Stanford researchers pioneer world’s first affordable urea battery

February 13, 2017 by  
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Stanford University researchers have designed a new battery that could revolutionize renewable energy storage . Using urea , an affordable, natural and readily available material found in mammal urine and fertilizers, their battery is notably more efficient than past iterations. The battery, developed by Stanford chemistry professor Honjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell, uses an electrolyte made from urea – a material already produced in mass industrial quantities for use in plant fertilizers. Non-flammable and made with electrodes from abundant materials like aluminum and graphite, the battery presents a low-cost way for storing energy from many sources – including renewables . “So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance,” says Dai in a press release. “Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?” Dai and his team were the first to make a rechargeable aluminum battery in 2015, which charged in less than a minute, while lasting for thousands of charge-discharge cycles. And they’ve improved on both the performance and cost of their latest model, which is about 100 times cheaper than the 2015 battery, with a higher efficiency of 1,500 charge-discharge cycles and a charging time of 45 minutes. This is also the first time that urea has been used to make a battery. Related: MIT researchers invent ingestible battery powered by stomach acid Energy storage is a huge challenge for solar power and other renewables, as users need a reliable way to store power for when their systems aren’t producing energy. The batteries currently on the market, including lithium ion and lead-acid batteries tend to be quite costly and don’t last that long. But Dai and Angell believe their battery might be the solution to the conundrum of renewable energy storage. “It’s cheap. It’s efficient. Grid storage is the main goal,” says Angell. “I would feel safe if my backup battery in my house is made of urea with little chance of causing fire,” added Dai. The researchers have licensed their battery patents to AB Systems, a company founded by Dai, and a commercial version of the battery is on the way. They’re planning to work on increasing its life span down the road by further investigating its internal chemical processes. Via Stanford Images via Pexels , US Navy and Tea Horse Trade Guest House , Wikimedia Commons

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New York approves nation’s largest offshore wind farm

January 26, 2017 by  
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It’s official – New York just gave the green light for the nation’s largest offshore wind farm. The new South Fork Wind Farm will generate 90 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity from 15 turbines — enough energy to power more than 50,000 homes. Offshore developer Deepwater Wind, fresh off its successful completion of the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, won the contract to install the turbines 30 miles southeast of Montauk. The turbines will be connected to a substation in East Hampton by a 50-mile undersea cable. The Long Island Power Authority voted Wednesday to move forward with the state’s first commercial offshore wind development. The project is the second in the US after the 30-megawatt, 5-turbine Block Island Wind Farm – which began operating off the coast of Rhode Island six weeks ago. “New York leads the nation in pioneering clean energy innovation, and this bold action marks the next step in our unprecedented commitment to offshore wind, as well as our ambitious long-term energy goal of supplying half of all electricity from renewable sources by 2030,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement . “This project will not only provide a new, reliable source of clean energy, but will also create high-paying jobs, continue our efforts to combat climate change and help preserve our environment for current and future generations of New Yorkers.” Related: America’s first offshore wind farm is now powering 17,000 homes In his State of the State address in Albany earlier this month, the governor pledged to build 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030 – enough to power 1.25 million homes. The $740 million project on the eastern end of Long Island is the first step in developing the 256-square-mile area that could potentially contain as many as 200 wind turbines generating up to 1,000 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is working on an Offshore Wind Master Plan to be released this year that will identify additional New York coastal areas where offshore wind can be developed. “Offshore wind needs to be a significant part of the energy mix. It is key to putting the Empire State on a path toward an economy powered entirely by renewable energy,” Heather Leibowitz, director of Environment New York, said in a statement. “The 90-megawatts of energy produced off east Montauk will get us one step closer to this goal.” + South Fork Wind Farm Via Environment New York Images via UK Department of Energy and Climate Change , Vattenfall

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Elon Musk supports former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State

