, the federal government is pumping a record $370 billion into clean energy, President Biden wants the nation’s electricity to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2035, and many states and utilities plan to ramp up wind and solar power. But …the future of the American power grid is in fact being determined in town halls, county courthouses and community buildings across the country. …In Piatt County, population 16,000, the project at issue is Goose Creek Wind, which has been proposed by Apex Clean Energy, a developer of wind and solar farms based in Virginia. …If completed, the turbines, each of them 610 feet tall, would march across 34,000 acres of farmland. The $500 million project is expected to generate 300 megawatts, enough to power about 100,000 homes. The renewable, carbon-free electricity would help power a grid that currently is fed by a mix of nuclear, natural gas, coal, and some existing wind turbines. But with more and more renewable energy projects under construction around the country, resistance is growing, especially in rural communities in the Great Plains and Midwest. …Much of that skepticism appeared to be earnest concern from community members who weren’t sold on the project’s overall merits. On the fringe of the debate, however, was a digital misinformation campaign designed to distort the facts about wind energy. The website of a group called Save Piatt County!, which opposes the project, is rife with fallacies about renewable energy and inaccuracies about climate science. On Facebook pages, residents opposed to the project shared negative stories about wind power, following a playbook that has been honed in recent years by anti-wind activists, some of whom have ties to the fossil fuel industry.
2022-12-15. California Reduces Subsidies for Homes With Rooftop Solar. [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/15/business/energy-environment/california-rooftop-solar-subsidy.html] By Ivan Penn, The New York Times. Excerpt: California regulators voted unanimously on Thursday to significantly reduce how much utilities have to pay homeowners with rooftop solar panels for power they send to the electric grid — a decision that could hurt the growing renewable energy business. The five members of the California Public Utilities Commission said the existing payments to homeowners through a program known as net metering amounted to an excessively generous subsidy that was no longer needed to encourage the use of solar panels. Under the proposal adopted on Thursday, compensation for the energy sent to the grid by rooftop panels will be reduced by about 75 percent for new rooftop solar homes starting in April. …By reducing the subsidy to rooftop solar owners, the commission aimed to establish what it said would be a more equitable system, agreeing with arguments by utility companies and some consumer and environmental groups like the Utility Reform Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Those groups had claimed that affluent homeowners were more likely to install rooftop solar systems, leaving lower-income residents to bear more of the cost of supporting the electric grid….
2022-12-13. The carbon-free energy of the future: this fusion breakthrough changes everything. [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/dec/13/carbon-free-energy-fusion-reaction-scientists] By Arthur Turrell, The Guardian. Excerpt: This is a moment that scientists have dreamed of for well over half a century. The US’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) has smashed the longest-standing goal in the quest for carbon–free energy from fusion, the nuclear process that powers stars. Researchers from NIF used the world’s most energetic laser to fire 2.05 megajoules (MJ) of energy into a millimetre-sized capsule of hydrogen fuel. Reaching temperatures many times those found in the sun’s core and pressures 300bn times those normally experienced on Earth, a wave of nuclear reactions ripped through the fusion fuel, releasing 3.15 MJ of fusion energy – 1.1 MJ more than was put in – over a few tens of nanoseconds. …it’s the first scientific proof that fusion can produce more energy out than is put in, also known as “net energy gain”. If the numbers check out, the experiment generated 54% more energy than was put into it. …Fusion would complement renewables by providing baseload energy, rain or shine, while taking up little precious land. So the prize is big – which is why scientists and engineers have stuck with it for decades. …that doesn’t mean fusion power that we can use is a reality yet. This is a single result on a single experiment. A commercially viable plant would need to produce 30 times energy out for energy in (30x), rather than the 1.54x seen in this experiment. Even with that magnitude of energy release, there would be engineering and economic challenges to overcome, such as firing the laser 10 times a second, rather than once a day. Gigantic lasers may not even be the best route to economical fusion power: promising alternative approaches are being explored that use magnetic fields to trap the 150mC fuel….
2022-12-09. Could Floating Solar Panels Help Mitigate Climate Change?. [https://eos.org/articles/could-floating-solar-panels-help-mitigate-climate-change] By Sofia Moutinho, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Many countries bet on solar panels when engaging in the switch to cleaner energy. But the technology requires much larger areas than conventional fossil fuel plants to generate the same amount of electricity. An emerging solution to save space is to float the panels on bodies of water: floatovoltaics. Scientists believe this new approach could help solar energy to scale globally and fight climate change, but its environmental impacts are largely unexplored….
