04 Apr 2013:
U.S. Company Shelves Solar
Thermal Plant as Utility Cancels Contract
U.S.-based BrightSource Energy has shelved its second major solar thermal project this year as the company and Pacific Gas and Electric terminated the utility’s contract to buy power generated by the plant in south-central California. In an email, a BrightSource spokesman said the $2.9 billion Hidden Hills project, which would have been built in Inyo County near the Nevada border, was suspended due to “uncertainty around the timing of transmission upgrades,” Bloomberg News reports
, although regulators' environmental concerns also seemed to play a role. Like another project canceled by BrightSource earlier this year, the 500-megawatt Hidden Hills
plant would have utilized thousands of mirrors reflecting sunlight onto central towers to produce steam. The California Energy Commission, which was reviewing the project, found last year that the solar installation would have “significant” environmental impacts
, suggesting that the use of photovoltaic solar panels would be “environmentally superior.” Officials at BrightSource, which recently completed a solar thermal plant in the Mojave desert, disputed that analysis.
28 Mar 2013:
California City to Require
Solar Energy Systems on All New Homes
A city in southern California this week passed a zoning regulation that requires developers to install solar power systems on every new house they build
. Beginning next year, all new homes built on lots at least
7,000 square feet in size in Lancaster, Calif. will be required to produce at least one kilowatt of solar electricity. Developers also have the option of purchasing solar energy credits from other developments within the city limits. The new zoning rules are the latest initiative
in Mayor Rex Parris’s quest to make Lancaster, which has a population of 150,000 and abundant sunshine, the “solar capital of the universe.” Since 2008, the city has also introduced an initiative to attract utility-scale solar developers to the city, proposed a transmission project to deliver solar-generated power to other communities, and created a solar financing program for homeowners, businesses, and nonprofits.
27 Mar 2013:
Natural Gas Extraction
Causing More Earthquakes in Netherlands
Extraction of natural gas from the deep soil in a region of the Netherlands has triggered an increase in minor earthquakes, similar to seismic effects that have raised concerns about drilling operations, including hydraulic fracturing, in other countries. While the extraction of gas has occurred for decades in the northern Netherlands, including in the province of Groningen, quakes have become more frequent in the last few years, the New York Times reports
. The region experienced as few as 20 quakes a year before 2011, but there were 18 during the first six weeks of 2013, with some strong enough to cause significant property damage. According to Chiel Seinen, a spokesman for a local gas consortium known as NAM, natural gas extraction has created at least 1,800 faults in the region’s subsoil, although he said the controversial drilling technique known as fracking is not used in the Dutch region. A new study by Columbia University’s Earth Institute found that a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that occurred in Oklahoma in 2011 may have been the largest quake yet
that can be linked to the injection of wastewater as part of an energy extraction project.
26 Mar 2013:
China’s Utility Giants
Vulnerable to Water Scarcity, Report Says
China’s five largest power utilities, which depend on water-intensive, coal-fired stations to generate electricity, are vulnerable to water supply disruptions because they are centered in the country’s water-scarce northern regions, a new report says. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance
, the five power generators — Huaneng, Datang, Huadian, Guodian, and China Power Investment — operate hundreds of gigawatts of thermal plants in the industrial northeast, where water resources are increasingly strained. Eighty-five percent of China’s power-generating capacity is in water scarce regions, said Maxime Serrano Bardisa, one of the report’s coauthors. The report said that major technical and policy shifts will be required to avert serious disruptions, including the addition of systems that use less water, such as closed-cycle or air-cooled systems. Such improvements could cost the utilities $20 billion in retrofit costs, the report said.
25 Mar 2013:
Peach Genome Offers Hints
For Better Biofuel Production, Study Says
A long-term genomic analysis of the common peach has revealed important insights into how scientists can improve the biofuel potential of other plant species
, including the fast-growing poplar tree, a new study says.
Three years after a team of scientists first released a draft description of the annotated peach genome, researchers make the case that the 265-million base sequence can be used to better understand the biology of related tree species, including the poplar, which like the peach is a member of the rosid superfamily. Writing in the journal Nature Genetics
, the scientists describe how a comparison of the peach’s genetics with six other fully sequenced plant species revealed metabolic pathways that lead to the formation of lignin, the durable biopolymer that holds plant cells together — and a barrier to breaking down biomass into fuels. “One gene we’re interested in is the so-called ‘evergreen’ locus in peaches, which extends the growing season,” said Daniel Rokhsar, a U.S. Department of Energy scientist who leads the sequencing of the peach genome. According to Rokhsar, that gene could be manipulated to increase the biomass accumulation of related species.
