From:                              Integrity Research Institute <>

Sent:                               Sunday, March 27, 2016 7:34 PM


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Future Energy eNews




March 2016 TOC





We start this month's Future Energy review with a note about a new paper by one of my heroes, Dr. Jim Hansen from Columbia University. On the topic of "Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms" it may be one of the most important climate articles of this century. Why? Dr. Hansen explains in his very compelling 15-minute video 

that accompanied the release of the article, the earth's atmosphere is responding more quickly to fresh water melt from Greenland and the Antarctic than any climate computer model to date. The consequence is that he predicts superstorms much more severe than Hurricane Sandy and a meter level sea rise by 2050 with a doubling of that rise ten years later because of the nonlinear effect of climate change which also causes a continuing increase in the rate. Hansen's paper and video cause us at IRI to be even more committed to a carbon-free fuel source that can be mass produced quickly and cheaply. In the meantime, Dr. Hansen emphasizes the main problem is that fossil fuel manufacturers continue to treat our atmosphere as a "dumping ground for their waste" which needs to change in the short term as soon as possible. For the main details, check out the abbreviated version at

On the optimistic side, our first Story is encouraging news that the electric vehicles will start to take over in about five years from now. MIT sees several improvements coming together, such as falling battery costs, to allow EVs to gain significant market share in the next two decades and produce a paradigm shift in vehicle technology.


Our Story #2 is also upbeat with another breakthrough in solar cell efficiency, reaching 22% effective use of the solar energy hitting the cells.  Another accompanying breakthrough is surpassing the one-volt barrier, which was accomplished last month by the National Renewable Energy Lab and Washington State. 


But what about that nasty carbon dioxide that just sits in the earth's atmosphere as more and more is generated from old fashioned oil and gas guzzlers? Well, glad you asked. In Story #3, UCLA reports that it has created a new building material CO2NCRETE which is fabricated by 3D printers and captures CO2 from smokestacks to create the finished product. It therefore uses CO2 as a resource!


Story #4 is more unusual, with a tethered undersea kite (TUSK) that generates electricity from ocean currents or tidal flow, using hydrokinetic energy for maximum theoretical energy output.


Lastly, our Story #5 celebrates the oil companies' loss of ground to wind energy in New York State. Instead of allowing drilling off the coast for Virginia, NC, SC, and Georgia, the Interior Department woke up to climate change and decided to create a large offshore wind farm, covering 127 square miles, called the "New York Wind Energy Area". Obama's Energy Department is hoping to reach 20 percent wind energy by 2030.


Lastly, don't forget to register for our Eighth Conference on Future Energy  where you can learn about all of the above topics dedicated to our energy future, at COFE8. All of our speakers are listed online and registration is now open. (IRI was the first organization to publicize the "future energy" concept in 1999 with our first COFE.) IRI Members get 10% off too.



Thomas Valone,  Editor









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1) The 2020's Could be the Years for the EV to Take Over


By Mike Orcutt,  MIT Technology Review, March  2016


Electric vehicles will become a more economical option than internal-combustion cars in most countries by sometime next decade, claims a new report by energy data analytics firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).




The reality, though, is that it's highly uncertain if or when EVs will start gaining significant market share. That's in part because it may not be so predictable how the costs of energy technologies will fall, and it's hard to forecast what will happen to oil prices either.


The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), for its part, declared in December that without a technology breakthrough, EVs "are not expected to gain significant market share in the foreseeable future." That would seem to be a safe bet; EVs currently make up less than 1 percent of the world's car market.


The BNEF analysis is much more optimistic, to say the least, projecting that 35 percent of the world's new cars will run on electrons by 2040. The bullish outlook is based largely on the speed at which costs for lithium-ion batteries are falling. Costs have dropped 65 percent since 2010, reaching $350 per kilowatt-hour last year. According to BNEF, that puts unsubsidized EVs on pace to be cost-competitive with comparable gas cars within six years. The group predicts that by 2030 the cost will be down to $120 per kilowatt-hour.


