Energy and Recycling

More Elon Musk, building a SolarCity plant in Buffalo, with the capacity of building solar panels to generate 1000 megawatts of electricity each year.  I will keep track of this one.  From Buffalo News:

RiverBend by the numbers

1 million: Factory size in square feet

12: Cabela’s stores could fit inside

900: 70-foot pilings driven into bedrock so far

5,500: Pilings that will be used to support the foundation

70: Construction workers currently working at the site

1,600: Workers expected during peak construction

$750 million: State’s commitment to build and equip the factory

2,900: Jobs SolarCity promises to create at the factory and its suppliers

Timeline: February 2015: Erection of structural steel begins.

Oct. 2015-March 2016: Period when building is to be completed.

Jan. 2016-June 2016: SolarCity to install equipment for three months after building is completed.

March 2016-Dec. 2016: Full production in three to six months of operation.

News on recycling of sewage sludge.  There is also progress at moving this upstream to the sanitation plants, so that the water coming out of them is clean.  Really clean – free of not just solids, but chemicals.   It’s a basic of manufacturing – if you are paying to get rid of a waste product, figure out a way to reuse it or sell it.

In a new study, scientists at Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe, quantified the different metals in sewage sludge and estimated what it all might be worth. They took sludge samples gathered from around the country and measured the metal content using a mass spectrometer that can discern different elements as they are ionized in a superhot plasma. The upshot: There’s as much as $13 million worth of metals in the sludge produced every year by a million-person city, including $2.6 million in gold and silver, they report online this week in Environmental Science & Technology.

One city in Japan has already tried extracting gold from its sludge. In Suwa in Nagano Prefecture, a treatment plant near a large number of precision equipment manufacturers reportedly collected nearly 2 kilograms of gold in every metric ton of ash left from burning sludge, making it more gold-rich than the ore in many mines.

Metals aren’t the only things with potential value. A small number of sewage plants are removing phosphorous and nitrogen, which can be sold as fertilizer. A Swedish treatment plant is testing the feasibility of making bioplastics from wastewater. A model sewage incinerator that generates electricity and drinking water was just promoted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund its construction.

And, one more, from Noah Smith, on how electric cars might help us lose interest in the middle east while also helping to phase out the need for fossil fuels as energy altogether:

A 2011 McKinsey & Co. analysis reported that battery prices would have to drop by about three-quarters to make electric cars cost-competitive at gas prices of $2.50 per gallon. But that was four years ago, and battery prices have continued falling. We could see cost-competitive electric cars taking over the road in as little as a decade. That’s how fast the cost trend is moving.

…ground transportation still makes up the bulk of our oil use. So when batteries advance to the point where oil is no longer used for cars and trucks, the Saudis, Russians and Iranians will find themselves selling what is suddenly a niche product. And simultaneously, the U.S., Japan, Europe and other energy importers will find themselves free from the yo-yo of global oil prices.

In other words, it’s less than two decades until we are free from the yoke of the petrostates and their nasty, backward regimes.



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