21 Mar 2013:
U.S.-Spain Energy Companies
Plan World’s Largest Solar Towers
A U.S.-based company that will soon finish construction of one of the world’s largest solar thermal power plants in the Mojave Desert, is now looking to build an even larger plant
in Southern California. BrightSource
Click to enlarge
The Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave Desert
Energy, which is expected to begin producing up to 370 megawatts of electricity per day from its Mojave plant beginning this summer, last week announced plans to build, in partnership with Spain-based Abengoa Solar, a 500-megawatt plant in Riverside, California
. Like the Mojave project, the new solar array will utilize thousands of mirrors that reflect sunlight onto central towers to produce steam. While the company's first project, the so-called Ivanpah plant, will use three towers to generate 130 megawatts each, the new $2.6 billion project involves construction of two 750-foot towers capable of producing 250 megawatts each, which combined would provide enough electricity to power 200,000 households and prevent 17 million tons of carbon emissions during the life of the plant, BrightSource says.
19 Mar 2013:
New Carbon Storage Method
Reduces Earthquake Risk, Study Says
A team of researchers says it has demonstrated a method of underground carbon storage that reduces the risk of triggering earthquakes
, a safety concern cited by some scientists about the emerging field of carbon capture and sequestration. While often cited as a potentially key option in reducing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, earlier studies
have suggested that the use of carbon sequestration technologies in some rock formations can result in leaks that ultimately cause minor tremors. But in a new study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters
, Yale University researchers say that storing carbon in a common type of volcanic rock, known as reactive mafic rock, offers a far safer alternative. According to their findings, injecting carbon into the mafic rock causes a chemical reaction that generates carbon minerals, creating a so-called “mineral-trapping” phenomenon that reduces fluid pressure and distributes the stress load, which in turn minimizes seismic risks.
15 Mar 2013:
Obama Unveils New Actions
To Combat Climate Change in Second Term
Making good on his promise to fight climate change more aggressively in his second term, President Obama is unveiling two major initiatives to reduce the U.S.’s reliance on fossil fuels, including a new $2 billion Energy Security Trust to fund the next generation of green vehicles, as well as new reviews of federal projects to assess their climate impacts. During an appearance at Argonne National Laboratory, Obama unveiled details of the proposed energy trust, which would shift $2 billion in royalties from oil and gas operations on federal lands
into research into vehicles powered by renewable energy sources. An administration official said the policy will keep the U.S. at the forefront of the emerging green technology sector and will help the nation wean itself off fossil fuels. Obama is also expected to expand a Nixon-era law to require federal agencies to assess the climate effects of large projects
, including pipelines and highways.
14 Mar 2013:
U.S. Grants Will Promote
Small-Scale, Modular Nuclear Reactors
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week announced a new series of cost-sharing grants to promote the development of small-scale, factory-made nuclear reactors
, an emerging energy source that Obama administration officials say could help replace the coal-fired plants expected to cease operations in the coming decades. The administration, which has allocated $452 million for the program, hopes to spur the production and licensing of as many as 50 so-called modular reactors annually by 2040, said Rebecca Smith-Kevern, director of light water reactor technology at the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. DOE officials say these modular reactors, which would be about one-third the size of typical nuclear power plants, also include scalable designs that will provide safety and economic benefits
. “We have a vision of having a whole fleet of [modular reactors] produced in factories,” Smith-Kavern said at a conference. “We envision the U.S. government to be the first users.” Citing a 2011 paper
, she said plants could cost $3 billion to $5 billion apiece.
12 Mar 2013:
Mass Scale of Renewables Shift
Is Evident in Blueprint for New York State
A new study concludes that it would be technically and economically feasible for New York State to meet all of its energy needs from renewable sources
by 2030, but
researchers say the transition would involve building wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources on a mass scale. Writing in the journal Energy Policy
, a team of researchers said that to wean itself from fossil fuels for electricity production and transportation, the state would need to build more than 4,000 onshore wind turbines, 12,700 offshore turbines, 828 photovoltaic plants, 5 million rooftop solar systems, and 2,600 one-megawatt tidal turbines. If implemented, New York would meet 40 percent of its energy needs with wind power and 38 percent from solar, the study said. While this dramatic conversion would require initial capital expenses, the study predicts that the long-term health benefits and new jobs would more than make up for those costs. The transition would also reduce end-use power demand by 37 percent, prevent 4,000 premature deaths annually, and save $33 billion in health costs each year, the researchers said.
