Tag Archives: generation

Forget about renewables, we are entering the gas age

Andrew Revkin from Dot Earth explores whether China will soon switch to natural gas and the answer appears to be, yes.

Reports showed that China — which was once considered gas poor — now has estimated volumes greater than those of the United States (which are, as you know, enormous).

 

With the two greatest economies on Earth (U.S., China) embracing natural gas (and Russia supplying Europe with substantial amounts), we appear to be entering a new “gas age”.

Again from Revkin’s article:

The gas revolution isn’t all roses.  People have legitimate worries about the environmental impacts of fracking—notably on air and water.  There are also some worrying signs that fracking operations might emit lots of greenhouse gases—which, if true, would negate much (perhaps all) of the climate change benefits from a shift to gas.  My read of that literature is that those fears have been overblown and new estimates based on serious measurement will be more reassuring.

 

Only time will tell how this new ‘gas age’ affects the planet.

 

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Wind is cheaper than coal? — Fact checking this statement

The other day I heard in passing, “wind is now cheaper than coal.” If true, this symbolizes the holy grail of renewable energy. It would mean that a turning point for not only cleaner energy, but global warming, climate change, pollution, foreign oil dependence, and more.

To fact check this, I pulled up the top 20 results from Google and narrowed them down to the below articles (most were duplicates pointing at these 5 stories).

Not at all definitive but it does give you an idea of the state of the industry. Just keep in mind that the prices may or may not include subsidies or tax breaks, which can drastically change the costs quoted below.

 

Jul 2012 - In India, wind is cheaper than coal in Indi (w/out subsidies) (Bloomberg Business)

The cost of wind power has dropped below the price of coal-fired energy in parts of India for the first time as improved turbine technology (from GE) and rising fossil-fuel prices boost its competitiveness, Greenko Group Plc (GKO) said.

 

Mar 2012 – In Michigan wind is cheaper than coal (American Wind Energy Assoc.)

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) recently issued a report that finds that electricity generated from renewable energy sources, at an average cost of $91 per megawatt-hour (9.1 cents/kilowatt-hour), is almost one-third cheaper than the cost of electricity from a new coal-fired power plant ($133 per MWh, or 13.3 cents/kWh).

Further, the report notes, “The actual cost of renewable energy contracts submitted to the Commission to date shows a downward pricing trend.

 

Feb 2012 – In California, prices doubled in the first decade of 21st century, since 2011 are dropping to parity with natural gas (SF Gate)

The price of renewable power contracts signed by California utilities more than doubled from 2003 through 2011 but has now started to plunge…

The cost of buying electricity from a new natural gas power plant…(in 2011) ranged from 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour to 12 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on the length of the contract…The cost of renewable power from wind and solar facilities averaged between 8 and 9 cents per kilowatt hour.

 

Nov 2011 – Investigation of Bill Clinton’s claim that wind/solar are cheaper than nuclear (Politifact)

  • Conventional Coal – 94.8 (dollars/MWh)
  • Wind – Onshore – 97
  • Nuclear – 113.9
  • Solar – Photovoltaic – 210.7
  • Wind – Offshore – 243.2
  • Solar – Thermal – 311.8

Source: DOE’s Energy Information Administration

 

Nov 2011 – Google retires its initiative RE

It’s not clear here if Google feels this is already won and moving on, or if they have had enough and are quitting. One thing is certain, Google invested nearly a billion dollars ($850 million) in renewable energy last year.

This initiative was developed as an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy, with an RE<C engineering team focused on researching improvements to solar power technology. At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level. So we’ve published our results to help others in the field continue to advance the state of power tower technology, and we’ve closed our efforts.

 

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Time lapse movie – TWiT podcasting studio in 60 seconds

 

Time lapse movie recorded in the TWiT studio in Petaluma, CA using a 3rd generation iPad mounted to a Losmandy StarLapse motor with a Makayama mount with wide-angle lens. The time-lapse was captured using iStopMotion for the iPad by Boinx Software.

Special thanks to Oliver at Boinx for coming up with the idea, and to Leo Laporte and the entire TWiT crew for their hospitality. Movie by Derrick Story.

 

White House creates – U.S. Ignite program – to make internet 90% cheaper and start building gigabit networks

The President is set to sign an executive order today (June 13, 2012) that aims to cut the cost of broadband construction across federal roadways and properties by up to 90 percent. The White House is also is looking to improve “next-generation applications and (the) digital experience,” running on networks that are a heady 100 times faster than what’s in use today.

Called – U.S. Ignite – the partnership aims to push the growth of next-generation broadband networks, teaming up with over 100 start-ups, universities and existing tech companies like HP, Comcast and Verizon for the project.

