Future Energy eNews     IntegrityResearchInstitute.org        June 9,  2006

1) NanoSolar Cell Breakthrough - Photons generate 2 or more electrons - efficiency may double
2) Wind Power Creates Environmental Rift - People complain about view and effects on the bats
3) Energy and Fuels - New Scientist overview with lots of links to future energy information sources
4) Capitol Hill Renewable Forum - Once a year chance to meet energy pioneers - FREE admission
5) Renewables: 25% by 2025 - State governors go ahead of the Feds - www.cleanenergystates.org
6) An Inconvenient Truth - Global warming science becomes a digestible movie - praise to Al Gore

1) Solar power - Seriously Souped Up


Herb Brody, New Scientist Print Edition, 31 May 2006



 IF YOU want efficient solar power, Victor Klimov has a deal for you. Give him one photon of sunlight, and he'll give you two electrons' worth of electricity.


Not impressed? You should be. In all solar cells now in use - in everything from satellites to pocket calculators - each incoming photon contributes at most one energised electron to the electric current it generates. Now Klimov, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, has broken through this barrier. He has shown that by shrinking the elements of a solar cell down to a few nanometres, or millionths of a millimetre, each captured photon can be made to generate not one, but two or even more charge carriers.


Producing this multiplicity of electrons - an achievement that has been replicated by a group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado - is a remarkable piece of physics. If the effect can be harnessed, it could change the whole energy debate by making solar power much more efficient and economical. While there are many ongoing efforts to improve solar efficiency - by concentrating sunlight, for example, or by making it easier for electrons to move around within a cell - the new approach is unique in that it gets to the very root of the process and also complements other methods.


For decades, photovoltaics have been stranded on the effete fringe of energy technologies - ideal for niche applications such as satellites, but not economically competitive here on Earth. Made from semiconducting materials, most often silicon, solar cells convert a dismayingly small fraction of the sun's energy into electricity. Radically improving efficiency could give solar energy a boost at a time when it is sorely needed and funding decisions hang in the balance. "If this could be translated into a robust system that could generate multiple carriers, it could be revolutionary," says Eric Rohlfing, acting director of the chemical sciences, geosciences and biosciences division in the Office of Basic Energy Sciences at the US Department of Energy.


The latest results trace back to 1982, when materials scientist Alexander Efros at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC showed it was theoretically possible for a photon to generate multiple charge carriers in certain semiconductors. Over the next two decades, researchers learned to control the properties of tiny semiconducting structures called nanocrystals, or quantum dots. Then in 2002, physical chemist Arthur Nozik of NREL predicted that the production of multiple carriers should be enhanced in nanocrystals relative to bulk semiconductors. It wasn't until 2004 that Klimov's group - interested in developing lasers as well as photovoltaics - showed that such behaviour could be reliably detected (Physical Review Letters, vol 92, p 186601).


The benefits of multiple carriers arise from the way photovoltaic devices interact with the solar spectrum. When an electron in a semiconducting material becomes free to move about and conduct current, it leaves behind a vacant site in the crystal, called a hole; the electron-hole pair is called an exciton. The amount of photon energy needed to create an exciton in a particular material is called the band gap (the term refers to the difference in energy levels between a fixed electron in the so-called "valence band" and one that is part of the sea of freely moving electrons in the "conduction band"). Sunlight consists of a variety of wavelengths, which we see as colours, and the photons of each colour carry a characteristic amount of energy: lower at the infrared and red end of the spectrum, and higher towards the blue, violet and ultraviolet end.


To make an efficient solar cell, you need to match the photon energy to the cell material's band gap. Silicon has a band gap that corresponds to wavelengths in the near-infrared region of the spectrum. Incoming photons with less energy than that will not have the quantum oomph to create even a single exciton. A photon with exactly the band-gap energy will create one exciton and have no energy left over, so the solar cell will make perfect use of the energy from photons in that part of the spectrum.


Most of the light streaming down from the sun, however, has a shorter wavelength than infrared, so its photons have higher energy than the silicon band gap. Each of these packets of electromagnetic energy, no matter how potent, can still liberate only one electron. Anything left over will dribble away as heat and contribute exactly zero to the device's electrical output. Klimov's technique taps this otherwise wasted energy and turns it into electricity.


The key, he says, is the small size of the quantum dots used to absorb photons. When structures shrink to the size of a few thousand atoms, their physics takes a turn for the weird. The multi-exciton phenomenon, which can barely be made to occur at all in conventional silicon, becomes possible in specially fabricated nanocrystals. In his latest series of experiments, Klimov claims to have produced as many as 7 excitons per photon in crystals of lead selenide 4 to 8 nanometres in diameter (Nano Letters, vol 6, p 424). "They're very cheap and only take a few minutes to grow," says Klimov. "It's like making new atoms, to go beyond what nature provides."