07 Mar 2013:
Shale Gas Boom Drives
Surge in Propane-Fueled Vehicles
The U.S. satellite TV provider DISH Network Corporation has announced it will introduce 200 propane-fueled vans
to its fleet in 2013, another sign that propane, like natural gas, is offering an increasingly cost-effective transportation fuel alternative to gasoline and diesel. While there are already more than 13 million propane-fueled vehicles worldwide, propane historically has been considered a niche fuel because of high production costs. But driven by the surge in domestic shale oil and gas production, the wholesale cost of propane is now only about 85 cents per gallon — about half of 2011 costs. And while the vehicles cost about 10 percent more than diesel-fueled trucks, propane-fueled trucks ultimately can save $50,000 in fuel costs over the life of a vehicle, according to Reuters. In addition, DISH officials say their new propane-fueled vans will reduce the fleet’s overall emissions of carbon dioxide by 12.5 million pounds
over the lifetime of the vehicles. According to Pike Research, sales of natural gas-fueled vehicles are projected to increase 10 percent annually
through 2019 while propane-fueled vehicles are expected to climb 8 percent per year.
26 Feb 2013:
Major U.S. Utility Will Close
Three Coal-Burning Plants in Midwest
One of the U.S.’s largest electric utilities has agreed to close three coal-fired power plants
in the Midwest, the latest sign of how the U.S.'s electricity supply is shifting away from coal to natural gas and renewable energy. American Electric Power (AEP) will shut down the three plants in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky by 2015 — retiring a total of 2,011 megawatts of coal-burning capacity — and replace some of the power generation with wind and solar investments in Indiana and Michigan. According to the agreement, which settles a lawsuit originally filed in 1999 over the environmental costs of pollution that drifts east from the plants, the Ohio-based company will also spend $5 billion to install pollution-control technologies at its aging coal-burning plants in the eastern U.S. and cut its annual sulfur dioxide emissions from 828,000 tons to 174,000 tons within 12 years. With the latest shut-downs, utilities have now closed or announced the closing of 142 coal-burning plants since 2010.
Why I Came to Washington to
Protest the Keystone Pipeline
By Rick Bass
It’s not exactly as if hell has frozen over, for me, an oil and gas geologist to be protesting — maybe even beyond the extent allowable by law — the folly of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. I’ve hugged a tree or two before, written some letters opposing this or that dam, mine, clear-cut, or whatnot. I’ve lived the last 26 years in the backwoods of northwest Montana, writing pretty little stories, poems and essays about the million-acre garden of the Yaak Valley, a lush wild rainforest of a place, in which I’ve pleaded, argued, scolded for its protection. Read more
12 Feb 2013:
Norwegian Retrofit Seeks
To Create ‘Energy-Positive’ Office Buildings
Two office buildings in Norway are being retrofitted so they will generate more power than they use
when the project is completed next year. The three- and four-story buildings, in the town of Sandvika, near Oslo, will generate geothermal and solar energy on site, making the buildings “energy positive,” according to the project's backers. The retrofit will use a heat-retaining black façade, top-quality insulation to reduce energy use by up to 90 percent, and an interior design that will allow air to circulate without fans. “We believe this is the first time in the world that a normal office block is being renovated to such strict standards,” Svein Brandtzaeg, chief executive of Norsk Hydro, one of the project’s partners, told Reuters. According to the UN Environment Programme, the building industry has the greatest potential of any economic sector for large cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
07 Feb 2013:
Wind Energy Now Cheaper
Than Fossil Fuel Power Plants in Australia
Unsubsidized wind power is now cheaper than electricity produced from new coal- and natural gas-fired power stations
in Australia, according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The study said that electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm at a cost of 80 Australian dollars per megawatt hour, compared to 143 Australian dollars from a new coal plant and 116 Australian dollars from a new natural gas plant. Even without a recently imposed carbon price, wind energy is 14 percent cheaper than new coal power and 18 percent cheaper than new natural gas, the study said. The analysis said that Australia’s largest banks are unlikely to finance new coal plants because of concern over emissions-intensive investments and that natural gas has become expensive as Australia exports more liquid natural gas. By 2020, the report said, large-scale solar arrays will also be cheaper than coal or gas when carbon taxes are figured in. “The perception that fossil fuels are cheap and renewables are expensive is now out of date,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
05 Feb 2013:
Sea Urchins Offer a Clue
To New Way to Capture Carbon Dioxide
British researchers have discovered that sea urchins use nickel particles on their exoskeletons to effectively capture CO2 and turn it into a solid form, an intriguing finding that could offer an inexpensive way to capture and store carbon
from fossil fuel-fired power plants. Scientists from Newcastle University were studying how marine organisms absorb CO2 to make shells and skeletons when they discovered that sea urchin larvae have a high concentration of nickel on their exoskeletons, which helps them absorb CO2. When the researchers added nickel nanoparticles to CO2-saturated water, they discovered that the nickel completely removed CO2 and turned it into calcium carbonate
, a chalk-like mineral. Current efforts to capture and store carbon dioxide from power plants involve either pumping it underground or using an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase to convert it to calcium carbonate. But both methods are expensive, and the Newcastle researchers say that using nickel to capture and store CO2 bubbled through water could be a thousand times cheaper than employing carbonic anhydrase. “It seems too good to be true, but it works,” said Lidija Siller, a physicist at Newcastle. The research was published in Catalysis Science & Technology.