January 26, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk is a well-known clean energy advocate – but he shocked many followers this week when he threw his support behind former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Acknowledging his support could be startling, Musk took to Twitter to say the oil mogul actually ” supports a carbon tax .” https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/824010489449431040 The Economist tweeted a December 2016 article titled ” Give Rex a chance ” on the occasion of Tillerson’s narrow approval as Secretary of State. Musk responded to the article, saying “This may sound surprising coming from me, but I agree with The Economist. Rex Tillerson has the potential to be an excellent Sec of State.” Related: Rex Tillerson says Trump is wrong about climate change Naturally Musk followers were quick to ask him why he’d support Tillerson, and he said , “Rex is an exceptionally competent executive, understands geopolitics and knows how to win for his team. His team is now the USA. I share The Economist’s opinion that he should be given the benefit of the doubt unless his actions prove otherwise.” Musk also pointed to statements from Tillerson’s confirmation hearing where Tillerson said the United States should “maintain its seat at the table in the conversation on how to address threats of climate change . They do require a global response.” https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/824149662366126087 Several hours after he sparked the conversation Musk tweeted , “Rex Tillerson supports a carbon tax. This is what is really needed to move the needle.” He included a link to a December 2016 Bloomberg article , which back then noted Musk and Tillerson agreed on a carbon tax as the “best tool for fighting climate change.” It remains to be seen if Musk’s backing will be justified and if Tillerson will follow through on a carbon tax. Images via NASA Kennedy on Flickr and Archive of the Official Site of the 2008-2012 Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

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Hawaii bill calls for 100% green transportation by 2045

January 20, 2017 by  
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Hawaii lawmakers want the state’s ground transportation to run entirely on renewables by 2045. As a majority of their imported fossil fuels go towards transportation, if every car on the road was instead powered by clean electricity , it could make a huge difference for the state’s emissions. But there’s still a long way to go. Not only does the bill need to be passed, but just around 5,000 of the one million cars in Hawaii are currently electric . Hawaii already leads the United States in renewable energy goals, with a target of utilities sourcing 100 percent of electricity from clean sources by 2045. But they want to go a step further, now calling for 100 percent renewable ground transportation. Related: 45-ton Azura generator harvests energy from Hawaii’s waves The 2045 clean ground transportation goal wouldn’t be a mandate, unlike the 2045 electricity goal under which utilities will be fined if they do not source all their electricity from renewable sources by the deadline. If you live in Hawaii, you won’t have to turn in your gas-guzzling car; state representative Chris Lee, who’s the Energy and Environment committee chairman, said, “Nobody wants to step in and force people to get rid of cars that they might love now.” The Hawaii Legislature began Wednesday, and there the bill will be introduced. Lawmakers are unsure if funding will be part of the bill. But it is clear that it will focus only on ground transportation and not air transportation, a sector where it’s more difficult to power crafts renewably. For Hawaii to achieve its goals, other states and countries will have to pitch in. Energy consulting company HD Baker & Co. managing director Hugh Baker said, “Our ability to achieve it is really going to be dependent on what happens throughout the entire automotive industry. We can say we want 100 percent clean transportation technology, but the market in Hawaii is not nearly big enough by itself to move the whole global automotive industry. It will really take more than just Hawaii.” Via Phys.org Images via Good Free Photos and Ken Lund on Flickr

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Elon Musk says Trump administration may be "positive on renewables"

January 6, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk , recently selected as a strategic advisor for President-elect Donald Trump , seems hopeful the next administration may be more open to renewable energy than we think. Speaking at the Gigafactory this week, he said we may “see surprising things” from the Trump administration. Even though the President-elect likely won’t be hard on fossil fuels , said Musk, his administration may be “positive on renewables.” After Trump’s tech meeting at Trump Tower last month, which was attended by executives like Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the President-elect picked the Tesla and SpaceX CEO as a strategic advisor. Many people welcomed Musk’s selection, hoping it was a good sign Trump was willing to have someone so outspoken on climate change as an advisor. Related: Donald Trump selects Elon Musk to serve as strategic advisor But don’t get too excited – Musk made it clear Trump hasn’t reversed his fossil fuel-loving stance. In a Gigafactory event with investors, Musk reportedly said, “The President-elect has a strong emphasis on U.S. manufacturing and so do we. We are building the biggest factory in the world right here, creating U.S. jobs…I think we may see some surprising things from the next administration. We don’t think they will be negative on fossil fuels…but they may also be positive on renewables.” Trump may go easy on the fossil fuel industry. He may be closed-minded about a carbon tax – an idea Musk recently championed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood documentary – but the President-elect might be unable to stop the progress towards a clean energy economy as solar and wind prices plummet . Tesla employs over 25,000 people in the United States, according to Electrek, and aims to add 1,000 jobs at a New York solar panel factory, 3,000 jobs at a California factory, and 6,500 jobs at the Gigafactory. As it would be irrational and irresponsible for Trump to turn his back on a growing industry that could greatly benefit the economy and the environment, job creation could be Musk’s trump card. Via Electrek Images via Steve Jurvetson on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Costa Rica ran almost entirely on renewables in 2016