Precision timing


To detect these multiple excitons, the nanocrystals' behaviour needs to be measured at excruciatingly precise time intervals. Klimov and his colleague Richard Schaller illuminated samples of lead selenide with laser pulses lasting only 5 Χ 10-14 seconds - that's 50 millionths of a nanosecond. They then shone another laser beam to probe the crystal, monitoring how much light it absorbed over the next few thousandths of a nanosecond. Single excitons are stable, so if just one is present, absorption remains constant during that period. If multiple excitons are created, however, that is no longer the case: the excitons rapidly disappear, causing the crystal's absorption properties to change in a characteristic way that can be picked up by sensitive optical detectors. Of course, the ability of a photon to generate multiple charge carriers has its limits. The fundamental laws of physics dictate that the total energy of the excitons cannot exceed the energy of the photons striking the cell. "We are still constrained by the conservation of energy," Klimov says.


Or are they? How the multiple excitons are produced remains a bit of a mystery. According to Klimov, when an energetic photon strikes the material, the electron jumps to what he calls a "virtual" state in which it has actually gained more energy than was carried by the photon; this seeming contradiction is permitted because the virtual state lasts for such a brief time. The hyper-excited electron will transfer some of its energy to another, unexcited electron essentially by bumping into it. The result: two energised electrons from a single photon.


Nozik suggests a different model. There is a "coherent superposition" of energy states, he says - a quantum mechanical effect that defies concrete analogy. Following the absorption of a high-energy photon, an electron will inhabit two different energy states: one of them consistent with the formation of a single exciton, and one consistent with multiple excitons. In effect, says Garry Rumbles, a member of Nozik's team, "you prepare a mixture of states - one state looks like three excitons, and another state looks like a single exciton with very high energy". This superposition holds for a very brief period, until the electron makes a decision, says Rumbles.


However it works, a solar cell does no good unless the electric charges created can be drawn into a circuit. And therein lies the major obstacle to building a real-world device. "To produce current, you need to separate electrons from holes, and that's a big problem," Klimov says. The difficulty is that multiple excitons are extremely short-lived, lasting only tens of picoseconds, or trillionths of a second, before the holes and electrons recombine; in ordinary photovoltaic devices, electrons and holes remain apart for much longer, closer to a microsecond.


This means that practical applications of Klimov's work are still some way off. "We can take this as a proof of principle," says chemist Paul Alivisatos of the University of California, Berkeley, but figuring out how to separate and harvest the multiple charge carriers produced in a nanocrystal remains a puzzle. "It's worth spending time on this," he says, because if it works it is bound to yield an increase in photovoltaic efficiency.


Nathan Lewis, a chemist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena who led a recent US Department of Energy workshop on research needs for solar energy, takes a similar view. The work is an "important confirmation of theoretical predictions", he says. "It's like knowing that there's nuclear fusion happening on the sun," he explains. "Doing it on Earth is another story."


The first step is to reliably separate the multiple electrons and holes. That requires finding materials with electronic energy characteristics that match those of the quantum dots. One approach uses a conductive polymer to extract the holes. Klimov's group is collaborating with Anvar Zakhidov, a physicist at the University of Texas at Dallas, on a prototype that blends the lead selenide crystals with such a polymer. After a photon creates an electron-hole pair, the holes migrate into the polymer and travel through it to an electrode; the energised electrons, meanwhile, hop from nanocrystal to nanocrystal until they reach the other electrode.


The work has encountered its share of technical difficulties, however. "We are at the very beginning of experimental demonstration," Zakhidov says. One issue is that the nanocrystals must be in "intimate contact" with the polymer. Moreover, the conduction of electrons through the array of nanocrystals is very inefficient. "There are lots of dead ends," he says.


An alternative method for collecting the solar-induced charges has been proposed by Peidong Yang, a chemist at Berkeley who is also an expert in nanomaterials. Instead of requiring electrons to hop from one nanocrystal to another, Yang is testing nanowires - highly conductive filaments with a diameter of only a few nanometres. In principle, Yang says, the electrons and holes could zip through an array of nanowires straight to a pair of collecting electrodes "like cars on a freeway with no stop lights". Whether nanowires could harvest multiple excitons in the short time they are available, however, is anyone's guess.

Another area for progress is in the material used for making the quantum dots. The lead selenide used so far is less than ideal. First, it is toxic, making its fabrication a tricky business. Second, its band gap is large. For a photon to produce multiple excitons, its energy must equal at least twice the band gap of the material, and with lead selenide only photons at the high-energy end of the spectrum are powerful enough to achieve this.


Big is beautiful


There may be a way around this. The smallest crystals have the largest band gaps, as the confinement of electrons to a very tight space ratchets up the energy levels. The way to generate the largest number of excitons would be to engineer the crystal so that its band gap is small. One way to do this, says NREL physicist Randy Ellingson, would simply be to grow the nanocrystals larger. That would make it possible to use the abundant photons in the middle of the solar spectrum to generate multiple excitons. The trade-off, Ellingson points out, is that a lower band gap means a lower voltage across the electrodes, which may limit the total power output of the cell.


