Tag Archives: energy

Aircraft carrier jet fuel

The headline to this article is misleading, to say the least, and I’m late to the party here, but it’s still an interesting development.  Next up:  tanks that run on human waste.

The U.S. Navy Just Announced The End Of Big Oil And No One Noticed

Source: www.proudtobeafilthyliberalscum.com | Original Post Date: April 12, 2014 –


Surf’s up! The Navy appears to have achieved the Holy Grail of energy independence – turning seawater into fuel:

After decades of experiments, U.S. Navy scientists believe they may have solved one of the world’s great challenges: how to turn seawater into fuel.

The new fuel is initially expected to cost around $3 to $6 per gallon, according to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, which has already flown a model aircraft on it.

So, what this really means is that the nuclear reactors powering the ships will also power the equipment that makes this fuel, because conservation of mass/energy.  It’s not displacing fossil fuels in other ways, it just means they don’t have to carry it around with them, but can make it as needed.  Still interesting.


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Hydrogen gas generated directly from sunlight

The artificial leaf:

When the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) was established at Caltech and its partnering institutions in 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Innovation Hub had one main goal: a cost-effective method of producing fuels using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, mimicking the natural process of photosynthesis in plants and storing energy in the form of chemical fuels for use on demand. Over the past five years, researchers at JCAP have made major advances toward this goal, and they now report the development of the first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system for splitting water to create hydrogen fuels.

The new system consists of three main components: two electrodes—one photoanode and one photocathode—and a membrane. The photoanode uses sunlight to oxidize water molecules, generating protons and electrons as well as oxygen gas. The photocathode recombines the protons and electrons to form hydrogen gas. A key part of the JCAP design is the plastic membrane, which keeps the oxygen and hydrogen gases separate. If the two gases are allowed to mix and are accidentally ignited, an explosion can occur; the membrane lets the hydrogen fuel be separately collected under pressure and safely pushed into a pipeline.

More here.

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GE goes into battery storage

This hurt Tesla’s stock price.  Did people think no one else would enter the market?  Although it’s tough to compete with a company that has a direct line to the president, and pays negative taxes.  From Reuters:

General Electric Co (GE.N) wants to be a “sizable” player in the market for systems that store energy to manage power volatility, a sector the company expects to quadruple to $6 billion by 2020, the head of GE’s energy storage business told Reuters.

Demand for industrial battery systems is being driven by increasing reliance on intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar power and the potential to add energy to the grid quickly when power needs spike.

This need has attracted a wide range of companies, including Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O), which said in April it plans to package batteries for use for utilities as well as homes and businesses.

“We believe in the space and its ability to grow,” Jeff Wyatt, GE’s general manager for energy storage, said in a recent interview. “We think we can be a sizable player within it, and that’s really what we’re intending to do.”

GE over the past year has overhauled its approach to the energy storage market, as it saw weaker demand for the battery it developed.

Now Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE is repositioning itself as a one-stop shop for power producers seeking to install energy storage systems, offering inverters, control systems, software as well as financing options.

Earlier this year, it scaled back production of its own Durathon industrial batteries, reducing its manufacturing workforce from 200 to 50 at the Schenectady, New York plant where the battery is made. The company is focused on improving Durathon’s longevity, including managing its chemical degradation.

As part of its new energy storage package, GE is offering customers the option to install lithium-ion batteries made by other companies.


This is great news.  GE would not get into a business that doesn’t have a BIG future.


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Tesla Batteries

Oh, Elon Musk, can I love you any more?  Probably.  When you deliver broadband, somehow.

But for now, the battery is great news.  A couple weeks ago this was hinted at, but the details are mind boggling, really:

Last Thursday in California he introduced to the world his sleek new Powerwall – a wall-mounted energy storage unit that can hold 10 kilowatt hours of electric energy, and deliver it at an average of 2 kilowatts, all for US$3,500.

That translates into an electricity price (taking into account installation costs and inverters) of around US$500 per kWh – less than half current costs, as estimated by Deutsche Bank.

That translates into delivered energy at around 6 cents per kWh for the householder, meaning that a domestic system plus storage would still come out ahead of coal-fired power delivered through the conventional grid.

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DB Solar Report

From Deutsche Bank AG:

March 10, 2015

Deutsche Bank report: Solar grid parity in a low oil price era

Despite the recent drop in oil price, we expect solar electricity to become competitive with retail electricity in an increasing number of markets globally due to declining solar panel costs as well as improving financing and customer acquisition costs.

 Unsubsidized rooftop solar electricity costs between $0.08-$0.13/kWh, 30-40% below retail price of electricity in many markets globally. In markets heavily dependent on coal for electricity generation, the ratio of coal based wholesale electricity to solar electricity cost was 7:1 four years ago. This ratio is now less than 2:1 and could likely approach 1:1 over the next 12-18 months.

Electricity Prices are Increasing, Despite Nat Gas Price Swings

Peak to trough, average monthly natural gas prices have decreased ~86% over the past 10 years. Yet, during this time period, average electricity prices have increased by ~20% in the US. The main driver for rising electricity bill is that T&D investments which represent 50% of bill have continued to ramp and have accelerated recently. In 2010, T&D capex levels of for US Utilities ~$27B were ~300% higher than 1981 levels. We expect electricity prices worldwide to double over the next 10-15 years making the case for solar grid parity even stronger.