The National Science Foundation has thrown in $250 million to assist the partnership’s creation of a national 1-gigabit network that would connect together academic and developer hubs.

Mozilla has decided to team up with the foundation to offer up a $500,000 prize pot for developers looking to help create the “internet of the future”.

via Engadget

 

Follow the U.S. Ignite program on: FacebookTwitter

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Girls in STEM: A New Generation of Women in Science

Girls in STEM, featuring young women scientists and engineers who wowed the President and the nation at the White House Science Fair in February, shines a spotlight on these extraordinary young role models and their exciting projects — ranging from a machine that detects buried landmines, to a prosthetic hand device, to a lunchbox that uses UV light to kill bacteria on food. - whitehouse.gov/stem

 

STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Math


Renewable energy production variability by hour of day, and by season (graph)

- …illustrate the variability of wind and solar generation relative to the comparatively smooth output from other generation sources

- Power produced by geothermal, biomass, biogas, and small hydro generators can be easily dispatched, meaning it can be either increased, decreased, or controlled to remain fairly constant.

- Wind resources are often more available at night.

- Solar power is not generated until the sun comes up, and can increase and decrease quickly as the sun rises, sets, or is blocked by cloud cover. However, much of California’s utility-scale solar capacity is based on concentrating solar technology, which embodies enough thermal storage to continue generating power for a few hours after the sun goes down

- The variability of wind and solar power generation leads to challenges in power system operations and planning.

- The contribution towards total generation from eligible renewable resources also varies seasonally. For the dates charted above, the amount of renewable generation as a percentage of the total generation ranges from 8% on Oct 18, 2011 to 14% on May 9, 2011.

via - Today in Energy, EIA

Do you enjoy watching TV on the internet?

I have always found it difficult to watch videos on YouTube. Somehow my body is ok with spending hours on the couch, but a few minutes on YouTube pushes me to insanity.

I think this has something to do with the Muppet Babies and Saturday morning cartoons. Which makes me wonder if the younger, internet-generations have this problem.

Maybe it’s just a conditioning thing. Having spent so many decades on the couch we just aren’t used to internet TV.

Though, some numbers from a popular smartphone app, Read It Later, show that video on the internet is booming:

In the past year alone, video saves using Read It Later have grown by 138 percent, and YouTube is now the No. 1 most-saved domain in all of Read It Later.

We’re also seeing new evidence that our app is helping people consume longer video than what’s been traditionally embraced on the web: In an analysis of Read It Later’s top 1,000 saved videos, the median length was nearly 30 minutes.

Of course, with 68 percent of videos saved under 5 minutes, short-form still rules…users love to save everything from music videos to animation, movie trailers, news clips and more.

News, movies, and music videos…sounds a lot like what TV was like in the good-old days (the 1980s).

Oil fact – 99% of U.S. electricity generation does NOT come from oil

Transportation, not electricity, is the source of oil’s importance: since the 1970s, the U.S. has weaned its power sector off of oil. Today only one percent of U.S. electricity is generated from oil and only one percent of U.S. oil demand is due to electricity generation. Thus expansion of electricity generation from solar, wind, nuclear, and other power sources will not serve to displace oil in any perceptible manner. Plug in an electric vehicle today and 99% of the electricity its battery is charged with will not be generated from oil.

via United States Energy Security Council

 

Thx to Steven Witt

 

Keep reading - California launches a statewide network of charging stations for electric vehicles

Next Generation Energy

I recently attended a fascinating seminar on emerging technology in energy. Here are some of my notes and thoughts on the next generation of energy:

Energy Harvesting

My favorite new term. It refers to using existing energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, thermo) and turning them into electricity to feed the grid. Pretty much covers all the new energy sources. Excludes coal, nuclear, etc.

Smart Grid

Apparently, its just a dream.

Obama is pushing it and so is Energy Secretary, Steven Chu. All reasonable folk expect this is to be the foundation of our energy future. Without a modern grid we have no hope of utilizing the latest innovations. It would be like giving jet fuel to a horse drawn carriage.

Future, hah!, says the wizened gentleman behind me. He begins to explain his reaction after telling me he left the business and is only attending this seminar for nostalgia purposes. Suspect. He relates that the grid is already smart on a macro level. Utilities know how to share power, monitor, and get it to needed locations. What we are talking about is the micro level and involves pushing that technology to every city, home, and building. An expensive feat that will probably never result from government or utility spending.

More to be explained on that in following section.