The researchers are also exploring alternative materials. Both Klimov and Nozik have observed multiple-exciton generation in other semiconductors, including lead sulphide, lead telluride and cadmium selenide. What's more, Klimov says his group has identified two new materials that are less toxic and have band gaps better matched to the solar spectrum than lead selenide, though he will not identify the materials as he has yet to publish the work.


If each photon can generate multiple charge carriers, the overall power efficiency of solar cells could be dramatically increased. The world record for a ground-based cell is 24.7 per cent, achieved by a device made in Australia at the University of New South Wales. Klimov predicts that the multiple-carrier generation could one day yield a cell with double that efficiency, approaching 50 per cent. Ellingson is slightly more conservative, but he still projects efficiencies around 45 per cent. With more work, the chips cranking out extra electrons in New Mexico and Colorado could one day bring a bright solar future for us all.


Solar fuel


Electricity is not the only useful form of energy that ultra-efficient solar cells might generate. They could also be used to induce a chemical reaction that creates fuel. While this approach is not strictly dependent on a cell in which each photon yields more than one current-carrying electron, the additional charge carriers would help by accelerating the reaction.


In one compelling scenario, nanocrystals could be immersed in water, and the current flowing out of the solar cell would break down the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. As with direct production of electricity, the benefit of a multiple-exciton solar cell would come through more efficient exploitation of the solar energy that hits it, says chemist Nathan Lewis of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.


Hydrogen is the basis for fuel-cell vehicles that would operate emissions-free and require no gasoline. Oxygen from the air would react with hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst to produce electricity, with water as a by-product. Calls for a move to a hydrogen economy, however, tend to gloss over the fact that producing hydrogen requires energy - and if that energy comes from fossil fuels the environmental benefit of hydrogen power is questionable. Using solar energy to generate the hydrogen would overcome this objection.


What's more, there are other ways of putting a solar fuel generator to work. "I'd rather do like the plants do," says Lewis. "Use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into ethanol or methanol." These liquids are more compatible with existing fuelling stations than hydrogen. Whatever the product, Lewis says, "making a multiple-exciton-per-photon solar cell for any purpose would be a major tour de force".


For more information


 Diagram of Nanosolar Cell: http://www.newscientist.com/data/images/archive/2553/25531601.jpg

 Nano Letters photon article: http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/abstract.cgi/nalefd/2006/6/i03/abs/nl052276g.html

 Physical Review Letters article: http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=PRLTAO000092000018186601000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes

2) Debate Over Wind Power Creates Environmental Rift

By FELICITY BARRINGER, New York Times, June 6, 2006, http://select.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?emc=tnt&tntget=2006/06/06/us/06wind.html&tntemail1=y

OAKLAND, Md. — Dan Boone has no doubt that his crusade against wind energy is the right way to protect the Allegheny highlands he loves. Let other environmentalists call him deluded at best, traitorous at worst. He remains undeterred.

For four years or more, Mr. Boone has traveled across the mid-Atlantic to make every argument he can muster against local wind-power projects: they kill birds and bats; they are too noisy; they are inefficient, making no more than a symbolic contribution to energy needs.

Wind farms on the empty prairies of North Dakota? Fine. But not, Mr. Boone insists, in the mountainous terrain of southwestern Pennsylvania, western Maryland or West Virginia, areas where 15 new projects have been proposed. If all were built, 750 to 1,000 giant turbines would line the hilltops, most producing, on average, enough electricity to power 600 homes.

Wind projects are in the midst of a huge growth spurt in many parts of the country, driven by government incentives to promote alternatives to fossil fuels. But Mr. Boone, who wields a botanist's trowel and a debater's knife with equal ease, wants to slow them down with community activism, regulatory action and legal challenges.

His crusade harks back to the campaigns against nuclear power plants, toxic-waste dumps and dams on scenic rivers that were building blocks of the modern environmental movement. But the times, and the climate, are changing. With fears of global warming growing more acute, Mr. Boone and many other local activists are finding themselves increasingly out of step with the priorities of the broader movement.

National groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club used to uniting against specific projects are now united for renewable energy in general. And they are particularly high on wind power — with the caveat that a few, but only a few, special places should be turbine-free.

"The broader environmental movement knows we have this urgent need for renewable energy to avert global warming," said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace U.S.A. "But we're still dealing with groups that can't get their heads around global warming yet."

Indeed, the best winds, especially in the East, tend to blow in places that are also ideal for hiking, sailing, second homes and spirit-soothing views. These include the Green Mountains, the Adirondacks, the Chesapeake Bay, Cape Cod and the ridges of northern Appalachia. Local opposition to unwanted development remains a potent force.

So when it comes to wind, the environmental movement is riven with dissonance and accusations of elitism. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s very public opposition to the 130-turbine Cape Wind energy facility proposed off Nantucket Sound has driven a wedge between activists. Dan Boone's circuit riding against wind projects, while not attracting the same celebrity notice, has exasperated many Sierra Club compatriots even more.

Like Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Boone says the areas he wants to protect are uniquely vulnerable. His family owns property near the proposed projects, just as Mr. Kennedy's does near the Cape Wind site.

But Mr. Boone says that wind supporters are the ones pursuing their own agenda at the expense of the public interest.