Solar System Costs Could Continue to Decline

The economics of solar have improved significantly due to the reduction in solar panel costs, financing costs and balance of system costs. Overall solar system costs have declined at ~15% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) over the past 8 years and we expect another 40% cost reduction over the next 4-5 years. YieldCos have been a big driver in reducing the cost of capital and we expect emergence of international yieldcos to act as a significant catalyst in lowering the cost of solar power in emerging markets such as India.

We see cost trajectory on pace for a ~40%+ reduction by the end of 2017


Read the entire report here.

Click here for the Solar Outlook 2015.

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Oil on the sea floor of the Gulf

To me, this is a reason that no one should be able to deny for getting away from fossil fuels:
From Fox News:

Up to 10 million gallons of crude oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has settled at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, where it is threatening wildlife and marine ecosystems, according to a new study.

After studying the samples, the researchers made a map of the areas affected by the spill. About 3,243 square miles are covered with oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, they found.

There was a previous study trying to determine the same thing.  They came to a similar conclusion:

The new study supports the findings of another independent study, which found that about 10 percent of the spill’s oil made it to the Gulf floor. Using hopane, a hydrocarbon found in oil, the researchers of that study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2014, analyzed sediment samples to see how much oil had fallen to the bottom of the Gulf.

The new study calculates that 3 to 5 percent of the oil from the spill sank to the ocean floor, but the results of the two studies aren’t that different, Chanton said.

“Our number is a little bit more conservative than theirs,” he said, but “if the two approaches agree within a factor of two, that’s pretty good for estimating all of the oil on the seafloor.”

Every mechanical system fails.  Meaning, 100% certain, Keystone XL will leak.  Oil wells in the Arctic will result in spills.  Fukushima happens.  The new wells that are being allowed now off the Atlantic coast will put oil into the water.  It’s not if, it’s when.  These are externalities that are not being completely priced into the product today.  It is, unfortunately, a proper function of government to account for externalities and increase prices accordingly, through taxes and/or regulations.

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Cheap oil won’t hurt renewables

Bloomberg business has a post explaining 7 reasons why oil won’t slow down the growth of renewables.  Here they are, explanations edited:

1. The Sun Doesn’t Compete With Oil

Oil is for cars; renewables are for electricity. The two don’t really compete. Oil is just too expensive to power the grid, even with prices well below $50 a barrel.

2. Electricity Prices Are Still Going Up

The real threat to renewables isn’t cheap oil; it’s cheap electricity. In the U.S., abundant natural gas has made power production exceedingly inexpensive. So why are electricity bills still going up?

Fuel isn’t the only component of the electricity bill. Consumers also pay to get the electricity from power plant to home. In recent years, those costs have soared. Annual investments in the grid increased fourfold since 1980, to $27 billion in 2010, according to a report by Deutsche Bank analyst Vishal Shah. That’s driving bills higher and making rooftop solar attractive.

3. Solar Prices Are Still Going Down

… the reason solar will soon dominate: It’s a technology, not a fuel. As time passes, the efficiency of solar power increases and prices fall.

4. Sales of Plug-Ins Are Doing Just Fine, Actually

Conventional wisdom says cheap oil is an existential threat to electric vehicles. It’s been true in the past, notably when Congress retreated from funding EV research in the 1980s as oil prices tanked. Things are different now, and global sales of plug-ins rose by about a third last year, according to BNEF.

Here’s why cheap oil won’t stop electric vehicles:

  1. Since 2010 there’s been no relationship between gasoline price and electric vehicle sales, according to BNEF analyst Alejandro Zamorano Cadavid. Electric cars are still in the early-adopter phase, and someone paying $100,000 for a Tesla doesn’t care that gasoline costs a buck less per gallon.

  2. In Europe, gas taxes are so high that it makes the price of crude less important. If you’re in Norway, and gas drops from $10 a gallon to $9 a gallon, electric cars are still a deal.

  3. In China, the government is stepping up support for electric vehicles. Pollution has become a serious problem, and the Chinese are getting serious about fixing it. Plug-in sales are soaring.

NOTE:  I would add here that Tesla is forcing the issue.  That is, Tesla is determined, and it seems unlikely that they will fail, to sell a car, in substantial volumes, priced at the mid range of combustion engine cars, within the next 2 or 3 years.  In response to that many other auto companies have begun to produce their own EVs.  Both the investments and the intentions simply cannot be reversed.

Electric vehicles are moving like a Tesla: quietly, but with great acceleration. Let’s bookmark this conversation for two years from now, when Chevy and Tesla plan to release the first affordable mass-market plug-ins with a range of 200+ miles per charge. At that point, the price of fuel might be a real consideration for car buyers, and at that point it’s more likely to tip the scales toward EVs, not away from them.

5. Pump Prices Haven’t Dropped as Much as Oil Prices

6. Oil Prices Won’t Stay This Low Forever

7. Global Investment in Clean Energy Keeps Flowing

The bottom line is that momentum is too far toward renewables to swing back the other way.  We are too far along the path of not only not using oil for electricity, but also closing down coal generating plants.  Not only are the changes listed above already in motion, but also it’s simply common sense that we would not go back.  If we could know for certain that an unlimited supply of oil would be available for $50/BBL for an unlimited amount of time, that might change the equation.  But that is clearly not a reasonable option to consider, which means that the path toward renewables will not be abandoned.


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