2022-11-27. Giant Wind Farms Arise Off Scotland, Easing the Pain of Oil’s Decline. [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/27/business/scotland-wind-farms-offshore.html] By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: It was a regular workday for these employees and contractors of a Scottish utility, SSE, and its partners, which operate the vast Beatrice wind farm off the northern tip of Great Britain. …Mr. Larter also considers himself fortunate to have signed onto a business that is growing as Europe seeks to replace oil and gas, whose production has been a mainstay of this part of Scotland, with cleaner energy. …These initiatives are attractive to investors and lawmakers because they produce enormous amounts of clean energy and can be placed far enough from shore that they are largely out of sight. Britain is already generating more than 10 percent of its electricity from wind at sea, and on some gusty days, like Nov. 2, wind produces more than half. As energy security becomes a critical issue in wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the country aspires to nearly quadruple offshore capacity over the next decade. …skepticism about the future of fossil fuels remains strong in Britain and much of Europe, and the numbers tell a story of decline. After reaching a peak in 2014, investment in oil and gas in Britain plummeted by about three-quarters to around £3.7 billion last year, according to Offshore Energies UK, an industry group. Jobs supported by the business have fallen by more than half over roughly a decade, to around 200,000….
2022-11-10. Solar Energy Gets Flexible. [https://www.science.org/content/article/ultrathin-organic-solar-cells-could-turn-buildings-power-generators] By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. Excerpt: In November 2021, while the municipal utility in Marburg, Germany, was performing scheduled maintenance on a hot water storage facility, engineers glued 18 solar panels to the outside of the main 10-meter-high cylindrical tank. It’s not the typical home for solar panels, most of which are flat, rigid silicon and glass rectangles arrayed on rooftops or in solar parks. The Marburg facility’s panels, by contrast, are ultrathin organic films made by Heliatek, a German solar company. In the past few years, Heliatek has mounted its flexible panels on the sides of office towers, the curved roofs of bus stops, and even the cylindrical shaft of an 80-meter-tall windmill. The goal: expanding solar power’s reach beyond flat land. “There is a huge market where classical photovoltaics do not work,” says Jan Birnstock, Heliatek’s chief technical officer. Organic photovoltaics (OPVs) such as Heliatek’s are more than 10 times lighter than silicon panels and in some cases cost just half as much to produce. Some are even transparent, which has architects envisioning solar panels not just on rooftops, but incorporated into building facades, windows, and even indoor spaces. “We want to change every building into an electricity-generating building,” Birnstock says. Heliatek’s panels are among the few OPVs in practical use, and they convert about 9% of the energy in sunlight to electricity. But in recent years, researchers around the globe have come up with new materials and designs that, in small, labmade prototypes, have reached efficiencies of nearly 20%, approaching silicon and alternative inorganic thin-film solar cells….
2022-11-10. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Increased in 2022 as Crises Roiled Energy Markets. [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/10/climate/carbon-dioxide-emissions-global-warming.html] By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: Global fossil fuel emissions will most likely reach record highs in 2022 and do not yet show signs of declining, researchers said Thursday, a trend that puts countries further away from their goal of stopping global warming. This year, nations are projected to emit roughly 36.6 billion tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide by burning coal, natural gas and oil for energy, according to new data from the Global Carbon Project. That’s 1 percent more than the world emitted in 2021 and slightly more than the previous record in 2019, which came before the coronavirus pandemic caused a temporary drop in global energy use and emissions. The findings were released at the United Nations climate change summit in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, where world leaders have gathered to discuss how to avert catastrophic levels of warming. Scientists have warned that the world as a whole will need to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by around midcentury in order to stabilize global temperatures and minimize the risks from deadly heat waves, sea-level rise and ecosystem collapse….
2022-10-19. Space-based solar power is getting serious—can it solve Earth’s energy woes?. [https://www.science.org/content/article/space-based-solar-power-getting-serious-can-it-solve-earth-s-energy-woes] By Daniel Clery, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Late last month in Munich, engineers at the European aerospace firm Airbus showed off what might be the future of clean energy. They collected sunlight with solar panels, transformed it into microwaves, and beamed the energy across an aircraft hangar, where it was turned back to electricity that, among other things, lit up a model of a city. The demo delivered just 2 kilowatts over 36 meters, but it raised a serious question: Is it time to resurrect a scheme long derided as science fiction and launch giant satellites to collect solar energy in space? In a high orbit, liberated from clouds and nighttime, they could generate power 24 hours a day and beam it down to Earth. …Private space company SpaceX has made the notion seem less outlandish. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lofts cargo at about $2600 per kilogram—less than 5% of what it cost on the Space Shuttle—and the company promises rates of just $10 per kilogram on its gigantic Starship, due for its first launch this year.…