01 Feb 2013:
U.S. Carbon Emissions
Fall To The Lowest Level Since 1994
The continuing expansion of renewable energy technologies, advances in energy efficiency, and the rapid shift from coal to natural gas for generating electricity combined to bring down U.S. carbon dioxide emissions last year to their lowest levels since 1994
, according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The report said that CO2 emissions fell 13 percent in the last five years alone, which means that the U.S. is now more than halfway toward reaching President Obama’s goal of cutting emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The Bloomberg report said that while the shift from burning coal to natural gas is a significant factor in the U.S.’s continued emissions reductions, the adoption of renewable energy technologies is also playing an important role. The report said the cumulative installed solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass-based energy sources in the U.S. reached 86 gigawatts last year,
compared with 43 gigawatts in 2008. Another growing source of emissions cuts is adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles, with 488,000 people in the U.S. purchasing these energy-efficient cars last year.
31 Jan 2013:
Massive UK Wind Turbines
Are a Sign of ‘Super-sizing’ of Wind Power
Two of the world’s largest wind turbines, with blades 60 meters (196 feet) long, have been installed off the Yorkshire coast, a sign of a growing trend toward producing colossal wind turbines to boost generating capacity.
The 6-megawatt turbines, manufactured by Siemens, are so large that they had to be installed using a specially built ship
, Siemens said. The pair of turbines is being erected on an experimental basis to gauge how they perform, but the operator of the offshore wind farm, the Denmark-based DONG energy group, has plans to install dozens more so that production will reach 210 megawatts at the site, located about five miles offshore. DONG says it intends to eventually install 300 of the massive turbines by 2017 at various offshore locations in the U.K., including some in deeper waters. Energy analysts say the 60-meter Siemens turbines reflect growing interest among wind energy companies to deploy ever-larger turbines, with plans in the works to manufacture turbines 100 meters long.
25 Jan 2013:
German Plant to Produce
Methane Using Surplus Green Energy
Audi is building a plant in Germany that will use surplus power produced from renewable sources, such as wind energy generated when demand is low, to produce methane from water and carbon dioxide
. The plant, which will use technology developed by Stuttgart-based SolarFuel, reportedly will produce enough methane to run 1,500 of the new natural-gas vehicles Audi is planning to start selling this year. To produce the methane, the company will utilize a combination of technologies: electrolysis, in which water is split into its hydrogen and oxygen components, and methanation, in which the hydrogen is combined with carbon from carbon dioxide to produce methane. While the combined process would normally be considered impractical because of inefficiencies, the availability of excess energy from renewable sources in Germany, which has increased from 150 gigawatt-hours per year to 1,000 in two years, makes the process economically feasible, according to a report in MIT’s Technology Review
. “That’s electricity that we could use for nothing,” said SolarFuel’s Stephan Rieke.
24 Jan 2013:
Solid Electrolyte Could Lead
To Larger, Safer Lithium Ion Batteries
U.S. researchers have developed a high-performance, solid electrolyte for use in energy-dense lithium ion batteries that they say is safer than existing liquid electrolytes and could lead to batteries that are five to 10 times more powerful than existing batteries
. While lithium-ion batteries typically utilize liquid electrolytes to conduct the lithium ions between the positively charged cathode and the negatively charged anode, the liquid materials pose flammability risks — especially as engineers attempt to make more powerful lightweight batteries. Utilizing a chemical process known as nanostructuring, scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) say they were able to create a nanoporous solid electrolyte that conducts ions 1,000 times faster than in its natural bulk form, enabling more energy-dense batteries. According to the researchers, this innovation could allow engineers to develop pure lithium anodes, which could yield batteries that are far more powerful than those using carbon-based anodes.