January 5, 2017 by  
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It’s a happy new year in Costa Rica, where the nation’s Electricity Institute has reported that 98.1 percent of the electricity used in 2016 came from renewable energy sources . This is the second consecutive year that Costa Rica has proven the power and reliability of renewables, after hitting 99 percent in 2015. While the achievement isn’t surprising, given that the country’s leaders have been ambitiously pursuing (and coming close to) this goal for several years, it is still important. What Costa Rica has accomplished shows the world that relying on renewable energy is not only possible, but that it can become a reality much earlier than many skeptics believe. The reasons behind Costa Rica ’s high renewable usage are numerous, and sort of complicated. For starters, the per capita electricity consumption in the nation of 4.9 million people is much less than, say, that of the typical American. In fact, the average Costa Rican uses just one-seventh the electricity that Americans do. With less electricity in demand, it’s much easier to supply those needs with renewable sources, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t be possible for the United States to reach the same astounding figures with the proper infrastructure. Related: Costa Rica celebrates 113 days of 100-percent renewable energy (and counting) Costa Rica’s climate has also made it a bit easier to become powered almost entirely by renewables . The area’s plentiful rainfall positions hydropower as the primary renewable energy source, supplying around 75 percent of the electricity used each year. Solar and wind power make up most of the remaining portion, again due to the perks of the geographic region. While 99 and 98 percent in 2015 and 2016 are insanely respectable figures, the Costa Rican government is aiming higher for 2017 and beyond, with four new wind farms to generate even more clean energy. Via Grist Images via Wikipedia ( 1 , 2 )

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Costa Rica ran almost entirely on renewables in 2016

Obama administration aims for 86 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2050

September 12, 2016 by  
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Could the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines of the United States one day look like the North Sea with thousands of wind turbines generating gigawatts of clean, renewable electricity? The US has a long way to go to catch up with Europe’s nearly 12 GW of installed offshore wind capacity. But if the Obama administration’s new offshore wind plan is fully implemented, by 2050 the US would blow Europe’s current capacity out of the water with 86 gigawatts of offshore wind — enough emissions-free electricity to power more than 23 million homes. The report states that there is a “technical potential” of an astounding 2,058 GW of offshore wind in US waters – enough to provide nearly double the total electric generation of the entire country. The National Offshore Wind Strategy – part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan – builds on the momentum of the country’s first offshore wind farm , which was completed last month. The Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island will soon be generating 30 megawatts of electricity from five turbines – enough to power 17,000 homes. US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center in Boston on Friday to announce that the federal government will be increasing efforts to develop offshore wind as part of the administration’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement. Related: European wind energy is now cheaper than nuclear power “Today’s collaborative strategic plan is part of a long-term commitment to support innovation that enables widespread offshore wind deployment and shows how offshore wind will benefit our country with new jobs, less pollution, and a more diversified electricity mix,” Moniz said in a statement. According to the report, fully implementing the offshore wind plan would support 160,000 jobs, reduce power sector water consumption by 5 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8 percent. Generating 86 GW of offshore wind by 2050 would also make up 14 percent of the projected demand for new electricity generation in the coastal and Great Lakes states. Last year, the Interior department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management awarded 11 commercial leases for offshore wind development off the Atlantic coast. There are also plans for the nation’s first freshwater offshore wind farm in Lake Erie near Cleveland, and offshore wind is currently being considered for California and Hawaii. Mitigating climate change and reducing air pollution aren’t the only benefits of offshore wind. According to Stanford University Professor Mark Jacobson, founder of The Solutions Project, a plan to power the world with 100 percent renewable energy, offshore wind farms can potentially weaken hurricane winds and reduce storm surge. + National Offshore Wind Strategy Via Grist Images via Ad Meskens and Wikimedia

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Massive turbines and blades for America’s first offshore wind farm land in Rhode Island