"I'm not sure that wind turbines in this region will significantly reduce the outcome of global climate change or actually have any role," Mr. Boone said. "The very limited benefit doesn't justify the risk of wiping out a lot of interior forest habitat."

National environmental leaders reject this argument.

"There's no free lunch," said Paul Hansen, executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America, a venerable sportsmen's group. " 'Not in my backyard' is not environmentalism."

The Alleghenies are a big backyard, with views that are both spectacular and problematic. Flowering shrubs like shadbush and preening flowers like trillium are framed by oaks, maples and longleaf pines. But intermittent industrial tree farming has repeatedly denuded some mountainsides. On both sides of the border near here in far western Maryland, second-home development is booming. The air has often been fouled by the Mount Storm coal-fired power plant.

If Ned Power, a wind-energy development company, puts up 100 or so turbines along 14 miles of ridgeline near Mount Storm, wind-energy supporters say, how much does that further spoil the landscape?

Kevin Rackstraw, a regional manager of Clipper Windpower whose proposed 40-turbine project in western Maryland has drawn Mr. Boone's fire, said opponents lacked perspective.

"Dan looks at all the impacts of a given wind project," Mr. Rackstraw said, "but doesn't say: 'If we didn't have wind, what would we have?' Coal. Think of the impact of acid rain and mountaintop removal."

The Ned Power project is just one target of Mr. Boone, 49, a former state wildlife biologist who now works as a consultant. In interviews, he said he first focused on the issue when working as a botanist on a study related to an early wind power project. The environmental-impact statements, he said, were grossly inadequate.

Now he drives from Highland County in western Virginia (where 38 turbines are proposed on Tamarack Ridge) to Bedford, Pa. (where early discussions of an unnamed project are under way) to talk to local groups or crystallize their objections for them. In Annapolis, Md., and Charleston, W.Va., he uses state utility regulators' licensing hearings to throw up roadblocks before wind projects. He is eager to argue with industry officials in any venue, questioning their facts, assumptions and motives.

"The rush is on now because a lot of the places they've targeted have no zoning, and it's easy to get in that kind of large-scale development," he said. "This part of the country has really good energy prices. Developers are keying in on that."

Mr. Boone's quiver of anti-wind arguments includes economic analyses, but his first line of attack is biological: he contends that they are a threat to bats and potentially to migratory birds and that they break up forest habitat.

Scores of raptors and other birds were killed by the first generation of wind turbines set up at Altamont Pass in Northern California. Since the Altamont Pass turbines were erected in the early 1980's, turbine design has been altered, and most subsequent studies have shown that birds tend to fly above the height of most turbines though some experts say more studies are needed.

But the turbines south of here in Thomas, W.Va., have been lethal to bats. More than 2,000 were killed in 2003 at the Mountaineer project, whose 44 turbines are owned by FPL Energy, a big power company that is the wind industry's dominant player.

Industry officials agree that the bat mortality measured at the Mountaineer site is unacceptable, and they are studying the benefits of deterrent devices and the best ways to modify turbine operations in bat-rich areas.

To Mr. Boone, wind energy will never make a big enough difference to justify its impact in the region. "You have to remember that these tax advantages are so huge," he said, "that these developers are keen to latch onto all the mythology — whether it's global warming or something else."

Asked if he thought global warming was a myth, he said: "No, I'm not calling it mythology." But industry officials, he contended, will "take things out of context."

Mike Tidwell, the director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network and one of Mr. Boone's adversaries, bristles at the attack. "Wind industry guys are the straightest-shooting people," Mr. Tidwell said. "Most got into it because they had an environmental ethic."

But Mr. Boone has plenty of allies, too. "He's the greatest naturalist I've even known," said Betsy Johnson, chairwoman of the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club. "Dan has been very helpful in educating us with what problems there can be with an energy source like wind."

The industry Mr. Boone regards so suspiciously is on a roll. The total share of energy that wind farms generated nationwide in 2004 was tiny — about one-third of 1 percent, according to the Energy Department. But by 2020, according to industry estimates, wind's share of the county's energy portfolio could grow ten- or twentyfold.

For the environmental movement, wind supporters say, the transition from the protection of place to the protection of planet is bound to be wrenching.

"Wilderness conversations are spiritual," said David Hamilton, the Sierra Club's national director of global warming and energy programs. "We've always been a place-based organization, protecting places," but "protecting our climate" is "just looking at it from a different angle and a different elevation."

3) Instant Expert: Energy and Fuels

John Pickrell, New Scientist, 26 May 2006, http://www.newscientist.com/popuparticle.ns?id=in158 


Access to cheap energy is a linchpin of modern industry and civilisation. Energy, mostly from fossil fuels, allows us to heat homes, and power factories and transportation systems. Worldwide every day, we devour the energy equivalent of about 200 million barrels of oil, but much of this energy comes from coal, gas and nuclear fuel too.