15 Jan 2013:
Key Offshore Transmission Line
To Be Built For U.S. East Coast Wind Power
A group of prominent U.S. investors, including Google, is expected to announce today that it is moving forward with construction on the first leg of an ambitious $5 billion undersea transmission line
that will connect
Atlantic Wind Connection
New Jersey Energy Link
future offshore wind farms along the mid-Atlantic coast, a project they say will avert the regulatory hurdles required in connecting each individual wind farm to land-based electricity lines. The first segment of the project, which will occur in three phases, includes construction of a 189-mile transmission cable along the New Jersey coast. Coordinators of the project, known as the Atlantic Wind Connection, say the cable would deliver more than 3,400 megawatts of electric capacity
from future offshore wind projects to three locations in New Jersey. Construction is expected to begin in 2016, according to the sponsors. The project intends to eventually link offshore wind farms with electricity grids from Virginia to New York.
14 Jan 2013:
Tidal Energy Can Meet 20%
Of UK Electricity Needs, Study Says
UK officials are underestimating the vast energy potential of marine tides
, a renewable and reliable energy source that could meet 20 percent of the nation’s
Kawasaki Heavy Industries
electricity needs, according to a new report. Writing in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A
, researchers explain that while the process of exploiting tidal energy remains expensive, it has the potential to be a more reliable energy source than wind or wave energy and to be more easily managed on electricity grids. While the technology is in the early stages, the researchers say they are optimistic that the two principle means of exploiting tidal energy — construction of barrages across tidal estuaries that generate power from the ebb and flow of the water, and adding underwater turbines in fast-flowing currents — can be implemented in the near future. “From tidal barrages you can reasonably expect you can get 15 percent of UK electricity needs,” Nicholas Yates, a researcher at the National Oceanography Centre and co-author of the report, told BBC News
11 Jan 2013:
California Solar Rebate
Program Reaches 1-Gigawatt Milestone
California homeowners and businesses, taking advantage of a state rebate program that encourages the installation of solar panels, are now generating 1 gigawatt — or 1,000 megawatts — of electricity, roughly the equivalent of a nuclear power plant, state regulators say. Launched in 2007, the $2.4 billion California Solar Initiative
has offered rebates as high as $2.50 per watt to businesses and homeowners who installed solar panels, with a target of generating 1,940 megawatts by the end of 2016. According to state data, the program so far has encouraged the installation of 1,066 megawatts, more solar capacity than any other state and more than most countries. While the state incentive has fallen by as much 92 percent since the program was introduced, the number of applications continues to increase as the price of solar power installations falls, the San Francisco Chronicle reports
. When the program started six years ago, residential solar systems cost about $9.76 per watt; they now cost about $6.19 per watt.
08 Jan 2013:
Using Fireflies As a Model,
Scientists Boost Efficiency of LED Lights
Drawing inspiration from the structure of a firefly, scientists say they have improved the efficiency of a light-emitting diode (LED) by 55 percent
. While studying the insects, the researchers noticed that
LED inspired by fireflies
a pattern of sharp, jagged scales on the fireflies’ bodies enhanced the amount of light emitted by the fireflies’ lantern, an abdominal organ that creates the flashes of light to attract mates. After mimicking that structure in the production of a LED design, the researchers found that the amount of light extracted was significantly increased. Light-emitting diodes are made from semi-conductors and represent a major advance in lighting efficiency over traditional incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs. “The most important aspect of this work is that it shows how much we can learn by carefully observing nature,” said Annick Bay, a Ph. D. student at the University of Namur in Belgium and one of the authors of a paper published in the journal Optics Express
03 Jan 2013:
Methane Leak Data Highlights
Concerns About Natural Gas Drilling
A pair of ongoing studies show unexpectedly high methane leakage
from some oil and gas fields in the U.S., findings that underscore concerns that the climate benefits of the natural gas boom may be overstated. Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder say new data indicates that as much as 4 percent of methane from a production area in Denver is leaking into the atmosphere, echoing findings first reported in a much-disputed study published last year in the Journal of Geophysical Research
. A separate field study in Utah suggested even higher methane leakage rates of 9 percent. The calculations were made based on aerial and ground-based measurements and atmospheric models that estimated the level of emissions required to produce the recorded concentrations. “We were expecting to see high methane levels, but I don’t think anybody really comprehended the true magnitude of what we would see,” said Colm Sweeney, of the federal Earth System Research Lab Aircraft Program.