That's more or less in line with an extensive analysis published last year by academic researchers, who found that battery costs are falling even faster than the most optimistic analysts predicted just a few years ago. Those researchers concluded that reaching $230 per kilowatt-hour is realistic by 2017, and that at $150 per kilowatt-hour we might see "a potential paradigm shift in vehicle technology."


In 2015 sales of EVs grew some 60 percent. If that trend continues, and battery prices keep falling as quickly as they are, the 2020s could bring a shock  to the global oil industry.



Related story




2) First Solar Cells Break Efficiency Record 



By Richard Martin, MIT Technology Review, March 2016


First Solar's Cells Break Efficiency Record

Lab results herald a new era for cadmium telluride technology.


Driving forward in the race for highly efficient solar cells, First Solar says it has converted 22.1 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity using experimental cells made from cadmium telluride-a technology that today represents around 5 percent of the worldwide solar power market. The company's commercial line of solar cells has reached an energy conversion efficiency of 16.4 percent.


The theoretical efficiency limit for cadmium telluride cells is above 30 percent-significantly higher than that of conventional silicon. (Today's commodity silicon-based solar panels have efficiencies between 16 and 18 percent; their theoretical limit is thought to be well below 30 percent.) First Solar, which is the only major manufacturer of cadmium telluride solar panels left in the United States, is working to bring commercial solar panels closer to that limit. "The gap between what's theoretically achievable and what's out there today has been pretty broad," says Raffi Garabedian, First Solar's chief technology officer. "We are closing that gap at a breakneck pace."


One obstacle to closing the gap is the maximum voltage available from cadmium telluride cells. Maximum voltage correlates directly with efficiency. For decades researchers have been unable to break the one-volt barrier, but researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Washington State said in a paper published February 29 in Nature Energy that they have exceeded that limit.


Conventional silicon solar cells represent more than 90 percent of the solar power market today, but they are relatively expensive to make. Cadmium telluride, a thin-film technology, offers improved performance in that it operates close to its maximum efficiency, particularly in hot, humid conditions. Though thin-film cells are ostensibly cheaper to make, their efficiency has lagged behind that of conventional ones. Still, they have shown more improvement. "Monocrystalline silicon is the gold standard, in terms of efficiency, for today's solar power," says Garabedian, "but the record for the most efficient commercially available product was set in 1999, at about 25 percent, and it's still there. In the same time frame, [cadmium telluride] has improved by a huge margin."


But cadmium telluride manufacturers have struggled in recent years. In 2013 First Solar acquired GE's technology after GE canceled plans for a $300 million plant in Colorado. A number of other manufacturers have been launched and failed, including Abound Solar, a Colorado-based startup that received a $400 million loan guarantee from the federal government and then filed for bankruptcy in 2012.


First Solar concentrates on the utility-scale solar market rather than rooftop solar installations, where the need for higher-efficiency panels has, to date, dictated the need for silicon-based cells. The company has developed some of the largest solar farms in the world, including the Topaz and Desert Sunlight projects, in California, each of which has a capacity of 550 megawatts.


Because cadmium telluride is a thin-film technology, it requires less material to produce a comparable amount of electricity than conventional silicon technology. The manufacturing process is also simpler. In principle, that should lead to lower costs for the electricity produced. In practice that's not always the case; according to GTM Research, the cost per watt of crystalline silicon panels will drop to $0.36 per watt by next year. In 2013 (the last time the company released production cost figures), First Solar said its cost per watt had reached $0.57. 


Cost comparisons aside, Wall Street is bullish on the company's prospects: its share price has risen by 68 percent in the last five months.


"The industry is in a transformative period," says Garabedian. "We're still very concerned about the cyclic nature of the solar industry, and about getting caught with overcapacity. We'll keep improving this technology and see what the future brings."




3) Researchers turn Carbon Dioxide into Concrete  March 15, 2016 by George Foulsham


Imagine a world with little or no concrete. Would that even be possible? After all, concrete is everywhere-on our roads, our driveways, in our homes, bridges and buildings. For the past 200 years, it's been the very foundation of much of our planet.

But the production of cement, which when mixed with water forms the binding agent in concrete, is also one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, about 5 percent of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions comes from concrete.