2022-10-15. The great hydrogen gamble: hot air or net zero’s holy grail?. [https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/oct/15/the-great-hydrogen-gamble-hot-air-or-net-zeros-holy-grail] By Alex Lawson, The Guardian. Excerpt: …Companies including Cadent, National Grid, Centrica and boiler maker Worcester Bosch joined Bamford’s companies Ryze Hydrogen and Wrightbus in trying to convince Labour and Conservative MPs that hydrogen, the emissionless, highly combustible gas, can be a valuable weapon in the fight against the climate crisis. …Since Jo Bamford bought bankrupt London bus maker Wrightbus in 2019, the grandson of JCB founder Joseph Cyril Bamford has bet big on hydrogen. It has won several taxpayer-funded contracts for green transport, including an £11.2m deal to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology in Northern Ireland. Last year, he launched HyCap, a £1bn investment fund designed to back hydrogen specialists from producers to fuelling stations and transport firms. …Hydrogen is seen as a transition fuel to a future powered by renewables such as wind and solar, allowing existing gas pipes to be used to pump the gas. “Green” hydrogen is produced by splitting water using electricity from renewables, with minimal emissions. However, detractors argue that creating green hydrogen for home heating is six times less energy efficient than using heat pumps powered by electricity. Meanwhile, “blue” methods to produce the gas from fossil fuels require the carbon dioxide released to be captured and stored to prevent emissions. However, this relies on the success of the unproven carbon-capture and storage industry, which is in its infancy. Last year, the chief executive of the hydrogen lobby group quit, saying he could no longer lead an association that included oil firms backing blue hydrogen projects, because the schemes were “not sustainable” and “make no sense at all”.…
2022-10-06. Solar and wind farms can hurt the environment. A new study offers solutions. [https://www.latimes.com/environment/newsletter/2022-10-06/solar-and-wind-farms-can-hurt-the-environment-a-new-study-offers-solutions-boiling-point] By Sammy Roth, Los Angeles Times. Excerpt: …would you be willing to pay 3% more on your energy bills to protect the natural world? I didn’t pluck that number out of thin air. It comes from a new study by the Nature Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group, finding the American West can generate enough renewable power to tackle climate change even if some of its most ecologically valuable landscapes are placed off-limits to solar and wind farms — without causing costs to spiral out of control….
2022-10-05. What Does Sustainable Living Look Like? Maybe Like Uruguay. [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/05/magazine/uruguay-renewable-energy.html] By Noah Gallagher Shannon, The New York Times. Excerpt: No greater challenge faces humanity than reducing emissions without backsliding into preindustrial poverty. One tiny country is leading the way.…
2022-09-21. Are There Better Places to Put Large Solar Farms Than These Forests? [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/21/opinion/environment/solar-panels-virginia-climate-change.html] New York Times opinion piece by Gabriel Popkin. Excerpt: CHARLOTTE COURT HOUSE, Va. — In Charlotte County, population 11,448, forests and farms slope gently toward pretty little streams. The Roanoke River, whose floodplain includes one of the most ecologically valuable and intact forests in the Mid-Atlantic, forms the county’s southwestern border. On a recent driving tour, a local conservationist, P.K. Pettus, told me she’s already grieving the eventual loss of much of this beautiful landscape. The Randolph Solar Project, a 4,500-acre project that will take out some 3,500 acres of forest during construction, was approved in July to join at least five other solar farms built or planned here thanks to several huge transmission lines that crisscross the county. When built, it will become one of the largest solar installations east of the Rocky Mountains. Although she is all for clean energy, Ms. Pettus opposed the project’s immense size, fearing it will destroy forests, disrupt soil and pollute streams and rivers in the place she calls home. “I was so excited and hoped to see solar canopies over parking lots, solar panels on rooftops, solar panels on big box stores” after Virginia passed a 2020 law requiring the elimination of fossil fuels from its power sector by 2050, Ms. Pettus says. “I never dreamed it would involve so much deforestation and grading in a place I deeply care about.” The conflict Ms. Pettus described is becoming increasingly common in rural Virginia, where a recent boom in solar farm construction has given many people pause.…
2022-09-15. Facing Budget Shortfalls, These Schools Are Turning to the Sun. [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/15/climate/solar-energy-school-funding.html] By Cara Buckley, The New York Times. Excerpt: One school district was able to give pay raises to its teachers as big as 30 percent. Another bought new heating and ventilation systems, all the better to help students and educators breathe easier in these times. The improvements didn’t cost taxpayers a cent, and were paid for by an endlessly renewable source — the sun. As solar energy gains traction across the country, one beneficiary have been schools, particularly those in cash-strapped districts contending with dwindling tax bases. From New Jersey to California, nearly one in 10 K-12 public and private schools across the country were using solar energy by early 2022, according to data released Thursday by Generation180, a nonprofit that promotes and tracks clean energy. That’s twice as many as existed in 2015. The savings in electric bills from schools with solar panels often topped millions in each district, and many have been able to adopt the technology without shouldering any costs up front.…
