Aug 10, 2009 | 2
A large, coal-burning utility in the U.S. and another in China have agreed to cooperate to develop methods to more cleanly burn coal, including so-called carbon capture and storage technology. Duke Energy will partner with China's Huaneng Group to further develop and build technologies to gasify coal and strip it of its impurities, including the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere from coal burning. As it stands, Huaneng releases some 285 million metric tons of CO2 per year while Duke emits 112 million metric tons, according to data from the Center for Global Development, a Washington, D.C.-based thinktank.
"We find ourselves at a pivotal point in world history," said Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers in a statement announcing the partnership. "China has committed to rapidly developing clean-energy technologies, as has the U.S.… Working together, the U.S. and China can commercialize and drive down the cost of these technologies for the benefit of the entire world."
May 15, 2009 | 45
If solar power is ever going to take off—and the world needs it to—photovoltaic cells will have to become a whole lot cheaper to produce.
Making solar cells from silicon, the most common approach, can be expensive and relatively inefficient at turning sunlight into electricity. As semiconductor manufacturer Applied Materials chief technology officer Mark Pinto told me last year: "With solar, it's all about cost."
But there are signs of improvement, writes Richard Swanson of SunPower Corp. in this week's Science. Last year, manufacturers made 5 gigawatts of photovoltaic panels. And some of these panels required just under six grams of silicon per watt of power—down from 15 grams at the turn of the century. And that watt of power now costs around $1.40 to produce compared with $2 or more in the 1990s.
May 13, 2009 | 5
Duke Energy wants to put a power plant on your house.
Over the next year, the utility plans to spend $50 million to plop a variety of photovoltaic panels on commercial buildings, the roofs of private homes, and other property in North Carolina.
Once installed, the 10 megawatts worth of solar panels are expected to produce enough alternating-current electricity to power 1,300 homes. But the utility’s main goals for the demonstration project are to gain experience with distributed generation—putting the power plant closer to the customer—and with integrating intermittent, renewable resources like sunshine into the grid.
May 1, 2009 | 17
Imagine all the folks on the waiting list for the Chevy Volt or a plug-in Toyota Prius plugged in their cars at once. The result? Blackout, as the world's largest machine (otherwise known as the electric grid) is overloaded.
What's needed is a device that can sense when there's sufficient capacity to juice up an electric car and when there's not—a so-called "smart charger" (which would, of course, be a key component of a "smart" grid).
And that's exactly what engineers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. have created. "If a million owners plug in their vehicles to recharge after work, it could cause a major strain on the grid," said PNNL engineer Michael Kintner-Meyer in a statement. "The Smart Charger Controller could prevent those peaks in demand from plug-in vehicles and enable our existing grid to be used more evenly."
Mar 27, 2009 | 2
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is urging people to vote against global warming tomorrow during its annual Earth Hour campaign. Participants are encouraged to show their support by turning off all non-essential electronics (lights in particular) in their homes and businesses for an hour between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. local time (in each community).
The WWF hopes that one billion people (roughly 17 percent of the world’s population) in 82 countries and more than 2,100 cities will cut their energy usage during the hour; last year, some 36 million people in 35 countries and more than 370 cities lightened their electrical loads in solidarity, according to the organization. WWF Australia organized the first Earth Hour in 2007, at which time 2.2 million households and businesses participated. EnergyAustralia, a Sidney utility, estimates that initial event saved 48,760 kilowatt hours (the same amount of electricity needed to run more than 400,000 televisions for one hour) in its coverage areas.
Nov 14, 2008 | 19
In its waning days, the Bush administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has essentially halted all new construction of coal-fired power plants until the government can figure out what to do about climate-change-causing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In a ruling yesterday (pdf) on a petition to build a new 110-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Bonanza, Utah, the EPA decided that it could no longer grant permits for such new construction until it determines what is needed to limit CO2 emissions.
The decision refers back to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found that the EPA, much to its own chagrin, has the authority to regulate emissions of CO2, the most ubiquitous greenhouse gas. In essence, permits cannot be granted until the agency figures out whether or not to force power plants to install technology to control such emissions.
Aug 28, 2008 | 10
The U.S. electric grid is so old and outdated it can't handle the influx of wind power and other intermittent renewable resources. Integrating such sources requires adapting a system that is finely tuned to balance the amount of electricity being used with the amount of electricity being generated with fickle winds.
But there is an even more pressing problem, according to this article in the New York Times: the grid isn't big enough. The wind tends to blow strongest in places, such as North and South Dakota, that are far from where people live and use electricity. And no one wants to spend the millions of dollars it would take to put in a new transmission line (not to mention the legal headache of getting all those rights of way).
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