July 14, 2016 by  
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Although the United States is not new territory for wind farms , Deepwater Winds’ Block Island Wind Farm will be the first in the nation to be located offshore. The project calls for construction to take place through late summer, with the wind farm generating renewable energy  for the local community by the end of the year. The Block Island Wind Farm is expected to generate 125,000 megawatt-hours of electricity, providing 90 percent of power utilized on the island with a potential to supply electricity to the mainland. Related: Deepwater Wind breaks ground on the U.S.’s first offshore wind farm Five Haliade nacelles were built at GE Renewable Energy’s new plant in Saint-Nazaire, France to be shipped to the U.S. for the wind farm. Each massive machine weighs 400 tons and is the size of a bus. It holds all the power-generating components of the wind turbine, including a massive permanent magnet generator. Each of the five nacelles will support three 240-foot-long blades weighing 27 tons apiece. All 15 blades and five nacelles docked in Rhode Island last week after their long journey via cargo ship across the Atlantic. Eric Crucerey is the GE Renewable Energy project director in charge of delivering turbines to the site of the Block Island Wind Farm. Given the size and price tag of the wind energy farm , he takes his work very seriously. “My job is to be ready for everything, understand any weaknesses in Plan A and always have a Plan B,” he said. “’Never give up’ is my motto.” Luckily, he has numerous partners to help coordinate the project, including the folks who transported the wind turbine parts via truck, which sometimes meant building their own roads to maneuver the massive blades. The bases for each of the five wind turbines have already been built, completed last fall. Once the turbines are mounted this August, each one will stand 330 feet (100 meters) above the water’s surface, with a total height twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty, their French cousin. + GE Reports Images via GE Renewables , LM Wind Power , and Deepwater Wind

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Massive turbines and blades for America’s first offshore wind farm land in Rhode Island

Discreet new SolarSkin panels completely blend in with their environment

July 14, 2016 by  
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Sistine Solar is out to change the way people view rooftop solar . Started by MIT graduate students, the company is developing SolarSkin solar panels that can match rooftops or the surrounding environment. This means the solar panels on your roof could look like clay tiles, slate shingles, or even grass. Inspired by companies like Apple and Tesla, Sistine Solar co-founders Senthil Balasubramanian and Ido Salama aim to combine elegant design with revolutionary technologies . They dream of a world that runs entirely on renewable energy , and felt that more people would get on board with solar energy if the panels were more beautiful. To transform that dream into reality, they teamed up with an artist trained in Italy and an MIT PhD candidate in photovoltaics to come up with a more aesthetically-pleasing design. Related: Santa Monica to require rooftop solar panels on all new buildings Sistine Solar won the 2013 MIT Clean Energy Prize in Renewable Energy and can already count Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Microsoft as future clients. Last fall they received $1 million through the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to further develop their promising technology. Homeowners have responded positively as well; according to Salama, when they showed homeowners the SolarSkin panels, 98 percent of people said they liked it better than traditional solar panels, and many of those people had ” refused solar in the past .” Sistine Solar’s camouflaging panels have an efficiency of 15 to 17 percent, which is an excellent start. The team said on their website , “We at Sistine Solar are on a mission to showcase the innate beauty of solar energy through stunning design, captivating the world’s imagination and ushering in the era of clean energy. We passionately believe that by designing beautiful products that generate electricity more elegantly, we can capture the hearts and minds of the world, driving the mass adoption of clean energy.” You can pre-order the panels here ; Sistine Solar anticipates SolarSkin will be ready in 2017. + Sistine Solar Images via Sistine Solar

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Discreet new SolarSkin panels completely blend in with their environment

New indestructible bridge design was directly inspired by nature

July 14, 2016 by  
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The job of structural engineers around the world is arguably getting more difficult. Many urban centers are experiencing booming populations and increased vehicle traffic, and environmental changes create new challenges for buildings, bridges, and roadways. New breakthroughs in engineering design from the University of Warwick could lead to indestructible bridges that rely on compression for their strength, and lack the weak points that make traditional bridges so vulnerable. And the design process is inspired by nature. Wanda Lewis of University of Warwick’s School of Engineering employs the process of ‘form-finding’ to create bridge designs that need little or no maintenance or repairs. For a quarter century, Lewis has been studying forms in nature to learn how simple stress patterns make it possible for delicate objects, such as a leaf on a tree, to withstand the intense force of wind, rain, or impact against a tree branch. Although she says “nature’s design principles cannot be matched by conventional engineering design,” she has developed a mathematical model that could lead to super durable manmade bridges . Related: Washington just built the world’s longest floating bridge The optimal arch—a fully self-supporting bridge structure—has been the target of engineers for centuries, and Lewis’ research could be the key that unlocks the next wave of structural engineering . Her mathematical models respond to the failings of the inverted parabola and the catenary form, classical theory’s only two existing concepts for an optimal arch which both have weak points. The new models could help engineers build bridges that can withstand not only heavy regular traffic, but also earthquakes, floods, and high winds. Her findings were recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Science . Via Phys.org Images via University of Warwick and Wikipedia

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