02 Jan 2013:
U.S. Wind Tax Credit
Extended in ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Compromise
The last-minute tax deal brokered by U.S. lawmakers to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” included a one-year extension of the wind energy tax credit, a subsidy that industry officials say is critical for the growth of the wind energy sector. The bill, which now awaits President Obama’s signature, preserves the 2.2-cents-per-kilowatt-hour credit for all wind energy projects that begin construction in 2013
, allowing projects that are not completed until 2014 to qualify, as well. While the wind energy sector achieved record growth in 2012 — accounting for 44 percent of all new electricity generating capacity in the U.S.
— industry leaders say the possible expiration of the tax credit forced some turbine manufacturers to idle factories and lay off workers during the latter half of 2012. The lack of a long-term federal policy has created “a ‘boom-bust’ cycle” in the wind energy sector
for more than a decade, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a trade organization.
20 Dec 2012:
‘Peel-and-Stick’ Solar Cells
Expand Potential for Photovoltaic Systems
Stanford University researchers say they have developed a “peel-and-stick” solar cell that can be attached to a variety of hard surfaces
, an innovation they say could vastly expand the potential for solar
Click to enlarge
Chi Hwan Lee/Stanford School of Engineering
“Peel-and-stick” solar cells
energy technology. Normally, thin-film solar cells are attached to rigid, often heavy, silicon and glass substrates because most unconventional surfaces aren’t compatible with the thermal and chemical processes involved in producing the cells. The new process gets around that challenge, the scientists say, because it does not require any fabrication to occur on the final substrate surface. Instead, it involves pressing an ultra-thin film of nickel, a silicon/silicon dioxide wafer, and a protective polymer into a “sandwich,” and then attaching a layer of thermal release tape. When dipped in water, the thin-film solar cell can be peeled from the original wafer and attached to a wide range of surfaces, from window glass to cellphones, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports
18 Dec 2012:
Coal May Rival Oil As
World’s Top Energy Source by 2017, IEA Says
Coal could rival oil as the world’s largest energy source within five years as consumption continues to climb in most regions of the world, a trend that could have profound effects on the climate, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says
. While coal consumption is expected to decline in the U.S., where it increasingly has been displaced by ample supplies of natural gas, that reduction in U.S. coal burning has helped drive down coal costs globally
. According to the IEA’s annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report
, the world will burn about 1.2 billion more tons of coal annually by 2017 than it does today. The surge in coal consumption will be driven largely by China and India, with China projected to pass the rest of the world in coal demand within five years, and India predicted to pass the U.S. as the world’s second-biggest coal consumer. Without a high carbon tax, the report says, only competition from cleaner natural gas will reduce coal demand.
14 Dec 2012:
Car-Mounted Sensor Able to
Pinpoint Sources of Natural Gas Leaks
A U.S.-based company has developed a sophisticated sensing technology capable of detecting and pinpointing the source of even minor natural gas leaks from great
distances, an innovation that could provide critical insights into the still largely unknown climate impacts of natural gas drilling. Using a car-mounted system — which combines an advanced methane detector, wind-direction sensors, isotope detectors, and specially developed algorithms — technicians from California-based Picarro
are able to collect data on concentrations of methane, a major component of natural gas, at regular driving speeds. The so-called Picarro Surveyor technology logs the data and, in real time, plots the source of natural gas leaks using Google Maps. In a recent survey, the system identified more than 3,350 specific locations in Boston where methane levels were 15 times higher than normal, according to MIT’s Technology Review
13 Dec 2012:
U.S. Awards $28 Million
To Offshore Wind Farm Projects
The U.S. Department of Energy has announced plans to provide $28 million in grants to seven proposed offshore wind projects, a financial commitment the Obama administration hopes will provide a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to gain a foothold in American waters. Each of the seven projects — located in Maine, New Jersey, Virginia, Texas, Ohio, and Oregon — will receive $4 million
during the engineering, design, and permitting phases. Eventually, if Congress approves, three of the projects could each receive up to $47 million over four years for later phases, including siting, construction, and installation. In contrast to Europe, where offshore wind projects are growing, no offshore wind projects are currently being built in the U.S., although two projects have been approved in Massachusetts
and Rhode Island. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is urging lawmakers to extend the Production Tax Credit
, a 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour incentive that has helped the land-based wind sector to surge past 50,000 megawatts but is set to expire at the end of the year.