An even larger source of carbon dioxide emissions is flue gas emitted from smokestacks at power plants around the world. Carbon emissions from those plants are the largest source of harmful global greenhouse gas in the world.


A team of interdisciplinary researchers at UCLA has been working on a unique solution that may help eliminate these sources of greenhouse gases. Their plan would be to create a closed-loop process: capturing carbon from power plant smokestacks and using it to create a new building material-CO2NCRETE-that would be fabricated using 3D printers. That's "upcycling."


"What this technology does is take something that we have viewed as a nuisance-carbon dioxide that's emitted from smokestacks-and turn it into something valuable," said J.R. DeShazo, professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.


"I decided to get involved in this project because it could be a game-changer for climate policy," DeShazo said. "This technology tackles global climate change, which is one of the biggest challenges that society faces now and will face over the next century."


DeShazo has provided the public policy and economic guidance for this research. The scientific contributions have been led by Gaurav Sant, associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering; Richard Kaner, distinguished professor in chemistry and biochemistry, and materials science and engineering; Laurent Pilon, professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering and bioengineering; and Matthieu Bauchy, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering.


This isn't the first attempt to capture carbon emissions from power plants. It's been done before, but the challenge has been what to do with the carbon dioxide once it's captured.

"We hope to not only capture more gas," DeShazo said, "but we're going to take that gas and, instead of storing it, which is the current approach, we're going to try to use it to create a new kind of building material that will replace cement."


"The approach we are trying to propose is you look at carbon dioxide as a resource-a resource you can reutilize," Sant said. "While cement production results in carbon dioxide, just as the production of coal or the production of natural gas does, if we can reutilize CO2 to make a building material which would be a new kind of cement, that's an opportunity."


The researchers are excited about the possibility of reducing greenhouse gas in the U.S., especially in regions where coal-fired power plants are abundant. "But even more so is the promise to reduce the emissions in China and India," DeShazo said. "China is currently the largest greenhouse gas producer in the world, and India will soon be number two, surpassing us."


Thus far, the new construction material has been produced only at a lab scale, using 3-D printers to shape it into tiny cones. "We have proof of concept that we can do this," DeShazo said. "But we need to begin the process of increasing the volume of material and then think about how to pilot it commercially. It's one thing to prove these technologies in the laboratory.


 It's another to take them out into the field and see how they work under real-world conditions."

"We can demonstrate a process where we take lime and combine it with carbon dioxide to produce a cement-like material," Sant said. "The big challenge we foresee with this is we're not just trying to develop a building material. We're trying to develop a process solution, an integrated technology which goes right from CO2 to a finished product.


"3-D printing has been done for some time in the biomedical world," Sant said, "but when you do it in a biomedical setting, you're interested in resolution. You're interested in precision. In construction, all of these things are important but not at the same scale. There is a scale challenge, because rather than print something that's 5 centimeters long, we want to be able to print a beam that's 5 meters long. The size scalability is a really important part."


Another challenge is convincing stakeholders that a cosmic shift like the researchers are proposing is beneficial-not just for the planet, but for them, too.


"This technology could change the economic incentives associated with these power plants in their operations and turn the smokestack flue gas into a resource countries can use, to build up their cities, extend their road systems," DeShazo said. "It takes what was a problem and turns it into a benefit in products and services that are going to be very much needed and valued in places like India and China."


DeShazo cited the interdisciplinary team of researchers as a reason for the success of the project. "What UCLA offers is a brilliant set of engineers, material scientists and economists who have been working on pieces of this problem for 10, 20, 30 years," he said. "And we're able to bring that team together to focus on each stage."


According to Sant, UCLA is the perfect place to tackle sustainability challenges.




4) Hydrokinetic Energy Harvesting with  Undersea Tethered Kites


By David J. Olinger1 and Yao Wang1  Journal of AIP 


 In this work an emerging hydrokinetic energy technology, Tethered UnderSea Kites (TUSK), is studied. One TUSK concept uses an axial-flow turbine mounted on a rigid underwater kite to extract power from an ocean current or tidal flow. A second concept removes the turbine from the kite, and instead generates power by transmitting hydrodynamic forces on the kite through the flexible underwater tether to a generator on a floating buoy. 


