Archive for February, 2013
While renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind are far from new, it is only in the past decade — and in particular the past five years — that they are seeing wide-scale acceptance and implementation. As such, there are a number of issues and challenges that are only now beginning to come to forefront of engineers’ minds.
One of these is the issue of corrosion. As energy generation systems and supporting structures sit around in extreme conditions such as high desert heat and salt-water seas they become vulnerable to natural processes.
Richard Grant, principal and owner of Russell Corrosion, knows all about this. He and his team have been tackling corrosion of mechanical systems for 20 years. More recently, he has become increasingly involved in helping renewable energy equipment manufacturers maintain the life of their products. He and Steve Nikolokakos, P.E., senior corrosion engineer and alternative energy practice leader, sat with IMT Green & Clean to talk about this issue and the solutions that exist. Read the rest of this entry »
But in the last few years the U.S. Department of Energy and some enterprising major companies, along with politicians like Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), have begun developing new models for small modular reactors (SMR) that just might be nuclear’s future.
Last November the DOE promised a mammoth $452 million in funding to companies that can help design a working model of an SMR that can be mass-produced, transportable, and serve as a low-carbon substitute to oil and natural gas power. Read the rest of this entry »
While biofuel made from algae shows strong promise over fuel made from food crops – it can be cultivated on wasteland and produce more energy per square foot than any other crop – it has seen a number of roadblocks along the way. For this reason, many of the companies that have pursued it have failed. The players that have continued R&D on algae biofuel have struggled, and some have had to stay financially afloat by producing and selling into smaller, niche algae markets such as skincare products. Experts call this period from early research and development to commercial success “The Valley of Death,” and so it has proved to be for many companies. Algae-based biofuel will need to be produced on a huge scale to lower costs enough to enable it to compete with petroleum.
The two most common targets for advancement of algae biofuel are the growth media (open pond vs. closed bioreactor) and methods to remove the intracellular components of the algae. There are several organizations that have continued to press on. Read the rest of this entry »
The auto industry has plenty of incentive to improve vehicle efficiency. In August of 2012, the Obama Administration finalized new fuel efficiency standards that will increase fuel economy for cars and light trucks to an unprecedented 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG) by Model Year 2025. “When combined with previous standards set by this Administration,” the White House said in an announcement, “this move will nearly double the fuel efficiency of those vehicles compared to new vehicles currently on our roads.” The Administration says the new standards “will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.”
What measures will be used to comply with these aggressive new standards for vehicle efficiency? The White House’s announcement doesn’t go into much detail but does make mention of “advanced gasoline engines and transmissions, vehicle weight reduction, lower tire rolling resistance, improvements in aerodynamics, diesel engines, more efficient accessories, and improvements in air conditioning systems.” Read the rest of this entry »
In all the discussion of clean energy production in the U.S., one thing that doesn’t get talked about too much is waste-to-heat. Thermoelectric generation produces electricity from heat that otherwise would simply dissipate in the air.
In the past manufacturers haven’t bothered with it, because it’s an expensive and not too terribly efficient way of recycling heat into usable electricity. But recent advances have made it more attractive to manufacturers using heat-intensive power.
It’s a promising option. According to a recent report on advances — “breakthroughs,” according to IEEE Spectrum – in the field at Northwestern University, “when utilities burn fossil fuels to produce electricity, roughly two-thirds of the energy in the feedstock is lost as waste heat.” Obviously if there’s a way to capture that and recycle it to usable energy that’s both efficient and not expensive, that would be wonderful news not just for utilities, but for any manufacturer using boilers and other equipment currently generating waste heat. Read the rest of this entry »
Since the gas crisis of the 1970s, Brazil has been a strong believer in renewable energy. It is the second largest producer of ethanol in the world. More than 47 percent of the country’s energy supply comes from green energy sources, such as biomass, wind, and hydroelectric power.
As such, Deutsche Messe has announced the launch of a new trade fair, RENEX South America, which will premiere at the Fiergs Exhibition and Convention Center in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The show will run Nov. 27 to 29, 2013. RENEX, which is short for “Renewable Energy Exposition,” will showcase the latest technological developments and solutions in the renewables sector. Read the rest of this entry »
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has joined the legion of organizations and political groups speaking out against California’s cap-and-trade auction, the second of which took place on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
California’s Global Warming Solutions bill (Assembly Bill 32) has been controversial since it first became law in 2006. But the biggest impact of the bill has only just taken affect this year, as a cap on carbon emissions kicks in. But the biggest complaint most have with the bill relates to the California Air Resources Board (CARB)’s auction, where businesses can bid from a fixed pool of permits to emit carbon above the cap. The auction is being used a revenue generation opportunity by the state of California. Read the rest of this entry »
A recent study at Michigan State University found that biofuels grown on “marginal lands” from perennial crops like wild grasses and flowers can provide roughly the same amount of biofuel per year as food crops, while eliminating twice as much CO2 at the same time.
This is consistent with the findings of the Land Institute, where research is being conducted on the development of food crops from “herbaceous, perennial, vegetative polycultures,” following the remarkably resilient example of wild prairie. If this could be done practically at commercial scale, it would be far more efficient and sustainable than today’s chemically dependent monocultures. Read the rest of this entry »
There were two ways for Mike Kapalko to look at the results of the 2012 Tork Report, a comprehensive corporate sustainability and hygiene survey done by his company, SCA (Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget), one of the world’s leading personal health care manufacturers.
On the one hand, he was pleased to see that 64 percent of the more than 1,500 U.S. and Canadian companies, and 2,114 U.S. adults surveyed by Harris Interactive said that the company they work for had at least some sustainability plan in place at present, and was working on better plans for the future.
On the other hand, Kapalko said, it was disappointing that even though that 64 percent figure was much higher than the 38 percent of companies with sustainability plans in 2011, there were still so many corporations that were clueless about the need for sustainability practices. Read the rest of this entry »
Biofuel isn’t a new concept; it’s pretty ancient, in fact. The earliest humans to make their own fire used biofuel when they placed wood, dung, grass and other distinctly organic fuels. Biodiesel, a distinctly more modern and complicated prospect, isn’t new, either. It’s a little known fact that Rudolf Diesel, the German inventor of the diesel engine, originally designed his prototype engine to run on peanut oil. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that large-scale fossil-fuel oils became the blood of industry.
As we approach a point of peak oil — the point at which fossil fuels become scarcer and more expensive (and some argue that we’ve already passed that point) — the interest in biodiesel has been revived. Producing fuel from food products, however, has been morally controversial from the beginning. As the planet’s population and demand for food grows, it becomes more unconscionable for the wealthier nations to waste food products like corn, soy, sugar cane, and rapeseed, as well as food cultivation space, on filling their gas tanks.
To mitigate wasted food and wasted land, in recent decades, there has been rising interest in cultivating biofuel from algae. To pursue a better promise of low-cost, scalable, green and clean biodiesel, research organizations in institutions both private and public have sunk a lot of time and money into algae research in an effort to advance a technology that could produce transportation fuel on a large scale. Read the rest of this entry »