2022-09-15. Ethereum cryptocurrency completes move to cut CO2 output by 99%. [https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/sep/15/ethereum-cryptocurrency-completes-move-to-cut-co2-output-by-99] By Dan Milmo, The Guardian. Excerpt: Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency, has completed a plan to reduce its carbon emissions by more than 99%. The software upgrade, known as “the merge”, will change how transactions are managed on the ethereum blockchain, a public and decentralised ledger that underpins the cryptocurrency and generates ether tokens, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency after bitcoin. …The move means that ethereum will no longer be created by an energy intensive process known as “mining”, where banks of computers generate random numbers that validate transactions on the blockchain and generate new ether tokens as part of the process. The process, known as “proof of work” in the cryptocurrency world, will now move to a “proof of stake” system, where individuals and companies act as validators, pledging or “staking” their own ether as a form of guarantee, to win newly created tokens. …Ethereum mining used up as much electricity as Austria, according to the Digiconomist website, at 72 terawatt-hours a year. Alex de Vries, the economist behind the website, estimates that the merge will reduce the carbon emissions linked to ethereum by more than 99%. De Vries added that the move could represent 0.2% of the world’s electricity consumption disappearing overnight. However, he said bitcoin remained the biggest single contributor to the crypto world’s carbon footprint. “All eyes will be on bitcoin. It remains the largest polluter in the crypto space. Even today bitcoin is responsible for as much electricity consumption as Sweden. And we know that’s not going to change,” said De Vries.…
2022-09-07. Clean Energy Projects Surge After Climate Bill Passage. [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/07/business/energy-environment/clean-energy-climate-bill.html] By Jack Ewing and Ivan Penn, The New York Times. Excerpt: In the weeks since President Biden signed a comprehensive climate bill devised to spur investment in electric cars and clean energy, corporations have announced a series of big-ticket projects to produce the kind of technology the legislation aims to promote. Toyota said it would invest an additional $2.5 billion in a factory in North Carolina to produce batteries for electric cars and hybrids. Honda and LG Energy Solution announced a joint venture to build a $4.4 billion battery factory at a location to be named. …At a time of economic uncertainty, the legislation gives companies more confidence that they can earn a return on their bets. The investments serve as affirmation of political leaders’ intent: to further accelerate America’s transition away from fossil fuels and to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers, especially those in China.…
2022-09-06. Out of thin air: new solar-powered invention creates hydrogen fuel from the atmosphere. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/07/out-of-thin-air-new-solar-powered-invention-creates-hydrogen-fuel-from-the-atmosphere] By Donna Lu, The Guardian. Excerpt: Researchers have created a solar-powered device that produces hydrogen fuel directly from moisture in the air. According to its inventors, the prototype produces hydrogen with greater than 99% purity and can work in air that is as dry as 4% relative humidity. The device would allow hydrogen to be produced without carbon emissions even in regions where water on land is scarce, they say. Hydrogen is a zero-carbon fuel that yields only water as a byproduct when combusted. However, pure hydrogen is not abundant in nature and producing it requires energy input. Large-scale production commonly involves fossil fuels that generate carbon emissions. The study’s lead author and a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne, Dr Gang Kevin Li, said the hydrogen-producing device could be powered by solar or wind energy.…
2022-08-31. California Installing Huge Solar Panels Over Canals to Combat Drought
[https://futurism.com/the-byte/california-installing-huge-solar-panels-over-canals] By Victor Tangerman, The Futurist. Excerpt: Canal Shade California is spending $20 million on a pilot project that will involve 8,500 feet of solar panels being installed over sections of important water sources, including canals — a futuristic effort to fight a devastating drought hitting California this summer. The idea is simple. The massive panels, to be installed over the Turlock Irrigation District (TID) in central California by the end of next year, are intended to stop dwindling water reserves from evaporating too quickly and forming vegetative growth — while simultaneously providing renewable energy for the local grid. …The TID is citing a 2021 study which found that shading 4,000 miles of public water delivery systems with solar panels could save approximately 63 billion gallons of water a year. That’s enough to meet the demands of more than two million people, according to the organization. The solar panels themselves would generate enough energy to represent “one-sixth of the state’s current installed capacity,” according to TID’s website.…
2022-08-04. Where the Clean Energy Jobs Are: 2022. [https://climatenexus.org/climate-issues/energy/clean-energy-jobs-2022/] By ClimateNexus. Excerpt: At the end of 2021, over 3.3 million people worked in wind, solar, efficiency and other clean energy fields, according to the Energy Department’s 2022 U.S. Energy & Employment Report, which uses data from 2021. That’s more than the number of people employed as registered nurses. Like many industries, the energy sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, but is experiencing a strong recovery. Energy sector jobs last year grew 4 percent over 2020, while overall U.S. employment only grew 2.8 percent year-to-year. The clean energy sector experienced especially high growth: jobs in net-zero aligned sectors made up nearly 40 percent of total energy jobs in 2021, and emissions-reducing vehicle manufacturing grew 25 percent between 2020 and 2021. Meanwhile, fossil fuel jobs continue to decline, with the coal sector seeing job losses of nearly 12 percent. The continued decline in fossil energy jobs underscores the importance of investing in clean energy jobs and economic diversification in communities historically dependent on fossil fuels. Even as they laid off thousands of American workers, oil and gas CEOs made record profits.…