Starting with coal, and then oil and gas in the 1800s, we have plundered our fossil fuel riches to drive development. But now, an energy crisis looms. New oil sources are dwindling, and smothering greenhouse gases threaten the Earth - yet energy demands will rise by 50% to 60% by 2030. We need to rapidly develop sustainable solutions - from hydrogen cells to wind turbines - to fuel our future.

Most of the energy on Earth comes from the Sun. In fact enough energy from the Sun hits the planet's surface each minute to cover our needs for an entire year, we just need to find an efficient way to harness it. So far the energy in oil has been cheaper and easier to get at. But as supplies dwindle, this will change, and we will need to cure our addiction to oil.

Thirst for oil

Burning wood satisfied most energy needs until the steam-driven industrial revolution, when energy-dense coal became the fuel of choice. Coal is still used, mostly in power stations, to cover one-quarter of our energy needs, but its use has been declining since we started pumping up oil. Coal is the least efficient, unhealthiest and most environmentally damaging fossil fuel, but could make a comeback, as supplies are still plentiful: its reserves are five times larger than oil's.

Today petroleum (derived from oil) provides around 40% of the world's energy needs, mostly fuelling automobiles. The US guzzles up a quarter of all oil, and generates a similar proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. The first wells were drilled 2400 years ago, but the modern oil industry was born in the 1850s.

The majority of oil comes from the Middle East, which has half of known reserves. But other significant sources include Russia, North America, Norway, Venezuela and the North Sea. Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could be a major new US source, to reduce reliance on foreign imports, but drilling there is currently prohibited.

Most experts predict we will exhaust easily accessible reserves within 50 years, though opinions and estimates vary. We could fast reach an energy crisis in the next few decades; when demand outstrips supply. As conventional reserves become more difficult to access, others such as oil shales and tar sands may be used instead. Petrol could also be extracted from coal.

Since we started using fossil fuels, we have released 400 billion tonnes of carbon, and burning the entire reserves could eventually raise world temperatures by 13°C. Among other horrors, this would result in the destruction of all rainforests and the melting of all Arctic ice. London would be as hot as Cairo, but would also be engulfed by seawater. (See our Special Report on Climate Change for more.)

Gas, naturally

Natural gas reserves could plug some of the gap from oil, but reserves of that - some of which are in Russia, the Middle East and the Wadden Sea - will not last into the 22nd century either. We currently use it for around one-third of world electricity generation.

Natural gas, which is mostly methane, is the cleanest fossil fuel by weight, emitting just 40% the greenhouse gases of coal and 25% of oil. As a less-polluting alternative to petrol, its use is increasing in automobiles - either as compressed natural gas or for powering hydrogen fuel cells. When reserves do run low, we may be able to access vast frozen methane hydrate reserves beneath the seabed.

In the next few decades, one way for the UK and others to meet greenhouse gas reduction commitments, could be increased nuclear power generation. Currently, about 440 reactors in 32 countries generate 16% of world electricity. (See our Special Report on The Nuclear Age for more.)

Despite a slow decline of support for nuclear power in the west following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, many countries, such as the US, Japan and India are now embracing the technology again. But using nuclear power to mitigate environmental damage is a double-edged sword, because disposing of nuclear waste is itself an intractable problem. Expense, safety in usual operation and terrorism are major concerns too, not to mention the fact that building new facilities can take decades.

Sustainable alternatives

Less-polluting renewable energy sources offer a more practical long-term energy solution. They may benefit the world's poor too. "Renewable" refers to the fact these resources are not used faster than they can be replaced.

The Chinese and Romans used watermills over 2000 years ago. But the first hydroelectric dam was built in England in 1870. Hydroelectric power is now the most common form of renewable energy, supplying around 20% of world electricity.

China's Three Gorges Dam, which has just been completed, is the largest ever. At five times the size of the US's Hoover Dam, its 26 turbines will generate the equivalent energy of 18 coal-fired power stations. It will satisfy 3% of China's entire electricity demand. Surprisingly, some argue that hydroelectric dams significantly contribute greenhouse gases.

In 2003, the first commercial power station to harness tidal currents in the open sea opened in Norway. It is designed like windmill, but others take the form of turbines, oscillating hydroplanes, flexible eel-like generators, or are made of floating pontoons that rise up and down with the waves and tide.

As prices fall, wind power has become the fastest growing type of electricity generation - quadrupling worldwide between 1999 and 2005. Modern wind farms consist of turbines that generate electricity. Though it will be more expensive, there is more than enough wind to provide the world's entire energy needs.

Wind farms come in onshore and offshore forms. They can often end up at spots of natural beauty, and are often unpopular with residents. And turbines are not totally benign - they can interfere with radar and leave a significant ecological footprint; altering climate, sending wildlife diving for cover and killing sea birds. Migrating birds may have more luck avoiding them.

Scotland is building Europe's largest wind farm, which will power 200,000 homes. The UK's goal is to generate one-fifth of power from renewable sources, mainly wind, by 2020. But this may cause problems, because wind is unreliable.

