Archive | Energy

Cummins plans plug-in hybrid systems for heavy trucks

Plug-in hybrid systems for Class 6 trucks could boost mileage 50%. This would be a seriously big deal. Cummins is developing the technology now using a $4.5 million grant from the Department of Energy. If successful and implemented widely, this would cut trucking costs sharply and help the environment too. Imagine the savings in fuel and money if millions of trucks got 9 mpg rather than 6 mpg. Partners in the project include PACCAR (Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF), Ohio State University, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory. This is a serious attempt by major players to increase mileage on heavy trucks. Excellent.

The reduction of fuel consumption will be accomplished using a range of drive cycles designed to meet the needs of commercial fleet operators. In addition to a plug-in hybrid powertrain, the trucks will feature other technologies, including intelligent transportation systems and electronic braking. Ultimately, the researchers aim to demonstrate improved fuel consumption and state-of-the-art drivability and performance regardless of environmental conditions.

A Class 6 truck has a gross vehicle weight of between 19,000 and 26,000 pounds. The category includes trucks with a single rear axle and school buses.

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Mr. Peabody’s coal mine might just go away


Peabody Energy, the biggest producer of coal in America, just missed an interest payment of $71 million and will almost certainly file Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Their auditor says there is uncertainty about Peabody continuing as a going concern. Their big problem is enormous amounts of debt. As of Dec. 31 they had total debt of $6.3 billion and cash equivalents of $261.3 million. Would someone please explain why such reckless amounts of borrowing is justifiable and why any lender would be stupid enough to give them money? Or is GAAP accounting only for the little people?

Many more energy companies are expected to default in the new six months on $40 billion in bonds, which means lots of jobs will go away and there will be unpredictable carnage in some areas of the bond market. Maybe you have a retirement fund and maybe it owns some of these now mostly worthless bonds. Or you or friends live in a town dependent of coal mines and which might now dry up and blow away when the mines shut down.

The company also said that in February 2016 it borrowed approximately $945 million under the 2013 Revolver, the maximum amount available, for general corporate purposes. The company’s lender banks will surely be excited that they are about to see another $1 billion in secured loans promptly impaired in one month when BTU has no choice but to file for bankruptcy.

Peabody, which flagged bankruptcy risk under the “risk factors” section of a regulatory filing on Wednesday, said it skipped a $71.1 million interest payment on its senior notes, kicking off a 30-day grace period. The company also raised “substantial doubt” about its ability to remain a going concern.

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Nextgen wind turbines could have blades 656 feet long

Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor with three blades

Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor with three blades folds up in heavy winds.

The longest blades on current wind turbines are 300+ feet. Engineers are working on prototypes for ginormous turbines with amazing new technology. The blades would be 656 feet long, more than two football fields, with towers taller than the Empire State Building. Each turbine could output a prodigious 50 MW. There will be two blades, not three, and they will face downwind. Blades will expand when wind speed is low and contract when high, allowing more energy to be generated at low-speed and protects the system during high winds.

At dangerous wind speeds, the blades are stowed and aligned with the wind direction, reducing the risk of damage. At lower wind speeds, the blades spread out more to maximize energy production.

Sandia’s previous work on 13-MW systems uses 100-meter blades (328 feet) on which the initial SUMR designs are based. While a 50-MW horizontal wind turbine is well beyond the size of any current design, studies show that load alignment can dramatically reduce peak stresses and fatigue on the rotor blades. This reduces costs and allows construction of blades big enough for a 50-MW system.

The blades are sectional, rather than one huge piece, and would be assembled on site. The segments are 130-160 feet long, making them relatively easy to transport.

The plan is to site them far out at sea away from grumpy NIMBYs and migratory paths of birds. Prototypes are being funded by the Department of Energy through its Advanced Research Projects Agency working with universities.

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Concentrating Solar Power plant now online in Nevada

Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant

This is a big deal. Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant, the world’s first utility-scale concentrating solar power plant, is now online in Nevada producing power 24/7. Unlike solar photovoltaic, CSP can generate electricity continually. It does so by reflecting the heat of the sun to a central tower where the heat turns water into steam to power turbines. Excess heat is stored in molten salt and released at night when the sun isn’t out to continue generating electricity.

The steam is cooled back into water and reused over and over so water usage is low. NV Energy is purchasing all energy from Crescent Dunes for 25 years. The price is about double that of natural gas power and the plant received $737 million in federal loan guarantees.

So far the molten salt technology is performing better than expected. Full output is 110 MW, enough for 75,000 homes.

The technology uses tracking mirrors, called heliostats, to focus the sun’s energy onto a receiver to directly heat molten salt and then store it so electricity can be produced day and night.

The key intellectual property (IP) is comprised of SolarReserve’s molten salt technology, which includes the molten salt receiver designed and manufactured by SolarReserve, the heliostat collector field controls and tracking system, as well as the molten salt energy storage system. The molten salt receiver, which is the heart of the system, is performing in excess of design expectations in terms of heat transfer efficiency. This is the key performance validation of SolarReserve’s world-leading solar thermal storage technology developed in the United States.

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Renewable energy 24/7 from turbines in water pipes


Rentricity has the novel idea to put turbines in water pipes where the water flows downhill, providing a 24/7 source of renewable energy. Drinking, irrigation, and industrial water users are their target market. This is micro-hydro, small amounts of electricity is generated. However, it can be enough to help power a water treatment plant, as is being done in Utah. They have installations in other states too, providing extra power that is essentially free after the turbines have been installed, producing power 24/7 because the water is always flowing down the pipes.

Rentricity focuses on an innovative application of in-pipe hydrokinetic power generation. Water continuously flows through pipelines and offers the capability to generate electricity year-round, 24 hours per day. Over-pressurization occurs where water is stored at significantly higher elevation than the customers it serves, and must therefore flow downhill to reach them. Drinking water processors and industrial manufacturers typically install pressure reduction valves (“PRVs”) – hydraulic devices that maintain pre-set pressure ranges – to relieve the excess pressure. PRVs generally do not perform useful work with the dissipated pressure, and simply release it as waste heat. Rentricity’s innovative energy recovery systems convert this excess pressure into clean electricity.

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