2022-07-05. Green hydrogen storage system project launched on NREL Colorado campus. [https://www.energy-storage.news/green-hydrogen-storage-system-project-launched-on-nrel-colorado-campus/] By Cameron Murray, Energy Storage News. Excerpt: Hydrogen storage company GKN Hydrogen, gas utility SoCalGas and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory are collaborating on a new green hydrogen storage solution. The three will work together to deploy two of GKN’s ‘HY2MEGA’ green hydrogen storage subsystems on NREL’s Flatirons Campus in Colorado, US. They will connect to an existing electrolyser and fuel cell at the ARIES (Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems) facility at Flatirons. The electrolyser will use renewable energy sources, possibly wind based on photos provided in the press release, to produce hydrogen for storage in GKN’s storage solution. HY2MEGA stores hydrogen in a solid state under low pressure, which can then be converted to produce electricity. The two systems will store a total of 500kgs of hydrogen on-site and GKN said its solution can enable long duration clean energy storage, providing resilient power in case of widespread outages. The three-year project is set to launch by the end of 2022. …“This project is exactly what the ARIES platform was designed for: demonstrate the benefits of a new technology that efficiently stores energy produced from renewable electricity,” said Katherine Hurst, group manager and research scientist at NREL. “It brings together a national laboratory, a clean energy technology developer, and a large utility to work on solutions that help decarbonize the power grid.”.…
2022-06-28. Can Dual-Use Solar Panels Provide Power and Share Space With Crops?. [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/28/business/dual-use-solar-panels-agrivoltaics-blue-wave-power.html] By Ellen Rosen. The New York Times. Excerpt: In its 150-year history, Paul Knowlton’s farm in Grafton, Mass., has produced vegetables, dairy products and, most recently, hay. The evolution of the farm’s use turned on changing markets and a variable climate. Recently, however, Mr. Knowlton added a new type of cash crop: solar power. …He had already installed solar panels to provide electricity for his home and barn. When a real estate agent came knocking to see if he was interested in leasing a small portion of his land for a solar array, “she planted the seed that I could do more,” Mr. Knowlton said. …Soon, two small parcels of largely unused land were home to low-to-the-ground panels that produce power. This year, Mr. Knowlton’s farm will go one step further: In a third parcel, solar panels will share space with crops so that both can thrive. This approach is called agrivoltaics — a portmanteau of agriculture and voltaic cells, which transform solar power to electrical power. Also called dual-use solar, the technology involves adjusting the height of solar panels to as much as 14 feet, as well as adjusting the spacing between them, to accommodate equipment, workers, crops and grazing animals. The spacing and the angle of the panels allows light to reach the plants below, and has the added benefit of shielding those crops from extreme heat.…
2022-05-17. Michael Bloomberg Plans a $242 Million Investment in Clean Energy. By Maggie Astor, The New York Times. Excerpt: Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, will announce a $242 million effort on Tuesday to promote clean energy in 10 developing countries. The investment is part of Mr. Bloomberg’s push, announced last year, to shut down coal production in 25 countries and builds on his $500 million campaign to close every coal-fired power plant in the United States. The announcement is tied to a gathering this week in Rwanda hosted by Sustainable Energy for All, an international group working to increase access to electricity in the global south. The money will fund programs in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam.… [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/17/climate/michael-bloomberg-climate-coal.html]
2022-05-13. Lithium Valley: Imperial County big winner in California budget revision. By Janet Wilson, Palm Springs Desert Sun. Excerpt: California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to add up to $400 million to the 2022-23 budget to accelerate development of a potential huge global supply of lithium and clean energy at the south end of the Salton Sea, …. “Lithium Valley represents an extraordinary economic opportunity for the Imperial Valley and all of California, with the potential to power the transition to clean energy and zero-emission vehicles nationwide — and beyond,” Newsom said. “We’re doubling down on our progress with new investments to develop Lithium Valley while keeping our values of inclusive, green growth and sustainability front and center to ensure communities in the region share in the benefits.” …President Joe Biden and U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, along with Newsom, have in recent months promoted the little known portion of the state as a major potential provider of global and domestic lithium and clean energy supply.… [https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2022/05/13/lithium-valley-imperial-county-big-winner-california-budget-revision/9752840002/]
2022-05-06. Hawaii Legislature Calls For Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams. Excerpt: Hawaii lawmakers put the state on the path to making history after the Legislature passed a resolution Thursday endorsing a document called the “Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.” “Hawaii has reminded the world of the climate leadership and spirit communities throughout the Pacific have embodied for decades by calling for the immediate phaseout fossil fuels and… a just transition to ensure the survival and continued flourishing of our peoples and our planet for generations to come,” said Auimatagi Joe Moeono-Kolio, a campaigner with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative. …Senate Concurrent Resolution 108, introduced by state Sen. Karl Rhoads (D-13), passed the upper chamber Thursday after clearing the House last month. The measure affirms Hawaii’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s targets for greenhouse gas reductions. …Launched in 2020, the treaty initiative is grounded in three pillars, the first of which is immediately ending all new exploration and production of oil, gas, and coal. At the same time, existing fossil fuel production must be phased out in line with the Paris agreement’s 1.5°C threshold for warming, with wealthier nations leading the effort. The third pillar calls for a “peaceful and just transition” to a renewable energy system that provides “real solutions… for every worker, community, and country.”.… [https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/05/06/hawaii-legislature-calls-fossil-fuel-non-proliferation-treaty]