Future buildings with integrated turbines could generate 20% of their own power. Other visions see wind-power revived for shipping, floating wind farms, or 28-kilometre-wide flying behemoths powered by high speed winds in the upper atmosphere. There are also plans to construct a 1-kilometre-tall tower that would harness wind energy from heated air in the Australian outback.

Catching some rays

Using solar power to generate electricity has been considered since Victorian times and clever building designs that use it to regulate temperature have been around for millennia. Today solar power is used in several ways. In thermal solar power, sunlight directly heats water in rooftop panels for household supplies, while sunlight can also be converted to electricity using photovoltaic cells, which use semiconductors to turn photons into electricity.

Both types of power are intermittent sources, as they can only work in good light. Photovoltaic cells have been too expensive for widespread use, but are already popular for supplying electricity to remote locations and filling gaps in ramshackle electricity grids. Solar panels often power spacecraft too, and solar cars and aeroplanes.

New cheaper versionsof photovoltaic cells could mean more energy is generated from solar than nuclear power by 2020.

In the future we may generate solar power using flexible coverings that "clothe" both buildings and people. There is even a scheme for an orbiting solar power station.

Running on empty

When oil runs out what will we fuel our cars with? This question, plus the fact the exhaust fumes are one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, means the race is on to find a new solution to getting around.

Biofuels have been around since the internal combustion engine. Ethanol is added to petrol in the US, and millions of cars in Brazil are run on it too. Vegetable oils are already used in Europe to produce biodiesel. Soya oil could be used for aviation too. Biofuels such as fast-growing elephant grass or saplings could be used to provide heat and electricity. Even sewage is being considered as a biofuel.

Hydrogen fuel cells have enormous potential if technical problems can be solved. Essentially a kind of battery that can be continuously refilled, fuel cells chemically react hydrogen with oxygen - producing just electricity and water.

This is a far more efficient process than burning fuel, as much less energy is wasted as heat. See how it works here. But it's not just useful in cars: hydrogen could also be used in power stations and electronic and portable gadgets too. Miniature fuel cells may one day oust batteries.

The problem is that catalysts and membranes have been expensive until recently. Other problems include making tanks of pressurised flammable hydrogen safe enough for cars and creating an entire fuelling station infrastructure. Combining traditional engines with fuel cells could be step in the right direction. A new $10 million prize has been offered to help solve these problems.

Fuel cells can also use natural gas, methanol or coal - but these produce carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is not yet a completely clean either, as electricity - currently derived from fossil fuels - is needed to"crack" water to produce the hydrogen. Some cities, such as Reykjavik, already use hydrogen to power buses. But Iceland gets some electricity and over 80% of its heating and hot water from geothermal energy sources, and can produce the hydrogen emission-free. Other countries need to find ways to produce the hydrogen sustainably.

Driving efficiency

Some argue that the "hydrogen economy" is a distraction from meeting future energy needs and slowing climate change, and that we need to focus on more immediate solutions. Making social change might be more difficult than solving technical problems.

Solutions that could be put in place right now include filtering carbon dioxide out of emissions and burying it in oil seams or under the sea. The US is among 6 nations that have turned their back on the Kyoto protocol to curb climate change and are focusing instead on "clean energy" from fossil fuels.

Increasing efficiency in energy production could also yield massive savings, as it did during the oil crises of the 1970s. Methods vary from reducing the friction of trains to lowering speed limits for cars.

Producing combined heat and power with small generators at home, makes use of a lot of the energy wasted in power stations, and might one day feed energy back to the grid. Wind and solar power could also be rigged up on a rooftop near you in the future - even the Queen of England is now generating her own power from the River Thames.

4) The 9th Annual Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Expo and Forum

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
345 Cannon House Office Building (Cannon Caucus Room)

Presented by The Sustainable Energy Coalition (SEC) and the House and Senate Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucuses

*A full list of exhibitors is featured at the bottom of this notice*

9:00 – 10:00 a.m.    Official Expo Opening with Members & Invited Guests
        Representative Mark Udall (D-CO), Co-chair, House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus
        Representative Zach Wamp (R-TN), Co-chair, House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus
        Alexander Karsner, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy  INVITED
        Philip W. Grone, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense

Press Conference

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Panel 1:  "Achieving True Energy Supply Security With Sustainable Resources"
        Chair:  Representative Mark Udall (D-CO), Co-chair, House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus
        Scott Trainum, Past Chairman, Adkins Energy
        David Youlen, Vice President, Brookfield Power
        Representative from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - TBD
        Rich Halvey, Program Manager, Western Governors' Association
1:15 – 2:30 p.m.   Panel 2:  "Improving the Economy and Solving the Energy Crisis through Sustainable Resources"
        Chair: Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Chair, House Science Committee  INVITED
        Jon Weisgall, Vice President, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company
        Chris O’Brien, Vice President for Strategy & Government Relations, Sharp Solar Systems        
        Kevin Rackstraw, Development Leader, Clipper WindPower Inc.
3:30 – 4:15 p.m.   Panel 3:  "Increasing Energy While Decreasing Greenhouse Gas Emissions -- The Unique Role of Efficient, Sustainable Technologies"

        Chair: Phil Sharp, President, Resources for the Future 
        Tom Casten, President & CEO, Primary Energy
        Dr. Michael MacCracken
5:00 – 6:30 p.m.   Reception Sponsored by General Electric (GE) 
        Closing Remarks and presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to Representative Sherwood Boehlert from the Sustainable Energy Coalition (SEC).

