Published on August 6th, 2013 | by David L Roberts2
Top 10 Most Interesting Cleantech News Stories from July
This is the third monthly report of 10 of the most compelling clean energy and clean technology stories encountered over the last month. Over a thousand articles were reviewed across many energy platforms, including renewables, fuels, energy generation, energy conservation, and climate. Here are my “Top 10” that might have an impact on your business, your life, and the world we live in. Or, at the very least, might surprise you about what’s going on. And, giving credit where due, thanks to Dave Letterman for the Top 10 idea, listed in reverse order.
10. Perhaps a model for industrialized nations, Australia is focused on a 100% renewable energy grid from wind and solar by 2040. Because wind power plants are already cheaper to build than new coal or gas plants — and solar plants soon will be. And, by 2040, most aging Aussie fossil fuel plants will be retired. This is also true in India.
9. Researchers at Wetsus in the Netherlands have published a concept to create electricity from CO2 in the smokestack exhaust at power plants, by infusing it with water (or other electrolyte) and running it thru membranes to split + and – ions, thus creating electricity. While a stretch, taken in the aggregate, collecting and processing all the CO2 from homes, businesses, factories, and power plants worldwide can produce 400 times more electricity than the Hoover dam — 1.7 trillion gigatons. Now that’s recycling!
8. The topic of geologic carbon sequestration — as a means to reduce GHG emissions — arises again in a new project in Montana. The idea is to capture CO2 from smokestack exhaust of large power plants — who produce 40% of US’s GHG emissions — containerize and transport it for injecting into porous rock formations 3,000–15,000 feet down. While possible, huge operational costs are involved, as well as risks of leaking or contaminating aquifers.
7. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), an older technology that promises clean 24/7 “base load” energy, is getting renewed attention from China and two US companies, one being Lockheed Martin. The utility-scale technology capitalizes on the constant temperature differences between warm tropical ocean (upper) waters and deeper much colder waters, using warmed and cooled ammonia run though a heat exchanger to create electricity. [Editor's Note: CleanTechnica actually reported on this story in May.]
6. Estimating the price of oil to be $140/barrel in 2035, Lux Research looked at 3 different fuel alternatives to gasoline: waste-biomass-to-ethanol, natural-gas-to-ethanol and methanol-to-gasoline (MTG). By Lux’s estimates, MTG is projected to be 45%+ percent cheaper than gasoline.
5. A widely picked up study by the National Research Council (of the NAS) concluded that, of the $48 billion in 2011 and 2012 federal tax subsidies, grants, and loans for renewable energy, none had any appreciable effect on reducing GHG emissions and climate change. Other research shows significant recent US GHG reductions did occur, with the inference being that private business, individuals, and the overall economic downturn were responsible — or that the NAS study got it wrong.
4. According to the Lawrence Livermore Lab, the US used 2.3% less energy overall in 2012 vs. 2011, partly due to the slowed economy, but also due to choices made by individuals and business. Of the four sectors, residential dropped the most (down 7.5%), commercial and transport fell less, while industrial was flat. Of the fuel sources, the biggest loser was coal (down 12%). Renewables were up 23% (solar up 48% and wind up 16%) off a small base of only 1.7% of total energy consumed. Here are charts worth studying with all the details — 2012 and 2011.
3. Despite recent reductions in GHG emissions in North America, the planet is not on path to keep temps from rising a critical 2 degrees Celsius. A recent IEA report said holding the temp line is (remotely) possible if countries a) control the escape of natural gas (methane) and b) reduce emissions of power plants.
2. The US State Department announced a second agreement between the US and China to reduce GHG emissions, focusing on transportation, especially trucks, manufacturing, coal-fired plants, and carbon capture technology. Collectively the US and China represent 43% of the world’s emissions, so these actions have global importance, both quantitatively as well as potential influence over other high polluting countries.
#1 Most interesting clean tech news story of the month:
1. Conventional wisdom says cost-effectiveness of wind and solar energy generation is greatest in places like Southern Nevada and California. However, a new study by Carnegie Mellon monetizes the health, environmental and climate benefits of wind and solar power in relation to the energy source it displaces. If the goal is reducing carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the net improvement of converting to renewable energy sources is greatest in high coal states like West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio and pennsylvania — many times more beneficial than in states already employing renewables in the grid portfolio. So the low-hanging fruit for renewables, in terms of environmental and cost benefits, is greatest in states with the strongest coal lobby.