2022-05-02. The west can cut its energy dependency on Russia and be greener. By Jeffrey Frankel, The Guardian. Excerpt: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has amplified the importance of national-security considerations in western countries’ energy policies. At the same time, governments must continue to focus on reducing environmental damage – in particular, on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. Both goals, geopolitical and environmental, are urgent and should be evaluated together. These two objectives are not necessarily in conflict, as some believe. There are plenty of energy measures the west can adopt that would benefit the environment and further its geopolitical aims. The most obvious steps, especially for the European Union, are sanctions that reduce demand for imports of fossil fuels from Russia. …governments should not prolong the life of coal and should withdraw coal subsidies. The International Monetary Fund has estimated that global energy subsidies (including for oil and natural gas, as well as coal), at either the producer or consumer end, exceed $5tn a year. Direct US fossil-fuel subsidies alone have been conservatively estimated at $20bn annually.… [https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/may/02/west-energy-depencency-russia-green-ukraine-war]
2022-04-13. ‘Thermal batteries’ could efficiently store wind and solar power in a renewable grid. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. Excerpt: How do you bottle renewable energy for when the Sun doesn’t shine and the wind won’t blow? …Massive battery banks are one answer. …Another strategy is to use surplus energy to heat a large mass of material to ultrahigh temperatures, then tap the energy as needed. This week, researchers report a major improvement in a key part of that scheme: a device for turning the stored heat back into electricity. A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory achieved a nearly 30% jump in the efficiency of a thermophotovoltaic (TPV), a semiconductor structure that converts photons emitted from a heat source to electricity, just as a solar cell transforms sunlight into power. …The idea is to feed surplus wind or solar electricity to a heating element, which boosts the temperature of a liquid metal bath or a graphite block to several thousand degrees. …TPVs …Funnel the stored heat to a metal film or filament, setting it aglow like the tungsten wire in an incandescent light bulb, then use TPVs to absorb the emitted light and turn it to electricity. …With researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, [Asegun] Henry’s team laid down more than two dozen thin layers of different semiconductors to create two separate cells stacked one on top of another. The top cell absorbs mostly visible and ultraviolet photons, whereas the lower cell absorbs mostly infrared. A thin gold sheet under the bottom cell reflects low-energy photons the TPVs couldn’t harvest. The tungsten reabsorbs that energy, preventing it from being lost. The result, the group reports today in Nature, is a TPV tandem that converts 41.1% of the energy emitted from a 2400°C tungsten filament to electricity.… [https://www.science.org/content/article/thermal-batteries-could-efficiently-store-wind-and-solar-power-renewable-grid]
2022-04-10. Wind Energy Company to Pay $8 Million in Killings of 150 Eagles. By Eduardo Medina, The New York Times. Excerpt: A wind energy company pleaded guilty last week to killing at least 150 eagles at its wind farms and was ordered to pay $8 million in fines and restitution, federal prosecutors said. …ESI [Energy] acknowledged that at least 150 bald and golden eagles had died at its facilities since 2012, and that 136 of those deaths were “affirmatively determined to be attributable to the eagle being struck by a wind turbine blade,” the Justice Department said in a statement. …The company agreed to spend up to $27 million on measures to “minimize additional eagle deaths and injuries,” prosecutors said. …The case comes as the bald eagle, the nation’s symbol whose resurgence is considered one of the greatest conservation stories of the 21st century, faces a new threat: lead poisoning. All but a few hundred bald eagles were presumed dead by the mid-20th century, killed off largely by the widespread use of the synthetic insecticide DDT. A ban on DDT in 1972 and conservation efforts helped the population to rebound. The bald eagle was removed from Endangered Species Act protection in 2007 and its estimated population grew to 316,700 by 2019. …A 2013 study found that between 140,000 and 328,000 birds are killed each year in the United States at monopole turbines. …Roberto Albertani, a professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State University, said in 2017 that he and his team had devised a system …using cameras to determine if the birds were approaching the blades, triggering on-the-ground inflatable tubes, or “wind dancer” figures, like those often seen at car dealerships, to scare the birds away, Professor Albertani said in a presentation last year. Eagles appear to be “annoyed by anthropomorphic figures,” he said. Professor Ponder said some researchers were looking into using audio signals to keep the birds away from turbines… [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/10/us/bald-eages-dead-wind-farms.html]
2022-03-28. Solar Cookers International at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Forum. [Youtube video] By Solar Cookers International. Excerpt: …Approximately 2.6 billion people cook over open fires around the globe and women and girls carry the greatest burdens of this cooking method. Gathering fuel and cooking over open fires increases the risks of rape, premature deaths, burns, and disability. Solar cooking frees women from those burdens with an affordable, healthy, sustainable, off-grid solution. SCI advocates for the adoption of solar cooking to empower women and their families to live healthier and more sustainable lives while alleviating climate change.… [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccZR9Np3vWI]