TUSK systems have potential advantages, mainly the TUSK systems should be able to extract more power from an ocean current or tidal flow than a same-sized fixed marine turbine. This is possible because TUSK kites can move in cross-current motions at velocities significantly higher than the current velocity to increase power output compared to same sized marine turbines. Maximum theoretical power output is estimated for TUSK systems, and detailed comparisons of key performance parameters between TUSK and conventional marine turbines are made. Initial design considerations for TUSK system components are discussed including the underwater kite, buoyancy systems, the floating buoy and mooring system, underwater kite tether, the mounted turbine, and required control systems.Governing equations of motion to study the dynamics of the kite and tether in a TUSK system are developed, and a baseline simulation is studied to estimate kite trajectories, kite pitch, roll and yaw dynamics, power output, kite aerodynamic forces, and tether tensions. The issue of cavitation in TUSK systems at turbine blade tips and on the kite airfoil is studied. 


Standard cavitation theory is applied to TUSK systems to identify critical cavitation curves as a function of kite operation depth, kite lift-to-drag ratio, and turbine airfoil minimum pressure coefficient.




5) Obama takes big step Towards Powering New York with  Offshore Wind 



By  Chris Money, Washington Post. March 2016 


After years of fighting the expansion of drilling off the Atlantic coast, environmentalists scored a rare double victory this week in which oil lost ground to wind energy.

In a surprising about-face, the Interior Department pulled back its controversial plans to allow oil drilling off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Citing concerns from the Pentagon and also from coastal communities in these states, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said, "It simply doesn't make sense to move forward with any lease sales in the coming five years."

Climate activists and environmentalists were ecstatic - and that was just the beginning. The next day, the department announced a move to create a large offshore wind area 11 miles south of Long Island and extending to the Southeast in the shape of a thin triangle, over some 127 square miles. It will be called the "New York Wind Energy Area."


The new wind energy area off the New York coast emerges in response to an initiative by the New York Power Authority, the Long Island Power Authority and Con Edison - which have formed a group called the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Collaborative. In 2011, the group filed an application with the federal government for a 350 to 700 megawatt wind farm in this area, in waters 60 to 120 feet deep, to directly power New York City and Long Island. It would have "the potential to be the largest offshore wind project in the country," the collaborative said.


Now, the federal government is moving ahead on the matter, although there will be a "competitive leasing process," meaning there are other potentially interested parties in wind in the area, beyond this group.


"This is a great day for New York, and our country as we continue to diversify our nation's energy portfolio," Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said in a statement. "The area is large enough for a large-scale commercial wind project, which could make substantial contributions to the region's energy supply and assist local and state governments - including New York City - in achieving their renewable energy goals."


The move comes as New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) recently laid out a plan to get 50 percent of the state's total electricity from renewables by 2030. Offshore wind will be a key piece of hitting that target, said Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.


The site is rather ideal for sending power to the huge population just a few ocean miles away, Reynolds noted. "Part of the attraction for offshore wind development in New York is that you'd have the electricity demand very nearby, and you'd have the wind peaking in the late afternoon, when you have demand peaking as well," she said.


The Interior Department has, so far, approved 11 Atlantic offshore wind energy leases, off Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The new "wind energy area" designation does not mean that an immediate lease sale will be held for the siting of wind energy off New York - rather, the next step of the process involves an environmental impact assessment. After that, there would be the potential for lease sales.


The United States remains far behind some other countries - such as Britain and China - in overall offshore wind development. So far, among other potential projects, construction has begun for Deepwater Wind's projected 30 megawatt installation off the coast of Rhode Island. It's expected to start operating this year.


In general, offshore wind is seen as a critical new development in the wind energy area because offshore turbines can tap into stronger winds to generate larger volumes of electricity. But development has been dramatically faster on land. Wind energy provided 4.7 percent of U.S. electricity last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a number that has been steadily growing in recent years.


The Energy Department's "wind vision" for 2030 imagines getting 20 percent of U.S. electricity from this source. To do that, the nation will need far taller wind turbines on land - which can capture energy from more powerful winds and open up new areas to viable wind farms - and also major offshore developments.





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