A DVD showcase of some of the most promising renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies available today will play in a room adjacent to the Expo.  Please drop in at any time during the event to view 5- to 15-minute segments about the following technologies: geothermal, biomass, hydropower, solar, wind, ethanol, biodiesel, fuel cells, hydrogen, home energy efficiency, and high-performance schools.

Light refreshments will be served and no RSVP is required.  Please feel free to forward this notice.
For more information, contact Jennifer Hinrichs at (301) 219-6249 or visit the websites of the following co-sponsoring organizations:

American Wind Energy Association (www.awea.org)
Biomass Coordinating Council/American Council on Renewable Energy (www.acore.org)
Combined Heat and Power Association (www.chpa.co.uk)
Environmental and Energy Study Institute (www.eesi.org)
Geothermal Energy Association (www.geo-energy.org)
National Hydropower Association (www.hydro.org)
Renewable Fuels Association (www.ethanolrfa.org)
Solar Energy Industries Association (www.seia.org)
The Stella Group, Ltd. (www.thestellagroupltd.com)

2006 Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Expo Exhibitors

Renewable Fuels Association
Biomass Coordinating Council/American Council on Renewable Energy
Austin Energy/Plug-In Partners
Iogen Corporation
CHOREN Corporation

Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
Enercon Engineering Inc.
Brennan Downes, Primary Energy
Cummins Power Generation

Distributed Generation/Efficiency
Fuel Cell Association
Ocean Power Technology
Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturing Association (PIMA)
Solargenix Energy

Ormat Technologies
Geothermal Education Office (GEO)

Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation
Grant County PUD, District No. 2
Verdant Power

Solar Integrated Technologies

Southwest Windpower
Clipper Windpower, Inc.

5) Renewables: 25% of energy use in '25?



Jun 9, 2006, 

Christian Science Monitor  http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0609/p02s02-uspo.html



A broad coalition of politicos, activists, and businesses united this week to try to put greener energy on a fast track.

With gas prices at $3 a gallon as far as the eye can see, plus increasing prospects of global warming and war in an oil-rich part of the world, the heat is on to wean the nation from fossil fuels.

In Washington this week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, industry leaders (including the three Detroit automakers), farm groups, governors, county officials, and environmentalists launched an effort to have the nation get 25 percent of its total energy from renewable sources by 2025.

This ambitious proposal - dubbed "25x'25" - goes well beyond what Congress and the White House have enacted so far, and it's likely to encounter environmental and economic speed bumps along the way.

The goal of securing one-fourth of the nation's total energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and biogas by 2025 was introduced this week as a concurrent resolution in both houses of Congress. So far, it has at least 30 cosponsors with the number growing daily.

"I think that this goal is definitely achievable," says Rep. Collin Peterson (D) of Minn., the ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture. "I think we're going to beat this 25 percent in 25 years."

Seen one way, this new energy effort is a coalition of well-known special interests like ethanol producers, tree farmers, and solar equipment manufacturers. But boosters believe a critical mass of public support has developed that puts a strong political wind at their backs.

One example: The kick off session for the annual meeting of the Western Governors Association this weekend in Sedona, Ariz., focuses on clean energy. The WGA, whose 18 state executives (11 of whom are Republicans) oversee the fastest growing states in terms of population and energy consumption, will propose the development of 30,000 megawatts of "clean and diverse energy" across the American West by 2015 while increasing energy efficiency 20 percent by 2020.

Meanwhile, 14 states participating in the Clean Energy States Alliance have set up special funds to promote commercialization of renewable energy technology. www.cleanenergystates.org

Prominent backers of "25x'25" span the political spectrum, from former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich to John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. So far, seven governors (four Republicans and three Democrats) have signed on, as have state legislatures in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and Vermont. A list of some 140 supporting organizations ranges from the National Wildlife Federation to the Texas Farm Bureau to the American Bankers Association.

The public seems to like the idea as well. A recent poll by Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Va., shows that 98 percent see shifting to domestically-produced renewable energy sources as important for the country with 74 percent agreeing that it is "very important."

Meanwhile, there are new indications that such an effort could work. The Worldwatch Institute this week reported that biofuels can significantly reduce global dependence on oil.

Oil still accounts for more than 96 percent of transportation fuel use, but biofuel production has doubled since 2001 and it is poised for even stronger growth as the industry responds to higher fuel prices and supportive government policies, Worldwatch reported.

The result, the research organization predicts, is that advanced biofuels could provide 37 percent of US transport fuel within the next 25 years, and up to 75 percent if automobile fuel economy doubles.

Given the rather tortuous history of energy legislation, translating ambitious goals for renewables into specific legislation with adequate funding will take considerable political effort. The six senators and representatives (three Republicans and three Democrats) who introduced "25x'25" as a national goal Wednesday acknowledged as much.