2022-03-16. A high-performance capillary-fed electrolysis cell promises more cost-competitive renewable hydrogen. By Aaron Hodges et al, Nature Communications. Abstract: Renewable, or green, hydrogen will play a critical role in the decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors and will therefore be important in limiting global warming. However, renewable hydrogen is not cost-competitive with fossil fuels, due to the moderate energy efficiency and high capital costs of traditional water electrolysers. Here a unique concept of water electrolysis is introduced, wherein water is supplied to hydrogen- and oxygen-evolving electrodes via capillary-induced transport along a porous inter-electrode separator, leading to inherently bubble-free operation at the electrodes. An alkaline capillary-fed electrolysis cell of this type demonstrates water electrolysis performance exceeding commercial electrolysis cells, with a cell voltage at 0.5 A cm−2 and 85 °C of only 1.51 V, equating to 98% energy efficiency, with an energy consumption of 40.4 kWh/kg hydrogen (vs. ~47.5 kWh/kg in commercial electrolysis cells). High energy efficiency, combined with the promise of a simplified balance-of-plant, brings cost-competitive renewable hydrogen closer to reality.… [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-28953-x]
2022-03-08. The largest remaining tall-grass prairie in Texas is getting solar panels. Environmentalists can’t stop it. By Mary Beth Gahan, The Washington Post. Excerpt: A solar facility on a 3,594-acre tract of land has environmental groups searching for a way to save what they consider a living museum …“We recognize the importance of this native prairie ecosystem,” said Daniel Willard, a biodiversity specialist at Orsted. “One of the best ways to protect biodiversity is the development of clean energy, and we are taking several steps to ensure that development is done in balance with nature.”… [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/03/08/texas-prairie-solar-panels-climate-change]
2022-03-01. Forecast for Solar Power Boom: Sunny and Bright. By Nathanael Greene, Nature’s Voice (NRDC). Excerpt: Clean power just keeps winning in the marketplace. According to the federal Energy Administration, wind and solar made up 62 percent of new electric generating capacity in 2019, and 76 percent in 2020. The reason is clear…wind and solar are simply less expensive than dirty fossil fuels. And costs for wind, solar, and battery technologies continue to fall. …In 2021 more than 10,000 megawatts of utility-scale solar projects came online—triple the amount just five years before. …here’s more good news: the Energy Department also found that the disturbed lands that are suitable for solar use—that is, lands denuded or contaminated by prior use, impacted by invasive species, or good for rooftop solar—are about eight times what is needed to decarbonize the whole country…. [https://issuu.com/nrdc/docs/naturesvoice-spring-2022]
2022-02-20. A year after Texas cold spell, study shows renewable energy could help prevent blackouts. By Kasha Patel, The Washington Post. Excerpt: …a recent study shows that electricity blackouts can be avoided across the nation — perhaps even during intense weather events — by switching to 100 percent clean and renewable energy, such as solar, wind and water.[https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2022/02/20/texas-energy-winter-renewable-jacobson-dessler-rogan]
2022-01-27. Gas stoves in kitchens pose a risk to public health and the planet, research finds. By Maxine Joselow, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Gas-burning stoves in kitchens across America may pose a greater risk to the planet and public health than previously thought, new research suggests. The appliances release far more of the potent planet-warming gas methane than the Environmental Protection Agency estimates, Stanford University scientistsfound in a study published Thursday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The appliances also emit significant amounts of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that can trigger asthma and other respiratory conditions. Scientists and climate activistshave increasingly urged homeowners to switch to all-electric stoves, water boilers and other appliances, even as the natural gas industry fights in New York and across the country to keep the signature blue flames of gas-burning stovesas a staple in American homes.… [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/01/27/gas-stoves-kitchens-pose-risk-public-health-planet-research-finds]
2022-01-24. Science Off the Seashore. By Heather Goss, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: In January 2021, the United Nations launched the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The initiative encourages partner nations to fund scientific research that “achieves the ocean we want by 2030.” …Ocean thermal energy conversion is a fairly simple concept that could help island nations find independence from fossil fuels, but it’s suffering from the “innovation valley of death.” Read more about the potential of this ocean-based power source…. …The deep-sea mining industry is impatiently waiting for international regulators to take the leash off so they can begin collection of the rare earth elements waiting on the floor of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Pacific. We report on the stakes that are all going to become clear in less than 2 years—for the ocean ecosystems, for the investors in deep-sea mining, and for the renewable energy tech that currently depends on these resources…. [https://eos.org/agu-news/science-off-the-seashore]
2022-01-20. Superstores can meet half their electricity needs with rooftop solar, says a new report. By Tik Root, The Washington Post. Excerpt: From Walmart to Ikea, a report finds that the rooftops of big-box stores offer enough solar potential to power the equivalent of 8 million American homes.… [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/01/20/superstores-can-meet-half-their-electricity-needs-with-rooftop-solar-says-new-report/]