What is a big deal then? Energy storage on the grid. If we are over-producing solar power in hot deserts and wind power at night, where will at all go. Our current infrastructure does not have an ability to use/transport/store this energy supply. If we can figure out a way to get the energy to high population areas then our grid will be smart.

Smart Metering

This is where the real change is happening. Power outlets with remote controls. Home appliances with timers. Motion sensors. Sleep modes for computers.

All of these involve the new energy monitoring lifestyle. They give us an opportunity to take control of our energy use. A lot of us want more and this where smart metering comes into play. Hook up all those devices to a software package and you get data heaven. Charts, graphs, recommendations. This seems to be where the juice is (pardon the pun).

Google is offering a software package, called Power Meter, and partnering with Energy, Inc. Their product, the TED5000, has been flying off the shelves for over a year now. It appears that this version of the smart grid, one that is decentralized and at the individual level will be driving the market for years to come.

PV – Photo Voltaic

The process of converting solar energy into electricity. We all know about this and see it on many roofs. For many years the market has been stuck growing at a snails pace. New investments were needed to make this energy type economical. Now we are starting to see that and many seem to be surprised that the former ceiling of 20% (solar energy to electrical energy conversion) is being broken. Wikipedia tells us (with sourcing) that:

Photovoltaic production has been doubling every 2 years, increasing by an average of 48 percent each year since 2002, making it the world’s fastest-growing energy technology. At the end of 2008, the cumulative global PV installations reached 15,200 megawatts.

Second Generation PV

As the investments ramp up the technological innovation is booming. Folks with pent up projects are finally getting dollars (or more likely Yuan) to operationalize their theories. A big group of these innovations are centered around ultra-thin, low cost solar arrays. Instead of the bulky flat panels we will get complex micro solar panels with interesting features like: solar tracking (panels follow the sun), economies of scale (driving down cost), and mirrors (increasing efficiency through reflecting). Our presenter mentioned that these second generation panels have the capability to drive down costs to match that of nuclear and coal power.

Third Generation PV

This one feels more like a laboratory study than a real consumer product. Still their are companies releasing this on the market and our presenter even said that it is in calculators now. This grouping of PV focuses on the materials used to create solar panels. Searching for organic, nano, and molecular replacements for the raw materials (silicon, cadmium, lithium) that we use now. Definitely a major need since many of the raw materials used for solar panels are rare and sometimes for rogue states.

20% Problem

Touched on this a bit before. It boils down to a maximum reached by first generation solar panels. For many years their maximum solar to electrical conversion was 20%, with 80% lost/wasted. In comparison to coal and nuclear, which are 60-70%, this makes solar 3x as expensive and require 3x as many panels/turbines/etc.

The 2/3rd generation technologies mentioned above easily breach the 20% ceiling. One already at 35% through stacking panels, utilizing off band (UV) rays, and mirrors. I expect it wont be long until that number is doubled.

NIMBY

Not in my backyard. This is representing a real problem. In the coming years we will ‘plant’ thousands of solar panels and wind turbines. Few are happy to have them muddy up their roof or beautiful view.

Even worse this backlash is fostering more support for nuclear power plants. They don’t have to go in your backyard!

I just wish somebody would think long term on this. Nuclear Waste. Nuclear Countries. Nuclear Weapon. Not sure we need more nuclear in our lives, especially if the alternative is just a solar panel.

ARPA-E

Maybe you have heard of DARPA, an uber-advanced military research group that created the internet, builds robots, and many other amazing innovations. the Department of Energy has created ARPA-E which stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. A place to conceptualize and test the advanced energy projects of the future.

Wireless Sensors

Wireless sensors presents a massive new industry of tiny sensors that require little energy. They serve a simple function which is to turn on, send data, and shut down. They only turn on when activated and gather a specific amount of data to transmit. After transmission they shut back down.

This allows them to be placed nearly anywhere and even form a mesh network. Activate one sensor that passes data and/or activation signal to the next one. In a few minutes you can have data from thousands of sensors. My brother wrote a dissertation on this using planes as an example. Place a sensor on all critical plane equipment. When the plane lands activate the sensors and get a status report on the plane.

Wireless Electricity

Wireless charging is coming. At the recent CES it was the rage. Consumer products are on the market. An MIT startup, Witricity, has several patents and deals with government, industry, and consumables. Hooray for the day when we are free from our cable jungles.

Graphene

A new material created in the lab with amazingly sophisticated microscopes that can be manipulated into a ridiculous array of uses. The presenter showed it as rope, tires, and even circuits. He passed around prints, stickers, rope, and cardboard made out of graphene. It appears to be the next gore-tex, or material than can be turned into anything. Cheap and moldable. It will be fun to see how this material is used.