Meanwhile, the various elements of clean energy each have their own challenges.

Wind turbines, for example, have sprouted at an accelerated rate around the country in recent years. But opponents say the giant bladed towers (some reaching as high as 40 stories) create visual pollution and can kill bats and migrating birds by the thousands.

As part of a military spending bill, Congress ordered the Pentagon to study whether wind towers mask radar signals, allowing small and possibly threatening aircraft to penetrate restricted areas.

As a result, the FAA has blocked new wind farms that might interfere with military radar, including more than a dozen in the Midwest.

Last week, the six US Senators from Wisconsin, Illinois, and North Dakota wrote to Defense Department and FAA officials asking that the agencies "not unnecessarily obstruct the implementation of this major source of domestic, clean energy."

"Since much of the nation is in radar line of site, this interim policy has a sweeping effect," the senators' letter stated. "Prohibiting, even temporarily, the development of wind energy facilities within those areas would be a considerable setback for efforts to increase our country's energy independence."




6) Warning of Calamities and Hoping for a Change in 'An Inconvenient Truth'

By A. O. SCOTT May 24, 2006 http://movies2.nytimes.com/2006/05/24/movies/24trut.html?pagewanted=print



CANNES, France, May 23 — "An Inconvenient Truth," Davis Guggenheim's new documentary about the dangers of climate change, is a film that should never have been made. It is, after all, the job of political leaders and policymakers to protect against possible future calamities, to respond to the findings of science and to persuade the public that action must be taken to protect the common interest.

But when this does not happen — and it is hardly a partisan statement to observe that, in the case of global warming, it hasn't — others must take up the responsibility: filmmakers, activists, scientists, even retired politicians. That "An Inconvenient Truth" should not have to exist is a reason to be grateful that it does.

Appearances to the contrary, Mr. Guggenheim's movie is not really about Al Gore. It consists mainly of a multimedia presentation on climate change that Mr. Gore has given many times over the last few years, interspersed with interviews and Mr. Gore's voice-over reflections on his life in and out of politics. His presence is, in some ways, a distraction, since it guarantees that "An Inconvenient Truth" will become fodder for the cynical, ideologically facile sniping that often passes for political discourse these days. But really, the idea that worrying about the effect of carbon-dioxide emissions on the world's climate makes you some kind of liberal kook is as tired as the image of Mr. Gore as a stiff, humorless speaker, someone to make fun of rather than take seriously.

In any case, Mr. Gore has long since proven to be a deft self-satirist. (He recently told a moderator at a Cannes Film Festival news conference to address him as "your Adequacy.") He makes a few jokes to leaven the grim gist of "An Inconvenient Truth," and some of them are funny, in the style of a college lecturer's attempts to keep the attention of his captive audience. Indeed, his onstage manner — pacing back and forth, fiddling with gadgets, gesturing for emphasis — is more a professor's than a politician's. If he were not the man who, in his own formulation "used to be the next president of the United States of America," he might have settled down to tenure and a Volvo (or maybe a Prius) in some leafy academic grove.

But as I said, the movie is not about him. He is, rather, the surprisingly engaging vehicle for some very disturbing information. His explanations of complex environmental phenomena — the jet stream has always been a particularly tough one for me to grasp — are clear, and while some of the visual aids are a little corny, most of the images are stark, illuminating and powerful.

I can't think of another movie in which the display of a graph elicited gasps of horror, but when the red lines showing the increasing rates of carbon-dioxide emissions and the corresponding rise in temperatures come on screen, the effect is jolting and chilling. Photographs of receding ice fields and glaciers — consequences of climate change that have already taken place — are as disturbing as speculative maps of submerged coastlines. The news of increased hurricane activity and warming oceans is all the more alarming for being delivered in Mr. Gore's matter-of-fact, scholarly tone.

He speaks of the need to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions as a "moral imperative," and most people who see this movie will do so out of a sense of duty, which seems to me entirely appropriate. Luckily, it happens to be a well-made documentary, edited crisply enough to keep it from feeling like 90 minutes of C-Span and shaped to give Mr. Gore's argument a real sense of drama. As unsettling as it can be, it is also intellectually exhilarating, and, like any good piece of pedagogy, whets the appetite for further study. This is not everything you need to know about global warming: that's the point. But it is a good place to start, and to continue, a process of education that could hardly be more urgent. "An Inconvenient Truth" is a necessary film.

"An Inconvenient Truth" is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). Some of the subjects discussed might be upsetting.

An Inconvenient Truth

Directed by Davis Guggenheim; produced by Laurie David, Lawrence Bender and Scott Z. Burns; released by Paramount Classics and Participant Productions. Running time: 96 minutes.

For more information


Official movie website: www.climatecrisis.net


View movie trailer: http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/trailer.html?v_id=342290


* Future Energy eNews is provided as a public service.

* Plan to attend our Conference on Future Energy, September 22-24, 2006, Washington DC metro area, http://users.erols.com/iri/cofe.html