2022-01-04. These homes are off-grid and climate resilient. They’re also built out of trash. By Nick Aspinwall, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Earthships originally spawned from the arid climate of Taos, maximizing abundant sunlight while squeezing whatever they can from about eight inches of annual rainfall. Each Earthship shares a set of core organs such as a water organization module, which filters and separates water as it moves throughout the house. In the Earthship ecosystem, water is first used for drinking, showering and hand washing before moving to interior plants, such as fig and banana trees, along with hanging gardens of herbs and flowers. The resulting “gray water” is used to fertilize ornamental outdoor plants and can be safely released into the groundwater supply or used in the toilet, from which “black water” is flushed into a septic tank. …Another module controls solar power, which is used primarily for lights and appliances. Earthships use about one-sixth as much power as a conventional house. “You take care of it, it’ll take care of you,” Albury said. “It’s very symbiotic.” A typical Earthship can produce 25 to 50 percent of the food its residents need, .… [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/01/04/earthship-houses-climate-change/]
2022-01-03. As U.S. moves toward solar energy, this roofing company hopes ‘solar shingles’ will get homeowners to buy in. By Tik Root, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Thousands of Americans install solar energy systems on their roofs each year. Most commonly, that means solar panels mounted on racks, but another option may become more accessible: solar shingles. Starting Monday, one of the largest roofing companies in the United States will be selling a new solar shingle product. The aim is to drive the cost of installation down and the rate of solar adoption up. …The goal is to lower the cost of rooftop solar by combining roofing and solar installation, said DeBono, …. His traditional roof, he said, cost around $28,000, and the solar panels he installed would be around $24,000, for a total price tag of around $52,000, or about $44,000 after rebates and incentives…. In comparison, he estimated a GAF Energy solar roof would cost approximately $42,000 and drop to around $30,000 after incentives, saving about $14,000. …Rooftop solar on small buildings could theoretically meet a quarter of electricity demand in the United States, a 2016 assessment from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found. But putting efficient, durable and eye-pleasing solar panels on roofs at a reasonable cost hasn’t been easy. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, less than 3 percent of single-family homes have any type of solar system installed.… [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/01/03/solar-energy-roof-shingles-climate/] See also CNBC article, Roofing giant takes on Tesla to make solar roof shingles more affordable.
2022-01-04. These homes are off-grid and climate resilient. They’re also built out of trash. By Nick Aspinwall, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Earthships are off-grid, self-reliant houses built from tires, dirt and garbage that have long been an offbeat curiosity for travelers passing by the ski town of Taos, but suddenly look like a haven for climate doomers. Residents of the 630-acre flagship Earthship community treat their own waste, collect their own water, grow their own food, and regulate their own temperature by relying on the sun, rain and earth, which Reynolds and other adherents call natural “phenomena.” At this Earthship community in New Mexico, renters can give sustainable living a try. Reynolds, 76, has been building these structures — he calls them “vessels” — since the early 1970s when, after graduating from architecture school at the University of Cincinnati, he took up off-road motorcycle racing on the high desert plateau around Taos to try to injure himself to avoid being drafted to the Vietnam War. He never left, attracting interest and eyerolls as dozens of Earthships arose from the dirt.… [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/01/04/earthship-houses-climate-change/]
2022-01-02. Coming Soon to This Coal County: Solar, in a Big Way. By Cara Buckley, The New York Times. Excerpt: MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. — In Martin County, Ky., where coal production has flatlined, entrepreneurs are promising that a new solar farm atop a shuttered mine will bring green energy jobs. …For a mountain that’s had its top blown off, the old Martiki coal mine is looking especially winsome these days. With its vast stretches of emerald grass dotted with hay bales and ringed with blue-tinged peaks, and the wild horses and cattle that roam there, it looks less like a shuttered strip mine and more like an ad for organic milk. The mountain is poised for another transformation. Hundreds of acres are set to be blanketed with solar panels in the coming year, installed by locals, many of them former miners. The $231 million project, which recently cleared its last regulatory hurdle, may well be the biggest utility-scale coal to solar project in the country.… [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/02/climate/coal-mines-solar-climate.html]
100.org – also The Solutions Project – http://thesolutionsproject.org …specific plans, by locale, for energy mixes that are 100% renewable energy.The Energy Challenge (NY Times) – a series of articles examining the ways in which the world is, and is not, moving toward a more energy efficient, environmentally benign future.
Rock the Bike – generate electricity with a bike.
Solar Estimator – allows you to make calculations of a solar energy photovoltaic system’s expected performance.
Renewable energy potential regional maps from the U.S. DOE Energy Information Administration
Solar Cookers International (SCI) – Establishes programs in countries around the world to teach people to make and use solar ovens and cookers. Reduces deforestation and saves time for cultures that normally would gather wood for cooking fires. Reduces carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) emission in cultures that normally use natural gas or electricity for cooking. See SCI Newsletters
Wind Powering America Programs that help put up wind turbines at school